A blind rescue dog brings special challenges but more than enough love and personality to make a perfect match.
What made you decide to adopt a blind/deaf dog? We never really decided. It just happened. We did foster him for close to a year, and only started thinking about adding him to our pack about 9 months in
Where did you find him? A very good friend of ours started her own 501c3 special needs rescue. Chato was one of the many visually and/or hearing-impaired dogs in her group. We met him for the first time at a rescue event.
What are the challenges, and how did you deal with them? The challenges of bringing a blind/deaf dog into a home with dogs and cats that can see and hear are very real. A dog that cannot see or hear relies on his other senses. He knew immediately we had other dogs in the house and wanted to try and find them. Three out of our four at the time were okay with an introduction, one was not. It took a very long time to make that introduction. We had a very alpha female in the house, and she was jealous of the attention the new dog was getting. Once we got past the helicopter parent stage, things got much easier for Chato, our other dogs, and for us as well. The biggest challenge was getting past the fact he was born with no vision and ability to hear and wanting to coddle him and protect him. It was a human challenge, not a canine challenge.
How does the dog fit in with other pets? Chato adjusted quite well once he figured out how many other pets were in the house and could identify them by their smell. He took to our Golden Retriever Leo immediately. Chato and Leo are still best buds. We always take Leo with us when we take Chato on an outing. I think it gives Chato a sense of comfort knowing his big brother Leo is there. Chato does well with all his current canine and feline siblings.
What advice would you give to others who may be contemplating a deaf and blind dog? My advice would be to fully understand the commitment you are making to this dog. Understand there will be a period of adjustment for the dog, any other pets and humans in the house. I would suggest any pet parent of a blind/deaf dog take a pet first aid and CPR class. My first aid training has paid off quite well with Chato and his little scratches and occasional run in with another dog’s mouth. Be prepared to give this dog a safe space to claim as his or her own, whether a bed, crate, or another room in the house.
How do you communicate with a dog that is deaf and blind? Training tips? The answer to both questions is patience. Chato responds very well to touch. I have found touching him near his shoulder blades gets his attention. Once I have his attention, I run my hand down his spine to get him in a sitting position. Once he is sitting, I rub him under his chin to reward him and give a treat if we are in training mode. Just like a dog that can see and hear consistency is critical.
What accommodations have you made for his special needs? We have not moved any furniture since he came to us. He knows how to find his way around the house quite well. We feed him in the same place twice a day. We have a few dog beds scattered throughout our house and he knows where each once is, especially after the last potty break before bed. He knows he gets a night-night treat. Who trained who?
Did you choose him, or did he choose you? I think it was mutual. It was love at first sight for me, and love at first sniff for him.
To see Chato in action, he has his own Facebook page The Adventures of Chatopotomus, @chatopotomus.
Cats have always been mysterious and even mystical as well as the first defense against rodents. Here are some cat facts to help you understand your feline companion.
It’s in the genes! You know a lot about your cat except, for many cat owners, you don’t know what type of cat you have. Basepaws, an animal health company specializing in genetics, can analyze your cat’s DNA for breed type, health markers, and its wild heritage. (You may have a cute kitten that is descended from a lynx!)
How it works: you purchase their kit, send them a cheek swab, and wait for your cat’s genetic report. You’ll discover what breeds and breed groups your cat descended from and what health issues can affect your cat’s life.
Personality Is your cat social, confident, and easy going or timid, shy and unfriendly? Studies have confirmed that not only is personality inherited from the mother, but that friendliness specifically is, in part, inherited from the father. The best time to begin gently handling a cat is before 8 weeks old. Feral cats may become adjusted to humans who regularly feed them, but they generally don’t like to be handled.
Foraging Cats in the wild eat numerous small meals each day and spend a lot of time hunting. This is why food puzzles instead of food bowls are so enriching. They mimic the cat’s natural choice.
Senses, habits, and interesting facts:
Each cat has its own signature scent. They spread their scent over their fur through grooming. Friendly cats rub up against each other to transfer their scent. This friendly behavior is called allorubbing.
Cat’s ears can be rotated at 180 degrees. The average cat’s hearing is at least five times keener than a humans.
Domestic cats spend about 70% of the day sleeping and 15% grooming.
Most cats don’t have eyelashes.
Cats can jump up to six times their length.
