Product Review: Walk In Sync

While attending BlogPaws for the first time a few months ago I was lucky enough to meet Alecia Evans, the creator of the Walk In Sync Humane Dog Walking and Training System. The system works amazingly well on even very hyper or distracted dogs, and the best part is that you don’t have to worry about your pup choking and gagging from pulling on a collar.

The Walk In Sync system includes a harness and leash, though I think the harness is the most ingenious part of the design. I work at a doggie daycare/boarding facility and have to deal with all kinds of harnesses that people bring in for their dogs. Many of the harnesses are so complicated and strangely built that I end up putting them on completely wrong. Thankfully, with the Walk in Sync harness, that’s not a problem at all. You slip the main part over your dog’s head like a necklace, then reach down and pull the other two straps up to the clip on the back. There’s even red color-coding on the clip to show you which way it faces. The leash attaches to the harness on the dog’s chest, rather than on his back. Describing it in writing doesn’t do the simplicity of the system justice; I encourage you to check out some of the demonstration videos on the Walk In Sync website. They’re very easy to understand and follow.

As you can tell, I really like the design of the harness, but how does it perform? I used it on my dog Azu at the beginning of a hike, when she’s generally at her most energetic. I apologize for the glare and road noise in this video, but I think it gets the idea across:

The videos on the Walk In Sync site do a much better job of describing the simple training method, but basically you walk forward until the dog puts tension on the leash. At that point you stop, and usually the slight sideways pressure from the harness will make the dog take a step back or toward you to put some slack in the leash. Once the dog does that, you praise him and continue, repeating the process as needed. As you can see from my video with Azu, she was so distracted that she needed some nudging the first couple times we stopped to get her to step back. I was amazed at how quickly she caught on to what I wanted her to do, though. After just a few stops she was automatically adjusting her speed to match mine, without straining toward the bushes to sniff things.

After watching some of the videos on the Walk In Sync site and getting to try it out on my own dog, I highly recommend the Walk In Sync Humane Dog Walking and Training System. If you give it a shot please let me know in the comments!

You can find Walk In Sync on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as well.

The final bit of information I’d like to share is that September 27th is Train Humane Day. Train Humane’s mission is to:

…make the world more humane for dogs through the use of humane training tools and education.

Raise the bar on the tools we use to train all dogs and puppies to ensure that they are humane, safe, respectful and cause as little stress as possible without choking.

I think it’s a great sentiment. Mark 9/27/12 on your calendars!

PETS ADD LIFE (AND LOVE! AND FUR!) II

This is the second part to our Pets Add Life posts!

The Furry Side of YouTube

If you’re anything like me (and I suspect, as an animal-lover, you are), you tend to spend way too much time taking videos of your dogs, watching videos of your cats, and enjoying tons of videos of other people’s furkids. It’s become an integral part of our online lives and I, for one, go into withdrawal without my daily dose of cute and fuzzy videos! But the videos from the PAL take it even one step further by adding a great message on top of cute and funny! A big part of PAL campaign revolves around the idea that it’s best to have more than one pet so they can keep each other company while you’re away at work. Doesn’t sound like a funny subject, does it? Well then you haven’t seen the videos yet! We’ve kept you waiting for them long enough so here they are!

The Pets Add Life Pledge!

So now that you’re all geared up to go out and get your best little buddy a little buddy of their own, let’s go ahead and proudly declare that you’ll be adopting that next pet! Take the Pets Add Life Pet Pledge! It doesn’t matter if it’s from a local shelter, a breed specific rescue, or a stray you find on the street, just make sure that it’s an animal in need of a forever home! Adopt, Don’t Shop!

Want to help animals in need but your house is already filled to the roof with rescues (*cough*ours*cough*)? No problem! You can also take a pledge to volunteer at a shelter (or rescue) or you can pledge to share a photo of a homeless pet to help it find its forever home! Or you can pledge all three! I know most of you plan on doing these things already so really, it’s a no-brainer! Add your name to the pledge and give your voice to the voiceless! Then get your friend, your neighbor, that guy at the grocery store to take the pledge too! Together, we can save a whole lot of animals!

