Here we are, not quite to the middle of December, and yet and we already have a couple of winter storms under our belt. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one brushing the snow off my pumpkins so that I could get them out of the way for the Christmas decorations. The temperatures have also been below average, so I guess there’s no denying that winter has descended upon us. Every year when the weather turns like this, I lose sleep thinking of all the animals who are out there without shelter – especially those confined on a chain or in fencing that doesn’t allow them to seek out some sort of cover. Even after many years of working at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter, it hasn’t gotten any easier to keep those worries at bay.
This is the first winter that our organization hasn’t been responsible for enforcing animal cruelty laws, but I’m hoping that having regular law enforcement on the job now will be a positive step; at least they have many more people on staff to respond to calls. I hope that you will continue to do your part as vigilant animal advocates by reporting weather-related animal issues to your local police.
There are also new laws taking affect in February that will help protect pets in extreme weather conditions. In actuality, these laws are way overdue, but better late than never. These laws deal with shelter and containment and, since they come into effect in the middle of this winter, it makes sense to have everything in compliance at the onset of the bad weather.
The following are excerpts from a Humane Society of the United States document that helps put the laws into laymen’s terms.
- Adverse Environmental Conditions: It is unlawful to expose any dog, domestic companion animal or service animal to adverse environmental conditions for more than 30 minutes, unless the animal has continuous access to proper shelter as set forth below.
- Adverse Environmental Conditions means any of the following: 32degrees Fahrenheit or below, or 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above; exposure to direct sunlight, hot pavement, or any other hot surfaces that would pose a risk to the health or safety of the animal; cold weather or precipitation-related environmental conditions including, but not limited to, wind, rain, snow, ice, sleet or hail.
- Proper Outdoor Shelter Requirements: Proper shelter must, at all times: Be adequately ventilated so the animal remains dry and maintains a normal body temperature, in an upright position. Allow the animal access to clean, potable water and exposure to natural or artificial light per a regular cycle of day and night. Be soundly constructed, in good repair, have no sharp points or edges, and bmaintained from waste and debris. Provide sufficient space for the animal to easily turn around in a full circle and lie down on its side with limbs outstretched; and when the animal is in a normal sitting position, the top of the animal’s head cannot touch the shelter ceiling. Must be reasonably away from flood areas. Be cleared of snow, precipitation and debris. Must have a floor, insulation to maintain normal body temperature and, if under 32 degrees, a windbreak. Proper shelter DOES NOT include a crawl space, under a vehicle, a structure made with pressure-treated wood containing arsenic or chromium, or with a wire, chain link-type construction, or one made from materials that can easily denigrate from the elements. Even if shelter requirements are met, if the size, type, condition or type of animal puts the animal in danger of the elements, and normal body temperature cannot be maintained, it can be ordered to be taken inside.
Now, I hate to sound sarcastic, but doesn’t all that seem like common sense? There are other aspects of the new law that we’ll cover at another time, but I’m very happy that we now have a version of Code Blue laws that will help us protect pets from suffering. I’ve seen firsthand the results of animals who have been subject to frostbite and even death because their owners failed to provide protection from the elements; it’s the stuff of nightmares. Please play your part by reporting possible cases of cruelty and neglect to your police department.
MILLVILLE – Fresh from basic training, a 7-month-old pup is ready to move forward with his mission to help calm a veteran coping with post-traumatic stress.
Gunny, a husky-pit bull mix, needs a home and companion.
“The biggest thing for us right now is we want to get a veteran for this guy,” said dog trainer Ted DeNofio of Ted’s Pet Country Club.
Gunny is the first dog trained through the N.J. Dogs of Honor partnership. DeNofio is teaming with Diana Pitman, director of the Cumberland County Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and Maurice River Township officials to assist Cumberland County veterans.
Pitman, a former Army nurse facing post traumatic stress, knows firsthand how a service dog can change a life.
“I was getting treatment from the local Veterans Administration clinic — I knew being a nurse the isolation factor was not good for me,” she told The Daily Journal. “I had some friends around who were concerned. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to deal with anything. It was too much to go to work and go home.”
Pitman decided to open her life to a service dog.
“I had nothing to lose,” she said.
In 2012, Pitman found Gunnar and they signed up with DeNofio for training. Gunnar helped Pitman triumph over her crippling anxiety and enabled her to be more socially-involved.
“I love this,” DeNofio said of the training program. “You are doing it for a much bigger purpose.”
