Friday, November 05, 2004


Today I visited the Oakland Country Bark Park in Orion Township. Jedi was overjoyed. She recognizes the Bark Park entrance and goes into her own style of doggie conniptions as we turn into the parking lot. I don't know how many acres this Bark Park covers, but it isn't enough. They are enlarging it to spread over a much bigger area, with more trees and a huge field for the dogs to run in and play.

It is a totally enjoyable experience, visiting this wonderland for the canine species. People travel from near and far to exercise their dogs. Somehow, the dogs understand that they are in their own park. They seldom snarl at one another. In two years of visiting there, I have only seen one fight...and this was an older dog attacking a puppy. Other than that, the dogs are perfectly well behaved and very congenial. They come up to you and ask to be petted. They are highly sociable with people and with their fellow dogs.

Jedi lives her life on the end of a leash. Of course, she isn't leashed while inside, but outside, there isn't much of a lawn to play in, so a long walk is about the only exercise available. Not that she doesn't enjoy a walk. In fact, she begs me to take her, but the pleasure is nothing like the fenced Bark Park, where I can unleash her and she can run like the wind from one end to the other without worry.

Jedi was discovered in Florida by a PAWS aide there who visits all the pounds and tests the puppies with some kind of a bell. Puppies that pay attention to the bell and are also interested in the person are taken out of the pound. Jedi was kept by this woman for awhile, in a sort of foster family situation, then she was flown to Michigan for training at the PAWS Center in Wayland, Michigan, which is near Grand Rapids.

After passing all sorts of physicals, her training began in earnest. I understand she had trainers for sound, and trainers for behavior. Jedi was taught the basics....sit, stay, down, come. But she was also taught to understand commands in sign language and such things as laying quietly under a restaurant table. It is rigorous training and each new lesson takes months and months of repetition.

Finally, Jedi graduated and was introduced to me. Strangely enough, she came directly over to me, even though I stood with a group of people. I have often wondered if someone splattered me with beef juice or something, but I guess it is just a sense that dogs have, for I sure needed Jedi. She is my insurance against sleeping through a fire. I can miss a few phone calls without too much worry, but the possibility of a nighttime fire used to keep me up nights. Now I sleep soundly, for Jedi is alert.

But, that isn't really what I wanted to talk about today. Years ago, I decided to write a story for the newspaper I worked for about the dog pound. So off I went to write and photograph the most tragic story I have ever written. There they were, locked in cages, noses pressed to the steel bars, tails wagging, begging for attention, those big brown eyes fixed on me as I moved about. It was as if each of them was saying, "Take me!" "Take me!" If I had had enough money and enough property....say a yard the size of Rhode Island...I would have taken them all home with me. My heart ached with each thump of each wagging tail.

The tragedy of it stays with me. Most of them were beautiful dogs, although I am sure there were a few nippers and biters, constant barkers, egg-suckers, flea-riddled runaways and garbage ruminants in the crowd. But a majority were just your average neighborhood dog, well worth becoming a member of someone's family, yet destined to live out their last few remaining hours behind bars.

Then I asked the question that left me flabbergasted when it was answered. They said that, each month, an average of four thousand dogs are destroyed in this facility alone. Four thousand dogs put to death and incinerated each and every month! Could the Nazi ovens be any more brutal? Four thousand dogs killed in the time it takes the moon to travel from one end of the sky to the other. Four thousand wagging tails stilled!

Since that time, since I emerged from this prison for unwanted animals, I have made it a point to ask people about their dogs. And I have realized that, if all dogs were spayed, there would possibly not be four thousand dogs a month destroyed in just one facility. Perhaps, then, the number would be cut down to two thousand, or even one. But, time and again, people have told me that the two to four hundred dollars for spaying is just too hard to gather together in a family budget. It is something that is put off....sometimes until it is too late.

Why....why...isn't there a Spaying Program in the United States of America, with some kind of a reduced rate for the spaying of dogs? Wouldn't it be cheaper than keeping them and killing them, in the long run? And look at the tragedy of the situation! If Spaying helps, for God's sake, let's get it done on a national scale! There is something so electrifying about the slaughter of this many dogs and cats in a country where millions of dollars are spent on family pets.

Someone told me recently that there are other, more important programs, that there are people who are hungry. In Sudan, the babies look skeletal...their little eyes hopeless. I know this, and I know that something must be done about it...and quickly. But as a person who loves animals, there just has to be solution to the cruelty of this constant annihilation of pets!

When I look at Jedi, I picture her as she was just six years ago, a puppy in a dog pound, awaiting death. Thank Heavens the sound of a bell....or anything else..... piques her curiosity. Thank Heavens she was saved by a bell.