Saturday, July 21, 2018

Another WTH Story

Surprise! Another raccoon story
Last Saturday a guy was riding his bike around the neighborhood with his blind "pet" raccoon on his shoulders. A woman -- who didn't even know this dude -- asked if she and her five-year-old daughter could pet the raccoon. Can you guess what happened?

Baby Mama was able to pet the animal, but when her daughter reached for the raccoon it bit her on the hand. The little girl was taken to the emergency room where they started the very expensive, very painful rabies pre-exposure shots because . . . you guessed it . . . the owner was not licensed by the state and the raccoon never received rabies vaccinations.

Surprisingly, Baby Mama didn't contact Animal Control until Monday -- a full 72 hours after the bite. She was able to give me the raccoon owner's name (Rick Stone) and phone number, but no address. What struck me was how indignant she was, refusing to accept any culpability.

It took several hours, but I was finally able to make contact with Raccoon Rick. He agreed to bring me the raccoon, knowing it was going to be euthanized and tested for rabies. Rick wouldn't give me his address, but told me he would bring me the raccoon when he got off work. We agreed that he would meet me at the police station between 4:30 and 5:00 PM.

He didn't show up.

At 5:10 I called Rick to get an estimated time of arrival. He said he thought it will be another hour. I told him I'd wait. (I've played this game before.) At 5:17 Rick called me back, saying that one of his “idiot roommates” released the raccoon in a local park. I told him that was not good, and possibly criminal. I asked him for his address and his roommate’s name, stating I might be able to help “make things right.” He refused to give me that information. Again.

You're probably thinking "Holy Moly, what a mess!" Don't worry. My Spidey Senses told me the guy was squirrely and I came up with a Plan B hours earlier. (Remember, not my first time.) Dispatch ran his name several ways to look for a local address. I had my contacts at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Department of Health look for an address as well. Each came up with something different. I did my own research online and compared notes. (FYI: Facebook searches reveal a lot of information. If you're going to do dumb things, don't post pictures online.)

I guessed at the most likely address and started scouting the neighborhood. I found a man mowing the lawn and asked if the guy next door had a raccoon. He said yes. I asked him if the guy’s name was Rick. Again, he said yes. BINGO! My FWC guy and I knocked on the door at 6 PM and spoke with the afore mentioned "idiot roommate," convincing her to turn over the raccoon. Just then Rick showed up -- and boy was he surprised! He received two citations from me: One for not preventing the bite, and the other for harboring a potential rabies vector species in the city. THEN FWC cited him for having a wild animal without the proper licensing. Not a good day for Rick.

To be honest, not that great a day for the raccoon either.

Two days later, the test results came back negative. That's good news. However, a child had to endure painful shots and a beautiful animal had to die because people were stupid. Some days this job is so frustrating. -- K

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Saving Elsa

Last week I got a call about weird noises behind some apartments. The complainant said "Maybe a dog, maybe a coyote. I don't know, but you gotta come check it out." I did, and I discovered a 6 foot wooden fence in the woods. Inside the fence was a pit about 20 feet wide, 100 feet long and 5 feet deep. The pit was muddy, overgrown and teeming with frogs and bugs. Lots of annoying, biting bugs. There were 2x6 boards across the pit, making me wonder if this was intended to be a building once upon a time. At one end of the fence was a gate, secured with a rusty chain and a giant lock. At the other end, hiding in the brush, was a skinny German shepherd. I couldn't figure out how the dog got in there. No matter though, my job was to figure out how to get the dog out.
  • The dog was large, skittish and mobile. This was good, as I had time to come up with a game plan. However, she wouldn't come when to me. I had to figure out how to get in the pit, catch her without her biting me, and get out.
  • I found the property owner and got permission to cut the lock. This takes time, but it is very important. The 4th Amendment is real squeamish about government agents -- like me! -- breaking into private property. I love dogs, but I also love not going to jail. Just sayin . . .
  • I called the animal control officers from neighboring beach cities. (My girls!) We're friends as well as colleagues, and help each other all the time.
  • I rounded up a couple strong men from Public Works (my boys!) and asked them to bring a ladder, muck boots and bolt cutters.
  • A couple of the police officers showed up too, mostly because they were curious.
  • I had a large dog trap and canned food on standby, just in case we couldn't catch her. (It's always good to have a Plan B.)
Several of us crawled into the pit with catch poles. Ducking under beams and around barbed vines, we made our way to the back of the pit. The mud was 6 inches deep in some places. Once the dog saw us, she ran (of course) and we had to turn around and try again. It was slow going. This went on for 20 minutes until one of us got a lucky shot and was able to loop the pole around the dog's neck as she ran by.

The dog was skinny and scared, snapping at anybody who got too close. We were able to pull her out of the pit without getting bit and took her back to my kennel. I hosed her off and scanned her. She had a microchip! I was able to trace the chip back to her vet's office. They said bring her in right away.


The dog's name was Elsa, and she went missing back in December of 2017. At the time she was an overweight 114 pounds. When I found her she was an emaciated 44 pounds, but she was alive! Elsa spent the rest of the week at the veterinary hospital where she was slowly reintroduced to food. She was surprisingly healthy, all things considered. She has just been reunited with her family. The family is overwhelmed and asking for privacy. I totally get it. I don't like to be in the spotlight either.

