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On A Wing And A Prayer

In the last few months I've been posting more and more stories about dogs being set loose by pet owners who can no longer care...

Horst Hoefinger  |  Apr 3rd 2009


In the last few months I’ve been posting more and more stories about dogs being set loose by pet owners who can no longer care for them. This is never an acceptable solution, there are other alternatives.

Copper’s story reiterates why it is so important dogs are brought to a shelter rather than just set free.

OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Copper would shake your hand, speak and even toss you a high-five. A note taped to the mixed-breed’s collar attests to his talents, but these deeds are not verifiable by eyewitness account.

Copper, you see, is dead.

The 30-pound male dog, estimated to be about 1 year old by Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement officials, was found March 18 lying on the shoulder of an asphalt road in Oshtemo Township. There was a hole in his skull, inflicted when a car hit him.

It was too late to heed the message someone had written on the tape wrapped around his collar: “Help me.”

Beneath the tape, in a plastic baggie, was a handwritten note describing Copper’s charming talents — he could sit, roll over, crawl, play dead and shake hands.

But someone let Copper go, abandoning him instead of dropping him off at one of several agencies around town that could have saved his life. The case has haunted KCASE Officer Mark Vanderberg since he was called to investigate.

I can only imagine how Officer Mark Vanderberg felt finding Copper, no wonder it haunts him. Mystery still surrounds Copper’s release, it seems he was loved, but yet he was left to fend for himself. It is assumed the owner let him go because of all the details in the note, a stranger would not know these things.

Officials say they understand why some pet owners find themselves unable to care for their animals. Owners are required by law to supply ample food and water and to maintain proper veterinary care.

These are not inexpensive needs, and an increasing number of pet owners run into conditions where decisions must be made. Options include turning to the Kalamazoo Animal Rescue, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Southwest Michigan, or the Pet Resource Network. If these aren’t the answer, the Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement shelter is available.

These are viable alternatives to simply turning a pet loose. Planning ahead, according to KCASE Director Steve Lawrence, can result in a much better outcome for the pet. “I can see why people come to a point where they can’t take care of a pet anymore, but you can’t wait until the very last minute to do something about it,” said Lawrence, director of the agency for six years. “You can see financial trouble coming, and you can start considering options early.

“Put an ad in the paper, start contacting agencies, anything but simply turning pets loose into elements they aren’t prepared for,” he said.

Many pet owners are under the impression that taking their pets to an animal shelter is tantamount to a death sentence, but percentages don’t back that contention.

Of the 480 dogs brought to KCASE this year, 33 have been euthanized, either when the shelter ran out of space or the animal was deemed unsafe, according to Lawrence.

For any dog owner that is in a similar predicament, please heed the advice above. A dog is not responsible for the situation their owner is in, at the very least they deserve to be given a chance at life, not to be turned loose on a wing and a prayer.

* Copper is a handsome boy who was abandoned by his family. He currently resides at a foster home in Minnesota and is waiting for his forever family.