Thursday, December 29, 2011

When Dogs Bite

Over the 4th of July, a cousin had his annual party.  He lives in a house on a river with split level acreage.  It's a huge bash every year with at least 20 people coming.  The day is filled with drinking, eating and fireworks. 

I'm already setting the stage.  Can you see it coming?

This year, one of the relatives brought their lab.  This lab is a family pet.  He's neutered.  He lives inside the house with the family.  He's well socialized, well trained and loves everyone including the three year old in the household.  She's remarkably gentle given that toddlers tend to like to pull, poke and prod, but she has parents who are generally on top of things.  She is never left unsupervised with the dog and has been taught "gentle" (yes, you can teach a child commands as well as you can teach a dog).

Concerned about the noise (but not enough to leave the dog home), the owners took him to the vet ahead of time and got a prescription for an anti-anxiety pill to help him deal with the fireworks. 

Fast forward to the 4th - we now have a well socialized dog around 40 people, more than half of them strangers and most of them drinking.  Add in the fireworks, the rush of kids and a new drug.  You've got a recipe for disaster.

But they added another one.

Because he was still acting nervous, they chained him up down by the river.

So now you have a nervous dog on a medication that he's not used to, terrified by the loud noises and sights and he's chained up with nowhere to go. 

The older kids saw him growl and backed away.  Because older kids can be better at reading dog signals.  But the three year old girl who lived with him and loved him?  Didn't see a threat.  Unfortunately, everyone thought someone else was watching her.  She went in search of her dog, found him and went right up to him.  Since she was all alone when it happened, we don't know the entire situation.  He was right next to the water so we're very lucky she ended up with some bites than in the river where she could have drowned.

The evening of the 4th was spent in the hospital getting stitches in her poor little face and back.

Do we blame the dog?


The owners took full responsibility.  They had him evaluated by the vet, who took responsibility for prescribing the drug and felt that added to the situation.  In hindsight, he said it was poor judgement on his part for giving the dog a drug it had never had (and a full dose at that) and not warning the owners about the possible side effects. 

They had him evaluated by a behaviorist, who pointed out that chaining the dog was the absolute catalyst in the entire poorly thought out day.  After thoroughly assessing the dog over the course of days in many different situations, the conclusion was that the aggression shown in the bite at the river was situational and the cause of a frightened, drugged up dog with nowhere to go.

The dog is still in the home.  He is still not left alone with the child.  But he hasn't shown a single sign of aggression toward the child.  Their relationship has returned to normal.  He will get to stay home for the 4th of July next year - drug free and off a chain.

People like to just blame an animal for biting, but no dog bites without a reason and without warning (unless that dog has been punished for showing warning signs in the past).  It's easy to simply blame the dog, but to keep bites from happening, we need to learn from them.  We need to step back and thoroughly assess the situation with the help of experts to determine the why and see what could have been changed in the situation.  Education is key.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Present?

Do pets make good Christmas presents?

There isn't a one size fits all answer for this question. I know that some shelters and rescue groups don't like adopting out around the holidays for fear that the puppy or dog or kitten or cat will end up back at the shelter or rescue in the New Year.

 I think the better question is: When do pets make good presents?

 My brother, sister-in-law and nephew had to say good-bye to their beloved dog last month after eight years. Corkie was 16. It was a difficult decision and one that my five year old nephew didn't quite understand. All he knows is that his dog is no longer around and he misses her. They decided that their Christmas present to each other was going to be...a new dog. And this decision came spur of the moment based on a picture of a dog that their friend was fostering. The puggle is a year and a half old, great with kids, cats and other dogs. They took him home for a two day trial, which sealed the deal. They now have a new dog. They didn't mention to the rescue dog that this was their present to each other. Why? Because rescue groups can cringe at that word. But this is a good adoption. My brother hasn't had a puppy ever. He wants to do this the right way. This means we've been on the phone constantly - which kong is appropriate? What treats are good for him? What food would be best to feed him because he read that Puggles can tend to have skin allergies? He pulls on the leash, but he sits. He needs more training - can I recommend a certified trainer in their area? What toys are best? You would think they have a newborn. (And adorable - while my brother is on the phone with me, my nephew is shouting in the background, "DAD! DAD! Scooby needs this!") This is one lucky dog. This was an okay present.

 When someone is expecting a pet, they make great presents. If my husband showed up Christmas morning with a dog and said, "Merry Christmas!", I would be ecstatic. We're searching for a new addition to the family already. We know what we are getting into. It's nice for a family to make the decision on a dog together, but my husband knows me well enough to know what I'm looking for in a new dog (American Pit Bull Terrier, at least three years of age, preferably male, good with cats, dogs, and kids; any color but blue). This would be the best present ever!

My mom's friend got a shepherd puppy from rescue for her daughter last Christmas. Yes, "for her daughter." (this phrase will get you escorted out of some rescues/shelters)  And little Emma was so excited when she opened that box to see the puppy she had been praying for and writing Santa for! They had looked at pictures on the internet, read countless articles and breed websites to find which dog was best for them and had finally decided on a German Shepherd.  Emma wanted a puppy.  Mom and dad were okay with that, doing their own research on crate training.  On Christmas morning, Emma had to run a present over to the neighbors house with her dad (the ruse to get her out of the house while the rescue group dropped off the puppy).  Her mom waited in the room until she heard her husband ring the doorbell. As he opened the door, she put the lid on the box. Emma opened it immediately - gasped in surprise and wonder, then burst into tears. "Emma, what's wrong?" her mom asked. "The puppy could have died!" Emma sobbed. "And she must have been so scared in the box all dark.  Why was Santa so MEAN?" How sweet! Emma's new puppy came with a crate, dog bed, toys, leash, collar, dog food and training classes. A year later and they have a beloved family member. That gift worked out. The novelty didn't wear off, as Emma's parents expected. She still participates in the dog's evening walks with mom and dad. It's a family affair. But mom and dad fully expected to be the primary caretakers of the dog. Hence, why this worked out so well. With research done ahead of time, this lucky puppy got a forever home - starting as a little girl's Christmas present.

So why do rescue groups say that pets don't make good gifts? Because in some cases they don't. People who get their child a pet without doing any research and are expecting a teenager to be the primary caretaker of the (dog, cat, puppy, kitten, hamster, snake) often don't like when the caretaking falls to them after the novelty has worn off. People who buy a pet for someone who isn't suspecting it just because they "always love playing with the puppies at the pet store" aren't doing that person a favor. It's one thing to fall in love with a fluffy furball in the store - another thing entirely to be getting up every four hours to make sure it doesn't go to the bathroom in his crate or puppy proofing the home after the cushions have been chewed. Pets can make good gifts if everyone involved is expecting it. Clarifying this can go a long way toward making rescues and shelters appear to be more accepting of holiday adoptions. Holiday adoptions can save lives. Pets like to be home for the holidays too.

That's Scooby snoozing away while my nephew and his best friend play their video games. Scooby was the perfect present for this family!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why I Train My Dog

I love to walk. I love to walk with my dog. There is nothing more annoying to me than walking and being harassed by another dog whether I have my dog with me or am solo (small dog owners, take note - that little yipper may be cute to you, but the rest of us resent the interruption as it barks and lunges at our ankles or at our dog). This has driven me to be almost drill sargentish about any dog that I adopt. When I walk Lily, she sits at EVERY corner. Without exception. If there is a walk or jogger approaching us, we get onto the grass and she sits in front of me with her eyes on me until I release her.

