Monday, April 23, 2012

We have moved!

This blog will stay up ... for now at least ... but it has been moved in its entirety over to Word Press and can now be found at

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Better than winking in the dark ....

Like any Jane Austen fan, I love a happy ending!   In this dreary old world where tragedies play out everyday in the media, I will take my entertainment sunny side up please and thank you!
That is also why I love to see good news wherever and whenever it comes!  Last weekend, Pet Valus around the province hosted a Pet Adoption weekend in support of local rescues.  How did that work out?
While CAPS has not added up the tally for applications, everyone who participated is quite pleased by the interest shown!  Even better, the pawprint donations at the Greenwood store were only surpassed by the big stores in the greater Toronto area!   Best of all of course was that even the adorable adoptables who did not attend will wind up getting more attention as a result.
East Coast German Shepherd Rescue has been over the moon about the flurry of adoptions that will be happening as a direct result of last weekend's event!    Five out this weeks nine Happy Tails have been made possible because the soon to be proud new owners had a chance to meet their new Best Friends in 'furson'!
SHAID's Momma and Babies were a hit at the Bridgewater event and the South Shore supporters were both delighted to learn about TNR and generous in their support for this work!
The Provincial Animal Shelter has been having great success all along with their kitties who have been getting good exposure, not only at the Metro Pet Valu, but at the other satellite adoption centers at Petcetera and Pets Unlimited.   While it is incredibly helpful for them to have this resource coming into kitten season ... the real blessing lays in the opportunity for the beautiful adult cats to 'sell themselves'
In other words ... thanks to the auspices of the pet stores who are now helping  instead of creating situations to be cleaned up by rescues .... more kind hearts in our province have an opportunity to meet the adorable adoptables!
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, there is no downside to this:
  • 'taking it to the streets' allows rescues and shelters to reach out to all the kind hearts who are either unwilling or unable to come to a shelter
  • as any successful business knows, the best way to reach the target market is to make it easy for people to 'shop'
  • interested folks have the reassuring opportunity to meet some of the adoptables before going out on a limb filling out applications
  • seeing adoptables in established pet stores takes pet adoption out of the abstract and remote and brings it down to the achievable objective for first time adopters
  • and of course, last but definitely not least, there is a whole other layer.   Not everyone who attends these events will put in an application right away.   Many people .. quite rightly ... view pet ownership as an important step that should not be rushed into.    Yet everyone of those sensible souls who attends such an event is given 'food for thought' for a later date.
At the end of the day, there is also the 'ripple effect' that comes from each and every successful adoption.   Family, friends, neighbours and coworkers all have the opportunity to see what good value that darned adoption fee really is.  Even better, they have a chance to see just how lovely these 'secondhand' pets really are.   Best of all of course is that boosting adoptions creates more space to save more pets.
What time is it?  It is always time to remember that all great ideas are brilliantly simple!  Off site adoption events provide kind hearts who love animals with the opportunity to meet pets who need homes!
Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.  Steuart Henderson Britt

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The merits of making it count...

I love to see the forsythia flowering in full yellow!   It is one of the more fleeting pleasures in the garden ... but it heralds the start of a beauty parade that will carry on until the hard frosts of October hit.  
Some bits ... like the beautiful Bridal Wreath ... are showstoppers taking center stage for their brief moment in the sun.  Other, like the faithful Stella D'Oro daylilies sweeping along the woods by the pond will soon offer a bright burst of welcome until after Thanksgiving.
Gardeners tend to think in terms of the long haul.  Plans are often made in five and ten year increments that can seem a bit bare in the beginning to the untutored eye.
One of the other best bits about being retired is being able to make long range plans for my garden.   To be able to plant shade trees that I may someday sit under.   To be able to reap the enjoyment of a well establised perennials.
For my money, a well settled garden carries it's own special charms.   Mature gardens take less work ... which of course liberates one to actually spend time enjoying the space :)
Perhaps that is why I have such a special affection for senior pets.  Tomorrow will mark Winnie's two week anniversary here.   How are we doing?
I am happy to report that he is already housetrained ... and has happily settled into our little routine.   Winnie knows where his dinner spot is ... and already understands that the grass is not really greener in the other dinner dishes.
Even better, we all slept through the night from the very first.  Best of all of course is that Winnie has been old enough and wise enough to successfully navigate new relationships with all the family circus.
When I am planning my garden, I can think in terms of decades. I know that well tended perennials can carry on almost forever.  That the trees I bring home in the trunk of my car will in time tower over the house.
It is quite another cup of tea with living breathing sentient beings of any species.   In the game of life, seemingly big strong men can pass on before the ink is dry on their retirement certificate .... while families of dotty little old ladies who have gone to the fairies can hold centenary birthday bashes!
Anyone who has lived in the world for any time knows that time is a trickster that never offers any guarantees.  What does that mean in realspeak?  Why of course that age is really is relative.
As my friend Janice is always saying on her blog, why should senior pets be denied life because we humans limit ourselves with such narrow walls of time?  Truth be told, in such a high stress world ... that joyful ability to be able to live in the 'now' is the very best gift that our pets can share with us.
A pet is not an appliance or a car or a sound system.  Even when one buys a purebred puppy from a good breeder, there are still no guarantees than can transcend any Unforseen Unhappiness.

What time is it?   It is always time to understand that by itself time is meaningless.  The important bit is whether we make it count.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Our pets are depending on us to keep them safe ....

I love this short space of time ... when spring is sprinting out of the gate before the mosquitoes and black flies can catch up!   It is warm enough to wade in the river ... but not balmy enough yet for finding all the unrecycled flotsam and jetsam left in the wake of teenage parties.
Not to be mean, but if they are going to be the first generation to actually fix all the mistakes of the past,  picking up after themselves would be a great place to start!
Even so, I am still so very lucky to have such ready access to all the woodland trails on my best friend's land.  To be perfectly honest, being able to hop in the car every morning and head to the woods with my dogs really is the very best bit about being retired!
I am a middle aged granny with absolutely no desire to live life on the edge!  What does that mean in realspeak?   Why of course that before I open the car door .... before we start our hike .. I make sure that all of the leashes are firmly in hand. 
If that makes me a fuddy, duddy ... too bad!   It only takes galloping down the road once after a dog determined to introduce himself to a 'hood' that stretches for kilometers either way to appreciate the value of that ounce of prevention.
As always .. I am wandering a little afield!   In the very short space of time that it took to loop the old geezers leashes on one hand and have a secure grip on the big dog's long lines with the other,  the car was already heating up!  
Every year, I keep hoping that this is going to be the year that everyone actually gets how dangerous that Hot Weather Hazards can be for pets.
One of the best resources I have ever found on the subject is a great site called My Dog is Cool .  It is chock full of good information on the subject and even has printable flyers and posters that can be used.
What time is it?   It is always time to remember that our pets are depending on us to keep them safe.   It might seem like only a couple of minutes to us, when we run into an air conditioned store for a quick errand ... but while they are waiting, our faithful friends can really suffer .... even this early in spring!

Monday, April 16, 2012

What's missing from this picture?

