All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

Listen To The Pet Place Radio Show with Marie Hulett

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Give a shelter pet a Fur-ever home this holiday season...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Giving a Pet as a Gift to a Child


Dear Marie,
My husband and I are planning to give a puppy to our daughter (9 years old) for Christmas. She has wanted a puppy for a long time, but we’ve never been in a position to have one until now. We just moved into a home with a yard last month and this is where we are putting down our roots. Up to now, we were renters and lived in various condos that were completely unsuitable for a dog. I grew up with dogs, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had one, and honestly, my parents really handled everything pet-related. My husband has never had a dog. Can you give us some pointers that will help us start out on the right track? – Thanks, Susan of Sunset Beach
Dear Susan,
Congratulations on your new home. I’m sure your daughter is going to have a lovely Christmas, especially when she finds out what you have planned.
I do have a number of tips for you and I will start with a suggestion.
You should consider adopting an adult dog. Puppies are a lot of fun and they are awfully cute, but they require constant supervision and a lot of training.
An adult dog has already outgrown the obnoxious (but cute) behavior that puppies will almost always exhibit. Furthermore, if you adopt from a rescue or a pro-humane shelter, the staff and volunteers are familiar with their dogs’ personalities and current state of training and can recommend a pet that would be perfect for your situation. With a puppy, you never really know what you’re in for.
If I can’t talk you out of a puppy, you should take a look at the little guys that are available at www.cuddlycanines.com. This rescue organization will put entire litters that they’ve bailed out of high-kill shelters into foster homes. The foster families work with the pups and get them social and help them learn the rules of living in a home. So these puppies tend to be pretty easy to work with upon adoption.
As you recall from your own experience, parents, not kids, are pets’ primary caregivers. I’m sure your daughter will do her best to be a good pet guardian, but ultimately, it’s up to you and your husband to ensure that your new dog will be walked, fed, watered, groomed, cleaned up after, and kept healthy. Too many people write to me wanting to give up their pets because their kids aren’t taking care of their responsibilities. Please remember that this will be your dog, too, and if you don’t have the time for it, then perhaps a stuffed animal would be a more appropriate gift until you are ready. Pets are sentient beings and it is extremely distressful for them to lose a family. They deserve permanent, loving homes.
If you adopt your pet from a shelter (and most rescues) it will be spayed or neutered already. It will also have been given its vaccinations and possibly even a microchip. If for any reason you adopt a pet that has not received these veterinary services, you will need to have all of this done as soon as possible. And don’t forget to purchase a dog license once he hits four months of age.
A kennel is always a good thing to have for training purposes. If you are housetraining, a kennel is indispensable. You should also get some safe, high-quality, interactive toys. A well-engaged dog is a happy dog who is not likely to get into mischief.
The holidays are a very busy time in most households. I usually recommend that people who give pets as gifts create a certificate to be given instead of an actual pet. That way the recipient – in your case, your daughter – can pick out her own pet and bring it home after the holidays when things are calmer and holiday dangers (tinsel, electric light chains, chocolate, guests/visitors leaving doors open, etc.) are no longer an issue.
Finally, please don’t purchase a pet from a pet store. These animals usually come from puppy mills, have various physical ailments, and add to our chronic problem of pet overpopulation. There are plenty of beautiful animals that are already here and waiting for homes in shelters and rescues. In granting your daughter’s holiday wish, I hope you will also grant a homeless pet’s wish to have a forever family.
Good luck and happy holidays!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Assemblyman Silva's Office responds...


A few days ago, I sent an angry message to Assemblyman Silva's office regarding his disappointing "No" vote on SB 250. I mentioned how my husband and adult daughters also had previously written to him and encouraged him to vote "Yes" on the issue. His assistant claimed he had never received these communications, though he failed to ask what their names were, which makes his statement a little far-fetched. We all have different last names! So he wouldn't be able to find four Huletts who had corresponded with his office. But that, apparently, went beyond his scope of research parameters.

