General Interest

Holiday Cuteness

posted November 25th, 2012 by
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• At least 40 percent of American households own at least one dog and 30 percent own at least one cat.

• Although sea turtles are air breathing reptiles, they can hold their breath underwater anywhere from four to seven hours.

• If you lift a kangaroo’s tail off the ground, it can’t hop; it uses its tail for balance.

• A flea can jump up to 200 times its own height—the equivalent of a man jumping over the Empire State Building.

• An elephant can use its tusks to dig for ground water. An adult elephant needs to drink around 210 liters of water a day.

• Cats have powerful night vision, allowing them to see at light levels six times lower than what a human needs in order to see.

• A female chicken will mate with many different males, but if she decides, after the deed is done, that she doesn’t want a particular rooster’s offspring, she can eject his sperm. This occurs most often when the male is lower in the pecking order.

The Animal Resource Center

posted November 24th, 2012 by
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 Barbara Lewis, the board president of the Animal Resource Center (ARC) in Oklahoma City, has been the driving force behind an innovative approach to addressing many stumbling blocks for animal advocacy—effectively keeping dogs and cats out of shelters and in their homes. Her goal is to help each rescue organization or shelter to be as effective as possible and to help at-risk pet owners keep their pets.

In order to get there, Lewis did her homework. “We surveyed a lot of the rescue groups to see what they felt would help them best do their job, and the biggest number said a facility they could afford to rent at which they could hold adoption events, fundraisers, etc., was badly needed,” she said. “Also, shelter intakes are not getting better.

The Lockhart Foundation was trying to figure out what could be done to keep dogs in their homes and really saw that there was no central site for services like when someone loses a job and needs pet food, or even simply getting help overcoming problem behavior by talking with a trainer.” The Lockhart Foundation has generously supported the non-profit ARC since its start up. ARC is located in a 32,000-square-foot building in Oklahoma City equipped with rooms for dog training classes, an open bathing/ grooming program, an “animal library” and spaces for rent for animal and nonanimal events. It’s conveniently located at the intersection of I-240 and I-35 with ample parking.

The ARC also holds workshops for the public on responsible pet ownership, adoption events and obedience classes, ranging from puppy kindergarten to agility. On the second Saturday of the month, ARC has a free presentation that is open to the public on an animal related topic, and on Saturday mornings two groomers are on site to provide free baths while teaching owners how to clean ears, clip nails and basically care for their pets (appointments are needed).

The ARC stresses the need to help owners become more responsible in their decisions. “It’s dogs, and it’s cats too,” Lewis said. “Cats often impact the neighbors more than dogs, but there are solutions for those problems… we can help keep someone from surrendering their cat because their neighbor is mad.” The library is open to the public and includes children’s animal literature, dog training books, animal novels and books on pet care and more. “People may just want to read a novel about a dog,” she says. “They can probably find the right one in our library. But if they need help with a serious house training issue, we can probably help them with that as well.”

The ARC’s mission is uniquely inclusive, and this is evident from the fact that those who are a part of this vision are as diverse as are pet owners themselves. Mascotas Latinas, an organization dedicated to assisting pet owners in the Latino community, has an office at ARC, as does Spay FIRST!, an organization dedicated to expanding spay/ neuter options in underserved, low-income communities. Yet multiple dog obedience clubs house their activities in the giant building too, and the Oklahoma American Kennel Club (AKC) dog clubs held an educational event there this year.

ARC has space available for rent for large parties and gatherings and holds events in conjunction with other community service organizations. The 2012 Peruvian Festival was held there, a professional filming of a M*A*S*H style spay/neuter clinic was held there, and during spring break, ARC partnered with the Boys and Girls Club to hold a five-day camp focusing on a different animal each day. Twentyfive at-risk youths, ranging from 6 to 12 years of age, attended. The animals of the day included rabbits, dogs, cats, insects and reptiles. Barbara fondly refers to the insects as “bugs” and said that the camp created art with live maggots that crawled through water-based paint, leaving their creative footprint on paper (and the maggots were not injured in the making of the art).

