Pet Column – Dogs at the Crossroads

Our friend, Kerby

Editor’s note:  Lupa has been a dog person as long as she can remember. Her love of animals eventually led to a career working one on one with pets as a groomer. Always the one who the stray dogs followed home, now she actively works to improve the lives of pets and their humans, whether through helping to make routine grooming a positive and gentle experience, through education and through bringing together pet owners and needed resources.

By Lupa Jernigan, Desert Dogs

In Van Horn, we live at a crossroads.  We see thousands of travelers pass through our tiny town on a daily basis, driving cross country or coming to far West Texas to turn South towards Big Bend or North into New Mexico to see the caverns.  All the while, the dogs roaming these crossroads in the community of Van Horn remain.

As one who serves the pet community here, few are better acquainted with the number of pets I see on a weekly basis. Some are pampered lap dogs, getting fluffed and primped on a weekly basis.  Some faithfully greet business patrons and others ride out to their ranches in the back of pick-up trucks, eager to help their masters in whatever way they can.

Not all of our resident canines are so fortunate.  On a daily basis I see pets roaming freely in our streets or secured with a heavy chain, straining towards human contact when anyone passes by.  It is for these dogs I write today.

Dogs are pack animals. There is a great deal of evidence to show that dogs may have domesticated themselves. Descended from wolves and other wild canines, thousands of years ago the more curious among them began hanging out at the edges of human encampments.  They would have benefited from human food leftovers and humans would quickly have noticed that they discouraged other predators, or at the least, warned of their approach.

Over the centuries the human/canine partnership has flourished.  Now we see a staggering variety of dog breeds, developed to serve and entertain us. We see dogs helping the police and military do their jobs safely.  We see dogs who are bred and trained to give comfort to those suffering from PTSD.

And we see dogs who suffer greatly due to our neglect.

Our canine companions deserve to be safe and healthy.  They need basic vet care. Early spay and neuter can drastically reduce the numbers of homeless pets.  Vaccinations and de-wormer can keep them from becoming ill. They may need flea and/or tick preventatives if those pests are found in their environments.

Our dogs need to be kept off of our roads.  Ideally they should have a fenced yard and human interaction within those fences. Life on a chain is heart wrenching for them. Feeling, living beings with active minds, they waste away in confusion and isolation on a chain, becoming ever more anxious and frustrated as time goes by.

There are programs in place that can help. ROMP, based in Marfa, has extended their services to help cover the cost of spay or neuter surgery for dogs and cats in Culberson. Many vets in the surrounding areas will honor these vouchers.  Contact city hall for more information or go to

So much more help is needed though and no one person or organization can do it all.  If you are interested in working to improve the lives of our crossroads dogs, get in touch with me at [email protected].  Together, perhaps we can pave the way to a brighter future for some of our most loyal residents.


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