» Archive for the 'Animalistic' Category

Stairs and back problems–dog and human

Sunday, January 4th, 2009 by kara

My darling Skipper-Dee-Doo-Dah has a bulging vertebral disk, and our vet tells me that he’s got to be kept as still as possible for three weeks, and hopefully the complete rest will help the painkillers, muscle relaxants and steroids he’s taking to heal his back completely. Skip can’t run or even walk a lot, and stairs are certainly out of the question.

We have a bi-level house which has 15 steps in one straight run down to the backyard. When Skip’s gotta potty, he has to be carried down the steps and then carried back up. Shouldn’t be that difficult a situation, but the little bugger is now 28 pounds. Yes, 28 pounds. He’s a tad chunky. This has undoubtedly contributed to his back problems. Cocker spaniels are what’s called a chondrodystrophic breed, which means just that they’re longer than they are tall. They share this body type with beagles, basset hounds, corgis and dachshunds, and genetically all of these breeds are predisposed toward spinal and disk problems just because of their height-to-length ratio.

To lessen the strain on a spinal column that’s already at a disadvantage, it’s vital for these breeds of dogs to stay at a healthy weight, and avoid doing a lot of jumping up and down on furniture. And even though ALL dogs should be safely restrained while riding in the car, it’s even more important to put these chondrodystrophic breeds in a crate or in a doggie seat belt, because something as mundane as a sudden stop can cause your dog to lose its footing and fall to the floor, potentially injuring its back.

Skipper has been resting and taking all his meds, and I think he’s feeling MUCH perkier now. So I was carrying him down to the backyard Thursday, and he was feeling pretty eager to get down and play, and was very WIGGLY. He wiggled so much that I was worried more about keeping a good grip on his little round butt, than I was on maintaining my footing on the slippery steps. I ALMOST fell, but luckily for both of us, I caught myself. I think I may have pulled a muscle in my back as a result, though, because even after I was adjusted by my chiropractor I’m still having a LOT of pain in my mid-back region. Feels like a muscle cramp every time I take a deep breath (which I haven’t been doing a lot of, since SOMEBODY FUZZY HAS BEEN MAKING REALLY TERRIBLE WIND) and every time I try to carry something heavy–like Skip.

My Wonderful Pumpkin has been Skipper’s valet since I got home from the chiro yesterday afternoon, but he was called away to work today. I’m hoping that this whole back thing will heal quickly–or at least stop hurting. Sitting at my computer desk is uncomfortable, not to mention that it makes the whole dog-toting situation problematic.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had issues like this with injured dogs and this house. Earlier this year, we had an English springer spaniel foster boy named Chance. Chance was a darling senior citizen who was chock full of personality. Even though he had limited mobility of his hind legs due to a growth that had been neglected for too long, Chance was still pretty adept at running up & down the back stairs with the rest of the furkids–until he developed idiopathic vestibular disease. That causes extreme dizziness. Chance couldn’t even walk across the carpeted dining room floor without falling over, so of course he couldn’t do the deck stairs thus we were carrying him up and down–and at 55 pounds, he was considerably larger than Skipper.

At this same time, Skipper himself was recovering from heartworm treatment, which requires complete “bedrest” for lack of a better term. HE was not allowed to do anything that could raise his blood pressure, including running, jumping, and going up and down stairs. So he was being carried up and down to the yard, as well. At that point, KipKip was only 20 pounds, so he wasn’t really too burdensome.

Just to add to the fun, at about that same time, Belle developed back problems, too–it turned out that she had Lyme disease, but it took a while before our vet could make that diagnosis, so just to be safe, SHE was on complete bedrest for a while at that same time.

Here’s Kipper and Belle, commiserating about their enforced confinement June 2 of this year:

img_3318You can’t really tell from this photo, but Kipper and Belle are nose-to-nose through the crates. Kip’s nosey is between his front paws, right by Belle’s paws.

So of the four dogs we had at that point, THREE were being carried up & down the stairs. In order to lessen the odds of me falling and killing myself and whichever dog I was carrying at that time, I set up shop down in our basement recreation room. The rec room has a slider which opens directly to the back yard, at ground level. Rick and I would tote everyone down to the rec room in the morning, and I’d bring my computer down there, and we’d hang out in the basement. When the Pumpkin came home, he’d check his e-mail and then he’d join us down there for dinner and evening television viewing.

