Monday, November 30, 2009

Coconut Cream Puffs

I was going to post a couple pics from the Thanksgiving meal, but instead I'm posting this pic of coconut creamy things that are quite delicious. It's an easy recipe to make. The texture is a little thicker than pudding, and it has a vanilla-coconut flavor due to the epic amount of coconutty goodness in it. Yes, it has tofu. Unless you are allergic to soy, you will survive and find yourself unable to detect any tofu-taste. If you are vegan, Keebler's has vegan graham cracker mini-pie crusts. If you're not, any small pie crust should do.

Recipe from Vegetarian Times - full of coconutty goodness!

1/3 cup sweet flake coconut
6 oz soft silken tofu, drained
1/3 cup sugar
5 Tbs cornstarch
1 14-oz can light coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp coconut extract (tastes fine without it, just fyi)
6 mini graham cracker pie crusts

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread coconut flakes on baking sheet and toast 5 minutes. Shake pan occasionally or until golden brown.
Blend tofu in blender/food processor 2-3 minutes or until smooth. Set aside.
Whist together sugar and cornstarch in saucepan. Whisk in coconut milk, and cook over medium high heat 8 minutes or until thickened, whisking constantly.
Remove pan from heat. Fold in tofu, vanilla and coconut extracts, and coconut (save some for topping). Divide among mini pie-crusts and chill.

Bonus: Classic Mina & Celeste Moment! This is Celeste showing the best method of getting a toy away from Mina. It was her first technique too - she paws Mina in the face, then bites her toy, growling fiercely and tugging hard. This has remained Celeste's favorite tactic in her ongoing battle of "Stealing Everything that is in Mina's Mouth except for Mina's Food". She learned very early on that stealing Mina's Normal Food is a great offense and should never, ever be done. Stealing Mina's plain food, like bread or broccoli, is perfectly acceptable.

As an aside, this picture reminds me of how excited I was to have a second dog, a smallish second dog. I was hoping for a 20-25 lb dog. I got a 45 lb monster with crazed blue eyes and stilt legs. But she loves Mina, Mina loves her, and I adore them both immensely. I suppose it worked out just fine.

On Police Dogs

This morning, a German Shepherd used by the Minneapolis police department fell off a roof and died.

The final line bothered me: "Canines are called in during assignments the MPD deems too unsafe for their human partners"

Oh how we expect so much from dogs. They cannot give true consent, yet we send them into situations considered too dangerous by human standards.

I have never met a drug-sniffing dog, but I have met several K-9 police dogs. All were stressed out, slightly unpredictable, high-wired, highly reactive dogs. It isn't just breeding - I've met some of their siblings who live in companion homes and their behavior is far different. I do wonder if it is partially the result of being exposed to highly stressful daily activities. I am certain there are dogs who are far different than the police dogs I've met, and really, I'd like to meet more of them. Because from what I've seen, being a police dog isn't just dangerous work, it can be mentally and physically unhealthy for the dogs.

A note about the picture: This is one of the police dogs who patrol the streets in my town. She's a 6-yr-old German Shepherd. She would not let go. Her handler nearly had to beat her off to loosen her grip. After this public demonstration, the handler gave her a little time to calm down and then invited people to pet her. I wouldn't touch her with a 10-ft pole. She was tense, nervy, and looked ready to bolt or bite. She didn't do either, but her body language screamed "I am not comfortable with this". We also have a K-9 Malinois who is beautiful to watch work sniffing out contraband, but who is also highly reactive, dog aggressive and ready to chomp on anyone's arm who looks at him funny.

 At the same event, there was King. He reminds me a little of a picture Retrieverman recently posted of a 1915 German Shepherd. King was imported from Germany and weighs about 65 lbs. He has a pretty straight top line and was is this lithe, rangy Shepherd. I had been so used to seeing thick, large, slope-backed GSDs, I never realized they could look so athletic. I wish I had gotten a standing, profile picture, but he was far too interested in lounging. His owner/guardian gushed about him, his temperament and personality, his solidness and joy. Oh, pride! I was permitted to not only touch his soft head but hug him, I do so love a dog who permits the rude behavior of hugging with dignity and grace. :) From a perfect stranger, no less!

King's guardian was not impressed by the police dog. He wouldn't let his kids go near her, and suggested I do the same (I agreed). King did protection work, farm work (his guardian says he was a little bit of a mouthy herder, though), and home work (raising his kids right, heh). He never wanted to see any of King's pups become police dogs. At the time, I didn't think to ask why (it seemed glaringly obvious next to that crazy beast of a police dog, tense and alert nearby).

I realize I'm meandering. I was originally going to talk about both the Minneapolis police dog and another tagless, chipless drug-sniffing dog who was accidentally euthanized at a shelter. But I started thinking about King and the police dogs I've met and this is the result.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Pit Bull Versus the Pokemon

Mina decides what should be done with the yellow-colored creature atop her perfect white legs.

Decision made! Commence Operation Pikachu Consumption!

The end is near for the pokemon.
Swallowed in one bite!

Obligatory disclaimer: No pokemon were harmed in the making of this photo montage. Yet. It is only a matter of time until Celeste removes its eyes, then Mina takes the opportunity to remove its stuffing. But for now, it remains intact, staring blankly and smiling dumbly. 

TIME: Can attack dogs be rehabilitated?

The first time I met a dog from a fight bust was in the quarantine kennel at the shelter where I volunteered. I had been given the privilige of bestowing treats and love to the dogs languishing in the "bite kennel". Some were there because of court orders, others had bitten people or animals. Most were friendly or shy, few said no to the cookies. Even fewer made it out of the shelter alive. It was a sad place for me, and I did what I could to make their lives a little better.

Back to the fight bust dogs. There were five of them, lithe, agile pit bulls. One was incredibly cage aggressive, launching himself time and time again at the kennel door. I ignored him, randomly tossing treats into his kennel when he'd stop his aggressive overtures. He was not one who I could ever truly bond with, he was too frightened and reactive to tolerate even the most modest of advances. The other four were overzealous with their affection. They were covered in scars, jagged wounds evidence of the physical trauma they endured. Psychologically, though, they seemed at ease with their predicament, if not a bit under-stimulated and bored. One was extraordinarily dog reactive, the other three displayed modest levels of reactivity...all within what most would consider the range of normal dog behavior. One would spend her days play bowing to the dogs across the way, butt high in the air, whole body swaying side to side. She'd fling herself dramatically towards the other dogs, stymied by space and kennel walls. But she never lost her love for other dogs, and she would lick the face of the dogs who passed by her kennel on the way to their deaths.

For three years, these five dogs languished, mostly forgotten. No one was allowed to take them for walks, even though four of the dogs were incredibly human social. In secret, I would reach my hands into the kennels, stroking muscular backs, gently fingering scars and wounds, scratching under chins and massaging velvet-soft ears. I wasn't supposed to touch the dogs, but their plea for interaction - beyond tossed treats - demanded my response. They reveled in this contact.

Their "owner" was found guilty and the dogs released to the shelter. This was 2000, long before Vick and even before I was able to convince this shelter to stop automatically killing crop-eared pit bulls (it was assumed they were fighters *eye roll*). The automatic response of the shelter was to prepare the kill room for these dogs. In my heart of hearts, I knew this was wrong. It was a denial of life, a suppression of compassion, the wrong choice to make for, at the very least, three of the dogs. None would be given a pathetic excuse for a temperament test. None would be offered to qualified rescues for possible placement. It was assumed that, because these dogs had fought other dogs, that they were irreversibly scarred. Damaged goods. Unwanted. Unadoptable. Untreatable. Dead.

