Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Prescription Pet : Animals As Therapy

I would like to introduce Ash Stevens, who has written a guest blog.  I think after you read it, you will understand why I hope she will write another guest blog again soon!

All pet owners know about the magic of animals. They effortlessly boost our mood, get us laughing and smiling, and shift us into a happier place. Such benefits have some rather profound implications. So much so, that professionals have developed Animal-Assisted Therapies, exposing people everywhere to their hairy power.

Photo by USAG-Humphreys

Dogs love being the center of attention, and they’re all too eager to return the favor. Their undivided, pleasant, critique-free attention makes them the perfect reading buddy that’s the envy of reading specialists everywhere. 

Dogs give our kids a fun and relaxed excuse to read, but there’s more to it than silky petting. This furry fortitude is bringing big changes in the classroom. Dogs are helping our children’s confidence and motivation climb to new heights, and their reading level is climbing along with it. Students are creating new and positive relationships with reading, and those benefits are spreading to school and home.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very common and overwhelming problem for Veterans. The intensity of situations experienced on duty coupled with a return to mundane civilian life can make everyday a struggle, so canine nature is being put to the test in addressing issues, and they’ve only solidified their standing as loyal companions.

A program by Central Missouri Humane Society trains dogs to sense and accommodate the needs and anxieties of soldiers-turned-civilians. The pooches are a powerful aid to their owners, and even their Veteran trainers are benefiting too. These shelter dogs get a new life while, in turn, they give trainers a feeling of purpose in their dulled-down civilian lives. The dogs help trainers develop patience, trust, and emotional connection and, to top it all off, soldiers have a loyal friend that will never judge them. It’s win-win all around.   

Disease can have many physical symptoms that challenge everyday life. Emotional and mental issues often come up with health stress, and that deepens the impact of our ailments even more. Animals have been used against these problems with the hopes of recreating health trends among pet owners, and their hairy presence is proving to be an effective “natural remedy” for overall health.
When it comes to healing, pets are man’s best friend. Petting and cuddling our furry pals promotes the production of the hormone oxytocin, so the happier we make our animals, the happier we actually make ourselves. All our scratching and snuggling can actually boost emotional and mental health! But the benefits don’t stop there. The presence of pets provides a welcome distraction that can reduce pain, depression, and negative thinking, and that mood-boosting oxytocin even promotes cell growth and healing. So, it turns out it’s an apple and a furry hug a day that keeps the doctor away...

Autism Spectrum Disorders include a wide array of symptoms, with social and communication challenges at their core. It can be hard for our Autistic children to interact with others because of the need to “read” the subtle nonverbal messages used in communication. Luckily, that’s where Equine Therapy comes in.

Horses are nonverbal and sensitive to their environment, and that gives kids the chance to learn very important skills. Getting to know your horse takes physical communication like brushing, petting and hugging. As kids watch, touch, and listen to their horse, they start to see common cues that communicate their horse’s feelings and state of mind. This is huge because, as kids develop awareness and recognition with their horse, they can begin using these new skills with their social interactions. Better understanding means less frustration and better relationships, so the benefits here can’t be overstated. 

Photo by Kars4Kids

Attention, listening, and focus are also addressed by Equine Therapy. Listening to a horse requires “tuning in,” so kids learn how to give their complete attention. Equine Therapists will also do activities that require children to listen and take direction, and the fun and motivation of working with a horse helps this happen easily and naturally. When all’s said and done, horse-assisted therapy offers children a strong emotional bond that helps them make sense of the world around them.

Dogs are another therapeutic approach for Autism, and the studies show promising results. Kids are showing drops in aggression, increases in social engagement, and a boost in overall mood and well-being. That’s just with their mere presence! Dogs or horses, there’s amazing potential for children living with Autism.

Get Your Pet On!
Our animals are doing amazing things for people from all walks of life. Whether you’re facing some problems or you’re “healthy as a horse,” an animal may just be what the doctor ordered. Get a dose of animal love by volunteering at the shelter, finding a hypoallergenic Craigslist dog, or grabbing a landlord-appeasing guinea pig or bunny. We can all benefit from having a little more hair in our life.

Happy petting everyone!

      Ash Stevens

Ash is a lover of family, animals, and life. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook or check out her blog where she explores fun, simplicity, originality, and meaning.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Terrific new book about an animal rescue by Ellen Emerson White

It is not often I review books, but then it is not often I read a novel about a rescue dog. 

Webster, Tale of an Outlaw” is a new book by popular “Young Adult” (YA) writer, Ellen Emerson White. (YA books are not just for kids; two popular YA series are Harry Potter and the Hunger Games.)