ARC may replace the bugs with a different animal next spring, but the spirit of creatively reaching out in order to make communities better, safer and kinder to all animals will remain the same. Check out this wonderful facility when you’re in Oklahoma City. Hours of operation are from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday). Call (405) 604-2892 or visit for more information.

Ruth Steinberger

Training 911

posted November 24th, 2012 by
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 Q. Can a biting dog be rehabilitated?

 A. Without a crystal ball, I can’t answer that.

 On a daily basis, I talk with pet owners who have dogs that bite. They don’t always disclose this information, but they must know they have a problem or else they would not have picked up the phone. They may have been told by their vet, friend, or family member that they need help. They are often embarrassed and may feel they have failed Pet Parenting 101.

Here are some recent calls:

Dog A “He has never really bitten anyone, but he has nipped at several people, even our grandchildren. Though we trust him completely not to hurt either of us.”

Dog B “My two dogs were fighting and one bit me on my thumb when I was trying to break it up. But she thought she was biting the other dog.”

Dog C “I was walking my dogs, and my neighbor was driving by. He rolled his window down and stuck his finger out and was calling my dog’s name. My dog nipped his finger.”

Dog D “A teenage girl was running from my dog because he was barking at her, and he caught up with her and nipped at her leg.”

Dog E “I was cleaning up around my dog’s food bowl, and he growled and nipped at me.”

Dog F “My dog bit a vet tech that was trying to trim his toenails. He didn’t break the skin, but they muzzled him and held him down to finish.”

Dog G “I have a 9-monthold puppy that grabs my arm when we are on a walk. When do they grow out of the mouthing stage?”

If these are not bites, then what is a bite? The owners can call it “nipping,” “mouthing” or “grabbing,” but they are bites. The owner of Dog E was smart enough not to push the dog into biting.

Dr. Ian Dunbar, PhD, BV etMed MRCVS1, has classified dog bites on a scale of 1 to 6. Through an objective evaluation of wound pathology, Dr. Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale* is a tool for pet owners, veterinarians and trainers to evaluate the severity of a biting problem and the prognosis. A Level 1 bite is classified as “obnoxious or aggressive behavior but no skin-contact by teeth,” and Level 2 is “skin-contact by teeth but no skin-puncture. However, [there] may be skin nicks (less than one-tenth of an inch deep) and slight bleeding caused by forward or lateral movement of teeth against skin, but no vertical punctures.”

If the owner statements above are true, most of these bites fall into Level 1 and Level 2 classification. These comprise nearly 99 percent of incidents and most have an excellent prognosis.

Dunbar identifies Level 3 and 4 bites as punctures and bruising. A Level 3 has a fair to good prognosis (with caveats); Level 4 has a poor prognosis. Level 5 is a multiple-bite incident or a multiple- attack incident, and a Level 6 bite victim is dead—these are extremely dangerous dogs.

If we review the above scenarios, here’s my assessment:

Dog A Be very, very watchful… especially around the grandchildren. Don’t allow the dog and the kids to play chase-and-be-chased games. Nipping is considered a Level 1 bite, and while the prognosis for rehabilitation is quite good, you should not tackle this on your own.

Dog B When dogs are fighting, and a person is bitten while trying to intervene, it’s not likely that the dog “accidently” bit. More likely is he was getting you to back off, so he could continue. Your dog probably showed bite inhibition by only giving you a mild bite. The fighting is more the problem than the biting.

Dog C Was your dog off leash? If your neighborhood is within city limits, and your dog is off leash on a walk, you may be violating the leash laws. If he was on leash, you should not have gotten close enough to the car for him to jump up and nip. It sounds like a Level 1, but could possibly be a Level 2. Most likely, some management on your part can prevent this from recurring

Dog D This is a scary scenario. If your dog was barking at the girl, she was right to be scared. His bark might have been a warning to stay away, and he was not comfortable. I don’t know if he was off leash, or broke free in order to chase her, but chase/nip of a person is predatory behavior. Enlist a qualified trainer.