No one was more surprised than myself when this middle aged grandmother won one of the very first Golden Paw awards a couple of years back!  
Me and my big mouth may have been influencing people, but certainly have not always been 'making friends' with any of the (then) independent branches around the province.
Even odder ... at that time in a fit of pique, I had not even renewed my membership for the next calendar year.  
Oddest of all of course was that back then I was still annoying the provincial board with formal proposals asking them to support such things as TNR and Anti Tethering Legislation.  That I now save my breath to cool my porridge is a testament to what can happen to communication lines when intelligent people with sources all around the province are expected to swallow a pat glib line.
But I am wandering afield ... as I am wont to do in my meandering way!  This morning, when we came back from the woods, I was perusing the list of this years Golden Paw Winners.
No question about it .. Nancy Northcott deserves a lifetime achievement award for her tireless dedication on behalf of both the SPCA and Second Chance Charity.  
Even better, these awards are an excellent opportunity to thank 'media partners' for providing such life saving publicity in mainstream media outlets.
Best of all, one would be hard pressed to find anyone in the animal loving community who does not applaud and appreciate the special and significant role played by Inge Sadler and her rescue Pick of the Litter Society.   The only surprise there was that it was year three of the awards before this was acknowledged!
Yet ... there is something missing from this picture!   Where was the nomination and the award for The Nova Scotia Lost Dog Network?    NSLDN was formed in January of last year.  In the first year they were responsible for reuniting four hundred and seventy dogs with the families who already loved and wanted them.  Since then, they have gained bragging rights for at least another hundred Happy Endings!
What does that mean in realspeak?  Why of course that these numbers represent more than the simple sum of all the 'home safe n sound's!  Each and every one also prevented a myriad of Unhappier Tails after the infamous 72 hour hold was up.  Even better, each and every one kept a rescue slot free for genuinely homeless dogs!
Best of all of course is that this valuable resource is a no cost community service that is completely powered by volunteer Love!
To put this into the proper perspective, as of this writing, the Nova Scotia Lost Dog Network facebook group has five thousand, two hundred and seven members.   Whether one still calls it Metro or the Provincial Animal Shelter, the NS SPCA shelter page has 3022 members.
Does size really matter?   Well .... I have been told that this years AGM was the smallest one ever in terms of attendance.
What time is it?   It is always time to remember that grassroots support ... or lack of it ... is always the game changer.   At the end of the day, the 'street cred' for any Non Profit group in never more than the sum of its membership!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kudos to Pet Valu for hosting a Pet Adoption Weekend!

I love offsite pet adoption events!  Whats not to love?   They are a great way to reach out to potential first time adopters!   Even better, kind hearts have a chance to dip their toes in the water with a 'sneak preview' before actually jumping in with an application!   Best of all of course is that the adorable adoptables are the very best ambassadors ... and can do a wonderful job of selling themselves when folks can meet them 'in furson'!
This weekend, at three Pet Valus around the province, local rescues are having offsite adoption events:
  • SHAID is at the Bridgewater store, promoting the value of TNR and spay neuter ... with some of their purrfect pals,
  • East Coast German Shepherd Rescue is at the store in Dartmouth and
  • CAPS is at the Greenwood Mall.
It is a well known fact that me and my trifocals aren't going into the city anytime in the next millennium... but the Greenwood mall is actually only three km away!  This morning I went down and was pleased to see such great support for CAPS from the store!
What a nice display!    Nice clean crates with beautiful cats were softened up with colorful blankets, cat toys and name tags!   All sorts of very cool .. and affordable fundraising bits!  (Even if one wasn't thinking of adopting, the homemade cat and dog toys would be well worth making the trip for!)
With over a hundred cats in care on any given day, there would be no way to bring them all into the store.    Instead there was a nice rolling display of slide shows set up on a laptop for visitors to peruse.
Casual visitors could lend their support simply by buying tickets on the beautiful rug .. pictured above.  
Last but not least, there were all sorts of informative little pamphlets .. on everything from CAPS sponsorship program to their Humane Education Program.  To be perfectly honest, even I did not know that their President .. who is also a retired school teacher... had made time in her busy schedule to set this up!
For anyone in the Greenwood area .. CAPS will be back at the store tomorrow ... as will ECGSR in the Dartmouth store and SHAID in Bridgewater store.   All month long, all three stores are selling pawprints for donations for the rescues ... with all proceeds this month going to the rescues featured this weekend.
It takes a lot of work to organize the level of support that CAPS has developed.  It is more than the sum of all the pamphlets and programs!   It is a group effort that sustains such support that long after people leave the area, they are still knitting mice and mailing cat toys back here.
What time is it?  It is time to remember that these events also represent a great opportunity for anyone interested in fostering or transporting or helping with admin work to talk to the folks with the rescue first!
No doubt about it ... CAPS volunteers are living proof that nice guys don't have to finish last!

Charley reminds me of my own handsome Clive ... and he is just as affectionate!

This beauty made such an impression that a family was putting in an application on her while I was in the store :)

Morrisette thinks that thes cookbooks would make great stocking stuffers ... and that they are a steal at five bucks!

What a great idea .... battery operated reflectors for Fido's collar for walking at night instead of the throwaway ones.  Here in Nova Scotia, for six months of the year anyone walking their dogs after supper could use one of these :)

Tickets are available for the Annual CAPS May Dinner and Silent Auction

CAPS supporters may sometimes be posted away, but keep sending toys from as far away as Manitoba :)

Anyone with a dog knows how useful these are :)

This is the CAPS pawprint display in Greenwood .... ECGSR supporters can buy these at Pet Valu in Dartmouth and SHAID supporters in Bridgewater.    Isn't this so much nicer to see pet stores helping rescue instead of creating problems for rescues to clean up?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Years of wrongs still do not make anything right ....

from the CBC News website:
Sydney animal shelter kill rate too high: SPCA
The Nova Scotia SPCA says the animal shelter in Sydney euthanized far more animals than it adopted out last year.
The provincial group won control of the shelter after a court battle with a local humane society.
Kristin Williams, executive director of the SPCA, said an audit found that 565 animals were adopted last year while another 813 were put down.
That's well above the 10 per cent euthanization rate at most shelters, she noted Wednesday.
"Obviously, our aim is to make sure that every animal has a chance to be given a loving home, and it was clear that the animals at the Cape Breton shelter were not given that opportunity," Williams said.
The SPCA has a no-kill policy, which means animals should only be euthanized if they are in extreme pain or extremely aggressive.
Williams said they've been able to stick with that policy in Cape Breton.
"We have been operating that shelter since January and we've been able to do so without euthanizing animals for reasons other than mercy and severe aggression [and] that may cause a risk to public health," she said.
"It really is about attitude."
The SPCA launched a legal fight last year against the Cape Breton Humane Society, a local group that was running the shelter and was once a branch of the provincial organization.
During a court hearing, volunteers and staff with the SPCA said they had serious concerns about cases of animal neglect and a failure to provide veterinary care at the shelter.
The local board said it was largely unaware of those concerns and that many of the allegations were based on hearsay.
In January, a court awarded the SPCA temporary control of the shelter.
The SPCA promptly restricted new arrivals, saying it would only accept those brought in by animal control because too many cats and dogs at the shelter were sick.
Nearly 50 animals were transferred to a shelter in Halifax in the first week.
Williams said her group will return to court in late May if it can't reach an agreement with the local humane society for permanent control of the Sydney shelter.
Well then ... as with any online media article, these days the comments can often be more telling than the story itself!   Commenting provides a wild west forum where detractors and supporters can attempt to sway public opinion on any issue.
One of the more interesting ones in this case suggests that if the SPCA was running the shelter when all this killing was taking place .. while the renegade shelter was only running for a couple of months .. that clearly the society and by extension the ED are to blame for all the killing.
Someone has conveniently overlooked a few teeny little details:

