Monday, January 31, 2011

Getting off the (drawing) board

I love playing board games on chilly winter afternoons.  What's not to love?  Its sociable.  Its fun.  Best of all its a great way to encourage children and teens to focus and plan.
From simpler ones where the score is settled by the roll of the dice through to more complex combinations of strategy and chance, there really is something out there for all ages and tastes.
Mind you, my mother would never play Scrabble with me.  She claimed it wasn't Meant to be a tactical game and that I really wasn't very nice to block all the best opportunities :)
Nice or not, I far prefer board games to the ones often played in real life.   Take the whole issues of trying to get Low Cost / High Volume Spay Neuter clinics off the drawing board and out of the gate.
Responsible pet owners tend to be rather neutral about it.  Gee whiz .. if they can get their pets spayed and neutered, whats the big problem?  What kind of idiot wouldn't understand that?  Sheesh!
Veterinarians ... even the ones who do provide some support for animal rescue with reduced rates ... tend to view these clinics as competition that is cutting into  their bread and butter. 
( the subject of how seldom those eligible for low cost spay neuter would actually be able to pay full price for the surgeries at their clinics is an interesting topic to discuss on another day ... as are the numerous articles available online discussing ways that vets can discredit the low cost clinics to their clientele :(  Not to be mean ... until pet owners stop asking clinics to kill perfectly healthy pets, one would think that all clinics would be the first ones on board, eh?
Nor will the NSVMA set a standard spay neuter fee as it is not part of their mandate to be able to do any more than recommend fee schedules.  It is up to each individual clinic to decide what the market will bear, eh?
Politicians of course are always sensitive to the fact that their tenure is subject to regular renewal. In these days of fiscal restraint, councillors will continue to campaign that user pay clinics are more appropriate than those funded with tax dollars.
Now, I am a middle aged grandmother, not a budget expert, but I must confess that I am curious about which "user" they feel should pay?  
Should it be the rescues doing clean up crew duty?   Would it be the kind hearts who had no idea that spay neuter surgery ... along with the other bits most clinics insist on ... could cost them a months salary?  
Should it be the kind individuals who take in stray cats and vet them before finding them a more reliable home?   Should it be the hardworking little TNR groups who are trying to manage the feral cat populations that were born from stray cats? 
Should some of the cost come back to the culprits .. the ones who originally abandoned the animals?   You bet!   But here in the real world, when we have yet to see a successful prosecution for pet abandonment with a meaningful penalty, expecting results from that is about as realistic as preparing for retirement with Playsphere.
When it comes to creating safer and better communities, we are Never user pay.  Parents of school age children are Never expected to carry the entire cost of educating their children ... even if last weeks Bruce MacKinnon cartoon painted a very accurate, if amusing, picture of the current funding spat.
Politicians have no problem asking people who don't skate / go to the casino / take the bus / camp in national or provincial parks / etc to help fund these endeavors.  People with healthier lifestyles do not get taxed less for health care either.
How can we get politicians to do what we want them to do?  In a democracy, it is really very simple.  We ask them.  Politicians always remember the little nugget we so often overlook .. we "hired" them and we can "fire" them.
Its as much a part and parcel of living in a democracy as being 'bribed' with our own tax dollars.
Be polite.   Be brief enough to be clear.  Write about one subject at a time.  Ask for a response.  If you get a 'canned' response, write another letter and/ or email asking for specifics.  Include your name, address and phone number.  And of course, be sure to thank any politician who actually steps up to the plate!
What time is it?   Its always time to remember that the way ahead for the animals ... as with anything else ... will only ever be paved with strong voter feedback.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.    Margaret Mead

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Catching a Glimpse of Butterflies

I love bumping into familiar faces when I am out and about.   Since I have retired, I have of course still been seeing my friends, but its always nice to play a quick game of catch up with anyone I used to work with.    We worked long shifts and sometimes we ate more meals together than we did with our families.
Its always great to hear that things are going well.   Its fun to hear how the bits that were on the drawing board when I left worked out. 
One of the great things about No Kill is that it HAS been around long enough so that we KNOW how the bits on the drawing board work out.   We don't have to wonder, for instance, whether off site adoptions will really work.
More aggressive adoption strategies have been so successful that they are a key part of the No Kill Equation!  Straight, sweet and simple.
That is why I am thrilled to report that CAPS is going to give off site adoptions a shot.  A while back, they contacted the Greenwood Mall to enquire about this and its no surprise to discover that they were the very first group to ask.  
By Saturday we should all be shovelled out from tonight's weather.  So if you live in the Greenwood / Kingston area, stop by the mall.   CAPS will have a table there from 11 am until three pm.  
(and before the keyboards catch on fire ... noone from this part of the Valley needs directions to the Greenwood Mall, it is the ONLY one around, eh? )
Its great to see CAPS doing this.  They take wonderful care of their kitties, but their beautiful cat cottages are a bit off the beaten path.   On Saturday, the busiest day of the week at the Mall, people will be able to meet their adorable adoptables, fill out adoption applications and even find out how they can help.
People who might never ever get up to the Ben Phinney Road.   People who are out and about with their families.  People who might otherwise just answer an ad or go up the road to the pet store in New Minas.
Its just frosting on the cake that there isn't a pet store in the mall anymore, so these will be the only pets for people to admire.
What time is it?  Its always time to applaud when rescues are willing to try something new (to them)!
If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.   Author Unknown

