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Tag: adoption

For retired racing greyhounds prison can be the path to adoption

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Prisons and greyhound tracks are, in many ways, pretty similar beasts and, whether you’re a person or a dog, you don’t want to spend too much time in the belly of either.

Both can be cold and institutional. Both require spending a lot of time caged. In one, you are encouraged to run; in the other, that’s not advisable. Whether you’re a greyhound living at a track or a human serving a prison sentence, your liberties are taken away, you do what you are told to do, and day to day life can be bleak.

Going from living at a greyhound track to living in a prison may not seem a step in the right direction, but for hundreds of greyhounds it has been.

For retired racing dogs, prisons are increasingly coming to symbolize, of all things, freedom.

Thanks to groups like Prison Greyhounds, featured in an article in this week’s Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel, racing dogs deemed to have lost their edge on the track, are learning the manners and behaviors they need to be successfully adopted.

prisongreyhoundsHeadquartered in Indianapolis, Prison Greyhounds is an all-volunteer organization that accepts dogs retired from Daytona Beach Racing and Card Club and places them with specially selected inmates at the Putnamville Correctional Facility in Greencastle, Indiana.

The dogs spend two months being trained and sleep in crates next to their assigned inmate’s bunk.

As with other prison programs that work with shelter dogs, the greyhound program — one of a handful across the country — provides benefits to the prisoners, and the prisons, as well.

The inmate handlers, who have been coached on dog training, gain job skills. And the presence of the dogs provides a calming effect on the entire prison population.

A team of two inmate-handlers is assigned to each dog. Prison Greyhounds covers the costs of veterinary care, bedding, leashes and other supplies.

Once the dogs graduate they’re ready for adoption, for a fee of $275.

(Photos from PrisonGreyhounds.org)

Another greyhound track bites the dust

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Alabama will be down to its last greyhound track when live dog races come to an end at Mobile Greyhound Park later this month.

Dog races at the park will cease Aug. 16 due to declining public interest in the “sport,” Wind Creek Hospitality announced Monday.

That will leave Birmingham Race Course as the only track in Alabama with live greyhound racing.

Alabama is one of just six states where greyhound racing remains legal and operational. Forty states have declared it illegal, according to Grey2K USA.

Since 1973, Mobile Greyhound Park has offered live dog racing, but revenues from betting have declined steadily since 1987.

In 2009, PCI Gaming Authority — an enterprise of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians — purchased controlling interest of the track for a reported $10 million. They had hoped to diversify their funding streams, but state laws prohibited other forms of gaming at the track.

According to PCI, about 30 employees will be affected by the end of live dog racing. The company has offered to “assist each team member with locating and applying for opportunities at other Wind Creek Hospitality facilities …”

In a statement, it said it will also assist kennel owners with the relocation, adoption and ongoing care of about 400 greyhounds who still “provide service” at the track.

Those at the peak of their racing careers will probably move on to other tracks, while the majority will be put up for adoption.

Inquiries about adopting a greyhound from the track can be emailed Darla Dean, the president of Alabama Sighthound Adoptions in Mobile, at ALsighthounds@gmail.com. The fee to adopt is $225.

When you’re feeling way older than your dog

I’m still a few days away from reclaiming my dog Jinjja, being cared for by a friend while I recover from some recent surgery, but I did stop by to take him for a test walk last week.

(That’s not us in the video above. I’m not quite that slow and bent over, and Jinjja’s not quite as willing as that dachshund to move along at a snail’s pace.

The test walk convinced me I needed a few more days — given Jinjja tugs a bit on the leash — before getting back to the two walks a day routine.

Then I came across the video above, which made me think if that old guy can still walk his dog, a little wrenching of my guts shouldn’t be holding me back. I’m not sure which impressed me more — the old man’s perseverance or the dog’s patience.

Still, given Jinjja’s hosts are so gracious and he seems to be having such a good time there — enjoying a large, escape-proof yard, the companionship of two other dogs and attention from three times as many humans — I decided to stretch his visit out to a few more days and pick him up after the holidays.

Yes, dogs help keep us young, but sometimes they can remind us how old we’re getting, or feeling — especially when a walk is the last thing you feel like doing and your dog is insisting on it. The video also got me thinking about dogs and older people, and how a good match is pretty vital to their successful coexistence.

jin2When I adopted Jinjja six months ago, after he was freed from a South Korean farm where he was being raised to become meat, I was in decent health and thought I had enough energy to handle whatever challenges he might pose.

His three escapes and the subsequent recovery efforts — one on the eve of my surgery — made me question that … and more.