So my husband wrote to him...again...and expressed his disappointment in Silva's vote. He received a response which I will excerpt and respond to...but it demonstrates once and for all that the Assemblyman did little to accurately research this bill, find out the real facts (not from out-of-state lobbyists/breeders) and make a solid voting decision based on the real facts. What's sad about this, is that this is just one issue...our representatives have hundreds of issues to vote on each year. No wonder California is in such bad shape.
Anyway, here are the excerpts and my replies to them...
SILVA'S OFFICE: Contrary to the statistics bandied about by the author and the supporters of this bill, according to the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) Shelter Project, statewide in California the number of dogs received by shelters has declined from roughly 680,000 in 1988 to approximately 400,000 in 2005 (a decrease of roughly 41%). The number of dogs euthanized has declined in that period from 440,000 in 1988 to roughly 150,000 (a decrease of roughly 66%) with a low of roughly 120,000 in 2007.
MARIE: "Bandied about?" Really? Is that what you meant to say? That's a little inflammatory considering that this idiom means: "to spread something around in an unfavorable context; to toss words around in a gossipy fashion." Nothing like insulting the author of the bill to make an argument. (If you don't have a leg to stand on, hurl insults!) BTW - let's look at who the NAIA is. The national director/cofounder/spokesperson is Patti Strand. She has been breeding Dalmatians since 1969 and been an American Kennel Club (AKC) board member since 1995.
The NAIA is a front group and industry-funded lobbying organization for animal commerce and agriculture based in Portland, Oregon (NOT CALIFORNIA). Agendas include financial interests, legislation and public relations for farm animal agribusiness, commercial breeding, hunting, fishing, trapping, fur ranching, animal testing, horse slaughter, rodeos, circuses and entertainment. Since 1991, Ms. Strand has lobbied against humane legislation for animals under the NAIA's 501(c)(3) charity status and the NAIA Trust, an affiliated 501(c) legislative branch. Although pandering to "animal welfare", she is reliably antagonistic to animal welfare and progressive legislation. Ms. Strand has no background or current involvement in animal welfare or advocacy. Any group, jurisdiction or individual attempting to introduce humane legislation may expect to be undermined by the NAIA, the AKC or both. Barbara Reichman, the other main NAIA person, is from the New Jersey Federation of Dog Clubs...another breeder...imagine that!
Now let's look at the years that NAIA is focusing on...1988-2005? Really? We're not looking at CURRENT trends? Let's surf on over to California's State Veterinary Website...the place where our legislators SHOULD be getting their statistics (not from BREEDERS)...because it is OUR UNBIASED state government’s master record for this topic...

http://www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/Pages/LocalRabiesControlActivities.aspx

There has been a 14% increase in both intake AND euthanasia over the past 5 years. In 2009, 475,642 dogs entered California Shelters. 165,666 were housed and later killed at taxpayer expense.
SILVA'S OFFICE: The numbers for cats is a bit different - since 1995, when these statistic were first kept the number of cats received has ranged from a high of roughly 385,000 (2008) to a low of roughly 220,000. The number received during 2008 is only slightly higher than the number received in 1995. The number of cats euthanized has ranged from a height of roughly 285,000 (1995) to a low of 115,000 (1999). Most of the cats euthanized are feral cats.