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In Praise of Breed Rescue

One of the best bits about being retired is Not having to head out when we have our worst winter weather.   It is SO much easier to appreciate the season when one can stay home and savour the simple pleasures, eh?
But .. while we were all hunkered down to ride out this cold snap, a dear friend of mine was making a quick road trip to Montreal.  Why on earth would anyone do that in weather like this?
Love.  Straight, sweet and simple.   There is a beautiful, four year old Wolfhound who has captured her heart and is now going to have her first chance at the good life that all dogs should have.
How did a Wolfie make her way across the country to find a wonderful new home in Nova Scotia?  Breed Rescue is how!
Lets face it .... Breed Rescues are often like little hidden treasures.   No rescue group really has any advertising budget, so many kind hearts go their entire lives without knowing about Breed Rescues.
Why would that be?  Wouldn't everyone interested in a specific breed do their homework?  
Hmmm.   Regional and National Breed Associations usually list contacts for Breed Rescue on their web pages.   But ... not everyone who wants a purebred is planning on showing their pup.   In many cases, people simply want the breed they are familiar with so that they know what to expect.    They love the breed because its unique qualities are a good fit for their lives and are not willing to invest the time and yes money to bring home a National Best in Breed.
And before the Keyboards catch on fire, I have no bones to pick with reputable breeders.   The few dedicated folks willing to take the time and energy and expense to maintain breed standards are not the ones peddling their puppies in pet stores and on Kijiji, eh?    They are Not the ones indiscriminately breeding without genetic screening or attention to bloodlines.
We are lucky here in Nova Scotia to have so many hardworking Local Breed Rescue Groups.     Even better, from my little birds eye view, I have seen that our NS Rescue groups generally will unite in the search for a specific breed for a good preapproved home.
Am I excited for my friend about her new dog?  You Bet!  Am I thrilled for Maggie because I KNOW what a wonderful 180 her life path has just taken?  Of course!
But ... the 'catanddogmother' in me is almost as excited about the idea that a Very Widely Read Blog will be helping to get the word out that it is possible to adopt a purebred.    
Who knows what wonderful things will come of that?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Trying to set a brush fire .....

I love having wood heat!  On a day like this its a very secure feeling to know that even if we should lose our power that we will all be warm and toasty. 
Not everyone cares for wood heat.  It is not as convenient as turning up the thermostat.   It IS a lot more housework.  
And it does take a couple of hours before the wood stove properly warms up the house.   
Now I know that there are many folks out there who are comfortable with leaving a fire on when they are out or home asleep .. but I am not that gal.   Is it because I have a good energy efficient wood stove that continues to radiate heat for hours after the fire burns down to coals?  
Nope!  It is simply that, even with good smoke and carbon detectors, I am responsible for my six cats and three dogs.  It is because I have actually lived through a fire and I know that if the worst happens, there isn't a lot of time.
But I am ... as always ... wandering afield here.   Last night when we went to bed it was 75 degrees in the kitchen.   It was so comfy and warm with a bed full of cats and dogs that we slept in until nine this morning, so it was no surprise to see that it was 58 degrees in the kitchen this morning.
If the mercury can drop twenty degrees in a well insulated home, just imagine how it is for any unfortunate dog outside trying to survive this bitter day, even in an insulated dog house.
Last night on Facebook, my friends were all full of angst about people who leave their dogs chained out 24/7.   Is that a bad thing?  Of course not!
But it would be a MUCH better thing if they could hold onto some of that angst long enough to let their MLA know how important Anti Tethering Legislation is to them as tax paying voters.
Unfortunately, venting on facebook is like preaching to the choir.   After all, odds are pretty good that nobody on their friend lists actually chain out their dogs. 
Last year when the dog froze to death in Cape Breton, my friend Joan started a petition to try to show there was strong public support for anti tethering legislation.  How many people signed it?  Four.  Not four thousand.  Not four hundred.  Not four dozen.  Four!
There is a facebook group Break the Chain in NS.  How many people joined?   57!
Position statements and press releases are dandy.  But at the end of the day, only Anti Tethering Legislation will provide meaningful protection for dogs.
What time is it?  Its time to 'share' these sentiments with our MLAs if we really want to 'bring the dogs in'!
It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds. - Samuel Adams

Friday, January 21, 2011

In Search of Sanity

I have always loved going to the library.  What's not to love?  Good things to read?  New authors to 'meet'?  Different interests and ideas to explore?  Lovely Zen atmosphere?
Its just frosting on the cake that these delights are all free!   To be perfectly honest, that's also the thing I like best about the Net ... the ability to rummage around ... both to find what I'm looking for and to explore completely new things.  ( before the keyboards catch on fire, yes I do pay Eastlink a fee for the privilege .. but once again, if a person needed free access they could just go to their library :)
One of my favourite online places to explore is the Best Friends Resource library.  Its a treasure trove that runs the gamut from No Kill to pet care resources and every possible thing in between.
Now they have come up with something new called "action kits".  What an incredible idea!   Hands down, "Creating an Adoption Program to help Independent Rescuers .... An Action Kit for Organizations who want to help individuals find loving forever homes for pets they have rescued", has got to be one of the most brilliant ideas I have ever seen.
Why?  Take a look at the status quo in this province, which I suspect is pretty much the same everywhere.
A kind heart takes in a stray but cannot keep this pet.   If they live in a popular dumping area they likely already HAVE a houseful, but they still want to help.   What can they do?  Who takes in stray cats?
Call AC?   If they do take cats, which is rare, that is a double edged sword as there are seldom any happy tails resulting from that.   Call the SPCA?   While there are better outcomes (at least now) for the ones in their care, there is seldom any room at the inn and often a surrender fee is involved.   ( The subject of why it is appropriate to penalize the kind heart who DID NOT abandon the pet is a separate topic for a post of its own someday, eh? )
Call the local rescue?   Once again .. they'd all love to help but odds are there is a waiting list.  Nor do all rescues take in strays either.
That is why this action kit is such a great idea.  Its based on a pilot program that was done in Las Vegas as part of the Best Friend's First Home Forever Home Campaign.
How does it work?   Does the rescue start doing intake?  Not at all.  The whole concept is so beautifully simple ... the kit provides the tools and practical advice to help organizations set up adoption events to connect independent rescuers with potential adopters.
The action kit compiles a wealth of resources that can be used for this project ... everything from information on what to do if one finds a stray, to sample forms, flyers, adoption interview forms, adoption contracts, volunteer descriptions and forms .... you name it, with 43 pages it's in there.
The kit is chock full of practical bits that have obviously been based on lessons learned with their pilot project events.  What a great resource!  Its just frosting on the cake that its free!
Wouldn't a project like this be a marvelous way for the society to improve its public relations?   It would be much better for public relations to offer something practical instead of simply refusing the strays, eh?
What time is it?  It is always time to understand that anything that is good for the animals is also going to be pretty darned good for PR.
Insanity:  Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.   Albert Einstein  

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What a Great Gift Idea!

