Monday, February 27, 2012

Goats and Scooters

Saturday, when Axle and I were on our way home from our walk, two little dogs ran into the street, barking at us. Not unusual. What was unusual was what happened next...a goat runs out. A goat! He stamped and baa'd at us, advancing toward us if we stared back too long. I caught a video of part of it, and I'll eventually get it on YouTube. Just as I hit stop, the goat ran out with the little dogs, kicking up his heels and having a grand time of celebrating chasing off the strangers. How quaint!

Today, we walked in the rain. Yes, the rain. I put my cellphone in a plastic bag and we headed out. As there was no traffic and no loose dogs, I let Axle off leash and let him have at it. He jumped and splashed and ran and played. It was so cute! Again, I caught a little bit on video I'll share. :)

I bet you're still wondering where scooters fit into all of this. I was on my way home today (again, in the rain), and I spotted two girls riding a little motorized scooter down a 4-lane bypass - which is a route for truckers to avoid the city. Lots of semis travel this way every day, and not all of them are that great with their brakes. After contemplating it for a minute, I turned around and headed towards the scooter. I figured the least I could do is follow behind with my hazards flashing until they were safely off of the highway. They pulled into the local school. Let me mention that they were not wearing helmets, and the scooter was not of the road-legal variety.

I pulled in behind them, and it looked as though they were going to turn around and head back. Like an action movie, I pulled sideways in front of them and hopped out. I called them down and they stopped.

"Where are your parents?" I asked.

"What are you talking about?" was the reply.

Note the girl driving didn't look to be older than 15, though the girl behind her was older. A boy was headed towards them.

"You can't drive that on the highway. Do either of you even have a driver's license?"

"You don't need a driver's license to drive this kind."

"Which means it's not street legal. You're not wearing helmets, you're driving illegally down a public highway, and you're not supposed to have a passenger."

"We're just here to pick him up," referencing the high school boy approaching. He had just as much of an attitude as they did, saying I had no right to stop them and they should drive on. I impeded their way long enough to tell them I was calling the police. The boy told them to "take back roads and come back" to get him. As if I wasn't going to follow them...

With dispatch on the line, I followed the two around the school and down another highway...hardly a "back road." A police car was waiting at the end of the last road they turned down and he waved me through, after having some difficulty getting them to pull over as they stopped in the middle of the road. As I drove by, they called me a bitch and said that I should have minded my "f***ing" business. That's not the best attitude to have in front of a cop. Just saying.

Would  you have done the same thing? Or would you have let them go? Keep in mind they were hardly doing something harmless. They were a danger to themselves and to the other people on the highway. Their little scooter did great to go 45 mph, and being so small, they were hardly visible on the road.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Pibble-less Outing

Today I spent my time with the Thomasville-Thomas County Humane Society. We held an adoption event at PetSmart in Valdosta with 8 dogs and 2 cats. This isn't an appropriate outing for Axle or Bobob, so they stayed home - Axle, buried under the covers in the bed and Bo, curled up on the couch with his favorite blanket. Ah, to be a dog.

Anyway, we had 2 puppies around 6 months old, and everyone else was 1 year or older. The main focus was Holly and Tooky, hound mixes that had been at the shelter for a long time. Between myself and the executive director and his wife, we got Holly adopted to a nice home with a little boy to play with. I helped the new dog owner to pick out a collar, leash, dog bowls, a bed, and toys. I'm hoping she's going to do well with them. :)

One of my favorite shelter dogs, Spudet, an AmStaff mix female, got adopted not long after hitting the floor. A lot of people showed interest in her while we were waiting on her new owner to come back to take her home, and we were proud to announce she already had a home.

Next, there was Joe, a 1 1/2 year old English Setter. A man and his girl approached me, asking about German Shepherd Dogs. He was really interested in finding a breeder and buying a puppy to raise with his 5 Yorkshire Terriers. I (politely) informed him that we were supporting rescue and adoption, and I honestly didn't know any breeders...and even then it's hard to find a good one. I asked him if he had checked rescues specifically for German Shepherd Dogs, and he had not. In the meantime, his little girl seemed to be falling head over heels for Joe. He was really doing a great job being himself, which showed off his easy-going temperament and friendliness. It took about 30 mins, but by the end of our conversation, the man had totally forgotten about breeders and GSDs and just had to take Joe home.

