“Well, I knew summer vacation was over this morning when I heard the alarm.
I fell out of bed, hitting the floor with my arm
and I knew one thing for sure…
I have the back to school blues.
I have my brand new back pack loaded up,
and brand new threads to head off to school.
My cell phone will be banned, so I will have to text from the can…
I definitely have the back to school blues.”
With all the confusion surrounding the kids heading back to school, many animal caregivers may not think about what it means for the dog. You may notice behavioral changes such as a sad dog who mopes around or sleeps most of the time…or she may start chewing on things she shouldn’t, but you may not even connect the unacceptable behavior with back-to-school time. Dogs need routine to make them feel secure. They like knowing that certain things happen at about the same time every day, and if the kids have been around all summer, playing with them, and suddenly they’re gone all day, it’s upsetting. Some pets just feel confused and sad, but others feel real separation anxiety and may need special attention to keep them occupied and stimulated during the long hours when parents are at work and the children are at school. It is important to curb unwanted behavior before it escalates into destructive habits.
- EXERCISE…EXERCISE…EXERCISE! A dog who has had a good walk in the morning is less likely to get into trouble during the day! A tired dog is a good dog! After the EVERY morning exercise session, give him something to do while you are gone.
- Maintain a regular schedule as much as possible, and keep comings and goings low key. No huggy/kissy “I’ll miss you” scenes that will only fuel anxiety in your dog. Have the kids ignore the dog for a few minutes before they leave, and after they return, to lower his excitement level and reduce any tension he may feel.
- “Find it” is a game he can play by himself. Hide a favorite toy or few healthy treats (baby raw carrots are good!) for him to discover. Don’t place them in spots where there are shoes or other items that you do not want him to chew….dogs don’t discriminate acceptable chew items from forbidden shoes or two-legs toys! Make sure the toys are safe…dogs love squeaky toys, but if your dog is a tenacious chewer, he could remove the squeaker and swallow it….NEVER leave a dog alone with any raw hide chew… I actually recommend NEVER giving rawhides to any dog at any time…they are not healthy treats, and if chewed and swallowed can cause serious blockages that often require surgery.
- All dogs should have at least a couple Kongs, uniquely shaped toys of durable rubber with hollow centers which can be filled with “good stuff.” Unstuffing Kongs can keep dogs contentedly busy for hours while they dig for the nuggets stuffed inside. A simple stuffing is just a little peanut butter rubbed inside the Kong, with a little kibble and a few doggie treats and maybe a couple small hunks of cheese added. If your dog has never had a stuffed Kong, make it easy to remove the stuffing at first, so that she will succeed at her removal activity. As she becomes more experienced, you may want to make the task more challenging by packing the stuffing tighter, or wedging biscuits (preferably healthy, homemade ones) inside the cavity using the inside rim of the opening to secure them. For creative ways to stuff your Kong, go to www.kongcompany.com.
Never punish your dog for anxiety or inappropriate behavior. If a dog misbehaves, it is because he is frightened or upset; he does NOT behave badly out of spite or to “get even”. No matter what he does during your absence, punishment will only intensify the problem. Good caregivers know that positive reinforcement, persistence, and patience can correct just about any difficult
Sometimes it takes the innocence of a child to remind us of the brevity of life. Last week a seven- year-old boy brought his mother to the TLC to see the dogs. While playing fetch with Hairy, and snuggling with Mandy, he casually mentioned that his dad knew me. “You know, my dad is old, and he said that he had you as his teacher a long time ago. So I guess you must be really old.” Then a few minutes later, he asked, “Are you older than dirt?”
Good question. I don’t think I am quite as old as dirt, but after the two left, and I started chores, I realized that life passes too quickly, and sometimes we are faced with serious challenges. Because of my badly botched open heart bypass surgery, the past year and a half have been somewhat of a struggle, and I am deeply indebted to many, many TLC volunteers who help keep the center running smoothly. Most of them already have full time jobs but show devoted commitment to making sure that the dogs are kept safe, healthy and happy. How blessed we are to have these dedicated helpers.
