Friday, November 19, 2010

New, ridiculous way to scam animal lovers...

Just how dumb do they think we are: I received this email this morning, and cannot believe the cajone's - please DO NOT fall for this scam:

sandra's Flag is: United States


Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001

From: Agent Alex Harrington
Animal Abuse Complaint Center (AC3)

Attn Sir/ Madam,

Following the recently reported animal abuse matter,we wish to inform you that we the Federal Bureau of Investigation are aware of your stolen pet. Animal Abuse Complaint Center (AC3) choose to reach you through this medium of communication irrespective of the fact that it has been greatly abused. (AC3 accepts Animal abuse complaints from either the person who believes their animal where abused or from a third party to the complainant.)My name is Agent Alex Harrington of the FBI.

I write to inform you that we receive a complaint about some Animal abuse attempt which involves you and some culprit.this complain has been reviewed and approved for immediate actions.this complain came to us as a result of a young girl who does not support other ways brought a report against her two brothers who gamble with the heart of innocent people by stilling their family pet and run to another state.Meanwhile,once a family is victimized by this act, kids who are close friends to their family pet are been put in a perpetual sad mood.this is a crime.

The United States Law that guides Animal abuse related crimes says that a thief caught in such act must pay a fine of $5,000 to the owners of the pet for damages. Therefore,to expedite actions in your favor and to avoid your pet been harm, you are to immediately pay to the attorney in charge of Animal abuse cases a legal fee of $450 to have your matter registered and filed against the culprit so this fine will be paid to you and as well have your pet returned back to you. once you are able to meet up with this payment,we the FBI will immediately move for the arrest of the culprit in your favor since we have already dictated where this hoodlums are hiding with your family animal..

Please note that the AC3'is a new commission which is been sponsored by the FBI.our mission is to serve as a vehicle to receive, develop, recover stolen animals back to the owner and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of Animal related crimes. The AC3 gives the victims of animal crimes a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations. For law enforcement and regulatory agencies at the federal, state, local and international level, AC3 also provides a central referral mechanism for complaints involving Animal related crimes.and please, w
hat we need from you is the truth and noting but the truth.... Good Luck.

We request that you provide the following information for proper clarification:

Your full name:_____________________
Your mailing address:________________
Your mobile number:_________________
Your Age and Sex:___________________
Your Occupation:____________________
The state were you leave presently:_______

You are also advised to answer The below questions accordingly.

Have you truly lost a pet? if yes,
When and where exactly did your pet got missing? ____
What kind of animal are you looking for?__________________
Can you send the recent picture of the pet which you have lost?_________

Fill appropriately and forward to me immediately.
Indicate if you are making the payment of $450 so we can send you our payment method.

Best Regards,
Alex Harrington
Below is our Website but it is still under construction.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If you haven't seen it already, The American Dog magazine has launched the Humanitarian Awards - if you haven't voted already, you have until December 5, 2010 - and you can vote every day until then. There are some names you'll no doubt recognize like Best Friends Animal Society, Nathan Winograd, Rescue Ink and Shorty Rossie, as well as some you might not know - Tamira Thayne & Dawn Ashby of Dogs Deserve Better, Pinups for PitBulls, Surf Dog Ricochet and Sarge the Elderbull.

Even though I read and write about this stuff pretty much every day, I was still amazed by the number of people (and dogs) involved in helping dogs and the number of dogs helping people too. The categories range from general rescue groups, special interest groups (ending puppy mills or unchaining dogs), "spokesdogs" therapy dogs and service dog organizations. One concern close to my heart is also one of the largest categories: "Voice for Saving the Pit Bulls".

(One name that is missing is Mimi Ausland, the founder of, although their sponsor Halopets is listed. If you haven't signed up for your daily FreeKibble reminder do - two simple questions a day - learn a bit and donate a bit for free.)

While it's not clear if the winners are going to receive a huge cash prize for their cause-of-choice, the publicity, discussion and awareness raised is great too. In a way, the Humanitarian Awares are another "awareness event", which are as important for the education the public as they are for placing pets or raising money.

So please do vote every day and get to know some of the individuals and groups you don't see on TV or read about in the headlines. Share some of the links on Twitter or Facebook and email a few friends or better yet your government representatives a few interesting articles. Sign up for a blog or two. Make a small donation.

Working together we can improve the lot of dogs everywhere.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dogs and Death

My Auntie sent me the clip below from Dr Michael Fox's newspaper column. Once I wiped the tears away, I realized it needed to be shared. Too many of us (me too, at one time) don't think about whether dogs miss the friends THEY lose along life's journey.

I didn't start thinking about how dogs react to loss until Ben and I lost little George. They didn't get along in life - my bad - and I never thought young Ben would miss little, old crotchety George when she died. It wasn't until I saw Ben crying as if his heart would break when by chance we saw a dog who looked a bit like George that I I started asking questions. My friend and dog walker said, "Ben cries like that every time we see a little gray dog when we're walking." The vet and behaviorist I consulted weren't surprised - they both said that many dogs feel loss as much as we do, and we need to be more aware, more responsible and more comforting.

When I saw the article my Aunt sent me, I remembered Ben and George, and started thinking about all the dogs who are separated from human, canine, feline or other "friends", with no goodbyes, no explanations, and no understanding when the sad, confused and perhaps frightened dog goes off the rails:

- When a dog "couple" is separated due to death or the breakup of a human relationship.

- When dogs enter a "shelter" as a "couple" or become "friends", but aren't adopted together.

- When a dog is next to a compatible dog in a "shelter", and his neighbor is euthanized. (Do dogs suffer the canine-equivalent of "survivor's guilt"?)

- When puppy mill mothers and puppies are separated without due care to proper weening.

- When dogs in laboratories watch the dog in the next cage disappear for the "final" experiment.

- And of course, when a beloved human dies, and the dog doesn't realize their master or mistress isn't coming back.

Here's the article - apologies for the quality, but I couldn't find it on-line:

I did find one very interesting article on Dogster, discussing Dr. Fox's article, as well as the subject of dogs and grief: When a Dog Loses a Loved One: An Interview with Dr. Michael W. Fox.

The next time you suffer the loss of a loved one, take a moment to consider how it effects your dog. If you're ending a relationship, think about how your dog will be effected. If you're adopting a dog who has a long-term relationship with a fur-friend, seriously consider keeping the partnership together.

And everyday, remember that critters have feelings too...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thoughts on Proposition B Missoui's "Anti-Puppy Mill" Legislation

Update November 5: This legislation did indeed pass! Now we need to make sure these laws are fairly enforced AND that similar legislation is passed elsewhere.