I honestly DO try not to play favourites, but its really hard not to like the good people at ARC.   Nor is it just for the joy that Miss Ruby and Andy have brought to my life.
Nope .. the reason I have always liked them is that they were No Kill before it was "fashionable".  Even better .. they have NEVER defined "healthy and treatable" by the dollar sign.  Best of all, they have never "cherry picked" with their intake or taken shortcuts with their standards in order to have super statistics.
Young or old, well behaved or not, cute little purebred or nondescript big mutt .... whether they are ready to go to a new home right now or need a truckload of medical/ behavioral work ... it doesn't matter.
Its just frosting on the cake that they find such fun ways to fundraise.  They were the first ones around here to do the online auction thing, to sell jewelry and now they have another Very Cool Fundraiser going on.
Have you ever wanted a professional painting of your pet?  Local artist Tracey Jessiman is generously offering to do a painting of your pet for the incredibly modest price of $100.00 ... and all proceeds are going to ARC.   ( click here to see some of her work )
To take advantage of this great opportunity, please click here to contact Tracy
What time is it?  Its always a great thing when one can find something that would make such an incredible keepsake to cherish ... or give as a very special gift. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What would you do if you lived in a shoe

I'm a middle aged grandmother not a teenager trying to impress, so on chilly mornings like this I'm more about comfort than style.   Admittedly, on ANY given day of the year the What Not to Wear people would have conniptions if they looked my closet ... it being long on men's jeans and short on the high heels and support bras they are so smitten with.
Winters pleasures tend to be like that.  From cozy fires to comfort food, the comfy less elegant things soften the chill and help drive the cold winter away.
A volunteer working with PET Projects has embraced this idea by joining in The Snuggles Project.   What a lovely idea!    The project asks for people who love to crochet, knit, quilt or sew to make a "Snuggle", which is a security blanket for shelter animals that provides comfort to the animals awaiting new homes. When they are adopted the Snuggle blanket goes with them."
If you sew, quilt, knit or crochet and are interested in joining the fun, please contact PET Projects .. they did mention a face book group but I couldn't seem to find it, but I expect if you emailed them they would happily forward it on to Amy.
 One of the neatest things that PET Projects has been doing for the last couple of years is their work on behalf of chained and penned dogs....from offering to help train and / or rehome chained dogs to their Roof over Rover program.  
Now they have made an awesome flyer to try to help get the word out ( ps ... as with any jpg on this blog, you can save it, share it, or even just click on it for a larger version that's easier to see/ read )

What time is it?  It is time to stop dodging the subject  ... chaining and penning dogs 24 / 7 is animal cruelty.  Straight sweet and simple.
PS ... if you want to get a real sense of the situation, go out and sit in an unheated garage or baby barn all by yourself for an hour.  With a glass of frozen water.  And a nice dish of cold food.  And then imagine what your life would be like if you could never, ever come back in the house again.

Monday, January 17, 2011

On trying to make things less difficult

I love freeze dried sheets!   Its well worth the work of keeping a path shovelled to the laundry stoop for the sheer pleasure of such a scent!   Its just frosting on the cake that it is also good for the environment ( and the power bill ) to hang laundry out every month of the year.
Years ago, I worked with a cook who had come to Canada as a War Bride.  She told me that the toughest part of getting used to Canadian winters was that it could be blue sky and sunshine and still be thirty below.  
Learning this lesson the hard way trying to hang laundry out in January in slippers and a house dress may have made an amusing tale, but there is nothing funny about the reality of the dogs who have to endure this weather without any respite.
On a day like this, I wouldn't dream of going out without my mittens / boots/ hat/ coat.  On a day like this, its all about more walks to make up for the shorter time we can stay out each time.
On days like this, we can savour the cold weather pleasures.  The cozy fire.  The comfort food.  And yes ... the freeze dried sheets that just polish off the days nicely.
On days like this, its a completely different kettle of fish for any dog banished to the backyard on the end of a chain.    Whether its a ramshackle affair like the lad on the sidebar has, or a posh well insulated spot, the dog sentenced to live such a lonely solitary life will have trouble keeping warm.  (If you want to get a real grasp of that, go sit outside in your car with the window cracked open for an hour or two on a day like this, eh? )
If the water dish isn't replenished every hour or so, odds are the dog is facing the additional challenge of trying to stay warm while dehydrated.   Is the dog getting a high quality diet geared to the extra nutritional needs for cold weather survival?  Probably not.
At any time of year, the loneliness and the deprivation of chained dogs is widely recognized as animal abuse.   Unfortunately, for legal purposes, it is not enough to view a practice as cruel. 
It is not enough to make position statements that are at best suggestions ( the subject of how specifying leash lengths and housing standards can endorse the illusion of acceptability is a separate subject that needs a post of its own on another day )
There is only one solution and that is decent anti-tethering legislation.  Why is this so widely opposed?
  • fear mongering that confuses the yard leash at the back step to let the dog be safely outside of the house for reasonable periods of time with the dogs that are chained outside 24 / 7
  • our natural tendancy as human beings to resist having more legislation to "limit" us
  • lack of meaningful and effective public education about the dangers to the community in general and children in specific posed by the unfortunate, unsocialized and untrained dogs who are sentenced to life on the end of a chain,
  • the fact that dogs are still legally considered to be property ( the subject of how that enables a mindset that permits practices like puppy mills is a separate subject that has been - and will again be - discussed on separate posts in this blog ) and last but definitely not least,
  • the reluctance of politicians to enact any just and good law that runs the risk of offending any of their constituents. 
On a day like this, its time to think about that, eh?  As a society, we can have all this amazing technology so that we can live in a global village.  
Yet what REALLY shapes our society is our laws.   They make the difference between simply being able to suggest and actually being able to stop any particular activity.
If the RCMP could only wave a finger at drinking and driving, would that have any effect on public safety?  Of course not!  It is the laws that are on the books that allow them act and create a safer community.
Does that mean that no one drinks and drives anymore?  Of course not!   But it does provide the police with the tools that they need to act ... and that in turn is the most effective public education possible.
What time is it?  On any day ... it is way past time for pursuit of anti - tethering legislation.  Without it, the society will never have the tools it needs to stop any of the village idiots who will never visit their site or read their lovely position papers. 
Without it, we are simply going to keep reading about dogs freezing to death and thinking "damn.. someone should do something about that"!
What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?  George Eliot

