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Publisher Letter

posted July 15th, 2009 by
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By Marilyn King

Greetings from Tulsa Pets Magazine, and welcome to our Summer 2009 Issue! First off, I do apologize to all the cat lovers out there (of which I am one) for a dog yet again gracing the magazine’s cover. I can explain, and I ask for your forgiveness. The Tulsa Chapter of the American Cancer Society held their annual Cattle Baron’s Ball April 3rd at the Cain’s Ball Room, and I was asked to “donate” my front cover as a live auction item for bid. The highest bidder would win their pet’s picture on the July cover of Tulsa Pets Magazine and the bid amount donated to the Tulsa Chapter of the American Cancer Society. I was thrilled to donate my cover for this cause, and I’m proud to introduce the winning Sheltie, Terry. Terry’s family is proud to show him off, and the Tulsa Chapter of the American Cancer Society is $1,200 richer!

We’re receiving more and more dogs, cats, and “others” for adoption placement on our Available for Adoption Today! at www.tulsapetsmagazine.com. Thank you to those rescue groups who are participating in this free service! I do encourage groups who are not participating to please do submit adoptions for posting on the site, and if you need help please email [email protected] for simple instructions on placing your adoptable pets on our site.

I have to say shame on those involved in the sudden death of House Bill 1332. This is covered in this current issue by Ruth Steinberger, and was the bill that would place minimum basic regulations on puppy mill operations or those producing over 35 dogs per year. Why the whole outcome is cloaked in mystery is certainly puzzling, and it’s downright disappointing that we can’t get a straight answer about what really transpired. I would hope that the truth will surface, and in the meantime, the only thing I can say is that may each and every person who is responsible for either delaying or interfering in the bill be forever haunted by the ghosts of the puppies and dogs living the lives of the damned in those mills. May better days be ahead for our Oklahoma puppy mill victims.

Please do try to donate a Kuranda bed to the City of Tulsa Shelter (www.kuranda.com). It’s a most worthwhile donation and will help a dog or puppy be more comfortable during their impoundment.
Thank you to all who again continue to make Tulsa Pets Magazine possible – my advertisers, ad designers, and readers. Please join the Community at our website www.tulsapetsmagazine.com for timely community news, chats, and other postings, and keep the pets about town pictures coming. See you back in the fall! Chow until then,

Marilyn King
Marilyn, Sam and Elmer

A.R.F. – Animal Rescue Foundation

posted July 15th, 2009 by
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By Carolyn Arkison

If the answer to that question is “yes,” please make haste to visit the website of the Tulsa non-profit organization, Animal Rescue Foundation (A.R.F.), at www.arftulsa.org. ARF also has animals available for adoption at the PetSmart® on 71st Street every Friday and the PetSmart® on 41st Street every Saturday.

ARF was founded 20 years ago when a group of friends began working together to rescue animals from area shelters. The group, loosely associated at first, obtained non-profit organization status and has become more organized and efficient with the passing years. Currently, the primary purpose of ARF is to save as many animals from kill shelters within the Tulsa and surrounding area as they possibly can. In 2008, ARF found homes for more than 340 animals and hopes to place 400-500 animals in loving homes in 2009.

ARF is a foster-based group which means they work with several foster families who take the rescued animals into their home, socialize the animals with other pets, family and friends, and this in turn helps to match the animal with a perfect forever family. Foster families give the rescued pets the love and attention they so desperately need and deserve while they also provide specialized assistance with an animal’s issues such as potty training, leash walking and shyness.

ARF works very closely with area veterinarians. Every animal rescued by ARF is tattooed, vaccinated, placed on heartworm medication, and spayed or neutered. ARF requires all adoptive parents to sign a contract stating that if for any reason the adoption does not work out that ARF will be contacted first. Debby Camp, ARF Public Relations
Coordinator, states, “ARF makes every effort to assure a good match. Our foster program lets us know how a dog will behave with other dogs, cats and kids in a household so that we can better match each animal with a family. It’s hard on animals to be returned. Dogs will often have intestinal and digestive problems for a week or more when they are moved from one home to another, so we want every adoption to be successful.”

Currently, the greatest need of ARF is for Foster Parents. To become a Foster Parent, ARF requests that homes have a dog of their own that has current vaccinations and is on heartworm medication, and a fenced back yard.

