Thursday, December 17, 2015

V is for victory or vendetta

The spotlight continues to shine on the town of Shawnee Oklahoma. Tonight kicks off the first of two nights aimed at protesting the Shawnee shelter. The events are no longer being called a protest however, they are now deemed a "victory demonstration " yes, victory. Since the protest and its associated events was first announced we've seen residents of Shawnee finally go to a city council meeting and speak up about the problems at the animal shelter. This is something that should have been happening for a long time now. In my mind that is a victory. 
 A few short days after this city council meeting, three dogs were gassed to death. The circumstances of this gassing clearly spell retaliation, at least in my mind they do. Someone was unhappy with all the negative attention being directed at Shawnee and its animal shelter. So unhappy it seems, that three innocent dogs suffered a horrible death as retribution for the unwanted attention.
 Less than a week after the dogs were gassed to death, we see announcements and headlines proclaiming that the shelter supervisor has been put on administrative leave pending an investigation. Even more attention is on Shawnee! Within hours this man is the object of everything from hatred to death threats. Is this the "victory" that is supposedly being celebrated? If this individual is responsible for a retaliatory gassing of three dogs, then yes, it is somewhat of a victory. My question is, what if it wasn't this individual's decision to kill the dogs? He has a boss, right? He is a city employee, subject to the authority of several others in the Shawnee city government. How do we know he wasn't following someone else's orders?
 With all that being said, lets examine this "victory " that is being celebrated in Shawnee by the group of people initially planning to protest. The gas chamber is stil being used, three dogs died in it on Friday. There is still no clearly defined timeline for the gas chamber to be discontinued and replaced with humane lethal injection. The rumor that has been going around is that gassing will be replaced with heartstick, definitely not something to celebrate. Nothing at the Shawnee shelter has changed. The shelter is still closed on weekends. The hold time for stray animals is still only 48 hours. Animals are still brought in sick and injured with no veterinary care available. The adoption process is still complicated and unappealing. It is still very time consuming and cumbersome for rescues to become approved to pull from the shelter. Volunteers are still not allowed to work with the animals, providing temperament assessment or other information that rescues and adopters need. 
 From what I can see absolutely nothing has changed other than one shelter staff member being placed on administrative leave, and it's uncertain whether or not he is even the one responsible for the decision to gas the dogs. The reality in Shawnee today is that nothing  has improved and three dogs are dead. Where is the victory?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Eyes of the world

 Once again the eyes of the world are focused on the town of Shawnee Oklahoma. This time however, they are not viewing it in a favorable light.
 On Friday morning, four short days after the long awaited announcement that a date for the removal of the gas chamber would finally be announced in early 2016, animal control gassed to death three dogs. Three young, healthy, friendly and highly adoptable dogs were cruelly pushed into a small metal box. After a few minutes of confusion and fear, those dogs began to realize they couldn't breathe. Once they began the slow process of suffocation, the fear and the cries became overwhelming, scratching frantically at the door they were just pushed through, they cried pitifully with the last breath in their lungs as their organs began to shut down and death finally came. This process can take up to 40 minutes.
 The world is now wondering why this happened. The shelter was not full, the dogs weren't killed for space. These three dogs were in the shelter since December 3rd and 4th, for at least three of the days between December 3rd and December 11th the Shawnee animal control website was down, giving the animals in the shelter  no exposure. One of the dogs had a definite rescue commitment, he was to be pulled Friday morning and put in boarding until transportation to his wonderful new life in Colorado was arranged. Animal control was aware of this . They were informed by the small group of local rescuers who are in that shelter daily. This is the same group of rescuers who have been clearing the shelter of animals in immediate danger EVERY FRIDAY for the last six months. Animal control was also very aware of this fact, the other dogs would have been pulled that same day. Typically if any animals are to be gassed it happens at the end of the day on Friday, this frees up space for animals coming in over the weekend. Last Friday, for some reason was different, very different.
The question now being asked around the world is why? A lot has been happening around the community of Shawnee lately, the animal lovers of the world have been paying attention to the small city for a while now. The fight to get rid of the gas chamber has been going on for years, in Shawnee and the rest of the state. Last February's announcement that Shawnee would remove the gas chamber was met with cheers from animal lovers everywhere! Nothing else has been mentioned since then.
 Recently it was announced that a protest would be held at the Shawnee shelter, freedom of assembly and the right to protest is a fundamental right of all Americans and a great way to draw attention to the plight of Shawnee's animals. The animal lovers of Shawnee were united and inspired to go to last weeks city commissioners meeting where they spoke about the issues at the Shawnee shelter. Of course the removal of the gas chamber was brought up, prompting a response from the city manager, he stated that they were working on it and expected to announce a date for its removal by early 2016. The animal lovers of the world celebrated this announcement! 
The animal control officers of Shawnee Oklahoma are NOT animal lovers however. It seems that they were not happy with any of the recent attention directed at the Shawnee shelter. Apparently they chose to express their displeasure by gassing the three innocent dogs on Friday. This act of retaliation has not gone unnoticed, more attention than ever is directed at Shawnee. This attention, of course, is not positive, inspiring everything from death threats to claims of evidence that will show the animal control officers are guilty of animal cruelty. Animal cruelty is now a federal offense, the FBI plans to track animal cruelty cases starting in 2016. Anyone making such claims better have irrefutable evidence.
 What started out as such a positive week in Shawnee has ended on a miserable note. Three innocent dogs are dead. Hatred and threats directed towards the city of Shawnee and its animal control officers are everywhere, and this is just the beginning. A rally and protest are slated for the end of the week, with all the negative attention focused on Shawnee we know the world will be watching. My question is what happens next? Will we be witnessing the unnecessary deaths of animals weekly ? Daily? Will this war escalate with the animals paying the ultimate price, or will the city of Shawnee and its animal control officers give up the power trip and work with the world to make Shawnee better for everyone, especially the animals?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Rumor has it, change is on the way

