Wednesday, February 10, 2010

SAVANNA — One dog in North Carolina

SAVANNA lived in love. A yellow Lab 14 ½ years of age she wandered from home and suffered a tragic accident. Great Spirit has welcomed her. Grandmother Earth and Grandfather Sky guided her on her journey. Praying Great Spirit will guide Tim and Beth to help the state of North Carolina take the final steps on a lamentably long journey. A journey to the end of gassing animals in this state.

SAVANNA lived her final years on a small farm in Davie County North Carolina. Green grasses, red clay and honeysuckle night air in the spring and summer. Warm nights and cold nights she slept in a home with people who respected and cherished her. She lived in love. SAVANNA suffered from canine dementia — “She would get up and wander around the house, and then stand in corners….and would seem to be confused in familiar surroundings…Although Savanna was now 14 ½ years old and we had to help her up and down stairs she still showed her spry spirit when she would try to “prance” back to the house. She was such a proud dog.”

SAVANNA wandered off the Robertson farm on Sunday January 31, 2010. As her owners searched for her on the second day they learned a neighbor had found SAVANNA lying in a ditch of water, barely able to get up. The neighbor called Davie County Animal Control thinking they would give her medical assistance. Davie County Animal Control did not try to find SAVANNA's owner. They did not consult a veterinarian as to her condition. She was not held 72 hours. She was not held 72 minutes. A member of the staff at Davie County Animal Control rolled a confused and frightened SAVANNA into the gas chamber. Elderly dogs do not always die within 33 minutes of gassing. It takes 33 minutes to kill an animal by gassing. An elderly dog may need to be gassed twice. Some may remember what happened to another dog in Davie County North Carolina. And Davie’s Law. Which did not pass. Here is the story of SAVANNA. Her life and her death. In Tim Robertson’s words.

My Dog Savanna’s Last Day 2-1-10

This is the story of my dog Savanna, a yellow Labrador Retriever. My first wife Hope and I had just built a house and we realized we needed a pet. We talked about getting a dog after we met my neighbor’s black Lab Raven. I had always loved the Labrador breed. I was fascinated with their ability to retrieve, swim and how loving they were to humans. Hope fell in love with the breed because of Raven.

We decided we were going to get 2 labs so the puppies would have a companion. We started looking at litters and we got our first puppy, a black lab which we named Precocious. Then we went and looked at a litter of 8 puppies, so young that their eyes weren’t even open yet. There was a yellow puppy that when I would put her in the middle of the litter she would wiggle her way back to me time and again. So we decided that this was the puppy for us. Well, I guess you could say that she decided that she was the puppy for us. We named her Savanna.

We brought Savanna home 6 weeks later and introduced her to her new sister Precious, who we had brought home 2 weeks earlier. We also introduced her to our neighbor’s 12 year old lab Raven, who became known as Grand Ma Raven. Raven’s mother instinct kicked right in and she took to the puppies right off. She would come and “baby sit” the girls while we were at work. Raven had had 2 litters, and seeing her with the girls we knew she had been a good mom. I guess being around the pups brought back memories to the old girl. Our neighbors would laugh and say ‘Raven is never home any more now that you have the puppies.’

It’s kind of funny how the puppies each took to us. Savanna took to me stronger and Precocious took to Hope. From the day we brought Savanna home she never wandered far from my side. Savanna was always going after my affection and never stopped learning ways to please me. I became Savanna’s Dad, companion, and I like to think her soul mate. She was a fast learner, and I had her retrieving my morning newspaper and golf balls when I was practicing my swing in the back yard after only working with her for about an hour. Every morning when I got out of bed she would beat me to the front door so she could go get my paper. Savanna never got tired of treats. Savanna and Precocious became the children I never had.

Savanna and Precocious became inseparable and close sisters, but they were as different as night and day. Savanna was always loving, affectionate and stayed close to home, where Precocious had more of an independent spirit and always wanted to explore her surroundings. Precocious’ inquisitive nature got the best of her one day 6 years later when she was hit by a car and had to be put down, during the time Hope and I were going through a divorce.

When Savanna lost her sister I was faced with Savanna having to go thru a grieving period for her. I made the quick decision to bring Savanna into the house with me to live full time. She never showed any signs of grief after losing her sister. I guess to her getting to move into the house and sleeping in the same bed with me helped her adjust to Precocious not being around anymore. From that point on Savanna and I were on our own.

Hope and I divorced, agreed to sell the house and that I would take Savanna. Savanna and I moved into an apartment and I wondered how she would adjust to apartment life after living in a house in the country. She adjusted quickly to her new surroundings as long as I was with her. For the first few weeks after moving into the apartment I would take Savanna with me to work.

We lived in our apartment for 1 year until I met Beth, who I fell in love with at first sight. When she met Savanna they took to each other right away. One Saturday Beth needed to go back to her house to get something and wanted to take Savanna with her. Savanna loved to go riding, but I knew there was no way she would get into that Jeep unless I was going too. I was wrong. Beth opened the Jeep door and asked Savanna if she wanted to go for a ride and Savanna didn’t’ think twice. She jumped in and up the drive they went, with Savanna wagging her tail and looking back at me as if saying ‘I will see you later.’ I knew at that point that Savanna had found her new mommy.

