PAWS Magazine

Issue 58, Summer 2004

A New Home for Laramie: The Journey of a Shelter Dog

On a nice afternoon in June, a Lynnwood citizen was kind enough to take a young lost dog off the street, out of harm’s way, and into the safe haven at PAWS. With no collar or visible identification to know who he was or where he belonged, the dog was given shelter, a warm blanket, and a new name— Laramie. This happy, loveable boy was the newest addition to the PAWS Companion Animal Shelter and one of thousands of stray animals that pass through PAWS’ doors each year.

After taking Laramie in, Shelter Manager Eric Ofsthus looked him over, checking his overall condition and making notes on his medical chart. He also gave Laramie his vaccinations and scanned him for a microchip (as seen in the photo), a permanent form of identification. The size of a grain of rice and coded with a unique number, a microchip is inserted in the loose skin at the back of a dog or cat’s neck, a process as easy as a vaccination. Every animal adopted from PAWS receives a microchip. If Laramie had a microchip, Eric would be able to detect the number with the scanner, search for the number in various databases, and match it to Laramie’s family. Unfortunately, no microchip was found so Laramie’s home and history remained a mystery.

Every day, volunteers and staff feed Laramie and his fellow homeless dogs and cats with high-quality food (mostly donated by PAWS supporters; see for our wish list), give them fresh water, and tidy up their kennels. Laramie and his kennel buddies also get toys to play with while they wait in their kennels for another walk or for an adopter to catch their eye.

Thanks to dedicated volunteers at PAWS, these orphaned dogs waiting in the shelter are exercised twice a day-rain or shine. Volunteer Rebecca Gucker and Laramie took advantage of the sights, sounds, and smells of the PAWS dog-walking trail, which winds through tall, shady trees for a fifth of a mile. Because there was little background information on Laramie, Rebecca and other volunteers who interacted with him were essential in determining his personality and behavior tendencies. After their walk, Rebecca noted her observations on his paperwork. This helps adoption staff match the perfect dog to a potential adopter.

Rebecca rewarded Laramie for sitting at the door before going inside. Every volunteer and staff member asks the same of each dog in our care, as part of the Good Dog Program. This program gives shelter dogs the important mental stimulation they need during their stay at PAWS by teaching them basic obedience and good manners. In addition, a dog with a head start on desirable behaviors like sitting is appealing to potential adopters and lends to a more successful relationship with the family once the dog is in a new home. This training program was created especially for young, exuberant, yet loveable dogs like Laramie.

PAWS veterinarian, Dr. Liz Helmer, with the help of veterinarian assistant Rachele Harrington, gave Laramie a thorough health exam, checking for skin conditions, parasites, or other health issues that might require attention. Some dogs come into PAWS in terrible condition, having been neglected by their previous guardians or having lived as strays for a long time. Because Laramie was in such good shape, he may have been well cared for by his previous people, but somehow escaped or sadly, been abandoned.

After 72 hours had passed (the holding period mandated by law that gives guardians a chance to find their lost animals), Laramie’s family did not come, and thus he was available for adoption. But before he could go to a new home, he was neutered at the PAWS Spay/Neuter Clinic. Washington State University veterinary student (and previous PAWS volunteer) Sarah Gimmestad performed the simple surgery on Laramie, under the guidance of Dr. Helmer, as part of the PAWS Veterinary Extern Program. (PAWS spayed and neutered shelter animals long before it was required by law and was a leader in passing and advocating for many of the spay/neuter laws for shelter animals found throughout the Puget Sound area.)

Fortunately, Laramie was adopted in less than a week from the time he came into PAWS. Richard Gamble and Kate Speltz had been looking for a dog for more than a month. They wanted a relatively calm, but eager, young dog and fell in love with Laramie’s "classically cute" look, as Kate described him. Richard and Kate renamed him Tigleth Pileser, after an ancient emperor, and called him "T" for short. They say he is well behaved in the house and is a pleasantly good-natured fellow who learns quickly. The efforts and care of knowledgeable staff, volunteers and the surrounding community, resulted in another new beginning for a shelter dog cared for by PAWS.


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