Monday, October 31, 2011

A little eye candy for a treat

In the course of building and maintaining the homeless pet sites, it quickly became clear that all petfinder coordinators were not created equal.    Listings run the full gamut from fantastic pics with funny and appealing bios to bare bone bits where the pictures are expected to be worth a thousand words.
Are things improving?  You bet!  
I noticed on the new and easier to navigate site for the society that all the branches now are part of the site and have lovely pages for listing their adoptables!   Each one has nice pics and an engaging little bio.   
Does it matter if these echo the pics and bios from the petfinder listings?  Of course not!    Someone who stumbles into the society site might not ever venture into petfinder, eh?   Savvy rescues such as ARC and ECGSR have long understood the value of covering all their bases, eh?
But I am, once again, wandering afield!  The point I am making in my meandering way is that online exposure for the animals plays a key part in boosting adoptions.
In that spirit, thanks to the extra effort made by one of my favourite petfinder coordinators, I have a little eye candy to offer as a Halloween treat!
Have a safe night and have fun!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A little rant about black cats and bigotry

He purrs like a Mack truck and is so full of love that he is willing to snuggle with anyone ... on four paws or two!    He is the comforting warmth at night snuggled up to a sore shoulder.   He is gentle and affectionate and living proof that love should always be color blind!
Black cats really do get a bad rap!   They can 'sit on the shelf' as adopters pass them over for their tabbie and tortie and marmalade cousins.  
How did the 'evil black cat' legends begin?    In the old Celtic and Norse tribes, white cats were thought by some to holy.   Did the antithesis automatically arise ... that if white were good, then black must be bad?
Is it that in our culture black is perceived as a color of sorrow and mourning?    In the Chinese culture, white is the traditional colour of mourning and sadness.
Many of the legends were born during the Woman's Holocaust ... when mob hysteria was used to subjugate women and reduce their social significance.    The subject of how The Burning Times promoted the power of the Catholic Church by fear mongering is a touchy topic that has been swept under our cultural rug until recently. 
Anyone buying into the bit about black cats and witchcraft is simply supporting the same misguided, misogynist inspired bigotry that has allowed the KKK to flourish around North America, eh?
The truth is that for every 'bad' legend' .. there is a 'good' one to balance it out.  In medieval times, fishermans' wives believed that keeping a black cat in the house would guarantee that their husbands would return safe from the sea.   In Latvia, black cats are welcomed by farmers for the good luck they bring.  
In other words, superstition is as superstition does.    It is just a shame that so many folks miss out on such extraordinary cats, eh?   Kitty Bear was a once in a lifetime cat who lived to an exceptional age   She purred like a Mack truck at the sound of my voice and followed me as faithfully as a puppy.  
Kitty Bear was all that ... and living proof every day of her life that black is a beautiful color for a cat.
What time is it?   It is always time to remember that superstition is simply bigotry's evil twin! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Better late than never.....

I am a middle aged grandmother, not a schoolgirl hoping for a snow day, so I truly hope that tonight brings showers instead of the promised flurries!   I have never been a fan of winter driving and Rascal has a date at the 'beauty parlour' / aka MacBeth's tomorrow.  
If I have learned one thing in fifty seven years, it is that there is no point in worrying about the weather!    It is much more useful to make sure one is ready, eh? 
So this afternoon, I will make sure the snow blower is within easy reach and ... equally important .... that there is gas in the jug.   I'll rummage around and get out the scoop and the shovels.  
Isn't it a bit early to bother with all this?  Not at all!   Anyone who was here in Nova Scotia in 2004 will recall that we had such a wild storm the first week of November that the military was called out for disaster response feeding and shelter in the valley!
Being prepared is never a waste of time!    Kind of like listing adoptable pets online, eh?
I am happy to report that The Cape Breton SPCA has a few of its adoptables listed on Petfinder again ... which of course means in turn that they can be listed on the homeless pet site.
While there still is no specific info as to whether any of these thirteen dogs are altered, there ARE lots of lovely pictures and chatty details to try to impart a sense of each one.   There is even a crystal clear trumpeting of the fact that the adoption fee has been waived for Betsy, who is senior.
It is early days to tell if these listings will be kept current.    At least now adopters have the opportunity to meet these beautiful boys and girls!
What time is it?   It is always time to pull out all the stops when promoting homeless pets!  At the end of the day, it is the only way we will ever get to No Kill Nova Scotia!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Great Halloween Fundraiser!!!

I hope that I never outgrow my love of chocolate!    Yes .... I am one of 'those' ones who doesn't dare buy the Halloween treats too early!    Even the deepest discount price will not be helpful if the treats are eaten before the toddlers show up!
Holidays always make a wonderful excuse for a good fundraiser!   The students at NSCC in Shelburne county have 'seized the day' and have come up with a wonderful fundraising idea for PET Projects!  Thurs, Oct 27th and Fri, Oct 28th, they will be hosting a Haunted House at the shelter on Sandy Point Road! (see poster below for details)
What time is it?   It is always time to applaud the groups that have engaged their communities so well and have such strong support from all quarters!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The best hope for the holidays

