Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year and a Sad Good-bye

Scott, Ella, Hobbit and I send wishes for a new year full of positive changes. Looking back at 2008 can be disheartening, but we're not without hope. The people I've met on this blog have taught me that.

I'm sorry to say that this is the last entry for the blog. When I started this venture in January of this year, I thought it would be a casual thing; something I spent a few minutes every now and then on. Ha! It quickly developed into a creature that demanded feeding and it didn't want fluff. It wanted information that pointed out the good and bad happening in our little corner of the dog world. I found it difficult to ignore the blank pages for more than a couple days at a time. Unfortunately, other issues have demanded my time in the last few months, and I've scrambled to keep the blog afloat.

It's been a rewarding experience. I've heard so many inspiring stories and connected with animal lovers who encourage me to see the good in human kind. This blog has introduced me to a myriad of animal advocates and programs; from the individual who quietly rescues dogs and cats off the street, to outstanding operations like Best Friends Animal Society. Thank you for the supportive words, helpful links and suggestions for articles. A special thanks to the one person who responded to my post seeking contributing writers for this blog. I apologize to you for not responding back. I lost your email!

I'll leave the blog up for a couple months, so people can copy any links they might find helpful. Some of you know that I'm striving to become a children's book author and illustrator. In 2009, I plan to intensify my education towards that goal. I'm in the process of reconstructing my professional website to focus on this new path. When it's finished, it'll have a blog that will sometimes offer news of Hobbit and Ella. I'll post the website address on this blog before I shut it down. If you're interested in visiting the new site and you don't want to check back here for the address, email me and I'll contact you as soon as the site's up.

My writing will always feature animals, as my art has. The insight I've gained from doing this blog will surely be a part of my stories. Hobbit and Ella say a fond farewell, with a wag in their tails and a song in their hearts. They thank you for all that you do to benefit animalkind.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cheers to Hillsborough County Animal Services

The St.Petersburg Times ran a very nice piece in today's Opinion section on HCAS's efforts to place more animals and lower the rate of euthanasia.

2008 Updates

Earlier in the year, I did an article about dogfighting in Florida. I referred to a case in Hillsborough County where a man named Maurice Bayless had been arrested in April of this year on charges related to dogfighting. I promised to follow up on that charge to see where it led. According to HC Clerk of the Circuit Court's website, on June 2 a written not guilty plea was entered and the case was continued. On July 31, the right to the speedy trial was waived and the case continued. On Nov. 3, a pre trial was scheduled for Jan. 20, 2009 with a possible jury trial on Jan. 26. The road to justice is long and winding, but every gavel that hammers down on a jail sentence for animal abuse is worth the effort.

I ranted against the common use of fireworks back in July. With New Year's celebrations breathing down our necks, I felt it timely to post a link that is addressing this issue in Florida. The Ban Illegal Fireworks site is hosted by a Hillsborough County resident through Neighborhood Links. It features information about the legal status of fireworks use in Florida and what's being done to ban them. A warning: the "protect animals" link on the sidebar shows a graphic image of a dead horse that may be disturbing to some.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Story of Moses and Seamus

My Christmas gift to you is a tale that traveled many channels to get here. I heard about it through a friend who heard about it through a friend who had a friend who told the story. I have three people to thank for providing this gift: my friend Ginny Powell, who first relayed the story to me; Jackie Seal, who spent the better part of this year urging the tale's originator to write it down for this blog; and the story teller herself, Marcia McCall. Marcia must be an amazing woman because this is an amazing tale.

