Friday, April 30, 2010

Letter from a shelter manager

My cousin received this email and passed it on to my aunt, who then emailed it to me.
Seeing as how I just finished reading it and am holding back the tears in my eyes, I figured it was powerful enough to post here and pass along to others.

Warning: You may find some of this to be disturbing. If you are a very sensitive person, you may not want to read on.

There is no name attached to this.

A Letter from a Shelter Manager
I think our society needs a huge "Wake-up" call. As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all...a view from the inside if you will.

First off, all of you breeders/sellers should be made to work in the "back" of an animal shelter for just one day. Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don't even know.

That puppy you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when it's not a cute little puppy anymore. So how would you feel if you knew that there's about a 90% chance that dog will never walk out of the shelter it is going to be dumped at? Purebred or not! About 50% of all of the dogs that are "owner surrenders" or "strays", that come into my shelter are purebred dogs.

The most common excuses I hear are; "We are moving and we can't take our dog (or cat)." Really? Where are you moving too that doesn't allow pets? Or they say "The dog got bigger than we thought it would". How big did you think a German Shepherd would get? "We don't have time for her". Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs! "She's tearing up our yard". How about making her a part of your family? They always tell me "We just don't want to have to stress about finding a place for her we know she'll get adopted, she's a good dog".

Odds are your pet won't get adopted & how stressful do you think being in a shelter is? Well, let me tell you, your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off. Sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn't full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy. If it sniffles, it dies. Your pet will be confined to a small run/kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it. If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers in that day to take him/her for a walk. If I don't, your pet won't get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose. If your dog is big, black or any of the "Bully" breeds (pit bull, rottie, mastiff, etc) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door.

Those dogs just don't get adopted. It doesn't matter how 'sweet' or 'well behaved' they are.

If your dog doesn't get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed. If the shelter isn't full and your dog is good enough, and of a desirable enough breed it may get a stay of execution, but not for long . Most dogs get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment. If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because shelters just don't have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment.

Here's a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being "put-down".

First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk happy, wagging their tails. Until they get to "The Room", every one of them freaks out and puts on the brakes when we get to the door. It must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there, it's strange, but it happens with every one of them. Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 vet techs depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then a euthanasia tech or a vet will start the process. They will find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the "pink stuff". Hopefully your pet doesn't panic from being restrained and jerk. I've seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood and been deafened by the yelps and screams. They all don't just "go to sleep", sometimes they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves.

When it all ends, your pets corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back with all of the other animals that were killed waiting to be picked up like garbage. What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? You'll never know and it probably won't even cross your mind. It was just an animal and you can always buy another one, right?

I hope that those of you that have read this are bawling your eyes out and can't get the pictures out of your head I deal with everyday on the way home from work.

I hate my job, I hate that it exists & I hate that it will always be there unless you people make some changes and realize that the lives you are affecting go much farther than the pets you dump at a shelter.

Between 9 and 11 MILLION animals die every year in shelters and only you can stop it. I do my best to save every life I can but rescues are always full, and there are more animals coming in everyday than there are homes.

My point to all of this DON'T BREED OR BUY WHILE SHELTER PETS DIE!

Hate me if you want to. The truth hurts and reality is what it is. I just hope I maybe changed one persons mind about breeding their dog, taking their loving pet to a shelter, or buying a dog. I hope that someone will walk into my shelter and say "I saw this and it made me want to adopt". THAT WOULD MAKE IT WORTH IT

