Category Archives: Animals

Wilma the Cat

In honour of Wilma, cat colony princess, who died yesterday in St. Thomas ON. Reposted from St. Thomas Dog Blog, March 29, 2012.Wilma and other cats 2016

Wilma was a homeless cat who was instrumental in the creation of the Charity Cat Project. That initiative has provided food, shelter and neutering to innumerable feral and stray St. Thomas cats. Charity Cat and other rescue groups worked with St. Thomas City Council in establishing animal welfare programmes. Among these are low-cost pet neutering and maintenance of feral cat colonies. So, Wilma, thank you.

Wilma's broken front toothWilma had surgery to remove her damaged teeth and a hernia in her abdomen. She’s recovering nicely. She has domesticated herself and it seems she would love to live indoors. But in her present home, there are dogs who really wouldn’t do well with her presence inside. So a foster or, ideally, a permanent home for her would be wonderful. Contact ABCR or me if you have a place in your home or barn for a lovely cat.*

Turns out she was already spayed, so she had been lost or abandoned. I don’t know which, but there are a lot of Wilmas in our city. They need help. There are also a lot of truly feral cats who Wilma 2012 likely will never allow themselves to be tamed. They too need help.

It’s not just helping the cats. It’s helping people. Having feral cats around their houses distresses cat lovers. Cat haters certainly don’t like cats hanging around. And unneutered cats produce kittens, usually twice a year. So that one cat who’s taken up residence in your back yard is going to produce more, and those kittens will also reproduce. You start out with one stray moggie and, before you know it, you’re in Cat City.

TNR for feral cats

Trapping wild cats and having them fixed is a time-consuming and Drowsy Wilma sitting in suncostly business. I know, I’ve done it. And if you do remove those cats, in all likelihood, more will simply come and occupy the territory. That will happen whether you feed them or not. Homeless cats need somewhere to settle and your backyard might seem as good as anywhere to them. So better to keep those you know, and are neutered, than constantly have new ones moving in and establishing their claim.

St. Thomas needs a TNR programme – trap, neuter, return – for wild cats. Other cities have such programmes or services in place and we have just as many feral cats as anywhere else. Wilma’s person Wilma eating on porchcounted the cats in the gully near their house a month ago: 103 that she saw. That’s before this spring’s litters of kittens are born.

St. Thomas also needs a programme to subsidize spay and neuter costs for dogs and cats of people who cannot afford the full price. Again, many other cities have such subsidy programmes or low-cost clinics offered so many times a year.

It seems cheaper to just have the kittens or puppies than to have your pet neutered. It’s not; it just spreads the costs over a longer period of time – once or twice a year for as long as the animal lives. Neutering is cheaper for all of us just in costs to municipalities of caring for, or killing, unwanted pets.

Abcess on Wilma's gumsPeople have contributed to Wilma’s medical costs, but her rescuers are still footing over half the bill themselves. If you can help, please contact ABCR or me. And let’s start helping all the Wilmas by setting up a spay/neuter subsidy fund. We’ve seen over the past year, with STDOA’s Caring Pet Cupboard, that our community will help people feed their pets.  Now let’s move on to the big task: preventing unwanted puppies and kittens.

*Wilma stayed where she was, for which everyone she knew is thankful. She will be greatly missed by her people and her cats. You can see her legacy on the Charity Cat Facebook page. (See 10 comments on original post below.)

Homeless Companions

From St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 4, 2013. Reposted in honour of US Memorial Day and Harold Palmquist, a US veteran who is biking across the country with his dog to raise money for homeless vets and their pets.

homeless man and dog in phone booth RO_B_new_Bucharest_apartment-photo-Miehs-wikicommonsPlease God, I have never had to beg on the street and I’ve never been homeless.  I don’t know how I’d look after myself, let alone a dog or cat. But people do; they survive on the streets of even the coldest cities, and many do so with a pet.

I have had to carefully parcel out funds so that rent was paid and my cat and I had something to eat. A student promotion credit card was our lifesaver, if a month’s supply of money ran out before the days did. The cat and I ate some odd meals – whatever I could find in the limited food section of Woolworth’s. Grocery stores did not accept credit cards then. Fortunately for us, those times were not frequent.

