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Monday, December 27, 2010

"Stupid is as stupid does..."

Meet Matthew. 

Matthew is a cute 3 year old cocker spaniel that is pampered and loved. 

Matthew has a loving home.  

Matthew sits on his Dad's warm lap while they watch tv or take a nap.  

Matthew has neckerchiefs for all occasions. 

Matthew has squeaky toys and chew bones to his heart's content.  He is well fed, has a round belly, and recognizes the jingle that the kibble makes as it hits his bowl each morning and evening.  His family adores him. Matthew is lacking nothing, and knows the love of a true family. 

But it was not always like this for Matthew. 

Matthew is a rescued dog. 

Matthew was once very skinny.

Matthew was once in need of a bath and a grooming...

Matthew had burn wounds on his neck caused by the improper use of an electric shock collar.

Matthew's name is as special as he is.  He was named after a man.

On a day that began like any other, Matthew the man drove to work.  As he drove down the highway, he noticed a box sitting in the middle of the road.  It seemed odd, but he continued on his way to work, and didn't think twice about it throughout his day.  If the box fell out of someone's truck bed, they will probably come back looking for it.  Hundreds of other cars drove up and down that highway during the next eight hours during Matthew's shift. 

They all let the box sit.  

Matthew the man finished his shift that evening and got into his car ready for the usual and predictable drive home.  This day was not going to end like most for Matthew the man. Nor would it end in the usual way for Matthew the dog.

Matthew the man drove down the same highway eager to get home.  Again, in the middle of the road, only slightly displaced from the spot where he saw it that morning was the same box.  At first, he did not want to stop, his dinner was waiting, and so was his warm bed... but his curiosity got the best of him.  He stopped his car along the side of the highway and got out.  When traffic was clear, he walked up to the box.  

There was writing on the box, but this was not the time to stop and read it.  He dragged the box to the side of the road to a safe spot next to his car with the flashers blinking.  He was startled by the fact that the object inside the box seemed to move about on it's own in response to his movements. 

As Matthew focused on the box, he read the following words beneath scribbling,

"This is a varry stupid dog and verry dirty".

Inside this box...

Was a dog. 

A dog that was chewing on the flap inside the box trying to make his way out, not realizing that escaping the box would likely mean sudden death on a highway.

The tape was removed, and the dog Matthew could see inside the box was still alive.  Shocked, the dog's new caretaker took the dog and the box to Hardin Eldora Animal Rescue Team, aka HEART Rescue.  They had no room for another dog, there were no foster homes waiting for another foster dog, they had no funds for another dog, but Heart could not turn him away. 

HEART took him in and a foster home came forward after reading the story.  The dog was named after the man who dared to stop his car.  At the end of that one day, Matthew the man had saved a life, and Matthew the dog was given a new life.

It was discovered that Matthew the dog had a microchip, but it had never been registered by his owner.   Tracing the microchip led to a veterinary clinic in Indiana who sold the chip to a local breeder.  This breeder used a dog sales broker from Florida to sell the dog to someone and that is likely how he ended up in Iowa.  None of this information would help to find the owners of this dog.  HEART Rescue ran an advertisement in the newspaper hoping a family might be missing this dog, and would come forward to claim him.  No one did.

HEART immediately cared for Matthew's veterinary needs which included burns under his neck caused by the improper use of an electric shock collar.  Matthew struggled with fear issues, that he is overcoming slowly with his new adopted family. His fear was predominantly of males, and Matthew's willingness to sit on his new Dad's lap is a HUGE sign of progress.

I cannot help but wonder if Matthew was always in the care of the awful people who shocked him, neglected to feed him, and stuffed him in a box and left him on the highway for dead?  Did these people wait and watch after placing the box on the highway, hoping to see the impact caused by the box and an unsuspecting driver so they could laugh at his death?

Was he stolen from the yard of the family who first purchased him, a family that cared yet neglected to register his microchip?  Do the original people that purchased Matthew from a pet store or from an internet puppy sale website, really care about him and wonder where he is now? 

Was he given by the people who first bought him, to one person, who then gave him to another, and thus worked his way down the "Free to Good Home" chain until he was in the hands of these heartless cruel people? 

We will never know.

Matthew cannot tell us.

But the words on that box tell me a great deal more about the people who wrote them, than they do about the dog inside the box.

A person who shocks a dog without training him is stupid.  A person who has a dog in their care and neglects to feed that dog is stupid.  A person who calls a dog dirty without giving it a bath is stupid.  A person who heartlessly shoves a dog in a box and leaves it on a highway to die in a cruel and inhumane manner is VARRY stupid. 

Matthew is not stupid.  A dog who does not respond to an owner who has not trained him is not stupid.  A dog who does not perform tricks when repeatedly shocked with a shock collar is not stupid.  A dog who was still willing to love the very people who performed these cruel acts is not stupid.

He is a dog with the gift of unconditional love.  A gift that it seems so few people have, and yet animals have it in abundance.  Matthew holds no grudges.  Matthew does not bite.  Matthew lives only to please.  Matthew is not angry about the past.  Matthew is happy living in the present.

We should all be that stupid.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

My Christmas Wish List...

Dear Santa,

Enclosed is my holiday wish list for my friends and family.  I have kept it brief, and I think most items are pretty light weight for travel.

For my husband: a few moments to slow down, so we can appreciate our relationship, our kids, and our lives together.

For my older sister: realization that miles cannot separate hearts

For my middle sister: good health, and strength as her nest becomes empty

For Cara: success in the field she knew she would love at the ripe old age of 8 yrs!

For Missy M.: I want her to feel the joy that she makes people feel with her words and smiles.

For Kassy: more brownie ingredients, and some time to be 15.