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Comfort snob

In many ways, my dog is not spoiled. In one big way, though, he is.
From the time Sensi was a little puppy, we’ve made him comfortable. We taught him about blankets and pillows and soft mattress beds, couches and fleeces and the ultimate softness of a microfiber blanket. He got a bolster bed and more blankets and pillows to call his own.
Seven years later, we’ve created a comfort monster.
This is a dog who won’t sit down outside unless it’s on a lush carpet of sodded grass. A dog who wouldn’t even consider laying down on a wood or tile floor. In fact, he won’t even lay down on the carpet unless it’s in a sun spot or if he’s playing with his toys.
Even the couch has become a no-lounge spot for him unless there’s, at the very minimum, a blanket for him to curl up with.
Last night, my husband and I cuddled on the ottoman together, a blanket pulled over our legs. There was no space for Sensi between us, which is generally his favorite spot in the whole house — between his two masters, on a microfiber blanket, on the ottoman, on the couch.
Never mind that there was the whole rest of the couch open, a space that can fit at least four other grown men, nonetheless a single, 85-lb. dog. And forget that there’s a dog bed in the living room — it has no bolster or fleece covering, so it’s totally off Sensi’s radar.
So what does our little comfort snob do? He chooses to leave us, for the whole night, and walked back to the bedroom to take advantage of the open bed. And no, not his — I’m talking about our open bed.
At one point, we called him out into the living room. He came, asked if he could come up on the ottoman with us. We said no and he promptly turned around and headed back to the bedroom for the rest of the night.
I’ve created a snob.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Almost there

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while might remember posts from earlier in the year about the allergy debacle Sensi has been going through.
(Read my blogs: Merry Christmas and a crappy New Year as well as What do food allergies look like? to catch up)
He is allergic to foods — exactly what kinds are still a mystery — and we’ve been running through prescription diets for months now trying to get him on something that doesn’t make him react.
Taking the risk of jinxing myself, I’ll say that I think he’s finally healthy.
The worst of the allergic reactions — infections and intense scratching and licking — have been resolved for quite a while now. But, those smaller, telltale signs of something bad going on inside him still hung around.
What are the smaller signs to be wary of? Regular, yellowish colored eye discharge, or as I like to call it, lotsa eye boogers. And acne — yes, acne. It was bad right around his mouth, pimples rearing their ugly heads on my dog’s sensitive lips and muzzle. So gross.
The acne around the mouth is a good indicator, though, that whatever is bothering the dog is something that he is either ingesting or mouthing heavily.
It seemed like these last couple of symptoms just weren’t going away. We switched to a different kind of prescription food ($95 for a 32 lb. bag, whew!) and the symptoms persisted for a couple weeks.
But finally, they’ve all gone away. Eye booger levels are back down to normal and the acne has left my dog’s mouth.
This Saturday, I plan to start phase 2 of resolving the allergy debacle — food trials. I will use food trials to determine what Sensi is allergic to by process of elimination.
For one week, Sensi will get something added to his breakfast dinner, like cooked chicken, lamb flavored baby food, corn and other things. The second week, he goes back to strictly prescription kibble while we watch for symptoms of a reaction.
If he’s all clear, we start over the next week with a different food product.
What is most important about food trials is keeping the dog away from other items — this means no dropped tater tots, no frozen green bean treats, no sharing water dishes or toys with other dogs. Of course, we’ve already been doing this for four months now, so we’ve got plenty practice at keeping him on a tight leash.
Wish us luck as we embark on the second leg of a long journey toward ensuring our dog stays healthy!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Beware of dog DNA tests

