Piney Mountain Foster Care

Canine Foster and Rescue

The Gate Escape

The “Outside Dogs” were in their kennels this morning after breakfast. I was in my den working on some stuff. I heard Selma chittering and working on the chain link of her kennel. I was not too concerned: she does that, until I heard a suspicious “clink” and got up to look out the window to see what she was doing. I saw per push her gate open and stroll out into the play yard.

I ran out to collect her.  When I got there, she was hunched up, making a pile.  “But DAD, I had to GO!”

She IS housebroken and has kept her kennel clean when she’s outside.

When I set up a new kennel I always replace the light duty gate latch that comes with it with a heavy duty latch, and I add a second latch down low because some dogs are powerful enough to grab the gate and just yank it into the kennel, spinning the one standard latch enough to pop the gate open and get out.  A second gate latch helps prevent that.

These latches are special kennel latches with a tab and slot arrangement that is supposed to prevent a dog from flipping the latch open with nose or paw, like they can a standard gate latch.  Its a nice plan, but it still doesn’t always work.

So I add a clip that snaps into a hole just above the pivot tab and locks the tab in the down position.  I do this on the lower latch.  And for those real powerhouses (of which I have had several) I attach the clip to the kennel with a length of sturdy chain that can wrap around the door post and door frame, then clip to the latch as extra, added insurance.  With this arrangement, I’ve been able to contain even the most determined escape artists.  Unless I forget to use the clip, which apparently I did this morning.  Selma is a clever girl and was able to flip both latches and open her gate to go out to poop.

Or unless they go through the roof.  A couple of them have done that.  I found ways to beat that too, but that’s another discussion for another time.

Go to Selma’s Summary Page

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Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears

Dogs, like people, get ear wax build up.  This alone can cause pain, decreased hearing, and dizziness.  But add to that the increased risk of a yeast infection, bacterial infection and even parasites in the ear and you can see that inspecting and maintaining your dog’s ears is important to their overall health.  This is especially important for dogs with floppy ears.

Ear Anatomy

A dog’s ear canal is L shaped with a vertical canal that connects to a horizontal canal deeper withing the skull.  Dirt, wax, and parasites such as ear mites can hide in the horizontal canal.  We cannot access that canal, so we need to use regular flushing to remove debris that may cause a blockage. We also don’t want to risk damaging the tympanum by poking implements such as Q-tips down there.

How Often?


Homemade Disinfectants for Animal Crates

Crate training a dog is an important part of housebreaking a dog.  But a crate can become unhealthy if it is not cleaned out regularly and disinfected occasionally.

You will start by laundering the bedding regularly — how often depends on how clean your dog stays, whether he eats in his crate, and if he leaks urine when he gets excited.  If he wets his bedding, wash it right away.  If he’s a messy eater, every few days.  If he’s a tidy boy and you just need to get the funky smell out, every 10 days to two weeks works well.

Be sure to launder plush toys too.  Hard toys can be washed in a sink of soapy water, add just a dash of bleach for better disinfecting.  Rinse thoroughly.

When it comes to the crate itself, here are some general purpose cleaners you can make up at home. (more…)

A Trick for (giving) Treats

When training a dog, I find that giving SMALL treats as a reward for proper responses speeds the learning process and makes the session far more enjoyable for the dog and for myself.  But what do you do when you have a dog that is so eager to get that treat that she’ll take your thumb and finger with the treat if you hold it between them?  Here’s my Trick for Treats:

When a dog is gentle about taking treats, this is not an issue — like Ugg:

When giving larger treats (not training treats) presenting them sideways to the dog helps prevent the dog from taking your hand along with the treat:

When NOT to use treats in training

When I first start training a dog that has been living on the streets for a while, I don’t use treats at all.  These dogs are often so food-centric that as soon as they discover I’m carrying food they will do anything — including knocking me over and tearing open the pocket or pouch — to get it.  They have no idea about doing what I want them to do to get the food doled out to them a morsel at a time.  They want the food, they want all of it, they want it NOW.  That can be dangerous.

So instead I reward these dogs’ good behavior with head scratches and neck rubs.  And that may take some work too.  Dogs that have been abused or neglected for a long time are not accustomed to being touched except in violence and will be skittish about it.  Be patient.  Take it slow.  Earn his trust.

Use a soft voice, and stay as low as possible so you are not towering over the dog.  That’s intimidating to them.  Also avoid staring at her eyes: her instincts tell her this is a challenge and hostility.

Once he’s adjusted to the idea that touching is pleasant, petting will serve as reward enough until you’ve gained enough respect that he will trust you to give out the food treats as they are earned.

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What Is This “Rescue”?

I used to work at the Humane Society of Jefferson County.  It’s what some people call an “animal shelter” but I avoid that term when I can because of the negative connotations that come with that term.  It is, however, a place where a large number of animals are housed in minimal accommodations.  My coworkers and I worked very hard, every day, to keep their living spaces clean and healthy.  All animals were vaccinated upon entry, watched closely for signs of disease, and medicated as necessary for their recovery.  Euthanasia was a last resort, and not taken lightly.  But it did happen.

Visitors to H.S.J.C. sometimes saw tags on kennels reading “Going to Rescue”.  Some asked what that means.  A few complained that they wanted to adopt an animal so tagged: “Why can’t I adopt if the animal is right here?”

What is Rescue?

Local adoptions are just one way shelters seek to save the lives of the animals in their care.  They also work with “rescues” that will transport animals to other states where the demand for great dogs and cats is higher than it is here.  Some shelters even transport animals themselves in a specialty vehicle.

