Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Edward Hoagland had it right

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. ~Edward Hoagland

This has long been a favorite quote of mine because it so succinctly demonstrates much about our relationship with dogs. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have clear ideas of what they wanted when deciding to add a dog to the family. Some pet owners are looking for simple companionship, some want a playmate for their children, or are looking for a show or sport prospect, while others want a watch/guard dog.

Regardless of why, the one thing everyone has in common is a reason for wanting a dog, and the reasons nearly always have to do with us humans --- our wants, our needs, our hopes. We have a desire to have our pet be a reflection of what we want from the relationship. Sure, we’re aware of the needs a dog has in terms of proper food, veterinary care and shelter, but we provide those things as part of the payment for getting what we seek out of the bargain.

However, the strongest bond between pets and owners comes from not only giving them the physical amenities they need for a good life, but also in taking a good, honest look at your dog’s world through their eyes to discover what means the world to them, separate from what they do for you, and being as creative in addressing their needs as we expect them to be in addressing ours.

We ask a lot of our canine friends in exchange for providing them room and board. We want our dogs to respond to us immediately, suppress their natural instincts, be attentive when we want attention but not want attention when we’re busy, walk politely and never dig, chew or pee on anything we don’t want dug, chewed or peed on. They should love our children, family, friends and other pets, but not love strangers…and to always know the difference. The list goes on and on.

It seems only fair that we spend some time acknowledging their need for doggy-ness and allow them full opportunity to not only experience it, but to join in ourselves. Whether it’s getting on the floor for a good roll, howling alongside their wails, running through the sprinkler with them or taking them on walks where the only objective is to allow them to snort, sniff or wet whatever object they fancy, spending time on the canine side of life opens up bonding opportunities that you just can’t get any other way.

Edward had it dead-on. Owning a dog isn’t just about the skill in getting them to be accessible to us. It’s about unlocking that part of us that is open and joyful, where our emotions are right there on our face for the world to see and fun lurks around every corner. It’s embracing all that is silly, sappy and guileless, and playing until our sides are heaving and we collapse into a happy, panting pile on the floor. Add a pup to the mix and we just may find the key to world peace.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 in the rear-view mirror

Every year I start with the more-or-less same list of good intentions, both personally and as they pertain to pet issues, and most of the time by year's end I'm left wondering where did all of those good intentions go? As we come to the close of 2008 (and am I the only one feeling a hearty "good riddance" to this particular year?) I can actually say I made a bit of progress.

First off, I managed to start this blog and am still contributing to it. Not that there are many folks perusing it on a regular basis, but the ability to start something and actually continue to work on it over the last several months is a big personal success for me. And, to be fair, there hasn't been much from me in the way of promotion, mostly because I thought it would be nice to have several items worthy of sharing before asking other folks to check me out.

I have high blog hopes for next year. I have several ideas for sprucing up the site, or perhaps moving to something where I can more fully embrace what I'd actually like to see the site become, which simply cannot be accomplished through Blogger alone. But one must walk before one can run and I needed to be able to prove to myself that I could maintain a little site before going to the pay-to-play model.

My other big accomplishment in 2008 was to obtain my Emergency Animal Rescue Services (EARS) certification through United Animal Nations. In the event of a disaster I can go to a location and be able to assist in the rescue of animals left behind, which has long been something I've wanted to do. Having the certification represents my time, effort and commitment to the cause. I walked the walk on this one, and for that I am glad.

I plan to finish out this year listing some of my hopes for 2009, especially as they relate to pets. For the few (very few) folks who wander across my musings, feel free to drop me a line with any ideas you may have regarding pet-related issues. And invite your critter-loving friends to give me a peek. They may enjoy what they see.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not fit for man nor beast…

While cuddling warmly beneath the blankets on my bed, trying to squeeze a few more inches of space from the cats and dog who had staked a claim on all of the really good snuggle spots, I heard the dog barking across the street. And became instantly annoyed.

Not at the dog, but at the folks who care for him. It was only 10:30 p.m., but already the temperature was reading 38 degrees, according to the evening news. That’s not even counting the additional factors of damp, drizzly rain.

My heart always aches a bit on nights like this. My neighborhood has a plethora of people who think nothing about leaving their dogs and cats out on nights like these. Nights that are so cold my fingers are shaking in the time it takes me to put empty cardboard boxes into the recycle bin…and I’m wearing shoes and a sweater.

What is it that goes through people’s heads to justify leaving a pet outside in the winter weather? I realize that we don’t live in the Dakotas, but even so, there’s no reason for an animal to be outside in the cold and wet. I hear people say that their dogs are outside for protection, but how much can they really help you out if someone gets into your house?

Asking your dog be outside 24/7, even with a dog house, put unnecessary wear and tear on their bodies, putting them at risk for an early death. Cats, of course, get the additional opportunity to be injured or killed climbing into someone’s car engine compartment to try and stay warm.

I recently read someone’s blog post where they referred to a dog as being “baby-fied” because their owner didn’t allow them to sleep outside, and I nearly spit out my coffee. Baby-fied, because they provide their dog with a warm, safe place to sleep with the rest of the pack? All dogs should be so lucky.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dogs convey envy or jealousy, just like us

Under the heading, "tell us something we don't know", this is a great news article about dogs and their response to unfair treatment:

LONDON (Reuters) – Dogs can sniff out unfair situations and show a simple emotion similar to envy or jealousy, Austrian researchers reported on Monday.

Dogs sulked and refused to "shake" paws if other dogs got treats for tricks and they did not, said Friederike Range, an animal psychologist at the University of Vienna, who led the study into canine emotions.

"It is a more complex feeling or emotion than what we would normally attribute to animals," said Range.

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also showed dogs licked and scratched themselves and acted stressed when they were denied rewards given to other dogs.

Other studies have shown monkeys often express resentful behavior when a partner receives a greater reward for performing an identical task, staging strikes or ignoring what they view as inferior compensation.

It turns out dogs are able to show a similar, if less sensitive, response, said Range in a telephone interview.

In a series of experiments using different breeds of dogs, the researchers looked at how two animals sitting next to each other reacted to unequal rewards after handing a paw to a researcher.

Dogs not given a treat licked their mouths, yawned, scratched and showed other signs of stress and stopped performing the task, Range said.

To show this was not just because the animals were not getting food, the researchers then tested the dogs alone and found that in this situation the envious canines cooperated longer before stopping.

"It is really about the unequal distribution of the reward," Range said. "If it was only about frustration they would stop at the same time."

(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Maggie Fox and Sophie Hares)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Puppy Size

This little Internet piece is too sweet not to share...

“Danielle keeps repeating it over and over again. We've been back to this animal shelter at least five times. It has been weeks now since we started all of this,” the mother told the volunteer.

“What is it she keeps asking for?” the volunteer asked.

”Puppy size!” replied the mother.

”Well, we have plenty of puppies, if that's what she's looking for.”

”I know... we have seen most of them,” the mom said in frustration.

Just then Danielle came walking into the office

”Well, did you find one?” asked her mom.

“No, not this time,” Danielle said, with sadness in her voice. “Can we come back on the weekend?”

