Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pups find a foster home while aiding Bostonians
I think that dogs have an innate ability to bring out the best in us. Over the last year, I’ve written about dogs calming humans testifying in court, putting patients at ease in the doctor’s office, and even helping people meet new significant others. Now, dogs are helping residents open up to staff members at a Boston, Mass., homeless shelter, while increasing their own adoptability in return.
About a year ago, Barbara Davidson, head of a homeless shelter and support organization in Massachusetts called Pine Street, was working with a man who suffered from paranoia. He refused treatment, but knowing he loved dogs, Barbara began volunteering with him at the local animal shelter to help him feel more comfortable. He loved the work so much that he asked Barbara to let him bring one of the dogs back to Pine Street.
Barbara soon found that having a dog at Pine Street helped residents to open up and build trust with the staff. Now, Pine Street fosters six dogs.
The residents at Pine Street can relate to the homeless dogs, developing a strong bond. They also provide the dogs with socialization and training, making the pups more attractive to adopters. A very cool win-win for all involved.
News: Guest Posts
Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals needs help
Headlines around the world have tracked the recent upheaval in many parts of the Middle East. What started in Tunisia spread like wildfire; demonstrations and protests have crippled many countries in the region.When demonstrations and clashes erupted in Egypt, chaos and disorder ensued. Looting, theft, violence marred the country, effectively putting an end to the tourism industry, damaging an already fragile economy, and pushing many expatriates to evacuate the country. When faced with the decision of leaving or staying in the country at potential risk to their own safety, many expats were forced to evacuate, leaving behind their homes and, sometimes, their family pets. Dogs and cats were abandoned on the streets or euthanized as worried owners struggled with the burden of what to do next. Cairo is notorious for the numbers of stray cats and dogs that run the streets, but these animals stood out. Healthier and evidently well-fed, volunteers at the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA) were seeing many cats and dogs that had been abandoned. ESMA is a non-profit animal rescue shelter based in the heart of Egypt, the capital city Cairo. It was founded by a few dedicated Egyptians and expatriates in response to mass shootings of dogs and cats in 2007 and has been fighting for the rights of animals in Egypt ever since. These three weeks of unrest had a devastating impact on organizations, such as ESMA, which is in urgent need of help to provide food and shelter to an increasing number of stray cats and dogs. In the beginning of this year, ESMA’s shelter provided refuge for more than 600 cats and dogs. Run entirely on donations and volunteers, the rescue society relies on the generosity of others. This need today is greater than it has ever been. During the period of unrest, ESMA volunteers picked up more than 26 abandoned cats and dogs left in the streets to fend for themselves. As the country works toward rebuilding its future, the future of these animals remains uncertain. To this day, nobody has stepped forward to claim the animals taken in by the rescue shelter, and ESMA struggles with the burden of feeding more than 600 cats and dogs on a daily basis. “We are continually struggling to locate/buy food, medicines, pay the rent and the workers’ salaries, and even find detergents and disinfectants,” says Susie Nasser, a founding member of ESMA. “We are only able to offer our animals one meal, instead of the usual two meals per day.” Animal lovers worldwide have banded together to help ESMA during their times of dire need. Donations from pet owners throughout the world have helped in keeping the rescue shelter afloat, but the light at the end of the tunnel is still far away. ESMA is sending out a plea for help from every dog, cat or animal owner throughout the world. Even a small donation can help to feed an animal for a few days. For more information or to find out how you can help, please visit ESMA’s website at www.esmaegypt.org. In addition to general donations, ESMA offers sponsorships for specific animals. When you sponsor an animal, you will receive pictures of your furry friend and updates as they increase in strength and health. From all of us at ESMA—both two-legged and four-legged—thank you for your consideration. We hope to welcome you all back to a better and brighter Egypt!
News: Guest Posts
A St. Louis stray recovers among chicks, lambs, rabbits and more.
