Less Adoptable Pet Week

It’s Woof Wednesday and today I’m writing about less adoptable pets. We want our fur-kids to be a match made in doggy heaven for them and for us, and the less adoptable pets may get short shrift. In the “bad old days” chances are the less-than-perfect matches never saw the light of day. That’s changed, though, with dedicated rescuers and caring owners who discover furry gems despite any so-called imperfections. I just wrote a new article about adopting disabled pets you can find here.

In fact, the awesome folks over at Petfinder.com have declared September 17-23 to be LESS ADOPTABLE PET WEEK to give them a much needed paw-up in visibility. You can find puppies (and kitties) of all ages, shapes, sizes with obvious or hidden challenges.

The thing is, folks, most of these pets haven’t a clue that they’re any different than other pets. And there are advantages to adopting these fellows. Older pets already have all the puppy (or kitten) hijinks behind them and are known quantities, already trained, and ready to warm your lap. Besides, “old” is a state of mind and pets don’t read calendars.

Only one leg? Pets don’t let that slow them down! Hard of hearing or deaf? hey, my Magical-Dawg practices “selective hearing” too and you make accommodations for such things. Learn more about living with a deaf pooch in this article.

Maybe the pet is blind. Hey, I interviewed the owner of an old–AND BLIND–Bloodhound for my Aging Dog book, and “Green Machine” still worked for the police searching out and rescuing the lost. Pets don’t let perceptions (or lack thereof) slow them down. Learn more about how to live with a blind dog in this article.

If we’re lucky, we’ll eventually have pets that become “less adoptable” simply because of age. But no matter the imperfections there’s one universal truth–there’s no damage to their ability to give and receive love.

Have you ever adopted a “less adoptable” pet? Why were they labeled as such? What challenges did you face and — was it worth it? (I’m waiting for a resounding YES!)

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!

Woof Wednesday: West Nile & Puppy Parasite Prevention

I live just north of Dallas, Texas where the greatest number of West Nile cases are being reported. It’s scary–people have died. Horses at least have a preventative vaccine to help protect them. But what about dogs and cats?

Apparently while pets CAN contract the disease from mosquitoes and a few have been reported, symptoms typically are mild. But there’s no vaccination for pets, or for people. Some flea medications purport to help prevent or repel mosquitoes but it’s best to prevent buggy bites altogether. Petfinder.com has posted an excellent report on West Nile and pets here.

In fact, our dogs act like magnets for parasites. It’s not just fleas or those creepy-crawly ticks, either. If you have puppies (or kittens) there’s a good chance you’ll need to address roundworms, those spaghetti-like creatures passed in the potty deposite (urk!) because those can be a health risk to kids (double urk!). But the intestinal worms are just the tip of the buggy iceberg. Everything from ringworm (fungus) and mange mites that attack the skin, to protozoan parasites so tiny they’re hard to detect or even heartworms–also transmitted by mosquitoes–can affect dogs. Check out this Pet Peeves radio show with Dr. Wallace Graham for the latest on heartworms. I’ve compiled a roundup of more than a dozen articles covering everything you need to know about these most common puppy parasites here.   

What about your dogs? How do you protect them from buggy hitchhikers? Magical-Dawg gets a monthly preventive called Revolution that helps prevent the lion’s share of these parasites. My cat Seren-dipity came to us with a case of ringworm–minor, thank goodness, and it resolved quickly.

As for West Nile virus, are you protecting your horses? What about your human family members? I’m one of those folks mosquitoes loves–Mom always said I must have “sweet blood.” So I stay inside during prime mosquito feeding at dawn and twilight. How do you “bite back” at the mosquito menace? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!

Woof Wednesday: Less Adoptable? More LOVE!

Last week I shared a blog on Adopting Other-Abled Pets  prompted by the amazing Petfinder.com initiative on adopting less adoptable pets.

