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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Legal vs. Ethical Obligation?

I was at an animal welfare meeting which was attended by veterinarians, shelter employees, rescue volunteers, as well as law enforcement personnel.  The meeting was very educational, and also allowed people to ask questions regarding laws about which they needed more clarification.

Of course the topic turned to puppy mills.  One of the topics discussed was the fact that licensed commercial breeders are required to have a veterinarian to "sign on" as the veterinarian for that breeder.

One veterinarian asked a question.  " If we sign on as the veterinarian for a facility, does that make us legally responsible for what happens in that facility."  The answer from our speaker was a simple no. 

It was not just the answer that disturbed me.  It was the fact that the question was asked.  If you sign on to a facility, you are not just signing a paper.  You, as an animal care professional, are attesting to the fact that the care in that facility meets your own animal care standards, which hopefully are not limited to the legal requirements. Veterinarians deal on a daily basis with the progeny of the dogs bred within these facilities, and small animal veterinarians make the majority of their income caring for the dogs who are now part of a human family, but once were the offspring of those puppy mill dogs that reside in cages for their lifetime.   If veterinarians agree to sign on the dotted line, should they not be obligated to attest to the care of the animals residing within these facilities?  Are the legal standards ALL they should consider when (and if) they do tour these facilities and decide to sign on th dotted line? 

 My answer to the original question is a bit more complicated.

"No, sir, you are not legally responsible if their standards are not kept within legal requirements.  However, you are ethically responsible to sign on ONLY IF you know for a fact that their facilities meet legal requirements and your own ethical and medical expectations of how the dogs (parents of the patients for which you care and from whom you make a living) should be kept for their lifetime."


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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Last One is A Zinger!

Eating supper, Connor turns and asks, "What is this?"  I respond, "Kielbasa".  "Killbasa?"   He hesitates.  "Does it kill people?"

We stop at Casey's to pick up a quick sandwich.  Connor chooses a ham and cheese sub.  When he unwraps the sandwich, he sees swiss cheese complete with holes.  "Mom!  It has real mouse cheese!"  When I buy him swiss cheese from the store to impress him, he sees it in the fridge, and remarks, "Mom, we have real mouse cheese?!"  I respond, "Yes".  He looks at it, and finishes with, "That's gross."


A young girl who assists in Connor's classroom sees me at the grocery store.  She says, "Connor is so cute!  Today we watched a Garfield movie, but Garfield wasn't feeling well.  So the Vet comes to see Garfield and feels his tummy.  When he does, Garfield groans in discomfort.  Connor says, "My Mommy would NEVER do that to a cat!"



We went to a chinese buffet.  Connor insists on loading his own plate.  I give him the plate and just follow him around.  He sees what looks like long slender chicken legs and starts piling them on the plate.  I look up because I had never noticed this item at this restaurant before, and start laughing when I see a sign that says, "Frog legs".  Connor asks why I am laughing as he continues to pile them onto his plate.   Laughing, I state, "Those are frog legs".  He screams loudly, "EEEEEWWWW", tilts his plate back, as about a dozen legs slide quickly off the plate into the container from which they came.

Same chinese buffet, but years earlier.  A tiny 3 or 4 year old Miranda and I are headed to the rest room to wash our hands.  At the table in the back are two women speaking in what I can only assume is Chinese.  Miranda stops dead in her tracks, flails her arms dramatically and pronounces, "Mommy, What ARE they talking about?"


Last night, 7 year old Miranda asked Daddy, "Is Santa Real?"  Before Daddy can respond, Connor belts out, "Of course he's real!  He's not a toy!"

I hope I made you smile!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!!!






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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No Room At The Inn?

Meet Mario!

Mario is an extremely personable kitten.  He was found by one of our foster volunteers.  She scooped him up and asked if we would take him into our adoption program.  We immediately said yes, but found we needed to tend to an injured foot.



After examining him, we discovered that this was not a minor injury on his foot.  It was a fracture.  His rear foot was somehow broken and in need of stabilization.  Fortunately for him, kittens grow quickly and as a result, the bones usually heal pretty well as long as they are relatively stable. Also fortunate is the fact that the weather quickly got cold after we took him in, and with his young age and his injury, I am certain he would not have survived the following weeks outside, unless there was a very attentive mother cat caring for him.  No such mother was in the immediate vicinity when he was discovered.

He is healing very well.  His leg is so tiny, I crafted a splint out of a tongue depressor, padded it with gauze, and wrapped it in tape. 



For a local Christmas event, we brought Mario to meet and greet the public.  He loved every minute of the attention he received!  We decorated his splint to resemble a tiny candy cane.  Had we done this sooner, we could have named him "Striper".




Mario is still looking for a loving home.  Click here to learn more.


This leads me to one of the biggest struggles we have amongst the employees and myself at my clinic in regards to strays and owner surrenders. 

Animal Shelters usually charge intake fees when they agree to take an animal into their group.  The fees are often minimal.  We set our relinquishing fee at $35 which we believe is reasonable considering we are helping to ensure the safety of the pet that the people are leaving behind and providing it with necessary housing and veterinary care for the duration of its stay. 

The biggest VIOLATOR of this rule is ME. I guess it is a good thing I am the boss, but I may have to fire myself!

We do have those people who give above and beyond our "relinquishing fee" and I thank goodness we have them.  But this blog is not about them.