It wasn’t as grim as it might sound–the rec room is quite nice, with a big-screen TV and a fireplace (which we didn’t use too much during the summer) and there’s a half-bath right around the corner in the laundry room. I had set up a hot water kettle and a canister of tea bags down there, so as long as I brought a pitcher of water down first thing in the morning, I was all set. I just didn’t get a lot of housework or cooking done, because when I would try to go upstairs or into another room the dogs would get restless and try to challenge the baby gate to come and find me. Multiple floors. Dangit.

Ironically enough, when we were looking for houses around the Ann Arbor area in 2005, we passed up a bi-level that had a STUNNING yard and a dreamy location, because at that point, we had Kacey Marie with us. Kace was completely blind in both eyes, and I knew that if we brought her home and put her upstairs, and then decided to go down to hang out in the rec room for the evening, that she’d just stay where we left her. At that point, Kacey wasn’t interested in doing stairs at all, and I didn’t think it was fair to live in a house in which Kacey didn’t have free rein. That was the right decision for that time, and I’m glad that we bought the single-level ranch house we ended up with, for all our sakes.

Fast-forward to October 2007, and we’re looking for our new house. We see our current house, on a dead-end street in a quiet subdivision not too far away from everything but not too close, either, and it’s got a huge, beautiful, fenced yard. It’s a bi-level, but at that point, we were all able-bodied and we thought it might be nice to have a rec room suitable for entertaining friends. Didn’t think ahead to the possibility of dogs with mobility problems, or potential mobility problems of our own.

I guess the moral of this story is “don’t buy a bi-level house unless you have an elevator installed for when your knees go bad and your dogs have back problems.” As for us, this is one more lesson learned in home traits that we find desirable.

I gotta go ice my back now. I wonder if Skipper would mind sharing his muscle relaxants with his mummah…

Why dogs need rescue: A prime example

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008 by kara

So yesterday was Cocker Companions Rescue’s final day of wrapping at Borders Books in the Turkey Creek Shopping Center in Knoxville. Did I tell you about this? Borders Books is very generous–every Christmas season they offer free wrapping to their customers, and then they invite various not-for-profit groups to come in and do the wrapping in shifts, allowing the volunteers to keep any tips for their organizations.

Borders furnishes the wrapping paper, tape, bows, and everything else, and all the volunteers have to supply are the materials explaining about their group in particular. What a fantastic opportunity for us as a dog rescue group to make contact with people who wouldn’t ordinarily hear about Cocker Companions Rescue!  While we wrap, we can explain our mission and talk about why cockers need rescue, and make some money to pay off our bills at the same time!

Plus, it’s a neat way to try to get into the holiday spirit, which I’ve really been lacking this year: Just try being bummed out while you’re wrapping gifts for someone else, and seeing everyone rushing around to find the perfect gift! We’re gonna hafta send the people at Borders a REALLY NICE thank-you card.

Anyway. Yesterday was our last wrapping shift for this season, and about half-way through, an ELDERLY GENTLEMAN was standing in line at the register when he asked me (me!) “why you’ve gotta have those dogs outside harassing people who just want to shop?”

You’ll notice ‘elderly gentleman’ is capitalized. That’s because I don’t know this man’s name and any other descriptive words I’d use for him would need lots of asterisks in the middle to mask their true nature from some delicate minds out there in Interwebz Land, Gentle Readers.

The ELDERLY GENTLEMAN proceeded to question me (again, why ME?) why we have to be so invasive with our ‘rescue stuff’ and WHY rescue is necessary for dogs. “Whose business is it if I’m abusing a dog, anyway? It’s just a DOG, after all. It’s nobody else’s business what I do with my dogs. They’re JUST animals.”

