The Gift of Time

Posted January 25, 2018 by thezekechronicles
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It’s already a month past Christmas, and if your house is anything like mine, dog and cat toys have been demolished and lie in little bits of fluff and tufts. Goodies have been eaten and we’re starting to get really bored with the winter weather that prevents long walks, or any walks, or much time spent in the backyard. The respite we had earlier in January was all too short, and now we’re anxiously counting down the days to spring that is still too many months away. On the days when cabin fever begins to set in, I’m thankful for antler chewies and indestructible toys and pets who manage to amuse one another.

January is a good time to pay attention to things we know we should do but often don’t or at least put off to another day. Updating our pets’ vaccinations might be one. A rabies vaccine is essential and required by law for dogs, but distemper/parvo shots are just as important. Parvo especially is a terrible disease, and no one wants to lose their dog to its insidious grasp. Heartworm tests are performed to assure pets aren’t positive, and now while mosquitoes are scarce is a good time to get them done. Licenses, too, are due for renewal soon, and providing your dog with a tag is one way to help him get home should he ever become lost. According to the ASPCA, more dogs are lost in winter, so keeping a dog on a leash if we do go out is for his own safety as well as that of others. Cleaning up after our dogs is just the good neighborly thing to do, no matter what time of year.

A few winter time precautions to remember: watch out for anti-freeze spills and take care of them right away; when buying salt for the sidewalks and driveway, look for the kind that is pet friendly; after walking our dogs outside near streets, wipe off their paws to remove any road salt. A little petroleum jelly rubbed on paws helps protect them in the cold. Outside pets need warm, dry shelters and fresh water. Pets left out in the extreme cold are at risk for hypothermia, frostbite and even death. If you see pets that are without shelter in the cold, please report it to animal control or your local law enforcement. Animal neglect is a misdemeanor in all 50 states. If you park your vehicle outside overnight, be sure to bang on the hood before starting. Cats are known to hide inside where it’s warm. Remember that elderly pets may feel the cold more and experience arthritis with pain and dysfunction, so be aware and check with your vet for ways to help him. Check with www.globalanimal.org for more winter safety tips for your pets.

At our house we also celebrated the first anniversary of adopting Ace the Tenacious Terrier. It’s often hard to imagine he is the same dog we brought into ourIMG_0716 lives last January. It truly is amazing what a stable life, good food, and love can do. If you are thinking of adopting a rescue pet, please be aware he or she may have issues, and you may need to be tolerant of them until that pet figures out he is really home for good. Be patient with him and give him the best gift you can, that of time.

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My Name is Ace

Posted December 18, 2017 by thezekechronicles
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My name is Ace, and I was a rescue dog. I will turn two years old this month, but how I spent the first year of my life is a mystery to my adoptive family. I arrived at their house eleven months ago with my collar, leash, an antler chewie, dishes, a bag of food and my crate. I was scared and didn’t know what to expect from these new people. I was afraid of men, especially, and didn’t want to trust them. I was pretty skinny, and my little ribs showed through. I couldn’t tell anyone where I came from or what had happened to me before, so they could only guess and do their best to make me feel at home.

To my credit, I was mostly house-trained and only had a few accidents in the house, but I suffered from separation anxiety and didn’t like it when my new family left me. When they did, I took out my frustration by chewing things up. My new dad’s shoes, books or magazines, blankets, whatever took my fancy at the moment. They responded by putting me in my crate when they left but I often cried and still chewed anything I could get ahold of, including the nice fluffy pad my new mom had bought for the crate. She wasn’t happy with me, but she just sewed a new cover for it and that was that. She calls me Ace the Tenacious Terrier.

I learned to like my new home. I have a sister named Foo Foo, and I like to tease her by pulling her hair. Sometimes I play a joke on her by barking at her when she has a treat and when she runs after me, I dash back and steal the treat. I also have two cat friends, Zombie and Sandwich. We play a lot and they let me chase them around the house. Then they bat at me or hide under the furniture and smack me when I walk by. I like to sleep in the cat bed, because it’s very cozy in front of the furnace vent. I sometimes sit in the cat tower, too, so I can look out the window and pretend I’m a cat.

