Monday, May 25, 2009

Of Ham and Microchips

Ham spent a recent weekend with us, after I found him wandering alone on a busy Frazier Avenue Friday afternoon. Not a typical North Chattanooga loose dog, he lacked both a collar and street smarts and was perilously close to becoming road kill. I caught up to him on the Walnut Street bridge, having been directed there by others who were concerned for his plight and mistook me for his distraught owner.

Safe at home with us, he made our Biscuit quite jealous and prompted Leigh to name him Ham. We placed calls to Luther at WDEF and to the Times Free Press classified advertising department. We even showed him to the good people of Bone Appetite, lest he be a regular customer of theirs. He wasn't.

As fate would have it, another North Chattanooga house pet escaped that weekend. Flyers seeking the return of Petunia appeared all over the neighborhood. We had to clarify in our copy that our recovered dog was indeed a different animal. Even so, numerous callers seeking Petunia were disappointed not to find her.

For the most part, "Ham" was a perfect houseguest. Despite our Biscuit's envious ways, he neither growled nor barked and knew what it meant to go outside. To be sure, someone was missing this creature who so adored his belly rubs and slept peaceably between us. Ham's one vice was his will to escape. Every time we opened a door, he was there, not to greet us but to bolt. The front door still displays scratches, tokens of his urge for freedom.

Monday morning our veterinarian passed a wand over Ham's shoulders and found a microchip. What should have been a process whereby data entry to a website would yield an owner's name in moments merely opened another chapter. All we learned was that the breeder had microchipped him and there the trail turned cold. Three telephone calls later we were no closer to finding his home, so Ham and I departed to get on with my day.

That episode bolstered my belief that there are no hightech solutions to human failings. For example, v-chips in televisions do nothing to curb the viewing of gratuitous violence. What use are microchips in pets if people do not register them? I had imagined identification chipping to be a sort of social service, perhaps a joint effort of the AKC and ASPCA. It is instead a for-profit enterprise requiring a registration fee from the pet's owner. Paying to put a chip in the animal is not a fait accompli.

Ham's real name turned out to be Rufus. Credit goes to our veterinary clinic. A fourth telephone call found his owner, who recovered him that afternoon. It seems that Rufus likes to keep cool atop the floor vents, but his dog tags catch in the grating. Add his propensity for flight and the rest became this story. My opinion of microchipping pets is much improved. If need be, please take a moment to update such records. Our furry friends will thank you for it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

at the Who-Fest

What a lucky boy is Enzo. Stephanie rescued this Jack Russell terrier from the Humane Educational Society and now he accompanies her to fun events like the Who-Fest in dog-friendly Renaissance Park.

on Hanover Street

Friday, May 22, 2009

Town and Country Cats

We suspect there was a cat in our rescued terrier’s former life because he adores felines. Like a shy teenaged boy smitten by girls, he approaches them awkwardly, if sincerely, and doesn’t understand why his love often goes unrequited. There is, however, one neighborhood cat that will meet him on the sidewalk, offer a playful swipe of its paw, then loll around on its back or rub against my ankles. Cute.
“I’d have a house full of these things if I could,” declares Caren Anderson of Chattanooga, who had stopped by the McKamey cat adoption room Thursday afternoon “just to give them love.” A dog fancier, I was there to learn more about cats. They, too, were curious about me, sniffing at the camera and pawing my notebook to see what I had been up to. When I dropped down on all fours to take a picture of their social grooming habits, a solitary, cheeky one leapt onto my back.

So, would you like to keep a cat? McKamey has them and right now the adoption fee is a mere $20 for one or for two. All are tested for FIV/FeLV, vaccinated, microchipped and either spayed or neutered. Anderson recommends the double shot. “These are probably the cheapest way of going if you have a pet. Ten dollars feeds both of mine for two months. When you’re gone they have each other. They are perfect for people who work a lot of hours. They don’t chew on anything, but you will need a scratching post.”
Cats who do not lead such pampered lives often face a different reality. “Ferals, the first generation offspring of abandoned cats, are wild and it’s almost impossible to adopt out an animal like that,” explains McKamey’s Amy Osborn. “My program is Trap, Neuter and Release. When we get calls from people who report nuisance cats, I try to talk them into TNR. If a person is willing to feed a colony, McKamey will lend the traps and charge $25 for each spay/neuter surgery, de-worming, and rabies and feline leukemia vaccinations.”

That may sound like a lot of effort versus outright removal, but the rewards are many, according to Alley Cat Allies, whose website explains that even if feral cats are removed from an area, surviving neighbors will over breed to repopulate it. After all, it must have been an attractive spot to call home in the first place. The TNR solution yields a stable population of better-behaved cats. “Once an animal is spayed or neutered, it becomes more docile, less feral and a better neighbor all round,” says Osborne. “We know several people who have barns full of mice. They take these cats and give them a home.”

