Monday, March 31, 2014
Pets give loyal, unconditional love. People? Not so much. Over the years, I have yet to see a situation where a pet has been given up for a new boyfriend/girlfriend (or even an old relationship) work out well for the person who is relinquishing the pet. I'm going to give three examples before getting to the one in question today.
I was volunteering at a local shelter. A young woman was moving in with her boyfriend who didn't like her four year old Shih Tzu. She sobbed while filling out the relinquishment papers. The dog tried his best to comfort her. The boyfriend sat a table away, ignoring her embarrassing display (he was bright red and shooting her disgusted glances while rolling his eyes - that's how we knew he viewed it as embarrassing). Though we all tried to ask her to reconsider, keeping the dog was not an option if she wanted to move forward in her relationship. I will never forget how hard this poor dog tried to calm his owner down. He crawled onto her lap, he licked her tears, he leaned into her as hard as he could. In the end, he came with us and she went on her way. He got a great home. She came back later (I can't remember now if it was a few weeks or a few months) to see if she could get him back. The boyfriend had kicked her out anyway. The dog was not the issue.
I've had several rough emails this week. Too many of them have been: Need to rehome dog/cat because of boyfriend/girlfriend/daughter moving in/moving home. I've had an email trying to rehome an 8 year-old dog because the new girlfriend doesn't like him ("he's too big"). I've had an email trying to rehome the 10 year-old cat because the daughter is having to move back home and doesn't like cats. I can't imagine how confusing that is for a pet to go from a loving home one day to an animal shelter the next - and not have any clue why they are being left in that scary place full of strange sounds and smells. They must pine for their owners, hoping as each new person shuffles through to stare at them that one of them will eventually be their long, lost owner.
In the end, it's rarely ever about the pet. I see it over and over again - like the show, an ultimatum is given: it's ME or the DOG/cat. Sometimes, it's a power struggle. Other times, I don't know what to make of it. I do know that pets are family. I know that they are far more loyal than people. When you adopt a pet, you're making that commitment to take care of them for their lifetime - not until someone you start dating decides that THEY don't want the pet. I just really want people to think before they move forward. Why is this person asking me to give up my dog or cat? Why is that so important to them? And, what am I giving up when I let go of my pet? Your pet doesn't care how you dress, what you weigh, if you want to stay in your pajamas all day and watch "The Walking Dead" marathon. They love you for you. They will never ask you to give up your person. They will always be there for you. Don't we owe it to them to always be there for them?
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Six years ago, after a lifetime spent dreaming about it, I adopted my first dog. I had been wanting a dog forever, but apartment living made it difficult with size restrictions (I’ve never been a purse-dog kind of gal). So after saving and planning, I bought a condo in California for the sole purpose of getting my first dog! Once I was settled in my condo, I began my search. The only criteria I had for a dog was that he/she be mellow and good with cats. Breed was never on my list; I didn't care if it was a Shepherd, a Basset Hound, or a Pit Bull. I just wanted a nice dog. I contacted a few rescues inquiring about dogs I saw on Petfinder. Some had already been spoken for, some I just never heard back on. Until Emma. I reached out to Downtown Dog Rescue in Los Angeles, inquiring about their available dogs. Lori Weise responded quickly and was happy to share with me a dog they just took in that was excellent with cats. I remember the first thing Lori told me about Emma, that ‘she was a true rescue, in every sense of the word’. It was a female pit bull that a Good Samaritan found collapsed on a yard in her neighborhood, skinny, tattered and having just given birth (no puppies were ever found). I went down to meet her that week, and couldn't say no to her big brown eyes. She was mine.
