Dearest Romeo

Published in the PATIO issue
/ Written by Betsy Marquez / Photos supplied by Betsy Marquez

 

December 10, 2019
Dearest Romeo! I was brought to tears in meeting you—you’re in probably one of the worst conditions I’ve ever seen. I have so many questions! Were you a stray for long? Did you have owners and were just not cared for? Did they just watch you decline medically and not do anything? Could they not afford the care? Did they drop you off somewhere? Let’s face it—none of those questions matter, because I’ll never have the answers. All I know was that I could not leave you alone in a shelter for your remaining days.

Bone cancer, heartworms, and whatever other diagnosis there was in those big words … I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do more than to open my already fragile heart to give you the very best of a loving, caring, warm, comfy, quiet, boring home life for your remaining days. I’m bringing you home not knowing how many days you have left. Will it be weeks? Will it be days? Might it just be over night? It really didn’t matter to me. I got the green light from Clay County Animal Services—you are coming home with me. Was this in my plan? No. But sometimes you just do what’s right and being there for you is just that.

Romeo you, Sir, have been such a love! You seek out a gentle touch. You like to walk around the yard, then stop and take it all in, looking around. You constantly look for me if I’m out of sight. You follow me around the house like the Velcro pup that you are. You love your crate with the oversized bed, and soft music playing in the background. Unlimited treats for you, love.

Just know this, Romeo—your remaining days will be some of the very best days of your life. When your time comes, you’ll be surrounded by those who love you. Your life matters.

December 13, 2019
The last 24 hours have been pure bliss. ROMEO—this 12-year-old throw-away hound is living his best life.

 

December 16, 2019
Dearest Romeo! I sit here watching you sleep and listening to you breathe … my heart is both full and broken at the very same time.

December 22, 2019
Last night, just before midnight Romeo crossed the rainbow bridge.

Dearest Romeo, yesterday was just short two weeks since I brought you home. You were only supposed to be a three-day hospice foster, but the veterinarian thought that you were well enough to make it through the holidays. As everyone can see, you had a huge mass on your face. You had a VERY mean and fast growing tumor in your nasal cavity. In spite of that monster, you were free of cancer mentally and in your spirit and heart. You were such a loving, happy, attention-seeking, leaf-rolling, back-scratching, treat-finding, always hungry, Velcro pup. You loved sleeping in the living room on your new blanket. You loved being in the back yard, rolling around smelling the air and watching people walk by. Most of all, you loved being loved by foster momma and brother.

Yesterday you had such a good day. You slept in just a little, till 6:30 am. You ate breakfast, went out in the yard for a bit, and back to bed. I went out in the living room with you and watched you sleep. Your foster brother had been sleeping on the couch for two weeks, so you weren’t alone out there.

I ran an errand and brought back Zaxbys—I think you ate more than I did. After dinner, more yard time and some good rolling around in the leaves. Then some good love from foster brother when he got home from work.

When our friend Lisa got here, we got you up and almost immediately noticed a little blood from your eye—still, you were your happy self meeting a new friend. But we couldn’t make it stop. We kept wiping the blood with a wet paper towel, as we didn’t want to irritate your eye with a harsh dry one. We thought taking you to the vet would be a good idea so they could do something and you’d be back home.
But your tumor had ruptured. And I wasn’t ready.

When we made the decision, you were surrounded by love. You spent your last days in a home being our family member. We only had you in our lives two short weeks, but in that time you made such an impact. Losing my three-year-old grandson just months ago has my heart already in pieces. My heart is shattered making that call for you, dearest Romeo. I have absolutely no regrets being your hospice foster. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Run free sweet boy. I love you, dearest Romeo.
Your life mattered.
Love, Momma

If you are thinking about fostering—don’t debate. Please don’t make excuses. Do it!
“I don’t have room.” I live in 800 square-foot home with my 22-year-old son and my other dogs.
“It’s too sad!!” If you know me… you know that my heart is extremely fragile these days. It’s not about me, although I do have to say … Romeo made my heart so happy.
“But my dogs aren’t friendly.” I shuffle. It’s only as hard as you make it. A little bit of work? Yes, but so worth it.

