Tag Archives: St. Thomas Dog Blog

Raining Puppies

Four years ago, I wrote about emails I received about a litter of puppies, and a swamped rescue group. I doubt the situation has changed much. I just checked Kijiji – still lots of pups for sale for high prices.

“Jesus, it is raining puppies! Here’s  pictures of the 10 puppies All Breed Canine Rescue oliver, one of the rescued puppiesgot.  Three of the litter went to another rescue group. ABCR is just about going crazy. They already had the pair of Shelties and 2 other dogs (one with severe runs) just pulled out of the pound and at the vet’s.

When the hell are these ‘breeders’ going to figure it out? The economy in this area sucks! There is no money to buy all the puppies backyard breeders are producing. It just drives me insane to think about all the little guys we don’t know about that end up ‘out behind the barn.’ Every time we get one shut down another pops up.

Kijiji should be banned from advertising puppies for sale. It has become the new ‘pet store’ for selling puppy mill dogs.

I have to think – at least we saved these guys! But we need to find forever homes for them, as quickly as we can. The quicker we can get these puppies adopted the better, Puppy, rescued by ABCR Feb 7 2011then ABCR can use the adoption money to pay most of the vet bill that will be run up with the medical treatment that they need. This addition will make 16 to 18 new puppies in ABCR’s system.”

Puppies who didn’t sell

An email from a person who rescued these pups: “There was 13 puppies in this litter. The farmer was going to ‘dispose’ of them if we did not take them. When they were picked up they were all in a horse stall that was covered with feces. They had no food or water. They all need medical attention – neutering, deworming, flea treatment and all vaccinations. So if you can possibly help out with any sort of donation it would be greatly appreciated!”

The pups were being ‘disposed of’ because they hadn’t sold. They probably were Sophie, one of 13 rescued puppy mill pupsadvertised for a few hundred dollars, probably without any shots. Without takers, the farmer/backyard breeder isn’t going to keep them. So they die, and when he figures the market has picked up again, there will be more puppies for sale. If they don’t sell either – well, bullets are cheap.

Kijiji is a wonderful resource for puppy millers. It needs to stop. When pet stores, for the most part, stopped selling puppies (other than providing space for shelter animals), it dried up the major market for commercial puppy millers. Kijiji has filled that gap. It’s time to stop.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Feb 9th 2011

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Barn Cats

Frank Moore, a farmer north of Belmont who my parents knew, always had lots of barn cats.  He said one year, years before, there had been an explosion of cats – so many that 3 barn cats on stepsall the farms were overrun.  So that year he, like the other farmers, got rid of many of them. “Then the next couple years, it just seemed like there weren’t any cats.  Some died, some just disappeared, kittens didn’t live.  The mice and rats were everywhere, and you couldn’t find a good mouser in the whole county.  I never got rid of another cat after that.  They come here, they’re all welcome.”

A good life in a good barn

His barn and house cats were well-treated.  They drank milk straight from the cow, all lined up in a semi-circle, waiting, at milking time.  He’d shoot milk out toward them, and they’d lap it up then lick off their faces.

Being a barn cat, in a good barn, is a pretty good life.  You can chase all the mice you want.  You’ve got cozy places to sleep.  There’s always something to do.  Barn cats have to learn to navigate around animals much larger than themselves.  Some don’t, so there are always some losses.  Most horses like cats and take care stepping around them.  Cats sometimes will sleep right in a stall beside a horse or cow.

It used to be that few barn cats were neutered.  With a high attrition rate, due to large hooves and farm machinery, the farmer wanted to be sure he always had enough mousers.  barn cats looking at henBut many farmers now get their barn cats fixed.  There are generally cats available if you need more.  Usually more than enough. So each farm does not have to be a “cat factory,” producing its own supply of cats.

The bane of most farmers are people who dump off their unwanted pets at their gates, assuming they’ll be taken in by the nice farmer.  Then the “nice farmer” has to pay for the spaying and neutering of these additions or look for other homes for them.