As you can imagine, we get loads of fabulous dog images from Bark readers—handsome, adorable, funny and inspiring dogs of every stripe. But when Parfait arrived over the transom, we stopped in our tracks: Who is this recovering beauty with a harem of rabbits?A little more than a month ago, Parfait was a feral, starving dog living on the streets of North St. Louis, a neighborhood known for dog fighting. She was found trying to keep her newborn pups warm in the cold and snow; they had already frozen to death. She was also near death, due to an infection from an embedded collar that was strangling her. “She was originally saved by Randy Grim of Stray Rescue of St. Louis. Randy has spent many years going out daily to feed and save the suffering street dogs in his city. I admire him greatly,” says Janice Wolf of Rocky Ridge Refuge in North Central Arkansas. “I named her Parfait because she needed a sweet name to reflect her nature, especially being a Pit Bull off the streets.” Wolf continues, “I specialize in helping animals with special needs and medical [issues], and at the holidays I always try to take on a special case for another rescue to help them out. When I learned of Parfait … I offered to bring her to my refuge.” A friend volunteered to drive her the five hours to Rocky Ridge. “She was initially quite shy, but soon came around with the help of my other dogs,” Wolf says. “She is a young girl, no more than 18 months old. She will have no handicaps really. She does have a severe neck wound with a lot of scar tissue there, and will never be able to wear a collar. Her voice is a little funny because of it too. If I can figure a way to get the funds, I am going to see about having the vet reduce and modify the excess scar tissue to make a smoother and less restricted skin area there. Otherwise a healthy, smart girl that will be up for adoption.” For now, Parfait is keeping company with a menagerie. She met the bunnies a few days before Wolf took the photo she sent to us. She has also cuddled with lambs and chicks. Check out more of the multi-species healing at Rocky Ridge in our slideshow. “I don't know that there is an 'advantage' per say in having all the species together, it just kinda has to be this way here due to lack of space to do it differently!,” Wolf told us when we asked about her crazy-mixed-up soup of a refuge. “I love that the many different species do form a family and look out for each other though. For the most part it works amazingly well and some odd relationships have developed.” She is careful to respect individual boundaries and tolerances, and she doesn't expect every animal to automatically love every other critter. Some of her rescued dogs will not safely live with fawns or lambs or chicks, due to their breed prey drive or past experiences. Wolf, who is writing a children's book about Parfait to raise money for her refuge, told us she’s been rescuing animals since she was a child. She says, “There’s nothing better!” Visit Rocky Ridge Refuge’s Facebook Fanpage to learn more about the refuge and to follow Parfait. Also, check out Bark’s story about Gateway Pet Guardians, a grassroots rescue group caring for the strays of East St. Louis, across the Mississippi River from where Parfait was discovered.
News: Guest Posts
Puerto Rico pup lost—and found—in Logan Airport during transport
Have you heard the story of Pedro, a Beagleish-looking former stray from Puerto Rico who escaped from his crate at Logan Airport in Boston last week during his transport to a shelter in Maine? Frequent Bark contributor Twig Mowatt, co-founder of All Sato Rescue, which helps find homes in the United States for Puerto Rico strays, including Pedro, told us the amazing behind-the-scenes story of his big adventure.“This dog has really had an ‘exciting’ life. He was hit by a car last year and lost one eye. We took him into our program, which is All Sato Rescue because a special needs dog wouldn’t have much luck finding a home in Puerto Rico. So, he arrived at Logan Airport Monday evening to be met by someone from a Beagle rescue group in Maine who has placed a lot of our dogs—and, thankfully, he’s pretty loose about his definition of ‘Beagle,’ as you can tell Pedro probably has some Jack Russell, and a little sausage-something in his stubby legs and long body. I was not at the airport when it happened, but I heard about it immediately and fortunately, I had the cell phone of the state’s most famous animal rescuer—Alan Borgal, sort of the Rooster Cogburn of the animal world. (If you’ve seen True Grit you’ll know what I mean.) “Anyway, while we (me in Boston, our president in San Juan, and the head of the Beagle rescue group) were basically in little puddles of worry and anxiety, Alan was putting together a SWAT team. He has his own rescuers through the Animal