Mary never planned on becoming a foster doggie mom but when her twelve-year-old mixed breed dog suddenly died she found herself needing to fill the missing gap.”When Lucy died, it was tragic for me. I really needed something to do, something that could occupy me and get my mind off the whole event,” states Mary with sadness in her eyes.
Her home, a smallish affair, is located in a lovely area of Texas hill country. And, clearly what the home lacks in size Mary makes up for in heart. She has been fostering dogs for almost ten years now and her current one, a little fellow that goes by the name of Tristan, is her one hundredth foster dog.
Mary continues her story, “You know, I never even thought about fostering dogs, my home is so cramped,” she states with a sweep of her arm gesturing towards the kitchen/dining room combo, “I just figured I didn’t have the room.”
Indeed, Mary’s place is petite: barely 950 square feet with a miniature eat-in kitchen, a living room, one bath, and two bedrooms, all contained within a dated mortar and brick exterior. Although the home is tiny, the exterior property is spacious. As we walk through the back door towards the enclosed one and a half acres of property Mary points out something, “Over there, is the dog pen that I built for new foster dogs. I like to put them in there when they first arrive, to get them used to the being out here before they run loose.”
We walk around the perimeter of her fenced in acreage, a good brisk walk, with Tristan following us, tail a-wagging. I can see the little guy is happy here and that brings me to the next question, “How do you keep from getting attached to the dogs?”
Mary stops and looks past the fence into the distance, “That is something I wondered about myself. I do get attached, very attached. But I guess I love them enough to give them over to good homes, sort of sending them on their way into a good future. That’s what makes it all worthwhile for me, knowing they will have a happy life, even if it is without me.” She looks wistfully down at Tristan, pats his head, and continues, “Tristan is leaving me this weekend. He has been adopted by a great family in San Antonio. They have two other small dogs for him to play with and best of all they have children. He really likes kids.”
Mary D. got started in fostering with a phone call to a local rescue agency. Within days her first dog arrived at her home, “I don’t know what I expected! I guess I thought the dog would be all bedraggled and forlorn, but happily my first dog was a gorgeous female blue heeler named Misty. She stayed with me for about three months and went on her way. I still get photos from her family. Misty is now twelve years old, the same age my Lucy was when she died.” Mary shakes her head, “When I think that if I had not been available Misty would never have reached 12 it makes me want to cry. But thank goodness she did, and hopefully she’ll live a lot longer.” Mary looks at me with a smile.
I can’t help but smile back because that is exactly what this is all about, giving a dog a chance to live its life with dignity and joy. Let’s face it, dogs need love just as much as food and water. Without it they will not flourish. Thanks to Mary and thousands of others like her, dogs who otherwise would be euthanized are reaching their full potential and are living out their lives with families that love them.
It was difficult for me to say goodbye but I knew that Wesley was going to be very happy. I had to give him one last hug before I sent him on his way!
Wesley, the little guy who captured my heart
On January 2, 2010, Wesley kicked off the New Year with a major change in his lifestyle. He became the official prince of a little princess named Jenna. The momentous meeting took place at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas. As a giant dinosaur statue looked on, Wesley met his new doggie brother, Buster and his new “momma” Jenna. Along for the ride were Jenna’s dad and her two brothers.
We walked together along the Paluxy River bank, allowing everyone time get to know each other. I had a difficult time taking my eyes off Wesley. He kept looking up at me, as if imploring me to scoop him up and hold him. I did. I had to hug him one last time. He looked uneasy, a bit apprehensive, and my heart ached. Fortunately, I knew that this was going to be his day of victory: A new family, a new home, a new life! Best of all, a little girl named Jenna who would love him forever …
I bid him a fond farewell, and despite himself, I could tell he was excited. I think at that moment, when he entered the car and I stood back, he knew he was going to his forever home.
Today Wesley enjoys being the younger brother and loves nothing more than rousing older brother Buster up at 4:30 AM. But no way! Buster grumpily rolls back over to sleep. Aside from their disagreement about early rising times, he and Buster play happily together. Jenna has taken on her new found “mother” role quite naturally and beams with joy when Wesley does something cute. Unfortunately, Wesley can be a bit of mischief maker. He has a penchant for shredding up toys. Jenna’s dad tells me that when Wesley has been particularly active in this department he will call Jenna to report about her “child’s” misbehavior. Jenna quickly reminds dad that this is his “grandchild.” So, it’s a bit of a standoff.
Naturally, Jenna thinks that Wesley is perfect. And he is! A dramatic reflection of how far this little guy has come from the shy, insecure, scraggly dog that arrived at the start of the Fall of 2009.
Wesley, you will always be my special little guy …
Did the Fat Cat who was Prince get Chumped?
