In Friday’s edition this week we published a story about the Friends of the Highland Dog Pound’s only annual fundraiser being cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The story was about other ways people can donate to the all volunteer organization. If you are a dog lover, or just a like animals in general, we encourage you to consider making a donation.
A long time ago, I wrote weekly stories from the clerk’s notes from the meetings of the Highland County Board of Commissioners, who oversee operations at the dog pound — which is ompletely separate from the Highland County Humane Society Animal Shelter that’s located just down a hill from the dog pound. Toward the end of the notes there was always a listing of the number of dogs that had been euthanized each week.
It was not a small number.
Back then, the dogs were not given a shot that slowly put them to sleep. Instead, a vehicle was backed up to a room at the pound, a hose was attached to the vehicle and funneled into the room, and fumes from the vehicle were pumped into the room until the dogs were dead.
Many years ago some people who care deeply for dogs got tired of animals being euthanized at the dog pound and the Friends of the Highland County Dog Pound was established.
Because of those volunteers, dogs at the pound are no longer euthanized. Instead, they are kept at the pound until they are adopted or sent to another animal shelter.
That’s where my story comes in.
More than 10 years ago a friendly, young dog showed up at our house. One of our grandsons took a liking to her, started feeding her, and all of sudden we had our first pet in decades.
Buckeye was a medium to large sized dog, pretty, with a black coat that had tan and a little white mixed in. She may have been the most friendly and gentle dog I have ever met. It did my heart good to watch the grandson play with Buckeye. If he tried to playfully run from her, she’d chase him down, gently jump on his back and tackle him, then lick him all over until he was finally able to get back on his feet. Buckeye spent nights in our garage, and if I was out there alone, she’d find a spot nearby to lie down and patiently stare at me with her big, soft eyes.
One night a brother who can be a bit critical was hanging out in the garage with me. He looked at Buckeye resting nearby, then took a deeper look into her eyes. “Yep, she’s a good one,” he said.
It was that easy to tell.
A couple months after Buckeye arrived at our home we noticed she was putting on weight. Soon, it was obvious she was pregnant, and a few weeks later she gave birth to eight healthy puppies. That was neat, but it was also a problem. Because we had no suitable place for dog and her eight puppies. So we decided to move everything out of our small shed, line it with plastic tarps, and let the shed serve as their home until we decided what the next step would be.
The reality is that we had no idea what to do, or how to properly care for, eight little puppies. We decided to leave the door of the shed cracked, then blocked the crack with a 2-inch by 12-inch board that Buckeye could climb over, but the puppies could not. Of course, as the puppies grew, they found a way to get out. So we made the block a little taller. But still they would sometimes get out. I think they must have formed a puppy pyramid or something.
It was late fall or early winter, and inevitably it be dark and raining whenever the puppies decided to sneak out. My wife and I would be laying in bed when we’d hear whimpering behind the house. So we’d quickly throw on whatever we could find, grab a flashlight, and go puppy hunting. We’d hunt down as many as we could find, put them back with their siblings, then count to make sure we still had eight. Sometimes we’d have to go searching for a straggler.
It was an experience I do not want to experience again.
Thank goodness though, one of my co-workers was a volunteer with the Friends of the Highland County Dog Pound.
One Saturday afternoon a couple of the dog pound volunteers showed up at our house. Without ever being asked, they gave the puppies their shots, hugged on them a bit, then went on their way without asking for a thing.
Before long the puppies were big enough to leave the watchful eye of their mother. So we started looking for good people willing to take one. We found homes for two, but still had six with no good prospects on a place for them to go.
Then the dog pound volunteers came to the rescue again. One day they returned to our house, loaded the other six up, and told us they would taken to a shelter or two, one of them as far away as Michigan. Once again, they took care of everything, with nothing asked in return.
I have no idea what we would have done without the volunteers. And I am certain they have done the same thing for countless others stuck in a sticky puppy situation.
So, if you have a couple dollars to spare, think about sending them to the Friends of the Highland County Dog Pound. Because like dog pound treasurer Pat Lawrence said this week, “Everybody’s broke, but $5 doesn’t sound like much until 20 people give $5… The money is welcome, but the thought behind the money is the really important part for the volunteers.”
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.