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Choosing the Right Person

posted January 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Camille Hulen

The cat chooses the person, the person does not choose the cat, as these two stories illustrate.
Case #1 – laila

Why would anyone want to give up such a beautiful cat?  She was a full-blooded Siberian for whom they had probably paid $700.  “She bit one of the kids and she doesn’t like my husband much either,” the lady said.  So Laila was put up for adoption.

A young couple took her home.  They loved her dearly, but, it seemed, she developed this bad habit of urinating on their bed.  They tried different kinds of litter, they took her to the vet to have her checked for a urinary infection, and sought all sorts of advice, but the problem continued, so they brought her back to the shelter.  They cried when they left her.

Laila was checked once more for physical problems and none was found, so she was placed in foster care at a kennel for observation. There she always used the litter box, and never had an accident.  She was very loving and sweet, and even got along with other cats.  However, she did demand a lot of attention. She seemed to prefer women over men, and liked quiet time devoted to her alone.  Perhaps that is why she didn’t do well in a family setting, and, perhaps she was jealous of the couple’s relationship with each other.  She wanted a person all to herself!  Based on this information, it was suggested that she would do best in a home with a single woman.

Sure enough, the right person came along quickly!  She did have another cat, but felt that she had ample time to devote to two cats.  So Laila went to Home Number Three.

The following is quoted directly from the new “mom.”  “She is such a loving wonderful girl and gets sweeter every day as our bond grows closer and she continues to become more trusting…I am so happy with her and I love her and can’t imagine how anybody could have given her up.”  Need I say more? 

Case #2 – harley

Harley was the victim of a divorce.  When she came to the shelter, the man said that she was a sweet girl, but all she did was hiss, growl, and bite the volunteers.  Everyone was afraid of her, so she went to foster care.

At first, she stayed in her cage and growled.  If a human tried to pet her, she struck back.  This cat required a lot of patience, so she was left undisturbed, but allowed to observe other cats.  Hmm, this wasn’t such a bad place: those other cats seemed to be having fun.  They were relaxed and liked to play and be petted.  “Maybe I should try that,” Harley thought.  (Yes, cats do learn from observing other cats.)  So she ventured from her cage, but then quickly darted back when a human came near.  It turns out that Harley wasn’t mean: she was just afraid.  Two humans had previously adored her, but now she had no one.

Eventually, she allowed one person to pet and brush her, just a little at first, but then more and more.  The real breakthrough came when she relaxed enough to play.  She actually lay on her back and batted at toys.  This was a new found trust.

Then one day, the “right person” came to see her, interested in adopting her.  Harley immediately trusted this lady, for she was quiet and kind: she let her brush her and play with her.  This looked like an ideal match!  However, after giving it much thought, the lady decided that her current living situation was just too uncertain to assure Harley a good home, for she might be moving soon.

At the adoption center, Harley stayed to herself, and mostly hid in the storeroom.  But, guess what?  That nice “right person” could not get her out of her mind and came to visit her often.

Then, after a long time, it finally happened!  The lady decided that she was ready to take Harley home.  The adoption was approved immediately, since everyone had seen the bond between cat and person.  It had previously been a struggle to get Harley in a carrier, but this time she went right in, and when she reached her new home, she came out eagerly.  She stretched out on the floor and rolled around.  That first night she slept in the lady’s bed, and every night thereafter.  Home at last! 

Clearly, Laila and Harley chose the right people. 

The Wondrous World of Macaws

posted January 15th, 2008 by
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It’s not unusual to see a pet owner talking to a pet. It’s just not everyday that you hear the pet answer back – or have a conversation with another nearby pet.

That’s the wonder of macaw ownership, the largest of the parrots, and probably the most intelligent.
“There has been a lot of study done on macaws, and scientists have found that some have the intelligence of a typical 4-year-old,” says Tulsan Mary Hill. Hill has nine macaws of various species, ages 2-15, and she serves as the publicity chairperson for the Oklahoma Avicultural Society in Tulsa.

Walking into Hill’s bird room is a bit like entering another world. It is a magnificent explosion of avian color. Multicolored birds of various sizes perk up at the sight of visitors in their midst. The room is definitely the domain of the macaw, with large cages lining the walls of this garden-type room attached to the Hill’s home. Mary notices one of her macaws is blushing. Yes, blushing.

