Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spay Day at the humane society

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Heartland doesn't adopt an animal out until it's been sterilized. Almost every week a local vet volunteers a few hours for "Spay Day" and runs a marathon of ovary and testicle extraction. Today there were several adult dogs, an entire litter of puppies that came down from foster just for the occasion, and about 20 cats.





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I volunteered to help in the recovery room. Clipping nails, giving fluids, checking ears. Cuddling puppies as they wobble awake. It's a hard job, but someone has to do it.


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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Splashalicious

A quick trip to the river last week = the fetch-induced water explosions of doom!

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

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This is Sissee. This picture was taken in February while I was volunteering at Heartland Humane Society, but she'd been there since January, I think. She's rambunctious, loves people, and likes to play fetch. Since this picture was taken, she was adopted, then sold on Craigslist*, then, about a week ago, brought back to the shelter a bit of a nervous wreck. She was one of the demo dogs we used this weekend to practice Open Paw training, and hopefully it will help her stop being a ping-pong dog.

Open Paw is a non-profit founded and run by dog trainers. The co-founder and president Kelly Gorman Dunbar flew here for the weekend to kick start the program at Heartland and lead the training exercises for volunteers and staff. (The local paper ran a story on it today).

Essentially it's about integrating basic obedience training to a shelter's every day operations to help improve the animals chances of being adopted and STAYING adopted. Once fully implemented the staff, volunteers, and even the visiting public take part in providing (relatively) consistent basic training for the animals.

My favorite part is the feeding program. It's so simple and intuitive, why didn't anyone think of this before? Instead of being fed two meals a day in their kennels, the dogs' bowls are hung on the outside of their doors and throughout the day, visitors, staff and volunteers hand feed. It means a constant positive association with people, and can be used as reward training for, say, not barking, or not jumping up.

This has already made a difference for two chronic barkers. By the end of the weekend they would stay quiet and wait when they heard people enter the kennel area instead of immediately barking. And they would continue to stay quiet as long as someone stood there and fed him. Not perfect, of course, and as soon as you left the barking could start again, but, after weeks of no change (and maybe even deterioration), it only took two days of this new program for there to be noticeable progress.

Another nice thing: the mental stimulation of even short, simple training sessions tired out the dogs more than hours of walking would have. A good thing to keep in mind since, with this new system, volunteers can't take the dogs out for a walk until they've been trained and tested for that.

It's a bit counter-intuitive. Right now the mentality is that the dogs are cooped up and need exercise, so the goal becomes to get them out on a walk at all costs. Which usually means, of course, letting them jump all over you and pull on the leash and generally cementing negative habits that won't endear them to a potential adopter.

The biggest obstacle will be making sure everyone stays on the same page and doesn't 'revert' back to the old policies.

It might be less satisfying to spend an hour practicing entering and exiting kennels than taking the dogs to the park, but in the long run I really think this will help them find and keep a home.




*I have no idea if her original adopters are jerks or just ignorant.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wow, I'm away for a few years and blogspot or blogger or whatever it's called now gets all cool n' stuff.

*looks around*

I know what this place needs! More cute animal pictures!

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(PS, all the posts before this one (except the first two) were moved over from my livejournal account. Because blogger is now better than LJ in a lot of ways and it's prettier).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Your mixed breed dog for the day

Maddy is chow/corgi with a dash of dachshund.


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I'm thinking a good name for this new and innovative designer breed is "chorgihund".

Yes.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Is it just me, or is reptile breeding sort of a pyramid scheme?

I was going through some photos of an exotic pet expo I went to a couple years ago.

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Are people really paying $1300 for a pet when they could get the same animal with wild-type/normal coloration (which is quite exotic-looking in the first place) for half to a third of that price? I don't think so, not unless they want it for breeding. Most of the time I think you have breeders breeding exotic morphs for other breeders. What makes a rare color morph more expensive, anyway? It's worth more for breeding purposes!