For Heidi: a housewarming party... with brownies (no nuts)

For Tova: a chance to shed the pain and shine the light

For Amy and all my rescue friends: an abundance of adoptive families or a money tree (whichever is easier)

For Missy S.: a moment of silence in a house that roars

For Traci: a soft place to fall, sometimes the rock needs that

For Lori:  for her girls to become the strong woman she has become

For Dewan: pork chops

For Jeri:  :-)

For those that are hungry, abused, neglected, or homeless: bring food, safety, love, and families.

For Kim: to let the love of family and friends support her, at times when she cannot.

For Miguel:  physical and emotional strength, he has already shown his courage and heart... and a light at the end of the tunnel

For my kids, I want all those things that every parent wishes for their children.  All those things that cannot be wrapped or put under a tree.  You know what I mean.  You're Santa.

For those I did not specifically mention, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!

Thank you and safe travels,
Your dedicated elf,

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Michael Vick Comes Up Smelling Like Roses

A few days ago, I was driving down the road with my family.  My husband was listening to a sports channel on the radio while I gazed out the window hoping to spot some deer grazing in the fields.  The sportscasters were discussing the "New Face of Football".  For those of you not obsessed with sports, I believe this phrase refered to a successful player that has a superior record and a face that will attract people to the game.  One of the sportscasters recalled a moment that in his mind ruled one of the NFL's recently successful players out of the running for the title of "New Face of Football".

He was watching a game featuring the Philadelphia Eagles when his wife walked into the room.  She looked at the screen and responded, (paraphrasing) "Ugh.  Get that guy off our TV, I won't watch him play."  She was referring to Michael Vick, #7.  

I call this photo "Squish".

The broadcaster continued to comment that there are many men and women who feel this strongly about Michael Vick and his past, despite his recent successes, despite the forgiveness Vick has obviously received by the NFL.  For this reason, this sportscaster's opinion was that Michael Vick could not be declared the next "Face of Football".

Yesterday, I read a letter on ESPN written by Nils Lofgren.  Nils Lofgren is a guitarist who has toured with Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Neil Young and has released more than 40 solo albums.  In a letter he wrote to ESPN,  (read it here: ), he expressed his outrage at the praise that Michael Vick is getting in response to his football prowess.

I posted Mr. Lofgren's letter on my Facebook page and received this response from a high school classmate of mine, "He did the crime, but he also did the time. Let's not forget that Vick paid a much harsher penalty than most NFL stars involved with or convicted of violence against people. Let the man get on with his life."

Should we let the man get on with his life?  Or should we demand that the NFL reconsider it's rules about retaining convicted felons?  Is the game about obtaining the best player regardless of the shame that player brings to the field?  Shouldn't the NFL insist that the players to whom they award multi-million dollar contracts, maintain a code of conduct that at the very least should require abiding by our federal and local laws?

I am not a huge sports enthusiast, but I do have the general knowledge required to watch most of the major sports of the US.  Football is actually my favorite.  I love the sound of the pads clashing together as two players hit.  I love watching a long pass land in the breadbasket of a receiver. I refuse to watch a Philadelphia Eagles game.

I often wonder about the decision made by the NFL regarding Michael Vick's possible ban from Football after being convicted of committing a felony.  Michael Vick broke a federal law regarding dog fighting.  But he was not "just" a dog fighter.  He brutally and horrifically tortured and killed the dogs that did not meet his fighting standards .  He drowned them, hanged them, electrocuted them, shot them, he slammed their breathing bodies to the ground and left them for dead.  Some dogs died quickly, others were not so lucky.  He served 18 months in prison and 2 months in home confinement for conspiracy charges and for running a dog fighting ring.  He did not serve any time for the animal abuse or neglect that he inflicted on those dogs that could not or would not fight.

When he was released, he was a major source of excitement for the news.  Would he be allowed back into the NFL?  Would any team be willing to employ Michal Vick?  Would he be permanently banned from the NFL? The chattering went on and on, until the news finally broke.  The NFL declares that Michael Vick would be allowed back into the NFL. Which team would nestle him under their wing?  The Philadelphia Eagles!

As a convicted felon, Vick is now admired by sports enthusiasts and adored by children.  He is praised for throwing a ball.  He makes millions of dollars, and paid a $5,000 fine along with the time he served for his conviction.  What bothers me the most about his return, is that I wonder what this teaches our children.  Children that adore him will emulate him.  They will parade around in his jersey.  They will worship him.  And some will mimic his past.  Children will learn that if you are good at something, it doesn't matter how poorly you behave otherwise.

People can argue that it is not in a professional athletes job description to be a role model.  The job throws you into the hearts and minds of children, and this makes you a role model regardless of the wording on your contract.  Many jobs may not specify that you are a role model, but you will become one...teacher, firefighter, policeman.  Many jobs would not accept a convicted felon back into the workplace.  If it happened to you or to me, we would likely not be fortunate enough to dance out of prison straight into our old uniform.

While the NFL embraces a convicted felon, and raises him up on their shoulders, another man sits and watches.  This man also excelled in his sport.  This man continues to hold records in his sport decades after his retirement.

Pete Rose, a switch hitter, is the all-time Major League leader in hits, games played, at bats, and outs.  He won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one Most Valuable Player award, two Gold Gloves, the Rookie of the Year Award, and made 17 All Star appearances playing five different positions during his career which ranged from 1963 to 1986.  Pete Rose was also addicted to gambling.  

He gambled on sports, including his own.  He gambled on his own team.  Within the Major Leagues, there was a rule that gambling on sports in general, and gambling on your team specifically, was reason enough to be banned from the sport.

The point of this blog is not to justify or vilify the Major League's decision to ban Pete Rose.  I am not going to debate whether reinstating Pete Rose is the wrong or the right thing to do.

A man who excelled at his game was permanently banned from playing or coaching the game that he lived and breathed.  His number is banned from being formally retired in his honor because he is not allowed on the playing field.  He is banned from being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame despite an amazing career filled with even more amazing statistics.  A condition of his ban from baseball was that he could apply for reinstatement 1 year after the ban was imposed in 1989.  He applied for reinstatement in 1992 and 1997.  His application was not denied... it was ignored both times.

20 years have passed, and Pete Rose is still banned from every aspect of the game at which he excelled.  He is banned because he broke a rule.  He is banned because he broke a rule of ethics imposed by the Major Leagues.

Michal Vick committed a federal crime.  Michael Vick was convicted of a felony.  Michael Vick walked out of prison in May of 2009.  Michael Vick was reinstated into the NFL in July of 2009.   Michael Vick was welcomed back into the nape of the NFL during his first game in August of 2009.

Another difference between the two players...Rose was already retired as a player at the time of his ban, while Vick was still young and had the potential to bring money and winning games to the team and the NFL.

I think I am going to start watching baseball.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Not a Creature was Stirring...

'Tis the season for trees and the trimmings, so my staff had to work through the shed that resides behind the animal hospital and dig out our Christmas decorations.  Each year, the Christmas stuff makes it's way to the most remote crevice in the back of the shed as it is used only once a year.  In front of the Christmas boxes, is all the other "stuff" from the past eleven months.  This year was no different and eleven months worth of "stuff" had to be battled through in order to liberate the season's decorations.

Kassy comes into the clinic dragging a large black plastic bag with the lower half of a fake tree sticking out the end of it.  She lays it on the floor in the office, and walks to the sink to wash her almost frostbitten hands in warm water.  Her cheeks are red and she sniffles as she talks about the battle of the shed.

Suddenly, Missy, who is on the phone with a potential adopter, squeaks, "I think there is a mouse in the Christmas Tree!"  Missy and the adopter continued to discuss the goings on, and the adopter found our predicament quite amusing.

In response to Missy's declaration, I turn around to see Missy perched on her feet on top of one of our office chairs.   These chairs are on wheels, and as the boss and owner of the clinic, I cannot help but think of the safety hazard that this position created.

I observe the bag on the floor that holds a small portion of the tree.  It looks as though it might be moving, and I think I  hear some of the tiny fake needles pinging musically within the bag as if something is rustling amongst the branches. 

Kassy, unaware of what is going on, walks out of the bathroom with a paper towel, drying her hands.  I point to the corner of the bag, and ask, "Is that moving?"

I was hoping she would say, "Yes, but a dog or cat is right next to it making it move."  But she didn't, and there wasn't.

Kassy and I observe the bag carefully.  It is not moving.

Phew, relief sets in!  We must have some imagination!

Then it happened!  It moved!  The bag moved!  And it moved a lot for a bag that held only a fake tree!  There is no way any of us could have missed that movement!

Kassy leaped back in surprise! 

I start shouting, "We need to get the tree outside!  Heidi, come help me!  We need to get the tree outside!" 

Somewhere, I hear an unidentified voice say, "There are enough cats in here, they'll catch it!" 

The thought of fighting a mouse problem or chasing a chipmunk in a building where I house a lot of dog and cat food was not settling well within me.  This tree and it's inhabitant NEEDED to move outside NOW!

Meanwhile, Missy had leaped off the office chair and, squealing the entire way, darted to the far back of the dental room to hide from this killer MOUSQUIRRATMUNK that was inhabiting the horizontal tree. 

I continued to call for help as I grabbed the pole at the base of the tree.  "Someone needs to grab the bag!  We need to get this thing out of the clinic!"

Finally, someone's hands grab the bag.  We start to lift the tree and the bag in unison, trying not to frighten the mousquirratmunk, propelling it out of the bag, and into the clinic where it could reside for the winter.

My eyes follow the helping hands, up the arm, passed the shoulder, and I am shocked!  There stands Missy, suddenly quiet and suddenly brave!  The fact that I was at the end of the parcel from which the critter would surface, run up the pole of the tree, onto my hand and up my arm, shoulder, onto my neck to lunge for my jugular vein may have enhanced her courage!  Just sayin'.

As the tree and the bag come off the ground, we slowly start to move that large parcel towards the door, so we can free this critter into it's natural habitat...OUTSIDE. 

Suddenly, a furry body comes flying out of the bag, out from under the tree, and four women SQUEEEEAAAALLL with fear!  It was a large furry body, and it moved fast!  It was out of the bag! 

Darn it all!  (not quite the words I was thinking or saying, but there it is)

Hearts were pounding, eyes were dilated, and all four of us are now standing about three feet further from the bag than we were just moments ago!  My mind is getting ready to make my body scream, "GET THE LIVE TRAPS! MOVE ALL OUR ANIMALS OUT OF HERE!"

And then I see it...

I see Paris.

No, not the city.  I am not unconscious and dreaming of the vacation of which I am in such dire need.

I see Paris.

The cat...

I see Paris.

The Torti Point Siamese...

I see Paris.

The Mousquirratmunk...

In the very brief time period during which that tree rested on the floor, Paris had made her way into the bag without us hearing or seeing her, and proceeded to scare the bejeebers out of ALL of us! 

Paris, the Mousquirratmunk, got adopted today.  She was adopted on the very day that I had decided to take her home.  I had made the decision to take her home this morning, before this silly event had taken place, and before I knew a nice gentleman had recently lost his Siamese and would see her photo...

While I know that she is in a good home, I am saddened by her adoption.  I hold no resentment for the kind gentleman that adopted her.  It was difficult to watch her go, because I felt as though she was my cat already, simply because I had made up my mind to make her mine.  Even though she had not resided at my house yet, she was my cat in my head and in my heart.  With this crazy stunt she pulled, I knew she was goofy enough to be part of my family, despite my husband's protests about exceeding the CCL, the Comfortable Cat Limit.

The truth is, despite my feelings of loss, I am thrilled for Paris, and for her new family .  She went home with a single gentleman that just lost his Siamese cat. He had seen her photograph on and came to the clinic to meet her and take her home. He had glowing references and fell in love with her immediately, just like I did.

Paris has a new Dad, and six feline siblings.  Apparently, the gentleman's CCL is higher than my husband's...  His CCL is firmly set at seven cats.  I think this entitles me to two more cats?  Am I right?  I was never very good at math.