“Oh, you see a pretty girl, don’t you?” she says. The noticeably reddish tinge to the macaw’s few white feathers on its face deepens even further. Then he proceeds to hang upside down and squawk loudly.




“They all love to show off,” Hill said. “Bailey (one of her macaws) likes to wrestle.”
Hill took a macaw out of his cage for a closer look and a snack. Macaws have large, extremely strong beaks capable of breaking into a hard-shelled nut with very little difficulty.

“Is it good?” a voice cackles out from a cage across the room.
“It’s very good,” the nut-eating macaw responded.




Welcome to the world of macaws, full of surprise and lots of entertainment. Definitely worth the price of admission. And that price can be steep, Hill says, with baby macaws costing from $1,200-$1,300, and the rarer blue hyacinth macaw going for up to $5,000.

Each macaw has his or her own large cage, which Hill cleans daily. She lines the cage bottoms with
custom-cut waxed paper. Large perches, mostly wooden, are the central focus, along with the mass of toys in each cage. “They love their toys,” Hill says. “Macaws are happier when they can be destructive, because they have the urge to chew. Because of these destructive instincts, macaw owners need to figure in a fairly large toy budget for their birds.”  “Macaws will chew your furniture,” Hill says. “They have to have a ‘job,’ and that’s why it’s important to have appropriate toys to play with.” Looking at Hill’s macaw cages, they all appear to be very sturdy, secure structures made of metal. But never underestimate a macaw, Hill says. One of her macaws, Picasso, actually spurred a cage manufacturer to redesign their product. “Picasso figured out how to unlatch the cage, got out of the cage, and let all of the other birds out of their cages,” Hill laughs. Hill says that the Oklahoma Avicultural Society offers cage and accessory exchanges and a toy making workshop to help their members save money.


Macaw health
Daily cage cleaning also allows Hill to check on the health of her birds. “You can check their droppings to see if they look OK.” “Weighing birds is important to the health,” Hill adds. “Owners need to get a gram scale.” Hill noted that in addition to weight loss and a change in droppings, behavior changes with illness. “They will hide if they’re not feeling well,” she says. “Macaws don’t want to be perceived as being weak. If they’re not perching, it’s a big sign that they’re sick. “Sometimes macaws will pluck out their feathers if something isn’t right,” Hill says. “It could be boredom, diet, or family discord.”
Hill also recommends finding a veterinarian who specializes in bird care and maintains an avian certification. “They have had additional training with birds,” Hill says.

Creating a safe environment
To create a safe environment for macaws, Hill notes several common household items that can be fatal or cause illness. “You cannot have Teflon [a common non-stick coating for cookware] around. When it’s heated, it creates a gas that can kill a macaw,” Hill says. She also advises against the use of harsh cleaning chemicals, smoking tobacco and even lighting scented candles around the birds. “I clean the floors with water and vinegar,” Hill says. Food also can be deadly for macaws. “They will eat just about anything, but they can’t have chocolate, onions, avocados or carbonated drinks,” Hill says. Insecticides are another category Hill says macaw owners need to investigate before using them around the birds. Even having another type of bird around a macaw can be dangerous. “Some other bird species give off a dust that macaws are allergic to,” Hill says.


Outdoor Time
Hill recommends outdoor exercise time for birds. “My birds have their wings clipped, so that they can’t fly away, but they should never be left outside alone. Hawks are predatory and will attack the macaws,” she said. Hill has an open air aviary for her birds, which includes trees, toys and an overhead netting for protection. Weather permitting, they go outside mid-morning and stay until about 5 p.m. each day. “I never leave while they’re in the aviary, and I keep it padlocked [to avoid theft],” Hill says. She also separates the birds by gender into divided areas of the aviary, since she is not a breeder. While the macaws are outside, Hill says she often gives them a bath with the sprinkler.

What’s for Dinner?
Although parrot-specific pellets are acceptable food for macaws, Hill prefers to give her birds a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. She also gives them a parrot seed mix. “I give them broccoli slaw, sugar snap peas, small amounts of fresh fruit, fresh spinach, and cabbage,” Hill says. “Macaws have very small stomachs, so one grape is enough for them.” Hill also gives her macaws a serving of organic sprouts mixed with a parrot spice mixture. “Everything is washed and fresh or frozen.” 
Water needs to be fresh, and not out of the tap, Hill says. She recommends bottled water for the minerals it contains, but says not to use distilled water. All this meal preparation adds up to at least three dishwasher-loads per day, she says.

