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Service dog a Saviour to teen boy

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Patrick and Mary Lou in class

Fourteen-year-old Patrick Maresh’s life has changed for the better when his service dog, Mary Lou stepped into it. Patrick and the 2-year-old Labrador/golden retriever mix have been constant companions since he received her as a canine assistant in July.

Patrick is nonverbal, has sensory issues and low muscle tone which meant he struggled to get around safely. Before Mary Lou’s arrival, Patrick was so afraid of being bumped into and knocked over, his mother, Jan Maresh, said. He would flatten himself against the lockers and not move out of fear. A specialist informed Jan Maresh that Patrick seemed to have an affinity with dogs and would benefit from having a service dog.

 

The Process

It took over four years of being on the waiting list before Patrick was able to have a service dog. Service dogs require a lot of training and, depending on their specialisation, are worth in excess of $25,000. After filling out a questionnaire, writing essays, gathering letters of recommendation and producing a DVD of Patrick’s developmental history, the Maresh family submitted an application to Canine Assistants, a Georgi0based organization that provides service dogs, in 2006. Soon after, they were notified that Patrick was on the list to become a recipient.

Whilst on the waiting list, the Maresh family took it upon themselves to dog-sit as many dogs as possible when friends and neighbours went on vacation. As they had never had a pet before, this was their opportunity to learn about dog care and to prepare themselves for the long-term commitment of having a dog. Service dogs in particular need a lot of attention paid to them for Canine Assistants to be satisfied the dog is being looked after well.

“They (Canine Assistants) take it very seriously. These dogs are a huge investment on their part,” Maresh said. Maresh said recipients enter a contract with the organization spelling out their responsibilities. For instance, recipients must weigh the dogs four times a year and submit the information to Canine Assistants. If they allow the dogs to become obese and fail to take action to solve the problem, the organization reserves the right to take the dogs back.

“Technically, this dog is on permanent loan,” Maresh said. “It’s a full commitment and it’s not something to take lightly.”

How Mary Lou chose Patrick

Finally, in July 2010 the Maresh family headed for the two-week training camp in Georgia, where Patrick would meet his canine companion. During the first two days, recipients are introduced to dogs that trainers have selected as potential matches for the individuals.

“The dogs really pick the recipients,” Maresh said. “The dogs can sense by your energy what your need is.” The dogs typically make their selection by putting their paws on a recipient’s lap and seemingly looking into their eyes, she said.

It took five dogs before one that seemed a perfect match was found. Once the selection is made, recipients work with the dogs and their trainers in the afternoons while attending lectures on dog management in the mornings. By the second week, they go on public outings with the dogs. The family are then required to take a final written exam before they graduate. The Maresh family passed successfully and Mary Lou came home with them.

Man’s best friend

The dog accompanies him to his special needs classroom at Herrick Middle School in Downers Grove, where she lies by him as he works and walks with him as he passes through the halls. Now he is able to walk down the halls confidently with Mary Lou by his side.

Patrick now goes with his family to watch his sisters participate in high school sporting events and cheerleading competitions. Previously, he wouldn’t enter the gym because of the sensory overload. “He’s able to tolerate a lot more,” his mother said. “Now he walks right. She’s at his side. We sit in the bleachers with everybody else.”

Maresh can’t explain it, but Mary Lou makes Patrick calmer. “He’ll pet her. He’ll interact with her. Then he can focus back on wherever we are,” she said.

Mary Lou has brought Patrick positive attention, his mother said, “He walks the dog and people say hello to him. It’s like his parade.” Maresh said Patrick enjoys the attention. Although Patrick always has been sociable, sometimes people would avert their eyes and not reciprocate, she said. “It’s almost like she brought people to him,” she said. “If you have a dog, everybody says hello. It’s just amazing.”

Maresh said Mary Lou will remain Patrick’s canine assistant during her working life of nine to 10 years. When a dog ages, the recipient has the option of applying for another service dog and keeping the older dog as a pet.

For information on Canine Assistants, visit its website at canineassistants.org.

More on this story and photo credit

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Six new breeds at the 135th Westminster Dog Show

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Six new breeds will be strutting their stuff in the ring for the first time as the 135th Westminster Dog Show takes over Madison Square Garden next week. This year’s new dogs include:

Boykin Spaniel

The Boykin spaniel

Official state dog of South Carolina, the Boykin Spaniel is used as a hardy retriever of upland birds as well as water fowl. The Boykin Spaniel is popular in the Southern United States among bird hunters. It is liver-brown in color, a medium weight dog around 16 inches in height. This dog is said to loyal, enthusiastic and a water-lover.

 

 

 

Bluetick CoonhoundThe Bluetick Coonhound

The official dog of the state of Tennessee, Blueticks are said to be curious and have a tendency to follow their noses. They may wander off if they pick up an interesting scent and decide to not return when they’re called if they’re too preoccupied with locating the cause of the scent. Therefore it is not advisable to let them off-lead in an unsecured area. Their name is due to their unusual coat color of dark blue,with a mottled body and large black spots on back, ears and sides.