While attending a spring wedding, Pitman crossed paths with Patricia Gross, mayor of Maurice River Township. They spoke about the role of service dogs in helping veterans.
Gross spearheaded the Maurice River Township Firefighters Association effort to take on the N.J. Dogs of Honor fundraising.
Gunny, a South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter alumnus, is the program’s first dog to ace his obedience lessons. His future training will be personalized to serve the needs of the veteran who takes Gunny on as a partner.
“We want to give this dog for free to a veteran and all the training that goes with it,” DeNofio said.
Any Cumberland County veteran interested may apply by clicking here.
All information is kept confidential.
“We want to have a pool of veterans,” DeNofio said, hoping to perfectly match dogs with those who may benefit from their companionship.
Gunny, with his striking blue eyes, is curious, quick-learning and loves the outdoors. He’s neutered and up-to-date on his shots.
He greets everyone with a sniff and kiss.
“That’s what you want with a service dog, you want them to be in public and be sweet to everybody,” DeNofio. “See how he fits in with everybody, then they are a pleasure to be around.”
The service dogs are “social butterflies but they have to be loyal to person they are working for,” Pitman said, explaining how her dog is tuned into her emotionally and offers comfort when she is stressed.
“When you think about managing PTS, you have to think long-term in your life,” Pitman said. “A lot of times with PTS, I think you are caught in the day-to-day managing of your symptoms.
“When you initially get a dog like this and you have to put the work into it, that can feel overwhelming,” she said. “Life can be overwhelming on a good day. Add the dog to it, you’re going to have periods of time where maybe you are working even harder and it’s triggering some of those symptoms for you.
“But you look at it long range, like now I can’t imagine my life without him,” Pitman said, petting her dog. “People look at me and they think, ‘Well you don’t seem like you have PTS.’”
Pitman nodded toward her dog.
“Thank him for that,’’ she said. “When I go out, I’m able to be social and engaged because he’s here and I always know he has my back.”
The service dogs can help create a safe space around a person. The presence of the dog is comforting, Pitman said.
Pitman urges interested veterans to apply.
“They have nothing to lose by asking,” she said, noting she and DeNofio will talk with applicants to find the best match for Gunny.
“With his size, he can create more space; he can help people who have problems with their legs get up,” DeNofio said. “He can carry things — he’s a good size.”
Gunny, 55 pounds, also is a perfect fit for a veteran who enjoys the outdoors.
“He has physical energy needs. He’s not a dog that can lay around the house and do nothing,” DeNofio said. “At least not now, maybe when he is older, he’ll slow down.”
Gunny gets along with children and other dogs, too.
“He needs someone who is going to commit to the program because he’s going to commit to them,” DeNofio said. “It’s got to be a mutual thing.”
N.J. Dogs of Honor donations may be sent to: Maurice River Township Firefighters Association, 164 Main Street, Heislerville, NJ, 08324.
Deborah M. Marko: 856-563-5256; email@example.com: Twitter: @dmarko_dj
Aside from having my own pets, I have also enjoyed the rewards and the fun of fostering many, many puppies and kittens during my years with the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter. Along with the good times, there have been moments when those tiny beings have been capable of causing mayhem, destruction and the occasional heartbreak; such are the best things in life.
When it’s time to part with them, to send them off into the world with their new families, I fret over every placement. I find the kittens most difficult to part with because they can be so easily left to their own devices when there are changes in the lives of their human companions, or when it is no longer convenient to care for them. The most recent study I could find was from four years ago, and it found that 1 out of 10 pets adopted from shelters are relinquished within the first year, although I’m sure that doesn’t reflect the cats that are simply put out the door.
If having a pet is not working for the owner, the animal will surely suffer by not receiving adequate care, socialization or training, which may lower his or her chances of being successfully re-homed. The right start for a young pet can be a key to their success in being adopted into a secure home where they can live out their life; that is what our foster program is all about.
My current foster kitten is an absolute keeper! The problem is that I can’t keep him. He originally was brought into the shelter as a 3-month-old stray back in June. He was an adorable, outgoing orange tabby, and we had high hopes of finding him a home quickly. Unfortunately, within a few days of his arrival, he began exhibiting odd movement, little jerky motions and twitching that continued even when he was asleep. Although the staff had named him “Julius” in reference to his classic orange color, I had nicknamed him “Herky Jerky” because of his erratic movements. As upsetting as it was to see him like that, he seemed totally oblivious and was still acting like his normal, playful, loving self. Our veterinarian put him on a steroid and wanted him held for observation; she suspected that it was a reaction to the flea and tick preventative he had been given. He was a staff favorite and the shelter was very full at the time, so I decided to take him home in order to watch him more closely and give him time to recover.