I take pride in hearing the following daily:

"What a good dog!" (Three times tonight in two blocks)

"What a sweet baby!"

"I wish my dog was that well trained!"

Lily really is a good girl. She didn't come this way. It took a lot of time, effort and energy to get her there. She did more work than I did. She deserves the praise so it's nice when she gets to hear it from someone other than me.

What annoys me on walks:

"Don't let it hurt my dog!" (Heard that one twice tonight as the little dog owners struggled to pull their flexie leashes in BY HAND because they could not control the leash or their small aggressive dog. My dog's eyes never left mine, by the way, even though I'm sure she wanted to run while I had to fight the urge to punt the dog back at the owner)

"You trained your dog?" (This one was said totally incredulously like training was unheard of issue while she picked up her "teacup" in its sweater and it bit her on the cheek - ah, redirected aggression...workable issue with some training)

I would be ashamed to walk the neighborhoods with my dog acting the way that 98% of the dogs in my neighborhood act. I used to think it was a small dog issue. Perhaps owners of large family dogs are just more responsible.

Meet Kiwi.

She weighs all of 3 pounds.

She is well trained.

Kiwi can sit. Kiwi can shake. Kiwi can give you high five.

Kiwi is a good girl because her parents didn't think that having a small dog meant that you didn't have to train her. Notice how good Kiwi looks in a dress. Kiwi can be fashionable AND well behaved. It's possible.

Even Lily can be fashionable and well behaved. Note her fabulous sit in her stylish Bumblebee costume.

It's frustrating hearing from people that they have a "bad" dog. Dogs are only as good as their owners. My dog rocks because I rock. Yes, I'm patting myself on the back. Kiwi rocks because her owners rock. If you have a bad dog, what does that mean? It's a reflection on you as an owner. You haven't done your job. Even when a dog comes to you at four years of age, they are still a blank slate - wiped clean for you to train. I train my dog because I want a "good" dog. Don't you?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dispelling a Few Myths

"You're awesome!"

I've been told this on numerous occasions and while I would like to take credit for being awesome, the truth is that I am no more awesome than YOU, the person reading this right now.

"I'm only one person."

So am I. One person who is no more awesome than you.

Here's my secret...

Lean in close...


Sometimes I do awesome things.

It's true.

I am only one person who is no more awesome than you but sometimes I do awesome things.

See? No different than you. You can do awesome things too. It's very simple. When you see a need, help. That's it.

Example #1: An email went out from a friend who worked at Disney. She had a delivery guy who was doing something awesome - feeding the stray cats in his neighborhood. He gave them shelter and food. The shelter was not inside his house because these were feral cats struggling to survive. He saw a need and he did something awesome.

Then my friend, Laura (who does many awesome things), sent an email out asking if anyone knew how to trap cats. See, just one person doing something awesome. She didn't have experience with Trap-Neuter-Release, but she had a plethora of contacts and figured someone would.

I got the email. I know how to trap cats! So I did something awesome - I emailed her back and said that I would be willing to help. One person, no more awesome than you, doing something awesome.

See, three people managed to improve the lives of 7 cats! Easy, right?

Example #2 - We are teaching in Lake View Terrace right now. I came out of school the other day to find a sick cat. I met the woman who is feeding the local cats. She's just one person and she's doing something awesome.

She broke down and cried because she's overwhelmed. Kittens are dying. She doesn't drive. She wants to get the cats fixed.

I can trap! I'm just one person, but I volunteered to help. She won't be sad anymore because no more kittens will be born to get sick or end up in coyote tummies.

She is one person doing something awesome - feeding the cats that have been abandoned in her area.

I am one person doing something awesome - helping her trap them.

FixNation is doing big awesome helping people like us do this for FREE.

But they are more than one person.

"It takes someone special to do what you do."

No, it doesn't.

I'm no more special than you.

Meredith is no more special than you.

We are simply individuals who saw needs and stepped up.

Anyone can do it!

Can you imagine if every one person did one awesome thing? What a great world we would have!

We'll feature one person doing awesome again next Wednesday! Get ready to hear about the awesome things that Lea is doing!

So tell us - what awesome thing(s) have you done?

Friday, August 26, 2011

FUN Friday

Let's start our weekend with some CUTE videos!

How you can not finish the day with a smile after those?

Have a great weekend everyone!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dog Treat Recipes

My bestfriend and I love to make our dogs treats. It's a fun thing to do to occupy our time during a playdate! And it's great to have something to send home with the dog who has played with Lily and gotten her worn out for the night! Here are a few of our favorite recipes. Do you have any?

Peanut Butter Dog Treats

2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1 cup milk

2 cups whole-wheat flour1 tbsp. baking powder1 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375. In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk. Once mixed, add it to the flour and baking powder bowl. Mix well and then knead the dough. Roll dough onto lightly floured surface. Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes or roll them into small balls and drop on cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

Flea Away Dog Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup brewer’s yeast
1 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup chicken, beef or vegetable stock (low sodium)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, combine the garlic and oil. Then add the flour mixture and the stock into the oil and garlic, beating until the dough is well mixed. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough with cookie cutters or make your own shapes with a knife. Bake 20 to 25 minutes on greased cookie sheets until the biscuits are browned. Cool before serving.
**** The brewer's yeast and garlic are rumored to help keep fleas away.

Doggie Ices
1 small dog treat, dry or soft
Water or Chicken Broth

Fill ice cube trays with water, then drop in the dog treat. Place in freezer until frozen (around 2-3 hours). Pop out and give to your dog. Great treat on a hot summer day!

For more great homemade treat recipes for your dog, check out these books:

Three Dog Bakery Cookbook: Over 50 Recipes for All Natural Treats for Your Dog
by Quadrillion Press and Dan Dye
The Ultimate Dog Treat Cookbook: Homemade Goodies for Man’s Best Friend
by Liz Palika and Troy Cummings
Treats!: For Dogs, Cats and Birds by Kathleen Stacey and Deborah LePage

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Adventures with Lily

We love to take Lily on road trips with us. She just spent a week in the mountains in Oregon lounging around our campsite, greeting visitors and hiking the mountains with us.

Then we spent two days in Sequim, Washington visiting friends. She got to do a few fun hikes/walks with friends in their beatiful neighborhood. Yes, that creek runs through the forest only a few short blocks from their house! Lily had a blast.

We stopped in Long Beach, Oregon and walked along the pier.

There were steps leading down to the shore so we took them. Now that is a happy puppy!

She ended each evening sacked out and snoring. A good dog is a tired dog.

It's important to us that we include Lily in our lives. She deserves a chance to get out there and sniff, explore and investigate this wonderful world around her. It makes her a better dog - well socialized and well traveled. It's fun for us as well. We get to see the world through her eyes, with all of her enthusiasm and wonder.

What about you - do you take your pets with you when you travel?

Monday, August 15, 2011

How Many Is Too Many?

We just got back from a nice vacation with our dog, Lily. Our pet sitter took care of the cats for us. They were happy to have us back, but not so thrilled we brought the dog back with us. Waiting in our mailbox was a notice from the city. They are now requiring all cats be registered, in addition to dogs. The registration fee is $5 a year. BUT to register them, they must be microchipped. The shelter is willing to offer this additional service (conveniently) for $10 per cat. Oh, and one more thing - there is now a limit of 3 pets (cats and dogs) per residence.