I love the holiday season!  What's not to love?   Good food and good cheer build enough bonhomie to really help drive the cold winter away!  This year, I have an added treat to look forward to as my daughter and her family will actually be home for the holidays!
It will be wonderful to see them!   With all you can eat long distance plans, we are able to chat everyday, but there is still no substitute for real face time!   It is really just frosting on the cake that I will get to meet my granddoggy as well!
My granddoggy was actually part of the IAM's Home for the Holiday's 2010 adoption drive!  How did my daughter find out?   Did the shelter she adopted from let her know she was helping make history?  Was the logo on their website?    Did she get one of the lovely adoption certificates for participants?
Sadly, no.   Indeed, odds are that if I wasn't such a proponent of the program,  they would never, ever have realized they were taking part in such a wonderful thing!
Really, it seems a shame to sign up for such a sweet deal and not take advantage of everything that is offered!    How did the participants do last year here in Nova Scotia?
Hmmm.    SHAID talked about their Home for the Holidays adoption incentive for their long term residents but never actually mentioned the program per se.  On Dec 13th, Metro put a news release on their front door mentioning their participation in a program that started in Oct.  
How are they doing this year?    So far the only sign of anything is (no surprise) from Atlantic Small Dog Rescue.   They had a lovely article on their front door that included the Home for the Holidays logo, their adoption goal and a status update on their adoptions so far!    And ... as an adopter on their email list, I was one of many who received an email with the delightful news that ASDR has now adopted EIGHT dogs this month!
Last week my daughter started going back to weight watchers.   Both she and her husband are such excellent cooks, eh?   She has always found it to be the most effective program for her. 
Why?  Because she actually follows the program of course.  As she says, if all one had to do to lose weight was go to the meetings, it would be standing room only every week!
The Home for the Holiday's program is no different.   Simply signing up for the program isn't going to boost adoptions!   How on earth can potential adopters possibly connect the heart warming commercials on TV with rescues and shelters unless somebody lets them know?
(The topic of how a certain branch still isn't using the free Petfinder service to list the adoptables in it's crowded shelter is an interesting subject that has, and will again, keep being discussed here until the practice actually changes ... sigh )
What time is it?   It is always time to remember that participating in (free) pet adoption programs is ALWAYS going to be more effective if one actually lets the world know!  At the end of the day, using all the free tools provided is  really is the best Hope for the Holidays!

Monday, October 24, 2011

In praise of a proactive solution

When I was a young girl, I was charmed by the appealing pictures of my Grandmother's Scottie.   While my mother was short on specifics, she quickly nipped that in the bud by letting me know that adorable did not necessarily mean suitable for small children!
How could that be?  Wasn't Jock in Lady and the Tramp the kindest and wisest of them all?   How could anything that small pose any kind of real risk?
So I did what I have always done when presented with a situation I didn't like... I went on a fact finding mission!   Fifty years ago, that meant going to the local library and hitting the adult section for books about dog breeds!
Lo and behold, my mother was right!   While Scotties inspire incredible devotion from their people, even affectionadoes were quick to admit they are not always a good fit for unschooled small fingers.
When we came back from Germany and could finally get a dog, my parents sensibly opted for a labrador retriever.  She made such a wonderful family pet that in my own turn, when we were ready, my daughter and I picked our own lab puppy from a good breeder.
He led a full and complete life with us and we loved him dearly!   When my daughter was little, his big goofy, gentle, happy go lucky self was the perfect fit for us.  
My daughter was in college when he went over the bridge .... and in time when I was ready, McG came here from a good breeder.  Once his feet were on the ground here, it was very easy to understand why Scotties are seldom recommended for children!    But in my books, he was absolutely perfect and I loved him dearly every day of his life!
The point I am making in my meandering way is that not every dog is suited to every family snapshot in time.   In the animal loving community, we are quick to get uppity with folks who surrender the appealing puppies upon realizing how utterly unsuitable they are to their everyday lives!
Yet really, how is anyone to really know?  Really great pet owners are usually only 'in the market' for a puppy every fifteen to twenty years.  That isn't going to provide a lot of practice in picking the best breed, eh?
Even worse, the process of picking out a family pet is such a sentimental journey.   Folks fall in love with the cute face or the adorable breed in the latest movie.  Once love comes to town, logic often goes out the window!
Lucky for us here in NS, that one of our loveliest dog trainers is now offering a sweet new service.   For a very modest fee, prospective pet owners can consult with Sylvia Jay  for assistance!    
If I was going to start a diet, I would have a little chat with my Dr to make sure it would be suitable for my funny heart ( which like me, marches to its own beat :).    If I wanted to purchase a rifle so that I could resume competitive shooting, I would have to take at least two courses before being able to do so!
What a wonderful idea to offer professional help for such an important family decision!    Help that includes a puppy info package and entree into Sylvia's clients’ exclusive on-line group that guarantees lifetime (your dog’s) support!
What time is it?   It is always time to salute proactive solutions to the homeless pet problem.  After all, every pet owner who gets it right the first time becomes part of the solution instead of adding to the problem, eh?

Friday, October 21, 2011

More on The Mighty Quinn !