Dog E This is a pretty clear picture of Resource Guarding. Read the book “MINE! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding In Dogs,” by Jean Donaldson. This is a practical how-to guide, which would help a pet owner determine if this is a behavior problem he or she can tackle or should seek the help of a qualified trainer.

Dog F I have no idea what level bite this was, but if you desensitize him to the handling and actual nail trimming, you should have a good prognosis. He may have already been stressed out, and this put him over the top.

Dog G This adolescent dog still mouthing at 9 months of age is not going to outgrow the behavior. But you have an excellent prognosis with some basic obedience and the help of a good trainer.

There are many factors to consider when arriving at a prognosis:

Behavior modification is more difficult for an adult dog.

Are there children in the household?

Can the owners use solid management practices?

Poor health and medical problems can compromise behavior modification.

It is hard to rehabilitate a dog that doesn’t get enough exercise.

Is the owner even in the picture, or is someone else caring for the dog? …and so on.

Our society seems to have zero tolerance when it comes to biting dogs. The dog’s owner says, “The dog nipped her;” (perhaps a Level 1 Bite on the Dunbar scale), but the victim’s statement is, “The dog bit me.” Depending on the circumstances, I might say that the dog showed remarkable restraint and bite inhibition. I have known owners who elected to euthanize the dog to avoid litigation.

I have known owners who felt euthanasia was easier than behavior modification. And I have known owners who were in denial as to the severity of the dog’s biting problem and chose to do nothing.

It’s not possible to say with 100 percent certainty that a dog will not bite. No one can make such guarantees. We do know that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. The good news is that most “nippers” can become much more reliable with proper training and management and can be good citizens of society.

Veterinarian, Animal Behaviorist, and Dog Trainer, Dr. Ian Dunbar received his veterinary degree and a Special Honors degree in Physiology & Biochemistry from the Royal Veterinary College (London University) plus a doctorate in animal behavior from the Psychology Department at UC Berkeley.

*Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale (Official Authorized Version)

An assessment of the severity of biting problems based on an objective evaluation of wound pathology can be found at: assets/pdf/Ian%20Dunbar%20 Dog%20Bite%20Scale.pdf

Mary Green

To Declaw or not to Declaw?

posted November 24th, 2012 by
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 Claws are an integral part of a cat’s anatomy. They are used for balance, climbing, striking in defense, capturing prey and marking territory. In spite of this, one of the most frequent questions asked by new cat owners is, “Should I declaw my cat?”

This is a very controversial and emotionally charged issue in the cat world. Many feel that this is cruel mutilation— so much, in fact, that many countries, such as England, Australia and New Zealand, have outlawed it. Others feel that declawing saves the lives of many cats that would otherwise be given up to shelters and, ultimately, euthanized.

The most valid justification for declawing is to prevent injury or infection to a member of the household who may be elderly with thin skin, on blood thinners, or whose immune system is compromised. However, declawing is done primarily to prevent damage to furnishings.

If you are considering declawing, consider this. Declawing is serious surgery. It is not simply removal of the claw, but bone as well. Bone must be removed, or the claw will grow back. Many would equivocate this to the removal of a human fingertip down to the first knuckle. There are various techniques, but all involve removal of the bone down to the first joint.

The newest laser techniques can certainly be more precise if properly executed, but as with any surgery, there is some pain and discomfort; so pain management medication is indicated. Most cats recover quickly without complication. To prevent infection, special litter should be used during recuperation.

What are the long-term effects of declawing? Some say that it alters a cat’s personality, although no scientific study has supported this. However, I can testify from personal observation that cats without claws are more prone to biting. After all, you have removed their first line of defense, so this makes common sense, doesn’t it? And, in light of this, declawed cats should remain indoors.