I understand that times are tight and shelters need to raise money. This particular city shelter has come under criticism a lot in the past decade because they are never full and they refuse to help out other shelters because this would drive up their numbers. Yes, it would save lives but that's beside the point. For them, it's numbers.

So what do they think is going to happen with mandatory registration and limiting the number of pets in a household? If someone gets the notice and is over the number of pets, they're going to show up at the shelter to relinquish a few. Or, if they show up based on a complaint and confiscate an animal or two, they're going to bring them back to...their shelter. The numbers are going to go up.

Many cities place restrictions on pets. It's a reasonable thing to do. Most cities say 3 dogs. Lumping the cats in with the dogs will not end well for the cats. If the number of animals is not overwhelming to the caretaker and these animals are well taken care, why should there be a restriction? If someone has a large home with a large backyard, why are three dogs and three cats not an acceptable number? The animals are the only ones who suffer and we're already killing over 4 million adoptable animals each year in our shelters. Why add to that number at a time when animals are being relinquished at a higher rate with the economy? These pets have homes where they are loved, fed and cared for. There is no logical reason to take them out of these homes and add to the numbers at any shelter.

I get that the city wants to make money - and feels that mandatory registration is a great way to do so. However, if they aren't going door to door, they aren't going to get every pet registered. We have a young man who lives down the street from us and doesn't register his pets because he "doesn't believe in it." How many more are there like him on our block? In our city?

And how many is too many?

Friday, July 22, 2011

FUN Friday

It's Friday - time for some FUN!

There's something so cute about kittens at play!

To add to the cuteness quota today, two bunnies sharing a meal.

And to get your blood pumpin' - how about some Wallace action?

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday's Favorites

My name is Wednesday. That's me, the little gray cat. I'm on the lap of my favorite person - Dad. I'm not that fond of the stinky dog next to him. She's scared of me, though, so it works. I like to tell her where she can sleep and chase her off the couch. Just to make sure she never forgets that I'm the boss.

I wanted to share some of my favorite things with you. Besides naps. Those are the best, but you already know that. Especially if you have cats.

While we're discussing naps, this is my favorite place to take one. Okay, second favorite. Dad's lap is the first. I love this cat tree. It puts me way up high where I feel secure. I like to nap in the cubbyhole while my sister, Pip, takes the very bottom. It's fun to race around the house, up and down the tree.

Mom doesn't let us scratch the furniture so these come in handy. We have two in the living room and I love to use them. One of them has sisal rope on it. Why do we scratch? I scratch because I like to mark my territory. It also just feels good!

These things are fun to play with by myself. They roll all over the house. We have hardwood floors so they work really well. If I get tired of one room, I can pick them up in my mouth and run into the next one. Mom finds them under the couch when she cleans on the weekend. My favorites are the wide ones. I don't have a color preference.

Mom and Dad play with us every day. I wish they would spend all day playing, but they have things to do. When they break this thing out, I go nuts. You should see me run and jump and flip trying to catch that dang bird. Mom says I'm very acrobatic. Whatever that means. I just know it's fun, fun, fun!

These are just a few of my favorites. I also love cat nip, which Mom sometimes spreads on the floor right before she vacuums. I can roll around in it and eat it for hours! It's fun when a fly gets in the house as well. I love to track and chase those little buggers. And I'm very sneaky with Mom's hair bands. I like to sneak those when I can. They're fun to bat around. I leave them in the water bowls for her. I know, I'm so thoughtful. I know I made them dirty on the floor so I like to clean them up for her.

What about your cats - do they have any favorite toys?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Video Recommendation – “Assessing Dog to Dog Interactions”

I make it a habit never to take someone else’s word for it when it comes to my dogs’ safety around other dogs. I find it really frustrating how often someone shouts to me, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly,” as they plow their way over to us while holding onto their dog’s leash for dear life. In the best cases, the dog is dog-friendly but has poor social skills to approach other dogs in that manner. In the worst cases, the dog is actually dog-aggressive and the owner is oblivious.

I’d consider myself somewhat knowledgeable about canine body language, but I still have a LOT to learn and I’m certainly no expert. I asked my trainer Janine Pierce of J9sK9s Dog Training for advice and she recommended a video made by Sue Sternberg called “Assessing Dog to Dog Interactions.” The video is a step-by-step assessment of a series of dogs greeting each other both on-leash and off-leash, and how to determine whether an interaction between the dogs is safe or risky. It will give you a better understanding of your dog’s signals whether you’re casually encountering another dog on walks or trying to interpret his play style with other dogs.

What I love about the video is that they repeatedly slow the interactions down to help the viewer identify the subtle behavior signs that are easy to miss in real time. The video highlights many signals that I was previously unaware of. I also liked that the video uses subtitles instead of narration (which I find easy to tune out). I highly recommend this video for anyone interested in becoming more behavior-savvy.

The video also makes a point that I think is important to share for those of you who don’t watch it – dogs greeting one another on-leash is the WORST way for dogs to meet. Most dogs find it stressful. Keep in mind when you’re walking your dog that just as humans don’t shake hands with every person they pass on the street, dogs don’t need to say hi to every dog they pass on their walk. Try to save dog interactions for off-leash time at the park or doggy play dates.

And for those of you that are fortunate to have dog-friendly dogs, PLEASE keep this in mind: your dog is only 50% of the equation. Don’t assume that because your dog is friendly, that the other dog is too. As the guardian of a dog-timid Labrador, I’m constantly given odd looks when I explain that Harley doesn’t enjoy on-leash greetings with other dogs. For everyone’s safety, it’s important (and also polite) to ASK first before allowing your dog to approach another dog. If you allow your dog-friendly dog to approach another dog without getting permission first and the other dog responds with a snarl and a bite, it’s because of YOUR lack of proper “petiquette,” not his.

- Meredith

Friday, July 15, 2011

FUN Friday

I struggled with renaming this because of the first video. But it is Friday and we will have some fun after this clip demonstrating the loyalty of dogs.

(The dog survives and they are reunited).

What's cuter than a kitten playing?

These dogs know how to have fun!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Aftermath of 4th of July

Our AmStaff, Lily, is a big baby. She managed to make it through her first three 4th of July fireworks with little more than a moderate concern. Unfortunately, this year we were walking her after dark on the 3rd of July and some teenage boy thought it would be funny to set off a firecracker right next to her (not funny even to him when I got done with my verbal lashing in front of all of his friends). The damage had already been done. Lily tried to run the three blocks home.

This turned the 4th of July into torture for her. Despite having the television on, which has worked in the past, she spent the twenty minutes panting heavily on her dog bed. We ignored her and went about our evening. It took her almost two hours until she fell into an exhausted sleep. She elected to sleep in the bedroom with us rather than in the living room with the cats for the first time in three months.

She's been retiring to the bedroom as soon as the sun goes down. We're not forcing her out. We coax her out for her evening potty before we go to bed. She gets a cookie and it's party time when she joins us.

She forgot her fear two nights ago when a friend came over. Unfortunately, the moment she went dashing into the yard was the exact moment the fireworks show started to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the city we live in. Lily dashed back into the house, into the bedroom and no amount of coaxing could get her back out again.