Although we do have definite arrangements with another shelter to provide future care for the TLC dogs if absolutely necessary, the TLC is NOT closing, but we recognize the fact that we need more dedicated YOUNGER people involved, and have exciting news to share. Ellen Hartstack has been a committed volunteer at the TLC since her college days at BVU. She has remained a part of the TLC family, has been responsible for many of our behind-the- scenes projects, and has maintained our great website for several years. (If you aren’t familiar with her creative expertise, check out www.tlccaninecenter.org) She is now working in Washington D.C., but her heart remains in Iowa, and she acknowledges that her beloved home state is still the second worst in the entire country for puppy mills where the animals lack health care, proper nutrition, and socialization. It has always been her dream become more involved in animal rescue out here on the Iowa prairie. Ellen is dreaming big dreams,, and we are dreaming with her. Yahoo!!!! She is coming home! We are excited and know you will be too as you hear more of her plans to train and rehabilitate needy Iowa dogs.
Day after day, each one the same…another year older, a little more lame
Left out in the weather with little protection, my body is sore and full of infection
In the freezing cold and the searing the searing heat, with weary bones, and swollen feet.
My food bowl is empty, my water dish dry. What did I do? Please tell me, why?
No one to love me; no one to care; no one to bathe my filthy, matted hair.
My teeth are rotting; my eyes are encrusted. Where are the humans to whom I’m entrusted?
I cry every night, but it’s all in vain. Does no one care or even know of our horrendous pain?
There are so many of us out here with lives as sad as mine. We have no voice, no choice,
We dream of the day when there will be no puppy mills and none of us needing rescue,
None left cold and hungry, none left to suffer. Will you dream with us?
(written by animal lover Peggy Wilson)
We invite you to dream along with us as we raise awareness to the plight of Iowa animals, and strive to make life better for these suffering animals.
As old as dirt? It doesn’t matter. As John Barrymore said, “A person is not old until regrets take the place of dreams” Let’s keep dreaming…. together we have within us the strength, the patience, the dedication, and the passion to make a difference.
A few weeks ago, an editorial in one of the newspapers that share our Paw Prints really caught my eye….Paul Struck wrote, “If you want to feel good, volunteer. “ Roger Caras once stated, “Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. In return we give them the love we can spare, the time we can spare. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.” Animal lovers agree with that statement, but often are uncertain as to how they can improve the plight of underprivileged animals: “I feel so sorry for all the neglected, needy animals, but what could I possibly do?” One of the best ways is to volunteer!
By becoming a volunteer at a local shelter or rescue group is a great way to help our needy dogs. Shelters rarely have enough volunteers! In addition to walking, socializing, and providing basic training, volunteer opportunities may include adoption counseling and administrative support. Maybe you don’t have enough discretionary income in this tough economy to contribute money, and your life is too busy to visit the shelter on a regular basis. Keep in mind that there are many ways to help that may be better suited to your skills, interests, or time constraints. Age isn’t a limitation either. Caela Kruger, an eleven year old girl from Aurelia, involved herself in a project which netted the TLC dogs a huge box of “good things.” Residents of the Good Samaritan Center and Otsego Place regularly bake dog biscuits…..anything that you do for a shelter or rescue group that they don’t have to pay someone else to do, results better care for the animals.
- Writers, graphic artists, and photographers can help make fliers, information packets, or newsletters. Groomers can offer free or discounted services. Trainers are always needed to help with evaluating dogs or dealing with particular behavior problems.
- Familiarize yourself with local and state ordinances and legislation relating to dog welfare, including vehicle safety, breed bans, and animal cruelty. Take the time and effort to write letters and e-mails to your local and state representatives expressing your views. Dog lovers in Iowa should check out Iowa Voters for Companion Animals at www.wp.iowavca.org. This group is an organization concerned about the welfare of companion animals, and advocate for better laws to protect them, and better enforcement of current laws. Their purpose is to “advance the humane and responsible treatment of companion animals through education and grassroots advocacy.” They lobby for changes to Iowa law to provide for greater protection of the thousands of dogs in commercial breeding facilities, or puppy mills, and they always have up-to-date information on legislation being considered at the state level. If you live outside of Iowa, do some research to find similar advocacy groups.
- Have a party…..if you have a special occasion, you probably don’t really need gifts. How about asking everyone to bring a donation for your local shelter. Leashes, bowls, toys, and monetary gifts are always welcomed. If you want to involve your guests, make homemade treats.
- Take every opportunity to let others know about the benefits and fulfillment of helping dogs in need.
