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Tag: choice

Woof or roof: A dilemma for the homeless

When you’re homeless, you can run into a lot of Catch 22’s — those can’t-win situations that, even when you’re taking steps to improve your life, tend to make things appear even more hopeless.

Having a dog is a perfect example.

To a homeless person, having a dog (or, in the case of our Monday post, a cat) can have numerous benefits: Protection, for one. It can instill a greater will to survive and succeed. It can provide some self-esteem, emotional security, and companionship for sure — the kind that comes without judgment.

While some segments of society may be repulsed by the sight of you, your dog will always be thrilled.

But having a dog when you’re homeless can also be a tremendous obstacle — keeping you from being admitted to homeless shelters, finding the money to feed it, and making already problematic chores, like going to the bathroom, even more problematic.

Still, it’s not unusual that, when given a choice between shelter and their dog, the dog often comes first — as has been the case so far with a recently homeless woman and her boxer mix, named Cow, featured in a two-part series in the Toledo Blade this week.

“She is my whole world, my rock. I don’t know what I’d do without her.” 51-year-old Diann Wears said of her dog.

Wears, who in earlier stages of her troubled life worked as a prostitute and was addicted to crack, said it is her first time living on the streets.

wearsandcowShe says she left an abusive five-year relationship in July, and now she sleeps, with Cow, behind the Greyhound Bus station in downtown Toledo.

“It’s totally new to me and totally scary, I’m not gonna lie,” she said. “But Cow and I, we have each other, and she gives me a lot of love and support.”

She says she tried to find an apartment that her Social Security and Supplemental Security Income would cover, but “they either turned me down because of Cow, or because I don’t make enough money.”

She has no intention of parting with Cow, she said.

Toledo’s homeless shelters — like most across the country — do not allow pets, and she was rejected, she said, by a YWCA shelter that provides haven for women fleeing domestic violence and their pets.

“They don’t think I’m in danger from my ex,” Wears said.

So Wears and Cow remain without shelter — unless you count the overhang of the bus station’s roof.

Having a dog, Wears noted, makes simple tasks, like attending a free meal, more difficult. She either has to leave Cow outside, leashed to her shopping cart, or find a friend she trusts enough to watch him.

Sometimes, she says, it’s hard to simply find a place in the shade to rest — without being told to leave, either because of the dog or because she is loitering.

She often sits on the grass at St. Paul United Methodist Church, where the pastor allows her to stay as long as neither she nor Cow causes any trouble, the Blade reported. (You can find part two of the series here.)

“We don’t bother anybody, but people judge us anyway because we’re homeless,” Diann said. “Or they’re afraid of Cow, even when she’s just lying there.”

Wears said Cow provides her some protection during the night.

Unsure as she is of the future, she is committed to two things — keeping Cow by her side and not going back to her abusive boyfriend.

“It’s hard out here, but I’m away from that at least I’ll take my chances out here. I have my dog and we’ll survive one way or the other, some kind of way.”

(Photo: The Toledo Blade)

Give us the goods on your veterinarian

veterinarian symbolWe want to know about the veterinarian of your dreams – whether you’ve found him or her, or not.

For an article in an upcoming issue of The Bark on how we choose a veterinarian, we’d like to know what – in your eyes — are the most important factors.

If you’ve found the perfect vet, just what is it that makes him or her perfect? If you’re still seeking that person, just what exactly is it you’re looking for?

As our dogs become more and more like family members, the choice of vet is a decision humans probably take more seriously than they did 50 years ago. Time was one’s choice of veterinarian was based in large part on proximity.

We’re guessing that has changed. Now we seek opinions from friends, question fellow denizens of the dog park, turn to online reviews, and perhaps even make some in-office visits, all in our quest for the perfect vet.

But what makes the perfect vet?

Is it where he or she went to school? Is it a friendly staff, reasonable rates? Is it how quickly you can make an appointment or how long you spend in the waiting room? Is it bedside manner, how much empathy, or compassion a vet exudes? Is it how clearly that vet can communicate? Whether they honor your pet insurance? Is it how the vet connects with you, how the vet connects with your dog, or both?

