General Interest

The Odd Couple

posted September 21st, 2013 by
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by Steve Bull

Photos by Sirius Photography

Recently we came home to find a bit of a surprise in our front yard: a 150 lb. potbellied pig. We were a little apprehensive at first given her size, but she quickly came over when we seemed to pose no threat.

As she came to us, her grunts turned into increasingly more rapid squeals, sounding more and more like a pig in distress. We scratched her back and her ears, and she calmed down a little, even laying her chin on our shoes. She was clearly someone’s pet. My wife Dana walked across the road to check with our neighbors to see if they had lost the pig, and the pig followed right behind her.

Unfortunately, the answer was “no,” and she returned, pig in tow. We then decided she could stay here, hoping it was only a matter of time before her owners showed up to claim the wayward porcine. We set up a dog exercise pen in the front yard and coaxed her in with some horse feed and a tub of water. She grudgingly went in, but was fairly vocal about her situation.

When we woke the following morning, she was gone. She had pushed open the x-pen, followed by the front gate of our driveway. There was no sign of her. That evening, Dana was out planting in the front yard when she heard oinks, followed by a different sound, the sound of quacking. Sure enough, the pig was ambling down the side of the road, this time with a large white duck bringing up the rear.

They walked straight to the gate and up the drive, oinking and quacking quite vigorously. The pair then toured around the front yard for all the world, conversing like a couple looking over a new house, deciding whether or not this was the home for them. They were never more than a few feet away from each other.

The reason for the pig’s distress the night before was clear—they were bonded, more than likely raised together from a young age. They soon settled down, Pig rooting about for tasty subterranean morsels while Duck chastised her for not finding tasty duck chow. The rooting about was going to be a problem.

Fearing for our plants, I picked up Duck, and we led Pig to the small fenced-in field next to the front yard where we used to have our agility equipment. It had plenty of room, and a little pig-rooting wouldn’t hurt anything there. I gave Pig a good chin and belly scratching, prompting her to fall over in piggy contentment. When I checked on her before heading to bed, she and Duck had bedded down right next to the gate connecting the two yards.

Sunday morning, I found the two right where I had seen them last by the gate. I checked on them throughout the day, scratching Pig while Duck looked on somewhat disapprovingly. Duck wasn’t as friendly as Pig, but even he would submit to some gentle petting if his companion was near.

That evening the mystery was solved when I heard someone shout “Penelope!” from next door. It seems our neighbors were taking care of Pig (aka: Penelope) and her companion Duck (whose name I never did learn). She was quite an escape artist and didn’t take kindly to being separated from her people.

The two indeed were raised together from the very beginning. She’s already made another bid for freedom at least once. I only hope the odd couple returns to their true home soon—people drive down our road far too fast at times. Funny, I kind of miss Penelope and her subtle piggy personality.

A strange weekend indeed.

Playing Keep Away

posted September 21st, 2013 by
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by Anna Holton-Dean

When I set out to write this article, I intended to focus on the effects of “people food” when eaten by dogs. After speaking with veterinarians, I discovered their concern was far more reaching than food.

Of course, they want pet owners to know common foods harmful and even toxic to pets, but they also want them to be aware of the cases they see on a usual basis which could be avoided if pet owners performed their due diligence. In the end, it could possibly save your pet’s life or, at least, a costly vet bill.

Let’s start with the basics. You probably already know many of these foods to avoid for Fido. Thanks to the ASPCA, here’s a handy list of 10 foods found in most households which are harmful to dogs and other pets.

Avocado is toxic to dogs, horses, rabbits, fish and mice. This is due to a compound called persin, an oil-soluble toxin found in specialized cells within the avocado fruit and its skin. It can cause damage to many animals’ heart muscle cells and cause heart failure. In other species, it can cause inflammation of the mammary glands, according to aspca.org.

Although there have been reports of dogs developing heart failure after ingesting a large amount of avocado, most dogs who ingest it develop no serious injuries. In light of the facts, the ASPCA suggests dogs avoid avocado. The possibility of your pet swallowing the pit is reason enough to avoid the fruit, which can cause blockage in the digestive tract, requiring surgery.

