Category Archives: St. Thomas Dog Blog

St. Thomas Dog Blog, 2010 to 2014, by Dorothy Stewart.  Originally part of the St. Thomas Dog Owners Association (stdoa.ca) website. Dogs and dog welfare, in general and in St. Thomas ON. Also cats, horses and chickens. Book and movie reviews and news about local animal-related events.

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.)

The Dog Park

old road going into dog parkWent to the dog park yesterday with the boys. It was a mauzy day, light rain and cool. I figured nobody would be there, and I was right. It was beautiful.

Charlie and Leo trotted along, happy to sniff at stuff. Another dog and his person joined us. Dogs sniffed each other, then went back to whatever else they were sniffing. A young dog came careening around the path to the meadow, ran around like a whirlwind trying to get the others to play. No luck with these three, so tore off up the hill looking for somebody more fun. I hope more dogs came, willing to play with him.

steps in path from meadow in dog parkWe went up the steep hill, muddy and slippery. But I could make it up fast enough to keep an eye on the dogs, thanks to the steps that Albert built into the slope. Back up at the top, I looked around. I felt proud of our little dog park.

Just two years ago, it wasn’t like this. Oh, it was just as pretty. But it wasn’t fenced, there were no picnic tables or bag dispensers or garbage containers. No steps, no trails cleared through the hillside. It was a wooded ravine with a meadow by the creek. Not many people went there. Now, it’s often very crowded with people and dogs. I wonder what the deer and neighbourhood cats who had it all to themselves for so long think about it. But sometimes, like yesterday, it’s the same as when I first went there with a dog years ago. Except now I don’t have to remember my own poop bags.

The STDOA did this – got a fenced dog park in our city. I was one of the founders of the group, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. I no longer go to the ravine very often. My dogs are too anti-social for large group activities. But I love seeing social dogs chase each other and wrestle, having so much fun. Pups on their first visit, intimidated at first then realizing they can act as wild as they want and tumbling around with other dogs. It’s lovely to watch.

sign for dog park meeting Oct 16 2 pmBut the steps and bag dispensers didn’t get there by themselves. Volunteers built the steps and keep the park clean of litter and dog poop. The STDOA raises money for poop bags and dispensers and for building and maintenance materials. The STDOA needs your input and participation. Money and energy – that’s what’s needed to keep the Lions Club Dog Park running and get another one in a different part of town.

In Memory of Forte, Dog Park Dog

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Oct. 13, 2011. For Forte, one of the original STDOA and dog park dogs. Forte passed away this week at a good old age, surrounded by his family.

forte-may-2016
Forte waking from a nap, May 2016

An All Breed Canine Rescue dog, Forte was at first fearful and mistrustful due to abuse he had suffered. But he lucked into the best home he could have asked for. His people lucked into the best dog too. Forte became a foster dad in turn to many more pups and adult dogs who joined his household as ABCR fosters. He will be missed.

Missouri Puppy Mills & Prop B

Happy puppies, from ASPCA websiteOn November 2, 2010, Americans voted in mid-term elections.  One of the things voted on in Missouri was Proposition B, proposed legislation that would regulate dog-breeding kennels. It was passed by a small margin of mainly urban votes [update below].  The ASPCA, Humane Society and state- and community-level animal rescue groups supported it.

The American Kennel Club, at the national and state level, opposed it, as did groups representing puppy mill operators in the state.  It was also opposed by a Tea Party-affiliated group called Alliance for Truth, who argued that it was an invasion of individual rights by “big government”.  They went further, saying it would take away Americans’ right to own pets and farm animals.

Puppy mill 01-USA-PETA-wikipedia
Wire cage floor – less cleaning needed, paw damage for dogs

Minimum standards for food, water, shelter and exercise, rest between breeding cycles and a limit of 50 breeding dogs in a kennel, enforceable by state Department of Agriculture, is all that is included in Prop B.  The legislation does not apply to breeders with less than 10 dogs.