MARIE: In 2009, 363,443 cats entered shelters. Of this amount 247,195 were housed and later killed at tax payer expense. Saying that these are "mostly feral" is a convenient excuse to make it appear as though the number isn't "as bad" as it sounds. Having previously worked at a large county shelter for almost 15 years...this number is INDEED bad and these animals aren't "mostly feral" as stated. They are just scared cats who will cower, growl, and scratch. That's what cats do when they are scared. It doesn't make them feral. They had owners who never bothered to look for them.
SILVA'S OFFICE: All this without a statewide mandatory program.
MARIE: Is this something we're proud of?
SILVA'S OFFICE: And all trends are downward.
MARIE: Not true...see our unbiased, State Veterinarian's records! Up 14% and rising due to economic problems faced by many Californians.
SILVA'S OFFICE: (Regarding all trends are downward) especially for animals that are pets, thanks in large part to the efforts of many animal rescue organizations. The numbers of dogs and cats placed in adoptive homes has risen from a low of 100,000 (1999) to a high of roughly 205,000 (2008), an increase of 105%.
MARIE: Current trend: Adoptions in 2009 - dogs and cats 200558; Adoptions in 2008 - dogs and cats 212679. Adoptions are DOWN and getting worse due to economic downturn. Talk to shelter directors for 5 minutes to get a sense of what's happening. Not only that, owner relinquishments are increasing for the same reasons!
SILVA'S OFFICE: The author's background information only reports trends beginning in 2004. It ignores much of the significant reductions that have occurred since 1995.
MARIE: That's because it is relevant to what's happening now. And the fact is, this year, we still housed and later killed 412,861 dogs and cats at tax payers’ expense!!! These are not just numbers...these are wasted lives and wasted taxpayer dollars. And all of this could have been prevented with SB250.
SILVA'S OFFICE: This measure contains a tax or fee increase as follows: It authorizes local governments to force the owners of intact animals to pay the costs of spaying or neutering their dogs under specified circumstances.
MARIE: The law would have ONLY targeted intact animals that were roaming the streets at large...you know, the ones that can reproduce because no one is controlling them!
SILVA'S OFFICE: And, it requires that owners or custodians of unaltered dogs be responsible for the established costs of impoundment, which include daily board costs, vaccination, medication, and any other diagnostic or therapeutic applications and "any additional impoundment procedures."
MARIE: Yes - and the problem with this is? If you have a dog that is roaming loose on public property, or the private property of a complainant who has reported the dog (or cat) loose...then you bet that the owner/custodian is responsible for the costs of impoundment, etc. It's certainly not the taxpayers. The owner/custodian has violated existing law, allowing his/her pet to run at large.
SILVA'S OFFICE: The oppose recommendation results from the heavy-handedness of this measure and undeniable interference with the rights of individuals to enjoy their own property without unnecessary interference by government.
MARIE: Heavy handedness? SB250 would have gone after people who are irresponsible and let their pets roam at large...which is against the law! The owners do NOT have the right to do this...and if their pets manage to engage in "procreation" activities while out and about...they are subjecting taxpayers to covering the cost of caring for and killing surplus animals. This is a case where government is SUPPOSED to intervene. Irresponsible pet owners do NOT have the right to create a situation where taxpayers have to clean up their mess.
SILVA'S OFFICE: The Fiscal Analysis, this measure would likely result in major state costs. While this bill will not result in a state reimbursement in 2009-10 to the locals because the Animal Adoption mandate was suspended for one year in AB 12xxxx (General Govt. Trailer Bill-July 2009), the state could incur major reimbursement costs in 2010-11 and in subsequent fiscal years if the suspension is not continued. The total amount of the costs is unknown but could be over $3 million annually.

MARIE: The "fiscal analysis" referred to relies on information from NAIA...isn't that like the fox guarding the hen house? Almost 500,000 animals entered California Shelters in 2009...assuming we spent $50 on each of these pets (and we most likely spent much more than that) taxpayers spent $25 MILLION dollars on caring for animals that mostly belong to irresponsible owners. Realistically, under our current system, it costs closer to $150+/pet that enters a facility (much more if the pet is sick or injured, or impounded by animal control while it is running at large, etc.)...so in reality taxpayers spent about $75 MILLION dollars. So if there would have been costs under the proposed system that could be over $3 million dollars annually, and that's debatable considering the source of the information used by the fiscal analysis, it's still a significant savings to what our costs are currently.
SILVA'S OFFICE - this was a non-partisan issue.
MARIE - Well then why did all Republicans receive a memo from the "Republican-How-To-Vote-On-Issues-People" giving this a "3-STAR-VOTE-NO" categorization (One of the strongest partisan recommendations). Sounds pretty partisan to me!
A final note - breeders from across the country were counseled on how to call California representatives and supply appropriate addresses/zipcodes to appear as though they were constituents. They did not want this law to pass in California as it would set a precedent for the Country. Sadly, our representatives were too blind to recognize this type of "organized cheating" that was occurring. But worse, humane organizations remained lethargic on this issue and never mobilized as a force to make sure this law passed. Last year alone, our state killed 412,861 animals. Silva’s office considers this "good" and "an improvement"...at this rate, we can look forward to killing over 4 million animals here in the great state of California over the next 10 years. FOUR MILLION! I hope Mr. Silva stares into the face of his beloved dogs and imagines them, along with 4 million of their closest friends getting killed for no other reason than there are no homes available – they are “surplus.” It's easy to write the words "four million"...not so easy to visualize...and I don't think Mr. Silva has ever even tried.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Van Tran & Jim Silva help to defeat SB 250 - BOOOOO!






