General Interest

Yard Dog Watching the Watchdog

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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by Dolores Proubasta

“OUT OF SIGHT, out of mind.” Whether in a farm, city back yard, or rust-piled junkyard, an animal kept outside is lonely. Indoors, sheltered and enjoying the comforts and company they deny to the dog (or cat), people reason that animals don’t belong inside because of shedding, odors, breakage, etc. In reality, a pet has no more bearing on the cleanliness and good order of a home than a child does; only the adults do.

Why is it that some people get a dog—an animal who loves people more than people love people—just to lock him or her out? It makes no sense. And even worse, under average conditions this segregation evolves into benign neglect that tends to worsen as time goes by. Soon, the children don’t want to play with “it” anymore because he is too big; grandpa is afraid to go out because “it” jumps… Starved for attention, sometimes he also misses a meal or two because the family forgot to feed “it.”

Ignored by all, without affection, guidance or purpose, the yard dog will either become aloof (a form of depression), aggressive, an escape artist, destructive or a nuisance barker. Shelters are full of dogs with just such problems for which only the owners are to blame.

The overall unfairness of segregating pets outside the human circle may deteriorate into gross insensitivity or even a felony if they are not brought indoors: (1) when they are sick or otherwise incapacitated as listed in Table 1; (2) in bad weather such as thunderstorms, ice storms, flooding, tornadoes and life-threatening temperatures; (3) when herbicides and other harmful chemicals are being used in the yard; (4) when construction, regular services and other activities may cause the dog to escape; (5) at night.

A strong argument in favor of bringing dogs in at night is their unsurpassed value and reliability to warn against intruders, gas leaks, smoke and more. However, for dogs to protect people, people must first protect dogs. Left outside, the dog may be the first victim, or not be heard by those he’s trying to rouse. A garage, by the way, does not constitute “inside” for security purposes or for the animal’s sake (footnote of Table 3).

Yard dogs (and cats) usually rank with the bike and the lawn mower in the estimation of those clinging to the primitive notion that a dog belongs outside. It is a fine line between benign neglect and criminal neglect, and it is not what the owner thinks is “good enough” for the yard dog, but what neighbors, discerning TulsaPets readers and other “watchdogs” for the animals see with their own eyes. If conditions are substandard or endangering to the dog, it’s a civic duty to report them to authorities and keep the vigil.

If only the more open-minded among the outdoors-school-of-thought would pause to ponder just how fair they are to their pets—are they providing essential comforts and protection (Tables 2 and 3)? Would they not realize how much easier it would be to integrate pets into the household’s routine, treating them as companions? Of course, the operative word is “fair.”

In the final analysis, one has to question the fairness— indeed, the humaneness—of barring Man’s Best Friend from being with the people for whom he would lay his life down.

Ginger’s Rescue. One family’s pet adoption story

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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by Brenda Hughes

Photos by Donna Fessler

LOVE MAY COME in many shapes and sizes, but for Mary and Bill Smith, it came in a pint-sized bundle of red fur. The look of love and pride on Mary’s face is evident as she talks about Gin­ger, the red Pomeranian, she and Bill rescued from the Owasso Animal Shel­ter. “It is interesting to look back at the picture of her at the shelter and [then look at her] now. She does not even look like the same dog,” she says.

Their story began over 10 years ago when the couple met in a book store. “I went in to buy a book and bought a wife instead,” Bill says with a grin. “We started talking and kept talking and had dinner that night,” says Mary.

A retired auto reconstruction ser­vice lead investigator for 12 years, Bill did causative analysis on motor vehicle accidents for attorneys and insurance companies. Prior to that, he spent 30-plus years as a police officer, the last 16 of which he was the lead major in­cident coordinator investigator for the Dallas County Sherriff’s Department. A job transfer by the Corp of Engineers for Mary brought the Dallas transplants to Tulsa. Luckily, for Ginger, the red Po­meranian, after just six months in Tulsa, they relocated a few miles down I-169 to Owasso.

One day, a coworker of Mary’s from the Galveston Corp of Engineers sent her an email saying he was going to buy a Schnauzer. He had contacted his local Schnauzer rescue but several broken appointments later had decided just to buy a Schnauzer. Mary told him to try the local kill shelters—in light of the economy a lot of people aren’t able to keep their dearly beloved pets and are being forced to surrender them to shelters.

