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The most popular pups – for now…

After being involved in animal welfare for a few years, I’ve learned to really hate these lists. The American Kennel Club has put out its list of the top dogs based on registration statistics. The winners are Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Beagles, Golden Retrievers and the Yorkie.

Labs are America's favorite dogs - until they are no longer wanted. Adults like Edy may never find another home.

I have no qualms with the dogs or their popularity. In fact, Molson, my in-laws late Lab is one of the best dogs I’ve ever been around. The problem is our culture – the need to possess whatever item is hot – whether or not it’s a living, breathing being – and getting it as quickly as possible.

It’s that need to possess that ties this story with the other dog story in Chicago yesterday. Chicago Animal Care and Control put out an alert that they’ve taken in a large number of dogs recently – they are full. Because they are an open admission shelter, animals die when they are full so they are able to make room for more animals that come through their doors.

This Husky is another pure breed dumped at CACC who also needs a home.

The plea yesterday was for no kill shelters and rescues to come to CACC and rescue the animals to give them a second chance. Although many of the dogs will be mutts or pit bulls, you’d be surprised how many of the top five dogs from the list at the start of my post have been left behind. In fact, around 25 percent of the dogs in shelters are pure breeds.

You know the dog – the Lab, the Golden, the Beagle – that someone just had to have until they didn’t have to have it anymore. Many of these animals were purchased at a premium from a pet store or the Internet because people had to have a pure breed – until something else caught their attention. And this need to have it now fuels one of America’s most inhumane industries – the puppy mills.

Because people don’t want to wait or do their homework, they purchase dogs through newspaper ads and from pet stores. All of these dogs are mass-produced in commercial breeding operations known as puppy mills. Breeding dogs are kept in inhumane conditions and dogs are cross-bred with no concern for any genetic issues that may plague a particular breed or bloodline.

Fluffy is 16 years old and terrified of the shelter.

And consumers buy, buy, buy – until they can’t afford the vet bills or get tired of the responsibility or see something else they want more. Then, the dogs end up in a shelter or rescue – often it is death row because there are just so many wonderful homeless pets out there and not enough homes or shelters for them all.

Dogs of all sizes - like Pilot - just need a second chance.

If you are interested in any breed of dog, you really need to do you homework. Check out what that type of dog was bred to do and decide if that is behavior you can live with because it’s not going to change. Ask someone who’s lived with rat terriers, herding dogs, pugs or dachshunds…any pure breed. They all have their pros and cons. A lot of the Chicago breed rescues have monthly meet ups and they encourage people who are considering taking in that type of dog to come and learn about the beauty and blemishes of their favorite breed.

Then, do more homework. Check out shelters and rescues and ask as many questions as you can about a particular dog and the breed. You are not purchasing something that can be discarded or returned. You are bringing home a family member who loves and cares and wants nothing more than to be with you. When you get a pet, you are actually getting into a very long-term commitment – 12 to 20 years. That’s a long time – too long for a lot of people.

Taylor is still a puppy, but lost a home anyway and now needs a second chance.

Skip a puppy and go for a grown up. With the current economy, there are many adult dogs that have been trained and in a loving home and just want to get back into that routine – try that to start. Even better – try a senior dog.

If you do want a pure breed from a breeder keep in mind, good breeders not only care about the gene pool of the dogs they reproduce, they are very picky about who takes their puppies home. While you’re asking questions about bloodlines and if a dog will be good with kids or cats or other dogs, they are checking out your backyard, your neighborhood, your ability to pay for vet bills, your ability to handle a long-term commitment.

Unfortunately, people don’t want to wait, do their homework or really think it through. They decide they want a dog, they want it now and they want a pure breed puppy so it won’t “have the issues you get with a shelter dog.” So they purchase a dog from the paper, the Internet or go to their neighborhood pet store and end up with what they think is a pure breed with papers – but – it’s a dog mass-produced in a puppy mill.

Calvin also needs a second chance.

And when they find out how much work it is to have a puppy – that it needs to be trained, that it will produce more puppies if not fixed, that it gets sick and needs medical care – then they think about those issues. If the dog has health issues because of poor breeding standards – people think about it after they buy a pet.

Plenty of pitties like Domino also need a second chance.

