Archive for June, 2011

I know that the rescue community is constantly inundated with pleas to save just one more dog.  And sometimes it wears on us.

But I’m going to ask you to save just one more dog.

Meet Charlie.  Charlie is what we might call a special circumstances dog.  He is currently incarcerated in the quarantine room at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter. 

Charlie A157412

He will only get out of there if a rescue steps up to take him.

Here’s how he landed in jail.  First, he came into MCAS and went into the adoption program.  He’s a great dog, so he was adopted.

Unfortunately, he was adopted by jackasses.

The head jackass had a young son who didn’t want to play with Charlie.  In fact, when Charlie got in his way, the kid hauled off and began kicking Charlie in the ribs.  Poor Charlie finally grabbed the kid’s pants leg in self-defense.  And even then, attempting to save himself, he did NOT hurt the kid.

Nevertheless, the head jackass dragged Charlie back to the shelter and dumped him.  Worse, he dumped him “for biting the kid.”

As we in animal welfare know, that puts Charlie on death row.  He cannot go back in to MCAS’ adoption program, because under county regulations, the shelter cannot put a “biter” up for adoption.  However, they CAN release him to rescue.  Given Charlie’s circumstances, they are begging for a rescue to stand up for Charlie so they can save this nice dog.

I took Charlie out to play today.  He is calm, mannerly, neutered, vaccinated, and grateful for attention.  He is a beautiful animal who deserves a hell of a lot better than to die in a shelter because a father allowed his son to kick the dog until the poor animal had to defend himself.

Charlie needs immediate rescue to save his life.  No one at MCAS wants to put him down, but the only way to save him is for a rescue to take him.

Please help him.  Call the shelter at 936-442-7738 and ask for Minda Harris.

 **Update:  Tammie got adopted!  Big Red, Titan, and Cindie STILL NEED HOMES.

Several times recently I have joined my fellow rescue community members in begging for foster spots for particular animals.

  • the depressed pregnant dachshund
  • the three little dogs with chemical burns
  • Charlie the “rescue only” dog

These are just a few of the hundreds of animals in need of foster, rescue, or adoption at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter.  And MCAS is just one shelter of thousands, all with the same problem.

Here is the stark reality.  Eight million animals die in shelters every year.  For every animal that goes into a foster home, a rescue, or a permanent adoptive home, another animal gets a chance to survive.

Where do they all come from?  Good question.  Some come in as strays, either dropped off by Good Samaritans who found them or brought in by animal control.  Some are formally relinquished by “owners” who don’t want them any more.  And an astonishing number are dumped in the middle of the night, left for shelter workers to find when they come to work in the morning.

The three little dogs with chemical burns fall into this last category.  First thing this morning, MCAS employees found a Yorkshire Terrier, a Schnauzer, and a Chihuahua mix, all painfully thin, all with fresh burns the length of their spines.  They think that these burns may be the result of cheap over-the-counter flea repellent drops, but realistically we’ll never know.

The good news is that rescue groups stepped right up and offered places for the Yorkie and the Schnauzer.  The bad news is that a place has not yet been found for the Chihuahua/Papillon cross.  It’s not that no group is willing to take him.  It’s that they are are so full that no one has been able to find a place for him in their program yet.  He is a sweet little boy who needs veterinary care, food, and a safe place where he can feel loved. 

And he is only one of so many.  I have no doubt that tomorrow morning, there will be another lost little victim left on the doorstep at MCAS.  If not there, then at another shelter in the area.

How can you help?

DONATIONS:

  • Food (good quality food, please, as low quality food with red dye can sicken the animals).
  • Plastic wading pools to help animals keep cool.
  • Towels, hypoallergenic laundry soap, sturdy pet toys, crates, and other supplies.
  • Money 

SERVICE:

  • Bathe dogs.
  • Walk dogs.
  • Photograph dogs for their website.
  • Help clean.
  • Help with adoption events.

