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Friday, December 30, 2011

Good News!


It took a Federal judge to bring Snickers the service dog back to his owner, James Sak but at least they are together again. It’s only a temporary injunction so the city has the right to appeal. Hopefully they will see the light and drop this ridiculous Breed Specific Legislation.

Read more about it at:



Mewdy Blue


Mewdy Blue

Today Mewdy Blue my 14-year old blue shorthair (Bluebird’s brother) took a trip to the veterinarian. He is so funny when it comes to car rides; he always gets carsick. That’s not what’s funny. Today, he started vomiting as soon as I put his harness on!

We used to go for walks all the time and he just loved it. He’s such a ham he loves the attention he gets and he loves showing off but most of all I think he likes the feeling of being outside. That’s the only way I’ll let him out though. It's been a while since we went for a walk so now he just associates his harness with car rides. No fun.

This time he was visiting Dr. Tammy because he hasn’t been eating well and is a little lethargic. When I say he is sleeping all the time I’m aware that, yes, he’s a cat and that’s what cats do. But that’s not like him. Mewdy Blue is fairly active normally.

He really wasn’t lethargic though when we started trying to draw blood. Even before the needle came out he knew something was up and started wiggling and struggling. Luckily we did manage to get enough blood for the chemistries. The most remarkable finding from the labwork showed that he had some high levels of the liver markers and his cholesterol.

A high cholesterol can indicate many things: hypothyroidism, diabetes, kidney disease and hepatic lipidosis. Well, his glucose and his kidney values were normal so we are leaning toward the hepatic lipidosis right now. After all, he hasn’t been eating normally and his ALT (liver) value was a little high. Hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease, is seen in cats that don’t eat for several days. The body starts sending fat to the liver to develop fuel but the liver doesn’t process fats very well and the liver cells (hepatocytes) start to store the fat. This then leads to liver failure. Fatty liver disease must be treated as quickly as possible.

Why doesn't the Gentle Doctor have any cats?
So my job now is to get him eating again and give him fluids to help wash out any toxins. I also need to isolate him so I can determine FOR SURE whether he has diarrhea or not. I have seen him having normal feces but that doesn’t mean he always does. Tomorrow he will spend the day in a cage. He will be angry by the time I let him out but at least I’ll know the truth. As for his eating habits, he is normally on canned D/D duck for a food sensitivity. Dr. Tammy, however, suggests that he might be getting tired of the same food all the time so she sent us home with some cans of Royal Canin canned rabbit.

Tonight I was barely able to get the food into his bowl before he was devouring it! So I guess that answers that question. I gave him fluids later and he doesn’t seem upset about that so we’ll be fine tonight. 

When you have a multi-pet household the fun just never ends!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pet Hospice


Bluebird in better days

Though the practice has been around for a long time most people don’t understand what pet hospice is. This is one article about the practice:


However, I don’t want anyone to believe that hospice is only about helping a pet to die but rather it is caring for a pet in the home; focusing on palliative care rather than curative; giving your pet that last little bit of dignity. In essence pet hospice is a way to keep the pet at home, feeling little to no pain and getting all the attention and comfort from family as he fades due to a terminal illness or injury.

I had to face this reality when my cat, Lando Calrissian, became seriously ill with mast cell leukemia. At first he only had the occasional mast cell on his skin that were easily and completely removed. Unfortunately his disease progressed to the visceral form where mast cell tumors formed on his internal organs such as his spleen and liver. This stage of the disease is treatable but in most cases not curable. Lando’s surgeon removed what tumors she could then we started him on chemotherapy. From there on my job was to pay attention to Lando’s demeanor and make sure he wasn’t suffering in any way.
Lando as a youngster



Up to his very last day 19-year old Lando remained the head of my cat household. With only a slight grunt he put all the other cats in their places. But that last day I think we both knew it was over. He did not seem to suffer, he ate and drank normally but he wanted something. I don’t even think he knew what it was he wanted he just kept looking for something; something that was just out of reach. He wandered the house determinedly. I took him outside in the sunshine and he took off toward the west. At one point he finally seemed worn out so I took him back inside and held him for the rest of the evening. Sometime during the night he hid himself away in a closet and passed away quietly.

