How Spay/Neuter Services Help Pet Owners

25% of pets in the United States have not been spayed or neutered. Cost is one major reason. The good news is that there are animal welfare groups in every state that offer low-cost spay/neuter services. The group I belong to and write for, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors, is one such group. Earlier this month I talked to representatives from three animal groups offering low-cost spay/neuter services in other parts of the U.S.

Animal Care Sanctuary is in Pennsylvania. While ACS is a sanctuary and does have many animals that live out their lives there, adoption is its primary goal. ACS also offers humane education and spay/neuter services. I spoke to Jill Elston, a Licensed Veterinarian Technician.Connect a Pet New England is a small, non-profit, dog rescue “dedicated to helping New Englanders find the right dog for their home and family”. I spoke to Cecelia Blake.

Tri-State Spay & Neuter is in Kentucky. It focuses on Trap-Neuter-Return for homeless cats since theyare euthanized at a much higher rate than dogs “and there aren’t any other cat rescues in their area. I spoke to Chrissy Dillow.

Jill said that ACS, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, has promoted spay/neuter for decades to address pet overpopulation, and in 2011 opened its own low-cost spay/neuter clinic. Since that time, the group has averaged about 3,000 surgeries a year, including on over 500 cats that were free roaming in local trailer parks thanks to a grant. Jill explained that ACS is “hoping to get grants for barn cats soon, as we are in a very rural area and farm colonies are a huge problem.”

Why do animal welfare groups feel it’s so important to offer spay/neuter services? The reasons shared are similar:

“An outrageous number of homeless cats and dogs exist in the United States.”

“There are too many cats/kittens and not enough homes or rescues.”

“Every altered dog saves us more heartache.”

The bottom line is a belief succinctly expressed by Jill: “Overpopulation can be fought with spay/neuter efforts.”

The spay/neuter coordinator for Lincoln Animal Ambassadors, Pauline Balta, said that her fourteen-plus years of involvement with Hearts United for Animals has given her a greater awareness of pet homelessness. She joined LAA in 2008 out of a strong belief that there’s a better way than euthanasia to reduce the homeless pet population.

My previous articles on this topic for Lincoln Animal Ambassadors have included hard-hitting data to refute the reasons pet owners offer for not having their pets fixed. Just as compelling are the stories from the volunteers of animal welfare groups that offer spay/neuter services.

Chrissy referred to strange medical cases such as a litter of petrified kittens inside a feral cat. “But my favorites,” she said, “would be when we are able to catch something like pyometra where spaying saved the animal’s life.”

To explain spay/neuter to children, I review overpopulation and ask the children to imagine sitting in a cage away from their families. Scared and smelling others’ fear. Hearing them crying. I worried it was too much but the teacher said it was the best ever presentation, and a child adopted from the local shelter that weekend.–Cecilia Blake

Jill’s favorite story is of a man who inherited his dad’s dogs when his father passed away. Neither the dad or the son had thought thought to spay/neuter the dogs. “When we first began working with him,” said Jill, “he had around 60 dogs of various ages, all extremely inbred. The [son] had previously had some bad experiences with both the dog warden and veterinarians, so he didn’t have much trust for anyone in the animal welfare world. Our adoption coordinator was the first person to really form a bond with him and she slowly convinced him to bring the dogs in for care and spray/neuter.” ACS was able to help with the cost of surgery and to help him find new homes for several of the dogs. Jill added, “He now comes to every fundraising event we have to show his support and gratitude.”

To reach young people, we use the Best Friends “Fix at Four” ads, and play them before each movie at the local theatre. We also have contests in the area schools. (Coloring contests for elementary, poster contests for middle and high school). School groups also have the option to tour the county shelter.–Cecilia Blake

Pauline’s greatest joy comes from realizing the efforts that pet guardians will go through to keep their beloved pets with them and make sure they’re healthy. She shared the story of a 19-year-old woman who worked multiple jobs to get by, who rescued a dog running through her neighborhood. She was determined to keep the dog that turned out to be pregnant and so she called LAA to get help spaying the mother dog when the pups were weaned, and then went on to have pups spayed. “Just recently the same young woman called again,” Pauline said, “because she had rescued a dog from a bad situation and needed to get him neutered. Stories like these keep me going.”

In previous interviews, I also personally talked to spay/neuter recipients. One of these was Megan, who has a big heart for homeless animals. She also believes in having animals spayed and neutered. For that reason, she’s grateful for the assistance she’s received from LAA.

Megan told of a dog of hers that was pregnant. “I didn’t want another litter,” Megan said, “and so I set up the appointment to have Sam fixed as soon as possible after the babies were delivered and the vet said she was ready.” She reached out again to LAA when, through her rescue efforts, found herself with an unaltered male and female cat. “It became an urgent situation,” Megan said, “to get them fixed as soon as possible before I had a litter of kittens on my hands.”

Currently, LAA’s low-cost spay/neuter services are available at select veterinary clinics and are obtained with vouchers. Lincoln Animal Ambassadors has provided nearly 2,700 spay/neuter procedures since its start in 2008. Pauline’s ultimate dream for LAA is to host a low-cost spay/neuter program that is housed in its own building, with local veterinarians volunteering their time to perform the surgeries.

Especially if they don’t have their own clinic, the organizations I interviewed depend on volunteers to talk with spay/neuter recipients and veterinarians to work with them. The organizations also rely on the public for donations. Be a part of the no-more-homeless-pets solution by supporting spay/neuter services with your time and/or donations.

If you’re interested in helping Lincoln Animal Ambassadors specifically, please spread the word about its services, volunteer as a telephone interviewer, and give generously on Give to Lincoln Day this May 31st.

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Therapy Cats Bring Comfort to Students

Nothing can stop the constant juggling of classes or the approaching deadline of finals, but a therapy cat just might alleviate some of that mounting stress.

Dexter
Dexter

Wendy Panaro is a therapy cat handler who, with her cat Dexter, has visited every campus in the Milwaukee metropolitan are at least once over the past eight years. She pointed to three ways that cat therapy visits help students.