And last but most important:

  • FOSTER! Help a homeless pet by providing veterinary care, love, and affection until he finds a forever home.

Interested in helping MCAS?  Please visit them.  They are open every day.  They’re on highway 242, just east of Interstate 45, on the north side of the road.  (You’ll have to go past them and do a u-turn.)

Readers who are not in the Conroe area, please, check out your own local shelters.  They all need help. 

If not you, then who?

One of the most alarming things (to me, anyway) to come out of the recent wildfires is the plethora of displaced and abandoned animals. 

Good pet owners:

Several people interviewed by local media were quoted as saying all they had time to do was grab their pets and car keys and get out.  Notice the priority.  They grabbed THEIR PETS.

Other people:

One individual was quoted as saying that she and her husband left their livestock AND THEIR THIRTEEN SCHNAUZERS behind when they were ordered out.

Oh, where to begin.  Okay, I actually do understand that they may have had no choice when it came to the livestock.  Livestock requires trailers, and most people have more hoofstock than trailer space. 

But THIRTEEN SCHNAUZERS???  Realistically, this suggests one of three possibilities to me. 

  • She has show dogs.  Nope!  If these were show dogs, they would never have left them.
  • She does schnauzer rescue. Nope!  No rescuer would leave thirteen dogs behind.
  • She’s a back yard breeder.  Probable! First, thirteen schnauzers is a lot of dogs, and second, she frankly didn’t seem very upset about leaving them. 

My personal disgust aside, let’s take this as an opportunity to do a little planning.

In the event of a disaster (flood, fire, hurricane, whatever), have you made plans for your pets?

Ideally, here’s what you should have:

  • Copies of shot records
  • At least a week’s worth of medication for any pets that need them
  • At least a week’s worth of food
  • Bottled water
  • Dishes
  • Crates
  • Photographs of each pet with their name, age, and any pertinent information written on the back
  • Collars/harnesses and leashes

If you do have to leave in a hurry, you should be able to throw all these items (minus the crates, of course) in a bag, along with their beds and a couple of favorite toys, and get the animals, crates, and the afore-mentioned list into your vehicle and in motion in less than ten minutes.  Five minutes would be better.

Since one of my babies is extremely high maintenance, I keep several copies of his medical and behavioral history (which is extensive) on the refrigerator door, where I can grab them in a hurry on my way out the door.  I actually have this in case I need to make a late night run to the emergency clinic, because Bumble’s medical history does NOT fit in the two blanks on their little intake form.  But it’s handy to have in case of evacuation, too.

You should also consider where you’re going to take them.  Most shelters will not accept pets.  Make sure you have two or three options available to you – friends or relatives who are pet friendly AND HAVE ROOM for them, good boarding facilities in your evacuation destination, hotels that will accept pets. 

For this particular emergency (the Dyer Mill fire), the HSPCA set up livestock and companion animal shelters in Navasota.  It’s wonderful that the HSPCA is able to provide that option for all the displaced animals, but you cannot count on shelters being available.  Most places do not have the tremendous disaster response resources that an organization like the HSPCA can offer.  And if you’re like me, you don’t want your pets in a shelter setting if there is another choice.

Plan ahead.  And whatever happens, do NOT leave your pets behind.  They rely on you to keep them safe.

I’ve spent a lot of time at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter lately.  It’s simultaneously one of the saddest and yet most hopeful places I know.  Not every animal gets out alive.  There are just too many.  But many, many more are saved BECAUSE of MCAS.  MCAS gives them a chance, and works really hard to find forever homes for as many as they possibly can.

The dogs featured in today’s column are all dogs that have been stuck in shelter limbo for far too long.  These are great dogs; the volunteers and staff love them, and want them adopted into loving permanent homes. 

Please, look closely at each dog, and share this column with everyone you know.  My goal for the next week is to see these dogs get adopted.  To do that, I need (and they need) your help.

