Who will hold the leash for PAWS?

"You might think that for the kind of time and effort that Don and Marilyn Shaver put into their work, the material rewards would be incalculable.You'd be right.The pay is good, Don Shaver said with an ironic smile.For the past five-plus years, the Bainbridge Island couple has taken phone calls at all hours from agitated help-seekers. They've run up countless miles on their vehicles in response to those calls. They've kept painstaking records, developed priceless working relationships and periodically provided a place for their clients to stay.You couldn't pay for the service we've provided, Marilyn Shaver said. It's 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - no amount of money could cover it."

  • Thursday, March 9, 2000 5:00pm
  • News

“You might think that for the kind of time and effort that Don and Marilyn Shaver put into their work, the material rewards would be incalculable.You’d be right.The pay is good, Don Shaver said with an ironic smile.For the past five-plus years, the Bainbridge Island couple has taken phone calls at all hours from agitated help-seekers. They’ve run up countless miles on their vehicles in response to those calls. They’ve kept painstaking records, developed priceless working relationships and periodically provided a place for their clients to stay.You couldn’t pay for the service we’ve provided, Marilyn Shaver said. It’s 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – no amount of money could cover it.Unfortunately for the Shavers, she speaks the literal truth. They are, in fact, volunteers for the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) of Bainbridge Island. Since July 1995, the Sands Road residents, with occasional backup from longtime islander Nancy Williams, have handled an average of 1,000 calls a year reporting lost and found dogs on Bainbridge. Many of the calls have been fractured or frantic in nature, and have required the Shavers to draw on an inexhaustible mental and recorded store of dog names, faces, owners, locations and histories to help hundreds of stray dogs each year find their homes – or any home.As often happens, the Shavers may know the dogs and be able to promptly reunite them with their owners. If not, they often find a foster home or provide one themselves, as well as provide the transportation. And when needed, they can promptly deliver injured dogs to a veterinarian at any time of the day or night.Without their efforts, the only alternative is to have lost and found dogs picked up directly by the Kitsap Humane Society, which has a $40,000-plus annual contract with the city for that service. What’s good for the city is bad for its dog-owning residents, however, as dogs that are picked up are taken to the society’s animal shelter in Silverdale.Owners who arrive promptly to claim their pets have to buy their release with a fee. Owners who don’t arrive promptly – in some occasions because they haven’t been notified by someone like Don or Marilyn Shaver – may find that their pet has been either adopted out or, in rarer cases, put down.Those who know the Shavers know how irreplaceable their service has been – which fairly begs the question of how to replace them once they move away from Bainbridge at month’s end.It is difficult to gauge the impact the loss of this program will have on the island, PAWS director Judith Hartstone said in a Feb. 16 letter to Mayor Dwight Sutton. Their work has kept the island’s streets free of many scared dogs, dogs that have the potential for biting, for menacing pedestrians, for causing traffic accidents – and for getting injured or killed themselves.Certainly, there is the question of safety, but there may also be a financial impact, she added. We believe the Shavers’ work has saved the city a substantial amount of money by not having to call out KHS as frequently, especially during off-hours.Both Hartstone and Sutton believe there are two possible solutions. A short-term fix would involve extending the cost and service of the city’s Humane Society contract to cover more than the one or two hours the organizations spends daily on Bainbridge.A longer-term fix would come from reviving an old but still politically-charged idea – building a temporary holding shelter on the island.Sutton is willing to explore all options, and plans to meet with PAWS officials soon to discuss them.We’ve grown in population, and that means animal population as well, he said. What was once an occasional thing has become an almost daily event. We need to assume more local responsibility for the problem.As dense as Bainbridge’s population has become, Sutton believes there’s still enough room to creatively locate such a shelter without running into the not-in-my-backyard – or not-in-my-parkland – syndrome that shot down an attempt to build such a facility in Manzanita Park in the spring of 1998.The park district board, by a contentious 3-2 vote, defeated the proposal after an outraged outcry from Manzanita neighbors and users of the adjacent Bainbridge Saddle Club property. Since then, the project – which gained its impetus from a $400,000 gift from the island’s John Jacobi family – has gone on the Humane Society’s back burner while the organization concentrated on its downtown Winslow adopt-a-pet facility and other countywide efforts, Humane Society Director Greg Bloomfield said.The hiatus has been barely acceptable, as Hartstone and others see it, until the Shavers began planning their move to a five-and-a-half-acre retirement spread near Hood Canal. The sixtyish couple, who have raised, bred and written about show-champion Irish Setters for more than 35 years, are trading in that passion for their other one – restoring carousels and merry-go-round from carnivals around the country.Marilyn Shaver’s monthly reports to PAWS show her dedication to helping the island’s dogs, and also her exhaustion.The lady who did lost-and-found dogs before me moved back East, Marilyn Shaver said. She said it was simple – 30 to 40 calls a month, I’d never have to take in dogs at home.Basically, she said with a chuckle, she lied. We’ve ended up chasing dogs all over the island, day and night, everything from little puppies to pit bulls.It’s a noble calling, but as the volume of calls kept piling up, so did the negative aspects of the work, she said.They’ve been bitten by dogs they didn’t know. They’ve run into more dog dumping from off the island in recent years. They’ve taken an increasing number of abusive calls, and called an increasing number of defensive owners with indefensible excuses. They’ve shed more than their share of tears over hundreds of abused, neglected and starved dogs with which they’ve gotten personally involved.If there’s one thing we want to make clear, it’s this: Bainbridge island is a long way from being rural. It hasn’t been like that for a long, long time, said Don Shaver, who brought his family to the island in 1977. You simply can’t let your dogs loose and let them run. It’s too dangerous. They can get killed. We’ve seen it happen too often.Added Marilyn Shaver: We’ve owned dogs for 40 years, and we’ve never lost a dog for five minutes. If I let a dog out to use the bathroom, i stand there and watch and bring the dog back in. Our dogs are part of our family, and they should be part of every dog owner’s family, too.”

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