We’ve moved!

Coming August 2015

Coming August 2015

She’s a dork: canine stories of love and rescue can now be found at http://jackiskole.com/blog/ the website I’ve created to kick off the publication of Dogland. I hope you will follow me there and sign up, once again, to receive notices of new posts.

The first story you can expect to read: I’ll identify my cover dog and tell you his inspiring tale. See you at the new site!

-Jacki

A manipulative little …

Kevin and I are in agreement when it comes to our parenting philosophy—we occupy that middle ground between helicopter parenting and free range parenting. But the rules differ when it comes to Galen. I spoil her, and Kevin, well, he grudgingly lets me, even when doing so leaves him lacking one of humankind’s most basic needs: a good night’s sleep.

You see, Kevin claims there is a causal relationship between his lack of sleep and our four-year-old pup’s presence on our bed. Perhaps, but for as long as I’ve known Kevin—almost two decades—he’s been a poor sleeper. I will concede, however, that having fifty-eight pounds of sacked-out dog inhibiting him from tossing and turning doesn’t serve his cause—though I gather all that tossing and turning doesn’t either. (I, on the other hand, rather enjoy when Galen presses her furry self up against me as if I were one of her littermates.)

I keep a sheet on the bed to keep fur off the comforter. Galen beat the sheet onto the bed.

I keep a sheet on the bed to keep fur off the comforter. This night, Galen beat the sheet onto the bed.

The irony of our situation is that Galen is only on the bed because one night, when she was a puppy, Kevin got lazy. Initially, Galen would hang with us, on the bed, until lights out. Then we would put her in what we called her “jail”—a metal pen at the foot of the bed that surrounded a large, comfortable dog bed. (I’m confident in its creature comfort because Gryffin slept on it for years—by choice.)

One night, when Galen was about a year old and I was out of town, Kevin was so exhausted he didn’t jail her.

You know what happened next.

No amount of American cheese could lure Galen back into her pen, and if we picked her up and placed her in it, she whined … and whined. So we did what we’d never done when our daughters cried in their cribs—we gave in.

Of course, we’re not alone in our habit of canine co-sleeping—several recent studies have found that nearly 50 percent of dog owners sleep with their four-legged friend–and Kevin isn’t alone in bemoaning its negative effects. Indeed, according to a study presented at last year’s annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, 30 percent of co-sleepers reported being awakened by their dog at least once a night, 63 percent reported their sleep quality suffered, and 5 percent said they had trouble falling back to sleep once awake.

Still, as Bill Barol writes in Why It’s So Wrong—But So Right—To Sleep With Your Pets, many sleep-deprived dog owners, like himself, choose deprivation over kicking their pet out of bed. His take on why: “Dogs are the greatest human-manipulators on the planet.”

The great manipulator.

The great manipulator.

I’d agree, as would Kevin. Many times I’ve heard him refer to Galen—lovingly, mind you, perhaps even admiringly—as a “manipulative little b*tch.” It’s his term of endearment for the girl who curls up beside him, and between us, each and every night.

A dog of a cat

I played fetch with a cat.

Yes, you read that right.

A black and white cat enamored with a tiny stuffed toy that resembles a Christmas stocking, only it’s hot pink with a silver cross-stitch, not red.

The entire experience was striking. First, I had no idea that cats fetched. Fetching, so far as I knew, is something dogs do—even if, like Galen, they don’t necessarily do it well. Second, I’m not a cat person (sorry, cat people). I was scratched by a cat when I was four or five, and I’ve never quite gotten over my ensuing fear. I’m also allergic, so I do my best to avoid cats completely.

But now I’ve met Tuxedo, and I’m rethinking my antipathy.

Tuxedo and a  favorite toy

Tuxedo and a
favorite toy

Tuxedo—he’s aptly named—lives with a fabulous seamstress who rescued me when I was in desperate need of someone to quickly and expertly tailor several dance costumes to fit my twelve-year-old’s slender frame.

When I picked up the costumes, I brought still one more, and the seamstress offered to sew it on the spot. So while she stitched, I sunk into the black leather couch in her living room. I was about to reach into my purse, which I’d set on the coffee table, when Tuxedo jumped up and began rubbing the right side of his head and his long white whiskers back and forth across the top of the purse. Wonderful, I thought. Cat hair. I glared at him.

Perhaps sensing my displeasure, Tuxedo stepped away from the bag—and me. But only temporarily. In the time it took me to pull my phone from my purse, he returned. But not to the table—to the couch. And he brought his tiny pink toy, which he dropped in my lap. Instinctively I threw it, and he retrieved it. I looked at him quizzically. Cats don’t fetch, I thought. I do, he seemed to respond, batting the toy against my leg. I threw it again and again.