The two women looked at each other, shook their heads and laughed.

”You never know when we will get more dogs. Unfortunately, there's
always a supply,” the volunteer said. Danielle took her mother by the hand and headed to the door.

“Don't worry, I'll find one this weekend,” she said.

Over the next few days both Mom and Dad had long conversations with her. They both felt she was being too particular.

“It's this weekend or we're not looking any more,” Dad finally said in frustration.

“We don't want to hear anything more about puppy size, either,” Mom added.

Sure enough, they were the first ones in the shelter on Saturday morning. By now Danielle knew her way around, so she ran right for the section that housed the smaller dogs. Tired of the routine, mom sat in the small waiting room at the end of the first row of cages. There was an observation window so you could see the animals during times when visitors weren't permitted.

Danielle walked slowly from cage to cage, kneeling periodically to take a closer look. One by one the dogs were brought out and she held each one. One by one she said, “Sorry, but you're not the one.”

It was the last cage on this last day in search of the perfect pup. The volunteer opened the cage door and the child carefully picked up the dog and held it closely. This time she took a little longer.

”Mom, that's it! I found the right puppy! He's the one! I know it!” She screamed with joy. “It's the puppy size!”

”But it's the same size as all the other puppies you held over the last few weeks,” Mom said.

”No, not size...the sighs. When I held him in my arms, he sighed,” she said. “Don't you remember? When I asked you one day what love is, you told me love depends on the sighs of your heart. The more you love, the bigger the sigh!”

The two women looked at each other for a moment. Mom didn't know whether to laugh or cry. As she stooped down to hug the child, she did a little of both.

”Mom, every time you hold me, I sigh. When you and Daddy come home from work and hug each other, you both sigh. I knew I would find the right puppy if it sighed when I held it in my arms,” she said.

Then, holding the puppy up close to her face, she said, “Mom, he loves me. I heard the sighs of his heart!”

Close your eyes for a moment and think about the love that makes you sigh. I not only find it in the arms of my loved ones, but in the caress of a sunset, the kiss of the moonlight and the gentle brush of cool air on a hot day. Take the time to stop and listen --- you will be surprised at what you hear. “Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

BringFido.com offers free T-Shirt

Bring Fido is offering a free "official Dog Person" T-Shirt to anyone booking a pet-friendly hotel stay through their web site. The site has a host of great information for anyone interested in including their dog in their vacation plans. Check them out at BringFido.com

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Holiday decorating and pets

There are times I look at well appointed holiday homes, those places where the lights are perfectly hung and the tree are exquisitely decorated, and I fantasize about having ahome of my own that can show off the beauty of the season.

Then I remember our current residents and I begin to laugh.

Gorgeous Bo Kitty, featured in the photo, is nothing less than a wrecker of all things holiday. He never met a vase of flowers that wasn't worth chewing up or a wrapped box that wasn't good for teething practice. We gave up Christmas trees for good the year he managed to chew through three (yeah, three different) sets of lights within a week. Between his decimation of the twinkling lights and Weebs non-stop war against any bright shiny ball draped on the end of limb, it was obvious that the amount of joy we were getting from seeing the tree was far outweighed by the nonstop hassle of keeping it intact...safety issues aside.

But after close to five years with almost no decorations to ring out the year, we think we may have a plan. The one place we think we can install a little season's greeting without fear of mayhem. Yes, folks, we'll be decorating the ceiling.

Or, to be more exact, the large beam that runs the length of the living room. We figure it's the only place that's left where the little buggers can't reach out and touch, well, anything. I even think I have a plan for displaying some of my pet-themed ornaments, which are some of my very, very favorites.

If we manage to do anything interesting looking I'll snap some shots and post them. In the meantime, if anyone else has stories of surviving holiday decorations while being out-manned and out-gunned, I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On Thankfulness and Pets


While I hope my pets are thankful for their lives with my husband and me, I suspect that as long as they cannot open the refrigerator or the container of dehydrated salmon on their own they will always consider their circumstances a bit less than idyllic.

So, on their behalf, I am thankful they have a warm, safe, loving environment in which to call “home”. Their lives are free of the trials and tribulations that pets still awaiting their forever homes are going through at this very moment.

I am thankful I was working the day Weebs needed a nursemaid and the day Muse got dumped. Had I been off, we may have missed having them in our lives. I’m happy we did all the work we did before we got Bo Kitty, who has never known a day of anything less than a loving household. And I’m grateful that the woman who nearly ran over Darby when he was a lost puppy wandering the streets stopped her car and took him to the SPCA. Without her, Darby and I may never have met.

I’m grateful that our quadrupeds live in a house without chains, shock collars or outside-at-all-times edicts. Where the cats will never have to worry about anything more harmful being done to their claws than the occasional trimming, and where none of our four-footed friends is contributing to our pet overpopulation problem, having been altered before they had a chance to reproduce. I’m thankful that we believe in clickers, positive motivation and downright bribery for special occasions, and for knowing that dehydrated salmon will get you further than a rolled-up newspaper.

I’m even grateful that we have increased yoga-master skills, the result of years of trying to fit three cats and a dog in a queen-sized bed with us on cold winter nights. Yeah, we know they are only using us for our body heat, but it’s wonderful to have so many snuggly pieces of goodness to share it with.

Finally, I remain ever grateful that our cats and our dog mean the world to us, and that we would never, ever consider a life, or a life-change, without them. And I’m grateful for all of the pets who came before. Their presence in our lives deepened our understanding, broadened our perspective and helped build the foundation for the lives our current pets live.

May you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tuffie's toys are the best!!!

Darby loves his Tuffie doughnut! These things are built to take all the abuse a huge chewer/tugger can dish out.









I love the Tuffie because where else am I going to get full-on doughnut-head?







Lovin' the happy face.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The 575 Project

While going through my pet-related emails I came across this piece from Best Friends Animal Society. Apparently when Cyrus Mejia did the math regarding the five million animals killed in shelters each year, he calculated it down to 575 pets per hour who lose their lives waiting for a forever home.

Through that came the 575 Project as part of a multi-artist exhibit called Art For Animals. The full story on the exhibit can be found here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"All it was was dogs"

So goes the quote from Miami Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter, referring to imprisoned ex-QB Michael Vick. Porter went on to say other brilliant gems like, "They act like they don't even like pit bulls anyway. That's the funny thing about it if you want to get back on that topic. I got pit bulls, I got to put them under a different breed just to travel. So you can't even fly pit bulls nowhere.

"It's a breed they don't care about. It's not like he was fighting cocker spaniels or something that they like. They don't really care too much about pit bulls."

Funny thing about quotes. Turns out that the recently released USDA report on Michael Vick's activities around dogfighting included putting family pets in the ring with fighting dogs and watching the trained fighting dogs kill or severely injure the helpless pets.

Joey, maybe it's time to quit while you're ahead on this whole issue. Pit bull lovers are insulted, and dog lovers are appalled.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Contacting Petland

Ordinarily I wouldn't work this hard to tell someone their practices annoy me, but these folks have gotten under my skin a bit.

If you want to contact them, Petland can be reached the following ways:

Corporate Offices
250 Riverside Street
Chillicothe, Ohio 45601
(740) 775-2464
(800) 221-5935

If you missed the prelude, this all started over the HSUS investigation of Petland's puppy suppliers:

Puppy Mill Inc.
Petland linked to Puppy Mills
Former Petland Kennel Manager Speaks Out

Still grinding on Petland

After two rejected emails I decided to go to the Petland site and see if there is another way to let them know that I'm way not cool about their practices (including telling me they don't like me without even reading my email).

Apparently someone got through to Petland, because at the very top of the site is the phrase "Petland responds to the HSUS".

If you're interested in reading what they have to say, head on over. What I found interesting is what they didn't say.

What they didn't say is that they condemn puppy mill facilities and are committed to never obtaining pets through puppy mills. They do not welcome people to report any concerns they might have about breeders who sell to Petland. Petland doesn't mention the words "puppy mills" at all.

They do, of course, reprint attacks made against the HSUS by the group Center for Consumer Freedom. You may have seen Rick Berman on 60 minutes some time back. If you want to see what CCF is all about, head here.

Yeah, those are the folks I trust to give me the straight story. After all, look who's interests become their interests.

Petland does not like me

Or, to put it a little more accurately, they don't like my email addy. I tried to send my email to them again. I cut and pasted the body of the email into a new email and sent it off. This time it took mere minutes before I got my mail delivery failure notice. The thing I love about this one is the reason given for the email delivery failure:

<operations@petland.com>:
74.219.138.59 does not like recipient.

They don't like me??? They haven't even met me. They certainly didn't block me after reading my last email, since that got bounced back as well. Not big on hearing for the pet-owning public, I guess.

Being the curious gal I am, I decided to plug in the IP addy that was provided. Turns out it belongs to Petland's mail server. Maybe it's just the server that doesn't like me.

Petland rejects my email

So, like a number of other people who received the email from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) regarding their investigation of Petland pet stores and their connection to puppy mills, I signed the action form that sends an email to Petland asking them to stop selling puppy mill puppies.

Twenty-four hours later I got the always popular delivery failure notice.

The following message to <operations@petland.com> was undeliverable.
The reason for the problem:
5.4.7 - Delivery expired (message too old) 421-'4.4.5 Directory harvest attack detected'

Petland Headquarters
250 Riverside Street
Chillicothe, OH 45601

Dear Petland Headquarters,

Despite assurances by staff at many Petland stores visited by
The HSUS and on Petland's corporate website that the company
knows its breeders and deals only with those who have "the
highest standards of pet care," many of the puppies sold at
Petland stores come from massive commercial breeders in Missouri
and other Midwestern puppy mill states, where hundreds of
breeding dogs are packed into cramped, barren cages. This
support of cruelty needs to end now!

I will not only not spend a dime in your stores, I will continue
to tell as many people as I can, both face-to-face and via the
Internet, to stop supporting you until you end your practice of
carrying puppies.

Honestly, I have no idea how you all sleep at night.

Regards,

xxxxxxxx

I guess a harvest attack is some tech term describing a bombardment of emails, which sort of makes sense given that the HSUS has a pretty good reach. There certainly wasn't anything attached to the email, nor did I send multiple versions. No matter, I'll just try again outside the HSUS system.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Petland = Puppy Mills?

After an eight-month investigation, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has concluded that many Petland stores across the United States are selling puppies from puppy mills. I'm not sure that exactly surprises folks who are concerned with animal issues, but perhaps the investigation might finally force some changes from the pet store chain, which has done everything possible to try and deny what an awful lot of us already knew.

For more of the story, head to the HSUS story and video here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I rescued a human today


This is currently floating around the Internet. I thought it was sweet enough to share here. Hope you enjoy.

I rescued a human today.

Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her. I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn't be afraid.

As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn't want her to know that I hadn't been walked today. Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn't want her to think poorly of them.

As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn't feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone's life. She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me.

I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship. A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.

Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms. I would promise to keep her safe. I would promise to always be by her side. I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.

I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven't walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.

I rescued a human today.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Humane Scorecard now available

The 2008 Humane Scorecard is now available from the Humane Society Legislative Fund. For people interested in laws that affect companion animals, farm animals and wildlife in the United States, the scorecard provides some eye-opening information about how your local representatives voted on a number of issues surrounding animals and animal treatment.

Sadly it's no surprise to see that my local congressman Kevin McCarthy (who ran unopposed in the latest election) voted in favor of exactly one item in the 2007-2008 congressional session, giving him an overall score of 8%. Guess somehow even he couldn't find a way to be in favor of dogfighters. Fortunately both of my senators scored 100% in their support of animal issues.

Items like this provide one more reason for people who care about animals to pay attention to who is representing them at the highest levels of government. Take a peek at your own representatives and let me know what you think.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

This woman has my dream life...

Cat House on the Kings link to You Tube Video

And it's bad enough that she has it, but she doesn't even have the decency to be located far, far away. She's only a car ride away.

What an amazing facility. What an amazing woman. Stories like this are the reason my husband doesn't play the lottery. Not because he believes we'd never win, but for fear that we might and he'd be sentenced to live a life like this one :o)

If you have a couple of dollars to spare, you could do worse than sending them here.

Cat House on the Kings

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The last link of the chain

A press release on Bakersfield.com noted that a three year old child was attacked by a Pit Bull. I sighed as I read the headline, since there's nothing more the media seems to like than to sound the pit bull alarm as often as possible, to the continuing detriment of a breed that is wholly undeserving of the unyielding assault on its being.

I might not have bothered to mention the story at all had a second item not been posted an hour or so later detailing the incident.

It turns out that the dog in question was chained. Chained to a tree in the backyard. How long had the dog been chained? Who knows. Apparently the family who owned the dog missed the memo that chaining a dog for longer than three hours is now against the law in California. And they surely didn't take the time to read that chained dogs are nearly three times more likely to bite than are dogs that are unrestrained.

Perhaps if the owner of this dog taken the smallest amount of time to think about the long term needs --- social, emotional and physical --- of another species they chose to bring into their home, this whole incident could have been avoided.

It's simple, folks. Dogs deserve more than to spend their lives at the end of a chain. They deserve more than to be cast out into the backyard, separated from their pack and from the comfort of a warm, safe environment. They deserve, before being brought into a home, for someone to spend more than ten minutes thinking about the long-term needs a social creature has. They deserve not just to be thought about, but to be thought of.

The injuries to the child, according to the post, do not appear to be life-threatening, and for that I'm glad. Don't think that caring about one side of the equation means that there is no concern for the other.

But perhaps a little clarity of writing was due in the composition of the piece. The injuries were not life-threatening for the child. The dog in question, a dog who in all probability had spent far more time on a chain than off one, is most surely dead as I type, having been taken away by Animal Control at the owner's request.

To find out more about why chaining a dog is never a good option, look into these resources:

Dogs Deserve Better
Unchain Your Dog
Humane Society of the United States

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Progress...

