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.

Never Trust a Quiet Puppy

I admit I brought it upon myself.  When friends asked if I would board their four-month-old Airedale puppy for a week I agreed without giving it more than a moment of thought.  There were several good reasons to take little Tucker in: 

·        He is too young to be boarded at a kennel.

·        He’s awfully cute.

·        He’s an Airedale – and I have a weakness for Airedales.

·        I’ve raised a lot of Airedales from puppyhood and survived.

When his family brought him over he was happy to see me, and overjoyed to see our dogs.  We put them all in the yard to get acquainted while we discussed his visit.  I was relieved to hear he was pretty much housebroken and I was happy to hear he could sleep through the night.  I already knew that he responded to basic commands and was nicely socialized because he had been a student in my last Puppy Kindergarten class.  What could possibly go wrong? 

His owners told me he had just come down with a bit of an intestinal problem.  They took him to the vet before bringing him to me to make sure he wasn’t harboring any cooties he could share with my pack.  He was given a clean bill of health.  Well, that little problem means he can’t sleep through the night without a couple or three potty outings.  So much for getting a good night’s sleep.  I know it’s not his fault, but the older I get the more I really value bedtime. 

My sister and I live with five dogs.  The youngest is almost five.  The oldest is fourteen.  Our home is set up for somewhat civilized older dogs and hasn’t been puppy-proofed for years.  Baby Tucker has managed to find all sorts of fun stuff to get into that isn’t on the list of Approved Puppy Toys.  In my office there’s a big wooden box full of dog toys and a couple of comfy dog beds. 
As I’m writing this, Tucker has taken all the toys out of the box and stuffed one of dog beds into it, displacing the old Shih Tzu who was napping on the bed at the time.  The toys are all Airedale-approved, but he’d much rather shred the paper he finds in my office recycling basket.  Tucker has also discovered toilet paper.  I’ve had puppies chew on the stuff but Tucker is the first I’ve had to grab the paper by the end and run around the room, unrolling the entire thing. 

He loves to harass the older dogs, especially my sister’s somewhat fragile elderly Yorkie.  Even with only a few teeth left in his mouth that Yorkie can make an impressive snarly face.  He leaves Kiri alone ever since she explained her personal set of rules to him.  He also is fairly good with the Shih Tzu Boys. 
But poor Fergus…   Airedales are breed snobs and Tucker immediately saw a kindred soul.  He follows him everywhere and is constantly trying to get him to play.  Fergus hasn’t had a moment of peace for days now.  He mostly enjoys the attention, especially because he finally found a dog he could dominate.  He even slows down while running Full-Tilt-Bozo around the yard so the puppy can keep up with him.  But even Fergus has his limits.   

Puppies are exhausting.  They’re noisy.  They have an unbelievable amount of energy. They have mouths full of little piranha teeth.  When they’re quiet while they’re awake, they’re probably into something.  They get into as much mischief as they possibly can and then, just before you stuff them into a box and mail them somewhere distant, they do something incredibly cute and sweet like that endearing doggy head-tilt thing when an animal shows up on TV.   They’re adorable when they’re sleeping. 

Mercifully, once they’ve grown up we forget just how much trouble puppies can be.  If we didn’t, we might not ever get another one.   In the middle of the night when Tucker wakes me up for the third time complaining that he absolutely HAS to go out I swear I’ll never do this again.  Will I?  Yeah, probably.  I’m a sucker for puppies.
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.”

His Name Is Spirit

Veterinary Technician Sarah Burford & Her Canine "Family"
            He was, beyond any doubt, one of the most pathetic creatures I have ever seen. Devoid of a good bit of hair, his skin was thickened, wrinkled, and red. His eyes were white from cataracts, he wasn't eating much with teeth that had seen better days a long time ago, and he could no longer walk.
             When his owner asked what I could do for him, I hesitated a moment before answering. From the look of concern on her face, I sensed that his was not a case of neglect, but rather a case of having a caretaker who merely loved him too much, and couldn't say good-bye. Most of us who have had pets are probably guilty of that. I know I am.
            I rattled off some tests we could run- a serum profile to evaluate his organ function and see if he was diabetic, a CBC to check for infection and anemia, a thyroid test, and maybe even a test for Cushing's disease. "Realistically, though...," I said before pausing again. "There's really only one thing I can do for him."
            She looked at me first with disbelief, then with overwhelming sadness as what I said sunk in. Fortunately, her daughter was with her, and she intervened. "Mom, you've got to let him go!"

            They didn't want to be present for the euthanasia, but I let them stay with him as long as they wanted. After they left, my veterinary technician, Sarah, helped me prepare our patient. Unexpectedly, another co-worker (who is no longer at our practice) came into the room, took one look at the little dog lying on the table, and for some reason felt compelled to blurt out, "What is THAT thing?"