Wow!!!  What a lot of rain we had yesterday!   When Miss Ruby and Henry first came here, it was pretty darned hard to persuade them to put their paws outside the door in a deluge like that!   Being older and wiser, it took Rascal exactly two minutes to understand there was no point in being a 'fair weather friend' ...  that in this house wet dogs get towel dried and chilly dogs have the comfort of a cozy fire!
Clearly Quinn is every bit as quick.   To see him standing there in that lovely raincoat, the casual observer could never imagine that in Quinn's sad old life, he spent so many cold and lonely days outside on the end of a rope :(
Seeing Quinn so well socialized with all his foster Mom's dogs and 'visitors' really puts paid to the old myth that old dogs cannot be taught new tricks!   Look at how lovely and gentle he is with even the littlest of them!
Now that did not happen overnight.   This was the very first Thanksgiving that Quinn actually had blessings to count!  It marked the five month anniversary of his wonderful new life as The Mighty Quinn!
Five months of a shared journey as his wonderful foster Mom has gradually introduced him to all the delights of domestic bliss.   Five months of discovering that human hands could offer a gentle loving touch.  Five months of easing into such uncharted waters as stairs and sofas.
Since Quinn has come under the loving umbrella of Atlantic Small Dog Rescue, he has had Reiki, T-Touch, Homeopathy, Veterinary care and Herbal care! After such a hard life, not all of his fur will completely grow back,  but these treatments have done wonders for his general well being.
It has been a busy week for Quinn.   On Sunday he spent some more time with Sylvia Jay!   ( The timely topic of Sylvia's sweet new service to help kind hearts pick the puppy or pet best suited to their particular reality is a really neat one that will definitely get a post of it's own soon! )
Quinn still has some difficult health problems, primarily related to his skin and his bowels.   So Wednesday, his wonderful foster Mom took him into Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives in Dartmouth for the whole bodied approach of Chinese medicine.
What an adventure!   Everyone at the clinic was impressed by how bright and well behaved Quinn was!    He is curious about everyone and everything!   So what was the result?    As well as a new round of shampoos and soaps, his foster Mom went home with Chinese herbs and supplements to help his blood and spleen ... along with a request to have him x-rayed at the Bridgetown Animal Hospital, which has provided such wonderful support!  (As a sidebar note to that, I am happy to report that there was nothing noteworthy on yesterday's x-ray :)
Quinn rounded out his trip to the big city with a trip to Three Dog Bakery, where they gave him a delicious treat!   On his way home, he shared the back seat with a new ASDR foster, a beautiful little chihuahua named Lilah Rose! 
Quinn's foster Mom told me that if it takes a village to raise a child, it really has taken a collective community to raise Quinn!
What time is it?  It is always, always time to acknowledge the important role that the entire animal loving community plays.   From emailing politicians to stepping up with support whenever and wherever the need arises .... it is this community of kind hearts that will really change the world for the animals!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In search of a happier ending

from Wed's CBC news website
Sydney SPCA told to clean up to limit dog disease
CBC News Posted: Oct 19, 2011 1:41 PM AT Last Updated: Oct 19, 2011 3:34 PM