Update November 9: They aren't going to let this go, there are efforts a-foot to repeal Proposition B. Guess the fight isn't over yet...

November 2, Missouri will vote on Proposition B, legislation designed to crack down on irresponsible large-scale breeders. Last week I posted a few comments from organizations who are opposed to this bill - this week I've tried to respond to their "concerns"

The Tea Bag Party - "The society (HSUS) seeks only to raise the cost of breeding dogs, making it ever-more difficult for middle-class American families to be dog-owners."

As a very rough estimate, there are over 4,000,000 dogs in shelters, with rescue groups and running stray who are looking for homes. Over 2,000,000 dogs enter the system every year. Over half of those dogs will be euthanised. Around 25% are purebred. Although there aren't any statistics on the number of puppies who find their way into rescues/shelters, there are generally litters available, if you look hard enough.

In our life-times, and in our children's life-times, the chances are very good there will be hundreds of thousands of dogs, affordable dogs, looking for homes. They may not be purebred, show quality dogs, they may not be puppies, but they will be good dogs in need of good homes, and they will be affordable.

And breeders of
good quality dogs charge two, three or even four times more than the cost of a dog at a rescue, shelter or the local pound. Pet shops charge even more than a good, local breeder, and they're willing to charge purebred prices for what are essentially "mutts" - e.g. mix-breed dogs. Financially sensible middle-class owners can't afford dogs today, controlling large-scale breeders won't change that!

Missouri Federation of Animal Owners - "Our goal has always been and shall always be to protect the rights of animal owners and enthusiasts against the devastating effects of the animal rights movement."

Proposition B is about protecting animals from pain, suffering and even death, quite frequently protecting them from the "owners" and "enthusiasts" themselves - people who breed dogs in deplorable conditions. Any animal owner worthy of having an animal would be sickened by the conditions the dogs this legislation is designed to protect are subjected to.

In reality, this legislation IS protecting dog owners and enthusiasts. There are thousands of dog owners who adopt badly-breed dogs and spend thousands of dollars and endless hours of grief trying to cope with products of irresponsible breeders. Proposition B IS protecting the rights of animal owners, ensuring their right to have a healthy, well-bred, well-socialized companion.

United For Missouri - "... Proposition B is an economic question as well as one of basic liberty."

Yes, it is economic and it's about liberty. It's about abolishing the "right" to make an easy profit at the expensive of a fellow living creature (be it dog or the human that adopts a dog). What kind of person wants economic prosperity or liberty at the expense of the pain and suffering of another?

Proposition B is about the cost of medical care, training and resolution of behavioral issues, excessive costs paid by owners who've been duped into buying a substandard dog. Proposition is about the "liberties" of the potential owners, who should have the right to adopt a well-breed, healthy, happy, stable puppy.

Missouri Farm Bureau
- "HSUS has introduced Proposition B as a means of eliminating the legal, licensed professional dog breeders in Missouri."

Dog breeders are not being banned by this legislation - the size of breeding operations are restricted, basic conditions for comfort, health and welfare are prescribed. Professional dog breeding isn't being eliminated - large, unprofessional breeders are going to have to start using a bit of common sense, compassion and become honest, ethical business people.

Missouri Veterinary Medical Association - "The issue of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act has come about because breeding facilities that are unlicensed are not being regulated or inspected."

No doubt this is true, there are individuals in every industry who evade and avoid the law. However, Proposition B seeks to tighten the regulations for all breeders - good breeders have nothing to worry about, bad breeders and unlicensed breeders alike will be required to become responsible breeders or find another line of work.

The Alliance for Truth
- "It is not unusual for outside interests to try to impose their will on the people of Missouri."

Throughout history, "outside interests" have "imposed their will" to make changes for the better. The French aided the revolutionaries who founded this country. Americans fought overseas to free Europe from the Nazis. Every day Americans exert their influence in numerous countries around the world in the name of religion, human rights and even animal welfare. If the rest of the United States - the rest of the world - are "imposing their will" to end the suffering of dogs in Missouri, perhaps it's time for the special interest groups in Missouri to listen.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) - "... (the provisions in) Missouri Proposition B do absolutely nothing to improve the wellbeing (sic) of animals; instead, it would add excessive expenses to responsible breeders who strive to produce well-bred family pets."

Funnily enough, good breeders in other states don't seem to be suffering from "excessive expenses" in producing superior dogs for the show ring or for pets. Most good breeders admit financial considerations aren't why they breed dogs, and indeed they frequently lose money - their interest is in improving the breed, not making money mass-producing puppies.

Missouri Pet Breeders Association (MPBA): News - No comment

Perhaps they know they just don't have a leg to stand on....

My take on Proposition B? If these organizations, especially the AKC and the Missouri Pet Breeders Association object to this legislation, it's up to them to police their own members and to ensure that ALL dog breeders ARE members. If they spent as much effort fighting side-by-side with the groups who are concerned with the welfare of dogs AND dog owners, we might actually get something done!

I am NOT a fan of excessive legislation, but when there's a complete failure of compassion and common sense, especially where innocent lives are at risk, especially when the responsible parties prefer to turn a blind eye to the suffering of human and animal like, perhaps legislation is the only way forward.

So if you live in Missouri, please vote on November 2 to support this initiative. Adopt, don't buy, your next dog or puppy. Thoroughly investigate any breeder you choose to do business with, and see how their animals are cared for. Report substandard breeders and support GOOD breeders - they do exist!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In Defence of Pit Bulls

Dino Dogan is promoting yet another Kenn Bell video (of "The Other Heroes of 9/11" fame), this time supporting the much maligned breed, the Pit Bull.

Let me be perfectly clear - IMHO Pit Bulls are not monsters, killers, vicious, evil or dangerous. I know because I work with dogs, and a kennel full of Pit Bulls is MUCH easier to deal with than a kennel full of Labradors or lap dogs.

Anyone who fuels the fires of prejudice against any breed (or race, creed or color), for fun, profit or cruelty is, pardon my French, a foutue idiote.

Let's use some common sense.

Let's ignore the press whipping up Pit Bull hysteria to sell papers.

Let's ignore uninformed and misinformed politicians trying to score points with uninformed and misinformed constituents.

Let's start treating Pit Bulls like dogs, and not like devils incarnate.

Let's not condemn all Pit Bulls because of the actions of a few bad owners.

Let's put an end to dog fighting.

Let's make Pit Bull Terriers a AKC recognized breed.

