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It would be a real shame if the Terlls and their dog are not reunited

By Duncan Murrell
Posted Tuesday, January 16, 2007

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Pittsboro, NC - I have noticed, following situations here and in Orange County, that situations like the one with Shelby the dog often are proxy battles in an ongoing conflict within the animal rescue community. Judgments are made, authority asserted, lawsuits filed, feelings hurt. I hope this is not happening now, but I have my doubts.

Usually what irks the casual observer (like me) is the assumption that one organization's idea of normal behavior is, therefore, the idea commonly held, and behavior outside that norm is some sort of willful violation of those rules of behavior; there is no allowance for the possibility that those rules aren't commonly understood or debatable. In this case, that means assuming that if a family who has lost an animal didn't contact the animal shelter within seven days, or didn't post to internet bulletin boards or chatlists quick enough, or didn't print flyers, then they didn't try very hard to find the animal. My understanding is that this family lives out in the country, where canvassing the neigbors seems a far more effective way of finding your dog than posting flyers on telephone poles abutting fields and forest, or on bulletin boards fifteen miles from the place where the dog went missing. Did the family do other things to try to find their dog, just not the things that Best Buddies would have preferred they do? I don't know, and it's none of my business. But I think it's unfair to assume that they didn't try to find their dog.

It would be similarly unfair, for instance, for me to assume that the vice president and secretary of Best Buddies hate dogs because they discounted the advice of Dr. Bonnie Terll and refused to isolate dogs with kennel cough from healthy dogs, thereby infecting (by my count) at least fifteen dogs between the two of them. Pam S. admits she made a terrible mistake, and undoubtedly she feels terrible for the horror and misery her decision visited upon those dogs. And, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Bonnie, not only were the animals made healthy again, Pam S. and Katie W. learned lessons about vaccinations. (Including, I presume, the importance of vaccinating one's own dogs, as Katie W.'s decision to foster infected dogs led to the illness of her own dogs.) Nobody removed the dogs from Pam S. and Katie W., and they continue to foster many dogs.

(Full disclosure: the Hill Creek vets, including Dr. Bonnie, have taken wonderful care of our dog and our cat, even when we ourselves have made mistakes as owners.)

It would also be unfair to Katie W. to accuse her of being negligent because her dogs might spend some time unattended outdoors in the three fenced areas and one pen that she and her husband have built to contain the dozen or more dogs they foster. Are they ever alone back there? Do I know? Would I assume that a dog left unattended by Katie W. was, therefore and without question, neglected? No, and it would be unfair for me to assume.

I find it surprising that the word of Dr. Bonnie -- the vet who healed the Best Buddies foster dogs, who gave them a second chance by not making more of a fuss about the strangely casual approach to infectious disease of Pam S. and Katie W., who is a prominent member of the county's Board of Health and who for years has been working with animal rescue organizations in Chatham County, who is also an "in-law" (I am told) of Liza Terll whose dog Shelby has prompted this debate -- is not sufficient to assure the Best Buddies folks that the Terlls have been, and will be, loving and caring owners of Shelby.

People make mistakes, and mistakes are not of themselves proof of anything except that we are human

I find it surprising mostly because they have not extended the same benefit of the doubt that Dr. Bonnie must have extended them: that people make mistakes, and mistakes are not of themselves proof of anything except that we are human. And if mistakes rule out the possibility of love, then we're all in trouble.

With the message from Ms. Youmans of CARE (Chatham Animal Rescue and Education), it seems apparent that there are some deep rifts in the Chatham animal rescue community involving at least CARE and the people of Best Buddies. I know nothing about any of that, nor do I care much about it right now, although it is difficult not to wonder at the fact that Dr. Bonnie has long been supportive of CARE, and that this particular situation with Best Buddies involves a relation of hers.

I do think it would be a real shame if the dog Shelby and the Terlls are not reunited.

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