Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

This New Year is particularly happy, because the little Chihuahua who was looking for a home, found one. Many thanks to Fr. Ed Renner who took up Shorty's cause and spread the word that he needed a home. Many thanks to the family who took Shorty in.

May 2011 be a year when major advances are made in solving the homeless pet problem in the United States.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Looking For A Home

As they say in Tennessee, "This little guy is no bigger than a minute." Actually, in Tennessee, they say, "This little guy is no bigger'n a minute." But either way you say it, this little guy needs a loving home.

If you have a place in your heart and home, email me:

portiasmom at live dot com

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Bingley and Magic wish you and all your critters, A Very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Home for Christmas

This portrait says it all. Brody has found his forever home where he can settle in and be the Pekingese he is meant to be. Isn't he a handsome boy!

Many thanks to Charlie and Dayonne. Special thanks to Charlie who works around Brody's antics to produce the well groomed doggie in this portrait.

Friday, December 10, 2010

No Room At The Rescues

The Holiday Season is here. The pressure is on to Trim the Tree, Deck the Halls, Bake the Pies, Mail the Cards, Buy the Gifts--and Wrap the Gifts!

And no matter how many times people are urged NOT to buy a puppy or a kitten, a dog or a cat at Christmastime, some people do.

There are two REALLY IMPORTANT reasons why acquiring a family pet at Christmastime might be a Very Bad Decision:

1. There is inadequate preparation for the new family member. The purchase is on impulse, and, sometimes, the recipient is TOTALLY surprised. Not. A. Good. Idea.

2. Holidays are noisy, chaotic days in many homes. A living creature trying to adjust to its new home, trying to figure out the house rules, is at a severe disadvantage and might--probably will--communicate its confusion and distress in "unacceptable" ways.

Pets acquired under these circumstances will almost inevitably be new "intakes" at public shelters, humane societies and rescues over the course of 2011. And because these facilities are filled to the max right now, many wonderful domestic pets' lives will be sacrificed to the thoughtlessness of humans during this time of giving.

If you are planning to add a dog or cat to your household this month--or any month, for that matter--I urge, I beg, I plead, that you consider the following points.

1. Any breeder who sells a puppy, kitten, dog or cat through a third party is being cruel, uncaring, irresponsible about the well being of that animal. This most certainly includes "donating" a living animal to be auctioned for charity.

2. Any breeder who is purposely breeding and selling mixed breed puppies--regardless of the cute "breed" label they are given--is ignorant, greedy, dishonest--take your pick.

3. Pet shops depend on puppy mills, which are the canine equivalent of Auschwitz. Yes. The puppies they sell have "papers." Auschwitz kept good records, too.

4. Care of the pet will be the responsibility of adults in the household. It's wonderful for children to help adults care for pets, but they must be junior partners. All children--especially children under ten years of age--must be supervised in all interaction with pets. Small dogs are EXTREMELY vulnerable to injury by young children. Toy breeds are not good choices for families with young children. Furthermore. Dogs who depend on children to feed them go hungry. Dogs who depend on children to water them go thirsty. Dogs who depend on children to let them into the back yard or walk them relieve themselves in the house.

5. The Help--nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, etc. should NOT be left to look after a family pet. However, if you are adopting from a responsible rescue, expect The Help to be included in the screening process. Actually, the very careful breeder of our Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers screened all Help before she would consider selling a puppy to any family.

On The Other Hand. The Holidays are a time when there is an emphasis on thinking of the needy, remembering those who are dependent on the generosity of others. Pets in shelters and rescues certainly fit that description.

1. If you are thinking of making a charitable donation as a gift to a friend or relative, consider an animal rescue. It is never too early for children to learn generosity toward the helpless and needy. There is a list of fine rescues on the right hand side of this blog that will put your donation to good use.

2. If you really are considering a dog or cat as a Christmas gift for your family, make the gifts actually given on Christmas Day be items that the new family member will need: food and water dishes; beds and cushions; grooming aids; safe, durable toys. Then, when life gets back to normal, your home will be ready for the new dog or cat.

3. Think seriously before taking children with you to choose a dog from a pound. Seeing rows on rows of rejected dogs, all of whom need a home, all of whom deserve a second chance, and knowing that the majority of them will never find that home, that second chance, is painful for the most mature adult to bear. In his book, A Small Furry Prayer , Steven Kotler refers to the process of acquiring a dog from a pound as Sophie's Choice. That's a little too "real" for many children--and some adults.

This is not meant in any way to discourage you from adopting from a pound or humane society. It's a wonderful, rewarding thing to do. But make that heart-wrenching trip an adult only undertaking. Before confronting all that canine pain, think seriously about the size of dog you are looking for and try to keep your basic criteria in mind in spite of all the heart tugs. If you are looking for a mid-sized dog, try not to succumb to a five pound mite or an eighty pound galumpf, no matter how appealing they are. VERY SMALL DOGS ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR FAMILIES WITH SMALL CHILDREN. There. I said it again. And if a dog is eighty pounds while living in the stress of a shelter, it will easily be ninety or ever one-hundred pounds when it settles into a happy home.

4. The internet is a wonderful resource when looking for a dog or cat. We found our first "rescue", Daphne, online. Petfinder makes it possible for you to visit shelters and rescues via your computer. We also investigated Greyhound rescues in San Diego County on the internet before we decided to adopt through Greyhound Adoption Center.

5. Regardless of the source of your adopted pet, be prepared for a screening process. In general, public facilities have fewer but more rigid criteria. Private rescues tend to be more thorough but will take individual situations case by case.

For example, my dear friend Edie, who is a model caretaker of small dogs, was refused permission to adopt a West Highland White Terrier mix from her county animal control shelter because she has no fence on her five acre property. She walks her dogs on leash as many times a day as they need it. This is actually the safest option for her little dogs, because coyotes, hawks and rattlesnakes frequent her property and letting a small dog loose--even in an enclosed area--for only a few minutes is risky. By the way, the dog that she applied for was euthanized because no one who met the agency's criteria wanted it.

On the other hand, John and I adopted our first rescue, Daphne, from a private rescue that waived the fence requirement because we were accustomed to walking our dogs on leash several times a day.

But there are also rescues--typically overwhelmed breed rescues--who may place dogs with no screening of adopters and little or no profiling of the dog. If you are a dedicated, experienced dog person, you will do everything in your power to make the adoption work. But for families with little experience with dogs, this type of adoption can end in tears. The less experience you have had with dogs, the more information about your adoptee's past, his or her behavioral patterns, and the more follow-up support you will need.

Remember. Even the least traumatic transition from one living arrangement to another--when a dog moves directly from one loving home to another--is stressful for a dog. It is a safe bet that the dog you adopt will not be experiencing "the least traumatic transition". Be patient. Be kind. Six months is not too long to expect as an adjustment period.

But whatever you decide to do, Think First. Please do not add to the misery of innocent cats and dogs who fill our rescues and shelters during this season of giving and good will.

Note: I usually write and post on the same day. This post has taken me eight days to write. The subject was too painful to deal with in just a few hours. Yesterday, as I was answering the phone for Greyhound rescue and thinking about finishing this post, I received a call from a Humane Society in the Central Valley of California, north of Sacramento. There are no large cities in the county they serve and they are hundreds of miles from San Diego County. But they have taken in a dog that appears to be part Greyhound and they are very crowded, so they were calling to see if we might have room for him.

The very nice lady I spoke with was apologetic: "I know you are probably full. Every shelter, every rescue I know of is full. I know you are at the other end of California. But I thought I would call, just in case..."

I am not the person who makes intake decisions for the rescue for which I do volunteer phone answering once a week. I don't have to decide the fate of a mixed-breed sighthound in a shelter miles away. I do know that the people who will be making that decision are compassionate, caring people, who will extend themselves on his behalf. But he is just one dog among hundreds of thousands of dogs who need homes this Christmas.

Please do not add to their numbers.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Maddox R.I.P.

Yesterday afternoon, Friends of Portia received the sad news of the passing of Maddox, a model of what a Greyhound should be--complete with a helicopter tail that expressed his happiness.

Madddox is an example of the great good fortune homeless dogs fall into when they are taken into a responsible rescue. Maddox was rescued from the race track by Greyhound Adoption Center. Once a dog becomes a GAC dog, he never has to be homeless again.

A few months ago, Maddox and his Greyhound buddy lost their first adoptive home when their humans divorced and their home was seized in foreclosure. For all too many dogs, these traumatic events mean a trip to the local pound. But Greyhound Adoption Center dogs don't have to fear the specter of ending their days at a pound. GAC adopters sign a pledge that, should circumstances make it impossible for them to continue to care for their Greyhound, GAC will be notified and the dog will return to GAC's custody.

Fortunately, that is what happened with Maddox and his pal. And even more fortunately, instead of returning to the GAC kennel for care and profiling pending a new adoption, the original Placement Representative who handled their first adoption had room for them both. Talk about Lucky Dogs. There isn't a better home for Greyhounds to be found. With Jim and Lindsay Howell, the only question to be asked is, "What is best for the dog?"

So, when Maddox began to limp from time to time a few weeks ago, he immediately received the medical attention he needed. Eventually, the dreaded diagnosis was made: osteosarcoma.

Maddox crossed the Rainbow Bridge yesterday, knowing that he was loved.

Our condolences go to Jim and Lindsay.

