2014-04-24 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” - saying inside a fortune cookie

Have you noticed that fortune cookies have become less clairvoyant and more Confucius? They offer life guidance. I have been saving select fortunes for some time now, and waiting for the proper way to connect the white strips of wisdom, like the one above, to the rescue realm.

Shelter and animal groups attract all sorts of personalities. The volunteers’ focus should be on the dogs and cats; not on their egos. There are many caring and dedicated people. Unfortunately, a few suffer from a “savior syndrome” and brag about their efforts and each pet they help as if someone were keeping score. They overshadow those who are there for the right reason. The truly selfless may go unnoticed even though their contributions are immeasurable. When they leave, there is a huge void.

Leslie administering dog medicines at Last Hope Leslie administering dog medicines at Last Hope Leslie is that type of Last Hope dog volunteer. She is so humble and hardworking that she’d be uncomfortable to see her last name within this print praise. Leslie will soon be moving from Long Island because of the economic echo we hear over and over. She is in the midst of a divorce. There are so few affordable houses here for a newly single person. She’d find something promising and then be outbid. A high school friend convinced her to come live near her. Within a month Leslie and her Gordon Setter “Sherlock” will move into a lovely old Victorian in a historic Ohio town. (Closing fees: $150; property taxes $800 a year.) She has already visited the local shelter there about volunteering, even attended a crowded court hearing in defense of a shelter dog. Our loss is Ohio rescue’s gain. Leslie will transition well because as another fortune cookie said: “Only you can change your life. No one can do it for you.”

Almost three years ago Leslie stumbled on Last Hope Animal Rescue (when we first leased the former Bideawee shelter in Wantagh) because her adult son wanted to look at dogs for adoption. All Last Hope helpers are volunteers. In fact, some families volunteer together. Leslie joined the canine crew. She came from Bay Shore to work shifts in the Dog Center. Each team walks, feeds, socializes up to 20 dogs and shows them to potential adopters while also cleaning the kennels and adjoining rooms. It’s a labor of love.

Leslie added more shifts whenever possible and offered to be a morning feeder too. These volunteers are at the Dog Center at 7:30 a.m. to give breakfast, walks and medicine, and then to clean up after a long night. There is so much to do early in the morning. Administering and logging the meds takes someone quite meticulous. Then she added shift leader to her repertoire of responsibilities, quietly supervising and mentoring other volunteers during her shift. Part of the job is being a dog traffic cop and monitoring the entrances and exits of “walkies” so there are no cranky collisions. She’d substitute when other volunteers were unavailable, chauffeur dogs to the vet, do home checks before potential adoptions and participate in adoption fairs. All in keeping with another fortune cookie proclamation:

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

Leslie was instrumental in an amazing adoption. She quietly mentioned to a retired doctor that she once worked for that Last Hope may be getting a Cocker Spaniel (his breed). He and his wife got to Wantagh as “Baker,” the Cocker, arrived from Babylon Shelter. I had no idea who he was, and explained that the operation to correct cherry eye need not be performed by a specialist. Then he mentioned that he was an orthopedic surgeon but was not very familiar with eye surgery. He insisted that a veterinary ophthalmologist fix Baker’s eye, and insisted on paying for the procedure whether he wound up adopting him or not. Yes, Baker does live with the doctor’s family including his other Cocker.

Later Leslie began picking up Saturday afternoon transports. She and Eileen (another unsung hero of cats and dogs) drive to New Jersey or Portchester to fetch the desperate dogs coming to Last Hope from Kentucky or Virginia. At times the weather or traffic refuses to cooperate so this trek takes longer. No matter what happens, Leslie and Eileen rave about their pooch passengers.

Everyone at Last Hope, especially the dogs, will really miss Leslie. But there’s a far-fetched idea. Pilots n Paws is a network of pilots who offer their skills and planes to fly dogs to rescues throughout the US. If we could convince the volunteer pilots to airlift her to Long Island a weekend each month, homeless dogs here and those in Ohio could happily share their Aunt Leslie.

*Special plea- Brookhaven Town Shelter (631-286-4940) needs supply donations. The shelter had to close down last week for adoptions due to an outbreak of parvo in the dog kennels where they have over 200 dogs. Two dogs were diagnosed with parvo which is a highly contagious, and sometimes, fatal canine virus. To minimize contagion, the shelter disposed of everything - EVERYTHING. They are in dire need of the following, either new or gently used:

Blankets, sheets, towels, and toys

(Jolly Balls, Kongs, Benebones, mainly the stuffable toys).

Items can be brought to Last Hope at 3300 Beltagh Avenue in Wantagh ANYTIME (please mark for Town of Brookhaven AS) or directly to the Town of Brookhaven’s Animal Shelter at 300 Horseblock Road in Brookhaven after April 23. Thank you!!

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Featuring a tri-colored duo this week-

Basil” 14-208 is a friendly, stray Beagle with a sparse coat and pink nose but pearly white teeth; while “Cali” 4-105 is a gorgeous 10-month-old calico kitten. Go see how her calico colors are accentuated against her faux leopard bed.

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