Nick and I attended the Long Island Pet Expo on Sunday, and found ourselves immersed in dog culture. Vendors hawked every leash, bed, or crate you might imagine, while crowds gathered around a ring, mesmerized by agility, flyball, and disc dog demonstrations. One Aussie showed off the breed’s dexterity by leaping an astonishing 50” – from a near standstill.
We also visited the more sobering booths that lined the isles, manned by hard working volunteers. A conservation group collected money in exchange for glimpses of their rare albino alligator, a local wildlife rescue used an injured owl to attract attention to their plight, and a representative spoke to us about her own rescue group, quite possibly the most important group in attendance – a group that rescues people. The members of the Long Island Search and Rescue dedicate a substantial portion of their lives to learning the skills needed to do this demanding work. Besides training their dogs in tasks like scenting and agility, the human team members each need to be CPR certified, and they need to acquire mapping and GPS knowledge before they can search. Finally, their survival skills are put to the test by being dumped off, alone, in the middle of the woods – with nothing but a compass.
Did I mention they are volunteers?
After meeting the noble SAR dogs, including an exuberant Flat Coated Retriever and three lovely, (yet drooly), Bloodhounds, we continued on to a table where representatives from Glen Highland Farm were handing out brochures about their unique group. Not only is their farm a haven for scores of homeless Border Collies, it is also a camp where inner city children spend their summers learning animal care and handling.
As we walked, we met many curious creatures in need of homes. Among them were ferrets and pot bellied pigs, several beautiful Boxers, and a plethora of unwanted kittens who were attempting to cavort their way into people’s homes – or at least into their pockets for a donation.
Directly behind the frolicking kittens was a fenced off area which drew our attention, mainly due to the odor that emanated from it. As we wandered into the area that housed lines of hermetically sealed crates on table tops, we squinted through the haze of cat urine to observe judges poking and prodding at purebred cats of every variety.
I am probably going to get flamed for this, but – what is the point?
You can debate facial features, coat colors and lengths if you like, but once you get past all that fluff – a cat is a cat is a cat. Why purposely breed more of them, when millions of them are put down every year? Why?
I just don’t get it. Nearly every cat in those cages (except a ridiculously short-legged breed called a Munchkin) resembled a friend or a family member’s common cat in some way, shape, or form.
Although I have no plans of ever purchasing a dog myself because so many of them are in need of homes, I can understand the desire to breed different types of dogs – if done by a responsible breeder. But I doubt any of the ‘fancy’ felines being shown at the expo were bred to do something as useful as herd sheep, retrieve game, or lead the blind.
Here is a photo of our Mew – the foster who never left (and the reason Nick does not want me to raise a guide dog puppy). Take a good look at her striking markings. And no, she doesn’t have any papers.