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Tag: dying

Today’s question: Can dogs be humiliated? The answer is tutu clear

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Attention all you “dog shamers,” all you dog dresser-uppers, all you dog-dyers, and anyone else who finds it fun and harmless to put your dog in a costume, use him to make a fashion statement, or ridicule him on social media.

You may be making him feel silly, and damaging his self esteem.

The Telegraph reports that animal charities in the UK are calling upon pet owners to cool it when it comes to decorating their dogs.

Among those quoted in the story was Caroline Kisko, the Kennel Club’s Secretary, who said the organization is “not greatly in favour of doing anything to dogs which makes them feel ‘silly.’ Dogs know when they are being laughed at.”

Not exactly a bold stance there — “not greatly in favour?” — but then again the Kennel Club sponsors Crufts, which in 2009 chose this poodle as winner in the Utility Group:

Apparently shaving a dog to resemble a bunch of poofy cotton balls is an accepted exemption from the “let’s not make dogs feel silly” rule.

Hypocrisy and poodle cuts aside, we think Kisco makes a valid point when she says dog owners need to strike a balance between what is done for the dog and what is mere “human vanity.”

“It is not a toy and we need to maintain that a dog is a dog,” she said. “Since we can’t ask them we should err on the side of caution … Why is it suddenly OK to dress a dog up in silly clothing or dye it?”

The answer is social media, which has made such practices, if not more frequent, at least more noticeable.

Decorating dogs is nothing new. I’d guess even ancient Egyptians did it — because it sounds like something right up their alley. But since Facebook and other social media came along, it has brought out the attention-seeker in all of us, to the point that — even if it’s not Halloween — we’ll post photos of our dogs looking silly or doing something silly.

doghamedThat’s not always “mocking” or “ridiculing” them, but often, particularly with the dog-shaming sites, it comes pretty close.

I’ve long had a problem with people dressing dogs for any purpose other than protection against the elements. I draw the line at bandanas, which my former dog almost always wore, and loved. My current dog, Jinjja, won’t let a bandana anywhere near his neck.

Some dogs tolerate getting adorned, receiving dye jobs, and funny haircuts; some don’t. But, as Kisco points out, even a dog who doesn’t visibly object may still be getting humiliated.

“Some will have a reasonably high level of tolerance for that sort of thing. You can get a dog that will love being the center of attention. But some will feel silly. Outfits come under the same banner – whether it’s a silly collar or whatever.

“If someone wants to put a bumblebee costume on their dog for Christmas, that’s fine, but take it off again. The dog doesn’t want to be a bumblebee …”

Paula Boyden, veterinary director at Dogs Trust, told The Telegraph that she had a problem with grooming techniques and dyes that could cause discomfort or irritation.

“It’s important that dog owners, and groomers, remember that dogs are not fashion accessories to have the latest trend tried out on them, grooming is for the dog’s needs rather than for the owner’s entertainment,” she said.

And Elisa Allen, a director at PETA in the UK, is quoted in the article as saying, “Dogs aren’t bonsai trees to be sculpted into shapes that please us. Many are nervous about being groomed, and dyeing them bright colors puts them at risk for allergic reactions and even toxic poisoning, which can have serious and even fatal consequences.”

Before you start thinking those groups have peacefully united to pursue this cause, keep in mind that the only place they seem to have come together is in the Telegraph article, and that — if there is any newsworthiness here — it’s that there is something all three groups agree on.

PETA regularly crashes Crufts, and the Dogs Trust has blamed the Kennel Club and Crufts for promulgating breed standards that don’t just make dogs look silly, but makes them unhealthy as well.

The article may make it sound as if the groups are harmoniously working hand in hand, but that’s about as likely as a bulldog doing ballet.

A place for old dogs to die loved

A little peace, and quiet, and love, and attention — they’re all any of us really want in life.

And maybe even more so when death is on the way.

For humans, hospice care is now big business, but the opportunity for sick and elderly dogs to die in peace and dignity isn’t always there.

And often, their last days are less than peaceful — especially for those whose owners, hoping to avoid the expense of veterinary care, abandon them to shelters or worse.

Seeing that happening too often — seeing them get abandoned at the time they need someone the most — a northern Michigan woman started the Silver Muzzle Cottage, a rescue and hospice for homeless old dogs.

The Detroit Free Press on Sunday took an in-depth look at the organization and the woman behind it, Kim Skarritt.

