Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Wagzie at the Spirit Animal Sanctuary
When my daughter, Melynda, was in college, she worked at an animal shelter for a time. When she was there, she fell madly in love with a dog whom we later called Wagzie.
Now, my husband Joe and I didn't want a dog. Not one bit. We had already shared our lives with a lovely Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named "Vincent" who had passed away, but when Melynda met Wagzie, she told her brother Joe about this wonderful, intelligent dog she had fallen in love with and thus the "Adopt Wagzie" campaign began.
Wagzie, you see, was not being adopted by anyone. She was a mix of Rot and German Shepherd and the people who came to the Bergen County Shelter favored little dogs. Even though the shelter was a "no kill" environment, Wagzie had been there for over six months, living in a small caged space with a concrete floor and no toys, pillows or regular walks. The only fun these dogs would have was dependent on the generosity of the shelter volunteers.
The shelter was meant to be a temporary solution designed to move a dog towards adoption, but with a dog like Wagzie, it wasn't so easy. Besides being big, she had separation anxiety, a love for foraging in gooey garbage cans and an urge to hop over tall fences to meet neighborhood pets.
These feisty qualities, along with her size and rather large teeth, made her difficult, if not impossible to place. She had already been adopted and returned to the shelter because she would get into trouble with the blinds and curtains when her owners would go off to work.
Wagzie's days were numbered at the shelter. It was a "quality of life issue," as they called it and if someone didn't come to the rescue soon, the dog would be put down!
My daughter's love and passion to save Wagzie quickly found an ally in her brother Joe who sat with her to create financial spread sheets and other presentational tools to convince us to bring her home.
The last straw came one morning when my husband Joe and I found a "Dog Contract" hanging from the ceiling signed by our children with spaces for us to add our signatures. This contract listed the responsibilities associated with dog ownership and laid out how they would be handled.
That was seven years ago and Wagzie lived with us happily for all of these years, after an initial period of adjustment.
Melynda grew up, married and had a baby. When my granddaughter started toddling, Wagzie suddenly felt threatened and started to get nervous and walk away. Next she began growling and finally, one sad day, she had to be held back because she was going for the baby's face.
We looked into this behavior and found out, from my cousin Barbara Long, who is a dog trainer, that this can happen and the solution requires training - a whole family approach - along with time. Even with this human-canine therapy committment, there is no guarantee of success.
We became terrified about the possibilities of harm and sought other options. Even if it were possible to bring Wagzie to a shelter and have her placed with a different family, this new behavior made her a risk to them. We couldn't live with that, but we didn't want to destroy an animal who had become part of our family.
What we needed was a farm. We dreamed of a place where Wagzie could run free with other animals, under the care and supervision of kind caretakers. But where could we find such a place?
I began searching for things like "dog retirement" on Google and finally - thankfully - I found the Spirit Animal Sanctuary (www.spiritanimal.org) in New York State, where we agreed to leave Wagzie.
At Spirit Animal (www.spiritanimal.org) , Alan Papzycki, a third generation dog trainer, is the leader of the pack for over seventy dogs who have found a home with him. They live happily in a true sanctuary with interlocking fields, human contact, canine companionship and love.
Each dog is a story. Some have come to him from loving homes with stories similar to Wagzie and others have found refuge from terrible abuse or abandonment. They all live together at Sprit Animal as one, happy, canine family.
What you see here is a video of Wagzie as she frolics with another dog named Bella, in the snow. We are so happy that she has found her home at Spirit Animal and that Alan has taken on the mission of letting these dogs live free, as they were meant to be.