2007-05-16 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

          Ruby, Shih tzu 
            and Slippers, longhaired kitten await loving homes at Oyster Bay 
            Town Shelter. 
Ruby, Shih tzu and Slippers, longhaired kitten await loving homes at Oyster Bay Town Shelter. News Flash: "Spaniel saves tiny Terrier from drowning in Southards Pond." 'Tis a true Long Island tale with a Disney dash, but sorry to say, we won't be seeing footage on Animal Planet or News 12 because it happened 126 years ago.

Two accounts of this rescue have surfaced during our search for the site of the Babylon Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) clubhouse and the burial spot of Sensation, the logo Pointer. This near drowning involved other dogs belonging to WKC members, and happened five years before the famous Sensation came here to enjoy his retirement. We now know the basic boundaries of 64 acres overlooking Southards that Westminster owned from 1884 to 1904 but the exact location of the fancy clubhouse with Sensation's grave remains uncertain.

In his book- The Dog Show '125 Years of Westminster, William Stifel cites testimony from the sportsman's publication- Chicago Field June 11, 1881. The story of the save mentioned that Mr. Elliot Smith, owner of the Terrier, planned to present the Spaniel with a lifesaving medal, "a reward the Spaniel certainly merits for this display of almost or quite, human bravery and intelligence."

I wanted to see if the event made the local news too. It certainly did. found a different version of the heroics in Babylon's original weekly. Microfilm of the June 18, 1881 South Side Signal quotes another journal- Forest and Stream. Here's what Mr. Smith had to say: "An incident occurred at the Westminster Kennel Club's grounds in Babylon, L.I., last Thursday, an account whereof think worthy of your columns. My little Skye terrier bitch, Wasp, is a great swimmer and frequently follows the Superintendent about as he rows over the lake adjoining the Club grounds. She did so on Thursday last, accompanied by F.O.DeLuze's spaniel, Sankey After swimming some time, Wasp gave a little cry as if in fear, and sank to the bottom, probably having taken with a cramp.

Sankey heard the yelp, turned to where she had disappeared, and swam over to the spot several times, whining meanwhile. Presently he dived, came up again, and dived a second time. This was repeated six or seven times till finally he found her at the bottom and brought her up, swam with her to the shore, and had her drawn quite out of the water when the Superintendent reached him.

He seemed delighted with his success, rushing about and uttering joyful yelps. Wasp was nearly drowned, and it required active measures, rolling, rubbing, etc., to restore her. I think Sankey's intelligence and persistence were wonderful. The story I give as I heard it from John Read, the Superintendent of the WKC, who was an eyewitness of the performance. The water was, I believe, between five and six feet deep."

Footnote: For more on the hunt for the historic Westminster Kennel Club Babylon clubhouse, see these Beacon "Pets, Pets, Pets" links in the "Archives" online: 2/8/07; 3/15/07; 4/ 12/07. I'll be reporting more clues from 1938 aerial maps soon.

Fast forward to 2007: Beware of the bay. We needed the spunky spirit of Sankey at Gardiner Park one March morning while we watched helplessly as a yellow Lab swam far from the shore in pursuit of some swans. Her owner was in absolute terror. The more she screamed; the further she scared the swans away with her oblivious Lab right behind them. She was sure her dog would tire and drown. So were we.

My husband tried to calm the owner and lure the Lab with our dogs, but her dog wasn't impressed by an Afghan or Cavalier. The Lab was doing what she's genetically hard wired to do. She HAD to retrieve waterfowl. In desperation, the woman plunged into the icy water. The silly Lab ignored her, too focused on the swans heading toward Fire Island Lighthouse. We feared for both lady and Lab until the owner blurted out the magic words- "Wanna cookie?" The dog forgot about her quarry and paddled eagerly to her Mom.

.... the same shivering, adrenaline pumping Mom discovered when they got back to the parking lot that her car keys were sitting on the bottom of Great South Bay. We drove the soaked duo home to get a spare set. The silly Lab, oblivious to the panic she caused, walked right into her crate and took a nap. She never did get that cookie.

For adoption at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset: "Ruby" #332 is a docile Shihtzuabout 4 years old while "Slippers" #341 is an adorable longhaired kitten. These gals would love to click their heels and go home with someone nice. See more photos on the shelter's Petfinder site.

More Dogs: "Fiona" #258- the Beagle/Basset; "Blue" #325- a Rottie/Husky with blue eyes; "Sonata"# 314- a young male Husky; "Beauford" #287- the Coonhound mix pup.

Cats: "Heckle & Jeckle"- #173/174- declawed cinnamon brothers; "Foo" #116- gray & white tabby.

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