Sunday, November 5, 2017

Challenges of a Prison Pet Program

"Wally" Miner graduated from the ACI PETS Program 8 years ago

A Prison Pets program provides undeniable benefits for both dogs and their handlers.  But it also provides some interesting challenges.  The benefits are obvious.  Dogs who might never have had a chance at finding a home receive training and affection and escape euthanasia.  Inmate handlers learn a skill and have the humanizing companionship of a dog.  

The dogs bond to their handlers – and for many dogs this is the first bond they have ever experienced.  The handlers take on the important responsibility of keeping that trust strong while molding good behavior.   

There are a host of differences between training a dog on the “outside” and training a dog in a prison setting.  Prison dogs can be with their handlers almost 100 percent of the time, but their freedom is quite limited.  They don’t have a house and yard to roam around; their home turf is a small cell shared by two men, the dog’s equipment, and the men’s belongings.  This may cause a few dogs to become quite territorial about their space, partly because it’s small and easily defensible. 

 Routine checks by corrections officers with their flashlights and jangling keys can be intimidating.  The large number of men and lack of privacy and quiet can be an issue with some of the more fearful or mistrustful dogs. 
Cleanliness can be a problem.  A single exercise yard is provided for all of the dogs and it can be deep in mud or dust, depending on the weather.  The dogs get dirty quickly.  Their bedding and towels must be washed frequently, and the dogs need frequent cleanups as well.  The program relies on donations of laundry detergent and dog shampoo to keep man, beast, and home reasonably clean.  Without these donated products, proper cleaning is impossible. Housetraining is done quickly to avoid problems.  
 Potty times are strictly regulated because the men cannot come and go to the dog exercise area as they please.  Some accommodations can be made for sick or older dogs that may need more frequent bathroom visits, but these are rare.  
Feeding the program dogs is also a challenge.  We ourselves may be able to find a food that works well for our dogs and continue feeding it, but in the prison program the brand and type of food changes frequently.  Food is donated to the program, and there is no way to stick to any one brand or type.   This can result in gastrointestinal upsets and discomfort for dogs with food allergies.  Food sensitivities can add to both cleanliness and housetraining issues.
Keeping the dogs healthy is important.  Attempts are made to keep a small supply of mostly over-the-counter medicines for the animals in the program, but at times the needed item isn’t available.   Theoretically the shelters provide these needed items, but often it is the instructors or supervising staff that purchase over-the-counter supplies out of their own pockets. 

Prescribed medicines must come from a veterinarian, and that often means that a sick or injured dog must be taken to the veterinarian’s office for examination.  If a shelter person isn’t available to transport the dog, it may delay needed medical attention.  In an emergency, especially after hours, the program manager or instructors may be required to step in to transport the animal in need to the vet.
Most of us shower our pets with toys and treats, and the program handlers would like to be able to do this as well.  But this depends solely on donations.  This also applies to needed equipment and training supplies.  If needed supplies aren’t available, the program goes without.  To make things more difficult, some commonly used supplies are not permitted inside because of ingredients or materials. 

In spite of the challenges, the P.E.T.S. Program survives.  The dogs are happy and do well and in the end, the benefits far outweigh the difficulties. 

If you would like to help out a bit, consider making donations of treats, toys, or laundry detergent to the Ohio SPCA, the Auglaize County Humane Society, or Deb’s Dogs and ask that they be used for the AOCI PETS Program.

Dorothy Miner is a long-time dog obedience and tracking instructor, judge of canine events, and author.  She teaches weekly classes for the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution’s PETS Program and provides training and consultation under the banner of “Sidekicks” and “Training for Dogs and Their People.”

A Tale of Two Kitties

The Jones Boys - "Stevie" & "Opie"
             He was the best of cats. He was the worst of cats. Quite the varied opinions regarding one small cat. But that's the nature of some felines... and their people.

            We have a new kitten addition to our family. His name is "Opie." He is about seven months old, and is, in my humble opinion, quite a cat. At times, though, he's been a little too much cat for Dr. Bonnie Jones.