Cats use their whiskers to feel the world around them and to determine if they can fit into small spaces. A malady called whisker fatigue is caused by too much stimulation. For this reason many cat owners prefer to feed their cat on a plate instead of a small bowl.
Cats were first brought to America during Colonial Times to hunt rats.
Two hundred feral cats prowl the park at Disneyland on rat patrol.
Cats have also contributed to the extinction of 33 different species. Placing bird feeders in safe areas will save a lot of feathered beings.
Kittens often seek warmth in car engines. Always thump on your hood before starting your car to scare them off to a safer space.
Happy Pet! Happy Home!
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Are you dogs and cats happy? Here are some great ways to keep your pet’s mind and body occupied this winter and reduce his stress levels.
Keep That Tail wagging!
If you have a puppy or adult dog with lots of energy, you know how much work it is to keep your pet entertained. The colder weather and COVID has kept a lot of us indoors which adds another challenge. Lack of exercise and mental stimulation can raise the frustration and stress level for both pet and their people. You’ve probably noticed how your dog’s stress level—and yours—goes up when he’s not getting enough exercise. High-energy dogs can develop behavior problems if they don’t get enough exercise and stimulation. Here’s how to keep your canine happy:
Play dates. If your dog likes the company of other dogs, invite one or more of his furry friends and their owners to join you in a group walk. Be certain that the canine companions know each other and have proven that they get along. Double check that your equipment fits properly. There are many local parks in New Bern to enjoy.
Hidden Treats. Gather a handful of treats and show them to your dog. Place your dog in a sit/stay (or have someone hold him on a leash) and let him watch you hide the treats in front of him in safe places like under a pillow or behind a door.
Let him go and encourage him to search. When he discovers a treat, praise him. After a few of these sessions, he will get the idea. You can then start hiding treats in other rooms, and he will stay busy hunting them down. We call this the “Find It” game at my house. Your can graduate from treats to toys or even hiding yourself and calling your dog to search for you.
Winter walks. Be on the lookout for a break in the cold and seize the moment. Even a short walk can give your pet some exercise and mental stimulation. A good ten-minute “sniffari” is fun and fulling for your pet. Or add some novelty to your dog’s walks by discovering a new place or adding some games to the outing.
Puzzle toys. Invest in a puzzle toy or two to keep your dog’s mind occupied and provide an opportunity to challenge your dog’s problem-solving skills. The toy rewards the dog with a treat when he figures out the puzzle. There are a lot of choices. One of my favorites are the puzzles that replace the food bowl. This gives your dog a chance to hunt for his meals on a daily basis. I also use a snuffle mat with dry treats or kibble tucked inside or a licky mat smeared with peanut butter to engage my dog’s culinary senses.
Kong toy. This is a long-time favorite at my house and is great for keeping dogs from being bored or for encouraging them to settle in their crate or on their “go to” place. This tough rubber concoction can be filled with peanut butter, soft cheese or Kong Stuff’N, and keeps dogs busy as they work on removing the food with their tongue. I put a few treats inside a peanut-butter filled the Kong that I let freeze in the fridge. This keeps my pets busy longer.
Tug and ball. These are good indoor or outdoor games. If you have some space, you can toss the ball down a long hallway or down a staircase for a game of fetch. If your dog likes to tug, get him a new tug toy and play with him until he gets tired. I like to keep some tugs and balls just for indoor use.
Trick training. This is something my dogs, Davy and Ginger, had fun with during the pandemic. I printed out the AKC Trick Dog List and started crossing new tricks off as we learned them. We added roll-over, crawl, and give me your paw to our repertoire. Now we are working on closing open drawers. There is a long list of fun activities to learn.
Make Your Cat Purr!
There are a lot of things that you can do to support your cat’s mental and physical well-being while keeping him safely inside. Cats love to climb, play, eat, observe, explore, hide, perch, scratch, groom, and hang out with their favorite human. Here are activities that fulfill these needs.
Environmental Enrichment. Provide cat trees, window perches, and hiding places from a simple paper bag, empty box, or tunnel to shelving, walkways and catios. Scratching posts give cats an acceptable place to scratch and trim their nails. There are many varieties of scratching posts, but the best ones are sturdy and steady. Keep in mind that cats like to extend their full body for a good scratch.
Social Interactions. Cats are social animals and like to interact with you when they are in the right mood. Don’t push yourself on them, but do be ready when they are asking for your attention. They prefer to be touched around the cheeks and head and most enjoy being brushed on a regular basis. We find some cats love to be read to or given a gentle massage, and quality lap time.