It was the first time I touched the dogs outside of their kennel. The really aggressive one had to be tranquilized before being carried to the kill room. I begged and pleaded with staff to let me hold the other dogs, at least before they were killed. I was lucky - on that day, a pit bull loving animal control officer allowed me to give those dogs their final goodbye. I touched each and every one of them, admired their beauty, trying in vain to calm their undulating, joyous bodies. I hugged the dog-friendly one, telling her how much I loved her. And then they walked themselves to their deaths. Oh, the violation of trust, the betrayal. It stings me even now. Back then, I was nineteen, foolishly believing what the staff told me, that it was a good thing, the kindest thing to do...killing healthy, adoptable dogs was kind? The truth is too painfully obvious - that was a coping mechanism. The reality is that those dogs did not deserve to die. Not at all.

Nearly a decade has past and now society expects shelters to try and salvage dogs from fight busts. Even while we ban pit bulls left and right, we express our schizophrenic desire to save the most abused pit bulls.

Things have changed and for the better, I think. TIME has an online article, entitled "Can Attack Dogs Be Rehabilitated?" Is that even a valid question anymore? Was it ever a valid question? It's an okay article, except for what I believe is the most fundamentally missing point - that these are still dogs. They are not mythical beasts of destruction, they are not cybertronic droids bent on world domination. Yes, they are generally more athletic than other medium-sized dogs and yes I'd agree their "bell-curve" reactivity is shifted a bit more to the reactive side. They are terriers, after all. But their temperaments and behaviors are not so different than most dogs, not off-the-richter-scale fantastical or bizarre.

So why must we still paint them as attack dogs, as unfit to be with other animals or children? The truth of the matter is that many pit bulls confiscated from fight busts and permitted to be rescued, they live with other dogs. And children. Somehow, they restrain themselves from eating everyone in sight. Some are so solid that "rehabilitation" is a non-word, a silly term that has no real-world meaning to these particular dogs. Some are shy, scared of their own shadow, where "rehabilitation" means earning trust and teaching confidence. Some are dog-reactive, where "rehabilitation" means management and properly supervised canine interactions. Some are fear-biters or resource-guarders and "rehabilitation" means, if a suitable foster home is available, redirecting behavior into appropriate actions, teaching boundaries or, if a suitable foster home or sanctuary is unavailable, it means death. Some are riddled with mammary cancer or other deadly diseases and "rehabilitation" in the physical sense is not possible. In the end, they are dogs with various personalities, different temperaments, myriad ways they cope with the world.

They are not so different from any other dog entering the shelter system, except that their tragic past is a known entity, a shadowy, nearly tangible thing. It seems only fair to give them a chance at life. Is that not something every dog deserves?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A memory of a dog and a girl

I've posted about Ruby before, but she's making the news again, because she is one cool pup. She had been left to die along with her brother, was saved, patched up and ended up in the home of Pat Bettendorf . And thus began her ascent into the world of therapy dog work. She visits nursing homes, mostly places of forgotten people. She gets them to talk and open up. Her perk is the attention she receives - happy pit bulls are attention seekers.

In a tangential way, the story reminded me of an experience I had about six, maybe seven years ago.I had just left a storage facility and was waiting for the gate to open. Mina was in the car and, for one brief moment, I let her splay herself on my lap, her mushy  head flung happily out the window. As I started to pull forward, a woman's voice reached me, "Excuse me, wait please!"

I stopped, peered around Mina's head for the source of the sound. A woman in her late seventies with brilliant white hair approached. She stopped and just stared at Mina, taking her in, nodding her head and finally politely asking if she could pet Mina. Oh, of course! Mina bestowed kisses as all happy pit bull are wont to do, and I learned all about the woman's old dog. And by old, I mean 1930s old. She was a spry, lithe farm dog who looked strikingly like Mina. She followed this woman everywhere, across fields and meadows, through the cattle pens, into the house, through the years. That dog was an icon, of her family and the hardships they endured, of lasting friendships and devotion. She never, ever forgot that dog. It was nice being part of that moment, to see her bond with Mina and imagine a Mina-dog doing for this woman what she has done for me - be a source of unconditional love, annoyance, fascination and fun.

Perhaps what I liked most of that encounter is the lack of supportive statements. There was no "Oh, they get such a bad rap" or "it's all how you raise them", no attempt at offering sympathy for choosing a type of dog with such an uphill road to travel. It was just me, Mina, this woman and the memory of a devoted companion. It's a small experience I will never forget, and it made me cherish Mina and the American Pit Bull Terrier all the more.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Strip club Newt Nook

Newt Gingrich refused to accept $5,000 in donations from a strip club. The club's owner was also dis-invited from receiving an entrepreneurial award. So, she turned around and donated the money to a Dallas based animal shelter to help build a climate-controlled building to house some of the shelter's dogs, with a particular emphasis on pit bulls. They are naming the building Newt's Nook.

I think this brings up an interesting issue - if you were running a nonprofit, would you say no to donations from organizations that, through their actions, perpetuated questionable activities? I'm not trying to be a prude here, but strip clubs, by their very nature, further the notion that women are objects, that their worth is how much skin they show, and even worse, women are arguably involved in their own self-oppression (though most never admit such a thing).

Perhaps that is not an accessible example. Let's say you worked for a Greyhound rescue group and part of your activities include legislative efforts to shut down racing tracks. Would you accept donations from breeders of racing Greyhounds? Or from tracks themselves? What about a horse racing track or a breeder of racing horses?

I work for a farmed animal sanctuary. Most of our donors are not vegans or even vegetarian. We certainly do not require anyone to adhere to any particular dietary habit in order to support the sanctuary's work. But we would not accept funds from the Milk Advisory Board or the United Egg Producers. We choose to draw a line when it comes to organizations that pursue goals completely opposite of our own and whose funds come from activities against our organization's mission. (Not that either of the aforementioned organizations would ever deign to donate funds to us.)

Where would you draw the line? Or do you think there isn't a line to draw and it doesn't matter who it comes from, as long as the money helps "your" organizations cause?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Vegan Thanksgiving

Do not fear, I am not about to condemn you to the depths of Slor if you do not believe exactly what I believe. For real.

This is one of eight turkeys at the sanctuary where I work. She's a total and utter delight. Five years ago, she was liberated by an individual along with eleven of her sisters from a turkey production plant. We accepted all 12 debeaked, de-toed (first digits of their toes are cut off to prevent scratching when removed from the shed) baby hens.

They sing songs and are joyous creatures. They cannot fly, like their wild brethren. They are bred to be too large for that...and too large to mate naturally, all are artificially inseminated.

So it is always an honor and joy to celebrate them on Thanksgiving. For me, that means not eating them. :) CRAZY TALK, I know. But you will survive.

Now, perhaps you might wonder what a vegan eats (at all?) during Thanksgiving. Well, certainly not turkey. Instead, we might make our own tofu turkey or purchase an alternative. There are myriad alternatives available now that can please the palates of most people. I love Tofurky, thought not everyone does. They are perhaps crazy, I am not certain. Even the most hardcore omnivore likes Tofurky gravy, so that's something. There is also Celebration Roast for people who have an addiction to salt. Like me. Or you could go all out for your turkey-loving friends and family by making these adorable tofu turkeys - they are so cute, you may be unable to eat them. Not me. I'd inhale them, post-haste.