Some other things I like: playing with my doggy cousins, especially Hermie because he will tug on toys with me. I like to snuggle with Olive the Chihuahua, because she’s old and doesn’t play a lot, but I’m very gentle with her. FiFi doesn’t like my shenanigans, but she does like to put me in my place. I was happy that my human brother came home, because he plays with me and I act like a pesky little brother. I like to sit with my dad in his recliner while he watches TV. One thing I don’t like: cold weather. I don’t like to walk in it, and if my dad tries to take me for a walk in it, I will just sit down and not go any further. Sometimes I still forget and chew on things I shouldn’t. Mostly, I chew up cat toys and my mom says I will have to be happy with dollar store toys, because I’ve chewed all the nice ones she bought me. But I bet Santa Claus will bring me some new ones.

I’m a pretty happy little dog now that I’ve found my forever home, and my wish this holiday season is for all rescue pets to find their homes, too. Mom says to remind everyone that the Martin’s stores and Paw Mart have donations bins out so you can make sure all the pets who are still waiting for their homes can have a Merry Christmas, too.

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A Tale of Two Naughty Kitties: A True Story

Posted November 29, 2017 by thezekechronicles
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Setting: Mom’s office, 6 a.m.

Sammie: Hey, look, Mom left the big sliding door open while the dogs are going potty. I can open the screen door. Let’s sneak outside.

Zombie: But it’s still dark out.

Sammie: So? All the better to hide from her.

Zombie: I’m not so sure.

Sammie: Hurry up, you big baby. Here she comes!

(They sneak out on the deck.)

Zombie: What the heck? It’s wet out here! I’m goin’ under the deck.

Sammie: Wait for me!

(They hear Mom yelling. The dogs run inside. They’re no fools.)

Zombie: Wait a minute. This isn’t fun. It’s still raining under here. I’m going back inside.

Sammie: You sissy. Not me. I’m staying out here.

(Zombie dashes back inside, runs around the house because he doesn’t like being wet, but won’t let Mom towel him dry. Hear that grumbling? That’s Mom, very unhappy to be up chasing cats at this hour.)

Sammie: Should I run around the yard? It is still dark, and very very wet out here. Hmmm, maybe I should go back inside. Can I open the slider again? Oh look, the back door on the garage is opening. Maybe I can get in that way. I better make a run for it before it’s too late.

(Sammie sprints across the yard in the rain, darts into the garage. Mom quickly slams the door shut. He gets called a few names but is soon purring when Mom wraps him up in a towel. He lets her dry him. He’s no fool.)

Later the same day

Sammie: Look, the dogs are going out again! Let’s make another run for it.

Zombie: Are you nuts, man? It’s still wet out there. (Retreats back into the room.)

Dogs run inside, sliding door shuts and is locked. Mom is no fool.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you live with pets you’ve probably been through something similar. Sometimes, their antics can and do drive us humans nuts, but then think how dull life would be without them. (Although there are those early morning moments when you kinda wish they were a little more boring.)

With the holiday season upon us, here are some upcoming dates to remember.

Animal Aid’s Christmas Open House is set for Saturday, December 2, from 12-4pm at the Maud Preston Palenske Memorial library in St. Joseph. Come and visit with pets looking for their forever homes and do some shopping, too.

On Saturday, December 9, the Annual Holiday Party for the Animals at the Humane Society of Southwest Michigan, will be held from 11am to 4 pm. This is a major fundraiser for the shelter and the supplies that are donated go a long way to providing for the many pets served by the shelter during the year. Always on the want list: dry dog and cat food, dry puppy and kitten food, canned food, non-clumping cat litter, bleach and laundry detergent. For a complete list of their needs, please visit their website: www.humanesocietyswm.org.

This post is dedicated to Puck, who gave 19 years of friendship to my friend Alyssa and is sorely missed by her family. R.I.P Puck in a place where there is endless catnip and always sunny spots for kitty naps.

        

 

The Horses of the Pryor Mountains

Posted September 25, 2017 by thezekechronicles
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While traveling out west for nearly two weeks, one of the places we visited was the Pryor Mountains of Montana and Wyoming where wild horses roam free. Established in 1968, the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range was the nation’s first public wild horse range. When the Bureau of Land Management announced the intention to round up the entire herd in the 1960s, a local group brought a lawsuit against the BLM, fought the round-up and won. The area was declared a Wild Horse Refuge.