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In praise of leaving a trail

from the Shelbourne Coast Guard
Teens save abandoned kitten over holidays
Published on January 3rd, 2011  By Amy Woolvett

Molly, an abandoned kitten, was rescued off the 103 Highway last week. Thousands of cats are cruelly abandoned throughout the county. Contributed photo
It was both luck and a kind heart that saved a kitten only weeks old from a cruel death of starvation, after being abandoned near Clyde River. 
Heaven Symonds was traveling to Yarmouth with her sister Tory Symonds and some friends to see a movie when they spotted the little kitten off of the 103 Hwy.
“We stopped and pulled over and was able to pick her up said Heaven Symonds. “I could feel every bone in her body…she was so thin.”
The kittens face was scuffed up with marks, telling a story of the survival the animal went through.
Realizing right away that the kitten was abandoned Symonds brought her into the car and cuddled the animal throughout the movie.
She contacted Pet Projects, a local group dedicated to rescuing and helping needy animals in the area.
They helped by donating money for the kitten to receive medical tests and an examination to make sure that it was well.
“I wasn’t going to keep her,” said Symonds explaining that she had just gotten a puppy for Christmas. “But I couldn’t just leave her and now I’ve gotten attached.”
She said that the kitten, she named Molly, must have been abandoned for at least a week.
“You can’t get that skinny in a couple of days,” she explained.
The same day a friend found a dead kitten in the vicinity and with the snowstorm that hit the night she found Molly, Symonds is certain the kitten would have met the same fate.
“I don’t think it is right at all (to abandon animals),” she said. Just take them to Pet Projects for free if you can’t take care of them.
Pet Projects runs a free, volunteer run program where they will help you to locate unwanted pets, post photos and descriptions of kittens on their website, and on Kijiji, make posters or find a temporary home until a permanent home is found.
They also have a program to help have your animal spayed or neutered and will assist through tough times to temporarily offer pet food.
Each year, hundreds of people in the Shelburne area dump kittens at wharves, down dirt roads or at a public place to rid themselves of unwanted pets. Pet Projects would like this to stop.
“It is wrong and cruel to dump kittens,” said Shelly Hipson a volunteer for Pet Projects. “I’m very proud of Heaven. “Cruelty to animals is a symptom of bigger issues in our community. How are the people who dumped these kittens treating their children, or the seniors in their family. For a person to pick up a helpless young kitten and toss it out of a vehicle without empathy or understanding makes us wonder, who would do such a thing.”
She estimates that there are thousands of unreported and homeless animals in the area.
She added that if a resident sees a cat being abandoned to take down their license plate number and report it to the SPCA at 1-888-703-7722 as an act of cruelty to animals, a criminal offence.
“It takes a team to make the world a better place for animals in need,” said Hipson. “Together we can make a difference.”

Well then.  Still think I'm over to top to natter on and on about abandoned cats?   At the same time this was happening .. another kind heart is working with PET Projects to find a more reliable home for the cat she found by the highway, in a taped up cardboard box.  

With my birds eye view, I try not to play favourites, but it is hard not to have a special affection for some.  Like my favourite feisty terrier, they have no sense of their size and their love for the animals ALWAYS transcends everything else.
I've seen cat rescuers save chained dogs, german shepherd rescue saving little dogs, small dog rescue saving the super sized pooches and everything in between.
What do I like best about PET Projects?   Partnership!   Throughout their site, they stress their willingness to partner with pet owners and rescuers in the area.   From providing short term emergency vet care and providing emergency pet food  ... to helping with spay neuter to helping rehome pets by advertising private adoptions ... to working to make a better life for chained dogs and beyond ... this is a group that is determined to create a better community for the animals and the humans who care for them.
So its no surprise that they have been making flyers to help educate folks in their community.  The one pictured below is aimed at pet abandonment .. and there is another one I'll feature soon about chained dogs.
What time is it?  Its always time to applaud the folks who say "what can we do" instead of saying that "its not our job" 

Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail     Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, January 14, 2011

Clarity is the best way to start cat(ch)ing up

The other day a good friend and kind heart who runs a cat rescue lost her first cat to FeLV.   In the last three years, Laurie has rescued over 600 cats and THIS is the first time she has encountered FeLV. 
Yet it is SO often used as justification for "unhealthy and untreatable"... in the same way that feline respiratory issues are.   Is it because some shelters use the ever so much more affordable yet less reliable tears / saliva tests instead of the more expensive but more reliable blood tests?
The first time in 600 makes it an almost infinitesimal percentage as opposed to the 30 - 35 percent that was found in some society shelters before they stopped killing cats.  ( and before the keyboards catch on fire ... I know that is a huge improvement from a couple of years ago and that when we do see the year end stats, that they should paint a better picture for the last quarter.)
And THAT pales by comparison to the (actually conservative )estimate of 75 percent killed annually in AC shelters south of the border.  Admittedly it would churlish to cast stones here in Nova Scotia without hard data, but it is hard to believe they don't face similar challenges.  In fact .. providing hard data/ statistics would the be best way for all Nova Scotia AC departments and their contractors to prove they are doing better here.
Opponents of No Kill claim that the cats are going to die anyway and insist that the shelters are offering a humane service.   Seriously?  In this day and age people can still try to justify that?
The key to No Kill success is transparency.  Lets face it, we live in a busy world and its hard to get people worked up about theoretical issues.  Not to be mean, but for most people family, personal and work concerns are enough to fill up their plate.
It is simply not sensible to expect public outrage when any issue is expressed in abstract terms.  For instance, there was not enough strong voter feedback about the coyote cull to inspire the NDP bobsled team to act.   One can only hope that the reality of the very graphic article on the front page of today's Herald will paint a clearer picture to those who have been able to turn a blind eye.
If opposition from all the experts, including the NS Hunters and Trappers Assoc couldn't inspire voter feedback, one can only hope that pictures of dead coyotes along with lurid descriptions of full freezers, killing contests and coyote pepperoni will galvanize NS voters.
But .... as always .. I am wandering afield.   Here in NS ... as anywhere else ... nobody is ever going to give a rats a** about the numbers of dead cats without real numbers.   
Which of course is why we need provincial legislation that obligates AC departments ( including their contractors ) across the board to publish their statistics online. 
Isn't passing a law a drastic step?  It would be ... if the information was readily forthcoming.   As of this writing, there is not one single AC department in this province that provides publicly available statistics online.  
Why?  Because of course meaningful and humane solutions might cost money.   The fear that this would cost more than killing cats is very likely the principle reason for secrecy.
One of the best bits about living in a democracy is the right to have a say in things.   Every year we send our troops to try to share this precious gift in other areas of the world.  
One of the best bits about publicly available information is that it allows voters to make informed decisions about issues that concern them.  
There are so many wonderful bits about living in Nova Scotia.  If the NDP bobsled team are looking for a way to rebuild their credibility and  to make Nova Scotia a more attractive place to live, shining a little more light into places in need of sprucing up would be a splendid place to start. 
What time is it?   Its always time to understand that its always easier to cross the stream when there are stepping stones.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On laying an actual cornerstone

