Month: June 2015

Expect the unexpected

car dog
Would you let your child hang out of the window of your vehicle? Then why your dog?

I’m a worrier. I see situations and consider the “what ifs.” I have been working on this but sometimes, well sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Recently I had an early assignment. One of the many advantages of working from home is I can usually schedule things so I don’t have to rush out in the morning and I don’t have to get into the morning traffic.

However, this morning I find myself at 8 a.m. and in traffic. I was sitting at a light at a Route U.S. 1 intersection when a head, and then three quarters of a body, lean out of the driver’s window of the pickup truck in front of me.

It’s a little terrier. A big arm offers more cushioning than protection as the dog turns to look at me.

I want to get out and tell the driver that he is putting his pup at risk. Of course as much as I want to do this I don’t because unsolicited advice is rarely welcomed and just as rarely accepted — in my experience.

So I sit quietly, snap a few pictures and watch as the light changes and the man accelerates through the intersection.

I hope that he doesn’t get hit and the dog escapes, or his air bag activates with the dog between him and the steering wheel. I hope the pup doesn’t see something and jump out the window. Heck I hope the pup doesn’t get a kicked up rock or bug in his eye.

I change lanes. If he does fall out I don’t want to be the one to run him over.

Service dogs, therapy dogs and Emotional Support Animals

In 1952 the Seeing Eye Dog Foundation was founded in California to help individuals with visual impairments stay active. Classes for Seeing eye dogs, now referred to as “guide dogs” can be dated back to 1927.

Since that time the realization that dogs can do so much more to help those with physical and mental disabilities has been recognized and their use expanded.

My Angel With Paws in DeLand, Florida, ( is a non-profit organization that trains service dogs to help individuals with mobility, seizure response, and PTSD.

Representatives from this organization were frequent guest speakers at the Halifax Humane Society in Daytona Beach summer camps. Smiles erupted when they arrived for their presentation, two ladies and about seven dogs, many puppies just beginning their training, would get out of their vehicle and head for the front door. The ladies showed the children how the dogs were trained to pick up something as small as a credit card off the floor without damaging it, obey commands like “leave it” a good command in the event a bottle of pills spilled on the floor, and turn light switches to “on.”

Another group, the Florida Hospital Hospice group would also use the shelter’s education room to assess future therapy dogs, to see if they were suitable for home and hospital visits. It’s not a secret that dogs, and cats, have therapeutic powers, can lower blood pressure and give a sense of happiness and calm to those in stressful situations. This group, and probably one in your area, had scores of volunteers and their dogs whose sole job was to offer comfort and joy to those in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice.

There are also ESA animals Emotional Support Animals. These are companion animals that provide emotional support and comfort to those with psychiatric disabilities or mental impairment. While the animal does not have the training of the service dogs and would not be allowed in public places like grocery stores, as service dogs are allowed, they are allowed to live in housing units with a “no pets” rule under the Federal Fair Housing Act. Something that is not highly publicized.

To have this opportunity a renter would need to  have their doctor’s diagnosis and medical order to qualify for the ESA animal designation.

There is confusion about where dogs are allowed. Those who are not dog people often take offense when a dog is somewhere they don’t think it should be like a shopping cart. While only service dogs are allowed in grocery stores, other stores like Lowes, Home Depot, even Macy’s often allow well-behaved and restrained dogs. This varies from store to store so it is important to call ahead and speak to the manager to find out you local store policies. Please, never leave the dog in the car if a store tells you “no.” Take the time to take them home or if there is another person with you they can walk them around in a grassy area.

I am including the federal law concerning service animals below:

Federal Law: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Dept. of U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section

Click here to view the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos.

Businesses may ask if an animal is a service animal or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform, but cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person’s disability.
A disabled person who has an emotional support animal (ESA) will need to produce a letter from a licensed mental health professional that prescribes the need for the animal when a business asks for it.
People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other patrons, or treated less favorably than other patrons. However, if a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.
A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the animal is out of control and the animal’s owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
In these cases, the business should give the person with the disability the option to obtain goods and services without having the animal on the premises.
Businesses that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
A business is not required to provide care or food for a service animal or provide a special location for it to relieve itself.
Allergies and fear of animals are generally not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people with service animals.
Violators of the ADA can be required to pay money damages and penalties.
(Click to view this page on the U.S. Justice Department website)

If you have additional questions concerning the ADA and service animals, please call the Department’s ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TTY) or visit the ADA Business Connection at

Duplication is encouraged. April 2014.

