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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Beware of Blog!

The last blog was controversial, and I knew it would be.  I posted all comments, the good, the bad, and the ugly and tried to respond to them in the best way I could.  But it seems my blogs have been featured in some pretty strange places.  It was mentioned in a Craig's List post and at a Listening Post almost two hours away from my home and my business. 

On Craigs List was the following anonymous post, "If you are giving away puppies free to good homes BEWARE.... I just happened to come across a blog written by a VET rescue that stated that they actually lie to get the free puppies to take to their shelters. The gentleman was approached by the rescue to get his free puppies and he said no, so they called him back pretending to be good homes so they could take 4 of his pups. ANY rescue that is willing to out and out lie about who they are makes me wonder what else they lie about. NOT MAking money on these puppies???? IF they really were doing rescue only for the love of helping then they would offer free spay and neuter programs to people and watch how that would help the pet over-population, after all she is a vet, right...If they want to be trusted they had better be trustworthy... "

I think BEWARE is a pretty strong term.  These pups are in a great place with this particular rescue, the only reason I discussed this issue was because I did know the quality of the situation that these dogs were going into.  There are rescues that are really covers for hoarders and collectors that are not good places for animals to go, but this blog was written about a certain group of pups, who went to a particular rescue, and are in a safe place.  I knew the topic of misleading a person, even if the breeding was irresponsible, to get pups into rescue would get some interest and feedback, and that is what I wanted.  I also wanted some insight into why this person would say no to this rescue.  This is a forum for discussion.  However, I would appreciate if the remarks would come as comments to my blog and not be posted on some other website where I cannot respond to the person's remarks.  How cowardly is it to post a remark like this and not put it where the person it is directed toward will find it and respond to it?  How cowardly is it to post a remark like this, hide it on another website, AND not sign your name to it?  Most of the harsh comments I get are from Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous.  Your words are there, but they mean less without a name or identity attached.

To address the "free spay and neuter programs" there are states that do programs such as this but they are usually funded by another source, sometimes governmental, and you have to qualify as low income to get your animal fixed in this program.  But to state that I should just do free spays and neuters is silly.  It costs money to do surgery, to own a building, and to operate a business, and the education cost a fortune!  You go to your boss and tell him or her that you love your job so much that you will work for free from now on.  That will show everyone how dedicated you are, and if you really love it, then you will do it.  Everyone needs money to live, like it or not.  A free spay/neuter program would be wonderful, and I would definitely support it, and hopefully be active in it, but it will not help with overpopulation in a state with over 400 licensed commercial breeders pumping out thousands of puppies and kittens every year.

I was sick this weekend so could not attend the Puppy Mill Listening Post in Carroll IA.  Apparently my blog was a topic of conversation.  If the only way local breeders can distract people from talking about the mass production of puppies and kittens is by taking shots at my blog or my clinic, then you are missing something very important.  The listening post is a place to voice your opinion about legislation that is being presented in the state house.  My clinic is not being presented in the state house.  This blog is not being presented in the state house.  This blog is my personal outlet, my toy, my addiction, my therapy, my fun, my monkey on my back...  Those who write blogs probably know what I mean.  I love writing it, love getting feedback, hate when I cannot think of a topic, hate when I cannot find time to sit down and write. 

If you don't like what I have to say, then don't read it, and certainly don't post comments on some other forum.   I have been supportive of the legislation, but have not villified any particular breeders.  So why are you targeting me?  I have not targetted you.   If I were to shut my doors tomorrow, it would not change the legislation.  And the legislation will only affect those at the bottom of the barrel.  If you are a quality breeder, let the legislation affect the sludge, and increase your sales by eliminating the low quality competition.

