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Deaf Dogs Can Learn New Tricks Too

posted September 26th, 2015 by
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American Sign Language bridges communication for owners and albino dogs

By Brianna Broersma

 

A special group of dogs live right here in Oklahoma City.  Ceasar, Swayze, Deeyenda and Marvel are all deaf and have limited vision. Their owner, Mrs. Rojas, uses American Sign Language to communicate with them. Rojas has taught them basic signs such as “sit,” “speak” and “outside.”  Rojas says, “I look at the sign I need and teach them the behavior to go with it.”

The dogs’ hearing and vision problems can be attributed to irresponsible breeding.  In some breeds, a “merle” or “dapple” pattern is prized. This means that there are patches of lighter color fur on the dogs’ coats. Some breeders will try to breed two merle dogs together in order to increase the percent of merle puppies in a litter. However, if two merle or dapple dogs are bred together, the effect is cumulative, and it can lead to a “double merle” dog with a completely white coat. This can also remove pigment from the inner ear that is necessary for normal functioning.

Rojas’ dogs inherited their traits from such breeding practices. Ceasar is a 2-year-old Great Dane, and his deafness resulted from Harlequin-to-Harlequin breeding. (A Harlequin Great Dane has Dalmatian-like coloring.) Seven-month-old Mini Dachshund  Deeyenda had two dapple parents. Swayze, a 1-year-old Australian Shepherd, is a “double merle,” a product of merle-to-merle breeding. Rojas’s 6-month-old Rough Collie, Marvel, has an “extreme white pattern.” This removes a large amount of pigment from the face and ears, often resulting in deafness.  Rojas says, “These issues are completely preventable with responsible breeding.”

Other effects include light-sensitive eyes that can have “starburst” pupils. If Rojas takes her dogs out during daylight hours, she has to put special goggles on them. The sunlight is harsh on their eyes and skin,  due to the lack of pigment, Rojas says. She also needs to put special sunscreen on them to ensure they won’t get sunburned. Often, Rojas finds it easier to take them out during twilight or nighttime hours to protect their eyes and skin.

They are viewed as a burden, and Rojas says, “Usually breeders will kill these dogs because they are not profitable.” Sometimes “double merle” dogs can have related health issues such as digestive disorders, skin disorders and seizures. They can also have allergic reactions to some medications.

She has actually had to convince breeders to give her their dogs instead of killing them.  She is hoping to get therapy dog licenses so that her dogs can visit nursing homes, convalescent hospitals or other therapeutic settings.  She also fosters/rescues deaf dogs until a permanent home can be found.

She believes “it’s easier to train deaf dogs because they get distracted less” and actually prefers deaf dogs to hearing dogs.

“Deaf dogs are just like any other dogs,” she says, regarding the training process. When teaching a hearing dog, the owner or trainer teaches with a verbal “yes” or a clicker when a command is obeyed. Then the dog is rewarded with praise or a treat.

“Well, with a deaf dog, you show the American Sign Language sign you are trying to teach,” Rojas says. “For example, ‘sit.’ You stand in front of your deaf dog and show him the ASL sign for sit. Once he sits, immediately show him the ASL sign for ‘yes!’ Then you give him a treat. He learns, ‘OK, when she shows me this sign, and I sit, I get a treat and the yes sign. Therefore, I’m doing what I’m asked to do.’   Be consistent, and they will learn.

“Teaching ‘outside’ is easy too. Just like asking a hearing dog, ‘Do you want to go outside?’ …With a deaf dog, I stand at the door and show him the ASL [sign] for ‘outside,’ then open the door. He learns, ‘OK, when she shows me this sign, she lets me out.’ So he learns to remember what each sign means with each action. It’s actually easy and less challenging than you would think. Dogs are not born knowing English or Spanish or ASL. They learn when they hear a word, or in my dogs’ case, when they see a word and learn its meaning.”

Another tool Rojas employs is a vibration collar, not to be confused with a shock collar. It is used much like a clicker. Instead of click and reward, the dog gets buzzed and rewarded. “This is an important behavior to learn since when they feel the buzz, they look for the handler for a cookie/reward or instruction in ASL.

“This is so important,” she says. “If for any reason your dog is far off—let’s say at the dog park—and you need to call your dog, you can buzz, and they will think, ‘Oh my mom’s calling me!’ They will immediately look for you to give a command, such as come here, go to the car, stop, or look here.”

