Monthly Archives: November 2014

Home For The Holidays

His name is Snoopy. He lays in his crate with his head down. He hears the door open, and he picks up his head to see a young couple enter the room. The other dogs start barking and jumping up and down, vying for their attention.

The couple approaches his crate, and they bend down in front of him. They smile, and say “Hi there, Snoopy!” He gives his tail a short little wag, perking up. Then the couple hears people cooing over the puppies a couple of crates over, and they get up to go see them instead.  

He puts his head back down.  

Snoopy has been with the shelter for about two months now, and he still hasn’t found a home. This isn’t atypical for adult dogs in shelters, but Snoopy is only five months old. He should have been snatched up within his first week.

picture source: GPR

picture source: GPR

He was adopted early on, actually. But he was brought back.  The adopters clearly did not understand puppies, as they returned him for chewing on shoes. I suppose they exhausted all possible methods of training in those two days they had him.

And then two weeks ago, he was almost adopted. It was a family – the mother brought her kids to meet him, and Snoopy got along great with them. She brought her other dog to meet him, and Snoopy got along great with him, too. She filled out all the paperwork, and told us she would be back to pick him up later.

Then decided he was too old.

Five months old. Apparently this is the new cutoff age. He is still a puppy, but Snoopy may already be bound to the fate of so many homeless adult dogs.Too frequently passed over in favor of their more infantile counterparts, this fate is so often life in a shelter… if they’re lucky. The euthanization rate in America is 31%*.

The pet rescue is working especially hard this season to find Snoopy and his shelter-mates the homes they deserve. Adopt a Senior Pet Month is transitioning easily into the Christmas season, and we want as many cats and dogs as possible to go home for the holidays. Next weekend, my shelter is participating in an adoption event with free or reduced fees for the older animals, so they can spend this Christmas with their forever family.

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We are participating in this event, along with two other local shelters, through Petsmart. So, if you’re in the Gainesville area, come check us out at the Petsmart on Archer Road. If you’re not, I bet a shelter in your area is doing something like this as well. We want all our dogs and cats to spend Christmas with a family. And we usually have a lot of success with these events!

So this does not have to be the end of Snoopy’s story. He doesn’t have to spend his life in a crate, watching younger dogs get adopted as he ages behind metal bars.

Five months is not too old. Five years is not too old. Someday, hopefully soon, Snoopy will be able to keep his head up and his tail wagging, and he’ll finally go home.

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*There’s no one definitive source for animal statistics, and estimates vary. I mostly use ASPCA and APPA (American Pet Products Association) numbers.

UPDATE: Snoopy has been adopted! 

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Wordless Wednesday – I’m Ready For My Close-Up

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Watch This: Cause For Paws

photo credit - FOX CT

photo source – FOX CT

Happy Two-Days-Before-Thanksgiving, guys! I came across this post (from FOX CT) in the “dogs” tag on the Reader this morning, and I thought some of you would be interested. Or, more likely, you already knew about it. I must be shockingly out of touch, because I just heard about this today.

But in case any of you didn’t know, Fox (Network, not News) will be airing a benefit for rescue dogs called “Cause For Paws: An All-Star Dog Spectacular” on Thanksgiving night, from 8:00 – 10:00 Eastern time. You can read all about it here. I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch it live, but I’ll record it so I can watch it and cry later (there’s no way I won’t cry – nothing triggers my waterworks faster than dogs).

And if I don’t get a chance to say it on Thursday, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you and your pets have a good one!

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Read This: Inside of a Dog

book cover

Many dog owners tend to anthropomorphize their dogs – ascribe them human thoughts and feelings, often even treating them like furry little humans. Others do the opposite – attribute no human emotions to dogs, treating them as absolutely and unalterably animal, barely tamed from their wild instincts.

(For the record, I am one of the former.)

But this book, Alexandra Horowitz’s Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, strikes a good balance between the two views. It seeks to explain how dogs really see the world, based on their senses, their history, their morphology. But in doing so, Horowitz does not reduce the dog to its mere physiology and status as an animal so different from us. Humans are animals too, after all. Does this mean we do not also have thoughts and feelings?

Of course not.

No, what Horowitz does is give us a little insight into why dogs do the things they do: why they play, lick our faces, or disobey the commands they have obeyed 100 times. These insights are based in research and science, but they do nothing to lessen the bond between people and dogs. This is because Horowitz understands something that those who coldly dismiss dogs as wild animals do not; that there is something about dogs that is not going to be explained by a sterile science experiment. When you endeavor to understand the dog, you can’t always rely on hard data – there’s got to be a human element, too.

“We do no disservice to dogs by stepping away from the leash and considering them scientifically.”

My favorite parts, by far, were the accounts of the human-dog bond. The author respects this relationship, unlike some scientific examinations that claim “they only act like they love us because we feed them.” Not only does Horowitz understand that that is not true, she explains the bond between people and dogs in a way that is science done properly – science that does not reduce dogs to a set of needs, and adaptations to fulfill those needs.