Those local breeders ranting about me are going to be upset when the bill passes and all they have done is shoot down my blog, rather than convince people that there are good quality breeding facilities out there and that they are among them.  That is what you should be doing.

http://www.globegaz articles/ 2009/11/18/ news/latest/ doc4b038852e4322 462418570. txt#vmix_ media_id= 7382064

Showing up at a discussion regarding a legislative effort, and ranting about me, my blog, my clinic, etc, is like going into a Victoria Secrets and having a fit because the tools you bought at Sears don't work...  You are in the wrong place and you just look silly.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Free to Good Home...

In animal rescue, we run into problems. Financial problems? We got those. Staffing problems? We got those. Volunteer problems? We got those. Shortage of homes problems? We got those. Overabundance of animals problems? We got those. Up to your knees in poop problems? We got those. People unwilling to give their "Free to Good Home" animal to a rescue problem? We got those!

When rescue people see ads for animals "Free to a Good Home", most rescues jump on them if they have room in their program. "Free to Good Home" pets are rarely given ONLY to good homes. If you walk in for a pup, you walk away with a pup, no reference checks, no applications, nothing. The owners are often just eager to get rid of the pesky buggars. No matter how cute they are, an entire litter of puppies or kittens can cause a lot of mess that needs constant cleaning. The owners just want to get rid of the issue, get rid of the mess, and clean for the last time.

I was working at another veterinary hospital, and we had a client that owned a commercial breeding facility. He is a very nice guy and we get along just fine despite my general concern for the quality of animal care in these commercial breeding facilities. He always got his animals checked out by a veterinarian, so I give him credit for that. He was biding his time in the waiting room looking at the bulletin board that has many flyers on it. He picked one off the board, and made a phone call. When I called him into the room for his appointment, he handed me the flyer and he said, "You can throw this one away. They are gone". I looked at the flyer and it said, "Two 3 month old schnauzer puppies Free to Good Home". If they had still been available, they would be in his care, and I don't care how wonderful his facility might be, the quality of life for those Free to Good Home pups would not be the same as being a house pet...sleeping on the bed at night, running to the door when you hear your owner's car return from work, chewing on slippers, etc.

Today I took in 4 adorable mix breed puppies from a rescue group. The rescue group had called the gentleman that was advertising 14 mixed breed puppies that were six weeks old Free to a Good Home. Yes, I did say 14! What a mess they must make! When they told the gentleman they were a rescue group and would make sure the puppies were vetted and cared for in experienced foster homes until a forever home was found, the gentleman said "No".

I do not understand why anyone would say no to that! Here is a group willing to take away your problem, all 14 of them in one big swoop. That rescue group is willing to pay a veterinarian for all the veterinary care including vaccines, deworming, flea protection, spay/neuter when they are old enough, microchipping, boarding expenses, any other necessary medical expenses, provide transportation from his front door to the pups' new foster homes, provide foster care for these puppies with a real family, not kept in a kennel like most shelters, and review applications thoroughly including home visits to prospective families for all 14 puppies. This is not an easy or inexpensive task, yet they were willing to do it for the sake of the puppies. They were willing to do it to ensure that the homes these puppies go to have had a veterinary reference checked. They are willing to do it to ensure that the adopting family does not live in a building that does not allow pets (yes, you would be amazed how many times this knocks out our potential adopters!). They are willing to do it to ensure that these puppies go to a home that understands what a puppy needs now, what a dog needs in the years to come, and what a senior dog will require in 10 years.

Financial gain? Does this gentleman think this group will run off and make a bunch of money on HIS puppies? This rescue group's adoption fee for puppies is $275. Go to your phone and call your veterinarian. Get an estimate for an office visit and exam, distemper combo vaccine with parvo and corona, kennel cough vaccine, rabies, fecal exam and deworming, monthly heartworm pill, monthly flea and tick treatment, pedicure, spay or neuter, and a microchip. I will bet you would lose money on that deal! Keep in mind that this rescue group is paying for boarding until transport is found to get these four puppies to their new foster homes. If these puppies are in foster care for more than three weeks, it means more vaccines, more deworming, more flea control, more heartworm pills, more medical expenses... Do you get my point?

