Pittsbrugh Pup Crawl!

As part of my daily job I receive emails from different shelters and rescue groups from across the country.  One that caught my eye earlier this year was from New York City, where, in 2009, a group of friends launched The Pup Crawl, a nighttime dog walk across the Brooklyn Bridge designed to raise awareness of the impact of the home foreclosure crisis on animal rescue organizations and to help shelters and rescues across the country raise money to help the pets under their care.

 Since then, the organizers of Pup Crawl have helped spread the word about the importance of adopting from and donating to animal shelter and rescue organizations. They’ve helped local groups to launch their own “pup crawls” in California and other parts of Pennsylvania. They’ve even teamed up with Petfinder.com to help get the word out.                                  

 I saw the photos from the Brooklyn Bridge Pup Crawl and thought … “why not do something like that here in Pittsburgh?”  Pittsburgh is the CITY OF BRIDGES (only Venice has more bridges then Pittsburgh).                      

Support Shelter Pets on 15 July at the Pittsbrugh Pup Crawl!

 I contacted my counterparts at the Animal Rescue League and Animal Friends and told them I wanted to create an event TOGETHER that would become a Pittsburgh Summer Tradition and show our supporters, volunteers, adopters, and our community that Pittsburgh is blessed to have 3 FANTASTIC Animal Welfare Organizations.  Last year we took care of over 26,000 animals (collectively) last year.  None of us can do it alone.  Together we are better and can be even more successful in our missions which is all about the care of pets in Southwestern PA. 

 We look forward to the 1st Annual Pittsburgh Pup Crawl as the start of a summer tradition for dog lovers everywhere.  We hope you can join us with your (friendly) dog (cranky dogs — please stay home) and celebrate Pittsburgh’s Animal Shelters and the 1st Annual Pittsburgh Pup Crawl.


 Special thanks to Jolene at Animal Friends and Ann at Animal Rescue League for helping to pull this event together.  And I would be remiss in not thanking Joseph Hassan of Brooklyn, New York for thinking up the concept of PUP CRAWL in the first place.



Nola named official spokesdog for Cupids and Canines event

Black beautiful pit bull Nola will greet you at the 4th Annual Cupids & Canines event on Saturday, Feb. 12, at Cefalo’s Nightclub in Carnegie. Funds raised will help animals like Nola who have come to the WPHS because of an unfortunate circumstance and who are still facing tough challenges.

Seven-year-old Nola came to the WPHS in October of last year. Her owner had legal problems and she had no one to care for her. With her wonderful personality, she immediately became a staff and volunteer favorite. She liked other dogs, was housebroken and had a tail that stopped wagging only when she was sleeping.

Besides her age and breed, she had another strike against her for adoption. For some reason, black dogs are often overlooked when potential adopters come to the shelter. They are passed by. And she isn’t a “little” girl either.

Longtime volunteer dog walker Geri Stewart was one of Nola’s cheerleaders.  She took Nola to several offsite adoption events and was enchanted by her demeanor.  Geri took Nola home as a foster  for Christmas, not wanting her to spend that time of family and love in a shelter.

Several days into the foster, Geri noticed several lumps on Nola.  After examination at WPHS, Nola had surgery to remove  several of those lumps.  They turned out to be mast cell tumors, a form of cancer that can be aggressive.  In Nola’s case, it appears to have spread throughout her body.  In most cases with Grade 2 mast cell tumors, the average survival time is 6-12 months.

Although a potential adoptive family was interested in Nola, when they learned of the diagnosis, they decided to look at other adoption possibilities. It didn’t look like much of a future for Nola.

Even though Geri had recently lost one of her own dogs to cancer, she and her husband decided to adopt Nola and to keep her safe and comfortable for as long as they are able to do so. Nola does not behave like a dog with physical problems.  She still loves to romp. She greets everyone with a wagging tail and kindness in her eyes. She was a natural choice to be this year’s official representative of Cupids and Canines.

The event is co-sponsored and proceeds will be shared by WPHS and Bow Wow Buddies Foundation, that has made curing canine cancers  its top priority.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. They include $20,000 in gaming money or chance auction tickets, desserts and coffee. It’s a great way to treat your sweetie and help the animals at the same time. For tickets, contact any Pittsburgh Camp Bow Wow location or buy online at  www.wpahumane.org.