Thanks for the memorable last day with us, Paris. I will really miss you.
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Target, A Military Hero in Canine Clothing

I am often surprised at how emotionally invested I can be in a situation in which I played no part.

How is it that I can feel so much pain when a dog, a dog that I do not know, is accidentally euthanized in shelter? Why is it that my heart aches so much for that dog? Why is it that when I look at her photograph and those of her with her family, I cry uncontrollably, when I do not know any of them personally?  Why is it that I can visit the last moment of that dog's life when I close my eyes, and have to shake my head like an etch-a-sketch to erase it?

As a pet owner, and as a veterinarian, I have seen many animals euthanized in my lifetime.  Some were my own pets.  Many were owned by others. Many were owned by no one.  I am proud to say that in my current practice, euthanasia is performed for terminally ill or seriously behaviorally challenged animals only.  My career choice has not always provided such a fortunate path, but it has led me to where I am today.  As a result of my experiences, it is relatively easy for me to mentally visualize this dog of whom I only have seen photos, walking down a hall for the last time, wondering where she is going, and I can painfully see her taking her last breath.  I grieve for her and for her family as if I knew them.

Every dog is special, but Target had a special story, a wonderful history.

Target was one of three young dogs who alerted a sleeping troop of soldiers in Afghanistan to a suicide bomber.  The suicide bomber was trying to enter the barracks and detonate a bomb wrapped around his body.  The attempt, had it succeeded, could have killed or wounded dozens of US soldiers while they slept.  Two of the dogs attacked the bomber keeping him from entering the barracks, while Target barked to alert the sleeping US soldiers to the intruder.

AP File Photo of Target

The bomb detonated during the struggle outside the barracks.  The suicide bomber was killed, but the dogs were also injured in the blast.  While one dog did not survive the blast, the other two were saved after being provided veterinary care.  The two dogs were side by side with the soldiers for the remainder of their stay in Afghanistan. 

When two of the soldiers returned home, they contacted "Puppy Rescue Mission"  about the dogs they were forced to leave behind.  The group raised over $20,000 to bring the dogs to the States to become part of the soldiers' families.  A bond had been created during wartime, between the heroes with two legs, and the heroes with four legs.

In July 2010, the dogs arrived and placed all four paws on US soil.  There were TV cameras, and reporters.  The dogs received a heroes welcome.  They were featured on Oprah and CNN.  Then they each went home with their soldier, two soldiers that had also survived the suicide bomber's attack.  Target moved to Arizona to be with Army Sgt. Terry Young and his family. 

Just a few months later, on Friday, August 12, 2010, Sgt. Young realized that the gate to their back yard had been left open and Target had wandered from the yard.  He did not realize that she had wandered into a neighbor's yard and had already been picked up by animal control.  He contacted all the local TV and radio stations, who had published reports of the hero dog's arrival in Arizona and it seemed everyone knew to keep their eyes open for Target, the Military Hero.  At least, everyone that watched the news knew.

That night, Sgt. Young had found Target's photo on the Petfinder website that represented a local shelter.  He was relieved that she was safe, but wanted her home.  He phoned the shelter but it was after hours, and he thought they were closed until Monday. 

He arrived at 9 am to retrieve Target. The shelter personnel brought Target to the soldier, but the dog on the leash was not the same dog that Sgt. Young saw in the photo on their site.  It was not Target.  They brought him the wrong dog.  They promptly put that dog back into it's kennel, and looked for Target.  The soldier waited for one hour, when a teary eyed employee came back to him, apologizing, and stating that Target had mistakenly been euthanized just minutes before the soldier's arrival. 

While the world grieves the loss of a Hero, a family grieves the loss of a family member, and now the nations mourns the loss of a hero.

I hope the shelter spared the dog who was due to die that fateful morning.  If they did, Target has saved one more life by sacrificing her own.  I hope that dog can go on to enjoy a new adoptive family, with thanks to Target.

Sgt. Young had stated, ""I just can't believe that something like this would happen to such a good dog."

It is a tragedy, but walking a good dog to it's death in this country happens every hour of every day!  That is why the person who euthanized this wonderful, calm, loving animal did not hesitate to perform the duty that they are paid to perform.  Wonderful dogs like Target die not because they are not "good dogs" but because we buy the puppy that looks so cute in the pet store window, or because we fall in love with an online photo of a puppy from a commercial breeder/puppy mill, instead of adopting from our local shelter. 

The dogs that die each day in shelters in our country often have unknown pasts, and once in the shelter, their future is unknown.  In each of those dogs, there may be a hero.  There may be a past hero, or a hero whose life has ended before being given the chance.  They may not be a military hero, but there are many ways of becoming a canine hero.  A dog who lies at the foot of the bed as his owner died from cancer is a hero for the comfort he gave.  A dog who comforts a child who is hiding behind a sofa as his parents argue, is a hero.  In each of those shelter dogs, there is a dog with the potential to become a hero.  Hero or not, all of these "good dogs" deserve a chance to live, and deserve a chance to give love and get love.

Dogs are over bred in this country.  There are more dogs and cats, puppies and kittens than there are homes for them.  They are being euthanized annually by the MILLIONS in US shelters!  If this was not a normal routine for this employee... if only the ill of health, or ill behaved animals were euthanized in shelters, perhaps something would have CLICKED that saved Target's life Monday morning as she walked to that room.  But that is not the case.  To that employee, this was just another good dog, going to a bad room. 

Target was not the only good dog to die that morning.  There were many others in shelters everywhere. 

The employee made a mistake by euthanizing the wrong dog, and another dog, likely a good dog, was the one that should have been euthanized despite it's potential for loving his or her family.  But  this employee performed a flawed daily routine, and did not think twice about the act of euthanizing a good dog because it is part of the shelter "norm". 