 Last night was an important night in Shawnee Oklahoma, at least for animals and animal lovers it was. 
 Last night saw the monthly city commissioners meeting in the town of Shawnee. What made this meeting different was the four residents of Shawnee who came up to the podium and expressed their dissatisfaction with the animal shelter and its use of a gas chamber. The maximum number of people allowed to speak on a subject is four, although I saw a number of other Shawnee residents who may have spoken as well if they had the opportunity.
 The usual rhetoric put out about the issues at the Shawnee shelter tells us that it's "only people from outside of Shawnee that are bothered by the gassing shelter. The people of Shawnee don't have a problem with it." Well, last night's meeting proved that this statement is false!
 The sentiments expressed by the Shawnee residents prompted the city manager to address the issue as well. According to the city manager people should expect a date for the cessation of euthanasia by gas sometime in January or February of 2016. It was announced in February of this year that the city of Shawnee was planning to transition from the gas chamber to lethal injection. Until last night no other information has been reported on the issue. The city manager again stated that lethal injection would be the new euthanasia method.
 Unfortunately there seems to be conflicting information about what exactly is meant by "lethal injection ". After the initial announcement about the change, rumors began to fly about the lethal injection actually meaning heartstick, a particularly brutal method of "euthanasia". Apparently those rumors have resurfaced in full force after last night's meeting. Heartstick is completely unacceptable and no one should be willing to accept this.
 Something else of note has happened today, the Shawnee animal control website is down. This is the website where all the animals currently in the shelter can be viewed. The website hasn't been properly updated since last week and none of the animals recently brought in to the shelter can be seen.
The fear of animal control retaliating against any unfavorable publicity or situations they dislike, by gassing animals, has been expressed by numerous people over the course of many years. I don't know if there have been incidents in the past that created this attitude or if it's just another product of the rumor mill. Either way, I'm hearing a definite current of fear with today's situation.
 Now more than ever the animals of Shawnee need us. As of right now they, and the shelter, are receiving more attention than ever. Over 1,000 people are talking about this subject on Facebook and there is an article from the Examiner about last night's meeting. The people of Shawnee need to stick together and see this through to a positive outcome for the animals. Those willing to speak up should continue to attend city meetings, ask questions and keep pushing the issue until the correct changes occur. Those of us outside of Shawnee shouldn't forget that nothing is resolved yet, there is much work to be done and Shawnee and its animals can't be forgotten.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The right to harm

 A nasty piece of legislation passed the Oklahoma house and senate recently. Question 777, misleadingly named the right to farm bill. This question is slated to go on the ballots for Oklahoma voters in 2016.
 The right to farm, this sounds fair doesn't it? It doesn't sound so good  when you read the fine print and understand what this is really all about, and what it's real objective is. 
 Question 777 wants to amend the Oklahoma state constitution so that no changes or regulations can ever be imposed on the farming or ranching industry in the state. Basically this will give the farm bureau, along with the department of agriculture, free reign to do anything they want within the state under the guise of farming or ranching. The vaguely worded question 777 doesn't leave anything off the table, anything that falls under the farm bureau or dept. of agriculture is fair game for them to do as they please. How would you all like to see Oklahoma's land taken over by huge corporate "farms"? Ever seen a factory hog farm? They are utterly disgusting. These corporations would be free to run these so called farms in any way they please. This means goodbye to the small independent farmer. The guy I see selling homegrown potatoes from the back of his truck, how will he compete with the likes of Monsanto ? The ranchers who maintain modest herds of cattle won't have a chance against the huge unregulated factory farms. Of course there won't be any restriction or regulation of pollution that might come from these giants, whether it is in our water, land or air, it's part of "the right to farm" and laws can't be imposed to regulate it. These giant "farming" corporations would be free to use Oklahoma's  resources any way they want. Are people really ok with that?
 Now, let's talk about what is really at the heart of this initiative. Animal rights activists. Oklahoma, in general, has such a deep hatred for animal rights activists that they would pass a dangerous piece of legislation like this just to keep these activists from the state. To a point I can understand this, animal rights activists can get pretty extreme and animals do have a place in the farming and ranching industry. However, on the other side of that coin, Oklahoma does have a lot of issues around the humane treatment of animals that need attention. Without the activists bringing these issues to light, they would never change. If this measure passes it's unlikely we will ever see the end of gas chamber "euthanasia" in the state.  Without any oversight, puppy mills will flourish. Animals  will be freely available for scientific research. We will never see the desperately needed shelter reform or increased access to shelters. What is so "extreme" about any of this?
 In Oklahoma, pretty much anything animal related falls under the department of agriculture. The same department working so hard to push this legislation into law. For a state that prides itself on strong Christian values, the principles  of helping and caring, the "Oklahoma standard" certainly doesn't extend to the animals of the state.
 A vote for issue 777 will be a huge setback for the state. The potential harm that could be done if this becomes law, is truly frightening. It's time for Oklahoma to drop the "us against them" mentality, join the 21st century and start improving the quality of life for ALL its residents.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Heartlessness in America's heartland

