Every dog may have its day, but that's not enough for New Nodaway Humane Society volunteers like Doug Sutton. He wants every dog to have a home as well.
Sutton and a handful of other NNHS members were at the Orscheln Farm & Home store in Maryville Saturday showing off a few of the dozens of animals currently awaiting adoption at the society's South Depot Street shelter.
A retired Kawasaki executive and a member of the Northwest Missouri State University Board of Regents, Sutton is the kind of man you would expect to see out playing golf on a mild winter morning or maybe enjoying a nice brunch with friends.
Instead, he spent a good chunk of Saturday standing in Orscheln's with "Durango," a friendly, black mongrel in need of a permanent owner.
"The shelter is the same as usual," said Sutton, smiling slightly beneath his mustache, "too many dogs, too many cats and not enough money."
Humane Society members and shelter staff have been working hard this holiday season to remedy those situations. Thanks to the aid of local vets they've been able to cut adoption fees, which cover shots, sterilization and microchipping, in half through the end of the year.
The group is also encouraging people to sponsor Christmas lights, used to decorate the outside of the shelter building, for $10 a bulb. So far the promotion has raised about $600.
But beyond those efforts, the society is also offering potential dog owners what amounts to, well, a really good deal − a fully trained and housebroken pet courtesy of the inmates at the Maryville Treatment Center.
A while back the shelter and the prison teamed up on a program called Puppies on Parole, in which prisoners are given responsibility for a shelter dog for eight weeks. During that time, the inmates, working in pairs, are charged with training the animal up to a certified level of obedience.
At the end of the course, the dogs must pass an evaluation conducted by shelter staff before being put up for adoption. In addition to being housebroken, each animal is taught to obey such commands as "sit" and "lay down."
Sutton said the program is a win-win for all concerned. The prisoners, most of whom are recovering from various forms of substance abuse, get a chance to learn the art of compassion and caring, and the dogs become a lot more adoptable.
Three dogs will graduate from the program this week, and all have already been spoken for.
"That's the good thing about the program," Sutton said. "The dogs are usually adopted right away."
Usually, but not always. An exception has been Durango, a Treatment Center grad whose only flaw is being ordinary.
Because Durango is black with a brown snout − about the most common dog color there is − he just doesn't stand out in a crowd, said Sutton, who explained that black dogs are the most difficult animals for which to find homes.
Page 2 of 2 - Say a family walks into the shelter with the intention of acquiring a pet. They see 30 black dogs and one red-hued Irish sitter mix. Odds are the sitter is out the door, for the same reason that a brightly colored sweater attracts a shopper's attention inside a clothing store.
So rather than just going with one's gut when picking out a pet, Sutton recommends that prospective masters spend some time at the shelter getting to know the animal they're thinking about adopting. He also urged adopters to be practical with regard to the kind of home environment they'll be able to provide.
For someone who lives in a one-bedroom apartment without a yard, a German shepherd may not be the best choice.
Sutton also said pet adopters should be aware of the investment in time and money required to keep a dog or cat healthy and happy. He added that new owners must exercise patience above all.
"You have to understand that it's going to take several weeks, maybe a month, for the animal to settle in," he said.