Monday, December 8, 2014

Overview of Puerto Rico's Dog Situation

On my first trip to Puerto Rico I saw a dog in the street and said to my friend, Gloria, “Quick let’s go pick up that dog and take it to Animal Control.”
Gloria laughed, which I thought strange from a fellow dog lover.
“This isn't like Illinois,” is all she said and so the subject was forgotten. She showed off her island home. We fell in love. Soon we were living in our new island home, watching a Border Collie chase cars at the bottom of our driveway.
Whereas the states have coyote, raccoon, and fox, the island has free ranging dogs and cats, most obviously the dogs.
Picture twice a year the chaos of gang banging bitches on the street corner and elsewhere; followed by dazed starving pups wandering in the road – not nature’s finest moment.

Unlike truly feral creatures like fox, raccoon, and coyote, dogs just want to hang on the porch, bark alarm and be fed. Most belonged to someone as a puppy.
Since 2005 I’ve seen many dogs including Chi-Ping be dumped by their people. This sadly is the single largest source of dogs wandering our streets. Strange observation is that I've never seen a neutered animal dumped by an owner.
Discarded pets with little chance of survival wandering the beaches and roads in search of a meal, water, and a safe place to sleep, compete with seasoned street dogs. Life in paradise is harsh, but nature being prolific their numbers increase to the point that for health and safety; something must be done.
Historically, and not just here, some guy mixes up a poison cocktail, ameliorating the dog population problem for the moment. This practice outlawed by law 154 seems to have decreased.
I would love to know the number of dogs collected and euthanized each year. If anyone reading this knows, please, tell.

The way this was explained to me is that each pueblo has a dog collection fund. At I believe the amount is $50 per dog, the dog collection outfit contracted with the municipality collects and euthanizes dogs until it hits the limit at which time work ceases, until the next funding cycle. This I believe is the government’s answer for Animal Control in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico has a large population of animal lovers and advocates. Adrienne Galler Lastra, the president of Amigos de Los Animales de Puerto Rico, mentored me through my earliest days learning about the dog problems here.
 I am in awe of the rescuers, so many loving people, who take in an unbelievable number of stray dogs. They spend their lives caring for hundreds of dogs in their homes and making them available for adoption; it becomes their life.
The Satos, Puerto Rican Island Dogs have guardian angels, who make regular rounds feeding feral dogs.
No overview of the dog situation in Puerto Rico would be complete without acknowledging Animal Cruelty Investigators like Alma Febus or Iris Quinoines, President of OICA, the Organization of Animal Cruelty Investigators.
Spay/Neuter Clinics sponsored by various organizations like Amigos de Los Animales and PAWS are popping up all over the island.
I’m encouraged to see the love and level of involvement coming from the people. This island has a big heart.
Yesterday on my drive to San Juan the roads were littered with moms and puppies searching for food.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dogs Dumped in the Night

Terrified yips and screams reply to angry barks and snaps, as local dogs defend their spots from interlopers, dogs dumped by owners in occupied territory. At little after three in the morning the Sato Hill Gang joins the fray as the hapless discards are pushed up the hill towards the biggest, toughest pack in the valley.
Blondie, a bull of a bitch is now backed by Robert Redford, the large golden a deep bark and solid bite. Lucky, the elegant pit works himself into a frenzy in a hunt or a fight. Chi-Ping in typical terrier style stirs up trouble. The Sato Hill Gang are a pack; they live together and hunt together.
Two houses south of ours, the pursuing defenders pushing the lost dog north are stopped. Blondie’s sharp barks, followed by painful bites elicit cries, while the boys back the locals down the hill. The din in the night retreats, but doesn’t stop for the poor dogs some unthinking human tossed out on a country road.
The attacks continue as dogs defend their spots, when the trespassers become trapped between two groups of powerful dogs they can be killed in the night or so weaken they die within days. If fortunate, the newbies may be accepted somewhere along the road.
This is one of the harsh realities for abandoned pets in Puerto Rico. Over the years with different dogs I’ve heard the same sounds and occasionally seen the aftermath.
This is nature’s way of dealing with man’s stupidity.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nightmare = Tropics, Fleas and Ticks

