Monday, September 7, 2015

5 Things to Tell a Spouse who Hates Your Pet

Meet Khan.

Khan is a mature Himalayan mix located at the Ames Animal Shelter in Iowa.  He's got beautiful eyes, a laid-back personality, and a heart condition that requires a very special home. 

Khan is also a ginormous ball of fur!  I don't think I've ever seen so much cat!  But it's mostly fluff :)  Who wouldn't want this giant hunk of man-cat love in their life?!

Well...the people who surrendered him to the shelter.  That's who.

Khan was dearly loved by a woman at one time...but unfortunately for him, the woman's husband hated Khan.  Hated.  But he tolerated him, at least until a new baby came along.  Then it was off to the shelter for Khan.  Husband's orders.

So this leads me to today's lesson:  5 Things to Tell a Spouse who Hates Your Pet.

1.  So long!
2.  Farewell!
3.  Auf wiedersehen!
4.  Goodbye!
5.  ...See ya! (I ran out of Sound of Music lyrics.)

Yes, this is tongue-in-cheek, and I am not actually suggesting that you file for divorce.  But if I was still single and dating, my motto would definitely be "Love me, love my pet."  :)  What's your opinion?

If you're interested in adopting Khan, please click the link at the top of the page to contact the Ames Animal Shelter.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lucy's Story

The noises came in the middle of the night.  I didn't get up to investigate, but my fur-sister Roxie did, and so did My Person and My Lady.  There was a lot of banging and shouting - I was afraid, so I pretended I was still asleep.  "Open the door or I'll smash your face in!" a voice yelled from outside.  The voice was mean-sounding and scary, and it wouldn't stop.  It was yelling words I couldn't understand.

"Call 911!" I heard My Person say.  I could sense his fear and wanted to help...but my back legs were so sore...and my bed was so comfortable.  The noises got quieter, then stopped.  I did a big yawn and tried to blink the gunk out of my eyes.

Suddenly there was a loud thud from the next room.  I heard my sister Roxie whine.  What was happening?  The smell of the house had changed - something was wrong.  Minutes passed, and I tried to go help, but my legs kept giving out beneath me.  Why were there strangers in my house?  Where were they taking My Lady?

My Lady didn't come back the next day, or the next.  And something was wrong with My Person.  Roxie and I licked his hands, nudged at his legs, but we couldn't make it better.  People came to the house, lots of people - some I knew, some I didn't.  Some of them brought big platters and covered containers that smelled really good...but I couldn't eat.  I didn't know why.  My chest felt tight and the goop in my eyes was worse.

And somewhere deep down inside, I knew My Lady was not coming back.

Everyone sat around the table and talked in quiet voices, and The Girl sat beside me.  I did not even lift my head to look at her, or thump my tail when she talked to me.  I didn't care.  She tried to wipe my eyes with a wet cloth, but I wanted to be left alone.  As I walked to the door to be let outside, I couldn't make it and I went all over the kitchen floor.  I didn't mean to.

Dogs have dignity, too, you know.  I had just lost mine, and I was ashamed.  I wouldn't look My Person in the eyes after that - I had done a bad thing.

I hung out in the back room for the rest of the day.  I was so thirsty, but when I tried to drink, it would come right back up.  Something was wrong.  The Girl and The Boy loaded me in the car and took me to the vet.  I don't like going there, but the doctor was kind and gentle, and I thumped my tail as he poked me with needles and spoke quietly to me.

Days passed.  The Girl and Boy visited sometimes, and so did My Person.  For him, I managed to get to my feet and say hello.  But as soon as he left, I couldn't anymore.  I was so tired.

I knew that my sister Roxie would look out for My Person.  She could be annoying sometimes, but she was smart, and she was loyal.  He would be okay with her.

For those of you who don't believe in the Rainbow Bridge, I can assure you that it exists.  And now I am with My Lady again.  We watch TV together like we used to, and I thump thump thump my tail while she scratches my ears.  My legs don't hurt anymore...I can even run again.  I miss My Person, but I'll see him again one day.  And until then, I'll be here, waiting, with My Lady.  Thump thump thump.