Critter Jitters

A black racer snake drapes across a Firecracker bush.
A black racer snake drapes across a Firecracker bush.

I have respect for all creatures, –well maybe not fire ants and mosquitos — but everything else. Respect is the key word that should apply to all wild animals for you and your pet’s safety.

Here in Florida we have gators and not just the kind going to school in Gainesville. I am fascinated by gators. Like our pelicans they have a prehistoric quality to them. Despite what one might deduce from the news we do not have to dodge them to get to the mailbox. One person I know is convinced that we closed schools for a gator once, not sure where this came from but, no.

Generally when we see gators where they shouldn’t be, backyard pools, garages, etc., it is when it is particularly dry, during wildfires or the construction of a new development or shopping center.

There’s lots of water in Florida. I live on a slip of land between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. There are retention ponds everywhere throughout the state and it amazes newcomers when they see alligators basking on the banks of these retention ponds. It’s simple, if you keep your distance they won’t bother you. Never allow your dog to walk near or in a retention pond or a lake, personally I would not allow my dog in any water that isn’t safe for people to swim in.

I love where I live because of the wildlife. We have little lizards, anolis, darting all over the place and if you are really lucky you will see one of the native variety which are bright green. We also have an incredible number of bird species from Osprey and Bald Eagles to owls and white egrets gracefully walking across the front yard. Oh and there are the Roseate Spoonbills. But I digress.

In the shrubs are snakes, some venomous, many not, but all quite capable of biting and all bites should get medical attention. Because of this we “shake” our plants before putting our hands inside to weed or trim. Put yourself in the snake’s place, you’re curled up nice and cool out of the hot sun and this hand comes at you. I would defend myself wouldn’t you? Give them a warning and they will probably move to another less crowded spot.

It is important to keep our pets away from wildlife, and not just in Florida. Dogs are nosey and it’s those noses that get them into trouble. Snake bites can be deadly to dogs. Even if you can describe the snake that bit him, finding antivenom quickly isn’t all that easy and if you do it will be costly. Much easier to be aware of where that cute little nose is and guide it out of possible danger.

We have firecracker bushes, dense flowering shrubs, in our front yard. These bushes attract butterflies, bees, small birds, and snakes. While Kodi seems to prefer snapping at things that can sting him, he will ignore the butterflies. Recently my husband saw a black racer perched halfway up one of our firecracker bushes so he gently directed Kodi, who was totally oblivious about the snake’s presence, away.

We also have a box turtle that hangs around the house. I may have to name her. It is not uncommon for me to find her paddling around the pool which, since she is not a water turtle is not a good idea so I get her out and put her in the bushes. Box turtles and gopher tortoises are quite common in Florida.

turtle by pool

After pulling this box turtle out of our pool she headed right back. Turtles and tortoises can look like playthings to dogs and should be protected from them.

Our resident backyard turtle. Back where he belongs -- for the time being.
Our resident backyard turtle. Back where she belongs — for the time being.

When I was working at the humane society we had gopher tortoises in one section of the exercise yard where the bigger dogs are walked. Some of the dogs looked upon the tortoises as “toys” and wanted to pick them up and “play” with them. The tortoises were not amused. Part of my training was to tell new volunteers to keep the dogs away from the tortoises. In this case it’s for the tortoise’s well-being. Humane treatment also applies between species when we are with our dogs. Gopher tortoises are protected in Florida so they can’t be moved from their location and it’s against the law to mess with them. No the dog won’t be fined, the owner might be.

If your dog does have an encountered with a wild animal or snake, get him to a veterinarian immediately with the best description of the snake as you can get. You don’t have to be fond of snakes to learn what snakes live in your area.

Has your pet had an encounter with a wild animal or reptile? What did you do? Let me know on my Facebook page:

Photos are welcome as long as neither animal, or yourself, was put in danger while you were taking the photo.