A major benefit of therapy cats is they reduce stress. One student made it clear to Panaro how much the cats had calmed her when she told her, “I have a final in an hour and I don’t even care.”

Smokey
Smokey

A second benefit is that students often miss their own animals at home, so therapy pets serve as a reminder of what is waiting for them.

There may be a delayed third benefit for some who are especially taken with the friendliness of the therapy cats. Panaro explained, “Some students say how they want to get an animal once they are in an apartment or graduate.”

Two other cat handlers gave a fourth way therapy cats can benefit students. “Some people are cat people and appreciate that we’re there for them,” said Jenny Litz, who has visited Western Washington University with Smokey or Tye for the past six years.

“There are always some who are clearly cat people and dogs don’t do it for them, as far as stress relief,” elaborated Janiss Garza, who views visits to campus with her cat Summer as a mini-vacation.” It’s a different energy. Not as noisy or boisterous as dogs can be. And not as icky-slobbery either.”

Summer
Summer

Whatever their benefits, therapy cats are popular on campus. Cheri Cox and her cat, Chico, got their start as part of a Partners in the Community event that focused on college destress for finals week. She said that they were such a hit that now they visit every winter and spring.” Another local college heard about them and requested a cat. The two have now visited two campuses twice a year for the two years they’ve been certified and visited one a third time for a mental health day.

At Western Washington University, which both Sarah Morr and Litz have visited, students know ahead of time what therapy animals will visit and when they’ll arrive. Both handlers say that they always have students waiting for them even before their scheduled visits.

Elizabeth Albrecht, whose therapy cat campus visits are arranged by Pet Alliance, said that her last visit with Mac to the University of Central Florida in September 2017 was particularly memorable. “It was right before Hurricane Irma arrived,” Albrecht said, “and the students were stressed out with midterms coming up along with a major storm. He got lots of love that day.”

Raul
Raul

Students aren’t alone in appreciating therapy cats. “The librarians loved Raul,” said Morr, “and made sure to stop me on my way in and out of the library, so they could fawn all over him. I also had a few professors stop by because they had to see a therapy cat. They all seemed delighted to hang with him and asked questions.”

Ellen Vogel has been taking her two cats Cadi and Vivo to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the past four years, and she too found that everyone loves therapy cats. To ensure they could continue to come, when the staff realized that Vogel has arthritis they made special parking arrangements for her to minimize her walking.

The staff at the University Central Florida are so fond of Mac, said Albrecht, that they showered love on him by bringing him treats and catnip toys, and by setting him up in a room with his favorite YouTube channel playing on the wall-mounted HDTV mounted.

Cadi and Vivo
Cadi and Vivo

Other interviewed cat therapy teams concurred that faculty reaction is always positive. Some professors express surprise at seeing a therapy cat, but then they become curious and ask about how they’re trained.

“But the events are meant for the students,” said Panaro, “so the faculty seem to be aware not to monopolize the time of the animals so that the students get the benefit.”

Administration at various campuses favors cat therapy too. “Western Libraries has always thought they’ve been a great addition,” said Connie Mallison, Assistant to the Dean of Libraries at Western Washington University, where for the past six years pet therapy has provided stress relief to students during Dead Week and Finals Week. “The teams have been great, and we look forward to working with them on this very successful program for many more years to come.”

Pet therapy during Reading Days and Finals Week was equally welcomed at UNC, although the program isn’t without challenges. Stephanie Willen Brown, director of Park Library, a department in the School of Media & Journalism, reported three challenges: coordinating multiple volunteers, especially those who work during the day; finding parking space; and regulating who brings animals on campus.

The staff of the libraries at both schools faced the problem of some faculty, staff, and students thinking that because therapy cats were allowed, their pets were too. The assumption, explained Mallison, is that because therapy dogs and cats are allowed, personal pets can also be brought in.

To resolve the issue, WWU regularly spreads the word that the libraries welcome only trained service animals. UNC administration has chosen to terminate its therapy cat program. Brown said, “We loved them! We’d love to have them come back!”

Chico
Chico

Therapy cats can benefit the emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing of people of all ages in all situations. Although pet therapy began in the mid-1800s to aid in the long-term care for the sick and the chronically ill, therapy pet teams these days bring comfort to people in retirement centers, libraries, community centers, and school campuses, to name a few.

School life will always have its highs and lows. Especially during the lows, therapy cats meet a need, as demonstrated by Cox’s list of favorite moments: “One student cried. She had a rough final and she sat by me for a long time petting Chico. Several [students] were afraid of cats and were very intrigued by a ‘nice’ cat. Another student said she had never touched or held a cat and was thrilled to hold Chico. Several [students] got teary and talked about missing their own cats. One guy had an emotional support cat in his room that he told us about.”

Max
Max

It’s because therapy cats bring comfort that they’ll continue to visit campuses. On Albrecht and Mac’s very first visit to the University of Central Florida, they were greeted by multitudes of students wearing cat ears. Upon the recent sudden passing of Mac, Albrecht was overwhelmed by the number of sympathy cards she received from UCF employees and students. Mac had touched a lot of lives, including those of students, who had found school life a whole lot easier to cope with thanks to a therapy cat.

If your cat enjoys people and is comfortable with unfamiliar places, please consider cat therapy. For more information, please email me at allisontalkspetsATgmailDOTcom and/or join I-Cat.

Then There Were Nine!

Andy and I received the call earlier this month that we’d been waiting for. The Cat House had a cat family that needed a temporary home. In one afternoon, our household increased from three cats to nine!

We began with the following sage but basic advice. Provide a safe place and then allow the cat to explore it. When checking in on a cat, keep visits short. Play with the kittens, but mostly spend quiet time with them until they’ve adjusted.

Safe space: check. That one was easy, we put them in the guest room. But the other two, not so much. Kittens are just too darn cute!

When we released them from their crates, we couldn’t resist staying to watch. Not only did we stay, but we shot video and took photos. One of the black kittens and one of the gray kittens immediately scurried out of the crate. Minutes after they began to explore, we picked them up to cuddle and say hello. Meanwhile, Mama Cat had ducked under the bed to hide, and three of the other kittens were still snoozing in the crate. We respected their nap time for about five minutes. Then we gently lifted them out of the crate and welcomed them to their new temporary home.