Then there was Dutch. Dutch was a very sweet, calm Labrador Retriever mix. She was a pretty yellow color with small white markings. A man and his boy had been browsing the dogs and kept stopping in front of her kennel. The man was obviously not certain, although I'm pretty sure his son was. Through conversation, I was able to ease his fears about introducing a new dog into their home, which already has an adult male Labrador Retriever. Although all dogs are individuals, most labs do seem to have an easy-going temperament and get along great with people and other dogs. A pair of the opposite sex, both fixed, should do great together. I mentioned walking the two dogs together, just letting them see each other and get to know one another rather than just throwing them in the fence or house together. He was convinced and Dutch was adopted. :)

In the midst of the happy endings, there was a lot of wasted time and tongue-biting. The wasted time involved people that weren't serious about adopting, but just kept looking and asking questions, taking time away from potential adopters. The tongue-biting involved the know-it-alls that just KNEW what breed each dog consisted of and how they would or wouldn't react to certain things. The tongue-biting also included hearing statements like the following:

"We have a cat, but she has fleas and had to live outside."

"We had just one girl cat, but she keeps multiplying and now there's millions!"

"I don't think that's a shepherd mix, that dog definitely has Chow and those will bite." (This statement was made about Sue, a super sweet "shepherd mix" that really loves kids.)

"These dogs are way too skinny. It's obvious they have worms. These people don't take care of them at all!"

"Which one is more aggressive?"

I have to stop there, because I have to tell you about the man that made that last statement. I'll write it as I remember it.

"Hi, are you looking for a new fur-baby?"

"I got a full-blooded red nose pit."

***silence*** (Here there was tongue biting. Okay, so you have a color and a nickname given to multiple dogs. So what kind of dog do you have?)

"I bet they won't let me adopt a dog cuz I got a pit."

"Well, I have an American Pit Bull Terrier at home, and I'm a recent adoptee. We aren't breed-specific. Do you have a male or female dog?"

"I got a boy. Yeah, he's not so good around people, he hasn't been around many. I don't know if he'd like another dog, you know, they gotta be tough for him. I had a puppy but I had to give him back to the people cuz my dog play rough, know what I'm sayin'?"

"If you don't think your dog would get along with other dogs, I don't recommend adopting another one."

"Why's that?"

(Wow, is he stupid or what?) "Well, because that can lead to fights and the dogs can and will get hurt. You don't want that to happen."

"Oh, so which one is more aggressive?"

"Um, none of those are aggressive dogs. They'll bark if the see a strange dog, but they don't bite and they get along with others."

"My dog, you can't go to my house. He bite you. So, if I adopt a dog, are they gone keep coming to my house?"

"Part of the adoption process IS agreeing to allowing shelter staff to inspect where the dog will be living. They sometimes show up randomly." (Please go away, guy!)

"Oh. So they let me get one even though I got a pit?"

"Like I said, we aren't breed-specific. We do take into consideration where you live, where the dog will spend most of his/her time, if you have other pets and what kind, and also if your pets are spayed/neutered."

"Why that is? My boy ain't fixed."

"Sometimes, intact males and neutered males don't get along very well. All dogs are individuals, and you have to be sensitive to their feelings and emotions. You already said your dog doesn't get along with others, so you shouldn't bring another one home."

At this point, the people that ended up adopting Dutch had walked up. The guy asked the people, "So, you taking this dog home?"

To that the man replied, "I don't know. We're just looking right now."

THEN the guy wants to know how we came to be in possession of Dutch.

"How you get this dog?"

"She was in the night drop."

"What that is?"

"It's where people put dogs and cats they pick up as strays or don't want anymore. It's some outside kennels people can put the animals in while the shelter is closed. The next morning, the kennel staff takes the animals in to be checked out. If they have a microchip that can be traced to the owner, they try to find out if the owner dropped the animal off or if that is their lost pet."