Amazon link for A Street Cat Named Bob
Click to see on Amazon

For some people and their animals, it’s a more regular occurrence. Today, on CBC Radio’s The Current (sorry, story no longer available), the stories of some people perhaps marginalized by society but not by their companion animals. James Bowen, whose cat helped him out as a busker and now as an author. As he said, thanks to Bob the cat, he now pays income tax. A woman whose cat keeps her off crack. A woman in Edmonton who started a pet food bank, with donation bins in pet stores and a system for getting the food to those who need it. And a University of Colorado sociologist who has talked to homeless pet owners and written a book called My Dog Always Eats First.

Amazon link for My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless people and their animals
Click to see on Amazon

That book’s author, Dr. Leslie Irvine, talks about homelessness being a “master status” in our society. That means that it overrides all other statuses that a person holds. Those may be “ascribed” such as gender or ethnicity or “achieved” such as profession or educational level. Whether a holder of an advanced degree or a high school dropout, a person sleeping in a doorway is seen only as ‘homeless person’. And you’re not likely to even think to ask what else a panhandler is as you drop your change in his or her cup.

But there is another master status, I think, that people ascribe to themselves:  that of “pet owner”. As one, I will go over and talk to a “homeless person” if he or she is accompanied by pet. I see the animal and want to make contact with him or her, and therefore the person as well. This is not to suggest that homeless people should get pets in order to improve their chances on the street.

Accommodating people and their service or pet animals has caused real problems for many shelters trying to be inclusive. Dog fights, fleas, provision for people with allergies and abandonment of animals in the shelter are some that I remember from a radio documentary I heard a few years ago (sorry, can’t find a link).

Dog in animal shelter in Washington, Iowa, Nhandler WikicommonsBut for many of us, homeless and homed, our pets are solace and friendship, providing someone else for us to think about and care for. And every dog, cat or guinea pig living happily with their person on the street is one less unwanted animal needing rescue or dying from neglect.

Training at the Dog Park

This week in May 2010, we in the St. Thomas Dog Owners Association were doing a final spit and polish on our new Lions Club Dog Park.

The Lions Club Dog Park had its grand opening on the May 24th weekend – one day of rain, one day of beautiful sunshine. A pretty good time though, I thought.

Recall Training

I picked up some pointers on dog training from Anne MacDonald of K-9 Concepts Saturday afternoon. She gave a workshop on recall training, one of the hardest and most important things to teach.recall training by Anne MacDonald St. Thomas dog park

My two are pretty good about coming when called, if they feel like it. And that, of course, is the problem. If they don’t feel like coming when called, it’s because they’re doing something way more interesting like chasing a rabbit or, in Leo’s case, eating poop – things I don’t want them doing. So your objective is to make coming to you a better option for them, and make them believe you have the power to make them come even if they don’t to.

The ‘carrot’ part of this is lots of good treats. Don’t be stingy, Anne said. Give them lots of the really yummy treats for a good recall. Many people, she said, give just the same amount of treat for a sit, a shake paw or a recall. With the recall, because it’s so important, give more and make a huge fuss over them for doing it well. I make a big fuss, but I just give the same small amount of treat that I do for anything else.

I worry about them gaining weight from too much “junk food” so only give them a teensy bit of dried liver or whatever as a treat. But I hadn’t thought about it from their perspective – why should I interrupt this interesting thing I’m doing for the sliver of treat she’s got. So now, lots of treats, different kinds of treats, lots of hugs and fuss. We’ll see how it works.

Be a slot machine

Anne MacDonald at Lions Club Dog Park“Be a slot machine, not a vending machine,” Anne said about training. Sometimes they get a lot, sometimes they get a little, sometimes they get nothing – they never know for sure. So like people sitting for hours feeding coins into a slot machine, hoping against hope that it will give the big payoff, a dog will be more inclined to keep coming back in hopes of hitting a mother lode of treats.*

But don’t do it every time. If the dog knows you’re going to give a treat every time, after the first time you don’t, the dog might treat you like a broken vending machine. If it doesn’t produce, you don’t go back to it. When Leo knows I’ve run out of treats (which he seems to have a sixth sense about), he thinks about whether he’s going to come back or not. If he feels like it, he might but not with as much alacrity as when he knows there’s a treat waiting. If he doesn’t feel like it, well, he doesn’t until he’s ready.

The long leash

When they don’t feel like coming back, that’s when you need the “I am all-powerful” tool. Anne uses a long lead, a soft rope much longer than a regular leash. Just let the dog drag it (obviously not in brush areas where the dog can get caught up). Give the recall command, if dog doesn’t react, say it again and step on the leash. Don’t go to the dog, pull the leash back to you.