St. Thomas Barn Cats project

The City of St. Thomas has started seeking farm homes for some cats at the Animal Control Centre.  The idea is to neuter suitable cats and adopt them out as barn cats.  It’s an innovative way to decrease the number in the pound without euthanasia and, especially for semi-feral cats, provide a well-matched home.

Some cats prefer a life more or less on their own; they don’t want to be housecats kept indoors.  They want to mouse and explore.  It’s always saddened me, seeing those ones in shelters.  Looking out a window if they can get to one, or sitting sullen in the back of a cage.  You know they would rather be outside living life according to their own rules.  And that’s what barn cats do.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Jan. 27/11

 

Australia honours Smoky

Smoky in helmetAustralia honours Smoky with medalOn July 20, 2012 in Brisbane Australia, Smoky the war dog was awarded posthumously the Australian Defence Force Tracker and War Dog Association medal for military service. At the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, design of ADFTWDA service medalUS Consul General Niels Marquardt accepted the medal on behalf of Bill Wynne, Smoky’s person.

The ADFTWDA Secretary, a tracker team veteran of Vietnam, read a poem in remembrance of all Military Working Dogs, especially those left behind. It is by Connie Chronister:

I Wait By The Gate

In a strange land I was sent, not knowing my fate;

In a pen I was put and I sat by the gate.

I watched and I wondered what do I do now?

Then I looked up and saw you, as you walked up with a smile.

We trained and we worked and I showed you my best;

You rewarded me and petted me and I did the rest.

Through trails and paths and roads we did go;

And I was to smell, for traps that would blow.

Many times I stopped you from ending your life;

From an enemy trap wire that was set to end your life.

Never have I thought that we would ever part;

Because of the love that we had in our hearts.

Oh, I was proud to walk by your side;

With all of your friends and being your guide.

Then one day you put me back into my pen;

You smiled, you petted me, you said, “Goodbye my friend.”

You looked back one more time,

and I saw the tear in your eye;

And I knew it was the last, and was your way of saying goodbye.

German shepherd Prince sits at Washington DC Vietnam MemorialMy life, it so changed when you went back home;

And I stayed behind to a fate still unknown.

It’s been over 30 years since I’ve seen your face;

But I never forgot you, my friend and my mate.

So please don’t worry, I’m waiting by Heaven’s gate;

For my best friend, my brother, but mainly my mate.

War Dog

The tracker dogs who served with the Australian armed forces in Vietnam were not brought back to Australia. They were Caesar, Janus, Juno, Mercian, Mila, Trojan, Cassius, Julian, Justin, Marcus and Tiber. According to an Australian government site, it was because of American military reports of their dogs dying from a disease believed to be transmitted by ticks.

Smoky_statue-Brisbane-12Dec12An accidental soldier, Smoky’s wartime action saved lives and time and, in peacetime, she entertained thousands on stage and television. She also worked her magic in hospital and nursing home visits. Those visits showed the value of a dog in recovery and wellbeing, both physical and psychological, and led to official recognition of therapy dogs.

I hope that she and all the dogs remembered in granite statues and in soldiers’ minds mean that no Military Working Dog will ever again be ‘the soldier left behind’.

Plaque-12Dec12-Smoky war dog 1st PTSS dog Brisbane HospitalThanks to Mr. Wynne for sending me a video of the medal presentation, it was truly lovely.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Aug. 10/12. On Dec. 12, 2012, a statue was unveiled at the Brisbane Hospital in honour of Smoky (photos right and above). The other side of the base reads “Dedicated to all war animals. They also served. Lest we forget.” The story is at Monument Australia with photos by ADFTWDA historian Nigel Allsopp.

