Monday, September 5, 2011

A Shelter Dog Finds a Home

At the Mercer County Shelter in Kentucky, Ziggy was known as "Spot," a thin, 3 year old Beagle mix with asymmetrical eyes and long, soft ears, a stray who either got lost or who was dumped.  When a dog enters a shelter as a stray and isn't claimed, I figure he's been dumped.  Had he been lost, his family could have found him.

I advocate for dogs adopted through the Mercer Humane Society, having become Facebook friends with Kathy Whitelock, a woman whose tireless efforts have helped to save the Mercer shelter dogs.  I was immediately struck by the dog called "Spot" while going through Kathy's album of adoptable Mercer dogs to see who was new. 

I'd already decided to adopt another dog when I first saw him.  I was just trying to decide how to decide what dog to adopt. I'd settled on one main criterion: the dog had to be on a euth list.  And Spot, being a shelter newcomer, wasn't on that list.  But he was small, and I had also decided a smaller dog would work out best.  And he was part Beagle.  I always feel especially sympathetic toward the Beagles and Beagle mixes in shelters, and missed Bailey, my Beagle who had passed on some time ago.  And I figured that sooner or later, Spot would more than likely be on the list.

I suppose I expected Spot, who became Ziggy, to be like Bailey -- fairly quiet, though playful.  But Bailey had been between 6 and 8 years old when I adopted him from the local shelter.  The first few days, Ziggy was manic.  I wondered if he slept more than an hour a day.

He's been with me, Kita, and Perry 3 weeks now, and he has calmed down, though he's very active.  He and Kita play like crazy, and I've just begun taking him to the dog park where he gets a good work out with the other dogs.  He caught on to "sit for treats" really fast.  He's catching on to house-training.  His worst habit is to chew -- pillow cases, blankets, anything soft, shoes.  In many ways he still acts like a puppy.  I think he's the happiest dog I've ever seen.

I think Ziggy's greatest joy when freed from the shelter, like Kita's, was to simply be able to run in his new home's fenced in yard.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Puggles, Labradoodles, Breeders and Death

The names sound like cartoon characters, or words a group of 5 year olds would make up while playing make-believe:  Chiweenie, Puggle, Labradoodle, Goldendoodle, Schnoodle, Pomapoo. 

There's something disturbing about these childlike names. 

The breeders who created designer dogs were cold, calculating, cynical, their only intent to cash in on their creations.  And they were very sharp and skilled marketers.

Understanding the power of labels, they chose names that not only conveniently reflected the two breeds from which the designer dog sprang,  but more importantly that made the cute pet shop puppies sound even cuter and more appealing:  Schnoodle -- it sounds like a sweet breakfast roll, a reward you give yourself on weekends; Pomapoo -- a wind up toy to play with; Labradoodle, Godendoodle -- doodles, little scribbles you don't take seriously, but that are so much fun. 

And that's the message:  these dogs are fun, fun, and more fun.  They weren't bred to do jobs, like German Shepherds or Black Labs, Great Pyranees or Border Collies.  They're even less serious than lap dogs, such as Pomeranians and Pugs.  Designer dogs are the quintessential play thing, with names more akin to toy stuffed animals than to real dogs.

But they are real dogs.  They bark, shed, tear things up in their teething and teenage years, create messes and need to be house trained, fed, watered and walked.  Only their names are toy-like.

Of course these pet shop pups, like their purebred counterparts,  come from puppy mills.  Anyone who buys one, whether because they've been swept into the Schnoodle fad or they couldn't resist the adorable puppy with the cute name when they idly wandered into the mall pet shop, supports puppy mills.  And puppy mills are a living death for the mill breeder dogs.

And now designer dogs show up not only in pet shops, but as older pups or adults in rescues and kill shelters as well. They're listed for free on Craig's list and even simply abandoned when no longer wanted.

Perhaps they get adopted in the kill shelter; perhaps a rescue pulls them.  This is terrific.  It is not their fault they ended up homeless, facing shelter death.  They did not deserve this fate in the least.  It is not their fault that they were created when there was already an over abundance of dogs in the world.

But because breeders created these dogs and because, predictably, some end up in shelters and are adopted or rescued,  another dog -- a mixed breed dog who is perhaps rather plain and who lacks a cute, cuddly "breed" name for people to latch onto -- dies.

 Dog breeders: the problem is they create more death than life.

