Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Why do individuals rescue? And why do rescues exist in the first place?
People ask me all the time, why I am a rescuer.

Isn’t it hard emotionally? Isn’t it depressing knowing that you can’t help them all?

Yes, and yes, but there are so many wonderful and rewarding aspects as well…

I began as a “rescuer” when I was very young. I was the kid that had animals “follow them home”. The kid that noticed a dog or cat that seemed to be lost and in need of a little help until their person could found. I once brought home 2 gerbils in my lunch box because my teacher said that someone needed to take our two classroom pets. Of course, my parents hadn’t actually given their permission (to be honest, my mom was super afraid of anything vaguely rodent like) and as soon as I got home and opened the lunch box, they jumped out, and ran up inside the back of the sofa. It was a long time before I was forgiven for that one! I rescued butterflies, hand fed baby birds, picked up worms from the sidewalk and replaced them in the grass – generally helped creatures wherever I felt I could.
As an adult, I worked as a volunteer for several different organizations – helping with wildlife rehab, walking dogs, patting cats – and then I found Animal Alliance of Canada. At the time, Animal Alliance was a newly formed organization that intended to work on many facets of animals and the environment, and was in need of all types of volunteer help. What was most appealing to me however, was the Project Jessie program.

Project Jessie was formed because of need in the community. There is a law in Ontario called The Animals For Research Act, which says that pounds and shelters that pick up stray animals, must hold those animals for 72 hours, and after that, if the shelter receives a request from a registered research facility, they can turn them over. Project Jessie was formed to offer an alternative. We approached pounds that were sending to research, and offered them another option – we would take the animals, spay/neuter, vaccinate and microchip them, then hold them in foster homes and eventually adopt them into new families.

I started as a volunteer driver – picking up animals (mostly dogs and cats) and driving them to vet appointments, or to foster homes. Then one day they needed a foster home for orphan kittens - so I did that. Then a foster for a senior dog - so I did that. Then a foster or adopter for a large number of birds that had been removed from a hoarding situation – so I did that.

About 17 years ago, the Project Jessie coordinator was leaving the organization, so I became the new coordinator. Over those years, I have welcomed hundreds of animals into my home; senior animals, young animals, cats, dogs, birds, bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters and hedgehogs – and helped them find their new families.

Most of the time, these guys stay for a little while until they find the perfect new place, then they travel on their way to new lives – and I am just a small part of their life journey.

But sometimes, they come and stay. I have a real soft spot for the seniors. With young animals, if I am good at the “matchmaking” part, they are adopted into good families and will have good lives.
But the seniors are different. They are less adoptable by most people’s standards. They often have medical or emotional challenges. Sometime they aren’t pretty. They are often scared and confused – they have lost the people who loved them, often through no fault of their own, or they have had a poor life and deserve to know love before they go.

The first foster who stayed was Pixie. I received a call from a pound that went something like this, “We have a 4 pound dog that is super vicious, is flying to attack people and needs to go into rescue the minute her stray time is up or we will euthanize her.” I needed to meet this tiny fury! When I arrived at the pound, I found a tiny, scared little dog, facing into the corner of her run, shaking, and feebly looking over her shoulder and growling at me. I sat in the run with her for a few minutes. Then I reached over and stroked her back. She growled. I sat, waited, talked to her, stroked her, she growled, and so on. After an hour or so, I lifted her up, tucked her into my sweater and took her home. Pixie was a bit of a mess – too thin, with pyometria, missing most of her teeth, contrary and opinionated, but I loved her to bits. When no one stepped up who wanted to adopt her, I officially adopted her and she lived with me for about 6 years until she eventually passed.

Over the years, several others came and stayed for long or for short times. Boodle was a bichon mix who was dumped on the side of the road outside of a puppy mill – probably because she was too old and sick to breed anymore. She had leukemia – and the worst blood results that the vet had ever seen. I asked whether she was in pain, and the vet said that no – leukemia wasn’t painful, but a slow fading and that she didn’t think this dog would have long. I took her home intending to make her last few days as loving and comfortable as possible – she stayed with me for almost 4 years.

