Saturday, October 29, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Because of my involvement with various shelters and animal welfare organizations, I have the opportunity to meet and interact with a lot of dogs. All of them are special in one way or another. And all of them have stories to tell.
Asha is no exception. Until just a few short weeks ago, this little girl was chained to the wall in a windowless basement and used as bait dog. For those of you fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the term, bait dogs are used as the canine equivalent of sparring partners for dogs being trained to fight.
Unlike human sparring partners, however, these dogs usually don’t fight back…think slabs of meat punched by Sylvester Stallone in the movie “Rocky.” Chosen for their sweet, submissive nature, bait dogs just get bitten, and bitten, and bitten. Then they die, either quickly from their wounds or slowly from starvation. Since they’re of no monetary value to dog fighters, they’re not worth purchasing food for.
It seems strange to say this, but Asha is one of the lucky ones. Thanks to an anonymous tip from a concerned citizen, she was discovered in time…just. Covered with bite wounds—some infested with maggots—she required emergency surgery involving more than 100 stitches at the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) before she could even be transported to Towson Veterinary Hospital for longer-term care. Her rescuers didn’t know if she’d survive the night.But she did. And on the day that I met her, less than three weeks after her liberation from hell, Asha demonstrated an amazingly resilient spirit and zest for life. She adores my friend Jen, who made Asha’s survival her mission. She adores the veterinarians and staff at the hospital. She adores French fries. She adores the toys and “blankeys” generous donors have sent her. She even seemed to adore me.
And the feeling was mutual! This brave dog—estimated to be only 18 months old—is an inspiration…an example of how all of us, whether human or canine, can overcome the bad hands dealt to us, put the past behind us, and get on with living life to the fullest. You go, girl!
Note: Because of her many bite wounds and unknown rabies vaccine status, Asha will have to remain in veterinary boarding for more than 5 more months. Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so via her Chip-in fund or by calling the veterinary hospital at 410-825-8880. If you would like to mail a donation, send it to 716 N. York Road, Towson, MD 21204; and write “Asha/BBC” in the memo section.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
In the world of animal rescue, some happy endings take a bit longer to achieve...and, sadly, some never happen at all. I am so hoping that my dog-loving friends can help me obtain a happy ending for a special dog I first met back in March.
He was one of several puppies I photographed at the Prince George's County Animal Management Group shelter for my Brindled Beauties and Seeing Spots book. A 4-month-old American bulldog mix, he was a happy, confident, exuberant love bug...and a big kisser! Although we'd never met before, this pup I referred to as Piper, bounded into the interaction room and greeted me like a long-lost friend...impossible to resist.
And he was adopted shortly after the photo shoot. All's well that ends well, or so I thought.
But I was wrong. Piper, renamed Rocky, was returned to shelter just a few short weeks later for being "too destructive" by adopters who didn't believe in using a crate. Come on, now, folks, he's a puppy! Left to their own devices, they can wreak havoc in search of a good time.
Fortunately, this growing boy was adopted again, and I cheered!
But once again, a happy ending eluded this handsome dog, now called Sonny. He was returned to shelter yet again after his adopter was investigated on cruelty charges for leaving Sonny outside on a deck in the heat without food, water, or shelter. Seriously, I could scream!
So now Sonny is once more up for adoption. As an active, energetic 10-month-old adolescent, he's finding shelter life difficult, and I worry that the longer he lingers there, his chances of attracting the attention of a prospective adopter will decrease. Of course, given the current overcrowded conditions at the shelter (thanks to a torrent of pre-vacation owner give-ups this month!), that may not ever become an issue.
So once again I'm appealing to you to help Sonny find his forever home. If you can't take him, please, please, please spread the word to potential adopters and rescue groups. I'll donate 10 copies of the Seeing Spots/Brindled Beauties book to any individual or organization that gets him out of the shelter.