It can not, unfortunately, completely close down large-scale breeding operations of dogs for sale.  However, it is aimed at puppy mills, commercial operations where breeding is done for profit alone.  But it would apply to all dog-breeders, including show dog kennels.

I read the AKC website to see why they were opposed to Prop B.  I understand their fear that legitimate breeders will be penalized by legislation aimed at puppy mills.  That might happen; kennels might be inspected more often and some might have their size of operation reduced.  It would be good for the dogs, and other breeders, though if “reputable” breeders who do not maintain basic levels of care were made to provide adequate conditions for their animals.  It would be unfortunate for the conscientious breeders who work out of love for their dogs and the breed and take good care of both.

There is validity in the AKC’s fear that increased government standards and inspection may cause greater expense and paperwork for breeders who are already working on a slim profit margin.  Every small business owner knows that a government inspector coming in the door is never good news for your operating costs.

However, every small business owner knows that someone setting up shop doing what you do and undercutting your prices is also not good for your business.  Maybe they figure they’ll take a loss in the short term in order to drive you out of business, maybe they’re using cheaper labour, taking short-cuts, making a shoddier product but selling it to people who care primarily about the cheaper price.  Either way, it’s bad news for you.  It seems to me that breeding dogs for sale isn’t that much different.

2004 Westminster dog show, junior category winners
2004 Westminster Junior Showmanship winners

Reputable breeders show their dogs in competition in order to raise the prestige of their dogs and their kennel.  That takes time and money.  They breed discriminately, checking for genetic problems and researching blood lines in order to raise the quality of their dogs and the breed as a whole.  Time and money.

Good breeders do not breed females in their first heat or every heat thereafter.  That means “downtime” where the dogs cost the same in food and care, but aren’t generating money in pups.  Antenatal and postnatal care – special foods, vet costs, shots.  Lots of money.  Finding the right home for the pups, checking prospective buyers.  Time.  Taking back the pup or grown dog if things don’t work out.  Time and money.  (And reputable breeders make it a condition of purchase that the dog will be returned if the new owner cannot keep it.)  Making sure registration with the CKC or AKC is done properly and that “pet stock” pups are not used for breeding.  Time, money.

Now, say the breeder is you.  You sell your pups for $1000 and that’s not making a huge profit.  Down the road, a new kennel opens, advertising the same kind of pups as yours and charging $800 each.  People say, “Why should I pay you $200 more?”  Meanwhile, you’ve seen the cages stacked on top of each other with dogs unable to turn around in them.  You’ve seen there is no exercise yard.  You see an endless supply of puppies going out the door.  Immediate sales, no contracts signed, no assessment of buyers, no return of dogs.  You’ve got yourself a puppy mill beside you.  How are you going to compete?

This is why, in the end, I couldn’t understand the opposition of reputable breeders to Prop B.  At the very least, it might remove ‘fly-by-night’ competitors, whether they be puppy mills or accredited breeders who cut too many corners.

Missouri puppy mill rescue ASPCA
“The dogs were voluntarily relinquished by an owner who could no longer afford to feed them.” ASPCA

Puppy mills are a major industry in Missouri.  40% of all pet store dogs sold in the US come from Missouri.  Prop B opponents talked about the economy relying on puppy mills and therefore anything that hurt them would hurt the state.  That may be the case.  In the pre-Civil War American South, it was argued that slavery was needed in order to keep the cotton-based economy alive.  It was true then, and may be true in Missouri.  But that’s not a reason to keep an inhumane and evil socio-economic system alive.  The South survived, Missouri will too.

2016: How’s the “Missouri Solution” doing?

I wrote this post on Nov. 16, 2010 on my St. Thomas Dog Blog. In 2011 the governor repealed Prop B and instead brought in a “Missouri Solution,” which removed most of the teeth of the original legislation. The time limit for puppy mill operators to comply with the changes was extended from one year to five, so to 2016. I could find very little about whether there has been any improvement in conditions in Missouri puppy mills now. For more, see Wikipedia’s Puppy Mill (Legislative Response: US) and for details on specific puppy mills, state by state, see Humane Society US “Horrible Hundred” of 2016. There are eleven pages of entries for Missouri.