One day I was at a pound picking up a dog. I went into the office trailer to fill out paperwork – and the staff were gathered around a dirty A&W box. They were trying to decide whether the little scrap of a kitten would die on its own soon or if they would have to take it to the vet for “disposal”. I looked into the box and saw a sad little kitten. About 3 weeks old, he had fleas and lice, was suffering from coccidian and worms, had a broken tail and splayed legs, and was near death by starvation. What impressed me the most though, was his will to live. As soon as I touched him he had the most amazing, loud, full bodied purr. I immediately put him in my car and took him straight to the vet. She wasn’t sure he would live – but he did – and Rootbeer  as we named him, is still part of our family now 12 years later.

Over the years there have been so many wonderful animals! Teddy the one-eyed wonder pomeranian who would climb along the back of the sofa but had no depth perception because of being one-eyed.  Pearl, a senior rosy bourke (a small bird like a slightly larger budgie), who had cataracts, and a small tumour, but who lived with me for 12 years. Bibble the hedgehog who was abandoned outdoors, and had cancer in the muscle of her leg. Lily, the Pekingese who lost both eyes to glaucoma. Bijoux, the tiny cat with megaesophagus. Anna Maria the budgie who lost her legs to frostbite.

So many lovely animals and so many stories that I have been privileged to be part of. Although I sometimes lovingly refer to my home as the “House of Misfits” (and incidentally I include myself in that description!) and caring for seniors and special needs creatures has its own messy and emotional challenges - I honesty wouldn’t have it any other way.

Shelly Hawley-Yan


Saturday, 6 September 2014

via      www.catster.com/lifestyle
Posted: 29 Aug 2014 03:00 AM PDT
People who love cats adore just about everything about them. What's not to love? Cats are adorable, entertaining, and a joy to be around. Although cats are almost perfect, one of the less appealing aspects of living with them, as well as other animals, is that they have to relieve themselves at least once a day. Felines do have an advantage, though, they do not have to be walked or let outside to do their business. Most are content eliminating indoors, in clean, well-placed litter boxes.
Cat parents find creative places to put litter boxes. Some of these locations encourage good litter box habits, others do not. Although medical issues, stress, litter box choices, and poor maintenance can also cause cats to eliminate in unwanted places, litter box placement plays an important role in the boxes' use. Additionally, although many cats faithfully use litter boxes that are in less-than-ideal areas, certain litter-box locations can cause kitties to feel stressed and anxious.
Some locations are better than others. 

Poor Choices

1. Respecting cats' privacy. Many well-meaning cat lovers think their cats prefer to do their “business” in private. They view the situation from their own perspectives. Since they prefer privacy, they assume that their cats must too. Litter boxes are tucked away in cabinets, behind bathroom doors, in shower stalls, closets as well other out of the way places. These locations may work for humans, but are not ideal for the ultimate users -- the cats.
From a cat's perspective, being safe while doing one’s business is more important than privacy. Litter boxes placed around corners, in cabinets, behind couches, in closets, and small rooms are setups for ambush -- cats can easily be trapped. Pet doors are also problematic because cats cannot see whether another animal is waiting to pounce as they climb through them. Instinct prevails, even when there are no other resident animals around.
2. Keeping odor at bay. Odor is also an issue in enclosed spaces.Cats are not the only ones who have difficulty escaping -- odors do too. Cabinets, closets, and other small rooms retain smells. Although people may not smell the litter boxes, cats do. They have a highly developed sense of smell and will avoid going to the bathroom in areas that smell offensive.

Cabinets containing litter boxes retain odors.by Marilyn Krieger, CCBC
3. Considering aesthetics first. Litter boxes are sometimes hidden from view so that friends and family do not see or smell them. Often they are housed in remote areas -- basements, garages, and attics. Although kitties do their best, some just can’t make it to their boxes in time. This is especially true for kittens, elderly cats, and those who are impaired.
4. Considering human convenience first. Some people place litter boxes together in the same room -- often within inches of each other. From a cat’s perspective, this is the same as having one litter box. If for some reason the room where the boxes are housed does not feel safe, cats often will find other places to eliminate.
Litter boxes should not be put next to food bowls. If cats have a choice, they will not eat next to where they go to the bathroom. Another common mistake is placing the boxes in high traffic and noisy areas -- places people and other animals have to walk, in order to go from one room to another.