That’s when they decide having a dog isn’t the best thing for them.  That is when they find out that dogs are not returnable. That is when CACC, the Animal Welfare League and any number of open admission shelters get the responsibility of the dog that people just had to have. That is when the plea goes out for help. And, that is when so many dogs get their death sentence because no one just “has to have” that dog anymore.

All of the dogs shown in this post were listed on the Facebook Page for Chicago Animal Care and Control’s Transfer team yesterday. They need a rescue, a foster home or better yet a true forever home.


Our thoughts and prayers for the parvo dogs…

I grew up with cats in the house. Throughout the years we had a variety of indoor-outdoor kitties that shared our bed and our love. I was sad each time one of them went on to the rainbow bridge. But, that didn’t really prepare me for the first time I had the life of a cat held in my hands as an adult.

Wedge lost his battle with parvo on Saturday.

Rhett the Wonder Cat was 15 when he came down with what appeared to be a bladder infection in April. He recovered but  started to present symptoms again in July. We made many trips to the vet getting few answers until we finally switched vets and were referred to Vet Specialty in Buffalo Grove. By the time we brought him in, it was too late. They couldn’t save him. When I called my husband from Vet Specialty to let him know how much it would cost if we tried to save him – he said – “I don’t want to know, do what you can.”

Fast forward to three years later, Rhett’s sister Scarlett had just had a good check up the previous week when she started to vomit on Sunday. She could keep nothing down. I rushed her to the vet Monday morning and they ran a series of tests. Her blood pressure was through the roof. Her heartbeat, very irregular, they gave her fluids started working on a diagnosis and sent her home with me.

Solo is also battling Parvo.

When I went to pick her up from the vet that night, they told me it was very likely Scarlett, at 18, wouldn’t make it through the night. (Her vet bill was also very high.) Her best bet was to go home with me and be loved and cared for like I always cared for her…If she made it, we would take it day by day. Our girl pulled through and each day ate more and more. She was diagnosed with Inflamed Bowel Syndrome and put on a range of medications for that and high blood pressure. She not only made it through the night, but lasted for another year and five days before her body gave out at 19 1/2.

When Rhett died, I was heartbroken. But, I felt so much worse because he was my baby, my rescue and I felt deep down that I should have gone to a different vet much earlier – I trusted the guy we were with. One of my friends took me aside many months later to remind me the loving, spoiled life I gave this once homeless kitten. It made me feel a bit better – on some days.

When we rescue an animal, we take them in, love them, and do what we can to give them a long healthy life. I’m thinking a lot about Rhett and Scarlett the past week as I pray hard everyday for a group of dogs I’ve never met fighting parvo at Animal Care Center in Chicago.

A wonderful group of rescuers – Trio Animal Foundation and Project Rescue – took responsibility for these dogs. Now, as they face overwhelming vet bills, they are doing what they can day after day to try right by these puppies. I can’t image what it’s like to be in their shoes but I get where this dedication comes from – they rescued these dogs, they are doing what they can.

TAF has seen the worst of what humans can do to animals and worked to rescue and rehabilitate pets no one else would go to bat for. We all should have someone like that in our corner.

The sad part about this story is that Antlers puppies were almost home – they’d been rescued, loved and were about to be put up for adoption. When TAF got the bad news about the Parvo last week, they did what I did, told the vet to work to save them and then went on overdrive trying to find the funding to help. They knew what the costs were, they’d just save several other dogs from parvo as well.

Here’s what you can do – keep praying. Modern veterinary medicine is wonderful, but I’ll never underestimate the power of prayer. Donate – there’s a chipin set up to help the puppies. Stop by the fundraiser – There is a fundraiser for TAF at Franklin Tap on Wednesday. Here’s the link to the details and my story.

Note – Army, the little dog in the last photo, died Tuesday afternoon.  Solo is still hanging on.

About the puppies in the window…

I was baking Christmas cookies with my nieces – aged 16-18 – and the discussion of dogs and puppies came up. My in-laws are considering adding a dog to the family, the first since their beloved lab died six years ago. This time around they are well aware of some allergies in the family and are looking for non-shedding dogs, which haven’t been bugging the allergies of the three people in the house that suffer from them.

My youngest nieces has her heart set on a golden-doodle – while her mom and I have been talking rescue. Then she said it – “I found some stores and internet sites where the dogs are on sale.”

Before I could go into puppy mill overdrive her older cousin commented – “if you had googled puppy mills like I told you two years ago, we’d not be having this conversation.”

