T is for TRUMAN

T is for TRUMAN

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My motto for this year’s A to Z is “Animals in my life – stuffed or alive”.

My husband meets with another volunteer of the shelter every Saturday noon. Together they walk their own dogs Janet, Sam and Irmi, and Truman (picture above).

Truman is a former stray dog from Spain, a terrier mix. If you watch his tail closely, you see a part of it is missing. We don’t know what happened to him on the street, but it surely was a hard life.

Truman is a very proud Spaniard! He may be a small dog (30 cm at the shoulder), but he is very brave. One day, he bit our Sam, and Sam is 60 cm tall. Sam of course didn’t take this very well, and it was a good thing Sam was wearing a muzzle back then. It never happened again, and neither my husband or the other volunteer (both experienced dog owners) could explain why it happened.

Truman was adopted twice, but he was brought back to the shelter every time, because he didn’t adapt to his new home very well and got overwhelmed very easily. It is very sad that nobody was willing to give him more time. Pets, especially those from the shelter, often bring problems with them to their new families. Very often all it takes is time, patience and willingness to work on theses issues, and things get better as soon the pet feels secure in the new enviroment. I am not going to lie, some are very tough cases, as our Sam, but most aren’t.

I wish everybody who is willing to take in a pet from a shelter would be aware of this possible complications. I wish everybody who is willing to take in a pet from a shelter would also be willing to help the new family member through this hard time. These pets suffered enough already! I wish Truman finds a new forever home soon.

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S is for SAMMY

S is for SAMMY

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My motto for this year’s A to Z is “Animals in my life – stuffed or alive”.

Of course, S is reserved for my heart cat, Sammy!

What still amazes me after living without her for more than half a year, is the amount of love she left behind.

I have to say a heartfelt “Thank you” to all those who helped me grieving. Nobody said: “It was just a cat! Get your sh*t together!” So many people comforted me, listened to me or just were there. And there was Jackie, who patiently stayed with me as long as I needed it.

My therapist, a very matter-of-fact man, told me, grieving for a pet can be as strong as grieving for another human being… At least this is true for me. And when the grief lessens, the love still stays. It is like a comfortable, yet light blanket.

At first I thought, I would never be able to love a pet again. But now I am back to my normal, pet loving self 😄. And back to my original mission: Adopt and save as many homeless pets as Sammy in this life as possible!

I think, Sammy would like this very much. I can imagine her looking me in the eye and purr: “Finally you get it!”

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R is for ROMANIAN STRAY DOGS

R is for ROMANIAN STRAY DOGS

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My motto for this year’s A to Z is “Animals in my life – stuffed or alive”.

As I mentioned before, both of our dogs are former strays from Romania, a country in South-East Europe. We didn’t look for dogs from this country, our heart made the decision.

The problem Romania has with stray dogs is not new. It can be traced back to the dramatic political changes that took place thirty years ago. As a result, the people moved from the countryside into the big cities and left their cats and dogs behind. The former pets reproduced rapidly and followed the humans into the towns, looking for food. The answer of the government was killing thousands and thousands of dogs. Only a small number of them is lucky and adopted into foreign countries.

“Our” shelter works together with organisations that brings dogs from Romania to Germany and takes dogs from them whenever they can, so other dogs can be rescued.

Janet (right) was very afraid of humans for years. But once she moved in with us, she soon relaxed. You wouldn’t believe today that she had such a hard time earlier in her life. She now is a very happy Lady that enjoys her remaining years in a loving family.

Sam (left) is another story. Even though he was broght to Germany as a puppy, he is clearly deeply traumatized. We try to help him and work with him every day on his problems, but obviously they are very hard to overcome. Good thing we are very stubborn and persistent, too! We knew about Sam’s problems before he came to live with us, but we hoped they would be settled in a matter of months. Well, seems we are talking about years, but giving him up is not an option. We see his good character traits, he is very loyal and really wants to please his humans. We believe in him, and we have celebrated so many small victories together, we won’t give up now.

But Janet and Sam show that problem of stray dogs still isn’t adressed properly in Romania. Simply killing them can’t be the solution – the problem was created by humans, after all. And sadly not all dogs can be rescued. I think TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) programs work best here. This would reduce the number of strays and improve the situation in the long run.

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Q is for QUIXOTIC

Q is for QUIXOTIC

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My motto for this year’s A to Z is “Animals in my life – stuffed or alive”.