I happily gave Lando that extra time at home and would do it again. In fact, I have done so several times with other cats. On Bluebird’s last night my veterinarian gave me some pain killers that I was able to administer during the night so that Bluebird could be comfortable until I could face facts. Most of that night she slept peacefully in her bed on my lap. I appreciate that little extra time with my sweet girl.

If at some point you face the dilemma of making major choices about your pet’s life please discuss the possibility of hospice care. It just may be that you can spend a little extra time with your pet at home rather than leave him at the hospital. Even if this is not an option and euthanasia is inevitable ask your veterinarian about home euthanasia. Not all veterinarians perform this service but some do. Perhaps your veterinarian can suggest someone.
Effie in her last days

It is not pleasant to think about the final days of our pets but it is inevitable. Our pets’ lives are shorter than ours so we must face up to the fact and make life as comfortable for our pets as we possibly can for as long as we can.











Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday mash-up


Here’s another bunch of articles I found around the web. I guess you could call it my Friday mash-up.

When the family dog needed lifesaving heart surgery this family gave it their all. They even shipped in a specialist from Italy! You’ve got to read this story:


This cat chose the wrong place to take a nap. This story should give everyone a reminder at this time of year to be sure you slap the hood of your car before you start it. Otherwise you might end up with a hitchhiker like this man did:



Found by hikers this eagle was saved. He’d been shot and was bleeding to death when they delivered him to a veterinarian and rehabilitators:


A life-threatening situation for a military dog right here in the U.S.



I am embarrassed to show you this last one. Embarrassed because it is happening in my own state. Rest assured, not all Iowans feel this way; not all of us are so insensitive as to deny a man his service dog:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

War Horse


(not a war horse)

****SPOILERS**** (but not for “War Horse”)

I face a new dilemma this week. Should I go see the movie “War Horse” or should I abstain? Why is it that when an animal stars in a movie I spend the entire movie hoping like crazy they don’t kill it? And worse, why do they have to kill animals in movies?

I like movies that end happily. Yes, I know, I’m a writer. I understand that conflict and high emotions are necessary for an interesting story. Yes, no one wants to watch a movie where everyone muddles through their drab, every day just as they did the day before with nothing happening but why kill the animals?

No, I prefer movies like Disney’s “Thomasina” where the cat goes through turmoil and conflict but eventually returns home and lives happily ever after. I get really mad at movies like “Ole Yeller”. I mean, how did they know the dog was rabid? Really. Couldn’t have just gone crazy because they kept him locked in a dark, dank closet of a shed? Again, I know, back then the science wasn’t up to the task of answering that question and they couldn’t take the chance. But I didn’t like that movie ending!

Now, I’m not saying the horse dies in “War Horse” because I don’t know what happens. I haven’t read the book, nor have I seen the play. I’m only guessing after doing some amateur detective work. I figure if the book was a kid’s book it must be something like Black Beauty. The story traces the horse’s life through many changes of owners and many life experiences but eventually returns home where he belongs. From what I’ve read I imagine the horse dies in the play though. It has been called an “adult version” of the book. That means death to me.

By web surfing I’ve found statements from people who’ve seen the pre-release version of the movie that indicate horrific conditions. Of course, it is a war movie so you’d expect that. Supposedly zillions of people and horses die violently, traitors are shot, some are gassed (but they say it isn’t bloody, huh?). I’ve read that even men are crying all through the movie. But the one statement that causes me some problems is when I read that Joey (the horse) goes through a particularly barbaric experience that will jar the viewers. That is a strong statement. But does it mean death? I don’t know.

For more information about the horses in World War I you might visit the following website:   http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/12/the-real-story-of-war-horses-on-the-western-front/250183/

Are you going to see “War Horse?” I still don’t know if I can stomach it but I may go see it anyway. I’ll let you know if I do.

I love hearing from you. Let me know what you think. Have you read this book or seen the play? Are you going to the movie?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sparks, an experience

Sparks with her kittens


Last week I finally caught one of the two feral cats that reside in my house and took her to the veterinarian to update her vaccinations. Sparks became an indoor cat in 2008 when she entered my trap. She was pregnant at the time so I settled her into a large cage with all the accouterments including a well-padded nest and waited for only a couple of days. I named her Sparks because her eyes gave the impression of shooting sparks at me as I intruded on her private world.