            So you can imagine my surprise a couple of months ago when I peaked over her shoulder to see what she was typing, and saw she titled her column, "A New Kid In Town." Suddenly, a real feeling of warmth and goodness enveloped me. "Oh, my gosh! She does like Opie. She even wrote a column about him!"

            And then I read it. The column doesn't mention him at all. It's all about her love affairs with black and white cats. First Porky, then Jobey, and now "the new kid in town," Stevie Wonder. Except, he's not new. Heck, I wrote a column about him last January. Opie is the "new," new kid in town!

            Opie isn't black and white, either. He is a handsome shade of orange. And not just your ordinary tiger pattern. He's got swirls!

            I must confess to having a certain fondness for orange cats. I was fortunate to have a previous fifteen year relationship with a tiny, five pound marvel named Watson, the greatest cat who ever lived. This is coming from someone who has a serious case of " rodentophobia."

            Watson was my protector, my bodyguard of sorts from all things rodent. All it would take was an admittedly girly "EEK!" from yours truly, and he would be by my side in a flash to eliminate the threat. He really was amazing. I don't know how he did it.

            Thus it wasn't hard for me to take a shine to this gangly kitten who seemed to possess a certain "Watsonesque" gleam in his eye. In fact, the first night we allowed him to sleep on our bed, which was his idea by the way, I awoke at two o'clock to find him sleeping with his head on top of mine, like two skulls stacked one on top of the other. I thought that was kind of weird, yet kind of nice. What better way to bond.

            Opie was also into head-butting and face rubbing. I thought this meant he wanted to be my cat. It wasn't until I read my wife's column last week did I learn this behavior is called head-bunting. As it turns out, Opie didn't want to be my cat. He wanted me to be his.

            Although a people-oriented kitten, he enjoyed engaging our other pets, as well. He especially liked to wrestle with Betsy, our Corgi, and the aforementioned Stevie Wonder. Wrestling with Stevie, however, often  led to trouble for Opie. Even though he was younger and smaller than Stevie, their friendly bouts would usually escalate to the point where Stevie would cry out for his mommy, Bonnie. Needless to say, repeated offenses landed Opie on a certain type of list kept by their said mom. Well, that, and the Santa incident.

            My wife is not a big collector of things, except for Irish Santas. A hutch in our kitchen holds five levels of them. I always knew this would be Opie's litmus test. And one morning, he failed. I heard the scream!

            Fortunately, he just made it to level one, and only a few of the jolly old elves were knocked over. He did, however, proceed to make snowballs out of their artificial snow. Knowing that Opie wasn't alone in being in trouble, I did what needed to be done. I scooped up my orange friend and we headed to the barn.

            I feel sorry for cat owners who don't have a barn. Barns can fix a multitude of cat mistakes. Whether the issue is aggressive behavior or inappropriate elimination, time spent in the barn can have positive effects. And it doesn't have to be a permanent move.

            Opie spent the entire day there, but after the evening chores, he followed the dogs and me back to the house. And you know what?  After  twelve hours of exploration and exercise, exhaustion brought peace back to the household. Apparently, a tired kitten is a good kitten!     
Dr. John Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital with his wife, Dr. Bonnie Jones.

"Walk Like An Egyptian"


                                Cat Lovers unite! Did you know that October 29 is National Cat Day, a day founded to encourage cat adoption and to celebrate cats for their love and companionship? Domestication of cats dates back 4000 years to a time when Ancient Egyptians kept  cats to control pests that invaded food supplies.

                                Cats were not only revered as  hunters by Ancient Egyptians---they were also believed to be "magical," and capable of bringing good luck. So much so, that wealthy families adorned cats with jewels and fed them treats fit for royalty. Cats were also mummified when they died. Ancient Egyptians in mourning would then shave off their eye brows and mourn the loss of the cat until their brows grew back.

                                In Greek mythology, Egyptian goddess, Bastet, fulfilled many roles, including goddess of the home, domesticity, women's secrets, fertility, childbirth...and, yes, cats. First represented as a woman with the head of a lioness, Bastet's images softened over time, with later depictions showing her with a cat's head and a litter of kittens at her feet. Bastet was also believed to be able to morph into a cat at times!