|Emma Before and After!|
|Tivi (foreground) and Emma (background)|
I’d never thought twice about a dog’s breed. I’ve always thought that every dog is different and has its own personality. Of course I was aware of the prejudice against pit bulls, but I had no idea how extreme it was until I had this adorable brown pit bull of my own. Here I am, all 5 feet 4 inches of me, in my pink sweat pants and a pony tail, walking along with my dog in her sparkly pink collar and matching leash. How on earth could we be threatening?! Yet people actually did cross the street when they saw us coming, I couldn’t believe it. I once had a man yell at me when I was out walking her; he screamed at me to “put that thing away!” I didn’t like it, and I wanted it to change. I wanted people to see my dog, and every other dog of for that matter, for what she was: a dog. Feeling frustrated, and quite honestly a bit heart broken, I needed to vent with other dog owners in the same boat. I joined an online forum dedicated to all things pit bull. In addition to commiserating with other folks sharing my dog discrimination plight, I also learned a ton about health issues, training, laws, and most important: dog rescue. The forum was full of members heavily involved in animal rescue. It was an excellent place for networking dogs in need of homes. One such dog was a wrinkly and chubby senior Shar-Pei/Pit Bull mix named Tivoli. He’d been living at a no kill shelter in Central Oregon for two years. The thread with his story and efforts to find him a home quickly became one of the most active, with members posting daily; either inquiring about his status, or coordinating donations of supplies, treats and toys. Like so many members, I was totally smitten with this dog I’d never met. After several months following his story, I was beyond excited to learn that he was finally adopted in March of 2010! His new owner, Jonathan, was aware of Tivi’s ‘fan base’ and started a blog about their new adventures together. I logged on every day to see what adorable photo of Tivi would be posted next. When Jonathan posted about his upcoming vacation with Tivi to Sunriver Resort in Bend, Oregon, I got an idea. Every summer I took a road trip with Emma; we drove from California to Washington State to visit my parents. I always made a pit stop in Bend, so this time I thought, why not stay at Sunriver and meet Tivi? I got in contact with Jonathan and with our trips coinciding, he welcomed Emma and me to see him and Tivi. Jonathan and I stayed in contact up until the trip, emailing and connecting over our shared love of dogs. When July finally came, I was excited to meet not only Tivi, but now Jonathan too. Jonathan and I hit it off, and we’ve been together ever since.
|Emma and TC|
Three years ago I moved from California to Spokane, Washington to care for my parents. I sold my condo and packed up my car with Emma and my cat, and my new life as a caregiver began. For the next year and a half I cared for my parents 24/7. With my mom suffering from Alzheimer’s and my dad having suddenly lost his eyesight, it was often a draining and emotional job. Arranging care for my parents in my absence was a challenge, so visits to Jonathan and Tivi were infrequent. I didn’t know anyone in Spokane, and aside from volunteering at the Humane Society, I had zero life outside of my caregiving role. But I had my animals. And I am certain I would have gone insane without them! I savored simple things like going for a walk with Emma, and having the cat sleep on my pillow every night. But I wasn’t the only one to benefit from the amazing comfort these furry creatures provided.
My dad, deeply depressed by his new affliction that prevented him from doing everything he loved (reading, golfing, daily email banter with his old Navy buddies), now had a reason to get dressed and out of the house: my dog, Emma. I’ve never seen a crotchety old man switch from grumpy to giddy so quickly as when Emma would jump onto my mom and dad’s bed every morning to wake them up. And the highlight of my dad’s day? A walk around the block with Emma. Emma’s a bit of a couch potato, so her leisurely pace was quite compatible with an 80-year-old blind man; he was able to hold her leash and his cane and lead our walks. My dad was now in control again, participating in life. He was walking this stocky pit bull, with confidence and a smile I hadn’t seen since he’d lost his eyesight.
For my mom, whose world was now filled with confusion, anxiety and fear, Emma was 65 pounds of comfort and kinship. Not many people could understand my mom as she struggled to string a sentence together, and she often did not understand where she was or what she was doing at any given moment. Alzheimer’s can create a lonely and frustrating existence for those it cruelly strikes. But with Emma, it didn’t matter what my mom said or how little sense she made. There was always a pair of big brown eyes staring back at her with what seemed to be an honest understanding. Emma was a source of peace in my mom’s chaotic mind. Often my mom would wander into my room at night, confused and paranoid about someone out to get her. Emma was always my go-to girl for reigning mom back in. I would interrupt my mom to tell her the dog was begging for her attention. Emma would roll on her back offering her belly, and my mom would instantly be sucked in, now focused on giving the best belly rub she could. The villains haunting my mom were gone, and it was just her and Emma. Even if only for a matter of minutes, it gave her some reprieve from this disease.
