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Tag: austin

Will Bear come in from the wild?

After at least five years as a stray, avoiding human contact, surviving in a vacant field and regularly outsmarting animal control officers, a Texas dog named Bear may finally be heading for a home.

And good thing, because construction is expected to begin soon on the field he has called home, which is slated to become a housing development.

Bear is something of a legend in Hutto, a town of about 15,000 people, northeast of Austin. He’s a dog owned by no one, though many residents appreciate him from afar.

But in the past few years, one woman has gotten closer to him than most. Irma Mendoza and her son started bringing him food a couple of years ago, and also built him a dog house on the land.

Now, she is working to find him a home.

“It all started a couple of years ago when my mom found Bear by the block where we live,” said Alfonso Salinas, Irma’s son. ” …After that she just started to feed him and try to take care of him,” he told Fox 7 in Austin

Every day Irma comes to the field to give Bear food. She also gives him his annual medications.

“This dog is pretty much a family member,” Salinas said.

Bear has been seen roaming the neighborhood since 2010. Some think he was left behind when his owners moved.

Over the years, others in the community have pitched in to make sure Bear is taken care of.

“He is a survivor that’s for sure. He’s smart, he stays out of the way, stays out of the street, avoids people, and everybody has grown fond of him,” said Richard Rodriguez, who lives in the neighborhood. “He’s got his own Facebook page so that speaks something to how people like him.”

bearHutto Animal Control officer Wayne Cunningham — one of many who have tried to capture Bear — says Irma is the first person to get close to the dog.

“No one can get close to him but Irma so we haven’t been able to catch him. He’s gotten wise to our dog traps, he recognizes the animal control truck so he’s very leery about new people,” Cunningham said.

Mendoza is now working with Cunningham to help find Bear a permanent place to stay — with a friend who has spent years helping her care for him.

“He deserves to be in a loving home,” said Niroshini Glass. “He would be so spoiled. He would get anything and everything he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted it. He would be very, very spoiled.”

All this hinges on Bear’s cooperation, of course, but with the progress that Irma has made, the willingness of Glass to provide a home, and the field destined to soon become a construction zone, the time appears ripe to take Bear out of the wild.

Once he is caught, he will be taken to the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter to be evaluated before adoption.

A GoFundMe campaign has started to raise money to help pay Bear’s vet costs, and ongoing care.

One last snowfall for Spunky

Spunky always loved the snow.

But when the German shepherd-husky-chow mix and his owner moved from Wisconsin to Texas in 2008 that — with flakes being rare in Austin — became a thing of the past.

Ashley Niels, who works as a behavior and enrichment specialist at the Austin Animal Center, says she promised Spunky, who she’d adopted in Wisconsin, that he’d see snow again someday.

When she learned earlier this month that the 12-year-old dog was dying, and made the appointment for him to be put down, she regretted that promise would go unfulfilled.

ashleyandspunkyWhen she shared that regret with friends at the animal center, they got together to make it happen.

They rented a snow machine and brought to her home.

Last week, Spunky got his snow.

Niels sat in her front yard with Spunky and experienced one last snow storm — albeit an artificial one. He didn’t frolic in it, like he used to, but Niels thinks he enjoyed it.

“To be honest, he was like ‘I’m not really sure what this is.’ It wasn’t cold snow. I think he could see how excited I was, so he thought it was pretty cool,” Niels told Inside Edition Tuesday night.

“I think he felt all the love we were trying to show him.”

Spunky’s appointment with the vet the next day was canceled, and Niels hasn’t rescheduled it yet.

“As long as he’s happy, I don’t really want to take that from him,” she said. “It makes me happy to be able to spend more time with him.”

She adopted him from a local shelter in Wisconsin when he was a puppy. They lived there for four years before moving to Austin.

austinanimalcenterAfter creating the snowstorm for Spunky, animal center staff brought the snow machine back to the shelter to let a few more dogs experience a snowfall.

As of late last week Spunky was still hanging in there, according to Ashley’s Facebook page, and she was doing her best to not think about his death and savor the time together they had left.

“I try not to think about it because he’s my boy,” she said. “I get to spend this extra-special time with him.”

(Photos: Courtesy of Ashley Niels and Austin Animal Center)

Therapits: Pit bulls as therapy dogs

My favorite part of this news report is not the beginning, which dredges up recent footage about dog attacks to establish the pit bull’s reputation as violent and unpredictable.

It’s not the part where they shatter that stereotype, or at least put a dent in it, it by noting that — gasp! — pit bulls are being used as therapy dogs.

