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Time Dated Material • Periodicals • Volume 4 • Number 4
fter a long, hot summer, the days are finally cooler and it is getting to be good weather to be out doing something with your dogs. One of the great pleasures of having dogs is watching them enjoy themselves outdoors. With these cooler days, I have noticed that the ones I live with are already more playful and energetic. They are also more serious about sniffing and following invisible trails through the woods. I can’t smell everything they do, of course, but I try to imagine what it must be like for them as scents bloom from the ground and fill their heads with--what? Ideas? Images? Memories? I try to imagine having such a keen sense of smell and, moreover, having so much more of my brain devoted to analyzing scents. In humans, scent has been shown to be linked to memory. The smells of autumn leaves on the ground and damp earth always give me a slight twinge of nostalgia – I remember how the leaves smelled when I was a child and think, inevitably, about going to school. Do scents trigger memories in our dogs too? Perhaps. With the recent explosion in serious scientific research on how dogs think and what they feel, it is a good bet that someone, somewhere, is already designing an experiment to study this. We think we have another great issue for you and we loved putting it together because it gave us an excuse to meet more dogs and
dog people. We enjoyed getting to know the partners who opened A Paw Above, which is a new dog emporium in North Augusta. It’s an exciting time in that city, and we are glad to see that a dog store is on the front edge of the growth that is coming there. Read our story on page 8. We also had a chance to meet some lovely greyhounds for our feature on that breed. They are such beautiful and elegant dogs, we understand why so many people are devoted to them. Perhaps the most fun was writing the article on the multi-dog household. Although the average dog owning family in America has less than two (an average of 1.6 to be exact) it seems like everyone we know has a lot more. We’re in this category, and it was nice to get to know other people whose family is more like a pack. Our story starts on page 16. There is also an article in this issue that we would like to make a regular feature. It’s a story about a senior dog that we are calling Silver Paws. Most dog lovers would agree that their dogs’ lives are simply too short. We started this column to celebrate old dogs, as well as the animal-human bond that can become even stronger as our dogs enter their sunset years. We hope you enjoy it. If you have a dog that we should feature, please drop us an email and let us know. As ever, we want to be your dog newspaper.
Pam Gleason Editor & Publisher
The Dog and Hound EDITOR & PUBLISHER Pam Gleason ART DIRECTOR Gary Knoll ASSOCIATE EDITOR Jean Berko Gleason LAYOUT & DESIGN Gary Knoll ADVERTISING 803.643.9960 firstname.lastname@example.org PHOTOGRAPHERS Pam Gleason Gary Knoll
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About the Cover
Our cover shows Linden, a retired racing Greyhound owned by Tracie Mims of Aiken, S..C. Linden was adopted through Greyhound Crossroads, a rehoming group based in South Carolina. Photography by Pam Gleason The Dog and Hound Policies: The opinions expressed herein are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publishers, editors, or the policies of The Aiken Horse, LLC. The Dog and Hound is owned by The Aiken Horse, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
All contents Copyright 2015 The Dog and Hound
The Dog & Hound
Table of Contents 6
A Paw Above
12 Greyhounds 16 Multi Dog Life 20 Silver Paws: Shasta 22 Grounded
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Dog News by Pam Gleason
New Clinic, New Hours at SPCA
This fall, the SPCA Albrecht Center For Animal Welfare on Willow Run Road in Aiken has opened a full service veterinary clinic to provide spay and neuter services, vaccinations, heartworm testing and more. The clinic, which was closed for about two months over the summer, has reopened with two new veterinarians, new hours, and a new menu of services. The medical director is Dr. Rick Williams, a graduate of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Williams comes to Aiken from the West Coast, where he had a private equine hospital in Tacoma, Wash. For the past 12 years, he has provided relief veterinary services for private and corporate pet practices in Palm Springs, Calif. and in Spokane, Wash. Dr. Jason Wright has come on as the Associate Veterinarian. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Dr. Wright did his undergraduate work at the University of Miami and then went on to Oklahoma State University where he received a doctorate in veterinary medicine. He has a special interest in shelter medicine, and loves both dogs and reptiles. His own personal menagerie includes a boxer named Ari, as well as green tree pythons and a leopard gecko. The low cost clinic is open from Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. until noon, and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. No appointment is needed for vaccinations, heartworm and parasite testing, brief physical exams, nail trims, and so on. The spay and neuter clinic is open from Tuesday through Friday, 8 a..m to 5 p.m. and appointments are required. Prices for spay and neuter run from $40 for a male cat neuter up to $125 for a large female dog spay. For more information, visit www.letlovelive.org
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Home for Good Dog Rescue Seeks Volunteers
Home for Good Dog Rescue is moving ahead with plans to build a state-of-the-art dog wellness center in Aiken. This facility, called Almost Home, is a place where the organization will be able to house dogs pulled from local shelters before sending them to homes in Northern states. Home for Good is based in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey and is a foster-based rescue that transports dogs from overcrowded shelters in South Carolina and Georgia back up North where they quickly find forever homes. Home for Good was founded in 2010 and has been rescuing dogs from this area since the beginning. About nine months ago, the organization purchased 10 acres on Whiskey Road to be the site of Almost Home. At Almost Home, dogs that need medical or other care can be treated and restored to health, which will make it possible for the rescue to help save more local dogs than ever before. Until this new facility is built, the Home for Good Aiken staff are operating out of a small house and kennel that were on the property when they purchased it. The rescue transports animals North about three times every month. In early October, the organization held a 5K run and “doggy dash” in Cranford, N.J. as a fundraiser for the construction of Almost Home. According to Matthew Holowienka, who is the Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator for the rescue, the fundraiser was very successful. “We are now one step closer to achieving our vision,” he wrote in an email. The facility will most likely be constructed in stages, and the fundraising goal is $2.5 million. Meanwhile, Almost Home could use some help from
volunteers in the Aiken area. “As we move toward the construction of our Aiken facility, we are seeking dedicated volunteers and dog lovers to work with our team as we prepare our dogs for their eventual journey north,” continued Matthew. “By working with us or opening your home to one of our foster dogs, you can make a real difference in the life of a rescue animal. You can become the bridge between all that dog has gone through, either as a stray or in a shelter, and the lifetime of love they have to look forward to in their forever homes.” For more information or to volunteer, visit the Home for Good webpage: www. homeforgooddogs.org.
Dog Fossil Studies
Over the summer, two separate studies of dog fossils from North America have yielded some interesting findings about the evolution of dogs. The first, carried out by researchers from Brown University, concluded that dogs on this continent evolved with climate change.
