1st Rescue – Meet Pen and Ollie

It was a Saturday morning in New Orleans. The first Saturday of the month. We like to go to the local Freret Market. Freret Street is transitional. It is up-and-coming, revitalizing, and still haunted by its pre-Katrina gang and projects past. It’s a microcosm of my part of New Orleans, the affluent bumping up against the poor. House-by-house, block-by-block, revitalized, revitalizing, under-construction, tear-down. We looked at a house near Freret Street. It was an affordable and modern shotgun rebuild, walking distance to great new restaurants and bars. It was great except for the drug dealers two doors down. They were very polite. Like really polite. They said Good Morning as we walked the neighborhood. It’s a very southern thing, that politeness. I still can’t get used to it after living in DC and Paris. We talked to some neighbors and passed on that house. Not with kids, they said. Still, we like the restaurants. We frequent the monthly street market that has live music and food trucks and local artists and dog adoptions…

He wanted a hot dog and a beer. We put Pen, our young Labrador Retriever, my writing companion, in a harness and leash and headed out. There were puppies. Five of them, in a little pen. I knew they would be there. I just wanted to maybe look. They were really cute. I picked one up. I didn’t want to put him down. Um, beagles I think, said the sorority girl volunteer. They sort of had beagle coloring, and floppy ears, and long legs. Non-beagle legs. Beagle with a lift-kit, we decided. Cute, we decided. Pen liked him. She was surprisingly cool and well-behaved around the puppy. Please, I said? I might have whined. A little. I might have definitely had the pleading eyes and sad face as we walked away. Can we please? I pleaded. I came for a beer and a hot dog, he said. We can’t afford another dog, he said.  It was true that our one dog was expensive. We bought her and she had parasites and needed so many vaccinations and medecine, and dog beds, and a leash and collar and toys, and food and treats, and toys. She needed a good deal of toys. And attention. She needed a lot. And she would need to be spayed. Cha-Ching, cha-ching.

Let’s just ask, I said. I had heard sorority girl saying they had their shots and the rescue would pay for the spay/neuter. Maybe not so expensive, I said. We asked. We found the non-sorority girl in charge and we asked lots and lots of questions. Really, not so expensive. Cool. Ok, he said. Grudgingly. I could tell that he only wanted to make me happy and basically thought this was a really stupid idea. But, he said ok. We filled out adoption paperwork. I will need to talk to your vet, she said. We called his personal number, on a Saturday morning (sorry Ned), and handed her the phone. All good. I’ll need to do a home visit, she said. Right. We have a fence. We don’t have a landlord. We aren’t cooking meth or a puppy mill. Sure. When? I can come right after I’m done here, she said, around 4. Great, we said. And here is where it gets weird. It was loud with live music blaring. We thought she had okayed us taking the dog, and so I named him Ollie and brought him home. She never showed up at 4. We later got a phone call. She was unhappy. We took the dog without her permission, she said. Wait, what? We had talked to her for like half an hour and walked away from her holding the dog and everything was cool. Except that in her version, we had stolen the dog. Whatever. She was kind of dramatic. Ollie was fine, and napping, and I tried to reschedule that home visit for the next three days, and she just kept saying she would come, and never did. So, I’m not going to say who that rescue was, except to say that it’s not Zeus’ Place, which is usually at the Ferret Market and is great. I will say that that other rescue should have been more organized, more explicit, and more thorough. They should have followed up and they didn’t. I stole their dog. He is a great dog. We really love him. I’d steal him again. Trying to track down that rescue so that they could do the home visit is the reason I rescue now. Before that, I knew nothing about dog rescue. That was just the beginning…..

Pen - 8 September 2016 - forever

Ollie - 19 November 2016 - forever

Henry and Edward – Arooooo

Those eyes. Those big, sad eyes. I followed the posts about this stray beagle until they were marked URGENT. I reached out to every beagle and hound rescue between Louisiana and Florida. I couldn’t get those eyes out of my head. I could not let this dog die.

There are deadlines in rescue, both for the dogs and the fosters. The dogs that are in the shelter the longest are at the highest risk of being put down. If someone brings new dogs to the shelter, and they don’t have space, the long-timers have to go. Henry and Edward (pictured together above) were already sharing a crate. The shelter was full. They were facing a hard deadline.

I had a short window in which I could rescue a dog. I had foster dogs coming and going on transport quarantines. These dogs were going to Virginia for adoption. When stray, or in a shelter, these pups have been exposed to a lot. They go into foster homes for about three weeks and we make sure that they are healthy and ready to travel. At the end of their quarantine, the foster takes them to the vet to get a Health Certificate, which allows them to cross state lines legally. This documents that they are healthy and up-to-date on all immunizations, have current rabies tags, and even lists their microchip number (in case they get lost). During the quarantine time, you don’t want to bring in a new dog from the shelter that might expose them to new illness. Worms and kennel cough are highly contagious. So, I’m always getting in new dogs, but the timing has to be managed.

