According to my calendar of National Days, today (July 31) is National Mutt Day. It is one of two days set aside annually to raise awareness of the millions of mixed breed dogs that need homes across the United States. Approximately 80 percent of all shelter dogs in the U.S. are mixed breeds.
This is one of the “National Days” that I can actually get behind. While I may choose not to celebrate National Tapioca Pudding Day or National Ratcatcher’s Day, (yes, both are actually real) I can appreciate the value of a dog, specifically a mutt. I own and love several.
Earlier this summer the story of Toffee, a seven-week old puppy who fell into a Huntsville well, captured national attention when his videoed rescue went viral on social media. There have been parties in Toffee’s honor and his story has been shared millions of times.
Before Toffee though, there was Levi. Levi is a much loved mutt who was found on Highway 17 in Choctaw County in early June. His rescuer is 16, top of her class with her own car. As yearbook editor, a member of the softball team, and a barrel racer, she doesn’t have much free time. When she does, she works. She needs a new saddle and every spare penny is going into the bank account to pay for it. Everyone knows that good saddles aren’t cheap and that cheap saddles aren’t good. It may take some time, but she’s going to own the saddle that she’s been eying.
Well, she was. That all changed when she noticed the puppy on the side of the road. It didn’t seem to hear her when she called to it, so she did what so many others of us relatives of Ellie Mae Clampett have done, she picked it up and put it in her car. It was infested with ticks and fleas and had obviously been left to die along the roadside.
She took the pup home having already established that he did not hear well. She bathed him and then took him to the vet for treatment. The local vet confirmed that this pup, now called Levi, was indeed deaf and had limited vision. He also had ear mites and intestinal parasites. The outlook was grim and the treatment was expensive, but this girl had too much heart to turn her back on the dog. Saving a life is more important than buying a saddle, she decided and she paid the vet bill and took him home.
She told her dad that she would only keep him a few days until she could find another home for him. I’m sure this dad knew that Levi was going to become a family member– if he survived. A few days after the initial vet visit. Levi stopped eating and his resourceful owner, Ragen, made a trip to Auburn to see her older brother and to get additional help from a veterinarian there for this mutt that had taken a huge chunk of her money and her heart.
Levi had additional treatment in Auburn and is physically better; although his eyesight will not improve and he will never be able to hear. He is currently thriving with Ragen (and her dad), but special care has to be taken to keep him inside or on a leash outside. His health problems would prevent his ability to be outside without supervision due to safety concerns.
According to the vets, Levi has a genetic disorder that dogs with merle coats can get. It usually happens when two dogs who each have merle coats breed. The offspring with the genetic disorders are almost completely white and due to the lack of pigmentation in the coat, the puppies can be blind and/or deaf. Ironically, Levi and Toffee both share these conditions.
Unlike Toffee, who was being fostered at the time of his unfortunate fall into a well, Levi was discarded, left to die on a lonely stretch of state highway by someone who found his conditions to be more than they were willing to deal with. Thankfully, there are people like Ragen who are willing to take chances and invest their resources into the mutts of the world.
The world could use more people like her. Our communities could use more people like her. Currently, the Clarke County Animal Shelter is at capacity. There are healthy “mutts” that need fostering, permanent homes, resources, and to be given a second chance. Shelter director Erika Putnam encourages the public to contact her about volunteer, foster and adoption opportunities.
While I can’t say where Ragen stands in relation to her goal of purchasing a “good” saddle, I can say this, she has a “good” heart and while she may not realize it, this is better than any saddle money could buy.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.