Honest to Pete. That’s what he said. I don’t know WHY he chose to address me.  Anyone who knows me knows that I have a terrible temper and very little patience for ignorance.  And there were three other CCR volunteers behind the wrapping table right then, including Karen–ANY of those people would have been far less potentially violent than I am. Maybe he’s an adrenalin junkie, and recognized my thinly-masked potential for extreme violence. Maybe he was actually hoping for a fight, and knew that I’d be the most sporting opponent of all the dog lovers there.

My first impulse was to hurt him terribly with the tape dispenser clenched in my left hand. Since I’m right handed, I realized immediately that this would be far less effective than I truly desired and not worth the assault charges, and put that impulse behind me. He has no idea how close he came to genuine, extreme pain.

My second impulse was to explain to this ELDERLY GENTLEMAN that attitudes like his are the main reason that rescue IS necessary, and that thankfully most people do NOT share his cavalier attitude toward animal neglect and mistreatment.

But since I’m not very good at thinking or talking in a pinch like that, I probably would have just unloaded a garbled stream of explicit verbal abuse on him. Luckily I stopped to consider that I was in a business which was being overwhelmingly supportive to my beloved organization, and that I was REPRESENTING said organization, and that anything other than a civil reply would reflect badly on both the aforementioned. Therefore I chose instead to fix a cheery smile on my face, terminate this pointless and brainless discussion, and wish the ELDERLY GENTLEMAN a happy Christmas. Very loudly. And with several additional, unspoken wishes for his future health and happiness. But the strain was telling, and even though I was still technically smiling, (muscles at each side of my face contracted, showing teeth) I was officially done talking with this man.

Karen noticed at this point that my expression was no longer a legitimate smile but rather something infinitely more frightening, and when she intervened I advised her that it was pointless to try to explain our concerns to this asshat and just let him go upon his jaundiced little way.

The ELDERLY GENTLEMAN continued loudly expressing his views, that dog rescue was foolish and unnecessary, as well as an invasion of privacy and that HE’D never come back to Borders if they were all foolish dog lovers like the dog rescuers.

Karen ran outside to check on the volunteers who were showcasing fuzzies, and found that they’d already had an encounter with the ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. They agreed to keep our darling furkids far away from this troll when he exited.

Back in the store, the ELDERLY GENTLEMAN had finally been rung up and was on his way out of the building. What was truly gratifying is that all the customers who’d been standing in line around him came back to us and apologised for his rudeness, many of them making a contribution to our donation jar. Thank God for wonderful, caring, open-minded people like these, because they help to balance out the rest of them who cause misery and suffering wherever they go.

Not everyone is like the ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. In fact, his type make up a minority of the population. But there are enough of them, and the damage they do is sizable enough, to keep rescue groups in business.

And thank goodness for all the others out there who help to balance him out–the people who care and contribute, who stop to share the stories of their own beloved pets, and who empathize with us in our efforts to help make life better for these noble beings. They give us hope that maybe we are accomplishing some good. So thank you for YOU, Gentle Readers, you know who you are.

The many facets of rescue, and the joys of transport

Sunday, December 21st, 2008 by kara

Since I’m not doing anything else worthwhile in the field of employment right now, I try to do as much work as I can in dog rescue. I like dogs, generally speaking, and in fact, I generally like most dogs better than some people. Dogs can’t really speak up for themselves and I think that they deserve to have as many people going to bat for them as possible. And there are a surprising number of dogs and companion animals that need rescue.

For example, over 12,000 animals were euthanized at the Young-Williams Animal Center here in Knoxville, TN during 2007. That’s a lot of companion animals who didn’t find their way back home, or into a new home. On the other hand, my sister Mary was having difficulty in adopting a dog from her local shelter back in St. Clair, MI, because there were so few stray animals that the shelter had a WAITING LIST of people who wanted to adopt. Talk about the difference between ‘night and day’. Mary adopted her newest little boy, Dudley, from the Young-Williams Animal Center back in August, when she and her son and daughter were visiting. Here’s Dudders:

Dudley Knoxville, now of St. Clair, MI

I’m here to tell you that this darling little guy really fell into a bed of roses in my sister’s house. He’s very loved and indulged (but NOT spoiled, never spoiled!) and thank goodness for that, but what about all the other animals who aren’t lucky enough to find their forever home with someone who will care for them so well?

