They conduct search and rescue. They serve in the military. They lead the blind and alert the hard-of-hearing. They comfort people in crisis, visit the hospitalized and those in hospice care; they even provide a soothing balm for us, their guardians. They survive abuse and neglect to become someone’s beloved pets. They are animal heroes!
Images of the dogs searching for the trapped and injured on 9/11 and during last week’s earthquake in Mexico resonate in our hearts and souls. From fires in homes and cresting ocean waves to hospital rooms and school bullying problems, dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs and other animals provide rescue, comfort, security, and therapy to many humans, their own as well as strangers. From the military veteran suffering from PTSD or physical disability to the child lost in the woods or the trapped earthquake victim, animals respond to the needs of people as they fulfill their roles of service, comfort or search and rescue. They are K-9 officers protecting communities and military service dogs sniffing out bombs and bad guys.
Every fall, the American Humane Association partners with the Hallmark Channel to present The Hero Dog Awards. From a service dog named Roselle who guided her blind owner and others out of a building during 911 to an abused pit bull named Hooch, canines have been celebrated for their heroic story for more than five years – and their stories tug at the heartstrings!
This year’s Hero Dog Award winner’s story is no different. American Humane recently announced the 2017 winner: a one-eared pit bull named Abigail. A dog-fighting survivor who was rescued after nearly being euthanized, Abigail is a “spokesdog” for dog-fighting rescues and for forgiveness and second chances. She’s also a fashionista, thanks to her human-mom who dresses her in scarves and headbands to help cover some of her scars. Many nominated Hero Dogs have overcome the odds of abuse or neglect.
Cats are also known to be heroes. Last year the BBC reported on several cat heroes, including one that detected cancer in her special human and another who came to the rescue of the young boys he lives with.
Hero animals – whether they do incredible feats of bravery or are simply the companions of the household, they all deserve to be called the Heroes of Our Hearts!
More than a week has passed since my husband and I adopted “Stormy,” renamed “Jeremiah.” Overall, considering all the changes the little guy has gone through in this short amount of time, he is doing well. He certainly knows I’m his caregiver! Not a bad thing… except when I leave the house. Then, he whimpers, barks, and howls. He may be developing separation anxiety.
According to both the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), separation anxiety can occur in dogs who experience a change in guardianship or family. Dogs which come from shelters and rescues, as Jeremiah did, become accustomed to certain caregivers while living at Hearts United for Animals, and since I’m the primary caregiver to our pets (feeding, going outside to potty, etc.), he prefers I be in sight. Sometimes he even whines when I’m just downstairs doing laundry!
Separation anxiety can be mild or severe. Behaviors range from barking and pacing to going potty in the house and destroying furniture and clothing.
There are many counterconditioning activities a pet parent can implement to desensitize a dog to its human leaving. An article on the ASPCA’s website advises, “For dogs with separation anxiety, counterconditioning focuses on developing an association between being alone and good things, like delicious food. To develop this kind of association, every time you leave the house, you can offer your dog a puzzle toy stuffed with food that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish.” Recommendations for such toys include KONG; not only are these toys nearly indestructible, but they also provide opportunities for your dog to enjoy a treat while you are gone and also get some good exercise. Try this for short trips at first, such as going to the grocery store, can help prepare your dog for your long away-times, such as school or work. Read the entire ASPCA article on separation anxiety here, including recommendations for more severe cases of the behavior: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/separation-anxiety.
Jeremiah and our other dog Mary get along well; I often find him curled up next to her or at least within close proximity. Having our other dog around helps him, but not enough to keep him from carrying on when I’m gone. Needless to say, I’ll be working on some of these counterconditioning ideas recommended by the ASPCA!
Have you had a dog with separation anxiety? What did you do to help your four-footed friend not be so anxious in your absence?
He never knew the inside of a house. He rarely had opportunity to play with toys. He’s unfamiliar with leashes and walking the neighborhood, and his housetraining is limited. His name was Stormy.
One year ago, the then-three-year-old Shih Tzu was one of dozens of dogs rescued from the squalor of a puppy mill. Staff and volunteers at Hearts United for Animals have a mission – to rescue, work with, and re-home as many puppy mill dogs as they can. They also take in dogs and cats for other reasons, such as deaths in the family, and they help owners keep their pets who might have to give them up due to the animal’s medical condition. Nearly 400 animals reside at the rural Nebraska animal sanctuary, many of them small breeds like Stormy. But, there are also larger dogs, such as Hounds, Labs, and Shiba Inus. Other organizations, such as National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado, have a similar mission: closing puppy mills by rescuing the oppressed, neglected animals and bringing new life and hope to those creatures.