Visual Enrichment. An interesting view of the yard enhanced with a bird feeder can keep them entertained all year. Laser pointers, blowing bubbles, pinwheels, and interactive toys are great boredom busters.
Auditory Enrichment through calming music. – Yes, there is music especially for cats that will reduce stress, boost moods, and improve physical and emotional well-being. Through a Cat’s Ear is an example of cat specific music that is popular with veterinary practices and pet sitters. The tones of cat-specific music are best played softly as cats hear much better than we do. The pet cube that I use for my pet sitting clients play sounds in a lower register (matches a cat’s resting pulse rate) and are slower (not great to hum along to, but cats like it!).
Pheromone Spray. If you have a cat that is nervous or anxious, you can add Feliway pheromone to help them calm down. It comes in sprays, collars, and plug-ins. I particularly like the sprays on bedding for car travel or veterinary visits. The spray lasts about four hours. Plug-ins are great for the house used in the room where the cat spends most of its time.
Food Foraging. There are interactive toys that you can stuff with kibble giving your cat an opportunity to hunt. Place or hide these toys around your house. Many behaviorists are suggesting we stop feeding our pets out of food bowls.
Training your Cat. Yes, cats can learn many tricks – fetch, high-five, rollover. They are very smart… after all, they train us! To teach the tricks have some good treats handy, a clicker for training, and have fun with your feline.
Our pets have preferences too. Get to know your pet and find out what they like or don’t like. It’s a great way to build the bond you have between you and add to the quality of their lives. After all, don’t we all want our pets to be happy?
I am so ready, as I am sure you are, to turn the page on 2020 and welcome the New Year. It’s difficult to keep one’s thoughts positive during a pandemic which had such a profound impact on the way we live, work, maintain relationships, and stay healthy.
One thing that lifted my spirit was the responses I received from a Facebook post. I asked my friends to tell me about a special “Happy Memory” they had of their pets. The responses were varied and heartwarming to read.
I re-read the list many times and each time it made me feel better. People remembered times where they felt compassion, gratitude, connection, satisfaction, accomplishment, and unconditional love. Below are the submissions, edited for clarity. Let’s start off 2021 with a smile:
Linda Ross I loved it when my cat Gypsie and I would be lying in bed. He would be across from me and we had eye contact. I would talk to him and he would reach over to boop me on the nose with his paw. …I miss those respectful communications where two species are really communicating… and I miss the boops on my nose.
Karen Fischer Lang For the last 20 years, we have had both cats and dogs as pets, averaging 3 creatures at a time. I love when a cat and dog become buddies. Our lab Bailey’s best friend was Smokey the cat. Bailey learned to open the pantry door and Smokey would scale the shelves and pull chicken strips out of the bag on a shelf for her. In the evening, Smokey would curl up with Bailey so she could get her ears licked clean.
Ben Johnson My dog goes to one of the local craft breweries with me. Everyone loves him there, and he does “rounds” saying hi to everyone. The owners gave him an official brewery sweatshirt.
Becca Nolan … Moose got neutered the day before I got my tonsils removed so we got to be bedridden together.
Lynda Bedford …When my monster puppy Asher broke through his 3rd metal crate and played behind a wall! …When I got foster puppies Briscoe and Logan from an abuse case. They were petrified, stayed in a crate together for 3 days until I won their trust.
Miranda Murdock …Watching how gentle and vigilant my lab is with our human newborns, and she feels compelled to notify us if they start to cry.
Christine Stutz My favorite memory is with my first ever cat Sam. He was lying on his hammock and I was lying on the sofa. I said,” Come here sweetie…” and patted my chest. He came right over and snuggled on my chest and never stopped until he passed.
Carol Metz We finally built a fence so Chewy could run around free of a leash. Watching him run outside for the first time was so exciting. He ran and bounced around joyfully. So very cool to see him run around, free as can be inside his fence.
Isabel Alvarez Arata My husband had just come back from deployment and he, my two dogs, my 18 month old son, and I were driving from Miami, FL to El Paso, TX over the course of 8 days. We stopped somewhere in Texas near San Antonio, I think, at a lovely restaurant that also had a gardening center attached. They had a gorgeous patio where we sat with the dogs and had the space all to ourselves. It was so relaxed and beautiful and we loved including the dogs in our little outing.