These are mixed breed puppies, cute as they are (and they are cute) there is no "market" waiting for these puppies. People will say, "I have always wanted a...(enter breed name here)." This phrase rarely ends in "large mixed breed dog". In this economy, there is no guarantee that with large mixed breed dogs, even if they are cute little puppies now, that a qualified adopter will be found quickly. It is the sad truth.

But the gentleman said, "No". So where do we go from here. Another volunteer called the gentleman back, and said she was looking for some farm dogs for herself and for her sister. Voila, four out of fourteen puppies safe and sound...

Most of the other ten puppies will likely go to good homes, be well cared for, go to the vet, and get spayed/neutered. Because they are mixed breed dogs, they will not likely end up in a professional breeding facility. Some may end up tied to a tree in the back yard for their lifetime due to the lack of screening for "Good Homes". Some might end up pregnant or causing pregnancies because their unscreened owner neglected to spay/neuter a dog that was free anyway. So here we would have a puppy that was irresponsibly bred, that could have gone to rescue, but is now part of the pet overpopulation problem and producing more unwanted litters because one man could not see the benefit of sending a large unwanted litter of puppies into rescue.

There are those that judge us for the deceptive nature of a rescue mission such as this. I don't like that it occasionally has to be done this way. Most times we get an immediate "Yes" when we call. Sometimes we can convince the hesitant person that we are the best place for the animal. Sometimes, we cannot change whatever negative perception of rescue is clouding this person's mind. I am thoroughly confused by the fact that a person can be willing to give an animal away to anyone, but that same person is not willing to give the same free animal to anyone associated with a "rescue". This particular rescue group does not have any significant financial gain in the adoption of the pups. The adoption market is poor right now, new forever homes are hard to find in an economy where animals are constantly being relinquished due to job loss, housing changes, even marital changes.

As long as these four dogs are alive, if ever the new family is unable to care for them, these four puppies will be welcomed back into this rescue to be rehomed. They will be welcomed back whether they are four months old, four years old, or fourteen years old. Life situations may change for their owners, but these puppies have a type of life insurance policy that has been given to them by this rescue group and its team of volunteers, including transportation volunteers, foster home volunteers, volunteers that run the computer/communications, read applications, do home visits, recieve and return phone calls, open mail, pay bills, keep track of volunteer hours, monitor transports to make sure everyone meets on time and at the right place, fundraising volunteers, etc.

Who could say no to that?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wish you were here!

So, I am not a farm girl.  I admit that.  As a result, vet school was a truly enriching and enlightening experience.  In freshman anatomy we had a pop quiz.  We were to identify a segment of the bovine penis as shown on the slide... yes slide, not computer...did I just date myself?  We used pens, pencils, and notebooks too, sometimes even a highlighter!  I thought I had answered the question correctly writing, "The sigmoid flexure of the penis of a cow."  When I received the quiz back, the teacher had written in big red letters, "Cows do not have penises!"  

For Halloween that year I bought a cow outfit complete with tail and udder.  I went to the Halloween party with some friends, and they looked at me and said my husband was there.  Being very single at the time, I looked to where their attention was, and there was a young man in my exact outfit, except he had performed a slight modification.  He had removed the utter and in it's place stitched in a pair of Holstein style testes that were white with black spots, and a stuffed spotted penis. Instinctually, I ran over to this verile and handsome bull yelling, "Honey, I'm home" and gave this complete stranger a big hug!  I never even got his name!

Eventually, vet students get to do palpation class, even those of us who have never been around livestock of any sort.  Those of you not familiar with large animal medicine, palpation in this context means we put our entire arm up the bumm of a cow to feel the ovaries, uterus, or whatever else might be medically important.  All I can think is, "Cow's kick, right?  That would hurt, right?"  I show up for class wearing my freshman year Halloween costume...with one slight modification.  I made a cardboard image of a traffic sign reading ..."DO NOT ENTER" and pinned it to my butt.  The student's loved it, but I will admit, I was a bit nervous about the professor's arrival.  He walked in and looked at me.  He said dryly, "Nice."  With a little smirk, he walked over to the countertop.  He pulled a plastic shoulder length glove out of a box, put it on and started chasing me around the room!  One of my classmates grabbed their camera, and yes, this photo ended up in our yearbook.  One of my proudest moments!  The day did not end there.