The Cape Breton SPCA is trying to combat an often-fatal disease in dogs.
The provincial SPCA has told the Sydney animal shelter to tighten up its procedures for cleaning to help manage a potentially fatal disease in dogs
The order follows an audit at the Cape Breton SPCA last week.
The organization said it's trying to limit a contagious and often fatal gastro-intestinal disease called parvovirus.
There are about 40 dogs in separate wire cages in one large room at the SPCA.
Kristin Williams, executive director of the Nova Scotia SPCA, said that's the kind of environment where the parvovirus can quickly take hold.
Parvo affects dogs' intestinal tracts and the virus can live on floors or in cages for months. The disease affects mainly older dogs and puppies and can be transferred through feces and saliva.
Common symptoms in dogs are severe diarrhea, fever, vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite and dehydration.
Treatment of the disease can cost thousands of dollars, depending on health of animal before contracting the disease, age of animal and vaccination among other factors.
"Vaccination is key," said Sandra Flemming, the director of provincial animal care for the Nova Scotia SPCA.
'It's heartbreaking'
"It's heartbreaking because sometimes we've put thousands of dollars into an animal and we haven't been able to save it," Flemming said Wednesday.
The provincial SPCA said parvo seems more common in Cape Breton than elsewhere in Nova Scotia.
"It's a particular issue in Cape Breton, we do actually intake a number of dogs that are at risk for having parvo, so it's something we need to be extra vigilant about, in a shelter environment," said Williams.
The SPCA recommends new steps for cleaning and managing the disease to avoid any outbreaks at the shelter.
A dog diagnosed with parvo must be quarantined for at least 14 to 21 days, said Flemming.
Local manager Patsy Rose said she used to see a lot more cases, but now she said only a handful of dogs at the shelter contract the virus each year.
However, she said she welcomes efforts to improve cleaning and monitoring.
"We're checking every animal now. If an animal looks like it's sick, we'll parvo test it," Rose told CBC News.
"We have parvo tests here to make sure that they don't have parvo, because we don't want animals going out to be adopted that have parvo."
Williams did say the Sydney staff is doing a remarkable job, given the number of dogs and cats that arrive at the shelter each year.
The shelter took in more than 2,700 last year alone — more than any other shelter in the province.
Hmmmm.   Just a couple of days ago, I decided to ask the Cape Breton SPCA where they were listing their adoptables, as it there were none to be found on Petfinder, Adopt a Pet, Pet Tango or even the shelter website.   Not to be mean, but in my opinion, Facebook is not an acceptable alternative. 
Why do I say that?   For the very simple reason that for every Facebook friend I had, like the proverbial mice, there are at least a dozen more that lead full and complete lives without ever signing up for facebook :)   Social networking saves a lot of lives, but is still an exclusive club whose charms escape the majority of middle aged Nova Scotians
After all, around here, social networking is something the boys do around the open hood of a truck, eh?
Forgive me ... once again ... for wandering afield.    Did I get a reply to my email?  You bet!  Somehow I suspect that someone finally clued in to the fact that if they answered my emails and/ or returned my messages that I would dial direct with my questions instead of going over their head :)
The short version is that, once again, their Petfinder volunteer has left and there is a new person who will soon have pics up because "we know that its important that they are there for potential adopters"
Now in the bad old days, when Unhappy Tails were the rule rather than the exception,  the branch was often reluctant to list dogs on Petfinder.  It was probably a bit awkward when the listings weren't updated and adopters would call about dogs that had not lived to tell the tail, eh?
These days, the branch is supposed to be No Kill, so there should be none of the previous difficulties with listing adoptables.
Sadly, parvo is not a new issue for the branch.   When I first started doing the site, rescue groups unwilling to take dogs from the Cape Breton SPCA for that very reason were the rule rather than the exception.
As recently as a couple of years ago, the first transfer of dogs organized by the old Pet Transfer facebook group was marred when they were discovered to have parvo when they got to Metro.
As recently as a couple of years ago, the Cape Breton SPCA had received detailed instruction on proper cleaning protocols which was supposed to have put paid to the parvo problem.
And of course, as recently as a couple of years ago, the shelter was still whining about how hard it was on staff not to be able to stuff animals in the gas chamber and leave the room while they died.  (Brought to you by the same brave soul who is confident that, unlike like a licensed veterinarian, she can tell by just looking if an animal has a disease with a 10- 14 day incubation period.)
To be perfectly fair, the Cape Breton SPCA does face a unique set of challenges.   It has become dependent on the Animal Control contract from CBRM.  A contract, I might add that is due for renewal at the end of this fiscal season .. in realspeak at the end of March 2012!  
In the bad old days, they used to take all the cats that were brought to the shelter.   Feral or stray, owner surrenders or owner requested Unhappy Tails ... even dead cats from the side of the road.
Two years ago, at the behest of provincial, they stopped doing that and some folks in CBRM still think the branch should be a Cat Disposal Service.    Once again, in the spirit of fair play, it must be noted that nowhere in the AC contract is there any provision for cats, eh?
Nonetheless, in some quarters, the branch is perceived as "not doing its job properly" now that it is no longer open admission / open season on the cats.  ( The subject of how the gas chamber that is rumoured to still be somewhere out in the woods behind the shelter should be destroyed while the branch still has the AC Contract is a separate issue one can only hope the audit picked up on . After all, at the end of the day it really doesn't matter who is using it if is still serviceable enough to be used by others not handcuffed by a new No Kill policy, eh?)
Yet there really hasn't been a lot of ground level education or media blitzes to explain why the branch has changed.   Nor has there been enough water under the bridge for all the well founded urban legends there to dissipate.
Has having the AC contract done the shelter irreparable harm?  Surveys of animal sheltering costs and save rates done by the No Kill Advocacy Center highlighted a distinct disadvantage to non profits partnering with government animal services:
Private SPCAs and humane societies have been subsidizing animal control for so long that it has become the unfair and unreasonable expectation of municipalities that these private non-profits should continue to do so. Assuming that the agencies will retain these contracts despite compensation levels that fail to cover the actual costs of running animal control, and regardless of whether they are No Kill or killing shelters, governments are, in effect, having shelters use private donations to subsidize a government mandate. As a result, these shelters are using money raised for adoptions, medical care, and other lifesaving work to pay the cost of sheltering and killing stray and seized animals under their animal control obligations. Donor funding may also be used to enforce often arcane and inhumane animal laws  (e.g., breed bans, cat leash laws, feeding bans, pet limit laws) which are inconsistent with lifesaving.
What happened when the Metro Shelter unexpectedly lost their long running contract for Animal Sheltering Services for HRM?  It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to the society!   The process of contending with their changed financial reality necessitated some of the most creative sheltering solutions that we have ever seen in this province.
Is the situation in Cape Breton different?  If the dog room at the shelter is so woefully inadequate, is that not proof of the pudding that the shelter has been subsidizing the region's AC costs?
The society's strategic shift to No Kill did not cause the problem .... it simply shone a spotlight on a situation created by the contract.   In other words, things kept ticking over merrily as long as the shelter could kill for space.  As soon as that changed, everything else changed too!
Residents were no longer always able to drop off unwanted pets.   Animal Control officers stopped picking up feral cats.   Shelter staff soon started getting negative feedback. 
And of course, the resources and the shelter protocols were still the same.  Coupled with the same level of customer service and AC obligations, it is scarce wonder the audit underscored the need for change.
While I am certainly not privy to the audit results,  I am afforded a bit of a birds eye view from both my work with the sites and my own research.  From that perspective, I should like to offer up the following observations:
  • while it is wonderful that some dogs are being transferred from Cape Breton to the Provincial Shelter, that does not minimize the need to advertise all the shelter adoptables on Petfinder.   E Harmony should be so lucky to inspire the devotion potential pet owners have for their new best friends.... or the distance they are willing to travel in pursuit of love!
  • a picture may be worth a thousand words, but Petfinder listings will be more effective if potential adopters are provided with the information they need to make a decision.   No one is going to travel to Sydney without knowing if a dog is altered, vaccinated, house trained, good with kids or other pets, etc.
  • No matter what happens with the AC contract in March, the municipality should have a petfinder featured pet widget on the front door to both advertise the pets and reinstate the Branch's actual mandate
  • Branch board monthly meetings should be open to the public.   Sustainable change is only going to come from the grassroots level and that involves engaging the public with a new spirit of transparency.
  • A term employee from Metro, funded by provincial, should be positioned at the branch to support and teach the proper protocols until such time as said protocols are SOP
  • and last but not least, now is the time for provincial to engage the municipality in dialogue to have protection for impounded pets embedded in the dog bylaw, such as has been done in Windsor.
What time is it?   It is always time to remember that cost cutting measures for our municipalites should never, ever come at the expense of non profit groups.
Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending   Maria Robinson

