Thursday, June 25, 2009

Questions and answers

Posted with permission of the authors.

 ----- Original Message ----- 

From: "Stanley Coren"
To: "Mary Cooke"
Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 6:26 PM
Subject: Re: Can you please answer these serious questions?

Dear Mary Cooke

Here are the brief answers to your questions.

Chewing on raw beef bones does keep the dogs teeth clean and healthy.

If the teeth have turned bad you must go to a veterinarian.

A dog should not be allowed to jump on people.

Dogs do get depressed when separated from their owners. Occasional

visits from the owner tends to lift their moods but may result in

renewed depression when the owner leaves.

Dogs only need to be bathed when they are dirty.

Overweight and lack of exercise can shorten the life of the dog.


Stanley Coren, PhD, FRSC
Department of Psychology
University of British Columbia
2136 West Mall
Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z4
------ End of Forwarded Message

----- Original Message -----
From: Mary Cooke
Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 6:08 PM
Subject: Can you please answer these serious questions?

I would like to know what effect it will have on a dog if the owner gives it a raw beef bone for it's teeth but it is taken away from the dog & now it's teeth are very bad?

Should a dog be taught to jump on people & why?

What damage can be done by the separation of dog & owner for say a year & only one short visit a week that started a couple of months ago?

What harm if any can be done by not bathing a dog except maybe twice a yr.?

Also what harm can there be if a dog is overweight & little or no exercise?

What would the concern be if the dog is six years old?


Mary Cooke

PS - I need the answer quickly as possible

------ End of Forwarded Message

Some of Dr. Coren's books are :
How To Speak Dog
Why does My Dog Act That Way?
How Dogs Think
Why We Love The Dogs We Do
The Intelligence of Dogs
The Left-Hander Syndrome
& The Pawprints of History

Dr. Stanley Coren is a professor of psychology and animal behaviorist.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Tomorrow is the eleventh month anniversary/badiversary of Brindi's seizure.
She has made it through all these months, six of them without seeing me at all, being the good-natured girl she really is. She is putting up gracefully with the situation but the signs of strain are unmistakable. 

Today, my city councilor, David Hendsbee, hopes to get a vote through on a resolution to add an appeal process to By-Law A300. I believe he proposed that a committee of five councilors be formed for this purpose. It would be a good way to make up for one of the bigger problems in the current system, so that an owner doesn't have to pay a fortune to go to court. It would be even better if the panel was made up of people with knowledge about dogs and dog behavior, rather than councilors, as is the case in many other cities, and since the councilors are not impartial. However, any kind of appeal would be a step in the right direction!!

There would have to be additional provisions as well, I imagine, such as restrictions on the amount of time, whether there can be an appeal of the committee's decision, etc. so that no dog has to spend eleven months and more in a pound. 

Meanwhile I have not heard yet from the SPCA whether I will be able to see Brindi tomorrow. 
I want to have her moved to a more suitable facility. I think it is high time. 

Postscript: checking the council meeting agenda online I did not see anything about Hendsbee's resolution... not sure why.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Transgression of the day

Today I went to the shelter/pound/SPCA and gave my dog a bone. 

For that transgression, I have risked never being allowed to see her again. 

I really don't understand so I cannot explain. I have asked. All I am told is that this transgression is apparently defined in the 12 conditions as "no high-value items." Who knew?? All I could think of was an iPod, or a heating pad... ??? 

If you accept bones for 10 months, who would dream that you were not really accepting them? 

If you mean bones, why don't you please write "no bones"?

Raw beef bones happen to be cheaper than any dental bone or smoked bone or whatever - and they happen to be Brindi's chew of choice. Why the deception? Why not a discussion? 

I just do not understand: I thought they said they were taking excellent care of my dog. 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Glimpses, precious moments June 3

Taken by somebody passing by, when I was not there. She's finding shade, not a lot of comfort, no company. 

At some point on every visit the same thought goes through my mind: I have to ask, I have to remember to ask them, can't I just live there with her? 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sorry, but I have a big bone to pick with the SPCA

When I cry, even a little, my cats jump off the bed and vanish. I am crying now, soon after waking up today, because consciousness brought me back to what happened yesterday. 