Tonight, we started Operation Safe Streets. I boiled some chicken, her favorite treat. I alerted some neighbors and friends when we were ready to leave. We didn't force her but she forgot her fear momentarily while performing tricks for chicken, when she saw a neighbor along the route, when she saw a doggy friend across the street. Our walk was not our usual hour. She did not stop at the Cookie House for a cookie. But she walked and sometimes she was happy for it. This is our new course of action each evening as the sun goes down. Her breed doesn't allow for early walks during the heat so she must get over this fear. And she will. Not by being forced or bullied, but by being rewarded. She'll remember the night is not scary.

Thank you to all the friends and neighbors who helped us out tonight along our route (and will be helping all this week)!

How did your pets do on 4th of July?

Friday, July 8, 2011

FUN Friday

It's Friday - let's have some fun!

Ever wonder how skunks play with their siblings? Wonder no more!

My favorite new commercial (if only it happened this way in real life!)

Pigs are so cute! I vow someday when Erik and I live in the country, we're going to own a few.

What do you suppose these ducks are saying to each other?

Have a great weekend everyone!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

You Owe it to Your Dog to Use a Leash

I am not fond of little dogs. I used to love them until we moved into our neighborhood four years ago. The small dogs, mainly of the poodle and maltese variety, are extremely undersocialized and have had no training. As if that doesn't put them, and anyone else out walking, at enough of a disadvantage, they are also frequently taken out without leashes. Here's two scenarios that came up on our walk this morning:

1) A poodle saw Lily and I across the street. The owner was standing in her doorway on the phone, watching her dog go potty on the lawn. That came to an abrupt halt at the sight of my dog. This poodle raced into traffic, causing cars to slam on breaks, to reach us. We got to witness a minor car accident as an SUV rear ended the compact car that came to a screeching stop to avoid killing this dog. When it reached my dog, it snapped and lunged and growled. Lily, thankfully, is terrified of little dogs (and you would be too if you had been charged, bit and barked at by them to the extent this poor pit bull has been for the last four years). She tucked her tail, ran behind me and shivered while I tried to fend off this poodle version of Cujo. I will admit that I thought more than once about kicking it. I feel awful that it even entered my head, but I wanted to protect my dog. My favorite part of this whole scenario (and this happens EVERY time) is the owner racing across the street (almost getting hit herself) yelling COME! FIFI COME! COME! Followed by "Don't let your dog hurt her." If my dog wanted to hurt her, she'd be dead. I always open with "You know, there is a leash law for a reason." To which she replied, "She's NEVER done this before." I know this to be a lie because I've witnessed it numerous times and told her as much. As she walked into the street with her dog in hand, she yelled at me, "I don't know how you can own a dog like that!" A well trained dog that walks on leash and doesn't dart across traffic to corner another dog? I can own a dog like just fine, thank you. This little poodle has been lucky more times than I can count. Obviously, the owner isn't getting that not following the law is putting her dog at risk. One day, the luck is going to run out. She may not make it across that street.

2) We rounded a corner and had a Maltese run the entire block up to Lily and I. Lily's tail tucked and she tried to run this time. Meanwhile, the owner is screaming, "Don't let your dog hurt her" over and over. Really? Don't let my dog that is trying to run hurt your dog that has charged us and is now tormenting her? Lily got smart and jumped up on a brick wall. The other dog couldn't reach her. Again, I mentioned the leash law. I also pointed out that there is a dog aggressive yellow lab that is walked every night down our street. If her dog had decided to pull this on him, it would not have ended well for her little Maltese. To which she replied, "They shouldn't be allowed to walk that dog." Really? Or maybe you should just LEASH your dog like the law says you have to and then no one has to worry about it.

These poor dogs may end up losing their lives because their owners aren't using leashes. I just don't understand why people don't leash them up even to take them into the front yard to go to the bathroom. Even if your dog is well trained, it's still a dog. Something might catch his attention across the street and off he goes to chase it! Without a solid recall, he's at the mercy of cars. At some point, the luck runs out.

Leash up those pets!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July

Fourth of July is the busiest night at Emergency Vet Hospitals around the country. Dogs have extremely sensitive hearing. Loud fireworks not only hurt their ears, but also frighten them. You should never take your pet with you to a fireworks show. Instead, leave them inside the house in an enclosed area. Many frightened dogs have been known to hurt themselves jumping through windows and can easily get lost in the panic of running to escape the noise. If you must leave your dog unsupervised inside the house, be sure to leave the television or radio on for background noise. Obviously, you don't want to leave a channel on that has a fireworks show.

For more information on ways to make your pet comfortable this holiday season, click on the following links:

Dogs and Storks

ASPCA Fourth of July Tips

We wish you and yours a safe and happy 4th of July!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Common Cat Behavior Problems

There are some common issues that cat owners might experience. Some of the more common issues include excessive meowing, litter box problems and scratching furniture. All three of these behaviors can be easily corrected.

Some cats are more vocal than others. "Talking" is part genetic (some breeds like Siamese are more prone to it) and part learned behavior. You may have innocently reinforced this by talking back to your cat when it meows, playing with her, feeding her or even yelling at her. Like children, cats can view negative attention as better than none at all. There are several ways to correct this behavior. Do not reward your cat for meowing. Instead, give her attention when she is being quiet. Wait for a moment of silence before feeding her. If you give in at all during this corrective process, you will have to start all over again! Make sure the litterbox is kept clean and he/she has fresh water at all times. Another way to curb the “talking” is to make sure that all of your cat’s needs are met. Cats need attention and interaction so it’s important to allow time for playing with and petting your cat in your daily schedule. Provide your cat with stimulation such as cat toys, catnip and food cubes. Cats can also meow to express discomfort, pain or agitation. Females in heat will meow excessively to attract males. Unneutered males will yowl in conjunction with mating. Getting your pet spayed or neutered may cut down the vocalizations, if not eliminate them completely.

One of the more undesirable cat problems involves the litter box. Some cats are very particular about their litter box being clean. They can also be particular about the type of litter box. Some may not want to share their box. For this reason, having the same number of litter boxes as cats is recommended. If your cat goes somewhere other than their litter box, it is extremely important to clean that spot immediately with an odor removing cleaner because the smell will draw them back to that spot.

Another common problem that some cat owners experience is inappropriate scratching. Scratching is natural for cats for several reasons. Cats lose the sheath of their nail by scratching rough surfaces. Scratching also helps your cat release pent up energy or emotional stress. Although it’s natural for cats, it can wreak havoc on your furniture. The best way to curb this behavior is to redirect it to a proper scratching post. Once you find the right scratching post for your cat or kitten, it is important not to put the cat’s paws on the post for him/her. Cats don’t like to be handled this way. It may create a negative association with the post. Instead, get the cat interested by playing interactive games around the post. Your cat will begin to scratch the post as a way to relieve pent up excitement. Give her plenty of praise when she does. In the meantime, you need to make your furniture less appealing. You can do this several ways. Cover the furniture with aluminum foil or Sticky Paws, a transparent product that prevents your cat from scratching the surface. There are also repellant sprays you can put on your furniture, but they aren’t affective on all cats. When behavior modification doesn’t work, you can try a product known as Soft Paws. These colorful plastic caps can be glued on your cat’s claws. She can go through the motions of scratching and get enjoyment out of it without causing damage to your furniture. The caps will need to be replaced every three months after your cat’s claws are trimmed.

With any behavior problem, patience is key. It takes time for cats to learn behaviors. Often, it will take even more time to unlearn them. In order to make the changes permanent, you need to be very consistent and allow your cat time to adjust.

Friday, June 24, 2011

FUN Friday

We hope you had a good week!

Let's ring in Friday with some FUN.

