Friday, August 31, 2012

How to Greet a Strange Dog

Picture this: you're out for a walk with your family, when suddenly a complete stranger makes fixed eye contact with you, then comes running up and sticks their face in yours, making high pitched noises while touching you on your head and back without your permission. Oh, and this stranger is much taller than you and outweighs you by a significant amount.

This is what our dogs face when we take them into public places. And they feel about it pretty much the same way you would. But strangers often ignore dog body language that shows signs of discomfort, and even a well behaved and calm dog may escalate into growling or other dangerous behavior if the stranger continues to push their luck.

We're all guilty of ignoring correct procedures when meeting a new dog. But try to see the situation from their perspective, and it's easy to imagine how unwanted contact can lead to aggressive behavior. Learning how to greet a dog is especially important for small children. Kids commonly break these rules, and the consequences for them can be severe. Follow these steps for a happy and successful encounter that will enrich the experience for you and your new friend.

Offer your hand and allow the dog to come to you.
1. Approach the owner, not the dog.

Dogs don't respond well to direct eye contact, which may make them nervous, aggressive, or both. As you approach, just ignore the dog. It's the polite canine thing to do!

2. Ask the owner.

A good owner knows their animal and how they behave around new people. And remember, you are also invading the owner's space. If the owner says no, respect that and walk away. They may be trying to save you or your child from a bite. DON'T pet the dog without asking first. DON'T ask to pet a service dog. They are working.

Owners, be aware of how your dog reacts to strangers, and watch for body language that indicates fear or aggression. Don't assume that your dog will never bite. If you are uncomfortable with the situation, don't be afraid to tell someone they cannot approach your pet.

Crouching sideways is a good way to appear non-threatening
3. Use neutral, non-threatening body language.

Continue avoiding eye contact and keep your body loose. Turning the body slightly to the side with the head facing away from the dog will make you seem less threatening. Stand straight or crouch down, still with your knees and face turned to the side. DON'T bend over the dog. Would you like a large stranger looming over you?

4. Let the dog come to you.

If the dog wants to greet you, they will come to you, not the other way around. Position yourself close enough to the dog that they notice your presence, but not close enough to be in their space. If the dog doesn't come to you after a few moments, you can try softly calling the dog's name, but don't push. If the dog doesn't want to meet you, the interaction is over. It must be the dog's decision. DON'T place your body so that you are blocking the dog into a corner, against a wall, or even against the owner's legs.

5. Touch the dog.

Be aware of body language - this says HANDS OFF!
If the dog has approached you, sniffed you, and given some other sign of approval (wagging tail, soft eyes, remaining close to you), it's ok at this point to slowly put your hand out to be sniffed. Keep your palm down and your fingers gently curled in. Once the dog sniffs your hand and is still relaxed, pet the dog's shoulder, neck, or upper chest. These are nice neutral places to touch. DON'T touch the top of the head or the dog's back end, especially if the dog isn't looking in your direction. Some dogs are threatened by this type of contact.

6. Ignore the dog.

Once this initial interaction has been successfully completed, allow the dog to decide if they want to continue. Go back to ignoring the dog - chat with the owner. If the dog likes you, they'll approach for more affection. It's then ok to increase the intensity of the contact with the dog. But be aware of the dog's body language. If they back away or show other signs of discomfort, DON'T continue to attempt to engage them.

Every dog is unique. Some will be jumping all over you at the first sign of friendliness, while others may want to have nothing to do with you at all. Many "bully breeds" are perfectly friendly, while "family breeds" can be fearful or aggressive. Don't assume that a Pit Bull is dangerous or that a Labrador is harmless. Approach all dogs with cautious respect.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Grieving the Loss of a Pet

Pets provide us with incredible companionship and affection, but they leave us far too soon. Anytime we love, we open up our hearts and make ourselves vulnerable to the pain of loss. Sadly, experiencing and coping with the death of a beloved pet is a part of life that is inevitable but always difficult. 

A pet has a unique way of entering our hearts, and those who have not experienced it are not likely to understand.  People who are puzzled, telling you “It’s just an animal” just don’t get it. They’ve missed out on the love and rewards you’ve been fortunate to enjoy. Seek out others whose perspective is like your own.

The grief that comes from losing a pet is as real, and can be as powerful, as the loss of any family member. When you find yourself in mourning over a pet, allow yourself time to grieve, and realize that tears and sadness are normal.

At certain times of the day, these feelings are likely to be more intense, such as entering an empty house or missing treat time or a bedtime cuddle. The death of a pet may also evoke many feelings, some unexpected. For some of us, any loss recalls memories of other losses in our lives, which magnifies our emotions. 

Dealing with a beloved sick or injured pet often forces us to make painful decisions, and the accompanying guilt can be overwhelming. Should I have done more? Was euthanasia the best option for my suffering pet? Could I have recognized the signs and symptoms of illness earlier? Give yourself the credit you deserve for doing the best you could with difficult options.

