Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cat goes missing at Pearson Airport

Where's Ludwig? begins the article ... University student Julie Mannell  is not getting much feedback as to where her beloved cat might be.  After waiting more than an hour for her cat to appear on flying home from Montreal, Mannell was told the following:

But after waiting about an hour for Ludwig’s case to emerge, Mannell said an airline worker told her he’d gotten out of his cage and disappeared as the baggage compartment was opened. Somehow, the cage door’s knob was twisted open, she was told.

But on Tuesday, WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer said Ludwig’s cage was actually knocked to the ground as it was being loaded onto a conveyor belt inside Terminal 3.
it gets worse.

When she was finally allowed to go behind the scenes to call him in hopes he would respond to his master's voice, a handler thought it was funny to "meow", thus giving her false hope that he was there. Real funny.  Poor cat is lost, terrified, perhaps injured (there is a LOT of equipment, machinery, chaos behind there) - but the whole thing is FUNNY to some idiots? Oh, and another staff member? Suggests bringing in his BIG DOG to find this poor lost kitten!

This is sad in so many ways.

first and foremost, there is a terrified, probably hungry and frightened cat running around a potentially lethal place with equipment, chemicals, machinery. There is a frightened, devestated owner who did everything she was told to bring her cat home and not getting much positive feedback from the organization that created this situation. And there is the OBVIOUS attitude that "it's just a stupid cat" from a lot of  people back there that doesn't give one a whole lot of hope that people are taking this seriously.

There's a strong sense of deja vu in this for me.

30 years ago, flying from Frederiction,  New Brunswick to Montreal on my way home for Xmas, I had to fly my cat Tigger. He too was relegated to the baggage comapartment to an area I was ASSURED (i CHECKED) was climate controlled.  I waited for a LONG time after all the luggage had been delivered and still NO Tigger.  I had to create hell until finally a baggage handler came out with Tigger, in his cage, on a cart.  When I went to pick up the (metal) cage, all the skin on my hands was stung badly - the metal was SO cold that it took a layer OFF .. he had NOT been put into the climate controlled area but stayed in the regular baggage compartment! Only for inclement weather that kept the plane lower in the atmosphere than usual was he alive.  He was bleeding from his nose and eyes and shivering uncontrollably.  And despite complaints, the airline (Air Canada) did NOTHING.  Did not even take it seriously!

And THEN, flying him BACK to Frederiction, there I am waiting for him after disembarking and NO Tigger and I see the flight taxi out and take off for St. John!  Again, creating hell, I was told "oops" forgot to take him OFF.  In that case at least the management at the airport phoned St. John and allowed me to speak to someone personally who took full responsiblity for getting him off, changing his litter and giving him food and water and then the airline returned him to Fredericton the next day and to my apartment.  BUT, again, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of care about the fate of our animals!

Julie - keeping our fingers crossed, your Ludwig is found SOON. WestJet STEP UP and take responsibility! HIRE some people that LIKE animals to find this poor cat and do it NOW.

Who is responsible for City of Brampton's vendetta against dogs?

By now, most people are familiar with the outrageous behaviour of Brampton Animal Control (and complicit agreement by the city of Brampton officials) in the case of Brittany and Rambo (who thank god, are now home). 

First, KUDOS to the Brampton Guardian for an outstanding, unbiased and superb investigation into the actions of small-minded, petty bureaucrats and for showing them- through good journalism - up for what they are - people, who for some unknown reason, have a vendetta against dogs in the city of Brampton.

The sad reality is that this case was not isolated.  In an article from April 22, the Guardian details a number of other similar illegal seizures of dogs that were clearly, patently and through expert testimony (vets) NOT pit bulls and with the same petty, arrogant and misplaced sense of superiority, forced owners to follow a course of action which cost them money, time, anguish and heartache.  And that is for the dogs that owners were able to SAVE - stats show that 19 dogs were euthanized - whose owners were unwilling, unable or uninformed enough to fight .  I would love to know how many of those dogs were ACTUALLY pit bulls - how many were actually seized as a result of a complaint, how many of those dogs had valid reasons to be euthanized other than some small-minded, petty idiot in Brampton decided they didn't like the look of the dog - and were scared of them (because sadly, it is cowardice and prejudice that often fuels these vendettas).