And why are there so many unwanted animals here? The general attitude toward companion animals is very different here than it is in my home state. Many people seem to view their pets not so much as living, sentient beings as possessions. There are many ‘backyard breeders’ and puppy mill owners who get a male dog and a female dog of a particular variety, and then they put “Part A” together with “Part B” and end up with a litter of (badly-bred) purebred puppies, which they then turn around and sell. Just try to explain to someone like this that it’s unethical to exploit a companion animal so shamelessly for profit, without caring for the animal and at least offering medical care and love in exchange for its reproductive capabilities, and you’ll be greeted with a blank stare and “Well, it’s JUST a DOG” as an explanation or rationalization.

And much of the problem also lies in unintentional litters, resulting when people don’t want to spend money to alter their dog–or don’t bother to do so. Many people in this part of the country don’t seem to understand the importance of spaying and neutering their pets, and then accidentally end up with a litter of little animals for which they need to find homes.

I talked with a woman a few weeks ago who had never been a pet parent before. She and her husband had gotten a male dog as a companion for their female dog. They didn’t realize that even though they’re supposed to be brother and sister that they could (and WOULD) still get together and make puppies. They ended up with a litter of EIGHT. Then they weaned the puppies at FIVE WEEKS OF AGE and proceeded to sell them off because they didn’t want to be inconvenienced by the puppies over the holidays. This presents a number of different problems, the biggest of which is that the puppies, lacking the guidance of their mother and interaction with their littermates, are missing out on VITAL, ESSENTIAL lessons on being a happy, well-balanced dog. In order for puppies to grow into calm, self-assured and mannerly dogs, they need to be around their mother and siblings so that the mother can discipline them, and so that they can learn from playing with their siblings that biting HURTS and that they shouldn’t do it to other dogs and people, among other basics truths.

Separate a puppy from its family too soon and you end up with a fearful, potentially fear-aggressive dog that will require tremendous training and conditioning to become a good canine citizen. Those lessons taught by Mommy and littermates are vital to the healthy and timely development of the puppies’ personalities, and as long as the puppies can stick around long enough to learn them, their training needs are cut by more than half.

These people didn’t realize that they were potentially harming all these puppies psychologically. They were just concerned with getting rid of them as soon as possible. The woman did say that she was worried that someone would get the pups and start a mini-puppy mill and that she didn’t want her puppies to be used for breeding, but she didn’t do anything to PREVENT that from happening.

So just from this one situation there are eight puppies out there who may potentially act out as a result of lack of socialization during their development, sold to people who don’t have any experience with dogs and who won’t be able to deal with the behavioral problems…who may eventually turn around and take their “rotten, mean, snappy” dogs to the shelter, or turn them over to a rescue for someone else to deal with. And that’s only eight puppies so far–what if those puppies grow up and, unspayed/neutered, start unwanted families of their own? More dogs for rescues to try to help.

Here’s an alarming statistic: An unspayed female dog and her mate, all of their puppies, and all of their puppies’ puppies, will produce 67,000 dogs in only six years if none of them are ever spayed or neutered. PLEASE, people, spay and neuter your companion animals, and leave breeding to the professionals who care about the health and well-being of the animals, and have the knowledge to preserve the integrity of the breed. There are so many animals out there that are in need of rescue, that you shouldn’t have to “make your own.”

And spay/neuter will NOT change your dog’s personality or make them fat. Dogs become fat for the same reasons that PEOPLE become fat: Too much food and too little exercise. In fact, spay/neuter can protect your pet from diseases associated with reproductive organs, like prostate, ovarian and uterine cancers and pyometra. Unlike humans, dogs do NOT need to have a litter of puppies to feel “fulfilled”–they’re fulfilled when YOU, their human, pay attention to them and love and cherish them.

If you’re concerned about cost, there are more than likely many low-cost spay/neuter clinics around you. For instance, at Planned Pet-Hood in Harriman, TN, spay/neuter services start at $25. Cost is determined by the weight and sex of your dog, but whatever type of dog you have, Planned Pet-Hood makes it imminently affordable to have him or her fixed. No excuses. The Young-Williams Animal Center of Knoxville has a whole page devoted to the need for spay/neuter services here and they even offer a FREE spay/neuter program for Knoxville city and Knox County residents, so AGAIN, no excuses.