I feel a little weird about sharing this, but writing helps me cope - maybe this will help you too.  Three weeks ago, a drunk stranger tried to break into my husband's grandparents' house.  He had no idea who they were, but threatened to steal their car and physically harm them.  In the middle of calling the police, my husband's grandma collapsed with a heart attack and passed away a few hours later.  She was 68 and a wonderful woman.  Four days later, their 8-year-old Lab Lucy died of kidney failure...and a broken heart.  This is her story.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

So You Want to Work With Animals, Part 2: Oh, My Achin' Bones!

Way back in March, I started this series with a post about POOP!  (By the way, what is it about poop posts that makes them so fun to write?!  Is it just me?  Anyone?)  This one won't be quite as interesting, but it's still a need-to-know if you're looking to get started working with animals on a daily basis.  It's another thing people don't consider when they think about working around a bunch of snuggly puppies and purring kittens.

You will go home in pain.

Like, a lot of pain.

As in, so much pain your doctor might think you have arthritis.  (Yes, that really happened.)

We all know that there is emotional pain involved when you are in rescue...and lots of it.  But that's a post in itself - that is not the pain I'm referring to today.  What I'm referring to is bruises.  Scratches up and down your arms.  A swollen lip from an over-exuberant Lab puppy.  Aching joints.  You get it.  Turns out, working with animals is hard work!

Who needs the gym?  Kenneling dogs at a shelter was the best exercise I ever got, bar none.  (Was that the right phrase?  I've never actually used that before in real life.)  I had no idea that it could take so much muscle to scrape poop off of a cement floor.  Or carry a full bag of dirty kitty litter to the dumpster.  Or a bag full of frozen poop-sicles!  Those things are heavy!  I had sweat pouring down my face more often than not.  And I probably had feces on my shirt.  Maybe a little on my face too.  It wasn't glamorous, and I went home every day not believing the pain I was in.  It was the good kind of pain, though - the kind that lets you know you've worked hard :)

It's not arthritis - I just grip the leash too hard.  This is an actual phrase I uttered to an actual doctor.  After having a couple of days off from work, I realized I was wincing in pain every time I gripped my steering wheel or a doorknob.  My wrist and finger joints ached constantly.  What the hell? I thought.  This isn't normal.  So I went to the doctor, and he worried aloud that I might have arthritis.  I went to work the next day, slipped a lead around the most energetic dog's neck to take him outside, and felt a familiar pain as he yanked on the leash.  Oh my Lord...I realized, not arthritis after all.  Just the result of overuse of fingers and the strength of big dogs!

No, I am not a self-harmer or the victim of domestic violence...I just work with animals.  Kenneling cats would often leave me with scratches up and down my arms, whether as a result of a fearful feral or a rambunctious kitten.  One evening I was sitting down to dinner with my parents after a day at work, and I noticed my mom looking over at my clawed-up wrists.  "Are you...okay?" she questioned with concern.  "Mom.  These are from cats."  "Just making sure!  I didn't know!"  And kenneling large dogs would often leave me with bruises all over various limbs.  I bruise very easily, and if a Lab playfully mouthed my arm or a pibble tail whacked my shin too hard, I would be black and blue the next day.  Let's just say Jared got a few nasty looks when a cashier rang us up and spotted the bruises on my upper arms!

Sometimes dogs bite, y'all.  Who knew?  Usually it's a nip through your jeans.  Or maybe a snap at your fingers.  But sometimes it can be worse.  Sometimes it's a dog who you never expected would bite.  Who you thought was your buddy.  Who used to give you kisses and let you rub his belly!


This was my fault.  I leaned over to give him a kiss when a strange (and potentially dangerous) man was holding his leash.  He was probably worked up, and I was stupid.  My point is, you never know.  At the shelter I worked at, bites were rare...but they did happen.  This is something you need to be aware of if you want to work with animals.

You've also gotta know...IT'S ALL SO WORTH IT!  You will be grinning all the way through the blood, sweat, and tears - trust me!  :)  No pain, no gain, baby!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tuesday's Tails: Skipper and Lucy

Transports are SO FUN!  It's like a relay race (without the race) of people who really really love animals.  I can always tell which vehicle I'm scheduled to be meeting because it's usually covered in animal rescue bumper stickers - my kind of people. :)  You get to help these dogs on their journey to a safe place, and that's a really awesome feeling.  And, believe it or not, you fall in love with each and every one of them, no matter how short the drive is.  I will always recommend transporting as a way of volunteering if you aren't able to foster.

