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Roman Betty Schaaf is a volunteer, a writer, a sojourner and a self-described wellness addict.

I have become all too acquainted with a frequent practice here in the South — dog dumping. I have met some precious dogs through this phenomenon and these shy, misplaced animals have inadvertently inserted strangers, now friends, into my Roman life. In 2017, 89.7 million dogs lived in U.S. households, compared to 68 million dogs owned in the U.S. in the year 2000. You would think that Georgia, with this prolific practice of dog dumping, would have the highest percentage of households owning dogs. But, in fact, that amazing statistic belongs to the state of Arkansas. I believe that people perceive pet ownership very differently in Georgia. Their dogs are dispensable and when they become expensive or inconvenient they pass them along to someone else via a roadside, driving away as their dog watches them in confusion. Pet dogs are not meant to survive in the wild and weather of North Georgia.

My first encounter with a dumped dog was with a very skittish lab that I had named Baby. She would skulk around our property, carefully avoiding human contact, never leaving our property and always watching the road. I even had neighbors stop to ask if that black dog was mine, as they were worried for her safety. As a dog lover, I could not fathom anyone kicking their pet dog out of the car and driving away, but this happens very often on our little road. Two more dogs were dumped yesterday as I was writing this article, a collie and an Australian shepherd. Why do people do this?

It took almost a year to get Baby to walk up to me as I wandered around our property. I didn’t feed her for the longest time as I naively thought her owner would come back for her. We became close friends after a while, and she allowed me to pet her and sit with her in the yard. She often would plant herself firmly by my side, as if she were on the lookout. She would welcome me every time I drove into the driveway. I never knew where she slept and she would devour any package delivered to my house within her tall reach, even it if wasn’t edible. She is the only dog I have ever seen eat an entire music box except for the winding button. I had to rethink our package delivery system and warn family members of my gift-eating stray. I was told I could not keep Baby as we were still mourning the loss of our last dog to cancer. We actually had neighbors pull into my driveway asking if she was mine and wanting to adopt her. Once I shared Baby’s avarice for packages, tools and anything else left out around the homestead, they quietly drove away. We all worried for her safety and I couldn’t get her into my car to bring her to the humane society.

While retrieving my Sunday paper with Baby one day, she darted out towards a blue truck in recognition, running after it. At last, I thought, she had found her owner. He backed up, pulled into my driveway, as I was sporting my ugly pajamas, and asked me if Baby was my dog. This is how Baby introduced me to a new neighbor, Danny. I nicknamed him Danny the Dog Man, and he ultimately became Baby’s savior. He had rescued several dogs before and was willing to take her if we could manage to coax her into his truck. I explained how difficult that would be, but he was not daunted at all by this task. It took us several months of coaxing with wet dog food that Danny graciously provided until she felt safe with him as well. He would come by every day to visit with Baby in my driveway, usually with me close by. Then, Danny started coming over without me present to talk quietly with her and bring treats. Then he started feeding her in the back of his truck. Months later, after daily contact and food, Danny was able to get Baby into his truck to take her to her new home. I learned so much from both Baby and the Dog Man. He took Baby to the vet and she was found with an expensive and life threatening condition, but Danny did not despair and embraced the costs and daily treatment. Today, Baby is thriving and happy sleeping indoors by his fire, being fed every day and running around a fenced yard with other dogs.

Just the other day I saw a beautiful yellow lab running across the road with a large plastic case in his mouth, dropping it into a yard of a home that does not own a dog. Right away I knew he had been dumped. They took him to PAWS, (Public Animal Welfare Services), and he is now available for adoption. They have a very impressive 96 percent no kill rate. I spied him on their website today with a new name, “Nugget.” You can visit with him Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Many other adorable puppies and dogs are available to meet with you as well on Saturdays from 1—5 p.m. So if you know anyone that wants a thieving, yet obedient, yellow lab with an adorable smile, visit him at the PAWS facility at 99 North Ave. and see if Nugget would be a good fit for you and your family. And if your dog is too much to care for, please bring them to PAWS during the “surrendering” hours instead of heartlessly dropping them off on a country road!

Roman Betty Schaaf is a volunteer, a writer, a sojourner and a self-described wellness addict. Betty Schaaf’s email is bettyannschaaf@gmail.com