Finding a four-legged friend

By Gus Bode

Reporter’s search for finding a dog leads to dog-searching answers, pet playtime and telling dog lovers’ stories during National Dog Appreciation Week

Dumped, unclaimed stray, dropped off and abandoned were the words on tags that hung on kennels to identify why each dog ended up at the Humane Society.

As I walked up and down the cement corridor, I could not help but want to take home every furry face that yipped and whined for my attention behind the chain links of the kennels.


But my search was to find and claim only one dog as my four-legged friend, and what better time to look than during National Dog Appreciation Week, Sept. 23 through 29.

My house is too big for just my roommate and I, and I miss the comfort I feel when a dog greets me at the door after a long, tedious day.

Both my roommate and I are ready to fill our home with hair and the sounds of barking and whining that is not caused by either of us.

Searching the bulletin board at Wal- Mart of pets to be adopted, I was pointed to the Humane Society of Southern Illinois.

The friendly human faces that greeted me as I walked through the door were comforting and welcoming. But the faces of the homeless dogs were heartbreaking.

A nameless, 12-week-old lab mix puppy frolicked with her cage mate, “Trixie.” I could not help but be drawn to the small, black, bundle of energy who tormented her smaller companion.

I took the nameless puppy outside to see how she acted away from the other dogs.


The once jumpy, rambunctious furball turned scared and unsure as she dragged her small rear-end when I tried to walk her out of her kennel.

Outside she was curious, loving and calm, a winning combination for a softhearted college student.

But my major concern was how big she would eventually become when she was fully grown.

A big dog equals a big appetite, and that means a big chunk of my small paycheck.

Scorpio, a 1-year-old beagle-terrier mix, was the next dog that I took outside to frolic with in the yard. But he was not as interested in charming me like the puppy. He wanted to go do what dogs do – sniff and explore.

After he wrapped his leash around my legs two or three times, I realized he was a little too rambunctious for me.

Jason and Amanda Varner from Carbondale walked up and down the same concrete isles, looking through the metal fences into the furry faces of homeless animals.

The couple recently moved from Champaign to Carbondale so Jason could attend SIU and get his teaching certificate.

“Trax,” the Varners’ 3-year-old cocker spaniel and beagle mix, spends much of his time alone at home while Jason attends class and Amanda works at a pharmacy.

Since their new place has more room and a small fenced-in backyard, the couple has decided to get their dog a four-legged companion.

“Trax is part of our family and we want him to be happy,” Amanda said. “We want him to have another dog to play with when we are gone.”

The Varners stopped to look in the kennels, remembering that there were certain things that they are looking for in their new dog.

Personality is important, because they want a dog that can be compatible with their dog at home. They also worry about the size of the animal because of the amount of room they have in their backyard, their home and their bed.

“We need a semi-small dog, because our dog at home sleeps in our bed with us,” Amanda said. “Our new dog will probably sleep with us too.”

After a lot of holding, cooing and talking, the couple decided on a 3-month-old beagle mix named “Trixie.” The couple began the adoption process and will bring their dog to meet his new companion today.

The Humane Society was their first stop of the day in their pet search and they were excited to find their dog here.

“It was very important for us to go through the Human Society because it is such an admirable place,” Jason said.

The happy end to the Varner’s search for a new addition made me realize that if I was serious about becoming a dog owner, I needed to get down to business and ask serious questions.

Karen Mullins, manager of the Humane Society, was willing to answer questions I had about what it takes to be a devoted dog owner.

“A lot of people compare their pet to a disposable diaper

that can be tossed aside when they are done with it,” Mullins said.

She suggested asking myself several questions before I committed to adopting a pet.

Do I have the time? Can I afford costs involved? Do I have allergies? Do I leave town a lot? Do I have the space?

“This is a life you are taking home with you,” she said.

She has found this to be fact, after witnessing people bring in their old and sick pets.

The Humane Society can get up to 7,000 pets donated a year with space for only 30 to 40 dogs. The summer has the highest euthanasia rate, ranging from 80 to 90 percent. Often times, students move back home or across town and cannot keep their dog.

But my buddy and I will be together for life, so I want to make sure I know what I am getting into. I have to try to scrounge up the $50 adoption fee and about $40 more to cover shots and vaccinations. And I guess I have to break the news to my landlord.

And even though the little black puppy and “Scorpio” will not work for me, my roommate and I plan to visit the dogs at the shelter again today to see what other furry creatures can win our hearts.

And we hope we will be able to open up two places at the kennel for two more dumped, unclaimed stray, dropped off, and abandoned dogs.

Reporter Kristina Dailing can be reached [email protected]