Rescue League of Boston, where he works, but he also knows many people at Logan. He got in touch with the Logan police and then started reaching out to the construction workers and parking lot attendants at the airport. Pedro had—very scarily—made it out of the terminal, crossing a very busy road of buses and taxis and shuttles, and gotten into the central parking garage. It was freezing cold and he had just left 80-degree weather, so we were all terrified that he was going to freeze to death. “We had one sighting of him Monday evening—about 9 p.m., and Alan was out there late into the night. We didn’t hear anything again until Tuesday afternoon, when we got a sighting of him in a parking area near Terminal B, where he arrived. I went out there after work Tuesday, and papered the garage with flyers, and also handed them out to everyone I could find—maintenance workers, taxi dispatchers, parking lot attendants—and everyone was so kind and concerned. But it was very scary to see where he might be hiding—as it was freezing cold and full of construction equipment and cars, of course, that might run over him. “Alan said that he thought Pedro was finding cars of people who had just parked, so he could get under them for some warmth. He also said that he knew Pedro was in the area by the reaction of the resident cat who hangs out and catches rodents in the parking lot. Evidently the cat was quite put out. “Alan told me that the construction workers were so worried that they checked his humane traps every hour all night! When Pedro was finally caught—not in a trap, by the way, but with a pole, I think—he had made it across two more busy streets into a garage quite far from where he was originally. “It was just amazing to me how everyone got involved and wanted to help and came together for this little dog. The thought that he had been through so much on the streets of Puerto Rico and was finally getting a chance to find a loving, forever home--only to end up lost in Logan airport--was almost too much to bear. But, just seeing how everyone pulled together and helped make this happy ending, made it a really life-affirming experience. Moreover, judging from the looks of Pedro in the TV report, he is pretty unfazed by it all. Alan said that once he got by the initial shock of being caught, he began giving everyone kisses. “At the moment, he is being held in quarantine at the Animal Rescue League in Boston. We are ready to send him on up to Maine to find his forever home, but, given his local celebrity status, if a highly qualified adopter shows up who wants to add Pedro to their home, we are all for making that happen. We just think it’s time to change his name from Pedro to Logan!”
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A third-grader’s idea saves lives
My morning ritual involves Grape Nuts cereal, a cup of tea, and an assessment of the day’s possibilities based on the cover story in my local paper, The Arizona Daily Sun. If the cover story is good news, charming, funny or positive in any way, I consider it a good omen for the day. If it is bad news, depressing, dull, or a downer for any other reason, I take immediate action by temporarily abandoning my quest for news of the world and turning to the sports page instead. Last week, a story about a police dog who received a bulletproof vest through Project Police K-9 started my day in a better way than any front page story in the last year. The cheer this brought to my morning went way beyond the obvious plus that the cover story had a canine slant. Project Police K-9 is a non-profit organization whose goal is to ensure that all of Arizona’s police dogs have stab proof and bulletproof vests. Since each of these lifesaving pieces of equipment costs $825, they are beyond the budgets of many law enforcement agencies. And yet any officer will tell you that the dogs are at risk of serious and even fatal injuries from knives and guns just as their human partners are. This organization was started by Michael Valdez, who was inspired as a third-grader by a story of a police dog names Dax who was shot and killed in the line of duty. His teacher asked who in the class would be willing to call the Tucson Police Department to inquire about the possibility of donating a bulletproof vest for other canines serving in the force. He raised his hand to volunteer. That was over a decade and 167 vests ago, with the most recent recipient being Kiko, a dog who works with the Coconino County Sheriff Department in Northern Arizona. Valdez is currently raising money for a vest for Viktor, the other police dog in that department. Inspiring teachers who motivate kids, charitable young people taking action to save lives, a love for and an appreciation of dogs—can you see why this story was such a great start to my morning?