For anyone with a deaf dog, Rojas and her pets are inspiration that their pets too can lead a happy, obedient, high-quality life.

She has started a Facebook group to get “double merle” pet parents in contact with one another. It includes owners from all over the country and even international members. The group can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/202055833234792/. Members share information, photographs and support for raising these special dogs. For more information, contact Rojas under the name “Haulinauss Deafdog Interpreter” on Facebook.

Complete list of ASL signs that Rojas uses with her dogs:

1    Speak

2    Sit

3    Lay down

4    Outside

5    Go to bed

6    No

7    Yes

8    Good boy

9    Car

10  Cookie

11  Inside house

12  Move over

13  Back up

14  Stop

15  Walk

16  Look

17  Water

18  Food

19  Drop it

20  Come here

21  Go to dad

22  Up

23  Heel

24  Shake

Walking the No-Kill Line

posted September 25th, 2015 by
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CatsMost non-profit dog/cat rescues will advertise they are a “no kill”.  And, with few exceptions, that statement is true – – – for that rescue.  However, it doesn’t solve the problem of dog/cat over population.  The organizations faced with this reality are the municipal shelters/pounds that, by law, have to accept homeless, owner surrender, at-large animals.  Some municipal shelters are required to accept all animals that are homeless within their jurisdiction.  Can these shelters be “no-kill” – – – probably not in my lifetime.

Many rescues and shelters are no-kill of adoptable dogs/cats.  These organizations realize some animals are too injured or too sick and the humane solution is to end their suffering.  It is a decision never taken lightly and, for the most part, is done by people who truly care.

Since opening PAAS in April, we’ve been able to save 100+ dogs who’ve found homes not in Oklahoma – but in Colorado and Wyoming.  The organizations we’ve partnered with – ranging from large humane societies to foster-based – have provided a solution for 100 animals who found themselves homeless.  Following other area rescues, it is safe to say that more than 200 dogs and cats leave the northeastern half of Oklahoma every month.   It’s wonderful they will find homes; it’s tragic that each month there will still be 200+ who need a home.  Puppies and kittens seem to never, ever stop entering the world in our neck of the woods.

Yes – there’s a better way.  Yes – – everyone has heard the word – – – No – – they haven’t received the message.  One more time!!!!! Spay/Neuter works – – trust me.

 

Kay Stout, Executive Director  PAAS      e: [email protected]   P: 918-256-7227

KIDS FOR OKC ANIMALS

posted September 23rd, 2015 by
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by Julie Bank, Animal Welfare Superintendent

OKC Animal Welfare

 

Kids and AnimalsWhen I was young, I wanted to be a veterinarian.  I was that kid who loved everything about animals. I had pictures of animals from an old calendar on my wall. I had over 50 stuffed animals on my bed at any time. My dog, Brandi, was my best friend. As I got older, I still loved animals, but the thought of going to school to be a doctor was daunting and left my thoughts very quickly.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized there were many more ways to help animals; I just didn’t know about them. I found my passion in animal sheltering and never looked back. Boy, how I wish there was something for me as a kid, however, that would have exposed me to animal issues at a much younger age. I believe it would have changed the course of my life earlier on and in college. Luckily, I found what I was meant to do but not every kid is as lucky.  Until now!

Oklahoma City Animal Welfare recently introduced a new program called Kids for OKC Animals to encourage kids to get involved and to learn about animal issues in OKC. This community engagement program is designed for kids 18 and under, giving ideas and tools to make a difference for homeless animals.  A colorful packet describes ideas ranging from reading humane books, writing stories and fundraising drives, to hands-on volunteering at the shelter. Kids are encouraged to get creative and to come up with their own ideas as well. Activities are appropriate for individuals and groups, and are great for school-based community service projects.

 

Madaline, 9, and Hank, 7, are a brother and sister team that comes to the shelter once a week with their mom to help socialize cats. They have both become a “Kid for OKC Animals.” “There are a lot of animals that people don’t want, but they all need good homes,” Madaline says passionately. “Making them more friendly and comfortable helps them get adopted,” she says. This is what motivates them to get up early on Saturdays to brush and pet the cats.

When the brother sister duo joined the Kids for OKC Animals program, they were asked to sign a pledge that reads:

I will work hard to:

  • Give time to help animals at OKC Animal Welfare.
  • Be respectful and kind to all animals.
  • Share experiences about OKC Animal Welfare with others.
  • Complete one service project per year.

