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Pet

Dear Teddy,

First I want to tell you how heartsick I am to have put you down. I know that is the final act of love for a responsible pet owner when a beloved animal is suffering and no longer functioning. Nonetheless I ask your forgiveness for this ultimate act that ended our 12-year relationship. Little consolation but just know that I miss you every day.

As I think back on your life with us, there are so many vignettes that come to mind. We selected you from a litter of 11 fuzzy golden puppies because you suddenly stretched your neck and quickly licked the tip of my son’s chin with your tiny tongue. It was the winning gesture.

You started life in our home in the kitchen, where we had a tile floor and a crate for you. In what seemed like record time, you were housebroken and we decided that you were smart. On the advice of a neighboring dog owner, we hired a dog trainer for a short while, and he confirmed our judgment. “This is one of the smartest dogs I have ever trained,” he said to our delight, although it did cross my mind that he was probably telling us what we wanted to hear. As time went by, however, you showed yourself quick at understanding what was expected of you. Or was it you who trained us to do what you needed when you needed it done?

Anyway, we have a lot to thank you for. Thank you for teething on the windowsills, the moldings, the bottoms of the kitchen cabinets and anything else you could fit your little mouth around. Thank you for grabbing the hem of a favorite cashmere sweater in your tiny teeth and giving it a good rip. Thank you for finding a sheepskin glove carelessly left on the chair and digesting the index finger. And throughout that first year and the years thereafter, you always delighted us with your puppy-like curiosity.

You were growing at a prodigious rate, and by the following year, you made clear your preference for the beach. Because you were a retriever, we would throw a tennis ball along the sand and wait expectantly for you to fetch and bring it back. Proving that you were not simply one of the pack but to be appreciated for your individuality, you looked after the ball with a bored expression. “Give me a real challenge,” we read in your eyes. So we picked up a stone about the size of a squash ball and threw it half a block. You were after it like a shot, went directly to it among the thousands of rocks on the beach and carried it back to us. But you didn’t give it up. Instead you preferred to chew it, which eventually ground down your front teeth. That was not so smart, I will concede, but it seemed never to hamper you in any way. You also loved to chew sticks and went clamming for rocks with attached seaweed. These you pulled out and brought to the high-water line then tore off the seaweed.

You had a mind of your own, we realized early on, as you ran into the water and would not come out when we wanted to return home. You would turn to face us, water up to your knees, and dare us to come in after you. That was acceptable in summer, but not so much in the midst of winter. And you certainly had a mischievous streak, being selectively deaf when you disagreed with a command. So much for the trainer.

You were interested in people, even more than you were in other dogs. And you were absolutely democratic, going up to each person in a room or on the road, skipping no one, and greeting him or her. Some were uncertain, since you were rather a large dog. “He just wants to say, ‘Hello!’” I would try to be reassuring, and you would wait patiently until each gave you at least a perfunctory pat. Satisfied, you would move on. You were like the neighborhood mayor.

Our family members, friends and neighbors miss you. At least some of our neighbors do. The rest can probably manage just as well without your tearing across their lawns, looking for a “sweet” spot. Most especially, we miss you in the evenings, when you would wiggle and wag with pleasure at our homecoming. And you would flatten yourself across our knees seeking and giving affection, as we relaxed in the living room after dinner.

Goodbye, my sweet dog. Thank you for filling our home and our lives with your love. The memory will not die.

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Cause Four Paws co-director Jason Fluger with his dog Brooklyn. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Smithtown Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is joining with Commack Middle School and Dr. Michael Good, the founder of an initiative called Homeless Pet Clubs, in an effort to find homes for animals. Good flew in from Atlanta, Ga., to speak to a group of about 30 Commack middle schoolers on Thursday afternoon in the school’s auditorium.

Good, a veterinarian, formed the Homeless Pets Foundation — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — in 1998, according to its website. In 2010, Good started Homeless Pet Clubs as an adjunct to his foundation. The clubs are meant to encourage and organize students and community members to spread the word about specific animals that are in local shelters, in the hopes of finding suitable homes for adoption.

In an interview after the presentation, Good told the story of how he was inspired to start Homeless Pet Clubs a few years ago. He was attending an event for kindergarten age students designed to answer questions about a veterinarian’s job and what it entails. After about two hours of young children telling stories about their pets, rather than asking questions about becoming a vet, Good was hit with a stroke of inspiration, he said.

