Do you really want a hippopotamus for Christmas?

You know that song, “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas. Only a hippopotamus will do!”? I love that song! I don’t know why, but I do. My college roommate even got me a plastic hippopotamus Christmas ornament one year that still goes up annually.

However, when it comes to actually getting a hippopotamus for Christmas, the sensible thing is to pass. I don’t have the time, energy, money, space or experience to care for a hippopotamus, no matter how much I might want one. Yes, baby hippos are adorable (it’s the wrinkles). But you know what? Baby hippos turn into big hippos, and then even bigger hippos. And I don’t have any idea how to look at a baby hippo and tell how big it’s going to be; therefore there’s no way to properly prepare for the amount of space it will need. (Will it fit in the backyard swimming pool or not? How can I tell?)

The same applies to puppies. Puppies (and kittens and whatever other living things) for Christmas.

We’ve all seen the videos of the squealing children as the puppy tumbles out of a barely-wrapped box, red ribbon around its neck, and smothers its new people in slobbery puppy kisses. It’s adorable.

But it’s death till you part, my friends. Or it should be.

Any living thing – whether we’re talking puppies for Christmas or ducklings for Easter – is a commitment for the life of that animal. It’s not a “let’s play with it until the kids get tired and send it back” sort of thing. It’s not a “if it gets too big we’ll just get rid of it” or “if it’s too expensive we’ll just let it go” situation. It’s a “I have brought you into my life and I promise to care for you, whatever you may need, until you are no longer with us” scenario.

You wouldn’t adopt a child and give them the sense that they belong to your family and will be safe and cared for, and then send them back to the adoption agency when they don’t sleep through the night. What sort of news scandals would that cause?! I know not every one considers their pets to be their “babies,” like I do, and that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean you can just get rid of them whenever they may become an inconvenience.

Not all pets are truly members of the family, like mine are, but there is a difference between somebody’s pet and just another animal.

I have nothing against outside pets. I wish my dogs were outside pets, and as soon as we get a fence put up they will make the transition full-time. However, if you don’t want to touch the dog except with the barest minimum head-pat; if you don’t want the dog to touch you in any way; if you don’t want there to be any sign in your home, in your car or on your clothes that you own a dog at all; if you don’t have time or knowledge to properly train the dog; if you don’t ever want to hear the dog; if you don’t see a need to socialize the dog with other animals or people — in short, if you just want the dog to sit quietly in the yard and look pretty so you can tell people you own a dog, then you don’t want a dog, you want a lawn ornament.

Buy a lawn ornament. Spare the dog the loneliness of a life with you. (And that applies all year long, not just for Christmas.)

Also, don’t get puppies as presents unless your children are old enough to care for the dog or you are prepared (inevitably) to care for the dog yourself. And you are prepared to love that dog (or kitten or hippopotamus) and provide it with proper food, shelter, medical care and, yes, companionship. Because sticking the dog in the yard and having no interaction except to put down a bowl of food once a day while the dog sits where it can’t touch you is not companionship.

If someone put their child in their room and had no interaction with him except to put some food under the door a few times a day, we’d call that neglect. Don’t put your pets through that.

Buy stuffed animals for Christmas. Buy real animals for life.

Happy Friday,

The Missus

 

The Slime Incident

Have you ever wondered what it would smell like if a tomcat peed on a dead frog, left it to bake in the sun for three days, and then smeared the still-gooey parts all over something you love?

I had not. But yesterday, I found out anyway.

The lunch hour started off as any other – I left work with one hour to take care of the dog and grab something to eat at the house. I got home, released the hound into the yard and let her do her business.

That’s when things started to go south.

The first time she rolled, I thought, “Ok, it’s hot, maybe whatever it is is dry enough that it won’t smell much.”

The second time she rolled, I yelled at her. (Can’t chase her, I’m in heels and dress clothes.) The third and fourth times I just held my breath and hoped there was some way this could end with me making my 2:00 meeting.

When she raced past me back toward the apartment door… I caught it. Just a whiff. Just a slight bit of scent that suggested something had died long ago and the spirit world had rejected its remains and sent them back to the land of the living.

She was waiting at the top of the stairwell when I reached her. And reached for her. And touched it.

Something – I hesitate to try to guess what – was sticky, and thick, and all over her shoulder, neck, collar, ear and face.

We went immediately to the bathroom.

I stripped out of my high heels and fancy office clothes and threw the bathroom rugs out into the hallway. I turned on the water and grabbed the first large container I could find. The dog had fled. I had 35 minutes left in my lunch break.

She wasn’t hard to find. Even if I hadn’t known she was hiding in her kennel, I would have smelled her a mile away. That box reeked to high heaven and I’m just glad she came out on her own rather than having to go in after her.