Fleas, ticks + tropics = Nightmare
On the island of Puerto Rico I’ve noticed that some of the low coastal areas are more heavily infected than the rural area where I live. Sad to say I never saw a tick on the dogs here before we came back from a visit to the coast.
Stormy, Blondie and the various other street dogs, which have been thru here, from time to time had fungal infections for which we bathed and powdered, but never saw a tick.
The first time I brought the dogs to the coast, they came back loaded. In my whole professional career in Illinois I never saw so many ticks on a dog; and I’m freaky phobic about insects.
Bathing them with a flea and tick shampoo killed some and weaken the rest of the ticks so I could pluck without hurting the dogs as much. Their shin crawled as I pulled one after another. Mine crawled too cause I can’t stand those buggers.
Let me not forget that I applied Frontline shortly after the bath. Ticks seemed to be everywhere, still on the dogs, in the house and on the porch.
My dogs are my only companions. I take them as many places as I can; they also come in my house.
I cleaned the house inside and out with a flea and tick insecticide from Pet Smart and the Frontline kicked in, so I didn’t see ticks for about a month at which time we re-apply.
Recently we took a road trip to the coast. Robert Redford, my biggest came home with ears full of ticks. Blondie and Chi-Ping had some and Lucky has none. Frontline was applied to all dogs two weeks before their trip.
Bathing the dogs with flea shampoo, re-applying Frontline, and chemical disinfection of premises will restore balance here, but why didn’t the Frontline work? Were some ticks resistant to the chemicals contained?
Should I be rotating what I use, so ticks don’t develop immunity?
 A completely different chemical family would be best to rotate with, so what’s best?  
Any contra indications that these products be used in conjunction with the other?
What would be the best rotation schedule, and why?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Back Home on Sato Hill

We just returned from a road trip to Auntie Adri’s in Carolina. Once home the gang banged down the hill to check out the status of the neighborhood.
Given how late in the day, I planned to let them fast through the night and feed breakfast. Kibble stays in the gut up to fourteen hours, so a fast is good for them.
Blondie and Chi settled on the sofa, Robert Redford and Lucky in the chairs. Seemed like the right plan, until Lucky trotted through the house with the measuring cup in his mouth, the cup I use to scoop his dog food. He came into the back bedroom, dropped the cup in my lap and returned to the kitchen to sit by the bag of dog food, where the others joined him.
The dogs had spoken. Nonverbal communication reigned. Over dinner Robert Redford commented how smart a human I was to be able to relate the scoop with it being time to eat.  Chi mentioned how difficult human training is in general.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Dog and Cat Difference

Difference between my dogs and Smoki, my cat is:

The dogs stare at my food with a pitiful look that says,

“Please, share your food.”

The cat stares into my eyes with an outraged look saying,

“That’s my food; why are you keeping it from me?!”

P.S. For scientific types, the take away is the dogs stare at the food, the cat stares in my eye.

Anthropomorphizing is just too much fun.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Little Dog's Journey Home by Chi-Ping

When I came to Sato Hill; or actually, the day I was unceremoniously dumped, I cried, curled in a corner waiting for my people to return for me.
Lost, mourning, I worried what they would do without me. Would they be scared in the night without me to alert them to danger? Would they miss the scent of my presence the way I missed theirs?
I gave myself credit for being a spectacular intruder alarm. From my tiny room I could hear a leaf fall. Strange sounds deserve an all out panic bark! Suppose something bad happens! My barks alerted them to danger!
From my very first night on the street the neighbors where I landed received the benefit of my alarm services. They rewarded me with leftovers.
Mourning my world lost, without a clue to go home, I brooded, but the neighborhood Satos/street dogs stuck their noses up my butt. Until you die, you’re just part of someone else’s show. I had to stand up to these Satos to show them I wouldn’t be cast as their victim or whipping girl. They nosed me around some, but then they liked me.
I thought about my family, my life in the room, how happy I’d be when they came in to see me. Outdoors is a big scary place; my mind felt turned inside out.
The two neighbor ladies fed me well, when Blondie and Stormy, who died, weren’t around, but never gave me water. Stormy showed me where to go for water and how to hunt mice to supplement sometimes meager leftovers. I came to the road a fat little animal. Stormy taught me about life in the neighborhood, but I stayed close to where I got dropped believing they loved me and would come back for me.
One day just when my tail was beginning to wag again, the woman up the hill threw a towel over me. I did my best to bite her, but the towel got in my way. The next thing I knew a man held me on his lap. In a warm, kind voice he said, “Good Girl, you’re going for a car ride.”
I wanted to tell about the fiasco my last car ride was, but instead I nestled down onto his big hands, staring at the woman who grabbed me.
After that everything blurred. Blondie said that they fixed me. Huh? Back on the street I prowled my neighborhood with Blondie; until one night Blondie and I were taken away from the island.
My introduction to a pet carrier, followed by a weigh in at the airport and I flew to New Orleans chewing my way through the fabric until she shoved something for motion sickness down my throat.
From then on we walked city streets tied to the woman. People, who knew there were so many, people with dogs tied like we were. Blondie barked and barked, but none told her why people were tied to us. Great packs of children played baseball or football across the street from where we lived. We could smell strange creatures living in sewers and squirrels chattered, mocking us from above.
didn't like being tied or behind a fence, so one day I snuck past dad, the man with the loving voice.  The woman, who grabbed me in the towel, called me; was she kidding?
Wandering where I pleased, I allowed her to follow a couple of feet behind me, like she could ever catch me, hah!
A lovely lady I hadn't seen before called me by my new name, “Good Girl!”
I ran to her, she scooped me into her arms. I felt safe again. She handed me over to mom, who put me on the leash to walk home.
A few months later we were back in the airport on our way home. People admired how well I walked on leash with my head held high and my erect tail slicing the air.
Men outside the Aguadilla Airport doors greeted me, “Boriqua dog, that’s a Boriqua dog. Welcome home Boriqua dog.”
An hour later we were back home on Sato Hill.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Trap, Neuter, Release: a Reasonable Choice in Animal Control

