Gurney's Inn
May 30, 2007

Shelter Stories

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All is Well For Sweetie

Sweetie, the terrier mix who was acceptable and sweet enough to be adopted out by the Riverhead Shelter and then called a "dangerous dog" that had to be euthanized is now at Silverstreak, a dog sanctuary in upstate New York. Riverhead Town Supervisor Phil Cardinale was strong enough to fight internal politics. He saved Sweetie's life. Sadly, he didn't go the extra mile. Sweetie, who accidentally scratched a volunteer during a tug-of-war game, mind you, and never bit anyone, suddenly became the Hannibal Lector of Riverhead, a "bite dog."

I asked Supervisor Cardinale to release Sweetie to a non-profit shelter, RSVP, that would board her at Riverhead Hospital. They would assume liability for her. I would accept liability for her. She would be adopted outside of Riverhead if that made the powers that be feel better. But no, the most draconian solution other than death was Sweetie's fate. A nice-looking jail upstate will be her home now—with other animals. She has been denied the opportunity to ever have a real home. The only thing that poor stray ever wanted. And her offense? She didn't get along with other animals, like half the pets in the United States. HELP.

I was there when Sweetie was released as were other supporters. She looked so small and scared. Shame on you, decision-makers. Solomon, you weren't. That wasn't the decision that Biblical figure would have made. It's time to end the turf problems at the Riverhead Shelter. Let there be no more Sweeties. Take some lessons from Christine Russell over at the Southampton Shelter. This would never happen there. A kinder person you'll never meet. And she loves, and I mean loves, dogs. You should see her with them and the wonderful place she runs.

It was Christine, by the way, who came to Riverhead and told me that King, the Golden Retriever mix, should have been crated when guests came to the house. That's why he was returned by a couple who loved him. She pointed out he was protecting his territory from strangers, but scared guests instead. And it was Christine who gave of her own time to see Trevor, the Collie mix, Bugsy, the Great Dane mix, and Phoebe, the beautiful black lab mix. Ms. Russell knows how to train dogs, that's for sure. And her love for them shows. I couldn't believe they were the same dogs by the end of the day.

By the way, she told me that Merri, the white freckle- faced dog I've been calling a Pit Bull mix is more Australian Shepherd dog than anything else. Merri, I'm sorry for not knowing. Merri's a herding dog and needs a job to do, as does Trevor, another herding mix, who lives in my pen on a farm in Riverhead. Volunteers, where are you? Please call RSVP. They need help walking the dogs. Please call 728-3524.

Christine also believes that Trevor has great agility training potential. Those Southampton dogs were lucky to be picked up in that Town.

Sweetie, you will always be in my thoughts. Yes, you're alive, but you'll always be a kennel dog because of the agreement that had to be signed to get you out. Shame on the framers of that agreement. For a dog that loves people so much, this is death. I'm so sorry for what happened to you. All you ever wanted was a family to love. You're another casualty in a turf war in Riverhead that seems unending.

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