What are the alternatives? Perhaps the simplest is regular kitty manicures. It may take a while for Kitty to get used to this, but you can easily clip your cat’s claws at home with an inexpensive pair of clippers from the pet store. I have found this easiest to do when the unsuspecting kitty is in a mellow mood sitting on my lap. If all else fails, your veterinarian will gladly do it for you. The claws can still do some damage to furniture, but it is minimized. Another alternative is plastic nail caps. These are applied with super glue to the clipped claws and last for about a month. (Caution: other cats may laugh at the big boy cat with blue fingernails!)

A scratching post is an absolute necessity in any cat friendly home. A variety of styles are available, and some can actually be attractive. The post should be tall enough and sturdy enough for the cat to extend full length to use it; sisal rope is usually the most desirable covering. It is easier to train a kitten than an adult cat, but start training Kitty to use it when she first comes to live with you, regardless of age. Whenever the cat scratches something inappropriately, take her to the post. Catnip will often entice her to use it.

In spite of the lengths and expense to which some people will go to declaw their cats, many declawed cats are found abandoned on the street. I must ask, “Did they really want a cat to begin with? Or did they want just another toy for their own satisfaction? Do they not realize that all the furnishings and material goods in the world cannot replace the love of a cat?”

Camille Hulen

Pet Peace of Mind

posted November 24th, 2012 by
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For 15 years, Brandi and Eddie grew up in a quiet Tulsa home. Lying under the grand piano many days, they had heard concertos and sonatas being taught by their “mom,” Georgann. Their “dad” had been a successful attorney, having argued successfully three times before the Supreme Court, when he was not traveling as a professional football referee. Both were Hospice of Green Country patients and died within five months of each other.

When their owners came on service, Brandi and Eddie, who were 90 years old in human years, were enrolled in Pet Peace of Mind (PPOM), a program created by HGC in 2007 to take care of the pets of patients when they are no longer able. When owners/patients pass away, PPOM finds a new loving home for the animals. It was that last promise that HGC knew was going to be hard—finding a forever home for two 15-year-old Dachshunds. To exacerbate the situation, Brandi is almost blind, partially deaf, and requires daily pain medications for her degenerating spine.

Dr. Chet Thomas of City Veterinary Hospital came to Brandi and Eddie’s rescue. He thought he knew a young woman with two rescued Dachshunds of her own who might volunteer to at least be their foster “mom.” “OMG!” as the young people say. It was a match made in heaven, or at least by the Brady Bunch!

The two elderly wiener dogs went from life under the grand piano to a house and backyard rollicking with two young Dachshunds, 8-year old Smitty and 1-year old Halle; an elderly chocolate Lab, Elle, with a tumor on her back so she needed help going up and down; and two young rescue Siamese-Tabby brothers, Maverick and Goose, who like to mix-it-up with the wieners. Shannon, the new foster “mom,” has taken the elderly additions to her menagerie in stride—she and her friends are in the rescue business. There are plenty of beds and bowls for everyone.

With its mission of improving the quality of life at the end of life, HGC understands the critical role pets play in calming and relaxing their patients. One patient, Lela, confirmed this understanding. “These dogs are my life,” she says. I love having them here with me. They keep me company, and they make me feel better.”

When Lela eventually moved to a 24-hour care facility, PPOM volunteers made sure her dogs were fostered in loving homes and that they made frequent visits to see their “mom.” Lela could be having a really difficult day, but the minute Boo-Boo and Cookie walked in, she would light up and delight in the sight of her babies. Lela died knowing that Boo-Boo and Cookie were going to live with her daughter who would love them as she had loved them.

That final peace of mind, of knowing that your beloved pet is going to a good home, is critical in the last stretch of the patient’s journey. HGC saw this peace when their patient Frieda, who had been hanging on to life against all odds, died with a sigh and a small smile within hours of knowing that her little dog Tuffy was going to a loving home.

Hospice of Green Country launched Pet Peace of Mind in July 2007. At that time, the Director of Spiritual Care, Rev. Delana Taylor McNac—a veterinarian no longer in practice—recognized that all too often terminally ill patients give up their pets because they can’t afford pet food or vet care. She said she would then see cases of rapid decline in both the physical and emotional health of these patients. Conversely, when they could keep their animals without the stress of paying for decent pet food or medications, McNac says patients were more content, more at ease with the process they were going through.