It looks like the lives of animals got a tiny bit better on Election Day. In California Prop. 2 was passed, bringing a teeny-tiny bit of compassion to the world of factory farming. Granted, the egg farms here in the valley aren't all that thrilled, because they may actually have to hire another person or two (under 100 people caring for nearly 2 million chickens ---seriously?), but I am thrilled!

I really didn't think that the measure would pass on the first try, but maybe that's just a reflection of having spent so much time in Bakersfield. Anyway, yea California!

The other item I think worthy of mention is the abolition of dog racing in Massachusetts. Another move towards compassion. Way to go!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Prop. 2 - for the benefit of all

As election day (finally) arrives, I'd just like to mention one more time the importance of voting yes on California's Prop. 2 - The Humane Farm Animal Act.

I've heard the arguments against the measure. Naturally, the majority of them coming from the pro-factory farming crowd and those who believe the best business is big business. But there are times when people really need to look beyond the hype and think about an issue on the basis of its merits. No matter how you couch it, animals living in the conditions that currently exist in factory farming, particularly on egg ranches, are living a pitiful existence. We have it in our power to change that if we don't allow ourselves to be driven by fear.

Opponents argue that it will make our food less safe. Let me tell you, I subscribe to the FDA's list of product recalls and most people have no idea how many products are recalled every week of safety concerns. Since most of the recalls are regional, and not national, unless you're in the affected region you may never hear about them at all.

Allowing farm animals to have one small concession in exchange for our use of them is the only compassionate thing to do. Now is your chance. Vote for compassion by voting yes on Prop. 2.

Monday, October 20, 2008

On grief and growing up

Just as my husband and I were getting ready to go on vacation, our first one in several years (you animal people know what it’s like trying to break away from the menagerie), our oldest son called from his home, some 300 miles away. His cat, Big Al, had taken a turn for the worse, necessitating a visit to the vet the night before, and the news wasn’t good. Al was developing renal (kidney) failure and our son wanted a little “feedback” on the situation.

Patrick is 26, Big Al is 19, so it isn’t hard to see that their relationship has easily been one of the longest Patrick has known. Longer, even, than his relationship with me, his stepmother. And now, for really the first time in his adult life, he was facing one of the most adult moments a pet owner has to face. It was time for “the talk”.

It was, for the most part, a gentle conversation, albeit a little one-sided. I spoke of how very, very fortunate Big Al was to have been able to spend his whole life with one family, and that by any stretch of the imagination it had been a long life, indeed. I reminded Patrick of the love and care he gave to Al, always making sure he had quality food and proper veterinary care when it was needed. Big Al was one of the lucky ones who lived his whole life loving one family and being loved in return.

Now it was time for our son to face the last, most painful obligation a pet owner has to their fur-bound friend. It’s a deal we make with the universe when we choose to bring a companion animal into our lives, knowing that we will almost certainly outlive them. In exchange for their love and devotion, we have to be willing to accept the pain of their loss, and to be strong enough to make that decision on their behalf when it is necessary to do so.

My heart broke for Patrick as I reminded him what a wonderful pet owner he was, and how proud I was of him and the dedication he had shown in caring for Al. As we talked, though I heard the voice of an adult, in my mind’s eye I saw the child I had known for so many years, groping for the fortitude one needs to handle adult issues.

The veterinarian provided fluids so that Al could be comfortable a little while longer. Patrick called his brother and invited him to come home from college so that he might also be able to say goodbye. The appointment at the veterinarian’s office was scheduled, and Big Al was peacefully seen into the night, surrounded by those who loved him. In this, his last act of selflessness on behalf of his pet, Patrick stepped over the threshold separating a childhood friendship from the adult guardianship of a lifelong friend. Would that all childhood pets should be so honored.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pedigree Dogs Exposed


The incredible BBC documentary "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" is currently available on You Tube, broken into six 10-minute parts.

I watched it last night and encourage anyone interested in purebreds to take a look. Some of the scenes, especially in the first segment, are a little hard to look at, but there are serious questions and issues that are brought to light during this hour.

Here's a link to the first segment. After it finishes running You Tube will guide you to the next segment.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mars issues pet food recall due to possible salmonella contamination


Mars has issued a voluntary recall of several brands of dry cat and dog food including some varities of Pedigree, Ol' Roy (sold at WalMart) and Natural Cat Food and Natural Dog Food (sold at Sam's Club).

For a full list of recalled foods go to the Mars Petcare web site.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A little love!

I got my first fan email today! Well, to be accurate, I got it 10 days ago, but didn't see it until today.

A very kind person wrote me in response to my article in The Northwest Voice about low-cost spay/neuter services in Bakersfield. It was great to see, not just because it was positive (which does help), but I got to know firsthand that someone, somewhere was actually reading what I contributed.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did previously write for the Northwest and Southwest Voice publications. Soon after The Northwest Voice was started I wrote a "Dear Daphne" column that dealt with pets and pet issues, and I did receive some positive feedback from some of the columns I produced, but my life got a little hectic and I had to hang it up for a bit.

When I decided to go back to it I wanted to write as me. Just me. I wasn't sure how well it would work out, or if there would be anyone interested in reading what I have to say (and despite the odd absences from this site, anyone who knows me can tell you I have plenty to say, especially as it applies to animals).

At least now I know that someone read it and, for now, that's good enough.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Greatest American Dog lost a viewer

I admit, I wanted to like the show, so I probably watched a little more than I would have if it had been any other theme, but my last viewing of this show came two weeks ago.

It wasn’t the fight that erupted between the judges (although that was not a pretty sight to anyone involved), and it wasn’t my increasing discomfort over some of the less than stellar techniques that were being employed by the contestants in the pursuit of winning the top prize.

It was the commercial for the next week’s episode. The commercial featured an elephant, and from the brief viewing we were provided, the elephant needed to be around the dogs, and vice versa. And yes, that’s what put me over the edge.

I am absolutely adamant about wild animals not being used for entertainment, particularly when asked to do something that is completely foreign to their nature, and I was appalled that a show which has marketed itself as being this big champion of the bond between people and their pets apparently believes only some animals are worthy of love, respect and kindness.

Elephants are complex, intelligent, amazing creatures. To see this show completely disregard that for the sake of ratings makes it clear that it’s not about caring about animals at all. At least, not animals outside of dogs.

I wanted to like the show, but there are some lines this girl won’t cross in the name of entertainment.

Helping the helpless

I sent my poor husband on a rescue mission yesterday. A dog we had seen on our walk two days earlier, looking injured and thin, was still loose in the front yard of one of our neighbors 24 hours later, still wounded and still thin. He tried to hobble up to us as we walking our dog, looking for a little affection. My husband gave him a few of the treats in his pocket (which we were carrying to try and get closer to the kittens in our neighborhood who also appear homeless) and we finished our walk.

Once back at the house, neither of us felt good about the dog or his plight. Since I had to go to work, my husband volunteered to go back and get him and deliver him to animal control. Taking the dog to Kern County Animal Control was also not something we felt good about, but in our hearts we believe that it is better for him to receive the benefit of humane euthanasia than to die on the streets.

Anyway, amazingly enough, when my husband blogged about his rescue and his frustration with KCAC on Bakersfield.com someone actually said that if we weren’t planning to pay for the dog’s medical treatment and either keep the dog ourselves or foster him until we found him a good home that we should have just left him where he was, wounded and hungry on the side of the street. Seriously.