We moved from the apartment to a small farm house in Davie County, where we lived for the next year. Savanna adjusted well again and loved having a big yard to play in again. I asked Beth to marry me and we started looking for a house to live in together and become a family. We included Savanna in everything we did. We took her to the beach several times, the mountains, for drives, and camping trips after we got a camper. Savanna loved to go camping and learned to understand that a trip was coming when we were loading things into the camper during the week before. And she would get hyper. Nothing got by her.

Time continued to go by with each passing day. The seasons came and went and I noticed I was becoming grayer and Savanna’s muzzle was getting gray too. We were both growing older and we had traveled a lot of roads together in 14 ½ years. We knew Savanna was starting her final chapter of life. The time I had dreaded for years. (I have never understood why some animals will live to be 100 years old and animals such as Dogs and Cats only live around 15 years.)

Savanna began slowing down in the summer of 2007. She started to get arthritis and we had to pick her up to get her in the camper. She had always had to watch her figure but now she was losing weight and muscle tone. She would get embarrassed when she had accidents in the house. Her eyesight was getting poor and her hearing was not what it had been. We took her to the vet for her annual vaccinations and exam and the vet told us that she had developed Canine Senility (which is common in a dog that is 14 ½ years old) when we described how she would get up and wander around the house and then stand in corners, and how she would seem to be confused in familiar surroundings.

Although Savanna was now 14 ½ years old and we had to help her up and down the stairs she still showed her spry spirit when she would try to “prance” back to the house. She was such a proud dog and there were times she would look at us and tell us through her eyes that she hated to be in the shape she was in and hated to be a burden to us. That was not the case, and we knew sometime in the near future she would let us know it was time to say good bye and it would be OK.

Here is where our story and Savanna’s life takes a tragic turn. On the early morning of January 31st we got a call telling us that my parents were being taken to the hospital via ambulance. I went to the hospital and Beth stayed home with the flu. That evening after I had returned home I helped Savanna outside to use the bathroom. My brother called and we were discussing our parent’s situation of the day. I went to get Savanna in and she was not at the front door, so I walked to the back door and she was not there. I got off the phone with my brother and Beth and I started looking for Savanna. She was not in the yard which she hadn’t left in months. Our neighbor across the street said he had seen Savanna earlier standing on his drive, and then saw her walking out in the yard between his house and our other neighbor’s yard.

We live in a small neighborhood of 7 houses and have 2 under construction. While we were looking for Savanna the neighbors joined in the search with flash lights and a golf cart. We searched the whole neighborhood, the woods around the neighborhood and in a field across the road. We finally had to give up because it had started to rain. Beth and I discussed that Savanna had probably wondered off to find a place to die away from us. So we went on to bed and tried to sleep. The next morning Beth said she was going back out to search some more when it got light. She searched from 7:30 – to around 9:00 in the rain but never found Savanna. I went to the hospital to check on my parents and then into the office to do some work for a couple of hours.

I came home around 12:00 and Beth said she had not had any luck finding Savanna, so I went out looking again. I combed every inch of the woods around the area where Savanna was last seen and a field across the road. While I was searching in the field Mr. Cole, the man who is building a house catty corner from us, asked if I was looking for a dog. I told him I was looking for an old yellow Lab that had been missing since last night. Mr. Cole said he had some bad news; he had found a yellow Lab that morning behind his house, lying in a ditch of water. He said she was still alive but she couldn’t stand up and it looked like she had been shot. When he described what he thought were gun shot wounds in her head we knew they were actually her warts and skin tacks. Savanna had a large wart on the right side of her head that was about the size of a fifty cent piece. This wart had a black scab that would bleed easily if the scab was knocked off. Mr. Cole said he didn’t know what to do with the dog, but he got a stick and helped her out of the ditch and then called the Humane Society. The Humane Society told him that he would need to call Animal Control.

I ran to the house and told Beth Savanna had been found alive and taken to the animal shelter. Beth grabbed a blanket and the phone book so we could call the shelter on our way there. When we called the shelter we actually reached dispatch and told them our situation. The dispatcher told us he would contact the dog warden and have him call us right back. We got to the shelter and looked around and still had not heard back from the dog warden. Beth called dispatch back and the dispatcher said he had spoken with the warden and told him to call us right away. We told the dispatcher that we were at the shelter and he said he would call the dog warden back and tell him we were there and to call us.