ARF provides all the food and veterinary care for foster animals. Foster Parents provide the home and the love. Monetary donations can be made to this organization at the website, www.arftulsa.org. Donations of bowls, food, collars, etc., can be made at the ARF booth at PetSmart®. Recently, Israel Diamond Supply donated five diamond pendants which were then given to four adoptive families and one foster family through a drawing. All contributions are appreciated. BFFF’s ARF patiently waiting for your love and devotion … won’t you contact the Animal Rescue Foundation of Tulsa today to change your life and the life of your best furry friend
forever?

Bite Avoidance

posted July 15th, 2009 by
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By Dolores Proubasta

Dogs bite. What amazes me is that they don’t bite more often. We meet a dog by thrusting a hand in his direction. “Let the dog sniff you first,” goes the popular wisdom. This while standing tall and square, staring the dog in the eye, and showing teeth. Hello! This may work with a new neighbor, but in dog language it amounts to: “Do you want a piece of me, big boy?” The introduction is just the first thing we do wrong. Before learning how to do things right from a dog’s perspective, let’s first understand that most bites are not dog attacks as they are often (mistakenly) labeled, but one or two chomps in response to a real or perceived provocation/threat. Truth be told, dogs exercise more self-restraint than the average bar-room brawler in delivering what is necessary to stop an action without the full measure of damage even a Pomeranian can inflict.

Injured, frightened, cornered or trapped, and chained dogs (all of which are common in rescue situations) should be approached with extreme caution. Nursing dames are especially sensitive to intrusions. Timid, not socialized, or abused dogs, may be “fear biters” (See “Bite Triggers”).

• A dog who seems reluctant to be touched should not feel cornered; leave him space to retreat. Approach slowly in a curve pattern, presenting your side, not your front. Talk in soothing tones all the while. Make yourself “smaller,” not by bending or squatting. which would put you at risk, but curving your body to avoid appearing tense. Do not look the dog in the eye, but avert and soften your eyes. Relax, blink often, and breathe calmly. Yawning is reassuring to a frightened dog, smiling is not. Tasty treats (Vienna sausages work miracles) gently tossed his way can help earn his confidence. If the dog reacts negatively, stop what you are doing but keep talking reassuringly. Allow the dog time to reconsider, and try again.

• Don’t wear a hat nor carry anything resembling a stick, unless it is a control stick and you know how to use it. In particular, senior citizens should refrain from using a walking stick to scare a dog away, it may in fact provoke aggression.

• Face bites are painful and often severe. When approaching unknown or distressed dogs, do so in a position that protects your head. If you must lift up a dog who has no reason to trust you or who may be frightened and in pain, improvise an emergency muzzle (See “Emergency Muzzle,” left). Once in place, hold tight on the neck loop and cradle the dog’s chest with that arm and his rear with the other to lift him. Always keep your head away from his because he may react to the touch due to a concealed injury or illness.

• If an unfriendly dog heads your way, turn sideways and withdraw from his territory at a constant slow pace. Do not offer your back. Do not scream nor yell commands, but softly say “It’s ok,” “Go home,” “Good dog” nonstop. Try to put a tree, a dumpster, or any other large obstacle between you and the dog. If you carry an umbrella, a coat, a purse, etc. do not wield it menacingly, because it may trigger an attack. If the dog charges, use whatever is at hand to put it between you and his jaws. If you go down, curl up and protect face, neck, and head. The quieter you can remain, the sooner the dog will withdraw.

• Pairs of dogs can be protective of each other. Don’t let your guard down despite wagging tails: Give both equal attention, do not come in between them, and do not initiate any play or action with one that the other may consider aggressive.

• It cannot be overemphasized: Never run toward, past, or away from a dog unless you know him and you are playing. The chase instinct will be triggered and the average fat old dog can reach 19 mph (Greyhounds are clocked at 42 mph) at full speed versus a puny 12 mph conditioned human runner. Even Olympian Usain Bolt, at 23 mph, would have his shorts ripped by the average mutt.

• Topping high-risk situations is breaking up a dog fight. Hosing down and voice commands seldom stop dogs in the heat of battle. Do not hit them as this will infuriate them further. Do not step in between or use your arms unless you are wearing Kevlar gloves and sleeves. Quickly find a barrier to wedge between the dog’s faces, e.g., a large piece of plywood, an open parasol, a folded lawn chair or card table, a dog mattress, a large trash can lid, etc., that will block both their sight and teeth from each other. (With smaller breeds, a parka, blanket, or quilt is enough to separate the dogs and also bundle and scoop up one of them to safety.)