I still can’t believe it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Empty collars tribute

In Charleston, W. Virginia, a board member of the Kanawha/Charleston Animal Shelter has been on a mission to collect dog and cat collars --- one collar for each animal who entered their shelter and was euthanized, rather than adopted between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008. She’s planning to display the collars, all 6,553 of them, as part of a candlelight vigil the shelter is holding on Aug. 16, National Homeless Animal Day.

Nicky Walters hopes a display of this nature will have more impact on people, as it provides something they can see and touch.

Do you think people would react if they saw something like this in Bakersfield? Could we even manage to gather the 18,984 empty pet collars needed to represent the number of pets who were euthanized in our County Animal Shelter?

Read their story here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

No reality TV for me…until now

I don’t watch reality TV. At least, not shows that tend to be competitive in nature. I’ve never seen an episode of Survivor, American Idol, Hell’s Kitchen or the like, and I don’t feel as though I missed anything by not watching.

Then along came Greatest American Dog, where twelve people and their dogs are competing for a chance to win $250,000.

As I watched the commercials leading up to the premiere I could feel my “no reality TV” stance beginning to waver. Happy, well-behaved dogs interacting with their favorite people in the world, all while in a beautiful setting --- what’s not to love? Especially for someone like me, who will regularly stop people in their tracks for a chance to talk about the dog they are busy walking.

My last bit of resolve crumbled like the topping of a Dewar’s sundae when I learned that Victoria Stilwell was on board as one of the judges. As far as I’m concerned, Victoria Stilwell rocks the socks off of Cesar Millan when it comes to dog training. Don’t believe me? Check out a couple of episodes of It’s Me or the Dog on Animal Planet.

So I watched.

By and large it looked like the dogs were enjoying themselves. The dog owners seem incredibly smitten with their canine companions, even when their pooches were less than stellar in their performances. The judges made it clear that the dogs’ happiness and well-being are the top considerations for the competition and that it is up to the owners to insure both.

Watching a show like Greatest American Dog can be downright inspiring for me. Seeing happy people interact with equally happy dogs, I’m reminded of how important training is for the physical and mental health of pets, and how the art of positive training only serves to strengthen the bond between people and their furry companions. As an added bonus, I get ideas about new commands for Darby, my SPCA pup, and household items I can use to put a new spin on an old trick.

I don’t care who ultimately wins the contest, at least not yet. When dogs have owners who love and care for them the way these folks do, the dogs have won already.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Stray cats becoming a focused issue

Almost on the heels of my complaint about Bakersfield Magazine’s near-complete exclusion of cats from their recent “pets issue”, the Colorado Springs Gazette has published an article about the second-class status of cats they see occurring in their region.

"Throwaway cats": Strays are often forgotten

High number of homeless cats may indicate lack of caring

July 6, 2008

BY CAROL MCGRAW, THE GAZETTE

Niko is a fine cat. He enthusiastically greets guests, meows appreciatively when he gets attention, adores playing chase the laser light. He is litter box tidy and helpfully tries to assist when his human companions read books and send e-mail. He has handsome golden eyes, soft gray fur and Russian Blue features.

Jack and Sue Majors adopted Niko in May at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region after seeing his photo online and then visiting him.

After all, they say, who wouldn't love this cat?

Apparently, not his former owner, who never bothered to search for him at the Humane Society when he strayed, according to shelter officials.

For the rest of the story, head here.

Again, I have to ask: Why have cats become such completely expendable animals, barely worthy of our attention?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

On another note...

It's been three years, to the day, since my always-beloved Bosco passed to the other side.

Just in case I somehow might have managed to forget, the forces that be had me outside of my office just in time to watch two men walking a happy, beautiful, sable Sheltie. I've been in that part of town for the past four years, yet today is the only time I've ever seen a sheltie in the area.

After work, I came home to quiet house and spent a few minutes decompressing before we, once again, played his song, Mr. Bojangles by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The album version (as opposed to radio) has a lead-in that Bosco would sing to, if you asked. And there's a verse in that little tune that never fails to squeeze my heart.

Since he died, it's the only day of the year we play it at all.

We play it to think of him, in all his glory. Before he became ill. We play it in tribute to his life and his love and devotion. We cry a little. And it's O.K.

Bosco-pup, we'll always hold you close in our hearts.

Stem cell treatment for hip dysplasia

O.K., I admit it --- I was completely cooled-out by the recent Time magazine article that talked about the advances made in stem cell treatments for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia.

Having seen the agony that some dogs go through due to the condition, and the agony of pet owners who watch their beloved fur-kid break down before their eyes, this is one person who is hoping that this procedure produces the long-term results needed.

I also applaud Time’s efforts at bringing to light some of the more progressive treatments for pets that are available these days. Living in Bakersfield I certainly don’t see much “new age” veterinary medicine being practiced (and if someone knows differently, please let me know), but I worked alongside a veterinarian in Sacramento who practiced both Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture and can tell you that there were dogs who definitely benefited. No question about it.

Anyone else who finds a cool pet medicine article, feel free to share.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Back on the writing train

It appears that I’m once again in the writer’s chair. As a few of you may know, for a couple of years I was the author of the “Dear Daphne” column that appeared in the Northwest Voice (and occasionally the Southwest Voice).

I loved doing the column. In fact, with the exception of an occasional bout of writer’s block, which was always cured by talking to a few other critter people who came up with some creative topic ideas, it was easily one of my favorite “job duties”. I got to talk about pets and pet ownership, which is very dear to my heart, and I got to do some writing. I don’t consider myself to be the greatest thing since Stephen King or anything, but I do think there are times I can get on a roll and put something relatively meaningful down on paper. Were I to have a dream job, it would be to spend all of my time writing about pets and pet issues. Just like the other hundred thousand-plus pet bloggers out there.

As I assumed different duties within my company, my writing about pets kept getting pushed further and further in the back seat, until one day I had stopped completely.

But apparently the wheel of life continues to turn. I have a different position in my company, and today I was asked if I would start writing again. I’m embarrassed to say how much I enjoy the idea of putting together a pet column. I’ve made a few changes this time. I decided to write under my own name, rather than behind a pseudonym, regardless of how cute she is. And as future column topics arise I am committed to putting a bit more of myself out there as I talk about pets and our relationship with them as a whole.

I’m glad it happened, because I think in conjunction with the column this blog will also circle further around to what I had intended it to be when I first began. I got a bit wrapped up in some of the local politics as they related to pet ownership, and while I’m still firmly committed to improving the lives of pets in Kern County, that wasn’t really what this blog was supposed to be about. The resurrection of the pet column will help get me, and this blog, back where I wanted it to be in the first place.

I'm hoping you'll join me.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Second class citizens?

I bought one of our local magazines this week, mainly because it trumpeted "first ever pets issue" on the cover. Since it seems that in Bakersfield treating pets well is only beginning to take hold in any meaningful way, I was excited to see that Bakersfield Magazine was devoting serious pages to pets in all their glory.