The sides are pretty easy to veganize. Non-dairy butter and dairy mixed with mashed potatoes. Veggie broth instead of chicken for stuffing. Non-dairy butter on bread. We do not eat green bean casseroles around here, because my mom finds them we just eat fresh green beans, slightly crisp with lemon juice and non-dairy butter. Salads are easy. A vegan's Thanksgiving dinner is not so different, except the centerpiece isn't a bird. We are still grateful for all the wondrous things in our lives, and we still feel compassion for all those suffering in this world. At my parent's place, we are not pumpkin pie fiends, but that is super easy to veganize. My family are apple pie freaks and make three so we can survive days on apple pie alone, if necessary. Sometimes, when that womanly time of the month hits during Thanksgiving, I make a crazy chocolate pecan pie to kill for (if you died for it, you would not enjoy it half so much).

I'll take a picture tomorrow for show and tell. You can show all of your friends and be all "LOOK AT THE VEGANS AND THEIR VEGANY DINNER!" It might be amusing. It might not. And even without all the extra tryptophan, vegans can gorge with the best of them and become sleepy sloths ready for hibernation after Thanksgiving dinner. You might be interested to know that no group of humans on earth love talking food as much as vegans. Not even foodies. Or locovores. Get stuck in a room full of vegans, and all you'll hear about are cupcakes this, enchiladas that, OH MY GOD YOU VEGANIZED that? This is not true of all vegans, as I recently learned when a vegan friend of mine stared at me blankly as I tried to explain my love affair with cranberry-orange muffins and all of my attempts at creating The Best Muffin Ever. They thought I was weird and told me as much. Whatever.

In any event, Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Celeste & Mina enjoy new sanctuary property

When I'm not gushing about my dogs, I'm working for Animal Place, a sanctuary for farmed animals. We are moving from our 60-acre facility in Vacaville to a gorgeous 600-acre site in Grass Valley, CA. All of the new barns are up and the fencing is being put in as we speak (well, perhaps not literally). My parents and I headed up there to check out the barns and fencing. Of course, the dynamic duo had to come along - it's one of their few opportunities at being a dog. By that, I mean getting to run loose, unfettered by leashes and traffic and commands. Free to roll in poop, drink up disgusting water, leap through the tall grass. Maybe attempt to chase deer or rabbits or, in Mina's case, stalk lizards. I love, love, love seeing Mina and Celeste run amock. It's beautiful and natural and what I wish for every single dog.

Celeste had entered the pasture on the left, running alongside us until she realized that she and the rest of her group was separated. She looked up ahead, noticed that the fenceline didn't open up. She checked the fence's integrity. And when she realized there was no way out but the way she came in, she booked it back to the opening in the fence, and barreled to us with a wild grin on her face. Victory was hers!

Mostly, this is what I captured. Two butts. Two tails flying high. Two noses to the ground.

This is a beautiful moment. Mina leaping up and over Celeste during a full-throttle drive to the back of what is going to be the poultry enclosure. Celeste, determined to keep her nose to the groun, inhaling wondrously wild scents, manages to duck, tuck and avoid a fatal impact. I love her dedication.

Much sniffing of Very Important Stuff occurred.

Gross water was to be gulped down by Celeste, disdained utterly by Mina. Well, Mina would not drink the water, but she would roll in its murky depths. Such is the logic of Mina.

Oh, happy days! Big smile, ears up and back seeking and searching, eyes forward, nose twitching. Mission, forward, impetus, movement. Love, love, love!

It was a lovely day, perfectly warm and wonderful. The dogs tracked rabbit scents, marked ownership of scrub oak and dead grass, looked high and low for deer, and I reveled in their intense devotion to the carefree.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rape, aggravated burglary, drug trafficking - that's not lead news!

The Expositor has a story to tell. Is it about the gun found in someone's home? No. Is it about the 2,300 pills of ecstasy, three viles of hash oil, or the cocaine? No! Is it about the home invasion of an elderly couple who were tied up during the theft? No, you ninny! Is is it about the guy who sexually assaulted his wife? Are you nuts?

No, the lead line for this story starts out as, "A pit bull had to be removed". In fact, the title of the article is "Pit bull removed before search". Apparently rape, drug trafficking, violently tying up gramps and granny are all of less import than a docile dog who had to be walked out of a backyard by the SPCA. That's news, folks!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Celeste falls off the bed

Mina does not fall off beds. Ever. She doesn't even slide off of them. She does not roll off of sofas or slip off of chairs. Mina is a pretty grounded dog.

Celeste is unaware of everything when she is playing with you. The center of her universe is you, all else is unimportant rubbish.

Like beds, for example. See this photo? This is what Celeste was doing. I was sitting next to her, skritching her belly, while she bitey-faced the air and rubbed her back into the blanket. She was so happy, full of puppy vim and vigor.

And then I got up to do something. Celeste's body followed me right off of the bed. She flopped three feet to the ground and was quite surprised by the whole ordeal. I'm pretty certain Mina laughed at her. I did too, but only after I checked to make sure her doghood was intact. Thus ends the story of how Celeste fell off the bed.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tom Skeldon resigns!!

Oh, happy days!

The Great News: Tom "Dog Killer" Skeldon of "We kill 77% of incoming shelter dogs" Lucas County is resigning December 31, 2009!! I had wondered why he hadn't made any public comments since the Toledo Blade started their campaign against him. It's apparently because he needed a few weeks to draft a letter of resignation. Yes! You can read more at KC Dog Blog.

The Bad News: Pit bulls, regardless of temperament, will still be killed. This may still occur under new leadership. As I write this, no doubt several dogs and puppies have been killed by Lucas County officials. Pit bulls comprise the majority of dead dogs at the shelter, so even if they adopt out every single non pit bull dog who enters their shelter, more than 50% of incoming dogs will exit in body bags. I will be cautiously optimistic that whoever replaces Skeldon will stop the murder of puppies, regardless of breed, and consider placing pit bulls with rescue agencies.

The Annoying News: If you read the comments over at KC Dog Blog's entry, you'll notice an editorial that was originally published in the Toledo Blade by a PeTA representative. It is not surprising, PeTA has a vendetta against dogs who look like pit bulls. They too have a high kill-rate. Objectively, though, Skeldon has not done his job - he has not improved public safety, has not eliminated pit bulls, has not significantly reduced the euthanasia rate, and has not even done the minimum work to reunite owners with their dogs.

A small portion of the letter:
We thank Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon and his staff for putting animals' best interests first by not haphazardly adopting out dogs just to make the pound's euthanasia statistics look better.

Jennifer Brown
Animal Sheltering Adviser
People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals
Norfolk, Va.

There's more to the letter, but I have no interest in republishing all of the tripe it includes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dog Tag program helping soldiers, another Lucas County update

The Washington Humane Society has an awesome partnership with the Walter Reed Medical Center - soldiers recovering at the medical center can hook up with the shelter and help train the dogs. It's a win-win situation, really. Their Dog Tags program invites soldiers into the shelter where they learn about dog-behavior, training and then work one-on-one for six months with a dog. The benefits are obvious - better trained and more adoptable dog, calmer and happier healing soldiers. THere is also a mention of one of the participatns taking his dog, a pit bull, to the Metropolitan Police Department and teaching cadets about dog behavior and, oh yeah, pit bulls don't generally want to eat your face. (Correct me if I'm wrong - pit bulls no longer allowed at military bases, right?)

The Toledo Blade has another article about Lucas County Tom "Dog Killer" Skeldon. The article covers the death of 10 puppies killed the day after they arrived. The person who dropped off the puppies had rescued their mother, along with two other stray dogs. She gave birth while with him and he could not feasibly care for them all. He kept one puppy and found a home for another, then dropped the other 10 off at the shelter, in the hopes they would be adopted. They were about eight weeks old. All were killed. There is also another log of dogs killed and adopted - 15 killed, one adopted.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Happy Eleven Years, Mina!!

