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News: Guest Posts
Innovative Ideas: Helping the Homeless and Shelter Dogs

Spend any time in a city and you’ve seen it—am older man rummaging through a trash can for bottles or his next meal, a young puppy playfully at his side, or a dirty teenager clothes held together with patches asking passerby’s for change with a dog curled up on a blanket near her feet. The site of a dog living on the streets with a person experiencing homelessness tugs at the heartstrings of many, even people who are normally made uncomfortable by the site of homeless folks, and wouldn’t give a second glance to someone in the same circumstance who wasn’t accompanied by a dog. There are an estimated 3.5 million people who experience homeless in the United States on an annual basis, and like every other segment of our population many of them are dog lovers, and many of them (an estimated 5-10%) share their lives with companion animals, the reality of which often leaves dog lovers concerned about the welfare of the dog.

Although Rhode Island is expected to pass the nations first Homeless Bill Of Rights, which will formally ban discrimination against homeless individuals and grant them equal access to jobs, housing and services, there is a national trend where many cities legislating discrimination against homeless residents by outlawing behaviors like eating, sleeping, and panhandling in public spaces. While San Francisco is one of those cities that has in recent years passed what are commonly referred to as sit/lie ordinances criminalizing the daily survival activities for homeless residents, starting August 1st, the city is breaking new ground by taking a friendlier and fuzzier approach at decreasing behaviors associated with homelessness—specifically panhandling. Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos, or WOOF as it is being called is a new program, the first in the nation that is pairing homeless individuals with difficult to place dogs in the shelter system. The individuals will receive financial incentives ($50-75 per week) to care for the dogs instead of panhandling. They will also receive vet care, dog training classes, leashes, toys and food for the dogs in their care courtesy of Animal Care and Control.

Program participants will go through an intensive screening process by the San Francisco Animal Care and Control program to assess stability and appropriate fit for the program. Individuals cannot be street-homeless and must be residents of a supportive housing program. They will also need to prove that they do not have a history of violence, aren’t in substance abuse treatment, and are not severely mentally ill. Additionally, because the program is specifically aimed at stopping panhandling in the city, program participants must commit to not panhandle while participating, and if caught doing so they will be removed from the program and the puppy returned to the shelter. WOOF will give difficult to place dogs the chance to have one-on-one human contact and exposure to living in a home, while giving the homeless participants an opportunity to gain animal-related skills that may be transferable into the job market.

WOOF is the newest in a growing trend of social service providers who are recognizing the unique and powerful bond between people and dogs and pairing individuals who are experiencing homelessness with dogs in order to foster a mutually beneficial relationship. Outside In a leading homeless youths service provider in Portland Oregon runs the groundbreaking Virginia Woof Doggie Daycare facility, which now has two locations in the Portland area.  Virginia Woof is more than another daycare option in Portland, it is a job training program that hires homeless youth, giving them dog training and work experience in the ever-growing doggie daycare industry. 

Virginia Woof and now WOOF are two examples of great programs that are working to pair individuals experiencing homelessness with dogs with the intent to develop workplace skills, but there are also an increasing number of programs that are working directly with homeless people who are the guardians of companion animals. UC Davis Veterinary School runs the Mercer Veterinary Clinic for the Homeless, a student operated organization that offers free medical care through a  monthly clinic for the pets of homeless people in the community. Others, like the nonprofit organization Pets of The Homeless works to provide pet food and veterinary medical care to the pets of those experiencing homelessness across the country. 

Many dog lovers struggle with understanding why someone who is homeless would choose to have a dog, but think for a moment about the important role dogs play in so many of our lives, the unconditional love and nonjudgmental companionship. For many homeless people who have been thrown away or abandoned by families and communities a relationship to a dog is the most important and secure relationship they have in their life. It is unfortunately often those same vital relationships that keep people street homeless instead of homeless shelters, as most shelters do not permit people to bring animals with them. Thus, many people unwilling to be separated from their dogs live in their cars, or on the streets in order to remain with their dogs. There are however an increasing number of drop-in centers, especially targeted at youth who allow clients to bring their well-behaved companion animals into the center and not forcing them to choose between access to needed social services and their beloved dogs.

As an advocate for both human and animal rights, I applaud the steps being made by WOOF and other programs to work proactively with homeless communities and dogs. I also look forward to the day when amongst dog lovers talking about programs and support for individuals experiencing homelessness receives as many smiles and as much support as talking about of homeless dogs on the streets and in shelters.