Osteosarcoma--bone cancer--is the plague of long-legged dogs. Boxers, Irish Setters, Flat Coated Retrievers are among the breeds I have heard of being particularly prone to the disease. All sight hounds are at risk.

The gifted Martingale collar designer, Alisha Navarro at Two Hounds Design has made canine osteocarcoma research a special project. Each year she designs collars to raise research funds to find a cure for this deadly disease. Next time you are looking for a stylish collar for your dog--Two Hounds Martingales look smart on any breed--pay a visit to her site and support canine osteosarcoma research.

Friends of Portia like to think of Maddox, now free of pain, running and playing with Jumble and Ruby and Portia and Zephyr and Ariel--and all the Dogs of our Lives that we have loved.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy News: Sad News

This morning John and I took Magic in for a check up on her eye.

Happy News: Magic's eye looks great! Dr. Schultz is very pleased with her progress. The swelling is markedly reduced and the cloudiness is just a hint of what it was a week ago. One more week of eye ointment should be the end of this anxiety provoking episode.

Sad News: When we arrived at the vets, we learned that a Bull Dog was in surgery, "being stitched back together" after an attack by another dog. The surgery had been in progress for a while and was expected to last at least another hour and a half. I have no details of the attack. But my heart goes out to the Bull Dog's humans. John and I have spent our own anxious hours waiting while our beloved dogs were being "stitched back together." And our memories of losing our beloved Portia are still painful.

What can I say? Our living situations are too compact for dogs to be permitted to roam off leash. No dog "always obeys." Know your dog. Be VERY CAREFUL if more than one dog is present when food is available. Your dog's life and the lives of all the dogs that your dog encounters depend on your watchfulness and responsible care.

All paws crossed that the Bull Dog survives.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Knitters For Critters

It's not too late to knit up a scarf that will be sold for the benefit of needy dogs and cats in San Diego County. Preferred scarves are long, fringed, and in dark colors. Please use non animal based yarn. Send to Knitters for Critters. The critters thank you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Continues

Happy News all around.

Saturday, Magic had the stitches removed from her eyelid and a thorough examination and staining of the eye revealed that the ulcer is healed. This is a BIG relief! Now we are treating the swelling and edema that is the result of the third eyelid covering her eye for three weeks. She seems to be responding well to her new eye ointment and the swelling and cloudiness are fading. The traces of of where the stitches were removed have just about disappeared and I have almost completed withdrawing Magic from pain medication. Time in her e-collar is minimal. We are very, very grateful. Thank you, Dr. Treasure Schultz!

And, more Happy News. Marilyn and Jerry have brought home a new boy Greyhound from Greyhound Adoption Center. His new name has not yet been chosen.

It is particularly heartwarming that this sweet tempered, handsome, dark brindle boy has found a home, because he has been difficult to place. He suffers from fear-based panic in some situations and has a treatable, but incurable eye disease called Pannus. His case is fairly severe. It's estimated that his range of vision is limited to about fifteen feet. His peripheral vision is also limited.

We resumed our Monday morning walks this morning since Magic's eye stitches had been removed. Bingley saw the new addition immediately, laid back his ears, and wanted to challenge him. Magic, understanding that she is The Fairest In The Land, thought that the New Boy needed to pay attention to her and tried twirling and jumping to get his attention.

Happily, the New Boy behaved like a perfect gentleman and all dogs showed some indication that things will settle into a new normal.

No one could replace Portia. But Magic has made a place for herself in our little pack. No one can replace Ruby. But the New Boy will add his unique gifts to our walks.

And I will be smiling for days, just thinking that one more Greyhound has had the best luck a dog could have: finding his way into a loving, caring home, where he can stay for the rest of his life.

Update: More Good News! Last week I learned of a little female Shih Tzu that needed a temporary, perhaps permanent home. I began inquiring about Shih Tzu rescues, and Susan of Holly's Garden, was very helpful. But happily, the same generous couple who gave Brody a home have made room for the little Shih Tzu. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dayonne and Charlie.

Not surprisingly, I learned that Holly's Garden, like most of the rescues I know, has pretty well all of their available places filled. If you are looking for a canine companion, the fact is that you can pick your breed and still rescue a dog.If you are looking for a pure bred dog, rescue one. Petfinder's is a good place to start. Or, click on any of the rescues listed on the right side of this blog.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Father, we thank thee for the night
And for the pleasant morning light
For rest and food and loving care
And all that makes the world so fair.

I must have learned this song when I was very young, because I don't remember learning it and I don't remember ever not knowing it.

Most mornings, Bingley and Magic wake me up between 4:50 and 5:10. Many times I really don't want to get up, but once I've leashed them and I'm on my way, I'm fine. And when it isn't pouring rain, I'm better than fine.

A mystical moment is when I open the front door and look out into the darkness. Sometimes the sky is clear and the moon and stars pop out at me. Sometimes there is a marine layer and street lamps are barely visible. Sometimes wind is scuttling clouds across the moon.

At that moment, it is not hard to say, "Thank you for this day."

And sometimes I silently sing this old song over and over. Never out loud. Wouldn't want to frighten the neighbors or the dogs.

I have many, many things for which to be grateful this Thanksgiving. Since this blog is about dogs, I'll focus on them.

1. We are able to provide a home and care for two rescued dogs. This year has been a tough year for humans and, therefore, for dogs. Rescues are full of dogs who have lost their homes because their humans have lost their homes.

2. We have gone through a year without a beloved dog "Crossing the Rainbow Bridge." That's a pretty phrase for a crushing loss. And when you take a dog into your home that has years of neglect and hard living in its background, every day, every week, every month--and certainly every year--is a gift.

3. Bingley's prescription food is available again. At the end of the summer, a salmonella scare closed down the plant where Bingley's food was made. Readers of this blog know that shortly after he came to live with us, Bingley almost died with terrifying episodes of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Near starvation can do really bad things to a dog's digestive track. We have been trying to transition him slowly onto the food that most closely resembles his prescription, but it has not been easy. We have been able to prevent another attack, but some days I wonder if he is consuming as much Pepto Bismol as he is food. We anticipate the arrival of his prescription kibble within ten days. My relief knows no bounds.

4. Brody is being well cared for and can remain in his new home until or unless a perfect home that totally suits all his needs can be found. Actually, his needs are being very well met where he is. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Brody's Foster Parents!

5. Windsong. Travel, surgery, medical tests, house repairs all pose the question: "What can we do with the dogs?" Since our trip to England last November, we haven't had to worry about that. Thank you, Mike, Michelle and Jessica. And thanks to my knitting friend, Robin, for telling me about Windsong.

6. Dr. Dorota Pearson, Dr. Treasure Schultz, and all the staff at Pearson Animal Hospital--especially Bingley's and Magic's good friend, Kristen. Dr. Candy Lewis and her staff at Harmony Animal Hospital. I'm never at my best when I take a sick or injured dog to the doctor's. Having a veterinarian one can trust and talk to is essential.

7. All the friends of Friends of Portia. I treasure every reader of this blog and thank you for taking the time to read what I have to write.

8. John, my husband of forty-three years, who understands, supports and shares my love and concern for dogs. He is giving up Thanksgiving Dinner with our best friends this year to stay home with Magic and Bingley in order to be sure that no harm comes to the delicate stitches around Magic's eye.

9. Everyone who has ever rescued or provided a home for a needy dog or cat. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am very, very grateful to you. We need more people like you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Reminder From Bingley and Magic

Tomorrow, at 12:00 noon, right after Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, NBC TV will be televising the National Dog Show from the Kennel Club of Philadelphia. Our own special friend, Mike Dougherty of Windsong, will be judging the Terrier Group. We have permission to watch if we promise not to bark at those crazy terriers.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Year With Magic

On the evening of November 20, 2009, Magic came to live with us. She had begun her life in an outdoor cage in the High Desert of California. She lived in a cage for four years, producing at least one litter, probably more.

In July 2008, she, three of her puppies and the puppies' father were rescued by Greyhound Adoption Center. Magic did not kennel well. She was notorious for barking at anyone who passed her crate. One evening when an attendant was distracted, Magic unlocked two gates and led a little band of escapees, who, fortunately, were detected and apprehended before any harm could come to them.

Magic was placed in a loving foster home. She settled in, much happier than she had been at the kennel. And she forged her first trusting bonds with humans: her foster mom and her foster mom's daughter. However, Magic was at the bottom of the pecking order of a seven dog pack. Her foster mom realized that Magic wanted more human attention than is possible in that situation. So she began to search for "just the right home" for Magic.

Meanwhile, Magic and her humans grew closer and closer by the day.

So when Magic's placement in our home was suggested, it wasn't just a case of our acceptance of Magic. It also depended on the comfort Magic's foster mom felt entrusting Magic to us. We passed that test. But even so, Magic's transition from her foster home to ours was tinged with sadness: the true sacrifice of her foster family, giving up Magic, whom they had come to love, in order to provide Magic with a home where her great need for human attention could more easily be met; John's and my watching a confused, unhappy Magic, mourning the loss of the only humans she had ever trusted.

The first day she was with us, Magic did not want to leave the living room--the last place she had seen her foster mom and her foster mom's daughter. For weeks, whenever Magic became upset, she headed for the living room.

Magic had to learn new skills. Most importantly, she had to learn to walk on a leash. Early efforts required coaxing and reassurance. John walked Bingley ahead of Magic and me, and smart girl that she is, Magic soon learned by Bingley's example what walks are all about.