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mmmmm.... more Spay-ghetti!!!!

If there is one thing that all the kind hearts who work animal rescue DO agree on, it is that the only meaningful way to address the cat overpopulation has to include Low Cost Spay Neuter.
So why haven't we seen any Low Cost / High Volume Spay Neuter Clinics in NS?   It certainly hasn't been for want of trying.   Sadly, the society's lovely and modestly priced proposal fell on deaf ears in the city in January 2010.  Since then, they have been presenting it to every politician they can corner, with no noted success so far :(
(The deliberate refusal by most municipalities to acknowledge that caring for community cats is directly correlated to the health and well being of its communities is a separate subject that has, and will again, be deserving of separate blog posts, eh?)
HRM was unwilling to pony up for a start up fee that is barely ONE PERCENT of the $20,000,000 they are willing to spend on their proposed new stadium.  And that stadium estimate is based is based on the very optimistic presumption that other levels of government will step with their own share.  Even worse, it does not allow for the type of cost overruns that seem to permeate every major project in this province.
Does that mean there is no need for a new stadium?  To be perfectly honest, I'm not that up on sports to really know.   But .... as a taxpayer, I am not required to attend or support each and every government project.  It is just a fact of life that taxpayers who do not skate/ play hockey, attend professional sports games, have school age children, ride the bus, etc will still find their tax dollars being spent on such projects.  It is part and parcel of living in a democracy, eh?
Is that a bad thing?  Only if our politicians consider our own particular concerns to be too irrelevant for the public purse to fund.
As we used to say in the sixties .... democracy works best when we remember that we are being bribed with our own tax dollars.   In other words, the only way to engage politicians at any level in support of solutions is with strong voter feedback.  
But I am wandering afield, as I often do in my meandering way!   One woman decided not to wait for the politicians to step up, and started her own little Spay Day project ... one I might add that is turning into a rollicking success.   
Does that let the politicians off the hook?  Of course not!   By the most conservative guesstimates, the cat population in this province has escalated well past the quarter of a million point.   And it will keep on multiplying until municipalities are willing to attach one percent of their enthusiasm for stadiums and convention centers to the issue !
If you are in the HRM area, and looking for a way to help ... why not stop by World Wide furniture on Kempt Road, the Carnegy Animal Hospital in Clayton Par or the Atlantic Cat Hospital on Quinpool Road and pick up a ticket for the Spay-ghetti dinner on Saturday?   Tickets are $10 each and I have been told there will be a vegetarian option this time!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dusting off our orange finery .....

What a beautiful, balmy morning in the woods!   Mornings like this seem made for hiking with the dogs ... with no shortage of scents where the wild things were and occasional glimpses of wild things where they are!
It would be impossible to live out here ... to be part of this community... and not be aware that hunting season is just around the corner.   For someone like myself, who is lucky enough to have access to acres of private land, it doesn't really represent any real hardship.
While we need to bundle up in bright orange before we head out, at least we can still go!   Over the years, I can count on one hand the number of wayward hunters we have met  .... but that is still enough to make the orange worthwhile, eh?
Hunting season starts next Friday, the twenty-eighth of October and continues until Saturday, the third of December. 
What does that mean in realspeak for those who don't hunt?  Why of course that this week is the time to shop for the doggie hunting vests that will keep your best friends safe.  While there is never any shortage of orange finery for humans, around here at least, there is a more limited supply for the dogs. 
Does it matter if you don't let your dog off leash?   Personally my tolerance for risk is never that high when it comes to my dogs.  Humans can trip, leashes can be dropped and a myriad of other unpredictable bits can happen in the woods!    For the very small amount that a simple orange safety vest for a dog costs, it would not be worth the risk!
After all, by law, every human heading into the woods during hunting season is obligated to wear orange anyway, eh?    
Cost of an orange vest for a dog?   Much less than a trip to the movies.   Cost for an orange hat for a human?   Much less than a mid priced bottle of wine.  Being able to go the woods everyday during hunting season?   Priceless!
What time is it?   It is always time to remember that it is impossible to put a price on protecting the pets that we love!

