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It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood

June 13, 2014

To quote Mr. Rogers, “It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood,” and on this Friday the 13th, it certainly is. Perfect day for a walk at Oceanside harbor. So four Kindred Spirits dog trainers and seven dogs walked around the harbor, smelled the Pacific Ocean, listened to waves crashing and sea gulls squawking, and watched the boats. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and just a touch of a breeze. Ahhh…….this is why I live here.

I’m pretty immune to the appeal of palm trees, but even the palm trees were graceful this morning.

See that low retaining wall bordering the beach in front of the palm trees?  That’s a great agility obstacle for the dogs to walk on. I think Riker started that tradition when he was younger. Bashir, of course, had to do it if Riker did it. And now Sisko and Bones are learning to do it. When we reach that part of the walk, the dog must hop up and walk the length of the wall.  If you fall, another dog will hop up and take your place. So don’t fall!


20140613_104701There are always adventures for the dogs, too. t least from the dogs’ point of view. Today, several sea lions were up on one dock and a big male barked at the dogs as we walked past him. Bones watched him closely; after all, this was a big guy who needed herding dog supervision. River, Melissa Duffy’s youngest English Shepherd, also thought this sea lion looked sketchy and growled under her breath at him while standing shoulder to shoulder with several of the older dogs. “Uh huh, River, I see how brave you are.”

20140613_104816Sisko, originally from the mountain deserts of Arizona, still thinks sea creatures are really strange. And sea lions are noisy. Sisko watched closely. If that sea lion had made one move towards us, we would be gone – with Sisko pushing us from behnd, “Go! Go! Go!” No, on the other hand, he would be leading us.

There is one spot on our walk where the dogs can get in the water and splash and all did except Bones. He was intent on watching everyone while being a responsible herding dog, “Wait! Don’t go out too deep! Come back! What are you doing?” Meanwhile Sisko lost his focus on the sea lion while jumping from the dock into the water and back up again, over and over.

20140613_111808Later we did some training around the lobster traps. Did you know lobster traps sitting on the dock in the sun stink? Oh yeah. They stink. And the dogs thought that the traps smelled bad enough perhaps they were for catching dogs, too. So from the trainers there was a bit of, “Hey, look! These traps have dog treats! Woo hoo!”  Sniffing the traps resulted in praise and a treat. Touching the trap with a nose earned even more rewards.

All in all, a wonderful day, a lovely harbor, good friends and awesome dogs. Nothing better than that.


All four photos by Liz Palika. Top left: Bones watching the sea lion. Top right: Palm trees in the sun. Middle: Sisko watching the sea lion. Bottom: Kate Abbott showing a group of dogs that lobster traps aren’t scary.

Filed under: behavior and training,pets, connected — Liz Palika @ 4:25 pm

What’ll they think of next? The new reason to bring your pet to the vet annually.

May 2, 2014

Phone conversation with the receptionist at my vet’s office today:

Me: Could you please fax Harper’s vaccination records to this boarding kennel?
Receptionist: Did you know Harper is overdue for her titer?
Me: No, she’s had one in the past couple of years.
Receptionist: Well, she’s supposed to have one every year.
Me: If vaccinations are good for a minimum of three years, why would she need a titer every year?
Receptionist: We need to make sure her titer levels aren’t too low.
Me: [in my head: I’m not even going to argue with you.] Anyway, I need you to fax those.
Receptionist: So you don’t want to do another titer?
Me: Right.

Harper sitting pretty-1Sigh. I thought they were trained at my veterinarian’s clinic not to argue with me about this stuff. Maybe she’s new. It was my understanding that it pops up right by my name–don’t bother arguing with Kim about vaccinations. So I guess they’re going to argue with me about how often titers should be done.

But seriously? It’s not rocket science. If the AVMA and AAHA and all the veterinary schools have data showing that core vaccinations confer immunity for several years, isn’t it obvious that titers would only be done every three years?

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s immunology expert Jean Dodds, DVM, from her blog, in response to a question about a dog’s distemper titer being low:

I suggest titer testing your dog every three years for both distemper and parvovirus. Any measurable titer to a vaccine, including distemper and parvovirus, means that the dog has specific committed immune memory cells to respond and afford protection upon exposure. It really doesn’t matter how high the titer result is as long as it measures something.

