I love Spring…such a welcome change after a long, harsh winter…and Easter is definitely a favorite holiday. Dog lover/friend Sara shares this Easter memory:
Easter is always special to me, but last year is especially memorable. I had promised to bake a cake for the church’s annual pre-Easter bake sale, but with all the activities going on, I forgot until the last minute. Thankfully I managed to find an angel food cake mix, which I quickly baked. I set the cake on the table to cool while I finished a few chores, and didn’t notice that Scout, our newly acquired puppy, had creatively managed to plant a paw print right in the middle of the cake. Scout had already been in more trouble than any dog I had ever met. My best friend insisted that he suffered from a serious case of Attention Deficit Disease, but I excused him as just going through the “normal puppy phase.”
Frantically I looked around the house for something to build up the center of the cake, and found it in the bathroom—an almost empty roll of toilet paper. I plunked it in the middle and covered it with icing. The finished product looked like a real work of art, if I do say so myself. Before I left the house to drop the cake off at the church and head for work, I woke my daughter and gave her money and specific instructions to be at the bake sale the moment it opened, buy the cake and bring it home. However, when Amanda arrived at the sale, and discovered that the attractive, perfect cake had already been sold, she grabbed her cell phone to call me. You can only imagine how difficult it was to concentrate at work, so it was later than usual by the time I checked out. At home, a total mess greeted me. Scout had somehow gotten the lid off the waste basket, and trash was scattered throughout the house. Oblivious of the havoc he had created, he quietly lay on the living room floor, chewing on one of my new Easter shoes.
I had already RSVP’d that I would be attending the Women’s Easter Luncheon the next day, so I promised myself that I would try to not think about the cake and would go and enjoy myself. I left a very unhappy pooch in his seldom-used crate with a toy and treat and headed to the church. The meal was elegant, but I almost fell off my chair when our table hostess presented my toilet paper cake for dessert. Our minister’s wife, sitting next to me, murmured, “What a beautiful cake”… She looked at our hostess. “I didn’t know you were such a gifted baker. It is almost too perfect to cut into.”
Alice looked embarrassed and placed her cutting knife on the table. “Guess I better ‘fess up. I didn’t bake it. It was such a busy week; I just bought it at the bake sale. I am sure it will taste better than any cake I would make.”
As she picked up the knife, I realized that it was ‘now or never.’ All eyes focused on me, as I stuttered and stammered the entire story. “Well,” said Alice, pulling out the sticky toilet paper roll. “I say we try it and see if it is as good as it looks.” It was good…nobody seemed to care that Scout had touched it….and everyone agreed that it was a perfect ending to a perfect lunch.
As I recall that day, I am thankful that I have such understanding friends, and am thankful that Scout has outgrown most of his bad habits. Most of all, I am thankful for the most precious Easter gift of all, the resurrection of Jesus. Hopefully my story has made you smile, and may the glory and promise of this day bring you joy and happiness. Alleluia. Have a blessed Easter.
It’s Easter time, and what would make a more perfect gift than an adorable floppy eared bunny? Baby rabbits and soft baby chicks are soooo adorable, that they are hard to resist. After all, you think, wouldn’t this be a perfect, low-maintenance “starter pet” for a small child? THINK AGAIN! These animals are not well suited for children, and it’s a sad fact that most of the ones that are purchased as impulse pets will not live to see their first birthday, because as soon as they grow out of the cute baby stage, they are given away, banished to lonely lives in outdoor hutches, or just released outside, a sure death sentence.
Most children want a companion that they can hold, carry and cuddle, and rabbits are not cuddly. They are ground-loving, prey creatures that actually are physically fragile, and require specialized veterinary care. Children are naturally exuberant, and loving, but “loving” to a small child usually means holding, hugging, and carrying an animal around in whatever fashion their small hands can manage…exactly the kinds of things that make most rabbits feel insecure and frightened. Handled in this way, they will often get fidgety and start to scratch or bite simply out of fear. The rabbits that do survive the first few months , quickly reach maturity, and when they are no longer tiny and “cute,” the kids usually lose interest, and the rabbit, who has no voice to remind you he’s hungry or thirsty, or needs his cage cleaned, is gradually neglected. If you are impulsively thinking of adding a rabbit to your family, it is important to understand that rabbits have a lifespan of 7-l0 years, and they are high maintenance creatures. BEFORE acquiring a rabbit, here are a few points to consider:
- Housing: A rabbit’s cage should be at least six times the size of an adult rabbit…It should not have a wire bottom, as the wire can injure the rabbit’s feet. There should be room for a litter box, toys, food and water bowls. It should be kept indoors… NEVER left outdoors.
