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Pet ownership involves proper care, responsibility

Air Force Col. Ramona Dolson, Air Force Personnel Center chief selection board secretariat, and her dog Bebe pose for a photo Feb. 7 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Joel Martinez and photo illustration by Maggie Armstrong)

Air Force Col. Ramona Dolson, Air Force Personnel Center chief selection board secretariat, and her dog Bebe pose for a photo Feb. 7 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joel Martinez and photo illustration by Maggie Armstrong)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- For several weeks during the recent holiday season, a young light-colored dog roamed the area near the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Rambler Fitness Center, so terrified of the many people who attempted to befriend her that she repeatedly withdrew from them.

But they persisted in their efforts to gain the confidence of the elusive canine some called "Baby Girl," feeding her daily to build her strength.

Finally, on Jan. 15, Air Force spouses Leah Smith and Astrid Wisser, who had been feeding Baby Girl, managed to capture the skittish pooch at the tennis courts and took her to the JBSA-Randolph Veterinary Clinic, where she was shampooed, spayed and treated for fleas and a hookworm infection.

Baby Girl's story had a happy ending with her adoption that same day by Col. Ramona Dolson, Air Force Selection Board Secretariat chief, who gave her the name Bebe, but the canine's plight during her weeks of abandonment underscores the importance of responsible pet ownership.

"Bebe has been adopted and has a good home," Diane Butler, JBSA-Randolph Housing Element chief, said. "We just need to get the word out that people need to take care of their animals and that the JBSA-Randolph community comes together to help animals in need when their owners are neglectful."

Butler said nobody knows if Bebe wandered onto JBSA-Randolph, was dumped here, escaped from a residence here or was simply abandoned by a military member, but it's important for pet owners here to follow the requirements of Randolph Family Housing's pet policy so their animals don't suffer as Bebe did.

Some of those rules are to keep pets on a leash at all times when outside the fenced area of the home and to keep them inside the home or behind an approved fenced area in the backyard if unattended, not tethered outside the home.

Pets are limited to two per household and are subject to breed and size restrictions, and proof of vaccinations, chipping and registration at the JBSA-Randolph Veterinary Clinic must be submitted to family housing within five days. In addition, existing residents are required to notify family housing within 30 days of acquiring a pet.

Responsible pet ownership also involves proper care.

"Pets require the right foods, exercise and proper shelter," Stephanie Geren, JBSA-Randolph Veterinary Clinic technician, said. "They should be kept clean and their nails should be trimmed. Flea control and heartworm prevention measures are also important."

An overlooked aspect of pet care is proper socialization with people and other animals, she said.

Bebe is now going through a socialization period of her own, but Butler said the canine began her adjustment quickly.

"After she was taken to the veterinary clinic, she stayed with me the rest of the day," she said. "That evening, Colonel Dolson came and took her home and she was already coming around. The next day she was a different dog."

Dolson, one of the occupants of building 977 who was feeding Bebe on a regular basis, also saw a huge difference in her new dog's behavior.

"The first night I took her home she was very passive, but I kept talking to her. The next day, we just bonded. Now she follows me around at home and she's learning that people are nice."

Bebe, a mixed-breed dog with German shepherd and husky features, is also adapting nicely to her new environment.

"She would not go outside by herself for a few days," Dolson said. "Now she'll go outside and play and run around like a crazy dog."

Dolson believes her pet was abused at one time.

"If I moved fast with a hand motion or got a broom, she'd hightail it," she said.

Bebe, who Dolson described as "sweet," now has "a mommy who loves her," Butler said.
But she also receives plenty of love during the day when Dolson is at work.

Bebe spends weekdays with Smith and her dog, Ginger, at JBSA-Randolph housing and is occasionally visited by Wisser, who joins Smith in walking her, Butler said.

"Bebe is definitely coming around as a result of the attention she gets," she said.

Butler mentioned two other recent incidents - a Jack Russell terrier that escaped from his yard and another dog that was shot with a pellet gun - that draw attention to pet ownership.

"When these things happen on base, it upsets me to no end," she said. "It's very disheartening. I hold military folks to a higher standard.

"There are rules for taking care of animals, and it's just common decency," Butler said.