Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloween With Your Dog

This is Lily in her Bumble Bee costume. Lily has always been a big fan of Halloween because of all the people. She loves to greet. Our house is tucked back off the street so we get very few visitors. Instead, we do an early evening walk with her so she can get pet by lots of kids and adults alike.

Costumes don't bother Lily. She's curious, but never scared. People still smell like people, even little people that are dressed like Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers or Avengers. We've been doing the Halloween walk with her for the last 7 years. Still, we pay attention to her body language because we don't ever want to force her into a situation that makes her uncomfortable. As she ages, one thing is becoming evident: noise sensitivity. Loud noises bother her much more than they did as a puppy.

We have one street that really gets into the Halloween spirit. To get your treats, you must make it to the front door of each house - through mazes and hazes and flashing lights and loud pops and booming explosions. We stopped taking Lily up this street last year. She had always particularly enjoyed this street because it had her two favorite things: People and TREATS! The mazes didn't bother her (it probably helped that the dog saavy parents had schooled everyone involved in the mazes that we do not jump out at people with their pets; only unsuspecting kids and adults sans dogs) and there were always cookies waiting for her at the door (and usually the ones that mom never allowed because they weren't grain free, thus raising the value of those particular treats).

Last year, I noticed that she was no longer the happy-go-lucky girl that usually walked up the street, tail waging and face relaxed. Instead, I glanced down to see her tail tucked. She chose not to go up to the front doors for cookies. We listened to her and quickly curtailed the walk, taking her down a much quieter street - only to see the old Lil return.

When everyone thinks of Halloween and pets, they tend to focus on the chocolate aspect of the holiday. Obviously, we have to be extra careful about that - keeping the chocolate up and out of the way so that they cannot get into any of it. But we also have to pay attention to their body language. The 4th of July isn't the only holiday that can be scary for our pets. Each holiday carries it's own dangers beyond food (leftovers at Thanksgiving and Christmas are a concern, but so is a house packed full of people). We can reward our dogs for their loyalty by paying attention to their needs and comfort levels on holidays.

What about you - does your dog like Halloween? Do you dress your pets up for the holiday?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Interview Wednesday - Shirley Truong

Our interview today is with Shirley Truong, former teen volunteer turned pet sitter turned Vet! I've had the pleasure of knowing Shirley since she was in high school and she's grown into an amazing, inspiring woman. Perfect candidate for an interview, right?

A young Shirley multitasking phones and computer data
What got you started volunteering?
I started volunteering at a local rescue organization called Pet Orphans Fund (now known as Pet Orphans of Southern California) back when I was a junior in high school, so I would say around 2001 or so. My high school required each student to fulfill a certain number of volunteer hours. I wanted to volunteer at a place that would help cultivate my interest in helping animals in need. I am so thankful that I found Pet Orphans!

I continued to volunteer there for a couple of years, even though I completed my required amount of hours for school after a few weeks!

We have it on good authority that you were an extraordinary pet sitter. Why vet school?
​Aw, thank you for the compliment. My family has told me that I've always wanted to become a veterinarian. There are plenty of stories about how I used to play with my sister and cousin and have them be my clients with their imaginary pets that needed help. While growing up, my family always had at least one pet. Throughout the years, we had dogs, birds, fish, chickens, turtles, a tortoise, an iguana, salamanders, and frogs. Most of them were owned at the same time! My parents were very gracious to allow us to have all of those pets. I think that my interest in veterinary medicine grew as I had more exposure to animals and how to care for them. I can't see myself being as happy doing anything else with my life than keeping animals healthy and being there for them and their owners when they need help!

Which animal has been the most difficult to work with? Which has been the easiest?
This one is a tough call. Each animal comes with their challenges for different reasons. Personally, I would say that wildlife is a challenge for me to work with because you should ideally minimize speaking to them or getting too close so that you avoid imprinting on them. I love interacting with my patients, so it was difficult to refrain from petting them or talking around them.

The easiest to work with is probably the tortoise because they can't really run away or wriggle their way out of your hands!

