Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reminders of Why

Meredith and I have a passion for Humane Education. We believe that we are creating better adults, not just making lives better for companion animals. I know there is some skepticism out there about what we do. There are any real studies or statistics to track what we do or our reach. But we get them in our jobs. We had two reminders this week.

Reminder #1
I was teaching 2nd Grade Kindness at a school that we book every year. This means that my 2nd graders have seen me in Kinder and 1st for Dog Safety. We do it three years in a row, adding a bit each year so we are setting a firm foundation for these kids (we start them at Pre-K if the school has them). When I was done with my Kindness campaign and the kids had reviewed what they learned, I had a little boy raise his hand and say, "I remember you from last year." The whole class then proceeded to remind me what I had taught them the year before - leash, collar and grown-up owner; ask before you pet; say hello to the dog once you have permission...then they were standing like trees and rolling like rocks. I even had a little girl tell me, "I was always scared of my Tia's dog because she's big and very crazy, but it works when I just freeze. She goes away and chases my brothers instead." It's nice to get reminders that what we do is making a difference. This particular school has given us several - a parent who thanked me in her broken English last year because her daughter had come home to teach her, which came in handy that night when walking home from the store. Surrounded by big dogs, her daughter whispered, "Mama, hold still. Hold still." It took five minutes or so, but the dogs lost interest and wandered off. This is also the school where several of the students have come up to us excited because their parents "fixed" their dogs using the phone numbers we sent home.

Reminder #2
Meredith was staffing a table at a community event in Inglewood. We've said repeatedly (and will continue to say it) that people are completely unaware of mandatory spay/neuter. We passed this law in 2008 and no one in the communities we go into has heard of it before they get our handouts. Not an effective law. For more on that, you can click here. Back to the reminder - the handouts that went out the most? WHY SPAY/NEUTER and LOW COST SPAY/NEUTER. We find over and over in these communities that people WANT to get their pets fixed. They lack the income and the resources. When we get them out there, they follow through and fix those pets. Unfortunatley, there are only so many people that we can reach with our handouts. If you don't have a child in the schools we teach, you don't live in the neighborhood we happen to be in that week, or you don't attend a community event that we are at, you won't be getting the handouts. Our reach is limited. We're glad to be able to reach the numbers that we do, but we need to do more. These communities need more outreach than a two person non-profit run on scarce donations can manage.

We have to celebrate these small victories - the dozens of people who come up to our table ASKING for spay/neuter numbers and the kids who remember the lessons that we taught them. These remind us why we do this, why Humane Education and community outreach are so very important.

Monday, May 28, 2012

How Much Time - Really?

I was on the phone with my brother late one night. His small dog, Scooby (see left) was barking on and off. Just enough to be annoying. My nephew was in bed, as were the neighbors I'm sure. Naturally, my brother was getting frustrated.

"How much exercise did he get tonight?" I asked.

"I walked him," he said, testily.

"How long?"

"Long enough."

"He's barking. So, no."

I pointed out that our previous late conversation had contained no barking interruption and asked what they had done that day. A five mile hike after dinner. Bingo. He was too tired to bark.

This led us to a discussion on how much time we really spend exercising our dogs. Because you always think your dog gets more exercise than they do. I started timing my walks to see how much Lily was actually getting because she wasn't as tired during the day as she was in the evenings. It turned out that 45 minute morning walk was really only 20 minutes. Oops. So I realized that I had to start timing myself to make sure she was getting enough exercise.

My brother told me that he realized a few months earlier that their 20 minute morning walks with Scooby were only 5 minutes. He had complained to their trainer that Scooby would not go to the bathroom outside no matter what they did. The trainer said that he would if he was given enough time. My brother said he only had 20 minutes to spare in the mornings and that's how long he was standing outside with him. He (Scooby) would start to go in the house, get clapped at to distract him, get scooped up and raced outside, and my brother would stand out there with him while he wandered around for 20 minutes and didn't go.

"Time it," Wise Trainer said. "Because I'm sure you aren't spending as much time out there as you think."

