Thursday, December 31, 2009

11 Foster Dogs in 2009

I had 11 foster dogs in 2009--dogs I took home from the Shelter and kept until I found them a new home. This total does not include my "over-nighters"--dogs who came home with me from an off-site and who then went back to an off-site or to a rescue group. Nor does this include my "project" dogs such as "JoJo" (the pit bull) or "Riley" the Australian Cattle Dog. I've lost count of the dogs I've taken out again and again, or the ones who I kept tabs on until they were adopted.

I'm looking forward to helping more dogs, one at a time, in 2010, including "Peaches," who is looking for her own loving forever home!

Have a Happy and Safe New Year

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chihuahuas Multiply in Shelters

According to the Los Angeles Times blog, “LA Unleashed,” there has been a sharp increase of Chihuahuas entering California animal shelters. The increase is being blamed, in part, on the long-term pop culture status of these feisty little dogs—from Paris Hilton’s pocket pooch, “Tinkerbell,” to the saucy, lately departed “Gidget,” who played the Taco Bell Dog who snarled, “Yo Quiero Taco Bell!” during the wildly popular Taco Bell commercials of the early 2000s.

I don’t have statistics for our Shelter here in Metro Houston, but Chihuahuas arrive, in various sizes and temperaments, on a regular basis. Recently, we received four Chihuahuas which were surrendered by their owners because the owners claimed, “We aren’t making money with these dogs anymore.”

One of those dogs, “Peaches,” the matriarch breeder Chihuahua, is sitting on my lap as I write this entry. We’re at my Mom’s house in Spring Branch, TX, which is a virtual “Chihuahua Ranch” since my Mom has three Chihuahuas (plus my very first ever foster dog, a Jack Russell mix).

“Peaches” has overcome her fear to exhibit her true Chihuahua nature—she is snippy, bossy, needy, and exceedingly cute as she prances along, thrilled with her new life as a “Queen of the Lap Dogs.” Her very nature—her tendency to snap if she feels threatened, her prancy gait, and her radar-quick prick ears, are hall-marks of the breed’s character.

I grew up with my Mom’s Chihuahuas—we’re in the fourth generation of dogs (none are related)--and while I am a small dog fan, I rarely recommend Chihuahuas to my adopters.

These are high-maintenance dogs—their tiny tummies do best with several small meals, they have are horrifically difficult to housebreak (so you’ll be cleaning up tiddle spots and poops around the house) and they are noisy, noisy, noisy. Of course, they love to snuggle, they have kissable little, round heads, and they fit perfectly in your arms.

Still, I don’t recommend them to most of my adopters. Chihuahuas aren’t great with little kids. They are fragile and nippy. They chew up everything they can get in their mouths. And if your Chihuahua eats a packet of M&Ms, you’ll be making a vet visit to have its tummy pumped.

We get lots of Chihuahuas in the Shelter. Many come in with confirmation issues—overbites, underbites, hip problems, splayed feet, weird body shapes and eye problems. The Chi-Weenies (the Designer Dog cross of Chihuahuas with Dachshunds) aren’t any better, in spite of the “thumbs up” given by the Animal Planet show, “Dogs 101.” The ones we get at the Shelter tend to be wildly long in the back, with bad teeth, temperament issues aside.

All that said, my little foster girl, “Peaches,” is going to make some Chihuahua-savvy person an awesome pet. She’s a very perky, pretty girl (in spite of her overbite and bad teeth) and is a snug-bug who is easy to sleep with (yes, I let her sleep in bed with me—it’s almost unheard of to banish a Chihuahua pet from your bed!) Right now, “Peaches” thinks she’s going to stay with me, but on January 2nd, she’ll be at a foster-dog event in search of an owner who will give her the life she deserves.

What do you think about these attractive little diva-dogs? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Puppy Mill Chihuahua Mama

My 11th foster dog for 2009: a tiny Chihuahua girl who was a puppy mill breeder mama. She was one of four back yard breeder dogs turned into the Shelter last week. When does a "back yard breeder" become a "puppy mill breeder"?--well, in my mind, it's when the owner surrender form states: "We had these dogs only for breeding for top dollar puppies. We no longer make money with these dogs and are moving."

I don't know how the intake person who handled this "surrender" could keep calm. I think I would have gone ballistic. There were three females and one male. Three of the chihuahuas had horrible confirmation--long, skinny backs, outward-turned paws and weak mouths. The mama, named "Peaches," by her owners (although she doesn't appear to answer to the name) came with me. Peaches has an overall good body type, adorable markings, including a kissy spot of white on top of her round apple head, tiny ears and a peach-colored coat, but she has a severe underbite, crooked lower teeth and her ankles have fallen so far they nearly touch the ground. The ankle issue is probably a by-product of spending a life in a wire cage.

All the dogs were nearly feral, with poor socialization. This mama dog was not producing puppies for her owners because when the Shelter vet did the spay operation, the poor dog's uterus was filled with pus from a horrible infection. The Shelter vet did a full hysterectomy and gave her an antibiotic shot. I have started Peaches on Clavamox and have give her some Tramodol leftover from when my little dog got bit up by the Jack Russell foster (that happened in April).

Peaches nommed hard on my index finger put of fear yesterday while I was putting a harness on her, but she seems a bit less terrified today. Picking her up without a fuss is impossible, of course, but she did eat some boiled chicken out of my hand. She is probably not housebroken, but has piddled on the pee-pee pad.

While I was taking care of Peaches' paperwork, the dispatcher came in to say that one of the Animal Control officers was bringing in 10 Rat Terriers from a hoarding situation where there were at least 40 dogs. The Shelter is stuffed with dogs, and we're not really set up to handle these special cases. If you live in the Houston area, and would like to foster a special needs dog, please leave me a comment or visit the Montgomery County Texas Animal Shelter website, I'll be posting updates about "Peaches" and her kennel-mates.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Back in the Saddle

After taking time off in October and November from dog rescue work to support my 10th grade marching band student, I am now back to hosting foster dogs and working at Off-Site Adoption events in Montgomery County, Texas.

I did an off-site event in early December, and came home with a new foster dog, a sweet, pretty little terrier mix female. She had kennel cough, tapeworms and roundworms, but after 10 days of medicine, she was regaining her spirit. I found her home—a friend overheard me talking about the dog when things were still touch and go (she wouldn’t eat for the first two days I had her) and on December 12th, “Felicity” (as I had named her) went to her new home. Today, I met her new owner at the Shelter and we got the dog her rabies shot and microchip. Unfortunately, she turned out to be mildly heartworm positive, but will do fine being on a monthly dose of Heartguard. The neat thing about this adoption is that I’ll be able to check up on “Felicity” in the future!

Currently the Shelter is overflowing with animals. We’re having a late-season influx of puppies and kittens, and have received many owner-surrendered pets. We have hundreds of adoptable animals—cats, dogs, puppies and kittens. Many animals are available through special holiday adoption programs. For more information for adoptions in the North Houston, TX, area (North Harris County and Montgomery County) visit the Montgomery County, Texas, Animal Shelter website at

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Altar to Honor Shelter Dogs

Dias de Los Muertos 2009

Dias de Los Muertos 2009
Originally uploaded by Calsidyrose
I have been making yearly altars for Dias de los Muertos since the early 1980s. This year's offrenda honors my Shelter dogs who have crossed the rainbow bridge: Queeny, a Queensland Heeler girl who died of distemper, and JoJo, a fawn pit bull boy who had to be euthanized due to aggression.

Although this altar is dedicated to two individual Shelter dogs, it is also a memorial for all the millions of dogs euthanized or killed each year in American animal shelters.

This altar features most of the traditional elements, including marigolds, religious items, representations of the dogs, candles and a dog dish full of Milkbone biscuits. The collar contains tags recalling my various foster dogs for 2009, including the dogs which I have placed in new homes. The small clay muerto dog is from Mexico, while the cloth painted dog is my own creation.

This year, I purchased a new piece of oil cloth and a lovely cotton runner from Casa Ramirez in the Houston Heights. This family-owned hub of Mexican culture hosts a yearly Dias de Los Muertos procession.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Shelter Dogs Head to Aggieland

Texans take their college rivalries seriously—the faithful alumni “bleed” orange (UT Longhorns), maroon (Texas A&M), or scarlet (Texas Tech). We have slogans with hand signals: Hook ‘em Horns; Gig ‘em, and Guns Up! Our mascots are animals: Bevo the brown and white Longhorn, Reveille the collie (who is the highest ranking Cadet), and Midnight Matador the coal black quarter horse (ridden by the Masked Rider). And a “House Divided” is one where one child attends A&M and the other attends Texas Tech.

