Category Archives: Make a Difference

Pet Adoption Tips: Good photography places pets.

With exceptional resources like www.petfinder.com,  www.adoptapet.com, and www.rescuegroups.org, it is easier than ever for people to see and choose adoptable pets.  For potential adopters who get overwhelmed with emotion when walking through shelters, or who are sensitive to the sounds or smells of crowded facilities, these resources prevent the need to step foot in a shelter until a potential match is found.  Websites such as these have made it possible for people to “visit” many shelters at once, scanning hundreds of animals in just a few clicks, without having to drive from place to place.  With the help of the internet, foster-based rescue groups have emerged as an incredible force in  animal adoptions, all made possible because of their ability to present their animals on the web for people to see. This media outlet- what I like to call “virtual shelters”- comes with a couple limitations.  The sheer number of animals available to choose from when searching online can be such that it is easy for pets to get overlooked and so first impressions are a must, and in that vein, a picture really does say a thousand words.  When scanning pages on Petfinder, for example, you see a pretty simple list without a lot of personal detail, and you must click to read more detailed biographies.  What makes the difference?  Tiny thumbnails.

Here you have one dog straining on the leash, disengaged, one dog that has no photo at all, two photos that don't stand out really well in thumbnails and have typical shelter backgrounds (leash, half-bodied volunteers, Helen looks a little nervous...) but Tasha's photo stands out AND she looks happy.

Here are some tips that will help with your pet photography in general but especially when concerning adoptable pets.  You do not have to be a great photographer to take great pet adoption photos!  These tips are for anyone at any skill level or with any camera.

  1. Get up close and personal.  Especially when petfinder thumbnails are concerned, you need to fill up the space with a nice shot that will draw someone in.  Engaging the viewers with a soulful glance can make a huge difference.
  2. Get down on their level. Typical top-down photography is a staple among shelter volunteers, but this can really create a disconnect.  Top-down angles are generally unflattering, and without a zoom (or an edited crop) they create distance between the viewer and the animal.
  3. Watch your lighting. Natural lighting is always best.  Try outside on an overcast day for best results, or in a well-lit area.  Good light will eliminate blurry photos and give you a great opportunity for action shots. Sunshine is not always your friend, although sunny days can bring out the shine and features of black animals, especially.  Be sure, though, to use an indirect angle.  Do not put the sun behind the animal you’re photographing, as you may end up with a pet silhouette in front of a glaring bright spot.  Be careful when using a flash so that you do not end up with unflattering “laser eye” effects, which creates another disconnect.  A direct flash can also wash out features or create distracting shadows.  That’s not to say that there aren’t great opportunities for wonderful flash photography, especially when you are going for action shots or the dog is backlit.
  4. Catch the side of the pet that you want to promote.  Candid shots of animals having fun are sometimes the best, most engaging photos.  Don’t show dogs straining on a leash, barking, jumping up, or cats hunkered down in a litterbox or hiding in the corner.  Playing with toys, showing off tricks, running and having fun, all these things are great ways to show off what this pet has to offer.  It may take some time to get an animal to warm up and come out of its shell, but it’s good for them to have that interaction and it’s worth the time in order to help them present better in their photos.  Happy expressions will make people happy but sad, depressing photos of animals that look like they want to shrink into nonexistence will not win anyone but the saddest saps (yours truly!) over.
  5. Editing can be your friend, just don’t overdo it.  A photo doesn’t have to be perfect right off the camera in order to make a great web shot.  A few minutes spent adjusting color and exposure, cropping, editing out intrusive background distractions, etc, can make a huge difference.  If you have Photoshop or a similar program and some extra time, try removing leashes, clutter, even people if possible so that your photo looks more natural.   However, not every problem can be easily fixed and some things are just best left the way they are.  I have seen an increasing trend lately where enterprising photographers use something like Microsoft Paint or other basic editors to basically paint black irises over the “laser eyes.”  This doesn’t look so bad at thumbnail level, but it becomes pretty obvious when the photos are enlarged and can give a creepy look to the photo.

