Monday, May 26, 2008

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

When most of us were eleven years old we were playing with dolls and riding bikes. Well, times have changed. Young Mimi Ausland of Bend, Oregon, now twelve, began a project to feed hungry shelter dogs when she was just eleven. She started a website for the express purpose of advancing this idea. The site has many sponsors and she is partnering with to help further her dream.

Starting at her local Humane Society of Central Oregon Shelter, she plans to expand the program one shelter at a time.

So far more than 300,000 pieces of kibble have been donated.

People from all over the world can surf to her website, answer a Bow Wow Trivia Question each day, and for each question answered correctly 10 pieces of kibble are provided to the shelter. Here's the link if you'd like to check it out:

And once again, a little child shall lead them.

We hear so much about the bad things kids do. It's nice to hear about the good things for a change.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Credit Where Credit is Due

A lot of controversy tends to swirl around The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). To be perfectly candid, when it comes to supporting animal related charities, I respond in two ways: to help grass roots humane groups and breed rescue, I will donate a signed copy of one of my books which is worth more than any check I could personally write. People tend to bid up and pay more for a signed-by-author book. And I created, as I mentioned before, The Marcia Polimer Abrams Fund for Canine Behavior Studies at the American Kennel Club's Canine Health Foundation. The Donor Directed Fund, in honor of my mother, is aimed at helping learn more about behavior problems and should benefit both dogs and people.

Back to HSUS. Their feral cat program is headed-up by Nancy Peterson, an absolutely wonderful woman by anyone's standards. Her heart is in her work. Nancy recently brought to the pet press' attention a newly-created resource for anyone who does rescue work or has found a colony of feral cats:

The comprehensive list has everything from frequently asked questions to information about my favorite solution to a difficult problem: Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR).

You don't have to be political to surf over and see what they've created, to take advantage of information in one handy place.

The feral cat problem can't be solved overnight but with TNR, and pet owner education, I believe that it can be solved and sooner rather than later.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Re: The Next Generation...

Last night, at their invitation, I drove to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to speak to their new Behavior Group.

I wondered, on the long drive through New England roads, what I would find. UMass doesn't have a veterinary school but undergrads could certainly go on to that if they could get in. Getting into Medical School is easier these days than getting into Veterinary School. Did they want to be Applied Animal Behaviorists? Animal Behavior Consultants? What did they know and what did they want to know?

After getting lost on the campus despite a tiny map that is barely legible to anyone over the age of 25, and with help from the kindness of strangers, I found my way to the correct building.

The students, mainly women which is not unusual, were wonderful. Warm and welcoming and certainly curious about the field of Animal Behavior and the related dog training field. They want to do the right thing. They've been trying to encourage their friends and parents to make proper choices and are so determined to help animals that they want to know more. They are hungry for knowledge with the open minds and bright enthusiasm embodied by the young and young-at-heart.

One young woman had volunteered at a zoo and would do so again this year. Her immediate goal is to bring environmental enrichment to the facility to provide a better quality of life for the animals. Another had been a shelter volunteer and expressed a strong desire to help animals, to make life better for those in shelters and help them live better lives in their homes. That was a common theme: making life better for animals and their owners, help people choose the right pets and train them properly so that they wouldn't end up in shelters, or to rehabilitate those who could be rehabilitated.

I gave them the obligatory explanation of why some can't be saved even when it breaks our hearts to have to admit it. I told them that they would be training owners, not just dogs, that learning what is normal for animals, both physically and mentally, is important. You don't walk in assuming that it's truly a behavior problem without a full work-up being done by a veterinarian.

And on and on it went.

I walked out, tired but uplifted, knowing that the next generation is producing people who care about those who cannot speak for themselves and they want to help in a kinder, gentler way. They know that choke and prong collars get the exact opposite result that they seek, they know that animals are intelligent and can learn more easily when properly trained, or retrained. Among the self-centered, rude, they've-been-handed-everything generation of kids there are some who have learned to care about others.

The world may not be so bleak after all.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Renting Dogs?!

I was horrified to learn that there's a company that rents dogs out to people who are dogless. They claim that the dogs are chosen from shelters. Mainstream press has picked up this story as if it were something good. I cannot imagine how they can report that without thinking about the issues and presenting more information.

Personally, I think this is a horrible idea. Can you imagine the shelter dog who has lost his home for whatever reason, suddenly being shuttled from home to home, caregiver to caregiver with no sense of security? Just as he thinks he's found someone to love him forever, that forever home that every dog needs and deserves, he's off to the next person.

Look further than that and think about the people in our disposable society who think that a dog is to have for a little while, not for its lifetime. Where is there sense of responsibility? Where is the bonding? Will any two people treat the dog the same way? Dogs need consistency in diet, training, attention, love. They give us so much in return. Is this the best we can do? Turn them into yet another disposable commodity to fill someone's fleeting fantasy of having a dog for just a little while?

I don't know whether to scream or cry.

Please tell me how you feel about this latest wrinkle in the world of dogs.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Caring Canines

Today was no ordinary Saturday. It's one I had eagerly anticipated since receiving a request to speak to Caring Canines (, a dedicated therapy dog group in the Greater Boston area. I have a special spot in my heart for therapy dogs since my mother benefitted from a therapy dog who visited her adult day care.
What a heartwarming group of unselfish people make up the Caring Canines membership! I wasn't surprised.
Raise your hand if you're familiar with Therapy Dogs. Not every dog is right for this job but for those who are, and for their owners, they bring a world of caring into the lives of the lonely, ill, infirm.
Caring Canines, one of many such groups throughout the U.S. and probably many other countries, take their dogs on regular visits to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, day care centers for the elderly, etc. Anywhere people can use a smile, soft fur to pat, and unconditional love.
For some, a visit can mark the first time someone has spoken or smiled in months or even years. For family members and hard-working staff members, the visits to patients also brings smiles and a chance to relax.
After I spoke, many members related what the visits are like for them, how much they, as well as their dogs, benefit. Just walking in and out of a building can take 15 minutes while people come up to pet the dog. Even those accidental meetings are helpful and welcome.
They also have special programs along with their regular therapy dog visits. Their Hug-a-Pet program brings dogs to at-risk children in residential homes, as well as children who are hospitalized and those in Special Needs classrooms. An Entertainment Team brings dogs to do tricks at Children's Hospital, while another, a Critical Response Team, comforts those who are in the throes of an emergency.
The visits are, of course, free of charge and all of the people involved are volunteers.
Sure, they could be out doing other things with their lives. But they have chosen to share their dogs and that unconditional love with others, asking nothing in return. But what they do get in return is not just the knowledge that they have brightened other lives but that they are connected to other people in a very special way. The experiences touch their hearts as well.
Thanks to the volunteers' generosity of spirit and sharing the world becomes a little brighter place for those in need of light at the end of the tunnel.