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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: Karen B. London
This Dog is Not Photogenic
I’m not sure why I care

I am dogsitting again for Schultzie, an incredibly lovely dog about whom I have expressed my great love. There are so many wonderful qualities in this dog, but being photogenic is not among them. She is incredibly adorable in person, but her charm simply does not come across in pictures. This bums me out, but it’s hard to explain why it matters to me at all.

As a behaviorist, I know very well the value of a dog whose behavior makes her a joy to be around. What a dog looks like is not what’s most important to me. In fact, I’m a huge champion of choosing a dog whose behavior you like and then learning to love what that dog looks like. (This would probably not be a bad idea in our relationships with people either, but that’s a whole different can of worms.)

With Schultzie’s appearance not translating well to pictures, I’ve given a lot of thought to why I care. I think that the fact that Schultzie is not photogenic bothers me because I adore this dog and I want others to see her in the best possible light, and pictures that don’t do her justice fail in that attempt.

Do you have a dog who is not photogenic, and if so, how do you feel about that?

News: Shea Cox
Safety Tips for Dogs on the 4th of July

One of the busiest times of the year for our emergency service is the Fourth of July holiday. While many people celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and BBQ’s, many others spend it waiting in the ER while their pet is treated for an array of holiday-induced emergencies, including serious laceration injuries from pets jumping through glass windows or doors, high rise fall injuries due to jumping from balconies, hit by car trauma as pets attempt to flee from noises, dietary indiscretions from our pets stealing post-picnic scraps, and cases of severe anxiety due to overwhelming stimulation.  In addition to the trauma that we see, we also receive many phone calls from distressed owners trying to locate their lost pet, following it running away from home in a panicked state.

Follow these tips to help prevent injury and loss during this holiday:

  • Make sure your pets are secured indoors and as far away from the sounds as possible as the loud noise of fireworks can startle. Keep your pet in a safe room where they are comfortable once the festivities begin. If your dog is crate trained, put him/her in its crate with a blanket to help offer a feeling of security. You can also help to block the outside sights and sounds by lowering the blinds and turning on the television or radio. And remember, it is a mistake to assume that a fenced pet won’t look for a way to escape the yard during times of extreme stress!
  • Be sure that your animal can be identified in case they do escape! If you don’t already have a name tag for your dog, instant ones can be made “on demand” at many local pet supply stores. Engraved tags start at $5.99. Microchipping your pet is one other way to help missing animals find their way back home. Sadly, many animals that have been microchipped are not registered in the system and we are unable to reunite families; please ensure that your pets microchip truly has been registered, and just as important, that your address and phone numbers are current!  If you are in question as to whether your pets microchip is active, see your veterinarian for a scan prior to the holiday!
  • If you live out of earshot of city fireworks displays, don’t forget that small neighborhood displays or children can be just as distressing to your pets; if you or your neighbors plan to celebrate, it is still important to keep a sharp eye on your well-secured pet; if you plan to go to a friends home for the festivities, it is safer to keep your dog home than to bring him or her, even if the party is dog-friendly. If you have to leave for the day, keep your pets inside of the house rather than outdoors to help remove the temptation to leap over the fence to try and find you.
  • Pets often try to relieve anxiety by chewing and it is important to make sure confined pets do not have access to anything that they could destroy. Indoor crating could be a good option for some dogs, but not for periods longer than four hours, and you still need to keep a watchful eye on them while contained. We have seen injuries as mild as broken toe nails from trying to “dig out” from their kennels, to more extreme cases of mouth trauma and fractured teeth. This is not a good option to try if your pet has never been crated before as this will only add to their distress.
  • You can also distract your four-pawed friend with a toy and praise him or her for non-fearful behavior, like tail-wagging.
  • Some pets respond well to sedatives, such as Acepromazine. It is always a good idea to plan ahead and anticipate that this will be a time of stress; make an appointment with your veterinarian to have your pet examined and a sedative dispensed, or, if your pet has had a physical exam in the past year by your veterinarian, they will often dispense this medication for you if your pet is otherwise healthy. There are also herbal over-the-counter remedies such as Feliway and NaturVet Calming Aid, which can offer homeopathic relaxing effects to your pets. Thundershirts can also be very helpful for some pets at reducing anxiety caused by noise.
  • Do not feed your dog scraps from the grill and properly put away those garbage bags filled with the remains of your Fourth of July picnic—the lure of leftover BBQ chicken, corn cobs and the like is often too great for any pup to resist, and these types of dietary indiscretions can lead to pancreatitis, gastroenteritis, and intestinal foreign bodies requiring surgical removal. Remember that some foods can be toxic to dogs such as chocolate, onions, grapes, and avocados. Alcoholic beverages also have the potential to poison our pets.
  • Avoid spraying your dog with insect repellant and only use sunscreen that is intended for animal use as human products can be dangerous to your pets. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems. Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your pets’ reach; certain types of matches contain chlorates that can damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing or kidney disease in severe cases. Lighter fluid can be irritating to the skin and if ingested, can produce irritation of the stomach and intestines as well as causing aspiration pneumonia if it is inhaled or vomited.  Citronella candles, insect coils and oil-based insect repellents can also cause stomach irritation and possibly central nervous system depression.