After three attempts, I trapped her in the bathroom. Now to get her into the tub. You have to remember, we’re not talking about a chihuahua here; we’re talking about a 70ish-pound dog who is two-thirds my body weight and very stubborn. I did, with some luck, manage to haul her into the tub without getting the goo of death all over me. I rinsed and rinsed and scrubbed her with green apple shampoo. She tried to escape. I shoved her back into the tub and rinsed some more. She was not happy. Twenty-five minutes left.

I ended up having to scrub her down twice because once was just not enough. She shook smelly water all over the bathroom in protest. Fifteen minutes left. I dried her off and put the towel straight into the washing machine. I dried myself and inspected my clothes to make sure I didn’t have any of the goo on me somewhere. I got re-dressed and bolted down two slices of leftover pizza before racing back to work.

I walked into my office as the meeting was starting. I am woman. Hear me roar.

S.A.F.E.ty comes at a price

We’ve all seen those ASPCA commercials — the ones with the depressing music and puppies in cages and celebrities telling you how to sponsor an animal for pennies a day. If you’re anything like me, you glance out at your happy dogs in the yard and change the channel before it gets too gut-wrenching. There are thousands of animals in the United States who are abused, mistreated and in need of loving homes, but at least someone gives them a voice. There are animal shelters, animal control centers and advocacy groups who work to eliminate animal abuse, and those who are responsible can face fines and criminal charges.

Not so in St. Kitts.

There are no shelters here, and dying animals rarely receive humane euthanasia unless they are picked up by veterinary students and taken to the campus clinic. Animals are property, not companions, and if an owner wants to leave a dog to slowly starve to death in his front yard he is free to do so without fear of legal repercussions. Animals suffer injuries and extents of neglect here that would never be allowed to go on in the United States. Every day dogs are seen tied to trees with heavy chains, wasting away, broken, defeated and barely able to rise from the ground when children gather to throw rocks and stones at the wormy skeleton. Every day. And no one speaks for them.

Kristen Decina, a New Jersey native, is trying to change that.

Decina, a student at Ross University of Veterinary Medicine, arrived on St. Kitts to begin her studies in April of 2012 and immediately recognized the incredible need for an emergency animal rescue agency in the area.

“The last dog rescue, P.A.W.S.*, was founded here in 2002. I felt that with the growing (vet) student population there was room and need for another rescue with a slightly different angle. PAWS was doing a great job, but one rescue could not do it all alone,” said Decina.

S.A.F.E. St. Kitts — “Saving Animals From Emergency” — was officially founded in the spring of 2013 and focuses on being an on-call rescue. There are an average of three to eight animals in the program at one time, with any number of other rescues in the homes of sponsored foster families. Decina and two other Ross students, who make up the SAFE executive staff, have successfully adopted out approximately 50 animals in the past year, with another 50 lives improved through foster families and local education on proper pet care.

“Our rescue provides 100% of the care the animals need, including general vaccines, deworming, treatment for emergent illnesses like heartworms and, in many cases, extensive surgeries,” said Decina. “We also go on rescue calls with other students and community members, and we provide food and supplies to rescuers who don’t have them. All of that adds up.”

It is amazing to see how much a scared, starving animal can improve after a warm bath, a soft blanket and a nutritious meal. During her interview, Decina cuddled the rescue’s newest addition — four-month-old puppy Quinn — who is a skittish skeleton. However, after only 48 hours in a loving home, Quinn was already wagging his tail, playing with his foster family and putting on weight.

Decina says her drive to continue such a daunting task is fueled by rescues like L.O.V.E. (“Left On Volcanoes End”) and Copper.

LOVE was found sealed into a 3’x2′ monkey cage in the jungle, deprived of human contact and affection. “I can’t imagine what being in the crate for so long did to her spirit. She looked absolutely defeated. Her teeth have wear marks from where she tried to chew herself out of her wire prison,” said Decina.

It is unknown how long LOVE had been in this tiny cage, and she was terrified of her rescuers.

LOVE was cut out of her tiny cage and taken in by a foster mother with experience handling unsocialized dogs. Now, after many months of patient care and attention, LOVE is beginning to trust again and greets her foster mother at the door at the end of each day. She is still looking for her forever family.

LOVE is such a couch hog!

Copper was found in port by cruise ship passengers, one leg irreparably mangled as he tried to pull himself through the crowds to a safer resting place. News of Copper’s condition reached Decina and the SAFE team and they were able to locate him in town, surrounded by a crowd of abusive onlookers who sneered at the poor dying animal, who was in so much pain he had given up the fight. The SAFE team transported him to the Ross Veterinary Hospital for evaluation, but they didn’t have any money left to pay for the amputation and other surgeries he would need. In a burst of inspiration, Decina emailed the cruise ship passengers who originally found the dog and begged for their help. Amazingly, all the passengers contacted immediately donated via PayPal to cover the hound dog’s expenses. Copper now lives with two veterinary students who adore him and spoil him rotten.

Copper is a beautiful older dog who doesn’t even know he only has three legs!

SAFE tries to offset its expenses through Ross campus fundraisers and private donations, however much of the costs are being absorbed by the students themselves.