All went well for a couple of weeks. His movements had smoothed out, his steroid was reduced and it seemed the crisis had passed. Then one morning he had a seizure; it took him a couple of hours to return completely back to normal, in that he was lethargic after the incident. The veterinarian put him back on the meds for a couple of weeks and basically said that if he was going to have a problem, it would probably occur within two weeks or so. A month has passed and, thank goodness, he has had no further issues. In spite of his scary start, he has the perfect cat personality. He has just the right amount of kitten orneriness; he is very affectionate but not needy; he is nibby but not annoying; and he shows great social skills with strangers, dogs and other cats.
The problem is, the shelter has 400 other cats and kittens looking for a home as well; what chance does this little guy have? There’s no way to guarantee that an animal will live a long and healthy life even if they’re perfect when they leave the shelter, but “Julius” has a history that may scare away adopters. Chances are he may never have another problem; it’s just a matter of finding someone to take a chance on him.
The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter has reached out many, many times this summer in need of help with our adoptable dogs. Our shelter has been consistently full, with more dogs arriving in need of our help than we have been able to find homes and rescues for. This has been extremely challenging, and we have wound up with several dogs staying at the shelter for months while we exhaust all of our options to find them homes. Our saving grace during this difficult time has been two things: our amazing volunteers, and dog playgroups!
Dog playgroups are when multiple dogs are brought together into a playgroup for socialization and exercise. It is not a new concept for us, but it has always been a challenge to incorporate it into our regular routines. Last summer, at the Best Friends National Conference, we attended a workshop by Dogs Playing for Life, an organization that teaches shelters how to incorporate playgroups safely and demonstrates the benefits of such a program. This summer, our friends at Camden County Animal Shelter invited us to a workshop led by Dogs Playing for Life expert staff, who walked us through all the ins and outs of playgroups. We held our first official playgroup two days later.
To explain the benefits of playgroups, I will share the words of Aimee Sadler, the founder of Dogs Playing for Life: “Our programs stress the consideration of the whole animal, physically, emotionally, and behaviorally. We treat all animals as individuals. None of our behavior programs discriminate due to breed or category. … There is no doubt that offering a more natural environmental and comprehensive approach helps shelters to better assess behavior, maintain healthy behavior and support better adoption matches.”
Playgroups have now been implemented at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter multiple times a week. It is still a challenge to find time to have staff available for playgroups, while making sure the many, many responsibilities inside the shelter continue to be addressed. But we believe in the validity of the program, so we are working on balancing all of our responsibilities to the animals. We are learning so much more about the dogs we care for. Not only do we get a better idea of how they will respond to other dogs, we are learning about their personalities and seeing different sides of them than we see inside the shelter. We have seen terrified dogs who huddle in the backs of their kennels transform into happy, running, playing dogs – like they are supposed to be. We have seen dogs surprise us with their joy and tolerance for other dogs, while we have learned that some dogs are more particular in their playmates. All of this information helps us make better adoptive matches.
In addition, our volunteers have been spending lots of time with our dogs, ensuring that their time at the shelter is filled not only with play, but structured walks and regular social interactions with people. Volunteers have given us valuable insight into the dogs’ personalities and energy levels, making sure the dogs know how much they are loved while they are with us. Our staff loves the animals, and there are things we do throughout each day to ensure they are comfortable, but we rely on volunteers to get them out to events where they can show off and to give them all those extra moments of love and care that mean so much.
In addition, we have volunteers have taken new and fantastic photos of our adoptable dogs (and cats) that truly capture their personalities and what make them so special. You can find great information about our dogs and cats, as well as beautiful professional photos, on their Petfinder profile and also on our Facebook pages (the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter page and the Second Chances – South Jersey Animals in Need page).
While we are working hard to make the shelter as positive as possible for our animals, the best way to improve their quality of life is to find them homes – and for that we need you! Come to our shelter anytime during business hours to meet our hundreds of pets looking for homes. You also can view most adoptable animals on our website. Tell us about your family and your home, and see which animal will fit in best. Give a chance to the ones who don’t look like you thought they would, who have special needs, who are older than you thought. You may be surprised to find out who steals your heart!
