General Interest

Tripod Jude

posted November 16th, 2013 by
  • Share

by Anna Holton – Dean

“HEY JUDE, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better. Remember to let her into your heart. Then you can start to make it better.” …No words could be more fitting for Rottweiler mix Jude.

Two years ago, he was at Stillwater Animal Welfare awaiting surgery to amputate his twisted leg and shattered shoulder when his smiling face appeared on Kathleen Hughes’ Facebook news feed.

“His name was Caesar then. He just looked so happy despite being so underweight and in pain,” Kathleen says. “My friend is in vet school at OSU and works out of there quite a bit. She said he had an exceptional temperament and was a really positive dog.”

Although she was told he would need extra post-surgery care and attention until he got his strength up, Kathleen drove to pick up the newly-tripod Jude that weekend.

“He was so pitiful,” she says. “He would just sigh and lay his head on my lap. He was about 35 pounds, and the area where his leg used to be was all shaved and bloodied. But he was happy just being touched.”

The exact cause of Jude’s extensive injuries is still unknown, but it was strongly suggested to Kathleen that the previous owner abused him.

“He has since doubled his weight and he was taken away from his owner, so if he wasn’t being abused, at the very least he was being horribly neglected,” she says.

That may be why he also didn’t respond well to his name Caesar. “On the way back from Stillwater, ‘Hey Jude’ came on the radio, and I was singing along, and he stopped whining. So it stuck!” Kathleen says.

Jude had a long road of healing ahead. He wouldn’t go inside Kathleen’s house for the first two weeks but chose to lie in his outdoor doggie bed, basking in the sun.

“He just laid there healing and gaining weight even though he had a very nice bed inside and a doggie door too,” she says. “He would lay his head on my lap, whining, and I just kept feeding him doggie Tylenol and brushing him since huge clumps were coming out of his fur.

“Now he looks like he was born this way. Stillwater Animal Welfare did a beautiful job [on his amputation]. And when people say, ‘Oh, he only has three legs!’ we say, ‘Shh, he doesn’t know!’”

With the help of his forever mom Kathleen, Jude has adjusted to life with three legs—probably happier than he ever was with four legs in his former situation. “Jude can shake and hug. He also has some bad habits you wouldn’t expect from a three legged dog; he digs and jumps on us when he’s excited. We live in a three-story loft, and he beats me up the stairs every time. He can even outrun my parents’ Lab, and he wrestles with the best of them at the dog park,” she says.

“His favorite activity is playing in my parents’ pool. The shallow end goes up to his chest, and he jumps around and has a blast. Every time I think, ‘Oh, he probably can’t…’ He has already done it before I finish my thought.”

What Kathleen wants others to learn from Jude’s story is that pets with missing legs—tripods— can have wonderful, quality lives. “A woman at the dog park came up to me, visibly upset,” she says. “She had euthanized her dog because she was told he had cancer, and she thought he would live a ‘less than’ life with three legs. She got teary-eyed, saying she saw Jude and realized she had made a mistake.

“I just want people to know that if their dogs are injured, born a little different, or get a disease, they can still live completely normal lives with only three legs. Jude is literally the happiest dog I have ever met; he just stares at me with adoring eyes, begging to be petted.

“He’s never met a person he didn’t like. At the dog park, he just hops from person to person, leaning against them, pleading for love.”

Jude is an example—a reminder of the resiliency of our four- or even three-legged friends. “Even when he was starving and injured, coming out of major surgery, he just emitted this positive energy of ‘I’m just happy to be here!’” Kathleen remembers.

In the words of the Beatles, Jude and Kathleen certainly took a sad song and made it better.

Are You Ready to Adopt?

posted November 16th, 2013 by
  • Share

by Kiley Roberson

Adopting a pet is a major commitment.

Unfortunately, people often put more time and effort into researching what kind of car to get than the type of pet that would best fit their lifestyles. Caring for a companion animal goes far beyond providing food, water and shelter. It takes research and careful planning to bring the right pet into your home, and to make sure your lifestyle is the right one for your new pet.