I hate worms. I never used to. I wasn’t overly fond of them, ever, but they never used to be the enemy. I feel like I’m fighting battle after battle against worms. Roundworm, tapeworm, hookworm, whipworm, heartworm, worm, worm, worm, worm, worm. They come to us with worms. I didn’t used to know what deworming was. Now I rely on it.

Worms are the most common health problem in dogs. Here are the signs that your dog might have worms:

Visible worms in the feces Tapeworms appear as small moving segments that look like rice. Roundworms look like pasta.

Diarrhea  If you see soft stools, your dog may have worms. If you see bloody stools, they may have hookworms, which are not visible to the eye.

Vomiting If your dog is vomiting, there may be worms behind it. If they are roundworms, they can be visible in the 

Sudden changes in appetite If your dog is infected with roundworms, you may notice a loss of appetite. as the worm's multiply and steal the dog's nutrients, an increase in appetite will be apparent.

Weight loss Tapeworms and whipworms can cause sudden weight loss.

Loss of energy A lethargic dog may have worms.

Itching and Scooting Worms can sometimes cause skin irritations and itching in the anbal region. If you see your dog scooting across the floor or ground, they are trying to relieve the itch. Have your vet check for worms, as well as 
checking their anal glands.

Bloated puppies Puppies can easily pick up worms from their mother and often 
appear to have bloated tummies. Puppies can be infected with the mother's 
roundworms at birth.  Puppies also contract worms by eating larvated eggs in 
their environment or the larvae can be passed through the mother's milk. 
Nursing mothers should be kept on monthly preventives and treated for 
infestations to decrease the risk of transmission. Puppies should be dewormed 
at 2, 4, 6,and 8 weeks of age and then receive a preventive monthly treatment. 
Fecal examinations should be conducted several times per year.

Cough Dogs with hookworms, roundworms, or advanced heart worms can develop a cough.

Dogs' worms are contagious, they are shared by coming into contact with an 
infected dog's feces. (Scoop it up right away if you can.) Roundworms are 
the most common and do pose a risk to us as well as to other pets. Contact 
with contaminated soil or feces can result in human infection. 
Roundworm eggs may accumulate in the soil where your pets go. Walking 
barefoot in that area should be avoided.  Roundworms can cause eye, lung, 
heart and neurologic problems in humans. Children and pregnant women are 
most at risk. Remove feces regularly to keep your dog's play area clean, 
and wash your hands thoroughly.

If you suspect worms in your dog, take them to the vet. Most intestinal 
worms are easily treated with medication. If left untreated, a severe 
infestation of worms could damage your dog’s internal organs and lead to 
loss of consciousness and death.

Henry, like many strays in Louisiana, is heartworm positive. I will be learning all about heartworm treatment  as we get him through it. Step 1 is to start monthly heartworm preventatives and 30 days of doxycycline, a pretty serious antibiotic. Doxy is used to fight the bacteria that come along with heart worms. If your dog has heartworm there is a lengthy and expensive process of treatment. Heartworm is awful, and fully preventable with monthly preventive medication.  Consult with your vet for recommendations for your dog.

Here is my worm haiku:

Now we are not friends
The worms live within the dogs
Pooped out

I know it’s gross, but look at your dogs poo. If it looks or smells different, something just isn’t right. Talk to your vet.

Back to the beagles. I had a short window. Henry and Edward had a short window. I am not exaggerating when I say that I spent about 18 hours trying to convince various rescue groups to help me help these dogs. I was close to begging. As much as I wanted to just drive over and pick Henry up, I couldn’t. I would have had to adopt him and take on his medical expenses, which I cannot do. I want to help as many dogs as possible, and that way won’t work.  So, I kept reaching out. I finally found a rescue willing to help, *if we could raise some money to defray the medical costs. Heartworm treatment can be expensive; prevention is cheap. I had never done any fundraising before, but I was determined-going-on-obsessed that this beagle, Henry, was not going to die. A wonderful mother of my son’s school friend made a donation. Once we had that, the ball started rolling, and we were able to raise enough money to get Henry out. Coco’s House Senior Sanctuary and Rescue in Mississippi, was willing to help, but we had to rescue Edward also. N o beagle left behind! I was able to bring them both home and breath a huge sigh of relief. Sometimes you pick a dog; you can’t get it out of your mind. You HAVE to rescue that dog. Henry was like that for me. I fought for him. He was the first dog that I fought for. And I won. I saved him. It felt great.

