Saturday, May 28, 2011

Why I love Labs

I have been trying to explain a "zipper" to fellow dog writer Susan Conant, who writes great mystery novels featuring her Malamutes. She asked for some advice on Labrador retrievers and what makes them look different from each other.

Well, I suggested, some have a zipper down the middle of their face between their eyes. It's a little ridge of hair growing in the wrong direction that sticks up and is very noticeable. A Lab staying at my house, Nate, who is yellow, sort of has a zipper, though his is just color, not an actual ridge. I thought I'd show her what it looked like.

Okay Nate, pose for the camera...

If I ever have to explain airplane ears, that one will do the job...

Now Nate let's try again... "sit!"

Those beady little eyes in the background are my dachshund, Desi. Notice the blurry, wagging tails.

Once more with feeling. Okay Nate... "Sit!"

I knew you could do it! Not much of a zipper, but you get the idea... 
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© 2011 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Update on the desperate cat

Wally in his perch on top the bookcase

Wally is now at my house, confined to my art room. He has been here since Thursday and has settled in well. Sterling and Whisper, my cats, have been sniffing at the door, and Sterling woke me this morning by scratching on Wally’s door.

I think it is time to introduce them. My two came into the room for a minute and sniffed around, while Wally watched from the top of my bookcase, in the cat tent (see photo). We’ll try again today and see how it goes.

Wally would still like to have a new home, but he is safe here.  

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© 2011 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Wally makes friends with Lassie
The lap of luxury

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Situation desperate. Cat needs a new home

Wally needs a new home

You’ve heard it before. Owner lost job, then her home, has to move, cat can’t go, etc. For those of us who have spent years rescuing homeless animals, we get a little jaded (no…a LOT jaded). We snarl and say “Since when did ______(insert city here) not allow cats?” “Why can’t this person get a cat-friendly apartment?” and so on. It’s easy to lose patience with people who seem to discard their pets so easily.

But times have changed dramatically. Now, more often that not, even the most responsible pet owner has no choice in the matter. And the rescue community needs to show more compassion for people who are truly in crisis, and are not just throwing away their pets.  

Give my friend a job
I encountered this attitude recently while trying to find a home for my friend Virginia’s cat, Wally. A librarian, Virginia was laid off about two years ago. She has worked as a librarian in hospitals, government and law schools, and has a degree from San Diego State in library science.

Recently she has been working for a temp agency. She finally realized she could no longer afford her condo, has sold it at a tremendous loss, and is now moving in with her sister’s family. And her niece is allergic to cats, so Wally can’t come. Jasmine the dog is welcome in Virginia’s new home.

I have heard my share of snide remarks as I've help Virginia spread the word about Wally. I'm sorry people who don't know the situation have so little sympathy.

About Wally, the cat who needs a home
Wally has been with Virginia for 11 years, since he was an 8-week-old kitten. She had recently lost her beloved Toad, a yellow kitty, and wanted another yellow cat to complete her family. I saw an ad for yellow kittens, and she went right over and brought baby Wally home.

Wally has lived peacefully with dogs, but has never lived with another cat. He has never been outdoors. He is healthy and well-cared for, and comes complete with all his supplies and toys.

This situation is heartbreaking for Virginia. Our local no-kill shelter, Helen Woodward’s Animal Center, charges a $2,000 “donation” to take an elderly cat. Wally will probably stay with me while we look for a permanent home for him.

Why Wally is at my house
Friends help friends, and Virginia is one of the most generous people I know. When I was going through my divorce, she kept my collie, Emma, for almost four months while I was in an apartment. I already had a dog and two cats at the apartment; a collie would have been tough to hide.

When I got my house, I took Emma back, and Virginia had earned lifetime gratitude and free pet sitting.

Please spread the word here in Southern California. Let’s help Wally find a new home and take one sad burden off of my friend’s shoulders.

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© 2011 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Old dog vestibular syndrome

Just when I think I’ve seen just about every medical condition a dog could possibly suffer from, something new happens, and I am humbled by my lack of knowledge again.            

I have taken care of hundreds of dogs over the years, from foster dogs to boarding dogs and my own dogs too. Ask me about dermatomyositis in shelties, collie nose, cold water tail or exercise-induced collapse in Labradors. Ask me to explain arrythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy in Boxers. Skin problems, thyroid conditions, heartworm, snakebite, or pancreatitis– been there, done that. But I am not a vet, and I’ll never see it all.

My heart sank when I saw my sheltie Lily walking with her head tilted to one side. She was having trouble making it across the room in a straight line, and then she stumbled and fell. She tried to climb up the stairs to the couch (put there for my dachshund, Desi), but lost her balance and fell off. I knew something was terribly wrong.

