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Tag: cold

When is it too cold to leave pets outside? Whenever it’s too cold for you to be outside

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Reports popped up across the country last week — both in the north and south — of dogs freezing to death after being left outside during a bitterly cold stretch of winter weather.

As single-digit temperatures gripped the eastern United States, local news outlets and animal welfare organizations were reminding people of what you would think any fool would know (but apparently they don’t) — that freezing temperatures can hurt and kill your dog.

The news reports made that much clear.

Police in Hartford, Conn., charged a woman with animal cruelty after a neighbor reported a dog frozen to death and still chained to a small shelter outside a home.

In Toledo, a dog was found frozen to death on a front porch last week, and three other frozen dogs were discovered last week in Franklin County, Ohio. In Butler County, Ohio, north of Cincinnati, a man was charged with cruelty after his dog was discovered frozen.

“The dog was found in an outside dog house with no insulation. The dog was frozen to death due to the severe cold weather …” read a Facebook post from Sheriff Richard K. Jones. “Freezing to death is a horrible way for an animal to die.”

In Michigan, Detroit Dog Rescue said a Pomeranian mix left outside its offices Monday night was found dead the next day. Another dog, found shivering in a barrel outdoors, was being treated for frostbite.

“Trying to escape the frigid temperatures he curled up and crouched down, but even his underbelly and penis began to freeze,” Detroit Dog Rescue said in a Facebook post. “His feet are so painful he doesn’t want to stand.”

In Aiken, S.C., a woman was cited after officers discovered a shivering dog chained outside in 15 degree temperatures, next to a puppy in a cage that appeared to have frozen to death.

In Knox County, Illinois, the owner of a black lab mix found eight newborn puppies frozen to death in the snow last week. According to WQAD, the owner claimed not to have known his dog, whom he kept outside despite below-freezing temperatures, was pregnant. A ninth puppy survived.

We could go on, but it’s just too maddening — the lack of common sense that can exist in some humans.

“Dogs, cats and horses depend on our care, especially during life-threatening cold snaps. Take the animals in, or somehow provide a safe environment for them,” Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.

Dogs aren’t immune from the cold, no matter how thick their coat. Bigger, furrier dogs, like huskies, can fare better in the extreme cold than a Chihuahua might. But all dogs can perish if left in extreme enough weather for long enough periods, as the chart above indicates.

Consult it, if you feel the need to. Better yet, just keep in mind that if it’s too cold for you outside, it’s too cold for pets.

(Graphic: Petplan.com)

“Erect-tail dysfunction:” Losing the wag

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The university that cloned the first mammal is now investigating why some older dogs — especially those in colder climes — sometimes experience limp tails.

A study at Edinburgh University in Scotland says the phenomenon known as ‘limber tail,’ which causes a dog’s tail to become limp and difficult to move, tends to affect larger working breeds, and is more common among dogs who live in the north.

The study of dozens of dogs found that the chance of a dog developing the condition rose by 50 per cent for each additional degree of latitude further north he or she lived.

Working dogs, who spend more time outdoors, and those who enjoy swimming were also around five times more likely to develop “limber tail,” which is also known as “cold tail” or “swimmer’s tail.” More informally, the condition is sometimes referred to as a dog “losing their wag.”

Personally, we like the name a Telegraph headline writer gave the condition: Erect-tail dysfunction.

No, this is not The Onion you’re reading, and this is not a joke — at least not to the dogs who get it. Owners report that it can be very painful and distressing for the dogs.

“We were surprised by how many owners were reporting limber tail to us but it meant we had the chance to do a detailed investigation,” said Dr. Carys Pugh, of The Roslin Institute and Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies.

The Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, commonly referred to as the Dick Vet, is no joke, either. It’s the veterinary school of the University of Edinburgh.