- Playtime: They are inquisitive, intelligent, and very social by nature, requiring plenty of exercise and interaction with the humans. An energetic young rabbit needs at least 30 hours a week of time outside her pen or cage on a regular basis.
- Grooming: Rabbits shed their coats 3-4 times a year, which necessitates regular brushing.
- Diet: They need fresh water, fresh grass hay, at least 2 cup of fresh vegetables, and a very small serving of plain rabbit pellets EVERY day.
- Health: Like cats and dogs, rabbits should be neutered or spayed. The risk of uterine cancer in intact female rabbits is alarmingly high, and unneutered males are likely to spray.
Mary Cotter, president of Rabbit Rescue and Rehab in New York City stresses that “Rabbits should NEVER be bought on impulse. Adults must be willing to take full responsibility, committed to being actively involved on a daily basis for the possible l0-year lifespan of a rabbit, or they should not consider a live bunny. A rabbit is not a toy, so if you are not ready to promise him ten years of your life, you’re not ready to give him as a pet. A better choice would be a chocolate rabbit or a stuffed rabbit that will be almost as cute, and a lot less work.”
A perfect Easter gift for any child would be the beautifully illustrated book, The Forgotten Rabbit by Rabbit Society educator, Nancy Furstinger. Wearing its heart on its sleeve, this story has a mission, but it is a worthy one, telling the story of a rabbit who was purchased as an impulse pet and later forgotten and neglected until she was rescued by someone who gave her a forever home and showed her the meaning of love. The story is touching and draws attention to the plight of unwanted pets purchased without adequate planning and preparation. Appropriate for any child over five, the book offers honest, charming insights into the proper care of a rabbit as a companion animal. It is suspenseful, moving, and in the end, joyful. The active language will delight children while helping them build vocabulary skills. The book can be purchased from a local book store, or online from Amazon.com.
The calendar officially proclaims that IT’S SPRING, and hopefully the long, bitter weather is behind us. Spring is a great time of the year, and both humans and canines are ready to feel the warm sunshine, with grass on the ground instead of ice and snow. However, spring brings hazards for our companion animals, who are restless from being cooped up, and are eager to shake off the blahs of winter.
- There are new smells and new places to explore which means that normally well-behaved dogs will suddenly become escape artists and dig or climb their way out of their safe yards to find themselves lost with no clue about returning home. Please be sure that you have up-to-date identification on your dog. We also recommend micro-chipping your animal.
- In spring, depending on your dog’s breed, you can expect more shedding as the coat changes. Consistent daily brushing is necessary, and remember, in a pet lover’s home, a few dog hairs can be classified as condiments! (I doubt anyone ever died from a dog hair in his soup!)
- If you have an intact pet, he will really become restless. The alarming statistics of unwanted offspring and animal overpopulation should convince you to spay or neuter, and it is also important to do it for the health and safety of your pet.
- Spring is a good time to schedule a wellness check. Hopefully the vet will give her a clean bill of health, but if something suspicious is found, perhaps it can be treated in the early stages. Most dogs have teeth problems by the time they are three years old, and since tooth and gum disease can lead to more serious problems, be sure to include a dental checkup for your canine.
- We used to believe that heartworm was a problem only in the Southern states. Not true. This mosquito-borne parasite is a definite threat to your animals, and while it is true that heartworm can be treated if caught early enough, the treatment is harsh and is also expensive. Get your dog tested for heartworm and on a preventative provided by your veterinarian.
