Monday, May 28, 2012


Beautiful little Spuds, she was around 3 years old when she came to live with us. She and Axle hit it off immediately. They seemed to be a match made in heaven. I have no idea what went wrong Thursday night. Everything fell apart in just moments. I've included some of her pictures here as a remembrance for her.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Follow Up

We went to the vet this morning. Axle does not have any broken bones. He does have a sprained leg - the one that was pulled through the crate. Our doctoring was sufficient for the vet. Axle has a torn foot pad, but they didn't want to stitch it due to possible infection. We;re to treat it as an open wound - keep it clean and keep a check on it. He's on double the antibiotics I started him on. He will recover with scars.

I wanted to stop by the shelter and take Spuds her favorite blanket and toy, but Axle wasn't feeling so hot. We had already made a stop at Tractor Supply for pill pockets, and he mostly just wanted to lay down. Spuds is on pain meds, so that's good. I know she's so confused and scared. I wish I could explain to her why she's there...heck, if I could talk dog like that, we could have avoided the whole situation. She could have told me how she felt about things, what made her mad, and so on. Ugh.

Axle is napping on the floor, the kitties keeping careful watch over him. Leela in particular has been "kissing" his booboos. He's so good with the kittens. If only they would stay with him and quit trying to use my hand as a pillow while I'm typing!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Aftermath


Last night, Spudet attacked Axle. I wrote about it in here:

She especially tore his legs up. He fought back, I won't lie. Her face was hurt, and the swelling was terrible. I took her to the shelter this morning, and, for the first time in my life, filled out an owner surrender. It's funny, the raging bull she was last night, and here she was her sweet old self again.

There was no keeping Spudet. She had every opportunity to back down, particularly when Axle got in his crate. She chose to pursue him.

When I got home today, I didn't know what to expect. Axle had taken a pain pill last night, but I couldn't convince him to take the antibiotic. Fortunately, the doctoring we had done was working and the pain pill had taken the edge off the swelling. With him being cleaner and all of the bleeding mostly stopped, I was able to see where he was still bleeding - a ripped foot pad. It looks as though Spuds chomped down and proceeded to pull at his foot. I think it's going to need stitches - we'll find out from the vet tomorrow.

I went to work after I had surrendered Spudet. I really couldn't concentrate on much, so I didn't stay as long as I had planned. One of my sweet coworkers bought me breakfast - I was starved and it was so good! It made me terribly sick, though, as I was still upset and uptight. I went to the shelter afterward - the dogs almost always make me feel better.

The shelter staff, especially the head lady (as I call her) Ms. Melissa and the Exec. Director Edward were incredibly understanding and sympathetic. While I have a tendency to mope and wonder where I went wrong with this situation, Ed made a good point - dogs don't feel sorry for themselves. Granted, that was part of a different conversation, but it's incredibly true. Edward even bought me lunch. I didn't have much of an appetite, so I got some broccoli, which does not taste the same coming up as it does going down, by the way. I just have a hard time stomach-ing food when I'm upset. I have never understood the post-break-up-or-tragic-event ice cream binge. Or any food binge, for that matter.

We discussed a lot about Spuds, Axle, rescue, shelter dogs, and so on. Even cursed PETA came up! I think discussing matters bigger than my own troubles helped put things into focus and even start the healing process, pardon the cliche. Ms. Melissa (who practically terrified me my first week as a volunteer) even made the statement that people like me are an important part of the shelter - we're kind of liaisons to the "outside world." I felt special. :)

After I got home, I started the cleaning process. It's going to take me awhile, because the strong stench of blood makes me sick. Hello reason number 231 why I could never be a veterinarian! As I was scrubbing a CSI-like blood splatter from the door to Axle's room, I wondered what Axle sees when he sees the aftermath. What does he feel? Does he feel sad? Does he wonder where Spuds is? I wonder if he really was thinking about it all...

As each blood splatter disappeared beneath my cleaning cloth, I couldn't help but think that I wasn't washing away just any blood. I was washing away a friendship, a bond. I was washing away the kisses that Axle and Spuds had shared, the lazy Sunday naps on the couch. I was washing away life, love, and trust. I wondered if Axle could ever trust another dog again.