GEICO answers the age old question - do dogs chase cats?

Who needs a treadmill when you have a slide?

Does your dog dream? Does he/she bark?

Have a GREAT weekend!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Fun

We have an American Staffordshire Terrier. This means summers are rough when it comes to getting in her exercise and keeping her occupied on the days too hot to walk. Though she lives inside the house with us, and spends the majority of her time there, she still needs to get out for some fresh air and exercise.

We get up early to walk her before the heat sets in, but it's very hard on the mornings the temperature is already hovering around 80 degrees. Lily doesn't do well in direct sunlight. She can go a few blocks and then she has to take a break in the shade. Here are a few things we've come up with to get her moving and work her a bit:

1) Ice cubes - I fill the ice cube tray with chicken broth or beef broth and drop a little Zuke's treat in each one. Pop it in the freezer overnight and you have a fun, icey treat. She loves to chase them around the house or lick them on a blanket under her favorite tree in the yard!

2) Sprinklers - We have one that moves. I got this idea from my own childhood. My parents would set it up on a hot day and we would run through it. Hours of wet fun! We can water our lawn AND exercise Lily while keeping her cool at the same time!

3) Kiddie Pool - Be sure to get a solid plastic one. We tried the blow-up one and her nails went right through it. You may have to ease your dog into it. Lily LOVES water, but she was hesitant about the pool at first. We tossed treats in it to get her in. The second day we had it, we filled it with just enough water to cover the bottom. Again, we threw treats in. By the end of the week, we had it full of water and she was enjoying splashing in and out with her doggie friends!

What about you - how do you keep your pets cool during the hot summer?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


"I had a bunny, but we let it go."

Meredith and I hear this comment in the classroom all the time. It's an unfortunate reality - most people think that their rabbits and can take care of themselves.

This isn't true. Setting your bunny free only makes them FOOD. Pet bunnies are a different species than the ones we see in our parks and yard. They lack the instincts needed to survive outside of a home. Wild and domestic bunnies do not breed. Their feral counterparts do not allow them into the group. Pet rabbits don't know how to burrow properly. They will often just sit out in the elements and catch pneumonia. They have been fed in their cage while at your home so they aren't used to foraging for food. These poor bunnies don't know where to look or what to eat. This makes them weak from hunger and eventually makes them an easy target for predators.

It is also against the law. It's considered Animal Cruelty. This means if someone like Meredith or I spot you, we will write down your license plate number, take pictures if we have our camera with us and report you to Animal Control. If you don't want the responsibility of caring for your rabbit, you should take it to your closest Animal Shelter. This will give it the chance to get adopted and live with a family inside the house where it belongs.

For more information on rabbits, see our website or click here for a link about bunny care - why they should be inside the house with family and pictures of their habitat indoors.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kid Funnies

We love teaching Humane Education because we truly believe that we are making a difference. Many times we return to a school the following year to find that many kids took our information home and their parents got their pets spayed/neutered. We know that we are slowly making a difference. One of the perks of this job is the honesty of children. Here are a few of the fun stories:

Jenn was teaching Dog Safety to a Pre-K class. When she got done, she was letting the kids share.
"I have a puppy."
"I have a goldfish."
"I have a baby brudder." (no pets, but he didn't want to be left out)


Meredith was teaching Dog Safety. She asked for a brave helper to demonstrate what can happen when you pet a dog who is sleeping (our puppet barks at them). When the little boy got to the front of the classroom, he announced, "My name is Menos and I take karate!"


Jenn was teaching 2nd Grade Kindness. We play a fun game where the kids pull items out of a bag and we have to decide if they are Kind or Unkind. If the item is kind, we have to decide who it would be kind to give it to (Bugs the Bunny, Harry the Hamster, Pip the Cat or Nemo the Chihuahua). If it's unkind, we toss it in the trash.

A girl pulled out milk. She held it up so everyone could see as she announced, "Milk."

Jenn: Is it kind or unkind?

Class: KIND!

Jenn: I know a lot of tv shows and movies show people giving milk to cats but it's not good for them. It's unkind. When they're kittens, where does their milk come from?

Class: MOM!

Jenn: And where does our milk come from?

Girl in the back row: CARTONS!


Jenn was teaching a 3rd Grade Class City Wildlife. When she finished, she opened it up for questions. The first question?

Boy: Are you married?
Jenn: Yes.
Boy: (pause) How married?
Jenn: Very, very married.
Boy: (complete with an aw shucks expression and arm movement) Aw, man!

She couldn't bring herself to ask 'why'. She turned my back to take another question, but he continued.

Boy: Because my dad really likes blondes. A lot. And you seem super cool.
Jenn: Thank you.
Boy: You're his type. Blonde and he likes his women curvy. (he stands up and waves his arms for curvy - curvier than I am)
Teacher: Miguel! We have had this conversation about inappropriate questions and gestures before.
Boy: (whiney) I'm just looking for a new stepmom.
Teacher: ENOUGH!

You NEVER know what is going to come out of the mouth of a child. They are always entertaining. And always, well mostly, honest. We love our jobs and wouldn't trade them for anything!

Monday, June 6, 2011


Getting an adult dog from a rescue group or a shelter off Craigslist is an admirable thing. Many friends who do rescue advertise their dogs for adoption. Unfortunately, many backyard breeders do as well. Even though it's against Craigslist policy to sell dogs on their site, it is still being done. And these greeders, as we like to call them, have gotten smart. They advertise their 8 week old puppies with an 'adoption' or 'rehoming' fee. A lot of people are falling into this trap.

If they are advertising a litter of purebred, eight week old puppies, they didn't get them from the shelter. Shelters post their dogs with links to their page. Rescues will post pictures and state where the dog was rescued from. If there is a litter for adoption, they will also be stating that the mom is for adoption as well. They will advertise that the dog comes: spayed/neutered, microchipped, shots. If you do not see these words, the puppies are NOT rescues.

Red flags - an entire litter of purebred puppies from 6-8 weeks of age with no mom listed. The greeder will still say "adoption" or "rehoming" fee. Usually this amount is high. Shelters and rescue groups will charge between $100-$250 dollars. Greeders will charge $200 or more. We've seen puppies as high as $800 on Craigslist. That is NOT an adoption fee.

These greeders only care about one thing - money. This means their puppies often haven't been dewormed or given their shots. You show up to find sick puppies living in horrible conditions. Once you are there and see these poor little babies, you aren't going to be leave without 'rescuing' at least one. And the greeders know this.

By taking that one puppy, you have now condemned another litter to the same fate. That $200 you just forked over to "save" the puppy, just gave her an incentive to breed her dogs again (and not deworm them or give them shots, as she did with this litter). You didn't rescue that puppy, you purchased it. Then, you'll have to fork over thousands to get it healthy again (plus the spay/neuter fee once it's well enough to be fixed).

This is an education issue. Most people are trusting individuals. When a dog is a lifetime commitment, you're looking at getting one every 10-15 years so it's easy to be duped by these horrible breeders. We're here to help so that it doesn't happen!

Friday, June 3, 2011

FUN Friday

Let's kick off Friday with some FUN!

You’re watching CuteWinFail Pets: Scaredy Cat. See the Web's top videos on AOL Video

The beaver was not harmed in this video. It's okay to laugh at this.