For more information about Sonny (#A346933), call Prince George's County Animal Management Division at 301-780-7200.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Take the word "brown" for example. It can describe so many of life's treasures and pleasures: the crispy saltiness of pretzels; the rich creaminess of hot fudge sauce; the weathered texture of tree bark; the sparkle of smokey quartz; the glossy sheen of a chestnut mare's coat.
In the case of this deceptively unremarkable dog--named Devon by his foster family--brown is of the deep mahogany variety, shot through with unexpected golden highlights. And it sets off a pair of equally striking brown eyes.
I had ample opportunity to gaze into these eyes while caring for Devon last weekend because he spent a lot of time looking at me. And as I glanced into their amber depths, I discovered a very special dog indeed.
First and foremost, Devon is a dog who desperately wants to love and be loved, a dog who craves attention but doesn't have complete confidence in the dependability of the human species. He bestows doggy kisses with great enthusiam but also a touch of desperation...as if he is trying to convince both of us that he is worth my time and attention.
As sad as such insecurity makes me, it probably isn't surprising considering that Devon spent most of his short life in a backyard, not abused or legally neglected, but always relegated to the role of observer of--and never participant in--family activities.
Also not suprisingly, such human indifference has also led to separation anxiety. The day after Devon arrived, I put him in a large, lightweight, collapsable metal crate in my office for three hours while my husband and I went out. Upon our return, I discovered an empty crate with the door still latched, and Devon standing in the center of a pile of books, knick-knacks, and torn mini-blinds. Poor boy!
Over the next couple of days, I put Devon in a crate (a much sturdier one) for a half-hour or hour at a time...always with a treat, such as a frozen peanut butter-stuffed kong. Each time, he seemed less stressed. My sense is that while he may never love being crated, he'll accept it when necessary. And as his fear of abandonment decreases, he may not require crating at all, especially if he has a canine companion to keep him company. Even when he created chaos in my office, he didn't chew a single inappropriate item.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, his questionable past experience with people, Devon is incredibly eager to please. He's also smart. He already knows how to sit although the concept of "stay" seems foreign to him. He walks well on a leash and doesn't pull...unless he spots a squirrel or all other small mammal.
Mostly, he just wants to be near his people...an incredibly appealing quality in a dog.
Each night, as we climbed into bed together and drifted off to sleep, I bet our dreams were the same: for him to find a family who will see how special he is and will give him the love, care, and attention that all good dogs deserve.
To learn more about Devon and how you can make his dream come true, click here.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
No wonder June has been designated Adopt a Shelter Cat Month!
Faced with an influx of felines, some of the shelters in my area are celebrating in creative ways designed to help them care for and place as many cats and kittens as possible. For example, the:
Other organizations around the country are likely offering similar specials or holding similar events, so if you're looking to add a furry friend to your family, don't wait. It's time to celebrate cats!
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Tank can come across like a real tough guy (a sort of canine Jimmy Cagney)…especially when you first meet him. But in reality he’s anything but. The truth is, Tank is a timid, insecure guy who, believing that the best defense is an offense, takes refuge in a tough guy façade.
When I met this tiny Chihuahua/Chinese hairless crested for the first time yesterday, he charged at the storm door, barking furiously. I’m sure he was hoping I would just go away. When that didn’t happen and his foster mom let me in, he kept his distance, still barking at me periodically.
Fortunately, like most males, Tank loves food, so I spent some time just sitting on the floor, tossing treats to him until he gathered up the courage to take them directly from my hand. It helped that the resident
Once Tank had relaxed and was comfortable around me, we moved outside so I could take some pictures of him. The goal: to help him find a furever home of his own.
Tank is happy in his foster home, enjoys the company of his foster mom’s two small dogs, and obviously adores her, wagging his tail furiously when she talks to him. And she loves him! But her role is to rescue multiple dogs in need, and that means helping Tank achieve his own, personal “happily ever after.”
We don’t know anything about Tank’s background. He was picked up as a stray by Animal Control when he was about 2 years old and then spent some time at the
And there’s just something about this unique little guy—including his infectious “smile”—that makes you want to provide him with a safe haven where he can feel protected and loved and come to believe that life can be good.