Today, over 100 mustangs live on approximately 38,000 acres, still managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Genetic testing has shown the horses are descended from Colonial Spanish horses, brought here in the 1600 to 1700s. While some of the horses may have escaped from local ranches or Indian herds, the true Pryor Mountain mustangs have lived for hundreds of years in these rugged mountains. Those with markings of dorsal stripes running the length of their backs and zebra stripes on their legs are most distinctive and appear more primitive, and are more directly related to the Spanish mustangs.

If you visit the Pryor Mountain horses, a stop at the Wild Mustang Center in Lovell, Wyoming, is a must. They will tell you where the herds have been seen and identify the horses in any photos you take. Two of the horse we saw were Chief Joseph, a beautiful black, and Fool’s Crow, a blue roan, whose name was originally Crow, because he was also black. But when his coat changed out to a beautiful blue, he became Fool’s Crow.  The folks at the Mustang Center will also let you know the proper behavior for viewing the horses. The rule is to stay 100 feet away at all times, but we were able to view them quite close up just from the road.

Deciding to stay on the paved highway rather than go up into the very high country, where there are only dirt roads, we saw a number of the members of the lower herd, but perhaps next trip out we’ll decide to make the journey up to the more wild and desolate areas. While round-ups do occur in the Pryors (and there is talk of one being eminent), it seems the BLM does take more into  consideration the genetics of the horses living in the mountains, because of their very old bloodlines. Watching wild horses is always truly awesome and inspiring, and it’s my hope the Pryor Mountain herd will always be allowed to roam free. If you would like to know more about this very special group of mustangs, visit the website: www.pryormustangs.org.

Our local Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan has stepped up to help the many homeless animals impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Pet shelters in the disaster area asked for help, and Pilots N Paws, a group of volunteer pilots, flew many of those pets from Texas to Michigan. They are not taking pets that have been displaced by the storm and whose owners may be searching for them, but those who were already in shelters. Thirty-three dogs have been welcomed at our shelter this month. For a list of the shelter’s needs and to help with the care of these newest arrivals, please visit the website, http://www.humanesocietyswm.org.

 

Flights to Freedom

Posted August 1, 2017 by thezekechronicles
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In the month just past, our thoughts often turned to the word freedom and what it means to us. For the many pets housed in shelters across our country, freedom most certainly means not having to live in a cage but having a true home with people who love them. A group that is working to make this happen is Wings of Rescue. Founded in 2012 by Cindy Smith, a pilot herself, Wings of Rescue is a network of volunteer pilots who fly rescue missions, using their own planes or chartered cargo planes, to transport pets from overcrowded, high-kill shelters, or often from disaster areas, to states where loving homes are waiting to adopt them. In the last year, over 10,000 pets were flown to new homes by Wings of Rescue. The goal for this year is 12,000.   While aiming to not displace the adoption of pets from local shelters, Wings of Rescue promotes spay/neuter programs and clinics to help bring down the number of homeless pets. They have also developed a program to help treat parvo virus and upper respiratory diseases that can devastate shelter pets, helping to ensure the cats and dogs being transported will have healthy lives. Thanks to these tireless volunteers, more than 26,000 pets have found new homes since the organization’s beginning, and it is all supported by the generous donations of many. For more information, visit http://www.wingsofrescue.org.

Another group of animals’ freedom remains in serious jeopardy, that of the wild horses and burros that have been captured off the range and now sit in holding pens across the country. Their management has rested with the Bureau of Land Management since the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, but now thousands of them sit in limbo and are in danger of being killed, if funds are allotted for this. Chased by helicopters and driven into crowded corrals, wild horse family bands are split up and ultimately shipped to places like Rock Springs, Wyoming, where their fate is uncertain. While there is a method of administering birth control and managing the horses and burros on the range, the round-ups continue; and now our lawmakers will decide what will happen to these animals that didn’t ask to be put into pens to await their fate. If this seems an incredibly inhumane method of managing wild horses (which by law are supposedly protected from harassment or being killed on federal land) please contact our representatives in Congress and let them know your thoughts. We need to stop the round-ups, and we most certainly cannot allow the euthanizing of our wild horses.

