Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Interview Wednesday - The Truth About BATS

I'm excited about this interview for two reasons:

1) I LOVE bats! They're a vital part of our eco-system.

2) Cami was one of the teens in my very first Humane Teen Club. She just graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management. (Where did the time go?!)

On to expanding our knowledge about these very important critters!

1) When you hear the word BAT, most people think one of three things: Halloween, vampires, or rabies. What do you think?

·         When I hear bat I think firstly, cute fuzzy small animal that is amazing evolutionarily and morphologically as the only mammal that has developed true flight. Next I think about them eating (hopefully all) mosquitos. And finally, and probably most importantly, I think about the pillar they are in the ecosystem as insect controllers, being of only a select few animals that are nocturnal insectivores. They impact agricultural lands, forested lands, coastal regions, and even urbanized areas in ways that most people don’t know due to the stigma attached to them of being vampires or rabid. But in actuality the majority of bats eat insects, nectar, or fruit. Only three species are actually considered “vampire” bats, all of which occur in Central and South America. They impact such diverse habitats because insects are everywhere and without them a lot of the food we enjoy that are grown in crops would be difficult to produce. These can include wheat fields (the Symbol of Bacardi rum is a bat because bats helped increase the productivity of his crops which lead to a higher production of alcohol for the landowner), fruits, and vegetable crops. This can be both at a large scale ranch or agricultural development and at a small scale community or home garden.

2) How long have you been studying/working with bats?

·         It has been almost two years exactly since I held my first bat. The first year I focused on what kind of roosts they were selecting in a country club in Flagstaff. The second year I focused in on the genetics of that population.

3) What are some of the misconceptions you had that were smashed once you got to know bats?

·         Honestly, going in to this job I had no idea what to expect. I definitely did not think that bats were as cute as I do now having worked closely with them. I also had the misconception that they all looked somewhat similar, but that was smashed on my first few times of handling them. Each species has their own little quirks.

4) Tell us a few FUN facts about these guys!

·         So the Bacardi fact up above is pretty neat! I promote Bacardi now because of that story. Another neat thing is that each genera and sometimes species has a different demeanor; once in a while you may come across individuals that have distinctly different personalities. There are a few species we all love to handle since they are calm and don’t fight and bite so much, these include the Arizona myotis (Myotis occultus; Arizona’s version of the little brown bat; they are very closely related), Mexican free tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis), and the big free tail bat (Nyctinomops macrotis). Others that can be difficult to handle are the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), and the pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus).

·         Another neat thing is that certain species like the big brown bat, have females who roost in large maternity colonies (can be a few hundred) and communally raise their young. Most bats are only able to have a single pup per breeding season, so having other females who will, sometimes, altruistically help raise another females pup. The fascinating thing about this is that based on biology and the “furthering your own genes” idea, these females should be or were thought to be selecting their roosts and females to help based on kinship (so the female you are helping is your sister, aunt, niece, etc). But with the genetic study we did of these roosts we found that there was no significant genetic structure or relatedness, which suggests that they are not roosting with females that they are related to. This makes what they are doing an altruistic behavior by just helping to help.

5) Why are bats such an important part of our environment?

·         Many species are insect controllers. They eat everything from beetles to moths to mosquitos to scorpions (the pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus) does this), so they control these populations and further crop success.  Other bats a nectivorous, so like hummingbird they have exceptionally long tongues that they use to feed on nectar from plant to plant. So like hummingbirds and bees they act as pollinators.

6) What is the biggest threat to bats right now?

·         The main two are fairly obvious I feel. 1) White-nose syndrome and 2) Urbanization which leads to habitat fragmentation.

·         With white-nose syndrome it’s a difficult issue to find a “fix” or solution to. This is mostly due to the fact that it’s a fungus that does best in wet cold climates; thus why caves are so heavily impacted.

·         Urbanization is the same battle with every species where fragmentation of habitat and overall habitat loss or conversion creates an ecosystem that is impossible for some animals. For bats, certain species are what we call generalists where they will do fairly well in just about any environment from urbanized to forested. Others, however, have a different story where they are specialists and utilize a specific habitat or niche and without that they can have population declines.

7) Do they only come out at night? Or is it more a dusk to dawn in the waning lights life?

