I’m That Cranky Old Man on the Dog Path (and on the War Path)

My dogs think I should walk them more often. The scales in the bathroom agree.

But sometimes I get so frustrated walking them that I don’t enjoy it and they don’t enjoy it. The reason: other dogs running around off leash.

In general, my dogs do pretty good with strange dogs – when they are properly introduced. We regularly foster dogs, so my boys know the drill of a meet-and-greet and, occasionally, they get to veto a foster. For whatever reasons, they don’t like all dogs.

And they don’t have to.

But people letting their dogs run around off leash in Bear Creek Park seem to think that just because their dog “loves everyone” and “doesn’t have a mean bone in their body” doesn’t mean that they can run right up to my dogs and not get a reaction. Consider the situation. My dogs are part of my pack. We are on a hunt together. Dogs have no concept of daily exercise or morning constitutional. They see walks as a time when the pack goes out together and smells things and marks territory. So add a strange dog to a mix, one who comes running right up, and the reaction isn’t always “pleased to meet you.”

The is no sane reason for letting dogs off-leash in public places. Bear Creek Park has a big dog park where they can run around off-leash in a protected area. It’s too chaotic there, you say? Too many other people (not you, of course) aren’t paying attention to their dogs, you say? Some of the dogs are too aggressive for your dog? Tough.

That’s how I feel about your dog on the loose.

Put them on a leash- it’s the law and it’s the right thing to do.

I’ll shut up now. #endofrant

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Forget the Birds and the Bees – Let’s Talk about the Puppies and the Kittens

Education is one of the most important parts of our mission – especially education on spaying and neutering family pets.

Let’s face it: adoptions address the symptoms of pet overpopulation, not the cause.

And I believe that educating school-age children is one of the most effective ways to make the message hit home – literally. It worked for smoking (“Daddy, I don’t want you to get cancer and die”) and it worked for recycling (Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute). But age-appropriate discussions about spaying and neutering can be tricky. It’s about sex, after all.

I believe all school-age children can understand that there are too many animals who are left alone on the streets. The conversation can be as simply as pointing to a cat on the street and asking: “Where do you think that cat lives? How does it get food? Where does it sleep at night?” These are questions that 5-year-old children can relate to. It can lead to questions about why there are so many cats on the streets and why your cat shouldn’t have kittens because there are already so many that need homes.

Those sad, sad commercials showing mistreated and starving animals locked in cages (yes, I change the channel, too, so don’t feel guilty) can lead to a discussion with middle-school kids about humane treatment of animals – puppy mills, chained dogs. Questions can include: What would you do if you saw someone mistreating an animal? Do you think chaining an animal outside is a good idea? What can we as a family do to help animals like this? We take volunteers as young as 12 who, along with a parent, can walk dogs or visit with cats. This is an excellent educational opportunity in both humane treatment of animals and in giving back to your community.

It’s also an opportunity to talk about spaying and neutering animals – on how to address the root of the problem. Questions can include: “Why do you think people don’t spay or neuter?” “What do you think happens when puppies or kittens can’t find homes? You may decide that your middle-schoolers are old enough to talk about euthanasia – the far-too-common result of too many litters.

Looking around the Web, I found a few forum discussion that parents may find helpful:

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/371284-how-to-explain-reasons-to-spayneuter-to-children/

and

http://www.havaneseforum.com/showthread.php?t=1588

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When Things Go BOOM!

When my Zed was very young – just under a year – we took him to the Fourth of July fireworks in downtown Houston. We were hoping to get him used to the loud sounds, much the way gun dogs are exposed to the flash/bang early in their lives. He did great. Always a social animal, he was more interested in the humans around us than in the loud sounds.

But as he got older, his tolerance for the big booms diminished and he became fearful during the massive thunderstorms that regularly sweep across Texas. He started cowering in the shower stall (a vintage cast iron structure that could survive a hurricane) and, eventually we learned to make him a bed in there.

We still do that today when we know thunder is coming. But this time we pile blankets and his bed into the bathtub and he hops in there when he starts to get scared.

There are very few dogs – if any – that aren’t troubled by fireworks.

The bathtub trick is good.

So is putting the dog in a quiet area, away from windows, with a radio or TV turned on to counteract the noise.

If your dog is crate-trained, but the crate in your walk-in closet. It’s usually a room without widows and carries your scent, so the dog will feel more secure.

But dogs can still bolt. You could be on a morning or evening walk when a neighbor set’s off some firecrackers. Or the dog could be outside for a potty break when a loud noise goes off.

That’s why it’s is important that your dog have ID – a least a collar and tag, but preferably a microchip as well – so that you can quickly get reunited.

Plan ahead, think it through, and be prepared for your dog to be scared.

