TRAINING CANINE HEROES
Especially for Pets gives customer donations to rescue dog group
By Matthew Fisher
Especially for Pets, a chain of pet supply stores located in MetroWest, donated three-months worth of fundraising to a Massachusetts group that trained two rescue dogs that traveled to New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
The Bedford-based Massachusetts Canine Response Team (MACRT), received $3,945 from the stores, which have locations in Sudbury, Wayland, Acton, and Newton.
"Fundraising is so important to us," MACRT vice-president Gail McCarthy said, adding the money will be used to bring in outside trainers to help improve the dogs' performances.
"The victim deserves more than adequate," she said. "This money will help us do that."
Especially for Pets Sudbury store manager Erny Isabelle said the store raised the money entirely from customer donations.
The store offers to cut and grind dogs, and cats' nails for free, Isabelle said, in exchange for a donation to a charity. Every quarter-year, the store changes charities.
Last quarter, the store had planned to collect for various greyhound support charities. Then came Sept. 11.
"We wanted to do the right thing after this disaster," Isabelle said, choosing the MACRT because of it's nearby location and involvement with the Sept. 11 rescue attempts.
Isabelle said the stores are now running the greyhound fundraiser.
The average donation the stores receive ranges from $3 to $5, she said, though some give more than $10. Overall, Isabelle estimates the stores serviced more than 780 dogs to raise the money.
Two of the 11 MACRT dogs worked at the ruins of the World Trade Center, searching for survivors. Normally, four dogs would have traveled to Ground Zero, McCarthy said.
"I lost two dogs that week," McCarthy said.
Ironically, her dogs Banner and Harlow, both Dobermans, died after bouts with illness on Sept. 6 and 11 respectively, not only causing McCarthy sadness, but limiting the number of dogs that could aid the relief effort.
Isabelle said the donation was made in memory of the two dogs, who worked in many rescue missions, including the mission following the 1999 Worcester fire that killed six firefighters.
McCarthy said training these dogs is not an easy or cheap process, making her two lost pets even more valuable.
It takes about two years to train a dog. During the training period, the dog owner must work seven days a week to train the animal.
According to McCarthy, it costs the average owner $18,000 to $26,000 to train a dog, all of which comes out of the owner's pocket.
"It's a real commitment," she said.
In the spirit of volunteerism, McCarthy said MACRT does not actively solicit donations, having the dog owners bear much of the cost. Yet the group does accept donations if they come unsolicited and were happy to accept the money from Especially for Pets.
"Especially for Pets has done a tremendous thing for us," McCarthy said. "Sept. 11 raised consciousness of how important these dogs are."
Not any canine can be a rescue dog. Certain breeds work better than others, said rescue dog owner and trainer Cheryl Oetting. Her Australian Shepherd, Piper, is nearing the end of his training.
"It takes a good hunting dog," she said. Dogs that specialize in hunting or shepherding are better at picking up scents, which is the most important skill for a rescue dog.
The animal must also be a good "working dog," meaning it is willing to work for a reward. This is important during the training process.
Like most volunteer trainers, Oetting lives with her dog.
"Dogs perform better when you develop a bond with it," McCarthy said, adding the best dogs are the ones that live with their owners and not in a kennel.
"He's my working companion and my pet," said Oetting. "He lives in my house and sleeps on my bed."
The Sudbury Town Crier
Thursday, January 24, 2002