  • the people running the renegade shelter were the ones doing all the killing,
  • the dismissed manager and disgraced former branch president repeatedly lied to provincial about everything from animal care protocols through to shelter statistics,
  • previous site visits from provincial were never unannounced... which in realspeak means that there was always time to prepare
  • the dismissed shelter manager and disbanded board would still be killing animals this year if the society had not finally paid the Sydney shelter an unannounced visit!
  • Straight, sweet and simple ... when advance notice is provided it simply is not possible for provincial to be able to see the full picture.   
When the branches were transitioning from a more independent stance, it may have made sense (to provincial at least)  to give them the grace of a couple of planned site visits.  Sacrifice a few to save ever so many more down the road might have seemed like a good idea at the time.
Not to be mean, but there was never, ever going to be a time when the dismissed manager was going to transition gracefully to No Kill.  Through no fault of the existing board, the Sydney shelter had been allowed to go on its merry own way for far too long to accept the authority of provincial.
While I do not always see eye to eye with the society, I do believe that they took the right action by taking the unprecedented step of making a surprise audit of the shelter!
It was an eye opener that did more than obligate provincial to act.   It caught the attention of the community and laid the groundwork for the strong level of grassroots support when the society regained control of the shelter.
Quite frankly, given the sorry state of the audit results .... along with the significant improvements that have been made in such a short time ... this middle aged grandmother suspects that the humane society is holding out for an agreement that includes a non disclosure clause.
But I am ... as I always seem to do ... wandering afield in my meandering way.  The point I am actually trying to make is that surprise inspections are the game changer.  In small communities, where board members can easily be related to shelter staff and managers, it is difficult for locals to find a ready ear for any problems they might have.
What time is it?   It is always time to appreciate the value of proactive management.  At the end of the day, it is always cheaper and cleaner to address things before problematic protocols become standard practice.    At the end of the day, years of "wrongs" never make a 'right' .... they are just harder to fix!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

If all pennies are going to heaven :)

I am a middleaged grandmother ... so pennies have always meant more than creating an illusion of wealth with their weight in the bottom of my purse!   Our language is peppered with idioms attaching real weight to the humble penny. They are offered in exchange for thoughts and optimistically traded for hopes and dreams in wishing wells.
Pennies can be good or bad or lucky .... but in this virtual age they have outlived their usefullness as actual currency ... in Canada at least.   Even those who prefer not to follow political news are aware that the political party that cannot seem to accurately calculate the value of fighter jets has decided the humble penny has outlived its usefullness!
What to do with all those jars and piggy banks full of pennies?   Why not roll them up and donate them to your favourite charity?
This weekend, April Pet Valu is holding its Pet Appreciation and National Adoption weekend.  What does that have to do with pennies?  
 East Coast German Shepherd Rescue is holding a Pennies for Puppers  adoption event at the Pet Valu on Tacoma Drive in Dartmouth.   They will be bringing a few of their lovely adoptables ... so inquiring minds have a chance to get a 'sneak preview' to help them decide whether to apply:)  Even better, this store is sponsoring a pawprint donation program for the month of April, with all proceeds going to ECGSR!
And the fun doesn't stop there.   At the same time, at Pet Valu in Greenwood, CAPS is holding an Adoption Blitz as well.   Now, with well over a hundred cats in care they won't be bringing all their adoptables, but it will be a great chance to meet some of their purrfect pets and talk to the volunteers and fosters.
What time is it?   It is always time to praise both the pet supply businesses that support animal rescue ... and the rescues who recognize the value of taking it to the streets!

Monday, April 9, 2012

A little refresher to a Grandmother's Guide to Living with Coyotes ....

I am a middle aged grandmother and will freely admit to being a bit of a fuddy duddy about my pets.    What does that mean in realspeak? 
It means that I am a big believer in the value of that ounce of prevention!  My cats are indoor only!  Even in the fenced yard, the dogs are always leashed after dark!   Last but not least, it means that I never, ever 'let the dogs out' unaccompanied!
Does that mean that my dogs don't have any fun?  Of course not!   I have been told their life of Riley is actually the envy of many another dog ....  lol!  We go hiking in the woods ... spend of plenty of time putting the play yard to good use ... and this spring I'm going to extend the fencing so we can rummage around the shady upper pond on hot summer afternoons!
This morning started as it always does .... with a quick inspection tour of the play yard.   Our sedate morning routine immediately shifted gears when the dogs spotted a big coyote on the other side of the fence.  The big dogs flew off the step in unison and raced to the fence in full stranger danger mode!   Happily the old geezers sensibly stayed by the step!
The short version of this story is that the coyote immediately melted back into the woods.  The big dogs calmed down and everyone had a turn at watering the fence where the coyote had stood.
One of the other fussy things that I do is to always keep enough spare short leashes in the pocket of whatever funny yard coat the season calls for.  Had the need arose, I would have been able to calm the big dogs down immediately by leashing them!
Would the coyote have been a danger to one unaccompanied dog?  You bet!  Would the big dogs have skittled over the fence without supervision?   Possibly ... but happily we will never know.
This is not the first time I have seen this big coyote.   Odds are it won't be the last!   My desk has a wonderful view and I have often seen him sniffing his way along the play yard fence ... providing the dogs with hours of entertainment long after he has wandered on his merry way.
It has been such a while since I have seen him that I had wondered if a more skittish sort had shot the poor fellow.   Why would we see him now after all of this time?
Yesterday's storm notwithstanding, around here at spring the young and not so young men's hearts turn to thoughts of barbecuing.    Eating outside.    Bringing beer and chips along four wheeling.
In other words .... as a wild animal he is just following the food.
What time is it?  It is always time to remember that common sense will keep more coyotes away than any charged weapon will.    If food sources are not readily available and vulnerable family pets are not tied out like bait ... it is the worst kind of scare tactic to think that one coyote on walkabout is cause for a cull.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Welcoming Winnie!!!

Hi there ... my name is Oscar and as the official house eldercat, I would just like to know if we kitties are going to be getting any extra treats this week!  It is a lot of work breaking in a new dog, eh?  Good grief ..... it takes time to train a dog to be a good cat warmer at night!
At least this new lad already knows the first rule of cat ... that we were here first and we rule!    Maybe it is because we are bigger than he is!   Perhaps in another galaxy far far away he may have even lived with a cat!
We think he is just so darned happy to be here that it wouldn't matter if Mom had a parakeet or a pot bellied pig or even a pony!  
At least we are not starting from scratch here!   The new 'kid' on the block is actually older than me!  That means that he is experienced enough to learn quickly.   Gee whiz .. Mom might even be able to put that new steam mop away sooner than she thinks!
Gosh ... at this rate we should have him trained in no time all!   He might be a little worse for wear.   He might have as sad a story as anyone else here.  He might still need to learn that 'making his mark' is really only a figure of speech!
But we cats have decided that Winnie will be well worth the work ... and the only questions we have left what kind of treats are we getting and when they will be here :)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A pinch in time ....