Good Choices

1. Considering cats' needs first. Felines prefer litter boxes that are placed in low-traffic, quiet areas that have expansive views. These spots are sometimes found in living rooms, family rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms. Although favored by felines, these locations often do not win the popular vote from the resident humans.
Ideal locations have unobstructed views of the whole room and through doors. These areas allow litter box users to see and escape threats and animals that could disrupt their business. These are also areas where cats cannot be trapped or ambushed.
2. Placing multiple boxes in multiple locations. Cats need more than one litter box. The rule of litter boxes is one per cat and one for the household. If there are four resident kitties, then five boxes are needed, placed in five different rooms. Multiple-level homes need boxes on each floor. Cats need choices -- if one box doesn’t feel safe, they can use another one somewhere else in the home.
3. Choosing quiet areas. Avoid placing boxes in areas that are loud with lots of activity. Cats do not relish doing their business in the middle of a well-traversed route. Although cats are not into privacy like people are, they do not want to eliminate in high-profile areas either.
You don't need to place litter boxes so that they are the focal points of rooms; they can be placed so they are unobtrusive to people while appealing to kitties. Good spots can be found by crouching down to cat level and checking out what the cat might see and hear. Ideal locations have unobstructed views, are quiet, away from feeding stations, and in areas where cats cannot be cornered. Litter box placement can make the difference between a cat who faithfully eliminates in the litter box and a cat who avoids it.
Not all elimination challenges are behavioral. Because painful and serious medical problems can cause cats to eliminate outside of litter boxes, kitties who do so should always be examined first by a veterinarian. Only after all possible medical issues are ruled out, approach the problem as behavioral. 
Please follow Marilyn on Facebook!
Got a cat behavior question for Marilyn? Ask our behaviorist in the comments below and you might be featured in an upcoming column. If you suspect a behavioral problem, always rule out any possible medical issues that may be causing the behavior by first having your cat examined by a veterinarian. Marilyn can also help you resolve cat behavior challenges through a consultation.
Marilyn, a certified cat behavior consultant, owner of The Cat Coach, LLC, solves cat behavior problems nationally and internationally through on site, Skype and phone consultations. She uses force free methods that include environmental changes, management, clicker training and other behavior modification techniques.
She  is also an award winning author. Her book Naughty No More! focuses on solving cat behavior problems through clicker training and other force-free methods.  Marilyn is big on education—she feels it is important for cat parents to know the reasons behind their cat’s behaviors. She is a frequent guest on television and radio, answering cat behavior questions and helping people understand their cats.

Friday, 8 November 2013


We really couldn't do it without you.

Project Jessie has been helping some more unusual creatures lately - 6 guinea pigs, a starved former race horse, hedgehogs, a blind canary - as well as a mom and kittens abandoned in a provincial park, a cat whose owner died, a dog surrendered for not liking children, a food aggressive puppy, a dog who has spent her life on a chain and several pound dogs.

Every animal we help costs us money - for transport, for care, and especially for vetting.

Starting Monday, we have an amazing online auction happening. Every dollar will go towards helping the animals in Project Jessie and we have some AMAZING items up for grabs. Huge THANK YOUs!!!! to Debbie Hunt for setting up and creating our auction websitewww.projectjessieauction.com and to our donors. Special thanks to Marisa King who donated a ton of gorgeous brand new, 100% vegan, organic, free trade, recycled items from her online store.

There are some amazing deals to be had - please spread the info to your friends and relatives - there are tons of amazing items that would make fabulous holiday gifts - helping you with holiday shopping and helping our animals at the same time. Awesome!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Ask a Vet: How Can You Tell How Old a Dog or Puppy Is?