I didn’t plan for Sparks to be a permanent resident but I’d spent so much time with her I couldn’t just turn her out again. No, she became a housecat. I’d successfully rehabilitated a couple of adult feral cats before so I thought I could do it again following the same procedure. After the many weeks of her incarceration while she raised her kittens I separated her from them to allow her milk to dry up and then had her spayed. It took a few more weeks to be sure she was free of parasites before I finally let her discover the rest of the house.

It didn’t take long for Sparks to figure out the daily routine. She came down for regular feedings and found her own spot. She never had any accidents either. I am still amazed that she found the litter pans so quickly and knew what they were for. Most of the rest of the time she stayed upstairs. Over time I’ve taken a few chances trying to touch her while she ate but she refuses to give in to any contact like that. Only recently, however, she has taken to sleeping on the bed with me, mostly at the foot of the bed. One night I woke up to turn over to my other side and came face to face with that sparkling face. I think it surprised her as much as it did me.

Then last Thursday I saw her in the bathroom getting drink of water and quietly closed the door. I had an appointment with the veterinarian for one of my other cats the next day so I thought it was a prime time to catch that girl. We struggled with each other for almost an hour before she finally decided that the nicely padded carrier was a good place to escape me.

The next morning Dr. Tammy graciously allowed me to bring her in. We struggled again to get her into the chamber in order to administer the gas anesthesia but finally she was asleep. In short order Sparks received her vaccinations and, thanks to some wonderful Vet Techs, lost all of her horrible mats.

I am amazed at how forgiving Sparks is. That night she was already present for her regular feeding acting as if nothing happened. I’m so happy that she is now up-to-date on her vaccinations and her long calico fur is once again shiny and smooth – and I still have all my fingers.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

9/11 Dogs Receive Special Treatment


I am always touched by the stories of the dogs who worked at the 9/11 sites. Even now, the stories continue. Hoke is one of only a few 9/11 dogs still alive and he is suffering the debilitating effects of arthritis. Here’s the full story:


I am proud of the veterinarian and MediVet for stepping up and helping this dog. I’m also happy that they’ve offered to do the same for all of the remaining 9/11 dogs. Hopefully this experimental treatment will help to alleviate Hoke’s pain and allow him more dignity in his senior years.

A few years back I fostered an elderly Black Lab I called Maya. She had a lot of problems and wasn’t expected to live very long so my job was to give her the best life I could in her last weeks. She had severe arthritis, many different types of tumors, and no voice (we figured someone must have debarked her). I started taking her for short walks, playing catch with her and a tennis ball and treating her with an anti-inflammatory. Quickly Maya became a different dog. She perked up and seemed to be reliving her puppy-hood. If not for her graying muzzle and her stilted gait you might have thought she was a few years younger than she had been those first days.

Well, Maya lived for another 11 months. I hope that I gave her a happy life because she certainly brightened mine. Finally her bad days began to outnumber her good days and we had to decide if she was truly enjoying life anymore. I was with her those last moments and her tail was wagging the entire time. Maya was a happy dog in spite of her infirmities. I’ll never forget her and still visit that part of my heart that she inhabits every now and then.

Even though I only had Maya for 11 months I understand how these wonderful dogs can get under your skin. I’m sure all of the handler/owners of the 9/11 dogs keep their dogs and memories in a special corner of their hearts.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dog rescues kittens



I will never understand what brings people to abuse animals in such horrid ways. Here in Iowa we’ve had several incidents this year that were picked up by the media. One was of a litter of kittens dumped in a trash bag and thrown into a trash receptacle. All of the kittens died except one. That one was rescued and eventually adopted. One happened in my own sister’s neighborhood. Several litters of kittens were unceremoniously dumped in a ditch. She saved the ones she could, took some to the shelter and is now trying to find homes for the last two (one of whom is pregnant!).