Here’s a very easy, fun recipe for Peanut Butter Cheerio Balls. (Be sure to have enough of all the ingredients!)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- ½ cup peanut butter,
- 4 cups Cheerios,
- 2 cups flour (can be either wheat or white),
- 1 cup vegetable oil,
- 4 eggs
Combine ingredients together. Mix thoroughly.
Form rounded teaspoons of the dough into balls, squeezing each ball in your hand to press it together to reduce crumbling during baking (and if it crumbles, that’s okay…the dogs will enjoy the crumbles too!) Bake on greased cookie sheets for 8 to 10 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown.
When cool, put in plastic baggies for delivery (these need to be refrigerated.) The main problem with this fun activity is that the humans may decide to eat a few themselves. This may be the most memorable party you can ever have!
Remember: if you want to feel good, volunteer! As Struck emphasized, “Volunteering will add far more to your spirit than it takes away from your calendar.”
Sharing water activities with your dog provides a wonderful bonding experience, and is a great way to beat the heat, but fun can quickly turn to disaster if you are not careful. Over 4,000 dogs drown every year! Some dogs are not good swimmers, and others simply do not like water, so it is important to consider the dog’s safety and comfort. Heat from the sun is more intense around water, so make sure he has shade… a dog’s sensitive ears and nose can get burned with too much exposure, and suffer from sunburn or heat stroke, and keep him off hot sand as it can blister paws.
If this is your dog’s first introduction to water, start slowly and be patient. Don’t assume he will automatically know how to swim. Let him approach the water and investigate in his own time. Never splash him, or force him to enter the water before he is ready, and never leave him unsupervised around water. Once his caution has turned to curiosity, try going in yourself, and gradually he should be confident enough to join you. If he isn’t interested in water activities, you need to respect his feelings. We have several kiddie pools at the TLC for the dogs to splash in…we assumed that they would jump right in to happily cool off…not so…most of our smaller residents right now simply do NOT like the water.
It might seem convenient to let your dog drink from the lake or the river, but this is not a good idea. Ponds and lakes may be contaminated with parasites and bacteria such as giardia that can make your dog sick. A serious risk associated with stagnant water is blue-green algae, which is very dangerous if ingested. Swallowing too much salt or chlorinated water can also make your dog ill, and many man made pollutants are found in many lakes and rivers, so be sure to always take along a separate supply of safe drinking water for your dog.
Dogs who enjoy swimming may not enjoy boating. Keep in mind that dogs are used to surfaces that are still and stable, and regardless of the kind of boat you have, let her get acquainted with the boat while it is still tied up. Keep her first boat trips short, and watch for any signs of motion sickness. BEFORE you go out in the boat with your dog, buy her a life jacket AND USE IT. Accidents happen, and cold, deep, choppy water can challenge the strongest swimmer… even dogs that swim well can tire very quickly because they don’t understand the concept of resting or treading water…they just swim and swim, until they can’t anymore. Never let your dog swim too far away from you because he could get into trouble very quickly, and make sure he wears a life jacket when playing in water that gets deep farther out, as well as on a boat. Make sure the jacket fits him properly and allow him a chance to get used to wearing and swimming with it before taking him out in deep water or on a boat.
Take a careful look at the variety of the life jackets for dogs that are available on the market….many of them are junk. Kyjen, the maker of Outward Hound life jackets for dogs, is a leader in outdoor and travel gear for dogs, and has a good lightweight jacket which boasts high visibility colors, multiple reflective strips, easy-grab handles, quick release buckles, and outstanding flotation. It is affordable, easy to fit, durable, and most of all, comfortable on the dog. Outward Hound jackets may be found in most pet stores or on www.outwardhound.com
Another good life jacket is made by Henry and Clemmie’s, a relative new comer in the outdoor dog apparel market. Their products are made of sturdy nylon weight material across the yoke, and are made to last. Look for these at specialty stores introducing this new product at prices competitive with those of the Outward Hound life jacket. For more information, go to www.henryandclemmies.com
Considered the Cadillac of canine outdoor equipment products, EZYDOG is the leader in agility harnesses and customer product reviews consistently give this life vest 5 star ratings. It is sturdy, well made, and comes in attractive designs. The cost of this jacket is higher than the other jackets, but if you are interested, check it out on www.ezydog.com
Water activities can enrich the lives of both you and your dog, as long as you keep safety and comfort in mind!