What is the biggest benefit of being a newspaper reporter? You have a reason to spend time getting questions you have answered.
I had never heard of DNA tests to identify what breed of dog your mutt is when another reporter here quoted a local attorney as saying the tests are used in Waterford Township to enforce breed bans on pit bulls.
“What?” I asked her, flabbergasted. “Did you say DNA tests? There’s no such thing.”
“He said there is,” she told me. “Want his number?”
“Yes, I do,” I said, and immediately turned to my computer to begin some online research.
I found three mainstream brands of these DNA tests and I couldn’t believe it. All my research about dogs up to that point had been that one dog breed can’t be differentiated from another based on DNA alone.
When I brought it up in a news meeting, everyone was interested to learn more and so that was that — I was writing the story.
What I found was not surprising. These tests may work for a particular dog, perhaps the offspring of a purebred Golden Retriever and purebred Beagle or something. But even in those cases, they may not.
I know one thing for sure — based on what I found out for my story, I wouldn’t waste a dime on these expensive, feel-good but worthless tests. (Read the full story, What's your Mutt? by clicking here)
It’s been almost a year since the story published, but thanks to the Internet it lives on. A woman contacted me about a month ago, Michele Mackintosh, thanking me for the story.
She lives with a tall, 24-inch sandy colored dog named Keetah who weighs 83 lbs. The long-haired dog wears a thick undercoat and has an appearance that is strikingly similar to a Briard or even a Wheaton Terrier.
“The results came back as one parent was a purebred and in that space, there is German Shepherd Dog. The next space is blank, the next is Pembroke Corgi and the last space is Poodle and Chihuahua,” she wrote. “I really did not get the results I was expecting. After reading your article online, I felt much better ... Needless to say, I think it is a scam of some sort.”
Me too.
Now, is it possible her mixed breed might have some German Shepherd or Poodle in her past? Maybe. But I’m doubtful of the Chihuahua or Corgi history.
Upon further investigation, it turns out the company who offers the service doesn’t even test for Wheaton Terriers or Briards — a real shame since these are such old breeds.
And seriously, those ears are a pretty distinctive trait. I do think there’s a good chance her dog is half or more Briard.
“From now on, when I take my dog for a walk and they ask me what kind of dog she is, I will tell them a Briard cross,” Michele wrote.
Michele contacted the company and got a refund. Good for her.

Anyone got an opinion on what breeds might make up this mixed breed dog? Join the conversation and leave a comment.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A dog making decisions

“Honey,” my husband called quietly and calmly from the couch, trying to avoid capturing the dog’s attention. “Look at your dog.”
I spun around just in time to watch as Sensi dragged his microfiber blanket over to his play spot. He was holding on to it gently but firmly and placed it right where he wanted it — over top of his pile of decapitated stuffed animals, chewed up cardboard boxes and badly mangled empty water bottles.
He then snuggled up and cast a precious glance of content my way before drifting off to sleep.
“What the heck?” I asked Brent, my husband. “I’ve never seen him do that before.”
“Me neither,” Brent told me. “He grabbed it from the couch and dragged it all the way over there.”
The blanket, a microfiber throw I got on sale for $7 during one of Kohl’s fantastic day-after-Thanksgiving sales, had been nestled up into the corner of our couch. It’s one of Sensi’s beloved items. I bought it for him because, for years, he’d been hogging our microfiber blankets. Nothing else seemed to compared to the softness of the microfiber and trust me, my dog knows his blankets. It had to be the same as ours.
The dog grabbed the blanket by its corner, holding it gently in his mouth, and dragged it off the couch, past the television set and over to the other side of the living room. Behind the television is an open spot that Sensi has pretty much made “his spot.” Every toy he plays with will wind up in a neat little pile in the middle of the floor there.
But never had he brought his blanket to his spot. In fact, he’s never before picked up a blanket and brought it anywhere.
I think this shows a couple things about dogs.
First, not only can an old dog learn a new trick, but an old dog can even teach himself a new trick.
Secondly, I think it says a thing or two about decision making in our dogs.
Brent and I are used to watching as Sensi makes decisions about where to lay down. We even know he will dig at the dog bed, rearrange the throw pillows on the couch and tuck his head under blankets to move them around as he desires.
But in this situation, he actually decided he want an item from point A to physically move to point B and arranged a sleeping situation for himself that didn’t even exist before he created the scenario in his mind and then took steps to make his thought a reality.
For a dog, it’s really quite incredible.
Of course, he might’ve just been trying to cover up his stash of broken toys to save them from the ominous garbage can. Who knows, really?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ouch! The rodent who fought the pit bull

