Sunday, September 23, 2012

How Could You? - A Dog's Letter

My friend showed me this letter she found online. It's a letter written from a dog's perspective...this made me tear up and cry, so I'm warning you now! It's the sad truth that many dogs and cats face when they are brought in to shelters across the nation, and I see it everyday. This is the toughest part of my job hands down; witnessing pets be brought in to the shelter and having their whole world turn upside down. It's the reality of what happens to numerous pets, and some don't get that "second chance". I always hope that the person taking their dog out of the car in the parking lot is just walking to the clinic...and then I see them turn towards our dog receiving door and my heart sinks a little. I know what their excuses will be..."we're moving", "we don't have time", "just can't afford him", or "I know he'll find a better home here". And somehow they expect me to smile back and tell them "everything will be ok", when in reality I know that that's a lie. I wish for a second that they would stop and put themselves in their dog's "shoes"...

How Could You?

by Jim Willis

When I was a puppy, I entertained you with my antics and made you laugh. You called me your child, and despite a number of chewed shoes and a couple of murdered throw pillows, I became your best friend. Whenever I was "bad," you'd shake your finger at me and ask, "How could you?" -- but then you'd relent and roll me over for a belly rub.

My housebreaking took a little longer than expected, because you were terribly busy, but we worked on that together. I remember those nights of nuzzling you in bed and listening to your confidences and secret dreams, and I believed that life could not be any more perfect.

We went for long walks and runs in the park, car rides, stops for ice cream (I only got the cone because "ice cream is bad for dogs" you said), and I took long naps in the sun waiting for you to come home at the end of the day. Gradually, you began spending more time at work and on your career, and more time searching for a human mate. I waited for you patiently, comforted you through heartbreaks and disappointments, never chided you about bad decisions, and romped with glee at your homecomings, and when you fell in love.

She, now your wife, is not a "dog person" -- still I welcomed her into our home, tried to show her affection, and obeyed her. I was happy because you were happy. Then the human babies came along and I shared your excitement. I was fascinated by their pinkness, how they smelled, and I wanted to mother them, too. Only she and you worried that I might hurt them, and I spent most of my time banished to another room, or to a dog crate.

Oh, how I wanted to love them, but I became a "prisoner of love." As they began to grow, I became their friend. They clung to my fur and pulled themselves up on wobbly legs, poked fingers in my eyes, investigated my ears, and gave me kisses on my nose. I loved everything about them and their touch -- because your touch was now so infrequent -- and I would've defended them with my life if need be. I would sneak into their beds and listen to their worries and secret dreams, and together we waited for the sound of your car in the driveway.

There had been a time, when others asked you if you had a dog, that you produced a photo of me from your wallet and told them stories about me. These past few years, you just answered "yes" and changed the subject. I had gone from being "your dog" to "just a dog," and you resented every expenditure on my behalf.

Now, you have a new career opportunity in another city, and you and they will be moving to an apartment that does not allow pets. You've made the right decision for your "family," but there was a time when I was your only family.

I was excited about the car ride until we arrived at the animal shelter. It smelled of dogs and cats, of fear, of hopelessness. You filled out the paperwork and said, "I know you will find a good home for her." They shrugged and gave you a pained look. They understand the realities facing a middle-aged dog, even one with "papers." You had to pry your son's fingers loose from my collar, as he screamed, "No, Daddy! Please don't let them take my dog!" And I worried for him, and what lessons you had just taught him about friendship and loyalty, about love and responsibility, and about respect for all life.
You gave me a good-bye pat on the head, avoided my eyes, and politely refused to take my collar and leash with you. You had a deadline to meet and now I have one, too. After you left, the two nice ladies said you probably knew about your upcoming move months ago and made no attempt to find me another good home. They shook their heads and asked, "How could you?"