Responsible pet care givers understand the importance of spaying or neutering their companion animals. Spaying or neutering reduces or eliminates many serious health problems that can be painful and life threatening to your dog, and even if the treatment is successful, it is usually very expensive! Spaying your female dog greatly reduces her chances of developing breast cancer, and lowers the possibility of uterine and ovarian cancer and uterine infection, which are common occurrences in unaltered females. Neutering your male dog decreases the probability of testicular tumors and prostate problems, and also decreases the possibility of perianal tumors and hernias, which often develop in older, intact dogs. Neutering makes pets less likely to roam, run away, or get into fights, and they usually exhibit fewer behavior and temperament problems than those left intact.
Almost every community is faced with pet overpopulation as the result of accidental or poorly planned breeding. Consider the fact that the average number of litters a fertile dog can produce in one year is two, and the average number of animals in an average canine litter is six to ten. Theoretically in six years, one female dog and her offspring can produce more than 60,000 dogs. An 8-10 million animals are taken to shelters every year, and, unfortunately many of them are never adopted. Communities spend millions of dollars to control unwanted animals, and shelters are overburdened with surplus animals.
There are many excuses given for not altering a pet:
- It is NOT true that this surgery will make your dog fat and lazy. Inactivity and overfeeding cause an animal to become fat!
- It is also NOT true that neutering will “ruin a good dog.” There seems to be a male ego notion that neutering a dog is tied to a guy’s masculinity. Dogs don’t have any concept of sexual identity, and won’t suffer any kind of emotional reaction or identity crisis when neutered.
- Another common excuse is, “We want the children to witness the birth.” There are countless books and videos available to teach your children about birth in a responsible manner. Chances are that the kids wouldn’t be around for the event anyway.
- Then there is the idea that puppies can be sold to make money. Even legitimate breeders are fortunate to break even on litters, because the cost of properly raising a litter usually consumes most of the “profit.” Finding good homes for these puppies can be difficult and shelters are already crowded with unwanted dogs, and even if you find homes for your puppies that means that other dogs will be left homeless. Leave the breeding to professional dog breeders!
The only way to stop the heartrending reality of the companion animal overpopulation is through spaying and neutering your own pets and convincing others to do the same. Don’t procrastinate until you are faced with “Oops…an unplanned litter of pups.”
My Time Is Up
It’s lonely here at the shelter… I get good food and care, and the humans try their best, but with each passing day, I get more depressed and lonely, and my friends here are crying for attention too. How I long for a family to love. Every day people say I am too big or too small, my hair is too long or too short, or my ears are too floppy. I don’t understand. Can’t I be loved just the way I am? I guess I’ll just stop getting up when people come in. I still wag my tail at friendly faces, but I think they see the tears in my eyes, so they hurry on past. Today they came to my cage saying that my time was up. My time is up! Does that mean someone is coming to love me? I wag my tail as they take me from my cage…
Every animal that is put down is heartbreaking…The TLC does NOT euthanize healthy dogs, but it is a necessary evil at shelters across the country…no one wants to put them down, but sometimes there is no choice. And the strays that wander, suffer, and starve to death, make it even more imperative that we take action to end the overpopulation of companion animals. Please be part of the solution and alter your pet. It is the right thing to do
National Mutt Day is celebrated every July… actually caregivers who are owned by mutts celebrate their four-footed companion EVERY day, but officially animal welfare advocate and founder of Mutt Day, Colleen Paige, explains the purpose of the day is to raise awareness of the plight of mixed breed dogs in shelters and rescue facilities, and to educate the public about the millions of healthy, loving, mixed breed dogs desperately awaiting new homes. National Mutt Day encourages people to adopt a dog-in-need from shelters across the nation instead of pet stores, which are supplied by puppy mills. “Puppy mills are horrific places that neglect and abuse dogs for financial gain. I think that if everyone who wanted a dog would adopt from a shelter or a rescue group, we could make a huge impact on the overpopulation of unwanted dogs in America. Mutts are great family dogs, and are often healthier, behave better, and live longer, and are just as able as purebred dogs to perform expected duties! Please make a visit to your local facility…if you can’t adopt, volunteer to walk dogs, donate food or other supplies needed, or make a donation in the memory of a loved dog. In every heart there is a hole…and in every shelter, there is love to fill it.”
