Miles to go before we sleep

By Joanna D. Samson, V.P. of FOTAS

On Sunday morning, Sept. 2 the sun broke through the clouds, adding heat to an already steamy morning. I arrived at the Aiken County Animal Shelter to help walk dogs, and I was delighted to see so many volunteers at work. There were dogs on leashes, dogs in the play yards, and dogs lying in the grass, soaking up the sun while their handlers chat. A young couple laughs while they take out their fifth dog. Enduring friendships are forged when folks come together for a common purpose.

I leashed up Jed and Geovana. These two young littermates were picked up as strays, painfully thin, hungry, thirsty, hot and frightened. Little Jed had an embedded collar around his neck that had to be surgically removed by Dr. Levy, the Shelter’s veterinarian. The two are recovering nicely. Geovana is shy, a little distrustful of humans, but who can blame her? Jed, on the other hand, is all play with a devilish twinkle in his eye.

I stopped at the bench behind the paddocks. With a little coaxing, Geovana crawled into my lap for a belly rub, while Jed wrestled with a pine cone on the ground.

The Shelter is a cheerful place. There are grassy play yards, dotted with cheerful umbrellas to provide shade for animals and people. The kennels are spacious and clean, allowing the dogs to either bask in the morning sun or retreat into the cool climate-controlled interior.

Thanks to the thoughtful and creative management of Bobby Arthurs and the oversight of Paige Bayne, the Shelter is once again open for adoptions on Saturday; volunteers are permitted to walk the dogs on Sundays; new programs, like the play groups for dogs, have been implemented to promote the quality of life, and thus the adoptability, of the dogs. On-site activities draw more people to the Shelter every week. There is a heightened, almost seamless, sense of shared mission and cooperation between staff and volunteers.

Adoptions are up.

Transfers are up, thanks to the tireless and exhausting efforts of FOTAS.

Yet despite all of our proactive efforts to care for these animals and to support the spay/neuter of community cats and pets for citizens in need (no one dedicates more resources to spay/neuter than FOTAS and the County combined), intake at the Shelter remains alarmingly, shockingly high.

And it will remain that way as long as people continue to do things like drop off 3 mommas and 18 puppies in one tub (yes, that happened!) The owner couldn’t be bothered to spay his dogs, and then couldn’t be bothered to take care of those 18 little lives born because of his irresponsible carelessness.

Instead, he dumped the cost and the heartbreak of that on the rest of us.

Here are the cold, hard facts: until every citizen does the right thing and fixes their pet, some adoptable pets will be at risk for euthanasia. That stinks.

Geovana licks my hand. Jed pounces on my shoe. “You two will be just fine,” I say, giving them both a hug. “I promise.”

It’s a promise I know we can keep for now.

Their lives are in our hands.