I get that vets want to see pets on a regular basis. I think that’s important. I go to my doctor every year for a physical, and veterinarians need to adopt that model as well instead of making up stupid reasons that aren’t scientifically valid. I expect better.

Filed under: pets, connected — Kim Campbell Thornton @ 5:22 pm

Legal Beagle: weekly news roundup

April 21, 2014

Sleepy beagle dog in funny glasses near laptopBad news for pets in Oregon. Aimee Green in The Oregonian reports that the Oregon Court of Appeals threw out the conviction of a 28-year-old woman who starved her dog, saying that pets are property. The judges based their decision on evidence from a veterinarian who tested and treated the dog without a warrant.

In reversing the 2011 misdemeanor conviction of Amanda L. Newcomb, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals ruled that animals are living beings but they are also property under the eyes of the law. And that doesn’t trump their owners’ constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

The dog was seized after the Oregon Humane Society received information that Newcomb was mistreating the dog. An animal-cruelty investigator found the dog to be in “a near-emaciated condition” and took the dog to an OHS veterinarian–without first getting a warrant.

Newcomb was charged with second-degree animal neglect. Her defense was that her Fourth Amendment rights protecting her from unreasonable search and seizure had been violated.

A lower court had sentenced Newcomb to one year of probation and had forbidden her to own animals for five years. That sentence is now vacated and Newcomb is not expected to be retried since the evidence against her is not admissible.

On the other side of the country, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Friday for the first time that police can legally enter private property without a search warrant to rescue endangered animals, reports John R. Ellement for the Boston Globe. The decision extends the same authority long used by police to save the lives of people.

“The question is one of first impression for this court,’’ Supreme Judicial Court Justice Barbara Lenk wrote for the unanimous court. “In agreement with a number of courts in other jurisdictions that have considered the issue, we conclude that, in appropriate circumstances, animals, like humans, should be afforded the protection of the emergency aid exception.”

The SJC ruling was hailed as a reason for celebration by animal advocacy groups, but generated a warning from the defendant’s attorney that the ruling was so vaguely worded that police can claim concern about an ant farm or a goldfish to bypass privacy rights.

Filed under: pets, connected — Kim Campbell Thornton @ 8:41 am

Bark about it: weekly news roundup

April 14, 2014

I only have time for a quick post today, but I ran across a few interesting stories that I thought would make for good discussion. First up, this Wall Street Journal piece by David Grimm, online news editor at Science, on the legal status of pets. He writes:

Until the early 1900s, both animals were deemed so legally worthless that they didn’t even qualify as property—and could be stolen or killed without repercussion. But as Americans began to spend millions, then billions, on food, toys and veterinary care for their pets, the law changed. Today, cats and dogs aren’t just property; they are the most legally protected animals in the country.

Felony anticruelty laws in all 50 states impose up to $125,000 in fines and 10 years in prison for anyone who abuses animals. The federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, passed after Hurricane Katrina, requires rescue agencies to save pets as well as people during natural disasters. Judges have been increasingly willing to treat cats and dogs like people in the courtroom, allowing custody disputes over pets and granting large awards in cases like Ms. Lohre’s—including so-called noneconomic damages typically reserved for the death of a spouse or a child. In a few recent court cases, judges even gave dogs their own lawyers.

I know I would want recourse if my pet were harmed by a careless veterinarian or groomer, but I can see the qualms on the other side, too. I think I can safely say we all agree that pets have value, and more and more, courts are agreeing as well. What’s your position in this debate? What limitations would you set, if any?

On the lighter side, the New York Times has an essay by David Hochman, a new member of the barkoisie (a word I coined myself a few years ago) on the latest in helicopter parenting–of dogs.

The last time I had a puppy, I was 9 years old. This might as well have been in the Mesozoic era, since life with a dog was so primitive then. If Buck was good, he got Gaines-Burgers and maybe a Milk-Bone. Bad, we’d deliver stern admonitions over the half-eaten sneaker. But within hours of adopting our fuzzy, adorable Pi, I sensed that being a pet parent today — nobody uses the word “owner” anymore, apparently — means cultivating intelligence, manners and communication skills the way the parent of, say, a small human might.

