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Lisa Wogan

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.

News: Guest Posts
Tackling the Pet Piece of the Domestic Violence Problem
Central Florida shelter breaks ground for unprecedented kennel

If you think providing housing for companion animals at domestic violence shelters is a costly indulgence rather than an essential component in prevention, consider these sobering statistics (from Harbor House, a comprehensive domestic violence prevention program in Central Florida):

  • 48 percent of domestic violence survivors delay leaving an abusive home because they have no safe place for their pets;
  • 88 percent of pets living in homes with domestic abuse are either injured or killed;
  • Of all survivors who enter shelters to escape domestic violence, 57 percent have had a pet killed by their abuser.

It’s clear that providing a safe haven for pets can be an essential part of getting the human victims of domestic violence into their own safe haven.

Recognizing this reality over the past couple years, nearly a dozen shelters around the country have built kennels, some as part of an American Humane Association initiative.

In early November, Harbor House broke ground for the Paws for Peace Kennel, which, when complete next summer, will be the largest kennel built on site at a domestic violence shelter.

It’s a little surprising that kennels at shelters aren’t more common—the statistics being what they are. I have to chalk it up to the big divide that still exists between what we consider human concerns and what we consider animal concerns. Even after so many years twining our lives, most agencies and institutions keep dogs and people in distinct categories. But I hope the more we see dogs in oncology wards, nursing homes, prisons (trained by inmates), etc., the more we will seek holistic solutions whenever possible.

Learn more (watch the short video) about Paws for Peace Kennel.

News: Guest Posts
Firing Raises Questions About Shelter Policy
Why not encourage good photography?

Bark contributor Anna Jane Grossman (famously of the recent East Village Halloween parade post) recently wrote a fascinating piece about the firing of Emily Tanen at NYC’s Animal Care & Control. Until recently, Tanen was liaison between the shelter and its many rescue group partners. (She is the founder of Project Pet, Inc.). According to the story, Tanen was fired for taking photos of dogs in violation of the shelter’s policy. In particular, she did not heed the prohibition against including people (or parts of people) in those images.

We’ve always been believers in the key role good photos play in getting dogs adopted, promoting the efforts of groups such as HeARTs Speak, an alliance dedicated to helping photographers volunteer at shelters to improve the quality of images. Pros are pros for a reason. With better equipment, hard-won skills and an artist’s eye, they can capture a dog’s wonderful essence even in a stress-filled environment. Instead of what looks like a perp shot, you get a portrait. We all know stories of folks who were motivated to take the all important first steps to adopt a dog on the strength of a compelling photo. There’s no one in the animal welfare community who can say it’s not critical.

Grossman’s story and the criticisms of Animal Care & Control are disturbing. Since Animal Care & Control officials have not spoken about Tanen’s firing, we don’t know their side of the story but any policy that discourages employees and volunteers from taking steps that can only help more dogs find good homes seems ill advised—especially when there is a track record of success.

News: Guest Posts
Trendspotting: Pop-Up Adoption Shops
New York City and Thousand Oaks, Calif., target new demographic

Early this month, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals began hosting the country’s first-ever Pop-Up Pet Adoption and Supply Shop. Pop-up restaurants, along with food trucks, have been a popular feature of the Seattle culinary landscape for the last few years so why not pet adoptions? Essentially, these are limited-engagement shops—that stir up excitement and, in the case of homeless dogs and cats, hopefully attract new potential adopters.

Pairing up with pet product lines such as Stella & Chewy’s, Sturdi Products, Yeowww! Catnip, Sam & Tasha and Metro Paws, the Alliance has staked a month-long claim to RS POP, a revolving storefront at the Roger Smith Hotel on Lexington Ave, between 47th and 48th streets in New York City. There will be sweet adoptable critters from a variety of rescue groups in the windows and special events on Wednesdays (except Nov. 23) that include evening visits by the Mayor’s Alliance new adoption van, with even more future companions to chose from.

Learn about shop hours, pet adoption times and special events, such as a Wags & Tags Trunk Show on Saturday, November 26.

Not to be outdone, on the opposite coast, another pop-up shop, The Shelter Hope Pet Shop, featuring adoptable dogs and rabbits will open today in Janss Marketplace in Thousand Oaks, Calif. NewMark Merrill, who manages the shopping center, donated the space to help Ventura County Animal Shelter in Camarillo find homes for shelter animals in need of adoption. Shelter Hope will be open Friday–Sunday, and, in a very un-pop-up-shop move currently has no end date.

News: Guest Posts
Death in the Pack
How does it change the dynamics?

I spent this morning at my veterinarian’s office with my dog Renzo, as the result of an early morning counter-surf operation. Returning home from meeting a friend for coffee, I found in his bed: one coffee mug (the broken handle and the dregs of the coffee were on the kitchen floor), a decimated spatula, a tattered New York Times, a torn-up milk jug (which had been drying out before going into the recycling bin) and a Raisin Bran box and pristine plastic liner. After a call to the vet, we headed straight in to deal with potential raisin toxicity. Although the chances are good that the amount of raisins Renzo ate won’t cause serious problems, renal failure is not something I want to risk.

