Friday, June 11, 2010

Part 3: Do the world a favor and buy your next dog at Toys R Us.

OK, the last two posts in my mini series have been pretty gentle. In fact part 2 was down right disgusting in how supportive it is of folks who often get ripped on a lot. But this post is not going to be like that.

In this post the gloves come off.

Let us discuss what some of my rescue friends angrily call "high turn over owners". These are people with no animal sense, usually. They adore the idea of having a pet. They "fall in love" with some cute critter and bring it home and within the first year this terrible animal develops some incurable behavioural problem that causes the person to give it away, dump it somewhere, sell it or euth it... then they go out and *bangs head against the wall* GET ANOTHER ONE.

Listen, moron, if you have had 10 dogs in the last 6 years and all of them aside from the already trained adult dog turned into uncontrollable terrors that you were "forced" to unload on some poor sap who had to clean up the messes you made... the problem is not the dogs, it is YOU.


You obvious like the IDEA of owning a pet more than the reality. And you know, that is fine. But OWN that and STOP RUINING LIVES BECAUSE YOU ARE TOO SELF CENTERED TO JUST NOT GET ANOTHER PET!!!

Pretty much all of us know someone like this. Quite frankly when some idiot pulls this crap guess who gets the first phone call in that moron's search to rid themselves of the wreck they have made? Yeah, folks like me. You know what? I am at max capacity and have filled every home i know with all of your former cast offs. I can't help you any more. I don't want to hear about your new puppy that you will be dumping off on someone else in 6 months and don;t want to hear about your 8 month old Border Collie/Boxer mix who is shredding your carpet because you leave him locked in the spare bathroom all day. because the only thing wrong with that dog is that YOU can't get off your butt and get him to exercise and training he needs!

Pretty much every owner has had moments where they felt in over their heads. And many have had dogs that just didn't fit in their family. Once. Or maybe twice. If you are reading this and it has happened to you 4 or 5 times... stop blaming the dogs and take a good look in the mirror. I am tired of trying to be polite. I am tired of beating around the bush. YOU are a selfish idiot and you need to accept the fact that you are NOT capable of properly raising an animal. There is no shame in admitting you aren't skilled at raising an animal, there IS shame in DESTROYING ANIMALS LIVES because you can't make a damn commitment, but also can't grow a backbone and some self control and pass up that cute puppy or kitten!

Let me say this one more time: if you are right now justifying the multiple dogs you have "got rid of" because of THEIR behaviour issues... if you are getting angry and offended at me because I just don't understand... chances are YOU are the person I am talking to. Don't like it? Then please, for the love of all that is holy, prove me wrong.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Part 2: Why only rich people with perfect lives should have pets.

I remember a time in the little patch of the world I lived in where most folks got their dogs a rabies shot because they had to, and unless it got sick most folks never even thought twice about taking their animal to the vet... not because it was second nature to do it but because it was just something they never thought to do. You had a farm dog, if it got sick and you couldn't fix it you took it out behind the barn, tossed a treat on the ground, shot it in the back of the head when it wasn't looking, shed a tear or two, and got a new dog. And you never ever EVER named your dog 'Yeller, no matter how yellow he might be.

With changes in the way we view animals and increased standard of living and a higher understanding of the mental and emotional depth of animals times changed. Animals often get to their doctor for check ups more often than their humans do. It's not uncommon for animals to get twice yearly check ups with booster shots and live on thyroid meds and anti-depressants and steroids to stop them from itching and... well, yeah. Critter's lots in life have changed a lot in the last 40 years that I have walked the earth.

When I was a kid the only time my animals got to the vet was when they were obviously dying. And by then, it was almost a guarantee they would die because the issue had not been dealt with when it was still treatable.

Often when someone wants to adopt a rescue or buy an animal they bemoan the price (I paid a $400 adoption fee for my dog, which is steep, but I have seen adoption fees as high as $3000!! For a DOG!!) and many rescuers and breeders say "Purchase price is the least of the costs associated with animals, if you can't afford $2000 to buy a dog you can't afford to have a dog."