Anyway, one of the police officers took pictures at the scene (above) and sent them to my boss. Somehow they made it to the department's FB page and the news hounded my office for days wanting an interview. I find bipolar chihuahuas to be more trustworthy than our local news reporters, so I didn't oblige. Eventually there was a tragedy somewhere else and I became yesterday's news. However, I love my blog buddies and thought you'd like the story. It's days like this that make me stay at my job. Remember that when I share the raccoon story later this week. TTFN, -- K

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Goodbye Roxy

I'm sad to report that Roxy is no longer with us. This rescue failure lived a good life and brought a lot of joy to our family. The house seems so empty without her. Maybe I'll share more when I can type without crying. -- K

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Middle Dog Syndrome

A friend loaned us a wagon so
that Roxy can join us on walks
Yesterday morning was difficult for Roxy. I think she was having another vestibular episode. She didn't want to eat and couldn't seem to get comfortable. Hubby and I gave her a steroid pill, turned out the lights and loved on her as best we could. By lunch she was relaxed and napping. She even ate some chicken.

Old dogs come with issues. Bathing and grooming are more challenging (though Roxy has never be easy to bathe, brush or trim nails to begin with). Mobility is more difficult. And making sure Roxy gets outside to go potty regularly is important. She's had a few accidents in the house because she didn't tell us in time. Her care has become more time consuming.

Don't be fooled by the cuteness,
this guy is a handful!
Trooper takes up a lot of time too. Making sure he gets outside to go potty regularly is equally important -- but sometimes it's best not to take him and Roxy out at the same time. (Puppies can be annoying and overwhelming for senior dogs.) We're also working on Trooper's manners training and making sure he doesn't teethe on unapproved items. Trooper is also time consuming.

This leaves poor Jedi in the middle, wondering what's left for him. My mother (a middle child) used to talk about Middle Child Syndrome. According to Wikipedia:
Middle child syndrome is the feeling of exclusion by middle children. This effect occurs because the first child is more prone to receiving privileges and responsibilities (by virtue of being the oldest), while the youngest in the family is more likely to receive indulgences. The middle child no longer has their status as the baby and is left with no clear role in the family, or a feeling of being "left out".
Jedi puts up with it all
I wonder, does this happen with dogs too? Does Jedi feel like this? Hubby has gone out of his way to give him more attention when I'm dealing with the puppy. And I always have special one-on-one time with Jedi at bedtime (both Roxy and Trooper are confined at night, whereas Jedi has free roam.) Sometimes I'll take him with me to run errands after work, leaving the others at home. Despite this, I feel I should do more. Any suggestions? -- K

P.S. Dog Mom guilt is no easier than Kid Mom guilt. This sucks!

Friday, July 13, 2018

How Much?

I'm one of the Admin people for my dog club's Facebook page. I answer all the private messages that come through. Many are from people looking for a GSD. Invariably they ask "How much does a German Shepherd cost?" That's really not an easy question to answer.

Top dollar or pocket change?
If I asked how much does a car cost, you wouldn't be able to answer without knowing the following:
  • New or used?
  • Foreign or domestic?
  • What size?
  • All the bells and whistles or just the basics?
I bet you can think of a dozen more questions as well.

The same is true of dogs. I ask people:
  • Do you want a puppy or an adult?
  • From a rescue or from a breeder?
  • Working line or show line?
  • American, German or Czech? (There really is a difference.)
  • Do you want AKC papers? If so, full or limited registration?
  • Are you just looking for a companion/family dog?
  • Are you going to show the dog in conformation?
  • Do you want to participate in sports like Obedience, Barn Hunt, Agility or Scent Work?
  • Do you want a working dog to herd sheep or do search and rescue?
  • Do you want breeding rights?
  • How long are you willing to wait for a dog?
  • How far are you willing to travel to get the dog?

My first piece of advice to the inquirers is to figure out exactly what they want. Why pay top dollar for a show puppy if you're never going into the conformation ring? And do not look at West German working lines if you have a sedentary lifestyle -- both you and the dog will be miserable.

Most people don't think about the things above. Even more mindboggling are the various things factored into the price of a puppy:
  • Were there extensive pre-pregnancy expenses?
  • How much was the stud fee?
  • Which genetic tests were performed on the parents before breeding?
  • Was it a natural breeding or did the breeder have to pay for in vitro fertilization?
  • Was this a natural birth or a C-section?
  • How big was the litter?

Yes, there are a lot of variables. Things usually not factored into the price include:
  • The thousands of hours (and dollars) spent training, showing/trialing the bitch to prove she's worthy of breeding
  • The time spent combing through pedigrees to find the right stud to complement the bitch
  • The money spent on a previous breeding that didn't take (it happens more often then you'd think)
The price of a dog can vary greatly. I've seen dogs "free to a good home." I've also heard of puppies going for $10,000+. Still, people want answers, not reasons. So I tell them: "In my experience, expect to pay $250-$500 from a legitimate breed rescue; $1000-$3000 from a reputable breeder in this area. If the price is more or less than expected, it's OK ask why. If you don't think the answer is reasonable, then go elsewhere." 