I get a lot of questions about shock collars. We don't agree with using them and we don't think they are effective. I do love this old Doritos commercial.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, May 30, 2011

When I'm a Lazy Dog Owner

We always joke that Lily is a "lazy dog." In her defense, she gets two walks a day. They are a minimum of 45 minutes each. Sometimes, it's too much (the heat, the length, it varies) and she will lay down on the grass. Once. Twice. Three times. The neighbors get a kick out of it when they see her.

There are days that I don't feel like walking her. I'm not in the mood to walk. I'm not in the mood to deal with people. I'm never in the mood for the unsocialized little barking dogs on flexie leashes, but there are evenings where I just can't see another one. Lily is far more tolerant than I am. On these days, I fall back on...


Other dogs can tire out our dogs far better than we can. They race around the yard. They tug until every toy in the box is done. While they run and have fun, I enjoy time with a friend. Summer nights are great for socializing. Grilling our veggie burgers while the dogs play. The dogs are tired by the time our friends leave. Job well done.

"I don't have time to exercise my dog." I hear this frequently. Let me just say that Erik and I don't either. But we make time. We got a dog and we now have to honor that commitment. There are no sick days. When the dog needs to be walked, she needs to be walked. If she doesn't get walked, she's miserable...and makes us miserable. Playdates are a great alternative. Who doesn't have time to eat dinner? You have to eat. Why not eat with friends while your dog plays with their dog? That's three hours (or more!) of dogs doing what they do best. Your dog gets to have fun and you get to enjoy the rest of the evening (note: this works on weekend afternoon as well).

It's okay to be lazy like this.

What about you - does your dog like other dogs? Do you do 'playdates'?

Friday, May 27, 2011

FUN Friday


Let's have some FUN!

Have a GREAT weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Fledging and the Neighbor's Cat

This little Fledgling is learning the ropes in our yard. He's so tiny and vulnerable, but mom and dad are doing a great job keeping tabs on him, getting him fed, and doing everything in their power to see that he grows up. This is the second year in a row that we've gotten to see their Fledgling. They have a nest in one of the trees in our yard, then the baby moves to the ground.

Tonight, one of the parents was chirping incessantly. At first, I was drowning it out. After five minutes straight, I stopped to listen - and I heard panic in that chirp. As soon as it registered that the baby might be in trouble, I rushed outside to find out what I could do to help.

Our neighbor has indoor/outdoor cats. Great for the cats. Not good at all for our wildlife. More than once I have startled them and they've dropped a bird from their mouths before escaping back into the neighbor's yard. Tonight, I walked out to find one parked in our yard at the foot of the tree I last saw the fledgling hiding behind. I opened the door and let our dog out immediately. While Lily would never hurt a cat, the sight of her is enough to scare them out of our yard (probably why the birds continue to choose our yard).

I've been on guard for the last two hours. While I believe that nature has to take it's course, outdoor cats are not part of nature. Our cats remain indoors so that they are not a threat to this Fledgling (or other birds). I'm not a fan of "outdoor" cats - I can't have a birdbath because it draws the neighbor cat which endangers the birds. They leave us lovely little smelly presents in the yard. I clean up after my cats. I shouldn't have to clean up after yours.

And a Fledgling shouldn't have to worry about them. They have enough threats without adding someone's cat.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mandatory Spay Neuter

We passed a mandatory spay/neuter law here in Los Angeles in 2008. While the law has good intentions, it's not being enforced (how could it when there are so many pets in L.A. and so few Animal Control officers). The areas that we teach in are usually low income areas. Even though the law affects their area and their pets, they are surprised when they hear about it. It's news to them.

Do you know what else is news to them? That they can get their pet spayed/neutered for FREE in most cases, qualifying because their income is so low. Once they find out, they want the information. People WANT to get their pets fixed. The people this law is intended to target want to anyway. They just cannot afford it. Rather than passing a law mandating it, it would have been better to take the money spent lobbying for the law and go into the communities with it. Take the spay/neuter TO them.

When it came time for us to get Lily fixed, she was six months old and weighed about 30 pounds. She also had an umbilical hernia. The quote for her spay alone - $420. That's a lot of money despite my husband's income. It is completely out of reach for a low income family struggling to put food on the table.

In the communities we teach, the litters are often accidental. The parents would get the pet fixed, if they could afford it. When I have parents volunteering in the classroom, I always have 'dog' questions after I'm done. They line up for training advice or medical advice or just to tell me stories about their beloved intact pet. They love their pets. But they can't afford to fix them. There isn't any education going on in their areas to let them know that 1) there is a mandatory spay/neuter law and 2) they can get their pets fixed for FREE. Most of these moms don't like dealing with the litters. It's more mouths to feed. Puppies get sick. They cost money. You should see their faces light up when I tell them I have a list of places to call that will help them.

On Thursday, I was approached by a mom after teaching a Kinder class. She wanted to know where she could get her dogs 'snipped.' She has three chihuahuas and she wanted to get neutered. In speaking with her, I found out that she has gone to lengths to keep her dogs separated and avoid a litter. She rotates their outside time and keeps them separated with crates and baby gates when they are inside. She's doing a tremendous amount of work to avoid a litter. And she's been doing it for THREE YEARS. That's incredible dedication that most people don't have. I was more than happy to give her the number. "I take very good care" she kept saying to me. She didn't want me to think that she was a bad pet owner because her dogs weren't fixed. Someone had already admonished her for not having them neutered. We shouldn't be here to judge, but to help. To educate.

Yes, there are still those unscrupulous people who want to breed for money. But we find in our areas that it is more a lack of education than people wanting to make money off their dog. They want to do the right thing. They just can't afford to. Making it a mandatory doesn't help them. Offering free spay/neuter and making it more accessable does.

Friday, May 20, 2011

FUN Friday

It's Friday! We've worked hard all week - let's have some FUN!

Can your cat do this?

This duck REALLY likes his snacks. Look at his little happy dance!

Look at this little puppy trying to play with himself in the mirror!

Our cats would have Lily's head if she tried this!

Hope that takes you laughing into the weekend!

Have a GREAT one!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dog Bite Prevention

Each year several million people are bitten by dogs, and it’s usually by a dog they know. Though most of the victims are under the age of 12, adults are often unaware of the simple steps they can take to keep themselves and their children safe.

Never pet a dog when he’s eating.
Dogs are often protective of their food – it’s difficult for them to distinguish between a hand reaching towards them for affection and a hand reaching down to steal something they value. To keep your family safe, it’s extremely important to teach your dog at a young age that a hand coming towards their bowl is a good thing, as it often contains something even yummier than their kibble. This association will eliminate their natural inclination to protect their food.

Never pet a dog when he's sleeping.
Waking a dog up suddenly from a sound sleep can be dangerous. In a moment of confusion, your dog might feel threatened and bite to "protect" himself. Simply call your dog’s name softly and let him wake up first.

Never grab anything out of your dog's mouth.
Some dogs see their toys as a valuable resource just like their food. It’s difficult for them to distinguish between you reaching towards their toy to play with them, and you grabbing their toy to steal it. It’s important to teach your dog early on that giving up a possession often means they get something even better in return. Having a “drop it” command keeps your fingers safe!

Never pet a dog when she’s with her puppies.
All animals are protective of their young and want to keep them safe. Teach young children to wait until the dog leaves the room before playing with their babies, even if it’s their own pet.

Never pet a dog through a fence.
Most dogs become protective of whatever area they spend time in. They see your hand as an intrusion and might bite you to defend their territory.

