Riding the Underground Railroad
Wednesday, August 24, Los Angeles Times

The front page of the Wednesday, August 24, Los Angeles Times has a superb article, that extends over three pages, headed "Riding the Underground Railroad." It follows the journey of Paddy, "a mid-size, aging brown mutt" from Tennessee, from where a rescuer closing down shop posted his photo on the Internet, to his new home in California. He changes hands many times on his 2,260 mile, 60 hour, drive across the country.

The article is written with tenderness -- I found myself almost moved to tears by the efforts of so many people to save one dog. But it asks the hard questions. For example, we meet Deanna Trietsch, 44, who "regularly gives last walks to strays about to be euthanized in public shelters, to 'make their last hours feel like they were loved,'" and who is part of the Paddy express We read:

"Still, she found Paddy's odyssey a little puzzling. 'I do wonder why somebody in California would want to bring this dog all the way across the country Quite frankly, I'm sure I could have found an animal I loved right here in Tennessee. Why wouldn't you search your local area? But
they must've seen something in this pretty fella.' As she spoke, about 250 dogs needing homes were being housed at the shelter in Orange County. Most would end up euthanized."

And we read:

"Some animal welfare organizations question the need for the marathon relays, noting that people can easily adopt from nearby shelters. An estimated 3 million to 6 million cats and dogs are still euthanized nationally each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Those numbers are down from 20 years ago, when about 17 million stray dogs and cats were destroyed annually. The organizations worry that it is stressful for animals to be hauled long distances, and wonder who monitors them during their journeys and afterward."

The article tells us: "But transporters say there are many reasons for far-flung adoptions. People sometimes can't find a certain breed in their region, so they look farther afield. Finding homes for older or disabled animals can be difficult within a small range. And there are sharp regional disparities in the number of available pets."

Still, that hardly explains why people would devote such effort to bringing a "a mid-size, aging brown mutt" to a city that kills 60,000 dogs every year for lack of homes.

The story does not have a joyous ending. The woman who is choosing to import the mixed breed from the other end of the country seems strange. We read of Paddy's new home:

"The acrid smell of dog and cat urine cut through the night air. Inside, a frenetic chorus of barking and hissing came from behind a closed door. Three sick kittens with rheumy eyes lay curled up in a fleece basket. Paddy was joining Meddick's menagerie, which already included 26 animals in the 900-square-foot house and backyard, including a litter of puppies. Four dogs were stacked in crates covered with blankets. Meddick said she crates some of them when she is away on rescues and transports, which can take as long as 14 hours. The living room had little furniture or indoor lighting. Paddy squeezed himself into a narrow hiding place between the front door and a stack of boxes. Meddick lay down next to him and talked softly. Along with her unfamiliar non-Southern accent were the familiar sounds and smells of many animals in a confined space. 'It beats the alternative: being put to death at a shelter,' Meddick said. Within minutes of ending his transcontinental journey, Paddy was in a crate, his eyes peering into the dark."

Those who had cared for Paddy in Tennessee and set him on his journey to his new home wrote and asked for pictures and information but his new caretaker feels his welfare is none of their business. They are left to wonder how much of his life Paddy spends, 2,000 miles out of their
reach, in a crate.

The article brings home the importance of spay-neuter, with Annette Rauch of the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine commenting:  "We have some areas of the country now where we've done enough spay and neutering that you really don't have surplus puppies and kittens. In other parts of the country, she says, things are grim."

And it includes some touching lines, such as those from a woman who "decided to work with animals rather than the elderly or children after consulting her Bible." In her words: "It said, 'The man who cares for his domestic animals is blessed. God gave man dominion over the animals.'
So I said OK, I'm doing animals. They are not masters of their fate; they're just floating along in the human deal."

It cries out for letters recommending a trip to your local shelter, and calling for spay-neuter legislation.

The Los Angeles Times takes letters at letters@latimes.com Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Shorter letters are more likely to be published.

Yours and the animals',
Karen Dawn,  www.DawnWatchcom.

Recent review of the latimes.com shows the article has not been archived.  If you find an active link to the article please contact info@thekittyliberationfront.org and we will post it.

Sunday, September 11, 2005 21:52 CDT

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