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Awareness day for pets promotes adoption

June 20, 2004|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

Puppies and kittens, along with older dogs and cats from the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter, jumped, napped and generally looked cute in front of Franklin Hardware and Pet Center Saturday afternoon.

Shelter workers supervising the pets hoped that the animals would be adopted by visitors to Pet Awareness Day.

The shelter is full, according to Jennifer Vanderau, community outreach coordinator.

"We have 73 cats and 32 dogs in-house," Vanderau said. "Cats can have litter upon litter. There's no solution but spaying and neutering."

Another reason for the burgeoning population at the shelter is our "disposable society," Vanderau said.

"If something is not working, people get rid of it," she said. "If people are moving, or they can't get the animal house trained, or they don't have time to take care of it," they drop it off at the shelter.

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When the shelter has many kittens and puppies, the older dogs and cats are not adopted as quickly, she added, because people like the small, furry animals.

"We've had one dog since December 1 of last year," Vanderau said. "He's a bigger dog. It's tough."

Several members of the Franklin County 4-H Seeing Eye Puppy Club attended the Awareness Day with the puppies they are training for The Seeing Eye in Morristown, N.J. Participants receive the puppies at about seven weeks of age, and keep them until they are 12 to 14 months old. The puppies accompany their families to public places and are taught basic commands and good manners.

After the puppy returns to The Seeing Eye, it goes through a four-month training program to prepare it for leading a blind person.

While club leader Donna Boyd spoke, some of the dogs sat obediently at their masters' feet, some lolled on the floor and others greeted each other exuberantly. All were kept firmly, but lovingly, under control by means of a training collar.

"The love the dog has for his blind master starts in the (puppyhood) family," Boyd said.

The club has 18 members and 21 Seeing Eye dogs-in-training, Boyd said.

Jamie Drent, 16, of Mercersburg, Pa., is raising two puppies, Jerica, a German shepherd who is almost a year old, and Jasmine, a six-month-old black Labrador. The dogs accompany Jamie and her parents, Michael and Laura Drent, to Wal-Mart, the Chambersburg Mall, nursing homes and other places, Jamie said.

"She's the most mellow dog ever," Jamie said of Jasmine. "She loves people."

A dog the family owned before starting to raise Seeing Eye puppies died at the age of 3, Laura Drent said.

"I didn't want another dog," she said. "(But) this changed our lives."

The dogs sleep in Jamie's room, chained to the bed, a requirement of the program so that the dog learns to be comfortable staying at the side of its blind master.

"They're fine with it," she said of Jasmine and Jerica. "They go right to sleep and don't even notice they're hooked."

Also at Pet Awareness Day were the Kindly Canines, a local nonprofit group of all-volunteer handlers providing "furry" special support to people of all ages and needs, according to literature put out by the group.

Handlers and dogs regularly visit nursing homes, schools and libraries. The group recently has formed a partnership with Lutheran Home Care Services to develop a Therapy Dog Hospice Program, group leader Marti Heater said.

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