So my brother set an old stop watch on the key rack next to the front door. Imagine his surprise when he came back in, frustrated as we all can get with a puppy we feel is willfully and stubbornly defying our housebreaking efforts (it isn't personal and they aren't doing it to drive us mad on purpose).

The stop watch said 4:47.

"I felt like an ass," he said.

No reason to feel that wa. We all do it. Sometimes it feels like waaaaaaay more time than we actually put in. He stepped it up and Scooby started going outside. After a few weeks, he was going as soon as he got outside. No more trying to go in the house.

But we can get complacent. Life gets in the way. Our dog's exercise needs can go on the backburner. But we need that exercise too. We need the time outside in the fresh air. We need that bonding with our dog.

Can you spot the tired dog in the picture?)

A tired dog is a good dog.

And a tired dog is a happy owner.

I can't wrap this post up neatly. I don't know if my brother is exercising his little dog more or not. He did when I was visiting, but that's likely just because I made him. Big sisters can do that. Maybe it will stick, maybe it won't. At least he knows it's not the dog.

What about you - do you spend a specific amount of time with your pets? Do you exercise your cats daily for a set amount of time? Or do you just know when your pets are tired, you are done?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Another Great Reason To Train Your Dog

Emergencies happen. They are unpredictable, hit out of nowhere and can rock your world.

This happened to a friend last week. Out of the blue, her husband was hospitalized. Their world revolved around test after test after test. It happened swiftly and suddenly. There was no going home or being home for their dog. They needed their focus to be 100% on what was happening in the hospital.

When someone needs me, I don't hesitate. I stepped forward to take care of their dog. Her mother was in town staying at the house in the evenings so I only had to worry about the daytime hours.

Their dog is six years old. They've had him for three years. He has severe separation anxiety. When you arrive to get him, you spend ten minutes with him jumping on you, pawing you and just completely freaked out. Pick of his leash and he grabs it out of your hand. He doesn't know the commands "drop" or "release" so it becomes a tug-of-war. It was absolutely exhausting.

I would drop the leash the minute he took it in his mouth. I would turn my back on him when he would jump and paw at me. By the end of the week, I had him down to less than a minute of freakout. He would bark loudly at me while I was hooking his leash, but there was no more grabbing of it. Quick learner.

Open the front door and he is out like a bullet. I tore a muscle in my chest that made it hard to breathe. And I sprained my wrist. He pulls to the point of choking himself. Everywhere.

These problems are both fixable. The first one I managed easily. The second one took more work and he's still not there yet. His owners are home and have other things to think about besides training so any work done with him last week will be erased this week.

When you ask someone to watch your dog, you want it to be easy. You want it to be a joy. Though I love their dog dearly, this was an incredibly hard week on me. I was left exhausted from the effort of watching, walking and taking care of this dog. Had he been trained as well as Lily, it wouldn't have been a big deal at all. You don't want people to hesitate to take care of your dog. You don't want to have to search around for someone who will help when you need to be thinking of other things.

For the sake of others, and the peace of your own mind, it's good to train your dog. What you don't mind putting up with, doesn't mean others will be okay with. This is your dog and you love that dearly. But other people don't have the same relationship with your dog. What you find endearing in jumping and pawing, others don't find as cute.

Have you ever had to take care of a friend or relative's dog that isn't as well trained or behaved as your own?

Friday, May 11, 2012

FUN Friday

The weekend is arriving. Let's bring it in with some funny videos!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It's an Itchy Kind of Spring

Spring and Summer can be miserable times for poor Lily. She's riddled with allergies. Sometimes it seems she's allergic to EVERYTHING.

She's on steroids year round as well as daily antihistamines. This year, I was able to talk my husband into exploring some holistic remedies to get her some relief. Unfortunately, we had a warm winter and the pollens are supposed to be the worst in almost two decades.

We have noticed. All she does is itch. At the moment, her chest is red and raw. The holistic remedies are not working. I'm urging him to be patient. Nothing is a quick fix. We have to stay the course and see how things go over the next year.