                                While cats may have been the preferred companion of Ancient Egyptians, they are also commonly associated with witches and villains (think the proverbial black cat at Halloween!). I prefer to think of my feline family members and patients as masters of disguise with wicked intelligence, instead of representatives of evil.

                                To comprehend the allure of cats, one must first understand their behaviors---some have been developed out of necessity, others are just plain intriguing. Part of the delight of being a veterinarian is having the privilege of witnessing varied feline behaviors...the good, the bad, and the ugly!

                                If you have watched your cat play, you have likely seen it in a low crouch with its tail swishing, followed by a pounce on an object of its desire. In nature, this behavior will precede an attack on prey, or be carried out in response to a perceived threat. Therefore, it is not uncommon to observe this same tail-switching behavior in the veterinary setting when a feline patient's discontent is escalating. If this "tick-tock tail" is not heeded, cats will often follow through by lashing out at the nearest target.

                                Veterinary professionals heed another forewarning given by cat patients:  ears that are laid back on the head. This is a posture that precedes a conflict between cats and definitely sends the message "Back off!" Speaking from experience, you should!

                                On the contrary, "head bunting," often mistakenly labeled "head-butting," and facial rubbing, are social behaviors practiced by cat colonies to make all colony members smell alike. Cats recognize each other by scent first, so when your cat rubs its head, chin or face on you, you become your cat's possession and a member of its "club." Head bunting also indicates social rank, as dominant cats usually do the bunting. Your cat may roll over on the floor a few times before bunting YOU as a way of showing affection!

                                Have you ever witnessed your cat with its ears pricked and its mouth slightly open?  This depicts a cat using its "vomeronasal organ," an accessory scent organ, that sits forward on the roof of the mouth. When a scent is collected in the mouth, cats use their tongues to flick the scent up to the vomeronasal organ. This information processing is called a "flehmen response" and is practiced by domestic and wild animals including horses, ungulates and large felines. You may notice your cat "flehming" when it detects a new or different aroma in its environment.

                                Does your cat seem to occasionally get a case of the "zoomies" and suddenly race about? This behavior is  likely a throwback to kittenhood when your cat was learning to hunt. "Zooming" kittens will bounce sideways  with their backs arched as they fine tune their balance, speed, timing and agility. Older cats may zoom because it's just plain fun, especially if they have pent up energy. My advice is to sit back, laugh, and enjoy... unless the zooming is nocturnal. The solution to unwanted zooming at night is to engage your cat in play during the day, and feed its biggest meal at bedtime, as most cats will sleep after a meal (or big hunt).

                                These are just a few of the numerous, intriguing behaviors cats demonstrate. If, like me, you enjoy the company of cats, singular or (preferably) plural, why not "walk like an Egyptian" to your nearest shelter or cat rescue and adopt a cat in need. You may just find the "purr-fect" pet. 

Dr. Bonnie Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital. She celebrates National Cat Day every day with her cats, "Diane," "Stevie Wonder," and "Opie," and several, beloved barn cats.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Tattoo to Remember

Lima Patrolman Zane Slusher sports his tattoo with his K-9 "Fanto"

             I've been seeing a lot of tattoos in our office lately. It seems like they're everywhere, and on everybody. Summer attire might have something to do with this, being what it is, or isn't. No parts appear to be off limits - feet, legs, hands, arms, shoulders, necks... relax, I'll stop there. I don't have any tattoos myself, if you haven't already guessed. I'm too chicken.

            To be honest, though, I truly don't understand what the appeal of a tattoo is, or why people want to get them so badly. Oh, if you were a Marine and have "USMC" or "Semper Fi" stamped on you- I get that. Or, if you are a cancer survivor and want to celebrate your health, or honor a lost loved one, I get that, too. But some of the designs, written phrases, and ethnic symbols, I just don't get. I know I'm showing my ignorance...or "fogey-ness." One thing I have not detected in any of the tattooed that I have met, however, is regret.

            Several of my co-workers have tattoos, some of them still pretty fresh. For all I know, they may all have a tattoo. Dr. Bonnie Jones doesn't have any. I can attest to that.