So we’ve talked about how dogs come to need rescue. How about the ways that they need help? There are so many: A rescued dog most likely needs veterinary care, may need to be groomed and cleaned, and lots of times they also need to be socialized, which is a another word for ‘learning to live companionably among people.’ They also need to find their way to wherever it is that they’re wanted–a place they can call home. For many dogs, that home is sometimes miles away, either with a foster home which can help the dog become more appealing to potential adopters, or with a ‘forever home’ with a new petparent or family.

How do rescued dogs make it to their new homes, which can be thousands of miles away? This can be difficult because dogs don’t drive very well, and lacking opposable thumbs, they don’t have jobs so they can’t have credit cards to buy themselves plane tickets to get there. And regardless how much you may love dogs and want to help them, I’m guessing there are very few people out there willing to drive across the country to pick up their new best friend. That makes this next part pretty awesome: There are people across the country who want to help rescued animals, who voluntarily work together to donate their time, gas money, and chauffeur services to move these dogs (and other animals) around.

Some people, like me, are associated with rescue groups, and they’ve learned about transporting these dogs through their rescue contacts. Others are just caring people who want to help–a couple of weeks ago, I met a wonderful woman who drove a leg in a transport of a senior citizen Brittany spaniel named Snoopy. She read an advert on Craig’s List asking for help transporting Snoopy to his new foster home in Michigan, and she volunteered to drive him one of the legs in his journey from Alabama to Michigan. Seriously! I’m getting ferklempt just thinking about it.

Yesterday I helped with another transport, this one for National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network (NBRAN). I and 28 other people agreed to drive 23 legs from Little Rock, AR to help get three Brittanies to their new foster or adoptive homes in Vermont and New Jersey. Some of these people were co-pilots who helped wrangle the dogs, and let’s don’t forget the dogs’ overnight host, too.

Isn’t that amazing, that so many people agreed to come together and arrange their schedules to move these lucky dogs? Kathy Boje was our coordinator this time, orchestrating all of us into the proper places and times, which is an epic accomplishment in itself. And even though bad weather in the northeast paused this transport in its second day, other arrangements are being made to get these dogs to their new homes by Christmas. Even though I often feel helpless and disheartened by the never-ending need for rescue, all I have to do is think of the wonderful people I’ve met while doing a transport, and their help buoys me up and reminds me that I’m not alone in caring.

If you’d like to help, you can use the amazing connective power of the interwebs to search out rescue groups in your area. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of doing something purely for the benefit of someone else, plus maybe a loving, appreciative lick on the nose. 🙂

Wouldn’t it be cool…

Thursday, December 18th, 2008 by kara

Was just reading something about Michael Vick’s house being foreclosed and thought “Wouldn’t it be cool for someone to buy that house and then either turn it into a huge animal rescue compound, or donate it to a rescue group?” Seems the house generates a lot of curiosity, but no real interest…I wonder why…

But I’ll bet that dedicating that property to helping animals in need would go a long way to re-consecrating it to good energies. Plus, it would be a real sharp stick in Vick’s eye. >;)

PLEASE DON’T ‘GIFT’ A PUPPY OR KITTEN FOR CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 5th, 2008 by kara

“Surprising” someone with a gift of a darling little puppy or cute little kitten is protrayed in movies and television commercials as a wonderful holiday gift. This is such a wrong idea, from so many perspectives, not the least of which is the idea of a living, breathing, feeling BEING placed in a BOX underneath a CHRISTMAS TREE like a Battleship game or a pair of slippers.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has produced a video which highlights some of the considerations for those who may be moved to give a pet as a holiday gift. Please watch it, and if you know someone who may be thinking about doing the same thing, forward this link to them as well.