We want to know what is (or was) the single most important factor in your choice of veterinarian, and how you found the one (if you have) that you can’t imagine ever leaving.

Tell us about the veterinarian of your dreams by leaving a comment, preferably with your name attached, on The Bark’s blog, or here on ohmidog!

(John Woestendiek, who produces the ohmidog! website, is a frequent contributor to The Bark. His story on finding the ideal veterinarian will appear in an upcoming issue.)

Highway Haiku: “A Grave Choice”

 

 “A Grave Choice”

Turn left, or turn right?

Either way, grave destiny

I think I’ll go straight

(Highway Haiku is a regular feature of “Dog’s Country,” the continuing tale of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America. “Dog’s Country” can be found exclusively on ohmidog!)

There’s more than one way to skin a frog

frog dissection

Holy Formaldehyde! Times are changing. As of this fall, thousands of Catholic school students in the Philadelphia area can opt out of that once mandatory, highly stinky rite of passage — dissecting a frog in biology class.

The  Archdiocese of Philadelphia has established a policy under which students in its 20 high schools who have concerns about traditional animal dissection are allowed to use alternatives to frogs, cats and other actual animals.

As an increasing number of high schools and universities are realizing, there are plenty of options to cutting up an animal, and students can learn just as much about biology through models and computer graphics.

“As the 21st century evolves, greater use of virtual dissection experiences will be encouraged and eventually replace the use of scientifically preserved animals,” said Mary E. Rochford, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. “With the availability of virtual lab experiences and other Internet instructional tools, students can arrive at the same learning.”

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s policy is modeled after the Pennsylvania Students Rights Option, a law established in 1992, which enables public and non-public students from grades K-12 who do not want to harm animals as part of their coursework to use an alternative instead.

You can learn more about the Pennsylvania law here.

“The Archdiocese’s student choice policy can serve as a model for other schools in the state of Pennsylvania, in addition to other dioceses across the U.S,” said Laura Ducceschi, Director of Animalearn, a project of the American Anti-Vivisection Society.

Tens of thousands of cats, frogs, and other animals are killed annually, specifically for dissection and other educational purposes, despite available alternatives and studies showing that students learn as well or better by using virtual dissection and other humane alternatives, according to Animalearn.

Animalearn’s website offers a searchable database of over 450 alternatives to dissection, downloadable software, and other humane science tools. A free resource to students and teachers nationwide, The Science Bank offers interactive models, videos, and virtual dissection CD-ROMs and DVDs.

Bo does diddly for the adoption cause

President Obama and family — while selecting a majorly cute dog — missed out on a chance to further the cause of animal adoption worldwide by opting for a breeder-produced purebred.

Bo, the six-month-old Portuguese water dog gifted to the Obama’s by Sen. Edward Kennedy, was proving an unpopular choice among animal welfare advocates, though some tempered their remarks by pointing out that, while not a shelter or rescue dog, Bo had been rejected by a previous owner.

A litter mate of the Kennedy’s newest dog, Cappy, Bo apparently had a previous owner, but was returned to the breeder because he didn’t get along well with the owner’s other dogs.

On the bright side, that means it was a breeder responsible enough to insist on reclaiming dogs whose placements don’t work out.

On the not quite so bright side, though, Obama missed out on an opportunity to raise awareness of homeless dogs — at a time when a lot of shelters desperately need some help.

“They were looking at shelters but in the end the Kennedys learned of this litter mate of their dog who needed a home, and they wanted to give the girls a gift – and here we are,” Catherine McCormick-Lelyveld, a spokesman for the First Lady, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He moves in Tuesday.”

President Obama had expressed a preference for a shelter dog, but the family also needed a “hypo-allergenic dog because of daughter Malia’s allergies.

“…Our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me … So whether we’re going to be able to balance those two things I think is a pressing issue on the Obama household,” the president said shortly after taking office.

“This is a missed opportunity to set a pet-adoption trend among Americans,” said Abbie Moore, executive director of Adopt-a-Pet.com. “With pet relinquishment up 20 to 30 percent due to the poor economy, pets in shelters can use all the help they can get.”