And the rodent won.
The fact that it shot and stuck no less than 1,347 quills into the pit bull’s face, head, neck and shoulders might just have something to do with it.
Yes, I’m talking about a porcupine.
These photos came through last week in another viral e-mail forwarded to me by some of my coworkers.
The text that went along with the e-mail stated that this pit bull — barely recognizable underneath all those quills — was in his backyard in Southern California, minding his own business when the porcupine invaded the yard.
“The brave but stupid pit bull immediately challenges the porcupine,” states the e-mail. “Bad decision ... the porcupine won this short contest.”
These pictures are gut wrenching. Can you imagine being that dog? I have to wonder how much the vet bill cost. The dog had to be sedated to have the quills removed, but on top of that, what if one got him in the eye, nose or mouth?
While I hope that none of your dogs are ever visited by a porcupine in their own backyard, I will offer this piece of advice — if you’re walking your dog in a remote area, this is one more reason to keep it on leash.
The only time I’ve ever come across a porcupine was while hiking in state land. If your dog got stuck by a porcupine while you were four miles into the middle of nowhere, can you just imagine what a miserable walk back to the car that would be?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The short-haired dog brush

Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch my video demonstration.

One word best sums up the pet brush FURminator — genius.
The company contacted me a while back to see if I was interested in testing out their product.
“I don’t know, I don’t have a long-haired dog so I’m not sure I’d really be able to test it out properly,” I told their public relations person.
She mentioned that she uses it on her pit bull and gets out decent little piles of hair every now and again.
“It’s not like the massive piles you get from long haired dogs, though,” she said. “But it works.”
I thought about perhaps having a friend with a long-haired dog test it out. But what she told me about her pit bull kept creeping back into my mind. I started thinking about my own dog hair problem and all the brushes I’d bought that hadn’t worked at all.
“Maybe I will give it a try,” I finally decided.
I am so happy I did.
Short-haired dog owners, take notice. This brush is incredible.
In my last blog, I talked about the challenge of brushing a short-haired dog. While some breeds have hair so short that regular brushing isn’t necessary, there’s lots of dogs out there with “in-between” coats that are practically impossible to brush. For whatever reason, the standard pet brushes just don’t get the hair out.
The FURminator does.
In fact, I was shocked as just how well it worked. With just a couple strokes, I filled up the brush with dead hair. Less than five minutes later, my dog’s coat was shiny and noticeably nicer to the touch.
Not only does the FURminator work incredibly well at removing hair, it also scrapes off the top layer of dead skin. This is a good thing, but definitely lets you know it is not a tool to use with force.
The fine toothed comb is made of a heavy metal and is definitely sharp. Use too much force and I could see it scratching up the dog’s skin.
In fact, after asking around about the product, I found one woman with a Malamute who said her dog got skin infections after the FURminator was used on him by a groomer. After testing this product myself, I feel quite confident in saying her groomer was using a rough hand and ought to think about how her brushing tactics would feel against her own skin. She also might want to think about sanitizing brushes from one dog to the next.
The nice thing, though, is that you really don’t need to use force with this brush. Gentle, long strokes are all it takes to remove tons of hair and dead skin. Sensi found this to be quite pleasurable and I, amazed at the little effort yielding big results, enjoyed the experience too.
Very few dog-related products have I ever felt really excited about — the Halti and gentle leaders are one, Jolly Pets toys and the Buster Cube are another, but the list pretty much stops there. Until now, because the FURminator is definitely joining the list.
To me, a good product is something that makes itself useful over a long period of time. I have no doubt the FURminator will meet that standard.

Supercool
The new, deluxe version of the FURminator features a little button which I think is best summed up by the word supercool.
Watch the video to see the button in action, but basically, it’s a hair ejector button. After the brush fills up, you push the button and a slider comes forward and knocks off every single hair stuck in the brush’s teeth.
It is supercool.

So what’s it going to cost me?
Well, a lot. Quality never seems to come cheap, does it?
I spent a couple bucks on each of the standard brushes I have, neither of which work. So, use that to gain some perspective on the FURminator’s price.
The company tells me it’s $44.99 for the cat size brush as well as for the small size brush for dogs. It’s $54.99 for the medium sized brush, which is what I used, and $64.99 for the large.
From a personal standpoint, I’m not rich and the price would have deterred me from buying the brush. If I had seen how well it worked, though, I could definitely see myself saving up to purchase one. After all, I spent one whole year sticking away $10 at a time in order to purchase Sensi an expensive (yet durable & refillable) bed, and I’d do the same for this product.
So the last question is, where to buy? It’s available at most chain pet stores but for specific stores, Web sites and catalogs, the company provides a page full of listings. Click here for the company’s Web site, then click on the “Where to Buy” tab.
One tip: If you purchase from somewhere like Amazon.com, be sure you’re purchasing a brush from the deluxe collection — that’s the collection that includes the handy-dandy, supercool little hair ejector button.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brushing a short-haired dog

