Friday, August 23, 2013
Saturday, July 13, 2013
It’s usually around this time of year when I start reminding people of the dangers of leaving their best friend in the car. Even with the AC running, tragedy is potentially only moments away. Machines can and do fail and if the motor were to cut off or the AC malfunctions, the temperature can rise to over 140 degrees in minutes.
Rather than reiterate the content of past posts on this subject though, I wanted to take the time to address a related issue that applies specifically to our valiant K9 police and sheriffs dogs. Generally, the best and safest rule is to never leave your dog in the car unattended but I do understand that the K9 corps is a breed unto themselves. Not only do they provide a unique and irreplaceable service to the community, they are sterling ambassadors for our species as a whole and have their own protocols that are unique to their situation. When it gets real hot, Dad just stops taking me in the truck until things cool down a bit. I hate it but I do understand. With a K9 officer, laying out by the air conditioner is not an option, they have an important job to do. Just the other day though, we went by a place where the sheriffs and town police were on their lunch break inside a small fast food joint. I noticed that the K9 officer was left in the car with the motor running and presumably the AC on because he’s not allowed in the restaurant and I got to thinking that there’s maybe a better way to go about this.
According to my understanding, as things now stand, the K9 officer would not normally be allowed inside the restaurant unless on official business (to protect his partner or help make an arrest or maybe search out drugs). Lunch is pretty much out. Think about it though, other service dogs (like Seeing Eye dogs) are allowed special exemption from this rule for the good reason that their services are absolutely essential.
The ADA defines a service animal in the following manner: 2. Q: What is a service animal?
A: The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.
Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:
_ Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.
_ Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.
_ Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.
A service animal is not a pet.
I cannot see where the K9’s services are any less essential even though the officer doesn’t technically have a disability other than the fact that he or she is more likely to come to harm without their partner. I believe that the human officers wouldn’t have a problem with having his or her partner accompany them while they dined, as from what I’ve seen, they treat their K9 partners with great care and respect (often as literal family) and while they’re having lunch, their partner would have their back. As to the individual establishments and the public in general, I’m sure there would be some who would disapprove but, overall, I would think the average response would be quite favorable. I can actually picture an increase in patronage of an establishment that welcomed K9 officers. These dogs are magnificent to behold as well as highly intelligent and superbly trained. I think a lot of folks would come just to see them (I know I would) and they’d be sure to bring the kids too. On top of this, you could be pretty sure the place wouldn’t get robbed while you’re having your meal with a trained K9 on duty.
Whenever the community loses one of its K9 officers, either in the line of duty or of old age, they afford them the same dignity as they would their human counterparts, full military honors. This speaks volumes about their worth to the community and the respect they command. How tragic and needless it would be if even one of these heroes were to be lost because the cruiser motor cut off or the air conditioner belt broke while his partner was at lunch when we could have proactively negated the risk. I wouldn’t have a clue as to who to approach about including K9 officers in the service animal exemption, I’m a dog myself and don’t really know about these things but I’ll be sure to ask around. In the meanwhile, if you have any ideas or thoughts on this matter, be sure to let me know. I’d especially enjoy hearing from you human K9 officers to get your take on this.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
For two entirely different species, dogs and humans communicate with one another remarkably well. This is due, in part, to a natural affinity for one another but is also the product of some pretty impressive adaptations on the part of the canines. When you’re trying to get your pet to pay attention to an object and you shift your eyes toward that object, most dogs will follow that eye shift. A relatively simple thing you may say but there’s no other animal on earth that will do that (not even chimpanzees), this is purely adaptive behavior on the dog’s part in order to better interact with humans. Sometimes though, miscommunication and misunderstandings occur and can often have deleterious results.
