A couple of months back, the furkids and I were taking advantage of an unexpected warm day with a stroll around Oxford Lake. And of course by “warm,” I mean warm for February. And by “stroll,” I mean “stroll” for Kollee, which is to say there was a distinct zigzag pattern to it. I remember because when a pair of ducks made a run for the water, she zigged when I thought she would zag, slinging us Koopa-first into a gentleman with far better coordination than we.

After returning a discarded poop baggy with more tact than our rowdy trio warranted, he made the usual inquires: What kind of dogs? No idea, they’re both rescues. Names? Kollee and Koopa. No, not Cooper — Koop-a. Yes, like on Super Mario. Boys or girls? One of each.

His next remark caught me off guard: “Watch out when she gets a little older. He’s gonna go crazy when she’s in heat.”

In my head I thought, “Gross! What’s the matter with you? That’s his little sister!” But I just said, “Don’t worry, they’re both fixed.”

Since I always just assume dogs are fixed, I’m surprised when I run into one that’s not — like that boxer at the Grants Mill Station dog park who kept trying to play doctor with Kollee (no means no, buddy). But it was even more surprising to realize there are still people surprised when they run into dogs that are.

That’s something the people of S.A.V.E. have been working to change since 2009. Although it should need no further introduction, certainly not in a column for pet parents, at least, S.A.V.E. is a volunteer group that promotes low-cost spay and neuter programs to reduce Calhoun County’s population of stray and abandoned pets. It’s a problem of stunning proportions, according to volunteer and former board member Margaret Hatley, “particularly when you consider a male and female cat, if they aren’t fixed, can produce over 400,000 cats in a seven-year period — for dogs, that number is 62,000.”

Even more so considering the fate most will face, “ending up as strays, starving or being run down, dying of injuries on the side of the road,” Hatley explained. “Or they wind up in facilities with little hope of ever getting out.”

It’s a reality I for one am not OK with because before that zigzagging girl and her uncoordinated brother became my whole world, they were both strays.

Kollee was picked up last year by the Calhoun County Animal Control Center, until Semper Fi Rescue took a chance on a sad, skinny puppy with her nose pressed to a shelter cage. As a puppy, Koopa was abandoned in a parking lot with a skin condition so severe you almost weren’t sure he was canine — until my sister scooped him up and brought him home to me.

My two former strays were lucky. Most are not.

There are no hard data on the number of animals killed in shelters each year, but most organizations estimate it to be in the millions. According to S.A.V.E. partner Alabama Spay and Neuter Clinic, Alabama is responsible for at least 150,000 of those deaths — three out of four of which were perfect, adoptable dogs and cats whose time just ran out before a savior showed up.

And that’s a thought I can’t bear because all those terrified dogs peering out of shelter cages — they could all be my Kollee. And all those homeless pets wandering the streets — they could all be my Koopa.

But as long as the constant flood of new litters continues, “we’re never going to make any difference,” said Hatley. “You can’t rescue them all.”

S.A.V.E. the date

Come out to the Peerless Grille in downtown Anniston on Thursday from 5:30-9:30 p.m. for Dega Night, a benefit event for S.A.V.E.

Peerless Trivia mastermind Joe Jankoski is hosting a special edition of NASCAR-themed brainteasers with prizes for first, second and third place. A contest for best racing attire gives you an excuse to embrace your inner Danika or Dale Jr. And for those whose NASCAR knowledge begins and ends with Ricky Bobby, “Talladega Nights” will be playing to ensure at least one familiar face.

The highlight of the evening is a silent auction featuring items donated by a S.A.V.E. board member with “quite an impressive collection of NASCAR memorabilia,” said Hatley. Among the rare and vintage pieces up for bid are items autographed by Dale Earnhardt, Ryan Newman, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison.

A donation of $5 or more is requested at the door and all the proceeds from the evening go to help S.A.V.E. on its mission to reduce the population of stray and abandoned pets in Calhoun County.