SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – The Jersey Animal Coalition saved Taz’s life twice – once when they took him in and found him a home, and again when that family dumped him at a Newark shelter 10 years later because they did not want to deal with the health needs of a “senior” dog.
But the JAC could not save the 14-year-old pit bull from severe bladder and kidney infections, and he was humanely euthanized earlier this month on the recommendation of the South Orange-based shelter’s veterinarian, Dr. Michael Santiago of the East Orange Animal Hospital.
“He was one of the most courageous and vibrant dogs I have ever had the opportunity to help care for,” said shelter director Cecily Kamps during a series of email interviews. Kamps said that due to the additional degeneration of his muscles on his hind legs and pelvis, Taz would have needed care for 24 hours a day.
In his golden years, Taz found his way back into the care of JAC after being rescued from being put down at the Associated Humane Society in Newark. Because all dogs at the JAC are microchipped prior to being adopted, the Newark shelter was able to scan the microchip, which allowed it to trace the ownership to the South Orange shelter.
Taz was recovered from the Newark shelter. With the help of Newark Deputy Mayor Adam Zipkin and Ruth Perlmutter, president of the JAC board of directors, he was custom-fitted with a dog “wheelchair” for better mobility of his hind legs. The wheelchair was fitted by Eddie’s Wheels in Shelburne Falls, Mass.
Kamps said that during the annual charity Tuxes & Tails Soiree in November, Taz’s story was presented by videographer Steve Weintraub, earning praise from audiences.
“I think Taz's story teaches us very important lessons in learning to emerge through hard times with strength and the power of spirit that we each have within us,” Kamps said.
Taz was an affectionate dog and a favorite with staff and volunteers at JAC, Kamps recounted. Although he lived out his last years at the shelter, he was considered the “king” and loved being pampered and being the center of attention.
Kamps said she hoped that Taz’s story serves as an inspiration for others to overcome challenges.
“He has traded his wheels for wings and will certainly remain present in each of us who loved him,” Kamps said.
JAC is a nonprofit, all-volunteer coalition established in 1989. The organization provides homeless dogs and cats with medical attention, shelter, and boarding, while finding them permanent homes. The organization has rescued more than 6,500 stray and abandoned pets. JAC promotes spaying and neutering for pet population control, reunites owners with their lots pets and educates the public about responsible pet ownership. The JAC also can assist low-income pet owners with food and medical care for their pets by paying their veterinarians and providing pet food or boarding.
During the holidays, the shelter is promoting a “Home for the Holidays” campaign, where people can open their home to foster a cat or dog during the holidays. The hope, Kamps said, is that foster families will find their pet a “good fit” and decide to adopt.
For more information about the shelter, visit http://www.jaconline.org/s1/index.html
The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.