Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Don't blow in a dog's face

A girl was bitten by a dog after she continually blew in the dog's face.

The dog owner acted incredibly stupid, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.

Children do dumb things. This is because they are secretly suicidal, lack appropriate inhibition or are learning things, in this case, the hard way. Children eat crayons and paste which is evidence enough to suggest you not let them near your dog's face. Or ears. Or eyes.

One of my dogs' recent experiences with a child involved a toddler swinging a large hammer. I was about to tackle the kid before he got any closer, but then he dropped the hammer on his foot. And boy did he cry! Lesson learned - parents, do not give your 2-yr-old full-size, metal hammers. He turned out to be very dog-appropriate, letting both my dogs sniff his hand before he ever so gently touched them. He's really a good egg, so I try not to hold the hammer incident against him.

Point being, kids do stupid things to themselves and others. So even though the owner of this - according to shelter staff - normally friendly dog told the kid to stop blowing in the dog's face, nothing was done. The owner did not pull the dog back or kick the kid (I mean, gently shove the child onto the grass). S/he didn't tell the kid to bugger off or get in between her and the dog. Instead, s/he just kept telling the kid to stop acting like a douche. This is ineffective against children who think douche is just a funny way of saying "keep doing whatever it is you are doing".

Hopefully the dog won't pay the ultimate price for the stupidity of her owner. And hopefully the kid won't have horrible scars and will learn the polite way to greet a dog, nay any animal (peoples too!), is not to exhale directly into their face. It's just rude.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Marine Mammal Center

Marine Mammal Center welcome

The Marine Mammal Center is a rescue and rehabilitation center for sea mammals in the Marin Headlands. It's been under construction for years and, as such, closed to the public. Recently, it re-opened with its brand new facility. I am impressed with how they managed to create a place that is visitor friendly while being respectful of the animals. They are open seven days a week and entry is free (donations appreciated).

I was creeped out by the skulls and skins/hides of animals they rescue (perhaps not the specific animals they rescued but still). But that's me.

The center has solar panels installed over every pen, which reduces energy consumption by 10% and also provides much needed shade to the animals in each pen. Here's some more information on ways MMC is reducing their impact on the environment.
solar panels at marine mammal center

The facility was very well-kept and clean.

marine mammal center goes green

This picture would have been better had the sea lion been barking but she wasn't. Instead, she glared at me. Probably for making too much clicking noises with my camera. For shame, really.

Sea lion agrees with noise policy

Unfortunately, sea lions are not faring well, particularly young ones. In Chile, more than a thousand sea lions have died - the current suggested cause is El Nino, which can affect the prevalence of the fish sea lions and other marine mammals need to survive. The Marine Mammal Center has taken in around 1,500 sea lions this year, the most since 1998. In Santa Barbara, thousands of sea lions have starved to death around the Channel Islands. All the current residents at the center are sea lions (which is normal for this time of year). Starvation or dehydration seems like an awful way to go, and it is painful to see animals who should have a nice thick layer of fat look so skinny.

Here a few juveniles are moved into a new pen.

Sea lion herding

The facility is set up for 200 animals, though I imagine they've had to get creative with the massive influx of sea lions this year. Each pen has a swimming pool in the middle and concrete areas for lounging. They are relatively small, which works well since most of the animals are a) temporary residents and b) injured/sick and shouldn't move about too much. Today, there were between 3-5 sea lions per enclosure.

The sea lion below really wanted to get out and he was using any means necessary to try and escape, including clamoring up on his pen-mate. She was not amused.

Sea lion argument

So then he tried to scale up the wall and fence. He didn't get far at all and fell back down. He gave up after awhile. Apparently, though, adult sea lions have been able to get out of the pens. They can scale the fence and climb up on the solar panels. Usually, they fall back into their pen in the water, which is good. They could experience significant injuries if they fell 15' off the solar panel onto concrete.

Sea lion great escape

Being a sea lion is serious business:

Sea lions at marine mammal center

Glaring sea lion is glaring:

Hello sea lion

I really enjoyed my visit and would love to come again. It was a gorgeous day today, mid-80's, perfect weather. The center is in the middle of the marin headlands so plenty of beautiful views and hiking available.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A lesson from Denver: Dogs are safe, breed bans are ineffective

Taken from here. It's another decent article from Westword on dog bites and statistics.

