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  SAMPLE RECENT WRITING by Judy Shepps Battle
  -- ADHD: Not Just Boys
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  -- Gay Marriage
  -- Generation Gap
  -- Helping Children Grieve
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  -- No Kill Animal Shelters
  -- Reducing Holiday Stress
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  -- Why Bright Kids Fail
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  -- No Kill Animal Shelters

Kids and Community: No Kill Animal Shelters
By Judy Shepps Battle

If you have ever lost a pet, you know the heartbreak my friend Kathe is feeling.
Autumn -- her not-yet three-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback/Yellow Labrador Retriever mix dog -- died last week of catastrophic injuries. Like many dogs with this mix of breeds, young Autumn had an instinct to chase anything that moved quickly, which ultimately was her undoing.
Kathe lives in a residential area of a densely populated suburb of Detroit and never expected to have a deer come into her backyard in the middle of the day. Autumn chased the deer and was struck by a car when she ran into the road.
I have many wonderful photos of Autumn as she grew from an underweight, scared puppy, living in an animal shelter into -- in Kathe's words -- "a 65-pound lap dog with a wonderful sense of humor, who loved to snuggle and watch Animal Planet on television."
Autumn certainly was a "lucky dog." She survived early abandonment and found her way to a pet sanctuary with a "no kill" or "low kill" policy, making it possible for her and Kathe to enjoy two beautiful and love-filled years together.
Most shelters are unable to offer such a policy. Making a commitment to feed, house, socialize, and, in many cases, nurture back to health a lost or abandoned dog or cat is costly. And even the most kindhearted facilities are forced to turn away animals because of lack of space and financial resources.
The Humane Society (HSUS) estimates that animal shelters care for between 6 and 8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, with 34 million of these animals being euthanized.
Not good survival odds.  
Autumn's untimely death reminds me of the importance of the unconditional love offered by our animal companions and that the opportunity to love them back can be healing.
It is also an opportunity to pledge to honor and financially support those animal shelters choosing a "no kill" or "low kill" path, as opposed to the more typical option of euthanizing unadopted animals after a short period of care.
As someone lucky enough to have had dogs and cats my entire life, I am aware of how much more than just possessions the four-leggeds in my life have been.
When I was going through a divorce and raising three young kids, Muggs -- a Shepherd/Collie mix -- was our protector against nighttime noises, romped with the kids, and made all of us laugh, even under this trying circumstance.
Bruiser, our 105-pound Labrador/Chow/Shepard mix, with black curly hair and a tongue that showered us with "windshield-wiper kisses," as my kids called them, joined the family when he was a 6-week-old, 15-pound ball of fur who kept tripping over his own feet.
Bruiser took over Muggs' role as family guardian after Muggs died of old age.
We found Sebastian, our beautiful tiger-gray cat, at the three-acre SAVE animal shelter in Princeton. SAVE was founded in 1941 by Dr. Cornelia Jaynes and Emily Myrick as the Princeton Small Animal Rescue League-Small Animal Veterinary Endowment. It seeks to provide shelter and basic medical care for pets until they are adopted.
Sebastian had resided at SAVE for months before my daughter saw and fell in love with him. We were closely scrutinized -- our references were checked and our veterinarian contacted -- before we could take Sebastian home.
I can't imagine family life without his living with us.
And I can't imagine Sebastian having life at all without SAVE's compassionate policies.
A society's strength can be measured by how well its most vulnerable members are treated. America does not have a good track record with regard to its stray and/or abandoned domestic animal population.
But it is easy to begin to change this.
Consider offering a financial contribution to a local "no kill" or "low kill" shelter. For the cost of a couple of pizzas or a night out at the movies, an animal's life can be extended, and some individual or family can be enriched.
I urge you to check the Yellow Pages under "animal shelters," or use Google to do a search on this topic. The Petfinder network at http://www.petfinder.com is a good start.
 Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at writeaction@aol.com. Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at http://www.writeaction.com/.
Copyright 2006  Judy Shepps Battle


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