One of the big headlines last week was the tragic death of a woman in Delaware who had contracted rabies. This is very rare occurrence in the United States; records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show just 23 cases in the past decade. At least eight of the people who succumbed to the virus were infected outside of the U.S.
The fatal cases listed in the CDC records were caused by exposures to rabid bats, dogs, one fox and one unknown source. Only eight of the 23 cases were from confirmed bites, and the rest are listed as “contact” or “unknown.” I bring up this particular point because it is extremely important to know that rabies can be spread by the saliva of a rabid animal entering through a scratch or open wound; it does not have to be an actual bite.
The point of exposure for the Delaware woman has yet to be determined. Reports in the media state she had a cat that was current on its rabies vaccine that will be kept under observation for a time. Chances are slim to none that it would have been her pet, as the animal that infected her would certainly have perished by now. The reports indicated there also were feral cats around her property; at this point however, the investigation continues and there is no conclusion as to what type of animal may have transmitted the virus.
Just last month, you may also remember reading about a woman from Salem County who was attacked by a rabid fox. This is an extremely rare occurrence, as there is normally very little contact between humans and foxes. Bats would typically be the more common wild animals to which humans might be exposed.
The bottom line: Rabies is preventable. All dogs and cats should receive regular vaccines for their protection and yours. Free-roaming cats are especially susceptible because they have more opportunities to come in contact with wildlife, so it is very important to have them vaccinated. From January through March, you can get free shots for your animals through municipal clinics. The rest of the year, you can find affordable vaccines at monthly vaccine clinics held here at South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter and at retailers such as Tractor Supply Co. and Petco.
70 birthday candles for an elephant who has defied all expectations, beaten all the odds, and survived more than one elephant should. Animalkind, USA TODAY
It’s rarely necessary, but humans can be treated successfully for the virus. It is simply a matter of receiving care immediately after the exposure. Horror stories used to circulate about the archaic treatment of inserting needles into the abdomen; this is no longer the practice. Most commonly, bites or bad scratches require a thorough cleaning, a tetanus shot if needed, and stitches when indicated.
Wounds from animals should always be taken seriously and handled by medical professionals. Also, remember also that any close encounters with wildlife should be reported to your local animal control officer or police department.
Every year, thousands of animals come through our doors at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter. They arrive on leashes, in carriers, laundry baskets, vegetable crates, cardboard boxes and many other more imaginative forms of conveyance. Some of the incoming animals weigh a few ounces, others as much as a couple hundred pounds. We have even had a shopping bag of goldfish left on our counter. The circumstances under which pets have been brought to us are also quite varied, and last week we had a couple of very interesting deliveries.
Early in the week when the days were sickeningly hot and humid, one of the animal control officers (ACOs) came in with a big, charcoal gray mutt who was wobbling along on a leash. The dog was unsteady on his feet and his eyes were sort of bouncing around. Quite frankly, the ACO looked a little worse for the wear, too, but when he started relaying the dog’s story, I understood why.
She ran in to call for help, and fortunately the ACO was able to respond quickly. By the time he got there, the dog was flat out and the homeowner was trying to free him of the container while hosing him down to try to keep him from suffering a heatstroke. Thankfully, the rescuers had come in the nick of time and were able to get his head free and his body temperature down.
“Pretzel,” as he came to be known by our staff, was incredibly lucky that he wandered into the yard of someone who happened to be home and quick to respond to his predicament. I should also mention that these kind homeowners came to the shelter and checked on him later that day and the next afternoon. Fortunately, by their second visit, he was already back home. It turns out that Pretzel’s real name is Dallas, and he was found about a half-mile from where he wandered off.
Another lucky guy, a little poodle mix, also suffered a brush with death but managed to escape with just some bad bruising. The dog was
discovered near our front door, tied up to a tent post that had been erected for the Clear the recent Shelters event. One of our staff members was arriving very early that morning and saw a woman walk away from the dog, get into her car and drive off. It happened so quickly that our staff member was unable to intercede before she realized what was happening. It seemed like just another case of someone abandoning an animal, as we often find pets tied up or left in a box outside our doors. Once we got him inside, although his fuzzy coat had hidden it, we realized he was pretty banged up. The veterinarian that does daily rounds for us took a look at him and it was determined that he had most probably been “rolled” by a car and that X-rays would be needed to rule out any broken bones. As we were making plans to get him out to a veterinary hospital, in walked Alvin’s owners; he had run off from home that Friday night. It’s probable that the lady who tied him up had been the one to find him and simply didn’t know what to do with him in the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully she got him off the street and to a safe place.
