November 13, 2012

Letters to the Editor: Find new friends at animal shelter

Each day at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, we have hundreds of animals to feed, medicate, clean up after, walk, socialize and, of course, love.

click image to enlarge

A shelter technician holds a cat at the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook in a 2005 file photo. The Animal Refuge League takes in 4,000 animals a year, and they get lots of attention and care from volunteers and staff – but each animal would like to have a home of its own with a loving owner, a shelter employee says.

2005 File Photo/Shawn Patrick Ouellette

For the 14 communities we serve, we are often the last chance an animal has. They come to us from hoarding situations, domestic abuse, animal cruelty cases, abandonment and owner surrenders.

Nothing can prepare you for what you will feel when a person hands you the leash to their beloved dog, sobbing uncontrollably because they can no longer afford to care for their pet. We see that kind of love, and we also see horrible neglect -- both extremes of the human condition.

We are charged with giving each animal the respect, medical care and love they need and want -- all 4,000 of them each year. We have no time limits here. Our animals get holistic and traditional medical treatment, and each one has a staff of 33 watching their back.

We cajole our family members and friends to take them in, we post photos on our website and Facebook page, we make media appearances, we have a pink cat mascot and we've held publicity stunts. We hold fee waivers, even if it means sacrificing revenue.

Our guests look to us to tell their story, and we are proud to advocate for these precious creatures. We do all this, but in the end our success depends on you.

Adoptions must keep pace with intakes, and to do that we need people to come through our doors. You'll meet wonderful volunteers who give 41 hours a day, dedicated staff and happy adopters showing off their new pet.

It is not a sad place. It is a place filled with the promise of finding unconditional love. So please, visit us often and adopt.

Lynne McGhee

community relations manager, Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland


Lou Gehrig's disease threat to vets as well as athletes

A few weeks ago, studies found that NFL players are at greater risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). Papers like this one ran stories about the news, and rightfully so.

But with Veterans Day having just passed, how many of us know that a much, much larger segment of our population -- military veterans -- also is at greater risk of Lou Gehrig's disease?

Sgt. Joshua A. Kennedy of New Gloucester died April 27, 2012, at the age of 34, losing his two-year battle with ALS.

I watched my beloved husband and father of our three young boys fight a losing battle.

Studies have shown that military veterans are about twice as likely to die from ALS as the general public. It does not matter when or where they served in the military -- home or abroad, during a time of peace or war, from World War I to Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, for these heroes and everyone else in the world who is living with ALS, there is no treatment.

There is no cure.

They will die from the disease in an average of just two to five years.

We do not know what causes ALS in veterans or NFL players. But we do know that raising awareness of the risk faced by our veterans not only can let these heroes know about the significant VA benefits that are available, but also help us to find the cause of and treatment and cure for this horrific disease.I encourage your readers to visit the Wall of Honor at

There, people can read the stories and see the faces of hundreds of veterans living with ALS and those who already have been lost to the disease.

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