Lily was frightened and panting, dizzy and vomiting. Her eyes darted from left to right. I thought she’d had a stroke. Off we went to the vet, who examined her carefully and gave me the diagnosis: old dog vestibular syndrome.

Her symptoms fit perfectly. Lily is 13 ½; it came on suddenly out of nowhere. She had been perfectly healthy. The vomiting is due to dizziness. Dr Singh said she feels seasick, and recommended an over-the-counter medicine that people take for the same symptoms. I was to give her one pill a day. He said it could take two or three days to recover, or up to five weeks.

That was good news. She would recover! She may or may not have a relapse in the future. Her symptoms calmed down immediately with the meds, and I discontinued the pills within a couple of days. I hand-fed her canned food because her balance was so far off she couldn’t get her head down to the bowl to eat.

Now, three weeks later, she is much better, though the head tilt has not gone away. She can climb up the steps to the couch with no problem. I still feed her canned food, but she can eat it without my help. All in all, she is getting along fine.  

This syndrome can strike any breed. Read more about it here at:

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© 2011 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Boxer with a tail: pet portrait by Terry Albert

This is an unusual dog, and his portrait really is a custom piece, since you almost never see a Boxer with a tail. Rocky the Boxer’s portrait will be a birthday surprise for my client’s good friend. This one is 16” x 20”, larger than I usually work. I hope she likes it! The flowers in the background are bearded iris and society garlic. She is fond of purple.

Sorry I had to slap a screaming copyright notice right across the picture, but I've gotten very weary of having my art and blogs ripped off.

In other Boxer news, I have received the proofs of my upcoming Boxer book, Animal Planet: Boxers. I am busy proofreading and can hardly wait until it comes out in January 2012. 

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© 2011  Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How many pets is too many? Time for soul-searching

Bonnie contemplates a nap
For the past 20 years, pets have been my passion, sometimes to the exclusion of other equally important pursuits, like marriage and family. Over the past year, I have tried to find more balance in my life.

I tend to overdo things. When I fostered dogs, I had five or 6 at a time, rarely just one. When I started owning horses, I suddenly had four instead of one. Then I got a donkey. When I got a second dog, I soon had a third, a fourth and a fifth. Two cats became four cats. Two box turtles expanded with the addition of two sulcatta tortoises.

I had a serious, and traumatic, reality check about 8 years ago. My marriage imploded and I was on my own. My husband kept a horse, the donkey, our Lab Tank, and the sulcatta tortoises. Off I went with two dogs, one horse, two cats and the box turtles. I didn’t exactly travel light. I promptly bought another horse and adopted two more dogs.

I finally realized I didn’t have to save every homeless dog myself, and I can’t adopt them all either. I quit volunteering for rescue and started boarding dogs. Now I say to myself that I still get to know all these different breeds, but I don’t have to own them. I joke that I rent them until the feeling passes. I sometimes had as many as 12 guest dogs. I’ve cut the number back to 6 or 7, max.

As my own dogs pass away I do not plan on getting more. I’d like to stick with two of my own. My two female shelties, Bonnie and Lily are 13 now. Too many dogs equal too much stress, on the animals and me.

I went on a horse-acquiring spree last year, and adopted two more horses. One died (Honey) within six months. Now I am at a manageable number and plan to stick with three. Two and a half, actually, since Sherlock is a Shetland pony! I will not replace them when they die.

Ethel's new home
The box turtles
The big change (maybe not to you, but to me it was) is that I found a new home for my box turtles. After 20 years, they are in a place where they live in a dirt-and-bushes habitat instead of a terrarium. With all these dogs, I couldn’t safely keep them in the yard. Their new owner is a dedicated reptile expert, my friend Liz Palika. I couldn’t have found a better person. She wrote the book, Turtles and Tortoises for Dummies. Fred and Ethel should be very happy. I will post photos as soon as I get some.

I was pretty anxious about letting them go. Here I was, hovering and giving Liz feeding instructions, like she needed to be told. She reports that one of them is sleeping next to Pearl, her leopard tortoise, every night.   

Another issue
Lurking in the back of my mind is another issue: money. Like everyone else, I have been touched by economic woes, and I realize I cannot continue to spend so much money on the animals. As I inevitably age, my earning power will drop. Horses live 30 years or more, and Star is only 10. As pets age, they require more care for end of life issues.

My love for animals has not waned. But common sense has finally settled in. Whoever said “Everything in moderation,” gave good advice. It’s time I listened.  
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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.