My son is a junior at Texas Tech, but I have to give a big kudos to those Texas Aggies. Yesterday, our Shelter embarked on a new program—thanks to the connections of our Off-Site Adoption Team Leader—we are sending the first round of 10 female dogs to the Vet School at Texas A&M in College Station (70 miles north of our Shelter) where the dogs will be fully vetted and spayed as part of the school’s hands-on training program. If not adopted by the students or staff in Aggieland, the dogs will be returned to our Shelter, where we will find them homes. The University covers the costs for all aspects of their involvement.

I spent yesterday at the Shelter, helping Dr. Ryan, our Director and Veternarian select and prep the dogs. We focused on adoptable dogs from the Blue Room. We also tried to select a mix of fairly healthy dogs in order to boost their chances for placement through their exposure at the University . This task was harder than it sounds.

We have mostly Black Lab mixes, and many of our dogs are badly infected by mange. Others are heartworm positive. And a disturbing number of our current dogs are heavily pregnant. While we crouched in front of the kennels—me holding the quivering dogs while Dr. Ryan pulled the blood samples for the SNAP heartworm tests—a stoic American Staffordshire was giving birth to a litter of puppies in a kennel shrouded with a blanket to give the birthing mom a little privacy.

When I peeked in on the dog, she had eight tiny puppies of all different colors, each about the size and just as floppy as Beanie Babies. She was licking the tiny pups clean of afterbirth and gave me a serious eye.

Meanwhile, we worked up kennel cards for each of our 10 females—we did the heartworm tests and gave vaccinations, and in some cases gave names to dogs that had none. An air-conditioned van will come from the University to fetch the dogs and those who aren’t selected by adopters will be returned next week. Small medical complaints will have been addressed and the dogs will be clean and well-rested, and the next 10 dogs will head out to College Station. Meanwhile, we now have 10 slots in the Blue Room for new dogs. This is a good thing because we’re overloaded with incoming animals.

So to the Vets at Aggieland, I gladly give a “Guns Up!” Thanks, Aggies, for giving our dogs a second chance!

Photos of Texas College Mascots courtesy of the Interwebs

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This Time “Girl” Deserves a Real Home

I remember when “Girl” arrived at the Shelter. She is a hound mix, with a docked tail and butterscotch colored spots. An owner-surrender, “Girl” was quickly adopted because she was healthy, well behaved, and housebroken.

However, two weeks ago, she was returned to the Shelter in horrible shape. Now skin issues are very common here in humid Southeast Texas (I’m battling rough spots on my Miniature Pinscher’s ear right now with a steroid cream). But “Girl” is red and raw all over. Click on the photo to see the rawness on her ears, elbows, hindquarters and inner legs.

How on earth can someone let a dog get to this point? Can they just not see her discomfort? Her raw skin and the bloody red scratches? This is mange complicated by secondary infection.

“Girl” is being treated at the Shelter, and we’re hoping to get her into a foster home so she can recover more quickly. She’s made tremendous strides in just two weeks. The Shelter Vet estimates “Girl” needs another month before she’ll be ready for adoption. Amazingly, her spirit hasn’t been crushed. “Girl” is a sweet dog, who craves attention. She deserves far better than she’s had.

In the chaos of the Intake line, there is no telling what happened to the former adopters—at this point, the County doesn’t allocate much in the way of resources to prosecute animal cases like this. The Shelter volunteers have rallied around “Girl,” and we’re going to make sure that t once “Girl” is out of the shelter that she never goes back.

Photo by Linda Monk.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How Some Things End

On September 16, 2009, JoJo, a three-year-old fawn American Pit Bull Terrier was euthanized, thus ending a dog’s life. He lived long enough to touch the hearts of several people in the Shelter, entering the system on January 30, 2009 as a stray. JoJo’s dog-on-dog aggressiveness was his undoing. His Pit Bull bloodlines were a liability. His unknown background and experiences were a hindrance. But the spirit in his dog heart remains, burning pure and bright, flickering as a reminder that as human we pay for our hubris in the deaths of dogs deemed unsafe.

I drew the portrait on myWacom tablet. I’m still a beginner with this tool, so don’t know how to blend the colors yet. JoJo’s spirit rests easier now, even if mine doesn’t.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Pit Bull Blues

I've got the Pit Bull Blues, oh yeah.

For those of you who have been following this blog, you may recall previous posts about a Shelter dog named JoJo, an American Pit Bull Terrier (pictured as he looked on Saturday). JoJo is a fawn-colored 3-year-old male dog who I placed in an APBT-savvy foster home in mid-April. Late last week, Ms. A., the foster, called me to regretfully report that JoJo has become increasingly dog-on-dog aggressive.

Ms. A. explained that JoJo had instigated four separate attacks, including one that injured her own female pit bull (puncture bites on the dog’s neck, and half an ear tip torn off). In the first attack, JoJo charged an (alleged) Gotti line pit bull belonging to a neighbor, pinning the dog to the ground. Ms. A. did not witness this attack as it occurred while her high school age son had JoJo in the front yard. No one was hurt. The third attack came when JoJo harassed a mastiff by biting down on the dog’s snout. Both dogs suffered minor face punctures.

The forth attack came while Ms. A. was walking JoJo on leash on a path. Another dog of a similar size (but not a pit bull) approached (on leash with its owner), so Ms. A. pulled JoJo onto the grass median, and worked to keep his attention off of the approaching dog. Ms. A. isn’t sure if she tripped or if JoJo tripped her, but she lost hold of the leash and charged the a mix-breed dog on the walking path, pinning and clamping down on this dog by one hind leg. Ms. A. was able to pull JoJo off and neither animal was injured, but the other dog’s owner was badly frightened by the swiftness of the attack.

As JoJo has regained weight and strength (he was in bad shape when he left the Shelter in April), Ms. A. said he became increasingly dog-focused—straining toward and staring down dogs his size or bigger. When he launches an attack, JoJo does not growl, bark, or raise his hackles. He just fixes a hard stare, whines deeply in his throat, lowers his head and prepares to launch. Another dog need not even act in an agressive way to prompt this.

I witnessed this personally on Saturday morning, when I met JoJo and Ms. A. at the Shelter. We were waiting for the staff person to locate JoJo’s records, and were seated in two chairs, with JoJo sitting calmly beside us. Ms. A. had JoJo’s leash tight and I had one hand on JoJo’s collar. Someone walked another dog by, and I felt JoJo’s body tighten. His head dropped, neck extended and I felt the intensity building in his body. I’ve seen this intensituy before in a dog--in my 17-pound Miniature Pinscher, when he’s got a freshly killed rat. It’s a whole different thing to see it in a 70-pound, muscular, young dog. Ms. A. shook JoJo out of and got his attention to focus on her. I suddenly realized that JoJo is what the dog-fighters call “game.”

We went with the Shelter Director, Dr. Ryan, into one of the offices and Ms. A. outlined the nature of the attacks. Ms. A. did not feel that JoJo could be safely adopted. We were both in front of Dr. Ryan because we knew that the reality is that JoJo needed to be euthanized.

The Shelter does not have the time or resources to retrain one dog, especially a Pit Bull. I’m not knocking the breed, but it is challenging enough to find homes for the Pit Bulls and Pit mixes already in the Adoption Room. And JoJo had a bad track record.

Dr. Ryan explained that every dog deserves a fair evaluation and she wanted JoJo to be seen by Mr. G., our Shelter’s dog trainer. However, Mr. G. and I had already spoken about JoJo, and Mr. G. was already familiar with the dog from his time in the Shelter. Mr. G. has rehabbed several Pit Bulls in his private business, but the rehabilitation (regardless of what Cesar Milan might say) often means life at Spindletop, one the few APBT/Bully breed Sanctuaries in our part of Texas. And Spindletop is expensive and has a waiting list.

“If I had six or eight months to devote just to him, maybe I could change the behavior,” Mr. G. said, “but no matter what we could never fully trust him.”

Ms. A. and I had already taken JoJo on a good long walk. I had hugged him and let him kiss me—he seemed to remember me—and took a dozen photos. We turned the leash over to the Quarantine Room staff person, a man who also remembers when JoJo was in the Shelter. He led the dog away. I hate losing a dog this way.