Soon the chaos of caring for five kittens ensued! One kitten struggled to climb into a litter box. Another crawled onto a scratching ramp. A couple romped on the blankets I’d laid on the floor. The first kitten finally succeeded in using the litter box, which meant that all the other kittens suddenly had to use the bathroom too. The kittens’ exuberant clawing sprayed cat litter everywhere. Dust billowed. But the chaos wasn’t over. A grey kitten was poking at Andy’s camera. A black kitten was trying to haul himself onto the bed by clawing his way up the edge of the comforter.

At this point, due to not knowing what would be needed, our spare room was relatively barren. About the only source of sleeping quarters were the two crates and a human bed. While we had provided a scratching ramp, there were no other sources of enrichment. Andy suggested we should add more stuff, and the next day he bought a cat bed. As for me, I scrounged through our house that evening for stuff our cats could part with. I found more scratching items, blankets, and some catnip toys. All were an instant hit!

After Andy and I had gotten our fill of kittens, I served up food. That first night overwhelmed me. I’ve gotten used to our own cat trio circling me for food, but I wasn’t prepared for five kittens clambering over my feet as I shuffled across the floor. Nor was I ready for five kittens tripping over each other to reach the bowls of food. Watching all five of them push and shove in their eagerness to eat exhausted me.

But the chaos is worth it. Andy and I have enjoyed watching the kittens develop their distinctive personalities.

First up are Leo and Georgie. These two black kittens are among the boldest of the five. Unless Andy and I examine them, we can’t tell them apart. We’re lucky that one is a boy and one is a girl. But the one is never far from the other, and so we’ll just blame both for the havoc they cause.

They were the first to greet us at The Cat House, the first to explore our spare room, and the first to climb onto the guest bed. This means they were also the first to scare us by crawling between the headboard and the mattress. Oh, and the first to climb on top of the headboard. Whenever I write in my journal, both clamber all over me. They want my pencil, my eraser, my journal. Anything they can pick up with their paws. And if I dare to clean the floors with paper towels, both will try to help by jumping on me or grabbing at the towels.

Leo and Georgie aren’t completely identical, however. We’ve figured out that Leo is the escape artist. Most every day, he manages to dash out of the room at least once as we enter or leave. He always races down the hall and straight to the living room. Fortunately, our own cats have been too shocked by his sudden appearance to do anything but stare. And Leo thankfully lets us return him to the safety or our spare room without hassle. But he’s getting smarter. Now when he reaches the living room, he immediately begins to search for a hiding spot.

We’ll also credit them both for the love they give. One of them curled up beside me on the bed the morning after the cat family’s arrival and promptly fell asleep. They’ve recently both started sitting on my lap when I write in my journal. Both will let me hug them. My other favorite thing about Leo and Georgie is how they’ll sit up and wave their front paws in the air. It’s almost like they’re saying hello!

Next up are Kaydee and Chloe. Kaydee is a dilute tortie and Chloe is a blue tabby. Somedays I can tell them apart; other days I just call them the gray kittens.

Kaydee is kind of shy and quiet, while Chloe is easy-going and curious. Or at least that’s how they were described to us. I’m not so sure the description is completely accurate!

When Andy got down on the floor that first evening to take photos, Chloe was the one who bravely approached him and checked out his camera. She’s also the one who first tried out the cat scratcher.

And what’s her sister, Kaydee, doing? Sitting on top of a crate and batting at her siblings. She’s not so innocent!

When I’ve vacuumed the room, Chloe is the one who chews on our Dust Buster. She’s also the one who takes a ride on the cat blankets when rearrange them. Chloe will steal anything that I bring into the room. She’s also tried to sneak food from the closet.

Then there’s Kaydee. When I relax on the bed, she’s the one who kisses my hand. She’s also been known to wrestle my toes. Kaydee will lay on the bed instead of crowding my feet when I enter the room. She’ll also wait for her siblings to eat before going to a dish.

Whether or not Chloe’s and Kaydee’s personalities will change as they grow, what’s clear is how close they are as sisters. They play, sleep, and even pose together for photos. Sister love!

The fifth kitten is Stan. He’s a tiny kitten with a calm personality.

No matter what’s been happening, Stan will be asleep or hanging in the background waiting for his turn. When I take a nap, the others will crowd around me while he sits and licks his paws. If there’s a new toy on the go, he’ll let everyone else check it first.

That’s not to say Stan doesn’t have a mischievous side. He’s run around the room and tossed catnip toys in the air. When I introduced a trackball toy the other day, he batted the ball around the track. He’s been caught tugging his sisters’ tails.

There’s a charm to Stan. He’s never tried to pull down our curtains, knock down my notebooks, or grab my hair. When I scoop the litter boxes, he just watches me instead of jumping on me as if I were a toy. He likes to nestle against his mama. Stan’s so laid back and observant, he makes me wonder what’s he’s thinking.

Mama Cat and her five kittens have now been with us for two weeks. In a way, it feels much longer. It’s time-consuming to scoop up food, change water, and clean litter twice a day for that many cats. That much work can wipe one’s energy.

In another way, our time with them will be too short. I’d like to see Mama Cat become less shy. When she comes out from under the bed, she loves to have us pet her, but most of the time she stays under the bed while her babies play. I’d also like to see her babies become more comfortable with being groomed and trained. It’d be fun to watch them explore outside of the spare room and to snuggle with them at night. I hope that at least some of the people who adopt them will send updates and photos.

The cat family will be with us until the end of the month. In that time, we’re going to soak up every experience with them and give all the love we can. All too soon, our household of cats will decrease from nine to three. But we’ll have pleasure of knowing that each will find their forever home through The Cat House.

Want to help cats too? If you have the space, please consider fostering for The Cat House. Supplies are provided. If you don’t have the space, please donate to help The Cat House with its fostering program. Fostering helps saves lives!