Are you a responsible guardian?

A few weeks ago I as at the dog park when a woman asked, “Are you a dog walker for a living?”. “No, why?”, I replied. “Well, your always right by your dogs watching them very carefully. So I just figured…”. I asked, “Isn’t that what good dog moms do?” I’m well aware of my dogs short comings and accidents do happen, so why not try to keep them to a minimum.

It got me thinking about what it is to be a “good dog mom”. I think it really comes down to how you perceive your relationship with your pets. Are you an owner or guardian? Do you own your pet and they or used for a specific duty or do you guard your pet like it is a family member?

Ownership has many levels. To be a pet owner, means you provide the basics. Food, shelter, water and hopefully kind treatment. There’s also being a “good owner” where you provide the basics, kind treatment, toys, a bed or couch to sleep on, your up to date on vaccinations, your pet is spayed/neutered and maybe a nice fenced yard for exercise. You might even take your dog every Saturday morning to the park to run their pants off.

I think most would like to think they are “responsible owner”. You do all of the above, but your pet gets adequate exercise for the breed, they’re  current on all vaccinations, including Bordatella, get monthly flea treatments and heartworm preventive and maybe enroll your dog in an obedience class or two. Your dog is always walked on a leash in your neighborhood. Your cat is kept safely indoors. You realize your Bunnies, Guinea Pigs, etc… are prey animals and you keep them safely away from prey driven animals.

But being a guardian is so much more. Just like it sounds like. You guard your pets from harm. You do everything a responsible owner does and then a whole bunch more. You set an example of how your pets are cared for, you allow joggers or walkers  to move past you and your dogs with ease and without being intimidated by your dogs, you don’t let your cat poop in your neighbors garden, you pick up your dogs messes, you don’t allow your pet to be an nuisance.

Whether you have a small dog, big dog, a Bully, kitty, bunny or other pet, your job is to protect them from things that may harm them. When you let your kitty outdoors, there are tons of things that can hurt or kill them, including neighbors that are annoyed by them, cars, dogs, kids and the list goes on. Do you leave your Bunny or Guinea Pig unattended in an x-pen in the yard? What would happen if a dog wondered by or even one of those neighborhood cats? Even worse, what if they got out? They are prey animals after all!

Dogs! That’s a whole other conversation. The thing with dogs is that you don’t have to just protect them from things that might hurt them, but from things they bring on themselves too. I think back to a while back when I was at the park and as I entered, I a saw this 25-35 lb Jack Russell-ish mix. I walked in cautiously because I noticed the owner was on the completely other side of the park reading and I have 2 large dogs, one of which doesn’t take kindly to bossy little dogs. The dog ran over to its mom and was hanging out so I let one off of the leash. They little dog then came over and bit my dog and started running. All was fine. Another dog walked in. That dog and mine were having a blast playing chase and hunting chipmunks. All of a sudden, the little dog ran over, bit and growled at both dogs. They stopped and looked at him, then he came back at them again. This time it was on. Luckily, myself and the owner of the 3rd dog were right there and able to grab our dogs.

The little Jack almost got eaten because he was being a little jerk. Did the owner of the Jack notice the happenings? No, because she had her head in a book. When I brought it to her attention she responded, “Oh he’s fine. He can handle himself.”  If she had taken a second to look up from her book, she would have seen he was greatly outmatched. Was she a guardian to her dog? No. If she was, she would have seen him being a jerk and leashed him or left with him. Were the other girl and myself being guardian? Absolutely, our dogs could have been taken away from us and euthanized because they hurt or killed a dog that was picking a fight with them.

My question to everyone is are you a guardian for your pet or just owning it. During this time when Breed Specific Legislation is getting a bigger grip and affecting breeds like Mastiffs, Boxers, Chows, Sharpeis, Dog de Bordouxs, Newfoudlands, Pyrenese and mixes or possible mixes of them, not just Pits, Rotties and Dobies, are we protecting our pets? I hope that this blog, if nothing else, gets everyone thinking what  can I do to be a better guardian. If we all start thinking in terms of “guardianship” instead of “ownership” then owners who are back-yard breeders, puppymill operators and dog fighting rings would be exposed for what they are.  Irresponsible. Responsible guardians would no longer worry is my dog the next dog to be discriminated against.

