It Takes Balls…

It takes balls to be a responsible pet owner.

It takes balls to neuter your pet.

Luca has the courage to be an Animal Activist.  Does your pet?

Power to the Pets!

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(Spay & Neuter) That Darn Cat!

I wrote about the importance of people spaying and neutering their cat in December 2007, long before I started MyAnimalActivist and my mission of promoting responsible pet ownership.

Here is what I had to say-

Time to RANT!!!! Why do “country folk” find it purrfectly okay to have twenty cats running around their farm, breeding, getting hit on the highway, finding their way to my house where my kids fall in love with them, my dog tries to attack them and Adam finds himself playing vet to fix them?!

My “neighbors” across the county road have a cat problem that all started with two cats that they like, or so my neighbor lady says. Hello? Spay or neuter those darn cats.  Yes, you start out with one or two but they like to have babies and pretty soon you have a dozen.  Once upon returning a stray kitten found in the middle of the road to my neighbor’s house, Adam and Sage brought the kitten back to their house and counted TWELVE cats!

But this neighbor is in complete denial.

Below is my last phone conversation with the woman-

ME: I’m concerned about your little kittens traveling across the highway to our house.

NEIGHBOR: “We have one cat. The other (kittens) are strays.”

ME: You only have one cat?

NEIGHBOR:  “Well, we have two that we like. They are really good for getting rid of mice and squirrels. I think I need to take a trip to the Humane Society and haul some in.”

ME:  You know, it’s pretty cheap to sterilize your cat and than you can keep the ones you like for mice control and you won’t have baby after baby after baby kitty spiraling out of control.

NEIGHBOR:  “Yeah. Maybe that is what I should do.”

So, ten of the twelve cats are strays?! Come on people.  I don’t think “strays” come up to you wanting to be held and played with by small children. These cats have been completely socialized and domesticated.

Poor things. Okay, I’m stepping off my soap box.

Meanwhile, this issue is hitting me hard again today.  A feral cat had kittens under a friend Gena’s porch.  Two nights ago, around ten p.m., Gena and I used tuna to bait and catch the extremely shy kittens.  At the time, they were so shy Gena actually had to trap one, a beautiful boy kitty with her sweatshirt as he was eating.

I took three kitties home, to socialize and they are doing well and settling in nicely.  Meanwhile, I can in reality, only responsibly care for two of them.  Consequently, Gena and I will do our best to help find the third, a girl kitten we’ve nicknamed “Hello Kitty,” a good home.

Also, Gena is working on getting Mama and the remaining babies inside.  The plan is to sterilize Mama, and find good homes for the kitties- homes were the people will commit to responsible pet ownership by promising to spay/neuter their cat.

So, you will see some new “models” soon here.  🙂  Here are some pics of Trouble, Tokyo, and Hello Kitty.

Unfortunately, my experiences are not isolated.  There are many people who can share stories of the overwhelming population explosion of cats.  Meanwhile, it is a problem that touches both urban and rural areas.

However, there are groups volunteering in different ways to try and solve this problem.

Besides shelters that have promoted kitten/cat adoption with spay/neuter clauses, there are folks who are trapping feral cats, sterilizing them, and releasing them.  While this is very controversial, it is more than likely impossible to find homes for all the cats that are on the street.  One such group who uses this pet population control technique is Spay and Stay in Illinois.

The following was taken from their website:

Spay and Stay is made up of a diverse group of people who all agree on one thing — that together we can make a difference in the lives of feral and stray cats in our communities. We have a small staff of only one full-time person and one part-time employee. The rest of our TNR force is made up of amazing citizen-volunteers. They include the folks who give their time to help at our spay/neuter clinics, the people who help us reach out to the community through our educational programming, the volunteers who work on events and other fund-raising projects, and, most importantly, the amazing citizens who agree to manage their feral cat colony 365 days a year. No matter how busy or tired these caretakers may be, the cats in their colonies are fed, and given water and shelter every single day.

Besides the work that they do with feral cats, the group also promotes visiting your local shelter and give a homeless cat or dog a chance.

There are feral cat sterilization programs throughout the U.S. and abroad.  Find more here.

Chasing Chickens

This morning the kids were about an hour late for school.

The door had been left open on the hen yard, and our young ladies were milling about unsupervised.  Although, we do allow the chickens to free range and roam around safely under our watchful eyes.  We have unfortunately learned a life and death lesson that these girls are extremely vulnerable to area coyotes, foxes, and hawks when they are roaming about without any humans at home.

So, I did what every poultryphile would do, I ran around trying to herd them back to their hen house.  At this point, you can imagine Benny Hill chasing a scantily clad woman dressed as a French Maid, except it was me in a skirt swearing and trying to catch quick and wiley chickens.

