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Friday, May 19, 2006

Pet News in the Herald

I've been remiss in not calling attention to several pet-related stories of late in my very own newspaper, possibly suffering under the illusion that everyone who reads the blog also reads the Herald, either online or the actual newsprint version.

So here's some links to stuff you might not have read, starting with a story I had in today's paper, about the Humane Society of Greater Miami/Adopt-a-Pet closing its old shelter in northwest Miami. For half a century, that's where Miamians went to look for lost pets or adopt a new one. The group has a glitzy new shelter in North Miami. To read the story, click here.

Chuck Rabin's You Got a Problem? column Friday, about the jam that Sabbath Rescue is in (having failed to pay rent since January, rescuer Robbie Coy got booted from his warehouse shelter, given two hours to clear out with 60 dogs, all of which need permanent homes). To read the story, click here.

Last week, I had a story about Cisco, the West Kendall cat that's going to compete with nine other cats from around the country in a feline webcast "reality show." They'll live together in a New York storefront and viewers can vote one cat out of the litter box a day. The winner will become a quality-control tester for Meow Mix, the cat-food company sponsoring the house. To read the story, click here.

Then there was a story about the Woof Patrol: a civic-minded band of dog lovers dedicated to ridding a stretch of South Beach of poop, so that there will be no cause to ban dog walkers from the area. I was honored to receive a Woof Patrol ball cap, which I wear proudly. To read the story, click here.

And one little tidbit: from a story about Olympic dive champ Greg Louganis, by Joseph Goodman.

"When he's not acting, which Louganis admits doesn't happen as often as he would like (``I don't have an agent but that doesn't mean I don't want one''), the former Olympian devotes most of his time to AIDS awareness, mentoring young divers, animal rescue and his dogs. Louganis owns two Jack Russell terriers and a border collie who compete in national dog-agility contests."

Guess his dogs are as athletic as he is!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Don't Bite the Mailperson!

It's National Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 21-28, and the postal service is asking for help from Americans with dogs.

Nearly 3,500 carriers were bitten last year, which is dreadful. To read a story about it, click here.

One Lucky Dog

Dog survives fall from Pacific Palisades cliff
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - A dog survived a plunge from an oceanside cliff and his owner had to be rescued when he got stuck searching for the animal.

Pepe, a Jack Russell terrier, darted over the cliff's edge in the upscale Pacific Palisades area while chasing a squirrel on Tuesday. He landed next to Pacific Coast Highway, where he narrowly avoided being struck by a big rig.

To read the whole story, click here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

One Lucky Bunny

His name is Rex the rabbit and he was rescued from a flooded home north of Boston. This ran in the Boston Globe. (Thanks to Stan. Glad you're high and dry on a hill).

Cute n' Crazy Kitties

If you scroll down, you'll find a silly picture of two shar-peis: one naturally wrinkly; the other "nipped and tucked" with clothes pins.

A reader commented that if I was amused by such a thing, I would love stuffonmycat.com. And I did. To partake of some really hilarious photos, click here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Kudos for a South Florida Rescuer

Actress Kristin Davis - Sex and the City, The Shaggy Dog - recently presented awards to 10 animal rescuers from around the country on behalf of Purina Pro Plan. One of them was Grace Acosta, of Miami's Gulfstream Guardian Angels Rottweiler Rescue.

Said Purina: "Whether it was working around the clock and risking personal safety during the days following Hurricane Katrina to save abandoned pets, or driving more than 200 miles a day to rescue a dog or cat, America’s pet-rescue workers go to extraordinary lengths to help save man’s best friends each and every day.

"The workers’ pet rescue organizations were recognized for their exceptional efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of homeless dogs and cats and their commitment towards the Pro Plan Rally to Rescue campaign in 2005, a program dedicated to raising funds and awareness for pet rescue nationwide.

"Smaller pet rescue organizations place nearly a half-million dogs and cats in homes each year, and represent nearly 45 percent of all pet adoption groups. However, they are often overlooked by potential donors and adopters due to their more limited fundraising and marketing capabilities."