In most Native American cultures animals were viewed as equal to humans.  Of course, animals were hunted, but only for food, and no part of the animal was wasted. It was common practice to ask the spirit of the animal  permission to take the life of the animal before it was killed.
Prior to becoming a state in 1907, a similar attitude was held throughout what is now Oklahoma. At that time schools were required to spend at least 30 minutes each day teaching animal welfare. Children were required to learn compassion and humane treatment of "dumb animals" as they were considered at that time.
It seems to be a very different attitude that we see in Oklahoma today. A survey was done recently to gather information on animal shelters within the state. There are a total of 136 shelters in the state of Oklahoma, of those, 28 provided no data. Eight of those shelters told surveyors they would not provide any data, the rest didn't return calls or couldn't be reached. Only 33 of the state shelters complied fully with the survey. The survey resulted in some disturbing data about animal welfare in the state of Oklahoma. Euthanasia methods ranged from lethal injection to gas chambers to heartstick to  bullets to the head. Some of the shelters fail to comply with state animal sterilization laws, unaltered animals are released to adopters at some shelters. The majority of people living in rural areas have no access to animal shelters at all, the shelters only accept animals from within the city where they are located, those of us outside city limits have no shelter resources available. Oklahoma state law allows countywide access to animal shelters only in counties with populations over 200,000, only three counties in the state have populations that meet this guideline. None of those counties provide a county wide animal shelter or animal control. I guess that explains all the animals I see wandering the streets, getting hit by cars. Animal dumping  is rampant in the state and spayed and neutered pets are rare in rural settings. Several attempts to get rid of the population mandates that restrict the ability of counties to provide shelters have been made, they are shot down by the association of county commissioners every time, just as the attempts to ban the use of gas chambers in shelters have been shot down the last two years. Animal  welfare laws are motivated by something other than compassion in the state of Oklahoma. There have been numerous horror stories about conditions and incidents In Oklahoma animal shelters, only a few actually make the news.
Lawmakers and officials at all levels in Oklahoma like to tell people that it's only "outsiders" that are bothered by the way things are done here. I know this isn't true, there is an ever increasing number of Oklahoma citizens that are not happy with the way animal welfare, along with a number of other issues, is handled. 
Somewhere in the early part of the last century Oklahoma got stuck, many ideas and practices within the state are throwbacks to a much earlier, less enlightened time. Unfortunately for the animals at least, it isn't the time when compassion for animals was taught in schools.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Redress of grievances

Freedom of speech, freedom of peaceable assembly, these are two of the inalienable rights protected by the document known as the bill of rights.
Protest has been an integral part of American history. Without protesters opposing what they view as injustice America as we know it wouldn't exist.
 There is a nationwide protest planned for December 18, a protest against kill shelters and other acts of cruelty towards animals.  I don't necessarily agree with the specific plan of this protest, it is scheduled to be an overnight sleep out during one of the coldest months. That is a hard thing for many people to do. It seems to me, if you are going to protest something you would want as many people as possible to know about it. It's unlikely that many people will notice an overnight protest, especially since most animal shelters are not located in heavily populated areas. Shelters tend to be found on the outskirts or less populated areas of town.
 In order for this protest to have any impact people need to know about it and people need to show up to protest. I'd  like to encourage everyone to get the word out about this, slam the local media with information about this protest,start now, let every media outlet in the vicinity of the protest sites know. Social media is a powerful tool but it is not the only tool. Use every tool available. 
Peaceable protest is one of the more powerful instruments of change we have available in this country but protest is meaningless if no one is aware of the protest, the issues that are being protested and the desired resolution. If you want to be the voice of change you must be willing to speak up and make yourself heard.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Animals among us