Raw Bread Dough The danger in dogs ingesting raw bread dough lies within the warm, moist environment of the stomach where yeast multiply, resulting in an expanding mass of dough. The ASPCA says expansion of the stomach, if severe enough, could result in decreased blood flow to the stomach wall, causing the death of tissue. Expansion of the stomach could also press on the diaphragm, resulting in breathing difficulty.

Chocolate intoxication is most commonly seen around holidays where candy would be in abundance, such as Easter, Christmas, Halloween or Valentine’s Day, the ASPCA says. The compounds in chocolate that cause toxicosis are caffeine and theobromine, both chemicals are called methylxanthines.

A good rule of thumb to remember is, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. According to the ASPCA, if your dog displays more than mild restlessness after eating chocolate, see your veterinarian immediately.

Ethanol (Alcohol) Ingesting even a small amount of alcohol can cause significant intoxication in dogs. The ASPCA says drinks like White Russians and egg nog (those with milk) are the most appealing to dogs. Alcohol intoxication may cause vomiting, loss of coordination or disorientation (much like humans). The most severe cases could induce comas, seizures or death.

If you believe your dog has alcohol poisoning, he or she should be monitored by a veterinarian until recovered. It is important to note that hops, used in brewing beer, are also life-threatening for dogs if ingested.

Grapes and Raisins Recently, grapes and raisins have been associated with kidney failure in dogs. The exact cause of the kidney failure isn’t clear, nor is it clear why some dogs can eat the fruit without harm while others experience life-threatening problems after eating even a small amount of raisins or grapes. Further unexplainable is the fact that some dogs can eat the fruit with no ill effects, then later on eat them and become sick.

With the cause of illness still a mystery, the safest bet is to keep grapes and raisins away from your dog completely. Dogs that ingest the fruit and develop toxicosis usually develop vomiting, lethargy or diarrhea within 12 hours of ingestion, according to the ASPCA. With progression of the sickness, dogs may become more lethargic and dehydrated with increased urination, followed by possible decreased or absent urination.

Death could occur in three to four days, or long-term kidney disease may develop. Veterinary treatment should be prompt.

Macadamia Nuts The good news here is that macadamia nut ingestion is unlikely to be fatal in dogs. However, it may cause uncomfortable symptoms for up to 48 hours, the ASPCA says. Symptoms may include weakness in the rear legs, the appearance of pain, possible tremors, and a low grade fever. While symptoms will subside over the 48 hours, dogs may benefit from veterinary care, including intravenous fluid therapy and pain medication.

Moldy Foods Numerous molds grow on food. Some produce toxins called tremorgenic mycotoxins, which can be serious or lifethreatening for dogs if ingested. Without a known way to determine whether a particular mold is producing tremorgenic mycotoxins, the safest route is to avoid feeding moldy food to dogs, the ASPCA says. Remove any debris or trash that your dog could possibly eat (from fallen walnuts or fruit to road kill). The signs of tremorgenic mycotoxin poisoning can begin as fine muscle tremors and progress to total body tremors, even convulsions leading to death. Most dogs will respond well to veterinary treatment.

Onions and Garlic All members of the onion family (shallots, scallions, garlic, etc.) contain compounds damaging to dogs’ red blood cells if ingested in sufficient quantities. According to the ASPCA, follow this rule of thumb: “the stronger it is, the more toxic it is.”

“Garlic tends to be more toxic than onions on an ounce for ounce basis,” the ASPCA article adds. It’s uncommon for a dog to eat enough raw onion or garlic to result in serious problems but exposure to concentrated forms, such as dehydrated onions, onion soup mix or garlic powder, may put dogs at risk for toxicosis. The damage to the red blood cells may not be apparent for three to five days.

Dogs affected may appear weak, reluctant to move or easily tired after mild exercise. Urine may be orange–tinted to dark red. Veterinary care is necessary and blood transfusions may be needed.

Xylitol This all-natural sweetener is used in sugar-free gums, baked products and is also used as a drink sweetener for those looking to avoid calories or synthetic alternatives. While it’s a good choice for people as it does not affect their blood sugar levels, in dogs it can lead to a rapid, severe drop in blood sugar levels.