 

 

News: Karen B. London
Is That a Dog or a Person?
Hair and fur can look alike

Walking out of the grocery store, I saw a car drive by and I wondered what kind of dog was in the back seat. Its coat was exquisite! I only caught a quick glimpse of it, but I was thinking maybe it was a Briard at first, but then I thought it looked more like a Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier, or even an Afghan Hound. I was hoping for a better look so I could know for certain, so I walked closer to where the car was now parked and realized immediately that my guesses were a little off. It was not a Briard, a Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier, or an Afghan Hound. In fact, it was not even a dog.

It was a person with dark blond hair who seemed a bit startled to see me staring intently at her. She looked at me uncertainly, and I stopped myself just in time from saying what was on my mind (“Oops, I thought you were a dog and I was curious what breed you were. My mistake.”) and managed to say instead, “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were someone else.” Her hair was so gorgeous that it looked like a beautiful coat of fur, but I thought trying to explain that to someone carried the risk of an awkward misunderstanding.

This is not the first time I’ve mistaken a person for a dog in a car. Whenever I see just a little bit of an individual through the window, I seem prone to this mistake. Recently permed gray or white hair have both had me thinking “Poodle!” at one time or another, and a woman with a rich henna tone to her hair once made me all excited that an Irish Setter might be moving in to the neighborhood only to have that hope dashed 30 seconds later when she got out of the back seat.

I guess I just see dogs everywhere because I want to see dogs everywhere. Have you ever mistaken a person for a dog or vice versa?

News: Guest Posts
Conservation Pup In-Training: Part II

Training either a pet or a working puppy should be a full time job, and with Ranger it sure feels like it!! Ranger is now four months old. He is a fairly confident and independent puppy by nature, and I continue to bring those qualities out in him in a controlled way to avoid any overly scary or traumatic experiences. Puppies up to about a year old are very malleable, and one scary experience can be a huge setback. I take Ranger to new places all the time, and he is allowed to meet new people (with treats in hand) and new dogs who I am sure are friendly. He is also exposed to new surfaces, terrain and challenges almost daily. Rather than assist Ranger when we come to an obstacle like a cattleguard on a farm, I walk off and allow him to independently figure out how to get to me on the other side.

Obedience is also a very important for the working dog. Obviously it is imperative that our dogs have some good foundation obedience such as recalls, down, stay, etc. Ranger and I were generously donated a six week puppy class by Puppy Love Training in College Station, TX. This has been a great class that focuses on positive reinforcement and clicker training. Training outside of familiar locations, around other dogs, and under distraction is incredibly important for Ranger to learn and get used to.

Besides our obedience class, Ranger and I train almost every week with our friends at CenTex Search and Rescue based in College Station, TX. Here we have a chance to learn from some great trainers and wonderful dogs who are trained to find either live people or cadavers. Ranger is obviously not going to be learning to do either one, however he gets to learn and experience so many useful things, including traveling and waiting in his crate, getting on a boat, and of course meeting lots of new people, dogs and even a horse! He must also acclimate to the Texas heat!

During these training sessions Ranger usually gets assessed to see how he is progressing. The main team members of the Search and Rescue group are very knowledgeable when it comes to puppies, and they look at all the attributes I described previously: confidence, independence and play drive. They usually ask me to play with Ranger for a few minutes to see how excited he gets about his toys and how determined he is to get his toy. Play drive is generally a “nature” type trait that dogs are born with or not. Certain breeds, and particularly certain bloodlines, may be predisposed to have a higher play drive than others. Obviously many of the hunting/retrieving breeds are one of the first places we look for these high drive dogs, but this trait can be found in other breeds and in mutts! CenTex Search and Rescue specializes in using Border Collies for example, and some people use only shelter and rescue dogs!

Drug dogs, bomb dogs and conservation dogs all work for one reason… because they are addicted to their toys and will work all day in difficult conditions to get their reward. A dog who will retrieve his ball twenty times in a row in the backyard might not have anything close to the drive and focus we require in our dogs.

Of course, just like with puppies raised to be Guide Dogs for the Blind, there is no guarantee that Ranger will have the rare combination of confidence, independence and drive that he will need to become a successful Conservation Dog. Temperament and personality traits depend on both “nature” AND “nurture.” If you want to read an interesting article about this check out this article about the “Fox Farm” experiments in Siberia. So far the little guy is doing pretty good, and we are just trying to make everything fun for him while he learns!