The book opens with Webster, a Lab mix, being left at a rescue by his adoptive family. That is a good thing, even if Webster can’t accept it. He has landed in a tub of butter. As soon as he figures out he is in a shelter, he decides to break out, despite the fleecy dog bed, homemade biscuits, and kind attention from the rescuers.

One of the fun things about this book is the story is told from Webster’s perspective. The rescuers, as in real life, are in the background working away for him and he rarely notices them, or if he does, he can’t figure them out. Webster, unused to kindness, is suspicious of everyone.

The other dogs hold lively conversations with him (this is a novel) telling him adoption is good and he needs to stay at the rescue. Webster is having none of it, a self-styled “bad hat,” he wants to be “the dog who walks by himself.” He leaves his safe haven to find adventures and the life of a loner. But life on the run has a set of problems too. How can you get dinner if you don’t have a bowl?

This is a humorous look at life from the perspective of a dog who has given up on people, but that is as dark as the story gets. No animals die in this book and although Webster had a family who mistreated him, he lands in the good hands of many who care.

Here he gets caught up in a game of fetch:

“The Bad Hat wasn’t about to interact with any more people, but he loved to play with balls.

Webster is very entertaining and not predictable. I am not giving away anything to say he becomes an Internet darling. In fact, he has his own FaceBook page which shows some of the real animals who inspired the writer.  

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Vet staff tries to change chip info on lost dog in their possession

Courtesy Vanessa Ferrino
Teddy is a Shih Tzu/Bichon Frise mix. He is just as cute as can be. Teddy got out on Oct. 28th and became lost. Teddy would be home today except the woman who found him, let’s call her Jane Doe (although Cruella de Vil would also fit), wanted to keep Teddy. The woman who found him failed Teddy and veterinary practice also failed him.

Correction:  A previous version of this article stated Teddy was taken to Haltom City Shelter for scanning. This information was provided by PetWatch. However, a staff member at Haltom City Animal Hospital says Teddy was scanned there and not at the city shelter.

Teddy had a wonderful life and a family who loved him and who registered his microchip. When Jane Doe took Teddy to Haltom City Animal Hospital for scanning, Teddy’s microchip was detected. A staff member called the chip company and got contact information. The staff member then handed the dog back to Jane Doe. No one called the owner. (The animal hospital claims they did call and leave a message, the owner disputes this.)

Next stop for Jane Doe, and unhappily for Teddy, was her veterinary clinic. She sent a friend with Teddy to the clinic. Clinic staff also scanned for the chip. A staff member called the chip company and was told Teddy had an owner. What was the response by the vet staff? Did they contact the owner? No, vet staff called and tried to get the chip company to change Teddy’s ownership information to the woman who walked in with Teddy. At this point the chip company realized Teddy was being stolen. The company called Teddy’s owner, Vanessa Ferrino, and told her someone had found her dog and was trying to keep him. The chip company gave her the name of the veterinary practice, but not Jane Doe's information.

Ferrino called the vet and they would not disclose any information. Ferrino was able to find out Jane Doe’s contact information by filing a police report. Even though Jane Doe’s address is known, Teddy is still missing. Why? Teddy supposedly ran away from Doe’s friend. How convenient.

If Doe had Ferrino’s Rolex watch, would she escape charges because she found and gave the watch to a friend? What about Doe's friend who took and then lost the watch?

Per the police, no crime was committed. They did not visit any of the people seen with Teddy.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Tylertown Destroyed by Fire

Recovering Victim - Photo Courtesy Humane Society Louisiana
Many animal rescuers are familiar with Camp Katrina, also known as Tylertown, in the small town of Tylertown, Mississippi. The Humane Society of Louisiana (HSL) ran their operation from a building there which burned to the ground on October 26. They had remained there after Katrina to run a shelter.

Thanks to staff members who risked their lives, almost all of the animals were saved. Per one staff member who lived on the property, “I was scared, but adrenaline kicked in. I was throwing my birds out the backroom and throwing the cats out, just anything I can get out.” 

A ferret and at least two cats died. Some cats are missing, but presumed to have survived. The staff is attempting to recover these cats as the commotion subsides. There were two staff members living in the building. They lost their home and all their possessions.

Over a dozen cats are being treated for smoke inhalation and will have a long recovery. HSL is in need of donations to cover veterinary care. They also need donations to replace what has been lost. Here is their wish list. They had a long term plan to move to a newly purchased property and now the fire has sped up that timeline and donations are needed for that endeavor as well.

This is a group with a good reputation who did hard work during and after Katrina and now many local rescuers in Mississippi and Louisiana are coming to their aid. A FaceBook event has been set up to help raise funds. (They have no connection with and receive no donations from the Humane Society of the United States.)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Montana families forced to evacuate without pets

Lewis & Clark Humane Society, Director of Animal Welfare, Christine Stipich welcomes a tiny evacuee to safety
Tabitha Stephenson
On this anniversary of Katrina, many of us are certain that if nothing else came out of the flooding of New Orleans, evacuees will never again be forced to leave without their animals. Now it turns out this is not true.

