We work in a roller coaster environment. One minute, a happy family is bounding out of our adoption center with a pet who will change their lives forever, and the next, someone is carrying an elderly loved pet through our doors to be humanely euthanized. Last week, this hit us hard.
On Monday, a family surrendered their family pet, a black lab, who had been with them nearly 11 years. They said they were moving out of state and couldn’t take her. She arrived with a large mass on her chest, which we quickly determined was just a benign fatty tumor, common in labs this age. We contacted a breed-specific rescue group and another group that focuses on placing dogs of an advanced age. Neither could take her now. Not a problem. Although we figured this wouldn’t be the easiest placement since few potential adopters want a dog well into her twilight years, we also have special people who understand that while the time may be short, they will make it special for a pet who deserves as much. That special person arrived at the SPCA and made it official on her second day awaiting adoption!
In our line of work, we can’t save them all, especially the wild animals we encounter. Our mission includes rescuing and rehabilitating all the sick, injured and orphaned wild animals in our area. A success rate even approaching 50% would be off the charts, and this doesn’t at all reflect the skills of people providing this care or their resources. Think about it. It’s a wild animal’s very nature to avoid humans. The great majority of those that allow us to get close enough to handle them are critical, at best, and often in grave condition.
This week, I’m offering someone else’s words. One of our board members felt a real sense of pride when a neighbor shared with her the story of an animal we couldn’t save.
Man Kills Cat with Sledgehammer. Raccoon Impaled with Pitchfork. Puppy Burned with Cigarette Lighter. Hawk Suffers Gunshot Wound.
These are the headlines that cross my desk. I gave an interview once holding the 10-pound barbell plate someone tied to a cat’s collar, before tossing the cat into the three-foot deep lagoon fronting the Oracle towers in Redwood Shores; the length of rope was about two-feet long, cut that length, I guessed, to maximize the cat’s struggling and suffering.
People learn about these kinds of stories and ask “How can you do this work?”
There are close to 8,000 humane societies, SPCAs, animal shelters and rescue groups in the United States. I can count on two paws those that handle dogs, cats and other domestics and operate a full-scale wildlife rehabilitation program. Your SPCA…the SPCA for Monterey County is one of them.
Here’s a thumbnail sketch: we care for wildlife in facilities located near the top of our property, far from the adoption center and main parking lot, barking dogs and public foot traffic. We take in 2,500 or so wild animals annually and, at peak times, house up to 130. These include mammals, hawks, owls, eagles, songbirds, and seabirds.
I wrote last week’s blog entry — my first — without any introduction. Since I’ll be writing in this “Telling Tails” space regularly, I thought I’d share a little background.
As a kid, I had guppies and puppies, maybe even at the same time. And, I was pretty good with both, even for a little kid and even by today’s standards; that is, after our first family pet, Clancy the Dalmatian, wouldn’t put up with my 3-year-old shenanigans and my parents rehomed her. A few years laters, I’d take our yellow lab mix, Ginger, on daily walks and earned an allowance, which was blown immediately on pinball machines or baseball cards.
Ginger was my buddy, but my childhood love growing up in the ‘burbs 30 minutes south of San Francisco was baseball. When I wasn’t playing, I was watching; Candlestick Park was my setting for countless warm memories and chilly games during the mid 1970s to late 1980s. The last stop for me and baseball was Stanford. I didn’t get a “free ride” athletic scholarship, but close enough.