“I told him to let me look,” Mary says. “Now, because of the Internet, there are so many shelters that have pictures on­line. I said let me see what Owasso has, and I saw Ginger’s picture. I told Bill, ‘Let’s go look at her.’ Ginger had been found wandering around an apartment complex with no collar, tags or micro­chip. Someone had called the Owasso Animal Control, who could not find anyone to whom she belonged, so they took her to the shelter.

“One day away from being eutha­nized, she went home with us that night. She was overweight and her teeth badly needed cleaning. We have been gradually reducing her food and had her teeth cleaned, and we started integrating her into the household. Ini­tially, the shelter said she was house broken, but we had housebreaking is­sues.”

Despite being rough around the edg­es, Ginger etched her place into the Smiths’ hearts and household, and they continue to work on her weak points. “Ginger is personable and loves every­one, but she had behavior issues that really needed to be taken care of,” Mary says. “The behaviors we sought training for were house breaking, jumping, and we wanted her to have [a grasp on] ba­sic obedience. She would pick up her food and take it off to eat it a piece at a time, over and over. She would get frightened when her tags hit the bowl and quit eating and would have to gather up courage to go back and eat some more.”

Clearly frightened and unsure, Ginger needed to be retrained, or more appro­priately, to be trained for the first time by someone kind and trustworthy. “That’s where I began seeking where and how we could get her training,” Mary says. “I wanted her trained in a proper method, not somewhere where someone would shock her and do terrible things to her. I was concerned about that. That’s how I came across Miss Brenda (Dog Training with Brenda).

“Before training, she was like a kid on the street that hadn’t been to West Point yet. After she got out of train­ing and came home, she’s like a young woman that just graduated from West Point. That’s the only way I know how to say it.”

But Ginger isn’t the first pooch to re­ceive a second chance from the Smiths. No strangers to rescue, they have pro­vided foster care for Schnauzers and American Eskimo dogs. Bill and Mary’s other dog Zoë, an American Eskimo dog, was rescued from the Austin area. Bill learned she had been purchased from a breeder as a gift for a teenage girl. The girl had her for two years be­fore going away to college. The girl’s mother took Zoë to a kill shelter in Aus­tin where Zoë was saved by the local American Eskimo Rescue.

Certainly earning her keep, Zoë as­sists Bill with his hearing problem—he doesn’t hear doorbells, phones and some tonal qualities of people’s voices. “She realized I do not hear them, and she goes on alert,” he says. “We were staying in a hotel in Galveston when the fire alarm went off, and I didn‘t hear it. She insisted I respond to something, so I picked her up and went to the front desk. The hotel was testing it, but they didn’t notify anybody that they were.” Needless to say, as Bill’s service dog, Zoë is his constant companion.

Bill and Mary are just one positive example of how rescue can change the lives of deserving dogs. Their advice to someone looking for a pet is to give rescue a chance because “if you have patience, you can probably find what you want in rescue.” But, Mary cau­tions, make sure you are fully prepared to take on a life and care for it. “It is not a day commitment; it is a thorough commitment,” she says. “If not, maybe they can volunteer at a shelter walking dogs or something like that because volunteers are always needed.”

As for Bill’s opinion on the subject: “Try it; it works!” he says with his in­domitable grin.

Animal Cops Tulsa

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

Photos by Bob Foshay

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN episodes of Animal Planet’s Animal Cop? There are versions shot in Houston, Miami, New York and Detroit. Each program shows what appear to be small armies of uni­formed authorities fighting the good fight for animal welfare.

So, what about Animal Cops: Tulsa? Meet Tim Geen, the one-man army working the field for the Tulsa Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TSPCA). Retired from 28 years of mili­tary service, along with the Beaumont Police Department in Texas, Geen ap­propriately found his way into his new job when he rescued two puppies from the side of the highway near the TSPCA shelter. He was an acquaintance of for­mer TSPCA Cruelty Investigator Wade Farnan, who passed away in the spring of 2011. So when he took the pups to the shelter for assistance, he asked if they happened to be hiring. The answer was an enthusiastic “yes!” Eight months later, Geen hasn’t looked back once, and quite frankly, hasn’t had the time.