Puggle for Adoption at the Kenton County Shelter, KY

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Animal Cruelty and Pro Dog Legislation

I've seen too many horror stories about dog abuse in the past couple of weeks.  Of course, even one story in a lifetime is too many.

The Bad

This week there was an article on a dog nearly decapitated, but found alive.  Though veterinarians tried to save her, she died.  The perpetrator was caught. 

 Tonight there's an article on a puppy being stomped to death.  The man who did it was retaliating against his girlfriend, who would not go out to buy him more beer.

There's the sheriff in Kentucky who killed a stray dog and her newborn puppies.  The dog, chained, lunged at him, he said.  So he shot her, and said he took the just born pups to a shelter to be "euthanized."  Did he consider that the dog probably felt threatened and was defending her pups?  Rescue had been arranged, but the woman who took the dog in was out on a 15 minute errand when the killing occurred.

The Good 

Jerry Brown, governor of California, has signed a bill to prohibit the sale of pets on public property, such as street corners.  Thank you Jerry Brown.

Texas has passed puppy mill legislation, setting minimum standards for puppy mills.  This, at least, is a step forward, I suppose, but mills need to be entirely shut down.

Suffolk county New York is working on legislation to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet shops.  Thanks to those legislators who support this bill; hoping it passes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Which Dog To Save?

I've been remiss again, neglecting this fledgling blog. I might blame it on the ennui of summer; extreme heat, the air warm, heavy, damp, like breathing in fog. I close the blinds against the sun, and feel I'm in a cave. Mainly, I miss taking Perry and Kita for trail walks. It's too hot, and, anyway, it's tick season. Perry and Kita lie around, tired after briefly trying to dig lizards out from their hiding spots.

This post is purely personal, though I suspect anyone who does rescue, and many who have adopted from a kill shelter, have had the same dilemma I'm going to write about.

I've spent too much time looking at the "URGENT" lists for two rural shelters east of the city, both over an hour away. The shelters are small, poor. This morning, after putting in a few work hours, I was going to rush to one, save a particular dog who was to be killed today. But last night I saw that the dog I was going to get was rescued, and the other dogs had been given a brief reprieve, until Monday. But more dogs were added to the list.

The second shelter is perhaps sadder, with photographs of dogs in indoor kennels that look rather dark, the floor traditional cement. The adoption fee is only $20 for a dog, $30 for a younger puppy. The dogs are not vetted.

There's a sad Beagle mix, a rather plain looking dog. His write up says he didn't know what treats were when he came to the shelter, and didn't understand human affection. Then there's a 5 month old black dog, a lab mix, who looks so frightened.

I want to bring them both home. I want to bring them all home. How, after all, do you leave behind the matronly, older Beagle? Or the beautiful but thin and frightened Bluetick Coonhound?

I cannot really afford even one more dog. Perry needs his teeth cleaned, and it's time to buy more heartworm preventative. I buy Blue Buffalo, which isn't cheap, and at 78 pounds, Kita goes through it rather quickly. My truck needs work and I need new work boots. Hell, I need new sandals and a visit to the dentist myself.

And I know what it costs for an unvetted dog: Heartworm test and preventative (and hope the dog doesn't have heartworm); vaccinations; general check up, and hope the dog is healthy. A friend spent $400 on his Beagle from the local shelter, clearing up worms and other maladies, and the Beagle had his full set of vaccinations and was neutered when adopted.

But mainly, it's deciding which dog to bring home. How do you leave others behind, facing death if no one else wants them? How do you decide? I've done it before. I'm not sure how -- I probably told myself the others would find homes. But I no longer delude myself in that way.

So I talk myself out of taking in another dog, for now, a rational decision, an inability to save one and leave others behind, perhaps a personal failing.

Added Two Days Later:  The day after writing the above, still haunted by the two dogs I especially wanted to get out of the shelter, I went to the shelter's Pet Finder page.  There had been around 12 dogs and a litter of puppies at the shelter.  But yesterday, there were only 2 dogs and the puppies.

I knew that 10 dogs hadn't been adopted overnight.  I knew they had been killed.  I told them I was sorry.  I cried without making a sound.  I told myself at least someone was grieving for them, but that rang hollow.  What good did my grieving do?