Frosty, a young Terrier mix, came to us a while back. It wasn’t hard to see why he’d been abandoned, he was a snappy little thing. He desperately wanted attention but would react to it by snapping at your hand. Other than that, he was a great little guy, zany to the point of absurdity and full of fun but totally unadoptable. As he tended to hang out with me and my gang, Dad had pretty regular contact with him and started to notice that the initial snaps were not ill-intentioned. They were however immediately followed by the “bad dog” persona and it was evident that he was ready to take that downward spiral. It’s probably safe to say that, in the past, he’d been scolded (or possibly hit) for exhibiting unacceptable behavior which, of course, triggered an aggressive response. My dad’s pretty perceptive for a human though and recognized these initial snaps as misguided attempts at positive interaction with humans as the body language was not consistent with being ugly and there was no force behind the bites. Dad decided to let him have his way, basically ignoring the bites while encouraging more appropriate interaction. The initial result was that the bad dog look never manifested itself once he realized he wasn’t going to be chastised and the exchange became much more relaxed than previously. Then dad did something that I didn’t understand at first and don’t entirely grasp now. Using a technique he calls “satiation”’ he gave Frosty constant opportunities to chew on his hand (this would obviously not work with a truly aggressive dog) and even encouraged it, all the while paying no attention to the behavior itself. What happened, which is typical I guess with satiation, is that the behavior increased dramatically at first but then started to taper off once Frosty got bored by the lack of response to it. Meanwhile, of course, there were always plenty of socially acceptable methods of interaction offered and Frosty could get the attention he craved in that manner. Lacking the constant negativity in his life, Frosty blossomed. I don’t normally gravitate toward small dogs, I tolerate them for the most part but Frosty’s pretty cool and we play a lot. He’s also turned into a real cuddlebug with dad and insists on sleeping in his armpit. Now, when he wants attention, he jumps up and “asks” to be petted, no snapping involved. Socially, he’s as appropriate as any dog here now. Although some additional work remains to help him generalize this response and increase its durability, Frosty will be leaving later this week for an adoption up north and, provided he can be found a human who is capable of and willing to follow up on my dad’s training he will add love and laughter to their home.
Now most pet owners don’t have formal experience in behavior modification but most of the time that’s not necessary. The thing here is to recognize the communication attempt for what it is. Had Frosty’s humans done that, the behavior probably would not have become an issue. Being non-verbal, we have much fewer means of communication at our disposal than humans and sometimes fall back on what we know best, what has been hardwired into us for tens of thousands of years. Not every dog bite is an act of aggression. Heck, when I feel it’s extremely important to get my dad’s attention, I do exactly the same thing by gently biting his hand and he takes it for what it is, an urgent need to communicate something. Probably without even realizing it, you’ve done a lot of this type of training if you’ve ever raised human children. Young humans’ actions and reactions are notoriously inappropriate to the situation and, without formal training, you’ve lovingly guided them toward the more acceptable choice. The only real difference here is that this process, with dogs, takes place at a somewhat lower level of cognition.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
This is GARD’s overriding philosophy, governing all we do and how we do it. On our website and literature you’ll often see reference to the fact that we operate quite differently from most other rescues in that rather than being guided by a business plan, we operate from the heart. Although we’ve managed to keep the shelter viable by trying to avoid fiscal suicide, we often do things that would cause a good business manager to break down in tears. There’s a good reason for this. We like to be able to sleep at night.
Bruno is a very good recent example of this philosophy at work. Mom was at one of our Vets several hours away with a van load of dogs in for routine treatment/checkup. While she was there, some folks came in with their dog who had got himself caught in a leg-hold trap and had dragged himself 2 miles home to get help despite the fact that jagged bone protruded from his destroyed limb. The decision was made that surgery would be too expensive and he would have to be put down. Now I don’t know about you, but if I had just dragged my mangled body 2 miles to get help and you offered to kill me for my efforts, I might just have to bite you. Reacting to the unfairness of it all, Mom said that GARD would take the dog and get him the care he needed and left him with the vet for surgery to be performed. By the time she got all the way back to the house, the vet informed her that he wasn’t going to be able to “get around” to the surgery for a week (Bruno wouldn’t have lasted a week given his recent heroics and the fact that the wound was already starting to stink), suggesting that it might just be better to put him down. Aghast, Mom left out the next morning, back to the vet to pick him up and bring him to another vet half a state away. Bruno’s leg was amputated and he is recuperating nicely, having taken up temporary residence in our laundry room with access to the back porch and fenced yard. You may be wondering, at this point; “What sort of life worth living does a three legged dog have?” You’d be amazed at how adaptable we are! We’ve seen numerous amputees go on to lead healthy, happy lives. We have one now who has the run of the shelter and he gets around so well that, unless you looked closely, you might miss the fact that he’s missing a leg. I personally would rather be a live three legged dog than a dead four legged one. We even had a dog here once who had been confined so long in an overly small crate that she had lost the use of her hind legs. While she was here, she taught herself to do “handstands” and got around remarkably well in that manner. Angel has since gotten a loving home where she has benefitted from physical therapy and has since regained the use of her back legs.
Yes, Bruno’s surgery and all of the running around it entailed was expensive but we were able to accomplish it without sabotaging our overall mission and yes, a good business manager would be a whimpering basket case by now but who are we to randomly decide who lives or dies. In a “normal” shelter, this decision would generally be made based on such as cuteness or being of a highly preferred breed but even then, who wants a damaged dog? Maybe, just maybe if he made the AKC’s top ten he might have a chance but only maybe. I sure would hate to see the right to life routinely determined on a basis of charisma and good looks ‘cause I love my Dad and would really miss him. Bruno? Have no doubts that Mom will find someone to love him and give him a forever home. She’s real good at that.