Dogs may develop disorientation and seizures within 30 minutes after ingestion of xylitol, the ASPCA states. However, it could take up to several hours after ingestion. Large quantities could cause liver failure. Any dog ingesting xylitol should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Fatty Foods/Fat drippings BBQ, fat drippings or scraps of meat can be hazardous if eaten by dogs, Dr. Troy McNamara of Animal Emergency Center cautions. Vomiting, diarrhea and even pancreatitis could develop. So make every effort to clean the grill and keep Fido away from leftovers or drippings that may be in the trash.

Beyond Food… Trash As just mentioned, the trash can be a danger zone, McNamara says. Too often he treats dogs and other animals that have eaten something out of the trash can. “Most people know that dogs like to get into the kitchen trash for leftovers, but they also love bathroom trash,” he says.

While unpleasant to think about, he says pet owners must be vigilant to keep feminine hygiene products and used disposable diapers away from pets’ reach. Bathroom trash needs to be tightly secured if pets are near, or the end result may be surgery. “Feminine hygiene products are very absorbent and swell inside the dog’s stomach and intestines, causing blockages and rupturing the intestines. Baby diapers are similar and very absorbent,” McNamara says.

Medicine Medications are another area of concern. Common household pain relievers, such as Tylenol, Aleve or Ibuprofen, are toxic to pets (Tylenol being lethal in cats). McNamara says aspirin is safest, but with any medication, it is best to consult your veterinarian before administering.

Take that one step further and prescription medications may be even more dangerous. Keep all medications in an area your pet cannot reach. “Sleep medications, antidepressants, blood pressure or heart medications are all concerning, McNamara says.

It may go without saying, but veterinarians see pets that have ingested illicit drugs. Any and all drugs should be kept away from pets.

Rodenticides/Mouse Poison McNamara says it is common to see dogs that have ingested rat poison. Most often it leads to bleeding disorders where the blood will not clot, resulting in hemorrhaging and death. “This is 100 percent treatable,” he says, “in the early stages with a prescription medication. However, if left untreated it requires intensive care, transfusions and sometimes is still fatal.”

Common Plants Berries from common plants, such as nandina or burning bush, are toxic to dogs, Dr. Jana Layton of Riverbrook Animal Hospital says. These two particular ones are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. She says burning bush can cause heart arrhythmia, vomiting and diarrhea. Nandina berries may cause seizures, coma or respiratory failure.

Your best line of defense is to know the specific plants your pet encounters around your home. The ASPCA has a detailed list of 17 hazardous plants, which can be accessed at www.aspca. org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/17- poisonous-plants.

Also found in the yard, mushrooms that grow wild should be kept away from pets, Layton says. Its effect is on the liver and may take up to 72 hours to become apparent.

Foreign Bodies Layton and McNamara both find that dogs like to eat things. Period. “Not only food but weird things—coins, fish hooks, silverware, small toys,” McNamara says. Gorilla Glue, a cassette tape ribbon, a Reebok footie sock—all things which Layton has had to surgically remove or treat after ingestion. The bottom line is that pet owners must be vigilant to keep hazardous foods and household items away from pets when possible. Look for signs of distress, pain or sickness in your pet and be quick to seek veterinary care. It could save his or her life.

FIV – Not A Death Sentence

posted September 21st, 2013 by
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by Camille Hulen

The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a retrovirus in the same family as human HIV, but it cannot be transmitted to humans. FIV can live in many different tissues in cats, and typically causes a weakening of the cat’s immune system.

FIV positive cats are more prone to getting infections such as upper respiratory, skin, and bladder infections, along with dental disease. There are no specific signs of FIV, and a cat may not show any symptoms for years, so the only way to determine it is through a blood test.

A positive result from an FIV test can have a devastating effect on a cat owner. There is much misinformation about this disease; so much, in fact, that many consider it a death sentence. The purpose of this article is to dispel that myth.

The most common test is the SNAP test, performed by your veterinarian to look for antibodies to FIV. An initial positive result is usually followed up by a more extensive laboratory Blot test. It should be noted that tests on kittens under 6 months of age frequently result in false positive results and should be deemed unreliable. Antibodies from an infected mother may have been spread to the kitten in utero or via milk, but they may go away with time.

It is estimated that perhaps 2 percent of cats in the United States are infected with the virus. FIV is mainly passed from cat to cat through deep bite wounds, the kind that occur outdoors among intact males fighting to defend territory. It is very unlikely to be spread by sharing food bowls or litter boxes, by casual contact or by grooming.