Owners of the pets needing to come into our rehoming service sometimes claim to have no money, despite the fresh pack of cigarettes in their pocket and the car they left running in the parking lot that is burning gas as they spend time arguing with my staff.  I want to believe these people are telling the truth.  Times are hard for many right now, but I also know that in many situations, the animal is not considered a mandatory expense, especially in an emergency, despite the fact that our fee helps to ensure their pet's health and safety.

When it is a concerned citizen who found a stray or dumped animal, I am blissfully thankful to them for stopping to assist an animal in need.   More often than you would think, the concerned citizen refuses to help us finance the care of the animal since they found it and it was not their animal.  Sometimes these concerned citizens promise to come back later that day with the fee, but rarely do they actually make the trip back.  I understand that if you found an animal, you may feel that the fee for the animal's care is not your "responsibility".   But I have some news for you.  When you pick up an animal in need, the responsibility for that animal immediately becomes yours.  The next decision you make should ensure that animal's safety.  Whether you keep the animal, rehome it, or bring it to a shelter or rescue group, you are now the responsible party.  If you put the animal back into harms way, it is you who are responsible for what happens to that animal.  But many people will argue that point.  I fear that these sometimes heated discussions with our concerned citizens may deter them from helping the next animal in need. 

A black and white rule is great for a staff to follow, but I have been in this world too long to believe that anything is black and white.  The bottom line for most businesses is the bottom dollar.  When I try to make finances a priority, not necessarily just for profit but to ensure that I can keep the clinic running and pay the staff to continue their efforts, I find myself being the one staring into the eyes of a dog or cat and telling the owner we cannot take the animal into our adoption program.  As they walk out the door, I find myself wondering what is going to happen to the animal after they leave my clinic.  I find myself wondering if that animal will be found abandoned in a field after wandering for three days.  I find myself wondering if just one more animal in our care really would have hurt.

It is never easy to say no when someone asks for help with an animal.  Saying no invokes a feeling of guilt and sorrow because animal rescuers really do want to help them all.  If it is simply due to lack of room for the animal, I can only take those animals for whom I have room.  When it comes to potentially having room, but having a person who is unwilling to assist us in our efforts, and follow our guidelines, it is extremely difficult emotionally to say no to that animal.  The only one that will suffer as a result of a "rule" is the animal.  Oddly, I am certain that if you were able to ask a dog for its last toy or kibble to assist its owner in need, the dog would give it without question.

I sometimes forget that I have expenses.  These expenses need to be paid in order for us to continue our work.  I have an eight year education, a building, and medical equipment to pay for, and a staff that deserves to make more money than they do currently. I will always find it difficult in both the rescue business and in the veterinary business to say no when an animal needs my assistance but the humans cannot or will not pay my fees.  I guess that is why I do what I do with the low cost spay and neuter programs, and our rescue work.  But I am sometimes haunted by the eyes of those I could not help. 

When I look at Mario, I see a pair of eyes we could help.  And I am thankful for those.


But "no", is never easy.





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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Retractable Leashes: The Good and The Bad

Just a few years into my veterinary career, I was driving home from work.  It was already dark out.  As I drove down the road, I could see the silhouette of a person standing on a sidewalk appearing to gaze into the road.  In the road, next to the curb, was a silhouette of a large lump.  I could not make out much more than this, but was concerned enough about the scenario to pull over and stop my car. 

I walked back to the unusual scene to discover the human form was a woman, probably in her late 40's, early 50's.  Unfortunately, I also discovered that the lump in the road was a not-quite-full-grown Golden Retriever.  In my proximity, I could now see that the dog was still attached to its leash, and the leash was still held in hand by the dog's owner.  In most situations, maintaining control of the dog by leash is safe.  But this leash was a retractable leash.


The woman was just standing there.  I have no idea how long she had been standing there.  She was definitely in shock.  She was unsure of what she should do.  Cell phones were hardly common at this time (dating myself, I know).  She knew she could not lift this now deceased large dog and carry him all the way home.  Yet she refused to leave him laying in the road.  She just stood there, puzzled, shocked, still holding the leash as if her dog would get up and continue on their walk.

I explained who I was, and offered to help her lift the dog into my car so we could take the body back to the veterinary office, and place him in cold storage, giving her time to decide what she would like to do with it.  Some people prefer to bury their pets on their property (not always an easy option with a large dog on the east coast).  Others have their veterinarians take care of the remains.  Still others opt to get the pet cremated and receive the ashes back.

As we moved the body of this ten month old dog,  I was able to get the rest of the story.  The two were walking down the street on the sidewalk, against traffic, as they did every night.  The dog saw a car coming and for some reason decided that this car's headlights were worth chasing.  He had never done this before, or at least was never ABLE to do this before, but tonight he charged after the lights.  The woman thought the lock on the leash was engaged.  It was either not engaged, or it broke under the force of the dog's charge.  The dog ran straight into the road after its target, still on leash, and was hit by the car and killed instantly.  The driver never stopped.

Retractable leashes are very convenient when used properly.  They should be used away from roads, traffic, or hazards of any kind.  Walk your dog to the park using a regular non-retractable leash.  When you arrive at the park or other place that will safely allow more running space, then you can change over to the retractable leash.  When changing leashes, never remove one leash until the other leash is safely in place.  A choke collar should never be used with a retractable leash as it would maintain tension on the choke collar and defeat the purpose and function of the choke collar, and potentially constrict the dog's neck.