News: Guest Posts
Diane Eldrup arrested for deaths of 20 dogs
A broken family. Foreclosed property. Twenty dead dogs. When I first read the story of Diane Eldrup and her suburban Chicago rescue, Muddy Paws, I cried. Her husband had finally received court permission to enter their property after a year-long absence only to find that his estranged wife and their 8-year-old son were living among decaying animal corpses and 5 to 10 tons of fecal matter. Jail is where Eldrup is likely headed, but it’s not what she needs.
Rescuing animals can be addictive. When I co-founded New Orleans German Shepherd Rescue in the early 2000s, my intentions were noble yet naive. Despite knowing next to nothing about dogs, much less humane work, I was going to save every single healthy German Shepherd Dog that came through the doors of the Louisiana SPCA. Soon, I was getting desperate calls and emails from shelters and volunteers throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere. These dogs needed a hero; I could become that person.
Well-intentioned animal lovers and friends fueled the “high” I would get from helping each dog. They praised me, claiming that I was such a good person for doing this. They rewarded me with donations of food, toys and money. They said they could never do what I did. I was a hero in their eyes, too.
If you weren't with me, then I had no time for you. In fact, if you told me I couldn't save a particular dog, I worked even harder to prove you wrong. More phone calls, more emails, more adoption events, more transports, more of my own time and money. It was never enough.
Rescue became a way of life. My 9 to 5 job got in the way of my real, meaningful work. It wasn’t unusual for me to take extra time on my lunch hour and spend it at the shelter in my suit and heels. I took photos to post on the rescue website, introduced dogs to prospective adopters, and checked to see which dogs had limited time. These animals needed me. The shelter staff began to ask me to help them find homes for their favorites because I seemed to have a knack for it. I was addicted to feeling needed and the power of changing lives.
When I got into a heated argument with a friend about how rescue should be important to everyone, she told me I was “self-righteous.” It gave me pause, but at the moment, I was so emotionally wound up that I angrily stomped out of her house and didn’t talk to her for awhile. Why should I? She clearly was incapable of caring as much as I did.
Over the years, I became increasingly isolated from family and friends. My parents lived far away and I remember being on the phone with my mom and hearing her ask if everything was okay. No, everything is not okay! There are thousands of beautiful, loving animals dying needlessly in shelters every day!
She gently interrupted me and tried again. Are you okay? I abruptly changed the subject.
Finally, my husband said enough. We’re broke. We have our own zoo of four rescued dogs and three cats to care for. There is a constant merry-go-round of foster dogs in this tiny house on a city lot. You’re stressed out. You’re not happy. You’re never here. He said all of this in a diplomatic way that got through to me. He was—and still is—a strong, sensitive man who yes, loves animals, but loves me more.
The intervention worked. I quit the rescue group cold turkey. The shelter staff were dismayed but said they understood. One rescue volunteer sent me flowers at work, pleading with me to come back. Another rescuer called and left a sobbing message asking if I could help with just this one dog this one time.
For me, rescue is a drug. I can’t say no. I didn’t call her back.
To all the rescuers out there who are struggling on their own, there is no point in trying to save every single animal if you hurt yourself and the people you love in the process. Get the help you need before something tragic happens. Delegate to volunteers, see a counselor, learn to say no, spend money on something you need for a change. You have value as a person whether you rescue animals or not.
And to those unique individuals who are able to balance life, people and rescue, thank you. Perhaps one day, people will recognize that their irresponsibility toward animals doesn’t just lead to neglect, suffering, pet overpopulation, and euthanasia of healthy, young animals. It also hurts people and can destroy human lives.
