Dog Tales, Part Two

Read part two of Dog Tales, now online at the new home of she’s a dork: canine tales of love and rescue.

Best friends.

Best friends.

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We’ve moved!

Coming August 2015

Coming August 2015

She’s a dork: canine stories of love and rescue can now be found at http://jackiskole.com/blog/ the website I’ve created to kick off the publication of Dogland. I hope you will follow me there and sign up, once again, to receive notices of new posts.

The first story you can expect to read: I’ll identify my cover dog and tell you his inspiring tale. See you at the new site!

-Jacki

Grab a tissue… or two, or three

You’ve probably seen the heartrending photo of a Labrador retriever lying in front of his owner’s flag-draped casket. If not, here it is:

casket

The dog is Hawkeye; his owner, a Navy SEAL, was killed in Afghanistan in August 2011, when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his Chinook helicopter. The photo – and the story – went viral as an iconic depiction of the profound bond between people and their pets.

Now comes Tommy, a seven-year-old German shepherd in San Donaci, Italy, who has been attending mass for the last two months at the church where his owner’s funeral was held and where, before she died, they attended mass together daily.

Tommy in Santa Maria Assunta church

Tommy in Santa Maria Assunta church

You can read the full story here.

But so far as I know, only one dog has been memorialized in bronze for his exceptional loyalty.

In 1924, Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor at Tokyo Imperial University adopted an Akita he named Hachiko. Each morning, dog and owner would walk to Shibuya Station, where Ueno would catch a train to the university.

Each evening, Hachiko would return to the station to welcome the professor home. But on May 21, 1925, Ueno didn’t return; he’d died after suffering a stroke during a faculty meeting. From that night on, for nearly ten years, Hachiko returned to the station at precisely the time Ueno’s train was due to arrive.

A newspaper story about the loyal Akita lured people from all over Japan to visit him. In 1934, a bronze statue of Hachiko was erected in front of the station’s ticket gate with the dog on hand for its unveiling. During World War II, the Japanese melted the statue to use its bronze for the war effort, but in 1948, the original sculptor’s son created a replica, which still stands today. The statue is said to be one of the most popular meeting places in all of Tokyo.

Hachko's statue in Shibuya Station

Hachko’s statue in Shibuya Station

Hollywood knows a good story when it hears one, and Hachiko’s was too good to pass up. Thus:  Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, A True Story of Faith, Devotion and Undying Love hit U.S. theaters in 2009. The story is true only in the Hollywood sense; produced for an American audience, it is set in a quaint New England town, and the professor is played by a very handsome Richard Gere. Joan Allen is Gere’s wife, and Jason Alexander is Carl, the train station attendant. My family rented the movie a couple of years ago and cuddled on the couch to watch it, without any notion of its Japanese roots.

Reading about Tommy started me thinking about Hachi, the movie, and then Hachiko, the dog. And then I thought about my dogs. For me, Galen is more than a companion or a best friend – she is a deeply loved member of my family, as was Gryffin before her. I’m not alone in my thinking. A 2011 Harris poll found 92% of dog owners considered their pooch part of their family.

Back to Hachi:  The movie is definitely worth watching.  Just be sure to grab a tissue… or two, or three.

Actually, grab a whole box. If you’re anything like me, you’ll need it!

***

I can still see my first dog. For six years he met me at the same place after school and convoyed me home—a service he thought up himself. A boy doesn’t forget that sort of association.

– E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web and Trumpet of the Swan

Guest Post: The best pet of all!

Today’s musing comes courtesy of my eight-year-old daughter via a third grade writing assignment that asked students to write an essay about their favorite pet.

***

A dog is my favorite pet, and why? You are probably wondering. This is why. First because they are cute and cuddly. There are so many different kinds that when you go to the shelter to get a dog, you don’t know which one to choose because they are all so adorable. Also, because they are fun to train. When we got our dog after the first died, she was such a pleasure to have for a new pet.  And we played a lot with her. She was very energetic, so we took her to Doggy Daycare, and it changed everything.  We also didn’t have to teach her to sit. When someone held up a treat, right away she would sit. And lastly, because they are the best things to help you cheer up. My dog always cheers me up when I cry.  And when we were at a New Year’s party, I was fooling around with a pool ball with my friend, and the pool ball hit my finger and it hurt badly. Lucky for me they had a dog. And she cheered me up plenty. Dogs are my absolute favorite pet so I am thrilled to have one. Do you have a dog?

***

I love this essay for so many reasons (beyond the obvious maternal pride in a daughter’s creativity and near flawless grammar and punctuation.) But what struck me on first read was her declaration that people adopt dogs from shelters.