Humans really need to consider their relationship with their companion animals, and know that as the ‘smarter species’ that we have a responsibility to care for them and do what’s best for them, whether that is recognizing when a companion needs to see the vet, to knowing that a furry friend is getting a tad chunky and needs less food and more exercise. I feel the need to expand on the ASPCA’s video a bit, so bear with me again. And while I personally talk mainly about dogs, I feel the same way about all companion animals, whether we’re talking about dogs, cats, rabbits (which make astoundingly cool house pets who can be litter trained), birds (yes, even including Rick’s dad’s carnivorous Amazon Green parrot, Isaac)

1.) Animals are NOT inanimate objects, and they need to be regarded as living beings with potential lifespans of up to 20 years (or LONGER for some species). That’s a long time to live with an impulse gift. They’re members of your household, of your family, and when welcoming a new family member, the entire family must be aware of the animal’s needs, and must be willing to provide the animal with the necessary things to give it the best-quality life possible: Food, water, exercise, training, love and affection, grooming, spaying/neutering and veterinary care are the basics.

Other things to consider are whether your family’s lifestyle has room for a dog–is there someone home to spend time with the dog at least part of each day, or are you all so busy with work, school, sports, socializing, after-school classes and activities that the dog will be by itself all day, with no one to exercise it or keep it company? Dogs are pack animals, and what they want most is to be with their pack, whether that’s you and your family, or other dogs. They do NOT want to be tied outside in the backyard, alone, while everyone else runs their busy day-to-day routine and forgets about them.

AGAIN: We’re smarter than they are, we domesticated them for our purposes, therefore it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY to make sure that they are taken care of in the best way possible. So if you get a dog, you must make sure that you’re meeting all of its needs: Food and water, shelter (IN THE HOUSE WITH YOU, NOT IN A BOX OUT IN THE BACKYARD), exercise, training, health care, and socialization. If you can’t meet all of those needs, then you shouldn’t have a dog, regardless how much you may want one. Try going to Build-A-Bear in the mall instead.

2.) Are you really CERTAIN that your father/maiden auntie/cousin/daughter truly WANTS a dog? Again, pets require tremendous commitments of time, money, and attention. Maybe after retiring, Auntie Mabel really wanted to fulfill her dream of traveling the world, instead of becoming a mommy to a new puppy. And even though she enjoys loving up your Great Pyrenees pup when she comes to visit, she didn’t really want to have one of her own. Now she’s got to think about where to board her pup when she’s traveling, as well as pay to have the pup boarded, not to mention pay for veterinary expenses and grooming if she can’t handle bathing and brushing a 100-pound-plus dog. A gift of a living animal may be more of a burden than a loving gesture, if it’s not handled correctly.

3.) If you’ve done your research and found the pet that will enrich you and your family’s life, and you understand all the aspects of the animal’s care for which you’ll be responsible, then go ahead and adopt a pet. Just DON’T bring it home on Christmas Day! Think about what it would be like (from the animal’s standpoint) to introduce an animal into your household at the busiest, most chaotic time of the year. That’s so unfair to the animal, because they’re going to be confused and stressed as it is with their new home, let alone all the confusion of the season. The holidays are a time of socializing, shopping, charity work, and general activity that’s stressful to us, not to mention our animals. Add in irregular schedules and houseloads of strangers, and a new pet will have a hard time finding a place to fit in.

4.) Consider, too, whether you want to add to your holiday chore load with feeding and caring for a stranger in your household. Do you have the time to make sure that a shy new member of your household is eating well, and not having diarrhea all over your livingroom carpet? How would you feel about coming home from the kids’ Christmas pageant at school and discovering that no one remembered to put the new puppy in its crate and it had destroyed the sofa while you were gone? A hurried introduction into the household makes for a rough settling-in period for the dog, which can result in behavioral problems later on. To have the best possible experience for everyone involved, please wait until AFTER the holidays before you bring your new furry friend home. That way you’ll have the time and attention to get to know your new friend, to make them comfortable and communicate to them what you expect of them.

5.) And when you do decide to add someone fuzzy (or feathery, or scaly) to your household, PLEASE DON’T BUY THEM FROM A PET SHOP! Buying animals from a pet shop supports puppy-mill-type breeders, who are not concerned at all for their animals’ well-being. Puppy millers breed their dogs constantly, disregarding the animals’ health, and their sole concern is making money from selling the babies. This is animal ABUSE, and the animals do not deserve to be used and tossed aside when they’re too worn out or too ill to produce more babies.