Until next time, feel free to visit us on our NEW website or on our Facebook page for regular updates on our training progress!! Dogs for Conservation has some other exciting news to share with you!

Training Videos from this month:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qulnk6apQYs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIzL70q7aio

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xG_ZQXDePq8&feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIL3f_hHxow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.  

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Keeping Dogs Safe in the Summertime

This morning, as I watched my partially bald dog Dharma bask in the sun’s rays, I was reminded of the risks that the sun and heat can pose to our pups. It has prompted me to discuss a few sun tips to help keep our dogs safe- while still having fun- this summer season.

Despite all that fur, it’s important to be aware of the risks of sunburn in your pet. Dogs, especially those with short hair, white fur, and pink skin, can easily sunburn, and this can be just as painful for your dog as it is to us. Limit your dog’s exposure during peak sun hours (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and apply sunblock to the ears and nose 30 minutes before going outside. Products available to protect dogs from sunburn include vests that block ultraviolet rays and pet-specific sunscreen made with ingredients repellent to dogs to keep them from licking it. If you are unsure that your sunscreen is pet-safe, double check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain zinc oxide (Desitin) or salicylates (aspirin); these can be toxic if licked off and ingested in large amounts. Stomach irritation can also occur if excessive amounts are ingested, so be careful about putting too much on in an area where they can lick it. If your dog has lupus or pemphigus (a condition that results in a crusty appearance to the nose), consult with a dermatologist before putting sunscreen on his or her nose or before letting outside.

While out at the beach, it is imperative to always have a fresh water source available and offer it frequently. If your dog gets thirsty, he may begin to drink the only available water, which is often salt water, and this can lead to toxicity. A few gulps of salt water won’t harm your dog, but watch for vomiting and early neurological signs of salt poisoning such as dullness and depression.

Scan the water and sand for jellyfish. Be aware of sea lice that can cause itchy red bumps on dogs. Salt can be irritating to paws and skin, too. Rinse salt water and sand from your dog’s coat after swimming. Always clean and dry ears after a swim. Water that remains in ears, especially from a dirty lake, can result in a bacterial ear infection.

Running on the sand is strenuous exercise, and this can easily lead to heat stroke. A dog that is out of shape can also easily pull a tendon or ligament, so keep a check on your dog’s activity. Hot sand (and pavement) can blister delicate pads that are new to these hot surfaces.

For dogs who enjoy the sport of boating, just like people, he or she should always wear a life jacket. Make sure that the life jacket fits properly and let your dog get used to having it on while swimming before going deeper into the water.

If you have a breed that is predisposed to eye problems (such as a Pug or Shepherd), you may want to consider Doggles to help protect their precious peepers.

And finally, never, ever leave a dog unattended in your vehicle in the summer months. Heatstroke and death can occur within minutes in warm temperatures and we have already treated several cases of this in our hospital over the past 2 weeks!!  You can read further about heatstroke (what and what NOT to do) here. 

I hope these tips help keep your pets safe during these upcoming summer months!

Have a doggy sun-proofing idea? Please share!

 

News: Guest Posts
Ugly Dog Couch
Takes a beating, but still beloved
ugly dog couch

I'm an interior designer's worst nightmare (isn't clutter just another word for "Victorian chic"?), but even my eye is offended by the yellow mustard sofa squatting in our house. To say it is distressed is to be kind. It has been chewed up, peed on, destuffed, and muddied. Yet the ugly dog couch lives on! I've repeatedly fantasized about being selected for "Extreme Makeover." Ty Pennington would leap into my living room with a single bound, and heroically hurl that thing to the curb. Yes, the dogs would be upset; at least I would no longer be the villain of this story. Of course, whenever garbage day arrives, it only takes one sleepy dog stretched across it to transform it into the cutest loveseat I've ever seen.       

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.

