Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Halloween!

One of the perks of having a forever home is having someone to dress you up for Halloween! 
(though it is difficult to tell if they all think of this as a 'perk')

ChloeBuffalo, Blondie and Starr were all adopted through TAGS.

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This is a blog hop. 
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Monday, October 28, 2013

In the Defence of Quincy

Last Saturday, I had my monthly PetSmart shift. I was at the Whitby location with another volunteer and two adoptable dogs, Colt and Quincy.

As usual, the dogs are what attracted customers over to the TAGS booth. Then, we humans took over, answering questions about the pets up for adoption, the adoption process and our need for more foster homes. It was a pretty standard shift, complete with lots of doggy eye-candy (I love seeing all of the different dogs and their owners walk through the door!)

Tell me there isn't some teddy bear in there. 
But this time, in addition to answering the standard questions, I spent a fair bit of my four hour shift defending Quincy, a 10-year old Bichon Frise/Mini Poodle mix who from some angles looks like he could also be mixed with teddy bear. Why would I feel the need to defend such a cutie? Well, Quincy no longer has any of his teeth, and as a result he shakes/rotates his head often and plays with his tongue. It's almost as if his tongue falls out of his mouth, and he tries to get it back in. I suppose at first glance, it is a bit distracting and "weird." I happen to find it very endearing, and found myself imagining that he was listening to a song no one else could hear and couldn't help but head bang along with it.

Nevertheless, I felt like Quincy was repeatedly, and unfairly, judged for this quality and this quality alone. It is normal for people to have questions, and of course, that is what we are there for, to answer questions about the adoptable pets. However, I felt like I rarely got the chance to talk about Quincy's good qualities so I wanted to share them now.

Quincy's qualities
Quincy is a normal dog who will make a fantastic pet when he finds his forever home. Yes, Quincy is a senior, but you would never know it if the lack of teeth didn't give it away. He enjoys playing with his foster siblings and has a youthful personality. When I took him for a pee break outside, he was peppy and eager to sniff everything - even though it was cold and wet outside.

Despite being unable to defend himself, Quincy is polite and well-trained. He let other dogs approach him, and politely approached other dogs in return when we were out for our walk break. While he was exhibiting signs of nervousness in his crate (in the form of adorable squeaking noises) he didn't bark even once during the whole shift. He only seemed to do the tongue thing when he was in the crate or otherwise unoccupied: if distracted by a walk or a toy, you'd never know that he has such a habit.

Quincy showing off his (lack of) pearly whites. 
Where did his teeth go? 
When Quincy was found, he was wandering around a busy street. He was in very rough shape and all of his teeth were rotten and infected right into his gums, which was undoubtedly painful. The decision was made that he would be better off having them all removed. This was back in the summer, and Quincy has been doing great ever since. He doesn't seem to miss his teeth at all and is healthier for it.

(What) does he eat?
A common question I received on Saturday regarding Quincy was, funnily enough, not "what does he eat?" but instead, "Does he eat?" which I found to be quite amusing. Of course he eats! Quincy requires a diet of soft food and even then, it needs to be cut up into very small pieces. It's definitely more work than simply pouring kibble into a bowl. And sometimes Quincy gets bored of soft food, so his foster mom gives him small pieces of kibble that she has soaked in warm water. Putting the mixture through a blender is also a good idea to ensure that he will get his proper nutrients.

A Final Plea
I understand that it can be daunting to take on an animal with special needs, but I can assure you after spending some time with this guy that the pros outweigh the cons. I hope you will give Quincy, and other dogs you meet who may be a bit "different," a chance to be welcomed into your home. I believe without a doubt that Quincy would make a great pet. I hope he finds his forever home soon, where he can settle in and peacefully spend the rest of his days, head shakes and all. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Happy Tail: Nell!

Nell came to TAGS at the end of December 2012. At that time, she was estimated to be just over a year old. TAGS named her Noelle because if we had not rescued her in time, the shelter she was at in the United States was planning to euthanize her on Christmas Eve. Before ending up at the shelter, she was living in a hoarding situation, so needless to say, her life has been a bit rocky. 

This adorable rat terrier mix was in foster care for about 7 months. During every PetSmart or Pet Valu shift, volunteers and customers would gush over her sweet face and contagious energy. But nevertheless, she remained up for adoption.

Then, in July, that sweet face one again grabbed someone's attention, but this time they couldn’t look away, and she was finally adopted! After that, she got a new name to go along with her new life. 

An Interview With Nell’s New Mom, Lynda:

1. How and why did you decide to adopt a rescue dog?
It was totally by "accident.” We had just heard a sad tale about a dog on the radio and it prompted me to search the internet. TAGS popped up and suddenly there was Nell's photo. I sort of knew right there and then.