- Don’t wait until you see a flea to begin treatment…fleas are more than a nuisance, and bother your dog with more than allergies and itchy skin, and by the time you see one, you have an invasion of these nasty little creatures. If a flea swallowed by your dog contains tapeworm larvae, the dog may get tapeworms, and other diseases may also be transmitted by the fleas. Once your dog is infested, the problem extends to the home and yard, and is more difficult to treat. The smart thing to do is to treat your animals BEFORE fleas are present. There are many safe products that will eliminate flea problems. DO NOT use over-the-counter products…many are toxic. Discuss your options with your veterinarian.
- It is equally important to protect your dog (and you) from ticks, which can carry and transmit several diseases including Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Fever. Again prevention is much easier than treatment. Some products are effective against both fleas and ticks. Again talk to your vet about preventative measures, and how, by consistent implementation of relatively easy strategies, you can protect both humans and canines in your household from these unwelcome parasites. Controlling and eliminating fleas, ticks, and parasites require energy, time, and money. The best control is always prevention.
- If you use herbicides or pesticides on your lawn, be sure to restrict your pets from the treated areas for at least 24 hours, preferably longer. These chemicals are toxic to your pet.
By taking just a few precautions, spring will be a fabulous time for both you and your dog!
Here a toxin…there a toxin…everywhere a toxin…or two…or more! We are continually bombarded by toxins even in our home environment, and children and pets are intensely curious, interested in exploring, discovering, and learning about their world. That natural curiosity can get them into trouble. Dogs (and sometimes young children) use their mouths in place of hands, and so they pick up, chew, and end up exposing themselves to numerous toxins in and around the home.
The kitchen with its tantalizing tastes and smells is a favorite gathering place for humans, and usually the home of a dog’s food bowl. This room usually contains large quantities of household maintenance and cleaning chemicals, often in lower cabinets. Many dogs easily learn to open cabinets, and, intrigued by new scents, are likely to lap of a lethal dose of chemical cleaner or snack on a dirty sponge or scouring pad. The solution? Childproof locks on the cabinets. These locks are easy for an adult to open, and quickly become automatic, but are almost impossible for a child or pet to manage. A second solution is reconsidering your housecleaning strategies, and rather than use caustic and poisonous chemicals, choose natural or “green” cleaners that are safer and more ecologically sound than traditional cleaners.
The kitchen garbage pail is full of potential dangers. Even a cover cannot deter a clever canine. The greasy mess of wrappers and gnawed bones are unhealthy, but the molds, bacteria, and toxins are more hazardous. “People tend to underestimate the problems that eating garbage can cause,” emphasizes New Hampshire vet, Dr. Charles DeVinne. “Such common throwaways, such as apple cores (and seeds), potato skins, and moldy cheese can make dogs sick, with symptoms ranging from obvious pain to diarrhea and vomiting, accompanied by lethargy, depression, or seizures. All of these symptoms require veterinary care.”
Other dangers lurk throughout your house. Dogs who eat even one penny minted after 1983 or metal game tokens like Monopoly pieces risk zinc toxicity. Small, sharp parts of toys can also cause internal blockages or even serious intestinal punctures. The range of items removed from the stomachs of dogs includes panty hose, bouncy balls, feminine hygiene products, and plastic bread bags.
According to the Pet Poison Helpline ( www.petpoisonhelpline.com ) among the top poisons are:
- Foods, especially chocolate, the sweetener zylitol, grapes and raisins, onions, alcohol, and unbaked yeast dough.
- Insecticides, including sprays, bait stations, and some spot-on-flea and tick treatments.(Do NOT buy these over the counter…consult your veterinarian!)
- Rodenticides (mouse and rat poison)
- Human medications including
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) for humans, such as ibuprofen and naproxen
- Anti-depressant such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, and Effexor
- Acetaminophens such as Tylenol and cold medications
- Amphetamines such as Adderall and Concerta, medications that are used to treat attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Cardiac meds (e.g. calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, etc.)
- Vitamins and minerals (Vitamin D3, iron, etc).
- Caffeine pills
- Household cleaners including MANY sprays, detergents and polishes.
- Fertilizers, including bone meal, blood meal, and iron-based products, cocoa mulch.
