Tallahassee Democrat, November 3, 1998
Courtney, 6th grader,
Rusty, whom she adopted at the Tallahassee-Leon Community
Animal Service Center.
Courtney Chiles wrote:
Dad gave us a certificate for Christmas saying that they had
paid the $50 adoption fee for us to get a dog from the Animal
Shelter. My brother and I had wanted a dog for a long time so
this was a dream come true. When I saw Rusty, I fell in love
with him! He has been a great companion and friend. I hope he
always will be, because I love him."
Find a friend for life at
the Animal Shelter
Maggie's cold nose gently nudged me awake this morning. When
I finally opened my eyes, she rewarded me with a wet kiss. But
as I lay staring into her eyes staring into mine, the single
image that has haunted me all week returned.
During the last few weeks, my classes
collected hundreds of pounds of aluminum cans, which the Tallahassee-Leon
Community Animal Service Center (AKA, The Animal Shelter or TLC)
recycles for operating funds, as well as food, towels, and blankets
for the animals.
also studied the grim statistics:
In our country, due to the
uncontrolled breeding of pets, more
than 70,000 puppies and
kittens are born each day. When these
figures are compared to
the 10,000 humans born daily in the United
problem is obvious.
fact, for every contented, pampered
pet, another four are
hungry and homeless. As for the dogs and
cats that end up in
America's shelters, an estimated 7.5 million
approximately two thirds of
the nearly 1,000 cats and dogs
brought to the Tallahassee-Leon
Community Animal Service
Center were euthanized.
The students brainstormed possible solutions
to this disturbing problem and began their own public education
campaign, making buttons and posters and writing letters.
Last week, they visited the Animal Service
When we arrived,
Jan Collier, who does
a superb job as Humane Educator and
Volunteer Coordinator, thanked
them for their
"If you help
even one animal, your
efforts have been worthwhile," she
Then she advised
them to "screw
themselves down tight" because they
were about to tour the
kennels and catteries.
These kids know the facts: Every animal
has five days to put his best paw forward to convince a human
to give him a second chance.
They understand why most of them are
Yes, too many people fail to spay or neuter their pets,
all the wrong reasons. But there's more.
In the fall, college students, who are
from home for the first time, get a little lonely. Some
the answer would be a cute kitten or puppy. Their intentions
are good, but at the end of the year, a variety of unforeseen
circumstances (moving back home or new rental agreements) send
hundreds of not-as-adoptable cats and dogs to the Animal
Then there's the
family who buys the
cute Lab puppy. This puppy needs lots of
exercise, love, and
attention. And, just like little humans,
he needs to be taught
But Mom and Dad work hard, and the kids
are busy with ballet and soccer. So the growing puppy, who desperately
wants to be part of the family (remember, he is, by nature, a
highly socialized pack animal), is left in the backyard. Lonely,
bored, unschooled and with energy to burn, he teaches himself
bad habits: digging, barking, destructive chewing, and excitedly
jumping on anyone who shows him a little attention.
This dog needs a good friend to take him to an obedience class. He needs to run in the the park
with the kids. And he needs to sleep next to their beds.
"Someone with a big farm will adopt
him," the kids are reassured, as they leave the dog at the
Animal Service Center.
students knew it would be hard to
look each one of these
disappointed animals in eye. But most
of them chose to take
the tour. So they "screwed themselves
For those of
you who remember the old
Shelter, this one is on a different
planet. It's modern, cheery
as possible and squeaky clean.
Two kennels separate small dogs
from larger ones. Cats have
their own room. Kittens and bunnies
obedience trainers walked dogs
outside, teaching them not to
tug at the leash so they could
make a better impression on
amazing how quickly this big
Doberman is learning," a
are never too old to learn. In fact,
if you don't have the
time or energy to go through the puppy
stage, an older, very
appreciative dog may be your best choice.
patience, and a few weeks of obedience school (I can't
professional schooling enough), there's a good chance
wind up with your dream dog.
An older cat, already litter-trained
grateful for regular meals and a warm lap, is another
Shelter, each dog has his
own indoor kennel and outdoor run,
fresh food and water, and
a card on his door. The card
indicates his breed, approximate
age, comments ("sweet
dog"), date of admission and
date of availability if he
was a stray (owners are given five
days to claim their pets).
Each kennel also has a number.
"If you see a dog or cat you absolutely
must have," I quietly advised my students, "remember
than half the dogs we saw were Labs, retrievers, chows, and
mixtures of all three. There were lots
of puppies, but most
were about a year old.
Madison, a quiet fifth grade girl, stopped
front of cage number 76. He was a one-year old Lab mix with
the biggest, soft brown eyes she had ever seen. He sat very straight
and still, looking up at her, tail noisily brushing the cement
floor as it wagged back and forth.
I put my arm around her and said, "He's
wonderful dog, isn't he?"
I tried to follow
Jan's advice, "Stay screwed down tight."
But as I
looked into 76's eyes, the distance evaporated. I was
at Maggie's eyes looking into mine as I awoke that morning.
I hope Madison has convinced her parents
to take a look at number 76. One look is all they'll need.