What You Should Know Before Adopting A Pet
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
What should you consider before adopting a new dog or cat? And, how do you know what kind of pet is right for your living situation? We speak to a vet, a dog trainer and the founder of the Doggie Street Festival about the dos and don'ts of pet adoptions.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): Liberty Station in Point Loma is opening up to a whole world of dogs this weekend. It's the second annual Doggie Street Festival. There will be many breed-specific adoptable dogs at the festival, and we thought now would be a great time to talk about the joys and responsibilities of adopting a pet. We have a panel of guests to talk about pet adoptions and the Doggie Festival. I’d like to welcome veterinarian Dr. Katy Allen, owner of Canterbury Tails Veterinary Services. Welcome back, Katy.
DR. KATY ALLEN (Veterinarian): Oh, good morning, Maureen. Nice to see you.
CAVANAUGH: Carol Harris is a certified pet dog trainer and the owner of The Educated Pet. Good morning, Carol.
CAROL HARRIS (Owner, The Educated Pet): Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: And welcome Jude Artenstein, founder and organizer of the Doggie Street Festival. Jude, good morning.
JUDE ARTENSTEIN (Founder/Organizer, Doggie Street Festival): Great to be here. Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: I want to let our listeners know that they are so invited to join this conversation. If you’re thinking about adopting a dog or a cat, give us a call. Or if you’ve got a story about how a certain pet fit in or had a tough time fitting into your life, we want to hear about it. You can call us with your questions and comments about pets, 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Katy, give us an overview of this, if you would. What should people think about before they decide to adopt a pet?
DR. ALLEN: Well, it really is quite a long list and I do really think that pet selection is step number one in being a responsible pet owner. And there are lots of things to think about. Mostly, it’s your lifestyle and will the dog or the cat fit into your lifestyle? How much are you home? And how long will they be on their own? How much exercise will they need? Can you afford them? Can you afford all the stuff that goes along with it? And what are your expectations for – just for the kind of pet that you’re going to have? And that is the first step and that’s the one that needs to take the most – you need to spend a lot of time on because if you pick the wrong pet and you’re unable to provide them with the exercise or the attention that they need, you then have a problem pet and that dog or cat will then end up as one of the approximately six million pets that we, as a nation, put to sleep on an annual basis.
CAVANAUGH: And just because a pet isn’t right for you doesn’t mean it’s not right for somebody else.
DR. ALLEN: Oh, absolutely, and it might be a wonderful pet. But, you know, I work long hours and so when I get home – and I work with dogs and cats, so when I get home at seven o’clock at night, do I want to then mess with a big bouncy dog that wants to go for an hour’s walk? No. So though I would love to have an Old Yeller in the backyard and, you know, have this idyllic relationship with this big old dog, I know I can’t do that so I have one that’s about 15 pounds and whose idea of exercise is to come and sit on my lap.
CAVANAUGH: Carol, what are some of the behavioral signs you should look for when you go, let’s say, to an animal shelter to look for a potential dog to adopt?
HARRIS: For most – Again, knowing your lifestyle…
CAVANAUGH: Right, right.
HARRIS: …is really huge. For most people, I say look at – for a middle of the road dog. It’s going to be, especially if you’re adopting a puppy or an adult dog, don’t get the one who’s very, very timid or the one who’s, you know, overly aggressive unless you’ve got the time to deal with those issues. And if you’ve got the time to deal with those issues, they can be wonderful pets. But if you’re just looking for that dog who’s going to fit more into your life fairly quickly, you’re looking for that kind of middle of the road personality…
HARRIS: …and the friendly ones, you know, the ones that are coming up and saying hi first, that type of thing. But watch your fingers and toes.
CAVANAUGH: Indeed. Indeed. Now, Jude, I’d like you to tell us a little bit about the Doggie Street Festival that’s taking place this weekend be – tell us about the purpose of the event.
ARTENSTEIN: Right. Well, it’s an event that has the aspect of celebrating our furry best friend so you want to come out and enjoy the day, have – you know, visit with other pet owners, listen to the music, watch the entertainment. We also have the element of being able to offer up free of charge pet professionals who will give out information of how to care for your pet, how to feed your pet properly, how to take care of your pet, especially if you’re coming to the festival to adopt a pet. And, of course, the wonderful, the cornerstone of the festival, which is pet adoption. We invite every single rescue group and shelter, big or large, private or public, to join us free of charge with adoptable dogs. And so we have this year about more than 35 rescue groups and shelters joining us. People can come out and see the diversity, you know, of pets that are needing a good, responsible home. They’ll find Chihuahuas, they’ll find Labradors…
ARTENSTEIN: …they’ll find King Charles, I mean, these – the diversity is – it’s awesome.
CAVANAUGH: Now, as I introduced this Doggie Street Festival, I said there’ll be many breed-specific adoptable dogs at the festival. Are – When I think of adopting a pet, I think of going to a shelter and there are a whole bunch of different breeds. Maybe the big dogs are kept in one cage and the smaller dogs in another but when you talk about breed-specific, what specifically are you talking about?
ARTENSTEIN: Well, I think that, I mean, join in here, but I think that a lot of the shelters have a variety of dogs available. You know, you might have pit bulls or small dogs, big dogs, there’s a huge variety. Breed-specific rescue community are people oftentimes who decide that they’re going to help a certain breed…
ARTENSTEIN: …find new homes. So they will maybe go to the shelters if they find out that a breed is going to be euthanized and, you know, get them and rehabilitate them, work with them. I mean, the festival in a lot of ways celebrates the day-in and day-out work of the rescue community at large. So you have people who get different breeds and then they rehabilitate them and prepare them, hopefully, to find a new, loving and permanent home. I think the breed-specific community has done a great service to try to really help augment what the shelters, you know, sometimes can’t do because there’s so many animals…
ARTENSTEIN: …unfortunately in our community that need to be saved so they do a great service.
CAVANAUGH: We are talking about pet adoptions and specifically in connection with the second annual Doggie Street Festival that’s taking place in Point Loma this weekend. And we’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let’s take a call right now from Kathy in San Diego. Good morning, Kathy. Welcome to These Days.
KATHY (Caller, San Diego): Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: Yes, how…
KATHY: Well, my story is about a dog. This happened several years ago. I had a dachshund and I wanted to add to our family and so I went out on Christmas Eve with my husband and we bought a German Shorthair Pointer (sic) puppy and brought it home and set it down and it ran around the house and knocked down the Christmas tree, knocked down all three of my small children. My dachshund was terrified of it. Threw up. It was just a disaster. So the next day we took the dog back, on Christmas Day, by the grace of God the person refunded our money. And then I took a class through a local breeder on breeds and what breeds are compatible, different things about, you know, everything about them. Their diseases, what they’re prone to, their temperament, what lifestyles are correct for what families, what dogs are correct for what families. And we ended up adopting a Welsh corgi from a rescue organization and it worked out beautifully. We had him actually put to sleep just last year after having him for sixteen and a half years.
CAVANAUGH: Well, Kathy…
KATHY: And that educating about breeds changed everything about the kind of dog owner I am.
CAVANAUGH: Kathy, thank you so much for sharing that because that’s, you know, a sad situation in the beginning and yet resolved in a way that Kathy has this information now for a lifetime. And just in hearing Kathy, it reminds me, I remember when I was a child we adopted a Irish setter but we had to bring her back because our house wasn’t big enough. And, you know, I wonder if people really are beginning, Katy, to think about these things when they go to adopt dogs.
DR. ALLEN: They are beginning to and it’s our job to educate them so that more people are thinking about that. We’ve not – maybe not done a good enough job of getting that information out there because, obviously, people want to do the right thing. They just don’t have the information at their fingertips to do the right thing. And that last caller, Kathy, that was a wonderful story, a hard lesson learned, and if we can teach people that lesson without them having to go through that because, certainly, you don’t want children to think that animals are disposable. Oh, this one didn’t fit, take that back, get another one sort of a thing. That’s not an ideal lesson so thank her so much for sharing that story.
DR. ALLEN: And a little bit of research goes a long, long way.
CAVANAUGH: Carol, you know, we all love puppies. As you say, the ones that jump up and down when you come and look at them and – but older dogs might actually be better for some people.
HARRIS: Older dogs are fabulous for a lot of families. Honestly, puppies are a lot of work. I just brought one home yesterday, I’m really well versed in the lack of sleep that they engender. But puppies are a huge amount of work, a huge amount of responsibility, a huge amount of time. All dogs are a lot of responsibility but an older dog, they’re lovely and a lot of them really need homes, and they kind of slide right into your family rather nicely without having that housebreaking and the puppy destruction and the chewing up of your hands and all of the things that go along with the joy of owning a puppy. There’s the downsides to owning a puppy, too.
CAVANAUGH: I think some people are hesitant to adopt an older pet and we’re talking specifically right now about dogs because they’re – they think, well, maybe the dog has some behavioral issues or perhaps the dog won’t bond with me the way a younger dog would. How do you address those?
HARRIS: Well, first of all, they absolutely will bond every bit as well as a younger dog. They just want to be loved just like everybody else. They’ll do just fine. Behavioral issues, maybe. I mean, they’ve had however long to practice behaviors but they’ve had every bit as much time to practice good behaviors as well. And a lot of these dogs really are very, very nice dogs given up for reasons like, right now in our economy, you know, people are losing their homes and that sort of thing and can’t take care of the dogs. The dogs are lovely but they just can’t keep them. It’s feed our kids or keep the dog, you know. So they’re given up for a variety of reasons. Sometimes owners pass away. Sometimes there’s a divorce. I mean, there’s not necessarily something wrong with the animal so much as the environment was not conducive to keeping the animal.
CAVANAUGH: Jude, I wonder if the rescue groups associated with the Doggie Street Festival are finding more adult dogs being – families having to give them up.
ARTENSTEIN: You know, I think that it’s a excellent point. I think it’s a spectrum of reasons. So oftentimes it’s not the dog. You know, people get married, people have a child, people move. People go – can’t find a rental that allows them to take their pet with them. I mean, it’s a tragic situation. I think that obviously as a community we all – it would serve us well to all try to help one another in this situation, understanding that it’s a heartwrenching, you know, situation for the person, it’s a crisis for the dog. He’s been – he or she’s been raised with this family and for no reason of their own now they find themselves in what is a tragic situation. I always am asking rental units or housing units to please, you know, reconsider. We – Doggie Street has sent out letters to that community, to the realtor community and I hope that they will reconsider and allow people to, you know, take their dogs with them.
CAVANAUGH: Take their dogs with them.
CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And let’s get in a phone call before we have to take a break. Debbi is calling us from Poway. Good morning, Debbi. Welcome to These Days.
DEBBI (Caller, Poway): Hi.
DEBBI: Well, this is my question. I do have a rescued dog. She’s fabulous. Her name is Rosie. And we got her from the Baja Rescue people. And she’s a terrier mix and she’s, you know, of course, like one of our children now and so we just love this dog to death. But my question is if I considered bringing another dog into the mix, how do you go about choosing a dog that, you know’s going to get along well with Rosie and not make her feel slighted, but how do you do that?
HARRIS: Well, the first thing to do is – does Rosie like other dogs? There’s the first thing. If Rosie doesn’t like other dogs, then you might not want to put this upon her. But if she likes other dogs kind of look at the types of dogs that she does like. Does she like bigger dogs? Does she like smaller dogs? I usually recommend if you have a female, getting a male, and vice versa. You often do a little bit better when you have the opposite genders. It’s not written in stone but it’s often the case. And you want to get a dog that’s kind of compatible with Rosie’s personality. If she’s a real pushy dog, you don’t want to get another real pushy dog. She is a terrier so that’s a possibility there. So you – And most rescue organizations are going to require you to have a dog-to-dog introduction and make sure that your dog is going to be compatible with that new dog.
CAVANAUGH: And, Katy, would you recommend doing anything for the – Rosie, the dog that they already have so that she doesn’t feel slighted with this new dog in the house?
DR. ALLEN: That’s not really much different you can do. They will sort it out themselves…
CAVANAUGH: I see.
DR. ALLEN: …pretty well. Just don’t – The mistake some people make is because they feel sorry – maybe Rosie’s nose will be out of joint so they start to favor her and that can upset the balance a little bit.
CAVANAUGH: I see.
DR. ALLEN: They need to work it out themselves, absolutely.
CAVANAUGH: They need to work it out themselves.
DR. ALLEN: They need to work it out.
CAVANAUGH: We do need to take a short break right now. When we return, we’ll continue talking about pet adoptions and the joys and responsibility of adopting and owning a pet, and taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.
CAVANAUGH: You're listening to These Days on KPBS. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and my guests are veterinarian Dr. Katy Allen, Carol Harris, a certified dog trainer, owner of The Educated Pet, and June – Jude Artenstein, founder and organizer of the Doggie Street Festival. We’re talking about what you need to know if you’re thinking about adopting a dog or a cat and we’re asking for your questions and comments at 1-888-895-5727. Katy, there are a couple of people who couldn’t stay on the line but had some questions about adopting cats. And is this the time of year that little kittens are available for adoption?
DR. ALLEN: This is the bumper crop right now.
DR. ALLEN: Yes, this is the time of year when a young tom cat’s thoughts turn to romance and there will be ridiculous numbers of kittens available for adoption.
CAVANAUGH: What about the – Our caller wanted to know about the controversy over declawing because some people will get a kitten if that kitten can be declawed and others think that this is just a terrible thing to do to a cat.
DR. ALLEN: Oh, yes, a lot of rescue organizations will make you sign that you will not get your cat declawed and I’m not sure how realistic that is because they don’t go around and police it. There’s certainly no veterinarian I know who loves to declaw cats; it’s something that we try and talk people out of and we offer them lots of alternatives as far as behavioral training, trimming. You can even get little things to cover the claws with. But there are going to be those few cases when the cat either gets declawed or it’s given away or it’s thrown out of the house. And in those situations, most of us will do it…
CAVANAUGH: All right, yes.
DR. ALLEN: …having offered all the other options because at least then that kitty will have a nice, safe indoor home…
CAVANAUGH: Right, exactly right.
DR. ALLEN: …and that’s much better than being a stray.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. I understand your advice there. Let’s take another call. Jean is calling from Coronado. Good morning, Jean, and welcome to These Days.
JEAN (Caller, Coronado): Hi there. I hope you can hear me okay. I just have a really great story about adopting an older dog. He’s my third yellow lab and so I knew the breed, which was important, but this dog – I was in my third home and it came to – he came to me at a time when my youngest daughter was going off (audio dropout) and I was having to (audio dropout) and so I adopted this dog that had a few behavioral problems but we nipped that. And it’s just been the most wonderful situation and I will never, ever adopt a puppy or have a puppy again because he slipped into my house and it’s just been so fabulous.
CAVANAUGH: Jean, let me ask you quickly, what breed was that? We didn’t quite get it.
JEAN: Oh, he’s a yellow lab.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. Thank you for your call. I appreciate it. So there’s a word. I shout out for the yellow labs. Katy, what are some of the mistakes people make when they decide to adopt a pet?
DR. ALLEN: Oh, they adopt based on emotion. They will – they’ll go to the shelter or something wonderful that Jude’s organized and the, you know, big pair of brown eyes and a wet nose and we’re off.