Your pet, like other family members, was unique, and can never be replaced.   The experiences you shared at that time in your life were special, and efforts to find another pet exactly like the one lost are certain to disappoint. When you’re ready to consider another pet, remind yourself that your new friend will also have special, endearing characteristics that can be overlooked if you insist on making comparisons.

We generally recommend letting some time pass before you adopt a new pet. Allow yourself to recognize your loss and don't seek to "replace" that space in your heart and your home. The temptation to compare your new pet to your lost friend may create more hurt when the new pet is not like her predecessor, and can get in the way of bonding with the new animal.

The time following the pet’s loss can be difficult for others in your household as well. Children may be confused or fearful, and need the opportunity to share feelings and learn about finality of death. Other animals in the household may also grieve, missing the companionship of an ever-present pal. Giving them a little extra attention will help soothe their experience of loss, and the affection they return will benefit you, as well.

Don’t deny yourself the experience of loving an animal again. When experiencing grief, it’s easy to say, “never again,” but the healing power of time can again open your heart to the joy and companionship of a pet.  Often, the best way to acknowledge and give thanks for the life of a pet is to offer a second chance to another when you are ready.  As you get acquainted and gain one another’s trust, you’ll discover proof that life indeed goes on, and that it’s possible to love again.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Jog A Dog!

On Wednesday we posted a picture of Brittany the puppy with her whole head in a bucket. What could have made this energetic little pup so tired?

Jog A Dog!

Welcome to our latest program, a joint initiative between HSEC, Intone Fitness, and Children' Health Services designed to help your kids and our dogs get some exercise and socialization. Every Saturday, a group consisting of kids ages 11+ meets at our facility and is matched up with a dog that they can handle.

The six-week program was initially designed to help children who have specific health goals or who might need an extra incentive to get moving, but anyone is welcome!

Our dynamic kid-puppy duos first head out to the field behind the facility, where they complete a 1/2 mile walk/jog. Returning to the building, the kids are led in calisthenics, performing jumping jacks, sit ups, and so on, with lots of opportunities to praise and pet the tired dog sitting at their feet. Finally, the kids lead the dogs through agility course training.

So far the program has been a success, and guaranteed to leave both kids and dogs ready for an afternoon nap. Though, as anyone with a child or a puppy can tell you, you can't keep a youngster down for long. After a quick power nap, our puppies are once again excited to greet afternoon visitors.

Positive interactions help puppies to become properly socialized, and will ensure that these dogs are child-friendly. In fact, four doggie participants in the program have already been adopted!

If you're looking for a good family dog, why not ask about a Jog A Dog alum?

In other sports news, September 1st will launch us into another ECU football season, and HSEC will once again be running a concession stand during the games. We always need volunteers for this fundraiser. It's a great one for a group. If your office or club is looking for some social service opportunities, why not take over our stand for a game? Individuals, couples, or families are also welcome. If you'd like to volunteer, contact Katie Benson at

And we'll see you at the game!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday - ???

What made little Brittany so hot and thirsty? Stay tuned to find out in our Friday post!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Take Your Cat to the Vet Week Aug 18-25

Just warming up the stethoscope, doc...
Petfinder has declared this week Take Your Cat to the Vet Week, and we're happy to add our support to that effort. Just like any other critter, your cat will benefit from regular check ups and preventative care.

If you only take your kitty to the vet when they are sick, you may be shortchanging the animal - and yourself. Regular checkups can nip illness in the bud and can even help you spend less money overall. A vet may notice symptoms that you would overlook. So give your cat the best, healthiest life possible - a visit every six months is recommended by the American Veterinary Association, though it's possible to push this to a yearly appointment.

At your semi-annual or annual checkup, you will have an opportunity to chat with the vet techs and the veterinarian about your cat's mood, activity level, diet, weight, symptoms, and anything else related to their well being. Kitty will get a general examination, which differs slightly from one office to the next but which will probably include a weigh-in, heart and breathing check, palpation to make sure that there is no swelling or pain in the cat's body, and overall appearance (skin, coat, ears, teeth, eyes, and so on). The vet will also discuss vaccines with you to help determine which ones are best for your pet, and administer if appropriate.
Palpation to check for swelling or tender areas

The first (and last) step to a successful vet visit is transport in a safe carrier. If getting your snookums into the darn thing is a particular struggle in your house, get her used to the carrier by leaving it out and available, with treats, toys, and soft blankets inside. Don't treat the carrier as a big deal, and hopefully your cat will grow to see the carrier as a safe and neutral environment. But even if you have to recruit some friends to (gently) stuff your cat into the crate, it needs to be in one! Top loading carriers are easier to get a reluctant cat into, so look for one with both front and top openings.