The woman came to me several months later with a new puppy.  She became a client after my assistance was offered that night.  She never used the retractable leash while walking on the road again.  It was a tragic accident, but a lesson was learned by both of us that night.  A lesson worth sharing. 







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Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Life Anthem... Won't You Stand Up?

Passion.  You have to follow it, pursue it, and use it, in order to keep it.  If you ignore your passion, you end up stagnant, uninspired, and quite possibly, lonely.  We are born with passion, and I believe we are meant to follow it, regardless of what it is you are passionate about.  If ignored, you will likely never become the person you were meant to be.

Some people are passionate about the arts, or human rights, or global warming.  Some people are fortunate enough to dedicate a lot of time to their passion.  Others squeeze it in between their jobs and their family time.  The truth is, if you give yourself to your passion, even in small amounts, you will feel better about yourself, and become a better person as a result.  It is not the amount of time you give, it is the fact that you want to give and you allow yourself to do so.

My favorite quote has been "Be the change you wish to see in the world." by Mahatma Gandhi.  I wear a ring bearing this quote, and I have given a necklace bearing these words to a woman I respect in the animal welfare community.  It applies not only to my rescue work, but to other aspects of my life as well.

I now have a new "life anthem".  I could listen to it repeatedly, day in and day out. I could read, and reread the lyrics.  The words, written by another, come straight from my heart, and they are my advice to every person, in order to find happiness, peace, bliss.

The song is "Stand Up" by Sugarland.

Here is a link to a video of the song:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwdOUW2abqI .

The lyrics from the video:

"The heart that beats
An incredible machine
made of blood and love
and hope and lust and steam.
Calling.  Calling. Calling.

All the lonely people cryin’
It could change if we just get started
Lift the darkness, light a fire
For the silent and the broken hearted

Won’t you stand up
Stand Up
Stand Up
Won’t you stand up you girls and boys?

Won’t you stand up
Stand Up
Stand Up
Won’t you stand up and use your voice?

There’s a comfort
There’s a healing
High above the pain and sorrow
Change is coming
Can you feel it?
Calling us in to a new tomorrow

Won’t you stand up
Stand Up
Stand Up
Won’t you stand up you girls and boys?

Won’t you stand up
Stand Up
Stand Up
Won’t you stand up and use your voice?

When the walls fall all around you
When your hope has turned to dust

Let the sound of love surround you
Beat like a heart in each of us

Won’t you stand up
Stand Up
Stand Up
Won’t you stand up you girls and boys?

Won’t you stand up
Stand Up
Stand Up
Won’t you stand up and use your voice?"


Our voices are strong, but only if we use them.  Our voices are heard, but only if we sound them.  Our voices inspire, but only if we project them.

Regardless of the root of your passion, whether it is keeping the arts in schools, aiding the elderly, keeping history alive, assisting the poor, or animal welfare, to keep silent is the equivalent of watching the very things of which you are passionate die.

Find your passion, and engage your heart.  Feel what it is like to make a difference, a difference only you can make.  Feel what it is like to truly be alive.

"No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little." Edmund Burke





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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Seniors Do It Best!

In shelters everywhere, the animals with the least chance for adoption, and often the least chance for survival, never even making it to the adoption floor, are the animals with the most years under their collar.  The senior dogs and cats that end up in shelters, usually do not make it out.

There are those people who purposely seek out and adopt senior animals.  These people have the most to invest, both financially and emotionally, and the most to lose.  They invest a lot financially in these animals as senior pets are likely to develop health problems that require veterinary care. They invest a lot emotionally, because when you adopt a senior pet, you are not going to have that pet for ten years.  If you were to ask a senior adopter what it is they lose by adopting a senior pet, you will not hear about the money or the time invested.  You will likely hear that what they lose is their heart.  They lose it by  falling in love with that senior pet, and mourning their loss within just a few months or years of having been together.

Charlie/Buddy:


Buddy was a senior Australian Shepherd mix.  He was in a high kill shelter in Missouri.  I saw a photo of his handsome face and agreed to take him into our rescue despite his age.  In rescue, people know what type of dogs/breeds/cats that people have weaknesses for, and that is how Buddy's photo ended up in my email box.  When he arrived, his face was the same handsome face in the photo, but what was not seen in the photo or expressed in the email was the condition of the rest of him.  The back half of his body had no hair.  His tail also was devoid of hair, resembling the tail of a rat.  There were warts all along his hairless back and rump.  His teeth were chewed down and stained with metal (often seen when dogs are caged outside and chew on the the chain link out of frustration and boredom).

Buddy was going to be with us for a while and we knew it.  He was gorgeous from the neck up, but his baboon butt was not going to help find him a loving home, and neither was his age.  So we introduced him to my dogs and he was allowed to stay in the office area with us during the day, rather than in a cage.  He was wonderful and we loved him.  We discovered that his hair loss was due to undiagnosed thyroid disease, easily and inexpensively treated.  We removed his warts when we neutered him.  His new life was beginning, and he was enjoying it.  His hair grew in thick and gorgeous for an old man.