The second, carried out by the University of Gothenberg in Sweden, showed that competition with cats may have had a big impact on the dog family, resulting in the extinction of as many as 40 species of North American dogs. Dogs are natives of the North American continent, and archeologists have found fossil records going back 40 million years. At that time, the continent was warm and wooded,
and early members of the dog family caught their prey by ambushing it as it came by them. They were small and had short limbs, and, according to the researchers, probably looked more like mongooses than like any type of modern dog. Over the centuries, the continent became cooler and drier and the forests thinned, giving way to open grasslands. Researchers examined the bones of 32 different species of North American dog spanning a period from about 40 million years ago until about 2 million years ago. They discovered a clear pattern in these bones: as the landscape became more open, the dogs evolved to run and chase their prey. Concentrating their study on the elbows and teeth of these ancient dogs, the researchers concluded that this evolution was in response to changes in the environment, rather than in response to changes in the type of prey that the dogs hunted. In other words, the dogs did not evolve to chase and pounce on their prey simply because their prey was evolving to run faster. Instead, an examination of the bones of both the predator and prey species seems to indicate that predators evolved in response to the change in the landscape. “There is no point in doing a dash and pounce in the forest,” said Dr. Christine Janis, one of the authors of the study. “They’ll smack into a tree.” The second study analyzed over 2000 fossils of members of the dog family and concluded that when Asian members of the cat family arrived on the North American continent, this set up a competition between cats and dogs, and for the most part, cats were the winners. About 22 million years ago, there were more than 30 species of dog in North America, of which, only 9 survive today. “We usually expect climate changes to play an overwhelming role in the evolution of biodiversity,” said the lead author, Daniele Silvestro from the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg. “Instead, competition among different carnivore species proved to be even more important for canids.”
August 29, 2015 marked the ten-year anniversary of the date that hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast of the United States. Katrina was the most expensive natural disaster ever to hit this country, causing millions of dollars of damage to Florida, Louisiana and Texas. Most of the destruction was caused by storm surge, and the worst devastation was in New Orleans, where the levee system failed and much of the city was flooded. If Katrina was devastating for the people that lived in the flooded areas, it was even worse for their dogs and cats. At the time, there were no official provisions to care for pets during times of natural disaster. The lifeboats and buses that evacuated people
from their flooded homes were not allowed to transport their pets. Some people refused to leave their pets and stayed behind and in danger. Thousands of animals were left to fend for themselves or to drown, and hundreds of animal rescue workers came from around the country to try to help as many displaced animals as they could. In the aftermath of Katrina, a number of things happened that would ultimately advance the cause of animal welfare in this country. One was the establishment of the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, which was signed into law by President Bush in October 2006. This law requires that states seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency funds make provisions for accommodating animals in the case of an emergency evacuation. Since Katrina, over 30 states have also adopted laws and developed emergency preparedness plans that take animals into account, requiring them to be evacuated, sheltered and returned to their owners whenever possible. Hurricane Katrina was also the catalyst for a number of dog and cat relocation programs that ultimately led to today’s practice of transporting homeless animals from areas of the country where there are more pets than there are homes to areas where pets are in great demand. Katrina brought animal welfare advocates together in a way that nothing had before. It brought them together physically in the rescue centers that were set up near the flood zone, and it also brought publicity to their efforts. Animal lovers from around the country and the world were united in their belief that individual animal’s lives matter and that we have a duty to protect them. One of the organizations that came to New Orleans in 2005 was the Best Friends Animal Society, based in Utah. Best Friends is a national organization whose goal is to end the euthanasia of friendly, healthy or treatable animals in shelters nationwide. During Katrina, the society set up an emergency camp in Tylertown, Miss., where they helped to save approximately 6000 dogs and cats over the course of 9 months. This past July, Best Friends held their annual national conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference drew approximately 1,500 attendees from around the country and the world, including a sizable contingent from
Aiken and the Central Savannah River Area. The conference included four days of sessions and lectures addressing various animal welfare topics, including, for example, sessions about breed specific legislation and puppy mills, as well as talks about how to achieve successful adoptions or raise more awareness or funds for your animal welfare group. The hurricane Katrina anniversary was mentioned in various talks, and there was also a Katrina exhibit set up in one of the halls. This included a collage containing pictures of more than 2,500 rescued pets, as well as a large commemorative sculpture called the Ark, which was created by Cyrus Mejia, who is a
cofounder of Best Friends Animal Society and, he says, their “artist in residence.” The Ark is a collage on a canvas stretched over a wooden frame that has the same dimensions as the jon boats used to rescue animals from the floods. The first layer of the collage consists of copies of the intake records of rescued animals. The second layer is composed of photographs of rescued animals sent in by volunteers, as well as remnants of dog and cat food bags that fed animals from the flooded areas. The Ark was originally unveiled at the Best Friends headquarters in 2007. At that time, people were invited to write a prayer for New Orleans on a piece of paper and drop it into the boat. At the Best Friends conference in 2015, people were asked to write their own promise to help save animals on a card and drop it inside. “These wishes and promises will become an important layer of the installation,” said Cyrus. “I believe that physical objects can become emotionally charged. The materials used to create this have a direct relationship to the animals saved from Katrina. The photographs that were sent to me and the wishes and promises that have been put in the Ark have made this a collaborative work, and that’s important. We need to work together to save them all.”
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A Paw Above
New in North Augusta
by Pam Gleason, photography by Gary Knoll
n May 30, 2015, A Paw Above Pet Emporium opened its doors on Georgia Avenue in North Augusta, S.C. Laura Nichols and Carrie Carns, both North Augusta residents, own the store in partnership. It specializes in dog and cat food, concentrating on healthy brands with natural or organic ingredients. In addition, there are cat and dog toys, collars and leashes, home décor items and animal-themed t-shirts. Every other Saturday there are even adoptable dogs. “We’re both really supportive of rescue,” says Laura, who lives with three rescued dogs. Carrie lives with four. They started offering their store as a location to showcase dogs from local rescues almost as soon as they opened. In one of their earliest adoption events for the rescue PAWS, three out of five dogs found their homes. “It’s really hard for the people doing adoptions if they don’t have a venue where people can see the animals,” continues Laura. “And we’re happy to provide that.” At the moment, adoptable dogs are at the store on the first and third Saturday of every month. In the future, there will be an outdoor area behind the store that will provide even more space. Laura and Carrie started talking about opening their own pet store back in January 2015. Both women are children of military families who have called North Augusta home for over three decades. They are close friends; each is godmother to the other’s children. Both of them felt dissatisfied in their former jobs and both are ardent animal lovers. Neither had prior experience in the retail business and they admit that they were a little nervous about their new venture at first, but that they felt there was a real need for it. “There hasn’t been a pet store in North Augusta for a long time,” says Carrie, explaining that people who wanted to buy premium dog food generally had to go to chain stores in Augusta or drive to Aiken. “The planning stages went on for a while, but once we found this spot, we moved quickly.” Georgia Avenue is in the middle of downtown North Augusta, a city on the banks of the Savannah River that is poised for growth. The city is in Aiken County, South Carolina; its nearest neighbor just across the river is Augusta, Georgia. North Augusta itself was laid out in 1902 following plans drawn up by a New York architect. It stands on the same location as the pre-Civil War town of Hamburg, which was once a cotton trading port and the terminus of the railway line that ran to Charleston. Today, downtown North Augusta has wide streets and attractive architecture, but the atmosphere could use some livening up. There are a growing number of local businesses on the street near the pet store, including an ice cream shop and a photography studio, and there is a bakery on the way – but things are still quiet. All of this is likely to change once Project Jackson gets under way. Project Jackson is a $200 million public/private partnership that, among other things, will put a baseball stadium and hotel in North Augusta. The city has ambitious plans for bike paths and greenways, possibly even a dog park. Revitalization plans for North Augusta call for more local entrepreneurs moving into the city’s storefronts. A Paw Above, which took over space once occupied by a check cashing business, was a welcome addition in many ways. “Business has been pretty good,” says Carrie. “We see new faces in here every day, which tells us we are being talked about and that’s a good thing. Now it’s just a matter of getting it out there that we are here.” “The support we have gotten has floored me,” adds Laura. “Dog people and cat people are just great. They are very loyal. So many people have come in and told us how glad they are that we started this.”