Please look at the vote below on SB 250 - the bill that would have mandated spaying and neutering of intact pets that routinely roam at large (it would not affect anyone who responsibly maintained an intact animal), thus decreasing rampant pet overpopulation and euthanasia of pets in shelters at tax-payers expense. If your representative voted "no," please let him/her know how disappointed you are and how it will affect YOUR voting decisions in the future. If your representative voted "yes," please call or write to him/her and express your thanks. If your representative did not vote...it is definitely time to question his/her commitment to representing you.
If you don't know who represents you at our state capital, go to this link and type in your zip-code:
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html
The spay/neuter bill was voted down today. It is very sad. This was not a partisan issue...it would have saved the state hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even millions over time, and would have prevented the destruction of millions of pets that are irresponsibly brought into this world. How anyone in good conscience could have voted against this bill is beyond me.
I am especially disappointed with my representatives, Van Tran (who is now running for a congressional seat) and Jim Silva. My entire family called both their offices on numerous occasions, as well as wrote letters about this issue. They did not reply to any of us and they both voted "no." They either, (A) - never read the bill and fully understood it, (B) - just listened to special interest groups (out-of-state breeders, etc.) who lied about their residency and what the bill would do, or (C)- just vote on issues in general based on whether they think they are a Republican or Democrat type measure (and had they taken the time to fully understand the bill, they would have recognized it was non-partisan and it would have helped with our serious budget shortfall). Regardless of which category they fall into, they clearly do not represent their constituency and should therefore not be trusted to represent anyone on any issue.
-Marie


UNOFFICIAL BALLOT
MEASURE: SB 250
AUTHOR: Florez
TOPIC: Dogs and cats: spaying and neutering.
DATE: 08/31/2010
LOCATION: ASM. FLOOR
MOTION: SB 250 Florez Senate Third Reading By BLUMENFIELD
(AYES 28. NOES 40.) (FAIL)

AYES
****
Ammiano Arambula Bass Beall
Blumenfield Brownley Davis De Leon
Eng Feuer Fong Fuentes
Furutani Gatto Hall Hayashi
Hernandez Hill Huffman Jones
Lieu Bonnie Lowenthal Nava Portantino
Ruskin Solorio Torlakson John A. Perez

NOES
****
Adams Anderson Bill Berryhill Tom Berryhill
Block Buchanan Caballero Charles Calderon
Chesbro Conway Coto DeVore
Evans Fletcher Fuller Gaines
Galgiani Garrick Gilmore Hagman
Harkey Huber Jeffries Knight
Logue Miller Nestande Niello
Nielsen Norby V. Manuel Perez Salas
Silva Smyth Swanson Torres
Torrico Tran Villines Yamada

ABSENT, ABSTAINING, OR NOT VOTING
*********************************
Bradford Carter Cook De La Torre
Ma Mendoza Monning Saldana
Skinner Audra Strickland Vacancy Vacancy

