Sunday, April 26, 2009

WARNING: Highly Addictive Live Stork Cam

Live Stork Cam in Schrobenhausen, Germany

Click the link above to follow this stork family and you will be hooked. (I find it works best with Internet Explorer.) At this very moment there are eggs. The parents are taking turns incubating. The eggs should be hatching any day now. I will be checking in almost daily at noon and midnight (I am in the eastern US, storks are in Germany) in hopes I don't miss any major events. If they could just please zoom the cam in a little so I can see better... They usually do at some point in time but NOW would be nice. I admit it. I am hopelessly addicted.

You will watch the parents take turns feeding the voraciously hungry chicks. You will hold your breath (and even yell "GET BACK!!!" out loud) as a chick wanders dangerously close to the edge of the nest perched high on a rooftop. You will laugh at their antics as the chicks attempt to become airborne by using each other as a springboard. You will anxiously await the return of a chick that has gone off in search of his own meal for the first time. You will bid the family a fond farewell as they leave the nest, one by one, on their migration to Africa for the winter. You will await their return next spring and look forward to a new generation of a species in decline. Really, you will be hooked. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Information About European White Storks

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Animal Rescues - Go Green!

Our rescue tries to be green, not just on Earth Day but every day!

Paper or Plastic?
Take along reusable canvas bags when purchasing pet supplies.

Line the Can
Use large dog food or cat litter bags that can't be recycled as garbage can liners.

Be a Litterbug
Switch to an environmentally friendly kitty litter.

Can the Pet Food
Put all empty pet food cans in the recycling bin.

Sweet Dreams
Sew up holes in dog and cat bedding to use over and over again. Those blankets and comforters looking like Swiss cheese? Cut them up and hem to make pads for the kitties and small dogs.

Trash a Fundraiser
Raise funds while putting unwanted items back to use. Hold yard sales and sell more valuable items on eBay. Sign up with companies that recycle cell phones, ink jet cartridges and used cars.

Recycle Pets
And last, but not least, not only rehome pets already in existence, but ensure they will not produce more pets by spaying and neutering BEFORE they are adopted.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oh, My Aching Back!

Little foster dog, Bam Bam, has severe disc disease - arthritis in his spine. It was not the diagnosis I had expected.

Bam Bam has been in foster care for almost three weeks now. Not having known him previously, it was hard to determine if his fear of being picked up was behavioral or maybe due to being dropped previously. He wanted to be picked up, yet he would change his mind at the last minute. His "please give me a boost up" plea would result my attempt to comply, which would result in Bam Bam running away. In hot pursuit, I would close in on him in another room, pick him up and carry him back to the bed, which is exactly where he wanted to be in the first place. I certainly did not want him trying to jump up own his own. I mean, that would be bad for his back. It was a very strange daily ritual.

Although all prior air lifts had been uneventful, last night he yelped. The minute his paws hit the bed, he scooted away and cowered in sheer terror as though he were looking at the Grim Reaper. What on earth was this all about? Something had obviously caused him pain.

When I dropped Bam Bam at our vet's office for his dental this morning, I requested x-rays, thinking the pain was in his chest or ribs. To see him do his dinner time spin-as-fast-as-you-can-in-circles happy dance or balance expertly on his hind legs to get closer to that much anticipated treat, I would never have imagined the problem would be in his spine. But there on the x-rays was the source of his "please lift me/don't lift me" mystery - arthritis.

Bam Bam will be on anti-inflammatory medication and supplements to manage his pain. This doesn't help his prospects for adoption - his age of 10 years is already a deterring factor. Throw in arthritis and whatever applicant pool there is dries up very quickly. Every so often an adoption angel comes along who understands that we don't all age gracefully and appreciates what a not-so-perfect senior has to offer. We'll wait for that angel.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Does Your Dog Have What It Takes To Be A Therapy Dog?

Being a therapy dog is not in the cards for my current crew. Don't get me wrong - they are all very friendly, social and obedience trained. But that isn't quite all it takes.

Shawnee - German Shepherd Dog
Shawnee was feral (no human contact) as a puppy. She has come a very long way and today people don't believe me when I describe how fearful she once was. Occasional skittishness will always be in her nature. If something unsettles her, she needs to tell me by barking about it - loudly. Um, that's not very therapeutic.

Dixie - German Shepherd Dog Mix
Dixie is the schmooziest, most charming, dainty little shep mix. She will approach anyone with the "Aren't I the cutest thing you ever saw and please pet me" look. Until she decides she has had enough of a good thing. Then she will cop an attitude: "Leave me alone. I'm tired." OK, moving along...

