Category Archives: special needs

At Kindness Ranch

Kindness Ranch Animal Sanctuary is a unique place, the only sanctuary in the United States that cares for animals used in research and laboratory facilities.  At this property, you’ll find horses, cows, sheep, pigs, cats and dogs.

The small team at Kindness, which is a fairly new sanctuary at only 12 years old (founded in 2006), work hard to care for the animals and maintain their large Wyoming property to the highest of standards.  Animals that can be rehabilitated are put up for adoption; the others will simply remain at the property with a secure and safe home for life.

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I have just finished a week of work with the dog care team at Kindness, discussing things like behavioral adjustment programs, enrichment, gait analysis, physical rehabilitation and senior dog care.    I also introduced them to the range of flower essences I use to support emotional health whilst working on training and rehab.

I chose to travel to Kindness Ranch because, for anyone who follows my blog, I often include items about research.  I’m a self-confessed science geek.  But I am not naive.  I know that much of the research which is published involves dogs as study subjects.  The life of a lab animal, in most cases, isn’t pretty.

The ranch is in remote Wyoming – Hartville to be exact with a permanent population of 69 people.  For this reason, if you’d like to visit Kindness (there are 4 guest yurts on the property which can be hired for your stay – and these are well-appointed and very comfortable), you need to book ahead.  The ranch is also a good place for a digital detox, too,  because the guest yurts do not have television and cell phone reception is patchy at best.  WiFi is available but is slower than most are used to and not suitable for streaming.

Dogs coming from a laboratory situation often have unique needs.  Most have never experienced grass under the feet, the sights and sounds of the home environment, and some will have healthcare issues that require attention before adoption is possible.  Many have never been house trained.  Their ages vary depending on how long they were used for study.

And while Beagles are the dogs most often associated with laboratory research, expect to see other breeds of dogs, too.  Larger breed dogs are often used by veterinary schools, for example, so students can learn blood draws, how to vaccinate, etc.  These dogs become living pin cushions and are not surprisingly fearful whenever a needle is presented.

I deliberately chose Kindness as a destination because of the special niche it holds in the animal rescue world.  It takes special people to liaise with laboratories and encourage them to release their animals rather than choosing to simply euthanize them (described as the ‘cost effective’ option).  Kindness walks a tightrope of sorts to ensure that the animals are given safe passage out of the lab and onto the sanctuary whilst maintaining the confidentiality of the labs.

And it also takes special people to live remotely and care for these  animals.

I hope you enjoy these photos of my time at Kindness and, if you believe in their mission, please consider making a donation.  Every bit helps.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Hank

Hank was the first dog to stay with me overnight in my yurt. Hank is an older boy who spent the first 7 or 8 years of his life in a laboratory. He’s a bit stiff, and has trouble with stairs (as many of the Beagles do).

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Hank in for a cuddle

One of Hank’s favourite pastimes is being held like a baby on your lap. He makes himself totally relaxed and floppy and will stay for as long as you like. It’s amazing how trusting these dogs can be given their treatment at the hands of others.

 

Rocky

Rocky is a big boy who doesn’t know his own strength (he needs more training about walking nicely on leash) and he’s afraid of men.  We suspect his life as a veterinary school practice animal meant that he didn’t have a positive relationship with a male lab assistant and/or vet students.  So we worked on setting up a system where the men on the ranch will visit and quietly enter and feed him high value treats. Handlers will praise Rocky when he is quiet and doesn’t bark and will start using a ‘click for quiet’ approach to clicker training.

Frieda

Frieda is a pit bull who loves to go to the dog park on the ranch, appropriately called the K9 Corral. She has good recall and knows most of her basic cues including sit and down. She’s very intelligent!

Gus

Gus is another senior Beagle used in pharmacokinetic studies for at least 7 years. (These studies introduce drugs and watch their effects on other organs in the body.) He’s a bit achy in the joints, too. Gabapentin and muscle relaxants prescribed by the vet have helped him a lot and his caregiver says that he is a different dog with the support of his meds.

 

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Massage for dogs with neurological conditions

I love working with special needs dogs of all kinds.  Last month, I had the privilege of working with two very special puppies at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary – Kit and Caboodle.

These puppies, Siberian Husky crosses, are brother and sister and were abandoned at the age of 8 weeks in Missouri.  They found their way to Utah to be cared for and rehabilitated.  Their kennel is lined with layers of pillows and blankets because both dogs struggle to stand up, although they are getting stronger every day thanks to caregivers and volunteers who work with them on a regular basis.  They even have purpose-built mobility carts to help them!