Try a top-loading carrier
You may want to load the cat in the carrier and take them for brief car rides to get them used to the idea. If the cat arrives at the vet stressed out, it can set the tone for the rest of the appointment.

Bring a couple treats and toys with you to the visit. Break out the big guns with a treat that the cat rarely gets, like chicken, salmon, or squeezy cheese. An animal that will take a treat is, generally speaking, less stressed. Keep calm, move slowly, and speak softly. Allow the vet tech and vet to control and handle your cat, unless you are specifically asked to assist and feel comfortable doing so. Skillful handling will keep the cat calmer and move the exam along more quickly.

Many vets also allow 'happy visits', when the animal can come into the vet not for a checkup or procedure, but just to get used to the routine and receive attention and affection from the staff. Ask your vet if they support this practice. In extreme cases of vet-phobia, the doctor might recommend a mild tranquilizer, but the majority of cats will not need drugs. Good experiences at the vet will help you to nurture good health for the rest of your cat's life.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Come See Us At PetsMart!

Mavis and Maude
We’ll do just about anything to get our furry friends adopted, and that includes taking them on the road!  Each month, our resident cats make the move to PetsMart for two weeks, fluffing their fur and putting their best paws forward in hopes of finding a forever home.

The Adoption Stand, located to the left of the store as you enter, houses cats and kittens carefully selected to withstand their rather public temporary quarters – shrinking violets are far happier at our shelter. 

Our trained staff and volunteers have background information on all the kitties-in-residence, including everything we know about their histories and medical records.  Adoption counselors there will play matchmaker, guiding you to the cat that might best suit your family.  We know which kitties would do well with a furry playmate, a small child, or a quiet senior citizen.

PetsMart provides a great location to adopt.  First-time cat parents can find all the supplies they need to welcome their new friends home, and those with other pets can stock up.  In addition, PetsMart Charities gives us $10 for each adoption that takes place in the store, although the adoption fees are the same as at our shelter.

We’ll be at PetsMart from August 13-26. Our lovely lineup this month includes Mavis and Maude (twice the love for just one adoption fee!), Precious, Tootsie, and the Christopher Robin litter of Winnie, Eeyore, and Piglet.  If you want to visit us later, our calendar for future appearances is on our website.  We’re there from 5:30-8:00 weekdays, 11-5 on Saturdays, and 2-5 Sundays.  Even if you’re not in the market for a cat at the moment, stop by and say hello to us and our kitties – we love visitors, and kids are welcome to stop by if they’re accompanied by an adult.  We’ll be looking for you!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Attack!!

(Toys donated by the Price Family - thank you!) - Edited to add: the toys were not donated by the Price Family, and we owe them an even BIGGER thank you - they donate all of our kitty litter. That'll give any feline a reason to jump for joy!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Annie - Little Cat, BIG personality!

Annie is a rambunctious, playful five month old kitten who was born with Congenital Upper Eyelid Agenesis - basically, this is a birth defect that left her with no upper eyelids. With nothing to protect her delicate eyes, her fur rubs against them and is gradually damaging her cornea. The condition is uncomfortable, and will eventually damage her sight and lead to blindness.

Little Miss Annie needs surgery now so that there is no permanent damage to her eyes. The operation will be performed by a specialist at Animal Eye Care in Cary, NC. This procedure is finicky and complex, involving a graft that will create the new eyelids. We need $815 to cover the cost of her care.

If successful, her longterm prognosis is very good. She will never look completely "normal", but she is not expected to look significantly different than she looks now. We think she looks like a little cartoon kitty! Right now she requires artificial tears, but has no other treatment.

Sweet Annie loves to romp and get into mischief (just ask her foster family)! We're very lucky that we have the opportunity to help her now before her condition becomes more debilitating.

You can see more photos of Annie and some of our other residents at our imgur page here.

Please consider a donation towards Annie's care. This link will take you to her ChipIn page, where you can make a donation right to her! You can also click on the Donate button on the top right of the page.
And for whatever you can give, we are very, very thankful.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dog Days of Summer

It’s the dog days of summer, and that means it’s hot, hot, hot outside! As you’re heading to the beach or sitting in the park or running those back-to-school errands, take some time to observe your pet’s behavior and ensure that they’re as comfortable as possible.

Cats and dogs don’t sweat, and may have a difficult time cooling off, particularly in humid conditions like right here in Eastern NC. Although both dogs and cats pant to keep cool, this may not always be enough to prevent heatstroke. All animals can get heatstroke, and more susceptible pets include those with short snouts, long-haired breeds, the very old or very young, the chronically ill, and the overweight. Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, anxiety, lethargy, weakness, dizziness, thick saliva, vomiting, and diarrhea, and can eventually proceed to shock, coma, and death.