I stopped by the Shelter today, but JoJo’s fate remains up in the air. He is being held in a Quarantine Kennel, awaiting an evaluation from Mr. G. But Mr. G. feels that the Shelter Director is trying to forestall the inevitable. He had a good life, as his foster said, for several months.

We don’t have the resources for a dog like JoJo. And now, he’s in limbo. I realize the Shelter Director has a veterinarian’s viewpoint—save the dog if it’s at all humanly possible. But I can’t hardly bear to think of JoJo in the Quarantine room. It is also the E.U. (Euthanization) Room, and it must reek of Death.

I will post an update on JoJo as soon as possible.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What's Not to Love?

Here's a sampling of the dogs available now at the Montgomery County, Texas, Animal Selter. From left to right: 1) "Dudley" #A112614: A spunky senior red Dachshund mix male with soft curly fur and a pudgy body that makes you think, "There's a Milk Dud!" Obviously well-fed, he is an owner surrender. 2)"Riley: #A114398. That typical Heeler quirkiness is evident on "Riley's" face. This young Blue Heeler boy is wicked smart and needs a day-job. 3) "Willis" #A11835 has the "Benji" look on a taller, lean body. He needs some groceries to fill him out, but he's still a smallish dog, about the size of a foxhound, with wheat-colored wiry, terrier hair and stylishly pricked ears. What's not to love about these dogs? Check them out at The MCAS website.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Saving Atticus

I don’t normally do rescue transport—I spend more time doing commuter hauling of Shelter dogs to and from Off-sites. But on Wednesday, I stepped in to help an older Black Labrador get out of the Shelter and into a safe house. His Shelter name was “Lassoe” but now he bears the more dignified moniker of “Atticus,” short for Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird renown.

I’d already had a long day--working an Off-site at PetsMart for the company’s “Second Chance at Love” promotion, although none of my five Shelter dogs got a second chance that day due to rain and other unknown factors. After turning over my shift at 3:15 p.m., I went to the High School to pick up my daughter, who ended up shanghaied for the ride to the Shelter and beyond. She was cranky about this disruption in her schedule, but if Atticus didn’t get to the kennel by 6:00 p.m. (It was now 4:30 p.m.) he would miss his appointment at the Vet’s, scheduled or the next day. Lab-to-Rescue, a local group, had agreed to take him into their program, but we had to do the transport.

Atticus was in the Blue room, with the word “DESPERATE” scrawled across his kennel card. He had worms and mange, and was severely underweight. But his tail never stopped wagging as I snapped on a leash and led him out to my van.

Riding loose in the rear seat didn’t work—Atticus is a shot-gun riding dog—so we had to stop and swap my 15-year-old (who was rather sulky about all this) to the back seat. I drove for 40 minutes in rain and rush-hour traffic to get to a kennel that works with rescue groups, stopping once at a gas station to let my daughter get a Snapple (bribery—yes). I walked Atticus, and this old dog still has some hunt left in him—a flock of grackles streaked across the cloudy sky and Atticus snapped to attention, his head raised, eyes gleaming. Even sick and emaciated, the old dog still has that Lab joie de vivre! What a trouper!

Back on the road, we made it to Strawberry Dog, the kennel, in time to settle Atticus in a crate. And we made it home safe, which is a miracle in itself—Houston area roads are horrible during rainy weather. I learned today that Atticus has received his first round of meds from the vet. When he is fully healthy, this senior Lab, who is clearly a retired hunting dog, will be taken up north to New England, where he’ll be placed in a carefully selected home to live out the rest of his days. I hope whoever ends up with Atticus appreciates this true Southern gentleman.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rusty Found a Home

Rusty, my little stag red miniature pinscher foster, with me since May 23rd, found a home on Labor Day, Monday, September 5th. He was with me all summer because he came to me heartworm positive, and it was awhile before we could start the treatment, followed by a month of crate rest. I didn't take to many events in August because we were busy getting my kids back to school.

Beginning Saturday, I took Rusty to three different Off-Site events over the long weekend, and was willing to hang onto him as long as it took to find the right match. I definitely wanted him to go with people who understand (and adore) min-pins. He attracted a lot of attention, but nothing seemed to click. Then a woman who had been looking for a min-pin to replace one she had owned years back saw him. She has an 11-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy, plus her husband. Rusty appears to be good with kids, and he’s not nippy, so I hope it works out.

I had a good feeling about this adoption, but that doesn’t mean anything. I’m going to call tomorrow to see how Rusty’s doing. I told the woman if she changes her mind, even after the 7-day-return policy (our Shelter has revised the policy, reducing the time from 10 days) to call me first. Rusty will not ever go back to the Shelter if I can prevent it.

I miss him so much. I had another foster over the holiday weekend,too, a needy little whippet mix girl who found a home on Tuesday. My dogs are very happy to have the house to themselves for awhile. My husband is happier too—he’s not that big on having fosters, although I know he really did like Rusty.

I can’t keep every dog, so that’s how it goes.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Full Moon From a Backyard Breeder

I have been away from Off-Site Adoptions and the Shelter for about two weeks—thus the absence of posts since I don’t like to depend on filler posts—but I went to an Off-Site today and came home with a heckuva story!

We had a Foster-only event at Natural Pawz, a locally owned pet boutique located in a small shopping center fronting a busy highway in Tomball. I was there with my min-pin foster dog, Rusty. The shop’s manager, Ms. C., noticed a guy selling lab mix puppies out of the back of his pickup truck on a driveway next to the center. Natural Pawz had displayed a big, professional sign promoting “Dog Adoptions on Saturday,” and passing traffic wouldn’t know that the Backyard Breeder wasn’t part of our event. Ms. C. went out to tell the man that he should move, but he insisted he was parked on his property. Ms. C. called her landlord, who doubted this claim.

The store clerk asked me to accompany her outside because the landlord wanted her to take a photo of the man’s truck and license plate. I walked over to the truck with her, and at our approach, a potential client (a woman with two kids) hurriedly got into her car. Ms. C. had a small digital camera, and confidently snapped photos of the guy’s truck, the big magnetic sign advertising his Gutter business and then she walked around to get a shot of the back end (with a crate full of what appeared to be lab puppies) to take a shot of the license plate. The guy, a ruddy, salt-and-pepper grey haired fellow wearing a tee-shirt and baggy plaid shorts got irritated (naturally) and insisted he was on his property and could do what he wanted.

Ms. C. aimed her digital camera at the license plate on the rear end of the truck. Mr. Backyard Breeder smirked, hitched his belt with his hands, then swiveled, yanking down his shorts to expose a very white rear. Ms. C. calmly took the photo—but alas, the license plate, as you can see, is obscured by a full moon.

Still smirking the guy repeated that he owned the property. Ms. C. pivoted and we both walked away. “That photo will be just great when the county sheriff sees it,” I said to the man. He didn’t bother with a reply nor did he make any move to pack up. Shaken by the brazenness, not to mention the affront of being treated to a guy’s bare butt, we hurried back into the shop. I suggested that now would be a good time to call the police.

By the time the Tomball, TX, police officer arrived, Mr. Backyard Breeder had decided it would be in his best interest to pack up his puppy operation for the day. I gave the officer the information, including the guy’s business name and phone (captured clearly on the digital camera) and showed her the evidence of the full moon. The officer laughed and said, “I saw your call on my list and figured I needed to hear about this one.” Of course, she could do nothing since the guy had left, but she assured us that if he showed up elsewhere, this information—including his act of public exposure—could be retrieved.

As a public service, then, I present the full moon in progress (pixelated in the appropriate areas for decency's sake), complete with puppies in the background. Ms. C. said she posted the guy’s business name and phone number on a local dog rescue site with the note to avoid giving the man business.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What I Do When I'm Not With My Dogs

Band Mom 2009
Originally uploaded by Calsidyrose
I'm a "Band Mom" with a Sophmore French Horn player in the TWHS Highlander Marching Band. I chaperone the students on the school buses to their games and take lots of photos.

I'm still doing my "Dog Lady" work, but have had to scale back a bit to get my high-maintenance 15-year-old daughter started back in school.

Our Shelter will be participating in the "Second Chance at Love" event, hosted by PetsMart (it's a Nation-wide event) beginning Labor Day.

I still have "Rusty," my min-pin foster boy. He wants everyone to know he's looking for his own home!

