Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fourth Of July: Not A Cause Of Celebration For Most

It is the fourth of July and the neighbors are at it again. Well, lighting off a few fireworks in the ‘hood is harmless fun, right? Maybe not. More dogs & cats are lost on the fourth of July than any other day of the year. Many animals are terrified by all the noise and commotion so they bolt and even jump fences as the fear courses through their veins. Years before I became a foster for Planned Pethood my rescue dog Helga had developed severe storm and fireworks anxiety before she became part of my pack.

Just a bit of background on the big girl. Helga Sue was marked down at the shelter because she had been there for months without any interest whatsoever. The employee there must have been desperate to get rid of her. She told me that our meeting was the first time she had wagged her tail since she had been incarcerated there. My semi-significant other and I rolled our eyes. The employee also commented the dog was obese and depressed. I retorted, 'aren’t we all?' I’m not one to resist a sale, so Hellie was on her way to her forever home. When we got her there, she immediately started chasing the cats and exhibiting nearly every bad behavior known to dogdom. Poor kitty Bernice lived in the basement for four months.
[SIDE NOTE:  Hel’s name had been Honey, a name that was so ill-suited that we laughed. The shelter told me she was a golden/husky mix but she was so unusual that I had her DNA tested. The certificate came back blank and the company gave me my money back.]
We had no clue about her anxieties until the first serious thunder storm hit. And, I am ashamed to say, we did everything wrong. Helga was a big girl and she would pace and try to stuff her large butt under the bed (ain’t happenin’).  I would try to console her and pet her which in reality was reinforcing her negative behaviors. Then we looked for solutions to the problem.
The vet recommended anti-anxiety medication (downers). My next question was, when do I give them to her? The answer was astounding. They told me to watch the radar on T.V., then an hour before the storm was to arrive, give her the pill. Really? So, on goes the T.V. and down goes the pill. I cannot tell you how many times Helga Sue was high but the storm blew over. Then we figured out a system. We used an herbal remedy that lasted about 20 minutes while we waited for the drugs to kick in. We also had to tell the big girl to suck it up because she was not going to be coddled anymore. That was terribly hard because we felt so badly for her.
Over the years, several of my Planned Pethood foster dogs, including Stanley who I have adopted, have experienced various stages of these kinds of fears but I have always dreaded the fourth most of all. We close the windows, turn up the stereo, and crank up the AC, all in an attempt to blunt the effects of well meaning people out to celebrate our nation’s birth. This will be Stanley’s first Independence Day with us. Maybe people would think twice if they knew the heartbreak and panic families experience when they find their companion is missing.
Protect your animals by keeping them inside days before and after July 4th.  Close windows and secure doors.  Your animal might have been fine last year, but may have a problem this year.  For those who are especially frightened by loud noises such as storms, please secure your animal in a place like your basement or a cage indoors.  Your vet may think it best that your animal be given medication prior to fireworks to help with anxiety levels in your pets.  Consult your vet before it’s too late. 

Should your pet become lost, you can find helpful hints here.

Mission Statement:  To reduce the overpopulation and suffering of dogs and cats through education and low-cost spay/neuter programs and to rescue, vet and place adoptable dogs and cats into
good permanent homes.
 This blog is dedicated to the memory of Helga Sue who we lost to a kidney disease at the age of 10.  Blogger extraordinaire- Judy Szewczak

Friday, June 22, 2012


OMG, that dress is soooo last year’s style, throw it away. This computer is too slow, let’s just pitch it. And, our dog, she’s getting so old she doesn’t even play anymore and she’s not as fast as she used to be, let’s get rid of her too. Sadly our society has embraced a throw away mentality.  
Nina is all smiles
These are exactly the circumstances under which my Planned Pethood foster dog, Nina, arrived on my doorstep. She has been with us for a year now, turning 11 in foster care. She was originally adopted at 18 mos., then kicked to the curb at 10. The family had 3 dogs and wanted to downsize. Thankfully, Planned Pethood has an enlightened return policy, anytime, anywhere, and for any reason, the rescues are welcomed back. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated occurrence. People have no qualms about disposing of one of their family members. 