According to his foster mom, Tank’s ideal home would be a quiet one with a gentle, kind, dog-savvy individual who has experience with small breeds and the patience to work with him to build his self-confidence. Because of his reactivity to sudden movements and sounds, he can’t go to a home with young children, but he’d love the company of another small dog that he could bond with and learn from.
If you’re interested in learning more about Tank…go to http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/17010671, email email@example.com, or call 301-262-5625 and leave a message.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
- Patrick, the pit bull starved and dumped down a trash chute in Newark, NJ.
- A stray dog, now called “Ducky,” whose muzzle was bound with duct tape in western Maryland.
- Bear, a 5-month-old pup found wandering the streets of Phoenix, Arizona, who was born deaf and who is now also blind as the result of human cruelty or neglect.
- And even the notice of the return of two adult dogs adopted several years ago from an animal welfare organization with which I work because their people have decided to voluntarily “change” their lives and move across country.
Fortunately, there have also been examples of love, loyalty, and kindness toward animals on this earthly ark that go a long way to balancing this karmic cruelty:
- The maintenance worker who cared enough to investigate the moving bag of garbage that contained Patrick, the employees and volunteers of the Associated Humane Societies, the committed staff at Garden State Veterinary Specialists who are giving Patrick the care he needs as he reclaims his life, and the hundreds of anonymous donors who have contributed to his care.
- The volunteers who not only searched for Ducky but also provided tips and other information that lead to the identification of two suspects charged with animal cruelty.
- The people associated with Boxer Luv Rescue, who took in Bear, gave him medical treatment, and are caring for him in a loving foster home while qualified potential adopters are reviewed;
- And my parents, who serve as shining examples of how strong, fulfilling, and lasting the human/canine bond can be.
Abby was more than a pet to my parents; she was their youngest child. She helped ease the impact of “empty nest” syndrome when my younger sister moved out. She introduced them to new people and new experiences on the walks they took…on suburban streets, mountain trails, and sandy beaches. They developed new friendships with the human “parents” of her canine pals. In short, she enriched their lives by her very existence.
That’s not to say Abby was perfect. Unlike my parents’ previous Lab, Samantha, who was gentle and mellow and “sweet” from day one, Abby was, as a puppy, headstrong, willful, and rambunctious…a real handful. There were times during their first weeks together that my mother—who was home with Abby all day—was sure she couldn’t handle this canine “wild child.” My father, who saw Abby primarily in the evening, when she was worn out from her day’s “activities” (You know the saying, “A tired dog is a good dog”) couldn’t understand my mother’s reaction.
Fortunately, they all stuck it out. Abby—and my mother—received one-on-one training lessons, Abby matured, and their relationship blossomed and thrived. And as she grew older, she did become gentler and sweeter but never lost her sense of fun. She seemed to know that she was loved utterly and completely.
But such love comes at a cost.
Abby was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma (an awful, aggressive canine cancer that took the life of my Samba just a year ago) and had her spleen removed the first week in December. Following an initial chemotherapy session, which left Abby feeling sick and lethargic, my parents decided that that was enough. They would continue to monitor her status, baby her, feed her the best food possible, walk her as often as she liked, and just “be” with her for as long as they had her…which turned out to be almost four months.
On Tuesday morning I learned via email that my parents had made the agonizing decision to let Abby go. They were blessed to have her for more than 14 years, but as those of us who have loved and lost animal companions know, it’s never long enough.
To ease her grief, my mother turned, as I often do, to words. Sharing one’s thoughts and feelings can be a cathartic experience and allows others to remember and reflect on their own lost loves. And I think we are often most eloquent when our emotions are full engaged, as my mother’s obviously were when she shared the following message with family and friends after Abby’s passing. (I don’t think she would mind my sharing her special tribute.)