I know the graphic is a little blurry, so I'll reiterate the essence of what it states: In the past twenty years, a grand total of nine individuals died because of a dog attack. Seven children, two adults. Pit Bulls accounted for two of those fatalities.

As of 2000, Colorado had a population of 4.3 million. Do the math.

Then there are just your run of the mill dog bites. In Denver, 305 people reported being bitten by a dog in 2008. Denver has a population of nearly 600,000. Again, do the math.

Ignoring severity, ignoring population dynamics, the reality is sitting right in front of us: The overwhelming majority of dogs do not bite and when they do, they generally show great restraint. Dog bite fatalities are anomalies, incredibly tragic events that, as far as their rates of occurrence happen rarely. They do not represent the norm of dog behavior.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Celeste rules today

Mina embarrassed herself so much during playtime this evening that there is only ONE photo where she doesn't look like a total noob. And it is this one:

But because I so frequently share Celeste's strange and odd looks, I feel it is only fair - THIS ONE TIME ONLY - to show one of the photos I would have normally discarded. She is tackling a toy in this photo. She is so graceful. Not.

Celeste wins at the day, though, because I got this photo of her, which makes her look like a sane, calm, sweet, huggable dog. She is sweet and huggable. Just not sane or calm.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Please to stop staring at me

Mina has been staring at me for the past ten minutes and it is really annoying.

This is not actually sufficient material for a blog entry.

You may now share all the strange, weird, annoying things your dogs do to get your attention (or just generally bother you).

Oh wait. Breaking news, Mina is now chewing on a pumpkin toy while staring at me, wagging her tail. She's cute. I shall go pet her.

That is all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Westword covers the Denver pit bull ban

Westword is a free weekly alternative newspaper out of Denver. While it focuses primarily on arts and entertainment, it's known for quality investigative reports as well.

Now they've taken on the issue of Denver's pit bull ban. It's hard not to cheer a little bit while reading the report. It offers as much balance as one can to an issue in which 4,000 dogs have been killed for looking a certain way, not for acting a certain way.

Here's the main report. And a rather heartbreaking look into pit bull row, where all confiscated "dogs who look like pit bulls" end up. There's one picture (left) with animal control director Doug Kelly hugging an adorable white pit bull mix. It boggles my mind to see a dog with such exuberance for people being pet by a man who will kill him for being a dog with enough physical characteristics that 2/3 "expert" assessors identify him as "pit bull".

Some highlights:

Denver has never done an audit of the pit bull ban, never conducted a study of how effective it has been, never established a commission to determine whether one of Denver's most controversial policies is actually accomplishing what it was created to do. But evidence from other sources suggests that after two decades of classifying pit bulls as public enemy number one, it could be time for Denver to redo its math.
This is something that should bother you immensely. It is ridiculous to draft and implement a law that will be expensive, cost money for tax-payers and that, most importantly, results in the death of dogs based on looks without including a method of studying efficacy. A law is no good if it does not solve the fundamental problem for which it was created. In Denver's case, there is no evidence that it has improved public safety. In fact, Denver has the highest rate of hospitalizations due to dog bites in the state. This indicates a flaw in the two arguments for Denver's pit bull ban - it would reduce pit bull dog bites and, because pit bulls supposedly bite with more severity, it would reduce serious dog bites.

The evaluation checklist involves only physical characteristics, not behavior, and the evaluation does not consider anything related to an animal's temperament. The dog might be jumpy and aggressive, or it might be mellow and sweet. It might have bitten people before, or it might be a well-trained family pet that has never released an angry bark.

