Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It Took a Town, a Mayor and Many Angels

Aiken County Animal Advocates


(Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc.)

Aiken County Animal Advocates as posted in the AIken Standard on April 25, 2014

By Joya DiStefano

Another Pit Bull Terrier has been found tied and starved to a skeletal shadow of its natural magnificence, and Mayor Michael Miller and his City Council are taking steps to intervene and, hopefully prevent, the abuse of any animal within their jurisdiction. By a newly revised Animal Control Ordinance, the City Council of Wagener shall set forth regulations for its citizens to assure that the health and safety of persons and animals are protected.  Wagener can take pride in the guidelines to be adopted, and any residents, or their neighbors, who are unsure of the current quality of care for any animal, would be well served to consult the Mayor’s Office.

What is it about Pit Bull Terriers that make them so frequently the victims of ignorance, neglect and cruelty?  For more than a hundred years, the American Pit Bull Terrier was the standard of the all-American dog.  Think of RCA Victor, Buster Brown Shoes, and the Little Rascals.  The United Kennel Club describes the essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier as “strength, confidence, and zest for life. This breed is eager to please and brimming over with enthusiasm.  APBTs make excellent family companions and have always been noted for their love of children.”  If there is an inclination towards aggression, it is to other dogs, a potential problem that training and supervision can avoid.

And then there are those times when the neglect of animals is no accurate reflection of the owners’ devotion to their animals.  We mentioned a case last month where an ailing mother and her severely disabled son had a pack of dogs that were breeding and wandering out of control.  The neighbors were up in arms.  County Animal Control was torn between the obligation to enforce county ordinance and the desire to help a handicapped young man who loved (and needed) his dogs, all of them.

Dottie Gantt, a life-long Wagener resident has her finger on the pulse of her community, and not many needs that come to her attention go unaddressed.  Dottie recruited Dr. Timmerman and his wife to step in with FOTAS funding for the spay/neuter surgeries necessary to get the pack under control.  She then brought the need for adequate fencing to the attention of Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc. (PAWS), a newly formed 501(c)(3) public charity whose mission is to help homes, and communities, keep animals out of shelters.  Then Mayor Mike stepped in and what follows is the rest of the story.

“The fence is completed, except for the concrete at the entrances and running a water line inside the pen.  Licking tips on the existing water spigot provide on-demand water, and all the dogs love it. (Confined to a wheelchair, the owner was having difficulty making sure the dogs had adequate water.)  I want to thank a couple people who volunteered to help, and who turned out to be much more than helpful. 


Years ago, when the Ostrich farming fad hit, I already had a pair of Ostriches that I‘d bought through an ad in The Progressive Farmer.  At the time, they were considered "exotic animals," regulated by the DNR, which required an escape-proof enclosure and on-site 24-hour supervision. 

While at work one day, a surgeon buddy ask me if I knew of any farmers around Pelion that would provide temporary home for a kid who had suffered traumatic injuries in a motorcycle accident and had nowhere to go.  I happened to know a farmer who had a vacant mobile home on his property who might take him in, so I called him.  He preferred to sell me the trailer for $200, and move it to my farm; thereby solving the 24-hour-supervision requirement.

The “very-secure-enclosure” I intended to solve with 300'x100' chain link pen, quoted by a fence company at $6000.00.  I was going to swallow the cost, but an old high school friend, Tim Buchner, decided he, too, wanted to get into the Ostrich business.  When I told him about the costs, he said that we could do the fencing ourselves and save hundreds of dollars.
After the first mile or so of fencing, we got pretty good at it; with my inclination to get the fence up ASAP and Tim's determination to do it right the first time, it turned out quite well.   So when I set my mind to do the dog pen, I called Tim to ask what we used to do to "get it right."  He didn’t try to explain the process very long before he realized it would be much easier and time-efficient to just come out and do it.

Heartfelt thanks go out to: Tim Buchner and Grady Rhodes from Wagener for the (accurate) site work and construction; Mr. Tony Harmon, owner/operator of his own concrete business in Lexington. Tony is an expert at concrete finishing and an artist at stamped concrete; Mr. Dean Gooding at Sox Fence & Supply Co, 1500 Lake Dogwood Dr. West Columbia, SC 29170; and, certainly Dottie Gantt for recognizing the need and caring enough to get something done.”

Dottie's Fosters
This is not the only service Dottie Gantt has performed on behalf of the Wagener community, its mayor and its animals.  Dottie is the coordinator of the affordable and accessible spay/neuter project run out of Town Hall and currently funded by FOTAS.  If you have a cat or dog that needs to be fixed, please go sign up.  Outdoor living cats are also being trapped-fixed and returned by volunteers that Dottie oversees.
Another of Dottie's Fosters

But right now, your own Dottie Gantt needs you.  She took on a bunch of (6 or 7) desperate, lovely loving dogs and she now needs help fostering and finding them homes.  (See them on her Facebook page or our PAWS facebook page.) Also, if you can find it in your heart to help with temporary foster-care for animals needing guidance and support on their way to their forever, loving home please contact Dottie.  