Let's end Breed Specific Legislation.

If you have never met a Pit Bull, please don't form an opinion until you do. Please do talk to someone who really knows the breed and who is a responsible dog owner.

By the way October 23 is Pit Bull Awareness Day - Let's Celebrate America's Dog!

Here are just a few other Pit Bull supporters, and a much better source of information than the guy down the street:

Pinups for Pit Bulls
Shorty's Pit Bull Rescue
Cesar Milan
Pit Bulls
Bull Dog Breeds
Pit Bull Rescue Central
Luv A Bull Pit Bull Rescue and Sanctuary
Don't Bully My Breed
Working Pit Bull Terrier Club of America
National American Pit Bull
Best Friends Animal Rescue

You can follow Dino Dogan on Twitter and Facebook. Follow Kenn via his website, The Dog Files.

Monday, October 11, 2010

OMG! I'm becoming a CAT person!!!

I love animals, which is why I gave up a high-paying job as a technical writer to work with and write about critters. My preference has always been dogs - I could live without cats, but I only lasted three days without having a dog in the house.

However, since Piglet has entered my life, I think I'm becoming a cat person. He's out of his crate most of the time now, and has taken to sleeping with me, occasionally reaching out a gentle paw to touch my nose. So far, he's restricted the kamikaze attacks to waking hours - thank goodness I have frequent bouts of insomnia.

He comes when called better than Mac does, and everyone is amused when I yell "Sooo-eee, here Pig, Pig, Pig!", and he comes trotting out from wherever he's hiding.

Pig makes good use of his log and scratch toy, and hasn't wrecked any furniture, curtains or carpeting. If anyone says they won't adopt a cat or insist on declawing their kitty because cats are so destructive, you might point out that cats CAN learn to claw where you want them to claw. Destruction is NOT a valid excuse for refusing to adopt a cat, or for mutilating their poor little feet!

My dog, Mac, spends most of her time sleeping unless she wants out or to be fed - Piglet comes up at random times just to have his chin scratched, or to sit on my lap or keyboard. I refuse to believe it's because of the treats I have on my desk...

Whether it's gratitude for his rescue or because gray male cats do make good pets, Piglet is turning into a wonderful addition to the family. He is turning me into a cat person, and there are pluses and minuses to my new attitude:

The Plus Side

  • I love fostering, and I can take in more cats than dogs.
  • Cats are more independent and somewhat more tolerant of being left alone.
  • Cats are cheaper than dogs - "fixing", inoculations, food, leashes and toys cost less - especially since I lean towards BIG dogs. -
  • Cats play with anything - Piglet's current favorite "toy" is a piece of uncooked spaghetti.
The Negatives :
  • There are so many cats, it's difficult to find them homes - I might become a crazy cat lady.
  • Cleaning the litter box has never been one of my favorite jobs - it's bad enough with two cats, if I end up being a crazy cat lady, it will be my ONLY job!
  • I like traveling with my pets, but while it's relatively easy with dogs, I'm still trying to get my head around traveling with a cat.
  • I have enough trouble teaching my dogs what I expect, most cats don't give a soggy sardine about learning anything - I suspect Pig is a savant!
I'll never give up my dogs, but now I think I'll always have to have a cat or two in my life as well. Sadly, there are so many homeless kitties out there, I don't think I'll ever have to worry about NOT finding at least one to love...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This blog is a cheat...

I regularly receive emails with humorous animal pictures, and I love them - they're a great change from of the sad and frequently horrific stories I read. Here are a few of my favorites:

The side effects of deforestation:

And he complained when I rescued a kitten!:

The power nappers:

Did I miss anything?:

This global warming thing really gets me down...:

I'll never drink again... till next time...:

Breathe, damn you, breathe!:

Cats don't know that sometimes discretion is the better part of valor:

And perhaps my favorite, the dangerous dog attack:

I hope these brought a smile. If you send me one of your favorites, I might just add it to the end of this post.

Have a happy day and give your critter(s) a hug from me.

Friday, October 8, 2010

In support of Missouri's Proposition B

On November 2, 2010 Missourians will have the chance to vote on, Proposition B, legislation designed to improve conditions for dogs in large-scale breeding facilities - 10 breeding dogs or more. If passed, operators will be required to provide basic care to the dogs they own. Basic care is defined as:
  • yearly veterinary care, prompt attention for injury or illness
  • clean cages
  • sufficient space in cages
  • proper food
  • clean water
  • shelter from the elements (it can get very hot and very cold in Missouri)
  • exercise
  • a break from breeding between heat cycles (no more than two litters in 18 months).
Operations will also be limited to 50 "covered" (older than six months with intact sexual organs) dogs.

(If you've been living under a rock (or in a very small cage) you might not know that Missouri produces about a third of the puppies born in America.)

Various groups are against this legislation - I've included some of the more interesting comments. Please don't just read the comments out of context, click on a few of the links too.

The Tea Bag Party - "The society (HSUS) seeks only to raise the cost of breeding dogs, making it ever-more difficult for middle-class American families to be dog-owners."

Missouri Federation of Animal Owners - "Our goal has always been and shall always be to protect the rights of animal owners and enthusiasts against the devastating effects of the animal rights movement."

United For Missouri - "... Proposition B is an economic question as well as one of basic liberty."

Missouri Farm Bureau
- "HSUS has introduced Proposition B as a means of eliminating the legal, licensed professional dog breeders in Missouri."

Missouri Veterinary Medical Association - "The issue of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act has come about because breeding facilities that are unlicensed are not being regulated or inspected."

The Alliance for Truth
- "It is not unusual for outside interests to try to impose their will on the people of Missouri."

The American Kennel Club - "... (the provisions in) Missouri Proposition B do absolutely nothing to improve the wellbeing of animals; instead, it would add excessive expenses to responsible breeders who strive to produce well-bred family pets."

Missouri Pet Breeders Association: News - No comment

Personally... well you probably know how I feel about this legislation. I won't try to sway you - yet - just look at the arguments put forth by those who oppose Proposition B. I wanted to give them their day in court, let their side be heard. Next time, I'll discuss each of their positions, as I see them.

(And notice please that I didn't use the emotionally-charged phrase usually associated with this issue. You know the one I mean....)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And now for something completely different... Indian Burial Grounds

While I do enjoy writing about helping critters, I occasionally find myself thinking about topics that are totally off-topic, and wishing I had the time, energy and ideas to write numerous blogs on a wide variety of subjects. Such was the case this evening, when I was invited to come take a look at a local Indian - Native American - burial site.