- Veterinary prescribed meds, especially pain relievers such as COX-2 inhibitors like Rimadyl, Dermaxx, and Previcox, can be toxic if not administered properly.
The best thing a pet caregiver can do is get educated on common household toxins and pet-proof your home accordingly. If you suspect your dog has ingested something questionable, consult your veterinarian or poison helpline immediately. Accurate and timely identification of the suspected substance is important and may save the life of your pet.
What better way is there to love your dog than by giving him treats? The trick is choosing HEALTHY treats…sounds simple, but it’s not. Walk down the treat aisle in any pet supply story (or even your local grocery store), and you can’t miss them: row upon row of attractively packaged types, styles, sizes, and brands to choose from, and since treats are not required to be nutritionally complete and balanced, very few are healthy for your dog. An ideal dog treat is one made from good quality ingredients, low in calories and fat, high in protein, and offers additional health benefits. BEFORE you buy any commercial packaged treats, check the ingredient list on the package. (You will probably be horrified to find out what is really in those cute little tidbits!)
Good treats should not contain:
- Animal by-products…this term can mean almost anything. AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) defines chicken by-product meal as consisting of “the ground, rendered parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable.” Doesn’t sound very savory, does it?
- Artificial preservatives such as BHT, BHA, or Ethoxyquin. There are safer and healthier preservatives such as Vitamin C and E. (Vitamin E is sometimes listed as “mixed-tocopherols”)
- Artificial colors. Your dog doesn’t care what color his food is. Artificial colors are absolutely unnecessary chemicals. Green, red and yellow treats do not contain healthy vegetables; they contain dyes!
- Artificial or low quality palatability enhancers. Treats are sort of like candy; they should taste better than the dog’s regular food, but they shouldn’t contain anything bad for the dog. I suggest avoiding treats that contain high amounts of sweeteners such as sucrose or corn syrup.
- Propylene glycol. Yes, it’s the stuff that’s in antifreeze and it is toxic to dogs. It is used in some pet treats to keep them moist and chewy.
If you are serious about giving your dog healthy treats, the best solution is to make homemade ones (or a raw baby carrot). There are many simple, easy-to-make recipes to satisfy the most finicky dog.
Treats are a form of affection and an invaluable training tool, When high quality treats are given discriminately, they promote your dog’s enjoyment and confidence!
- 2 cups of flower (preferably wheat flour)
- 1 ½ cups of shredded cheese
- ½ cups of canola oil
- 4 or 5 tablespoons of water
Combine ingredients and mix well to form a stiff dough. Pinch off small hunks of the dough and place on lightly greased baking sheet. Flatten slightly with your thumb, and bake for about 18 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
Simply Scrumptious Simple Biscuits
- ½ cup of cornmeal
- 6 tablespoons of oil
- 2/3 cups meat broth
- 2 cups of wheat flour
Combine ingredients and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.
- 1 egg
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 ½ cup flour
- ¾ cup cornmeal
- ¼ cup oatmeal
Mix thoroughly. Drop walnut sized pieces on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Feedback is good, right? Well, there was a lot of feedback from last week’s Paw Prints… Most of it centered around a three-word-question: “Are you crazy?” Now, admittedly, there are days, if you were to ask my family about my mental health, you might get an affirmative response, but before we get too personal, let me complete the question: “Are you crazy? You REALLY don’t expect us to brush our dog’s teeth.” Yes, I really do! An effective dental health program for dogs involves three components:
1. Diet. It is important that you feed your dog a high-quality dog food. To find out how different foods rate, please check www.dogfoodadvisor.com
2. Routine professional cleaning. Just as with humans, dogs need their teeth checked by a veterinarian on a regular basis.
3. Home care. The best method of home care is brushing. Most dogs can be acclimated to brushing the teeth if you take it slowly. Hopefully many of you have been handling your dog’s mouth on a daily basis for the past week, and he feels more comfortable with your lifting his lip and rubbing your finger gently along the gum line. You have talked gently to him while you stroked around his mouth, and rewarded him with praise and a carrot. .