Silver Muzzle Cottage takes in dogs left behind either by owner choice, or by circumstances, as when a dog’s owner suddenly dies and no one else can care for it.

In two years, she has cared for more than 70 of them. It remains the only such hospice in the state, and one of the few in the country.

1441360_668204089941476_771065216946594329_n“They don’t ask for much when they’re really old,” said the 56-year-old former auto engineer. “They want to be loved and cared for, they want food and they just need a warm place to lay their head at night.”

Five years ago, Skarritt opened a dog boarding and fitness center called Bowsers by the Bay. Through that work, she noticed the pattern of elderly dogs being abandoned in their final days. After calling animal shelters throughout the state, she estimated there were about 900 senior dogs within 500 miles of Elk Rapids needing a home.

Skarritt researched the issue, finding many area shelters were taking in old dogs whose owners had surrendered them, sometimes just leaving them tied outside the shelters at night.

“I kept seeing these 14-year-old dogs and 13-year-old dogs in shelters and needing homes, and I’m going, ‘What is that? Who does that?'”

So she bought an empty storage building next door to her business and opened Silver Muzzle Cottage as a nonprofit rescue just for elderly dogs, which she defines as age 10 or older, or terminally ill but not suffering so much they need to be euthanized.

The Free Press described the inside of the rescue as a “big living room with couches, throw pillows, a fake fireplace with decorations atop the mantle, end tables with vases and a coffee table with a thick photo book about dogs atop it. It looks like a normal house, except there’s a bunch of dogs lounging on the couches like they own the place.”

The dogs aren’t caged at night, which means someone has to be there at all times. Skarritt moved into a small bare bones room adjacent to the living room and sleeps there at night.

About 100 rotating volunteers visit the dogs, take them for walks and car rides and pet and play with them.

Despite their old age, many get adopted — both by volunteers and by those among whom Skarritt works to spread the word about both the plight old dogs face, and the joys of having them around.

If you ask me, the world could use more places like this — for dogs and humans; places that aren’t about being poked, and prodded and prolonged but about being treated with some love, dignity and compassion when the end is near.

Silver Muzzle Cottage is at 201 Industrial Park, Elk Rapids, Mich., 49629. For information, call 231-264-8408, or visit the Silver Muzzle Cottage Facebook page.

(Photo from Silver Muzzle’s Facebook page)

Walnut’s last walk

Before having his sick and elderly whippet put down, a UK man scheduled one last walk on the beach with his dog, and invited the world to come along.

The world responded.

Hundreds showed up to accompany Mark Woods and his 18-ear-old dog, Walnut, on the walk Saturday. Later that morning, Walnut was euthanized.

walnutWoods, who lives in Newquay, posted the invitation on Facebook last Tuesday.

“Sadly I am having to have Walnut euthanized on Saturday 12th November and so we will be having a last walk together on his beloved Porth Beach at 9.30am,” he wrote.

“I would love it if dog lovers/owners and friends would join us for a celebration of Walnut on his favourite Porth Beach,” Woods continued. “He has had an incredible life and having reached the grand age of 18 is ready for his final sleep.”

Supporters, many with dogs, showed up in droves. Words of encouragement came from around the world, some from people who took a long walk with their own dog in honor of Walnut.

“Thank you to the hundreds of people that attended the walk this morning and to all those that had their own walks with their beloved pets at 9.30am all around the world,” Woods later wrote on Facebook.

“I also want to thank the wonderful people of Newquay for their support which I will never forget as long as I live.”

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)

A letter to a departed dog

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If you are in between dogs — if you’ve recently lost one and can’t quite make the leap to bringing home another — here’s something worth reading.

Allie Potts, a North Carolina writer, puts into words all those hard to pin down feelings that bounce around in one’s head when one is simultaneously coping with grief, dealing with the void of being dog-less, and wondering if getting a new dog is somehow disrespectful to the dear departed old one.

To deal with that, Potts, upon getting a new dog, wrote a letter to her old one.

alliepotts“We pulled out your crate this week, unused for the last three years, and brushed off the cobwebs, only we didn’t do it for you,” she writes.

“Another four-legged creature joined the family and needed a place to sleep. I think you would have liked her. She’s a mix of Lab, like you, but Boxer too, which was always your favorite playmate. But she’s not you.”

Potts recounts the feelings that arose as she sat with the new dog on the couch, much like she did with the old one.