 

News: Guest Posts
Regret at the Vet
A beloved family pet died because they didn't ask questions
Justice for Jack ProHeart6 warning

Like most dog owners who trust their vet, Ashley Sassaman didn't hesitate to follow her vet's suggestion that her two dogs, Jack and Katrina, be given a new heartworm preventative, ProHeart6, at their last wellness check up. The convenience of a shot every six months instead of remembering to give monthly medication was a big selling point for the working mom. A week after the shot, Jack grew lethargic. He no longer wanted to play fetch or go for walks. The family brought him back to the vet, but she couldn't find an explanation for the behavior change. Three weeks after the shot, they found Jack dead at home. Ashley began to ask questions - ones that she wishes she had asked before Jack received the shot - and discovered that the FDA had briefly taken ProHeart6 off the market due to adverse reactions, including death. Also, Pfizer, the company that made ProHeart6, advised vets that they should discuss possible side effects with the dog's owners, and have them sign an "Owner Consent Form" before the first injection, a protocol that Ashey's vet did not follow. Ashley has since changed vets and Pfizer offered to pay for Jack's necropsy. It is her hope that sharing Jack's story will encourage other dog lovers to ask questions and do research in order to keep their dogs healthy and safe.    

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Avoiding Dog Bites
The Still & Silent Way Works Best

Two minor punctures were just visible above the old man’s ankle. He held his slacks up from his skinny leg as he told me how the dog had rushed off its property and bitten him as he walked by. As I took the report he told me about many other dog bites he had received.
    

The man was a quiet, soft-spoken widower who spent every morning walking around his suburban neighborhood. He lived in a nice area without a lot of loose dogs and I was puzzled at how he had been bitten so often. As an animal control officer, I handle aggressive dogs daily and am rarely bitten.
 

What was about him or his demeanor that incited normally docile canines to aggression? It’s not like the old guy wrapped his legs in bacon before he set out each morning. I questioned him about each bite and he told me that when he saw a dog he would yell in an attempt to frighten it away. As the dog approached he would flail around, kicking, swinging his arms and screaming.  Wow…. that’s probably more effective than bacon. Jump around like a wounded antelope and hope the predator doesn’t eat you. No one deserves to be bitten while minding his own business but I could see how the man’s response could be a contributing factor.
 

In observance of the recent Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 20-26, I offer a view of dog bites from that of someone who has investigated literally thousands of them. In most cases the dogs were family pets that are normally friendly. A few were dogs with a history of aggression that was permitted or excused by the owner.
 

More than 4 million people a year are bitten by dogs and children are the most common victims. In almost every case, the bite could have been avoided with some effort on the part of the dog owner as well as from the victim (or their parent). In one case I investigated, a toddler was bitten by a relative’s elderly arthritic dog. The child’s father was furious, demanding that the dog be euthanized immediately. The family was visiting the wife’s sister and the child wandered into the other room where the dog was lying on his bed, chewing a bone. The child climbed on the dogs back and sustained a minor puncture to the hand. The parents were extremely negligent for letting their baby roam around someone else’s home unattended.  Of course the dog’s owner should have been alert as well. It was deemed a provoked bite and the dog was spared, but sadly many dogs are euthanized for minor, easily preventable bites.
 

The importance of socialization, training, not allowing dogs to roam and not leaving dogs unsupervised with children is critical. Many people are also in denial about what their dog might do. I can’t tell you how many times a person has told me “Oh he would never bite”. Often when I’m looking at a dog whose body language screams “I would bite in a hot second!”  Dogs are limited in how they can say “you’re scaring me” or simply “leave me alone”. Biting is a way that dogs communicate. Most dogs won’t (and shouldn’t) challenge their owners, but a child or visitor may not be so lucky. I’m also amazed by how many people allow their kids to abuse their dogs. “They can do anything to him.” They tell me proudly. Sadly, the long-suffering dog may eventually tire of the torment and suffer the ultimate consequence for his predictable response.
 

Dogs should be off limits to kids when eating, sleeping, chewing a bone etc. It’s critical that children are taught to respect a dog’s space, food and other potential triggers. Dogs who are sick, scared, injured or have pups are also at higher risk for biting.  
 

Equally important is that people stay still when approached by a potentially aggressive dog. Even an aggressively charging dog on its own property will rarely bite a perfectly still person. I can vouch for this, having been charged many times by dogs that have previously bitten. When they don’t get a response from me, they stop and lose interest.
 

I was impressed with a boy who approached a house while selling candy bars. Inside, a highly aggressive dog that had bitten several previous visitors saw the child. She crashed right through the front window in a shower of glass. The terrified boy screamed bloody murder but didn’t move a muscle. The dog snarled and circled him repeatedly but didn’t bite.
 

Please remember that even the nicest dog can bite and even the nicest child can irritate them. Dogs deserve our respect and protection, as do our children and visitors to our homes.

 

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