A recent seminar on shelters in Puerto Rico ended with a PETA video proclaiming euthanasia as a better alternative to no kill shelters and heaven forbid dogs running lose in the streets where they eat rats and mice and garbage and God knows what else. They’ll live without love, she wailed as if  it were unheard of to exist without human love.
Which one of these free ranging street dogs looks like it would volunteer to be killed because its life is so miserable? Don’t tell me you’re doing it for them.

For their benefit, let’s put them on short leashes and tie them to a dog house, so they’ll be safe. Quickly toss them food and water, so they’re cared for. Put them in a pen where they never touch another of their kind.
They have no right to live unfettered. Eating rats, the PETA lady shuttered, living without love. How aghast would she be to know that dogs having a choice will frequently leave nutritious kibble to hunt for fresh meat with no byproducts? It demonstrates just how badly they need to be euthanized for their benefit.
Bored, brain dead pooches behind fences, that’s what we want; let’s put them in shelters to keep them safe. Walk them from the garage to the balcony for a couple hours fresh air. Get angry with them for scratching on the door like they’re trying to get out of prison. They’re well fed; what more could they want?
On any given day in the history of Puerto Rico there have been free ranging dogs roaming the island. When not over burdened by street dogs, the people are fond of their canine neighbors, preferring to feed a “Sato” and starve a rat.
Dogs are a part of the ecosystem here similar to fox, coyote and raccoons in the states, but they’re not really wild.  We can keep them healthy, manage them a lot more cheaply and successfully than the shelter or slaughter methods currently employed.

Trap, neuter, and release for this group of fine looking animals; what do you say?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Proposal for Trap, Neuter, and Release Colonies

Trap, Neuter, and Release Dog Colonies

Site location must be conducive to keeping the colony dogs out of harm’s way. A number one priority in siting a dog colony is a location which will not become a public health hazard.
Community support: Owners of the property on which the colony is located and adjacent neighbors should be contacted and support sought prior to founding any new colonies.
Collect and share contact information, notate perception of community response and professed level of involvement ranging from fine by me, but no help to committed participant.
Evaluate the street dogs for suitability in colony.
Colony Members:
 Healthy, vaccinated, neutered animals showing no signs of aggression towards humans visibly marked or identifiable.
 i.e. collar color coded to the Colony Keeper, the color changing every 1 to 3 years.
Colony Size:
Scientific studies have shown that when a site is over populated, the Ecosystem goes out of balance resulting in disease; until firm numbers for the individual site can be studied, a healthy colony shall be deemed of correct size. Another indicator is increased aggression within the colony.
Colony Keeper responsible for:
Maintaining a healthy colony of non-reproductive animals easily identified as such.
Overseeing that daily access to clean water and food is provided.
Disposing of remains of dead animals or contacting appropriate authority to dispose of remains.
i.e. Dead dog on highway should not be picked up by non-government personnel for health and safety reasons.
Providing appropriate care or contacting appropriate governmental authority to provide said care.
 i.e. Dog hit in road needing immediate euthanasia.
Developing a T-N-R Colony from a pack of street dogs is a project requiring resources in time, energy, and money. A reasonable, but limited timetable for making an acknowledged transition from street dog pack to supported T-N-R Colony shall be from six to eight months.

From the time the Arawaks landed on these shores with their compact hunting dogs, free roaming dogs have been part of island life and culture. A well-known and popular fact is that the Puerto Rican people love their “Satos.”
With the ground swell of support for the humane treatment of the Puerto Rican Island Dogs, the Satos, the volunteers putting fourth personal resources look to the government to honor the GOOD SAMARATAINS, un- paid citizens, by indemnifying and holding harmless their efforts.
We respectfully look to the Mayor of  to work with the citizens to set the standard for the island in cooperation with the community to update a historic relationship with the island dogs; thus providing better health and public safety.
Acknowledging the difficult financial times, we look to the mayor’s office to support the effort by providing venues and resources at your disposal.
Most importantly we look to the Mayor to grant amnesty from live collection of Colony Dogs by any governmental or quasi-governmental agency.

