Friday, August 14, 2009

Photo Phriday: The Only Thing Worse Than a Toad Living in Your Boot

Is, I am guessing, tucking in after a long night shift on bug duty, and waking up a few hours later because someone has picked up your house and is whacking it vigorously against another house in mid-air.

And then they stick a giant foot into your bedroom.

And then the yelling.

And then you get evicted.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How to Use a Martingale Collar

A martingale is the collar to use for any dog that is a flight risk. If slipping his collar is even potentially on the table, use a properly-fitted martingale.

No, a harness is not a secure option. Dogs can wiggle out of them with frightful ease. A head-halter is not a secure collar. A slip collar can be secure in the hands of a very good leash handler, but not when the human is complacent, inattentive, or lacks a high level of skill -- and it cannot be safely left on an unattended dog. Many dogs can slip even an overly tight flat collar.

Most better shelters and rescues use martingales now.

I'm insisting that every dog transported as part of Project Next Steps be wearing a properly-fitted martingale as the foundation of the Dog Transport Security System. We're scrambling to get enough of these as dogs move out.

Unfortunately, virtually every description and illustration I can find on the web has these collars fitted incorrectly. So I had to write up detailed instructions for the people fitting the dogs or assessing the fit on dogs who already have these collars, and take my own photographs.

Above is a standard martingale of the design one is most likely to find at a pet supply store. Ignore the brass name tag for the moment.

This is a fine collar if you are going to put it on a fairly cooperative dog, adjust it to fit, and leave it there forever. The dog's head slips through the large loop, and then you futz with the metal slider until the collar is fitted (see below).

The small loop, the one that provides the "action" when the dog or human pulls the leash taut, can be made of fabric, as seen here, or chain. They work identically. The chain is not quite as good for dogs with lots of fine fluffy hair,

There are two great drawbacks to this common design. First, most untrained dogs who actually need a martingale are not all that cooperative. At best they wiggle and fuss and make adjusting the thing an ordeal. The slider is generally sticky and uncooperative itself. If the dog is actively trying to get away, or is thinking about a defense bite, you have even bigger problems.

Second, there's no way to get the collar off the dog quickly. I don't like these for dogs who are going to be playing with other dogs. I've had dogs get their jaws under another dog's collar in play, twist, and be stuck with both dogs panicked. I've been able to release them quickly by unsnapping or unbuckling the collar. With this collar, you'd best have a pair of shears and a spare collar if this happens.

The collar above is one I whipped up at home in a few minutes. I started with a cheap buckle collar and added two welded O-rings and the martingale loop with leash ring, made from a piece of matching nylon leash. When it is on the dog, it operates identically to the standard buckle-free design. But it goes on the dog in mere seconds, and is very easy to adjust to the correct snug fit.

Notice which ring the leash is attached to. If you attach the leash to any other ring, you are circumventing the function of the collar. The dog will be able to slip it.

The original D-ring, down by the buckle, is the place to hang the dog's tags. If you put the tags on the ring the leash clips to, they will be annoying and in the way. And you run the risk of accidentally clipping the leash to a split ring that holds the tags. Happens all the time. These rings pop open when loaded, generally when the dog lunges unexpectedly.

You will occasionally find commercial martingales with a metal slider to adjust size, and a plastic side-release buckle so they are easy to get on and off. They have less range of adjustment than the standard no-buckle or a metal buckle design.These work well when there's a human holding the leash. But you should never tether an untrained or flight-prone dog to a stationary object using any collar with a plastic side-release buckle. These buckles will break easily under shock-load, i.e. when the dog lunges.

Correct Fit

The photo below shows the incorrect fit that I usually see on the street and even illustrated on websites:


Notice how the two "live" rings almost touch one another when I pull up on the leash. If I pulled a little harder they would touch. Rosie could back out of this collar if she wanted to or if she was panicking. (Rosie never panics, but she agreed to be a model for a dog who might.) It is too loose.

Here's the same collar, adjusted as snugly as I could get it, with even more tension on the leash:


See how the rings have a couple inches of webbing between them when the leash is pulled taut? Rosie couldn't back out of this collar with all her considerable wiles.

By the way, martingales are not just for shelter dogs and freak-out candidates. I recommend them as everyday + training collars for a great many dogs. They are the only training collar that is safe to leave on the dog all the time. The circumferential pressure that the dog experiences when the collar tightens is much more communicative, and simultaneously less uncomfortable, than the point-pressure on his throat when the leash goes tight with a flat buckle collar.

A prong collar is nothing other than a martingale fashioned out of metal wire and chain. Or plastic and nylon cord. I'll discuss use and fitting of prongs here at some later date.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sentencing Day

Not too many details, because folks in Billings have a lot of phone calls to make.

Revised, 2200 EDT.

Convicted felony animal abuser Linda Kapsa has been allowed, under the terms of her probation and suspended sentence:

Three altered dogs
Three altered cats
Two cockatiels
20 chickens
Four horses
Ten Goats (didn't get the number)

No intact dogs.


Ever. For the entire twenty-year term of her supervised probation/suspended sentence. Which, what, this woman is in her sixties now, so, yeah, ever.