Last weekend, as animal rescuers gathered in New Orleans to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Katrina, the people of the Blackfeet Reservation in Heart Butte, Montana were forced to leave their animals behind when fleeing a wildfire. They were under a mandatory evacuation because their small town was threatened by the Spotted Eagle Fire.

The fire started August 28 from a lightning strike and the mandatory evacuation of the tinder dry area started the same day. When the evacuation busses arrived, people were not allowed to board with animals. (If you think these people just don’t care about their animals, take a look at this cute videopinned to the top of the Lewis & Clark Humane Society FaceBook page of an evacuated dog who was taught to pray before getting a treat.)

How could this be possible after passage of the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, the federal law commonly called the Pets Act? The Blackfeet reservation is a law unto itself, so those in charge have the authority to prevent people from evacuating with animals. If you have no car, and you have children, you have no choice but to get on the evacuation bus provided and take your children out of danger, no matter how much it breaks your heart to leave your dog or cat behind in danger.

However, the Blackfeet people are not without their resources, and one of their own made the three hour drive from Helena, Montana to help the animals left behind. Gina Wiest is the Director of Helana, Montana’s “Lewis and Clark Humane Society.” She is a Blackfeet and she has family near Heart Butte, the reservation town under evacuation order. Wiest collected supplies, drove to the area, checked in with local animal rescuers and learned that no evacuating residents were allowed to take their animals and no animals were permitted in the Red Cross shelter. Of course those with vehicles could take animals, but many were dependent on reservation busses for transportation to safety.

Wiest did not hesitate. She called state level authorities of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and asked for help. (She also authorized a GoFundMe.) HSUS immediately approved funds and people to start setting up an animal shelter that day at the 4-H fairgrounds. Animeals in Missoula sent 1,000 pounds of food and is now out after helping out with other wildfires. The Pad For Paws Foundation also donated $1,000 worth of cat and dog food. It was a statewide effort to help.

Gina Wiest partnered with Kim Wippert of the reservation’s Pets For Life program and with Denise Salois of the Kaawa'pomaaka Rescue Society of Browning. They got her access to the Red Cross shelter and the fire zone and accompanied her.
As a result of their efforts, the trio was granted access to the fire zone to collect animals. At the Red Cross shelter, they found people sheltering in their cars with their dogs and cats because the Red Cross would not allow animals inside the shelter. All those people welcomed the news that an animal shelter would be provided.

When evacuees arrived at the Red Cross shelter, some found people with cars who offered a ride back to pick up the animals they left behind. Those evacuees, who wanted to retrieve their pets, were told if they left to get animals, they would not be permitted back into the Red Cross shelter. However, the animal rescuers were given access to talk to the evacuees. When an announcement was made that animal rescuers would be picking up animals, people came forward with their house keys and instructions.

It was late afternoon, the rescuers and a few other volunteers took two trucks and fifteen sets of house keys and left for the wildfire area. Wiest says she felt safe. They checked in at the fire hall. The fire officials knew she was permitted to rescue animals and they knew where she would be with her team. Wippert had a walkie talkie and as they went from house to house, emergency responders were driving up and down telling people to leave. Some people were refusing to leave their animals and those holdouts were threatened with fines if they stayed.

It was a desperate situation. For every animal she had permission to pick up and room to take, there were many more animals who were roaming. Wiest was disheartened at not being able to take them all. She thought the street dogs, whom she fondly terms “rez dogs” had the resources to flee and she did not have the resources to gather them up. But they did rescue a dog trapped and howling in an open dumpster. The dog may have gotten stuck looking for food, but perhaps someone put her in the dumpster.

The animal rescue crew had all their animals for this trip when they got the word to go immediately. Wiest admits driving out along a road that was on fire was “a little scary.”
They were able to go back in much later that night and once again the next day. They ultimately rescued eighty animals left behind, including two rats, a vole, a rabbit, and the dog in the dumpster, now named Dumpsy.

The fire did not reach the town and, as of this writing, the evacuation order for most, but not all, of Heart Butte is lifted. No homes were destroyed and all the street dogs are safe. Most people are back in their homes, but the emergency animal shelter will remain active until at least the weekend, as some people are still under the mandatory evacuation order.
But the sad reminder of Katrina still lingers. If there has to be another evacuation, people will not be allowed to take animals on the evacuation busses. Had the fire reached the town, people and animals would have perished due to these restrictions.

Here is an online fund raiser to help with the expense of the animal evacuation and to help the animals on the reservation. Every cent donated to the “Lewis & Clark Humane Society GoFundMewill go to helping reservation animals.” Kim Wippert is running a pet retention program, Pets for Life, to help people on the reservation with limited means keep their animals. She is now implementing a pet food bank and extra donations will help get that started.