This large dog has a life expectancy of about 11-12 years on average and needs plenty of exercise and a large yard.

 

 

Redbone CoonhoundThe Redbone Coonhound

Bred for hunting hunting bear, raccoon, and cougar; this handsome dog is medium to large in size with a keen sense of smell. As the name suggests, this breed is red in color and isn’t suitable for a home with cats but makes a good companion dog if exercised often.

The breed is even-tempered and trainable in the home, and wants to please its owner. It is a healthy breed with an average life expectancy of 11-12 years.

 

 

 

 

Leonberger

The Leonberger

This beautiful giant was originally bred in Germany with the aim of breeding a dog that closely resembled a lion. Once a breed owned by Royalty, this breed is good at guarding livestock, water-rescue and search and rescue. They are bred to be well-mannered and even-tempered so they make great family dogs and love to swim, hike and pull carts and sleds.

Weighing in between 45 and 78 kilos, depending on whether it is male or female, these dogs are large and require regular walks and grooming.

 

 

 

Icelandic SheepdogThe Icelandic sheepdog

Iceland’s only native dog, the Icelandic sheepdog is a small to medium, energetic and friendly dog. Related to the Spitz group of dogs, the Icelandic sheepdog has a double coat that requires a lot of grooming. Despite it’s size of around 12-16 inches, it is a great herder of farm livestock.

A very active little dog that needs a large amount of exercise to keep it happy but can adapt to living indoors or outdoors and even apartment life, provided it is walked often.

The Icelandic Sheepdog is a healthy breed with a life average of 12 years.

 

 

 

 

The Cane Corso

A loyal guard dog and companion, the Cane Corso is a large breed that is part of the Mastiff group. This stocky dog is usually black, silver grey or sandy colored with expressive eyes and a soft, short coat. They require a moderate amount of exercise and can become overprotective of their property, even though they weren’t ever bred to be guard dogs like other Mastiff breeds.

The Westminster Dog Show will take place Monday and Tuesday.

SeaWorld join forces with FL rescue shelters to aid animal adoption

February 10, 2011 Leave a comment

SeaWorld in Orlando, FL.,  is joining forces with the SPCA of Central Florida and Orange County Animal Services to encourage more people to adopt dogs and cats in need of a home.

“SeaWorld’s Happy Tails” is a new animal adoption campaign that offers pet lovers two free single-day admissions to SeaWorld when they adopt a dog or cat from one of the participating animal shelters. Tickets are valid for admission to the park for a day at any time within one year of receipt.

Over 39,000 animals in need of a good home are impounded each year at the SPCA of Central Florida shelters in Orlando and Sanford, and the Orange County Animal Services shelter in Orlando. SeaWorld’s National Animal Ambassador has said the new program, starting today, is SeaWorld’s way of supporting the ‘incredible organizations and saying ‘thank you’ to people who help save animals’.

‘We are thrilled to partner with SeaWorld for an innovative program that benefits both pets and people in our community,’ said assistant manager of Orange County Animal Services, Dil Luther. ‘Saving a shelter pet’s life is a reward in itself, but a trip to SeaWorld is a generous ‘thank you’ new adopters will undoubtedly enjoy.’

Details of the program, including participating shelters, can be found on www.seaworldcares.com

Dogs Deserve Better group seeks to buy Vick dog fighting property

February 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Dogs Deserve Better rescue group plan to purchase the property that was Michael Vick’s dog fighting facility in order to turn it into a dog rehabilitation sanctuary.

The property is located in Surry County, VA and if bought, the 15 acre grounds would become the aptly named “Good Newz Rehab Center”. The center would include large penned area for dogs to run, many individual pens and a facility to help distressed dogs recuperate. The five bedroom luxury home would be turned into official offices for the group.

$600,000 will need to be raised by 3/20 in order to secure the property and an estimated 3 million in total will be needed for the full renovation. The group from Central Pennsylvania’s founder and CEO, Tamira Thayne stated, ‘our efforts at this time matter, because we recognize that this horrible thing happened, but now let’s turn it into something positive.’ Thayne went on to say that certain parts of the facility would not be built on and would be fenced off as a memorial to the dogs that were lost as a result of Vick’s fighting operation.

Dogs Deserve Better have a Facebook page named ‘999,999 Friends for the DDB Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained Dogs‘ in order to raise funds and awareness for the cause. The theory is that if 999,999 people join and donate just $1.00, then they will be able to afford the property and start work on it soon after. Donations are also being accepted on the Dogs Deserve Better website.

Deaf dog adopted by Missouri School for the Deaf

February 9, 2011 Leave a comment

A deaf dachshund named Sparky has been adopted this week by Missouri School for the Deaf to enrich the lives of the children. Deaf dogs are often difficult to find homes for as people often overlook them, believing that they are not able to provide the right care for dogs with behavioral or physical issues. However, Sparky has found the right home for him, having been trained to understand sign language.