What is a Puppy Mill?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a puppy mill is “a large-scale commercial dog breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water or socialization. In order to maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little-to-no recovery time between litters.” The pups are sold in pet stores, over the Internet, through newspaper ads, and at swap meets and flea markets. Because millers focus on making money, the dogs are often bred with little regard for genetic quality, and therefore, the puppies are often ill or have significant health issues. There is no oversight to this industry, and though there is no real data to know the number of millers in the U.S., the ASPCA estimates there are about 10,000 puppy mills in America.
The Humane Society of the United States also rescues and shuts down puppy mills. Learn more about their operations at http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/campaigns/stop_puppy_mills/?credit=web_id93480558.
Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 is Puppy Mill Awareness Day. Take time to learn more about puppy mills and then educate your family and friends. Do what you can to help bring an end to this terrible life thousands of dogs endure!
New Life, New Hope
Stormy now has a new life – and a new name. Jeremiah Story Irwin is the new four-footed family member in my house. He, and other puppy mill survivors (and their rescuers) have a story, and I write stories, therefore, his middle name. A few weeks before his first anniversary with HUA, Jeremiah now lives in a house for the first time in his life, has other animal friends (although the original Irwin resident pets are still getting used to the idea of a new housemate!), and has a large backyard to explore. The first time he accepted a toy and trotted around the house with it brought tears to my eyes. There are challenges, such as housetraining, but he’s catching on quickly, and he’s already learned the commands of sit and come – in less than a week. He’s a smart, loving, happy boy, and I’m thankful we found each other! I am also thankful to the heroes who help puppy mill dogs escape the horrors of their previous lives!
Adopt, Don’t Shop! And encourage your friends and family to do so. By those actions, you, too, can impact (and change) the lives of puppy mill dogs, giving them hope, love, and joy.
What’s in a name? Most names have meaning, and many times people seriously consider the name they give a child. Many pet parents also genuinely think about the name they bestow upon their animal, especially when the pet is adopted.
A Dog Named Stormy
My husband and I are in the process of adopting another dog, and we are seriously thinking about names. Currently, the dog is named Stormy, and although that’s not a bad name, the little guy (a Shih Tzu) was rescued from a puppy mill situation by a non-profit animal welfare group. We think he deserves a new name: he has a new life, he’ll be starting over in a loving home with us, and truthfully, I don’t want my dog named after a natural force that can kill (he’s not a police or military dog after all!). So, we are discussing names. I even asked friends for their input, and, after seeing Stormy’s picture, many expressed their thoughts. My husband has his ideas for a new name for our new pet, and so do I. We will take a list of the names we’ve compiled, both our own favorites and the thoughts of pet-loving friends, and we will bring those ideas with us to the adoption center.
When we meet Stormy and have time to spend with him, including a several-hour drive back home, we’ll see which new name appears to “fit” him. Will it be Spencer? Or Ozzie? Or Ranger? Perhaps Beau. Or Teddy. Or maybe even Story – he has a story, and I write stories… but my husband frowned at that one (just as I frowned at Ozzie).
Popular Pet Names
There’s a lot of advice out there about naming your pet, whether dog or another animal. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve followed is to keep a name short and easy to say, and therefore, easy to understand. Another is to not name your pet after something that sounds like a command, such as “Joe,” which could be misinterpreted as “no,” or “Kit,” which could be heard as “sit” (or something far worse, especially if you’re yelling that name across the dog park!)
There are hundreds of popular names for pets, both dogs and cats. Some trendy feline names include Bella, Coco, and Jasper. See here: http://www.findcatnames.com/top-cat-names/
The American Kennel Club (AKC) provides a listing of the top 100 dog names, both male and female. Other websites provide a similar listing. Some are even broken done by the top name for various breeds, or the top names for different “jobs,” such as hunting dog breeds. I’ve looked over nearly every website, and some of the things I’ve learned include:
Keep the Name or Change It?
I’ve usually kept my dog’s name short and sweet: Sam; Cody; Sage; Mary. All of them had their names already except for Sam – he was a stray whom no one knew anything about. But, he caught on to that name quickly and we enjoyed a decade together with a deep, close connection. I kept the other dogs’ name the same because, at least in Sage and Mary’s cases, their situations weren’t dire or so traumatic that I believed a change was necessary. And, Cody was nearly 10 years old when we adopted him, so neither my husband nor I thought it worthwhile to change his name; he was totally used to it, and again, it was short and easy to say. My cats – well, the two remaining with us were kittens when we adopted them so we could name them as we wanted (Murphy and Bailey); my husband comes from Irish ancestry, and I enjoy Irish culture, so we chose names to reflect that (plus those names that end in “y” seem popular and easy to understand). My other cat, Ama, was already named and it was so unique, I decided to keep it.
How about you? Do you keep a pet’s name when you adopt or do you change it? What do you take into consideration when naming your animals?
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.