“After suffering a major seizure last night and another one this morning, and receiving results of a recent blood test indicating anemia (from an undisclosed source of internal bleeding) and a significant elevation in liver enzymes, we came to the agonizing decision to release her from this world to a more peaceful one to avoid the pain and suffering that was inevitable. I was always determined to protect her from a life severely diminished of joy, which she so generously gave to us! And so we decided to send her back to God, who surely had "a hand" (with Kerry Kaster's help) in sending her to us! She brought us energy, enthusiasm, challenges,
My mother also wrote to me a couple of days later that “I guess pain comes from loving too much—what a paradox!”
After giving that statement a lot of thought, I’ve decided that it isn’t a paradox at all but rather part of the natural yin and yang of things. I’m not sure you can ever love too much, and the pain we feel at the loss of a loved one is a reflection of—and tribute to—the strength and value of the relationship we shared. How much sadder it would be if such a loss inspired nothing.
As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in his poem In Memoriam:27, 1850:
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
"Let's see this paragon! Is he as good as you say?" asked actor Cary Grant in his role as Walter Burns in the movie "His Girl Friday."
Well, when it comes to Grant's canine counterpart, I can say with confidence that he is indeed as good as they say.
The Grant I’m referring to is a liver-and-white dalmatian who is looking for a home to call his own. I recently photographed this handsome boy for my "Seeing Spots" photo series and offered to blog about him in an effort to increase his adoption outlook.
While movie aficionados know that the Grant of silver screen fame started life as Archibald Leach, the origins of canine Cary are less clear. He was picked up as a stray on the streets of Baltimore and found his way to the Chocolate Chip Dalmatian Assistance League via the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter.
When it comes to his life today, Cary's philosophy reflects the words of his human counterpart, who once said, "My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can." In canine Cary’s case, this involves spending lots of quiet quality time with his person punctuated by periodic belly rubs. (One can never have too many of those!) He’s an equal-opportunity kind of guy who enjoys the company of men, women, older children, and dogs.
Technically a "mature" gentleman, this 8-year-old is just hitting his prime. He has a tremendous amount of energy and enjoys a good walk or run on a regular basis...although such activities must be done within the safety of a fenced yard or on a leash because Cary is deaf. But don’t let that deter you from making him your leading man. Dogs can easily be trained using American Sign Language, and his foster mom will provide Cary’s adopters with an ASL dictionary to facilitate the process.
Lastly, like many movie stars, Cary has to watch his diet, not because of his weight, which is currently a svelte 57 pounds, but because he has had some crystals in his urine. Fortunately, this isn’t a big deal since appropriate dog food is readily available.
In the classic 1959 film "North By Northwest," Grant’s character, Roger O. Thornhill, asked, "What’s wrong with men like me?" When it comes to canine Cary Grant, I’d say the answer is, "Nothing. Nothing at all."
To learn more about Cary, email Jackie Threatte at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
When I started this blog, I didn't intend for it to be primarily an online billboard for homeless pets. But, as anyone involved in animal rescue and rehoming knows, the need is there and never ending. And as it happens, I don't have a lot of other pressing issues or earth-shattering thoughts to share at the moment, so it behooves me to use my cyberspace soapbox for the purpose of saving lives...literally.
As some of you may know, I'm currently working on a couple of photo collections--"Brindled Beauties" and "Seeing Spots"--so my friends at shelters and rescue groups are frequently notifying me about potential canine models. Yesterday I was at the Prince George's County shelter to photograph three brindled boys plus one cutie with a sprinkling of spots on his ears.
As of today, only one of these guys has a single application, and even that's not a sure thing. Shelter staff have to guard against premature jubilation; it's never a cause for celebration until the lucky one has left the building. Since I had the privilege of spending several enjoyable hours with these beautiful boys, I thought I'd use my words and images to increase their visibility...and perhaps, with a little help from my friends, find them new homes. So here goes...