For months he lived as an office dog.  He was part of our family.  Then along came a woman.  She wanted our Buddy, and we were both skeptical and excited at the same time.  We went through her application and it was wonderful.  She came up to meet him.  I went into the room to talk to her and I recall asking her, "Why our Buddy?"  I had to hear the right answer, even though I didn't know what the right answer to that question could be.  She looked me in the eyes, her eyes welled up with tears, and she said.  "His eyes.  I fell in love with his eyes."

As the adoption proceeded, we all cried and said our goodbyes.  You can read a thank you note with a photo from Buddy's Mom (who named him Charlie) here.  Our Buddy recently passed away due to kidney failure after three years knowing a loving family.

Remy

Remy is a Shih Tzu whose elderly human companion was placed in a nursing home.  Her niece tried to care for him, but she simply did not have the time to give poor Remy, and she knew he was suffering as a result.  Remy entered our rescue as a 10 year old dog with a heart murmur, and little chance of adoption, but we did not give up on him.



We tried to get Remy into breed specific rescue groups who could offer him a foster home, but they saw his age, and he was rejected.  We gave him all of his medical care updates, including a dental which was greatly needed.

In another town, a woman was making the difficult decision to euthanize a senior dog she dearly loved.  The very next day, the same woman saw Remy on our website, and she knew he was to spend the rest of his time with her. 

Remy had the time of his life living with this woman, her other dogs and cats, and making friends at a retirement home which he visited weekly.  He allowed the residents to hold him upside down and coo at him as though he was their baby.  His heart touched each of theirs.  Something that could not have happened had he not been adopted.


Remy's failing heart recently gave out after thirteen months with his new mom, but that heart was full of love to the very end.


Herkie:


Herkie was a stray in a neighboring town.  He was obviously a senior dog with greying muzzle and obvious hind limb arthritis problems.  He has a long wonderful story which you can read here: Herkie's Story .  He was a friendly and sometimes youthful dog who carried a toy outside with him every time he had to go potty!  Another rescue group offered us a foster home for him.  While we would miss him, we knew that Herkie being in a true "home" setting would be best for him.  He moved from Iowa to www.AdoptaLab.org in Illinois.  His foster Mom did an amazing job with him as you can see if you read the above linked story, and we assumed that his foster home would be his life long home.

Then we got the message that a woman was going to adopt our Herkie.  Herkie was again on the move, this time to New Jersey.  She built Herkie a set of stairs so he could sleep in her king size bed with her.  He went on vacations with her.  He played in the yard with her as though he was a puppy. 




After just five and a half months with his loving mother, Herkie's body succumbed to seizures and inability to walk on those arthritic hind legs.  His mother stayed with him when he was put down, gazing into his eyes, and whispering "I love you" into his yellow lab ears.  He knew the love of a forever family, even if only for a brief amount of time.

To the parents of Buddy/Charlie, Remy, and Herkie,  and to ALL adopters and foster parents of senior and special needs dogs, this blog is your tribute.  Your dedication and patience to the animals that have only a brief time left in this life is admired by all of us in rescue.  Thank you for being there for our senior friends, and in that way, for being there for us. 



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Monday, October 10, 2011

Iowa Mink Release Fails to Rescue

As I write this blog, an FBI helicopter is humming above our small town.  Many will lose sleep to that surprisingly loud flutter tonight if it persists into the wee hours of the morning.  Our small town has fallen victim to domestic terrorism.  The federal and local police are searching for the terrorists.

A local mink farm was broken into and 1200-1500 mink were released from their cages a few days ago in an attempt to "rescue" them.

http://www.kcci.com/news/29426211/detail.html

The culprits apparently tried to repeat the act tonight, as the law lay in wait for them.  We will see what the news has to say tomorrow about this evening's incident.  Meanwhile, the helicopter hovers above us, viewing our town in infrared and night vision scopes, and the residents text each other to lock doors and vehicles as the terrorists try to find a place to hide.

While I will never wear a mink coat, or admire anyone who does, I believe the people who attempted this rescue did so with very little knowledge about the repercussions of their actions.  They have not saved a single life tonight.

Releasing mink who have spent their entire lives in cages into the wild in the middle of the night is an immature and unsuccessful attempt at making a statement.  These mink are raised with water and food allotments handed to them.  Few of them will survive and fewer will thrive following sudden abandonment just weeks before an Iowa winter rears its ugly head.  Rather than running to freedom, the mink that remain loose stay on the property that they recognize as theirs, engaging in territorial fights, killing each other, one by one.

Many of the released mink were trapped by the farmer and volunteers following their release, and are now residing in cages with unfamiliar cage mates.  Those mink who were housed together are now separated and housed with those whom they have not yet established a hierarchy.  This is the equivalent of placing unfamiliar, scared, and aggressive dogs into a small cage (or ring, sound familiar?).  The result is fighting and often death of one or more of the cage mates. 

The actions of these people are equivalent to putting a band-aid on a slit throat.  It is not pretty, will not help the victims, and will not win you any praise.  If you want to make change, support the legislators trying to make that change.  Educate the public.  Decrease the demand, and the profit will decrease.  All of these take time, but it is the only way to protect animals.

Acting out illegally, and causing the amount of stress you caused in these animals is not going to gain you any praise from me or from most in the animal welfare circuit.  While we may or may not agree with your views about mink farming, your weapons should be words, not acts of cruelty.  Acts like these cause a loss of respect for animal welfare and animal rights supporters by the general public.  We come off being viewed as criminals, too uneducated to recognize the difference between saving one vs. protecting many.  We are viewed as unstable morons racing around screaming, "Let the pretty mink free"! 

