Six Degrees of Separation Anxiety

Ah, the infamous Utica Six.....a pack of Eskies who were busted out of their apartment by the cops and Animal Control officers. The owners of these great dogs were running a half-assed breeding operation out of their apartment. Now, excuse me, but I live in an apartment...and I often have more than my fair share of canine houseguests ... I conclude that these folks are gluttons for punishment. Indeed, I can think of much easier ways to make a buck than playing nursemaid to bitches in heat.

Nikki cannot believe his ears...SIX incoming Eskies!

Found in retched circumstances, Ben and the pack all had amazingly sweet temperments.

The surprising thing about the Utica Six is their amazing temperaments. We saw no signs of physical abuse...aside from neglect..., because these dogs still have a positive opinion of people. But word is that their environment was rather the literal sense. The Utica Six, along with a Dalmatian and a couple dozen cats, were extricated from a flea infested, feces and urine laden abode by Animal Control and housed at the Stevens-Swan Humane Society in Utica, New York. The owners were arrested and prosecuted on animal cruelty and neglect charges. I believe that the charge of criminal stupidity is still pending. Stevens-Swan finally attained custody of the dogs after six months, once the case had snaked its way through the court system. Then, the rush was on to move these dogs ASAP.

Libby was knocked up when she had arrived at the shelter, and Maggie May had recently given birth. Despite the hormonal flux, these girls were friendly, but all of the dogs had lost their hair due to rampant flea dermatitis. A Stevens-Swan representative contacted our foster parents, Mike and Diane Couch of upstate New York, and asked for our help. Mike was in stun mode when he called me to relay the story of the Utica Six. And I was in stun mode as I puzzled to figure out what to do with these dogs!! We were at a low point in foster capacity, since so many of our foster parents had adopted their fosters and, subsequently, had retired. So, it was starting to look like my apartment was going to be the intermediate destination for these dogs. Well, at least they were used to close quarters.

Tiny Libby, a puppy herself, had given birth to puppies in the shelter...

As soon as he met Diane, Romeo glued himself to her.

Then, Mike and Diane volunteered to foster two of the Eskies. Ah, I thought, four isn't so bad. And so, Mike and Diane rushed to the shelter to photograph the pups for our website and to pick up Timmy and Romeo.

In the meantime, I phoned Stevens-Swan to work out details, and I agreed to take the Utica Six after two weeks. That should have given me enough time to finalize some adoptions and drum up some foster homes. But, alas, apparently "two weeks" translates to "four days" in Uticaese, and we were repeatedly asked to hurry it up. I figured that since the dogs had been there for six months, two weeks would not be an unreasonable request.

Timmy and Romeo escape with Diane to Liverpool, where they join resident Eskie Jack (center).

Then, Stevens-Swan advised us of a cash fee required for vetting the dogs. And so we relied on the generosity of Judith Ciani-Smith, a prolific California Rescuer, who has often volunteered to help us on various costly rescues...but we had never before taken her up on it. Boy, did we need Judith now! I think that this is the first time that we were charged more than the shelter's adoption fee to accept rescue dogs into our system.

And so, within 48 hours, we had implemented a disaster plan. We had covered the Stevens-Swan cash demand, we had pulled two of the dogs, and we had photographed them and were actively interviewing adopters. Then, all hell broke loose.

In the middle of the Utica plans, I got.... not one...but two calls from the New York Center For Animal Care and Control...Brooklyn and Manhattan. And my car broke down. I believe the issue was brakes....after 100,000 miles of rescue driving, the brakes decided to lock in the middle of this grandiose crisis. Well, actually, the brakes locked on my way to the Tasty Freeze to get a chocolate soft serve ice cream cone which was going to facilitate strategic crisis planning. I ask you...what is the purpose of antilock brakes if they are going to lock and interfere with rescue??? Well, according to Jared at the Volkswagen Service Department, it is a miracle that I drove 100,000 miles on one set of brakes. He said, "You must do a lot of highway driving." Indeed.


Lexus waited in Brooklyn while Denise sorted out transporation issues.

Bing's parents...Janine and John...volunteered for the CACC rescues.

I think that this was the first time that stress actually paralyzed me into inaction. Obviously, without a car, nobody was going anywhere. Just when you think that the relentless stream of breeders and owner dumpers have lowered your opinion of humanity, I'll be damned if people don't turn up to restore your faith. Our adopters, Janine and John Mignemi, parents to Bing, Mugsy and now, Lexus, volunteered to coordinate the CACC rescues.

I was shocked to tears. I had never had anyone willing to deal with the CACC...which, is why I remain the CACC Eskie person of choice, five years after my move from Manhattan to Boston. Janine and John first hit Manhattan, where they pulled Dino, and then snaked through traffic to snag Candy and Lexus in Brooklyn. They coordinated with two other foster moms, Angela Young (Fugee's mom) and Terri Laird (Kodi's Mom) to hand off the dogs to capable foster homes. It was a triumph of a day. And, I enjoyed it from my balcony with a bottle of Australian Shiraz.