Tips to help you celebrate Mutt’s Day (or any other day):
- Always be patient and kind and give her lots of love and praise every day. Be proud to announce that your dog is a Mutt.
- Every dog loves a good walk, or some undivided snuggle time. A good brushing, tummy rub, or massage is always appreciated.
- Offer to walk a mutt that gets little attention from her caregiver.
- Write your Congressman and ask that he/she support the ban on puppy mills.
- Buy your mutt a fun, new dog toy.
- Throw out all your chemical cleaners, and purchase non-toxic cleaner for your home…both your dog and you will be healthier.
- Buy a canine first aid kit so that you are prepared in case of emergency.
- Microchip and I.D. tag your Mutt with current info so if she gets lost, you can be located.
- Make sure your Mutt has all necessary vaccines and regular health exams.
- Install a physical fence if you have an unfenced yard, so that your mutt can run and enjoy some freedom at home. NEVER chain him outdoors to a tree or doghouse. Include him in your family be letting him live inside your home with you.
- Check the ingredients of your dog’s food. Many well known foods are NOT quality foods. Deciphering a pet food label may be confusing, so www.dogfoodadvisor.com, an independent site ranks all of the major dog foods. When you discover how different foods rank, you may decide to switch your dog’s food.
- Most commercial treats are not healthy, and some are downright toxic. The FDA is continually issuing warnings about dog treats (and foods) that are potentially poisonous to your dog. We recommend no commercial treats, but especially avoid those that are imported from China. It is easy (and cheaper) to make your own homemade treats for your Mutt. Frozen dog treats are always welcome on a hot day, and they are easy to make. Dogs LOVE ice cubes, and flavored ice cubes are even better. What can you freeze for your dog? Just about anything. You can make pupsickles in ice cube trays, or for larger dogs, use a paper cup, and before serving, peel away the cup. If you want to make your dog work for it, pour your ingredients into a stuffable Kong toy, plug the end with peanut butter or dry kibble. (Yes, they are all messy, but your dog’s appreciation is worth the mess!)
- Pumpkin pops—Mix some canned pumpkin (NOT pie mix, just plain pumpkin), low fat yogurt, and a bit of water, and freeze.
- Chicken broth on ice—freeze some low sodium beef or chicken broth…you can add almost anything…a few bits of leftover chicken, beef, or fish…bits of cheese, carrots or even peas. Iced treats are so easy to make and fun to eat. Just be sure to never add anything that is toxic to dogs: No avocado, chocolate, macadamia nuts, onions, raisins, grapes or tomato leaves, please.
AHHH… the joys of having a dog: total and complete love and devotion… loyalty, and the determination to stick with you, right by your side, no matter what. If you are lucky enough to have a dog, you are truly blessed.
People have efficient ways to keep cool during the hot summer months…if they don’t have air conditioners, they simply sweat, but dog’s don’t have the luxury of turning air conditioning on, and they don’t have sweat glands on their bodies like we do. They may perspire a bit through the pads on their paws, but basically they rely on panting to regulate their body heat. If a dog is confined to a hot, humid environment or has been exercising too strenuously under the scorching sun, heat exhaustion can pose serious health problems, and if the condition progresses to heatstroke, nervous system abnormalities may include lethargy, weakness, collapse, or coma, and the dog needs immediate treatment or it may be fatal.
On hot, humid days, your dog is better off spending most of his time indoors in a temperature-controlled environment. Limit her outdoor exercise to early morning when the temperatures and humidity are at their lowest level, and watch her tongue. If you see the end of her tongue widening, that is a signal that she needs to rest and cool down. Other signs of heat exhaustion are loud, rapid breathing, and excess salivation. If not immediately moved to a cool area, she will begin to show signs of heatstroke, including rapid heartbeat, agitation, staggering, vomiting, white or bluish gums, and eventual collapse. (Only one or two of these symptoms has to be present to indicate that she may be in trouble.)
A few tips to help keep your dog from getting overheated all summer long:
- Dogs can dehydrate very quickly, so make sure yours has plenty of fresh, clean water available at all times. If he has to be outside for any length of time, he should have access to complete shade.
- A shorter summer hair-do is great, but leave it at least an inch long, because his fur helps protect him from the sun. Don’t shave your dog too close!