2. Why did you only put in an application for Nell (and not any of the other dogs)?
Her face.

3. When you actually met Nell, did you know right away that she was who you were looking for? Did it take a few days ? Tell me how this process went for you.
To be honest, it was a done deal before we even left our house [to go meet her]. We're not ones to "think about it" when it comes to an animal.  However, once we actually saw her we were certain. In fact, we were impatient for the whole adoption process to be finished so that we could officially take her home.

4. What were Nell's first days with you like?
Interesting. We hadn't had a young, active, inquisitive, dog in our home in a long while.  There was a lot of adjustment on all sides. I'm happy to be getting new shoes out of the deal.

5. How did the training classes* go? 

Welllllll, Nell is not much of a student, and is a bit aggressive when on a leash.  We learned lots, though.
*When you adopt a dog from TAGS, an eight-week behaviour training course is included 

6. Tell us some funny/quirky/endearing stories about Nell.
(Do you really have that much time?) During her first week with us, Nell discovered that squirrels and rabbits enjoyed our yard - past tense. She took note of their various points of entry and exit and checked them regularly. To this day, when we let her out, she bursts out the door, clambers down the stairs and across the deck, and runs her perimeter check - lilac bush, back gate, tub garden, side fence, and back up to the deck. Then, and only then can she enjoy the yard.  

P.S.: Pretty much everything about Nell is endearing.
Left: Yipee! Nell in the car on the first day of her extended visit.
Right: Nell bashfully sports a Thundershirt.
7. Now that it's been several months, do you think Nell knows that she's "home"?
We know that she knows. When we go on our walks, she sniffs her way around, but as soon as we hit the bottom of our driveway she drags us up to the front door, which cannot be opened fast enough for her to get in.

8. What are your favourite things about Nell?
She "loves" with her whole body. Coming home from work, and walking into the house is a major doggy celebration.  Her entire (wiggly) body welcomes us home every single time.

9. How is she getting along with Mona? (Mona is a senior Jack Russell Terrier who has lived with the family since she was a puppy.)
Now that it's been a while, they have developed an understanding. Every now and then they'll tear through the house together, which is funny because Nell has a great deal of exuberance, but no brakes. They both understand that Mona is the boss and is not to be questioned - ever!

10. Any other facts or anecdotes about your adoption experience that you would like to share?We know why it was a long process, but it was the longest three weeks of our lives. We appreciate everything that TAGS does, and are really glad that you were all there when Nell needed you most.  We highly recommend rescuing your next best friend. It's well worth it.
Nell with (some of) her new family members. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Chappie's Gotcha Day!

Chappie found his forever home one year ago.
Happy 1st "Gotcha" Day, Chap!

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Safety Tips for Spooky Times

In 10 short days from now, critters and monsters of all sorts will be roaming the streets and knocking on doors looking for their sugar fix. Whether you are planning to go all out for Hallowe’en with decorations, or if you just intend to have candy in a bowl at the door, if you are a pet owner, you should be aware of some potential dangers.

Bosco is glum. He wanted to be a clown
for Hallowe'en but the nose wouldn't fit.
Trick or Treating
Most dogs get pretty excited when they hear a knock at the door. To make sure they don’t run outside or become overwhelmed with the excitement of their first dinosaur sighting, consider putting up a gate so they can’t get too close to the trick or treaters. Alternatively, if you think they won’t become too anxious (some pups like to know what is going on), you can keep them in the basement or in a separate room. It is not recommended that they stay in the backyard. While most of the people out and about are just kids in costume, Hallowe’en night is also a time when vicious pranksters like to get their thrills. Keep your pets safe by having them inside, or with you, at all times. Similarly, if you have outdoor cats, it is highly recommended that you keep them indoors for several days before and after October 31.

If you are going trick or treating with the little ones and would like to bring your dog along, consider getting them a collar or leash with LED lights so they are easily spotted. Don’t forget treats and clean-up bags!

Hallowe’en Decorations and Costumes
 Josie didn't want to be anything scary,
so she's going as a ladybug.
Be aware of the decorations you are putting up around the inside and outside of the house. Wires and electrical decorations are dangerous for your pets because they may want to chew or pull on them. Blow-up decorations and plastic skeletons may seem like a bonus-size chew toy for your pet, but if they haven’t been made with pets in mind, they might be unsafe. Lastly, while we all love the glow of a Jack o’Lantern, the flickering lights and interesting smell are enough to make any animal curious. Avoid injury by using flame-less LED tea lights, which are available at stores like Walmart.

If you’re going to dress up your pet, try on their costume in advance. Make sure it doesn't itch or irritate them anywhere, and if they seem upset or restricted, a decorative bandana may be a better option.

After the trick or treating has come to an end, remember to keep the Hallowe’en haul out of your pets’ reach. Chocolate and candy should never be ingested by dogs and cats and the wrappers are very dangerous for them as well.