But don’t fear! With a little awareness, you can avoid heat distress.
  • Try to schedule outside time during the cooler morning and evening hours.
  • Find a shady spot to rest, and take frequent breaks. Make sure outdoor cats have a cool place to hide from the sun.
  • Keep cool, fresh water available. You can bring a small tupperware or collapsable container on hikes or to the beach to use as a bowl, and some dogs will drink from a water bottle.
  • If you have a water-loving dog, fill a baby pool with enough water for them to splash around in.
  • Be the leader - many dogs don’t know when to call it quits on playtime. When they exhibit signs of overheating, end the game.
  • Keep your pets groomed and comb out their woolly winter undercoat (you know, the stuff in your carpets). Some dogs may benefit from a complete shave, but check with a professional groomer first. For some breeds, the long overcoat helps to keep them cool and removal may be stressful to the dog. Full shaves for cats are not generally recommended. Not only does their dignity forbid it, but the overcoat helps them maintain their body temperature.
  • During the summer, never leave your dog in a parked car for any length of time. Even with the air on it’s not a good idea.
If your pet appears to have heatstroke, remove them from the heat and place them in a cool, comfortable area, preferably indoors. Their temperature must be gradually brought down or they can go into shock. Wet them with lukewarm (NOT ice cold) water, gradually switching to cooler water as their temperature decreases, and increase air circulation if possible to help them cool down. Finally, if the pet is really in distress, seek medical attention. Cooling methods can be employed on the way to the vet.

Also consider the effect of the sun on your pet’s skin and feet. Dogs and cats get sunburned just like we do, and also just like us, can develop skin cancer. For light colored animals, hairless breeds, and those without dark pigmentation around their eyes, apply sunscreen to sensitive areas, particularly the tips of the ears, the nose, and under the eyes. Indoor cats can also get burned through the windows, so be mindful of this if your kitty spends a lot of time in that favorite sunbeam. Check your cat’s ears for inflammation, flaking, tenderness, or mild hair loss. It’s also important to use a pet-specific brand for cats in particular, as the ingredients in sunscreen can be toxic if ingested.

For those tootsies, be sure to consider the temperature of the ground, especially dark pavement, metal, and sand. We think of a dog’s footpads as thick and tough, but they do get burned. Walking in the early morning or evening helps ensure cool pavement, and walking on grass is a great way to beat the heat. You can’t always tell with the naked eye if the pad is burnt, so keep these symptoms in mind:
  • Limping or refusing to walk
  • Licking or chewing at the bottom of the feet (which could also be allergies)
  • Dark pads, red pads, blisters, or a missing portion of a pad
If you suspect your pet has burned pads, get them off the hot surface and indoors, flush the area with cool water, and keep them from licking the pads. Your vet might recommend an antibiotic treatment, as these injuries can become infected. If you need to walk your dog in the middle of the day over asphalt or sand, consider doggie booties to protect their feet, or carry a towel with you that they can stand on if necessary.

With a little bit of planning and care, you can enjoy the dog days with your companion beside you. So get out there, and have fun in the sun!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Purrfect Post Blog Cat(s) of the Month - Mavis and Maude

Mavis and Maude are very special ladies. These sisters came into HSEC together, and they're so close that we would love to see them go into a home together. In fact, if you adopt Mavis, you can take Maude for free - or vice versa!

(Adopting two cats, especially ones that are already friends, doesn't mean twice the work or expense. Take a gander at our post about adopting two cats for more details.)

The girls are about one year old, are both small (around 7lbs) and Mavis has a beautiful solid black coat, while Maude is a gorgeous tortie. They're both just as friendly as can be - the best word we'd use to describe them is 'sweet'. Maude just loves belly rubs, while Mavis prefers head scratchies. They are somewhat shy, and while they would be all right in homes with other pets - they have lived in a home with several cats and a dog - they would probably prefer a quieter setting.
One major reason why Mavis and Maude are such a good pair is the gentle care that Maude provides for her sister. Mavis is a special needs kitty, completely blind in one eye and with limited vision in the other. Her vision is not expected to deteriorate further or to need any special medical attention as she gets older - it's just the way she is!

Resting together in our kitty exercise room.
When the sisters are in an unfamiliar place - like our kitty exercise enclosure at the facility - Mavis makes little chirps. Maude responds by chirping back, and Mavis uses the sound to find her sister and cuddle down together for a good catnap. It is the SWEETEST thing. Once in their new home, Mavis may need some time to become used to unfamiliar surroundings, but with Maude to help her out, these sisters will be snuggling on your lap in no time.

All cats with the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina are evaluated for temperament, spayed/neutered, up to date on vaccines, dewormed, on flea prevention and tested for FIV/FeLV. The adoption fee for adult cats is $70. All cats must leave in a carrier. You can either bring your own or purchase a cardboard carrier for an additional $6.

We are open Friday through Sunday 2pm - 5pm or by appointment only during the week. You can call (252) 413-7247 or email for more information.