There has not been one city official who has shown true mettle in this entire debacle.  Hiding behind lawyers, bleating about the BSL legislation, REFUSING ultimately to take responsibility, admit to wrong - STEP UP TO THE PLATE AND ADMIT CULPABILITY. 

The City of Brampton certainly comes out looking bad in this whole mess.  Its politicians mewling cowards, its Animal Control arrogant, uninformed and vindictive.

If I were a resident of Brampton, I would be damn worried and would be keeping a sharp eye on when elections are forthcoming. 

Dog owners generally in Brampton would do well to heed what has been unfolding .... not just owners of dogs that have some passing resemblance to pit bulls but OTHER dog owners as well.  The reality that Brampton Animal Control and the City Government have basically got away with stampeding over resident rights, ignored legal imperatives, dismissed legitimate EXPERT testimony and in the end, not had to apologize, pay one red cent, reimburse or in any way compensate owners for the UNLAWFUL seizure and subsequent incarceration of what everyone agrees are wonderful dogs means YOUR dog may be next.

Pit bulls now (or in Brampton's case, anything that has four legs, a brindle coat and short ears) but other breeds next  .. it is a very real possibility that german shepherds, dobermans, rottweilers, heelers will soon follow suit ... the list is endless and the fear that ignorant people harbour infinite ....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why do cats have no value?

Why does our society see cats as so expendable?

Why do so many people see ownership of cats as a fleeting thought, a momentary yen, often engendered by a kitten’s silly antics or soft fur. People seem to choose cats like they do paint colours and keep these loving animals for as long as that particular “colour” appeals. Then, as if garbage, they are dumped...

Cats live a very long time. They are complex, loving, mischievous and truly individual in personality. Their quirks are legendary and unique. Cats bond strongly with their owners and find comfort and security in being with the people they love. They are in many ways, perfect pets. Clean, generally quiet (well except for the dusk madness that many cat owners experience when the cats are young... or when zoning out on catnip), inexpensive to feed and each has their own unique, delightful and individual personality. They don’t take up a whole lot of space nor do they demand a lot of time or attention – some of course, more than others, but none require the kind of hands-on involvement required for a dog.

They are adaptable, intelligent and can provide an endless source of amusement with their insatiable curiosity and general silliness.

So WHY are they so little valued?

One of the most frightening things I see time and again are the thousands of ads for a “free cat”.  Giving away anything for free implicitly assigns it negligible value; after all, if it is “free” then it has no worth. Almost inevitably, when you read these ads, the “worth” that these individuals have placed on these cats is far too clear – for frequently the cats are also unspayed and without shots (or up-to-date ones).

Free cats become potential victims. First of all, there are the abusers – who with craigslist and similar venues, have a never-ending supply of “free” torture victims. There are the “free kittens” that are given to “loving” homes when in fact their fate is to be fed to pet snakes. There are the individuals who want a kitten “for the kids” and exercise little or no supervision over how the animal is treated and then inevitably dump it when the kids get bored. And then there are the ‘adults’ who are entranced with the flavour of the moment only to move onto the next fad in short order once the novelty of their ‘adorable’ cat wears off.

The “reasons” given for dumping cats are so incredibly lame that it astonishes me that people have the gall to pretend.

If even one-quarter of the people who claim ‘allergies’ actually had them, then the world would be full of sneezing, scratching individuals to a far greater extent than it is. I am particularly disgusted by those who SUDDENLY develop “allergies” after 3, 6, 12 or more years of loving devotion by a creature who requires so little and offers so much.  Further, if allergies truly are a concern, there are many strategies that can be adopted to minimize the impact; 3 out of 6 of my family members have allergies (including to cats); as the cats I had then, were there long before the kids, I had no intention of dumping them. What I dumped was carpets, heavy curtains, banned cats from the bedroosm of the allergy-sufferers and did frequent vacuuming and floor washing - and my kids grew up perfectly healthy with a strong sense of responsibility and appreciation for the animals in their lives, understanding that when you take on a living creature for your own, it is YOURS until its time comes.

Then there are the idiots that decide a move – even if just across town – means an animal for which they are responsible is suddenly not wanted. As if putting the cat in a cage and giving him a week to adjust is far too much work. One of the most common misconceptions (one I think deliberately assumed to assuage guilt) is that cats cannot adapt to moves. Like any creature – human or otherwise – it simply takes a little bit of time to adjust and with familiar faces and smells, they adapt and become comfortable quickly.

Beth, the incredible cat rescuer from the blog House of the Discarded , wrote recently about some poor old cats (20 years old!!) that were dumped the high-kill Hamilton shelter when their owner died. Surely there was ONE relative, one friend among that person’s family or acquaintances that could have taken these poor things for the short time they have left! I keep imagining how disoriented, how frightened and upset they must be – stuck in a small cage, away from their familiar territory, without the comfort of the loved hand or voice to reassure them.

Is there anyone out there that could take two old cats? If my own home weren’t bursting at the seams, then I would be there in a moment... these poor old things don’t have a lot of time left – the commitment would be perhaps months, maybe a year or so, tops. How utterly sad that after a lifetime of devotion and love, they are left to end their lives in a small cage...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Courage...incredible amazing dog - UPDATE

 An arrest has been made. The dirtbag has been arrested (I just think her parents who had to be aware of the state of their daughter's poor dog should also be charged).  From the sounds of it, she was WELL aware of what she had done but labelled it "unfortunate".  

Despite the many stories out there about man's inhumanity to living creatures, I continue to find myself astonished at how incredibly cruel people can truly be.  I have been following this story of this amazing german shepherd in Orange Country, CA - now named Courage for his tenacious spirit and incredible will to live.  Estimated by experts to have been left chained in a back yard for up to SIX WEEKS without food or water (they speculate the only liquid he got was from raindrops), desperation drove him to eat the dirt and rocks around the small area where he was imprisoned.  In someone's BACK YARD. For SIX weeks they sat in their comfortable house, eating meals, drinking, going about their lives while this poor creature STARVED to death right in front of their eyes. WHAT is wrong with people?

A good samaritan found the dog and convinced the owners to let her take him as long as she did not reveal their names. She kept her word but tips and a lot of news coverage has lead to the almost imminent arrest of the bitch that did this to him - hopefully we'll hear soon. Not of course, that much will probably happen to her .... but at least she will  be revealed to be the sadistic piece of dirt she is.

And before I get completely hopeless about humanity, I have to remind myself that a LOT of people have stepped up to the plate to save this brave boy - and many more have showed clearly that they too have hearts.

But it is HE who shines in this. His indominable will to live, his COURAGE and his refusal to allow himself to die... what a GUY ... I know I'm definitely predjucied for the GSDs - their incredible hearts, intelligence, quirky characters and soul have captured me (I even call my terrier a "vertically challenged shepherd") and this just illustrates what incredible dogs they are.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What about Bandit? (updated)


Bandit, languishing lonely in the newly emptied THS faces an almost certain death very soon. 

He is without advocates, without support, without anyone that has a good word to say about this sad dog.  Garth Jerome, basing his request on advice from "experts" (please advise who these experts are) and veternarians - both THS and OSPCA - says he wants him dead.  And freely admits he was ultimately responsible for killing the other pit bulls (and other dogs).

First, since when are vets behavioural experts? Throughout this entire debacle I have seen vets cited again and again as the individuals who advocate the animals being considered for euthansia.  First, of course vets have the right to deem the animal euthanized for reasons that are "medical"; HOWEVER, such reasons if cited you will note are NEVER clearly explained ('medical' certaintly can encompass a wide spectrum of conditions- some of course which even to the layperson seem compassionate while others are completely and utterly subjective and simply a useful - and often deliberately confusing - way of obsfucating why they want the animal gone).  But behavioural? Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that it is NOT in a veternarians' scope to decide behavioural issues?  They are concerned with science and medicine, but are not, I believe, expected to be experts in psychological and emotional issues with animals. Yet Garth Jerome - a scientiest, I might remind people here- finds it convenient to constantly rely on SCIENCE to decide what are in truth psychological and emotional issues in an animal.

