Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Yesterday, we had an amusing incident happen. I was passing by the front desk when I heard Pat talking with a woman who had come in with her (30 year old) son to claim her dog. Pat was looking over the paperwork, saying, "Let me see if I got this right...Hmm, not sure I have this right...I work in the back, so I'm not too familiar with the paperwork...Julieann! Come see if I did this right..."

Listening, I was confused, since Pat knew exactly how to do the paperwork. She asked Julieann several times if she had done it right, each time involving her leaving the front desk, going to the back room where Julieann was entering stuff in the computer, then coming back to the desk. It was taking a lot of time, and by this time I was wondering what was going on. On the third or fourth time, Julieann came back with her to the front desk, then suggested, "Maybe they want to microchip their dog."

Pat's eyes lit up. "Do you want to microchip your dog?" she asked the woman. "It's only $10 if you do it right now." The woman agreed, and Julieann and I took the dog to our medical room to microchip it. After we shut the door behind us, Julieann finally explained Pat's strange behavior. Apparently, the son was wanted by the police, and Pat was trying to stall until they showed up. I'm assuming that when the police brought the woman's dog in, they mentioned to Pat that the son was wanted, and when Pat saw him come in with his mother, she phoned the police.

Juliann and I took our time microchipping the dog until we finally saw Pat rush by the door. We figured the police must have showed up, and finished the microchipping. Sure enough, a police officer and a detective had showed up. We handed the dog over to the mom while they took the son aside, and eventually the whole group moved outside and eventually left.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Well, I played "real" laser tag for the first time yesterday. It was a lot of fun! Our team won, but it helped that 2 of the 3 people on the other team were wearing grey shirts that glowed white under the blacklight in the arean. It was actually pretty close for a while--I remember glancing at the score-board ten minutes or so into the half-hour game and noting that the red team was ahead by a couple points. In the end, though, we ended up 15 points ahead.

Also, my latest short story (Working title: "Mockingbird") is almost done. A few more revisions, more agonizing over the beginning, reviews from a few trusted friends, then I'll send it off to Writers of the Future. I've been a finalist once, but as they say, close only counts in horsehoes and hand grenades. Once I'm done with this story, I have another one in mind ("Lost in Space"), and I still need to go back and finish up "Big Honkin' Ship" at some point. (Note that none of the titles are the real titles, which have not been decided yet.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Yesterday, a rancher brought us "a passel o' cats," 18 to be exact. He had trapped them using a clever contraption involving chicken wire, bait food, and a long string that he used to trip a gate. I'm not sure how, but he had managed to get them all inside a giant plywood box that he had nailed shut. It took two of us to carry the crate inside, and as we tilted it on end to fit it through the door, we could hear 324 claws scrabbling around inside. Not a happy sound.

I and one of the other workers, Mark, took the crate into our "Cat Intake" room. Shutting the door, we pried out the nails holding the crate shut. I think we were both expecting the crate to spontaneiously explode, sending cats flying around the room like a shotgun full of bouncy-balls, but as the last nail was removed, the crate stayed ominously silent.

I opened the lid a crack, and saw 36 glowing eyes staring at me. Apparently they were just waiting for a sign that freedom was imminent, because they chose that moment to make their break for it.

Cats of all colors and sizes went zinging around the room, scrabbling up the walls, bouncing off the door, and ricocheting off the ceiling. Wielding our cloth pinchers, we tried to snag them mid-flight, but there were just too many! They were everywhere! All seemed lost! We were about to beat a desperate retreat when we noticed a curious phenomenon: we already had opened a few of the cages in the rooms, and the cats apparently saw them as safe places, foxholes so to speak, from which to launch new attacks. Quickly, we started slamming the full cages shut and opening new ones, which the still-loose cats also mistook for safe zones, climbing up the walls to get to them. Moments later, all the cats were ensconced in cages, and the battle was won.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Child and I went canoeing today, along with my cousin and three of my siblings. It was a lot of fun--I borrowed the van and trailer from my parents, we loaded the canoes, and drove several miles up the Canyon. There's a lot of construction on the Canyon road right now, which made things a little interesting, and we had to slid the two canoes down a steep, 30 foot gravel embankment to the railroad tracks below. From there, it was a short bushwhack to the river, and we managed to board the canoes without tipping over.