There is no way to rid the cat of FIV, but FIV positive cats can lead normal lives both in quality and duration. They should be monitored with careful veterinary care to treat any secondary infections. Unfortunately, most rescue organizations will euthanize FIV positive cats, because people are hesitant to adopt a “sick” kitty. This is not necessary, as you will see in the following stories.

Cheryl in Oklahoma City has helped many FIV victims. Big White Cat (BWC) is just one of them. He was the neighborhood tom. He was at least 10 years old and showed up on a neighbor’s doorstep, looking rough and feeling worse: dirty, matted, stinky with fleas, ear mites and bad teeth.

Following treatment and neutering at the vet—and a bath which he enjoyed— he immediately relaxed indoors with the comforting sleep of rescue. He was adopted by his foster mom and now enjoys life as an indoor kitty, getting along fine with her dogs and another cat.

Bobby, a stunning bull’s-eye Tabby, was also a neighborhood stray. Jane and John fed him for months but could not get near him. Finally, he would let Jane approach as he ate. Then one day, he showed up with an injured eye; plus, it was cold outside. Trapping was the only option. After his treatment at the vet, he lived inside in a cage while Jane and John gained his trust. Eventually he became a wonderful loving pet, sharing many hours on the lap of John as he watched T.V. Bobby is gone now, but would Jane and John give up the two plus years of love that they shared with Bobby? I think not.

Another story comes from Angela. “FIV kitties are great; I have one!” she says. “My vet feels that FIV has been around much longer than we have had a name to place on the condition, and that many cats over the years have lived out a seemingly normal life while having FIV, and no one [knew] any different.

“Not to say we should dismiss the condition or allow conditions that would enable it to spread, but after my panic when I got the diagnosis on Murphy, I thought it was a death sentence for him. I spent a lot of time researching it and found FIV positive cats can live successfully with other cats and not share the condition. I have found this to be true, as Murphy lives with two other cats that have not contracted FIV. Hopefully, these guys can continue to hang out together for the rest of their lives.”

Sisco’s story is a little different because he is still waiting for his forever home. Sisco is an affectionate guy with a big purr, currently in foster care. He was an indoor/outdoor kitty that adopted a little orange kitten, Alfred, showing him the ways of the world, leading him around and grooming him, then inviting him in.

Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, Sisco and Alfred were later turned outside. Sisco was easily captured, and it was at that point that he was diagnosed as FIV positive. Alfred the kitten was more elusive, but when Alfred was found, Sisco welcomed him with kitty hugs and grooming, as if to say, “Where have you been, Buddy?” They are pals for life; all they now need is a home.

Stories of FIV cats abound. Best Friends Animal Society in Utah has a wing devoted to them, and even the official greeter at Best Friends is FIV positive! They are strong advocates for saving all lives, as is Dr. Janet M. Scarlett of Cornell University. To quote Dr. Scarlett, “There is no disease or condition of companion animals that takes more of their lives than euthanasia.” Some food for thought.

Therapy Pets Visit Cancer Treatment Centers of America – Tulsa

posted September 21st, 2013 by
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by Kendra Blevins

Photography by Sirius Photography

As Cancer Treatment Centers of America guest services and patient activity coordinator, Gary- Ann Tomkalski noticed over the past year that patients were missing the company of their pets at home and the comfort their presence brings.

Many patients travel hundreds of miles to receive treatment at the Tulsa branch of Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

“Over the last year, I have talked to many patients and caregivers who had to leave their pets at home, and they would all tell me how much they missed them,” Tomkalski says. “I felt such empathy for them as I have two cats of my own, and I know they are important members of my family.

“So, when I saw that ‘Grumpy Cat’ had visited the CTC A in Phoenix, I asked if we could have therapy dogs come to CTC A of Tulsa. That is what set the wheel in motion. I made contact with Sharon Wilson of Karing K9’s and with Dusty and Nancy Meyer of TLC Therapy Dogs, and both groups came to visit and thus began our partnerships.”

Sharon Wilson of Karing K9’s began her journey as a handler in 1994 and also visits St. Francis Hospital, St. John’s Burn Center and OSU Medical Center rehabilitation services.

