Tag Archives: animal rescue

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.

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?

Pawlooza Dog Party

Pawlooza happens this coming Saturday, August 20th from 10 to 6, at Steve Plunkett’s Fleetwood Farm on Elviage Road, near Westdel Bourne in west poster 2011 pawlooza dog partyLondon. It is a huge dog party organized by ARF Ontario (Animal Rescue Foundation) in London.  Admission for the day, including parking, is $10 per vehicle. Hundreds of vendors of dog stuff are there, along with specialty groups like dog sports, specific breed clubs and rescue groups.

Each group keeps the money it raises through sales and donations, and the overall funds raised go to ARF and LEADS, a special needs employment and training programme.  You’ll see vendors from all over the province.  There’s lots of food for both you and your dog.  There are demonstrations of dog talent like agility and obedience.

Your dog can go swimming or compete in dock diving in the small lake on the property. But if, like us, you have non-swimming dogs, you can find a spot along the bank and watch Labs fling themselves off the dock into the water time after time.London Free Press photo by Sue Reeves, dog swimming

Just the property itself is enough to make you want to go.  The grounds are incredibly beautiful.  Booths are lined up in several rows, so you can shop to your heart’s content.  Then you can wander in the landscaped grounds and woods.

If you are thinking about getting a dog, there will be lots of dogs there with their rescue groups.  You can talk with knowledgeable people about the characteristics of different kinds of dogs, and you can see pretty much every breed of dog walking around the grounds.  You can even find out exactly what kinds of dogs created your mutt with a DNA test.  If you want to get inside your dog’s head (and who doesn’t), you can visit the dog psychic’s booth.

Indiana-billboards-2016-ISARIts date is a deliberate choice.  Since 1992, the 20th of August has been International Homeless Animals Day. The International Society of Animal Rights picked that date to focus attention on animals in need of help and a home.

So mark the calendar and have a great doggy day. Your dogs of course are welcome – it is a dog party after all. But if you want to go without a dog, you’ll still have a great time.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Aug. 12, 2011. Date, time and cost is from Pawlooza website for 2016.

The Miracle of Birth

A while ago, I met a man, his son and their two dogs.  I was making a fuss over the dogs, and the boy said “she’s going to have babies”.  The Kylie & Pups St. Louisdad confirmed it.  She was purebred, he said, as was the father of the pups.  So I figured daddy dog wasn’t their other dog, an unneutered male, but not the same breed.  Both dogs were about 2 years old, and after the puppies were born, the man said, they’d have both dogs neutered.  But they wanted her to have one litter of puppies – for her sake, for the kids to see.

“A Good Dog”

I didn’t say much about it, other than asking if they were breeders.  “Oh no, just she’s a good dog and we know people who’d like one of her pups.”  I agreed that neutering them was certainly a good idea.  They seemed like nice people.  They had got the female from a breeder they know who enters his dogs in field trials (she was a hound).  This guy wants to hunt with her.  She clearly was a beloved pet, both dogs were, and they knew and appreciated her lineage even though they weren’t into dog showing or competitions.  Probably those pups will get good homes.

But what I wanted to say – scream even – was why?  why?  why? You’re not breeding her at the request of her breeder, so that her pups can add to the prestige of his kennel.  You’re not, fortunately, breeding her so you can make some extra money off selling them on Kijiji.  You are doing it so she has the experience of having puppies and so your children can watch the miracle of birth.  Both are nice, family-oriented ideals – but why?

Why, at age 2 with no breeding plans in his future, was the male not Penny & foster pupsalready neutered?  Why do people think it’s necessary for a dog’s fulfillment to have puppies?  And why is deliberately letting a dog (or cat) get pregnant the only way to let your children witness the giving of birth?

A dog adjusts very quickly to being neutered.  At least, it’s quick if he’s young.  When older, when used to being “Mr. Testosterone”, the adjustment can be harder.  Still, the adjustment he has to undergo is preferable to the fights he’ll get in, the roaming he’ll feel compelled to do, and the unwanted puppies he’ll create given half a chance if he is not neutered.  A female dog does not feel she’s missing out on something if she never has puppies.  There is no health benefit for her in having puppies.