So, is that true? It seems that for many people if you can't immediately find thousands of dollars for life saving surgeries and treatments you can't possibly be a responsible pet owner.

So how much does it cost to take care of a pet in an ideal situation? One of the Standard Poodle rescues i looked at required twice yearly checkups, a specific raw food diet that you have to purchase for exorbitant prices from the rescuers (totaled about $250 a month to feed one dog), life long continued professional training and yearly consultations with a canine behaviourist... PLUS annual home visits (you pay for travel) and a minimum of $4000 set aside for emergency vet bills. And... the rescue retained ownership and you could not euthanize the dog without their written permission. Somehow i seriously doubt they EVER adopted out a single rescue. If they did it was to the rich people with perfect lives I mentioned above.

How much does it cost to take care of a dog in a less than ideal situation? a $10 bag of Walmart food every month and a couple pennies for a bullet if it gets sick maybe? (I just saw most of the people I know cringe. Just to be clear, I am not advocating you shoot your dog instead of getting vet care! just trying to make a point.)

I'm sure there are plenty of people who think each of those options is repulsive in some way and absolutely ludicrous. But somewhere in the middle is where most people expect their pet care to fall.

So what is the minimum of care that a responsible pet owner MUST provide? Well, I would suggest that the minimum be this: purchase price and initial vet care (puppy shots, spay/neuter though if you get an older already altered dog this cost could possibly be NOTHING), basic maintenance for your area (heartworm preventative/rabies vaccination/daily feeding, flea and tick treatment), and a humane euthanasia.

I just saw several people cringe. No mention of food quality? No mention of twice yearly check ups? Nope. if more people would be honest i think they would admit that in this economy they have started cutting corners on their OWN health care and their animals health care has gone right out the window.

So... should these people who are honestly no longer able to provide top of the line medical care for their animals rehome them? Stop and think about it, if they were financially secure when they got the dog and now they are flat broke and they called a rescue and said, "I can't afford this dog, I need to find it a good home" three quarters of us rabid animal lovers would roast them alive over a fire of righteous indignation for tossing away their pet. But if they can't afford the best of care we will rip them to shreds for that. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't. So what is the answer?

Personally, I think the answer is if you can meet the immediate needs of your pet, food, water, love, and a quick humane end of life if something comes up that prevents them from having a good quality of life... that is enough. Not ideal, not best, but ENOUGH. And there is no shame in doing ENOUGH if ENOUGH is all you can do right now. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that if you can't make your house payment and you are spending more money on a high quality brand of dog food than you are on people food there IS shame in that. But not in doing enough when that is all you can do.

Poor people can make the best pet owners. There. I said it. Some of the best results i have had from placing animals were when I placed animals in homes no 'real' rescue would touch with a 10 foot pole. Some of the worst placements were with people who looked PERFECT on paper. Looked perfect in person too. Turned out to be massive cluster-fudges. 10 years later two animals I placed in homes i wasn't entirely sure about (with family members, lol) are happy, loved, enjoying life... and several of the ones I placed in homes i was sure of are just gone. One of the ones who are still in their home I placed them in has a thyroid problem. they took him to the vet and got him tested even though since they got him they had lost their job, their own insurance, can't afford their own meds. They started him on meds, but it required retesting monthly to check liver levels to make sure the meds were not damaging his liver. So they opted to stop treating the thyroid. The dog is in no pain, he is not suffering, but it will likely shorten his life. And he is fat, even on a tiny amount of food he is fat because of the thyroid issue. So... should they get rid of him because they can't afford him? I do not think so. What would be worse for this dog? Living a few years less in a home where he is loved, adored, spoiled, and has formed a relationship with his humans or being sent to a rescue or shelter at 6 years old to try and find a new home? Is it IDEAL? of course not. But they are his people.

If they had started out in this situation would i have thought it appropriate to acquire a new pet? Well... that isn't a simple question.

