Senior Dogs

Animal Welfare Groups around the country salute our senior dogs during the month of November with National Senior Pet Month, but actually it is always time to celebrate our older dogs. One of my very favorite books is Gene Weingarten’s Old Dogs Are the Best Dogs, a collection of profiles and awesome photos revealing the unique appeal of man’s best friend in his last and best years. The book is a tribute to every dog who has made it to that time in life when the eyesight and hearing begin to go, when the step becomes uncertain, but when a dog attains a special sort of dignity and charm all his own. If you have ever been blessed by the company of an old dog, you will recognize him in this book. It would make the perfect gift…for yourself or someone else.

Another book that offers a loving tribute to our senior best friends is Beautiful Old Dogs, edited by David Tabatsky with photographs by Garry Gross, who writes, “ I think we need to have a change of mind, a change of heart, so that we can look at faces that are old, and actually see the beauty of them, not just dogs, but also humans. The dogs in this book are beautiful …they have love and compassion and are willing to give it to anybody who takes care of them…They’re faithful and they’re dedicated. It is my great hope that all of you will see the beauty in these senior dogs as deeply as I do. The older the better…dogs with soul in their eyes.” This book also includes a section listing resources for those who would like to get involved with senior dogs. Every dog lover needs a copy of this book…and it would make a great gift!

I sometimes feel like our TLC Canine Center is a Senior Citizen Center….we have quite a few older residents…there through no fault of their own…a death or an illness or sometimes just because they are old. These dogs have stories to tell…often sad stories, and all shelters and rescue groups have older dogs that are often passed by just because of their age. Most potential adopters are looking for a cute, cuddly puppy, and fail to see the wonderfulness of the older ones.

An Old Dog’s Lament

I’m sorry I’m not cute anymore. I’m sorry I got all big and old and you got tired of me.

I’m sorry you don’t have time to play with me, and think I’m more trouble than I’m worth.

It must be my fault that things turned out this way. Please forgive me.

Please tell me how to be cute again. Please don’t throw me away.

I am more tired than I used to be and I sleep a bit more.

I don’t see or hear as well, but what did I do wrong?

My human family I have been with for so many years is gone.

Here at the shelter, potential adopters pass right by me, pausing to let out a sigh,

“Too old… too worn…we want a puppy who will run and play, not one who limps.”

It must be my fault that things turned out this way. Please forgive me.

What did I do wrong?

—author unknown.

Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way that its animals are treated. I believe, we can tell even more by the way the older animals are treated. In today’s throw-away society, it seems that little thought is given to preservation or conservation , and little patience is applied to making possessions or relationships last. If it’s old or broken, obsolete or unattractive, just put it on the trash heap. Old dogs are truly the best dogs, and we urge you to get involved in helping these precious animals, maybe neighborhood dogs would enjoy some extra attention, or volunteer at your local shelter to visit older dogs, play with them, and get to know them. You will soon find yourself in love  Old dogs are devoted, grateful, and very faithful. You may even decide to take one home with you. We promise you will never regret loving an older dog.

 

The Opportunity Challenge Continues

The first month of 2014 is history. Hopefully many of you accepted Paw Print’s New Year’s challenge to begin an Opportunity Journal in which you record acts of kindness shown to companion animals. If the pages in your journal are still blank, don’t despair…. The year offers you eleven more months to make life better for needy dogs.  According to the Global Language Monitor, President Obama’s favorite catchphrase is, “Make No Mistake.” Don’t know how well it is working for him, but, “Make no mistake”—you have the ability to help brighten the future of area dogs, and in the process, you will also brighten your own life, as illustrated in this piece by Helen McKinley.

MY DOG WILLIE

When I lost my first forever dog, I was devastated.  I decided that the best way to say thank you to him for 15 years of devoted companionship was to adopt an older dog from the local shelter. Willie was already 11 years old, and as he huddled in the back of his cage, I looked into his eyes, and it was heartbreaking. Willie had been a stray. He had been in several homes, and his last owner just took him to the shelter in the middle of the night, and left him outside tied up at the shelter entrance. The fact is that senior dogs are the first to be discarded—they are the ones nobody wants anymore, usually for selfish reasons, or they have outlived their usefulness, with impulsive owners who considered the dog a possession, rather than a friend or member of the family, or simply didn’t take the time, effort and expense needed to be a dog caretaker.

People ask me, Are you crazy? Why on earth would you want to adopt a rescue dog?  Aren’t they like used cars? Misfits, troublemakers.  Who wants someone else’s problems?   Why not get a cute little puppy?

I took Willie because he needed me.  I didn’t consider how it would turn out, or how much it would cost, or if our relationship would be happy or tragic in the end.  I felt a sense of control that I seldom feel in my every day relationships. If I can save something, then maybe I can do anything. Anything.

Willie came with some baggage, but don’t we all? None of us has made the trip this far without some baggage. I know that Willie’s time with me is limited. The walks are slower, and sometimes he needs a boost getting up the stairs. He will leave when his work is done, but his lessons with be with me for the rest of my life. The lessons of being there in the moment… patience… acceptance… listening not only with your head, but also with your heart…. to love and trust, completely and unconditionally.