Big Red (A158944)

 

I love this dog.  He appears to be a cross between Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever.  On the small side, he probably weighs around 50 pounds.  He is quiet and mannerly, but loves to play with his kennel mate, all the more so because they have been incarcerated together for a while now. 

Big Red would do well with other dogs, and he is very friendly to people.  He is not the kind of extroverted dog who climbs the kennel gate trying to attract your attention, but if you go in to see him, he revels in the attention.  I think he gets overlooked by many potential adopters because his kennel mate is such an exuberant clown.

Cindie (A162291) 

Cindie is a most unusual looking girl.  Check out those ears!  I’m not sure what she is, but I’d say there was a visit to Australia somewhere in her gene pool. 

She is a young, playful bundle of energy who never met a stranger and desperately wants someone to play with.  She loves her kennel mate, and her only behavioral issue seems to be an excess of affection.  She wants an active household in which she will get plenty of exercise, play time, and attention. 

Tammie (A157255) 

This big brindle and white girl is a lovable moose, no question.  At a guess, I’d say she’s the result of an encounter between a coonhound and a Great Dane, or something along those lines.  She is about a year old, give or take a couple of months, and probably weighs around 80 pounds. 

This active young girl plays hard with her kennel mate and throws herself joyfully upon any human who ventures into her pen.  The shelter has her (and the other dogs featured here) in larger runs outside in an effort to accomodate her size and energy level, but being confined for so long is starting to get to her.  Of the four dogs in this column, she is the most overtly needy.  Something about her really calls to me, but my yard isn’t much bigger than her kennel run.  She needs plenty of room and lots of human attention.

Titan (A100934) 

Titan, like Big Red, is a calmer, quieter soul.  This gorgeous Australian Cattle Dog responds happily to affection, and plays for hours with his big kennel mate.  But he is also content to sit quietly beside you.  He has the most beautiful markings and a kind personality.  I think life has been hard on him – he is so grateful for any affection.

I’m calling on all my readers to help find homes for these four beautiful dogs.  Each of them has been in the shelter far too long, and each of them deserves so much better than to spend endless days in a chainlink pen waiting for someone to love them. 

The Montgomery County Animal Shelter is located just East of Highway 45 on 242, on the north side of the Woodlands.  These four dogs are in the “Outback” section, in the two pens closest to the front of the shelter.  Make sure you bring their ID numbers with you.

Dear rescue friends,

This particular column is a request for information.

I’m designing a line of products just for us.  Teeshirts, buttons, wristbands, posters, and assorted other products, all rescue themed.

Over my years in rescue, I have listened to rescuers complain about the products they can’t find and the things they wish they had for adopters, adoption events, and promoting rescue in general 

A few themes you’ll see in these products:

  • Pro-adoption
  • Anti-puppy mill
  • Anti-roadside puppy sellers

You can see all the new stuff for yourselves at MCAS in a couple of weeks – Minda has graciously invited me to set up there so that all the local rescuers can see the new products (since most of you come through there anyway!).

What I’m asking for now is your input.  What else do you need?  What other products would you really love to have?

I’m working with suppliers all week, so now is the time!  All products will also be available through my website (click the shopping tab above) as they come in from the manufacturers.  Check back often as I add new items!  I’ll add the new posters and buttons tomorrow.  Just click on the Rescue Resource Room within the store site.

Please post suggestions either to the blog itself or to Facebook. 

Thank you so much for your ongoing support of my blog, my store, and our endless fight to save more animals.

Shannon

As you may know, I’m travelling right now, which means that Bumble and his baby sister Lizzie are home with their Aunt Stacy, aka world’s most awesome petsitter.

Babysitting Lizzie is pretty easy.  She’s eager to please and happy to see you, and really just wants someone to play with her and take her for walks.

Bumble is a much more complicated story.  I may have mentioned that he is on the high maintenance side…

First, anyone who is going to take care of Bumble has to be approved of.  By Bumble.  Stacy earned my undying gratitude when she took the time to make friends with my wild little gremlin boy.  She understands that the abuse in his early life combined with his medical issues have made him a truly special needs boy.

