Happy Birthday to Tashi!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Back in May, we held a celebration of Be Kind to Animals Week here in Bucks County. Hosted by our gracious friends at Lackland Self Storage and Office Suites here in Ottsville, the event was an amazing success. We invited the community to watch a half-hour digital slide presentation about disabled pets, then enjoy free refreshments as we had a meet-and-greet with our Word Forge Books authors and several animal-related organizations from our area.

Tashi, a handsome and charming boy

One of those organizations was Tabby’s Place, a no-kill cat shelter on the Jersey side of the river. Denise Jeffries, Senior Veterinary Technician there, brought along Tashi, a gray tiger kitty, who’s paralyzed in the rear legs. Tashi has become the spokescat/mascot for Tabby’s Place, and little wonder: whatever might be missing in sensory function in this little cat is more than made up for in the abundance of sweet, lovable personality! He absolutely captivated his visitors, who flocked around his carrier for a chance to shower him with affection.

Last month, Tashi celebrated his first year on Earth, so I just wanted to wish him a belated Happy Birthday from our little corner of the world. If you’d like to know more about Tashi, here’s the YouTube vid of his first year. Or visit his web page to learn how you can sponsor him or other deserving kitties he lives with.

Are your pets afraid of storms?

Posted on by Mary Shafer

You know, I think it varies as much as it does with children and adult humans, whether pets are afraid of thunderstorms. But our recent rash of severe weather got me to thinking about how different it is for special needs pets–especially those with physical disabilities–to cope with this common fear.

Winkie and Boo Kitty often cuddle on the deep sill of our stone farmhouse

As much of a weather weenie as I am, I’ll admit that I’m often still frightened by really close or intense lightning, or especially by very loud thunder. I don’t think it’s at all silly that I see Winkie’s one eye grow very large as he leaps down from the windowsill where he loves to lay and then skitters underneath the nearest piece of furniture. The same happens with Weaver, if things get really loud, and with Boo Kitty.

But they have something of an advantage over Idgie, who is completely blind. Not only can they see quick escape routes from the window, which must feel tremendously exposed to the horrors of the storm; they can also see the nearest point of refuge. On top of that, their hearing is average, so the thunder is simply loud and frightening. Whereas Idgie’s hearing is so incredibly acute to begin with, that this sudden onslaught of booming decibels must be absolutely terrifying.

Idgie is a constant fixture at my open office windows. Here, she sits in the front.

I’ve learned to pay attention to the animal signs just as I do to the cloud signs when it comes to forecasting the weather. Ever since 1991, when the annoying clickety-clicking of our two black Labs’ toenails on the kitchen linoleum ended up saving us by keeping me awake long enough to hear the tornado coming when we received no other warning, I’ve known that they can sense things before we do. The restlessness those dogs instinctively felt allowed us time to reach the basement before that damaging storm was upon us. And this summer, I’ve paid attention to Idgie’s physical attitude on days when there’s a severe weather threat.

For the past three weeks, when most of it has taken place, it’s been so hot and sultry that we’ve had the air conditioning on constantly. That means no window-sitting for the kitties, and it really shows in their affect. By early this week, I really believe Winkie (who enjoys this the most) had actually become depressed. So I was thrilled when I woke yesterday to temps in the low 80s and reasonable humidity levels that allowed me to open up the house for a while.

Even when Weaver, our tuxedo boy, does manage to find a window spot,
he rarely gets the solace he prefers. Winkie loves his big bro and
will do what it takes to get as close as physically possible.

Within moments, every cat had found a place in an open window. Even Weaver, our older boy whose heavier weight usually keeps him pretty sedentary and less inclined to the kind of leaping it takes to make the window. Even he was glad for the respite from artificial air, and managed to heave himself up onto the hallway ledge.

But when the storms come during a time when we don’t need the AC on, I notice a change in the kitty’s behaviors. They become more alert, more restive, even as they relax in the windows. I notice that as I track the storms on radar and they move closer to our area, the kitties, one by one, abandon their posts in the windows. Since these are much-coveted spots, I know something’s coming that may be dangerous. The only exception to this is if the coming storm spurs an unusual amount of activity at our bird feeders. Then, that show is simply too tempting to keep even storm-shy kitties away from a front-row view!

Probably because she’s so much more my constant companion in the office, I particularly notice this with Idgie. I also note that as the surface winds shift, she’s more likely to move from the front window to the side and back, since this is a sensory stimulus she can read. So I’ve come to be aware that when she spends more time in the side, or south, window, we’re probably in for a more potent southerly storm, bringing heat and moisture up from the Gulf.