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Banner For All

Originally uploaded by Calsidyrose
Here's a shout-out to those from the Woodstock years (I was only in elementary school!) with an important twist. Feel free to download a copy from my Flickr photostream for your site--all I ask is for a link back to my blog.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Something for Everybody But Nobody Came

What We Took to Off-Site on Saturday, August 15th
--One three-legged black Lab female dog
--One stag red Miniature Pinscher male dog
--One German Shepherd mix female puppy
--Two yellow Lab Mix puppies (one male, one female)
--One black Lab Mix female puppy
--One red-nosed pit bull female puppy
--One Flat-Coated Retriever Mix female dog
--On Lab Mix male dog
--Two pit bull mix male dogs (one golden-brown, one brindle and white)
--One Australian Shepherd Mix male dog
--One Catahoula-Australian Cattle Dog Mix male dog
--One Dachshund-Beagle Mix male dog
--Two purebred Akitas (one male, one female) Owner Surrender dogs

What We Adopted:
--One German Shepherd Mix female puppy.

We had an awesome selection of dogs, but only moderate traffic at the Off-Site, which was hosted by our local "Hooters."

There's nothing like going inside a "Hooters" early on a Saturday night to fill up one-gallon jugs of water for stinky Shelter dogs to make me feel more middle-aged, pudgy and grubby. I don't frequent "Hooters" on principle, but the "Hooters" girls were cute as buttons--sweet, quick and perky beyond belief. Too bad we couldn't have them showing off our dogs.

-*- Artwork: Scan of a vintage postcard.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Laws of Dog Adoptions

1. The potential client will want to adopt the one puppy in the pen that has already been adopted but is awaiting its new owner to return with a crate.

2. The client will want to adopt the dog that belongs to the off-site coordinator.

3. The client will want to adopt a dog seen in a blurry photo on the Shelter website but which, for some reason we can’t determine, cannot be located at the Shelter or at an Off-site event. This client will become infuriated because he “finally found the dog I wanted” and we’ve deliberately misplaced an animal he has never even met face-to-face.

4. The client will want a puppy “just like the black one,” but in yellow. We will not have any yellow puppies available.

5. The client will insist that the dog in her printed-out photo came from our web site even when another Shelter’s name is listed.

6. The client will adopt a puppy if we can guarantee for certain that it will not bark or chew things up.

7. The client will want to adopt a Yorkie when all we have are labs, pit mixes, cattle dogs and rat terriers.

-*- Artwork from a scan of a vintage children's book.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Min-Pin Mania

I have a "thing" for miniature pinschers. My own dog, Taco, was adopted from a Rescue in Belle Chasse, Louisiana in 2001. I currently volunteer at the Montgomery County Texas Animal Shelter, and my addiction to these funny, energetic little dogs is well-known.

So far I've fostered three min-pins--all red! Dancer was oversized and skittish, while Pudge was very typey but as round as a Tootsie Roll. Rusty, my current boy, could be Taco's long lost brother, except he's bigger.

Miniature Pinschers are great little dogs. They are NOT related to Doberman Pinschers, though. The American standard dictates that they stand no shorter than 10 inches and no more than 12 inches at the shoulder and weigh no more than 12 pounds. Three of these dogs (Taco, Rusty and Dancer) violate the 12-12 rule. They are shown in America with cropped ears and docked tails.

Min-pins can have red, stag red (red with black hairs), chocolate brown, or black coats, with black or beige leg markings and eye-brow kissy-spots. White markings are not permitted. When you see min-pins in the Shelter, docked tails indicate that the dog came from a breeder. Cropped ears are required on show dogs, but many pet-quality min-pins have natural ears.

Min-pins are busy-bodies with a sly sense of humor. Some can be nippy, but most are big cuddle-bugs. Most love to sleep with their people. They are confident beyond reason, so you have to be consistent with training or they will run your life. Bred in Germany, miniature pinschers are among one of the older breeds. Originally, they were used in stables and kitchens as a vermin dog ("pinscher" is German for terrier). My dog, Taco, has a very high prey drive and kills rats and moles. He spends a lot of time in our back yard hunting.

Min-pins are great travelers and do well in multiples (they are sort of like Lay's Potato Chips). They are wicked-smart escape artists and can run like blitzen. The smaller ones need to be watched around little children--min-pins don't hestitate to snap if roughly handled. However, they are great clowns and will make up their own tricks to entertain you, especially if treats are involved. If you've never been owned by a min-pin, you're missing out on a world of jumpy, barky fun.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Checking In

It's been awhile since I've posted--I've been on the road in the great state of Texas: down to Galveston, then out to Port Arthur, then to Spring Branch (near San Antonio).

My 15-year-old daughter has Band Camp, so I'm back to being a Band Mom. Plus, I am slated to have two root canals tomorrow. I haven't been to the Shelter in 10 days due to travel and tooth issues--the pain meds for the infection in my teeth make me feel loopy, so I'm limiting my driving.

So, for fun, I'm including this photo of my fluffy dog and daughter. I will be back to doing Off-Site Adoptions this weekend, so I'll have updates on Blackie (my bully dog) and hopefully will find Rusty the MinPin a good home. Although if you ask Rusty, he thinks he's got a good home already.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Should Tax-payers "Spare Strays"?

On Thursday, July 23, 2009, one of our local papers in Montgomery County, Texas, The Conroe Courier, ran an editorial entitled, "How deep will we dig to spare our strays?" You can read the piece here.

Here is the second draft of my response:

Dear Editors:
In regards to the Editorial “How deep will we dig to spare strays?” (July 23, 2009) I have five proposals:

1) I invite the Editors to come and visit the Montgomery County Animal Shelter to witness first-hand how many people enter the doors of the Shelter to surrender animals. Listen to the stories (some heart-wrenching, others just poor excuses) as to why people have chosen to bring these animals to the Shelter. And be sure to count how many animals are arriving—the Editors might be astonished to realize that during a single day the MCAS may do intakes on more than 120 animals. Many are not “strays.” I’m sure the Shelter Staff would appreciate any advice the Editors could give on how to stem the tide of disposable animals. Unfortunately, when a citizen arrives with a box of kittens or a crate of unwanted puppies, this can't be undone.

2) I invite the Editors to step up as Shelter volunteers. Wear old clothes, tennis shoes or rubber boots, and bring gloves (latex are best) and your own sturdy leashes. Join the already over-worked (not to mention totally unpaid) Shelter volunteers in cleaning kitty litter boxes, wiping down cat cages, swabbing out concrete dog kennels, bathing puppies and washing soiled, stinky towels. Experience for yourselves the joy of a grateful dog who pines for a kind touch or a cat’s contented purr as you rub its back. These animals may be “strays” but they are living creatures, too.

3) I invite the Editors to set a wonderful example for our community by generously contributing their donations (cash is good) to the fine non-profit groups that support the Shelter, including the Friends of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter ( or The Woodlands Dog Park ( These groups donate thousands of dollars each year to alleviate the suffering of the sick and injured animals that arrive at the Shelter every day. All donations are tax-deductible, of course.

4) I invite the Editors to donate items such as canned dog or puppy food, canned kitten food, bleach, PineSol cleaners, laundry soap, dry dog food, puppy training pads, paper towels, and Dawn dish-washing soap—we need these basic supplies to provide safe conditions for not only the animals but for the people (many of whom are residents of our county) who come to search for a lost pet or find a new pet.

5) I invite the Editors to sponsor Pet Adoption Events. Please, do more than just run a couple column inches the day before. Instead, I suggest that all the Editors band together as volunteers and have The Courier underwrite a series of fun and educational Pet Adoption events. Adoption Events are one of the best venues to educate the public about the importance of spaying and neutering pets. The Editor-volunteers can arrange for the location and permits, acquire and erect tents or canopies, and set up dog crates, tables and chairs. The Editors can make and post signs and send out flyers, and they can join the Shelter volunteers at the Adoptions. The work done by the Editor-Volunteers would make it possible for the regular Shelter volunteers (who do all the above already) to focus on getting more animals out of the Shelter so that the pet-loving public can interact with them in fun surroundings.