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cat Eats Paper


Dear Marie,
My friend, who is working and too busy to write, has a trusty old cat, Ben, who eats any paper he can find. Newspaper, bags, envelopes, magazines, you name it. He chomps on cardboard boxes. Not just once in awhile but pathologically, ALL THE TIME. She has to scour the house and put any scrap safely away. It's exhausting and she's both worried about him and exasperated. Our vet hasn't a clue. It's gone on for a few years. Any idea why he does it and/or how to stop this behavior?
Kathryne
Dear Kathryne,
Though cats are domesticated, they still have plenty of wild instincts. Spend five minutes with a playful kitten and you can observe keen hunting behaviors like stalking, pouncing, kicking and biting. It’s really very impressive. What you are describing may be connected to these basic instincts.
I am assuming that your vet has ruled out health issues. Sometimes this behavior is indicative of serious physiological problems. If your friend hasn't already had blood tests run, you might want her to schedule a general physical examination, just to be on the safe side.
But if this has been going on for years, then it seems that this is a behavioral rather than a physical issue.
Because we give cats their daily meals instead of making them hunt for food, our little feline friends often crave something they don’t quite understand: quite simply, being able to find prey/food on their own, and then tear it up.
In the wild, cats have to bite through feathers, fur, scales and skin. Since house cats get served dishes with mushy food or little bite sized chunks of vitamin fortified kibble, they sometimes search out alternate items to satisfy their predatory needs. In the case of your friend’s kitty, paper products seem to do the trick. The texture of these objects and the feeling the cat gets when he tears and shreds them must come very close to the sensation he’d have if he was working on prey he caught himself.
There are a number of things your friend can do to redirect her cat’s attention to more appropriate items. I would recommend getting toys that are filled with crunchy, dried catnip. You can even make these playthings yourself with scraps of burlap, home-grown catnip, a needle, and thread.
Another fun alternative is to fill various cat-treat balls with dry food and hide them around the house. The kitty will then need to “hunt” for his food and bite and kick and gnaw to allow the food prizes to be released. Be sure to purchase a cat-treat ball that doesn’t release its prize too easily. The kitty needs to work for his reward so he can feel like a successful predator.
I also like to grow cat grass that kitties can graze on. You can get starter cat-grass kits from most pet supply stores. This will give your cat something to chew when he just feels like he needs something other than food. This will be a good replacement for paper.
Feather toys on flexible poles are a must for every cat owner. But just having the toys around isn’t enough. Cat owners need to schedule playtime with their little buddies—at least 15-20 minutes a day. It’s a great way to bond and it burns off a lot of extra feline energy.
Sometimes cats chew on unusual things because they are bored or are feeling neglected. If the cat gets attention from your friend when he chews on paper and cardboard, his negative behavior is being reinforced by getting what he wants—his person’s company and interaction. You said your friend is too busy to write. So she may be too busy to spend enough quality time with her cat. Maybe you can help her out in that area. Offer to spend time with the little guy and get him started on all of these play activities. I bet your friend will decide that you guys are having too much fun without her and join in as well—and that will be great for everyone!
I hope these suggestions help. Please write in again and update us on how everything is going.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Don't Encourage Labradoodle Breeders