Monday, October 17, 2011

In praise of a Very Good Fit

I love being able to put on a fire when we come back from the woods on such a wild, wet day!   Seeing as there is nothing more soothing for my arthritis, it seems sensible to assume that holds true for the four footed members of my family circle too!
This week, I am turning fifty seven.    Does that make me more empathetic for all the little bits that come along with middle age?  You bet! 
At twenty seven, I likely would not have seen the need to put on a fire.   At thirty seven, I was still out earning the Queen's shilling and so was unavailable for pee breaks / walks / company for at least eight hours of the working days.  At forty seven, I was running the kind of busy department where I was often eating/ breathing / sleeping my job eight days a week.
Now, at almost fifty seven, I have found out first hand the truth of the old adage about retirees wondering when they ever had time to work!   
This morning when I was in the woods, I was thinking about story I want to do about a lovely pair of small senior sweeties that are still waiting for their ship to come in ... when I had an Ah Ha moment, as I often do in the woods!
Adopting senior pets is not simply an act of compassion ... it is a particularly good fit for the Freedom Fifty Five crowd! 
Why do old dogs actually learn new tricks faster and more easily than their younger counterparts?   Experience!   It is the same sort of thing that makes grandparents more confident with their grandkids, eh?
Now of course, I am not the first to realize that this is a match made in heaven!   Senior to senior adoption programs have been very successful wherever and whenever they have been implemented.   In my opinion, there really is no downside:
  • it has been my experience from my birds eye view of maintaining the homeless pet sites that the loveliest mature pets can 'wait on the shelf' for far too long ... which of course also ties up a rescue slot for others in need :(
  • folks who are ready for the companionship of a pet after losing a life long companion can often find the transition from living with a senior pet to a puppy or kitten quite a jolt to their systems ... and their lives
  • empty nesters are busy people .... and senior pets are ready to share all that right away!
  • at the risk of sounding crass, middle aged people are often more financially stable and until veterinarians start running free clinics that has to be considered for the well being of any pet.   (any empty nester will tell you that simply not having to grocery shop for teenagers is akin to winning the lottery, eh? )
  • and at the risk of being a bit earthy, in a world where the elephant in the room is usually fitted out with something from Poise, it is easier for senior pets to learn, or keep, good housetraining habits when living with someone at liberty to let them out and walk them more often!
  • and last, but definitely not least, is the obvious bit that the companionship of a pet has been proven to be very beneficial to one's physical and mental health.   Any government department devoted to senior welfare would be remiss to overlook such a simple and sensible way to improve the quality of life for seniors, eh?   The political party that ever wakes up to THAT will tap into a bigger goldmine than the legalizing pot promises!
So how are we doing here in Nova Scotia?    While there is no formal senior to senior adoption program, the climate is almost ripe for the idea.   
Back in the sad old days, before the society started on their New Path, Unhappy Tails for any pet over five were almost automatic.  Happily these days, most branches offer reduced fees for senior pets and in some instances even waive the adoption fee completely.  And while it cannot accommodate everyone, the Metro Shelter does have their award winning palliative care foster program for senior pets.
Outside of the society, it varies from rescue to rescue.    Senior kittizens at SHAID for instance, are often featured in adoption programs if they have been waiting for a while.    Atlantic Small Dog Rescue offers a lower adoption fee for their mature adoptables.   
The program that really caught my eye when I was rummaging around online is The Old Friends Program which is run by JCCARE ( Japanese Chin Care and Rescue Effort )
The program is pretty darned simple.  They have a crystal clear set of criteria that adopters must meet, such as still being physically active enough to walk their pet.   There is a special page on their website featuring all the eligible pets.   There is no confusion about the "Old Friends" adoption fees. 
What a wonderful way match mature pets with kindred spirits!   Even better, it is offered up with such clarity that interested adopters are encouraged to think about mature pet adoption!
Best of all of course is that beyond that, in a world where limited rescue resources are the rule, it reduces the risk of tying up rescue slots ... which in and of itself can be a lifesaver.
What time is it?   It is always the time and it is always the season for a really good idea! 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On following the whole recipe ....

