by Betty Hall
PWCCA Newsletter, March 1992
We live in a not-returnable, not-refundable, disposable world. Disposable bottles, disposable fast food containers, disposable dogs. Of the 3,122 dogs taken in by our small, local Animal Control Shelter in 1989, only 16% were reclaimed, 13% were adopted, 5% were dead on arrival, and 67% were destroyed.
Micah was one of the throw-away dogs. She came into my life unexpectedly, late one Sunday afternoon when I was feeling my friend's despair over her missing Corgi. Wanting to do something to help, any-thing, I drove to Animal Control to check to see if maybe they had picked up her Corgi.
As I walked through the double doors leading to the dimly lit area where the dogs are kept, the first dog I noticed was a Corgi. Not my friend's Corgi, but still a Corgi. The sign read, "Pembroke Welsh Corgi 'Micah' housebroken, good with kids, dogs and cats." I told the kennel person that I'd take Micah, but continued to look. Micah's family had adopted her from Animal Control a year ago. Now they were moving so she was conveniently dropped back off at the Animal Control Shelter.
Micah was an older Corgi. The gleam was gone from her eyes and she moved stiffly. As I brought her out in the light, I was disturbed by the three golf-ball-size tumors on her abdomen, as well as the two smaller lumps on the back of her neck. Looking at her further, I knew she was not well. She was old and the medical attention she'd need would be cost prohibitive. I decided not to take Micah, knowing that she'd be destroyed before Animal Control opened the next day. I had one hour to change my mind before they closed. I went home and called a breeder, a vet friend, and my husband. The common sense thing to do was to leave Micah at Animal Control. My vet friend said the tumors could be fatty tumors given the age and condition of Micah. However, mammary tumors were also a strong possibility given the location.
I reluctantly called Animal Control to say I sould not be coming back for Micah. Then I cried. Hours later I still couldn't get Micah out of my mind. This time I called a vet tech friend. Sharon admited to being impulsive and said that she would have taken Micah and asked questions later. Maybe the tumors were only fatty tumors and the clinic where she worked would give me a break on rescue work.
That was all the encouragement needed. It took only a minute to make an 11 x 14 sign to put on the gates of Animal Control. "Please do not destroy Micah, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. I'll be in to get her at 10:00 a.m." I signed the message and wrote down my phone number. Animal Control had just been to my home the week before for my kennel license inspection, so they knew who I was. The next morning I was there at 10:00 a.m. sharp, the strapping tape I'd used to hold the sign still dangling from the gate. "Do you still have Micah?" I asked in fear that maybe she was already dead.
They laughed and said something about my "note". With that Micah was brought out to me. The supervisor told me he normally wouldn't allow her to be adopted because she was a sick dog. I told him I was aware of her problems and assured him Micah would be going to the vet. I wrote out the check but they said to keep it until I got a veterinarian to examine Micah. Micah looked so sad, but I could see the faint wag of her docked tail. She enjoyed the car ride. When I got her home I cleaned her up and clipped her long nails. Her vet appointment was at 4:30 p.m. I was glad to get the late afternoon appointment. It gave me more time to out in the yard and more time with Micah. After a long Alaskan winter, a beautiful sunny afternoon with a slight breeze is greatly appreciated.
As I sat on the lawn brushing Micah, something she obviously loved, I couldn't help but wonder where she came from. At one time she was a bouncy, bubbly tri-colored puppy. There was clearly some good breeding there. She had a pretty face, with beautiful structure. Even with her age and excessive weight, her topline still held strong. Micah was a Corgi I would have been proud to own.
Micah rolled over to have her tummy scratched and my train of thought was temporarily broken. I hoped Micah had had a good life, but what I knew of her was heartbreaking. Why did she end up in the pound not once, but at least twice? The sign had said housebroken, good with kids, dogs and cats. I felt angry that anyone could leave such a sweet old girl off at Animal Control to die, never mind the medical attention she needed.
I knew in my heart that the few hours Micah and I spent enjoying the warmth of the sun would be her last. It was wonderful to see the sparkle return to her eyes. And she'd howl her funny little howl whenever I'd leave her outside in the X-pen while I tended to other matters.
