Horrible Hunting

Spring is finally here!  My pack could not be happier to see that the snow has melted away and the sunshine has returned.  Our tripod, Penny, participated in her second dog Easter egg hunt last Saturday sponsored by Treats Unleashed.

With Easter just four days away, I wanted to share some tried and true tips to make your next dog Easter egg hunt a success.

1.  Do not bring retractable leashes!  There is a reason why this is specified on the Easter egg hunt advertisement.  If you do not leave the leash locked, you could end up tripping someone, even another dog.  They also have a tendency to get tangled very quickly and can cut off the circulation to your extremities.  My mom has even suffered cuts on her hand from the rope sliding quickly over her skin as her dog took off running.

2.  Be mindful of your dog (s) at all times!  I cannot tell you how many dogs were allowed to rush at other dogs by their owners.  We had decided to bring Domino (our Blue Merle Chihuahua).  He was incredibly nervous of dogs rushing towards him and nipped at those who did.  You need to be a responsible pet parent and make sure that your dog (s) are respectful of those around them.  If your dog has aggressive tendencies, do not tempt fate by bringing him/her to such a public event where other dogs could get hurt.  Instead, try hosting your own egg hunt in your backyard.

3.  Do not be a pageant pet parent!  This was our second Treats Unleashed Easter egg hunt event.  We could not believe how rude many of the other pet parents were!  Some were totally obsessed with getting as many eggs as they possibly could and were even talking about having a “game plan.”  Seriously?  The whole point of the egg hunt is to have fun with your dog (s).  I love seeing Penny hop around and actually find the eggs on her own and then enjoy the treats hidden inside.

4.  Not all dogs like the Easter Bunny.  Treats Unleashed graciously offers free photos with the Easter Bunny.  I cannot tell you how many dogs looked utterly terrified to be sitting on (or next to) said bunny.  The woman in front of us kept tugging on her dogs’ leashes, forcing them to be in a situation that they did not want to be in.  I felt so bad for those pooches.  While I understand that this is a great photo opportunity, know your dog’s limits.  If he/she seems uncomfortable or exhibits any signs of stress, such as shaking or panting, it may be time to hop off the bunny trail.

5.   Do arrive early to the event.  There is nothing worse than rolling up late to a timed event.  Rushing almost always leads to some sort of injury or accident.  Instead, try arriving about 30 minutes before the event is scheduled to begin.  Not only will you get a better parking spot, but you will be able to register and see the sights before the other pooches arrive.  And you should be able to pick out your hunting spot unencumbered instead of having to squeeze in next to someone at the last moment.

With these tips, you are sure to have an egg-cellent time!  Happy hunting, everyone!

 Penny and Domino check out their eggs.
 Posing by the even sign.
Hanging out with the Easter Bunny (they were VERY distracted by the other dogs).

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Horrible Hunting

Spring is finally here!  My pack could not be happier to see that the snow has melted away and the sunshine has returned.  Our tripod, Penny, participated in her second dog Easter egg hunt last Saturday sponsored by Treats Unleashed.

With Easter just four days away, I wanted to share some tried and true tips to make your next dog Easter egg hunt a success.

1.  Do not bring retractable leashes!  There is a reason why this is specified on the Easter egg hunt advertisement.  If you do not leave the leash locked, you could end up tripping someone, even another dog.  They also have a tendency to get tangled very quickly and can cut off the circulation to your extremities.  My mom has even suffered cuts on her hand from the rope sliding quickly over her skin as her dog took off running.

2.  Be mindful of your dog (s) at all times!  I cannot tell you how many dogs were allowed to rush at other dogs by their owners.  We had decided to bring Domino (our Blue Merle Chihuahua).  He was incredibly nervous of dogs rushing towards him and nipped at those who did.  You need to be a responsible pet parent and make sure that your dog (s) are respectful of those around them.  If your dog has aggressive tendencies, do not tempt fate by bringing him/her to such a public event where other dogs could get hurt.  Instead, try hosting your own egg hunt in your backyard.

3.  Do not be a pageant pet parent!  This was our second Treats Unleashed Easter egg hunt event.  We could not believe how rude many of the other pet parents were!  Some were totally obsessed with getting as many eggs as they possibly could and were even talking about having a “game plan.”  Seriously?  The whole point of the egg hunt is to have fun with your dog (s).  I love seeing Penny hop around and actually find the eggs on her own and then enjoy the treats hidden inside.

4.  Not all dogs like the Easter Bunny.  Treats Unleashed graciously offers free photos with the Easter Bunny.  I cannot tell you how many dogs looked utterly terrified to be sitting on (or next to) said bunny.  The woman in front of us kept tugging on her dogs’ leashes, forcing them to be in a situation that they did not want to be in.  I felt so bad for those pooches.  While I understand that this is a great photo opportunity, know your dog’s limits.  If he/she seems uncomfortable or exhibits any signs of stress, such as shaking or panting, it may be time to hop off the bunny trail.

5.   Do arrive early to the event.  There is nothing worse than rolling up late to a timed event.  Rushing almost always leads to some sort of injury or accident.  Instead, try arriving about 30 minutes before the event is scheduled to begin.  Not only will you get a better parking spot, but you will be able to register and see the sights before the other pooches arrive.  And you should be able to pick out your hunting spot unencumbered instead of having to squeeze in next to someone at the last moment.

With these tips, you are sure to have an egg-cellent time!  Happy hunting, everyone!

 Penny and Domino check out their eggs.

 Posing by the even sign.

Hanging out with the Easter Bunny (they were VERY distracted by the other dogs).

Inhumane Humanity

My hands shook as I listened to a voice mail on my cell phone. I could not believe it. I had just received a call for an interview at my dream job!

If everything went well, I would be the newest member of the Missouri Humane Society as an Adoption Counselor. My husband and I visit their Macklind location at least once a month to give treats to the animals still searching for their forever homes. To think that I would get to be a part of such a wonderful group was mind blowing.

However, my joy soon diminished as I realized I had gotten an interview for their Chesterfield location. This would mean almost an hour drive every day. Plus, I would have to work on holidays as well as weekends. But my passion for animals is so great that I knew compromises would have to be made.

The doors opened and I stepped into the adoption center. Cute kitties pawed at me from behind their glass enclosures. Animal themed gifts filled the mini gift shop. It was official. I was in heaven!

I immediately hit it off with the manager. *Beth and I had the same passion for saving lives. I was then asked how I felt about euthanasia. “Well, I liken it to deer hunting,” I explained. “I do not participate or support it, but I understand why it is sometimes needed.” She said, “Great analogy! I don’t like hunting either.”

Before I knew it, I had received an offer for immediate employment. While overjoyed, there was still one issue that needed to be addressed: the pay. Accepting this job would mean a HUGE pay cut. My husband was less than thrilled, but wanted to support my dream. He knows that I am not meant for the cut throat office world. I have had my share of that abuse. And I truly do have a talent for working with animals. They seem to instantly trust me. I firmly believe that it is a gift from God.

I do not want to be selfish, but I am ready to do something meaningful with my life. Something that will utilize the skills and talents that God has given me. I no longer want to pretend to be something that I am not.

Taking a deep breath, I brought up the salary. Beth told me that she would see what she could do. Then she began to talk about another position that was still open. The Transport Coordinator would be responsible for going to area shelters and selecting the most adoptable animals to be brought back to the humane society. This person would also assist the Missouri Animal Cruelty Task Force in rescuing abused and neglected animals. And Beth thought I would be just perfect for the job!

She raced out of the room in search of her phone. She hoped that she would be able to reach her supervisor so that I could get hired on the spot for that (higher paying) position. I thought that the stars of my life were finally aligning. God did have a plan for me and it was going to be amazing!

Unfortunately, Beth was unable to locate her boss. I left with the understanding that the Adoption Counselor position was mine if I wanted it and that Beth would be contacting me when she heard from her boss.

I left feeling so excited. Beth had given me more compliments than any of my bosses (past and present) ever have. Everything felt so right.

The next morning, I received a call requesting an interview that very day in the afternoon. I readily accepted and watched the clock slowly tick away the minutes until my departure. My phone rang about two hours before the interview. It was *Michelle, Beth’s boss, wanting to conduct a pre-interview. She began by explaining the hours and how they would vary. Some overnight travel may be required. I was nodding my head, as if she could see me. Michelle then asked how I felt about euthanasia. I decided to stick with my hunting analogy since it was such a hit and accurately describes how I feel about the subject.