    Borrowed this pic from a shelter on Facebook

  6. Look behind/around the pet.  Staging photos doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it does pay to practice and learn and to really examine what’s going on in the viewfinder before you snap a picture.  Leashes and cages and concrete floors make for dull scenery- just adding a colorful backdrop can make a big difference.  Taking photos in kennels or cages with urine or feces present is a huge turn-off for people- if you get home and find out that there is some waste in your photos, use a photo editor or toss those pics and try again.
  7. If you have multiple photo slots, use them wisely!  Don’t take multiple similar photos and load them up.  On Petfinder, for example, you have the option to upload three photos.  I suggest you try to have a head shot (as we covered!), a good profile or other body shot that helps people see what the animal looks like, and then a just plain for-fun shot.

Good luck and happy shooting!

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Filed under Make a Difference, Pet Adoption Tips, Pets, Rescue

Defining success: I didn’t go to college

Some classrooms don't have a blackboard.

Recently I was asked if I would consider going to college, and told I should look into it.  This is something I’ve heard repeatedly over the years.  I knew when I was in high school that I didn’t want to go to college.  I don’t deal well with social situations anyway, typically, but I especially didn’t want to spend so much of my time with people I didn’t know, in a culture I didn’t care for, to get a degree in something I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue.  I had been accepted to an art school when I was sixteen, but due to family finances and my parents telling me that I would have trouble making money as an artist, I had to turn that down.

As a high school freshman, I began working in a retail store locally. I was pretty good at my job, but it was an easy job to be good at.  I was placed at the service desk  often where I really enjoyed helping people. I was lucky to have that job, even if it was only a tiny bit above minimum wage, but eventually I started feeling  disconnected from it.  I knew that this job was just filler, not a career. A year and a half or so after high school graduation, I saw a listing for a part time kennel worker at the Humane Society, and thought that I would really like to try it.  When I was told that I had been chosen for the job, my heart sang.  I really wanted to try this.  It seemed like a dream job.  I worked morning shifts and some weekends at the shelter and continued working at the retail store part time.

I discovered pretty quickly that working at a shelter really isn’t a dream job.  Some days it’s a nightmare.  What it is, though, is fulfilling.  Even on the sad days, you know you’ve made a positive impact on the lives of animals- and often people- that need you.  This isn’t enough for some folks, and shelters have a high turnover rate because of that.  I couldn’t imagine not working with the animals, though.  I loved my job, even though I was underpaid, stressed out and had to say goodbye to animals that I loved and cherished.   I realized something then: for better or worse, this is what I want to do with my life.  I’m good at it.  Maybe it’s my calling, if you believe in things like that.    From the moment I cleaned the first cat cage at that shelter in 2003 until present day, I have been completely immersed in my work, helping homeless animals.  I was only 22 when I founded my animal rescue.  In different paid shelter positions as well as my position in STAR, I have spent a lot of time educating pet owners and even other rescuers because of the knowledge and experience I’ve obtained over the years- much of which couldn’t have been learned from a professor.  If I had gone to college, would I have taken the path that I am on?  Would it be better if I wasn’t?  I sort of get the feeling sometimes that it’s what people think- that I could be something different, better, had I chosen another route.

I realize that business classes might make me more efficient at what I do, or that having any career would help me earn money to take care of myself and the pets here so my husband wouldn’t have to support us- but our financial situation is our business, no one else’s.  At the end of the day, does my level of education or the wages I earn (or rather, don’t earn) really make me less of a person?

So have I “thought about going to college?” Sure, and I’ve decided it’s not something I want to do.  I know that questions like this are meant to be thoughtful and caring, and that people that ask them are doing so because to them, there is significant value attached to going to college and that it could help me to “do more,” somehow.  My husband has a college degree in a field that he didn’t pursue.  Five years of schooling, thousands of dollars that we’re still paying off and probably will be for years, and he found a job he enjoys that his degree has no bearing on.  No, I didn’t go to college, and I don’t plan on it.  You don’t have to believe that I took the right path.  I will continue to grow and hope that if I become successful, it is in doing something that I love and that makes a difference.

And though I may not know the answers,
I can finally say I’m free.
And if the questions lead me here, then
I am who I was born to be.
Susan Boyle, Who I was Born to Be

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Life for a rescue foster

Recently, we have had to deny some applications.  These people are nice, caring folks who, for one reason or another, didn’t meet the criteria for the pet in particular they were interested in adopting.  Two of these applicants were sure to tell me that they were disappointed by my selfish behavior, denying my fosters a “chance at a loving home.”  One suggested that I didn’t actually want to find homes for the animals in my care, and another asked “isn’t any home better than staying where she is?”  One applicant wasn’t denied, but she withdrew her application because I asked questions that weren’t on the application.