I love being able to put on a cozy fire when it is cool and damp!  What's not to love?   It is cozy and cheerful .... cheaper than most 'conventional' heat .... and to be perfectly honest there is nothing more comforting for my arthritis!
It is also great exercise!   By the time I put a piece of wood in the stove, it has been in my hand at least four or five times ... and that is with going the 'lazy' road of getting it in cut and split!
Wood heat is like so many other things in life.  While many folks like the concept, it is the practical bits that turn them off.  It is not as easy as turning a thermostat ... it IS a lot more housework ... and it involves a LOT of physical work.  
Rather like No Kill, eh?   Nobody wants to sound heartless and say that they 'want' to kill homeless pets.   So instead they muddy the waters a bit by claiming that No Kill simply isn't realistic.  That there are not enough homes.  That perhaps someday it will work ... but that change takes time.  That it might work elsewhere, but not here in Nova Scotia!
Chief among the objections is the claim that No Kill is not cost effective.  That shelters and municipalities simply do not have the resources to save every homeless pet.
Why would that be ... when No Kill has been around long enough to have a successful track record?
To begin with, there is still a great deal of confusion between the concept of No Kill and shelters and groups that are not killing.    To be perfectly honest, there are very few groups and shelters in this province that are actually killing any adoptable pets in their charge.
Does that mean they are No Kill?   Not unless they are following the whole No Kill Recipe!    Without aggressive adoption programs, they are simply creating sanctuary for a chosen few and leaving all the others out in the cold.
Aggressive adoption programs are a critical component of the No Kill Equation.   Straight, sweet and simple, there is no way around that one.   After all, each and every pet that is adopted in a timely fashion frees up that rescue slot for another.    
It is also important to remember that sustained sheltering costs for individual animals are not more economical because behind every adopted pet is a kind heart who can potentially become a supporter of the shelter or group.  In realspeak, this means more adoptions equals more volunteers and donors.
Even better, each and every adopted pet becomes an ambassador for pet adoption.   Every friend, family member, coworker, neighbour and now social networking pals will find out first hand how wonderful the pet adoption experience can be.
Best of all, offsite adoption programs reach out to pet lovers in the best possible way ... with the adorable adoptables themselves!   Why did pet stores cling to selling puppies for so long?  Because it drew families into the store, of course! 
Providing people with the opportunity to meet adoptable animals is the very best 'advertising' that shelters and groups can engage in.   It is even more effective than reducing the adoption fees!
Does that mean that it is a waste of time to use either Petfinder, Adopt a Pet or Rescue websites to list adoptable animals?   Of course not!   In this virtual world,  there is an invisible customer base doing their research online before heading out to shop.  The shelter or rescue will ONLY see these people if they have listed the pet of their dreams!
When people interested in bringing home a new family pet peruse the Petfinder listings, most 'adoption rookies' will assume that the only available pets are the ones listed.   Even worse, when some groups fail to list any online, adopters either assume that there are none available or that there might be something 'wrong' with the ones that are :(
Worst of all of course is the simple fact that the really great homes will only be 'in the market' for a pet every fifteen or twenty years.   They take wonderful care of their pets and keep them for life, eh?  
What a shame to miss out on such golden opportunities by overlooking the fact that most folks are not familiar with how the animal welfare world works!
What time is it?    It is always time to remember that it is poor logic to complain that Nova Scotia is not ready for No Kill if the full recipe is not being followed!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

There are some things that should NOT need to be repeated every year .....

I'm going to start putting the wood away this afternoon.   We had such a soggy start to summer this year that I was later getting the wood in the yard. On the uptick, later means there will be less risk of heat exhaustion putting it away!
The cooler weather also makes for better starwatching.  Last night, the need to rummage around for a parka was easily outweighed by the loveliness overhead.  It was just frosting on the cake to be serenaded by the owls and the coyotes while we were out!
Of course it is easier for us to appreciate such beauty when we can come back in to a cozy house, complete with cookies and comfy dog beds!   It just breaks my heart to hear the unhappy little rabbit hounds down the road howling ... who have the very bad luck to be owned by someone who believes that lovable little dogs with thin coats actually prefer to live outside :(
Why don't I call the cruelty line about that?   For the simple reason that I have enough sense to save my breath to cool my porridge.   As long as those poor little dogs are fed, watered and provided with some sort of shelter, existing legislation ...along with the lack of any meaningful regulations ... means that the underfunded inspectors at the society do not engage in battles that they cannot win.
There is a big push on this month from the society for support for their cruelty investigations.    Now that is not a bad thing, per se.    Not when the society has been tagged as the official body to investigate animal cruelty ... without sufficient resources to tackle the job effectively.
Will funding fix everything?   Of course not.   Funding by itself is meaningless without better regulations and legislation.   
Remember our 'new' Animal Protection Act?  Bill 186 that was passed in the house in 2008.   It did not come into law until it was proclaimed by the Governor General in 2010.   Have regulations regarding minimum housing standards for companion animals been written yet?   Sadly no.  This is 2011.  When can we expect to see them?   2012?   Or, like the old song, will they be here tomorrow .... when tomorrow never comes?
What would better regulations mean?   Why of course that it would be less of a challenge for society inspectors to successfully prosecute a cruelty case.    Lets be perfectly honest here, it is not realistic to expect the public to get excited about animal cruelty without the drama and excitement of large fines.
When convicted animal abusers can walk away with barely a slap on the wrist .... when disgraced former board presidents are at liberty to take up where they left off by working with a private group .... when complaints about chained dogs result in the complainant being censured ... it doesn't create a climate of concern for cruelty investigations, eh?
To be fair, the society does have its hands full contending with resistance to change at the branch level.    After decades of out of sight, out of mind, it is a big shock to the collective branch systems to discover that there are rules and regulations along the road to No Kill Nova Scotia.
Nor do the society bear complete responsibility for the regulations.  They can advise, but it is the Department of Agriculture that actually sets the agenda for writing the regulations.
When you think about it, it is really like something out of a Monty Python movie.   The government makes the society responsible for animal cruelty without providing the tools (the funding and/ or the regulations ) to do the job.
What time is it?  It is always time to remember that the only time our politicians will actually 'step up' is when there is sufficient voter feedback to motivate them to do so. 
Action is the antidote to despair. Joan Baez

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tools will not work if they are not used .....

