Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to prepare your pug for your surgery

Liam the pug sleeping on a pile of laundry

Tomorrow morning, I am having surgery on my shoulder to repair a very old injury. After the surgery is complete, I'll be required to keep my left arm in a sling for up to 2 months. While this has serious implications for me (how in the world will I wash dishes?), this sling also has serious repercussions for Liam.

Like most pugs, Liam is a one-person dog. I am that one person. Case in point: See how comfy he looks in this photo? He's sleeping on the clothes I took off before I got in the shower. (And notice that he brought his ball in with him. Silly guy.) It's ever-so-slightly blurry because I had to run out and get the camera in the 30 seconds I had before Liam came to follow me. He is truly a Velcro pug.

And taking care of Liam takes time. He expects me to give him baths, hold the leash on walks, carry him around when he's nervous and wrap him with hugs when he's upset. With one arm in a sling, most of these tasks will be beyond my capability.

My husband can tackle these tasks, of course, but we haven't yet convinced Liam to accept the substitution. My husband has been bathing Liam, holding the leash on walks, giving him treatments and petting him when he's nervous. But if anything, these switches have made Liam even more nervous and now he will hardly allow me out of his sight.

I am doubtful that I can convince him to change his ways in the next 24 hours. I can only hope that he'll realize that something has changed when I come home from the hospital in a slung up and groggy state. Otherwise, the next few weeks are going to simply crawl by.

(As a side note, I will also take a short hiatus from the blog while I heal. I should be able to type again by Monday, and then I'll return to a mostly daily blogging existence. But until then, I'll be resting the old arm.)

If you're heading in for surgery, it might be wise to talk with your vet about your pug's prep needs. Medications might help to soothe overactive anxiety, as might a few sessions of pet acupuncture. If you know you absolutely will NOT be able to walk with your pet, hiring a dog walker is wise. After all, a tired dog is a good dog. You'll want those regular walks to continue. Finally, ease up on the laundry for awhile, and line your pet's beds with your clothes. Your pug might be a little less stressed during your procedure with your scent in the air.

Wish me luck! 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Are your cats in pain? Here's how to spot the signs

Eamon the cat lying down, which could be a sign of pain
Eamon is less likely to stand, which could be a pain sign.
Now that I know exactly what is going on with Eamon's back (if you missed that original post, it's here), I have the unlucky challenge of trying to figure out how to help him. I know that he has a progressive, degenerative form of disk disease in his back, and this disease caused the episode he went through a week or so ago. I also know that surgery may not be the best choice for him, because he's older and his problems go beyond just one bad disk in one location. Replacing all of his back... well, it's just not feasible.

So, we're left with monitoring and pain control. This is a bit more difficult than it might sound, mainly because cats aren't all that great at signaling pain. Where a dog might pace or chew or cry or stop eating, cats can be a lot more subtle with their pain. In fact, I have good reason to believe that Eamon masked his pain for many weeks before he had this back episode.

So this is a short list of signs I am now looking for:
  • Aggression.
  • Refusal to use the litterbox.
  • Overt crying or vocalization.
  • Isolationism. 

Prior to this episode, Eamon did three out of four of these things. When I tried to wean him from his pain medications over the weekend, he did two out of four of these things.

Monitoring your cat for pain can be tricky, because you want to look for clear signs without freaking out your cat. After all, cats who are monitored all the time can become cranky and show some of these pain signs, too. Cats can also completely hide pain signs, which means you must occasionally sneak up on them and check on them when they think they are alone. I think I am still working out a balance, at this point.

And I should add that a veterinarian is an excellent resource, when pain questions are in play. A vet can run your cat through a series of pretty simple tests in order to both isolate and grade pain, and that could give you the data you need to help your cat. Plus, your vet can give you medications to help with pain control, in some cases.

When it doubt, always talk to your vet. But by watching your cat for the pain signs I mentioned, you can arm your pet doc with valuable diagnostic information. Together, you and your doc can come up with the best plans to make life better for any kitty.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Outdoor cats and collars: Are your cats nudists?

Jasper the cat without his collar
Jasper is looking remarkably bare.
Several weeks ago, I bought collars for two of our three outdoor cats, and I attached bells and identification to their collars. I'll admit that I was feeling quite smug about the whole thing. I thought the bells would keep them from sneaking up on small animals and killing them, and I thought the identification would help me notify others that the cats were pets and not strays. (Want proof of how smug I was? The original post is here.)

Jasper kept his collar on for two weeks before he stripped it off in the yard. I found the collar and put it back on. He removed the collar for good 12 hours later, and now I can't find it. Beorn kept his collar on for one week, and I've never seen it again.

In general, cats don't like to have things around their necks. Bells are irritating to their sensitive ears, and they get in the way when cats bend down to drink or eat. Cats also like to sneak up on things, and they resent the implication that they should stop this behavior.

It makes sense that the boys would work to remove these collars. However, I am slightly comforted that the collars simply came off and the cats are no worse for wear. Crafty cats like to cram themselves into small spaces, and they can strangle when their collars are caught on something. The collars I chose are designed to spring loose when they are caught. It's possible that Beorn and Jasper lost their collars in brambles or on sticks, and I'm glad they lived to tell the tale.

Right now, I am at a loss about these outdoor cats. I am still looking for their collars, of course, but I am not sure what I'll need to do to keep those collars on and keep the cats safe.

Anyone have any suggestions? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Prednisone use in cats

Eamon the cat can hop on his bed with the help of prednisone
Over the weekend, when Eamon had his episode of staggering and weakness, I was almost certain he would never recover. The symptoms seemed so severe, and he seemed so painful, that I was certain he would only be with us for a few days (Missed that post? It's here.).

He seems to have other ideas in mind.

At our visit, the veterinarian prescribed a low dose of prednisone. This is a common treatment for animals with spinal problems, and I was told that he might improve on the medication. While he remains a bit weak in his back legs and he sleeps more than he did before this began, he does seem much improved. He can hop up in his bed, run down the stairs and eat his food within a reasonable amount of time. His personality has also returned, and he's been visiting in my workroom every few hours, just like he used to do.

We return for a followup visit tomorrow, and it's possible that we'll move from this drug to another drug to help control his back pain. Some cats do stay on predisone for long periods of time, but I'm not certain that's the plan for Eamon. We'll see what his doctor says.

To read more about predisone in animals, click here and here. The information is good on both these sites, but I should mention that there are many typographical errors to wade through. Grammarians should prepare for a tooth-grinding read.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mushrooms and pets: Are these safe snacks for dogs and cats?

Wooded areas like this are stuffed with mushrooms
Mushrooms are more common in forests like this than in residential areas.
When I am not working on this blog, I write for commercial clients. Often, these clients provide me with a headline and then I write the copy to match the headline. In the world of the Internet, companies spend a lot of time debating how to name articles to garner the most hits and this is often not left in the hands of lowly writers. Recently, I was asked to write an article about keeping a type of mushroom from growing in the yard. I was pretty excited, as I thought my research might end up on this pet blog.

But, geez. Little did I know what I was getting into.

I hit a roadblock with the research right away. There are thousands of types of mushrooms, and even the experts sometimes have difficulty telling them apart. And they don't always act in a similar manner. Some types of mushrooms grow on compost. Some on wood. Some in the grass.

There is one thing I was able to confirm, however. The mushroom I was writing about is a hallucinogen that's considered toxic in moderate quantities.

With the information I could find, I wrote a general catchall story about mushroom eradication. And boy, did the shroomers get mad. I got famous for a few days as the shroomers took to their message boards to attack me.

Some claimed that this type of mushroom doesn't grow in large enough quantities in the residential yard to cause a problem. Boy, do I disagree.

As pet owners, we know that if there is one poisonous thing in the yard and our checkbook is running low, that's the one thing the pet will eat. Call it the basic law of nature. Even one toxic mushroom in the yard is too much.

Other people in this group claim that mushrooms are natural and beneficial, and they simply shouldn't be removed no matter where they are growing and what type they are. I disagree here as well.

While many types of mushrooms aren't poisonous and they do help things decompose in the yard, other types can cause serious health problems for pets. While they may cause euphoria in people, in pets they can cause death. See this link for more information.

For these reasons, I can't say that I would feel comfortable having mushrooms growing all over my yard. I don't care if some aren't toxic. I don't care how much fun other types might be for my neighbors to eat. If they grew, I would remove them.

Mushroom prevention is fairly simple. Mushrooms like things that are wet and decomposing. Some like manure. Others like wood. Others like compost. You get the idea. This doesn't mean that you must blast your yard with chemicals to remove the mushrooms, but it does mean you should try to remove standing water and you should keep wet, decomposing items from collecting in your yard. And pluck those mushroom heads when you see them.