That is, until I actually read the magazine.

True to their word, there were several pages devoted to pets. I counted six different articles about people and their furry (and scaled) friends.

And not one word about cats. Except for a photo of a kitten checking out a goldfish bowl (as part of a story about fish) it was as though cats don't exist as pets at all.

Not one paragraph? According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are over 88 million owned cats in the United States, besting the number of dogs owned by over 13 million. Yet they didn't rate a mention in a "pet issue".

Why are cats increasingly being treated as second-class citizens in the world of pet ownership?
Animal Sheltering devoted the cover story of their latest issue to the question. The HSUS's magazine All Animals Spring 2008 issue has a cover story talking about cats having an image problem.

I don't begin to understand it. I've shared my home with cats for as long as I can remember. Back when I was a renter, I only rented homes that allowed cats. As a homeowner I've always had cats as part of my family. I'm enchanted by their beings. I respect those things that make them uniquely cats, from claws to purrs to the little chirpy noises they make when spying birds through the window.

Cats are as individual as the people they live with. That they'd choose to live with (and love) a species that's easily 15 to 20 times larger than they are, trusting us to care for them and to keep them safe is something that I find, quite simply, amazing.

Someone please enlighten me. How did a species once revered as gods fall so far from grace?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Volunteer --- or not welcome?

So, after our little group went to the effort of staging a get-together on our own time, filled out our little apps, checked back in with KCAC and attended an orientation meeting…nothing.

I started checking around today and not one person who has responded back to me has heard diddly about the next phase of their “training” to be a volunteer with Kern County Animal Control. One person is even starting to surmise that they don’t want us there, lest perhaps we gum up the works somehow (or see and/or hear things they’d rather not have us hear).

I’m choosing, for now, to believe that with all of the hoopla the recent UC Davis report generated, maybe their hands are a little full and we’re being benignly neglected. After all, it was a pretty damning indictment of almost every aspect of the shelter. Really --- give it a read.

Given that, I’ll waituntil the end of the week before I start tapping on the door.

Who would have thought it would be so hard to lend a hand to a group of people who desperately need it?

HSUS Offers Reward In Bakersfield, Calif. Animal Cruelty Case

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, you can read about it here . If you have a couple of dollars to spare, consider donating it to the local reward fund.

Here's the HSUS announcement:

The Humane Society of the United States is offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to identification, arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for setting a family dog on fire.

The Case: News reports give the following account: On May 15, someone doused a border collie-chow dog named Murphy with an accelerant, set him on fire and sent him running home. When Murphy arrived in his yard, his head and torso were in flames. His owners quickly doused him with water and rushed him to an emergency veterinarian, but he had to be euthanized four days later.

"This is one of the worst cases of animal cruelty we have heard about in a very long time. Setting a defenseless animal on fire causes horrendous suffering and anyone capable of such a vicious act poses a potential danger to other animals and people," said Curt Ransom, of The HSUS' West Coast regional office. "California law recognizes this connection and this case should be investigated as an act of felonious cruelty."

The Investigators: The Bakersfield Police Department and Animal Control are investigating. Anyone with information is asked to call The Bakersfield Police Department at 661-327-7111 or Animal Control at 661-326-3436.

Anyone interested in contributing to a local reward fund can do so at any San Joaquin Bank. Ask for the Murphy Crawford Reward, account number 022242997. For more reward fund information, contact Susan Madigan at accommission5@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Volunteers, we have our date

The brave souls who came out and met at John's Incredible Pizza on April 22 now have a volunteer orientation date, thanks to Cindy Holloway's determination and Maggie Kalar at Kern County Animal Control.

If you've been sitting on the fence about being a volunteer for the county shelter, it's time to get that application in and be a part of the solution. Be there or be square, gang. Need details on the orientation? Drop me a line and I'll be happy to oblige.

And geez, can someone who has an ounce of artistic talent create a logo for them? Besides their site being one of the ugliest on the Internet, it would be great to have a cool logo that can be dropped into posts like this.

Peace.

Pew Commission says it's time to change our ways

A two year study by the Pew Commission says it's time for us to move away from the factory farming practices that are making us, the environment and the animals in our food system ill.

Read the report here. Then support the Prevention of Farm Cruelty Act on this year's ballot in California.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another lapse, but I have an excuse

O.K., I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t posted here for a bit, but I’ve been busy getting my official certification as a volunteer for the Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS).

EARS is a program run by United Animal Nations to respond to disasters, both natural and man-made. We’re not the people who go out in boats --- we’re the people who set up the shelter and provide a place for the people in the boats to bring the animals left behind during disasters.

We also do outreach in the community, letting people know about planning for their pets during disasters and letting local agencies know that we are here and available in the event of an emergency.

Obviously, I’m super cooled-out about the whole thing. I have to start working on getting my “deployment bag” ready, even though I have no idea when, or if, I’ll ever go out on a run. I’m sure I’ll eventually do something, even if it’s just a short stint at a long event.

Interestingly enough, one area where EARS is seeing more calls these days is to respond to puppy mill and hoarding situations. I would love, love, love to take part in a rescue of that nature.

If by chance another EARS person catches a glimpse of this, drop me an email. At my training it looked like I was the only one from this far south, so if there are more of you out there, let me know.

Peace

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Someone found the lyrics to Kumbaya

Last night’s meeting of people who are interested in doing something to help out the situation at Kern County Animal Control was, in a word, great.

People who have frequently sat on opposite sides of the aisle on topics related to mandatory spay/neuter, licensing of breeders and breed-specific legislation got together at John’s Incredible Pizza and treated each other with kindness and respect.

We broke bread together (and a big shout-out to the kind benefactor who provided the meal), filled out the volunteer forms for KCAC, talked about some of the types of things we can/should do to improve the lives of the pets at the shelter, and resolved to move forward, as a group, to be a driving volunteer force.

It’s amazing what happens when people focus on one common goal. We stop treating each other as “them” and recognize that, at the heart of it all, all of us want to have a positive impact on a difficult situation.

If we can keep it up, I dare say that we will be unstoppable.

My thanks to all who came. Whether I agree with you on every issue or not, I appreciate the fact that you were there. Rather than waiting for someone to fix the problem, you are willing to “walk the walk” on behalf of the KCAC.

Kumbaya, indeed.

P.S. Just because you missed last night's meeting doesn't mean that you've missed your chance to be a part of the solution. If you're interested in more info on being part of the KCAC volunteer team, drop me a line and I'll get you on the list.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Looking to help? Now’s your chance

One of the more positive things to come out of the most recent Animal Control Commission meeting is some newfound resolve to no longer wait for the HOPE issue to be sorted out. Things continue to ebb and flow between them and the BSPCA over whether each side can meet the other’s expectations, and to be honest, I’m not anyone knows when it will all get sorted out.

In the meantime, those folks who signed up as potential volunteers in the cause are moving forward to create a coalition of volunteers to help support the Kern County Animal Control shelter and the programs they are trying to expand. Programs like education, community outreach at local events (think Thursday Night Street Faire, Farmer’s Markets, Craft and Art Fairs --- anywhere a booth might be able to be located) and other shelter projects.