It was a disposable dog that brought me into the world of foster care. Someone dropped off their dog at the high school where I worked. She had on a collar but no tags. At the end of the day on that Friday, it was just me and the dog still left at school so I took her home and called Planned Pethood.  There were no foster homes available so, could I just keep her until one opened up? I named her Jane after a good friend who fostered and there was no looking back. I ran ads, checked with the pound, and called shelter after shelter. No luck. I took her to our vet and she did have a microchip. I got really excited as the company played the tune “Reunited” in the background as they check on the dog. Jane’s family had TWO phone numbers listed but they had disconnected both .   It was then I knew indisputably that she had been thrown away (BTW, Jane got a wonderful forever home). 
The most egregious and sickening example of abandonment takes place when people just flat out move and leave their pets. My foster dog Liam came to me from a pound in a rural county. He was rescued from a trailer with 30 cats. When the officers entered the residence, the temperature registered 120 degrees. There was no prosecution. The offenders were “in the wind”, left the state.  I could not get little Li, who resembled a fox, to eat properly. We finally figured it out, he never ate dog food. He went to town on cat food however. He had some dental problems too and had to have several teeth removed. When he smiled, gaps and all, he looked like he came from the hills. Liam now lives in a huge suburban home with 3 kids who adore him. He came to bunk up with us while his family went on vacation recently.
This state of affairs has become so common that the volunteers  of Planned Pethood no longer even bat an eye at a story of animals being abandoned. Currently, I am fostering a litter of “Y” kittens, Yardley, Yogi, Yoyo and tiny little Yoda who came from a hoarder. The woman had 70 cats in her home. She acquired them as people threw them away but she did not spay and neuter them which created  a larger nightmare. These babies are among the lucky ones because Planned Pethood stepped in and saved them. They were sick with respiratory infections, eye infections, and bacterial infections.  
In conclusion, as disgusting as these stories are, they are neither unique nor isolated.  Finally, this blog is dedicated to the memory of little Yancey who died before we could help him. 
All of Planned Pethood's pets are up to date on age-appropriate shots and flea and heartworm prevention before being offered for adoption. In addition, Planned Pethood's policy is to treat all medical ailments, regardless of cost, unless the treating vet feels there is nothing more that can be done. We do not refuse treatment to our animals based on cost of treatment or on the age of the animal. When we take in a dog or cat, we take that commitment seriously.
(submitted by Judy S)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Lucky Kitten

Lucky started life as so many kittens do- a stray in an abandoned house.

A neighbor fed him and his litter mates for about a year, then one day she saw that Lucky was limping, one front leg literally dangling from his body. She took him to a vet who suggested euthanasia. She'd just paid the euthanasia fee when a Planned Pethood volunteer,Lynn, happened to come in.

Lynn could tell the kitten was severely injured, yet being handed around and taken out of and put back into carriers repeatedly. She noticed that through all this, he never once growled or hissed or in any way acted out. She figured if he was that friendly through all of that, he was worth taking a chance on!

Planned Pethood took him in, and our vet found out Lucky had been shot. His front leg had to be set and splinted. He endured bandage changes and re-splinting every two weeks for a period of several months. He had to be confined to a dog crate to keep him from doing any of the normal kitty-activities that might have interfered with the leg's healing. But true to his sunny nature he bore it all without any fuss, never so much as swatting a paw at anybody. Eventually one leg bone did heal, but because the other did not, and Lucky's leg had to be amputated.