Animals will be animals, and it is impossible to keep them out of mischief sometimes. If you happen to be sitting next to your pet while you’re reading this, perhaps you can have a conversation with him or her about the morals of these stories. First, NEVER leave the yard. And second, keep your head out of the treat jar!
Don’t forget, if you should lose your pet, call the shelter immediately. You also can file a lost report online at southjerseyregionalanimalshelter.org.
Now that our organization is no longer investigating reports of animal cruelty, there has been some confusion on whom to call when people have concerns about an animal’s welfare. If you suspect cruelty or neglect of a pet, your first call should be to your local police department. At that point, the initial response will probably be handled by the municipality’s animal control officer (ACO), and either corrected or turned over to a police officer if prosecution is required. The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office along with our state and local police departments are working hard to meet the demands of this new caseload. It will require an adjustment period as these agencies must receive training in regards to the statutes and acquire knowledge and assistance with pet health issues.
The ACOs in Cumberland and Salem counties are experienced professionals in companion animal welfare and laws. Although they do not have, and have not had, the authority to enforce animal cruelty laws, they have the knowledge to handle the preliminary stages of an investigation and call in the necessary powers. They are also responsible for laws and ordinances pertaining to licensing, animals running at large, bite cases, and lost and found pets.
To sum this all up, please keep these few things in mind:
- Call your local police department to report suspected cases of animal cruelty or neglect. Do not take matters into your own hands.
- Pets are considered property. You can be charged with theft if you keep a stray without going through the proper channels.
- The current enforcement system for animal cruelty laws is new in the state of New Jersey. It will take time for things to be ironed out and handled smoothly.
- The animals still need you to be their advocate and their voice. Don’t hesitate to call the shelter if you need advice or assistance in helping an animal in need.
Things at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter certainly did go off with a bang over the holiday! As expected, we became inundated with stray animals. As I mentioned in last week’s column, the Fourth of July is typically very busy for us, with pets becoming displaced during backyard parties and running in panic from the tremendous noise and vibrations of the fireworks. It must have been a banner year for celebrations, because by noon the shelter began filling up.
New arrivals at the shelter are kept in an intake area, which typically provides plenty of room for animals brought in by animal control officers (ACOs) when the shelter is closed. After receiving a heads-up from one of the ACOs that space was getting tight, I stopped in around 3 in the afternoon to see if I could move any of the animals out of intake, knowing that the fireworks were yet to take their toll. I expected to walk in and find a bunch of big, goofy yard dogs that had jumped at the chance to escape through a gate accidently left open with the arrival of the partygoers but, much to my surprise, it was a completely different lineup.
In the next cage was a Cairn Terrier that was instantly thrilled to see anyone who was willing to pay him attention. I could tell instantly that he was too ornery to be afraid; he was just out for a good time.
The third cage was more of what I had expected to find: a larger, mixed-breed male. He was NOT happy to see me, and he let me know it before I even got in front of his kennel. The next cage held a pug mix whose owner had been arrested and hauled off to jail. That poor little guy was neither happy nor sad to see me; he had more of that “Yo, what just happened here?” look to him.
The kennel after that held a sawed-off little Miniature Pinscher/Yorkie mix? That’s truly a wild guess as far as breed mix, but he’s an adorable little guy – black with brown markings, with wiry hair and very short legs. Finally, our last little prize was a tiny, female Yorkie who was very excited at the prospect of having someone to pick her up and cuddle her. I’m truly surprised that she was ever out of anyone’s arms long enough to get lost.
After moving several of our newcomers into other kennels, I thought we would be ready for whatever the night would bring. Needless to say, I didn’t try to move the big guy who was feeling a little cranky about his stint in the pokey, but the other kennels were emptied for the next wave.The next morning, they were all filled up again, which was no surprise. The thing that shocked me was that the big dog who had given me so much attitude was the first one to be reclaimed, and he turned out to be a total sweetheart after mom and dad showed up!
When I came in to the shelter on the 4th, I had hoped to be able to identify the owners of some of the strays so that I could contact them, possibly get some of the dogs out of there and, if nothing else, relieve the people that their pets were safe. Not one of those dogs was wearing an ID tag … just sayin’..
Source: Full house at the animal shelter
We really need to talk about dogs getting along with other dogs.
