If you can hardly stand one more story of sacrifice and sadness coming out of New York, here's a happy one that starts in the Big Apple and ends in our back yard.
Giul and Rudy, former New York City dogs, are enjoying their new home in Hudson. They and 25 other pets were rescued by Hudson kennel owner Dale Malm and his co-workers.
"[These dogs] are just sweet beyond words," said Betsy Rogers, Hudson resident and former New Wilmington-er.
She looks at the gangly but beautiful yellow Weimaraner and Visla mixes she has just adopted -- a brother and sister, they think, named after N.Y.C.'s Mayor Rudolph Giuliani -- and shakes her head. Her sons, Sam and Jamie, bounce into the room, hands running along the backs of their new dogs.
Background: It all began when feelings of hopelessness gave way to an idea. After watching news out of New York Sept. 11, the Chalet kennel workers brainstormed ways to help. Giving blood or money came to mind. Then groomer Sue Galaska saw a toll-free number for animal rescue flash across her TV screen. She had an idea.
"What would you think if we went to New York City and took some animals from the shelters?" Galaska asked Malm. Malm spent the next several hours on the telephone trying to arrange it. He talked to a New York shelter and lined up volunteers at home.
Brian Hard, president of a Penske Truck rental company in Hudson, donated use of two 24-foot trucks. Local police wrote a letter of introduction to help the volunteers through roadblocks in New York.
"We knew we probably wouldn't be rescuing pets' whose owners had been victims, but we figured we would be emptying the shelter a little to make room for those pets," Malm said.
When they rolled into Manhattan, what they thought was "a really good plan fell apart." First, their contact hadn't arranged things with the "higher-ups." Second, the cage-filled trucks had to be ventilated, which they weren't.
Thanks to Hard, who called a New York truck rental company and arranged a swap, one ventilated truck was secured. Rather than rescuing 60 pets, they could now rescue around 30. And then, the hard part ... picking which ones to save.
With 500 animals waiting, 250 a day coming in, and only 80 a day adopted, with the balance euthanized, Malm and Galaska became the judges. "We picked ones we thought would be adoptable here," Malm said. "We didn't want to just move the problem."
What was accomplished: "But there were not many dry eyes," he said. "It was hard leaving so many behind. We passed one up because of an age issue -- it was 8 or 9. I can't get that dog's eyes out of my head."
At the end of the day, the Chalet volunteers had saved 20 dogs and 7 kittens. By last Friday, one kitten and a half-dozen dogs remained, with a potential "master" en route with money for a punk-haired yellow Lab puppy.
"I guess seeing what's there, driving in to New York, well, what we've done is just a drop in the bucket," Malm reflected. "But if everyone put a drop in ..."
Malm said one benefit was to bring the problem to his community, where Hudsoners rose to the occasion.
Schoolchildren donated bags of treats, Metaldyne employees in Twinsburg brought a truck loaded with dog food, veterinarians volunteered their services, and people like Betsy and Dale Rogers came to adopt.
The trickle effect went even further. Remaining donated dog food will go to area shelters and the adoption fee for each rescued New York pet will be donated in its entirety to animal welfare.
And Malm has another suggestion -- call it a symbolic gesture to New York City. "Adopt a dog from a local shelter," he said. "Hundreds of animals are waiting."
In the meantime, he and Galaska are waiting, too -- for that dog with the "eyes" who haunts his dreams. Malm called the shelter in New York and asked for it to be sent to Hudson, whatever the cost.
I told you this was a happy story.