Anyway, this weekend Jared and I got to chauffeur a very sweet senior Lab mix and an adorable Lab puppy.  And now that they are in a safe foster home, they are both up for adoption!

This is Lucy, and she's SUCH a sweet girl.  She kept putting her paw up on Jared's shoulder to get him to pet her!  Lucy loves giving kisses, and she would make an amazing pet for just about anyone.

And this is little Skipper.  Skipper is a typical puppy, full of love and snuggles!  C'mon, you can't say no to those eyes, can you?!

If you're interested in adopting Lucy or Skipper, they are available through the New Leash on Life Dog Rescue in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  In the meantime, please share this post to help them get adopted, and to spread the word about the awesomeness that is transport!!! <3

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Cyber Sunday: Links I Love

We have really been having an awesome few weeks!  After purchasing our first home, Jared and I have been having fun making plans for each room.  My job as a library director is incredibly fulfilling, and my little pet sitting side business is picking up like crazy!  (You can like my Facebook page here - I share lots of cute dog photos!  :)  Jen DeHaan of Dogthusiast designed my cover photo, isn't she awesome?!)

And for your Black & White Sunday viewing pleasure, here is a sneak peek of the transport we did today!  I will be posting more about it later this week :)

And these are the links I loved most in July:

Kol's Notes always has delicious-looking recipes for your pup, and this cheese ice cream recipe is no exception!  Looks pretty simple too, and such a great idea for the summer months.

I LOVE this blog, and this post brought me to tears.  Jake has had a bit of a rough time adjusting after the death of his big brother Melvin, but this post is all about why his mama will never give up on him <3

It's always nice to read posts about shelter animals that are uplifting rather than depressing.  Talent Hounds recently shared this wonderful roundup of shelter dogs who make a difference.  Click on over and smile!

This craft kit for kids is a very cute take on paper dolls - paper dogs and clothes to dress them up in!  I have a feeling my niece would love this :)

This dog bed is not in my budget, but I am so in love!  It's covered in words - one of my favorite quotes from the Velveteen Rabbit:  "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."   Beautiful!  Jared is loving this baseball mitt dog bed from the Martha Stewart line at PetSmart.  I have to agree - it's pretty darn adorable!  We saw it in the store today but can't find it on the site. :(

Buzzfeed posted an awesome roundup of books about animals...they missed my personal favorite (Cowboy & Wills by Monica Holloway), but there's TONS of great reads on the list.

HeARTs Speak is an organization of artists doing good for shelter animals; they just put out a guide to photographing shelter dogs that looks super helpful!  I'm not very good at photography, but it's definitely something I would like to work on - I'd love to photograph adoptable pets!

Is this hilarious or what?!  Dogster recently featured the work of illustrator Josh Lynch; my personal favorite was this Pug/Spiderman!  So funny :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

When is it Okay to Give Up Your Pet?

You hear a lot of things when you work in rescue.  Some of those things warm your heart, make you believe in people again.  Most of those things, though, frustrate the hell out you.  Make you want to tear your heart out by the roots and scream, "What is wrong with you?!?!" at the unsuspecting person across the counter.  (I just had a flashback of working in retail.  That's a special kind of frustration all its own!)

You hear things like, "I adopted this dog from you last year, but I need to bring her back.  We're expecting a baby."  And, "My cat keeps peeing outside of her litter box, so I want to surrender her to the shelter."  Or what about, "We're moving to a place that doesn't allow pets"?  Or, my personal favorite, "We just don't have time for him anymore."


Now.  Guys.  I understand that sometimes it's unavoidable.  Sometimes your (my) husband is allergic and asthmatic, and you (I) have to choose between keeping your (my) cat/dog or keeping your (my) husband alive.  (Hardest choice I ever made!)  And sometimes your pet bites your child.  And, yes, sometimes it is the right decision for your pet to have another home.