Professionals—like Nancy Gallimore Werhane and Jean Letcher—say deciding to adopt a pet is a monumental decision. Nancy is a certified professional dog trainer and co-owner of Tulsa’s Pooches, a doggie daycare, training, grooming and boarding facility. Nancy says that adopting a pet as opposed to purchasing one from a breeder is an obvious choice, as “one walk through the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter answers that question.”

Jean, manager of Tulsa Animal Welfare, further explains why adoption is the best option. “It allows us to find homes for animals that are already alive rather than going to a breeder and saying, ‘I’d like one from your next litter.’ These animals have already been born. They are looking for homes. It benefits both the home and the animal,” she says.

While adoption is important, knowing the responsibility that comes with a pet is paramount.

“Most companion animals end up in shelters or in rescue programs because humans failed them, not because of something they did,” explains Nancy. “When you adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue group, you not only save that animal, but you save another who can then step into the spot vacated by your new pet. Adoption saves lives, pure and simple. But you have to be ready for the responsibility.”

Our resident experts recommend asking yourself a few big questions before bringing home Fluffy or Fido. Why do you really want a pet?

The most important question to ask yourself, Nancy says, is, “Why do you really want a pet?”

“Everyone should ask themselves why they really want to adopt a particular pet before taking the plunge. Answer that question honestly. You should first want a particular pet because you and all of your family members want a companion and are ready to provide the love and care that animal needs and deserves.”

If you’re interested in adopting a pet, and your answer to the above question is the same as Nancy’s, it might be time to open your home to a new furry friend. But before you do, we’ve comprised a few additional questions to help make sure you’re ready for the fun and commitment a pet requires. What’s your five- or even 10-year plan?

A dog or cat can live 15 or more years, so envisioning how pet-friendly your life will be in the future is important. Think about any major life changes you might go through—things like getting married, having children, moving or changing careers. And keep in mind that as pets age, their needs change as well. Will you be adopting the pet by yourself or with someone?

If there are other people in your family, everyone needs to be on board with the idea of adding a pet to your home. If you have a roommate or spouse, make sure that he or she is totally committed to a new pet. And even if everyone is on board with the idea of getting a pet, it’s important for people in the household to express concerns ahead of time. Do you have time for a pet?

“Dogs and cats not only require food and water, but they need attention, affection, and exercise—both mental and physical,” says Nancy. “If you work long hours or have a very busy schedule, you may need to decide if you have time to devote to the proper care of a pet. Proper care also includes trips to the veterinarian, daily exercise, and training classes for dogs.”

Though dogs generally require more time and attention than cats, you should be able to give any pet your undivided attention. Dogs and cats who don’t receive daily interaction have a greater risk of developing behavioral problems, anxiety and obesity.

As Jean explains, having a pet is like having a child. You can’t have a child then decide you don’t have time for it. “You don’t have the option of putting a child on a chain in a backyard if you’re too busy to spend time with him or her. Likewise an animal can feel pain and loneliness. You need to determine up front that you have time to care for the animal,” she says. Can you afford a pet?

The cost of a pet goes well beyond the adoption fee. According to the ASPCA, dog owners should expect to spend about $1,500 on a dog during the first year of ownership; cat owners should set aside at least $1,000 for that crucial first year.

“Financial commitment also varies from pet to pet,” Nancy explains. “Obviously, it’s going to cost more to care for a Mastiff than it is to feed a Chihuahua.” One thing you can count on is that all pets need a healthy, premium diet and routine veterinary care. Monthly care such as heartworm pills and flea and tick prevention also add up. And, of course, you always have to be prepared for emergencies.

“Animals can get sick or injured, just like humans can,” says Nancy. “You have to be prepared for the expense of providing care outside of normal shots and routine check-ups.”

Nancy points out that you may also have to pay for boarding or a dog walker or pet sitter when you’re out of town. And then there are ongoing expenses for supplies like pet beds, collars, leashes, treats, kitty litter for cats, etc. Pets are a commitment of time and money. Can you provide a proper home for the type of pet you hope to adopt?