Perhaps Target's death can bring this issue of disposable pets to public eye:


I hope that the world sees Target's story and can recognize how often we euthanize good animals in shelters.  I hope that people will read Target's story and it will motivate them.  If you love animals, you cannot sit idly by while they suffer. You need to do something! Please spay and neuter your pet. Please adopt from a local shelter or rescue. Please volunteer with and donate to a local shelter or rescue.

One of the saddest statistics is that there are more animal lovers than there are animal shelter volunteers.  YOU can do something to help.  Call your shelter and find out what it is!  Sew blankets, wash dishes, write a newsletter, have a party and ask each guest to bring a donation, transport dogs to the groomer or vet.  There are so many opportunities for people with limited time or limited funds to still provide their shelter with the help they require to save lives.  If you love animals, you need to ACT on that and not assume that other people have that covered!

Rest in Peace, Target.  You are loved by millions who never knew you but grieve your loss, and the loss of all the other furry heroes that lose their lives in shelters daily. 

I will continue to shake my etch-a-sketch head to try to erase that awful image of your final moments, and try to visual you forever like this:

My prayers go out to the Young family for their loss.  You have the sympathy and support of millions!

If you would like to donate to the Puppy Rescue Mission, who continues to bring back the furry comrades of our fighting soldiers, please visit their website at . 

Tomorrow, you should call or visit your local shelter, and see how you can help...

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tears for one. Tears for many.

As an animal rescuer, there are always those animals you can not or could not save.  Regardless of the reasons, the rescuer becomes powerless in the fate of that animal, and the animal is lost. 

Meet Kitty La Rue:

Kitty La Rue was one of our puppy mill rescue dogs.  She was quite timid due to her lack of socialization.  She had to be completely shaved down because her fur was matted, and urine stained.  The hair on puppy mill dogs retains the odor of urine and feces even after multiple baths.  This is the same odor they breathe into their lungs, day in and day out for a lifetime.  Shaving them down provides the most relief for the dog, and the caretaker. 

Kitty LaRue was adopted by a family in April.  We received this touching update from her new Mom within a week of her adoption,

"I took Kitty to the Vet Saturday for a wellness exam and suture removal. Here is a copy of the vet record of that visit to comply with the adoption guidelines.

Kitty is doing very well and has adjusted to all of our family members. She is over coming her shyness and will allow you to approach her from a standing position. She is starting to obey the come and stay command and readily obeys the outside command. She has done very well with house training and hasn't had any accidents in 4 days. She enjoys the outside backyard and gets along well with the three cats. She is enjoying chewing things up thus I think she has been making the transition to becoming a real dog!"

After a few short months, in mid-July, we were excited to see another email in our inbox from Kitty's new family.  But the contents were not what we were expecting.  It read,

"On Monday morning Kitty LaRue had gone missing with what appears to be that she was stolen. Our fenced in back yard had a wooden plank removed with evidence of tampering. I have contacted our local vets and if she does not return by tomorrow will be contacting the local police. I did not know it until now but our local county has had a rash of stolen pets. I am contacting you in the event that her chip is scanned and for some reason or another your shelter is contacted.
We are sick about this as Kitty LaRue had made such great progess in trusting us and had become one of our family."

We began Facebook groups, and shared emails with other local rescues.  We notified police, shelters, veterinarians, the microchip company, the neighbors.  Signs were made and posted.

But the fact is, there was a rash of curious dog disappearances in that part of Iowa during those months.

Here are a few links to different stories that covered the topic of dog thefts during this time in Iowa:

We still have no news on Kitty LaRue.  I hate to think of what her life could be.  I dare to hope that perhaps it wasn't a theft, and that she has become someone else's beloved pet.  If she was someone's knew pet, the microchip would certainly be discovered, right?  Perhaps it was a few neighborhood kids playing a prank, making an obviously bad choice.  But the fear of the unknown still exists.  What if she had been brought to a research facility?   What if she had been taken to a breeding facility for her body to be used again.  She is spayed, so she can no longer produce puppies.  What would have become of her when this was discovered?  I dread to imagine.  I wish I knew.  I wish her family knew.

Meet Lucky:

Lucky  (read more about Lucky here ) was a puppy mill dog as well.  She first presented to us so severely matted and covered in fleas that we treated her arrival as an emergency.  She was immediately examined then sedated for an emergency groom.  Her front legs were literally matted together.  In the photo below, her ear flaps sit almost straight out from her head due to the large matts that occlude her ear canals.  Her eyes were also matted over impairing her vision.

Emergency Groom Procedure

Lucky in her cage days after her arrival, still hiding and cowering in the corner, still avoiding eye contact.

Lucky months later on her ride home with her new Mom.

Lucky was one of our few untouchables.  She had fear issues of people, including all the people on my staff who cleaned her and cared for her daily.  To Lucky, people in general were a thing to fear.  As a result, we could not cuddle her.  We could not pet her.  She would snap and run, hide and cower.  It was never an aggression issue in the sense of  "I am going to bite you", but more of a "If you grab me I am just going to have to grab at anything with my teeth to get myself loose". Even the most unsocial mill dogs will rehabilitate beyond this point, but there are those few like Lucky that are extremely difficult.

A woman saw Lucky's picture and knew Lucky was right for her.  We explained the situation, and she still wanted to drive four hours just to meet Lucky.  When she arrived, we caught Lucky and brought her into the room.  To our surprise, Lucky walked up to this woman, this stranger!  Lucky proceeded to lick this stranger's hand, then sat down and let her pet her!!! Let's just say there was no way we were going to let this woman leave without that dog. It was a deal whether she liked it or not!

Eleven short months later, while Lucky's new Mom was on vacation, and with her parents dog sitting, Lucky escaped the confines of the house.  She ran for several weeks, well fed by well intentioned neighbors, but no one was able to catch her.  Her body was discovered next to a field. 

Here are two very different losses of two sweet angels who had little time to enjoy the good life.  One dog has a resolute end, a final means of acceptance.  While Lucky's family grieves their loss in the usual way, Kitty's fate lies unknown.  Thoughts of Kitty linger and haunt the minds of all who knew and loved her, even for a brief time.  Both scenarios leave us unsettled, and wanting answers.

