Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Twas the Month After Christmas...

Just as a horde of half-grown bunnies are plopped down on the doorsteps of animal shelters not long after Easter, so do piles of puppies and caboodles of kittens show up shortly after December 25th.

Obviously, this influx of hapless infants is due to poor planning, impulse buying, or simply that the “thrill is gone.” Or worse, all of the above.

Unfortunately, these youngsters (and some oldsters) who are being relinquished will pay a much higher price than market value…and an extremely unacceptable one, at that.

Therefore, I’m writing this for those who might be so caught up in the spirit that “surprising” someone with a living, breathing, and dependent creature on Christmas morning sounds like a really nifty idea. Well, trust me, it’s not.

As we all know, the holidays are filled with much excitement, disrupted routines, and - as a rule - more visitors than usual.

So just imagine the effects these conditions can have on an animal that hasn’t even had enough time to get to know you, not to mention learn its boundaries and territory, then settle into a daily regimen in its new home. That’s a lot to deal with, period, let alone during the stressful days or weeks that encompass any special season.

Yet, far too often, I hear about people crating their “Christmas” puppy or kitten, dog or cat for continuous hours on end simply to keep them out of the way of company, while cooking or entertaining, wrapping presents, etc. About delaying housetraining until “after the holidays.” No, people, no.

If you really, truly want a pet, just hold your horses and wait until your household has returned to its normal routine. Please don’t selfishly cause a bewildered baby animal (or confused older one) to be set up for failure from the get-go when all it takes is a little patience and timing.

I realize full well that there’s something magical about the decorated tree, the twinkling lights, the multi-colored packages that elicit childhood memories (or wishes) of puppies or kittens peeking their adorable faces out from under those pine-scented branches.

But, in these days of overwhelming pet abandonment, such fanciful pictures in our heads need to be tempered with a mega-dose of realism.

For never forget - ever, for an instant - that pets are forever needy. They need us for their care, their sustenance, their medical assistance, their training. They need us for our constant physical presence, attention and for our love.

In a nutshell, they need to be full-fledged members of the family for their entire lives and not relegated to a sugar-plum moment induced by the spirit of the season, one to be abruptly ended when the glitz and glitter is gone.

I pray this message is taken to heart…..and I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Til Death Do Us Part...

Although our wills need some serious updating, as in we no longer live in the same house, our assets have dwindled, and we’re down to one dog instead of three, the codicil that remains written in stone is the one about pets.

In our case, my sister has graciously and fully accepted to “inherit” any animal we have. Therefore - barring anything weird - we can rest easy knowing they will never be homeless. Can you say the same about yours?

During the course of writing this column, I’ve heard from many shelter and rescue personnel about the staggering number of pets that have been relinquished because the owners had died and left no provisions for taking care of their beloved animals.

Hey, no one likes to think about their mortality so it’s understandable that any action concerning this inevitable occurrence can usually be found on the back burner. Young or middle-aged people, especially, believe that life will go on like it has for quite awhile, so why worry?

Unfortunately, accidents do happen and some illnesses can turn catastrophic quickly, leaving behind a bewildered and grieving animal that will no doubt go to the local shelter if a permanent caretaker is not designated. And, as we age, the tip of this iceberg requires more pointed attention for many reasons.

For example, what if you had to go into an assisted living facility or a nursing home? Will the dog or cat that has been by your side for many loving years be naturally folded into your family’s life?

Or, if you have no family, will a dear and trusted friend be willing to take on the responsibility of giving your pet another forever home? These are hard facts that we really need to think about and plan for, however unpleasant they may be.

While we’re on this morbid subject, I need to go a step further and address the issue of your lifespan vs. your pets.

Just a few month’s ago and despite my suggestions that he get an older dog from the shelter, a 76-year-old acquaintance of mine (who is not in the greatest of health either) bought an eight-week-old puppy of a breed that usually lives an average of 16-18 years.

As I was basically told to mind my own business, one can only wonder if any thought at all was given to the statistics of this situation.

Don’t get me wrong for, believe me, I am totally on the side of pets being placed in loving, responsible homes, no matter how old anyone is. In addition, I think pets are crucial to the elderly as it has been proven that animals alleviate stress, sickness, loneliness, and that dogs can be far better protectors of property than an electrical security system.

Yet one must still take into account that adopting an animal should, under any and all circumstances, mean that it is for the entire life of that animal.