As Alzheimer’s continued to take more and more of my mom away, it became more than I could handle by myself. And my own sanity was taking a hit. I needed to get more help for my parents and a life for myself. So again I packed up my car with the animals and hit the road, only this time it was a bit more crowded, with both my mom and dad crammed in as well. Together we made the trek down to Oregon, close to my friends and Jonathan and Tivi. I now had a house for myself where I could start fresh, and a beautiful retirement community for my parents, where I could still care for my mom but could leave at the end of the day!
Today I get to bring Emma to “work” with me, visiting my parents and bringing her much welcomed source of joy. And she’s not the only ‘therapy’ dog in my arsenal now. Tivi has gotten in on the action too. Always donning a goofy t-shirt to cover his missing and patchy hair, Tivi is an immediate hit when we walk into the retirement home. Old folks who otherwise ignore me, suddenly approach asking who the handsome dog is! I can never make it to my parents’ apartment without a good hour visit in the lobby with a crowd of walkers and canes all reaching in to give Tivi a pat on the head. They all want to know his story, and so many are thrilled to tell me about their own pets, or the good ‘ol dog they had growing up. I’m not just bringing a dog through the lobby, I’m bringing conversation, laughter, and sometimes memories of dogs past. It is so much fun to have this four-legged entertainer by my side, and to witness and enjoy the happiness a dog creates.
The last four years have taken me from state to state, and through a drastic career change and living situations. Emma has been by my side the whole time. And now with Tivi, I have two wiggly butts welcoming me home at the end of the day. And when you have that, it doesn’t matter how long or hard the day was.
A HUGE thank you to Jennifer and Emma for sharing their story with us. How gorgeous is Emma? And what a lucky girl to have found Jennifer.
Have you experienced the healing power of an animal in your life?
Friday, March 14, 2014
We were a little cat heavy today, but that's okay! Dogs are usually most of our focus so it's nice to switch it up every so often!
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND EVERYONE!
Don't forget to hike those dogs and exercise those cats!
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
How many pets do you have?
I have two dogs. They are a handful.
When did you get your first dog?
My first dog, Katy came to me when I lived in Washington DC. I was single and free and had just broken up with a boyfriend, so I thought a dog would be good. My mother thought that was a very bad idea. She thought I was not settled enough and that having a dog is a big responsibility. She was right. Luckily, I found the most amazing, perfect puppy in the world. She was 6 months old, and her sweet picture was on petfrinder.com on the internet. I saw her and drove the next day 2 hours down into Virginia to meet her in the snow. The staff was hesitant, they told me she probably needed a retired couple because she was scared and nervous. If I wanted a puppy that was good for a family they suggested some other pups they had. No, I said, could I please just meet her. It was love at first sight. She has been my very best friend since that moment. The staff quickly agreed that we were a great match and within 3 days I had a home visit done, background check done and a new puppy at my home. She is about the best, most gentle soul I have ever met.
And the second?
Twiga is my second puppy. She is a whole other ball of wax. I got her when living in Africa 5 years after I got Katy. Twiga was being abused by my neighbor and it took quite a bit of negotiating to allow the neighbor to hand me over the dog. She came with another pal, Zari. I got them both nursed back to health. They came to me nearly starved, flea ridden and sick with worms. I brought them back to the States where we got home training and more health care. Twiga had a very bad worm that nearly cost her her life. Finally, after surgery she began to gain weight. Zari had an infected eye from being beaten which would eventually need to be taken out, so he is blind in one eye. Once they were acclimated, house trained (they went EVERYWHERE when they first came home. The couch leg was toast!), and leash trained (boy did they HATE a leash), I separated them giving Zari to my parents (poor dear parents) and I kept Twiga. She hates all other dogs, except Katy. She doesn't like Katy but after trying desperately to fight with her, to no avail, Twiga now just ignores Katy. Katy does NOT fight....you get the feeling she is very disdainful of fighting, it is simply beneath her.