Four fifteen came and I loaded Micah into the car to take her to the clinic. There it was decided that Micah was probably at least ten. She was graying around the muzzle, her teeth were worn, and she had cataracts. The lumps on the back of her neck were fatty tumors, nothing to worry about; the tumors on her abdomen were huge and hard. There was no way to tell for sure if they were cancers without a biopsy, but the prognosis wasn't extremely hopeful. And so I made the painful decision to have Micah euthanized.
Sharon held Micah gently but firmly in her arms, while I scratched Micah's ears, the whole time telling her what a good girl she was. As I watched Micah's eyes I expected a change, but there wasn't one. She died very quickly without any indication of fear or pain. Micah died with people who cared about her.
I continued to pet Micah, tears streaming down my face. I was embarrassed to be so emotional over a dog I barely knew. It was then that I noticed Sharon's tears. We shared the grief over an unknown Corgi named Micah.
I loaded up the empty kennel and went back to Animal Control to give them the letter saying the veterinary clinic had euthanized Micah. I told them of the beautiful day Micah and I had shared, and that my only regret was that I had not taken her the night before. When I got ready to leave I was asked, "Would you like us to call you if we get any more Corgis?" "Yes."
What You Can Do To Help
Not everyone has the time, the finances, the stamina, or the space to do full-time rescue work; however, if every breeder and exhibitor helped in small ways we might make a difference because of our collective effort.
Screen your puppy buyers carefully and keep in contact. Let them know you'll always be there to help with any questions or problems. Be willing to take back or buy back any puppy you have bred. Require spay/neuter contracts on all pet puppies. Withholding papers or issuing a non-breeding registration may help to a small degree, but a financial incentive written into the contract is also an option. Explain the facts of life about heat cycles. It's a mistake to assume that all your puppy buyers understand the canine reproductive cycle. I've met people who mistakenly thought their bitch was out of season when the bleeding stopped!
Do some price comparison shopping on the best prices on spay/neuters and make this information available to puppy buyers. Prices can vary quite substantially.
Be judicious in allowing your stud dog to be used. Recently in Canada, an exhibitor, brand new to the show ring, was approached by a person who just happened to have a nine-month-old Corgi bitch in season and wanted to breed her. My new friend politely explained that a nine-month-old bitch was too young to be bred. She then went on to explain that there is so much more to breeding than just putting two dogs together, and invited the young man to come to the dog show and talk to other breeders.
Consider rescuing one dog a year. A visit to your local animal control shelter is an eye-opening experience. They'll be more than willing to give you the grim statistics. Probably the most shocking thing you'll discover is the high number of purebred dogs there, and don't forget that all the "mutts" came from pure bred dogs at one time. Breed only when you have good homes and/or you are able to keep the puppies indefinitely until good homes are available. It's easy to sell puppies, it's hard to find good homes.
Pay for an ad in the classified ad section of your newspaper: Loveable purebreds, mutts and kitties available at Animal Control, 111 Heartbreak Rdl, M-F 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat 1 p.m-5 p.m. Ad paid for by We Care Kennels. Or in the Lost and Found section you could put: Lose a pet? Check Animal Control.
Support your local rescue group. Refer people to various rescue groups and/or to breeders who will reclaim the dogs they have bred. Help with fund raising, advertising, driving to pick up a dog, housing a dog, training or grooming, donate the cost of a spay/neuter, a newspaper ad, etc. Rescue groups/individuals also need people willing to check animal control every few days. Contact other rescue people in your area and work together. For example, I live 40 miles from Anchorage and cannot check Anchorage Animal Control every 3 days to assure I don't miss a Corgi. To solve this problem, I work with several rescue/pet organizations and individuals who will contact me immediately if there is a Corgi. Micah was everyone's puppy. She should not have had to spend her final days in a dark warehouse of a building in a cold concrete run. I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the staffs of the Mat-Su Borough Animal Control Shelter and the Wasilla Veterinary Clinic for their compassionate care of Micah.
IN MEMORY OF MICAH
? - JUNE 4, 1990