It’s important to pick the right pet for your home and lifestyle. Every potential adopter should take an honest look at these two things to make sure that adding a pet to the mix really makes sense. “Some dogs require a home with a securely fenced yard while others can adapt well to apartment life with leashwalking for exercise,” explains Nancy. “If you live in a tiny apartment, a Great Dane doesn’t make much sense, but a house cat would likely do just fine.” With that in mind, Jean says the energy level of the breed should be just as much a consideration as the size.

Choosing the right pet for your home, family and resources is vital. If you rent your home, be 100 percent sure that your landlord will allow you to have a pet and check to see what pet deposits might apply before you decide to adopt. “The welfare of the animal, not the whim of the person, needs to take priority,” Nancy says. Are you willing to train your animal companion?

Lack of training is one of the most common reasons that adopters return pets to shelters—are you willing to solve behavior problems? Basic training helps dogs and their owners communicate better, strengthening the relationship overall. And taking the time to understand why your cat does what she does, especially when it involves her litter box and scratching habits, will help you avoid potential problems. If you already have a pet, is that animal likely to accept a new housemate?

The good news is that most pets, even the most spoiled cats, crave companionship. Of course, it may take some time for an existing pet to accept a new addition. The ASPCA suggests introducing animals to each other before adoption. It gives you a chance to watch them interact and see if they’ll be good, compatible housemates. Do you have small children?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no species or breed that comes ready to live with kids. If your kids are still toddlers, you might consider waiting a few years before adopting. If you have children, it’s important to teach them the rules of safe pet conduct: no teasing, pulling, pushing or climbing on animals. You’ll also want to spend extra time meeting different animals, so you can observe tolerance levels and the ability to bounce back from jarring incidents. Are you prepared to pet-proof your home?

Whether it’s tightly sealing your garbage cans or paying attention to dangerous decorations during the holidays, you’ll need to make your home safe before adopting. That includes keeping toxic foods, petunfriendly plants and dangerous household items out of paw’s reach. Are you sure?

The final question to ask yourself before adopting a new pet is if you’re sure you can handle it. Have you thought everything through carefully, and are you ready for this giant commitment? If your answer is tied to emotions, that might be a problem. One of the biggest issues, especially during the holidays, is people giving pets as gifts.

“The proverbial puppy wearing a bow under the Christmas tree can sure backfire,” says Nancy. “Giving a pet for Christmas is often a last minute emotional decision that is not well thought out. Holidays are generally busy, crazy and a bit on the hectic side. I can’t think of a worse time to introduce a new puppy or kitten into a family.”

Nancy says that if you have planned responsibly to add a pet to your family and want it to be a Christmas surprise, it’s a better idea to wrap pet supplies to place under the tree, and then go pick up your new family member after the holiday hustle and bustle calms down. Bring your new pet home when your household is sane and ready to focus on helping the pet properly acclimate.

Now that you’re ready to adopt a new companion, here are some tips to find your perfect pet:

Visit with the employees at your local animal shelter. They can often tell you a lot about a specific animal that catches your eye.

Talk with your veterinarian. He or she can offer great advice and tips for caring for a particular pet.

If you are attracted to a specific breed of animal, seek out people who own that type of pet and ask questions about care requirements, personality traits, etc.

Take your time. Don’t let anyone rush you. Do not be locked into a specific breed. Make eye contact with all the available animals in the shelter, and oftentimes, the pet will pick you, Jean says.

Adopting a new pet is a big responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but the joy and unconditional love you receive from your new furry friend definitely makes it worthwhile.

Zoe

posted November 16th, 2013 by
  • Share

by P.J. Witte

May 3, 2001, I was living in Cluj- Napoca, Romania, studying for a Romanian language test with the windows wide open to embrace the warm spring afternoon. I heard the sound of a cat wailing in the distance, not an unusual sound as stray animals roam in abundance in Eastern Europe.

Soon I heard the sound again but now it seemed to be from across the street on a weedy hill which was home to squabbling hens and roosters. I set out to investigate and met Vali, the downstairs neighbor boy. We climbed the steep slope toward a circle of agitated fowl that were pecking at a small cleft partially covered by weeds.

There, crouching and making a pitiful sound, was a tiny black kitten. Vali immediately warned me not to touch the animal, but I was already bending in for the rescue. The creature leaped into my outstretched hands and clawed her way up and onto my shirt.