Once the dog is comfortable with having his mouth touched, it is time to move on to his teeth. But rather than beginning with a brush, it’s easier to go in with a strip of gauze, or a warm washcloth wrapped around your finger. Lift the dog’s lip on one side, and with the washcloth wrapped around your finger, rub the outer surfaces of both upper and lower teeth. Then switch to the other side. If he resists, quit the session. Doing this once a day for a week or so will result in your pet’s getting used to having your fingers inside his mouth, and make it easier to move on to the next step: a toothbrush. Dr. Holmstrom, author of Veterinary Dental Techniques recommends using a soft, child-size toothbrush or one designed specifically for dogs. You can also buy brushes that fit over your index finger. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and with a gentle, circular motion, brush the entire outer surfaces of the teeth, especially the area where the base of the tooth meets the gum. Do NOT use toothpastes made for humans, as these usually contain detergents and since dogs are more likely to swallow than spit and rinse, human toothpaste can cause stomach upset. Pet toothpaste comes in so many lip-smacking flavors that most dogs accept it eagerly.
Okay, some of you are still not ready to use a toothbrush on your dog’s teeth. I confess: some dogs don’t do really well with a brush …. so use a finger brush, or even a warm washcloth.. Any method is better than none, so use whatever approach you and your dog feel most comfortable with, but establish it as part of your regular routine.
Since animal care companies recognize that many caregivers will not brush, they have been hard at work formulating no -brush products, so there are many new products on the market now that claim to make dental care more convenient., including specially formulated non-toxic solutions and sprays that require no effort beyond adding them to your companion’s water or spraying them in his mouth. Some of these products are more effective than others, but before you rush out to buy one, consult your vet…Do not buy an over-the-counter solution. Brushing at home is the best strategy to prevent dental issues. With patience and persistence, you can curtail the amount of periodontal disease, reduce the frequency of professional cleanings, and provide your dog with a healthier, sweeter smile!
We all know that we need to take care of our teeth so that plaque and tarter buildup doesn’t cause bacteria that can migrate into our bloodstreams, resulting in serious health problems. The same is true with our pets. Along with good food, exercise, and lots of love, regular brushing of their teeth is one of the most important things we can do for them. Poor dental health isn’t just about your dog’s teeth and gums. Over 80 percent of them are affected by dental problems including serious periodontal disease by the time they are three years old, which affects their overall well- being.
February is National Pet Dental Health Month with the “Pets Need Dental Care Too” campaign. Remember what your teeth looked and felt like this morning when you got up? That rough, thick feel to the surface of the teeth after going only overnight without brushing. Can you imagine not brushing your teeth for a couple days…or weeks…or years?
Dogs depend on healthy teeth and gums for survival. Like their caregivers, they are susceptible to bacterial plaque, tarter, cavities, and tooth aches. Periodontal disease, caused by bacteria and their toxins, if left untreated, will damage the teeth, gums, and supporting tissues. They can also spread through the bloodstream to other organs, including the kidneys, liver, lungs and heart. Since dogs cannot brush their own teeth, it is the responsibility to the caregivers to keep their teeth and gums in tiptop shape. According to recent surveys of dog caregivers, almost all confirm that they would proactively do anything to help their dogs live longer, healthier lives, but fewer than l0 percent recognize dental care as one of the top health concerns for dogs. Very few recognize the importance of brushing their dog’s teeth.
Symptoms of periodontal disease include brownish or discolored teeth, tarter buildup at the gum line, swollen, bleeding, or receding gums, irritability, decreased appetite or reluctance to chew, eat, and drink, pawing at the mouth, rubbing the face on the ground, and persistent bad breath.
To help your dog keep a healthy, lifetime grin, humans need to practice preventative care.
- Don’t dismiss doggie breath. A dog’s bad breath is often an early warning sign of dental problems.
- Pay attention to your dog’s eating habits. If she is reluctant to eat hard kibble, it could be due to a tooth ache.
- Provide fresh water daily. Bacteria can escalate inside bowls containing water that is more than a couple days old.
- Treat your dog to a raw baby carrot or two every day. Raw carrots help scrub plaque away as well as provide vitamins and fiber.