Okay, this is the way I see it. Can I get a witness?!! ;)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Arecibo Animal Activists Meet With Mayor's Office

Local Animal Activists met outside Arecibo City Hall on Monday August 25th to protest the rounding up and killing of street dogs without so much as a time for owners to claim their pet from the pound. Activist leaders meet with the Vice Mayor to discuss a moratorium on collecting dogs in areas where rescuers are working on trap, neuter and release programs to curb birth rates in dog populations, and what is the latest story about the public Arecibo Animal Control Shelter.

Inside the government officials gave their requirements for co-operating with the activists to not collect and euthanize colonies of dogs being cared for by the activists.
Outside a hard working cadre of activists spoke to people passing City Hall asking if they supported mass killing of animals living on the streets or if they supported a more humane way such as tarp, neuter and release.

Citizens on the street supported the humane treatment of animals by signing the petition.
The activist leaders questioned the current status of the Arecibo Animal Control Shelter, which has sat vacant for the last four years. Talk continues about the reopening of the shelter.

On a personal note, I have to tell you how impressed I was with the strength and heart of the dedicated people I met in Arecibo on Monday. I salute you for your effort. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Play Behavior

My finger isn’t on the pulse of a damn thing. The quality of dog training in the last decade has increased tremendously. I’m retired, so I don’t write so much about training or life style with dog issues any more. Plenty of fine people do that.
Having said that, I’m about to talk to you about living with dogs and what I believe the dogs like because I’ve been reading stuff that says adult dogs don’t like to play, that we’re treating them like furry humans and that’s wrong, that we’re imposing play on them because we really want to play.
Yes, some dogs get over stimulated in day care; that is a management issue. That doesn’t mean a dog shouldn’t play with others. Is it an individual choice or a behavioral limitation? I’d say yes on both counts; how about you?
Does this dog need behavioral counselling? Only if it’s important to you that the dog do something it’s not currently comfortable with or good at? If it’s an issue for the human, it’s an issue.
Please, don’t try to tell me that adult dogs don’t play, that they only play because we want them to or expect it of them. Even if that were the case, so what?
Dogs that are reasonably well nourished and not in pain play in the cool of the evening here in the country, where they have room to run. Dogs seek safe play companions.
Robert "Red" Redford

Nobody wants to play with Blondie unless she’s extremely solicitous. The boys Lucky and Robert Redford play together or with Chi-Ping and she gets bitchy if they’re too rough with her, so they play best with each other. Lucky gets in Red’s face when he gets carried away. Blondie can be a real asshole when she gets pissed so she has to show a lot of play face and soliciting behavior before they play with her.
In the morning, they lineup to go hunting with her, so it’s not that they don’t want anything to do with her.
The dogs here play when they want to because I rarely do anything other than live with them. I am a totally non fun human being, but when I am fun they love it. They show off how they can run. They compete for my attention.
As long as they know my ground rules, the satos on the hill do what they want.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Sato Hill Dog Day

Lizards, rats and mice beware the sato hill gang hunts at dawn. After a night sprawled on easy chairs and the sofa sleeping safely with nary a care, they’re ready to go.
They get kibble twice a day, so hunger isn’t a primary motivator, unless you count taste bud preferences.
The morning air fresh and cool calls them to stretch, look for a pet and then head to the door. Some morning furious sniffing near the house is required. Who came on our porch? Where are they? Who do we kill for this trespass? And on the trail they go.
Other mornings, if I step on the veranda with them, the dogs all come up for a pet goodbye and off they go to work. They each want their “kiss” before going. Even Blondie, who would bolt up the road in hot pursuit in previous years, must have a little love before she leads the hunt. Now that Lucky and Robert Redford are older they wait only to say goodbye to “mom.”
They’re very good boys that way, which drives Chi-Ping nuts. She guards her position as beta and alpha wanna a be. She has trained them since puppyhood to back down to her muzzle snapping and snarling; oddly enough, they still do in many instances. Other times they’re so focused on what they want, that they don’t even notice her. Poor girl.
The gang returns a couple of hours later or when I serve breakfast. Late morning through the heat of the day, they’re reclined like vacationers under the fans.
The boys were dropped off here as puppies, so this is the life they know. Chi-Ping knew about a year as a street dog. Blondie grew up in the street, where she spent years as an un-loved perra de calle. I see how each is affected by life experience. That’s the ability to handle each dog in such a way that nothing over stresses the dog.
Each of these dogs are so vastly different. Anthropomorphically I feel like I have two seventh grade boys, a precocious spoiled brat, and a big moody teenager.
Those of us who become aware of our dogs personalities enjoy them as individuals, not just the dogs. And about the human traits, I’m kidding. Chi isn’t precocious, she’s more like a little old lady accustomed to her own way.
Enjoy your day!