Today I had the pleasure (it's difficult to use that word even sarcastically) of visiting the Shawnee shelter, inside, up close and personal with all the animals, even the one working the front desk. 
The kennel area was quite clean, the interior kennel area completely free of any kind of clutter. You know, those messy things like food or water bowls or beds. I couldn't say what was outside as I couldn't see it.  The animals in this place were obviously terrified. I saw several shivering as they sat or lay in their kennel. Others barked, whined or growled out of nervousness or fear.  They all shared one thing though, that same, sick, terrified look in their eyes. The most heartbreaking was the older shepherd mix who was an owner surrender. Yes, she was abandoned in this hellhole by her owner. How many years of loyalty had she given her owner, only to be discarded in this horrible place? 
Probably the worst example of animal behavior that I saw today came from the individual working the front desk. No greeting or acknowledgement for the rescuers coming in to save the animals relegated to his "care". I guess it's easier to throw them in the gas chamber than deal with paperwork. This attitude was quite obvious in his reaction to the paperwork that had been faxed in by the rescue that was trying to help me pull this dog. The same rescue that tried all Friday afternoon to call the shelter to find out what the procedure was, and to tell them they were sending their paperwork. This shelter employee was absolutely indignant that the rescue had the nerve to ask them to hold this particular dog for them. Imagine that, someone asking them to put in such a huge amount of effort to save a dog. This employee was so busy flinging the paperwork around and ranting about how they didn't hold animals for anyone, that he didn't hear my questions about how to get the appropriate paperwork to the rescue requesting the dog. Much like their inability to answer the phone, they seem to turn a deaf ear to anyone wanting to help.
The Shawnee shelter is one ugly nightmare created by a variety of factors; The attitude of the state government and many citizens toward animal welfare. The ignorance, willful or otherwise, of the locals in their refusal to spay & neuter , vaccinate, or properly care for their pets. The shelter staff, caring and compassion are definitely not job requirements and any venture into the modern world is obviously also unthinkable.
With all these factors, is there any hope for shelter reform in Shawnee,
or will the dedicated and overwhelmed rescuers continue to be the only hope for the unfortunate animals who end up there?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Primitive methods in a modern world

 I have yet another story about the nightmare that is the Shawnee Oklahoma animal "shelter". I am trying to get a dog out of the shelter so it won't be gassed to death, the dogs hold time is up Monday morning, it could be gassed anytime after its hold time ends. I have an out of state rescue trying to help me pull this dog. In order for any rescue to be approved to pull they must fax, yes fax, proof of their 501c3 certification to the shelter. Apparently they don't use email in animal control in Shawnee. Someone from the out of state rescue and I spent all Friday afternoon trying to call the shelter to tell them we were faxing the paperwork. Apparently they don't answer phones either...
 This brings me to the story of this poor cat who found himself in the Shawnee shelter this summer. This cat was picked up by animal control and taken to the shelter, sometime during the 48 hour stray hold it was decided that this was a feral cat. He was gassed to death. Very shortly after the cat was killed a woman and her young daughter came in to the shelter looking for their missing cat. They had tried repeatedly to call the shelter to ask if they had picked up any cats matching the description of their missing pet.The phone was never answered, so they came to the shelter. The woman was told that a cat matching the description of hers had come in, and had already been gassed. The woman asked to see the body of the cat so she could be certain it was hers. The woman, along with her young daughter, was told no, it was not something a woman should see.  What kind of condition was this poor cats body in? How horrific must the death have been? 
Death by gas chamber is not easy. It can take up to 45 minutes for an animal to die. 45 minutes of slowly suffocating, organs shutting down, lungs desperate for air. The animal screaming and clawing wildly at the walls of the chamber, and any other animal that might be in there with it. That, it seems is what happened to this woman's pet. Perhaps this cat would have been spared this fate if someone had answered the phone.
How many other lives have been lost over the years because of unanswered phones and rigid rules for approving rescues? Most people don't have or use fax machines anymore. Email is the communication method of the world today. Is there any good reason Shawnee animal control can't use email to get the required paperwork done? 
I will continue to do all I can to get this dog safety out of the shelter. I truly hope another life isn't lost because no one can answer a phone or use email.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

