2018-02-15 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

In about a week “Pets” in the Beacon (where it all began) will be 35 years old, while inclusion in the Record and Post began about 12 years ago. The first “Pets” was published on Feb. 24, 1983. Hate to admit this, but I have been writing this column more than half of my life. To think when I got the phone call from a friend asking if I’d launch a shelter rescue newspaper column, I agreed to try doing so “for a little while.”

To mark the 35th anniversary, I’d like to reprint excerpts from two columns that very first year, and add commentary about how certain aspects of the pet world have changed while others remain the same. The first reminisce is a Brownie pet show I judged in May 1983. I had a wicked case of laryngitis that day and performed my task as a mute. The girl scouts must have been perplexed by the strange pet writer pointing at winners and desperately trying to speak.

I was new to rescue events at this time, and the pet show was decades before it became my responsibility to collect data from Westminster Kennel Club judges about each dog chosen Best of Breed. Keep in mind these Brownies would now be 40+ years old with scouts of their own. Let’s go back to “Pets” May 26, 1983:

“Writing this column brings pleasant privileges with it. This past Sunday I was asked to judge the Brownie Pet Show for all the Deer Park troops. Because of the weather and one rained-out date, it wasn’t a large turnout but those who did attend-both Brownie and petwere radiant. With Barbara Von Barthold [my predecessor Beacon pet writer and a staunch shelter pet advocate], I had the difficult duty of sorting through 10 dogs, two cats, one hamster, one turtle, one baby goat and one toy monkey to bestow a category ribbon for each entrant and to distinguish group winners with trophies. This show gave me a small taste of the pressure a judge has at any dog show where for each hopeful, four eyes (two from the dog and two from the handler) beseech you for approval.

After the parade and much deliberation, we came up with our dog category winners ranging from the “most dapper” (“Sebastian,” a Terrier) to the “kissiest” (“Lucy,” a Spaniel) to the “sportiest” (“Snoopy,” a Beagle) to the “best groomed” (“Frosty,” a Standard Poodle). Our group trophy was not based solely on beauty, but on the Brownie’s rapport with her dog. The trophy went to “Kane,” a Great Pyrenees-type who sported a blue bow tie. He barked in triumph when his name was announced.

Our trophy winner in the most unusual pet category was “Herbee,” a two-month-old goat. His young owner, Mary, tied his blue ribbon around his budding horn. He didn’t seem to mind as he posed for pictures, but tried to steal bananas from “Snapper” the turtle’s tank. “Herbee” finally fell asleep with his weary head atop “Sandy” the hamster’s cage. Everyone had a good time and everyone went home a winner.”

Now here are excerpts from “Pets” May 12, 1983 about the experiences of an abandoned or lost dog. This was before microchips were commonly used as a means of pet identification. Read on:

“Trade places with a lost or dumped dog...You’re in a strange and sometimes hostile place, and you can’t speak, you can’t phone for help and you can’t hop on a bus to go home. You’d be frightened, your heart would be broken, no doubt about that, and like Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” you’d have to depend on the kindness of strangers. To all you kind strangers, here’s some advice:

First, always approach a strange dog carefully. You don’t know his temperament and he is probably scared. Get down to his level and speak gently. [Regret that tip now. Being face level with a strange dog may be dangerous.] Call your local Town shelter (Babylon 643-9270 or Islip 224-5660) and the local police precinct. The dog should be taken to the shelter where found so owners have the best chance to claim him. (They can’t find their dog if he is inside your kitchen.) If the dog is unfriendly, leave him alone, but call the animal shelter.

After a week, if not claimed by the owners, the dog will be up for adoption. If you are interested in adopting him, or know someone who is, get the dog’s cage/case number and put a hold on him. [Nowadays you must have an approved application before most LI Town shelters allow you to adopt.] You can help your lost furry friend by placing flyers in surrounding shelters. Dogs have been known to travel way out of their neighborhoods or may be taken for long rides. Owners often overlook the possibility their pets may be sheltered a few towns away. Ads in local papers can prove helpful. Don’t neglect to ask paperboys, children and mail carriers. They can be great detectives when it comes to providing clues about where lost dogs live.”

Updating 35 years later: Newsday is delivered at 6 a.m. by someone who throws the paper from a car. I haven’t seen a paperboy in ages. Kids are trained not to talk to strangers and warned the “lost dog lie” may be a trick by someone wanting to do them harm. I’d also remind finders to hang flyers in the area where the dog was found, post a report and photo on Lost/ Found Facebook pages and get the dog scanned for a microchip. Much has changed over the last 35 years. I am so very thankful to have been given the opportunity to chronicle pet rescue history in the Beacon.

For Adoption at Last Hope Animal Rescue, 3300 Beltagh Ave., Wantagh: “Momma,” a six-year-old Beagle, traveled to LI on the Bowling Green KY rescue transport. She needs someone to reassure her forever so that bewildered Beagle look vanishes from her eyes. “Nemo” is an orange and white tabby kitten who is looking for a forever Valentine someone to love.

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