Eventually, I was able to contain eleven out of a flock of twelve.  The last hen, Trifle, had observed her sisters being scooped up and put back in the pen and wanted none of this.  After attempting to catch her for a half hour, we decided if she could allude us she’d be safe from predators whilst I brought the children to school.

Ah, my life with animals.

Casting Models for Righteous Babies

Hello responsible health testing ethical breeders!

Hello legitimate 501(c) rescue organizations!

Think your babies or adoptable pets are model material?

I’m on the lookout for more Righteous Animals to grace the covers of new greeting cards promoting positive and responsible pet ownership.

Posh, has the last word so you can email her if you’re interested-poshdear@gmail.com

Havanese Righteous Babies Teaching Lessons

So, I’ve got a new righteous baby to show off.

This is “Cover Girl.”  She is a Havanese puppy from a local responsible and ethical breeder.  CG will be helping me spread some information I hope will dispel the myth that breeders are directly responsible for rescue and shelters being overwhelmed with animals.

Years ago, when I began telling some family members and friends that I was researching Havanese breeders and saving a pretty big sum of money to invest in a healthy and balanced puppy, I received, to put it bluntly, a load of crap.

Mostly, I was being told by my well intended friends and family, that if I was truly a dog lover and responsible pet owner I wouldn’t give my money to any breeder.  I would do the right thing and I would rescue a dog from a shelter.  Meanwhile, they told me inaccurately that the main reason for so many homeless dogs is because of over population caused by breeders and puppies.

These are myths, that I hope to extinguish.

While, I do believe absolutely that there are many wonderful dogs in rescue, I had some specific traits and needs.  Knowing that this dog would be a huge and lasting commitment, I wanted it to be the best fit for our family it could be.

First, we suspected for some time, but didn’t want to acknowledge, the source of our son Sage’s snotty nose and runny eyes.  We had a feeling that he was allergic to our dogs. After, the passing of both our beloved border collie and dane, his allergies suddenly vanished.  That absence of nose blowing, was a pretty good indicator. Thus, not wanting to live without a dog in our family’s household, we needed to find one that did not instantly make the kid have a nasal passage-way shutdown.  Knowing there would be drawbacks to a dog who had hair vs. fur, I was still certain that as long as I could groom our dog indoors,  I would enjoy that work. (That was before I discovered the dreaded “cling-on.”)

Meanwhile, we wanted a dog under twenty pounds.  After watching our Great Dane’s large body literally fall apart, and witnessing episodes of him fall down whilst walking across the room,  I found myself helplessly watching him suffer.  I vowed I would never go through that again.  Weighing over 180 pounds there was no way I could help him when his body failed.  This time, I  wanted a dog I could carry.

Also, the dog needed to be good with small children and immune to the noise and constant activity of our household.  We didn’t want a dog that frequently barked, and Adam wanted a dog that was smart and fun to train.

When we told our family the breed we had decided on, most of them said, “a Hav a what? Is that some sort of hybrid/designer dog? ”

Absolutely not, I assured them.  I told them, they were originally raised in Cuba.  Get it? Havana?  Hava nese?

I began searching for local breeder clubs and rescue organizations.  At that time, there were no Havanese in rescue and thankfully none in Pet stores selling puppies. Unfortunately, as more people have been exposed to this awesome breed its easy to find them now in both places.

I found some great breeders who worked together, and this suggested to me that none of them ever had too many dogs to provide sufficiently for.  Nor did they have multiple breeds of dogs that they were trying to refine and make better.

What’s the saying,  “Jack of all trades, master of none?”

This network of breeders often established partnerships and co-ownerships with each other. They learned from one another and worked together on the betterment of their chosen breed.  With fewer dogs at each home they can do great things with breeding and showing, without sacrificing an individual dog’s needs.  The dogs bred are show champions, but, they are beloved pets first.

I believe that working together utilizes some checks and balances and from what I can see they do not assume that since the dogs come from Champions all of the pups born should go on to be breeding dogs. They place the pups who aren’t absolutely perfect or better than their parents, in good pet homes.   Meanwhile, they watch closely as a dog develops and after gaining several titles in conformation events, the breeders health test the dogs they plan to use, and then register the results of these tests.

Don’t ever take anyone’s “word” for it when it comes to health testing.  I made the mistake with my dane to fall for the breeders claim that all of her dogs were healthy and from “champion lines.”  This time around, having learned my lesson, it was easy for me to do a quick search using the names of the breeding dogs on the Canine Health Information Center’s website.  In fact, you don’t even need a dog’s full name to see if there are any results registered from a particular breeder.

The group of breeders I discovered here in MN, and many others around the country are active about educating prospective puppy owners.  These particular women-Carol Krueger of Jefe Havanese, Mary Ellen Vickery of Deja’s Havanese, and Charlene Renslow of Picosa Havanese hosted an Open House where I  and other interested people, were exposed to a variety of Havanese dogs.  Some were show dogs, some were not, some were puppies, some were five year old dogs, all were pets who were loved.  There was no pressure at this meeting to give any money. The breeders answered my questions, let me take pictures, and asked me about my lifestyle.