We had some house training re-learning. Magic had not lived in a house with carpet, and carpet seemed to Magic like a very nice place to relieve oneself.

Magic was uncomfortable with men. It took months of John's kind words and patience before she approached him for pats.

I have observed that six months is an important milestone for a rescued dog to settle into a new home. And the time between six months and a year is a time of discovery of just who the dog really is. Magic has followed this pattern. She is a smart, subtle little lady who insists on being first for pets, first into the car, first to choose cushion or love seat or sofa. She lets you know when she needs pats or hugs. And she won't let you stop until she's ready to let you stop.

But there is a stoic streak in Magic,too. Two weeks ago, she had surgery on her left eye to facilitate healing of an ulcer. She has spent a good deal of these past two weeks in an e-collar, something no dog I've ever known or heard about wants to do. She will ask nicely from time to time for a break from her collar. And if I can watch her closely, I give her a break. But when I put the collar back on her, she accepts it with a sigh and has never tried to remove it. She's been just about the best canine patient I have ever had to home-nurse.

But we are all looking forward to getting the stitches out. It will be five or seven days--depending on what the vet decides. Bingley can hardly wait. He misses play time with Magic. And Magic, who has just started to learn to play, is letting us know that she misses playing too.

Happy Gotcha Day, Miss Magic! We wouldn't have wanted to miss having you as our very own doggie.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Designer Dogs", Cabbages and Radishes

Stay with me here, dear reader, there is a connection.

Saturday night I was chatting with a geneticist. Not surprisingly, I brought up the topic of "Designer Dogs."

I told him about the effort to increase the running speed of Huskies by crossing them with Greyhounds. This misguided effort produced a long legged, fur-coated creature who sank into the snow on its slender, high-knuckled feet.

He laughed. "Ah, yes," he said. "Some well meaning souls decided to cross a cabbage with a radish. The reasoning was that the top of the cabbage is edible, but the root isn't. The root of the radish is edible, but the top isn't. They intended to create a vegetable with both an edible root and top. What they created was a plant that was completely inedible."

I know a very nice lady who purchased a "Miniature Golden Doodle" puppy several months ago. At the time of the purchase, she explained that this was the perfect dog for her. The breeder told her that it would not exceed fifteen inches at the shoulder when fully grown, the standard for Miniature Poodles.

Last I heard, the puppy, now six months old, is up to seventeen inches and still growing. The coat, by the way, is mixed, with areas of Poodle coat and areas of Golden Retriever coat. She is waiting for it to "mature" into the perfect texture.

I have reason to believe that the nice lady paid a substantial price for her "Miniature Golden Doodle." I'm sure that as an adult, it will be a cute dog that is a good companion. I am also certain that she could have gotten just as cute, just as companionable a dog--who actually is the size she was wanting with the coat she was looking for--from any of a number of Poodle Rescues.

What the breeder of the mixed breed dog that was sold as a "Miniature Golden Doodle" did not know or purposely ignored is that all true Poodles are genetically identical. Miniatures and even Toys are simply bred down from the Standard. Check the American Kennel Club website for the Poodle standard if you don't believe me. There is one standard for all three sizes.

That's why Toy Poodle parents sometimes produce a Miniature Poodle and why Miniature Poodle parents can produce a dog who grows taller than fifteen inches. Rescues are filled with Poodles who "fall between the cracks" of preferred show size. A few years ago my sister adopted a wonderful 16 inch Poodle: too tall to show as a Miniature, not tall enough for Standard aficionados.

Readers of this blog know that a pure bred Pekingese named Brody has been a personal concern of mine over the past year. He's a lucky little Peke. He is being well cared for by generous, knowledgeable dog people. If you can bear it, go to Petfinder, type in Pekingese, and see just how many of these little dogs are sitting in rescues in Southern California, waiting for homes that may never materialize. Of course, there are the "Designer Dogs"--Pekingese mixed with whatever some unscrupulous or hopelessly ignorant breeder decided would be "cute." Some of these Pekes are waiting and waiting and waiting in no-kill shelters. Some are in the other type of shelter.

We are entering the season of giving. Certainly we all need to remember our fellow human beings who are experiencing hard times. But also consider a gift to creatures with no voice but a bark or whimper. There are hundreds of thousands of dogs who pass through rescues and shelters every year. Some of those rescues are listed on the right hand side of this blog. They are run by selfless, hard working, caring people. A gift to any one or all of these rescues would be an appropriate way to celebrate the coming of The Great Rescuer of Humanity.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jumble: R.I.P.

The day we took Portia to Greyhound Adoption Center kennel to choose a companion for her, the first dog we considered was a large black male who had retired at five years of age, having completed a full racing career. A rare feat in the harsh world of Greyhound Racing. Jumble and Portia played and played and played. He brooked no nonsense from her, but she never backed off. I assumed that we would be taking Jumble home. But John was concerned about Jumble's size, combined with his assertiveness. He doubted that I would be able to control Jumble on walks. So Darren, the dog behaviorist and profiler, asked the kennel volunteer to bring out another dog. He was a red fawn with a slightly shortened tail and about ten pounds lighter than Jumble.

I didn't pay much attention to him at first, but he eventually stole my heart and we chose him that day: our dear, sweet, funny Bingley.

A few weeks later, Jumble was adopted by a young man who was much better suited to his rough and tumble style than we were.

Yesterday I received the sad news that Jumble has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. A victim of cancer.

I have shed some tears over the big, courageous creature that might have been my own companion. And as I told my friend Marilyn, who delivered the sad news, I might have been prostrated in grief right now instead of merely sad.

Thursday, the day that Jumble died, I had a serious dog conversation with a very nice, thoughtful lady who is applying to adopt a Greyhound. Several years ago, she lost three dogs in short succession. The experience had been so painful, it has taken years for her courage and love of dogs to outweigh her fear of losing a dog she comes to love. She was trying to figure out a way to protect herself from that eventuality.

She had no way of knowing that I, too, had lost three beloved dogs in a relatively short period of time: Daphne, Zephyr, and Portia. Their names and images clear in my mind as I was listening to her.

So, at the risk of losing what sounded like a really nice home for a needy Greyhound, I told her what I believe to be the truth:

"It's a crap shoot."

Dogs bring many graces to our lives. But one of those graces is a Tough Grace. It's the lesson that loving always risks painful loss. But Dog People know that dogs are worth it. Dogs lives are shorter than humans' lives. So when you bring a dog into your home, puppy or senior, the odds are good that one day you will feel the searing pain of the loss of that rare creature: a creature who doesn't criticize, is always happy to great you, will never gossip about you behind your back--and that's just a short list of a dog's virtues.

Today, a young man who adopted a big, active dog--just perfect for his lifestyle--is grieving. My heartfelt condolences go out to him. And so does my gratitude. I know that that young man gave Jumble the best years of his relatively short life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy, Happy Day!

Great News! Brody is going to a new home today where he can stay as long has he needs to, provided that he can adjust to life with four cats and one female Maltese who prefers to be addressed as Your Royal Highness. But given Brody's mellow temperament and the professional expertise of his new humans, I am very optimistic that Brody will make a successful adjustment.

Therefore, Brody would only be available to someone who wants him for himself and has a track record of loving and caring for toy dogs with grooming requirements. He needs to live in an adult only home or a home with older, mature children.

In "normal" times, a dog like Brody would never have found himself in such a desperate situation. He is an adorable dog with a sweet disposition. He is the embodiment of an ancient breed with a history of privilege.

But as precarious as Brody's life has been, he is one of the lucky Pekingese searching for love and security. Pekingese Breed Rescue is overwhelmed with many surrenders and few adoption applications. They are in critical need of foster homes. If you are thinking about contributing to a dog charity, consider a donation to the Pekes. If you have the time and love and space--Pekes don't take up much space--consider fostering one or two of these charming dogs.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Brody Really, Really Needs A Home!

For a year I have been mentioning an adorable Pekingese name Brody. These are tough times for all dogs. And Brody has been particularly unlucky even for these tough times. Ordinarily, it would be incomprehensible that such a shining example of an ancient and honorable breed would find himself without a loving, secure home. But that is what has happened to this little guy.

I cannot remember a time when I did not want to have a Pekingese of my own. But other dogs entered my life and John and I have made serious commitments to two Sight Hounds. One is Magic, a Greyhound/Deerhound mix. The other is Bingley, an officially retired racing Greyhound. I say "officially" because, just as a Marine is always a Marine, Bingley will always be a racing Greyhound. He is VERY high prey and cannot be safe with any small animals, in spite of his very sweet temperament and loving ways.

So even though Brody is not my dog and never can be my dog, in a sense he is the Pekingese I always dreamed of. And he needs a home. He is in desperate need of a home.

In other posts, I have written about the special needs of dogs in the Toy Group, the group to which Pekingese belong. They are not the best dogs for a young and boisterous family. They thrive on a close relationship with their human. Pekingese, in particular, have centuries of breeding to be highly treasured companion dogs.