I was flagged on September 2, 2008 by fellow web blogger Chris, of Take Care of your Cats, regarding updated information on what I thought was a happy ending for dear Prince Chunk. Turns out I was wrong.
According to an August 28, 2008 article by The Associated Press the adoption paperwork is now held up due to legal wrangling and contract analyzing. Chunk’s new family the Damianis of New Jersey were ready to settle into a routine life with their new family member—until they were informed by the Camden County Shelter that the adoption agreement they signed was invalid.
Jennifer Andersch, Executive Director of the Camden County Shelter, stated that due to the nature of Prince Chunk’s notoriety both parties agreed to have an adoption agreement drawn up by legal counsel. Part of that agreement would mandate that Chunk make fund-raising appearances on behalf of the shelter.
For the Damiani family the surprise of the “invalid” adoption agreement was even more confounding when a letter they received from the shelter labeled them as Chunk’s “foster” family. This bit of news spurred the Damiani family to take their story public.
What I find interesting about the Camden Animal Shelter is a little tidbit of information located on the internet regarding the shelter’s past history. It appears that the Camden County Animal Shelter has been in the spotlight before. At least on a local level.
In 1997 this shelter, located in Blackwood, New Jersey, was operated by a group that went under the name, Humane Society of Southern New Jersey. The director was Glenn McCleery and the organization itself was headed by Richard Perr, Esq. of Tineman, Krektsein & Harris, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who headed the shelter from its inception.
In 2002 the shelter was charged by the New Jersey SPCA for illegally providing shelter animals for experimentation, a practice known a “pound seizure.” Veterinary students from the local Camden college were provided with these animals to “practice” on. The college would order a certain number of animals of specific size, weight and species. The shelter would “fulfill” the order by slating these animals for euthanasia (regardless of the animal’s health condition or its adoptability).
“As reported in Compassion for Camden’s Winter 2002 UPDATE, in April and August of last year the Humane Society of Southern NJ (humane society) allowed a number of animals to be removed from the Camden County Animal Shelter to be used by Sound Technologies as test subjects for hands-on equipment training and sales. The company-sponsored seminars stretched over a period of days at the Cherry Hill Clarion Hotel.”
The practice was uncovered by Marion Churchill, founder and president of Compassion for Camden. It was then reported to the New Jersey SPCA who in turn conducted is own investigation*.
On July 24, 2004 the NJ SPCA formerly filed suit in Camden County Superior Court charging the management of the Camden County Animal Shelter, the Humane Society of Southern New Jersey, the Camden County College, shelter director Glenn McCleery, college staffer Maragaret Dorsey and various others with animal cruelty - the use of shelter animals for experimentation - a crime of the fouth degree. (read more..)
Thankfully as of September 1, 2004, Perr and the Humane Society of Southern New Jersey were no longer involved with the Camden County Animal Shelter. The Animal Welfare Society took over the operation of the shelter that same day.
According to Marion Churchill, when the shelter was under the direction of the Humane Society of Southern New Jersey, 60% of dogs and 80% of cats were killed. She states that the shelter’s inaccessible operating hours were partly responsible, since it was only open one evening a week and closed on Sundays and holidays. She continues to state that no other shelter in the state had such a poor record. Yet, when she approached Richard Perr about these sad numbers his email response was,” … the shelter continues to be one of the premier facilities in the state …” Marion Churchill concludes, “Frankly, I don’t know what ever prompted Perr to use the word ‘continues’ because I don’t recall the shelter to ever be ‘premier’.”
This news never reached those of us who live in other areas of the country but I am certain that locals were stunned and horrified when evidence was revealed that an organization containing the word “humane” turned out to be inhumane. And although the shelter’s current management has a wonderful record of decreasing euthanasia and increasing adoptions, its past may not be completely forgotten. This might explain why people like the Damiani family are suspicious about the shelter’s motives regarding Prince Chunk.
Indeed, Prince Chunk has proved to be quite a windfall for the county shelter placing it in the public spotlight—this time on a national level. From the shelter’s perspective Chunk provides the perfect opportunity to educate and enlighten people about the plight of homeless pets. Furthermore, his touching story may help the shelter receive much needed revenue in the form of donations. Certainly that is as it should be. Shelters are donation motivated and it’s not uncommon for them to capitalize on free publicity.
However, a humane shelter’s primary focus is to place its healthy pet population with loving families. To withhold an animal from receiving a permanent home due to its “fame” is not exactly within the interest of the animal. And this type of action places the shelter’s needs, and the “greater good” of other animals, above that of Prince Chunk. The Damianis need to know that this cat is indeed going to remain Prince of their home. And Chunk needs to become a permanent member of a family who obviously has his best interest at heart.
*A hard copy of the report, including names of witnesses, is available to the
public via the Open Public Records Request Application (OPRA).]