·         Most bats are indeed nocturnal and forage at night time. They will usually use day roosts during daytime to sleep and rest before they come out at dusk. They will exit their roosts and then fly around a forage for a while and then use night roosts as places to take a quick power nap before continuing to forage. Of course this is not applicable to every species but in general that is their pattern.

8) Anything else you think we should know or keep in mind about these amazing creatures?

·         Remember that if you like wheat, fruit, and/or vegetables, then you like bats!
Thank you for your time and for sharing the wonder of bats with us, Cami!

What about you, readers? Did you learn something new about bats? Do you like them, love them, or are you scared of them?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Interview Wednesday - Working Long Hours and Having a Dog

 We are very lucky to have landed an interview with The Goldbergs Co-Producer, Sandi Hochman! She took time out of her very busy schedule to answer some questions for us about life with her gorgeous rescue dog, Maddie.

One of the top reasons pets are relinquished to the shelter is: Owner doesn't have enough time for the pet.

Sandi is here to tell us that if a Hollywood producer can make it work, so can YOU! Let's find out how she juggles her schedule with the light of her life (and even manages to foster a senior dog - the woman is nothing short of AMAZING).

      How did you and Maddie meet?
I was looking to adopt a dog from a shelter.  I had gone a couple of times but the dog just wasn’t there.  I knew I’d know her when I found her. (I was looking for a girl)  I woke up one day and realized I hadn’t visited the shelter in a while.  I was looking for a dog who was a year or two old… was not looking for a puppy.  I saw Maddie (who was 10 wks old) and decided I wanted to see her and another, older dog.  They brought Maddie out first.  The other dog never had a chance.  I fell in love with her immediately.  So much so that it was a Saturday and they couldn’t let me adopt her until she was spayed which couldn’t happen until Monday morning.  So, after filling out the paper work, I ended up visiting her two more times at the shelter that day.

What's her personality type - is she laid back California or high energy California? 
She’s definitely high energy.  At 15, she’s still going strong.

What do you love most about her? 
This is impossible to answer.  I love everything about her.  She has the most independent personality and makes me laugh all the time.  Yet, she can be such a little sweetheart if she gets scared.

Where is her favorite spot to sleep? 
She’s always loved going under my bed.  It’s her domain.  But, she has beds all over the house and, of course, my bed is her bed.


Does she have a favorite toy? 
Her favorite toy is a die (single dice) that you fill with treats.  It’s in the bedroom on the 3rd floor and she will go up there on her own and start barking when it gets stuck under something or needs to be filled with treats.

Not enough time/attention for the dog is one of the top reasons given when they are relinquished at a shelter. You work in television production and have a very demanding job that sometimes requires long hours. How do you make it work? 
It truly takes a village to coordinate Maddie’s schedule.  I have been lucky enough to have the same fantastic dog walker/sitter for the past 6 years.  I couldn’t do it without her.  I’ve also used doggie daycare and have dropped her off to spend the day with friends.

Walk us through a day in the life of Sandi and Maddie when you are working. 
Unfortunately, when I’m working, there’s not much life to our day together.  She’s with me when I’m getting ready for work in the morning.  We go for a walk and then I don’t see her for most of the day.

The highlight of my day is walking in and seeing that cute little furry face.


A day in the life when you're on hiatus or a weekend when you're not working. 
That’s another story.  We take a little longer walk in the morning and I spend as much time with her as possible.  I take her on errands if I can and just try to give her as much attention as possible.  When I work from home, it’s sometimes very difficult to get things done. She stares at me and is very distracting :-}


Any final thoughts you would like to share with us? 
I’ve heard a lot of people say that they live in an apartment and don’t have a yard.  I used to feel the same way.  One day I realized that I would rather give a dog a great home without a yard than not give a dog a home.  As long as you love them and take care of them and are able to give them enough exercise, that’s all that matters.  Personally, I don’t think there is anything better in this world than a dog.

Thank you so much for your time, Sandi!
As if being an amazing dog Mom, fostering seniors, and producing a hit tv show isn't enough for one plate, Sandi also has her own business - Lucky Puppy. Click here to shop her adorable clothing line (she donates a percentage of her monthly sales to charity!).