Media has spotlighted Bandit as the "awful pit bull" that put 300 stitches into a young boy's face... which did happen. The fact that the grandmother had left the child alone with the dog; the fact the child was poking a pencil deep inside his eardrum... well that doesn't get talked about a lot does it?  NOT that I don't feel for that child - it is not his fault the adults in his life failed him by leaving him first of all with a dog unsupervised and secondly by not teaching him how to deal with animals.

I only met Bandit after his horrific incarceration in Tim Trow's office for several years - I found him far more a black lab mix than pit bull; in the width of the eyes, yeah, some pitty- but mostly lab to my eyes.  And shy.... terrified of the world which had suddenly opened up to him again.The Courts (after a lot of money and a lot of wangling) had basically given him to Tim aka THS, never to leave again... which I don't think at any time was necessarly a HUMANE decision incidentally.

When the OSCPA raided in November and I began to hear the media speak about "Bandit"... I was like, WHO is Bandit??? Almost 3 years there, for a long time 4 days a week and I had no CLUE there was a dog being held captive in an office upstairs ....

When dog walkers were allowed back, there he was in the back hall... a frightened animal that most of us "newer" walkers didn't recognize ... in fact, most of us didn't know who he was and blithly attached a leash to this shy pittie and put on his muzzle as the law said and brought him out... or I should say dragged him out becuase he was frightened... he was frightened of all the space, he was frightened of all the new faces, he was frightened of the world, poor little laddy.

Poor Bandit ... he doesn't stand a chance, does he?

Bandit, abused, neglected, denied and derided by every person in his life that should have taught him, protected him, nurtured and given him hope.

Reviled for his terrible mauling of a child, incarcerated in a crate, seeing daylight only occasionally through a rooftop foray and then back into isolation and shunning....

What about Bandit? Why do I think, believe, KNOW that his ultimate fate will again be one of cruelty, derision and denial...

I don't know what Bandit's fate should be. I don't know who Garth Jerome's "experts" are and have nothing but contempt for the vets that have clearly displayed their lack of interest in maintaining the THS as a "no kill" shelter. What I do know is that Bandit again, has simply become a pawn, a chess piece being moved around a board... and that no one is standing in his corner.

What about Bandit? 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tetesterone shenanigans ....

Introducing a new dog into the pack is not always easy ... particularly when one of the pack is a territorial, possessive and jealous male (and yes, he IS neutered) who despite two years of reassurance and consistency still breaks out in a froth of anxiety when he thinks he might lose his place and be made into an "outside" dog again.

Now I realize that I have to step back and stop attributing "human" emotions to a dog; but Llyr's reality is patently steeped in terror that he will no longer have a place in the pack and instead be banned to the outdoors where he spent the first 2 and a half years of his life. His exaggerated sense of territory was engendered (I believe) by his incarceration to a small yard, a bare minimum of human contact and a yearning, desperate need for affection. I still cringe when I think of this dog, so full of desperate love and so needy of touch, outside looking in all the time.
He is a dog who craves constant reassurance, seeks affirmation of acceptance and breaks into the equivalent of an anxious sweat when attention is paid to another dog (or even human or other animal). He vocalizes loudly and persistently (not barking, “talking”, he sounds very much like a Jurassic Park voice-over expert!) and with the slightest encouragement will come and press up against the closest family member. Though a big guy, but lean, he wants desperately to be a “lap dog” and will attempt to wrap all 90 lbs or so of sinewy ebony love around on my lap ....
Now before I get lectured on allowing behaviours that are not becoming to a good dog. Llyr knows the rules and overall, follows them admirably (if not always quietly – he is incapable of not arguing a point or giving out at the unfairness of the world).

The reality is that he has made incredible progress over the past two years; when he arrived, he had NEVER been inside a house and had no concept of the expectations that engendered. Despite his lack of socialization, it was obvious that here was a dog that was incredibly eager to please and capable of learning quickly and with a pathetic eagerness to do what was required. Within days he was house trained – no more accidents. Sit, stay and down were mastered in short order (although the whole stay thing isn’t his favourite thing and has to be regularly reinforced) while walking properly on leash is ongoing but overall pretty good.