- Don’t overdo exercise or play sessions, regardless of the time of the day. Over exertion in hot weather—even after dark—can bring on heat-related health problems. Exercise during the coolest parts of the day, stay in the shade if possible, and if it’s 90 degrees or more, stay inside, and increase indoor activities.
- Keep your dog off hot asphalt or concrete. It can burn his paws and the heat rising from the hot surface can quickly overheat your low-to-the-ground friend.
Leaving pets unattended in a vehicle is not wise in any weather, but many states now consider it a criminal offense to leave them in extreme heat or cold. Most communities have rescue provisions which allow police officers or store employees to do whatever is necessary to rescue an animal trapped in a vehicle in dangerous temperatures. No matter where you live, if you see a pet confined in an unattended vehicle, alert the store management and CALL LAW ENFORCEMENT. Even with the windows open, the temperature in a car can rise to deadly levels within MINUTES.
Unfortunately too many dogs succumb to heat stroke when it could have been avoided with a little preparation and forethought. Know your dog…some have a higher sensitivity to heat and a lesser ability to evacuate heat once they have been exposed to high temperatures. Recognize what level of activity is appropriate under different conditions for your dog, and know when to say when. The best treatment for heatstroke is prevention. Learn the signs of heatstroke, and take the necessary steps to prevent it, to ensure your dog will beat the heat this summer!
Summer is a time for both you and your dog to enjoy the sunshine and outdoors, but along with the fun, there are some dangers for your animal. To keep your companion animals safe this summer:
- NEVER leave him in a parked car. The temperature in a car can reach 120 degrees in just minutes even on a moderately warm day. If you see an animal in a parked car, alert the management of the store, and if the owner does not respond promptly, call the police. Take a look at this public awareness video by Dr. Ernie Ward: http://youtu.be/JbOcCQ-y3OY.
- Summer is often when people fertilize their lawns and work in their gardens. Plant food, fertilizer, and insecticides can be fatal if your dog ingests them. In addition, more than 700 plants can cause harmful effects in animals…complete lists of toxic plants can be found at www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plant-list-dogs.
- Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes which are abundant this year, so be sure that your dog is taking heartworm prevention medication prescribed by your veterinarian.
- Dogs can’t perspire and can only dispel heat by panting and through the pads of their feet, so it is important to provide plenty of water and shade while they’re enjoying the great outdoors so that they can stay cool.
- Dogs need exercise even when it is hot, but extra care needs to be taken to limit exercise to early morning or evening hours. Keep in mind that cement and asphalt get very hot and can burn your pet’s paws.
- Fleas and ticks are another summertime threat! Use only flea and tick treatments recommended by your veterinarian. Some over-the-counter products can be toxic, even when used according to instructions.
- Pets can get sunburned too, and your dog may require sunscreen on her nose and ear tips. Those with light-colored noses or light-colored fur on their ears are particularly vulnerable to sunburn (and skin cancer). Don’t shave the coat of a long-haired dog too closely for his “summer coat.” Hair helps insulate and control body temperature, and exposed skin is more susceptible to sunburn.
- Avoid taking your dog to crowded summer events such as rock concerts or fairs. The loud noises and crowds, combined with the heat, can be stressful and dangerous for pets. For their well-being, leave them home!
Charles Newing remembers the good old summer time with nostalgia, recalling a time when he and his big old dog just sat on the front porch, enjoying each other’s company:
Are rocking chairs in this country, I’m asking myself, being rocked on summer evenings as much as they once were? Or do they stand abandoned and motionless on deserted porches across the land? Do humans still find a place under the shade trees to take naps with their beloved four-legged companions, now that the air conditioned homes offer relief from the pesky flies and blistering heat? How often do they engage in a game of fetch- the- stick, or bring- me –the- ball now that they have their laptops and i-pods and cell phones?
Emily Dickinson, in a letter from 1856, noticed the awesomeness of summer, writing, “If God had been here this summer, and had seen the things that I have seen—I guess that He would think His Paradise superfluous.” I can’t brag in this same fashion about our summer this year, because of all the rain, (and the humungous size of the mosquitoes) but we have been so busy that we haven’t really taken time to enjoy much of anything.
