OUT THERE GUY ISO hiking pal. Must enjoy mountainous trails, morning jogs and eating food from bags sold by the pound. Brown eyes and shiny coat preferred. Intelligence and friendliness are high priorities. No droolers.
That's right. It's a quest for a new member of the Out There entourage. One with four legs and no conflicting schedule. A hiking buddy who always wants to go and never minds where. I've come to the Tucson Humane Society to find an outdoor wonder dog.
The society volunteer directs my girlfriend and me to the adoption kennel behind the counter.
We pass through a door and into a cacophony of barks, yelps, squeals and whimpers. On either side of a long concrete walkway, chain-link fence separates the individual dog runs. In here live all the dogs up for adoption.
This is the gauntlet.
Down this aisle we pass cases of misery, abuse, abandonment and loneliness. The particulars of each story remain a mystery to all but the individual dog, but some of these canine eyes convey well enough the human wickedness unleashed upon them.
In these cells I see greed. Breeders churn out dogs for sale and bring more dogs into an already overpopulated world. Many of the undesirable puppies get dumped.
Laziness and just plain stupidity also abound, nestled among the offspring of dogs whose owners failed to spay or neuter them.
Worse, perhaps, is the abuse anyone caring to look can detect in fearful eyes and tucked in tails.
The most common expression, however, seems to be confusion. Confusion at why their owners would abandon them.
"Confusion is a perfect word," says Holly Reck, Humane Society spokeswoman.
Reck tells a story about a woman who owned a cat for several years and then brought it into the society because it didn't match her new furniture.
"The most common (explanation) I get is, 'I'm moving,' " Reck says. "We don't view cats and dogs as disposable commodities."
Quite the contrary. Most of these animals would make great lifelong friends. They just need a loving home to give them an opportunity to start over.
We come to one dog, Nubs, a Labrador mix whose owners gave her up because they were having a baby. On Nubs' card it says "good with other pets and children." Even after her abandonment, Nubs comes to me readily and seeks a few pats and some company.
Common decency should demand that if someone takes on the responsibility of acquiring a pet he should be committed to caring for it all its natural life.
But such accountability seems rare here. Fortunately, the Humane Society accepts all animals, no matter how stupid the reason.
"We are here," Reck says "to provide care and shelter for unwanted or lost animals.
Reck also stresses that the society has no law enforcement ability, nor does it desire any. Its function is to keep its facility open for creatures great and small who have no place to go, and to find them a caring home.
Two types of animals come into the shelter, Reck says. Strays and owner releases--animals that their owners no longer want.
Strays remain for three days in receiving to see if anyone materializes to claim them. Often no one does. Of the 14,000 strays and owner releases processed last year, only 611 had owners who gave a damn and picked them up, society records indicate.
After that, the strays meet up with the owner releases and everyone gets a physical and a tick dip from the veterinarian technicians. Then they go to adoptions.
Animals remain in adoptions as long as space remains for them. No deadline exists for society animals, Reck says. But those animals not adopted either become emotionally problematic or sick from too much time in kennel conditions. This makes them un-adoptable. In these cases the animals are euthanized. They're also killed when space becomes limited.
At the Tucson Humane Society 7,988 dogs and cats were put down in the 1993 (1994 figures aren't available yet).
The good news is that number represents a significant drop from the 9,232 of 1992. The society saw 2,000 fewer animals cross its door in '93, and Reck hopes that lower figure stems from extensive efforts to get dogs and cats spayed or neutered.
Basically, if you can afford a pet, you can afford the $20-$60 (depending on species and size) it costs to get them spayed or neutered.
Nearly 6,000 animals did get adopted last year. And one of the very first dogs adopted in '95 was ours. We ended up adopting a large adult Belgian Tervuren (she looks like a long-haired German shepherd). A stray, we gave her the name Shelby. She'll probably become a familiar sight in Out There pictures in the weeks ahead.
Maybe someday we'll meet a happily adopted Nubs on the trail.
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