For those of you who have followed Bruno’s story on our Facebook page and have responded with generous donations to help defray the expenses incurred, we offer you our profound thanks. GARD is a non-profit public charity, receives no governmental assistance and is totally dependent on the generosity of a caring public. As important as these donations are in fulfilling our mission, they are equally important in providing the moral support of knowing that there are other, like-minded individuals, families and organizations out there who value what we do.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Well, it won’t be long before the weather warms up around here again. Heck, a couple of days ago it was up around 80, in the middle of January. Are you humans sure you’ve got this global warming thing under control? Along with the warmer weather comes my annual reminder to take care of your best friend(s). Don’t leave ‘em in the car, it can go from comfortable to life-threatening in, literally, minutes.
Now I know you all have been there. You’re just getting out of your car at the Pig. It’s pretty warm out and you notice that the vehicle next to you has the windows all rolled up (or cracked 1/2 inch, it makes no difference) and there is a dog inside. What would you do? Okay, I know what I’d do, I’d get my dad’s attention and let him know that there’s a problem. He’s much better at communicating with other humans and, if the need arose to break out a window, he’s much more adept with tools. Try as I might, with no opposable thumbs, I just can’t get the things to perform as intended. I usually end up just chewing up the handle. I think though you can see where I’m going with this. Whatever you do, do not make the mistake of thinking the other person has it covered. On a warm day (just warm, I’m not talking 103 degrees here), that dog has minutes to live. If they had it covered, they would have never left their dog in that situation in the first place. Even in this day and age, there are some folks who do not have a clue. A few years back, there was a woman up in Carolina who went to work for her 8 hour shift and left her toddlers in the car with the windows rolled up, IN JULY! They had a bad day.
Okay, so the last thing you want to do is continue merrily on your way sort of hoping that the owner gets out there in time, while his dog is still capable of forgiving him for his stupidity. The odds of that happening though are very slim. So what are your options? A lot of that would depend upon the situation. I won’t presume to tell you what to do but I know that if the dog appeared to be in distress (lethargic, unresponsive, lying upside down to help radiate heat from its body) my dad would have absolutely no compunctions against breaking out a window and I’ll even give him the benefit of the doubt to assume that he tried the doors before reaching for the tire iron. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that ‘cause then you’ve got to get the sheriff involved and answer a bunch of questions and no one wants that hassle although you may indeed decide to do that anyway to pursue an animal cruelty complaint. Usually, stores are real good about making an announcement from the courtesy desk to have the owner tend to their pet’s plight and if you can get in and out quick enough or, better yet, have someone else to send, you might be able to get the owners attention in a timely fashion. Unfortunately though, it’s not quite that simple. Did the car’s owner go into the Pig or are they in one of the other five stores in the block? Did they hear and heed the announcement? Do they even care? These are all things that we do not want to leave to chance. We have a medical emergency here! If you can’t stay with the vehicle, get back to it as quick as you can and try to continually assess the dog’s condition. If help isn’t immediately forthcoming, a call to rescue services is certainly in order but even then, you may have to make that tough decision to provide the animal with fresh air and water by whatever means are at your disposal before outside help arrives. Sure, you’ll have some explaining to do but you’ll be able to sleep a lot better and I assure you that the dog’s human will have a whole lot more explaining to do. 30 days in a nice cool jail cell would provide plenty of opportunity for him to reflect on his callousness.
Even now, it’s not necessarily over yet. Depending on how overheated the dog got, you may still have a medical emergency at hand. It’s not pretty when a dog falls out from the heat and even in an environment where air conditioning, fans and cold packs are available it can be touch and go. Their survival is not guaranteed. If the dog is hyperthermic, it needs more that just cool air and a bowl of water; it needs medical attention, quickly. Body temperature needs to be reduced as quickly as possible without inducing shock to prevent damage to the brain and other organs. Every situation is going to be a little different, so it’s a good time to think on your feet which is something you humans excel at. Just keep in mind, if it were a human child, what would you be doing? The medical situation is no different here, just the species.
No one gets up in the morning thinking, “I’m going to be a hero today.” But then the Collie who saved her family from the fire didn’t go to bed thinking, “I’m going to be a hero tonight.” The Lab who pulled the drowning toddler to safety didn’t think as he was jumping into the truck, “Oh boy. I’m going to be a hero today!” It’s all about doing the right thing when faced with an emergency and recognizing that an emergency exists is a necessary part of the equation. You humans are capable of so much more that just racing around and barking to sound the alarm. When you encounter a dog in this predicament, won’t you please put your talents to work on our behalf? We’d do the same for you.