 

Fur Babies

I’m reading Michael Schaffer’s very interesting book  One Nation Under Dog. He talks about the term “pet parent.” When I first encountered this phrase, I saw it as, yes, a bit ‘politically correct’, as in it’s bad to think of yourself as an authority figure over another being. It’s like trying to be ‘friends’ with your kids, discussing why they shouldn’t do something, instead of being ‘mom’ explaining only with “because I said so”.

Amazon link for One Nation Under Dog
click for Amazon link

However, I thought it was good to frame the pet/human relationship in terms other than ownership or mastery.  “Ownership” means complete control over and ability to acquire or dispose of at will.  “Mastery” implies the same plus some innate superiority which justifies that control. So dog owner and dog master are terms fraught with the history of dominance and hierarchical power.

I liked the use of “pet parent” in shelter and rescue writings, seeing it as a way of reminding people that getting a dog or cat is not the same as getting a new dress or car. When you’re tired of the dress or the car doesn’t fit your lifestyle any more, it’s not going to distress the car or dress if you sell it or give it to the Goodwill.

Relationship of responsibility

But giving your dog away because you’re moving into a new apartment and “they don’t allow dogs”??? If you have a dog, why are you even looking at apartments where dogs aren’t allowed? If you have children, do you look at an adults-only building and then give the kids away if you really really like the apartment? Taking on a living, breathing creature makes that creature part of your life and its well-being your responsibility. The word parent stresses the relationship of responsibility and caretaking instead of the notion of possession. It also gets away from the nastier connotations of ‘mastery’.

Yes, you have to be the dog’s master in the sense that you ought to be the pack leader. But are you the master in the sense of having the right to abuse the dog? No, but it can get muddled in people’s minds. Spike getting a slap or kick every time he doesn’t sit or heel exactly right is not good ‘mastery’ of the techniques of dog training. But the right to kick or slap is implicit in the notion of being the master (i.e. owner) of something or someone.

However, ‘parent’ requires ‘child’, and so the next term circulating in the pet world was fur babies. Oh dear. Granted, some dogs it’s easy Jack & Dot on porch swing Fur Babiesto think of that way, to coo at and cuddle. The little fuzzy ones. But a great big German Shepherd – fur baby? I did babytalk with my late Shepherd and he liked it. In my defense, I raised him from a puppy so he was always my baby. However, he quickly outgrew any possibility of being thought of as a “furbaby” in his looks and demeanor. Other dogs in the past, I never thought of as being their ‘mommy’. We were friends.

Fur Babies or Friends

My present two? They were adult when we got them, but I use ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’ with them. Yes, one is little and fuzzy and likes to be carried and cuddled. But the other isn’t. I have no excuse, other than the parent/child terminology with pets has so permeated our society that I have internalized it. I catch myself calling myself ‘mommy’ to my old cat.  She’s been with me since before the days of pet-parenting. I feel silly when I say it to her, we always had the relationship of friends and roommates. Something that now comes naturally with the dogs seems cloying and demeaning with her.

Does framing our relationship with pets as one of pet parent and fur babies lead us to infantilize our animals? Does it cause us to forget their natural traits? Most dogs have strong protective and hunting instincts. Your dog, or cat, can save your life. They can also take life.  Do we run the risk of not respecting both those traits when we think of them as kids in fur coats?

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Mar. 15/10

Death and Repose

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Apr. 13 2010 – in memory of Jack who died 7 years ago today

Today is the 13th anniversary of the death of my old Collie-mix Jamie and tortoiseshell cat Cedric.  They were put to sleep together, due to cancer and crippling arthritis, and they’re repose at Sandy Ridge Pet Cemetery Eden ONburied together behind a house I used to live in.  The present occupants of the house know they’re there, but in future no one will know the significance of that small bed of orange and white dahlias and tiger lilies.

Now my animals have plots at Sandy Ridge Pet Cemetery just south of Eden. The first time I went there, I was in the area with a bit of time to kill.  I was driving around Calton, Richmond and Eden, looking at the places that were home to my parents’ families a century ago.  On the Plank Road (#19 Hwy), I saw a sign for the pet cemetery.