On closer inspection, we noted the peanut butter markings and caramel sprinkled black fur—our little find was a Torti. While the kitten clung to me, and Vali tried to dissuade me from the venture, I carried the trembling cat to my home. After coaxing some milk and giving her a bath, washing off the chicken stench, we set out to find a litter pan.

I found a copy paper box lid along with some sand and settled in to decide what was next. I put her on a towel for the night, and she never moved for the next 12 hours. She was exhausted from trying to stay alive on the mean streets of Cluj.

I knew finding a home for her was highly unlikely so my choices became euthanasia, returning her to an early death on the streets, or making her a part of my household. Clearly, the latter was my only real choice. Now I needed a name.

She was in poor shape, bony and parasite ridden, so I wanted a hopeful name. Zoe, which means “life of God,” seemed hopeful. Zoe it was. The vet estimated she was 8 to 10 weeks old.

Finding pet accessories was not easy in Cluj, but I did find a mini litter pan and some very odd litter. Since I could not find toys, I balled up tin foil and was surprised to watch her play with it. She quickly made a game of “paw ball” in my foyer, batting the ball at the wall and running to hit it again and again.

She also was quick to learn hide and seek. I would run and hide behind a door. She would find me and then run and hide behind a door. (I am not joking.) Every day she would greet me after work and want to play a game.

After the first night and every night until the end of her life, she slept with me with one paw stretched out to touch me. Don’t get me wrong though. This was no snuggly kitty. Zoe was very feisty and would snap and bat at you if she didn’t want your attention. I attribute her survival to that scrappy attitude.

In late summer, I unexpectedly moved back to the United States. My choices were to leave her to fend for herself or bring her home. The vet warned she was too young and frail to travel in baggage. Also, although she had her shots and her kitty passport, there was a rabies outbreak in our area, and it would be difficult to get her over the border.

Having no animal sedation, the vet gave me a children’s Benadryltype substance for the transatlantic flight. I also packed the mini pan, litter and some dry food. Zoe was in a nylon carrier. Happily, all three legs to Tulsa were open to an animal in the cabin.

During the eight-hour van ride to Budapest, Hungary, Zoe slept unmedicated in her carrier. Although I had told the driver I had her and had given him her papers, he didn’t mention her to the border guard.

I wish I had a video of us in the airport bathrooms. Putting litter in the pan, I would put Zoe in it. What cat eliminates on command? Sometimes the bathroom matron could come in and see me squatting in the corner with a kitten. No one thought it cute or interesting though.

Finally, in Amsterdam, I found an unused concourse and let her run around a bit. She was delighted to be out and enjoyed the large windows. Near flight time I found a single handicapped bathroom on the empty concourse and decided to give her the meds there. She freaked; I chased and had more of the sticky substance on me than in her. When we emerged there was a handicapped person waiting.

I felt awful and got quite the look. After seven hours in Amsterdam, we boarded for the long flight home. Zoe remained quiet until about an hour from landing. When she started to wail, the flight attendants took her in the galley and gave her ice cream.

We went through Memphis customs. I had marked the customs declaration where it asks about “having plants, food, or animals.” I was literally the last person to go through. The agent looked at my declaration and asked sarcastically if I had brought in a granola bar.

I was so exhausted I didn’t know what he meant at first. He pointed to the check mark. I sharply retorted, “No, I have a cat!” and gave him Zoe’s papers. I did not know what to expect bringing an animal into the U.S. I didn’t expect what happened. Nothing!

The agent never even looked at her and waved us through. I was relieved but also conflicted. Should it really be so easy to bring in a foreign animal? I knew she was fine, but how did he? He couldn’t even read what her papers said.

At last we boarded our final leg into Tulsa where we were met by family, and Zoe began her new life in America.

Zoe and I were together for 12 years and eight weeks. She was feisty and funny to the end. I was saddened to be in the position we all dread with our critters, of helping her leave this life. On June 28, 2013, I said goodbye to Zoe. It was an honor to have known her. I will miss her!

The Luv Train – A Cat Tale

posted November 16th, 2013 by
  • Share

by Camille Hulen

The story begins in June, when Dorothy, a hard-working professional woman in her 50s, died suddenly. She lived alone with her two cats: Hara and Ama. Dorothy had no children or family; what is more, she had no living will or other instructions. What would happen to her beloved cats?

