Friends with benefits
Let’s face it: Owning a pet is a hassle. We have to feed them, give them attention, clean up their poop. They are solely dependent on us for everything in their lives. But they sure do love us for it. The benefits of pet ownership are many: They staunch our loneliness. They make us laugh. Through our pets we make new friends, get more exercise, keep our hearts more open than they otherwise would be. And they sure are glad to see us when we comne home. For this year’s pets issue, we looked at some of the ways pets — specifically dogs and cats — can’ enrich our lives. Libby Scandale started Project BARK — Bringing Animals Relief and Kindness — for pets who spend their days tethered in their yards. The domiciles she builds make the long wait more bearable. Dr. Elizabeth Eilers of the Cat Clinic in Greensboro has devoted her practice to the care of cats, who sometimes give us the impression they could care less about us. But she says cats are just as smart and loving as their canine counterparts, maybe a bit more aloof. And the men in the Forsyth County Jail who take part in the New Leash on Life program have found love and fulfillment in the training of shelter dogsduring their incarceration. Pets don’t ask for much from us: food, shelter and affection. In return, they give us unrequited love. In the end, that’s a pretty good deal.
‘ The truth about cats and dogs
by Brian clarey Dr. Elizabeth Eilers, owner, the Cat Clinic; 2449 Battleground Ave. Greensboro; 336.545.3390; catclinicofgreensboro.com YES! Weekly:’ Why cats? Dr. Elizabeth Eilers: The Cat Clinic started over 22 yeas ago by Dr. Mark Silvers. He felt there was a need for a cat-only hospital in the area. I originally had come from working in cat-and-dog practices in Wilmington and in California, and I just really liked the clinic and have found it’s just a lot of fun and quite challenging to work with cats only. Y!W: What are some of the challenges with cats? EE: Cats are really good at hiding how they feel. Sometimes they’ll have no clinical signs that something is wrong with them but by the time they come to us they are really sick. Dogs are really expressive; cats will just go hide. The other thing is that they just don’t like getting outside their normal environment — they can act very differently [at the clinic] than they do at home. Y!W: What are some of the other differences between cats and dogs. EE: The types of diseases [they get], personality traits in general. The reactions to meds can be completely different. Y!W: I was told that there’s no such thing as a cat trainer. Is that because of a temperamental difference between dogs and cats? EE: I have heard of a few people who are kind of getting into cat training and calling themselves “cat whisperers.” Cats can be trained, but they are fairly independent. They have a reputation as being aloof, but not really amenable to training. I have seen people have success; it just takes longer, more patience. We have a client here who has trained her cats to jump through hoops. Y!W: My cats have been killing things: birds, bats, a rabbit. I think they hunt in teams. EE: Do they bring them to you as gifts? Y!W: Yes. EE: How sweet! They like you! Y!W: With the rabbit, I think they hunted as a team. EE: Well, we think they are aloof and solitary, but I think in situations like that they may have. The rabbit could have been sickly, [but] I hear a lot of stories about cats catching squirrels, rabbits, birds. I hear this time and time again. Bringing live chipmunks into the house and letting them go is another thing that cats seem to love to do. We don’t usually hear about cats hunting in packs. Dogs, yes. Cats — at least our domestic cats — don’t seem to have that pack mentality. Even in multicat households each cat will have its own little territory within that household. Y!W: Are cats smarter than dogs? EE: I love dogs too, so I don’t know that I could answer that one. They have such different personalities and express themselves in such different ways. Some people might say yes because cats don’t allow themselves to be trained as easily, but I don’t think that’s a fair assumption. I think people think cats are more manipulative. I don’t know that that’s true either. Y!W: One of my cats has been peeing on the kitchen floor. I think it’s because of spite. EE: That’s a pretty typical thing they can do if they get stressed or they get angry. It’s one thing that a lot of cats do when they are unhappy with their owners. Y!W: Do you have any cats? EE: I have one right now. He’s my old man. He’s 17, so I don’t want to introduce any young kitties into his domain. Y!W: What’s his name? EE: Clark. He’s a gray domestic shorthair. He rules the roost with our 2-year-old dog.
