BY LYNN PACIFICO | This is a true story.
Years ago, George, a quiet professor, lived above me with his little beagle Maggie. They were devoted to each other, and it was a pleasure to encounter them since George always had something pleasant to say and Maggie was adorable.
George passed away in his apartment and since he left no instructions on who was to take Maggie, police took her to Manhattan Animal Care and Control. Poor Maggie’s beloved guardian had died. Alone and grieving, she stood by George until he was discovered. Then strangers took her away from her home and everything she knew. MACC is filled with the sights and smells of fear, illness and death and loud sounds, including the desperate wails of many dogs in distress. This would be terrifying for any dog, but especially for coddled, little Maggie.
Neighbors, including Maggie’s dog walker, Sheila Sim (who had stopped by to feed a cat), stood in front of the building in shock at George’s sudden death. I noticed the determined look on Sheila’s face. First she called Maggie’s best friend’s owners, who had a car. Then she called Maggie’s vet, who wrote a letter stating that Sheila was Maggie’s “in case of emergency” person. This letter allowed them to rescue Maggie from the pound (MACC). On returning, Maggie tilted her head back and let out a long, hauntingly mournful wail. I will never forget it.
Maggie’s heart was broken, but she was home. Her dog walker was her hero. And the kind neighbors, who had helped with her rescue and who owned Maggie’s play buddy, took her in. Respect and appreciation to Sheila and people who adopt suddenly homeless canine neighbors. If that happens more, shelters might not be in such dire crisis.
I spoke with Evrim Can, the 6th Precinct’s head Community Affairs officer, about how the police handle a situation like Maggie’s. He told me that unless there are written “in case of emergency” instructions that give authority over a pet to someone, then, out of concern for the animal, the responding officers take the pet to the pound. He also said that if there is a will, then that, along with the pet’s information, should always be left in a visible place.
Maggie’s case is unusual since most pets in this situation, whose owners do not keep pet info organized and visible (on their fridge is good), and who do not have a dog walker as capable as Sheila, sadly end up in the pound. These pets are in shock after losing their person. They are confused, not sure why they are at the horrible place. They watch ceaselessly for a familiar face to come for them. They tremble, cry, refuse to eat, cower at the back of their cell/cage. It is traumatic at best and many dogs, and most cats, do not make it out alive. Maggie was a very lucky pup. Does your dog walker know who your dog’s vet is?
It is our duty, as loving pet guardians, to keep our pets out of the pound by providing a safety net in case of our incapacitation. There is peace of mind in knowing that if something happened to you, someone would move heaven and earth to see that your pets are safe and taken care of going forward. Maggie lived out her life in the building where she had always lived, in a sweet little family, with her canine sister, Annie.
“We were so happy to have Maggie with us,” the neighbors who took her said.
I see Sheila in the neighborhood.
A sample “In case of emergency” form is below. Keep a copy on your fridge, in your wallet, in your pet’s go bag, and if you can, on you when you are out, especially with your pet. Update as necessary and send updates to the vet, daycare, boarding and all emergency contacts.
EMERGENCY PET CARE INFORMATION:
Owner’s next of kin w/contact info
Emergency contact to take charge of pet
Emergency contact close by for temp help/care for pet
Emergency contact alternatives
Pet #1 name
Type of animal
Describe [include recent photo]
Breed / mix
Birthday / age
Preferred food / brand
Current vaccinations / Expiration date
Dog license number
Dog microchip number
Estate planning (Do you have a trust set up for your pet?)
Medications, dosage, timing
Pet’s hiding place(s)
Location of pet’s go bag, crates, carriers, papers
Location of pet’s walking gear: leashes and harness / collar, coats, etc.
Pet #2 Name (etc.)
Pacifico is a fourth-generation Villager who loves dogs, nature and New York City.