Rather than save a small group of animals, our actions should provide a blanket that protects all of them. It is equivalent to buying a puppy from a store because you feel bad that it came from a puppy mill.  If you feel bad for puppies sold in stores, then you should try to get the store to discontinue selling puppies, not support the store by purchasing the puppy to "rescue" it.  Pick up your pens, grab a dictionary and a thesaurus, and make a real difference by writing to your legislators and educating your friends, family, and the local public. 

Why mink release is considered an act of domestic terrorism, I am unsure.  I suspect it is because it is considered an attack on the agricultural industry and lies in the same realm as an attack on our food source, IE cattle or hogs, as may happen in an act of war. 

If this is the interpretation, and is the reason why the federal agencies seem to be involved in catching "mink liberators", I think the government would be better off spending this time and money rewriting the laws that make up the animal welfare act, and better defining the animal industries and protecting the animals in their care.  Hogs are not mink are not dogs.  They all deserve their own set of rules and regulations as their husbandry and produce is not similar.

Releasing a pathogen as an act of war in order to deplete our nations food source is an act of terrorism whose ramifications would be felt nationwide.   That, I do understand.   Releasing mink from a farm, mink who are intended for the backs of the filthy rich is difficult for me to view as an act of terrorism.  Their production is meant to support egos and vanity, while cattle and hogs support the nourishment of families.  One is cosmetic and superficial, the other is a mainstay of life (unless your a vegetarian but the truth is that the majority of our nation is not).  Mink release does not threaten our survival...

Although I would hate to hear that thousands of Iowans froze to death this winter due to an unfortunate delay in mink coat production.

If you really think about it,




Don't we look just as ridiculous wearing theirs???


"Cruelty is one fashion statement we can all do without."
~Rue McClanahan


"Behind every beautiful fur, there is a story. It is a bloody, barbaric story." 
~Mary Tyler Moore


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***Special thanks to those of you who provided words of support and encouragement in reference to my preceding blog.  I truly appreciate it, even though there were too many emails to respond to personally.  Thank you. :-)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Where Am I?

I am tired. 

Having experienced some personal tragedies, as well as some rescue related tragedies and dilemmas, I am mentally and physically exhausted.  I am shocked that I have let the blog set idle for this long, as it is my therapy, and my friend, but even now I am stretching to find something to write about.  I feel as though I owe people an explanation of where I am and why I have been silent.

I am tired.

Rescue burns people out.  It burns people out emotionally, physically, and financially.  It can do so quickly.  I am not at my breaking point, so do not interpret this as a retirement letter.  But I am tired and our work seems futile in the grand scheme of things.

Rescue people learn to focus on the eyes of the animals within their care to keep them going on a day to day basis.  I feel as though I cannot focus on that one face anymore.  I am distracted.  There is too much I cannot do, and the job seems undo-able.  The scale of what needs to be accomplished in order to protect animals is astronomical and feels completely out of my hands as an individual.  I feel like a salmon swimming up a never ending stream with a current so strong I cannot make it to the destination I seek.  I feel my contribution is just an insignificant drop in that stream.

I am tired.

I am trying to focus on gaining my health back by working out, eating better, and having conversations with friends that are unrelated to animals and rescue.  I am trying to focus on the few animals we have in our rescue without being intimidated and overwhelmed by the mass killing of dogs and cats in shelters, the over breeding of dogs and cats in mass production puppy mills, and the overall apathy and inaction of people who really do care about animals but justify their inaction with, "I just couldn't do what you do."

I am tired of being tired.

I will continue to write at some point, and I will continue to rescue because both of these are an integral part of who I am. 

But I have to find the me who can be there for family, and friends, the me who can trust people, the me who is not cynical and depressed, the me who can smile and laugh sincerely, and the me who is not the automaton who seems to have taken over my life.

I have to find me. 

If you see me anywhere, tell me to come home.




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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dog Holds Vigil by Soldier Companion's Casket

Jon Tumilson was a Navy Seal.  Jon Tumilson was an Iowan.  Jon Tumilson is a hero.  Jon was one of thirty soldiers killed in Afghanistan when the Chinook helicopter in which they were traveling was shot down on Aug. 6, 2011 by Afghani forces.  He was 35 years old.  A photo of his funeral has gone viral and become one of the most popular photos on the Internet being spread worldwide.

At the funeral, his family sat, grieving just a few yards away from the flag draped casket.  One family member needed to be closer. 

Jon's loyal Labrador Retriever, named Hawkeye, left the side of mourning family members to lay beside the casket of his hero and best friend. 



The photo was taken in a small town in Iowa named Rockford, which is nestled in Floyd County, Iowa.


In an ironic twist, in the same county where a dog showed his unconditional love and loyalty for his human companion and his photo generated worldwide admiration, there are at least five Government approved puppy mills.  Commercial breeders reside within the cities of Ionia, Charles City, and Rudd, all neighbors of the little town of Rockford, where Hawkeye stood vigil for his fallen companion.  There are hundreds of dogs in Floyd County living their entire lives within a cage with little, if any, show of human affection.  "According to the USDA, at least 23,000 adult dogs are kept in Iowa commercial kennels."  