Monday, April 14, 2014

"Teacup" Puppies For Sale

You've seen the advertisements in the papers, online and sometimes in pet store windows: Teacup puppies for sale! The only problem is, there is no such thing as a "teacup". "Teacup" is a term made up by bad breeders and puppy mills to lure impulsive people into buying from them. Breeds like Yorkies, Maltese, Poodles, Chihuahuas are all "Toy" breeds meaning they are already on the tiny side. Words like "teacup", "micro", "mini" are used by bad breeders for dogs that end up being normal size most of the time. They sell the dog at 4 weeks of age (4 weeks younger than is legal in most states) because they look smaller. People are either shocked when their puppy grows to be 3-7 pounds or they don't realize that is standard size and think they have a "teacup" when they don't. You can't tell how big a puppy will be when they are that young. These bad breeders guarantee their puppy will be a certain size as an adult, but that's not a guarantee anyone can make.

"Teacup" is not a size recognized by the AKC. All of the breed clubs now have warnings on their websites about "teacups". There are occassionally runts in the litter that will grow to be less than average size. A good breeder sells these puppies at a LOWER cost than the rest of the litter. I will say that again so that you know it is NOT a typo - a good breeder will sell a runt at a LOWER price than the rest of the litter. Why? It is not up to breed standard. Toy breeds have certain health risks and a runt from those litters stands an even greater chance of suffering major health problems. Toy breeds can live an average of 15 years or more. "Teacups" or runts don't tend to live half that long. In most cases they are so fragile, they don't live more than a few years. The list of genetic and congenital defects in these poor puppies is long:

Open fontanels: soft spot from the cranial bone not forming
Portosystemic shunts: abnormal vessel that allows blood to bypass the liver so the blood is not cleansed as it should be.
Cardiac problems
Collapsing trachea
Luxating patellas
Digestive problems

"Teacup" puppies don't grow properly. Their bones and organs are stunted due to their size. This sets them up for health problems that lead to expensive vet bills or death. Any puppy that does not weigh 2 pounds by 8 weeks is a huge health risk. Most don't live to adulthood. There always rare exceptions to the rule when owners educate themselves about the health risks associated with a dog under 3 pounds. Those dogs are lucky to have owners who did their research and were willing to give up sleep, social lives and money (for vet care) to insure that they reached adulthood.

If your dog weighs 3 pounds or more, you do not have a "teacup." You have a standard size (insert breed here). This is the most common misconception people have. They tell people that their "teacup" is healthy at 4 pounds when they don't actually have a "teacup." They simply paid for a label and got a standard size dog at a more expensive price. Don't be fooled. Good breeders will not label their dogs "teacup", "micro", "miniature", "pocket" or "toy." Toy is already implied in the breed itself.

For more information, you can click on the following links:
Chihuahua Club of America

Yorkshire Terrier Club of America

(NOTE: The Yorkie pictured is purebred and up for adoption through a Fresno rescue group. You can find purebred puppies and dogs in ANY shelter. This one is 10 months old, but shelters and breed rescues across the country get them younger and older than that age. If you do your homework, you can find exactly what you are looking for. Meredith and I are always available to help you in your search.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Choosing People Over Pets

This is a difficult post to write. I don't want to sound judgmental so if I come off that way, I apologize. I just felt compelled to write something after getting yet another "urgent" email this week regarding another pet being given up because boyfriend/girlfriend doesn't like them.

Pets give loyal, unconditional love. People? Not so much. Over the years, I have yet to see a situation where a pet has been given up for a new boyfriend/girlfriend (or even an old relationship) work out well for the person who is relinquishing the pet. I'm going to give three examples before getting to the one in question today.

I had a friend who had been dating a woman for five years. They got ready to move in together. She decided that she didn't like his 13 year-old cat. At first, he decided to hang tough. After all, the cat had been with him for 13 years. This 5 year relationship had been a bit rough, though they had managed to work through things. She moved in. The cat ended up at the shelter. She was gone less than a year later, but not before bringing home a kitten of her own (and no, that kitten didn't end up leaving with her).