Training a macaw
“You have to have the patience of 10 Jobs,” Hill said referring to the training of a macaw. “They respond really well to positive reinforcement, though.” Hill recommends taking advantage of advice from other local ‘birdbrains’ who are members of local organizations like the Oklahoma Aviculture Society. The Tulsa group meets the third Sunday of most months, 1:30 p.m., Hardesty Library, 8316 E. 93rd St.  More information on the organization and on bird training and care is available on their Web site, The OAS also sponsors bird fairs periodically, with the next one scheduled in March. The OAS also is a good source of information on reputable breeders, Hill says. 
“If a person does have a bird with behavior problems, they can always consult a parrot behaviorist,” Hill says. “They will frequently do phone consults.”

Lifelong companions
Because macaws often live to be 60-80 years old, special considerations need to be undertaken, Hill says.  “If you get a young bird, you need to make sure you plan for them, in case you’re not around,” Hill says. “Many people will decide who will take care of the birds after they die, and they even set up a trust for their care.”

Other considerations
With all their beauty, intelligence, and entertaining qualities, macaws may seem like a perfect pet. Hill warns, however, that there are some cases where a macaw may not be the best choice for a family pet. “They are very, very loud,” Hill said. “Macaws absolutely are not suited for an apartment. They have a tendency to scream, especially in the evening.” Hill also doesn’t recommend macaws as a pet for small children, but says that teens usually are able to understand how to properly handle the bird so that they or the bird are not injured. “Macaws need a lot of human contact, for the stimulation,” Hill says. This may make them a better pet for households that have someone home during the day. “Spend some time with a person who has a bird,” Hill recommends. “Read about the different types of macaws—they’re not all alike. “My recommendation for a first-time macaw owner is the Blue and Gold,” Hill says. “They generally are sweeter and easier to handle.”
 “They’re a lot of work, but they’re my babies,” Hill says.

Story by Susan Payne

Rescuing Oklahoma’s Horses

posted January 15th, 2008 by
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Tucked into the gently rolling hills of Jones, Oklahoma is a sanctuary. With a modest home at one end, this 10-acre tract is a refuge for unwanted, neglected or abused horses.

It’s a place where good food, a kind hand, and medical care are the order of the day.  This is Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue.  

The farm is a labor of love for the founders, Shawn and Natalee Cross, along with their two daughters, Dakota and Kaitlyn.  Their rescue’s story began with one of their own horses, ironically named Blaze.  A horrible wildfire was consuming the area where they lived.  The family was trying to outrun the fire with their precious animals in tow when Blaze was seriously injured.  The wounded mare was written off by several veterinarians, but Natalee refused to give up on her.  She finally found a vet willing to save her beloved horse. That experience lit a fire in Natalee to save other horses in desperate need of help.   Blaze made a full recovery and that was the beginning. 

The Cross family decided they could make a difference, even if it was a small one.  In 2001 they made their farm into a welcoming place for needy horses.  They struck a deal with Oklahoma City authorities to call Blaze’s Rescue when neglected horses were to be seized.  Natalee and Shawn would take possession instead of authorities, thus getting the animals to safety and keeping the city from investing any money they would want to recoup.  Before that deal, these animals would frequently end up going to auction old off to the highest bidder, which for many of them meant being sold by the pound for meat.

Shawn and Natalee would provide a safe place, so as many horses as possible could escape a horrifying death.  Natalee describes that type of trip.   She tells of horses being herded into large trailers.  A petrifying experience. Many are on their way to be slaughtered in Mexico; the horses are wedged in and often trample smaller, weaker ones in their panic. Many are babies. The thought makes Natalee bristle. The best method for dealing with a growing horse overpopulation problem is the subject of much debate in the United States.  Shawn and Natalee Cross have decided to help as many as they can in their way.

What does it take to save a horse?  The cost is high and anyone who has ever owned a horse understands this. Care for these animals is not cheap. Some horses, like Devon, an adorable yearling miniature horse, need surgery.  The Cross family does their best to get it done.  Most of their “guests” have hoof problems, and they take care of that too.  Month after month.  Thousands of dollars can be spent getting the horses back into healthy condition so they can be adopted.  But the fee they charge to take one home is small — the average price:  $300 – $600.