Should I, at almost 64, have chosen a smaller, lazier, older dog to adopt — one content to do little more than lay around the house, one for whom my tiny courtyard would be ample space?

In retrospect, yes. But I didn’t know at the time that I was going to have to deal with a kidney cancer scare and a surgery that takes six weeks to recover from.

I’m far from alone in having this kind of issue. Even though dogs age much more quickly than we do, it’s not uncommon for older folks to find the dog they’ve been caring for has become more than they can handle, or for them to adopt one who might not be a perfect fit for their circumstances.

I’m a firm believer that a dog can bring joy, meaning, comfort, companionship and numerous health benefits to the life of an older person — and that ideally every older person who wants one should have one.

But, as with any adoption, considerations of one’s circumstances, and the possibility of unforeseen new ones, need to be kept in mind.

You can find a pretty good summary of all the pros and cons when it comes to pets and seniors in this guide put together by the National Council on Aging Care.

It was a dog who led me to the home I bought a year ago — a different dog (Ace) who died before I moved. He needed a home without steps. He was not a leash-tugger, or even a leash-requirer, and he was content to always be at my side.

The condo seemed a perfect old man/old dog house. It didn’t have anything that could rightly be called a yard, but it had no steps (which I’ll admit appealed to me as well) and it had a small fenced courtyard.

Ace — while he was an extra large dog — never seemed too thrilled with yards, anyway. He would rather go on walks and meet people, or lay on the porch and wait for people to come meet him, or simply station himself at some other observation point:

At dog parks, Ace, a highly social animal, would generally remain where the people were, rather than romp around the acreage.

Jinjja is a different story — and one that’s still evolving. He’s still working on his socialization skills, and more. We attended our first obedience class, where he showed great promise, but attending those classes was cut short by my illness.

Jinjja is still easily frightened, and wary of the male of the human species. He was at my friend’s house for a month before he let her husband pet him.

Their place was an ideal spot for him. He can just go out the back door and have an entire yard to romp in. There’s no need for leashed walks, and thereby fewer opportunities for him to take off — and when he does that, getting him back is no easy task.

DSC05631I’ve concluded that’s a result of both nature and nurture — though the environment he came from could hardly be called nurturing.

It is fairly characteristic of his breed (Jindo) to wander. And contact with humans was best avoided at the dog farm in South Korea where — though he might have been someone’s pet at some point — he was mostly raised.

So for this particular old person (for whom moving into a house with a large escape proof fenced yard is out of the question), it’s a matter of more training, more trust-building, more work, more walks, more trips to the dog park, and more of the kind of perseverance that old man in the video reflects.

And all that will resume by this weekend.

Why? Because of all the rewards we’ve only briefly touched on in this article. You — whether you are young, or old, or in between — already know what they are. I’ve been reminded of them when Jinjja, who once kept his distance from me, joyfully greets me during my visits to his temporary home.

We’ve got more bonding to do, more tricks to learn, more walks to take. He’ll have to slow down a bit. I’ll have to stay upright and pick up the pace. But, as a team, I’m pretty sure we can do it.

(Click on this link for more stories about Jinjja)

Now open in L.A.: PetSpace, an adoption center that’s much, much more

All humane societies and SPCA’s see education as a large part of their mission, but few if any have taken that to the heights of PetSpace, a newly opened center in Los Angeles that is finding new homes for dogs and increasing our understanding of them at the same time.

Over a dozen dogs and cats were adopted during Saturday’s opening of PetSpace, the brainchild of Wallis Annenberg, the CEO and president of the Annenberg Foundation.

But, as the Los Angles Times reported over the weekend, PetSpace is about much more than rehoming dogs.

It’s part interactive science center, part children’s playground, part pet paradise, part research institute and part adoption center.

On top of facilitating adoptions, PetSpace will offer educational programming for the general public on how to care for pets, all while conducting its own scientific research focused on the human-animal bond.

To that end, it has established a Leadership Institute with 16 research fellows — experts in different academic fields — who will write a white paper on the science behind the human-animal bond.

“This whole notion of the human-animal bond goes so much deeper than how you choose a pet,” said Eric Strauss, a biology professor at Loyola Marymount University and the research paper’s lead author.

“We’re bonded emotionally through our pets. But we’re also bonded ecologically, medically and economically. I think that’s the real genesis of a new science here.”

Located in Silicon Beach in Playa Vista, the 30,000-square-foot facility houses more than 80 dogs, cats and rabbits from the Los Angeles County’s Department of Animal Care and Control shelters.

It has a staff of 30, assisted by more than 100 volunteers and will be open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with free admission.