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Eat Your Vegetables

If you’ve spent any time in downtown Ashland, you’ve no doubt met GiGi, the truly wonderful concierge at Ashland Springs Hotel. On one of our first sorties into Ashland, we went in to the hotel to see about lunch at Larks. The dogs stayed outside in one of their perfect “Down, Stays.”
GiGi asked if she could give the dogs a treat. Of course! Unfortunately, she only had healthy treats made mostly from dried carrots. Max wouldn’t even look at it. Zed, ever the gentleman, took it delicately from her hand, then turned his head and spit it out.
Healthy, smealthy: they wanted treats, not veggies!
And so it goes that when they both started packing on too many pounds recently, friends and pundits far and wide recommended cutting back on their dog food and augmenting their diet with fresh vegetables – beans, etc.
Fat chance!
Until, that is, we pulled up the first two rows of peas from our garden this past weekend. As we sorted through the vines, looking for any hangers-on, Max started to join in the game. He would find a pea, and pull it off the vine. Then, he started eating them. And because Max was eating something that Zed was not, Zed starting jumping into the air to catch peas as we tossed them high.
Now, they both love peas.
Who knew?

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Max and the Mail Man

Before I start, I know postal carrier is the preferred  noun, not “mail man,” but I like the alliteration and my postal carrier is a man, and his weekend replacement is a man.

Now, on with the story.

My younger dog Max is ramping up his aggression toward the mail man. We’re working on it, and are trying to reward him with a treat every time he DOESN’T charge across the yard like he’s out for blood. He used to go only three-quarters of the way, now he’s right up to the fence line in full Cujo mode. The mail man has learned to completely ignore Max.

So why do dogs chase postal carriers, UPS drivers, et al?

My theory is this: Dogs are territorial. The occasional trespasser through that territory is usually ignored, or sent on their way with a few quick barks, never to be seen again.

But those darn postal carriers keep coming back. A few barks should have them quaking in their sensible shoes, but the next day, there they are again, hovering at the edge of the territory. Maybe adding a few growls and some raised hackles will get the message across.

Nope, they came back.

They constant challenge on territory is what I believe has led Max to escalate his response. So how to change it?

First, with any dog training, y0u need to be able to recall the dog immediately. Max, who usually comes when called, ignores all the commands (and four-letter-words) I shout from the door when the postal carrier comes along. So, we have to work on that.

I’ve attached a long-lead and am timing my lunch breaks earlier in the day so I am home when the mail delivery takes place. Max normally lies on the stoop during the day, so I’m  leaving the door open and have attached a 16-foot lead to his collar. When the first growl starts to rumble in his throat, I instantly give the recall command (“Come”) and pull the lead until Max is at my side. He usually has his head turned toward the door and, if I can get him to me before he barks, he gets a treat.

If he barks before I have the full recall (Max at my side), he gets a “No, Bad!” and has to do a “down.” Once he’s been in the down position and is no longer barking, he gets the treat.

The goal is to get him to see the postal carrier, and immediately come inside to get a treat, rather than run at the fence. It will take time, but it is an achievable goal.

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Larry finds a home!

Larry!

My latest foster dog, Larry, found a new home this weekend. With all of my fosters, it’s always bittersweet. While they are with you, everything seems harder, your normal routine is thrown off, integrating into the pack is nerve-wracking for everyone and feeding three dogs, three different foods in three different parts of the house twice a day gets old. Very old.

But walking with my two boys this morning, I really missed Larry. He’d become the third of the Three Stooges – he’s even named for one. He was just starting to fit in.

And, he was just starting to act like a normal dog.

Larry came home me three weeks ago because he was extremely stressed in the kennel environment. Already under nourished from a life on the street, he started to loose weight, dropping down to 36 pounds – far less than his normal 55 pounds

It took almost two weeks for Larry to figure out how to play with my two male dogs. They wrestle and tumble every day. But Larry was confused and a little frightened by their behavior. He was also hungry, all the time.

But patience and forgiveness always wins out with an animal. And Larry finally felt safe enough to risk a few play bows and join a few wrestling matches.

That translated into a healthier looking dog – at 54 pounds! – with a shiny coat and a relaxed disposition in the kennels. It took just a  little over a week of Larry staying in the kennels during the day and coming home at night for him to find a new family.

Fostering is so rewarding, and so painful, but so very important.

We are always looking for foster families for dogs and cats who just do not do well in the stressful environment of a kennel. If you think there’s room in your heart and your life for a foster, please contact our volunteer coordinator, Judi, at judi@sohumane.org

Larry would be very appreciative.