They have made their pledge and have volunteered every week since. They have also both committed to bringing this program to their school to encourage others to participate and to do a fundraising drive during the holidays.

“The Kids for OKC Animals program is all about making a difference and learning that you, no matter what age you are, can do something small or big to help,” says Jon Gary, Unit Supervisor at OKC Animal Welfare. “Our goal is to help animals at the shelter and to instill empathy for animals at a young age in an effort to create compassionate adults. Who knows, maybe because of this program a kid will grow up to work with animals someday?”

For more information, or to become a Kid for OKC Animals and to receive a packet, email [email protected].

Ask the Doc

posted September 19th, 2015 by
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Ask The Doc

Anna Coffin, DVM / Guthrie Pet Hospital

 

Q: Some of my friends give their dogs over-the-counter medications and seem to do so pretty freely. I’m not so sure   this is safe. What well known over-the-counter medications are dangerous for our pets?

A: Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen, Tylenol and aspirin can be dangerous for your dog and especially for your cat. In dogs, these medications can cause gastrointestinal upset and bleeding, and long term use of these products could lead to intestinal perforation. Cats do not have the ability to metabolize most pain medications, so over-the-counter pain medications should never be given to a cat. One dose of Tylenol can kill your cat!

Decongestants are another common over-the-counter medication that can be harmful to your pets. While antihistamines are very safe, it’s important to make sure that it does not contain a decongestant. The pet dosage for antihistamines is much higher than the dose that humans take.  If the antihistamine product you are giving contains a decongestant, then it would be quite easy to overdose your dog on the decongestant. High doses of decongestants can cause heart problems and high blood pressure.

 

Q: How common is diabetes in cats and dogs? It seems like I hear about pets getting diabetes all the time, so I’m curious just how common it is.

A: Diabetes is one of the most common endocrine diseases diagnosed in pets; however, there are not any current prevalence studies. I diagnose and treat multiple cases of diabetes in dogs and cats every year. One study performed in 1999 did show a threefold increase in cases. This is most likely due to the pet obesity problem plaguing our nation.

 

Q: I recently read on Facebook about a friend who lost her dog to a spider bite. Have you heard of this before, and what could I do to prevent this from happening to my dog?

A: Pet deaths due to spider bites in North America are very rare. The Black Widow and the Brown Recluse are the only two venomous spiders in North America. To prevent exposure to spiders, have an exterminator spray your house and environment on a regular basis. Keeping your house clean and free of clutter will also reduce the incidence of spiders in your home.

Five Great Reasons To Get Your Goat

posted September 18th, 2015 by
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BY Nancy Gallimore, CPDT-KA

 

20150115 TulsaPets Magazine

Five Great Reasons To Get Your Goat

It was a pleasant drive to a spot in the country just outside of Claremore, Okla. I drove up a winding, tree-lined drive to find a lovely home in a clearing. I was there to meet goats, to learn about goats, to write about goats. Yet, there was not a goat in sight. Huh.

As I got out of my Jeep and looked around, I could see fenced areas with shelters. I could see hay. I could see feeders. But goats? None.

Just as I was starting to wonder if I was at the wrong address, Sharon Wilson emerged from her home with a warm greeting. We introduced ourselves, and I asked the obvious question, “Where are the goats?”

Sharon smiled as she glanced around. “They’re around here somewhere.”

She picked up a little bag of goat treats and started calling, “Goats! Here, goats!” I waited, I watched. It didn’t take long. One shake of the little bag of goat chow, and I heard the first bleat. Suddenly, like funny, little horned elves, Wilson’s Nubian goats stepped into the clearing to check us out.

At first, they seemed a little shy and unsure with strangers in their midst, but another rattle of the food bag did the trick; they scurried to us to collect on the promise of a quick snack. Suddenly, we were surrounded by curious faces and agile little lips gently and quickly nibbling goat pellets from our palms.

As we enjoyed their company, I talked  with Wilson about her goats and why she considered them good pets. Our conversation, combined with information from other goat enthusiasts, led me to the creation of my top five reasons to (or not to!) add goats to your life.

Goats will likely give you an opportunity to meet your neighbors.