Short-haired dog owners signed up for a low maintenance grooming schedule when they chose to bring home a short-haired breed. I bet, though, that very few of them were unaware they’d be unable to brush their dogs at all.
I found this out while Sensi was still young. I bought a brush from a pet store similar to the one I’d seen my relatives use on their golden retriever. But when I brushed Sensi’s coat with it, not a single hair came out.
So, I returned to the pet store, this time purchasing a wire brush intended for cats.
“This has got to work,” I thought.
Wrong. It didn’t.
While some short-haired purebreds do need practically no grooming — think about a boxer’s super fine coat or a pit bull — there are plenty of short-haired dogs out there who have what I call an “in-between” coat.
Take Sensi, for instance. That quarter percent lab blood running through him thickened and lengthened his hair. His coat is not as long and dense as a lab’s, yet it’s not as short and fine as a pit bull’s either.
And he sheds. The hair is all over the place, all the time. I swear, that stuff floats around in the air like little birdies are picking it up and moving it around my house, dropping it on top of countertops and tables throughout my home.
The wiry little hairs weave themselves into the fabric of every blanket and sweater, couch cushions and seat covers. I’ve often said that owning a short-haired dog is more of a hassle than owning a long-haired dog because at least with long, soft hair, it cleans up easily. It’s not so easy to vacuum up the wiry hairs of a short-haired dog once they’ve weaved themselves into materials.
I’d bathe him frequently, trying to get as much hair out as possible. After baths, it seemed like the only way to remove the rest of the dead hair lingering in his coat was to sit there and pet him, pushing handfuls of hair out with every stroke.
Well, those days are gone for me. I’ve found a brush and it works wonders.
Check back tomorrow for a blog about the brush as well as a video of me demonstrating how to use it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Viral photo: Dogs line up for bathroom

I got this email twice yesterday from different co-workers. I don't know who sent it to them, but I do know that somewhere a long the way, the subject lines got changed.
I'm not sure which subject line or title I like more — give me your thoughts.

The first title: Half time at the dog show
The second title: Another problem caused by deforestation

Or, create a new title and I'll forward the email on to my friends with the punchiest line you can come up with.

Meet the dog of the blog (on video)

Watch the video. Laugh. Read my apology.
Just kidding — I suppose the video isn’t all that bad. But it was taken with one purpose: letting me have some video clips to work with so I could figure out some new video editing software.
No one was around to do the filming part of the deal for me, so I set up my camera on a tripod and hoped I’d do a good job of guessing where I should be in front of it.
That didn’t work out very well. What you see, then, are those few seconds where I actually did make it in front of the video. The rest of the video, featuring Sensi’s rollover stunt, his pretty sits and impressive head-downs, it’s all off the camera. I’ve got the audio, but that doesn’t do much ...
The important thing, though, is that I really did learn a lot about the new video editing software.
So, my apologies for a less than dynamic video and here’s to hoping that future Dog Blog clips are much better!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Owning a powerful breed