There are a ton of dogs at the shelter, and a heartbreaking amount of seniors!
Please consider fostering. It will change the life of an animal, and, trust me, it will also change yours. •

 

 

RESOLUTION: No more Riding in the Back!

/ Published in The NEW Issue Written by Jerr Blinkster

Buster is my BOY! He’s my sidekick—he goes everywhere with me. It’s always been just easier for Buster to jump into the back of the truck when we go places. It’s cleaner, too. I don’t want dog hair in my purty F150. He always did whine a bit, because he wanted to be with me in the cab, but he also loves the wind in his jowls.

But, listen guys, I was driving over the intercoastal a couple weeks back behind a truck with a dog in the bed and I saw something I can’t unsee—I’m a big hairy man and it made me ball like a baby. The truck had to swerve suddenly and the black lab skittered across the truck bed, over the side and onto the bridge. The truck wasn’t even going to stop because the driver didn’t realize they’d just unwittingly killed their dog. After I saw that, I did a little research and learned something staggering—according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, it’s estimated that around 100,000 dogs every year are fatally injured by jumping or falling from a pickup truck’s cargo area. Yikes man. Buster could become startled, see something tempting, like a squirrel or a hamburger, and jump out of my truck! He could be injured by the fall or struck by oncoming vehicles (and potentially cause an accident and injuries to other drivers). I thought about just tethering him with a leash, but according to the American Humane Society, many dogs have been strangled when tossed or bumped over the side of the truck and been left helplessly dangling.

Here’s another concern of mine, living in Florida—the galldang heat! The floor of a truck bed can become VERY hot, I’ve seen Buster dancing around back there, but figured his paws were like shoes. They’re NOT! He could get horribly burned and we’d have to take him to the emergency room. I’d feel like a real bad dad. I can’t stand to see Buster in pain.

One last reason that I’m resolving to keep Buster in the cab with me from now on—as if I needed another—I have a lead foot. That’s right. I like to drive real fast. A truck traveling at high rates of speed can kick up small pebbles and other road debris, which could strike my boy, Buster. He could lose one of his big brown eyes or worse. That would just about kill me.

Buster is a dog, but he’s also my best sidekick. The last thing I want is to see is him hurt just because I didn’t want a little dirt in my sweet F150. You got a truck, too? Save everyone a bit of heartbreak and make this resolution with me. •

4 Things not to say to someone who’s fostering an animal

/ Published in the TRIPPIN’ Issue

by Karen Camerlengo

 

Fostering means bringing in a cat or dog—or parrot, horse, baby pig, or any other homeless pet—with the goal of nurturing them for a while until a permanent home can be found. Foster parents are an amazing and integral part of a system that saves lives.

Sometimes people unwittingly say things that aren’t supportive to the end goal of fostering. Here are a couple of things I (and other foster parents) routinely hear that are just not helpful:

You can’t give him up, he LOVES you!
Of course he does. I’m totally awesome. But you know what? He’s gonna love the person who adopts him even more.

She thinks she is HOME.
Yup. She does. And yes she looks happy. Considering where she just came from, she thinks she’s in Heaven. But she’s not home—yet. We’re working on it.

You HAVE to keep him!
No I don’t. Listen, every single animal that comes in my house is in danger of being kept by me; the lucky ones get adopted out. Truly, anyone who fosters is aware that they are going to fall in love, but we don’t take them in to keep them—we take them to help the transition to a better life. No amount of pressure from friends can make us want to keep an animal that does not fit into the family or the plan. Pet ownership and increasing the numbers is a serious consideration and one we don’t take lightly. If I were to make a foster a permanent family member, that would mean one less foster family in the system, because I can have only so many dogs in my home.

They LOVE each other!
(Said in reference to seeing the foster animal and resident dog/cat playing together or snuggling). Ummmm—yeah not so much. I took this picture so you would find my foster totally adorable. I can’t tell you about the baby gates or the crates or the fighting or the infighting in my own animals because you would think it’s the foster dog causing the problem. My dogs are being jerks but I can’t tell you any of it because the foster dog is super sweet and that’s what you need to know.

Helpful things you CAN say:
• She’s adorable—tell me more about her so I can share!
• Oh I have a friend looking for a dog, let me share!
• I’ll share!
• Thank you for fostering.