Dogs in puppy mills - courtesy of The Puppy Mill Project..

I was so proud. Especially since I’d just recently become involved with the Puppy Mill Project and hadn’t even started to talk about puppy mills with them. We did a quick lesson on how to use the site for the Puppy Mill Project, the Amish  and their connection to puppy mills and the dogs at Lambs Farm (puppy mill dogs as well).

In my circle of friends, we all know where the puppies in the window come from. However, my circle is very full with people in the animal rescue community. That isn’t the case for the rest of America. According to the Puppy Mill Project, an estimated 75 percent Americans are not aware of the puppy mill/internet/pet shop connection.

If you live in the Chicago-area, here is a very short version of a list of places not to purchase your puppies –

  • Lamb’s Farm
  • PetLand
  • Happiness is Pets
  • Furry Babies
  • Puppies R Us
  • Go here for the full list.

There are three pet stores that I know of that used to sell dogs and have now moved to adoption through various partnerships. Wilmette Pet Center made the move over a year ago with the help of Adopt-a-Pet. Thee Fish Bowl in Evanston worked with the Puppy Mill Project(TPMP) and Chicago Animal Care and Control to set up an adoption program.

Chip was rescued by Annie's Little Angles and Dog Patch for adoption through Dog Patch.

In November, it was Naperville’s oldest pet store – Dog Patch Pet and Feed – that made the move with help from TPMP. Annie’s Little Angle’s Rescue has been working with Dog Patch to pull dogs from Death row at CACC (Dog Patch already had a relationship with a Wisconsin Shelter for cats).

So far, all three stores have found many new customers since making the move to adopt instead. And, dogs and cats are now being saved from death row.

In the meantime, animal advocates will continue to protest and get the word out about puppy mills. Go here for an article on the efforts of the Puppy Mill Projects Cari Meyers (and vote for her at this site each day).

It’s me or the cat!

I was amazed when I was looking to adopt two cats twenty years ago at how much time one shelter spent asking me – “what happens to your cat if you get married?”

I thought it was a really stupid question. After all, if you get married, the cat comes with you. Right?

After all, who’d date a guy who didn’t like your cats (or dogs) in the first place? When I started volunteering at a shelter many years later I found out why they even ask the question. One of the reasons cats are returned to shelters is because a person gets married. Seriously?

Scarlett in her favorite perch atop the cat condo.

I’m from one of those families that always treated their pet as a member of the family. So, before any dating experiment went very far, I always got a good feel for how any guy felt about the cats.

During my dating days, I was amazed at the number of dates to be that claimed to have “no use for cats.”  I found that it was common for guys to say they had “no use for cats” because most of them had never really spent time with cats. I’d asked them if they’d ever had a cat, lived with a cat or had a bad experience with a cat. Usually, they’d respond no to all of the above.

In one case in particular, this guy made it to the second date. After making a total idiot out of himself on our date, he informed me that he was allergic to cats and I’d need to get rid of my cats immediately. That was our last date.

A few weeks later I started to talk to a potential suitor on the phone. He started off with the “no use for cats” line. I found out that he grew up in a house with dogs and never really spent anytime with any cats. What I also found out was that the dogs he grew up with were so much a part of the family, his family traveled with the family dog in a motor home long before there was such a thing as “dog-friendly” travel. The pet as part of the family…

When we finally started to date and he met the cats for the first time, he was greeted by Rhett the Wonder Cat jumping on his lap and going nose to nose with him. The two spent the rest of the evening hanging out and playing. So much for “no use for cats!”

During our dating years, one of his best customers got a divorce and lost his cats to the then ex-wife in the proceedings. Tom snagged his customer’s two cat condo and promptly delivered them to my place in the city. Rhett also dutifully stood by my front door the second he saw the jeep pull up. After all, Tom wasn’t my date, he was Rhett’s.

Eventually, Tom and I got married and we moved out to the suburbs. We have a berm in our backyard and lots of wildlife. As the house was being built, my husband to be was the one that was excited about all the wildlife the cats would be able to stalk (from inside). Our house included tons of windows for wildlife theater.

Although the cats and I had been a team for 10 years before we got married, someone had bonded with someone else  (Darth Cat).  I was out of the equation except for food. Both Rhett and Scarlett have since gone on to the rainbow bridge. And, even though we have two really great cats in the house, we still miss them.