My cynicism expressed in the Christmas eve post still stands. To the family who discarded him like a worn out “thing” just when he needed them most, shame!
Just another update on Munch as of May 2013.: You'd never believe that the little dog that came in here half dead could look so good! Sure he's old and has congestive heart failure but he races around here like a five-year-old. I've got him spoiled rotten. As soon as he hears me, he races around and barks and jumps and wants his "hamburger" (our name for his special food) . Once he's had his fill, he starts bugging me to put him up on the bed so he can be next to me while I'm on the computer. He seems to have lost 10 years. In dealing with this endeavour of rescue 24/7-365 days a year, we are often challenged with heartache and sorrow but there's a lot of joy to be had also. It's experiences like my little Munch that really help to offset the effects of the misery and suffering that we see on an all-too-regular basis.. This little guy is such a gem, it's hard to imagine that he was someone else's trash.
Monday, December 24, 2012
As you read this, you may be tempted to think I’m putting humans down. This is not the case. Quite to the contrary, over the years, Dad has taught me a lot of stuff that not only makes me a better dog and better companion but improves the quality (and undoubtedly length) of my life. I would be remiss if I passed by the opportunity to point out what looks to these doggy eyes to be somewhat of a character flaw on the part of you humans and make suggestions as to how it can be overcome.
Okay it’s a no-brainer, you humans are the uncontested pinnacle of creation. Over the millennia, you have not only learned to survive on an ever-changing planet but you have thrived. You have learned to manipulate your world and have, in doing so, accumulated a testament of wondrous achievements while my kind still walks on all fours and chews at their fleas when they become bothersome. You are responsible for the nice warm houses in which we live and the doggy doors in them so that I don’t have to poop inside my nice warm house. You’ve made cars and trucks so I can go for a ride. You can cook a steak for us to share. I couldn’t do that if my life depended on it. Left to my own devices, I’d probably just chew on the cow’s leg until it decided to kick my head off. Let’s not forget about Cheeze nips either! The list goes on and on.
In at least one respect though, your dog is far superior in that he/she is ever so much the more noble species. Although there are exceptions on both sides, overall, the dog is the more leal of the two. When you get a dog, you can trust that he will not abandon you or throw you out when you get old and sick. Actually, the opposite is true. If you’re sick, hurt or even just sad, your dog will do their best to improve your lot in their own doggy way. Your dog will stay with you for life. Your dog doesn’t come home one day having decided that you’re “inconvenient” and out you go, probably going to have to have you put down ‘cause no one else would want you. Your dog won’t have puppies and decide that there’s no longer any place for you in the family. Nowhere on this earth exists a shelter for humans that have been discarded by their dogs. Nowhere! The landfills are not full of humans in black garbage bags, dumped there because they were unwanted by their dogs. You almost never see a dog stop the car, throw their human out into the middle of the highway and haul ass headed for the house. The list goes on and on.
We’re spending our Christmas eve with a little dying Yorkie. He was discarded by his family ( had him all his life) because his teeth are bad. Okay, his teeth are real bad, they stick out at angles like fangs gone wild. I can just imagine the kids going “ewwwwwww!”. Honey, dog’s gotta go, he’s grossing the kids out. In spite of his dentition, Munch is the sweetest little baby in the world. Mom and Dad dote on him and Lil and I let him sleep on the bed with us. Mom had him to the vet but they can’t do anything for his teeth because he’s old and has congestive heart failure. The procedure would kill him. And so our Munch will live out his remaining days as a valued member of our family.
When we woke up this morning, he wouldn’t take his heart medicine or anything else for that matter. He was on his way down. Dad filled him full of medicine and fluids, tried to tempt him with some scrambled eggs, but he probably won’t last the night. He’s got no more fight left in him. At least he’ll die with soothing words and kindness, knowing that he’s loved. Meanwhile his loving family, freed of the inconvenience of him, is surely busy celebrating their holy day that’s all about God’s love. Doesn’t seem right, does it?
As you celebrate your Christian holiday, please contemplate the fact that you are the dominant species because your god made you so. When he created the beasts of the earth and the birds of the air, he gave you dominion over them all. In the same breath, he also charged you with the responsibility to exercise a proper stewardship over them all. It is my sincere hope that at least one person takes this message to heart and applies the Christian principles of peace and love to their companion animal(s) thereby displaying the loyalty that is just part of being a dog.
To Munch’s (our name for him) family from my Dad; “Your precious little boy is spending Christmas eve dying but not to worry, I’ll stay with him and keep him comfortable and when he dies, he will leave this world surrounded by those who truly love him. Oh yeah, and Merry Christmas.”