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Archive for July, 2009

Michael Vick Should Not Be Reinstated by the NFL

July 18th, 2009 2 comments

The NFL Should NOT Reinstate Michael Vick

Former Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick’s federal prison sentence for running a brutal dog fighting ring ends Monday, July 20.  Now, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must decide whether to lift Vick’s suspension and allow him to resume a sports career that not only rewards Vick mightily with money, but also necessarily places him in the position of role model to young people.

And sports stars cannot just disclaim that role model status.  We all know kids look up to sports stars.  They just do.

Please Petition the NFL to Keep Michael Vick Out

Now is the time to let Mr. Goodell know that you think Michael Vick is not fit to resume a career as a sports star.  What he personally did to the animals in his dog fighting operation is unconscionable.  Michael Vick personally tortured and killed numerous dogs.  For SPORT.  For his AMUSEMENT.  And for MONETARY GAIN.  Look what he and his cohorts did to his victims.  But be warned that these photos graphically illustrate Vick’s brutality.

His actions mark him as an inhumane individual who has forfeited any right to be placed on the pedestal to which our society elevates sports stars.

Please take the time to let Mr. Goodell and the NFL know that Michael Vick should not be reinstated by the NFL. Please sign the following petitions:

Football Fans Against Vick

Petition to keep Michael Vick out of the NFL

Rehabilitated Dogs

And on a happier note, take a look at the “Vicktory Dogs,” victims rescued from Michael Vick’s brutal dog fighting operation that have been rehabilitated at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

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Categories: Opinion

Adopting a New Rescue Dog

July 17th, 2009 5 comments


Meet Lucy, the new addition to our home.  We adopted Lucy through Animal Friends Society of Tampa in June 2009.  I call her Miss Happy-Pants because she never fails to wag her tail and appear genuinely thrilled when any of her new family members come into her orbit.  Lucy is a mixed-breed pooch who appears to have a hint of Chocolate Lab and a good bit of some sort of terrier in her.  She is about one-half Frankie’s size, weighing in at 40 pounds.  And at approximately a year old, she probably won’t get much bigger.

How We Came to Adopt Lucy

When Frankie passed the one-year mark, we started thinking he needed a canine companion.  Even though he was getting a three-mile walk every day and occasional outings such as trips to doggie day camp, it still didn’t seem to be enough.  There would be many evenings when his pent-up energy would just have to be expended, and he would race through the house at breakneck speed, narrowly missing household items we’d rather not have smashed by an 80-pound canine missile.  Having a furry friend around the house would help him burn off all that excess energy.  It was time to think about adopting a new dog.

Pet Adoption:  Rescue Dogs are the Best

We pondered our options, but there was really no question that our new dog would be a rescue dog like Frankie.  We believe that, for us at least, rescue dogs are the best.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Rescue a dog and you’re saving a life. We rescued Frankie from the “mean streets” of Dayton, Tennessee in April 2008.  We were visiting my family at the farm there at about the same time someone decided it would be a good idea to just abandon a three-month-old puppy out in the country to fend for himself.  Fortunately, my niece took him in and fed him.  Then my husband and I decided to give him a permanent home.  I knew he would grow up to be a fine dog, and I was right.  Moreover, by bringing him into our home, I know we saved his life.
  • Getting a rescue dog means you’re not supporting puppy mills. A depressingly large number of pet stores sell dogs that come from puppy mills.  A puppy mill is a horrible, hopeless, miserable existence where dogs are crammed into cages and “fed and bred” until they die.  According to the Humane Society of the United States, “Adopting a dog instead of buying one is the surest way to strike a blow against puppy mills.”

Animal Friends Society

Animal Friends Society is an all-volunteer no-kill orgainzation dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and adoption of homeless, abused and abandoned animals.  They often hold adoption events at locations such as our local PetSmart.  Having considered the idea of adopting another dog, we decided to attend one of their adoption events, with Frankie in tow.  We looked at several dogs, including a couple of much younger puppies, before we spotted Lucy.