Natalee has become skilled at judging equine behavior and personality.  She assists prospective adopters to find the best match from her rescues.  Enter my 13-year old niece Rebecca.  Like so many young girls, the dream of owning a horse filled her days.  Her mother, who had also been “horse crazy” as a kid, worked to make her daughter’s dream come true. They contacted Blaze’s Tribute and discussed the skills and desires of this 13-year old girl.  Natalee selected three prospects, all horses that had been part of a dramatic 36-horse seizure in September of 2006.  (A third of them are still looking for homes.)  

On a cool spring day, Rebecca’s dream came true.  Standing in the stall at a stable near her house was her very own rescue horse.  Since then, girl and horse have become fast friends. Kitty is the copper-colored horse’s new name and she quickly became a favorite resident at the barn.  Children run to see her and feed her treats:  a skill Kitty had to learn for the first time.  Her condition has continued to improve, so much so, that the last time the farrier was out to shoe her, he insisted “that horse” couldn’t be the rescue.

Not all the placements are fairy-tales, however.  Natalee says she has had horses returned.  But only a handful has come back in six years.  “We are glad to take any horse back at any time for any reason.  If it’s a bad match, we can find another that will be better suited to their new home.” 

Currently, the Cross family is working with a large influx of new rescues.  These came from a 44-horse seizure. Thirty of those have been taken in by foster homes, the remaining horses are now residents at Blaze’s.  Some, including youngsters, are in desperate condition.  The sight of this type of starvation is nothing new to Natalee and Shawn, it’s what keeps them working 12 – 14 hour days with no vacations.  Natalee says she hopes one day to be put out of busi-ness, that one day there won’t be a need for her kind of work.  But she looks around and sighs, “I don’t see that coming anytime soon.”

They have trouble keeping a green, grassy pasture because of the large number of residents, but hay and grain flow freely.  The pain of starvation fades into the past.  Slowly, painful feet will be eased.  Fear is gentled away as horses wait for their chance to start a new life. 

Six short years ago a family thought they could make a difference.  And since then they have, saving more than 200 horses.  

Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue is a 501 c-3 non-profit organization. They can always use financial contributions and of course, loving, permanent homes for their rescues.

I hope you’ll pay them a visit at www.blazesequine, where you can see photos of all their wonderful horses including some touching before and after pictures. Read their stories and you too will be touched by the determined kindness of this Oklahoma family.

Story by J.M. Sheldon

Five Saves Lives

posted January 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Ruth Steinberger

Five Saves Lives is a simple concept that could dramatically reduce the number of animals euthanized in shelters across the country without any additional expense, facilities or staffing. In fact, while reducing the number of unwanted litters, fewer resources will be used, money will be saved and animal welfare programs made easier and more streamlined. Does it sound like a dream come true? It is not. 


Five Saves Lives  is a brand new nationwide campaign developed to educate the public, as well as veterinarians, on the importance of sterilizing kittens and puppies by five months of age in order to prevent pets from producing early, unwanted litters, which often come as a surprise. A Tulsa spay/neuter program is rolling out the carpet for the concept.

According to Peter Marsh, Esq., of Concord, New Hampshire, a founder of the first statewide spay/neuter program in the US, and co-developer of Five Saves Lives, Oklahoma will be the first state in which a large scale FSL campaign will be rolled out. 

The Five Saves Lives Campaign will emphasize two facts that many pet owners may not be aware of: that health benefits from pet sterilization are the greatest for female cats and dogs if they are sterilized before their first heat cycle and female kittens and puppies can go into heat as early as five months of age. As a result, the best time for sterilizing female pets is at five months of age or earlier. Any delay beyond that time will jeopardize the pet’s health.

Dr. Brenda Griffin

Marsh explained that timely pet sterilization will not only benefit individual cats and dogs, it will also reduce pet overpopulation. A study by Dr. Andrew Rowan, a veterinary expert on pet overpopulation, found that close to 90% of all kittens and puppies are born to females who are sterilized after they have given birth to at least one litter. Many of these litters are unplanned and unwanted.