May dogs be with you!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Soul of an Animal Activist

“Hiiiiiiee!!” The welcoming call goes with outstretched arms and a big smile. A yard full of barking dogs echoes her excitement. She shuffles to the gate, takes a cha-cha step, opens the gate, does a twirl, her greeting completes with a rocking hug.
If you’re sensitive to the energy around you, you feel the love the dogs share with this woman. Dogs left in the street, starving and diseased wander her yard healthy with full bellies.
No matter how bad your day, and I’ve seen her on far too many personally bad days, you feel soothed by her hug. She loves in a way that’s more than mere words.She is love. You just want to take a deep breath, so you could breathe in love.
The Puerto Rican Island Dogs are her passion; rescuing them and improving their lives is the greatest work of her life. She wears her zeal like a coat of many colors giving her authority when dealing with government officials with whom she reasons to provide for a common good. Her efforts resulted in accredited education for Animal Control in Puerto Rico. In this effort she is not iron, but tempered steel.
The toll for this devotion comes constantly in the form of emails, text messages and phone calls. Coming home late night from a gig in another life’s passion, music, she has too often found a box of puppies in front of her gate. A penalty for people knowing of  her love for dogs she treats as a gift from God, but anger builds for people who don’t step up to do what’s right for the animals. People take advantage of her love and wash their hands like they've been responsible. That must seem at times impossible to bear.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blondie, Portrait of a Street Dog

We first met Blondie in 2007 when she was around a year old. She remained a street dog, until early 2012. She is my least trained dog. When Kirt was in the hospital I left her in the house overnight without having an accident. That’s due to her innate cleanlinesng.
Blondie's response when yelled at or threatened, varies if she knows the person but to do what I ask her is a concept that didn’t always compute with her. To this day I can ask her to sit for a treat and she may look at me like what??? The other three sit ws, not any trainiagging tails knowing something good is coming their way, but Blondie is my du-huh kid. She’s been known to have brain freezes.
One day I walked her across Delgado Community College Campus across from City Park. In the late afternoon the trees were tossing some shade across the campus. I was lost in thought. Blondie sniffed every tree and bush. We were walking fairly fast when suddenly she stopped with her nose under a bush along one of the buildings. Under the bush lay a big female Muscovy just as shocked to see her beak to nose. Blondie had a brain freeze that gave me enough time to get her away before went ballistic barking and lunging at the bird. She’s had brain freezes when confronted with new stimuli. If it’s in her repertoire, she’s got it covered.
During her young life on the country road where she was born, Blondie bullied her way into what she wanted. She wasn't always loyal to the resident street dog, who lived here before she came.   She bit hard for what she could get.
After weeks of watching her keep a young female away from food, I watched her invite the submissive female to eat. I thrilled me to see that exchange. In my early years on the island, I observed more and influenced less. After years of teaching dog behavior and obedience I've learned much more about dogs by hanging with the satos.
Blondie still chases new dogs away. If they don’t go, she bites harder. Earlier this year she fought an English Bull Terrier, that didn't want to go away. On the hill in the thick woods and grass I couldn't get to them. Chi and the boys came to me. I put them in the house, while I tried to get Blondie. The battle raged on until finally Blondie came to me bloody and tired.

She allows the boys, Lucky and Robert Redford, to go to the food bowl before her if it has the usual kibble, but when I pour leftovers over it, she’s the old Blondie first at the dish. Lately, she’s looking a bit past her prime. I've come to love and admire my big blonde girl for who she is.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Changing Patterns

     The dogs have settled into a comfortable pattern of early morning runs up the hill to investigate everything that set foot on the road during the night. Dogs dumped seek food and water after they calm down and start to get really hungry. They go for miles until they find a source of food and water. These days of no rain make it more difficult for the dogs than lack of food. There’s a break in the water main uphill from us, so I think more strays are making their way to our road.

     The dogs have been spending their nights in the house. They bark when dogs go down the road, but I’ve gotten tired of worrying about the fights they get into overnight, when dogs seem to travel around more.

     I’ve been practicing recalls with the boys. Robert Redford shows his golden personality by hauling butt up the hill as fast as he can. Lucky sometimes gets involved in barking and bouncing, so he doesn’t hear the first time. When he hears or sees Red running up, he comes running.

     Blondie gets so serious about protecting her turf that she’s the last to come. Chi-Ping often sees barking activity in the street as an opportunity to come in the house. She’s heading home when I come out to call. I wouldn’t be surprised if she started shit to get to come in.

     Over the years of watching dogs here things seem to have changed in that there once was a steady group of dogs living in the neighborhood. I saw the same dogs for a few years, and now, the dogs change frequently.