Yes, where animal protection is concerned, I am quixotic. I believe a world is possible in which animals are treated as the feeling, intelligent creatures they are.

Sadly, this is not the case right now. Instead I shed tears for every animal that dies in the shelter and was not given the chance to be a beloved and loving family member. I cry for every pet that has to leave its family because it just became a burden. I get upset when animals are exploited for profit.

And still a part inside of me refuses to give up and become cynic. How could I not? Our pets give me so much love. Pets are adopted from the shelter and live happily ever after. We adopted pets from the shelter ourselves. We got to know many people that fight the same fight.

So I go on with making the world a better place for humans and animals. Our home is our safe haven against a world of ignorance and neglect. The world is full of these small isles of happiness, and I hope they will continue to grow and make the word a better place.

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B is for BEAGLE / Sparks 5

B is for BEAGLE / Sparks 5

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My motto for this year’s A to Z is “Animals in my life – stuffed or alive”.

My Sister-in-Law is crazy for Beagles! Their convenient size, relaxed character and soulfoul gaze made her fall in love with this breed. She also wants to help animals that are in need of a new home. The sad thing is, there are many Beagles out there for adoption. The good thing is, two of them were given the opportunity to have a new, happy life.

The first Beagle in the family was Gina. Her mother was rescued from a animal testing facility when she was pregnant. Gina was with us for about twelve years, until she devoloped cancer and finally needed to be put down.

After a short time, my SIL started looking for another Beagle needing a now home. She found Gino on the internet, he is from Greece. He was found on the streets, sitting next to another dead stray dog, who he refused to leave. To this day, he is absolutely terrified of loud popping sounds, for instance the traditional bonfire on New Year’s Eve. Maybe he has been shot at, but we will never know.

When people are short of money, as it was the case in Greece, the animals suffer, too. But one woman didn’t look away, she took Gino in and tried to get him a forever home via the internet. Well, it worked. My SIL fell in love with him at first sight, and his flight to Germany was arranged.

Gino is a very easy going, happy dog. He adjusted to his new home without any problems. He doesn’t mind sharing his home with a cat, and he is friendly to our dogs when they meet. Nobody leaves Gino without sporting a big smile, he surely has a lot of charme. But he can not roam outside without a leash – in true Beagle fashion he follows his nose whereever it takes him 🙂 My SIL still is in contact with the woman who rescued Gino. This dog made two absolutely different people meet.

I post this story also as a part of Sparks. Sometimes all it takes is a person who doesn’t look away, like the greece woman who decided to help Gino. Of course there are times when we are not able to help, but if you can – please do it. Many small things make the world a better place!

I found the idea of sparks at McGuffy’s Reader.

Basically it’s all about making the world a better place by spreading positive thoughts. This is my contribution.

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Hard times for Sam (and for us)

Hard times for Sam (and for us)

Some former shelter animals quickly adapt to their new, secure enviroment, others need more time. While Janet belongs to the first group and is calm and relaxed, Sam still gets stressed easily. When he feels overwhelmed, he just reacts without looking at his humans for guidance. He reacts very strongly to everything that happens in front of our house, or on the street. We live in a cul-de-sac, relatively quiet. But even here the newspapers and mail are delievered every morning, the garbage truck drives through the street, people go by our house, and so on. If we don’t stop him, Sam runs to the nearest window or the front door and keeps barking until everything is quiet again. This kind of territorial behavior made his former new family bring him back to the shelter, and it is really nerve wracking.

It was very important for us to get to the real root of this problem, which is not disobedience, but naked fear. This rules out punishing him, because this would make him feel even worse and add to his anxiety. His breed may add to his behavior, Sam definitely is a herding dog mix (the head of the shelter guessed he is part belgian shepherd, or Malinois). Unfortunately, fear is more difficult to treat than disobedience, and it will probably never go away completely.

At first we tried a collar that exudes pheremones, but to no avail. But we can influence his behavior.

  • We have to react as quickly as possible, so Sam doesn’t get worked up.
  • Tell him “No!” in a calm way and block him from window or door, to show him that the humans are in charge and his behavior is not appreciated.
  • Order him to sit or lay down, and insist on him doing so.
  • Praising him when he calms down.
  • Staying near him until the situation is over.
  • Praising him again.
  • Going on with life.

