2015-08-20 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Wouldn’t it be helpful if stray dogs and cats could speak, or carry a hidden camera, so we’d know their histories? Sadly, they don’t. If we were to produce a TV mini-series called “Unsolved Shelter Mysteries,” we could start by featuring a few strange-but-true cases from Babylon Shelter archives, such as the unclaimed stray dog picked up wearing a pirate costume, months from Halloween, or “Phelps,” a Lab mix that swam across a Babylon Village canal yet no one ever came to retrieve him.

Sometimes a pet enters a Town shelter in such an unusual way or with inexplicable medical issues that no one handling the animal can piece its puzzle together. Perhaps a TV audience could call in tidbits of information or clues to the dog or cat’s identity if their plights and pictures were broadcast.

For example, over 25 years ago, before computers were used to keep veterinary records, I took a limping, blonde Afghan Hound from Babylon Shelter. X-rays showed that she already had a metal plate in her leg which had moved. I reached out to a local orthopedic specialist to see if he recalled operating on an Afghan. He didn’t, nor did colleagues he called. We had her leg repaired again, and then placed her with a couple who had recently lost their Afghan named “Grille,” which they said meant “witch” in Icelandic. “Grille II” followed in her predecessor’s ornery paw prints but we never did find out who had paid for her first surgery.


Carrier with odd latch used to abandon “Eleanor” the cat at Belmont Lake State Park Carrier with odd latch used to abandon “Eleanor” the cat at Belmont Lake State Park After our TV show premiere to establish historical background, we could profile one puzzling shelter pet per week and ask our viewers for help uncovering the pet’s mysterious background and, of course, finding the dog or cat a much better home. Here are recent cases that could star in the first two TV episodes of our audience participation show. (I hope cable networks are reading this):

*“Popeye”- In June someone brought this 11-pound stray Chihuahua mix, supposedly found in Lindenhurst, to Babylon Shelter where he was immediately transported to the emergency hospital because he had a bulging eye. It was assumed he had been hit by a car though no one witnessed the accident. The vets removed his damaged eye, inserted a temporary wire to support his broken jaw and neutered him. Two weeks later he came to Last Hope where he was adopted by a loving family who renamed him “Hogan.” Soon after, they discovered several nodules under his skin.

Several vets dismissed these as age bumps although “Popeye” is only about three. His owners remained concerned about the bumps and took him to their own doctor who x-rayed the dog, and discovered he had four pellets embedded in his skin. Three are just under the skin in his legs, and one is deeper near his tail. The body encapsulates pellets with fibrous tissue so they don’t have a distinct metal feel. Are they BBs or shotgun pellets? How long had they been there?

Stop filming! The pellets horrify us and alter our thinking about the cause of his severe eye and jaw trauma. No one uses a Chihuahua as a hunting dog and then misses the intended target. We’ve seen hunting hounds from LI and out of state with embedded pellets. (Some of these shots may have been intentional too.) Was he really hit by a car or, instead, a tiny victim of violence and abuse? Not sure how long it takes the body to surround metal pellets with tissue, so were his head and jaw trauma a kick or battering and a separate incident from being shot? This poor dog! How can he retain such sweetness after the torture he’s endured?

The x-raying doctor thinks the superficial pellets should be removed and tested to see if they are lead or copper. Various veterinary opinions exist about whether there is a danger of toxicity when pets have embedded pellets. Nowadays most are made of steel. Next month when “Popeye” is sedated to have his jaw wire removed, he will also have an umbilical hernia fixed and the three, superficial pellets removed. His mystery haunts us. Why would a cruel human hurt such a dear, little dog?

*“Eleanor”- Jill, animal control officer at Babylon

Shelter was driving home during the heavy rain last Tuesday. She spied a burgundy pet carrier near the north side of Belmont Lake State Park. She and another passerby stopped to investigate. The carrier was open and empty but someone had fastened an odd latch to its door. It looked like a sliding latch you’d add to cabinet but it didn’t close tightly. Jill and the other kind lady (who turned out to be a cat rescuer too) walked into the woods to check for an abandoned animal or litter of kittens. As they ventured deeper, they noticed leaves moving and spotted drenched, weak, gray cat just lying there.

Jill grabbed the cat and set her up in a cage back at the shelter. She was already covered with fly eggs as if the maggots were waiting in the wings. By the next day when she saw the vet, pretty “Eleanor” #5-370, a Russian Blue mix, was already doing much better. She’s looking for a loving home. We named the rescued cat “Eleanor” after Eleanor Robson Belmont, philanthropist and widow of August Belmont Jr. Upon her death at age 100 in 1979, the remaining 158 acres of family property were given to NYS for the formation of Belmont Lake State Park.

“Eleanor” the cat may have been fending for herself before the terrible rain, but why would someone dump a cat in the woods, and then place the carrier where it could be spotted from the road? Why would someone fasten such a heavy yet impractical lock to a carrier? Possibly one of our viewers will have the answers. Stay tuned to “Unsolved Shelter Mysteries”…

*1-800-Flowers.com Event: This Sat., Aug. 22, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., each dog or cat adopted and taken home from Last Hope at 3300 Beltagh Ave. in Wantagh will be accompanied by a fresh floral arrangement, courtesy of 1-800-Flowers.com.

In addition, any person who donates $20 or more to Last Hope during this event will also be able to take home a flower arrangement.

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