Gina Wiest has great respect for the “rez dogs.” One evacuated Malmute named Ghost is a veritable Houdini. Each morning, no matter their efforts to secure him, he meets the volunteers opening up at the door to the animal evacuation building. Ghost spends the day hanging out with staff and helping himself to treats in closed containers. After all, if you can get out, you can get in! But even a Houdini dog like Ghost would have a hard time locked in a house with a wildfire approaching.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pet friendly motels for evacuees

Sometimes a disaster, such as the current wildfires, allows people time to evacuate and reserve at a motel. Finding accommodations can be a problem if you have animals.
Here is a quick guide to where your whole family is welcome.

Be aware that motels with a “no animal” restriction may suspend that during a local emergency. Fees at pet friendly motels may also be suspended if you ask.
Whenever you intend to travel with an animal, even when you know animals are welcome at a motel, you must tell the reservation clerk in advance. (Service dogs should be allowed at any motel.)
  • La Quinta. During an emergency, this is the chain that will fill up first because they are widely known for accepting animals without charging extra. Call 1-800-753-3757 and let the Reservation Sales Agent or front desk Sales Representative know that you are traveling with a pet.
  • Motel 6 allows animals with a $10.00 charge per day, capped at $50. Call 1-800-899-9841.
  • Best Western allows animals with some restrictions. Fees vary, and there may be no fee, but are capped at $20 per day and $100 per week. Again, any of this could change to accommodate evacuees and negotiation may be possible. Call 1-800-780-7234.
  • Super 8 will probably accept your dog or cat, but may charge a fee. It depends on the individual motel policy. Call 1-800-454-3213.
  • Choice Hotels include the well known motels: Comfort chain, Quality, Clarion and several others. Their website says many of their locations will allow animals. However, the fees and deposits may be prohibitive. You will just need to inquire at the individual motel. Reserve at 877-424-6423 for any of the motels in this chain.
Of course there are many independent motels that also accept people with animals. There are even motels that accommodate horses! The key is to book early before the pet friendly inexpensive motels are completely booked.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Chicago in crisis: Where will dog flu spread?

Bark in the Park Chicago attracts thousands of dogs every May. But, it will not take place this year. Bark in the Park is cancelled because the canine influenza epidemic shows no sign of abating.

With at least five dogs dead and over 1,000 dogs diagnosed with the H3N8 flu, Chicago’s dog businesses are reeling. At the very worst time, three weeks of Spring Break and the holidays, many boarding kennels had to shut down. Some are doing a deep cleaning before re-opening and some will require proof of vaccination. It takes at least three weeks for the vaccination to be effective as it requires a booster two weeks after the initial subcutaneous shot. (Now another strain of the flu has been detected, but per Cornell and the University of Illinois, they both share the same hemagluttanin and protein, so there should be cross protection and the same vaccination protocol is to be followed.)

Some dog training establishments in municipal Chicago have suspended their classes, waiting for dogs to be fully vaccinated, per Stacey Hawk of Hawk City K-9. She speaks for many when she says, "It's hitting all of us hard, financially and emotionally, for all of the dogs we know going through this."

Right now the flu is primarily affecting Chicago, but there are signs it could spread and when it does, veterinarians and pet owners may not be prepared. Symptoms are fever, cough, nasal discharge and lack of energy. Per Hawk, “What people don't realize is how contagious this is, and because it's airborne, dogs don't have to be in the proximity of other dogs to get this. It can last on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours and on soft surfaces (clothes, shoes) 24 hours. Healthy, young dogs who are not social, who don't do group activities, and who don't go to dog parks or daycare have gotten this. Dogs have caught the flu in their building's elevator."

Cases of the flu have now been reported in CA, MI, WI, IN and MO. Vets in the Chicago suburbs are reporting an uptick in cases. Vets in South Bend are calling their clients to suggest vaccination, even though no cases have been reported there. A dog in Madison, WI recently visited Chicago and now has the flu. So many dog owners in Madison have asked for the vaccine, that it is in short supply. This is not a vaccine which is ordinarily stocked. This writer called her vet in San Antonio and was told the vaccine would have to be ordered if requested.

Dog owners in Chicago are being asked to avoid dog parks. (See sign at the top of this article.) Some pet stores are not permitting dogs. Dog owners are no longer congregating and letting their dogs go nose to nose, as this could transmit the flu and not all infected dogs show symptoms. With dogs traveling, like the spread of Heartworm after Katrina, it is only a matter of time before other areas experience outbreaks. So, in answer to the question, “Where will the dog flu spread?” The answer seems to be, “Everywhere.”