I got a sneak peek Monday of the Wild Walkabout exhibit, which officially opens May 24. It's going to be a fantastic experience for zoo-goers, who can take a self-guided tour of more than 50 species of Australian animals zoo-wide.
Can you see the joey peeking out his momma's pouch in the photo above? Here's a better shot of him, courtesy of ace Blade photographer Lori King:
The two dingoes, a mating pair named Indigo and Tawny, also were sweet. They look a lot like small German Shepherd mixes. The female, Tawny, was the more friendly of the two and she's the one who gave both me and Lori sweet licks. Apparently she had just eaten a mouse, but we were still fine with the kisses.
The star of the show is Baru, the 15-foot saltwater crocodile who arrived April 5 from Australia. Besides meeting the newcomers, I also checked in on him and he seems to be settling right in. He even gave me a slow wink, as if to say, "Thanks, I like it here."
Here's a picture of me touching him the night he got here, courtesy of photographer Katie Rausch.
He finally ate, at least they think he did. It took a large piece of beef to entice him. Although no one actually saw him swallow, the piece they gave him seems to have disappeared from the exhibit. This is after he merely "played" with the dead chickens they had given him previously.
I guess that means he has been thinking "Where's the beef?" Sorry, I couldn't resist.
My husband and I started planning the trip almost as soon as we got home from our last vacation in early January. The plan was to drive (which I had never done before) and stop at a few Frank Lloyd Wright houses along the way. We'd end up in Lakeland where we'd watch the Detroit Tigers' last spring training game before they head up to Detroit to play in the freezing cold.
I knew five weeks ago our plans were in jeopardy when I got perhaps the most dreaded news a pet owner can receive: My beloved Dash had cancer. The 13-year-old DLH (shelter lingo for domestic long hair) had been losing weight and had a sinus infection that didn't want to respond to the three different antibiotics his primary care vet had tried.
We have been treating him with prednisolone along with several chemotherapy drugs and at his last appointment, on March 21, the tumor in his GI tract had shrunk some, but not as much as his oncologist hoped. His blood work results were improved, which was encouraging. But he had a few bad days before that exam and I was fearing the worst.
In fact, I couldn't stop crying. It had been five weeks since his diagnosis on Feb. 14 and I think the reality of the cancer was finally hitting me.
It's kind of a bad joke that the dreaded C had stricken Dash. Rescued by the Michigan Humane Society's cruelty investigators (the "Animal Cops" who had a show on Animal Planet), he had survived numerous illnesses over the years, including several that placed him close to death.
We fostered him for MHS when he was a kitten. They named him "Survivor" because he was found with not just one but three rubber bands embedded in his neck. They had cut into his throat so much that he couldn't even swallow. He was too weak to stand when the cruelty investigators picked him up off the porch of a vacant house. A neighbor had called MHS about the sick kitten, thankfully.
At this point in our fostering career, my husband Jim and I had already had dozens of cats and kittens and a few small dogs. It was the first critter I'd brought home to care for that made Jim worry that we might lose him because he was so sick.
Needless to say, when he did make it, after several surgeries to remove all the rubber band fragments, we could not face the idea of giving him up. He got a permanent home with us without going up for adoption.
Not long after adopting him, we made Simon an indoor cat. He was an ornery male street cat that "came" with the house (the previous owner had been feeding him). We got him fixed and had been feeding him, but he had disappeared for a few weeks, nearly breaking my heart. So when he showed back up at the door, that was it, he was coming in for good.
We were anxious about how Simon and Dash would get along since Simon was a bit of a crank and Dash was very much still a silly kitten. Our worries were not realized since the two of them hit it off immediately. Simon liked grumbling at Dash -- he still does -- but they are nearly constant companions.
Thankfully, Simon has been very sweet to Dash since he got sick, lettting him curl up next to him with minimal protest. In the picture above, taken on March 24, Cutie the Chihuahua decided to join them.
Although I'm sad to have to cancel vacation, staying home and looking after our cat seems preferable to worrying about him the whole time we would have been gone. There will be time for vacations down the road. This is Dash's time.
I'm happily married, but Valentine's Day always makes me want to cuddle with my furry friends. This year, I'm blessed with two Chihuahuas,Cutie and Bug, a foster Chihuahua, Gizmo, and a clowder of felines.
Thankfully, everyone gets along very well. Gizmo, who was transferred from the Lucas County Dog Warden to LOYAL Rescue, is looking for a permanent home. The old guy only has a few teeth, but somehow managed to get up over 9 pounds before he was turned in to the pound. With a very strict diet of calorie-restricted food, he is down already to 8 pounds 6 ounces. He should probably weigh about 5 pounds.
If you or someone you know is looking for a new furry friend to adopt and are interested in Gizmo, please contact me at email@example.com. He's a fun little guy with a lot of love to give. Maybe you need someone furrry to hug?
