Thursday, October 01, 2009

The love and loyalty dogs return is worth it

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Editorial Page

Tomorrow is Oct. 1, the beginning of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.

This past weekend at Centennial Park in Moncton, the annual Moncton SPCA Dog Jog took place. One of the shelter's biggest fund-raisers of the year, the event is always well attended by humans and dogs and has loads of activities for everyone to enjoy, from demonstrations, to silent auctions, to prize draws for the most successful fundraisers.

Many of the dogs in attendance were adopted from the Moncton SPCA, other shelters or from breed-specific rescue groups, including a greyhound rescue group. The Moncton-based Maritime Greyhound Adoption Program is quite well-known around these parts and increasingly popular. If you live in the area and wonder why you've been seeing so many more greyhounds around lately, this is why. Personally, I know two families who've adopted greyhounds and they couldn't be happier.

Of course, there are other breed-specific rescue groups. Actually, if you look hard enough, you can probably find a rescue group for every breed out there. They may not be right next door to us, but they're around.

One booth at this weekend's event really got my attention -- Fresh Start, a Great Dane rescue group. If you're not familiar with Great Danes, they are huge animals -- tall and lanky with large jowls. The dogs they had with them were gentle giants, including one huge girl who'd been rescued after being found very hungry, her ribs showing quite badly. She's still underweight, but reportedly has gained 20 pounds.

Another Great Dane pup I met was a sweet girl who loved getting petted. Somehow, she seemed to have experienced trauma to one of her eyes prior to being rescued, blinding her in that eye. Luckily, she now couldn't be happier.

How people can deliberately starve and abuse their pets is beyond me -- be they any species or breed. I can pretty much watch anything on TV or the Internet, but I literally cannot handle watching anything relating to animal cruelty. It breaks my heart.

As a New Brunswicker, I was proud of the work of the provincial legislature earlier this year when all political parties came together to support new legal penalties for animal cruelty -- penalties which brought us from among the laughingstock of the animal rights world to now being admired (at least relatively speaking against other jurisdictions) for the importance the province puts on punishing those who deliberately harm our defenceless four-legged friends.

Any politician with any people sense knows that we absolutely love our pets. Going door-to-door campaigning? Bring dog treats. Show attention to our pets. Putting together a campaign brochure? Make sure you get some photos taken at the local animal shelters and at other rescue groups to show your support for our furry friends.

It takes a special generosity of heart to open your home to a rescued animal, one who has had to be given up to a shelter for any number of reasons, some of them perfectly valid . . . some of them cowardly.

I cringe every time I think of a conversation I had with the executive director of the Moncton SPCA recently when she told me that a significant number of pets entering the shelter were found abandoned in apartments. Their owners moved out and just left them there with a dish of water and bowl of food. The landlord shows up to check the apartment and the shelter gets a call. It happens much more often than you may think.

One of the nicest conversations I had at this year's Dog Jog was with the new owner of Jessie, a husky mix who'd spent a very long time at the Moncton SPCA. Jessie was a dear fellow with a wonderful personality, but he experienced regular seizures. While this serious medical condition would normally not bode well for his even making it to the adoption floor, someone at the SPCA saw something special in this wonderful dog and gave him another chance, even if it meant a long wait for a new family.

Jessie's new family loves him dearly. He still has seizures, unfortunately, but is on medication to help with those. So far this year, he's experienced about a dozen. They're not pretty and he loses control of his bodily functions when he has them. The last time was on the family's son's bed. But they clean him up . . . do the laundry . . . wipe the floors . . . and continue to love this dear boy who has brought unconditional love to their home. Someday, Jessie's seizures may become more frequent, causing the family to have to make a difficult decision, but for now he's safe and sound with them.

I also met Dixie, a rescued chubby little pug who was happily seated on a lap watching the festivities on Sunday. She was shedding like crazy, but her new owners didn't care. She was their little girl now. And then there was Alpine, a 12-year-old Dalmation too old for many to even consider adopting, but who now has a new lease on life with a doting mom and dad.

One day, I'll likely be getting a dog, too. I already have two cats -- one of whom will enjoy the new friend and the other who will probably need to be put on medication because her realm has been infiltrated by the enemy, but she'll adjust.

Make October count. Add a rescued dog to your family. The love and loyalty you'll get in return will be well worth it.

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