Foster Pups

If it’s important to you that your children witness birth and the first weeks of animals’ lives, there are other ways of doing it.  There are always irresponsible people who let their dogs or cats get pregnant, then don’t want to be bothered with them.  Those pregnant animals end up in shelters or wandering the streets until they get picked up by the dog catcher.  In every city and town, there are animal pounds and rescue groups looking for foster homes for pregnant dogs and cats.

You can take the mother in and look after her, experience the miracle of birth and help her look after the newborns.  When they are old enough to leave their mother, the babies and mother will go into the foster/adoption system.  You can have the joy of nurturing a mother and her babies and you have a support system finding homes St. Thomas, Ontario, Aug 2010 pound sign no cats acceptedfor them.  You’ve got what you wanted for yourself or your kids. You’ve helped animals in need, and you haven’t contributed to the problem of too many pets and not enough homes.

The miracle of birth can be shared by anyone willing to foster a pregnant animal for a couple of months.  Unfortunately, the supply of unwanted and/or unneutered pets so far seems inexhaustible, so finding a needy animal to foster isn’t likely to be a problem.

Contact a local shelter

If you can foster a pregnant dog or cat, contact All Breed Canine Rescue, St. Thomas Animal Control, Animal Aide or Pets/Friends 4 Life.  The miracle of birth will be just as miraculous and moving.

The dog and her 12 puppies in the top photo is Kylie.  An elderly feral dog, she was rescued by Stray Rescue of St. Louis in Missouri while pregnant for the umpteenth time.  The middle photo is of Penny who, after weaning her own puppies, nursed a litter of abandoned pups.  She, and they, were at Save a Mom Pregnant Dog Rescue in East Sparta, Ohio.  The third photo speaks for itself.  What happens to the cats and dogs when there’s no room at the pound?

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 14, 2010

Home for the Holidays

Don’t give a dog as a Christmas present.  At least not as a spur of the moment gift.  But if you are planning to get a dog anyway, why not?  If you are aware that your “present” is alive and, with luck, will live many years, you will give an enormous gift to the dog as well.  A home – permanent and loving.

Home for the Holidays "No one came, now I'm gone" dog

Adopt

The St. Thomas Animal Shelter gives you a $75 spay/neuter rebate when you adopt an eligible pet.  Wherever you live, if you can give a dog or cat a home, please do.

Adopting from a rescue group or pound rather than a pet store or off Kijiji or Craig’s List means you also are not supporting puppy mills or backyard breeders. Support “No-Kill” shelters, but adopt from any shelter or pound.  Don’t let more pets be killed just because they couldn’t get adopted in 3 or 7 days.

Donate

If you can’t have a pet, give to an animal shelter or rescue group.  Money is always welcome, or ask what is needed.  They always have a wish list of goods they need most.

Sponsor/Volunteer

If you’d like a connection with a specific dog but can’t have one, sponsor a shelter dog.  You give a monthly donation in the name of that dog and you’re welcome to spend time with “your” dog.  If your shelter doesn’t have such a programme, you can do it unofficially.  Shelters generally always welcome volunteers who will play with dogs, walk them and clean kennels.  That’s a way you can spend time with your special dog and help all of them.

Foster

If you could have a dog but can’t commit for the long term, consider fostering. You’ll have to give him or her up when a permanent home is found, but you’ll have the fun of canine companionship until then.  It’s work too.  You have to properly socialize the dog, but you’ll learn as much as the dog does.  If you’re a post-secondary student and wish you could have a Puppy (or Kitty) Room at home, talk to an animal shelter near you. Some are happy to have students foster dogs and cats.

Transport

If you like driving, volunteer with a group such as Open Arms Pound Rescue.  They need people to drive animals to new homes or to shelters where there’s a better chance of finding homes.  If you’re a pilot and love excuses to go flying, check out Pilots N Paws (US or Canada) or talk to your buddies about setting up something similar in conjunction with a rescue group or shelter.

Everything above also applies to cats, horses and other domestic animals.  There are rescue groups for all of them across the country.  Give an animal somewhere a very happy holiday season.  It will make you happy too.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Dec. 10, 2012, minus information on adoption events specific to that time. (Below and right are Amazon links to some Christmas dog stories that look guaranteed to make you cry happy tears.)