We wonder why, after all that both dogs have been through, after finally being rescued, after being truly loved by their new forever families, why do things like this happen?!  I sometimes feel sad, and sometimes quite angry.

Thoughts of Kitty and Lucky surround me tonight because I read a similar story in the book  The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption .  Sweet Jasmine's tale can be read in this revealing book which I highly recommend. 

As I read Sweet Jasmine's story, I could not stop the tears.  I cried for more than just Jasmine.  I cried for more than just Jasmine's caregivers, her new family. 

After reading Jasmine's story, I felt the pain and grieving of all the animals that despite our greatest efforts,  we have lost.  Animals I have lost in rescue.  Animals owned by clients that despite my greatest efforts, I could not save.  Animals I have lost of my own.   I cried for a dog I did not know.  I cried for animals I did know, but wanted to know better.  I cried for the animals I will never know.  This pain stayed with me most of the day.  But I know it will subside.  It always does...until next time.

I know deep in my heart and mind, that despite the fact that their time with us was so short, that we made that time special.  These animals felt love in a way that they never had before.  But still the question lingers.


Is it because we cannot save them all?  I don't care for this statement.  While I cannot save all the animals that need help in this world, I can dedicate myself to providing a safe place to all the animals that I can put my arms around. 

Is it because their purpose in life has already been served?  I choose this one.  I do believe we all have a purpose in life.  By doing animal rescue, I believe I am following my purpose or perhaps finding my purpose.  But if the truth be told, no one knows what their purpose in life is.  My purpose may not be animal related at all.  Perhaps, on my death bed, I will whisper some nonsensical saying to the nurse tending me, and those words will create a domino effect in her life that serves my purpose.  Perhaps these stories, these lost animals, served their purpose with me, with my staff, or with their new family.  Even though the time was short, obviously the impact was great. 

Whatever my purpose truly is...
I will continue to do animal rescue as long as I am able.  

I will save lives. 

I will lose lives. 

I will make wise decisions.

I will make mistakes. 

I will be surrounded by people who understand what I do and how I feel. 

I will be criticized by those who do not understand.

I will rejoice when each homeless huggable finds a new forever family.

I will continue to suffer through days like today, when I cannot get the lost rescues out of my mind. 

On these days when I am reminded of the lost, I will remind myself, that for each day that I continue to move forward, I can help keep more from being lost. 

Perhaps animal rescue is not my purpose in life, but it is certainly how I will continue to occupy my time until my purpose is served. 

In addition to Kitty and Lucky, here are just a few of the many special souls that occasionally reach into my heart.  The photos are in no particular order.  They all touch my heart in my own special way.  Their stories are all different, some are young, some are old, but for all, their time was too short, at least in my opinion.  They will not be forgotten.  While their time was short, their impact on our hearts will last forever.

In Loving Memory of Leiya

In Loving Memory of Shyla

In Loving Memory of Capone

In Loving Memory of Cracker

In Loving Memory of Immy

In Loving Memory of Tito

In Loving Memory of Pugsley

In Loving Memory of Coco

In Loving Memory of Hancock

In Loving Memory of Chance

In Loving Memory of Cluck

There are more, but these are the stories whose photos were easily accessible.  We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words...

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Salads, Belly Buttons, and Popskickles

4 year old Connor looks at my belly button, an innie.  He then looks at his own belly button, an outie.  He looks up and says, "Is that your belly button?" I said, "Yes, it is." to which he responds... "But it doesn't have a button, right?"

I got frustrated with my weight one day (read as 'every day').  I said, "That's it!  I am losing weight!  Miranda, do you think Mommy can be skinny again?"  Six year old Miranda looked at me seriously with furrowed brow and said, "I don't know, Mom.  You're pretty old."

Connor sees me upstairs walking with a packaged individual tampon that I thought was hidden discretely within my hand. He looks at me curiously and tilts his head to the side. "Mommy, is that a popkickle?"

We went to eat at the Olive Garden Restaurant.  I love their salad.  Miranda also loves to eat salads, so I told her how wonderful their salad is so she would not beg for a McDonald's meal.  We arrive at the restaurant and after a 30 minute wait, the "wonderful salad" finally arrives at our table.  My husband mixes and doles out the salad onto each of our plates.  Connor just looks at his.  He is not a salad eater.  If it isn't coated by or filled with sugar, he doesn't care much for it.  Miranda dives into her salad!  "What is this?" she asks in an excited voice.  Before I can stop her, I see her biting into a jalapeno pepper.  The ONLY jalapeno in the entire salad landed on her plate!  I quickly reach for the pepper before she actually bites through it, but she experienced enough of the taste to know that she did not like it.  Suddenly, I hear the same words again, "What is this?"  Again, she is eagerly biting into the "wonderful salad" before I can answer.  A black olive has disappeared into her mouth, only to quickly return onto her napkin as tiny chewed up bits of black olive.  The third bite is a charm, right?  After two distasteful bites of a wonderful salad, she grabs her fork and continues to try to "find the pearl".  After all, Mommy said these salads are wonderful.  Her next bite, a small circular ring cut off of an onion.  My little trooper ate it up, and bravely swallowed it, but then drank a fair amount of her drink.  She wiped her mouth, looked at me and said, "Why do they put so many bad things in a good salad?"

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Monday, November 1, 2010

How a Vet Carves a Pumpkin...

In honor of All Hallow's Eve, my family had a pumpkin carving night at my house.  I admit it, I have never carved a pumpkin before, ever.  Because of this, I had never realized how unique the inside of a pumpkin truly is.

