Saunders

Meet the puppy angel

Staff WriterApril 28, 2009 

OK, this can go one of two ways.

This column could be about the mean, evil woman who pulled over to the side of the road in Benson and apparently abandoned a helpless puppy -- or it could be about the kind woman who rescued the animal and found it a home before something bad happened.

Just as I thought: With the incessant flow of bad news in the world now, you'd rather hear about the woman who represents the good side of human nature.

That woman is Donna Clifton. She was driving home from work last week when she saw a dark-color SUV pulled over to the side of the road.

"I stopped, because something seemed suspicious, and I could see the puppy's legs on the other side of the SUV," Clifton told me.

Clifton would make a great neighbor or animal activist -- because of her job in the waste industry, she said, she has rescued a score of dogs and cats from waste bins. But she wouldn't make a great police witness.

"I don't remember the color of the SUV," she said. "I was concentrating on the dog."

As the SUV pulled off, she said, the forlorn-looking puppy was still standing there.

"I looked at the driver and shook my head," Clifton recalled. "[The driver] backed up, and I asked 'Is this your dog?' She said, 'No. I thought she was my dog, but my dog is bigger than that.' She said she has five dogs at home and with her children, she can't take care of another dog."

If the driver really was puppy-dumping, she may not be the personification of evil I initially concluded she was. Perhaps the poor thing was just overwhelmed. With people struggling to feed their children, another mouth to feed -- even a puppy's -- can seem daunting.

That, however, is no excuse for leaving to the elements a puppy that has never had to fend for itself. There are options other than hoping a puppy angel just happens to be driving by.

Angeline McInerny, community relations specialist for Wake County Animal Control, said people who are no longer able or willing to care for their pets can drop them off at the shelter.

"We'd prefer that to just dropping them off in the woods or along the road," McInerny said. "That's not good for the health of the animal or the health of the public."

Mike Williams, director of Wake Animal Control's Care, Control and Adoption, said, "We're always finding strays that people drop in the woods or on the side of the road, but our intake has not increased. We do hear more people saying they can't afford to take care of their animals when they bring them in."

Clifton didn't take the puppy she found to a shelter. "I took her home and fed and bathed her -- she was starving -- and then started an e-mail chain" to alert people about the puppy she'd rescued.

"She really is an awesome dog," Clifton said. "She has a great personality."

It didn't take long before someone saw the picture Clifton posted on the Internet and adopted the 3-month-old yellow Labrador retriever.

Before calling someone a no-good puppy dumper, the Christian thing to do is to walk a mile in their shoes to see what led them to that heartless act.

Then you can give them their shoes back -- after making sure you step in the pungent leavings of every puppy within 50 miles.

barry.saunders@newsobserver.com or919-836-2811

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