The Adventures of Gary the Foster Dog Continue

Gary, the 8-month-old pit bull mix, & I have spent this first week of foster getting to know each other. He learns my habits while I learn his. It’s a fair exchange, I think.

He’s teaching me how he signals to go outside & do his stuff. That’s just what I wanted. Then I can tell his permanent new “parents” what to look for. Good boy!

And he’s learned he can sit in the kitchen while I cook, but not to expect anything that he’s allowed to pick up off the floor. He sits quietly & watches, not really expecting anything except an occasional “good boy.”

Today, Gary spent the day just hanging out, learning as he goes. He learned I don’t mean the fly swatter to hit HIM!! Just flies. But, oh, he was afraid of it. I put it on the floor & let him smell it. Explore it. But he soon backed away, well, ran away. Nope, doesn’t want anything to do with that.

I told him & I’ll tell him again & again: That will NEVER happen, Gary. No one will ever hit you. He trusts and he’s “my” dog, but he is afraid to be hit. If I say “go” and point away from myself, he cowers & runs from my hand. If I say “sit” while I’m standing, he lowers his head and runs away.

He’s quick to come back with encouragement and a happy voice from me. We’ll be working hard on that. He follows me everywhere & sleeps next to me on the floor when I’m watching TV, sitting outside or at the computer. He does love me and he’s learning that I will never do him harm. If he feels insecure about something, he’ll run to me & sit on my foot or lean against me as he looks at the scary thing. Sweet baby.

Gary also spent a lot of time today playing — with Ursa or alone with a toy. He just loves to play either way. He tires himself out big time. But after a little nap, he’s ready to go again. He is just a puppy, after all.

And running at 100 mph around the yard. Honestly, if you didn’t know he had just 3 legs, you would never guess. He loves to chase a ball (always returns it too) or just run like crazy.

We had our first company since Gary’s been here. He was terrific. Not timid with them and not obnoxious either. He approached respectfully with a calm demeanor and wagged his tail and waited to be petted. How good!

Gary watches as Ursa, our own Pit, gets table scraps and he doesn’t. He’s very good about it, though, and just watches, never approaching.

As a foster parent, I think it’s my job not to encourage what might be seen as bad habits by an adoptive family. Nor do I let him sit on the furniture. That might seem cruel since Ursa is allowed, but Gary’s not my dog. A potential adopter might see those things as undesirable. Once he gets his real home, his new family can spoil him all they want. But, I feel it’s my job to make him as good as I can to increase his chances of adoption.

But, you see, everyone who fosters might not feel that way. Someone else might feel the need to foster just so the animals can get away from the shelter & get a vacation from the shelter to be hugged and cuddled. That’s okay too!!

Our dogs, cats, bunnies and other critters are fostered for reasons that are as varied as the reasons they ended up in the shelter in the first place.

If someone tries fostering & decides it’s just not for them after all. That’s okay too. Or, it might be that a person falls so in love with their foster, they just can’t part with them & end up adopting them themselves & that’s okay too, for sure!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that no style of fostering is more important or less important than another. All are needed!

Right now, it’s Gary, Ursa and me. And we’re doing just fine. He’s ready for his forever home right now. I’m just trying to make it a little easier to get one. That’s how I see my fostering job. Just a little stop on the trail home. Just a little help along the way.