Fishing season started on the first of April!  No fooling!  It would be impossible to drive down my road and be unaware of that.  At any given time of day one will see cars parked by either of the little country bridges on the way home from the village.
How does this affect dog owners?   Not at all, if they are strictly 'street people'.  However, anyone heading over hill and dale in this province will never have to hike far before they find a little river or stream.
Now experienced fishermen ... and women ....  know that the season begins well before the decent fishing actually starts.   This early in the game, the water is too high and too fast to make for truly good fishing.
In realspeak that means that most of the fishermen out right now are rookies.  Lines will be tangled and left in the stream.   Hooks can be carelessly discarded where paws and little fingers can come to grief. 
In other words, this is a very good time to tuck a little pair of pliers in one's pocket before heading out.    They are very useful for cutting that 100 pound test line that rookies in search of two pound trout somehow think they will need.  If worse comes to worse, they can snip off the barbed end of a hook (although anyone needing to do this unassisted would be well advised to make an improvised muzzle with the end of the leash.)
Its just frosting on the cake that pliers are pretty darned handy for picking up pieces of broken beer bottles and picking up rusted old beaver traps.
Here in Nova Scotia, fishermen are allowed along any riverbank.  In real speak that means that even on private land, one can easily wind up being glad the pliers are in the pocket!
What time is it?   Until the more experienced / more courteous fisherman are out and about, it is always simpler and easier to be a little prepared :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The choice between truth and repose

I love the convenience of email.  It is immediate and direct.  There is no waiting for someone to answer the phone or wondering if voice messages have been heard.
Even better, with my gmail I can search the archives by subject or sender.
Best of all of course is that my gmail is all up in the cloud .. keeping it safe and snug and impervious to any hard drive woes.
This morning, I noticed that there is (finally) a 'new' provincial board meeting available online on the society's site.   It has been quite some time since the last one was posted and I was beginning to wonder all that newfound transparency was starting to circle the drain.
In the midst of all the interesting tidbits ... such as the need to stop thinking of the branches as independent units ... there is a very interesting bit in the governance section!   A request has been made by the ED to form a committee to address "lessons learned from the Cape Breton matter"
Well then!    When I was a young private at my first unit, workplace wisdom wasn't hampered by the need to be politically correct.   I have never forgotten a rude little story that my shift supervisor told me:
Once upon a time there was a little bird who flew through an ice storm so severe that his wings froze and he fell to the earth, landing in a barnyard.  As he was going through his last throes, a cow came by an dropped a patty on the little bird ... warming it up and bringing it back to life.    When the bird started chirping, a cat came by ... tenderly washed the little bird off .. and ate him.
The moral of the story of course is that not everyone who sh**s on you is your enemy ... and not everyone who seems to be helping you is your friend.
There is a lesson in there for the society.    If I was to rummage through my gmail archives, I could readily find numerous examples of times when I have been "there, there'd" and "dear, dear'd".  Am I the only one who has sent in complaints on a variety of subjects?  Who has been handed a pat, glib line?  Of course not!
Prior to the events leading to the "Cape Breton matter", the society received numerous complaints about the Cape Breton Branch!   If they were to search their own archives there would be so many that it would be needful to sort them by subject.  From the gas chamber ... to puppies crawling of garbage cans .. to dogs who died within days of being adopted  ... to substandard animal care ... and beyond.
Straight, sweet and simple .. there were no shortage of complaints.  If the society is sincere in its desire to avoid future 'matters',  recognition that not every complainant is an 'enemy' would be a wonderful first step.
It may be easier to listen to the ones who wash your face.  It may seem to be cleaner at the time.
But at the end of the day, your real friends are the ones who tell it like it is.
God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please - you can never have both.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, April 2, 2012

There really is gold in those grey muzzles ......

I love shopping at Frenchies!   What's not to love?   From mothers trying to fit out fifteen year olds in affordable fashion to stylin' working gals right through to middle aged grandmothers choosing NOT to dress like teenagers ... there really is something for everyone! 
All that affordability combined with the thrill of the hunt!   It really is just frosting on the cake that Frenchies offers such a good business model for the benefits of recycling and reusing!
Pretty much exactly like pet adoption, eh?   The adult amstaf mix that somebody else tossed away because he will never, ever be a fighter is the absolute apple of my eye.  
Even better, when I adopted him, he was already vet checked and vaccinated and neutered.    After all these years of sharing space with dogs, I knew that Henry's modest adoption fee actually represented only a fraction of the 'street value' of this care!
Best of all of course was that the shared journey of helping Henry become all that he could be has done double duty by building a beautiful relationship!
Does that mean that every adoptable dog is going to be quite so much work?  Of course not!   For every Good Dog in Training, there are many other lovely well behaved family pets who ... through no fault of their own .. are in need of new digs.
Sometimes it can be even sweeter than that!  When Rascal came here,  it took him exactly twenty four hours to get the lay of the land.     Within a week, first time visitors would have been unable to tell that Rascal had lived a different life in a galaxy far, far away from this house.
What made the difference?   Age of course!   It is a myth that one cannot teach old dogs new tricks!  The truth is that senior pets really are older and wiser!  That seniors are settled enough to focus and learn!
Even the Mighty Quinn ... who was such a stranger to domestic bliss .... was able to learn all the sundry bits necessary to become somebody's best boy!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting the puppy.  There is no denying the appeal of puppy breath and adorable big paws!  When I was younger, I made that sweet sentimental journey a couple of times myself:)
After years of shift work, one of the best bits about being retired is being able to get a good nights sleep.   Even better ... I have discovered that it really is true .... and cannot imagine when I ever had time to work!   Best of all of course is that I am now at liberty to spend time in the woods with my good dogs every morning!
What time is it?  To paraphrase the old adage ... it is time to remember that no kind act of adopting an adult or mature pet goes unrewarded ... and that adopters really do get to embrace the love without the sleepless nights! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It isn't just bunnies who might not find Easter funny

I hope I never outgrow my fondness for Easter Chocolate!  To be perfectly honest, most of my friends share my childish enthusiasm for any celebration involving chocolate.
That's all very fine and well for us ... when the worst that can happen is that our clothes might become "two sizes too small"!     It is quite a different kettle of fish four our four footed friends!
In the midst of all the fun, it would be easy to overlook that it isn't just bunnies who do not actually find Easter funny ... and that there can be very real risks to our pets with some of the traditional trappings of the Easter Holiday:
  • Hiding chocolate Easter eggs for children to find in the morning is a popular tradition for many parents.    The best way to avoid those expensive off hours holiday trips to the vets is to hide the eggs well out of reach of any pets.
  • Hiding real eggs outside for children to find is another of the fun bits people like to do.   Make sure the eggs are colored brightly enough so that any 'leftovers' are easy to find.    (IE don't paint them green )  It takes less time to double check the yard so that pets who love to snack on smelly old things do not get sick eating rotten old eggs
  • All that glitters is not actually good for pets.   Make sure that egg and basket decorating sessions are carefully supervised so that cats do not have an opportunity to eat the colored plastic 'straw' and bit of glitter that we often use
  • You might want to rethink having the traditional potted Easter Lily for a decoration ... or substitute it with a nice silk version.    Any part of these plants are so toxic to pets that it really is not worth the risk.
  • Who doesn't love the wide variety of Chocolate Bunnies / hens/ etc..?  Play it safe and keep all the uneaten bits well out of reach of pets.  In this house, I have always found it handy to keep these things in a small tote in the cupboard.
  • Last but not least ... for anyone planning to serve traditional Easter fare, it is wise to remember that much of what is on the menu will wind up giving pets sore tummies and will actually make some sick.  Dressing, gravy, etc are chock full of onions and other rich things that were never meant to be served to our pets.
What time is it?   No matter how you celebrate the rites of spring, it is always ever so much better to plan a pet safe holiday!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

No advance notice please......