I’ve done some reporting this week on the case of an Akita attacking a 5-year-old child in Addison Township. (Click here to see the blotter item we published earlier, second item down. Full story here)
One of the officials I spoke with said the photos of the mauled boy are “brutal.”
Should we consider including Akitas in breed bans? Or huskies too, because they were responsible for the death of a small toddler a few years ago in Waterford Township?
I think the resounding answer from people would be a very strong no.
While I am not entirely sure what makes an attack by Akita or a husky or mutt somehow less offensive than a pit bull attack, I do know one thing — anyone who decides to own a powerful breed dog needs to be a special person.
If I were interviewing someone who wanted to buy a powerful breed puppy from me, I’d be looking for people with these traits:
Experienced, knowledgeable, active and vigilant.
I’ve heard that the owners of this dog have made the decision to euthanize her (the Akita is a 6- or 7-year-old female). It’s the right decision, I feel.
I don’t intend to say the owners didn’t have any of the characteristics I listed above. Accidents can and do happen.
However, I ask everyone who wants or is considering bringing an Akita or Husky into their lives, or who currently owns one of these breeds, to be aware of these breeds’ high energy and high prey drive.
Children with quick, jerky movements can trigger that prey drive in a snap.
I don’t know what happened out in Addison Township. I won’t speculate.
But if you own an Akita or Husky or plan to own one, please be prepared to provide up to an hour of vigorous exercise, preferably running, per day. Be vigilant around children and provide plenty of other outlets for the dog to expend energy and satisfy its predatory drives.
With the right owner, dogs of these breeds can make great companions.

Learn more Akitas and Siberian Huskies from the American Kennel Club.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Does anyone use a leash?

It’s a soapbox day. This time, my issue is with folks who believe the world belongs to their dog.
On beautiful Easter Sunday, my husband and I decided it would be a great celebration of the holiday to take a long hike through a nearby state recreation area.
Although the miles of trails are seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, they get heavy use from bicyclists, hikers, hunters, fishers and more.
We figured that we’d have the trails mostly to ourselves as everyone else gathered around tables to dig into a nice holiday ham.
As we made our way around the 4-mile loop, we came across a bicyclist right away. I always move Sensi out of the pathway for bicyclists — it’s only polite.
The three of us were genuinely enjoying our walk. Sensi’s sniffer was going a 100 miles an hour and Brent and I took in the sights and sounds of a gorgeous spring day in one of Michigan’s beautiful forests.
Let me point out here that even though we figured we’d run into probably no one else, we kept Sensi on a leash.
Brent and I were hunched over, practically to our knees, climbing up one of the trail’s steeper hills. We couldn’t see what was in front of us and so, when a large black lab came charging toward Sensi, it was a total surprise to all of us.
Being a fearful dog, Sensi does not react well to being charged by other dogs. Being a pit bull too, his reaction to fear is not flight, but fight.
The situation got even worse. The single black lab was soon joined by his pack, another black lab and a yellow lab.
I put Brent in charge of holding on to Sensi and began trying to keep the other dogs away from my dog. As I shooed one dog back, the other would come in closer.
Mind you that these weren’t scary dogs. They seemed all together friendly, but that doesn’t change things from my dog’s point of view and I know that. What Sensi saw was his pack being invaded and threatened by three larger dogs — their likely friendliness was not a factor.
The dogs’ owner finally rounded the top of the hill.
“Is he OK?” he asked me about Sensi while I led one of his dogs to him. I expected him to put the dog on a leash, but as I released the lab to him, he simply continued walking.
“No, he’s not OK,” I said back to the guy, flabbergasted. “He’s not friendly.”
I wanted to scream, “Get your dogs away from my dog! What the heck are you thinking?”
The guy just continued walking nonchalantly, as if my dog was the problem. He didn't even call his dogs to him.
Let’s be clear — my dog was on a leash. Had his dogs been on a leash, there would be no problem.
From the looks of it, though, this guy didn’t even have a leash with him.
Three dogs and not a single leash. To me, that’s absurd.
I’m glad that lots of you folks have perfectly balanced, happy go lucky and friendly dogs. That is fantastic for you.
That is not, however, the hand I was dealt. And your perfectly balanced, happy go lucky and friendly dogs like to approach my dog when they are not leashed, causing my fearful dog to quickly pee himself and then go into attack mode.
I do the best I can. I prevented my dog, once again, from biting these offending dogs — dogs that should have been leashed.
Please, when you’re on public property, when you’re supposed to have your dog leashed, please, please leash your dog.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A day late, but still funny