As Bumble has gotten older and steadily more fragile, taking care of him becomes more and more complex.  There are two pills in the morning, one pill at dinner; these have to be cut to reach the proper dose.  Liquid medication three times a day, which has to be mashed into chicken and hand fed to him.  His meals, which include several supplements compounded into his food.  The food itself, which is a combination of cooked chicken and prescription canned food.

And then there’s the fact that some days Bumble just does not feel like cooperating.  He might eat.  Or he might skip a meal.  He might be willing to go for his potty break walk. Or he might flop down on the pavement and categorically refuse to move (which also means he refuses to relieve himself).  My boy is big on passive protest, and he apparently has a bladder like a camel.

He also comes with periodic epileptic seizures and bouts of what I call “the late night crazies”.  The seizures are more predictable – I generally know what brings them on and can often avert them.  And now so does Stacy.  The late night crazies are rather reminiscent of the sundowner effect of elderly people with advanced dementia or Alzheimers.  He’s much more with it during the day, and sometimes late at night, he wanders in agitated circles and talks to himself.  Medication generally controls it, but not always.

Stacy texts me updates about Bumble several times a day – when he ate, how much he ate, whether he’s willing to walk or not, how he’s acting in general.  She worries about him as much as I do, and I know that she takes incredibly good care of him and Lizzie, which is the only reason I am able to bring myself to travel and leave my medically fragile little old man at home.

It takes a very patient and dedicated petsitter to take on a dog like Bumble…especially for a period of several days.  I owe her big.

If you have a really good petsitter, please take time to thank her for everything she does for your babies.  Personally, I wouldn’t know what to do without mine.

At a meeting of the Harris County Commissioner’s Court, local rescuers, led by Teri Drennan, were overjoyed when the court approved the early release of animals in need of medical care. 

Previously, any animal that was unfortunate enough to find itself in the custody of Harris County Veterinary Public Health (also known as HCPHES) was condemned to suffer through a three day stray hold, regardless of medical needs.  It didn’t matter that most other local facilities choose to waive the three day hold in the case of serious illness or injury.  Dr. Blackmar, the director, insisted that her system worked just fine.  (For everyone but the animals who were suffering and literally dying due to lack of veterinary attention.)

Rescuers had previously kept their mouths shut about the bad practices and animal mistreatment endemic to the Harris County Veterinary Public Health system, because it was common knowledge that retaliation followed complaints.  But when Hope, a beautiful basset hound pulled by Basset Buddies Rescue, had to be euthanized after spending her three day hold in agony from an assortment of serious injuries, Teri Drennan had had enough.

A very active campaign followed, punctuated by reports from Fox News’ Randy Wallace, in which he exposed the appalling practices considered normal under Blackmar’s regime. 

This week, the Harris County Commissioner’s Court voted to approve the waiver of the three day stray hold.  Dogs who are in need of “acute, urgent veterinary care” may be released to approved rescue groups in a position to provide the care they need.

This is a HUGE step in the right direction.  And God bless Teri Drennan, Randy Wallace, and the participating members of Basset Buddies and any other rescue who put it on the line to protest the barbaric practices of Harris County Veterinary Public Health.  The animals in the custody of HCPHES just got better odds of surviving their incarceration.

However, the war has not been won.  Not yet.

A copy of the “new, improved” rescue agreement has come into my hands.  I am somewhat horrified at this nine page document, in which the rescue group agrees that Harris County Veterinary Public Health:

  • can inspect their facility without warning at any time.
  • can “repossess” the dog at any time during the three day stray hold.
  • CANNOT be accused of trespassing if they are on the rescuer’s property without permission.