She also will have to pay partial restitution to the county for the care of the dogs -- $50 a month for the next 20 years. Which adds up to $120,000 Which the media is reporting adds up to $120,000, and wouldn't you know, I just wrote that figure down. It adds up to $12,000 over 20 years. WTF? I know the total award was meant to be $120,000.

No more breeding.

She had argued that she should be allowed twenty intact dogs, and to continue breeding.

A fourth dog on her property or owned by her will be a violation and send her to prison.

I understand that her probation officer is a stickler.

She has 24 hours to decide which three dogs she wants. From the "list" of nineteen (sixteen English shepherds and three pugs) that caused so much anguish among the volunteers last month, or from the ones now roaming her place. Same with the cats. I have my guesses about what she will choose to do, but we will know soon enough.

She has 60 days to remove the rest of the feral English shepherds from her property. We are not sure whether these dogs need to be turned over to the county, or she can "dispose of" them in some other way.

She has more than four horses, and must sell or otherwise dispose of the others. In a market where great horses are selling dirt cheap, I do not hold out much hope of good prospects for any that come off her place.

Once the four horses she is permitted die, that's it. She cannot replace them.

That is all I know at this time.

A thank-you from all of us to Judge Watters, and to prosecutor Ingrid Rosenquist, who Did Not Back Down.

Update: I'm sorry, I forgot to post this for the longest time. Kapsa whined that she "couldn't decide" on the three dogs she wanted to keep, and was given a 48 hour extension. When she missed that second deadline, Judge Watters released all the ONB dogs and told her to choose three from the animals still on her property. Not one of the dogs cared for by ONB for the past eight months went back to Kapsa, and they've all been neutered and have gone to or are ready for homes -- including the pugs. The staff and volunteers at Moore Lane ransomed the three cats from her -- paying $100 each. (But, you know, that list of 19 "favorite" dogs was in no way constructed with an eye to what the volunteers who love them would be willing to pay.)

When I have definitive word on the fate of the animals left on her property, I'll share it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Photo Phriday: Resilience

Why I love this breed: reason #793

Piper has never met a human child in her life. None allowed within the fence perimeter that has confined her since she was born.

I took Piper out of the fence for her personal interview. On the way back, we saw a cluster of people whom Piper knew and loved, and her adopter's young daughter.

For whom do you think Piper made a beeline, head low, smiling, tail and butt wagging?

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Thlot Pickens

Jake the biting Labrador is on the lam.

DES MOINES, Iowa - A Sioux City councilman's dog that has been deemed vicious and could be euthanized is missing from an animal shelter.

Police say someone broke into the shelter Sunday afternoon and stole Jake, a 3-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, from an outdoor kennel. No other animals were taken.

Lt. Mark Kirkpatrick says there are no suspects as of Monday and the dog hasn't been found.

Jake belongs to Councilman Aaron Rochester, who pushed last year for pit bull terriers to be banned from the city, saying they were too dangerous.

Jake was deemed vicious this summer after police say he bit a man June 27.

Rochester says he didn't take Jake.

He says his dog has been front-page news and he's not shocked that someone took him.


Another act here --

Almost No One Shows Up At City Council Meeting To Discuss Jake

Oh, for the love of doG, who is scripting this stinker?

It's not a conflict of interest if it isn't technically my dog

Sunday, August 2, 2009

While You Were Out

Today over half of the English shepherds at the MetraPark said goodbye to their little friends.

Warning: Graphic surgery images follow. If you run to the head heaving in the middle of Nip Tuck, do not continue.

Spay Montana*set up their mobile surgical operation in the grandstand a few hundred yards from the Operation New Beginnings compound. Volunteers and staff shuttled dogs back and forth on gators.

Douglas and I missed the start of the clinic while we were administering behavior evaluations to conducting personal interviews with some of the dogs at Moore Lane.

By the time we arrived, the calm, efficient atmosphere was a wonder to behold. Dogs were prepped by techs on one set of tables, nails clipped, teeth scaled, ears deep-cleaned, then sterilized at one of four surgical stations. They recovered on blankets while volunteers thoroughly groomed them, were moved to crates to wake up, and then gatored back to their stalls.

Having dehydrated myself in the Montana sun and dry air during the morning assessments, I was in no condition to be carrying dogs and crates or be otherwise physically useful.

It is very hard for me to watch dogs recover from anesthesia. I have a rough time with anesthesia myself, and this is my indulgence in projection. Also, their greenish faces make me a bit green myself.

So I checked out the surgeries.

The surgeons did not mind the nosey. Kewl.

I watched some castrations, to desensitize myself to what I will have to do when the goat girls freshen in the spring. (Of course not! They will each give birth to twin doelings. There will be no nasty little buck kids. There will be no nasty little buck kids ...)

Some of the guys kind of stayed back from those, but credit where it is due -- I saw manly men observing a fairly gruesome-looking procedure without hitting the deck.

But even more interesting was the fifteen-minute spay of a girl with a much-used, estrus uterus -- one of the most potentially troublesome spay procedures.

This is her prepped abdomen.

This is her swollen reproductive tract.

This is her closed incision. Yes, that is the after picture. I double-checked.

The technician working with this surgeon told me that if she has surgery on herself, she wants him to close. Yuh duh.

* Please show them some love!