Ethical breeders are dog fanciers first, they are passionate about their dogs!  Which, honestly makes them slightly and wonderfully a bit odd…:) So passionate, in fact, that if/when you get a dog from them you have to promise that if there is any chance you will ever need to relinquish your dog that you will contact them first.  They do not work from a first come, first serve basis.  They take deposits from the clients, but only place dogs into homes for which they consider to be good/healthy matches.  These puppies are not born in a barn or a big factory type kennel setting.  They are handled daily, evaluated, and exposed to a variety of stimuli from the first moments they are born.

Breeding a dog is not for the weak, or for anyone trying to make an easy buck.  It is hard to see your beautiful champion bitch a tired mother with her hair falling out.  Puppies die, bitches die.  You must be ready to bring your dog into the vet clinic for an emergency c-section in the middle of the night.  Frankly, it is a ton of work and one you might even lose money on.

Even after the puppy goes home, these types of breeders encourage, and have formed lasting supportive relationships with the families that have purchased their dogs.  They become your friends and “go to” people when you have questions or brags.

Also, contrary to popular belief, many of these show dog enthusiasts support and encourage those interested in a puppy to consider a less glamorous and truly needy rescue dog.   In fact, Posh’s breeder is now finding that her true calling is in fostering needy pups from Havanese Rescue Inc.  Char gives these dogs new sound beginnings on their ways to joyful lives with a family to call their own.

So you see, the myth that all breeders are contributing to the problem of rescue organizations and shelters is just that, a myth.

However, are there some breeders who are feeding this fire of a problem?  You bet.

There are the well intentioned folks that get two unaltered dogs together because it would be “fun” to have puppies.  They don’t know a thing about breeding a dog, or what to look for in terms of quality physical traits or soundness and usually won’t be able to ask for much money when they sell their dogs.  Often times they will give these dogs to almost anyone who will take them and so they place these dogs in a home where there is not a lot of investing in the dog going on…i.e. they won’t be taken to the vet regularly, potty trained, or taken to dog obedience class.  These things just listed, are the direct causes of so many dogs in shelters.

Meanwhile, there are ugly greedy people who see dogs as livestock to be roughly manhandled, as a consumer good, not a living and breathing creature.  This product is to be sold as quickly and as easily as possible to other breeders at auctions and to pet stores, including “fancy” or “quality” pet stores.  Ethical breeders never sell their animals to stores.

Then there are the other folks who sell their Hava-poos in my area who don’t give a damn about quality, health, or disposition.  They don’t care if you plan on crating your dog 12 hours per day.  A sale is a sale.  You can find lots of sad puppies like these locally at the Crossroads Mall or at Amaze N Farmyard.  It would be Amaze N to me, if that place was shut down because people refused to support greed at the expense of an animal.

So, I can only hope that the CG cards give folks a new way to think about the role of breeders and pets in rescue.  Many will still see it as a black and white issue, and vow only to rescue an animal from a shelter.  However, I have a tendency to see my world in shades of gray.

DISCLAIMER:  GET TO KNOW YOUR BREEDER.  The inclusion of a breeder in any blog entry, product, etc., does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the MyAnimalActivist or Amy Sparks. It is the responsibility of potential buyers to ask questions and decide for themselves if they wish to do business with any particular breeder.

Country Dog in the City

Posh and I headed to Chicago this weekend to visit some good friends and family.

I’m always amazed how well my little “country dog” does in the “big city.”  Meanwhile,  I was cursing myself because I left my camera at home.  Fortunately, the almighty iPhone came to the rescue and was able to take a few crappy shots.

Posh and I met tons of Chicago party animals during our stay, including a lovely neighborhood cat named Inca and a beautiful brindle rescued greyhound.  I was partial to the greyhound because Posh’s coloring is also classified as “brindle.”  He was as sweet as sugar.

I found this great little pet boutique called Zulu off Lincoln Avenue.  It was absolutely adorable and a convenient walk from my darling cousin Danielle’s apartment.  Danielle and her husband Dan are owned by two lovely rescue boys Dodger and Oswald.  Thanks to some encouraging words from Dan and Danielle I visited the shop and left some of my sample cards.  Hopefully, I will hear from them soon.

It was a great weekend visiting folks and animals in The Windy City.  I adore Chicago, but there really is no place like home.

Get Ready to Join the Movement!

Exciting times are a coming!

Posh and I want to welcome you to MyAnimalActivist’s blog, Righteous Bitch.

We are working hard at creating products that support and promote responsible pet ownership.

More info and excellent product information to come.  Stay tuned and stay righteous!