An epidemic of ignorance

Most people in America, and much of the rest of the world, recognize that there is a serious  problem with over crowded animal shelters everywhere. Shelters are overflowing and most of the animals who end up in a shelter never get out. Those of us in animal rescue are acutely aware of this. We also understand that conditions in many of these shelters are deplorable. The holding areas are terrible and the shelter employees  are uncaring and even cruel. Animals are frequently killed because of limited space and sometimes for no discernible reason at all. I've heard of shelter animals being killed as retaliation because the shelter received complaints. The number of shelter horror stories is unbelievable. Animal rescuers and many other concerned people would like to change this.
 We hear a lot about the need for shelter reform, even efforts to make America a no kill nation. Is this a possibility? Can we achieve a no kill nation here or anywhere else for that matter? The answer is no. It is not possible, for many reasons. The number one reason no kill is impossible is the shear number of ignorant or uncaring people. Of course we don't like to think that about our fellow man, but sadly it's true.
 The biggest problem facing us is simple overpopulation. People don't spay and neuter their pets. The reasons why are numerous. The cost is too high, it's too hard to find a low cost clinic. Simple selfishness is often to blame, "I just can't do that to my pet." "I just want one litter." I think we've all heard these kinds of stories. The number of unwanted pets born each year is staggering.
The next biggest problem we see is animals that are not properly cared for. They are never vaccinated or given vet care. We see them running loose everywhere, getting in garbage, chasing other animals, often emaciated and unhealthy. Some of these animals actually have homes, they are not strays. In the area around my house dead dogs in or on the side of the roads are a common sight. They are hit by cars all the time. I don't live near a major highway or a heavily trafficked area. I live on a rural two lane road. The dogs are dying this way because people dump them in the woods or refuse to restrain them on their property. They run loose and get hit, or picked up by animal control and taken to a shelter.The other part of this particular equation is that many people don't even try to avoid hitting them. Animals lives just don't matter to many people. 
We see evidence of just how little value is placed on the lives of animals everywhere we look. It is in the over filled shelters. It is seen in the inhumane "euthanasia " methods used in many so called shelters.It is in the number of dead animals seen on roadsides everywhere. The abused, neglected, starving animals seen around the world are all irrefutable proof that there is not enough human caring and compassion in the world to hope for a system of no kill shelters anywhere. Until the attitudes of humans change we will continue to see shelters overfilled with unwanted animals that have found themselves there by many different means, none of which is the fault of the animals. 
Shelter reform is needed without a doubt,  but humanity reform is needed even more desperately.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Meet Bristol

Bristol is our OCD girl! She can only come into the house by going around the perimeter of the yard! Every time, no matter where she is in the yard she will follow the exact same route to come in. Bristol was our second dog, after getting Fritz we decided we wanted a female. We found an ad on Craigslist for a female German Shepherd for sale nearby. We drove out to the address we were given that evening. No one was home when we got there so we walked around the property. We found several dogs in a small kennel area, a horse in a corral and, in the middle of the horse corral, a pen. This pen was constructed of mismatched wire and old wood. Inside the pen was a partial wooden structure, it was made of three walls and part of a roof that had collapsed on one side. The pen was filled with horse manure and there was a large trash pile on one side of it. Also in this pen were two German Shepherd puppies. It was mid October which in Colorado is quite cold. We got back in the car to warm up and call the person who owned the puppies. She told us she was running late, she was picking up her daughter and would be there shortly. We sat and waited, playing with the puppies until we got too cold. We found ourselves really hoping that second puppy was spoken for because the thought of leaving any puppy in that horrible place was unbearable.
Eventually a car pulled up and a woman and young girl got out. The woman reeked of alcohol and Lysol. She was slurring her words as she tried to tell us all about the female puppy. The first thing we asked was if the second puppy was taken. No, she told us as she stumbled  over to open the pen, he was available. I crouched down as she released the pups, the little male  puppy immediately came over to me, put his paw on my leg and looked at me. My husband and I looked at each other and he told the woman we were taking both pups. We settled on a price for both, she was desperate for the money and agreed pretty quickly. We left with two puppies, brother and sister who became Bristol and Kuno.
 On the ride home both puppies vomited, large piles of horse manure, grass and cigarette butts. I think that had been the staple of their diet. 
This was an example of backyard breeding, not even the worst of it. I've heard many nightmare stories of backyard breeders that were far worse. These are the breeders who need to be stopped. 
When Bristol was about a year old we learned she has an autoimmune disease, it caused the muscles of her head and jaw to shrink making it difficult for her to eat. We adjusted her diet to soft foods and she began to gain weight. Apart from her small head Bristol is a very healthy active girl today, a little OCD but we love her!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Meet Logan

Today is Logan's third birthday. The only reason we know his birthday is because he was first dumped at the shelter in Lancaster Ca. when he was only a few weeks old. The shelter recorded his birthday at intake. 
Logan has been with us for a little over a year now. We found him when he was dumped in the same shelter for the second time. Logan was another one that just kind of grabbed us, he was emaciated in his shelter picture but still smiling. We had him pulled and brought him and Bellini back to Oklahoma to join the growing pack!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Meet Tripper

Tripper came to us two years ago. He came from the Devore shelter in California. This shelter had just taken in about forty dogs from a local hoarding situation. Most of those dogs were white German Shepherd mixes. I discovered Tripper when I learned about the hoarding situation. I was looking at shelter photos of all the dogs they had taken in. I don't know if Trip was part of that group of dogs or not. What I do know is that something about him grabbed me, he looked so sad and defeated in his shelter picture.
 We arranged to have him pulled and boarded as soon as he was available. In the shelter Trip wouldn't stand or walk on his own, he had given up. This continued even after he was pulled. Finally we got him home, he was covered in ticks and his ears were raw with fly bites. Tripper had to be half carried and half dragged into the house. Even though he was very thin he is still a large dog and getting him to move was not easy! 
 Tripper didn't know anything about being in a house, he had no idea how to go up or down stairs, he didn't even know what dog food was. Trip thought food was supposed to be taken out of the garbage can. The first few days he was very quiet and he kept to himself. Fortunately Trip started walking on his own soon after he came home. It took a little longer for him to start eating  dog food instead of garbage. We learned that Trip  had started eating when we discovered huge piles of unchewed dog food that he had vomited up! Apparently he started eating and didn't stop, stuffing himself until his poor stomach couldn't take any more! Eventually Trip learned to go up and down stairs (he's still pretty clumsy) he started interacting with the other dogs and he even learned to use the doggy door!
Now, just over two years later, Tripper is known as the big meatball, he is a total goofball!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Meet Maybe

