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