Since its beginning in 2007, the Pet Peace of Mind Program has taken care of 263 pets of 122 patients. The program enlists the help of over 50 volunteers from the Hospice Volunteer Corps, as well as a network of local veterinarians who often provide services at a discount. PPOM is financially supported by donations from individuals, as well as local corporations and foundations.

In 2009, Hospice of Green Country gave the copyright of Pet Peace of Mind to Banfield Charitable Trust, which is replicating the program with grants and program guidelines to nonprofit hospices across the country. Currently, there are 46 other PPOM programs operating with another three in the wings.

There are many pets in need of forever homes. The Hospice of Green Country website lists descriptions and circumstances of pets currently in need of a loving adopted family. Visit their website: (http://www.hospiceofgreencountry. org/hospice/Pets_Available_ for_Adoption3.asp) for more info. If you are interested in Hospice of Green Country for a family member or would like to volunteer, call Amy at (918) 388- 1324 or email [email protected] org.

Our hearts go out to these pets— they have just lost the most important people in their lives, and now they are making the adjustment to a new home. They need as much understanding and love as possible. Thanks to PPOM and likeminded people, many have already found their place in a new adoptive family with many more on the way

A Different Kind of Dog

posted November 24th, 2012 by
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Through the course of a day, you can see a variety of dogs around Tulsa. There are lots of happy Labradors and Golden Retrievers. You’ll find plenty of Bulldogs, Beagles and Shih Tzus. German Shepherds, Boxers and Dachshunds abound.

But take a closer look, and you may also see some not-so-mainstream pooches. If you saw big, dignified Jack, would you know he was a Bouvier des Flandres? Or how about cute Ina and Tola? Would you know they are part of an ancient breed known as the Polski Owczarek Nizinny?

How about lovable Prima? If you saw her romping through the dog park, you would immediately know she was a Dogue de Bordeaux, right? And, of course, the handsome Bruno is obviously a Lagotto Romangnolo. You knew that, didn’t you?

In the case of “Jack of Hearts,” so named because he stole his owners’ hearts right from the start, Betty Bailey and Gary Weiss did their homework with the help of a website questionnaire designed to match prospective dog owners with suitable breeds.

“The Bouvier des Flandres popped up as a 90 percent match with our personalities and lifestyle,” says Bailey. “We had never met a Bouvier, so we did a lot of research about them.”

Research taught the couple that their “computer match” dog was originally developed as a hardy herding and flock guardian in the Flanders region of Belgium. Described as rational, gentle, loyal, and protective by nature, the breed’s unique blend of characteristics and high intelligence allow it to excel at a number of tasks. Today’s working Bouviers are often used as guard or police dogs, but they are also known for being exceptional family pets.

Though some may find their appearance intimidating, they are actually a very even-tempered and calm dog. Jack’s owners are quick to endorse the breed as a great companion dog. “We are fans,” Bailey says. “We love the breed’s temperament, intelligence, sensitivity, fun and that they demonstrate good judgment.”

Bailey also appreciates that Bouviers are adaptable dogs. “If it’s quiet, they calm down. If it’s a party, they are the life of it,” she says.

Ownership does not come without responsibility, and Bailey is quick to point out that all of that intelligence must be properly channeled. She explains that Bouviers must have obedience training to meet their need for attention, and you can also expect to have a big dog following you or, more likely, herding you around the house, albeit in a calm manner. “They love to learn and play, but they also need boundaries, and they like predictability,” advises Bailey. “They are a wonderful and generous friend.”

Another herding breed, the Polski Owczarek Nizinny (PON) is an ancient breed of dog that originated in Poland Jack, the Bouvier des Flandres sometime prior to the 16th century. Also known as the Polish Lowland Sheepdog, the PON is characterized as an intelligent, spirited working dog used for herding and protecting farm animals from predators.

