Animals In Print
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February 28, 2012

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Let's Save Our Best Friends

By Mike Schwager,

Mike Schwager best friends adoptI once rescued a little dog I named Harry, an older yorkie, from a county animal shelter here in South Florida. Harry was blind in one eye, and had a cataract in his other eye. He had kennel cough, and pneumonia. I could not bare to see him squeezed into a small cage. My heart just lept out for him. So I brought him home -- home with Chickie, my chihuahua/pug mix who I rescued from that same shelter several years earlier; and two rescued cats, Crystal and Mitzvah.

I immediately took Harry to the vet where he received a shot and some meds better than the non-meds he was receiving at animal control. When I brought him home, Harry revealed a very great intelligence and in spite of how sick he was, he immediately began to snoop around the house, curious about everything. But more, he sensed he was in a home, and he showed his perkiness and happiness to be "home".

A few days later, I gave Harry a warm bath, and upon towel drying him, wrapped him in a large bath towel and placed him upon my soft mattress. He was in heaven, oohing and ahhing at the great comfort he was enwrapped in and lying upon. I could sense a great deal of negative energy and tremendous stress leaving Harry, and he fell asleep for the next 12 hours.

Thereupon, for the next four months, Harry was restored to complete health. He loved being walked outside, and he displayed a kind of dance, which was the dance of celebration of being alive, and being loved. I frequently held Harry in my arms, and rocked him like a baby. He loved it. When I brought him in from a walk outside, he was so happy to be home, and he would approach Chickie and the two cats and caress their faces with his. Harry was a sweetheart.

adopt dog YorkieThen one day he began coughing, non-stop coughing, where he could barely breath. I rushed him to the vet and she reported he had a collapsed trachea. She did not think he would make it, but gave me tranquillizers for him to quiet him in the hopes that the tension upon the trachea would quiet. It didn't work and a few days later, Harry had a severe tracheal attack where I had to rush him again to the vet, where he was desperately choking and gulping for air. I knew Harry needed to be relieved from this suffering, and gave the vet consent to put him to sleep. Before she did, I spoke to him and told him how much I loved him, and thanked him for coming into my life and giving me such joy, and the opportunity to heal him. Seeing him die was very painful for me, for Harry was the epitome of life; and I prayed over Harry's warm body. I prayed very hard that he would now move into the Light and be comforted by angels and heavenly caretakers.

Harry was abandoned and betrayed by someone -- someone who didn't care enough. He might have fared better had he not fallen into the hands of the shelter -- a shelter that at that time had no heart for its inhabitants -- a shelter that was in effect a disposal unit -- and not an adoption facility as it should be.

The Harry's of the world, and those younger and healthier than Harry was, are the beloved and comfort of millions. They connect us to what is natural and spontaneous and unconditionally loving in our lives. They take us out of our busyness and complexity, out of our everyday stresses, out of our heads, and bring us into the wonder and joy of each moment.

Dogs are members of more than 43 million households in America, and cats of more than 37.5 million. These feeling, intelligent, loyal creatures give comfort to people of all kinds -- to the young, middle-aged and elderly, to families with children, to couples without children, and to those living alone. When they are brought into hospitals caring for children with grave illnesses, or into nursing homes tending to the aged, they become healers who bring smiles to faces. They defend homes as faithful watchers. They save lives, whether on the battlefield, or as brave aides to firefighters.

The fact is, each year we kill 3 million healthy and treatable dogs and cats at our shelters. If we are agreed that these animals are precious individuals who have a right to live, then we can also agree that a fundamental paradigm shift must take place at all animal shelters. The new underlying principle must be no-kill.

For those who don't believe it is possible to transition from kill to no-kill, look at other shelters who've done it -- in Charlottesville, Va., in Tompkins County, New York and in Reno, Nev. They've done it. They show it is possible.

Here are strategies needed for a transition to succeed:

Ultimately, the best way to ensure change is a massive campaign by voters who are pet lovers, in a well organized and orchestrated way. It will take leadership. And it will take funding from private citizens. Nathan Winograd can point the way.

There are millions of Harrys who are murdered each year at our county shelters. "Euthanize" is too bland a word for what occurs. Dragging innocent, vulnerable dogs to the killing rooms, screaming along the way -- knowing their fate -- where they are laid on cold metal tables and injected with poison, all the while trembling with fright. This is an atrocity -- and it must end.

When you visit an animal shelter, walk up close to a dog or cat, and really look at it, appreciating it for its life and being. You can see and feel that you have simply connected with life, not only its life but your life. Then you can love it as you love yourself.

Mike Schwager is a writer, editor-in-chief of, host of The Enrichment Hour on Sedona Talk Radio, publicist, TV interview trainer and last, but not least, animal advocate. E-mail him at:  [email protected]
Find Mike Schwager on Facebook:!/profile.php?id=666275627

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