OLD TOWN, Maine — Mason and Kenzi were just one day away from being euthanized when Old Town police Sgt. Mike Hashey stopped in to the Animal Orphanage to take a look at them and obtained a reprieve.
“I’d been hearing about them,” Hashey said Monday of the two pit bull mixes that apparently had been abandoned by their owner and left to fend for themselves.
The two dogs are believed to be brother and sister, Hashey said. When he first met them, the male, which he named Mason, was out by the gate of one of the Animal Orphanage’s outdoor exercise areas, growling at him and showing his teeth.
“He was obviously protecting the female, who was kind of sitting there staring at the wall,” he said of the dog he named Kenzi.
Though the animal shelter has a “no kill” philosophy, the two dogs were aggressive and mistrustful of humans and as such not considered candidates for adoption. Because of that, they were scheduled to be put down, shelter manager Margaret Baker said this week.
“I couldn’t take that,” Hashey said. Despite their unfriendly behavior, Hashey saw their potential and convinced the shelter’s management to give them a chance.
Over the next several weeks, Hashey organized an effort to socialize the dogs, involving fellow police officers, family members and friends in the effort, said Old Town police Officer Debbie Holmes, a shelter volunteer who is providing foster care to a litter of motherless kittens.
During their spare time, the volunteers visited with the dogs, gave them their time and attention and took them out for exercise and play time, she said. Hashey also brought his own two dogs, both of them black Labs, to the Animal Orphanage to socialize with Mason and Kenzi.
The work, it appears, has paid off. Through careful screening the shelter’s management allowed him to oversee, Hashey found what he believes is a suitable new home for the pair.
“This has to work,” he said.
Holmes said Hashey, who was not available for an update Wednesday because he was in a class that day, planned to deliver Mason and Kenzi to their new home on Thursday.
“I’m so glad that Mike stepped up,” Holmes said. “If it hadn’t been for him, those dogs would not be here. They are totally, totally different dogs now.”
While this particular dog tale had a happy ending, it is part of a recent trend in Old Town that is troubling the city’s police and animal shelter workers.
In the last month and a half alone, five abandoned dogs have turned up in Old Town, according to Hashey and Holmes. Holmes said Wednesday evening that police picked up a possible sixth one earlier that day.
Most of them are pit bull mixes, though one appears to be a spaniel mix and another is possibly a German shepherd.
Though some were wearing collars when they were found, none had tags or microchips indicating who they belonged to. No one called the Animal Shelter looking for them, Holmes said.
“This started happening all of a sudden,” Holmes said. “I can’t even explain it. I don’t know what’s going on. People are just abandoning their dogs. No one is calling about them.”
Holmes, Hashey and other officers speculated that the dogs might have been abandoned because their owners no longer could afford them, became homeless or had to move into a setting in which dogs are not allowed. Baker added that sometimes people are forced to give up their dogs because of the risk of losing property insurance coverage.
Holmes said police even considered the notion that the pit bulls might have been involved in an alleged southern Maine dog fighting ring that recently made the news but discarded the theory because of the lack of scars or injuries.
Regardless of the reason, however, simply leaving a dog on the streets in not the answer, Hashey and Holmes said.
“It’s putting a burden on the orphanage,” Holmes said.
Baker agreed. She said that the number of abandoned dogs that have arrived in September and October is the equivalent of what the Animal Orphanage typically sees in half a year.
Holmes said she hopes that once the public becomes aware of the problem, people who have information about who might have dumped the dogs will come forward so animal cruelty charges can be filed.
Hashey said that owners who must give up their dogs first should try to find them new homes and only if that fails bring them to a local animal shelter.