I was volunteering at a local shelter. A young woman was moving in with her boyfriend who didn't like her four year old Shih Tzu. She sobbed while filling out the relinquishment papers. The dog tried his best to comfort her. The boyfriend sat a table away, ignoring her embarrassing display (he was bright red and shooting her disgusted glances while rolling his eyes - that's how we knew he viewed it as embarrassing). Though we all tried to ask her to reconsider, keeping the dog was not an option if she wanted to move forward in her relationship. I will never forget how hard this poor dog tried to calm his owner down. He crawled onto her lap, he licked her tears, he leaned into her as hard as he could. In the end, he came with us and she went on her way. He got a great home. She came back later (I can't remember now if it was a few weeks or a few months) to see if she could get him back. The boyfriend had kicked her out anyway. The dog was not the issue.

I've had several rough emails this week. Too many of them have been: Need to rehome dog/cat because of boyfriend/girlfriend/daughter moving in/moving home. I've had an email trying to rehome an 8 year-old dog because the new girlfriend doesn't like him ("he's too big"). I've had an email trying to rehome the 10 year-old cat because the daughter is having to move back home and doesn't like cats. I can't imagine how confusing that is for a pet to go from a loving home one day to an animal shelter the next - and not have any clue why they are being left in that scary place full of strange sounds and smells. They must pine for their owners, hoping as each new person shuffles through to stare at them that one of them will eventually be their long, lost owner.

In the end, it's rarely ever about the pet. I see it over and over again - like the show, an ultimatum is given: it's ME or the DOG/cat. Sometimes, it's a power struggle. Other times, I don't know what to make of it. I do know that pets are family. I know that they are far more loyal than people. When you adopt a pet, you're making that commitment to take care of them for their lifetime - not until someone you start dating decides that THEY don't want the pet. I just really want people to think before they move forward. Why is this person asking me to give up my dog or cat? Why is that so important to them? And, what am I giving up when I let go of my pet? Your pet doesn't care how you dress, what you weigh, if you want to stay in your pajamas all day and watch "The Walking Dead" marathon. They love you for you. They will never ask you to give up your person. They will always be there for you. Don't we owe it to them to always be there for them?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Interview Wednesday - The Healing Power of Animals

Six years ago, after a lifetime spent dreaming about it, I adopted my first dog.  I had been wanting a dog forever, but apartment living made it difficult with size restrictions (I’ve never been a purse-dog kind of gal).  So after saving and planning, I bought a condo in California for the sole purpose of getting my first dog!  Once I was settled in my condo, I began my search.  The only criteria I had for a dog was that he/she be mellow and good with cats.  Breed was never on my list; I didn't care if it was a Shepherd, a Basset Hound, or a Pit Bull.  I just wanted a nice dog.  I contacted a few rescues inquiring about dogs I saw on Petfinder.  Some had already been spoken for, some I just never heard back on.  Until Emma.  I reached out to Downtown Dog Rescue in Los Angeles, inquiring about their available dogs.  Lori Weise responded quickly and was happy to share with me a dog they just took in that was excellent with cats.  I remember the first thing Lori told me about Emma, that ‘she was a true rescue, in every sense of the word’.   It was a female pit bull that a Good Samaritan found collapsed on a yard in her neighborhood, skinny, tattered and having just given birth (no puppies were ever found). I went down to meet her that week, and couldn't say no to her big brown eyes.  She was mine. 

Emma Before and After!

Tivi (foreground) and Emma (background)
I’d never thought twice about a dog’s breed.  I’ve always thought that every dog is different and has its own personality.  Of course I was aware of the prejudice against pit bulls, but I had no idea how extreme it was until I had this adorable brown pit bull of my own.  Here I am, all 5 feet 4 inches of me, in my pink sweat pants and a pony tail, walking along with my dog in her sparkly pink collar and matching leash.  How on earth could we be threatening?!  Yet people actually did cross the street when they saw us coming, I couldn’t believe it.  I once had a man yell at me when I was out walking her; he screamed at me to “put that thing away!”  I didn’t like it, and I wanted it to change.  I wanted people to see my dog, and every other dog of for that matter, for what she was:  a dog.  Feeling frustrated, and quite honestly a bit heart broken, I needed to vent with other dog owners in the same boat.  I joined an online forum dedicated to all things pit bull.  In addition to commiserating with other folks sharing my dog discrimination plight, I also learned a ton about health issues, training, laws, and most important: dog rescue.  The forum was full of members heavily involved in animal rescue.  It was an excellent place for networking dogs in need of homes.  One such dog was a wrinkly and chubby senior Shar-Pei/Pit Bull mix named Tivoli.  He’d been living at a no kill shelter in Central Oregon for two years.  The thread with his story and efforts to find him a home quickly became one of the most active, with members posting daily; either inquiring about his status, or coordinating donations of supplies, treats and toys.  Like so many members, I was totally smitten with this dog I’d never met.  After several months following his story, I was beyond excited to learn that he was finally adopted in March of 2010!  His new owner, Jonathan, was aware of Tivi’s ‘fan base’ and started a blog about their new adventures together.  I logged on every day to see what adorable photo of Tivi would be posted next.  When Jonathan posted about his upcoming vacation with Tivi to Sunriver Resort in Bend, Oregon, I got an idea.  Every summer I took a road trip with Emma; we drove from California to Washington State to visit my parents.  I always made a pit stop in Bend, so this time I thought, why not stay at Sunriver and meet Tivi?  I got in contact with Jonathan and with our trips coinciding, he welcomed Emma and me to see him and Tivi.  Jonathan and I stayed in contact up until the trip, emailing and connecting over our shared love of dogs.  When July finally came, I was excited to meet not only Tivi, but now Jonathan too.  Jonathan and I hit it off, and we’ve been together ever since. 