“What if we could get millions of kids all over this country telling stories about animals that don’t have homes?” Good asked. “That was the foundation of my Homeless Pet school clubs, and it has worked fabulously.”

The idea for Good’s clubs is fairly simple; Introduce homeless pets to middle school, or if Good has his way even younger-aged kids, allow them to spend time with the animals and take photos, and then empower the kids to spread the word about the animals. Kids are then made aware of when an animal is adopted, and given positive reinforcement for their role in saving a life. Commack’s version of the club will be the first on Long Island, although Good is always interested in expansion.

Renee Landsman and Jason Fluger teach at Commack Middle School, but they also run Cause Four Paws, an after-school club that meets monthly to educate students about animals and how to train them safely.

“Children love animals, and I think they should be encouraged to love animals,” Landsman said. Many Cause Four Paws students were in attendance for Good’s presentation, though they were not the only ones. Landsman and Fluger hope to make Good’s vision a schoolwide cause.

Smithtown animal shelter Director Susan Hansen also attended the event. She met Good at an event two years ago, she said. One of her first actions after beginning as the shelter’s director in August was to register on Good’s website to be a shelter rescue partner.

“At the shelter we’re approached on a regular basis by various Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth groups and individual kids that come to the shelter and say ‘I want to volunteer,’” Hansen said in an interview. “Unfortunately a lot of them are under 16 and at the shelter you need to be older to interact with the animals. I recognized that when you exclude that young population, you’re really discounting a tremendous resource, because as Dr. Good advocates, they can promote these animals virtually.”

Hansen believes in Good’s assertion that young students and social media can be valuable assets in finding homes for animals.

“Maybe you can’t give them a home, but maybe you know someone who can,” Hansen said about the importance of including youth in the effort to find homes for animals. “Spread the word and make a difference.”

For more information visit www.homelesspetclubs.org or call the Smithtown animal shelter at 631-360-7575.

File photo

An animal rights group has a bone to pick with Stony Brook University.

The Beagle Freedom Project, a national laboratory animal advocacy group, has filed a petition in the state Supreme Court against Stony Brook University with hopes of compelling the school to provide documents relating to Quinn, a dog being housed at the university for animal testing and research. The group, alongside supporter Melissa Andrews, made a Freedom of Information Law request to Stony Brook for documents as part of their “identity campaign,” which allows individuals to virtually adopt dogs or cats being held or used in experiments.

The petition accused Stony Brook University of failing to provide a full response to the FOIL request, providing only five pages of heavily redacted documents. Among the five pages provided was a form appearing to indicate that Quinn and his littermates had been purchased from Covance Research Products, Inc., the group said.

Currently, most universities routinely euthanize all such “purpose-bred for research” animals, the group said. In a statement, a spokesman for the Beagle Freedom Project said the group hopes that the documents help to identify opportunities to provoke post-research adoptions of healthy laboratory dogs and cats.

The petition also challenged Stony Brook University’s claim that it has no further documentation relating to Quinn, pointing out that certain documents are required to be maintained by the Animal Welfare Act and that other publicly funded universities responding to similar requests had produced hundreds of pages of documents. In the petition, BFP and Andrews argued that Stony Brook University and the other respondents did not articulate a particularized or specific justification for denying access, as required, and that there is no such justification.

“Stony Brook is either lying about the records they are keeping or they are in violation of federal recordkeeping requirements,” said Jeremy Beckham, research specialist for the Beagle Freedom Project. “Either way this is troubling and the taxpaying public, forced to fund these experiments, have a right to hold this school to account.”

Lauren Sheprow, a spokesman for Stony Brook University, said the university was unable to comment at this time.

The petition asked the Supreme Court of the State of New York to compel Stony Brook University and the other respondents to provide complete, unaltered documentation concerning Quinn. The Manhattan-based law firm Olshan Frome Wolosky LLP is representing BFP and Andrews in connection with the petition, through its pro bono program.

Through the Identity Campaign, the Beagle Freedom Project has uncovered a troubling pattern of laboratories using animals redundantly or unnecessarily for research or experimentation, providing these animals with poor veterinary care, and other abuses, a spokesman for the group said.