When considering sharing your life with goats, you need to know that they don’t always stay where you want them to. In fact, they could well be the best escape artists in the barnyard, and they do love to roam. You may even find them standing on your neighbor’s front porch.

According to Wilson, the majority of her little herd came to live with her because they were consistently escaping from their former home at Shepherd’s Cross, a nearby working farm. Because the farm was located near a busy road, the owners feared the wandering goats would be injured.

While Wilson admits that she hasn’t been 100 percent successful in keeping the goats contained, her 100-acre property allows the goats to roam safely, and they don’t seem to get into too much mischief. Because goats are at risk to predators, such as coyotes and stray dogs, Wilson does secure her goats in pens by the house each night.

The pens are enclosed with 6-foot-tall chain-link fencing that does keep the goats contained and safe when necessary. Standard stock fencing, like the fence at Shepherd’s Cross, is generally not adequate for thwarting determined goat escape attempts. I have personally seen a small goat hop on a hay bale to hop onto a horse’s back, allowing it to then hop right over a corral fence to freedom. The general consensus among goat owners I have talked with is a goat will almost always find a way out, no matter what type of fencing is used.

Goats are natural landscapers.

Goats are great for weed control. Wilson said she acquired her original two goats, Billy and Bobby, to help control weeds on her acreage. Goats are browsers whose diet consists of about 70 percent non-grassy plants and brush, so they do not compete with other grazing animals for grass and can actually improve lawn and pasture conditions.

At the same time, if you decide to plant a garden or ornamental landscaping around your home, your goats may see it as just another buffet line. Wilson was quick to point out that goats are smart, curious, and can be destructive. If you plan to invest in extensive landscaping, you might first want to invest in really secure goat fencing.

Goats just might teach your dog a thing or two about agility.

Once the picnic was over, the goats meandered away from us and into a fenced area where there were some pieces of equipment generally used for dog agility training. In this case, however, the agile dogs were agile goats.

They immediately displayed their climbing ability by scampering up a narrow ramp to perch atop the dog walk… um… goat walk, a 12-inch-wide plank positioned about 4 and a half feet off the ground. These guys could definitely win an Olympic gold medal in the balance beam competition. Three of them maneuvered around together on the plank with ease.

According to Wilson, if you are going to house goats, it is a good idea to build them plenty of things to climb on. If you don’t give them something to climb on, they will likely find something on their own. That something could very well be your car. Seriously. Goats will hop right onto your car. Wilson, and about a million other goat owners with slightly scratched and dented cars, can confirm this fact for you. She eyed my too-nearby-for-comfort, still-new-to-me Jeep with unconcealed concern. Thankfully, the goats decided to climb elsewhere during my visit.

If you want to have a pet goat, you should double your pleasure by having a pair of goats.

“Goats need companions,” advised Wilson. “You don’t want to have a solitary goat; you need at least two.” But be careful—without a little herd management, it can become a dozen goats in no time at all.

When Wilson originally decided to get goats for weed control on her property, she bought a pair, Billy and Bobby—neutered males, called “wethers” in goat-speak. When she added the goats from Shepherd’s Cross to her little herd, there were a few does and a buck named Joseph in the mix.

With Joseph’s “attention” (keeping it PG-13!), after about five months, the few goats suddenly became a herd of a dozen goats. Nubian goats often have multiple babies, so it is not unusual to see a doe give birth to twins or triplets. This means your herd can grow quickly.

Five of the babies were rehomed, as was the amorous Joseph, but apparently not before he wooed the ladies once again. With a sigh, Wilson pointed to a couple of the does who were displaying suspiciously large bellies.

It appears the stork will visit Wilson’s farm one more time in the coming months. There are few things cuter than baby Nubian goats with their huge, pendulous ears, bright eyes and mis-chievous antics. I do believe this story will require a follow-up visit, and  I can’t swear I won’t leave with two baby goats in tow.

If you have goats for companions, get ready to laugh. A lot.

“Goats are clever, funny animals. Ours give us lots of laughs every single day,” Wilson said.

In just the time spent with Wilson and her crew, which includes Billy, Bobby, Mary, Molly, Emma, Sissy and Joey, I could easily understand the entertainment value of having goats around. Some were affectionate; some were shy; some were very curious—I actually cleaned goat lip smears off of my camera lens—and all were enthusiastic when it came to each goat claiming his or her share of the treats.