DR. ALLEN: And, really, that’s not always the best way to make that sort of decision. It’s never the best way to make that decision. Really, I would encourage people just to do the research about what size dog they want, what energy level they want, what age they’re looking at all based on their own lifestyle and their budgets and have that in mind, and don’t stray from it when – because they’ll go nuts at this festival because there will be so many really cute animals but it needs to be a successful adoption not just an adoption, a successful adoption.
CAVANAUGH: And I want to ask you because this is the second time you’ve mentioned it, you’ve talked about budgets. How expensive is it to be a dog owner?
DR. ALLEN: Well, there’s – it’s like a small business really. There’s set-up costs and then there’s ongoing maintenance. You know, if you adopt a dog, you’re going to need to buy a crate. Well, the crate for a Great Dane is going to set you back a mortgage payment whereas a crate for a Chihuahua not so much. If your puppy gets sick, if it weighs 100 pounds, those antibiotics will cost you $200. If it’s a poodle, they’ll cost you $35. So a lot of things are very much size related. If you’re adopting a puppy, you’ve got vaccinations. That whole series might cost you $150. If you need to spay or neuter your pet, that could easily be, you know, a larger dog spayed would be $300. So there are all these set-up costs that if you don’t have those initial things in your budget you shouldn’t get the dog in the first place, to be harsh about it, in the same way that you don’t buy a car if you can’t afford to put the petrol in it and you can’t afford to insure it.
CAVANAUGH: Well, Carol, could you expand on that? What are some of the mistakes that you see people make when they’re choosing their pet?
HARRIS: Well, again, the emotion is a big one because every dog is cute. You know, they’re just not really that ugly. There’s – And even the ugly ones are so ugly they’re cute so, you know, there’s not one that’s really out there. And people should – get them as gifts, which is almost always a mistake. They get them because their friend had one. You know, they don’t think it through. And they don’t think about the training that’s required, the time for the training that’s required as well as the cost of the veterinary visits. If you’re getting a puppy, you’ve got a lot longer training process to go through. You’re going to be doing puppy classes and adolescent classes and obedience classes and it goes on. If you’re getting an adult dog, you may just have an obedience class and that’s, you know, a lower cost there. So you need to look at it and you need to make sure everybody’s on board. A lot of the problems that I run into is the wife got the dog and the husband didn’t want it or the husband got the dog and the wife didn’t want it. Or the kids really wanted a dog but the parents didn’t want the responsibility of it. You know, the whole family’s not on board. So everybody needs to kind of agree that this is the right dog and we are ready.
CAVANAUGH: Right, because if the kids get the dog, you’re the one that’s going to wind up taking care of it.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, yeah. Let me ask you, Jude, there’s a – If I’m correct in what – in perusing the website for the Doggie Festival, there’s a lot of education that’s going to be on hand for potential pet owners at this festival.
ARTENSTEIN: Yes. We’re fortunate enough to have a wonderful roster of veterinarians and pet professionals who are going to be there available to the public to take their questions free of charge, to confer with them and to discuss very particular behavior patterns. We’re going to have trainers available, people who can tell you, you know, a lot about how to deal with your new puppy or your puppy that – your dog that you currently have. We are also going to have spay/neuter information, SNAP, I’m sure that everyone knows the Spay Neuter Action Project is going to be on site and they’re going to also address the audience and give people information of the importance of spay/neuter and the role that it plays in the overall purpose of the festival which really is, yes, to come out and have fun and have a good time with our pets that we celebrate and that we love so much but at the same time to gain information and a deeper understanding of how we can coexist better and more responsibly together. So I think the festival – I love so much about the festival that it has the combination that we can be together celebrating our fuzzy, warm and loving animals and at the same time we can gain a deeper understanding on how we, as human beings, can interact with them better and, of course, being able to understand and to visit with all the rescue groups and shelters that are going to be there.
CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls about pet adoption, 1-888-895-5727. Dan is calling us from San Diego. Good morning, Dan, and welcome to These Days.
DAN (Caller, San Diego): Hello.
DAN: I’m president of a dog training club, specifically a Schutzen club and we train German Shepherds, Malinois, schnauzers, Dobermans, Beaucerons, Rottweilers. And I’m wondering where to get some information on having a booth at the dog festival.
CAVANAUGH: Okay, I think we have the person here for you.
ARTENSTEIN: Okay, thanks for the question. Basically, you can go to www.doggiestreetfestival.org, and it’s d-o-g-g-i-e. That’s been spelled a few different ways. And when you get on there, you can visit the sponsor/vendor page and it’ll give you all the information that you need.
CAVANAUGH: Okay, thank you for that call, Dan. Patrick is calling us from Oceanside. Good morning, Patrick. Thanks for waiting.
PATRICK (Caller, Oceanside): Oh, sure. Thanks for taking my call. In response to the – it started off with the pets don’t fit in. I love dogs. In some cases, I love dogs better than people. Where I live, the neighborhood has lots and lots of folks working during the daytime. I think they’re unaware or I hope they’re unaware their dogs bark a lot. It’s a bit of a domino effect. Kind of one starts off, then they all get going in on it. It’s really irritating for me and I’m sure it’s really stressful for the dogs themselves. So my question, and I’ll take the answer off the air…
PATRICK: …what’s the best neighborly approach? You know, what’s the right thing to do? Do you – Is there a number to call? Should I write a letter and put like a Milkbone with it on their door? Call the homeowner? Talk to…
CAVANAUGH: I like that one, to tell you the truth, Patrick.