Since the Obama’s did not get the dog from a shelter, the Sun-Times reported, the Obamas will instead made a donation to a humane society.

(White House photos)

Obama can’t win — regardless of breed choice

Seldom, if ever, has so much weight been put on a single family’s choice of dog.

And seldom if ever has getting a dog —  normally a personal and joyful affair — become such a public exercise in risk management and political correctness.

At first it was a simple campaign promise to his daughters, Sasha and Malia, that they’d get a dog after the election — only slightly complicated by the need for that dog, in deference to Malia’s allergies, to be hypo-allergenic, if there even really is such a thing.

Now there’s talk that the Obama’s eagerly anticipated choice of dog breed, or hybrid — Newsweek magazine’s April 13 issue says to expect some developments within the week — could lead not just to a surge in purchases of whatever breed they choose, but could cause a boom to the puppy mill industry as well.

The logic, as outlined by Newsweek, goes this way: If the Obamas get a Labradoodle — even a rescued Labradoodle — it will spark an increase in demand for the hybrid, and since most hybrids are bred by puppy millers, they’ll start churning them out to meet the demand, or in anticipation of it.

If the Obamas get a Portugese water dog — the other choice they’ve mentioned — the same thing would happen because not a lot of that breed can be found in shelters or rescue.

In other words, Obama can’t win. The fear is any breed, or hybrid, the First Family picks could have a  “101 Dalmatians” effect: a sudden burst in popularity that breeders will try to capitalize on it by mass-producing similar dogs.

Even with Obama’s popularity, I think the fear is being slightly overstated — and I can’t think of any precedent for a president’s choice of dog leading to mass purchasing of the breed. I don’t think the presidency of younger Bush led to a surge in Scotties, anymore than the popularity of beagles was boosted by Lyndon B. Johnson. (History buffs, please correct me if I am wrong.)

Then again, with the Obamas, there are cute kids involved, and photo ops and, I’m sure, a media onslaught of tremendous proportions once the dog arrives, if how much coverage the issue (or non-issue if you prefer) has already gotten is any indication.

All this is another good argument for what was my personal preference, and really the only politically correct choice —  a shelter mutt. That way, the only copycat surge would be in the number of people going to their shelters to adopt dogs that already exist and need homes.

Of course, that was before I decided it was none of my business — that, ideally, a family’s choice of dog should be left up to that family, not pundits, political pressure, or internet polls. Has any other president been held to this level of scrutiny — or any scrutiny at all — regarding his choice of dog? (Note to future presidential candidates: Get a dog before you start your campaign.)

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but I’m not sure, at this particular moment, if they’re Obama’s.

(Photo: Posters by Shepard Fairey)

Obama dog 2: 4th grader offers Choco-doodle

A 4th grader in Farmington, Pa., has offered Malia Obama his choco-doodle.

Zachary William Shiley, a student at Wharton Elementary School in Farmington, is offering a 6-week-old female Labradoodle puppy (emphasis on the labra) to the First Family.

The puppy, born Nov. 26, was the only offspring that survived the litter of an 11-year-old chocolate lab named — of all things — Hillary.

The father is a 1-year-old Labradoodle named — appropriately enough — Bullet.

Zachary Shiley told the Herald-Standard that the family has been calling the dog “Vegas” because his mother was in Las Vegas when Hillary became pregnant.

Apparently it wasn’t an intentional breeding, but, be that as it may, Hillary got her groove back, and now, the result of what happened in Farmington, if the Shiley’s have their way, won’t stay in Farmington, but head instead to the nation’s capital.

Zachary describes the puppy as full of energy, a little shy but “very smart and friendly.”

“We want her to have a good home, and what could be better than the White House… A dream come true,” Zachary wrote in his letter to Malia. “I almost forgot, the puppy is free,” he added. It was his mother’s idea to offer it to the Obamas, he said, but he’s all for it.

Included with the letter are two photographs — Zachary and the puppy, and the puppy with an American flag.

Two Fayette County commissioners planned to deliver Zachary’s letter at the inauguration.