Me, I'll be keeping my head down for awhile. And using a pen name for future articles.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How to determining a cat's quality of life

Eamon the cat is sleeping nicely in his bed

A lot has changed since I wrote on Friday. At that time, I thought I had three robust indoor cats. Now, I only have two cats that fit into that category. It leaves me with a lot of questions.

Late Friday night, Eamon had a sudden fit of lameness. He was crying and pawing at the ground, unable to get up, and was breathing quite heavily. After I checked him over and couldn't find any broken bones or obvious injuries, my husband and I took him to the emergency veterinarian. I was concerned that he had a condition called "saddle thrombus," where a cat throws a clot and it shuts off the supply of blood to the legs. It's painful and incurable. I thought we were taking him in to die.

He did not have saddle thrombus, thankfully, but he still could not walk at the emergency clinic. They ran blood work (inconclusive), and we chose to take him home. I still thought he was dying, and I didn't want him to die in the clinic.

The next morning, he was able to walk a bit but was still quite tired. We took him to his regular veterinarian for followup x-rays. At this point, I wasn't sure what to think. Did he have something terminal? Did he just hurt himself? I didn't know what to do. We took home some prednisone while we waited for the x-ray results to come back. I wanted the radiologist to give us complete information.

Today, we have the news we need. Eamon has arthritis in his back and some compressed spinal disks. It's likely that some spinal material sheared off and temporarily blocked blood flow to his legs. This condition, called fibrocartilaginous embolai, also can't be cured and it's possible it might happen again.

We follow up on Friday with our veterinarian. I have to determine what quality of life is for Eamon. He can walk, he can eat, he can cuddle, but he still seems slow and somehow off. Is this acceptable? Is it acceptable to give him weeks of this diminished life if the end is painful? When is it all too much?

I've heard a simple way to determine quality of life, and I've repeated it to friends before: Make a list of three things the pet loves to do. When the pet can no longer do two of those three things, it's time to go.

I am realizing this is harder to do than it seems.

My husband and I will be writing up Eamon's list this week. I'm just hoping we're making the right decisions.

If you're in this boat and you find that you absolutely cannot make a good decision, ask your veterinarian to help. Most vets will happily work with you to keep pain under control and help the pet stay mobile. And most will speak right up when they're out of treatment options and the pet is still painful or not moving.

Pet sitters, close family members and dear friends can also help, especially if they know the pet well. They might see symptoms you just don't see, and they might have the outsider perspective you need in order to make a decision that's right for your pet.

But in general, remember this: Any decision you make, if you do so thoughtfully, is bound to be the right one. Don't blame yourself or second guess or torture yourself. You know your pet. You know yourself. Just watch and listen. The answer will come.

I hope I find my answer soon.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pug whiskers and sensitive eyes: How to groom your pug's face

Liam the pug has a lot of long whiskers near his eyes

Like most pugs, Liam has a very short muzzle and very big eyes. This is part of what makes pugs look so appealing. They have tiny, expressive faces. However, these smashed faces can also be the site of a serious amount of trouble.

For example, since Liam's muzzle is compressed, his whiskers really have nowhere to go. He doesn't have a snout for the whiskers to encircle, so they sort of point every which way. Some point forward, some point down and some point straight upward.

These upward-pointing whiskers often point directly into his little eyes. Imagine having a whisker poking you in the eye all day and all night. It can't be pleasant.

When this happens, Liam will rub at his eyes, as though he was a sleepy child. If I don't get the hint, he'll rub his entire face on me until I pay attention. Often his eye is watery, and his cheek is wet with tears.

Typically, I just cut the poking whisker and hope it will grow back in a different direction. Plucking just seems too painful and too mean. Liam stands quite still for me, which is a blessing because I do get nervous when I use sharp objects near his eyes. I also use dull child's scissors for this task, so he'll have a bit of protection if he jerks away.

Apparently, show pugs often have all of their whiskers trimmed for the ring, and there's a bit of a debate about this in the pug world. (To see some of that thread, click here.)

I don't think it's necessary to trim every single whisker from a pug's face. These guys use their whiskers to help them navigate the world. Each whisker is a little like a curb bumper, and when they're hit, the pug knows to pull his/her face away. Those whiskers could keep pugs from hurting their eyes or noses, so they need to stay in place.