Of course, I realize I’m talking about an ideal world here but, nevertheless, for those of you who belong to the “good group” of committed pet owners, don’t delay in taking your commitment down to the wire.

None of us will let our pets suffer, humanely putting them to sleep when their time comes. On the flip side of that sad coin, please don’t let them flounder through the rest of their lives in what could be the chaotic aftermath of your incapacitation or death. Before it’s too late, take care of that crummy little detail… now.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

No Pet Left Behind...

Although I live in Florida - where this time of year brings ominous forewarnings of "Be prepared for the next Katrina!" - there are many other natural disasters besides hurricanes that create evacuation conditions.

Therefore, this is a not-so-gentle reminder: Please don't even think about leaving your pets behind as you waltz out the door to seek safe haven. Because, odds are, they will not be okay when - or if - you return.

So take the time now to always have an "emergency evacuation" kit prepared for them: Crates (if needed), collars/leashes, food/medications, IDs/vet records, blankets/toys.

And if you can't find lodging that will accept your pets - be it a friend/relative, motel/hotel, public shelter - do what I would do in a heartbeat: Put 'em in the car with you and the rest of your family and drive out of harm's way. So what if you might have to sleep in your vehicle at a rest stop? So what if you're displaced for a few days? So what?

Bottom line: Come hell or high water, Maggie goes where we go. Please do the same for yours...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Little Dollar That Could...

Been looking at too many shelter sites today.....reading about too many needing so much help as too many depend on "we, the people" just to keep the doors open.

Looking at too many pictures of abandoned pets waiting and hoping like hell that someone comes along and whisks them away to a forever home before time runs out.....before all the rooms at the inn become overbooked once again and their eviction notice is served. Hearing them cry out with those pleading, anxious eyes, "Why me?"

So just a thought: I know many of us are strapped these days but just imagine if everyone sent just one dollar - $1 - to a "community" fund for all animal shelters/rescue groups located in their county. In mine alone, that would equate to over $500,000 to be divvied up between these organizations that receive no local government funding whatsoever; organizations that depend on the goodness and kindness of all pet lovers just to stay I said, just a thought.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Quickie re: Emergency Vets

Apparently my harangue about the cost/knowledge of animal emergency clinics/personnel struck an acute nerve with a reader. However, their comment struck one with me, too.....So, I'm going to pick apart that message and reply.

Comment: Did you happen to notice that you actually could get service on a weekend if you were willing to pay for it...without waiting for eleven hours in a waiting room?
My Reply: Who said diddly about not being willing to pay for it? My gripe is that a "normal" vet visit runs about $35-40 NOT $88 (or more) as charged by those who work off-hours.

Comment: Did you happen to notice that people were willing to help you within the constraints you placed upon them?
My Reply: "Within the constraints I placed upon them"? What in hell are you talking about, constraints? I'm talking about an animal hospital that happens to operate - again - at "odd" hours of the day/night. So pray tell, why should their expenses be one dime more than vets who are open during "regular" business hours?

Comment: As a small business owner, I don't think you have a clue of what it costs to run a business.
My Reply: Used to own my own business so I have many, many clues...

Comment: I'm sure everybody in those hospitals that you have a problem with love animals, but 'love' doesn't pay their mortgage and put food on the table. Next time you have a problem, ask them how much their building cost, how much their utility bill is, how much their payroll is and maybe then you'll appreciate that the arm you're about to give doesn't even cover the paper towel bill for the month.
My Reply: Again, why should an emergency veterinarian clinic have higher rent/utility bills and/or payroll than any other veterinarian?? Be they open at midnight or at 8am, lights/water cost the same, not to mention that so do paper towels...

Comment: Think and research before speaking.
My Reply: Thank God, I've rarely had the need to see an emergency vet. However, from "researching" (i.e., talking to/interviewing) those who have, I hear the same basic story almost every time...Pay up or go away.

Bottom line: I'm quite sorry if my response offends your "business" sensibilities but, for those whose pets need immediate and urgent care, the current policy sucks. Again, we are talking about those sworn to help heal animals - you know, those living, breathing precious creatures that we love as members of our family; we are not talking about your local plumber or electrician. Which makes me wonder: Do you even have a pet?????????????

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dear Dog Doctor...

...where are you when I need you most?