Edward was a sweet dog…with Henry. Unlike Henry, Edward was not neutered. He came into my house and immediately tried to establish dominance with every other dog here, including some very large ones. It wasn’t going to work out. I was worried about every dog’s safety. I had to keep him separated overnight, and then I drove him to Mississippi to the rescue the next day.

Henry, on the other hand, was chill. He was reluctant to even enter the house for the first few days. It was obvious that he had never been an indoor dog. Henry likes to curl up on a particular chair on my front porch office and snooze. He is usually the first dog to alert the pack that another canine is approaching the house. He has a great nose. He howls. He has a great howl too. He alerts and then all of my dogs run along the fence while a dog is walked by. Henry’s our dog alarm. He is very protective of us. But mostly, Henry naps.

Gradually, Henry learned the many joys of indoor dog life. In other words, he is now happy to be a pampered pet. Those big brown eyes aren’t sad anymore. This is his I’M-RESCUED-FACE. I love this face!

My husband calls Henry ‘Barny Fife’. Henry is pretty low-energy most of the day, but he is a morning dog, and a ringleader. He likes to get up and play a good game of chase. He grabs a toy and runs. All of the other dogs chase, and try to get the toy. There is howling involved. (I love it when the puppies try to imitate his howl.) We try to keep this game quick and distract the dogs.  I’m sure my neighbors will appreciate it. Just like with kids, it’s hard to stop them from having fun, even if it is loud.

Henry always goes to the front door when I call for all of the dogs to go to their cages as I’m leaving the house. They all run to their cages and get a treat. He stands at the door. He wants to come along. Henry loves to window surf in the car. He also likes to table surf. He’s basically a surf dude. He is clever, very sneaky. When in the house, you can often find Henry lying underneath the dining room table, but occasionally you will find him standing on top of it, surveying his kingdom, maybe having a light snack. (I no longer leave bowls of fruit on the table. He likes fruit.)

Henry likes to wander. We actually have to keep him from running out the front gate. On a leash, he moves at a snail’s pace, leisurely sniffing and strolling, absolutely in no hurry to get anywhere. This beagle drops my blood pressure and chills me out.

Day by day, we have watched Henry feel better, become more playful and wag his tail more. It’s wonderful to watch the transformation as these dogs get healthy and learn to be indoor dogs. Henry isn’t out of the woods yet.  On June 1st he will get his first of several lumbar injection to kill the actual heartworms.  This will require periods of confinement while he is getting better. I can’t wait to post pictures of him happy and healthy and worm-free!

Henry - fostered 18 March 2017 - present 
Edward - pulled from the shelter 18 March 2017 and driven to Coco's House Senior Sanctuary and Rescue in MS


In need of forever – Bella and Homer

Why do people give up or abandon their dogs?

Not enough space. That is why Homer was taken to the Mississippi shelter by his family. Not enough space. Homer is a great big puppy for sure, and he has no idea how big he is. His family let him down. They kept him when he was cute and little and then gave him away when he got too big. (Did they think that he would stay small forever? Didn’t they plan ahead?) I think that Homer was probably kept in a crate all day and then got wild when he was finally let out. Homer was chill for me, but he loves to play. He is a very social lab-hound.  He came to me with Bella, a beautiful black lab who had been used as a breeding dog and given up to the same shelter when they were done breeding her. Bella acted like she had never been an indoor dog before, like she had never received much in the way of affection. Her owner (I won’t even call him family) was known at the shelter. He brought other dogs there, once they were no longer useful to his business. Think about that. This guy might be considered a “reputable breeder”, but do you want to support him? Would you like to buy one of Bella’s puppies knowing that after she has given birth to three or four litters she will be dropped off at a kill shelter?

It was the 3rd week of March, 2017 and I had gotten to the point where my eyes had been opened to a lot. So many things that I never knew about the world of dogs in the southern US. I was at the point that when Lu’s Labs asked me to foster a dog  I said yes, then they asked if I could take two, and I said absolutely. Not long before, I would not have done that. I would have thought it was too hard. It isn’t really. Because I work at home and I’m not fighting deadlines, I have time to give to these sweet dogs. They need the same unconditional love that they give us. Some need to learn to feel safe again. Some need to learn to be pets, because all they’ve ever done is breed puppies for someone else benefit. Bella needed to learn how to be loved as a pet. She was calm, shy and sweet. Homer was gregarious and needed to be touched and rubbed and snuggled. He needed to run with the other dogs and wear himself out playing. He needed to be a puppy. I guess his first family thought that  he needed those things and they could not give them.

