Roy Exum: Our Pets’ Tails Wag

Thursday, November 15, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

As one who has tended to a dog since the age of four, and has slept beside at least one four-legged critter almost every night since, it was with unabashed joy I learned a new $13 million animal shelter for the Humane Education Society will be built in Hamilton County. The current facility on North Highland Park Avenue hasn’t been “humane” since my grandfather was an infant and, when the County Commission approves it next week, a lot of dogs’ and cats’ tails will wag.

Hamilton County finance genius Albert Kiser is a magician in the way he and his crowd discover the funding for so many needs and, while I’m not sure what will happen as 2018 begins to slip away, put me down in the belief there is no greater testament to our county officials than the new animal center this year.

Unfortunately, it is also another solid step towards blatant stupidity in our community.

For the past several years, our city’s McKamey Animal Center has been recognized in every list of the best animal centers in America. In case you’ve missed it, whenever there is a natural disaster, be it a hurricane bearing down on Texas or South Carolina, the wheels of America’s affection for mistreated, abandoned or ignored animals roll faster than the winds towards our McKamey beacon of light.

And never -- not once – has the world-class crowd that runs McKamey failed to “leave the light on” for the mangiest dog or the scruffiest cat.

That said, what if we instead could channel this new-found cash to an even-greater cause? Bob McKamey’s dream has never dimmed to combining the separate city and county animal services. Aside from the childish animosities between our two local governments, the longer we refuse to combine and consolidate the two agencies is to handicap our community from becoming all that you and I want it to be.

I am assured the biggest problem why the city and county animal control staffs will not merge is because HES president Tai Frederico says “it wouldn’t be a comfortable fit” and would be unworkable. No, the biggest problem of all? Frederico, in the years I have watched him, has earned quite a due reputation among those most closely involved with animal control. That’s right – Tai is recognized as the area’s greatest ambassador for dogs and cats.

If Dr. Frederico says the hurdles to consolidate are too great I’ll happily and respectfully take him at his word. But in a world where it is now too easy to think of problems than discover solutions, if I were the King, I would immediately get Dr. Frederico and McKamey chair Lee Towery in a room with bread-and-water.

Then I’d get a rascally dog for Tai to pet and a fuzzy kitten for Lee’s lap and charge the two with one question: “What is the greatest thing a county our size can do for an unfortunate animal?”

The taxpayers are overwhelmingly in favor of doing the right thing. Not a one believes two free-standing animal centers are in one county’s best interest and it is reviling that McKamey and HES are in this spot with a wall between them that ain’t nothing but God’s air and mankind’s folly.

Yes, I can help you spot problems that include ego, discord, and the dumbbells that go with ‘em “but let me ask the both of you a personal question that may have an enlightening answer … Tai, I know a little bit more about you than you suspect, … and Lee … you and I have a deep friendship that has nothing to do with your being the best caterer in Southeast Tennessee …

“Did either of you two birds get to where you are, each with such a deep yearning to help animals that you each donate at least 50 hours every month – by letting ‘problems’ run you off!

“Look a’here … we’ve got a check for $10 million and a promise of $3 more in pledges. The McKamey property was purposefully bought with a lot more land than it will ever use in the hopes that one day when our children and grandchildren can look beyond problems to find solutions, Hamilton County and every soul within it regardless of our internal boundaries and city limit signs, will do what’s most right for every dog and cat.

“One more thing … you know about those feral cats that suffer in our woods when it’s cold and are so skittish that they are dang-near impossible to herd? We are gonna’ drop off a new one at your houses on every new day until we can get your focus to where every citizens in this county should be: Solutions.

“And, yeah, we are going to take the cages they’ll come in back with us. That way the cats can be happy and free all over your house. Did you ever shake a deep-clawed feral off your leg when you unsuspectingly got out the shower? Why, it won’t be long at all before we can share the same way of thinking.”

ANY POLITICIAN’S GREATEST QUEST – “It’s never been too early to do the right thing.”

* * *


* -- The McKamey Animal Center, 4500 North Access Road, Chattanooga, TN 37415

* -- Humane Educational Society of Chattanooga, 212 N Highland Park Ave., Chattanooga, TN 37404

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