They are as attentive to us here in the shelter as their busy schedules allow. They feed us, of course, but I lost my appetite days ago. At first, whenever anyone passed my pen, I rushed to the front, hoping it was you that you had changed your mind -- that this was all a bad dream... or I hoped it would at least be someone who cared, anyone who might save me. When I realized I could not compete with the frolicking for attention of happy puppies, oblivious to their own fate, I retreated to a far corner and waited.

I heard her footsteps as she came for me at the end of the day, and I padded along the aisle after her to a separate room. A blissfully quiet room. She placed me on the table and rubbed my ears, and told me not to worry. My heart pounded in anticipation of what was to come, but there was also a sense of relief. The prisoner of love had run out of days. As is my nature, I was more concerned about her. The burden which she bears weighs heavily on her, and I know that, the same way I knew your every mood. She gently placed a tourniquet around my foreleg as a tear ran down her cheek. I licked her hand in the same way I used to comfort you so many years ago. She expertly slid the hypodermic needle into my vein. As I felt the sting and the cool liquid coursing through my body, I lay down sleepily, looked into her kind eyes and murmured, "How could you?"

Perhaps because she understood my dog speak, she said, "I'm so sorry." She hugged me, and hurriedly explained it was her job to make sure I went to a better place, where I wouldn't be ignored or abused or abandoned, or have to fend for myself -- a place of love and light so very different from this earthly place. And with my last bit of energy, I tried to convey to her with a thump of my tail that my "How could you?" was not directed at her.

It was directed at you, My Beloved Master, I was thinking of you. I will think of you and wait for you forever. May everyone in your life continue to show you so much loyalty.

A Note from the Author: If "How Could You?" brought tears to your eyes as You read it, as it did to mine as I wrote it, it is because it is the composite story of the millions of formerly "owned" pets who die each year in American & Canadian animal shelters.

Anyone is welcome to distribute the essay for a noncommercial purpose, as long as it is properly attributed with the copyright notice. Please use it to help educate, on your websites, in newsletters, on animal shelter and vet office bulletin boards. Tell the public that the decision to add a pet to the family is an important one for life, that animals deserve our love and sensible care, that finding another appropriate home for your animal is your responsibility and any local humane society or animal welfare league can offer you good advice, and that all life is precious. Please do your part to stop the killing, and encourage all spay & neuter campaigns in order to prevent unwanted animals.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sleeping Beauties

The shelter has been SOOOO busy lately it's overwhelming! We have been receiving an alarming amount of pets from the community, and our manager has decided to reduce the adoption prices for cats and dogs over a year of age. It's THAT full! Our kennels are practically full, with the max amount of two dogs to a cage and the cat building is almost there as well. On a better note, the weather has been getting gradually cooler, and we're all starting to feel even the sligthest difference...and I'm so excited! I'm so over the summer heat and I'm sure all of the dogs are as well. Bring on the cold fronts please.

I've also been very busy with a class I'm taking this semester to fulfill the requirement to start applying to vet school. With that, my time spent in Crossfit after work, and other things...I haven't had any personal time, including my blog :( So I thought I'd make a picture post today. I wanted to share an accumulation of pictures I've taken of some of the cats and dogs I've caught sleeping. Enjoy :)

 And then some of my lazy cat Jax :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to Stop a Dog Fight

What would you do if you saw two dogs fighting at the dog park? Better yet, if you saw YOUR dog and another dog start fighting?

We had an incident earlier this week that got me many people actually know how to stop a dog fight WITHOUT getting hurt? The incident occurred when two dogs got into a scuffle in the rec yard while getting their daily walks by the volunteers. The volunteer tried to separate them himself, without asking for help, and ended up getting bit by one of the dogs. Thankfully, the bite didn't break the skin and it wasn't serious enough for either dog to be sent to animal services...which is what happens whenever a dog bites someone (intentionally or not).

Note: There IS a difference between an actual fight and two dogs just play fighting, for example, at a dog park. So be careful to not confuse the two! Some dogs just play a little more rough than others and that's ok, just as long as no one gets hurt :)

So, what do you do when you see two dogs in the middle of something like this?