Emma and TC
Three years ago I moved from California to Spokane, Washington to care for my parents.  I sold my condo and packed up my car with Emma and my cat, and my new life as a caregiver began.  For the next year and a half I cared for my parents 24/7.  With my mom suffering from Alzheimer’s and my dad having suddenly lost his eyesight, it was often a draining and emotional job. Arranging care for my parents in my absence was a challenge, so visits to Jonathan and Tivi were infrequent.  I didn’t know anyone in Spokane, and aside from volunteering at the Humane Society, I had zero life outside of my caregiving role.  But I had my animals.  And I am certain I would have gone insane without them!  I savored simple things like going for a walk with Emma, and having the cat sleep on my pillow every night.  But I wasn’t the only one to benefit from the amazing comfort these furry creatures provided. 

My dad, deeply depressed by his new affliction that prevented him from doing everything he loved (reading, golfing, daily email banter with his old Navy buddies), now had a reason to get dressed and out of the house:  my dog, Emma.  I’ve never seen a crotchety old man switch from grumpy to giddy so quickly as when Emma would jump onto my mom and dad’s bed every morning to wake them up.  And the highlight of my dad’s day?  A walk around the block with Emma.  Emma’s a bit of a couch potato, so her leisurely pace was quite compatible with an 80-year-old blind man; he was able to hold her leash and his cane and lead our walks.  My dad was now in control again, participating in life.  He was walking this stocky pit bull, with confidence and a smile I hadn’t seen since he’d lost his eyesight.

For my mom, whose world was now filled with confusion, anxiety and fear, Emma was 65 pounds of comfort and kinship.  Not many people could understand my mom as she struggled to string a sentence together, and she often did not understand where she was or what she was doing at any given moment. Alzheimer’s can create a lonely and frustrating existence for those it cruelly strikes.  But with Emma, it didn’t matter what my mom said or how little sense she made.  There was always a pair of big brown eyes staring back at her with what seemed to be an honest understanding.  Emma was a source of peace in my mom’s chaotic mind.  Often my mom would wander into my room at night, confused and paranoid about someone out to get her.  Emma was always my go-to girl for reigning mom back in.  I would interrupt my mom to tell her the dog was begging for her attention.  Emma would roll on her back offering her belly, and my mom would instantly be sucked in, now focused on giving the best belly rub she could.  The villains haunting my mom were gone, and it was just her and Emma.  Even if only for a matter of minutes, it gave her some reprieve from this disease. 

As Alzheimer’s continued to take more and more of my mom away, it became more than I could handle by myself.  And my own sanity was taking a hit.  I needed to get more help for my parents and a life for myself.  So again I packed up my car with the animals and hit the road, only this time it was a bit more crowded, with both my mom and dad crammed in as well.  Together we made the trek down to Oregon, close to my friends and Jonathan and Tivi.  I now had a house for myself where I could start fresh, and a beautiful retirement community for my parents, where I could still care for my mom but could leave at the end of the day! 