It may seem like a tempest in a teapot to a lot of people. But something as simple as a bone can mean life or death to a dog. And you can't ever take it for granted that somebody will do what they say. This is what I wrote to friends after my weekly visit to Brindi yesterday:

 At the end of my visits with Brindi, I give her a fresh juicy bone, her favorite treat, to distract her when I leave and give her something to do in her cell. I was bringing Brindi bones on a regular basis for the past 10 months. As I drove away from the shelter without her, crying my head off each time, I could at least console myself that she had a little pleasure, remembering how she could demolish a bone in record time. After the "ban" (imposed only because I asked to see her), a few helpers took over for a while. In December, when I heard about Jeff de la Rosa's dog Stu, whose teeth were in bad shape after three years in a pound, I felt assured this would not happen to my dog, thanks to the bones I brought. I was wrong.
Today at the SPCA I had a big shock. I saw the shelter manager take the fresh beef bone right out of Brindi’s mouth, right in front of me. Of course, Brindi, being the dangerous dog that she is, sat obediently and allowed her to do it, making only one symbolic try to get it back when it was dangled in front of her face - no growling, no threatening, no locking on to it!!!

This happened right after this woman said “No high value items, hun!” What high value?? $1.80 for two bones?? What are you talking about? Why can't she have it? No answer. I asked five times, she ignored me. Then she said, “If you want me to give you an appropriate treat, I’ll give you one.” Appropriate? Excuse me?? I said, this is MY dog, I will and can decide what is appropriate, I own this dog! Then in horror I asked if they had been taking away all the bones I brought in all this time – and not giving her the extras in packs I brought - no answer. Obviously, that is exactly what has been happening. My own eyes told me so, because her teeth are such an atrocity. But they say they love her and I just could not believe they would walk her away with a bone in her mouth, a happy camper, and then take it away when she was out of sight! I could not believe the desk girls would politely accept a whole package of bones, promising to give them to Brindi every day!! Is this what they think is right? Is this how they treat dogs they love?

On my first visit in April I noticed Brindi’s teeth were in bad shape - big encrustations, calcium deposits, black and brown stains, plaque everywhere, even in her bottom front teeth, the tops - black. The first visit, her gums bled after she fetched a plastic frisbee two times. So I doubled the effort to bring more bones, and in May, summoned the courage to ask if her teeth could be cleaned. Apparently they are worried because she has to go her under full anesthesia – a risk to them. The real danger is the release of the bacteria scrapings which can cause organ damage, or get to her heart, cause a staph infection, and kill her. And she could lose teeth to cavities or gum disease. None of this would be a concern now if they had just given her the bones.

Every time I dropped them off (even risking arrest, during the ban) and asked politely if they would give them to Brindi, the staff and volunteers would say yes, okay, fine, no problem. Not once did they say she can’t have them. Whether they ever gave her any bones, or just tossed them, I’ll never know. But I have brought a lot of them, and her teeth should be in much better shape. Forget the wasted money; no money can restore her teeth to their former condition. They are not obviously not giving her any “appropriate” substitute, because they would not be this bad.

The fact is, she does not like artificial bones. And I learned the hard way that rawhide was no good; she threw up and had diarrhea for five days. A raw beef bone does the job very well, and it does not splinter like cooked ones. I confirmed with good sources that raw bones are okay - and 13 months of giving them to her proved it.

I should have believed my own eyes, back in April, but I could just not believe anybody would lie to me about such a tiny thing, and also deny my dog a bit of pleasure. I so regret that I did not even think to take a photo of her teeth today; I could kick myself. But I was already admonished for taking a few pictures of her, because it is against the “conditions”. I figured since the SPCA staff took video and pictures of Brindi on her “birthday” last month, I have a right to do it. But today I was told I might be refused more visits in the future if I did.

