Monday, September 29, 2008

A Japanese Chin needed a home

What could be more obscure than a Japanese Chin? First, how do you decide if this dog you’ve got is really a Chin, and then find a rescue group to get her a home? I was faced with this exact question last weekend, when a friend called asking for help. The dog had been relinquished to a kind and generous vet; my friend Mike’s mother-in-law had brought it home, and her husband was NOT thrilled with keeping it. Now what?

The Internet saved the day. But even experienced computer users can get bogged down in a Google search and end up frustrated, looking at a puppy mill site selling Chins, or worse (Can there really be worse?).

This is where I came in. I went to the AKC web site clicked on “Breeds” and looked for the Japanese Chin. A few more clicks took me to the breed standard, but down the left side, there were links to the National Breed Club and national rescue. On that site, I found a list of rescue reps by region.

A really great feature of the rescue site, which all groups should offer, is a section on how to identify a purebred Japanese Chin. It is an unusual and rare breed, and Pekingese, Lhasa Apsos, and Shih Tzu are often mistaken for a Chin.

We were fortunate that there is a rescue rep in San Diego County. She came right out and picked up the dog. Don’t expect every rescue group to be so accommodating. Labrador and German Shepherd rescues, for example, are so overrun with dogs that they may ask you to keep it for awhile, deliver the dog to a foster home or kennel, and certainly fill out a pile of paperwork. Health, age, and temperament may render the dog “unadoptable” in their eyes, and they might refuse to take it.

Unfair to the dog, yes, but getting saddled with a bunch of old, sick dogs drains a group financially and emotionally, and uses up foster homes for a longer period. Then they can’t take in the young healthy dogs that could quickly get a home.

With a rare breed like Chins, the rescue may not get in a dog more than once every few months. Therefore, they are able to quickly respond when a homeless Chin needs rescuing.

So I felt a little glow of pride that I could offer assistance to my friend and this anonymous little dog. I’m no hero; I just knew where to look for help. And now you do too!

The photo above is Kamea, the little Chin who is now safe in the hands of Japanese Chin rescue, where she will be cared for until she is healthy and ready for adoption.

Friday, September 26, 2008

My latest dog painting

This is my latest painting, a logo for Adora Labradors in Ellensburg, Washington. It is done in watercolor and colored pencil, and is 15" wide. The puppies in this picture are all their pups, from a selection of over 350 photos they sent me! Bruce and Mary will use the art on their web site, and on mugs t-shirts and other items. Plus they can frame the original for their home or office. I had a lot of fun with this one, deciding which pups to use, getting a good variety of black, yellow and chocolate, and thinking up some fun elements to add, like the swallowtail butterfly, the tennis ball and stick. 

The concept is part of my NameGames line of designs, where I incorporate the name of the breed or other title into a painting of the dogs. I have done 13 breeds and numerous kennels, clubs and events in this format. 

I have enough puppy photos to last me for awhile now! I have done so many Labrador puppy paintings, that I have used up most of my favorite poses, so this is a gold mine of new reference material. The Labrador Retriever Club National Specialty t-shirt features puppies every year, and I have done that art for 9 or ten years now. This year's design is pictured here.

My next project is a portrait of three of their adult dogs, a black, a yellow and a chocolate. I will share it with you soon!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Did You Know?

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Ten Different Species

Fish can get constipated

Horses can't see straight ahead, because their eyes are on the side of their heads.

Tortoises can learn to come when they are called

If a cat’s head can fit in an opening the whole body can

A dog’s feet smell like Fritos

A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing

Ferrets like to poop in the corner

Birds can’t eat avocados

Snakes “hear” with their tongues; they don’t have ears

Hermit crabs shed their skin and grow out of their shells

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A couple of cute movie previews

For those of you that love a good laugh, here are a couple of darling dog movie trailers to watch. I loved the book Marley and Me, and I like Jennifer Anniston a lot, so I’m really looking forward to this one.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua, on the other hand, may be really cute, but it will cause a huge rush to buy Chihuahuas for Christmas, and I hate to think what that will do to the breed. We are already overrun with poorly bred dogs.

Disney did Dalmatians a disservice with their movie, 101 Dalmatians. Now with this new movie, I’m afraid the damage will be worse, because Chis are already so popular. A poorly bred one can be a little biting machine, snotty and bossy, terrorizing the whole family. People tend to spoil them because they are so small and baby-like.