Having always enjoyed an active life, retirement just wasn’t suiting him. “You can only paint a room in your house and turn around to repaint the same room again the next week so many times,” Geen said with a laugh. “You mow the lawn and then wait for it to grow, so you can mow it again. That just wasn’t for me.” Now it’s a safe bet that Geen’s lawn may no longer be so well manicured. Tulsa’s animal cop, a self-proclaimed dog lover, is on the job before the sun comes up every morning and arrives home after sunset each workday. Geen not only covers Tulsa County but also every bordering county. That means long hours and a lot of miles on the road, as he fields calls for cats and dogs, horses, cattle, goats, rabbits and any animal in need.

The demand for his services is high. Geen fields an average of 100 calls a month for the TSPCA. Of those calls, he says he can generally resolve about 25 of them through phone counsel­ing. That leaves a balance of 75 cases a month that he physically visits. The math alone shows you how busy this man is. During the course of our hour-long interview, his phone rang no fewer than four times.

In addition to fielding calls and travel­ing to check on animals throughout an eight-county region, Geen also care­fully documents each case. While he is not permitted to go directly to the city district attorney (D.A.) to pursue pros­ecution on neglect and abuse cases, his careful documentation has lead to sev­eral cases being prosecuted.

“If I have a case that I feel needs to go to the D.A., I have to take my informa­tion to Tulsa Animal Welfare to pursue through legal channels,” Geen said. “I will work with them and will do any­thing I can to support prosecution if it comes to that.”

In one such case, a man was found guilty of animal abuse for first hanging his dog and then shooting it. Geen was accompanied on the call by the Tulsa police officers who helped him docu­ment the case.

“The owner admitted to shooting the dog, but denied hanging it. Of course, it was a little hard to deny since there was still a hangman’s noose around the de­ceased dog’s neck,” he said. “The case went to court, and the guy received a $150 fine and six months probation. It can be frustrating because you pursue these terrible animal abuse and cruelty cases, yet very little happens. You often see higher fines for traffic violations.”

The most common calls Geen receives are for dogs living on chains and dogs without proper food, water and shelter. He claims that most of those cases can be resolved through counseling owners and conducting careful follow-up calls, though the outcome is not always what he would like to see for the dogs in question. “There is no law in Oklahoma prohibiting people from chaining a dog, and I sure hate to see any animal living like that,” Geen said. “Sometimes, the best I can do is to make sure the dog has shelter and water within reach.”

When asked about the hardest part of his job, Geen thinks for only a moment. Injured and sick animals are obviously high on his list, but from an emotional standpoint, abandoned animals are among the hardest cases he handles. “We see a lot of confused animals—primarily dogs—left behind at rental homes with no one to care for them,” he said. “I will provide the basics for the animal while we wait to see if the owner will return to claim it.” If that doesn’t happen, Geen will remove the dog.

“The hard part is that the TSPCA shelter doesn’t always have room for every abandoned dog. If I can’t bring the dog here, I have to take it to the Tulsa Animal Welfare shelter, and I know it may have to be euthanized there,” explained Geen. The harsh reality he faces in rescuing animals is that space for them is always at a premium, and options are limited.

That means that a good deal of Geen’s time is spent finding solu­tions. “I will make calls and explore all options I can to find assistance or safe placement for an animal.” Geen has even found foster homes willing to care for livestock and has been known to foster dogs in his own home until a permanent home can be found.

For all of the hard cases Geen sees, his joy in helping animals is evident. When I asked him to show me some of the animals he had recently res­cued, his smile was quick; he imme­diately led me to the shelter clinic to visit a litter of chubby, fluffy Rottwei­ler-mix puppies. Holding the largest puppy from the litter as it enthusias­tically licked his face, Geen pointed to an adjacent yard where two other dogs stood watching.

“The big Rottweiler male is their daddy, and that Border Collie standing behind him is their mom. We were able to rescue the whole family,” Geen said with obvious delight. The dogs were removed from a home that had been raided by Tulsa police officers as a sus­pected meth lab.

“I see a lot of sad things—animals that have been injured, abused and neglect­ed. But then I go out and get to save these pups, along with their mom and dad, and it just makes me smile.” Geen is quick to add that all of the pups—now weaned and temporarily housed in quarantine while receiving vaccina­tions—are healthy and should be avail­able for adoption very soon. “Nothing makes me happier,” he said.