It's very small, off the beaten track and probably not of any great historical significance (John Wayne never starred in a movie based in Michigan after all), but the site is of local interest, with links to a former Michigan governor, Henry H. Crapo. As a scared Chippewa site, I feel the rescue and restoration efforts must do something to help the local karma too. And believe you me, in mid-Michigan, we need all the good karma we can get.

We drove down a small farm track to a small grouping of ancient pine trees on a slight rise. In our unprofessional and amateur opinion the trees must have been planted around the time of the earliest known grave - Chief Wabaness's father in 1864 - although the land had been used by the tribe before 1860. Strangely enough, rather than the usual poison ivy which is so common in this part of the world, the ground is covered with vinca (periwinkle). While the area is mostly farmland, the burial site is surrounded by either brushy trees, swamp or large bedroom-community homes.

There are only a couple dozen graves which are marked with simple sandstone slabs and wooden crosses. Unfortunately in the 70's the local youths adopted the site as a party spot and destroyed the original markers. Fortunately a local resident, George Cook, had drawn a simple map of the site a few years earlier, so the location of many of the graves, including the earliest grave which belongs to Chief Wabaness's father, are known. Attempts to locate any fragments of the original markers have failed, despite the efforts of Bill Morgan, whose dedicated efforts have driven the rehabilitation of this historic site.

But humans weren't the only vandals. A fox has made a home under one of the pines, and our guide said when last he visited there was a leg bone outside the den. "Rabbit?" I asked naively. "No," he replied pointing to his own leg, "human." Either the graves are very shallow, or the fox is very industrious. No attempt has been made to dissuade the fox however - he even has his own maker: "Fox Den, Do Not Disturb".

But what impressed me about the burial ground is the community spirit which made the restoration happen. Locals came together to save a bit of history and culture which would have otherwise been lost. The work has all been done by volunteers - Native American, "European Americans", and probably Mexican and African Americans too. The materials and the equipment to improve the site have all been donated, and the land was donated as well, again through the persuasion of Mr. Morgan.

It impresses me that in this day and age, with the local economy gone down the poopper, people living hectic lives have given their time and their money to preserve something special. Over the last few years I've seen similar efforts elsewhere, run by dedicated local enthusiasts with a mission, ambition and commitment to do good. A massive bell for the local veteran's memorial. The relocation and complete restoration of a train depot. The preservation of a historic theater destroyed by arson.

But preserving local history or honoring local heroes aren't the only ways volunteers can make their little patch a better place to live.

Come on, you didn't really think I'd write something without dragging things back to how we can help critters, did you? Especially with the bit about the fox...

Volunteering and donations are wonderful ways to help animals too. The projects mentioned above had a core of almost full-time volunteers, but also had time, materials and equipment usage donated by others who spent a just few hours helping out once or twice a month, gave a few dollars or a bit of fencing/lumber/paint/metal, or loaned the use of a tractor, truck or power washer.

Please consider helping out a local project - or a local animal charity. It doesn't need to take a lot of time or money, but you will help to preserve a bit of history, honor those who need to be honored or you may even save a life or two - or twelve!

As an aside and back to the issue of karma, I hope I haven't messed mine up tonight. I have a stone from the site sitting on my desk, given to me by our guide, Kenneth Gallagher, who is also a long-time family friend and drinking buddy (a story for a completely different blog). While we volunteered to assist with the next project (moving a large pile of dirt), and respected tribal custom by leaving an offering of crushed tobacco, I am worried that removing the stone might not have been appreciated by the "occupants". I meant no disrespect, but wanted a piece of history for my own memory garden, which is filled with stones from our travels. But if I have any strange dreams tonight, that stone's going right back tomorrow....

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Coping With the Kamikaze Kitty

Earlier this year I rescued and subsequently adopted Piglet, a tiny, shy kitten someone dumped (probably) in our front yard, in the country, on a busy road. Tiny kitten + dumped + country + busy road = death sentence, as anyone with an ounce of sense would have, should have realized.

Pig is now about four months old now, not so tiny and certainly not so shy. I think he must be in the kitty-equivalent of the "terrible-twos". Piglet has become the Kamikaze Kitty.

While I don't know much about dogs, and I'm certainly not a professional, I am somewhat used to what they do, and I can pretty much cope with their various behaviors. The puppies I've raised and have worked with had their "terrible-twos" too, but it wasn't like this.

I know Pig is becoming a very good kitten really. He comes when he's called, doesn't use his claws when he plays with me (mostly) and has stopped biting me when I pick him up (mostly). He's getting along with the dogs, and is trying to get along with the resident cat (she's a bit bitchy). He doesn't claw the furniture or the curtains (we're still working on the houseplants). He also "helps" me by discovering new functionality in the various MacBook programs I use.

What I haven't been able to overcome are his Kamikaze missions. When I'm not paying attention - working at the computer or cooking dinner, or even just walking from one room to another with a hot cup of coffee, he runs at me, grabs my leg with his claws and bites HARD, then tears off. I'm always caught off guard, swear loudly and feel a total failure at dealing with an unwanted behavior.

When I'm not really busy, I grab my squirt bottle in one hand and my bag of treats in the other and work on "breaking" this habit of his, and it seems to be working. I walk back and forth - if he attacks, I squirt, when he doesn't, he gets lots of treats, praise and attention.

The problem is A) sometimes I'm busy and can't/don't care to be interrupted by Kamikazes or training a cat, B) I suspect Pig does these things for attention, which he certainly gets, and C) Piglet is focused on his "mission" more than I've ever been able to focus on anything, ever. I know all of these things and I'm still frustrated by my lack of time, patience and failure to understand and remember what cats need.

If feel like I can't cope, how do "average" pet parents deal with pet "problems"? What right do I have to be scornful of pet parents who don't follow my advice, when I don't always follow it myself?

And the sad truth is that many pet parents don't deal with the "problems". Too many "bad" pets are subjected to a lack of training, bad, cruel or outdated training methods, or a quick trip to the pound (or dumped in someone else's front yard. We buy expensive toys, but don't spend time playing with our fur-kids. Dogs are labeled hyperactive, cats are labeled anti-social. Dogs are confined to crates for their crimes, kitties are booted outdoors. And we humans blame them, go on with our lives without regard for the animals WE'VE invited into our homes, and the "superior" species refuses to take responsibility when things go wrong. The animals suffer.

Which brings me to the track on the broken record I seem to be playing lately. When you adopt a pet, you take the good with the bad AND you accept responsibility for spending the time, money and effort to ensure they have what they need - attention, exercise, training, restrictions. You train them to be the pet you want them to be, but accept that they are still dogs, cats, parrots or ferrets.