We are planning to get together Tuesday, April 22. Anyone interested in getting involved should drop me a line and I’ll be happy to provide the details.

Peace.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I know, I know, people are waiting for news

And to be honest, I’m sniffing around for a little of it myself. I know that HOPE is currently in negotiations with the Bakersfield SPCA to see if they will host the HOPE project coming back to Bakersfield. An answer from BSPCA is coming very soon and one way or another, I’ll keep you posted.

For those asking about BSPCA events, they are holding their annual “Unleash Your Love” event on April 16 at 1220 L Street, in conjunction with Channel 17. The event is from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. and features pet adoptions, a microchip clinic and opportunities to learn more about what the BSPCA does in our community. Drive on by and throw a little money their way. There is a cat neuter clinic as well, but the spaces for that clinic have long since been filled. I’ve got my whiskers out though, and will bring you news of the next clinic as soon as it gets to me.

That’s it for now, folks. I’ll be at the Animal Control Commission meeting tonight, so you can bet I’ll have something to say afterwards. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lest you think I only care about the cute ones…

I’m glad to see that there is enough interest in the state of the animals we use for food that the Prevention of Farm Cruelty Act has made it to the California ballot this fall.

We have the opportunity to make the standards in which we keep food animals just a little bit better with the passage of this measure. It seems to me that it’s the least we can do. Several states have already banned some, if not all, of these cages and crates in their food production, and the European Union is phasing out all of these
cages.

video

How anyone can view the videos posted on the humanecalifornia.org web site and not feel moved to act is beyond me. Some things are simply wrong, and when we have it in our power to make it right, we should.

Support the Prevention of Farm Cruelty Act on the California ballot this November.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sprinkler day!

It's beautiful day here today, one of those perfect spring days you wish would last for the rest of the year. The knowledge that it won't makes you appreciate it all the more.

We ran the sprinkler in the backyard today and Darby got his first chance of the year to take a little dash through the droplets, barking as though this were truly the most exciting invention ever. Well, except for maybe something that would give him total access to the refrigerator.

When it was over, we were left with a face that only his doting parents could love.Happy Sunday!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Looks like a little HOPE might be coming our way

It appears that thanks to the efforts of Susan Madigan, the newest member of the Animal Control Commission, HOPE (Halt Overpopulation with Prevention and Education) may be finding its way back to Bakersfield.

HOPE, although imperfect, is currently the only real low cost spay/neuter option the folks in the Bakersfield area currently have available to them on a semi-regular basis. Susan has done a stellar job of gathering together a few interested volunteers to offer assistance, as well as getting a temporary commitment from Kern Humane Society to help with funding costs until a more permanent arrangement can be made with Kern County Animal Control. Hopefully these efforts will provide a more positive outcome for the program this time around.

I'll keep you posted as I find out more.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Folks fighting the good fight

In my world, there are few things more noble than those who work on behalf of the homeless and unwanted pets in our area. To that end, I've begun assembling links for those groups dedicated to pet adoption and reducing the pet population through spay/neuter.

You'll find those links on the right side of the page. I'm sure it is by no means a complete list, so if I left someone out worthy of inclusion, drop me a line and I'll get them on board.

Remember these groups when you find yourself interested in doing a good deed --- they can use all the support they can get.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Crystal clarity

Well, let’s be clear about one thing: there were no kumbaya moments during last night’s ACC meeting. Not even close, so we’ll just be putting that fantasy safely back on the shelf, right next to the one where I’m accepting Pulitzer Prize for writing about critters.

In fact, before I even got to the meeting there was a little drama in store for me. One of the folks I’ve met through this and the Bakersfield.com blogs began emailing me, asking about my commitment to the cause of mandatory spay and neuter, even going so far as to intimate that I may be secretly working for other side, against the ordinance. My family and friends got a huge giggle out of that, so thanks for the dose of levity.

For the record, lest any of the other twelve or so of you reading this find yourself confused, here’s where I stand, on any number of things:

· I believe that mandatory spay/neuter is the only viable solution to the pet overpopulation problem we have in Kern County. We’re long past the point where lesser measures will have an impact.

· I believe that we are months, maybe years from mandatory spay/neuter being a reality, and in the meantime, we have an obligation to provide as many low cost resources for spay/neuter as we can, working together with whomever will work with us.

· I believe that since breeders are exempt from any ordinance I’ve seen proposed, they should support licensing breeders so that we can weed out the “irresponsible” ones they are always pointing fingers at.

· I believe any and all advertisements for companion animals for sale should have to display the license/permit number, in the same manner that day care centers and contractors are currently required to do.

· I believe that if breed clubs are sincerely concerned about pet overpopulation, as they state, they should put their money where their mouths are and fund a low cost spay/neuter event. C’mon, show us you mean it.

· I believe that it should be possible for people who have diverse opinions to be respectful of the fact that we are all people. If there are areas where we can work together, we should. If we cannot find common ground, then we should respectfully agree to disagree on issues without resorting to mean-spirited, personal attacks. They do nothing to further my goals, they make the people who engage in them seem petty and small, and they take attention away from the very real issues at hand.

I feel as though I can now refract sunlight into prisms of rainbows :o)



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Animal Control Commission meeting

Wouldn't it be amazing to see something positive come out of tonight's Animal Control Commission meeting? Wouldn't it be fabulous to see a pair of people, one a respected breeder and one involved in rescue stand together and say, "We represent the small, but growing, group of people on both sides of the issue who wish to see something done about the unacceptable number of pets being euthanized in Kern County, and we're willing to work together to make it happen"?

I asked, on a blog post on Bakersfield.com why breeders are so opposed to obtaining a license. I won't reiterate my message here (you can head over to the blogs should you wish to read it). I received no real response. I was a bit surprised, as I was asking an honest question and was hoping for a sincere reply or two, since to me it seems like an area where both sides could find some common ground.

Oh well. I'm sure I'll see plenty of representation tonight. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Positive solutions to pet overpopulation in Bakersfield

Funny how the debate has shaken out since reading the article in last week's Californian regarding pet euthanasia in Kern County. There seem to be many people who want to do something positive to reduce the overall number of unwanted pets being put down, but I've seen virtually no response to my request for folks interested in helping make a difference.

We can make that difference, if we want to. Currently, it takes about $5,000 to host a feline low cost spay/neuter event at the Bakersfield SPCA. I'm sure that an event for dogs would cost more, but with the help of a few kindred spirits, we can raise these funds. It just takes a little organization and effort.

We can also work towards getting more people to license their dog(s). The current percentage of licensed dogs in the county is laughable. Those funds are needed by the county in order to carry out some of the larger pet overpopulation issues.

My point is that I've read an awful lot of people's comments on the Bakersfield.com blogs who profess a desire to do something. So where are you?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bakersfield pet overpopulation

There's no way of getting around it. Bakersfield (well, all of Kern County if I were to be truthful) is doing a simply dismal job of dealing with the overabundance of unwanted pets.

The Bakersfield Californian published an article recently decrying the absolute lack of progress on the part of local government to make any meaningful changes regarding the problem.