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Carrie and Laura say that they are also very happy with the support that they have gotten from the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce and officials in local government. They have seen some of the plans that are in the works, and they are optimistic about the future. “I almost wish I didn’t know what they had planned, because now that I do I wish it was all happening now,” says Carrie. “We’re really excited about being on the front end of all the change that is coming here.” The store itself is about 1200 square feet, attractively laid out with dog toys, treats and smaller items in the front and the larger bags of dog and cat food in the back. The main brands are Blue, Natural Balance and Wellness. The partners also have varieties from the Chicken Soup brand, as well as Pro Pac and Wholesome, which offer high quality food at a lower price.. “We started off with Blue, because that is what we feed our dogs, and we knew there was a need,” says Carrie. “We wanted to have foods that you can’t get in the grocery store. Our supplier suggested Natural Balance, and that has been a great choice. A family member asked for Wellness, and it has done really well, too. The Pro Pac is a great food that is a little easier on the pocketbook, so we can very easily move someone over to it from a grocery store brand, and its not going to hurt their budget too much.” The partners are grateful to their suppliers for helping them choose the various product lines they carry and to their veterinarians, who frequently refer patients to the store for specific types of food. They have learned a lot, not just about running a retail business, but about animal health and nutrition. “We learn something new every day,” says Laura. “Especially about allergies, and how they are related to what you feed your dog. We have met so many people whose dogs have allergy issues – skin issues, digestive issues. We have healthy foods that can help them. And the best part is when those people come back to say that their dogs are better.” As an independent distributor, A Paw Above can offer loyalty programs that are not available at the big chain stores. If you join the loyalty program for Blue, for instance, after you buy ten bags of food you get the eleventh free. Pro Pac and Natural Balance offer a free bag after you have made 12 purchases. The store is also able to fill special requests, stocking a particular brand of food or other item that one of their customers requests. Both partners agree that starting the store has been easier than they expected, and it has been very rewarding. “It’s fun,” says Carrie. “I love it. You get to meet new people, and you get to help them, and you get to play with dogs.” “We’re also happy that we’re supporting our community,” adds Laura. “We love North Augusta, and we love that having this store means that when people buy their dog food, the dollars are staying here in North Augusta, not going to a national chain.” Laura and Carrie are looking forward to the city’s annual Jack-oLantern Jubilee, to be held on Halloween weekend. This is a festival that can attract 20,000 people to North Augusta’s streets and includes live music, vendors, rides and activities for children, a car show and various contests. This year, the band 38 Special is coming on Friday night. Laura and Carrie have been recruited to emcee the annual dog costume contest, which will be held right outside their doors on Saturday afternoon. “We can’t judge the contest because we sell dog costumes, so it wouldn’t be fair,” says Carrie. “But we can emcee it. We think it will be cool.”
For more information, visit www.apawabove.com or follow them on Facebook.
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ADOPT ONE, SAVE TWO
When a pet is adopted, space is opened for another pet to be rescued. Open Your Heart, So We Can Open A Room.
Meet our pets in person, or visit them online! 199 Willow Run Road, Aiken, SC 803-648-6863 LetLoveLive.org Adoptions at PetSmart most Saturdays Fall 2015
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Living Works of Art by Pam Gleason
here is something especially mesmerizing about Greyhounds. Tall and lean, they have an exotic beauty that seems ancient and almost primal. Although the first thing that might come to mind when you think about Greyhounds is their speed, when Greyhounds are pets, their most striking attribute is their calm, sweet nature. Despite their size and athleticism, Greyhounds are not known as high energy dogs, or even as dogs that need a lot of exercise. To the contrary, they are happy to live in a house or an apartment, and they are generally very easy to handle.
careers are over, and there are a number of rescues and rehoming groups throughout the United States that specialize in finding retirement homes for them. More successful racing dogs might retire at 5, while dogs that aren’t winning on the track might be ready for a pet home when they are as young as 2. On the other hand, the Greyhounds that are recognized by the American Kennel Club are registered with the Greyhound Club of America. These dogs are bred for showing, with more emphasis on beauty, especially of their heads and necks. They tend to be somewhat bigger, with deeper chests. They are also prized for their athletic ability: the event that they are best known for is lure coursing, which, like racing, involves dogs chasing a lure, usually, in this case, a white plastic bag. Lure coursing is not actually a race, however,
Lure coursing. Photo by Reagan Bailey.
Track Dogs and Show Dogs
When you consider Greyhounds in this country, there are actually two distinct strains. For many people the most familiar Greyhounds are the ones that race at the commercial pari-mutuel tracks. These dogs are registered by the National Greyhound Association and they are bred specifically for the racetrack. There, they live in kennels and race in sprints on an oval course chasing a lure (now most often a windsock; previously a stuffed cloth rabbit) that moves ahead of them on a mechanical arm. Many of these dogs end up as pets after their racing
and it takes place in a field, not on a track. Generally, three dogs run together over a prescribed course, and they are judged on their ability to run and work with other dogs. It is essentially a hunting test. In some parts of the country, Greyhounds compete in field trials in which they hunt live jack rabbits, but this is not especially common and can be controversial. Dani Edgerton is the president of the Greyhound Club of America. She says that both types of Greyhound are descended from hounds that were used for coursing, which is the sport of hunting game with dogs that use sight rather than scent. Between 1910 and 1920, the mechanical hare and the oval racetrack were created and the racing Greyhound industry was born. At this point, there was a split between AKC and racing bloodlines. “Before that point, all Greyhounds were coursing hounds,” Dani says. “Now their bloodlines are very distinct. If I walk up to a Greyhound on the street, I will know the difference.” Dani, who lives in Canfield, Ohio, has been around Greyhounds since she was a child. Her parents had them and she has been showing them Left: Agility,. Middle: Conformation. Right: AKC puppies. Photos courtesy of Dani Edgerton
since she was about 9 years old. In addition to being the president of the GCA, she is also a dog trainer, and she helps her local Greyhound rescue retrain its dogs when they come off the track, so she is quite familiar with both types. She says that in addition to placing more emphasis on beauty, breeders of AKC dogs are more concerned with stamina than with sprinting ability. They also try to breed for longevity “which is not necessarily the case with the NGA dogs. “Oddly enough, though, for all the separation in the bloodlines, they have very much the same personality,” she continues. “The track dogs might be a little quieter, but I think this is because they have spent so much time in a crate. Before you get them home, they have never had the chance to lie on a couch before, and once they get there, their attitude is ‘I’m good,’ and they don’t want to leave.”
