Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Great, Great Dane

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Although every dog is a hero to its owner in one way or another, there are hundreds of dogs in America who have performed truly brave feats in the face of danger. In 1954 Ken-L Ration decided to recognize these outstanding achievements  of our canine companions and began the Dog Hero Awards. Kibbles and Bits currently awards these amazing dogs. Only one dog each year is awarded the "Dog Hero of the Year" title.

I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the past winners, so from time to time I will post an article on some of these heroic dogs.

This is about Top, a great dane who was awarded this honor in 1969.

Los Angeles, California - In a heroic double-header, Top, a child-loving Great Dane owned by Axel Patzwaldt, saved two children from certain death. 

The dogs exploits began one morning when an eleven -year-old girl was allowed to take Top out for a walk. Crossing the street, she failed to notice a large truck barreling down the road. Top, barking loudly, jumped in front of the girl and pushed her backward out of the way. The girl was unhurt, but Top was hit by the truck, shattering his right rear leg. 

Top was rushed to the hospital and his leg put in a cast. He limped around painfully for weeks, but only one week after his cast was removed, Top saved another life. 

With Top's cast off, his owner let him out of the apartment to play by the pool. Seconds later, Top came running to the door, soaking wet and barking at the top of his lungs. His owner and other residents ran after him to find a two-year-old boy, Christopher Conley, at the bottom of the six foot deep pool. 

Top's owner, a former lifeguard, dove into the pool and brought the lifeless child to the surface. he began mouth to mouth resuscitation and managed to revive the boy. Paramedics arrived, and eight hours later, emergency room doctors pronounced Christopher out of danger. 

What an amazing dog! 

We'll look at another winner soon.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dog Hoarding: When Do You Cross the Line?

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  Five? 10? 20? 100? You can't tell a hoarder by the number of dogs -- or can you?

 You love your dog, so you get another to keep her company. And then you find a stray and you have to take him home. Then you see this irresistible dog who needs a place to bunk down, so naturally he becomes part of your household. Another dog comes into your life, and you can’t say no. You love them all, and give them a good home, so occasionally people just dump a dog on you.

Your canine brood grows. It gets a little crowded, but you’re okay. You know you have more dogs than most people, but you can handle it, and the dogs need you. At some point, you might get strange looks. Then someone may refer to you by the "H" word: Hoarder.
Wait! What? You can’t be a hoarder. You love your pets, and you don’t have hundreds, or even dozens, or all that many compared to those stories you read. But some people still look at you askance, as if they’re saying, "There goes that crazy dog lady!" And you might start wondering just where the line is drawn between hoarding and just having a larger-than-normal number of pets. Is it a certain state of mind coupled with certain actions, or is there a magic number? Are you defined as not a hoarder at X number of dogs, but once you pass that, you tip the scales into lightweight hoarding?

Of course, there is no simple equation. It’s about much more than numbers. There are many theories about what makes someone a dog hoarder (here's a good article about pet hoarding/collecting), but there’s no clearly defined number cutoff. If someone with X dogs cares for his dogs but isn’t keeping them in ideal conditions, how does the law differentiate between him and someone with X+1 (or more) dogs who are given the best care the owner knows how to give?

I started thinking about this question when I read about two Pennsylvania brothers who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty after nearly 200 dogs, mostly Chihuahuas, were discovered in their house. Like most other hoarders, they truly loved the animals and thought they were doing what was best for them. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, it was hard for the brothers to enter the guilty plea. They said they “treated the dogs like our boys and girls.”

What set these men apart from many hoarders was the condition of the dogs in general. Unlike what’s found in many hoarding cases, most of the dogs were in decent shape. “Veterinarians who checked the Chihuahuas -- plus two other dogs that were also removed from the residence -- found no serious health issues, only minor eye, teeth and skin problems, and officials say they apparently came from a loving home,” the article said.

Yes, authorities found the bodies of 30 dogs in the freezer, but they’d died of natural causes. (Not being able to part with the bodies of deceased pets is another of the characteristics of many hoarders.) Unlike the case of Rosie, the severely deformed Chihuahua we’ve been writing about since her rescue from a hoarder in June, there were apparently no calamitous deformities from inbreeding issues in this household.

The brothers' situation is a classic hoarding case, perhaps minus the decent physical conditions of the dogs. But where did they stop becoming simply super-caring dog lovers taking in their share of dogs to becoming hoarders? Again, before I get accused of oversimplifying things, I realize that hoarding/collecting animals is a very complex psychological issue; it’s anything but clear-cut.

At one point, fellow author and Dogster writer Julia Szabo had five large dogs living in her small NYC apartment. She’s down to four, but it seems people still talk.