"This is the story of Moses….but before I can begin the story of Moses, I must tell the story of Seamus. Seamus is a unique fellow, one who knows what he wants at all times and is not afraid to either pursue it or enlist the support of anyone who can help him obtain his heart’s desire. His became self-sufficient at a very early age, and one would suspect from his youthful behaviors that his independence was not so much from choice, but necessity. He was extremely wary and untrusting, but not afraid of much. He preferred to avoid relationships, keeping a safe distance in both time and space until he could be sure his trust and safety would not be compromised.
When I first saw Seamus, he was very young, perhaps no more than 8 or 10 weeks old, a wee ginger tabby kitten, trying to make himself invisible in the grass near my front steps. He made it quite clear that he was merely observing the environment and the situation, but was not yet ready to be more involved with it! (He has never revealed to me just how he came to be there or why he was all alone, he just miraculously appeared one day.) A few days later, I saw him again, looking leaner, so thin his sides were nearly touching each other. I set bowls of food and water out—he ran off the moment I came near. I watched from behind a curtained window, but he would not return to eat while I was watching. Half an hour later, the bowl of food would be completely empty! This was the pattern for a few weeks, until one day, he came up to me, and rubbed around my ankles and purred! I was elated! In my joy, I stooped to pet him, but that was NOT the right thing to do…..yet! Getting to the petting stage took another week or more! We began with a few wary pats on the head, and then moved on to a full stroke of his body! He sniffed, looked me in the eye, and watched my every move, as if analyzing my motives! He was indeed a very suspicious fellow! It took a few days, but by then petting before food gradually became part of our routine and before long, the petting became an important part of our feeding rituals! Still, he would not allow himself to be picked up or snuggled, as I longed to do to this poor little waif of a kitten. That stage of our relationship took a few weeks more! By this time, Seamus was several months old, no longer a kitten but not quite a full grown cat. Finally, he trusted me! He snuggled his head into my neck and purred pure contentment! He then decided that a permanent relationship with me might not be so bad and he really wanted to be my cat! I told him he would have to get his shots and be neutered before he could live in my house, and he agreed to submit! So Seamus became my full fledged cat when he was about six months old, in October of 2006!
We became fast friends. Seamus always joined me for my first cup of morning coffee out on the back porch. He seemed to enjoy sitting with me every day and I really enjoyed him. Sometimes he would become rather vocal, as if he was talking to me! We would have conversations….about nothing! He was rather a chatty cat. At that point, I decided he must have kissed the blarney stone, so hence I named him Seamus! A red haired, story-telling Irish cat!!!! After he had eaten his breakfast he would go exploring in the nearly half acre back yard that ran all the way down to the Hillsborough River. When he tired of his adventures, he napped in the basket by the window. At night, he shared my bed with me. He decided he rather liked domestic life after all! We settled into a pleasant, long term relationship!
Fast forward seven months. Seamus and I were enjoying morning coffee on the back porch at about 5:30 or so in the morning on Memorial Day, 2007. It was still dark out, and I was not yet dressed for the day. As we were slowly waking up, the frantic cries of some animal in terrible danger startled us wide awake! The cries were coming closer, they seemed to be coming from down by the river. Seamus looked at me as if to say “Are you just going to sit there? We have to do something! Come on, hurry up, let’s go find out what has happened to this creature!” So off we went, in the dark, down the hill, through the vine dense underbrush, with me in just a nightgown and flip flops! I thought that if I should fall and break something, no one would know where to find me, or worse, some alligator from the river might find me first! Was I mad????
The cries were ever more desperate, we HAD to find who or what was making these awful sounding cries of fear and danger. We reached the river’s edge, and the water level was lower than usual, creating a drop in the bank. We saw a small critter bouncing up and down, running in the edge of the water. Seamus immediately went into the river bed, walked into the water and coaxed the small, dark bouncing creature to come to him. Wading through the edge of the dark river water, Seamus nudged the little creature on and brought him straight to me. When they were close enough for me to finally see clearly, I saw it was a very small puppy….very young, maybe 6 weeks old, maybe less. As I scooped the trembling creature into my hands, it looked at me with huge, shiny eyes. It was very, very scared! A baby, in the river! I thought of how the Pharaoh’s daughter had found the baby Moses in the River Nile, and I said “you must be another Moses”! And so he became my Moses!
He was wet and muddy, but cute as a little teddy bear! Seamus watched as I cleaned him up and put him in a basket with a clean towel. Seamus immediately hopped into the basket and began licking and purring to the puppy. They snuggled together that whole day! Moses was too exhausted to move around much, he would wake up, take a few steps and fall right back to sleep! He was even too tired to eat. Seamus stayed by him the whole time. Not sure if he was yet weaned, I tried feeding him with a pet nursing bottle….Ah well, it didn’t work. It was Seamus who led Moses to the bowl and waited while Moses ate everything in sight! He was weaned and he was HUNGRY!!! And he was so cute and so cuddly, and I was so in love!
As they say, the rest is history…Moses is now 19 months old; Seamus is still his guardian, playmate and best buddy! We all pile into bed together every night, happy to be together, sharing love and contentment. As the Moses of the Old Testament led the people of Israel to the Promised Land, my Moses has led me to a place in my life of more promise and love than I ever could have known without him.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

All Things Dog - Tuesday, December 23

Happy Hanukkah!

The Christian Science Monitor reported on Vice President Elect Joe Biden's recent purchase of a German Shepherd puppy. Animal rights activists are disappointed in Biden's neglect to focus his attention on the thousands of shelter dogs awaiting adoption when making his choice.