Co-worker Jenny knew that something must be done, and sprang into action. She retrieved the scared felines from under the bed at Dorothy’s home and took them to her vet. They were given a medical check-up and remained there for boarding. However, after a few days the kitties remained terrified, cowering in their cages. These 5-year-old girls had never been away from their safe and comfortable home.

It was then that I met Jenny, when she brought Hara and Ama to board with me for socialization. She knew that if they were ever to find new homes, Hara and Ama must learn to trust people. At my facility, they would be in a relaxed setting, not in a cage, co-mingling with other cats and people.

Meanwhile, a fund in Dorothy’s memory was established to care for her kitties. What an awesome tribute! Even former colleagues from out of state contributed, in addition to her local friends—a display of love for a deceased person, as well as for the cats.

As the kitties began to adapt, another crisis ensued. They began to show some symptoms of upper respiratory illness, probably induced by stress. To avoid transmission to other boarders, back to the vet they went, this time, in isolation.

After a two-week stay, they were deemed healthy, so they came back to me. Now they adjusted quite quickly, head-butting and demanding to be petted. They became more comfortable with other cats as well as people. Giant strides, but it was now August; we needed to find a permanent home. Emails were circulated.

An amazing thing happened! A former colleague from Boston wanted to adopt them! She was a real cat person with one cat of her own and had loved Hara and Ama when she had visited Dorothy in the past. Only one dilemma remained: how to get the cats to Boston.

Air travel was not an option. The danger of transporting cats as cargo is well known. Someone could fly with one cat accompanying her in the cabin, but not two cats. Someone might drive the 1,600 miles, or perhaps meet the new owner (“meowmie”) halfway— it still remained a long journey.

Then another friend, Samantha, discovered the Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network (URRKN). And so the saga of Hara and Ama’s journey begins. The URRKN is a volunteer organization working to transport rescued cats anywhere in the United States. A route is mapped out, and the trip is divided into manageable segments so as not to be a burden for any one person.

In this case, 17 volunteers participated. Hara and Ama left Tulsa on August 10, arriving in Cambridge, Mass., on August 17. The route was Sapulpa to Vinita to Joplin to Springfield to Lebanon to Rolla to St. Louis to Toledo to Elyria to Youngstown to Brookville to Bellefonte to Bloomsburg to Wilkes- Barre to Milford to Danbury to Hartford to Cambridge and their new home! Whew!

Is it any wonder that we choose to call this operation “The Luv Train?”

At last report, Hara and Ama have settled comfortably into their new home. According to their new meowmie, “The only fatality thus far has been the couch as they take turns shredding it.”

To volunteer or learn more, visit the Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/URRKN/ ).

Solving the Mutt Mystery – DNA

posted November 16th, 2013 by
  • Share

If you ever walk through the kennels of just about any animal shelter, you’re likely to hear the same question repeated over and over: “What kind of dog is that?”

by Nancy Gallimore

I often get a good chuckle when people tell me with absolute certainty that their dog is a Catahoula mixed with a Polish Lowland Sheepdog because “that’s what they told me at the shelter.” Oh, you shelter workers… you crafty shelter workers. Way to make a total hybrid into some exclusive, have-to have- it cross.

But, this is part of the fun of having a mixed breed dog—you get to decide what type of dog you have and who can really tell you otherwise?

In reality, there are a lot of dogs out there that would cause even the most veteran dog experts to scratch their heads in confusion. Identifying the parentage of a majority of mixed breed dogs is a total shot in the dark. You can look at size, coat type, the shape of the head, the type of ears, the tail carriage, and all will give you an educated guess, but it’s still just that—a guess.

In the last several years, however, technology has stepped in to try to take away some of the guesswork. Thanks to advances in DNA testing for animals, the possibility of uncovering the breeds that came together to create your four-legged best friend is not only becoming readily available, but also affordable.

Basically, there are two routes you can take in choosing a DNA test. You can purchase a home kit that you administer yourself, or you can ask your veterinarian to perform a test for you.