Several years ago I wrote a column about the latest designer dog— the Labradoodle—criticizing people who were intentionally producing mixed breed puppies under the pretense that these dogs were needed for folks with allergies (in spite of the fact that there were over thirty hypoallergenic breeds that already existed). I could not fathom how in a time where millions of dogs were being killed each year (and still are) that anyone could possibly think this was a good idea.
Needless to say, I received my share of hate-male from Labradoodle breeders and individuals who had purchased Labradoodles. Labradoodle breeders insisted that they were breeding responsibly and only producing enough puppies to satisfy the demand. They further maintained that they had very stringent “adoption” contracts that ensured their puppies went to “good” homes and that in fact, very few Labradoodles were being bred. Those who purchased the Labradoodles insisted that as allergy sufferers, they had the right to be able to enjoy having a dog. (They apparently had no idea there were so many other hypoallergenic dog breeds, and Labradoodle breeders certainly weren’t going to tell them.)
But—even at that time—any newspaper’s classified section contained multiple listings for Labradoodle puppies. I suspected that these were mostly people who were back-yard breeders trying to make a quick buck, raising popular, designer puppies in filthy, inhumane conditions, and treating their parents like machines whose sole purpose was to crank out babies. The easiest way to confirm a suspicion like this is to call and offer to buy a puppy. Back yard breeders will always want to meet a potential buyer in a parking lot, or some other place that ISN’T their own home. They do not want anyone coming to their property to see the puppies’ parents. Sure enough, every person I called cheerfully tried to arrange a meeting at a convenient location somewhere between my house and theirs, and gladly offered to bring an assortment of puppies from which I could choose.
Armed with this verification, I politely responded to all my “fans,” explaining my position which was further informed by 25 years of experience in animal care and humane work, 15 of which were at the County animal shelter where I witnessed the daily destruction of more beautiful, healthy, loveable dogs than I care to remember…but I do remember. I remember each and every one—their trusting faces, their wagging tails, their final breaths. And it is because of those innocent beings who lost their lives due to rampant human irresponsibility, that I continue to fight for them and speak out against unregulated breeding.
At the time of my infamous Labradoodle column, there were very few Labradoodles in shelters. It seemed to my critics that this was solid evidence to the fact that breeding Labradoodles was not contributing to the problem of pet overpopulation. I tried to tell these folks that it is just a matter of time before this changed, but they did not believe me. Now, a little less than five years later, animal shelters take in both stray and owner relinquished Labradoodles. If you do a Google search for Labradoodle rescue organizations (groups or individuals who are trying to save homeless Labradoodles), you’ll get almost 200,000 results. Ironically, the paid advertisements that come up to the right of the search results all offer Labradoodle puppies for sale. It makes my blood boil.
Last week, as I was getting footage of adoptable shelter pets for a local TV program I produce, I saw two Labradoodles being walked by a volunteer. Their filthy fur was matted from their heads to the tips of their tails. Both were females; one was three years old and the other two. And both had been used by a couple of backyard breeders as puppy making machines…along with 50 other Labradoodles and Pomeranians. Through a series of events, these two, sad dogs were rescued and taken to the shelter in Irvine. It wasn’t soon enough for the younger of the two. She was terrified to a degree that I have never seen; she couldn’t stop trembling and her heart was racing. She held her tail so tightly under her legs that she looked like she had no tail! She would not respond to affection and soothing voices. She clearly had never established any kind of bond with a human being. So, I knew she had to be my dog.
She’s been spayed now and after six days of being showered with love, kindness, patience, good food, a comfy bed (mine!), and a family that will treat her like a princess for the rest of her life, she’s beginning to wag her tail. She has no clue what toys are and doesn’t know how to play. She still lacks the joyful, happy-go-lucky attitude of a well-adjusted dog, but that will come with time...as much time as she needs.
Willa, as I call her, is a lucky Labradoodle. Meanwhile, countless others continue to live in unseen, foul, inhumane conditions, until they are no longer able to breed, at which time they are abandoned, relinquished to shelters, or killed.
If you haven’t already figured out the point of this column, it is simple. Backyard breeders will continue these cruel activities until there is no demand for their puppies. Please don’t support them in any way. Adopt from shelters and rescues. Most shelter dogs are still happy-go-lucky and know how to play, in spite of their histories. And if you have the time and heart to save the ones who have been as abused as Willa, they are waiting for you too. Remember, each time someone adopts a dog from a breeder, there is one less home available for those in shelters, and that means more euthanasia of beautiful, loving, wonderful pets. Let’s all work together to put an end to this cycle.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dogs tied up in back yard!



Q. Our neighbors have two German shepherds that are tied up in the back yard most of the day and night. They have long leashes, plenty of shade, a large doghouse, food and water, but they get little to no attention. This breaks my heart because I am a dog lover and my dogs stay inside with me unless they need to go out to go potty. I tried to talk to these people but they assume I'm coming over to complain about their dogs' barking - and they do bark pretty much nonstop - but that's not the issue. Long story short, the people have no interest in hearing anything I have to say. Can anything be done about this?
A. Sadly, many people get dogs for the wrong reasons. I suspect the people who live in the home behind you wanted guard dogs. They probably had no interest in making these lovely creatures companion animals, which is especially unfortunate given that German shepherds are extremely social and needy creatures who are emotionally crippled by being isolated in this manner.
It is frustrating, I know, when you try to explain your point of view in a reasonable manner and are met with a "mind your own business" attitude. Some people are too set in their ways to accept any kind of advice or feel that a conversation, like the one you probably had, is a personal attack. Once someone is on the defensive, it is very difficult to find the reset button to start fresh.But there are no humane laws on the books that take into consideration the emotional well-being of animals. There is, however, an anti-staking law in California that bans the practice of keeping a dog tied up all day. If there is other physical abuse or neglect, this can be reported as well. Sadly though, people can and do treat animals as your neighbors do, and are generally not subject to any type of consequence. In this regard, our humane laws show obvious insufficiencies.
Though you made it clear that the barking is not an issue for you, this may be one more way to address the situation. If you file a complaint with your local animal control, the owners will receive information that will help them control the barking. No doubt, part of that information will include bringing the dogs indoors.
In the best-case scenario, these dog owners will take the complaint to heart and follow the official advice to avoid legal consequences relating to their dogs' barking. But, quite honestly, I doubt they would bring the dogs in the house. Instead, they will probably want to get rid of the dogs.
This is where you can come in. You can offer to find a home for the dogs. Believe it or not, a lot of dog owners who receive noise complaints will jump at the chance of having someone take the dogs off their hands rather than deal with doing anything themselves. It will require that you do a lot of phone calling and leg-work to place the dogs in a suitable environment elsewhere. But chances are, as a dog lover, you know lots of like-minded individuals who can help you out with this.
I would strongly advise that you find an adopter who is familiar with the breed and understands the needs of German Shepherds. These dogs have not been properly socialized and must go to someone who knows what he or she is doing.
I would suggest contacting some of the local German Shepherd Rescue volunteers for advice and assistance. They can probably give you some great information if you do end up in the position of having to find a new home for this pair of dogs. German Shepherd Rescue Orange County has a wonderful Web site with lots of information at www.gsroc.org.
Thanks for caring about these dogs. I am sure you will be able to make a difference in their lives.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dog's vs. Cats


