A Week at the Fair

Posted August 26, 2016 by thezekechronicles
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Whenever fair week rolls around, I remember the times we spent there with our little Arabian Haf Staccato. Though it’s been way more than a few years, I can still recall the excitement and anticipation that accompanied the days leading up to the fair and then the rushed morning of entry day. Although it involved a lot of work and preparation, not to mention misty early mornings and exhausting late nights, fair week brought its own rewards and left us with many good memories. One of my favorites was Cato’s reactions to the chickens that were part of trail class. I don’t suppose he had ever seen chickens, and he freaked at his first encounter…and every other time he saw them. They were not on his list of favorite other animals. What did he love about the fair experience? Probably elephant ears. We couldn’t eat them anywhere nearby without sharing. That and nibbling on the ribbons hanging on his stall. We were fortunate Cato was a good boy, who trailered easily and always behaved himself in the show ring, even to dozing while awaiting the judges’ decisions. I think he really did enjoy the experience of the fair, but my most favorite memory of all was when at the end of it all we took him back to his pasture, and he was allowed to run free. And run he did, along with his buddy Joe, kicking up his hooves, rolling on the ground, and generally letting his horse habits free. After being confined to a stall all week, it was pure pleasure for him to act like a horse. These are memories I will always hold close. I hope fair week was a fun one for all the kids participating, and especially congratulate my niece Annabelle and her pony Harmony. I hope they brought home not only ribbons but many good memories!

On Saturday, August 27th, Animal Aid will hold their 37th annual Mutt March at Lake Bluff Park in downtown St. Joseph. The event runs from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. and the theme this year is The Wizard of Oz. Registrations forms can be found at www.animalaidswmi.com. There is a $10 registration fee that will also get you a Wag Bag goodie bag. Booths sponsored by local rescue groups, veterinarians, and pet services will line the march and there will be prizes and kids’ games as well. A rain date is set for Sunday, August 28th, but let’s hope for sunny skies and a great turnout. Animal Aid has been rescuing and rehoming pets in our area for nearly 40 years now. Check out their website and Facebook page for more information.

While temperatures are still summer-like, please remember the tips for keeping pets safe and healthy. No pets left sitting in hot cars, fresh water available at all times, shelter from the sun and protection from fleas, ticks and heartworm. Simple steps to take with big results for happy pets!


Summertime Blues

Posted July 28, 2016 by thezekechronicles
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There is a song that claims we can’t cure the summertime blues. Our pets can be faced with many kinds of summertime blues, but fortunately there are cures or at least preventions for most of them. Fleas and ticks are one of the most annoying of summer pests and can make life miserable not only for pets but the humans who live with them. Flea drops have become the easiest way to prevent fleas but some pets can be allergic to them, so if you’ve never used them before it might be a good idea to check with your vet before starting them.

One of the most important ways to protect dogs, not only in the summer, is to have them tested for heartworm and Lyme disease and to give heartworm preventative year round. Once a dog has heartworm, the treatment is much more difficult and costly than giving a pill every month. Lyme disease is spread to both humans and dogs by the tiny deer tick. So if you live near or walk and hike in areas where ticks like to hang out be sure to use preventative for ticks. Not all flea preventatives work+ on both. There are also more natural preventatives that some people prefer to use, such as one made with vinegar, peppermint oil, vegetable oil and water. Not having tried homemade preventatives, I’m not sure how well they work, but if your pet is allergic to flea drops it’s something to consider. Once again, consulting your vet on the best way to prevent Lyme disease is a good idea.

A very real summertime danger is leaving pets in the car. Even on a day that isn’t very hot, the temperature inside a parked, closed up car will rise quickly, and it doesn’t take long for an animal to become overheated and to even expire. Most dogs love to go for car rides but unless you know you won’t be leaving them alone, they’re safer at home on summer days.

Access to fresh water and shade is absolutely essential to outside pets. Imagine being tied in a yard with no shade or water all day long while your family is at work. It’s almost as bad as being left inside a car. Please, if your dog must stay outside make sure there is shade and water available all day long and not just in the morning when you leave.