(Above Photos used as examples and not of Floyd County)
The love that Hawkeye showed to his hero has shown the world the true value of a canine companion.   Dogs know and understand loyalty, unconditional love, and they mourn the loss of their companions, human or canine.   Dogs are true companions, and not something to be kept in a cage for a lifetime of neglect and repetitive breeding.  A dog's love and life long companionship are worth so much more than the money their puppies produce.

While Hawkeye has earned the privilege of leading the University of Iowa Hawkeye's onto the turf covered field during a football game, we must remember the hundreds of dogs within Floyd county, and the thousands in Iowa, and millions of dogs nationwide, who have never stepped foot onto grass or felt the wind blow.

Perhaps Floyd County and Iowa will open their eyes to the honor of being a dog thanks to the world's appreciation of Hawkeye's actions.  But it is more likely the horrific lives of the commercial breeding dogs will continue to be hidden and government approved.

I suspect that if Hawkeye could speak, he would voice his opinion loudly.

Our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Jon Tumilson. 

There are two heroes of which you should be proud.



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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Scentsy! Your purchase will help us RESCUE and prevent Tail fires!

Going away to Veterinary School was a big move for me.   I had gone "away" to undergrad but was only an hour and forty five minutes away from home at any given time.
I coped with this separation by calling home routinely, twice a week. My Mom was always glad to hear from me, but when the conversation started getting too long, she would say, "Ok, that's enough." This was before the cell phone era (ok, I am dating myself), so each minute on the phone was a billed minute. Mom figured one minute less on the phone, was money put towards my education.

One night I was talking with my Mom on the phone. The only phone we had was in the kitchen. It was a rotary phone that was physically attached to the wall (again, dating myself). You were tethered to it by one of those curly springy cords connecting the handset to the base and you were very limited by the two foot cord in the distance you could travel while speaking.  This shortened any lengthy conversation a teenager might have because there was no privacy, and you had to sit down on a stool that was certainly not meant for long term use.  Again, no cell phones.


Mom stopped me in the midst of our conversation that evening by stating, "Hold on a minute, the cat's tail is on fire."

There was no panic in her voice. There was no urgency in the "matter of fact" statement at all. I hear the phone's hand set being placed down on the counter. Meanwhile, I am on the other end of the phone panicking!

"Mom?! What do mean on fire??? MOM?!!!!"

A few moments later, she calmy returns to the phone. "It's okay, I put it out." she says flatly,  and proceeds to continue with the previous conversation. Meanwhile, my heartrate is up, I am panting, and my eyes are widely dilated!  My mind is in a frenzy.

Mom had lit a scented candle on the center of the stove, part of her evening ritual. Oreo, our longhair tuxedo cat, had pounced onto the counter and proceeded onto the stove to investigate Mom's supper which was still in a pan on the stove. During the cat's investigation, her tail spent a moment too long hovering over the lit candle, and it quickly burst into flame. The cat was completely unaware of the danger it was in.

Mom noticed the flame, walked over, picked up the cat, carried her over to the faucet, and doused that tail under a cool stream of water before any harm was done. The cat was safe, and was more upset about the wet tail than the burning tail 

The funniest part was my mother's calmness during and after what could have been a disaster! What if the cat ran and spread the fire throughout the house?   The possibility of damage to the cat, to the house, and potentially to my Mom is very sobering.

While I love scented candles for the fragrances they provide, I dislike the potential for danger that escorts them into the house. With pets, children, and my swiss cheese memory, I worry about the risks of the candles getting knocked over or being forgotten and left to burn when no one is home. I also happen to be married to a man who blows the candles out as fast as I can light them. He worries about soot stains developing on the ceiling. Each time he blows them out, he declares "The wick is too long! The wick is too long!" like Paul Revere declaring that the Red Coats are coming during his Midnight Ride.

Recently, a friend and volunteer pet foster mom, approached me about a new product, Scentsy flameless candles. Scentsy Warmers use a low-watt bulb to melt scented wax slowly.  With no flame, soot, smoke or lead to worry about, the Scentsy system is a safe way to produce a pleasantly smelling environment.

The scents are fragrant and there are so many that everyone can find a favorite. If your child sticks their fingers into the melted wax, it is completely safe. It does not burn the skin. It is comparable in temperature to a paraffin wax dip. Warm but not dangerous. If your furry feline knocks the unit over, there is no flame to spread. The Scentsy burners are much more attractive than a half burned soot filled jar-o-candle.

I can finally have a nice scent emanating throughout the house without the fear of letting it burn too long or unsupervised. The Scentsy plug-in has taken the place of our night light in the hall. It provides plenty of light for the stairwell and we awaken to the scent of our preference each morning. I am so enamoured with this product that our South Hamilton Animal Alliance is having a fundraiser with our local Scentsy representative.

From now until September 30, we are holding a Scentsy products fundraiser. You can view the products at https://judebeme.scentsy.us/Home . When you arrive at this page, you will see a little box in the upper right hand corner labeled "My Open Parties". Scroll through them to find the "South Hamilton Animal Alliance Fundraiser" then click on "Buy from Party". You can then view the products, with styles that represent everything from animals to sports, contemporary to vintage, classic to country. If you already own a Scentsy burner, stop in and order a few new scents! The burners make wonderful gifts for showers, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and there is something to suit everyone's taste.   