legendary, they were crossed with many other types of dog to give the other breeds a bit of their athleticism: the English Foxhound and the English Pointer are two examples of modern breeds that owe some of their talents to Greyhound blood. Greyhounds were brought to America from England in large numbers during the 1800s, often to be used as hunting dogs to help rid farms of rabbits and other pests. They became quite a popular breed in this country, where they were also used for coursing. Eighteen Greyhounds were shown at the very first Westminster Kennel Club show in 1877
Greyhounds are sighthounds, a type of dog that has been used for millennia to chase
down and capture game. Images in ancient Egyptian paintings show hunting scenes with dogs that resemble modern Greyhounds, and for this reason, the breed was once thought to be descended from the dogs of the pharaohs. Research into the DNA of modern Greyhounds conducted in 2004 has suggested that this is not true, however. Greyhounds actually appear to have originated in the Eurasian steppes where they were owned and bred by the Celtic people. When the Celts migrated into Europe, they brought their dogs with them. By about 200 AD, the ancestors of today’s Greyhounds were well known throughout the Roman Empire. When the empire fell, Greyhounds continued to be bred and raised in monasteries across Europe and in the British Isles. By the early Middle Ages, Greyhounds were being used by the upper classes all over Europe to hunt deer and small game. They were considered so special in England that there were laws against commoners owning them. Because their speed and stamina was
and the Greyhound Club of America was formed in 1907. The breed was officially recognized by the AKC in 1909. Meanwhile, commercial Greyhound racing was a popular sport in America as early as the 1920s. As gambling became more accepted in American society, the sport grew, and tracks sprang up in California, Florida, and New England among other places. Dog racing reached its height in the early 1970s, when it ranked as the sixth most popular sporting activity in the country. At about this time, the racing industry started coming under increasing scrutiny, and unsavory practices among some trainers and at some racetracks garnered media attention. The popularity of the sport soon began to wane. Meanwhile, Greyhound rescue became established. In the 1970s, most Greyhounds that could no longer race were put down or worse. By the mid-1980s, Greyhound rescues were successfully finding new homes for retiring dogs. Today, there are rescues and rehoming groups across the country.
One South Carolina group that places retired racing dogs is called Greyhound Crossroads. Officially established in 1997, the group has found homes for over 1500 dogs. Its motto is “Every Greyhound in the right home; every home with the right support,” and according to Tom Kaage, who is their Augusta, Ga. representative, they do work hard to ensure that every dog is well-placed and that there is plenty of followup on adoptions. Tom says that demand for Greyhounds in this area is fairly solid. “Finding homes isn’t all that hard,” says Tom. “Foster homes are more difficult to come by.” Tom, who has fostered 52 Greyhounds in
from a rehoming group. Many of these the seven years he has been involved with the group, says groups, Greyhound Crossroads included, that when they get a dog off the have websites where you can look at and track, it generally goes into a read about adoptable dogs. There are foster home for several weeks applications to fill out and depending on to accustom it to living in a the group you adopt from, there may or house before it is placed in a may not be a home visit and an interview. permanent home. Obtaining an AKC type Greyhound “House breaking usually isn’t is a bit more difficult. The number of a problem,” he says. “These dogs Greyhounds being bred in the country usually walk very well on a leash has gone down quite a bit, both among and are easy to handle. But they racers and among AKC dogs. The official need to get acclimated. They number of racing Greyhounds born in don’t know about stairs, or 2013 was 10,657. According to Dani hardwood floors. Sliding glass Edgerton, last year, there were only eight doors can be a problem until litters of GCA dogs born in the entire they learn about them.” country. “If you want one of our dogs, Beach Bound Hounds in Myrtle Beach. Photo by Bronnie Fisher. Tom says that most of the you should go on the website where we dogs coming into Greyhound Crossroads are from Florida, one of have a breeder referral network,” she says. the few remaining states with any active tracks. The group is officially But you should be prepared not to get a dog right away. “I just had “racing neutral” and works with many responsible trainers who are a litter of two puppies and they are 12 weeks old now,” she continues, dedicated to rehoming their dogs. “We are against abuse, wherever it explaining that these dogs were bred using 27-year-old frozen semen happens, and for Greyhounds, wherever they are found,” according to from one of her parents’ old stud dogs. “I have had, legitimately, 12 the website. serious inquiries about them. People ask why they can’t get a puppy Greyhound Crossroads has an annual outing in Myrtle Beach, S.C. right away, and that’s why. There just aren’t a lot of them.” each September called Beach Bound Hounds. Greyhound owners Wherever you get your Greyhound, and whether it is a retired racer are invited to come with their dogs for a long weekend of events that or a show dog, Greyhound enthusiasts say you should be ready to fall in love include a blessing of the hounds, Greyhound seminars, contests, dawn beach walks and more. It is a fundraiser for the rescue, as well as a way to “They are such sweet and honest dogs,” says Dani. “And they are foster a sense of community among Greyhound owners. pretty much willing to do anything – lure coursing, agility, obedience. I find them ridiculously easy to train using positive methods. And then How to Get a Greyhound there is their incredible beauty. I just love to watch them move.” The easiest way to get a Greyhound is to adopt a retired racing dog
Your Pet’s ! t e V r e h t O
Sybil Davis DVM: Rehab & Acupuncture Certified 307 Willow Run Rd. Aiken SC 29801 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Adopt & SAve A life
Pictured: Kameron Carter and Morris, a 3 year old male domestic shorthair
Aiken County AnimAl Shelter
333 W i re Ro a d | A ike n, S C 803.6 4 2 . 1 5 3 7
Monday-Friday 9:00-12:00 and 1:00-4:30 Saturday 10:00-12:30 Fall 2015
The Dog & Hound
Living the Multi-Dog Life Many Friends, Many Challenges Story and photography by Pam Gleason
ccording to the 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership Demographics Sourcebook, there are approximately 70 million pet dogs in the United States. A little over a third of American households have dogs, and the average number of dogs per household is 1.6 – this is down slightly from the survey done five years earlier, when Americans had 1.7 dogs per household. How many dogs people live with tends to depend on their preference, on where they live and on their lifestyle. In the Aiken area, where dogs and space are plentiful and many people are rescue conscious, there seems to be a growing number of people who live in multi-dog homes, even, one might argue, in packs. (It is no longer considered correct to call dogs “pack animals” however. It is preferable to refer to them as “social animals.”) If one dog is good, are two dogs better? How about three? How about ten? We met three local dog owners and their dogs to get a feeling for the multi-dog life. We also interviewed two trainers, Melissa Hartley, a local certified canine behavioral consultant, and Ann Kinney, who is the director of training and enrichment at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. It was interesting to hear their take on multi-dog issues. How many dogs is enough, and how many is too many? There is no single answer, of course. The only thing that everyone agrees on is that having lots of dogs can be expensive and time consuming, and no one should ever have more dogs than they can afford or more than they have time to care for.