            One of my co-workers had been contemplating getting a half- sleeve for quite some time. I've never been what I'd describe as an "arm" man before, but this girl has really beautiful arms. "Why do you want to do that to your arm?," I would ask her over and over again . She always replied that I sounded like her mother. I took that as a compliment.

            After the deed was finally done, she came to work the next day with her newly inked arm covered with clear tape. "Thank God you got a stick-on!" I exclaimed. She laughed. It wasn't a stick-on. It was real. Obviously, the tattoo wasn't a choice I would have made, but if it makes her happy, then who am I to judge?

             In regard to my clients with tattoos, I have no problem not judging them as well. Over the last thirty plus years, some of the most dedicated and conscientious pet care-givers I have dealt with have had multiple tattoos, and several even had a good amount of body piercings. Apparently, the same attention to detail that applies to their body art  also applies to the care of their pets. Like they say, you shouldn't judge a book, or your clients, by their colorful covers.

            In spite of all the tattoos I saw this summer, there is another that stands out in my memory. I witnessed it in the summer of 1969. My parents and I went on a trip to visit my Uncle Hugh and his family. They lived in Scarsdale, about an hour north of New York City.

            On the Sunday morning of our stay, Uncle Hugh took my dad and me to a local bagel shop. The man behind the counter was middle-aged and had curly, sandy-gray hair. He also had the most expressive eyes. They were quite cheery when the man engaged a customer, but when he turned away, his eyes suddenly became exceedingly sad.

            Then I saw a tattoo on his left forearm. It consisted simply of numbers, I think six of them. I couldn't help but stare. Although it was my ninth birthday, I didn't have to ask what the numbers meant. I just knew.

            The man didn't try to cover the tattoo, and obviously hadn't had it removed. I can only imagine that the numbers, a symbol of what humans are capable of doing to one another, to him were also a symbol of life. As far as I know, he is the only Holocaust survivor I have ever encountered.

            Nearly half a century later, I've not forgotten that moment nor what his tattoo represented. Children see things they remember forever. If they see something bad, hopefully, something good can be learned from that experience.
By Dr. John H. Jones 

Dr. John Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital with his wife, Dr. Bonnie Jones.

Prison Dogs

"Kiri" is a happy graduate of the AOCI Prison Program

           Prison Pet programs have become a common feature in correctional institutions around the country.  These programs take in shelter dogs and cats and work with them so that they will be more adoptable.  Some provide basic training for service dog agencies.  A few even work with horses.  
          Our own local facility, Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution, has had an active and successful pet program for quite a while.  The AOCI program is currently working with dogs provided by the Ohio SPCA (the former Humane Society of Allen County) and local rescue group Deb’s Dogs.  The program also works with cats, but the main focus at AOCI is the rehabilitation and training of shelter and rescue dogs.  The goal is to see every single one of them in a good “forever” home.  It lives up to its official name:  P.E.T.S. (Pets Educated To Survive.)

         When new dogs come in they are assigned to a primary inmate handler who is responsible for the daily care and training of the dog.  There is also a secondary handler for each dog, who will step in as needed to help.  The dogs live in the handlers’ cells.  The dogs are given time to become accustomed to life in their new home before serious training begins.  They learn to trust their new people, are housetrained, and are gradually exposed to life in a prison setting. 
         Usually by the second week basic obedience training begins.  The dogs are taught using the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen program as a rough guide.  They learn to respond to the commands of Sit, Down, Stand, and Stay.  They learn to walk nicely on a leash and to come when they are called.  They learn proper greeting behavior and to be handled by others. They are socialized to all sorts of people. 
           Near the end of their ten-week stay in the prison, the dogs are run through the AKC Canine Good Citizen test, and most of them pass.  Those that aren’t able to pass are given a certificate attesting to what they have learned and where problems still exist.  The handlers work with behavior problems along with the obedience training.  Typically these include separation anxiety, aggression, fear, resource guarding, destructive activity, barking, and the like. 
         By the time a dog leaves the program his behavior and training have improved dramatically.  The handlers learn to be “jacks of all trades” in this program and become proficient at obedience training, behavior modification, and health care.  Each dog leaves with a detailed journal that gives specifics of the dog’s stay, training, behavioral work, health, and temperament.  This is given to the new owner when the dog is adopted.