• It cannot be overemphasized: Never run toward, past, or away from a dog unless you know him and you are playing. The chase instinct will be triggered and the average fat old dog can reach 19 mph (Greyhounds are clocked at 42 mph) at full speed versus a puny 12 mph conditioned human runner. Even Olympian Usain Bolt, at 23 mph, would have his shorts ripped by the average mutt.

• Topping high-risk situations is breaking up a dog fight. Hosing down and voice commands seldom stop dogs in the heat of battle. Do not hit them as this will infuriate them further. Do not step in between or use your arms unless you are wearing Kevlar gloves and sleeves. Quickly find a barrier to wedge between the dog’s faces, e.g., a large piece of plywood, an open parasol, a folded lawn chair or card table, a dog mattress, a large trash can lid, etc., that will block both their sight and teeth from each other. (With smaller breeds, a parka, blanket, or quilt is enough to separate the dogs and also bundle and scoop up one of them to safety.)

Recognizing danger A discussion about bite avoidance may leave the reader with the impression that human-canine relations are a time-bomb. Nothing’s farther from the truth. When there is mutual respect and trust between dogs and adult people it is perfectly safe to engage in activities one would be wise to avoid with an unfamiliar dog. However, Mark Twain’s dictum that the principal difference between a dog and a man is that “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you,” has its limits. Even a family pet can get tired of rough-housing, be too possessive about a chew toy, feel threatened by a visitor, etc. and warn us that his mood is changing.

Although most dog bites are reported as “unprovoked,” in fact this is inconsistent with canine behavior. “Dogs are not unpredictable,” says Melissa Chan, animal behavior and training coordinator at the Houston SPCA. “They communicate in a language comprised largely of visual clues and offer many warning signs before even bristling, growling, and baring teeth.” Hard faces. More alarming than the cautionary baring of teeth is the agonistic pucker: the pursing of lips that precedes a bite. Other warnings are the tensing of facial muscles, such as a closed mouth, tension ridges on muzzle; ears back; eyes staring directly into yours, or else “whale eyes” (showing the white) looking at you but with the head turned in a different direction; brow tense or furrowed. Tongue flicks may also indicate high stress. All these are signs that you should slowly put some distance between you and the dog. Tense bodies. Do not approach a dog with tensed up muscles, whether standing straight or leaning forward. Hind legs tucked while the front of the body is leaning right or left, as if ready to run, are bad signs. If the dog is holding his breath, don’t hold yours (always breathe calmly), but slowly start withdrawing. Other than the dog’s own body language, other aspects to be considered are:

Bite Triggers Injured, frightened, cornered, chained, trapped, or nursing dogs are likely to bite. Threatening behavior – some examples:
• Bending over a dog, or rousing him from his sleep
• Reaching to touch a dog’s head (when he doesn’t want to be touched)
• Staring into a dog’s eyes (worse, at eye level, like toddlers do)
• Trying to touch or remove a bone, a toy, a bowl of food or anything the dog wants
• Screaming near the dog’s face or producing other startling noises in his proximity
• Running toward, past, or away from a dog
• Walking too close to a dog on leash
• Entering a protective dog’s territory
• Being afraid in the presence of a dog
• Sticking a hand or finger (especially children) inside a dog’s enclosure
• Making threatening gestures, like raising a fist or wielding a stick
• Causing pain, injury, or subjugation to a dog
• Overexcitement during play can cause a friendly dog to nip or bite as he would a playmate. Although no aggression or warning is intended, children and older people with delicate skins can suffer lacerations.

 

Children at Risk The benefits of a child growing up with a dog far surpass the risks if adults provide a safe environment for both. Here is how:

• Infants and toddlers should never be unsupervised when there is a dog present, because face, head, and neck injuries may be life threatening. Even the trusted family pet may be startled by a noise, annoyed by the baby touching his toy, etc.