That blog received lots of feedback, and this past Monday the puppies.About.com blog shared tips about how to help blind puppies. After all, blind pets rarely consider themselves “disabled” and still become wonderful companions.

Do you share your home with a “less adoptable” pet? How did you find each other? Has living with an “other-abled” pet affected your life in positive ways? I encouraged folks to  share pictures and stories and today you’ll find some of them in the blog! I gotta admit, y’all made my day-week-YEAR with these heartwarming experiences. After reading them, check out the ASK AMY VIDEO at the bottom of the post for some tips about adoptions and shy dogs.

NATALIE HARTFORD’S “TESS”

Our older animals deserve all the love and attention in the world as much as our puppies do!! I am not sure if you saw on my blog that my dog’s been getting older. She turned 10 this year and just before her birthday, she ruptured the ligament in her knee. She had to have surgery and hubby and I have invested well over 150 hours of physio into her recovery. She’s recovering wonderfuly and at her 9-week check up, the vet said she’s walking amazing and is doing exceptionally well – all swelling is gone – and we can move towards gradual return to all activities.

The 3 months has been hard but the most wonderful thing has also come out of it. Hubby and I both feel more bonded and connect to Tess. We’ve spent more time with her, touching her, working with her, healing her, and loving her…it’s just filled us with joy! And to see her come through this with such an amazing spirit, unconditional love, and happiness – just amazing.

I know that this means her arthritis is going to kick into overdrive sooner rather than later. And I know we’ve already got some hip issues. But I don’t care. She’s my baby and I’ll be with her to support her and work with her as she ages….because that’s what I committed to! Because I love her. Because I am here for her for the long haul no matter how hard or easy it is. If she were human, she’d do no less for me!

KARYL CUNNINGHAM’S “JODI”

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Jodi is the dog I grew up with. She was 6 months younger than me, so we had her as long as I can remember. Half beagle, half who-knows-what, she was the pick of her litter and the best dog a family could ask for.

Now, when I was very young, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. Turned out we had arsenic in our water, which the testing company had told us was safe. I had been exposed to that water before I was born, and drank more water for my body size than my parents or sister, so I was the only one in the house affected. Well, we ended up finding out that Jodi had epilepsy too –The dog and I grew older, and we had a pretty solid bond. Partly, I think, because I knew she had the same disease I had.

She is, by far, the smartest dog I have ever known. It took us a while to figure out, of course, being stupid humans. ;)  She … grabbed a big mouthful of straw and dropped it on top of the food to hide it from the birds. Score one for the dog. When winter came, dad kept finding the tennis ball in her water bowl. Then he watched out the bedroom window one day, tennis ball in the water bowl that was now frozen over. She walked over to the bowl, pulled out the ball, took a drink of the unfrozen water beneath the surface of the ice, and put the ball back in. Nobody taught her this – she learned it all on her own.

We cannot forget that the vets said she wouldn’t live to see 10. So, around the time we both turned 10, I started spending hours out with her alone, telling her I loved her, telling her when it was time to go, not to worry because we’d be okay. I promised her, every night, that when the time came I would say goodbye.

And she lived on. She started slowing down after a while, we were worried it was getting close to time to say goodbye… But when that puppy Freckles joined the family, she sprang back to life.Eventually she started to slow down again. One day I came home from school, and my parents told me they had taken her in. . .  I was more devastated that they hadn’t told me. I had promised her… promised her every day I would say goodbye, and then I wasn’t given the chance.

I’m told when they gave her the shot, she fought it the whole way down. Mom thinks it’s because she wasn’t done protecting us… was hoping she could teach Freckles how to before she went. I think she was waiting for me to come say goodbye. The vet said she wouldn’t make it to 10. She would have been 17 that spring…

I still miss her. Nearly 10 years later and I still miss her…Some things never go away.   (Edited for length, see the whole post here)

There was mom’s old cat Shoebee (so named because he would come up and sit on your shoes to be petted when he was a baby) who was born without a breastbone… and liked to swim in the bathtub as my sister found out once by surprise.  Then there’s the recently departed Timbit who we found on the side of the road, who never really fully developed – kept part of the blue of her kitten eyes, never really grew at all, was always a bit sick. And my Simba who has been mostly blind in one eye after an injury of unknown origin when she was still living outdoors. We thought she was going to lose that eye, she never did. She now appear to be going blind in both eyes in her old age.