Some people are okay with this answer. Others balk. I guess it's just a matter of personal priorities. I have no problem spending a couple thousand dollars for a well-bred dog, but refuse to spend more than $40 for a pair of shoes. TMI? -- K

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

5 Months

Trooper is five months old today!

Super Trooper
We've had Trooper about 10 days now and he's fitting right in. We love this little goofball. Here are five fun Trooper facts:
  1. Off Position
    Trooper has two speeds: full throttle and off. He can switch between the two at the drop of a hat.
  2. Trooper will eat anything, including lettuce, birdseed, paper towels and his own poop (eeeew). However, peanut butter stuffed Kongs are more to his liking.
  3. Trooper is a "morning dog." He's up early, full of energy and demanding attention. He hasn't figured out that I AM NOT a "morning person," no matter how many times he barks and licks my face.
  4. Trooper is not afraid of fireworks. Every July my neighborhood sounds like the soundtrack of a WWII movie. (Rednecks love their explosives.) Luckily, Trooper couldn't care less about the noise.
  5. Trooper has figured out how to get on the furniture. He likes to climb onto the couch and nap with Roxy. Isn't that cute? He also lies on my bed as I get ready for work.
He heard his name
Trooper is a fun, lovable pup who is wearing me out. I haven't been this tired since I had toddlers. I'm trying to remember to nap when he naps and keep puppy-safe chew toys within reach at all times.

Some pleasant side effects to this super nova wrapped in fur: I've lost five pounds from chasing after him and I pick up clutter regularly! Between waiting for the puppy to poop and picking up poop (so said puppy doesn't eat it --- again, eeeew), I'm enjoying my back yard more than I have in a long while.

Oh, gotta go! Nap time is over. Catch you later, -- K

Monday, July 9, 2018

Those Darn Raccoons

This guy was hanging around Main Street
Last spring I got a strange call. A woman said she heard an awful noise coming from her back yard. When she looked outside she saw a giant raccoon. (It was during the day so she knows it has rabies -- grr). I told her it wasn't rabies, but I would come and take a look anyway. When I arrived we couldn't find the raccoon anywhere. Then I looked up and saw him. It was definitely a big raccoon, and he was climbing up her live oak tree. He looked determined. I told her that he looked healthy, but please call if he comes back down. As I was leaving we heard the "awful noise" again and I realized that there were two raccoons in the tree. Then the light bulb came on. Apparently raccoons are very noisy when the mate.

I had a guy call last week. He saw a mother raccoon out with her babies and "they all gotta have rabies 'cuz they're out during the day!" (Regular readers know what's coming next.) I nicely explained that urban raccoons have learned that food is easier to find during the day and they have shifted their sleeping patterns. Since raccoon had youngsters with her, I would bet that the raccoons were not rabid, just hungry.

Our city is a tree sanctuary. We actually have lots of wildlife, especially raccoons. The city is also an unofficial crazy cat lady sanctuary. We have a large number of people feeding feral cats along with all the opportunistic wildlife -- especially raccoons. (See what's happening here?)

Every year we have raccoons die of distemper. This season of death runs roughly November through April. This season we caught and euthanized 40 raccoons -- four times our normal average. Other raccoons were found dead in the parks or in people's yards. The town was in a panic over sick raccoons and everybody assumed it was rabies. What a nightmare!

I wrote an article for the city's FB page about raccoons and distemper. Points included:
  • Raccoons are susceptible to both canine and feline distemper. Although they both can cause acute illness and death, they are two completely different viruses. Distemper does not affect humans.
  • The disease is more likely to occur when raccoon populations are large or concentrated. Not all raccoons get the disease. Others do, yet live through it.
  • The disease is spread when animals direct contact with body fluids or droppings from an infected animal. 
  • Distemper is always present in the environment, so the best prevention is to ensure your pets are vaccinated. Contact your vet to make sure your pets’ vaccinations are current.
  • Symptoms of distemper may include discharge from the nose and eyes, a rough coat, emaciated appearance, and unusual behavior such as disorientation or wandering aimlessly. Although some symptoms are similar, distemper is not the same disease as rabies.
  • Keep children and pets away from sick raccoons. As the disease progresses, the animal may appear calm, but can become aggressive if it feels trapped or threatened.
  • If you have a sick raccoon in your yard, call the police department. An animal control officer will be dispatched as soon as possible. (Yes, this was written before the idiot decided to kill the raccoon with an axe.)
  • To discourage raccoons, remove attractants like bird feeders from your yard.
  • Feed your pets indoors.
  • Make sure garbage cans are secure and can’t be knocked over or have their lids removed.
  • Sick raccoons may pass through your yard and move on.
  • If a raccoon dies in your yard, place it in a thick garbage bag and dispose of it with your garbage.
  • DO NOT FEED RACCOONS! Providing artificial food sources leads to unnaturally large concentrations of animals and increases the spread of disease.
Think it'll help? Probably not. Raccoons are smart. People, not so much. -- K