Although she is almost a solid dark brown, Lucy looks like a smaller version Frankie in practically every other way.  And from the moment she and Frankie met, it was clear that they would be instant best friends.  We spent several minutes observing the interaction between Frankie and Lucy and learning more about Lucy’s background.

Lucy’s Story

Lucy was abandoned and was found starving and terrified.  The kind man who found her could not get her to come to him at first.  But with patience, persistence and scraps of food, he was eventually able to lure her in.  He fed her and fattened her up and gave her the affection she had been missing.  Ultimately, though, he was unable to keep her so he turned her over to AFS.

The Pet Adoption Process

At AFS, Lucy was given a vet check-up and all her vaccinations.  She was also spayed.  The adoption process involves filling out an application form, which is fairly simple, but at the same time requests enough information to allow the AFS volunteers to assess the would-be adoptive family’s commitment to taking on the responsibilities of bringing a new pet into their lives.  Once the adoption application is approved, a tax-deductible fee of $150-200 for dogs is requested and your new pet can come home.

Frankie & Lucy 025Life with Lucy and Frankie

Lucy arrived home on June 17, 2009, and there hasn’t been a dull moment since.  She and Frankie are well-matched for temperament and energy.  They chase and tackle each other and generally tumble around in the back yard for several hours every day, burning all that healthy, youthful energy.  When they’re hot and tired, they come inside and cool off in the air conditioning and drink plenty of water.

Then, after they’ve rested a bit, they start all over again.  And they couldn’t be happier.  Frankie & Lucy Resting

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Obedience Training – Teaching Your Dog Not to Jump on Houseguests

July 17th, 2009 6 comments

Frankie Pic

Frankie is a great dog. He adores small children and is gentle with smaller animals.  In fact, he is well known in our neighborhood for “flattening” himself on the ground when a child or a small animal approaches him.  It is his way of saying, “I’m not a threat to you.  Come and pet me!”

But when a visitor comes into our house, it is another story.  Whether it is an adult, a child or another dog, Frankie is so caught up in the joy of having a visitor that he forgets all about the fine art of entertaining etiquette.  The moment the visitor steps across the threshold, Frankie is on his hind legs, jumping all over our guest.

Not only is it embarrassing for his otherwise adoring humans, it can also be a safety issue, particularly if the visitor is a child or a person with health issues.  After all, Frankie is 80 pounds of canine.  He is a year-and-a-half-old cross between a black Labrador Retriever and a Boxer who apparently sometimes thinks his boxing skills are his most charming trait.  If he injures someone, I could be liable for those injuries even though they didn’t necessarily involve aggressive behavior.

Why do Dogs Jump on Visitors?

Author Jana Murphy explains in her book, The Secret Lives of Dogs, that when dogs jump on people, they actually think they are being polite.  In the canine universe, dogs greet each other by sniffing and licking.  They start the greeting ritual by sniffing each others’ mouths and licking each others’ faces, and then move to the other end and sniff each others’ bottoms.  This is considered polite behavior between dogs, and to greet each other in a different way would be considered bad manners at best.

Dogs expect to be able to greet human visitors in the same way.  The problem for the dog is that humans are usually too tall for the dog to get a good mouth sniff.  Couple that fact with the fact that dogs are often very excited and happy about having visitors (or are overjoyed about their human returning home from work), and you have the perfect recipe for the jumping behavior that dog owners dread, says Murphy.

Dog Training Secrets – Train the Humans First

Talk to your visitors in advance, if possible, and explain your dog’s tendency to want to greet them with a full-body doggie hug.  Discuss the fact that you are in the process of trying dog training methods and ask for their help.

This approach fulfills three objectives.  First, it gives you an opportunity to warn your visitor that they might be greeted with a little too much exuberance when they arrive.  Second, your visitor will know that you are working on training your dog to avoid this behavior.  It has been my experience that fellow dog lovers are too ready to dismiss misbehavior in other people’s dogs by saying, “Oh, it’s okay.  I have dogs and I know they behave this way.”  They’re trying to be nice, but it is not okay and it helps if your visitor knows your dog training goal in advance.