First mistake people make is going with their gut to the dogs and try to physically separate them yourself...right? WRONG! This is how people get bitten and hurt! Let me share with you what I've learned while working at the shelter, from both experience and some research.

Rule # 1: Stay calm! Your adrenaline is going to spike and it's important to not panic because that's how accidents happen. Most dog fights are harmless, and reacting in a calm and collected manner will allow you to separate the dogs in a safe way. This is important to remember before AND after the fight...once the madness is over, take a deep breath and regain your composure. It's happened to me before, especially the first time, and you will be jolted after an experience.

Rule # 2: Never EVER stick any part of your body (i.e. foot, arm) in between the dogs to separate them. Do not try to physically separate them by yourself.

Rule # 3: Call for help! From someone nearby or call someone to come to your rescue! It's important to really assess how serious the fight is and weigh out the risk involved in separating the dogs, either alone or with someone. If you feel that this is too dangerous, DO NOT even try getting in there to stop them because you WILL get hurt! I've heard horror stories of someone just trying to do a good deed in stopping them and they get the bite intended for the other dog. Stories of people having reconstructive hand surgery, chunks bitten off, etc. Trust me, sometimes it's better to just wait for help. BUT there's always a chance that you could try to stop them (safely)! Most dog fights are harmless and can be easily separated following some of these tips.

So what should I do to STOP them???

First, try splashing water on them from either a hose, a bucket, or even from a water bottle that you may have on you. This will temporarily stun and shock them and will give you the chance to quickly separate them. Have one person leash and restrain one dog while you grab the other and immediately separate them so they aren't even near or facing each other.

or...You can also try interrupting the fight with a sudden loud noise such as a clap, stomping, or by banging two metal objects together (ex.bowls). I wouldn't yell or scream because that would just agitate them even more.

What if water or noise doesn't work?

If all else fails, you can try a different approach. But whatever you do, DO NOT GRAB the collar of either dog! That puts your hand waaay too close to their faces and in their hyped and agitated state, they may mistakenly redirect that bite to your hand. It may have not been intended for you, but if you are close enough...they won't know the difference. So what to do?

If you feel that they can safely and easily separated by two people, try approaching them simultaneously from behind and separating them completely (preferably the owners). Have both people get behind the dogs and simultaneously grab the dog's upper back legs. Try to grab towards the top of the back legs, near the hips, so you don't risk injuring them. Then, lift them up like a wheel barrow and walk backwards and immediately redirect them and have them face opposite directions. This will make it extremely difficult for the dogs to bite and redirect any of that aggression to you, thus making it much safer for you to separate them.

I learned this stuff the hard way, and OH MY GOD was it scary as hell when I had to separate them for the first time. Part of my job is matching a new dog to a dog already up for adoption since the kennels have two to a cage. I try my best to assess the new dogs personality and try to match it with one that would get along the best with. For example, pairing up two unneutered males is a last resort for me, because both dogs are full of testosterone and are more likely to fight. But if they are both puppies...then I would probably put those two together because they haven't reached their peak yet. It's a tricky job...and sometimes, no matter how well of a match I think I may have, they will just NOT get along.

I remember I was matching two dogs when I first started my job, and of course I picked the two dogs that just didn't get along with each other. I brought in the new dog to the kennel, and at first I was stunned when I saw them both lunge towards each other. All these thoughts ran through my head...oh crap, now what do I do? Do I reach in and stop them? Do I stick my foot in there to separate them? I'm not gonna lie, I stuck out my leg in between both of them (stupid), and I saw one snap near my leg trying to reach the other dog. OK, I thought, let's try a new approach. And then I remembered what my coworker had told me the other day, and I calmly reacted by tossing water from a water bowl right on top of the two fighting dogs. Success! :) I was able to safely get myself and the other dog out of the kennel...rattled nerves and all.