Have a safe and Happy Hallowe'en, everyone!  

This blog post was written with help from Pet Valu and PetMD.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: You've Cat To Be Kitten Me!

For the first time in a long time, TAGS has kittens up for adoption! 

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This is a blog hop.
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Friday, October 11, 2013

The Best Way for Your Dog to Ride in the Car with You

Exceptional Canine: Active Dog

By Stacey Brecher for Exceptional Canine

Ready to hit the road with your dog? Before you put the car into drive, it’s important to make sure that your dog is safe. Some options for properly restraining your dog while in the car are in a crate, a harness or a seat belt.

Using a Crate
The Best Way for Your Dog to Ride in the Car with YouIf you decide to keep your dog in a crate for the duration of the car ride, and your vehicle has enough room to stow it, the crate should be large enough for your dog to lie down or stand up and turn around. Bill Rabenberg, owner/trainer at Red Iron Kennels of Manor, Texas explains: “You must also ensure the crate is not so large that the dog can easily be tossed around inside,” he said. “It’s helpful to include a soft crate-bed to provide padding for the dog to lie on, but torn newspapers or cedar shavings also provide a soft spot for animals still learning to ride without getting carsick, and these make cleaning up a snap.”
Keeping your dog in a crate stops your pet from moving around the vehicle while it’s in motion, and also prevents him and you from injury during a sudden stop or accident.

Where to Let Them Ride
The safest place for your dog is in the back seat of the car. You can easily install a harness or dog seat belt to keep your pet from climbing into the front seat. “Some pets are difficult to manage when nervous, and may suddenly climb onto the driver's lap, interfere with driving or jump down below the driver’s legs, obstructing his ability to reach the gas and brake pedals and possibly causing an accident,” Rabenberg says.
Another reason to keep your pet in the back seat is the danger from the force of a deployed airbag.

Dealing With Fear and Car Sickness
Many dogs are afraid of riding in the car or are apt to get carsick, but there are steps you can take to teach your dog that car rides are fun. Rabenberg suggests allowing the dog to sit in the car in the back seat while you sit in the front seat until he relaxes and then you can pet or reward him. After trying this for a few days, you can turn on the car but not drive anywhere. “After several successful attempts on several days, go for a short drive, just around the block,” Rabenberg says. “When you arrive home, take some time to pet and talk to your pet before getting out of the car, so he knows his reward comes with remaining in the vehicle, not rushing to get out. Repeat this several days in a row, then slowly expand your trips, making them a few blocks longer, and finally take him to a fun location, gradually increasing the distances.”
Allowing your dog to feel more comfortable in a moving car will lower his stress level and prevent accidents in the car.
Dogs enjoy the feel of a breeze coming from the car windows on their faces, too, so feel free to leave the window open, as long as your dog is properly restrained. If not, keep the windows closed to prevent him from falling or jumping out.
Your dog may be unhappy at first, but with a little time and patience he will soon become used to the restraint and look forward to your next car ride adventure. 

Stacey Brecher is an editor at Woman’s World magazine, and a contributor to Animal Fair magazine. Stacey's blogs have previously appeared on Exceptional Canine.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: I Want The Tooth!

Buffalo at Pet Valu.
"You can't handle the tooth!"

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Monday, October 7, 2013

New Foster Program Coming Soon!

For many years, TAGS has received calls from women who are victims of domestic violence. Why would they call an animal rescue? Because while they know they can find safety if they leave their abusive households, they are hesitant to do so when it means leaving behind their animal companion(s).

Many women who are victims of domestic violence have reported that their partners have threatened the safety and well-being of the family pet in order to coerce them into staying in the home. When we have been able to, TAGS has stepped up to provide a foster placement until the family pet could be returned to the woman and her children, if applicable. 

Nevertheless, this was not a formal plan or program that TAGS was able to offer the Durham Region community, and sometimes we did not have the resources to assist these women. Therefore, it has always been a goal to see this structured as a specific program that TAGS can provide to women in Durham Region. 

The Domestic Violence Foster Program

Coverage of the meeting was featured
in Oshawa This Week.
For the full story, click here.
Recently, representatives from TAGS were invited by local women's shelters to attend a meeting to discuss a future program that would bridge the organizations, creating a partnership. The overall goal and bottom line of the collaboration is to help women, children, and pets find safety after experiencing domestic violence. 

The program specifics are still being worked out, as there are many logistics and factors for the organizations to consider: the process of getting the family pet from the home and into foster care; what happens if the abusive partner claims ownership over the pet; if the animal will ever be returned to the women or if it will have to be re-homed; how to make sure women know about the program before deciding to leave their homes; etc. TAGS and the local women's shelters expect the details to take several months to iron out, but they have made a commitment to see it be followed through.

