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Countryside Animal Hospital Port Jefferson

The little escape artists Penny and Sadie at their home in Setauket. Owner Alexa Quinn said the two are practically inseperable, and it would have been horrible if the former went missing. Photo by Quinn

A small act of compassion can make anyone’s day, and in days such as these, they almost become a necessity. One act by a local Port Jeff resident meant a family dog was returned to a loving home. 

Barbara Ransome, director of operations of The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said she was driving along Old Post Road near the intersection of California Avenue Wednesday, Dec. 2, when she spotted a puppy standing in the middle of the road. She approached it, seeing it had no tag and no collar, and waited to see if it would run. Instead it stayed there, and even allowed her to pick it up. It was a female, something like a miniature schnauzer, and she was extremely friendly, so much so that Ransome thought it was unlikely the dog was a runaway. It was so well behaved and comfortable, even around strangers. Ransome went to nearby doors but either nobody answered, or the people didn’t know who the owner was.

Joining up with her husband, Dan Tarantino, Ransome took the dog to Countryside Animal Hospital where the vet said she did not have a chip either.

“And now, I’m like, now what do we do?” she said. “And if we left it there, they would not have held onto the dog for more than maybe one, possibly maximum three days and then they would turn it over to a shelter.”

That same day, Alexa Quinn, a Setauket resident, said the escape happened when her 2-year-old daughter opened the front door, and both of her dogs, littermates, ran outside. Within a half hour, she found one on the front lawn, while the other was nowhere to be found.

“I started to freak out, [the dog] loves anybody and she’s that kind of dog, after three-and-a-half hours I was really starting to be beside myself,” Quinn said. 

She went door-to-door to ask if anyone had seen her dog. She eventually enlisted the help of a neighbor, a fellow animal lover, to help find her missing pup. A short time later, the neighbor pulled up next to her, showing her a picture on a telephone pole of her missing dog.

That was because after leaving the animal hospital, Ransome took the puppy home to spend some time with her two dogs. The young puppy was demure, calm even, as Ransome’s dogs grew excited. The Port Jeff resident even saw how the puppy climbed up the stairs after her, which proved even more that the animal was used to a normal home.

Ransome was not ready to surrender it to a shelter, even though it was missing any identification. She had a nagging feeling that some poor person was still looking for their lost dog. So, she dropped off a missing-dog poster at Save-a-Pet Animal Shelter in Port Jefferson Station, while her husband took the dog in his car and started putting posters all around. Practically right after that, Quinn called the number to ask about her dog. 

The Setauket resident went to pick up her dog from Ransome’s home. The dog’s name, it happened to be, was Penny.

“I just started crying,” Quinn said. “I know it’s something I would have done, but it’s so good to see that thought reciprocated. It was just nice to see how they were willing to help.”

Somehow during Penny’s escape, she managed to slip out of her collar. One of the first things on retrieval of her dog, Quinn said, was to go to Petco to buy her a new one.

Penny and her sister Sadie are rescue dogs. Quinn said she was working upstate when she stopped along a road after seeing a young girl with a box of puppies, a rural tableau seemingly rare in this day and age. The schnauzer mixes were all part of a litter, and seeing their malnourished and mangy status, she purchased one and took it home.

A short time later, with Quinn back in her Setauket home, the young girl called and told her there was still one dog left if she wanted it. The way the young girl spoke about it, Quinn feared what might happen next. 

Once Penny and Sadie were home together, they became inseparable. They rarely go anywhere without the other, and they are often found sleeping next to each other, their heads close together. 

“I was so sad for Sadie, too, thinking she would have lost her best friend,” Quinn said. “I’m just super grateful to Barbara for finding her.”

Such a small act of kindness, but Ransome agreed that such stories are important during a year of untold hardship and heartbreak.

“We just want to have to be kind to someone else, you know,” she said.

Mice are very efficient transmitters of Lyme disease, infecting about 95 percent of ticks that feed on them.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I was listening to the radio and a segment was introduced as “How a Mouse Plague Is a Forbidding Forecast for Lyme Disease in the Northeast,” predicting 2017 as a particularly risky year for Lyme disease. I had always focused on how close deer came to a dog owner’s property when discussing the risk of Lyme disease. I realize now that I must also ask about mice.

I decided I need to do some more investigating myself. I started with a little coffee, a doughnut, and started pounding the streets (I pictured myself as a regular “Magnum PI”). OK, back to reality. Coffee yes. Anyone whose seen my waistline would say, “doughnut NO!” Lastly, I only pounded the streets of Bing, Google and the Veterinary Information Network.

The first stage of my investigation was to refamiliarize myself with the life cycle of the deer tick. I learned that there are four stages: egg, larvae, nymph (young adult) and adult. The larval stage is the first stage to feed, so they do not have Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease) but can acquire it during their first feeding. The adult stage of the tick prefers deer; however, the larval and nymph stages prefer smaller mammals such as dogs, cats, possums and, most importantly, mice.

Another fun fact I learned is that although other mammals, such as possums, will regularly groom off or kill the ticks on them, mice tolerate these ticks on their bodies. It is estimated that a white-footed mouse can have anywhere from 10 to 50 ticks on its face and ears at a time, and mice are very efficient transmitters of Lyme disease (they infect about 95 percent of ticks that feed on them).

Once the larval and nymph stages have fed (and possibly ingested Lyme disease at the same time), it is off to another host. The next stage of my investigation was to find out why there is an upsurge in the mouse population. Was it weather related? Other environmental factors? Actually it had most to do with a downtick in the population of the natural predators of mice. Many call it “Suburban Sprawl.”

Hawks, foxes and owls are the natural predators of the white-footed mouse and these predators need large forests to survive. Today we have more of a fragmented landscape — plenty of smaller forests that are broken up by small farms, housing developments and roads. Mice are prolific at making babies and actually thrive in these environments. Unlike deer, mice will come right up to (and sometimes into) our homes with all these ticks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report about 30,000 cases of human Lyme disease annually, but many experts feel that number is not accurate and that there could be as many as 10 times that amount. I would say it is safe to assume that the risk is just as high, if not higher, for dogs. There is no Lyme vaccine currently available for humans, but there has been a safe and effective vaccine for dogs on the market for decades. Please be aware that the canine Lyme vaccine has to be a series of two vaccines three weeks apart, and then once annually to be effective.

So, if you didn’t finish the initial series, or there has been more than a year gap since your dog received the vaccine, please make an appointment with your veterinarian ASAP. I would recommend a discussion about flea and tick preventatives at that same visit.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.