These are the 12 conditions for visits that I understand Sean Kelly, then the head of the “shelter management team”, wrote in April. They apply to me and me only. I was thrilled to be allowed to see Brindi, don't get me wrong!! But I was taken aback, especially by a 13th condition against writing or talking about the visits afterwards. HRM, realizing this goes against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, got that one dropped. The other conditions prohibit such things as bringing a friend, going inside the shelter, or being late, and one about “no high-value items” that mystified everybody. Who would think it meant bones??

I signed to the conditions under protest. Without a witness (and a lawyer cannot be a witness), they can easily claim I was rude and stop the visits. But I can’t help wondering that an even bigger reason for the conditions is simply to prevent me from documenting my dog’s condition. And yes, I know that by posting this now, I am risking losing the privilege to see her. A bit of blackmail on top of all the rest. I am told that is what can happen in a big institution. I suppose. And who am I to ask for honesty and decency from a public charity?

I am sorry if the shelter staff feel unfairly criticized by me. It is not that I don’t appreciate all their work and care. I really do. They work very hard, handle tons of animals, and the shelter has improved 100% since last July. And I think they know that I am not a physical threat to them, that I would never issue a death threat to anybody. They know that my dog is my world, just like any other dog person. The bottom line is, the SPCA is responsible for her health, not HRM. They were good to alert me to the cysts, and to bathe her again when I asked. Maybe they don’t all agree with these policies. If so, I would hope they’d speak up. And nobody should be asked to lie as part of their job, paid or unpaid.

The shelter manager, who was at least honest about it, tried to fend off my questions about the bones as diplomatically as possible. She said I could talk to Sean Kelly. This must mean the bones are prohibited by the same man who taught Brindi to jump on people. I discovered this to my horror on my first visit ever, in minus zero weather last January. Then, I didn’t have time to bring treats (I used to bake my own, using chicken hearts). Brindi was demanding a treat every other second, wildly jumping on me if I didn't produce one. (Luckily she got the message not to do this, during my first two visits.) When I asked for treats, I received fake bacon strips, among the fattiest, most carcinogenic commercial treats ever, just dripping with red dye. “Appropriate”? For whom?

HRM legal services were a bit confused about the bones themselves, and are going to ask about it. But they cautioned me that they cannot control the SPCA’s actions. I have to wonder that in return for $34,500 a month, $414,000 a year, HRM feels it cannot give any instruction to a private contractor. It seems even odder that this contractor vows it will lose the HRM contract unless it kills any dog deemed dangerous by animal control. It's the only game in town, as far as a pound goes. The SPCA rationale conveyed to me in person before a witness last October by a smiling Sean Kelly went like this: sure, a few dogs may die needlessly, like Brindi, and that’s sad and everything, but gosh, they need the money so they can help a lot more dogs in the province. Yes, they need the money. But, dare I ask, doesn't this make it blood money?

Back then, it was “Sorry, Francesca, we’d really like to help but our hands are tied!”  But already in January, it was “Sorry HRM, we can’t kill this dog - but let’s just not give her back to her owner!”  (This despite the fact that my court case got the law changed so that other owners will have a fighting chance to save their dogs.) Now they are insulted because PETA has taken an interest and asked for reason to prevail. But nobody is forcing them; heck, my dog is not even being held legally, since there is no “disposition” on her, no legal purpose to hold her. (To get a judge to confirm this is the trick, as they are unsure about their jurisdiction, for one thing... I fear I may never get a fair hearing for Brindi. The sole reason HRM charged me in January is to use the charges to get another order to destroy; they are not offering to make up for the lack of an appeal process, which would seem called for under the circumstances.)

If only the false obstacles could be cleared aside, and the SPCA saw the truly ideal position they are in. Instead of circulating press releases about how well Brindi is cared for - not really possible in their short-term care facility - why not take a look at the realities? The SPCA are entitled by provincial law to exercise their right to protect animal welfare for all animals - a monopoly. They need no one's permission to screen dogs declared dangerous, using experts and common sense. If they did this, they would perform an invaluable public service. Dogs’ lives could be spared, humans would not be ruined financially and psychologically, and bad PR could be exchanged for praise, because they would be the heroes. And I would be the first to lead the celebratory parade.