In addition to Grace Acosta, the other honorees were:

Alexandria Whitney, Guardians for Animals (Troy, Mich.)
Caroline Marie Ivey, Weimaraner Rescue of North Texas-Dallas (Dallas, Texas)
Chuck Daly, Delaware Valley Siberian Husky Rescue, Inc. (Horsham, Pa.)
Diane Roberts, Tampa Bay German Shepherd Rescue (Riverview, Fla.)
Gail Orth-Aikmus, Heartland Weimaraner Rescue (Pleasant Valley, Mo.)
Leann Zalasky, Rescued Racers (St. Ann, Mo.)
Lisa Scarbrough, Coastal Pet Rescue (Savannah, Ga.)
Mary Linda Huggins, PAWS of Northeast Louisiana, Inc. (Monroe, La.)
Sarah Webster, Noah’s Ark Foundation, Inc. (Springfield, Va.)

Congrats to all.

Desperately (Still) Seeking Mandy

Scroll down to "APB on a lost German shepherd" for the story and pictures of Mandy, who disappeared from Jupiter Farms. A widespread land/air search continues, and Suzanne, who rescued her, has sent updated information (from Mary Gelliarth in Palm Beach County). The good news is that there have been sightings: Saturday near the railroad tracks on Beeline Highway just east of Pratt Whitney Road. She appears to be covering approximately 7 east-west miles a day.

Here's the plan, per Mary, who credits Birgit, a trainer/dog-spa from the Juno Beach area:

We will not get Mandy; Mandy needs to get us. Therefore, we are focusing on one area only and not driving fruitlessly just to see her. We need to ask all dedicated helpers to focus the assistance to volunteering to sit at the second spot noted below, even if you take a book and lounge chair and appear to be enjoying the "natural area" governed by County Ordinance 94-13.

The sightings have been focused in two areas: the woods around Caloosa (C18 area; we believe she is crossing the Beeline underground through the shelves under the bridges); and on Pratt Whitney Road, approximately 1.8 mil. south of Indiantown Road. There is barely noticeable break in the fence there and if you look about 6 feet south of this broken fencing, you will see a No Trespassing sign on a pole with two Mandy posters facing North and two facing south. There is also one of those orange and white cable posts about 4 feet ahead of the broken fence area.

Some points to remember as we regroup and focus are:

If we see Mandy, don't go to her. Drop food in front of yourself, step back, drop some more, then lay down on the ground. You can call calmly and quietly call to her, like "Mandy, come puppy, puppy". Make yourself appear submissive and wait it out.

Bring batteries (size to be determined - keep reading), food and water for Mandy - hot dogs, cat food, dog food, any fresh food. We discovered that ants devoured the deboned rotisserie chicken one helper left her. Another person suggested floating the food in water, since animals who feed outside get their food this way.

Our only "litter" (really supplies which will be removed) are a large round cake pan filled with water and a bowl secured to the bottom of it in the middle. Please replenish her food and water, sit about two hours, call quietly for her, check the tape recording (not there yet; restart if necessary and change the batteries) and wait.

The bowl setup is hidden on the west side of the road where there is a break in the fence. It is back in a barely visible spot in the scrub. This morning's menu was liverwurst and hot dogs simmered in barbecue sauce. This evening's menu will be hot dogs. With any kind of luck, Mandy is getting it and not all other wildlife out there, but that's ok. She needs to get the scent and get to that spot.

Please don't leave cans/packages of food, etc. We have had considerable difficulty with PBSO near Florida Research Park. I personally leave the area we are staking out cleaner than finding it. We don't want to give any reason for them to push us out of our stakeout point.

Suzanne will be recording a tape/CD of her calling to Mandy. We will place the recording hidden in the scrub and keep it playing 24-7. We may need to change the batteries in the cassette player/CD. If you find it not playing and it is because of dead batteries, change them. Keep your battery receipt.


FLORIDA RESEARCH PARK IS NOT WHERE WE WANT MANDY. We have one business owner who has written a letter offering us to be on their property at any time but they are not liable for any damages if something happens. However, we do not want to flush Mandy there. There have been too many threats of shooting her as well as two cowboys who work for Florida Research Park property owners trying to bully us.

During this effort, we have made lots of new friends. Some have even rescued other animals! Some good stuff is coming out of this little scamp's adventure! A warm thanks to all and let's keep going like cats sitting motionless in one spot for hours to get the mouse they saw. They always get their mouse!


Call Suzanne Ruffini, 239-248-8999, or Mary, at 561 386 3584 (or text KI4HTP) if you want to help.

Local Search Dog Honored

This, from the Search Dog Foundation, a fantastic organization (and thanks to Emily at Miami Humane for sending it along).

I met many of these dogs at Ground Zero the week of Sept. 11, 2001. I happened to be in NYC and reported for days from the Trade Center site. These dogs are so dedicated that they kept searching even when their feet were cut and bleeding. They are true heroes.