More than once on our favourite trail we have surprised a bald eagle feasting on its latest catch.  Bald eagles can live for two or three decades, so I suspect that the nesting pair on the ridge overlooking the river are well accustomed to seeing us by now.
They are beautiful and breathtaking when they are on the wing .. but beneath it all they are predators who bring none of our warm and fuzzy sentiments to the table.    A fish is a rabbit is a cat is a small dog is dinner, eh?  They are such successful hunters that many times when they are perched overhead along the wooded trails we would miss them entirely if it wasn't for Miss Ruby's own keen senses.  
There is no point in moralizing about this or getting ticked at the eagles for preying on small animals ... like any wild thing, an eagle is what it is.  
Humans, on the other hand, can choose whether to be predators or protectors.  Nowhere is that more evident than in the widely varied outcomes for the companion animals born in our society. 
One of the things that wakes me up at three in the morning is the myriad of issues around pet abandonment.   How to discourage it.  How to nip it in the bud.  How to get a law to ....
But wait just a gosh darned minute ... there IS a law!   While there are many laws that we DO desperately need in order to create a safer world for the animals ... at this point in time, in Nova Scotia, it IS illegal to abandon an animal.
I'm a middle aged grandmother, not a lawyer, so I can't say for sure if that can be enforced if the offenders leave the province.  Each province has its own Animal Cruelty Act and I honestly don't know enough about legal jurisdictions, eh?
But, it is rare for a person to be able to rent a dwelling without providing some sort of identification.   If they leave pets behind, would outraged neighbours be willing to talk to society investigators if they were confident their complaints would not fall on deaf ears?
People are not shy about talking about these things ... a couple of days ago I was in our local used building supply place and listening to a Very Unhappy Tail about a 19 year old deaf and blind cat that had been left behind by a neighbour.  ( and yes, before the keyboards catch on fire, I did suggest to the kind heart that took the cat in that he should call the society's cruelty line. )
To be perfectly honest, I can't think of a better way to fundraise for the society's cruelty investigations than by successfully prosecuting a case or two of pet abandonment.
Even better, like the RCMP holiday spot checks, it would definitely give some people pause to think before acting.
Best of all, it would paint a more proactive picture than any position papers and press releases could.
What time is it?  Its always time to understand that the achievable objectives are always the best building blocks.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trying to clean in the dark ...

I love making soup ... especially when there is a winter storm watch on.  If we should get hit with snow, it will make a quick and easy supper after the hard work of cleaning out.   If we wind up losing power, its something that can quickly be warmed up on the wood stove.
Its just frosting on the cake that soup is one of my favourite foods.  Setting aside its value as cold weather comfort food, nutritionally it is almost perfect ... seeing as most of the nutrients normally lost in cooking are still retained in the broth.  
Now I do realize that technically its much simpler to open a can to heat and serve.  It would certainly be simpler ... which of course is why there is almost a full aisle in any big grocery store devoted to canned soup.
Simple is fine when it comes to soup ... when the worst risk in play is a disappointed pallate.  
The other day, I was looking at the Year of the Cat campaign and trying to decide what I thought about the whole thing.  Is it a good idea that someone is actually trying to start us down a better path for the cats?  You bet!
The thing that I DO like about the campaign is that coming out of the gate it acknowledges that there are no neat and simple solutions to something so big as the current cat status quo.
What do I think about the focus on " change attitudes about the intrinsic value of cats in our society. In a nutshell, we need people to start treating cats like dogs!"
Hmmmm.  So which cats are we concerned about?  Is it the owned cats that "aren't getting regular veterinary care in the last 12 months"?   Is it the "25% of owned cats that aren't microchipped?"  Or perhaps it is the "41 per cent either haven’t been vaccinated in the last four years or have never been vaccinated at all"
Hmmmm.  What about the cats that aren't owned?   The community cats?   Mention is made of improving existing TNR programs and introducing TNR to communities ... but there in lies the real crux of the problem. 
Once Fluffy is pushed out the door ... once he or she or the entire fandangle of the whole litter is dropped off .... from that moment on the cats do not actually belong to anyone.
To be perfectly honest ... at that point a microchip isn't going to provide some kind of magical shield.   If , and only if, the cat is VERY lucky and finds its way to a kind heart who will bring Fluffy into the vet, the microchip will be a valuable tool that will help Fluffy find his or her way home.
But none of the coyotes / eagles / foxes / and yes human predators are going to look for a microchip.  
Does that mean that microchipping is pointless?  Of course not!   Its a valuable and life saving tool that can help owned cats to be reunited with their owners.
It is the 'unowned cats' .. the community cats who need the help.  Any meaningful campaign for the cats has to be addressed to municipalities as well as to individual kind hearts.
It is the municipalities after all who make the bylaws.  Bylaws which can either protect feral cat colonies or sentence all 'cats at large' to a one way Unhappy Tail at the nearest veterinarian.   It is the municipalities which can choose whether to support TNR ( and Low Cost / High Volume Spay Neuter Clinics ) in their budgets or not.  
It is the municipalities who muddy the waters when they do not make all their animal control statistics publicly available online.   Is it any wonder that people cannot get 'worked up' about the numbers of homeless cats?  What numbers?  Its easy to sweep things under the rug when there are no specifics ... like the parents of the teenagers who don't actually get caught shoplifting or with positive pregnancy tests.
Estimates are easy to overlook, but actual hard numbers could be the catalyst that would really get the ball rolling.  
What time is it?  It is time to recognize that it is impossible to 'clean up the house' without shining some light in the dark corners where the dirt keeps hiding.  It will be the only way to make any real change for the unowned... but ever so valuable...  community cats.