     I feed dogs I see on the road unless they look well fed. That happens dogs running the road are sometimes, not too often, well nourished. Some dogs I’ve seen in the same area for months or years. I have very few old friends anymore. I don’t know what that means.  


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Back Home on Sato Hill

Since my return from New Orleans, Robert Redford, Lucky, Blondie and Chi-Ping have claimed Sato Hill as their home. What's different about now is that Blondie and Chi know that they belong with me and not my neighbor, who acquired a cute little dog that looks like Toto from the Wizard of Oz. 
Lucky and Robert Redford are in the same teenage stage my neighbor boy is and that's grown up one minute and the next is totally puppy brains. 
Blondie spends time at the neighbor's when her grandkids are visiting. She comes when I call her. That's new. My favorite change is that Blondie trusts me when we're doing something that causes her to be unsure. I say, "Good dog." and Blondie knows I won't ask her to do anything she can't. 
Chi-Ping tries to outsmart me. Why do you want me to do that? What's really going on, Mom? I can see the look in her eyes as she stands there wagging her tail with her mouth hanging open. 
Smoki, my dear old kitty has lost some of his spunk, but he talks to me, telling me what he wants just as always. 
It's good to be home with the kidz.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dog Fighting

The verity of your hilarity is lost when dogs fight in pits
Euthanize animals chewed to bits
By what method can we see with clarity
Our relationship with others’ pain and suffering is sick
When every Sunday we worship Michael Vick
Pro quarter back sublime
Who murdered dogs in their prime
Their only crime failure to exterminate an opponent
Is this the way we roll now
Dog and cock fighters take a bow
Your mothers must be so proud 
Neanderthal, civilized man
Who knows what side of the line each will stand
The dissolution of our race
Shown in the boy’s face
As he smiled with glee
At what happened to the puppy
The bait dog lay writhing, dying

Friday, February 21, 2014

What Can I Do?

Heads of scrawny dogs pop up in the weeds along the road. They recognize the sound of my engine. Low held tails wag furiously, while waiting for the food bin lid to pop. Dogs with disease, cuts and injuries I can’t attend to, wolf down kibble while I pour the water. Few will chase the car. It breaks my heart to see them in the rear view mirror wanting more kindness than I can give.
The hardest days are those I see old friends coming to the car, when I have no more food. The look of disappointment when I drive on by haunts me until I go back with more, only to find them not there. Wondering their fate until I see them again burdens me more than you can imagine.
Darla, the puppy abandoned along the road in a bucket, plays happily in my driveway with black coat shimmering in the sun. Lucky and Robert Redford, now almost yearlings patrol the perimeter of their property with assurance they’ll defend this house from all comers. Healthy and well fed; their world would be doggie bliss if they just got more petting.
Blondie and Chi-Ping were adopted by me because neighbors wanted them gone, but now these same folk put out food and show me with pride where they put rugs for my dog’s comfort; go figure. I say, “Please don’t feed the dogs in the road; it pulls them away from my house and it’s dangerous.” They feed and even sometimes water just off the road. The dogs sometimes check there before eating their kibble. This place confounds me to say the least.
Darla had to be kept in the house, at six and seven weeks of age to keep her out of the street until she could process things like danger. Puppy road kill, a common cause of death happens to a fair percentage of young. She now looks both ways before stepping into the street.
Chi-Ping sleeps in my bed with Smoki, the cat. Blondie spends her time at the neighbor’s who said she wanted her gone. Love can be blind in more than one species.
Today I’m leaving; my rescues will stay at my friend’s shelter, even the cat. My heart is broken, my life shattered. In a week I’ll be home with my aunt, where I can be loved and cared for; it’s time for me. It has to be.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Street Dog Shows Empathy

In the years I've been observing feral dog behavior in Puerto Rico, I've seen a mother terrorize her six month old daughter with painful bites to teach her to stay away from food even when mom wasn't near. This starving mother behaved ruthlessly.
Piles of kibble well spaced allowed the pup to eat after I demonstrated to her that I could keep mom at bay, which I did by spritzing mom’s paws with vinegar and water. This puppy was close to death from starvation when I first met her, so telling you mom, Blondie, was ruthless, no joke.
Regular feeding of the three resident street dogs gradually decreased Blondie’s food guarding to a less lethal level with occasional spritzing required.
Other strays were soundly routed by resident three with the puppy learning to attack viciously. Two meals a day at the Carr casa attracted street dogs from the area, before long eyes peered out of the tall grass at the edge of my yard with as many as six dogs at a time. The home team worked hard to chase the interlopers away.
One white and lemon starving yearling bitch refused to go no matter how hard they bit her. She would retreat, but not leave. Other dogs were chased off, but returned. The three were a formidable team, but food twice a day! Personally, I've always wondered how some dogs I’d seen over a mile away ended up on my door. Who snitched?
I don’t know what the “right” thing to do was, but I started putting piles of kibble close to each pair of eyes in the grass. The three retreated to protecting the yard. Every time they would chase a dog on one side a dog would dart in from the other to snatch a mouthful of food. The three would have murder in their eyes and force in their bites, packing calories of energy for a fight.
My husband said I was pulling them in to the house, but starving in front of me is not going to happen, most left after a meal or two, with added energy to pursue usual methods of feeding. Home team convinced them. My first encounter with dogs coming out of the grass in volume felt surrealistic like my favorite thing gone wild.

