Monday, July 23, 2012

The Joy of Helping Rescue Dogs - Pet Portraits & Higher Adoption Rates

Today has been a special global event with my friends at "Be the Change for Animals" in which us pet bloggers all unite to talk about Dog Rescue, stressing the importance of saving the lives of dogs in need. Mommy and I are helping by using her photography skills.
Think about this for a moment...we've all seen the typical shelter dog photos, haven't we? The poor dog's head is down, you can hardly see their face; they are either chained or in a crate/cage/stall of some kind and it truly looks to be the very worst day of their lives and their spirits are broken. It is very clear that being a shelter dog is hard. Really hard. There are too many horrors to list of what kind of life a dog might have gone through before they end up at a shelter. Shelter dogs are scared, uncertain, lonely, depressed, and confused. Shelter dogs have often been abused, starved, neglected, isolated, ignored, or displaced.

How can any shelter dog get adopted and find a forever loving home if the only photos of them show a forlorn dog with a defeated soul or broken spirit?  Mommy and I have thought long and hard about what these dogs go through and how difficult is it for them.  So, we came up with a solution in our area and it is making a HUGE impact already in the lives of several local shelter dogs. 

When Mommy goes to a shelter, some of the dogs first start out very sad and shy, uncertain of what is going to happen...but you would be amazed at what a few treats, some squeaky toys, and some loving enthusiasm and encouragement will do for the hearts of these precious ones.
These two brothers, Clayton and Cory were very shy and timid, but felt more secure after a few snacks and lots of petting and reassurance from Mommy and the wonderful lady who works there. Cory (on the right) has been adopted, and things look promising for his brother to get adopted soon too.

A few of the dogs were just so scared and uncertain, like Daisy the Beagle here. When Mommy first met Daisy,  her ears were back and she looked like Mommy was about to hurt her...but Mommy did her very best to make Daisy feel special with love, patience, petting and some playtime, to try and get a good expression to help get good photos for Daisy. This is the end result...Daisy LOVED this little pink and blue stuffed toy and started romping and playing catch. Mommy said it was both wonderful to see her personality come out, and sad that little Daisy might have experienced trauma in her life.
Mommy says that what she is trying to do is capture dog portraits that show the heart and light of the sweet soul inside, yearning to be loved. Her purpose is to help people see the 'Happy Ending' potential for these shelter show the world what a wonderful pet these dogs will be.

Bryce here was so nervous when they came to get him for his photos, that they had to gently hold his mouth as they got him. It turns out he was one big cuddle bug that LOVES hugs, kisses, gentle petting, treats and toys. His story helps illustrate that dogs can sometimes appear to not be socialized, when in reality they are just scared and need extra patience, understanding and love to feel secure. Imagine if you were wrongfully imprisoned and lost your family and home, or never knew anything but suffering, hunger, pain, or abuse. None of us would bode well under those circumstances. 

Happily, Bryce got adopted within a week of his portrait being taken and put up on the adoption website.

Chopper here was a love bug from the moment he came out of his kennel. My GOODNESS he loved giving Mommy and the lady who works there kisses. He was a happy, excited big ole' puppy. Now, how can you look at this beautiful smile with the warm eyes and think that BSL, 'Breed Specific Legislation', is valid??
Chopper is a full grown Rottweiler who merely wanted a chance to give all the love in his big heart to someone. And thanks to good portraits of him, he got his chance. He got adopted within a few days of taking his portrait. 

Here Chopper is, so happy to be outside for a little while, ready to give Mommy his best side for the camera, BOL! He and Mommy played for a while before any photos even got taken. Take  that, BSL. 
It looks to me like Chopper was begging for a belly rub if you ask me.

This little girl refused to leave the arms of the dear shelter lady helping Mommy, so the lady 'ducked' while Mommy took as many photos as little Dixie here would allow. Mommy improvises where she can. 

Will here was adopted less than a week after his portrait was taken. His story is extra special, because it was 'past his time' at the shelter, but they wanted to go ahead and give him a chance with these portraits. That decision and good photos showing his happy smiling face and shining eyes helped a loving family find him and fall in love with him.  Now he's safe in the arms of love in a new forever home. Now THAT, my friends, is a miracle graced with human love. 

Mommy spent about 3 hours photographing at the shelter, and about 2-3 hours optimizing the photos. 
In just two weeks since this first set of portraits were taken,  6 dogs were adopted, and the shelter is ecstatic about it. 
6 LIVES SAVED! Mommy and I are so happy we've laughed, cried and shared the wonderful news with all our friends. The shelter can't wait to do more photo sessions, and we've already planned one for next weekend.

Here are some ideas of things you can do to volunteer and help the dogs and those that run the shelters:
1. Volunteer to help clean the kennels - it is a hard, thankless job and sometimes it takes the attendants away from being able to help find homes for the dogs.
2. Donate or make flat beds or small blankets that can easily be washed and sanitized for the dogs. It gives a small sense of home and comfort to them.
3. Volunteer to come and walk or play with the dogs. They are cooped up far to much inside and need exercise and time in the sun. Even just one hour a couple of times a month will make a huge difference in the life of a shelter dog.
4. Volunteer to bathe and/or groom the dogs in the shelter. Having a clean body and fresh haircut or shave can absolutely transform a dog, give the dog a new lease on life.
5. Offer to take portraits of the pets in need of adoption. A picture really does say a thousand words in helping show off these pets.
6.  Volunteer to transport the pets to a location if that is allowed by the shelter. Some shelters have limits on how far away a dog can be adopted to, so ask your local shelter first about any such limitations.
7. Share information, photos, and stories about local dogs lost/found or at your local shelter. Find your local shelters on Facebook or social media and connect with them. Places such as 'Lost and Found Dogs in Virginia' and places like that will have websites to share photos and information. A dog in a shelter might be a lost pet. 
8. If you have the means, foster a shelter pet and help teach them good things to know as they transition from being scared and alone to being a good pet that can enjoy a family atmosphere.
So my dear friends, I do hope that you will find ways in your own community to help the shelter dogs get adopted and find their forever loving home. Please leave a comment and let me know any other ideas you have on how to help, or let me know what you might be doing in your area.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

No Tail Left Behind - Giving Voice to the Dangers of Tail Docking

Today is a very important day my friends, for I am taking part in the 'Blog the Change for Animals' in which pet bloggers from all around the world come together to support people who are helping animals in need. Today, I want to share with you a cause that is very near and dear to my heart.