• Children between the ages of 5 and 12 are at greater risk of being bitten. Their hyperactivity, unpredictability, and noisiness are destabilizing to all animals (including people). Most dog-to-child bites are provoked by the child’s behavior. Therefore, impress on your children the correct behavior to observe with dogs and all pets:

1. Supervise children’s ages 0-12 whenever there is a dog present.
2. Teach children to treat dogs with kindness and respect, without instilling undue fear.
3. Issue absolute rules: “Don’t chase, don’t grab, don’t stare, don’t hit, don’t yell, don’t run,” etc. and post a written list on the refrigerator or another central place.
4. Firmly and consistently correct any departure from safe behavior.

• Contact the school principal requesting a dog bite prevention lecture by a competent professional (Chart 4) be included in the calendar year. In the final analysis, when dog bites child (or vice versa), both are victims and the only ones to blame are the adults who failed to prevent it.

Dog breeds Theories as to which breeds are less likely to mix well in a family setting, especially with children (see “Children at Risk,” p. 21), differ. But because the popularity of breeds, and so their number, fluctuates and may nearly vanish, comparative breed specific bite statistics are unreliable. Often, the person reporting a bite will identify the dog as “pit bull” (there is no such breed) when in reality it may be a deep-in-chest, cheeky faced crossbreed, an American Bulldog, or other. People commonly identify dogs of mixed ancestry as purebreds. All this produces unreliable data that gives a false sense of security at best. The propensity to bite actually results from interacting factors such as heredity, socialization, training, and mental/physical health. The difference between pit bull types, Akitas, Huskies, or other powerful dogs, and breeds who are, in fact, more likely to bite (like Cocker Spaniels and Chihuahuas among others) is in the consequences, which increase in severity and mortality proportionally to the size and strength of the dog. Interestingly, the ban on certain breeds (e.g., pit-bull types in the United Kingdom in the 1990s), invariably fails to lower the number of dog bites, which keeps rising. This is one of the many arguments backing up the positions of The American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Kennel Club, the ASPCA, HSUS and others, all of which reject breed discrimination in favor of (1) public education (See “Education is Prevention,” left) and (2) responsible pet ownership to curb dog bite incidents (see “Education is Prevention,” left). Which brings us to the “people
factor.”

It’s not the dog’s fault At the root of most bites is an irresponsible owner who failed to: (1) sterilize; (2) socialize and train; and (3) contain the dog. Puppy-mill breeders give no consideration to temperament or socialization of their “stock,” and backyard breeders are, by definition, irresponsible owners. If the dog is a stray, it is because he was abandoned, neglected, or unrestrained. Behind every dog bite, there is a person to blame.

• Sterilization is the first step toward responsible pet ownership. Neutered dogs are three times less likely to bite. People who cannot afford veterinary services for their pets should clearly not have them, but lack of money is no excuse. Anyone receiving assistance from the Department of Human Services can apply with the caseworker to get free spay and neuter surgeries, rabies and other vaccines through the Tulsa County Veterinary Medical Association.

• A growing number of people, many of them youngsters, sad to say, instigate their dogs to be aggressive. Dog bites have increased disproportionate to the number of dogs owned (see “USA Facts,” above). Most dog bites are not reported because the gravity of the injury doesn’t warrant it (see “When Bites Occur,” right). Veterinarians, vet technicians, animal rescuers and shelter personnel among others are bitten on a regular basis. But the rare attack by a Presa Canario or a Rottweiler can cause severe injuries and sensational headlines, thus unfairly smearing the reputation of the whole breed. More is the pity, when a bad reputation attracts irresponsible owners and breeders.

• Animal shelters and humane societies get their share of visitors who scope the runs for “mean” dogs — dogs who never bit anyone before, but will be goaded into becoming aggressive or die in the process. Although anyone suspected of wanting a dog for the wrong reasons is refused adoption, some manage to fake good intentions and, tragically, good dogs end up with bad people.

• Victims themselves are often the cause for being bitten because, intentionally or not, they scared or challenged the dog. Fear of dogs may be, in fact, one of the chief causes why city dwellers unaccustomed to animals, and people from cultures which shrink from dogs are often bit. People afraid of dogs should simply avoid them. When visiting a home with pets, ask the owner to confine the dog. Don’t let anyone persuade you to touch the dog to get over your fear, because your fear is contagious to the dog, and that can be dangerous. Also, avoid areas where dogs may be running loose. If despite all precautions you are confronted by a dog, remain calm. Don’t look at the dog, don’t stiffen up, don’t scream or ask for help, but slowly turn your side (not your back) to him, and start backing off. Try to breathe calmly.