The white and lemon girl now named Snow White hidden in the grass approached the pile of kibble slowly, one stutter step at a time, her head so low it touched the grass. Her tucked tail and lowly haunches spoke to how sorry she was to be there. She gazed at the ground under her waiting to be attacked. So many times Blondie did just that; until I spritzed in her vicinity. For whatever reason, Snow White never ran in to grab a mouthful the way the other dogs did. She humbly, slowly walked up, if she got bit she didn't move, she took it, collapsing on the spot ever closer to the kibble. Most times she would be forced to retreat to the tall grass.
Snow White repeated this behavior until Blondie tolerated her lying down five or six feet away from the kibble. And then one day from the down she rose to a sit with low head and eyes on the ground she sat! Blondie rushed to establish dominance by towering over her in an upright posture, standing on her toes, but didn't just beat the snot out of her as per usual. Snow White looked prepared to drop, but held her sit. Blondie looked like she didn't know what to do, as the two maintained their positions. Snow White was the perfect pacifist. Blondie tired of it and walked over to a pile of kibble. Blondie never seemed to notice that as she walked away, Snow’s haunches rose from the ground. She was two steps closer before Blondie looked at her again. To my surprise Blondie only resumed eating. She had not walked to the closest pile of kibble, but allowed two piles of kibble in between them. Before long Snow crept to the nearest pile, before she could open her mouth. Blondie stood over her growling. Snow froze, Blondie gradually calmed down.
Blondie stepped to the right, obliquely away from Snow White. Blondie lowered her head in the direction of the kibble and Snow began to eat, slowly, cautiously with the tip of her tail swishing low.
Blondie in that moment decided to allow Snow White to eat, no coercion from me. I only intervened to prevent dogs from being wounded.

Was this empathy? Altruism, giving up her kibble? Did she finally think she had enough to share?  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Traveling Veterinarians of Puerto Rico

Forty Veterinarians neutering 40 dogs three days a week for a year equals 249,600; that’ll put a dent in the critter population growth, so how do we get to that goal?  
Being clueless in Puerto Rico, I talked to my friend and local La Que Sabe, Alma Febus, whose direct, no shit approach to things I adore.

Alma said, “Before you think about getting forty vets, find out what’s happening with the two vets on the island, who have the travelling clinics. Are they busy with neutering, vaccinating; learn what’s going on with them.”
Did you know that Alma Febus was a member of the NYPD? She has that logical cop’s mind.
I’m the new kid on the block, what do the island activists want to know about the traveling Veterinarians of Puerto Rico?
Where or how far will you travel?
How long in advance do we need to schedule a neuter/veterinary care day?
Contact information:
How is the day billed?
Cost per spay or castration, table of available treatments and charges. Pre advertised prices reduce misunderstandings and lost revenue.
For the benefit of the veterinarian providing this valuable service collaboration between rescues will provide the amount a vet needs in order to make a living.

Do the vets provide pre and post care handouts with the service list and prices?
The best location for a clinic day is? What should we look for?
What funding is available to subsidize a clinic day?

Prices need to be low enough that poor families will make a non essential purchase because it’s the right thing to do.

Who on your staff works with non profits to set up a clinic day?

I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Cruz’s team in action in Pinones; two thumbs up for a fine team. Dr. Rivera has the other traveling set up, I haven’t met him yet.

 Wouldn’t you like to know more about them?  What should we ask?
The information will be shared, so we can keep these guys working, and then others will want to join them. Alma, you’re brilliant.
It’s easy to comment on the blog; I fixed the settings. What do we want to know?
 I’ll think of the good questions after, like I did when I interviewed Iris Quinones, President of OICA.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Dog Lover in Puerto Rico