Idgie at the side window in my office. She knows something’s on the way.

But all this gets me to thinking: What’s it like for critters with impaired mobility when a storm strikes and they can’t move away from windows by themselves? Not that they’d necessarily be IN the windows to begin with, but I think the standard anxiety response is to dive under the bed or other furniture. What if they can’t do that? What do people do who can’t be home with their special needs pets all day, the way I’m lucky enough to do? Do you pay attention to the forecast and anticipate this need?

I suppose this is the kind of musing only a truly weather-obsessed person would wonder about, but I’d love to hear from parents of special needs pets to hear what they have to say.

Meanwhile, let me leave you with this absolutely stunning “concert” depicting a thunderstorm. All done without any musical instruments or voice. Enjoy!

Fame Finds Frankie!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Frankie has an important new job!

Woot! Woot!

Guess what, folks? Everybody’s favorite dachsie-on-wheels, Frankie the Walk n’ Roll Dog, has been named the official mascot of National Disabled Pets Day, the newly minted observation by the Animal Miracle Network! Check out their website, where you’ll see an absolutely ADORABLE photo of Frankie and her mom, Barbara Techel.

We covered Frankie a while back and have since come to be friends with Barb (who has also become a frequent commenter here at Almost Perfect Pets). You just knew then that it wouldn’t be long till this furry little tube of cuteness with the sweetest face on earth would be recognized as the stunning creature she is.

We are so proud, and we know Frankie will do a great job in her new role as NDPD spokesdog. We know Barb will help Frankie with all her new responsibilities, and I’ll let Frankie tell you the rest.

Congratulations, little wonderdog!

Here’s Something Just A Little Different…

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Here’s one from the “curiouser and curiouser” file — but lots of fun and a good example of how animals so enrich our lives. These particular pets aren’t disabled, but many of those they help to heal are. From the Pet Tales column of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Therapy dogs ‘wed,’ with home residents as witnesses

Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette

The groom, clad in black top hat and tails, stood solemnly at attention while the bridal party marched down the aisle to the strains of Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

Wedding guests “oohed” and “ahhed” at the lovely dresses, but some chuckled and nudged each other as they noted that the four bridesmaids were dogs. No offense was taken, for the bridesmaids were literally dogs: a silver toy poodle named Lexi, a Maltese named Sadie, an Irish setter named Cherry and a golden retriever named Heidi. Read more…

Great news from our neck of the woods

Posted on by Mary Shafer

When I’m not writing or blogging or playing with my kitties, I am the volunteer weather coordinator for our township’s Emergency Management Agency. Have been for about 6-7 years now. And in that capacity, I occasionally go to trainings at our county training center.

Last year, I learned about a new program called BCART, or Bucks County Animal Response Team. I was thrilled to learn that there was a group of trained people who were tasked with making sure that the awful situation that happened after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans never happened again anywhere else. This organization takes care of animals — both domestic and sometimes wild — in the event of an emergency. Sometimes during evacuations, when people don’t know how long they’ll be gone or can’t take their pets with them, and sometimes when people can’t get back to their homes and farms to take care of them during or after an emergency that has happened while they were away.

Maryann King-Hasbrouck

I learned about this from the BCART Coordinator, Maryann King-Hasbrouck. She gave the training presentation for this segment, and I got to meet her personally. Earlier this year, some of her colleagues exhibited for BCART at the Be Kind To Animals Week Celebration we held here in Upper Bucks. But right now, Maryann’s in the spotlight, and I wanted to share that news with you.

Maryann is also the Pennsylvania State Coordinator with the Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS), and is the winner of the United Animal Nations‘ 2008 Heart and Soul Award. This award is given to an individual who shows outstanding commitment to UAN and a strong personal devotion to animals.

An EARS volunteer since 1998, Maryann is also coordinator for the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team. In this capacity, she helps local organizations with their animal disaster plans and leads county animal response teams during disasters. With Bucks CART, Maryann participates in numerous disaster drills. Last October, she coordinated EARS volunteer involvement in a large, multi-county disaster drill.

When not in disaster mode, Maryann educates the public about disaster preparedness and provides useful resources, including low-cost pet micro-chipping events. She teaches pet first aid and CPR to disaster responders, and last year offered two free classes to EARS volunteers. She says, “In a disaster, many veterinary offices are closed and you may be the only one available to offer lifesaving first aid care to a pet until a vet can be reached.”

In 2005, Maryann spent a week volunteering with UAN’s Hurricane Katrina response. She currently volunteers for a local cat rescue group and is a member of the Southeast Pennsylvania Regional Task Force Animal Group. She has six cats and one dog of her own, is a trained vet tech and works full time as a registered nurse.