If you have room in your heart and home for Brody, please contact me:

portiasmom at live dot com.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Back to Basics

About a month ago, Magic turned up with an ulcer on her left eye. We treated it with anti-biotic ointment and it seemed to improve, but it did not heal completely. So, Saturday morning, we took her back to the vet's. The ulcer had tried to heal, but had migrated, imperiling her vision. The best option was surgery which uses the third eyelid to cover the eye and protect it while healing proceeds. A tech who is a special friend of Magic and Bingley suggested that a transparent e-collar would maximize Magic's remaining vision in her right eye. While Magic was in surgery, I went to the local Petco for the collar.

As I pulled up to the store, I noticed a sign: SNAP ADOPTIONS TODAY

Since dog rescue is my passion and I had never heard of SNAP, I stopped to talk with a volunteer who had brought three Chihuahuas/Chihuahua mixes for adoption.

SNAP stands for Spay Neuter Action Project

I urge you to click on the link and spend some time on their website. For twenty years, they have worked to tackle the homeless pet problem at its source: providing low-cost and sometimes free spaying and neutering for domestic pets that otherwise would reproduce offspring with no hope of finding a loving family. According to their website, the homeless pet problem is so severe in San Diego County, it would require pet owners to adopt Twenty-Four! pets apiece, to provide homes for all needy pets.

As I left the store, a fourth little dog had been added to the adoption group: a very small white Terrier, clearly with some West Highland White in its mix. The product of some "designer" dog breeding who somehow didn't quite meet expectations? I strongly suspect that. I wanted to weep.

Magic is home, sleeping on the sofa opposite me, wearing her transparent e-collar. We have three weeks of meds and collar before the stitches come out--and all paws crossed--she is restored to normal vision.

Meanwhile, the little dogs outside Petco haunt me. I pray that loving homes are in their future. That soft cushions, sofas, and good veterinary care will be theirs.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What Should Be Done?

It's hard to imagine a more stressful job for an animal lover than being an employee of a county animal control or a humane society charged with enforcement of human-animal laws. The heartbreak of receiving mistreated and discarded pets and witnessing the euthanizing of perfectly healthy animals must extract a heavy emotional toll.

Difficult financial times as we are now experiencing add to the stresses. Pets are given up because people lose homes and cannot find a rental that will accept pets. Budget cuts can mean a reduction in employees, adding to the overload for staff. Donations to non-profits suffer as peoples' disposable income is reduced.

Is it possible to make humane laws and their enforcement more effective under current conditions? I believe it is possible, but not without a complete re-thinking of the laws and a fresh approach to enforcement.

The basic structure of "animal control" has not changed much since I Love Lucy was the top show on black and white television.

However. Just about all the relevant variables have changed. For example, my county, San Diego County, California, has tripled in population. Breeds that no one outside the dog world had ever heard of have become popular. Two income families--both spouses working outside the home--have become the norm. Puppy mills continue to churn out poor, sickly dogs for profit and all sorts of mixed breeds are produced and sold to the naive as "designer breeds."

Like many other counties, San Diego is large both in terms of population and square miles. It includes cities, towns, suburbs, exurbs, ranch land, deserts, mountains, beaches, rich, middle class, poor, and a mind-boggling number of nationalities and languages which represent widely differing cultures and customs.

Even if public funds were available, and they certainly are not, throwing money at our sclerotic system of animal control would not significantly ameliorate the lives of homeless pets and improve the safety of dogs being walked on leash on the county's streets in the county's parks.

What should be done?

1. Jurisdiction for animal control needs to be closer to home than the county. Approaches that work for semi-rural communities cannot be expected to work for high density neighborhoods or suburbs. This means that cities and towns need to start taking responsibility for the welfare and safety of animals and humans within their jurisdiction. One spark of hope for this approach is in the talking stage with the cities of Oceanside, Vista and San Marcos considering the creation of a more localized jurisdiction for animal control. I am tentatively hopeful. But if these cities just replicate the old system, they will miss an important opportunity to really improve the lives of domestic pets in North County.

2. Criminal charges for violations of leash laws need to be eliminated. A law enforcement officer whose main concerns are robbery, theft or assault with a deadly weapon can be understandably reluctant to charge a person violating a leash law with a misdemeanor. Unless animals--usually dogs--are clearly being used in a threatening manner, leash law violations should be infractions.

3. Leash law violations should be treated similarly to traffic violations. While charges should be lowered, fines should be raised and graduated for each offense. In this way, dog on dog attacks can be addressed. Under the current system, the only consequence for a dog on dog attack is what the victim's human is able to extract from the perpetrator's human. Usually this goes through Small Claims Court and rarely results in full restitution of veterinary fees, much less sufficient cost to act as deterrent for future violations. I have no doubt that if the owners of the dog who savaged Zephyr had felt sufficiently punished financially for that attack, Portia, Bingley and John would not have been attacked less than three years later by the same dog and Portia would be alive today.

4. Leash law violators should be required to attend--and pay for--classes in responsible dog care. San Diego County Animal Control has a small pilot program with this approach which is showing encouraging results. Repeat violators should be assigned community service hours in shelters.

5. Just as some people eventually lose the right to drive a car, some people should not be permitted to have the responsibility of caring for a domestic pet.

It is pretty well established that the presence of a domestic pet in a human's life brings physical, emotional and social benefits. We owe these fellow creatures who bring so many graces into our lives more responsible care. A fresh approach to the laws and enforcement of the laws that affect our canine and feline companions is necessary if we are to discharge our responsibilities toward them

Monday, October 25, 2010

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday

In June 2008, Portia, Bingley and I began to walk on Tuesday mornings with Marilyn and her pack: Franklin, Hattie and Ruby. Ruby was the oldest of the hounds and by far the smallest. It wasn't long before I began to call her Ruby Tuesday. Even when our walk days changed to Monday, I still thought of her as Ruby Tuesday.

Until Marilyn adopted her, Ruby's life was not pleasant. But she wasn't one to protest her lot. She was quiet and unassuming. Portia insisted on deference. Franklin likes to show off. Bingley will suddenly race for a rabbit. Hattie can be a little touchy when her ailments are bothering her. Magic is exploring her Inner Princess and lets us all know if she is not receiving the attention she thinks she deserves. But Ruby was always sweet tempered, tolerated Bingley's persistent attention, never showed jealousy, and could be counted on to be a compliant member of the pack.

Ruby was in kidney failure for quite some time. Then about six weeks ago, her condition became acute, and the vet told Marilyn that Ruby's days were numbered. But even though she was desperately ill, Ruby still enjoyed her walks and insisted on going.

Over the last few weeks, we have watched as Ruby literally became skin and bones. Last week she wasn't the first dog to ask for a rest. She seemed determined to keep up with the pack. But we left early in order to spare her. We hoped to see her this week. We hoped that she would live until her eleventh birthday on November 1. But Sunday, October 25th, she was so ill, she clearly needed help to cross the Rainbow Bridge.

She has now joined Portia. I like to think that she and Portia are getting re-acquainted and that Portia is showing Ruby around her new home.

Our deepest condolences go out to Marilyn, Jerry, Franklin and Hattie. Thank you, Marilyn and Jerry for giving Ruby the best years of her life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What We Do For Love

The song says It Never Rains In Southern California, which, of course is true some years and very untrue other years. I would have sworn that it never rains in October in Southern California, but this year is an exception. AND, we "never" have thunder storms in Southern California, but this year has been an exception. Last night we had a sustained thunder and lightening storm. Nothing by Kansas City or D.C. standards, but impressive for us.

And terrifying for poor Bingley. At 2am, he woke us up, whimpering and shaking. There is something profoundly sad about trying to comfort a powerful 80 pound dog who is pacing, panting and trembling with fear.

Bingley isn't a snuggler. He sometimes sits in front of me and asks to be petted. But even when he hops up on the sofa next to me, he maintains a little distance. Last night, he did let me rub his ears and head during the worst of the storm. But, mostly, he just wanted me to be close by. He finally agreed to settle down in his bed if I would sit on the floor next to him.

Magic has her own issues, but she shares none of Bingley's fears of thunder and lightening. She did stir herself to nose in for a little attention, but got bored and went back to sleep.

The storm finally passed about 3:15 this morning, when I was able to crawl back into bed until the alarm rang at 5:00.

Thunderstorms are in the forecast for today and tomorrow. I'm keeping a close watch on the radar map.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Gottcha Day, Bingley!

Three years ago today, the Chief Rescuer of Greyhound Adoption Center opened the doors of a dog hauler and found five dogs. Two were dead. Three had survived. One of those dogs was Bingley.

He had begun his racing career winning a race in Florida before his second birthday. Eventually, he was shipped to Arizona. After Bingley had lost a few races, he was sold to a gambling man who thought he could make money running his own string of dogs. Five racing Greyhounds are not cheap to keep. Food costs money. Dogs need a lot of water to stay hydrated in a hot hauler being driven across the Arizona and California deserts.

The dogs were rescued just in time. Nine days later, fires swept through San Diego County. Greyhound Adoption Center's kennel had to be evacuated and rescues were put on hold.

Thank you, Chief Rescuer! Thank you all of the staff and volunteers of Greyhound Adoption Center. We wouldn't have wanted to miss having Bingley in our lives.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


It's strange, isn't it, how something will be outside one's range of awareness and interest, then it quickly comes to one's attention from more than one source?

Confession: I have never found the Chihuahua to be an appealing breed. My stereotype of them has been of a small, yapping dog who is more than likely to defy any attempt at training.

But, slowly, over the past five years or so, I have become more and more aware of their serious plight, of the great suffering of many Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes.