The misconception that animals in rescue are in need of rescue is one that I hear all the time.  When you adopt a pet from my organization, you’re not rescuing it from me.  You’re contributing to the rescue process, an admirable and fantastic choice, but please stop to think about what you’re implying when you suggest that foster care is a bad thing.

Noble and Sully were cats that lived outside on a hoarder’s property, eating cat food that was dumped on a piece of vinyl siding every several days. They’d never seen a vet, had to find their own shelter under broken-down cars or in the neighboring woods, and went without food for sometimes days.

We arranged for transport and the cats were removed in the nick of time.  The hoarder that owned the animals was so distraught when the first group left that she refused to let rescuers back to remove the rest of them.  I drove almost two hours to meet Noble and Sully’s transport, picking them up at around midnight.  They had had accidents in the carrier they were brought up in, and so in the back of my car I moved them to clean bedding in new carriers, and settled in for the drive home.  Once I got back, I was tired but had to clean them up before I could go to bed.  I bathed both cats with Dawn to kill the fleas and ticks that were on them, then again in a soothing oatmeal shampoo.  I cut their nails and gave them exams.  The Siamese was underweight by a few pounds and missing some teeth.  He had an upper respiratory infection but all things considered, he was strong and “healthy.”  The orange cat was another story.  He is a tall, large cat but he stood in front of me as a skeleton.  Emaciated, he weighed less than five pounds.  He was so thin that I could close my thumb and middle finger around his waist.  I found that he was missing almost all of his teeth, his eye socket was infected, and a film covered his remaining eye.  He appeared to be blind, though over the weeks we realized that he does have vision in that eye.  I set the cats up with high quality canned food and kibble, started them on antibiotics, dewormer and ear mite medication, and I fell into bed sometime in the wee hours of the morning.  They remained quarantined in our large bathroom for the next month or so.

Noble before and after

Sully quickly recovered from his respiratory infection, gained back his weight, and kicked his parasites.  He was neutered and had a dental cleaning.  With two more feedings per day than the rest of the cats in the house, Noble has DOUBLED his weight and is still lean but a healthy and sleek body shape, and his infections and parasites are gone.  His right eye wasn’t missing but instead, underdeveloped, and so it was removed when he was neutered.  He continues to do well but seems to have irritable bowels.  We were hoping this was a result of his starvation and that good diet and some steroid therapy would help him on the right track, but we are still managing it and attempting to get it under control. Both cats tested negative for feline lekemia and feline immunodeficiency virus. They are now up to date on vaccines and have been microchipped.

Sully recently, looking the picture of health!

The boys now live with our cats, freely roaming our home, getting attention when they seek it, playing with toys, getting into trouble (I’m-looking-at-you-Sully,) and enjoying a life they might never have had otherwise.  Sully spends every night plastered to us like static cling, and Noble takes the morning shift.  They have pet beds scattered throughout the house, play and receive enrichment daily, and they are cared for as we care for our own pets.

Rescuers are, with few exceptions, just doing the best they can to find permanent homes for the pets in their care.  When we take in these animals, care for them as though they were our own,  spend money from our pockets and time from our days to be sure their needs are met, we aren’t fulfilling our own agenda.  We don’t know you personally, you are strangers to us.  If we don’t approve your application for Sully because we don’t believe cats should live outdoors and you prefer yours to live that way, I’m not making a judgment of your character, it simply means that we are not a good fit for each other.  If you are denied for one of our pets because you don’t believe in going to a vet, I’m not snubbing you.  I’ve seen the good that comes from routine exams and medical care and that is what I want for my rescue’s pets.  When I ask questions, please don’t take it personally, I just want to get to know you.  They’re not numbers whizzing through a facility, in danger of euthanasia any day.  Foster homes are not your standard dog, cat, guinea pig, rat, etc. lovers.  We have created a lifestyle around caring for animals that needed advocates, giving them our time, money, and our hearts.  I care about you, and what you are looking for, but that can’t be my first priority.  Maybe my decision has caused us to miss out on a fabulous home- yours- but please understand why I’d rather pass up a good thing than make a decision that could result in stress or tragedy for our fosters.