Quoted from the agreement:

“HCVPH shall have the right to inspect the Animal and facilities at all times without prior notice to Rescue Veterinary Services Provider. County may repossess the Animal released to Rescue Veterinary Services Provider hereunder at any time with or without prior notice to Rescue Veterinary Services Provider, and neither County nor its officers, agents, or employees shall be guilty of any trespass or conversion for the entry onto the premises where the Animal may be situated.”

Given that most rescues foster their animals in private homes, these conditions seem a bit invasive.  Legally speaking, this would appear to give the county the right to forcibly enter a rescuer’s home at two in the morning to remove an animal.  And that is not okay.

And then there is my personal favorite among the laundry list of conditions:

“The Rescue Veterinary Services Provider acknowledges and understands that County has a mission, opinions, philosophies and policies that may not coincide with that of Rescue Veterinary Services Provider, and Rescue Veterinary Services Provider agrees to communicate with HCVPH in a way that is honest and respectful. Personal attacks and defamation by Rescue Veterinary Services Provider are inconsistent with collaboration and cooperation and such behavior may result in termination of this Agreement.”

Don’t you wonder why Harris County is SO concerned about complaints from rescuers? Any rescue group that signs this agreement is agreeing not to criticize anything that Harris County Veterinary Public Health does, under threat of losing their ability to pull animals from this facility.  In other words, HCPHES is putting in writing what we’ve always known.  Criticism earns retaliation.

And to further complicate the issue, any group who agrees to sign this nine page monstrosity has to wait around for the Commissioner’s Court to approve their application.  Again, no other shelter with which I have ever worked is so mired in unnecessary bureaucracy.

I consider this a sneaky, underhanded, backdoor mechanism by which HCPHES intends to exert control over those groups with access to their facility.  

What will it take for Harris County to stop trying to cover its administrative rear end and start trying to actually HELP the animals in its care? 

And just in case any minions of the Harris County bureaucracy are reading this, I am not formally affiliated with any rescue group for you to punish.  Several months ago, I actually resigned my membership from the group with which I had been affiliated, largely so that I could speak freely without creating any conflict of interest for the rescue group.

I spent the afternoon at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter taking pictures of some of the adoptable animals.  I love being able to do something constructive to help get these guys adopted, and I love being able to spend a little time showing these animals – abandoned, rejected, neglected, abused – that humans aren’t all bad.

When you spend a lot of time in the animal welfare world, you’re sort of required to develop a warped sense of humor to deal with the constant barrage of human cruelty and stupidity that flows into shelters and rescues every day.  You basically have to learn to laugh at how WRONG people can be, because if you don’t laugh, you end up beating your head on the desk by 4:00 p.m. every day.

A few examples from recent stories that have come my way…

Last week, a well-meaning (but not well-informed) gentleman showed up at the shelter with two ducks.  Yes, ducks.  He explained to the very puzzled staff that he had “saved” them from the lake because they were all alone in the water.  Staff member to confused gentleman:  “Sir, they’re ducks.  They belong in the lake.  We are not a duck shelter.” The poor man was deeply dismayed that the hard hearted shelter staff thought those ducks were just fine all alone out there in the lake. 

Another fellow was a temporary hero for bringing in a dog he found tied to a tree and abandoned.  The staff took his information, including the driver’s license he presented as proof of identification, and thanked him for being a good citizen and bringing the dog in.  Imagine their surprise when they scanned the dog for a microchip and discovered that Mr. Good Samaritan himself had adopted this very dog from the shelter a year or so ago.  And this brain surgeon actually gave them his driver’s license, which identified him beyond question as the dog’s adopter, and still claimed that the dog was “found.” 

This afternoon, I was in the director’s office when she called a man about a dog in the MCAS kennel.  The dog had on a nice collar, which happened to have the man’s name and two phone numbers.  The dog was healthy, mannerly, and well cared for.  The dog was also picked up by Animal Control not far from the man’s home.  His response?  “I think all my dogs are here.  Maybe someone stole one of their collars.” Wow.  Really?  That’s the best you can do?