At least once a week, I check out the dogs available for adoption at Pet Orphans of Southern California.

It's a sentimental thing with me. Pet Orphans was Daphne's, our first rescue's, Alma Mater. I hold the kind, caring people there in high esteem and I cheer every time one of their rescues finds a forever home.

Pet Orphans takes dogs of all breeds and mixes. But what I began to observe over the past few years was the comparatively high proportion of Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes among their dogs available for adoption. It also seemed to me that many of these dogs waited an appreciable length of time before finding homes. I began to realize that Chihuahuas were a breed in considerable distress.

Then, about a year ago, a kind animal lover sent me the picture of a particularly beautiful long haired, blue merle Chihuahua. This lovely, carefully bred creature was in desperate need of a home asap. Another indication of Chihuahua distress.

Then, just this past Sunday, John called my attention to a book mentioned in the San Diego Union Tribune: A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life. The author, Steven Kotler, was signing books at Warwick's in La Jolla last night. There was no way I could go, so I did the next best thing and looked Kotler up on the net. It turns out that he and his wife run a dog rescue in New Mexico: Rancho de Chihuahua. These are people who are serious about doing something for the Chihuahua's plight. I urge you to click around their site and educate yourself about the special needs of these tiny, indomitable dogs.

Then, in case I wasn't getting the message, it was underlined for me last night as I was walking Bingley and Magic just before bedtime. A car was moving slowly down the street. When it came opposite us, the driver stopped and rolled down his window.

"Excuse me, m'am. Have you seen a very small dog?"

My immediate reaction was Thank Heavens I have not seen a loose, very small dog! It's one of my biggest nightmares as I walk two high prey sight hounds.

But I didn't share that reaction. I asked for a description.

Surprise, Surprise. The lost, loose dog was a Chihuahua.


But, gentle reader, I restrained myself. I asked how the little dog had gotten loose.

It seems the the man was "dog sitting" three Chihuahuas. He had left them alone in his backyard for a sufficiently lengthy time that they had dug under his fence and wandered off. The other two had been found, but one little girl was still loose. The last sighting had been down the hill along the edge of a busy four lane street.

All paws are crossed this morning, hoping and praying that the little dog was found, that the owner has now learned to screen his "dog sitter" more carefully, and that the "dog sitter" now knows better than to leave a dog unattended in his back yard.

Meanwhile, lovers of this beleaguered breed are doing all they can. A local rescue is: Chihuahua Rescue of San Diego Friends of Portia send you a Big Thank You!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pleasant News Break

The worlds of rescue and leash laws are sometimes satisfying, but too often they are frustrating and unhappy.

But loving owners and caring "dog people" are bright spots.

Not long ago, the owner of the fabulous knit shop, Yarning for You, the one and only Diva Debra, suffered a family loss that required an extended trip Back East. She was fretting about what to do with the family's beloved Lab, Molly, who is getting on in years and is not accustomed to change--much less being without family members.

Debra had heard me rave about Windsong and decided to board Molly there. As anyone who loves and cares for a closely attached dog, Debra was worried about how Molly would adjust in new surroundings.

Well. It turns out that Molly had a wonderful time romping and playing with some new found friends at Windsong under the supervision of Mike, Michelle and Jessica.

The physical surroundings of Windsong make it possible for them to provide the quality of care that they do for their boarders, but the most important factor is that they really know and understand dogs' behavior and needs. Mike's family were "dog people"--breeding and showing Whippets and running a boarding kennel. So when Mike takes your dog(s) into his care, you can relax, knowing that a true "dog person" is looking after your beloved companion.

Mike judges Hounds and Terriers in A.K.C shows. If you get a chance, you can catch him in this role at the Oklahoma City Kennel Club Dog Show, San Diego Channel 6, XETV, Sunday, October 10 at 2p.m. Just wait about 10 minutes until the Hounds take the ring.

He'll also be judging the Terriers at the National Dog Show/Philadelphia Kennel Club, which will air on November 25 on NBC TV at 12pm

I wonder if Bingley and Magic will recognize Mike on TV?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Problem

It's been a while since I have addressed the Hydra, Medusa--choose your metaphor--of dog overpopulation, irresponsible or naive dog owners, archaic laws, over burdened, underfunded agencies and burned out humane and rescue workers in San Diego County.

It is always the case that the most dependent in a society are the first to suffer the impact of any disruption or emergency. The financial difficulties which the entire country is experiencing are even more severe in California. People are still losing their jobs and homes. Basic veterinary care is a serious financial burden for too many pet owners. Naive or unscrupulous people decide to earn money by breeding "designer dogs." People acquire a darling puppy on impulse and discover that shots, neutering, flea and heartworm control cost more than they ever dreamed.

Public and private rescue organizations are filled to the max with animals who wait and wait and wait for homes, acquiring "issues" if they are not lucky enough to have been rescued by an organization with adequate facilities and care. The most unlucky are euthanized.

Too many people fail to educate themselves on the inbred characteristics of the breed of dog they choose. Chihuahuas are small dogs, but they are NOT eager to please their humans. Labs and Goldens become ideal family pets, IF they do not destroy the family home before they outgrow puppyhood. Some breeds are suitable as "first dogs." Bichons, Miniature Poodles, Pugs, for example. Some breeds are suitable only for people with "dog experience."

All of the dog training shows on television are riveting. BUT, few people have the time and patience to train their dogs to the high level of probability of obedience that television trainers receive from their students. "My dog always obeys me," are words that are not worth the breath it takes to say them.

Many people--many with dogs--have lifestyles that are essentially incompatible with responsible dog ownership.

Dog over-population, a broken system of dog law enforcement, crowded shelters, burned out professional and volunteer rescuers, lead to lives of pain and misery for too many of Man's Best Friends.

The sad, danger-filled lives of hundreds of thousands of dogs is a national disgrace. Localized factors represent unique variations of the problem.

San Diego is a large county, both in terms of people and square miles. It includes cities, towns, suburbs, ranch land, desert, mountains, beaches. It is home to the super rich, middle class, and poor. We have a mind-boggling number of nationalities and languages which represent widely differing cultures and customs.

San Diego County population tripled between 1960 and 2009.

But we still expect San Diego Animal Control to monitor dog/human laws and provide for the general welfare of the majority of domestic animals in the county.

In 2007, it became apparent in San Marcos that this system was not working, when the City Council decided to contract with Escondido Humane Society for services that San Diego County Animal Control had previously provided.

The reasons for this decision were understandable. Animal Control costs were skyrocketing. Quality of service was deteriorating. It seemed that any change would be an improvement.

It wasn't.

Systems theory predicts that a "solution" to a problem that does not address the salient causes of the problem, creates five new problems, each worse than the initial problem.

It has taken less than four years to see this prediction played out for dog law enforcement in San Marcos--indeed, in much of North San Diego County.

Costs of enforcement have continued to skyrocket. Enforcement has continued to deteriorate. And now, Escondido Humane Society--a non-profit, whose original purpose was to educate the public about domestic animals' needs, rescue unwanted and neglected animals and place them in loving homes--has become dependent upon contracts with cities and other jurisdictions for law enforcement: a task for which they are clearly unsuited. Furthermore, San Diego County Animal Control is so overwhelmed that San Marcos cannot look to it for any improvement in leash law enforcement.

Meanwhile, walking a dog on-leash in San Marcos is not an activity for the unwary or the faint at heart.

As an old friend of mine used to say when confronted with a mess, "Something has GOT to be DONE!"

To be continued.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Five years ago today, John and I adopted our first Greyhound: Zephyr. I really want to tell her story, but this is going to be difficult, because tears are running down my face and the screen is getting blurry.

I have loved all my dogs and have mourned the passing of all the dogs I have lost. Every dog is unique. Every dog has brought particular graces into my life.

But Zephyr was an Incomparable.

Mame was a Grande Duchess. Champers was a Good Soldier. Daphne was a Free Spirit. Britches, Portia were Princesses--as is Magic. Bingley is a Good Old Cowboy.

Zephyr was a Queen.

But when we were introduced to Zephyr at Greyhound Adoption Center, we had no idea that we were meeting Royalty. Her eyes were bloodshot. Her coat was dull. She did not look us in the eye. She wasn't even close to my idea of a Greyhound. She was BIG. She was dark--almost black--brindle. She didn't even let her ears flop sideways in the adorable way of most Greyhounds.

The first dog presented to us, she was totally lacking in animation, but leaned against me as other dogs were brought out for our consideration. While the other dogs romped and played, Zephyr just stood there, leaning.

I felt no connection, no attraction to her. But John and I looked at each other and said, "This must be the dog. The others are ignoring us."

We began to fill out the adoption papers when one of the other dogs came over and tried to tell us that we should forget the dull, over-sized girl and adopt him. But by that time, we couldn't reject the quiet, detached, but dignified creature we had named Zephyr.

This is her story.

Her racing name was Bella Rita Pita. She raced in Tuscon and was a winner. She was accustomed to beating the boys and coming in first. But time took its toll, and the first place finishings became less frequent. She was shipped to The End of the Line for American racing Greyhounds: Caliente in Tijuana.

Many rescue organizations do not bother with older, dark dogs, because they are the most difficult to place in adoptive homes. Fortunately, Greyhound Adoption Center gives these dogs a chance, and in October of 2004, Zephyr was rescued.