What a miserable morning outside!  It seems so surreal to have to bundle up again after we were swimming in the upper pond just last week!
Mind you, nothing Mother Nature is offering this morning could possibly compete with the storm of controversy surrounding the situation at the Sydney shelter.   After years of being left to go along their merry old way,  it was utterly beyond any of the old guards imagination that change could .. and would .. be possible.
How did all that change?   What got the ball rolling and really made the difference?  It was of course the "surprise" inspection of the shelter!
Does that mean that last year was the first time that people had complained about shoddy animal care / sick and dying animals being adopted / parvo being a death sentence for most puppies entering the shelter / inhumane and indiscriminate killing / etc..!  Of course not!
Prior to that, complaints always fell on deaf ears because shelter reports and site visits were prepared well in advance.   Excuses were accepted.    Reports and statistics always taken at face value.    Up until three years ago, permission was even routinely extended to continue using the horrible home made gas chamber!
Allowances were always made because there was no concrete evidence to support the sustained criticism.    Would that have changed without an unannounced site visit?  Would there have been a game changing Shelter Audit if there had been time to cover up the ugly truth?
Of course not!   When the Dept of Agriculture sends its inspectors out to restaurants, notice is never given in advance!   When the provincial Cosmetology Association inspects beauty salons,  it is always a surprise!   The first notice a welding shop receives is when the Dept of Labour inspectors walk through the front door!
Why to they do that?  Because here in the real world, honesty is not always the best business policy.    Do businesses not mind the surprise?  Of course they do!  Why don't they do more than mutter to themselves about it?
Because it is standard policy not to give notice.   It is not 'picking on' anyone.   It is not a matter of not trusting.  
Straight, sweet and simple ...surprise inspections are a time tested practice to ensure that rules and regulations are actually being followed.  It should be standard practice for the society NOT to provide notice for site visits to its shelters.
It would only be to the society's advantage to do so.   Unannounced visits would allow them to see how well .. or how poorly ... things were working in practice.   If everything was ticking over properly, it would give the society greater credibility when dismissing criticism and complaints.
Best of all, it would keep situations from spiralling so out of control as the situation at the Sydney shelter.
To paraphrase the old adage ... it would be the 'pinch in time'!     At the end of the day, it is much easier to nip things in the bud.  To implement small suggestions.  To switch some of the bits around that aren't working.  
Even better, it is an opportunity for provincial to prop up morale by sharing solutions to common problems.
Best of all of course is that change is always more possible and more economical if addressed before shoddy practices have a chance to become entrenched.
What time is it?  In a province where some shelters are hours and hours away from the city, it is time for unannounced visits from provincial to become standard proactive practice.
The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.   Norman Vincent Peale

Monday, March 26, 2012

The sounds of silence ....

I love watching The Big Bang Theory!  In the course of my work with the homeless pet sites, my inbox is so often full of all sorts of misery that laughter really is the best medicine.  Others may appreciate post apocalyptic tales with unhappy endings  ... but I will take the good giggle anyday over that!
Lets face it ... it still is such a crap shoot to be a pet.   The lucky ones live their whole lives with someone savvy enough to understand their physical and social needs.   At the other end of the stick are the sad stories that are proof of the 'ignorance is not really bliss' pudding.
For instance ... a dear friend of mine is preparing to bring her new puppy home.    A couple of years ago, their elderly Dalmatian went over the bridge and now the time is right for a new pal.   Once again, they have gone to a good breeder and it is reasonable to expect that history will repeat itself.  Their new pal will come with them wherever they move and be cared for no matter what medical issues arise ... or whatever curve balls life throws their way.
Like myself, she has a human child and very much knows the difference between her dogs and her child.   What would that be?  In a nutshell, as parents we spend all the formative years preparing our children to be independent and responsible citizens who are both willing and able to live a rich life of their own.
On the other hand, our pets are not supposed to 'leave the nest'.   As responsible pet owners, we are instead meant to shelter and socialize our dogs so that they can enrich our own lives and be safe members of our communities.
If every pet owner was like my friend, we would never, ever need laws to protect animals in this country!   In the midst of all the sad stories we so often see, it would be easy to forget that the majority of pet owners are lovely people who are already taking wonderful care of their pets!
Unfortunately, that does create difficulties for animal advocates trying to get better animal protection laws.   Why?   To be perfectly honest, most people already think we have enough laws and regulations.
When folks are not part of the problem, it can be difficult for them to appreciate the actual need for a solution, eh?   Ironically enough, it is often the folks who are already responsible enough to alter their pets who are most opposed to government support for low cost / high volume spay neuter.    People who are NOT tying their dogs out 24/7 are not going to appreciate a law limiting tethering times.
In other words, as we used to say in the sixties, it is impossible for most folks to "relate" to the need for better legislation to protect animals!
As we speak, there is a concerted campaign to educate the public about chained dogs that is beginning to gain traction around the province.   To date, it has been doing so without any support from our own society :(
People outside of the animal rescue community often look to their provincial SPCA's for guidance on what is and is not acceptable.    The NB SPCA has a very informative page on their website about Chaining Dogs.   It is well written without being preachy ... and at the same time establishes the NB society's position on the subject with more emphasis than a simple one paragraph position statement.
What time is it?   Education is one of the primary mandates of the society.   Chained dogs sit out there for all the world to see !  Each and every time that a society cruelty inspector is unable to remove a dog from an unhealthy situation, it has a definite negative impact upon the reputation of the society.
Inclusion of an informative section on anti tethering would at least allow the public to clearly see that the society does not support this practice.  
A time comes when silence is betrayal.  Dr Martin Luther King Jr

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tick Tock ....

There will probably never be such controversy at an AGM again as there was in 2008 ... when the old guard insisted on ignoring the backlash from its membership about the Pandora's box that Celtic Pets had opened.   There were some hard lessons learned that spring about the need for constitutional reform .... lessons that were put to good use when resignations finally freed up the society from the old guard.
For instance, paid employees of the society are no longer allowed voting privileges to avoid putting pressure on their very job security to support the incumbents.
A few other little bits were tucked in that year.   In the interests of promoting transparency, one no longer needs to be a member of the society to attend the AGM.   
One does, however, need to be a member to vote .... and more importantly .. that membership has to be purchased prior to April 1st in order to qualify to vote at the AGM.   No fooling!
The short version of all this is that on the heels of today's notice for this years provincial AGM, anyone intending to attend AND vote had best make sure their membership is bought and paid for before the end of this month!
Notice has also been given today that the society is seeking new applicants for its Board of Directors.   In the bad old days, there was only an election .. or rather, what passed for one ... every couple of years.   In 2009, that policy was quietly changed so that every year only half the positions on the board would be replaced.
At first I wasn't sure about that ... but upon reflection I actually like the idea.    At no point in time will an entirely new board be able to bounce in and undo all the hard work that has been done since the society started on their New Path.
From an administrative point of view .. it makes a lot of sense.   For the members who were used to the hoopla of elections though .. it will take some getting used to.   When there isn't the big fanfare of a full slate of candidates, its easier for the membership to overlook the need to step up.
Last year, all the candidates ran unopposed ... which in realspeak means that there was no election at all.   How did that happen?   Because they were the only ones who stepped up!  
Lets face it .... there have been so many good changes in the society since the Punch and Judy puppet show was shown the door that it is understandable that the membership's outrage had mellowed to complacency.
Why this year alone  ... the (long overdue) housecleaning at the Sydney shelter is a clear demonstration that the society is still headed down its promising New Path.
Which is all the more reason for the membership to pay attention.   For like minded folks to consider applying for the Board.   ( And before the keyboards catch on fire, even if the society was actually willing to bring this middleaged grandmother on board .... me and my trifocals will never be capable of committing to meetings in the ....shudder ... city. )  
What time is it?   It is time for anyone considering joining the board to apply ... and of course for everyone else who wants to vote at the AGM to get a membership!   The deadline for both is just ten days away!  Tick Tock!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A little bit about bunnies ....