You are a big advocate for the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and their mixes. What draws you to this breed?
Yes, definitely! I owned a pitbull mix for almost 10 years named Harley and he showed me what it means to have unconditional love. These breeds have qualities that every person in this world should have: loyalty, compassion, and intelligence. If you spend the time to bond with and train a dog of this breed, you will likely end up with a trusty companion by your side for many years.

You have rights as pets! Why?
I do! I have 2 pet rats, Oscar and Chuey. A little over a year ago, the research department at my school sent out a schoolwide email asking for someone to adopt Oscar because he had fulfilled his job as a breeder rat for a project and they didn't want to euthanize him. So, of course, I said I would take him!

I never owned a rat before, but heard from my brother and others that they are fun to have, why not??

Once I got Oscar, I read that rats do better in pairs, so I adopted Chuey from my brother who had his hands full with two other rats of his own.

She buys them toys but they prefer the boxes!
How much care do they require?
Not much, actually! The usual things like food, water, and exercise that you would provide for any other pet. Most importantly, they require adequate space and hiding places (small cardboard boxes work great!).

I keep my 2 guys in a cage designated for ferrets, that way they can have their personal space and also be able to walk around. They like to eat fresh fruits and vegetables (especially broccoli and grapes!) in addition to their rat food (I feed Oxbow adult rat food). I also set up a play pen for them to have time away from their cage for a couple hours each evening, as they are more social at night. Their cage and bedding need to be cleaned and changed at least once a week, which usually takes about 30 minutes or so. Overall, they're not too demanding!

Let's bring this interview full circle. Why do you feel volunteering is important for young people?
Volunteering teaches young people to find and do something that they enjoy and not expect anything in return, like a paycheck. I ask people all the time, "What would you choose as a job or career if you knew you wouldn't get paid?" That's basically asking someone what they would do as a volunteer. It's such an important concept because I think a lot of people strive to find a career that they love, and a good way to figure that out is to do it for free!

Thank you so much for your time, Shirley! What about you - any aspiring vets out there? Any rat owners?

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Most Expensive Dog Ever

Lily at 10 weeks.
When we got Lily, we were well aware of the health issues that plague her breed. We had NO idea that weird things would happen to her.

When I say she is the most expensive dog ever, I'm not talking over her lifetime. I cannot bring myself to add up what we have spent on her over the course of her 8 years blessing our lives. We don't have to go that far back to get to the bulk of the money. My husband jokingly refers to her as The Money Pit. It's really not much of a joke.

$30,000 in the last two and a half years.

What could possibly cost that much?

Where do I even begin?

Pitties are known for their allergies. Her coloring is known to have them times a thousand. The allergies are so severe that she gets staph infections. Chronically. That are now antibiotic resistant. But that's not even where most of the money went, believe it or not.

It started one blustery Wednesday. The day before Thanksgiving. Being a Mom, I hear when she moves. If she's up, I'm up. (This comes from her IBD, which used to plague her seemingly out of nowhere in the middle of the night, most of the time when I needed to be somewhere early. And she would go all night long. Poor thing. Her, not me. Sleep deprivation is something you get used to with kids and ill dogs.) She got up and I heard the tap, tap, tap of her feet on our hardwood floors. I beat her to the front door. Where she proceeded to shake her head so hard that she flipped herself sideways. She's done this before and it can be quite comical.

On this morning, it was not.

The side of her head smacked so hard on the kitchen floor that I felt it in MY teeth. When she got up, she was walking wonky. I watched her in the yard and her balance seemed off. I called out to my husband, "Something's wrong with Lily." He scooped her up and off to the Emergency Vet we went.

They ran preliminary neurological assessment and tests with no results to indicate it was neuro. They sent us home to follow-up with our own vet when they opened in an hour. But not before trying to argue with me that she had a seizure. (She did NOT have a seizure. I've had dogs with epilepsy. She never lost consciousness. It was a matter of seconds. But don't listen to the dog owner.) They suggested it was her heart. Did I forget to mention she has a heart murmur? Of course she does! She's Lily!

Our vet gave us grave news. After again insisting she'd had a seizure, she wanted to do a chest x-ray. When it came back, she saw a mass in the chest cavity. And sent us home to sob. Okay, my husband didn't cry. I did enough of that for both of us. The next morning, two other vets saw nothing but a heart on the x-ray. So off to the neurologist we went!