This post is sponsored by the Pets Add Life campaign and the American Pet Products Association. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about the benefits and joys of pet ownership. We wanted to join the campaign because the message is right up our alley.

Lovable Adoptables: Toni

Finally, as promised, a video of our gorgeous foster dog, Toni! You have to see the video to see how cute and silly she is but for some quick info, she is a 7 year old pit bull mix from the Austin Animal Center. She has been spayed and is up to date on her shots. She unfortunately is heartworm positive but once she gets a confirmed adopter the shelter will be able to get her treated. She is a wonderful girl and we just love her to pieces. Please watch the video and if you live in the Austin area and are interested in adopting her, please let us know and we’ll get you set up through the Austin Animal Center. Her ID number is A612683. She will also be at the Mutt Match which will be held at the Austin Animal Center next Saturday, December 17th, 2011. Enjoy!

Pet ‘Net 2011: Adopting Special Needs Cats

Hey guys! We are excited to be participating in the 2011 Pet ‘Net event which takes place November 16th! This year’s event revisits the topic of the first Pet ‘Net held 4 years ago: pet adoption. How perfect is that for ILRA? Before we get on with our topic, however, I’d like to talk a little more about Pet Net. It is put on by the wonderful people at Petside and this year they are determined to use it to make a difference in the lives of animals. To add some fun for the bloggers and encourage great articles, there will be a voting component this year where the blog chosen as the best will win a $500 donation to the shelter of their choice! How great is that? And Petside has partnered with the Iams Bags 4 Bowls Initiative so everyone can get involved with social media to help feed animals in need! There are two components to this: Facebook and twitter.

Twitter Campaign

On twitter, each tweet with Pet ‘Net hash tag (#IHeartShelterPets) and @Iams will yield 25 meals to local shelters. This includes original tweets as well as RTs! Be sure to have BOTH in your tweet!

Facebook Campaign

On Facebook, every personal adoption story and photo posted onto Petside’s wall will show your support for your local shelters and give you the chance to be featured on Petfinder.com as a Happy Tail story!. Every comment or “like” on each post will yield an ADDITIONAL donation of one bowl of food to local shelters and each “like” of the entire page results in a donation of 25 bowls!! So be sure to not only post your story but encourage all your friends to like all the posts. This has the potential to be HUGE!

Adopting Special Needs Cats

Now onto our topic, and one that is near and dear to our hearts: Adopting Special Needs Cats! As many of you know, we are very personally involved in rescuing animals. Over the last few years, we have been involved in Trap-Neuter-Return, helped maintain feral colonies, fostered dogs, saved a cat who had been hit and left to die on the side of the road, caught and cared for cats from the gutter outside our home, raised 2 kittens from a feral mom and successfully moved a feral cat from one location to another. We live and breathe rescue. You would think all of that would be the hard part but it’s not. To us, the hardest part is adopting out those animals, most specifically, the cats. Dogs are easy but as any shelter or rescue will tell you, cats are just hard to adopt out. And I don’t know the reason. Maybe there are less cat people than dog people out there. But more specifically for us, we tend to end up with what could be considered “special needs” kitties. And I would like to take away some of the stigma from them so that wonderful cats like ours can find their loving forever homes faster.

FIV+ Cats

So what are special needs cats? They could have a variety of issues. Some are certainly harder to care for than others but some problems that our fosters have don’t really affect them at all and yet it still seems to scare people off. For instance, we have a habit of being found by cats that are FIV+. FIV, like HIV, means that the cat has a potentially lowered immune system. Like HIV, this status carries a very scary connotation. But if people would do a bit of research, they would quickly find that this is not something that should deter you from adopting a cat. Believe me, when we had our first foster diagnosed with it, we were worried. Would she be sick all the time? Would she make our own cats sick? One vet, going on old, now discounted thinking, even told us that we should put our FIV cats down. Then we came across an article from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary that set us at ease. Cats with FIV can live perfectly normal lives. There are cats that are 20 years old with it! While it can be spread to other cats, it is only through deep puncture wounds or sexual contact. That means that there are people out there that have both FIV positive and negative cats living together with no problems. If the cats are properly socialized, they can love and cuddle with one another and share food bowls and litter boxes as much as they want and the negative cat will be perfectly safe! And you know what? They aren’t going to be sick all the time!