Now we have an even worse incident involving a litter of kittens. The links at the end of this post will lead you to the full story but basically some horrible person “packaged” a litter of kittens in a cat food bag and threw them out onto the road. At least one car ran over the kittens killing all but two of them but finally a dog found them and dragged them home to his angel of an owner. The kittens were so young that she wasn’t able to care for them and called all the area rescues to find someone who could. Eventually she got ahold of the Raccoon Valley Rescue. They took the kittens in and nursed them back to health. Very soon those two remaining kittens will be looking for homes.



Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. What about the hoarders, the puppy mills, and other folks who think that an animal is there for them to beat on? Why do people do these things. Hoarding is caused by a mental disorder that makes the sufferer think they are “helping” the animals they collect. Puppy mills are run by greedy people who have no regard for the welfare of their charges only that they keep on producing. And abusers? I have no idea what their problem is. And unfortunately many animal abusers eventually graduate to abusing people as well.

Original newscast:

Follow-up coverage:

Story as told by the rescue folks:


What do you think? Is there a way to stop this? Have you ever rescued an animal from one of these situations? Have you adopted a pet that was rescued? I’d like to read of your stories.

Monday, December 5, 2011

News from the web


Today’s post is all about news aggregation. Here is a list of many truly interesting articles I thought you’d be interested in.

PTSD in dogs: military dogs are showing signs of PTSD. This talks about treating them and alternatives:

Santa’s reindeer need help too: a lot of great information about the care of Santa’s reindeer including some video:

Toads predict earthquakes: some time ago I wrote an article for Cat Fancy about the possibility that animals can predict earthquakes. Finally this study proves that, yes, some animals definitely can:

Cats protect Rats that detect mines in Colombia: this one doesn’t spend much time talking about the cats but it is an interesting way to use rats. I’d like to know more about how they train the cats not to attack the rats:

Cat or toy: you’ll enjoy this piece about a large group of folks who were surprised by what they found when trying to rescue a cat:

Snowy Owl attacks dog: sad tale about a small dog who fell victim to a bird of prey:

What are microchips: I am a proponent of microchipping our pets. This is a podcast that explains what a chip is:

Hope these are of some use to you even if only for entertainment. Let me know your opinions on any of them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dog Food Dilemma

Here's a great, funny, article about choosing just the right food for your dog:

http://www.wsbt.com/wsbt-i-found-the-best-food-to-feed-your-dog-or-cat-20111108,0,7896394.column

I've always been stymied by all the different standards, ingredients and claims for the zillions of different dog foods on the market these days and find that my dog does just as well on a simple maintenance diet. But what do all these terms mean? Turns out a lot of them are not regulated at all rather simply made up by the companies.

So what do you feed your dog and how did you come about choosing that food? Do you feel confident in your food choice? Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bed partners


This issue has been going around for a long time and the discussion goes back and forth regarding whether it is safe or not to sleep with your pets. Here’s a new article arguing against it:


I’m sorry but I feel that most people who allow their pets in the bed probably take good care of their pets’ health and are likely safe from these zoonotic diseases.

I’ve also heard the argument that dogs shouldn’t sleep in their owners’ beds because it upsets the “balance” of their relationship. These people believe that owners should be the leader of the pack and the dog should be subservient. I think that now days most trainers take a different view. Owners aren’t taught to be dominant anymore but rather partners with their dogs. To be completely honest, my dog, Blizzard, doesn’t sleep in my bed but that’s only because there isn’t enough room for him. He prefers his crate, where he knows he won’t have to share space with the cats. The crate is his own private space, no cats allowed.

If you do sleep with your pets just be sure that he is healthy, vaccinated, parasite-free (including fleas) and well-groomed and you should be fine. In fact, don’t you think this is a good time to bond with your pets? The only other consideration is if you have allergies. Allergists usually recommend keeping pets out of the bedrooms of people who have allergies and that is understandable.

Do you sleep with your pets? What about pets other than cats or dogs?

Strays and You


I’m one of those softies that gets terribly concerned whenever I see an unescorted animal wandering near my path. I don’t usually pick them up but I have been known to report them or follow them to find out if they have a home. Sometimes it’s obvious that they are strays as in my sister’s situation (see http://andreadorn.blogspot.com/2011/10/pet-dumping.html ). Other times you just can’t be sure.