When I give this little lecture to myself, Pig becomes a little less of a menace and becomes an opportunity to learn, which makes the bites and scratches a little less painful. I remember to perform "random acts of positive reinforcement" (thanks to Deborah Flick), and keep treats stashed around the house just in case. I remember to watch for the signs that a Kamikaze attack is on it's way (spooky-kitty back and tail, poofy hair, wide pupils) and take a defensive posture. I try to avoid causing Pig to go Kamikaze through my own actions - playing too rough or making inciting motions/noises when he's already wound-up. And I keep Piglets nails trimmed - much less painful for everyone.

In other words, I try to remember to be a better pet-parent.

Am I perfect? Hell no! I'm still learning and anticipate I'll be a student for a very, very long time. But I've taken the first step - I've accepted responsibility for my own part in Pig's behavior and for the life I invited into my world. It's what I would advise all pet-parents to do...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week

September 19 through 25 is Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet week. What classifies an animal as a "less adoptable pet"?
  • Old
  • Black
  • Big
  • Health problems (missing limbs, eyes, deafness, HIV-positive, diabetic)
  • An "unacceptable" breed (Rotties, Pit Bull-types, Dobbies, Dogo Argentino)
  • Shy, anti-social or "only" pets
However, these are all very poor reasons indeed for NOT adopting an animal with one or more of these issues.

While some of these characteristics may require a bit of work on your part, not only are you going to save a life, but the feeling that comes with helping an animal overcome their issues is well worth the effort. I know, I've adopted one dog that meets ALL of these requirements to be labeled as "less-adoptable" - and she stinks to high-heavens most of the time too! The joy of turning an old, black, overweight Pit Bull mix with health and socialization issues into a happy, trusting and healthier dog has been more than ample payment.

Spudz was a reject - her owners wanted her and her canine pal euthanized because they were no longer wanted. Fortunately, a local rescue group saved her and when I was told "She's old, overweight and not much to look at" I knew she was the dog for me. Spudz was indeed old, overweight, had hip and back problems, smelled very, very bad and at age six or seven she wasn't housetrained. She wouldn't eat, drink or go potty if I was looking. She would hit the ground shaking if you had a belt in your hand. And she was black too, although I actually prefer black animals as they go with most of my clothing!

It took months (and the adoption of my Mad-Mac) before Spudz started being a normal dog - and sleeping on the sofa, which is the best place for a dog to be. She still isn't totally housetrained, and starts smelling just a few days after her baths. She loves walks and is at a decent weight, but despite the gentle ministrations of my chiropractor, her back continues to deteriorate. With coming out of her shell came little naughty behaviors like counter-surfing and stealing treats off the coffee table. But the important thing is that a less-adoptable pet is happy.

So please consider passing by the perfect Golden puppy or the bouncy adolescent tiger kitty and take a look at the older, black Pit Bull or an HIV cat. You won't be sorry...

Blogging for Dogs - Donations complements of Pedigree

Just in the nick of time I discovered this opportunity to help a few homeless dogs, complements of Pedigree. I had just discovered a new Twitter user named Mikey and his blog, which is great, albeit a bit frightening - A) I always thought the dogs were on our side B) He looks a LOT like my own fur-child, Mac:

But I digress...

Pedigree is generously donating a 20 pound bag of food for every blog written, but the deadline is today September 19, so get busy blogging! It's a part of their Adopt A Dog program, with a goal of ending "doglessness" - the suffering of humans suffering from a lack of a dog in their life. "I Love Rescue Animals" lists the blogs who have participated so far, and there is a link at the end so you can add your blog to the list.

You can also help by becoming a fan of Pedigree on Facebook - they'll donate one bowl of food for each new fan until the end of 2010. You might also want to follow them on Twitter.

Many pet food companies make donations to help animals and humans in need, and Pedigree is one of the best. I could be my usually cynical self and just assume it's all a marketing ploy, but between the commercials, the Pedigree Foundation, their Internet campaigns to help homeless dogs and the good info on their site, I think they're pretty sincere.

This was possibly one of the easiest blog entries AND easiest donations to my favorite cause - Thanks Pedigree! And thank you to everyone who helps homeless and need dogs (and cats). Every little bit helps.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What living with a woolly mammoth can teach us about living with dogs

OK, so none of us have or ever will (probably) live with a hairy, ice-age elephant cousin, but watching a program on extinct, prehistoric animals got me thinking about our expectations in our relationships with dogs (and cats too).

I was having yet another fit of insomnia, and while channel surfing I discovered "Prehistoric Park" on Animal Planet. It's billed as docu-fiction, a kind of "Jurassic Park" meets "Hatri!", via "Timeline". A time-traveling zoologist (Nigel Marven) captures soon-to-be extinct animals and brings them back to the present day to live in his "exotic" animal sanctuary. As a sci-fi lover, and only news, sports and infomercials as alternatives, I decided to suspend my disbelief and watch.

As I joined the program, Nigel was collecting a woolly mammoth. The specimen was found starving and injured, mourning the loss of her herd-mate who had fallen in a kill-pit dug by cavemen. Nigel and his staff managed to get her back on her feet, through the time portal and into the safety of the Park. However, after several days it was apparent to the Park staff that the mammoth, named Martha, was unhappy and dying. I was silently screaming "She's a herd animal, why the hell are you keeping her isolated!!!", while Nigel and the staff veterinarian where trying new foods and doing blood tests. "Why do you go back and save her herd-mate?!?!?! For cryn'out loud, if you can go back once, why not go back again!?!?!" I mumbled under my breath.

In the next commercial break, I had a BFF (blinding flash of the obvious) - we humans, in our arrogance and ignorance don't always consider the needs of the animals we bring into our lives. We expect animals to set aside their basic natures in order to live in the world we want to live in.

Dogs are a case in point and particularly relevant to me, given the ongoing problems of my furry-friend, "Moose-boy". Dogs are social animals, yet we expect them to live much of their time alone, while we're out working and playing. We don't give them the attention, exercise, training, environments, food, toys they need because as "owners" we expect our dogs to forget their basic natures in order to live in the world WE want to live in.

Back to the program....

After several stressful moments and commercial breaks, Nigel and Co. finally decided that yes indeed, Martha needed friends. However, instead of going back in time for her friend, a "simpler" plan was agreed upon. They introduced Martha, a very woolly mammoth, to a herd of modern elephants. They did this through a rather flimsy looking 5 or 6 foot wooden fence. They talked a lot about how elephant herds will often kill a strange elephant if they don't like the look of her.