Pet Food Banks Help Pet Owners in Need

An estimated 23 million dogs and cats live in poverty with their families in the United States, says the Humane Society of the United States. No wonder financial hardship accounts for 25% of the pets that are surrendered to shelters.

Sharon O'Brien, Kibbles Kitchen
Sharon O’Brien, Kibbles Kitchen

For families who face the difficult decision of whether to give up their pet, being able to turn to a pet food bank can make all the difference. A pet food bank provides emotional relief to owners who can no longer provide for their pets. Some pet owners will take food from their own mouths to feed their pets or choose homelessness rather than relinquish their pets. Pet food banks exist to help pets stay with their families

Across the United States, there are at least almost 150 pet food banks, including one run by Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. I chatted online this past month with four of them:

Kibbles Kitchen is an offering of Ventura County Animal Services in California. I spoke to Katie Navarro.

Pet Food Pantry is an offering of Because Animals Matter (BAM), an animal welfare organization located in Utah. Its primary focus is providing pet services to the community and humane education to school children, but it also does rescue. Because Animals Matter is currently working to alter a program we have called Meika’s Medical Fund which was originally designed to help shelter pets. Because more and more shelters are placing medically needy animals with rescues, they’re changing the focus to assist in providing low-income senior citizens with veterinary financial assistance to help them keep their senior pet healthy.
I spoke to J.C. Schilling

Critter Cupboard is an offering of Voice for Companion Animals, an animal welfare organization in Nebraska. The nonprofit started in 2011 with the goal of keeping pets in their home with their family. VCA serves 65 pet owners, gives out 70 pounds of food each month, and donates to two food pantries when there are extra donations. When possible, VCA provides kitty litter, soft food, and treats. A holiday gift bag is also given out once a year that includes a pet bed/blanket, toy, and treats. I spoke to Robyn Mays.

35,000 ponds total of feed, food, and litter, and more were donated to Kibble Kitchen to help victims of Hurricane Irma.
35,000 ponds total of feed, food, and litter, and more were donated to Kibble Kitchen to help victims of Hurricane Irma.

Kibbles Kitchen is an offering of K9 Rescue in Florida. The pantry started in 2007. It feeds 50 families and gives out 1,500 pounds of food and 500 pounds of litter. The rescue collects information on pets in the home and then gives extra supplies for the needs of those pets, such as collars, leashes, shampoo, grooming supplies, dog beds, cat trees, bowls, toys, treats, litter boxes, and pet sweaters. In addition, the pantry hands out a holiday bonus, and disaster kits are handed out in times of emergency. I spoke to Sharon O’Brien.

Every town has pets and people who need help.–J.C. Schilling

Voice of Companion Animals
Voice of Companion Animals

All four pet food banks were started to assist those that would otherwise surrender their pet due to inadequate finances. Robyn Mays specified that Voice for Companion Animals started “after working in a shelter and hearing the calls that would come in from people looking for options. They just hit a rough patch and needed a little help to get through it.”

Reception has been so positive that all could expand, and two have grown beyond their original offerings. Voice for Companion Animals has grown from assisting 18 people to over 65 monthly, and it works with two food pantries to provide pet food too. It runs an Ani-Meals program, which provides monthly pet food delivered to homes of seniors and veterans.

The group called Because Animals Matter (BAM) offers two pet food services. One is a free pet food bank open to low-income people low-income people who are physically able to come to the food bank. The other is Kibbles on Wheels (KOW), a program that provides free dog/cat food to anyone who receives Meals on Wheels. “Most of these people are elderly,” says Schilling, “and losing a pet for lack of food could be devastating for them.” The group is in the process of changing the KOW program to include low-income people who are physically unable to come to the pet food bank.

We have received some very nice thank you notes from folks telling us how important our programs were to their being able to keep their pets.–J.C. Schilling

Such an overwhelming reception to pet food banks is bound to result in memorable stories. Schilling said that often when Because Animals Matter volunteers make the first delivery to a new pet food bank recipient, “They come back to me and tell me how the family hugged them and cried on their shoulders and have thanked them profusely.” One recipient of the pet food program showed appreciation in a concrete way, by making a wall hanging that depicts her family for the volunteer that delivers her pet food.

Voice of Companion Animals
Voice of Companion Animals

Mays also had a story to share from Voice for Companion Animals. “A couple of years ago we gave a holiday gift package to each of the folks on our Ani-Meals program. We asked for more volunteers and they helped deliver the packages. A couple of volunteers returned with tears in their eyes, stories of meeting the people and pets, and the repeated comment was ‘Now I get it. Now I understand why you do what you do.’ “

Our group tried to think of what was needed in the community that wasn’t already there to help keep animals from going to the shelter. The pet food bank was born. —Mary Douglas

My own interest in pet food banks arose from my involvement with Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. Its pet food bank was started by LAA president, Mary Douglas, who initially drummed up a few donations of pet food and operated services out of her garage. Now the pet food bank is in the Center for People in Need building, where 2,000 pounds of food is given out every week.

In previous interviews, volunteers shared many memorable moments. Ron Stow said that he’ll never forget one gentleman: “We had our military ball caps on. He was in the Korean War, and I was in Desert Storm. We were sitting on the loading dock of the old place, relating where each had been, and had been doing so for about 30 minutes. Mrs. Okra was getting a little impatient with our B.S. session and stepped out of the car and said, ‘When are you two gonna quit jack-jawin’ and take me home?’ His response was priceless: ‘Uh-oh, I’m in trouble!’ Sadly, Mr. Okra passed away a few months later.”

Other volunteers told of dedicated pet owners who take the bus across town to pick up food that they would carry home in a backpack. One client rode a bike 18 blocks in 100-degree heat to pick up supplies. And then there’s a lady who from the moment she would walk in to the moment she left, she said thank you.

In previous interviews, I also personally talked to pet food bank recipients. Sharon owns a lovable six-year-old male rat terrier named Buddy. Once a month, she receives a five-pound bag of dog food, canned food, and treats. Sharon is thankful for the support that allows her to continue to care for Buddy. He follows her everywhere, and the two depend on one another.

