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Hero #3 Animal Rescuers

By Joyce Johnson

This subject fills my heart to the brim. There is so much heroism out there— I would never run out of things to put in my column re dog antics, issues and heroic 4-legged rescuers, and us, their rescuers—without even mentioning other species of our fellow sentient (feeling) earth-dwellers. I love to see the wonderful photos of frequent adoptions at Stafford Animal Shelter. This is one dog-loving town I’d say. I call myself an animal advocate but there are many people who are real hands-on, boots-down activists: devoted rescuers, vets, owners, and trainers out there. But a particularly strong, heart-bond exists between man and his dog, so I will focus mainly on our pup buddies this issue... because lately it is in my “front yard,” or so it seems:

Livingston’s “Luke,” a 7-year old Golden Retriever Service Dog, ran off in Livingston June 6, frightened by sudden cracks of thunder and is still missing as of this writing, but as his owner, Barbara Wheeler, shared: “I was moved to tears” [and me too] “at how huge is the heart of the Livingston community. A volunteer fireman drove around looking for Luke with Infrared detector equipment, which can show all manner of detail and life; a pilot flew around the area looking for Luke. Instiprints donated 100 color posters and a PCCJ online poster” And much more from concerned friends neighbors. Many of us think it’s possible that someone picked up the gentle but scared Luke, who would have gladly leaped into the shelter of a rescuer’s car, and perhaps was taken home and/or ran off again.

Recently, Barbara heard that there was a lost golden here in Emigrant and came down here to connect with me, and like a couple of scent hounds we sniffed around out and postered a few key places. Only a day later that lost golden, as it turned out, a female, was found and returned to it’s happy Glastonbury owner, but in my looking around, I discovered we had several goldens in the “hood” that sometimes went on “walkabouts.” My neighbor said she often saw one who could be Luke, so I sent the “lost dog” poster out to the extended community on a 200 strong local email list.

One day recently I used divining rods, out in the fields, and silently “plugged” in a mental outreach to find the golden, and sure'nuff! I saw a golden and followed it up a hill and right into the open back door of a house where I poked my head in and yelled out the universal greeting, “yoo hoo!” “Lucy” was her name, the startled owner kindly said of the little old lady golden. Another dog in the area matched the description so I checked it out just to eliminate the candidates: “Luna” was however the beloved and elegant pet of a new neighbor but not Luke. All names started with “el yoo” and one was “el -lee”...Sheesh! Uncanny canine confusion made me sag with dispair. But there is one more unidentified dog out here to check out and tell people to look out for it. Please Jot down Barb’s phone: 805 708 1547 and mine too 406 224 0192, if seen around Emigrant, I can make a quick pick up. Luke is known to be very gentle, looks to have longish ears, and has, or had a blue collar on. Take pictures if possible, and text the owner asap. He is chipped, so any Vet can identify him. We do not give up.

“Tails Old As Time – is a Ma & Pa organization for re-homing needy older dogs, serving all of Montana out of Lewistown, and who responded to my offer to adopt Dexter, a small, middle-aged dog I saw on FB. “Tails...” was started 8 years ago by a couple who took in aged dogs when owners couldn't care for them anymore. Soon the need grew and they needed help, so they started a “non prof” that existed solely on donations, enabling them to foster, or re-home these dogs to carefully chosen families. There is no fee, and they will pay from the donation pool, for approved vet bills beyond normal visits, to ensure the animal has a forever home in the right environment. One must apply for approval and give description of home, and sign a contract that promises strict but caring protections. It gives many compassionate, experienced dog owners the opportunity to have the incomparable companionship of older, settled dogs and the added fulfillment of helping a needy one. The “Tails” people did find the right home for Dexter who was happier in a one dog family. I am grateful for heroic animal advocates: people whose compassion is devoted to the care and rescue of animal life on earth, like the next advocate, and my neighbor:

Mountain Angels, is a Paradise Valley, cat sanctuary owned and run for many years by Michele McCowan here in Emigrant. She’s an exemplar of the animal advocate par excellence. She began her career when a youth, in Wildlife Rehabilitation and when she bought a piece of property here in the Valley, saw the need and started a feral cat rescue. As it happened, she couldn’t say no to the appeal of her neighbors when they needed help with their pets. And further, impressively, she couldn’t say no to local sled dogs who were worn out, or whose owners were in various situations or inability to care for them. So she built a fenced in yard and shelter for the sleddies. She and partner had built a big, completely enclosed, fence-wire, covered cat patio, too, (a “Catio” of course) and connected to the house, because wandering loose neighboring dogs would enter the property and cause problems. But to fence them out, however, would too often fence out needy animals drawn there. Michelle works a handful of jobs to pay for vet bills and food, and her own needs and home—needless to say, never idle. People often abandon cats there without even a note of thanks or a needed donation. The answer to this is simple—but not easy I know: keep your pets at home and put on collars that identify them. If you need to surrender them, help pay for their care where needed. That's how you can help. That’s Community.

As brave Animal Advocates must be, Michele is outspoken over the years in representing our voiceless animals, wild and domestic. Communities are made up of many kinds of people who want pets—from young families just naturally wanting a cute kitten or puppy, but not informed of the training needs of a happy, sane and healthy pet—to the other end of the spectrum with the acquisition of dogs who seriously work in the military, sport, medical guards, herding, hunting, pulling sleds, protecting livestock, family, and some, in fact most I bet, would die trying to protect us. Animals, I read recently, are only slightly lower in consciousness than us! And though we think we are superior, actual pet behavior, especially dogs, sometimes illustrate otherwise. They are aware of their lives too, and have the feelings we do like love, pain, humor, joy and fear. Primates in captivity have learned to use sign language! Animals play, and wrestle; dolphins surf for fun. Animals do evolve, and share the Earth with with us. Many animals historically have shown themselves to be smarter and more compassionate and loving than we are. It is not just...instinct. It is just truth in action, inarguable.

Pick an advocacy. There are those who abuse animals, but too often are abused and complex wounded humans, themselves, and unknowingly project it on animals. Further—and excuse my need to tell it like it is—but experimental labs and the outdated tradition, although big in Montana, of fur trapping (that often trap by accident protected wildlife and pets) as well as countries that harvest pets or discarded horses for food overseas, is excruciating to all who are awake. But it takes courage and a thick skin and commitment to go up against any of it, I know hands on. I shorten these painful words to this: One of man’s most ancient and glaring wrongs on earth, besides cruelty to other humans, is innocent animal cruelty, (and yet at the very slightest mention of it most of us look painfully away and ignore it.) So how do we begin to change it? (or for that matter any of the great wrongs we are now awake to?) More than one celebrated sage says, “pick an advocacy that has meaning for you, period.” Do things like donate a little art or time, labor, or what have you? to help inform or tweak the ignorant; we can at least just join the team of caring people, like what the Livingston community did hands-on for Luke; Like Deb Derr and team do for the Draft Horse Sanctuary.

We can join in the fund raising events for the Shelter or wildlife groups. Pick an advocacy (s) to serve or give attention or your skills and prayers to. We can change things. Namaste. For powerful quotes re: Animal issues go here:


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