 

Dog Hallowe’en

This Saturday is Howl-O-Een at the STDOA Kettle Creek Dog Park. Party at the park from 2 to 4 pm. Treats, prizes and no charge to come. But donations for the pet food bank would be greatly
Hallowe'en walkathon Leo 2010appreciated. To put you in the mood to find a costume for Fido, here are photos from the 2010 STDOA-ABCR fund-raising dog Hallowe’en walkathon, Paws in the Park.

Dog Hallowe’en Walkathon 2010 pics

Hallowe'en Charlie 2010Charlie and Leo got new outfits in honour of the event. They liked them. Well, Leo liked his. Charlie? You can judge for yourself.

It was a sunny, windy, bone-chilling day. Dogs had their hats and boas blow off. Still, they pranced and played and asked for treats. A nice day. And money raised for ABCR to keep rescuing dogs and for STDOA to keep the dog parks operating.

Dog Hallowe'en ABCR walkathon 2010

Halloween-Paws-in-the-Park-1 photo Jim Stewart

Hallowe'en walkathon 2010

Halloween-Paws-in-the-Park8 photo Jim Stewart

Hallowe'en walkathon 2010

halloween-paws-in-the-park-12 photo Jim Stewart

Hallowe'en walkathon 2010

Halloween-Paws-in-the-Park-2 photo Jim Stewart

Afterwards, we went to show off the new  costumes at my mother’s nursing home. The dogs are always welcome visitors. They sashayed
Hallowe'en walkathon 2010around and greeted everyone. Then Leo sat posing, as the dog of mystery perhaps. Charlie decided that he’d had enough. It was time for Elvis to leave the building.

Elvis-has-left-the-building2

 

Movin’ dogs: An underground railway

dog underground railway Sept 2008 photo D StewartWho can resist this little face! Small, friendly terrier mix desperately needs a home. House-trained, healthy 1 year old male.

That might have been the ad for Charlie placed by the pound near Lexington, Kentucky where he was in September 2008. Maybe he never was advertised. That pound, like many in the US, was overcrowded that summer. It was the height of the subprime mortgage collapse, house foreclosures, abandoned homes, abandoned pets. Charlie might have been one of those pets, or he may have come to the shelter by a different route and got lost in the crowd of dogs. Either way, no adopter and no shelter space meant he was scheduled for euthanasia. It didn’t happen. Charlie is “top dog” in my house, thanks to a reinvented underground railway.

Dog Underground Railway

Open Arms Pound Rescue is a rescue and transport group based in Ohio. They work with US pounds and US and Canadian animal rescue groups, Charlie at the dogpark 2010 photo John Blake moving dogs from pounds to shelters to foster and adoptive homes. Photos and descriptions of dogs on ‘death row’ are posted online by the pounds or Open Arms. Rescue groups and individuals arrange to have dogs brought to them and Open Arms organizes the transport.

Volunteers drive dogs from one town to another, where they meet new drivers and transfer the dogs to their vehicles for the next leg of the journey. Dogs are left in receiving shelters and homes along the way, and dogs are picked up. The relay continues north. When the dogs are safely across the border with their final American drivers, they are met by Canadian volunteers and are driven on to their receiving shelters or foster homes.

Lois, of All Breed Canine Rescue in St. Thomas ON, saw Charlie’s picture while checking for ‘last chance’ dogs scheduled to be put down. She earmarked him and other small dogs for the next transport. She didn’t have adoptive, or even foster, homes but she figured she’d be able to place these little dogs. For big dogs, it’s not so easy to find homes. They aren’t ‘pulled’ from pounds unless someone specifically asks for them.

We wanted a dog, but were still recovering from the deaths of two dogs and a cat. Fostering seemed like a good ‘grieving time’ option – have the company of a dog, but don’t get attached. Charlie was supposed to only stay overnight until his foster home could take him.

Little and Big

“Aaahh,” I thought when I saw him peeking out of the pickup he arrived in, “isn’t he just the cutest ever!” I’m not a small dog person, so I was somewhat immune to his charms. But within five minutes of seeing him, my husband said this dog’s not going anywhere. I made some calls and Charlie stayed with us as a foster.  His picture was posted on ABCR’s website and enquires started.