If all of this sounds too daunting, or seems like too much of a commitment to make in the community in which we--Editors, volunteers, tax-paying citizens, stray animals and pets alike--all live, I have one final suggestion:

I encourage the Editors to refrain from acquiring a pet. After all, that pet may one day get lost and might end up in our Shelter, picked up as a “stray.” Sadly, many of our “strays” are obviously well-loved pets—with lush coats, clipped nails, and even collars (but, alas, all too often without tags). If we’re wasting tax-payer money on only “strays,” we certainly wouldn’t want the Editors or their family members to suffer the grief of finding out that their beloved dog or cat ended up the Shelter, thus costing our tax-payers even more money.

I am a resident, voter, and tax-payer who lives in Montgomery County. I am a regular Shelter volunteer. I make cash donations, foster animals and coordinate Adoption Events. I am not nearly as dedicated as many of our Shelter volunteers, but I do what I can. Instead of complaining about money spent on “sparing strays," the Editors should be part of the solution through their volunteer efforts and contributions to our County and City Shelters.

-*- Artwork: Post-digital creation based on the famous "Big-Eyed Puppies" made popular in the late '60s.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shelter Update: FOX 26 News Report

Our Shelter is undergoing a lot of changes at the current time, and so no one was surprised when the local FOX News affiliate showed up to make a report:

We're making progress, but it is tooth-grindingly slow.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rusty Is Housetrained

Rusty Is Housetrained
Originally uploaded by Calsidyrose
Just for fun--even though some people object to "housebreaking" (as opposed to "housetraining."

My foster dog, who is almost done with his one-month of rest from Heartworm treatment, has had to put up with my Mom's four dogs, including a Chihuahua puppy who sometimes will use the pee-pee pad but who much prefers to tinkle on the carpet.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hook 'em Horns Dog

Ginger, a French bull dog-pit bull mix, loves her foster mom. Ginger is a year old, sweet, smart and athletic. She isn't good around cats.

As an added bonus, Ginger sports the University of Texas logo on her left flank! And her soft coat is that burnt orange color that Texas Longhorn fans absolutely adore. Here in Texas, it's not uncommon for rabid UT fans to decorate their entire house in the school colors (Burnt orange and white).

I told Ginger's foster mom that we should call her "Beva," (since "Bevo," the Longhorn mascot is a steer!). Hook 'em, Ginger!

You can find Ginger, and other great dogs at the Montgomery County, Texas, Animal Shelter, at

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This Dog Deserves Better

This is another shot of Blacky, whose story follows below. I don't have his Kennel number, unfortunately.

Bully Breeds in the Blue Room

Every day at the Shelter, we get pit bulls, American bull dogs, American Staffordshire Terriers and all the possible combinations of bully breed mixes. It is an endless parade of bully dogs.

Some arrive with thick collars strapped to their muscular necks or with sun-bleached nylon harnesses encircling their barrels. Others come bearing full teats and protruding ribs from a recent litter. Many show up with mange—-bright, strawberry-red raw patches cover their faces and ears or splatter across their hind quarters. Many dogs come in with cropped ears—-some just tip-cropped, others sporting badly done home-jobs where the ear tips have been clipped so close to the head that the inner ear is horribly exposed to the elements.

Then there are fighting dogs—with old or fresh scars. The ones that are seized in connection with drug busts or other criminal activities are hustled straight into the “Red Room”—the quarantine room for bite cases and dogs held as evidence. Volunteers and the general public never get to see these dogs. However, many come in as strays or owner surrenders. Most end up in the Kill Room, but a fair number make their way toward the Adoption room, especially if they are young enough and not too blemished. Badly scarred dogs, however, don’t have as a good a chance.

My latest Advocacy Dog is “Blacky,” pictured above. I found him in the Blue Stray-Hold Room on Sunday night, well after the Shelter had been closed to the Public. I was there late putting dogs away after taking them an Off-site event. I have taken to doing a full walk-through of all the rooms each time I go to the Shelter. It is emotionally wrenching, and not all the volunteers will do walk-throughs. But I do.

Blacky (he does have a kennel card with a name, which is a good sign) was in a kennel with three other dogs. A huge black lab with a milk-white splotch on his chin was vigorously humping Blacky when I first saw the dog. Blacky, a bully breed mix of some sort, was trying to sit, and was hunched over so far that his head was between his forelegs. He could not curl up any tighter and remain upright.

I banged on the kennel to get the lab’s attention, but the dog was so caught up in his dominance that he just glared at me and lifted his lip, growling as he continued to hump Blacky. I went and retrieved a kennel worker, George, who got the big lab to back off and moved Blacky to another kennel as his last task before heading home.

I checked on Blacky again, and he was cowering as his new kennel mates pushed and growled at him. As a Volunteer, I’m not really authorized to move dogs, but it was late—just the Volunteers remained. I decided to move him again.

I grabbed his paperwork and hauled Blacky out again and put him into the next kennel to the right. Immediately, a fight broke out. I kicked on the door and hollered at the dogs. They broke up, and I dragged the now shivering, hunkered Blacky out. I didn’t have my leash, so I scrounged a broken slip-leash for Blacky, but he’s a big dog and he wouldn’t move. We keep male dogs on the A side (left) and females on the B side (right), so I cajoled Blacky around to the B side. He relaxed a little bit, pushing hard against my leg, head down and tail tucked. He looked just like the beleaguered little kid in the 1st Grade with a “Kick Me” sign taped on his back.

He was injured—something was wrong with his right front paw—and he could barely walk. I got him back around to the A side, and the dismay on his face was clear. He was terrified. Frantically I scanned the kennels. There was no way I could take an unevaluated, large Stray-Hold bully dog home with me at 6:30 p.m. Sunday night.

I had to find him a safe kennel. There was only one available, Kennel #3 with—a single dog, an adolescent lab mix about 6 months old in Kennel 3. He was lethargic and had bloody stools. Someone had scrawled a note about the stools on his kennel card. Sharing a kennel with a sick dog (worms, most likely) was better than being bullied by the other dogs, so I shoved Blacky in. Blacky looked at me as if I had betrayed him. I knew I had, but I could do nothing else. I turned off the lights and left the Blue Room.

I couldn’t get Blacky out of my mind. I went to the Shelter on Tuesday, and he was still in the Blue Room, and still with the young black lab. To my relief, they both looked much better.

One good thing the Shelter Director has done is to hire a dog behaviorist. Mr. G. is one of our dedicated Volunteers, but now he has some authority as an employee to evaluate the dogs. He was working, so I got him and asked if he would come see “my dog.” We all have our “projects,” so Mr. G. agreed.

We got Blacky out and after an informal evaluation, Mr. G. said that Blacky most likely was very young (brilliant white teeth) and had probably been used as a bait dog, based on his extreme submissive behavior and the scarring patterns. Like most bully breeds, Blacky is extremely people-oriented. Mr. G. speculated that Blacky has been kicked by his handlers, but appears very sociable in spite of this. He let us both look at his teeth and handle his injured paws (both front paws and one rear leg) appear to have either old or new bone-joint injuries. We had to put him back in the Blue Room, but now Mr. G. has Blacky on his project list, too, and we spoke to the Blue Room Kennel Manager, and she’s going to try to move Blacky into surgery ASAP so he can get neutered.

This isn’t a happy ending, though. Even if Blacky makes it into the Adoption Room, we’ll have the challenge of finding the right home for a traumatized bully dog. This is all-too common situation at our Shelter, but it’s the only option we have. There is an awesome Bully Breed rescue in our region called Spindletop, but they are always full-up, plus it’s expensive to move a dog into their system.

If you have any rescue contacts in Texas, or if you can offer us a guess as to what sort of bully dog Blacky might be (we’re not thinking pit bull because of his large ears and mouth shape), leave a comment.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mama Dog with 14 Puppies

This small blackish-brown lab mix was brought in on Sunday with 14 tiny puppies. The mama dog weighs only about 35 pounds, so this is a huge litter for a dog her size. Currently she is in an isolation room, but we're hoping to get her and her puppies into a foster home.

Female dogs with nursing litters are brought into the Shelter weekly. I've seen three or four litters at a time in the Lavender and Pink Rooms (the stray-hold rooms). Currently, the Shelter does not have a space dedicated to newly born puppies and their moms--no whelping boxes, no room where it is quiet and calm so that mama dogs can rest.

We're working to improve these conditions, but it is a slow process.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fireworks & Pets

Pets and Fireworks Don't Mix

Here's to a happy, safe and sane Independence Day 2009, and a reminder to keep your pets indoors for July 4th. Shelters receive more animals in the days after the Fireworks Holidays--especially dogs. We're under water restrictions where I live, and this year, for the first time, our Community Associations are cracking down hard on the use of fireworks. Fireworks of any sort have been prohibited in our community for years, but that has never stopped my neighbors. So far, no popping and zinging. My dogs are grateful.