A note about social media
Foster parents post their furry temporary house guests on social media because we need your help finding them a forever home. We also want to show them off because, let’s face it, they are the cutest animals eve—but we really are hoping you will be so moved that you will share.
Foster animals are some of the best animals to share, as potential adopters can learn how they are with other animals, kids, etc. They can learn about the quirks and the skills. Foster dogs are so awesome—I hope you will feel inspired to share. •

Would YOU like to foster? All expenses are taken care of—you just need to provide love and a safe space. Please reach out to Animal Care and Protective Services, The Jacksonville Humane Society, or a reputable local rescue group!

The 2019 Dog Film Fest

GET TICKETS

The NY Dog Film Festival™ is an annual celebration of the love between dogs and their people, through short films from around the world that inspire, educate and entertain, benefiting the Friends of Jacksonville Animals

[These films are free of physical or verbal abuse toward people or animals. The only tears you might shed would be tears of joy for happy endings. The programs are designed for adult audiences but can be enjoyed by all members of the family, including mature children.]

Unexpected (2 min) An animated tale with an unexpected ending.

Shit Happens (2 min) A mime demonstrates what happens when you don’t “Pick it Up”

Esther – Saving Castaways (6 min) A documentary chronicling a prison program for unwanted dogs trained by inmates: an unlikely union that changes both man and dog.

Elvis: The Lonely Hunter of Circle Beach (5 min) A remote Long Island beach. A tough little dog named Elvis. His search for the elusive Buried Bagel.

Dog Power (25 min) A dynamic documentary following the glorious canine/human athletes competing together in international competitions for shared outdoor sports.

I Rescue Senior Dogs (5 min) – A documentary about Sherri Franklin, the founder of Muttville, a last-chance rescue for senior dogs in San Francisco.

About a Dog (16 min) A charming story about an antisocial book editor, who reluctantly fosters a dog, which brings her out of shell and introduces her to love.

It’s a Potcake Life (30 min) A heart-warming documentary following the indigenous stray dogs of the Bahamas – called Potcakes – and the happy endings facilitated by an island of dedicated
rescuers.

A Dog’s Life (8 min) – An animated interpretation of a dog’s view of an ordinary day in his life.

Well Groomed – (8 min) A colorfully-hued documentary peeking into the colorful, passionate world of competitive creative dog grooming.

Imperfect Adventure (5 min) A beautifully philosophical journal of one woman’s trip across North America in a motorcycle, with her dog in the sidecar, overcome her doubts and fears.

GET TICKETS

First Coast News Anchor Jeannie Blaylock has a New Mission: To tell you about DOGGY CHECK

We absolutely love our rescue dog, Riley, but I didn’t even think about it—I do a self-breast exam to look for lumps on myself, and I’d never checked my dog!

One day I was petting Riley and discovered a hard, teeny knot the size of a BB in Riley’s ear. I couldn’t see the lump, but it felt like a small rock. I brought it to the attention of Dr. Carlos Aragon at BluePearl Animal Hospital in Orange Park, and he agreed it’d be smart to run some tests.

I’m so glad we did. That seemingly insignificant bump was mast cell cancer, the most common skin tumor in dogs. We were lucky to catch it very early—clean margins, no cancer treatment even necessary. Riley lost a chunk of his ear, but thankfully he’s “cancer free.” Hooray!

“In just a few months, Riley’s cancer could have grown to the size of a walnut. That’s dangerous because when mast cell cancers metastasize, they can invade the spleen and liver and kill,” says Dr. Tracy LaDue, a Veterinary Radiation Oncologist at SEVO-MED in Orange Park. “50% of dogs over the age of ten get cancer. But it can happen in younger dogs, as well,” she informed us. Riley is only four!

Our plan is to stay on top of this Doggie Check routine for Riley, as 40% of dogs with mast cell cancers will get another cancerous tumor.

Please don’t let something suspicious go on for months without saying anything to your vet. “And remember,” Dr. LaDue says, “some canine cancers feel hard and some feel soft.” Sneaky cancer. We’re coming for you.

A cancer might look like a pimple or a bug bite. This is a mast cell cancer on a dog.

