If you’re a fan of gazpacho, this is a delicious recipe to try. It’s healthy and refreshing, and pretty easy to make! Here’s the link:
This is the full text of an article I wrote for the Greenville News about getting shelter dogs trained to lower the return rate to shelters. The article was published on July 26th in the Greenville News, but due to space constraints, about half the article didn’t make it into the paper. After speaking to trainers and learning that good behavior, and stopping undesirable behaviors could be taught relatively easily and inexpensively, I wrote this article in the hopes that people ready to give up on their dogs, or thinking about adopting a shelter dog, would find this information useful. So, here is the article as originally written, with accompanying photos.
Kelly McComas with Moose at the Greenville Humane Society
Life and death. Dogs in so many animal shelters face this reality on a daily basis as they wait eagerly for their forever homes. A knowledge of basic commands such as sit, stay, no, or come could save a dog’s life. Not only because they might prevent a dog from chewing on something hazardous, or chasing after something and not returning to their owner. This knowledge could also make a dog more appealing to someone looking to adopt from a shelter. And good behavior makes it more likely that a dog won’t be returned to a shelter.
According to the ASPCA, approximately 7.6 million “companion animals” enter animal shelters every year. And approximately 2.7 million shelter animals are adopted every year.
The Greenville Humane Society, one of the largest no-kill shelters in the Southeast, opened their doors in 1937. And in May of 2011, they moved to their new location at 305 Airport Road in Greenville. According to Executive Director Kim Pitman, there was a 25% – 30% return rate at the old building. Their current return rate is now less than 5%. And they do over 5,200 adoptions in one year. They receive approximately 65% of their animals from other shelters, and approximately 35% are owner surrenders. They usually have between 125-140 animals available for adoption, with the daily cost being $10 per day per animal. Puppies are often adopted after being at GHS after only one or two days. Older dogs average between a week and a month to find their forever homes.
Pitman says the most common reasons that owners surrender their animals are: they’re moving somewhere that they can’t take their pets, they’re having a baby and don’t have time for their pet, finances, and behavioral issues. Kelly McComas, GHS Operation Manager, adds that new pet owners often don’t realize that they don’t have enough time for a pet, or that owning a pet is a lot more responsibility than they expected.
According to Pitman, the number one factor in a successful adoption is knowing as much as possible about the animal, and the prospective owner. She likens the counselors’ jobs there as matchmakers. She explained that they try to know as much as possible about the animal upon admission to the shelter – owner surrenders involve filling out a profile sheet. If it isn’t an owner surrender and they have little or no information about the dog, they bring the dog outside, off leash to the courtyard so the counselors and volunteers get a sense of the dog’s personality.
The counselors talk to potential adopters about what they’re looking for. Do they want an energetic dog? Or a lap dog? Big dog or small dog? Are they home a lot? And, if they have other pets, they are encouraged to bring them for a meet and greet. There are also bonding rooms for adopters and pets to get to know each other.
The other big thing they encourage is getting the dog trained. The Humane Society has a partnership with nearby Camp Bob Wow, where new owners get discounted training classes which can include leash behavior, socialization, and general good manners. Taking this step could make the difference between a frustrated owner and a successful adoption.
Patty Honkala is the Training Manager of Behavior Buddies at Camp Bow Wow. Her philosophy is, “Help people, help families live more harmoniously with pets. That keeps dogs out of shelters. Educate people on how their dog thinks – then they can communicate with their dog.” She emphasized that the owner must be consistent and committed to have success. People’s behavior must be modified in order to modify their dog’s behavior.
Patty Honkala with Gracie (adopted as a puppy to a great home) at Camp Bow Wow
Honkala says, “Positive reinforcement training builds a great relationship with the dog and owner. It makes dogs want to do what you’re trying to get them to do.” If she sees more difficult behavior such as aggression, it might be a chemical imbalance and she’ll suggest to the owner to get the dog medically checked.
Most trainers offer different options for working with your dog. These include group, private, or in-home sessions. And it doesn’t have to take very long to see results.
Honkala gave an example of a successful outcome. A mother and daughter moved in together and each had a dog. The dogs didn’t get along. They couldn’t even be in the same room. Honkala diagnosed their issues as fear-based and under-confident aggression by one of the dogs. Through confidence building and positive training including lots of praise and affection, by the second session, the dog initiating the problems began to relax. Honkala taught the owners to read the dogs’ body language. She worked with them on correcting and reinforcing behavior in a positive way. The dogs sleep together now.
Sue Conklin, owner of The Puppy Nanny’s Place in Simpsonville, is also a big believer in positive reinforcement to modify a dog’s behavior. For example, if your dog is barking or lunging at other dogs when on the leash, Conklin says the first step is going on a fact-finding mission. Find out what is setting your dog off, the distance at which your dog is reacting, and then not reacting. This behavior usually comes from a place of fear, not dominance.
Conklin said one of the biggest mistakes people who adopt older dogs make is to assume they are house-trained and chew-trained. She said owners need to start off as if they’ve adopted a puppy. “Good, positive reinforcement training will only make your relationship with your dog better. If you train people to handle their dogs properly, the dogs will fall in line.”
