Saturday, October 15, 2005

Introducing...Mr. Baby (or Lou.2)

Yesterday, we have adopted a beautiful, adorable 8-year old beagle from the New York City Animal Care and Control Center (i.e. Animal Control), which is, essentially, the Port Authority for all abandoned, lost and otherwise homeless animals in New York City. It seems that most, if not all, of the displaced animals in NYC (including chickens, ducks, snakes and iguanas!) are taken in at Animal Control at the outset. At Animal Control, they are observed for illnesses for a period of 10 days and then are ultimately (a) adopted, (b) taken by "scouts" from other shelters such as the ASPCA, Bide-a-Wee and the Humane Society, (c) taken by independent animal rescuers or one of the various smaller, independent rescue organizations (for example, "Paws All Around".

You see, Animal Control is the "kill-shelter". The unlucky animals end up staying there until there's no more room for them, and then they are euthenized (other animals are euthenized there as well, such as dogs that have bitten and old/ill dogs that are brought in by their owners who don't have the means by which to have their own veterinarian to do the job). Luckier animals get spotted by the non-kill organizations and taken in by them (or by foster parents) until they find a "forever" home.

After the whole terrible Lou the Beagle ordeal, we were "entitled" to a new dog from Pets on Lex. However, I just couldn't bring myself to go that route. I had already begun to investigate the various rescue organizations in and around the city, and what I learned was that the rescue organizations generally pick and choose the most likely-to-be-adopted animals from the NYCACC and find them homes (and foster homes in the meantime). But what about the ones who were not so obviously "easily adopted"? The thought of those animals being euthanized simply because they were no longer so young or not so "perfect" looking really tore at me.

On the other hand, I kept saying to myself, but why can't I have the "perfect" animal"? And why do I have to be the one to save the ones no one really would want?

Well, the answer came on Yom Kippur. After a long day in synagogue, I decided to cap off the day with a trip to the NYCACC, just to see what we were talking about. I had a couple of dogs in mind (I had viewed them on the Animal Control website). But when I got there, I was told that these dogs were already taken by rescue organizations. At first, I tried to get one of them out of the "rescue loop", but I could see that the red tape was daunting, and the Animal Control/Rescue Organization liason was a very bitchy, difficult-to-work-with, sourpuss, so I ended up walking through the adoption wards.

Sadly, Animal Control looks very much like jail for animals. On the other hand, the "wardens" were incredibly nice and helpful. Most of the "inmates" were pit bulls and pit bull mixes. The party line at Animal Control is that pit bulls are not deadly aggressive born-fighters, but rather, sweet, affectionate and exhuberant domestic companions. Petey-the-dog from The Little Rascals was a pit bull, after all. From what I could SEE, this was absolutely true. These were sweet, friendly animals that just wanted to lick your face and jump in your arms (actually, this jumping-thing is really a sign of poor obedience training, but it sure was cute to see these dogs placing their paws on my thighs and trying to bring their faces close to my face). Unfortunately, the muscularity of the pit bull is reminiscent of Ahnuld. Thus, a simple kiss from a one-year old pit-bull-labrador mix knocked me flat on my back, and when I tried to walk her on a leash, she basically tore me around the place until I had to let go of her lease for fear of falling flat on my face. And the unspoken question: what happens if your pit bull turns on you? Or your children? Or a friend of your children? So...cute and friendly as they are, pit bulls weren't happening for me.

And then I saw Baby. Baby was quietly waiting in his cage, looking out with sad, black-rimmed beagle eyes. His "card" said that he was believed to be a full-bred 8-year old beagle. He had been found on the street without tags. His temperment was described in one word: "MILD". I opened his cage, and he came out, tentatively, shaking a bit (I get the feeling that these dogs somehow "know" intuitively what could be in store for them at Animal Control...dogs aren't stupid, even the blonde ones...golden retriever joke...).

One of the "wardens" helped me to leash him, and I began walking him around. His body was in great shape...slim but not skinny. I could just barely feel his ribs (an indication of a good body weight in a beagle). His fur was spectacularly shiny and free of visible dander. His walk was a happy little trot. And then when he saw a bench, he immediately jumped up on it and made himself comfortable. I could picture Baby jumping up on the living room sofa in his former home, wherever that was, and I couldn't help but wonder how his owner could have either abandoned this perfect little pet or allowed him to go tagless and leashless (beagles should NEVER EVER go leashless, in the park, in your backyard or ANYWHERE as they are sniffing hounds and will follow an interesting scent...and follow...and follow...and get hopelessly lost....hence, there are always beagles at Animal Control).

I held Baby in my arms, and he began shaking, which concerned me. After a moment or two, I let him down, and he immediately went to a quiet corner to relieve himself, both ways. Ahhhh. I see....Baby was also well-trained. Don't pee on the people. Don't pee on the furniture. Don't pee in your cage/kennel/crate/carrier.

I had brought Adam (6 year old) with me, and he was in love (in all fairness, he pretty much falls in love with every animal he meets. But I wasn't sure about this. This was not a young dog. Baby is the equivalent of a middle-aged man. However, his eyes are clear, and he has an energetic gait. Confusion set in. We went home.

All night long, I tossed and turned, thinking about Baby. Was Baby going to be euthenized the next day (he had been at Animal Control for close to two weeks, although some of that time was Health-Department-mandated quarantine time)? I had spoken to Robin from Paws All Around that evening, and she assured me that Baby was not on the list. But the mild-compulsive in me did not feel reassured. I knew that I was going to have to show up first thing in the morning and get him out of there.

And so I did. My friend Stacy came with me (after we practiced at Shala X - it was her first time, although she has a proficient Primary Series practice). I was sick as a "dog", with a cold and a disgusting cough, too sick to really do much in my practice and too sick to teach my lunchtime class. But Stacy helped me motivate, and we got ourselves to Animal Control and signed Baby out of there.

My kids want to call him Louis (pronounced "Lewis"), but he's Baby to me, or Mr. Baby. We shall see. We didn't actually bring him home yesterday because he needs to be neutered before he can leave (Lord knows why his previous owner hadn't neutered him...I wonder if Baby has a flock of his own babies running around the city). He will be ready tomorrow, and we will be ready for him, partially because Animal Control provided us with tons of literature about how to care for him, how to train him, and how much we are supposed to love him and make him a part of our family.

I really can't believe that I ever was going to deal with a pet store. I am horrified. Everything about the process at the pet store seems wrong now. There was no information, no code of ethics to which we had to agree, no evaluation of OUR fitness to take home a dog. I made a mistake. I hope that anyone who ever is considering a pet-store dog will visit Animal Control first, just to make sure that they know what they are doing and what they are NOT doing by participating in the pet store travesty. I wish I had. But at least I know better now....


1 comment:

Claudette said...

Wow... that is some story. Pet stores are scary institutions. I hope that your family and Baby eventually find a way to be together...

Copyright 2005-2007 Lauren Cahn, all rights reserved. Photos appearing on this blog may be subject to third party copyright ownership. You are free to link to this blog and portions hereof, but the use of any direct content requires the prior written consent of the author.

About Me

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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