Living in the dog days

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By Pat Hibbs

Webster defines them as “the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere.”

Some rescued dogs find these days to be quite satisfactory, thank you. They are housed in the new Williston Animal Group (WAG) facility adjacent to the airport, on SW 18th Street, and life is pretty good.

They live in large kennels, comfortable beds, lots of food and water, and are treated to human contact at least twice a day.

When the volunteers arrive, the dogs are released from their kennels into the dog runs that run behind the kennels or into the large playground area. Twice a day, they are fed, water bowls are filled with fresh water, and each dog is exercised by a volunteer on the five-acre property that the City of Williston has graciously ceded to the organization in return for taking care of its adoptable animals.

The city shelter is the first stop for animals picked up by Wayne Carson, the city’s humane animal control officer. Within 24 hours, experts from WAG evaluate the dog and decide whether it can be put in the kennel and offered for adoption, or must be fostered by one of WAG’s many volunteers for socialization and further evaluation. Once they are adoptable (judged to be people- and children-friendly, or, for example the perfect animal for a single-dog house) they are transferred to the kennels.

Even when volunteers are not present, there are fans running 24/7 and enough light to give the dogs a sense of security.

They are housed in single kennels, and, as is WAG’s policy, will be spayed or neutered before being adopted. One of the organization’s goals is to reduce the number of strays and unwanted animals in the area.

(Cat lovers, do not despair, the felines are kept at the city shelter in an air-conditioned area and, once again, are not available for adoption until spayed or neutered. WAG hopes to include feline accommodations into the new shelter in the very near future.)

On a recent Saturday morning at about 9 a.m., three volunteers were active at the site. One was Patty Standridge, a woman who knows dogs as well as any veterinarian in the area. Standridge has, since WAG’s beginning as the Friends of the Williston Animal Shelter, been the evaluator-in-chief of the animals that come to the city. She has picked up, at the behest of the police department, dogs that might otherwise die. Sally Taylor is a favorite example. Sally was rescued from the side to the road near Winn-Dixie with a severely broken rear leg. Her ten about-to-be born pups survived and were adopted by “parents” who have given the animals safe and loving homes.

Sally Taylor herself was adopted by Bill and Claudia Parkhurst, who helped found WAG five years ago. Bill was there on Saturday, walking Bentley, a mixed breed of unknown origin; a very sweet dog who obeys commands very well.

Standridge was busy with all of the dogs. She is the chief wormer and vaccinator for WAG, a mission blessed and approved by local vets like Dr. Bill Bennett, Dr. Wade Bullock and Dr. Holly Samko, all of whom generously donate their time and expertise to WAG’s program.

Parkhurst said that, sadly, some of the animals come from people who have been severely affected by the economic crisis, and can no longer afford to support a pet.

The third volunteer was Keegan Baker, a teenager who lives near Parkhurst. He was exercising Buster, another large dog of mixed breed, who delighted in running anywhere he wished. Baker was delighted to give into the dog’s whims.

Baker also helped in the kennels, as Standridge gave shots and wormed. There is also, of course, cleanup to be done and no one seemed squeamish about that either.

There are more kennels available at the facility and additional dogs will be coming in from the loving foster homes in which they have been cared for.

The facility represents a central place where anyone who may wish to adopt an animal may come and see the available dogs.

In addition, starting on Saturday, September 12, monthly “adopt-a-thons” will be held in the Winn Dixie parking lot in Williston. Some of the available dogs will be there, appropriately shaded and watered, for all to see.

Stop by on Saturday and see if you fall in love with a dog that can go home with you.

WAG’s biggest need just now is volunteers, especially for the weekends. The organization has almost enough volunteers during the week (though how much love can a dog have?), but weekends are tougher. WAG hopes to link up with the High School and recruit teenagers who may earn community service credits for helping out at the kennels after school or on weekends.

Your help is always appreciated. Call 528-9888 if you wish to contribute either monetarily or if you want to volunteer. You’ll probably get a voice mail but someone will return your call promptly.

WAG believes that the way that people treat its less fortunate animals is a reflection of the compassion of the members of the community.

Your help, either in volunteering, adoption, or in simply contributing to the mission of WAG, reflects well on the community and it surrounding area.

Contributions may be sent to WAG, PO Box 752, Williston, FL 32696. Annual membership is $15 per individual and $25 per family. Keeping in mind the very tough economic situation, WAG has decided to keep its membership rates low in order to encourage more community participation, You will receive quarterly newsletters and the freedom to view the adoptable animals at your leisure, with a before-hand phone call.