“You would be performing this,” Michelle stated.

My heart immediately dropped into my stomach. I felt like I was going to throw up. “I would be performing euthanasia?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes, that is a requirement for this job.”

I was completely horrified. I am known as the saver of animal lives, not the destroyer. No way in a million years could I ever kill an animal, no matter how much money was thrown at me.

“No, I could never do that,” I replied.

“Well, it is a requirement for this position,” Michelle commented. She then left a very pregnant pause as if I was going to change my mind.

“I’m sorry, but I could never do that,” I answered.

We thanked each other for our time and hung up. I was enraged. Beth had billed the Transport Coordinator position as one that would SAVE lives. She did not make a single mention of the fact that I would also be responsible for needlessly killing animals. I would have showed no interest in the job if I had known the full details.

This experience has greatly changed my opinion of the Missouri Humane Society and what they stand for. I found out that if they have a large influx of animals, those that have treatable illnesses, such as UTI’s, are euthanized to make space for their healthy, adoptable counterparts. While I understand that overcrowding is a real issue, what I cannot wrap my brain around is the fact that HSMO just received a multimillion dollar grant to build a new, larger facility. Doesn’t this mean that they will have more space for intakes? And they are blessed enough to have 3 locations, unlike most animal shelters and humane societies that are lucky to have just one.

With all of these spaces to house homeless animals, why are they insistent upon killing them? I own several fur babies that I know they would have deemed “unadoptable.” Hope, our double dapple Dachshund, was born without eyes and is completely deaf. She is the biggest inspiration in my life. Even with these “disabilities,” she lives her best life in which her tail is always wagging. Hope holds her head high as she prances from room to room. Had she fallen into the clutches of HSMO, she would have undoubtedly been killed simply because people cannot begin to fathom how any living creature could be happy living a life without sight or sound. Yet, she loves everyone that she meets. Hope will greet you with a wag of her tail and then cover you in the best weenie kisses ever.

Penny is our tripod Chiweenie wonder. She was born with a severe overbite and a deformed front paw. While Penny does hop around like a bunny, she does not allow anything to hold her back. She frequently scales our three foot pet gate and loves to race her furry siblings around in the backyard. Penny is a total love bug who enjoys meeting new people, dogs and cats. Her looks only enhance the awesomeness that is Penny.

Every day, animals just like Hope and Penny are “put to sleep” because they are deemed unworthy of being adopted. How can HSMO play God? I cannot ever imagine being forced to choose which animals to save and which to kill. It is reminiscent of Sophie’s Choice on a much larger scale. Marc Barone is currently working on an epic project entitled “An Act of Dog” in which he is painting portraits of all of the dogs that have been euthanized across the country for no other reason than a lack of space.

I am then reminded of HSMO’s Second Chances telethon. This annual TV special presentation depicts HSMO as being the guardians of animals and their well-being, all while asking for monetary donations in order to continue providing “protection” for animals in need. What they do not tell viewers is that they are not a no-kill shelter. They are an all access shelter, which means that they will not discriminate against an animal due to age or health issues. I was told this during my interview. The same interview in which I was told that if there was an abundance of animals, those with treatable illnesses would be euthanized first. What a hypocritical organization!

If they truly want to be humane (as in their very name sake), they should try to HELP as many animals as they can. Just like humans, not all animals are born with the same chance at a wonderful life. I had believed that it was the mission of every humane society and rescue group to give these poor creatures a second chance at living the life they truly deserve.

While my dreams of combining my love of animals with a job are sufficiently dashed, I also find that I am feeling somewhat relieved. Knowing how duplicitous HSMO is, I would not want to be employed at their establishment only to watch countless numbers of animals senselessly lose their lives.

*names have been changed

2014 Howliday Gift Guide

Nervously, I stand outside of the mall. I know what’s coming. Endless hours of wandering around like a lost sheep in search of the mystical “perfect present.”

I used to enjoy being a part of the bustling crowds. Everyone seemed to be inexplicably happy and friendly. Sadly, those days are long gone. The fights begin as soon as you hit the parking lot looking for that coveted space. And the mall has become an arena of WWF proportions.