It is hoped that these tips will help ensure a happy holiday celebration for your entire 2 and 4-legged family… one without any trips to the animal ER!

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: Guest Posts
Charity Supports Ads, Not Animals
Terri Crisp again linked to fraudulent fundraising
terri crisp spca international noah's wish charity fraud

Terri Crisp, an officer with SPCA International, is back in the news for charity mismanagement. According to CNN, SPCAI raised $27 million to help animals around the globe, but paid nearly all of it to a direct-mail company for fundraising. Nearly five years ago, I blogged about Terri Crisp's settlement with the state of California regarding her misuse of funds raised for animal victims of Hurricane Katrina ("Noah's Wish Settles Katrina Allegations," August 10, 2007). At that time, she agreed that she would not "serve as an officer, director or trustee, or in any position having the duties or responsibilities of an officer, director, or trustee, with any nonprofit organization for a period of five (5) years from the execution of this Settlement Agreement.” Yet, a 2011 document filed with the North Carolina secretary of state lists her among SPCAI's officers and directors, which would seem to violate that settlement. To ensure your donations go to animals, not advertising, check out your charity of choice through the American Institute of Philanthrophy's Charity Watch evalution and rating service.

News: Editors
Health Care Reform Coming to Pets too!
FTC to Look at Pet Medications

Our office just received a notification from the Federal Trade Commission that they’ll be holding a public workshop on Oct. 2 that should be of interest to many of you—they’ll be exploring “competition and consumer protection issues related to the pet medications industry.”  Basically they’ll be looking at the ways that pet medications are distributed to consumers, and to that end are also looking at how and to what extend consumers can obtain “portable” prescriptions for their pets’ meds that can be filled wherever the consumer wants, plus looking at the rationale for the high cost of these medications.  At long last the feds might be getting to the bottom of why a tiny tube of eye medication for canine “red eye” should cost $40! I’m sure many of you have similar stories to tell and questions to ask.

This all sounds really interesting, and the FTC is seeking public comments from consumers, veterinarians, business representatives, economists, lawyers, academics, and other interested parties. Comments can be submitted in paper or electronic format through September 14, 2012, with full instructions available in the Federal Register notice. You can see their notification here.

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: Shirley Zindler
Dogs In Hot Cars: Caution

Bark readers are by their very nature, responsible dog owners. We treat our dogs as family and many of us love to take them with us whenever possible. The fact that we include them in every aspect of our lives is an example of our commitment to them. We would never knowingly do anything to put our beloved friends in danger and yet leaving them in our cars, even just for a few minutes, can be fatal.  As an animal control officer, I know the dangers better than most. I have witnessed the tragic results of people leaving dogs in the car “just to run in and get a gallon of milk.” Sadly, sometimes people get distracted, run into an old friend or the line is longer than expected. I have removed dead dogs from the owners vehicles and been haunted by the images in my dreams.

During the summer months our department responds to multiple dog-in-hot-car calls every day. Most of the time the vehicle is long gone when we arrive, or the dog is fine and the caller was just overly concerned. Occasionally the dog is truly in distress. I have a little portable thermometer that I put inside the vehicle (assuming that the window is cracked open) to measure the temperature. Often the owner comes back before the dog is in serious distress but when I show them the thermometer listing 90, 100 or more degrees, it makes an impact. Dogs vary tremendously in how much heat they can take. Short- faced or heavily coated dogs are far more susceptible to heat stroke than some others. In one case, the Husky puppy died in the vehicle, while a kitten was able to climb under the seats and survive. I won’t hesitate to break a window to save a dog’s life.

I remember one overcast day when an elderly couple drove a long distance to a hospital for a routine early morning appointment. They cracked the windows, parked in the shade and left their two dogs waiting in the car. The husband suffered a medical emergency during his visit and ended up being airlifted to another hospital. In the chaos of the day, the dogs were temporarily forgotten. The sun came out, the shade shifted and the dogs became distressed. I removed the dogs, placed them in my truck with the cooler on and water available and waited. Finally the panicked wife arrived, distraught with worry about her husband and suddenly remembering her dogs. The dogs recovered quickly but this is an extreme example of the kind of things that can come up, taking our attention away from our dogs.