The trip down was a lot of fun, although about five minutes from the end we hit a reef and capsized. The scurvy dogs serving before the mast abandoned ship despite my threats of taking the cat o' nine tails to them, and one floated downstream while the other struck for the far shore. Eventually I got the canoe righted and dragged to shore, and eventually resumed our trip with the one able-bodied seaman who returned. The mutinous first mate who floated downstream protested that she had been recovering one of the lost sweeps, so she was spared a keel-hauling. That, and I'm getting married to her in a month and a half...

Friday, May 11, 2007

At the animal shelter we have a "shelter dog," a Golden Retreiver that we decided to keep for ourselves. His name is Rufus, and he's a great dog, still a little young (read: excitable at times), but very quick to learn and very friendly. He would play "fetch" for hours if you let him, and loves everyone.

Rufus was intrigued by a rabbit we got in. The rabbit was mildly interested in him in return, and not at all afraid.

They got along for a short while, until the rabbit decided to try an experiment and see if breaking into a run would trigger an instinctive chase-reaction from Rufus. The experiment was a total success, much to the rabbit's surprise, and it was spared a potentially-traumatizing conclusion by me tackling Rufus as he ran past the third time.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Today, a dog made it through the euthanasia chamber without dying. His three companions did, but he didn't. I think the CO tank was almost empty, and there just wasn't enough gas to kill them all. He was obviously sick, with drool dripping from his mouth, but he was sitting up and very much alive. It reminded of an almost identical case that I saw in the news a year or so ago, about a dog back East that made it through the chamber alive. Someone at the shelter rushed it to a vet, they fixed it up, and adopted it.

Ours wasn't such a happy ending. We didn't have the money before to save its life, and we didn't have the money after. We put it in the smaller cat euthanasia chamber and ran it through again. It's in a much happier place now.

But whose fault was this really? It wasn't our lack of funding or time or space--the problem started long before the dog got to our shelter. I want be accusatory and say it's the fault of owners who don't properly care for their animals, who don't get them spayed or neutered, or let them run loose, but I try to be understanding. Sometimes little Bobby opens the door and Tiger slips out, or the meter reader leaves the gate open and Spot escapes. One way or another, animals end up at the shelter.

But here's where I can make a difference. I think a lot of animals at the shelter go unclaimed simply because people don't know where to look for them, or even that the shelter exists. Our jurisdiction covers a dozen cities and towns, and 30 miles of highway. I can see how someone at one end of our jurisdiction might not know to travel to the other end to find their missing pet. The problem is that other than listing ourselves in obvious places like the Yellow Pages, we don't have the money for extensive advertising.

The trick, in my mind? Free advertising. Take advantage of newspapers and local tv stations. Create a story that is newsworthy, and they'll cover it. My idea? Collect a number of collars equal to the number of animals we euthanize every year. Last year, that was about 3000. That's a big pile of collars. Dump them somewhere public, get some attention, and reporters will flock to the story like flies. Explain the situation, the story gets out, and now a lot more people know that their animals end up at the shelter, and where the shelter is.

But why stop there? Take that carload of collars and go to other shelters in the state. Start a website. Get other groups to do it in other states. Make it a big deal. Get on CNN.

But you have to start somewhere. Earlier this evening, I emailed a handful of different pet supply companies, asking who I would talk to about donating collars for an awareness program. If I don't get any success there, I'll go in person to the local PetSmart and other stores. Failing that, I'll just start saving collars from the shelter. Hey, we get plenty.

While I'm working/waiting on that, my next step will be to start thinking about a website design. Somewhere that I could get word out about the program, get support, and possibly PayPal donations to help buy collars. It might move a little slowly since I have other important things going on in my life at the moment (e.g. getting married), but I'll keep it moving forward.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Yesterday, we had two dogs come in to the animal shelter. They were Newfoundland mixes. They weighed 225 pounds. Each.

They were huge. I could have ridden on them, easily. The funny thing was that in the kennel next to them was a miniature poodle, probably 10, 15 pounds max. It was an amusing dichotomy.

Only in Utah: I was on a bench just inside the door at Walmart, waiting for a prescription to be filled, when a guy walks in carrying a shirt. "Returning that?" the Walmart door-watcher said, reaching for her "return stickers," but the guy shook his head. "I forgot to pay for it, so I came back," he said.

Do you think you'd see that in your hometown?