Eleven years ago, Mina was born into this world. I have no idea who her mother or father were. There is no birth certificate, no pedigree, no loving puppy photos of her on someone's mantle. I imagine her cuteness a lot, though. That perfect patch, the pink precious nose, the little socked feet, all so perfect. Oh! How adorable she must have been as a puppy!

She was bred, I do not know how many times. Somewhere out there are her descendants, pink-nosed, probably sassy, hopefully happy. My best guess is she lived indoors, possibly a garage for her early years. She had a perfect white chest when I first met her, twenty minutes in the sun added freckles. That is why I suppose she lived out of the sunlight. I don't know if she was mistreated or loved. When the animal control officer saw her running loose, ribs sticking out, a 4-foot-long, three-inch thick canvas belt looped tightly around her neck, she came up to him.

Mina showed her sensitive side at the shelter. Curled up in a ball, she laid listlessly in the back corner of her kennel. Only after repeated visits did she consider me worthy enough of a hand lick and wagging tail. On the day before her last hold day, she was attacked by one of the other dogs in the kennel. Not too serious, but several puncture wounds along her front leg. She did not fight back. I fell for her. Her eyes crossed in a ridiculously adorable manner. She looked and acted pathetically. Her gentle kisses and thumping tail broke my heart. I eagerly awaited her "temp-test", hoping she'd be placed in the adoption ward. She failed her temp test. I should rephrase - the temp test failed her. I refused to be yet another failure in her life.

I have never, ever, ever, ever regretted the decision to bring Mina home. I never will.

She is sassy. She is dog-tolerant, though socially awkward. She is a follower, prone to engaging in stupid behaviors if another dog leads the way. She loves sitting in your lap, gazing into your eyes, making you feel like the only wonderful person in the world. She loves children but in a different way than how she loves cats. The former she gives kisses to, tolerates tail tugs and ear pokes, the latter she would love to chase and maybe nibble on a bit. She feels pigs are her people, cattle and horse butts are too high to sniff, chickens should probably be chased and maybe de-feathered, ground squirrels are fun to leisurely trot after, and geese should be avoided at all costs.

She is shy, sometimes afraid of her own shadow. Dark places give her the shivers. New places must be thoroughly inspected. Going into stores is only enjoyable if she gets butt scratches and maybe a chance to head-butt another dog. My mom's raised-bed garden is about the best outdoor bed a dog could ask for. The fireplace would be even more enjoyable if the wood didn't crackle and sparks didn't fly. Mina loves curling up under the covers in the winter and stretching herself out above the covers in the summer. She respects bees, loves to eat grass and throw it back up, and finds snakes to be inordinately fascinating.

Celeste, she tolerates with grace. Bitey-face on the bed with Celeste is one of her favorite past-times. Playing in my parents yard is her third favorite, her first and second being some form of snoozing out in the sun. She has slowed down, her joints giving her some pain, her maneuverability diminished - sometimes she tries to make tight turns and bottoms out. Her shoulder gives her trouble. She is missing one of her canines, the result of a raw marrow bone getting stuck around her jaw, damaging the tooth. There is a yellow-patch of fur on her head, the result of a vicious attack on her doghood by another canine. She has a scar on her chest from her friendly neighborhood carcinoma.

She tolerates being dressed up, picked up, hugged, squished, tugged on, and squished some more. She tolerates it even more if cookies are involved. She loves tofu. Preferably fried in some olive oil. Also broccoli and hummus. Sometimes carrots, rarely apples.

She is leash-reactive. Sassy. Spitfire. In her younger days, she would flip herself over and over when she saw another dog. Embarrassing does not being to define those moments. Training. She thought this was great, another opportunity to whine, yell, generally act a fool around other leashed dogs. One class, a dog got loose and plowed into Mina. What? This is not how things are done. Appalled, she flipped over on her back, exposed. Mina is my mixed-message dog.

Mina has kept me sane. Made me insane. Kept me active, made me want to hide indoors to avoid her unruly leash behavior. She is stoic and strong, sweet and gentle. There are not appropriate words to describe the magnitude of love and fierce protection I feel for her. I want her to live forever. Selfish.

Mina is the best dog I have ever had the pleasure to welcome into my life.

On this arbitrary day, she turns eleven. I expect many years from her. It has been hard watching her slow down, but I will bask in her moments of zen-like meditation, her desire to slow it down a bit, to sniff longer and sun-bathe more.

Happy Birthday, Mina. You are an incredible, frustrating, amazingly wonderful dog. I expect you to live a kajillion more years.

Stunning chicken-chasing dogs, frantic car rescue, shelter takes in pit bulls

You know, I have been told there is no media conspiracy when it comes to pit bulls. I agree, really. Journalists have enough things on their plate than to concoct a mass-media negativity campaign against pit bulls. But I have decided it is true that if it might be a pit bull, news agencies will run the story.

For example, big news out of Tampa: A police officer chased a dog who was chasing a chicken and then stunned the dog to save the chicken. Which is fine (saving the chicken, I like chickens). Perhaps this is such a novel occurrence for residents of Tampa that it should make the news?

But then there is this story out of England that reads like a bad horror movie. A dog and a child were left alone in a vehicle together. According to the article, members of the public were frantically trying to save the child. Who was, you know, sitting in a car with a dog. SEND IN THE RIOT POLICE. Which they did, of course. They sent in the Met's Territorial Support Group which polices riots and drug busts to save the child from the dog who, interestingly enough, does not appear to have done anything but sit there during the whole affair. Don't get me wrong here, please to not be leaving children and dogs alone in a locked vehicle together. But please to not make it sound like this dog, a suspected pit bull terrier was ready to off the kid at a moment's notice. (Arguably, I feel there must be more to this story).

In happier news, the Butte Humane Society up in Chico, California is taking in eleven of the 500 dogs confiscated from the largest fight bust in history. Which is just my way of encouraging you to help out your local shelter as much as you can - monetary donations, in-kind donations, volunteering your time, etc. Every little bit counts. Even a letter of thanks can lift up the spirits of shelter workers, especially at hi-kill, government run shelters.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Maningrida dogs kill man, what should be done?

Today, I read about a 22-yr-old man mauled to death by a pack of dogs in Maningrida, Northern Territory, Australia.  In the article, it mentioned "dog dreaming" as being an integral part of the culture in Maningrida and that residents are averse to the idea of putting down a dog, even if s/he exhibits aggression towards people.

Maningrida is an indigenous outpost in the northern territory of Australia. The closest "large" (120,000 people) town is Darwin, around 300 miles west of Maningrida. Dozens of languages are spoken with a population of around 2,600 people. The settlement was established after WWII as trade outpost, then a few years later converted into a Department of Native Welfare settlement* (please read link below for more information). Now it is a self-governed, permanent settlement, although most of the funding is provided by the government.

The town is relatively self-sufficient in terms of energy, sewage treatment and water resources. They operate a diesel powered generator for electricity and subsist off of relatively-clean, safe drinking water. Solar-hot-water systems are employed as well. They are connected to broadband internet, although less than half of the residents actually make use of it. While it may sound like "they have it made", employed residents, on average, make $150-399 a week (the upper end puts them at less than $20,000 a year). The unemployment ranges from 8-13%, demographic depending, which is far higher than comparable cities.

Like with many rural, poor regions with insufficient infrastructure for humans, let alone animals, there are many stray or "loosely" owned intact dogs. Here's a picture of one such dog. And like with so many of these communities (no matter the culture), there is a reticence from residents to accept the assistance of "outsiders". There are reasons for concern, of course - one traditional method "outsiders" use to reduce the population is through massive culling efforts, often without consent from owners. Obviously a feeling of resentment can build from such endeavors.