If you have more helpful and safe tips or stories about encounters at a dog park, please share! :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never Forget 9/11 Heroes

I thought I'd have a post dedicated to 9/11 and all the lives that were lost as well as all the heroes that played a part in saving numerous lives. It's crazy to think that 11 years have passed since then and I can still remember that day like it was yesterday! I was in 7th grade in my 2nd period class in my Photography elective class, and I remember my teacher turning on the TV after receiving a phone call. It took us a couple of minutes to really realize what was happening, but soon after we all watched stunned. I think it's important to remember those who lost their lives...and all those who served! I saw this picture on Facebook and wanted to post it here, to remind us that some of those heroes were hardworking search and rescue dogs. Never Forget 9/11 <3

Monday, September 3, 2012

My Hybrid Self

I feel like my brain is working in hyperdrive...if that makes any sense! If you've visited my page before, hopefully you'll notice some new designs on my little 'ol blog. It's definitely a work in progress but it's fun to work with (and much harder than I thought). But hey, no one said blogging would be easy. 

I came across the term hybrid vigor while stumbling on the web, and it kept on swimming in my mind all day yesterday. This is one definition I found for it:
Heterosis: (genetics) the tendency of a crossbred organism to have qualities superior to those of either parent. 
Or pertaining to dogs it means:
This is a term which corresponds to the theory that dogs will be stronger if they are mixed with other breeds to prevent inherited diseases and health problems. In fact, about 75% dogs in shelters are mixed breeds.
So why did it stick out to me so much?

Now technically, if a Labrador Retriever and a Cocker Spaniel crossbreed, the offspring are not considered a real hybrid (same species). If the Labrador bred with a wolf, that offspring would be considered a hybrid. It all goes back to our basic biology from high our Class, Family, Genus, etc. divisions. Yet, I know some of us have heard that if two different breeds mate, the offspring will in essence get the best of both worlds. How true is that? Is a purebred dog genetically "better off" than a mutt, or the other way around? If a breeder knows what they're doing, then I believe the risk of having those breed specific health risks are significantly lowered...but then there are those (pardon my language) dumb ass backyard breeders that do the opposite! Instead of helping the breed they hurt the breed.

Anyways! I'm not trying to get all scientific on this subject and am DEFINITELY not going to try right now (way too much research to do). But this got me thinking on a more personal level.

When I thought of the term hybrid vigor, I thought of the many furry faces at the shelter. And then I thought of myself, and where I am today. I'm still learning who I am and where I am in my life today.

My hybrid self refers to all the qualities I am trying to improve in myself to be the superior and best version of me. Within this past year, I've learned a lot about my good and my bad. And like this blog, it's a work in progress. Here's one thing I've learned about myself in this past year:
I'm a lot stronger than I thought.
    • I've been thrown into situations at the shelter, things I thought would make me bawl and break down...but surprisingly I have more of a backbone than I ever imagined. Makes me believe I can handle almost anything in the Veterinary world. Emergency heart surgery? BRING IT ON! (hehe)
    • I have also found my strength through Crossfit; it has done WONDERS for my health and self esteem. Never in a million years did I think that I could lift a 70 lb bar like it's no one's business. Or run two miles without feeling like I'm about to keel over. It's made me more confident in my abilities as an individual and what I am capable of. This has spilled over to other areas of my life, including work, personal life, school, and my family. I'm definitely not as hesitant as I used to be around big dogs or with unpredictable cats. And I'm definitely not saying that I could take on a huge dog, because clearly we all know who would win. What I'm saying is I have more courage than before in encountering a new dog that looks "mean" when in reality now, I just know they're scared. If they see I have no fear and I'm not trying to harm them, I can break that barrier and be able to actually help the animal. Before Crossfit, I would've thought twice about entering that kennel because I wasn't so confident in myself and didn't know how strong I could be (emotionally and physically). 
It's been a year of ups and downs, with many more experiences and stories to come. Life is always a work in progress, and as long as you're willing to work for'll always be moving forward.