With each purchase, you will help The South Hamilton Animal Alliance to provide shelter and medical care for our animals in need, as well as make your home a safer place for your family, furry and otherwise. If you order online, your order will be shipped directly to your shipping address, and the South Hamilton Animal Alliance will be credited for the sale.

You can visit our adoptable animals at http://www.jewellanimalhospital.petfinder.com/ . If you cannot find a Scentsy product that suits you, hopefully you will find a furry friend that will...






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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mommy! Look! Mommy! LOOK!!!

We were at the Iowa State Fair on Tuesday.  I was on the phone talking to a pediatrician about a cat bite case that led to a rabies quarantine, when my son started yelling, "Mommy! Look! Mommy! LOOK!!!"  As I turn around expecting to see some crazy fair ride or giant deep fried snack that he is excited about, I see that he is jumping up and down pointing at a soldier in full camouflage military fatigues.  Then Miranda joins in, "Look Mom!" with an excited smile on her face. 

The soldier is only about three feet from Connor, so he was fully aware of my kids' exhuberant reaction as he walked by.  Being preoccupied with the seriousness of the phone conversation, I was unable to apologize for my kids making such a scene.

To my surprise, rather than continuing to walk by the two crazy kids, the soldier stops and looks at Miranda and Connor.  He stoops down, reaches into his camouflage pocket (I couldn't see it), and says "I have something for you guys." 

He pulls out what would be comparable to a baseball card, but one for soldiers.  His photo, taken in Afghanistan, is on the front, and his information including name and deployment history is on the back.  I wished I had not been on the phone when this happened, because I would have loved to have spoken with him and thanked him for his service.  I would have loved to have taken my kids' photo with him, but I am not sure I would have thought to take one at that very moment, even if I had not been on the phone.

After a brief conversation with them, the details of which I am unaware, he stands up, points at the kids, and says, "You guys take care."  I cupped my hand over the mouthpiece of the phone, and said strongly, "You too," hoping he heard both the concern and the respect in my voice.  I cried as he walked away.  Yep.  I did. 

I placed that soldier's card on the mirror above each of my kid's dressers.

I must admit I was surprised by Connor's reaction to the soldier, unsure of what prompted his excitement.  After thinking about it, I think I may have an idea from where the excitement originated.

When my father turned 18, our country was involved in World War II.  Years earlier, his mother had moved from England to the US around the time of WWI, sometime between 1914-1916.  His father remained in England to serve his country, and joined her in the US after his service in the Royal Armed Forces was complete.  

By the time my father was old enough to enlist, he did, enthusiastically.  He enlisted in the US Navy, and completed boot camp.  By the time he was ready for active duty, the war was officially over. While never doing active duty during wartime, his bravery showed in the choice he made to serve during wartime.  This choice is the source of my deepest admiration for my father. 



I remember noticing my father at parades when I was younger,  Every time a veteran's group walked by, whether they were marching, playing instruments, or riding,  he would remove his hat out of respect, hold it up in the air, and say "Thank you" to the veterans as they walked by him.  If the Star Spangled Banner was playing, my Dad's hand was over his heart, and he was singing with tears in his eyes.  I am not sure if any of the veterans noticed my father amidst the crowds of people present at the parades, nevertheless, he showed his respect, and I noticed, even if no one else did.

I always feel a deep admiration for soldiers when I see them.  Whether you agree with the political reasons behind a troop's deployment or not, you must have respect for the person.  You must have respect for the person willing to put their life on the line for what they believe in; a person willing to leave the people they love for months or years at a time for the country and people they love.  I don't usually approach the soldiers I see, but I have pointed soldiers out to my kids, explaining to them who they were and what their uniforms indicated regarding their choice of service.

So, perhaps this is where my son's excitement about seeing a soldier came from?   Perhaps he senses my respect when I see a soldier.  My father passed away a few years ago, but he would have been proud of Connor's reaction to the soldier that day.

OH SHOOT!!! 

I just thought of something. 

Perhaps Connor's reaction to the soldier stems from something else.

Perhaps it stems from the movie "Transformers"...the good soldiers vs the evil alien robots?









Na.  I am going to go with the pride and respect thing.  Transformers or not, soldiers are heroes.

Thanks Dad!


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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Help From Home...

A young lady that worked at my clinic a few years ago while in high school, has been visiting the clinic lately.  Her name is Alexis, and she is close friends with my veterinary assistant, Miguel, who most of you know by now from other stories.

Now that Alexis is a young adult, and is living on her own, she has decided it has become time for her to become a doggie mom.  She has always wanted a dog of her own, and the time has come to make that dream a reality.  She visits our clinic, and meets our adoptables but is waiting for "just the right connection".  I think most of us that are pet parents understand exactly what she means.  After several meet and greets, Alexis would leave the clinic a little disappointed that she had not met "the one" but hopeful that the right dog was out there for her.

A few weeks ago, we took in a pair of adorable puppies. 



These two adorable puppies came from another animal shelter that was unable to place them on their adoption floor because the puppies were timid and did not pass the "personality" testing.  So this adorable pair of six month old pups were made available for rescue to other qualified rescue groups willing to take them into their adoption program.





When Miguel saw these cuties, he sent his friend Alexis a text message.

 "When you get a chance, you should stop at the clinic.  We have two cute Cocker spaniel mix puppies for you to see."

Alexis stared at her phone, reading the words in disbelief, as a brief recollection of a recent dream overwhelmed her.

