Well, right off the bat, Captain Jack never realized how difficult it would be to become friends with Sarah’s nervous dog. She said his name, but it escaped the puppy. Oh yeah, his name was Howie. What really made a huge impression on Captain Jack was how much Howie had been let down in the past by others he had trusted. Trust is something that cannot be bought. Instead it has to be earned. Captain Jack’s new friend, Howie, obviously was very different from Amber and Hero. It was going to take some time to get to know him.
Sarah told the puppy Howie’s story, and then Captain Jack understood why Howie didn’t trust anyone. She said the animal-shelter staff found him wandering the streets (kind of like Captain Jack, even though the puppy was found first by Allen and Penelope who were also wandering what was left of the streets). But Howie wasn’t as lucky as Captain Jack was. The puppy was found by nice people who took good care of him, acted happy to have him around, and were responsible. Captain Jack’s new friend was found dirty and skinny. And he had a broken leg. The animal-shelter staff said he was very difficult to get along with, probably because he was in so much pain. No one really knew how long he had been in pain, but his front right leg was so badly mangled that it couldn’t be fixed. It looked as though someone had done that to him on purpose. But of course—since he couldn’t talk—no one will ever know for sure.
If Howie’s original owner had been responsible and had given him proper care and treatment from the start, he wouldn’t have suffered so much. He must have been limping for a long time, because when they took X rays of his broken leg, it looked as though the bones had completely healed. Since he’d never gotten medical treatment, the bones had healed all crooked. Poor Howie could no longer walk on that leg. The shelter didn’t have the medical capabilities to fix the damage, so they found an animal hospital that had a veterinarian who could fix Howie’s leg. The veterinarian examined Howie carefully and then explained to the shelter staff that the dog’s leg couldn’t be fixed. That was how and why his leg had come to be amputated. There was no way the vet could fix it properly.
During his time at the shelter, poor Howie had gone from home to home and had become ever more depressed. (Each time a shelter dog goes to a home, the dog is very hopeful this will turn out to be his forever home and family to love. When a placement doesn’t work out and the family returns the dog to the shelter, it’s very sad for the dog and usually for the family as well.) This poor dog had been returned to the shelter four times. Each time Howie had made a mistake that many dogs make. But for some reason, no one wanted to be responsible for identifying his mistakes and for helping him change. Howie was found on the streets as a puppy and lived his entire life after that in a kennel. The dog had never learned how to properly interact with other dogs or humans. Due to that, he was withdrawn, depressed, and very nervous around everyone and around other dogs. In addition, although most shelter people are very caring and compassionate, they still work in a shelter environment with lots and lots of barking and sometimes-angry dogs. Howie was not only scared and depressed, but also confused about the proper way to act around other dogs and humans. Therefore he made lots of mistakes.
In addition, he had a very hard time getting around on three legs. A dog with a missing hind leg has it a bit easier because a hind leg is not a balancing leg. A hind leg is a supporting and driving leg. A dog with a missing hind leg can do quite well. However a dog with a missing front leg will often be off-balance and will fall over a lot. A dog’s front legs carry most of the weight, including that of the head, which weighs a lot. The front legs also provide balance for the entire body.
With Sarah’s help, perseverance, and patience, Captain Jack was certain his new friend Howie was going to do well. But it was going to take time and effort. Stephanie, Robert, Penelope, Allen, Hero, and Captain Jack all decided they wanted to take responsibility for being Howie’s friends too. Then he had six more friends who were going to be responsible to help him, were going to stand by him, and were not going to give up on him. That gave him a much-better chance to be successful.
The first decision they made was where they could all go together so Sarah, Amber, and Howie could have fun with all of them without it being too stressful for Howie. They decided the beach was a good place to be and decided to go very early in the morning before other people and dogs would be likely to show up. Captain Jack had never seen anything as beautiful as the sunrise over the sand and water at the beach. Enjoying the beach together became a regular morning activity for all of them. Little by little, they could see Howie start to relax.
One day at the beach, they had a real scare when a boat came too close to the shore and spooked their new friend. But instead of running away, he barked and ran toward the boat. He raced right into the water, chasing the boat. Howie kept going until he was in over his head and was trying hard to swim. But with only one front leg with which to paddle, he started to sink. His head went under the waves, and he popped back up. Again his head went under and popped back up. They thought for sure he was going to turn around and come back, but the dog went under one more time. That time, they didn’t see him for a few seconds, and he popped back up. Then Hero jumped into action, swam out, grabbed Howie by the collar, and swam back to the beach with Howie in tow, just like he had done with Captain Jack.