Let’s hear it for this selfless animal lover who understands the value of “just doing it!”

Woodson and We

Posted on by Mary Shafer

John Grogan, author of Marley & Me

Most of you have heard of John Grogan. He’s the author of the runaway (pun intended) bestseller, Marley & Me.

What you may not have heard is that he’s now got a new yellow lab named Woodson. Turns out Grogan’s a fellow Pennsylvanian (go, Keystone State!), and when he adopted Woodson, a 15-week-old ball of fur, from the set of the movie made from his book, the pup immediately loved his new surroundings.


But there was a surprise in store for Grogan and his family. As he puts it, “What we did not know that day — what no one knew, not the trainers or the producers or the breeders — was that Woodson was, indeed, special. And not just because he had enjoyed a brief run as a movie star.”

Turns out Woodson was a dog with a disability. Grogan goes on to explain that when he found out, “I called the breeders, not to complain, just to inform. They were mortified. ‘Just bring him back,’ one of the breeders said, ‘and we’ll swap him out for a new puppy, your pick of the next litter.’ I have to admit the offer was tempting, like turning in a lemon automobile for a gleaming new model. But dogs are not commodities to be discarded when they break, and I assumed that if Woodson were returned, he would be euthanized.”

You can read the whole story at Grogan’s blog, but I wanted to post this introduction here, because it’s a great stride forward for the special needs pet community that he recognizes this issue and has become such a strong champion of the concept that disabled animals are not trash to be thrown away. He even wrote about it in a piece for USA Today. Thanks, John!

Good news for disabled pets!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Maybe things ARE changing for the better, at least a little. We’ve often mentioned on this blog the fact that disabled pets have a difficult time getting adopted from shelters, and how they constitute the majority of euthanized animals. But today I discovered some GOOD news on this topic and want to share it with you!

Dr. Walton Schalick, a physical and medical historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says animal disability is an emerging field of study and he challenges his students to consider its complexity. Schalick also is a specialist in pediatric rehabilitation at American Family Children’s Hospital in Wisconsin and associate editor for Encyclopedia of Disability.

He coined the terms “xenodisability” and “zoodisability” to refer to animal disabilities and said humans owe disabled animals an enormous debt for what they teach us about ourselves.

“They tug at our heart strings and bring out the best in us,” Schalick says. “With their big eyes and heads that are sometimes larger than their bodies, they can look like children. How we approach an animal with a disability says a lot of how we, in general, treat people with disabilities.”

Now, here’s the surprising statement:

A disabled animal will often find a permanent home sooner than a healthy one will, said Larry Ringbauer, facility manager of the Will County Humane Society in Shorewood (Chicago area).

“It’s a sympathy thing,” Ringbauer said. “If they have the patience for it, people can help handicapped animals live a normal life. But we won’t let people adopt disabled pets just because they feel sorry for them. Having a handicapped animal is like having a handicapped child”

Sound familiar? Check out the whole story for yourself, and give yourself a little smile today.

Good night, sweet prince…

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I can be a little obsessive. Nothing indiscriminate; I’m particular about these obsessions — animals, art, weather, chocolate — but they are obsessions, nevertheless. And weather, particularly severe weather, is one of the biggies for me. And so, when I read about the recent passing of Nin, the mascot kitty of the weather observatory atop New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, of course I had to pay tribute here.

Nin, the Mt. Washington mascot, died on July 14

For those less weather-obsessed than I, Mt. Washington is consistently home to the official “worst weather in America.” The highest winds ever recorded outside of severe phenomena such as hurricanes or tornadoes have been clocked right there (231 MPH on April 12, 1934, for those who care). It’s on the highest peak in the White Mountains, and so is the perfect place to observe some of the most punishing weather on earth (or at least in the U.S.).

You can imagine that it takes a pretty special cat to be the mascot at such an important laboratory. And especially one so remote and isolated. He was believed to have been 19 or 20 years old, and had lived at the nearby home of one of the park rangers after retiring from his twelve-year post on Mt. Washington in 2007. You can read more here.

So, here’s to a long life, well-lived. Nin, may you always have a warm square of sunshine to lie in on a kitchen floor somewhere on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. And as you doze there, may you dream often of the wind whistling through the wires and enjoy loving hands caressing your beautiful fur. Thank you for your service to everyone whose lives are affecting by the weather.

Adios, Gidget. Te amo, little friend.