I have been working with local rescue groups, fostering animals from the nearby gassing shelter. One Friday afternoon I got a call from one of the local rescuers, they were trying to get dogs out of the shelter. Animals are often gassed on Friday to make room for animals that come in over the weekend. They were desperate for fosters, could I take any? I chose a young dog labeled a lab mix, she reminded me of my Rita, I couldn't say no to that! I picked up the dog that evening, a tiny, emaciated girl. Within about an hour we were in love with her, and thinking maybe we would keep this one. 
By Saturday evening it was clear that she was sick. She wasn't eating and she had diarrhea and some vomiting. We feared Parvo, so first thing Sunday morning we took her to the emergency vet. Our fear was confirmed with a diagnosis of Parvo. She was admitted to the animal hospital for treatment. The next day she was transferred to our regular vet where she stayed for another three nights. 
As soon as I got the diagnosis of Parvo I contacted the group who had pulled her from the shelter, I wanted to make sure they were aware so they could let everyone who had taken dogs recently know. Parvo is often very treatable when caught early. I was told that they would do a fundraiser to help with the expense of the Parvo treatment. After three nights at the vet the little girl was ready to come home! She was a new dog, adorable and lovable and ready to play!
The promised fundraiser never happened and we never received any reimbursement for the vet bills we paid, but that was ok. Little Maybe had become a definitely and she was home to stay!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Meet Fritz

Fritz is our only animal that is not a rescue. Now, some people might think it strange that someone who rescues and advocates for animals would have a dog purchased from a breeder. Let me clarify by saying I am an advocate for ANIMALS and without good, ethical, conscientious breeders, where would animals be? We would be over run with unhealthy genetically weak animals. If the only people producing animals were doing it illegally what kind of animals would we have? Let's face it, a lot of people will only get specific breeds of dogs. Whether these dogs are for work or just companionship and love of a certain breed, people should be able to get the dog they want. 
Now let's talk about puppy mills, backyard breeders and those who churn out as many pups as they can just to make money. These are NOT ok. They do nothing to improve the breed. These people don't care about the health, personality or genes being passed on through breeding. It's all about making money. These operations need to be stopped and breeding left to the few quality breeders out there. Of course, no matter how good the breeder, there's no way to know what might happen to the dog after it leaves the breeder. Many top quality dogs do end up in shelters, this is not the fault of the breeder or the dog. The fault lies solely on the person who chose to take the dog to the shelter.
The majority of problems with pet overpopulation and full shelters come from irresponsible pet owners. The people who don't spay and neuter, the people who don't properly socialize and train their dogs, the people who don't take proper care of their pets, these are the problems. 
So by all means, let's protest puppy mills and backyard breeders, shut them down! Let's do everything we possibly can to educate people on the importance of spaying and neutering. Let's find a way to make low cost spay and neuter programs more readily available, especially in rural areas. Let's also find a way to educate people on what it means to be a responsible pet owner, and how important it is to be prepared for the pet they are getting. Let's do all these things, and then take a moment to appreciate the breeders who are doing things right.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Meet Tank

Tank is one of our newest arrivals. He came to us very unexpectedly a few weeks before Christmas. I was in the kitchen early one morning, two of the dogs were looking out the front window and barking. That's not a bit unusual, there's always someone barking in my house! I noticed the neighbors dog running down the street, also not unusual, she runs loose a lot. Then something else caught my eye, something very small moving around in the road. I watched for a bit but it didn't seem to be following the other dog. Finally curiosity got the best of me and I walked down to the road. By the time I got there the neighbors dog was way down the road, but a few feet away in the middle of the road was a tiny puppy! He saw me and came toward me, I ran over to him and scooped him up, all 3.5 pounds of him. He immediately started nuzzling my neck and making adorable puppy noises. I carried him up to the house. 

He was so tiny I wasn't sure if he was able to eat real food or not. He didn't seem interested in the food I offered him. I left him with my son and went into town to stock up on puppy food,  milk replacer and a bottle, just in case! I discovered he was able to eat the canned food, but he really liked the milk replacer!