Never run away from a stray dog.
It is a dog’s natural instinct to chase anything that moves. Running from a dog activates their prey drive. It is best to stand perfectly still. Yelling and kicking in an attempt to scare the dog off will only agitate him further. Be careful not to stare the dog in his eyes as he might see this as a challenge. Once the dog becomes disinterested in you, slowly walk away.

The safe way to approach a dog:
Many dogs are frightened by strangers, so always ask the owner for permission before petting an animal. Hold out your hand slowly and give the dog a chance to sniff you first. Then pet him on his chest, shoulder or back. Avoid petting the dog’s head because he might see this as an act of dominance.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My First Dog Bite

In honor of Dog Bite Prevention Week (or Irresponsible Owner Week, as my father likes to call it), I figured I would talk about my first dog bite.

I grew up with medium to large sized dogs. Despite German Shepherds and Rottweilers being popular in the 70s and 80s, I came from farm people in Oregon/Washington and blue bloods in Vermont. The dog of choice was the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Our dogs were incredibly patient with us. They put up with dress up, dental exams when we played doctor, being used as a horse when we pretended to be cowboys, just a whole host of different games. Our dogs didn't care. They just wanted to be a part of our day.

My dad was very good at emphasizing to us that not all dogs were like ours. "Don't think every dog is going to be okay with you using it for a pillow." We learned early on that most dogs weren't ours. Even in our own family.

My first bite was bad. And it was from the #1 biter on the latest list released by the Unniversity of Pennsylvania - the Dachshund. My grandma's dachshund to be precise. I was six years old. I was used to tolerant dogs. My fathers view of children was - you learn by doing. He took the same view of being bit by a dog. I came into the room with the adults, tears streaming down my face and my hand bleeding profusely (Dachshunds can do damage, people. Google Spork, the vicious biter who bit off the lips of a vet tech - she had to have reconstructive surgery.) Thirty some stitches later, my dad declared, "Well, you won't do that again, will you?"

That was trying to pet an obviously scared little dog. I had crawled under the bed after her. I know - horrifying. But where were my parents? My dad would say I was old enough to know better and I probably was. I had gotten the lecture about the dog many times. My dad's rule of thumb was - the smaller, the scarier. It boiled down to small dogs viewing us like the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man. We were large, loud, scary and had unpredictable movements.

My younger brother had to get bit a few times before he learned. Dad never said "Well, you won't do that again!" to Drew because 9.99 times out of 10, he was bound to try it one more time. With the same results. Drew was bit by the neighbor's Cocker Spaniel, a friend's "outdoor" Labrador Retriever and our aunt's Jack Russell. Oh, and that darned Dachshund. That little dog bit every single child in our family more than once and got several adults as well.

As we roll out Dog Bite Prevention Week, we need
1) Always supervise small children with dogs. ANY dogs. Small dogs can inflict just as much damage as large dogs. Small children can inflict pain. Better safe than sorry.

2) Teach our children when it is okay to pet a dog and when it is NOT okay to pet a dog. This is critical. Most dog bites are preventable.

3) Teach our children (and remember ourselves) not to run from any dog. A dog with no leash and no owner will give chase. It's a fun game. They have four legs. We have two. We can't ever outrun a dog. Surprisingly, many children tell me that they can. They haven't tried. They just think they run "fast as the wind", "faster than lightening", "mom says I run like a cheetah." Not around a dog. FREEZE. Stand still. Be BORING.

4) Small dogs are not safe. This is a common misconception. As many studies have proven, the top biters are all small dogs. Children need to be aware.

5) A breed does NOT make a dog dangerous. The danger in telling children there is only one or two breeds that bite is that they let their guard down around others that supposedly don't. ALL dogs bite. All dogs can be dangerous. Education is key.

What about you - have you ever been bit by a dog?

Friday, May 13, 2011

FUN Friday


Let's have some FUN!

What's more fun than a talking dog??

This little lamb is SO adorable!

Paws and Learn wishes you a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why We Educate

That's Meredith in the picture teaching a first grade class how to be safe around all dogs, not just their own. We have beautiful presentation boards based on pictures of our own dogs (that's Lily and my husband as the "Safe Dog - grown-up owner, leash and collar" board in the background) and two life-size (and very life-life) puppets that lend a hand as well. It's a standard Dog Safety presentation that is done in most communities these days.

What does Dog Safety mean?
It means we teach the kids they need to see all three things before it is safe to go up to a dog and pet it. But first, they must ask the owners permission. If the owner says yes, they have to say hello to the dog by letting it sniff their hand. Then it is safe to pet them on the chest, the shoulder or the back.

If a stray dog approaches them, they are to stand like a tree. Kids have two legs. Dogs have four. It is unlikely that a child will ever outrun a dog. Staying frozen and being as boring as possible helps keep them safe.

We also teach safety around their own dogs. Don't touch your dog when she is with her babies. Don't pet her while she is sleeping. Don't ever pet her while she is eating. Don't take things out of their mouth.

Why is this an important lesson?
In April, we had a particularly bad week with a few children receiving bites that were preventable. One got bit when she sat on her dog while it was sleeping. The dog, startled, turned and bit her. Another child got bit running up to his mom dog while she was nursing her puppies. A third child was severely bitten when he got too close to his own dog's food bowl. These are all situations we teach children NOT to touch for this exact reason. By educating children, who in turn can educate their parents with our take home handouts, we are preventing bites like this. We empower children and we save dogs because a dog that bites is usually a dog that ends up euthanized.

More and more communities are coming on board with Dog Safety. The CDC, the AKC and the AVMA recommend starting programs in your area because the majority of dog bites are preventable. Even if you don't have one in your area, you can go over these basics with your children to help keep them safe. Here is a link to the CDC web page to get you started. Or you can book us for your school, here.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Luckiest Dog

That's Bubba to the left of Lily (your left, not hers). He's a GREAT dog. And a very, very lucky one. You see, Bubba has two strikes against him - his coat is black and he's shy.

Black Dog Syndrome - Black dogs, especially large breed dogs, don't fare well in the shelter system. They're euthanized at a much higher rate than their light coated counterparts. Different reasons have been given when adopters are polled - some people are superstitious, black dogs tend to get overlooked in dimly lit kennel runs, they're harder to photograph, they look "meaner". Coming in, Bubba already had a huge strike against him.

The second strike was not his fault either. His first owner had failed him. Bubba grew up in a backyard with little to no human interaction. His interaction with men seems to have been particularly negative. When he was brought to the shelter, the man claimed he had found Bubba running the streets. The staff scanned him and Bubba had a microchip. When they dialed the number on the microchip, the man's cell phone rang. Caught.

Bubba was left at the shelter by the only owner he had ever known and loved despite the poor treatment that he received. He didn't show well. He ran from potential adopters or barked in his kennel run. He was scared. He had never been outside of his backyard, had never been around people. He didn't like this new world. It was big and full of things that frightened him. That's not something most adopters look for in a dog. No one wants a project.

Mel saw past all of this. She loved his black coat. She didn't care that he was scared. She adored this dog. As a volunteer, she showed up to walk him day after day. Her heart broke for him as his kennel mates and friends got adopted or were euthanized. When Mel bought a condo, she came for Bubba.

He's the luckiest dog in the world. If not for her, he would be dead. He has the best life now. He gets several walks a day, fun trips to Santa Barbara, hikes, the dog beach. She has opened up his world. He still finds it scary at times, but he's made huge strides in the past two years. It takes him a few visits to warm up to you, but once he does - his love knows no bounds. He's been a great friend for Lily. They've enjoyed playdates and hikes and trips to the beach together.