Howie lay on the beach on his side. But he wasn’t breathing. They were all very upset. Then Sarah remembered the pet CPR class she had taken and did puppy CPR on him. She did her compressions, slightly breathed into his nostrils, and then repeated. Captain Jack had never witnessed anyone take such responsibility for saving a life and was actually experiencing a flashback from his own harrowing experience. Amber came alongside Howie, pawed at the dog’s side, and barked. Suddenly he coughed up some water and started to whine. His eyes looked all white and wild, and they didn’t know what Howie was going to do next. No matter what, they couldn’t have stopped him anyway.
He just lay there quietly for the longest time and finally started to wag his tail. Then he began to pant and smile. If you’ve never seen a dog smile, you’re missing a real treat. A dog’s smile is one of the most genuine things you’ll ever see. Howie was showing them that he was fine and actually looked very thankful. But he still didn’t get up. They began to wonder if he were trying to say good-bye for the last time, when all of a sudden a huge pelican came walking over, dropped a fish by Howie’s side, and was flapping its wings.
None of them were sure what to do next, so they just sat really still by the dog’s side….
Story Discussion Tips:
Humane Education Follow-up Activities: Visit a local animal shelter. Ask staff members about ways you can help at their shelter. Make a list of their ideas for future reference. Include on your list specific linens, pet treats, pet toys, pet foods, laundry detergent, and dishwashing detergent that they could use so you can list these in your advertising and promotions for any events you do.
- How could Howie’s original owners have been more responsible in caring for his mangled front leg? Why do you think they didn’t do so?
- How did Sarah help Howie in this episode? How did the others help Howie as well?
- What would you have done to have helped Howie adjust better?
- Have you ever adopted a dog, cat, or other pet from an animal shelter? From the SPCA? From a rescue or foster group? What did you have to do during the adoption process? Did the pet become a permanent member of your family?
- How did you take responsibility for helping the dog, cat, or other pet adjust to living with your family? How did the animal seem to respond? What responsibilities did you have in the care of your pet?
Find a way or ways to demonstrate responsibility and to help animal-shelter staff and dogs in any of the following ways:
--Conducting a donation drive to get items your animal shelter most needs. Create posters and flyers to promote your drive. Get permission to post them in area businesses, and hand out the flyers in your community. Add the event to local TV, newspaper, and radio calendars of community events so more people will be aware.
--Conducting a fundraiser for the shelter. Promote your event as indicated above.
--Conducting a food drive for the shelter to get food items and treats that shelter staff requested. Again, promote your event.
--Having a birthday party at which you ask attendees to bring pet food instead of gifts. Deliver the food to the shelter.
--Bringing in linens such as towels, blankets, washcloths, sheets, comforters, or something else to make life better for shelter animals. Again let community members know what items the shelter needs. If anyone has used linens they’d like to donate, offer to pick them up. Also bring in laundry detergent for shelter staff and volunteers to use to wash linens so they can be used time and again.
Organization of the Month:
St. Hubert’s Giralda/St. Hubert’s® Animal Welfare Center
St. Hubert’s Giralda/St. Hubert’s® Animal Welfare Center is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals. The organization believes in and provides services that support the human-animal bond and seeks to foster an environment in which people respect all living creatures.
Founded in 1939, St. Hubert’s® Animal Welfare Center operates animal shelters in the following New Jersey locations: Madison, North Branch, the Noah’s Ark Adoption Center in Ledgewood, and the Mt. Olive Everyday Adoption Center inside PetSmart in Mt. Olive. They welcome animals directly from guardians, rescued by their animal-control officers, from overcrowded shelters across New Jersey, from disaster situations, and from distance partners.
Their nationally renowned Training and Behavior Center, located at their Madison campus, offers specialized training classes and behavior consultations.
Additionally, St. Hubert’s provides a variety of community services, including pet adoption, humane education, a pet food pantry, low-cost spay/neuter of community cats, a pet helpline, and a professional education series. They regularly advocate for animal welfare legislation and work to engage their community to help them protect animals in New Jersey and beyond.
In addition to their role as a nonprofit organization, St. Hubert’s provides animal-control services to a number of municipalities in Somerset and Morris counties. Their animal-control officers assist domestic animals and wildlife in need, and provide educational information to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.
St. Hubert’s® Animal Welfare Center is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization—Federal Tax ID 22-1627726. Their animal-welfare and community-service programs are supported by contributions, grants, and bequests for program continuation and expansion.
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