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JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

News: JoAnna Lou
Social Media Finds an Adventurous Dog
Twitter reunites an Irish woman and her lost pup

Social media has revolutionized the way we find homes for pets and raise money for animal related charities. Last month, Facebook aided rescuers in locating a stray dog in distress and, most recently, Twitter helped an adventurous pup find his way back to his family.

Deirdre Anglin's dog, Patch, went missing last Tuesday in Kilcock, Ireland. She posted photos of the Jack Russell Terrier on Facebook, but didn't have much luck.

Patch wasn't discovered until he boarded an Irish Rail train to Dublin the next morning. At first rail workers thought he might be a passenger's dog, but when he remained unclaimed at the final stop, it was clear that the pup was lost.

Irish Rail took to Twitter with a “Lost dog!” photo, which was retweeted more than 500 times in a half an hour. Deirdre Anglin soon saw the message and tweeted back, “That's my dog!”

Patch and Deride were reunited and the terrier became an overnight celebrity. When Deirdre took Patch home on the train, fellow passengers kept asking if he was “the dog from Twitter.”

Twitter was able to reunite Deirdre and Patch quickly, but I have to say, I'm equally amazed how pet friendly the Irish Rail is. My local commuter train, Metro North, welcomes pets on leash, though I rarely see animals on board. However, if you need to travel longer distances, Amtrak does not allow pets.

On Irish Rail, small dogs are able to ride the train on a person's lap. Apparently canine passengers are so common that the rail workers didn't think it was that strange for Patch to be wandering about.

If only all trains were so pet friendly!

News: JoAnna Lou
Reclassifying Military Canines
Bill seeks better treatment for war dogs

As we celebrate Independence Day, it's important to remember our veterans—both human and canine. The military has been slow in providing the care and respect that these working canines deserve. Retired war dogs were euthanized for decades before “Robby's Law” allowed these brave pups to be adopted. However, the military still has a long way to go in giving dogs proper treatment.

I was shocked to learn that the military classifies working canines as equipment. Because of this distinction, dogs that are retired overseas are considered excess equipment and are not transported home. They can be adopted, but the government doesn't provide any financial support.

U.S. Army Specialist Robert Mather Jr. couldn't afford to adopt the Belgian Malinois he worked with in Iraq and Germany. Fortunately Mather's community raised the money to bring Nouska back to N.J., but it's a disgrace that the military didn't pay for her safe return. Nouska served for 10 years and 4 tours of duty!

Representative Walter Jones and Senator Richard Blumenthal teamed up earlier this year to sponsor a bill that would make sure dogs like Nouska are safe. The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act would allow the military to honor courageous canines, make sure that all dogs are flown back home, and set up a private fund for lifetime health care. The House of Representatives already passed the bill and the legislation is now in the Senate.

Seems like a no brainer for the furry pups who serve our country and protect our troops!

News: JoAnna Lou
Hospitals Welcome Our Dogs
Healthcare organizations partner with PAWS to bring in pets

I've never had to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time, but if I did I know that I'd miss my dogs. I can't imagine getting over an illness or injury without them there to cheer me up and make me laugh.

As studies document the healing power of pets, more healthcare organizations have started allowing animals into their facilities. My Sheltie, Nemo, and I visited patients at our local hospital through a therapy program. I could see people's faces light up when we entered the room. As the patients stroked Nemo's fur, they would open up and tell me about their own pets back at home.

Petting a dog can brighten up a dreary day in the hospital, but nothing can replace the joy of your own pets. An organization called PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) realized that it was important to get people's animals into the hospital as part of the healing process. They've since convinced several hospitals across the country to adopt personal pet visitation policies.

After the program is in place, if a hospital worker hears that a patient has a pet at home, they can ask a doctor to approve a visit. Then PAWS checks that the animal is up to date on vaccinations and performs a “behavior check” to ensure the their temperament is suitable for a hospital environment. A volunteer will then accompany the pet to the patient's room.

I imagine that it's no easy feat to get health care facilities to create personal pet visitation policies. However, I'm glad that more hospitals are exploring alternative therapies. Any dog lover knows that our pets can be a powerful "medicine!"