New Leash on Life Program
by Eric Ginsburg The division of prisons inmate transfer van looks out of place parked in front of the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club. A tall woman with platform shoes steps out of the driver’s seat, walking around the van to open the door for a half-dozen inmates. Dressed in street clothes, the men make their way over to another white vehicle that pulled up at the same time, opening the trunk and revealing several crates with dogs eagerly awaiting them. One by one they release the dogs, leashing them before strolling inside. It all began five years ago. A unique partnership between the Forsyth Humane Society, the training club and Forsyth Correctional Center to partner inmates with dogs that needed some TLC before being adopted began with a grant from the Winston-Salem Foundation and the wisdom of current Humane Society board president Candide Jones. The New Leash on Life Program isn’t the only one of its kind, and the program in Winston-Salem just graduated its 17th class of dogs. Danny Rawley has worked with 12 different dogs over his five years with the program. He had long wanted to be a dog trainer, but it wasn’t until he encountered Spirit that he knew he could hack it. A feral dog, Spirit was just one of the dozen dogs that he says have helped him grow and given him strength. “Being incarcerated, it’s a lot,” Rawley said at a training session last week as he sat watching the two men who will adopt the dog he’s been training over the last few weeks. “It’s my way of dealing with everything. It’s my passion — I love it. It’s a good way to stay out of trouble. I’ve learned how to be a leader, I’ve learned how to deal with all different kinds of personalities.” When Rawley gets out in four months, he hopes to continue to work with dogs, preferably as a trainer. The men and the dogs were at the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club to practice with the animals and to meet with people who have been vetted and approved to adopt two of the dogs. One inmate stood talking the soon-to-be mother about the dog he’s been training nearly every waking hour of the day seven days a week. Rawley told the two men that the impending addition to their home enjoys being shown affection more than she enjoys playing, and another inmate practiced the training loop with his trainee for a third time. Head trainer and inmate Thong Mai will be released before this article is published, and he said there is a part of him that will really miss the animals and people. He said in the future he hopes to foster dogs from the Humane Society. Mai said the program has had an array of benefits for him, teaching him patience, reliability, a good work ethic, responsibility and how to be more caring, and that the experience will help him adjust to society. “The best part is the love back from the animals,” he said. “The people in the program are very supportive and helpful.” The prison pays the men a dollar a day for their work, but Mai said the money isn’t important — it’s the skills they acquire that matter. The training program runs for 8-10 weeks and involves five volunteer trainers from the training club as well as numerous staff of the Humane Society. One graduate of the program now works as a kennel technician — not surprising, watching the strong relationships the men have fostered with their partner dogs. The soon-to-be owners are a little clumsy at first with their future pets; they’ve had some chances to interact with while they wait, and the inmate trainers encourage them that it will get easier. Adoptive parents don’t have much to worry much though — these pups are house, leash and crate trained, know their basic commands and are clearly very well behaved and sweet.
A friend in need is a friend indeed
By Karen Phillips To live without shelter is an outrage. That was Libby Scandale’s ammunition for starting Project BARK a little over a 18 months ago. In 2009, Libby Scandale and her husband adopted a rescue dog. While walking their dog through the neighborhood one cold, winter night, Libby looked up at the stars and was overcome with joy knowing that she and her puppy had a warm home to go to. Her thinking then shifted to all the unlucky dogs that are chained outdoors with no shelter to seek. She vowed not to go another winter without preventing this from happening again. Dogs that are chained without access to shelter have no way to get warm or dry in the winter, or escape excruciating temperatures in summer. While wild animals can find natural shelter from most weather extremes, chained or confined animals only have access to what humans provide. A high school art teacher at Ragsdale High School for over 25 years, Libby started her non-profit organization, Project BARK (Bringing Animals Relief and Kindness), at Ragsdale with the approval of Principal Kathy Rogers, and worked with interested students to help build shelters for dogs and distribute them to homes in need — encouraging hands-on community service while helping at-risk animals. This type of endeavor can become very complex, Libby admits, and could never be accomplished singlehandedly. Project BARK volunteers have a wide variety of responsibilities from constructing and delivering doghouses, educating pet owners about humane animal care, finding good homes for unwanted animals and participating in legislative efforts to protect animals. Bob Slone is president and construction coordinator, Libby’s right-hand-man. He collects the donated barrels from local restaurants and car washes like Auto-Bell, and organizes their construction into recycled dog houses. He has been a part of this project since its inception. Judy Slone, treasurer, plays an integral role in making sure there are enough funds available to keep the organization running and to help offer low-cost spay and neuter services for those in financial need. Libby has made a commitment that “100 percent of all donations go to direct animal aid,” which means no salaries, no reimbursements — a purely non-profit organization. Since its beginnings, Project BARK has distributed more than 500 shelters in the community, and has helped fund more than 150 spays and neuters. “Hands-on, local action is sometimes heartbreaking and something heartwarming,” Libby says, but “nothing substitutes local, hands-on animal relief.” Libby explains that sometimes a grassroots organization is more beneficial than a nationally recognized organization because you can immediately see where your dollars are going. While their record for providing shelter for chained dogs is more than double that of PETA’s, Libby explains that we need the big name organizations to raise awareness and create sweeping legislative changes. Project BARK is paring up with Ruby Tuesdays for their give-back program. All three Ruby Tuesdays locations in Greensboro will be participating on Sept. 17-18 and Sept. 24-25. For anyone who comes in to dine at Ruby Tuesdays with the designated Project BARK flyer, or shows the flyer on their smart phone, Ruby Tuesdays will donate 20 percent of the profits from their meal directly to Project BARK. Other participating locations are on Eastchester and at the Four Seasons Mall. Project BARK is assembling and placing simple, sturdy doghouses wherever there is need. They are always seeking referrals of dogs in need, and appreciate any advice, materials or donations. Visit their website at www.projectbark.org for more information.