Denver spends money to hire three assessors to go over a visual checklist with each dog who is suspected to be "majority" pit bull. This test sometimes takes three days. And not at any point is behavior taken into consideration. Which again points to a fundamental flaw with a law that looks at phenotype rather than something pertinent to the discussion of aggression, behavior. There are certainly cases in which an overemphasis on one particular physical characteristic may lead to medical problems. But to look at the overall physical makeup of a dog offers no insight into the dog's behavior or how likely the dog is to bite. It does not offer clues as to whether the dog is easily aroused and bites hard or takes a beating before he'll snarl. And since any dog can exhibit agonism directed at humans, it seems foolish to ignore obvious behavioral signals and go straight for the red herring of phenotype. Breed bans start out with a fundamentally flawed premise and go downhill from there.

If two out of three evaluations conclude that the dog's not a pit bull, the owner gets the dog back after paying a five-dollar-per-day boarding fee. If the majority of the evaluators think it is a pit bull, in order to get the dog back, the owner must pay a $45-per-day impoundment fee, a $5-per-day-impoundment fee, a $25 microchip fee, the fine for the illegal-breed citation, and provide a legally binding statement that the dog will be relocated outside city

Please be outraged if you are a sane individual. It does not matter if your dog was confiscated from your own home or backyard or if your dog was taken from you while you walked him on leash or if your dog was running loose. If your dog is deemed "not" a pit bull - that is, you have not violated the law - you still have to pay for the dog's stay at the shelter. That is ludicrous - it foists financial culpability on to the law-abiding citizen. Now obviously if the dog was running loose, then it is your responsibility to own up and pay for the costs associated with caring for your wayward dog (assuming it is illegal to allow your dog to run loose in Denver, of course). But in Denver's case, most dogs are not running loose - they are picked up after a neighbor complains and the dog is removed from the homeowner's property.

And then there is the unfortunate reality if your dog is arbitrarily defined as a pit bull. It does not matter if your dog is or is not an American Pit Bull Terrier - it only matters that two out of three people with unknown qualifications have marked enough check boxes on a piece of paper to warrant the higher fee and a get out of dodge requirement.

That is insane.

Please do read the whole article. You can leave a comment, thanking them for publicizing this issue and doing a pretty darn thorough job to boot.

If you live in or near Denver or just want to drop a letter to the editor, please do so here. Remember, the shorter and more succinct the better. Be polite, respectful. Check for clarity, grammar and spelling.

Photo credit: Anthony Camera (seriously? Because that is awesome).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mina says its way too hot to play; Celeste thinks Mina's silly

A dialogue, for your enjoyment.

M= Mina
C = Celeste

Me: I am home! Let's go outside and play.
M: *mumbles something*
Me: What, Mina? I cannot hear what you are saying through that toy in your mouth.
M: *mumbles more vehemently*
Me: Seriously Mina, take the damn toy out of your mouth, then try it.
M: *glares*
Me: *grabs flirt pole* Alright team, let's go play!

Me: *flings flirt pole around for Celeste to chase* Isn't this fun?!?
M: *drops toy* If by fun, you mean it is hot enough to melt metal, then yes, I am having the most enjoyable time of my life. *picks up toy*
Me: Well, fine, you don't have to be so sarcastic.
Me: Oh, sorry. *twirls flirt pole, accidentally sends it sailing over Mina into tree*

M: *spits out toy disgustedly* You tried to kill me, minion. First with the heat, now with that godawful ugly device Celeste calls a toy.
C: IT IS BEAUTIFUL AND HANGING FROM A TREE, COME TO ME BEAUTIFUL TOY. *leaps up at flirt pole, misses, lands on Mina*

M: That's it! *snarls at Celeste* You are on my list of Very Bad Dogs. And you! *glares at me* You are on my list of Very Bad Minions. *picks up toy* *mumbles* *spits out toy* I am no longer speaking to either of you, understand? Except for this very moment in which I tell you I am not speaking to you. But now? Not so much. *picks up toy and trots into apartment*
Me: *disentangles toy from tree* Fine. Here.
C: *nibbles on toy a bit* IT HAS LOTS ITS CHARM. *goes inside apartment*

The end.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Spontaneous genetic leakage combustion!

From Dog bylaws are not simple
Until I watched the Mexican film Amorres Perros I was naive about people breeding dogs for maximum aggression for dog fights
The author has been working for this newspaper since 1993 and attained a college degree in 1991. But it wasn't until a fictionalized movie came out in 2000 that he "got" what maximum aggression for dog fights meant?