I seldom take time to walk around the block with my dog, much less rock on the front porch….and now that I think about it, I don’t have a front porch any more. But even without a front porch, (and no rocking chair), the world won’t stop spinning if I ignore all my “to-do” lists and obligations (and turn off my cell phone) for a little while. The good old summer time will be gone too quickly, so come on, fella, let’s go out under the shady elm tree and take a good long nap…then maybe we can have a game of fetch.
I seldom rerun a story, but occasionally we all find it necessary to sort through our piles of papers, and a good dog lover-friend found this column that I had done five or six years ago, and suggested it was worth sharing again, so here’s the story of The Fourth of July Litter.
Another year’s celebration of high-pitched swooshing rockets climbing into the sky, with the fantastic light shows and lots of food and fellowship is history. It was certainly a fun outdoor time for picnics and parties, and now park employees and city crews are busy cleaning up the litter left behind. Shelters are already receiving frantic calls about missing dogs that apparently panicked and ran to escape the festivities. They are also receiving numerous calls about animals simply dumped for one reason or other…frightened, confused, and starving. This is a sad story, but the truth is that helpless pets are left to suffer and die, and I would hope that the next time you see a homeless animal, you will be reminded of this tale. As Charles Doram says, “Folks will know how large your heart is by the way you treat a needy dog.”
For several days the little shaggy dog had stayed next to a trash can in the park where it was shady and cool. The fresh earth of the small hole she had dug beneath the picnic table gave a little comfort to her skin, skin that was embedded with thorns and covered with fleas and ticks that were slowly draining the life out of her frail body. She could barely see because of matted fur that was covering her eyes. Weak and in pain, she had not felt like looking for food and water. Vaguely she remembered a bowl filled with food, a wrinkled hand and another one with fresh water. Oh yes… cool, refreshing water!
Suddenly her head raises, her tail starts to thump, hesitantly and slowly at first, then getting faster and faster. Cars are coming through the park! The morning peace and the song of the birds are interrupted by the noise of trucks, cars, people shouting and children laughing. Tables are set up, covered with all kinds of things. The little dog recognizes the smell of food. Wearily she raises her head to see what the hustle and bustle is all about. More and more people are arriving. The smell of food is getting stronger and the little dog starts to stagger around, in hope of finding some crumbs, to ease the nagging hunger pain inside of her. Maybe there will be even a few licks of water somewhere.
There is music and everyone is having a good time, so the little dog is hardly noticed. However, two children give her a few pieces of their hotdogs and some ice cubes from a paper cup, which lessen her thirst. She follows the children who stop to talk to a large man. All of a sudden the man comes rushing at her, screaming, clapping his hands and yelling at her to “go away”! She runs as fast as she can, gets tangled in a cloth of red, white and blue colors, and desperately seeks a place for safety under a picnic table. A man bends down and gives her a gentle pat on the back. She curls up next to his seat, hoping that he will touch her again.
Drained of the little strength she had left, she falls asleep. When she wakes up, the sun is setting. The man is gathering up his belongings and is getting ready to leave. Hopefully, she wags her tail, wanting to be taken along. The man pats her once more and says, “Go home, mutt.” Then he leaves. The little dog watches until the car disappears from sight.
It is quiet now. She crawls back into her hole under the table and curls up into a small ball. Weakness relaxes her body… she is tired… so tired! Her small body quivers, and a tiny sigh escapes from her mouth. Her eyes slowly close. The noise of the fireworks do not disturb or frighten her any longer, in fact… nothing will ever frighten her again. She sees another man’s face, one she used to love so much. She feels his gentle, wrinkled hand stroke her body. The little dog is home again! This time for good.
The next morning city workers are cleaning up the park. They talk about the wonderful party they had the day before, as they pick up the trash that is carelessly scattered all over the park. One of them discovers the little dog. He picks her up. For a quick moment, a sign of compassion softens his face, then he tosses her body into the trash can with the rest of the litter, shakes his head, and walks away.