An Associated Press article about a Petside.com poll says 67% of pet owners claim they and their pets understand each other's vocabulary. Can we say "Duh?" I'll go one step further and say that Ella and Hobbit don't have to make a sound to communicate. They have expressions just like people, that are easily read.

The Trib reported that Elena Sheppa, wife of ex Lowry Park Zoo CEO, Lex Salisbury, was charged with animal cruelty for leaving her two dogs in a hot car for hours. While her husband was singing his swan song in front of the zoo board, Sheppa's dogs were spotted by concerned bystanders. When Sheppa noticed the concerned parties, she tried to sneak off; parking the vehicle in another place. The witnesses followed and called animal control.

Don't forget animal shelters this season. They're all in need of our help to make shelter animals' lives more comfortable. Hillsborough County Animal Services has an Angel Tree set up at their shelter. To learn about their wish list and how to donate, see Angel Tree. The Humane Society of Tampa Bay has their annual Tree of Love up where you can buy an ornament to put on the tree or place a gift for shelter animals under the tree. Check out your local shelters and rescue groups to ask what their needs are this holiday season.

Kristen Levine offers her favorite books as gift suggestions for animal lovers in her Petcetera column in the Trib.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Long Winter's Night

This is the time of year when we get the urge to trim the eaves, drag a tree inside and dress in red and green. Sometimes, we get a wee bit carried away; like last week when we picked up that adorable elf hat at the pet store........

"Hobbit, look at this elf hat we got you. Isn' it cool?" says Scott with as much sincerity as he can muster.

"Elf hat? What's an elf? You want to put it where? No, this is defintely not cool." cries Hobbit; astonished that we have stooped this low.

"Get it off of me, quick before someone sees me with it on!"

"Okay, okay, calm down. I'll take you for a piggy back ride
to make up for it," coos Scott.

"I'm calm. I'm cool. I wasn't rattled. A piggy back ride you say?" Hobbit asks.

"Is this all there is to this ride? It's sorta lame, don't ya think?"

"Well, I can raise up a little. How's this?" asks Scott.

"Ho hum. Bor-r-i-i-n-g," says Hobbit with a yawn.

"Fine. How about now? You're almost as tall as the angel, although referring to you and an angel in the same breath is laughable." mutters Scott.

"Y-you-you can pu-u-t me down now. You're probably getting tired." sputtered Hobbit, trying to hide his shivers.

(Yes, Virginia, Jack Russell's do show fear, but Hobbit asks that you keep that to yourself.)

"Now, let's settle down for a good old fashioned Christmas tale" says Scott. "That's good pooches. Ready? 'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house .."


"Yes, Hobbit."

"Is this a long story?"

"No, now be still. Twas the night before Christmas.."

"Ahem, Dad?"

"What is it now, Hobbit?"

"Is it scary?"

"No, it is not. Is that all?"

"Does it have Scrooge in it? I heard he's bad news."

"No, Scrooge is not in it. It's about a jolly old elf." Scott says, with growing exasperation.

"Elf, you say? Is that the same elf that wears the dorky hat?" Hobbit smirks.

"No, it's a bigger elf! Now, do you want to hear this story or not? Your sister gave up and left fifteen minutes ago."

"Yeah, yeah, don't have a coronary. I'm listening."

"Good. "Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house; not a creature was stirring , not even a mouse," continues Scott.

"Mouse? Let me at it! Where is it? I don't see it. Dad, are you yanking my chain?"

Scott sighs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

All Things Dog - December 17, 2008

Do you have a dog like Hobbit in your house, who will eat anything in reach of his ever- gobbling mouth? Beware the dangers of this holiday season. Very Important Pets has a good list of suggestions to keep your pets safe.

The Animal Coalition of Tampa has a Fix One/Get One Free special this month. For details about this month's spay/neuter offer and low cost vaccinations see ACT. While you're there, check out Lights of Love. Make a $10 donation and have a light placed on a tree in honor of a loved one or to celebrate an occasion. And finally, click on the image of Angel, the rescued Pit Bull, to see pictures of the dog wash held in her honor.

In the Trib's Sunday feature on history and heritage, Gary Mormino offered a fascinating story about Col. Tom Parker. Yep, that would be the same man that promoted Elvis. It seems Parker was a field agent for the Humane Society in Tampa in 1941. He also created the city's first pet cemetery. To read about how Parker gave away 100 puppies the Christmas of '41, see
A Wartime Christmas. Scroll down to Hound Dogs, Blue Christmas.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Twelve Days 'Til

'Tis the season, as they say, and there's twelve days left to find the perfect gift for those on your Christmas list. Hanukkah starts the 22nd. Kwanzaa and Boxing Day are on the 26th, so everyone is out shopping. To parody a classic carol, here are a dozen suggestions for the canine lovers on your list.