Keep the treats in your pocket, not your hand. But act fast when the dog comes back. “Good dog”, pats and hugs and quickquick into your pocket and treat to dog. That reinforces the connection between the dog’s action and the reward, but lessens the chance of the treat being a bribe instead of a reward. That’s where my training with Leo fell down. He saw the treat in my hand often enough that he started looking for it before he’d decide whether or not to do what I asked. With him, it’s not even a case of bribery, it’s more like negotiation. With Charlie too, it’s negotiation. If he knows I’ve got treats he really likes, he’s more likely to do what I ask. If he doesn’t like them, he just sniffs the treat and walks on past. So for recall especially, have ones they like a lot.

Competitiveness

Sometimes they get into competition to see who can get to me faster. Anne says you can use that competitiveness in training, and reward only the winner. The dog who does it right gets the treats and the big fuss. The other gets nothing. I have a hard time doing that, the other one looks so pitiful that I end up giving him a treat Charlie doing recalland pat too. She says be tough so they see that if they don’t do the work, they don’t get the prize.

So I learned a lot, mainly how much I’ve let “pretty good” be good enough for me. As a result of my back-sliding, my very willing-to-learn poodle is only about halfway to well-trained and my smart but obstinate terrier pays attention and then does what he wants. Both of them like playing “the training game” as they see it. And both have learned a lot since we’ve had them. Now I’m going to do my part to help them learn more. Thank you, Anne, for some helpful tips and reminders.

First posted May 25, 2010 on the St. Thomas Dog Blog.

* On CBC’s The Current, Mon. May 15/17, Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked, said about social media likes: “This idea that a reward is just within reach but it’s never guaranteed. Paradoxically when you guarantee someone a reward, they get bored and they stop doing something quite quickly, whereas when you build in just a small dose of uncertainty… is very hard for humans to resist.”

Cedric and Jamie

Cedric and meThis day, in 1997, I laid my cat and dog in their final resting place. Cedric, the cat, had cancer of the jaw.  Jamie, the dog, had arthritis so bad he could barely walk. Cedric had been with me for fifteen years and Jamie for ten. There was nothing more that could be done for them. I knew I couldn’t go through it twice so decided they’d go together. My vet – and friend – came to my house and did it quickly. I felt like it was Dr. Mengele walking in the door when he arrived with his little bag of needles. It wasn’t painless for me. Afterwards, four of us carried them to their grave. The vet, me and two friends. Cedric was wrapped in a towel and Jamie was in his bed. Four of us cried, one gave a eulogy, then we filled in the grave.

Jamie12Apr97Next day, we made a perennial bed on the top of their grave. Tiger lilies for Cedric, a tortoiseshell, and orange and yellow dahlias for Jamie. The lilies were mottled in colour and sleek, like Cedric. The dahlias looked happy, like Jamie.

A foundling cat and a determined dog

Cedric came to me soon after my boyfriend dumped me. He hadn’t wanted a cat or dog. I had. So the first thing I did when I got my own place was put out the word that I was cat-hunting.

Friends had a very pregnant cat they had found in the woods. Their own cat terrorized her and they feared what would happen when the kittens were born. I took her. I feared she was going to give birth cedric mousepad photo d stewarton the drive home. But it was a week before the kittens came. I was much more nervous than she was, and she was pretty nervous. I had my landlady come help because she was a registered nurse.

Ceddie and I had a good life in many homes. Jamie joined us when he decided he preferred our house to his own. He lived nearby, at the end of a long country lane. A very social dog, he preferred life in the village.

Jamie was a self-sufficient dog. Didn’t have a lot of dog friends but a wide circle of people friends. He’d do his visiting rounds every few days. When he got older, if he was too tired to walk home, someone would drive him or phone me to come get him. He made friends with a couple neighbour dogs. They’d come visit him or he’d go to their place. He walked along beside you, but I don’t Jamie eating a chicken pot piethink anyone ever trained him. He’d run in the woods after rabbits. Never caught one, and never lost track of you.

Neither Cedric nor Jamie were ever my ‘fur-babies’. They were my friends and, especially Cedric, my advisors.

New pets move in

Less than a month after they died, a young stray tabby and white cat turned up at my house. I wasn’t ready for a new cat, but no one claimed her. Elsie moved in and is still with me. After a year, a German Shepherd pup needed a home. So Jack joined Elsie and me.

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on April 13, 2011. Now, twenty years later, Elsie and Jack are also gone.

Blue Blue Merle

Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication aka Vinnie Westminster 2012 Best CollieWhile watching the 2012 Westminster dog show, this dog was the one I wanted. What a beauty! Then a Collie-knowledgeable friend commented that he should never have won Best of Breed because of his merle-to-merle breeding. Huh?