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Witnesses to Our Lives

Last weekend, I spent time down in Siskiyou County, CA, with dear friends – a town full of them, actually. Two of them, both neighbors, had suffered recent losses – elderly dogs that had died.
My friend’s beloved Buzz had been a fixture on her front porch for years. Standing in the Ray’s parking lot, she sobbed anew with the deep pain of the loss. Later, another friend recalled the first time my neighbor had lost a cherished companion years earlier. “At the time, I really didn’t understand the depth of (my neighbor’s) pain. Then, when my dog died a few years later, I understood.”
Few, if any, support groups exist for people who have lost a pet. Those who have lost a child, a spouse, a parent, cannot really relate – it seems so different, perhaps even less of a loss.
But my other neighbor put it in better perspective. “Penny (her dog) was a witness to my life. Always there, always watching, never judging.”
It is the loss of that constant presence, never truly noticed until in absence, that makes the loss so deeply painful.

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Baby, It’s Hot Outside

Summer is here.

So before you put the dog in the car to go with you as you run errands, ask yourself “why?”

Why does the dog need to go?

There really is no good answer. The dog might like to go, you might like to have the dog with you, the dog may get lonely at home, the dog cries while it’s in its crate at home, yadda yadda yadda.

Too bad! It’s better than being left to die a painful, horrible death to heat exhaustion in the car.

But you’re only in the store for a minute. You left the windows cracked. You left the engine running.

Not acceptable. Engine can stall, “5-second” dashes into the dry cleaners can turn into 20 minutes – far too long for a dog to survive in this heat.

I get it – we all love to have our dogs with us – they are companion animals after all. But please put the dog’s needs ahead of yours and leave them at home until cool weather returns this fall.

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Saving Train Rescue #145

I received this letter today:

This is Cooper (formerly Chopper). He rescued me on April 11, 2006 and I believe he had been with you for about 2 weeks. One of the volunteers there told me that he was on the saving train from California. I’d love to know what his number was and any pictures if you happen to have them. Unfortunately I lost all of the pictures I have of him from when he first came into my life but I have tons from our many adventures over the past 8 years. We live on the coast now and his favorite thing is playing at the beach with his dog-sister. :) Thank you so much for saving my sweet boy! I can’t imagine life without him.  — Ashley

I didn’t have to dig very far to find Cooper’s story. It’s a very unusual one.

Cooper was a young puppy confiscated by the Siskiyou Co. Sheriff’s office in Weed as part of a drug case. He was completely out of control, but the officers fell in love with him. They could not find anyone to take him and feared they would have to put him down.

But they’d heard about this place in Medford that was going around Oregon and California saving animals from euthanasia at overcrowded shelters. This was in the early days of the Saving Train, when staff and volunteers would use their own cars and own time to go an rescue animals from shelters that were full. The officers called Southern Oregon Humane Society and begged and pleaded: Could we please come down and take the pup, who they had named “Chopper.”

Shelter Director Hillary Hulen remembers their pleas. “They were desperate to find him a home and had no luck locally,” she said. Chopper was a crazy kid, and a brindled pit bull, which gave pause to many a potential adopter. But she said “yes,” knowing that if anyone could find him a home, we could.

Here are the notes from the intake staff: “Chopper came to us all the way from the Weed Sheriff`s Department. They loved him down there and could not stand the thought of having to euthanize him, therefore they called us. We gladly went down, picked him up and promptly fell in love. He is a giant puppy and needs to learn not to jump up on you. Other than that, he a great big oaf.

Even as we celebrate 5,000 lives saved via the Saving Train, we still remember so many of the individual  animals that have come through our doors.

I’m proud to be a part of such a caring organization.

 

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Moose Love

Black Thorn and me, taking in all the wonderful gifts at the Moose Lodge

A month or so ago, we received a call from the local Women of the Moose Chapter. They wanted to know if they could hold a spaghetti dinner fund-raiser for us.
My three favorite words are: “Yes, Thank You!” and I used them this time.
At first we thought this was a community wide event, but it really was just for the members of Chapter 2357 of the Southern Oregon Moose Lodge.
I went over there last Friday night for a delicious meal (they made me a special plate of chicken Alfredo because I’m allergic to tomatoes), and great company. Many of the members had adopted animals from us. I also took along a little friend, Black Thorn, who was a perfect gentleman – staying calm while being mobbed by people; sitting quietly under the table while I ate and generally stealing everyone’s heart.
There was a 50/50 raffle that raised about $100 and a huge table full of items for other raffle prizes, plus items donated to the cats and dogs at SoHumane. Two separate members handed my checks for $100 each. So, all in all, a great evening.
The women asked if they could come over this past Wednesday to present a check and the donated items.
Imagine my surprise when they showed up with a pickup truck filled with collars, toys, clean towels, blankets, dog beds and dog food (grain free!). Plus, they gave me a check for another $560!
Simply by saying “Yes, Thank You,” the power of love was unleashed.
Thank you, Chapter 2357, for the love, the food, the company and the gifts. You are amazing.

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    Kenn Altine

    Kenn Altine is the executive director of SoHumane.org, the Southern Oregon Humane Society. He and the SoHumane staff are committed to helping cats and dogs that have lost everything, including the only home they may have ever known. Through the ... Read Full
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