Pitman and McComas couldn’t agree more. They related the story of a dog named Lucy who came to them from a hoarding situation from another shelter. Lucy was shy and terrified when she arrived at GHS. They knew that whoever adopted Lucy would have to be a very special person.
There was a young girl who had severe migraines who was looking for a dog. Pitman said, “She couldn’t keep up in school because she missed so many days. But she wanted an animal she would have to take care of, instead of someone always taking care of her.”
So the young girl met scared little Lucy and they hit it off, and Lucy got a forever home, and the young girl got a loving and faithful companion. The girl studied how to train her dog. Soon the rescue with little hope also learned to do tricks and dance. She has now become a therapy dog. The young girl is all grown up, and is now in school to be a vet tech. And Lucy sleeps with her girl in a real bed every night.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved
The more I think about recent tragedies, most certainly starting with the Charleston massacre, I believe change can only start with us. How we speak and how we convey our attitudes in respect to differences. I’m not even talking about the awful prejudices against people of other skin colors, ethnic backgrounds, or religions. I’m talking about our intolerance – that seems to be getting so much worse – against people who believe differently than we do.
Hatred and ridicule are rampant. How many times do we use the word ‘hate?’ I hate that politician. He’s an idiot.
How many times do we do this in front of our impressionable children? We give lip service to telling them not to hate. But that word comes out of our mouths multiple times a day.
We most likely really don’t hate that person. We may dislike what they do. We may oppose their beliefs. But in the majority of cases, do we really hate them? Or if we took a minute, could we see their humanity? The families they love and who love them. The things they’ve overcome to get where they are. The pain they’ve been through. Most likely, somewhere, we can find common ground. That’s the first step into acknowledging their humanity.
It starts with us. We need to catch ourselves before we use that word. And we need to stop before we let our feelings of frustration at why they don’t believe what we believe turn into something much worse.
Our children are watching. They’re listening. And they’re absorbing all of this intolerance into their psyches. And look what’s happening to us.
It starts with us.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved
If you’re looking for a quick, healthy recipe for all the zucchini you’re finding as summer approaches, I’ve come up with a great recipe for you. I spiralize the zucchini so it’s like pasta, and add beefless crumbles, so it’s a healthy, gluten-free, vegetarian version of spaghetti and meat sauce. Give it a try – you won’t miss the pasta or the meat!
As many of you know, I lost my mom last year. It still doesn’t make sense for me to write that. How do you lose the person who gave you life? How is she here one day, and gone the next? How do you find your footing when you wake up reeling every single day?
And here comes Mother’s Day. A day when we honor our moms for all they’ve done. And everywhere you turn, you’re inundated with Mother’s Day ads, tributes, sales, and deals. In recent years, I wondered about my friends who had lost their moms, whether long ago or recently. Were they OK watching everyone else talk about what they were going to be doing with their moms, or what they were buying their moms, or all the wonderful things their moms had done for them? Was it rubbing it in their face that I could still do all that with my mom? I had no way of knowing unless I asked. But I didn’t ask. I just felt pangs of guilt, hoping I wasn’t making it worse for them.
And now, I’m in their shoes. And the answer would be, it’s complicated. Yes, I feel a pang of envy. Yes, it hurts that my mom is not here, and no matter how much I cry out for her, she will no longer answer.
But on the other hand, I am happy for those who can still feel their mother’s embrace. Who can still confide their fears to her. Who still have the time to right any wrongs, apologize for any hurts, smooth over the bumps. Because the love of a mother is so primal and unconditional, there is nothing else like it in our lives. And we all deserve to know that love for as long as we possibly can. I do recognize that there are cases where the transgression is so egregious, and the breach is so devastating, that reconciliation isn’t possible. But in many other cases, the hurts and perceived transgressions aren’t worth the loss of a relationship.
I want people who still have their moms to realize that life can change on a dime, and while we all think there is always still time, that’s an illusion. And a delusion. As the saying goes, no one is promised tomorrow. You can still change the course of your relationship when your mom is still alive. You can forgive many things, or you can ask forgiveness as well. Because once your mom is gone, so are your chances of making things right.
There is no perfect person and there is no perfect relationship. But when you let go of expectations of perfection, you can forge a new, more adult relationship. I know I did with my mom. And with her absence from my life, I’ve realized that so much of what I’ve done for most of my life has been with the hopes of sharing that experience with her in some way, making her proud, getting her approval. Any successes I’ve had since her passing have been kind of hollow. Because the first thing I want to do is call her on the phone, or send her a copy of something I’ve had published. Her smile and praise meant the world to me. And until I lost her, I had no idea that it was all centered around her.
If you do have your mom alive on this Earth, and you have any kind of decent relationship with her, let her know how much she means to you. You might not ever get that chance again.
