Saturday, February 27, 2010

Two Points of View

I was at the dog park the other day and observed another owner calling his dog. "Fred Come!" He called several times -- with the dog ignoring him until the 3rd or 4th recall when the dog decided he would respond and starting running to his owner.

I was apalled when, as the dog got about half-way there, the owner yelled in a very gruff, growling voice "Get over here!" And was even more upset when the dog finally arrived only to have his owner roughly grab him by the scruff, lean down, stare right into his eyes and start yelling at him again.

The dog trainer in me hurt for the dog. From the dog's point of view this is what happened. Fred decided to respond to the owner's cue, he got yelled at it as he was responding, and then when he finally arrived he got physically punished and yelled at some more. Not only is this really, really bad training (why would the dog want to come when called if this is the consequence?), but in my mind it's horribly abusive.

Quite frankly it ruined my visit to the dog park. I didn't feel that I could approach the owner about it -- my experience is that when you give unasked for advice it's generally met with anger and hostility. And so I abandoned the dog to his fate and left angry at the owner.

These past few days I've tried to think of it from the perspective of the owner. I can't believe that he doesn't love that dog. Really, would a person who didn't care about their dog bother to take him to a dog park and spend a part of their weekend day giving their dog an opportunity to run off leash? This is the act of someone who really does care.

Not to use this as an example of appropriate parenting, but if Fred were a child it would make more sense. A child is asked to come over to the parent, the child dawdles and has to be asked several times, and as the child finally heads towards the parent is chastised for not responding the first time. Children are capable of understanding that the yelling is for not responding the first time they are asked.

What pet owners need to understand is that our pets aren't capable of this type of understanding. The consequence they receive will apply to whatever they are doing at the exact moment it's delivered. So yelling at the dog as he is coming is punishing him for coming. The owner should have been heaping praise on his dog for coming when called, and then made a mental note to work more on recalls so that the dog would respond faster in the future.

But sometimes those of us who love animals are very judgemental about the way others treat their pets. And what we have to understand and continually remind ourselves is that not everyone has the same level of education when it comes to the care and treatment of animals.

My job as Humane Educator is to attempt to give people the tools they need to be better pet owners. Being an advocate for the pet means not only seeing it from the animal's point of view, but trying also to see it from the owner's point of view. Only through understanding how others see things will I be able to find a way to reach them and help change the way our pets are treated. Hopefully this is a lesson I'll remember.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Almost Done!

HAWS went through construction the last 6 months of 2009. We endured sawing, pounding, dust and inconvenience for many months while space was added, and parts of the existing building were torn apart and remodeled.

Moving into new space has been very exciting -- the animals have bigger, cleaner space to inhabit, and our staff is able to care for them because of a better floor plan. One last part of the building has yet to be moved into -- until today.

Formerly our rabbit and small animal room was converted from someone's office and only about 72 square feet and animals spilled out into the hallway. We sometimes had as many as 17 rabbits, 4 guinea pigs, several cages of birds, several cages of rodents, and a reptile or two all at the same time. To say it was crowded is an understatement!

The new space is comprised of two rooms. One is the former room, and the other is about 100 square feet. New caging for the rabbits has been ordered and will be here soon, and new guinea pig caging has aready been set-up. In the meantime the moving in-process has been started.

The photos show the bigger of the new room, and Cookie the guinea pig about to be placed in her brand new cage. The new room is definately bigger, and is certainly a brighter and much more cheery than the old space.

So stop on in and see the rest of the building soon - whether you're considering adding to your family or not!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I think a lot of us wanted a dog just like Lassie when we were growing up. Not only was she smart and a protector of Timmy, but she had that beautiful long hair flowing as she ran. Would Lassie have been quite so popular had she been a Smooth Coated Collie -- the short-haired version of her breed?

Many people are attracted to long haired animals as pets. There's just something about luxurious locks on a rabbit, cat or dog that attracts us.

Unfortunately too many people don't think about how much care long hair requires on an animal -- despite the fact that people comment all the time about how much work their own long hair is, or how much easier it is to care for a shorter hair cut.

All too often HAWS gets in animals that have been neglected by their owners and need a haircut because the fur is extremely matted. Matted hair on an animal is unsanitary and painful. The more matted it is, the more it pinches or pulls at the skin as the animal moves.

The dog in the photo came in for surgery through HAWS low-cost Spay and Neuter Program. The owner loves this dog -- why else would she bother to have him neutered? But she was a bit uneducated as to his grooming requirements. Our staff was able to talk her into having him shaved and you can see the result -- it looks more like sheep wool after having been sheared rather than hair after a cut!

If you realize that you've neglected your pet's hair and have some matts your best bet is to take him to a groomer. Trying to get matts out is a delicate process that could result in the dog being cut if you do it wrong. A professional touch is needed to ensure your pet isn't hurt, but also ends up with an attractive new "do".