PATRICK: Yeah, all right, thanks.
CAVANAUGH: Well, we’ll find out. We’ll find out. Thanks so much for the call. Okay, so you’ve got a whole cacophony of dogs going off in the afternoon in your neighborhood. What do you do, Katy?
DR. ALLEN: I think most people are not aware that that’s happening and if someone were to very politely and in the vein of I would like you – you know, like to be able to help your dog. If you let them know that, yes, your dog’s barking and you’re concerned maybe the dog’s anxious, they would – most people would take that in the right vein because once people know their dogs are barking maybe – It might be separation anxiety, in which case their dog really needs some help and that’s a horrible way to spend the – for the dog spending the day. In others, it might territorial. The postman went by and then they just couldn’t stop barking or, you know, some – a rabbit went through the backyard, I don’t know. But there may well be some dogs in that street that are genuinely anxious and upset and need some help and the owners might very well be grateful for the heads up. And so I would take that route first and then if you’ve got someone who just says, yeah, I know my dog barks, you know, tough…
CAVANAUGH: Tough. Right.
DR. ALLEN: …then you can call Animal Control.
CAVANAUGH: And what will they do?
DR. ALLEN: They’ll look around and they’ll ticket them, and I think if they get a certain number of complaints then something not very nice is done.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, dear. The dog is taken away?
DR. ALLEN: Yes, I think it’s then a public nuisance. It’s a noise nuisance.
CAVANAUGH: Ah, I see. So people are rather hesitant to do that, I would imagine.
DR. ALLEN: Exactly. Exactly. But, like I said, most people just aren’t aware because when they’re home, the dog’s not barking because you’re home and they just don’t know.
HARRIS: But you do have to understand, too, that dogs are – they are kind of a pack animal and if one is going to start something, everybody else is going to join in. I mean, that’s normal dog behavior. And it’s acceptable from the dog’s standpoint. It may not be acceptable from the neighbor’s standpoint but you’re not going to get very many dogs that if the neighbor dog barks, they’re just going to be quiet. It’s really not going to happen. So if you live in a neighborhood with a lot of dogs, there’s going to be barking.
CAVANAUGH: And what I found out where I live is that if you introduce a new dog, a puppy, I mean, it’s just a dog roundup. I mean…
CAVANAUGH: The puppy begins to cry and cry and it sets off all the other dogs, so you just have to wait until the puppy grows up. Let’s take another call. Ann is calling from 4-S Ranch. Good morning, Ann, and welcome to These Days.
ANN (Caller, 4-S Ranch): Good morning. Thanks for taking my call. I’ve really enjoyed this because I believe so strongly in adopting pets, especially – I’ve found I always get nicer pets. But I’m really sort of upset about why my dog got left at a shelter. She – when I adopted her four years ago, she was a Boxer, really well behaved, and she was left because the people who owned her moved to someplace that didn’t take pets. And I guess my question would be, if you had children would you move someplace that didn’t take children and then abandon your children?
ANN: And it just flabbergasts me. This dog is amazing. She has been such a joy to my life even though she’s an older dog and she’s just – she’s incredible. So I really hope people would consider adopting older dogs as well.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much, Ann, for your comment. And I’m wondering, Katy and Carol, you must come across a lot of sad stories when you – as – in treating animals. I would imagine that it’s a heartbreaking situation for people mostly, Katy, who have to give up their dogs.
DR. ALLEN: It is. And a lot of it is actually size-related. A lot of – San Diego seems to be one of the worst cities, actually for this as far as townhomes and condos and anyone with an HOA on having size restrictions on pets and also they’ll have a dangerous breed list. Now the CDC does not endorse any dangerous breed list and the AVMA does not either because it’s impossible to get bite, you know, bite data and – but they just sort of decided that the bigger dogs, the ones that are often used for sort of more aggressive work, they put them on this dangerous breed list. Well, I have a veterinarian friend of mine that had half her lip removed by a Yorkie.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, my.
DR. ALLEN: There was actually a child fatality secondary to a Chihuahua attack. So you can’t really – you can’t go by breeds but a lot of landlords do and often they’ve got this arbitrary weight limit. And I’ve often, in fact, the military families, you know, they’re moving here and they’ve got a larger dog and they can’t find any housing. And I end up often boarding these huge dogs for weeks or even months on end while they try and find housing that will take their pet.
CAVANAUGH: That’s a sad story.
HARRIS: The other thing to think about, though, with that, with a Boxer type of a dog, is that may have been one of those cases where somebody got a dog, it was – I mean, there’s very little cuter than a Boxer puppy. They are just fabulous. But it’s not the right breed for everybody. And it slipped into this woman’s home very, very nicely and maybe it wasn’t the right dog for the family that had it either, so as heartbreaking as it was, they felt it was better for it to find a home that was more appropriate for it and the move was an excuse to do so.