We know from experience this helps and things settle down quickly. But we have to stick with it, and it is not always possible. When I am alone and have to go to the door to get a parcel, I can’t correct Sam’s behavior at the same time. The same applies for the times the dogs are without human supervision (we installed a camera to watch them, and Sam barks and runs to the door/window when we are not there, too).

Since last week, the roofs of two houses across the street are repaired. This means nonstop stress for Sam, and paying continuous attention for me. He has calmed down though, and even plays fetching ball with me. But we are still far from chilling. It doesn’t keep us from loving our “little man”, of course. Who can resist this hangdog look?!

Thoughts about animal protection, Part 2

Thoughts about animal protection, Part 2

To begin with: I am very aware of the fact, that some cats or dogs better should be kept alone. But many of them can be kept easily with fellows or even other species.

I never thought I would share my home with cats and dogs. Cats? Sure! Dogs? Maybe. But both?

A former colleague once showed me a photo of her two cats sitting happily on a garden wall, and mentioned her two dogs in the same breath. “And your cats and dogs get along?” I asked, a little bit confused.

She explained that her dogs were strays from Spain, and added “Especially the strays are well known for their good social behavior.”

I still thought this must be the exception that proves the rule, and forgot about it. Until we met Janet, and with her many people who are involved in animal protection. We learned, that many of those people kept both cats and dogs. They encouraged us to try introducing Janet to our cat-ruled household.

The first important test took place at the shelter. Janet (and later Sam) were braught to the shelter cats. Janet didn’t even bat an eye, so my husband asked: “Did she see the cats at all?” The head of the shelter confirmed that she indeed had seen the cats, and that we could go on and introduce her to our cats at home. Sam reacted more hectic, but not aggressive.

Then things got serious, and we took Janet home with us over night. We were told that we never were allowed to  leave cats and dog alone at the beginning – an understandable advice. If one of the furbabies – cats or dog – showed aggressive behavior, we should by no means tolerate that and make loud noises. And finally: We humans should be relaxed and calm! Very funny… we nearly peed our pants.

Well, Janet knew what to do from the start. She avoided making eye contact with the cats and was careful not to get in their way. Sammy and Jackie didn’t even hiss once. We made sure the cats kept some of their privileges: The couch in the living room and the bed are forbidden for the dogs. Very soon, things were back to normal. A new pack had been formed.

When Sam joined the pack, everything was more hectic, even though the cats had learned dog-speak from Janet by then. He wanted to play with the cats and barked at them. We made it clear to him from the beginning, that we would have none of that. And he quickly got it: A hissing cat is not a happy camper! But nothing really bad happened, no scratching and biting, and soon everything was quiet again.

When we want to take the cats to the vet, things get complicated. Both dogs become very agitated and try to get between us humans and the cat carrier, so putting the cats into the carrier is tricky. When we are back, the dogs wag their tails and insist on sniffing the cats. They are obviously happy that the pack is united again. Needless to say, the cats are not so happy about this commotion.

When we see other cats on our walks, or an unfamiliar cat crosses the terrace in front of the living room, the dogs start barking. They are very aware of the fact which cat is part of the pack, and which isn’t.

The velvet-pawed members of the household reacted very differently to the dogs. Sammy, the old cat, didn’t mind at all the dogs lying next to her. Jackie prefered to keep the dogs at a distance, and does so until today. Sam’s barking upsets her, even when he isn’t even near. But Jackie and Sam give each other headbutts, I am very impressed by Jackie’s bravery: Sam stands about 63 cm high at the shoulder. One thing is very clear: Jackie is the leader of the pack, who cares that she is also the smallest.

This may be a very small part of the mosaic, but we know many of those stories. The aggressive cross breed, who had to leave his family and found a new home with a bachelor and a cat. The Rottweiler female dog, that had worked as a guard dog for eight years and now lives with a single woman and two cats. We met a volunteer at the shelter who told us that she always took in cats and dogs from animal welfare. Maybe it took a few months for cats and dogs to get used to each other, but they always did finally.

My point: One prejudice against shelter animals is their alleged bad social behavior. And of course they may be influenced by their past. If there is a safe way to rule out behavior problems preemptively, i.g. how a dog gets along with cats, do so. Initial problems should not be overrated – if the humans stay calm, the animals often follow their lead. Good social behavior is frequently mentioned as a reason why people get a pup from a breeder. Not every breeder spends time and effort on exposing the puppies to enviromental stimuli. And a puppy has to be trained, too. Adding a furry member to the household always means work.

See also
Thoughts about animal protection, Part 1

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