The number one reason pets are relinquished to the shelter is MOVING. How many times have you moved with the dogs? And where did you move to/from?
It would NEVER occur to me to give my pets away to move. I have left Katy for brief periods of time at my parents home. But, if I hadn't been able to do that, I would not have gone. I am an international human rights lawyer, so I move around a lot, internationally. Early on, I had a few short contracts with the UN where I would moved for 3 or 4 months to a country. during those two periods, I left Katy with my parents. Otherwise, I take my dogs where I go. I've moved A LOT. from DC to Ca (I only had Katy and I packed the moving truck and hired movers to drive it across the country, then Katy and I loaded up my jeep and trecked across the country together from DC to California for law school). After law school I started working for the UN. I've moved from the US, to Geneva, to The Hague, to Nairobi, to Tanzania....and at least one, sometimes two, or three dogs have always come.
How hard was it moving internationally with dogs?
It hasn't been that hard to move. OK...that's not really true. The truth is that it does take some extra planning and extra work to make sure I'm moving safely and taking care of the dogs. But....that's my responsibility. When you take on a pet, you have a duty of responsibility. So...when I know I'm going to move, I have to be sure that the dogs have all the shot and chip requirements of country we are headed. I refuse to move to a quarantine country. I won't quarantine my dogs. PERIOD. Each country has different regulations, so I have to research and make sure my vet knows what is needed. Then, I have to research the airlines (there are only certain ones I will fly with the dogs) and then research to be sure that I can get them on a straight through flight if possible, and if not, then only one other stop. If coming from Africa to America we have to stop in Europe, but I will only fly through Amsterdam or Frankfurt, which have good options for dogs on layovers. I try to fly business or first class when I can (if moving the UN usually pays and if you are moving countries you usually have business class authorization) because the pilots and attendants are more apt to assist you in being sure your dog is taken care of in business class. I cause a fuss at the beginning of the flight and want the pilot to have confirmation from the ground crew that my dogs are on board before the doors close. Upon landing I make a huge fuss that the ground crew is radioed that there are dogs on board who need off the tarmac immediately. OH, and I always check the weather and won't fly or layover anywhere with extreme weather. I've delayed flights a few days to wait for the weather to cool. On a layover I make a fuss (and have resorted to crying) in order to see the dogs and make sure they have food, water and are taken care of. In essence, I am a PAIN in the neck....but I figure it's my job to keep those dogs safe, so I don't really care. Yes, it's more difficult to travel with them....yes, they are worth it.
Was there ever a point you thought 'I'm just going to leave Katy/Twiga'?
No. Except when I was only going for a summer or very short time....only because I had a place to leave Katy that was easier on her than the move would have been. if I hadn't had my parents as an option to leave her, I wouldn't have gone. I am expecting another international moved this August and I just went to the vet for Katy's senior check up. I asked him if she was too old to make this kind of move (she's 13 1/2 now) and if so, I would not consider taking the job. He assured me that she can make the move, no problem, if she stays as health as she is now. If something happens though...I won't go. She is older and I need to be sure that these last years of her life are as easy and happy for her as possible.
Now I have small kids. Two kids, two dogs and one grown up makes for a very busy mama and household. But, I wouldn't have it any other way. Katy and Clara Shei (my more quiet and thoughtful daughter) identify much more while Akira and Twiga, the two very rambunctious members of the family have quite a relationship. Twiga tells him when she's had enough. I never leave the dogs and kids alone together though....for everyone's sake. The kids wouldn't ever maliciously hurt the dogs, but they might accidentally and it's just better to have an adult there to protect everyone. I feel the worst for Katy to be honest. She's older and she is SO good and SO easy that she doesn't always get the attention she deserves. Then, I'll notice her get a bit droopy and it will remind me that she might not bark or destroy things but that doesn't mean she doesn't need my attention. Plus, I love that special time each day when I'm on a walk with just Katy....we've been together for 13 years now, and she really is dear to me. My daughter has asked me before why I love Katy more than she and her brother. I explain that I don't love Katy more, but I do love her as much! Plus, she behaves better than they do.