Lynn owns a one-year-old poodle that had been brought to the Capital Humane Society after he had been found wandering the streets of Crete, Nebraska. When Lynn took him to the vet, it was discovered that he had digestive problems that required prescription dog food. Lynn prefers not to depend on government assistance, but she knew something had to be done. “I know Lincoln Animal Ambassadors only has so much money, and is all run by volunteers, but I appreciate that they buy food from the vet office for me,” said Lynn.

Kibbles Kitchen
Kibbles Kitchen

All the organizations I interviewed depend on volunteers to pick up, package and distribute donated pet food. They also rely on the community for donations of food, litter, and other supplies. Be part of the no-more-homeless-pets solution by supporting your local pet food bank with time and/or donations.

If you’re interested in helping Lincoln Animal Ambassadors specifically, please spread the word about its services, volunteer as a telephone interviewer, and give generously on Give to Lincoln Day this May 31st.

Pet First Aid with Arden Moore

Editor’s Note: This news story was written for my Media Writing class at Southeast Community College and so it has a different style than my regular articles. I’ll follow-up with a second article in June that focuses on Arden Moore herself.

National Pet Health and Safety Coach Arden Moore helped Sadie Dog Fund celebrate its tenth anniversary in a unique way this past April.

Moore taught two four-and-a-half-hour Pet First Aid classes over the April 21 and 22 weekend, at the completion of which twenty-one students received a two-year certification.

Participants learned the items that should be included in a pet first aid kit, three different CPR techniques, handling tips in the event of bites, burns, bleeding, choking, broken bones, poison, and severe weather, and how to give a nose-to-tail wellness check.

Sadie Dog Fund was founded in 2007 by Pam Hoffman to help families keep their pets with emergency funds.

After Moore appeared on Cathy Blythe’s Problems and Solutions show on KFOR-Radio as a guest, Hoffman contacted her about holding Pet First Aid classes in Lincoln.

Hoffman wanted to bring Arden to Lincoln out of the belief that knowing pet first aid may empower pet lovers with knowledge to save their pet’s life in emergency situations before getting them to a veterinarian. To her, helping people “learn to save their own pet’s life goes hand in paw with what we believe in.”

Moore’s visit to Lincoln trip took over six months to plan.

Interviewed participants described the class as useful, fun, and worth the cost and time.

“I hope I never have to use my newly-learned skills,” said participant Melissa Ripley, “but I feel very prepared if I do. Ripley is an officer with the Lincoln Police Department and the volunteer coordinator for Second Chance Pups, a rescue group that pairs unwanted dogs in need of training with inmates at the Nebraska State Penitentiary.

Participants were able to practice pet first aid skills on a real dog and cat. Moore brings her safety dog Kona and safety cat Casey to assist in her classes.

One skill that a few participants have already put into practice is the wellness exam.

In this exam, pet owners check a pet’s vitals including pulse and temperature. They also perform a head-to-tail check for bumps, lumps, or other irregularities.

Hoffman said that she specifically uses the exam when camping to check between her dog’s toes for ticks.

The skill that participants said they’re most likely to use in the future is cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Proper CPR increases the chance, Moore said, that pets will survive a cardiopulmonary Arrest, which occurs when a pet has stopped breathing and its heart has stopped.

Participants took turns giving CPR to Moore’s teaching pets. They each pulled the pet’s tongue forward, finger swept the pet’s mouth, gave 30 chest compressions and two mouth-to-snout breaths, and reassessed by checking the femoral artery for a pulse.

“I can use CPR in the future if ever on a call for service where an animal needs it,” said Ripley. “As a cop, we also respond to fires with Lincoln Fire and Rescue, and often the pets need assistance too.”

The director of the Second Chance Pups program, Kim Ostermann, said that sometimes one of the dogs in their program will have a minor injury, and she’s now better-prepared to handle the situation.

In other emergencies, a pet may have a heartbeat and still be breathing but still need help.

Professional pet sitter, Collette Schwindt, said now she knows what to do if a pet starts to choke.

Participants took turns mock practicing the Heimlich on Moore’s teaching pets. It’s basically performed the same way as it’s performed on people.

For small dogs, people should stand and hug their pet with the pet’s back touching their stomach. Then hold the pet with one arm around the pet’s abdomen. Make a fist with the other hand and thrust inward and up three to five times to dislodge the object. Give rescue breaths.

For medium and large dogs, people should stand behind their dog and place both arms around the dog’s waist. Then interlock hands and make a fist. Place thumbs against the spot beneath the ribcage and thrust inward and upward three to five times. Give rescue breaths.

Moore had focused on health and behavior in pets for much of her career, when in 2011 she realized she was missing the critical component of pet first aid.

After she completed a couple of pet first aid/CPR courses, she taught classes herself, and then became certified as a master instructor in pet first aid/CPR.

In 2013, Moore launched Pet First Aid 4U, a veterinarian-approved and supported pet first aid program that teaches hands-on skills using real pets.

Moore stays current in pet first aid by shadowing Dr. Mike LoSasso, a board-certified emergency/critical care veterinarian in Texas. In addition, she consults top veterinarians who serve on her Pet First Aid 4U advisory board.

“I also continue to take classes taught by leading pet first aid experts,” Moore added, “I feel it is important to always be both a student and a teacher. It is important to stay current on the latest pet first aid/safety protocols and share them with my students.”

Participants who registered for Moore’s April 21-22 Pet First Aid Class had distinct reasons for wanting to attend.

Osterman felt it was the right time and place. “I’ve always wanted to take this,” Ripley said, “but wanted to take it from a reputable person, and never found one in this area that I liked.” Schwindt believes that as a pet sitter she might need to save a pet someday.

On the Friday prior to the pet first aid classes, Moore also gave a Pet Behavior Talk. Proceeds from the entrance fee of $10 were donated by Moore to Sadie Dog Fund.

All three classes were held at the Woodsmen Life building, a location secured for Sadie Dog Fund by Schwindt and her sister, Colleen Kadavy, who serves as a board member on Woodmen Life.