One more thing- now that you know this, please don’t think that these animals don’t need adopted and that you are better off going elsewhere.  Foster homes often help animals that aren’t ready for adoption, and so adopting from us means opening up space and giving another animal a chance that they wouldn’t have.  Those fearful dogs that have never stepped outside puppy mills, animals like Noble who have health issues that need sorted out, they need foster care.  Adopting from a foster home benefits you in that you have a first-hand account of your new pet’s behavior that you probably couldn’t get from a shelter, and it opens up space for animals that need the specialized care a foster home can provide.

Thank you to everyone that fosters, adopts, or applies to adopt.  You are part of the rescue community and you are making a difference.  I’m sorry if it didn’t work out between us, but I still wish you the best.

Noble supervises from the arm of my recliner while I write this blog post!

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Murphy

Wow, has it really been a month since my last blog post?  I’m sorry.  There has been so much going on, and I’ve let this go unintentionally.

Just recently, we’ve added a new permanent dog to our household.  It’s not the way I thought it would happen, and I am so glad that I hadn’t recently followed through with my desire to adopt and bring home a missing pet search candidate to train, because things might have ended differently for this dog.  Murphy was returned to our rescue after three and a half years in a loving home because of a bite that sent his human girl to the hospital.  It was provoked- he was grabbed and startled when he got loose while out on a walk, and he was reacting to that fear- but unfortunately, we can’t erase mistakes even when made in earnest.

When a dog bites so severely, there are few options.  It is irresponsible to attempt to rehome this dog, even if a rescue deems it “rehabilitated”- stay away from groups that claim that an animal’s aggression is rehabbed and gone, because they are showing serious inexperience with dog behavior.  Management and safety will always be a necessary part of that animal’s life from the moment of the bite until the day the dog dies.  This leaves the following options.  First, the adopter/owner keeps the dog forever, providing management and seeking professional help to work out the cause of the behavior, following any dangerous-dog laws that may encompass their situation.  Second, if returned to a rescue group, the rescue may wish to keep the dog forever but this is only humane, in my opinion, if they are providing a quality home environment for the dog, not permanency in a shelter/kennel.  The last alternative is euthanasia.

When I picked up Murphy, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen but I was pretty sure we were going to have to go with the last option and had, in not as many words, told the family so.  He was reportedly very bad with most other dogs, and we’d seen this during his first stay in our rescue so we knew it was true.  He had bitten someone that he had known for many years very badly.  There was not much we could do and it seemed unlikely that keeping him would ever be an option.  I had run through all the possible scenarios many times in my head on the three hour drive to the arranged meeting spot three hours away.  I had come to the decision that if he needed to be euthanized, I could provide that last kindness for him with as much peace of mind as is possible in such a sad situation.  Once arriving at the meeting place and seeing the profound love the adopters had for this dog, though, all that changed.  The obvious heartbreak they were feeling was a testament to the wonderful dog that he is.  After a day of crying and soul-searching while this dog napped at my feet, only one option seemed right and my husband and I adopted him ourselves.

Murphy is good with the dogs, if a little unsure what to think about them, and he has bonded with me, deciding that I am A-ok.  He already responds pretty well to me and wants to spend as much time as possible sitting with me.  He laid at the gate at the top of the stairs all afternoon yesterday while I was cleaning my guinea pig and rat cages, even napping at one point but making sure that he knew where I was.

Let me back up a bit now.  Four years ago I had a dog, Buddy, that arrived as a foster the day before “Matty,” the dog that became Murphy.  While Matty went to another foster home, Buddy stayed with me due to his issues. Buddy was horribly insecure and had a history of biting. His saving grace was that he never bit hard enough to really be dangerous. I worked with him for six months before making the decision to adopt him. We had bonded deeply by that time. Buddy’s routine involved classes and training at home to help build his confidence, exercise and socialization, and we used medication, supplements and other measures to help him get over his fears.  He was a horribly anxious dog, would pick fights with the other dogs out of fear/insecurity, and was starting to display severe symptoms of anxiety when I was not home (even if my husband was) and during any mealtime. After a year and a half together, we made one last trip to the vet to release him from his suffering. I loved him so much, and was not the same after losing him. Every day had revolved around keeping Buddy happy, and then he was just… gone.