According to David Cover and Chris Sellars, owners of PON pair Ina and Tola, these dogs were initially appealing because they are hypoallergenic, have very few health issues and are moderate in size. According to Sellars, owning a PON is like owning a Muppet that thinks it is in charge. “They are very funny, a bit clumsy and will steal everything off of your kitchen counter,” he says. Cover is quick to add that he believes the breed has been hungry for most of its 800- year existence.

When you read the breed description published by the American Kennel Club, the PON is described as a dog that is both affectionate and loving, while also being independent and sometimes stubborn. “Everything you read about this breed is true,” says Sellars. “They are stubborn and will try to take over if you are not firm. They also need to engage in activity every day and will not tolerate being left alone for long periods. They want to be with someone at all times, yet they are not lap dogs.”

Sellars advises that anyone considering adding a PON to their family should first ensure they are able to handle a strong-willed dog and plan to work with a good trainer.

In addition to formal training, do plan on brushing— lots of brushing. According to Cover, it takes dedicated, daily grooming to keep them in a long, full coat, so many pet owners opt to maintain a shorter “puppy cut” as an easier alternative.

Despite a few challenges, including the theft of an entire tin of York Peppermint Patties, Ina and Tola have sold their owners on the PON breed. According to Sellars, they are great dogs, and though they can be a lot of work, they enjoy the dogs tremendously.

This brings us to Prima, a dog with a face and stature that you might find a bit scary if you didn’t know any better. Prima is a Dogue de Bordeaux, or French Mastiff—an ancient breed that was historically known as a prized protector of the wealthiest homes in France.

Prima’s owner, Joseph Colavecchia, knew he wanted a larger breed of dog and, after extensive research, felt the Dogue de Bordeaux was the best fit. “They not only have a very calm temperament, but they are also extremely loyal, patient and devoted to their family,” says Colavecchia. In fact, formidable appearance aside, Colavecchia says the big dogs are very gentle with children. “Prima’s best human friend is Kori, an 11-year-old.”

The other attribute that attracted Colavecchia and his family is the breed’s natural guarding instinct. Yes, calm and sweet with family and friends, but confronted with a stranger, the Dogue de Bordeaux is vigilant, protective and courageous, but without aggression. Colavecchia says that Prima is a first class guard dog.

If you consider adding a Dogue de Bordeaux to your family, Colavecchia says that proper socialization and obedience classes are a must at a young age to help the dog maintain a good social demeanor with other dogs and to teach them in a calm, consistent manner that the humans are in charge. On a day-to-day level, Colavecchia paints a slightly comical picture of life with a dog like Prima.

“You have to love snoring and drooling and think that tooting is funny. You also have to be willing to give up your bed, couch, landscaping, shoes and anything else that the dog may want because what is yours is theirs, and what is theirs is theirs.” However, all joking aside, when asked if he would own another, Colavecchia is quick to answer, “Absolutely, yes.”

From Belgium, to Poland and France, we now head over to Italy to get to know Jaya Richardson’s breed of choice, the Lagotto Romangnolo. Curly-headed Bruno is actually the first pet Richardson has ever owned.

It was important to her to find a dog that was hypoallergenic and non-shedding. Also topping the list of priorities was an even temperament and also a good track record for health.

A small to medium size dog, the Lagottos are described as tractable, undemanding and affectionate, growing very attached to their owners. Originally used as a gun dog and water retriever, over time this adaptable, enthusiastic dog was retrained as a truffle searching dog—the only breed in the world specialized in tracking down the valuable tubers.

“He is playful and active, yet gentle with children, and we love his unique personality,” says Richardson. “If my daughter jumps in the pool, he jumps right in with her with no hesitation.” An added bonus? “If there are any truffles in the area, Bruno is sure to let us know,” she says.

For those who choose to pursue one of the less common breeds of dog, take the advice offered by each of the owners featured here. Do your homework and don‘t make an impulsive decision. Each breed is distinctive and bred with a purpose in mind. Before you search high and low for the dog of your dreams, make sure it’s the right fit for you, and that you and your family—in all fairness—are the right fit for the dog as well.

Nancy Gallimore Werhane