Participants won pet-related prizes collected from donors by Moore, Hoffman, Schwindt, and Kadavy.

“Sadie Dog Fund is very happy that we could bring Arden Moore to Lincoln, Nebraska, for all of our pet loving friends,” said Hoffman. “If pets can be kept alive and at home with their families because of these classes, Sadie Dog Fund has accomplished our mission.”

Moore expressed appreciation as well to all the people who made her visit possible. “It was wonderful to be able to donate all admissions to my pet behavior talk to Pam Hoffman’s Sadie Dog Fund,” Moore said. “We estimate we raised about $500 or more for that non-profit. I loved meeting the pet people of Lincoln! People came ready to learn practical info on how to improve the lives of their pets.”

Rainy is Now a Certified Therapy Cat!

I’m so proud of Rainy! In April, she received her certification as a therapy cat. And in May we were able to take her to a studio photo shoot at JC Penny as a reward.

Rainy and I began her certification process back in January. Our first step was to have a Control Evaluation form completed by our vet. The form asks eleven questions. Some are about health, others are about temperament, and the rest are related to Love on a Leash (LOAL) regulations. For example, is Rainy housetrained, will she be on a leash, and can I control her. Temperament is by far the most important. Aggressive cats are automatically disqualified. Our veterinarian described Rainy as: “social, inquisitive, and sweet”.

Our second step was to undergo ten supervised visits at a facility. If there is a local LOAL chapter, a graduate of the program can act as supervisor. Normally we would have been supervised by a graduate of the Omaha LOAL chapter’s cat program. But there were no such graduates. I would be the first. Therefore, we were instead supervised by the activity directors of the two senior residences where we visited.

The third step was to fill out the LOAL application for cats. The application is three pages. The first page asked for basic information about me, Rainy, and our vet. I also had to sign a declaration that states Rainy has never been aggressive. The second page was a fee checklist. A new membership is $50. The third page contained a pet agreement. Among other things, it stipulates that we’ll continue to train and that we’ll be clean and well-groomed for each visit. In addition to filling out the three-page form, I had to submit a headshot of Rainy for her photo ID and two full-body photos for LOAL’s records.

On April 8, I received an email from a LOAL National representative informing me that my application had been received. The representative asked a few follow-up questions and then told me my application would get forwarded to the Membership Chairman. I was, and I soon also heard from the Membership Chairman, who asked a few questions and then told me that Rainy’s certification was approved. I received my therapy cat certification packet on April 14. It included an ID for me, photo ID for Rainy, bandana, plastic ID holder for both IDS, retractable lanyard, LOAL pet tag, and LOAL certificate.

Rainy_LOALAs a reward, Andy and I took Rainy to a studio photo shoot on May 9 at JC Penny. We wanted Rainy photographed wearing only her LOAL cat therapy bandana, without the clutter of her collar or harness, and the photographer graciously blocked off the studio door so that Rainy couldn’t escape once off her leash. Customers are encouraged to bring their own props to add personality (and comfort for babies/pets) and so I brought Rainy’s favorite toys, bedding, and treats. Naturally, I dressed Rainy up with her therapy cat bandana.

Then began the challenge of having Rainy pose for a photo. I used every trick I could think of. I directed her to “Sit!” and held up a treat. Rainy complied but only for a couple of seconds. Next, I tried directing her to “Stay!” Unfortunately, she’s yet to become proficient with this command. I also tried directing her to “Pose for the camera!” while holding up a treat. Again, Rainy complied but only for a few seconds. I started having flashbacks of my parents’ efforts to photograph my brother and sister when they were energetic toddlers. The photographer made clicking sounds, which caught Rainy’s attention for a few seconds. Andy also tried to help by directing Rainy’s attention towards the camera, and by repositioning Rainy when she moved. Fortunately, the times when Rainy posed for even just a few seconds were enough for the photographer to take some great shots.

We had selected two backdrops for the shoot. The first was a blue sky with clouds. After several shots with it, the photographer then switched to the second backdrop, which was plain white. We wanted Rainy to stand out in her photos.

The photographer also added some of her own props. She selected ones that fit Rainy’s name: yellow galoshes and a yellow umbrella. She also added a bouquet of yellow flowers. We tried to get Rainy to sit on a stool or to stand with her front paws on it, but Rainy wasn’t having anything to do with the stool. She did however pose with everything else. At times, she crouched or flopped, but several times she sat upright and a few times she looked upward. And so once again, the photographer was able to take some great shots.

Over all, we were pleased with the visit. Rainy acted friendly and curious in a new place. She also somewhat followed our commands. Near the end of May, we’ll have two 8×10 photos to frame, along with two sheets of wallet-size photos that I can hand-out to people that Rainy and I visit.

If your cat enjoys people and is comfortable with unfamiliar places, please consider cat therapy. For more information, please email me at allisontalkspetsATgmailDOTcom and/or join I-Cat.

Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Bites my Ankles and Feet

Dear Miss Behavior, My dog Tika is an eight-month-old Terrier; she bites my feet when I’m on the phone or the computer. She also bites at my ankles when we’re playing outside or walking through the house. She sometimes bites hard enough to break the skin. What do I do?

missbehavior

The little ankle-biter has learned that she gets attention when she does certain behaviors. She is also entering adolescence which means she’s starting to challenge the world around her. First you need to make sure you’re consistent with your rules. Don’t allow her on the couch one day and then punish her the next day. It’s important for her to know what to expect from you.

Now to deal with the nipping and biting. Not only is the chasing, pouncing and biting very fun for her (after all that’s what Terriers do when they go after rodents), but she’s also rewarded when you yell and push at her. So you need to make a plan on what you’re going to do when she starts after your feet.

You need to begin rewarding her for what you want. Write down all the times she exhibits the behavior, then decide what you want her to do to ask for your attention. You said she often attacks your feet when you’re on the phone or computer. If you’re unable to interrupt your phone call, or stop what you’re doing on the computer to correct the behavior appropriately, put Tika in a crate with a stuffed Kong® or a good tasting chew toy so she’s unable to practice the bad behavior.