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michga approves

For example, one of the aspects of this bond Horowitz discusses is the mutual gaze.

Dogs do something that is rare among animals: they use eye contact non-threateningly. In most other species, including wolves, prolonged eye contact is avoided, but not dogs! Horowitz explains that dogs not only make eye contact with us in a friendly manner, but that they also follow our gazes. She describes an experiment in which a treat was hidden under one of two buckets. There was a human who knew where the treat was, and this human would do any number of things to indicate its location. Unlike other animals who were also tested, dogs followed the human’s indication – even when that indication was a mere glance! Not even Chimpanzees, one of our closest relatives, performed so well.

Horowitz uses this to show how deep the human-dog bond flows, and how highly dogs regard their humans (they followed their human’s gazes to a bucket even when they had seen the treat being put under the other bucket).

“The fact that dogs will look us in the eyes allows us to treat them as a little more human.”

There are numerous other examples of this bond in the book. But the reason the gaze is my favorite is because, even more than the descriptions of our bond through touch, through greetings, through the dog licking our faces and hands, the example of the gaze articulated an aspect of my bond with Michga I could never before explain. When I look at her, I am not just seeing her; I am seeing her seeing me. That is why I loved this book.

That being said… while this and the (many, many) other aspects of dogs discussed in the book are very interesting, there is one small issue I had with it: it didn’t come to many conclusions. While there was a wealth of very detailed information, sometimes a section would end and I found myself thinking, “That’s it?” I felt like I was left hanging a bit.

How dogs communicate, for instance. I found myself interested in the section on how the dog’s inability to speak does not mean they do not communicate. Horowitz tells us that dogs communicate in so many other ways, such as with their tails, barks, and posture. I was a bit disappointed, then, when she failed to further explore the significance of these doggy communications. What impact does this have on their interaction with other species, like humans? Is their communicative ability a sign of advanced evolution? How can it be explained in the context of their evolution alongside humans? I also found myself wondering how their communication style differs from that of wolves.

To be fair, I suppose a lot of what Horowitz discusses is difficult or impossible to verify. I wish she would have explained a couple of the theories a bit more, though, even if she could not draw concrete conclusions from them.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book. Even though I did already know a lot of the information, it was presented in such a way that it did not feel like I was being taught something I had already learned. Instead, when Horowitz synthesizes the information into one book, she gives the reader a new, or renewed, sense of gratitude for everything that makes dogs who they are.

Finally, what you find at the end of the book is a better understanding – and appreciation, and compassion – of what the world might be like from inside your dog’s head.

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P.S. You can probably get this book lots of places, but I got mine on Amazon. If you’re interested.

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Michga’s Musings – Making the Bed

Hello humans! I am in a great mood. Why? One of my favorite things happened today.

My mommy calls it “making the bed.” This is a strange but wonderful human custom in which she warms the sheets for the bed, then throws them over me so that I can play in them. I like to bunch them up and lay on top of them…

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… And rub my face all over them.

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Sometimes mommy will try to pull the sheet away so she can stretch it out to the corner of the mattress. I’m not sure why. I think perhaps this is her way of playing with it? It does not look like it’s very fun.

Eventually, she does get the sheet all stretched out despite my efforts to continue my play. But it is not over! The pillow coverings are next. While these are not large or easy to roll in, I do still like to lay on top of them the second mommy puts them down.

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Apparently this is “disruptive” to the process, and mommy usually makes me get off. No matter. My favorite part comes next.

The quilt! I dig under it and climb over it and wrap myself up like a warm little blanket burrito.

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It’s been a good day, humans.

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Three Dogs Who Saved Lives This Past Week

“Dogs aren’t our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”

Not only that; they save our lives…

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1… Like this dog, who alerted neighbors that his owner had taken a fall.

When his owner, a disabled veteran, suffered a fall that knocked him unconscious, his dog sprang into action. The brave dog, Chance, ran to alert the neighbors – while covered in his human’s blood. The humans Chance alerted were able to get his owner to the emergency room in time to save his life.

2… And this London dog, who alerted his family to a fire.

picture credit - London Fire

picture credit – London Fire

The smoke alarm didn’t do its job that night, but this pet (Moo) sure did. Nicknamed “Smokey” by firefighters, this brave little pooch woke his owners with enough time to call the fire department before the building was completely engulfed in flames.

Thanks to Moo and the fast-acting firefighters, everyone – including the people in the apartments above – got out okay.

3… And finally, the Staffordshire Terrier who saved his owner from a freezing river.

Philip Skirving was walking his dog, Corbin, on the path along the river when he tripped and fell in. The frigid water paralyzed his owner, but Corbin wasted no time and jumped in after him, dragging him by the shirt over to the bank.

“If he wasn’t there to help me, I would have drowned.”