But a weekly whisker orientation is wise. I stand above Liam and have him look forward and then up. Usually, I can spot whiskers growing the wrong direction. Once they start to hit his eyes, they get trimmed. Otherwise, they stay put.

Chalk it up to one more task pug lovers must do every week!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why do cats shed in the fall?

Long-haired cats like Franklin are shedding experts

Look around our yard right now, and you might think cats have been fighting all day and all night. There are tufts of orange and white hairs covering almost all available surfaces. Tiny bits of white hair float through the breeze. And when you check the bottoms of your shoes, you'll probably see orange hairs embedded in the treads.

While the outdoor cats haven't been fighting (thank god), one of them has been shedding up a storm. Long-haired Franklin seems to think it's time to molt.

And it got me to thinking.

If cats use their coats to stay warm, why would they lose their coats when the weather cools off? Wouldn't they need their coats?

Turns out that cats have several different types of hairs that grow out of the same follicles. Each hair goes through a period of growth, and at the end of that period, it is sloughed off. When the days become longer or shorter and the cat's coats are exposed to different amounts of light, a switch goes off and the cat knows its time to shed. In the fall, the cat is shedding the long, smooth hairs of the summer coat and growing the short and fluffy hairs of the winter coat. In the spring, they'll do the reverse.

Outdoor cats shed more during these transitional months than indoor cats do because outdoor cats are exposed to more sunlight. They can sense the change in the season more acutely, and so their coats respond more thoroughly as well.

Interesting stuff, huh?

If your cats will tolerate the help, amp up your brushing routine in the fall. Spending just 5 or 10 minutes every other day could help your cat to lose that coat without developing painful mats. If you cats won't tolerate the help (as Franklin won't, because he's feral), consider adding fish oil to the food. That supplement helps the fur to stay a little slicker, so it can resist tangles a little better. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The pet vaccine debate: How much is too much?

Older cats like Beorn may benefit from a tailored approach
When it comes to pet vaccination, owners seem to be evenly divided. Some believe that all animals should be vaccinated every year, for everything possible, so they can ensure that the pet won't get sickened by something preventable. Others believe that animals should never be vaccinated, since vaccines have recently been linked to pet illness or even death. Put two people from opposite camps in the same veterinary waiting room, pop the popcorn and watch the sparks fly. Both sides are adamant that their way is best.

As for me, I sit in the middle of the road on this issue.

I do think kittens and puppies should have a complete series of vaccinations. Period. I also think all animals of all ages should be vaccinated against rabies, according to local laws. Breaking the law just doesn't sit right with me.

But after that, I want to customize a plan in concert with my veterinarian. Some animals travel to high-risk places and are exposed to many diseases, and they need regular vaccines. Some animals are old and stay indoors all the time, and they may need fewer vaccines or no vaccines at all.

I have my opinions on the issue, but I am open to listening to what the veterinarian believes about the issue. I've paid for the appointment, after all, so why not listen to what the paid expert has to say? Maybe there's something I hadn't considered.

In short, when it comes to the vaccine debate, I think the proper path really depends on the animal you're dealing with, and the veterinarian you work with should help you make an appropriate choice for that particular pet. A blanket statement for or against vaccines just doesn't seem appropriate.

Spot Magazine recently covered this issue in depth. This might make good reading, if you're still making up your mind on the issue. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cats in small spaces

Lucy the cat often crams herself in the catnip house

When I was new to cat ownership, I bought my cat several beds and placed them in prominent places around the room. I had been raised with dogs, and dogs love to have their beds in the middle of the action. I figured cats were the same, and I couldn't figure out why my cat would choose to sleep in the closet or in my grocery bag instead of the comfy bed I had provided.

I've learned a lot since then.

Most cats enjoy very tight spaces. My cats seem to have a special fondness for areas that seem too small to hold them. The more they must contort themselves, the more they want to enter.

Lucy, in particular, enjoys having a few small beds scattered about. She likes the bed pictured, in particular, because it's located in a corner of the room and she knows no one can sneak up on her when she's backed into the corner, facing out.