As I type this, she has been itching non-stop for ten minutes. If we close the windows, our house heats up quickly. The warmth adds to the itching. We can't leave our windows open at night because my husband says so. This leaves me up far past my bedtime just to hang out in the living room with her and keep them open wide, cool air drifting in to calm her and give her some relief.

I ache for her. I try everything in my power to ease her itching - extra walks to keep her extra tired, bath once a week plus daily wipedowns, t-shirts for walking (see above). It never feels like enough. When she's up late itching and scratching, I stay with her out of guilt. Sometimes we do an extra walk. We've switched her food to a new protein source, but it hasn't been enough time to get the old one out of her system yet so she isn't getting relief there. She has supplements up the wazoo.

And starting the end of the week, she will have shorts.

Every inch of her undercarriage will be covered for walks. Time in the sun will be limited in the yard because she can't stay out of the grass that gives her such bad hives. Within a few weeks, the rash will disappear and the clothes will come off again. I just wish we could find an end to this misery permanently.

Do we move to a cooler climate? A place where there is more snow and less pollen? More rain and less sun? More dirt and pine and less sage and grass? I'd do just about anything to get her well again.

So for now, we treat the symptoms and try to get some relief while the holistic vet has her taking things to heal the insides (which will supposedly get rid of the itchies, or at least diminish them). For now, we stay this course. And we hope.

Because Lily is embarrassed walking in her t-shirts. She'd rather be clothes free. And hive free. And itch free.

Does your dog have allergies? What have you found that works? Or doesn't?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Attack of the Bees

There's been a lot recently on Colony Collapse in honey bees. You can read one article here.

I should start by saying I'm terrified of bees. For good reason. They're my worst allergy. I carry an epi-pen with me in case I get stung. It started when I stepped on a bee at five years of age. Not much of a reaction that time, but mom had to dry lots of tears. Then, I got stung on the arm when I was 8. I swelled from the shoulder to the elbow. After that, I was given the epi-pen just to be safe. A person can make it the rest of their life without being stung, right? We camp and hike and backpack so it's better to be safe in those out of the way places.

We were thirty minutes from guests arriving for a BBQ. My husband goes out to the yard to fire up the grill and returns to announce, "Honey, you have to come see this. I've never seen so many bees in my life!"


Naturally, my curiosity won out over my caution. I stepped outside to see a swarm on the tree.

I ran back inside and shut the door. Then I ran around shutting all the windows. As I sobbed and mumbled things incoherently.
I found a number for a Bee Keeper online. Even with my fear of bees, I didn't want to destroy them if they were a swarm of honey bees. Killer bees? So. Dead. But honey bees are necessary. I phoned the company. The poor man who answered the phone had to say to me, "Ma'am. I need you to take a deep breath and calm down because I can't understand your address." Oops. After calming myself, I was able to give him the necessary information.

The man who showed up strolled into the yard and up to the bees without a suit on. He stuck his head right up there in the swarm.

"These bees are nice," he called out to us as we hovered at the back of the yard.

By now, company had arrived. The women joined me in the house, watching through the windows. The men gathered in the yard to watch the Bee Keep. He grabbed the tree and gave it a shake. Bees scattered to reveal a large queen. The man put the queen in a box. The remaining bees swarmed into the box.

Before he left, he let the men each hold the box of bees. My husband said it was heavier than he expected - like lifting a ten pound weight.

Our party was a "hit" and has been the talk of our friends for years.

"Remember that time Erik and Jenn had that swarm of bees in their yard?"

It's important to call in an expert who can determine the kind of bee and then take appropriate action. Killing a honey bee swarm is not appropriate action when we're dealing with colony collapse at the moment. Twice in the past month, I've watched the City of Burbank deal with the bees harshly without calling in an expert to assess the situation and decide if the bees were honey or killer bees. Not appropriate. It was less money for the Bee Keeper than it was for an exterminator. It was kinder to the environment, to the bees and to a local farmer who got the new hive.

Have you ever seen a swarm of bees? Ever had one in your yard?