News: JoAnna Lou
Displaced Animals in Colorado
Emergency evacuation shelters keep pets safe

Wildfires in Colorado have displaced tens of thousands of people and destroyed hundreds of acres of land, making it the most destructive fire in state history. The fast spreading disaster has also resulted in hundreds of animals with no place to go. Some are from evacuees needing temporary shelter for their pets and others are found lost or abandoned on the streets.

The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region has two emergency evacuation shelters set up to accommodate the influx of pets. They've also put together a web site to keep track of what donations and supplies local rescue and volunteer groups need.

It's heartbreaking to see entire neighborhoods flattened and countless lives changed in an instant. But I'm glad that the Humane Society has made it easy for people to evacuate knowing that their pets are safe.

Animal lovers around the world have been rallying to support these families and pets in need. Visit the Humane Society's web site or Facebook page to find out how you can help the rescue efforts.

News: JoAnna Lou
Interceptor/Sentinel Shortage
Novartis closes a factory that produces canine and human medication

Earlier this year I found out, somewhat randomly, that veterinarians were experiencing shortages of the heartworm medications Interceptor and Sentinel. As soon as I could, I went straight to the veterinarian and bought two of their last three boxes. I was shocked that the office wasn't more proactive in informing patients about the problem.

However, it seems that veterinarians didn't have the whole story either and that this situation isn't exactly uncommon.

Back in December, Novartis closed a Lincoln, Nebraska factory that produced both veterinary and human medication, including Interceptor, Sentinel, and Excedrin. While there are alternatives available, veterinarians have been frustrated over the way Novartis handled communication. The company is still unable to provide a date for when the factory will resume production.  

As I've been researching the topic, it looks like product shortages and recalls are no stranger to the veterinary field. After scrambling to buy the last boxes of Interceptor, I decided that I'm going to be proactive and research alternatives for all medication that my pets take. I found out about the Interceptor shortage through a passing comment on Facebook and was shocked that information wasn't widely shared either in the news or by my veterinarian.

The shortage comes at a particularly bad time since the mild winter has created an increased risk of heartworm disease this year. Given how long this problem has lasted so far, it's probably best to find an alternative if you're running low on medication.

Some dogs, particularly herding breeds, have an adverse reaction to heartworm medications containing ivermectin, so it's important to consult your veterinarian to identify a safe alternative.

Are you prepared if access is restricted to the medications your pets use?

News: JoAnna Lou
NYC Gets a Courtroom Dog
Staten Island’s DA is the first in the city to employ a canine

I can’t imagine how stressful it is for victims to testify in court. But if I had to do it one day, I know my pets would help me through the ordeal. Numerous studies have shown that animals have a calming effect on people, so it seems only natural to use dogs in these cases.

Last year New York’s first judicially approved courtroom dog helped a girl testify against her father in a rape case. At the time it caused a lot of controversy, but more and more people are realizing how important these trained canines are for those on the stand.

This month, District Attorney Daniel Donovan became the first New York City prosecutor to employ a courtroom comfort dog—a Black Labrador/Golden Retriever mix named Bronksey.

"As a prosecutor, I feel obligated to do everything I can to make it easier for victims, who must constantly relive what was likely the most physically, psychologically and emotionally traumatizing experience of their lives," Donovan says.

"There is something magical about the presence or touch of a loving dog that helps victims forget their pain and fear, if just for a moment, and be able to concentrate on moving forward and healing."

The two-year old dog, donated by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), has already made a difference.

Last week a 12-year old boy was waiting to testify against his alleged abuser to a Staten Island Grand Jury and was visibly anxious. When Bronksey approached, the boy immediately smiled and had an easier time relaying his story in court.

Currently 16 states use courtroom dogs. Hopefully more cities will consider adding these valuable working pups to support victims.

News: JoAnna Lou
First CPR Guidelines for Pets
Researchers identify the ideal rate for chest compressions

Demand for pet first aid and CPR classes has increased as animal lovers look for ways to be prepared in an emergency. Until recently there was no standard for the canine and feline version of the procedure, despite the fact that laboratory animals were instrumental in developing CPR guidelines for people.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University set out to change that by looking at decades of peer-reviewed data to determine the proper rate for chest compressions. Earlier this month they published the first set of evidence-based guidelines for resuscitating dogs and cats with stopped hearts.  

The researchers found the ideal rate of chest compressions is 100 to 120 per minute, the same rhythm used for humans. Doctors and medical students have found it helpful to think of the Bee Gees disco hit, Stayin' Alive, to help keep the ideal beat when performing CPR.

