As many as 200 people lined up patiently on the crowded sidewalk on Great Neck Road outside the Great Neck Dog and Cat Hospital two Sundays ago to get a chance at rescuing one of 23 young puppies from a closed Mineola pet shop.
After the adopting families were chosen, a process that took almost four days, there was some consolation to those who lost out as attempts were being made by hospital owner Dr. Keith Niesenbaum and his staff to connect them with other rescue agencies who had puppies available for adoption.
120 applications were submitted.
“The public outpouring of support was huge,” said a very tired Niesenbaum afterwards. “I met a lot of really nice people who thanked us for what we were doing, even though they recognized that the chance of getting a puppy was one in 10 or one in six or whatever.”
“I’ve reached out to some rescue groups that I’ve worked with in the past to see who has puppies,” he said. “Obviously, the attraction here was young, small dogs. So I’m going to see who has young, small dogs available. I’m emailing people who did not get puppies to try and move more puppies out of the rescue system.”
Those who waited on line knew that none of the dogs would be going to new homes that day and that they were only there to view the dogs and submit their adoption applications.
“It was a great event and it was more work than I anticipated,” an uncomplaining Dr. Niesenbaum added. “It was an arduous day. We’re still recovering here. People were lined up an hour before we opened the doors (10 A.M.) and at 2 P.M. we had to cut off the line. But we were here until 3 or 3:30.”
Describing how the decision was made as to who would receive a puppy, he said, “I let my staff do it. We tried to figure out which people wanted which dogs and most people listed multiple choices. We called references and the staff went through the applications looking at things like, ‘Do they already have a dog? Do they have kids? Do they have a yard and what the home conditions are like.’”
“And we didn’t toss any applications,” Niesenbaum continued. “We had someone come in and change their mind so we just went back to the pile and went through it again. We probably had two or three or four good homes for every dog. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t give a dog to everyone.”
“Decisions were made based on how the staff thought that the dogs would fit into the household. The staff took notes when people were here, what their impressions of them were and we sort of ranked them.”
Those who were given dogs paid a $300.00 fee that covered all core vaccines and office visits for a year, in addition to spaying and neutering
“All I had to do was ‘meet’ and ‘greet’,” modestly admitted Niesenbaum, who’s been a practicing veterinarian since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986 and has two other facilities, Crawford Animal Hospital in Garden City Park and in Farmingdale.
Niesenbaum gave a lot of credit for the project’s success to his lead technician at Crawford in Garden City Park, Kim Norcott.
“She did the organizing for me and we also had a lot of help from another rescue organization, Guardians of Rescue and their point person, Joanne Contegiacomo,” he said.
“Joanne took control of moving people through on Sunday and getting the right puppies to people who wanted to see them. I think the Boston terrier and the Maltipoo drew the most attention.”