Archive for September, 2008

posted by Michel on Sep 30

Not a pretty subject this time. Sometime ago, the Netherlands was shocked by repeated horrific stories in the news that horses in the field were badly mutilated, sexually assaulted and often killed. For a long time this shady character managed to keep law enforcement officers and volunteers alike at bay. Locally, he was known as the “Twente Executioner” after the region where most of his victims were found. Until one day, thank God, he was caught. Investigations showed that this man was a known and convicted psychopath with a taste for extreme and sexually oriented violence.

I’m not saying that, God forbid, all animal molesters are as bad as this particularly foul example, but it does show that to people with a violent nature, preying on the vulnerable and innocent, there’s very little distinction between an animal and a child. Although neglect is not always the same as active abuse, the same principle applies: the molester’s mental condition is potentially dangerous to both animal and human. This is the principal reason why you should ALWAYS report animal abuse to the authorities. If it’s not to protect the animals, then certainly to protect the children.

On a more global level, I feel that there can be no “cultural” excuses for animal abuse either. Bull fights, dog fights, clubbing of baby seals, just to name a view, are examples of how we are showing our children that it is OK to be cruel to animals. Whatever the excuse may be, economic, festivity or otherwise, apparently there appear to be plenty of good reasons for this misbehaviour. So if it’s OK to be cruel to animals, where do you draw the line? Thus, many children all over the world will grow up not knowing where the fine line between responsible behaviour and abuse is. Risky business! And it’s coming back to haunt us already if I interpret the current state of affairs in international newspapers correctly …..

Edit April 2009: I found a web site that mentions research into this subject by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The article ishere. If you read the article, be prepared for some horrific details of what unsavoury stuff our “fellow humans” are capable of …

posted by Michel on Sep 29

Fluffy, kind soul

Fluffy, kind soul

We already had a bond when we first met at the shelter, but yesterday I took this 8 year old cross-breed for an extended walk in the park together with our own dog Tessa. They got on really well and Fluffy turned out to be a very kind and friendly dog. I wouldn’t hesitate to introduce him to the neighbourhood’s kids. He’s quiet and well mannered and knows his commands too. Super dog!

posted by Michel on Sep 29

Bruno, playful gentleman

Bruno, playful gentleman

What a delightful animal our Bruno. He’s sweet and kind, loves walking, plenty of energy and guards well too. Of course, as you would expect from a sizeable dog as this, he can be a bit of a handful too, but he’s always fun to be with. Bruno listens very well and I’m sure that with a bit more training he could even go further than the extended set of commands that he already knows. He might even be trained as a police dog.

posted by Michel on Sep 29

Wallie, clownesk and strong

Wallie, clownesk and strong

If you believe that dogs have a sense of humour, Wallie’s your guy! This strong fellow needs work on his manners, but now that he’s sterilised he should calm down nicely. Wallie just loves walking, playing and has keen interest in his surroundings. He knows his basic commands. His new guardian should go on an obedience course with him but is guaranteed to have a lot of fun.

posted by Michel on Sep 29

Diamond, tall blonde lady

Diamond, tall blonde lady

Diamond has a very lively and kind character. Due to her size she might scare people off a bit, but she’s ever so friendly at heart. However, her previous owner did not train her well so although she knows the basic commands like sit and down, she pulls on the leash very strongly. Nothing that good training and a bit of creative leadership wouldn’t cure really. Great dog!