BTW, this is my 50th Post!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shelter News: Progress

On Monday, June 29th, more than 50 supporters of the Montgomery County Texas Animal Shelter seated themselves in the public gallery of the County Commissioners Court to hear a presentation by our new Shelter Director Dr. Patricia Ryan asking for an exemption to a budget freeze in order to hire more kennel staff.

According to a shelter industry formula, a shelter our size, with the number of animals we have on an average day (currently 500 animals) and some other factors, ideally needs a staff of about 45 people. We currently have a staff of seven.

Dr. Ryan asked for the funding to hire 10 additional kennel staff ASAP, and requested that the county adjust the starting wage from $8.25 to $10.00 per hour in order to better compete with other shelters in the Houston area.

The commissioners unanimously approved this request, and will investigate some other solutions—including a plan that could place trustees from the county jail in the Shelter after hours to provide overnight cleaning. The volunteers, community members and other supporters were extremely pleased with the outcome.

Some people were surprised at how quickly the commissioners court agreed to the proposal. What needs to be kept in mind is the following:

1. Several dedicated and articulate community supporters spent the past several months contacting decision-makers to lay the groundwork for this request.
2. Two commissioners actually toured the Shelter and saw for themselves the dire need.
3. The new Shelter Director was the only one who made comments.
4. The public area was PACKED with supporters—it would have looked horrible to refuse such a necessary and entirely reasonable request with so many voters in the room.
5. No other court business could be easily conducted until our case was heard, so the commissioners prudently adjusted the agenda, moving our Shelter case forward so that they could clear the gallery and get on with their other business without us underfoot.

Maybe I am just cynical, but I wasn’t among the volunteers who had tears of joy in their eyes and who felt the commissioners had been generous. Certainly in these tight economic times, making a hiring decision when the county is under a budget freeze is refreshing, but in all honesty, I don’t think the men (and they were all middle aged to older white men) sitting above us were stretching all that hard to grant this request.

After all, as taxpayers we’re paying their salaries. They were just doing the job they’ve been appointed to do. It wouldn’t have been in their best interest to refuse such a basic request. Some of the volunteers sent an email afterwards urging us to “shower the commissioners with thank you cards.”

Considering that this is just a first step in a long process to bring the Shelter around to what it should be, I don’t feel we have to fawn over the commissioners. They did the right thing, and we shouldn’t expect any less. I feel that sending a bunch of thank you cards is rather like giving every 15-year-old on a youth soccer team a trophy just for showing up.

I am glad that the commissioners are paying attention because they need to. They’re going to hear more from us over the next few months.

-*-Photo courtesy of "chilli media" via Flickr, with adjustments in Photoshop.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hot, Hot, Hot

It's 97 degrees outside here in Houston, Texas, as I write this post. Add in the humidity, and it feels much, much hotter. It's just noon, so it will get even hotter before the day is over.

Yesterday, another high-temperature record made the books--104 degrees in Metro Houston. Where I live, it was about 102--we're north of downtown at the edge of the Piney Woods.

Speaking of pine trees, the woods are parched. So is the grass, and the oak seedlings that so hopefully sprouted from the stump of our big tree that came down with Hurricane Ike. We're under burn bans and voluntary water restrictions, with more to come if things continue as predicted.

My dogs stay inside during the heat of the day, although my huntin' dog, Taco, the min pin, spent an hour outside this morning, patrolling his back yard. Now he's barking at the unfortunate lawn guys who are mowing my neighbor's lawn. And my workaholic type A husband has forced my son out to mow our lawn. So I guess I'll have to go out pick up poop.

The Shelter dogs are cool--there's air conditioning. The dogs at the Off-Sites, well, they're hot. I opted not to go because it was so hot last weekend, but if my husband stays in his frantic mode, maybe I'll head off to the Off-Sites just to escape his never-ending chore list. I had hoped to take one day off, but it doesn't look that will be the case. I'll be better off with the hot shelter dogs at the Off-Site!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Premio Meme Blog Award

I wanted to thank Everyone Thinks They’re Good Drivers for awarding me Premio Meme Blog Award.

The rules associated with this award are that I am to write seven little-known facts about myself, and then pass this award to seven of my fellow bloggers.

Seven Little Known Facts about Calsidyrose
1.I just received word that my mixed-media piece, “Landfall,” (a Hurricane Katrina piece) has been selected by Susan Davidson, Senior Curator for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, for the first ever Rauschenberg Tribute Exhibition, an International Juried Competition hosted by the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur, Texas. My piece will be on display with the work of 33 other artists from August 30th through early October 2009. This is the first time my work will appear in a juried art show, let alone a show with pieces chosen by such an esteemed judge.

2. I am an Oil Brat—I was born in Tulsa, but my Dad’s job took our family overseas. From 1967 through 1976, we lived in foreign countries, including Venezuela, Libya, and Bahrain. I owned a horse when we lived in Libya and we used to take trail rides across old battlements left over from the fighting in World War II.

3. I hold a 3rd degree green belt (one level below brown) in Shotokan Karate, although it has been many years since I have actively practiced. I started Karate because I was a devoted fan of the TV show, Kung Fu—“When you can snatch the pebble from my hand it will be time for you to leave.”

4. I had my photo taken with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans at their Victorville, California, museum in 1985. I can remember watching re-runs of Roy Rogers’ TV show when I was very young. I wanted to be Roy because he got to ride Trigger. I still adore Trigger and keep a vintage Trigger lunchbox on display in my office.

5. I majored in Classical Civilization, which means I studied Ancient Greek. I had to memorize the first 20 lines of Homer’s Iliad in Greek for one of my classes.

6. I used to do free-lance landscape design for clients I met through my job at Roger’s Gardens, a 7-acre nursery in Newport Beach, California.

7. I have written three complete novels and have received a stack of rejections from New York publishers. All three novels are set in the American Southwest. All three books feature something involving horses, even if it’s just a cameo appearance!

I am bestowing this award on the following blogs:

One Bark at a Time
Dogs Deserve Freedom
Painting a Dog a Day
Garden Antiques
Magpie Ethel
The Dog Geek
Shakespeare Geek

I have a long list of bookmarked blogs on a variety of subjects, and I’m a big lurker. I didn’t start leaving comments until I launched my blog, and since I try to stay on topic, I limit the WDRP Blogroll to dog-related blogs.

Thanks again for my award, and I hope those who received it enjoy it as well!

p.s. I read somewhere that people like to see the blogger, so below is photo of me with one of my favorite Shelter dogs, JoJo, the pit bull! My 15-year-old daughter took the portrait!

JoJo Gives Me Kisses
Originally uploaded by Calsidyrose

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Heartworms at Home

My latest foster, Rusty, an oversize miniature pinscher boy, is heartworm positive. Today, after being in my house for a month (Rusty is my 8th foster dog for 2009), Rusty started treatment. The treatment used by the veterinarian hired as our Shelter’s new director (Dr. Ryan has been with us less than three weeks) is a two-injection, back-to-back approach. Rusty got his first injection this morning, and will get the second tomorrow morning. He’ll have a week of steroid tablets and a month of limited mobility—crate confinement.

Right now he’s sacked out in the big dog bed at my feet in my office. Since I have French doors that close, my cramped office can double as his confinement area. He’s had the run of my house with my dogs and has been sleeping in my son’s room. I hope he’ll get to sleep with my son after a week—but first I have to make sure that everyone in the house follows the recovery plan. My husband doesn’t think anything is really wrong—after all, Rusty looks fine, especially now that he’s over his Upper Respiratory Infection and has gained a little weight. My son needs to remember to shut his door so Rusty won’t be tempted to bound down the stairs. And Rusty needs to be leash-walked outside rather than let out in our large backyard to run around. So he’ll be crated until I am confident I have full family buy-in.

I hate heartworms. I hate mosquitoes (I’m highly allergic to all bug bites). I hate it that people don’t give the preventive meds. I hate it that there’s so much misinformation on the Interwebs. I hate it when people say, “It’s just a Big Pharm scam.” When our clients hear that, they think they don't need to do prevention. I hate it when people claim you can use a calendar system to chart when the nights go below 40 degrees and just give Heartguard “some of the time.” Yeah, and you can use the rhythm method and just get pregnant some of the time, too.