I’m also obsessed with the Lost and Found ads in the paper. I always check them out just in case I happen to see a stray animal that fits the description. Sometimes I notice a Lost ad and a Found ad that seem to match and call them to make sure they’ve noticed each other. I know, I know, I’m a worrier and maybe a busy-body but I like to think I might be helping in some small way.

The AVMA has posted a podcast to their website addressing this situation with their recommendations here:


What steps would you take to help a stray animal? Have you ever done anything to help strays? I’d like to hear your stories.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Silly Grief


Most of us know the stages of grief, especially if we’ve experienced them ourselves. But have you ever gone through the “silly” stage? That’s what I’m feeling now. It’s where all those little, seemingly inconsequential things in your relationship with the deceased suddenly become so important.

Here are some examples:

·      Tonight I was taking advantage of what might, perhaps, be our last really nice day before winter sets in to wash the litterpans outside and realized a part of Bluebird was there. Yeah, I know, it sounds a little gross but she had really bad diarrhea her last couple of days and some of it was still smeared on the pans. I felt a strange sense of loss as I scrubbed it all off the pans and washed it out with the hose.

·      Twice a day I line up the many pills I have to give the various cats for their varied maladies and conditions. Twice a day this past week I’ve set out Bluebird’s too, then had to put hers back in the bottles. Even though I regularly suffered skin scrapes from her teeth as I tried to pill her, I really miss those moments.

·      Her bowl still sits on top of the stack of carriers waiting to be filled with her “special” food. I can’t bring myself to clean it and put it away yet. When I go to aliquot the many different types of food to everyone I feel like I’m forgetting something when I don’t fill her bowl too.

·      At feeding time, after everyone has been fed I stand and watch them eating, waiting to release the troublesome ones – the ones that will steal food from the others. I wait and I wait until I start wondering what I am waiting for. Then I realize that I am used to waiting until Bluebird finishes her food. Usually she is the last to finish and she wouldn’t eat in a cage so the others are caged until she finishes. I’m going to have to get used to the idea that feeding time is shorter now.

·      I look at the cases of D/D venison that I bought for her but hadn’t finished yet. I will eventually donate them to someone who can use them but for now I have to leave them where they are.

·      Each night after I brush my teeth I refill the small bowl in the bathroom sink for the cats to drink out of making sure to let the water just overflow the rim. That’s the way Bluebird liked it. She drank from the overflow rather than from the water inside the bowl. I guess I don’t really have to do that anymore.

·      Tonight is the first time I’ve sat at the computer without Bluebird’s bed in my lap. Maybe I can stop carrying it around with me everywhere.

·      I put off picking up her ashes today because I keep thinking about them in one of those small, white, plastic containers. She deserves better than that. But I also wonder, in the existential sense, how can a life be reduced to just a small pile of ashes? How can one life so vibrant, so sweet, be gone in an instant?

What is this thing called grief? Why does it play games on us like that? Have you ever gone through this stage? If so, what “silly” things did you recognize? I’d really like to hear yo

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bluebird 1997-2011


Tonight I walked through the feeding routine, my body working on automatic. Sky went into his carrier as did Lady. I opened the smaller feed container to withdraw the scoop and scooped the food out of the larger container for “the boys” in their cage. From the frig I withdrew the many cans of food to distribute to the other cats and placed Rainbow’s bowl atop the frig. Setting the cans upon the counter I noticed that I’ve still got “her” can.

Mewdy Blue hopped up into his carrier to await his dollop of food while Glitter accepted her bowl of dry food on the shelf beside him. I pulled the lid from the smaller container out to block Glitter’s access to “her” bowl then closed my eyes as I remembered. Next I plopped a small can of special food in Lady’s bowl and closed her carrier door. Sky was next with just a spoonful of his special canned food and a scoop of his dry food.

Finally I fed the remaining cats their dry food on the floor, the top of the shelves, the ledge and the spot in the living room. I looked at “her” can and stopped for a moment. I wouldn’t need that. Then set out the many different pills. There was the metronidazole, but only one this time, the prednisolone, only two, and one atenolol.