Dusty Meyer started with Karing K9’s and became registered with Therapy Dogs Inc., (TDInc.), out of Cheyenne, Wy. Therapy Dogs Inc., is a 30-year-old organization of more than 11,000 dog/handler teams whose goal is to provide registration, support and insurance for the members who volunteer in pet therapy activities.

“I wanted my own team,” says Meyer. Now there are eight registered teams with TLC Therapy Dogs, which was established five months ago. Meyer and Wilson quickly point out that their dogs are not service dogs but therapy dogs.

Wilson explains, “There is a big difference between service dogs and therapy dogs. We do a lot of education as therapy dogs; we go into summer camps to educate children on pet safety and care, plus a lot of different things.”

Therapy pets must be at least 1 year old and in the care of the owner for at least three months. On the other hand, a service dog is a type of assistance dog specifically trained to help people who have disabilities. Service dogs are allowed in general public areas, whereas therapy dogs do not have the same access.

Therapy dogs are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, at disaster sites, hospices and in educational settings. So enjoying human contact is a must for these animals.

Karing K9’s and TLC Therapy Dogs are both registered with TDInc. Some therapy pet activities include visiting schools, hospitals, nursing homes, libraries and any facilities where interaction with dogs would benefit people.

During these visits, people are invited to pet and stroke the dog. Patients can brush them, just look, hold them in their laps or place them on the bed. Fetching games and walking alongside with the owner are also a beneficial means of interaction.

Each therapy pet visit at CTC A is set up in the activity room, and whoever wants to see them comes to pet them, hug them and pose with them for photos.

“We also have the dogs visit patients in hospital beds, if they have approval from their physician, and if they want to see a dog while they are there visiting,” says Tomkalski. “The dogs have been so welcomed by everyone and [even prove therapeutic] for our nurses and doctors too.”

One doctor in particular, Dr. Quyen Ha, stopped in to watch the dogs and patients interact. “This is the first time I’ve seen this,” says Ha. “They do a lot of neat things here at CTC A. The dogs are comforting to the patients and that’s important. It’s comforting for me too, very therapeutic.”

Most importantly, patients like Spencer Kar from Dodge, Texas, are a testimony to the success of the therapy program. Battling cancer for years now, he spends three to four days per treatment at CTC A.

“We have a Golden Retriever at home,” Kar says. “There’s a great sense of comfort with the dogs. I have been fighting cancer for six years now; it’s a stressful endeavor. I can say being around wellmannered dogs, that it provides a sense of calm to the patient. It gets your mind off the treatment and what will happen in the future and puts it on a warm-hearted dog.”

Another patient, Buddy Hill, watches as his granddaughters fawn over a Golden Retriever and talk about how they miss their animals back in Tennessee. Hill and his daughter Jerri Thompson have spent five weeks at CTC A, 600 miles from home.

“It’s helped me,” Thompson says. “It fills the void of not being able to love on their dogs. It’s neat to see the patients’ faces light up when the dogs enter the room.”

The handlers clearly love what they do. “Every day is new,” says Wilson. “I like working with kids and seeing people smile and talk about their pets. We do make a difference. CTC A has been so welcoming to have us on board.”

“I was always interested in animal therapy,” Meyer adds. “Just to see the look on people’s faces and how they react; it makes it all worth it.”

Pet owners interested in becoming a pet therapy handler can contact Sharon Wilson or Dusty Meyer. They are both tester/observers (T/O), who can answer questions and start the testing process.

Testing and registering is important because it proves to the administration of the facility that the team is covered by TDInc.’s liability insurance. This insurance covers the people who are visited in the event of illness or injury resulting from contact with the dog.

There is no a certain breed that is better than another for therapy work. Wilson favors the Samoyed breed, Meyer has a Golden Retriever, and some of his members have large 170-lb. St. Bernards. Even Chihuahuas make great therapy pets.

A dog that is healthy, well-mannered and favors human contact possesses the traits necessary for therapy visits. As far as what makes a good handler, Wilson says, “Have time, energy and transportation.” For more information, visit http://www.therapydogs.com; contact Dusty Meyer at (918) 747-3201 or email [email protected] att.net. You may also contact Sharon Wilson at (918) 342- 5343 or email [email protected] msn.com.

Animal Control 411

posted September 21st, 2013 by
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by Rachael Weaver

Every day is different for an animal control officer. Seven officers serve the City of Tulsa and their day’s responsibilities could include stray and injured animal pick up, livestock on the roadway to mediating disagreements between neighbors. However, stray dogs are what they see most.