Anything else you want to share with us? Any final thoughts?
I'm not going to say that's its no big deal to move with pets. It should be a big deal...the same way you make sure your kids are safe when you move, you make sure your dogs are safe when you move. You should. Your kids need the vaccinations, and so do your dogs. Your kids needs an easy flight route, so do your dogs. Would you leave your kids behind because it was too hard to fly with them? No. And, I won't leave my dogs either. A family move has to work for everyone, me, the kids and the dogs. We are a family and no one in a family gets left behind.
How amazing is Kirsten?! We have so much respect for her. Not only is she an amazing Mom to her kids (two and four legged), she has lived an incredible life. We can't thank her enough for her time. She has so little to spare, but she managed to find a few minutes to share with us!
Has anyone else ever moved internationally with their pets?
Monday, March 10, 2014
When we got Lily, we were determined to get her into a good routine for several reasons.
1) The routine would help her.
2) The routine would make her easy to pet sit, making it easy to get friends to take care of her.
What is the routine?
Please don't laugh at me for comparing puppies to babies, but I was essentially copying what my friends were doing (the ones who had been successful parenting). The kids that were easiest to take care of had routines. Routines made them comfortable. It gave them structure. I loved babysitting because it was a breeze to get them down for the night. You fed them dinner, you had play time for an hour, you gave them a bath, you put them to bed and read to them for a bit. Presto. Kids asleep.
It has worked with Lily too.
The routine is a morning walk followed by breakfast. Then, her music goes on. What is her music? If we're working, we turn on a channel with relaxing, yoga-type music (our friends jokingly refer to it as "Lily's Music"). If I'm home, it's Native American flute music (type it into youtube and you'll get various compilations to choose from). She will then sack out until late afternoon.
She'll wake up in time for us to eat dinner. We eat, she eats, and then we do an evening walk. The evening walks are usually 45 minutes at the least. But when we have to cut it short (it rained for the first time in a year last night so she got 20 minutes), the routine still works. Why? It's her signal to wind down. She knows - dinner, walk, find it (with leftover treats when we get home), and then bed.
She's been the easiest dog ever. I credit the routine. You can short the walks if you have to and it doesn't mater. It's not the length of them, it's the idea of them. We don't ever vary the routine so it means the same thing at 6 that it did when she was 6 months. It helps us if we have a particularly busy day. It helps our pet sitters because they have other jobs/clients. It makes her an easy dog. It also makes her a comfortable, happy dog.
What about you? Do you have a routine for your dog(s)? Do you find that it helps?
Friday, March 7, 2014
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
The number one reason is MOVING.
Karen Schei Donovan was kind enough to answer our interview questions today. She has recently moved.
How many pets do you have?
I have six pets. Four dogs, one cat and a mini pot belly pig.
Kiara (Shepard Collie Mix)
Bolt (Border Collie)
Belle (Border Collie)
Jasper (Border Collie)
Bolt and Belle are married (yes, we even had a ceremony) and they are mom and dad to Jasper. Jasper and Daisey are best buddies and have even been found cuddling. Kiara is a beautiful “Aunt” and the matriarch of the pack. Spooky does not appreciate the rest of them much and he lives in a separate part of the house.
Yes, it is true. Although we love them all very much, we do each have a pet that is closest to our hearts. Kiara is the family pet but the others each “belong” to someone. Bolt is my 13 year-old daughters dog. Jasper is Hunter’s dog. Belle is the rescue that adopted me. And I have to be honest, my heart melts for my piggy, Daisey. Not to leave Spooky out. He lives in my room but he is my daughter’s cat and she adores him too.
|Bailey and Daisey|
How do you manage a multi-pet household?