• When the victim is a child, invariably it’s the negligence of parents, guardians, dog owners, or any other adult who should have prevented the situation. People, in short, expect more discernment and self-control from dogs than from their own kind. The vast majority of dogs live up to our unreasonable expectations, but those who can’t often pay for relatively small injuries with their lives. Dogs are still and forever man’s best friend. For their sake and ours, let’s be reasonable and careful.

USA Facts More than 4.7 million people (2% of the population) are bitten each year; more dog bites go unreported 77% of biting dogs belong to a relative or friend of the victim. Only 10% of bites are inflicted by dogs unknown to the victim
50% of the bites occur on the dog owner’s property Intact (not neutered) male dogs represent 70-76% of all reported dog bite incidents. There is a 1-in-50 chance of being bitten during a 12-month period 1-in-6 bites requires medical attention 5% of all ER cases are bites Maulings caused 23 deaths in 2008; 16 were children. There are nearly 80 million owned dogs 39% of the households own at least one dog Dog bite injuries account for more than 1/3 of all liability claims against homeowners insurance.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Medical Association, Insurance Information Institute.

Education is Prevention Bite prevention is a matter of continued education from kindergarten to retirement community. Qualified professionals to lead public education efforts are veterinarians, National Animal Control Association certified animal control officers, SPCA, HSUS or other humane society/animal shelter/rescue group education specialists, and American College of Veterinary Behaviorists graduates.

• Children are the main target group. School lectures, assembly programs, games, field trips to shelters including lecture by an animal behaviorist, all can teach children safe behavior.

• Parents must be reminded of their responsibility to (1) supervise their children and (2) insist on safe behavior. Educational materials can be distributed with school announcements, doctor’s wellness reports, veterinary invoices, utility bills, etc.

• People who spend time outdoors —bicyclists, joggers, meter readers, mail carriers, real estate agents, and delivery personnel among others— or visit other people’s homes — such as social workers, home care providers, or pet sitters — need specific information distributed by employers, clubs, and associations on how to handle animal-related situations they are likely to encounter.

• Senior citizens can benefit from dog bite prevention lectures and programs through church groups, recreational centers, travel groups, shopping malls, health care professionals, and others.

• Shelters and other animal adoption centers should provide guidance to those seeking to obtain a dog, steering them away from bad matches. Ideally, all people who decide to adopt a dog should attend a realistic bite-prevention film before signing on the dotted line.

• Pet stores, groomers, dog shows, trainers … all should distribute dog-bite prevention literature.

• The media should offer regular bite-prevention tips through interviews with experts, printed lists of do’s and don’ts that parents can attach to the fridge, sponsorship of pet-ownership education events, etc.

• Community standards for responsible ownership should be established by every local government. Dogs owners should be informed of the ordinances and rules enforced, the main obstacle, however, is that the least likely to comply are dog owners with minimal attachment to their pets, precisely those responsible
for a majority of dog-bite incidents.

Tulsa Dog Park RULES

posted July 15th, 2009 by
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By Lloyd Benedict

Although Tulsa is very fortunate to now have off-leash parks for our dogs, those who wish to use the parks need to be aware that there are many strict rules. In fact the City of Tulsa has adopted the rules as law and violators of these laws are subject to fines and penalties. This article will examine only a few of those rules, however the full list can be read online at tulsabarkpark.com/park-rules as well as being posted at the parks. The website also has a page devoted to dog park etiquette. One should take time to read the rules and etiquette before using the dog park as this will make the parks’ use more safe and enjoyable.

Recently I was retained by a woman whose dog was attacked by another dog at one of Tulsa’s new dog parks. Apparently my client had just arrived at the dog park for the first time to see what it was all about. While her dog was still on-leash, another dog attacked and injured her dog. The encounter could have been easily avoided had the owners of the attacking dog been watching and had control over their dog. Needless to say, I was able to persuade the attorney for the other dog owner to settle the matter without a lawsuit. The moral of this story is that knowing the rules before using the dog park may save you a headache or worse.

In my reading of the rules I felt the most important rule is number 4 which states “An owner bringing a dog into an off-leash area is liable for and assumes the risk for the dog’s conduct.” This means that if your dog injures another dog or a person at the park, then you are responsible for the damage.