A family fell in love with Lucky, and he is now the proud owner of his very own family! His gentle nature and Planned Pethood's dedication gave him a chance for life.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

In My Twilight Years

Gus was an elderly (approximately 12yrs old) Newfoundland mix who was found as a stray several years ago and stayed with Planned Pethood for two years. He has since passed over the Rainbow Bridge.
He was in terrible condition and initially tested positive for heartworm. For a dog his age, in his physical condition, the odds were not high that he would survive the heartworm treatment. Euthanasia was suggested as an option. Planned Pethood elected to give Gus a chance. He had to be on medication for his heart and his chronic ear infections. He had to have surgery on his ear canal, which then closed up but seeped constantly.
Because he could not reach his ear with his back legs (he has some hip problems) he would chew incessantly on his front leg. His foster parents tried all kinds of things to get him to stop chewing a raw spot into his leg: tube socks, bandages, Tabasco sauce... you name it, they tried it. It took them six months, but they finally got him to stop.

Gus also suffered from mild incontinence due to his age.    His foster family figured out what triggered this, and how to work around it.  There was so much more to Gus than his physical ailments! He was a genial guy, who loved people and attention.

After two years a family came along that were a wonderful match for Gus! They lived in a ranch so no more stairs for Gus. They had central air and used it all the time so no more yeast infections in his bad ear. One person worked from home, so Gus wasn't alone much. It was exactly what Gus needed.

During his last 2.5 years with this family, he was well loved and cared for. They specifically sought out an elderly dog that had little to no chance of getting adopted.

Gus also had a family from California that faithfully sent in $50 a month for Gus' medications. They also knew his chance of getting adopted were slim. When it was time to say good bye to Gus, the family contacted PPI and we were grateful for that.

Planned Pethood took a chance and paid for the medications and surgery to allow this gentle giant to enjoy his twilight years surrounded by love. I hope someone is as nice to me when I'm old and grey. When you see the same dogs and cats still up for adoption week after week, month after month- it's because we are giving them a chance they otherwise would never have.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Insurance Premiums Increased

No good deed goes unpunished as they say and for Planned Pethood, Inc. along with many other shelters, rescues, boarding facilities and kennels it is no exception.  Planned Pethood, along with these other entities, are about to feel the grip of a drastic increase in liability insurance.

Mitzi shows off her two staff members
(cook & chauffeur) and the limo they
drive her around in
Planned Pethood is being hit with a 100% increase in its liability insurance premiums this year.  This increase significantly gouges the coffers for direct intake and care for animals needing services from our programs.  Help from the community is desperately needed.

According to leading insurers for animal rescues and shelters, a number of these companies have experienced a 600% loss ratio; taking in one dollar for every six they are paying out.  Directors, officers and the rescues themselves can be victims of lawsuits which can run in the thousands for defense.

How and why did this happen?
In 2009, the largest dog fight bust in United States' history, in six states, with the cooperation of state and federal law enforcement and the ASPCA, was conducted.  Over 500 dogs were seized by authorities and 30 people were arrested. The Humane Society approached rescue organizations to take in a number of redeemable dogs and puppies, but the rescues first had to secure adequate insurance.

Additionally, more and more states have and are developing new animal negligence laws.  These increasing laws also contribute to an increase in the number of animals seized and in need of rescue placement.

The year of 2008 also saw the onset of significant unemployment and housing foreclosures forcing many people to relinquish their pets whether due to lack of ability to feed and care for their pets or forced to move to rentals which do not allow for pets.  There has been a 50% increase in the number of surrender animals in need of a rescue.
Planned Pethood's agent also related to us that other smaller rescues have caused all the rescues to suffer.  Their sloppy, slapped together adoptions, negligent attention to safety and/ or lack of policies and processes to follow have resulted in dog bites, volunteer injuries and lawsuits.  Those rescues acting in these rash manners have caused almost all rescues to experience an increase in insurance premiums. 

The catch?  The more animals taken into a shelter or rescue - the higher the liability.  Unfortunately, many shelters and rescues do not have adequate insurance and it cannot simply be obtained by your personal insurance agent, but through commercial liability insurance companies.