Instead, find a rescue group that specializes in the breed in which you’re interested. You’ll be doing two things at once: You’ll be talking with a group of people who are experts in that particular breed, so you’ll get the best possible advice from them, and you’ll be offering a rescued animal a second chance at a happy home. You’ll be amazed when you find out how many rescue groups are out there, from horses to guinea pigs to dogs to snakes to…well, you get the picture.

If you want to keep things simple, visit your local animal shelter. Your local shelter is likely filled with great personalities searching for their forever home, so be a hero to one of them and adopt your new best friend. In 2007, the Young-Williams Animal Center in Knoxville, TN euthanized more than 12,000 animals in 2007. Maybe you can save one of those deserving little lives while you’re enriching your own

Having an animal in your household is a tremendous responsibility, and can be a huge commitment requiring lots of money and time. But the rewards that companion animals bring to us in love and affection far outweigh whatever costs they bring, and we owe them the best possible care for their unconditional friendship and devotion. Please consider their needs as well as your wants before blithely chucking them under the tree!

Moving dogs around

Saturday, November 29th, 2008 by kara

I did something neat today, and I started out to write a short little feelgood post about it, but I ended up writing a huge, long rant about why rescue is so necessary and so difficult, but I’ll save that for another day when I’m feeling better. I’ve got a pretty good cold right now which is sapping my strength and making me even more cynical than I am usually, so I’ll concentrate on the warmfuzzies I got today.

What was I doing this afternoon? I was helping transport a wonderful dog across the United States. His name is Scooby, and he’s a great old gentleman Brittany of 13 years, and National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network was making sure that he made it from the shelter in Auburn, AL to his new foster home in Adrian, MI this weekend. It’s really inspiring when you consider the amount of effort and care that goes into one of these transports, whether it’s for NBRAN or for any other rescue groups that have other areas to house their dogs.

It never ceases to amaze me how well these transports for NBRAN are coordinated. Nancy Walker is all the way up north in Massachusetts, and she arranges many transports for NBRAN. I’ve had the pleasure of talking and e-mailing with her while she’s been organizing several of these weekend transport operations to move dogs from one part of the country to another. The logistics are daunting. Consider just Scooby’s journey: Over two days, Scooby will be traveling better than 802 miles. He’ll be making the journey in 10 separate legs, with a one-night stay in Kentucky at another volunteer’s house. Each time he meets another driver and begins another leg, that driver calls Nancy to let her know that they’ve got Scooby and that they’re off–and whether they’re on time or if they’ve been delayed by traffic or weather or goblins or what-have-you.

Oh, and by the way, there was another rider on this journey–a three-year-old Jack Russell Terrier named Martin hitched a ride from Atlanta to Chattanooga, so he could make it to his forever home, too. Two dogs saved–not such a bad thing to have a hand in on a rainy Saturday in Knoxville.

Nancy sends out an e-mail plea to drivers who are available on the scheduled transport dates. She keeps track of who can drive which legs, and then shuffles them around and puts them in order. She’s a wonderful facilitator and close to being a saint, I think, because she’s dealing with dozens of people, most of whom also have full-time jobs to keep them busy during the week. I don’t know how she does it (I wouldn’t have enough patience and would probably just throw up my hands and drive the whole thing myself rather than try to organize a bunch of strangers) but I’m so VERY GLAD she does do it. She and all these other people who volunteer a couple hours out of their weekend to chauffeur a lucky dog to their new home are wonderful, caring people dedicated to getting these fuzzy kids to where they need to be.

And some weekends, there isn’t just one or two dogs riding along–sometimes there are three or four or five, if they can be squished in, and sometimes they’re coming from different areas to join the transport in progress. Logistically, it sounds like a real nightmare. But it’s worth it for the sake of the dogs.

So on the days when I’m feeling particularly low and wondering why people don’t think of their companion animals as loving, feeling beings, and I’m thinking that all this hard work and worrying that we people in rescue do is all for naught, I try to think about these dogs that I’ve helped to save, both locally and nationally. I remember the faces of each dog I’ve helped to transport, and even nicer are the faces of the great people who’ve worked alongside me to save them. These are quality people, Gentle Reader. They care about the well-being of beings who are weaker than they, and they’re doing something to help them. It’s a boost to call them comrades and that makes it a little easier to face another day of human-to-dog stupidity that we see in rescue.