A quick online search reveals that the Wisdom Panel® kit by Mars Veterinary™ has pretty much cornered the market in canine DNA testing. They offer a couple of options in home test kits, as well as the Wisdom Panel Professional kit that must be administered by a veterinarian.

According to information provided by Mars Veterinary, the Wisdom Panel canine DNA analyses are based on more than a decade of extensive research drawing from experts around the world. The Wisdom Panel testing development included the analysis of more than 19 million DNA markers from more than 13,000 dogs, enabling the detection of breed composition of dogs with unprecedented accuracy.

The home kit contains thorough instructions, a submission form, two cheek swabs and a prepaid mailer. Now, don’t be like me. I kind of wanted to dive right in and swab away. Who needs instructions, right?

In the interest of this article, however, I made myself stop to read those instructions from start to finish before I started. Good call.

There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to collect your dog’s DNA sample, and customer error can make an accurate test impossible. The good news is that the instructions are clear, and the process is fairly simple.

You might just need an extra set of hands on board to help convince your dog to accept two 15-second cheek swab procedures, which are painless, but, according to my dog, annoying.

Once you have completed the process, you simply seal up the swabs containing your dog’s DNA samples, place them in the postage paid mailer, register your kit online, and drop it off at the post office. You will receive a confirmation email acknowledging your registration and an overview of the process.

The Wisdom Panel Professional is only available through your veterinarian. It requires a blood draw that is then submitted on your behalf. While this test does cost more, it should be more accurate, and it’s up to your veterinarian to follow those darn instructions on your behalf.

The blood sample is less likely to be contaminated than the cheek swab, which can be compromised if a dog has eaten something recently, chewed on a toy, or played with another dog. Both tests take two to three weeks to process, but in the meantime you can login to www.wisdompanel.com to check the progress of your dog’s test.

The Wisdom Panel home kit claims to identify 200 breeds and varieties of dogs including all breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The Wisdom Panel Professional recognizes more than 235 breeds, types and varieties, also including all AKC breeds. A complete list of the breeds in each test’s database can be found on the Wisdom Panel website.

So why test at all? You love your dog whether it’s a Chihuahua/Bulldog cross or a Poodle/Irish Wolfhound hybrid, right?

Information on the Wisdom Panel website counsels that uncovering a dog’s ancestry can help owners understand their dogs’ natural tendencies. Physical traits and specific behaviors like digging, herding and barking can all stem from the various breeds that make up a dog’s family tree.

According to Dr. Angela Hughes, veterinary genetics research manager at Mars Veterinary, the Wisdom Panel tests can unearth a breed history that owners never suspected.

“Knowledge of the true breed makeup of a dog can help owners work with their vets to be on the lookout for certain diseases they never would have suspected and increase the chances their dog lives a healthy and happy life,” she says.

Dr. Lauren Johnson, a veterinarian at Hammond Veterinary Hospital, has administered the professional test and agrees that the information gleaned can be helpful to dog owners.

“Once an owner has an insight to the breeds that came together to create [his or her] dog, it can make it possible to create a tailored training, exercise, nutrition and care program to fit the dog’s specific needs,” she says.

Dr. Johnson does find, however, that most people seem to run DNA tests just out of curiosity. “A lot of people who adopt a dog just want to know what kind of dog it really is,” she says. “It’s a fun process and the results can sometimes be quite surprising. “

So let’s see how well we can pit our breed identification skills against the actual tests. Here are four dogs, all tested by curious owners who just wanted to learn a bit more about their furry companions.

First we have cute, little Rowdy. An adorable, scruffy little guy, I guessed Rowdy was a miniature Poodle crossed with some sort of small Terrier, maybe a miniature Schnauzer. The verdict? Rowdy’s test revealed that he is just a mix of two breeds: Shih Tzu and Chihuahua. I totally missed the mark on this one.

Next up is the lovely Liara. I thought that Liara might be Husky and maybe something like Akita, with a little Pit Bull in the mix. After testing, it was discovered that Liara is a German Shepherd, Siberian Husky, and American Staffordshire Terrier mix, with one part of her ancestry a bit too mixed up to decipher. I’m going to give myself a solid B+ on my guess here.