Yes I know this is science fiction and that Martha was a CGI - no one was going to get hurt. However, back in real world, we expect all sorts of animals to just get along, whether they're a good match or not, again, just because it's what WE want. Puppies and kittens aren't socialized properly and are intolerant of other animals and people. We take on a second or third animal without making proper introductions - or without considering whether our first dog or cat really WANT a friend. And we certainly demand our animals get along no matter what - at dog parks, on the street, at family gatherings - and then blame the critters when there are problems.

Back to the program...

The next hurdle for Martha was the temperature - the Park is in a rather warm climate and Martha is an ice-age animal. Do they ship her to another park in the Arctic? Do they walk her above the snow line of one of the local mountains? Nope - they give her a hair cut!

How many cold-climate dogs (Newfoundland, Husky, St. Bernard, for example) suffer through the summer in Florida, Texas or southern California? How many of these normally shaggy dogs get buzz cuts to help them through the summer heat? Again, we don't take our animal's needs, we attempt to mold them into what WE want them to be.

The next time you think about adopting a new pet or if you're having issues with a pet you already live with, please think about what THEY need to be happy, not just trying to get them to change to suit you. I'm certainly not recommending that you spoil them rotten, but consider their needs first, even if it means changing YOUR lifestyle.

(If I could go back in time, I would certainly get Moose-boy's friend before she disappeared....)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Other Heroes of 9/11

I won't say anything about the history or the never-ending controversies of the 9/11 tragedy - I only know enough to have opinions which come straight from the gut. It was a tragedy, it should not have happened and I hope the world never experiences anything like it ever again.

But I will ask you to remember the heroes of September 11, specifically the 300+ canine heroes who assisted with the search and rescue operations, including Sirius, who died on the day. These dogs worked side by side with their human partners, they suffered exhaustion, injuries, post traumatic stress and depression, and there were rumors that they also suffered abnormal high rates of cancer and respiratory disease.

Today, more dogs are still working - and dying - in the mess which is the result of 9/11. Dogs work in airports, train stations, on borders, in shipping ports - anywhere security is an issue. Dogs work in Afghanistan and Iraq, their lives are on the front lines protecting their human counterparts, guarding bases and looking for bombs. Dogs work as therapists, helping veterans overcome physical and psychological problems. And pet dogs wait patiently for the return of their masters and mistresses.

We owe dogs so much and they ask so little. So when you remember the Twin Towers on Saturday, remember the canine heroes too. When you remember the men and women who are fighting now as the result of that horrific day, remember the dogs who protect them, help them and wait for them to come home again.

My Twitter-friend, fellow blogger and dog lover Dino Dogan asked several of us to post this moving tribute to those search and rescue workers, put together by Ken Bell of The Dog Files. Please watch and pass it on, but have tissues at the ready.

And please, let us find the strength, compassion and understanding to learn to live in peace with one another.

You can follow Dino Dogan on Twitter and Facebook.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Plea for a Canine Friend

Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail. - Kinky Friedman

I've started writing this several times over the last few months, and I've never really been satisfied. It's been a rant on a particular situation and a diatribe on what seems to be a way of life for many. It's been a plea to potential dog parents in general, and a plea to a particular dog owner who I am all too well acquainted with.

But tonight, as I sit listening to a sad, lonely, uncertain dog who is just a few feet away from a place where he could feel happy, find company and feel secure, this piece has become a little bit of all of those failed attempts.

Please forgive me if it gets too personal.

My canine friend sits next door, his pet "parent" has left for the evening. Moose-boy, as I affectionately call him, probably hasn't been fed - "He's got food all the time, I don't starve my dog" is what I hear, despite the fact that the vet and others have pointed out that Moose is about 20 pounds underweight and still losing, and that sometimes dogs just want something different. I should also mention that when Moose arrived in my life, he came without food, treats, toys or bowls, and so we winged it with what my dogs eat for over a month - maybe he's decided he just wasn't getting what he wanted. I do feed him with my own dogs whenever he's with us, although it doesn't seem to be helping.

Moose has also gone through some very traumatic changes in the last six months, and his "parent" has done little if anything to address his symptoms of severe separation anxiety. He lost his home, his "dad", his canine companion (traded for a motorcycle) and his routine. "He's just got to learn to deal with it - I've got to work/go out/get on with my life" is Owner's point of view. There's been no attempt to rework obedience lessons, or to follow the commonly recommended separation anxiety protocols.

Owner doesn't see the need for Moose to have more than 5 minutes in the morning to attend to "business" - "I take an hour to wake up" or "I'd have to give up my visit with Dad every morning" are the usual excuses. Moose puts up a fuss if I walk my dog without taking him (I think removing a window air conditioner or eating a screen window counts as a "fuss"), so I sneak him out when I can, and on a daily basis it's obvious his "business" wasn't done in those 5 minutes.

Moose has the additional stress of being very near things he enjoys the most - a place to run, people to hang out with and dog friends too. So not only is he NOT being taught how to cope with being alone, he's being tempted by the very things he desperately wants - no matter how quietly the rest of us sneak around and no matter how many barriers his human erects.

(And as a very personal aside, all the help and assistance I offer is being turned down because Owner doesn't like me - but that's a whole 'nother story....)

So apart from getting all this aggravation off my chest, what's the point of all of this?

It's a plea for my friend, and for all of the other pets in the world who need us.

When we take animals into our lives, just as when we take on any other responsibility, we take on ALL the things necessary to make their lives as comfortable as possible, even if our lifestyles are disrupted. That includes feeding, helping them adjust to changes, proper exercise and potty time, and not tormenting them with things they can't have (or denying them what they could have just because we don't feel like it!).

Being a pet-parent means being responsible for another living creature. If you take an animal into your life, please be sure you are willing to care for them for their entire life OR be willing to take the time and effort to find someone who will. Don't abdicate that responsibility and don't let pride or personal differences get in the way of being responsible.

And if you know of anyone who would love a large, goofy GSD who's great with other dogs, cats, children and humans, but who needs a bit of help with being alone, please let me know... I would love to find a real home for my canine friend.

PS. Moose is on the maximum dose of Clomicalm, and has been checked for all the standard things which might cause weight-loss and anxiety.