The obvious answer is no, of course not. But what if the neighbor's wife died and he is away from home 14 hours a day working and their dog is in a deep depression and he can not provide the care (daily socialization) for it that the dog needs so he asks a neighbor that the dog already knows and is happy to see each day when they are outside if they will take her? say the neighbors are poor, but they are taking care of themselves. They love the dog, they are willing to take the dog, but realistically all they can provide is a lot of love, cheap food, and euthanasia if the dog gets sick. Is cheap food and a lack of possible surgical intervention if the dog gets a tumor or intestinal blockage better or worse than a trip to the shelter, a week in a strange place, and dying by injection at the hands of a stranger? Or even just a trip to the vet to be "put to sleep"? Hm, more years in a loving home with people who adore you or dead? Tough choice there.

Listen, if you can't take care of yourself DON'T GET AN ANIMAL. PERIOD! If your wife just filed for divorce or your husband just lost his job... use your brain and consider that your life might be changing a LOT in ways that won't let you keep/provide for your animal and DON'T GET A NEW ONE!!! But if you have a pet and can't afford the level of care you used to? If you CAN take care of yourself and your family and still afford dog food... it seems to me that it would be a rotten shame for an animal to die when it could have a loving home just because that loving home can't provide it with $60 a bag food.

Crappy things happen in everyone's lives. Times change, situations change. You never know for sure what tomorrow will bring. If we each had to be 100% sure nothing would ever go wrong that would effect our ability to have a pet no one would be qualified to have a pet. Because none of us know for sure. If you have been living on state aid for 12 years and rely on your parents for gas money? That isn't an unexpected situation, it is a life style. But if you make your rent on time and feed your kids even though at the end of the month you only have enough for two trips to McDonald's and you decide you want to spend that money on cat food and cat litter instead of junk food? *shrug* It's not ideal, but in the really real world what IS?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Part 1: Predator, Prey, Pet. Pack, Herd or Solitary.

*please note that while many of my beliefs here are backed up by scientific fact, many are based on my OPINION and EXPERIENCE. I'm sure many people will disagree with my thoughts on this and think I am full of crap, and that is ok, that is why this is my blog, and not a text book* *grin*

Quick, off the top of your head what are the three most common animals kept as pets?

Chances are you said "Dogs, cats and... um... fish?" or maybe instead of fish you said "birds?" When people think of "pets" they generally think of cats and dogs. But people keep a wide range of animals as pets from dogs and cats to ferrets, hamsters, goats, parakeets, horses, pigs, iguanas and the list goes on and on and on. But for the average pet owner the pet of choice is a dog or a cat.

This is no accident. This isn't random. Dogs and cats are by nature distinctly skilled at being pets. As predatory animals they are more likely to fit into our lives and by instinct they are born with behaviours that make them uniquely ideal to share our lives. However, these selfsame instincts and behaviours make some of our human tendencies (like getting bored with them or sick of caring for them and deciding we just don't want them any more)uniquely disruptive to their well being.

Let's examine some of these "predator" instincts in more detail:

*The instinct to pack. Dogs pack. Cats, to a lesser degree, do as well. They form colonies. This makes our two top pets want to bond with us, become attached to us, become a part of our family. Humans share this instinct. It's one of the reasons why we form family units, towns, etc. There is a physical, mental, emotional, SURVIVAL benefit to forming a larger group to cooperate in finding food, shelter and comfort.

*The instinct to not foul their den. This is a big one, it is what allows us to house train our pets to not crap all over the place. Predators often stay fairly stationary and have a home range. In this range they usually have a favorite place to sleep and bear their young. because they stay there, they don't want to live in their own refuse so they walk outside the den to do their business. We simply extend their idea of "den" to be our whole house instead of just their bed and TADA! Housebroke pet. With cats the instinct is to be able to bury their droppings. With most of them the 'training" is as simple as giving them a place to bury it. Either way it all boils down to the same thing, by nature they don;t want to live in their own crap.

*The instinct to have a well defined pack hierarchy. This is stronger in dogs than in cats, but even cats want to know who is in charge. Some animals think THEY should be in charge and will challenge anyone, human or animal, who tries to be in charge, but for the most part KNOWING THEIR ROLE is more important to them than exactly where in the ladder of leadership they fall.