The humor took some of the nerves of what I was about to do away...but still, arm up a cow's bumm?  Cow's kick, right?  That would hurt, right?

The professor told us to put on the shoulder length glove (sleeve), which is a clear plastic like a sandwich bag, then put an exam glove/rubber glove over that up to our wrist.  If you have significant fingernails, the plastic sleeve could rip, and you could end up with cow poo in your fingernails. Nice.  So, I follow instructions.  My friend and I chose cows right next to each other for moral support because cow's kick, right?  That would hurt, right?   We put our arms up the alley,  and it was fine.  I mean cow poo doesn't smell like dog or cat poo.  That is good.  It is kind of sandy feeling and you could feel ripples of the colon contracting like a snake up and down your arms.  Interesting.  Then it happened.  My cow coughed or hiccoughed or something.  It startled me.  It startled me enough to make me try to pull my arm out...but it wouldn't come out.  The shorter glove had inflated with gas, yes cow toot inflated my glove so large that I could not pull my hand out of the cow bumm.  Now I started to panic, yelling, "Let me go, let me go, let me go!"  with my eyes closed, and I was stamping my feet like a three year old who didn't want to go into the doctor's office.  Then it occurred to me.  I hadn't been kicked, my cow wasn't angry with me, and my cow certainly wasn't constricting it's bumm in order to intentionally keep me from getting away!  I opened my eyes to see a row of other students, with their arms up cow bumms looking at me with the "I am about to die laughing" look on their faces.  My professor came over, reached into my cow and deflated my glove for me.  I was then able to pull my hand out of that vicious cow and it was over. 

My Christsmas card that year was a photo card.  One of me with my hand up a cow bumm and a simple heartwarming sentiment, "Merry Christmas!  Wish you were here!" 

My father received that card and was so proud that he took it to my sister's office at work.  She was a principal in a middle school.  She said, "Dad, I got one too."  He responded, "What a great photo of her...but why is she leaning on that horse?"

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Big Get Bigger, the little get ignored...

I am back! No I have not deserted you, despite the lack of writing for what, ten days?  I went on a three day vacation that took 3 days to get ready for and 5 days to catch up after!

I have a few things draining my brain tonight.  Things I don't necessarily understand, so that is why they sit in my brain, eating what few brain cells I have left, until I sit down, type it here, and let it go.

We applied for a Maddie's Fund grant.   I read this on their website, and thought, "WOW, is this group made for us!"  A quote from their website reads, "Guided by its mission to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals, Maddie's Fund® is devoting its resources to help build a no-kill nation. Towards that end, Maddie's Fund wants to support local coalitions that combine the talents and resources of adoption guarantee organizations, animal control agencies, and traditional shelters to end the killing of healthy and treatable shelter dogs and cats in their communities within 10 years."

I applied for a grant with Maddie's fund on Friday morning.  Friday afternoon they called me!  Awesome!  This must be good news! Right?  The woman on the phone said, "We reviewed your application at our one hour meeting."  I am ready to scream with joy!  She continued with, "and we cannot give you any money. We only give money to communities with a population of 100,000 people.  There is just no way we can give you any funding."  All I could say was, "Okay", and I hung up the phone in disbelief.  Wow.  I didn't even have a few days of being hopeful as I eagerly awaited their response to our application.  It just came down on me within hours like a tornado in a trailer park.  Everything was gone at that point.  They didn't even try to learn more about us, and what we are doing.

We are PERFECT for their goals!  They fund spay/neuter programs, veterinary clinics, animal control, shelters.  They fund everything for other groups,that we provide for an entire county in Iowa that has no other form of humane animal control, but they won't help us !