Tests to make sure her heart could withstand sedation, then sedation for an MRI and a spinal tap. Rule out brain tumors, check for infection. Chronic ear infections can lead to loss of balance. They found nothing. The diagnosis: Bells Palsy. In a dog. Which is all kinds of rare. So, naturally Lily had it.

Tilty Dog.
It took months for her head to stop looking like she was always questioning.

It took months for her to regain her balance. You can still see a slight droop. Unless it's frigid out - then it all comes back and she has trouble with her coordination and part of her face paralyzes.

Poor picture quality but you can see that one side is not like the other.

Next, we had to do an echocardiogram to check on her heart. She has a mitrovalve issue, but is otherwise heart healthy. Two walks a day help that. Agility during those walks help as well.

Then came the Pancreatitis. If you have never experienced this with your dog, count your blessings. It is not fun in any way for your pet and it worries you almost to death (or maybe that's just me).

She looks like she's had a night on the town.
In reality, it's the combo of nausea meds and pain killers.

She had recovered from that when I noticed an odd bump on her back. Remember the chronic skin infections? That's what it looked like at first. But it wasn't healing. And it was growing. It ended up about the size of a ping pong ball. So we biopsied it. The good news: it was not the mast cell cancer they suspected. The weird news: it was a rare cancer in a location it NEVER occurs. Because Lily.

They removed the cancer and felt very confident that it was all gone. Knock on wood, we're almost a year out from that and it hasn't come back yet. I stress yet because this is Lily. And weird things happen to her.

Lily and her friend, fellow cancer survivor, Atlas.
Atlas also had a rare form of cancer.

This dog eats the best dog food (Stella & Chewy's raw patties, Honest Kitchen). Her treats are high quality. Her cookies are grain free. We spend around $600 feeding her every month. She's got RX Biotics and Enteric Support. She's got antihistamines and steroids. Only now, we can't do the steroids because her liver is enlarged so she just started on Atopica and we're hoping it doesn't bring the cancer back (because it's counter indicative). The only antibiotic that semi works is over $200 for each course. It all adds up.

Through it all, she never loses her gentle, loving nature. She races around the vets office, excited to see everyone even when they poke her with needles. It's hard not to get mad - not at Lily, but at the universe. Here is this good dog. This sweet natured, loving, goofball who lives for her pumpkin beef cookies and her walls and camping in Oregon and her Uncle Drew and her favorite cat Pip has been through SO MUCH. It never seems to end. And you get to the point where you just want HER to have a break. You're fine with having to get an extra job and work extra hours because that medical fund has to be built up since you never know what's coming next because Lily.

Because Lily.

Typical Lily

She's worth every penny of that $30,000. She's worth another $30,000. But for her sake, it would be nice for her to get a break. Even a small one.

What about you - does your dog suffer from any health issues?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Interview Wednesday - Kelcey Soderstrom and her Chickens!

Admit it - at some point you have wanted to get in on this urban chicken craze! We've all become curious whether it's through friends who have them or reading about them online (or having to chase them down the street when they get out of a neighbor's yard). When Kelcey got her chickens, I may have been more excited than her (and I don't even eat eggs!).

What made you decide to get chickens?
I had wanted to have chickens in the backyard ever since I was about 10 and I am now 26. It took quite a while to convince my mother to let them take over a corner of the backyard, but I believe the rising prices of eggs in the supermarket was the final push that made her give the okay. I have always had a fondness for birds (I also have a cockatiel) and was absolutely enamored with the idea of raising my own chickens and getting fresh eggs every day. I also love that I know exactly how fresh the eggs are. The eggs in the supermarket could have been laid 3-4 weeks before you get them.

Baby chicks!
Where did you get them?
I bought my 2 day old chicks at East Valley Feed & Tack 11084 Sheldon St. Sun Valley CA 91352 in March 2015. They were about $2.50 each and they carried 3 breeds at the time: Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth (Barred) Rock, and Ameraucana. There are lots of different breeds of chickens but these are some of the most common. I have 2 Plymouth Rocks (black and white variegated) named Snowflake and Obsidian and 2 Rhode Island Reds (rusty red/brown color) named Garnet and Ruby. Many feed/tack/livestock stores carry baby chicks in the spring. You can call them to find out when they will receive their chicks, what breeds they carry and whether they are sexed (usually done at the hatchery to make sure you are getting females - most cities have ordinances against roosters).