The County Board of Supervisors has ordered a study be done by the Kern County Animal Control Commission, due to the BOS by June 10.

But let's be real, here. The Animal Control Commission has had two years to come up with something, yet they haven't. The BOS has known about the problem for years, yet only seem to push when they feel the glare of angry pet lovers, upset because their Sunday morning was ruined by another front page where dead dogs are the main attraction.

Can anything actually get done?

Maybe, if the folks I've seen on the Californian blogs of late actually decide to get together and do something. So I'm asking, as nicely as I know how...if you are interested in doing something to be a part of the solution, let's hear from you. Let's get together and actually fight the good fight. It's been great to see that this time, unlike so many other times when the issue of pet overpopulation has been raised, there seem to be some folks out there willing to challenge the status quo.

I have ideas on how things might be able to change, but I honestly don't think I can do it alone. So if you're out there, and you're serious, let me know.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The nature of “pet lovers”

Funny how the phrase “pet lover” brings up such different reactions from people.

Once I was tagged with that moniker at work, people immediately equated me with someone who squeals over puppies and kittens (which I do), would consider buying couture outfits or special music CDs for my dog (which I wouldn’t) and is thrilled every time I see a bit of fluff on the television screen (which I’m not). Many of these folks see some of the, let’s say, colorful characters on TV who are “pet lovers” and conveniently plop me into the same one-size-fits-all Jello mold.

Only problem is that it isn’t true.

Yes, some pet lovers are, in fact, those eccentric folks who buy special bottled water and hire pet psychics to make sure all is well with Fido or Fluffy.

But the hoarder who keeps far more pets than they can handle, often in heartbreakingly horrid conditions, considers herself a pet lover. Talk to someone who fights pit bulls and they will go into great detail about how much they love their dogs. So will folks who have kept their dog on a chain in the backyard for the whole of his life. They will refer to that dog as “part of the family”.

Maybe the word “love” is the part of the equation that’s so abstract.

I believe that the word “love” should always, always be bound together with the word “respect”, especially when referring to companion animals. While I think it’s entirely possible to respect someone for whom you hold no love at all, I equally believe that no matter what you may choose to tell yourself, there is no love without respect. Infatuation, obsession, passion, adoration…maybe. But, absent respect, then it is a weak semblance of love, at best.

To be a true “pet lover” is to respect the essence of the animal you chose to include in your household. To know, long before they cross your threshold, that you owe them more than food, shelter, and the semi-annual rabies shot to keep them just-this-side of legal.

To be a pet lover is to understand that there are fundamental differences between you and your furry friend and, through no fault of their own, they find themselves told to live as a member of another world. A world where a lot of the rules we have don’t make sense to them. Where we ask them to sublimate some fundamental aspect of their character for their safety, or our convenience, while providing them with frequently inconsistent and ambiguous direction. And for all of our foibles, they try and do their best to comply.

In return, it’s the least (and I mean the very least) we can do to show them some respect for the awesome creatures they are. To take the time and effort to learn about their species, their habits and habitats, the ways in which they process information and the things that can make their world a better place to live. If we are asking a cat or dog (or any number of the other creatures we include in our lives) to adapt to an alien society, it is our duty as the “intelligent ones” to meet them part of the way. And if it isn’t, are we still pet lovers, or merely owners of domesticated animals?

I am a pet lover, but not in the way most people think. I love them enough to look out for them, to speak on their behalf against the wrongs we as a society to do to them and to do what I believe is best for them to have safe, secure, long and happy lives. I love companion animals enough to know that we have a long way to go before we are anywhere near as generous with them and their spirit as they are with ours. But I love them enough to continue trying, to continue talking and educating and demonstrating and letter writing. Because I am a pet lover.

“In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.” ~~ Edward Hoagland

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Meet the home team

Although I pull inspiration from a variety of sources, there are currently four furry friends with whom my husband and I share our lives. I figure that introducing them to you now is as good a time as any. So here they are, in order of their tenure in our home.

Bo Kitty

Also know as Putt, Putter and a few other names that shall, for now, remain within the family, Bo’s given name is Baudelaire (but who wants to have to say that all day?).

Bo was our one shot at obtaining a purebred cat. After thirty years of rescues and strays who wandered in and didn’t leave, I decided that once in my life I wanted a cat who was exactly what I wanted, size-wise, color-wise and temperament-wise. A big, handsome Maine Coon.

We followed cat shows for about three years and finally settled on a breeder we had seen several times. When she had available kittens, my husband and I went to her home and were immediately captivated by him.

Bo is now nearly 11 and has been everything we could have ever dreamed of in a cat…and a few things we never imagined. But more about that later.

Musette

Musette was a rescue. She was brought into the veterinary hospital where I was working in one of those cardboard carriers (the kind with the row of holes around the top) by someone who had made an appointment to get her spayed. While the owner was filling out the paperwork, he went out to his car to get her shot record…and promptly drove away, leaving her in the lobby.

Once we opened the carrier it was obvious that she was quite pregnant. Having no history on her we placed her back in the isolation ward, where she gave birth to five kittens the next day. Although two of the kitten died shortly after birth, Muse was an excellent mother to the other three, and when they were ready to be adopted new homes were quickly found. It was a veterinary hospital, after all, so we had the odds stacked in our favor.

Muse was another story. Try as we might, no one was interested in a young adult cat, and she was growing increasingly “cage crazy” from living out weeks of her life in the isolation ward. Finally, the head veterinarian made the decision to spay her and informed us that if we hadn’t found a home for her by the end of the weekend she would have to go to Animal Control.

So I found her a home. She’s been with us for nearly as long as Bo, just shy of 11 years.

Weebles

Weebles, or Weebs, is another rescue. Someone brought her into the veterinary hospital when she was approximately three days old, saying they found her on their porch and didn’t know what to do with her.

I decided to bottle feed her until she was old enough to be placed with someone. And, in the end, she was placed. With us.

Weebs is an odd cat in every sense, especially since none of the other cats wanted anything to do with her. Fortunately our dog became quite enamored with her, and he taught her all of the important things in life: Always greet your parents at the door at the end of a long day; come when you’re called; and, most importantly, if it’s good enough for them to eat, it’s worth begging for a taste.

Weebles is now 8 years old.

Darby
Front and center in the profile photo sits Darby, a dog of truly indeterminate heritage.

When our sheltie, Bosco, was euthanized due to cancer, it didn’t take long for the hole in our hearts (and our home) to grow so large that only another dog could fill it.

While I was busy volunteering at our local SPCA’s cat neuter clinic, the public relations guy called me out to take a peek at a couple of new arrivals, one of which was him. Seems he’d been wandering in the middle of the road when a woman nearly ran over him. Rather than driving on, she stopped, picked him up and brought him to the shelter.

One look at that crop of white fluff, only broken by his jet black nose, and I was done for. I called my husband out to peek at him, and we were hooked.

Although he was diagnosed with parvo only days after our adoption, we were able to nurse him through it and he’s been the high-king of household dogdom ever since.

Darby is now two years old.

So, there you have it. The cast of characters with whom we share our home, our lives and more than a little of our bed. Trust me, this information will save you a lot of head-scratching later.

 

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