Dino was very happy to see John and Janine.

The old rescue-mobile is showing a little age...

Slowly, one problem at at time was solved. The CACC dogs were rescued. The car was repaired. But, as I drove it off the lot, there was a bumping sound that certainly couldn't be good. And, the engine light was on. And, I was told that I needed three new tires before another road trip. So, I did the logical thing and decided to delay the pickup of the four Utica Eskies still at the Shelter until I could sort out my car and finalize plans for foster care.

Well...I received an irate call from the Shelter head honcho who was pretty miffed that we were missing our agreed upon deadline, because that meant that dogs would die. I interpreted this comment to mean that they were tight for space. However, the four Eskies were housed in one kennel...and good grief, they had been there for six months. Now all of a sudden, dogs were dying because these Eskies were taking up space. I was offered visual proof of dead dogs in photographic form....which I declined... it just seemed like a bit too much information. Often Shelter and rescue people find themselves at odds due to the tremendous pressure at both ends of the spectrum, and sometimes miscommunication occurrs and tempers flare.

Little Timmy hadn't realized what a problem he was causing...

Toot is sure there must be some mistake...NINE Eskies in HER apartment!

Well, ok....if the truth be told...and, some of you may not believe it but, I have a big mouth. And, I rarely know when to keep it shut. I come from the "it's my way or the highway" school of thought, and I can be perfectly unreasonable. And so, I set out to explain my reasons for delaying the pickup four days: because I didn't think the old rescue buggy would make the long trip without another visit to the repair shop and, also, because I had potenial adopters who would not be available to meet the dogs for another few days. I was hoping to avoid increasing my houseguest headcount to nine.

The response to my emphatic plea was chilly indeed. I was told that if I couldn't take the dogs, then I shouldn't have agreed to in the first place. Oops, I had misunderstood the situation completely...I thought that the shelter...and more importantly, six mistreated Eskies...needed our help. I wasn't aware that there were legions of rescuers out there waiting to add six problem dogs to their burgeoning ranks. I thought, in fact, that after an Internet-wide plea for help, we were the only ones who responded. And, when I reviewed our quick response to a six dog rescue, three hundred miles away, that required a cash outlay of over 500 bucks, I thought we deserved meteoric accolades. But no. I was told that I was "stressing myself out."

Mick waits patiently for his release. would you say no to this girl...sweet little Maggie May from Utica?

I have heard this before. "You are doing too much." "You can't take in all those dogs." "Denise, You can't save every one." Well, it is my burden to bear that I see those annoying little eskie faces forefront in my mind that make me choke on the one word...that clearly, I should use more..."NO"!!! But, you see, I am so full of myself, that I actually believe that I can do these rescues. It never occurs to me that I can't do them. It never occurrs to me to say NO.

Well...I continued to "stress myself out" as I rallied the troops for an early Sunday morning rescue because, frankly, I had lost confidence in this Shelter system. I discussed this new plan with Ann Harris, who was worried about a breakdown in the Catskills with four dogs and out of cell phone reach. I told Ann that "God certainly would not pour cider in my ear while I was out saving dogs." Ann pointed out numerous past rescue-related earfuls of cider. I prepared for the earful of cider by putting Ann and Diane Gonzalez on red-alert with their credit cards in case the worst should happen.

Ben is certainly not worried about "cider". He can't wait for the "big car ride."

Little Libby practiced kissing with Denise...and here she is with her adoptor.

Then, Mike Couch offered to shelter-schmooze and orchestrated a 7 am Sunday morning snagging of the four Eskies. I was delighted that Mike was able to smooth out shelter relations and spare me the humiliation of crow-eating. He was able to get someone to open the doors that early so that Diane could drive the dogs to me in Albany. Diane drove three hours each way to meet me ...and I drove three hours each way from Boston, with white knuckles and a hellacious bumping noise enhanced by a bright yellow engine warning light. It was a good thing that I had Miss Libby in the front seat to give me comfort kisses. Honestly, if rescue wasn't stressful, then it wouldn't be worth doing.

And so, the Utica Six and the CACC Three are now with us and most have been adopted. We give our hearty thanks and congratulations to the Stevens-Swan shelter workers and volunteers who tirelessly worked with these dogs and restored their health and spirit. We consider ourselves lucky to be in the company of the Couches, the Mignemis and our friend Judith, without whom these dogs would not be enjoying the great lives that they have today.

Irma enjoyed the company of Maggie May.

Ben was one of the first to be adopted. Here he is exploring his new "grounds". Click on the picture to read his adoption story. And look for the adoption stories of the other Utica Eskies coming soon.

Fait accompli...In the words of the great Bard, "All's Well That Ends Well!!"

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© 2004 Eskies Online/Denise Gareau