Sydney - Mostly Australian Cattle Dog
Greets one and all with her engaging full body wag of utter joy. But look up "stubborn" in the dictionary and you will find a picture of Sydney. She feels the need to emphasize her bullheadedness by dropping to the floor and rolling belly up. Try moving 50 pounds of dead weight. Could I maneuver her around a nursing home if she suddenly got it into her mind not to cooperate? Really, it would not be pretty.

Prior to this group of dogs I had two therapy dogs simultaneously. Bandit, an Australian Shepherd mix I had taken in as a stray and Elliot, a Doberman Pinscher who came to live with me when his caretaker passed away. These dogs could always put a smile on sad and lonely faces.

Elliot and I would visit the local nursing home every other week on my Thursday lunch hour. (Bandit did her stint on alternate weeks.) Elliot adored one nursing home resident in particular. She was confined to a wheelchair, which brought her right at Elliot's height. Elliot knew to line himself up right next to her wheelchair for a full back massage. It wasn't beneath him to seek her out for one more little massage before going back home.

One day two women entered pushing a wheelchair. The elderly man in the wheelchair sat rigid and motionless, staring straight ahead with unseeing eyes. Elliot, spotting an opportunity for a massage (or maybe not) positioned himself parallel to the wheelchair and stood perfectly still, eyes focused in the same direction as that gentleman's. Within seconds, a shaky, unsteady hand rose from the wheelchair, hovered precariously in mid-air, veered to the right and wobbled down awkwardly, coming to rest on its intended target - the top of Elliot's head. With human hand on canine head, man and dog remained motionless. Elliot knew this was more important than a massage. I glanced at the two women, the wife and daughter, tears streaming down their faces. "My father had a stroke. This is the first time he has acknowledged anything going on around him or made any kind of movement on his own. Thank you." WOW! The power of animals!

For more information about therapy dogs:
Therapy Dogs International

(In March 2001, Elliot succumbed to Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a fatal heart condition common in Doberman Pinschers.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why Not Microchip Your Pet?

I have been to many animal shelters. Each and every time, as I stand looking at the sweet, confused, often traumatized little faces peering at me hopefully from behind bars, I can't help but wonder, "How many of them would not be here if they had been microchipped?"

The most common reasons people give for not microchipping their pets:

  • Fido never leaves my side.
  • Fluffy is an indoor only cat.
I can't quite wrap my mind around that. Maybe it is because I see the other side of life where unexpected things happen to the pets of people who least expect it. Shelter populations generally consist of confiscated animals, owner-released animals and strays. Lots of friendly, well-socialized strays with very nice manners. No doubt these animals belonged to somebody. But who? Whether the animals are missed by their families or intentionally abandoned, we will never know because nobody can determine who they belong to. If, at some point in time, they sported collars with ID tags, they didn't have them on when they were picked up running the streets. The strays with microchips are not in the shelter because they already went home. A long time ago.

Let's assume Fluffy and Fido had been microchipped. (What follows is based on factual events from personal experience, using fictitious names.) Fluffy's people were frantic because the screen fell out of the window in the middle of the night and so did Fluffy. Fido was left in the back yard for a minute while his person went out front to get the newspaper. He came back and Fido was gone.
Fluffy was found 3 months later and 3 miles away. He was taken to a veterinarian where he was scanned for a microchip. Fluffy's family was contacted and an incredibly joyous reunion ensued. Fido was found wandering on railroad tracks behind a strip mall. When we scanned him, we discovered that his microchip was registered to somebody who lived 30 miles away! We can only assume Fido was taken and moved that distance by humans as it turns out he showed up in our area within hours after he went missing - he could not have walked that far that fast. His family never thought to look for him 30 miles away, yet against all odds, his microchip got him back home to the two little girls who loved him dearly.

One day I was at a high kill shelter where I witnessed a woman crumbling to the floor in heart-wrenching sobs after being told that her dog, whose stray hold was up the day before, had been euthanized just hours earlier to make room for more incoming strays. She had found out which shelter he was at one day too late. Would a microchip have saved that dog's life? You betcha.

People often think microchip implanting is a big deal, like having surgery. That is most certainly not the case. It is more like getting a vaccination. The microchip is injected under the skin of the scruff of the animal and most don't even feel it. It literally takes seconds to do. When people bring their pets to our microchip clinics, they are always amazed at how fast and simple it is. I tell people they will hopefully never have a need for the microchip but if the unexpected ever happens and there is no microchip, then it's too late. So what are you waiting for? Get your pet microchipped! I don't want to be looking in your pet's eyes when I am standing in an animal shelter.

Ask your veterinarian about microchipping or for more information about our microchip clinics in the Central New Jersey area go to: