How many real life dogs can you think of who lived an adventurous and heroic life and then had a Disney movie made about them? Well, now you know of one: Chips, the War Dog! This is also the title of the 1990 Disney movie.
Chips is known as the most decorated war dog from World War II. A private citizen named Edward Wren was Chip’s owner until he donated the German Shepherd/Collie/Siberian Husky mix to the military for duty. In 1942, Chips attended the War Dog Training center in Virginia to become a sentry dog.
Once his training was complete, Chips traveled the world. He went with his handler Pvt. John P. Rowell and the 3rd Infantry Division to North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. In 1943, Chips and his handler were trapped on a beach in Sicily by an Italian machine gun team. Rather than simply survive, Chips broke free from his handler and jumped into the enemy’s “pillbox” (a type of barricade) to attack the gunners. The four men were forced to leave their station and surrender to U.S. troops. Later that same day, Chips helped take 10 Italians prisoner.
Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart medals, but they were revoked due to an Army policy that prevented awarding official commendations to animals. In recognition of his sacrifice, bravery and loyalty to his unit, the 3rd Infantry Division unofficially awarded Chips with a Theater Ribbon with an Arrowhead for an assault landing, and Battle Stars for each of his 8 campaigns as their fellow soldier. His fellow soldiers realized what the Army did not – that a dog is not just equipment!
Skidboot became famous as the World’s Smartest Dog because of his amazing tricks. However, this is not the story of Skidboot and his wonderful bag of tricks. This is a story about mutual respect, understanding and love that transformed a bored and out-of-control dog into the World’s Smartest Dog.
I spoke with Skidboot’s owner, David Hartwig, and found a heartwarming story about unconditional love shared by a man and his dog. We like to think we train our dogs, but dogs can also teach us a little bit about ourselves and life.
David resides in Quinlan, Texas and lives the modest life of a farrier (a specialist in hoof care who trims, balances and shoes horse). It’s hard work and takes a steady hand and a gentle, calm demeanor around the horses. On Christmas Eve in 1992, David was working on his friend’s horses when he noticed a litter of pups in the barn. “I didn’t think you liked dogs,” David said to his friend. “I don’t. This stray female blue heeler came over here on Thanksgiving and started dropping puppies all over the yard. So I just picked them up and put them in the barn.” David hadn’t gotten his wife a Christmas present yet and decided a puppy would be perfect, so he picked one out and headed home.
Sometimes things happen in life we can’t always explain – a gut feeling that causes you to change your mind. David was half way home when he had second thoughts about the pup he had chosen. He turned around and went back to the barn. That’s when he picked out a pup standing by himself away from the other ones. At the time, David had no idea how that puppy was going to change his life.
Skidboot’s mom was a Blue Heeler, but the breed of his father was unknown. He was named after a protective boot horses wear on their hind legs to protect the area above and behind the hoof during activities like barrel racing. Skidboot was a natural at working on the ranch with David. “He did his job. He did it perfect and I didn’t have to teach him.”
As a cat lover, I have my fair share of kitty figurines on display in my home and garden. Mine are adorable or I wouldn’t keep them. However, there have been times I’ve spied one in a thrift shop and thought, What were they thinking when they made this ugly thing? It never occurred to me that the tacky ceramic figurines I saw could actually be transformed into a cool-looking cat, and that they could then be sold to kitty lovers like me to help cat rescue groups all across the United States. Thankfully, someone else did have the ability to envision a way to not only give those outdated tchotchkes a much needed makeover, but to use the funds raised to support various cat charities in America. That someone is Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who founded The Teal Cat Project a few years ago.
The Teal Cat Project takes vintage ceramic kitty statues, paints them a beautiful teal color and gives each “newly born” cat a numbered tag for authenticity. The kitties are then ready for adoption by cat lovers, who scoop them up so fast that each “litter” (between 100 to 150 cats) is sold out in just a few days! The teal cats come in three sizes and sell for $25 to $35. The Teal Cat Project also recently started selling T-shirts.
The Teal Cat Project is a win-win for cat lovers and cat rescue groups alike. Cat lovers get a unique collectible, and cat rescue groups get help with their Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs aimed at controlling feral cat population growth. Each Teal Cat campaign supports a different TNR group in a new city, so the money raised can help feral kitties all across America. The Teal Cat Project is also planning to branch out to other animals (think bunny and doggie tchotchkes!) who will each have their own special color and cause.