OK, so April Fool’s day was yesterday. That makes me a day late in sharing this story, but it’s funny all the same, so here it goes:
I’m not a very good prankster. This goes hand in hand with how I’m not a very good liar. Generally, when I try to prank someone, the look on my face gives me away and then I just start laughing.
My husband is a great prankster, though, and he’s always coming up with new ways to scare the living daylights out of me.
Well, one year, I had a good idea for April Fool’s day and I wasn’t about to screw it up.
It had been a miserable first few months to kick off the year. We had literally spent thousands of dollars fixing our dog after allergies and bad veterinarians got him all screwed up.
He was on a prescription diet and once a month, I had to stop by the specialist’s office to pick up a new bag.
A week before April 1, I made a special request.
“This is going to sound really strange, but is there any chance I can get a piece of your letterhead?” I asked sweetly. “I want to prank my husband for April Fool’s day. I swear, I won’t use it for anything else.”
Luckily, I must’ve been talking to someone with a good sense of humor. She laughed and handed a piece of their letterhead to me.
Cha-ching! I was so excited about my once-in-a-lifetime prank that I giggled the whole way back to my car.
I pulled out some of the bills we had from the office that numbered in the thousands of dollars and got to work, using words like “Histopathy” and “Biopsy” and then putting dollar figures next to them, coming up with a grand total of about $600. I set up the huge bill, added some late charges for good measure and made it look otherwise identical to previous bills we had from them.
We didn’t live together at the time, so one night while leaving his house, I dropped the bill in his mailbox — stamp and all — and had it mailed to my address.
When I picked up a day later in my own mailbox, it was postmarked and looked official. I was ready to go for April Fool’s day.
When the day arrived, it was up to me to sell the prank. I stormed into his place with the bill in hand.
“Can you believe this?” I yelled. “This place is trying to get more money out of us! This bill is huge — I don’t know how we’re going to pay for this!”
I threw the bill down in front of him and did my best to appear steaming mad while he opened it up and began examining the charges.
Once he began huffing and puffing and muttering, “What the hell?” I knew I had pulled it off.
And so, I let myself begin laughing and the proverbial cat was out of the bag.
It might’ve been short-lived, but it was my prank and years later, I’m still proud of it!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rescue dogs find jobs, good homes

What a better world this would be if we had more stories like this to tell.
A couple days ago, I was contacted by a local woman who follows this blog and had also seen our article on Saturday story Bed bugs infest apartment complexes.
“I have a dog that finds bed bugs,” she told me.
I’ve seen this before. In fact, in talking with her, I realized we must’ve watched the same show. I think it was that Eaten Alive show on the National Geographic Channel (I am a huge natgeo fan, both the channel and the magazine. Side note here, but did anyone else pick up the March magazine and give Wolf Wars a read? Fantastic information in that).
Anyhow, the show profiled a woman who was being “eaten alive” every night. She’d wake up with bites all over her, but a close inspection of her home never showed any sign of bugs.
Why? It was bed bugs, and they do quite a good job of staying hidden — until you’re fast asleep, of course.
It wasn’t until this woman brought in a dog trained to sniff out bed bugs that she realized exactly what her problem was. The dog immediately went toward some luggage the woman had on the floor from a recent trip and then continued to point and paw in a variety of places all over the home. It was bed bugs, without a doubt.
The woman then contacted a proper bed bug exterminator and voila! Problem solved.
Back to the dog aspect in all of this, though.
We have two dogs, right here in Oakland County, who have specialized training to sniff out bed bugs (read the story I wrote for today's paper). Both dogs came from rescue groups.
Maureen Abbott, the Milford woman who called me about this, uses Addie, a beagle mix. Copper, a retriever and beagle mix, is employed by BioGreen Solutions, a Bloomfield Hills-based company that exterminates the bed bugs.
I can see where beagles would be especially good at this. While all dogs have a nose that’s powerful beyond what we humans can imagine, beagles come from that hound line which has exacerbated the smelling abilities.
Both dogs were selected for training by a Florida institute that specializes in training dogs for such jobs. I think it’s wonderful that there’s a business out there doing this.
There are no similar training institutes in Michigan. Wouldn’t it be great if there were, though?
watch video of Maureen Abbott with Addie, her bed bug sniffing beagle mix, below