Madison County Opinion...

SEPTEMBER 1, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
September 1, 2004

Frankly Speaking

Have you ever been cussed out by a squirrel?
Have you ever been cussed out by a squirrel? It is not a pleasant experience.
The little dictator sits on a tree limb just over your head and rails at you with what sounds like a cross between a bark and a chirp. He will harass you with four short and one long bark, repeated continuously, until you leave. Each short bark is accompanied with a full up and down flip of that fuzzy tail. On the long bark he extends it out behind him and it quivers like a maid’s dust mop.
Now the thing that makes me mad is that the intruder was in one of my pecan trees, the one I planted 45 years ago. Over the years I have fed those trees, raked their leaves, collected and burned the twigs cut off by twig beetles. I have collected a ton or more of nuts from these trees and shared them with friends and family.
So you can imagine my reaction to a fuzzy-tailed rat trying to claim my trees for himself. That thief is planning to gorge himself on my pecans. He will start pulling them off and chewing them open before they are fully ripe. In a few days, I will start finding partially eaten, green pecans all over the ground below the trees.
In the past, the solution to this problem was simple. Before the squirrel had time to eat my pecans, I would have eaten the squirrel! The recipe is simple. Skin the squirrel, put him in a pot of water with a little salt and vinegar and boil him until the wild taste is gone and the meat is tender. Then batter him and fry him to a mouth watering brown.
There was a time when small game such as squirrel, rabbit, dove and quail were a part of our diet. Hunting was not a sport, but a way of feeding our families.
The creek banks on either side of Glenn Carey Road were prime squirrel hunting areas — but not any more. There are hundreds of houses now crowded into my old hunting grounds. There is no way I can shoot the thief in my pecan trees. If I use my little .22 rifle, I would risk shooting out a neighbor’s window, if not the neighbor himself. I could safely take him out with the 12-gauge shotgun, but it makes so much noise that the neighbors would likely think they are under attack from some evil terrorists.
So there is not much I can do. I hope there will be enough pecans so that Mr. Squirrel and his buddies can eat their fill, and still leave enough for myself and my friends. I can hope. But if you come around asking if I have any pecans and I have to refuse you, just blame it on that fuzzy-tailed rat that is trying to chase me away from my own tree!
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com

Column
By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
September 1, 2004

A Moment With Margie

A look at the animal shelter’s spay/neuter clinic
When the Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter opened its doors in December 2002, those of us on the board of directors for the shelter had high hopes.
We had seen too many animals tossed out on the side of the road, forgotten, left without the basic dignity that all of God’s creatures deserve.
And we wanted to do what was right, morally and practically.
We wanted to make sure that as many animals as possible had a good home. And we wanted to reduce the number of stray animals roaming the county that were diseased, starving, uncared for, and — in some cases — a threat to children at play and adults on their nightly walk.
So the goal of the non-profit humane society that operates the shelter was — and will always be — to reduce the amount of animal suffering in our community while increasing the quality of life for both people and pets.
We planned to do this in a number of ways.
First of all, we worked with the local governments of both Madison and Oglethorpe counties to provide the service of taking in stray and unwanted dogs and cats from residents of both counties. That service, provided at $3 per person per year has definitely been “successful,” if you can call taking in an average of 100 animals per week, sometimes more during puppy and kitten season, “successful.”
Many people tell us they no longer see animals roaming the roads like they once did, or lying dead along the highways. And while we’re glad of that, there is still much work to be done in this area, much of it through education.
For those hundreds of unwanted pets our shelter staff takes in each month, some (50 to 80 percent or so, much higher than most shelters) end up adopted, or taken by rescue groups who foster them until a permanent home is found.
In addition to this county-funded service, the shelter also offers a variety of other self-supported services. Among them are two I’ll mention here: the spay/neuter clinic and another, the “Rescue Express,” which delivers dozens of dogs and puppies to waiting owners in Northern states.
It seems our low cost spay/neuter program has caused some hard feelings, controversy and angst among some local veterinarians, who believe it to be cutting into the profits of their businesses.
This is not the intent or purpose of this program. So let me take a moment to explain a little more about this program.
The shelter was designed and built with an in-house surgery area because it was the goal of the shelter board and supporters from the very beginning to aggressively tackle the horrendous problem of pet overpopulation in our area.
All of us involved in the shelter project have seen more than our share of abandoned and abused animals.
To combat this we vowed that every animal that was adopted from the shelter would be spayed or neutered before it left the facility so that we would never see its unwanted descendants come through our doors.
And we also wanted to find a way to stem the flow of litter after litter of puppies and kittens coming to the shelter from owners who either couldn’t, or wouldn’t, get their animals spayed and neutered.
We hoped to utilize the services of local vets to help accomplish this. While we did receive help from one vet in particular, it seems the busy practices of other vets in the area prevented our being able to rely on their services at our clinic, and transporting them to their clinics was just not feasible for us or them with the shelter’s small staff and the large number of animals we had needing surgery.
And, as with many new businesses, we had grossly underestimated our operating costs. Staggered by more animals than even we had imagined and by the expense of caring for those animals, we were struggling to keep our doors open.
About that time, a newly-graduated veterinarian from UGA approached us about becoming our shelter vet. Dr. Amber Polvere was interested in shelter medicine — part of a new trend in veterinary care. She was willing to work at a much lower salary than what she could expect in private practice and came on board on a trial basis.
After several months, this self-supporting program became a success. Hundreds of animals, from as young as eight weeks, are spayed and neutered in our clinic each month.
We are proud of the success of this program, which we feel offers a much-needed service to our community and beyond.
In fact, the shelter staff’s carefully maintained records show that 10 percent or less of the 300 or so animals that come through the spay/neuter clinic each month are from Madison or Oglethorpe counties. Of those, less than half have seen a veterinarian prior to being sterilized.
That tells us that most of these animals would not have been spayed or neutered otherwise — allowing them to breed and produce even more unwanted puppies and kittens, something they can do at an alarming rate.
In addition to the spay/neuter clinic, our staff veterinarian helps maintain the health of shelter animals, spays and neuters those animals that are chosen for adoption or to be taken on the Rescue Express.
And each of the pets, whether adopted from the shelter, or simply “fixed” at the shelter clinic, is one more potential client for local vets. Each pet owner or rescue group that adopts a pet from the shelter or brings in a pet for surgery is encouraged to continue to take their pet to a veterinarian of their choice for follow-up care. They cannot come back to the shelter’s clinic for regular veterinary care.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.

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