I’ll be bringing him home in a few hours, but that’s not the end of our challenges. This counter surfing is a new thing. It started a couple months ago, a week or two after our 13-year-old Husky-mix Lulu died. Since her departure, Renzo has been clingier when we’re home, anxious when we make moves to leave and, in more and more frequent cases, he’s gone on these little blitzkriegs when left alone. We might go a couple days with no problems, but then it will happen again.

He’s getting plenty of exercise and we’ve been working on new skills, so I don’t think that’s the problem. I work at home, so he’s not alone and/or inactive for long periods, so I don’t think he’s acting out of boredom.

I think it’s a reaction to Lulu being gone. He was bigger, stronger and younger, but he deferred to her in most everything—from hopping on the bed to waiting for his dinner or treats. I often noticed him following her lead when we were out walking. She discovered the cool thing to sniff, and he always had to check it out as well. In the few instances she would go somewhere without him, he was always upset until she returned. Of course, now she’ll never return.

I don’t have any answers just yet. That’s why I’m writing this. I’m wondering if any of you readers have experienced shifts like this in your pack when one of two or more dogs dies. If so, did the surviving dog or dogs adjust to the new role? How did you help the process along? I’d appreciate any observations or advice.

News: Guest Posts
Hollywood Goes to the Dogs
So does the Roxie Theatre in San Francisco

We love seeing pups on film, especially in roles that show them woven into life in realistic ways that celebrate their positive role. And lately it seems a lot of directors agree with us. In the November issue of Bark, we preview several wonderful canine movie performances coming our way over the holiday season. From Leon the Beagle (played by four different canine actors) in We Bought a Zoo to a Jack Russell Terrier, Uggy, in The Artist, a black and white silent film from France. Uggy won the Palm Dog at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

A dog named Laika plays sidekick to an old man who befriends a young African stowaway in the French port city in Le Havre. Inca, a Siberian Husky, helps a lonely man in remote Canada find love in An Insignificant Harvey. And, finally, a Wire Fox Terrier named Snowy is brought to life by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson in the animated Adventures of Tintin, based on the famed comic book series of the same name.

The passion for canine film stars doesn’t stop there. Tomorrow, the Roxie Theatre in San Francisco hosts the BowWow Film Festival to benefit Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. Dogs are on the bill—Sniff, Pound (featuring a five-ish Robert Downey Jr.) and shorts by William Wegman—and invited to the event. The all-day party includes a dog parade, a dog show competition, DoggieVaudville and much, much more. Timmy from Lassie will be there!! So would I, if I lived in San Fran.

News: Guest Posts
Move Over James Herriot
Dr. Jan Pol’s the vet for the reality TV generation

In recent years, we’ve been hearing about a shortage of large animal veterinarians. As of last fall, nearly 1,300 counties did not have a single doctor for farm animals, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the problem was expected to get worse.

I’m thinking the unlikely television star of National Geographic Wild’s “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” might help to reverse the trend. Think of him as a sort of Dutchman-in-America-James-Herriot for the reality TV generation.

A 69-year-old small and large animal vet in private practice in Central Michigan, Dr. Jan Pol brings an engagingly cantankerous manner to his work. He can be brusque and even a little biting, especially when he teases his city-slicker son Charles, but you never doubt that he’s a truly compassionate, committed vet.

Whether he’s untwisting a cow’s stomach or yanking quills out of a hound dog’s muzzle (there are so many quills you have to wonder if the porcupine had any left), Dr. Pol gets the job done with a minimum of drama, which somehow makes for really good TV.

News: Guest Posts
Shelters Rock
Show how much you appreciate their work

Take a minute this week to reflect on the important service the approximately 3,500 animal shelters and the many more rescue organizations around the country provide by offering refuge to an estimated 6 to 8 million homeless animals every year. They can’t save them all—but shelters and rescues find homes for an astonishing number of them. I think of all the fantastic rescue dogs I have known—Lulu, Renzo, Satchel, Chester, Benny, Zipper, Zooma, Kitch and on and on—and I feel enormous gratitude that someone provided a safe bridge from homelessness to home.

This week, National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week (Nov. 1–12), is a perfect time to channel thankfulness into something more, something concrete to help shelters do their jobs better. Can you help?

Adopt a pet. There are many ways to find the perfect pre-loved companion animal. Stop by your local shelter or begin your search online at theshelterpetproject.org, adoptapet.com or petfinder.com.

Promote pet adoption. If you have a rescue pet, don’t miss an opportunity to shout it out. Become a fan of a shelter or rescue group’s Facebook page or help tweet their message.

Volunteer. Walking dogs, working adoption events, taking photos, fostering animals—shelters can always use an extra hand. Call or visit your shelter to learn more or rundown local opportunities through VolunteerMatch.org.