Was there a specific reason you went with the breeds of chickens that you did?
We did actually do quite a bit of research into which breeds we were getting. We wanted chickens that were strong layers but also with good personalities. Both the Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds are great layers! We are now getting 6-7 eggs a week from each of our four hens (7 months old now)! These breeds are also known to: have wonderful temperaments, love people and get along well in mixed flocks which mine definitely do. We are extremely pleased with our hens and I adore them. I like to think the feeling's mutual.

Getting bigger!
How hard are they to take care of?
Mature hens (once they are about 5 months old) are incredibly easy to care for and require less time than you think. In the morning and evening, I check their food and water containers, mostly just topping them off and usually a full clean of the water fount every 2-3 days or as necessary. Also I check for eggs. As you get to know your chickens, you will figure out when they lay and can collect eggs as convenient (to you and to them). Mine usually lay around lunchtime/early afternoon, but every chicken is different. Every week I add a fresh layer of pine shavings to their henhouse and every 4-6 weeks, I do a thorough clean of the henhouse and run, raking out all the old shavings and replacing them as well as raking out the dirt of the run. As baby chicks, they require a little more watching but nothing about their care is difficult or even time-consuming. You may find it time-consuming for different reasons though. There is nothing like holding a baby chick cupped in your palms and having her fall asleep. As babies, they need four specific needs met: heat, food, water, and sanitation. Usually a brooder box inside the house is the way to go so you can easily and frequently check on them and their environment. As long as they have these things, they will mostly sleep, eat and grow. Endless hours of entertainment as they go about their chick antics is a free bonus!

Are there special considerations given the number of predators that people wouldn't consider (Cooper's Hawks, raccoons)?
Have you heard the expression "going home to roost"? That is what chickens do every night. When darkness falls, chickens' metabolisms drop off rapidly, meaning they instinctually want to find a dark protected place to spend the night.

Their henhouse/roost needs to be well fortified to protect them at night when they are essentially helpless. Knowing this, I opted to create a well fortified henhouse as a second line of defense. The first line is a chain link dog run/kennel that we built and placed the henhouse inside. During the day, the chickens usually have the freedom to roam the backyard with both the run and henhouse doors open. As night falls, they automatically retreat to the henhouse and we shut and lock the run door behind them to protect them from raccoons. We have a lot of them in our neighborhood and I have heard stories from other locals who have lost hens to crafty raccoons who can open henhouse doors or even simple latches with those little hands/fingers.

How long was it before you got your first egg?
The first egg showed up just after they turned 5 months old.

What has surprised you the most about them?
There have been lots of surprises along the way. When you are doing something so new, you are bound to run into a lot of surprising things. The flock mentality is very interesting. Often when they move around the yard, they move around altogether staying close. If they split up, they pair off by breed with the 2 Rocks and 2 Reds sticking together. They will all nestle together in the dirt when taking dust baths or stand together when preening. Also chickens are known for being messy, but let me say this: this is only sort of true. Chickens can make a mess but it is mostly up to you where they make that mess. We let our chickens roam the yard so chicken poop is part of that but the chickens also eat weeds and bugs. Their poop also serves as great fertilizer but most people let it age/cool/begin to break down before using it for this purpose. They also aren't very fond of water baths but love dirt baths (which absorbs excess moisture and oil on their skin as well as repels parasites) so if you don't have an open patch of dirt they can use, they will likely find or make one in your yard. So for chickens dirty is clean! They are also surprising clean in regards to their nesting boxes, they will mess up their henhouse like a tornado has gone through but never poop in the same place they are laying eggs (nesting boxes).

People who own chickens say they're actually very smart and that they each have distinct personalities - have you noticed this?
Smart is all relative. They are super smart about most things like the way they know the sound of the back door (Pavlovian style) and all come rushing over to see if we have some little treat for them. They bed down in cool dirt during hot afternoons. They instinctively know which plants are safe to eat which gave me serious peace of mind because of the curiosity. However they will also all peck at something until it tips over (like a potted plant or garden tool) so sometimes you have to protect them from themselves. They most definitely have distinct personalities which really became noticeable as they matured. Ruby, one of the Rhode Island Reds, is our largest hen and seems to be top of the pecking order due to her size, but not due to her smarts. I love her but sometimes she is 30 seconds behind current events. She usually gets first shot at the food or the largest portion. However Snowflake often gives Ruby a run for her money. Snowflake is almost as big as Ruby, but also smarter and faster. Garnet may be the smallest, but she is faster than greased lightning. Often times, she will make off with a treat or a bug before the others even realized it was there. Obsidian is very sweet and calm and just goes about her business, waiting for everyone else to eat first or get the first bite of something before she gets in on the action.

Do you have a favorite? (You can tell us. The chickens can't read. They'll NEVER know.)
Haha! I truthfully love each one of them for their different quirks. Snowflake is usually the one you will catch me talking to because she is usually up to something. I promise that curiosity not only did in the cat, but the chicken too. They love to investigate everything and anything but Snowflake is usually the ringleader of any trouble starting in our yard. All our chickens are comfortable with people and love to hang out with us when we work in the yard. However Snowflake also sees as useful perches and likes to climb onto laps and on shoulders if she can get up that high.

Any last thoughts/tips for us?
I almost forgot to mention my go-to chicken handbook if people are looking for a great beginner's guide as well as an excellent reference. It is seriously the only book I have ever needed. I tried reading other books but they were more tailored to country folk or people with farms or large scale operations. I still refer to this book frequently. I just love it! A Chicken in Every Yard: The Urban Farm Store's Guide to Chicken Keeping by Robert & Hannah Litt They cover every step of the process: preparation, picking your breeds (with a great breakdown of each breed), building coops/runs, chick care, hen care, health issues, food, laying and egg instructions.

Does anyone else have chickens? What is your favorite thing about them (besides the obvious: eggs)?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Wednesday the Fat Cat

Wednesday had a rough start in life. She showed up with her Mom at my feral colony ten years ago. Her Mom was very ill. Though I tried to trap her, she disappeared after a week without ever going into the trap. She had two kittens who disappeared around the same time. I was sad, but used to this occurrence. When you're taking care of a feral colony, cats come and go and you don't always get them all before something else gets them.

About two weeks after they disappeared, I came home to find a kitten sprawled out in my parking space. She was glassy eyed and barely breathing. She had clearly tried to eat because the food dish was scattered. She was soaked from trying to drink water out of the bowl and it really was nothing short of a miracle that she hadn't drowned. She was top heavy - her head so much bigger than the rest of her tiny body.

I wrapped her in a towel, waiting for my boyfriend to get home from work. The plan was simple: take her to the vet and have her humanely euthanized to end her obvious suffering. She was on the brink of death anyway. Crawling with fleas, she was nothing more than a bag of bones. Staring at that tiny body, talking to her softly, I tried to give what little comfort I could before her end.

When Erik got home, he took her from me. I navigated the streets as fast as I could, racing toward the vet. Twice, he said, "Oh hon, forget it. She just took her last breath." She would then utter a small, weak cry to show him she was still there. Our vet was closed so we had to take her to an Emergency Vet. After evaluating her, they came in with an $800 vet bill. Um, what?

Blood transfusion: $500

"How much to put her down?" Erik asked.

That bill suddenly went down to under $200. She had flea anemia. They gave her a bath, kept her overnight on IV fluids, then sent her home with us. She was 12 weeks old and weighed a mere 10 ounces. She seemed so fragile. At night, she would crawl up between us on the bed and sleep so soundly we thought she was dead. I would shake her and shake her and shake her before she would finally open her eyes and give me the grumpiest look. Poor thing just finally felt safe enough to sleep deeply.

Her sisters were less than thrilled with her. Pip, our ever tolerant one-eyed cat, was a reluctant teacher. Having come off the same streets as Wednesday, she seemed to have a bit more sympathy for her. She showed her how to use the litter box, how to pounce on bugs or tricks of light. Sometimes, she even let Wednesday sleep next to her.

As Wednesday grew, she really GREW. Afraid of missing out on food, she can tend to overeat. Free feeding is hard with her because the minute you fill the bowl, she's at it even when she isn't hungry. It's been a struggle keeping her weight down. Our vet does not believe in low calorie food. She believes in feed proper amounts and exercising your cat. So, we feed Halo (and the girls get 1/4 small can of a high quality wet food twice a day). They get supervised yard time where they race around the yard chasing butterflies and bees and flies. It's their time to be cats. (Though I jokingly refer to them as prisoners who get yard time - someone will try to escape and usually a fight or two will break out.)

We've managed to keep her steady at 13 pounds. She would do better at around 10 pounds. The extra weight is hard for her to carry around. But she's otherwise healthy according to her yearly blood work. Having one overweight cat has been hard to balance with an underweight one. Keeping food away from one while encouraging the other to eat can be a struggle. How does one cat relax enough to eat when there is another clawing at the door knowing there is food she doesn't have access to? This is where the small spoonful of wet food comes in handy. Distract overweight cat with just a taste while underweight cat gets half a can of it.

If we had it to do over again, we would never have free fed the cats. It's been back and forth with the timed feedings, critical when you have a cat who cannot afford to lose any weight in addition to one who cannot gain anymore. When we go on trips, we don't ask our pet sitter to free feed. We leave the food down.

Apparently, it's common for cats who are taken from their litter too young, who have a rough start of being underfed, to end up being fat cats. Obese pets are a big problem for vets across the nation. Our animals are no different than we are: being overweight can cause the same health problems for them. We've lucked out so far with Wednesday, but we're very dedicated to keeping at it.

Wednesday sleeping with her sister, Lily

What about you - is your pet overweight? Do you free feed?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Interview Wednesday - Clover of the Beagle Freedom Project

Tani, Erik, and Clover at BFP Event
Today we bring you a special interview with Tani, mom to Clover. Clover was one of 40 Beagles rescued from a lab in Spain by Shannon Keith, founder of Beagle Freedom Project. Prior to his freedom, Clover was used for testing.

Tani was kind enough to share her time, Clover's story, and some pictures with us to help us educate others.

How did you find out about Beagle Freedom Project?
My Erik found out about Beagle Freedom Project while on deployment. Our first dog we had adopted from Helen Woodward. Dexter was an amazing beagle. He had been in a laboratory too, but it was dog food testing and we didn't really know the extent of testing. Erik saw a video of beagles from Spain being rescued. It moved him and he wrote a letter to them. Shannon Keith, the founder of BFP wrote him back. And our friendship began. The amazing story behind the Spain rescue goes sort of like this. Shannon got a call, letting her know their were 78 beagles available, could she take any. She said yes, they said how many. Without hesitation, she said, well ALL OF THEM. She maxed her credit, mortgaged her home and risked her own financial security to save these dogs. She got 40 of them. They all found homes.

How long did it take Clover to adjust to being in your home?
Clover was fostered for a couple of months before we got him by a lovely lady, Shannon Warner. We went to LA to meet him. During our visit, he jumped up on her banquet seats and came up to me, laid down and went to sleep with his head on my leg. He chose me:).

The first time Clover met his Mom

It did not take long for him to adjust. He really figured out the dog door, the other dogs pretty fast. He knew where the beds were, knew what food dish was his, figured out he could sleep on our bed quickly. Not all of them are that easy. One dog was kept somewhere completely different than the other dogs. It took a while for him to feel safe.

Clover, his brother Barney, and sister Annie

Is there anything he seems particularly frightened of?
Loud noises still startle him. I'm not talking about fireworks, but garage doors, a trash can rattle, a cupboard door slammed shut. He also will put himself in a corner, an area where there are 2 walls, like the far corner of a cage when he is feeling frightened. It breaks my heart because I know it is familiar to him from all his years in a cage.

How has having him changed your shopping?
Being a part of BFP and actually knowing what these dogs go through has totally changed my outlook. Most people think of animal testing as rats and mice. They also think it works! I was one of those people. But having Clover, I've educated myself. There are 70,000 dogs being tested on in the US alone. 96% are Beagles, because they are friendly, forgiving, people pleasers- the things making them great pets make them great test subjects. It is horrible. The majority of experiments are done for household products, beauty products, or scientific curiosity. Of the experiments for medical breakthroughs- only 8% make it to human clinical trials and out of that less than 50% make it to market. Even then most are failures. More than 106,000 people were killed by drugs that tested "animal safe" in 2013. So I look for cruelty free. I love Mac. But their parent company decided to sell in china which "requires" animal testing. So I look for different brands. I stopped buying stuff that was tested on animals. It isn't worth it.

Do you have any advice for people looking to shop cruelty free?

My advice to people that want to buy cruelty free? Do not solely look for the leaping bunny. To get that stamp of approval, companies have to pay for it. There are a lot of companies that do not test but haven't paid the bunny. So look for companies that say "not tested on animals or cruelty free." When in doubt, ask. Use your smart phone, google it. I've found great makeup brands (Vincent Longo) that are awesome and don't test on animals. A lot of companies that didn't test on animals get bought by those that do unfortunately. St. Ives got bought by Unilever. So you have to keep track. If a major company buys out a smaller company, write to the company and let them know you like this product because it works and because it wasn't tested on animals.

What about a recipe(s) for homemade cleaners that work just as well as the store bought ones companies test on animals?
One of the absolute best cleaners is vinegar. I use it for almost everything - windows, counters, tile floors. Get a spray bottle, vinegar and water - half and half solution. For glass use 2 tablespoons rubbing alcohol and hot water in a 32 ounce spray bottle. Cover the window first with the alcohol/water solution. The vinegar/ water solution and republic with an absorbent cloth. For dirty grout? Peroxide and baking soda. Scrubs and wipe clean.

Clover and his brother Barney

Tell us about The Beagle Freedom Bill and why it is so important.
The Beagle Freedom Bill is simply a bill that says if taxpayer dollars paid for animal testing, at the end of the testing, the animals used must be given up for adoption rather than euthanized.

It is so important because these animals make great pets. Yes, they might have some issues, but all of the animals that BFP has rescued and placed in forever homes, not one has been returned. The schools (UCLA, for one) will try to say these animals are not viable and were bred for testing. It doesn't matter. These animals are loving, good pets. If someone were to tell me that Clover should have been put to sleep, I (not a violent person by nature) would probably try to kick their ass. It isn't true. These dogs (and cats, pigs, etc.) are kind, forgiving, and just want to be loved and to live. They didn't voluntarily sign up to be tested on. A lot have problems. Rocket, a dog who was part of Clover's rescue, has Cushings, but he is the sweetest dog on earth. They all deserve love. And there are plenty of people who want to foster and care for them.

Someday, we would love to end animal testing. If everyone who cares would go to Beagle Freedom Project ( and let their representatives know that they support the Beagle Freedom Bill, we will take a giant step toward ending testing. You see, Beagles are the lab's dirty little secret. If the public believes labs test on other animals, they don't tend to care. But if they know that the lab is testing on cute dogs and they see those dogs can thrive in a loving home, they'll get mad.

Baby steps. Free those in testing first. One day, stop animal testing completely.

Thank you so much for your time and for sharing Clover's story with us.

If you'd like to follow Clover on Facebook, click here.
To learn more about Beagle Freedom Project, click the link above.




Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Interview Wednesday - The Truth About BATS

I'm excited about this interview for two reasons:

1) I LOVE bats! They're a vital part of our eco-system.

2) Cami was one of the teens in my very first Humane Teen Club. She just graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management. (Where did the time go?!)

On to expanding our knowledge about these very important critters!

1) When you hear the word BAT, most people think one of three things: Halloween, vampires, or rabies. What do you think?

·         When I hear bat I think firstly, cute fuzzy small animal that is amazing evolutionarily and morphologically as the only mammal that has developed true flight. Next I think about them eating (hopefully all) mosquitos. And finally, and probably most importantly, I think about the pillar they are in the ecosystem as insect controllers, being of only a select few animals that are nocturnal insectivores. They impact agricultural lands, forested lands, coastal regions, and even urbanized areas in ways that most people don’t know due to the stigma attached to them of being vampires or rabid. But in actuality the majority of bats eat insects, nectar, or fruit. Only three species are actually considered “vampire” bats, all of which occur in Central and South America. They impact such diverse habitats because insects are everywhere and without them a lot of the food we enjoy that are grown in crops would be difficult to produce. These can include wheat fields (the Symbol of Bacardi rum is a bat because bats helped increase the productivity of his crops which lead to a higher production of alcohol for the landowner), fruits, and vegetable crops. This can be both at a large scale ranch or agricultural development and at a small scale community or home garden.

2) How long have you been studying/working with bats?

·         It has been almost two years exactly since I held my first bat. The first year I focused on what kind of roosts they were selecting in a country club in Flagstaff. The second year I focused in on the genetics of that population.

3) What are some of the misconceptions you had that were smashed once you got to know bats?

·         Honestly, going in to this job I had no idea what to expect. I definitely did not think that bats were as cute as I do now having worked closely with them. I also had the misconception that they all looked somewhat similar, but that was smashed on my first few times of handling them. Each species has their own little quirks.

4) Tell us a few FUN facts about these guys!

·         So the Bacardi fact up above is pretty neat! I promote Bacardi now because of that story. Another neat thing is that each genera and sometimes species has a different demeanor; once in a while you may come across individuals that have distinctly different personalities. There are a few species we all love to handle since they are calm and don’t fight and bite so much, these include the Arizona myotis (Myotis occultus; Arizona’s version of the little brown bat; they are very closely related), Mexican free tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis), and the big free tail bat (Nyctinomops macrotis). Others that can be difficult to handle are the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), and the pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus).

·         Another neat thing is that certain species like the big brown bat, have females who roost in large maternity colonies (can be a few hundred) and communally raise their young. Most bats are only able to have a single pup per breeding season, so having other females who will, sometimes, altruistically help raise another females pup. The fascinating thing about this is that based on biology and the “furthering your own genes” idea, these females should be or were thought to be selecting their roosts and females to help based on kinship (so the female you are helping is your sister, aunt, niece, etc). But with the genetic study we did of these roosts we found that there was no significant genetic structure or relatedness, which suggests that they are not roosting with females that they are related to. This makes what they are doing an altruistic behavior by just helping to help.

5) Why are bats such an important part of our environment?

·         Many species are insect controllers. They eat everything from beetles to moths to mosquitos to scorpions (the pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus) does this), so they control these populations and further crop success.  Other bats a nectivorous, so like hummingbird they have exceptionally long tongues that they use to feed on nectar from plant to plant. So like hummingbirds and bees they act as pollinators.

6) What is the biggest threat to bats right now?

·         The main two are fairly obvious I feel. 1) White-nose syndrome and 2) Urbanization which leads to habitat fragmentation.

·         With white-nose syndrome it’s a difficult issue to find a “fix” or solution to. This is mostly due to the fact that it’s a fungus that does best in wet cold climates; thus why caves are so heavily impacted.

·         Urbanization is the same battle with every species where fragmentation of habitat and overall habitat loss or conversion creates an ecosystem that is impossible for some animals. For bats, certain species are what we call generalists where they will do fairly well in just about any environment from urbanized to forested. Others, however, have a different story where they are specialists and utilize a specific habitat or niche and without that they can have population declines.

7) Do they only come out at night? Or is it more a dusk to dawn in the waning lights life?

·         Most bats are indeed nocturnal and forage at night time. They will usually use day roosts during daytime to sleep and rest before they come out at dusk. They will exit their roosts and then fly around a forage for a while and then use night roosts as places to take a quick power nap before continuing to forage. Of course this is not applicable to every species but in general that is their pattern.

8) Anything else you think we should know or keep in mind about these amazing creatures?

·         Remember that if you like wheat, fruit, and/or vegetables, then you like bats!
Thank you for your time and for sharing the wonder of bats with us, Cami!

What about you, readers? Did you learn something new about bats? Do you like them, love them, or are you scared of them?