George …seems to have some neural problems, as well as deformed legs, so she wobbles and flops around a bit. Still hunts, though, but my parents have to watch her because she once fell out of a tree and broke her hips.

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MAGGIE ROSENTHAL’S “HARLEY”

I adopted Harley from Downtown Dogs because his story touched my heart; not because my brain was engaged. What was I thinking bringing an adult dog with no known history into a licensed day care setting ?  The first time I took him to church, to be blessed, he took off down a ½ mile driveway looking for the highway to Tennessee.  The first time I took him to the beach he attacked

a dog two times his size.  And the first time I tried to license him in Massachusetts they refused to do so because they didn’t believe he is a lab hound.  (They are probably right, but his sweetness won them over in the end.)

Harley is very handsome, except when he falls asleep and his tongue pushes out where teeth should be.   Harley is WONDERFUL with children.  From the infants to the students who come back to visit, he is gentle, patient, and forgiving. A baby climbing over him elicits a happy thumping tail. Getting to ride shotgun in the school van elicits a happy thumping tail. And dinner ? Ecstasy!

He no longer starts fights with other dogs, because he has learned to read my body language and knows I will be there for him.  His willingness to trust is a direct reflection of the love and support of the women at Downtown Dogs. Their prediction that he would always be by my side, however, was wrong. As his confidence has grown he is very happy to take off without me and ignore my first and sometimes, second call.  He is the proverbial bull in a china shop, but he does step over the cockatiels, instead of on them. A skill I greatly appreciate.

Adopting a skittish, almost toothless, adult dog and expecting him to adapt to young children twelve hours a day was unrealistic at best.  And during the first few months I wasn’t sure he would be able to meet the state guidelines for dogs at day care centers; but he has. He hasn’t stolen a pizza off the table in months.  He’s learned to wait outside the doorway while the children are eating, with no closed door to remind him. And he happily shares the couch with one of the four year olds, during quiet time.

What no one knew when I adopted Harley, was that he would develop seizures; making him a physical and mental special needs dog.  If being the offspring of bully breeds, being dark, being skittish and almost toothless hadn’t been enough against him, the addition of epilepsy would have removed him from most adoption lists. Thankfully, we didn’t know. And instead of being one more dog euthanized, he has become a full time volunteer at a day care program and a beloved member of the pack.

MICHELLE JAMES, PRESIDENT, DOWNTOWN DOGS GROUP

PUTTING ON THE DOG   Amy, I am co-founder of a small rescue organization in Tennessee, the only rescue in our area that focuses primarly on adult and “special needs” dogs. Your post was serendipitous for me today, as I read it literally 5 minutes after receiving an email from a local citizen criticizing our rescue. She wrote, “I really don’t understand the point of saving animals that have broken legs from being run over, or other really bad injuries, and spending hundreds or thousands of dollars for vet bills doing that, when it’s $40 to end their misery and put them to sleep.”

The public, and even some rescuers, often express that opinion to us; it’s their attempt to “fix” our problems of lack of space and funding. It’s so cut-and-dried to them: sacrifice the few to save the many. I try to let such negative comments roll off, but some days are harder than others.

We are SO excited about your special post for these amazing creatures! Since our inception a little over 2 years ago, we have rescued and successfully rehomed a deaf pit bull, a blind dachshund, a 3-legged mixed breed dog, a one-eyed cat, many middle-aged and older dogs (some who were initially feral). We have provided many life-saving surgeries and medical treatments, including several heartworm treatments. We did all of this in spite of advice to spare the resources and euthanize these animals so we could move more puppies out of the area. Our response is always, “There are plenty of other rescues moving puppies – we are here for the ones considered the misfits of the misfit world.” Here are a few of their success stories.