And, I always have to smile when my husbands tells stories about “his” cat.  Too bad he had no use for cats.

Protecting Pit Bulls in Chicago

For my New Years resolution, I’d really like to see a ban on stupid people…and stupid legislation!

Anyone who knows me knows what is coming next. The world is filled with stupid people who go out and get pets – dogs, cats, ferrets, etc. – and then stupidity sets in. (Actually, stupidity was already festering.)

Here’s the deal. When you adopt, buy or acquire a pet, it’s your responsibility to not only care for and feed the pet, you must train them.  Let me say that more slowly for the idiot patrol – It – is – your – responsibility – to – properly – train – your pet.

Dogs of any size need to be trained!

Any dog can attack, but the damage done by a big powerful dog is so much worse than that done by a little dog (duh). Because of that, the big dogs get a very bad rap and lots of terrible publicity when some bad owner fails to  properly train and restrain their dogs and someone gets attacked.

On Monday, an unsuspecting jogger was attacked, mauled and critically injured by two unrestrained dogs on Chicago’s lake front. The dogs just happened to be 70 pound, unneutered, unrestrained pit bulls. They were shot and killed by police.

The dogs were unleashed (against city law), not licensed (against city law) and apparently trained for something other than being a family pet (if trained at all). For a day, there were rumblings of possible Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) – until cooler heads prevailed. Now there is talk of creating laws that are tougher on bad dog owners (not that bad dog owner follow the rules anyway).

I have a better idea, lets ban stupid people (oops, there goes the city council). Or, better yet…If they really want to put some teeth into some legislation, maybe they should write some laws that make it very tough on people who don’t train and restrain their pets. Let’s really make it painful financially (and otherwise) for people who own dogs that attack others (people, dogs, cats…)

Courtesy of Dolly the Pit Bull - Sweet or Scary???

The dog’s owner in this case is using the excuse of “someone let them out.” The dogs are still his responsibility. If they had been properly socialized and trained, they never, ever would have attacked anyone (unless that is what they were trained to do). You can bet that if there’s a lawsuit, his homeowners insurance will hold him accountable in this case.

As the debate raged this past week on what to do, one thing became abundantly clear. People I know that walk dogs for a living and deal with dogs they know and dogs they don’t know in many situations all said the same thing.

They didn’t have any problems with the pit bulls they walk and encounter on walks – with the rotts or shepherds for that matter. They did have a lot of issues with stupid and irresponsible owners. The owners that let their dog run off-leash everywhere or those using a retractable leash with no control.

You’ve heard of distracted drivers, distracted, irresponsible dog owners are causing just as many problems in their community. Dog owners on walks texting and not keeping an eye on their leashless dog was a huge topic on social media. Lots of issues were occurring when dogs they walked were encountered by dogs they didn’t know who were out of control. Some of the worst offenders – Golden Retrievers, Labs, Rat Terriers and Pomeranians. Where are the articles about those dangerous breeds – wait, they aren’t dangerous…their owners are.

It will be interesting to see what new laws, if any are enacted and how they will be enforced. Since leash laws, licensing laws and other pet-related laws are already not being enforced…it’s likely not much will change. In the meantime, Chicago’s rescue community will continue to work hard to rescue and rehome all kinds of dogs, especially pit bulls. And, the next time BSL hits a discussion, lets hope its to ban stupid pet owners.

A cat’s tail…

What is the most euthanized animal in Chicago?

If you guessed a pit bull, you’d be wrong. The pit bull may be the most euthanized breed, but the house cat by far is the most euthanized animal. In 2008, over 9,600 cats were euthanized according to a recent story in the Chicago Tribune. In that one-year alone, over 2,000 more cats than dogs were put down here in Chicago.

9,600 cats. As a cat lover, I stopped reading and cried on the train into work. Because this whole thing is just so senseless. I’ve also learned from my research that this bad news pretty much follows cats all over the country.

Once upon a time, all three of these cats were left at animal control. Luckily, they were rescued by no kill shelters before landing a fabulous gig in our home.

Cats are the most popular pet in America – outnumber dogs by 15 million. However, they are more likely to be surrendered to a shelter than dogs and more than half as likely as dogs to get preventative veterinary care. Meanwhile, one of the fastest growing segments of the pet market is doggy day care (I think it’s a great business idea, but let’s not dump the family cat folks).

