POR: Bob Anthony March 08, 2009
If you need him, he’ll be walking the dogs
Most people love animals, but there may be no one who loves them as much as Robert Anthony.
Anthony grew up in Elgin, Ill., and his family always owned at least one dog.
“I love animals,” Anthony said. “I’ve been involved with organizations my entire life. I belong to more organizations than I can count.”
After some more thought, Anthony figures he belongs to about a dozen animal organizations.
One of them is Best Friends Animal Society out of Kanab, Utah.
“At any one time, they have 2,000 animals there,” Anthony said. “They were one of the leading rescuers of animals with Hurricane Katrina.”
Anthony sponsors four dogs there and even sponsors an elephant at an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee and a chimp at Save the Chimps in Florida.
“My vehement passion is animal welfare,” Anthony said.
When Anthony left home to get a college education at Southern Illinois University, he left the family dogs, but he never forgot about them.
While studying for a degree in political science, Anthony worked part-time at the city recreation center and found his other passion.
He stayed at SIU and earned a master’s degree in physical education then found a job as the Director of Intramural Sports and Campus Recreation Services at Mesa State College.
He was hired at Mesa State in July 1984 and has been there ever since, but he never brought home a dog.
“It was more of a lifestyle thing,” Anthony said. “I was not home much and gone a lot on weekends. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to have a dog and not be around for it.”
To this day, he hasn’t brought home a dog, but he tells people he has two dozen dogs he walks nearly every weekend.
Anthony has walked rescued and relinquished dogs housed at Roice-Hurst Humane Society for the past seven years. The first time he showed up at Roice-Hurst, he walked a shepherd mix named Abby, he said.
“I get to know the dogs and make them more adoptable,” Anthony said. “My job is to get them physically and mentally healthy. Dogs are social. They need interaction. Anytime you have a dog that’s not around people or abused, they don’t have that.
“They are scared when they first come in (to the shelter). You have to be patient with them. It takes time to trust people again. If a dog is abused, most often it is by men, so it takes them longer to feel comfortable again. Almost all the time, dogs come out of their shells and are adoptable.”
Anthony has dealt with several scared dogs and was bitten several times.
Last summer, he had to see a doctor after an attack by a chocolate lab.
“Her name is Bean,” Anthony said. “I was not even walking her. She was a climber and had the ability to climb out of her kennel. She was just brought in and was running around scared. I was trying to help collect her. I made the mistake of trying to reach and grab her collar and she bit me. It was the worst bit I’ve ever had. I had puncture wounds. She turned out to be a wonderful dog and was adopted in December. She was just defending herself. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ve learned a lot of tricks of the trade through trial and error.”
With seven years of experience working with homeless dogs, Anthony has started teaching new volunteers how to handle dogs in certain situations.
He’s taught five classes so far, including one last month. He’s had an average of 15 people in each class.
“A lot of times, we don’t know the dog’s background when they come in,” Anthony said. “We get strays or even when owners relinquish an animal they don’t tell you everything. Some dogs are out of control and wild, but are friendly. My job is to get them to become more obedient.”
Anthony is getting especially attached to one dog.
When he retires from the college at the end of April after 25 years of work, Anthony is going to adopt that dog before he plans a hike or even a trip.
“There is a lot of things I want to do,” Anthony said. “I will continue to volunteer at the shelter, hike and travel.”
Although he doesn’t pay much attention to the breeds because “dogs have individual personalities,” he is taking home a dog he has walked for more than six months.
“I don’t know if it’s one thing,” said Anthony about his love of animals. “I think it has a lot to do with role modeling by my parents. They loved animals, so I did. I’d go fly fishing with my dad by the time I was old enough to throw a baseball. I had an appreciation for the outdoors.”