and down hills and ending up on the banks of the Savannah River. Sunlight filters through the leaves and the branches, casting dappled shadows on the ground. As we walk, the seven dogs that stayed near the van walk along with us, while the five runners are off somewhere on their own adventure. Every once in a while, Joya stops, asks her dogs to sit and gives them each a treat. In the distance one of the running dogs, a little beagle mix, gives tongue. “She’s in Disney World out here,” says Joya. Joya is heavily involved in dog rescue: She is the founder of Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, a 501c3 charity that is on a mission to end unnecessary euthanasia in Aiken County and beyond. These 12 dogs
Not Really Cheaper by the Dozen
Olive Dog Bus, a green Ford E-250 extended conversion van, pulls up on the side of a dirt road in the woods near Clarks Hill, S.C. The driver, Joya DiStefano, gets out and starts opening doors. Dogs of all shapes, colors and sizes spill out. Five of them take off into the woods at a run, their tails wagging enthusiastically. The remaining seven stay closer to Joya DiStefano: “What’s not to love about dogs?”
their master as she starts down the trail. “I like it out here,” says Joya. “No motorized vehicles, no horses, no leash requirements. We run into the occasional mountain biker, but that’s it. There are 72 miles of trails.” The trails are lovely, meandering through the pine woods, going up
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are rescues, but they are all Joya’s personal dogs that live with her and her husband Michael in a home near Aiken’s Hitchcock Woods. They have a big house (almost 4,000 square feet), and a fenced yard, and someone who comes to clean twice a month. “We come out here about once a week,” says Joya, as she walks along the trail. She explains that she bought Olive Dog Bus so that she would be able to take all her dogs with her at once. The van is a former corporate limo. Today, it is outfitted with dog beds and water bowls. When they don’t come out to Clark’s Hill, a 20 minute drive, Joya and her dogs walk on the trails of the Hitchcock Woods. They go early in the morning, and some of the dogs (the runners) have to be on leashes. Out here, where the dogs can be freer, two of the less trustworthy ones wear tracker collars just in case they don’t come back. When we near the van, all 12 dogs magically materialize. “Where have you been, dude?” Joya asks one of them. “We don’t call this going for a walk. We call it going for a run.” Everyone troops down to the river to cool off and have a drink. The dogs are mostly mixed breeds, and they range in age from about 2 to about 12. There is a Labrador, a Beagle mix, a Catahoula type, a Chihuahua mix, several fluffy terriers of different sizes and shapes, Nemo, a medium sized three-legged dog with a happy expression,
a Pitbull mix. The group looks like it could be in a Disney movie. Why does Joya have so many dogs? It is not on purpose, she says, and, to her mind, the ideal number of dogs to have is three. But being involved with rescue, there is a tendency to end up with more. Joya’s theory is that once you have four dogs, you are on a slippery slope. “There is a big difference between two dogs and three, and a big difference between three dogs and four. But once you have four dogs, and you take one in to foster, you realize that there is not such a big difference between four and five.” Many of Joya’s dogs are “foster failures,” dogs she intended to care for until they were adopted, but that she ended up keeping. “Once you have had a foster for a few weeks, and they have their friends and they fit in, at a certain point, it doesn’t feel like fostering and finding the dog a home any more. It feels like breaking up a family. So you are at four and you go to five. Then you are at five and you go to six. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal. “It is very complicated to have so many dogs,” she continues. “You have to make a distinction. I don’t love to have a lot of dogs. I love each dog, and I happen to have a lot of them. I know each and every one of them, and I have acquired each of them, one precious rescue event after another.” Although today all the dogs get along well, Joya says there have been rough patches, and there was a time when there was some serious dog-on-dog aggression. This was mostly surrounding one particular female terrier mix that came out of a bad situation. Joya and her husband worked with a behaviorist, learned to recognize situations that might lead to aggression, and learned to head them off. There are other drawbacks to living with such a large pack in the house. For one thing, it becomes difficult to entertain at home. (“That has gone totally by the wayside,” she says.) It is also very expensive, especially when you are dealing with rescued dogs that may have unknown medical problems. “It’s obscene,” Joya admits. One of her dogs, Thibodeau, the Catahoula mix, came to her heartworm positive, and cost almost $1,000 to cure. That same year, he had a severe allergic reaction to something and ended up in intensive care. “He’s our $10,000 death row dog,” she says. Then there was the time last year when three of her dogs cornered a rattlesnake, and all three of them got bitten. “I make myself feel better by reminding myself that I didn’t have to put a kid through Harvard.” But living with lots of dogs has its pleasures, too, especially if those dogs are rescues that you have saved. “I love dogs,” says Joya, who estimates that she has had at least eight dogs for the last five years. “I love being around them. When I was a little girl, I used to dream of having a dog ranch, and now I do. What’s not to love about dogs?”
Linda and Richard Leitner share their home with five dogs. Four of them are small – a Yorkie, a Dachshund, a Beagle and a mixed breed fluffy terrier. The fifth is a large and exuberant young female Boxer that was rescued recently after being dumped in the woods near Aiken. When we visit, the dogs are restricted to the kitchen area by movable gates. The Beagle is confined to a crate. “We had some trouble between her and the Boxer,” explains Linda, gesturing to Matilda the little Beagle. “She’s snarky; she wants to be the boss.” Linda says that she doesn’t know what happened because she was out of the house at the time of the fight, but when she came back Matilda was in bad shape bleeding from a severed vein. “She almost died. Since then, we’ve had to keep them separated.” The fight occurred
Linda Leitner: “You can always get four dogs in the picture. You can never get five.”