If you don't have any bed choices like this, a standard cat carrier will do. Just fill it with a layer of soft towels and remove the door. Place the carrier in a corner, and wait for the kitties to arrive. It's an inexpensive bed your cat is almost sure to love. Plus, it makes taking the cat to the veterinarian a bit easier. When your cat thinks of the carrier as her own personal bedroom, she may not worry when you close the door to take her away for her appointment. She'll associate the bed with safety, and that's half the battle.

But if you can't stand the idea of having a cat carrier set up and sitting out, 24 hours per day, there are a variety of cave-like beds made just for cats. Set up one in the corner, just like the one I have here, and sprinkle in a little catnip for enticement. Before you know it, you'll have a kitty paradise.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Watching the Vaux swifts in Portland: Have you gone to Chapman School yet?

The Champman School in Portland, an hour before sunset
For many Portland families, fall has truly arrived when the swifts have also arrived. These tiny birds migrate from Canada to Central America, and they stop over in Portland during the month of September.

The Vaux Swifts are nearly everywhere in Portland, but a large flock swirls around the Chapman School in northwest Portland. The birds like to spend the night in tall chimneys, where they can pack in together tightly to stay warm, and the Chapman School has a spectacular chimney the birds seem to favor.

The local Audubon Society hosts a Swift Watch each year at the school during the migration, and the society encourages people to come out and see the show. If you haven't done it, you really should. It's pretty spectacular.

There are a few insider tips to keep in mind.

The Audubon Society recommends that you arrive an hour before sundown. Arriving at that time will guarantee that you can find a great spot to sit, but there's really no swift action at this time. You may see a few swifts overhead, but the big flock doesn't arrive until about 15 minutes before sunset. If you're pressed for time, arriving closer to sunset is your best bet. The photo below was taken right at sunset when the sky was black with birds.

Many Vaux Swifts are flying into this chimney

Many, many children come with their parents, but they don't want to see the birds. They sled on cardboard and play on the Astroturf field. If you're averse to children, or you'd like to hear the birds twitter and chirp, don't come to the Chapman School. The kids are everywhere, and they're loud.

The Audubon Society says you can bring your dog, but most of the dogs I've seen there are not friendly toward other dogs. It hasn't seemed safe, to me, to bring a dog to the show. Plus, most dogs grow restless at the idea of sitting in one place for hours, looking up at the sky. Might be best to leave Fido home for this one.

The swifts put on their show throughout the entire month of September, and it's free. For more information on the Chapman School event, click here. For more information on the birds themselves, click here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Does your dog bark during a dream?

Liam sits at the base of my desk all day long, and most of the time, he spends his day asleep. He might move from bed to bed, and he might play with his toys for a few minutes here and there, but when I look down, he's often asleep. Often, I look down because he is barking in his sleep.

Many dogs run or twitch while they're sleeping. My cats do this, too. Liam is the first dog I've had that actually barks in his sleep, however. Since he's not moving his mouth, the barks are a bit muffled and strange. But they can be loud enough to be distracting during the day. If he starts barking in his sleep at night, he's often loud enough to wake me up.

I suppose it could be worse, however. Beagle owners often report that their dogs howl in their sleep. Check out this video. I don't know how I would handle that and get any work done. And if I had this puppy, I don't think I could do anything at all except watch it sleeping. So cute!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Does your pet store sell puppies? It's time to find a new one

Liam the pug as a very small puppy
Puppies should never come from pet stores.
By now, almost everyone knows they shouldn't buy puppies from pet stores. We've all heard the horror stories about the puppy mills that supply these stores with their pups. These puppy mills breed dogs in truly horrific conditions, and the dogs you'll get from a pet store may have serious genetic problems due to inbreeding and overcrowding.

That's enough about that.

I would also urge you to boycott pet stores that sell pets. Even if you just pop into the pet store to buy toys from your dog you rescued from the pound, you're still supplying that store with income and keeping it in business. Don't give the store any business until the pet trade in the store stops.

Here's an example. The Oregon Humane Society stepped in and rescued a staggering number of animals from a Newport pet store. Many puppies were rescued in this raid. While many people might not buy a puppy from a store like this, they may not think twice about buying kibble or treats from a store that sells dogs. This has to stop.

Every time you walk into a pet store that sells dogs, walk right back out the door. We need to send a message with our dollars.

In the Portland area, there are many pet stores that do not sell things with heartbeats. Green Dog Pet Supply and Furever Pets are my personal favorites. There are many, many more.