I started googling. 2012 Best of Breed Collie GCH Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication, Vinnie for short, is son of Wyndlair Avalanche, aka Aiden, top breeding collie in the US. Aiden was the only pup born from a deliberate merle to merle breeding, and he is deaf and almost if not fully blind. Because of that, Aiden has never been shown. But being AKC registered, his pups from a registered female can be registered, shown and bred.

The patterns of white and colour called merle are produced by a congenital glitch that might be accompanied by blindness, or partial vision, and deafness. It’s like white blue-eyed cats being deaf. Lots of dogs, including non-merle looking ones, carry the gene for merle coats, so it may or may not come out in their pups. Mixed with non-merle genetic material, the chances of getting the physical problems of the merle gene are not significantly great.

Breeders take a dog’s full lineage into account in choosing parental pairs in order to minimize congenital problems. That’s why pedigree papers go back so many generations. You do not deliberately breed a pair likely to pass on major physical problems. Well, to produce Vinnie’s dad, his kennel did.

Double Merle Collie

Wyndlair Avalanche aka AidenIt seems I’m not the only one starstruck by a dog like Vinnie. The demand for merles has increased, but getting them is luck of the draw. It goes against all good breeding practices to breed two merles together in hopes of increasing the odds of getting a greater proportion of merle puppies. Wyndlair Avalanche, Aiden, is the product of such a breeding choice. The only pup of the litter, Aiden is vision- and hearing-impaired, but he has a magnificent merle coat.

ad for all merle litterMaybe from him would come the jackpot – an all merle litter, as was advertised  by another kennel about pups sired by Aiden.

This is breeding to supply market demand. That is what puppy mills do.  A movie makes every kid want a Dalmatian? Let’s get the assembly line moving and fill that demand! Labradoodles become the new fad? Crank ‘em out! The exotic look of merle Collies becomes the new must-have? A reputable breeder takes chances with the physical soundness of their pups and the future of the breed? Apparently so. Aiden’s pups sell like hotcakes.

With his son Vinnie winning Best of Breed at Westminster, dad and son’s stud fees just went way up. Vinnie produces beautiful puppies, I’m sure, and with him Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication, Vinnie, Westminster Best of Breed Collie 2012not being a double merle, they might be physically sound. But they carry in their genetic structure the ticking timebomb of deafness, blindness and other congenital problems. That will affect the health and wellbeing of Collies for many years to come.

I had been hoping Vinnie would win the Herding Group so that he could vie for Best in Show. I am very glad now that he didn’t. Sorry, Vinnie.

darlene austin and magic sept 2010 st thomas fire musterFrom my St. Thomas Dog Blog Feb. 23, 2012, reposted with fond memories of Darlene Austin, my “Collie-knowledgeable friend”, and her beautiful Magic.

The 2017 Westminster Dog Show was held Feb 13th and 14th. Congratulations to  Rumor, the German Shepherd, and all the dogs.

(see comments below)

Pet Heirs

Preparing a will isn’t what most people consider a fun thing to do. And even for those who do, it still takes a lot of time and thought to Dad with my animalsget it right. You don’t know when your will is going to take effect or what the circumstances around it will be so you have to balance specificity and generality so it can be satisfactorily fulfilled.

If you have pets you need to think about them. Just leaving it to hope, or even a promise, that a family member or friend will look after Fluffy, isn’t enough. The belief that everyone loves Fluffy as much as you do may be only in your own head. And a promise might be meant sincerely when it’s given, but you want to get it in writing – literally. Circumstances change and, after you’re dead, there’s nothing you can do if promises aren’t kept. So think about it very carefully and talk to a lawyer about it.

I initially thought of setting aside an amount of money for each animal based on health, age, size etc. The animals would bring their legacies to their new carer. My lawyer said no right off the bat. “Next day, they say ‘too bad, cat got hit, thanks for the money’.” So we came up with a plan where the executor would hold the pets’ money in trust and dole it out accordingly. More cumbersome, but better assurance that the animals will be cared for and their new people properly recompensed.

But my kids love Skippy!

When volunteering at a St. Thomas shelter, I answered the phone once right at closing. A guy said “My dad’s gone in a home and I’ve got his dog. Either you people take it or I have it put down.”  Yes, I asked enough questions to learn the father had dementia and neither knew nor approved of his son’s actions. The shelter had no space, but I was new there and hadn’t yet had hundreds of such calls. I couldn’t let this dog’s blood be on Maggie July 2000 pets in willmy hands, even if a so-called caretaker could. So I told him to bring the dog by. He seemed like a perfectly nice guy. He didn’t hang around long, which was fine by me.