But many times there is a solution.  If you must move, only look at places that will allow your beloved pet!  If you are expecting a child, do your research - your dog will probably adjust to the new addition just fine.  There are places that will help you with low-cost veterinary care and free pet food if you are short on money.  There are also sitters who will care for and play with your pet while you are at work if you're short on time.

Giving your pet up to a shelter should be the last resort.  (It also needs to be said that you should never, ever post your pet on Craigslist.  Or, honestly, those Facebook "giveaway" pages.  Just don't do it.)

(Also, at least act sad or regretful when you're surrendering what is basically your family member to a shelter.  Just a little bit.  Please?  It's one thing to give up your cat if you tell it goodbye with tears in your eyes.  It's completely another if you surrender your Border Collie puppy for chewing things in your house, and then you walk out the door with a smile and arms up, touchdown-style, saying "Free at last!")  (Did that sound like an oddly specific example?  That's because it is an actual thing that I experienced.  UGH.)

When it comes right down to it, when is it okay to give up your pet?  Well...when you feel you have no other choice.  When it breaks your heart to do it.  I guess it all depends on personal circumstance.

But I want to hear what you think?  When do you think it is okay to give up your pet?  I would love some discussion in the comments!  I would also love to know the "excuse" that most frustrates you?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Promise 4 Paws Senior Dog Sanctuary

By now, you've all seen the viral video about the retirement home for dogs located in Maryland.  (And I'm sure you, like me, reached for the tissues when they talked about the "Stairway to Heaven"...)  Shortly after I watched this video for the first time, my husband and I took a day trip to Omaha to celebrate my birthday.  And we stumbled upon a place very similar to the video...and basically, guys, it's where I would like to live for the rest of my life.

Whenever I go on trips, I do a lot of Googling in the weeks prior.  Usually, I search for bookstores and animal shelters, and on the Omaha trip, I struck gold!  I found an organization called "Promise 4 Paws Senior Dog Sanctuary" located near Council Bluffs, Iowa.  There wasn't much information about it online, but we hoped for the best and headed there anyway.  I'm so glad we did!

3 of the 4 dogs on this couch are blind...and all so very sweet!

This place was my version of heaven.  25 dogs, all between ages 8 and 18, with a house all to themselves.  Most of the dogs had a few health issues (many were blind, incontinent, missing teeth, etc.), but man, were those dogs happy.  You could really tell that they felt safe and comfortable in this environment.

Promise 4 Paws just opened its doors in April, and it's all because of 3 AMAZING women who had a great love for dogs and a dream.  They visited the retirement home in Maryland (of viral video fame), and it inspired them to make their own sanctuary for old dogs.  They managed to raise enough money to purchase a little house for the dogs to live in.  Now, someone is there 24/7, though each of the women have full-time jobs.  They do not get paid, and there are (usually) no adoption fees being brought in, since most of these dogs are not adoptable.  Their money comes solely from donations and fundraisers.

This sweet girl has congestive heart failure and wasn't feeling so well that day :(

I mean...if only all of us could be so selfless, right?

This guy looked just like a black bear...he was my husband's favorite!

Promise 4 Paws only takes in senior dogs that get along well with other dogs, since they are around one another all the time.  There was a bit of growling amongst the Chihuahuas and Pomeranians, but with 25 dogs, that's to be expected.  The house, a cute cottage-like home, was full of oversized couches, chairs, and dog beds, many specially fitted with ramps.  There is always daytime access to a large, fenced-in yard, and at least half of the dogs were sunbathing on a big porch when we arrived.  A long countertop was custom-built to have multiple cubbies along the bottom with dog beds in each - the Chihuahuas love to snuggle inside the cubbies when they want some alone time.  They also, using the wonderful idea from the Maryland retirement home, have a "Stairway to Heaven", putting up photos of the beloved dogs that have already crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

The Pom in the doorway was the resident greeter :)

I have never seen an organization like this before - I wish there were more around!  Visiting Promise 4 Paws was an experience I will never forget, and I hope to go back again and again.  In fact, I wanted to somehow collaborate with a professional photographer and get a piece together about the place, so if you know any photographers in the area, let me know! :)  These photos do NOT do this place justice, and I am positive some amazing moments could be captured :)

One of the residents, probably thinking, "This is the life."  (Photo from Promise 4 Paws Facebook page)