Let's all do our part to stop the pet trade. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How many litter boxes does one household need?

Lucy the cat sitting nicely beside her litter box
According to Lucy, you can never have too many litter boxes.
I've had three cats, off and on, for many years. Sometimes, all three cats have shared one litter box. Sometimes, I've been generous and provided two litter boxes. In this large house, for example, I have provided one litter box upstairs and one downstairs for a full year with no complaints.

Recently, however, I have come to see the error of my ways. When the cats feel they don't have enough litter boxes, all hell breaks loose.

Cats who have been raised together often share their beds, toys and litter boxes with no problems. But when one cat is upset, too vocal or aggressive, no one wants to share.

Eamon and Maggie have been fighting lately, and Lucy no longer feels that any cat box is safe for her to use. She seems to fear ambush when she's in a vulnerable position. Instead of using the litter boxes, she started to use the entryway rug.

In a way, this is a positive because the rug can quickly be washed. But it's not a habit I wanted to encourage.

Thankfully, the behavior was easy to stop. When I provided a new litter box and placed it in the entryway where the rug used to be, she started using the new box right away. This is an open position, where she can run away if she needs to, and she's often not forced to encounter the droppings of other cats in her box.

Experts say you should provide one litter box for each cat living in the home, plus one extra. (Technically, I am still one box short.) If you have more floors in the home than you have cats (three cats in a four-story home, for example), you need to provide a litter box on each floor. It does seem like a lot of litter boxes, I know, but it's much better than the alternative. Trust me on this one.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dog shelter stories: Adopting an "under dog" from the shelter

Barbie the dog with some of her family in the background
Lately, it seems like I've been adding a lot of stories about abuse and neglect on this blog. I was very excited when one of my cousins, Amy, wrote about her own dog on Facebook the other day, and I asked her to write a bit for this blog. I think she has a very unique and uplifting approach when it comes to adoption, and I thought we could all use a positive story. So here goes.

The reason I decided to start looking for a dog was because we have an older dog named Dodger, who is a chow mix, and I felt he needed a companion. My husband and I knew we would go to our local shelter to find a dog who needed a home; we just weren't sure what we were looking for. The kids wanted a puppy of course, but I wasn't sure I was ready for that. We also learned that the puppies NEVER last very long in the shelter. They are adopted out almost immediately. It is the older dogs, or the not-so-attractive dogs, who get left behind.

At first, we decided to foster. We fostered two different dogs. One was a black lab named Sadie (who was VERY attached to my husband), but after only 4 months with Sadie she came down with cancer. We tried two surgeries, but were unable to save her. Once again, we were grieving, but I was still determined to give it another try. The next dog was a big, beautiful, white, dog name Ireland. Well, Ireland was not too compatible with kids, so we had to take her back to the shelter. (However, she was adopted out to an older couple in Portland, and is still with them to this day.)

I went to the shelter to look at the dogs ONE MORE TIME, and was just about ready to give up and head for home, when I heard an employee at the shelter talking about the "under dogs." (Apparently the under dogs are the ones who are too risky to adopt out, or had been in the shelter for a very long time.) I heard Babie's name come up and had seen her there before. I started asking some questions and learned that Babie is a collie mix, approximately 2 yrs. old, who lived with an elderly woman. The woman brought her in one day, said she couldn't handle her, and left. While living with this woman, Babie had chewed up her couches, carpet, and cupboards. She dug holes in the yard, and got out frequently. The woman finally muzzled Babie and left her tied up while she went to work for 8 hrs. a day. (Probably for the duration of about 6 months.)

By the time Babie made it to the shelter, she had scratched and clawed most of the hair off her face, trying to get out of the muzzle. Her face was cracked and bleeding, and she didn't look very "adoptable." Babie had been in the shelter the longest, and no one had ever been interested in her. When I asked to see her, I knew this was my dog. She was fairly small, black, and just looked scared. I was sure that with a little training and TLC, this one would turn out all right.

I will admit, Babie was a little hard to love at first. She pulled extremely hard on the leash when I walked her. She was nervous and skittish. She jumped at every little sound and walked with her body low to the ground, her tail between her legs. She just wasn't very friendly. It was obvious she had never really had any affection or socializing. She even snapped at us a time or two. I decided to read up on dog training and went to work with her.