Not pet stores.  Not breeders.  Shelters.

Louie, Louie

If Louie could talk, perhaps he’d tell us how he and two friends found themselves wandering along Franklin Blvd., the main thoroughfare through Gastonia, North Carolina, on a hot day in August. But since Louie is a dog, unless someone comes forth to claim him, all we know is that Louie is a stray.

Vet techs at Gastonia’s lone low-cost spay-neuter clinic, located on a busy stretch of the thoroughfare, spotted Louie and his two friends, a female Labrador Retriever mix and a male Australian Shepherd mix, navigating their way through parking lots and traffic. Three techs grabbed leashes and corralled the dogs into the safety of the clinic.

That’s where Louie and his friends said their good-byes.

Kathy Cole, a clinic employee and long-time animal advocate, had little trouble persuading Lucky Labs of Charlotte to take Louie’s female friend, and she placed the Aussie with a mixed breed rescue. But she couldn’t find any takers for Louie. Perhaps, she says, that’s because she first identified him as a Chow, a breed with a reputation for being aggressive. Kathy’s since revised her initial assessment and now thinks Louie may be a cattle dog mix, but without DNA testing, there’s no knowing for sure.

Galen

I met Louie when I was in Gaston County researching my own dog’s background. I adopted Galen almost two years ago in New Jersey, but she’s a native Gastonian. She and her siblings were pulled from the county shelter and transported north thanks to two women who devote much of their time and some of their own money to rescuing dogs and cats from kill shelters in the South.  My reporting led me to the clinic, which is the brainchild of the Animal League of Gaston County, a non-profit animal welfare organization.  The group hopes that clinic veterinarians will spay and neuter so many dogs and cats that there will be fewer litters, like Galen’s, that end up in the county’s shelter, where they have a better chance of being killed than adopted.

Louie, at the Animal League of Gaston County’s spay/neuter clinic

I’m no dog expert, so I couldn’t add much to the discussion of Louie’s lineage. The color of his thick golden-brown coat is as Chow-like as it is Golden Retriever-like, and he has a big block head with a line of white fur from his forehead to his snout.  His dark eyes lack the sparkle I so often see in Galen’s, and his demeanor is gentle, his facial expression sad.

When I first saw Louie, he was in the rear of the clinic in one of the metal cages that house dogs and cats recuperating from surgery.  The clinic was serving as a temporary shelter, while Kathy and the other vet techs called everyone they knew to find him a foster home.

If I found a stray dog in my central New Jersey neighborhood, I would have no qualms taking him to St. Hubert’s animal shelter. My town outsources animal control work to St. Hubert’s, which is a non-profit animal welfare organization, and I know the folks there would do all they could to find him a good home. First, per New Jersey law, they would hold him for seven days to give his owner time to find him. Then, if no one claimed him, they would put him up for adoption and work tirelessly to find him a forever home.

Kathy Cole won’t turn Louie in to Gaston County Animal Control, because, she says, he will be killed. Unlike St. Hubert’s, the county’s shelter is simply a holding facility and a very crowded one at that. As a stray, Louie would be held for three days, and if no one claimed him, he would likely be killed to make room for newcomers. It wouldn’t matter that Louie is neutered – Kathy had one of the clinic’s veterinarians take care of that – and that Louie has all his vaccinations – she took care of that, too.  In other words, it wouldn’t matter that Louie, who Kathy guesses is about two-and-a-half years old, is a perfectly healthy, adoptable dog.

Perfectly healthy, adoptable dogs are being killed in Gaston County and throughout large swaths of the South because too many people cannot afford to, or will not, spay and neuter their dogs, and too many shelters are not equipped to be adoption centers for reasons ranging from a lack of money and staff, to old and decrepit facilities, to a fatalistic view by some shelter directors that there are simply too many dogs to save.

The good news:  There are people in many of these communities who will no longer accept the killing of healthy animals and who are taking actions to address the problem, people like the folks at the Animal League of Gaston County whose three-year-old clinic has already spayed and neutered more than 10,000 dogs and cats.

***

As I write this post on Sunday afternoon, September 9, Kathy Cole is driving the streets of Gaston County looking for Louie.  She found him a foster home a little over a week ago, but within an hour of being there, Louie jumped the fence and ran away; the foster found Louie sitting under a tree three days later.  Louie returned to the clinic and lived there until Friday, when again, Kathy placed him in a foster home.  Again, Louie stayed an hour before running away. At least now Louie is wearing a dog tag with the animal clinic’s name and phone number, so we can only hope that whoever finds him contacts Kathy, not Animal Control.

If only Louie could talk, he could tell us who he’s looking for and where he wants to go.