09-28-10 One month later and Moose is either with someone OR locked in an airline crate, sometimes for hours. When he's in his crate, he howls almost constantly. Because it isn't technically illegal - he has food, water, shelter - there is nothing else to do legally if Owner doesn't come to their senses.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Introducing Piglet or "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished"

A little over a month ago, I was out front weeding and keeping an eye on the dogs when I heard a loud, pitiful, "meee-yowl" from the shrubs. I assumed it was the granddaughter's wayward kitty, until I caught a peek - it was a small gray kitten. Me being me, I tried calling the kitten out, and when that didn't work, I left food and water and waited.

After about 15 minutes, the kitten emerged to eat and drink, and it was a very small kitten indeed.

Several days passed, the kitten refused to come anywhere near me. No one came to claim "her", she was eating less and as we live on a very fast, busy road, I decided to bring out the live trap. It took about 12 hours before she was brave enough to try it, the trap finally snapped at about 5:00 am. At 9:00 am we were at the veterinarian's office. At 9:15 I learned "she" was a he, he was healthy and that long-haired (he's a short-hair, sigh) gray males make wonderful pets (well, he is turning out to be pretty wonderful).

The kitten was installed in the spare room, in a large crate with food, water, litter and toys, so I could start socializing him while I worked. He did a lot of hissing at first, but soon decided that the large hands that brought food weren't going to hurt him. He started playing, and learned to enjoy being picked up and petted. He ate and pooped a lot. He learned to ignore the large dogs that came to visit him, and decided it was fun to swat them on the nose, safely behind bars.

He earned the name "Piglet" from the messes he made of toys, food, water and litter. I once watched him stand in the litter box, somehow moving all four feet in four different directions at once, scattering litter everywhere. He got a covered litter box the next day.

Once he was named it was pretty much inevitable - Piglet was here to stay - the only stipulation being that he NOT destroy clothing, furniture, carpeting or draperies, and that he NOT terrorize the existing feline population, an older, shy kitty named Cloe. I started letting him out of his crate when supervised so I could suggest (I don't think any cat cares to be "told" and certainly not Pig) different behavior when he started to claw things. When liberated he does the spooky Halloween kitty routine for 15 or 20 minutes, bouncing, hair puffed, back arched, eyes wild, swatting everything in reach. (Update: Pig is now liberated pretty much all day and most of the night - doing well except for the poisonous plants and waking me up at 2 or 3 in the morning just to say "Hi".)

Pig is learning to use his log and Turbo Cat Scratcher rather than the furnishings, but apparently I'm fair game - I have little bruises, scratches and bites just about everywhere. His favorite trick is to hide under the bed and strike when I walk back into the room, followed by jumping on my lap using all claws out just enough to really hurt. He does, however, generally keep his claws in when he swats and generally doesn't bite too hard - generally.

Pig uses the bed, dresser and my desk as a little race track, and when he knocks something off, he always looks back at me to observe my reaction. Everything is a toy, everything is interesting and everything needs to be investigated, including my glass of ice tea. For some reason he thinks the CD holder on my boom-box must be left open and the antenna in any position which results in loosing the signal.

I'm treat-training him to come when called, although playing his favorite game, "kitty fishing", with a string, my back scratcher and a bit of crinkly plastic works well too. He's already very good about having his nails trimmed and he's learning to wear a harness so he can go outside.

We don't know how Piglet arrived in our lives, we can only guess that someone dumped him out (my S.O. accuses me of doing it myself so I could have a kitty of my own). The vet guessed Pig was only six weeks old or so when we found him, and between the heat, lack of food and water, cars, coyotes and stray dogs, he would not have survived without our help. How anyone could be so cruel and uncaring is beyond my comprehension. Local shelters are full, but kittens do find homes if you try hard enough.

By the way, I know what I'll be asking for this Christmas - a trip to the vet for Piglet to be "fixed". It's not as exciting as the Lamborghini or pony I've been asking for, but it's a little more responsible, I think. (Update: Pig was taken care of mid-September, so no little Piggies will be available.)

Piglet's contribution to this post (apart from managing to delete several of the pictures I took - I haven't even figured out how to do that!):

"hjnnnnn cv".

Update November 6, 2010: Piglet is now over six months old, almost as big as his big sister, calico Cloe, and has calmed down a LOT! He sleeps on the pillow next to me every night, purrs most of the time, and apart two are three "mad half hours" a day, he's doing great!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Letter from a Shelter Manager

This is a "guest post" - a letter sent to me by Sara Warth Raven, a member of Death Row Dogs Worldwide.

It isn't an easy read.....

Letter from a Shelter Manager

I think our society needs a huge "Wake-up" call. As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all...a view from the inside if you will.

First off, all of you breeders/sellers should be made to work in the "back" of an animal shelter for just one day. Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don't even know.

That puppy you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when it's not a cute little puppy anymore. So how would you feel if you knew that there's about a 90% chance that dog will never walk out of the shelter it is going to be dumped at? Purebred or not! About 50% of all of the dogs that are "owner surrenders" or "strays", that come into my shelter are purebred dogs.

The most common excuses I hear are; "We are moving and we can't take our dog (or cat)." Really? Where are you moving too that doesn't allow pets? Or they say "The dog got bigger than we thought it would". How big did you think a German Shepherd would get? "We don't have time for her". Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs! "She's tearing up our yard". How about making her a part of your family? They always tell me "We just don't want to have to stress about finding a place for her we know she'll get adopted, she's a good dog".

Odds are your pet won't get adopted & how stressful do you think being in a shelter is? Well, let me tell you, your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off. Sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn't full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy. If it sniffles, it dies. Your pet will be confined to a small run/kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it. If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers in that day to take him/her for a walk. If I don't, your pet won't get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose. If your dog is big, black or any of the "Bully" breeds (pit bull, rottie, mastiff, etc) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door.

Those dogs just don't get adopted. It doesn't matter how 'sweet' or 'well behaved' they are.

If your dog doesn't get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed. If the shelter isn't full and your dog is good enough, and of a desirable enough breed it may get a stay of execution, but not for long . Most dogs get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment. If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because shelters just don't have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment.

Here's a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being "put-down".

First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk happy, wagging their tails. Until they get to "The Room", every one of them freaks out and puts on the brakes when we get to the door. It must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there, it's strange, but it happens with every one of them. Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 vet techs depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then a euthanasia tech or a vet will start the process. They will find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the "pink stuff". Hopefully your pet doesn't panic from being restrained and jerk. I've seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood and been deafened by the yelps and screams. They all don't just "go to sleep", sometimes they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves.

When it all ends, your pets corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back with all of the other animals that were killed waiting to be picked up like garbage. What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? You'll never know and it probably won't even cross your mind. It was just an animal and you can always buy another one, right?

