By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — “We got Riley from the Clark County Humane Society in January 2006,” said Linda Bauer. “He was born in May 2005, and the people surrendering him had named him Coffee. He did not know his name, which we thought was odd, but in years later we figured out why he may have had that name. He loved coffee. Jim would leave him and a cup of coffee in the truck, and he’d flip the lid off and drink all of it.
“He was a smiler. At first we thought he was snarling, but it was his social way of communicating happiness. If you smiled at him, he gave you a toothy smile back, especially if you were one of his favorites.”
Riley was a fixture at Jim Bauer’s — Linda’s husband’s — workplace, Central Wisconsin Country Store.
“Car rides were absolute his No. 1 favorite things. We had to spell ‘car’ rather than say it because he went completely bonkers if he heard the word ‘car.’ In the morning, he’d go outside to go to the bathroom and then slam himself down next to Jim’s truck. That truck was not leaving without him,” Linda said.
“He was our third dog in our married life, and all three of (the dogs), we were fortunate to be able to take them to the workplace. … Arnie got to go, Bailey got to go, and Riley,” said Jim.
Bringing Riley home
“Riley was a shelter dog from Clark County, roughly 7 months old when he was surrendered,” Jim said.
“It was right after an incident where Clark County had taken in 80 cats at one time. Bailey had passed away in the spring, and it was getting wintertime, and I just said, ‘Clark County has 80 cats. I want to see what 80 cats look like at one place,’” he added.
Linda and Jim headed to the Clark County Humane Society and were offered a tour because they had been dedicated patrons of the rescue shelter.
“In that tour we met Riley. They were taking dogs out for exercise, and my arm went along with Riley out the door. When we came back in, he sat down at my feet.”
The Bauers came home with a cat named Magic and Riley, the dog that tugged at Jim’s string.
“(Riley) went to work with my husband almost daily. People fell in love with him and looked for him whenever they came in. We always said he was in public relations and was good at his job,” said Linda.
Riley, the 11½-year-old duck tolling retriever, died Oct. 10, leaving a hole in the heart of not only the Bauers but also the numerous customers that walked through the business’ doors each week.
“It’s a devastating loss for us and for his fans at the store,” said Linda. “My husband said there must have been 100 people yesterday who asked about him. He said it felt like he was at a wake.”
The Bauers’ story is one of many made possible by the work of local shelters in central Wisconsin.
Even with shelter animals available to the American public, many pets are obtained through other means. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the majority of family pets are obtained from acquaintances, 28 percent are purchased through breeders, and 29 percent from shelters.
“We have had 286 stray, abandoned, and/or surrendered cats so far this year,” said Marshfield Area Pet Shelter (MAPS) President Karen Rau. “There is a huge overpopulation problem in our community and nationwide. The problem is directly related to pet owners’ failure to spay/neuter animals. It is everyone’s responsibility to help humane organizations help control pet overpopulation.
“There simply are not enough homes for the hundreds of animals born into our communities every year. Also, pet relinquishment/surrenders contribute to ‘overpopulation’ problems at local shelters. Pet ownership has great rewards but also comes with great responsibility and a lifetime commitment.
“All shelters are overcrowded with unwanted pets, and MAPS is no exception. We currently have 90 cats in our care. As for the dogs, the city of Marshfield has seen approximately 40 stray dogs so far this year. The majority of these dogs were reclaimed by their owners. MAPS has taken in nine unclaimed dogs and four dogs surrendered by their owners.
“We are still hoping to pursue the city contract for stray dogs on Jan. 1, 2017. However, we are in desperate need of dedicated volunteers who are willing to attend our volunteer training and commit themselves to a weekly morning, afternoon, or evening schedule to help care for dogs. With only one paid employee and an average 70 cats in our care every month, we need more committed volunteers willing to help care for our animals.”
Those considering pet adoption or who would like to volunteer may contact MAPS at www.marshfieldpetshelter.org or 715-486-5140.