Editorial: Lessons from a luck dog

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 5, 2007

A dog named Skye is back home with his family today, safe and relatively sound, and the Salisbury Police Department is fine-tuning its protocol for dealing with injured animals. So this is a story, unlike many in the newspaper, that has a happy ending.

It could have turned out much differently. As recounted in Wednesday’s Post, Skye was struck by a car on Jake Alexander Boulevard. With no owner in sight, passersby stopped to render aid; a police officer responded to the scene. Although witnesses’ and police accounts differ on the details of what happened next, the officer consulted with a supervisor and, acting on the belief that the dog was seriously injured and suffering, determined it would be best to put the animal out of its misery. Skye was moments away from a roadside death when the Rowan County Humane Society came to the rescue and carted the dog off to a vet.

As it turned out, Skye’s injuries weren’t that serious. A follow-up story in today’s Post reports that Skye was identified from a photo on our Web site and reunited with his owner, who lives in Lexington. And as Salisbury Police Chief Mark Wilhelm notes elsewhere on this page, although he doesn’t fault the officer’s judgment, he wants his officers to have some basic training in the evaluation of animal injuries and will work with the Humane Society of Rowan County to make it available. Other jurisdictions might want to consider similar instruction. Ordinarily, city or county animal control officers get the call on such cases. But when it’s a holiday and they’re not available, as happened with Skye, law enforcement officers may have to make a life-or-death decision. If an animal is grievously injured, its suffering should be ended as quickly as humanely as possible. But in other cases, having some basic knowledge of injury evaluation — and clear guidelines on procedure — might help prevent the needless death of someone’s pet.

Skye’s narrow escape has tugged at the heartstrings of readers, several of whom were interested in adopting the dog before its owner showed up. Their compassion and love of animals could still be put to good use, however. The Humane Society (704-636-5700) has dogs and cats waiting for someone to provide a permanent or foster home. You’ll find others at the county animal shelter on Julian Road, and many of those dog and cats, sadly, won’t get a last-minute reprieve. Even if you don’t have room for another dog or cat in your life, you can still make a donation to the Humane Society, volunteer or simply be an advocate for spay-neuter programs and more humane treatment of our four-legged friends.

As a lucky dog who dodged a bullet and found his way back to his family, Skye’s story captivates our attention and stirs some indignation at the fate he almost suffered. It’s easier to identify with one pup’s cute face in the paper than dozens staring out from a chain-link fence. But the reality is that thousands of stray or abandoned pets show up at the animal shelter each year. Most face a grim future unless someone gives them a happy ending, too.