As I sit here typing this, Axle is sprawled out on the living room floor, his golden eyes focused on the two kitties playing around his head. Occasionally, one will get brave and rub their little head against his torn and bloody cheeks. He lets out a loud sigh, startling the fur-balls into action. Give it a few minutes - they'll be back!

Such trusting little kitties, I truly hope nothing ever happens to steal their innocence. Let them forever believe the big dog is just a teddy bear to be hugged and groomed, not a potential predator/enemy. I'll have to take pictures one day of them - but for now, I'm frozen. If I move, they move, and the cute is gone!

As soon as they move, I have to get back to cleaning. Beige floors and walls won't magically clean themselves!

Feeling Like Giving Up

A few hours ago, I was looking for my eye drops. Spuds and Axle were following me around the house like usual. Everything was normal. Same old same old. Spuds started sniffing/licking one of the knuckle bones on the floor, the same bones that have been there for days. (They're usually in the toy box, but Axle and Spuds loooove to drag them out.) In the split second it took for Axle to saunter over near Spuds and sniff in her direction, life stopped. They were in a fight.

I waved a plastic bag at Axle, and he let go. Spuds still had her teeth sunk into his leg. I tried calm speaking, even singing. When Spuds lost her grip, Axle shot down the hall and over the pet gate, where he got into his kennel, like he always does when he knows he's done something wrong (aka he senses we're upset). Spuds barreled after him before I could stop her. She plowed through the pet gate and dove into the crate with him, teeth bared and a snarl on her face. She was angry, and she meant business.

With the two of them in the crate together, there was hardly any way to get them apart. Axle would repeatedly let go, but Spuds would just find a new hold on him. I threw a blanket over her, trying to ease her out of the crate. She turned and tried to bite me...just to get a mouthful of blanket. I have a few scrapes where she did manage to make contact as I pulled her away in the blanket.

As soon as I got her out of the crate, I locked the gate. Spuds slipped out of the blanket and began attacking Axle through the crate. She managed to get his back leg and inflicted a few puncture wounds. I finally got her wrapped up and outside.

Our friends came over and helped clean up and bathe Axle. We called the director of the humane society Spuds was adopted from, and their advice was to bring her in. It's not wise for her to stay here, and there's nowhere else for her to go.

It's these moments right here where I gave up. Axle will just have to live out his life with the two kitties he loves to "bathe." We knew Otto was a risk from the get go. Bobob? Tumors? Seizures? Now Spuds? Do I just hone in on the sick? What life did Spuds have before that made her so overly...whatever...?

I just feel empty.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Shelter Dogs

Come adopt this dog!