I got him in to the vet a few days later, that's when I found out how much he weighed and that he was approximately four weeks old! He became Tank, the tenth dog in our pack!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Opening the doors of perception

Animal rights activists. That phrase can conjure up a lot of ugly images. Wild eyed lunatics wearing meat and flinging blood on people wearing fur. We've all read the headlines or seen the sound bites for stories like this. The extremists are the ones that get the attention, no matter what the cause is. Apparently that is the image that certain elements in the Oklahoma state government want us all to think of whenever we hear animal rights mentioned.
 This years "right to farm" bill, supposedly created to protect the citizens of Oklahoma's right to farm and ranch, is an example of that.  No one was ever trying to take that right away. Why was such a bill needed? Why did the advertisements include the part about "preventing outside interests from telling us how to care for our animals. Why is it that each year a bill is introduced in the Oklahoma state government that would ban the use of gas chambers for euthanasia and each year these bills disappear after being sent to the department of agriculture for "evaluation"? Why? Why are puppy mills so plentiful in Oklahoma? Why are there so many inhumane practices allowed in farming and ranching here in Oklahoma? Are there crazy animal rights activists lining the streets flinging meat and blood at the farmers and ranchers? I don't think so.
Is someone profiting from keeping these practices in place? Or is it just a simple fear of change, those outside influences the advertising for the right to farm bill warns us of? Could it be just the simple fact that Oklahoma needs to take steps to enter the modern world. The "good old boys" in our state government and their lobbying friends need to be replaced with some new ideas and fresh thinking. 
We don't want to throw blood on anyone nor do we want to take away anyone's livelihood. All we want is to see our animals treated more humanely and have more opportunities to live! It's time for the people of Oklahoma to make their voices heard. Contact your state officials, your local city and county governments, tell them to stop listening to voices from the past and start listening to the voices of our animals. 
This is what most "animal rights activists" really look like. We don't fling blood or wear meat, we don't do  anything crazy. We put in countless hours, unbelievable effort, lots of tears,  often our last dime, all in the hopes of saving and improving the lives of our furry friends.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The tangled web

The world of animal rescue is pretty convoluted, even crazy. It's not all puppies with wagging tails going home from adoption fairs with smiling families. There is a dark side, and honestly, all aspects of this dark side disgust me. This is why I've worked privately and somewhat "under the radar" all these years. I don't want to be part of the drama.
 There have been several stories recently about "rescues " being closed down, animals found dead, starved or kept in horrible conditions. In some cases those running the rescue are prosecuted, others have disappeared. Sadly this is not anything new. Many so called rescuers are just after money. The money pledged by good people who want to help the animals. These "rescues " collect the pledge money then stash the animals somewhere, usually neglecting them until they die. Sometimes the "rescued" animals are dropped at other shelters and sometimes, especially in the case of purebred puppies, they are sold. Shelters don't help, many of them make animals available to rescues before they are available to adopters. I've had that happen. I wanted to adopt an animal only to be told it was given to a rescue because rescues have first choice. Some of the horror stories about animal "rescue" will blow your mind.
There is another issue in animal rescue that I've found to be far more prevalent, but just as destructive. This is the issue of human ego. Everyone wants to be the hero, the one to "save" the animals. Unfortunately this usually causes more harm than good. I've seen incidents where "rescuers" report each other for animal cruelty, for having too many animals in the home, or any other violation they can think up. The finger pointing, bad mouthing and accusations between supposed rescuers is unbelievable. What happens when someone is reported for any of these violations? The animals are seized and taken back to a shelter. How is that a victory???
I ran into a situation recently, a group was pulling animals from our local gas chamber shelter, lots of animals. With the exception of one poor cat that the shelter gassed because they decided it was feral, there haven't been any animals gassed in months. That's a good thing right? The animals are not dying in the gas chamber.  What's been happening is that many of the animals have rescues, legitimate out of state rescues who are backing the animals and having them fostered until they can be transported.  This is very common and perfectly fine. Not all the animals being pulled have rescues though. Many are pulled just to prevent them from being gassed. That's not necessarily a bad thing either, no one wants to have an animal gassed to death. The animals are placed with fosters while volunteers look for a rescue willing to take them. Still not necessarily a bad thing, right? The problems start when the animals get sick or there is some other problem that makes the foster unable to keep the animal. What happens then? If you see the little puppy in your care start to get sick, what do you do? You are not likely to get any help from the people who placed the animal with you, there's no rescue backing the animal, remember? You have to make a choice, do you seek vet care, at your own expense, or do you watch the animal get sicker and possibly die? What if you can't afford vet care? Treatment for a case of Parvo is usually $1,000 or more. A lot of animals coming out of Shawnee are sick, I personally have spent almost $2,000 on "fosters". Fortunately this doesn't happen all the time, many animals don't get sick and they get placed with rescues, everything works out ok. But what if it does happen? How should a problem like this be handled? My thought is that the individuals pulling the animals should fundraise, they should have a fund to help with these situations, you caring, go fund me, lots of options for individual fund raising.  I've considered offering to help with this, but this group has made it clear they don't want help.  Is this another case of ego getting in the way of doing what's right? Maybe. Maybe they are figuring this out and putting something in place to help the fosters and the sick animals. Obviously no one wants to hear that animals are being gassed because they aren't being rescued. But what happens after they are pulled? 
In the world of animal rescue caution is always advised. Know who you are giving your money to and how they use it, and if you foster an animal be absolutely certain about who it belongs to and who is responsible for it.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Meet Margo