"Can't they get in trouble for that?"

"For dropping off a dog? No."

"But, they was loose."

"No, that would be a dog running at large."

So, here the guy was super confused...or maybe he was trying to start something, I don't know. I really couldn't figure out his angle, and he was starting to get on my nerves. He had already admitted to having an intact, dog-aggressive male dog that also doesn't like people and had shown interest in "aggressive dogs." He wanted some sort of reassurance that no one would see where the dog would be housed, and he seemed very interested in the night drop off, though I'm not sure why.

At this point, I literally turned my back to him and engaged the man and his boy in conversation about Dutch. The guy went away, just to start making the same kind of awkward conversation with the other woman working about the cats. I made sure to mention to the director that the guy gave me a bad vibe, and he had picked up on it, too.

Besides the random guy and the tongue-biting moments, it turned out to be a really good day. I was told there have been visits where no one gets adopted, so 4 is really good. Success!

When I got home, Bobob and Axle had a fit over all of the different smells on me. I swear, they didn't stop sniffing me for an hour. Is there really that much to smell? Axle is now curled up on the couch, asleep. Bobob is busy pouncing on a squeaky Skineez raccoon. I guess that means it's been a good day! :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Chicken Conundrum

I’ve heard of many cases where dogs are shot, ordered put down, poisoned, or otherwise harmed for killing a chicken (or chickens). Cats have fallen victim to this, as well. Dogs have also been known to attack cats…but let’s focus on chickens for now.

I’m an animal lover. Big and small, I have a little heart for all of them. Even the spiders. Maybe. I grew up with chickens and have always enjoyed having them…but here’s the thing. I’ve never bonded with a chicken. I’ve never known anyone who has bonded with a chicken. I’ve never seen or heard of chickens being surrendered to a humane society, or chickens being put up for adoption. I’ve never heard of getting your chicken microchipped in case he/she got lost. I’ve also never seen (or heard of) chicken collars, chicken clothes, chicken blankets, etc.

Chickens serve a few purposes in our lives – food (meat/eggs/animal feed) and hobby (show/just looking at them/etc). We had chickens for eggs and just to watch them scratch around in the yard. We provided quality food to them, made sure we had the appropriate hen/rooster ratio, provided them with a safe shelter from the weather and predators with adequate space, and let them out during the day to find bugs and other goodies in the yard. Although we took all of the proper precautions, we still lost quite a few chickens to owls, hawks, bobcats, weasels, snakes, foxes, stray dogs, and so on. We would chase the neighbor’s dogs away from the chicken coop quite often, but we would never have hurt the dogs if they had gotten a chicken. Why? That’s a given when you have chickens. They can (and will) die, often at the hands (or feet/claws/what have you) of predators. Yes, it’s sad, and you may cry. We always said a few words over ours and buried them with flowers. That’s the circle of life.

So why are people still reacting so violently when they catch a neighboring dog (or cat) in their chicken coop? I’m not really sure. Yes, the neighbor should have control of their pet. If there isn’t a leash law, there is probably a nuisance law. The first step is to speak to the pet owner. Let them know your concerns. They may not be aware that their pet is sizing up your prize hens or pilfering your eggs. If the neighbor is no help, call your local animal control the next time you catch the thief in your henhouse.

When a pet kills a chicken, the appropriate reaction is to contact the pet owner first. A responsible pet owner would probably be a) unaware that their dog had sneaked over into your yard and b) be very apologetic that their dog harmed your chicken(s) and would likely c) offer to cover the costs of the chicken(s). Regardless of the pet owner’s reaction, don’t take it out on the animal (ie don’t harm it). Call local animal control authorities and let them know what is going on. They should take your statement and approach the pet owner.

A dog (or cat) that kills a chicken (or chickens) is not a murderer. Instead, they are acting out a very natural instinct –prey drive. This is one of the things that causes a) dogs to chase and/or harm cats and b) cats to be wary of dogs. A clucking, flopping bird that can’t really fly is a huge tease to a dog or a cat. Would you blame a child for sticking their hand in the cookie jar? You would correct their behavior, but you couldn’t be mad at them for being tempted and/or giving in to the temptation. Same way with cats, dogs, and very edible, enticing critters like chickens. The same could be said for all things found edible by cats and/or dogs.