I am so lucky to be able to go to the woods every morning with my good dogs!  In my books it is the very best bit about being retired and more than compensates for the more modest income of my pension.
Everyday there are fresh new scents!   Every bit of weather changes the trail in some way so that, like the proverbial river, our feet never set on the same path twice.
Even though we have a lovely big play yard that is the envy of my friends, there is simply no substitute for rummaging around the trails and along the riverbank!
Spring Solstice is often spent sliding on icy trails ... so even if the forecasted snow comes later this week, for today it is just a joy to have bare ground and see brown bunnies :)    My burly bearded flannel coated buddies take it as a very good sign we are seeing so many rabbits this spring.    
For a few years after their comeback was deliberately fostered as a February tourist attraction, folks often overlooked that bald eagles are basically birds of prey.   As they spread into other habitats, rabbit populations were almost decimated until they adapted to the 'new' danger.
Domestic rabbits are at great risk this time of year .. so it is also a lovely thing to see so many good education programs out there to discourage parents from impulsively buying bunnies for Easter for their children.
For a long time, rabbits really were 'second class pets'.   When parents discovered that the bunnies did not actually grow up to be pussycats with cute ears .... they were often abandoned in the wild in spite of being utterly unprepared to fend for themselves   :(
Four years ago, a good friend of mine who is an experienced (and award winning) rescuer started up the first  Bird and Small Animal Rescue in Newfoundland    Before long, she became so busy that she had to bow out of working with the SPCA. Her experience with the SPCA stood her in good stead ... and last week her rescue became an official Non Profit.  
This year, she had an ingenious 'adoption' campaign of plush bunnies ... and chocolate lovers in the area are often able to help with her very successful chocolate bar fundraisers.
For anyone thinking of getting a rabbit, her website would be well worth the visit!   There is an excellent Education section on proper care and husbandry that also includes an awesome page about Rabbits and Easter.
Here in Nova Scotia, for anyone with their heart set on a rabbit ... it is often possible to adopt a bunny.      Right here, right now ..... Romeo is available for adoption at the Kings SPCA Branch.
At the end of the day,  kindness to animals is a very effective way to teach our children the core value of respect for life.    It sends a very mixed message to children to get a poor little bunny or chick for Easter and expect them to believe that it magically disappears when the novelty wears off.
What time is it?   It is always time to remember that a rabbit is a living breathing sentient being ... and that the best approach is often to be responsible enough to take a cue from the Make Mine Chocolate campaign.

Monday, March 19, 2012

On quitting cold turkey ...

What an utterly beautiful morning!  There is nothing subtle about early spring ... it bursts on our collective consciousness full of irresistible enthusiasm!    Breezes caress our faces instead of chilling us to the core.   Early yard chores almost feel like liberty for not needing to bundle up.
Best of all .. in my books .. are the bevy of busy little nest building birds back for the season.   To listen to them is more just a joy ... in these days of global warming it is always a relief to seem them back!
When one thinks about it ... these little travellers would be the envy of any defense department planners.   From first arrival,  they are already hard at work readying for the job at hand.   Almost overnight, their nests will be set up and their territory well established.   It is a well choreographed dance from first courtship through to final flight lessons for rookies making their first return journey.
As a result, their exit strategy will be smoother than anything politicians could ever hope to negotiate.
During this past year, the society has been getting out of the business of providing Animal Control Services of all stripes.    They had found out first hand what the No Kill experts have been saying all along ... non profit shelters providing animal control services were usually subsidizing the expenses at the cost of their own work.
Does that mean that they intend to get out of the AC business in Cape Breton?   Although I am not privy to inside information, odds are the educated guess would say no. 
Why?  Situational ethics of course!   The alternative is unthinkable ... to enable a return in another facility to the old status quo ... where previous management was killing at least three out of four that came in the door.
At the moment, CBRM Council has decided to extend the current animal sheltering contract on a month by month basis.   Unless I miss my guess, when the bid does go to tender the society will have a well prepared bid to toss in the ring.  
They did not go to all the time and trouble and yes .. expense .. to clean up the shelter and save lives in order to let the 'old guard' have another horrible home made gas chamber built, eh?
And of course .. there is the other elephant in the room that noone wants to talk about ... what is happening to the animals that are picked by by the new contractor providing Animal Control Services?
Technically, as I understand it, those animals 'could' be brought to the Yarmouth SPCA Branch, but as of this writing, there is nothing in Yarmouth's new dog bylaw to make that mandatory!
Why is that troubling?   This time last year, the "new" contractor was a member of the Yarmouth Branch Board.   Now officially .. she and all but two other board members quit in a grandstanding ploy protesting the new governance changes.
As a board member she was also privy to the knowledge that the branch was getting out of the animal Control business.   So there is a distinctly chicken and egg aspect about whether the grandstanding was about the new governance policy or positioning to prepare for a splendid business opportunity ... unfettered by any conflict of interest!
But I am wandering afield .. as I often do in my meandering way.  The point I am trying to make here is that if the society is going to get out of the animal control business anywhere, they need a better exit strategy.
There is more to No Kill than not killing, eh?    If there is nothing in place to protect impounded animals, does it really matter who kills them?  Dead is still dead, eh?
Last year, the society successfully negotiated a splendid little clause into the new Town of Windsor dog bylaw ... after the 'hold' period is over, the town AC is now obliged to offer the animal to the local branch.    That is a life saving tool that should written into every dog bylaw in this province ... and should be expanded to include the caveat that all reputable rescues should be offered the chance to take the animal into their care.
After all, at this point in time, the society does not have coverage all around the province, eh?
Nor should it stop there.   If the society truly wants to protect those who cannot speak for themselves, then more stringent minimum housing and care standards need to be written into our Animal Protection Act.  Until that time, the only animals in care that the society can protect are the ones in the care of its own branches and shelters.  Animal control contractors have no such limitations, eh?
Last, but not least, more aggressive steps should be taken in pursuit of a law to make all animal control statistics freely available online in their respective municipal websites.     The historical reluctance to let the actual paint the picture cannot be overridden by the taxpayers' right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
What time is it?  If the society is going to let go of the Animal Control 'rope', then it is way past time for a three step program to protect the animals.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Should we be surprised or disappointed that McLeans chose to be comfortable?

from this weeks online edition of McLeans
When did crating your dog become a crime?