I looked at the lid still blocking Glitter’s way and recognized that it didn’t need to be there. On this night so much has changed; my routine, my life. Bluebird is gone and everything is wrong.                                                                                                 

That’s the feeling when you lose a loved one, especially one who was such a large part of your life. She has been a huge part of my life for 14 years insinuating herself on my heart and leaving pawprints on my soul. Her mother was a feral cat and she started out as a mama’s girl hiding behind her mother’s fur whenever I entered their room. Once separated from her mom, Bluebird came out of her shell and demanded to be the center of attention. The only girl in a litter of five she became a Prima Donna.

Grief includes so many feelings, many more than the “5 stages” you’ll find in books, especially if the one you grieve is a beloved pet. First you will have spent some time caring intensively for a sick pet, then you may be forced to make the ultimate decision. Choosing to end the life of your precious pet is difficult, yes, but it is also a gift you give to one who trusts you. You are choosing to end the suffering, the pain and the stress the illness or injury is causing your pet.

You can expect to go through all the stages of grief afterward and find yourself expecting to find your pet at every turn. You may also begin to suffer in silence because you fear that others around you would never understand. Try to find someone you know would understand, a friend, a counselor or a support group, to help you through this process.

Tonight I’m still thinking of Bluebird nearly every minute. She’s everywhere in this house in my memories and in the atmosphere. She’s everywhere in my life where ever I may go. I have to believe that she hasn’t left, that she’s with me every minute as I go on in this world until we are reunited once again.

Bluebird has flown over the rainbow, a place where I can’t follow just yet, her voice filling the sky – what news do you sing now, my pretty Bluebird? She is with her mom

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The value of showing Household Pets



Jabberwoky Glitter and ACFA judge Don Finger


If you get the 2012 issue of the Cats USA magazine, out this month, you will see an article (by me!) about showing Household Pet cats (HHPs). And if you’ve read my past blog entries both here and on my earlier KCCI site you know that I love showing cats. I believe that cat shows not only showcase the pedigreed cats but also help educate the public about cats in general. In fact, I think education is the most important aspect of cat shows.

The presence of HHPs gives the public an opportunity to see what their cats should look like. To start with here’s a few “requirements” for HHPS:

·      they must be white, black, blue, red, multi-colored or any other color
·      they must be either longhaired or shorthaired, curly-haired or straight-haired
·      they must be either male or female but if over 8 months of age they must be neutered
·      they must be at least 4 months old
·      they must be healthy, well-groomed and easily handled by strangers

It is this last “requirement” that cat shows can help cat owners attain for their cats.

The term, healthy, refers to a wide range of considerations. First the cat should be vaccinated against the basic, common viral infections including Rabies. He should also be free of parasites including fleas, ear mites and intestinal worms. What about his weight? Your veterinarian can advise you best about that but you can also compare your cat’s “figure” to a body condition chart such as the one here: http://vet.osu.edu/vmc/body-condition-scoring-chart .

Grooming, as well, can encompass a lot of things. For instance, how often do you brush or comb your cat’s fur? For most longhairs a daily brushing would be best while for shorthairs you may be able to get away with weekly brushing. At least weekly you should be checking your cat’s ears, teeth and eyes for any sign of disease or just dirt. During each grooming session also run your hands down his body to check for any lumps or bumps. Knowing what is normal helps you to recognize when a pathological condition arises.

Sometimes show cats are simply born with outgoing personalities that win them awards but you can help your introverted cat improve his outlook on strangers. Ideally you should start when your cat is a kitten but even adults can learn to trust other people and situations. First, be sure your cat is accustomed to the carrier by leaving it out at all times and perhaps even feeding your cat in it. Take him on periodic car rides that don’t include a visit to the vet. It would even be a good idea to take your cat to other households or a pet supply store to get him used to strange surroundings and people. Any cat that can handle these situations should be a good candidate for cat shows. But even if you don’t intend to show your cat he will be much happier if he is comfortable around other people.