One of the biggest challenges in animal sheltering is finding placement for dogs who need to be the only dog in the household. It doesn’t mean they are unadoptable and it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them, but for some reason it makes it almost impossible to find them a home.
First, let’s talk about how we determine if a dog would do well in a home with other dogs. The first thing we do is look at the animal’s history, if we have access to it. Did they live or interact with other dogs? What sex and size were those dogs? How comfortable were they together?
There are a couple pieces of information we are looking for with the dog meet. First, we want to know how the dog reacts to seeing the other dog. If it’s immediately aggressive, that is concerning and we typically have to stop the meet for their safety. These dogs typically are not considered adoptable due to safety concerns.
But there are some dogs who just don’t do well with other dogs. It may be outright aggression, it may be defensiveness after surviving an attack, it may be resource guarding or it may be just a simple preference to not be messed with by another dog. Whatever the reason is, once they are labeled “only-dog,” their chances of finding a home decrease dramatically.
It doesn’t need to be that way. There are many, many homes out there that do not desire to have multiple dogs. It would be amazing if these families would consider some of our wonderful pups and see how much they have to offer. Having one dog allows you to really focus on the needs of that dog, and likely do more together. It’s also fewer vet bills to worry about.
Adopters should keep in mind that just because they need to live as an only-pet now, that doesn’t mean that once they relax out of the shelter and become more settled, that they won’t feel differently. Or that they can’t be around other dogs at social events. It all depends on your particular dog.
If you are looking for a special dog to be your one and only, consider Diamond, a beautiful pittie who lived with another dog for years and now prefers not to share the spotlight. She sure does have a lot of love to share. Take her out and she’ll give you her paw as a promise to be best friends. You also could check out Rusty, a little guy with a lot of potential. The shelter is stressful for Rusty, so it’s hard for him to be around other dogs at this time. But he’s otherwise a fun, young pup with a lot of love to share. Either of these dogs is sure to fill your heart.
The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter in Vineland has dogs of all shapes and sizes — dogs who aren’t going to ever judge you.
It was a heroic week in the world of dogs! Two really cool stories about dogs rescuing their owners came through last week. It’s wonderful to see some positive press about dogs, especially because one of these dogs is a bully breed, which is typically featured in a negative light in the media. The other dog is a special-needs senior.
The special-needs senior, a cattle dog named Max, became a hero when his 3-year-old girl became lost in the Australian bush. Clearly, this is an extremely dangerous situation. The little girl was fortunate that Max followed her and stayed with her through the night. The next day, Max was able to find the girl’s grandmother and lead her back to the child to rescue her. Amazingly, Max is 17 years old, deaf and partially blind. None of his disabilities stopped him when his girl needed help. The local police department responded by making Max an honorary police officer.
Sasha is an 8-month-old pit bull who saved her entire family from a fire in California. Her family claims they don’t typically keep Sasha outside, but that night she happened to be outside and was the first one alerted to the presence of the quick-moving fire. Sasha created a fuss, banging on the door and barking until her owner woke up. As soon as the owner opened the door to see what was going on, Sasha bolted past her, up the stairs and into the room of the 7-month-old baby. Before the owner even realized what was happening, Sasha had grabbed the baby by the diaper and was removing him from the danger. Thanks to Sasha’s alertness, although their apartment was destroyed, the entire family remained safe.
Doing a quick internet search will reveal many, many instances in which dogs heroically rescued people. Police and military dogs take on rescue missions every single day; heroism is part of their job description. There are other dogs who are more quietly heroic – therapy dogs who improve people’s quality of life, service dogs who guide the blind and sense impending medical emergencies. There are dogs who comfort victims of trauma and dogs who help kids learn to read.
Even “regular” dogs can be heroes. Working at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter, I have the pleasure of being able to talk to many families about their experiences with pets. Many times, I have heard, “This dog saved my life.” It may not be a rescue from a fire, but sometimes a pet can provide the type of support that allows people at their lowest to keep going. A pet reminds them that they are needed and valuable; their pet needs them to take care of them. A pet provides comfort at any time during the day or night. There is just nothing quite like a pet.
Where do these hero dogs come from? Well, they can come from anywhere. But the best place to find your own personal hero is the shelter. The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter in Vineland has dogs of all shapes and sizes; dogs who aren’t going to ever judge you, and just want to be your family and be there for you. If you find yourself feeling lost or in need of companionship, the animal shelter is the place you need to go.