Rescue never ends. It’s rewarding, but draining.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 by kara

I work with a wonderful woman here in Knoxville named Karen Echternacht. She cares about dogs in general and cocker spaniels in particular that she actually started a rescue group for them. Cocker Companions Rescue is very new, just under one year old. She got it rolling in February, after ‘pulling’ a young cocker spaniel boy from the local shelter for a rescue group in Texas. She was only going to keep Finnagan until transport could be arranged for him to Texas, but while he was staying with her, she discovered that he had some serious behavioral problems, and that she couldn’t just send him on to someone who was less-capable than she of dealing with him.

At the same time, she and her family fell in love with Finnagan, and didn’t want to consign him to euthanasia. So they decided to keep him and work with him to try to condition him past his source-guarding issues, and today he’s Karen’s star pupil.

Did I mention that she’s also a dog trainer? That’s what gives her a leg up when it comes to dealing with the ‘problem children’ of the dog world. It’s hard work, and it takes a lot of optimism and love to see through the dirt, mats, fleas and snarling and find the happy, clean family pet in some of the cockers Karen takes in, but everyone gets a fair shot at learning to be ladies and gentlemen.

The rescue gets dogs from many different places, from owner surrenders to strays from animal shelters all over the region, “free to good home” advertisements…the list goes on (and on, and ON). And the really difficult part of this is that the queue of animals needing help never ends. There is always someone who is in a kill shelter, on the last day of their allowed stay, who will be put down unless someone steps in to adopt him or her, or take them in to rescue. As a new rescue group, Cocker Companions Rescue’s resources are limited. We have few foster homes, and the number of dogs that need help always outnumber them. If we bring a dog in to CCR, it needs either a foster home, or it needs to go in to boarding at a kennel–after it’s thoroughly checked out by a veterinarian to make sure it won’t spread disease or pests to other animals.

Karen is a truly kind, loving woman, who feels deeply for all the animals with whom she comes into contact. She wants to be able to save them all, but she can’t–there’s not enough space or money to do that, as wonderful a goal as it would be. But she feels like she’s letting the rest of them down when she has to say no. To date, Cocker Companions Rescue has saved better than 90 cocker spaniels from being euthanized or abandoned, giving them baths and haircuts and training and veterinary care, whatever they need–and then finding them a loving, caring home for the rest of their happy lives. That’s quite a beautiful scorecard–as long as you don’t compare those lucky dogs to the rest that we didn’t get to in time, or that we had to refuse due to lack of resources.

Oh, and this is all volunteer, btw. Neither Karen nor any of her volunteers (including me) are receiving a paycheck for this vital work. It’s got to be done, though, and we’re all willing to keep trudging along, keeping old towels and leashes in the trunks of our cars in case we find someone fuzzy in need. Our reward is hearing from tickled adoptive parents who enclose photos in their e-mails, of a happy and indulged dog laying on the sofa, or on the bed in the master bedroom, with a Nylabone/knucklebone/silver spoon in their mouth. All these dogs deserve a happy ending, and we work to get it for them all.

Recycling, of a sort

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 by kara

So Jes and I were just talking about where we get all our useful information these days (why, the interwebz, o’ course) and she asked a rhetorical question: “Who uses a telephone book anymore these days?” And I said “I use mine. The thick ones. I’ve stacked them up to make an elevated water bowl stand for the kids (dogs).”

And when we get the new ones, I’ll get fancy and tape them together with strapping tape, and wrap them in a piece of old vinyl tablecloth to keep them nice & dry. Sooo, it’s kind of sort of recycling, because I wouldn’t be using the phone books any other way.  And it’s being frugal because I won’t have to go spend money on an elevated watering bowl for the dogs–I’m just using what I have here at the house. (Always, Gentle Readers, always keep packing tape on hand in your household.  The uses are myriad.)

My next question would be “does this count as being a craft project?”  I guess it could, if I used a really nice vinyl tablecloth…