Putting a Face on Louisiana's Homeless Dog Crisis
Here's a sneak peek at my new foster dog, Redmond. Cute, no? He's a head-turningly handsome Southern boy, a hybrid of - haven't had a DNA test run, so I'm guessing here - Irish Setter, Golden Retriever, Collie, and clown.
Redmond is neutered, perfectly housebroken, and plays beautifully with other dogs. He's a real sweetheart, and in short, a wonderful family dog. So how did this 62-pound paragon of pooch perfection end up at a pound in Kaplan, Louisiana, with at just four days to live before he would be gassed to death? How indeed.
Thanks in part to timely reporting by CNN's Anderson Cooper and the New York Times, millions of Americans are now aware of the desperate situation for pets in the Gulf. The oil spill has caused a different breed of gusher: an overflow of adoptable dogs. With so many jobs lost, more and more families are finding they can no longer afford to keep their animal companions, so area shelters and pounds are filled to capacity with owner-surrendered dogs. Like Redmond, these dogs are highly adoptable, amazing family pets - there just aren't enough homes to take them all.
Last week, the Humane Society of the United States helped ease some of the Gulf's homeless dog burden; HSUS arranged for 94 dogs to be safely relocated to New Jersey from ten overwhelmed Louisiana shelters: West Bank Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter and East Bank Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter, Terrebonne Parish Animal Shelter, Animal Rescue New Orleans, Plaquemines Animal Welfare Society, Saint John Animal Shelter, Saint Charles Animal Shelter, Louisiana SPCA, Zeus's Place and Saint Bernard Animal Shelter.
All 94 passengers arrived safely at St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center; the majority of the Louisiana dogs will be adopted out through St. Hubert's, with the rest being handled by their kind partner agencies: Noah's Ark, Mount Pleasant Animal Shelter, Monmouth County SPCA, Animal Alliance, Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, Humane Society of Atlantic County, and the Franklin Township Animal Shelter. If you're anywhere near New Jersey or Louisiana and looking to adopt a dog, please pay one of these excellent shelters a visit - or consider making a donation, as every bit helps a lot right now.
As for Redmond, I first became aware of his urgent need for rescue in late June through Dogs in Danger, and pulled him out with the help of the dedicated rescuers at Animal Aid for Vermilion Area, who diligently post the out-of-time dogs' photos online. Sadly, the pound has no adoption program; it's a temporary lockup for stray and lost pets until they are reclaimed by their owners (or pulled by rescuers). If that doesn't happen, they go into the gas chamber.
Of course, I wanted to spring all of the inmates, but one in particular, Shadow, commanded my attention. There was just something about his face: a sweet look of surprise that told me he could roll with any punch life might throw - even, dare I say, being forced to shack up with four dogs he'd never met before in a New York City apartment. After medical care, grooming, and almost two weeks of boarding at Dr. Mike Guidry's Animal Care Hospital in Lafayette, Shadow, a.k.a. Redmond, made the trip North last month; I was lucky to secure him a last-minute spot on a professional dog-transport trailer.
No rescue would be possible without a network of cheerful, reliable, can-do volunteers. Special thanks to my fellow rescuer Lisa in Louisiana for letting Redmond stay at her home the night before his big trip; for driving him to the appointed pickup spot on time at 7 a.m.; and for getting him warmed up to his new name ("It's him," she declared). Another thank you to my fellow rescuer Catherine here in New York for driving to the appointed drop-off spot well ahead of schedule - early in the morning after she had to work late into the night, no less.
Incidentally, Redmond's previous handle, Shadow, was doubtless inspired by his endearing habit of sticking close to a person; right now, he's sprawled out, fast asleep at my feet as I write this. But although he acts like a Shadow, he doesn't really look like one - so his new moniker is a tip of the hat to his glorious sable coat and to the title character of Stanley Kubrick's film "Barry Lyndon."
Played by Ryan O'Neal, Irishman Redmond Barry schemes to move up in the world, marrying into English society and assuming the name Barry Lyndon. I have no doubt that K9 Redmond will enjoy an equally upwardly-mobile journey! Already, he's had his portrait taken by noted photographer Anneli Adolfsson. Like his namesake, he's a roguish redhead, a natural-born gentleman with noble aspirations - a mutt who actually looks like a purebred.
In fact, he looks so pedigreed that he deserves his own Mutt-i-gree designation: how does Lafayette Lurcher sound? (If you have other suggestions, please email me - email@example.com.)