It’s A Dog’s Life … Literally

Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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Just when we think we are in control of our lives, life throws a curve ball. This is exactly what happened last Friday night. I drove in the driveway with my best-laid plans for working in the yard mapped out in my mind when what stood there staring at me but a dog. I don’t have a dog – or didn’t up until that time.

It had no collar and no ID of any kind and it looked to be about a year-old Black Lab mix. While it was playful and not vicious at all, it was obvious it had been on its own for a while since it was thin and was flea and tick infested. That could only mean it was lost or dropped off. If it was the latter, shame on whoever would commit such a cruel act.

The first thing I did was call the local Animal Control, who is already working limited hours through the week because of being understaffed, under-funded and full to capacity with stray dogs and cats. So, they certainly didn’t work the weekend. All I could think of was “Why me?” and “Why on a Friday night?” I guess Fido and I would spend the weekend together.

All my friends that saw him thought I should just keep him. I do like dogs but, when the timing is right for me, I want to adopt the dog and not the other way around. Sherri, a good friend from work, suggested that I take a photo of him and put it on Facebook. Whether you are a fan of social media or not, this avenue is great for getting the word out in situations like these.

Things do happen for a reason and this was no exception. Through this ordeal I learned a lot about dealing with strays. First of all, if you don’t notify Animal Control within two days of finding a stray, you are breaking the law. If you leave a dog or cat anywhere without permission, including a shelter, you are committing a crime. This next fact blows my mind: If you feed and shelter a dog for four days, it becomes your property and your responsibility. What was I supposed to do over the weekend?

Even though it is against the law, people drop off unwanted pets every day. How would they like someone to do that to them? Please, please, please, (and one more for good measure) please don’t drop off unwanted pets. This is wrong on so many levels, and senseless, because there are options.

Dogs need to be licensed within 30 days after they turn 4 months old or whenever you come into possession. The license needs to be attached to the collar that the dog is wearing, which proves it has been vaccinated for rabies since that is required to get the license. It is unlawful to remove a collar or license without the owner’s permission. It is a crime to shoot or kill an animal, even one chasing wildlife, unless you are a law enforcement officer and you witness the chase.

Luckily, we have a local chapter of Animal Aid, Animal Aid of Branch County. I am fortunate enough to know Kalyn Parnell, a local woman who is very active in the organization, which was started in 2007 to help curb the amount of animals that are euthanized at the Branch County Animal Shelter. Their goal is also to find homes for the adoptable strays that come to them and also assist in re-uniting lost pets with their owners. They do this through posting photos and descriptions of animals that come to them on and also on their website.

“We do a lot more too,” Kalyn adds. “We offer veterinary care to the animals that come to us on a case by case basis. We also offer spay and neuter coupons at the Branch County Animal Shelter to encourage people to take care of their animals.”

This is a non-profit organization composed of all volunteers with only one goal – helping animals. They believe all animals deserve to be loved and treated humanely. “One of the best advances in pet care has been the utilization of microchipping,” Kalyn explains. “It only costs $50 and it is international so if a pet gets lost or taken, we can scan the chip that is inserted under the skin and reconnect lost pets with owners. That’s a warm feeling.”

She also informed me that the agencies in our county do such a good job adopting animals out that less than 2 percent are euthanized. How great is that!

Owning a pet does involve expense. I was curious just what some of the fees were. I am sure it is different depending on where you live, but for our neck of the woods here are some general fees:

  1. Neuter male dog under 100 pounds, $100

  2. Spay female under 70 pounds, $140

  3. Shots are around $13 for the rabies vaccine and $15 for the distemper combination

  4. Licenses are only $10 for neutered/spayed pets ($8 if you are a senior citizen), $20 for un-sprayed or un-neutered, delinquent licenses are $40 and replacement tags are $1. Licenses expire each year on December 31 and must be renewed by March 1 of the following year.

It is good to know that there are options for people who, for one reason or another, decide they don’t want the responsibility of a pet any longer. The bottom line is pets depend on us humans for their well being.

The stray that found me did make me chuckle a time or two this weekend. I have three acres of regular lawn, but he had to eat our ornamental grass. I guess he likes gourmet. One of the jobs on my list was picking the twigs and limbs out of our pea stone along the driveway. I noticed the bucket wasn’t getting very full and looked behind me. Apparently, I would put a stick in the bucket and the dog would take it out. No, this arrangement wasn’t going to work for me.

This wasn’t the real issue here, however. A pet and owner relationship has to be right for both. For me, it’s all about what is right and wrong. Pets ask for so little: food, water, shelter and to be loved like they love us … unconditionally. Personally, I think they deserve a little more. So many times I have seen dogs in pens or staked and the only attention they ever get is when someone feeds and waters them. I believe they deserve to have our attention, our gift of time with them. Until I have time to devote to a pet, I won’t have one. It’s not my time yet.

It couldn’t have been said better than how St. Francis of Assisi said it, “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellowman.”

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