Charlie 2008 photo Dorothy StewartWe had to decide quickly. Jim was all for keeping him. And Charlie had quickly claimed a spot in my heart. But I still wanted “a real dog” you could take long walks with. Also, if Charlie got a good home, we could foster another, less adoptable, dog. Charlie was happy with us but, that early on in our relationship, he’d be happy with anybody who loved him and kept his belly full. I did a lot of soul-searching and, in the end, decided to be selfish. We adopted him.

A month later, in another Open Arms transport, I got my ‘big dog’. A Standard Poodle, Leo came out of five years as a stud dog in a puppy mill. He started with us as a foster, and there was a lot of interest as soon as his picture was posted.  Again a decision was needed and Leo made it:  frightened, needy and weird, he adopted us.

Adoption Geography

Two highly adoptable dogs – unadoptable in their home Leo-Oct-2008-photo-D-Stewartcommunities. How many cute dogs must there be in pounds for a dog like Charlie to be overlooked long enough that he’s going to be put down? How many purebred and ‘designer’ dogs must there be that rescue groups send Poodles and Labradoodles across the border? Supply and demand of dogs are often out of whack: too many dogs in one area, not enough in others. Too many dogs leads to abandonment and needless euthanasia, too few dogs leads to ‘backyard breeders’ and puppy mills finding ready buyers willing to pay exorbitant prices  for pups. Groups like Open Arms Pound Rescue try to even out the supply and demand problems by sending dogs unwanted in one area to places where there are homes for them.

The internet has made dog rehoming much easier. If you want a particular type of dog, you can just search through petfinder.com or breed rescue groups and find ways of getting together with a dog no matter where he or she is. Breeders of purebred dogs have been doing it for years, sending pups across the country or further to new homes. Now rescue groups are doing it for stray and abandoned animals too. And we’ve got two of them, my Dixie Dogs I call them.

Charlie 2009 photo Dorothy StewartBy the way, I found out little dogs can walk just as far and just as fast as big dogs. Charlie goes like a little steam engine and, the few times he gets too tired to walk, I can carry him home.

It’s seven years since the dogs came to live with us, and five years since I posted this on my St. Thomas Dog Blog (Jul. 15/10)

 

Cat Ladies: The movie

Cat Ladies documentary Amazon link
Click to buy on Amazon

Finally saw the documentary Cat Ladies and it’s well worth watching.  What struck me was the ambivalence that all four women felt about what they were doing.  They love cats and enjoy looking after them and they don’t like seeing animals suffer. But they do not want as many cats as they have and/or they don’t want cats to define their entire lives.

The youngest of the four has the fewest cats, also a dog.  She has a number in her head of what separates a “cat person” from a “crazy cat lady”.  She gave it as 30, but then said she thought she was near the tipping point with 6.   Another lady loves her cats, but wishes she had Jenny holding cathuman friends too.  Another, a former bank employee, fell into cat rescue by accident and wants to stop.  Her house is full of cats and she works hard to get them adopted.  But she wants “more of a life than this.”  The fourth lady defines herself as a cat rescue, taking them in and finding homes for them.  She said she’s taken over 3,000 cats off the streets.  She loves what she does but said, “I’d be happy if they were all gone to other homes.”  Then added, “so I could bring home another hundred.”

That lady has problems with the people next door in her suburban neighbourhood.  They bought their house in winter and didn’t realize Sigi in cat room in her houseuntil spring that there was a house full of cats next door.  They keep a record of all cat-related annoyances.  I’d like to ban backyard pools, but I think my chances of success are less than these people’s with their cat problem.

Documentary discusses rescue vs. hoarding

Agent Tre Smith of the Toronto Humane Society gave his opinion on cat ladies.  “Animal rescuers” and “animal hoarders,” he says, are the same thing.  They want to relieve the suffering of animals, but can’t stop taking in just one more.  His point has validity, but I think simplifying it to that extent does a disservice to both animal rescue and the disorder of hoarding.

Tre Smith in THS cat roomTo say that animal rescue and animal hoarding are the same is like saying that all antique dealers are hoarders.  Some undoubtedly are, and more have the inclination.