Its creators see it as a destination in itself, a fun place that will inform and delight adults and children (and maybe make them even happier yet if they end up taking home a dog or cat).

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During Saturday’s opening, a large mechanical dog barked and wagged his tongue while perched on the second floor. On the ground level, visitors read animal adoption stories displayed on panels and explored an interactive touch screen wall announcing upcoming events.

The center, in addition to periodic seminars, will have a Sunday reading program where children can sit down with a book and an animal.

Meanwhile, in the various play areas, visitors snuggled with cats and dogs, while others met with dogs in their “suites.” Outside each is an interactive digital screen with information about the pets up for adoption.

The center will be making an intense effort to match the right dog to the right owner.

“What’s your lifestyle like? What time commitment do you have? We’ll have a pretty extensive conversation,” said J.J. Rawlinson, the center’s animal care manager and veterinarian. “We really take time to get to know the animals.”

The adoption fee is $80.

PetSpace has partnered with organizations across the city to develop its programming, which will also include higher education workshops on human-animal relationships.

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It will also provide medical resources, including aqua therapy, that are generally not available in shelters.

Part of the center’s mission will be to educate the public about spaying, neutering, grooming and other aspects of caring for a pet.

Wallis Annenberg is a billionaire philanthropist who has long made pets one of her pet projects.

“In my life, animals have been a profound gift — not just dear companions, but teachers and healers, showing how to live and love fully and in the moment. That’s why the opening of Annenberg PetSpace is so thrilling for me,” said Annenberg, the Annenberg Foundation’s chair and CEO.

The family foundation was founded by Walter H. Annenberg, whose company published, among others, TV Guide, Seventeen magazine and my old alma mater, the Philadelphia Inquirer. It also operated radio and TV stations nationwide. Annenberg died in 2002.

Wallis Annenberg, his daughter, described PetSpace as “a world-class space in which to study the joys and mysteries of life in all its forms. It will be an innovative and interactive place for families to engage with animals and animal lovers of all kinds.”

“And it will be a chance for me to pass on the kind of awe and affection and insight animals have provided me for all my years,” she told the San Diego News Daily.

The Annenberg team worked with Los Angeles area animal welfare organizations, including Los Angeles Animal Services, the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, spcaLA and the Humane Association of California to design the center.

(Photos and video from the PetSpace website)

Go ahead, make Eastwood’s day

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A statewide Empty the Shelters event Saturday was a huge success, with more than 2,500 dogs and cats being adopted from 65 shelters and rescues across Michigan.

Nearly 20 shelters managed to find homes for all their residents, including the Little Traverse Bay Humane Society — almost.

There, the only one not celebrating was Eastwood.

The red Labrador retriever, who has some vision problems and congenital leg deformities, found himself the only dog left in the shelter.

eastwood2“Poor Eastwood is so lonely now that all of his pals have been adopted,” the humane society said in a Facebook post.

“Eastwood is the only dog left at the shelter after Empty the Shelters on Saturday, but we know the perfect home is out there somewhere. This amazing boy has a few health issues that need to be addressed (which is why we think he was abandoned initially, poor guy!), but this boy is so sweet, we know it will be well worth it.”

The shelter estimated the future surgeries Eastwood may need could be more than $4,000.

“Although we understand this is a lot to take on for most families, we are committed to finding the perfect fit for Eastwood.”

Saturday’s Empty the Shelters event was sponsored by the Bissell Pet Foundation in hopes of reducing the number of animals euthanized each year. During the event, the foundation covers the adoption fees, which run about $150 per dog on average.

The late-breaking good news? After Eastwood’s lonesome mug appeared in a Facebook post, more than 80 people applied to adopt him.

Humane society staff picked the one that appeared to be the best fit, and Eastwood will soon be moving to his new home.

It was a few days later than every other dog in the shelter got adopted, but, happily, somebody made Eastwood’s day.

(Photos courtesy of Little Traverse Bay Humane Society)

Jinjja escapes, and superheroes emerge

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For the third time since I adopted my Korean “meat dog,” he decided to run off and explore more of the world than his leash normally permits.

On Sunday afternoon, Jinjja and I went on what has become our abbreviated walk, due to health issues (mine, not his).

We went down to the the grassy area at the end of my street, where he does his business and we sit for a while on a bench before heading back.

He sat on the ground on the side of the bench and I was absent-mindedly scratching his head with one hand, holding his leash with the other.

jin3Somehow, the clasp on the leash mysteriously opened up and I looked up to see him standing, unhooked, a few feet in front of me. I called him, trying to sound casual and playful and upbeat and using the high-pitched voice his obedience class teacher recommends.