Margo is the sister of Rita. These little girls came to us from the shelter in Lancaster Ca.  About two years ago word was going around that there was a lot of illness in the shelter and puppies were being killed first, sometimes without even being made available for adoption. We learned that there were some shepherd mix puppies that were facing this fate. We decided we couldn't let that happen so we arranged to have them pulled and boarded until we could get out there and get them. This was all sight unseen! We had no idea what we were getting until we saw them, all 4.5 and 5 pounds of them! We thought at first they were chihuahuas! We then contemplated the idea of a German shepherd chihuahua mix. Is such a thing even possible??? That led us to make up a breed for them, they were to be Mexican shepherds, thus the names Margo & Rita! They couldn't be more different in personality but together they are the loves of my life!

Meet Rita

Rita is my resident savant. Rita is one of those dogs that's too smart to be trained easily. She has to consider everything you tell her and decide for herself if it makes sense, and, of course, if it's in her best interest. Rita is very skilled at opening doors and finding ways into the house when she doesn't want to be outside anymore.
Every morning I take all 11 dogs for a walk around the property. Yes, it is absolute chaos for the first few minutes. The whole purpose of these walks is to exercise them and make them tired. I throw sticks for them to chase almost the whole time. They run a lot on our walks and usually come home tired. When we get home I put them all in the yard to relax while I clean the house. Well, Rita doesn't like to be outside a lot, she likes to be close to me most of the time. For some reason she really doesn't want to be outside after our walks. Lately when we come back to the house, while I am busy opening the gate and herding all the other dogs into the yard, Rita goes into the garage. She then opens the door to the house and comes inside. Her sister Margo has figured out what she is doing and sometimes follows her in to the house. Margo likes to be outside more than Rita does so she doesn't follow her in all the time. I've given up on trying to prevent this, I just let her be!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Friday night

Friday night! There are locations all over the country

Innocence lost

Something happened this past weekend that was very upsetting, to me and apparently a lot of other animal lovers.
 A young puppy was picked up by animal control in the city of Shawnee. Shawnee is the home of the nearby gas chamber shelter. The puppy was brought in on Sunday and died that night in the shelter. It was not gassed. Instead he died alone in one of the bleak holding cells in the shelter. Blankets and beds are not provided at this facility. This poor puppy died alone on the cold hard floor of a completely uncaring facility.
 The Shawnee shelter does not provide any vetting, no vaccinations, no vet exams, nothing. Volunteers are not allowed and this shelter is closed on weekends. This poor puppy had absolutely no chance at care. Animal control in Shawnee doesn't seem to be particularly caring, how could you be if you work in a shelter that uses a barbaric euthanasia method like the gas chamber? Maybe there would have been no way to prevent this death, it does happen. But what if this puppy could have been saved ? We will never know because he's dead. The Shawnee shelter needs reform, not just by removing the gas chamber, but on many levels. The people of Oklahoma are not overwhelmingly cruel or uncaring, 
but the attitude promoted by the state government and legislation in the state is.
RIP little one.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Meet Sun Valley Shepherds

How many people have thought, at one time or another, that their life should be a reality show? I know I have! My life is a bit different though. I share my life, heart and home with 11 dogs, 5 cats and an assortment of livestock. We all live together on a ranch in Oklahoma. Collectively we are Sun Valley Shepherds! 
 None of the TV networks have  come knocking on our door offering us a reality show yet, so I decided to share our lives and adventures here! We also have a Facebook page filled with pictures and the history of our unique family.
 Sun Valley Shepherds is a nonprofit animal rescue, sanctuary and advocate. We are also the biggest foster failures ever! That's why we have so many animals that call the ranch home.
 We originally started rescuing German shepherds, they are one of the breeds most prevalent in shelters today. Other dogs have found their way to us over the years so we are no longer exclusive GSD rescuers! We love them all, cats too!
 We moved to Oklahoma a little  over a year ago from the beautiful state of Colorado. Talk about culture shock! The county we lived in in Colorado was no kill, the only shelter was a no kill shelter and animal rescue is a very big deal throughout the state. Oklahoma is a bit different. Not only is animal rescue less prevalent, they still use gas chambers to "euthanize " animals. This was a very unpleasant surprise, especially since one of these places is fairly close to where we live. So, with the move to Oklahoma and the eye opening experience of gas chambers, we broadened our horizons. Sun Valley Shepherds still specializes in German shepherds but we are also putting a lot of effort into rescuing animals from the gas chamber shelters and advocating for shelter reform. NO MORE GAS CHAMBERS!!! That is our ultimate goal. Oklahoma has some nasty, little known facts surrounding the use of gas chambers. We will explore these more as we go along.
 Please join us in the world of Sun Valley Shepherds!