In January, 2005, Zephyr was adopted and became the companion of an older gentleman, who was in failing health. She spent her days by his side, watching television.

In early February the man's family became concerned when they had not heard from him for a few days. When they opened his apartment door, they discovered that he had been dead for at least two days. Zephyr was lying beside him, still keeping him company.

An experienced Greyhound adopter wanted to adopt Zephyr, but she had a cat, and Zephyr was absolutely NOT cat safe. So she went back to the rescue kennel and waited until June, when she was adopted again.

She became the third Greyhound in a household with two male Greyhounds. By mid-July, it was clear that no house was big enough for Zephyr and two other Greyhounds. Back she went to the rescue kennel, where she stayed until September 17, 2005, when we brought her home.

As we had been instructed, we took her on a tour of our house. She inspected the rooms, apparently looking for something. Finally, when she came to my study, she saw the television. She relaxed a little and hopped up on the love seat. She had found her spot and knew her "job". Whenever one of us watched television, we had a silent companion.

For six months, Zephyr was a quiet presence in our home. She let us know when she was hungry. She let us know when she needed a walk. She suffered raging diarrhea, but never had an accident in the house. She patiently ate the food we fed her until we finally discovered something that cleared up the diarrhea.

She was due for dental and blood work. She had to have eight teeth extracted, the result of years of being fed lowest grade beef--sometimes through a racing muzzle. We discovered that her thyroid function was almost non-existent. She was placed on heavy thyroid replacement. She began to shed, and shed and shed.

Meanwhile, she made friends during her walks. Neighborhood children ran out to greet her and she stood patiently as they petted her.

Then, one day, after she had lived with us for six months, she looked me in the eye for the first time. I realized that I had passed a test. From that day on, she let John and me know that we were her people. We were among the honored.

The shedding stopped. Her new coat was unique among Greyhounds, not only lustrous, but soft as duck down. The white of her tuxedo markings sparkled. Her eyes were clear and bright and her ears were always pricked and alert.

She walked with new confidence, treating each walk as a victory lap, accepting the admiration and praise of her fans. If we passed a house where some of her admirers lived and they failed to come out to greet her, she slowed and looked for them, not wanting to deprive anyone the treat of meeting her.

If she spied a friend walking toward her, she pranced and shook her head flirtatiously. Sometimes she did that with strangers who didn't know what to do about a VERY big, black dog accosting them in such a strange way. I would explain as best I could and encourage them to give her a pat or two. A Queen expects homage from her subjects.

I expected to grow old with Zephyr. She would have been a Grand Aging Monarch.

But it was not to be. Shorty after her second anniversary of living with us, she was struck with osteo sarcoma. She died as she had lived: with courage, dignity and style. That story deserves to be told. But I cannot bear to tell it right now.

Today, September 17 is a day for happy memories. The anniversary of the day Zephyr honored us by deciding to take a chance on us to be her humans.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Memories, 9-11-01

Shortly after 6am, Pacific Time, I was awakened by a phone call from my daughter, who lives in Mountain Time. I could scarcely absorb what she was telling me. New York City and Washington, D.C. were under attack. "Turn on the T.V., Mother!"

Not until I have walked the dog. I'll deal with it after I have walked the dog.

The dog was Daphne, our first rescue. The charming outcome of a mix of a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and a sight hound--Whippet or Greyhound, I was never sure. We had adopted her in April, 2001 and were quite unprepared for the "issues" of a dog who had been abandoned on the streets of L.A. as a puppy, who had been adopted and rejected by two families, and had spent two years in a rescue kennel. She wasn't eager to share anything, space or food. I had never before had a dog who was so possessive of toys, gathering them together, noticing if one was missing, guarding them as treasures.

In numb disbelief, I threw on some clothes, leashed Daphne, took her for an extended walk and reluctantly returned home.

I really didn't want to turn on the T.V. I really didn't want to know for sure what was happening on the other side of the country. But denial was too hard to maintain. I settled in for what turned out to be hours of unbelieving monitoring of horror. As I watched, tears blurring my vision, I felt a damp nudge on my leg. I looked down into Daphne's face. She was holding her most prized toy in her mouth, a well-licked peachy pink Dolphin that she had picked off a display the first time I took her to a pet supply store.

"Here. Take this. It always makes me feel better. It will make you feel better, too."

Daphne stayed right by me during that terrible day. And each time I gave way to tears, she brought another one of her treasures to me. She had given me her entire collection by the end of the day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bingley!

Today, Bingley is seven years old! He joined our family on February 16, 2008. We hadn't planned to get a second dog after acquiring Portia, but we quickly realized that a dog of Portia's energy, intelligence and deviousness needed a canine companion. Bingley was her perfect foil. Always ready to play. Always good natured about having toys stolen from him. Always ready to forgive and forget and start over.

Bingley survived the vicious attack that took Portia's life on July 7, 2009. His mourning for his lost playmate was heart breaking.

On November 20 of last year, Magic came to live with us. Poor Bingley was truly puzzled by her at first. He kept expecting Magic to act like Portia. But Magic is very different from Portia--every bit as feminine, every bit as devious, but lower energy and far more subtle.

She didn't know how to play with toys when she arrived. Slowly, Bingley taught her how. She has been an apt pupil. Just this morning, she stole Harvey, Bingley's rabbit, away from him and draped an elegant paw over Clyde the bear, just to let Bingley know who was boss. Good Old Boy Bingley let Magic have Harvey, but he did persist in pulling Clyde out from under Magic's paw. When Magic tired of Harvey, Bingley reclaimed him. No harm. No foul. That's our boy Bingley.

We hope and pray Bingley lives to a very ripe old age. If sweet temper is the key to longevity, he'll be around a very long time.

Happy, Happy Birthday, Bingley!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Welcome September

I think the Jews are on to something, celebrating the New Year in September. September always has the feel of a fresh start: the beginning of the school year--at least for those few remaining school systems that wait to take up classes until after Labor Day--and slightly shorter days, which give promise to the end of summer heat. Although this summer in San Diego County was wonderfully temperate, we remain vigilant for heat and winds. Our worst Santa Anas--and, Heaven Help Us, fires--usually come in late September or October.

John is on the mend, using a cane only for difficult maneuvers. He is accompanying Bingley, Magic and me on our nightly walks, although he isn't quite up to taking one of the leashes. Soon, though, I think he will.

Last week, Magic had her annual shots and complete physical with blood work. Her lab results were "perfect." She can put on an impressive display of anxiety, but she is a healthy doggie. For which we are very, very grateful. She continues to explore her inner princess. Who would believe that our opinionated little lady who insists on being first spent four years in an outdoor cage, exposed to summer heat and winter cold with no loving care? I'm beginning to think that her proper name is Lady Me Me.

Bingley continues to be Bingley. Sweet tempered but always ready to give chase. Our street has been occupied by a family of rabbits. It is one of the true sadnesses of Bingley's life that he cannot be permitted to fulfill his inborn destiny and pursue them all. But he is enjoying new super-tough toys: Harvey the Rabbit and Clyde the Bear. So far, both are living up to the claims made by the catalog, In the Company of Dogs. Magic occasionally pays Harvey and Clyde a little bit of attention by tucking them under her chin. Adorable.

Meanwhile the needs of our canine companions continue to challenge all of their human care givers and well wishers. Too many dogs are being bred. Too many humans acquire dogs without consideration for the basic responsibilities that come with dog ownership. Too many people thoughtlessly permit their dogs to roam off leash, risking the safety of their dogs, other people's dogs, and the humans that might happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Friends of Portia is back from summer vacation, ready once more to be a voice for sanity and responsibility in the care of that great gift to human beings: our sweet, funny, knowing, mysterious, courageous, forgiving, trusting, irreplaceable and sadly vulnerable dogs.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blogging Hiatus

An explanation is in order for the hiatus in blogging.

I could explain that I am of French extraction and tout le monde knows that the French go on Holiday for the entire month of August.

But I've already mentioned that John had a knee replacement.

So. I have been exercising whatever aptitude I might have in the area of home nursing. The pups have made their adjustment to strange appliances and machines. And I have more respect than I can express for people who take care of infirm loved ones over protracted periods of time.

John is on the mend. But blogging will continue to be light for the month of August.

P.S. The other Big Event on August 6 was an expedition to the skilled nursing facility where John was receiving physical therapy before coming home. With the help of my friend, Zoe, Bingley and Magic paid a visit to John. They were well behaved, but I don't think anyone mistook them for trained therapy dogs. Thanks to Zoe for making the trip possible.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Happy Day!

I have been waiting for August 6, 2010 for some time. Just how long is hard for me to pinpoint. Let me explain.

Penny, my first dog, and Mame, Champers and Britches, John's and my first three dogs were pedigreed. Pure-bred dogs whose births were planned, who were well cared for while still in utero. Penny lived to within a month of her 16th birthday. Mame lived beyond her 16th birthday. Champers died "young" just shy of his 13th birthday as a result of an vicious attack 18 months earlier. Britches lived beyond her 16th birthday.

I had this crazy notion that a dog's normal life expectancy was 16 years.

Then we started to adopt rescues.

Our first rescue, Daphne, a Wheaten/Whippet--or, perhaps, Greyhound--was 3 when we adopted her. I expected to have her for 13 years. A few months after her 7th birthday, she hopped up on the love seat in the living room for an afternoon nap. Forty minutes later, John and I called her for a walk. She didn't move. She was already in rigor. I was still in shock over her loss when we adopted our next rescue.