Some people say to me, it’s wonderful you rescued Willie—how lucky Willie is! I am the lucky one to have him in our family, for whatever time he gives me. Misfit? Troublemaker?  I don’t think so; as see it, Willie rescued me.  He has given me much, much more than I have given him.

No Big Deal – It’s Just a Dog

Intentional animal abuse and unintentional abuse have both been emphasized during this Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month, but there is a third aspect of animal welfare that is almost more insidious, and is often ignored—indifference. As George Bernard Shaw explained: “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That’s the essence of inhumanity.” I find it difficult to accept the fact that some people “just don’t care.” By now most Iowans know that Iowa holds the disgraceful distinction of having the second largest number of puppy mills, yet when legislation this year was brought up to better the lives of these poor animals, nothing was done. In our state we still have dog fighting. Although we are aware of this abhorrent practice, it continues. These are stressful times for most of us, but even in these difficult times, or perhaps because of them, we need to think about the choices we make. We choose our friends, our doctors, our churches. We also choose our legislators. Perhaps it is time that we, the people of Iowa, choose to make our voices heard, and let our legislators know that we are not indifferent toward the mistreatment and abuse of animals.

As Diana Bono says, “How we treat animals reflects on who we are as human beings and how we value all life. Do we choose protection through our legislation for animals, or do we allow the many faces of abuse to continue? Indifference simply means that we support what is.” Joan Vinge in The Snow Queen names indifference as the strongest force in the universe. “It makes everything it touches meaningless. Love and hate don’t stand a chance against it. It lets neglect and decay and monstrous injustice go unchecked. It doesn’t act; it allows. And that’s what gives it so much power. Indifference is the worst kind of disease that can affect people.”

Only changing a person’s indifferent attitude toward animals can cause true change. Legislation helps; economic pressure helps; and education helps, but only when people really believe that animal neglect is morally wrong and act on that belief will change occur. Christianity is about beliefs—beliefs about creation, purpose, life, and love. What people believe about God affects all aspects of their being, and since faith teaches compassion and love, it would be logical that we would see more of it in attitudes toward animals. How can Christians be indifferent to the treatment of animals?

Betty Wosko reports a letter from a friend who had a first hand experience with Christians’ indifference to the suffering of a companion animal. “One Sunday after our church service let out, hundreds of people filed out of the parking lot. Every single vehicle passed by a dog who was lying in the road, clearly visible. The dog had not been there prior to the service, or I would have noticed him when driving in. I was deeply hurt by the fact that not one car stopped to help the dog.” (The writer did stop…the dog was dead, and he put the animal in his car, took him home, buried him and tried to find an owner). Wosko says that hardly a day goes by that she doesn’t hear how someone has been offended by the uncaring attitudes among believers. She tags it as hypocrisy. existing.

“We need to wake up and become the loving, compassionate peacemaking children of God that we have been called to be.”
I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.—Abraham Lincoln

The “No big deal…it’s just a dog” is prevalent everywhere. Right in our own area, a well respected family went on a six day Easter vacation and left their elderly dog tied outside. Sure, someone probably stopped by to feed and water him, but I doubt it was a happy Easter for him…

Intentional cruelty, unintentional neglect, or indifference. ..all are hurtful, both to the humans and the animals. Check out the animals in your area; you will be saddened by what you find. Although it is not always easy (or convenient), our goal should be to encourage greater levels of respect, responsibility and compassion toward both the humans and animals with whom we share or lives . Get involved! It’s the right thing to do.

Thunder & Lightning Phobia

A beautiful day can quickly take a terrifying turn for dogs with storm phobias. Sensing an oncoming storm well before humans can see or hear anything, many dogs will simply go off to their own place that they have established as a safe place, such as a closet or under the bed. But, as the skies begin to darken, some usually self-confident dogs may begin to pant and pace around the house, cowering, hiding, or behaving erratically. A few will become hysterical with fear and anxiety enough to demolish furniture, dig through walls, jump through glass windows, and frantically try to get outside of the safety of their home to run free.

Behavioral treatment for this phobia takes two different approaches: desensitization, and counter-conditioning, and sadly, both have very limited effectiveness. Probably one of the best things you can do is to create a safe place for your dog to go when she hears noises that frighten her, recognizing that this must be a safe location from her perspective, not yours.

Notice where she tries to go when she is frightened, and if at all possible, give her access to that place, but do NOT confine her there. The objective is to allow a sense of holing up, not to imprison an already fearful dog. Put her favorite blanket, treats, and toy chews with her, and close the blinds as any view of lightning can upset her even more.