Today I get to bring Emma to “work” with me, visiting my parents and bringing her much welcomed source of joy.  And she’s not the only ‘therapy’ dog in my arsenal now.  Tivi has gotten in on the action too.  Always donning a goofy t-shirt to cover his missing and patchy hair, Tivi is an immediate hit when we walk into the retirement home.  Old folks who otherwise ignore me, suddenly approach asking who the handsome dog is!  I can never make it to my parents’ apartment without a good hour visit in the lobby with a crowd of walkers and canes all reaching in to give Tivi a pat on the head.  They all want to know his story, and so many are thrilled to tell me about their own pets, or the good ‘ol dog they had growing up.  I’m not just bringing a dog through the lobby, I’m bringing conversation, laughter, and sometimes memories of dogs past.  It is so much fun to have this four-legged entertainer by my side, and to witness and enjoy the happiness a dog creates.

The last four years have taken me from state to state, and through a drastic career change and living situations.  Emma has been by my side the whole time.  And now with Tivi, I have two wiggly butts welcoming me home at the end of the day.  And when you have that, it doesn’t matter how long or hard the day was.

A HUGE thank you to Jennifer and Emma for sharing their story with us. How gorgeous is Emma? And what a lucky girl to have found Jennifer.
Have you experienced the healing power of an animal in your life?

Friday, March 14, 2014

FUN Friday

We're headed into the weekend! There's nothing LIKE a Friday!

We were a little cat heavy today, but that's okay! Dogs are usually most of our focus so it's nice to switch it up every so often!


Don't forget to hike those dogs and exercise those cats!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Interview Wednesday - Two International Moves WITH Dogs

Today, we have an interview with Kirsten who has moved continents with her dogs. Kirsten has had quite the life - working for the United Nations! - and she is an international human rights lawyer (How COOL is that?!). She took time out of her very busy schedule juggling her job, her children, and her dogs, to answer some questions for us!

How many pets do you have?

I have two dogs. They are a handful.

When did you get your first dog? 

My first dog, Katy came to me when I lived in Washington DC. I was single and free and had just broken up with a boyfriend, so I thought a dog would be good. My mother thought that was a very bad idea. She thought I was not settled enough and that having a dog is a big responsibility. She was right. Luckily, I found the most amazing, perfect puppy in the world. She was 6 months old, and her sweet picture was on on the internet. I saw her and drove the next day 2 hours down into Virginia to meet her in the snow. The staff was hesitant, they told me she probably needed a retired couple because she was scared and nervous. If I wanted a puppy that was good for a family they suggested some other pups they had. No, I said, could I please just meet her. It was love at first sight. She has been my very best friend since that moment. The staff quickly agreed that we were a great match and within 3 days I had a home visit done, background check done and a new puppy at my home. She is about the best, most gentle soul I have ever met.

And the second?

Twiga is my second puppy. She is a whole other ball of wax. I got her when living in Africa 5 years after I got Katy. Twiga was being abused by my neighbor and it took quite a bit of negotiating to allow the neighbor to hand me over the dog. She came with another pal, Zari. I got them both nursed back to health. They came to me nearly starved, flea ridden and sick with worms. I brought them back to the States where we got home training and more health care. Twiga had a very bad worm that nearly cost her her life. Finally, after surgery she began to gain weight. Zari had an infected eye from being beaten which would eventually need to be taken out, so he is blind in one eye. Once they were acclimated, house trained (they went EVERYWHERE when they first came home. The couch leg was toast!), and leash trained (boy did they HATE a leash), I separated them giving Zari to my parents (poor dear parents) and I kept Twiga. She hates all other dogs, except Katy. She doesn't like Katy but after trying desperately to fight with her, to no avail, Twiga now just ignores Katy. Katy does NOT get the feeling she is very disdainful of fighting, it is simply beneath her.

The number one reason pets are relinquished to the shelter is MOVING. How many times have you moved with the dogs? And where did you move to/from?

It would NEVER occur to me to give my pets away to move. I have left Katy for brief periods of time at my parents home. But, if I hadn't been able to do that, I would not have gone. I am an international human rights lawyer, so I move around a lot, internationally. Early on, I had a few short contracts with the UN where I would moved for 3 or 4 months to a country. during those two periods, I left Katy with my parents. Otherwise, I take my dogs where I go. I've moved A LOT. from DC to Ca (I only had Katy and I packed the moving truck and hired movers to drive it across the country, then Katy and I loaded up my jeep and trecked across the country together from DC to California for law school). After law school I started working for the UN. I've moved from the US, to Geneva, to The Hague, to Nairobi, to Tanzania....and at least one, sometimes two, or three dogs have always come.

