The TallyCast

…all polite and classy.

Hey Jude

spaydayIn honor of the National Humane Society’s 2009 “Spay Day”, February 24th, a post from Erin VanSickle.

Though I’ve never seen the Dead Puppy Yard, it entered my lexicon 13 years ago and never left.  I don’t know if the Dead Puppy Yard is still around, but at the time, local folks referred to it that way because stray dogs congregated there, and many of them starved to death.  My story begins in the springtime of 1997, when I was a senior at Leon High and working at a Tallahassee veterinary office.

Here’s what happened: A kind stranger lured a shy, emaciated 12-week old pup out of the Dead Puppy Yard, somehow caught her, and brought her into the vet’s office where I worked. The pup had an appalling case of mange, intestinal parasites, open sores and very little hair…my Mom would later compare her to Yoda because her forehead was full of wrinkly skin but no hair.  I fell in love with her immediately.

She was a plucky little dog—weak from starvation and fear, she still the energy to growl at every one of us as we crowded around her for her preliminary exam. We were amazed that she had survived this long.

One of my first tasks was to bathe her, and when “Hey Jude” came on the radio as I lathered her up, her name was born.

Over the next thirteen years I went to FSU, got my first job, moved with Jude to Texas for a while, moved back, lived in a lot of different places, and somehow landed in politics.  Throughout it all, I found myself rescuing stray dogs:  running down a country road at dusk after Gizmo, a tiny ball of grey fur who wouldn’t eat for 4 days; lifting yellow lab mix Sunshine up out of a filthy mud puddle at the Flea Market after realizing that she didn’t belong to anyone and no one wanted her; grabbing terribly emaciated hound Honey and black lab mix Huck one Thanksgiving and feeding them turkey and gravy on their first night out of the cold; racing through the woods in heels and suit on my way to work one morning after Lula and Sidda, two scared feral puppies who led me back to their underground den as I prayed that their mama wouldn’t be home;  walking Wayside door to door after spotting him laying in a ditch in the middle of August, trying to keep cool…and finally finding his owner, who had “cut him loose” weeks earlier after getting tired of feeding him; spending an entire summer trying to lure wild dog Sassy out of an underground culvert in South Georgia where she’d taken up residence and, as I later found out, actually been shot;  refusing to give Little Guy a “real” name because I didn’t want to get attached to him before adopting him out…and then getting attached.  (He kept the name.)

I hear Huck lives in Orlando and loves swimming in his family’s pool.  Sunshine is now Sugar Bear, living with a lovely Tallahassee family who sends me photos of her.  Wayside is now Waylon, and he loves his stuffed guitar and his family’s ranch.  Gizmo lives out in the country too, on a farm with cats and horses and chickens to chase.  Sassy, Little Guy, and Jude live with me.  There are 15 more, and each has its own story.

Multiple local veterinarians and rescue groups like Big Dog Rescue, plus my family, have helped foot the bills for the dogs’ vaccinations, de-worming, skin treatments, and flea and heartworm control.

And it started with that first little puppy named Jude, scared and starving and brought into my life by pure chance.

I entered Jude into the Humane Society’s Spay Day photo contest this year to celebrate all of the animals who have come into my life and the good people who adopted them. You can see Jude’s photo here and vote for her.  Spaying and neutering initiatives help to ensure that we won’t have as many animals out there suffering and dying, like those in the Dead Puppy Yard. Vote for and show your support for Spay Day 2009 here:   It’s February 24.

Erin VanSickle is a Tallahassee native and works in politics.  Spay Day is an annual campaign of The Humane Society of the United States to inspire people to save animal lives by spaying or neutering pets and feral cats.

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