I see a lot of qualities in Murphy that my Buddy had- not just quirky insecure behavior but the good ones, the endearing things that I remember when I think of him. Even when I look at Murphy’s face, there is something there that I see that looks so familiar. Murphy obviously does not have the depth and severity that Buddy had, but his root issues are the same and it feels so… normal… to work with them again. It is strange to think that they became “STAR”s in the same weekend, and are so similar, and now both have ended up with me. Having Murphy here is actually comforting because it feels almost like I didn’t lose Buddy, not completely. Buddy would stand sentry at the top of that gate when I cleaned cages, too, and so yesterday, though I wished Murphy would go hang out with my hubby, there was something in that simple act that made the void Buddy left feel way smaller. I had to say goodbye to Buddy and have always wondered if I could have done something differently, or if there was some other way to keep him here.  Euthanasia is a serious, permanent situation that I only believe in as a last resort and though I don’t regret doing what I really believe was the right decision for my mentally anguished dog, I’ll always wonder if I’d done everything I could.  I have spent a lot of time learning about dogs and behavior since his passing, hoping I never end up in a situation like that again.

Maybe Murphy is here because we both needed a second chance.

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Rescue means rescue

Cody's rescue backed out of their commitment to him, leaving his fate uncertain if we had not stepped in to take him.

I wish I didn’t feel that there was a need for me to make a post like this, but after the experiences of the past week, I know that there is.  If you are following my blog or know me on Facebook, you already know that I am an animal rescuer (among other things…)  I assumed that responsible rescue was something with a real definition and generally understood protocol that were in place, but now I see that mileage varies among people in the “rescue” world.

What is Rescue?

I cannot speak for others, unfortunately, but below are the six key parameters that outline “rescue” to me.  These are the principles that govern the way I make my choices and take my actions.  I can’t say that I do the “best” job, but I can tell you that I do what is right.

1. Rescue is a lifetime commitment. We say this about adoption and attempt to drill into the public’s mind that when you adopt an animal, you are adopting it for “life.”  We tell them to be ready to commit to 5, 10, 15 years or more and we expect that they will.  What some rescuers don’t realize, however, is that RESCUE is a lifetime commitment, as well.  Once you have raised your hand and verbally agreed to accept responsibility for that animal’s life- this is, before it is even in your arms; do not SAY you will help if you don’t intend to follow through, your word is your reputation– it means you will do whatever is necessary to care for it in a way that meets or even exceeds the standards and expectations that you hold your adopters to.  Rescue requires making sometimes huge sacrifices for the sake of the animals you have agreed to help.

2. Rescue is a safety net. There must always be someone ultimately responsible for the care of each animal that is rescued and you must be prepared to be that person.  You do not get to remove it from a shelter, hand it to someone else, pat yourself on the back and move on.  Foster home placements fail, adoptions fail, things happen that we were not prepared for.  You must be that animal’s safety net because when others turn their backs, you are the one that made the original lifetime commitment to that animal (see #1.)  Note: You should microchip (and REGISTER) the animals you place because you can never be sure that anyone is going to be perfectly responsible with the animal you entrusted to them and this step can keep them from ending up in a distant shelter or PTS.

3. Rescue means rescue. The Merriam-Webster definition of rescue is “to free from confinement, danger, [harm: by proxy via “save”] or evil: to save, deliver.”  Rescue is not simply taking an animal from a bad situation or the threat of a bad situation and placing it in something kind of better.  Your duty is to keep that animal safe from all harm and danger.  This requires proper veterinary care and husbandry with no boundaries.   This means spaying and neutering to prevent your rescues from adding to the population of pets needing homes.  “Any place is better than no place at all” does NOT apply.  We hear and see stories almost daily about animal “rescuers” who “got in over their heads” by hoarding, keeping animals inhumanely or not providing proper daily care or diet.  Pulling an animal from a shelter or a bad situation in order to keep it in an inhumane or irresponsible way is NOT rescue.  Additionally, you must PLACE these animals with proper care and attention to their future homes, matching them with people that will understand and meet their needs.  Adopting them out to just anyone versus taking the time to properly screen homes is lazy and dangerous.   Take what you can handle and appropriately place, and leave what you can’t.  You are not a superhero, and rescue work is about quality, not quantity (the Starfish Story tells us this.)

Baxter had dangerous animal aggression and a human bite on his record but was not a candidate for permanent adoption in our home. In order to keep others safe without condemning him to life in a crate, we said goodbye to him. It is hard to read (harder for me to write) but this was the (unfair) decision we were forced to make.