Outsiders can help in a variety of ways, first and foremost by donating money to cover the costs of amputations, stomach repairs, broken bones and other extensive procedures needed by their rescues.

Their website, www.safest.kitts.org, is set up with a PayPal donation link. You can also donate via their GoFundMe account at http://www.gofundme.com/safestkittsrescue.

Those who would rather send supplies (via students returning to the island or USPS care packages), can send dog toys, Kongs, puppy milk replacer, collars, leashes, pee pads and treats — all of which are hard to find here on the island.

“I am blessed because the work I am doing now is what I feel I was put on this earth to do, and coming to St. Kitts and not making a difference in a place where there is so much room to help would have been my biggest regret,” said Decina.

To donate, please follow any of the links above. For more information, please leave a comment on this post or contact SAFE directly via email at Safe_st.kitts@yahoo.com. They are also on Facebook.

Remember, one U.S. dollar equals 2.7 eastern Caribbean dollars, so even if you don’t feel you can give very much, whatever you can give will be converted and applied toward the rehabilitation of an animal who deserves to find his or her forever home.

Decina responded to a call about puppies starving in a cane field last spring and brought home the tiny creatures that would turn into our strong, beloved Meera and her sister Kitt. Without SAFE, Meera would likely have died in that field, either killed by the land owner or wasting away slowly from starvation and exposure.

If you have pets you love, and who love you in return, please take a moment to consider making a donation to help veterinary students on St. Kitts rescue animals from emergency situations and better teach the island community how to care for their furry friends.

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*P.A.W.S. stands for “People for Animal Welfare on St. Kitts” and was founded by a local in 2002. PAWS is maintained and staffed through the Ross veterinary student community and has plans, with help from influential local families, to build the island’s first animal shelter. However, there is a long way to go until this goal is accomplished. More information about their organization and fundraising efforts can be found at www.rosspaws.com.

Top Ten Thursday – My dog might be smarter than me

Ok, maybe not all the time, but there are definitely days when I stare in wonder as Meera does something ingenious and I ask myself why I’ve been knocking things over and losing things all day long if my dog can figure out how to do whatever it is she just did.

She’s not solving the problems of the universe or anything, but when you consider the fact that she’s a DOG, it’s pretty intelligent.

For example:

1. We brought her two brand-new tennis balls from the States when we came back. These balls haven’t been used by any other dog and are straight out of the tube, so they don’t smell like dog or anything like that. They were in the bottom of a fully-packed suitcase. I walked into the living room one day and found her with her head half-buried under the contents of that suitcase, like she was bobbing for apples, and when she came up she had a bright yellow tennis ball proudly in her mouth. How did she find it????

2. We also brought her a giant-sized rawhide bone – and I mean like dinosaur-leg-sized – from my mother. She not only stole it from a suitcase and somehow got it down the stairs, but she propped it against the bed, jumped up first and then hauled it up behind her because she couldn’t jump with it in her mouth. Physics?? Really????

3. She knows I don’t let her eat foreign objects she finds in the yard, so instead of carrying them through the yard in front of me (sitting on the back stairs), she has started trying to carry them under the stairs so she goes behind me and I won’t see her. It doesn’t always work, but it’s a good try.

4. She likes to chew on empty plastic bottles, mostly for the noise. The problem, though, is that she doesn’t like them to have the tops on them. So, to solve this problem, she grabs the top-end and chews until the cap expands out and then she pulls it off. (Then she tries to eat pieces of the bottle. Not so smart.)

5. So, to solve this problem, we bought her an elephant plush toy that holds a bottle inside so that she can chew and get the noise but not be able to eat the plastic. It lasted two days before she found the velcro strip, pulled it open and removed the bottle.

BUT, there are also days when I wonder if she’s got a brain in her silly little head at all.

For instance:

6. She runs from everything. Dripping pipes, rustling tree branches, blowing curtains, squeaky doors… really anything that moves or makes noise. And I do mean anything.

7. Sometimes she stands on our back porch and just barks at the world in general, for no reason at all. I think it’s the voices in her head.

8. We use her large kennel to block the stairs to the backyard so we can have the porch doors open but she can’t escape when I’m not looking. Today I pulled the kennel back from the opening and started down the stairs, expecting her to follow me, but she stood on the porch whining at me through the railing. I couldn’t figure out why until she started nosing at the kennel. She thought she was still blocked in! Matthew had to go back up to the porch and physically show her how to walk around it.

But I still love her anyway. Somehow. Despite all the afternoons when she drives me nuts and I can’t figure out what she wants from me. It’s those times when I wish she could talk… and then I’m always immediately glad she can’t. There are two primary reasons why I’m glad we got her when we did, even though she does create some extra stress at times.

9. First of all, she gives me something to look after during the day; she keeps me company and keeps me busy; she loves me more than Matthew and she proves that I can keep something alive for longer than two weeks.

10. Secondly, she reminds me on a daily basis why I’m glad we don’t have children right now.

What funny things does your dog do?