PAW PRINTS ON MY HEART
Gudrun Jones, President & Co-Founder of the Lakeside Spay & Neuter Center A.C.
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A MORNING AT THE RANCH
Lucille Van Stratten
Volunteer at the Lakeside Spay & Neuter Ranch where every life is precious
As the car turns off the highway and bumps along the country road on the way to the Spay and Neuter Ranch, the first dog welcoming visitors is Blaize, a shaggy, black male. He arrives, racing up from the quarry on the left, where he hangs out with his friends. Streaking ahead, he looks back from time to time, as if to say, “Are you coming yet?” He is a picture of health, tail high and coat gleaming in the sunlight.
At the dip, where the road goes over a dry streambed, the rest of the gang waits, or they may be crowded around the gate, waiting to give Martin, our Mexican helper, a welcoming bark or a nuzzle as he gets out to opens the gate. Little Francesca is getting in the way as she runs close alongside or in front of the car, not wanting to miss any of the action. The other dogs Pedro, Buster, Foxy and Coco follow, barking excitedly and crowd around as the car parks at the entrance to the sanctuary. Coco , a shaggy male, gets a bit nippy in his excitement, and has to be reminded that he may be too rough. He backs off, embarrassed, but comes back to have his fur ruffled. These are dogs roaming free, who don’t want and don’t need to be in a pen. They are happy to rough it in the open, keeping close to the sanctuary, knowing there will be food, water and humans to pet them every day. The smiles on their faces say they wouldn’t want it any other way.
Before going in to the sanctuary, big bowls are filled with dry food for the outside bunch, and they have breakfast. The barking of the inmates is deafening as they welcome the visitors. On the gate there’s a message – “Welcome to the World of Hope”. Starving, full of mange and parasites, maybe with a broken leg, or pregnant and definitely not wanted – all have found safety in these pens. And maybe also the first bit of love and regular food. One or two don’t like being touched and shy away. Some unknown trauma has left its indelible mark, and is not easily forgotten.
There are two to a pen or run (each has enough room to run a marathon). Some make good use of the space, running backwards and forwards joyfully, barely negotiating the U-turn, engaging in mock battles with neighbors through the fence along the way. Others ignore the mayhem, and prefer to stretch out in a comfy spot in the sun. But if someone appears at the gate, they bound over to lick an extended hand and have a head rubbed. Some look up soulfully, as if to say, “Please don’t stop – ever!” Others are more practical and go about the business of being a dog waiting for breakfast.
Most inmates are content to be where they are, but there are the odd escape-artists who can work a latch until it opens. Unfortunately some have gone back to their previous lives and are not heard of again. Others come back, admitting it had been a good life after all. Then there are the pen-breakers, who look for a chance to slip between someone’s legs while a gate is being opened. They usually race to the ‘kitchen’ to see if breakfast is ready yet, and if they can have a quick snack before anyone notices. Others run around the corner, hoping someone left the back gate open. After all, the fields around the sanctuary look so inviting. The rest set up a chorus, barking hysterically, envious or disapproving, while the guilty one is sheepishly escorted back to its pen.
The grande dame of the shelter is Petunia. She is getting on a bit and likes to soak peacefully in the patch of sunlight in her run. She has been there since the beginning and has really not known any other home. Many pen-mates have come and have left, having been adopted or exchanged. Sadly, no one chose her. So she waits, never giving up hope.
Racing around in her pen, barking in spite of a blue rubber bone kept fixed between her jaws, is Lady. All the dogs get winter blankets which they sleep on in their kennel, drag out into the sun, chew up or play tug-of-war with. Lady is content with her bone, never letting it out of her sight.
Then there are Inky and Joe. They were previous inmates before being adopted. But something must have happened because one morning both were found tied tightly to the big entrance gate. They had been left by their family, without so much as a by-your-leave or an explanation. As they already knew the ropes, they settled in easily enough, but who can tell how they feel about having been abandoned yet again.
Oreo is blind. He is black and white (of course) and as sweet as a biscuit. In spite of his handicap, he knows his run like the back of his paw, so to speak. When he’s excited he scales the wire of his pen until he’s about two meters off the ground, then drops back on all fours. Reyna, his pen-mate is very patient and nuzzles him to say it’s OK.
The two bull terriers, Ally and Sam, just love to be hugged and whine and put out a paw to ask for more. Who said bull terriers were fierce. Larry, a large, shaggy brown, has a cage to himself because he doesn’t put up with his own kind and prefers humans. He sits on the roof of his kennel and loves to be hugged, rarely getting down, so his food is served for him there. Mostly he jumps down only to leave a copious necessity, then jumps back up. Shy-boy is in with two mates. He comes over for a cursory nuzzle of a hand, then backs off. Affection makes him shy and decidedly nervous. His eyes cloud over with anxiety when he feels someone is intruding on his space.
Raleigh has three legs, but it doesn’t stop him launching himself full-length into someone’s arms. His pen-mate, Chuckey, is a feisty little fellow who refuses to be adopted, as he comes back time and again. No fresh fields and kennels will do for Chuckey. He knows where his home-sweet-home is, and where he can boss his pen-mate. Food aggressive dogs are tied or gated off, so everyone can eat in peace. Some have not forgotten what it was like to be hungry, and wolf down every scrap as fast as possible, licking their plates. Others will dawdle about it, and eventually leftovers are left on the floor, to be snacked on later. Mancha and Baloo look as if they haven’t been fed in a week, they are so slim. Yet both gulp down an extra portion every time. These hyper-active Eveready kids race the four-minute mile round and round their pen most of the day, barking all the way.
When breakfast is over, the plates are collected and washed. Martin then does the rounds with the cookie jar, and everyone gets a Maria biscuit. Peace descends and suddenly everyone is quiet. Even Mancha and Baloo do not find a thing to get excited about and just lie idle on their clean cement floor. Today safe, fed and happy, tomorrow, who knows?
Even if you are unable to offer any of these dogs a home, help Gudrun and her team of volunteers to care for them until someone can. They all deserve a life and a home.
Please go to our Adoption Page (Meet Our Dogs) and see the wonderful critters that are looking for a forever home. Thank You.
"We are always looking for volunteers to walk dogs, or just to spend time with them If interested please call 766-3813 If you don't want to walk dogs but would like to make sure that the food dishes are filled your donation can be dropped off at Handy Mail (Between Superlake and Mail Boxes etc.) Thank you"