I caught up with The Teal Cat Project’s founder recently, to learn a little more about this unique charity. (If you want to get one of the kitties from the next litter, follow them on Facebook!).
How and why did you decide on the color teal for the cat makeovers?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I just liked the color and it felt like something that would look great in homes. As it turns out, teal is also the color of National Feral Cat Day, so it worked out well.
Most of us have met or at least seen a shy, fearful dog at some point. Maybe a neighbor has one, perhaps you’ve seen one in a shelter, or you may be like me and share your life with one. You’ll know a dog is shy and fearful because he will look at you out of the corner of his eyes, never making full eye contact. He may act as if he wants to greet you, but stooping down to say hello elicits raised hackles and growls or barks. If he does allow you to get close enough to pat him, even if you take it slowly he will likely flinch and step out of range.
When we rescued our dog, she was painfully shy. She wouldn’t even stand up on 4 legs; she did the belly crawl with her head hung low. Still, she reached in and grabbed my heart. There were other, equally needy pups that needed a home at that time; well-mannered dogs that seemed happy even in the face of horrific conditions. I would have taken them all if possible but I had to pick one. I knew the little white dog that tried to be invisible would take a lot of work but I couldn’t imagine going home without her. And so the work began.
Our dog came to live with us when she was approximately 10-months old. Dog experts seem to agree that nervousness and fearfulness develops as young dogs mature, and that the problem often stems from improper socialization during their prime puppyhood socialization window.
Puppy Socialization Window
The American Kennel Club (AKC) website outlines critical periods in a puppy’s development, which they call “socialization windows.” Almost all of a puppy’s personality is shaped during his first year of life, and the first 12 weeks are the most important. The AKC website cites the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) when reporting that sociability outweighs fear in a puppy’s early stage, making this “the primary window of opportunity for puppies to adapt to new people, animals, and experiences.” It is during this time that a puppy first learns to enjoy the company of people, to act properly around other dogs, and to experience a range of circumstances and situations without fear.
You know when your dog is happy by the way he excitedly wags his tail. For some dogs, all you have to do to get their tails whipping back and forth is to look at them. My dogs wag their tail a mile a minute when I talk to them and when we’re playing. A dog’s tail is one way they communicate with us. You wouldn’t think a happy, excited tail could be a problem for your dog, but it can. A medical condition called Happy Tail syndrome can cause serious injury to your dog’s tail.
What is Happy Tail Syndrome?
When a dog is excited and wags his tail rapidly, like most dogs are prone to do when happy, they can injure their tail knocking it against a hard surface like a table leg or wall. Happy tail syndrome is also known as kennel tail, splitting tail and bleeding tail. A dog can whack his tail hard enough on a hard surface that it causes a small cut or split on the tip of his tail. The cut tends to bleed a lot and as he continues to wag his tail, blood is splattered around the area.
It may not sound like a serious condition, but because it’s on the tip of his tail, it doesn’t heal fast, it can be hard to stop the bleeding, and it can be recurring if the dog wags his tail against a hard surface. Infection is a concern; antibiotics should be given to help prevent infection, and pain medication may need to be prescribed. In a worst case scenario, a portion of the tail may be amputated.
Those mournful wails and yips let loose by our sleeping dogs tug on our heartstrings so hard that it can be impossible to resist waking our dreaming pets. The same goes for when their four legs get to moving and we wonder if they are happily bounding after squirrels or if something big and scary might be chasing them. Even the heavy-duty doggie snoring sometimes sounds like it can’t be a good thing. But should we wake our dogs up from a dream?
The hardline answer is: Probably not. Dogs dream and sleep much like humans, with similar REM patterns. Although most dogs sleep 14 to 16 hours a day, they still need some of the deep, uninterrupted sleep we do. So, if you have a dog that seems to dream a lot, constantly waking your pup may be unhealthy for him.
But…what if you just can’t help yourself?
The aforementioned mournful wailing and heartstrings being tugged upon pretty much guarantee that we’re going to awaken our pet anyway. At least I do—even though I know better—when my Wuppy sounds so sad and lonesome that tears spring to my eyes and I just want to hug his crying away. Which is exactly what not to do, at least not until your dog is fully awake.
No matter how loyal, well-trained and loving your pet is, awakening them by contact can get you snarled at or even bit. Remember that you are bringing your dog back from a dream state, where the dream is reality. One of our other dogs, Dusty, is a sweetheart, but it is extremely hard for him to assess his surroundings quickly if he is startled awake. He needs a minute to go from growling to his normal happy.
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