Meet Apollo (ID#A309190). This brindle-and-white American bulldog mix is about two years old and as handsome as they come. For some reason, he is continually overlooked by potential adopters...a fact that shelter staff find hard to understand. He's bouncy and energetic, but, come on, he's a youngster! While spending time with him, I found him to be friendly, affectionate, and food motivated (which usually makes for easy training).
Then there's Dukey (ID#A346769), an 8-month-old brindle-and-white mastiff mix. Wow! This cutie is all leg at the moment and moves like a gangly young foal. He's still underweight despite regular feeding at the shelter...probably because his body's still growing...trying to catch up with those stilts he calls legs. This sweetheart seemed a bit insecure and would benefit from some attention and confidence-building activities. But what a lover! Like Apollo, Dukey just hasn't captured the attention and imagination of any adopters, although after meeting him I can't imagine why.
Talk about darling! Okay, I probably wouldn't describe this boy as beautiful, but he sure is unique. Although he doesn't have a name, he struck me as a "Newton" (ID#A347221) kind of guy, so that's how I'm going to refer to him here. In shelter dogs, ancestry can be something of a mystery, but given his wrinkles, it's safe to say that Newton is part Shar pei. But his personality doesn't match my understanding of the breed standard; he is happy, exuberant, outgoing, and very affectionate right from the get go. In fact, he gave my face--and ears--a thorough cleaning while I was there. Being one of those people who loves kissy dogs, I was smitten!
Last but certainly not least was a precious 6-month-old American bulldog mix who I'm going to call Piper (ID#A346933), the Latin word for pepper, because of the sprinkling of black-pepper-like spots on his ears. Like Newton, this boy is a happy, confident, exuberant love bug...and another big kisser! Although we'd never met before, he bounded into the interaction room and greeted me like a long-lost friend...impossible to resist.
So now you've met this handsome canine quartet. Do you have room in your heart and home for one of them? If that's not feasible, please spread the word about them. And if you need more information, just call the shelter at (301) 780-7200.
UPDATE: "Piper" has been adopted!
SECOND UPDATE: "Newton" has left the building!
THIRD UPDATE: "Apollo has been adopted!"
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
It doesn't have to be Mt. Olympus...just a place here on this mortal plane where Zeus can get the love and attention he craves.
Named for the most powerful of Greek gods, this handsome redbone coonhound isn't feeling very "lordly" these days. Zeus arrived at the Prince George's County shelter way back on December 14, accompanied by his canine paramour and their pup...both of whom have since been adopted.
So now it's just Zeus.
When I was asked to photograph Zeus and blog about him, I couldn't say no. To begin with, I have a weakness for hounds. Plus, I knew Zeus was a favorite of shelter staff, who were charmed by both his good looks and affable personality.
And so was I.
Zeus is a big boy, but not as large as some of his breed, and while strong, he didn't jump on me like so many, less mannerly, dogs do. He just wanted to lean up against me while I scratched his head, fondled his face, and whispered sweet nothings into his large, droopy, velvety ears. Then, with the "affection session" over, he reveled in his time outdoors, exploring the field behind the shelter and checking the ground for the elusive scent of deer or fox.
Unfortunately, this canine charmer is facing some challenges in his Herculean quest to find a home. He has tested positive for both heartworm and Lyme disease, and while both diseases are highly treatable (especially for a dog whose overall physical condition is good, like Zeus's is), shelters strained by budgetary constraints cannot afford to take a financial gamble on a dog that may never be adopted.
But the news isn't all bad. An anonymous supporter (i.e. human friend of Zeus) has agreed to contribute $500 to help defray the initial veterinary costs incurred by anyone who adopts Zeus or donate the same amount (plus the shelter pull fees) to a rescue organization that can take him one step closer to his forever home.
You can help too...by sharing this post widely. For more information about Zeus, call (301) 780-7200 and refer to ID#A344077.
UPDATE: Zeus is now in the care of Best Dawg Rescue, where he is being treated for heartworm and Lyme disease. If you are interested in adopting Zeus, call them at 301-407-BEST or submit an application.