Right leash

Walking a dog should be enjoyable for both of you. In my opinion the dog should be able to explore safely without the owner having to be pulled down the street.

Training your dog to walk on a leash is easier if you have the right collar and leash. Extensive training is not involved unless of course you want to train you dog for show or are very rigid on how you want your pup to walk with you.

For me, it’s a combination. I want Kodi to have fun on his walks, be able to explore safely and be able to get a good walk in myself.

Kodi has several leashes. Which one I snap to his collar depends on what type of walk we are taking. Yes, there are different types of walks.

First there is the standard leash, a 4-8 foot length of nylon or leather webbing. I prefer the nylon as they are easier to keep clean. The length depends on the type of dog and how close you want to keep him to you. Folks in city environments or crowded dog friendly events often like the shorter leash so their dog stays right by their side.

One of my favorite leashes is the Weiss Walkie developed by Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Emily Weiss.

The Weiss walking humanely allows an owner to keep their dog in control on walks without extensive training.

The rounded webbed leash is attached to the dog’s collar and then wrapped under the midsection and then the handle is threaded through a ring on the leash. This applies gentle pressure to the rib cage area (which naturally has some give) keeping the dog by your side without tugging on his neck.

The versatile aspect of this leash is you can clip in on as a regular leash when you want to give a little extra length for him to do business and when he’s done, adjust it as it’s meant to be used for the rest of your walk.

Retractable leashes are great for certain situations but often misused by owners. Too often owners simply allow the leash to extend to its fullest giving them no control over their dog and, in crowded situations, annoying those around them.

I use our retractable leash when we travel. At every stop we leash Kodi up and walk him around the doggie area at the rest stops to do his business. The leash is retracted and locked as we get out of the car and walk to the exercise area. These are the areas we encounter people who, while they smiled and may even stop to pet him, were not generally  interested in being jumped on or herded.

At the exercise area I would first look around to make sure he wasn’t going to come in contact with any other dog’s business (it is not healthy for your dog).

Also known as a flexi-leash, the retractable leash allows variable leash length. Like a tape measure, the leash pulls out from a heavy handle with a stopping mechanism that you control. Although such leashes are easy to store and use, “Consumer Reports” and The Dogington Post noted several potential problems. If you do not tightly set the stopping mechanism or leave it loose to give your dog freedom, you are at risk of cuts and abrasions if the dog suddenly lunges forward causing the leash to rapidly unravel from the base. Even with the mechanism set, your dog could pull the entire handle out of your hands, injuring himself, you or a bystander in the process. Likewise, the dog is at risk for strangulation when he suddenly runs out of leash or if he becomes entangled in the leash. Choose a retractable leash only when walking a dog that responds well to voice commands and in situations where you can maintain control.

Maintaining control is not just your control over the dog, it is also over other humans and their dogs.It seems I always come across people who want our dogs to meet. It always starts out with “it’s okay he’s friendly.”

Friendly is fine but when two strange dogs are on leashes no one really knows what’s in store. Kodi is protective of me, wants to be top dog and has little tolerance for having his butt sniffed. He’s fine with adults and children but when it comes to other dogs he has a limited threshold of tolerance and I respect that. He doesn’t have anything to prove and he doesn’t have to “make friends” with a dog we are never going to see again.

If someone comes up to you and their dog is not on a leash do not let the dogs interact. Your dog is at a disadvantage and immediately seen by the other dog as submissive. Politely (no reason to be rude) ask the owner to leash their dog or, if they won’t (and there are people who have to prove how well-behaved their dog is), gently shorten your lead and walk to your car or a building. Hopefully the owner will get the hint and call his dog back.

If he thinks you are being rude fine. Your dog’s well-being is your concern.

The mystery of Samantha and my clothes

I love you and when you're not here your clothes have to do.
I love you and when you’re not here your clothes have to do

It really doesn’t matter what clothes, and they don’t have to be particularly soiled, Samantha our (my?) cat nestles into them and rolls around. All I have to do is take off my jammies or nightgown, leave it on the bed and when I come out of my morning shower there she is.

The same is true if I am just changing clothes after work.

She rolls herself up in the clothes, rubbing her head much the same way she rubs against me.