I hate it that Heartgaurd and Interceptor are so expensive. I hate it that Ivermectin requires such precision to administer. I hate that you have to remember to give a monthly tablet. I hate it that the 6-month heartworm injection has been removed from the market. I hate the fact you have to poison the dog to kill the heartworms that are clogging up his heart. I hate that the Shelter can’t do a chest Xray to determine if Rusty has heart or lung damage. I hate that the treatment is so expensive and dangerous. And I hate the fact heartworm infections are invisible unless you test—because when you have visible symptoms, then you’ve got an even bigger problem. What I hate the most is that so many of the dogs that enter our Shelter are heartworm positive.

There. I feel better getting all that out of me.

As for Rusty, he’s a super sweet guy. He weighs 13.6 pounds and is about 2 or 3 years old. He’s neutered, UTD on his shots and microchipped. He’s spunky and happy and has really blossomed since he’s been at my house. He’s not as clingy or snappy as some min pins, and he doesn’t have to be glued to you on the couch. What he likes best is to lie at your feet in a dog bed or on a rug. He also likes to stretch out with his hind legs behind him, cooling his lean belly on the tile or carpet. Rusty loves walks, and has learned how to sit and how to take food gently (but still very eagerly) from your fingers. He’d make a great single or second dog and would probably do okay around older kids. He crates and travels well and is 98% housebroken, which is pretty darn good for a min pin. If you’re in the Houston area and are interested in a good dog like Rusty, leave me a comment. His adoption fee is $100.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Where the Wild Things Roam on Craigslist

This mind-boggling ad showed up on the Houston, TX, Area Craigslist Pets section this evening. I copied it into a Word file. When I went back to Craigslist later, the ad was gone. The text is as follows, below. I removed the poster's email.

Hyena Pups for adoption

Date: 2009-06-20, 7:34PM CDT

Two Hyena pups, one boy one girl. The mother and father are also pictured below. Very well mannered & well socialized. Enjoys trips to the dog park. Current on all puppy shots. Not asking an adoption fee, just asking that they receive lots of TLC. You would take care of Hyenas as you would on any other dog but please read up on these animals before you inquire

I’ve learned not to be surprised by what I see on Craigslist, but this is disturbing, to say the least.

Hyenas, according to a 2001 Texas law, are among 16 “dangerous wild animals” prohibited from being privately owned without proper permits. Individual Texas jurisdictions can set up their own guidelines for the permitting process. At least that’s how I understand the law, based on the scant Internet information about Texas exotic animal laws. Texas is a large state with very little federally managed land, and the attitude here is that the private land owner is king of her/her ranch.

Private owners operate game ranches full of exotic hoofed animals, including zebras, blackbucks, water buffalo, gazelles, and wildebeest. People pay fees to hunt the animals for trophy mounts. Even native animals, such as mule or white-tailed deer, are managed on vast private deer leases and game ranches. There’s a booming business in automatic feeders and deer corn in many rural counties.

Apparently, this easy-going attitude toward exotic hoofed animals spills over into a gray area. I can't imagine wanting to keep an African hyena as a pet.

Are animals such as hyenas legal to own as pets in your neighborhood? Let me know.

Both photos are from the ad. I covered the woman's face to protect her privacy on my blog.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why People Want Puppies

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a dozen times: "We want a puppy so it can grow up with our kids." What people don't realize is that a two-year-old dog can grow up with a child just as easily (and often without the need to housetrain) as any puppy.

I wish more people would look at the grown-up dogs. We have so many deserving animals--beagle mixes, cattle dogs, black mouth curs, rat terriers, and more. Our Shelter does put pit bulls and pit mixes into the adoption room, but its hard to find homes that work for these guys and gals. And the labs--oh, the gorgeous, lovable--and sometimes crazy labs. We ALWAYS have Labs. Anyone who wants their own Marley needn't go to a breeder--just go to a Shelter in the huntin'-strong south.

Puppies go out fast from the Shelter, but since most bitches haven't had any pre-natal care, and the after-care for puppies is often minimal for surrendered litters, these puppies have the cuteness but not the strong immune systems of puppies from reputable breeders.

Meanwhile, the adult dogs languish--the gorgeous Queensland Heelers, the rough-coated Jack Russells, the Walker Coon Hounds, the Blue Ticks and Beagles, the Huskies (and do we get Huskies--) often seem invivisible.

What I wish our Shelter would do: 1. Make our adoption areas more customer-friendly. 2. Identify breed types more carefully on intake forms. 3. Take better photos of animals for those who are searching for pets via the Internet.

What I wish our clients (those looking to adopt) would do: 1. Do some basic research and planning before coming in to look at pets. 2. Decide in advance who will be the primary care-giver for the animal (dog-walker, pooper-scooper, vet chauffeur, groomer, etc.). 3. If you don't have a fenced yard, realize that you will need to walk the dog for both its exercise and elimination needs. 4. Realize that a dog or cat requires some financial commitment and time. 5. Understand that puppyhood is a brief blip in the time-line of your dog. 6. Consider taking on an older dog. Just because they may give you only three or four--or six or seven--more years shouldn't be a deterrent. That's more time than many marriages last!

Illustration by Garth Williams from "My Big Golden Counting Book," by Lillian Moore. Golden Press, Racine, Wisconson, 1956, 1957. 1974 printing. Counting.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Adopt a Kitten Month

see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Dont u luv LOL Kittehs? Gets yur own kitteh for photo ops.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

From My Reading List

Just finished the book One Nation Under Dog: Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Popping Puppies, Dog-Park Politics and Organic Pet Food, by Michael Schaffer (Henry Holt and Company, NY, 2009). Schaffer, a journalist and a dog-owner, strolls through the quirks and foibles of American pet-ownership, spending time at a pet-supplies trade show, unraveling the tangles of on-leash vs. off-leash park use in San Francisco, and participating in a pet-bereavement support group.

The result? An entertaining, factual, but not strident book that focuses on the changing role of dogs in American society. I’ve perused more in-depth books on various aspects that Shaffer covers, yet this book provides a brisk, timely read for those interested in animal-human relations. Shaffer is a journalist, but he has a folksy way of writing, and offers chatty footnotes detailing his investigations. Not bad for a tour of the various foibles and peculiarities of American dog-ownership.

Schaffer is democratic—writing thoughtfully, without painting an either-or picture about issues such as Cesar Milan-style “dominant” training vs. reward-training, traditional kibble foods (think Iams or Purina) vs. raw food diets, and the way veterinarian practices have become more sophisticated (and expensive) as people apply human standards to animal treatment protocol. Great for trip reading or as an introduction to major dog-related trends in America.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Disaster Prep Monday: Food and Treats

Toby Terrier, our Hurricane Preparedness mascot, like most dogs is always looking forward to his favorite meal—the next one. In the event of a planned evacuation, or a few days spent without power (some folks in our area went three weeks without power after Hurricane Ike last September), you need to add pet food to your disaster planning list.

If your dog has a favorite food from the grocery store, pet or big box store, keep tabs on how much you have on hand. When storm approaches, shelves empty out. You might be able to find Alpo, but not your pooch’s favorite flavor of Iams select. After a big storm, stores will be closed—where I live, stores were closed for a week and poorly stocked for up to three weeks, and we were well beyond Ike’s Galveston-area landfall in Montgomery County, Texas. Even if we had wanted to drive out of the storm area, we were reluctant to use the gas in our vehicles.

If you feed your pet a prescription dog food from your vet or a specialty food not easily found in grocery stores, it’s even more important to plan ahead. Post-storm, both animals and people yearn to preserve whatever routines we can, and switching kibbles or canned food is not something wise to try during this time. My advice is to keep an extra month's worth of canned and dried food for each pet on hand during hurricane season. Consider how you’ll keep open cans of food cool. We had a generator so our pets didn’t have to worry that the Science Diet canned food would spoil!

Be cautious about the risks of spoiled food. Don’t feed your pet questionable human or pet food. And be alert to the garbage that appears post-storm—-it will be extremely tempting to your pets. After Ike hit Texas and other parts of the nation, many folks had to empty their refrigerators. In our neighborhood, bags of refrigerator garbage lined our normally tidy streets. And because we had no power, dog owners walked their dogs a lot more.

