While I was at the Wallingford Animal Shelter on Wednesday, I sat down with 3 very friendly, wiggly-waggly pit bulls that were temporarily in residence there. I met them one at a time, of course, so I could devote my full attention to each individually. The first dog I met was Gemma, a newcomer to the shelter. She was excited and enthusiastic. The second was Athena. She was more laid back and a little chunky. The last was Sugar, the savvy veteran of the group. They were glad to see me, and I wanted to learn their stories. So, we communicated.
I suspect you’re skeptical about my claim that we communicated, but I have experience with this. I am owned and managed by Sydney, a princess golden retriever, who rules our home with sweetness. I serve as Sydney’s butler and chauffeur, and in return she has me trained me to pay attention to canine cues.
Upon meeting these 3 dogs at the animal shelter, therefore, I put my training to good use. I assumed a proper conversational squatting position. I offered the back of my wrist at a respectful distance, and invited a sniff. They came close. I gave them cuddles and ear scratches. And it worked. We easily settled in for an lively visit. This is what these dogs tried to tell me while I was with them.
They feel safe and secure, but they are lonely. Although they spend most of their time by themselves in their smallish kennels, behind bars, they nevertheless know they are cared for, healthy, and attended to — within limits. They have human friends that pay attention to them when there is time. Besides the kind and gentle Katie, Rachel, and Jessica, who staff the shelter, a small corps of volunteers regularly visits these dogs for walks down the street. It’s something Gemma, Athena, and Sugar appreciate, but it’s not enough for them in the long run.
Most of the dogs at the shelter were once happy and secure in their own homes. They had loving families and in some cases they lived with other pets. But then, there was a crisis. They cannot remember the particulars as it’s painful, and thankfully, the unhappy memories are fading. But they know their first families turned their backs on them, even though they wanted nothing more than to please.
Gemma was abandoned in her home and left alone for days. She doesn’t know where her master went. Katie saved her. Sugar was tuned loose to fend for herself for no apparent reason. Wallingford Animal Control found her at Praggeman Park. Athena has a similar story.
Now, they are waiting ... waiting ... for new homes, and Katie at Wallingford Animal Control is searching on their behalf. She has the dogs on Facebook (“Wallingford Animal Control”) and on the Internet (wallingfordanimalcontrol.com). Additionally, she attends “adoption events.” The staff loads the dogs on a bus and they travel to different locations in the region where folks can see them. Everyone hopes that could lead to a match. The next event is the Valen’tails Adoption Ball at the Pet Playhouse in Southington on February 15th.
If anyone shows interest in adopting, the dog must be properly introduced to any prospective family. Neither Athena, Gemma, nor Sugar is going anywhere unless they personally approve. The staff will do a home visit; insist on 2 personal references; and even require a veterinary reference. Katie is protective and cautious. She will not turn over these beloved dogs to any new owner, unless she knows the adopting family will provide a good home.
Pit bulls, however, are not as cute and cuddly as some breeds, and because of their strength and high energy, they are not for everybody. Placing my 3 new friends in a home might be a challenge, therefore.
But for the time being, they are in good hands.
Mike Brodinsky is a former town councilor, chairman of the School Roof Building Committee and host of public access show “Citizen Mike.”