Lupita Urias When shadow my then foster dog came out of his shell and brought me a toy when I got home a couple of months after I took him in. He adopted me and here we are 13 years later.
Misty Phillips The day after my cat Draco had his second surgery for a really bad infection. The night before he was so bad he just lay limp on my chest and I thought I was losing him. BUT the next morning I woke up and he was standing on the cat tree and he meowed and jumped on the bed and gave me one of his amazing head butts and I knew he was ok! Will never forget that moment!
Shannon Morrow Our trip to Barkwells filled my heart with indescribable joy. Seeing my middle aged dogs run like young pups in a special place built just for them is an experience I’ll never forget. Besides that, every time my buddy Cody rolls over and asks for a belly rub, I get a warm spot in my heart – he takes huge risks in trusting us considering his abusive past. Knowing that he feels safe and has a comfortable life means more than anything else I can think of.
Scott Brown 1997, March 1st. A friend of ours found Gypsy in a cardboard box along Cobbs Creek Parkway in Philly. She arrived at our house that afternoon. I didn’t even recognize her as a dog. She was cowering outside, making a nest for the night. We had to carry her inside. She never had to be house trained. She gained weight, and became the sweetest best dog we have had to date. She lived a long life and was loved by everyone who met her. Our current rescue Belle is another story, but she is making strides every day. Abused horribly, she is becoming a loving dog who occasionally comes out of a dark room to smell us.
Skip Wolff …When Rik, my first Doberman, finished his American Kennel Club Utility title. (Note: The Utility class, which includes scent discrimination, directed retrieves, jumping and silent signal exercises, is the most challenging class. Dogs earn a Utility Dog (UD) title after receiving three qualifying scores under two different judges.)
Judy Curran (my sister) I used to love watching you walking Tina (German shepherd mix) with your cat Mandy following about 6 feet behind.
Karen Peters …Taking my Maximiliano with me to local outdoor festivals. I’d pay for both our admissions ($2), and folks behind me would say…”She paid for her dog!!” I miss that and don’t go to festivals anymore now that he is gone.
Caroline Drake …Recognizing when a newly adopted rescue pet realizes they are safe and can start to live like whatever species they are. You can see it in their eyes that trusting the new human is a good thing. It is far more rewarding for them to accept you than the other way around.
Karen Fischer Lang Gary and I were at CCHS (Colonial Capital Humane Society) to adopt a “support” puppy for our Penny, also a CCHS alum who was grieving over the loss of our Bailey. We sat on the porch watching several crazy puppies running around when this quiet little pup came over and sat on my lap. He definitely chose me.
Carolyn King When Zacky, my male Maltese would smile,(teeth showing) when he was offered a piece of American cheese! That made me smile every time.
Beverly Cowperthwait MacMillan My dog Chelsey followed me everywhere. If I went to the bathroom she came and sat beside me, if I was in the shower she sat right outside the shower waiting for me and when I went to work every day she would howl at the picture window in the mornings because she missed me (my neighbors told me). She was probably the sweetest, most loving and most attached dog that I ever had. She was a mushy love bug. I’ve had three different springer spaniels and they all had different personalities, hers was the absolute best.
Tess Annemarie Ross For my dogs, one time after the groomers I took them through the drive thru at Starbucks for puppuccinos. After that we drove to a pet store where they had open bins that they could pick out their own snacks! It was a good day.
Annette Hunt Jeanne I thank God for you every time Chantilly sits on her “spot” in the foyer when the front door opens. You taught her this when she was 6 months old. You even took her to the doggie parade downtown New Bern. And the two of you were on TV that evening. We were in CO. Chantilly Lace is now 11 years old. And you look 11 years younger!
Patricia Pike When our Aussie sat in the cab of the truck we rented to move home.
Scott Brown …When we moved from one end of our street to the other. Our new house had a much bigger back yard, and our dog Gypsy didn’t want to go back to the old house for the night. She loved it here. We miss her so much. We’ve had to have two rescue dogs to take her place.
Alan Strawser So a lifetime of memories: Here’s one. A big feral tom would come by every morning and night for food. He never got closer than 6 feet to me no matter how calm and patient I was. Then one morning he arrived with a huge gash in his neck. Suddenly his caution disappeared and he came right over to me and let me clean his nasty gash! Now we are besties and hang together at every meal, complete with head butts and belly rubs. He’s fixed now but he is responsible for blessing me with 13 of his offspring…and they are all the same exact shade of grey and almost impossible to tell apart!