This is when I began to realize that the gifts that I had been so lovingly purchasing were pretty much…the same. Every year, I get my dad a tie. Mom almost always gets an ornament or mug of some kind.

Last year, I officially broke the mold. I decided to start thinking outside of the pre-wrapped box and focus on something that my whole family loves: animals! My gifts were a hit and a portion of the profits from each gift went to helping animals in need.

Here are some gift ideas for the animal lovers in your life:

1.Cuddle Clones – This unique website offers custom designed plush versions of your family pet. Simply go to their website,www.cuddleclones.com to upload a few photos of your fur baby. Then, let the customization begin! You can even select which pose your plush will be created in (sitting, lying down, etc.). Do you have a special needs pet? No problem! They have created plush of pets with one eye, no tail and even a tripod dog! You can view their work along with customer reviews in the Testimonials section of their website. Not into stuffed animals? Cuddle Clones also offers custom made figurines, gift cards, collars, clothing and granite memorials for those who have recently lost a pet. There is definitely something for everyone.

2.Sponsor a Barn Buddy – Long Meadow Rescue Ranch sprawls across 165-acres of woodland near Union, Missouri. Owned by the Missouri Humane Society, the ranch is “haven for hundreds of abused and neglected horses, cows, goats, pigs, ducks and other farm animals. The ranch is one of the most comprehensive horse and farm animal care and rehabilitation centers in the country. In addition to animal care, ranch staff provide hands-on humane education experiences for both children and adults” according to their website: http://www.longmeadowrescueranch.org. Every year, the ranch offers the Barn Buddy Sponsor program. You can select which animal that you would like to sponsor and at which level. At the $50 level, you will receive a mini-plush of your chosen sponsor animal, a color photo, biography sheet and a magnet. Additionally, you will be able to visit your sponsored pet at the ranch whenever you wish! I purchased the gift sponsor option for my mother. She loves llamas and was thrilled to receive her Miss Molly the llama plush and packet. Did I mention that your sponsorship is also tax deductible? This gift is a win-win for the gifter and the giftee.

3.Rescue Me Magazine Subscription – I recently discovered this magazine while on a Wal*Mart run. This is one impulse buy that I did not regret. Inside, I found a wealth of information about different rescue organizations all across the country. There were also tons of inspirational stories with highlights on senior and special needs pets. What I really love about this magazine is that they feature all types of animals and pets. I was even introduced to a rescue group that specialize in reptile rescue! Even the advertisements are tailored to animal lovers. No car ads here! I discovered tons of great products for my pets to try. The best part? When you subscribe, Rescue Me will donate a portion of your subscription fee to the rescue group of your choice. Check them out online at: http://www.rescuemecentral.com.

4.Pet Trading Cards –Toki Poki is a website that is dedicated to connecting fellow pet lovers in a very unique way. Creating an account is free and easy. Once you join, you will create a pet profile for each of your fur babies. Upload your favorite pet photos and then…turn them into trading cards! There are tons of cool themes to choose from including super heroes, holiday and more. When you order a pack (roughly 50 cards), you will also receive a complimentary pack that includes all of the pets in that theme pack. Toki Poki also prides itself on donating to multiple charities. My husband and I created a Halloween trading card of our tripod dog, Penny. For each Halloween pack ordered by October 31st, Toki Poki donated 2,100 Halloween packs to children’s hospitals throughout the nation! Not only did Penny’s card make us smile, but knowing that we brightened up the lives of sick children made us even happier. Head on over towww.tokipoki.com to learn more.

5.Greater Good Store – This is truly a one stop shop. My only complaint….I spend too much money! From animal themed clothes to one-of-a-kind jewelry, you will find exactly what you are looking for. With every purchase, you will also receive a card that tells you exactly how your money has helped animals in need. I was delighted to see that my order helped provide 20 bowls of food for shelter animals. If you subscribe to their e-mail list, you will receive a coupon code that can be redeemed in the store. To start shopping, head over to: https://theanimalrescuesite.greatergood.com.

So, put down that package of socks and leave the gift cards at the kiosk. This year, give a gift that will not only delight your loved one, but will also make a difference in the life of an animal in need. Happy shopping!