Rule number 8 is the rule I used to argue with the other attorney I mentioned above. Rule 8 says “A dog within an off-leash park area shall be under the owner’s immediate control. All patrons of the Dog Park must carry their leash with them at all times.” This rule would likely have the Court find against negligent dog owners who think they can just let their dogs run about within the park without supervision.
I also feel a few of the rules could be worded a little differently. For example, I love the thought process in rule 9 which states “An owner of a dog creating a disturbance or not being properly controlled can be evicted from an off-leash park area. Upon leaving an off-leash park area, an evicted owner shall also remove his or her dog.” This is what we attorneys refer to as the legal term “Duh.”

One should also be aware that there are a few rules in which, if disobeyed, could make it difficult for you to recover damages if your dog is harmed. Specifically, rules 11, 12, 13 and 14. Rule 11 says “Any dog within an off-leash park area shall not be under four (4) months of age, and shall be currently vaccinated against rabies and have a current City of Tulsa license affixed or attached to the dog’s collar or harness.” Rule 12 holds that “No dog more than six (6) months old which has not been spayed or neutered shall be permitted.” Rule 13 prohibits dogs that are in heat at the park, and rule 14 prohibits dogs that are injured or diseased.

 

Upon my reading rule 19, I realized that owners of large and small dog have different responsibilities. Rule 19 states that “No dog weighing more than 30 pounds shall be permitted within an area designated for small dogs. Owners allowing their small dogs to enter a designated Large Dog Area do so at their own risk and assume responsibility for whatever damage or injury may result.” The rule basically says that the dog owner of a large dog can not place his dog in the small dog area but a small dog owner can place their dog in the large dog area. Again as a lawyer, I can’t help but criticize their wording and rationale in writing this law. So it’s okay to place the Chihuahua in with the Great Dane, but not the Great Dane in with the Chihuahua.

Finally, rule 28 appears to be more like advice than a rule. It states that “Dog behavior can be unpredictable around other dogs and strangers. For the safety of all the dogs at the parks, immediately leash your dog if it exhibits aggressive behavior and leave the dog park area. Protect yourself and your dog. If aggressive behavior is observed, take immediate action: either move your dog to another part of the park, or leave the park.” In any event this is sound advice.
If you find yourself or your dog a victim of someone who ignores the rules then you should immediately contact the Police or Animal Control. However, I do believe that if everyone acts responsibly and follows the rules, your experience at the dog park will be treasured. Lloyd Benedict is a principal in the Benedict Law Office, Tulsa, and is a member of the Tulsa County Bar Association Animal Committee.

The Plight of Senior Dog Adoptions

posted July 15th, 2009 by
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By Nancy Gallimore Werhane

The best of breed competition at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show presented an evening of firsts as a jaunty Sussex spaniel known formally as Champion Clussess Three D Grinchy Glee walked away with the top prize.

In a lineup that included a standard poodle, a Scottish terrier, a puli, a Brussels griffon, a giant schnauzer and a Scottish deerhound, this win marked the first time a Sussex spaniel has won the coveted title of best of breed at Westminster. However, another first marks the emotional achievement of the night. All formal names and titles aside, the well-loved, sleep-in-the-bed spaniel, affectionately known as Stump, came out of retirement to become the top show dog in the nation. Born on December 1 of 1999, at 10 years of age Stump officially became the oldest dog to wear the coveted Westminster crown.

Take that same dog, however, and place him in just about any shelter or with any rescue group and his story would likely be quite different. Oh sure, a cute boy like Stump might attract some potential adopters, but one look at his age and he would probably be passed over for younger dogs and puppies. It’s the sad reality that befalls many wonderful older dogs as they are bypassed in favor of younger dogs and left to an uncertain fate.

A clear example of this dilemma exists on the current adoption list posted online by the Dalmatian Assistance League, Inc. (D.A.L.) of Tulsa. Some of the dogs shown have been waiting for permanent homes for a very long time. There’s Bradley and Apollo, both very handsome, friendly dogs who first found themselves in the city of Tulsa Animal Welfare shelter with no adoption prospects and now have spent the better part of a year waiting for permanent homes. And how about Daniel? He’s a big, sweetheart of a boy once left to starve in the yard of a vacant house, but now happy and in good health in the care of the rescue group. These are all extremely likeable, loveable dogs so why no takers? For the simple reason that all three are about the same age as Stump, our Westminster winner, or older.