To help a dog that fears thunderstorms:

  • Don’t do anything that will reinforce the notion that there is something to be afraid of. Remain cool and indifferent to bad weather reactions. Don’t coddle or scold; talk to him in a calm, reassuring voice, even try to act as though you enjoy the storm.
  • Don’t pull a fearful dog from his hiding spot. If he wants to hide in a corner or closet, he retreated there because he feels safe. If he ventures out on his own, try to refocus his attention. If you can massage the ears, play ball, or give him a body massage, he may relax (or maybe not!)
  • A fan, radio, or television turned on may help block out storm sounds. Soft classical music is sometimes soothing, and although there are many CD’s that claim to “calm dogs down”, I call most of them “snake oil”, but one, Canine Lullabies, has proven to be successful with many dogs. If you have a dog that is fearful, or exhibits other inappropriate behavior, go to www.caninelullabies.com, or call toll free 1-800-537-7748 for more information.
  • Holistic vets often suggest Bach flower remedies. Odorless, and tasteless, they come in liquid form, and can be given every few minutes for as long as needed. If you know a storm is predicted, you can put a few drops in the dog’s water bowl, and even if the storm comes six hours later, as he drinks all day, it gets into his system. For info go to www.bachflower.com or call 800-214-2850.
  • Anxiety wraps claim to calm dogs by using gentle, constant pressure, similar to parents swaddling their babies, to act as a security blankets. If you are interested in more information on the Thundershirt Anxiety Wrap,, go to www.thundershirt.com or call toll free 866-892-2078.
  • Do NOT give your dog any over-the-counter or prescription medication without consulting your veterinarian. Drugs should ALWAYS be a last resort solution.
  • If you are unable to achieve success with any suggested treatments, consult with an animal-behavior specials and your veterinarian.

This heartbreaking phobia is something that your dog cannot control. A dog afraid of storms requires plenty of extra patience and love from the caregiver!

Our Best Friend Deserves More Than Life on a Chain

There are many things that you can do to help make life better for a dog that is tethered in a back yard without much human interaction. The first thing to do is to get acquainted with the dog’s caregivers.

Be sure your approach is positive, so you don’t come off sounding critical. Lecturing them about the evils of leaving their dog outdoors will not solve anything. Explain that you are a dog lover, and would enjoy the chance to play with their dog, or take him for walks a few times a week. Be sure to stress that anything you offer is free…everyone loves free stuff.

If the dog has no adequate shelter, you might offer to bring them a dog house. If you are willing to spend some time with the dog, you will probably form a friendly relationship with the dog’s caregiver, and perhaps rekindle a bond between him and his dog.

There are many success stories from this approach, but even if this doesn’t happen, remember that helping the dog a little is better than doing nothing at all. You may not be able to convince the caregiver to take the animal inside, or even convince him to put up a fence.

If the dog was never really wanted in the first place, perhaps an offer to find him another home will be successful, but even if all you can do is get a decent doghouse, some toys, and regular walks, that is a success because the dog’s life has been improved.

Animal control and human agencies receive regular calls from citizens concerned about animals, but until the public understand the problems, and laws are changed, nothing significant will be accomplished. Documentation shows that chaining dogs is not only inhumane treatment of companion animals, but is also dangerous, because chained dogs often develop behavior problems. They become bored, boredom leads to frustration, and frustration leads of excessive barking and aggression. The number of animal bites and attacks by chained dogs will only continue to grow if we do not educate the community and break the never ending cycle of generations accepting this practice.

Most of our communities do not have any anti-tethering ordinances, and realistically they are not likely to pass them soon, but many communities are considering limited tethering laws. To make a positive impact on your community you must convince people that extended tethering is not acceptable, and although it is difficult to change attitudes, it is possible. To learn how you can more effectively help chained dogs in your neighborhood, go to sites such as www.unchainyourdog.org , www.dogsdeservebetter.com and www.parentsagainstdogchaining.org .

Get involved; it is not impossible to make life better for our dogs, and safer for our community.

God put dogs on earth for a reason, and I’m sure it wasn’t His plan for them to be treated so cruelly, and abused so often by man. Why would someone have a dog only to keep him tied to a tree? And why won’t they listen to reason about how cruel that is—why can’t they see? If people would realize this treatment brings their dog pain, they would surely stop this horrible practice, and take them off of their chain. ~Robyn Kirby

I Bit A Child Today

I spend my life at the end of a chain. You got me as a puppy and I misbehaved, so you tossed me outside with a doghouse and chain. You never taught me how to live in your world; yet you expect me to abide by its rules. I’m a big dog. What breed am I? Doesn’t matter. Wait: I know my breed– Chained Dog. We come in all shapes and sizes, and I’ll tell you one thing: we are not happy dogs.

I am exploding with pent up energy from never getting to run or stretch my legs, and pent up anger from living a solitary life when I’m meant to live as part of your pack. I was domesticated by humans to be a companion, a helper, but you chain me to this dog house and leave me alone. I have no life except to guard my solitary patch of dirt. If you cross into my territory despite my warnings, there is a good chance I will attack you to protect myself and the dirt, the only thing that is mine.

I bit a child today, and now they are taking me away. I am so scared, and I don’t understand what I did wrong, but I will die. Both the child and I have paid the price for your irresponsible behavior.

If you have a dog at the end of a rope, please consider the frustration, loneliness and potentially aggressive behavior that is possible, and make the adjustments necessary to allow him to be part of your family. Report to the authorities if you see a dog at risk, and educate others that dogs are not fit to be tied.