Fortunately sudden cardiac arrest is not as common in dogs as it is in people. It's thought that the condition in pets is closer to what occurs in young athletes with structural abnormalities of the heart muscle or a defect in the electrical circuitry. Pets can also suffer cardiac arrest due to difficulty breathing or a severe illness that also affects the heart.

Now that there's a CPR standard in place, I hope that veterinarians will be more proactive about getting this information out to pet parents. I would also like to see pet first aid certification becoming a requirement for those who work in animal-related fields like pet stores or doggy daycares.

Have you taken a pet first aid class?

News: JoAnna Lou
Learning from Tragedy
The agility community bands together for a friend in need

Last week international agility competitor Elicia Calhoun and six of her dogs were headed home from a competition when tragedy struck. Elicia fell asleep at the wheel and hit an 18-wheeler truck, causing her SUV to roll over several times and her dogs to be ejected from the car.

Elicia was taken to the hospital but checked out early (with a punctured lung!) to look for her missing pups. Fortunately she had a lot of support helping her through this difficult time.  

The agility community was amazing, organizing search groups, spreading the word on Facebook, and raising over $13,000 for Elicia. I heard many generous stories, such as people banding together to pay for a helicopter search, a Arizona couple flying their plane to look for the missing pups, and a group from Texas bringing horses to help in the rescue efforts.

The Facebook group that was created to aid in the search is now being used as a forum to talk about safe car restraints for pets, creating emergency information cards, and preventing drowsy driving. A lot of good will come out of this tragedy.

My crew rides in wire kennels, but thanks to this group, I’ve learned that the doors can pop open on impact and the dogs can be ejected. I’ve seen quite a few people say they bought sturdier crates or pet seatbelts after hearing about this accident.

Thankfully Elicia was conscious after the crash, but the situation sparked a discussion on having emergency information for each of your dogs. Some people have shared templates, but Bark Buckle Up also has a free Pet Safety Kit that features a decal pointing rescue workers to emergency cards in the glove compartment.

Finally, falling asleep at the wheel is something that could happen to any of us, particularly those who do a lot of early morning and late night driving to and from dog shows. The Live to Run Again web site has safety tips on preventing drowsy driving. They also organize a library of free books on tape at agility trials around the nation.

While the accident was tragic, it brought together a community and inspired many people to reevaluate the way they travel with their pets.  

News: JoAnna Lou
Dogs in Hot Cars
Petition aims to get the word out about dangerous vehicles

Each year thousands of dogs die in hot cars, a tragedy that's easily preventable. When I travel to agility trials, sometimes I leave my crew in our SUV while I make a quick rest stop. I know not to do this in warm weather, but I didn't know until recently how fast cars can heat up even in more mild temperatures. On a 75 degree day, vehicles can heat up to 100 degrees in just 10 minutes. Scary stuff.

It's important to get the word out to avoid any more causalities.

A petition on Change.org is asking Subaru to create a commercial featuring the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars. The message would fit nicely with the car company's “Dog Tested, Dog Approved” advertising campaign. Getting this information out on television would reach millions of animal lovers and save countless lives.

People don't realize how fast their cars can become a lethal oven. Please spread the word so that dogs across the country will be safe this summer.

News: JoAnna Lou
Facebook to the Rescue!
Social media helps a dog in a peculiar situation

Social media web sites are often blamed for isolating people and changing the way we interact. But time and time again I've seen networks, like Facebook, rally people together for a common cause.

Last week Beth Gresham, an animal rescue volunteer in Tennessee, spotted a dog with his head stuck in a plastic container on the side of the road. When she tried to approach him, the scared pup ran back into the woods.

Beth wasn't able to get to the small spotted dog, but she posted a cell phone picture to Facebook soliciting help in capturing the pup in need. When Jess McClain, another animal rescue volunteer, saw the photo online, she put together a search party and set out to find the dog.

The next day, the rescuers found the pup, who they've since named Miracle, and used container cutters to set him free. Many pets are abandoned in the woods, but they're not sure if the container was placed on the his head intentionally or it got on accidentally. Either way, Miracle was lucky to run into Beth and have many people dedicated to finding him.

During the search, the rescue party also found another stray dog and it looks like both pups will find new homes.

 

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