Chattup at the Zoo

More than 100 people turned out last night for Chattup 4.0 at the Chattanooga Zoo, raising $145 for the zoo's Animal Rehabilitation Program while, in the words of the organizers, "keeping the social in social media for Chattanooga". Greeting one and all were zookeepers Jennifer Pyburn and Kirk Parker with Moluccan Cockatoos Peaches and Sophie.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Diva Dogs

This shoulder bag caught my attention Saturday in Chattanooga's Bluff View District. What a great way to advertise a pet spa, boutique and boarding kennel, which is located in Calhoun, Georgia. To pamper your pet, call Autumn Cashon at 706-264-7638.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wally's Friends

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Wally's Friends Director Eileen Price records her clinic's 20,000th procedure Monday, May 11.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates the annual intake of American shelters to be as many as eight million animals. Gentle reader, that is one per second of each fifty-hour working week. Half of that intake are euthanized every year. Yes, three to four million cats and dogs are euthanized every year in the US.

“This is society’s problem and multiple segments of society must work together for a solution,” said Dr. Philip A. Bushby of Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in his Keynote Address to PetSmart Charities 2007 Fix-it Forum. “We must stop the reproduction.”

Here in Chattanooga, Wally’s Friends [501(c)(3)] is working toward that goal and this morning, the low-cost, high-volume spay and neuter clinic performed its 20,000th procedure since opening in November of 2006. For Director Eileen Price, Drs. Winn and August and their seven assistants, there was no time for celebration. The daily pace of fifty-plus surgeries fills their lobby, holding cages, operating room and rings their telephone off the hook. Showing the iron discipline that served her well as ballerina in Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Ms. Price answered my inquiries throughout her morning rush.

“I decided to devote the second half of my career to helping animals,” explains Price. “PetSmart encouraged development of these clinics in Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee for the prevention of animal cruelty. That’s why I’m here. In New Hampshire, Peter Marsh worked really hard with local government support to spay and neuter. At 70% you really start to see a drop in the number of shelter drop-offs and strays euthanized.”

Our conversation temporarily suspended, I turned to speak with client Nancy Fullam, who had brought a cat to be spayed. She told me, “My [home] vet’s fee was $65 and this meant more driving and fighting traffic, but I like what they’re doing and wanted to support them. They do outreach. We live in north Georgia and they offer us services to bring animals up here.”

The interview with Price continued in the holding area, where she told me that while primary funding had come from PetSmart Charities, local foundations Benwood and the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga have also lent their support. A large window to the operating theatre showed Drs. Winn and August at work while a third animal recuperated from and a fourth was being prepared for surgery. Her mission is capital intensive. “All are on heart monitors. Animal temperatures drop under anesthesia, so our tables are heated and they recover on heated rice bags. State of the art protocols protect our reputation and earn the trust of the public.”

“But,” as Dr. Bushby noted, “animals are not the real problem, people are,” and he identified three groups of varying needs. First is financial. Wally’s Friends fee schedule is most reasonable and yes, they can work with those who are truly needy. Second is educational. It is this writer’s hope to propagate the Spay and Neuter ethic so that Bushby’s third prescription, “a kick in the pants”, will not be required.

As Ms. Price bid me farewell, one last question came to mind, “Who is Wally?” From their website: Wally was a German Short-Haired Pointer who was found abandoned, starving and seriously injured on the streets of Sacramento, California. Although suffering, her eyes still held a light of hope and kindness. Wally was rescued and lived a long full life of 17 years. She always welcomed any cat or dog her humans brought home to her, each one homeless as she once was.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Play Ball!

On May 17 at 2:15pm the Chattanooga Lookouts host Tennessee for an afternoon of Dogs on the Diamond. Proceeds from the $6 "Pooch Pass" sales benefit McKamey and allow your best friend to partake of the festivities. Come early for the Pooch Parade and keep an eye on the big screen for submitted photos. Email yours to
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sinder from Shelbyville mugs for the camera while Dana and Lyle admire the afternoon sky over Chattanooga Tuesday, May 5.
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Teri and her service dog Brooke await their van after shopping at Greenlife Tuesday, May 5.
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Seven Months Ago

Below is the text of my letter published in the Times Free Press last year. The petition drive has ended, but my wish for dog friendlier park, bridge and trail lives on.

November 12, 2008

Dear Times Free Press,

Business meetings downtown went well for me today, so I took a celebratory stroll across the Walnut Street Bridge to admire our riverfront city in its autumnal splendor. It was a rare event for this newly transplanted, North Chattanoogan who walks daily for health and inspiration, because most of those excursions include a dog.
How ironic that the public art on the bridge’s southern end would be a bronze tribute to our best friend. The sign prohibiting pets from crossing is an afterthought, no doubt the result of irresponsible owners who failed to clean up after their dogs. The ban seems extreme, given the opportunity here to educate the public and to extend the welcome to all who would like to use the pedestrian bridge and city parks and trails.
Please join me in signing the petition that Ruth Holmberg, Rick and Julie Brackett, Stephen Dreskin and Vanessa Taylor have written and will submit to the city council. Copies may be found at humane societies, boarding kennels and other pet friendly businesses. Let’s make Chattanooga a city for everyone, including the family dog.

Yours truly,

Cameron Adams

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Not all dancing on Frazier Avenue follows the bronze markers. Alex and Jack tripped a measure for the sheer joy of celebrating a springtime morning walk.
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