Donate funds or supplies. Money is always welcome at shelters, and often you can designate how your donation is used—to help fund low-cost spay/neuter surgery, to support medical treatment for strays, etc. If money is in short, see what supplies your shelter needs, and make a mini-drive among friends, family and coworkers for towels, toys, cleaning supplies and more. 

A little goes a long way, especially if all of us who appreciate shelters show it in meaningful ways.

News: Guest Posts
Big Dog, No Heartworm
Mila comes through treatment with flying colors

Back in August, I wrote about a nine-year-old German Shepherd named Mila, who was undergoing heartworm treatment. She’s a foster dog being cared for by Jean, a volunteer for Big Hearts Big Dog Rescue in Western New York. Jean created a blog to report on Mila’s progress and more generally about heartworm prevention and treatment. Mila is Jean’s third heartworm-positive foster dog.

For months, Jean worked hard to keep Mila quiet, cool and comfortable—while the Immiticide killed off the dreaded heartworms. One of my favorite posts was about “Dr. Bruno,” a former therapy dog who comforted Mila and alerted Jean to changes in the patient’s recovery. What a wonderful idea to include a therapy dog for a canine patient.

I checked back in with Jean this week and she reported that Mila’s treatments are concluded and she is doing well, although she has lost muscle tone from her months of bed rest.

“We need to bring that back slowly and carefully because she has some pre-existing ortho issues,” Jean writes. “So we are starting with simply walking the yard, just like we did when she came into foster and had been kenneled for months.

“Mila is also a very smart girl who has a bit of a mind of her own, and for the time of her treatment she did not have any expectations for her behavior other than staying quiet, so we are doing some NILIF [nothing in life is free] to get that back in shape too! She remains upbeat and social and just needs everything in smaller doses for now as she gets back in the swing of things. She is still cute and funny—none of that lessened!”

She might even be heading for a forever home; someone has submitted an application to adopt her. There are still hoops to be jumped through—home visits and references, etc., but it’s “very exciting and I am keeping my fingers crossed that in the next month this will be how the blog will close,” Jean writes.

I’m awestruck by all that Jean has done to create a second chapter for Mila.

Meanwhile, on the heartworm front, it’s important to remember that although the weather is cooling around the country, heartworm remains a threat. “Unfortunately for our pets, mosquitoes are hardy and have proven their ability to survive year-round across the United States,” says American Heartworm Society president Wallace Graham DVM. “Warm microclimates, both outdoors and indoors, can foster mosquito survival and pets can facilitate the spread of heartworm.” Pets can also contract heartworms when their owners transport them from one area of the country to another.

Learn more about potentially lethal heartworm at Jean’s Big Dog, Big Heartworm blog and at the American Heartworm Society.

 

News: Guest Posts
Pop Star Adopts Husky-mix Puppy
Setting a good example for young fans

Disney starlet Selena Gomez, traveling in tandem with teen sensation and boyfriend Justin Bieber, adopted a 10-week-old Husky-mix from a Winnipeg shelter over the weekend, according to People magazine. We don’t write much about celebrities and their dogs but this sort of high profile adoption is a good thing, especially when it makes an impression on young, devoted followers.

Plus, I love that Gomez adopted a future big dog and a mutt, whom she has named Baylor. Even better, this adoption is not a singular event. The pop singer/actress is a serious rescue advocate with five rescue pups in her pack already.

That said, I do have a reservation or two. She adopted the puppy while on tour, which can’t be the best scenario for settling a dog into a new life. And, as I mentioned, she already has five dogs. Hopefully, there won’t be any issues integrating this newcomer into her crew—normally, that’s something you want to check before completing an adoption. At some point, six is an awful lot of dogs for someone with so many commitments and a CV that’s longer than most folks three times her age.

Still, my guess—and hope—is Gomez has full-time canine care for her pals, plenty of space and resources to keep her pack happy—and that this rescue is as wonderful as it sounds.

News: Guest Posts
The Unexpected Dog in Margin Call
Locating a heartbeat on Wall Street

I saw the new film Margin Call this weekend, a restrained, engrossing story based on Lehman Brothers’ sell-off of toxic assets, which helped precipitate the 2008 collapse. At the center of the story is Sam Rogers, a life-long Wall Streeter played by Kevin Spacey. Early in the film, we see Sam resting his head on the neck of his chocolate Labrador, who sleeps on a veterinarian’s gurney. We know the dog has cancer. It is a sad, human and completely unexpected moment in a film about ambition, greed and overreaching.

For the majority of the story, Sam’s relationship with his dog is one of the few personal facts we know about him (or anyone), and it is the only expression of authentic affection and empathy in the picture. It communicates Sam’s capacity for love. At the same time, he is not at the bedside of a child or a wife, nor is anyone with him when he visits the dog. So we also know, he is down to a last chip or two in terms of his loving connections. In just a few frames, writer/director J.C. Chandor accomplished so much—which got me thinking about what dogs mean to us and how often they are used to elucidate human character in movies, stories and, more cynically, advertising. Dogs are one of the ways we define ourselves—for better or for worse. In this case, for better.

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