‘Early age’ spay/neuter normally refers to pets that are at least eight weeks old and weigh at least two pounds. According to research accepted by the American Veterinary Medical Association, early age spay/neuter is safe.  Five Saves Lives is a modest approach to the early age concept, moving the timeline back just a few weeks from the traditional six month recommendation.   For veterinarians uncomfortable with the more drastic change from six months to eight weeks, this protocol can have dramatic benefits with a less drastic change in recommendations. 

In support of the concept of preventing the first litter, SPAY OK, a high volume income based spay/neuter clinic located in North Tulsa, will reduce the price of surgeries for kittens and puppies less than five months of age as of January 1, 2008. Spaying or neutering a puppy will cost $20 and a kitten will cost $15.


Esther Mechler, Executive Director of SPAY USA and co-founder of Five Saves Lives said, “Millions of kittens born in this country are in ‘whoops litters,’ meaning they are born accidentally. Many are born because some veterinarians are not spaying cats before six months old.” Noting that cats mature at four to five months of age, Mechler said, “Those few weeks, the ones between four and a half months and six months, are when a lot of unwanted litters are produced. Moving the surgery back in time just a few weeks will save millions of lives on a nationwide scale.” 

Mechler said, “We can gain a lot of ground by changing the timeline slightly. It doesn’t cost a penny more to spay a few weeks earlier, it is easier on animal shelters because the litters are just not born.” 

Brenda Griffin, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (Internal Medicine), Director of Clinical Programs for the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine said, “Five Saves Lives refers to spaying and neutering pets before sexual maturity, and that not only prevents the birth of unwanted litters, it improves the health of the pets having surgery—and that’s what people need to get.”

Brenda Griffin, DVM, MS Diplomate ACVIM (internal Medicine), Director of Clinincal Programs for the Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, NY

Griffin explained the health benefits to animals sterilized before sexual maturity. She said, “For female dogs you virtually eliminate the risk of breast cancer, which is the most common type of cancer in female dogs. Griffin added, “Everyone has known someone with breast cancer, yet breast cancer is much more common in dogs than it is in people.”  Griffin continued, “If the dog begins to come into season you reduce that benefit. In unspayed dogs we also commonly see serious uterine infections (called pyometra) which are often handled as emergencies once they get older.” Griffin said, “A parallel situation exists for cats.” 

Griffin explained that for male pets, neutering decreases the risk of prostate disease, perianal tumors and hernias.  She said, “We also decrease scent marking by dogs and spraying by cats, as well as inter-male aggression. Many people neuter working dogs because it means that they keep their mind on the job. Less marking, spraying and fighting and better working ability means better pets, so you see, Five Saves Lives is life-saving in many ways!” 

Tulsa Pets Magazine asked Dr. Griffin what she views as the most important part of pet ownership. She said, “Spaying or neutering a young pet is one of the most important things people can do for the life of the animal.  Vaccination, sterilization, some basic training and making sure your pet has identification are the most important things you can do for them.”

Judy Kishner, President of SPAY OK, said, “In addition to the health benefits of spaying pets before sexual maturity, the failure to spay a pet in a timely manner results in euthanasias, animal abandonment, wasted shelter resources and more. An unwanted litter is a completely preventable tragedy.”

The Very Real Importance of Spaying and Neutering

posted October 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Ruth Steinberger

The number of animals entering the Tulsa City Shelter each year alarms individuals and humane organizations striving toward a reduction in animal suffering in Tulsa. 
According to city records, in 2006, 17,734 animals entered the Tulsa City Animal Shelter. Of those 12,541, or 70.7%, were killed. Whether resulting from ignorance or a lack of caring, this tragedy costs over 1.5 million dollars per year. While the intake number changes slightly from one year to the next, the relative percentage of animals released through adoption or to rescue organizations, or being euthanized, changes little.   

Without increased support for an aggressive spay/neuter effort, including enforcement of existing laws, the numbers will be unlikely to drop. 

Regulations in the City of Tulsa require all pets over the age of six months to be spayed or neutered, unless the owner has a breeder or hobbyist exemption.  This means that any resident of the City of Tulsa who advertises to sell or give away pets in the classifieds, and who does not have this permit, is literally advertising that they have broken the law. While budget constraints prevent enforcement except when the animal is reported as a public nuisance, statistics show that enforcement of the spay/neuter ordinance is imperative to reducing shelter intakes, addressing many animal-related complaints, and based on the findings in other cities, would likely save money. 