So in I went. I quickly used up all the tissues in my pockets and was using old napkins from Tim graves at Sandy Ridge Pet Cemetery photo Jim StewartHortons that I found in the car, then my sleeves to wipe my eyes and nose. It’s the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever seen.  And active!  Seasonal flowers, small toys, photographs, solar lights and notes left on beloved pets’ gravestones.  It’s lovely and gut-wrenching. There are people’s graves too, with their pets.

A pet family plot

I looked up the website and contacted the owners, the Cowans.  I broached the subject with my husband.  He thought it was a good idea for the pets.  Then I moved on to the subject of us.  Expecting his response to discussion of our own mortality to be Jack at Sandy-Ridge- photo Dorothy Stewart “lalalala my fingers are in my ears I can’t hear you”, I was surprised that he heard me out and thought about the options. His family is from Kentucky, so the family plots are there.  My family plots are in London, Tillsonburg and Dorchester – not places with any real connection for me or him.

The scattering of ashes over a waterfall or lake is a romantic idea, but leaves no mark of your existence.  He realized that some ‘I was here’ marker mattered to him, at least for the sake of his sons.  I realized it was important to me because I do genealogical research and gravestones are a solid connection with the past.  They tell you something about individuals and families.

First burials

So we bought a family plot for us and pets.  Too soon we had to use it.  January 30th 2008, our German Shepherd Jack died.  He was buried the charlie and me at pet gravesnext day.  We, our mothers, my sister and the Cowans were in attendance.  A month later, Henry, the oldest cat, joined him.  It was a bad, sad winter.  Eventually, we’ll all be there in this plot demarcated with granite ‘S’s at the corners.*  And it feels ok, knowing that others like me will walk along the path and read names and dates and reconstruct bits of family history.  And cry.

*In 2012, the Ontario government demanded the removal of the human graves.  Human ashes only were there, but they and the gravestones had to be moved away from the spots the people had chosen for their final repose.

The Wolf in the Parlor

It took me a few months to read The Wolf in the Parlor: How the dog came to share your brain by Jon Franklin. It was my ‘morning coffee’ book.  Those always are read slowly.  But I had trouble with this one.  I considered not finishing it, but I’m glad I did.

Amazon link for Wolf in the Parlor by Jon Franklin
Click for Amazon link

Franklin’s premise is that humans and dogs evolved together and, in fact, became parts of each other in terms of brain function. ‘Tame wolves’, he says, began to develop about 50,000 years ago when some wolves became essentially camp followers of humans.  They realized putting up with human contact was an easy way of getting food.  The humans realized that putting up with these less aggressive wolves was an easy way to have protection from wilder animals and to have a constant food supply if needed (wolf meat).  Wolves evolved into dogs, humans evolved to a form more like us, and the interconnectedness between wolf/dog and human grew.

Complementary brains

12,000 years ago, he says, human and dog brains got smaller.  His argument is that the rational, thinking part of dogs’ brains decreased as did simultaneously the emotional and sensory part of humans’ brains.  The dog handed the thinking over to humans and the humans handed emotional and sensory intuition over to dogs.  Together, they have the full spectrum of intelligence and perception.  Apart, they do not.

I know nothing about evolution or neurology, so I can’t comment on his scientific accuracy.  However, like religion, his thesis seems as good a framework as any for thinking.  It ‘feels’ right to me and, in thinking about my history with dogs, I can ‘see’ it.

My persistence in reading paid off in the final chapters.  He discusses how humans too often now have forgotten the mutuality of the bond with dogs.  There’s a horrible tale of a day he spent with an animal control officer.  That story introduces his argument in favour of purebred dogs.  In essence, he says that if you expect the dog to fit into your lifestyle and match your needs, get one where you can be pretty sure that the innate traits and needs of the dog will be that match.  The best way is get a purebred from a breeder who knows his or her dogs and their lineage.