just a few weeks ago. Linda is a volunteer with Friends of the Animal Shelter (FOTAS) in Aiken and her dogs are all rescues of one sort or another. Originally from New York City, she and her husband moved to the area most recently from Florida. She says that she enjoys having a house full of dogs, and has an affinity for both Boxers and Dachshunds, which sounds like a bit of an odd mix. “People who only have one breed don’t really have dogs,” she says. “Each breed has so much to offer; they are all so different, their traits are so different. I’ve always had Dachshunds – they’re stubborn, but there is nothing like the love of a Dachshund. And this is our third Boxer. The first one came up from Florida with us and was the love of our lives.” The Leitners have a small farm with horses, a barn and paddocks. The dogs have a grassy fenced yard where they can frolic to their hearts’ content, providing good exercise for the small dogs. Linda says that the Boxer, Mocha, always goes out with her husband when he tends to the horses. She also takes the smaller dogs on outings outside the house, usually one at a time. “You have to be able to alternate them, to give them all attention,” she says. She trains them to sit and mind her for treats, and she would like to see the Dachshund, who came from the Aiken County Animal Shelter, become a FOTAS ambassador to show people how wonderful shelter dogs can be. He participated in the Dachshund races at this year’s Woofstock, the dog festival held at the shelter. Linda says that having so many dogs in the house does create a lot of commotion, and that feeding them all is expensive, not to mention the vet bills. “There is no such thing as a free dog,” she says. Her one main worry is that she and her husband are both getting older (she is 70 and he is 76) and if something should happen to them, she is concerned about the dogs’ future. “If my kids want my inheritance, they are going to have to take my dogs,” she says with a little laugh. More seriously, she acknowledges that she should start examining pet trusts or other provisions for their care,
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but she hasn’t done so yet. Beyond that, she says that having dogs in her house and in her bed (the littlest ones sleep with her) is just a natural thing. “I don’t understand how someone could live without animals,” she says. “In the times in our lives when we didn’t have animals in the house, the house was cold, it wasn’t really a home. There was something missing.” And what about the multi-dog household is appealing to her? “I knew you were going to ask me that,” she says. “So I started thinking about it, and the conclusion that I came to was that yes, I love dogs, and I love looking into their eyes. But the reason I like so many is that I’m an empty nester. When my sons were home, my house was the hangout house starting when they were in elementary school. I used to have a “Thank God It’s Friday” party every single week. “My great loves in life are children and dogs,” she continues. “I was a teacher in New York, and I had 42 kids in my class. I lived in a house with a rock and roll band and skateboarders who came to practice. So when the “dog satellite” goes off at 6:30 and all the dogs run around and bark, I don’t find it’s anything terrible. I need that commotion, and the dogs have filled that need for me.”
“She jumped in Tess’s lap, and that was her new person,” says Karen. Then, Layla was skinny and mangy and sick. It turned out that she had an intestinal obstruction and needed surgery. Although she loved Tess right away, she was not immediately the friendliest dog. But after a few months of living on the farm she began to come around. “Pitties have a bad rap, but I have never had them fight amongst themselves,” says Karen. “They do run in a herd when you have lots of them. I have found that when they are young, you have to be very firm and strict with them, especially in that first year. But if you spend a lot of time with them and are strict with them in that first year, then they know the rules, and I have never had a problem.” Karen’s Pitbulls are all calm and friendly. The Chihuahua, which came out of the Aiken County Animal Shelter and was supposed to be a pet for Tess, is the only one that shows any aggression. “She rules the roost,” says Karen. “I have one bowl of food, and I just keep it full all the time. When I put the food in it, the little one eats first and the Pits sit in a semi circle around her and wait for her to get done.” Feeding free choice may be a good way to make sure that there is no
Down on the Farm
Hilltop Farm, which occupies almost 70 acres in Aiken’s 302 equestrian corridor is well known for polo ponies. Karen Reese, who owns the farm, buys and sells horses, trains them for polo and competes on the polo circuit. Like many people who have horses, she also has dogs. She says she has an affinity for Pitbulls, and currently lives with three of them, as well as a tiny, three-pound Chihuahua. Four dogs does not seem like very many in such a big place, and it is not, relatively speaking. It was not long ago that Karen herself had nine dogs, and during certain seasons, there can be as many as 13 or 14 dogs on the farm, counting those owned by people renting her guest house or keeping their horses in one of her barns. “I have been trying to be ‘downward dog’ for a while,” says Karen, explaining that the farm is for sale and she is anticipating spending more time on the road. “It’s hard to travel with too many of them.” This summer, however, when she and her teenaged daughter Tess Pimsner trucked their horses out to Wyoming, all four dogs came with them, and everyone did fine. Pitbulls don’t have a stellar reputation for getting along with one another, but Karen says she has never had a problem, even when she had eight or nine of them together. Of the Pitbulls she has now, she has had two since they were Tess Pimsner and Karen Reese: Pitbulls in the Peaceable Kingdom at Hilltop Farm puppies. The third is a young female fighting about food, but it does make it difficult to control the dogs’ that is a more recent addition. This is Layla, a black and white dog weight. Karen shrugs. “They’re fat. They’re just spoiled rotten.” whose ears were cropped so close to her head they are almost gone. She What does Karen like about being surrounded by dogs? was abandoned on the road near Hilltop. Karen was out of town when “They’re my buddies,” she says. “They entertain me. Most of the time this happened, but her neighbors told her that the dog never moved during the week I’m here riding horses by myself and they keep me from where she was dropped off, apparently waiting for her people to company. Plus, I’ve never been ripped off, and I know a lot of people come back for her. They never did. When Karen came back to town, a who have. When people drive in here and they haven’t been here before, neighbor called her to tell her about the dog, and Karen and Tess went they don’t know if they can get out of their cars or not.” down with their truck to get her during a thunderstorm.
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Karen’s dogs do look intimidating – one dog, Brutus, is a BulldogPittbull mix that weighs over 130 pounds. (“He’s mama’s boy,” says Karen.) But the dogs are calm, friendly and well-behaved. “They get along with everyone,” says Karen. “They’re real social. If you can make it okay for them to be social, they are okay with it. Once people get to know them, see them on the farm and see that they are chill and they just cruise around, then they want them. They have to know that they are friendly and social.”