Enforcement of Tulsa’s spay/neuter ordinance is a humane issue, a public health issue, and a budget issue. Overall, whether or not pets are altered affects the communities in which they live.  Responsible pet ownership, which includes sterilization, determines if a dog will be a good canine citizen or will become a taxpayer burden.  

For all municipalities, the spaying and neutering of pets in the community is the single greatest element in creating a humane solution to shelter overcrowding.  It is not possible to build a big enough shelter, or provide enough adoptive families, to address pet overpopulation. 

Hundreds of examples of spay/neuter efforts resulting in dramatically lowered shelter intake rates exist. In Oklahoma, the cities of Okmulgee and Bristow have both dramatically reduced shelter intakes by offering sterilization services for low-income residents, with the  

1) Bristow shelter intake being reduced by over 85% and  2) Okmulgee at more than 75%. There are no examples of a euthanasia rate being humanely lowered by a primary effort aimed at an increase in adoptions in the absence of effective spay/neuter programs. 

Euthanasias are driven overwhelmingly by the number of animals entering the shelters, not simply by a failure to send enough animals out. Ultimately, fewer animals entering the shelters translates to fewer animals destroyed. 

Judy Kishner, founder and President of SPAY OK, a non-profit spay/neuter clinic operating in north Tulsa since 2004, said, “A walk through the city shelter is a sobering experience. If you figure that most of the dogs originated in Tulsa, those animals are testimony to the need to enforce this law. These are mixed breed dogs that would have been prevented had this law not been broken by the owner of the mother dog or cat.” 

Referencing that some criteria deems dogs under three years to be ‘adoptable,’ Kishner continued, “Sadly, each day that this law is ignored provides the promise of at least three more years of a shelter full of unwanted dogs needing homes. It’s like bailing out a boat without fixing the leak. The cycle needs to end.”  Kishner added, “This is an issue for everyone.  Roaming animals, looking to breed and wandering neighborhoods, affect quality of life for humans. They don’t have to bite you to be a nuisance.”

The average dog will have three to five homes in her life, and less than one in ten dogs will remain in one home for life. Most mixed breed canines will become unwanted by age two.  Simply, too many dogs are bad for the community, the taxpayers and the animals themselves. 

Over 86% of dog bites requiring a hospital visit involve unsterilized (intact) animals. In fact, although the breeds often thought of as dangerous dogs, including Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, account for a disproportionately high number of serious bites and fatal maulings, these incidents overwhelmingly  involve unneutered animals.

Spay/neuter is also the backbone of all efforts to reduce animal suffering.   From the humane perspective, whether or not a pet is sterilized is a predictor of whether or not the animal will remain in the home or be released to a shelter or even abandoned, and it is the single greatest predictor of whether a dog will actually become the victim of an accident or an act of cruelty.  

Roughly 80% of canines found dead on the road are intact males, and the majority of animal cruelty cases involving canines  involve intact adult males as well. 

Jim Weverka, Animal Control Manager for Lincoln, Nebraska and two time past President of NACA (National Animal Control Association) explained the dollars and sense side of this issue in 2002. He cited an advisory board in Lincoln that formulates animal control policies based on strong city wide enforcement and on avoiding policies that are impossible to enforce.  For example, most animal related complaints made to municipalities involve behavior that is directly related to breeding including roaming, fighting and property destruction through marking, etc. While Tulsa’s animal control ordinance mandates that cats must be kept indoors or on the owner’s property, in Lincoln cats that are allowed outdoors must be sterilized. Weverka pointed out the common sense of this issue, “Because of roaming and other breeding related issues, unaltered animals are seven times more likely to be picked up by the municipality. That costs money.” Ultimately, these issues also tie up the courts and law enforcement personnel as well.

Peter Marsh, nationally known for developing the first successful statewide spay/neuter program, a program which reduced the kill rate in New Hampshire by 80% in under four years, explained that spay/neuter is absolutely the first line in halting animal cruelty. Marsh told Tulsa Pets Magazine, “You simply cannot move forward on humane issues without first addressing pet overpopulation. It is hard to tell people that animals are important in an environment in which they are disposable.” 

Dog Training 411

posted October 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Mary Green

Q: My beloved dog, Lucy, is getting up in age.  She hasn’t slowed down too much (at twelve years) but there are days that she doesn’t move around too well.  I would like to get a puppy before Lucy gets too old and crotchety.  Is it a good idea to bring a puppy into the house?