Dear Marie,
 I have a male friend at work who insists that dogs make better companions than cats because dogs are more social and love their owners and other people. He backs this up by saying his dog will happily approach anyone, even total strangers, and wag his tail and give kisses. He says the only reason cats ever act affectionate is because they want something - like food. He thinks I’m living in denial about believing my cats love me. This gets me so mad. I know that you have both cats and dogs in your home and seem to love both equally, so I think you can put an end to this argument with an unbiased answer. 
Angie, Huntington Beach

Dear Angie,
This debate between dog and cat owners has been raging for a long time. What most people don’t understand is that dogs and cats, just like people, are individuals and respond to us in their own unique manner. Some dogs are extremely shy and are so adverse to meeting new people, that they will bite strangers. Some cats are so outgoing that they will follow anyone who stops a moment to give them a pat on the head. (This is obviously a problem for overly friendly outdoor cats.) It is between these two extremes where most pets can be categorized. 

The average dog has no problem meeting new people and generally loves getting attention and affection. The average cat is more discerning in who she decides to bond with. However, most cats have very strong bonds with the people in their homes and desire interaction completely unrelated to food. Let me give an example of the type of bond cats form with humans. 

My daughter is a design major in college. From time to time, she works on assignments in her room and has to keep her cat from coming in. He weighs 22 pounds and has a habit of sitting on her very delicate projects, which is never a good thing. When her door is closed, he sits outside and whines. This is not because he is hungry or thirsty - his dishes are in the kitchen. It’s also not because he especially likes to be in my daughter’s room - most daytime hours or when my daughter is at work or school, he sleeps on my bed or the living room couch. It’s simply because she is home and he wants to be with her. The moment she opens her door, he is all over her. And if she comes out and into another room, he follows her. The moment she sits down, he’s in her lap, rubbing his face against hers, licking her and purring. At night, he sleeps with his front legs (arms) around her and his head buried in her neck. Call me an anthropomorphizer - but if that’s not love, I don’t know what is! 

This same cat is somewhat affectionate with everyone else in the household; but truthfully, he can take us or leave us. He wants absolutely nothing to do with strangers, however, and will run and hide if anyone he doesn't know comes in. Interesting enough though, he is “best friends” with my other daughter’s dog. These two play together, groom each other and sleep together. It’s quite remarkable. I think most people who have shared their homes with felines would testify to the fact that their cats do indeed love them and I can assure your friend that these people are not living in denial.

My oldest cat, now 18, is by far my friendliest. This is funny because she began her life with me as a feral kitten who wouldn't think twice about shredding anyone to pieces if he or she dared to be affectionate with her. But now, she’ll gladly cozy up with just about anybody who drops by for a visit. She loves attention and she loves being “motherly.” If you let her, she’ll wash your hands until you have no skin left! 

The reason that the dog versus cat question comes up so frequently is simply that some of us are “dog people” and some of us are “cat people” - and then, of course there are people like me who are just “animal people.” Unless you have really opened up your heart to the various different species, you can’t really understand what they are capable of and I suspect that is where your friend is coming from. All higher animals bond with their human families to some degree. For both dogs and cats, I would definitely call this bond “love.”