Christopher Aust, Master Trainer
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It has been a busy week for just about everyone here in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately, the water in New Orleans is receding and the rescue of people and animals continues. It is going to be a long recovery but I am hopeful.
There are a lot of groups that are evacuating animals all over the country. I was going to try to get a bunch of names and contact info, but they all said that potential adopters/fosters should contact the local rescues the dogs were being sent too.
Just do a google search and put in “Katrina dogs” and the name of your city and you will find rescuers that are local. I think this simplifies the process and allows the personnel on the scene to focus on rescuing animals rather than manning the phones.
It's a sad testament that it seems to take disasters like the monsoon in Asia and Hurricane Katrina to make us truly appreciate the things we normally take for granted. Unfortunately that is what always seems to happen. I guess if there is to be any good that comes out of this perhaps it has been a wake up call for everyone to rely on ourselves first in an emergency.
Here in the foothills, we are starting to feel the weather cool as fall approaches. We actually had a really mild summer compared to the last few years but I am kind of looking forward to the cold weather. I know what you're thinking… You're thinking, “just give it a few weeks and he'll be whining about the cold!” You're probably right.
Anyway, I am going to start early and start to address winter activities, safety and gear that will help to get Fido through the winter both mentally and physically healthy.
Okay, that's it for now. I'm outta here!
Dog Chewing the Sofa? Puppy Eating Your Shoes? Or WORSE?
You know what? I liked my crappy school. My old friends were fine. I didn't need “new” ones. As long as my parents made enough to keep me in cookies and Legos, I was fine. As far as the cost of living index goes, if I couldn't spell it, I didn't care.
Truth of the matter is I did make new friends, I liked my new schools, and cookies and Legos remained plentiful. I adjusted fine even if I did it with a lot of drama at the start. This is the mindset of a kid and I don't think I was much different than any other kid who had to move. Fortunately, I had parents who talked me through it, kicked me in the butt when needed and, eventually, everything worked out.
Dogs really aren't any different about change than kids are. It can throw their world into turmoil and cause a certain level of confusion. The difference is we can't sit down with our dog and have a reassuring talk before or after it happens. The dog is suddenly in a new environment with new sights and smells and no understanding.
As groups like Noah's Wish - noahs-wish.org - are in place and rescuing these animals, a call has gone out to find foster and adoptive parents for many of these rescued animals. Some are offering free transportation to you if you adopt an animal. I urge all of you who may be able to offer your home to one of these animals to strongly consider bringing one into your home.
The dogs coming from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will present a unique situation to many who are rescuing and fostering these animals. For many, this will be the first time they have ever encountered an animal that has gone through all these animals have. While this may sound a little daunting, it shouldn't. It is relatively easy to rehabilitate animals who have experienced such distress, providing we take a careful approach and use a little common sense.
First, we have to understand what happens in a dog's mind when someone, man or beast, leaves their life with no warning. When dogs are in a pack, they can sense when other members of the pack are sick and on their last legs. The sick will disappear on their own and it's expected. At the same time, when a dog is banished and gone from the pack as a result of behavior, it is understood and accepted for the better of the whole.
Now, consider this ...
Not only has one member left, which makes no sense to the dog to start, but the entire pack is gone, the dog is in “unfamiliar” territory and there are new people surrounding the dog telling him, “everything is okay.” Think about it.
Let's say your entire family went to a house you know minimally. Suddenly, the whole family left in the car and didn't return. No explanations, just gone. Okay, at first you think, “they'll be back.” What if they never returned and you had no explanation. What if your instincts not only told you this meant they were all dead but also told you it wasn't logical in any way, shape or form. How secure would you feel?
On top of this, the dog may very well have literally fought for their life. They would have to swim to safety, scrounge for and protect their food, drink contaminated water and defend a safe dry place to sleep out of the elements. This is what the majority of the dogs being rescued have had to endure.
They are then treated for injury/illness and placed in a cage. Then are then sent by either truck or plane to a new home, family, diet, schedule, or even understand exactly what has happened over the last three weeks. As I'm sure you can see, there is a lot to think about.
Before you ever agree to take one of these dogs, you have to make sure your situation is going to be best for one of these animals and that you understand the time and energy it could take. If your intention is to do a good thing and you are looking at this as a way to get little Johnny a new friend, you might want to reconsider.
In fact, I wouldn't recommend one of these special animals go to any home with young children for a very specific reason.
Normally, when we get a dog from a rescue or at some shelters, the dogs have been watched and socialized to the point that staff can tell you a bit about the dogs' personalities. With these dogs, little is known.