         A very special service is provided by the Vietnam Veterans group within the prison.  They have generously offered to pay the adoption fees for two exceptional dogs each year that receive additional training and are placed with veterans suffering from PTSD or mild TBI (traumatic brain injuries.)  So far two dogs have received this extra training and have become valued companions to their veteran owners.

         The handlers are a dedicated group.  Most are in the program because they have a passion for working with dogs and they work hard to make their charges ready for a permanent home.  They all value the companionship of their dogs, even if it is temporary.  And when the time comes for a dog to return to the shelter, the hander may grieve the loss of his friend but he will have the satisfaction of knowing that he probably saved that animal’s life by making it adoptable.

         The OSPCA is not doing any serious advertising of their prison-trained dogs at this time, but you will find some of these nicely-trained dogs there, just biding their time until they are discovered.  The “Deb’s Dogs” animals are regularly featured at adoption events.  If you adopt one of these great dogs, please consider taking a photo of your pet in its new home and send it, along with a note, to the handler who put his heart and soul into helping it get ready for life with you and your family.  This small gesture means a lot.

By Dorothy Miner

 Dorothy Miner is a long-time dog obedience and tracking instructor, judge of canine events, and author.  She teaches weekly classes for the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution’s PETS Program and provides training and consultation under the banner of “Sidekicks” and “Training for Dogs and Their People.”

Monday, September 4, 2017

There's a New Kid in Town


                 Tragically, one of the four-legged loves of my life passed away unexpectedly just before Thanksgiving last year. "Jobey" was another in a long line of kittens that came home from farm calls in my husband's coveralls. This fun and funny, affectionate, black and white cat quickly stole our hearts with his very dog-like behavior. He blended well with the Border Collies and grew up with Welsh Corgi, "Betsy Louise," still a puppy herself at the time.

                        My family did not believe in cat ownership when I was a child so my first true exposure to cats came in my pre-veterinary jobs and in veterinary college. What a loss to not have grown up with these incredibly intelligent creatures that come in all colors, sizes and personalities! I soon grew to love and respect "All Creatures Great and Small," but especially the feline species.

                        The first  cat  I could actually call my own was a black and white kitten rescued and living at McNutt Animal Hospital, my first job site as a veterinarian. This little waif was living in a cage, and like all kittens that reside in cages too long, he was "self-entertained" by trashing his "condo" and turning his litter into ground cover outside his pan. He was soon baptized "Porky Pig" as my boss, Dr. Ron McNutt, cajoled me in to taking him home. And so I did.

                        Porky blessed every day of my life for nearly 18 years as he continued to educate me about the uniqueness of cats as pets.  Those who have not had a pet live as long as Porky don't always understand the grief of that loss. Most pets are very child-like, so losing one that lives the lifespan of a grown child can be devastating. And it was.

                        We have owned numerous pet cats over our almost 36 years together, but for some reason, black and white cats gain favor in our household. Perhaps it's because my husband wants them to be Border Collies, too...hmm.

                        Years slipped by and "Jobey" succeeded Porky to plug a deep crater in my heart. I have always said that I want my cats to "get me hairy." I adore having them on and near me whenever possible, especially after a long or hard day. Porky was excellent at that task. And so was Jobey.

                        Sadly, Jobey could not give me what Porky did...a loving relationship that endured beyond average feline life expectancies. Jobey had, like many young cats, a truly horrible secret---a secret that originates with "a broken heart" and a secret that breaks hearts. Jobey had Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a deadly, feline heart muscle disease that can result in sudden death in a seemingly normal, healthy cat of any age.

                        So when on one Sunday evening Jobey didn't come running for his "snack," I knew something was very wrong. And it was. Despite our veterinary heroics, Jobey died 24 hours after his heart began to fail.

