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.