Dolly the sheep, the world’s first mammal clone, was born at the Roslin Institute in 1996, marking a new era of biological control. Nine years later the cloning of dog — the 18th species successfully cloned — was achieved by scientists in South Korea.

limptaillabIn the limber tail research, a team at the University of Edinburgh compared 38 cases of dogs with limber tail with 86 dogs that had no symptoms.

Those affected by limber tail were more likely to be working dogs, and more likely to regularly swim.

The condition, which was first reported in the scientific press in 1997, is thought to affect around 60,000 dogs in Britain, “but owners often struggle to find out what is wrong with their pets as there is little literature available,” the Telegraph reported.

It’s generally not a lifelong condition; rather, it resolves itself within a few days or weeks.

The researchers hope further studies will identify genes associated with the condition, which could one day help breeders to identify animals that are likely to be affected.

Caroline Kisko, Secretary of Kennel Club, which funded the research through its charitable trust, said owners should be careful not to over-expose their dogs to the cold.

“The condition is rare, but is it most often seen in working dogs such as Labrador retrievers, flat coated retrievers and pointers. Dogs usually recover their normal tail posture and function over a period of days or weeks, however it can be painful.”

Gudrun Ravetz, junior vice president of the British Veterinary Association warned owners not to become so worried about the cold that they stop exercising their pets.

“Limber tail is rarely seen in veterinary practices and the research indicates that most owners do not seek veterinary attention for this problem,” she said.

(Photos: Top, a young chocolate Lab with a perky and lively tail; bottom, an older chocolate Lab whose tail has gone limber)

Dog poop: Do I need to draw you a picture?

All Over Albany” has noticed that dog poop is, well, all over Albany — and they’ve fashioned a helpful flow chart to help address the (fecal) matter.

(Click on the illegible version above to be taken to the full size chart. Then come back, for this isn’t just an upstate New York issue, but a national, nay, global one.)

At my park in Baltimore, and probably your’s, it seems that, when the snow and cold arrive, the manners of some otherwise responsible dog owners depart.

Whether it’s because people don’t want to traipse throught the snow to scoop it up, or because it’s just so darned cold, there are a lot more lingering dog droppings to be seen, and stepped in.

In a perfect world, those not scooping would be the ones stepping in it — but it never seems to work out that way.

And while, granted, solidly frozen poopage won’t despoil your footwear, neglected droppings, amid continued freeze and thaw, can come back to haunt us.

“We’ve thought a lot about this issue,” Alloveralbany.com reported in a piece last month. “And we finally came to the conclusion that winter somehow impairs the ability of some people to make good decisions about whether they should pick up their dog’s poop.

“So, we’re here to help. We’ve constructed a flow chart to assist citizens of the Capital Region in their decision-making process on the all important question: ‘It’s winter. My dog has pooped. What now?'”

The first and last flight of Snickers the cat

I feel bad for what happened to Snickers the cat. But to be brutally honest, I’m having a hard time working up much sympathy for her owner.

Snickers died last week, shortly after arrival at the Hartford airport aboard Delta Flight 738.

Airline officials had promised Heather Lombardi, who had purchased the cat from a breeder in Utah and was having her delivered, that the cargo hold the cat would travel in was climate controlled.

If you can’t guess what happened next, here’s some additional information:

Snickers was 11 weeks old.

Snickers was a Sphynx, or hairless cat.

It is winter, and a particularly cold one.

Once a plane lands, the cargo area is depressurized, and that climate control stuff doesn’t apply anymore.

Lombardi sent out an email blast to tell the world about “the worst tragedy I have ever personally experienced” — not to gain pity, or money, or, we’d hope, bolster her odds in a lawsuit. Instead, she says, she wanted to inform the world of the dangers of shipping a cat, by air, in winter.

With her two children, Lombardi arrived at the airport and was told to wait in the baggage area. Fifty minutes passed after the flight landed, the delay in unloading baggage being caused at least partly by a cargo hold latch that was stuck, she was told.

“I wasn’t incredibly alarmed … I figured she would be fine as long as she wasn’t outdoors,” wrote Lombardi, who paid $290 to transport Snickers. Outdoors, it was 7 degrees.

