Saturday, September 5, 2009

Christmas in September

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

Aside from the fresh water, clean kennels, regular meals and attention, the dogs rescued from a Turner County, South Dakota are now receiving the ultimate UAN volunteer care. Since the UAN and HSUS teams arrive basically self-contained, the only request we can think to ask of community members who are eager to help is toys for the dogs. We had the opportunity today to play Santa Claus and have Christmas in September.

The generosity of the Turner County residents has now made play time a much longer and fulfilling event of the day. Even the big dogs, who have so much energy, are tossing toys and pouncing, rolling around with them and wagging their tails. We also discovered that empty water bottles make ideal toys for the active puppies. They make fun sounds but are easy to “destroy.” Once the bottle has been chomped on by multiple puppies a few times, it goes flat and apparently looses its allure.

I think the nursing mothers may appreciate the toys the most. The puppies stop their non-stop nursing and tugging on mom to investigate the new thing we have tossed into their home. They cautiously move forward, sniff, pounce, jump back and then go for it. They play with their squeaky toys, balls, soft bones, tug ropes and each other until finally, they crash out in a big sleeping pile. Mom is able to get some quiet time and much-needed rest without her babies continually seeking her attention.

Watching the dogs act like “real dogs,” lounging around and playing, is great therapy for all of the hardworking volunteers. The delight these dogs have in getting their own personal, fun toy is obvious. After morning feeding and cleaning, we pass out the toys and listen to the sound of squeaks, grunts and yips until eventually the shelter is quiet…they have worn themselves out and are now on to nap time. This is the best part of the day. We watch the dogs sleeping peacefully, once in a while lazily getting up to take a drink of fresh water or look around and flop back over with a sigh.

Life is now good for these dogs.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Here we go again

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

UAN is at yet another puppy mill deployment. How wonderful is it that we can make such a difference across the country, to so many animals, in such a short period of time?! We are all tired and sore, but so inspired with the impact we have made over the last few days, weeks and months.

UAN volunteers are now in turner County, South Dakota helping to care for almost 200 dogs who have come from horrible conditions.

You can read more about this situation in our
press release or watch this news segment.

These are all hunting breed dogs, not the fluffy little ones we have become accustomed to, but still loving and desperate for attention like all of the other animals we have helped. The retrievers, Weimaraners, spaniels and others are much heartier than the Maltese, poodles and Chihuahuas we usually work with, but there are still signs of obvious neglect.

Many of these active, energetic dogs were kept in small kennels and most of the puppies and nursing moms were held in silos or other small farm structures. It was obvious that these dogs had little or no contact with the outside world, as rescuers had to cut holes into some of the buildings to fit their bodies through to get to the dogs. Small, high windows were their only source of light and fresh air. They lived in their own waste with no attention to health or hygiene.

Many of the puppies are in very poor to critical condition, but are improving rapidly with the supportive care of the veterinary team and the volunteers. Constant rehydration and supplemental nutrition has been necessary for them to survive. With a full volunteer crew and a team of vets, this is something they are receiving constantly at the emergency shelter.

I personally am not overly familiar with hunting breed dogs, but am learning what is “normal” and what is not. The males are almost all obese while the females are emaciated. There are no dogs between the ages of six weeks to one year, which leads me to believe the dogs in our care are the “breeding stock.” The females are giving everything they’ve got to their puppies and spend most of their time sleeping in the small wading pools we have set up with sheets and towels.

The males are going bonkers in their kennels, which are quite a bit larger than what they were housed in on the property. We are doing our best to keep their water buckets full as most of the dogs are dehydrated and in their excitement for human contact and attention are constantly knocking them over.

Every so often the shelter becomes unusually quiet. All of the dogs are just worn out and getting so comfortable in their clean kennels full of soft cedar chips. They are now on a regular feeding and cleaning schedule (and we are only on day two!) and getting the comfort, care and rest they so desperately deserve.

Although this is a new experience for me in dealing with a large number of large-breed dogs, I still feel the overwhelming satisfaction that these guys are in a much better place and are already benefitting from it. Thank goodness for Second Chance Rescue, The Humane Society of the United States and UAN. I feel confident that each of these dogs will go from being a commodity to becoming a family member and pet … something every dog deserves.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Then came Ella...

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

I'm writing this on Sunday night, and every last one of our dogs has gone off to great rescue groups. Even the mangy dogs, the old dogs, the ultra-scared dogs … there was a place for each and every one of them. The shelter is empty and quiet and feels very strange after the flurry of activity over the past four days. I am always amazed we can get the job done so quickly. Dogs came in different trucks with varying numbers and breeds and problems. We documented them, gathered evidence, cared for them and -- boom -- they were out the door. Many of us even found time for grooming, bathing and cuddle time. This was a huge undertaking for any emergency shelter. And as I said in my previous post, it was all done extraordinarily well. No one fell through the cracks; every single dog got fed, cleaned, comforted and cared for. We know exactly where they came from, what they did while they were with us, and where they ended up. You would think I would get used to the incredible abilities and dedication of the UAN volunteers, but they never cease to amaze me.

So I thought I was getting off easy on this deployment. Many of the dogs were very cute and very sweet, all needed attention and affection. I happily thought to myself, "I am finally getting used to this; I haven’t really fallen for any of them. Maybe I’m a real professional now." Then came Ella, a tiny long-haired chihuahua.

I noticed her lying limply in her cage, panting and uncomfortable. I took her over to see the vet, who took one look at her and said: “Well, she’s older than dirt and a train wreck” and proceeded to discover all of her many ailments. Those two phrases "older than dirt” and “train wreck” are somehow my weakness. Can’t I every fall for a cute, happy, healthy puppy? And I’m a big-dog girl. I hand fed Ella some smelly puppy food and she tentatively ate some polite little bites, but she still didn’t look very happy. I then got an ice bag and wrapped a cushy towel around it, misted it with just the right amount of water so it was cool, but not too cold, and put it in her cage. I got as many fleas and ticks off of her as I could after she was documented and left her to it. When I went back a while later (okay, it was ten minutes) she was fast asleep on her cooling bed. Seeing her go from unhappy and uncomfortable to sleeping so deeply she was almost snoring gave me the warm fuzzies.

I kept bringing her to the vet and fretting over her and Doc finally sent her to the local emergency clinic. As far as we know she didn’t have any critical needs, I think the vet just needed me to stop worrying about her. Again, you’d think I’d be used to this. I now know she is resting very comfortably there, getting constant treatment and supervision and is starting to perk up. Oh my, is she going to brighten someone’s life! She’s an itty bitty little girl who needs a whole lot of love, but I know someone special will give her the life of luxury that she has been denied but so deserves. Thank goodness she is no longer where she was and is now getting the ultimate care she desperately needs. Once she gets over her mange, gets a bath, gets her nails trimmed so she can walk again and gets some love and attention, she will change someone’s life. I’m glad I was able to meet her and start her on her journey to the life she deserves.