Zephyr was 4 1/2 when we brought her home--a very large, dark brindle retired racing Greyhound. When she was restored to health, she tipped the scales at 97 pounds. She was a dignified, courageous dog. I figured that Zephyr would grow old with me. But she had the bad fortune to get osteo sarcoma--and died exactly one month before she would have turned 7.

Our next rescue was Portia, for whom this blog is named. Her life was cut short by a vicious attack. She had just celebrated her 4th birthday.

Now we have Bingley and Magic. We will never know Magic's exact age for certain. We have declared her birthday to be July 15, 2004, which makes her 6.

Bingley's birthday is tattooed in his ear. September 5, 2003. He will be 7 years old on September 5 of this year. Today, he is one day older than Zephyr was when she died. I have been waiting for this day. Perhaps, I will finally have a dog who will grow old with me.

I live in hope.

August 11 will be another important day for Bingley. It will be the 5th anniversary of his very first race. He won it. Poor baby wasn't even two years old.

We will celebrate today in a unique way. More on that later.

Happy Day, Bingley and Magic!

But, in many ways, every day with a rescued dog is a Happy Day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

With A Little Help....

Blogging has taken a week's hiatus because John had his left knee replaced last Tuesday. The good news is that he had a skilled surgeon who operates in a hospital that has a surgical floor dedicated to orthopedic and neurological patients. However, the hospital is at least 25 miles from our house. To get there, one must travel Interstate 5. Del Mar Racetrack is now running. It too, is accessed from Interstate 5, between our house and Scripps Memorial Hospital. I spent quantity, if not quality time on the freeway going back and forth to the hospital.

When planning for this past week, John and I quickly realized that we needed help with Bingley and Magic. Once more, we have reason to thank our lucky stars for Windsong.

A week ago, I delivered my treasured canine companions to the care of Mike, Michelle, and Jessica, knowing that they not only would have their basic needs attended to in a safe place, but that they would be given love and attention--and the treat that they enjoy above all others--the chance to run, run, run in a large fenced in space.

I have just brought Bingley and Magic home, freshly groomed and happy. Bingley has appropriated the preferred location on the love seat across the room from where I type. Magic has stretched out in the doorway, catching the soft cross draft from open windows.

Once again, I cannot recommend Windsong highly enough. Good friends of Friends of Portia recently boarded FOUR Miniature Dachshunds at Windsong for ten days. These are people who spent years without a real getaway vacation because they could not face putting their dogs in a regular kennel. Having Windsong for their dogs has changed all that.

It's wonderful to have Windsong there for travel and vacations. But, it is even more important to have them for stressful situations. Like major surgery!

John's surgery was a success. He's learning to use his spiffy new titanium knee. And I could be with him during this past week's events without worrying about Bingley and Magic.

I am very, very grateful.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Great News!

The wonderful Alle is on the mend. Take a look at her and tell me she isn't Heaven material. But not yet. Thank Heavens!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Do Dogs Go To Heaven?

One of my daily visits in the blogsphere is to The Anchoress. Yesterday and today, she has been dealing with the illness of her beloved Border Collie, Alle.

As the name of her blog implies, The Anchoress is a devout Roman Catholic, so it is not surprising that the discussion threads on her posts about Alle deal with what happens to our beloved pets when they breathe their last and leave us in a state of some of the most painful mourning we can experience. Just the thought of that pain is bringing tears that are now blurring the screen as I type.

Being stuck in Anglican Ambiguity between Protestant and Catholic, I find it difficult to articulate a Strong Theological Argument for a position on whether or not dogs--or cats--or fish, or hamsters, for that matter--will be in heaven.

But I do find comfort in the writings of the lay person's Anglican Authority on Difficult Religious Questions, C.S. Lewis. The work in which he deals with the Hereafter is The Great Divorce, and I do believe, there is a particularly grand horse in Heaven in that book.

So if horses are admitted to Heaven, I assume dogs and cats are too. And could Heaven be Heaven without birds?

Whatever your persuasion, if so inclined, take a moment and say a prayer for the recovery of of the Wonderful Alle, and for The Anchoress and her family as they endure the uncertainty that comes with the illness of a beloved pet.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ooops! An Important Date for Magic Passed

Things have been a little hectic around here, but that's really no excuse. We missed an important anniversary for Our Girl, Magic. On July 15, 2008, Magic, two of her puppies, Morgan and Merlin, and the puppies' ex-racer Greyhound father, Mystery, were rescued from outdoor cages in the High Desert of California. A week later, a third of Magic's puppies, Mackey, was also rescued. All five dogs are now living as beloved pets.

Since we have no record of Magic's birth, we have decided to give her an Official Birthday--something like the Queen's. So, we hereby declare July 15, 2010 to be Magic's Sixth Birthday.

Happy Rescue Day, Magic!

Happy Birthday, Magic!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Unleashed Report

Even as our household observed a formal week of mourning for Portia, a beautiful Greyhound who died needlessly because:

1.A neighbor carelessly let his dog out of the yard while rolling a trash can to the curb in front of his house.

2. Our Leash Law Authority had imposed NO penalty WHATSOEVER on the SAME DOG, SAME NEIGHBOR less than three years earlier when the SAME DOG ravaged our great Greyhound, Zephyr,

purposely unleashed dogs continue to be potential threats to themselves and others here in our little suburban city.

These dogs are frequently under the "care" of humans who declare, "My dog ALWAYS obeys me!"

I pause here, dear reader, to let you ponder the IDIOCY of such a declaration.

In another case, major injury was sustained by a dog whose adult owners stated that their children had been left to care for said dog--and its companion. We're talking HUSKIES, not Toy Poodles or Shih Tzus. But then, I also have neighbors who think that children can adequately supervise a MASTIFF.

The first instance of unleashed dogs involved two Huskies. Friends of Friends of Portia might recall a Husky puppy who cried pitifully on Thanksgiving Eve and shortly thereafter through an afternoon and early evening. My repeated calls to Escondido Humane Society resulted in an officer being sent to the Husky's home to counsel the family on the responsibilities of dog ownership.

Evidently, the family's solution to the problem was to purchase a second Husky to keep the first one company. That solution worked--as far as the crying Husky was concerned.

However. Confining TWO young Huskies in a back yard for long periods of time is not the job for children.

Two Friends Of This Blog and true dog lovers were on their way one evening to pick up another friend from the airport. They had had just turned onto the main road out of our sub-division when they witnessed two Huskies running across the four lane, divided road, right into the path of an oncoming car. The Husky who had cried all Thanksgiving Eve was hit, resulting in multiple injuries, including a broken pelvis. My friends facilitated rescuing the dog and getting him to emergency veterinary care.

The good news is that the dog will survive. The hope is that this episode will motivate his owners to take a serious look at their responsibilities as dog owners. Meanwhile, there is one traumatized car driver who did all she could to stop in time. But laws of physics are laws of physics.

Same Friends of Portia. Same major thoroughfare. A Sunday morning and my friends were walking their three Miniature Dachshunds on a pedestrian path that runs parallel to four lanes of traffic.

Who should appear, but Marilyn's and my old acquaintance from Tuesday morning walks in the park. On this occasion, he was accompanied by his wife/lady friend and his Herding Dog--off leash! Is there some macho issue about walking your dog on-leash in the presence of your love interest?

My friends scooped up their little dogs and reminded the man that he was in violation of San Marcos Leash Laws. He insisted that all the law requires is that the dog be "properly restrained", and his was, because (you guessed it)"My dog always obeys me."

Too bad my friends had not witnessed this man chasing madly after the dog "who always obeys him" the day that the dog was chasing Mallards in the park.

Fast forward to the next Tuesday morning. Same man. Same dog. Marilyn and I were finishing our walk, but looked across the park to see The Man Whose Dog Always Obeys Him, chasing after his dog--who had seen a rabbit.

We laughed. But if timing had been different, things might have been very, very bad indeed. Five Greyhounds on leash, one Herding Dog off leash plus one rabbit is a recipe for disaster.

Two days later, I went to pick up my car after a lube and oil change. As I was driving out of the parking lot, a handsome Pit Bull walked out in front of my car from behind a dumpster container. I needed to get home and start dinner, but I have resolved never to ignore a loose dog. So I began to make inquiries.

A young man at a nearby business told me, yes, the dog in question was their "Shop Dog."

I informed him that letting the dog run loose was breaking the law and suggested that the "Shop Dog" needed to stay in the shop.

The young man shrugged off my suggestion. But he was sufficiently concerned to inform the dog's owner, who emerged from the shop as I was returning to my car.

"Is there a problem?" he asked me.

"Yes," I replied. "You are breaking the law by letting your dog run loose. He's a fine, handsome dog, but he needs to be leashed or confined. If I see him loose again, I'll report you."

"He's not hurting anything, and besides, (by this time, I knew what he would say next) "My Dog Always Obeys Me."

He attempted to demonstrate this assertion by calling the dog, who trotted away in the opposite direction.

"That does it," I said. "I'll report you as soon as I get home."

And, dear reader, that is what I did. I waited patiently through the mind numbing decision tree of my Local Leash-Law Authority. Heard no option that fit what I needed. Finally chose what seemed to be the likeliest number and--miracle of miracles--a Live Human Voice answered.