Then we have sweet Elmer. To me, his head shape suggests Shar Pei, and I defaulted to Labrador Retriever mix since it is such a popular breed and his owner is a lab fancier. Surprising to me, there was not one bit of Labrador Retriever detected in the primary breeds identified in Elmer’s DNA.

Instead, Elmer was determined to be a Weimaraner, Shar Pei, Samoyed cross. Well, I’m giving myself a pat on the back for the Shar Pei guess, and Elmer’s beautiful eyes do remind me of a Weimaraner, but Samoyed? A white fluffy dog? That gene is buried a bit deeper, isn’t it, boy?

Then there is Tatum. Tatum is the only dog of the four who was tested using a blood draw, which was done by Dr. Johnson. Honestly, this one had me stumped. He’s just all ears with brindle markings and a 17-pound body. All I could guess was some sort of Terrier.

Tatum’s owner believed he might be some sort of Boston Terrier mix combined with Chihuahua. After testing, it was discovered that our little mystery mutt is actually 50 percent Boston Terrier and 50 percent Jack Russell Terrier. That has to be one busy, fun little guy!

While all of these results seem pretty believable, Dr. Johnson admits there is still debate in the veterinary community about the accuracy of the tests, though she agrees the tests have improved greatly since first hitting the market in 2007.

The reality is, once samples are properly collected, the tests are only as good as the database from which they draw. The more breeds recognized by a test, the better your chances of uncovering your dog’s mystery parents and grandparents.

Overcome with curiosity, I have now submitted a test for my own little mixed-up mutt, Tink. My best guess is that Tink is one part Jack Russell Terrier, one part Australian Cattle dog, and two parts Tasmanian Devil. The test will soon tell the tale… or is that tail?

What Exactly is a Wolfdog?

posted September 21st, 2013 by
  • Share

by Sherri Goodall

Perhaps the easiest way to answer the question, “What exactly is a wolfdog?” would be to start with what it isn’t.

It is not a hybrid.

A hybrid is a result of two different species breeding. For example, a liger (lion and tiger) or a mule (donkey and horse) are both hybrids. The offspring is always sterile. Wolves and dogs are the same species. There is only a .2 percent difference in their DNA. In fact, if you go back far enough, all dogs trace back to wolves. My Westies would have to go back hundreds of generations to find the wolf in their ancestry.

It is not a dog in a wolf’s body or vice versa.

Today’s wolfdogs are the result of dozens or more generations of wolfdogs bred with wolfdogs or canine breeds. It is very rare for a wild wolf to breed with a domestic dog. Years ago, wolfdogs came into existence because of fur farms. Breeders bred wolves to Northern breeds such as Malamutes and Huskies for their pelts, thus getting what we know now as the wolfdog.

Phenotyping

Phenotyping is based on lineage, behavior and characteristics and is used to determine how much wolf is in a wolfdog. High content would be 75 percent wolf; mid-high content would be 50 to 74 percent wolf; low-mid content would be 1 to 49 percent wolf. The higher the wolf content, the higher the wolf traits and characteristics.

Wolves are pack animals and depend on the alpha male/female for leadership, protection and food. A lone wolf is not a happy wolf. By nature, wolves are very shy. They depend on their alpha for protection, and if that is a human, then they will expect you to protect them, not the other way around.

They will likely run and hide if a stranger approaches. Wolves mate for life, so when one loses its mate, it can grieve to death. (Wolves are the only animal known to bury their young if a pup dies.) People who care for wolfdogs usually have a pair for this reason.

Wolves are said to have the intelligence of a 5-year-old human; dogs, a 2-year-old. If you own a wolfdog, you will find them extremely intelligent to the point of outsmarting you! They’re Houdinis when it comes to opening gates, digging out of enclosures or just climbing over fences. Now that you have a primer on what a wolfdog is and isn’t, let’s talk about these majestic, soulful creatures in person.

Terry and Karen Lilly rescue and rehabilitate wolfdogs. Their passion began 10 years ago with a wolfdog pup named Bear. He was supposed to be a “trial run” for the Lillys to see how life with a wolfdog would be.

