Editor’s note: The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s launch – is an opportunity for either the publisher or the editor of The Chronicle to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication.
Today, on the occasion of the primary elections for the Ann Arbor city council, The Chronicle reminds readers to vote and to encourage their neighbors and co-workers to do the same. Not sure where your polling place is located? Type your address into the My Property page of the city website.
Next month, publisher Mary Morgan will write a column commemorating the third anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle. The achievement of that chronological milestone will be a big deal. Given the overall economic climate in Michigan, I think it’s a big deal for any new enterprise to stay in business for three years.
But the milestone I look forward to achieving is not chronological. It’s a milestone that will depend on The Chronicle’s meeting more than modest pay-the-bills financial goals. It’s the milestone of … dog ownership.
I’d like a dog.
Owning a dog is a big time commitment. And currently, the demands of reporting, writing and editing for The Chronicle make it impossible even to contemplate adding the burden of that commitment.
That’s fine for now. Besides, the two cats that share our house would likely not vote for the addition of any dog to the household. They have been known to register their dissent on various (unknown) household issues using standard feline communication channels.
So for now, I’d join the feline party in voting against a dog. That vote is based in part on deference to the cats. But it’s also based on the fact that The Chronicle has not yet achieved the financial success required to add a dog to the household. Some of our work is already farmed out to paid freelancers. But only when we are able to distribute more of the current work load to other people (by rewarding them with cash money), will I be able to think about taking on a dog.
So once again, I will use the monthly milestone column in part to sit up and beg: Here’s how to support The Chronicle with a voluntary subscription.
To lend some detail to this month’s pitch, I’d like to stress that it’s not just any dog I am looking for. I’m looking for a dog that can easily carry the name Shep the Newshound. He’ll come from the Humane Society of Huron Valley’s shelter. And I will refer to him always with his complete name – Shep the Newshound. This is not rational. (Shepherds are, of course, not hounds.)
But when it comes to other animals, humans are not a completely rational species.
Naming a Dog
As dog names go, Shep does not reflect much creativity on the part of its owner.
One of the more famous Sheps ever was a dog that showed up daily for six years to meet his master at the train station – after his master had died.
So for my part, the choice of Shep as a name reflects a desire that my dog live up to some minimal standard for one of the most basic of canine traits – loyalty.
Here locally, Adam de Angeli showed a bit more creativity in naming his dog Captain Crunch. [Some readers will remember de Angeli from the days when he owned The Planet, a shop on North Main Street.] In a 2006 interview, de Angeli told me that the name did not derive from the dog’s underbite, but rather “… just from looking around the room for a name. … Yeah, there was a box [of Cap'n Crunch] in the room. His bowl is decorated now with various Crunch brands.”
In the last year or two, I’ve encountered de Angeli as he bicycles through the environs of downtown Ann Arbor with a Ron Paul campaign sign affixed to his bicycle, and accompanied by Captain Crunch. In the 2006 interview, de Angeli lays out his view on leashes for dogs – he’s against them. Back then that earned him an encounter with assistant city attorney Bob West, which de Angeli described as ending in a win for de Angeli.
It’s dog owners who pay the legal penalties for most kinds of infractions. But sometimes, it’s the dog.
That was the case with a dog that was held at the Humane Society of Huron Valley shelter back in early 2000, as the legal wrangling over the dog’s eventual fate unfolded. The dog had bitten a substitute newspaper carrier after the carrier placed the paper inside the dog owner’s home, and had other incidents of biting.
I was reminded of that decade-old episode by a recent column that appeared in another local publication – which was close enough in its description of that case that it was recognizable, but which glossed over a key fact in dispute, and rendered the dog’s breed and name inaccurately on first publication.
Missing the mark on the name was a bit ironic – given the extent of the Ann Arbor News coverage of the case, which in every article loyally pointed it out on first reference: “Ato (pronounced Otto).”
While Ato was housed at the humane society’s shelter, his lock was painted pink – to signify danger – and given a separate key from the master that could open all the other cages. Care –feeding, watering and cage cleaning – was handled by the humane society staff. A visitation arrangement was eventually struck that allowed Ato’s owners to visit after hours, and they began handling his feeding.
As humane society dogs go, Ato was pretty cooperative about cage cleaning – he was generally amenable to exiting the cage to his outside run through the “guillotine-style” door, when it was raised for him with a cable from outside the cage. The faucet inside his cage dripped. It was a bit of a trick to place the bowl so that it would overflow directly into the floor drain, without dampening more of the cage floor than necessary.
I know and remember all these details because at the time, I was a full-time cage cleaner at the humane society. I cleaned Ato’s cage.
Where to Get a Dog, or a Cat
So when I get to the point that I can afford the time to take care of a dog, the place I’ll go to find Shep the Newshound is my former employer – the Humane Society of Huron Valley out on Cherry Hill Road.
After I left the humane society, I followed the news of a fundraising effort in the mid to late 2000s to build a new facility, and its eventual construction. For The Chronicle, I even covered a meeting of the Washtenaw County bond oversight committee for the new humane society shelter.
But until last month, I had not visited the new shelter, which held its grand opening back in early 2010. Executive director Tanya Hilgendorf walked me through the new facility – at that moment in time, it had 426 animals in its care. Of those, 148 were in foster care getting medical treatment, behavioral rehabilitation, or just growing big enough to be spay/neutered and go up for adoption.
I’d have to judge the new shelter a spectacular success. It’s brimming with animals and people taking care of them – who all seem to be in a much better mood than I ever was when I worked there.
On a more objective standard, the shelter was honored earlier this year by the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance (MPFA) at its first statewide “No Kill Conference.” The HSHV shelter won an award for achieving a 75% save rate in 2009. The “save rate” is the percentage of animals that leave the shelter alive – the HSHV shelter is an “open admission” shelter, meaning that any animals are accepted. Hilgendorf reported that the save rate has climbed to 81%. And the shelter’s goal for 2011 is 85%.
I ran into former co-worker Kathryn Hancock on my visit. Ten years ago, she was regarded as the shelter’s resident cat expert – she taught me how to clean the cat kennels. Nowadays, she’s coordinating the shelter’s trap, neuter, return program (TNR) program for feral cats. Since May 2007, the program has trapped 4,500 cats, spay/neutered them, given them a health check, and returned them to their original habitat. The program requires someone to serve as a “colony manager” to monitor and feed the cats.
It turns out that one of Adam de Angeli’s neighbors (who attested that Captain Crunch is a well-behaved dog) is a feral cat colony manager in their near-downtown neighborhood.
To be honest, the monthly milestone is a real chore to write some months. When milestones are less chore-like, it’s because they sometimes give me a chance to reconnect to my own past. Or to draw connections between folks around here who are not, at first glance, connected at all. Like this milestone.
If you live in a place long enough, and pay enough attention, you end up seeing connections between these kinds of things – like the names of people and their dogs. You never really know when the connections might be useful, but they almost always are, one way or another. For nearly three years, we’ve been paying close attention to all manner of arcane detail here at The Chronicle. That’s been our job, and most of the time it’s also enjoyable, even if some days it’s a real chore.
In the same way, I imagine some days it will be a chore to take Shep (pronounced “Shep the Newshound”) out on a walk. But generally, I’m betting I’m going to enjoy it.
Thanks again to you readers and advertisers who have already voted with your financial support to keep us in business for years to come.
About the writer: Dave Askins is editor and co-founder of The Ann Arbor Chronicle.