Recently, a dog named Daisey was adopted from the shelter. At 2 years old, Daisey still has the heart of a puppy, regardless of the time she’s spent in the shelter. People fawned over Daisey at every adoption event, commenting on her sweet, calm demeanor. Some were turned off by her tendency to let out a submissive dribble of pee when first greeting them. Some left with promises of coming to get her the next day, the next week, and so on. Still, Daisey remained in D-bank. Everyone was happy the day someone adopted Daisey. He seemed kind of awkward, but sweet, and loved Daisey’s personality. It seemed as though Daisey finally had her happily-ever-after. Hardly. Within no time, Daisey was back. The guy said she was carsick. He wanted another dog, but he was refunded his money and told to hit the road.
Yes, this one!
That incident made me reflect on all of the current “inmates.” Each one is an individual, but each one has the same curse of being in the shelter. (Fortunately for them, it’s a pretty darn good shelter.) Each dog has a tagline, telling you how they wound up in the shelter. Many are night drops without reason – maybe they were strays or someone just decided they didn’t want their dog anymore. There’s also a lot of owner surrenders. In Daisey’s case, she was an owner surrender because of her energy level. An 8 month old Rottweiler was surrendered because he was “too big.” A Dachshund was surrendered because she “escapes.”
Popular “reasons” include needing too much attention, too much energy, too big, too many animals, and, here’s the kicker, change in lifestyle.
If we’re ever going to improve the condition for dogs, particularly in the South, we’re going to have to teach people that they are not “just dogs.” We’re also going to have to teach people that shelter dogs are not bad dogs. (I call them inmates, which are “residents of a dwelling that houses a number of occupants,” but I’m not referencing a prison.) Not all shelter dogs are mixes, but by law they are required to use that label. What does it REALLY matter, anyway? Pure breed does not equal better.
Dogs are a commitment. Dogs live an average of 10-12 years, some less, some more. If you’re thinking of getting a puppy, first think about where you’ll be in the next year, two years, five years, and so on. If you don’t see a dog fitting into your life, don’t get one. Axle came to live with me in March of last year. It was about the same time we were looking to buy a house, and, of course, we were looking for somewhere we could have our dogs. We found lots of places in our price range and lower, but they wouldn’t be good for our dogs. We finally settled on the house we live in now, with a fenced back yard and an extra room for their crates, etc.
If I dumped Axle (or Spuds) every time they did something bad, they’d be gone multiple times over. Dogs are like kids – you have to teach them desired behaviors and correct them when they do something wrong. Axle used to get car sick every time we went for a drive. I hated it, but I persevered. Now, he feels a little nausea, but he doesn’t throw up. Patience is a virtue! Spuds peed in the house this morning, should I dump her at the shelter? No, I should have a talk with the person that was up last (ahem, my husband) and remind them to let her out before he comes to bed.
We left Axle and Spuds alone in the house together for about four hours last weekend. They ate a corner of the sofa. Should we dump them at the shelter? No, we should not leave them alone so long again. (They tend to more destructive together.)
As to the energy thing…high energy dogs DO exist. They need a lot of exercise and stimulation. If they don’t get it, they’ll be hyper and/or destructive. If you don’t have the time/energy/resources to give a high energy dog (or any dog) what they need, then don’t get a dog.
If size is an important factor in your dog-loving life, adopt a dog that is already grown so you know what size dog you’re getting. If you still insist on a puppy, do a little research on the breed(s) that make up the puppy to estimate a possible size range. (You can also look at a dog’s paws and tell to a certain degree, though many say this is just an old wives’ tale.) If you get a Rottweiler, expect it be to a L-XL dog. If you get a Miniature Poodle, expect it to be a S dog. If you get a Chihuahua mix, expect a S dog. If you get a Bulldog mix, expect a M-L dog. It’s kind of common sense…
I try to be kind, understanding, and forgiving, but sometimes that’s just so hard to be when all you can think is how UNREASONABLE some people are!! The guy that returned Daisey because she was carsick…he was denied another dog because, if he would dump Daisey so quickly, what would happen to any other dog he took home the first time it did something he didn’t like? All of the people that troll the adoptables with their breed comments, “Oh, that’s definitely got Breed X in it. I can’t stand Breed X’s…” Don’t they realize that shelter dog breed labels are merely guesses, some better than others? (Prime example: One dog that looked like a JRT mix, or maybe Rat Terrier…or who knows…was labeled a Standard Schnauzer Mix. Wow.) It gets me when someone just LOVES a dog, ready to take it home, and then they read the kennel card and are shut down by the breed label. Geeez. All dogs are individuals, can we PLEASE quit focusing on breed labels so much??
I like to know the breeds that make up my dogs because a) it’s interesting to be able to answer the people that are making guesses and b) because I like to know what possible genetic diseases they could experience. Axle is an American Pit Bull Terrier. Spuds is an AmStaff/Bulldog/American Bulldog/Boxer/Misc Mix. It made me feel better about Spuds’s breathing when I found out she had both Bulldog and Boxer in her. Those breeds are
brachycephalic, or bred to have a normal lower jaw and a compressed upper jaw, giving them that smushed-in look with an underbite.
Virtually all brachycephalic dogs suffer from an elongated soft palate, since it’s difficult to fit the soft tissues of the dog’s mouth and throat into such a short face. There are other conditions associated with brachycephalic dogs that hinder breathing…brachycephalic dogs are inefficient panters, meaning they can’t cool off as well or as quickly. They are the most likely candidates for a heat stroke. Spuds pants a lot more than Axle, and it takes her forever to cool off. She also can’t breathe very well in some positions. I was really worried about her, thinking maybe she had some disease until I got her DNA results back. Now I understand where her breathing issues are coming from, so it’s extra important to make sure she doesn’t get too hot and that she doesn’t get overweight.
Alas, I digress. The moral to this story is that dogs are a commitment. If you’re not prepared to take the poop with the kisses, the vomit with the snuggles, then just do us all a favor and don’t get a dog. Dogs are not “until” animals – until I get married, until I have a baby, until I get a job, etc. Dogs are forever, or at least, ‘til death do you part (and, ahem, you should have a plan for your animals in the event of your death).