*Diet. Not an instinct but a biological need for survival. Predator animals tend to eat when they can and spend the rest of their time on social interaction.

Now, let's look at these same instincts as they apply to prey animals such as horses, goats, etc.:

*The instinct to pack. In this case it would actually be "herd". Prey animals form herds because there is safety in numbers. predators can only pick so many off the edges and those closer to the middle will be less likely to get made into lunch. They are also "flighty" and prone to stampede. Their flighty behaviour is a survival mechanism. We may train them to not fear things but in their heart of hearts they are always and will always be looking for the next cheetah in the grass. They may occasionally pair up with a close friend or one of their offspring but for the most part they need a herd but not so much a single long term relationship, to feel secure.

*The instinct to not foul their den. Plain and simple this doesn't exist in most prey animals. Because they don't have a den. Prey animals, generally, are almost always hooved grazing animals. Their food is everywhere. They walk on it, sleep on it, drop their waste on it. If you slept in a bed of mashed potatoes, walked on mashed potatoes, and pooped on mashed potatoes... you would have no instinct to not mess up a pile of mashed potatoes just because it was inside 4 walls and a roof. many people have had success training prey animals to use a litter box but it took training, without the benefit of instinct. The closest most prey animals come to this instinct is this: they tend to empty their bowels as they fill their stomach and they tend to mark over the urine of another of their kind.

*The instinct to have a clearly defines pack hierarchy. Here we are good. In some ways it is even more important to a prey animal than to a predator. Because they don't have some of the same instincts that make predator animals so natural as pets their desire to fill their role and have it clearly defined for them is a fantastic tool for fitting them into our lives and us into theirs.

*Diet. Prey animals usually spend the majority of their time eating. their social interaction is either directly related to eating, or squeezed in between periods of eating.

What does this mean as far as them being pets and bonding?

Well, predator animals tend to bond directly with US. Take a housedog and stick him outside alone and 99 times out of 100 he will be miserable even if you give him enough food and water and shelter. Have a dog in your family for 8 years then remove him and place him in a new home with new people and new rules and he will usually go through a lengthy transition trying to adjust. Prey animals may bond with us, but their primary bond is usually with their herd. And instinct often has them more developed to adjust to changes in that herd. In GENERAL... if I leave for a week my dog will spend that whole week looking for me even if his meals times never change. My goats and horses are not likely to notice i am gone as long as their meals arrive on time.

One of the biggest effects on this is their eating habits. Because predators stuff their face with high intensity food then hang out for hours a lot of their bonding with the pack is unrelated to food, even though at it's core a pack usually forms as an aid in getting that food. Their favorite pack mate may be completely unrelated to their food source (as evidence, see my husband and his dog Misty. I think he has fed her maybe 20 times in her entire life but he is clearly her favorite human anyway). With prey animals preference for a human is often directly related to who gives them food, or what kind of food item the humans present currently have to offer.

So what is the point to all this? The point is that predator animals, the ones we normally keep as PETS, are designed in such a way that constant shifting of homes is traumatic for them. Being away from their pack is traumatic for them. Even if all of their biological needs are being met the change in environment disrupts their lives to a significant level. Many dogs when their owner dies spend weeks, if not months, adjusting. Prey animals, the ones we normally keep as livestock, are much more adapted to changing hands. In general a horse moved to a new home will be traumatized just until he gets his next meal and becomes accustomed to his new pasture mates. Being bounced around from home to home is not ideal for any of them, but in general because of their nature it is a much harder situation mentally and physically for predator animals to be shunted around than for prey animals.

Now I said "usually" and "in general" a lot there. Because there are always exceptions to the rule. Two of my goats would be stressed by a change in the herd for about a day then not give a hoot as long as they had food. the other two wouldn't care about changing homes but if they were separated would likely experience a huge trauma. They are twins. Thy might as well be one goat. My late pony Jamie experienced a serious long lasting trauma after his dam died. He was NEVER the same. And as much as I loved my Westie, macs, that I had years ago... as long as he had food and a couch he was blissfully happy. I could leave him for a week and as long as he had a human around to spoil him he could not possibly have cared less.