4. Rescue sometimes means goodbyes and broken hearts. In the past, I have gone above and beyond what many of my rescue friends tell me they could have or would have done for animals in my rescue.  I have adopted most of my fosters that turned out to be “unadoptable” due to temperament or health so I could focus on giving them the life they needed and deserved, but sometimes that isn’t an option. In the saddest of cases, the last thing I can do for an animal in need is hold him in my arms and tell him that I love him and that this was not his fault, as he is put to rest forever.  This is hard, but it is a part of rescue.  If you do not have the heart to euthanize an animal and would instead let it suffer with low quality of life (mentally or physically) or languish in a cage for the rest of its life because you are too selfish to make that trip to the vet, you have NO business being an animal rescuer.  “Suck it up” and deal with the heartache, because this isn’t about you and if your emotions are more important than the animal’s well-being, you’re not a rescuer anyway.

5. Rescue is a people business. If you are rescuing animals because you “like them more than people” or think that it is an opportunity to feel superior to others, you may want to re-think your line of work.  Animal rescue is about educating others (see #6) and helping them to become better stewards for their pets.  It is about completing families and helping them find the right fit for their home.  It is about working together, with volunteers and other rescue groups, to save lives. If you are a  mean, jaded, bitchy individual, and you do not try to put on a professional front, shame on you.  The face YOU put forward is the face of all rescue.  I do not care to be considered a peer to someone that treats other people poorly.  At all times, you are responsible for maintaining the reputation of animal rescuers everywhere and that means first and foremost, you need to be NICE to people.  Return your phone calls and emails, don’t be too judgmental and don’t treat others like they are an annoyance.  Rescue is non-profit work, but it is still a business and you are supposed to be a professional.

6. Rescuers are teachers. At some point in your life, you were probably not as good a pet owner as you are now.  You didn’t know the things you know, you didn’t have the experience you do now.  Please do not assume that every person that is taking poor care of their pets is doing so because he or she is evil and abusive.  Many are simply uneducated or lack the resources to do better.  Sometimes, opening a friendly line of communication about animal care can encourage people to do some research and become better caretakers of their pets.  Sometimes, we need to be more direct and tell them what changes they can make.  Sometimes we simply grab the animals from a bad situation and run with it, but no matter what it takes I believe in the “teach a man to fish” perspective.  Yes, I want to get animals out of bad situations and that is the first priority, but if I can prevent future pets for that family from being treated inhumanely or being cared for poorly due to ignorance on the part of the owners, then I am doing more for the animal population in general.  You must be friendly and polite (see #5) even when you don’t feel like it, but if you manage to get through you may have saved many more lives than the one cradled in your protective care now.

This job is about making people happy, and helping them become better pet owners.

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Filed under Make a Difference, Pets, Philosophy, Rescue

Canine Good Citizen-ship

Yesterday evening, the last of my five dogs, Dover, passed his Canine Good Citizen test.  This is huge for us because Dover, a deaf English setter, came to us with such severe canine compulsive disorder that he was disconnected from everything in the world around him except the lights and shadows he lived to chase.  He was a foster for an English setter rescue but it was clear that he was unadoptable after six months of sloooooow progress uphill and we adopted him.  I knew that placing him in an “average pet owner” home would be risky.  His condition is serious enough that he has been placed on anti-anxiety medication to help control the compulsion and for three years, managing his behavior and trying to recover his quality of life has been a huge part of our lives. We initially had kept him because it was the best thing for HIM but over time, we realized that we were just as much in love with him as any of our other dogs and can’t imagine this journey without him.  Passing his test last night was like planting our flag on top of Mt. Everest. Proof that we made this climb together.  I’m not sure what is in our future but I know this: whatever we try to accomplish, we will succeed!

What is CGC testing?

The American Kennel Club has a series of simple tests for you to demonstrate your dog’s status as a Canine Good Citizen (CGC)- essentially that he or she is a well mannered, respectable member of society and not a menace, danger or nuisance. This test is actually a jumping board to therapy dog testing but they are not the same thing.

What do you get? A certificate that proves your dog has proven itself in front of one to three evaluators. Some insurance companies will reduce your home owner’s rates if you present these certificates for the dogs in your household.