Finally the dog warden Mark Crater called us back. Beth asked him if he had picked up a yellow lab on Wagner Road that morning and he hesitated and said yes, he had picked up a dog off Wagner that morning. Beth asked him where our dog was and he didn’t reply. She had to ask again and he finally replied that he had had to put her down because she didn’t have any identification on and she had been shot and was suffering. Beth told him that she didn’t have on her collar because she never left the yard and she had lost so much weight that her collar would not stay on her. Beth also explained that she didn’t think Savanna had been shot because of the description of the spot Mr. Cole had told us about. When Beth asked him how he had put Savanna down Mr. Crater didn’t answer, and she had to ask again, and he finally said that he had gassed her. Beth asked him did he do this with someone else and he hesitated once again before saying no, the guy that worked with him was there when she was gassed. Mr. Crater would not tell us who the man was. Beth then asked where Savanna’s body was, that we wanted her body so we could have her cremated. Mr. Crater refused to answer and Beth had to ask again where her body was so we could get it. He said that was not possible. Beth asked why it was not possible to get our dog’s body and he finally said because he had already taken her to the dump. Beth asked Mr. Crater why they didn’t take the time to knock on the doors of the neighborhood to see if anyone knew who the dog belonged to before taking her and putting her down. He got a smart attitude and said the North Carolina law clearly states that if they pick up a dog that is sick or suffering they have to put her down. Mr. Crater never showed on ounce of sympathy to our situation, or any compassion.

Earlier in my story I told you about Savanna’s sister Precocious having to be put down due to injuries she got from being hit by a car. I had Precocious cremated and I have kept her ashes for the past 9 years so I could bury Precocious and Savanna together when Savanna’s life journey ended. The Davie County Animal Control officer put my Savanna down without me being able to say a proper good bye to her and he also made it impossible for me to bury my dogs together as I had always planned to do.

So now Savanna and my journey together have ended, but my new journey, the one to honor Savanna and all animals has just begun. I have many questions I want answered:

1. What exactly are the NC laws concerning Animal Control?

2. Why was a veterinarian not consulted prior to Savanna being put down?

3. Why wasn’t there an attempt to find Savanna’s owners?

4. Why wasn’t Savanna kept for at least 72 hours before putting her down?

These are just a few of the many questions we want answered.

I have been asking questions about the animal shelter and their procedures in handling animals they pick up. I’m finding more and more answers to how Savanna was put down. I have now been told that she was never gassed, but was not told how she was put down. Her body was not thrown into our local landfill, but thrown in a dumpster, taken to some landfill in a neighboring county. My fight is just beginning and I won’t stop until I get to the truth and hopefully stop this from happening to someone else’s loved pet. I own this to Savanna; she did not deserve to die this way.

Tim and Beth Robertson

The Follow-up since the Death

Since the passing of Savanna, we have been looking at information about NC Animal Shelter Laws in this state. We have been talking to citizens around the County and hearing a lot of disturbing stories about Animal Control. The Animal Shelter in Davie County is under funded and the Animal Control officers have to use other means of destroying animals then gassing. There is proof of carelessness of checking animals after being gassed to see if they are dead. I saw the story of a Dog named Davie that was found in a dumpster at the land fill in a trash bag with other dead Dogs and he was still alive. He was lucky and rescued by a couple who heard his cries for help.

I went to the County Humane adoption center to see if they could use Savanna’s dog food that we had left. The lady that I had spoken to on the day after Savanna was killed talked to me. She was compassionate and remembered my call; she told me that Mr. Cole the man who found Savanna and his wife had come by the center that Monday to check about Savanna. She told them what had happened and they broke down. The man was misinformed about what would happen to Savanna. He was under the impression she would be taken to get assistance and kept for 72 hours. He was in shock after hearing this news that they put Savanna down that same day. As the Humane Adoption Center lady and I talked about how Savanna was put down in a gas chamber she looked at me with this strange look as if to tell me something, and said she was not gassed. I could sense in talking to her and the other workers at the center they wanted to tell me some things, but had to be very careful. As I told her this was an awakening for me to get involved and to start turning over rocks to the truth of what happens, and what this Animal shelter is doing in this county, she encouraged me to keep going. At this time I have not been to get copies of records. I’m in the process of finding people who feel as I do to stop this madness. I contacted my State Legislator by E-mail requesting a time to meet and discuss my story; I have not heard back.

If anyone out there reads our story and can help and can guide us in the right direction, please contact us.

Tim and Beth Robertson

I thank you for your message. Additionally, I certainly appreciate the concern you show for both human safety and the humane treatment of animals.
The NCDA&CS, Veterinary Division – Animal Welfare Section has notified me that Davie County has passed the official Animal Welfare Inspection. The inspector for our county says we use predominately EBI but use CO for feral cats, wildlife (not AWA covered) and animals exposed to rabies or thought to have rabies.
I appreciate the information you provided in your email. I will review those resources.
You and I share the same feelings towards animals. Animals must be treated in manners which are both humane and ethical. Ill-treatment and animal cruelty should not persist. I assure you that I will continue to support productive legislative answers to addressing inhuman and cruel behaviors and practices.
Timothy, when we are in session I send out a newsletter via email. I identify key legislation and I think it’s a great way for folks back at home to keep current on some important issues. Without your object, I am adding your email address to the distribution list. The General Assembly begins its short session on May 12th.
Thanks again for your message.
Kind regards,

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