What a perfect morning in the woods!   Cool enough at long last to banish the mosquitoes but still balmy enough not to need to bundle up.    The leaves are late turning this year, so the woods still have that lovely, shady old growth feel where one half expects to find Jethro Tull piping for the folk from Middle Earth.
Best of all of course is that right now it is such a comfort to be able to go to the woods with the three good dogs I am still blessed to have.  We are gradually settling into a new way of living .. one that does not include Andy and Kitty Bear ... and it is important for me to remember that it is a shared loss among us all.
I would like to thank everyone who has emailed their sympathies.   I am sometimes surprised by how many folks read my little scribblings ... and it IS a comfort to hear from those who understand that there is no such thing as "just a dog" or "just a cat".
Now that the Thanksgiving feasting is done (at least here in Canada :), most of us are starting to think about the next lovely holiday season.  And that of course has me thinking once again about the Home for the Holidays adoption program. 
The ads will start up soon ... and already there are seven Nova Scotia rescues and shelters signed up.  
How did it work last year?   Hmmm.   While it was wonderful that so many groups did sign up, I really don't think that everyone took the best advantage of the free tools that were offered.    I did not hear one PSA or see one in the paper anywhere :(
Nor did I see one single website with a program logo so that potential adopters who had seen the television ads could make any kind of personal connection with the rescue or shelter!
The reason I have a workshop full of tools is so that I can tackle any job that needs doing, rather than have to hire someone, eh?    This afternoon, I am sprucing up my baby barn with a few new battens and a fresh coat of paint.  I won't have to go shopping .... everything I need is already in the workshop. 
To say that the Home for the Holidays program is not effective without using all the tools is akin to a certain shelter claiming that Petfinder doesn't work without actually using it properly.  

What time is it?   It is always time to remember that free pet adoption tools only work when they are used!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Urgent .... new home needed ASAP for two sweet senior kittizens

I have my own theory of relativity .... that we don't need to be able to move at the speed of light to understand that time really is relative.   Ten minutes ago we were all so unwilling to trust anyone over thirty!   Now I'm freewheeling through my fifties faster than Miss Ruby can fly across the yard in hot pursuit of the evil sqwirrels!
When Kitty Bear was twelve, she was still policing her yard and sending any interloper of any size packing in seconds flat.    She was still dragging home dead rabbits from the swamp and luring coyotes out onto thin ice just for the sport of it.
By our best estimate, Kitty Bear was at least sixteen before she finally consented to become an indoor only cat.   So from my perspective, that is when I started to think of her as senior.  Not eight.  Not ten.  And certainly not even twelve!
It has been months since twelve year old Patches and Midnight lost their lifetime human companion to illness.  They were well cared for all their lives and were rescued from an Untimely Unhappy Tail by TAPA
Unfortunately, they are now in desperate need of a new place place to hang their hat.   Not everyone is able to foster forever and TAPA now needs either a new foster home or someone with enough heart to adopt this wonderful pair of cats!
Anyone adopting a twelve year old cat can reasonably look forward to years of love and loyalty, eh?    Even better when one has the opportunity to adopt a pair of good pals who will help each other settle in !   Best of all, they will be good company for each other when the humans in the house are engaged in the busy game of life!
What time is it?  It is time for everyone to put their thinking caps on to help TAPA find a safe berth for these sweet senior kittizens.
"Embrace the love without the sleepless nights ... adopt a senior pet!"

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Something to be thankful for .....

It was such a cold damp night that if we had woken up to snow, I would not have been one bit surprised!   Does that mean I was smart enough to wear one of my many pairs of mittens when we went to the woods?
Of course not!   Which made it all the more lovely to put on a cozy fire when we came back home.   Even better, there is a fresh batch of Oatmeal Chicken Crisps on the counter, so the house smells like roasted chicken.  
Best of all there is a fresh batch of dog food brewing on the stove!   I originally started making the food for Andy as he only had two teeth ... and every soft senior food out there seemed to do double duty for weight control.  The last thing my littlest hobo needed was weight control, eh?
In the interest of domestic harmony, everyone got the new food and it didn't take me long to realize that they were all reaping the benefit of it!     The big dogs have wonderful checkups and my vet swears that the food is responsible for their health and well being.
Its really rather frosting on the cake that the home made food and treats give me more peace of mind.     After all, if it is healthier for me not to eat a whole lot of processed food, why would it be any different for my pets?
If you are interested in exploring this further for yourself, this weekend there is a stellar opportunity to do so!    After months of planning and work, the First Annual Nova Scotia Integrative Pet Health Expo is finally here! 
And that is something we can all be thankful for!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow ...

I am a middleaged grandmother, not an unkissed girl dreaming of her first dance.  What does that mean in realspeak?  Why of course that I am no stranger to Love in all of its wonderful guises. 
From family ties to fast friends and beyond ... we are defined by the company we keep.   I have been a daughter and a wife.  It is a great joy to be a mother and a grandmother.   And in the game of life, I consider myself to be a faithful friend and a fierce foe.
I am a middle aged grandmother and sadly that also means I am well acquainted with Love's wicked stepsister Grief.  Even when Love does last forever, time will not stand still.
This has been a very sad weekend here.   On Friday, in spite of all our best efforts, Andy had to go over the bridge.   He and my eldercat, Kitty Bear were fast friends ... and yesterday, she followed after her pal.
I am a middle aged grandmother, so I understand that Love's evil twin Grief will not be able to make my days drag and wake me up weeping forever.   Does that mean that love will fade away?  Of course not!   There is a little sign on my wall that .... for me at least ... sums it up very well
Parting and forgetting?
What faithful heart
can do this?
Our great thoughts,
our great affections,
the truths of our lives
never leave us
William Makepeace Thackeray