But if you, too, are still finding yourself off-balance by her loss, look for something that would make her smile. Or make her proud. Or that keeps her alive for you. Because although she might be gone, the greatest tribute to your mom is the love that will always be in your heart.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved
In most parts of the country, this awful winter is starting to loosen its grip, and spring is attempting to make an appearance. Living in the South, it was especially jarring to deal with as many weather events as we had the past few months, consisting of freezing temperatures, snow, and ice. The relief is palpable as we walk outside and see determined little buds pushing their way through the hard ground, and trees bearing welcome blossoms. I do understand that compared to many areas of the country, most particularly Boston which had the most mind-boggling epic snowfall the past few months, we really have little cause to complain. But there are reasons one chooses to live in the South, and weather is not the least of those factors.
So, when schools were closed due to the ice covering most surfaces, I heeded all warnings to be careful. That black ice was sneaky and insidious, and every step outside needed to be taken with concentrated caution. And I was careful – at my house where I hunkered down during the bad weather. But after days of closed schools, meaning no tutoring, things changed by the end of the week, and I embraced the return to making a living.
And then, wham! The black ice got me. I ended up with a spiral fracture of the fibula. The pain was constant and it was hard to sleep more than a few hours at a time. The inability to walk or do much of anything for myself was frustrating. And at the time, I didn’t think to ask for details when the doctor told me that he wanted to see me again in 4-5 weeks. In my mind, I thought that meant that in about a month I’d be back to normal. As normal as I can be, anyway.
The first thing that I discovered to my shock, was that I have absolutely no ability whatsoever to get around on crutches. Having never broken any bones prior to this, my thoughts about crutches were largely based on the people I’ve seen who seem to get around with the greatest of ease. Younger people. I thought I was in halfway decent shape. How ego-deflating to realize I couldn’t even make it down the driveway in under 10 minutes. Even worse, there’s a step of approximately 10 inches in height from the kitchen into the garage. It was hard enough getting down without toppling over, but nearly impossible to get back into the house. What to do? For over a week, I didn’t even leave my house. But I was getting cabin fever. So I decided to be brave, and at the same time give up any shred of dignity I had left. I put a pillow on a chair by the door, and when I came home from a brief drive that somewhat restored my sanity, I opened the door, yanked the pillow off the chair, and crawled into the house. That went on for 4 weeks. My son couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just hop back into the house the way he demonstrated to me effortlessly. Several times. Insult to injury.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the options available these days when one breaks an ankle, I have to say that the invention of the knee scooter has been an absolute life-saver. Due to my complete ineptitude with crutches, I would probably be living in bed, under my covers if it weren’t for the knee scooter. But until I got the OK to balance on the fractured-ankle leg, I was unable to get the scooter in and out of the car on my own. Meaning I either had to drive with a companion or be meeting someone at my destination who would do that for me. Or, in the case of my last doctor visit, when a lovely lady in the parking lot took such pity on me seeing me trying to make my way into the doctor’s office using crutches, she went to my car with me and got the scooter out so I wouldn’t further humiliate myself. It was great until I had to get it back in the car by myself after my appointment. No helpful souls were in sight. I ended up almost breaking my nose as the loose end of the scooter swung into the car as I attempted to not fall over. As I said, the concept of dignity has pretty much disappeared from my life.
I went back to the doctor after 4 weeks and was told that things are improving and to return in 3 more weeks. Wait, what? No miraculous healing after 4 weeks? But when will I be normal I asked him, again, assuming that there was hope I could ever be considered normal. He studied me and asked what being normal meant. I told him that in this case, I meant able to walk again. Well, after 3 weeks of more of the same – except for now being allowed to use the bad leg for balance and apply slight pressure on it – if things continued to improve, I might be able to use the air cast as a walking boot. I once again forgot to ask for how long.
After almost 6 weeks, there is hopefully a light at the end of the tunnel. With the onset of spring, comes a bit more mobility and freedom. Although things that you never think about are suddenly major obstacles. How do you take out the trash? Vacuum or wash floors? Doing laundry is completely exhausting. Grocery shopping is finally an option, but only one bag per trip, and getting the groceries into the house while on crutches involves at least 3 trips of slowly emptying out the one bag into 3 little bags. I’ve been lucky that I’ve received help from my children, and kind and generous friends. When I’ve felt down, the drive-through window at TCBY has been a lifeline. I didn’t realize until someone pointed it out to me how lucky I was that I broke the left ankle since I still retained my ability to drive. Whew!
My ego has been appropriately humbled. My delusions of fitness and youth are now gone. Reality is harsh and kind of scary, but I am relieved that things do seem to be headed in the right direction. Except, of course, for the times I do topple over or run over my toes with the scooter. Again, lessons in humility.
And on a serious note, I have chastised myself for my bouts of self-pity. Because this is just a glimpse into the world of those who have to live with some sort of disability on a long-term or permanent basis. Everything we take for granted can be daily obstacles for those who can’t take anything for granted. Kindness helps. Patience helps. And empathy, putting yourself in the shoes of another person who is going through a tough time in whatever shape or form, is probably the best gift you can give to anyone.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved
If you’re not already subscribing to Naturally Nancy, it’s my healthy heating blog, including recipes. And if you’re craving comfort food in the midst of this awful winter, please stop by and take a look at a great recipe for Slow-Cooker Moroccan Lentil Soup!