A: Sure!  If you want another dog and can meet the needs of a puppy – go ahead.  Don’t get a puppy to just keep Lucy company!  If Lucy has never been fond of other dogs, or you know that she is aggressive to other dogs, it may not be a good idea, though.

If you decide to add a puppy, you will need to help Lucy make adjustments.  First, do your homework.  Be sure that the breed or type of puppy you select has characteristics that would fit well with Lucy’s personality.  Don’t select the most hyper puppy, or one who seems to pick on the littermates.  You might consider getting a puppy that, as an adult, will be smaller than Lucy, and often it is best to select the opposite sex to your established pet.  

Once home, it is important to supervise the new puppy with Lucy.  Try not to let the puppy overwhelm Lucy with rough play and unsolicited attention.  If Lucy growls at the puppy, she is telling him she doesn’t like his behavior.  Young puppies need to learn boundaries from older, reasonable dogs.  Don’t scold Lucy for correcting the puppy.  On the other hand, if Lucy is handing out unfair corrections to the puppy, you should intervene.  Use the crate, or a barrier such as a baby gate to confine the puppy to an area away from Lucy to give her a break.

Adding a puppy to your household should not change the routine for your established pet.  Lucy still needs her alone time with the family.  She may even need extra attention.  She does not have to mind the same rules as a puppy – rank has its privilege.  Many older dogs welcome having a buddy and exhibit more playful behavior than they have in years.  Best of luck!

Q: I was told my dog had to be sedated to be groomed or he couldn’t come back!  I don’t want my dog drugged.

A: Probably the groomer felt that the dog was too stressed out, too aggressive to handle, or too matted to be groomed.  Only a veterinarian can prescribe a sedative for your dog, and would most likely run some tests first.  A veterinary clinic that provides grooming would be able to monitor a sedated dog during the grooming process.

People will tell me that they don’t brush their dog because “he doesn’t like it,” or “he bites me when I try to brush him.”  So the result is a very matted dog who behaves badly when the groomer attempts to do her job.  Not exactly a win-win situation. If your pet doesn’t allow you to brush or comb him, he is most likely not going to be happy about a stranger.

Every dog should be able to accept brushing and combing, nail trimming, ear cleaning and tooth brushing.  Routine maintenance will make a huge difference when it comes time for the “big groom.”  

Begin with gentle handling exercises.  Have him sit while you pet him with long strokes, and firm pressure from his head to his rump.  Head to tail — don’t go against the growth of his coat.  Do the same thing with the dog standing.  Gently stroke down his leg from his shoulder down to his paw.  Massage his ears, gently lifting the ear flaps.  Feed him some good dog treats while you are doing this.  Next, introduce the nail clipper and the brush.  Hold the tool, feed the dog a treat – don’t touch him with the tool at first.  He can actually alter his emotional response to the presence of the tools, and soon will be happier to see them!

Gradually begin brushing or combing the dog.  Keep rewarding his good response with treats.  If he growls, snarls, shows teeth, snaps or tries to bite, just stop what you are doing.  Let him settle down and go back to the step where you were able to brush him or stroke him before, and try again.  Becoming angry or excited yourself will not help him to calm down, and may make the situation worse.  Instead, maintain your calm and cool! 

If your dog is a young puppy or this is a new behavior for an older dog, you may be able to work out his problems.  You may need to enlist a groomer or trainer to help you with this.

If this is a longstanding problem, and your dog has been fired by groomers, but you can handle the dog, you may need to learn to groom him yourself.  

Q: What should I look for in a training class for my puppy?


A: The major benefit in attending puppy class (often called “puppy kindergarten”) is the opportunity for socialization!  Puppies in the class should be under five months old, and could be as young as 8 weeks in some programs.  The value of early puppy socialization far outweighs the slight risk for a puppy to be exposed to infectious diseases*.  Puppies should have at least received their first set of vaccinations prior to entering class.  Look for a low instructor- to- student ratio.  There should be well supervised off leash play time for puppies.  Class curriculum should be geared toward responsible pet ownership, and should include instruction on basic skills.  Puppy kindergarten should not be a formal “obedience” class.  You should receive instruction about equipment, and what is appropriate or not for puppies!  

*Dr. R. K. Anderson’s Socialization Letter,