If you haven't seen the movie, I'd reccommend it. It's disturbing on many levels but does offer some fascinating insight on the quirks of human behavior. The only pit bull in the movie is soundly beaten by a Rottweiler in a dog fight. The Rottie, by the way, was not bred or raised for "maximum aggression" but was a companion animal to a guy wanting money. Instead of getting a job, he turns to the seedy world of illicit blood sports. To claim that this movie is an educational tool on breeding, dog fighting or canine aggression is a bit like claiming G-Force provides excellent insight on guinea pig behavior (THEY CAN TALK AND SHOOT GUNS, PEOPLE!)

Over enough time, dog breeds can have spontaneous aggression bred in or out of them.

This is supposedly according to Stanley Coren, which is scary considering he's a dog trainer and "noted dog expert". Perhaps the author misunderstood something Coren said or perhaps Coren really did claim that dog breeds can a) exhibit spontaneous aggression or b) have it randomly bred in or out of them. There just isn't a magic spontaneous aggression switch that can be flipped on or off at the drop of a hat within all individuals in a breed. There isn't spontaneous aggression. I mean, I think this is pretty common knowledge amongst behaviorists, particularly those individuals who have spent extensive time studying agonism in canines. Dogs do not magically turn on people or other animals, let alone entire breeds exhibiting such wayward behavior. Logically this is patently untrue and realistically has shown to be untrue.
The result, he said, is that there is genetic "leakage" in lines bred for fighting with other lines within the breed.

For this to be true, you would have to know the genes that are "leaking" into these other lines. It would mean pinpointing the allele responsible for "spontaneous aggression" and knowing whether it's dominant, recessive, or if it requires an interaction with the environment to be "set off". Right now, scientists have been unable to pinpoint such a gene or enzyme or hormone that causes "spontaneous aggression" in dog breeds.

The things we know about aggression is that it's a multifaceted behavior, that it can be complex or simple, it can be caused by medical problems, that it is not so easily defined. There's all these general forms of aggression that can be further winnowed to specific types of aggression. Read Aggression in Dogs by Brenda Aloff - you'll be amazed by the variety and scope of aggressive behavior in dogs. You'll be further amazed by how much self-restraint dogs have managed to exhibit while interacting with humans and other animals.

I like Coren's suggestion for a dual dog-licensing system. Owners who can prove they've brought their dog to obedience classes get one sort of tag. Owners who don't get another tag indicating their dog must be muzzled and leashed whenever off their property. We all know what that boils down to: Either pay a little for dog training or a lot to the city to keep a dog that may be more predisposed to biting.

This only makes sense if Coren and the author are arguing that aggression is not a spontaneous behavior, that it is not unique to particular breeds, that it IS conceivably modifiable with obedience training. That is not the argument being made, though. The fundamental premise is that there are breeds and, even further, lines within those breeds, with a genetic predisposition toward random acts of aggression.

You cannot argue that some types of dogs are prone to a sudden onset of aggression and then turn around and claim that a few training classes will provide that magic pill to stop the genetic "I WILL EAT YOU" marker from activating.

No matter how I personally feel about this issue, both Coren and the author are working from a fallacious premise, which makes the resulting argument that breed bans are effective a little disingenuous, at best.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

When dogs sleep cute but not too deep

Mina likes to sleep on her back. Her two front feet are almost straight in the air and, well, her private area is in plain view for the world to see. Sometimes her head is tilted to the side, jowls flapping down revealing teeth. Her tongue will sometimes make its great escape and get covered in dog hair. She snores this way.

It is THE CUTEST sleeping pose ever and I mean, ever. I have tried every normal method possible to capture this moment. I've kept the camera nearby. I've kept the camera on a tripod looking over the bed with a remote control in my hand. I've considered installing video cameras to prove how cute she is when she sleeps this way. BUT SHE IS SMARTER THAN THAT and foils me every time.

And when I nearly get that perfect shot, this is what happens - I look like a freaking dog abuser:

Pit bull mina all wa-huh?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pit bulls and children just don't mix but logical fallacies sure do

Kevin Amerman has a bone to pick with pit bulls in this piece.