Fay

posted by Michel on Sep 29

Fay, proud German Shepard

Fay, proud German Shepard

It is said that Fay got here because her previous owner could no longer take care of her. How sad, since Fay (5) is an absolutely beautiful, friendly and obedient dog. She would make somebody an excellent friend for life. Fay loves to play “fetch” and walk through the park. She’s well-behaved and doesn’t pull on the leash much. However, she might have a hip condition as do many German Sheperds, so she can no longer be a working dog. However, she’s a delightful dog!

posted by Michel on Sep 29

Skippy, slightly disabled but cheerful

Skippy is a very cheerful fellow. Not much is known about his background, but he seems to have a medical condition on his back hips, causing him to hop around pretty much like a kangaroo. Hence, his name. The shelter had him X-rayed but nothing structurally wrong was found, so that it seems a neurological condition. Nonetheless, Skippy is ever cheerful and well behaved. He has a wheelchair similar to the one shown here. A few weeks after I took this picture, our friend was adopted. Great news!

posted by Michel on Sep 29

Just imagine that your sense of smell is many thousands of times beter than what it is now. Wouldn’t you think your “tastes” would differ wildly from your current ones, which after all are only based on our very limited perspective? And if a species evolved to take full advantage of those skills, wouldn’t the inherently see the world entirely different than us?

Of course they would! To remain within our own species, just go on holiday to some exotic place a few hours away by plane and you can already notice the difference: different foods, different spices, different tastes. So cross-species the differences are bound to be even more different. Of course, I’m also flabbergasted at our dog’s fascination with another dog’s behind where unsavoury odours (not to mention the more obvious) come forth. However, I’m convinced that with their acute sense of smell, they’re able to go that extra distance and distinguish the rather mundane from the real information that dogs find so interesting about each other such as, sex, age, status, health, all in a single sniff!

How does this translate to your regular visits to the pet food section? Well, I abhor those ads on television which are designed to appeal to US, to OUR limited abilities. Please don’t be fooled into thinking that what we find appetising, will be good for our pets. Tessa does not care about the colour of the tin’s wrapper. Natasha certainly doesn’t appreciate the carefully selected additive perfumes. In fact, Mickey developed a nasty rash because of artificial colouring in one product that I bought because he liked the taste so much.

Buy the healthy variety, the one that’s backed by science rather than show. It may cost more, but your pet will live longer and lead a happier and active life. It may also help reduce those odours I mentioned earlier, even the ones we can smell …

posted by Michel on Sep 29

In many countries, animals have the same legal status as your PC, i.e. it is a “thing” that you own. Say that someone kills your dog. Than effectively he has damaged your property, no more, no less. Fortunately, in some countries there is a Prevention of Cruelty to Animals law (enforced I would hope) that allows the police to take action against those heartless b*st*rds that hurt animals, but otherwise the only thing you can do is claim damages. This obviously completely disregards the emotional bond that caring humans tend to have with animals in their care.

So, this raises the question of the nature of our legal relationship with our pets: do we simply “own” them or is there more to it than that? Recently, there has been a lot of talk about responsible pet ownership. Of course, this is only a minimal requirement. We are morally (and should be legally) responsible for our pet’s well being. Others want to go further than that and say that you cannot own a living creature like you own a car and so you are the guardian of the pets that you look after. Personally, I really like the idea of guardianship. When I think of my own pets, there is no doubt that the nature of my relationship with Luca, one of our cats, is of a very different and much more interactive level than the relationship I have with, say, my sofa. Luca shows happiness, tells me when he’d like dinner and even lets me know he’s not feeling well. Needless to say, my sofa never does any of that. Which in my mind proves the point: animals, even farm animals and wildlife, are a different story altogether and therefore need to be given the legal status they deserve. Better still: those that maltreat them should be brought to justice!

posted by Michel on Sep 26

Modern training methods are based on stimulating behaviour that you want by giving treats and simply (but completely) ignoring behaviour that you don’t want. This of course a tremendous improvement over previous, less animal-friendly methods. So you think you have trained your canine friend well? He or she sits, lies down, comes when you call and shakes a paw. Of course, your friend has earned a just reward after performing all those commands. But have you ever wondered who trains who? From your dog’s perspective, summoning you to come up with a cuddle or a doggy biscuit is as easy as sitting up nicely. Ah well, it doesn´t really matter, does it? Because in a truly symbiotic relationship, both parties are happy! Tessa certainly is!

Taking a rest after a long training session

Taking a rest after a long training session