Jean Letcher, manager of Tulsa Animal Welfare, said an officer’s first duty is to enforce the ordinances of the City of Tulsa when it comes to animals, which includes all of Title 2 (the animal code) and part of Title 21, which specifically addresses the outside sale of animals—or “street corner vendors” as Letcher described them.

Barking dogs is one of many calls dispatch receives daily. To handle this, they send out letters. If the letter doesn’t work, then it becomes a matter of the Tulsa Police Department because then it’s disturbing the peace, Letcher said.

Dispatch will receive calls about barking dogs with citizens specifically asking the officers to retrieve the dogs. But they cannot walk onto an individual’s property because someone has made a complaint.

“We cannot just walk onto someone’s property and take their animal,” Letcher said. “In Oklahoma, pets are personal property just like your car, just like your stereo.”

Officers are not able to go through locked gates or able to arrest people. If they believe someone needs to be arrested, Letcher said they must call the Tulsa Police Department for assistance.

While officers cannot arrest an individual, they can write citations and question citizens in an investigation.

Animal cruelty is also something officers investigate if they receive a report that someone is either neglecting or abusing an animal.

“We’re the first line on that,” said Susan Stoker, field supervisor, who oversees all officers. “We get a lot of complaints for dogs that don’t have food, water, shelter, so we try to resolve those. More serious cruelties— we are the first to respond on most of those. And if they need follow-up, they go to our cruelty investigator.”

The cruelty investigator, who’s not one of the seven animal control officers, works on these cases until pet owners correct the problem or until the officers need to remove the animal. It can sometimes take weeks to resolve an issue.

If an animal is in imminent danger, officers can confiscate it. Imminent danger is classified as an “exigent circumstance,” meaning if an animal is about to die, the officer will take it. Examples include if animals are starving or if a dog on a tether is caught on a fence and might hang itself.

“If the chance is it’s not going to live, we’d rather take the dog and give it back then leave it there and have it die,” Stoker said.

Animals can also be confiscated if they have bitten someone. Animal control officers are mandated by the state to quarantine that animal for 10 days to determine it does not have rabies, Letcher said.

“So if your animal bites someone, we’re going to take your animal,” Letcher said. “If you prevent us from doing that, not only will you get a citation for not giving us your animal, we will call TPD (Tulsa Police Department), and you will probably be arrested for interfering with an officer.”

A Day in the Life

Officers work 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and each day they pick which area of the city in which they want to work. Then dispatch starts assigning calls to each officer.

“Some days they might be swamped with calls; other days are a little bit slower,” Stoker said.

Calls come in from citizen phone calls, the Mayor’s Action Center or the Tulsa Police Department and are run based on priority to some extent, Stoker said.

Animals can be impounded in the field, and officers take them to the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter (3031 N. Erie Ave.). Stoker said officers give animals their first set of vaccines as they check them in. They scan for microchips twice before the animal reaches a kennel. Then they take a photo that is placed on petharbor.com, which is updated throughout the day.

“So if someone is missing their animal, they can check on that and they will see a picture of their pet,” Stoker said. “Or if someone is looking to adopt an animal, they can see what we have too.”

As the end of the day nears, dispatch tries to slow down on calls. It doesn’t always quite work because some calls after 5 p.m. might not be able to wait until the next day. Starting at 5:30 p.m., Stoker said priority calls go to the standby officer who will respond on injured animals, police assists, some dog bites and loose livestock.

“We get a lot of livestock calls at night,” Stoker said. Whether a dog bite, police assist, or welfare check on an abandoned dog, officers are expected to perform their duties in a timely matter. “Response to the citizens of Tulsa is important,” Letcher said.

Officers are asked to “respect the citizens no matter what the situation is and to resolve the situation taking into account the ordinances and the laws of the community,” she added.

If you ask an officer what the most rewarding part of his or her job is, Stoker said it’s going to vary depending on who is answering.

“I think we all have different goals for what we’re trying to achieve,” she said. “For me, I’d like to see the animal that I pick up either get reunited with his family or get adopted. I want him out of here in a good way.”

Officers also experience frustrating aspects of their job, such as repeatedly returning to the same address because of the same problem.