There is also a misconception that individuals in rural, poor or non-suburban settings care very little about their dogs. Much of this arguably stems from what I can only assume is racist thinking (subconscious or otherwise) or the rather elitist notion that only dogs safely ensconced in a home are happy. This report found that indigenous people in Australia miss their dogs when they have to leave them (94%), feel animal welfare is important (85%) and most felt dogs were an important/welcome aspect to their community (75%). My experience working with extremely poor residents in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico lead me to the same conclusion.

In Maningrida and probably elsewhere in aboriginal regions of Australia, there are customs surrounding dreaming, many that specifically involve dogs. There is even a special ceremony for dogs, and the belief that we must not interfere in a dog's death unless we can understand that the dog wants to die (and, in the link, giving a "sleeping injection" is acceptable). So knowing that residents of Maningrida feel this way about dogs, that they tend to take a more hands-off approach to medical care and the like, it makes little sense to approach the canine population problem with an aggressive approach (which is invariably true of many things, yes?)

This report details how best to approach the issue of animal welfare from the perspective of indigenous people. What may seem obvious is not so obviously employed. Treat people with respect. Use the language that the people living in the area can understand - in one example, a poster up near a settlement detailed the animal welfare laws in the area. In English. The sign became a joke but points to knowing your audience (which I have issues with at times). Don't kill dogs. The people of Maningrida do not want their dogs killed - many are cherished companions, working dogs, protectors or symbols of a cultural way of life. Don't suggest culling as a method of reducing the dog population. It doesn't work, anyways (unless every single intact dog is eliminated and NO intact animals enter the settlement, pre-cull populations will be re-established in a short period of time). And be realistic. A veterinarian is not likely to set up shop in Maningrida when it is unlikely anyone can afford the going rates. Here is an example of what has worked in Maningrida.Obviously, it is an uphill battle - there are not enough resources to maintain such a program and it is, by necessity, limited to outside veterinarians coming in. Even with a system of inside participation, a program that consistently relies on the aid of an outside person is, in this particular case, not going to eliminate the problem.

Which is why this quote from the article shows a clear inability to understand the problem: "However, whenever you do go up to the families who own these animals and ask for them to be voluntarily destroyed, they do decline that option"

Well, of course they do. Their culture is different, their perspective is of a different slant. The program of castration and vaccination employed by AMRRIC takes that into consideration more so than the quote from the politician.

These quotes bother me. The idea that we have to destroy dogs living in poor areas bothers me. And the idea that these people are too stupid or too disinterested in the problem bothers me. Celeste is from Mexico. She is one of thousands of strays and neighborhood dogs who live what I admittedly consider a sub-par life, as it pertains to medical care. In other ways, many dogs seem happier there - they follow their people, get enough exercise and engage in entirely normal, species-appropriate behavior (one of which, mating, obviously exacerbates the problem). They also get hit by cars on a ridiculously frequent basis, die of starvation, are abused, and have more health problems than their urban counterparts. Pros and cons. The spay camp I helped on castrated 300 dogs in four days. People lined up for hours to get their animals neutered. They learned about proper care of dogs in a language they understand. They were not chastised or berated. Their children were given clothes and toys and other freebies. What I'm getting at here is that this program treats everyone well, humans and dogs alike. And I think that type of program is far more considerate, kind and appropriate than culling or openly chastising Maningrida residents for not wanting to kill their own dogs.

I have not watched it, but there is a movie about dog dreaming, or the myth/creation story of two ancestral beings creating the dreaming lands.

*You can read a bit about the history of aboriginal people, specifically the issue of child welfare in Australia here (it isn't pretty). Link isn't working, here's a new one.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Layout

As you can see, the layout has changed. I really like it.

*ahem* Embarrassingly, I neglected to make sure my blog list remained intact. I could re-upload my old template, but that isn't all that appealing right now.

So! Please post a link to your blog, so I can add it back to my blog list.

The Truth About Tom "Dog Killer" Skeldon

The truth about Lucas County, OH Dog Warden Tom "Dog Killer" Skeldon is this: He does not care about you. He does not care about dogs. He cares about himself.
That's the truth.

I went through the archives of the Toledo Blade who finally has started blasting Skeldon for his ineptitude and dog murdering ways. The archives go back to 1996, which means there's still nearly ten years of Skeldon we're missing out on. There were about 260 articles mentioning Skeldon. A normal person would not be impressed.

Tom "Dog Killer" Skeldon through the years

1987: Skeldon named dog warden after his uncle, a former county commissionter, rec'd him for the job.
1993: 50 pit bulls confiscated and killed by Skeldon.
1994: 70 pit bulls confiscated and killed by Skeldon.
1995: 144 pit bulls confiscated and killed by Skeldon.
1996: Skeldon and company pick up and kill more than 200 dogs who look like pit bulls. Claims there is a serious gang problem.
1997: 276 pit bulls confiscated and killed by Skeldon. Violent gang activity has decreased while dogfighting has increased. 5,520 dogs are taken in by the dog warden. Approximately 80% were killed**. Pit bull type dogs make up 5% of the shelter population.
August - Skeldon finds two confiscated pit bulls who have been devocalized. Decides de-barking pit bulls should be felonious, proposes his idea to the legislature - the penalty for having a de-barked pit bull? A 4th degree felony. Classic Skeldon quote: "`I've said it again and again, but it will happen. These things will kill somebody here one day"*
December - 359 pit bull type dogs confiscated and killed, 6.5% shelter pop. Nearly 6,000 dogs taken in, approximately 80% killed.**
January: Dog fighting is on the rise in Lucas County, as it has been since 1995 when pit bull confiscations increased dramatically. Tom "Dog Killer" Skeldon, champion of public safety and protector of dogs, has been unable to stem the incoming tide of pit bull type dogs or reduce dogfighting. Oh wait, he did introduce a law to ban devocalized pit bulls. The dog fighters are quaking in their boots.