Missing Young Newfoundland Dog!!!!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

If the adopters won't come to the shelter .....

Some of them have just been listed .... some of them have waiting for quite some time.  Some of them have very well done pictures while others don't even have a picture to post.
There are chatty bios full of the personal details that will help prospective adopters recognize the kindred spirit they are looking for ... there are others where a picture has to be worth a thousand words as there is absolutely no other information to be had.
In some cases, even the basics are absent.  Is the pet housetrained?  Good with kids?  Cats?  Dogs?   Spayed or neutered?  Young adult or young at heart?
Others have bios clearly written by the fosters or volunteers who spend the most time with the pet and offer all sorts of appealing bits to engage the reader.
Do the pets listed below represent all the ones available for adoption in the province?  Not even close.
Why would that be?   Wouldn't rescues WANT people to know about all their lovelies?  Of course they do, but in many cases pets never see the light of Petfinder day when there are good preapproved homes waiting in the wings.  For instance, neither Miss Ruby nor Andy were ever listed on Petfinder because I was one of those darned preapproved adopters.
So the cute little dogs / the purebreds/ the puppies and the well behaved middling to young adults are never seen by the prospective first time adopters who are checking out the available pets.
Is that a problem?  Of course it is!  When potential first time adopters don't find what they are looking for on Petfinder, they often go elsewhere.  Not only do the rescues lose the potential great adopters, but many of these kind hearts wind up supporting the very venues that create such problems for rescue in the first place ... pet stores and the ads on Kijiji that allow puppy millers and backyard breeders "wolves" to dress in sheep's clothing.
Is it a bit of work to do up a Petfinder listing?  You bet!  But with the very cool tools that Petfinder has, not only can adopters share the link with their friends, but proud new pet parents can send free pet adoption announcement e cards that in turn help spread the good word about the rescue.
And of course, when potential first time adopters contact a rescue about a listing is the perfect opportunity to introduce them to the concept of the pre approved adoption.
Even better, once the listing is done, it is only the click of a mouse to covert the "for adoption" to the Happy Tail section.
Best of all, when rescues highlight their Happy Tail listing on the front doors of their sites and Petfinder pages, it lets the "newbies" see for themselves just how many wonderful pets really do come into rescue.
What time is it?  Its always time to make use of any 'free' advertising, hmmm?  To paraphrase the old saying, if the adopters won't come to the shelter,  to make sure that everyone in the shelter comes to the adopter.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sophie's Choice

Webmaster Note - Sat Jan 15th at 2pm
I was just talking to the lovely folks at SHAID and am thrilled to be able to say that Sophie has been adopted!!!!    Have a wonderful life beautiful girl!

My best friend had a rottweiler who (miraculously) lived to be thirteen ... so I'm not just blowing smoke when I say that Rottis are like peaches ... their already lovable selves just get sweeter as they age.  
Admittedly, I fall a little in love with every dog that I list on the homeless pet site ... but every now and then there is one that just tugs a little harder at the heartstrings.
Yesterday, I listed Sophie on the site .... and so today I called SHAID for a bit more information in order to do her blog post on the Senior Pet Blog and get ready to do a listing for her on the senior pet site.
Every second word in the conversation was sweet .... she loves everyone, on four paws and two .... and all the humans and the dogs respond accordingly.   Sophie might not be the speediest dog at the shelter and it sometimes takes her a few minutes to get up out of her kennel ...but that is easily outweighed by her gentle grace and ( yup you got it ) sweet disposition.
There is never any way to predict how many years of love any pet of any age has to offer.  If you want a guarantee ... get an appliance or a truck.  
By our best estimate, Andy was thirteen when he was rescued ( hard to be precise for a fellow with two teeth, eh? ).  That means that he is likely fourteen headed for fifteen now and is still doing fine.  
As a matter of fact ... now that he has the security of a 'steady gig' he has more spring in his step and is steadier on his pins that when he first came here. He is all terrier - all the time - and as dear to me now as any dog that has grown old here.
The point I am making in my usual babbling way is that senior pets have their own endearing charm that easily transcends any physical challenges they might have.   Its just frosting on the cake that they like a good nights sleep every bit as much as you do:)
It wasn't Sophie's choice to be left in the lurch.  It wasn't Sophie's choice to have to struggle to survive in the cold of winter.  Still ... its clear that it IS Sophie's choice not to hold a grudge.
To be perfectly honest, I actually envy the kind heart who will have the joy of the journey of becoming Sophie's Choice.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The World is STILL a Very Dangerous Place