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And this was only one week, guys; there are so many heroic dogs in the world. Personally, I think every dog is a hero. Maybe all of our dogs don’t pull us out of freezing rivers, but their loyalty and love save our lives every day.  A dog’s love is pure and unwavering. What other species would put our welfare about their own?

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

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Wordless Wednesday – Favorite Toy

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Car Anxiety in Dogs

So, Michga is not exactly the calmest dog in the world. My mom says she’s neurotic; my aunt says she’s just mean (she calls her “Bitchga”); my brother says she’s a “schizoid.” I say she may not be exactly perfect, but we do not need to go putting labels on her, okay? She’s just got a couple of nervous habits.

One such habit, as we’ll call it, is her tendency to be a bit… overdramatic… when it comes to car rides.

THE PROBLEM

Okay, let’s be honest – she’s got a serious case of car anxiety.

The weird thing is that Michga seems to forget how much she absolutely does not like car rides until the actual moment we get into the car. If I say “time to go for a ride” or “who wants to go for a ride,” she is up and running around and barking to get in the car and acting like she has literally never been as excited in her entire life as she is in this exact moment.

CAR RIDE CAR RIDE CAR RIDE

CAR RIDE CAR RIDE CAR RIDE

This good mood, sadly, only lasts until we get in the car. Almost the second I shut the door and buckle up, she’s shaking or panting or both. I don’t know how she works herself up so quickly, but all the sudden she’s gone from a kid in a candy store to a kid at the dentist.

Then, after a couple of seconds or minutes, the noise starts – the tragic, pitiful, high pitched whines; the little yips and howls she throws in here and there. Perhaps she’s singing the song of her people as a cry for help, or trying to burst my eardrums as punishment for putting her in this position.

Possibly both.

don't worry, I wasn't the one driving

don’t worry, I wasn’t the one driving

Michga usually does calm down, but only after half an hour or so (she’s mostly only in the car for long drives). She stops with the whining, but the shaking or panting typically persists a bit longer.

And it’s not that this annoys me. It only concerns me for her, and how distressed she must be by this anxiety. I want her to be able to ride in the car without working herself up into a state of pointless panic.

THE SOLUTION (?)

In my attempts to solve this anxiety, I have tried a couple of simple solutions, such as giving her treats in the car, rolling the windows down, or wrapping her in a jacket that smells like me to calm her.

Unfortunately, she refuses to eat the treats. Having the windows down helps sometimes, but not always. And the jacket thing only worked for about 30 seconds.

I don’t want to medicate her just to calm her down. I’ve seen dogs on calming pills, and it’s a pretty depressing thing to watch. I have a friend whose dog is afraid of fireworks. They have to give him drugs so he doesn’t go insane on the Fourth of July. He walks around in a half-awake state, his legs collapsing underneath him; unable, sometimes, to even stand properly. You can tell how confused and distressed he is by the condition he finds himself in.

So unless it’s absolutely the only way to solve the problem, I would really rather use some other technique.

The best solution I found when I researched the problem (read: Googled “car anxiety in dogs”) was to drive your dogs to fun places, like the park, so that they associate the car ride with happy times. This is a bit of a challenge. Michga’s anxiety extends to more than the car – she is wary of strangers, other dogs, sudden noises, suspicious-looking trees; all of which she would most likely encounter at a park.

hmm... this plant smells suspicious

hmm… this plant smells suspicious

Another piece of advice I found was to put them in a crate or some sort of restraint in the car, so that they are held still in the moving vehicle. But Michga is not crate trained – I let her be free in my room when I’m gone.  So she would not see the crate as a safe place. Plus, when she’s scared she would much rather be in my lap than anywhere else. I’m afraid separating her from me to put her in some sort of doggy car seat would only make the problem worse.

I’m stumped. Anyone got any better ideas? Or have you had a dog with car anxiety? I’m sure Michga would appreciate any help.

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I WON A THING

Grace over at While Walking My Dogs has been doing this give away of Christmas ornaments, and about a week ago I won a surprise mini give away! And today, I received my (beautiful, amazing) hand-made ornaments!!

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Isn’t this gorgeous???

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Michga certainly thinks so! And there was a surprise ornament included for Michga as well, because Grace is awesome.

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I’m holding it so far away from her because she tried to eat it, which is actually the highest honor she can bestow upon an object. Still going to have to keep it away from her. She can admire it from afar.

Thank you again to Grace (and her pooches, Woody, Ellie, and Mindy)!

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Name the Breed Quiz

Don’t you guys just love a good Internet quiz? If you do, you should totally take this name the dog breed quiz. I hadn’t even heard of a few of these breeds!

I got 27/30, and I got a picture of a puppy in glasses. My friend took it, and she got a 4/30. She tells me that she received a picture of a cat laughing at her.

quiz scoreIf you take it, tell me what you got in the comments!

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