Thus when cats are presented at cat shows the cat-owning public gets to see healthy, happy cats; and showing HHPs lets them know that, yes, even mixed-breed cats are valuable members of the family. So many times at shows spectators approach my benching cage and ask what breed my cats are. When I answer that they are HHPs their response almost always is “Oh, just HHPs?” or “Oh, just mixed-breeds?” My immediate reaction is to smile and gently correct them by saying “we never say just.” With HHPs at a cat show the average cat owner can more easily relate to the cats. They may more easily see that their own cats are just as good as anyone’s.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pet Dumping


I am appalled at the thoughtlessness of some people. Recently my sister found a “pack” of 10 kittens unceremoniously dropped at the roadside on her way home. Understandably some of them were frightened and ran away from her, but she caught the ones she could and took them home. These kittens were from at least 3 different litters. Most were so thin I could see every bone in their tiny bodies. Most also sported painful, weepy eyes.

How can people be so uncaring? I can’t imagine dumping a pet out in the country to fend for itself. These are usually pets that have been cared for and fed regularly so they don’t know how to provide for themselves. They may have even been indoor pets and are terrified of the great outdoors. Here they must risk their lives just crossing the road. Predators seek them out (coyotes, hawks, eagles, owls and dogs). And some uncaring souls shoot or poison them.

Perhaps these “dumpers” imagine that farmers will happily adopt their animals. But farmers and acreage owners usually have pets of their own and don’t have room for more. Besides, who says abandoned animals will even make it to a household? If only these people would leave their pets at shelters where they will be cared for and hopefully adopted. There is no shame in leaving a pet at the shelter. In this economy people are losing their jobs and even homes and are unable to properly care for their pets. Isn’t it better to take them to a shelter than to leave them in a ditch in no man’s land? If you are worried that a shelter will euthanize them, seek out a no-kill shelter.

Years ago when my family moved out to the country we began to collect stray animals as they were dumped near our acreage. Unfortunately we couldn’t keep them all indoors so many died young or disappeared. This is the fate of outdoor pets. I was just glad that we were able to give them the love and care they needed for as long as we could.

My sister is unable to keep the kittens she found so she did the responsible thing and took them to the local shelter. Hopefully they will get the treatment they need and eventually find very good forever homes.

Have you ever rescued an abandoned pet? Have you ever caught someone dumping a pet/pets? Were you ever in a position of being unable to properly care for your pets? If so, what did you do? I’d like to hear of your experiences.


Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 Hero Dogs


I remember when JFK was shot, the day my grandmother died, when my grandfather died, the day the Challenger exploded – and I remember 9/11. I turned the T.V. on that morning as I prepared for work and saw what I thought was an explosion in some building overseas. Yet another war, I thought. Does it ever end? So I changed the channel to see what the Today Show had to offer. There it was again, the tall building on fire. Then suddenly I saw as a plane hit a second building and knew this was something much more. I forgot what I was doing and sat down to watch.

Though I’m a long way from New York I felt the pain of all those who were lost that day as well as the friends and families. But the ray of sunshine that outshone the darkness of that day appeared almost immediately in the reactions of the first-responders. These were not just the on-the-job folks but even retirees, volunteers and eventually people from all over the world. Even more amazing not all of the workers were human. Search and Rescue dogs played a great role in the recovery from 9/11.

Dogs began working that first day helping to search for survivors and later for remains. But their secondary and unintentional job was to comfort the rescue workers as they struggled against their feelings of hopelessness and despair. Many other websites have addressed this aspect of the recovery from the 9/11 tragedies including:




In 2005 I adopted my dog, Blizzard. He showed an unusual ability to learn new tasks. Partly because of my memories of 9/11 and partly because Blizzard needed a job to focus his energy I looked into joining a local Search and Rescue (SAR) organization. I went to that first meeting with great anticipation looking forward to a rewarding career as a team member. I left that day knowing it would never happen. Blizzard passed the test and proved to be a promising recruit but I failed. First of all the physical rigors of SAR are great and I wasn’t sure I could handle them. Second, though I knew all costs of the training and work would be mine to provide, I had no idea how expensive it all was. And finally I realized that I would not be able to take off work at a moment’s notice to answer the call to service.