You’ll either laugh or snarl when you read it.

Under the heading “gratuitous mention of one’s own dog” is this week’s PetConnection newspaper feature, withKimKeeper1 hints on tricking dogs (in which Keeper, pictured here, plays a starring role), the dangers of lilies for cats, cool new pet products and what to know when your pet goes under anesthesia.

Filed under: behavior and training,gratuitous blogging,media,pets, connected,worth a click — Kim Campbell Thornton @ 10:38 am

A country dog learns to live a city life with confidence

April 10, 2014

Sisko 2013-10Sisko was born on a ranch in the mountains of Arizona east of Tucson. Paul and I brought him home when he was about six months old. Poor little dude: Suburbia was overwhelming for Sisko.  Our neighborhood was noisy compared to the ranch he grew up on, and there were sights and sounds and smells new to him.  He tends to be cautious by nature, but at times he was just plain frightened.

So I set out to gradually and carefully introduce him to his new world. The days we had puppy classes at Kindred Spirits Dog Training, I brought him  even though technically he was too old.  I figured the socialization with happy puppies would be good for him. He was wary and often worried, but he did OK.  I also gave the driver of the trash truck some treats to give Sisko because that truck was huge, stinky, and noisy. The neighbor who drove a loud Harley gave him treats, too. Gradually, over several weeks, with many short, upbeat drives and walks all over northern San Diego county, he began to trust me and relax.

Then, just a few months after Sisko joined our household, my husband died. It was chaos again, and Sisko’s newly won confidence was shaken. And a year after that Riker, my oldest Aussie passed away. Poor Sisko. Thankfully, however, Bashir has been a rock and Sisko was able to lean heavily on Bashir’s confidence. The three of us made it through those tough times without Paul.

I began teaching Sisko therapy dog work as a means to keep his brain busy. I was entering him in every class I could to build his confidence and to challenge him, so he had already been having fun in non-competitive agility, trick training, stockdog work (he’s an Australian shepherd) and obedience training. But since most of my dogs have been therapy dogs, I started teaching him those skills knowing full well that he might not have the confidence (or desire) to be a therapy dog. But he did well, and we began visiting. Initially, I kept the visits short and if Sisko began showing signs of stress we would leave. However, he quickly learned what was expected of him and soon was visiting for an hour at a time.

Sisko will be four years old on April 12, and for lack of a better term, he’s blossoming. He looks forward to our Monday morning therapy visits. He knows which people enjoy him at the facility we visit, and he knows how to find their rooms. For some, he will lean up against their wheelchair so they can reach him. For others he puts his front paws on the side of the bed and offers them his head to be pet. Some people want to snuggle with him in bed and he knows how to jump up carefully and position himself so they can hug him. Out on the street he doesn’t pay any attention to strangers at all,  but should he spot someone in a wheelchair, he makes a beeline for that person. If he could verbalize it, he’d say, “This person needs me!”

20140110_162355I see Sisko’s change in confidence around Bones, too. I had told my friends that Bones, with his bold character, would probably overshadow Sisko before Bones was grown up, and for a while that’s the way it appeared. However, in the last few months, as Bones (now a year and a half) was growing from puppyhood to adulthood, Sisko made a change. He became bolder during playtimes. When things get rowdy instead of leaving the play and watching from the sidelines as he used to do, Sisko began controlling some of the play. Instead of giving up his toys as he did, he is no longer allowing Bones to steal them.

A four years old, my shy and formerly fearful boy is coming into his own. He still has that natural caution and always will have it. But when something startles him now he doesn’t panic, and he is willing to investigate the thing that startled him. He works as a demo dog in my classes, plays hard with Bones, respects Bashir (as he should), loves his therapy dog work, and is a happy dog. And he makes me smile.

Both photos of Sisko; by Liz Palika

Filed under: behavior and training,pets, connected — Liz Palika @ 7:29 am
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