Persistence needed

Why I say my “persistence” is that I had some problems with the writing.  First, the beginning of the first four chapters all read like introductions.  It felt like he had several good openings and couldn’t decide on one so used them all.  Second, no references.  I was shocked.  I’d seen he had no foot- or endnote numbers, but I thought he must be using chapter-by-chapter summary citation at the end.  Then I read about Standard Poodles in the Iditarod and wanted to know more.  I flipped to the back – nothing, not even a bibliography.  Yes, I can google it but I think that, within a book, I should be able to find out where a fact came from.  Isn’t lack of citation plagiarism?

So the scientific bases of his evolutionary, neurological and paleontology arguments are only sporadically backed up with sources in in-text form.  This particularly surprised me because he’s a science journalist.  Reference, reference, reference.

Anyway, you can read a Q & A with him about the book on his website. He says you’ll have to read it to find out how the story ends. For me, the ending did make reading it all worthwhile.

Here is a review of The Wolf in the Parlor’s first 60 pages in The Other End of the Leash, an interesting dog blog. I think the leash should have extended to the end of the book. (From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, May 20, 2011)

Lab Mysteries

Click for Amazon link for Randolph A Dog About Town
Click for Amazon link

If you like dogs and mystery novels, or even just one or the other, have a look at J. F. Englert’s Bull Moose Dog Run series.  There are three so far; A Dog About Town (2007), A Dog Among Diplomats (2008) and A Dog At Sea (2009). The ‘sleuth’ who tells the story is Randolph, a middle-aged black Labrador Retriever.

A sucker for animal stories, I’ve read some of the other dog- and cat-perspective mystery series.  I’ve liked them, found them kind of cute, kind of funny. One of the Midnight Louie books by Carole Nelson Douglas made me think about feral cat life and TNR (trap, neuter, release) from the cats’ point of view.  Not as straightforwardly beneficial as people may think it to be. While I’ve enjoyed the animal-detective books I’ve read, I haven’t felt a pressing need to immediately get the next one.

Randolph, a literate Lab

As soon as I finished A Dog About Town, I went back to the library and took out the second, A Dog Among Diplomats.  Now I want to read the third.  I want to know what happens next. Randolph’s take on being an intelligent dog in a human world made me think about many dog behaviours, and people’s behaviour in relating to dogs.  You learn a lot (Randolph is a very literate dog), you are given lots of little doggy asides to think about, and the mysteries at the heart of the books are interesting and well-presented.

As with all novels featuring non-human protagonists, disbelief has to be suspended.  But it wasn’t a lot of work doing that with Randolph.  This is despite him being able to read (a skill learned while being papertrained in puppyhood), and not just reading the cereal box.  He reads Dante’s Inferno, Proust, Kierkegaard and, for light reading, Dickens.  He teaches himself how to use the internet and succeeds in setting up a hotmail account for himself faster than I’ve ever been able to do. But these improbabilities do not get in the way  – I found myself quickly accepting Randolph’s extraordinary skills and just got on with the story.

Dog park behaviour

Randolph’s observations on human-dog interaction are shrewd, even cringe-making sometimes when you recognize yourself.  He also observes the child-dog relationship in a refreshing way, especially coming from a Lab, the perceived ‘kids’ dog’. Randolph takes you into his Manhattan – the streets, Central Park and the dog parks.  He gives you the dog perspective on dog park politics of dogs and people.  He notes the types of dog behaviours in meeting each other and even in their toilet habits.  After you read his descriptions of dog habits, you find yourself watching dogs to see if they fit Randolph’s classification system.  By and large, they do.

Englert is an astute observer of dogs and people, or he has been taught a lot by his own Lab.  I’ve never been a big Lab person – they’re too boisterous and single-minded (usually involving a tennis ball) for me.  But I look at them a bit differently now, after ‘meeting’ Randolph.  He reminds me of Labs I have known and liked, nice old sensible ones.  I also look at my dogs a bit differently, wondering if there’s more going on in their heads than what I have thought.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Apr. 24, 2010.

