Cranky Old Man, Part 2: Clean That Up!

My recent post about off-leash dogs in Bear Creek Park really touched some nerves – there’s likely enough of us ticked off about this to form the first COPS chapter (Cranky Old People Society).

Right up there with the off-leash issue are people who don’t pick up their dog’s poop – either in the park, in the neighbor’s yard, etc.

When I lived in Houston, this was a real problem. I lived in an old, inner-city neighborhood with great shops, cafes, etc., which meant there were a lot of pedestrians, and a lot of people walking their dogs. And yes, many people would let their dogs poop in my yard and not clean it up.

At first, I would stand at the door and yell “Clean that up!” in full cranky mode. It rarely worked.

So I switched to a new campaign that became much more effective and one I use to this day. When I see someone letting their dog poop while on a walk and then not clean it up, I say “Excuse me – it looks like you’ve run out of poop bags. That happens to me all the time, so I carry extra: here you go.” And I hand them a poop bag (Yes, I almost always have some in my pocket – occupational hazard). Faced with a polite smiling person, they really don’t have much choice but to clean it up.

Non-confrontational (and, therefore, slightly less satisfying), but very effective.

You know what they say, you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, but nothing attracts flies like your neighbor’s dog’s poop in your front yard.’

Life is messy: Clean it up!

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Poor Excuses

Craigslist is a great resource – I use it to find items and, to be honest, to make sure someone isn’t trying to sell animals (not allowed by Craigslist) or sell an animal they have adopted from us.

I also use Facebook, especially SoHumane’s great FB page which features news about our animals, great stories from our adopters and calls for help in finding local lost animals.

Other local Facebook pages also deal with animals, but as a way to sell puppies.

And, as always, I am amazed by what people will post on Facebook and on Craigslist.

Two incidents are generating some conversation her in Medford. One was a post on the FB page that traffics in puppies (no, I am not going to provide a link), in which a 15-year-old girl posted that her Jack Russel had bite her so her mother took it our into the country near Klamath Falls and “dropped it off.” The girl posted that she wasn’t even sure if her mother had left the dog in the crate or released it.

Horrifying, shocking, disgusting. But wait: the daughter wasn’t complaining, she was glad this had happened and wanted the world to know.

It didn’t take long for people to react – the Klamath Sheriff’s department was called and the dog was found (not in its crate). Still no word about prosecution of the mother.

The other was a Craigslist post from a woman looking to trade her 1-year-old German Shepherd for another large dog. She said the dog would not listen and despite involving a trainer, was too aggressive with other dogs and would not listen to commands. So she wanted to trade him.

Craigslist allows other readers to “flag” a posting for a violation of policy, etc. and the woman’s posting kept getting flagged and she was inundated with e-mail criticizing her decisions and recommending she neuter the dog (she was specifically looking to trade for another un-neutered male).

She was outraged that people would criticize her.

No doubt, the 15-year-old feels the same.

Shame on both of them for assuming that behaving badly, then writing about it online, was acceptable.

“If you see something, say something” is a now common catchphrase.

If I see you posting about mistreatment of animals – believe me, I’ll say something.

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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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  • Blog Author

    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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