According to the doctors at SEVO Med: Use the F-U-R-R-Y method to catch cancer early

F – Feet
Check between toes. Look under feet and between pads. “Look for any abnormal swelling,” Dr. LaDue says. “Make sure there aren’t any lumps or bumps.”

U – Underneath
“One of the places people miss is armpits,” she says. “It’s not a typical place we look on dogs.” So check the armpits and look under your dog on their bellies. Check under chins, as well. We pet heads all the time, but feel in places you don’t normally pet.

R – Raise Their Tails
As Dr. LaDue puts it, “Open the hatch!” Inspect for swellings and lumps. And for dogs older than 6—a rectal exam. They can get prostate cancer and anal sac tumors. So look for a growth or anything suspicious. Ask your veterinarian to take a looksee.

R – Raise Their Ears
People forget to look inside their dog’s ears. (Check outside, too.)

Y – Yapper
Look inside your dog’s mouth. Lift the lips. Inspect for lumps or bleeding or an especially bad odor.

 

SEVO-Med Offers compassionate guidance when you need it most.
Orange Park (904) 278-3870
Jacksonville (904) 567-7519
sevomed.com | info@sevomed.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unleash Jacksonville’s Freedom Dog Partaaay at Brewhound

Come with or without your dog and let’s party!

No one throws a dog party like Unleash Jacksonville! Come help celebrate the print release of our FREEDOM issue and check out the joy that is BrewHound Dog Park + Bar (if you haven’t already).

Vendors: Meet Unleash Jacksonville’s fantastic partners who helped to make this issue come to life, including Salty Paws Healthy Pet Market – Atlantic Beach, Beach Bark, Beaches Jet Set Pets, Sole’ Spa Wellness Center, Pet Supplies Plus – Jacksonville, Rodo Dog Wear, Revyv Nuts, and many more!

Get KISSED! Dobby & Gretel, our FREEDOM cover models will be giving kisses ;). Meet adorable adoptable dogs from The London Sanctuary and Animal Care & Protective Services. FREE Secret Life of Pets 2 Stuffies for kids (while supplies last). Enjoy lovely  drinks, food, and fun for all. FREE raffle ticket for your chance to win lots of great stuff. Additional tickets can be purchased to benefit Beagle Freedom Project.

ADMISSION is FREE in the leashed areas – All friendly leashed dogs are welcome on “The Porch” free of charge.
“The Yard” off-leash park access – $8/dog (if not a member) to enter the off leash park, and must bring shot records.

FOSTER PARENTS: Please feel free to bring your dog friendly fosters and have their ADOPT ME vests on. If you WILL be bringing your foster (if you think about it) please post a photo of them and their name on the discussion for the event so we know to look out for ya!

Natural ways to help alleviate your dog’s anxiety

Natural ways to help alleviate your dog’s anxiety
From the FREEDOM ISSUE / By Janice Frank

 

For many dogs, summertime can be a terrifying time of year (mine are raising their paws over here). Jarring sounds from thunderstorms and fireworks that sometimes come out of the blue are no picnic for pups! It’s natural for them to be afraid of loud noises, as the sounds trigger their nervous system, causing anxiety and fear. Visible signs of distress may include heavy panting, pacing or shaking, yawning, drooling and licking, hiding, and even really funky odor—AKA fear funk.

Pet parents can feel absolutely helpless during these times! Obvious safety measures should be taken, such as creating a small space indoors away from windows, using background sounds from the tv, soothing music or a white noise machine. However, for many dogs, these efforts provide little relief.

So, what are pet parents to do? Well, you could completely sound-proof your home to eradicate any sputter of pyrotechnics, or you could pack everyone up and drive to a cave far from any sign of festivities. Unwilling to do these options? Don’t blame ya. Let’s explore some practical, drug-free ways we can help alleviate anxiety in our pets, shall we?

(I personally like to seek out natural ways to help my dogs, and I’ve seen great results. But if this isn’t your jam, then please consult your veterinarian for additional ways to help your dogs.)