So remember, the next time you catch a four-legged thief trying to make off with a chicken, go to the owner first. It’s not the animal’s fault!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Must Love Dogs

The less you have...
Being a dog lover who is passionate about dog rescue and general dog welfare, it's often hard to get back to the bare basics. There are thousands of homeless pets on this planet, and let's face it, not all animal lovers can afford top quality food or even a fence. Instead of bashing people for feeding their dog Ol' Roy (or worse) and whatever else they do or don't do for their dogs, we should go back to the basics - a love for dogs. I know I'm guilty of the bashing!

Those of us that know better than to feed our dogs food that's main ingredient consists of grains and/or some sort of meat meal, know better than to use flea collars or cheap flea prevention, know better than to leave our dogs intact, know better than to let our dogs run loose and so on...we owe it to those who don't know better to have a bigger heart.

The next time you see someone dragging their dog along with a choke chain, fight the urge to spout the first thing that comes to mind. Remember that they probably didn't get a dog with the intention of hurting it. So what's a good way to let this person know that what they're doing isn't good for their dog? Well, you can start by approaching in a friendly manner and asking about their dog, maybe something like, "Looks like he/she is giving you a hard time!" Try to keep the conversation friendly - compliment their dog's appearance, ask how long they've had him/her and so on. To get to the topic of the choke chain, you could mention (even if it isn't true) how hard a time you had getting your own dog to learn to walk on the leash properly. Hopefully, they'll be interested and ask what you used, but you can go ahead and offer the info if they don't.

Example:
"I really had a hard time getting my dog to walk on a leash politely. I tried a lot of different stuff, but I found a __________ worked best for me and my dog. It took some practice, but now we don't have any problems!"

Part with a "Good luck!" or a "Nice to meet you and your dog!" and go your merry way. You have officially planted a seed that will hopefully germinate into a healthy plant. You should try to avoid getting into a debate with the person, as that doesn't do any good.

What about dog food? Refer people to www.dogfoodadvisor.com so they can see for themselves what's in the food they are buying and what's good/bad about it. I'd feed my dogs Taste of the Wild if I could afford it, but they have to be satisfied with a dog food that is one star less - Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy with no wheat, corn or soy. Some people feed their dogs human food because that's all they can afford or they don't know any better. That is terrible for the dog's health...but go back to the basics...that person loves that dog and that's how they show it.

The best testimony is living by example. When people compliment your dog's shiny coat, say thank you and maybe reference the food you feed your dog.

Example:
"Your dog has such a pretty coat!"
"Thanks, I feed him/her _________ and I've really seen results in his/her coat!"

Maybe your dog is very well behaved (unlike mine, lol). People do notice well-behaved dogs and usually make a point of saying something about it. That's an excellent opportunity to gush about the trainer you used or the methods you use at home. Don't just settle with a "thanks he/she is so smart" reply. Dogs are like kids - they aren't born knowing how to behave in this world!

Tired of a neighborhood dog showing up on your doorstep because they let him/her run free? Return the dog to his/her home and maybe ask if they'd like to borrow your tie out (I recommend keeping one handy) or runner because they almost got hit by a car in front of your house.

Always remember that honey attracts bees or flies or something like that...so be sweet! If you come across as condescending or judgmental, people will automatically go on the defensive, and your words will fall on deaf ears, however meaningful they might have been.

What can you do to further your reach and impact on current and potential dog owners? Broaden your horizons beyond social networking. Read read READ! The more you read, the more you know, and you always need to have a wealth of information handy so you can answer those tough questions that come your way.

Knowledge basics:

1. Love isn't breed-specific. When someone asks you about a particular dog breed, remind them of this most basic fact. Every dog is an individual and should be treated as such.