But we had a close run-in with a purloined “snack.” A few days after Ike’s landfall, my husband came back from walking our dogs on their usual route shouting that he needed help with Taco, our 16-pound athletic miniature pinscher. I found him struggling to keep all four of Taco’s feet off the ground by clutching his harness. Taco had a big bird leg in his mouth and was doing his best to swallow it whole. He had picked it up in the dark of early evening (we had no power, so no street lights) and my husband thought he had a stick until he got home and saw gristle and a clawed foot!

I put my hands around Taco’s neck and gripped him firmly enough to feel the butt-end of the leg-bone in his upper throat. By squeezing against Taco’s throat and yanking on the clawed-foot (yuck!) we managed to get the jointed leg bone away from him. We call Taco “Mr. Bitey” because he can be nippy—and you can bet he was pissed that we deprived him of his treat.

How the bird foot—it looked like a rooster or bigger—got on the walking path we’ll never know. Maybe it was a game bird killed in the storm or a hunter’s catch dumped somewhere from a freezer. All we knew is we didn’t have an emergency vet available within a 100-mile radius two days after a major storm made landfall. We made sure to walk the dogs before nightfall after that.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Shelter Update

We have a new director at our Shelter, a vet, Dr. P. Ryan. We're hopeful that the Shelter will improve its conditions, redemption rates and adoption rates, while lowering kill rates, with the addition of Dr. Ryan to the staff.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Craigslist Made Me Smile

I'm sure the busy-bodies will have a flagging heyday with this ad in our Houston-area Pets Section, but the text (minus the photo of the sweet "pet") is below, unedited as I found it. Read on and enjoy!

Pure Bred Needs Good Home... (Katy)
Reply [Errors when replying to ads?]
Date: 2009-06-02, 8:09PM CDT

Although it saddens me to see her go, I am interested in rehoming my 89 year old pure bred White Anglo Saxon Protestant grandmother to someone who will give her a good home. She has the cutest little wrinkled face and shiny silver hair! If someone does not adopt her I will be forced to put her in a retirement home. The retirement homes in my area are unfortunately too full already and most new additions are put to sleep immediately since they simply don't have room for them. She responds to "Edith" although you can call her whatever you want since she can't really hear too well. I've had her for as long as I can remember but unfortunately I just don't have the time to give her the attention she needs since I am having a baby, moving into an apartment where they won't allow pets, my boyfriend has allergies, and I have to pay for some unforeseen medical bills. She is in excellent condition and is up to date on all of her vaccinations. She is mostly housebroken and is able to do some cool tricks like drive to WalMart (as long as it isn't more than 2 miles away), misplace objects like her glasses in her pockets, or do the laundry even if only 1 pair of socks is dirty. She subsists mostly on frozen Eggo waffles heated in the toaster and microwaveable mash potatoes and meatloaf with an occasional treat of peanut brittle when she has been extra good. For some reason she enjoys heating drinks like orange juice and 2% milk in the microwave before consuming them. We have spoken to a vet about this and they have assured us it is perfectly normal for a specimen her age. She's good with kids and other pets and has tons of stories to tell them or anyone else who isn't listening, unfortunately I have heard them all already. Her natural habitat is a 10'x10' room crammed with old couches, pictures, dusty lamps, and other crap. It is also very important that she has access to a TV with no remote (too complex) and only three channels; the weather channel, QVC, and the Tele-evangelist network. The last piece required for an ideal enclosure is a window overlooking at least a mailbox and preferably a neighborhood street; a large majority of her time and energy will be spent observing the proceedings in the neighborhood and commenting on them out loud to herself. I originally paid $50,000 for her, plus an additional $10,000 for her enclosure, but I am only asking a small rehoming fee of $15,000 to cover her recent knee replacement surgery which she has recovered from nicely. This is a unique opportunity for those of you who have kids who will neglect and lose interest in their pets after several months since this is the environment that she thrives in. I hate to see her go, but I know someone out there will be able to provide her a better home for the several years she has left. I will include her habitat as well as all toys and accessories (including her beloved electric heating blanket); local pickup. Serious Inquires only please.

•Location: Katy
•it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hurricane Season Is Here

Twelve percent of Americans live in a hurricane zone—they live in areas on or near the coast where hurricanes can strike. In recent years, we’ve seen that Hurricane Season is not to be taken lightly. If you live where your newspaper and grocery stores feature hurricane tracking maps or if you are among the one affected by Katrina, Rita, Dennis, Ivan, Charlie, Claudette, Bonnie, Gustav or Ike (just to name a few of the storms that have made headlines in recent years), then you need a plan for your pets.

I’ve developed the logo above, along with a spunky mascot, Toby Terrier, to highlight some of the best preparedness suggestions for pet owners throughout the season. So when you see Toby, you’ll find a tip or two for your own Pet Disaster Plan.

Today, we’re highlighting Crates, Leashes and Paperwork.

1. Crates: The best purchase you’ll ever make is in a folding wire crate for each of your animals. Folding crates pack easily but set up instantly to provide a secure place to restrain your animal. They are vital for advance evacuation—to hold your dog safely in a hotel room or pet-friendly shelter, or as a way to hold a pet if you end up stuck on the roadside or at a campground or a WalMart Parking lot. If your dog isn’t crate-trained, buy a crate now (you won’t find then on shelves when a storm is in the Gulf or cruising up the Seaboard) and make sure your dog gets used to it. If you have a strong dog or an escape artist, invest in a few snap latches to help hold the door and corners secure.

2. Leashes: Retractable leashes are not the best restraint system for the chaos and uncertainty of an evacuation. If you have to handle your dog in line with other people or in a crowd, you don’t have the control you need. Get a sturdy nylon or leather 6- or 8-foot leash with a strong snap. Make sure your collar or harness fits properly, too. A standard leash gives you more control over your dog, is less tiring for you, and can be tied around a pole if needed. Some leashes come with built-in rings that make it easy to convert a leash to a temporary tie-down. You won’t be leaving your dog tied with a leash, but if you’re stuck in a long evacuation or supply line, you’ll be glad you have a standard leash. Bring along your retractable leash, but don’t try to make do with one.

3. Paperwork:
Now is the time to get your dog’s paperwork in order. Make copies of your dog’s current health and shot records, veterinarian contacts, rabies tags and microchip identification numbers. File those things in your go-kit. Make sure your dog’s microchip will scan (ask your vet to double check the chip to ensure that it hasn’t slipped or faulted out). Make sure your dog wears a collar with tags. Take several good photos of your dog—front, face, right and left side, and include these in your paperwork. If you have a puppy, update the photos as the puppy grows. You want to keep current photos in your go-kit in case your dog gets lost during an evacuation or in the chaos after a storm event. A cell phone photo won’t help you if you need to make “LOST” signs.

Toby Terrier says, “Don’t be tardy—be ready NOW!”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Are You Ready for Your Next Pet Emergency?

Emergency situations with animals are easier to deal with if you have taken some time to plan ahead. If you own a pet—dog, cat, horse or other domestic animal—you’ll probably experience at least one emergency first aid situation during your pet’s lifetime. The Pet First Aid & Disaster Response Guide by G. Elaine Acker (2007; Texas A&M Press for Pets America, Austin) is a slim book that should be every pet owner’s pet-specific first aid kit.

What? You don’t have a pet-specific first-aid kit? Check out the list provided in this booklet and modify a human-specific kit or create one of your own.

Divided into two parts, the book covers basic animal first aid—how to put on a muzzle (the time to practice this on a dog is BEFORE an emergency), how to assess and stabilize an injured animal, and how to transport or move an injured animal. This is not a book designed to replace a veterinarian or other animal care-provider, nor is it a fully comprehensive first aid manual. Instead, the book alerts pet owners to the types of situations that can trigger animal emergencies—at home, at the dog park, on vacation, or during an evacuation.

The second part focuses on disaster tips learned from events such as Hurricane Katrina (which was a wake-up call to thousands of pet owners across the United States). This is the most helpful part of the book in my opinion—pet owners need to consider what they will do if life gets “lifey” and stuff happens.

The book has room to record vital pet information, but on the down-side, the pages are printed on that slick, non-tear paper that doesn’t take ink without smearing. You could photocopy the pages or use them as a guide to create your own forms.

Order direct from Pets (a group dedicated to informing the public about pet first aid issues and working with agencies to develop pet-friendly emergency response procedures for use during disasters). You can also order from The cost is $14.95, and proceeds go to the group’s efforts to support disaster efforts.

With Hurricane Season around the corner, this book should be in your go-kit.