It’s another election year; the five years for implementation of the Missouri solution have passed. So how’s it worked out for the dogs?

The Boxer, Copper

When I was 13, our next door neighbour got a dog. In itself, that’s not extraordinary. However, this dog acquisition caused quite a stir. She was an elderly Boxer facewidow and lived alone. The dog was a young Boxer. His name was Copper. He was the colour of a new penny, she or someone said. I can’t remember where she got him, if she sought him out or if he just happened along. I thought it was wonderful that Mrs. Layfield got a dog, but even I was a bit surprised, especially the dog being a big energetic Boxer.

My parents, and probably everybody else in town, were amazed, maybe even horrified. The Layfields had never had a dog in our memory. And Mrs. Layfield was a tiny lady. My mother feared the dog would knock her down the stairs, knock her over in the hallway, knock her down outside. You’d go to her house, ring the doorbell and hear Copper  tearing along the hall at full speed. Mrs. Layfield would come along behind, open the door and welcome you into the front parlour.

She was a lady of the Victorian era. Her house was lovely, with beautifully polished old furniture, lace antimacassars on chair arms and backs. Delicate porcelain figurines and glass ornaments displayed on table tops. And in the middle of it, a huge slobbering Boxer galumphing around.

A Boxer and bric a brac

Copper, to my knowledge, never knocked a single table over. He seemed able to jump and play in the middle of a room full of lovely and fragile bric a brac without touching a thing. In deference to her upholstered furniture, she put old towels on chair arms and parts of the sofa where he was likely to be, and likely to drool. She kept towels in the kitchen by his bowls and in the hallway to mop up the water that dribbled out of his mouth after he drank. But other than that, Mrs. Layfield made no adjustments to her living arrangements to accommodate his boisterousness, and she didn’t need to. He seemed to know where it was ok to be boisterous and how to play around the furniture.

Her backyard was already fenced, and we’d watch Copper playing with stuffed toys and balls in his yard. Mrs. Layfield took him for walks down front view of Copper's house in Belmont ONMain Street. He walked sedately beside her, never pulling or getting tangled in her feet.

The two of them aged together. Copper’s hips got bad and she made him a bed on the main floor when he couldn’t climb the stairs. Not long later, she did the same for herself. She and Copper lived together until he died of old age. She didn’t get another dog. A few years later, she sold her house and moved to a nursing home. A new young family moved in, with a young black Lab. It was nice to see a dog in the yard next door again. But we still called it “Copper’s yard”.  Many owners later, we still call the house “Mrs. Layfield’s house”.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Stories, Feb. 13, 2011

Pittie Myths

Muzzled Pittie wikicommonsI don’t often agree with Peter Worthington, but I did with what he wrote (March 14, 2012) about Pit Bulls and Ontario’s Breed Specific Legislation.  He calls BSL a “Ku Klux Klan law”, “akin to deciding guilt based on appearance, not behaviour.”  Like him, I applaud Cons. Randy Hillier, NDP Cheri DiNova and Lib. Kim Craitor for bringing forward a private members’ bill to rescind it.  No law should apply to a specific breed and dogs who look “substantially similar” to that breed.

Fashions of fear and image-making

A lot of dogs have been in fashion as “feared” dogs.  German Shepherds had their time.  Someone I know found his beautiful Shepherd poisoned, most likely by a neighbour who disliked “that German police dog”.  Then came Doberman Pinschers as the “feared” breed.  There is reason to be fearful of them and most dogs– if you’re not on the side of the fence you belong on, as I heard the owner of an auto wrecker business once say.

But I don’t remember Shepherds or Dobes being the fashion Pit Bulls on album cover Alexis & Fido The Pitbulls 2005accessory for young men that Rottweilers and Pitties became in the past two decades.  Now, it seems to me, Mastiffs and Cane Corsos have supplanted them.