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Ask a Vet: How Can You Tell How Old a Dog or Puppy Is?

Dogs age at different rates based on lifestyle and genetics, but there are still ways to determine age.
  |  Oct 8th 2013  |   1 Contribution

If you purchased your dog from a breeder or acquired your dog from a litter with a known birth date, then you know your dog's age precisely. However, plenty of dogs out there were acquired from shelters or found as strays. The age reported to you by the shelter may be inaccurate -- sometimes, it seems, inexperienced volunteers are assigned the task of estimating ages of dogs and puppies when they arrive. Is it possible to look at a puppy or dog and guess how old it is?
"Eyelids.getting.heavy." Sleepy Puppy by Shutterstock
The answer is yes -- within reason. This article will go through the stages of canine development and aging so that you will have some idea of how to estimate a dog's age. But don't forget that dogs, like humans, age at different rates. Some age well, and others don't. The difference is based upon genetics and lifestyle. There can be very marked differences in aging between breeds -- a Great Dane is elderly at seven years old, whereas a seven-year-old Chihuahua is barely middle aged.

Tips for estimating the age of a puppy or dog

Birth to 2 weeks of age: Newborn puppies are born toothless and with their eyes closed. These features can be used to identify puppies that are less than two weeks of age. Puppies this age spend most of their time rooting, suckling, and sleeping.
This one is easy: These puppies aren't born yet. Pregnant dog X-ray by Shutterstock
2 to 5 weeks old: The eyes open at two to three weeks of age although vision is poor. There will still be no teeth present. Puppies this age become more engaged with their environment and begin to explore their surroundings.
5 to 8 weeks old: This period is marked by the eruption of deciduous (baby) teeth. Yes, that's right: Dogs, like humans, have two sets of teeth. The first set begins to erupt at five to six weeks of age, and the full set is generally in place by eight weeks. These teeth are very sharp, and people with puppies in this age group will be painfully familiar with them. By the time a puppy is eight weeks old he or she will be in full-on puppy mode with periods of active playing, exploring, chewing mixed with periods of passed-out sleep.
8 to 16 weeks old: The deciduous teeth are in place, but the space between them will increase as the jaw and face grow. They will also begin to appear disproportionately small since they stay the same size while the puppy grows around them. This is a period of intense activity, growth, exploration, and learning for the puppy.
16 weeks to 8 months old: At around 16 weeks the baby teeth begin to fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth. This process starts at the front of the mouth with the small teeth called incisors, and then works its way back, generally in a symmetrical fashion. The puppy's mouth may bleed slightly (or his or her breath may sometimes smell like blood) as the baby teeth fall out. The deciduous teeth are generally gone by five months, and the permanent teeth generally are fully erupted by eight to 12 months of age.
You can't tell how old a dog is just by looking at the outside. Photo of Dr. Eric Barchas by Liz Acosta.
8 months to 24 months old: Most dogs have reached their full height by eight to 12 months of age (although some giant breeds continue to grow for up to two years). They are adolescents -- not quite puppies, but not quite mature dogs. Like adolescents, dogs in this age group go through puberty (if they aren't neutered or spayed). And like adolescents, they are generally clumsy and awkward and they may have skin problems (puppy mange often strikes around this time, or sometimes a bit earlier).
2 to 3 years old: Most dogs' physical development is complete by two years of age. Alas, it often is not long after this that time to begin to take its toll. The first sign of aging usually is visible in the mouth: dental calculus and even gingivitis will be present in the majority of dogs by three years of age if their teeth aren't brushed.
3 to 7 years old: Humans this age would be considered in the prime of their lives. However, some signs of aging will occur during this time. Dogs whose teeth do not receive attention (either through brushing or professional dental work) will generally experience progressive dental disease. Gray hairs may develop on the muzzle. Activity levels will slow.
From 3 to 7 years old, dogs slow a bit, but they are still pretty active. A Labrador Retriever on the beach by Shutterstock.
7 years and beyond: As I mentioned above, different sizes of dogs age at different rates. Seven years is generally the time at which these differences become pronounced. Many larger breeds of dogs will show significant signs of arthritis (manifested by mobility problems), while smaller dogs may not exhibit these issues for another three to five years. At seven years of age most dogs' eyes will become slightly cloudy. This natural aging phenomenon is a type of cataract, but it does not significantly compromise vision or quality of life. They may develop wart-like growths on their skin (similar to moles in people), or soft growths called lipomas underneath the skin. Their voices may change to a raspier tone. Smaller dogs may begin to show symptoms of collapsing trachea (manifested most frequently by coughing when active). Hearing and vision may fail (although the vision loss is not usually linked to the cloudiness in the eyes). Mobility may progressively deteriorate. Dental disease may become profound and if the mouth is not cared for teeth may fall out.