Let’s help her out, before we use her up!  You, too, can be a Wagener Angel!

A retired organizational problem-solver and radical educator, Joya Jiménez DiStefano is an artist, Servant Leader, and co-founder of FOTAS, Inc.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Acting as if the God in All Life Matters

Aiken County Animal Advocates


(Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc.)

By Joya DiStefano

This Aiken County Animal Advocates Columns was posted in the Aiken Standard on 4/17/2014

“Why spend $600 (or more) on one sick dog, when there are so many healthy ones who need homes?”  This common query is aired far less often than it is pondered when addressing the overwhelming problem of unwanted dogs and cats in our community shelters. 

The fact is that if a heartworm positive dog is picked up or surrendered to animal control, Aiken County policy says that it cannot be adopted out to a private citizen; it may only be transferred to a reputable rescue organization.  Such organizations will only accept the heartworm positive dogs if the money for treatment accompanies the dog.  Treatment and transportation runs between $600 to $700 dollars; hence the opening question.

Just before Thanksgiving of 2011, an elderly rat terrier named Snoopy came to our home.  After many weeks languishing in a shelter cage, Snoopy had been adopted by an elderly friend who had loved a rat terrier long gone.  The widow thought to share her twilight years with the little old dog who reminded her of another past. 

Because Snoopy had not been neutered he could not go home with our friend for Thanksgiving.  As an approved foster home, we opted to provide short-term foster care over the holiday.  Then our friend had second thoughts.  My husband fell in love with Snoopy.  Snoopy stayed.
Snoopy and his Dad

First, Snoopy had neck spasms.  Then Snoopy was attacked by two large dogs and spent post-surgical time with drainage tubes in his neck wounds (we refer to it as the “extreme chiropractic” as the neck spasms never returned).  
Snoopy hitching a rid ein Hitchcock Woods

Snoopy’s extreme enthusiasm for food would cause his head to pop into view over the kitchen island while multiple food dishes were prepared.  He rapped the “Gimme-the-Food!” song as back-up rhythm for the hops, “RUFF! Ruff-RUFF! RUFF-ruff-ruff-RUFF!”  

Snoopy required a private dining room (the kitchen lavatory) and a soup can in his dish to slow his chowing down.   We called him “Snooper-G,” the rapper.  He got a bit too fat because the upward tilt of his adorable head trained my husband to give him just one more treat.

A few weeks ago, the dogs were tumbling out of their car, as they do most mornings when we arrive at the back side of Hitchcock Woods for our daily hike.  Snoopy was asserting a personal fantasy about his canine prowess by buzzing PeeDee, our 60-pound “shar-pitt,” from behind. 

PeeDee suddenly whirled and snapped a growl that caused Snoopy to haul up short and wrench to the side.   One yelp and Snoopy’s hind legs were gone.  The rest of the pack must have sensed the urgency as I scooped the tiny paraplegic up.  They piled back in the car and we went straight to the vet who made a quick referral.  Snoopy had back surgery in Columbia that afternoon.

Why spend all that money on one elderly dog who wasn’t even supposed to be ours?  We are far from rich, when it comes to money anyway.  We have way too many dogs, by any sane reckoning.  Why not just “put him to sleep,” or euthanize him?  Let’s face it, the pretty language makes killing for the sake of convenience or economics tidier.  Snoopy was not ready to die; therefore, we were not ready to let him go.  Saving him was an option.  We took it.
Snoopy in Rehab

Yes, I had to carry Snoopy out to express his bladder and help him poop if he hadn’t already soiled his bed, and, yes, I had to do a lot more laundry.  But I think I know the answer to that opening question, “Why spend $600…?”  

Love calls; we hear the call, and either we answer or we turn away.  God is Love.  Life is Love.  The heartworm positive dog is Love.  The motherless puppies and kittens are Love.  The abandoned animal along the road is Love.  Money is not love; it can only provide the means to express Love.

If you hear Love call from a treatable dog in our County Shelter, you can make a tax deductible contribution to “PAWS4Heartbeat” at www.paws4nokill.org.  If you would like to reduce the number of unwanted puppies and kittens arriving at the Aiken County Animal Shelter, you can make a donation to SNYP at www.paws4nokill.org.  

Sixty of us at $10 each can save a treatable dog; ten of us can spay a large female dog. When you donate your amount, just click on Make This Recurring in the paypal box. Credit cards accepted or set up a paypal account and have it deducted from your checking account each month.
It's easy to do, just CLICK HERE to DONATE NOW!

Money is not Love.  If you have a couple of weeks to show Love to a needy dog in transit, call Mary Lou at the Aiken Foster Network hotline: (803) 275-0841or email her at MaryLou@paws4nokill.org

There are so many ways to act as if the God in all Life matters.  Together we can stop the unnecessary killing.  Act now. Please.

A retired organizational problem-solver and radical educator, Joya Jiménez DiStefano is an artist, Servant Leader, co-founder of FOTAS, and founder of PAWS, Inc.