Superintendent Barbara Garrison approved bringing Sparky to the school. “She really thought it would be a great learning experience for the kids,” Garrison’s secretary Barbara McGrath said in an interview Tuesday. Sparky responds to hand signals to sit, heel, lay down, and stop and is being taught by the children signs that mean “food” or “outside.”

A second deaf dog, a Boston Terrier named Petie, has also been offered to the school. Garrison is interested in taking in Petie on the basis that she knows he can eventually be placed in a permanent home after some sign language training, McGrath said.

Sparky and Petie come from the Puppies for Parole program of the Missouri Department of Corrections. The program teaches inmates to train animals with issues that make them difficult to adopt and gives inmates a constructive activity, said Tina Holland, activities coordinator at the Licking prison. “It’s been wonderful — it’s gone far beyond what we thought it would be,” Holland said. “Their goal is just to get these dogs a home.”

How to help reduce dog allergies in humans

February 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Over ten million Americans suffer from some sort of a pet allergy. Many people experience itching, rashes and/or coughing and sneezing fits every time they go near a dog. However, if you are a dog lover but suffer from allergies, there are many steps you can take so you can breathe easy with a dog in your home.

Canine hygiene and care factors

Firstly, your dog’s diet may be negatively affecting his skin and should include some natural fat. This fat helps to make your dog’s skin less dry, resulting in less shedding. Talk to your vet for his recommendation on which food is best for this.

It is recommended to brush your dog daily, no matter whether his coat is long, short, wiry or soft. If you suffer from allergies, depending on the severity, you may need to give another family member the responsibility of brushing the dog. If the weather permits it, the dog should be brushed outdoors so the loose hair and dander does not settle in your home. If you live alone with your dog and are unable to groom him safely, consider taking him to a professional groomer. You could wear a dust mask and gloves for brushing him in between grooming visits.

Bathe your dog often with a quality dog shampoo, between 6 to 8 weeks is ideal. Washing your dog more frequently than 6 to 8 weeks may damage his skin and coat, so it isn’t normally advised. If your allergies can’t handle the bathing, have another family member be responsible for giving baths.

Wash your hands with soap and hot water after handling your dog. If you are unable to wash your hands right away, avoid touching your face with your hands.

Reducing allergy irritants in the home

Wash your dog’s bed, blankets, and toys on a weekly basis either by hand with a safe soap or in the washing machine. This is an absolute must as these items will be holding the saliva, dander and loose fur that is irritating your body.

Dust regularly before vacuuming and use a damp cloth to wipe down surfaces such as tables, counters, shelves, wall hangings, lamps and window sills. If necessary, wear a dust mask as you clean.

Make sure your vacuum cleaner has a HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Air) filtration system. This type of system will help pull up and trap more of your dog’s dander from the floor. Vacuuming is recommended instead of sweeping because sweeping will stir the dander into the air. Even if you use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filtration system, it is beneficial to have your carpets steam-cleaned throughout the year. Try to have this done at least four times per annum, depending on the severity of your allergies.

Using an air purifier that contains a HEPA system will help eliminate dander in the air, therefore lessening your allergies.

It is advisable to not allow your dog in the bedroom, as this can have a large impact on your allergies. Keep the door closed at all times and your dog’s bed away from the doorway.

Best breeds for allergy sufferers

The following breeds typically produce less dander and therefore reduce allergic reactions:

  • Airedale  terrier
  • Basenji
  • Bedlington terrier
  • Bichon frise
  • Boston Terrier
  • Chinese crested
  • Dalmation
  • Havanese
  • Irish water spaniel
  • Italian greyhound
  • Kerry blue terrier
  • Maltese
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Poodle
  • Portuguese water dog
  • Schnauzers
  • Shih tzu
  • Tibetan terrier
  • Wire-haired fox terrier
  • Xoloitzcuintli (aka Mexican hairless)

Two dogs stolen from a pet store in Massapequa

February 7, 2011 1 comment

On Friday 4th February, two  dogs were stolen from a pet store in Westfield Mall, Massapequa. The incident took place in The Pet Company store, at 9:10pm, when five men and one woman entered the store. Police have said that some of the group distracted the sales associate, as the rest of them smuggled the dogs out of the store under their jackets. A witness reported the theft to the store clerk, but the gang had already fled the mall with a white and brown Chinese Crested female, valued at $1,235 and a black and white Cockalier male, valued at $1,400; both between 10 and 12 weeks old.

Incidents like this could well be on the rise due to an increase in the trend of ‘designer dogs’ – with the top designer breeds at the moment being Labradoodle (Labrador and Poodle cross), Cockerpoos (Cocker Spaniel and Poodle cross), Cavachon (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Bichon Frise cross) and one of the dogs in question, the Cockalier (Cocker Spaniel and Cavalier cross). The term ‘designer dog’ relates to the cross breeding of specific pedigree breeds to get the best of both temperaments and physical appearance.

Nassau police have released photos of similar looking dogs to aid in their recovery.  Anyone with any information about the thefts should contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS. All callers will remain anonymous.