- BRUSH her teeth…no, we are not kidding! The idea of brushing your pet’s teeth daily can be a bit daunting at first, but it’s the best way to keep gum disease from getting started. If you have never done this, start off easy. Begin by handling his mouth for a couple minutes every day for a few days. Stroke around his face, and then reward him with praise and maybe a carrot! For the next week, work toward getting your dog comfortable with having his mouth handled. Don’t even try to brush….
Next week’s Paw Prints will cover basic tips for actual brushing.
Please don’t be one of the majority of caregivers who will become discouraged …as Mark Twain said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” With patience (and carrots), you’ll eventually have a dog who happily lets you mess with his mouth!!
Valentine’s Day is the day when we shower our loved ones with candy, flowers, and red hearts. According to CBS News more than 18 BILLION dollars will be spent on cards and gifts, with l0 billion spent for someone close, 3 billion spent on friends and acquaintances, and more than 5 billion spent on pets. It’s great to make this special day as much fun for pets as it is for humans, but there are some items that need to be kept out of paws’ reach. Poison control experts see a rise in animal emergencies every year, many involving chocolate and lilies which are extremely toxic to animals, so please heed their advice and don’t leave goodies lying around.
- A small amount of alcohol can do a lot of harm, and fatal respiratory failure can occur if a large enough amount is ingested.
- Gum, candy and other treats that contain xylitol can result in a sudden drop of blood sugar and can cause your animal to suffer loss of coordination and seizures.
- Flowers are beautiful, but don’t let pets chew on lilies or any plants or flowers, especially those with thorns…Biting, stepping on, or swallowing thorns can cause serious infection if a puncture occurs.
- Although candles are romantic, nosey pooches can burn themselves or cause a fire by knocking over unattended candles.
As you make every effort to show that special someone just how much he/she is appreciated, take a moment to reflect on why we do special things for our dogs. Keegan Baur offers this list:
Is excited to see me every time I come home (even if I have only been gone an hour).
Is always in the mood to cuddle or play
Enjoys long walks to anywhere
Never complains about his food
Helps me clean up spills in the kitchen
Doesn’t care what TV program we watch
Shares my belief that any time is a good time for a nap
Loves me unconditionally…absolutely…positively…no matter what
ALWAYS appreciates a treat…
Speaking of treats!
There are very few healthy commercial treats (check the ingredient list!), so here’s a guaranteed-to-please recipe for homemade:
Gourmet Salmon Crunches
- 1 – 14 ounce can of salmon. DO NOT DRAIN
- 1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup shredded cheese
- ¼ cup water
- Mix thoroughly and drop by SMALL spoonfuls on greased baking sheet. (Dough will be sticky). For training size treats, you can get 30 on the average baking sheet.
- Bake for about 12 minutes. (For extra crunchy, leave in for a minute or two longer)
- Cool completely before you let your dog indulge! (These freeze well!)
Sweet Potato Chews:
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- Scrub the sweet potato or yam…no need to peel.
- Cut into thin slices (the thinner the slice, the shorter the cooking time) and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet in a single layer.
- Bake for about 3 hours for slightly chewy treats or bake longer to get them crunchy. (If you have a dehydrator, pop them in there instead of the oven.)
Happy Valentine’s Day furbabies and humans alike!
The first month of 2014 is history. Hopefully many of you accepted Paw Print’s New Year’s challenge to begin an Opportunity Journal in which you record acts of kindness shown to companion animals. If the pages in your journal are still blank, don’t despair…. The year offers you eleven more months to make life better for needy dogs. According to the Global Language Monitor, President Obama’s favorite catchphrase is, “Make No Mistake.” Don’t know how well it is working for him, but, “Make no mistake”—you have the ability to help brighten the future of area dogs, and in the process, you will also brighten your own life, as illustrated in this piece by Helen McKinley.
MY DOG WILLIE
When I lost my first forever dog, I was devastated. I decided that the best way to say thank you to him for 15 years of devoted companionship was to adopt an older dog from the local shelter. Willie was already 11 years old, and as he huddled in the back of his cage, I looked into his eyes, and it was heartbreaking. Willie had been a stray. He had been in several homes, and his last owner just took him to the shelter in the middle of the night, and left him outside tied up at the shelter entrance. The fact is that senior dogs are the first to be discarded—they are the ones nobody wants anymore, usually for selfish reasons, or they have outlived their usefulness, with impulsive owners who considered the dog a possession, rather than a friend or member of the family, or simply didn’t take the time, effort and expense needed to be a dog caretaker.
