Imagine how it would feel if you were locked in a basement for months and no one came to let you out.
That’s exactly what happened to a beautiful dog living in a home in Canton. No one knows exactly how long she was locked in, but it was early last July when the dog warden received the call of a possible abandonment.
What he found was a starved dog laying in a “bed” that was nothing more than a pile of trash bags with an old tipped over mattress. He had to lift the mattress to find her.
“She was shaking so hard, she could barely walk. We had to carry her in,” said Maryanne Bell from the Bradford County Humane Society (BCHS).
According to Bell, the dog hadn’t see daylight for six months or more. Bobby Kinner, the kennel manager, named her Sunshine.
The next morning, Bell took Sunshine to the Milan Vet Clinic.
“I didn’t want to take her the day she was brought in because I thought it would kill her to be taken somewhere again,” said Bell. “She was better the next morning after having food and water.”
At the vet clinic, Sunshine’s body condition was rated one out of nine, with nine being healthy. As they bathed her, the water turned red from all the fleas. The vet did an abuse exam to be referred to the police. After she was cleaned up it was determined that she was a golden retriever mix about ten years old.
The vet staff kept Sunshine a few days because they didn’t want to give her up. She was so sweet and lovable. She had the run of the place and had a basket up front where she slept.
According to Bell, Sunshine didn’t bark at first, but eventually she was pretty happy at the kennel. She got to go outside and loved it. She even started to bark.
“She’s the nicest dog you could ever find. She’s a beautiful dog,” said Bell. “Just not very well treated.”
After about a month, Diane Effinger, one of the BCHS volunteers noticed that Sunshine’s need for communication was more than the other dogs. She communicated through the look in her eyes and her bark.
Effinger is a retired animal law enforcement officer who started out in shelters, then hospitals, then went into law enforcement where she felt she could do the most good for abused animals. As a control officer she had to go to school for animal behavior.
“Sunshine would look me right in the eye and bark, as if she wanted me to understand,” said Effinger. “As if she was saying, I’ve been through so much, please take me.”
At first she didn’t want to adopt another older animal but in August Effinger did adopt Sunshine.
“It hurts,” said Effinger, referring to having a loving animal for only a short time. “But you have to rise above because it does so much good.”
After her experience with Sunshine, Effinger feels that BCHS does so much to help animals, but our county needs more to prevent animal abuse.
“We need a law enforcement officer,” said Effinger. “If I wasn’t 63 and retired I’d come up there and work for free.”
As a No Kill shelter, BCHS, located along Route 220 in Ulster offers many services to the community including spay/neuter; low cost rabies clinics; lost and found pet services; pet therapy for local hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers and humane education programs for area schools and businesses.
For more information about adopting, call BCHS at (570) 888-2114 or any of the other local shelters. October is “Adopt a Shelter Dog” month, but any time is a good time to adopt. There are so many wonderful dogs waiting for good loving forever homes.
Effinger feels that more people, especially parents of young children, need to learn about basic animal behavior to teach their children respect for animals and improve their safety around animals.
According to Bell, anyone can be on the lookout for the mistreatment or abandonment of animals. Neighbors who have moved, but there is still a dog barking in the house. Dogs tied outside round the clock in all kinds of weather. Someone who walked their dog daily who isn’t doing that anymore. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You might prevent a situation like Sunshine had to endure.
Sunshine passed away on Sept. 27 after Effinger had given her a wonderful end of life home. Even though they were together a very short time, it was a loving time.
“I never thought Sunshine would pass so quickly,” said Effinger. “Due to the terrible treatment she received that compromised her health.”
“I’m so proud of Sunshine. I think her life has made a difference,” continued Diane Effinger. “It was a mutual good. Sunshine did for me and I did for her.”