But a successful antique dealer or collector can love the objects without endlessly filling houses and barns with them.  And a hoarder of objects can fill any amount of space with things and have no objective sense of their worth.  It’s not a dichotomy of dealer/hoarder.  It’s relative and on a scale of functional to dysfunctional.  And there are grey areas where it’s hard to know if someone is an enthusiast or has a disorder.

It’s the same for animal rescue and animal hoarding.   There are clear-cut cases, with someone like Tre at the functional end of the animal welfare scale.  The horror shows he sees in his job would be at the Diane holding catother, dysfunctional, end: the person with 300 dead and ill animals squashed into a one-bedroom house.  In between, there’s a lot of grey.

I liked all the women in this documentary and I respect what they are doing and their thoughts about it.  But then I’m a cat lady wannabe.  I’ll probably never really be one because one thing I know about it is that it’s a lot of hard work.

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog Aug. 18/11. See my Cat People post for Ottawa’s ‘cat man’ and the Parliamentary cats. Also see 2 comments below.

 

Dallas, a Shepherd

Dallas was on the All Breed Canine Rescue website under “Mature Dogs.”  I had been looking through rescue sites, hoping no dog would Dallas, a Shepherd cross, at home on the couch‘speak’ to me.  This gray-muzzled, sharp-faced, squat-bodied Shepherd-type did.  It was way too soon.

Our German Shepherd Jack had just died.  He’d been with me for 9½ years, rescued at 14 weeks from neglect.  He was my friend and touchstone.  No other dog could replace him or compete for my affection.  But the house seemed so empty.  The cats missed him. My husband said no new dog, he needed time to mourn. I missed Jack and the presence of a dog. I took ‘match yourself to a dog breed’ questionnaires.  I checked ABCR’s site again – Dallas was still listed.  My husband still couldn’t think of another dog in Jack’s place.

It was a cat who changed his mind. The “boss” cat, she ceased harassing the others and just lay in Jack’s favourite spots, staring vacantly.  After a week of this, my husband said “maybe we should get a dog for that cat.”  Dallas came for a visit.  The cat ran up to her, delighted.  Then realizing this dog wasn’t Jack, she hissed violently and stalked off.

When ABCR got Dallas from the pound, she was not spayed and had arthritic or injured hind legs.  Most dramatically, she had no hair on her back.  “Her skin was like raw hamburger,” I was told.  Allergy treatment and special food had cleared up the hair loss.  Still, no one really knew what was wrong with her. We were recovering financially from vet bills for Jack and our elderly cat Henry, and emotionally from months of caring for chronically ill animals and the loss of them.  Was taking Dallas asking for more expense and sadness?  Quite possibly.  But she looked like home, like she belonged here.

After a few more visits, Dallas came to stay.  She had enjoyed visiting, but expected her foster mom to be waiting to take her home.  The day her foster family left without her, she clawed at the door howling inconsolably.  I was in tears.

A few hours later, after a good long walk, Dallas looked around and seemed to decide that, if this was now home, she’d make the best of it.  She glued herself to me and is very protective.  She doesn’t trust men, dallas and elsiebut is realizing that the one in her new house isn’t a threat to her or me.  The cats have warmed up to her.  Her extended human family welcomed her.  My sister seems resemblances to her late Shepherd/Husky.  My mother sees our old Shepherd in her.  I have taken her to Jack’s grave and to his favourite walking places.  I tell her about him and she wrinkles her nose and listens.

She takes pills for hip dysplasia and allergies. A lump on her rear end was easily removed and was benign. Sometimes her legs are creaky, but she plays and chases balls.  She’s not Jack, but she is Dallas, a dog who, like him, has adopted us for life.  My sister said, “You needed her as much as she needed you.”  It’s true.

(Part 2) Dallas died almost three months to the day after we got her.  One morning in July she threw up. She seemed ok later, but didn’t want to chase her ball and really just put up with  our walk for my sake.  That evening, she was listless.  Late at night, she was feverish and chilled.  I should have called her vet.  I didn’t.  I took her in first time in the morning.  I had to help her out of the car.  They couldn’t see anything obviously wrong, so kept her in for observation and tests.  She died in the night.  No one knows why.

