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Kevin Woster

Kevin Woster

My plan this week was to write something interesting about politics. Or religion. Or maybe particle physics.

OK, scratch the particle-physics thing. But otherwise, that was my plan. Really.

And you know what boxers say: Everybody’s got a plan, until they get hit.

In this case, I got hit by the public announcement last week by the Humane Society of the Black Hills of higher pet-reclaim fees — the ones I am certain to pay eventually, because of Rosie.

Even more than fees — or fines, as you prefer — the hard-charging springer spaniel that leads me into divine upland-bird coverts each autumn will now be likely to lead me into court to appear before a judge.

Where I will be asked to explain myself, and herself — as in Rosie, the Harry Houdini of our backyard.

She’s a fine hunting dog, friendly to people, athletic in unfriendly vegetation and relentless on the trail of a pheasant or ruffed grouse. But she likes to stay busy. No, she has to stay busy. So when she’s not hunting birds or strolling the boulevard with me, she’s hunting for other ways to entertain herself.

Those ways have included prying open the confections drawer in kitchen and consuming enough dark chocolate to require $700 in emergency vet care. They have included consuming, at last count, 14 socks, most of them belonging to one grandchild or another.

So far, all socks have been accounted for, one way or another — literally.

But Rosie loves most of all to roam, if she can find a way out of the fenced backyard, with or without help from one of the 16 grandkids.

Which is how she and I have come to know the Humane Society of the Black Hills and the fees there for bailing out a pooch that has wandered into incarceration.

Up until Jan. 2, the shelter was charging us $80 to reclaim an “altered” dog. And I think we all know what “altered” means without getting into emotionally painful detail.

Owners of “unaltered” dogs on the loose have been paying a $95 reclaim fee. The Human Society likes to promote, well, alteration.

Rosie has been so altered. So the revised fee structure will cost me $100 the next time she ends up in the hoosegow. Owners of unaltered dogs will pay $150.

The new fees also contain a carrot-and-stick feature, without the carrot. Three times in the Human Society jail for a dog equals one trip for the owner to stand before a judge.

That means three times in a dog’s life. And Rosie is not quite seven. So based on past performance of about one incarceration a year or so, I’ll be in court. Unless I beg Humane Society mercy.

Executive Director Jacque Harvey says, well, we’ll see.

“You’re not really a frequent flyer. Yours is more sporadic,” she says. “We have frequent flyers that sometimes come in every few weeks. And if we get the same dogs ending up with us time after time, we want those owners to have to think about it and what they can do to contain their animals.”

Cat containment matters, too. But owners now pay a reduced reclaim fee, from the previous $80 and $95 levels based on alteration status to a single fee of $75, either way. That’s designed to get more people to reclaim their cats.

“Many people are just not the same when it comes to their cats as they are with their dogs,” Harvey says. “People are just more willing to reclaim dogs.”

I’m pretty sure Rosie has figured that out.

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Kevin Woster has been a reporter in South Dakota for 40 years. He now writes a blog and does radio commentary for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He can be reached by emailing

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