After questioning me closely to ascertain that The Authority would not be wasting its time by intervening, the person at the other end of the line determined that Action Was Needed. She is sending the Pit Bull's owner a letter! I will also be receiving a letter informing me of their action. Soon I will be able to paper the walls of my study with letters I receive in response to my calls to The Authority.

Yesterday, Marilyn and I walked our dogs in the park. We saw the man with the Herding Dog on the other side of the park. They were too far for me to see clearly. The dog might have been loose or might have been leashed on a long, retractable leash, which is over the legal length in San Marcos. But The Authority has informed me that they are unable to enforce that part of the law.

Then, as we were putting our dogs in our cars in preparation for departure, another man appeared with a large mixed breed dog on the end of a long retractable leash. As I was driving away, I saw the man remove the leash and begin what appeared to be obedience lessons with the dog.

Marilyn and I had seen two rabbits in the park, not far from where the man was training his dog off-leash.

Call me uncharitable, but I left without warning the man. One unleashed dog and two rabbits just might provide him with a valuable lesson that His Dog Does NOT Always Obey Him.

I live in hope.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dog Parks

Read any magazine for dog owners, or even some travel magazines, and you will discover articles about "Dog Friendly Cities, Towns, Communities." There are "Dog Friendly" resorts. The translation of "Dog Friendly" is: "It's OK To Let Your Dog Run Around Off Leash."

Off-leash parks and beaches are represented as ultimate Nirvana for both dogs and their people. The image is of dogs of all breeds and sizes frolicking joyfully together as their people chat about the latest in doggie toys and treats and set up play dates for their pooches. Not exactly the Utopia of the Lion lying down by the Lamb, but getting close.

The intrinsic problem with this image is admitted by some off-leash dog parks that have separated areas for "small dogs" and "large dogs". At least this arrangement is a nod to the realities of potential dog behavior, but it's just a nod. The fact is, there are serious reasons why many dogs should NEVER be let loose in an off-leash dog park. Let's look at some of those reasons.

1. A very small dog is a very vulnerable dog. PERHAPS there is a small dog off-leash park available where your 4 pound Maltese can gambol about with other tiny, delicate creatures. But letting a small dog "play" with anything but the smallest of toy breeds is like bringing pizza to a group of teenage boys and asking them to ignore it.

2. Inherent, bred-in instincts of your breed. "Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly." Terriers and hounds were bred to kill--or chase and kill. Some dogs--you know the breeds--were originally bred to fight other dogs. Some dogs were developed to be guard dogs. With the exception of our first dog, Mame, a five pound Toy Poodle, all of John's and my dogs have been terriers or hounds. They have been wonderful companions and I would not want to have missed the presence of one of them in my life. But terriers and hounds are Serious Dogs. Beneath the blonde, wavy coat of a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, under the elegant lines of a Greyhound, lies the potential to attack and kill with efficiency and--let's be honest--joyful enthusiasm.

3. Other physical vulnerabilities. The first of these that comes to mind is a very thin skin covering. Having been a Greyhound person for a number of years, I have seen first hand the havoc that can be inflicted when a Greyhound is bitten by another dog. Indeed, Portia died as the result of one horrific bite that ripped a ten inch diameter wound that could not be closed, even with state of the art veterinary care, before her courageous heart stopped beating. Even in non-fatal wounds, days of care for a dog who has suffered an attack by another dog is a painful and exhausting ordeal for both dog and human. In addition to more stitches than I could count, Zephyr had four drains that had to be treated with warm compresses several times a day following an attack by an off-leash dog who was set loose to relieve himself on neighbors' lawns.

4. Individual dog history. I am completely dedicated to rescuing and re-homing dogs who have been abandoned, lost, or mistreated. I have had five rescued dogs as my companions, two of which live with me now. There are many advantages in rescuing an older dog. Given my age, I doubt that I will ever again tackle the challenge of a puppy. For me, walking Greyhounds is NOTHING compared with the task of civilizing a baby canine. HOWEVER. The fact is: EVERY rescued dog has some baggage that is not always apparent until some event triggers a hidden memory for the dog. Until your rescued dog has lived with you for a while and you have observed it under a variety of circumstances, until you have established mutual trust and have established general behavioral expectations, don't even THINK about taking your dog to a Dog Park. In my experience, six months is not too long to wait to really know what your rescued dog's personality and behavioral repertoire are like.

I am not advocating the closure of off-leash parks and beaches. For one thing, it's not a realistic proposal. The conviction on the part of what seems to me to be the majority of dog owners that dogs MUST be permitted to play off leash in places other than their own yards requires such facilities. Even many dog trainers encourage off-leash exercise by insisting that dogs can be trained to reliably obey commands when unconfined and off-leash. All I can say about that is, my faith in the Tooth Fairy is stronger than my faith in any dog's 100% obedience. I once held my breath and prayed while a highly trained, off-leash police dog eyed my two Greyhounds and hesitated to follow his trainer's order to get into his squad car.

I do believe that people who love their dogs deserve more education and caution before they merrily let their dogs loose in a dog park. Call me overly cautious, but I shudder to think of any group other than Sporting, and, perhaps, some Herding and the occasional Working breeds regularly visiting an off-leash park.

My daughter's Lab is a dog that is a perfect Dog Park Dog. Georgia has thick skin with a layer of protective fat that is characteristic of her breed. She barks at other dogs, but is not dog aggressive. She is a RETRIEVER, not a killer. In short, Georgia is the sort of dog for which off-leash dog parks are ideal.

On Thursdays, I answer the phone for a local Greyhound rescue. In addition to wrong numbers asking for bus ticket prices, I receive a wide variety of calls. Yesterday I spoke with a woman who will forever be traumatized by an attack in an off-leash dog park that resulted in serious injuries to THREE dogs. Witnessing a dog attack is traumatic. The woman I spoke to will never again be without some fear when she walks her dog. Believe me. I understand TOTALLY. I say a prayer EVERY time I hook up leashes and harnesses on Bingley and Magic.

Would Bingley and Magic like to run free? Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. Bingley and Magic were born to run--and kill. But John and I are the only protection they have in a world that is completely different from the world in which their ancient breed was developed. For their protection and for the protection of other dogs, they will never be let loose in a Dog Park or on a Dog Beach.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Remembering Portia

A year ago today, Portia's heart stopped. And all of the efforts of a determined veterinary operating team could not get it started again.

Portia came to live with us in February, 2008. We had her for less than seventeen months. But her memory will never fade. She was the most challenging of all the dogs of my life: living proof that beauty and brains can go together. She picked up on the most subtle cues that I was planning to leave the house. And she was determined to either stop me or persuade me to take her with me. She could do great mischief in the house--shredding magazines or clothing that John and I had forgotten to put out of her reach. But on her walks, she was the perfect little lady, basking in the compliments of all who paused to comment on her beauty and comportment.

After a day or two of trying to match wits with Portia, John and I agreed that it would be better for her to have a doggy companion on which to focus some of her energy. So we took her back to Greyhound Adoption Center to choose a pal. She played tirelessly with two male Greyhounds. But it was Bingley who looked up at me with his warm brown eyes that said, "Please take me home with you."

There was never a question of who was boss. Portia teased and taunted Bingley for weeks. But he was so good-natured, he was always ready to play--on her terms. After six months, Bingley slowly took back some turf for himself and even though Portia was still the leader, their relationship was a true partnership.

They were complements. Portia reserved misbehavior for in the house. Outdoors, she was perfectly behaved. Bingley is a Good Boy in the house. Outdoors, he is The Great Hunter, constantly on the lookout for something to chase.

With adequate law enforcement, the attack that took Portia's life would not have happened. Not only Portia, but the dog who attacked her, Bingley , John and Zephyr would have been contained after his attack on Zephyr and he also would still be alive.

I cannot bring Portia back. But I pledge to do everything I can do to create a more responsive and realistic approach to leash laws and leash law enforcement in North San Diego County. When I talked about my dream with Marilyn, my Greyhound rescuing friend, she said, "We'll call it 'Portia's Law'."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Fourth--To You And Your Canine Companion(s)

The Fourth of July is one of the happiest days of the year: Parades, patriotic songs, picnics, baseball---and fireworks.

Every year thousands of dogs get lost or killed because their humans forget just how terrifying loud noises can be. A terrified dog can go on a rampage of destruction if left in a house alone. A terrified dog left in a backyard will do everything in its power to escape. Rescues and shelters will have numerous new "guests", come July 5.

One of the first dog-on-dog attacks reported on this blog occurred on July 5, 2009. A Pit Bull chained in its backyard the evening of July 4, broke its chain, escaped its yard, and was still loose the next day to savage a Greyhound being walked on a leash.

Some frightened dogs dash into traffic, resulting in massive injury or even death to the dog--not to mention the trauma to the driver who was unable to stop in time.

So. Unless you know for a fact that your dog is not at all troubled by loud noises, plan ahead. Get home well before dark, when the fireworks shows begin. If your dog's symptoms are severe, discuss a mild tranquilizer with your vet.

We have had dogs with various degrees of reaction to fireworks. On one hand, Champers seemed not to be bothered. Zephyr, on the other hand, panted and paced from the first "bang" until well after the last.

Bingley's reactions vary. And this will be our first Fourth with Magic. We will definitely be home in time to do any paw holding that Bingley and Magic might need.

Have a Happy Fourth! And don't forget your pets.