Marianne Clark, an animal control officer with the Soldotna animal shelter, has seen a lot of abused and neglected dogs in the close to 30 years she's worked with animals, but a call she responded to early last Saturday morning was unlike anything she had seen before.
"They were horrible," Clark said in regard to two stray husky mixes a young male and female now receiving treatment at the animal shelter.
"In all the years I've worked in this field, I've never seen any animal as skinny as these two that was still alive. They were literally skin and bones. The female was so skinny and weak she could hardly stand," she said.
The two emaciated mutts first came to Clark's attention at 4:30 a.m. June 5. Soldotna Police Officer Mark Berestoff had notified Clark after responding to a call about the dogs causing mischief in the area adjacent to Soldotna Municipal Airport.
"The police were beside themselves with what they saw," Clark said.
So was she upon seeing the dogs' conditions.
The two dogs were hanging around the staging area used by mushers of the Peninsula Sled Dog and Racing Association. However, Clark doesn't believe a musher was responsible for the huskies.
"I would doubt it was a musher, because professional mushers wouldn't do this. They would find this treatment appalling. I would speculate that someone dumped them here hoping a musher, or someone else, would pick them up," she said.
Clark, assisted by the police, was able to catch the dogs over a two-day period as they attempted to survive by feeding on illegally dumped halibut carcasses.
"They were so friendly, one of them just came right up," she said.
But, as much as the dogs' good-natured disposition helped in their apprehension, it doesn't fit the profile for long-term strays, according to Clark.
Dogs that have been on the run for long periods of time typically grow wary of hu-mans, often fleeing at their approach.
"These two are too people friendly to be strays. They come right up and wag their tails and want love," she said.
"It's more likely they were dumped. I don't have an explanation for what kind of a person could do this, but it breaks my heart to think about it."
The two dogs are recovering at the shelter, but the process is slow, Clark said.
Emaciated dogs can't be allowed to gorge themselves to compensate for missed meals. Their weight gain must be a slow and steady process, or their digestive system could be damaged.
"I've been feeding them several small meals a day and giving them plenty of fresh water. I've started to see improvement, but it will take some doing to get these two back to good and healthy. I would guess it will take a couple of weeks to months to get the weight on them," Clark said.
However, city shelters can't afford to hold and care for dogs for extended lengths of time.
Under the current ordinance, strays may be held for as little as 72 hours, but Clark said there are several exceptions that could allow an animal to be held longer, such as holidays, weekends or uncrowded shelter conditions.
"I really want to find a place for these two," Clark said.
In working toward that end, the huskies have been transferred to Alaska's Extended Life Animal Sanctuary in Nikiski. There, the dogs will be able to continue their recovery until they are adopted.
"After the suffering those dogs went through, I think they deserve a good life, where they can run and have fun with someone loving. I'm hoping someone on the peninsula will open their heart and home, because that's what these two dogs need."
For information about adopting the dogs, contact Alaska's Extended Life Animal Sanctuary at 776-3614.
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