Posted on by Mary Shafer

A bit off-topic here, but significant news in Critterland, nonetheless:

Today we say goodbye to dear little Gidget, who crossed the Rainbow Bridge yesterday after succumbing to a stroke at 15. She passed at the Los Angeles home of her longtime trainer, Sue Chipperton.

Gidget is probably better known to most folks as the Taco Bell Chihuahua. Playing a male, beret-wearing spokesdog for the Americanized Mexican fast food chain, Gidget was digitally enhanced to utter the often-parodied expression of tortilla love, “Yo quiero Taco Bell!” And yes, I have one of the little stuffed dogs that says so when you squeeze it. And no, it’s not for sale.

You couldn’t help but fall in love with this little ball of personality with those huge brown eyes. The best spot was the one where the little “boy” dog tried to seduce the female with those expressive eyebrows and blinking eyes. I’ll admit that it was one ad campaign I wished would never end. Beats the hell out of “FourthMeal,” anyway.

Whatever you think about it, Gidget in her Taco Bell persona became a cultural icon of the 1990s, and will likely live on long past that in people’s memories.

We’ll miss you, Gidget. Adios, little friend.

Bullfighting – What Do You Think?

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Okay, apparently I’m just a chatty little wench tonight, because I’m on the third post of the evening…

But I was reading about a book that has something to do with Spain and its famous matadors and bullfighting and Hemingway, etc. — all that excessively butch stuff. And of course, bullfighting is one of those just absolutely lovely inventions of man (and yeah, it’s a guy thing — I just can’t even imagine a woman coming up with something so vicious and blatantly unfair) that ends up with wounded (and I guess, usually dead) animals.

Ouch! WHY would anyone voluntarily DO this kind of thing?

This topic may be a stretch for a disabled pets blog, but…well, it’s on my mind and it’s kinda related. I think this practice disables animals in more ways than one, so please indulge me.

My point — and I do have one — is that I’m wondering how you all feel about this — ahem — sport. It’s pretty clear how I feel about it, but I just really wonder about what others think, and why. Because it’s clear there is at least one country that feels pretty strongly in favor of this practice as a venerated cultural icon, something to be proud of and celebrate. And I just don’t freakin’ get it!

The whole thing just blows my mind, to be honest. What possible thrill can someone get out of standing in an enclosed ring, flicking a red cape about in a clearly too-tight outfit with this funky little cap that looks like misshapen Mickey Mouse ears (or an outdoor faucet handle, I can’t decide which is a more apt description), and tormenting this enormous, angry, tortured beast? All the while, having lots of other people around the ring there to protect the guy (or gal?) from getting what’s clearly his due: a goring from the unhappy critter.

I mean, come on: If this isn’t the epitome of a testosterone-fueled, ego-stroking yet ultimately sad and demeaning (for both participants) ritual — then what the hell is it? Something akin to another bull-related event, the Running of the Bulls (in Pamplona and other such cities), as a prelude to previously mentioned bullfight.

Here’s a bit pulled from Wikipedia:
“The purpose of this event is the transport of the bulls from the off-site corrals where they had spent the night, to the bullring where they would be killed in the evening. Youngsters would jump among them to show off their bravado. Injuries are common to the participants who may be gored or trampled, and to the bulls, whose hooves grip poorly on the paved or cobbled street surfaces.”

Um…one word just comes to mind, over and over: DUH!

I mean…really? What’s the deal with these people? Do they have a death wish? Are they just lunatics? And — most interesting — do they REALLY think this is in any way attractive?

I’m open to any and all responses, except those who will tell me I need to respect a cultural difference I can’t understand. I am SO not open to that lame argument. This is NOT about culture, unless you’re talking about a culture of cruelty — in which case, I have no desire to “understand” any part of it.

Fact is, this practice ceased to be a “cultural” thing as soon as at least some of our (too-often sorry) species evolved to the point of realizing that we really don’t have any right to be the arbiter of how much torture of another species is justifiable under the guise of our own “entertainment.”

I just found myself wanting to read this particular book until I learned it contained a good bit on bullfighting. I realized that I am so repulsed by this practice — even by the very idea of it — that I must forego reading a book I think I’d otherwise at least find interesting, if not enjoyable, because of this part of the content. And I’m really against censorship, even self-censorship (maybe even MOSTLY self-censorship). But I find most of the news around me every day so appalling, so sad and depressing, that when I read I don’t want to just pour more of that crud on myself. I read to escape, and I just don’t want to spend my free time with this kind of content.

So, what about it, folks? Blast away! In the meantime, perhaps I’ll get sleepy and not need to post again tonight. You can only hope.