"While most people say nice things about how kind I am to rescue, and how healthy and happy and well-socialized my dogs are, etc., a few (mostly anonymously, online) have accused me of being a hoarder," Julia wrote me. "These lovely folks call themselves 'true animal lovers,' and such. To which I say, if y'all were such true animal lovers, maybe you'd have ONE dog each, so I wouldn't have to have four or five?"

Her dogs are all rescues, and generally sleep in her bed –- yes, the non-kingsize bed you see above. If Julia lived in a big country home, no one would ever consider her a hoarder. But that fact that she’s a single gal living in a small one-bedroom apartment in New York City with four big pooches tips the scales for some people.

If you saw her apartment, you would shake your head at those who hurl around the H word so easily. It is neat. It is lovely. Yes, it may have more doggy doodads than the average NYC apartment, but it's definitely not the abode of a hoarder. My one-dog, one-child house should be so well organized.

Years ago I knew a woman in my San Francisco neighborhood. She had somehow accumulated about 10 dogs through her rescue efforts and failed foster attempts. Her yard was kind of stinky, and in her house you were lucky not to trip on Kongs and tennis balls and rawhide bones. But it wasn’t unhealthy, just slightly cluttered with dog toys –- and dogs. Her landlord (yes, she was a renter) was getting pretty balky about all those critters, and she was way over the city’s dog limit. I remember clearly when she told me she was going to move to Montana to live on a few acres she was buying with her partner. “We can keep the dogs, but no more of them. I’m not a hoarder, at least I don’t think so, but I was beginning to worry.”

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What Parents Should Know About Pets

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I found the following article by Dr. Marty Becker and thought I would share it. I had pets of some description, usually more than one, the whole time I was growing up. I can't imagine my childhood without at least one dog. At times they were my best friends. They still are.

What Parents Should Know About Pets
By Dr. Marty Becker | August 13, 2012

Every parent knows the feeling: It all goes by so quickly. You’re newlyweds, then you’re the parents of small children. Turn around again and you’re empty-nesters. And then … grandparents.

My wife and I are grandparents now, and everyone who knows us knows we’re madly in love with our granddaughter. Give me five minutes and I’ll show her picture, followed by those of our beloved pets. There is nothing more important to me than being a good husband, a good father, a good grandfather — and, yes, a good veterinarian.

From the vantage point of seeing so many children grow up to have children of their own, I offer five things this veterinarian (father, grandfather and husband of more than 30 years) wants every parent to know about pets and children.

Your Pet Can Be Your Child's Best Friend

Pets are nonjudgmental, loyal, loving and always excited to be with their people. Unlike classmates, friends or even, at times, family members, a pet will love your child unconditionally. Rich or poor, tall or short, under- or overweight, porcelain skin or pimples, smart or struggling in class, popular or pariah, athlete or academic: We all need unconditional love. Pets are also doggedly loyal; a pet will never leave your child because he's tired or a better offer came along.

Pets Teach Responsibility

Animals need to be fed, watered, groomed, exercised and played with, and they need medical care and love. They're not like the newest video game or toy that can be enjoyed for a while and then left to be forgotten on a shelf. Although you should never allow a pet to be cared for exclusively or primarily by a child, pets can help children understand how to nurture. Pets need care, constantly and consistently, and they teach children to give to others.

A Pet Can Teach Your Child About the Circle of Life

At each stage of life, a pet provides valuable lessons. For example, adopting a pet from a shelter is an opportunity to talk with your child about homelessness and a forever, loving home. A pet can also offer parents a way to talk with a child about death. For many of us, the loss of a pet is the first of many such losses we will all experience in our lives. A pet can teach your child that it’s important to love and just as important to grieve. A pet can also teach children that compassion needs to be extended beyond our own species.

Pets Provide Physical Contact

In our lives, we are not always sure when touch is acceptable and when it’s not. But not with our pets: They always love our touch, always welcome it. Anyone of any age can kiss a dog or cat and say "I love you!" and nobody thinks anything of it. We need touch, and “heavy petting” is always fine with our pets.

Pets Are Good for Our Health

Pets are life support systems. Pets don't just make us feel good. They're good for us. Being around pets in early childhood lessens the severity of allergies, asthma and eczema. Pets can blunt chronic pain; fight depression; lower cholesterol; decrease blood pressure; lower the risk of heart disease or stroke; improve survivability of a heart attack; help treat ADHD, anxiety and PTSD; detect seizures; help Parkinson's patients; and even detect cancer. Adding a pet to your growing family is one way to protect your child's health — and your own.

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