I took Maggie home. She was a sweet elderly Miniature Poodle. She found a home with another couple and their teenage daughter. All three seemed as smitten with Maggie as she was with them.

Maggie’s person hadn’t died, and already the son was getting rid of her. This brings up another important point: your power of attorney, generally prepared with your will. If you are incapacitated mentally or physically, you need someone you trust to act for you. The person, legally, becomes you. If you still have your mental faculties and realize that person is not acting in your best interests or doing what you wish, you have the right to give your power of attorney to someone else. If you are mentally incapacitated, however, you can’t.  As well as control over your banking, home, personal care and medical decisions, that person also has control over your possessions and assets, including your pets. So choose carefully, based on a person’s integrity rather than sentiment.

Will Planning for Pets

will planning for pets book by Barry Seltzer Amazon link
Click for Amazon link

There’s a book that can help with planning for your pets’ life after you are gone. Co-authored by Toronto lawyer Barry Seltzer, Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs can help you plan for your pets. There’s also an article here about the topic.

The top photo is of my Dad, my dog Jack and cat Elsie. All are now loved in my memory. The other photo is Maggie. This post was originally published on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on Nov. 23, 2012.

Happy Meals

Grayneck with sister hens in garden summer 2016In Memoriam: In honour of our Phoenix hen Grayneck. On Dec. 23, 2016, Grayneck died of natural causes, aged 4 1/2 years. She is survived by her four sisters.

The girls are the first hens I have had since the ones I write about here. This was first posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on June 13, 2010.

Hens and Roosters

I used to keep chickens. Mainly bantams who produce lovely little eggs. They also are very broody, meaning they will easily sit on eggs in order to hatch them. When you have chicks, it’s 50/50 whether Favourite of all roosters Baby Rooster D Stewart photosyou get hens or roosters. Any chicken coop can only handle so many roosters, I found. They get along with each other if they’ve been raised together, so fighting isn’t the problem. Hens and roosters both sort out their place in their pecking order.

Aside from fertilizing eggs and guarding the hens, the roosters don’t do anything productive and they eat just as much as do the hens who lay eggs for their keep. Roosters crow at all hours of the day and most of the night, and they don’t leave the hens alone. They all want to be the “egg-daddy” it seems. So every so often, some roosters have to go.*

One way they can be useful is in the stewpot. I never did the killing. I was the hanging judge. I decided who was going to die.  My then-partner did the actual dispatching, while I went in the house and washed dishes and cried. My tears didn’t make the chosen rooster any happier about his fate but, up to that moment his life had been very good. They had a nice spacious coop, an outdoor run and often they had days out loose in the yard, eating berries and pecking for bugs.

“Ugly Duckling” Chicks

Bantam/Leghorn cross with chicks photo Dorothy AngerWe also raised turkeys, putting fertilized eggs under broody bantams. The hens looked after their “ugly duckling” chicks as well as if they’d been regular bantam chicks. And the great big chicks followed their mothers and slept under their mothers’ wings even when they no longer really fit.

With the turkeys, in the fall we’d feed them lots of berries and nice vegetable scraps. The birds loved them, and it actually made the meat taste sweeter when we ate them at Thanksgiving or Christmas. So we all got a treat.

I think it’s important that the animals I eat have had good lives. I look after my pets’ health and make sure they have fun and exercise and good food because I know it’s important to their well-being. So why should it be any different for farm animals that lay down their lives in order to provide me with a meal? And, beyond the ethical issues of humane treatment of living creatures, you know there are no chemicals, hormone additives or dubious food going into naturally-raised animals. Also the end product simply tastes better.

One of my egg customers, when I had my chickens, paid me double my asking price. He said my little, fresh bantam eggs were so flavourful that he wanted to give me what he’d pay for large supermarket eggs.

Elgin County Farms

We’re lucky in Elgin County to still have a lot of small farms that grow vegetables and rear animals in the traditional way. And, as interest in organic and local foods increases, the number of those farms is also growing.