CAVANAUGH: And, Jude, we were talking about this weekend’s Doggie Festival as a celebration, as indeed it is, but it is based on a very serious problem here in San Diego, the fact that there are a lot of homeless animals.
ARTENSTEIN: Yes, and, I mean, I think the tragedy is that it’s a national problem, it’s an international problem. I think, you know, I’m ever the optimist. I’m one of those people that feel that as human beings we can solve problems and that we need to participate in that solution. And I think that everyone can dig deep into what – If this is an issue that really affects you – You know, there’s so many issues that affect us but we’re not able to effect a change upon them. We’re a little, you know, the larger picture, you know, we cannot solve all the problems in the economy, etcetera. But this is something, if you care about it, you, yourself, can be a part, a participant. You can empower yourself and others to do something. It can be a little thing. You can say, listen, I’ll volunteer for this organization, or I’m going to – the next time I’m going to make sure that I put ID tags on my dog, or if I see someone that doesn’t have one, I’ll encourage them to do it. Or if someone’s talking about, you know, having a litter of puppies, I might try to educate them as to what the – what is going to happen if that happens, you know. I think what it is, is that we have to look inward. Oftentimes we get – at Doggie Street we’ll get e-mails thanking us for what we’re doing and we’re happy to be doing this. We feel privileged to be able to volunteer our time and do this. But we always say to them, don’t look at us and depend on us to solve it, you get involved. Do the littlest thing, do the biggest thing, just do something.
CAVANAUGH: We are going to continue our conversation about pet adoptions and we’ll take your calls at 1-888-895-5727. These Days will continue in just a few moments here on KPBS.
CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. We’re talking about what you need to know if you’re thinking about adopting a dog or a cat. Give us a call at 1-888-895-5727 with your questions and comments. My guests are Dr. Katy Allen, Carol Harris, and Jude Artenstein, who’s founder and organizer of the Doggie Street Festival taking place this weekend. Katy, you know, we’ve – we did mention cats a little bit and I’m sorry that we’re giving them short shrift here because I love them and we all love them and – but we’re talking mainly about dogs and picking out dogs in the Doggie Festival this weekend. But I don’t want to give the impression that cats are all the same. I mean, you’ve got to choose your cat correctly, as well.
DR. ALLEN: Absolutely. It’s a big issue and, certainly, you’re going to have a lot of choice in the spring. And mostly I want to make a point about maximizing your chance to get a healthy kitten. People will rescue moms and their kittens and bring them in and adopt them out and you want to ask a couple of questions. The first one is is how long were the kittens with the mother? Because if they were with the mother at least six, preferably eight, weeks, they’re much more likely to be very healthy kittens. And then the other thing, apart from the health thing, is also then the socialization.
DR. ALLEN: Have they been handled by people? Have they, you know, noises and dogs or anything else. Have they been well socialized because that, again, is going to maximize your chances of getting a cat that wants to be a part of the family. I made a mistake of—well, my daughter—I let her pick out a little black cat that she loved but he was timid and I said yes. And he’s – he doesn’t want to be cuddled, he doesn’t want to be the kind of kitty that she wants him to be, and so she’s disappointed but I’m responsible. I have to set a good example so he’s with us now for another probably 20 years. And he’s not owning his keep because he won’t let us cuddle him.
CAVANAUGH: That is very interesting. There are some cats like that who just are going to be standoffish forever. I wonder, is there – are there any differences in breeds when you get a cat in how affectionate that animal might be?
DR. ALLEN: Well, some are – some are very vocal. You know, Siamese particularly are very vocal and that would just drive me to my grave, so I…
DR. ALLEN: …would never get a Siamese. So you need to know things like that. Some of these big old sort of ragdoll type cats are very laid back and if you sit down and you pick them up and put them on your lap, they’ll stay there forever. But – And often you can just spend some time visiting the kitten that you’re thinking of adopting. You will get an idea of are they playful, are they socialized, do they like to, you know, crawl up on your shoulder and nestle, you know, under your hair? Or are they hiding at the back of the cage and hissing at you?
DR. ALLEN: So, again, a little time, and don’t go for the pretty one, go for the one that wants to interact with you the way that you want it to.
CAVANAUGH: Very interesting. Let’s take a call now. People want to interact with us. David is calling from University Heights. Good morning, David. Welcome to These Days.
DAVID (Caller, University Heights): Oh, thank you. Yeah, I was calling because I have a big, fat, beautiful cat, furry calico cat that we’ve had for eight years. And, you know, we have a baby in the house and we have a really small house and, you know, I’m just really sad because I feel like we’re going to have to – and we’re thinking about taking her to the Humane Society because we just – she doesn’t get enough attention, you know, and affection from us and I just really feel sad about it but – and I’m just kind of wondering what are the chances of a cat that’s seven, that’s eight years old but she’s very healthy, she’s beautiful, to – getting adopted, finding a new home in the Humane Society. What do you…?
CAVANAUGH: Okay, David, we’ve got the question. And, Katy, take it.