Let's play a game. Take a look at this list of logical fallacies here.

Game is as follows: Share with me how many fallacies you can find in Mr. Amerman's article.

I found at least four. You get a bonus of virtual cookies if you get more!

Logic cat is not amused. His eyes are colored but he is not.

THE POOK hypnotizing you
I may have taken this picture but this is not my cat. He is the Logic Cat or my Arch-Nemesis. This is dependent on whether he is biting my hand or not. See, very rational.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Animals sense of future?

Once a week, Mina and I make a special trip to get coffee. This is more for my benefit - Mina wouldn't care if we brought Celeste along or not, but I sometimes feel bad for usurping Mina's six year position as only dog. As we approach the final turn to the coffee place, Mina tenses, leans a little out the window and stares. When we get to the actual corner, where a small gym is located, she shifts her gaze left to right, left to right, looking for something.

Someone, actually. We used to walk the small downtown street every day. The first time we passed the gym Mina encountered The Dog. He was a geriatric Labrador Retriever who lived with the owners of the gym. He had free run of the place and loved to sun himself in the doorway. When Mina first met him, he was *thankfully* asleep in his dog bed (I cursed his guardians for having a dog bed the same color as their dog). She noticed him when he shifted a little in his sleep and, before I could react, she dragged herself over to the dog and sniffed him from head to tail. And he did not wake up. Mina's not anti-dogs, per se, but she's picky and Retrievers tend to hit her "do not want" button. I was able to coax her away and, from that day on, Mina would always look for The Dog. For a few months, we kept the same route. We stopped because it was becoming annoying dealing with Mina as we approached the gym. It didn't matter if The Dog was there or not, Mina was on high-alert. Sometimes she would snark, sometimes she would whine, and just to throw me off, sometimes she'd pretend there was no The Dog and I was just a silly guardian.

One day, The Dog wasn't there. Or the next. A week went by, no dog. Mina seemed confused, sniffing the sidewalk in front of the gym, sitting down and just staring at the spot where The Dog usually lay snoring. For weeks, she would do the same thing - sit, stare and seem to wait for The Dog to appear. I asked one of the folks working out what happened to the dog. He had died, he was old, it was to be expected. We stopped going that route.

But Mina hasn't forgotten. She still expects The Dog to be there. It is only this corner that inspires her to stick half her body out the window. Nothing other than another dog inspires such behavior (she's a "stick only the edge of your nose out the window" kind of dog). I keep wondering when she'll stop, it's been two years, after all.

I remember learning about the Clark's nutcracker, a bird who caches tens of thousands of nuts for the upcoming winter. They cache these nuts in up to 5,000 different hiding spots. Months go by before they return to gather their hidden bounty. In my mind, this seemed such an obvious example of planning for the future, of recognizing that at some point, there would be no nuts and so the bird had to cache a whole bunch to last. Science is finally acknowledging that these types of behaviors aren't just instinctive patterns, they actually indicate a basic understanding that there *is* a future and, since for the Clark's nutcrackers it involves a depletion of food, they need to plan for that future accordingly.Studies have seen similar behaviors in other birds and mammals.

I'm not suggesting nonhuman animals waste their time like we do worrying about their future or that they waste an inordinate amount of time worrying about death. I am suggesting that our understanding of how other species think is still a mystery. I'm probably more willing than most to believe that many nonhuman species are capable of remembering the past and considering a future.

For Mina, she has an association with that corner. She remembers that that is a place where she encountered a dog who sometimes let her sniff him from snout to butt. And when we start getting close to that particular spot, she expects a dog to be there. I don't know why she still does it after so many years of an absent dog, but there is still that expectation, that knowledge of a future event (the dog being there, her joy/annoyance/whatever at the dog being there).

For me, to disavow their intellectual complexities, ignore their rich inner life makes it easier to exploit and harm them.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dog who mauled two people sent to sanctuary, owner being charged

I remember reading this story earlier in the year about a group of kids run by what I can only describe as a crazy 16-yr-old girl with serious issues.