Upon being handed the crate, Lombardi opened it and pulled Snickers out:

“The kitten was ICE cold, limp, and unresponsive. I IMMEDIATELY put her into my coat, grabbed my kids by the hands & ran out of the airport to get her into my car & cranked up the heat putting all vents on her as I rubbed her trying to warm her up. She couldn’t lift or control any limbs, her breathing was labored, she had a blank stare in her eyes, and she let out a meow. As if to say help me — please. We rushed her to the emergency vet clinic, but to my utter devastation, on the drive, she let out a blood curdling cry & went completely limp …”

Ten minutes after handing the apparently lifeless cat to the vet, Lombardi was informed that Snickers was indeed dead.

“Her last hour of life was spent frozen & unable to escape. I am so utterly devastated — I cannot express to anyone how this feels. I am so sad for her, her little 11 week life lost for no reason. A tragedy that could have been prevented if the airline had valued her little promising life.”

Delta told her it is investigating, but, she said, “the bottom line is that they can’t bring her back to me or my family, there is nothing they can say or do to make this whole. We don’t want a new kitten; we fell in love with HER. She was our new child & there is nothing that can be done to bring her home to us. Snickers lost her life unnecessarily …  Value life everyone, I have just experienced something I pray no one else has too. Don’t let Snickers lost life be in vain, I pray you guys read this & maybe another animals life won’t be lost to the cold & lonely Delta Cargo holds.”

Reading over her summary of events, what stuns me most is that a customer would even consider having an 11-week-old hairless cat transported by air in the dead of winter. That the breeder would permit it is surprising as well. That Delta signed off on it is equally shocking.

So, much as we regret Snickers’ passing, we, unlike Lombardi, wouldn’t aim our anger solely at Delta. There appear to be plenty of humans to share the blame, including the one who — though her subsequent warning not to ship animals when it’s below 30 degrees is valid — probably should have done a little more research and used a little more common sense before having her new hairless cat placed on a plane.

And we have to wonder a little bit, too — coldhearted as it may be at her time of clearly anguishing loss — why, any allergies aside, someone would opt for a pricey, high-maintenance novelty pet from the other side of the country when hundreds of cats are in the Hartford area’s animal shelters, waiting for homes.

Heather Lombardi responds: 

“… I first wanted to thank you for bringing attention to what happened to Snickers. Knowledge is power & even if you don’t agree with my actions & poor decision, not everyone knows or understands the risks of placing your pets in a climate controlled cargo hold. I myself was guilty of that. I do not place blame solely on Delta, my lack of knowledge & belief that travel was safe for animals in this weather was the obvious reason she was on the flight. It’s why I decided to share her story. She died due to my lack of knowledge & an obvious service failure on Delta’s behalf. I can’t control Delta, their practices or policies, what I can control is how I handle the situation. I choose to raise awareness, and I thank you for helping with that.”

A Penny saved is an honor earned

Even more than we love his name …  Americus Rambeau … we love what the Baltimore police officer did on Dec. 29, 2010 — namely, jump into the icy waters of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to rescue a dog named Penny.

“She was happy to have somebody to hang onto,” he was quoted as saying after saving the dog’s life.

Aren’t we all.

On Jan. 26, at noon, the Baltimore Humane Society (BHS) will honor Rambeau and three other members of the Baltimore Police Department’s Marine Unit for their rescue of Penny, a black lab mix who ran out of her Federal Hill home, across Key Highway and into the harbor.

The ceremony will take place at the shelter building on the grounds of BHS.  The event is open to the public.

Rambeau, along with Sergeant Michael Kain, Officer William Edgar and Officer  John Wagner, arrived by boat to save Penny. She avoided them at first, but once Rambeau was in the water, she allowed him to get close enough to help her.

Once ashore, Penny was treated for “cold-water exposure and hypothermia,” said a spokesman for the BPD Marine Unit.