Managing the Multi Dog Home
“Multi dog issues are part of my caseload,” says Melissa Hartley, a certified canine behavioral therapist in the Aiken area. “Typically, the problem is dog on dog aggression. . . By the time people seek me out, there has usually been some kind of injury.” Melissa believes that the ideal number of dogs for most people is two, and says that scientific research has shown that the best combination is a male and a female dog. “I always encourage people to understand how to build a social group,” she continues. “If they are going to have two dogs in the house, they should be opposite sexes. If they are going to have more than two dogs, they should do their best to arrange it so that there is a good gap between the ages of the dogs that are the same sex.” Melissa says that many people get into trouble when they take in dogs just because they show up, or rescue dogs and bring them into their household without paying attention to what that might mean for the dogs that are already established in the home. “It’s a terrible way to bring a new dog into your social group,” she says. “That dog may or may not be compatible with the dogs you already have, and by bringing that dog in, you might be making everyone else miserable.” What can people do about dogon-dog aggression? As with so many things, prevention is better than cure. Aside from creating a social group in a thoughtful way, Melissa recommends some management practices. For instance, she says that each dog should have its own crate or kennel that he can retire to when he needs a break. In addition, she recommends that all the dogs be fed in their crates with the doors closed and that none of the dogs be allowed out until everyone is finished eating. “Animosity that builds around mealtime can spill out into the dogs’ relationship when it is not meal time, so the best thing to do is to prevent it in the first place.” Ann Kinney, who is the director of training and enrichment at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare says that people come to her with multi-dog problems fairly frequently, and that dogs not getting along in the home is one reasonably common reason for dogs being given up to the shelter. “The most significant problems we see are female-to-female issues,” says Ann. “That is the hardest, and when it goes badly, it can be pretty
darn hard to fix. The most common situation is when you have an older resident female dog and you bring home a young female. As that female gets to be about a year old and starts some status seeking or resource guarding behavior, then you can have real trouble.” Ann agrees with Melissa that it is important to select dogs carefully to give them the best chance of getting along. “Dogs are individuals, and you always have to look at them as individuals. But you can make some generalizations about breeds and breed types,” she says. “You want to select dogs with similar play styles. The bully breeds can be very rough and tumble – if you combine that with a herding dog, you might have trouble because the herding dogs tend to be a little more sensitive. They also like to be in control of the environment, and we see this a lot at the dog park. They might be fine playing with another dog, but when several of them start playing, then you see them become anxious and coming in barking and trying to break up the party. We call them the fun police.” Ann says that in general, groups of dogs are usually most successful if the dogs come from a breed that was developed to be kept in packs – hunting dogs such as Beagles or Hounds, for instance. Gun dogs such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers or Pointers are also bred to be able to go out hunting together. Some other types tend to be more solitary and independent. When selecting individuals to put into the same house, confident, secure dogs are easier to combine than those who are nervous or insecure. “Dogs are social animals, but they aren’t necessarily friendly with all other dogs,” says Ann. “I think we have to consider ourselves lucky when we pick who our dogs are going to be friends with and they have no say in the matter, and it works out.” Ann says that the heads of multi-dog households have to keep in mind that the more dogs they have, the more important it is to be in control of their animals. “Dogs are hardwired to look to people for assistance,” she says. “So we need to take advantage of that, and make sure that we practice making the dogs look to us to get the things that they want. Dogs thrive on structure and routine, and it is up to us to manage their environment so that they have that.” While multi-dog households can lead to inter-dog problems, most normal dogs are happier when they have a friend, if not a group. Dogs that have plenty of space to roam and explore their environment together tend to get along better than those that are cooped up in a smaller area and don’t get enough exercise. Dogs in single dog households may crave interaction with others of their own kind. “Dogs get something from each other that we can never provide, no matter how much we love them,” says Melissa. “We are a member of the dogs’ social group, but they don’t think of us a big, hairless dogs – that’s a fallacy. Two dogs can be easier than one, because you are not looked on as the complete source of attention and play.” If you do have problems, both Melissa and Ann agree that it is your duty to do something about it. “With modern canine behavior science we do have strategies and protocols to improve or fix the situation. People don’t just have to live with it. But it is important to work with people who are qualified in canine behavior, and have modern training,” says Melissa. “The most important thing is to understand the nature of dogs,” agrees Ann. “A lot of what we have been taught in the past is just outdated and wrong – the idea that you need to be the pack leader, or the alpha, or that dogs are just like wolves. You need to recognize that they are domestic dogs and know how they learn and why they do the things they do. The new information is out there. “If you follow the old fashioned advice, it would be a little like taking out a road map from 1940 and using it as your guide to drive from South Carolina to Los Angeles. If you did that, you wouldn’t be too surprised if you got lost, or drove over a cliff. It’s the same way when you want to manage your dogs. You need to use a modern map.”
The Dog & Hound
Shasta the Dachshund
by Pam Gleason, photography by Gary Knoll
t the age of 16, Shasta, a tiny Dachshund, is definitely a senior citizen. She doesn’t hear or see very well, and she can be a bit wobbly on her legs. But she is a happy dog, who enjoys her treats and her meals, and likes to be near her person, Nancy Pearson. “She pretty much doesn’t have a care in the world,” says Nancy, who has another senior Dachshund, a 13-year-old named Sassy. “The other dog leads her around quite a bit. She’s slow and old, but when I feed her she gets so excited you would think she was 2.” Nancy found Shasta from an ad in a Greenville S.C. newspaper back in 1999. She was a little, 6-week-old puppy, a mix of a shorthaired and a wirehaired Dachshund. “She was very comical when she was younger, very much a ham,” Nancy recalls. “When she was little, she used to do this funny thing – if she was out playing in a field and you called her, she would come running, and just before she got to you she would slide, like she was sliding into home base.” These days, Nancy and her partner, Robert Hatchell, live on a farm in Aiken, but in the past they have traveled quite a bit because of Robert’s job. Whenever they travel, the dogs come with them. “Everything we do revolves around the dogs,” says Nancy. “If they can’t go, we don’t go – we will never go on a cruise. When we were traveling a lot, we couldn’t get a decent hotel that would accept pets, and so we bought a camper so the dogs could go everywhere with us. When Shasta was a little puppy, she used to ride on the front seat on her own pillow. She was a very good traveler.” Dachshunds are notorious for having bad teeth and for having back trouble. To combat this, Nancy has always been conscientious about having her dogs’ teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis. About three years ago, Shasta started having some difficulties with her rear quarters, and so her regular vet, Dr. Charles Groover at Aiken Veterinary Clinic, suggested that she start strengthening exercises. That was when Nancy began taking her to Aiken Pet Fitness and Rehabilitation, where Dr. Sybil Davis prescribed a program for her. “She’s had acupuncture and laser treatments,” says Nancy. “And once a week she goes for a session on the underwater treadmill. She’ll do six minutes of walking, and then rest, and then do six more minutes. It helps keep her strong.” In addition, she wears Toe Grips, which are special colored rubber bands that are fitted to each of her claws, giving her traction on slippery floors. (You can see a video clip of Shasta on the treadmill in an advertisement for Aiken Pet Fitness and Rehabilitation that runs on NBC channel 26.1 Augusta every Friday morning between 6:30 and 7:00 am.) Nancy says she has had several Dachshunds before, and all of them have lived into their teens, but none has gotten as old as Shasta. She credits her dog’s longevity to good food, good care, and the devotion
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of the veterinarians and staff at Aiken Veterinary Clinic and Aiken Pet Fitness. “They are the ones who have kept her going.” Nancy admits that all of the care she gives to Shasta is expensive, but she says it is worth it to her. “They are like people,” she says. “I think it is part of the responsibility of having a dog: when you have a dog, it’s from
the beginning to the end. I know there are some people who give up on their dogs when they become too much responsibility, and some people can’t afford it, and I understand that. But I would rather live in a tent and have my animals than live in a palace without them.” Nancy doesn’t know how much time she has left with Shasta, but is determined to care for her as long as she is happy and enjoying her life. “She has given me so much joy in the years that I have had her,” she says. “I feel like it is my responsibility to take care of her now, and to make the end of her life as joyful as she has made mine over the last 16 years. She’s always been a very special dog.”