December: Pit Bulls are third in confiscated dogs with Rottweilers and Chow Chows the number 1 and 2 breeds most confiscated and killed by Skeldon and company. About 375 pit bulls confiscated and killed, 7.8% of shelter pop. Approximately 4,800 intake of whom approximately 3,700 were killed.
2000: Dog bites have tripled since the previous year. Classic Skeldon quote: "I'm so busy running around putting out these fires, that I haven't had a lot of time to consider it ." "It" referring to the dramatic increase in dog bites. Meanwhile, Governor Taft signs into law the de-barking bill which bans the devocalization of vicious dogs (all pit bulls) and the penalty is a 4th degree felony. You would face a less harsh penalty if you were a spectator at a dog fight. About 500 pit bulls confiscated and killed, 9.6% dog shelter pop.
2001: For the first time in Lucas County dog warden history, the Lucas County Board of Commissioners voted to require Lucas County to send adoptable dogs to the Toledo Humane Society. In six weeks, 77 dogs were sent to the humane society. About 500 pit bulls confiscated and killed, 10% of shelter population.
2002: A judge agrees with Skeldon and co. that a Presa Canario had enough physical characteristics to be classified as a "pit bull" and the dog is killed. Meanwhile, 553 pit bull type dogs have been confiscated and killed, 13% of dog shelter pop. Approximately 4,200 animals have come into the shelter. More than 70% won't make it out alive. Even though the shelter has a high kill rate, Lucas County dog warden Tom "Dog Killer" Skeldon refuses to join other cities in purchasing a microchip scanner and scanning every incoming dog.
2003: More than 600 pit bull type dogs confiscated and killed, 15% of dog shelter population. Approximately 4,000 incoming dogs of whom approximately 3,100 are killed.**
2004: 857 pit bull type dogs confiscated and killed, 21% of dog shelter population. Approximately 4,000 incoming dogs of whom approximately 3,100 are killed.**
2005: 900 pit bull type dogs confiscated and killed, 24% of dog shelter population. Approximately 3,600 incoming dogs, of whom approximately 2,700 are killed.**
2006: Skeldon is asked to testify in Ontario in support of a province-wide ban on pit bull type dogs. Even though the intake rate of pit bulls has dramatically increased and dog bites have not decreased, Skeldon is considered an expert on pit bulls (who he admits one cannot easily recognize, page 11) and breed specific legislation. 950 pit bulls seized and killed, 26.7% of dog shelter population. 3,500 incoming dogs, of whom approximately 2,800 were killed (including the 950 pit bull type dogs).
2007: Skeldon starts going door to door and rounding up dogs who resemble pit bulls. Board of Commissioners asks that Skeldon start scanning incoming dogs for microchips, something Skeldon has not done and has been resistant to.
Pit bulls comprise 34% of the dog shelter population with 1,354 killed. Another 1,210 dogs killed. 400 adopted. Total incoming of 3248 dogs. That's a 13% adoption rate and 78% kill rate.
327 people bitten by dogs.
2008: Classic Skeldon quote: "A lot of rescue groups ... don't have a long record of standing,. They almost tend to be cults of personality around a few activists" 
Skeldon claims he will increase adoptions by 10% in one whole year. Also claims he's reduced kill rates by 11% in 30 years! Pit bulls comprise 33% of the shelter population and a large percentage of dead dogs. A total of 2,483 dogs were killed, making for a 77% kill rate. 78 were puppies under the age of 3-mos.
403 people bitten by dogs, an increase from the previous year.

While Skeldon claims he will increase adoption rates, he helps kill a bill that would overhaul the current Ohio dog warden system. It would have encouraged a name change from "dog warden" to "animal control officer" and required the wardens to keep animals two-weeks before killing them and it would have required scanning all incoming dogs. It received a massive pushback from breeder groups who balked at the increase in kennel registration fees. It failed.
Classic Skeldon Quote: "We are a success story. We are to be emulated." Skeldon fails to increase adoption rates by 10% - they remain at 10-12% of total incoming dogs.
As part of their rec'd, the newly formed Dog Warden Advisory Committee suggests Lucas County  photograph every dog and place them up on the internet to facilitate owner-recovery and adoption. This is the first time ever that Lucas County has used petfinder or the internet to promote adoption. Currently, they only have six dogs up on their website. In addition, the committee suggested an immediate halt on the killing of puppies as well as the vaccination of incoming animals. The Toledo Blade publishes several scathing articles demanding the firing of Skeldon. One Board of Commissioner member tries to oust Skeldon but his defeated when Skeldon's first cousin and the remaining commissioner votes against the proposal. In addition, the Blade is publishing a daily log of the dogs killed and adopted at the shelter. Nov 13 - 17 dogs killed, including a pit bull with "pink toe-nail polish" and a 3-yr-old Pomeranian mix who is good with kids and likes to ride in cars. 6 dogs were adopted. Nov 14: 16 dogs killed, including a 6-mos old Rottweiler who's owner couldn't afford him and Lab mix who is good with kids. Four dogs were adopted.

So here we have a man who admits he doesn't know what a pit bull really is or how to identify one accurately. We have a man who has claimed to have the interest of public safety at heart, yet on his watch, dog bites have increased. This is a person who has a personal vendetta against dogs who look a certain way and admits behavior is not important when deciding whether to kill a dog or not. This man has testified in cases where the fate of thousands of dogs hang in the balance.

This is a man who has balked at the idea of scanning incoming dogs with microchips and who has refused to post pictures of incoming dogs on petfinder or the county's website.

This is a man who has been unable to significantly reduce the kill rate of his shelter while almost every single other nearby warden has.

This is not a man who should be protecting our safety or that of our dogs.

Are you tired of this?

Contact the Board of Commissioners:
One Government Center
Suite 800
Toledo, OH  43604
Ph: (419) 213-4500
Fx: (419) 213-4532

Pete Gerken, President
Tina Skeldon Wozniak, Commissioner
Ben Konop, Commissioner

Thank Commissioner Konop for trying to oust Skeldon. If he is up for re-election, re-elect him. Do not do the same for Skeldon Wozniak and Gerken, both of whom have shown little interest in truly rectifying the horror at the Lucas County dog warden facility. 

If you live in Lucas County or Toledo, find out who your representatives are in the state legislature and contact them, tell them that things must change.

And, keep sending letters to the Toledo Blade:
Send a letter to the editor at With rare exceptions, e-mails (plain text, no attachment) must not exceed 300 words. Contributors are limited to one published letter a month. Preference is given to short, succinctly expressed e-mails. The Forum reserves the right to edit for accuracy, brevity, or clarity. Failure to supply a full home address and daytime telephone number will slow our verification process and delay publication.

*For certain, no pit bull type dog has killed someone in Lucas County in more than 30 years, possibly longer. And even if one did, that would not make a valid, rational argument in favor of Tom "Dog Killer" Skeldon's archaic perspective on animals.

**This is assuming a 77% kill rate. Lucas County has only reduced the kill rate 11% in 30 years, which would translate into a 0.33% reduction over each year during the 30 year period. Since Lucas County dog warden makes the most minimal of efforts in reuniting dogs with their owners, I have included relinquished dogs in the total number of dogs. If, in 2008, Lucas County killed 77% of incoming dogs, in 1998, they would have killed approximately 80%. These numbers are gross approximations and, if more accurate statistics are available, please provide them (I had to do the math, which I admittedly spent little time verifying).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Confusing breeds, stafishing, therapy dog with cancer, altruistic plants

I'll preface this by saying it is unfair of me to expect a 9-yr-old boy to be all that accurate after being allegedly attacked by five adult men in the middle of the night.

That said: "one of the men had a dog, which may have been a pitbull or German shepherd." There isn't any reason to link to the article, because it's a paragraph long and is pretty boring.

Now, it is true that Celeste is not actually a German Shepherd (she's 45 lbs, has blue eyes, and I'm sure GSD enthusiasts could point out other differences) but people confuse her for a GSD enough that this picture is appropriate. Mina is, of coure, an American Pit Bull Terrier. I cannot see the physical similarities between the two.

In other news, News8 has decided to take on pit bulls.

"A pit bull can be a combination of the American bull terrier, a stafishord terrier, a bull terrier or even a bulldog."

Um. Not really. A pit bull is an American Pit Bull Terrier or an American Staffordshire Terrier. I do not subscribe to the notion that because anti-dog zealots like to clump five different breeds under an arbitrary label that therefore I must do the same. (Of course I asked myself what an American bull terrier or stafishord terrier is).

"An obedient, well trained, well socialized dog is less likely to bite or be injured in an accident."

I can agree on that. It's a bit like saying deploying your parachute reduces your risk of smashing into the ground dead. Sort of a no-duh statement but as evidenced by the ineptitude many dog guardians/owners exhibit, I suppose it can't be said enough.

Six-year-old Ruby, a rescued therapy dog, is struggling with the aftermath of bone cancer. An anonymous donor paid for the treatment and post-operative care. Ruby won second place in the milk-bone biscuit contest and will appear on the biscuit maker's boxes nationwide.