Her gift to us was to fill the void left by the deaths of Jack and Henry.  I hadn’t known if I could open my heart fully again to another dog.  But Dallas showed me I could. She reminded us of Jack and other Dallas with Dorothy at Jack's grave, Sandy Ridge Pet Cemetery, 2008dogs in our lives.  But she was also her own dog, with her own ways of doing things and funny habits.

I was devastated at losing her.  A friend said maybe she was a messenger whose purpose was to translate love of, and from, Jack to other dogs for us. Losing a dog is heart breaking, but the loneliness of no dog is worse. We’ll be adopting another, probably a Shepherd type, soon.

(Part 3) A few months passed. We adopted Charlie, a little terrier mix, then Leo, a weird Standard Poodle puppy mill survivor.  We didn’t so much adopt Leo as he adopted me.  He later saw his way clear to adopt Jim too.  They are absolutely nothing like Jack or Dallas or any dog that’s gone before them in our lives.  I still “see” Jack and Dallas in the house and backyard. I tell Charlie and Leo about them.  They don’t much care about my stories, but they love to run and play and snuggle.  They’re both part of my heart now.

I started this story in July 2008 for an online dog story competition but didn’t submit it after having to add Part 2. It was posted on the St. Thomas Dog Blog Nov. 19, 2010.

 

My Dog’s Arthritis

my dog runs at Clearville beach, Lake ErieMy Standard Poodle Leo has arthritis in his spine and left hip. Joint degeneration. His running, jumping and dancing on hind legs must be curtailed. I am sad and furious.

He’s maybe 9, no longer a young dog. So you might say: he’s had good years, aging happens. I’d agree – but. He only had 3 “good years.”

Leo spent 5 years of his life in a cage, not running, probably not even walking much. When he came to us, he had trouble climbing a step. At first, he just didn’t know what to do, he’d clearly never seen steps before. But even when he figured out how, he didn’t have the strength in his legs to do it. He gained strength. He loves to run fast, climb hills and dance.

He’d been a breeding dog in a Georgia puppy mill. That’s why I don’t know his exact age. I know from the record that came with him that he’d been purchased December 12, 2003. He was at least 6 months at that time, I figure. I doubt they get them until they’re of breeding age. Why feed unproductive mouths?

Poodle running at Conservation Area, St. ThomasHe got out in September 2008 via a rescue group and came to Canada. He and his Labradoodle cellmates were not seized in a raid that closed the puppy mill. The rescue group bought them. They were old breeding stock, used up, and young dogs who hadn’t sold. No one put the miller  out of business, he just got cash to buy new stock. I know it was a man, white-haired. They’re the only people that Leo was truly scared of when he came to us.

So his joint degeneration makes me angry, angry at that white-haired man in Georgia and all puppy mill operators. They use up animals’ God-given vitality without care about what quality of life those generations of dogs will have. They abuse animals in order to make themselves “a living.”

Joint degeneration ends agility

The note on Leo’s rescue assessment says he’s “a really nice friendly Poodle doing agility jump at Moore Water Gardens Port Stanleyboy. He would do great for agility or obedience.” He loves agility.  I took him to a horse show once and he jumped the low bars set up for kids and ponies.

Now he eats ‘joint health’ kibble with glucosamine and omega fatty acids. He takes anti-inflammatory and pain pills. The medications are his for life, as worry is mine when he slips or limps. I hope only to avoid surgery. He can still run, his doctor says, just don’t overdo it, watch for signs of pain. Get in the habit of nice walks.

Puppy mill or not, he might develop arthritis at his age. My other dogs did. But they had more than three years of healthy freedom before bone and joint degeneration afflicted them.

Here’s a simple thing I did: put his dishes in flowerpots. The higher one is for Leo’s bowl raised in flower pot for dog with joint degenerationdog bowls raised with two sizes of flower pots photo D Stewartfood so he doesn’t have to lean down, thereby avoiding strain on his joints. The lower one is for water that he shares with smaller pets. Here are more good hints for arthritic dogs.

Country Club for Pets in London ON set up the agility course that Leo tried near Port Stanley at Moore Water Gardens. Since I posted this (St. Thomas Dog Blog Dec. 30/11), Leo’s arthritis has worsened but he still gets around. We tried laser therapy but his condition is too bad for it to help. For younger animals or less severe arthritis, it’s well worth a try.