How to keep your dog young

As mentioned above, genetics (especially breed) plays a significant role in the rate at which dogs age. However, so does lifestyle. Two of the hallmarks of aging are dental disease and mobility concerns. Therefore, one of the simplest ways to slow the aging process is to take care of your dog's teeth by brushing them at least daily and seeking professional dental care when needed. Another way is to keep your dog active and control his or her weight. Active dogs whose weights are ideal are less likely to experience symptoms of arthritis, collapsing trachea, and the other ravages of aging.

Does the 7-to-1 rule work?

Conventional wisdom holds that one dog year is the equivalent of seven human years. As this article illustrates, that conventional wisdom is not exactly correct. The first two years of a dog's life are roughly equivalent to 21 years in human. The rate of aging varies significantly thereafter, primarily based upon a dog's size. A Great Dane may age 10 to 12 "human" years for each subsequent year, whereas a teacup Poodle may age only at a ratio of about 5-to-1.
As your dog ages I recommend that you not lose track of an important notion. Getting old may not be fun, but it generally beats the alternative.

Ask a Vet: How Can You Tell How Old a Cat or Kitten Is?

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Ask a Vet: How Can You Tell How Old a Cat or Kitten Is?

Cats age at different rates based on lifestyle and genetics, but there are still ways to determine age.
  |  Oct 10th 2013  |   5 Contributions

Conventional wisdom holds that each year for a cat is equivalent to seven years of development and aging for a person. Or that each cat year is equivalent to five human years. Or that the first two years are equivalent to 21 years, and each subsequent year is equivalent to four or five years. Or that 20 years old in a cat is equivalent to 100 in a person.
It's easy if your cat is a kitten, but how do you tell her age when she's grown? Kitten gets a vaccination by Shutterstock.
Any time that conventional wisdom holds so many potentially contradictory views, you can count on the convention not to be especially wise. The many rules of thumb that are available to compare cat ages to human ages are usually based upon total life expectancy. An average cat's life expectancy is around 17 years, and a human's is around 84 years. This leads to a rough equivalency of five-to-one. But it is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Feline development and aging are not directly comparable to ours.
Nonetheless, feline development and aging are of great interest to anyone who has a cat. Most cats' birthdays are not known exactly, and people are often curious about how to determine a cat's or a kitten's age. It takes a significant amount of experience to get good at it, and different cats develop and age at different rates depending upon genetics and lifestyle. However, there are some rules of thumb that can help people estimate their feline friend's age as well as know what to expect as their cat progresses through his or her life.

