In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, among the most heartbreaking of sights were the faces of the helpless. Amid those faces were those of pets abandoned unwillingly by their fleeing families. Abandoned and lost dogs are common, certainly, but these dogs were particularly needy. Not only were they alone, but they had been severely traumatized. Most were starving and some were found exhausted in the flooding.
In the Wood River Valley, there were five dogs rescued from Louisiana and Texas that had been abandoned or lost. Veterinarian Sarah Ratekin was responsible for bringing these pooches to the valley and placing them at the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley, near Hailey. All five were adopted and are now living happily in the valley.
"I've got the best dog," said Randi Pallan, who adopted a sweet brown puppy that was named Bayou by the animal shelter employees.
"She's very well adjusted now," Pallan said. "She was really shell-shocked when I got her. She'd been found in an abandoned house. We think she may be 2 years old."
As these dogs have found good homes, so too have random strays and dogs given up to the animal shelter. Often, these dogs are being adopted for more than just companionship.
Emmett residents Gary and Rosemary Scheihing, owners of Shine K-9, have been adopting dogs from the shelter to train them for law enforcement agencies.
Spice Girl, a 2-and-a-half-year-old chocolate lab, and Hannah, a 3-year-old chocolate lab mix, came in to the animal shelter as strays. Hannah was trained in drug detection and eventually placed with a police officer and his family in Orofino.
The Scheihings don't have a kennel. Instead, all of the dogs live in their home and are trained one at a time. They learn basic obedience, house manners, socialization with people and other dogs, as well as detection training.
Spice was special. They fell in love with her, decided to keep her and trained her in explosives detection. Over the years, she worked with the Meridian Police Department, doing calls for service as well as dozens of demonstrations for schools and organizations. She also traveled to several states to do explosive sniffs, including at the St. Louis State Fair and in Washington for cruise ship inspections.
Rocky, a 4-year-old black lab, was extensively trained in hunting but was unable to transfer that over to drug-detection work. He was placed instead with a couple in Washington.
"The man is an avid hunter and his wife wanted a nice house companion," said Rosemary Aquilante, a volunteer with the animal shelter. "Rocky fit the bill perfectly and they have been very happy with him."
"Kya (also adopted from the shelter) is one of the hardest working dogs they have ever trained," Aquilante said. "She quickly learned her drug-detection work and has been placed with an officer with the Emmett Police Department."
In August 2006, the Scheihings adopted Sniffer, a 1-year-old lab mix stray that was found three miles out Quigley Canyon, east of Hailey. Sniffer was trained in drug detection and placed with his handler, an officer with a department in Wyoming.
"Sniffer is a wonderful, happy boy and they love him," Aquilante said.
My mother always said, "When you get a dog at the shelter, they are the nicest, most grateful pets." About this she is right.