He took a few more steps away. I stood up and called him again. He playfully scooted a few more feet away. I lied about having a treat. (He hasn’t mastered the “come” command without bribes.) He didn’t fall for it. I took a few steps in the opposite direction. He didn’t follow.

Then I stepped in his direction and he was off to the races, and I followed trying to keep up. (I’m not setting any speed records these days.) He stopped to poop, then lengthened his lead on me by trotting at a faster clip, down one street, then another.

Jinjja was heading in the direction he’d gone the two earlier times he has scooted — down to a creek that leads into some woods, that lead to busier roads and other neighborhoods.

The first time was entirely my fault. I was stupid. We’d been up to the tennis courts many of us use as a dog park, and he had exhausted himself running with some other dogs from my block. On the way home, he was walking in lockstep with them, right in stride with the pack. I unleashed him to see if he’d keep doing that in the short distance back to my door.

He didn’t, and I should have known better, given his past and given what I’ve read about his breed (Jindo) — namely, that some of them never are able to be off leash because of their hunting, exploring, wandering tendencies.

That time, my neighbor Trish took off after him with a couple of her dogs. I lagged behind.

Fortunately that first time, Jinjja stopped in the shallow creek, and once I caught up with Trish, who had caught up with him, he obeyed my stay command until I was able to go down the bank, attach his leash, and haul him out.

I vowed then it would be years before I tried letting him off the leash again — if ever.

A few weeks later, back at the tennis court, he managed to slip through the gate as other dogs were coming in and out. Again he took off. Again Trish pitched in for the chase, as did two other neighbors, Nick and Margaret.

They managed to corner him down near where he was the first time and get a leash around him — which is no easy task.

jin1Jinjja is still shy and skittish around strangers, still might run the other way when called. On Sunday, as I was pursuing him, and his trail, on foot and in car, knowing he was that way — not likely to approach anyone for longer than the times it takes to snag any treat they might be offering — I was feeling less hopeful with every passing minute.

When he disappeared behind a row of homes that backs up to the creek and woods, I stopped to make my first plea for help.

I’d met Victor a couple of months ago, while I was walking Jinjja and he was walking his new dog, Gracie, a Belgian Malinois. We ended up enrolled in the same dog obedience class. Victor — in his lower 60s, like me — has a bad back, and had to get up from his heating pad to answer the door.

But he sprang into action, pressed Gracie into service and we followed Jinjja down the poison ivy-filled path that runs into the woods behind his house. Jinjja had crossed the creek and was zig-zagging toward a briar-filled meadow at the end of the path. Unfortunately, Victor was wearing shorts, and we both ended up bloody by the time we spotted Jinjja in the clearing ahead.

Jinjja spotted Gracie and came running in our direction. He greeted Gracie and I was within three feet of him. That was as close as I got, and he took off again. Jinjja disappeared into the horizon and the briars became a little too much for both of us.

We headed back to the neighborhood, and I went home to get my car and head over to the adjoining neighborhood whose direction Jinjja seemed headed for. I grabbed a pack of bologna, an extra leash and my cell phone. I stopped to inform Trish what had happened and took off. I told Victor, who had changed into some long pants, my plan. I gave him a piece of bologna, which he stuffed in his pocket. With Gracie at his side, he walked back down the path to the meadow where we had last seen Jinjja.

Victor went back to the clearing, saw no sight of Jinjja, and headed back home, but not before rubbing bologna on his shoes. He dropped little pieces of it along the trail back to his house.

I pulled out for my car search, and Victor walked all the way back to the meadow, and into the next neighborhood. Trish, meanwhile, had hopped into her car and was heading there, too. All three of us were stopping to ask anyone we saw to see if they had sighted him and hand out phone numbers.

Victor found one home where Jinjja had stopped for a while. And Trish ran into a couple who said Jinjja stopped to play with their dog, and the dogs next door, but scooted off when they tried to beckon him.

About 30 minutes later, riding around back in my own neighborhood, a friend said she had seen him, just minutes earlier, walking through her front yard and stopping to poop.

(Pretty much everyone who had sighted him, in either neighborhood, mentioned he had stopped to poop in their yard.)

For the next hour I drove through one neighborhood then the other, then a couple of other nearby ones, periodically checking back home to see if he had returned.

I told my across-the-street neighbor Rita what had happened. I informed neighbor Nick (who helped snag Jinjja during Escape No. 2) what had happened and he took off on foot — roaming our neighborhood and then hopping a fence into the adjacent one that, while right next door, is more than a mile away by road.