Finally, this method gives you a chance to educate you visitor about things they can do to keep from being lovingly assaulted when they enter your door.  Here are some suggestions for ways you can enlist your visitor’s help:

  • Turn the greeting into a meeting. Assuming your dog is already familiar with some basic obedience commands, ask your visitor to turn the first few minutes of the visit into a mini-training session.  Have the dog’s leash and some reward treats ready, and have your visitor walk in and immediately practice some obedience drills.  It will be important to do these drills even before any greetings take place between the humans.  A few minutes of “sits” and “downs” and “stays” will focus your dog’s attention on the commands and away from the thrill of having a new person in the house.  After the dog is settled and focused, he can be rewarded with a scratch behind the ear.
  • Ignore the dog altogether. If your dog gets extremely excited about greeting visitors, this one might be a little difficult for the first couple of minutes.  The idea here is to avoid the appearance of rewarding the jumping behavior.  If the dog jumps and the visitor reacts in any manner – either with affection or with trying to push the dog away – the dog will interpret this as a reward.  Have your visitor cross his or her arms and turn completely away from the dog.  After the dog has settled down, only then should she be rewarded with affection.  Your dog will learn that she only receives attention of any kind from the visitor when she is calm and cool.
  • Invest in a head collar for your dog. A head collar such as the Gentle Leader is a wonderful, cruelty-free dog training tool that works by allowing you to control your dog by gently pulling down on his snout when he gets out of line.  Dogs dislike the sensation of having their snout pulled down and will tend to do what it takes to avoid that sensation.  Have the head collar on the dog before the doorbell rings, and snap the leash on immediately before greeting your visitor.  When your dog starts to jump, quickly but gently tug down on the head collar to discourage the behavior and make him sit to greet.  Ask your visitor not to pet or acknowledge your dog until the dog is sitting.

We have tried these techniques with some success.  Of course, Frankie is a work in progress.  He is still very young and does not always understand that guests in our home do not wish to be tackled.  But as long as we can get our friends to help us by discouraging the behavior in positive ways that reinforce and reward only good conduct, I think we have a pretty good shot of turning him into a model citizen.

Resource:  Murphy, Jana.  The Secret Lives of Dogs:  The Real Reasons Behind 52 Mysterious Canine Behaviors.  Rodale, 2000.

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Categories: Dog Behavior

DAWGS Gives Shelter Dogs and Florida Inmates a Second Chance

July 16th, 2009 6 comments

The Florida Department of Corrections announces that the first class of DAWGS (Developing Adoptable dogs With Good Sociability) graduated on July 8 at Gulf Forestry Camp.  The Department has teamed up with the St. Joseph Bay Humane Society to form a unique dog training school.  According to the press release, “DAWGS brings together shelter dogs with inmates and gives each a second chance to succeed.  DAWGS are trained by inmates at Gulf Forestry Camp, who were themselves trained by a professional dog trainer in hopes that they may find gainful employment upon release from prison.”

Inmates Teach Basic Dog Training Commands

The dog training course involves obedience training by an inmate for an eight-week period.  The dogs are taught basic dog training commands, such as sit, stay and come, and are taught to walk without pulling on the leash.  By graduation day, each DAWG is a well-trained dog.

Adopting a Dog

After the dogs have competed the training course, they are adoptable, having been spayed or neutered, housebroken, crate trained, vaccinated and checked for heartworm.  Adoption fees start at $150.  Of these first eight graduates, six were already adopted.  They will be replaced by a new class immediately, and the program is expected to graduate 60 trained dogs over the next year.

Inmates Gain Valuable Career Skills

There are inmate dog training programs at four Florida Department of Corrections facilities.  According to the press release:

Currently one in every three inmates released from the Florida prison system returns to prison within three years.  Through programs like DAWGS, the Department of Corrections is focusing on teaching inmates viable job skills that will lead them to productive jobs and law-abiding lives upon release.

Adopt a Dog or Make a Tax Deductible Donation

For information about the DAWGS program, go to their website.  You will find information about how to adopt one of these wonderful, well-trained dogs.  And you will also learn how you can help the program with a tax deductible donation.

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