It starts out sad and just gets worse.

The four kids were kicking and beating a dog. The dog, by the way, was owned by the 16-yr-old crazy beatch with issues. A woman saw what was going on, stopped and asked if everything was okay. She was attacked by the girl and beaten. She encouraged her dog to attack as well. Another passer-by, female, was severely beaten by the girl (so much so, the girl injured her foot) and was bitten badly enough to expose bone.

The girl has plead guilty to 2nd and 3rd degree assault and possession of alcohol. No charges for abusing her own dog.

Obviously this is a very troubled young lady. At most, she'll spend a few months in "prison" and then she'll be out, free to wreak havoc upon the world some more. There was no stipulation, so far as I could tell, that she be prohibited from ever owning another animal (when she can legally own one, of course). There's no word on whether she'll receive a lobotomy or, at the very least, psychological therapy.

And then there's the dog. In most of these situations, the dog is killed, forgotten, accused of being guilty for an unknown crime (or just the sin of being born). In this situation, there was a large public outcry over his fate. Even though this dog is, by most standards, damaged. Possibly permanent. He is aggressive and dangerous and unfit to be adopted by anyone who might expose the dog to, you know, other living beings (or themselves). So he's headed to a sanctuary.This is pretty unusual, especially for a case involving a really significant bite wound. But I guess when you don't just have the run-of-the-mill stupidity and neglect, when you have some extraordinary circumstances like a whacked-out teenie-bopper of a loser girl going crazy....well, then count yourself lucky (maybe).

My hope is that the dog's personal needs will be considered, that staff will do everything to make his life happy on his terms. If that means complete isolation from people with only the most limited interactions, so be it. If it means being paired up with an appropriate canine buddy, great. If it means he can have a good quality of life on his own, it's hard for me to think that's possible for a dog, but if it is, so be it.

All this dog has known for his entire existence is uncertainty, abuse and confusion. Fear has been wielded against him by the one person who is supposed to be loving and a leader. He's been denied respect and understanding. I hope he can get some of that back. He deserves it, right? I mean, they all do.

And yeah, I still think the kid should get a lobotomy. Sue me. But don't really.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This is what we do outside when it's 98 F

Well, Celeste tries to play with her flirt pole, because she's always game for playtime. Mina rolls around, pants, sits in the sun, then in the shade, sniffs, sniffs, sniffs, feigns interest in Celeste's game, then pants and lies down some more.

I love flirtpoles because they are cheap and not labor intensive. I originally made two for Mina. FAIL. Thank goodness Celeste came along because SUCCESS was all mine (and hers). She LOVES the flirtpole.

A couple of these photos I couldn't bring myself to post on flickr because they were just embarrassingly bad shots. Thankfully, I have photobucket (no offense to them) and thus I can share them with you.

This is Celeste full chase, though when the temperature is 98 F, she's not in super high drive. The line across the lower left is the rope of the pole.

Picture taking is difficult when it's just you, the flirtpole, a dog and camera. For serious.

She kicked that rope toy's ass, by the way.

Celeste is also ridiculously sensitive. Here she is all "YOU ARE LOOKING AT ME WITH THAT SCARY THING, FINE TAKE MY TOY" while Mina sniffs the neighbor's grill.

It is very hard work being a dog in the hood. Or at least on the lawn.

And then there is Mina. In addition to grill sniffing, she likes to stare at Celeste really hard, then turn away and pretend she doesn't care. Celeste is largely oblivious. One more thing I love about her.

Haha, I stare at you!

Just kidding, I don't care.

Dogs are fun.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bay County Animal Control, euth rates up

In February of 2008, Jim Crosby took over as director of animal control in Bay County. In only a few months, he managed to reduce the rate of euthanasia from 78% to 56% (partly by allowing the adoption out of pit bulls).

I wanted to know how they're doing now.

Well, not so great. They are still doing better than the pre-Crosby rates of 78-84% kill rate but 2009 looks like almost 65% of the animals who enter the Bay County shelter won't leave alive. In 2007, the shelter took in 7200; in 2008, it was 9,500 and they're expecting to reach 12,000 in 2009. That's a rate of a 1 dog for every 14 residnets in Bay County being dumped at the shelter. Ridiculous.

I'm amazed that neither Bay County Animal Control nor the Humane Society of Bay County list services associated with low-cost spay/neuter. And while I'm on the fence as far as when to neuter is concerned, it *is* a viable preventative measure to reduce one's population of unwanted animals. The adoption fees are pretty affordable, $75 for the county shelter and $100 for the humane society - both includes spay/neuter.

Bay County animal control is trying through outreach and off-site adoptions, great. But there isn't any mention of becoming a foster parent for a needy dog and cat until placement can be found. This isn't to say they don't have one, but it isn't intuitive, you can't look at the government website and go hey! here's how I sign up to help through fostering. Their "adoptable animal" list isn't intuitive, either. Make it easy for people to see who you have up for adoption. Get volunteers, get the community involved - I'm just not seeing how Bay County is doing that - or if they are, it isn't being promoted on their website.

There are a lot of things they could be doing. I'm not an expert, by any stretch, I don't think it would be easy for me to go into a shelter and change things overnight. So I don't want to cast aspersions too harshly. It's just that killing half the animals who come into your shelters is off-putting and wrong.

Oh. And, even though I was duly impressed with Mr. Crosby's awesome euth reduction the first year, I can't say I'm pleased with comments like this:

“We have lots of people coming in because they’ve lost their jobs,” he said. “It’s, ‘Do I keep the animal or do I buy the kids shoes?’ Guess which one has to win? It’s sad.

I'm sorry, shoes? Go to Payless, for cripes sake. A shoe is a non-entity. It can be purchased at thrift shops or at cheap stores. Choosing to buy a pair of shoes versus caring for a living, thinking, feeling being is creepy, at best. Don't give people a cop-out for their irresponsible behavior; give them alternatives and ways to KEEP their animals at home rather than give them up. Don't tell them that a pair of shoes is more important than a dog or cat. 

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Chihuahua confused for a pit bull

It's a tragic story - five loose dogs (with a history of getting loose, no less) began attacking two foals. Their mothers' intervened and eventually had to be euthanized from their injuries.

The horses were being cared for by Serenity Equine Resue and Rehabilitation and on their home page, you can read that all five dogs were pit bulls. In the original Seattle Times report, the dogs are labeled as pit bulls as well.

Except they were not. Two were pit bull mixes. Two were mixed breeds, mutts. One was a Chihuahua mix.All five were mixed breeds, none were purebred "anything".

It is awful that these horses died. The owner of the dogs has a history of letting his dogs run loose. They have gotten into fights with other dogs. They have scared people.

None of that has to do with their breed, of course. Any dog can be aggressive and almost all mid-size to large dogs can cause significant physical harm (small dogs can too).

All of it comes down to human behavior. We have an owner/guardian unwilling to comply with common courtesy and the law by leaving the hole in his fence. We have a clearly understaffed animal control, sheriff's department who are unwilling to offer any other assistance than "shoot the dogs if they're worrying your livestock". It's a nasty cycle that has now ended in the deaths of seven animals. All because of one hole.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bessie, the pit bull, returns home after shooting

I recall one of the few times I've knocked on a neighbor's door when they played music loud. The neighbor was dressed only in a blanket wrapped like a toga and clearly inebriated. She seemed receptive to the whole "turning down of the sonic-booming music at 3 am on a Tuesday" and promptly turned the music up. I called the cops and eventually my landlord and she was gone within a week. It just never really crossed my mind that a simple request, turning off your music, could end in tragedy.

On September 3, a 45-yr-old man in Fresno, Ca knocked on his 60-yr-old neighbor's door and asked him to turn his music down. The neighbor became irate and the 45-yr-old returned to his home. Moments later, he opened the door to knocking only to be shot in the neck by his neighbor. The bullet passed through his neck, into the apartment window and struck his dog in the neck as well.

There is no great news or miracle for the man. He is in critical condition. He is paralyzed from the neck down. Life will be forever changed, scarred, muted, different and scary. I don't know if he will survive it or find happiness or joy. I can only sympathize with his plight and with the struggle his family and friends must be enduring.

So when I read the dog had survived, that it was her own vertebrae that stopped the bullet from causing more harm, I was relieved. This is a small beacon of hope, a little reminder of the man who will no longer be able to walk or even pet his dog. I hope she brings comfort and joy to his family and, if he is ever released from the hospital, to him as well. If you watch this video, you know this is a resilient dog, one who is confident and comfortable and who could probably deal with all the intricacies that come with being almost completely paralyzed.

Yes, she is a pit bull. But she is a dog first, a friend to a man who only wanted a radio turned down. I wish this family the best knowing they are faced with one of the worst things that can happen to the human body. And I hope little Bessie is there, providing support. She won't have to do much, just be herself.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fire safety reminder

I woke this morning to the smell of smoke. Thankfully it wasn't my apartment complex but a grass fire five minutes away. However, the fire was about 1.5 miles from my place of employment, a wonderful sanctuary for farmed animals. The fire was quickly contained by the awesome emergency personnel who were out there from 1 am until, well, now making sure all the hot spots were put out.

Please make sure you have a plan in place for you, your human loved ones and your nonhuman buddies as well. Smoke detectors, 2-3 days worth of food/water, a safe location for you to relocate to temporarily, proper id tags for your pets, an evacuation plan, etc. ad naseum.

The only harm done in this fire was to a barn (I'm hoping all the wildlife were able to get out of the way) but it was stopped mere feet from people's homes and farms.

My thoughts go out to all the firefighters and folks down in the LA region where a 150,000 acre arson fire (that killed two firefighters) is still only about 45% contained. Keep safe, people.

Vacaville fire, mopping up

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This little toad was cute

At the sanctuary, we have about 100 chickens. First, let me state, I love chickens. After cattle, they are my second favorite farmed animal species. I love their language, their furtive and excited movements, and I adore trying to photograph them. They have friendships and arguments and are as quick to forgive as they are to squabble.

That being said, their less appealing behavior (for me) involves their murderous tendencies when lizards, frogs, toads and snakes get near them. Our biggest rooster (seen here with Olivia, the potbellied pig) is Matt - he killed a 4' gopher snake. Scary stuff, if you're a reptile.

So when one of the staff found this little toad in the chicken enclosure, we just had to move him to safer ground. And I had to take a picture. Egad, they are cute little buggers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mina's weekend behavior

Mina and Celeste love visiting my parents. There's that big backyard and their second and third favorite people. But mainly, there's the yard.

When I first adopted Mina, I lived in a house. I was in college and it worked out really well bringing home a dog (who was a "foster"). When I moved out, I ended up living with my parents for almost two years while I finished up my degree.

And then began the search. Finding a needle in a haystack is preferable to trying to find housing allowing a pit bull. I had her folder with her obedience certificates, veterinary information, references, a letter of rec'd from both my dog trainer and my boss, and the offer to meet Mina and judge her for HER, not her breed. Still, if it wasn't rental insurance policies with their blacklisted breeds (which often included Dalmatians) it was people scared of pit bulls.

So when I found a place that would take Mina and it was affordable, I jumped at the opportunity. I'm not a huge fan of apartment living and I can't claim that my small rennovated victorian complex is upper crust, but it's full of generally nice people, kids, and a "dogs welcome" atmosphere. I moved in with Mina and we made do.

Then came Celeste. I "fostered" her after a spay camp down in Mexico. I was under the impression she'd be 20 lbs, which would have made my life a little more manageable. Instead she kept growing and finally topped out at 45 lbs. My landlord was very kind, allowing me to have the second dog, even though she was bigger than the 40lb limit (Mina is 38-40 lbs).

Anyway, two dogs in an apartment is tough on them, though not horribly so. It's only tough the one hour a day they really want to run like crazies throughout the house/yard. The other 23 hours, they're pretty much zonked out on the sofa or bed.

But at my parents, oh how much fun they have! They frolick and romp and play and I sigh happily that THEY are happy.

For like a half-hour. And the rest of the time, this is what Mina's doing:

She is a lazy dog and she does not care.