Now for the training part. At the first sign of her focusing on your feet stop moving and say “Ah-ah!” We often use “No” way too much with dogs and they learn to ignore it. Using a low sounding noise that she may not have heard before is better. Be sure to reward her if she backs off and doesn’t continue with the behavior. You could throw a toy or treat for her to go and get or just say “Good dog” in a happy voice.

It might be useful to have her drag a ribbon or small leash at first. This will allow you to get control over her physically without touching her (touching can be rewarding.) If she continues the behavior and begins pouncing on your ankles, use the long line to stop her and gently escort her to her crate. She needs to remain in her crate for a few minutes then quietly release her. She needs to learn that puppies that don’t play nice, play alone.

Make sure she’s getting plenty of physical and mental exercise. You will want to take time to walk her and teach her fun tricks. Letting her occasionally ‘hunt’ for her food is a fun game for her. Just scatter her food over the kitchen floor and let her hunt for the small pieces of kibble. When she gets good at the game, in the evening, you can shut off your kitchen light so she has to use her nose to find her food.

Finally, stop wearing your fuzzy bunny slippers, as comfortable as they are, they’re just too much temptation for a terrier.

marcygraybillThanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

Senior Dog Incontinence

What happens if your senior house-trained dog starts having accidents in the house? The most important thing is to have your vet examine him. What if your vet is unable to find a clear-cut reason? This is the situation that my husband and I have found ourselves in with our senior toy poodle, Barnaby. Is a pet owner supposed to live with the accidents? If not, what’s the answer?

Let me back up and share a little of Barnaby’s house-soiling history. A few years ago, Barnaby began to experience the type of health issues that aren’t uncommon to older dogs. He ate less, ached more, stayed awake less, and drank more. He also began to pee in the house, and so we bought belly bands for him to wear. The search for solutions to these ailments required lots of trips to the vet, lots of tests, and lots of experimenting with medications. At the end of our search, my husband compiled a spreadsheet of potential medical causes for Barnaby’s increased thirst and urination. Andy then showed this to our vet, who reviewed the causes one-by-one to see if there were any that hadn’t yet been explored. There weren’t. We considered too that the cause could be behavioral but similarly ruled out every possibility. Our vet then recommended a Chinese herbal formula called Wu Bi Shan Yao San. Barnaby took the supplement for ten days, and despite Andy’s initial skepticism he agreed that Barnaby wasn’t wetting his belly band as much.

Our experience sparked my interest in researching senior incontinence. No wants to face the daily task of cleaning up after accidents. Nor does anyone want a house that smells of urine. Just as important, if Barnaby has a medical condition, we’d like to treat it so that we can help him have the longest and healthiest life possible. At this point, we still don’t know the cause other than old age. Instead we’re managing Barnaby’s urinary incontinence, which is something everything pet owner.
Local veterinarian, Dr. Amy Walton, offered several recommendations for helping a dog with urinary incontinence. One, put the dog on a regular bathroom schedule. Andy or I take Barnaby out first thing in the morning and last thing at night, before we leave the house and after we return, and right after Barnaby eats. Two, avoid situations where a dog needs to hold his bladder and bowels for longer than normal. If Andy and I know an outing will take more than a few hours, we’ll bring Barnaby to his parents to pet sit. Three, restrict your dog to certain areas of the house or crate him while away to contain or eliminate some of the messes. Andy and I don’t restrict Barnaby’s access, but we do require him to wear belly bands. Finally, NEVER restrict access to water. This leads to dehydration and can cause a dog to become sick.

Using Protective Covers

Because accidents are going to happen, you should take steps to protect anything that might become wet. Your dog’s bed is the most likely to become soaked. One way to protect it is with a plastic cover. Because your dog probably won’t like sleeping directly on plastic, you can lay old bedding such as towels or small blankets on top of the plastic. When your dog has an accident, wash the coverings and then let them dry before reuse.

Other dog owners elect to use pee pads, which are like big square diapers that you put on the floor and train your dog to go to when it needs to use the bathroom. They’re like litterboxes for dogs. While pee pads are most commonly used to give puppies an acceptable place to go to the bathroom before they’ve been potty trained, pee pads can also be helpful for older dogs who are suffering from incontinence. Some owners don’t just use them to retrain their dog where to potty, but they also use them as protective covering for wherever a dog might wet. Vet Street noted some downsides to pee pads. They don’t work if your dog rips them up before use or a dog refuses to potty on them.

Some dog experts recommended elevated mesh beds. K9 of Mine swore by a Kuranda’s dog bed. The elevated orthopedic design is intended to keep your dog dry, cool, and comfortable. In addition, the fabric is easy to clean. In addition, to protecting your dog’s bed, cover furniture and car seats with old linen on top of plastic sheeting. Vet Street has had clients who loved Sleepee Time Bed. Not only does it serve as comfortable sleeping surface for any pet, but it’s especially useful for help incontinent dogs because it protects their skin and the owner’s floor.

Another way to protect anything that might become wet is to use belly bands or diapers. The first are designed specifically for male dogs. The idea behind belly bands is that they’re wrapped around the belly where they soak up accidents. The ones we have aren’t absorbent enough, and so we put a folded paper towel inside the belly band.

If your dog also poops in the house, or if you have a female dog, you’ll need to use a dog diaper instead. Dog diapers are like human diapers, except that they have a hole through which your dog’s tail can slide through. Diapers catch both pee and poop, but the cleanup is quite messy, as they trap poop against the dog’s bottom. You’ll have to wash your dog’s bottom every day, maybe multiple times a day.

Experiment to find out what works best for your situation. For example, my husband and I found that a combination of belly bands, pee pads, and a confined area worked well a senior foster dog whose medical issues often caused him to have accidents. We didn’t try pee pads with Barnaby. His earlier rejection of a thermal bed meant that we knew he’d reject coverings that crinkle. We have yet to try a mesh bed, due to knowing that Barnaby is most comfortable curled up beside us on bed and that at times he even likes to burrow under the covers. We did briefly attempt to use an artificial grass mat, but it was an exercise in frustration. Andy tried to train him to use it by first training him to go on it outside, but Barnaby didn’t understand that he needed to stay on it, and even if he did get some of his feet on it he’d often still miss it when he peed.