No Tail Left Behind is a campaign that I started in April to educate people about the difficulties and suffering that dogs endure from tail docking. I am in a unique position, for I am a dog with a docked tail who has suffered since puppyhood from stabbing tail pain and stinging nerve pain at my docked tail tip. You see, my tail was taken from me, just like it is for thousands of puppies each year, when I was just a few days old. The 'reason' for amputating part of my spine with no anesthesia or proper surgery, is because breeders of certain dog state it is the 'breed standard' to dock certain dogs tails. Not many people realize that tail docking involves the severing of tendons, spinal vertebrae, muscles and nerves. Some dogs do fine later in life with a docked tail. I did not.
There are many symptoms and behaviours that a dog can exhibit when they are having docked tail pain. Here are just a few signs that a puppy or adult dog is having pain, irritation or difficulties with a docked tail:
1. Biting, licking, 'chasing' or whining at the tail or back end.
2. Hiding under a bed, or in a crate. Isolation from the family or laying alone in a back room.
3. Difficulty potty training, either on paper or outside. Often difficulty having a normal BM, including running away from a BM as it is occurring.
4. Unexplained potty accidents, even if they are potty trained.
5. Redness, inflammation or scaling at the tail nub tip. I am 4.5 years old and mine still gets red and inflamed at times.
6. The dog acting like they are in trouble or are being punished, including crying out, yelping, or even nipping at someone who tries to pick up the dog, or touch the back end near the tail. 
7. Getting excited over a loved one coming home or a fun play time, and then suddenly yelping and 'going after their tail. Whenever I get excited to see Mommy my tail gives me a fit. I can't even show how happy I am to see her without my tail stinging and hurting me. Excitement runs through the nerves in my tail nub as I wag with joy. 

Things you can do to help ease the stress from the stabbing and stinging nerve pain of a docked tail include:
1. Setting up a 'safe place' where the dog can go to such as a crate, or a bed that is just theirs. Make sure you can easily access them if needed. I used to go under the bed, now I have a little crate I can run to if need be and Mommy can come comfort me. 
2. Putting a sweater on the dog (amazingly this distracts me from biting at my tail). 
3. Help your dog snuggle into a comfy bed and gently wrap them in a blanket if possible. Sit and comfort them. 
4. Talk to your vet about your concerns. I am on Neurontin for the nerve pain and I just started taking a natural supplement called 'Composure' that has Colostrum, the natural occurring hormone that puppies get from their mother when nursing. Mommy saw a marked difference in me on the very first day. 
5. Corrective surgery is an option, and one that my family is now going to do for me. We've tried every other avenue  and now we must take this final step to make my quality of life better. 
Make sure your vet takes you seriously, and if you feel your concerns are not being addressed...go talk to another vet. Docked tail issues are real and valid, and you owe it to your dog to do all you can to help them. 

This is a video that my Mommy took of me and it shows some of what I go through. She was actually going to video tape us practicing my tricks, but my tail had other plans. It started hurting me with that awful nerve pain and I could not concentrate and acted like I was in trouble.
I know that tail docking is a touchy subject, but so is my tail pain. There are those who swear that one of the main reasons for docking is so that dogs won't 'hurt their tail', or 'get it caught in a fence and rip it off'. However, think about this for a moment...would a human remove a finger or an arm, because they 'might get it caught in a buzz saw' or 'might do severe damage to their finger while chopping vegetables'? See, that sounds crazy, doesn't it. Well, to me and my family, and to the multitudes of dogs with docked tails that hurt their entire lives, removing our tails sounds just as crazy. Why remove a body part because you 'might' get an awful injury? If injury was truly a valid reason, then why don't they remove the tails of military working dogs, or police dogs, or search and rescue and service dogs. We must help educate about cosmetic tail docking. Please help me spread the word about the dangers and difficulties that dogs go through. 
Let's help future puppies in the U.S. keep their tails.  I, Pixel Blue Eyes, am in it to end it. I believe that every dog deserves a tail. Please join me in my campaign. Visit my No Tail Left Behind page on Facebook, which has tons of helpful information, photos, encouragement, and stories from other dogs with docked tail issues like me. 
Help me Be the Change for dogs in the U.S. by helping me be the voice of dogs with docked tails. Our first goal is to educate, our second is to help end tail docking in the U.S. So many other countries have already banned tail docking and ear cropping, including Australia, the U.K. Brazil, Belgium and Italy, just to name a few. Tails are beautiful. Tails are one of our most expressive ways of communicating. We are planning on taking this campaign to Congress, so prepare to join us in contacting your local legislators. Please LIKE my Facebook page, where you can read my entire story and get much more information on tail docking. Also, please leave a comment of support below. Thank you for letting me share my story and my hope to help educate and stop tail docking. Remember, Be the Change for Animals. Together, we all can make a difference. 

Please visit some of these other blogs listed below who are Blogging the Change for Animals too.