I love crisp cold days like this ... when a little snow and sunshine can surround us with such beauty.   Mind you, its ever so much easier to appreciate all this when we can come back into a comfy warm house.  Where the water is not as frozen as the pond ... where the food is not left to freeze in a clump under the snow ... and where noone is left out on their own to be lonely and cold and so hungry for a human touch.
This time last year, there was a dog in Cape Breton who was quite literally getting to the end of his rope.   Neighbours had complained to the SPCA for a couple years.  Inspectors were sent several times since 2007 but were " unable to do anything because the owner was meeting the minimum standard of care for the animal"
There was no surprise ending to that story ... the dog froze to death on the end of the chain.  As disheartening as it was to have such inconclusive necropsy results that the SPCA did not move forward with prosecution, the situation did underscore the need for anti tethering legislation.
Not for position papers.  Not for press releases .. but for real honest to gawd legislation specific enough to stop the practice.  To be perfectly honest, I'm surprised that this hasn't been pursued more aggressively by the society.
Chained dogs are out there for all the world to see.  When neighbours and kind hearts who are unfamiliar with the legislation ( or lack of it I should say ) complain, they simple assume that the society is unwilling or unable to address such obvious cases of cruelty.
Each and every time this happens, there is a notable negative impact on the society's reputation.   It reinforces the very urban legends that the society has been working so hard to overcome.  Even worse, anytime public confidence is diminished that has a direct impact on the society's ability to fundraise.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, we need Anti Tethering Legislation for the following reasons:
  • Animal Cruelty - It is cruel and inhumane to isolate social creatures. Dogs are allowed to be treated worse than livestock. Their suffering is profound and well documented 
  • Public Safety - All data confirms that unsocialized dogs are a grave danger to the public, especially to children.
  • Public Nuisance - The dogs frequently bark, howl, cry, whine, escape, and menace, creating neighbourhood fear and anger. Noise complaints often results in further cruelty to the dog in the form of punishment, muzzling and poisoning.  
  • Public Expense - Complaints and impoundment and disposal cost money, and these costs continue to rise as more dogs are owned. 
  • Public Health - The areas the dogs are kept in are frequently contaminated with feces and urine and the food is a rodent attractant. 
  • Lawlessness - When neighbours cannot get any action from city hall or the SPCA, they are forced to break the law by removing and rehoming the dog.  A broad spectrum of people have been forced to do this, from off-duty police officers, crown prosecutors, grandmothers, single mothers on welfare, wealthy socialites, ministers, community activists, and untold numbers of ordinary people who would not otherwise dream of committing a felony. They are forced by the lack of action from political leaders and the SPCA to become lawless.
This is particularly sad because the solution is so simple:
  • limiting the number of hours that a dog can be chained and/ or penned utside each day
  • legislation sets a ban from 1000 pm until 700 am 
  • Insisting that someone is physically onsite at the same address as the dog whenever the dog is chained or penned,
  • Clearly limiting the definition of indoors to the principal residence,
  • Establishing a firm weather advisory policy, with minimum and maximum
    outside temperatures, to include storm watches and wind chill,
  • Prohibiting the chaining or penning of any dog within a specific physical radius of a school.  This also reinforces the concept that anti tethering legislation is being introduced to protect the children in the community General consensus sets that at a minimum of 500 feet.   
Why didn't I include minimum housing standards and leash lengths in there?  Because:
  • it invites input from PIJAC members and CKC representatives which could muddy the waters and impede the progress of the bil
  • Minimum housing standards are an issue that is not limited to chained and penned dogs,
  • Setting minimum leash lengths and housing standards has created loopholes elsewhere, such as in Texas, that have completely undermined the rest of the legislation
  • Anti tethering legislation stands its best chance of success when it is presented as a public safety measure, and of course,
  • setting minimum standards of housing for outdoor dogs does not address the issues of socialization and public safety. A chained dog living in an insulated house is still deprived of the interaction he or she needs to be a safe part of the community.

To be perfectly honest, I'm at an absolute loss to understand why this has not been aggressively pursued by the society, because it would:
  • first and foremost, of course be of benefit to the animals,
  • provide society inspectors with the tools they needed to properly protect the animals,
  • improve the success rate of prosecutions,
  • allow the society to take the proactive step of offering a more humane alternative to the smoke screen of public safety provided by BDL,
  • engage the public in a shared journey that would of itself be an education process,
  • effective advocacy in this matter would provide a road-map for future
    legislative change, and
  • last but definitely not least, it would be a win win scenario for the society that would effectively address negative urban sometimes not so much legends.  At the end of the day what is good for the animals is always going to be good for, and reflect well, on the society.

To be perfectly honest, I can't think of a more sensible tack for them to take when they are so desperately trying to fundraise for cruelty investigations.
What time is it?  Like the old poster on my laundry room wall says ... "do something ... lead, follow or get out of the way"
The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing...   Albert Einstein


Update :    Morgan has been found and is back home!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Urgent ... Annie the Bernese is STILL lost!


A facebook Group has been set up to help coordinate efforts and communication to help Annie back home.  

Monday, January 3, 2011

To Drive the Cold Winter Away

One of the best bits about being retired is being able to appreciate the beauty of waking up to a winter wonderland instead of worrying about getting into work on unplowed roads.  
What's NOT to love ... its so soft and peaceful here when it snows ... and of course, when we come back inside there is a cozy fire and a full pantry.
Sadly... all around Nova Scotia... there are stray and feral cats who do NOT have that and who will have difficulty surviving the winter without help from the animal loving community. 
Winter is the worst possible time for these little survivors.  Natural food and water sources become scarcer at the very time that the cats need extra nutrition to survive in the cold.   The foliage that offers some protection from predators won't return until spring. 
In real speak .. many of them simply will not survive without more help.  
In the course of maintaining the community cat blog .. I have been touched by how many kind hearts are helping the kitties ... always on a shoestring and often without a lot of assistance or help.
This morning I loaded the latest plea for homes ... this time for a colony in the Tantallon area.   ( Scroll down to read the story)   
Now anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time will remember the tale of Dora and Oscar.  Dora was a feral kitten and Oscar was a stray cat who showed up when I started feeding Dora in an effort to tame her.  
It was three years ago this month that I first caught little glimpses of Dora ... although it would be March before she would be tame enough to tuck into a carrier and take to the vet.
And it would be September before they came into the safety of the house, where they have stayed ever since.  This holiday .. I was utterly gobsmacked to see Dora saunter out to sprawl on her usual footstool .. while my brother was sitting not two feet away ... and stay there for the whole of his visit :)
The point I am making in my rambling way is that I believe its possible to socialize a colony cat into a household ... and that it is actually a very rewarding journey to take.  ( And before the keyboards catch on fire .. yes I know that feral cats with the safety of a warm predator proof shelter and reliable caregivers can, and do, thrive ... but that is not always the case ... as the story below states )
So ... if you really want to 'drive the cold winter away" .... why not open your home and your heart to one of these lovelies listed below?

