Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sometimes life deals a crippling blow

After I lost my Chaser, aka Wondermutt of West Edwards Street, to cancer last year I didn’t think there was any heart left to break.

I was wrong.

Visiting our local animal shelter just about kills me. Thunderous barking rolls through the hallways in an avalanche of sound that shakes your very soul. The cats’ mournful meows and tiny paws slip through the cage doors, desperately reaching out for your attention.

These are the sights and sounds that greet visitors at the New Nodaway Humane Society in Maryville.

Last week I met Willie and Wags, who have been together since Willie was 2 and Wags just a puppy.

Beautiful Husky mixes, Willie and Wags, have been best friends for years.

Willie was all smiles and his sparkling eyes - one brown, one blue - latched onto my soul. Standing next to him, a little more timid, was Wags. He tenuously stretched his muzzle toward my outstretched fingers, took a cautious sniff then stepped back to move closer to Willie, searching for the familiar warmth and security of his best friend.

Willie and Wags had a good home for many years, but this summer was a tough one for them. Their elderly owners passed away within three months of each other. The couple’s daughter, living out of state, asked the NNHS animal shelter to find them another good home.

“She even gave us a donation to help with their care,” Shelter Manager Cindy Nelson said. “It’s obvious they were loved and now need someone else to help keep them together.”

Since July 1, 50 new dogs and cats arrived at the community’s no-kill animal shelter, adding to an already cramped residence. That brings the total number of animals at the shelter to 182.

“I don’t think many people realize how many animals we take care of on a daily basis,” Nelson said. “Ninety percent of the animals that arrive here have some type of medical issue, usually worms. However, there are also those who’ve been poisoned, had broken limbs, been hit by a car or suffered from respiratory distress, frostbite, mange or miscarriage. To witness what many of these animals have endured, how they have suffered, is humbling and tragic.”

In late August, a beautiful Catahoula Leopard female arrived with 10 puppies. Staff members named her Dutchess and quickly got to work caring for her 3-week-old babies.

Dutchess watches over her new babies, with help from the NNHS shelter.

It was a difficult task. They had mange, a painful skin condition caused by mites that eat away large chunks of hair, leaving bald patches scattered on their heads and upper back, and coccidiosis, an intestinal tract infection. Nelson herself took home three of the smaller puppies to foster.

“They were the runts of the litter and needed a little extra love,” she said. Now all the puppies are slowly on the mend, growing hair and putting on some weight.

Nelson going the extra mile isn’t the exception at the shelter.  It’s an everyday occurrence among many of the staff members who foster dogs and cats in their own homes, lovingly cradle tiny kittens for bottle feeding and spend hours training shelter dogs to make them more attractive for adoption.

And there are a LOT of animals who need homes. 

And that’s what kicks me in the stomach. I’m not strong enough to see the Willies and the Wags of the world in a cage. Or the 3-week-old kittens left in a box outside the front door last week.

This tiny kitten was left in a box by the front door.

Or the gorgeous black cat named Dez whose ears were eaten away by frostbite. Staff members carefully applied ointment to the raw wounds, which have now healed.

He should look strange, but it’s a look that works for him. He purrs and struts and teases and plays just like any other cat.

Let that be a lesson to all of us. That sometimes life deals us a crippling blow, but perseverance and a tender touch from someone who cares can make all the difference in the world.

You can make a difference too and join the New Nodaway Humane Society from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, at Beal Park in Maryville for its inaugural Strut Your Mutt dog walk and festival. 

The event includes pet training demos, Nodaway County Sheriff Department’s drug dog, Jeryk, and dog contests with celebrity judges from Northwest Missouri State University’s women’s basketball team.

Pre-register online at before Sept. 17 or at the day of the event.

Willie - all smiles - wants you to help him and his buddy, Wags, find a loving home.

All donations are welcome and appreciated by friends like Willie, Wags, Dutchess, Dez and 178 other beautiful animals. You can also donate online by clicking here. Thank you!

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