DR. ALLEN: The older cats are a little bit harder to place. There are some households that are very suitable for older, single cats. Often it’s sort of older, single people actually, and it turns out to be a fairly good match. But there are fewer of those homes around than the ones who want the kitten so you might want to maybe reevaluate whether or not you really want to do that with her. If – Most cats do pretty well even with a, you know, a new baby in the house. Is she manifesting by a behavior change that she’s not happy? Is…?
DAVID: You know, the thing is, it’s a really small house and, you know, the baby crawling all over the floor and there’s cat hair everywhere and she tends to, you know, why I feel bad is she tends to purge. She’ll eat and then she’ll throw up and, you know, and she does that a lot and so we have to have her out of the house a lot. And, you know, it’s cold out there and, you know, she would just not – we don’t have time to give her affection. So, it’s, yeah…
DAVID: …I mean, as far as her behaving, she’s not too much change but…
CAVANAUGH: Now, Katy, the baby won’t be crawling for a long time. The baby will be standing up, right? And walking around.
DR. ALLEN: Yeah. So there may be ways to – you maybe need to confine the kitty or just, you know, vacuum more and clean. You have to be a little more vigilant and clean up a little more until the baby’s in less of a, you know, hand-to-mouth sort of a behavior thing. But this is not uncommon. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon and whether it’s a cat that’s, you know, maybe leaving too much cat hair around for new parents to be comfortable or it’s a dog that was taking a lot of their attention and now they have children and the animal that was sort of, you know, was their child is now, you know, rightly so, in a way, been demoted because, you know, your children have to be your first priority. And it’s not uncommon and that happens a lot that that’s where our shelter animals come from. So I would maybe ask for some advice from your veterinarian on ways to – you know, if your cat really is throwing up a lot of hairballs, there’s ways that we can help you with that. So there may be other things to do rather than just send the kitty off to the shelter. And I would – your veterinarian, I think might be your first line of attack here.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, David. Thank you for the phone call. Let’s take another call from Tanya in Imperial Beach. Hi, Tanya.
TANYA (Caller, Imperial Beach): Hello?
CAVANAUGH: Yes. Hi. Thank you for calling.
TANYA: Hi. Yeah, I just want to make a comment on the previous caller. You know, I have two small children ages three and four and a half and I had cats long before I had the kids. It is a transition but the cats can learn to interact with the kids and actually it teaches children, having a pet around will teach children how to properly interact with them and it’ll teach them to be more compassionate, you know. And my daughter, I do cat rescue and she’s actually helped me with kitten taming before. When she was like three years old, she was helping me pet the kittens and it is actually very good socialization for young kittens…
CAVANAUGH: Thank you…
TANYA: …to have kids around.
CAVANAUGH: Tanya, thank you so much for your call. I appreciate it. Let’s move on and talk about dogs. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Katie is calling from Pacific Beach and good morning, Katie. Welcome to These Days.
KATIE (Caller, Pacific Beach): Good morning, Maureen. Good morning to your panelists. I am a long time dog owner, dog adopter, and I didn’t hear anybody mention Sue Sternberg’s book about “Successful Dog Adoption.”
CAVANAUGH: Okay. What have you learned from that book?
KATIE: Oh, well, you know, mainly to be very thoughtful and to understand that when you go and look at a dog in a shelter, they’re under stress so how they’re behaving in the shelter, you have to kind of go beyond skin deep. And she’s got a series of exercises and things that people can consider when they’re looking at dogs in shelters to kind of try to break through some of that a little bit to see the dog underneath all of the stress and tension. Can I add a couple of other comments?
CAVANAUGH: Yes. Perhaps one?
KATIE: One more. It’s kind of a crapshoot in a way even with the best of screening and intentions to – and you’ve been careful about thinking of your lifestyle and everything. Sometimes you still get a dog home and it’s not going to be a good fit and I’m a big advocate of doing your very best with training and behavior modification but if it’s not working to contact the place where you got the critter and think about returning it so it can have another shot at a life where it will be a better fit. We had to rehome a dog that was, it turns out, that was dangerous to our cat and nothing we could do would turn it off from stalking our cat. So we had to make a difficult decision to try to rehome the dog but it was kind of a Catch-22.
CAVANAUGH: Katie, thank you so much for the call. Carol, is that better to do, to make that decision early on than just let it go on and on and the situation is not resolving itself?
HARRIS: In some situations yes, but you can’t jump the gun either. I mean, some people get a dog and it’s not right right away and they kind of go, well, this isn’t working. It’s kind of a fine line to walk and it’s a – again, it’s a cost factor, it’s a time factor, how much money do you have to put into working on the problem, how much time do you have and how much education do you need to solve the problem because, really, you know, we’re educating the owners as well as the pets. So it’s kind of a fine line and it depends on what it is. Obviously, if you have a dog who comes in and is dangerous to another one of your animals or to your child, then that’s a pretty quick decision. If it’s a dog who’s got some separation anxiety, well, that takes a long time to solve and that’s not such a quick decision to make. So it sort of depends on the behavior issues.
CAVANAUGH: Let’s talk about, okay, so let’s say our listeners have done their homework and they’ve decided which dog is going to fit in well with their family and they go to the Doggie Street Festival on the weekend and they pick up a wonderful dog. What are some of the things that they need to know in the initial days or weeks in order to acclimate that puppy or that dog to their house. And I’m going to ask – start with you, Carol.