Our first FIV+ foster, Storm, was never sick the entire year we had her and since her adoption, has continued to thrive without consequence. O’Malley, the cat that we rescued from the side of the road, was also diagnosed with FIV. Despite that, he recovered from his wounds and underwent major surgery with no ill effects from his FIV status! FIV is not something to run and hide from. It’s merely something to be aware of. What it really comes down to is that you will need to be certain that your FIV+ cat is kept up to date on all their vaccinations, that you lower their risk of exposure by making them indoor-only cats and that if they do become sick, you take them to the vet immediately because they may not be able to fight off their illness as easily as a negative cat. Now that’s not so daunting anymore, is it?

Urinary Blockages or Crystals

Another special need that we have run across in our cat family is cats with a history of urinary blockage or crystals in the urine. We rescued Jacob from the gutter outside our house. He was perfectly healthy until one day we found him straining to urinate. After a few hours of him crying, we knew he had to be rushed to the vet right away. Because a blockage can kill a cat in mere hours, he had to have a catheter put in immediately, had to have an IV drip and be put on antibiotics. Granted, the emergency vet cost was enormous and we still have not recovered from it. BUT, just because a cat has had a blockage in the past is NOT a reason to skip over them when looking to adopt a cat. For one, there is no way of telling which cats will develop blockages. Like I said, Jacob was perfect until his happened. So avoiding one with a known history of a blockage is no guarantee that you won’t have to deal with one. Knowing a cat has had it can once again, just make you a more informed owner. To keep Jacob from developing one again, he is on a special diet food. There are both dry and canned versions and a few different brands that are specially formulated for cats with this issue. They are of the right acidity that they keep new crystals from forming. While a special diet might seem daunting, we feed Jacob the more expensive wet food every day and it still costs less than $25 a month. And Jacob hasn’t had a single problem since being on his prescription diet. Now that’s not so daunting, is it?

“Feral” Kittens

One last special case I’d like to discuss is kittens from feral mothers. While this isn’t something you might consider a special need, it seems to be something that people are reluctant to take on. Here’s the thing – there is a definite difference between stray and feral cats. Feral cats are wild and yes, pretty much un-tameable. You can keep a feral cat for years and it may never calm down and come to like you. Feral cats are happiest left outside in managed colonies. When we caught Matilda, we were hoping that she would tame. But she was miserable inside so eventually we released her at our new place (carefully following relocation procedures so she would recognize this as her new home). Her two kittens, Mel and Maggie Mae, are a different story. Granted, we didn’t catch them until they were already close to 8 weeks old. That was definitely pushing the cusp – it is best to get the kittens as young as possible so they don’t learn to be afraid of humans from their mom. Don’t get me wrong, it has been a struggle. It has taken us months of work to get the kittens to where they are now. But it has been completely worth it! Maggie Mae is such a little cuddle bug who loves to sit in your lap and just purr away. Mel, while a wild child, has also taken to liking his chin scratched and ears rubbed. They are absolutely gorgeous cats that anyone would be lucky to have in their family. So should a possible few months of patience stop you from adopting a wonderful cat? I think we all know the answer to that question!

Other Special Needs

Now of course there are conditions that are more work than these examples. Diabetic cats would need shots every day. Cats with heart problems like our Merlin require pills every day. Cats with amputations or blindess or any other special need will, yes, need special attention. But I can tell you story after story of how people cope with these problems not only to the point of the animals surviving, but truly thriving. Animals with special needs rely on you to care for them more than those without them. But I can promise you that they know it and they are grateful. You can’t help but develop a special bond with an animal that you have to put a little bit of extra effort into. Don’t you think that extra closeness, that extra time spent together, will be more than worth it in the end? The next time you come across a special needs cat, I hope you will take the time to learn about their needs and find a special place for them in your heart and home.