I continued to train Blizzard to “find” with treats and toys and he enjoyed the games, we never joined the ranks of the SAR teams. The experience gave me a greater appreciation for all that SAR teams must go through to even be accredited let alone what they go through while on the job.

Now, ten years after that fateful day, many of the hero dogs of 9/11 and the aftermath are gone. Let’s not let them be forgotten. Memorials have been set up to recognize their contributions, as well as a memorial to honor Sirius, the Port Authority dog that died in the WTC collapse. Please remember these dogs every time you look at your own faithful friend and be thankful that more SAR teams are being trained every day to answer the call to service.

Have you ever given your dog a job? Do you participate in SAR? I’d like to hear your stories!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hawkeye in the news again


Recently an Iowa native made news worldwide when he displayed his closeness to his best friend. Hawkeye, a chocolate Labrador, made an appearance at his owner’s funeral. Jon Tumilson, a Navy SEAL, was killed while serving in Afghanistan. At his funeral, attended by thousands, Hawkeye led the family to the front of the gym where he then chose to lie at the foot of Tumilson’s casket. The image (link) was caught by Tumilson’s cousin and made the rounds of websites, news programs and many discussions.

As if that didn’t bring a tear to anyone’s eye now the word is out that the Iowa Hawkeye Football team has invited Hawkeye to one of the November home games. In order to honor our fallen SEAL and other Iowa veterans Hawkeye may be leading the team onto the field at the beginning of the game or maybe accompany the team captains mid-field for the coin toss. Officials are working with the family to determine the best way to accomplish this feat.

Here’s a link to the Des Moines Register’s report:


The thing that really touches my heart is to see that the family and friends understood just how much Tumilson loved his best friend and chose to include him in the funeral plans. I only hope that people remember my pets when I'm gone. And I'm glad that Tumilson thought to have his friend take care of Hawkeye while he served in the military.
Have you made any plans for your pets if they outlive you? Do you have family or friends who are willing to take care of them if you are unable to? I'd like to hear your plans or ideas.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Iowa State Fair Cat Show


It’s Iowa State Fair time again. Time for all the livestock to pile into the fairgrounds for judging and time for all the human herds to pile in for judging, as well. You know what kind of judging that is. I’m a state fair addict enjoying so many aspects of it I can hardly wait to get there. I love watching the draft horses parade down the street on their way to the ring. I can’t get enough of that luscious state fair lemonade but only from the trailer by the swine barn – none of the others are as good. I get a kick out of playing the games that the Des Moines Register puts on each year (this year it is pictures again that we have to find around the fairgrounds). I like people watching and love the smells associated with the fair.

I’ve participated in several ways over the years. I’ve entered vegetables from my garden and taken home ribbons for my eggplant and kohlrabi. One year my photograph took second place and I even won some money for it. I made a bead necklace and took home second place for it in the Arts competition. But the very first competition I took part in at the Iowa State Fair was the very first cat show.

My cat, Screamin’ Demon, was the first cat to win first place at the Iowa State Fair cat show. As usual for August in Iowa, it was a hot, steamy day and we were crowded into a small room on the second floor of some building without air conditioning. I don’t even think that building exists anymore. The show was such a curiosity that the spectators overflowed from the judging room and down the stairs. Those of us showing our cats couldn’t even get inside to watch our cats being judged. I’d never even been to a cat show before so I had no idea what was really going on. When they called Demon back into the judging room for a second time I didn’t think much of it. But when I went back to pick him up there he was with a trophy on top of his cage. I was thrilled and addicted to cat shows for the rest of my life.

This year, unfortunately, may be the last cat show at the Iowa State Fair. Over the past 36 years the competition has dwindled as we’ve been shifted from building to building suffering through all sorts of weather conditions until finally a few years ago they moved us to an indoor venue. The damage had been done though and we just aren’t attracting the number of entries we used to. Don’t get me wrong, the Iowa State Fair Cat Show is still very popular with the spectators. We get crowds so large that we’ve never had enough seating for everyone no matter where we’ve been situated.

So if you are in Iowa visiting the Iowa State Fair this Friday be sure to stop by the new Jacobsen Building at noon to see the cat show. If you aren’t in this area, please support your own state fair and their cat show if they have one.