I’ve always had a saying: Ignorance can be fixed, but stupid is forever.  And when you work in a shelter, an awful lot of stupid comes through the doors every day.

Here’s the thing.  I’m pretty well informed about the local animal welfare happenings.  I help out at the shelter when and how I can – donations, pictures, fundraisers, blogs.  I have a healthy dose of the cynicism necessary to surviving the animal welfare world.

But I’m not tough enough to do the job my friends at MCAS (and thousands of other shelters) do every day.  Not by a long shot.  I’m just really glad they are.

It was 103 degrees in the Walmart parking lot this afternoon. Or so says the thermometer in my truck, which reports the ambient temperature. That’s pretty damn hot, even for a Texas summer.

Since today is the first day of my summer, it seems like a good time to talk about the hazards of summer for our pets.

Let’s start with the obvious one.  Don’t leave your pet in the car.  Period. 

Weather.com tells us that when it’s 90 degrees outside, the inside temperature of a parked car can reach 120 degrees in about 20 minutes.  After 30 minutes, the temperature in that vehicle is 124 degrees, and after an hour, it’s about 133 degrees.

In 2010, 13 children died in hot cars in Texas (per Texas DFPS); no one keeps statistics of how many pets died in hot cars.  Even one of either is one too many, when these deaths are so easily preventable. 

Don’t leave your pet (or your kid) in the car.  Period.  Not even for “just a minute.”  It’s too easy to get distracted, and the price is just too high.

Hot cars are not the only source of heat problems for pets in the summer.  

Heat stroke is not an uncommon problem in the summer months in Texas.  House pets, puppies, old dogs – these are the most susceptible populations.  But it can happen to any animal in the blistering heat of a Texas summer.

First and foremost, take preventive measures.  Do not leave a dog who is accustomed to air conditioning outside unsupervised for more than a few minutes.  Last summer, an old dog let herself out through her doggy door sometime during the early morning – her usual routine.  A friend who was babysitting the dog found her overheated and disoriented in the back yard; apparently she got too hot and couldn’t figure out how to get back through the doggy door to the safety of the air conditioning. 

The animals most at risk are puppies, old dogs, medically fragile dogs, and dogs who live almost exclusively indoors.  The first three groups are more likely to have trouble regulating their body temperature; the last group is simply not prepared to manage the heat.  Brachycephalic dogs (like my Pekes) are also extra susceptible to the heat, because their smushed noses prevent them from cooling their bodies as efficiently and make them more vulnerable to breathing problems.  But even healthy dogs who are accustomed to being outside can succumb to the heat.  Make sure all pets have access to a cool sheltered space and plenty of water.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke

  • Excessive panting, trouble breathing
  • Drooling (especially thick ropy saliva)
  • Pale, tacky gums
  • Disorientation or ataxia (lack of coordination)
  • Nonresponsiveness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

What to do:

If you can’t get to the vet (nights, weekends, middle of nowhere), or if you get to the dog before the situation is critical, you should be trying to lower the dog’s body temperature.  Use cool water, not ice water, as icy cold water can shock the dog’s system and make matters worse.  Cool wet cloths on the belly, under the “armpits” and on the bottoms of the feet are a good plan.  I also have a cooling pad, which pulls heat from the dog’s body and disperses it (available through Amazon, among others). Offer cool water, or even better, Pedialyte (which you may have to mix with a splash of chicken broth to get the dog to drink).

Even if you think the dog will be okay, please, GO TO THE VET. Heat stroke is not a “wait and see” situation.

At the vet’s office, the vet will almost certainly administer intravenous fluids to help lower the dog’s body temperature and combat the dehydration caused by overheating.  Electrolytes may be needed, too. 

I cannot emphasize enough how deadly the heat can be.  Please, keep yourselves and your pets cool and safe this summer.

**Look for an update on the Shenandoah situation in my Sunday column.  I hear big news is coming!