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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The cat (and dog) ladies

Monday, February 4, 2013

(Photo)
Kelly Goff and her dog Trucker inside Mississippi Mutts in Cape Girardeau.
(Laura Simon)
Roberta Beach, Kelly Goff and Alice Wybert have a common goal: Finding good homes for animals without one. The three women, who lead local shelters, talked to us about their own pets and why they love animals.

Kelly Goff, director of the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri

What was the first pet you ever owned?

My first childhood pet was a terrier named Sandy. My mother found her in a refrigerator box and brought her home. She lived to the ripe old age of 16!

How many pets do you have now?

I currently have a dog and a cat.

Tell me a little about them.

My dog is named Trucker and he is a 9-year-old blue heeler mix. He was a cruelty survivor and was not expected to survive his injuries. When he did, the veterinarian said, "He just keeps on truckin'!" This is how he got his unusual name. My cat is named Mr. Joseph. He just turned 4 years old and is a very formal cat, hence his formal name.

What's the best thing about having a pet(s)?

Their unconditional love! Pets have a unique ability to love you regardless of what you look like or what kind of day you are having.

What advice do you give to someone getting his or her first pet?

Choose your first pet wisely. Different animals have different types of needs, and you should be sure you have the time, financial resources and the ability to commit to the pet for the rest of its life.

Roberta Beach, director of Silverwalk Hounds Dog Sanctuary

(Photo)
Justice gives his "mom" Roberta Beach a kiss near the trail at Juden Creek in Cape Girardeau.
(Laura Simon)
What was the first pet you ever owned?

The family dog. I named him "Sniffer." When he was gone (and I don't remember how or why), the next dog was "Sniffer Jr." I'm very original. The first pet I owned outside my family was a cat, Silver; he had long black hair sprinkled with silver hairs. I miss him.

How many pets do you have now?

I now have four dogs of my own. Justus (is a) black and tan/dobie/whatever mix; I call him my "Whineramer" since he is a whiner. Annie Beagle is a fit beagle who, so far, hasn't been sick a day since her rescuer found her and got her to me. Margie, a border terrier mix (best guess) was found in a Dumpster at about 9 weeks old; she made enough noise that someone opened the Dumpster, got her to a rescue friend who sent her to me to adopt out -- never happened. Danny Quinn is from the same rescue friend as Margie. He is a blue-eyed chocolate and tan double dapple tweenie Dachshund who uses his charms and won't walk far before "needing" to be carried. He was stolen once and returned.

The other dogs here are all adoptable, though realistically, several won't be. Monk is going nowhere -- he was a feral puppy who, after two tries in other situations, will live his life here. Pink Floyd and Cyrano Beagles will live here for their lives, too, though someone could appreciate them for the few years they have left. Silverwalk is part of Safe Harbor; I have 12 adoptable dogs here on site with two in foster homes and am fostering two for a family living overseas.

What advice do you give to someone getting his or her first pet?

Consider your lifestyle and ability to commit to another life over multiple years. Have the resources to care for them; if you don't, volunteer. Foster home a dog -- most shelters/sanctuaries pay for needed food/vet bills; you give love, structure, guided training (I'll help!) and the chance to be in a home before moving to their forever home.

Realize much of your lifestyle plan will change. Few people really appreciate the changes a new baby brings until she is blessing their lives; pets are similar.

Dogs are not furry people; they are dogs -- same with any pet. They don't poop because you left them alone and they're getting you back. They poop because they needed to and you haven't taught them the best place to go (or made sure they were able to get there).

Pets can learn at any age. I work with a lot of senior dogs; believe me, they can still learn -- yep, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Give any new pet time to adjust and settle in. This will take about a month for them to begin to know you and vice versa.

From day one, show your pet what you expect from them but don't expect it immediately -- over and over and over again with positive reinforcement.

Alice Wybert, director of Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary

(Photo)
Alice Wybert visits with some of her feline friends at Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary.
(Laura Simon)
What was the first pet you ever owned?

We raised cocker spaniels when I was a child, but the first pet that was truly mine was a German shepherd that "followed me home, can I keep him?". I was in high school and I named him Fritz. He loved me, protected me and embarrassed me as only a teenage girl can be embarrassed.

How many pets do you have now?

I have two dogs and several cats.

Tell me a little about them.

Rose is a 10-year-old golden retriever that came to me as a puppy to be a playmate for my lab, Dixie. Max is a chocolate lab that was terribly abused. He is 8 years old and loves only me. Only three of the cats are really mine. Two are almost 13 and one is almost 12. The others are challenged in one way or another. I have a cat with no eyes and a kitten with no eyes. I have a kitten with one eye and a cat with cerebral palsy. One cat was abused, one was a bottle baby that came back to me and another was desperately ill. As you can tell, I like the ones that would have been sent to heaven if I didn't have them.

What's the best thing about having a pet(s)?

Unconditional love and cuddling.

What advice do you give to someone getting his or her first pet?

Make sure you get the right pet for your lifestyle. If you are going to be gone for hours and hours, you probably need a cat or to have a doggie door and a fenced-in yard for your dog to go out to potty. Don't expect perfection in a puppy. They have to be potty trained. All dogs need training of some sort. ... All pets are a long-term commitment. Many cats live into their 20s and some dogs 10 to 15-plus years. Are you ready to spend money on shots, spay/neuter, good food, play, daily exercise and, as they age, the accidents and illness? Believe me, in the years I have been owned by pets, it has been totally worth it.

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