He's the luckiest dog in the world. But Mel is pretty lucky too.

Friday, May 6, 2011

FUN Friday

YAY for Friday!

Let's start the day off with some laughs, shall we?

We looooove this video done by the staff at the Nevada Humane Society to celebrate two of their dogs going home.

Isn't it adorable the way kittens can fall asleep ANYwhere?

And for our dog video, you know how much we love to watch Wallace do his thing. In this video, he's joined by a few friends. How beautiful are these dogs in motion?

We hope you have a FABULOUS weekend!

Monday, May 2, 2011

City Wildlife

This little guy showed up in our yard a few nights ago. We had the windows wide open and one of the cats started going crazy. Shining a light into the yard to see what was up, we discovered this little one ambling around.

Living only a few blocks from the hills, we have frequent wildlife visitors. One morning, we had a coyote in our yard. We spot them late at night on our street every so often. Because of this, we tend to keep a closer eye on stray cats, or little guys like this one.

We debated whether he was too young to be on his own. Deciding that he was, we spent some time searching for a nest or the mom. We turned the flashlight off and sat in different parts of the yard straining our ears for the little sneezing type noises that the opossums use to locate each other. Nothing.

We're not big on interfering when it comes to wildlife. If an animal is obviously sick or injured, we would step in. We know we are out of our element so we always contact wildlife rehabs/rescues for advice and if we need to take them there, we donate. Even $20 is a big help to these non-profit organizations that dedicate services to helping out sick, injured and orphaned critters.

We decided we would wait a few nights. He's big enough that he wasn't in any immediate danger (about 5 inches nose to rump). Last night, he came all the way up on the porch to our grey cat. He was going to rub her, she was going to eat him. At that point, we decided he'd either fallen out of his tree or off of mom so we needed to do something until Monday when I could call an expert.

After consulting an online resource, we left him water and some cat food mixed with water (to soften it). He drank all the water from the cat food container, but couldn't eat the kibble. I put out a little wet food and he ate that (please don't be mad, Dad - I did listen to your 'let nature take its course' lectures growing up). After about an hour or so, our cat started racing from window to window. Shining a light in the yard, we adult Opossum.

We turned off the lights in the house so we could watch the happy reunion. We listened to the little sneezing type noises. The baby came tentatively up to the mom and then...rubbed her. She cleaned him. We watched as he climbed onto her back and she waddled off with him. If it wasn't his mom before, it was now.

An hour later, the bold little thing was back in the yard again. We look forward to watching them again tonight, but there won't be any food out. It was a one night event and not something we want them to get used to. There are plenty of natural food sources for them in our area - crickets, snails, fruit (from all the fruit trees). They don't need to become dependent on cat food, which isn't nutritionally suffient for them.

What about you - do you have wildlife in your area?

Friday, April 29, 2011

FUN Friday

TGIF! Let's have some FUN!!

What's more fun (and more adorable) than a kitten? A kitten in a box! With siblings!

How about a baby and a kitty? This cat is so sweet with the baby!

Not to be outdone - we have a dog with a baby!

For our Ferret Fans - we don't cater to you enough!

Have a WONDERFUL weekend!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Knowing What You Want Part Two

One of our volunteers, Ronnie, was telling us about the list she made for a dog. Had to be a year and a half old, no barking, good with kids, good with cats, housebroken, trained...she found one in the paper that seemed to fit her list. A family camping in Lake Arrowhead had come across the dog. As it was approaching winter, they didn't want to leave the dog to die so they brought him back to L.A. with them (after having no luck finding the owner). He seemed perfect! Ronnie and her family brought him home...

This dog dug holes in the backyard until he broke his paw. At the vet, they were informed that he was only 9 months old. He barked at everything. He was far from housebroken.

Did they take the dog back?

No. Ronnie worked on housebreaking him. The boys ran around the backyard with him to get his energy out. When he hit two or three yeas old, he settled down and the family had him for SEVENTEEN YEARS. This dog that fit the list, but didn't. He was loved for all those years despite his workable behavior. Rather than giving up on him, they saw the potential and worked through it. They loved him so much that Ronnie sought out his breed again once he passed - Brittney Spaniel.

Having a list is great. There are many ways to find exactly what you are looking for - in the shelter system, through Pet Finder, through private rescue groups. The more detailed you are, the better the match will be.

Don't be married to the list. You might be surprised what comes along that fits just as well. Perhaps, you were looking for a younger dog (two or three) and the rescue group has a six year old that fits you better - if you're looking at a small breed dog, six is YOUNG. Small breed dogs can live 18-20 years so you're still looking at 14 years with that dog. If it fits the rest of the list, why not?

Erik and I were set on having a dog that was past the puppy stages - we did not want to housebreak, or go through the chewing and mouthing stages. But Lily came in the door and she had everything else on our list. So were open to making her a member of our family.

Just as Ronnie and her family lucked out, so did we. We were very glad that we brought Lily home. She's turned out to be a wonderful dog. While we've taken her to training classes and put in our time with her, she also came with a wonderful disposition. That's not something you can train into a dog.

What about you - have you ever wavered from what you originally wanted?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Knowing What You Want

I am a woman of lists. At the moment, I have no less than four lists going - a To Do List (for home), a To Do List (for work), a Grocery List, a Card List. Before I met my husband, I had a List. There were 14 things on it - everything I wanted in a man and I wasn't going to settle. I got all but one (vegan), which wasn't a deal breaker. But I find that lists and knowing what I want are very helpful.

Naturally, when we were ready for our first dog together, we had a list. Here it is:

1) At least two years old.
2) Good with cats.
3) Good with kids.
4) Food motivated (which meant highly trainable)
5) Energetic (had to be able to keep up with us on hikes)
6) American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffie or Staffie Bull mix

We took a lot of grief from one rescue because we didn't want their mostly blind Staffie Bull. I got a nasty little email accusing us of looking for the "perfect dog". I wrote back stating that we didn't want a perfect dog, we simply wanted a dog that was a good match for us. After all, if we're not making good matches, the pet is less likely to stay in the home for it's lifetime. This dog would not have made a good therapy dog because of the eye sight. I couldn't have taken her into the classroom with me like I do with Lily. She did not have the stamina to keep up on hikes. We wanted a dog that would go everywhere with us.

What did we get on our list? All but number one. We ended up with a puppy. She looked like an APBT as a puppy, but has grown into an 80 pound mix that seems to have more mastiff in her. She's great with kids, cats and dogs. She loves when I bring to the classroom with me - especially working with teenage boys. She can't get enough.

It is good to know what you want!

What about you - are you a list person even when it comes to pets?

Friday, April 22, 2011

FUN Friday

It's FRIDAY! Let's have some fun!

There is nothing cuter than the sound of a baby laughing - there is
something about that geniune belly laugh! And when they are
laughing at the family dog? Even cuter!

Here is a humorous look at finding out where your food comes from.
Portlandia: Is it local?

A cat being fed with chopsticks!

And, of course, Jenn's favorite of the week (you knew there was
going to be an APBT involved somewhere). Robin's back (Jenn
wants him really, really bad)!

Have a GREAT weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cats Teach Us

How to stretch.

That we can sleep just about anywhere.
On a box...

OR one.

How to share our space.

Even when it's a tight space...

What about you - what have your cats taught you?