I hope that those of you that have read this are bawling your eyes out and can't get the pictures out of your head I deal with everyday on the way home from work.

I hate my job, I hate that it exists & I hate that it will always be there unless you people make some changes and realize that the lives you are affecting go much farther than the pets you dump at a shelter.

Between 9 and 11 MILLION animals die every year in shelters and only you can stop it. I do my best to save every life I can but rescues are always full, and there are more animals coming in everyday than there are homes.


Hate me if you want to. The truth hurts and reality is what it is. I just hope I maybe changed one persons mind about breeding their dog, taking their loving pet to a shelter, or buying a dog. I hope that someone will walk into my shelter and say "I saw this and it made me want to adopt". THAT WOULD MAKE IT WORTH IT!

(A picture is worth a thousand words - this is very graphic, and not for the faint of heart....)

For those of you that care--- please repost this to at least one other craiglist in another city/state. Let's see if we can get this all around the US and have an impact.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Should dog-care workers be required to take competency tests?

(You mean they don't?)

Dog owners trust a variety of "professionals" to care for their dogs - veterinarians, vet techs, groomers, kennel workers, pet sitters, dog walkers, shelter/rescue workers, pet store clerks, trainers and behaviorists. Most dog owners - I know I made this assumption - think the people caring for their dogs are well trained and will give their dogs the same quality of care they receive at home.

In reality, the only animal care professionals who are required to be licensed are veterinarians, vet techs and nurses. Other dog-care workers may belong to an association - or not, may have received formal training - or not, may have received GOOD training - or not, may stay abreast of current developments in their field - or not.

This is not to say that certification or formal education guarantees that someone is qualified to work with dogs, as the case of Spork has shown us. It certainly doesn't mean mistakes won't happen - even the most qualified and conscientious professionals don't always do everything perfectly. And of course, accidents do happen.

But what dog owners - all pet owners - need to be aware of is the number of under-qualified, disinterested and even unscrupulous people who may be "caring" for their dogs. Even in professions where you would assume there would be some level of formal education - grooming or training for example - there are many self-taught, over-confident and under-qualified individuals passing themselves off as knowledgeable professionals.

And despite their claims of success and promises to fix or rehabilitate your dog, they may not really have the knowledge, the empathy or the personality to do what they claim they can do.

So how do you find someone you can trust? Find someone who belongs to an respected association. Get references. Check those references. Ask about experience and education. Ask about their training philosophy. Ask about how certain situations are handled. Make spontaneous visits to check on how your dog is being handled.

And if you suspect your dog has been a victim of poor handling, for example if they suffer from a drastic personality change after a visit to a kennel, groomer or trainer, don't assume the problem was caused there, BUT, do ask some pointed and direct questions.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In defense of Spork

I find myself getting caught up in new issues and causes on an almost daily basis since I've begin social networking. The latest is the case of Spork, a little Doxie who bit a veterinary technician, and who has subsequently been labeled a dangerous dog.

As with most things on the Internet, there's a lot of misinformation, hysteria, emotional outburst and a lot of weirdos have crept out from under the rocks they should really stay under.

But I digress....

It's wasn't easy getting through to the heart of the matter, but from what I've pieced together, Spork was at the Jasper Animal Hospital, where he's a regular patient, for a bit of dental work. The technician either reached to take him from the arms of his owner, or leaned too close to the dog's face with a pair of scissors and Spork bit the tech on the chin. The wounds were serious enough that the tech required a trip to the hospital and treatment from by a plastic surgeon.

The veterinarian says the dog had been nervous in previous visits, but that the dog did not have a record of aggressive behavior.

The incident was reported to officials by the hospital where the tech was treated - a legal requirement - and an animal control officer was sent to investigate. Spork's owners, Tim and Kelly Walker, received a ticket charging them with owning a "vicious dog" and have spent over $6,000 defending him.

Colorado state law prohibits animal care workers from filing charges against animal owners, but Lafayette officials say city laws permitting such charges apply.

The technician decided to "pursue charges" (one report says "file a report with the Police Department") an action the veterinarian supported, although he claims the veterinary hospital "has not advocated for, or participated in any way in subsequent decisions by the City of Lafayette to prosecute Spork's guardians".

A hearing is scheduled for sometime in April to decide Spork's fate.

If you're tempted to side with the technician in this case, here are a few things you need to keep in mind:

- Animal-care professionals know that animals frequently react badly (bite, kick, scratch or head-butt) when nervous or stressed.

- One of the earliest chapters in vet-tech text books involves safely restraining and handling nervous and/or potentially dangerous dogs.

- Many Dachshunds (along with many other little dogs) have a track record of being snappy.

- Experienced dog handlers never try to take an unfamiliar dog, especially a nervous dog, out of the owner's arms.

- You never stick your face in a dog's face unless you trust them explicitly.

- Legalities aside, if you work with dogs, and especially if you've actually been trained to work with dogs, you know the risks and accept them as a normal part of the job.

- An animal (or a person) is most dangerous when cornered.

Why this case is important...

Despite my concern for a little dog and the distress his family is experiencing, there's one reason every animal owner should be concerned about this case - it sets a dangerous precedent. It opens the door for other animal care professionals to pursue charges against owners if a pet injures them, whether the animal has a track record of "aggressive" behavior or not.

What you can do...

Following the story on Facebook or Twitter is fine, but if you're as concerned as I am, write to the veterinarian (snail mail) and to the Lafayette city officials. You might also consider making a donation to help cover the Walkers' legal costs - if such a fund is established, I'll be sure to post it.

What I don't recommend...

If you write letters or post to the fan page, please, resist the temptation to rant or name-call, as many of Spork supporters seem tempted to do. If we're going to save Spork, indeed if we're going to change the perception of dogs and of dog owners, we must remain rational and unemotional.

In particular, although I disagree with the Veterinary Technician's actions and Veterinarian's support, I don't believe that personal attacks will convince them to change their minds about pursuing the charges against Spork and the Walkers. I'm sure this person feels pretty trapped right now, and may even regret their actions. Let's give them some room and a few reasons to back down from what must be a very uncomfortable situation.

Facebook: Save Spork

City of Lafayette contacts

Jasper Animal Hospital
1361 Forest Park Cir Ste 107

, CO 80026

Right Juris: Spork

Veterinarian's press release

Dr. Dodge's Editorial Letter, 25 February

Pet Docs on Call: A veterinarian's perspective

Animal Law Center (ACL) Tim and Kelly Walker's statement

Police report, including vet bill (ouch!)