“I felt so guilty. Guilty that I was enjoying her warmth by my side. Guilty that we couldn’t do more to keep you there longer. Guilty I am happy to once again see a bowl on the ground.

“But she really is a good girl and I was the one to suggest we bring her home. In fairness to her, I am trying to remember all your flaws as much as I recall your virtues. How you could clear the room after a meal. The books of mine you destroyed. That incident with the bunny.

“The trouble is, I loved you with your flaws as much as you loved me with mine.”

The full essay can be found on her blog, Allie Potts Writes. She has also written two books, “An Uncertain Faith” and “The Fair & Foul.”

Having had ten dogs come into and go out of my life, I’d agree with her that comparing dogs is hard to avoid — and at the same time a useless pursuit.

“She’s not you, true, but she’s herself; a dog who is sweet and mostly well-mannered. A dog who deserves to be loved for who she is rather than considered somehow flawed for who she’s not…

“So please forgive me if I eventually allow my heart to stop comparing, as difficult as that seems now. When I scratch her behind her ears or throw her a ball to chase, it doesn’t mean I miss you any less. It will just mean I’ve finally allowed my heart to grow more.”

(Top photo from Fort-morgan.org, Potts photo from Alliepottswrites.com)

Dying vet reunited with his lost dog

A homeless veteran whose dog wandered off when he fell asleep on a southern California beach earlier this month has been reunited with his beloved Olivia.

Harry Brown, 53, diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given a year to live, was visiting Long Beach, California to say goodbye to friends family when Olivia, the young brown and white pit bull he describes as his service dog in training, disappeared.

He searched for her for a week, visiting animal shelters and placing a lost dog ad on Craigslist:

“Her name is Olivia and she is the life to me,” the ad read. “…Please help even if you see her just running by. She had a pink service vest, new leash with pink collar … I would offer reward but I am a disabled veteran, have nothing but that little girl. So please, if you can help unite us, I would be forever in your debt.”

olivia“We spent as long as we could trying to find her,” Brown told NBC 4. With an arranged ride for the next leg of his trip, to Phoenix, Brown had to move on.

It was there he got a response to his Craigslist ad: “Your girl is in L.A. County, go get her,” it said.

Olivia had been found wandering the streets of Long Beach, and taken to an animal shelter.

An animal rescue group called Captain Care raised money to pay for Brown’s ticket back to Long Beach and cover the fees required to secure her release.

Brown, who calls Eugene, Oregon home, picked Olivia up Wednesday.

“She’s my life,” admitted Brown, who says he suffers from PTSD and has had problems with alcohol.

Brown has his own Facebook page, and has used it to thank all those who helped him, especially Captain Care.

Donors provided him with a hotel room, new toys, treats and food for Olivia, and a hammock they can share while on the road, according to The Examiner.

Extra donations will be used to help spay and feed Olivia, and help pay for Brown’s continuing cross-country journey to say goodbye to family and friends.

Donations for Brown and Olivia can be made to Captain Care Intervention at mycaptaincare.org.

(Photo: Courtesy of Harry Brown)

Is the end near for Isis (the dog)?

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The British press, which is very good at speculating, is suggesting Isis, the Labrador retriever in Downton Abbey, might soon be departing.

And all because of her name.

Lord Grantham’s dog, Isis — named after the Egyptian princess — could be taken off the show to avoid any further association to the jihadist group ISIS.

Downton Abbey’s fifth season is currently airing in the U.K., and in the most recent episode Lord and Lady Grantham made reference to the dog appearing “terribly listless.”

“I wonder if she’s picked up a germ” says Lady Mary at one point. “Maybe she’s eaten a squirrel.”

isisdogIsis was still alive at the end of the episode.

According to The Independent, an ITV rep said in a statement that the dog’s name is an “unfortunate coincidence.” The terrorist group was not yet using that name when writers began working on season five, the representative said.

But the rep wouldn’t comment on whether Isis may be leaving the cast.

While the show is in its fifth season, it has covered a 12-year time span. And given the dog was an adult when she first appeared, her death — the death of her character, we mean — wouldn’t be that out of the blue.

It wouldn’t be the first television program to make changes since the terrorist group came on the radar.

The FX series “Archer” got rid of its spy agency ISIS, “Doctor Who” edited a beheading scene and Fox apologized for a poorly timed “Sleepy Hollow” ad campaign.

(Photo: ITV)