Higher demand: how can that be?

I’ll tell you.  Areas like New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida have strict spay/neuter laws so irresponsible pet owners are not dumping tens of thousands of puppies and kittens a year into shelters for the community to support and care for.  Therefore they often have a shortage of adoptable animals – unless you go to a licensed breeder and pay big bucks for an AKC registered animal.  By moving animals from areas with a high population to areas with high demand, we save the lives of our animals because they do not end up being euthanized for lack of space or left to die out in the wild.

Why Can’t *I* Adopt This One?

When a rescue “pulls” an animal from a shelter it is often done by looking at pictures and information posted to the internet.  Trusting relationships are developed between agencies, making this sort of thing possible.

This is important because when a rescue accepts (reserves) and animal for transport in a week or two, they immediately set about seeking an adoptive home or a foster home for that animal.  In some cases when the animal is unloaded from the transport van it will go almost immediately into the arms of it’s new family.  We would seriously disappoint both the rescue agency and that adoptive family if the animal they are eagerly waiting for were adopted out locally.

But There Are So Few Left For Me!

It is not common for a large percentage of a shelter’s population to be claimed by a rescue at one time.  But on occasion is does happen and they allow it to happen because they’re expecting a large intake of new animals.  When people ask us, “What am *I* supposed to do, there’s nothing for ME?” they say, “Come back tomorrow”.  They take in animals every day.  Some days a LOT of animals.

What Do Rescues Do?

Loading for transport.

Some rescues are solely for transportation.  Other rescues house the dogs in their own facility or in foster homes to deal with any health or training issues that need to be addressed before the dog is adoptable.  This includes spay.neuter, rabies vaccination, heartworm test — and treatment, if needed.  Some dogs have other health problems that require veterinary care before they can be adopted.

Most people won’t adopt a wild-eyed hooligan dog, so most rescues also work at civilizing dogs that were picked up as strays or rescued from neglect and abuse by owners.  The dogs need to know and obey basic commands, they need to be housebroken and crate trained, they need to be able to walk well on a leash.  Many potential adopters don’t want to (or don’t know how to) do this training, most shelters don’t have the time or staff to train their dogs, so the rescues have to do it to make the dog adoptable.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line for any good shelter is always saving the lives of these animals.  If that means sending them a thousand miles away to find good homes, they’ll do it.  They are always delighted to adopt out locally — and they do this on a daily basis too — but when an animal has already been promised to someone, it cannot be adopted by someone else.  That just wouldn’t be fair and doing it anyway would make it hard for the shelter to find rescues to work with because they’d get a reputation for unreliability.

So please understand: it’s nothing personal.  It’s also not about greed: the shelter often loses money on animals that go to rescues.  But they save the life, and that is their primary concern.  We hope it is yours as well.

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Summertime Danger to Your Dog’s Feet

I was working a tent at an event one day.  A woman came along and stopped to talk with an acquaintance in front of our tent.  It was summer, quite warm, and we were set up on asphalt.  As their conversation continued I noticed that the senior Boxer the woman had on a leash was “dancing” a bit.  I waved to get the woman’s attention and asked if she’d like to move over so she and her dog could cool her feet in the shade of our tent.

is it safe for dog feet“Oh, no: I’m fine.”  She responded from under her sun hat.

“Yeah,” I thought, “YOU’RE fine but your dog is suffering.”

I got a bowl and broke out a bottle of water.  With the water in the bowl I set it in the shade and asked the woman if she’d let her dog come over to get a drink.

She gave me an exasperated look and said, “I’ll be leaving in just a minute.”  but did let out her retractable leash so the Boxer could sidle over to get a drink and cool her feet.

Their conversation dragged on and on, so I stooped there and petted the dog to keep her in the shade.

Finally the woman said to her friend, “Well, I’ve GOT to go.”  She shot me a hostile look and called her dog to follow as she left the vicinity.

As they walked away I really hoped she was headed for her car to take that poor Boxer home.

More Common Than You Think

burned dog feet

In the summer sun, hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt get hot really fast.  Humans don’t notice it because we almost always wear shoes.  But your dog’s feet have only minimal protection from this blistering heat.

Heat from asphalt  can cause the pads of your dog’s feet to blister and peel.  Aside from being painful, this opens the door to infection.

Avoid Torturing Your Dog

You can test the surfaces you will walk on by placing the back of your hand on the surface and hold it there.  If you can comfortably hold it there for at least five seconds, your dog should be okay with it too.  If it’s too hot, consider alternatives.

Delay your walk

If you can wait and go out when it’s cooler,  you will both be more comfortable.

Use protection for feet

There are salves that can be applied to help protect your dog’s feet for short periods.  These tend to be less aggravating for a dog than booties, but the boots are far more effective (if designed for use in heat).

Plan a safe path

Plan your walk to avoid asphalt as much as possible.  Concrete is a bit cooler, and grass is great!  Stay to the more comfortable surfaces to avoid harming your dog.

Other Considerations

Aside from being aware of your dog’s feet, be sure you take a long a small bowl and water for your dog.  There are some devices that combine a bowl and bottle in one unit that can hang from a belt loop.

Be sure you find shade and rest periodically.  Remember that your four-footed-buddy is wearing a fur coat.  Make sure you know and watch for signs of heat stroke in your dog.

Taking along a large umbrella or parasol will provide shade for both of you, even if you only open it when needed.

Of course, if you MUST go out in the heat of the day, and you MUST take your dog with you, and you CANNOT take a safe route, you can always…

Dog carrier saves her feet