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.

An Ounce of Prevention

Posted May 1, 2017 by thezekechronicles
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So often we hear of or read in the news of the tragic consequences of a dog bite or attack. Courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States, here are three basic tips on how to prevent the trauma of a dog bite from happening.

Spay or neuter your dog. A dog that is altered is less likely to bite. That is not to say they will never bite given the right circumstances, but they are less apt to show aggression.

Socialize your dog. Expose your dog to different people and animals and situations so he doesn’t become frightened or nervous when around them.

Train your dog. Obedience classes can help socialize and teach techniques for helping your dog learn proper behavior.

The website offers a number of other tips for dog bite prevention. Never encourage or allow your dog to chase after or attack other animals, even if in fun. Dogs often don’t understand the difference between play and real life. The first time a dog shows dangerous behavior is the time to consult a professional. Don’t wait till an accident happens. Aggressive behavior toward other animals can be a precursor to the same toward people. License and vaccinate your dog. Don’t allow your dog to roam alone. Dogs on their own are more apt to attack. Avoid stressful situations if your dog can’t handle them and work with a trainer to help overcome inappropriate behavior. If you must give up a dog because of dangerous behavior that you cannot control, please consult your veterinarian, humane society, or animal control for advice.

There are also things we can do to make ourselves less vulnerable to a dog attack. Don’t attempt to pet a strange dog without asking the owner first and teach children to do the same. Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, has a chew toy or a female dog with puppies. Watch a dog’s body language and learn to interpret the signs of an imminent attack. A tense body, stiff tail, eyes rolled to show the whites, yawning, intense stare, backing away, and licking lips are all signs a dog is stressed and may attack. If this happens, never turn your back and run as the natural instinct is to chase. Avoid eye contact and keep hands at your sides and remain still. If the dog loses interest, back away slowly until out of sight.

If attacked, put anything between you and the dog, jacket, purse, whatever you might have on you. If you fall or are knocked down, curl into a ball and cover your ears with your hands. Try to remain still. If bitten, try to remain calm. Wash the wound as soon as possible with soap and warm water. Contact medical help and report the bite to local law enforcement and animal control. Give them as much information about the dog as you can, including description, name of dog’s owner (if known), or if the dog is a stray, which way it went.

Always be vigilant with children around dogs, even if they are family pets. Puppies will put up with a lot more than adult dogs, and at around age two a dog begins to object to ear and tail-pulling, being hugged and sat on. Children need to be taught appropriate behavior around dogs and that any kind of teasing or tormenting is not acceptable. Children should also realize that not all dogs respond to gestures of affection the same as their own pet. A dog tied up and left alone in a busy place is never a good idea. If approached by a stranger they poiabout a dog attack that had tragic results both for the child and the dog involved, but was totally preventable. You can also download a Dog Decoder app for your phone that gives very good information on how to interpret a dog’s body language and avoid an attack. In the case of dog bites, an ounce of prevention is usually worth ten pounds of cure.



The Newcomer

Posted March 19, 2017 by thezekechronicles
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His name is Ace and he’s a little over a year old. He’s full of puppy energy and terrier mischief, and now he lives at our house! He came to us from Seven Star Sanctuary and Rescue,  and in just a short time he has become a member of the family. There was a little period of adjustment, as Foo Foo the Pomeranian and the cats Zombie and Sandwich learned to accept the newcomer, but now they are all friends and get along quite well. Sometimes there is a little craziness, as when cats decide to tease and lead Ace on a merry chase around the house. Then mom and dad have to get involved because he hasn’t quite learned how to control himself yet and ends up sitting on a cat. Sometimes there is yelping, when a cat has had enough and puts out a claw, but for the most part it’s all fun and games.
Ace looks forward to walks around the neighborhood and playing in his big backyard. He wasn’t too fond of the snow, but he loves to chase a tennis ball, though he hasn’t yet figured out he’s supposed to bring it back. He also enjoys chewing things, so we try to keep his rawhide bones and toys handy to discourage him from turning to less desirable targets. He’s learning little by little and we just need to have patience. Since we don’t know anything about his background, it’s hard to know what was expected of him in his early months…or not expected. He’s still a bit leery of other dogs, but he’s eager to learn how to fit into his new household.


All in all, he’s a good boy who just wants to be loved, as do all pets, and we’re glad he found his way to us. If you’re looking to add a new pet to your family, please remember to check out local rescues and shelters where many more pets are waiting for their forever homes.

Mountain Sanctuary

Posted December 30, 2016 by thezekechronicles
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High in the Catskill Mountains of New York state is a place called Rosemary Farm. With beautiful fields and pastures, hills and trees, it’s a place of dreams and dreams come true. For any horse lucky enough to live there, it is truly a sanctuary in every meaning of the word. If I was a horse in need of a home, I would hope Rosemary Farm would take me in.
Founded in 2008, the sanctuary is a charitable nonprofit that serves homeless horses from every walk of life; mustangs that have been rounded up from the range and perhaps been adopted by well-meaning folks, or those not so stellar, but now need a new place to live; horses that have worked hard all their lives but rather than being allowed to retire in peace have been shipped to auction to face an uncertain and scary future; race horses with amazing careers behind them but that have suddenly ended up in the pipeline that often leads straight to the kill buyers who frequent horse auctions; horses that were loved by someone who died or fell on hard times and could no longer keep him. Every horse that arrives at Rosemary Farm has a story to tell, and the people who care for them are patient enough to wait until that horse is willing to let them in on his or her secrets. Their motto is: “A place where horses get to be horses.”
Since I started following Rosemary Farm on Facebook, I’ve learned many of their stories, as related by the woman, who with her husband and many volunteers, runs the sanctuary. With names like Honey Pie, Rhett, Annie, Glory, Ella, and Princess Yanaha, they have all become horses I feel I know, just by learning of their journeys. The Princess was probably the one who got me hooked into coming back to find out more about them. She arrived at the sanctuary with her sister from a kill lot far away in Oklahoma. Just babies, they were both near death, covered in ticks and starving. How and why they were allowed to get into that condition, who knows. Sadly, the little sister did not make it but at least passed in peace and with caring people in attendance. The Princess, as she soon was known, spent many weeks at a veterinary clinic where it was touch and go for a long time. Countless fund raisers helped pay for her treatment, and in the end the Princess survived. Today she is a beautiful young filly that bears little resemblance to her former self. She still lives at the sanctuary. Without the dedication of the people who cared for the Princess, she would not be alive today. Hers is just one story from Rosemary Farm. Some stories are sad, but most are joyous.
If you would like to know more about Rosemary Farm, please visit their website, and follow them on Facebook, I guarantee you’ll soon be as amazed at the work they do there as I am.

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 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: and here:

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, 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!