HARRIS: Probably the biggest mistake people make when they first bring a dog home is they want to spend every minute with the dog. And I know that sounds funny that that’s a mistake but it really is because it doesn’t teach the dog to be alone at all. And then when they go back to work, it’s a real shock to the dog’s system. So what they need to think about is how am I going to leave this dog alone so I can take a shower? How am I going to safely leave this dog alone while I go to the grocery store? How am I going to make sure this dog’s needs are met and still pick up my kids from school and still, you know, do my job and still get the dishes and the laundry done? How am I going to make sure this dog is played with, exercised, fed, watered, walked…
HARRIS: …loved but, you know, don’t just think that you can spend three or four days with your dog and then go to work.
CAVANAUGH: Right, exactly. And from a veterinarian’s standpoint, Katy, what are the things a new pet owner needs to do?
DR. ALLEN: I would get your new pet to the veterinarian pretty much straightaway. Occasionally, I find some health problems that are beyond what that family can deal with and if they’ve waited three weeks to come see me, they’re already, you know, in love, irrevocably in love, and that’s a huge wrench. If they come the next day or so and if we find something, they can decide can they deal with it or not, and if it’s something they cannot deal with it’s – they can then maybe send it back to the rescue organization who can find a more appropriate home. So acting promptly, I would say, is number one.
CAVANAUGH: I’m interested, Jude, this is – as we’ve been saying, this is the second annual Doggie Street Festival. And so that means you had a first annual one last year. What was that like? How many people participated approximately.
ARTENSTEIN: Wow, it was amazing. We had about 37 rescue groups and shelters with adoptable dogs. Katy was there giving advice. We had quite a lot of people coming through.
DR. ALLEN: We had, yeah, a lot of entertainment going on. It was really fun and lots of competition and things, you know…
DR. ALLEN: …working dog stuff. It was very, very busy. It was a wonderful day. And I’m not sure how many adoptions happened because of it but it was a wonderful dog event.
ARTENSTEIN: Yeah, I think we had a lot of rescue groups that also have said that they got volunteers – that they met volunteers that helped, you know, helped them throughout the rest of the year. They definitely, I would say that it would be safe to say that about a hundred dogs got adopted…
ARTENSTEIN: …on Doggie Street day last year.
DR. ALLEN: That’s wonderful.
CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you something. And people are encouraged to bring their dogs to…
CAVANAUGH: …this event.
CAVANAUGH: How do all those dogs get along together?
ARTENSTEIN: Well, gosh, it’s so much fun. It’s just – it – being an observation gallery. You see – Meet up groups came. They – Everyone was on leash. Everyone has to be on leash. And – But I think everyone felt a collective responsibility to keep their dogs near to them and to make sure that there was no, you know, negative interaction. It was something to behold. My husband says that he just felt that the dogs themself (sic) felt so much love and so much welcome that they behaved very, very well. So, you know, we, fortunately, didn’t have any problems.
CAVANAUGH: And Katy.
DR. ALLEN: I just want to add, though, please don’t bring puppies that have not had their full set of vaccinations along to the Doggie Street Festival. And by that I mean they’ve had their 16-week boosters and they’ve had a good week for their bodies to do something with that 16-week booster. And make – Anybody else bringing their dog, they need to be well vaccinated, they need to have parasite control. We don’t want to be spreading disease at this event.
CAVANAUGH: And that’s the medical side. I want to go to you, Carol, for a last word on if you’re bringing your dog to a big dog event, are there any special precautions you should take or is there a certain type of dog you shouldn’t bring to an event like this?
HARRIS: Well, you don’t want to bring a dog who’s especially fearful or certainly not a dog who’s ever shown aggression. And, you know, don’t bring a dog that you’re going to stress out. If your dog doesn’t like large groups, then it’s not fair to bring it to a situation like this. If your dog is that happy go lucky yellow lab that we were hearing about earlier, you know, and likes large groups and – it’s wonderful. But just know your dog and don’t do it for you, do it for the dog. If you’re bringing the dog, make sure it’s something the dog is going to enjoy.
CAVANAUGH: And, Katy, tell us again, how important is it for people to be aware of the fact of the homeless pet population in San Diego?
DR. ALLEN: It’s – I just – They need to be so aware of it because, as I said, we put to sleep about six million pets in this country every single year. And so every puppy that you buy from a pet store or every litter than you let your dog have because you think it’s wonderful or natural or whatever, you know, people come up with, for that ten puppies that your dog just had, that’s ten that won’t get adopted out of the shelter that will be put to sleep.
CAVANAUGH: Right. I want to thank you all. I’ve enjoyed this so much and I’m sure our listeners have as well. Thank you, Dr. Katy Allen, owner of Canterbury Tails Veterinary Services. Carol Harris, certified pet dog trainer, owner of The Educated Pet. And I want to let everyone know the Doggie Street Festival will take place this Sunday, February 28th at Liberty Station in Point Loma. And, Jude Artenstein, thank you so much.
ARTENSTEIN: Thank you for – so much.
CAVANAUGH: Anyone who’d like to post a comment, please go online, KPBS.org/thesedays. You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.
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