But in general, this is the basis for my feelings that it is much more important to make a life long commitment to a predator animal pet than to a prey animal pet/livestock. This is the reason why I feel much more of a gut reaction to someone giving away their dog than I do to someone selling their horse.

Coming soon: A series of posts about pets and pet ownership.

The next couple of posts are going to be about responsible pet ownership.

Part 1 will be a bit about animal psychology, the mental and emotional behaviors of prey animals vs. predatory animals, and bonding.

Part 2 will be about minimums of care and the finances of pet ownership, and who should and should not have pets as well as when is a good time and when is a bad time to get a new pet.

Part 3 will be addressed to people who like the idea of pet ownership more than the reality of pet ownership and are what I call "serial dumpers".

Part 4 will be about what I call "private rescue".

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Every other day, between noon and 1pm...

Look who is back again!

And yes, she was as close to me as she looks:


Of course Tsu ran into town to get a fishing license with his dad and missed it but I did get a little bit of video.

I'm waiting for a call back about a possible free myotonic goat buck. Those are fainting goats but they say this one doesn't faint (not all of them do). Depending on the size i may use him on my twin girls this fall since myotonics are a meat goat with a good meat to bone ratio. All I know is that my neighbor, Chris, knows this guy who kept trying to pawn the goat off onto him, so Chris asked if i was interested in taking him, and gave me the guy's number and the only info I have... he is about a year old, not fixed, one of those fainting goats but he doesn't faint and he "isn't real big". Which is fine because my girls aren't real big. They aren't tiny pet sized but they are not big either.

I got the garden all in, and i have been really busy doing odds and ends here and there. Not to mention lots of drama going on with some friends has been stressing me out.

I'm also thinking about selling Sparrow, again. Now that I am growing more of our own food and looking at working part time come this fall I just don't see having the time and energy to work with all three of the horses and care for everything else. Meh, It's not like he costs me a lot of money to just keep around but i just keep going back to that feeling I have had all along that he has a kid out there waiting for him.

Well, time to make the rounds and check on all my "lawn mowers", make sure they aren't tangled in their lines.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What do you call a female Peacock*?

The correct answer is a peahen.

OK, I should have posted this a few days ago when it happened (the 4th to be exact), when I posted it at almost every forum I go to... but I didn't feel like changing the picture links to work here because i am LAZY.

So here it goes, better late than never:

I was sitting in the livingroom knitting when i heard a very distinctive "Hellloo? HELLOOO? Helppp!" sound in the back yard. Now I hear this sound from far away all the time, but this sounded like it was RIGHT OUTSIDE MY WINDOW!!!

I dropped my knitting (and lost a whole line of stitches because my needle slipped out) and dashed to the window. The goats were FREAKING OUT. I looked on the pile of wood logs and what do i see but this lovely adventurous lady:


I quickly send my husband an IM at work: "We have company, it's a peahen in the back yard!! BRB!"

I grabbed the camera (I knew everyone I know would kick my kiester if i didn't) and headed out to see if I could get close to her and at least get some pictures.

When she saw me coming she moseyed off the log pile:


The goats were very interested and were calling to her:


she didn't seem afraid of me but she headed toward the back of the property when i got too close:


So i quickly feed everyone and go looking for her and she has roosted on the old collapsing run in that i now use to put my compost in:


Around that time I got distracted by how cute the goats are:



When i went back our visitor was gone.

*sad face*

So I was going to go back in the house but Brego kept talking to me so i went and got distracted by HIM for a bit:


and then as i was getting ready to go in the house look who went strolling through the dirt lot over to the neighbors house!


I think she ended up back home down the road, I heard a bunch of peafowl hollering about a half hour later. I kind of hope she drops in again in the future. i enjoyed her visit.

UPDATE!!! She is back this morning, chilling out in the horse barn, searching out grain the horses missed and basically just acting like she owns the place. I tossed some more feed out for her. Hehe.

*That was the first off colour joke I ever remember hearing. I won't share the punch line. THIS IS A FAMILY FRENDLY BLOG!!!