Treasure, seized from owners by Animal Control for Animal Cruelty. PAWS, pulled her under the Heart Beat Goes On program. This sweetie has been spayed, heartworm treated, microchipped. Gets along great with other dogs and tolerates cats. www.paws4nokill.org or call 803-334-1219 for more information on adoption or to get involved with PAWS.
Ethan, short, chubby lap dog. (Donâ€™t tell him any different) This laid back boy was pulled by PAWS under the Heart Beat Goes On program. He is available for adoption. www.paws4nokill.org or call 803-334-1219 if you would like more information on this love bug or want to get involved with PAWS get in touch!
Classifieds ADOPTIONS/PUPPIES Trinity Farms Terriers: Quality family dogs with proven calmer dispositions. Generations of great temperaments. Health/dispositions guaranteed. Breeders of terriers for 30+ years. Donna Fitzpatrick. 803.648.3137. www.easyjacks. com & trinityfarmskennel.com & trinitynorfolkterriers.com. Albrecht Aiken SPCA. Dogs, puppies, cats and kittens for adoption. 199 Willow Run Road,
Aiken. Hours of operation: MonSat. 11 am - 5 pm., Sat 10 am- 3 pm; Sun 1:30 pm - 6:30 pm. www. LetLoveLive.org 803.643.0564 Adopt a Shelter Dog or Cat from the Aiken County Animal Shelter. Many beautiful, healthy, friendly animals to choose from. 333 Wire Road, Aiken. See the pets at www. fotasaiken.org. 803.642.1537. Pointers! Many beautiful purebred Pointers of all ages available for pets or hunting. www.pointerrescue.org.
Horses And Hounds Aiken. Pet & Horse-Sitting. Reasonable Rates, Bonded and Insured, Vet Assistant. 803-643-9972/803-443-8303. horsesandhoundsaiken@gmail. com. www.horsesandhoundsaiken. com Pet sitting, farm sitting, expert horse care. References available. Mary Jane Howell. 802.295.8294 Thereâ€™s No Place Like Home: In home pet sitting service.
Exceptional care in their own home. References; Insured. 419378-1126 TRAINING Palmetto Dog Club. Training classes, puppy socialization, obedience, rally & agility. Check out the website for class schedules and more information. Join us! 803-262-9686. www. palmettodogclub.org.
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The Dog & Hound
Grounded by Mike Ford
few weeks ago, I moved everything I own into a storage unit. The boxes had been in a friend’s basement for a year, since my last move, and before that they had been in another friend’s attic for three years. Most of the items I hadn’t seen in four years or more, so there were a lot of “What’s in this box?” moments. Opening a box labeled “Office Stuff and Gnome,” I discovered three smaller, wooden boxes. They contain the ashes of the three dogs I’ve lost: Roger, Spike, and Sam. I lived in California when they died, and I’ve carried them with me through moves to Texas, Delaware, and now Maryland. I’ve never quite known what to do with them. Setting them on a bookshelf or mantel is unappealing, so they’ve just languished in a cardboard carton alongside seven years’ worth of tax returns and, yes, a small, antique garden gnome who does duty as a doorstop. When I was growing up, the question of what to do with dead pets was easily answered. They went into the pet cemetery behind my Uncle Dick’s house. Every family pet from the previous three decades resided there, each with a little tombstone made by my woodworker uncle. And there were a lot of them. My father and his brothers could stand there and point out the dogs and cats (and goldfish and parakeets and guinea pigs, even a skunk) they’d grown up with. My cousins and I added even more of our own, so that by the time I left home, the field resembled a miniature version of the graveyards at Normandy or Arlington, with row after row of tiny crosses. When Roger, the first dog of my adult life, died, I found myself at a loss as to what to do with him. Although I lived in a home of my own at the time, and could have buried him in the yard, I was living in California, and Roger was not a California dog. He’d grown up with me in New York and Boston. I thought about taking his ashes back to my Boston neighborhood and scattering them at the pond he had loved to swim in. But I never got around to it. The box with his ashes sat on my bedside table for a long time, then eventually found its way into a closet in my office. When Spike died, and then Sam, I thought my decision would be easier. Both had been born and raised in California. But when I thought of burying or scattering them in the small garden of my San Francisco home, I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t know why, but something kept me from putting them in the ground there. And so their boxes, too, went into storage with Roger’s. A few years later, after life upheavals cost me my house and sent me to Texas to care for an ailing friend, the question was again raised when my oldest boy, Andy, became very ill and I thought I would lose him. One night as he lay hovering near death, I heard myself say to him, as if he were Faulkner’s Addie Bundren, “Don’t worry. I’ll never bury you in Texas.” He didn’t die, and we no longer live in Texas. But the question remains of where I would be comfortable burying him when it’s time. And now it’s come up again since finding the ashes of the alreadydeparted dogs. I still don’t have a home of my own, and I’m living with my sister while helping care for an elderly parent. I could bury Roger and Sam and Spike here on the farm, but the thought of leaving them behind when I eventually move on makes me uncomfortable. Even
The Dog & Hound
though they’d be welcome, this isn’t their home. I wouldn’t get to visit them regularly, or look out at a particular tree or blossoming of flowers and think about the dog whose grave it marked. As odd as it was, I miss Uncle Dick’s pet cemetery. And of course on a larger scale I miss having a permanent home with a history and memories that belong to it. I know my resistance to burying or scattering the ashes in California was because I suspected I wouldn’t stay there forever, and I was absolutely certain that Texas was just a stopping point. Which is why I keep carrying around the ashes of dead dogs. It’s not only that I’m waiting until I have a permanent place in which to lay them to rest, it’s that until I do find that place, wherever they are is home to me.
Roger lived with me in six homes in three states over the course of his 12 years. During a time of frequent changes, he was the one constant, the one sure thing in a world often filled with uncertainty. He made each house or apartment a home, no matter how unhappy I was to be there. And when I took in Sam and Spike, both of whom had been shuffled from owner to owner before finally being abandoned, I promised them that they were home for good, that they would always have a place with me. Likewise, my current four dogs make wherever I am a home. Whenever I’ve moved into yet another place that isn’t really mine, as we have several times over the past four years, there’s been an overwhelming sadness on my part that, even though we’ve always been welcomed wherever we are, I still haven’t found a permanent place for us. But all it takes is seeing Andy, Greta, George, and Lillie at ease to make me remember that as long as we’re all together, we’re already home. I imagine most homes that have any land have pets buried on them. When you move into a place, you inherit the ghosts that come with it. And when you leave a place behind, you leave them there. Unless, like me, you carry them with you. In my case, it’s a weight both comforting and heavy. One day, I hope, I’ll be able to lay it down for good. Until then, it’s a reminder of how much I have, even when I sometimes feel like I have nothing. Michael Thomas Ford is the author of numerous books, many of which feature dogs, none of them dead. His latest novel, LILY, will be released by Lethe Press early in 2016.
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The Dog & Hound