Taking our pets on vacation presents its own challenges. Before setting out, it’s a good idea to make copies of your pet’s proof of rabies and other vaccinations and keep them in a convenient place. Safe car travel means no heads sticking out of windows and no riding on the driver’s lap. Pets are safest if they’re confined to a crate or in their own doggy seat belt, or at least restrained in some way in the back seat. A deployed airbag can be deadly to a pet riding in the front seat, and an unrestrained pet will become a flying projectile in a collision. Pets thrown from a vehicle are often lost and may wander about injured and confused. I.D. tags, with owner’s current contact information, are a must when traveling. If you’re staying in motels/hotels, it’s a good idea to check ahead and see which ones are pet friendly. Taking along the food your pet is used to eating will help prevent stomach upsets, and don’t forget any regular medications.

Keeping the summertime blues at bay for our pets just takes a little thought and planning, but it can make a world of difference for them and us and will help make the summer months more enjoyable.


To Serve and Protect

Posted June 27, 2016 by thezekechronicles
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We remember hearing the stories of the many search and rescue dogs that worked tirelessly at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, of their bravery and loyalty and their willingness to serve. On June 6, 2016, Bretagne (pronounced Brit-nee) the last known survivor of these incredible dogs, passed away at the age of 16.

Bretagne, at age 2, was a youngster on that fateful day, and her work at Ground Zero was her first search and rescue mission. She and her handler, Denise Corliss, spent ten days searching through the rubble, first for survivors and then for remains. When Bretagne wasn’t searching, she provided comfort to the firefighters and other rescue workers at the site, as someone to hug and with soft fur to pet. It was said at the time that when they were not able to recover any survivors that some of the dogs became depressed. Perhaps then the comfort they received from the other workers benefited them, too.

After 9-11, Bretagne and Denise worked rescue after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ivan. After a full career, she retired from her service at age nine and went on to work as a goodwill ambassador as well as a reading assistant to children and visitor to autistic children. In 2014 Bretagne was a finalist at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. In 2015 she visited the Sept. 11 memorial in New York, and you have to wonder, as different as it all looked, did she remember the work she did there? The following year, Bretagne returned to New York and was given a hero’s welcome and a party to celebrate her 16th birthday.

On the day Bretagne made her final walk into the animal hospital outside Houston, Texas, firefighters and search and rescue workers lined the sidewalk to give her a final farewell. Rightfully so, she was carried out in a flag-draped casket.

Nearly 100 loyal search and rescue dogs and their owners worked at Ground Zero in the grueling and horrific days following 9-11. As dogs’ lives are all too short, they have now passed on, but they will never be forgotten for their work and dedication. Denise Corliss said she has worked with other rescue dogs but that Bretagne will always be that one special dog for her.

When we celebrate our nation’s freedom with fireworks this weekend, let’s remember that our pets don’t usually enjoy the noise that goes along with it. Taking dogs to the fireworks isn’t usually a good idea and in fact keeping cats and dogs inside or at least in an enclosed area during the height of the celebrating is best. Many pets become lost during firework season when they try to escape the noise they don’t understand. I’ve had dogs that barked the entire time and others that shook in fear (the same way they reacted during thunderstorms). A product that does help calm extremely nervous dogs is the Thundershirt. Wrapping around the dog, it gives a sense of protection and soothes frazzled nerves; perhaps like swaddling a baby? If your dog trembles in fear during summer storms or fireworks, a Thundershirt might be worth the investment. At our house, FooFoo usually takes a nap and snores during the neighborhood parties. Zombie ignores the whole thing, while Sammie makes a beeline for the basement or hides in a box until it’s all over. However your pets react, please just keep them inside and safe.


Honoring Those Who Serve

Posted May 25, 2016 by thezekechronicles
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Memorial Day is coming up soon, a time when we remember those who have served their country and given their lives in the line of duty. While we pause to honor them, let us please also honor the war horses and military dogs that have gone into battle alongside our troops.

From Sumerian equines pulling wagons in 3000 BC to the chariots of Rome, horses have been an essential part of military units throughout history. They carried knights of the Middle Ages into battle as well as the cavalry units of the Civil War and WWI. Even in WWII they helped transport troops and supplies. In more recent times, horses were ridden by U.S. Special Forces in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan. Today, horses are still in use by law enforcement for traffic and crowd control as well as search and rescue for missing persons. Memorials dedicated to the all the horses that died at the Battle of the Little Big Horn can be seen at the national monument in Montana. It honors those who fell that day, whether ridden by the U.S. Cavalry or the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne Warriors.




Dogs have also served well in the military. Chips, the most decorated dog of WW II, and Smoky were two such heroes. While Chips, as a German Shepherd\Collie\Husky mix, was well-suited to his duties, Smoky, a 4 pound Yorkshire Terrier discovered hiding in a foxhole, was a most unlikely little soldier but who served gallantly throughout the war. Riding in a backpack much of the time, she shared her GI’s meals and warned of incoming shells as well as entering places no one else could fit. A bronze sculpture of Smoky sitting in a GI helmet was erected in her honor in Lakewood, OH, where she is buried. If you would like to know more about these two canine heroes, check them out here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chips_(dog) and here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoky_(dog)

Dogs continue to serve with loyalty and courage today. One dog recently honored for her bravery on the battlefield is Lucca, a U.S. Marine Corps German Shepherd who served six years of active duty and lost a leg in Afghanistan. Lucca was given the PDSA Dickin Medal, the highest award any animal can receive and the highest British military decoration awarded for valor. After discovering an explosive device that detonated, Lucca received severe burns and was rushed into surgery where her leg was amputated. Good soldier that she is, Lucca was up and walking within 10 days. Her handler, Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Willingham, says her personality has not changed and she remains loyal and true. Let’s remember that without the military dogs, many human soldiers would not return home.


Have a wonderful and reflective Memorial Day weekend.








Hanging with the Grand Dogs.

Posted April 25, 2016 by thezekechronicles
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As I’m writing this, I’ve been caring for our tIMG_2062hree grand dogs for the past week and a half. While they have stayed here before, this is the longest they’ve been separated from their humans, and I have to say they have all done very well so far. Let me introduce you to gang.

Olive the Chihuahua at 14 is still a sharp little cookie. Her only age-related problem is she no longer hears very well, if at all, but it doesn’t stop her from enjoying life. She is a sturdy and active little walker and doesn’t seem to mind too much if the weather is on the cool side, she’ll still go walking with you. She does like to sleep under the covers and is happy to be a bed-warmer for anyone willing to let her snuggle in.

Fifi (my FooFoo’s sister) has had a little harder time adjusting, but to her credit she hasn’t sat looking out the window and falling asleep sitting up while waiting for her family to come home, as has happened other times. Fifi has a high energy level, and if you don’t walk her, you will pay the price! That’s not a bad thing, though, as she makes sure somebody takes her out walking every day. The minute the leash appears, she goes into a crazy dance and can barely sit still to be hooked up. If someone puts shoes and a coat on, she is ready to go. Fifi and Foo have spent some quality time sitting on the back deck and joining in the neighborhood bark.

Caesar is the elderly gentleman of the group and is a fine example of how to grow old gracefully. He needs a little help getting up and down stairs and takes meds for a heart condition and arthritis, but he is a happy little guy and loves to ride in his doggy stroller when we all go for a walk. He loves to be loved and enjoys his dinner immensely. A rescue group found Caesar as a stray in his younger days, and it’s hard to imagine who would have let this amiable fellow get away.

One thing is for certain, Foo Foo will miss them all when they go home later this week and will have the blues for a while. (Yes, dogs do get the blues.) So we think it’s time to find a new friend for her and we’ve started the search. The biggest requirement for a new addition to the family is MUST LOVE CATS, as well as other dogs. Resident felines Zombie and Sammie Sandwich do love dogs, so they will be happy to welcome a newcomer.

Speaking of cats, if you have one, or several, you might at times have an empty box or bag sitting around just because kitty likes to sit in it. I’ve always found it funny how they will hide in a box for hours, and a new box is better than a new toy. Now new research published in the Applied Animal Science Journal reports that cats in a Dutch animal shelter that were randomly given boxes to sit in had less stress and even less illness. The shelter cats provided with boxes recovered and adapted more quickly than those without boxes. More research is needed to determine long term effects, but perhaps if you have a new kitty in your house that is feeling some stress, giving him or her a box to hide in might be a simple and inexpensive way to help him cope.

Bunnies, Chicks, and Ducklings, Oh My!

Posted March 21, 2016 by thezekechronicles
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They’re cute, fuzzy, and look like they would be very cuddly, something any child would like to find in an Easter basket. But unless one is prepared to house, feed, and properly care for them for the duration of their lives, baby ducks and chicks are really not meant to be bought for pets. They have very specific needs, and it can quickly become quite a chore for most of us to meet them. Baby bunnies are also cute and cuddly and can make excellent pets, even to being litter box trained, but again, their needs are different. For anyone choosing to buy one as a pet, please be aware of the care they require and make a commitment to keep them beyond their cute bunny stage when they become rabbits. Many shelters do take in unwanted bunnies after the cuteness has worn off, so if you really want one for a pet you might check with them to see if any are available for adoption.

The Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan has two fundraisers coming up this spring. On April 11th, they will hold a Share Night at Culver’s in Stevensville. From 5:00 to 8:00 pm, the shelter will receive a percentage of total store sales. It’s an easy way to help out the shelter and enjoy a nice dinner out with the family.

The 8th Annual Bids for Barks is set for Saturday, May 14th, at the Kickers Club, 2601 Hetler Dr., St. Joseph. All tickets are reserved at $45.00 and may be ordered at their website, www.humanesocietyswm.org. Or you may call Lynn at 269-921-6743. Tickets include dinner. There will be a silent as well as a live auction and entertainment and cash bar. Tables for 8 may be reserved for $350.00. Doors open at 5pm. Proceeds from the auction will help fund the Capital Campaign Fund. If you are unable to attend but would like to make a donation to the fund, you can go to their website and click on Capital Campaign. You may also view the plans for the new larger and more modern shelter that will replace the current one built in 1964.

These are some immediate needs the humane society shelter has this month: puppy food, both canned and dry, copy paper, laundry detergent and non-pine scented floor cleaner. As we will soon be headed into “kitten season,” I’m sure they would also appreciate kitten and cat food as well as non-clumping litter. While most shelters are full to brimming with cats all the time, spring and early summer always see0 a big influx of kittens into shelters everywhere. We know how quickly cats can and do reproduce, so if you have recently adopted a young kitten, please know how soon they mature. Female cats can have kittens as young as six months old, so check with your vet about when to have her spayed. Neutering your male cat is a win-win for you, the cat and the neighborhood. Please do your part to not add to the cat overpopulation. Spay and neuter your pets!

Friend or Foe?

Posted February 22, 2016 by thezekechronicles
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We see it all too often in the newspaper or hear it on the news; another attack on a child or adult by a pit bull. Often, the dog is owned by the person attacked and is described as having been a loving pet beforehand. It has led to the breed being ostracized and even banned from communities. So what goes wrong? What is it about the breed that has taken it down the road to this end? I think it is fair to say the fault lies more with the humans that have been involved with the dog’s life than the dog itself. Even if the dog has not been used for fighting or been taught aggressive behavior, it is the fault of the owner who did not do the research on the breed before bringing one home, did not provide proper training and socialization, and failed to remember that, as a breed, they can do serious harm. Sadly, this whole scenario often leads to tragedy. It also leads to the countless number of pit bull and pit mixes to fill shelters everywhere, when the owners cannot handle them and they become a danger to people and other animals. Even sadder is that the dogs have often become unadoptable and must be euthanized.

Visit a shelter and I am sure you will see any number of pitties that have been surrendered or that were picked up as strays. Then look in a newspaper or online and see how many pit bull puppies are still being born, produced by careless owners who failed to spay or neuter their pet and backyard breeders who are just out to make money; breeders who do not pay attention to the traits or behaviors they are breeding into a dog. This can, of course, happen with any dog breed and has, to the detriment of that type of dog. Unfortunately, it is the pit bull that has become symbolic of dog attacks. It also makes them more susceptible to abuse and neglect, which is terribly sad, because as any dog they deserve to have a good life and not be subjected to public scorn and fear.

One of the poorest reasons to adopt a dog of any breed is to give the owner a sense of prestige or to be simply a status symbol, and yet that is what seems to have happened with the pit bull. The term “pit bull” is not even the correct name for the breed. American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier are the proper names of the breeds that have collectively come to be known as pit bulls. They were originally bred for bull baiting and fought in pits and were sometimes used as guard dogs in Victorian times. The myth of them being used as “nanny dogs,” to babysit small children seems to be pretty much just that—a myth.

Despite their dubious reputation, many people love their pit bulls and insist they are the best kind of dog. If you do own or would like to own a pit bull type dog, educate yourself on the breeds and know how to be a responsible pit owner. A good place to start is with the article, “Pit Bull: Friend of Foe,” which you can find at: http://www.berriencounty.org/uploaded/pitbullbrochure.pdf. It is very informative for anyone to read.

I would like to say that the recent Valentine’s Day Adoption Event at the Berrien County Animal Control shelter was a big success. We visited to bring some donations and see what dogs were available, and the place was packed with folks adopting dogs and cats at a much reduced cost that day. Hopefully, the pets all found forever loving homes.

Please remember this time of year to vaccinate your dogs for rabies and make sure licenses are up to date. Your dog’s license can be a phone call home should he or she become lost.