The seamstress told me Tuxedo hides toys throughout the house, so no matter where he is, he has a toy at the ready. She added that he’s been fetching since she brought him home several years ago from a New Jersey shelter.

While researching my book, Dogland, my focus was on the plight of shelter dogs, but in my travels, I learned that the situation for homeless cats in this country is even more tenuous. According to the American Humane Association, an estimated 71 percent of cats that enter U.S. animal shelters are euthanized. This is largely due to a burgeoning population of feral cats and the fact that fewer cats than dogs—only 2 percent of cats—are reunited with their owners.

My younger daughter would love us to adopt a cat. In her stuffed animal days she collected an assortment of cats in various sizes and colors—one even meowed and moved its limbs. She holds my cat allergy against me and says that when she lives on her own, she will adopt both a dog and a cat. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I hope she does.

And I hope, like Tuxedo, the cat will play fetch. I’m game!

Beyond Rescue

Don’t get me wrong. I believe spreading the word about the need for more people to adopt dogs from animal shelters is vitally important, quite literally a matter of life and death for hundreds of thousands of dogs nationwide. So it’s wonderful that after the football game on Thanksgiving day, FOX television plans to air Cause for Paws, a two-hour celebrity-packed program devoted to the plight of shelter dogs. The show – the brainchild of a TV-producer who says his pit bull rescues inspired the project – is entertainment and fundraiser rolled into one.

But rescue alone isn’t going to solve the crisis of overcrowded animal shelters – a crisis that results in the euthanization of about four million healthy, adoptable dogs and cats in U.S. shelters each year. If we, as a country, are going to stop the killing, we must increase the number of pets that get spayed and neutered.

I’m sure Cause for Paws will address spay/neuter; I’m sure that a celebrity or two will urge pet owners to fix their pets. The problem is, not every pet owner has access to a spay/neuter facility and many of those who do simply can’t afford to pay for the procedure.

According to SpayFirst director Ruth Steinberger, fewer than ten states have accessible and affordable spay/neuter services available to pet owners. Accessibility, Steinberger argues, means having a veterinary clinic, a spay/neuter facility, or a program that transports pets to a facility within fifty miles of a pet owner’s home. Affordability means the cost of the surgery is less than what a low-wage or minimum-wage worker makes in a day, which is about $50.

A number of people I spoke with in the course of reporting Dogland – those on the front lines of the battle to save lives – lamented that not enough attention surrounding our shelter crisis goes to spay/neuter. As one shelter volunteer in Tennessee told me, “They’re making them twelve at a time and we’re adopting them out one at a time. So, we’ve got a math problem.”

Getting people energized about rescue is easy: Who can resist homeless dogs and puppies in all their adorableness? Getting people energized about spay/neuter is more challenging.

So I leave you with this thought: On Thanksgiving evening, donations will flood in to Cause for Paws, and that money will be granted to organizations doing the critical work of rescue. But this holiday season, if, like me, you are inclined to give charitably to animal welfare organizations, consider donating to a non-profit working to save lives in a way that may be less cute and cuddly, but is just as important.

***

Here are several organizations working to make spay/neuter affordable and accessible:

Pets for Life  *  Coalition to Unchain Dogs  *  SpayFirst

Any well-regarded low-cost spay/neuter clinic, such as Gaston Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic, First Coast No More Homeless Pets, and the Humane Alliance

Found: Lost Dog

He’s lost fifteen pounds. He’s weak. But he’s home.

Following my post about Louie, the black Lab who disappeared after his owner’s car — which Louie was in — was stolen from the parking lot of a Philadelphia Home Depot, I’ve gotten several emails and texts asking if Louie was ever found. My answer has always been, “No.” Until now.

According to the local ABC affiliate, Louie and JJ Pierce were reunited Friday night, forty-three days after Louie went missing. Apparently a couple that knew of Louie’s story found him and notified Pierce through her Help Louie Get Home facebook page. The couple then delivered the dog to Philadelphia Animal Hospital where Pierce retrieved him. Doctors told Pierce that aside from the weight loss, Louie was in good condition.

So many people were touched by Louie’s story that his facebook page numbers over 16,000 followers, people who didn’t know Pierce participated in organized Philly-wide  searches for her missing dog, and WPVI led its Friday night newscast with the story of Pierce and Louie’s reunion.

Too often we hear stories that don’t have happy endings, so it’s wonderful to know that this one does — that a lost dog has been found and will once again live the spoiled and love-filled life that every dog deserves.