When It Doesn’t Work Out

Posted June 28, 2017 by thezekechronicles
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Last month I wrote about the need to give a rescue pet a fair chance at learning to live in your home. This time I want to talk about the other side of the coin, what happens when, for whatever reason, you find you are not able to keep your rescue. As much as we think it’s unfair to the pet to have to give up on him, sometimes it really is the best choice.

Some years ago (well, more than just some) I trial-adopted a six month old puppy that had a number of issues working against her. To begin with, she was born to a stray that had been living on her own for a long time, and whose puppies had experienced no human contact until the little family was rescued from the woods. This puppy had one eye that was deformed, and she was also deaf. While she had no aggressive tendencies, she was very frightened (understandably so) and spooked at every little movement. For the short time we had her, she rarely came out from behind the furniture, and then only after much coaxing, to eat or for us to take her outside. In that time, she didn’t learn to trust us at all.

When I agreed to take the puppy, I truly thought we could overcome her problems. To be perfectly honest, we could not. Perhaps had I consulted a dog trainer we might have been able to work with her, but at the time I didn’t feel I had the skills or the ability to deal with the puppy’s issues. After much consideration, I finally returned her to the person who had rescued her in the first place. I’d never done that before, and I cried all the way home. I blamed myself for giving up and worried about what would happen to her, although the rescuer assured me she would keep the puppy herself. Still, I felt guilty but also relieved, because the concern over how to deal with all the problems had caused a lot of stress in the family. Then I felt guilty for feeling relieved!

The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes this happens. Sometimes we find the pet we have brought home with such hope for giving it a new life just does not fit, does not adjust, and there is stress in the house that is certainly not conducive to a happy home for anybody. Sometimes we have to admit we made a mistake. My advice in such a situation is to recognize the problem and find a solution before letting it go on too long. It is better to admit defeat than to accept the stress and allow the pet to remain unhappy, too.

If you adopted from a shelter or rescue group, you probably signed a contract/agreement to return the pet if you weren’t able to keep it. Honor that agreement. If you bought from a breeder, you should contact them and ask their policy. Some breeders will take back a pet bought from them. For tips on how to handle the situation, you might check out this link: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-care/rehoming-what-to-do-if-you-cant-keep-your-dog . I confess this many years later that I still feel some regret and guilt for giving up on the puppy, but it truly was the best answer for her and me and the family.

On a lighter note, congratulations to the Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan on breaking ground for their new shelter. While construction will soon be underway, the capital campaign continues. For all details, please visit their website: www.humanesocietyswm.org

 

Rescue Me

Posted June 28, 2017 by thezekechronicles
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We’ve all heard that rescue pets are the best. That when given a second (or third or fourth) chance at having a forever home, an animal will be so grateful they will shower you with their conditional love. While that may very well be true, what you don’t often hear about are the many challenges that can go along with adopting a pet second (or third or fourth) hand.

After we adopted Ace the tenacious terrier, we realized this was only the second time we had brought a dog home that we had not gotten as a small puppy. Even though we’d adopted rescues before, they were very young and had not already been imprinted with another person’s living habits. While at a little over a year old Ace was still a puppy at heart, he had lived somewhere else, in another home, with another family. He was eager to please and just wanted to be loved, but he didn’t have a clue what was expected of him. Nor did we know what he had experienced in his former home. Unlike a younger puppy, he wasn’t a blank slate that we could write only our expectations on. He was house-trained and only had a few initial accidents inside, which was a big plus, and he was used to staying in his crate (maybe too much); but we quickly learned there were things he feared and things he’d not been exposed to (like the outside world). Walking on a leash was new, as was staying outside his crate when we were not home. The past few months have been a process, but he is a smart little guy and he’s learning. He’s also found a place in the hearts of his new family.

So if you are thinking of adopting a rescue pet, please be aware there may be a learning curve, and don’t let your expectations rush the adjustment that may take a little or a lot of time. Realize your new friend has had a previous life that was probably very different from the one you are offering, and don’t be in a hurry to give up.

Remember this is “kitten season,” when many litters come into shelters or are taken in by rescue groups. Donations of kitten food and litter are always most appreciated. But of course the best way to help the situation is to spay and neuter our own cats. They are capable of reproducing at a very young age, so if you have recently adopted a kitten, contact your veterinarian about the best time to have this done. It is truly a gift to your pet.