Penny’s owner, Rachel Naumann, was at work when her roommate opened the front door to sign for a package and Penny, who’s about a year old, got out and headed straight for the harbor, possibly in pursuit of a seagull.

Rambeau, who has multiple cats, told the Baltimore Sun he didn’t hesitate to jump in the water for Penny. He has done the same thing for other dogs, cats, deer and, in 1998, a 79-year-old man.

Naumann picked Penny up from the shelter the next morning, happily paying a $95 fee to pay to reclaim her pet.

“I’m just happy she’s back,” she said.

(Baltimore Sun photos by Kim Hairston)

Flinging French fries in Fargo

There are things to do in Fargo, North Dakota.

There’s the Celebrity Walk of Fame at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, where Garth Brooks, Neil Diamond, Debbie Reynolds, Jesse Ventura and others have left their signatures, handprints and footprints in cement.

There’s the Plains Art Museum, the Fargo Air Museum, the Red River Zoo, and just across the way from my motel, a big mall.

Yes — despite the stereotype of it as a place where boredom reigns, where temperatures lean toward the bitter extremes (and we won’t even go into woodchippers) — there are things to do in Fargo.

We’re just not doing any of them. Instead, we’re holed up in a Motel 6, where I’m flinging french fries into Ace’s mouth.

Why? Because it’s so damn cold.

Just as John Steinbeck, on his trip west with Charley, worried about getting across the northern states before winter set in, we’re beginning to fret as well; only we have ample reason — predictions of a October blizzard.

All night long, the wind rattled the windows of my motel room. The three-to-five inches of snow the local weatherman predicted hasn’t fallen — at least not here, not yet — but the warnings were enough to get me to book another night.

Just walking to the Burger King next door yesterday was bone chilling. Ace thought so, too. As eager as he was to get outside, he was even more eager — once experiencing it — to get back in.

Back in the room, for entertainment, I set aside half of my French fries and, in what’s become a habit during our travels when I get fast food, tossed portions to Ace. He gets the discolored ones, and the pointy ended ones. For some reason, I don’t like my fries to have pointy  ends. Though he was on the bed, four feet away, he missed but one fry, snagging each of the rest with a snort.

So far I haven’t seen much of Fargo, and that which I have has been through fast-flapping windshield wipers. The night I arrived, after checking in, I went off in search of downtown Fargo. On my only other trip here, three years ago, I didn’t explore at all. I did, during a stop for lunch, ask a waiter where downtown was, and he informed me there was no downtown. Maybe he was new here, or it was his way of saying Fargo’s downtown didn’t meet with his standards. Maybe he was having fun with tourists.

But I can report there is a downtown, and that the road to it, at least from my motel, is lined with pawn shops. Once there, I couldn’t see much, because it was so dark and rainy, but I sensed tall buildings.

It has remained grey since then. That alone normally wouldn’t keep me inside, but the wind is downright cruel, and the rain is a stinging one and the one time I did go out in the car — to buy dog food — my car door, powered by the wind, attacked me both when I got out and when I got back in.

Even the wildlife thinks it’s too cold. Tonight, when I went downstairs for ice, I saw a rabbit huddled between a trash can and the wall by the motel’s side door, seeking shelter from the wind and rain.

I was going to offer to share my room with him — invite him up for a discolored French fry, maybe suggest he consider relocating to warmer climes — but he ran off when I approached the door.

Dogged by snow, snowed by dogs

There’s nothing like a fresh blanket of snow to bring out the inner puppy in your dog.

Which tends — no matter how many hassles the snow might be causing you — to bring out the inner child in yourself.

Which then makes your dog even sillier. And so on.

It’s a joyous cycle — as opposed to one of those vicious ones — and, cold as it gets in the park, we tend to prolong the visit because our dogs (or us?) are having so much fun, lingering until our toes have all but lost their feeling.

Snow, like life, goes better with dogs.