Picture Perfect

Snow covers the ground. Leaves fall as I walk through our back yard. The smell of turkey fills the air. It is official: The holidays are upon us.

Proud pet parents know exactly what this means. It is time for photos with Santa! My husband and I look forward to taking (most of) our pack to see jolly old St. Nick. We lovingly display our collection of Christmas photos on our entertainment center every year.

For some, this experience is anything but merry. Inexperienced or negligent pet owners can create chaos that has a ripple effect. I have complied a list of tips that will ensure you and your furry friend will stay on the nice list.

1.ALWAYS have your pet on a leash! No exceptions! Some people foolishly think that their dog will be fine as long as he/she is held. Keep in mind that your pet will be overwhelmed by new sights, sounds and smells. They may act in ways that completely surprise you. The typical reaction is, “They never act this way at home.” Of course not. Home is familiar to them. The local Petsmart, Petco, etc. is not home. And your dog may not be the problem. Perhaps another dog becomes too friendly or aggressive. If your dog is on a leash, you will have more control over the situation and will be able to escort your baby away from the problematic pooch instead of having to chase him/her through the store.

2.Bring along some of your pet’s favorite treats. I remember a Halloween photo event that we went to. The pet store people were squeaking toys and making noises trying to get our babies to look at the camera. That is when we noticed the display of Beggin’ Strips. I politely told a worker to grab one of the bags and give it a shake. That did the trick! Their heads snapped up and the photo was amazing. Not all animals like the same things. Mine are very picky where toys are concerned and could not care less about rubber toys (which is what the store clerk kept waving around). You know what your pet likes best. Use it to your advantage.

3.Dress for success. We always dress our dogs in “ugly” Christmas sweaters. They only cost $3 per sweater at the bargain spot at Target. We also have some fancy dresses for our little ladies that were a Target special as well. While every fur baby is beautiful on its’ own, dressing them up can give them confidence. Penny, our tripod, and Theo, our oldest, LOVE to get dressed up. They hold their heads a little higher and seem to have smiles on their faces. Be sure that your pet’s face and ears are free and not obstructed by any garments. While you may think that photos of your pet bundled up to their eyeballs is adorable, he/she may be miserable. Remember, this is supposed to be enjoyable for you and your pet.

4.Allow your pet to sniff Santa. While we all know and love the man in red, your pet has no idea who the bearded, big-belly guy is. Treat Santa as you would any stranger that asks to pet your dog. Slowly approach Santa in his seated position. He should extend his hand low to the ground, not directly in front of your pet’s face. Give your fur baby some time to sniff. Do not shove him/her onto Santa’s lap. Also, keep your pet’s personality in mind. If you have a dog that does not like men or beards, forcing him/her to meet Santa is not fair. You would be placing him/her in a situation that you know would make him/her uncomfortable. If this is true of your pet, ask if you can sit next to Santa and have your pet sit on your lap or on the floor on the opposite side. Be sure to let Santa know that he can look, but not touch. This will save you from potential drama.

5.Be patient. We all want that perfect picture and it rarely happens on the first take. Do not become angry with your pet. Remember that pets can sense tension. If you become agitated, so will they. Then they will start to fidget and things will go downhill quickly. And being patient also extends to the other patron’s pets. The holidays tend to make everyone feel rushed, but be sure to take time to stop and smell the gingerbread. Give peace to get peace.

6. Know when to go. My husband and I always try to arrive about 20 minutes before the photo event is to begin. This way we are assured a parking space and can get a good spot in line. However, you should also know when it is time to pack up and leave. We had a horrible experience at one of the annual Halloween events. While we were in the middle of the line, we barely moved after almost 30 minutes! None of the staff knew how to work the simple point and shoot digital camera. Pet parents were told that they could step to the side to pick up their photo only to be told to come back because their photo had not turned out. Ours had to be re-taken three times! And our fur babies were getting antsy. They had had enough of being dressed up and were so done with the ever-growing crowd. If the third attempt had not worked, we were prepared to leave. It would have been asking too much of our babies to expect them to pose, yet again as they had become tired from all of the waiting. You may be disappointed that you did not receive the photo you had hoped for, but you will save yourself and your pet from extreme stress.

Remember to be polite and friendly to those in attendance. You may even make new friends while waiting in line. Happy howlidays!