Thursday, May 17, 2012


I recently read a blog post about a woman who started working for an Animal Control unit to get a better understanding of shelter animals. It broke my heart to read about the feral cats dying in the Wild Child Room, sweet Nash dying in his kennel, and then little Neva… That brings up the controversial topic of euthanasia. Is it right or wrong? I believe it’s a shade of grey, somewhere in between.

While no-kill shelters sound great, there can be a severely ugly side to them. Depending on the size and resources of a no-kill shelter, they may very well be ill-prepared to care for animals that never get adopted. Allow me to explain:

The shelter I volunteer at has the capacity to hold 300 animals. They are an open-admission shelter and are continually receiving animals. Like most shelters, cats are housed in a series of steel cubes with wire doors. Almost like prison, they have a standard issue litter box, blanket, food and water bowl. There are two people assigned to the “cat room,” and they keep the litter boxes clean, the towels changed, and take the cats out to play and socialize. Although I’m sure there have been cats euthanized at the shelter before, I haven’t heard of it. 

The shelter works with a local pet store to adopt out their cats, and that seems to be working really well.
The dogs are housed in kennels that are off the ground to allow for waste to fall through to the grates below. The dogs go outside first thing in the morning so that their kennels can be cleaned. If it’s a pretty day out, kennel staff will let them all in the outside kennels for a while – time to enjoy the sunshine, play with toys, and just enjoy a change of scenery. If they’re lucky, there’s a volunteer around to take them out and spend more one-on-one time with them.

The shelter euthanizes dogs that are terminally ill or very sick, have contagious diseases that would be too costly to treat (like mange), or are dog or people aggressive. Fortunately, they currently seem to have a good staff that understands that dogs don’t always get along and, even though they may pick a fight with the dog they are currently housed next to, they do just fine next to a different one that they get along with better. (I know they used to have a worker that just assumed that, no matter what the circumstance, if a dog growled or snapped at another it was dog aggressive. Of course, she also labels everything pit bull…but that’s a different story.) That still doesn’t solve the problem of space and constant new admissions.

The shelter doesn’t just rely on people to randomly come by the shelter and adopt a dog. Instead, they do outreach programs – fun dog shows at assisted living homes, town gatherings, and adoption days at PetSmart and anywhere else that will permit the shelter to use their space. They also use their own website, dog sites like, and social networking sites like Facebook to share photos and stories of adoptable animals. Even with all of this, some dogs just don’t get adopted. At that point, they reach out to rescues in an attempt to find one that will accept them. They’ve had good luck with that so far.

Just because a shelter uses euthanasia doesn’t mean that they use it as their first option. It doesn’t even mean that they use it at all except as a last resort. If the shelter I volunteer for was at full capacity and still receiving admissions, couldn’t find a rescue, and was just at a loss for space, what else would you expect them to do? Less than 50% of the shelter’s income comes from an Animal Control contract with local government. The remaining amount depends on generous donors. Most shelters have a similar story when it comes to finances. 

While I don't like euthanasia, I can understand it as a (sad) last resort. If people truly want to stop euthanasia, it's time to take responsibility. It all starts with you - spay/neuter your pets and encourage others to do the same.


Cute lipstick prints aren't just for love letters and retro t-shirts...they're for your dog! Let's see pics of your dog being kiss-a-bull!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Common Dog Myths

As a dog lover, I tend to attract other dog lovers. When exchanging pleasantries and talking about our dogs, I've noticed a terrifying pattern. Many people are operating under beliefs without researching them. They are applying this information to their dogs and teaching it to others, who also take it as fact. These beliefs are strong because they usually come from a trusted family member, a news source, and/or are laced with heavy emotion. I know I used to be a victim of the belief that pit bulls were vicious dogs. My dad taught me that, even if you raised them like any other dog, they would one day just "snap," and then you're dead or worse. I'm so glad I took the time to find out for myself.