I grabbed my scalpel, a paring knife, to begin the task of carving my pumpkin.  The "caps" of our pumpkins were not easily removed as the flesh was too thick for me to incise easily.   There was no delicate surgical incision.  It was more like a Horror Movie attack!  I was waiting for fake blood to spurt in all directions, a lightening strike, and a coyote to howl in the distance!  I held the knife in a tight fist, aggressively stabbing into the flesh and dragging it along our dotted cap line. 
Finally, after much effort, the cap was completed, with the help of my husband, and off it came.

My husband, Justin, dug right into his pumpkin.  No fear!

Miranda also dug into her pumpkin right away.  Surprised at the odd textures within the pumpkin, she made a few squeals, but she was eventually okay with the entire endeavor of pumpkin gutting.

Connor refused to put his hands into the pumpkin.  I reassured him that he had to pull the seeds out of the pumpkin if he wanted to make the face on his pumpkin.  Miranda reassured him that it was okay to reach inside.  I reassured him, but he did not bite.  He was grossed out.

At this point, Justin noticed that I too had not touched my pumpkin.  While I was explaining how it was not icky gross to Connor, the truth is that I was repulsed by the look of the inside of the pumpkin.  The closest I had previously been to pumpkin guts before was pumpkin pie!

The inside of these pumpkins had long, string-like, adhesions of pumpkin flesh extending from top to bottom and side to side.  There were stringy, gooey, lumpy insides, containing moist sticky seeds. 

While the smell emanating from the inside of this giant orange melon was fantastic, the insides were scary looking, scary feeling, and as you scoop, the sound too was...well...scary.  As you scoop inside the pumpkin, grasping the slimy innards, and ripping them out, the long, string-like adhesions make a popping noise as they break. 

Pop, Pop, Pop...ick...

After the lovely insides became lovely outsides, the hollow melon was ours for decorating.  We all used markers to create our faces.  Connor and Miranda created cute simple faces that only gifted artists would create.  I designed a detailed swirly decorative face.  Daddy carved the faces on his own pumpkin, and also carved the faces on Miranda and Connor's pumpkins.  As he carved three, I struggled with my own pumpkin's face.

Stab, jab, drag.  I could barely make straight lines, never mind make intricate curves and curls!  The swirly decorative face I designed suddenly became the simplified, typical, triangular face seen on most jack-o-lanterns.

I have discovered two new things about myself in this new Halloween adventure...

1. My first pumpkin carving...and it is less gross to spay a cat...

2. I have discovered a fondness of the toothy, crooked grins of the typical jack-o-lantern, although I am not sure why...

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jojo's Canine DNA Test Results #2 Mars Wisdom Panel

If you have been following this blog, then you know that we have a sweet puppy for adoption at South Hamilton Animal Alliance whose "breed" make-up is in question. She is just 20 lbs, and sweet as pie.
Her name is Jojo. You can read previous parts of her story at
Jojo: Vicious Pit Bull or Beagle or Boxer or Neither? .
Doggie DNA: Testing of the Tests
Update 1: Doggie DNA Testing of the Tests
Jojo's DNA Test Results #1 DDC Lab

Our Sweet Jojo!

We submitted her DNA samples to three different laboratories who specialize in canine breed DNA tests. As we waited patiently with baited puppy breath, her test results are starting to arrive.
Today we received the results from MARS Veterinary Wisdom Panel.
The email received stated,

"Are you ready to uncover the breeds that make your dog truly one-of-a-kind? Your wait is now over!
We have completed the DNA analysis for Jojo using the Wisdom Panel™ Insights state-of-the-art breed detection process, comparing his breed makeup to over 170 different breeds.
Anxious for your dog's results? We are excited to offer you online DNA results for faster reporting. Within 3 weeks of receipt of your dog's sample, your dog's report will be available for download. Simply click on our test status checker.
Order Details:
Dog's Name: Jojo
Validated Date: 27 Oct 2010
Thank you again for your order. Knowing Jojo's breed history can help you create a tailored care program so you can target behavior training, be smarter about nutritional planning and plan exercise activities that can make your dog happier and healthier...


Mars Veterinary

When I click on the link the report, there are two significant breeds listed.  Their test compiles results in three stages, Significant Breed, Intermediate Breed, and Minor Breed. 

Quoted from the document:
"How to interpret your dog's results:

When reading your report, keep in mind that all physical traits of the breeds found may not always be apparent in your dog.

Why? Because a mixed-breed dog’s appearance varies depending on the overall mix of breeds found and the specific genes inherited from each of those breeds. When dominant and recessive genes combine from the different breeds across the generations, unique and unpredictable combinations can occur. This is a big reason why your dog is unique and may not exhibit the physical traits of each breed.

Significant Breed - At least 50% of your dog’s DNA matches this breed, so you are likely to see some physical and behavioral traits from this breed represented unless some of the genes are recessive.

Intermediate Breed - At least 25% of your dog’s DNA matches this breed, so you may see some physical and behavioral traits represented in your dog.

Minor Breed - At least 12.5% of your dog’s DNA matches this breed, but at this level, it is unlikely that this
breed’s physical traits are visually represented unless some of the genes are dominant."

The first breed result is American Staffordshire Terrier, and is listed as a significant breed.

Josie is for adoption at Secondhand Hounds, Edina, MN

The test result inquires,
"Do you recognize any of these American Staffordshire Terrier traits in JOJO?"
"Intelligent, hard-working, and stoic dogs."  Absolutely!  Every movement is followed by tail wagging and kisses!

"Very loyal to family and usually good with children."  Rambunctious for young kids, but does LOVE them!

"May not get along well with other dogs." She is currently in a foster home with two full grown pit bulls and two cats and NO ISSUES at all!

"American Staffordshire Terriers seem to enjoy dog sports such as agility, flyball, rally and competitive obedience."  I agree she has the build, desire, and intelligence to participate in such activities.

"There have been reported incidents of American Staffordshire Terriers being aggressive with other pets
or people."  Again, She is currently in a foster home with two full grown pit bulls and two cats and NO ISSUES at all!

The second breed result is Bulldog. While it didn't mention American Bulldog vs. English Bulldog vs. French Bulldog, the image they used definitely indicated English Bulldog.