I’m mortified to admit that I myself once put two puppies in danger in a hot vehicle. I was raising the orphaned pups on a bottle and had to attend an all day class in another city. No one was available to feed the babies so I took them with me, planning to feed them during the breaks from class.  It was a very cold, overcast winter morning and I was actually worried about the pups being chilled.

Two hours later when I returned to feed the pups, it was still overcast but the sun was peeking through the clouds and beating straight in the windows. It was chilly outside but the inside was uncomfortably hot and the pups were panting and crying in distress. Horrified by what I had done, I was in tears as I quickly moved them into the building and found a place for them inside. The pups were fine after a few minutes but it made a lasting impact on me and reminded me how easily it can happen.

News: Shea Cox
Foxtails Can Pose Serious Risks to Dogs
Foxtails

As an ER vet, I officially mark the start of the summer season when I see several patient charts over the course of a 10 hour shift with the presenting complaint: sudden sneezing. By the third one I think, “Another one? What the foxtail!”

Annual grasses releasing foxtails grow quickly throughout the rainy season. As temperatures rise, the foxtail-shaped tip of each grass blade dries out and the individual awns take a ride on any passing object. This plant is engineered by nature to spread its seed, and the foxtail is actually designed to burrow further into an object with each movement, making it a major problem for small animals.

There is no escape. The pesky seeds from these dried grasses get stuck everywhere, and I mean everywhere, our furry friends included. Many pet owners have heard the warnings about foxtails and know to avoid them as much as possible. What many don't know, however, is that foxtail migration can cause severe—and potentially deadly—consequences.

While foxtails are often caught in the fur and can be quickly removed, they can also migrate internally if left unfound through several common routes such as the nose, ears, and eyes. They can even penetrate through the skin or through a pet’s genital openings. If these problematic hitch-hiking seeds find their way inside of a pet’s body, they can cause many serious problems. Once internalized, foxtails can wreak havoc on the body, causing internal abscesses and even infections of the bones around the spinal cord. I have also seen cases of foxtails getting lodged in the abdominal organs or lungs.

While foxtails aren't always easy to spot, their presence can be noticeable through various telltale symptoms, depending on their location in the body. Be mindful of the following symptoms during foxtail season:

  • Nose: violently sneezing and pawing at the nose, and sometimes a bloody nose.
  • Eyes: rubbing the eye, squinting and pain, excessive tearing or discharge, or an eye “glued shut.”
  • Ears: head tilt or violent shaking of the head from side to side, pain, discharge, or odor.
  • Mouth/Throat: gagging, loud coughing, difficulty swallowing (you will notice your pet having “exaggerated swallowing” movements, like when you have a sore throat), and possibly increased odor.
  • Paws: continuous licking of the paw or pad, or the appearance of a swollen “bubble” between the toes, or a small “hole” in the skin which is indicative of a draining tract, which is the path the foxtail is taking under the skin (pictured)
  • Under skin: formation of sores or abscesses.

If any of these symptoms are noted, you should see your veterinarian immediately for a check-up. If a foxtail is found relatively superficially in the skin or nose, it can be removed rather simply. If a foxtail has moved into the lungs or deeply into the nose or genitals, an endoscope can be used for its location and removal (pictured).

An endoscopy involves the use of a high-tech instrument with a specialized video camera and small grabbing tools that can be passed through the mouth, nose, or rectum and is a lot less invasive than traditional surgical methods. However, if the foxtail has entered the belly or lungs, surgery is sometimes the only treatment possible.

While it's best to avoid areas where foxtails grow, if your pet has been exposed to the grass, make sure to brush her coat well, feel all over the body with your hands, and perform a thorough inspection of the ears, nose, between the toes and paw pads, and underneath the collar after each romp. It’s important to learn about the dangers of this plant, take extra precautions, and remove foxtails immediately. Be overly cautions during foxtail season- dogs and their people deserve to enjoy a drama-free summer outdoors.

 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Camp Wonders

Whenever you mix dogs, people and the freedom to play in nature, you get something special.

In 2002 I created Maian Meadows Dog Camp in Washington State, an environment for safe, off-leash play for dogs and people who rarely get to experience it. I feel like an alchemist, stirring just the right ingredients to create a weekend full of fresh air, forest and lake, dog-centered activities, comfort food and—most importantly—the shared unconditional love of several happy dogs all together in one place. The end product is often magical.

Over the years, I’ve befriended lots of wonderful people and dogs. All have back stories, some quite extraordinary.

Two years ago, a mother and her early-twenties daughter attended. Observing them, I realized the daughter had some cognitive challenges. I couldn’t put my finger of just what sort. She was bubbly and outgoing, but her social skills were a tad off. She mixed well with the other campers and her little Chihuahua was delightful.