Even beautiful Bonnie, a youthful eight years by comparison to her brothers in rescue, who has had the most views on Pet Finder of any dog sponsored by D.A.L., has no takers. The comment is always the same, people want a younger dog.

According to Jean Letcher, manager, City of Tulsa Animal Welfare, most people come into the shelter looking for puppies one year old or younger. The next most popular age range falls into the two to three year range. That immediately knocks a lot of very special mature dogs out of consideration.

Understandably, when you welcome a dog into your family, you want to have it with you for as long as possible. Many people tell us they just can’t bear the prospect of adopting a dog that may only be with them for another three to five years or less. There is also the concern that older dogs may come with health issues and have increased care needs. These are all valid concerns and true possibilities.

But maybe our Westminster winner Stump can help the concept of quality vs. quantity have true meaning as we consider the dogs we are willing to welcome into our lives and homes. This brings me to my own experience with a darling dog named Maggie. I received word through Tulsa’s rescue network of an older woman who was battling cancer and unable to care for her 14 year old Boston terrier any longer. The e-mail ended with a simple plea, “Surely someone can help this woman and her old dog.” I’ve always had a soft spot for senior dogs so I thought I would take Maggie into my home to give her a place to quietly live out her remaining days.

What I got when I picked up Miss Maggie was anything but quiet. At 14-soonto- be-15, Maggie was a bundle of energy that showed me a thing or two about my definition of “old.” Maggie bounded into my home and my heart, giving us all — human and canine residents alike — a run for our money. Had cancer not robbed me of my funny little dog, I’m quite sure she would have lived on to set some ridiculous record for canine longevity. We only had six months together, but what an incredible lifetime we shared in those months.

My days with Maggie have left me with a special fondness for senior rescue dogs and how much they still have to offer as companions. In our home we currently enjoy the company of the aforementioned Bonnie and sweet Ellie, another Dalmatian that is now likely more than 15 years old. Ellie has been with us for about three years after being found stray in west Tulsa. Both girls are welcome additions to the family.

Letcher does say that senior dogs do get adopted from the shelter from time to time. “Sometimes a person will be drawn to a specific dog and then they’ll find out the dog’s age after a connection has already been made.” She claims that if a relationship has already been forged, age doesn’t seem to matter quite so much.

While any placement of a rescued dog is a wonderful thing, there is a special celebration for the “happily ever after” that comes with the placement of a senior dog. Dogs sporting a little grey around the muzzle deserve to know the good life just as much as their younger counterparts do.

And those happy endings for senior dogs do indeed happen. One such story surrounds Elvis, a friendly, outgoing, full-of-life dog that was taken into the care of the Tulsa Animal Welfare Center after being found stray. Despite his wagging tail and obviously grand disposition, Elvis, likely 10 or 11 years old, spent two weeks at the shelter with zero prospects for a new home.

D.A.L. stepped in to help with Elvis and in short order introduced him to Peggy Huffman. She had been looking for a Dalmatian to adopt — preferably a female under the age of five. While Elvis didn’t even come close to fitting in that category, Huffman took an immediate liking to the dog.

“He looks so much like the old girl we just lost it’s almost spooky,” said Huffman. “I took him home for a visit to see how he would get along with our other dogs and he walked right in as if he had been living there with us his whole life.”

“Elvis will have a great life for whatever time he has remaining,” added Huffman with a smile. Judging from the spring in his step when he headed home to join his new family, it’s going to be a wonderful lifetime for all involved.

A Word… Pitbulls

posted July 15th, 2009 by
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Written at age 13 by Lauren Guterman, now 14, a student at Riverfield Elementary School.

The young newborn is caged by a strange
shadow.
Alone in the dark it becomes
Cold … scared …
Until it is his turn. He is next.
The young pitbull is beaten and abused till
it coat turns …
Red … blood … red …
Years and years pass … He is ready …
A beautiful young pup, now a scared dog
has to
Fight to keep his life …
The shadows watch and laugh at
Their version of cruel entertainment.
Growls and snarls fill the air
Awful scents of a filthy environment.
He knows only one will be left
And then his flesh is torn
Apart. The laughter grows stronger …
louder …
Until one is left and wounded. The other …
Left … Gone … Dead …
And the last standing is beaten
and locked up.
He is … Cold … scared …

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