Steve Huber, owner of Earth Pets Natural Food Store, suggests when looking for calming aids to treat sudden triggers, seek out fast-acting GABA-producing herbs such as as Valerian root and Passion Flower as lead ingredients. GABA, technically known as Gamma Aminobutyric Acid, is an important neurotransmitter naturally produced by the brain. When released, it works to inhibit nerve impulses in the brain and nervous system, effectively balancing stress response. Research has found that too little GABA in the nervous system can contribute to feelings of panic and anxiety. Other known supplements such as CBD, while an effective anxiety reliever, is not fast acting and requires some time to build up in the body. If your dog tends to suffer from general anxiety, Steve recommends you start with a good quality daily CBD supplement and combine with a GABA-producing herbal aid during acutely stressful events.
So what are these magical herbs all about? Turns out, these chill plants have been around and used in medicine for quite some time. Here’s the rundown:

Valerian is an herb native to Asia and Europe whose root has been used in traditional medicine for over 2,000 years! Often referred to as “Nature’s Valium,” this fast-acting herb signals the brain to release the calming chemical, GABA.

Passion Flower lowers brain activity while boosting GABA. Both Passion Flower and Valerian work to inhibit the breakdown in the brain similar to Valium and Xanax, but without the side effects.

Ashwagandha is a Chinese herb classified as an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body to manage stress by blocking the stress pathway by regulating chemical signaling in the nervous system. This serves as a great general anxiety reliever and also complimentary to Valerian root and Passion Flower.

Chamomile is another well-studied constituent, and serves as a mild sedative and anti-anxiety, muscle-relaxing antispasmodic.

Talk about plant power! These herbs come from Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet and can be a tremendous help in soothing our pets without leaving them wonky-eyed or comatose. Look for supplements produced in the correct dosage for pets, and if your dog is taking medications, please do your research to make sure taking herbs is okay.

Cheers to a calm and tranquil summer for everyone! •

The staff at Earth Pets is more than happy to help if you have questions about natural support in dealing with your pet’s anxiety.

/ Earth Pets Natural Food Store
11740 San Jose Blvd., Jacksonville • (904) 677-4429

Too Hot To Trot – Preventing Heat stroke in Dogs

Amy Olivieri | Too Hot To Trot – Preventing Heat stroke in Dogs |  Freedom issue

 

Too Hot To Trot – Preventing Heat stroke in Dogs

Picture it — a gorgeous summer day in Florida and you’re feeling gooood! The weather’s a perfect 81 degrees­—ahhhhh! You look at your dog, your dog looks at you … How about a run, bud? Your dog gives you a lick on the knee to say he’s in. You lace up them kicks and grab the leash.

But, wait … and here’s a crazy thought …. how about you … maybe … don’t grab the leash? It’s pretty hot outside, so it might just be best for you go for a run without your dog.

I totally get it—not the running part, I discourage myself from running any time of the year—the dog wanting/needing exercise part. But we need to be smart as the adult in this relationship. After working in an animal emergency hospital and seeing a dog die from wearing a costume on a warm day, or going for a run on a hot day, or being left in the car while the owner “just ran in,” I feel the need to educate people about heat stroke. I realize most people just don’t know how quickly it can happen and how serious it is. Honestly, I had no idea myself! But I’ve seen the heartache (and subsequent self blame) that pet parents go through every day. The self blame is the worst. I should’ve known. I should’ve prevented this.

I get reallllly upset when I see people running their dogs in the midday heat or hanging out on the beach with no shade or water. The dog is panting so hard, but keeps going because he has to. Can you imagine wearing a fur coat, not being able to sweat, and then being told to exercise in the blazing Florida sun? (I don’t even like to wear a t-shirt, but I do for y’alls sake).

Dogs aren’t able to sweat out excess body heat. The only sweat glands your dog has are on his paws and they’re actually kind of crappy for regulating body temperature. Instead of sweating, your dog expels the excess heat through panting. Normally, panting is enough to relieve him of the excess heat. However, when panting isn’t enough, heatstroke becomes a real risk.

Your dog’s normal resting temperature is about 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If his temperature were to rise above 105 degrees, he’d begin to experience effects of heat stroke. At 106 to 108 degrees, he’d begin to suffer irreversible damage to his kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, heart, and brain.

I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, here, but please understand that heat stroke is extremely serious—if not treated in a timely manner it can cause the dog’s organs to completely shut down and his heart to stop altogether. And for certain breeds, it can happen just hanging out in the backyard. Aw heck naw, not on my watch! Let’s learn how to prevent this!