Plants recognize kin and may exhibit altruistic behavior. I'm going to see if the daughter spider plant I got from my mom recognizes her mother. Road trip!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nepotism alive and well in Toledo

Commissioner Ben Konop had the right idea when he proposed the demotion and/or removal of Lucas County dog warden, Tom "Dog Killer" Skeldon from office.

Unfortunately, Skeldon's first cousin, Tina Skeldon and the third commisioner Pete Gerken voted down the proposal because, hey, nothing says Class Act like retaining a dog warden who can only claim to have reduced the kill rate at the shelter by 11% in 30 years.

And bless the Toledo Blade for blasting Skeldon and the government of Lucas County for putting up with this crap since 1987.

"IF TOM Skeldon were a dog in his own pound, he would have been euthanized a long time ago."

"State law says pit-bull breeds are vicious - a dubious, politics-driven classification - so Mr. Skeldon, captive to his own, inflexibile ideology, deals death to every pit bull, even the smallest puppy, that comes to him."

Also, state officials from both parties are appalled but don't have the balls or ovaries enough to state that Tom "Dog Killer" Skeldon should not be near any animal, let alone running a county shelter and enforcing laws. Well I hope officials are appropriately appalled when they get voted out of office for their neutered opinion on this matter. No one is happy with how Lucas County's dog warden is running the shelter. Except for the Dog Killer himself and, apparently, his first cousin on the Board of Commissioners.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tom "Dog Killer" Skeldon feeling the pressure

Hats off to the Toledo Blade for continuing it's pressure on Lucas County and its dog warden, Tom "Dog Killer" Skeldon. They've published a series of articles highlighting the utter indifference and apparent pleasure Skeldon and his cronies take in killing perfectly healthy, perfectly adoptable dogs.

What I love most is Skeldon's denial that anything is wrong. He even goes so far as to claim that no one could reduce the euthanasia rate at the shelter. Yet somehow, someway, every single shelter in neighboring areas have significantly lower kill rates. Depending on how you look at the statistics, Skeldon is responsible for killing 66-77% of all dogs who come into his shelter. My guess is that if any of the wardens from neighboring counties took over, they'd be able to reduce kill rates just like they've done at their own shelters. They'd do crazy stuff like work with all-breed rescue groups, breed-specific rescue groups, transfers, petfinder, putting up fliers, etc. ad naseum. If other wardens can have kill rates as low as 28%, how can Dog Killer Skeldon argue its impossibility at his own shelter?

He can because he doesn't believe increasing adoptions is anywhere near important. It's not really a part of his job description. According to him, his job is to improve public safety, not adopt out more and kill fewer animals. From 2007-2008, dog bites in Lucas County increased from 329 to 403. This is interesting on two levels. One, an increase in dog bites is hardly living up to Dog Killer Skeldon's motto it's about people, not animals (it's my made up motto for him). Two, 403 reported bites out of a population of 450,000 humans? I mean, can we call that a public health crisis?

Skeldon's big claim to fame is that he's reduced the kill rate by 11% in 30 years. Can we please give this guy an award now? Why yes, yes we can!! Thank goodness for the anti-dog zealots picking Tom Dog Killer Skeldon as their Dog Warden of the Year for 2008. I mean, really? I'm sure he'll have some tough competition this year with recently fired Memphis Animal Control's director Ernest Alexander who was responsible for the starvation of three dogs, mistreatment of dozens of animals, and the improper euthanasia of an owned animal who's owners would have loved to have picked up their dog (but alas, the shelter killed the dog without looking for them). The anti-dog zealots should really love Alexander who allowed the starvation of a pit bull puppy! At least Skeldon uses euthanol to kill the 1,300 pit bull look alikes who have the misfortune to end up in his shelter, right? Colleen has a tough decision to make!

Anyway, back to Skeldon. He's pretty much of the opinion that he is invincible. He's got a first cousin on the board of commissioners and no one seems keen on ousting the guy who hasn't improved public safety (as far as dog bites are concerned) and who's done little to improve the welfare of the animals in his care. According to him, he'll be fine until he retires sometime in 2011 after being dog warden since 1987. Think of all the dead dog and cat souls who will be cheering on that fortuitous day! There should be tens of thousands of them.

And if you think a 66-77% kill rate, a piddly 13% adoption rate or that killing 1,000+ pit bull look-a-likes a year are not signs of success, then consider yourself part of the criminal element. Nothing bolsters your argument like accusing your opponents of being gang-bangers or criminals. Really solidifies your claims, Skeldon. Seriously, Skeldon claims that anyone who opposes his killing of 1,000-1,300 pit bulls or his additional killing of another several hundred dogs, then they are of the criminal element. Because, hey, only the criminally inclined would ever be appalled at the killing of 46 0-3-mos-old pit bull puppies or the senseless killing of thousands of, even in Skeldon's words, friendly pit bulls. SEND ME TO JAIL NOW, PLEASE!

If the mayor of Memphis can oust a shelter director because of egregiously neglectful care of animals, certainly Lucas County can follow suit. There is no reason to retain the services of  a man who takes pleasure in killing animals. He kills a lot of dogs when no other nearby warden does so. His discriminatory practices have lead to the death of thousands of pit bulls and Rottweilers. His lack of professionalism and dismissal of valid concerns indicates an ego the size of a small island nation and no conscience to speak fairly of. His kind has no place running a dog shelter.

Do shit, people:
The Toledo Blade accepts letters to the editor. is the email; keep it to 300 words or less, be respectful, include your full name, address and phone number for verification purposes.

Especially if you live in Lucas County:

Contact the Lucas County Commissioners and voice your concern about how the Lucas County dog warden is running things. Tell them you don't feel safer with a guy who kills 1,300 dogs a year for looking a certain way or who has to dart a 15lb dog on its own front doorsteps. Tell them you want change, a new era of public education and active efforts at improving the welfare of dogs and cats in Lucas County's care.

KC Dog Blog has a good post on it too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Giant Pumpkin

Every day, we (the sanctuary) receive hundreds of pounds of day-old produce donated by two grocery stores. Yesterday, an employee at one notified us that a 60lb pumpkin had failed to sell and did we want it? Um, do pigs love food? Yes!

The Pumpkin
Abby, sanctuary supervisor and Louie, animal caregiver, took a picture with the giant gourd.

And then it was time to abandone the pumpkin to its fate.

Enjoy! The pigs and cattle sure did!

The Pumpkin Solo Act The Pumpkin Act I: Sheep & Pig Meet The Pumpkin Act II: Soccer Time!

The Pumpkin Act III: Sleepy Hollow Re-enactment The Pumpkin Act IV: Cows arrive! The Pumpkin Act V: NOM

The Pumpkin Act VI: Goats are disgusted The Pumpkin VII: Patty is Proud

Friday, November 6, 2009

The key to locking jaws

Councilman Mike Koebel asked, "Is it true that pit bulls jaws lock?"

Oh my god, people, this laughable myth needs to just die already.

Unless all of these so-called lockjaw pit bulls have tetanus, there is no reason to suspect their jaws require a key to unlock.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Capybaras take over manhattan

Do you think Mina and Celeste would kill me if I stole a capybara from Venezuela? Probably not, but I'd likely have a problem with customs. Well, Celeste might kill me. And the capybara.

I have dreams of having a capybara because they would make the perfect vegan companion animal. Which gets me into trouble with hard-core animal rights activists who are all NO COMPANION ANIMAL FOR YOU. But how can you look at that picture of the lounging capybara and not want to see that awesome animal outside your kitchen window? You cannot.