            I can only guess she thought she was bringing levity to a grim situation,  but this was neither the time nor the place. Comedy is always a risky endeavor, and I make no claim to being a paragon of virtue when it comes to inappropriate comments, but that seemed pretty inappropriate, even to me.   
            I felt I should say something. Before I had a chance, though, Sarah, who was leaning over the dog, suddenly stood upright and her cheeks became flushed. "Uh-oh," I thought to myself. But in a surprisingly calm, clear voice she uttered only four words: "His NAME is Spirit!"

            Needless to say, it wasn't long before the human population of the room returned to two. Sarah quickly apologized. "I'm sorry for my outburst."
            "Sorry for what?" I replied. "Don't ever stop being like that." If you happened to read the column she wrote a few months ago about being a veterinary technician, then you know she hasn't.
            Much has been written and discussed the last several years about the rights of animals. I've written a couple columns myself regarding food animal production. I am a meat eater, and I wear leather  shoes. I think it's okay to do that. I know some people will disagree with me on those topics, and that's okay, too.

            One thing I hope we can agree on is that no matter whether an animal is used for food, or clothing, or their job is simply to be a companion, their lives should always be respected. Even, and especially, those like Spirit who appear to be at their lowest point. I can't think of anything that defines that respect more perfectly than Sarah's words.

            It's been nearly a year since I spent those few minutes with Spirit, and although I don't think of him every day, I do think of him quite often. Something will take place during work that triggers the memory, and I have a feeling the same happens with Sarah, as well. It's amazing how a brief encounter with a dog we just met could leave such a lasting impression.     

            Thank you, Sarah Burford, for being a hero and advocate for one of God's most deserving. And thank you, Spirit, for your valuable lesson on compassion and respect. You were never a "thing" to Sarah and me. You were a member of a family who loved you very much, and you even had a great name. I can promise you, Spirit, we will never forget you.
By Dr. John H. Jones
 John H. Jones, DVM operates a mixed animal practice in Delphos with his wife, Dr. Bonnie Jones.  He is a 1985 graduate of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and he raises Southdown sheep.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Things Your Dog Trainer May Not Tell You


I get a kick out of reading the various lists people compile that show up on my computer.  You know the type of thing:  Ten Things Restaurant Staff Won’t Tell You, Things Flight Attendants Won’t Tell You, Things the Kid at the Drive-Thru Window Won’t Tell You, Things Your Beautician Won’t Tell You, and really important information like that.  I decided to make my own list – Ten Things Your Dog Trainer May Not Tell You.

1.      Most of the time the owner is the challenge, not the dog.  We can train almost any dog, at least to some extent, but sometimes we have great difficulty teaching you how to work with your dog.

2.      We don’t like every breed of dog and may groan when one is enrolled in class.  Every trainer has breeds they really don’t like.  If we’re good at what we do, you won’t know if you have one of those.  And we can usually find something to like in every dog.

3.      We can tell if you did any work with your dog during the week.  A big part of dog training is taking what you learned in class and working with your dog at home during the week.  Training is a daily process.  It needn’t be time-consuming – a couple of short sessions a day can get the job done – but training only once or twice a week just isn’t going to cut it.

4.      We can make almost any dog in class look good – at least a couple of times.  It requires talent, timing, good physical and verbal cues, and a confident demeanor. Add the fact that the dog isn’t used to working with us and will be caught a bit off-guard, and he will probably perform as well as he can. 

5.      You may be the most inept trainer in class but, if you’re really trying, we’ll keep working with you.  Not every student can master the skills of timing and consistency, but we’ll stick with you so that you can end up with a well-trained pet.

6.      You may have the dumbest dog in class, but if you’re really working hard to get through his thick skull we’ll keep working with you to get the result you want.  Not every dog is brilliant.  They all learn at different speeds, and some need quite a bit of repetition to learn new skills. 

7.      We are (or should be) familiar with several different methods to train each skill.  Sometimes a dog that is thought to be stubborn or stupid just needs the lesson presented in a different manner.  We should be open to learning everything we can on a continuing basis so that we can be the best possible trainers and teachers.

      8.      We are experts at reading canine body language. This gives us a key to finding the most
             effective method to work with each individual dog.

9.      Our own dogs may not all be perfectly trained.   At the end of the day after working with people and their dogs, we may not have the energy to do much training with our own.  Speaking for myself, my personal dogs may not be as well trained as they were years ago when I competed in Obedience Trials, but they’re all trained to a point where they are great companions that make me happy.

10.  Sadly, we don’t know everything and can’t fix everything.  Poor genetics, bad early experiences, high levels of anxiety or fear, extreme aggression, the owner’s household dynamics – these things and more can sometimes make it extremely difficult to eliminate unwanted behavior. 

Dog training isn’t just a job.  When it’s done well, it’s an art form.  Connecting with a dog by understanding how he learns and then helping him understand what we would like him to do takes patience and skill.   Teaching dog owners takes skill as well.  We often must be part psychologist, schoolteacher, magician, lion tamer, and sometimes even therapist.  It’s an interesting job!


 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.”