How hard was it moving internationally with dogs?

It hasn't been that hard to move. OK...that's not really true. The truth is that it does take some extra planning and extra work to make sure I'm moving safely and taking care of the dogs. But....that's my responsibility. When you take on a pet, you have a duty of responsibility. So...when I know I'm going to move, I have to be sure that the dogs have all the shot and chip requirements of country we are headed. I refuse to move to a quarantine country. I won't quarantine my dogs. PERIOD. Each country has different regulations, so I have to research and make sure my vet knows what is needed. Then, I have to research the airlines (there are only certain ones I will fly with the dogs) and then research to be sure that I can get them on a straight through flight if possible, and if not, then only one other stop. If coming from Africa to America we have to stop in Europe, but I will only fly through Amsterdam or Frankfurt, which have good options for dogs on layovers. I try to fly business or first class when I can (if moving the UN usually pays and if you are moving countries you usually have business class authorization) because the pilots and attendants are more apt to assist you in being sure your dog is taken care of in business class. I cause a fuss at the beginning of the flight and want the pilot to have confirmation from the ground crew that my dogs are on board before the doors close. Upon landing I make a huge fuss that the ground crew is radioed that there are dogs on board who need off the tarmac immediately. OH, and I always check the weather and won't fly or layover anywhere with extreme weather. I've delayed flights a few days to wait for the weather to cool. On a layover I make a fuss (and have resorted to crying) in order to see the dogs and make sure they have food, water and are taken care of. In essence, I am a PAIN in the neck....but I figure it's my job to keep those dogs safe, so I don't really care. Yes, it's more difficult to travel with them....yes, they are worth it.

Was there ever a point you thought 'I'm just going to leave Katy/Twiga'?

No. Except when I was only going for a summer or very short time....only because I had a place to leave Katy that was easier on her than the move would have been. if I hadn't had my parents as an option to leave her, I wouldn't have gone. I am expecting another international moved this August and I just went to the vet for Katy's senior check up. I asked him if she was too old to make this kind of move (she's 13 1/2 now) and if so, I would not consider taking the job. He assured me that she can make the move, no problem, if she stays as health as she is now. If something happens though...I won't go. She is older and I need to be sure that these last years of her life are as easy and happy for her as possible.

How have you all settled in - kids, dogs, Kirsten?

Now I have small kids. Two kids, two dogs and one grown up makes for a very busy mama and household. But, I wouldn't have it any other way. Katy and Clara Shei (my more quiet and thoughtful daughter) identify much more while Akira and Twiga, the two very rambunctious members of the family have quite a relationship. Twiga tells him when she's had enough. I never leave the dogs and kids alone together though....for everyone's sake. The kids wouldn't ever maliciously hurt the dogs, but they might accidentally and it's just better to have an adult there to protect everyone. I feel the worst for Katy to be honest. She's older and she is SO good and SO easy that she doesn't always get the attention she deserves. Then, I'll notice her get a bit droopy and it will remind me that she might not bark or destroy things but that doesn't mean she doesn't need my attention. Plus, I love that special time each day when I'm on a walk with just Katy....we've been together for 13 years now, and she really is dear to me. My daughter has asked me before why I love Katy more than she and her brother. I explain that I don't love Katy more, but I do love her as much! Plus, she behaves better than they do.

Anything else you want to share with us? Any final thoughts?

I'm not going to say that's its no big deal to move with pets. It should be a big deal...the same way you make sure your kids are safe when you move, you make sure your dogs are safe when you move. You should. Your kids need the vaccinations, and so do your dogs. Your kids needs an easy flight route, so do your dogs. Would you leave your kids behind because it was too hard to fly with them? No. And, I won't leave my dogs either. A family move has to work for everyone, me, the kids and the dogs. We are a family and no one in a family gets left behind.

How amazing is Kirsten?! We have so much respect for her. Not only is she an amazing Mom to her kids (two and four legged), she has lived an incredible life. We can't thank her enough for her time. She has so little to spare, but she managed to find a few minutes to share with us!

Has anyone else ever moved internationally with their pets?