In a week or two, Babie had won us ALL over.What a dramatic change! No more snapping at us or nervousness. No more pulling on the leash. she's turned out to be very smart and easy to train. (Working dogs such as collies usually are.) Best of all, Dodger is happy and energetic again with his new playmate, and the kids are proud to say that, "This is the dog we saved from 'doggy jail'." As for me, I too, am so proud when people stop me on the street to admire this once "ugly" dog who now has a shiny black coat, a cute face, and no signs of her former situation. My husband teases me that I have a constant shadow wherever I go. She warms my feet at night, lays next to me when I watch tv, or cook, or clean. Her name suits her too because she often tries to sit in my lap. She is so very loyal to me.

We can take her pretty much wherever we go and she stays right there with us. When we leave home, she's happy to have Dodger to keep her company. She's not perfect, but she's found her place in a pack, and found her forever home with us. I started out looking for a dog like the one I had lost, and I got Babie: A dog, who like so many, with a little patience at first, will be true and loyal to the end.
Isn't this amazing? And aren't you inspired? If you are, head to your shelter today and ask about a few of the unadoptables. The staff typically has a dog or two that they love and can't seem to move. Visit that pet. Love it. Take it home if you can, or share its story on social media.

Together, we can save all of the under dogs. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Kittens thrown from van in Portland: Let's catch the perp!

Tiny kitten with her Boston terrier brother
Yesterday, someone driving a gold minivan on North Peninsular Avenue and Willis Boulevard at 7am, and committed a terrible crime. The driver opened the window of the moving car and threw out three small kittens, one by one.

Let's just think about that for a minute. Someone threw these live creatures, weighing less than one pound each, out of a moving car. These kittens were about the size of my foster kitten, Cricket, shown in the photo at the top of this blog entry. Look how small she is! Look how helpless!

Someone who was driving behind the van, stopped and saved two of the three kittens. A third was found and later brought in for veterinary care. One kitten died as a result of the injuries. One kitten may have severe nerve damage. One kitten appears to be normal.

Abandoning an animal is a crime in Oregon. Killing an animal is a felony. Whoever did this must be caught and forced to give up any other animals that person has. Don't forget: Those kittens had a mother somewhere. I would bet that mother is in terrible danger, living in a home with someone who could throw tiny kittens out of a moving car.

If you know something about this crime, contact the Humane Society here (link no longer active). There is a $1,000 reward waiting for you, along with my eternal gratitude.

If you have any animals at home and they haven't been spayed or neutered, contact your local humane society and ask for help. Oregon has many, many low-cost spay and neuter programs to help you.

Throwing kittens out of a car isn't a solution.

It's a felony.

Alter your pets, please.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pet parents: Does your dog have a collar and a microchip? Why not?

Liam the pug sporting a nice collar
This morning, I heard a blip on OPB about the Bend dog shelter. Apparently, they've had a significant amount of thunder in Bend over the last week, and dogs all across the area have been spooked and have run away. Since August 24, the shelter has taken in over 38 dogs. Some dogs were brought in by law enforcement and others were brought in by concerned bystanders who didn't want the animals to be hurt. Many of these dogs are still at the shelter, waiting for their owners to come get them.

Once again, this is a great reminder to keep a collar on your dogs. If law enforcement picks up your dog, you'll get the dog back right away. If the dog hides with someone in the neighborhood, that person can call you. It's easy for your dog to be reunited with you.

A collar also sends a very clear signal that the dog is both owned and loved. Dogs can sometimes hunker down and become aggressive in a shelter situation. It's easy for people to assume that a dog like this has no person. It's easy to think of an aggressive dog like this as a homeless dog. But a collar can remind people that the dog does have a family. The collar shows that someone spent money on this dog. That could be just the prompt a harried shelter staffer needs in order to change thinking about that dog. It could shift the conversation between a dog and a shelter staffer. 

If your dog won't wear a collar, use a microchip. Shelters always scan for microchips, and they call you when your dog appears at the shelter. Microchips aren't free, and they do require a little maintenance. If you move or shift numbers, you have to call the company to update your data. But a microchip can't slip off or get taken off. It's implanted, and it's always working. That's a great protection for your pet.

Sure, it's easier and cheaper to let dogs go unidentified. But dogs panic when they're exposed to loud noises. They tend to run off. The least we can do is keep them safe and make sure we can get them back at the end of the day. Collars and chips can do that. Take advantage of that. Your dog will thank you.