These are all very powerful breeds used for herding and protecting.  They are intelligent and strong-willed.  You have to be their match in order for the relationship to work out well, and just wanting to be isn’t enough.  I would never have a Rottie or Pit Bull.  Dog trainers have told me that I don’t make myself the dog’s boss.  “You’re more a litter mate than alpha dog,” one said.

These powerful breeds of fashion can scare me.  But it’s not the dogs, it’s the owners.  I don’t mean huge, tattooed drug dealers or nasty pimps.  I mean teenagers who cannot have had much experience handling any dog except the family pet because they are just not old enough.  The caution the Westminster dog show announcer gives about some breeds, “not for first-time dog owners”?  Shep, who let you pull his ears when you were two, does not qualify you as an experienced dog owner.

Happy young Pit Bull sitting WikicommonsI also have concerns for these dogs of youthful fashion:  are they being fed right, exercised enough, socialized and trained properly?  You might well be concerned about the same things for their owners.  However, if either of them wig out, the owner won’t be sentenced to death but the dog will.

Myth-making and Pit Bulls

A well looked after, happy Pit Bull is a joy.  A neglected or abused, frightened or aggressive one is not.   Just like any other dog.  The reality is that there have been vicious attacks by Pit Bulls that have killed and seriously maimed people and animals.  But presuming therefore that Pit Bulls are all crazed killers is itself, well, crazy.

ca 1900 photo of child with Nanny dog Pit BullLovers of the breed have tried to counteract the “fighting dog” label by pointing out the breed’s protector instincts.  However, the “Nanny dog” image may be equally damaging to the poor Pittie. The photo at left has circulated the internet, and it’s lovely.  And maybe back then, the Pit Bull was your first choice of baby minder.  But there’s been a hundred years of selective breeding, good and bad, since then and that has an effect on all aspects of a creature.

Gross generalizations on either side are neither accurate nor fair to Pit Bulls.  They deserve to be treated like other dogs without bearing the burden of vilification or sainthood.  To paraphrase Tammy Wynette “after all, he’s just a dog.”  So stand by him and be proud of him for what he is, not the angel or ogre you want him to be.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Mar. 22, 2012. 4 comments below.

Titanic: No greater love

Among the bodies found after Titanic sank was that of a woman, clinging to the body of a Great Dane. Ann Elizabeth Isham had a seat in a lifeboat but was told dogs on Titanic deck, including a Great Dane typeher dog was too big to come with her. So she jumped back on board the ship. They drowned together.

This is one of the stories told in a current exhibit about the people and dogs of Titanic at the Widener University Art Gallery in Chester PA. There were at least twelve dogs on board. Three survived. Small dogs, they were carried in bags or wrapped in blankets and, held on laps, they didn’t take extra space. Astonishingly, a Pomeranian was refused entry on the rescue ship Carpathia. That, after he and his mistress had survived the night on a lifeboat. Mrs. Martin Rothschild raised such a fuss that her little dog was allowed to board.

Dogs were 1st class passengers while cats were crew, on mousing detail. There is a story that one cat saved a man as well as herself and her kittens. She was on board from Belfast to Southampton where she disembarked, carrying her kittens off one by one. A man, debating whether to seek continued work on the ship’s journey, saw the cat leave and decided he too should stay ashore.

The tale of the Titanic is filled with happenstance, loyalty and sacrifice. Ida Straus was in a lifeboat when she realized her octogenarian husband wasn’t allowed on. “Where he goes, I go” she said and stepped back on the ship. They died together.

Quigg Baxter rowingQuebec Shamrock hockey player Quigg Baxter was on board with his mother and sister and, without their knowledge, so was his girlfriend Berthe Mayné, a Belgian cabaret singer. He introduced Berthe to his mother and sister as he put her in the lifeboat with them. He drowned.  Berthe later returned to Belgium and told stories of her doomed Canadian beau but nobody in her family believed her. After her death, they found a small box filled with photos of Quigg and his love letters to her.