At the St. Thomas Library, I picked up two pamphlets. One is “Fresh from the Farms in Elgin County”, published by the Elgin Business Resource Centre, and the other is “Local Organic! Farms” by London Area Organic Growers. Both pamphlets list producers and sellers of vegetables and berries, meat, wine and honey in Elgin and London areas. They have the addresses, phone numbers, seasonal hours and what they sell as well as maps showing where each is located. The London one also includes area restaurants that use organic foods. When I started trying to find local sources for good (in all senses of the word) meats, I made up my own list of “happy” animal farms and organic vegetable growers. But these brochures have a lot of places I didn’t know about. Good resources to have!

me with Baby Rooster D Stewart photos* My husband said, after reading this description of roosters, that I’d just summed up at least half  of the North American male culture.

Babyrooster and Babyhen, pictured here, were my first chicks and my pets. Despite his very small size, Babyrooster was vigilant in looking after his hens. After a good long life, he died defending the hens against an attack by dogs.

Poodle Clip

White poodle in snow-photo-D-StewartLeo was filthy.  His hair was long and matted.  He smelled.  But cold weather and his arthritis made me reluctant to take him to his groomer.  “What about we try bathing him in the tub?” my husband said.

I had only before clipped his feet and around his eyes between salon visits.  We had hosed him off a couple times when needed.  But bathe, shampoo and clip him completely?  Never.

“Worth a try,” I said.  I gave him a preliminary clip first.  I figured it would be easier to wash him without long hair in the way.  So an afternoon of clipping while he lay on his side.  Then I had to get him to turn over.

Leo-in-bath- after first clip photo-D-StewartNext day, bath time.  A length of hose borrowed from some other plumbing in the house to go over the faucet.  Jim in the tub awaiting Leo as I lift him in.  Leo’s feet scrabble wildly but he gets a foothold.  Charlie, the other dog who detests baths, kept very quiet and far away outside the bathroom door.  He hoped we wouldn’t notice him but he wanted to see what was going on.  (His ploy didn’t work:  he got bathed next.)

Leo was very good and stayed still for us.  He slipped a few times.  We realized we should have got a rubber mat for the tub so he could get a better grip.  With his hair shorter, it was easier to shampoo him and to rinse him thoroughly.

bathtime-photo-Dorothy-StewartJim lifted him out to me, I wrapped a towel around him then let him go to shake himself.  It was a mild sunny day so he air-dried.  While not ideal for poodle hair, we thought it was best to not torture him with a hair dryer.  I have only a small hand-held dryer, not a powerful one like groomers use.  Leo doesn’t like dryers and it would have taken so long with my dryer that it didn’t seem worth scaring the wits out of him.

Clip again after the bath

After he was completely dry, I brushed and brushed and brushed him.  When he was all fluffy, I clipped again.  I only used blunt-nosed grooming-equipment-photo-D-Stewartdog scissors.  I don’t have groomer clippers nor do I know how to use them.  Because it’s winter, I didn’t want him clipped really close.  I left the hair on his body about an inch long (more or less depending on my accuracy) and trimmed his legs to about the same length.  I trimmed the base of his tail short and left his pompom long.  Then I neatened up his ear fringe at the bottoms but otherwise only brushed them.  I left the hair on the top of his head and back of his neck and shoulders long.

When it’s warmer, he will go to his groomer.  Considering that this took me the better part of two days and Leo began running from me clean poodle in snow-photo-D-Stewartwhen he saw scissors or brush in my hand, I think the money spent on a professional grooming job is well worth it.  Groomers do more than I can do, and do the whole job better.  Poodles need the hair inside their ears plucked to avoid infection and I don’t have the confidence to try that.  But for an occasional clean up job, I think what I call Leo’s “casual sporty clip” looks just fine.  So does he.

First posted Feb. 28, 2013 on my St. Thomas Dog Blog. When Leo got too decrepit to stand in the tub or even be thoroughly wet, I bought Wahl No Rinse Shampoo for Dogs. Lightly massage it in his coat, then towel it off. It worked fine, and I could do it as he laid on his side.

Puppy Mill

I supported a puppy mill.  Not directly, but I puppy mill poodle Leo May 23 2010contributed to the financial well-being of one. My Standard Poodle Leo had spent five years in a US puppy mill as a breeding dog. His adoption fee from All Breed Canine Rescue was $100 higher than the usual because the original rescue group in the States had paid the puppy mill owner $100 each for the dogs they had taken from him. I truly hope he just didn’t go out and buy new dogs. He may well have, since this wasn’t an official “seizure” of the dogs by animal welfare authorities. I am glad that Leo and his cohort got away but it breaks my heart to think about their replacements. I wonder how long they’ll have to live like these dogs did before they get out, to a better life I hope.