Boy George:  Our first “other-abled” rescue is a white pit bull, named Boy George because he looks like he is wearing eye-liner 🙂  Because Boy is such a celebrity, he has his own video. (Amy’s note: It’s a Kleenex moment…HAPPY tears!)

[caption id=”attachment_2429″ align=”alignleft” width=”470″ caption=”Losing a leg doesn't slow Walker down!”

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Walker:  We got a call a few weeks ago about a small dog with a leg injury running loose in our downtown area.  Good samaritans had been feeding the little guy, but he was too scared to come near anyone.  One of my volunteers was able to catch him.  He was terrified, and the injury to the leg was severe: a gash near the joint that was extremely infected.  Although Dr. Walker was unable to save the leg, little “Walker” has recovered fully from the amputation and has no idea anything is missing in his life.  He is loving life as Melissa’s foster dog, all of his fears have faded away and he is a total social butterfly.  Walker will soon be ready for adoption into a permanent loving home.

Hunter:  Hunter is also a new face at our sanctuary.  A volunteer searching for a lost shih-tzu in the area stubled across Hunter by accident, and called us to say she had found a very sick, starving dog.  When we arrived, Hunter could barely lift his head.  His bones were protruding, and abdomen severely distended.  Examination by Dr. Climer indicated that while only two years old, Hunter had advanced congestive heart failure from heartworm disease; in the days that followed, Hunter lost five pounds of fluid that had accumulated around his lungs.  Although the first weeks were touch and go, Hunter’s lab work now looks great and he is well on his way to health!  He has been a fabulous addition to our sanctuary, aHunter beat the odds.nd like all rescued dogs, he seems so greatful to be alive.  Most rescue agencies would have euthanized Hunter, but once we heard there was the slightest hope, we knew his life was worth fighting for.  We count Hunter among our miracles.

Doc Hollywood:  Doc is the epitomy of the less-adoptable dog, as he is a male, black, mixed-breed, mid-sized model – the most prevalent of the rescues.  Doc has a white spot on his chest, what I’ve heard called a “southern kiss” because almost all these black mutts in the south have the white spot.  Doc was spotted by one of our volunteers rummaging through a dumpster in a very impoverished part of town, snacking on an old apple core.  Adoptions are so slow, especially with black dogs, so Doc was with us a year, and became one of the favorites in our rescue family.  I wish I had a story from his new adopter, but they have not yet become officially acquainted…Doc was just adopted, via website, by a wonderful couple willing to look past color and give this beautiful boy a new lease on life; he is on his way to his forever home in Connecticut today!

TAINA EDWARDS “VIOLET”

[caption id=”attachment_2440″ align=”alignright” width=”300″ caption=”Violet and Miss Fran.”

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Michele James contacted me to send you the story about Violet.  Michele found Violet when she was only a few months old. She is 13 pounds and part Dachshund. Michele and I met at a “Downtown Dog Rescue” fundraising meeting.  My mother had just had to euthanize her dog after 17 years.  She was distraught, but I thought it was a good idea for her to have another baby. At the time she was 76. As soon as she got Violet I took her to my Vet and she referred us to Dr. Miller in Memphis to check her vision.  She had been born blind.  He told us that we could not have done anything if we had her earlier, nor could we do anything now.  Of course we cried, after having her for only two days, he gave us a book to read on “Living with Blind Dogs”.  My mother soon after rescued another small dog, Prissy. My mother  had a townhouse, which was perfect for the two of them.