News: Guest Posts
ASPCA study finds cops need more training
Earlier this year, Charles Siebert wrote a New York Times magazine story about the increased attention on animal cruelty in the United States. He cited a significant expansion of state animal-cruelty laws, investigative initiatives, and most importantly an overall appreciation for the links between animal cruelty and “non-animal” crimes “including illegal firearms possession, drug trafficking, gambling, spousal and child abuse, rape and homicide.” The story left me feeling that law enforcement would stop relegating crimes against pets to a lower priority—if only in the interest of protecting humans.So I was disheartened to read about a recent study by the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) that found only 19 percent of law enforcement officers surveyed report they’ve received training in handling crimes against animals. Not just that, while nearly one-third of Americans say they’ve witnessed animal cruelty firsthand, police say they rarely see it. The study also revealed that while nearly all law enforcement officers feel they should play a role in enforcing animal cruelty law, only 41 percent say they know the relevant laws in their area and just 30 percent say they know the penalties. In short, awareness of animal cruelty is here but not the frontline know-how to stop it. With so much budget pressure on municipalities around the country, I’m pessimistic about these concerns rising to the top of priority lists. But I’m glad to see the ASPCA shed light on this gaping hole in the effort to fight animal cruelty.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Shelters report higher adoption rates for December
Many shelters around the country are reporting higher adoption rates this holiday season. This is great news, although Christmas isn’t exactly the best time to bring home a new animal. I know many families want to surprise their kids with a puppy or kitten, but I can’t even imagine bringing home a new pet with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Nonetheless, I’m happy to see people adopt instead of visiting a pet store.
Some of these shelters have been running special “Home for the Holidays” promotions to encourage people to adopt. In California, the Sacramento SPCA, City of Sacramento Animal Care Services, Sacramento County Animal Care and Regulation and Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary teamed up to slash adoption fees in half with a goal of adopting out 1,000 pets by the end of the year. The Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals created greater awareness for homeless pets by sending had volunteers in Santa costumes walk around the streets of New York with dogs for adoption.
I’m glad to hear that adoptions are up at shelters, but hope next year families will think twice about adopting during the holiday season. Waiting sets a good example for the kids and they get to help pick out the new addition!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Bill to limit tethering to three hours
In New York, it’s common to see dogs tied to parking meters and trees while their family runs errands in nearby stores. I’m always afraid the pups will get stolen or get too hot or cold, depending on the weather. But even worse are the pets that get left behind at home, chained to fences for hours on end. This is more common in the outer Boroughs of the city, like the Bronx and Brooklyn.
Earlier this month, New York City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., introduced a bill that would ban people from tethering dogs outdoors for longer than three hours. New York is behind the times as other major cities, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, have stricter regulations that ban chaining dogs completely.
Besides being subject to extreme weather conditions, tethering unattended dogs is a risky decision for many reasons. Chained pups are vulnerable to being attacked by other animals, injured by the tether, or even stolen. Tethering for long periods of time can also encourage behavioral problems to develop, like aggression.
If the bill is passed, unfortunately the New York City Health Department isn’t optimistic that the city will be able to enforce the law. Inspectors would have to witness the three-hour violation in order to issue a summons, which is logistically challenging. Even so, I hope that passing the bill will cause people to think twice about leaving their dogs tied outside.
News: Guest Posts
And provide shelter standards
Every day a veterinarian has a good chance of being a hero—extracting a painful tooth, diagnosing the source of a lump, helping a dog to a much-needed sleep. It should be enough that they take good care of patients each day, but lately vets have been articulating a larger vision that means good things for animals.In November, the American Veterinary Medical Association revised the veterinarian’s oath by adding a few words to signal the true scope of the veterinarian’s mission, vowing to protect not just animal health but also welfare and to aim for not just the relief but the prevention of suffering. Read revised oath here. And in December, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians released 51-pages worth of advice for the care of animals in shelters to help these organizations review their standards for animal care, identify areas that need improvement, allocate resources and implement solutions to optimize welfare, minimize euthanasia and prevent suffering. The guidelines are based on “five freedoms” developed in 1965 in the United Kingdom by a commission looking at welfare concerns in agricultural settings. Now recognized to have broader application across species, the freedoms include the right to freedom from hunger and thirst, discomfort, pain, injury or disease, fear or distress and the freedom to express normal behavior.
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