For now though, the main course of action is to recruit foster families who are interested in helping out with this program specifically. If you or someone you know would like to help out with this fantastic and worthwhile initiative, please fill out a Foster Application form on our website and specify that you would like to be part of the Domestic Violence Foster Program.

Chelsea is in urgent need of a foster home. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Project Pit Bull - The Breed (Part 2)

For the first installment of Project Pit Bull I figured it would be appropriate to get some historical context. To properly understand where these dogs come from, you first have to consider dogs are direct descendants and share 99% of their DNA with the Grey Wolf.

The Grey Wolf shares 99% of the DNA with all K9's
Photo Credit: Flickr user Dallidee


A statue of a Molosser,
Credit: Flickr user Quinet

There are different theories on how Grey Wolves became domesticated. Many of these theories revolve around the idea that humans domesticated wolves to benefit from them in some way, or in other words, to put them to work.

Modern day DNA testing has provided us with a wealth of knowledge of the subgroups which make up the different breeds we have today. However, before the use of DNA, it was thought that there were four different “races” of dog: Spitz; Scenthounds; Sighthounds; and Mollosoides. This classical theory was based on skull structures.

Molosser dogs, which are now extinct, were created by the Molossian tribe in ancient Greece. However, many modern breeds are derived from the Molosser, which closely resembles today’s Mastiff. 

The Mollosoid tribe in ancient Greece used these dogs mostly for guarding livestock as well as a means of protection. This resulted in a dog with guarding instincts and a a deep bass voice. Interestingly, it is these traits which draw many of the maligned owners to the descendants of the breed we have today.

Alexander the Great, who may I add, actually managed to conquer Afghanistan, brought along hundreds of these types of dogs to guard the resources of his legendary war machine. Alexander loved his Molosser dog so much he even named a city after it in India. The dog, named Peritas, had a monument in its glory in the central square (the city has since been renamed).

In part, due to the Molosser’s use in wars, it was spread around Europe and Asia by Alexander, and others. When they were exposed to these regions, Mollosers then adapted to their new environments to create different coats, creating many of the shepherd and mountain dog breeds we have today. However, their large heads, deep voices and guarding instincts were traits which seemed to be innate by this time.

Bull Baiting (Bulldogs)

One such variation of the Molosser was a dog created to "bait bull" in Europe, eventually spreading through colonization to the new world. Baiting Bulls sounds just as barbarous as the activity was in reality. These bulldogs do not resemble what we think of today's super flat faced, massive shoulders bulldog. Bull baiting dogs were quick, agile, and ferocious.

Often working in teams, they would not show aggression towards each other or their owners. While they were extremely loyal companions, only the dogs which displayed aggression towards other animals, specifically bulls, were continuously bred. In fact, any Bulldog which showed aggression towards its handler was culled to prevent the passing of such an undesirable trait to the next generation.

Photo source.
For those of you trying to draw some early conclusions, this can seem quite damning to the breed. However, I would also like to point out this was a very long time ago and these dogs do not resemble any of the dogs in our society today.

One significant date in the history of the Pit Bull is when the act of Bull baiting became illegal in England in 1835. It is thought that the dogs used for baiting, now called Bulldogs, were mixed with native terriers with the purpose of injecting the hearty scrappy nature of the terrier for dog fighting. Some people say this practice resulted in dogs weighing under 30 pounds.

This background of bull and even dog fighting, really appears bad for the breed. However, does a breed's intended purpose have anything to do with what they will do in the future?

Humans, through breeding, have distorted the course of nature by breeding practices which require cesarean births and other physical requirements to meet breed standards. It is incredible the amount of damage that can occur in such a short time.

Modern Pit Bulls

In the late 19th century Pit Bulls came much more common in America. At one point, even to be on propaganda posters and war bonds. Their dog fighting background made them a symbol which hard-working immigrants in the new world could easily recognize with.
An American Pit Bull Terrier draped in the American Stars and Stripes
with subheadings reciting what could also be considered breed standards.
This one is perhaps my favourite: "We're not looking for trouble But we're ready for it".

The background of bull baiting and dog fighting leads some people to say that Pit Bulls are innately more dangerous than other breeds. These people argue that Pit Bulls may not show as many overt warning signs prior to a fight, and are less likely to back down from a fight. However, it should be noted that other breeds were also used for bull baiting and dog fighting. Pit Bulls are far from the exception to the rule. That being said, proper socialization from an early age is compulsory.

As they stand today, Pit Bulls have an incredibly wide variation to their appearance. Some are taller and thinner, others are shorter and more stout. However, many of the traits from their (ancient) background persist, such as staunch loyalty, trustworthy and friendliness towards people.

What I find most interesting of this breed is its fall from being the a heroic figure used on propaganda posters, to being banned in certain societies. Do you think the violent background is too much for Pit Bulls to overcome? Or does the way you raise a dog determine its behaviour?
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