A Canadian businessman, Capt. Arthur Peuchen, survived but later wished he hadn’t. A yachtsman, he got on a lifeboat with women and children to safely row it away. Back in Toronto, he was scorned for having survived. He retreated to a logging camp and horse farm in Alberta, haunted by survivor guilt. He died in 1929, a double survivor I think; of Titanic, then of societal opprobrium.

Titanic 100 years later

painting by Willy Stower sinking of TitanicThe Titanic specials for the 100th anniversary taught me a lot about the ship and our folklore about her. The hubris believed to be shown by the claim that she was unsinkable: the Captain and ship designers never said that, only the media did. The image of frivolity we see in the band playing as the ship listed and sunk: those musicians willingly gave their lives, knowing the value of music to keep others calm and provide solace for those facing death. Engineers accepted death to stay below trying to save the ship, then just to delay the sinking to save as many other lives as possible. The Captain hadn’t run her at full speed. He knew the danger of icebergs. On his final voyage before retirement, he went down with his ship.

Unfortunate timing of events coupled with miscommunication led to the disaster. The errors were not having Titanic ship in a bottleenough lifeboats and not enough practice at loading those they had. But, faced with disaster, people did the best they could. I hope Titanic is protected effectively now and left as the burial ground she is. Let her remain a testament to the power of the sea and the sacrifice of so many.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Apr. 19, 2012 (2 comments below) 

Bear

“A sad Goodbye to Bear, the dog who you may remember that was abandoned at Dalewood, that became a ABCR rescue dog. Bear was Bear-2015-FBadopted by a young man who dearly cherished this sweet boy and lived the rest of his life well fed and very much loved until cancer took his breath from him today. RIP Bear.” Mar. 15/16 ABCR Facebook

St. Thomas people and pets have a lot to thank Bear for. He caused a pet food bank to be set up, and major policy and procedure changes to be made in Animal Control. Below is a post from my St. Thomas Dog Blog that tells his story and, after it, a bit of what happened next. My condolences to Bear’s family.

Dumped and Found (Oct. 2, 2010)

The Dalewood dog is found and at the City animal shelter. His name is Bear. His is a story more of sadness and desperation than thoughtless cruelty. It sounds like a desperate man took what he thought were his only options. For whatever reason, he had to be ‘dogless’ by the next morning (moving? an apartment? I don’t know). But he didn’t have the $50 for the pound surrender fee. So he fed Bear a good meal, and took him to Dalewood and left him. Then he called All Breed Canine Rescue and told them what he’d done. People went looking for Bear, and they found him.

I can’t be angry at this man anymore. I’m saddened and frustrated. I wish he’d phoned ABCR first. But maybe he feared he’d be refused (Bear) pound #233 Sept 29again unless he could pay. Maybe he figured desperate action would get him the result he wanted – a good home for his dog. It’s still Bear who paid the biggest price. He still wandered around alone, looking for his person, wondering how he’d lost him. Bear is a Lab/Shepherd cross. I don’t know much about Labs, but I do know Shepherds will not lose you easily. No matter what they’re doing, they will always do their best to also keep track of you.

Shelter Fails

There has to be a better way of dealing with unwanted and stray animals without making the animals pay the price of abandonment. People are discussing ways of reorganizing the management and operation of the City shelter. The idea, in essence, is to involve the city’s animal rescue groups in the administration of the pound along with the City. What’s needed is a focus on education and actions to reduce the number of animals needing the services of the pound and finding homes instead of euthanasia or refusal to accept animals.

This type of thing is being talked about in City shelters across the country. Calgary has a very good model which has been very successful. I wrote in an earlier post (Giving Shelter) about the manager of the St. John’s Animal Control Shelter who had created a pound environment very different from the usual cages of dogs and cats left essentially alone. Change must be made in our Animal Shelter. It is doable and it’s urgent. With job losses, the number of animals needing the help of the pound and rescue groups will increase. That is on top of the normal levels of strayed and abandoned pets.