My favorite part is near the end, where a student reading to a pit bull stumbles over a word, and the dog’s owner, Lydia Zaidman — her chin resting on the dog’s back  —  offers some assistance.

“NAYSAYERS,” she says. “Do you want to know what that means?”

“Yeah, what?” the student replies.

“That’s people who say you can’t do something.”

A lot of people would say you can’t trust a pit bull, much less put them to work with children as therapy dogs, but a program  in north Austin’s Gullett Elementary School is going a long way toward proving them wrong, according to TV news report from KXAN in Austin.

It’s hardly — despite the report’s exclamation points —  the first time pit bulls have served as therapy dogs. Across the country, pit bulls — even one of Michael Vick’s former dogs — have been certified as therapy dogs. The therapy dog group Ace and I work with, Karma Dogs, recently qualified its first pit bull member. Zaidman, who’s president of ” Love-A-Bull ,” a nonprofit group that sticks up for the pit bull, has been taking her pit bull Mocha to the school for two years now.

What is unusual is that Zaidman’s therapy dog organization, called the  Pit Crew,  trains only pit bulls for therapy work. It’s believed to be the only program in the nation that does so.

Working with professional dog trainer Julie Eskoff, Zaidman recently concluded a training program designed to certify pit bulls for use in schools. The training program started with nine animals. Seven graduated, but two were soon sent home — not an unusual dropout rate for therapy dog qualification.

“They love people; they’re extremely tolerant of people.” Zaidman said of pit bulls. “Of course, each individual one has to be temperament tested and each one is an individual like any other dog. But in general, they temperament test very high. They really love people; they like to be around people and so they do really well.”

“They are the number one most abused dog in this country,” Zaidman told KXAN. “Abuse is going to lead to a problem, no question. Unfortunately, there are a lot of irresponsible owners out there and that’s going to lead to a problem, but they have to use everything from amphetamines to abuse to get them to fight. So the idea that they are meant to fight is a falsity.

“Unfortunately, there’s a cycle right now,” she added. “There’s a media image, just like there was for Dobermans in the 80s or German shepherds in the 70s and it’s a cycle that just keeps happening. The more misinformation that gets out there, the more people that are attracted to the wrong dog. What we’re trying to do is put a positive image out there so that the wrong people don’t continue to be attracted to the dog.

“It’s like any other prejudice. You know, you have to educate yourself as to the facts. Unfortunately, too many people read things on the Internet and they don’t bother to find out what the truth is, you know, bother to actually meet one.”

Zaidman seems not only to have her facts right, and a well-articulated message (she’s a lawyer, after all), but she’s proving it daily through deeds.

If only people like Baltimore’s Mickey, and all the other naysayers, would listen. 

Texas dog trainer Lee Mannix dies in accident

Lee Mannix, a Texas-based, internationally respected dog behaviorist, was killed Sunday in a one-car accident.

Mannix, 40, was founder of the Lee Mannix Center for Canine Behavior in South Austin, and his clients included musician Jimmie Dale Gilmore and author Kinky Friedman.

“There are very few people who have the touch, and Lee certainly had it,” said Friedman, who co-founded the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch. “His ability to relate to animals was second to none. He could take a dog that everybody’s having trouble with and thinks is ferocious and untameable, and two or three weeks later it’s a totally different dog. Lee came in as an equal, and the dogs just loved him.”.

Mannix, 40, was killed in a single-vehicle accident Sunday in Hays County. His brother Kevin, also in the vehicle, survived, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Mannix wasn’t always drawn to dogs; for 12 years he avoided them entirely. When he was 8, a German shepherd bit him so severely he required 130 stitches. He shunned dogs until he was 20, when a friend gave him a dog.

Mannix worked at the Austin Humane Society and DogBoy’s Positive Power Kennels in Pflugerville, and headed a local humane society in Colorado.

As a trainer, Mannix specialized in canine aggression problems.

“I can get a dog to do anything I want it to do. The thing is training the owner to do it,” Mannix said last summer. “So I don’t train dogs per se; I train owners to understand their dog’s behavior and get it right.”

Author Friedman noted: “There are lots of important people out there, politicians and the like. But I think Lee Mannix was significant. And there is a distinction there … He’s the kind of guy who has opened the gates of heaven wider.”

Memorial donations may be made to the Schrodi Memorial Training Fund.

Survivor: One-eyed dog keeps looking forward

kennedyIn December 2008, Robert Kennedy spotted a blue towel in the weeds of  Murphey Candler Park in DeKalb County, outside of Atlanta.