Lost Loved Ones

One of my co-workers recently acquired a dog. *Kathleen pulled into the parking lot of a local store and when she stepped out of the car, an adorable dog came shooting across the pavement. Knowing that this was probably someone’s pet, she quickly approached the dog.

Much to Kathleen’s surprise, the dog sat down at her feet. I received a frantic call from her that evening. She had so many questions about what she should do next. I have gotten a reputation for being a resource for all things pet related since I used to foster dogs and am now the proud owner of 5 rescue dogs and 2 rescue cats.

Here are my top tips on what you should do if you find a lost dog or cat:

1. Do NOT chase the animal! If the dog or cat runs and you attempt to chase it, he/she will become even more frightened and will run that much harder. My husband and I learned this while attempting to corral a neighbor’s loose dog. Instead, try calling to the animal with “Here, boy/girl!” or the famous “Here, kitty, kitty!” If this does not work, head to your local police department and provide them with a detailed description of the animal that you saw and the name of the street where you last saw him/her. All officers on duty will then be able to keep an eye out for the lost fur baby.

2. Take the animal to your nearest vet. Explain that you believe the animal is lost and that you would like a technician to scan for a microchip. A microchip is a tiny chip that is injected underneath the surface of the animal’s skin, typically while they are being spayed/neutered. There is a unique number that is associated with each chip. When the animal is adopted, the new owners pay to have the chip registration switched to their name. Once the animal is scanned, the pet’s name, owner’s address and phone number should appear when the number is entered on a microchip site such as Google.com, Avid.com or HomeAgain.com. You or the technician can call the pet’s owner and let them know that their fur baby is safe and sound. If the owners have not yet switched ownership of the chip, the information of the shelter in which the animal was adopted from should come up instead. Shelters usually keep excellent records of all of the animals within their care and should be able to locate the contact information for the pet’s owner.

3. Keep the animal separated from your own pets. If the animal does not have a microchip and you decide to take him/her home with you, be sure to keep him/her separated from your pets. Since you do not know the history of the dog/cat, you will not know if it is friendly with other animals or has any health issues that could possibly be transferred to your babies. Additionally, your pets may become territorial and attempt to pick a fight with the stranger.

4. Create a lost animal flier. The heading should read: LOST DOG/CAT in all caps and in a large, bold font. This will capture the attention of passersby. Be sure to include a good quality photo of the animal. Take a full frontal photograph of the animal’s face. No half face shots where only one eye and ear are showing. By not including the whole face, the animal becomes vague. The side profile could belong to any brown dog. That could be the ear of any tabby cat. You may also be missing out on distinguishing features, such as eye color difference, a defining spot of color, a facial abnormality such as an overbite, etc. My dog, Penny, has a severe overbite and a deformed front paw. If you just saw a side profile photo of her, you would be missing out on the very things that define who Penny is. Include the full address of where you picked up the animal. Finally, leave a phone number where you can be reached. Distribute the fliers to all of the veterinarians in the area as well as any pet stores and boutiques. Some grocery stores and shopping centers will also permit you to post the flier in a special section of the store, usually by the entrances/exits where the most traffic is present. Do not forget to include your local police and fire departments.

5. Take to social media. Many an animal has been reunited with their owner thanks to social media. In our region, Spencer Kennel sends out a Mimi Alert when they are notified of a missing pet. The alert contains a photo and contact information about the animal and is e-mailed and sent as a text to all Spencer Kennel customers. They also post the alert on their Facebook page. You can create your own Mimi Alert by posting a condensed version of your flier onto Facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc. Do not forget about bloggers! The more people that know about the lost pet, the better.

6. Reach out to rescue groups. If you live in an apartment that does not allow pets or have a spouse or child that is allergic, you should not try to house the animal until its owner is found. Instead, contact your local animal rescue groups to see if they can provide assistance. They may have room at their no-kill shelter or be able to find a foster home where the animal can stay. This will assure that the dog/cat will be properly cared for and will not be euthanized if its owner has not been located within a certain amount of time.

After two months, Kathleen finally located the owner of the missing dog. While she was sorry to see her new furry friend go, she was overjoyed that she was able to reunite the little pooch with his family. Paw it forward!

*name changed