The trouble is, if they can't understand beef bones, I don’t see much hope.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


This post may be the end of me, as far as my cause goes, because I know what can happen when you take on the SPCA. However, people have a right to know. Someday it may help somebody else. My life is already ruined, or nearly, and my dog's health is compromised as it is. 

Since January the SPCA has been petitioning HRM behind the scenes to "re-home" my dog. In a recent public statement, they claim that they have made a number of proposals to HRM. According to a reliable HRM source, this is the only kind of proposal they have made.

What is the actual justification for giving my dog away to somebody else in this case? Even the HRM lawyers, and they are pretty sharp talkers, can't come up with one. It seems to me the SPCA favors the idea is because they are angry at me. Why are they mad? Last July I begged them to help stop a non-vicious dog from being put down. They declined, pointing to their contract, which I later learn (confirming my doubts) says nothing that could stop them from helping. They were content to keep her locked up, deny me visits, prevent any dog companionship, not walk her (a dog used to good runs several times a day), and now, I learn, veto her the beef bones I bring. Not to mention being ready to inject her with poison if so ordered. They are mad because I had the audacity to write about this - after my attempt to work with them failed - and because they get hundreds of complaints from people, most who haven't even read my blog, actually (it's too wordy, I know!). But some people do think for themselves and happen to find it wrong that a society dedicated to the welfare of animals is not helping to return a dog to its owner, and also keeping it locked up themselves. But I am to blame. 

In keeping with the SPCA's online statement that it has nothing to do with the outcome of this case, it has not spoken publicly about "re-homing", of course. But SPCA members and fans do it all the time - on Facebook, their own blogs, and anywhere they can. They berate me to get down on my knees and beg the city to give her to somebody else. The logic is a bit weak, since first of all, she is not a dangerous dog, never ripped apart an animal, or tried to, and should never have been seized; secondly, the city is hardline about euthanasia as the only option. Why they would allow a dog they say is dangerous to go to another owner, with the liability that goes with it, is a mystery. I never see them agreeing to this for the (apparently hundreds!!) of other dogs they get owners to sign over every year. Yet these SPCA fans swear to the world that I am selfish and uncaring because I will not bow to this demand - even before a judge has heard any evidence. And I have yet to see an actual justification that does not rest on false premises, exclude pertinent facts, and/or ignore the law. 

At the same time, I am told by dog advocates across the country that "re-homing" dogs in such cases often results in the dog being put down afterwards by a rescue or even the new “home" - because who wants to live with the label of dangerous? Who will take the time and energy to work on training? 

I will. I adopted a dog that was in a shelter for two years after being passed over countless times. She turned out to be a beautiful, smart, fun, and loving girl. No indication of "issues" before or after adoption, until a few months later - AFTER obedience training. With a bit more work, she can be a pretty perfect dog. Whatever mistakes I made were unintentional and rare; not the acts of a reckless, uncaring, unthinking person. If I were, I would not have offered to pay for a vet exam even when their dog has unharmed. Not everybody around here, I learned, would offer to pay even if they hit a dog with their car. I felt terrible. If I were so dismissive of things, I would not have apologized, and I would not have offered the city - over and over since last August -  reasonable and more than sufficient conditions in exchange for her return. 

And aside from all that, there is the inconvenient yet undeniable fact that my dog was illegally seized with no prior investigation; that the muzzle order, used to justify it, resulted from another dog owner's request not to fine me so I could afford all of her vet bill, as promised. Given that, what is the most reasonable response with regard to my ownership? I would not sign over my dog to be killed. To this day, I am devoting everything I have, all the energy and resources I can muster, to get her back safe and sound. What would indicate to an outsider that I do not take dog ownership seriously?? 

The point is: what would it take to bring around an otherwise well-intentioned, dedicated group of animal lovers to see this? Brindi and I are offenders? Well, we are small-time offenders. For which there are fences and training, and plenty of neighbors and friends supporting us. And in terms of the greater good, how would taking her away from me fix the gaps in the system that led to this ordeal? 

If by writing these things, I lose the chance to visit my dog again, and am branded a scoundrel, so be it. Life is short, and you have to say what is in your heart while you have the chance.