Basic obedience training, just like you do with a Lab, helps ensure a well-adjusted, well-behaved family pet. People get rid of an out of control big dog, while a little ankle-biter is often tolerated. Neither is a good pet, and neither suffers a happy fate at the hands of overburdened shelters.

Labs are the number one breed in the US already, and Marley and Me will certainly contribute to their popularity. Instead of warning people off with this big goofy dog’s destructive adventures, people will laugh and think it’s fun to have a out-of-control galump of a dog crashing around an apartment. And I haven’t even seen the movie yet.

I could regale you with tales of Tank, our yellow Lab, who settled down at the age of 11 and became a normal pet. Labs have the best sense of humor in the world, and are tons of fun, but not trained, they are a freight train running off the track- right at your china cabinet. It’s not as funny when it happens in your house. Over 10 years volunteering for Lab Rescue showed me that a lot of people have no idea what they are getting into when they buy a Lab. They aren't cute little puppies for very long.

So look at Marley and Me with the perspective of “This is a warming: do not try this at home.”  Train your dog. Or don’t get one.

Enjoy the movies!
Shown above: Tank, my Lab, doing what he loved- playing with kids.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Should I get another dog?

A week has gone by since Sandy died, and I find myself settling in to life without her. I washed her bed, and the other dogs are sleeping in it now. 

I've promised myself that I will get the numbers down around here, through attrition. I will NOT get another dog. Today the paper came with four pages of color photos of homeless dogs. The San Diego Union Tribune does this quarterly. ( I can't find it online, so no link...sorry!) There was a little female doxie, age 3, but my heart went out to the older goldens, two of them. I adopted my two doxies, Beans and Tuffy, from this ad section back in 2003. I promised to take them even before I'd moved into my new house, out of the apartment. They were 10 years old, and had been living in a kennel since their owner went to a nursing home. They finished out their lives with me, and I loved them so much. 

In 2000, I found a home for a donkey I was fostering, through an ad in this newspaper section.  Blossom has lived out in Alpine ever since, and even was featured on TV during the fire evacuation in 2003. My success with Blossom led me to adopt a burro, Bandit (shown here), from the Bureau of Land Management in 2001.

I'm going to resist temptation this time. I can't afford the cost of so many animals, and with my pet boarding business, it's just too many dogs. I hate being a grownup. Sometimes the responsible decision is NOT to get a pet, as much as your heart goes out to them. I have to resist becoming a hoarder, that dreaded cat lady with 100 cats pouring out of a steaming, smelly house. With my boarding business, I always say I get to rent them until the feeling passes.

For those of you out there that want to take them all home, I suggest you volunteer as a foster home for a rescue group, like FOCAS in San Diego, or a shelter. Then you get to try out lots of different breeds, ages, and temperaments, without committing to lifelong care and expense. It's hard to let them go, but I always realize that an animal will be happier in a home where they are the center of attention, rather than one of many. If you love cats, fostering litters of kittens until they are old enough to adopt can be especially fun and rewarding. I fostered a litter of puppies for FOCAS once, and it was a blast.

I've kept in touch with a lot of people who adopted dogs I've fostered, and it is fabulous to see how well the dog does, and very satisfying to know I've picked a great home for the dog. I'll write more about the foster dogs I've loved and remember in future posts. 

Right now, I have my own four dogs and two cats who need me. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Goodbye, Sandy

My dear old Sandy gave up yesterday, after 18 years of a happy life. She was one of the lucky ones. Adopted from the Humane Society at age 2, she lived 12 years with her first owner. Marge, my neighbor, died suddenly at the age of 85 a few years ago. Sandy came to live with me and my family of dogs at the age of 14. I never dreamed she would live this long.  Her first few hours here, she sat by my gate and howled, her head thrown back in sorrow. My heart ached for her. Marge's son sent me an (unexpected) check a few days later, to cover Sandy's medical care if she needed any. Marge's daughter offered to provide food and money for the rest of Sandy's life, which I declined. They were so thoughtful and generous.  Once Sandy settled in, she was queen of the castle, dominant and snotty, but I loved her. She and my collie Emma didn't get along too well. After Emma passed away, Sandy was happier, and everyone got along great after that.  As she aged, she lost most of her hearing and her sight. Her arthritis made her elbows stick out at weird angles, but she still ran and played out in the yard. The past few weeks, she was losing control of her rear, having accidents, and dragging her legs when she tried to crawl out of her favorite bed. Yesterday, she just lay down and gave up, unresponsive to anything, so I knew it was time.  I will miss her.