Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Good News, Bad News

HAWS has been in the news twice within the last two weeks.

The first news story was a great one about our camp -- it's the video posted above. Fox 6 Milwauke did a fantastic job showing what our Kids 'N Critters Camp is all about -- what we're trying to teach the kids, what kinds of things they do at our camps, and how much fun they have.

The latest news story wasn't so pleasant - a woman was attacked by her own two dogs while attempting to breakup a dog in the backyard of her home and had to take a ride on flight for life to the hospital. Police officers shot one of the dogs as it attempted to climb over the fence at them. Unfortuantely the dogs were pit bulls.

I say unfortunately because every time a pit bull hits the news it's another mark against the breed. Not all pit bulls are aggressive dogs -- as a matter of fact the majority that I've met are very loving with friendly temperaments towards people. But those don't make the news, and stories like this make it difficult for dogs from bully breed dogs with good temperaments to find homes when they are in need of adoption.

HAWS made the news in this story because we are the animal control facility that came and picked up the other dog. Our Operations Manager -- Mark Hess had to use a tranquilizer dart in order to safely get the dog into his custody.

The dog is here at HAWS undergoing a quarantine for rabies -- her future is not entirely certain at this point. She's in a kennel looking like anything but a vicious dog -- she's very sad, stressed and a bit afraid. HAWS refused to let the media get footage of her since there was a concern that would increase her stress level - instead we released some still photos one of our staff shot instead.

Here's a link to the news coverage:,0,3622188.story

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Unscheduled Lessons

It's that time of year at HAWS -- summer camp time. Last year we held three sessions of "Camp Gone to the Dogs" and it was overwhelmingly successful. This year we added another two weeks and they were the first sessions to fill.

I love this specialty camp because it allows me to share my passion and knowledge of dogs. The kids not only get to spend time with their shelter dog for the week, but they learn about training, socialization, and puppy mills -- among other things.

In my over seven years as a humane educator I've come to realize that sometimes the best lessons are those that aren't planned, and of course this was the case during last weeks camp.

On Tuesday one of the dogs started limping, and by Wednesday Ashland was having difficulty getting up. The kids were extremely concerned about her, but felt better when we assured them our vet was going to check her out.

Ashland was diagnosed with Lyme's Disease and treatment was started immediately. However I had to break it to her three campers that they might not get to work with her for the rest of the week. They were really good sports about it and very understanding. Fortunately the antibiotics were fast acting and Ashland was feeling well enough on Thursday that the kids could spend time with her -- even though they had to limit her activity.

The good feeling I was having when that that problem was resolved was short-lived, however. Chops the cocker spaniel was scheduled to go to his new adoptive home on Saturday, but there was a lump on his chest that needed to be removed. I met with his campers and explained the situation and asked if they would mind if Chops had the surgery and they were given a different dog to work with -- possibly for the rest of camp. I was very proud of them -- they unhesitatingly agreed that Chops should have the tumor removed (it was benign), and worked with another dog without complaining. And later that day begged to go see him in recovery so they knew he was ok. Chops was feeling well enough by Friday morning that they were able to get him back.

The campers learned that when working with animals things don't always go as planned, and that the animal's welfare takes priority over everything else. I'd say the first week of camp this year was a success!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cat Agility

A few weeks ago HAWS hosted feline behaviorist Victory Pappa from Cats International to talk to Waukesha County cat owners about cat behavior and help them solve cat behavior problems. Victoria did a great job explaining how to deal with cats not using the litterbox, play nipping, and counter cruising.

As a dog trainer one of the things I explain to dog owners is that many times behavior problems occur because our dogs are bored. Environmental enrichment and exercise can go a long way towards helping resolve a lot of behavior caused by boredom.

Therefore I wasn't too surprised when I learned that the same is true of cats. Many times people get cats because they don't want to spend as much time exercising them and consider them less work than dogs. And in a lot of ways this is true. However cats are very smart and curious animals, and if they aren't given enough to do can get into trouble.

Victoria brought along Vivian Frawley who brought her cat Linus for a special demonstration. She believes that teaching cats agility -- an obstacle course much like the dog sport -- can go a long way to getting them mentally tired, and possibly prevent behavior problems from occuring. Below is a video of Linus going through a simple course.