The world is full of clubs.
Rather famous clubs, to be sure.
There are your exclusive elitist clubs, such as the Hurlington, based in London, which has a 15-year waiting list, and the Beefsteak Club, whose only true purpose is to talk about (and strangely, sometimes even sing about) juicy, well-grilled steaks. There’s the Giga Society, a club composed of just six members: the only individuals among billions who have scored a 195 or better on a specialized IQ test. There’s also the conspiracy theorists’ favorite club, the Bohemian, where the richest and most powerful men in the world meet up at the California campsite of “The Grove” and do, well, manly things together.
And then there’s the mile-high club, which has to do with — OK, never mind that one.
There are also special clubs geared toward animal lovers and their pets, particularly dogs. Clubs exist for smart dogs, for example, or for specific breeds. Heck, there’s even a club for ugly dogs and their ugly owners.
Sadly, there are certain clubs you don’t want to be a part of, particularly if you’re a dog. One of these clubs happens to exist in Carthage, at 13860 Dog Kennel Lane. It’s been dubbed the “over 12 month” club.
Three dogs inside this no-kill shelter are members of this exclusive club — a shepherd-chow mix named Olympian, a Staffordshire bull terrier mix named Omar, and a shepherd-Lab mix named Baja. And two of these dogs — Baja and Omar — are showing signs of stress directly related to that membership.
Baja is a beautiful dog with a kind face, soft eyes and brindle fur, a distinctive coloring pattern. Unfortunately, the fur doesn’t do much to hide the rib bones and sharp hip joints pushing up through her skin. Baja’s anorexic look is entirely because of kennel stress.
It’s normal for dogs inside shelters to go a bit spastic when one of their favorite humans enters the kennel area. When they leave, when the excitement’s over, they usually settle back down. But long after the humans have exited, these two dogs will continue to relentlessly pace their paddocks.
And can you blame them, asked CHS manager Deborah Bell. Particularly when it comes to the 2-year-old Baja. This sweet girl has called the shelter home since January of last year — 14-plus months ago.
“Think about it — she’s spent half of her life in a shelter,” Bell said.
When I first met Baja, she was a blur of motion and excitement. This is common when dogs are freed from their paddocks. The girl quickly settled down in the large front room of the shelter, at one point curling up next to Bell on the shelter’s welcome bench, later lying comfortably near her feet.
“See that,” Bell whispered, pointing down at Baja, who was alert but relaxed. “She’s not pacing. She’s not in the kennel.”
But the girl is thin. I did a double-take when I first saw her — it was like this normal-sized head was taped to a very thin body. She’s on a special diet, I was told. It will help put some much-needed meat on her bones. But her stress-induced exercising at all hours of the day and night quickly snuffs out any of the fat the nutrient-enriched food produces.
“Imagine if you and I were pacing back and forth all the time?” Bell asked, implying that we both would look the way she does — skin and bone.
After I gave Baja some love, it was time for me to meet Omar. Like Baja, he came bounding into the room from the back kennels. He’s a high-spirited and good-natured boy who, like Baja, was a stray picked up by members of Carthage Animal Control and brought to the shelter. And though his stress levels are high, he has not lost a dramatic amount of weight as Baja has. An interesting note about Omar’s breed, Staffordshire bull terriers are historically known as “nanny dogs,” because they are fiercely protective of their “peoples.” In older, simpler days, this breed would be left with babies in their strollers; it’s said not an evil soul would dare approach the youngsters to do them harm with the Staffordshire standing guard nearby.
Baja, Omar and Olympian are all three dogs who Bell thinks about a ton. “I go to bed at night thinking, ‘Why are they still here?’”
CHS members hate it when their tenants become “over 12 month” club members.
“We try to avoid it at all costs,” Bell said.
She hopes a rescue group from out of state will be able to swoop in soon to take Baja, Omar and Olympian to a city in another state where they will receive more looks from prospective owners and perhaps land a new family.
“That is our hope,” Bell said.
Any rescued dog or cat will tell you — in their own way — that there’s one club all shelter animals desperately want to be a member of — it’s known as a loving and happy family.
Hopefully Baja, Omar and Olympian will join that club as soon as possible.
In other CHS news, there will be a CHS-sponsored “Stray-ghetti” dinner event, from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 26, at Grace Episcopal Church, 820 Howard St. in Carthage. Aside from the spaghetti and meatball meal, there will be a furry fashion show, a silent auction and adoptable pets. All proceeds go to the CHS. Cost is $15 at the door.
Call 417-358-6402 to learn more about this event or to adopt one of the shelter’s many animals.