2. Cheap doesn't equal better. Discount dog food, flea prevention, etc. may sound good on the surface (and to the wallet), but cutting corners on the basics of dog health can (and will) lead to expensive vet bills later on. You can always give an opinion, but the best thing you can do is offer references. For example, you could say, "Well, I use this for my dogs, but you should research what is best for your dog. I just worry about these cheaper items because I know they have to cut corners to make it that cheap, and I don't want those expensive vet bills later, if you know what I mean!"

3. Dogs need doctors, not internet Q&A. Bare basics: dogs need a yearly exam with rabies and booster shots, along with a monthly heartworm preventative and tick/flea prevention. When someone starts asking for medical advice for their dog, try to convince them to talk to a vet. You wouldn't want to give them advice that could harm their dog!

4. Dogs need exercise. Even if they have a "large yard," dogs need play time for exercise and mental stimulation. If someone mentions their dog tearing their yard up by digging or chewing up everything in sight, you could offer some old toys of your dogs for them to chew on. Also mention that tossing the ball around or going for a walk really helped with your dog's boredom level.

5. Dog food. The best reference I've had for people is www.dogfoodadvisor.com. It allows people to research the dog food they are using on their own and make their own informed decisions. Remember, you're here to plant seeds, not preach.

6. Dogs need a safe place to sleep. If a dog sleeps outside, he/she needs shelter like a good dog house or barn. They need heat in the winter and a way to keep cool in the summer. If he/she sleeps inside, well...he/she is probably on the couch! The dog would still need a blanket or bed of their own, though!

7. Dogs need clean water. You'd be surprised by the amount of people that think it's okay to let their dog drink out of an algae or otherwise infested bowl or tub. Fresh, clean water is a must!

8. Spay/neuter. This is a touchy subject for some people, but it's very important in animal welfare. With rising shelter populations and increasing health concerns for dogs everywhere, it's important to educate the public about spay/neuter. Try to be friendly about it...and always show the positive side of it! Remember, plant a seed!

9. Grooming basics. Know the different grooming tools and basic requirements for different coats and size dogs. Not all human shampoo is bad for dogs! Anti-dandruff shampoos like Head and Shoulders is actually great for dogs with dandruff issues. Dogs aren't like people - they can't shower every day and not suffer. Wipes are a great thing to keep on hand for the little messes and to keep them smelling fresh!

10. ID and a way to stay home. A free-roaming dog is NOT a safe dog. Tie-outs and runners aren't preferred methods of keeping a dog at home, but it's at least better than letting your dog roam free...just make sure he/she still gets plenty of time, attention and exercise. ID tags and collars are a MUST for any dog owner, and microchips are even better!

Always remember, the root of dog ownership is a love for dogs. If you can connect with a person on this most basic level, you can plant a seed that can grow into a responsible and thoughtful dog owner!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Life with a Pibble

I've had people ask what a typical day is like with a pibble...and here's the answer:

No day (or pibble) is ever the same!


Here's what happened today:

3:00 AM Axle sneaks into our bed and dives under the covers.

3:30 AM Axle shoots out from under the cover to bark at some random noise.

3:35 AM I throw pillow in Axle's general direction.

3:36 AM Axle flops over on pillow and looks at me like, "I dare you to take it."

5:00 AM Axle sneaks back into bed.

7:00 AM Everyone is wide awake - and Axle wants to cuddle!

8:00 AM Axle goes outside with Bo to use the bathroom.

8:15 AM Axle says, "Let me back in!"

8:30 AM Axle has breakfast! ...and drools water all over the floor

9:00 AM - 1:00 PM Axle follows me all over the house while I clean and organize things.

1:05 PM Axle finds a treat!

2:00 PM Axle curls up on the couch for a nap.

4:00 PM Axle wakes up and wants to go for a walk!

4:45 PM Axle stretches out on the floor for another nap.

5:30 PM Axle's dad is home! Axle goes nuts! It's the best thing in the world! Woohoo! ...ok...nap time.

5:45 PM Axle goes outside to play while we eat dinner in peace.

6:30 PM Axle comes back inside to snuggle and watch TV.

9:00 PM Axle goes to bed!

Some days, we go to town. Some days, we go to training with another dog and dog owner. Some days we sleep more than others or walk more than others.