Cat People

“A Cat Digression” from my St. Thomas Dog Blog Mar. 23, 2010

There are unsung heroes among us. Almost everyone knows one or two, or at least hasRene Chartrand Parliament Hill feral cat colony encountered them. They’re usually not thought of as heroic or civic-minded. Instead they’re a code word for loneliness with a bit of looniness thrown in. In cautionary tales of self-help articles and advice from well-intentioned relatives, you might hear something like, “and if you keep on acting like this, you’ll end up being one of those cat ladies”.

Almost every community has at least one – the person who quietly feeds and shelters stray and feral cats. They use their own resources, even paying for neutering and medical treatment out of their own pocket. If you want to get a cat, they’re often your closest resource. They’re happy to find homes for the cats that want homes. They may be your most relied upon resource if you want to solve your problem with an unwanted cat or a stray that’s hanging around your house. But to people neither acquiring nor getting rid of cats, they’re probably just seen as eccentric at best, a hoarder or crazy person at worst.

Wannabe Cat Lady

Years ago, I was seen as the cat lady of the village I then lived in. I suppose it all fit. I lived alone in an old ramshackle house, I wasn’t from there, I had no visible means of support and kept odd hours. Also I kept chickens and had three cats. I realized I fit the bill one fall when children began coming to my door with kittens or adult cats.

It seemed there had been a lot of cats dumped off in our town that summer. So kids, looking scared out of their minds, would hold up a tiny kitten or bedraggled old moggy and say “Mam said you’d be able to help with this cat. We can’t keep her and Mam said you’d know what to do.” I tried taking the cats in, at least until I could figure out what to do with them.

But my cats wouldn’t let me become a real cat lady. My mother and son cats loathed other cats. The third cat was a stray who had simply refused to leave despite their best efforts to drive him off. When new cats began coming in the house, the three bonded and became a tag team of terror toward any new arrival. After fearing for the lives of the new strays until I could get them safely to the SPCA shelter, I had to refuse to take any more. And so ended my career as a cat lady.

René Chartrand, Parliamentary Cat Carer

Rene and Parliament Hill Cat Colony 2006 photo Jim Stewart One of the best known “cat ladies” in Canada is a man. For 21 years, René Chartrand looked after the feral cat colony at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. If you go behind the Parliamentary Library and walk along the river, you’ll see a wrought iron fence. Inside there, on the hill, is the cats’ headquarters. Mr. Chartrand built a condominium of shelter boxes for them. The roofs are of the same style as the Parliament Buildings. There are verandahs running along the sides with food and water bowls. There are donation boxes on the fence to help with the costs.

It’s a long-standing colony of cats, from long-ago Parliamentary mousers, cats from vessels on the Ottawa River and ones that have been dumped or strays that found their way there. For many years they have been helped by the kindness of strangers. The first long-term caretaker was Irene Desormeaux in the 1970s. She fed them, got veterinary care for them and began neuter and release efforts. Mr. Chartrand took over responsibility for them after her death in 1987. He retired in 2008 and a small group of his helpers continues to care for the cats. You can read about the cats and see pictures of them on their Facebook page. There’s also lots of articles and information on them on the web.

Buy an extra can of cat food

Most feral cat colonies and cat ladies aren’t as well known as Ottawa’s. But every city and village has them. Without the efforts of the cat ladies, the feral cat population would be a much greater problem than it is. So, if you notice someone buying cat food by the case, try to find out why. If they’re feeding strays, buy a couple more cans of food or treats and put them in their shopping bag. They’ll appreciate the help.

Mr. Chartrand died Dec. 7, 2014 at the age of 92. After the last Parliament Hill cat, Bugsy, was adopted in January 2013, the cat colony was officially closed and the Cat Parliament Buildings demolished. Thank you, Mr. Chartrand.