Some of these dogs may never have been exposed to (or fear) loud noises, sudden movement, excessive petting etc. These things are often difficult to prevent in a home with a small child and we don't want endanger a child in any way.
Now, I'm not saying the dogs coming out of this disaster are dangerous in any way. I am saying we need to use our heads when bringing one of these (or any) animals into your home. You may find there are other ways it may be better for you to help and keep everyone safe.
If you already have a dog and it's not well socialized with other dogs, then this also may not be the best thing for you.
How many times have you all heard me say to keep things consistent? This is the key to acclimating the dog. A dog without a consistent pattern is lost. Dog packs run consistent patterns and dogs want, no, need it. If you don't give it too them, they are lost.
Since you will have no way of knowing the dogs previous schedule you have to establish one immediately as this will help to instill the dogs position in the pack order. It's best to try to keep it the same as you had it before the arrival of the dog as it makes it easier to keep.
If you have another dog in the house, you will want to make it clear to the new dog that the existing one is Alpha to the new guy. If you make this clear from the very beginning, there is less likely to be any “competition” between the two for pack position. This means the existing dog goes first in all areas. Acknowledgement, feeding or go for walks, whatever. If competition/aggression between the dogs start, banish the new dog first, then tell the existing one “no” once you are alone.
Keep the house quiet for a couple of days and allow the dog to adjust to their new surroundings. It may take several days but be patient. They have experienced so many changes over the last several weeks that they have earned the right to extra time if they need it.
Don't over love the dog. I know, you are sitting there going, ”WHAT!” Our first instinct is to look at this poor creature and smother them with love. While love and understanding are key to rehabilitating one of these animals, it needs to be time appropriate.
When the dog firsts arrives, you should only give soft, soothing verbal praise. This allows the dog to get use to your normal tone and also your praise tone. When they are ready for physical praise, they will come to you for it. When they do, keep it gentle to start and keep it where the dog is comfortable.
Once the dog is coming to you for physical attention, then you can start to introduce new sounds and see how the dog reacts. Start off small though. Something like the dishwasher or clothes dryer. The vacuum seems to be an evil demon to dogs so save that for last.
Don't make a big deal about introducing the noises. All too often people will introduce noises by pulling the dog over to the object, turn it on and try to hold the dog in place. All this just increases the dog's fear, defeating the purpose. Just turn the thing on and go about your business as normal.
If the dog cowers, just walk by and softly tell them it's okay. Don't baby them. The more they see you and other family members going about your business as normal, the sooner they will adjust to the sound.
Even if the dog appears to know all their commands, it's a good idea to take them either to a class or have a trainer come out and have a couple of structured sessions for reinforcement. This will build the dogs confidence and also reinforce the pack order. Have the number to a behaviorist handy as well in case any unusual behaviors become evident. I would think most trainers and behaviorists would offer a substantial discount for a Katrina rescue.
Keep hard corrective measures to a minimum when the dog first arrives. Save those for when the dog has adjusted. Provide the dog with tons of exercise. It relieves stress for everyone and helps to keep things in perspective.
I do want to make one point here. If ANY dog, regardless of the time it has been in the house, ever shows any aggressive behavior, it needs to be handled, swiftly and firmly. I don't care what any dog has been through, aggression is simply unacceptable. Any time you see aggression in your dog, seek assistance from a specialized behaviorist.
These poor dogs have been dealt a really bad hand. Many will be euthanized eventually for no other reason than they have run out of room or money. Most, if not all, could make wonderful new companions and, better yet, possibly reunited with their old family.
While I encourage every person who can to consider taking one of these animals in, (I know it isn't feasible for everyone) there are still some things you can do to help. Donate to:
They're on the front lines right now and specialize in rescuing animals affected by natural disasters. Every penny counts right now.
Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.
A very profound newsletter (9-9-05). God Bless You,
Your newsletter was wonderful this week. You do have a sensitive side to you after all, don't you? =) Thank you so much for the informative article on Pet Preparedness. That is something that a lot of us don't think about or know what we need. Also the info on Noah's Ark was most helpful. People have been asking me where to donate. Now that I have been to their site I can make a good recommendation. One I feel comfortable supporting. I am also suspicious of HSUS.
I'd like permission to cross-post this issue in its entirety to my dog lists. It is the most sensible, comprehensive preparedness list I've had the pleasure of seeing on any website I've gone to since this desperate situation transpired.
Thank you so much! And you may quote me on this.
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I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me.
Not for nothing, but don't dig up that garden. That's where I buried the BODIES.
That same day the old man received another letter from his son.
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances.
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Thank You For Reading! Have a Terrific Week!
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