Leashes. Crates. Even doghouses. Suddenly they’re all evil. The debate over how to treat Fido is dividing pet owners.
by Alex Ballingall on Friday, March 16, 2012 6:10am
Just outside the small Nova Scotia fishing town of Lockeport, Robbie Fowler’s home sits near a bend in a country road that winds through Shelburne County. Two dogs named Buddy and Magnum, golden retriever mixed breeds, live on chains in the yard. The dogs love to walk in the woods, ride in Fowler’s pickup truck and swim in nearby Allendale Bay. But they hate staying inside. “They don’t even go in the doghouse half the time,” says Fowler. “What they are is hunting dogs.”

That’s why Fowler keeps Buddy and Magnum on chains about 15 feet long. These are attached to “big long-run ropes” that Fowler says allow Buddy and Magnum to move up and down the yard while preventing them from straying out to the road and getting hit by a car. “They run around and get plenty of exercise,” says Fowler.
One day in February, a cruelty investigator from the SPCA turned up at Fowler’s door. Animal rights activists in the area have been filing complaints against Fowler for more than a year, telling authorities that the way he keeps his dogs is causing them to suffer social isolation and confinement. ”The investigator surveyed Fowler’s yard, taking note of the run ropes and the insulated doghouse with a shingle roof that Fowler built for Buddy and Magnum. “He said: ‘Your dogs cannot get tangled up, they have a good long run, they have a nice house. I don’t know what they’re calling for,’  Fowler recalls. The investigator left after concluding Buddy and Magnum were well-fed and cared for.
Over the years, the boundary between animal cruelty and kindness has moved, and some of us didn’t even notice. The days when dogs were sentries first and pets second are long gone. Even the junkyard dog has largely disappeared, replaced by video surveillance technology. Now we buy them organic food, seatbelts for the car, orthopaedic beds for the house, and take them to physiotherapists when they get arthritis. And the age-old practice of tying a dog up in the backyard or leaving it in a crate to housebreak it are as morally abhorrent to some as putting a child on a halter or keeping it in a playpen all day.
David Lummis, a pet market analyst with the research firm Packaged Facts, sees a societal shift: “Pets really do perform the function of surrogate children.”
The movement to ban chains and crates for dogs first gained momentum in the U.S. in the mid-2000s, when animal welfare groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Dogs Deserve Better started focused campaigns to make such practices illegal at the local and state levels. States like California, Nevada, Texas and West Virginia have since passed laws restricting the length of time a dog can be chained or tethered.
Anti-chaining attitudes have also made headway in Canada. There are now bylaws either banning or restricting how long a dog can be chained in Calgary, Victoria and Delta, B.C. In Vancouver, there’s a little-known bylaw that prohibits owners from tying up their dogs and leaving them unattended in public, even if it’s just to run into a cafĂ© for a coffee. And in Nova Scotia, where Fowler lives with Buddy and Magnum, there’s a concerted push to amend the provincial Animal Protection Act to either ban or make restrictions on dog chaining and tethering.
Groups like PETA also want to outlaw crating, a common practice for dog owners who are housebreaking puppies, while the Humane Society of Canada doesn’t recommend it.
Last month, Manitoba made it illegal to crop dogs’ ears, a relatively common procedure among certain breeders intended to maintain the dogs’ physical standards. Those behind the ban argued, successfully, that it was inhumane and distressing to the animals.
As animal welfare groups successfully push for these changes, perceptions of what constitutes cruelty to dogs are escalating. Not everyone, however, is rising with the tide, and this is exposing fundamental disagreements about the place dogs hold in our lives. For some, an owner’s right to determine what’s best for their dog is being chipped away. The conflict has moved passed rhetorical jabs to the point where outright accusations of animal cruelty—not to mention calls placed to the SPCA—are souring relationships between neighbours. In Nova Scotia, especially in rural and suburban areas, some express outright disgust at the way they see dogs being treated. “If you don’t want to be upset, just look straight ahead when you drive down the road,” says Amanda Cleveland, founder of People for Dogs.
These attitudes are fuelled by stories of cruelty passed around by activists in the province. Scott Saunders, who is lobbying to ban continuous dog chaining in Nova Scotia, tells of a guard dog at a Cape Breton construction site that was found dead in the snow at the end of its chain two years ago. “What bothers me is that is it still 100 per cent legal to strap your dog out like a piece of junk,” he says. “Until they actually die, right on the spot, still tied to that chain, nobody really gives a s–t.”
Nahleen Ashton, who runs a dog rescue shelter in the province’s Annapolis Valley region, also has a powerful story about the dangers of tying a dog outside for much of its life. Last summer, Ashton adopted a dog named the Mighty Quinn, who had spent about eight years on the end of a rope. There was a bald ring around his neck from the rope’s constant irritation. Most of his body was hairless too, exposing oozing sores made worse by his habit of gnawing and licking at himself—behaviour common for dogs tied up continuously, left to feel anxious and distressed. Ashton acquired the help of dog behaviour expert Silvia Jay, who says Quinn’s state is typical of dogs left tied up for so long. “Dogs are not made to live alone, they need social companionship,” says Jay. “In my opinion, dogs should be inside the house.”
She also says tying dogs can aggravate them and make them more aggressive, especially when kept on a short chain. She calls it “restraint frustration,” which occurs if the dog is unable to follow its instinct to approach “environmental stimuli” that catch its attention: passing cars, wildlife and even pedestrians that distract or entice a dog beyond the reach of his tether. “An animal left outside in a backyard is really a ticking time bomb,” says PETA spokesperson Ryan Huling, going even further. “It’s not safe for anyone nearby.” A 1994 study published in the journal Pediatrics concluded that dogs who bite are nearly three times more likely to be chained.
The impact of crating is similar, says Jay, in that dogs left in crates for hours on end can experience distress from social isolation. But instead of becoming more aggressive from restraint frustration, crated dogs suffer from boredom due to the lack of stimuli, which can lead to excessive barking and other behaviour, she says.
Still, even among animal rights activists there is ambivalence. “Crates can be a really good tool to manage a dog and keep him out of trouble, especially as a puppy,” says Jay. Similarly, Brad Nichols, a peace officer who conducts animal cruelty investigations in Calgary, says: “My dogs are sitting at home right now crated. It only becomes a problem when it’s excessive.”
But without a ban or strict legal limits, discretion about how much time is spent on chains or in crates is in the hands of dog owners, something that doesn’t sit well with animal rights activists who don’t trust the general public to look after a dog’s welfare. “I’d rather have a no-tethering law than leave it up to people to decide how long a dog is to be outside on a chain,” says Jay, “because most people are getting it wrong.”
On an unseasonably warm February day, dog owners congregate at a fenced-in, leash-free community dog park in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood. They laugh as they watch their gregarious pets bounce around, releasing pent-up energy. Standing slightly apart from the others is Greg New, a self-employed accountant there with his dog, Suki, a white and black boxer-pointer mix. New recognizeschanged since the days when dogs roamed free in the streets of Etobicoke, then a town on the western edge of Toronto where he grew up. He never sees dogs chained up in backyards anymore, and he feels crating is just as rare. But when asked about a ban on dog chaining, his response is unequivocal. “A blanket ban on tethering is foolish,” says New. “What do you do if you don’t have a fence?”
To answer such questions, animal rights activists and organizations like PETA say all dogs should live inside “with the rest of the family,” and—like children—should only be allowed outside when supervised.
There’s hardly a notion more foreign to Mark Balkwill, a 52-year-old dairy farmer and president of the Essex County Agricultural Association in southwestern Ontario. “To me that’s cruelty to animals, keeping them in the house all day long,” he says.
Back when he was young, most farmers had chained-up guard dogs. “Your dog was your eyes and your ears,” he says. “It was like your alarm system.” Aggressive guard dogs were preferred, since they would make potential thieves and intruders think twice. “Put you back in the car, as we used to say,” Balkwill says, chuckling.
But of all the farmers in his area today, Balkwill can’t think of one who keeps a guard dog on a chain—though not for ethical reasons. Improvements in technology have allowed people to install cameras and motion sensors for security, eliminating the need for dogs to play guard. Thus, even in rural areas, perceptions of dogs have changed. “More farmers and rural people have pets,” he says. “That’s what they are. They end up being part of the family.”
As such perceptions gain traction in both urban and rural settings, sled dogs are now some of the only working dogs left. Shannon DeBruin, a 47-year-old dog breeder and trainer who runs a sled dog operation south of Edmonton called Arctic Sun Siberian Adventures, has been approached by welfare advocates accusing her of cruelty for keeping her dogs chained outside in the snow at temperatures well below freezing. “Someone who lives with many dogs and sees them on a day-to-day basis,” she says, “has a very different point of view than someone who has just one. It’s very easy to over-generalize and make giant leaps of logic.”
As DeBruin sees it, there’s a problem with how people are “anthropomorphizing” their pets; animal rights activists, she contends, are equating the way pets should be treated with the way they believe humans should be treated. “We are not allowing our dogs to just be dogs,” she says. “Why do dogs eat poop? Because they like it. We don’t. Just like I wouldn’t greet someone by sniffing his butt.”