For more ideas, check out an article by Hindy Pearson who specializes in senior dog issues. “Whatever the reason for your dog’s incontinence, and whether it can be resolved in a short time, or is something you’ll be living with for a while, the result is still the same: involuntary peeing. If this condition is new, you may not have been aware of the existence of these products, and I bet you’re really happy you found them….” Continued in Dog Incontinence Products.

Cleaning Your Dog

If your dog wears a belly band or diaper, it’s important that you regularly clean his skin to prevent urine burns and diaper rashes. Clean your dog’s skin with warm soapy water and a soft cloth whenever his diaper needs to be changed. Diarrhea is acidic and can also burn the skin. Keeping his hair short around his bottom and tail will make clean up easier. If you notice any reddened or swollen areas, consult your vet for treatment.

Cleaning Your House

Cleaning soiled areas promptly and thoroughly reduces the chance that your dog will have recurring accidents in the same places. A good pet-odor remover can help. To clean a soiled area, Senior Tail Waggers recommends using cold water with a little Oxyclene mixed in (about 1 tbsp. to 2 gallons of water) to lift the urine out of the carpet and then using an enzymatic cleaner to remove all remaining traces. It’s not always easy to find all the places your dog may have peed. For that reason, you can use a black light (like they do in crime dramas) to make it easier to spot your dog’s accidents.

A clean house makes for a cheerful home. What ways of managing dog incontinence have worked for you?

Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Cries When I Leave

Dear Miss Behavior: Our dog cries and barks all day when we’re gone. We keep her in a crate now because she tore up all the couch cushions. At first, I thought she was being spiteful because we left her, but someone says she has separation anxiety. What does that mean and how can we cure her?

missbehaviorSeparation anxiety is when a dog becomes very scared when they are left alone. They’ll often destroy things in the house and even possibly hurt themselves. Treating separation anxiety takes patience and training.

Sometimes a bored dog can be misdiagnosed as having separation anxiety. If it’s boredom, then having a long walk and a training session before you go to work should help lessen the behavior issues. Taking a Good Dog Level 1 class should help you and your dog learn some new behaviors to practice.

If it is Separation anxiety, then you need to work on ‘Counter Classical Conditioning’. CCC is pairing something very good with something that the dog perceives as bad. The idea of CCC is breaking down your routine when you leave. Do you get out your Gucci bag first? Put on your Burberry raincoat? Take the keys to your BMW off the hook by the door? Whatever the first step is, over a period of time (say a Saturday morning) do the first step, give your dog a treat and then stop. Put your purse back down or hang your keys back up. Do it again. Once your dog is no longer upset with the first step, then do step one, then step two, rewarding her with good treats before she gets upset. Keep going until you are ready to leave the house. The first time you leave, just go out the door, and come right back in. Slowly build time until she’s okay with you being gone a few minutes.

You’ll also need to take steps to make sure that while you’re training your dog to be at home, you don’t leave her alone. If you have to leave the house you might take her with you or take her to a dog-daycare.

Some dogs require medical help. You may need to start with a visit to the vet and see if an anti-anxiety medication is needed.

Since it’s hard to diagnose a serious behavior issue by email, be sure to ask the trainers at the Greater Lincoln Obedience Club for more advice. You might also find the booklet I’ll be home soon by Patricia
McConnell of help. She gives some great information that’ll help you to understand the process.

marcygraybillThanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

Guest Post: How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat

I’ve been asked to tell how to introduce a dog to a cat. My situation was a little different from most, but it’s what worked for us.

Oliver, our new family member was a four-month-old kitten. Mom and dad came home from the rescue where he was adopted. Oliver was secured in a carrier when they stepped through the door and sat it on the floor.

I was not happy. I ran across the room and lunged at the carrier. I hit with such force that the carrier slid to the other side of the room. I barked and growled. I did not want him to be there and I let it be known. We were off to a rocky start, but mom and dad were sure we’d eventually get along.

When I came to first live here I had been a cat chaser. There were four resident cats in the home. But after a little over a month of living on a leash mom and dad felt that I could behave. And I did!

Oliver was a different story. Usually it is recommended that the new pet stay in an area separate from the resident pets such as a bedroom or laundry room. Unfortunately. our household was not able to do that.

The bottom line and most important thing is that I was kept from getting to the cats. It might have been done a little differently than what you might read about on the Internet, but keeping everyone safe was achieved. Oliver and I were placed in the largest room of the house. Oliver was in his carrier on one side of the room. Dad had me on the other side of the room on a leash.

I was allowed to move ahead towards the carrier a few steps at a time each night. That inching along gave me enough time to get comfortable. After a couple of weeks I was able to lay in front of the carrier. I was able to see, smell, and watch Oliver without any issues. Mom took Oliver upstairs and let him out of the carrier. Dad came up with me on a leash.

Dad took me into his office where I remained on a leash for a couple of hours. From the office I was able to see everything going on upstairs. I watched Oliver going from place to place. Mom and dad decided to bring me close to Oliver while on leash. I had no negative reaction towards Oliver. They felt it was okay to remove the leash and finally let us be together.

We have been close since. Oliver is my brother. Thanks to mom and dad’s patience we were safely able to be introduced without an unwanted incident.

So often pets are either left at a shelter or given to rescue because of the new family not being patient enough with the introduction. They expect too much too fast. With a little patience and understanding it can work out.

Reprinted with permission from Traci Cameron, volunteer with Coalition for Pet Protection, a nonprofit that seeks to change public attitudes, behaviors, and to gain a recognition that any level of overpopulation and animal abuse is unacceptable. Traci hosts her own blog Unleashed.

If you are a pet owner with writing skills, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors would love to hear from you! We’re especially looking for content about birds, exotic animals, and horses. Content may take the form of an advice column or how-to articles. You may even simply wish to act as an expert consultant. If you are interested, please post in the comments and we’ll be in touch.