These kids are approaching their first birthday and have puppy levels of energy and are interested in all that is going on around them; the veterinary team has managed their conditions through medications for nausea and nerve pain….

During my session, we filmed a number of videos with two of the volunteers observing what I was doing with the dogs – so they could replicate some of my actions.

With both dogs, I was interested in calming their central nervous system, relaxation, and lots and lots of stretching since their limbs are working very hard.  Despite their neurological status, both dogs had trigger points just like ‘normal’ dogs do.

I am very grateful for the staff who organized my work schedule so I could offer my skills to 10 dogs at the sanctuary.

And I watch with interest on the progress reports about my neurological babies.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Dogs in strollers: real men do it!

I’m so happy to be able to share these photos.

Kenny is a Blue Heeler/Bull Terrier cross.  Now 12, he’s survived a car accident when a puppy and then a stroke in 2011.

Not surprisingly, Kenny has a few mobility issues.  His back gets sore and his left side is weaker.   He gets regular massage and laser treatments from me which help to keep him more comfortable and mobile.

Like many other senior dogs with a few aches and pains, Kenny still wants to join his family when they go out.  Sometimes he makes it into his favourite park but then struggles on the way back to the car.

The solution, when Kenny gets tired, is to put him in a stroller.

Kenny with dad, Jason (photo by Elesha Ennis)

Kenny with dad, Jason (photo by Elesha Ennis)

Many men seem reluctant to be seen walking their dog in a stroller.  I say “Real men are happy to show that they care and love their dog”.  All credit to Jason, Kenny’s dogfather.

Dogs with mobility issues can live full and active lives with a little help.  Kenny is far better off getting the mental stimulation of family outings than he is being left at home.  Senior dog care requires management techniques; strollers and carts can play their part.

It's a long way back to the car...thanks Dad!  (Photo courtesy of Elesha Ennis)

It’s a long way back to the car…thanks Dad! (Photo courtesy of Elesha Ennis)

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

The dog at the Presidential Inaugural Parade

The dog won’t be Bo…it’ll be this (not so little) fellow:

Independence, a dog balloon proudly wearing a Canine Companions assistance dog vest, will appear in the parade on January 21st.

Independence, a dog balloon proudly wearing a Canine Companions assistance dog vest, will appear in the parade on January 21st.

Independence will be the mascot for Canine Companions for Independence on their float in the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade on Monday, January 21st.

Canine Companions will have 132 marchers from 14 states, with nationwide participation including assistance dog teams, volunteer puppy raisers, National Board Members and staff.

“Canine Companions is honored to be chosen to participate in the Presidential Inaugural Parade. We’re grateful to be able to share in this historic day and to share our mission of serving people with disabilities worldwide,” says CEO Corey Hudson.

Canine Companions was one of 60 organizations chosen from over 2,800 applications. The theme of the parade is “Our People, Our Future”

Now, I wonder where Bo will be?

Deaf pet awareness week

The week of 23 – 29 September is Deaf Pet Awareness Week.

In many cases, when a dog is found to be deaf, it is put to sleep.   However, more frequently there are pet owners willing to take on these special needs animals.  These dogs can be trained using sign language and are just as intelligent as ‘normal’ dogs.

Deafness in animals can be inherited or acquired through trauma, drug reactions, or simply old age.   Dalmatians and Boxers are more prone to deafness than others. Thirty percent of all Dalmatians born are either deaf in one ear or  bilaterally deaf.   Some deaf dogs also have albinism, meaning that they lack normal melanin pigment in their eyes, nose, or skin.  Owners of these dogs have to pay special attention to sun protection.

The Deaf Dog Education Action Fund has a wonderful website with answers to questions involving the ownership and care of deaf dogs.

Use this special week to contact animal shelters in your area to find out if there is a special deaf dog waiting for you!

Firm comes to aid of disabled dog

When Lucky’s wheelchair was stolen, New Hampshire firm HandicappedPets.com stepped in with a new one.  Read the story here.

David Feeney with his dog, Lucky, in Lucky's new wheelchair. Photo by Matthew J Lee, Boston Globe.

Pet relief areas in US airports

In 2009, the US Government passed legislation requiring service animals that are flying to have indoor and outdoor relief facilities.

Here’s what the facility at Maui’s Kahului Airport looks like:

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Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand