Monthly Archives: July 2009

Boat Dogs!

The Pacific Northwest has been slammed with record-breaking temperatures this week. In fact, yesterday Seattle had the hottest day EVER in history, with temperatures reaching 103. Now, some of you in other parts of the country probably laugh in the face of 103 degree temperatures, but let’s not forget that hardly anyone in Seattle has air conditioning. Combined with the fact that the temperature normally hovers somewhere around 75 in the summer, and you can see how we’re not handling this heat so well!

The dogs especially have been taking the heat wave a little hard. I’ve had fans blowing on their crates and have been freezing the water in their dishes, and they’re still pretty miserable. So yesterday, in an effort to cool us all down, hubby and loaded the dogs into boat and headed out onto Lake Washington. It was still hot, but much more bearable and we enjoyed a nice swim and the breeze coming off the water. The dogs seemed to enjoy themselves as well, even if they did fall in a few times. My back is killing me today, though – I must have pulled something after hoisting them back in the boat when they would slip overboard. Here are a few pictures of the dogs enjoying themselves (excuse the poor quality – they were taken with my camera phone).

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Dogs checking out Hubby on this weird floaty thing

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"OMG, I'm so glad you're back in the boat!!!"

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Enjoying the view, the breeze, and ... the taste of the windshield?

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Stewie attempts to find his sea legs

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Vote to Ban Michael Vick

ESPN has posted a poll, asking people whether Michael Vick should be reinstated to the NFL.

PLEASE, go to http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/polls and click “outside the lines” on the left hand side of the page. Last I checked, 59% had voted to reinstate immediately. This completely disgusts me. Let us not forget that not only did Vick fight dogs (a horrendous crime unto itself), but actively participated in the bludgeoning, drowning and electrocuting of dogs who failed to perform. On top of this, he pled “not guilty” to animal cruelty. Many sports fans will argue that he did his time and has rehabilitated himself. I call BS. How can you be rehabilitated if you don’t believe you did anything wrong in the first place?

For an inside look at the magnitide of this man’s cruelty, check out this post on the BAD RAP blog, and scroll down to Donna’s story. For those who aren’t familiar with BAD RAP, they’re the organization that pulled and rehabilitated all but two of Vick’s dogs. Donna’s story is incredibly heartbreaking, and it just sickens me that someone who could do such a thing could possibly be placed back into the national spotlight, where he will be an example to the kids in this country who look up to NFL players as heroes. Even if you aren’t a dog lover, you can’t argue the connection between animal cruelty and crimes against people. Who’s to say Vick’s next crime won’t be against another human being?

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Cat-compatible!

On Saturday, I took Josie, my foster puppy, to a friend’s house to “cat test” her. We’ve had some good applications on her, but some of these potential adopters already have cats, and since she’s never lived with cats I had no idea now compatible she would be. I didn’t foresee there being any issues since she doesn’t seem to have much of a prey drive, but we needed to be sure.

I’m happy to report she did great! When we got to my friend’s house, Josie caught sight of one of the cats and casually strolled over to it. She didn’t even break into a run or act overly interested. She just walked up to it. The cat, not being familiar with Josie, hissed at her and Josie immediately cowered and ran and hid behind me. She peeked out from behind me and cautiously approached it again slowly, and then play bowed to it and barked at it a couple times (her “come play with me” bark that she uses on other dogs). The cat went and hid under the bed, and Josie, realizing the cat wasn’t interested in playing with her, quickly lost interest and started chewing on a toy that my friend’s dog had left laying around. We even tried to coax the two of them together to see if we could get them to interact more, but Josie couldn’t care less about the cat. We spent a good hour there, and Josie was totally bored with the cat and paid attention to everything else — us, the toys, my friend’s dogs, etc. Anything but the cat. So I don’t think she’ll have any issues with cats in the house.

Fingers crossed for a good home to come along for Josie soon. We will miss her terribly, but I have high hopes that her perfect forever home could be just around the corner.

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“Getting rid of” a pet

A little rant…

I have heard every reason in the book for people “getting rid of” their pets. First of all, I hate that term. You get rid of old clothes in your closet, or crabgrass in your lawn, or that old futon you’ve been hanging onto since your college days. You don’t “get rid of” a member of your family. Let’s call it what it really is: abandonment.

My shelter and rescue work have exposed me to many reasons for abandonment. The most absurd ones I ever saw were “dog kept getting pregnant” and “cat wouldn’t stop eating houseplants.”

Excuse me for a moment while I bang my head on my desk.

Let’s forget for a moment that people are really dumb enough to not understand what neutering is,  or heartless enough to choose a houseplant over a cat, and address the more common reasons for abandonment:

1. Moving

With VERY few exceptions (military moving overseas being the only valid one I can come up with – and even then I think there are options if you really make it a priority), I think this excuse is complete crap. I find it hard to believe that you could not find one apartment or house within a 30 mile radius that would accept pets.

If I were renting, that would be a non-negotiable for me. For some people the non-negotiables are parking, washer/dryer in unit, view, etc. If you are a pet owner, “pet friendly” needs to be at the top of your list. And if you can’t find an apartment complex that accepts pets, Craigslist is full of rentals by owner who are likely to be a lot more flexible. I  know some exceptional pet owners who went so far as to make resumes for their pets that they handed in with their rental application, and were able to get an exception the “no pets” rule. Bottom line: if you make it a priority, you can make it work.

2. New baby

There is absolutely no reason babies and pets can’t coexist. In fact, studies have shown that kids who grow up around pets have fewer health issues and allergies. And what better way to teach your children responsibility and compassion than by helping to take care of a living being?

Now, despite the fact that I proudly fly my”crazy dog lady” flag, I’m not delusional enough to assert that keeping an animal should come at the risk of the child’s safety. I absolutely believe that the child should come first. However, I also think people are too quick to kick the pets out the first time their dog growls at the kid or the cat scratches him. Rather than kicking the animal to the curb, people need to take a step back and look at what may have triggered the issue, and determine if it’s something that was easily preventable. Was the child getting in the dog’s way while he was eating? Did the kid pull the cat’s tail? Did you not see what happened? Whoops, there’s your first problem (now take that rolled up newspaper you were intending for the dog and smack yourself over the head a couple times with it). Young kids should always be supervised around pets. Period. Baby gates can do wonders. Keep the kitchen gated off while the dog is eating, or keep a bedroom gated off that the cat can jump over and escape to when she’s had enough baby time.

If you do have an issue, there are a myriad of Web sites that can help you keep the peace in your home. I happen to know of a great blog written by a mother of a toddler and two large dogs – she offers some great advice, and if nothing else, sometimes it’s just nice to know you’re not alone. And don’t discount getting professional help. I’m not talking about a trainer from your local PetSmart. I’m talking about a certified behaviorist. Visit the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Web site to find a qualified behaviorist in your area.

3. Other “issues”

No one ever said pet ownership was easy. Just like raising a child, you’re bound to come across some bumps in the road. Also, like raising a child, a lot of those bumps are probably due to your own shortcomings as a “parent.” Regardless of whose fault it is, you owe it to your pet to exhaust every option.

The first step is usually a trip to the vet to rule out a medical issue. Many cats are given up for peeing outside the litterbox, when vet would have diagnosed an easily-curable UTI. Sudden aggressiveness in dogs is often a sign that the animal is in pain.

If you rule out a medical issue, the next step is to bring in a behaviorist. Again, I’m not talking about a trainer from your local PetSmart. There’s a big difference between a trainer and a certified behaviorist. Visit www.apdt.com to find a behaviorist in your area.

Whether the issue is medical or behavioral (or undetermined), don’t hesitate to get second and third opinions, if needed.

The bottom line…

Simply stated, when it comes to “issues” with your pet, either: a) it can be fixed, or b) it can’t.

If it can be fixed, it’s your responsibility to fix it. Don’t dump your problem on someone else, hoping they’ll fix it. And if it can’t be fixed, then you need to take a good long look at your situation and decide if you can live with it or not. If you can’t, then maybe the most humane thing to do is to take your pet to the vet and have it put down peacefully in the arms of the family it loves.

There is no shortage of homeless animals in this country who don’t have any “issues.” No one ever walks into the shelter asking if they have any biting dogs or cats who don’t use the litterbox. And please don’t dupe someone by listing it on Craigslist while conveniently omitting the issue, because they’re just likely to turn around and “get rid of it” themselves.

With 5-7 MILLION pets being euthanized in the U.S. every year, there are plenty of animals who will never find a home. Don’t let your pet take their place when it already has one.

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Why a Pit Bull?

I’m often asked the question, “why a pit bull?” I’m not exactly the type of person you’d usually peg for a pit bull lover… and that’s probably a good thing, given the fact that this breed has received a horrible reputation in past years solely due to the fact that the wrong types of people usually choose to own them, and exploit them for all the wrong reasons.

Anyway, here’s my story…

I have always been a dog lover, and as a longtime volunteer with the Humane Society, I have always had an especially soft spot in my heart for the “under dogs” – the ones no one seemed to want. The ones who sat patiently in their kennels day after day waiting for their forever homes, while everyone seemed to just pass them by, and all the cute fluffy puppies around them got adopted so quickly. These “under dogs” were usually the old ones, the ugly ones, the ones missing an eye here, a leg there, the big ones, particularly the big black ones (of which I also have!)… and of course, the pit bulls. As someone who worked with the dogs one-on-one in the behavior and socialization program at the humane society, I got to know these dogs as individuals, and I learned that many of the dogs who no one would typically even give a second look were actually some of the dogs with the best personalities. This was especially true of the pit bulls we had there, and I quickly fell in love with the breed.

Chevy, my first pittie love and Humane Society alum

Chevy, my first true pittie love and Humane Society Alum

My first true pittie love was a longtime resident at the shelter named Chevy. This massive 90 lb. Pit Bull/American Bulldog mix was the type of dog that would make most people cross the street when they saw him coming. He had a head the size of a bowling ball, close cropped ears that had probably been cut off with scissors judging by the mangled looks of them, and rippling muscles with not an ounce of fat to them. Not to mention a set of balls that would make a bull jealous (which were later taken care of, obviously!). I’ll admit, that my first time working with this burly boy, I was a tad nervous taking him out, despite all the experience I had with pit bulls. But he quickly proved my fears to be unfounded (as I knew deep down he would), and won me over with his incredible affection, intelligence, focus and charm. I could not imagine a more well-rounded good dog and could seriously not find a single flaw with him, despite the fact that his looks attracted only the wrong types of people to him. Chevy was at the shelter for a full year and a half before he was adopted. I would have adopted him in an instant, and I begged my husband numerous times to come look at him, but at the time he wasn’t really much of a dog person and was adamant that the one dog we already had was enough. I’m thankful the Humane Society gave Chevy the time he needed to find the right home, but it breaks my heart to know he had to spend all those months in the shelter.

My Stewie

My Stewie

Fast forward to a couple years later, and my husband finally agrees it’s time to add a second dog to our household. I knew it had to be a pit bull, and I immediately hopped onto Petfinder.com to see what pitties out there might be in need of a good home. I came across a local pit bull rescue, so I put in an application right away. Meanwhile, I was still going in for my weekly volunteer shifts at the Humane Society and was keeping an eye out for the next addition to our family. That’s when I met Stewie (who was then named Hunter). It was love at first sight. He had been abandoned by his previous owner and had just come to the Humane Society a few days earlier. He was terrified out of his mind and it took a good amount of coaxing to even get him out of his kennel. Once I did, he crawled into my lap (all 60+ lbs. of him!) and tucked his head under my chin, where he stayed for the next 15 minutes. After he realized I was not going to hurt him, he opened right up and had a blast playing fetch with a tennis ball and even already knew how to sit. After my shift, I raced home and told my husband about him and we went back to see him that day and signed the paperwork. We got to pick him up the next day and he’s been our pride and joy ever since! He even turned my not-really-a-dog-person husband into (almost) as much of a nut as I am. It seems like just a short while ago my husband was adamant about only having one dog, and now we have two (plus a foster) and we couldn’t be happier! Even though I didn’t end up adopting from the pit bull rescue, I knew this was an organization I wanted to belong to and to support. In my professional life I work in public relations, and I like to think of Stewie as my own little PR project. He truly changes the minds of everyone he meets.

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“Sick as a dog”

The things we do for our dogs. Poor Stewie has really put me through the ringer the last couple days. We had some friends up at our cabin for the 4th of July, and the dogs ended up getting into a bunch of junk food that people accidentally left within their reach. We don’t feed our dogs table scraps, so I expected that they might get a little sick later.

Understatement of the century.

So, yesterday morning I awoke to find several puddles of diarrhea all over the carpet, including one that is like exploded onto the wall, hitting our white curtains. It took me about 45 minutes just to clean everything up, and I was already running late for work, so I gave them some plain yogurt with their food, hoping that would help, and made sure all three went potty (both numbers) before I left. Our dogs are crated while we’re gone during the day, so I figured at least if one of them got sick again, it would be contained. I was also still really exhausted, so I figured I would leave a little early so I could get home to the dogs.

Well, my day ended up being really busy and I couldn’t get out of there early. In fact, I went a little later than I normally do. The whole way home I’m praying none of them got sick in their crate, but the second I opened the door, I could smell it. Poor Stewie had essentially exploded out of both ends all over his crate. It was so explosive that it got all over Josie and Maggie’s crates as well (all three are in a row and his is in the middle). It took me 2 hours to clean the crates, bedding, floors, walls and give them baths. I feel bad for the guy – who knows how long he had to sit in that while I was at work!

Hoping the worst was behind us, I sat down with a glass of wine to relax. But throughout the evening, Stewie took a turn for the worse. Every 20 minutes or so he would explode from one end or the other. He was shaking like he was cold, even though our house was really warm, and he could barely walk a few steps without having to lay down and rest. I freaked out and called the emergency vet, hoping they could give me any indication on whether I should bring him in. It frustrates me that they’re no help over the phone – they pretty much just said “if you’re really worried about him you should bring him in.” Of course I’m worried about him, that’s why I’m calling! I just wish they would ask me questions about his condition and symptoms and recommend a course of action. I overreact easily and I wanted to know if his condition was serious enough to warrant driving 30 minutes to the e-vet in the middle of the night to spend a couple hundred dollars just to be seen, let alone whatever treatment he might need… or if I should just keep an eye on him and watch out for symptoms X Y or Z and bring him to my normal vet in the morning.

After much internal debate, I finally decided it wasn’t worth the risk and started getting ready to take him, but the second I picked up his leash, he perked right up (typical), so I decided to just watch him through the night and call the vet as soon as they opened in the morning. I didn’t get much sleep because I kept waking up to check on him, but was able to get him in around 8 a.m. He was already starting to do a lot better, so the vet gave us a shot of something to help with the vomiting and sent us home with meds for the diarrhea. I ended up working from home so I could keep an eye on him.

Thankfully he seems almost back to normal now. I’m physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted from the stress and lack of sleep, but so happy to have my little Stew Pot back.

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An introduction…

My history with dogs started when I was about six years old, and my parents took my brother and me to pick out a Dalmatian puppy. I named her Pepper, because she looked like she had been sprinkled with pepper (I was so clever, wasn’t I?). Unfortunately we only had her for a week before we discovered she was deaf – something I now know is very common among poorly-bred Dalmatians. My parents concluded that we simply didn’t have the experience or resources to dedicate to a deaf dog, so we returned her to the breeder. In addition to being heartbreaking for me (I had grown quite attached in just a week), it turned out to be a huge headache for my parents, as the breeders wouldn’t give them back their money, resulting in a trip to small claims court. This was my first introduction to “backyard breeders” – a practice I now vehemently despise. It makes me sad to think of what may have become of Pepper. I hope she found a good home where her owners had the means to accommodate her special needs.

My parents, turned off from the world of breeders as well, decided the best thing would be to adopt a puppy from the shelter. We went to PAWS and picked out a six week-old Sheltie mix. She had been dropped off in a box at the shelter that morning with her brothers and sisters, and was one of two left by the time we got there. Kelsey ended up being one of the smartest, most well-behaved dogs I’ve ever met and lived to the ripe old age of 17. It’s been more than five years since she’s been gone, and I still miss her terribly to this day.

After my husband and I had been married for a year, we decided it was time to add a dog of our own to our little family. I really didn’t care what kind of dog, but was still very much anti-breeder and hoped to find a rescue. Hubby was a little more specific: he wanted a female lab puppy. On to petfinder.com I went, applying for every female lab (or lab mix) puppy I could find. Much to my dismay, I received rejection after rejection after rejection. We lived in an apartment at the time, and a fenced-in yard was a non-negotiable for all the rescues I applied to. Hubby suggested we just buy a puppy from the paper. I did not want to support a breeder, but I badly wanted a puppy. We ended up finding a private rescue in the paper that took unwanted litters off people’s hands in exchange for spaying the mother dog. They had a litter of Black Lab/German Shepherd pups, and that’s how we ended up with Maggie.

Three years later, we adopted Stewie, a 10 month old dark brindle Pit Bull, whom I fell in love with while volunteering at the Humane Society. Such a sweet-natured, yet misunderstood breed, I fell in love with Pit Bulls, and soon I began volunteering for a local Pit Bull rescue as well. When was laid off in February of this year, I decided now was the perfect time to foster a Pit Bull, and we ended up with Josie, a four month old blue brindle girl. We’ve had Josie for almost four months now. Everyone always asks why she hasn’t been adopted yet, but it truthfully takes a long time to find a good home for a Pit Bull. We love Josie like one of our own, and are happy to take care of her for as long as it takes to find the perfect home. Some days I start to think that perfect home might be ours. But then she reminds us it’s not – usually by eating one of my shoes or pooping on our bedroom floor at 2 a.m. Three dogs are a lot to handle, and I know a lot of people probably think we’re crazy. Sometimes I think we are too. This weekend, we will have all three beasts, along with about 25-30 guests (including two more dogs!) up at our cabin for the 4th of July.

Should be no shortage of stories that come out of this weekend. Stay tuned…

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