The world is a dangerous place, not only because of those who do evil, but those who look on and do nothing. In the ideal world, there would be none left to rescue, none left to buy, none left to suffer, none left to die, none to be beaten, none to be kicked…all would be loved—Albert Einstein
As a responsible pet caregiver, you provide your dog with food, water, shelter, vet care, and lots of love, but what happens if you become ill or incapacitated? Let’s face it: no one knows when an accident or sudden illness might change life for you, and to insure that your beloved pet will continue to receive proper care if something unexpected happens to you, it is critical to plan ahead. Statistics show that a high percentage of the more than 2 million Americans who die each year are animal caregivers…in other words, more than a million companion animals potentially lose their caretakers annually, and if definite arrangements have not been made, these animals can wind up neglected, abandoned, or euthanized. Do NOT just assume that a family member or friend will automatically accept responsibility. It is not enough that long ago someone verbally promised to care for your animal. Right now we have several elderly dogs whose caregivers died with assurance that their dogs would be well taken care of by family and friends, but, for one reason or another, they ended up at the shelter, confused and frightened. It is vitally important for EVERY pet caregiver to make plans if tomorrow comes and you’re not able to care for your beloved companion. These tips can help you create a plan:
- Find at least two responsible friends or relatives who agree to serve as caregivers in case of emergency. Provide them with keys to your home; feeding and care instructions; the name of your vet and any other helpful information.
- Have alternate caregivers, just in case your first choices become unable or unwilling to accept the responsibility. Stay in touch with the designated caregivers and alternates. Over time, people’s priorities and circumstances change, and you need to be sure that the arrangements you have made continue to be accepted by them. Communication is the key!
- Make sure that your neighbors, relatives, and friends know how many pets you have, and information about those who have agreed to serve as caregivers. Have an “alert list” with names and contact information in your home in a conspicuous place where it can be easily seen . Keep a card in your purse or wallet giving emergency names and phone numbers.
If you aren’t sure exactly how to provide for your pet’s care without you, there is a new, easy-to-use, book out to assist you prepare for your dogs’ future. “If I Should Die Before My Dog…”, by Joe and Cathy Connolly is well written, beautifully illustrated, and includes worksheets that encourages caregivers to fill in the blanks, covering the obvious (name, medical history) and the not-so-obvious, but important (like what words to use to initiate potty needs). The information in this book is sure to make the life of a dog easier during difficult transition periods, and the book is available for under $15.00 from Amazon. I recommend that all responsible pet caregivers use this absolutely wonderful book.
Product Description A thought provoking check list for dog lovers, who unfortunately and with much sadness can no longer take care of their dog. This book will assist those who want to prepare for their dogs future in an easy to use format that will guide them through the process of telling the "story" of their dogs life, for their pets "Next Guardian". None of us can predict the future, but in the event situations arise such as death, health impairment or left with no other choice but to give them up, this book will be there to assist your beloved pet with the transition from one home to another.
Another book that I suggest for ALL humans who want to stay healthy for both their four-footed companions, and their two-footed companions, is the book Unaccountable, by Marty Makary. This book is not a fun book, but it contains information that is vital to the well-being of everyone, and is also available for under $15. from Amazon.
“Every once in a while a book comes along that rocks the foundations of an established order that's seriously in need of being shaken. The modern American hospital is that establishment and Unaccountable is that book.”—Shannon Brownlee, author of Overtreated
Dr. Marty Makary is co-developer of the life-saving checklist outlined in Atul Gawande's bestselling The Checklist Manifesto. As a busy surgeon who has worked in many of the best hospitals in the nation, he can testify to the amazing power of modern medicine to cure. But he's also been a witness to a medical culture that routinely leaves surgical sponges inside patients, amputates the wrong limbs, and overdoses children because of sloppy handwriting. Over the last ten years, neither error rates nor costs have come down, despite scientific progress and efforts to curb expenses. Why? To patients, the healthcare system is a black box. Doctors and hospitals are unaccountable, and the lack of transparency leaves both bad doctors and systemic flaws unchecked. Patients need to know more of what healthcare workers know, so they can make informed choices. Accountability in healthcare would expose dangerous doctors, reward good performance, and force positive change nationally, using the power of the free market. Unaccountable is a powerful, no-nonsense, non-partisan diagnosis for healing our hospitals and reforming our broken healthcare system.
I seldom urge readers to purchase specific books, but these two books are exceptions. Thirty dollars is a small investment with HUGE rewards. The one book could save your animal’s life, and the other one could literally save YOUR life.
None of us wants to think about the heartbreaking and devastating event of not being there for our dogs, but life sometimes takes unexpected turns, and it is important to plan ahead to ensure that our beloved animals will continue to be loved and cared for in the best possible way.