Honestly, I could have sat and watched this herd for hours. They bounced around, played, and loved climbing on their custom jungle gym, as well as on the agility equipment I suspect was really in place for Wilson’s beautiful Samoyed show dogs.

Of course, when considering adding any animal to your family, it is important to understand the specific care requirements of that animal before diving in headfirst. In addition to fencing challenges, and the need to have at   least two goats for company, goats do have some specific diet and care requirements.

Wilson said that while she lets her goats graze freely on her property, she also supplements their diet with quality hay, alfalfa pellets and goat pellets. She also provides them with minerals essential to their health. And of course, fresh, clean water must be available at all times.

Goats also need to have their small, cloven hooves trimmed routinely and be wormed and vaccinated on a regular schedule. Wilson also counsels that you have to watch your goats carefully for any signs of illness, such as dullness or a yellow cast to their eyes, diarrhea, lack of appetite and any nasal discharge. As with any animal, early detection of illness is vital to their wellbeing, so diligent supervision is required.

Despite their hardiness, goats are susceptible to pneumonia during cold temperatures. Wilson stressed that goats need adequate protection from cold wind and damp weather. She has several straw-filled shelters in her pens, which allow her goats comfortable snuggle space out of wind and rain. She works to keep these shelters clean and the bedding dry and fresh.

If you are considering goats as weed-eating pets, information provided by Gary Pfalzbot, author of the website Goatworld.com, suggests it’s important to first define your expectations for a pet goat.

“If you are looking for a pet that sits in your lap while watching TV, a goat is not that kind of pet,” stresses Pfalzbot in an article on his site. “If you are looking for the type of pet that you need to pay very little attention to and feed perhaps once a day, a goat is not that kind of pet either.

“Having a goat as a pet primarily means that you are willing to let it be the type of animal it is—an outside animal that you cannot necessarily have sleeping on the bed with you each night. A goat basically needs to be outside in natural elements.”

Another important consideration when thinking of acquiring goats is to be sure that you live in an area where they are allowed and where you have proper habitat to allow them to thrive happily. For example, goats are not generally allowed within city limits and must be kept in areas that are zoned agricultural. A goat would not do well kept in a small enclosure in a backyard.

Wilson’s goats are all Nubians, a popular breed for goat enthusiasts. Nubians were developed as dairy goats with milk rich in butter fat. They are pleasant, friendly, people-oriented animals with a little spark of mischief readily visible in their eyes.

In a couple of months, when Mary and her other herd-mates deliver new, tiny, floppy-eared bundles of bouncing, prancing joy, I can’t swear I won’t be the first in line to see them and fall in love.

In the meantime, I’m heading to my home in the country to rethink my fencing just in case I “need” to add a couple of goats to my fold. For now, I’m still entirely too fond of my Jeep to even entertain the idea of my future goats tap dancing on the hood.

Find a Rescue, Make a Difference

posted September 18th, 2015 by
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Brandon SavannahThe PAAS mission is to find new homes for as many dogs and cats as possible – – a mission shared by other rescues in this area and this state.  And we’re doing it – – slowly but surely.  What is disheartening is that most of the homeless dogs will not find homes in Oklahoma – – but they will in Colorado and Minnesota and other destinations where they need (and want) our dogs.

Cats – – that’s a whole ‘nother issue.

Peaceful Animal Adoption Shelter has been open for 4 ½ months.  By the end of September we will have sent 100+dogs out-of-state to new homes, and 30+ have been adopted locally.  I follow the Facebook page for other rescues and their stories closely match ours.  We save lives by sending them out-of-state.

How wonderful it would be to not face this problem every week – – more dogs than there are homes for them in this area.  That isn’t reality –  – not sure if it will ever be.  Until then, we’ll find new destinations out-of-state and work very hard to be able to look into the eyes of scared dogs and know they will soon be in homes where they are loved and wanted.

For those who dump dogs along the highway, throw them out of the car, or just walk away and leave the animals to fend for themselves  – – – there are no words to express how angry, disappointed and frustrated we feel when we reach out to help.  It’s probably a good thing these heartless people can’t follow our closed groups on Facebook – – we do not mince words when we need to vent.

Want to help?  It takes money, animal food, animal supplies and volunteers to make it work.  That can be said for everyone who has a rescue operation.

 

Find a Rescue – – Make a Difference

Kay Stout, Director

PAAS Vinita

[email protected]

918-256-7227