What are we doing to help?
We started with shopping for a new policy or agency.  Turns out the policy we had was the best one for our needs.  Additonally, Planned Pethood implements best practices to limit exposure to liability.  Planned Pethood has a policy and procedures manual and it is provided to all volunteers during training and reviewed during quarterly meetings.  It provides details for all operations and how they are to be performed along with proper protocol .  Planned Pethood holds regular meetings and training sessions on a consistent basis to ensure communication, enforcement and review of policies.  Volunteers are screened, monitored, trained, required to adhere to our Code of Conduct and provided with the best personnel, assistance and outside resources for animal car to minimize all risks.  By taking these precautions, Planned Pethood can focus on their main goal – spay/neuter and finding homes for rescued animals.

Our need
The community needs to come together and has an obligation to do our part by helping provide for victims of cruelty and neglect.  The more we do to support the efforts of rescues like Planned Pethood, the more we will be able to show the love these companion animals can enhance a person's life.

Planned Pethood operates strictly from donations from generous and loving people of the community.  While there are obvious expenses directly related to the care of our dogs and cats in our foster program, the rescue incurs other significant expenses the public may not be aware of; insurance is one of them.  Your help and donations are greatly appreciated in any amount.

Mission Statement:To reduce the overpopulation and suffering of dogs and cats through education and low-cost spay/neuter programs and to rescue, vet and place adoptable* dogs and cats into good permanent homes.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Cautionary Tale

Ida was next to death from
Heartworm disease
Your best friend could be the victim of an insidious silent stalker and you might not even know it. I had been vaguely aware that I administered a pill each month to address potential heartworm in my dogs. Then the reality of it slapped me in the face when my Planned Pethood ( foster dog, Ida, was diagnosed heartworm positive.

My education of the horrors of heartworms was about to begin. Ida is a stunningly beautiful 6 year old, 70 lb. black lab who was nabbed from death row at the pound. She is named after Ida Tarbell, a turn of the last century African American journalist who wrote about conditions for blacks and women. She was experiencing a dry cough which sounded like she had been a smoker her whole life. I found out later that symptom does not develop until the disease is quite advanced. Ida was about to undergo treatment to rid her heart of the parasites that had been transmitted to her from an infected mosquito.

Ida was given a chest x-ray and prescribed antibiotics. The next step was deep, painful injections with a drug (which actually contains arsenic) to kill the heartworms. That drug, by the way, has been taken off the market in the U.S., creating shortages similar to the problems with some cancer drugs. The aftercare was the worst part for my big girl. She had to be completely restricted for the next 4 weeks. She happens to be an athletic “fetch-aholic”. No balls for Ida for months. It was out to take care of business, then right back in. Dogs rarely die from the treatment but can lose their lives from the side effects. Too much activity can lead to a stroke or a heart attack because the parasites are dying right in the heart. After 4 weeks, she was administered an oral treatment and got permission to leash walk only. Then we waited.

Ida could be retested after 4 months. We anxiously awaited that date. But it was bad news, she was STILL HW+. The poor girl had to undergo the whole process once again.

There was a lesson to be learned for me through Ida’s ordeal. That pill once a month is critical. It seems like there is an epidemic of heartworm positive dogs out there. Planned Pethood’s ( rescues last year included 14 dogs with the condition, including Stanley, my own foster dog. We must end this cautionary tail (yes, pun intended) with a happy ending Ida is now a permanent member of my pack after nine long months of anxiety and restrictions. She is happy, healthy, and can be seen 24/7 with a ball in her mouth.

All of Planned Pethood's pets are up to date on age-appropriate shots and flea and heartworm prevention before being offered for adoption. In addition, Planned Pethood's policy is to treat all medical ailments, regardless of cost, unless the treating vet feels there is nothing more that can be done. We do not refuse treatment to our animals based on cost of treatment or on the age of the animal. When we take in a dog or cat, we take that commitment seriously.

(submitted by Judy S)