When I went to pick him up almost two years ago, I saw all the dogs. Volunteers from the American rescue transport group Open Arms Pound Rescue had brought them to Canada. The majority were adult Labradoodles,  so breeding dogs. They were cowering in the cars in which they’d been traveling. Some almost skeletal, matted dry hair – just laying there looking terrified. Some I was reluctant to go near – bared teeth warning. Two were outside their car. A big blonde adult male was standing defensively in front of a smaller adult female. She was pressed against the side of the car, trying to disappear. He wouldn’t let anyone near her. Some of the younger ones were happy to be petted and fussed over. A couple small pups, Poodles, were soaking up affection in people’s arms.

Meeting Leo

My chosen foster dog, Leo, meanwhile, was trotting around on the end of a leash meeting and greeting. I thought he Leo's first day home Sep 2008belonged to the man holding the leash, until that man said to me “I think this is your dog?” When I put him in my car, I realized that he reeked – dirty dog smell, urine and faeces. We drove home with the windows wide open.

It wasn’t until we were at home, away from the truly sad cases, that I realized just how weird he really was. Not just that he wasn’t housetrained and didn’t know how to get up or down steps – neither of those things are surprising in an outdoor kennel dog. He just didn’t connect with humans at all. He wasn’t overtly scared or show dislike of people – just seemed to not see them. With dogs and cats, he was fine – didn’t pay a lot of attention to them but wasn’t nasty. He wasn’t nasty with anyone, just wasn’t there somehow. I’d never seen anything like it.

Puppy mill autism?

He bonded with me right off the bat, but still didn’t really look at me. Just stayed very very close to me. I thought about naming him Velcro, but it seemed like a joke that was very sad. It was like I was his safety base, but he never really saw me even though he kept his eyes on me constantly. It seemed like a severe case of autism – man-made.

LeoWhite-haired man-made I realized the first time I heard him bark. We were at my mother’s and her neighbour came over. He’s tall and white-haired. Leo barked frantically and showed great fear.  For many months after, even after he’d settled into normalcy, Leo reacted that way with any white-haired man, especially if he was tall. So I know that much about the puppy mill operator. Leo’s only other fear/aggression reaction to people came when anyone, but especially a male, would touch his rear end. Even now, after almost two years, he still moves quickly away if a man pats his rump.

Inability to connect with humans, fear of men and of having his rear touched – those were his main psychological problems. His physical problems – I think at least one vet’s child can thank Leo for a year’s university costs. The amount of money that went just in the first few months to get Leo to a healthy state was stupendous. Parasites, bad teeth, gastrointestinal problems, urinary tract infections – all part and parcel of poor nutrition and bad living conditions.

Maybe a show kennel start

It’s been a learning process for me as well as Leo. He ate his meals well right from when he came to us. He had no idea what treats were and was reluctant to take food from your hand. That proved problematic at obedience class. His teacher said “Poodles are often fussy eaters.” Not him. Once he got the idea of treats, that ceased to be a problem!

Interestingly, the hardest thing to teach him was what is usually the easiest – sit. It took three weeks of classes, with plenty of homework done, before he would sit when asked. His teacher and other people have suggested that he may have started life as a prospective show dog. Apparently the main thing show dogs are taught is not to sit.

Sitting is the one thing they are not allowed to do in a show ring. And Leo, Leo and Charlie Dog Park Grand Opening photo John Blakeeven when he was getting the hang of all the other basic commands, would not sit. It was a wonderful moment when he did the first time. Now he plunks himself in a ‘sit’ in front of perfect strangers if he thinks he might get a treat out of it.

Dog show people have also looked at him for the stance that show dogs have or learn. It’s called ‘stacking’, where they position their legs to show themselves to best advantage. Leo does it automatically. So he may have come from a show dog kennel to the puppy mill anywhere from 4 months to a year old. He’s short, so that alone would disqualify him from show ring aspirations.

Puppy Mill ‘stock’

Dogs that don’t make the cut have to go somewhere and some breeders will let them go anywhere. So dogs that aren’t “good enough” for kennel club standards are turned into breeding machines for “substandard” pups to supply the pet store, private sale and Kijiji markets. Leo’s days of making babies are over. But I wonder how many Labradoodles and Poodles that I see on line for stud service or for sale are his descendants.