Ron Worb, a long-time veterinarian at Winnipeg’s Anderson Animal Hospital, has also noticed a change. “The vast majority of pet owners that I see day in, day out in my practice refer to themselves as the mom and the dad.” And as would be expected from any loving parents, Worb says pet owners are constantly expecting higher standards of health care for their dogs. “We are being pushed all the time to do more and more.”
One of his canine patients, for example, is suffering from a brain tumour. In an attempt to rid their pet of cancer, its owners might spend more than $8,000 to send the dog to a special clinic for stereotactic radiosurgery. “The human-pet bond, it’s always been present, but it’s becoming stronger and stronger,” says Worb.
Part of the reason for this lies in decades of steady urbanization. As society generally becomes more detached from rural life and the farm, where wounded horses are shot and cows routinely slaughtered, the only relationship most people have with animals is that of a pet, which doesn’t exist to feed us, offer milk, or clothe us. It offers only love and loyalty. With changing demographics, where more than three million Canadians choose to live alone (according to the 2006 census) and the biggest chunk of the population are baby boomers, many of whom are living in empty nests devoid of children, pets fill a void. Humans are social animals too, after all, often relying on the strength of relationships for contentment.
At no time does the depth of such bonds become more apparent than when they are no longer there. John Sookrah, a Toronto mechanic and father of three, was deeply affected by the loss of his family dog, Sonic, a dachshund, whose death last November was unexpected. Sonic had managed to eat several lengths of dental floss, which veterinarians soon discovered had mangled his intestines. They put him down. “His passing did touch us all and made us realize he really was a part of us,” says Sookrah. “My life was actually quite devastated.”
The Sookrahs held a funeral for Sonic in their living room. “My son and I carried him in, like pallbearers,” explains Sookrah. They laid Sonic’s body down on his doggy bed in the middle of the room, surrounded by flowers, family, neighbours and friends. Prayers were said and hymns sung, including the funeral classic Amazing Grace. Afterward, a family friend read a eulogy. “I don’t think any one of us could have done it,” sighs Sookrah.
Helen Hobbs, the funeral director who organized the ceremony and offers such services—along with an urn and cremation—for about $500, often feels a family’s grief over a lost pet is deeper than that of a dead person. “I know that may sound strange to some people,” she says. “They’re so often people’s children.” Children, she adds, that never lose their innocence, their warmth or uncompromising loyalty.
And that’s why people are so passionate about dogs; why neighbours turn on each other over cruelty. At the bottom of it all—the disagreements, the controversy, the legal fracas—there’s just the love of dogs.
Wow!   When I first heard that a reporter from McLean's was interested in the anti tethering work being done by animal activists in this province .. I was very impressed.   Along with the rest of the animal loving community in this province, I was eagerly awaiting the article ... and even planning to buy a few 'hard copies' to send to family and friends! 
Well ... I am very, very glad I didn't rush out and get the subscription that I almost did in my initial enthusiasm!
Years ago, when I was a green private and one of the first women in my trade, my boss arranged for me to be interviewed by the local paper.  I learned a valuable lesson from that experience ... that even if one wasn't misquoted that objects in the finished article could be larger than they seemed in the interview.
If the reporter had contacted any of the folks he quoted here in Nova Scotia and said that he wanted to do a story about how animal activists take things to ridiculous extremes, would people have talked to him?  
Instead of a balanced story about the very real dangers of anti tethering, like a clip from a Walt Disney cartoon the tale opens with a bemused pet owner whose outdoor dogs lead some sort of magical fantasy existence.  He is perplexed by having had a visit from the society cruelty investigator when he clearly takes such wonderful care of his dogs.
No mention is made of the subsequent chain of events which resulted in the animal activist in question becoming persona non grata with the society.  In light of that, one can only assume that either the society was approached and declined an interview or that someone seized the day to undermine a successful anti tethering campaign that had NOT been initiated by the society :( 
As interesting as it is to speculate whether an organization capable of cutting off communication with said advocate and sending a report on the subject to the Dept of Agriculture had any effect behind the scenes on this article ... I am wandering afield as I often do in my meandering middle aged way!
This is not an article about anti tethering!  It is a social and editorial comment on how pet ownership per se has changed in ways the author clearly paints as not being for the better:
  • in spite of the fact that no animal advocate in this province is attempting to limit crating, somehow it seems to have become the focus of the article ... complete with quotes from the popular animal killing organization PETA.  The subject of how any reporter worth his salt would realize that is a separate topic ... showing such lack of research skills  ... for Mr Ballingall's boss to deal with.
  • a pet market analyst is quoted as saying that "pets really do perform the function of surrogate children"
  • ear cropping is described as a  relatively common procedure among certain breeders intended to maintain the dogs’ physical standards
  • Scott Saunder's outrage about a chained dog who froze to death in Cape Breton is used as an example of how "attitudes are fuelled by stories of cruelty passed around by activists in the province"  Somehow the reporter neglects to mention that most mainstream media outlets OTHER than McLeans carried the story, eh?   ( A chained dog, I might add that was deemed several times by the society as being properly cared for ... and whose death was deemed inconclusive rather than implicate investigators willing to leave a dog to suffer like that after complaints.)
  • Folksy farmers are painted as simply being sensible to have chained up guard dogs ... and no mention is made of the fact that even the most aggressive dog is no match for a thief willing to bypass the chain and are actually vulnerable to being poisoned or shot.
  • A veterinarian in Winnipeg is allowed to paint a picture of pet owners with more money than sense ... suggesting that the owner of one of his clients with a read medical conditions MIGHT opt for an eight thousand dollar treatment for their pets.
All in all, Mr Ballingall has succeeded in painting a completely different picture than we were expecting.    
At the end of the day, Mr Ballingall has only diminished himself ... by producing a fluff piece poking fun when he had the opportunity to help change history.  
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable.   Alexander Solzhenitsyn