Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I had to put down my 16-year-old Golden Retriever Pockets several weeks ago. As an animal lover it was an extremely emotional experience. I have been a dog lover most of my life which is evident by my owning over 30 dogs. Pockets patrolled the back yard like a castle guard dog, barking at anything or anybody that came near. It wasn’t an aggressive bark but a bark to say, “Hey I got this go back to what you were doing.” Her unconditional love for us was shown each day. I was trying to think of a way to pay tribute to her. I didn’t want to bury her in the back yard.
The answer came to me after I visited the Saint Frances Animal Center in Georgetown. While I was looking for a new dog to rescue and possibly fill the void left by Pocket’s death, I met a former student of mine named Wendy Goude. She is the executive director of SFAC. To say Wendy is a ball of energy would be an understatement. Keeping her still long enough to ask questions is like trying to catch a fly with chop sticks.
We took a tour of SFAC where they have over 300 dogs and cats. Wendy would stop at each cage, call the dogs by name, and put her hand on the wire for a friendly lick. Right then I knew where my tribute would go, to Wendy, the staff working at SFAC, and to the animals there.
I asked Wendy, “Why did you leave your job at the Rice Paddy to do this job?”
She said, “The restaurant was a love not a passion. When I was a little girl my Daddy would take me to the pound and I remember wanting to free all the crying dogs from their prisons.”
I wanted to know what the most difficult part of the job was and she replied, “Seeing those poor, innocent creatures come in to SFAC.” I was pleased to find out that no treatable cat or dog has had to be euthanized this year. This is a credit to Wendy and her staff.
All animals at SFCA are available for adoption or to foster. All animals are treated by a medical staff. The treatment includes animals being spayed, or neutered, receiving vaccinations, and placing a micro chip on them to help locate lost animals. Each animal has a recorded extensive medical history. One of the most difficult parts of the job at SFAC is to raise enough money to care for the animals. It costs $40,000 a month to operate SFAC, which is a non-profit organization. SFAC does receive a grant each year from the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation.
You would think Wendy would go home after an exhausting day to peace and quiet, not so. Wendy has the support of her family, friends, and staff to help her survive the ups and downs of the business.
People can get an animal for between 0 to $100. Puppies and kittens range from between $80 to $150. All pets are available to be adopted or fostered in the following ways: A true fostered animal is when an animal is sent home with a guardian until adoptive parents are found. Puppies and kittens have foster moms and dads.
They bottle feed them until they can survive on their own. A home can be provided for juveniles and adults. Injured, sick, or seniors can also be fostered. A foster to adopt animal can go to a home for a seven-day period. Less than 10 percent of the animals are returned.
I was lucky to meet some of the dedicated and motivated staff at SFAC. There are workers who are adoption counselors. They answer questions about animal care and also share the history of the animal. Rebecca Ritch is the senior adoption manager. I wanted to know how Wendy inspired her motivation on the job? She said, “It’s her passion and loyalty to the animals.” I said “ What is the main advice you give to people fostering or adopting animals?” Her answer was, ”Be patient. The animals need time to adjust.” The average stay at SFAC for a cat is 25 days, for a dog it’s 48 days.
In an effort to honor Pockets, Wendy, her staff, and the animals at SFAC I strongly urge you to help in various ways, adopt or foster an animal, donate any funds you can, or do what I am doing joining their volunteer program operated by Ophelia Snow. Over 250 people are available for SFAC. They also have a data base of 2,000 volunteers. You can volunteer to walk dogs, help with cats, puppies, and kittens. You can help with fund raising, adoption events, cleaning and maintenance, socializing animals, grooming and crafts.
There are many sad stories that occur almost every day at SFAC. Recently a dog named Fred came in after being shot and will probably lose a paw. He is doing better and already has a foster home. Another positive note is I did foster a dog named Dumplin. My suggestion to all readers is to visit SFAC and find out how you can help. Adopt or foster an animal. The lessons taught to children while they care for animals are many. Mainly it teaches them responsibility. So to honor Pockets I wish you luck in any way you are associated with an animal because after all this article is “FOR THE DOGS AND CATS.”
Fred Reinartz is a resident of Andrews.