Your dog must pass ten tests for a 100% in order to be certified. Automatic dismissal occurs if the dog growls, snaps, bites, attacks or grabs any person or another dog. If the handler is unsportsmanlike, kicks, strikes or manhandles a dog at any time, the pair will be dismissed immediately. If your dog eliminates during the test, you will be dismissed although you can take the test at another date.

Your dog will wear a harness or collar (no correction collars or head halters) and depending on the facility where you test, you may be asked for proof of license or rabies.

SO, is your dog CGC-worthy?

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger
Evaluator approaches the handler, shakes hands with and greets the handler, ignoring the dog. The dog may be sitting, standing or laying down but may not break whatever position it’s in to go to the evaluator and cannot show signs of timidity or aggression.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting
Now the evaluator greets the dog, petting its head and body. The dog may stand or remain sitting politely for this but should not jump up on the evaluator and as above, cannot be shy or resentful.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming
The evaluator inspects the dog as a veterinarian might examine it, checking the body, feet, and ears. The handler brings a brush the dog is familiar with so the evaluator can lightly brush the dog. The dog should be healthy in appearance and cannot be frightened or aggressive in response to handling.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
Exactly what it says- your dog should walk beside you and not pull ahead on the leash. Usually you walk in an L shape pattern out and then back because there must be a left turn, a right turn, an about turn, a halt somewhere along the route and a halt at the end.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd
Essentially, a crowd of people (usually there are kids or people with crutches in this crowd at the tests I’ve observed) spreads out not too thinly and you are instructed to walk around them, passing fairly close. The dog doesn’t have to totally ignore people but shouldn’t jump or strain on the leash, be fearful, aggressive, or overly excited.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
At this station, your dog is placed on a 20 ft line. You must ask your dog to sit and down to show that s/he knows how, and then you pick the position to leave your dog in for the duration of the test. Telling your dog to stay, you move to the end of the 20 foot line and wait for your evaluator to send you back to your dog, return to your position and then the dog may move.

Test 7: Coming when called
Usually done right after the sit while your dog is still on the long line, you now must put your dog in a stay and walk 10 feet away from your dog. When the evaluator gives you the signal, you release your dog and tell it to come to you. This test isn’t for the stay so your dog doesn’t need to be PERFECT in a stay here, but it certainly goes over better. All you’re doing is demonstrating that the dog will come to you when called.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog
Two test takers and their dogs walk across the floor to each other, they shake hands and say hello, exchange pleasantries, etc, and then continue walking. The dogs are on the outside, not walking face to face, and must not go to each other or the other handler. You don’t have to put them in a sit but some/most evaluators I have worked with like to see that.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction
This might be “dropping a crutch or cane,” “dropping a chair,” rolling a wheelchair, opening an umbrella, clanging pots or pans, etc. The dog is allowed to startle but can’t bark, lunge, or try to run away.

Test 10: Supervised separation
Tester leaves dog with an evaluator or a test volunteer and goes out of sight for three minutes. As long as the dog doesn’t throw a total fit (constantly bark, whine, pace, or otherwise seem freaked out though mild nervousness is okay) it should be able to pass.

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Japan Disaster Relief: you can make a difference!

I’ve been relatively quiet about the situation in Japan.  It is time to bring it up, however.  When Hurricane Katrina struck, the rest of the country mobilized to come together and help the people and animals that were displaced by the tragic natural disaster.  The landscape in some areas of the Gulf Coast remains empty and changed, homes ruined and clutter and debris scattered about, more than five years later.

Japan is a country with amazing culture, beautiful landscape and a rich history.  They need our help.  Stop here for a list of ways you can help. WorldVets is trying to help with donations, vet care, and relief support.   You can like them on Facebook to get real updates on their progress. Click here to see the blog hop; check out how some bloggers like Sparkle the Cat (donating $1 for every comment today…) are trying to help.  Consider donating or just spread awareness and messages of compassion and encourage others to pitch in and help.  This all goes, of course, hand in hand with supporting the efforts of disaster relief and humanitarian groups such as the Red Cross.  Japan has been an ally of ours, with an overwhelming response to Hurricane Katrina, and if we can help, we should.  When a natural disaster of this magnitude strikes, our loyalty, compassion and kindness should NOT have borders.  It’s not a nation that struggles now.  Individuals do.  There are so many things, even small things, that we can do to make a difference for someone in need.

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Filed under Make a Difference, Personal, Rescue