|Riding the Underground Railroad
Wednesday, August 24, Los Angeles Times
The front page of the Wednesday, August 24,
Los Angeles Times has a superb article, that extends over three
pages, headed "Riding the Underground Railroad." It follows the
journey of Paddy, "a mid-size, aging brown mutt" from Tennessee,
from where a rescuer closing down shop posted his photo on the
Internet, to his new home in California. He changes hands many
times on his 2,260 mile, 60 hour, drive across the country.
The article is written with tenderness -- I found myself almost
moved to tears by the efforts of so many people to save one dog.
But it asks the hard questions. For example, we meet Deanna
Trietsch, 44, who "regularly gives last walks to strays about to
be euthanized in public shelters, to 'make their last hours feel
like they were loved,'" and who is part of the Paddy express We
"Still, she found Paddy's odyssey a little
puzzling. 'I do wonder why somebody in California would want to
bring this dog all the way across the country Quite frankly, I'm
sure I could have found an animal I loved right here in
Tennessee. Why wouldn't you search your local area? But
they must've seen something in this pretty fella.' As she spoke,
about 250 dogs needing homes were being housed at the shelter in
Orange County. Most would end up euthanized."
And we read:
"Some animal welfare organizations question the need for the
marathon relays, noting that people can easily adopt from nearby
shelters. An estimated 3 million to 6 million cats and dogs are
still euthanized nationally each year, according to the Humane
Society of the United States.
Those numbers are down from 20 years ago, when about 17 million
stray dogs and cats were destroyed annually. The organizations
worry that it is stressful for animals to be hauled long
distances, and wonder who monitors them during their journeys
The article tells us: "But transporters say there are many
reasons for far-flung adoptions. People sometimes can't find a
certain breed in their region, so they look farther afield.
Finding homes for older or disabled animals can be difficult
within a small range. And there are sharp regional disparities
in the number of available pets."
Still, that hardly explains why people would devote such effort
to bringing a "a mid-size, aging brown mutt" to a city that
kills 60,000 dogs every year for lack of homes.
The story does not have a joyous ending. The woman who is
choosing to import the mixed breed from the other end of the
country seems strange. We read of Paddy's new home:
"The acrid smell of dog and cat urine cut through the night air.
Inside, a frenetic chorus of barking and hissing came from
behind a closed door. Three sick kittens with rheumy eyes lay
curled up in a fleece basket. Paddy was joining Meddick's
menagerie, which already included 26 animals in the
900-square-foot house and backyard, including a litter of
puppies. Four dogs were stacked in crates covered with blankets.
Meddick said she crates some of them when she is away on rescues
and transports, which can take as long as 14 hours. The living
room had little furniture or indoor lighting. Paddy squeezed
himself into a narrow hiding place between the front door and a
stack of boxes. Meddick lay down next to him and talked softly.
Along with her unfamiliar non-Southern accent were the familiar
sounds and smells of many animals in a confined space. 'It beats
the alternative: being put to death at a shelter,' Meddick said.
Within minutes of ending his transcontinental journey, Paddy was
in a crate, his eyes peering into the dark."
Those who had cared for Paddy in Tennessee and set him on his
journey to his new home wrote and asked for pictures and
information but his new caretaker feels his welfare is none of
their business. They are left to wonder how much of his life
Paddy spends, 2,000 miles out of their
reach, in a crate.
The article brings home the importance of spay-neuter, with
Annette Rauch of the Tufts University School of Veterinary
Medicine commenting: "We have some areas of the country
now where we've done enough spay and neutering that you really
don't have surplus puppies and kittens. In other parts of the
country, she says, things are grim."
And it includes some touching lines, such as those from a woman
who "decided to work with animals rather than the elderly or
children after consulting her Bible." In her words: "It said,
'The man who cares for his domestic animals is blessed. God gave
man dominion over the animals.'
So I said OK, I'm doing animals. They are not masters of their
fate; they're just floating along in the human deal."
It cries out for letters recommending a trip to your local
shelter, and calling for spay-neuter legislation.
The Los Angeles Times takes letters at
firstname.lastname@example.org Always include your full name, address,
and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor.
Shorter letters are more likely to be published.
Yours and the animals',
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September 11, 2005 21:52 CDT