Rolling around in worn clothes transfer scents between cat and owner

No scientific reason, but I believe it’s her way of connecting with me. She is rubbing my scent on her or maybe her scent on my clothes. Marking me as hers in case any other cats have ideas?

Cats have two basic interactions, distance reducing and distance increasing. A cat that hisses, hides and doesn’t like to be cuddled is distance increasing. They are independent cats. Samantha is definitely a distance reducing cat. She initiates contact, jumps up in our laps and curls up next to me when Kodi allows.

At night she often curls up on the bed above my pillow and paws my head.

Samantha 1

If your cat has separation anxiety leaving some of your clothes out may help to relieve its stress. This is also true if you need to travel and take your cat to stay somewhere else.

Cats are scent oriented and want to be close to you — enjoy!

Tuesday is Kodi’s favorite day

Kodi knows when it is Tuesday. Don’t ask me how because I don’t know, but I do know why. Tuesday is the day Lee comes to clean our pool.

Kodi by pool

More supervising than  heeling in this photo. Kodi is a big fan of pool cleaning day.

My husband and I actually try our best to not have writing assignments on Tuesday morning that will take us away from the house. Because if we aren’t here, Kodi can’t have his weekly social event.

The first time I was home on pool cleaning morning I witnessed Kodi in step with Lee as he walked around the pool.

Several things fascinated me about this. To begin with Kodi does not like the pool, does not intentionally go into the pool and doesn’t like anyone else in the pool. He also doesn’t heel. But there he was, Westminster perfect.

As Lee knelt down to check a water jet Kodi’s muzzle darted into his pocket. A pocket I learned held the treats. Kodi is a food motivated dog.

If we aren’t able to be home three treats will be lined up outside the door just waiting for Kodi to take when we return. Apparently there’s a system these two have worked out, one treat on the way in, one while he cleans the filter and a third when he leaves. However, I suspect if Kodi is out there to supervise the pool cleaning more than three treats are involved.

What size is your tennis ball?

While none of my dogs have ever even considered returning a thrown ball back to me there are some dogs who thrive on a simple game of fetch.

This past Memorial Day I heard a story that made me rethink this past time or at least encourage some safety measures.

A couple was out on the Intracoastal in their boat with their Labrador. Excellent combination, Labradors, water, balls. So far, so good.

The Intracoastal is dotted with little islands where boaters enjoy pulling on shore and getting out to bask in the sun, a picnic or as on this day, to let their pup run and play.

The Lab bounded back and forth on the island pouncing on the ball returning it wet and slobbery to its owners, except for the last throw.

In its glee the dog pounced on the ball, or perhaps it was still bouncing and bounced into his mouth, either way it became lodged in the dog’s throat.

As everyone realized the dog was in distress, people began calling for help, animal control wasn’t available on the holiday weekend and the police department do not respond to dog emergencies on the water.

From what I was told one lady reached into the dogs mouth to try and dislodge the ball. She wasn’t successful but she must have repositioned it enough to allow air into the lungs. The dog was boarded back onto the boat and headed to shore (fortunately not a great distance) where they were met by police officers and I believe a fisherman.

Between them they were able to poke the ball with a hook of some type and pull it out of the Lab’s mouth.

We don’t think twice about using tennis balls as toys for our dogs. Wonderful exercise for our dogs and a great way to recycle the balls, or at least that’s what many believe.

Tennis balls are not manufactured as dog toys and have toxic chemical coatings that could cause medical issues for your pet.

The bigger concern is the size of the tennis ball. A small or medium dog, Corgi or terrier for example, would probably be fine playing with a traditional size tennis ball, under supervision. When the game is over take the ball away so they don’t chew them up and swallow any pieces.

Dogs should play with dog toys and specifically balls made for the sharp interior of a dog’s mouth.There is an impressive number of online and in-store products to choose from, in varying sizes, with no chemical coatings and reasonably priced.

When shopping look for the size of  the ball, where the ball was made, and the label to verify there are no toxic coatings. As with all toys, supervision while the toy is being enjoyed is important.

Now if I can convince my Corgi to play!

Do you have a photo of your dog playing catch or fetch? I would be happy to include it on my page.