At 11:00 a.m. on the morning of May 6th, a Search Dog Foundation canine-firefighter team was called into action when the construction frame of a high-rise hotel-condo collapsed in Bal Harbour, sending a three-foot layer of drying concrete onto workers and trapping them beneath the debris.

SDF team Mike Conners of Coral Gables Fire and Rescue and his Chocolate Lab, Hobbes were on the scene within the hour to search for survivors. Minutes after leaving the scene, his pulse still racing, Mike relayed their story:


“At 11:00 a.m. we received a call from Florida Task Force 1 saying that the building at 10295 Collins Ave. had collapsed and that Hobbes was needed immediately to search the wreckage. We went straight to the site where the Operations Chief oriented us and sent us 20 floors up in an outside construction elevator. From there we hiked up six more floors to get to the victims.

"Three construction workers were confirmed missing. When we arrived they were pulling the second body out of the rubble, and Hobbes’ mission was to find the next victim and clear the area as fast as possible. As soon as we arrived, they pulled everyone off the pile and let me run Hobbes over the collapse.

"One minute after I released him, he gave the bark alert and started digging in the center of the rubble. I pulled him off, re-sent him, and he went right back to the same place and started barking and digging again. With the find confirmed, I pulled him off and the rescue team went to work to pull out the third body.

"Hobbes was definitely reacting to live scent, so the person must have died not long before. About 2:30 p.m., after the body had been taken away, two more dogs arrived from Task Force 1 and also searched the area.

"This deployment at a high-rise construction site was a whole new ball game for us. There was concrete, rebar and wet cement everywhere. At the edges all around was open space; you step off that, and 26 floors down you go. It was incredibly nerve-wracking.

"I worked Hobbes on a long leash, rather than off leash as we usually do, because he was working so close to the edges. It showed me how crucial it is to have complete control of your dog. Without that control, he could run off the edge and that would be it.

"It was an amazing experience—so many hazards, such difficult conditions. There were 15 or 20 firefighters going back and forth at first and many distractions. But when I said ‘Search!’, Hobbes’ mind just turned right around and he went to work, ignoring everything else. He was AWESOME. The firefighters at the scene were amazed; they’d never seen a dog do this.

"The body was exactly where Hobbes said he’d be, and it took only minutes for Hobbes to zero in to the spot. Chief Perry Metro, the Task Force leader, said Hobbes did exactly what he’s supposed to do.

"This is when you really see the constant training really pay off. Russell Tao and Andy (SDF-trained team from California Task Force 5, Montebello Fire Dept. near Los Angeles) had just been out with us for a whole week of intensive training, and it really made a difference.

"This is what it’s all about – you train, train, train…then all of a sudden you’re in a deployment, using everything you’ve learned to overcome obstacles and get the job done.

"As soon as I pulled Hobbes off the pile I gave him his toy and he loved it! He was jumping up and down. He was so happy to have done his job and be rewarded for it. My pulse rate was about 120 too. It was incredible."

Comments Debra Tosch, SDF Executive Director: “This is exactly what our teams train for. Their search efforts provide closure to families affected by the disaster, and save precious time for rescue workers by immediately pinpointing the location of the victims. Hobbes was a ‘career change’ dog donated to NDSDF by Guide Dogs of America. Our thanks to GDA and to Mike and Hobbes for their tremendous work.”

To learn more about these amazing rescuers, click here.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Greetings from NYC

Where Saturday, when I arrived, it was gloriously spring-like: clear, balmy, bright. Today it's winter again: chilly, rainy, and gray. Yuck! At least my parents' building is pet-friendly, so I can ward off the bad-weather blues by hugging Jordan the Golden retriever, or Tallulah the silky-eared Vizsla.

Which brings me to a story in yesterday's New York Times style section, about the increasing prevalence of emotional-support service dogs.

Now, it's no secret that our pets make us feel better: more secure, calmer, more positive. For some people with serious emotional issues like depression, they can mean the difference between functioning and psychological paralysis. The Americans With Disabilities Act recognizes this, as does the airline industry, which has made accomodations for service animals of all kinds.

But inevitably, there are people trying to game the system, abusing the priviledge and to my mind, endangering the rights of those who truly qualify for service-animal status.

I've done stories about the rigorous training that bona fide service animals must go through to be certified, and that's as it should be. People who cynically slap a service-dog vest on their untrained pet are going to ruin it for everyone, and that's just wrong.

Click here to read the story, and let me know what you think.