“Our officers care about their jobs, and they care about animals,” Letcher said. “They want the best for the animals. Our job would be much easier if people would do the right thing by the animal.”

Stoker reiterates that idea. “Animals think; they feel. It’s not just a car you park out in your yard.”

Pepper

posted July 15th, 2013 by
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by Steve Sweeney

You know it going into the relationship. There are few doubts. It is, statistically, virtually unavoidable. But you’re a dog lover, so you do it anyway…

On the way up country, I said to Audrey, “You know we are suckers for a dog. As long as it has four paws, a mouth and a bum, we’re going to buy it.” With Harry, 7, and Kate, 5, in the back of the car, we made our way to Central Victoria and met our new best friend. She was an 8-week-old Rottweiler puppy full of mischief and fun with a grin so broad—so broad.

We met the mother, a huge, slovenly lug of an animal that immediately trusted our children’s affections and she just wanted more of that love. The pup already had her shots; we got her papers and some of the food she was on and made our way back home.

Not knowing how big an 8-week-old Rotty would be and not wanting her loose in the car, we brought a small cage to put her in for the travel home… Silly us. She was far too big for it. So with Audrey driving and two excited kids in the backseat, I held her on my chest for the two-hour trip, and it was then and there that my love affair began. She lay quietly, exhausted from the prior excitement and kiddie shenanigans. I stroked her to sleep while we debated about her name.

One name kept bubbling to the surface: Pepper. Over the years she also became known as Pepper Pooch, Peptide, the Peppermeister, Peppeteer and Pepperoni.

I’ll never forget her arrival home. I opened the door and off she shot. A puppy with two hours of sleep under her belt needs to run. We took her down to the dam, and in and out of the water she leapt and splashed. The water level was a bit low, exposing the muddy slopes so, soaking wet, she took to this like it was a velodrome and ran around and around and around. But at 8 weeks old, she didn’t possess all the coordination she would one day have, so her resemblance to a drunken cyclist on a slippery slope was unmistakable.

Days turned to months, months to years.

We have a small property with many fencing, planting and weeding jobs to do, so I’m always outside, and Pepper was always with me, slowing my progress in the best possible way. She had a knack for knowing what I wanted to use next and stealing it. Where are the pliers? Pepper took them. Where’s the hammer? Pepper took it. Where’s my drink bottle? You get the idea.

Pepper also had a penchant for eating anything that would make a grown man wince and then rolling in the leftovers. On a small property, this ranges from the carcasses that the local fox brigade left strewn over the paddocks to horse hoof clippings left by the farrier, and on to her favorite delicacy, the wet and runny horse poo that only lush spring grass can provide. Yes, she was all class. And it’s funny how she knew to come for affection when she was covered in the latter.

About two years ago, I noticed her limping a little. “Probably just a sprain,” I thought. She got over it, no biggie.

Then it happened again about a month later. “Uh-oh.” Off to the vet we went, and my dark suspicions were confirmed—hip dysplasia. That’s hip dysplasia at 2 years old. I know Rottweilers are prone to it but thought its onset would be much later. Not so in Pep’s case. We got the injections and managed her condition, but it was clear her best days were already behind her.

About a year ago, I noticed her vomiting. Once again, no biggie—dogs vomit, especially given her diet! But this continued. The vet advised it was quite natural, and as long as there was no blood, it was nothing to be concerned about. So our 3-year-old Pepper endured all too frequent stomach difficulties, had trouble walking some days and running hadn’t been encouraged for a year.

She still accompanied me into the paddocks, but I tried to do my jobs in a far less playful manner. I tightened my fencing wires or dug my holes, and she just lay in the sun watching and looking for an opportunity to steal something, so I would chase her. I reduced these incidents by keeping my tools in my belt and called her off eating her paddock delights too. She was living half a life.

We were out for dinner the other night and came home to find her cold and motionless on the patio. We have no idea what caused her death. It doesn’t matter; she’s gone. So what is it that is statistically unavoidable? What is it you know to be a truth before entering into the relationship? You know your best friend will die before you do.

We chose a sunny place in one of the fields she loved so much the next day, dug the hole and buried our fourth dog. I threw in one of my old hammers. You’d think it would get easier. But as I sit here weeping and typing, I can tell you, it doesn’t.