The trial run lasted seven years. Bear passed over the rainbow bridge in 2010. When he was a year old, the Lillys got Cheyenne as a companion for Bear. She was the offspring of two high-content wolfdogs, and what a handful she has been!

Karen says that Terry is the most patient human she knows, and Cheyenne pushes him to the edge. It was then that the Lillys decided to do something about these misunderstood and mistreated creatures. They’ve volunteered their time at Safari Sanctuary in Broken Arrow for several years, where there are four pairs of wolfdogs. They are the Lillys’ “babies.”

I have to admit, I was slightly terrified when the Lillys led me to the first enclosure, housing Tanasi, the male who is part Malamute, and Tseena, the female. When the two saw Karen and Terry walk up, they immediately jumped up on the fence and went bonkers with joy.

Wolves don’t bark, but they howl and whine and “talk” to you. When they settled down a bit, Karen told me these two were the most socialized and would love to “play” with me. I decided to wait a bit, but I did pet Tseena through the fence, and she actually licked my hand. “My, what great big, white teeth you have,” I said.

My terror evaporated as I looked into Tanasi and Tseena’s beautiful eyes. Curious more than anything, they wanted to check me out just as I wanted to check them out. There was no fear or aggression.

Myatuk and Akayla were in the next enclosure. They were typically shy and watched from a distance. They came to the fence when I retreated. No sticking hands in there! (However, there was no danger in doing so.)

Once we got to Apollo and River, Karen became very animated. These were her extra special babies. Apollo is a light gray wolfdog, quite majestic and regal. Both he and River, who looks more Husky, are mid-content. Both were rescued from a woman who wasn’t able to care for them any longer.

It took almost two months of constant visiting and coaxing to capture the pair and get them to the Sanctuary in 2012. They were malnourished and skittish, and River was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on her leg.

Karen spent weeks in the pen, winning the pair’s trust. Even though Apollo takes his cues from River, he is definitely the alpha. When Karen entered the enclosure, River raced over to her, grinning from ear to ear, as only a canine can do. I don’t know who loves whom more!

When River saw me, she retreated and started pacing. I was allowed in the pen, but just stood there. Apollo watched River; River watched Karen; both watched me. It was only when Karen left me and got closer that the pair came to her, but always with a wary eye on me. It was if they knew she would “protect” them.

When l went out, they immediately came over to where I stood, and starting smelling the ground to check me out. I’m sure they smelled my Westies. River appears to be cancer free and just celebrated her third birthday.

It was then that I could feel the “bond” that the Lillys spoke of. Terry said it’s impossible to explain. It’s something that is felt purely in one’s heart, both the animal and the person.

Now, I was ready for my play date with Tanasi and Tseena. I was told to stand against something and be prepared for paw marks on my visor. Tseena came out first and practically leapt into my arms. Yes, I had paw marks from my waist up to my face. She wanted kisses.

Next, Tanasi came out. He was a bit gentler, and at 120 pounds, tried to climb in my lap (I was sitting by then). Do not try this at home! These are the most socialized of the wolfdog pairs at the Sanctuary. Of course, they also took their cues from Karen and Terry.

The verdict after my encounter with wolfdogs: I was in love! Despite my successful meet and greet, very few people can qualify to own these majestic canines. They are not pets; they won’t curl up in your lap, fetch your slippers or sit on command.

Ever try training a house cat? (Sort of like my Westies.) A wolf does what a wolf wants to do… period. They do not respond to discipline. You must earn their respect and vice versa. They never should be left alone with small children or small pets, neither should any large breed dog.

They require large and secure enclosures, a high protein diet (meat) and can be very expensive to maintain. They require a huge amount of socialization with people and other animals. Each definitely needs another wolf/canine companion. The Lillys do adopt out wolfdogs, but it is a very disciplined process.

The Lillys are in the process of acquiring acreage for their rescue work. A major fundraiser has been launched at www.gogetfunding.com/project/wolfwolfdog- sanctuary.

Please visit and show your support! To learn more, visit www.freedomssong.org. You can also check it out on Facebook, Freedoms Song Wolf Rescue, where you can read a heartwarming story from the Moore tornadoes involving the rescue and rehabilitation of a severely injured wolfdog.