As I sit writing today's article, there's something else vying for my attention (besides the dogs wanting their hind ends scratched and the cats walking across the keyboard): A big possum has parked himself outside the front door, lying against the house, maybe sleeping, maybe not. He shouldn't be there in broad daylight - he should be in his hidey-hole.
I'm afraid old age is a distinct possibility, and I'll need to deal with him. I clearly can't leave him there, but it will take a phone call or two to fix the problem.
This happens to many of us. Animals just know which houses to drag themselves to when they are sick or injured. My front yard has been a way station for more than its share of lost dogs and cats, birds with broken wings or baby rabbits with hurt legs or cat bites. Empathy makes us stop our routines, box them up and take them where they can receive proper care.
Wouldn't it be great to find out all the places in Douglas County that can offer assistance to all the area's animals?
Not a problem! On Nov. 9, animal lovers will come together at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds for the annual Animal Fair of Douglas County. Starting at 10 a.m. in Building 21, you can come to learn about all the animal-related organizations and rescue groups in our area. We'll be offering information for you to keep handy in your homes and volunteer opportunities if you want to be more involved in local animal issues.
Hosting the event is the Lawrence Humane Society, which handles, cares for and looks after the welfare of more than 7,500 companion animals each year, including dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, ferrets, mice and rats, domestic birds and occasional reptiles.
Joining us is the Lawrence Jayhawk Kennel Club. This nonprofit group was established in 1954 for those interested in purebred dogs and "the welfare of dogs in general." Members of this group have devoted themselves to educating the public and specifically dog owners about "all aspects of owning, training, breeding and exhibiting dogs." This active group sponsors dog-training classes along with competitive events that provide wonderful social opportunities for dog owners all across the county. They'll be happy to speak with you on any dog-related topic.
For questions about wild animals, you can visit with the folks at Prairie Park Nature Center. Their facility, if you haven't seen it yet, is a scenic 72-acre preserve on the east side of Lawrence with a beautiful education center built in 1999 that exhibits many live Kansas animals and quality dioramas. One of its many high points is its eagle display that opened in 2003. The workers here offer Kansans a selection of nature programs on many different environmental topics. These fine folks will bring literature that they'll be happy to discuss with all their visitors.
The members of Operation Wildlife Inc. in Linwood also look forward to visiting with you at the fair. Since 1989, group members have provided "rehabilitation services for injured and orphaned wild animals, and wildlife education for the citizens of northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri." As their Web site states, "We receive thousands of wild animals each year, and the release rate averages 69 percent from year to year - 20 percent higher than the national average of 49 percent." They're looking forward to talking with visitors about volunteer and contribution opportunities that allow them to continue providing care and rehabilitation for wild animals.
Douglas Countians who are interested in animal welfare advocacy can talk with the folks at Animal Outreach of Kansas. The Web site of this Lawrence-based operation is currently being worked on, but its volunteers are responsible for bringing animal welfare issues before our state legislature, and they've helped make animal abuse a felony Kansas. They're eager to show you how you can help advocate for laws that will keep our companion animals safe in our state.
Along with these organizations, you'll find rescue groups for a variety of breeds and animals (mastiffs, bully breeds, rabbits and rats, to name a few), and Irish Spirit Farms Horse Rescue for our larger animals friends. We'll have animal trainers, groomers, suppliers and folks doing just about anything animal-related. Santa Claus also told us he'd stop by between noon and 4 p.m., if you want your pet to have his or her picture taken with him!
Admission to the fair is free, concessions and adoptable animals will be available, and if you bring a donation from the Humane Society's wish list, you can be entered for our door prize drawings. If you have questions, call 843-6835.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a possum to attend to . . .