The test results inquires,
"Do you recognize any of these Bulldog traits in JOJO?"

"Playful, calm, and usually friendly dogs."    Yes, for playful and friendly.  Calm?  Not so much!

"Bulldogs are less energetic than other breeds, although"     No, Jojo's energy level is puppy like!

There are no other breeds listed on the DNA report.
My curiosity is again heightened to see what the results hold from the final of the three laboratories' DNA tests.

Will the lab results from the final laboratory be similar to or possibly match the test results we read in the first two results?

Will the results be completely different?
A little more waiting, and our curiosity should be satisfied...

Tell me your thoughts on the two results we have received so far!  Are you surprised?  Disappointed?  Intrigued?  Flabbergasted?  Let me know!  Share your opinion!

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Stones in the Road

People who know me well, know that music can make or break me.  I feel my heart, my soul, and my energy rise with songs that I love.  Music can give me the energy or confidence that I need at any given moment, or it can commiserate with me as though it was my very best and most understanding friend.  I can listen to it over and over, or I can choose when I am done listening, walking away content and understood. 

I heard a song yesterday... here are some of the lyrics.

"When you walk into the edge of those
Dark and lonely woods and when I ask how was your day
And you answer 'Not so good'
And when nothing seems to be working out
Quite the way it should; I will shine the light.
When the skies up above you fill
With grey and stormy clouds.
And there's not a single face you know
In the maddening crowd...

When you're staring down your demons
Weighing in your darkest night
I will shine the light.
Sometimes we jump into the great unknown.
Sorrows we all will have to walk alone.
Waiting there in the end is a heart that calls you a friend.
That's me clapping the loudest welcoming you home.
So when your heart is heavy like a stone
From carrying it's load
And you look into the mirror and see someone you don't know
When the shadows are closing in on you like a hand around your throat
I will shine the light.
I will shine the light.
When you've given into your fears
When you've lost your will to fight
Let me know what I can do
Let me try to make it right.
I will shine the light."

Here is the song in it's entirety
It is "Shine the Light" by Sugarland.

I was sobbing by the end of the song.  My heart has been carrying around stones for so long, that I forget there is a light. 

The biggest stone I carry is the loss of my Mother.  She passed away ten years ago from lung cancer.  She was my Mother.  She was my Best Friend.  She was my Light.  I remember trying everything to get her to quit smoking when I was a kid.  I purchased kits they advertised on TV like the little plastic cigarette you could puff on and inhale nothing but air.  I tried replacing her cigarettes by putting a box of tic tacs in her cigarette case.  I had heard that chewing tic tacs can satisfy the oral need of missing cigarettes.  Let me say that one REALLY did not go over well.  She did not discover the switch until she was at work, so her cigarette break was not a pleasant one.  I remember telling her when I was a teenager that if cigarettes killed her, that I would never forgive her.  Well, I did forgive her.  But I miss her.

My kids shine their light on me.  They cast my stones into shadows, which makes me less aware of how heavy they can be. They make me happy, they make me proud, they also make me angry...but these are all signs of passion. Passion is the gift we all have in life and following it is how we succeed in life.

However, sometimes my kids' light shines right on the stones I bear.  Sometimes, my kids do something and I want to call my Mom to share the moment.  Or I want to ask her if I had ever done something like that.  Or I want to hear her say, I just bought the cutest outfits for the kids.  I'd like to hear her say she loves them, or is proud of them.  I would just like to hear her voice, or feel her hug again.  I would like to hear my kids say they love her, or see them give her a hug.

That stone is SO heavy, it is sometimes unbearable.  I know I am not alone in having lost a loved one.  I am not claiming to be the only large stone bearer.  Many of us carry large stones, some larger than the one I carry.  Among these large stones, are many other stones that are of different sizes.  Many of them are also shared by many of you.  They are made up of mistakes we have made, things we wished we had done differently, goals we did not achieve, fights we did not win, passions we did not follow.  Some weigh heavy, others are small but the number of them may add up to a burdenous load.

I guess that is why this song hit home for me.  It gave me recognition of these stones I carry, and made me aware that there is a light.  Everybody's light source is different, but we all have some.

It occurred to me by the end of the song, "What about those that are forgotten".  There are forgotten lives in this world, and I wonder when their light is going to shine.  Who will carry their stones? 

There are people who live in cruel conditions, people who have had great misfortune, kids with cancer, kids that have been abducted, people that are routinely abused mentally and or physically.  Where is their light?

There are many animals for which animal rescue people have been their light.  We cast away their stones and hold the animal in their new found light, we bathe them in that light, and we pass that light on to their new families.  Every once in a while, these animals hold onto their stones, despite the light.  But they are in the light, and that is what matters, that is what we have given them. 

But for the dogs residing in cages for their entire lives,  for the dogs sleeping on wire flooring instead of in someone's arms,  I am screaming for your light!  For the fighting dogs that are tortured and killed in the name of entertainment or sport, I am screaming for your light!  For the animal victims of crush videos, I am screaming for your light!  For the furry victims of hoarding, abuse, neglect, I am screaming for your light!  For animals abandoned in pastures, buildings, countrysides, tied to trees, I am screaming for your light.  For the healthy animals euthanized in overwhelmed shelters or lazy shelters everywhere, every minute, of every day, I am screaming for your light! 

I want to know where their light is!   Where is their light?!  And why on earth is it so hard to shine it upon them!  My inability to shine on you is another large stone.

We are wanting to shine it.  We are dreaming of shining it upon you.  We will continue to struggle in our attempts to SHINE this light upon you, to show you what love is. You are not forgotten.  You are loved, you just do not know it yet. 

For those animals who have lost their lives and succumbed in the darkness, welcome to your light.  Gather the other angels around you and feel their love.  Shine your new found light on those who are still waiting for their light, and I will continue to shout.  Meanwhile, my Mom will silently shine her light upon me.

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