Cutie, the little ambassador from the Lucas County dog warden (she is the namesake for Cutie's Fund) who I adopted in October, has a dark side. I thought she was pretty good with other dogs. She was fantastic with Klinger, a little Chihuahua mix who I fostered briefly, and she was great with my sister-in-law's German Shepherd mix.
But apparently she does not like the French. Or rather, French Poodles.
I brought Windsor home from the pound last night and she was outraged. She barked and barked and barked. And this is from a dog that NEVER barks. (Only when I make her "brother" Bug sing, but that's another story.)
Today, she was on the couch with me (it's my day off since I worked Sunday) and she did not like it a bit when Windsor came over to say "hi." Jealous, much?
Poor Windsor. He really means no harm. Thankfully, he has been very respectful of both Cutie and the Bug and also the cats. He's heading up to Oshawa, Ont. tomorrow, courtesy of Open Arms Dog Transports. Jim and I will be driving her from our home to Windsor, where we'll pick up a few more dogs and then continue driving to Chatham where another driver will take over.
He's a very sweet dog and I'm very happy that LOYAL Rescue helped him get out of the pound. He could not go up for adoption at the Lucas County dog warden because he had some issues with guarding his food. I thnk he'll be fine out of the shelter environment.
(c) 2013 Creative Focus Photography
I have a little bit of a crush on the cat pictured above. His name is Noki and he's a 16-month-old American bobtail. I met him Sunday when I was covering the Cat Fanciers' Association cat show in Monroe. My story has more information about Noki and his owner, Lorna Friemoth.
Although I cover mostly dog-related issues for The Blade, I am a closet cat fancier. Well, I'm not that closeted. I have a pair of cat shoes that I wear with pride. I haven't been able to find dog shoes yet, although I'm sure they are out there and I just need to look harder.
I started out with dogs as pets when I was growing up. My poodles, Shawn and then Ebony, meant the world to me. They were truly my best friends and confidantes. I wanted a cat, but my Dad was an ailurophobe, which is just a fancy way to say that he hated cats. He was actually very afraid of them. He believed they sucked the breath out of babies. I'm not sure what he thought they might do to adults and teenagers, but I never had a chance to find out.
It wasn't until I graduated from college and got my first apartment that I was able to adopt my first kitten from the Michigan Humane Society in 1991. I had Tigger for a year before rescuing another cat, a calico that I named Ariel, from a second-hand store where she was doing her best to avoid the resident guard dogs.Then my husband moved in with his cat, Felix, and we were up to three. We didn't get our first dog, a Chihuahua named Martha, until several years later.
Although we adore our current two Chihuahuas, Bug and Cutie, my husband is fond of saying "The worst cat is less work than the best dog." He's probably correct since dogs need to be taken outside to relieve themselves and taken for walks, while cats are pretty much self-sufficient as long as you keep their litter box cleaned. Anyone who thinks cats aren't friendly needs to spend more time with cats. Male black cats in particular are very dog like in their devotion and need for human affection.
Covering the cat show reminded me of all the cool breeds that are out there that you seldom see in shelters. I am a huge supporter and proponent of adopting from shelters and rescues, but I also believe there is absolutely a place for responsible breeding. It would be a shame if all the purebred cats and dogs disappeared. If that were to happen, we wouldn't be able to smile at funny faces like Ollivander, the Cornish rex pictured below.
If you've read my story in today's Blade, you know that Aaron Nova, the former Lucas County Dog Warden employee charged with animal cruelty, was acquitted of the charge, despite video evidence because the dog, Marbles, pictured above, did not sustain injuries.
The story has generated a lot of reaction. The short web story I did yesterday after the judge's decision resulted in 73 comments, most who were appalled with the decision.
Most of the commenters are upset with the judge. I've received a few phone calls from readers who were also very angry at the judge.
While judges have some latitude in interpreting laws, the bottom line is they are only as good as the laws they have to interpret.
Most animal lovers in Ohio will tell you the state's animal-related laws are pretty weak. When it comes to cruelty laws, the punishments are mild for the crime. Even if Mr. Nova had been found guilty, the only reason he would have been facing jail time is because he violated the terms of his probation. (He is on probation for an unrelated domestic violence assault charge. He received a six months suspended jail sentence, meaning he'd only have to serve the time if he violated the terms of his probation.)
My suggestion for anyone who is angry is to write your state representative and state senator a short email to tell them you are unhappy with Ohio's animal cruelty laws. If you don't know who your legislators are, you can find them by going here and entering your zip code.
The pre-holiday stress is starting (at least for me) so maybe it's time for some pet-related humor.
First, stop and get down on the floor and let your dog love on you or your cat headbutt you. If you have a ferret, take it for a walk on a leash and make your neighbors laugh.
If you are a cat person (maybe even if you're not) you'll appreciate these wonderful videos that won "The Friskies" awards recently. Click here for all of them. Oskar's First Toys was the grand prize winner and it's adorable and heartwarming. Cat Alarm Clock also is bound to make you smile.