I don't currently have room to take in any more cats/kittens - wondering if anyone out there might consider adopting or fostering some colony
kittens/cats? [see attached photos of a few of them].
I would trap them and pay for all of their vetting/food/litter etc. -Just
need a warm, caring, indoor place for them.
I have been working on another large colony in the Tantallon/Hubley area - the location is a campground where winter residents rent cabins - I had spayed and neutered a number of cats at this location over the last year and only one of those I neutered has survived (one of the big tabby males seen in the attached photos- the one with the ear notch).  He seems to have become quite tame - he won't let me touch him, but I can get close enough to take photos. It appears that at least two colonies have merged at this location since I began TNR (there was a colony across the road whose caretaker died, so the campground caretaker believes that colony moved to the campground for food).  I am providing cat food to the campground caretaker regularly.
The little calico and tabby kittens are socialized to humans - I was able to pat the calico quite a bit today and the small tabby wanted me to pat him, but was a little too tentative -got very close to my hand after watching me pat the calico...  The calico is very playful and curious - she played with all of the other colony cats most of the afternoon and came into the cabin frequently to watch me clean.  The little tabby doesn't seem to know how to play - he looks like he'd rather be curled up on a warm human lap - he really appreciates the shelters and straw bedding.
Some of the cats have been living in squalor in an abandoned cabin, where all of the windows had shattered - the cabin is full of debris and shattered glass [see a couple of photos attached].
There is now vapour barrier plastic covering all of the cabin windows and I was able to clean two of the three rooms in the cabin by nightfall and
provide fresh straw and shelters my husband made.  He will be building more shelters, but in the meantime, I'd like to trap some of the tamer cats if I can find adopters/fosters.  There are so many predators in that area (coyotes, foxes, raccoons, hawks etc).
Would anyone be able to help with adoption/fostering?  Some seem quite comfortable with humans whereas others may need some extra human socialization in confined quarters.

for more information, please click here

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.  Without them humanity cannot survive.  The Dalai Lama

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Best Way to Build a Ship

I love cooking ... and even now that I'm retired I understand how lucky I was to be able to spend so much of my career doing something that I really loved.  It more than made up for the initial rough patches of being one of the first women in my trade and all the odd little bits in between.
Its really frosting on the cake that those years of experience come in pretty darned handy when it comes to holiday leftovers .... so I can confidently recycle yesterdays baked ham as tonight's yummy quiche and the leftover cranberry sauce became the rich cranberry coffee cake. 
A friend of mine, who runs a wonderful breed rescue, once told me that in her perfect fantasy world, all adopters would be dog experienced.   I'm a middle aged grandmother, not a professional dog trainer, but I can easily understand her point.
When my brother was down for Christmas, the dogs were so happy to see him that sometimes they 'forgot' themselves and needed a word to remind them not to jump up/ bark at the jogger galloping down the road/ etc.   Even though they love him, he clearly wasn't as confident about telling them what to do .. with predictable results.  Until of course I spoke the appropriate word and they all responded at once.
This holiday season, I have been privy to the perspective of the less experienced adopter as my daughter and her family make their first journey with their own family dog.  Even in the space of a couple of weeks, when we are on the phone, I can hear the difference in her voice when she's speaking to Jessie and am not suprised that she is getting better results.  Clearly, as she's getting the hang of clicker trainer her confidence is growing.
Dog training, after all, is no different than anything else ... the more practiced one becomes .. the better the results because everyone ...on four paws and two, becomes more confident.
I often wonder how many dogs are returned to their rescue slot for issues that would have been nipped in the bud in more experienced and confident hands.  After all ... there is no such thing as 'magically unforseen' issues.   Dogs in the care of experienced staff and volunteers are much more likely to be well behaved than they will be in the hands of a 'rookie'
For instance, not to toot my own horn, but if Miss Ruby had gone to a different home, she might have been bounced right back to rescue the first time she chased my eldercat out the door and went for a merry old run around the yard in hot pursuit!
But this is a house with dog savvy cats .... and after the first two weeks when every second sentence seemed to start with "Ruby Do Not Chase the Cats", it was all peace and tranquility here again.
Had she been returned, she likely would have picked up a "no cat" tag that would have definitely limited her adoption options. 
The point I am making in my rambling way is that the only way to get more dog experienced adopters is by letting the rookies adopt.  To be perfectly honest, they might need more initial support but on the uptick they haven't had the chance to learn any 'bad' habits on their own yet.  ( One of the things I used to love about teaching the basic cooking courses was the fact that while the students were short on experience, they were long on being willing to follow directions and / or much shorter on thinking they already knew better, eh? )
Its a splendid opportunity to educate in the very best way ... by channelling the love that inspired them to adopt into the confidence needed for lifetime committment.
Both as an adopter, and from my little birds eye view maintaining the site, I have come to see that the level of support offered to adopters varies widely.   Some rescues, like ARC, will even bring in a trainer if the adopter will follow up.   Others seem to be so busy that they don't even have time to do follow up to ensure their adoptees all turned out ok.
I'm enough of a dinosaur to remember when RSS didn't stand for live feeds from weather and news sites ... when Reality Shock Syndrom was a term to describe the inability of some new graduates in the work force to settle into the job they had wished for and studied for so long.   With the advent of sensible sneak previews such as job shadowing and work experience programs, this type of panic reaction has been substantially reduced.
So here is today's what if?   What if shelters and rescues actively recruited teenagers to volunteer?   Can you imagine a better way for them to become more confident?  ( Bear in mind that most of them were likely toddlers when their own parents trained the family dog)
Even better ... what if this could be organized as part of a school experience program ... perhaps falling under the Learning for Life program?  What a wonderful way it would be to both educate children and inspire future adopters?
Best of all, it would a great way to reach out to the kids who need a better role model than parents who might still be sentencing dogs to life on the end of a chain or leaving feline birth control to chance?
What time is it?  Its always time to remember that teaching the next generation well is the best way to create better communities."
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea"    Antoine de Saint-Exupery