Entering adulthood was not the only reason Alexis chose now to become a pet parent.  She was hoping a puppy of her own would help her heal and adjust to a tragic change in her life.  Just five months ago, her father died unexpectedly in a car accident.  She has been struggling to cope with the loss that occured just 8 days before her 20th birthday.



Just a few weeks prior to Miguel's text, Alexis was on a family vacation in Colorado.  On the last night of this family trip, she had a dream.  In this dream, her father and her grandfather (also deceased, and with whom she had shared a special bond) stood before her, alive and well.  It gave Alexis a warm feeling of comfort to be so close to them again, even if only in a dream.

As the dream continued, her Grandpa said, "These are the puppies for you, Alexis."  With the men, were two very cute, shy, cocker spaniel puppies.

Her father smiled in amusement as Alexis seemed overwhelmed, joyful, and definitely caught off guard by the two puppies romping at their feet, unsure of which puppy to call her own.



Her Grandpa turned to her again, "You have to pick one, Alexis." and he gave her a gentle smile.

As Alexis awoke, she felt the comfort of having seen them again, but the visit created a new longing for them to be with her now.  She wished that last night her Dad had chased her up the stairs growling like a tiger, the way he did at bedtime when she was just a girl.  She longed for him to be there as she climbed out of bed, waiting to give her that big morning bear hug meant to wake her up and start her day. 

The presence of the two puppies in the dream made little sense to Alexis, despite her ongoing search for her own dog.  She would often pray to God that he could help her through this tragedy.  She would ask God to help her find a puppy, and help her be patient in her search.  She would often "talk" to her Dad about getting a puppy, asking if he could help her find the right one.  When you consider this, perhaps the strange presence of two puppies in that dream was not so strange.


As Alexis stood looking at her phone two weeks later, reading the words texted to her by her friend Miguel, the dream suddenly made sense.  She knew before meeting them that, as her Grandpa had said in the dream, "These are the puppies for you."

She begged Miguel to put a hold on the pups until she could get to the clinic, fearful they would get adopted in the few hours it would take before she could make it to the clinic. 

She arrived at the clinic a few short hours after the text.  As her dream had predicted, she had a difficult time choosing which puppy would be hers, and she could hear her Grandpa's words, "You have to pick one, Alexis".  And slowly, the choice was made.

Meet Izy, one of two dogs that had been deemed unadoptable by one animal shelter's standards.  She is now a beloved family member and providing the gift of comfort and unconditional love.  Two lives have been completely changed for the better.  


It seems as though Izy was destined to provide the comfort, the humor, the occasional stress of pet ownership to a young woman who needed help to heal, a woman who cried out for help in finding her canine companion, a woman who received that help from the two people she least expected would be able to help her. 



While we struggle with loss, the truth is, we never lose those we love, and Little Miss Izy is tangible proof that love can surpass all boundaries.






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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Update on Previous Blog Topics 2

(colored text is linked to the original blog...click on over and refresh your memory!)

Help Find Lizzy: Dog Lost in Ashland Kentucky!

I am thrilled to report that Iowa Dog Lizzy was reunited with her family after running loose in Kentucky for six lonely and heart wrenching days!  Lizzy's family was fortunate enough to have received a few informational leads as to where she had been spotted which was instrumental in her recovery.

Bring Hanah Home

I am sorry to say that Hanah, the dog that went missing following the Joplin, Missouri tornado, has not been found.  They are still actively searching for her, so please join their Facebook group, Bring Hanah Home.   Hope is not lost.

 

 

 

Meet the Sweets: Herkie the Hunk

Herkie, our senior lab with no hope for adoption, is doing wonderfully at his new home in New England.    

 


Herkie needed help getting up on the bed due to his hind end weakness, so his new family made him his own set of doggie stairs!  It doesn't look as though Herkie helped much in the construction process, but I am certain his old joints will appreciate the human efforts!

 

Clean Cut, Senior, White Male Seeks ...

 Remember him?

A picture (or two) is worth a thousand words!



Addie's Story: 3 part series...

Part 1

Part 2 

Part 3

Addie is doing great after eight years of being separated from her puppyhood home and family! Even in her senior years, she manages to climb into her own bed, and has the occasional left over Filet Mignon!


Addie and Cody are acclimating well to each other, as you can see by the video above.  They look for each other all the time and each wants to know what the other is doing at any given time.  Addie will not go potty unless Cody comes along too.


Ellie's Story

Part 1

Part 2

Ellie, after her visit to the Oncology Department at the Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine is doing great!  Oddly, the morning of her appointment, her lesion had seemed to disappear (of course).  After discussing it with my husband, we kept the appointment just to be on the safe side.  They made some wonderful recommendations for her care, and suggested that surgery was not likely necessary.

After a few days of not even being able to find the lesion, and not a single step of lameness.  I decided to hold off on chemotherapy.  She has since had no signs of any problems with that foot or leg.

Either of two things happened.

1. The biopsy analyzed by a lab (not associated with Iowa State), was misinterpreted.

2. The well wishes and prayers of people far and wide made a difference.


I prefer to believe it was the latter of the two.  Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, and your concerns.  Thanks go out to you from Ellie and her pal, Kirby!


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If there is a particular blog story you would like a follow up on, please request one.  If there is a topic you would like me to discuss, feel free to suggest!


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