But this is just at tip of the iceberg. Last fall, I interviewed Kari Johnson from Tree House Humane Society on a TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) program they were conducting on the West side. An astounding 60-percent of the cats they trapped in the program were friendly strays. In other words, someone’s dumped pet. By midsummer, Tree House had also seen a record number of very sick and injured cats dumped on their doorsteps.

The good news for the friendly strays trapped by Tree House is that they end up in foster care until Tree House or another organization has room to take them in and find them a home. (That isn’t the case everywhere.)

Why is the number so high for cats? Many people don’t realize that the cute cuddly kitten they covet is a 15-20 year commitment. There is also a feeling among some people that cats, being well-known carnivores can also fend for themselves when they no longer want the responsibility to care for them. Some people take in a “free kitten to good home” and never get them spayed or neutered. They end up dumping a cat for having kittens or perpetually being in heat or dump an non-neutered male cat for spraying in the house and always being on the prowl.

It’s not just a financial issue. A woman once lived around the corner from me in Lake Forest in a multi-million dollar home. She dumped one cat at a shelter for spraying in her house (he’d never been fixed) and stopped speaking to me when I called her on the carpet for letting her non-neutered male cat roam free in the neighborhood.

I could go on – but it would be a real long blog post…So, I’ll make it many blog posts. During 2012, I’d like to designate Mondays as Meowing Mondays. It’s the day I get up on my own personal soapbox and discuss cat issues. I’ll hit the serious issues and also share some light stories about my own cats (and friends cats as well).

A New Year’s Tail

As I read the stories on Facebook the last few days about the end of the year rescues. I only need to look as far as the cat on my lap (swishing her tail across the laptop). Five years ago, Heartland Animal Shelter rescued around 20 adult cats from a suburban animal control shortly before the end of the year. The kitties were facing euthanasia if a rescue hadn’t come forward. Luckily for us, Heartland did.

The Late Great Rhett the Wonder Cat.

Earlier that year we had lost one of our two cats – Rhett the Wonder Cat – to kidney disease (and probably IBS). We’d been heartbroken and had made our tour of the shelters without finding any cat that we could consider a replacement for our late guy who thought he was a super hero cat.

Among the group of cats rescued from Schaumburg was an outgoing long-haired male cat and his very frightened calico sister. They arrived at the shelter with a case of Coccidia and eventually were put in neighboring cages in the cat room.

Five weeks later, we walked in the shelter. As we checked out the other kitties, one of the cats in the cage swatted at my husband’s head until he had his attention. They played and bonded and I looked at the profile I had pulled from Petfinder (yes, he already had my attention) and saw he was there with his sister.

We filled out the paperwork for the cat named Davis and Tom pointed out that we were only adding one cat…and off we went. By the time Heartland called us back a few days later, we had decided to find out how closely bonded this pair might be. We were replacing half of a bonded pair and we knew how important that connection was for a cat. We learned that while the male cat was outgoing, the female called Monroe was very frightened and only seemed to settle down when the two were together. We ended up adopting them both.

Scarlett and Ellie loved to hang out together.

Within days, they became Max and Ellie. The shy little calico was actually recovering from a broken heart after losing her family. She ended up bonding with our senior cat Scarlett and was very close to her in her final years. As she’s learned to trust us, she’s become very affectionate – almost annoyingly so.

And then there’s Max. He’s been dubbed the circus kitty for his antics and he pretty much has no fear. He’s also so laid back that he’s been certified as a therapy cat and visits the nursing home and participates in reading programs. I pull out the harness, he hops on my lap to get strapped in, and crawls in the carrier for his next adventure.

As we ring in the New Year, I always wonder why their family dumped them – was it the economy or some other reason. We’ll probably never know.

Max and his favorite toy.

Max and Ellie actually have become a bit of an inspiration. I eventually volunteered at Heartland for a couple of years before moving on to write about animal rescue for the Examiner. The Late Scarlett (10/23/10) and the Late Great Rhett the Wonder Cat (8/23/06) were my introduction to a no-kill shelter through Tree House Humane Society (over 20 years ago). However, Max and Ellie sparked the real passion.

I hope to write more about that passion in my blog now that we are in a new year. Since starting this blog, I’ve been tied up a lot writing for the Examiner and stopped posting.  I’m hoping to change that in 2012 – I may even have a pet bloggers group to cheer me on. Happy New Year!

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