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?