Adopting & Donating

NOTE: For anyone living in or near Austin, TX, O’Malley, Mel and Maggie Mae are still available for adoption. They are all amazing cats and deserve to find their very own forever homes. You can learn more about O’Malley’s story in his video below. If you could possibly donate towards his care, that would be amazing as well and can be done at his ChipIn. We are able to do the physical rescue and rehabilition but without financial support, we won’t be able to help as many animals in need. Thank you!

Pet Dental Month Challenge Results

As some of you may know, for February we did a challenge with our dogs in honor of Pet Dental Health Month. The challenge consisted of feeding a Greenie to each of our 3 dogs every day. We made no other changes to their diet or behaviors. We took pictures before the challenge began and then at the end of each week to document the change. We also had our vet grade the boys’ oral health both before and after the challenge was over. I have to say that I am very impressed with the results!

You can see more on the vet’s ratings on our first week’s post here but for easy comparison, here are the results from both vet visits. To reduce bias, the vet was not reminded of the scores she gave before the challenge.

The Scores!

Spunky
Before Challenge
Grade 1-2: Moderate Gingivitis
Marked Plaque
Mild Calculus & Gingival Inflammation on the back molars
After Challenge
Grade 1: Early Gingivitis
Mild Plaque – Improvement!
Normal Rating on Gingival Inflammation – Improvement!
Normal Rating on Calculus – Improvement!
Snarf
Before Challenge
Grade 1: Early Gingivitis
Moderate Plaque
Mild Calculus & Gingival Inflammation
After Challenge
Grade
Mild Plaque – Improvement!
Mild Calculus – Same
Normal Rating on Gingival Inflammation – Improvement!
Rufus
Before Challenge
Grade 2: Advanced Gingivitis
Marked Plaque & Gingival Inflammation
Moderate Calculus
After Challenge
Grade
Moderate Plaque – Improvement!
Moderate Calculus w/ Vet Note: “Improved greatly L side” – Improvement!
Mild Gingival Inflammation – Improvement!

Video Time!

Check out this video documenting the change in our pup’s teeth over the course of the challenge!


(Here’s a link to the video as well!)

As you can see, using the Greenies for just one month had a tremendous impact on the oral health of our boys! Rufus, who started with the worst rating & most problems, had the most marked changes. It was so cool to see his teeth change as the days went on. You can see in the pictures how the plaque & calculus on both his and Spunky’s teeth broke off more and more as the month wore on. Even Snarf, who as a chewer had the best teeth to begin with, showed improvement. All the dogs had improved breath as well, which is one way we can most easily judge the condition of their mouth.

The only “problem” we encountered, which is just a learned lesson really, is that dogs, like people, tend to favor a side of their mouth. We noticed over the weeks that the dogs tended to chew mostly on one side and by the end we saw a definite difference between the two sides. I’m not sure if you can really convince a dog that it needs to chew evenly. Sometimes we tried holding it on the opposite side but they always tried to switch it back. Still, while Greenies may not be the end-all, be-all to oral health, it is a GREAT tool to improve it. And I guarantee your pups will never complain about it! Ours now beg us for them, the spoiled brats! ^_^

And the Winner Is…

Congratulations to Kelly Ann T. for winning our Pet Dental Health Month Challenge Giveaway! Because you participated in the challenge with us, you’ve won TWELVE boxes of Greenies of whatever size your dogs require! Make sure you email us your dogs’ weights as well as a shipping address which we’ll pass along to Greenies so they can get the prize to you.

We here at ILRA would like to give a huge thank you to Greenies for providing us with the product for this challenge as well as for providing the prize! But most of all, thank you for making such a great product that really, truly does what it is meant to. Our kids are healthier for it and you can’t put a price on that!