Has anyone noticed that it always seems our pets get sick or injured on a weekend or holiday? I don't know about where you live, but here in my area, no vets "operate" at such hours. Well, I take that back. There are two emergency clinics that not only extract an arm and a leg to walk in the door (one charges $88 to be paid immediately), but also an extra limb or two to run tests out the ying-yang (also be paid beforehand).

Believe me, when it comes to my Maggie's well-being, cost is not a factor. But I highly resent the scalping not to mention the fact that I'm not very confident in the ability either.

Case in point: July 4th brought not only fireworks of the explosive kind but those that emanated out of Maggie's butt, aka diarrhea. Long story short, I spent the entire night up and down letting Maggie up and down out of bed to go squirt in the back yard. We were not happy campers.

The next morning, I called one of the emergency clinics inquiring about the dosage of imodium as I had some caplets on hand, albeit without the instructions (I've given this OTC drug to my dogs before). Their advice: "We don't prescribe imodium so I don't know and I can't find out." Thank you very much for nothing, dear doctor...

Call to second emergency clinic: I will say this girl was very nice but had no clue about the proper dosage. I.e., she tried to convert kilograms and milligrams into pounds and pills and ended up telling me I could give 70-lb. Maggie half a caplet once a day.

I knew that sounded fishy but I was too distraught to argue and try to "convert" myself so I went to the trusty Internet (where I should've gone in the first place).....found what I was looking for so I think we'll be just fine until our regular vet opens her doors bright and early tomorrow morning. But.....what if?

Bottom line: I find this a horrendous practice by those who take an oath "to first do no harm," be they human or animal doctors. Not only to be doling out false advice - or none at all - but to be gouging terrified pet owners who will do the utmost to help their animals. Yet - I've heard from others so unfortunate to partake of these services - if you don't have the money, they refuse your pet treatment....

So I ask again: James Herriott, where are you? Because you're certainly not in my town and we need you badly...

Friday, July 4, 2008

Lost!! Found??

They've already started.....the boom, boom, crackle, pop of neighborhood fireworks. The attraction of such block parties are beyond me but, then again, so is the Daytona Firecracker 400 (yeah, I know they renamed it but that's beside the point)...

The point being: Today's festivities will cause a lot of grief tomorrow for some if they don't take proactive "pet precautions" by paying serious attention to their dogs/cats during this long holiday weekend.

July 4th is well-known for producing a plethora of lost pets. And not only during evening hours, folks. Last year, a neighbor found a shaking, quaking elderly dog who had actually climbed the chainlink fence surrounding his yard and ran like a bat out of hell until this good Samaritan stopped him in his tracks and kept him till his owner was located. This all happened around noon...

I cannot emphasize enough how you must ensure your pets are safely ensconced inside your home to prevent escape.....preferably you'll be there with them as some dogs have been known to bust out of windows trying to "avoid" the noise.

Yes, it's a holiday. Yes, some of the fireworks are quite pretty. Yes, you want to have some fun. All well and good. However, if your precious pet suffers - or worse - while you're watching these artificial northern lights.....well, all I can say is, you've been warned.

And, believe me, if your pet gets lost due to their terrified "flight" response, the odds of locating them nearby aren't all that great as they run and run and run.....or hide.

Hopefully, you get the message. What you do with it is up to you. And, by the way, not only have the fireworks already started on my block, it's also getting ready to storm.....and it's only 3:30 in the afternoon. Talk about a recipe for a "disappearing pet" disaster. Please don't let it happen to you and yours...

P.S. Needless to say: IDs on all pets...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Fireworks and Pets

Just a reminder to all those who have pets and live near "firecracker happy" neighbors like we do: Please don't leave your animals alone - and definitely not outside - to weather this very noisy July 4th storm. As you know, their hearing is much more acute than ours. Therefore, if it drives you nuts, imagine how they feel.....

So, stay with them, stay calm, talk soothingly, cuddle a lot, and fervently pray you don't have to listen to this crap all weekend. Which in my case is, unfortunately, a basically wasted prayer.....

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dog "Attack"

Read in the Orlando Sentinel ( today about a 5-yr-old chow/lab mix "attacking" a 6-yr-old boy.....the details in a nutshell:
  • Grandma's dog, Buck; had for his entire life; no incidents
  • Dog was chained up in yard
  • Kid got bit on forehead/cheek; airlifted to hospital; treated & released

My thoughts? You should know what's coming:

  • Chained?
  • 6-yr-old kid?

Far be it from me to draw any conclusions on this story...