If you are a dog person, you will appreciate these new dog breeds, shared with me by my co-worker Tahree Lane.
New Dog Breeds
Collie + Lhasa Apso = Collapso, a dog that folds up for easy transport
Spitz + Chow Chow = Spitz-Chow, a dog that throws up a lot
Pointer + Setter = Poinsetter, a traditional Christmas pet
Malamute + Pointer = Moot Point, owned by...oh well, it doesn't matter anyway
Great Pyrenees + Dachshund = Pyradachs, a puzzling breed
Pekingnese + Lhasa Apso = Peekasso, an abstract dog
Irish Water Spaniel + English Springer Spaniel = Irish Springer, a dog fresh and clean as a whistle
Labrador Retriever + Curly Coated Retriever = Lab Coat Retriever, the choice of research scientists
Newfoundland + Basset Hound = Newfound Asset Hound, a dog for financial advisors
Terrier + Bulldog = Terribull, a dog that makes awful mistakes
Bloodhound + Labrador = Blabador, a dog that barks incessantly
Collie + Malamute = Commute, a dog that travels to work
Deerhound + Terrier = Derriere, a dog that's true to the end
Bull Terrier + Shih tzu = Bull...oh, never mind
No, I'm not talking about the election and the winners who beat out incumbents. (Although it seems like I should, since politics is all we've been talking about in Ohio for what seems like forever.)
The Irwin family welcomed a new dog into the house last month. Her name is Cutie, and boy is she ever (a cutie!)
photo by Carlos Munoz
Here she is a few weeks ago in the newsroom. I brought her to work with me on a Saturday, in part so we could pop in at the Lucas County Dog Warden, where they were holding their Howlaween event. I also wanted to see how she behaved in the newsroom. She was absolutely perfectly behaved, quiet and unobtrusive. She spent the majority of the day hanging out in her crate, but would folllow me around the newsroom when I had to leave my desk to go talk to someone.
Cutie is an alumna of the dog warden and I feel very fortunate have found her and been able to adopt her. My other Chihuahua, Bug, has been very lonely since his buddy Martha, my first Chi, passed away in May. Now they are two peas in a pod. You'll be hearing lots of stories about Cutie. Stay tuned.
Please check out my story in today's Blade:
It seems like when an animal cruelty case first breaks, it's big news. And then time goes on and people move on to the next story.
But this is a story that hasn't gone away for the folks at the Humane Society of Sandusky. And it definitely hasn't gone away for the 10 foster homes who have poured their heart and soul into taking care of the 10 dogs that are caught in legal limbo.
I can't even imagine having a dog for over a year and having to live day-to-day wondering if it might end up taken away from me. My heart goes out to the foster familes. You are doing an amazing thing for these dogs, no matter the outcome. But I do hope justice is served.
Nellie and the last of her pups have landed in absolutely stellar homes. Don't you love a happy ending?
Fabulous Fergus has landed a forever family and a new name. Now Toby, he joins big brother Jack in posing for a picture. Posing didn't last long though, as these two new buddies decided chase is the name of the game.
Keegan also got an amazing home with lots of folks to play with. He was adopted Aug. 25 at the MegaAdoption event sponsored by the Toledo Area Humane Society in front of the Petsmart in Rossford.
And momma Nellie landed in a home even better than I could of imagined. She has two little boys who love her to pieces. She's going to grow up with them and I look forward to many stories and photos as the years go by.
Facebook is such a godsend when it comes to fostering. It's never easy to say goodbye, but technology makes it so much easier to stay in touch.
A little update on my other fosters: I ended up keeping Scarlet and her pups for four weeks instead of the two I was anticipating, but that's ok, because really, the momma dogs do all the work the first four weeks. I wish more folks would consider fostering a mom and pups for a month. It's way less work than you think.
They were transferred to another Lucas County Pit Crew foster home and three of the five pups have been adopted, including Carmen, who turned out to be a total Heinz 57 mix, according to her DNA test, but is absolutely adorable.
After that, my husband and I fostered an adorable litter of kittens from the Michigan Humane Society. They had upper respiratory infections and just needed a few weeks of antibiotics and TLC. They went up for adoption last weekend.
We also did a quick, one-week foster of two of the Chihuahuas rescued from the puppy mill-turned hoarder by the Toledo Area Humane Society. They were quickly adopted along with the 13 other Chis at the MegaAdoption event.
We are currently taking a short break from fostering. Who knows what the next critter to walk in the door will be?
I'm Tanya Irwin, animal welfare reporter for The Blade. I've been covering critter issues since November, 2011. I focus on the Lucas County Dog Warden, Toledo Area Humane Society, Toledo Zoo, Humane Ohio, and the plethora of rescue groups who do great things for our four-legged friends in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. In case you haven’t figured it out, I am more than a reporter, I’m an animal lover. I have been a foster volunteer and transport driver for several rescue groups, most recently the Lucas County Pit Crew. Let’s just say I walk the talk when it comes to advocating for animals.