My mother passed away unexpectedly last December and she has come to stay with me.  The amazing point in this story is I have a large house with 700 acre farm land around us.  Because of the size I never intended on taking her.  Time after time possible adoptions fell through.  My mother’s home flooded so I had to bring Prissy and Violet to my house.  Soon after that my yard was hit by a tornado.  Well you guessed.  Many friends and volunteers came to the rescue and the volunteers never knew Violet was blind!  She trooped through devastation and was just part of the crew.  Everyone has been amazed that her “ability” has overcome her “disability”.  They have all fallen in love with her.  In addition to her I also have five other dogs and you can only imagine who is the boss!

It was close to impossible to find a good owner because of her blindness.  I was very concerned about bringing her here and how she would  adjust.  It just goes to show you how limited humans are in their rationale, yet one small animal can change our perception about our limitations to adjust.  Thanks for all you do for the ones that man has domesticated, yet abandoned .

PETFINDER.COM SUCCESS! I’m happy to say that Jane at Petfinder.com reported yesterday: “We have our first Happy Tail adoption story. Gwen, a 4-year-old deaf, visually impaired Great Dane who is a survivor of mammary cancer has been adopted!  “I am beyond thrilled to notify you that Gwen has been adopted into a wonderful home of her own,” writes Teresa from Collar of Hope in Bremerton, WA. “Gwen is deaf and vision impaired. She lived for four years in a backyard with pressure sores and without ever seeing a Veterinarian. She was intact and had mammary cancer in one mammary that we had removed. Once all of her medical needs were met and she received soft cushioned bedding and a good diet, she flourished. She is loving, playful and of course goofy as a Great Dane should be.”  Gwen now has a brand new home with two other dog companions to keep her company — an older Pomeranian and a 4-year-old Boston Terrier who both just love Gwen. See pictures of Gwen here. We can’t wait to see the new family portrait!

When you adopt any pet there’s a transition period for both you and the cat or dog. With older animals and those that have health challenges, the transition may take even longer to recover physically and/or emotionally. The greatest gift you can offer–after adoption itself–is patience. This Ask Amy video offers a few tips for dealing with shy rescues.

What have I left out? There’s a wealth of experience represented in today’s blog. Please offer your suggestions and best tips, too. After all–it’s all for the pets!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Furry Friday: Adopting “Other-Abled” Pets

PetFinder.com sponsors Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week September 17-25. The event is devoted to giving those pets who are often overlooked at shelters and rescue groups for whatever reason — they’re old, the wrong breed, have special needs, or are simply different or the wrong color — a better chance at finding homes.

Y’all know how I feel about golden oldie pets, after writing two award-winning books that help folks care with the needs of aging cats as well as aging dogs. Senior citizen pets have just as much love to give and often fit very well into families unable or unwilling to manage the hijinks of in-your-face puppies and kittens.

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Adult cats and dogs grown out of the “cute” phase also can have a hard time being chosen. But remember that healthy cats and small dogs can live well into their mid to late teens or longer, and you can expect to enjoy at least another half dozen years by adopting a four year old pet. And usually you save costs because they’ve already been “fixed” and have their shots, as well as basic training.

“Other-abled” pets don’t know what they’re missing. Despite loss of limbs, mobility, sight or hearing, they live and enjoy life regardless of the challenges they face. Often, the pet has less difficulty coming to terms with such changes than do owners. Cats and dogs seem to willingly accept conditions that devastate people.

My friend and colleague Natalie C. Markey shares her life with Oscar. His epilepsy inspired her to write a book about Caring For Your Special Needs Dog. Would she have adopted Oscar knowing that he had health challenges? Absolutely! You can hear from her directly in this Pet Peeves radio interview.

Pets can suffer paralysis through accidents, degenerative back diseases or other health conditions. Nobody knows what happened to Willy the rescue Chihuahua, who lived with rear-limb paralysis. He wouldn’t stop dragging himself from place to place, determined to stay in the thick of things. Once owner Deborah Turner got him strapped into his K9-cart (wheelchair for dogs), he was literally off and running. Willy became the mascot for his local branch of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, has his own website, and two children’s books written about his exploits.