Saturday evening, the mother took me aside. “I don’t know if you noticed, but my daughter has Aspergers,” she said. “This is the first activity we’ve found that has kept her interested and engaged for an entire weekend. Thank you.”

While I get many heartfelt thanks for hosting camp, that one remains the most special.

The magic happened again at last weekend’s session of dog camp.

Anita arrives with her dog Toby, a certified therapy dog. His skills came in handy. After attending camp in 2010, Anita had to skip June 2011 because she was undergoing chemo for cancer. In September 2011 she and Toby spent a few hours in camp, Anita bald and beautiful, but clearly exhausted. Toby stayed close by. This year, Anita—sporting new hair—and Toby spent the entire weekend in camp, hiking both mornings and participating in all the activities. Anita’s cancer is in remission, and at 66, she’s going strong. So is Toby, by her side.

New campers Adrian and Hana bring their two year old Golden Retriever Jasper. Adrian, an Irishman and statistician of about 50, has spent his entire life afraid of dogs. With Hana’s encouragement, they add Jasper to their family. Adrian no longer fears any dogs, and delights in being around all the dogs at camp.

Dogs heal all sorts of hurts

Stick with me for one more back story. It’s a good one.

Two weeks before camp, I receive an email asking if there is still space for one person and one dog. It’s signed “Tracie and Daisy.” I reply that there is. The registration form arrives, with a very unusual first name; Tracie is a nickname. I worry that my assumption that this camper is female—and can share a cabin with another female—is wrong. I Google the full name. All hits refer to the Dean’s List at a nearby college. Intriguing, but I still don’t know if the camper is male or female, or how old.  I decide to proceed as if she is female. If a male shows up, well, there is an extra cabin.

Friday afternoon I welcome campers and their dogs as they trickle in from all over—Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and even Alberta. Just before dinner, a camper arrives with a dog meeting Daisy’s description: black lab/hound mix. Daisy bounds from the car and gleefully romps with the other dogs. Tracie gets out and introduces herself. She is a very petite young woman of twenty. She has chin length brown hair, wire-rim glasses and a huge welcoming smile showing charmingly crooked teeth. She’s wearing a daisy print blouse. Daisy’s collar has daisies on it. Already I like Tracie. She’s going to fit right in at dog camp.

And she does. I’ve never seen someone so young possess such confidence and outgoing friendliness among so many strangers, most of whom are much older. Daisy is just like Tracie, young (two years old), full of energy and enthusiasm. Throughout the weekend, Tracie frequently has to coax Daisy out of the lake. Daisy loves to swim. And Tracie loves Daisy. Their bond is strong and touching to observe. I determine to learn Tracie’s back story.

Later, during a meal, I overhear tidbits as Tracie shares her story with other campers at her table. I hear words familiar to me in my work as an attorney advocating children’s best interests in the legal system: foster care; Child Protective Services; aging out of the system. The next day, as Tracie throws the ball into the lake for Daisy to retrieve, I ask her to share her story with me. She does, without any sense of embarrassment or shame—another sign of her amazing maturity.

Tracie’s birth mother has mental health issues. She often chose, and married, violent men. Tracie suffered abuse at the hands of one step-father who broke her shoulder. Her mother kicked him out (because CPS required it), but Tracie discovered that the next man her mother brought home was a registered sex offender. Tracie, only 13, took action, standing up for herself and her younger siblings by telling a counselor. This time her mother chose the sex offender. Tracie was removed from the home and placed into foster care. This separated her from her siblings, whom she’d raised; they were placed elsewhere. Over the next several years, Tracie bounced from foster care to her mother’s and back to foster care, a sad and all too common experience for older kids in the system.

As Tracie neared age 18, the foster family she was with had a pregnant black lab. Pup number four (of fourteen!) had a big head and became stuck; Tracie helped bring that pup into the world. The foster family gave Tracie the puppy to commemorate becoming an adult—aging out of the system—and starting a new life. Tracie finally had a family of her own: Daisy.

Tracie chose the name Daisy because the symbolism associated with the flower is purity, innocence, loyal love, beauty, patience and simplicity.

While still in high school, Tracie accumulated two years of college credit. The week before dog camp, at age 20, she graduated with a four year college degree. She’s now enrolled in graduate school. She wants to become a social worker. She wants to help kids in the foster care system. She wants to get Daisy certified as a therapy dog so that they can work with kids as a team. And as soon as she’s 21, Tracie wants to become a foster parent herself. If she does, then she and Daisy will help heal children scarred by a system that often doesn’t care very much about them. I’m confident that Tracie, with Daisy by her side, will accomplish all her goals.

I had no idea, over a decade ago, that creating and directing a dog camp would provide a space for people to heal what hurts them, or gather strength to meet their next challenge. But I should have. Anything involving playful, free-roaming dogs just has to promote joy and healing.

 

 

 

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