Upon closer inspection, he found a dog underneath it, one whose head had been badly beaten. An investigation would later determine the dog, named Austin at the time, had been bashed in the head twice with a sledgehammer. His owner, Joe Waters would later be arrested.

The case led to international headlines, and an outpouring of support.

Today, Murphy, as he was renamed — after the park — belongs officially to Kennedy. The 9-year-old Australian shepherd mix has only one eye, and a dented head, but he’s managed to teach Kennedy volumes.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution put it, “Murphy is far more focused on what lies ahead, not what is behind him.”

“I hope if I ever have any challenges, I can recover like him,” Kennedy said. “I take my cues from Murphy, and he has forgotten all about it.”

Kennedy, who found Murphy on his 60th birthday, took him to the closest veterinarian he could find. Stephen Pope, the medical director at VCA Pets Are People Too in Dunwoody, performed surgery to repair the skull and jaw fractures and to remove the damaged left eye. Eight days and $10,000 worth of care later, Murphy was released into Kennedy’s custody.

The dog suffered no long-term neurological damage and behaves much like any other dog, compensating only with the occasional cocked head to use his good eye. Under Kennedy’s care, Murphy’s weight has gone from 38 to 53 pounds.

Kennedy set up a trust fund for the dog’s care after offers to help poured in from 30 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. He raised $38,000 — money that will last throughout Murphy’s life and then go to nonprofit pet rescue groups.

The dog’s previous owner was convicted of a felony and two misdemeanors. He says he thought his pet had been poisoned and was attempting to mercifully kill it. He was sentenced to one year in jail.

Immediately after the ruling, a prosecutor presented Kennedy with notarized papers, declaring Murphy was his.

“He couldn’t be happier with life,” Kennedy said. “My wish for everybody is to have room in their heart to take a dog into their home and know that kind of happiness.”

(Photo: Vino Wong /Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

High bacteria levels lead to dog park’s closing

The City of Austin Parks Department plans to close a popular dog park for six to eight months because of high E. coli bacteria levels in the creek.

Officials blame the bacteria — found during regular water sampling since 2007 — on dog waste at the Bull Creek District Park, one of 12 off-leash parks in Austin.

In March 2008, the city put up signs at the park about the environmental dangers of dog waste, but problems persisted, parks Director Sara Hensley said. The department plans to require leashes at the park beginning Sept. 8. In October, plans call for the dog area to be closed entirely to plant more vegetation to helps keep pollutants from draining into the creek. City officials haven’t determined yet whether leashes would be required when the park reopens in the spring.

Heavy use of the park has worn down existing vegetation there, city officials say, and the drought has led to low, slow-moving waters in the creek where bacteria can thrive, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Austin’s leash ordinance requires dogs to be on a leash no longer than six feet on public land. The maximum fine for violating that rule is $500.

The parks department is trying to find other spaces that could be turned into off-leash parks, Hensley said.

Debra Bailey, a task force member who formed a volunteer group last year to regularly clean up dog waste at the park, said sewage spills and other trash left in the creek could also be to blame for high bacteria levels. The city should look at other options before closing the dog park or requiring leashes, such as better enforcement and signs related to picking up dog waste, she said.

“They are blaming the dogs and not addressing other issues,” she said.

Texas-sized condo will cater to dogs

austonianThe Austonian, a luxury high rise condominium that will also be the tallest building in Austin once it’s completed in 2010, is taking aim at the doggie crowd.

The 56-story building will feature a 10th-floor pet park, a pet grooming area and a team of personal assistants available around the clock to better serve you and your pet’s needs.

“Knowing that leaving the building is not always the most convenient alternative, a dog park offers a secured outside area on the 10th floor of the building. The surface of the park includes a Synlawn synthetic grass surface with a sanitary drainage system,” a press release about the project says.

Next to that will be  a pet grooming area with a raised bathing area where owners can groom their own pets or avail themselves of the services of a  professional groomer

Residents will also have access to pet food delivery, personal shopping and pet sitting and taxi service to and from appointments outside the building — all provided by Lofty Dog, which is headquartered two blocks away.

A veterinarian, kennel and “bakery services” provided by Groovy Dog Bakery will also be at the beck and call of residents.

And if all that weren’t enough, the Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, which includes places for dogs to swim and play leash-free, is just two blocks away.

All that for the low low price of …

Well, they don’t appear to be saying yet on the Austonian website, but I’m guessing it’s more than the average mutt can afford.

The Austonian is the second North American luxury real estate project by Grupo Villar Mir (GVM), creators of the Mayakoba golf, hotel and residential resort located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.