Our interview ended abruptly when one of the TSPCA employees tracked us down to give Geen information on a call that had just come in, reporting a horse caught in a fence along the Will Rogers Turnpike. Geen was up, on his phone and headed to his car in an in­stant.

As he took off on yet another case, it was obvious that Geen has found his perfect “retirement” career. “I wouldn’t trade this job for any other job at any price,” he said. “I will keep doing what I’m doing until they run me off—I love my critters.”

Welcome Lauren Cavagnolo

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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TULSAPETS MAGAZINE is excited to announce the addition of a new team member! Lauren Cavagnolo is now blogging her pet blog on TulsaPets­ Her lifelong love of pets combined with her talent with words make for very interesting pet blog re­porting, and we hope you check the website often for her latest pet news. In addition to the blogs, she’ll also be writing for the magazine. Lauren was formerly the Tulsa World’s pet blogger and recently made a career change to a freelance writer. She’s the proud mom of daughter Emily, two dogs, and four cats. Welcome Lauren Cavagnolo!

DEWEY The Small -Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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Book Review by Suzanne Gunn

I CAN’T TELL YOU how many times since 2008 when “Dewey” was published that my mother asked me, “Oh, Suzanne, have you read ‘Dewey’? You really should, you will love it!” Even though I’ve always had cats along with dogs, I see myself as more of a dog person than cat person and lean more toward dog books than cat books. I finally sat down to read “Dewey, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World” by Vicki Myron, and I am so glad that I did.

This is a book that people anywhere can relate to if they’ve had a relationship of any kind with a cat. I especially think anyone who has ties with small town and farming communi­ties will appreciate and relate to this book.

The story of Dewey begins on January 18, 1988. On the coldest day, when opening the library in Spencer, Iowa, a sound is heard coming from the night book drop box. As the librarians investigate and empty the drop box, they find a tiny freezing kitten. Hearts are melted and a love affair en­sues between the library staff and the kitten. Winning over the library board, they are allowed to keep him and start calling him “Dewey” after Melville Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System.

They soon hold a contest to allow the townsfolk to help name the kitten, and he becomes “Dewey Readmore Books.” It doesn’t take long, and the townspeople fall in love with Dewey, too. People are affected by Dewey in profound ways, amazed at how Dewey seems to know what they need and who needs his attention most!

Word travels to other towns and states and even other countries, and Dewey draws people to the small town of Spencer, Iowa, for a chance to meet Dewey the Cat. Dewey was even featured in a Japanese documentary.

Vicki Myron, the library director at the time who saved Dew­ey that fateful morning, tells the story of Dewey and also shares the story of her own life and lessons she learned along the way.

Her story is one of a young mother married to an alcoholic who gains the courage to leave. Readers can find encour­agement in the single mother working full time and pursuing an advanced education while battling multiple health issues —issues so many of us face in our own lives but don’t always have the courage to talk about or admit.

This is an inspiring book about how people hold up each other and their town, and how even one cat can bring a town together like never before! The book is well written and enjoyable—definitely worth reading! I am going to call my mother now and tell her she was right! Happy reading!

Studio D Cutest Pet Contest 2012

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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STUDIO D PHOTOGRAPHY (formerly Moto Photo) held its annual “Cutest Pet Contest” from January 2 through February 29. Contestants could enter with a $10 or more donation to the Tulsa SPCA, and they received, in turn, a free portrait sitting session and a 5×7 portrait of their pet, plus a chance to be picked as Tulsa’s Cutest Pet! And the best part is all proceeds benefit the Tulsa SPCA.

The winners were chosen March 20 by a panel of three judges: D’Ann Berson, operations director of the Tulsa SPCA; Lori Hall, administrative director of the Tulsa SPCA; and Marilyn King, publisher of TulsaPets Magazine. Of course, all of the entries were “Awww” worthy. But after much deliberation, and with a record number of 92 entries, the winners were selected.

The Top Dog took home $200, with a $100 and $50 prize to second and third places respectively.  Proudly, $731 was donated to the Tulsa SPCA, which will be used for the great cause of helping the animals there.  A big thank you to all who participated to make this long-time annual contest a success once again! Your generosity will help save the lives of many local animals.