1. Mixed breeds are always healthier than purebred dogs. 

While it would be wonderful to believe this, it's definitely not always true. If you crossed a Bulldog and a Pug, do you think that dog would be healthy? That aside, it remains true that many mixed breed dogs do not have as many of the genetic diseases common in their purebred cousins.

Mixed breed dogs have the blessing of a larger gene pool than their purebred cousins. This is how they have a greater chance of avoiding genetic diseases like hip dysplasia, cancer, and epilepsy.

2. Dogs are sick when their noses are warm, or vice versa.

The temperature of a dogs nose does not indicate whether a dog has a fever or not. The only way to tell is to take their temperature with a thermometer - and I think you know where that goes! Normal temperature for a dog ranges between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees F. The myth began when canine distemper was more widespread - one of the signs a dog had distemper was thickening of the nose and foot pads, meaning the nose would be dry. A cold, wet nose meant a dog didn't have distemper.

3. Dogs should have a litter before being spayed. 

Dogs that have a litter before being spayed are no better for it. All that you'll succeed in doing is adding to the dog population, which is already incredibly high. Spaying lowers risk for breast cancer and UTIs. Neutering helps prevent testicular cancer. Dogs that have been spayed/neutered typically live longer lives than intact dogs. Many people believe that dogs that haven't had a litter would feel a void - a classic case of anthropomorphism, or giving other things/beings human characteristics. 

4. All dogs like to be petted on their heads, be hugged, etc.

Not all dogs like to be petted on their heads. The same goes for hugging, kissing, etc. Going straight for the top of a dog's head is a sure way to get nipped! The safest way to pet a dog? Let the dog approach you. Hold your hand out, palm down, and allow the dog to sniff your hand. Pet the dog under the chin, on his chest, or on his back. These are non-threatening forms of contact. Watch a dog's body language for signs the dog is uncomfortable/stressed/anxious. A dog yawning, licking its chops, not panting or panting heavily without exertion, half-moon eyes, stiff tail wagging, these are all signs of an anxious dog. 

5. Dogs have cleaner mouths than people.

It's not hard to realize where this myth came from. Dogs often lick their wounds, and it's not hard to imagine people believing their mouths contain some sort of healing wonder. If this was so true, why would vets insist that you don't let your dog lick their incision from spay/neuter operations? That's because a dog's mouth is teeming with bacteria that can cause infection. The only thing that might encourage healing is the rough tongue removing dead tissue and massaging the wound, encouraging blood flow. Long story short, dog mouths are full of germs and other icky things, but the good news is that most of those germs are dog-specific. As long as you keep your dog de-wormed and healthy, you can keep on giving doggy kisses safely!

6. Dogs can't see color.

By examining the types of cones in the dogs retina, scientists determined that dogs can see primarily in blue, greenish-yellow, yellow, and various shades of grey.

7. Dogs will let you know when they're sick.

A dog's survival instinct is to hide any sickness or weakness so that they don't become prey. By the time your dog starts acting sick, the disease is probably well advanced. The best way to avoid this? Preventive care. Keep your dog on heartworm/internal parasite prevention, flea/tick prevention, and take your dog for a yearly exam and booster shots, including rabies.

8. Table scraps are good for dogs.

Table scraps are TERRIBLE for dogs! Bones can be dangerous, breaking teeth and splintering, causing digestive damage. Fat can cause pancreatitis. Most of our food is seasoned - something else dogs don't need. If you want to give your dog some of your food, do it before it's cooked, such as raw pieces of beef, raw meaty bones, etc. Feeding your dog table scraps is a guaranteed health risk - obesity being number one.

9. Dogs don't have to be housebroken - they naturally know where to go.

This myth actually makes me laugh so hard...I cry! When I think about the hours, days, months, I spent housebreaking our dogs, I can't believe anyone would think a dog would just automatically know where to go! In the wild, dogs would house themselves in caves and dens. They wouldn't soil their den or cave, but it's different in a large house with strange textures, like carpet. You have to train your dog that they have to go outside to use the bathroom. As a puppy, crate training is an awesome tool to help teach your dog where to use the bathroom...and where not to.