Every trip to the store becomes an adventure, when stopping to feed and water dogs along the way. That’s what it’s like to be an animal lover in Puerto Rico.
A female pit bull, looking stunned stands alone in the parking lot where I found Lefty a few months ago, I mean Sandy, as his forever mom in Boston calls him. She’s a big beautiful grey and white with massive head. I swing into the parking lot, whistle for her, but she doesn’t budge. She has that just dropped off look about her. As she recovers a little food and water will help calm her down, so I open the kit with the kibble and water bowls.
Hi, Sweetheart, I know you’re scared, who could dump a babe like you.  I prattle while pouring water in my last remaining Styrofoam bowl, a small pile of kibble on the ground next to it and I leave before she moves from the spot where she’s frozen from fear. She munches on the kibble after I pull out of the parking lot. Good, food and water helps a newly discarded dog calm down. Being abandoned can't be easy to face.  
Just a bit down the road a dog I fed before chases my car. Oh, rats, I didn't see him, so I pull over. He catches up with wagging tail. Only some kibble for you today, pal. I look around for a cup or something to pour water in for him, but see nothing. I have to remember to refill my kit.
Later, a gaunt white and black spaniel mix comes up to my car while I wait for my friend in a parking lot. He chows down. The boy lives in the neighborhood, so he’s an experienced perro de calle or street dog. I find a cup, he’s thirsty. The dogs need water as much or more than they need the food, so it's time to buy some plastic bowls.

The trick for me is to help the dogs without getting emotional. Just do what I can and move on without worrying what will happen to them next, do what I can. It’s NOT enough, but it's something. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Puppy's Hood in Puerto Rico

Finding her place in the pack as it mobilizes, eight week old Darla avoids Chi-Ping who snapped at her earlier for giving play bows. Chi takes her crabby old lady role seriously enough to discourage pups from over stepping a Chi boundary.  Darla brings up the rear, giving Lucky a lick on the corner of the mouth as she walks past, towards Robert Redford to give him a corner mouth lick, and then she gets along Lucky’s right side to take her position. The crew tiptoes to the edge of the plateau to look over the side at our neighbor trimming his tree with a machete.
Blondie, the only dog not upset over this turn of events, stands nearby. The man trims his tree paying no notice to the dogs sizing him up only twenty feet away. Robert Redford decides it’s not worthy of his attention, returning to the porch. Lucky watches longer, but comes to the same conclusion. After they leave, Darla peeks over the edge to see what the fuss was about. The man returns her gaze, so pell-mell she catches the boys. Chi vanished a second after she saw it was the neighbor.
In the late afternoon the dogs hunt mostly lizards in the tall grass. With keen forward ears they zero in on prey. This time of day most rats are in their dens. I hope they’re not after the neighbor’s chickens. They got another one yesterday. Darla bounds straight up the side of the hill to come sliding down. Soon she’ll run the ridges like the boys.
A disturbance on the road commands attention, so one by one they leap the single step, running across the carport to investigate. Darla didn’t make it first try so she backed up a foot for a running start and on to join the guard dogs.
Learning canine behavior, the rules of the road for her world is important. A dog not knowing how to get along with other dogs is as dysfunctional a person not knowing how to get along with other people. Gees, maybe, that’s not a good choice, but you understand that having a good foundation in your own culture helps you understand the rules of somebody else’s road.  
Lucky teases Darla with a toy, shaking it in her face and then running around the house with her in hot pursuit, if a tad late. Everything is going well in her puppy life now; I hate to think of finding the forever home she needs. I can’t keep her, Robert Redford and Lucky need homes. This isn't good for them long term.

I pray for wonderful people to adopt these amazing animals. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Puppy Behavior Eight Week Maturation Point

Darla entered her first fear period today, her normally up, wagging tail in a position seldom, if ever seen on her before, neutral. My little girl must be about right weeks old for this stage of development. About three weeks ago I found her in a bucket along the side of the road.
Today she no longer bounds straight up to me, but approaches obliquely, making an arc in her travel to approach me from the side. Her wide eyed puppy innocence is gone. As she nibbled out the bowl, I walked by and she circled with a piece of kibble in her mouth, which is reminiscent of Chi-Ping’s behavior with me, when she first came. She also exhibits watchfulness of the surroundings that I’ve just seen her do in the last couple of days. Our group has remained stable, nothing outward has happened to influence her behavior.
Witnessing puppies enter this maturation phase before was probably more chaotic with people and dogs, me being busy, and most of all other puppies. What surprises me the most is the suddenness of the shift; yesterday she was the quintessential idiot puppy, today she’s caution girl.
Protect her from big scares during this time was my first thought. Today is Three Kings Day in Puerto Rico, which means parandas or parades and here it came right down our road, loud, pulsating, horns blaring, whistles blowing loud, loud. I went to the door in time to see Darla running to the back side of the house to get away. I called her to the door which meant she had to come back towards her fear. To my surprise she scurried into her safe house, where she calmed and stood at the door. Gone are her puppy forward ears, unless focused, she’s pretty much carried them to the side. This is a change for her.

Like you, I love watching dog behavior. I’d love to hear your stories and comments on this maturation point.