I don’t think my neighbors could fully appreciate Homer. He has a bark that makes you stop what you are doing. It is the best guard dog bark I’ve ever heard. He is a big, dopey hound, but he sounds fierce and he has the size to back it up. If you spend any time at all with Homer, you fall in love with him. He has these eyes. You can read him through his eyes, and he exudes happiness. Where Homer was the life of the party, Bella was my wallflower. She was low energy, she would play fetch, but mostly just lay and watch the world go by. Every day that she spent with us she got a little more relaxed until she was just absolutely zen.  It was a little hard to say goodbye to these two. Homer was such a big personality, and Bella had made so much progress. I knew when I handed her over to the second transport driver (of the dozens that took her north) that she was scared. I knew that it would take her some time to settle again once she got to Virginia. Before a dog leaves the state, we have to go to the vet and get a Health Certificate that lists the dogs vaccination record. I told them her ears were bothering her. Bella had chronic ear infections and was undergoing treatment. I had detailed notes about her food and medications. I was worried about her.

You might wonder about the logistics of transporting dogs from the south all of the way to Virginia or New York. We do it with a lot of volunteers. There are these angels that drive transport and that organize the whole thing, One leg at a time, with sometimes as many as 20 legs. I pack several days of food in individual portioned ziplock bags with their names on each bag and instructions about when to feed them. (Abrupt changes in diet can cause undue gastric stress.) We also send along a blanket and/or a toy and a bag that contains all of their medical records, rabies tags, and pertinent information. All of this and the dog get passed from transport angel to transport angel, people who give up a few hours of their weekend to help these dogs make it to their new homes up north. Why you ask? Why not just have them adopted in the south? Because up north dogs are indoor pets, and there are more adopters than available dogs. There are even waitlists to adopt a dog. In the south, dogs are too often kept outside, and un-spayed and un-neutered, they roam. The result is so many strays and unwanted litters of puppies that the shelters are overly full and there are never enough adopters.

I had no idea.

Homer and Bella were not meant to be used and then given away. They were meant to have wonderful, loving forever families, and that is what they got. I am always so happy to see and share Pupdates, updates on my foster dogs with their forever families. Look at these pictures. You can feel love pouring off of them. They are getting the forever they deserve. That is why I do this.


Bella - fostered 22 March -  1 April 2017 ; adopted in VA
Homer - fostered 22 March - 22 April 2017 ; adopted in VA

Volunteering to Hold Puppies Is My Kind of Volunteering

Now that I am getting involved in animal rescue and learning about the local rescue organizations, I thought it would good to get the kids involved.  A few months ago, we made our bi-weekly pilgrimage to Company Burger, which just happens to be across the Street from Zeus’ Place. I have several friends who have adopted dogs from Zeus’ Place, and they always have a cute sign out that says something funny, like Slighty Used Kittens.  We walked in before dinner and asked about volunteering. My daughter and I have been helping out at their weekend adoption events ever since.  We spend a few hours with the adoptable dogs, sometimes in front of Petco, sometimes at Dat Dog (where you get a free hot dog if you adopt a dog). We get to hold puppies and walk the older dogs around to meet people. These animals are so happy for the attention. I found out that my daughter, who is 9, can read a cheat sheet of dog information, memorize the pertinent details, and make a pretty good hard sell.  It feels so good when someone fills out an application for adoption.

Michelle Ingram opened this New Orleans pet rescue, boarding and grooming establishment in 2006. After working in animal rescue for over a decade, Hurricane Katrina made her realize the importance of doing what you love. I am 100% in support of that. I like to say that I could have nice things, but I’d rather have a dog to cuddle up to (or you know 5 or 6).  Zeus’ Place is named after Michelle’s chocolate Labrador Retriever, who died of cancer not long before Katrina hit. This year they have expanded and they welcome new volunteers for adoption events and as registered dog walkers.  They often have litters of absolutely adorable puppies, and I’m happy to report that they are very quickly adopted out. If you follow along on Zeus’ Facebook page, you will see what I mean. Zeus’ also has a full range of mutts and iffy dogs of every size, shape, and color. If you are in New Orleans and looking to adopt, foster, or just take an iffy dog for a walk, check them out. Afterwards, you can walk up Freret street for an awesome hamburger at Company Burger or a really good hot dog at Dat Dog, both offer pet friendly outdoor seating.

I love the way that the local businesses are supporting rescue organizations, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon with my daughter than cuddling puppies, walking dogs, and helping them find their forever homes. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Kids should volunteer in the community, they should see their parents volunteer. It makes them better people.

May 2nd is Give NOLA Day, a tax-deductible way to support New Orleans non-profits like Zeus’ Place. Please consider a donation to this or one of your local rescues!

Michelle was recently on the news:  Here’s what Zeus’ Rescues is doing to end pet homelessness in New Orleans area

Give back. Volunteer. It just might be the best part of your weekend.