Mary Lou Pappolla I have many such moments, but during this Pandemic I don’t know how I would survive without my Bichon. While I spend many days in my home, I am never alone. Elly Mae is always here to snuggle with me.
Scott Black The day I met this special needs boy: The Adventures of Chatopotomus. I knew I had to try and foster to adopt him. It’s been five years and he makes my heart happy every day. I love how his other canine and feline siblings have accepted him, and actually look out for him.
A coat for your pet is not just a fashion statement, it is a safety measure. Even with shaggy fur coats your pets can still suffer the impacts of cold weather.
Just like people, your pets all react to cold differently depending on age, breed, and size. Like most seniors, older cats and dogs have a hard time maintaining body heat. Meanwhile, puppies and kittens shouldn’t be outside in the frigid air even when well-dressed because they don’t have the fat, metabolism, or the full fur coat they need to stay warm when temperatures plunge.
Of course, it’s not a good idea to shave your dog’s coat during colder seasons. The fur helps keep your pet comfortable so just wait until spring to give Fifi a new do.
A fabric coat or knit sweater for your pet can be fashionable and warm. Add a reflective collar or some reflective accents on the covering to make it easier to spot you and your dog on the dawn and dusk patrols. Take the coat off as soon as your pet comes inside and never leave a wet coat on your pet otherwise they will get chilled from the damp material and you’ll have defeated the purpose of the protective garment.
When it’s cold or wet out, veterinarians say it’s vital to keep young, old, and sick pets indoors. If the temp is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too cold for pets to be left outside for extended periods and below 32 degrees is when frostbite occurs. It’s up to you to watch the thermometer and keep your pet warm and snug.
Rather than chilly hours in the yard unattended, keep those outdoor breaks short, just 10-15 minutes for a romp 3 or 4 times a day is a better option. When it is cold, watch your pet closely for signs of distress which may include shivering, lethargy, disorientation, and whining. If you think your pet is hypothermic, call your vet to determine the best way to warm them up.
While you can’t bundle up your outdoor pets, expect to add 10-15% more food in the winter. Birds (and squirrels) love to get peanut butter and suet when it is cold outside and those extra calories may help maintain their body heat.
Thankfully, we in NC don’t have to contend with severe and lengthy bitter cold seasons like other parts of the country. Our cold snaps may be brief but our concern for every pet’s well-being is for all seasons.
Happy Pet! Happy Home!
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I have owned more than a handful of dogs and have prepared many foster dogs for adoption. Along the way, I have met some interesting and challenging canines. One such dog was Duke, The Found Hound. I was buying groceries at the Food Lion in Bridgeton. Every time the door opened, this large, bony tick-ridden hound walked in sweeping his tail from side to side. He entered the store three times and each time he was forced back outside. After the third time, the store employees were ready to call Animal Control. It was Thanksgiving week, and I figured the fate of this dog in the hands of Animal Control would not have a good outcome.
In the parking lot, the dog was going up to everyone in the same friendly manner that he showed as he entered the Food Lion. Everyone brushed him off –that is, everyone but me. I saw something in him that I liked. No one knew anything about this dog so I considered him abandoned. It was clear by looking at him that he hadn’t been well cared for. He was severely underweight and his coat was in poor condition.
I asked some people to help me get him into the backseat of my car. They asked me what I was going to do with him, and I said I’d adopt him out or keep him. They looked at me like I was crazy. My intentions were to get him fully vetted, neutered, trained in some basic obedience, and then adopt him out through the humane society. After I got home, I named him Duke, and started his rehabilitation. He impressed me with his intelligence, athleticism, and willingness to learn. I worked on calming his reactiveness to other dogs, eliminating his food aggressive issues, and taught him basic skills and house manners. When he was ready, I took him to an adoptathon. To my dismay, he was ignored because he was too big. Everyone passed us to view the little dogs. I decided that no one would ever do that to him again and took him “home.” He was mine!
This dog that no one wanted went on to receive a Canine Good Citizenship certificate, had a blast learning agility, and excelled at obedience. He remained my faithful companion for eight years. To this day, he holds the title of being the most frustrating and challenging dog I’ve owned. But he also taught me the most and took me to places I never would have gone. For that, I am forever grateful.
If you have a dog that is a challenge, we may be able to help. We’d love to improve the outcome of your story. Contact us so we can all hear it.