Lucy's recent two day great escape sparked Barb Bowes to speak out about the need for more foster homes and adoptions for rescued Great Pyrenees.
Lucy, Bowes's Great White Pyrenees, is terribly shy of people, but that didn't stop her for escaping from an enclosure at Bowes' home in Mahoning Township into the great unknown last week.
Bowes is president of the Great Pyrenees Rescue for Eastern Pennsylvania and Bowes began fostering Lucy at her home in July 2006 after Lucy was rescued from a home with deplorable conditions in New Jersey.
Lucy's adventure last week proved disastrous for the timid dog. Lucy was found by Bowes hiding in a thicket by the bridge on Spring House Road in Mahoning Township. The poor dog was frightened, but luckily hadn't been hit by a car. She came back with a scab on the top of her head and some brambles in her coat. She was stressed, hungry and tired and was quite ready to come back home. She was found about a quarter mile from home.
Bowes had been heartsick over Lucy's loss. While Bowes is quite familiar with the quirky nature of Great Pyrenees, she wasn't prepared to see such a fearful dog vamoose for freedom.
"I was overjoyed to get my sweet girl back home," said Bowes. "One escape is enough in a lifetime."
Bowes said that before Lucy arrived at the rescue, she was one of four Great Pyrenees, seven other dogs and 97 cats taken in July 2006 by the SPCA from an elderly couple's home.
"The couple were hoarders," said Bowes. "The condition inside the home in West Deptfort, N.J. was pitiful."
The four Great Pyrenees were all females and one of them had to be destroyed right away because of aggression, one was sent to a facility in Glouster County and was put down later. Ethel and Lucy came to live with Bowes.
When Lucy and Ethel arrived, Lucy was so frightened, she wouldn't come out of her crate until the crate was carried into the backyard kennel and she could exit on her own. Ethel was a little less frightened. They were able to leash Ethel and walk her to the kennel.
The two dogs had been covered in feces when they were rescued from the home and they both still smelled bad. Bowes suspected that the dogs had been hosed off at the shelter and treated for fleas as they were infested when they came in.
Even in their terrified state, the two dogs showed no aggression and looked at Bowes with "soulful eyes" that told her they wanted to trust her, but were too afraid.
She put Ethel's kennel aside of Lucy's because Ethel had growled at Lucy over a biscuit and she wanted to make sure that Lucy would be able to eat if she chose to do so. By the next day, Lucy had eaten her food, but Ethel had not. She was worried about the dogs' bad smell in the humid July heat because she was concerned about the flies bothering them, but there was nothing she could do for them until she could get them into the house. Since she couldn't get close to them, she had no choice.
Then inspiration struck. She used a leash to make a loop and lassoed them and drug more than led them into the house and into crates. She believes that Ethel was more used to socialization than Lucy was. She was unable to touch either one because of their fear.
A week later, there was slight improvement. They were eating well and getting used to the routine and Bowes had hoped they could be adopted.
In two short weeks, the dogs had adapted to living at the rescue, but were still scared to be touched and not accepting of strangers. When a litter of puppies came to the rescue, Bowes had less time to work with Ethel and Lucy, but she noted that the dogs were totally non aggressive.
By September 2006, they were comfortable coming out of their kennels to run free and play in the enclosed yard. Bowes no longer had to take them outdoors on a leash. They would run and play, but were still afraid of strangers.
Bowes assessed the dogs' situation in November 2006 and she saw that Lucy was still unsure of her, while Ethel was freely giving kisses. Lucy preferred her kennel to freedom.
"It was such a shame that Lucy wasn't socialized when she was younger," she said. At that time, she anticipated it would take at least another year before Ethel and Lucy would be ready to be adopted.
By March of 2007, she saw that the road to adoption for Ethel was not getting any closer and within a month she made the difficult decision to put down Ethel because Ethel did not have the temperament to be adopted.
"If I could only have taught her to trust others the way she trusted me," said Bowes. "If only there were more adoptions and less dogs coming in." Ethel's rehab time had run out when she displayed aggression toward Bowes.
"I wish people would do research before getting a pet," lamented Bowes. "I wish they would care properly for their pets."
"Ethel was a casualty," she noted. "I know I did my best. I hope she knows and forgives me for what I had to do."
By March 2008, Lucy had come partially out of her shell. Bowes remembers that Lucy finally loved to be petted and begged for attention.
Lucy's homeless story ended at Christmas in 2008, with Lucy getting adopted.
"Given the new amendments to the Pennsylvania Dog Law and the fact that Lucy is not yet ready for placement into a new home, " I decided to adopt her myself," said Bowes.
"Lucy is a sweet, loving dog that trusts and loves me," said Bowes. "So she was here to stay. Hopefully, we will continue to make progress with her fear of strangers so that she may live out her life knowing that not all people are to be feared. This was my Christmas gift to her, and to myself."
Bowes said that Great Pyrenees Rescue for Eastern Pennsylvania is a nonprofit corporation registered in Pa. and is working on getting Federal 501(c) 3 status, which will help them apply for grants.
She said the court case against the couple from West Deptford, N.J. is still pending.
Bowes is concerned about how a recent amendment to Pennsylvania Dog Law effects rescue groups.
She said that as a result to the amendments to the Pennsylvania Dog Law that were made into law on Oct. 9, 2008 that rescues are limited to the number of dogs that the group can rescue in a given year.
"As the law reads now, if we take more than 25 dogs in to rescue in a year (or harbor, house etc. more than 25 dogs in a calendar year) we would have to apply for a kennel license," she said. "Applying for a kennel license and adhering to the stringent rules for kennels is not something we are able to do either physically or financially at this time."
To this end, and in order to still be able to rescue some dogs each year, the Great Pyrenees Rescue for Eastern Pennsylvania will no longer be able to take in dogs older than five years, dogs that have behavioral problems, dogs who are food aggressive, dogs who are dog aggressive, dogs who are not good with children under normal circumstances; and also no "special needs" dogs will be accepted, such as those who are deaf or orthopedically challenged dogs.
"We will only be able to take in dogs that have a good chance at being rehomed without extensive behavioral modification," said Bowes. "Nor will we be able to take in any dogs from other states. We need to keep our doors open to PA dogs in need."
Bowes said that the rescue group will do their very best to help shelters and others place any Great Pyrenees in need into appropriate homes whenever possible.
Bowes said that rescue groups are needed now more than ever, but that rescue group's hands are tied.
Bowes said that donations to rescues as well as adoptions are down due to the economy.
"More and more dogs and cats will have to be euthanized to make space," she said.
For additional information about the Great Pyrenees Rescue for Eastern Pennsylvania (EPPR) contact Bowes email@example.com or (570) 386-3017. See the wesite at http://www.eastpennpyrresue.org. For donations, see Pet finder http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/PA364.html.