Changes Bear made

In early October 2010 a committee was struck to assess and improve operations of the St. Thomas Animal Shelter. Shelter employees, City staff and rescue group members have worked to better reunite lost pets with Charity-Cat-TNRtheir people, started a spay/neuter programme, and held micro-chipping clinics.

After thinking about pets like Bear dumped maybe only because of lack of money, we in the STDOA decided to try to make a change. We started a pet food bank. With the Caring Cupboard, the local human food bank, and other businesses in town, pet food was collected and distributed to those in need. In the first 10 weeks, over 1,000 pounds of kibble went through our hands. The programme is still going, and tons of kibble, canned food, litter, leashes and dog beds have been collected and distributed in St. Thomas and Aylmer in those six years. I think it’s helped a lot of people keep their pets during times of financial difficulty. And it’s all thanks to Bear.

Westminster Dogs

2012-02-14 hunter walker observer“Crategate” exploded in Mitt Romney’s campaign for the US Republican leadership, just as his Irish Setter Seamus’ bowels did when he was strapped in a crate on the roof of the family car for a 12-hour ride.  This story finally hit the media this week [Feb. 2012*].  Protestors used the publicity around the Westminster Dog Show held this week in New York City to garner attention for what Romney did to his dog.

And the winner of Westminster has caused great excitement in the once-yearly media attention paid to dog shows.  But another Westminster story got buried by the other two.

Pedigree ads

Pedigree shelter dog adWestminster dropped Pedigree as a sponsor.  Why?  Because they didn’t like the ads that Pedigree runs during the broadcast.  They were “too sad”, they said, showing shelter dogs in cages.  The wrong image of doggyness, evidently, to display while the Olympic athletes of dogdom showed their stuff.

How weird is this?  Usually in advertising, it’s the sponsors who pull out because they don’t like what the ‘sponsees’ are doing.  Westminster must be a very expensive event to put on.   Pedigree presumably has the big money needed in that it has been a major sponsor of Westminster for the past 24 years.

Shelter fundraising

I’ve been impressed that Pedigree holds a shelter fundraising drive during Westminster and that their ads show the other side of the dog world – dogs that are lucky to get any food no matter what quality, that don’t have someone worrying about tartar buildup on their teeth.  I’ve thought their Westminster shelter dogs ads are a good antidote, the yin and yang of “man’s best friend”.

Komondor in ring at WestminsterIt’s fun watching beautiful show dogs.  I ooh and aah, then look at my own.  I have a purebred who probably was born in a show kennel.  A Standard Poodle, he became a puppy mill breeding dog.  That’s behind him now and I hope he’s forgotten it.  I look at the Poodles in the ring, with their leonine hair.  “You could look like that” I tell him, in his short serviceable clip.  He could, but I’m not willing to put the time and effort into it.  I worry about ensuring he’s well fed, his coat mat-free and his body exercised.

When watching Westminster, I’ve got a purebred reality check beside me.  If I didn’t have him?  Maybe I’d think, wow, I’d like a dog just like the one on tv.  Go out, spend a fortune on a puppy, not have the interest or time to put into showing (which is a full-time job, not a dabbling hobby), and the dog becomes too much work and – that’s how dogs end up in shelters and pounds.  Not all of course, but enough.

Westminster purebreds, ad mutts

What I’d like to see in Pedigree’s ads at Westminster are the purebred Poodles, Mastiffs and Cocker Spaniels that are in pounds and breed-specific rescues.  The mongrels in the ads make no explicit connection to dog shows or breeders.  If that connection was made, Roscoe hound cross in Pedigree adWestminster might have a valid reason to object.  But would it be grounds to fire a sponsor?

Dog breeders, of all people, ought to know about the neglect and abuse of dogs and ought to be outraged about it.  Dogs are their vocation and avocation.  What’s wrong with Pedigree reminding us that there are dogs desperately in need?  The Westminster Dog Show and the AKC ought to be doing that themselves.

*From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Feb. 17th, 2012, when it seemed that the US Republican leadership campaign was as strange as it could ever possibly get. Bwahahaha!