The Adventures of Gary the Foster Dog, Day 3

Day 3:
Ursa, our own wonderful pit, just spent about 30 minutes teaching Gary how to play.
Yesterday, Ursa was a little reserved about playing with Gary. I watched the two of them closely while they were playing.
Gary was coming at Ursa with teeth & giving her a bite each time he lunged at her. She wasn’t going for that.
This morning, as I noticed what was going on, I began to say “no” when Gary would lunge with teeth. I blocked his muzzle a few times too.
Ursa was very glad. She really wants to play with him, but he apparently was too rough. Maybe it was that before he came here he had been playing with his same age kennel-mate in the way that puppies play – rough.
Sweet Ursa just now played with him, but on her terms. She seemed to change her attitude when she saw I was on her side, and defending her in a reasonable manner. She picked up on it. Knowing Ursa, she wanted to be reassured she was doing the right thing.
She had started the play this time. Gary was still biting at her & landing his hits pretty much. She started to roll slightly away from him & stopped him with her own muzzle. She doesn’t really bite when she plays. Just play bites. No real ones.
She threw herself on her back a few times & let him come at her. When he got there, she responded by moving quickly so he couldn’t grab her leg or her neck. She pinned him once & held him there for about 30 seconds. She really worked hard!! What a girl!
They finished their play on congenial terms. Gary is learning to play. Learning it doesn’t have to be painful for either player. Ursa is such an incredible dog. Instead of responding with a like bite, she taught him, in a few minutes, what he needs to know to become a good playmate for possibly another dog in his new family.   I just love you, Ursa! You make my job so much easier.
Just busted Gary beginning to chew on a bookcase! He had two toys he had been chewing on then apparently nonchalantly switched over to the bookcase. A good, strong “No” put a stop to it. I didn’t even need to leave my seat at the computer. He’s now napping. He seems to be just learning what he can and cannot do.
Since we don’t know anything of Gary’s background, we know nothing about what he knows and doesn’t know.
When he first came home with me, he immediately shuffled next to the trash can in the kitchen. It has a lid on it, but he was taking a sideways wiff with his little nostrils right next to that lid. “NO” I said. He turned away & hasn’t revisited it since. Good boy! He just needs to learn the rules.
I approach all my fosters with the assumption that they know nothing about living inside a house with people & other animals. I find it a necessary and helpful stance. I try to anticipate their moves BEFORE they do the wrong thing. Watching and learning their body language can really tip you off.
I’m sure everyone doesn’t look at or need to see fostering as I do. I take home dogs that needs a little “etiquette” added to their personalities. I also have taken very young ones, rowdy ones and one recovering from some trauma. Gary seems to be all of the above!
But he has the basics of living in a house. He just needs a “tune up.”
He has started letting me know when he needs to go outside! But, again, I need to watch him closely for his signal. Every dog seems to be different on signals.
Oops! Gotta run.  Gary just came into my office & looked back at me as he walked away. Must be time for an outside trip.  Odd how little things come to mean a lot.

The Adventures of Gary the Foster Dog, Day 2

Day 2:
Overnight, Gary was pretty quiet in his crate, but did break out into barking one time. I went to the crate & said “NO!” in a really deep stern voice. He sat down in there & looked at me. There was no more barking even when he heard me stirring in the bedroom when I was up for the day.
In the morning, we went outside immediately so he could do his stuff. Gary seems so used to being on a lead, that when we walk in my fenced yard, he still stays right by my side. In fact, he potties right beside me. Once, he peed on my foot! I didn’t know he was doing it at first. There isn’t any leg lifting with a 3-legged dog.
I had to go out for an appointment shortly after sunrise & Gary had to go back into the crate. He didn’t have a problem going back in. I was back in an hour & we went right outside. Bingo. He did it outside again. Good boy!
Gary delights in the boxful of dog toys, but I had to take it away as he was chewing them all to pieces. He now gets one toy at a time, then I change it before he chews it to bits. He plays very well alone or with Ursa.
Since I’m home all day, I have the opportunity to watch Gary’s every move. Great advantage.
Ursa doesn’t seem thrilled by him for some reason. She wants to play but once they engage, she’s backing off. That’s something I’ll need to watch more closely.
What I have discovered in watching him so much is a situation because he has only 3 legs. He can’t scratch everywhere he’d like to! Yes, he can sit & reach  his left rear leg up to scratch the left side of his neck or left ear, but without a right rear leg, it’s pretty hard to get those right side itches.
So……I started scratching that side for him & he was just in heaven! He leaned into the scratch. I scratched him for about 2 minutes and he seemed so relieved. He probably hasn’t had a good scratch on that side since the amputation. I was glad to help. Now it’s on my agenda – Note to self: Good scratching daily!
I needed to gas up my car, so I figured I’d take Ursa with me for a ride (one of her all-time fav things). Gary went into the crate easily. I wondered how he would be totally alone in the house, without Ursa or me. He was quiet enough as we pulled away.
Different story upon our return. When we got out of the car, oh my goodness, we could hear Gary barking and barking. Loud! Good thing my neighbors’ houses are not right up beside mine. They wouldn’t have liked it.
He was instantly quiet when I opened the door. Hmmmm.  He needs to learn to be quiet even when we’re not home. We’ll work on that.
Gary & I went to the Mall at Robinson for the usual Thursday night off-site event where some of our available WPHS dogs and cats meet & greet the public.
He was so good on the ride to the mall and so good the whole evening. We met many folks and he was quite exhausted by the end. He slept all the way home.
“Home.” Yes, it’s only a temporary home but I felt so good taking him home instead of having him return to the shelter. The shelter does everything they can to make a dog feel comfortable & loved.
But even with a great staff and lots of volunteers, a dog can’t be as satisfied as he would be to go “home.”
We can’t offer a permanent home to our fosters, but it made me feel good just asking Gary if he was ready to go “home.”  Everybody likes going home. He was so  happy to come back here — I think he smiled.
Right now, he’s asleep by Ursa on the carpeted floor. Earlier he was out running around on the grass. Hmmm… carpet and grass underfoot. Both always seems so welcome by our fosters.
Hey, little buddy, that’s what this is all about — for you to remember what it’s like to be home & to help you to be more adoptable and get that forever home.