However, one of his most challenging and ongoing issues is social interaction with other living things – from human (which has VASTLY improved to my relief as it was sort of scary for a while) to other dogs (not so good). While he adores Finn and did from the beginning and tolerates her bullying, prima donna posturing with equanimity and a tolerance that is astonishing, he still has some major issues with other canine interactions- particularly with males.

Having just brought another male into the mix (when he was just learning to accept and interact appropriately with Darcy who came to live with us in November) has been stressful. Roarke himself had been labelled dog-aggressive yet interacted beautifully and immediately with Finn (female GSD) and Darcy (male neutered terrier).

But he and Llyr ... not going to happen any time soon.

Roarke, bless him, for all his labelling, was open and ready to make friends, tail wagging, appropriate sniffing, no raised hackles or inappropriate growling or posturing... Llyr? Not so good. Hackles raised, fur quivering along the spine from tail to ears so he looked like a hyena, inappropriate and aggressive vocalizing and then attack ... didn’t make it of course as we were firmly in control of both dogs but damn, frustrating as hell.

On a supervised walk with two people, there was a little better luck and by judiciously ensuring that a respectful distance was kept, we are slowly introducing them to the reality of each other. I myself have taken all four dogs out each morning for the past three, and had to keep a firm and watchful eye or Llyr rand Roarke will definitely go for each other.

Both got a VERY stern lecture this morning when snarls and lunges started and I made them sit quietly next to each other. Short leashing both and making them walk on either side (while Darcy and Finn got to gambol and play ahead with few restrictions) was the order of the walk. Both quietened very quickly and within 15 minutes were able to mingle and sniff around the same areas.

It’s a process though and I am not optimistic that these two will be interacting safely anytime soon.

Any suggestions/ideas/training tips much appreciated!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Shame on you OSPCA

As has been reported elsewhere, the dog walking program has been suspended indefintiely at the THS in view of the imminent closure of the faclity for several weeks.  Volunteers and caring THS staff scrambled frantically to find homes for the remaining dogs (13) and were successful in obtaining homes - temprorary or permanent - for most (outstanding are Mary Sue - a special needs terrier who is a sweetie, but a handful, Diesel - who we are trying to ascertain what status  he has been accorded and why he isn't being released and poor Bandit whose legal standing is still not clear).

Many walkers have subsequently turned their energies to finding homes for the considerable number of cats (and small domestics, including rabbits and rats)  still remaining there with the April 12 deadline fast approaching.  As we are well aware that rescues are bursting at the seams and that many of these cats are special needs - not special needs as in unplaceable, not special needs as in expensive to keep, but have some needs that not everyone is prepared to take on - we know their chances of surviving in Toronto Animal Services (which has its own plethora of cats - can someone PLEASE EXPLAIN to me why people see cats, loving, caring, beautiful cats, are seen by our society as so DISPOSABLE) are slim.  Their chances of surviving in an OSPCA facility (which are themselves crowded and euthainize for far more reasons than the THS ever considered acceptable) are even slimmer.

Two walkers turned up this weekend to meet some cats - special need cats, mind you - as they planned to adopt.

They were stopped by security staff, asked their names, had to produce identification and then were escorted OUT ... they were told by order of the OSPCA they were barrred from any contact with any of the THS animals.

We then learned through another source, a very senior volunteer with the cats was similarly treated! 

What is WRONG with the ospca? 

That is three cats that might have found homes that have now lost the opportunity and in fact, may very face a very real risk of euthanization.

it certaintly brings vindicativeness to a new low.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Another Viewpoint

I don’t dispute this agency’s assertions, as obviously I was not there. Further, as is their right (volunteers after all, have no legal standing), we have never been privy to the results nor the paperwork so frankly, anyone can say whatever they want. What I will say is that I know, for instance, that the SAFER test was one method used. Unfortunately, for many places, it is used inaccurately. It is meant to be a starting point, and the dogs are meant to be assessed by a number of other tests and criteria. Basing their fate on ONE test that is not in any way to be definitive is one of the ways high kill shelters justify their numbers.