Leo really brought home for me the horrors of puppy mill dog production. Lois, of ABCR, said that these dogs weren’t bad compared to others she has seen. Her guess is that they came from a small-scale ‘miller’ operation, those with more dogs than ‘backyard breeders’ and less than ‘puppy mills’. I’ve seen the pictures of dogs seized in raids on puppy mills, I watched the documentary on Oprah. I cried for those dogs and for the inhumanity of the people responsible. But I never felt the deep pain in my heart until I had Leo, and realized just how sad it was that a sentient creature should learn to live as a means of production and have none of the joys of being alive.

Leo learns to be a dog

Watching Leo the first time he realized it was ok to sit when he was asked, the first time he picked up a toy and clumsily played with it. The first time he willingly approached a man he didn’t know to make friends. All these were moving moments for me, watching my weird dog do regular doggy things. And the day Leo first ran full tilt in a field! I’d had him loose before, and he’d just walk around by my side.

Leo running Sept 2009 photo D Stewart

But finally he took off after Charlie, a few steps. Then he decided to keep going. Charlie got tired and stopped running, and Leo just flew across the field – ears flapping, front feet high-stepping. He didn’t stop for a long time. I cried from happiness as well as sadness when I realized from his look of joy that he had maybe never done this before, and he loved it! Everyone who saw him run those first few times said that “he runs like a gazelle.” It was as if he’d just discovered that he had legs. To this day, he really doesn’t run with other dogs, he runs for the sheer joy of running.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 25 2010.

Arthritic Dogs

One week ago today at 7:15 pm AT, my dearly beloved Standard Poodle Leo died. He was about 14 years old. He’s been with us for eight years and leo-18-may-2009-at dan pattersons before arthritissix weeks. Since 2012, he had severe arthritis. Arthritis and old age finally took him. Took a big chunk of our hearts too.  This post was first published Jan. 30, 2013 on my St. Thomas Dog Blog in memory of Leo’s predecessor Jack.  Now it’s in honour of Leo too.

Jack

Five years ago today at 2:15 pm ET, my beautiful German Shepherd Jack died. We had his vet euthanize him before his body did it by itself. It was getting pretty close; I don’t think he would have survived another night. He had a number of physical ailments. We don’t know exactly what all. but I suspect a fast-growing cancer was involved. He was only 9 3/4 years old. He had been my best friend, teacher and “baby-dog” for 9 1/2 of those years.

flowers and Jack photo by Dorothy StewartOne problem he had in his last year was arthritis in his hips. He would get up slowly and painfully. He would shift position a lot, trying to get comfortable. I gave him Medacam for it. I don’t know how much good it did because other ailments began developing soon after. His arthritis became the least of his problems.

My dog before Jack, Jamie, had developed severe arthritis in his legs. Poor soul got so he could hardly walk at all. Lying down was almost as painful for him. At the time, the only thing I could give him for pain relief was a Bufferin once a day. He could have had cortisone shots but I didn’t want to due to the bad side effects of steroid drugs. In retrospect, I might as well have tried it.

Leo, one of my present dogs, is arthritic now. X-rays a year ago showed severe damage to his hip joints and his spine. So we are getting to know all the pain relief medications that now exist. There are a lot more than sixteen years ago when Jamie needed something so badly.

Leo’s Arthritis Medicines

Leo started on Medacam. It can work wonders but not for Leo. So he went to Deramaxx, another anti-inflammatory. Again, when it works, you can see the change and, again, there wasn’t a visible improvement. So now he’s getting shots of Cartrophen in addition to the Deramaxx. It is said to mend cartilage. His doctor said you should be able to see a difference after a couple of shots. After three shots – don’t know. We will ask about the next level of treatment. (2016: the drug combination that worked best for him was Gabapentin and Deramaxx,}

Jamie and Jack showed classic signs of arthritis; stiffness when rising, limping after exertion. Leo’s early symptoms were quite different. He began slipping even when standing. Because Jack developed severe problems with his paw pads getting paper-thin, I first checked Leo’s feet. They looked fine. We googled it: can be due to arthritis. His vet explained: even slight movement isn’t easy with stiff joints so there can be a loss of balance. Slipping, if not falling, can be the result.

I read in “A Case History of Maggie”  that the elderly Golden Retriever could no longer squat to do her business and would do it while continuing to walk. I hadn’t thought of that being connected to arthritis in the back legs but it makes sense. Restlessness, moving from place to place to sleep, can mean arthritic pain. All these may be less obvious signs of osteoarthritis.

Our present dogs came to help all of us, including the cats, fill the void created by Jack’s death. They have done that and more, but our happy, very silly boy is never forgotten.

(My Dog’s Arthritis has more. Commodity Dogs tells the story of how Leo and Charlie came to us.)