The Adventures of Gary the Foster Dog

Day 1:
Just got home with our new foster, a little 8-month old pit mix with only 3 legs. Gary was brought in to the shelter by a kind woman who had found him on the streets. He was seriously underfed and his back right leg was crushed.

The vets had to amputate Gary’s leg, but boy, you’d never guess it now if you didn’t see the leg was missing!

He needs a little time away from the kennel. We call it a “cage break.” Gary has been there since mid-July. Poor sweet baby.

Gary needs a little “happy” put back in him. He needs to know he is loved for who he is, not just pitied for what he isn’t (which would be a 4-legged dog).

Today, he has met Ursa, our own beloved pit, who is a great foster sister/mother/whatever-is-needed dog. They played outside. They played inside. They wore each other out. Well, Ursa more so than Gary.

I decided to see if Gary is crate trained, since all of our fosters go into the crate at night. Gary was okay in there for a short while, then cried, then started barking. Very loudly. Big bark for such a little dog.

Tempting as it was, I didn’t get up & let him out as he barked. That would be rewarding him for behavior I don’t want. I waited until he was quiet, settled. Then I calmly approached the crate, said nothing to him, calmly opened the door without any fuss and set him free.

He responded as I had hoped. He quietly came out & went to find Ursa. If I’d have made a fuss and made baby-talk in a high voice, his excitement level would have skyrocketed. Nope, don’t want that. It went as I had planned.

Gary has pottied outside several times since he came home. None in the house. Very good! But the key is to keep letting him out and praising him when he does good. I don’t let too much time go by before I let him out again. Whether he was already trained to do it outside or if it is just by accident that I let him out before he has to go, either way, the goal is accomplished.

Oh, and he also met Happy Cat. I figured I’d do my usual routine of cat-introduction for a dog I don’t know, but Happy Cat took care of that. Quite by accident, the two were face-to-face in the kitchen. Happy Cat used to be feral, so she doesn’t take any guff. Gary chased her for a second, but she turned and swatted at him. He changed his mind! Since then I’ve seen Happy Cat rubbing her spine along the bottom of Gary’s chin.

Right now, Gary is exploring a large box of dog toys. He pulls out one, then another and another.The look he got when he discovered the treasure chest is priceless. He’s getting that happy back already.

BTW, Gary & I will be at the Mall at Robinson from 5 to 9 p.m. tomorrow, Sept. 9,  along with other adoptable animals from the WPHS. We’d both love to meet you.

I plan to blog daily about Gary’s experience as a foster dog. Hopefully, his stay with us will make him even more adoptable, but he couldn’t get more lovable. Stay tuned!