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Friday, April 15, 2011

A Gift from Patrick

This weekend marks the 1-month anniversary of the discovery of the skeletal body of a young pit bull in a trash bag at the bottom of a garbage chute in a 22-story Newark, NJ, tenement building.

By a stroke of luck, a custodian saw slight movement in the bag, opened it and discovered a dog, nothing more than bones with a taught layer of skin. He notified his supervisor, who contacted authorities, who rushed the dog to immediate veterinary care at the Associated Humane Societies. From there, the dog, whose body temperature was so low it wouldn't even register on a thermometer, was taken to Garden State Veterinary Specialists. Amazingly, the dog survived the night.

Named Patrick in honor of St. Patrick's day, the tenacious little red dog clung to life. Patrick was too weak to even lift his head and had to be carried outside. With around-the-clock care, he very slowly started to regain his strength.

As word spread via Internet, Patrick's will to live sparked a world-wide outpouring of compassion and outrage. Donations poured in, more than enough to cover the costs of his care and treatment. He was flooded with offers to adopt him, as well as countless packages of toys, blankets and sweaters.

Soon someone suggested that to mark the 1-month anniversary of his rescue, people wishing to honor Patrick do so by donating to their local animal shelter or rescue group. Thus was born A Gift From Patrick Day.

My daughter is donating several comforters from her old bed. We also have a new dog bed that is too small for our dogs, as well as a bag of dog food, several boxes of dog biscuits and three gallons of bleach for cleaning kennels.

I encourage everyone who cares about animals to make 'a gift from Patrick' this weekend. It doesn't have to be much to make a difference. Maybe you have some old towels or blankets taking up space in your linen closet. A bag of dog food, some bleach, paper towels and of course, money of any amount, will be a big help. Many animal shelters have wish lists on their Web sites. You also can sign up to volunteer -- become a foster home, help groom dogs awaiting their forever homes, walk dogs to give them a break from their kennels. And of course, the greatest gift of all would be to give a permanent, loving home to an animal in a shelter.

My daughter spent hours at a local shelter last summer, doing anything and everything. She walked dogs. She did laundry. She cleaned. But I think the greatest thing she did was to spend one-on-one time with the dogs that were so frightened, so traumatized by being in a shelter, that they just sat in their cages. One dog was too scared to even leave his kennel for a walk. So she would sit quietly with these dogs, talking to them, stroking them and encouraging them. And gradually, they began to blossom. A happy, outgoing dog is much more likely to be adopted than one cowering in a corner. These success stories didn't cost a dime of money. Time and effort made the difference.

So please, think about making a gift from Patrick this weekend. There are so many wonderful animals needing homes. If everybody does a little bit, together we can make a huge difference. And tell them "Patrick sent me."