All I say is that after 2.5 years I have never seen any one of the five display anything approximating the type of behaviour the author states in Fred’s blog . Certainly, based on my own and many of my co-walkers experiences, “far gone and disconnected” are two words that we would not in any associate with those dogs. Our experiences with them were positive, fun and loving. This, even after the unbelievable stress they have been under since the raid. Not only were they removed from those like myself, who loved and knew them, but staff turnovers, the number of strangers that were poking and prodding at them, the cessation of their normal routine, the tension which is palpable in the air at the THS, and I feel that they actually acquitted themselves even better than I would have anticipated. I also can’t address some of the issues raised (trimming nails, etc) although we all, at different times, cleaned up the dogs, removed objects from their kennels, played with them with toys, groomed them etc, again with no issues.

However, I’m not even going to go there. The point I would like to make is that suggesting first that the THS is “not a sanctuary” is WRONG. It is not a sanctuary now but it most decidedly was for a very many years. Ian McConachie, Garth Jerome or other THS spokespersons or conversely, others that came in from the outside and repeatedly say “THS is not a rescue or sanctuary” does NOT change the reality that it very much WAS. Nor do I believe that our dogs required the kind of intense and long-term therapy that Michael Vick’s dogs received in Dogtown. On the contrary, given they had some, from what all accounts, are fairly normal behavioural issues for dogs I believe that the THS had a moral responsibility to work with the dogs on their shortcomings.

The THS indeed failed these dogs in the long-term – but also since. By “hoarding” them and refusing to allow highly certified on-staff trainers to work with them – and even volunteers were regularly monitored to ensure that we were not “forcing” the dogs to do anything they didn’t want to (i.e. teaching the leash manners, sit, stay, etc), the THS was wrong. No one disputes that whatsoever.

BUT arguing that they were “right” to kill them at this point in time when there was every opportunity to rehabilitate is morally repugnant. Those trainers are STILL on staff, the number of dogs was so reduced that it seemed obvious that NOW, finally, these dogs had a real chance to learn how to interact with the public in a way that would make them wonderful pets and highly adoptable. There is no excuse, in my mind, to say “well, we failed them in the past, so now we have to kill them” which, no matter how you present it, IS THE CASE.

And yes, I have never denied that Tiger had ONE bite incident (which I’ve talked about before). The reality being that the dog was mishandled and provoked of course carries no weight in Court and I know that.

I am aware that many rescues have limitations on the type of dog they can take. As many function by putting the dogs in foster homes (which is wonderful) where the dog is truly taught to interact with families, understandably they cannot take a dog with any significant issues. However, there are agencies out there that DO take dogs with issues and with great success, rehabilitate them. The kind of pressure exerted on caring staff and volunteers to find places under unrealistic time constraints was not just unfortunate, but reprehensible.

The author is right that we didn’t know the agency in Ohio. However, I was in the process of having my sister (who lives in the States) check out through the very extensive network she has of people in dog rescue (she has worked for 15 years with a collie rescue in the States) to ascertain the shelter’s reputation. Had we been provided the opportunity, we would have been happy to go down ourselves to make a personal assessment apart from anything else – as we made clear to staff again and again.

And while I’m delighted the author found some good company in the individuals now in charge, that has been so far beyond what volunteers have experienced it is as if we are in alternate realities.  Our experience has been negative in every sense of the word from the patant and unforgiveable lack of transparency, the autocratic and high-handed way we are treated, the refusal to answer qusetions or emails, the objectionable degree of security and the refusal to allow us access to and interaction with animals that we have developed safe, loving and positive relationships with.

My own opinion remains unchanged. Politics, both historical and current, a mindset the polar opposite of the THS philosophy for the past years, an ingrained prejudice and belief in their own superiority have – and are – destroying what could have been the only refuge for imperfect animals (imperfect almost exclusively due to human intervention) in Ontario. As it was being conducted by the Trow regime, there is NO question it was bastardized and twisted. As it COULD have played out as the philosophy was meant to be enacted is a tragedy that it is not.

There was every opportunity for the issues considered problematic to be addressed and redressed – the choice ultimately came down to convenience and will – and the dogs paid the price.