I kept driving around, spotting Rita on patrol in her car, Trish on patrol in hers’, and picking up a sweat-soaked Victor and a panting Gracie from the other neighborhood and taking them home.

Stopping at my house again, I ran into a sweat-soaked Nick, who had hopped back over the fence and was going to get in his car and go check out a nearby apartment complex that sits across the creek.

We were both headed out again when, down the main road into our townhome development, came a woman with Jinjja, on a four-foot purple lead.

I didn’t recognize her, though she lives just around the corner, but she was the same woman whose dog had escaped (and was recovered) a couple of weeks ago. One of my recruits, or maybe it was me, had stopped her earlier and asked if she’d seen a medium sized yellow-white dog with a curly tail. She hadn’t.

But apparently this complete stranger got in her car and drove to the area where her dog had been found. She spotted Jinjja, got out of her car and called him. He went the other way. She followed on foot. Another person saw her trying to catch Jinjja and lent a hand. Between the two of them, they managed to get Jinjja to accept a treat and get that purple lead around his collar.

Victory? Not quite yet. She tried to get Jinjja into her car, but he snapped at her when touched, as he’s prone to do when a hand reaches out to him, especially when he’s not on a leash and is unfamiliar with the owner of that hand. Thinking the better of it, she decided to walk him the mile-plus back to our neighborhood.

So, if you’re counting, that’s seven superheroes — Victor, Gracie, Trish, Nick, Rita, the anonymous supplier of the purple lead, and the neighbor who, while I hugged and thanked her profusely, I still don’t know her name.

Back home, Jinjja drank a gallon of water and, as I write this, has been sleeping now for about 12 straight hours.

Which is good, because we have lots of work ahead.

While he excelled at his first obedience class, yet-to-be-resolved health issues have prevented my return. Let’s just say I’m in that whole-lot-of-testing phase that precedes doctors taking their best guess at what the problem is, or (hopefully better yet) was.

If Sunday was anything, it was a lesson in hope, and a reminder that —
in good times and bad — friends and family and superhero neighbors are good to have.

***

murphy(Jinjja — then Jindol — was one of four dogs that ended up at Watauga Humane Society in October after being saved from a Korean meat farm by Humane Society International. We’re pleased to report that all four have now been adopted — most recently Murphy who went to a new home last week. Murphy took a little longer to become social than the others, but after lots of work and time, he started gaining trust in humans, and bonded with one visiting couple who wanted him but were unable to take him. Later, that couple came back, and they’re now his parents.)

(Top photos of Jinjja by John Woestendiek, bottom photo of Murphy courtesy of Watauga Humane Society)

Online service offers to match you up with the right adoptable dog, not the cutest

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Borrowing from eHarmony, three women in New England have started an online service that matches those seeking dogs to adoptable dogs that will best fit their personalities and lifestyles.

How I Met My Dog features a detailed questionnaire for potential adopters that asks dozens of questions about a potential pet owner’s tastes and interests.

Those shelters and rescue taking part, meanwhile, provide specific information on the animal’s habits and behavior patterns.

Computer software does the rest.

The goal is to match up would-be dog owners with pets they won’t regret taking home — and will be less likely to return, according to the Boston Globe.

Jody Andersen and Mary Ann Zeman launched the company earlier this year in New England under the belief that adopting the right dog, as opposed to the cutest dog, can make a huge difference in the outcome of that adoption.

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Andersen, author of a 2002 book, “The Latchkey Dog,” is a believer in computer-assisted relationships, having met her husband online. She also used the developing software to find her current dog, a Weimaraner named Finn.

“We want you to fall in love at first sight, with a dog you can live with,” she said.

The service is free while in startup mode. Afterward, it will charge $49 to match would-be owners to available pets, and $75 to a current dog owner who wants to rehome their pet. Animal shelters can list their dogs at no charge.

Andersen lives in Long Island, N.Y., Zeman, lives in Connecticut, while Alana Mahoney, who manages the company’s relationships with pet shelters, serves on the board of the Massachusetts Animal Coalition and lives in Hopkinton, Mass.

Andersen said she has received inquiries from 400 animal shelters nationwide that are interested in trying out the new service.

“Every year there’s four million dogs surrendered to shelters,” Andersen said. “How I Met My Dog wants to find a home for every dog, where it will thrive.”

(Top photo: Jodi Andersen (left) and Mary Ann Zeman, cofounders of How I Met My Dog, in Boston, with Andersen’s dog Finn, a Weimaraner; by Jonathan Wiggs / Boston Globe)