Monday, April 13, 2009

City Dogs, City Cats

Spring is here, and dogs and cats are everywhere. Responsible pet guardians make good neighbors. Those with and without pets can co-exist peacefully. Let’s review some guidelines for keeping dogs and cats safe in the city.

Identification on pets is essential, and licensing is required by law. Dogs are generally safe off leash in an enclosed area on their own property. In Portland, there are parks with designated dog areas. The safest are fenced. (How many lost pet signs have you seen?)

Each dog park has its own rules and hours. Once your dog is off leash, more than ever, you are responsible. It’s tempting to chat with other dog people and forget to keep an eye out for your dog. That may make it too late to break up a potential fight. (Maybe you can predict your dog’s behavior, but you can't predict the manners of other dogs.) With a focus on socialization, dog guardians are often unaware when their dog has left what needs to be picked up. Carry extra plastic bags, and be a good neighbor by being a responsible guardian. Keep an eye on your dog.

Those with or without dogs can be good neighbors by demonstrating etiquette when encountering an unknown dog on leash. Always ask permission to pet the dog, no matter how friendly the dog appears. It’s not only good manners, it’s a safety measure. A fearful dog can be as dangerous as an aggressive dog. Safety can’t be predicted by breed; animals are individuals, too.

Outdoor pet cats exercise their wanderlust and hunting skills, even when well fed. Keep identification and a bell on your cat’s collar. Remember, cats are born hunters, and experts at stealth. Some know how to stalk prey (frequently birds) without making a sound. Outdoor felines are subject to dangers that can shorten their lifespan to a mere two years or less.

Whether or not you are a pet guardian, you can also demonstrate good citizenship by keeping an eye out for what is happening in your neighborhood. Abuse and neglect of animals does happen. Just like children, they need responsible others looking out for them. If you witness an animal being neglected or abused, phone the investigators at the Oregon Humane Society (503-285-7722.) Or go to, click on Services, then Investigations. Use your best judgment deciding whether to personally confront someone. If you see your neighbor’s dog leashed up on the front lawn with an empty water bowl on a hot day, maybe you can fill it yourself. Most pet guardians are responsible, and have good intentions. Assume the best of others, and they will often rise to the occasion.

Spaying and neutering. It’s probably the most critical issue in animal welfare. There simply are not enough homes for all of the cats and dogs born. The statistics are astounding. For every person in the US, 15 dogs are born and 45 cats. According to the Humane Society of the US, more than 3 million cats & dogs are euthanized in shelters annually. Not only is a spayed or neutered pet a healthier, happier pet, it is the most important choice you can make as a pet guardian. If you or your children want to see the miracle of birth, borrow or rent a nature movie.

Rescue groups abound, and before you decide to go to a breeder for your next pet, do an internet search to see if the breed you want has a rescue group. There are many great rescue groups in town, beginning with our very own Oregon Humane Society.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Puppy

It already sounds like a sad story, doesn't it? My last day with Zora, who I had known since her adoption day when she was just eight weeks of age, was bittersweet. Ironically, that morning together turned out to be our best.

Zora had no idea what was ahead when she left her 12th floor condo, and jumped into the back seat of my car. At 14 weeks of age, she was still skittish walking in the Pearl. It was simply too noisy, too busy, and she was a comical sight as I sometimes dragged her along. Little did Zora know that we were headed over the Broadway Bridge, to the much quieter environs of residential Irvington.

I was on a house sit for Molly, adopted from Golden Bond, a rescue group for Golden Retrievers. Clearly, Molly had been abused, and she was skittish in her own way. But Molly was making great progress, and there were some dogs who didn't set her to barking. Zora and Molly both needed socialization with other dogs, and I saw this as a potential win-win.

Zora and I entered Molly's home from the back. They sniffed each others scent, and then I opened a door. Molly was surprised, and I assured her that Zora was only visiting. Fortunately, there was a lot of tail wagging, on both sides.

The highlight of the morning was extended play time in a huge, enclosed back yard. It was the first time I was able to let Zora off leash, and watch her romp on grass with another dog. Molly's favorite activity is ball playing. Molly chased the ball, and Zora barked with glee as she chased Molly. I savored the moment, witnessing Zora and Molly playfully running freely on a beautiful day. One of those completely perfect moments in time.

Zora's Mom was able to pack, while her dog was enjoying a play date. She had been laid off the prior week, and was now getting ready to move to New Hampshire, where she and her husband had a farm. Daily city noise would be replaced by the sounds of nature. That morning Zora had a taste of the good life to come.

When we returned to the Pearl, I wasn't successful finding street parking, so Zora's Mom came down to retrieve her. It was not the lingering goodbye I had anticipated. Zora was quickly leashed, Ann and I gave each other a quick hug, and then, they were gone. The rushed goodbye did make it a bit easier to leave a puppy I had grown to love, and will never forget. I fought back tears as I headed back over the Broadway Bridge, and comforted myself thinking about Zora in the countryside, running freely, reveling in life, unleashed.