I have learned to live in total chaos. The dogs are very high energy and all of my pets are indoor animals. In fact, Daisey even has her own bedroom. We have to let them out either 1-2 at a time or we have to go out with them all. It is especially difficult in the rainy season as they love to play in the mud (the dogs, not Daisey). Feeding time is also a time we need to be careful. Bolt will bark for us to feed them but he then waits until his family has finished eating before he begins. Daisey must be put away when the dogs are fed or else she would bully them out of their food and probably end up weighing 300 pounds! Having a multi-pet household is definitely a challenge but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The number one reason for relinquishing pets to the shelter (dogs, cats, AND pigs!) is WE'RE MOVING AND WE CAN'T TAKE THE PETS. Does this work for you?
No! I recently found myself in a position where I had to move out my home where I had lived for the past 21 years. I had to find a house to rent that would keep my kids in the same school district and a house that would allow for my menagerie of animals. It was no easy task but there was absolutely no way I was going to leave any of my animals as they are our family.
Your dogs are what would be considered "large dogs" by most landlords and management companies. Did you have a problem finding a place?
Yes, it was difficult. We were very fortunate to have found the home we are in now. It is all tile downstairs and wood upstairs. The backyard has plenty of room for the animals to run and play. It is like they have their own dog park! Our landlord was very understanding and even lowered the pet deposit since it was originally $300 per pet. So, although it isn’t easy, there are people out there willing to accommodate pets.
That's a lot of pets to move with! How did the move go? Was it hard settling in to the new place or did they adjust quickly?
Kiara had the most trouble with the move because she hates hard floors. She would often have to be carried off the couch because she was afraid to get down and would whimper. It took her about 3 weeks to get used to the floors. The other animals adapted very quickly.
Any advice for people moving with pets?
It is worth the extra trouble to look for a place that will allow multiple pets. There are places out there so don’t give up! Your pets are your family. I would highly recommend looking for a pet friendly home so you do not have to worry so much about any damage. We were very happy to not have carpet any longer. I would also move them over after much of your belongings are in place so it looks a little more familiar to them and they have your smells.
What about you - have you ever had to move with pets? Have you struggled to find a new place that was pet friendly?
Monday, March 3, 2014
I want to start by including a link to our personal position on "outdoor dogs/cats". You can find it here.
Ideally, the pet should be inside the house and a part of the family. But the reality that we encounter is some dogs will never be inside the house in their current situations. Rather than remove them from the home once we've tried to educate (because this puts another dog into the "system" and another dog into that yard), we work on improving the quality of life for the pet in that situation. Most of the time, these dogs are there to serve a purpose - to protect the house. In the majority of these situations, it's enough to see the dog for it to be a deterrent (which is good because most of these dogs are pit bull type dogs and are extremely friendly) to would be burglars. These dogs are well fed. They are loved. But they want them in the yard, end of story. How do you increase quality of life?
For starters, the dog house. Many of these dogs have homemade shelters. The father has made the dog house - and I can't begin to tell you how impressive they are. They are better than anything store bought (especially those igloos, which leak like crazy in the rain). The biggest problem is that they have no insulation. Anyone who has ever been out in the rain knows how miserable being wet is. At most, these dogs have blankets. Blankets get wet and they don't dry out. We encourage swapping out the blanket for STRAW. It doesn't mold and it provides warmth for the dog. It's inexpensive and can be easily swapped out.
There are many great How To's out there for feral cat shelters that I encourage owners of outdoor only cats to use. Here are a variety of shelter options for purchase and instructions for making your own:
Outdoor Cat Winter Shelters
While our position remains that pets should be inside the house, we understand that this won't always be the case in some of the communities we teach in. We are educating the next generation so that they understand the WHY and they know not to get a pet if it doesn't live inside the house. Dogs in the yard only protect the yard, they don't protect the house. But there is no reason to talk a family into relinquishing their current dog when you then have that dog to place in a new home and they will just go out and get another dog for the yard. Understanding the situation and making life better for that current pet should be the focus when education fails.