As promised we continue today with Randy Grim’s interview. As I mentioned in the first of the series yesterday, Randy is the founder of Stray Rescue, the subject of the book The Man Who Talks to Dogs and the author of Quentin, the Miracle Dog.
Yesterday we left off where Randy was telling us about being shy and how the dogs have brought him out of himself.
RG: There was a time when I didn’t leave the house for two years. I had that agoraphobia. I had social anxiety too, afraid of meeting new people, but here I am afraid to go the mall or something but I was never afraid to go into the poorest ghetto, the crime-ridden ghetto. In fact, that’s the time when all my fear is gone and that’s why I say the animals saved my life. I was able to overcome so much fear. I have had to overcome the fears I had of driving on highways and meeting new people and speaking up and talking and actually fighting and believing in something that I do believe in. I’m not a very religious or political person but I think maybe I am more than I think. But its pretty one-sided the animals.
JW: What is it about helping them and rescuing the dogs and getting out there that lets you overcome these fears and go into these neighborhoods?
RG: I don’t know. I wish you could bottle it in a pill and I would take it all the time. They need me; there’s no one else to do it. The police don’t even go into these neighborhoods. You’re not going to get animal control or the humane society into this stuff. That part, its epidemic in these neighborhoods. Its pandemic. There’s not veterinarians. There’s no spay and neutering. There’s a lot of dog fighting. There’s a lot of drug dogs there. Its a world with its own rules and its a world that I think America has really turned its back on. I think the curtain was lifted just a little bit for America to see after Hurricane Katrina because the same people who were left behind at the convention center, those same parishes that we have all over the country. People saw there are poor people and there are a lot of animals that these poor people have and there’s no programs in these areas. New Orleans had forty thousand feral dogs prior to the hurricane. Now there’s eighty something thousand. St. Louis, its estimated at forty thousand. Fifty-five thousand in LA. Its pandemic but the people that can make the difference, the people that can make all the decisions, they don’t live in those areas, they don’t go by those areas. They prefer not to look at those areas. One of the really cool things that came out of Hurricane Katrina is that people saw that we may be considered the strongest and best country in the world but we also have a lot of dirty secrets that we keep.
Were the only non-third world country with a pet overpopulation problem. People come here to adopt because of how bad we treat our animals. And that’s pretty amazing to me. We always hear about Americans going to China or Romania to adopt children because of conditions there and were considered like that when it comes to dogs and cats to the rest of the world. So we are the only developed country in the world with this problem and we should be embarrassed about it. Our politicians should be embarrassed by it. You know we created this problem with our greed and selfishness. Its on all of us to fix it.
JW: Tell me about that. How did we create the problem and what can we do to fix it?
RG: I think the problem started, to the degree that its at now, I think its started in the eighties when gangs started, a lot of urban violence started. The dogs were being used for protection and status symbols and then the dog fighting started. People don’t keep their dogs. When they’re tired of them they just let them loose. They just run the neighborhood and then they just keep populating to the point where we have third generation feral dogs now. And they have a distinct look.
JW: What do the feral dogs look like?
RG: There are a little bit smaller than this guy here. They’re a little bit smaller than Mambo. Usually they’re almost the coloring of Mambo, the straight color of tan or straight color of black. They have pointy ears with the tail that kind of curls up.
JW: So like the thirty to forty pound yellow dog you find all over the world?
RG: Right. Actually they’re the perfect medium size dog except they’re feral and some require rehab and some require years.
JW: What kind of rehab do they require?
RG: Uh! We’ve got quite a few ferals now and usually requires just a month to be able to touch them so it requires volunteers going in and sitting and doing their work. I have people go in and read, just to get them used to people. That’s the very first step and I can usually tell within two weeks how fast they’ll come around. Some come around pretty fast and some will always have issues; a shyness or a separation anxiety issue. Either skittish and shy or so attached to their caregiver it really upsets them when they leave. That’s a small percentage because some have gone on to become therapy dogs. There is that desire in all of them to be loved and to be a quote, unquote normal dog. Genetically they’re still domesticated. They cant hunt. They cant, that’s probably the saddest part to me that they cant really hunt. I’ve found this one pack of dogs and they were very feral. They would kill all these pigeons but they wouldn’t eat them because they couldn’t get through the feathers. They wouldn’t know how to pluck the feathers to get to the meat. Now they would eat a carcass that was already cut open but that’s how poor their hunting skills are. Kansas City, I was doing a story there, a special for one of the major networks there. I followed a dog around forever that was starving. It killed a bunny, carried it around as a toy. It didn’t eat it. It didn’t know how to, it has to have a wound already open. That’s kind of sad to me. It doesn’t have the basic instincts.
Check back tomorrow for the next installation of the Randy Grim interview!
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