Capybaras are snuggable and hefty - 100 lbs. They are the world's largest rodent and are hard-core. They are biddable and trainable. They adore swimming like woah, which I can forgive them for. They chatter like a guinea pig, which I find quite endearing. AND THEY ARE VEGAN.

My dogs may like broccoli with hummus but they do not like like broccoli with hummus. They are more  meat and potatoes, minus the potatoes, sort of ladies. Which makes my choice of veganism all the more difficult and frustrating - I choose to select who is more important, Mina or the nameless lamb. And I pick Mina. Talk about wishy-washy ethics, I know. If I was a good vegan, I wouldn't have omnivorous/carnivorous mammals as companions. But I've had rabbits and guinea pigs and you cannot take them on walks like a dog, or let them off leash, or snuggle them like a 40 lb dog. I love rabbits, but they are not as engaging as dogs for me. Guinea pigs are awesome and I adored the two I had for four years in college, which is why an oversized guinea pig, aka capybara, would be so fantabulous.

If I ever go to Venzuela, I will have to remember not to go during Lent. I have no desire to be the crazy American who cries bloody murder when people start killing these adorable, loveable animals and eating them. Unbeknownst to you and me, capybaras are actually fish because they are semi-aquatic and thus are acceptable to eat during the Catholic observation of Lent. Oh, those silly Catholics (much love to you Catholics, your educational system helped me get my learn on before college).

In conclusion: It would be awesome to have a capybara snuggling with Mina and getting glared at by Celeste.

Monday, November 2, 2009

News agency pays for release of man's dog

A local news agency paid a $101 fee to bail out a man's dog.

The man had adopted the dog from the Halifax Humane Society as a puppy, several months ago. It appears he does not have a fully fenced yard and/or the dog is kept outside - I'm not sure, that part was not clear. Regardless, the man had leashed the dog up outside when, at some point, the 8-mos-old neutered, microchipped dog got loose and was picked up by animal control.

They took the dog to the Halifax Humane Society, where he had been adopted months earlier.

Here is where it gets a little strange. Volusia County determined the dog was a pit bull. The dog, looking nothing like a pit bull, was essentially slated for euthanasia because of this determination. Even though Halifax Humane Society had adopted the dog out a few months ago. You can see video here. You can also see the dog looks like a mutt, with no obvious predominant breed - I mean, really, American Pit Bull Terrier? I think not.

The shelter is claiming a new employee made a mistake and the dog wasn't going to be killed for being a pit bull but might have been killed because his owner could not afford a half-day $78 bail-out fee. They do not charge that much for the adoption fee. And through October, the adoption fee was $50. Interesting. By Monday, that fee had jumped to $101. That's a $33/day fee. For a neutered, owned, microchipped dog adopted from the same shelter with an owner desperately interested in trying to get the dog back.

Don't get me wrong - people need to be vigilant and responsible when it comes to properly supervising their animals. This puppy should not have had an opportunity to get loose and, yes, an appropriate fee should be collected to cover the cost of care for boarding and feeding the dog. Your basic kennel, the ones that provide a walk a day plus food, are generally $10-20/day in most places. Your basic humane society does not even walk the dog. Even worse is threatening to kill a dog because someone cannot pay the fee (and then intimating the dog wouldn't even be put up for adoption).

People make mistakes, some worse than others. The goal of any humane society should be to a) adopt out animals b) reduce population of unwanted animals in community and c) keep animals in homes (less homes that are egregiously unqualified). And when presented with a person who clearly loves his dog and has the dog's best interest at heart, all reasonable efforts should be made to reunite the dog with his guardian/owner. This man may not be Gold Star Stellar nor will he win Guardian of the Year. But he loves his dog. And my guess is his behavior will change with this experience and he will no longer feed his dog on a rusty leash outside, in an unfenced area. If he does not, then it is reasonable and fair that he relinquish rights to his dog.

Newsweek: The Pit Bull Problem

Newsweek did an okay article about pit bulls this week
There aren't 61 million dogs in the US (2007 US Pet Census says 72 million). There aren't concrete numbers on American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier populations. And, I think many dogs, including many APBTs, would make acceptable guard dogs - resource guarding is a pretty well-established canine trait found, to some degree, in most dogs.

I really shouldn't complain too much, right? I mean, come on, it's Newsweek. You may take that comment in any manner you see fit.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


This is breaking news, people. I visit my parents twice a month and the dogs go crazy in the backyard (living in an apartment makes my dogs sad). Their neighbors recently adopted a dog who was labeled as a Labrador Retriever but who's activity level is inconsistent with every single 2-yr-old Lab I've ever met. He's calm, for one. I mean, like lazy, laid-back, life is meant to be savored calm. He's definitely a mixed breed dog, but just like pit bulls, any dog who is black, chocolate or yellow, with short-medium hair, floppy ears = LABRADOR RETRIEVER. Fact.

To understand the importance of what happened yesterday, you must understand Mina's tempestuous relationship with Retrievers. I would not say she loves them, per se, but she is obsessive about them. No other type of dog holds her fascination and intensity like a Retriever. She's most partial to Labrador Retrievers, especially if they love chasing balls. There have been a grand total of three Labrador Retrievers who have tolerated Mina's insistence that when  you chase a ball, she should chase you, bark at you and possibly rudely body slam you as well. She's really responsive to another dog's correction, in that she'll pause for a grand total of 4.5 seconds, then go back to whatever she was doing before. But most dogs and their guardians do not appreciate Mina's behavior - I don't either, really. It's a reason why I won't let her play with hyperactive Labs (there aren't many around where I live, so it works out fine, I guess).

So there I was sitting outside, reading a book when I hear a loud argument between two dogs. *light bulb* Ah, one of those barking fiends sounds a lot like an old lady pit bull I know. Calling to Mina when she is in the middle of a heated discussion/argument is useless. I got up and headed to the side-yard where I find a Mina body. Her head is missing, poking through a loose board in the fence she had head-butted open. Panicking, I thought perhaps she and Jack, the Lab mix next door, had gotten into a fight and Mina had been hurt or Jack's nose was missing. When she noticed me, Mina popped her head back in, wagged her tail and conveyed the message THERE IS A DOG OVER HERE AND WE TOUCHED NOSES!!!

I strolled over all nonchalantly and crouched down. There's Jack with a wagging butt and happy grin on his face. Noticing he had all of his facial features intact, I sighed happily and started to coax Mina away from the fence. Jack was having none of that. In three seconds flat, he popped up the loose board and shimmied his way into our yard (which is impressive since the opening was like eight inches wide). Now if he was like any Lab I've ever met, he would have leaped in joy, wagged his tail and butt, acted like a doof, and would have inspired neurotic behavior from Mina.

But he didn't. He and Mina were all, "yo" and "oh, it's you" and "let's check this out". Real cool like. Mina followed Jack everywhere and Jack took ownership of her yard. As he approached the sliding glass door to get into the house, I had another moment of relief that Celeste - my people loving, adorable mixie dog - was inside. She had a fit when she saw Jack - a crazy, snarling, barking fit. Mina was quite confused by her behavior and couldn't understand why on earth she was reacting in such an offensive manner.

The pictures, as you've surely noticed, aren't that great. I grabbed the wrong camera with the wrong lens for the wrong subject. Oh well, you at least get the idea that Mina did not eat Jack (she's never eaten a dog, actually). Which is really evidence that Jack is not actually a Labrador Retriever. I mean, loook at those ears! And that collar indicates he's actually a cow-dog.

Our neighbor came over quickly and confiscated Jack, and his guardian/owner promptly repaired the broken board. No more secret liaisons for these two. This is tragic, according to Jack. Mina thinks it's fine, so long as she can talk with him through the fence.