On the first day of Christmas, a true mutt lover brings - an item on a shelter needs list.
*Donate an item on a shelter's "Needs" list and credit the recipient on your gift list. Take a picture of what you donated and include it in a nice card.

On the second day of Christmas, a friend of canine brings - two brown eyes shining.
*Help a loved one adopt a rescue dog. Take a friend or relative to a shelter or contact a rescue group and be part of their adoption experience.

On the third day of Christmas, the noble minded brings - three hours of helping.
*If you volunteer with a rescue group or shelter, invite a friend to share a volunteer session. Include lunch or breakfast, so you have time to chat about the experience. The visit will create a special memory and it may inspire the recipient to become a volunteer them self.

On the fourth day of Christmas, the shelter shopper brings - four doggie mugs.
*Some shelters have gift shops or sell promotional items to fund raise. One of those is
SPCA of Tampa Bay. Rescue groups often sell t-shirts with their logos on them. Do some shopping there.

On the fifth day of Christmas, the smiling baker sends - five golden treats.
*There are lots of recipes online for dog treats. There's also The Healthy Dog Cookbook by Jonna Anne and Mary Strauss and Shawn Messonnier, DVM , which has a whole chapter of simple recipes for dog treats.

On the sixth day of Christmas, an enlightened soul suggests - a half dozen canine- themed books.
*Anything by Patrick McDonnell - author of the Mutts comic strip and books; books focus on animal rights and environmental issues.
*The Healthy Dog Cookbook.
*Speaking For Spot, Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs by Nancy Kay, DVM.
*Tell Me Where It Hurts by Dr.Nick Trout.
*Choose a Book from Dogwise
*Anything by Pat Miller

On the seventh day of Christmas, a green citizen sends - seven eco- friendly stocking stuffers.
* All at Eco Choices:
Food Can Covers
Pet Waste Bags
Dog Toys
Doggie Placemat
Paw Balm
Shampoo and Rinses
Leashes and Collars

On the eighth day of Christmas, a kind soul brings - eight weeks of positive training.
*Create a safer, happier world for some one's dog while strengthening the bond between animal and handler. We use Courteous Canine, but I'm sure there are many other good positive trainers out there.

On the ninth day of Christmas, the efficient shopper brings - nine gifts that give back.
*Look for shops who donate a portion of their proceeds to charities:
Stray Dog Arts - offers dog themed greeting cards from original paintings.
Big Dogs Porch - t-shirts, sweatshirts, journals, magnets, calenders, mugs, prints, tiles and more adorned with a wide variety of dog art. All proceeds go to breed specific rescue groups, ASPCA or RSPCA.

On the tenth day of Christmas a thrifty person sends- $10 Bark subscriptions.
*The Bark - An intelligent and eye appealing modern dog culture magazine, featuring dynamic guest authors, and experts leading their fields in animal behavior, care and training. Offers a wide ranging look at the dog world and what is being done worldwide to further the canine cause. And they have a great Christmas deal- $10 unlimited gift subscriptions.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the conscientious brings - eleven useful weblinks.
*Petfinder.com - for finding the perfect rescue dog.
*Missing Pet Network - for finding or reporting lost dogs.
*ASPCA Poison Control Center -for that scary time when your dog eats the plant someone gave you.
*The Pet Center - for veterinary questions.
*Association of Pet Dog Trainers - to find a trainer in your area.
*Pets Welcome - for travel plans with fido.
*Kong Stuffing Recipes from Westwood Animal Hospital- when you run out of ideas for stuffing the invaluable Kong.
*Dog Community- to converse with other dog lovers.
*Sirius - free dog behavior advice from Ian Dunbar.
*Pet Loss Support - so you don't grieve alone.
*Caber Feidh - holistic health index

On the twelfth day of Christmas, a holistic friend sends - twelve issues of the Whole Dog Journal.
*Whole Dog Journal - monthly newsletter that informs and educates dog owners about holistic health care and nonviolent training.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Comes For Charley

Vonnie Mikkelesen volunteers for the Pasco County animal shelter and is a tireless advocate for the shelter's dogs. She publishes the Dog Daze pages that shine a spotlight on shelter dogs in urgent need of adoption. Charley was recently featured in two of the Dog Daze issues. Vonnie sent me this message last week:

"I'd like to share with you some recent developments that have happened for Charley. Last Tuesday, at the heartfelt urging of staff at the Pasco shelter, Charley was transferred to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. I have to say that when I heard the news, I was a bit concerned that Charley might get lost in the shuffle and the numbers upon his transfer, so I made an inquiry on his behalf.
Much to my great delight, I found out not only had he made it into their adoption program, he had already won over the hearts of his new caregivers. They informed me that they had already planned an immediate full-out print and television media blitz coverage on his story this week. And then today, he was adopted! That's him with his new "Mom" in the photo above.
Superb work by the Pasco shelter staff for believing in him and for bringing him back to health and for a shelter-rescue partnership that knows no borders and works together tirelessly to advocate for and give our animals a voice and second chance.
Lesson learned - good things happen to good souls that forgive and move on... "

Sue Carlton of The St. Petersburg Times wrote a touching article about Charley, a dog who has suffered much at the hands of miserable humans and risen to love and be loved again.

Monday, December 8, 2008

All Things Dog - December 8, 2008

The Trib reported two weeks ago that 123 animals taken from a Lakeland home are being evaluated for health issues. The dogs suffer from ear infections, skin conditions, whipworms, and mouth and gum problems. Carolyn Bragg was charged with 123 counts of animal neglect and one count of offering dogs for sale without a health certificate, after the animals were rescued from her house. Bragg's daughter, Sue-Ann Goodman was charged with tampering with evidence. The State department of Children and Families also took custody of her 12 year old daughter. Most of the dogs seized were Pomeranians, Yorkshire Terriers, Dachshunds, and Pugs, but there was also a litter of Golden Retriever pups. They will be offered for adoption as soon as they as the county is granted legal ownership.

This is the time of year when cute-as-a-button pups are being pushed as the perfect gift for your loved one. They're sold at pet stores, through breeders and in the newspaper. Lately, I see more and more roadside signs advertising purebred puppies. Florida state law mandates that dogs offered for sale must be at least 8 weeks of age and accompanied by a health certificate that is no more than 30 days old. For more information about Florida's Pet Law or to report disreputable dealers, go to the state Division of Animal Industry website.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Note From An All-Year-Round Elf

Jackie, a woman whose heart is devoted to helping animals, sent me this note:

I was at the big Pet Adoption Expo that took place at the state fairgrounds on November 15, volunteering with the Humane Society. It was great fun; altogether 350 animals found new homes; which is good to know in this time when so many are being abandoned. A couple weeks ago, when volunteering at the Humane Society, I took out one of the little Yorkies that had come from the puppy mill bust in Riverview earlier in the month- she was a tiny 8-year old, obviously had been over-bred, and was shivering a lot. But she sat on my lap in the sun, being loved on, and walked around on the grass .... and I wondered if any of those things had ever happened to her before, poor little thing. I hope she's found a good home, everyone adored her.

Note from this blog author:
Remember those creatures great and small when you're playing elf this holiday season. It's wonderful to hear that 350 were adopted, but so many are left behind. If you're thinking of giving a dog or cat as a gift, give a rescued pet. That little Yorkie may still be waiting for a permanent lap to rest on. But be wise; make the recipient of your generosity part of the process, so they can make a suitable match.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Pet Store in Lutz

We're excited to have a new pet supply shop near us. A few weeks ago, The Dog's Meow opened at 16311 N. Florida Ave. in Lutz. I attended their grand opening and was not surprised to find the store overrun with dog lovers and their menagerie of pooches. Lutz has suffered from the lack of an independent pet store.

The Dog's Meow offers a nice variety of natural petfood for both dogs and cats, including Solid Gold, Evo, Wellness and Natural Balance, as well as natural treats. A small portion of the store is dedicated to shampoos, hygienne and healing products. They have a good selection of pet waste bags and waste bag holders, pet waste picker ups, odor eliminators, etc. Several rows of shelves are dedicated to accessories, like ceramic dishes and canisters. In the "Boutique" area, there is a beautiful array of designer dog collars and dog togs. The toy section offers a generous variety of well made products. The store owners strive to offer items that aren't available elsewhere.

The decor at The Dog's Meow is fun and colorful with large polka dots bouncing playfully around the walls, along with black silhouettes of dogs and cats. The aisles are wide, so dogs and their handlers don't feel crowded. Some of the shelves are yet to be stocked, so it will be fun to stop back in and see what they'll hold. The store owners are very accomodating and open to customer's suggestions. Sarah, the owner, says they'll be hosting adoption events in the future. Pet grooming will be available soon.