Gimme Shelter

The Holiday Season Is Adopt-A-Pet Time, Too.
By Jeff Smith

I AM HERE to say I told you so. Which, lest any of you cleave to that big lie about hating to say I Told You So, is one of the more delicious pleasures of a mean-spirited existence.

Smith What I told you so about is the Humane Society, and it was almost exactly five years ago, when I was scouting around for a companion and roommate to replace the wife of 23 years who had just bailed on me. I realize most guys go hunting spousal replacements at singles bars or frozen food sections of supermarkets, but I was more interested in a puppy than a full-grown...nevermind.

Anyway, my daughter Liza and I hit the Humane Society and found a cute little mutt with one blind eye, and started filling out the paperwork. When we got to the part where they grade your papers, the woman behind the counter observed that I live in rural Santa Cruz County, and she asked if I had a locked, fenced yard at least six feet high, or would I be keeping the dog indoors and taking it out for half-hour walks at least twice daily.

Proudly I answered, Hell no, my new puppy would be able to run free, like Elsa the lioness in that movie, and the woman glared at me like I was some kind of Dr. Mengele and said I was not fit to save a puppy from the gas chamber. It turns out the Tucson Humane Society would rather euthanize stray dogs and cats than let them into an adoptive home where they might meet a natural death. Say, by coyote or motor vehicle.

I maintained my composure, but made plain that I thought this was a really stupid policy, and left. The kids found Mona for me at a puppy mill, the like of which might not exist if more people could adopt pets from the Humane Society. The happy ending to all of this manifested itself when a friend of mine showed up one day at my house on Harshaw Road, to introduce her new puppy to Mona and me. She called her new pal Ding, "Because she's got a dinged-up eye on one side," and I'll be damned if it was that adorable little doggie with the blind side that Liza and I had tried to pry from the animal fascists just a few weeks before.

My friend Fran said that when she read my subsequent rant in The Weekly about the misadventure at the Humane Society, the puppy in question sounded familiar, so she figured Ding had been the protagonist of the piece. And she was right. Fran had been warned about the hard-core policies of the society so she had perjured herself on the adoption forms and thus spared Ding from capital punishment.

After all this it was with surprise and genuine pleasure (and not a small measure of "I told you so" and old-fashioned sense of justice) that I read a week or so ago that the Humane Society of Tucson is undergoing a thorough house-cleaning and rewriting of its wrong-headed policies on adoption, and inhumane treatment of the bipedal public that comes through its doors full of the milk of human kindness, and too often goes away soured, if not curdled.

Apparently I was not the only prospective foster parent who was treated by society staff like a pariah. And apparently the simple sense of letting an animal have a chance at life--with all the risks nature includes to make that life entertaining--rather than continue to gas 70 percent of them finally got through to the society's board of directors. Barbara Lodge, president of the board, was featured in an Arizona Daily Star article that outlined how the cranky and misanthropic folks who'd been turning away the public for failing to provide a sufficiently sterile, indoor environment for adopted strays, would be moved aside or moved out, and how the Humane Society is going to institute a humane adoption policy at long last.

To which I say, hubba. And thanks as well to Laura Brooks and the Star.

And just in time for Christmas. Or Hannukah. Whatever. Because there's hardly a better gift imaginable than a cuddly little puppy or kitten, or for that matter, a geriatric old hound with soulful eyes, for yourself or someone you love. And as far as the adopted animal is concerned, well hell, Christmas with a rawhide chew toy, and some begged, borrowed or stolen turkey from the table, beats a funeral in Potter's Field any time. TW

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