NO OTHER FORM OF HUMANE ANIMAL CONTROL!  This entire county in Iowa, has a population of approximately 16,500 people.  Much smaller than Maddie's fund requirements of 100,000 people.  All I can say is that I was and am still stunned.  I am providing veterinary care to stray dogs and cats, owner relinquished pets during this terrible economy, puppy mill surrendered animals also during a terrible economy, and shelter transfer pets that were at high risk for euthanasia.  I am providing these animals with a temporary home (some more temporary than others), food and shelter, veterinary care, human and humane attention that some have never had before, and I am giving them a chance at finding that loving home they deserve, no matter how long it takes.  I am assisting in getting laws enacted to protect those animals in the care of commercial breeding facilities. Then I find a group that I am certain will fund my efforts if even in a small way, and they say, we are too small?  Tell that to the 600+ animals we have cared for, sheltered, rescued, and rehomed!  Not bad for a vet in a small town of only 1200 people, ey?  The good thing about this small community, is the limited overhead.  Yes, I could do this in Des Moines, or Chicago, nice big communities that will meet that population requirement, but I would have to put all the money I get into paying for the land and building!  Animal Rescue is certainly one place where size does not matter!

Looking at the Maddie's Fund website, I see a sweet picture of a Miniature Schnauzer, named Maddie, of course.  It is in her memory that this fund was started.  I think of the dozens of Schnauzers that went through my clinic in a weeks time.  They were puppy mill Schnauzers.  A friend of mine runs a spay neuter clinic and does animal rescue, APE and knew that these dogs were in dire need of dental care, something she did not have the equipment to provide.  So rather than just run them through her spay/neuter clinic and leave the dentals for the rescue groups to fund and provide (which would require being placed under anesthesia a second time, not the best idea for senior dogs), I did the vet work which included dentals at a significantly reduced rate.  These teeth were so bad the jawbones were also rotting.  They had oral infections like I had never seen.  Fur wrapped like Christmas lights around the base of their teeth.  When I removed the tartar, the teeth would fall out of the mouth.  The tartar buildup was the only thing holding these teeth in their sockets.  In one dog, the bone had rotted through from a tooth bed infection so far that it had created a fracture.  These dogs all went to a schnauzer rescue and have hopefully all found their first and forever homes.  I wonder if the rescue they went to qualified for a Maddie's fund grant?

Now, I am not trying to say that Maddie's fund is not a good program.  I am trying to say that judging a rescue group by their local population is NOT a good way to " help build a no-kill nation so that shelter dogs and cats can be guaranteed a loving home".  It is a good way to allow and propagate primitive animal control methods in rural areas that need the assistance the most.

Last weekend as we drove off on our vacation, we drove past a commercial breeding facility that has given us dozens of their retirees over the past few years.  We have not heard from them in a while, and I wondered if another breeder friend of theirs, who has written articles in the Iowa Pet Breeder Association newsletter telling other breeders not to give their retired dogs to rescue, had convinced them to cease giving us their retired dogs.  I recently testified at a senate committee meeting to encourage the passage of Iowa's puppy mill bill.  I also wondered and worried about whether this action would get any of our breeders to stop giving us their retired dogs.  As I drove by this breeder's facility, I could see fresh upturned circular mounds located in a corn field right behind the property.  I wondered if these were grave sites.  I wonder if this facility has gone back to shooting the unproductive dogs, something they openly said they did prior to our services.  I hope that I hear from them in the weeks to come, which will set my mind at ease, but I fear that I will not. 

The changes our small group is making are huge.  And we could do better if we could get some decent funding.  We do not limit ourselves to our 16,500 population county.  We have rescued animals from shelters and breeders from counties all over Iowa, from Missouri, from Nebraska, and from Illinois.  Our biggest clients for our discounted rescue vetwork are from Minnesota and Wisconsin, with some of the smaller repeat clients being from New Hampshire and South Dakota.    It is too bad that the folks at Maddie's fund see us as insignificant.

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