The long, hot summer is finally behind us, but a glut of abandoned canines at the Payson Humane Society has led to a succession of dog days that has the staff worried.
Three dogs were euthanized Wednesday, and if adoptions don't increase in a hurry, more will face the same fate soon.
"Right now, we're going through a really bad spurt," assistant manager Kim Myers said. "Sometimes it will be that way with cats, but right now we're going through it with dogs. We have about 70 dogs right now, and we're only supposed to have 50."
Stephen Stewart, a recent addition to the humane society staff, has noticed the difference.
"In the first six months I worked here, I don't think we put down more than 10 or 12 dogs," he said. "But in the last two months, we've had to put down 24, and that's a lot."
There's nothing harder on the humane society staff and volunteers than putting down animals.
"We probably should have done more than three yesterday, but we didn't because it's hard on all of us to do it," Myers said. "We take turns so it won't be so hard."
What makes it even more difficult is that so many dogs currently at the humane society have been abandoned by their owners.
Hooley, a shepherd mix, is fairly typical.
"This fellow came in and said he had been living in the forest and that he had to move down to the Valley for health reasons," said Stewart, who recently retired from Rim Guidance. "The dog was pregnant and he said he didn't feel like he could deal with that and the puppies. We get that kind of story frequently, and I just consider it abandonment."
Stewart and his wife, Ellen, took Hooley into their home despite the fact that they already have six cats and 10.5 dogs (the .5 is the therapy dog at Payson Care Center where Ellen works, a dog who sleeps around at the homes of various PCC staffers).
"My wife and I fostered her, and about a week after we took her home she birthed her litter," Stewart said. "She had nine puppies and six lived. We kept mom and the puppies until she weaned them at 5-and-a-half weeks, then mom came back here. We kept the puppies until they were old enough to get their first shots."
Of the six puppies who lived, three have been adopted and three are awaiting their fate at the humane society.
Which dogs get put down depends on a number of factors. Contrary to what most people believe, how long a dog has been at the society is not one of the primary ones.
"We try to go by aggressiveness and we try to pick the ones that don't look like they're very adoptable," Myers said. "We don't base it on how long the dog has been here because dogs are often adopted that we've had for a year or more."
Kate and Allyn Moore, Payson residents who moved here from Iowa a year ago, recently adopted a dog at the humane society. Their choice, an Aussie mix named Specks, was abandoned by his Round Valley owner.
"He looks like another dog we had," Kate Moore said. "He was our head dog for years until he died of old age."
Like Myers and Stewart, the Moores don't understand the kind of mentality that leads people to abandon pets.
"The hardest part of adopting a dog is not being able to take them all home," Kate Moore said.
When the Roundup recently ran a front page photo of a litter of orange newborn kittens, the response from the community was overwhelming, according to humane society manager Diane Fitzpatrick.
"Every one of the orange babies was adopted, along with some other cats," she said. "We also received about $1,000 in cash donations, and a couple thousand worth of food. Now we need a similar response to help us through our dog crisis."
To minimize the number of dogs that are put to sleep during the current overload, the humane society is offering a special on canine adoptions.
"Right now we have a $25 special on puppies, and that includes spaying or neutering," Myers said. While adult dogs are $50, including spaying and neutering, those already spayed or neutered are just $25."
The humane society can also use donations of cash and food, especially dry puppy and kitten food and canned food of all kinds. Volunteers are always needed as well.
For more information, stop by the animal shelter at 812 S. McLane Road, or call (928) 474-5590.