Early signs.
Excessive panting will be your first red flag. Other early signs may be more subtle—your dog might seem less responsive to commands than usual. When you call his name, instead of turning to look at you, he may wander away. He may also be unable or unwilling to move around. The Humane Society of the United States adds that signs of potential heat stroke include glazed eyes, excessive drooling, a rapid heart rate, dizziness or lack of coordination, lethargy, or loss of consciousness. If there’s any question at all, get your dog out of the heat. A dangerously overheated dog may collapse or experience seizures, vomit or have diarrhea. His gums or tongue may turn blue or bright red.

When to exercise.
So … how do you decide whether to grab the leash when you’re ready to go for a bike ride, rollerblade, or run? According to Dr. Justine A. Lee, DVM, a general rule stems from working with sled dogs—If the temperature plus humidity added together are greater than 150, it’s too hot for your dog to exercise!
( I’ll do the math for ya: Temperature: 75°F, Humidity level: 80%
75 + 80 = 155 >>> Too hot to run. YES, heat stroke can happen even at 75 degrees in certain dogs. )

Choose to exercise your dog during non-peak heat hours—very early in the morning or late in the evening (the pavement will be cooler then, too, so no burnt paws).

What if it happens?
Recognizing the symptoms and responding quickly is essential. Call your vet or emergency vet as soon as you can.

1. Get into the shade ASAP. If you think your dog is suffering from heat stroke, move him into a shaded area and out of direct sunlight.

2. Apply cool water to the inner thighs and stomach of the dog, where there’s a higher concentration of relatively superficial, large blood vessels. Use cool—not cold—running water. A faucet or hose is the best way to wet down your dog’s body. Don’t submerge your dog in water, such as in a pool or tub—this could cool the dog too rapidly, leading to further complications.

Using ice or extremely cold water is actually counterproductive to this process, as it will cause the blood vessels to constrict, which slows blood flow, slowing the cooling process.

3. Apply cool water to the foot pads. Rubbing alcohol may also be applied to the footpads to dilate pores and increase perspiration.

4. Don’t cover the dog. One of the keys to successfully cooling your dog is ensuring the water being placed on the dog can evaporate. Don’t cover an overheated dog with a wet towel or blanket. This inhibits evaporation and creates a sauna effect around your dog’s body. Also, don’t wet the dog down and put it into an enclosed area, such as a kennel. Any air flow during the cooling process is helpful in reducing the dog’s body temperature. Sitting with the wet dog in a running car with the air conditioner blowing is an ideal cooling situation.

5. Keep the dog moving. Try to encourage your dog to stand or walk slowly as it cools down. The circulating blood tends to pool in certain areas if the dog is lying down, thus preventing the cooled blood from circulating back to the core.

6. Give small amounts of water. Cooling the dog is the first priority. Hydration is the next. Don’t allow the dog to gulp water. Instead, offer small amounts of cool water, not cold. If the dog drinks too much water too rapidly, it could lead to vomiting or bloat.
Performance beverages designed for humans are not recommended because they’re not formulated with the canine’s physiology in mind. If you can’t get an overheated dog to drink water, try offering chicken- or beef-based broths.

7. Get to your butts to the vet or emergency vet as soon as you can. Like, pronto.

Listen, living in Florida we need to be extra aware of how the heat is affecting our pets. As you may have noticed, it gets pretty darn hot in the summer, but heat stroke can occur in the spring or fall as well. In general, make sure your dog gets plenty of water, air circulation, and shade, and remember the self-cooling ability depends on the dog. Short-snouted breeds like bulldogs or pugs can’t cool themselves as easily through panting. Dog breeds that originated in cold climates (like huskies, malamutes, and newfoundlands) also typically have a harder time adjusting to the heat.

Hopefully this was just a refresher for you—you already knew how to keep your dog safe in the heat, right? Please don’t be afraid to speak up (in a kind way) if you think someone else’s dog is in danger. You could save a life! •

PS! Headed to the beach? Bring shade and fresh water for your dog … unless you want a good talkin’ to.

/ Too Hot To Trot – Preventing Heat stroke in Dogs | Freedom Issue | June/July 2019