10. Garlic prevents fleas.

 Garlic is actually on the list of poisonous foods for dogs. Granted, it has to be administered in large amounts, it's still best to avoid. There's no scientific evidence that garlic prevents fleas.

11. Dogs that are mostly indoors don't need heartworm prevention.

Heartworms are spread through mosquitoes, which can come indoors. All dogs, regardless of where they mainly live, should be on heartworm prevention.

12. Dogs age 7 years per 1 human year.

It's not hard to imagine where this myth came from - comparing average human and dog lifespans, creating an oversimplified way to estimate a dogs age. In reality, dogs age faster in the beginning of their lifespan and slower as they grow older. The size and breed of the dog also has a lot to do with the lifespan of a dog. Here's a great chart for estimated age.

13. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
Thankfully, this myth is far from true! How else would older shelter dogs adjust to life in a new home? While it might not be easy to teach an old dog new tricks, it can be done. It just takes a little more patience and time, and the results are well worth it! One of the first things to determine is what motivates your dog. Is your dog motivated by smells, like strong-smelling treats? Or maybe more motivated by praise? Use what motivates your dog and get to work!

14. A wagging tail means a happy dog.

Check out this chart of canine body language. It's not foolproof, but it's a great place to start. Just because a dog is wagging its tail doesn't meant that it's happy...or friendly. Rather than just looking at the tail, try to read the rest of the body language. Is the dog in the playful position? Or is the dog stiff, its tail held high in a stiff wag? Misreading body language is a sure way to get bitten!

15. Playing tug of war can increase aggression.

A lot of dogs can get really into this game - snarling, growling, yanking. While it would seem that this would increase aggressive behavior, the truth is the game is innocent. In fact, there is scientific evidence that playing games like tug of war can actually serve as an outlet for aggressive tendencies and decrease anxiety and aggressive behaviors. This game isn't for every dog. Some dogs can easily switch between winning and losing with no long term effects. Other dogs may not take defeat so easily. Before engaging in tug of war, talk with a trusted vet or trainer in regards to your particular dogs needs, and which toys are better for your dogs teeth. Good obedience skills before engaging in games like tug of war include "take it," "leave it," and "drop it."
16. Dogs eat grass when they're sick.

Way back before dogs were domesticated, their ancestors ate all of their kill, including what their kill had eaten, which usually consisted of grasses and leaves. Some dogs actually like grass and eat it on a regular basis. Too much grass can irritate the stomach and induce vomiting.

17. Pit bulls have locking jaws and other myths.

This is a biggie, it seem. Pit bulls do not have locking jaws, nor do any other dogs. There is also no breed of dog that is more aggressive than any other. Pit bull is not a breed - it's a stereotype. No dog will ever turn on a person without reason. (People may cite dogs like our Otto, who was mentally impaired, as a dog that would turn "without reason," but his very impairment was a reason.)

18. There's no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog.

When it comes to dog allergies, there is no dog breed that your allergies are impervious to. The so-called hypoallergenic dogs that are often recommended to allergy-sufferers include Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs, soft-coated Wheaten Terriers, and Schnauzers. According to vets, these dogs shed less, therefore producing less dander. Dander is often the main culprit when it comes to dog allergies. There is still not enough evidence to support that any of these dogs are the answer to people who want dogs, yet are allergic to dogs.

19. A dog shouldn't be allowed to sleep with you or on the couch or it will lead to misbehavior.

Like people, dogs like to sleep where they are most comfortable. If comfortable can be combined with being near their human, it's a bonus! For the average dog, behavioral problems will arise from letting your dog sleep where they want, although letting your pooch sleep with you can cause YOU sleeping problems. In rare cases, dogs can become aggressive in regards to their sleeping area(s), and training will be necessary.

20. A dog that cowers likely has an abusive past.

Dogs cower for a multitude of reasons. More often than not, it's because the dog was not properly socialized or had negative experiences as a puppy. Dogs can also be fearful through genetics. Dogs could also shy away because they have learned to dodge people trying to grab her, or is uncomfortable with certain types of petting. With timid dogs, the best approach is to get on their level, your body turned toward the side, and then inviting the dog to approach you. Using this method will increase the dog's confidence.