Kitten development

Birth to 1 week old: Kittens are born toothless and with their eyes closed. They spend almost all of their time during their first week of life rooting, suckling and sleeping.
1 week to 3 weeks old: Some kittens begin to open their eyes at around one week of age; most will have open eyes by two weeks of age. Generally they will remain toothless during this time. Their activity will still be quite limited during this time. The deciduous (baby) teeth begin to erupt at around three weeks of age.
That's easy. Your cat isn't born yet. Pregnant cat sitting on a table by Shutterstock
3 weeks to 5 weeks old: The deciduous teeth continue to erupt through this time, and the canine teeth (the fangs) make their pointy appearance. Kittens become more active and engaged in their environments but they are significantly uncoordinated. They also become devastatingly cute. Most kittens will have blue eyes until they are at least five weeks old.
5 weeks to 8 weeks old: The baby teeth are fully erupted and individuals will be in full-on kitten mode. Coordination starts to improve. The eyes change to their adult color (unless the kitten is destined to be blue-eyed). Crucially, the prime window for socialization begins to close; kittens that have their first human contact after eight weeks may be harder to socialize.
8 weeks to 16 weeks old: This is prime kittenhood. It is a period of significant growth, play, and exploration. The deciduous teeth may appear to space out and be outgrown towards the end of this period. The deciduous teeth begin to fall out at around 16 weeks in most individuals, beginning at the front of the mouth and working symmetrically towards the back. The adult teeth begin erupt to replace the kitten teeth.
16 weeks to 7 months old: The adult teeth complete their eruption. Many kittens become more confident and assertive. Coordination improves significantly, and rapid growth occurs.
7 months to 18 months old: This period is equivalent to adolescence in humans. Puberty occurs in cats who have not been spayed or neutered. Cats reach their adult height and length, and then fill out to their healthy adult weight -- and sometimes beyond it.
Orange short-haired cat by Shutterstock.

Adult aging

18 months to 3 years old: Young adulthood. These years are roughly equivalent to a human's 20s. Health is generally good, and minimal signs of aging are noted. However, just as some twentysomething people start to show some signs of less-than-perfect health, some cats in this age range will develop dental calculus and gingivitis. Some cats also develop weight problems during this time.
3 years to 7 years old: Prime adulthood. Health problems (other than dental disease and obesity-related issues) are rare. Activity levels are still high. Cats remain agile and limber. However, most cats who don't benefit from dental care (tooth brushing or regular professional dental work) will develop significant dental disease during this time.
7 years to 14 years old: This period roughly corresponds to middle age for cats. Cats in this group are not exactly old, but health problems such as kidney failure and hyperthyroidism may develop. The body will show signs of aging. The pupils of cats' eyes generally develop a slight blue or grey tinge at around seven years of age; this becomes more prominent as cats age but it does not significantly compromise vision or quality of life. The hair may become less supple and may be noted to clump together. Dental disease will usually be pronounced in cats who have not received dental care. The bones become less flexible; owners of cats in this age range may notice that their pets' ribs seem harder and less flexible. Signs of arthritis may develop.
14 years and beyond: Cats in this age group are senior citizens. The aging processes that began in middle age progress. Dental disease may become profound and teeth may fall out. The pupils of the eyes will have a significant grey tinge. Mobility may become compromised, and activity decreases. Clumping of the hair becomes more pronounced and may lead to matting. The bones will be brittle, and the ribs will be firm. Age-related illnesses such as kidney failure and cancer unfortunately become common. The voice may become noticeably raspy or hoarse. There may be evidence of hearing or vision loss, although poor eyesight is not generally related to the greying of the pupils.
Gray long-haired cat by Shutterstock.

How to slow the aging process in cats

Although the above guidelines apply to most cats, there are significant variations in aging rate among individuals. Much of the variation is genetic, but a substantial portion is lifestyle-dependent.
Here is an analogy. I used to work near a coffee shop. One of the shop's regular patrons spent every afternoon basking in the sun and smoking cigarettes on the shop's porch. She may have been 40 or she may have been 70; I couldn't tell because her lifestyle had so ravaged her body. Similarly, five-year-old feral, intact, FIV positive cats who continuously fight may have rotten mouths and hair qualities that make them look 15 years old. Well-cared-for house cats can seem five years younger than they are.
Two of the leading concerns that occur as cats age are dental disease and mobility concerns. Regular dental care, through tooth brushing or regular professional dental work, helps to slow the aging of the mouth. Maintenance of a healthy weigh promotes flexibility and mobility and reduces the impact of arthritis.
Finally, infectious disease in cats can take a significant toll and contribute substantially to aging. Indoor cats are at lower risk than their outdoor counterparts, and indoor cats have longer life expectancies (on average) than their outdoor counterparts.