By Robert Fragasso  |  Photograph from Robert Fragrasso

Shane, a Chihuahua/Terrier mix, must have had a loving home where he was part of a family, as he is a sweet, trusting, and loving little boy with very good manners.  But something went very wrong and he was found as a stray somewhere in West Virginia.  Was he abandoned by others when his primary caregiver died or went to a nursing home?  Was he stolen and used for malicious purposes by cruel people?  He has only one tooth in his mouth and the removal of teeth can sometimes be a signature of dog fighters using a small dog like Shane as bait to train their fighting dogs.   He was transitioned by a rescue group when he was found and brought to a small animal shelter in Pennsylvania.  That shelter experienced severe flooding and the animals had to relocate, many to Animal Friends in Pittsburgh’s North Hills.  Can you imagine the trauma and sense of loss he experienced through all of this?  He did have a loving home and then went through a series of dislocations and there was no way to explain to him that he was now safe at Animal Friends.  He made a guest appearance at a Pets for Vets program event where he caught my attention and the next day, the shelter took in many small dogs from an abusive hoarding situation and needed small cage space. 

The decision was easy to foster poor, little Shane and within days the foster became a personal placement in our home, immediately accepting the dogs and cats already living there.  He fit right in.  It took a while for him to become comfortable with automobile rides and who could blame him.  Was he being displaced yet again?  But now he loves his car rides because he is always going somewhere fun, like the park.  Yet another dark part of his story then became apparent.  He was x-rayed to be sure his weight loss in the shelter wasn’t due to an obstruction.  It wasn’t and it was concluded that it came from his sense of turmoil in getting to the safe haven of Animal Friends. The x-ray reflected 20 BBs in his little body.  Someone had shot him with bird shot!  The wounds had healed and the BBs would not be removed as that was much more dangerous than leaving them there for the rest of his life, much like some infantry soldiers still carry shrapnel.  Who would do that?  Was it an accident?  Was it part of the dog fighter story?  Had he outlived his usefulness or escaped and was shot as a result?  We will never know, but we do know that the loving little boy holds no grudges against humans, dogs or cats.  He loves everyone and everything.  A life lesson for us all.

Recently Shane came downtown to my office as part of Bring your Child to Work Day, and that wasn’t his first visit to the office so he was quite familiar with the surroundings.  He loved the children and they loved him.  Christine Tumpson from Whirl Magazine and her rescued dog, Scarlett, also attended.  Shane now has a crush on Scarlett.  Scarlett’s story, like Shane’s, commenced with when she was rescued.  What happened before remains a mystery and can only be conjectured.  It is clear that both dogs encountered periods of trauma and uncertainty about their continued existence.  Shane’s and Scarlett’s stories, made appropriate for their maturity level, taught the children the meaning of humane treatment of all living things. 

Shane still has much to love to share and the work of the West Virginia rescue group, the shelter which first received him and Animal Friends made possible Shane’s contributions to human understanding of animal suffering.  Supporting the work of animal rescue groups and shelters saves lives.  It also contributes to the fabric of our society, and that is very important in today’s world where humanity to other living things and people can sometimes be in short supply.  You can assist in this in several ways.  Volunteer at your local animal shelter, advocate for humane treatment of animals with your legislators and others.  I find both opportunities frequently, including righting misconceptions and breed-specific biases as well as conversing with and supporting legislators who share a humane view of animal welfare.  Serving on committees and boards where your life experience and professional expertise can be put to advantageous use is especially helpful. Finally, wring a check to fund this humanitarian work is the necessary fuel that propels the efforts to benefit humans and animals. 

Remember, Shane could have been your dog.

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