This is what failure feels like.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

This Week's Ups and Downs for Dogs

 Many Thanks To:

Gov. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii for signing a bill to make dog fighting a felony. And thanks to the legislators who sponsored and supported this bill.
Governor Signs Bill Making Dog Fighting a Felony

The Colorado Springs Humane Society Officer who broke a car window to save the dog left in the hot car, and the person who reported that the dog was in the car. Everyone should take action when they see a dog left in a car on a hot day!
Humane Society Rescues Dog Left in Hot Car

David Sharpe who founded Pets for Vets. Shelter dogs find homes with veterans with PTSD or other needs. Sharpe himself was saved by a dog he adopted from a shelter.
Desperate Vet Finds Healing Power in Pound Pup

Thumbs Way Down For:

South Bend Animal Control for giving strays only 48 to 72 hours to be claimed. I guess strays don't even get a chance to be adopted? A woman's lost dog was killed just 3 hours before she arrived at the shelter.
Owner Calls South Bend Dog's Euthanasia Unfair

The man who ran over a Border Collie on purpose during a cattle drive. He also struck several cattle and sped away. Police are looking for him.
Sierra County Cattleman's Dog Fights for Life

Anyone who leaves their dog, cat, or kids in a hot car
. Another dog left in car, but this one didn't make it.
Dog Locked in Car Dies, Owner Arrested

Saturday, June 18, 2011

This Week's Good and Bad for Dogs

Thumbs Up For:

Legislator Jon Cooper for proposing a ban on the sale of puppy mill dogs in Suffolk County, New York.
Suffolk Would Ban Puppy Sales at Pet Stores

The Invisible Fence company for its "Project Breathe" campaign, which donates pet oxygen mask kits to fire departments.
Local Firefighters to Get Pet Oxygen kits

The state of Nevada for making first offense "willful or malicious cruelty" to an animal a felony.  (In my own state of Ohio, cruelty is not a felony crime).  I wish Nevada had passed SB 364 to ban horse tripping as well.
Humane Society Says New Laws Mean Nevada Is Now Nicer to Animals

Thumbs Down For: 

Responsible Pet Owners Alliance, American Sporting Dog Alliance, The Lone Star State American Pit Bull Terrier Club, and the Sportsmen's and Animal Owners Voting Alliance: these groups were against  legislation passed in Texas to make the lives of mill dogs less horrible.
Texas Puppy Mill Bill

Tony Ed Bloodsworth, an animal control officer and Mayor of New Brockton, Alabama, Lenwood Herron.  Both were charged with cruelty due to "deplorable" conditions at the New Brockton animal "shelter."
Animal Control Officer Indicted in Animal Cruelty Case

The person who stole a disabled dog's wheelchair in West Roxbury, MA.  (and thumbs up to who replaced the wheelchair free of charge).
Dog's Wheelchair Stolen

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Temperament Tests: An Unfair Way to Decide Who Lives and Dies

You have to click the link at the end of this post to a video by Eldad Hagar. I came across  Hagar  a couple of  weeks ago on the internet.  Put simply, he and his wife rescue dogs in L.A., calling their rescue Hope for Paws.

Hagar creates powerful videos of  rescues as they happen. I wish they were shown on TV -- on the mainstream news, on 60 Minutes, on the morning talk shows watched by women.  I can't imagine anyone who's seen one of his videos not saving a dog in a kill shelter instead of buying a pet.

Hagar rescues dogs who are so down and out that if picked up by animal control they would no doubt have been killed rather than being put up for adoption, and he also saves shelter dogs slated for death at the shelter.

One such dog, Chase, was to be killed the day Hagar rescued her. A small dog with dirty, matted hair,  abused by her owner then dumped at a shelter, Chase curls back her lips in a snarl and jumps at Hagar's hand when he reaches into her cage.  Who would adopt this dog?  And if the shelter used temperament testing to determine if she were adoptable, certainly she would fail. 

The video made me think about temperament testing, which can be used in one of two basic ways: 1) to determine what type of home the dog would best be placed in and what type of training it might require, and 2) to determine whether the dog should be put up for adoption or killed. 

Chase probably would have failed the test before it even started.  What's the point of testing a dog who tries to bite when you reach into her cage?

How many dogs are never given a chance because they are terrified at the shelter, victims of abuse, have never known any kindness, and only know to try to protect and defend themselves as best they can?

This video is worth a thousand words.  Watch it and you'll know what I mean.
Chase: Rescued the Day She Was Scheduled to be Euthanized