People ask me, Are you crazy? Why on earth would you want to adopt a rescue dog? Aren’t they like used cars? Misfits, troublemakers. Who wants someone else’s problems? Why not get a cute little puppy?
I took Willie because he needed me. I didn’t consider how it would turn out, or how much it would cost, or if our relationship would be happy or tragic in the end. I felt a sense of control that I seldom feel in my every day relationships. If I can save something, then maybe I can do anything. Anything.
Willie came with some baggage, but don’t we all? None of us has made the trip this far without some baggage. I know that Willie’s time with me is limited. The walks are slower, and sometimes he needs a boost getting up the stairs. He will leave when his work is done, but his lessons with be with me for the rest of my life. The lessons of being there in the moment… patience… acceptance… listening not only with your head, but also with your heart…. to love and trust, completely and unconditionally.
Some people say to me, it’s wonderful you rescued Willie—how lucky Willie is! I am the lucky one to have him in our family, for whatever time he gives me. Misfit? Troublemaker? I don’t think so; as see it, Willie rescued me. He has given me much, much more than I have given him.
I realize that many of you do not live in Iowa, but I encourage you to find an animal welfare group within your own state, and become involved… and if you would prefer to not receive our weekly Paw Prints, sign up by: using the “Join our PawPrints Weekly Newsletter” on the right.
There are many wonderful animal welfare groups, and I appreciate them, but I feel that it is vital to support groups that directly impact the treatment of our own dogs, and the sad fact is that an estimated 20, 000 adult dogs are currently suffering in horrific conditions in Iowa puppy mills. Several Iowa breeders have more than 400 dogs, and one keeps more than a thousand, with our state laws providing very little protection for these poor animals. Iowa Voters for Companion Animals is an active group that was formed in 2009 to address issues associated with Iowa’s commercial dog breeding industry which makes Iowa the #2 puppy mill state in the entire country. Iowa VCA has successfully lobbied for passage of important legislation, and has been instrumental in improving USDA’s inspections of inadequate facilities. They need more animal welfare advocates all across the state to join them in their ongoing grassroots efforts to advocate for better state-level animal welfare laws, encourage and support the enforcement of the animal welfare laws that we already have, and support the election of city, county, and state law makers and law enforcers who will work to protect our companion animals. To receive more information, or receive regular e-mail alerts, sign up at www.iowavca.org . If you have specific questions, you may contact group president, Mary LaHay, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 515-556-5949. The group is already pursuing new legislation, and it is important that their grassroots support grows. Together it is possible to change laws, and stop the incredibly cruel situations that flourish in our state. PLEASE GET INVOLVED!
The plight of the thousands of Iowa dogs is graphically described in Before I Die, by Jim Willis, in recognition of the millions of animals who never knew the sun and fresh air, those regarded as property, and who profited human bank accounts:
It’s lonely here in prison. I dream of sun, of fields.
I saw them from a window once, but I don’t know how they feel.
I’ve never known a caress, a friend, a bone, a toy.
I yearn for companionship of a human girl or boy,
I long to have someone talk to me and maybe play a game.
I know it will never happen, but I wish it all the same.
Because some humans have decided, with selfishness and greed
That my fate shall be existing in a filthy cage, where I’ll live and breed.
They regularly bring another dog and toss him in with me,
Another litter I must bear; there’s no end that I can see.
I sit and watch day after day, so many puppies being born;
Where do they go, what happens to them, when they are torn from their mom?
The sleet is continuing on this cold winter night,
My bones ache, my body sore as I shiver in this tiny cage.
I whimper, but there is no way to get warm or find shelter from the storm.
What did I do to be in this place? My paws are numb, my pads are bleeding.
Who profits from this folly? My friends and I may cry in vain;
Does no one care or even know of our horrendous pain?
I have lost my will to live, I can no longer cope.
If only I could run and play just once before I die.