Dr. Paul Gerding, a veterinary ophthalmologist, never considered that his Labrador couldn’t still enjoy life when Katie began losing her sight. He wasn’t able to correct the progressive disease medically, but took steps to ensure the blind dog could still navigate her home and yard by memory. She continued to hunt—in safe clover fields with no ditches or holes—and at home Katie relied on the younger dog Grace to be her personal guide dog pal. Similar stories are found in my cutting edge book.

I recently heard from my colleague, Lynette George, about her latest addition to their own little doggie family. “Her name is CeeCee and she’s a miniature, long-hair, double-dapple dachshund.” She went from the breeder to three different owners, and then ultimately was surrendered at the Oklahoma Spay Network because nobody really wanted to handle a blind dog. “Four months old and thinks she owns the world. She has absolutely no clue that she’s supposed to be “handicapped.” Anyway, she’s absolutely adorable. Everybody who sees her falls in love immediately. She took over Petco when she went in – kind of like she does everywhere she goes. She’s just a hoot every day. We LOVE her!”

Pets inspire us with their stoic attitudes. They don’t know how to feel sorry for themselves, and may not recognize they’re any “different” than other cats and dogs. Fluffy and Prince simply want to get on with the important business of eating, playing, and loving their family. As readers know, furry love comes in all shapes, sizes, and packages.

Do you share your home with a “less adoptable” pet? How did you find each other? Has living with an “other-abled” pet affected your life in positive ways? Please share! I’d love to hear your stories and see pictures of your special fur-kids. And here’s the deal. I’d love to create a whole gallery post next week so you can either post comments or email me amy @ shojai.com with “special pets” in the subject line with a picture. SEND NO LATER THAN NEXT TUESDAY (Sept 20) so I can post the next day. Spread the word–we’ll make your pets famous!

Just for fun, I wanted to share the latest Ask Amy video with a question from Tiffany. This applies to dogs as well as cats. What are some other puzzling behaviors your pets perform?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Weird Woof Wednesday: Knee-Jerk Reactions & Poopy-Puppies

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We’ve had two blogs in a row filled to the brim with writer-icity, so it’s time for a bit of SQUEEEE! puppy-licious fun. There are a number of weird behaviors, though, that puzzle even savvy dog owners. One’s enough to make you question your dog’s good taste–literally.

Coprophagia–sounds all literary-like, right? But that’s just a fancy word for eating (ahem) poop.

Ew! You might want to put down your McMuffin while reading this.

Poop eating can be nature’s way for mom-dogs to keep the nest clean, and Junior-Dawg simply copy cats the behavior. It’s annoying, nasty, and great fun for juvenile delinquent pups. Even the Magical-Dawg indulged in his youth, played keep-away with the crap and one time actually carried some inside the house. Oh yeah, THAT went over well, and reinforced the cat’s opinion of him.

Most pups outgrow the behavior. If you have a canine connoisseur of pungent productions (say THAT fast five time!), these 10 tips to stop eating poop will help.  Just take a look at that face (below) and tell me you couldn’t forgive that keep-’em-laughing puppy! In fact, read on for some neato news.

July 15-17, Petfinder.com is joining with over 1,500 rescue groups and shelters across North American for what could be the largest adoption event in history–in honor of Petfinder.com 15th Birthday year! That sweet puppy above with the goof-ball grin is Booger-Boy  and he’s available–just click on thr picture for a link to details. Betcha once he’s adopted (and you could change the name!) he’d promise not to eat anything you don’t want him to eat…except maybe a favorite sock that reminds him of his beloved human . . .

A less annoying but still puzzling behavior involves doggy scratching behavior. Does your pooch kick when he’s scratched? Is it a certain place if you rub him the right way, or will his leg jitter and jump with any scratch? The Ask Amy video below has some answers–but what have I missed? Why do you think dogs “fiddle” when scratched?

And do your dogs (or pups) eat nasty stuff? How do you handled the problem? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!