                        Enter "Stevie Wonder" to the rescue. This black and white, apple-faced kitten owes his life to the persistence and diligence of his rescuer, Jill Smith, who also loves all creatures great and small. Without her, Stevie would be another statistic representing kittens born to feral cats that do not survive. Jill was fortunate enough to meet up with my husband when seeking care for Stevie while he struggled with respiratory disease early in his kitten period. The twosome, fully aware of my recent loss, began their well-laid plans to put a "new kid in town." And so there is...

Dr. Bonnie Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital with her husband, John H. Jones, DVM.  She was valedictorian and Outstanding Senior Clinician of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 1985 and truly does love "All Creatures Great and Small."

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Field of my Father's Dreams

              I like to write holiday themed columns. Mother's Day gave me the opportunity to share the story of a maternally-minded ewe who adopted a family of triplets after her own lambs were born dead. Five weeks later, I also had the Father's Day gig, but had nothing fatherly to write about. So I told a tale I'd been wanting to tell for a long time about a little dog named "Spirit," and a veterinary technician with an abundance of it.

            A few days later, though, a Father's Day story began to emerge. During a rare moment of down time, I found myself in our treatment room with a collection of vet techs, assistants, and shadows. I don't even remember why, but I asked them to name their favorite movie. Other than Laura's answer of "The Lost Boys," I can't recall any of their responses. When one asked what my favorite was, I replied, "Field of Dreams."  But when another asked, "Why Dr. John?"  I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to make a speedy exit, as tears were about to overflow.

            What happened? I simply thought of a line from the movie. However, that line gets to me every time... every darn time. In the film, Iowa farmer, Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, hears a voice emanating from his cornfield: "If you build it, he will come." For much of the rest of the movie, Ray tries to figure out who "he" is.

            I'm not going to write the line. Apparently, merely thinking of it makes me an emotional wreck. Let me just say, I would give anything, and by "anything" I mean everything, for the opportunity to deliver Ray's line to my own "he," just one more time.

            My dad died when I was a senior in veterinary school, five months before graduation. He was one of my professors, and he taught at Ohio State for thirty-five years. He never really wanted to be a veterinarian, though. He wanted to be a farmer like his uncle, Osborne.

            Although he was raised in Cleveland, he spent many a youthful summer on Uncle Osborne  and Aunt Minnie's farm. Osborne's sister, Aunt Blodwen, lived down the road on the farm where my wife and I now live. My dad enjoyed the country life, and he would regale me with anecdotes about threshing crews and Osborne's team of Percheron geldings, Tops and Major. He loved their farms and he loved this area.

            My dad talked often of his plans and dreams, and what he wanted to do after he retired. Raising draft horses and sheep on his family's land was included among them. Coincidentally, or genetically, his youngest son shared those same dreams. Sadly, my dad ran out of time before he ran out of dreams. That lesson did not go unlearned.

            After our movie discussion, I must admit to spending most of the afternoon in a bit of a funk.  Beyond the obvious sadness, my father's death has been the greatest disappointment in my life. Dying took away any chance for him to see what Bonnie and I would accomplish with our farm and practice. He was able to witness my brother's life, and my sister's life, but not mine. Judging from my visceral reaction to a line in a movie, that wound must still run pretty deep.

            I did everything I could to build "it," and yet "he" didn't come. Of course, I didn't really expect him to. That would be silly. But wouldn't it have been something if he had?

            That evening, as I drove past the corner of Aunt Blodwen's farm, with the wind gently blowing   the wispy regrowth on the hayfield, and the sun beginning its slow descent behind Aunt Minnie's woods, I realized I couldn't have been more wrong. My dad did come, and he's been here the whole time.

            First, he came with me to Delphos to join the practice of his old friend, Dr. Ed Laman. Then when Bonnie and I moved the practice to the historic Lincoln Highway, he was right there with us. And twenty- six years ago, after two generations of dreams, he was finally able to move to his beloved farm.

            Not a day goes by that I don't think of him, and not a day goes by that he doesn't influence me in some way. Happy Father's Day, Dad. "Do you wanna have a catch?"
By Dr. John H. Jones
Dr. John H. Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital with his wife and partner, Dr. Bonnie Jones. Their family includes two Border Collies, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, three spoiled house cats, several beloved barn cats, a flock of Southdown sheep and a variety of chickens, ducks and geese.