Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lured Away from the Holiday Madness

At this time during the holiday season,  it's not always easy to find time for activities that you and your dog can enjoy but I recently received an email from a wonderful establishment that does dog training and other fun activities and was drawn to a Lure Coursing event.

We all know Labrador's are hunting dogs so this type of class seemed perfect for my four legged family members.  Dogs chase an artificial lure across a field, following a pattern that is meant to simulate a live chase.  The chase is generated by a continuous loop line through a series of pulleys in a non-uniform set of turns.  When I saw the lure itself (a white plastic grocery sack) I had some doubts.  Would the dogs be attracted to a moving plastic bag?  The answer was, absolutely!

Four dogs were signed up for the event (I think that was the maximum number for the class) and Chuy (my two year old black Lab) was up first.  Of my two dogs, Chuy is the most laid back; I wondered if his instincts would kick in.  The dogs are released to chase the lure one-at-a-time.  The minute the plastic bag moved Chuy took chase.  It was great fun to watch.  It took him a few seconds to catch onto the chase pattern and then he tried to cutoff the lure.  The instructor has a great time playing keep away.  The other dogs in attendance barked wildly because they wanted to chase too!

Nikki, my six year old yellow Lab, has strong hunting instincts.  She has caught several small wild creatures and displayed them proudly.  She immediately took chase after the lure and at the end of her run was whining with impatience (she did not want to stop the chase).  She also figured out quickly how to work the course to try and trap the lure.

The two other dogs in the class also gave great chase.  A young Chow actually caught the lure (a new bag was needed after that run).

The dogs were allowed to give chase three or four times (it's important that they not get over-heated).  All-in-all it was a great way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  We'll try to do it again soon.

My camera skills need some work!  But you'll get the drift.

P. Miner
Heart of Texas Lab Rescue, Volunteer Coordinator

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Strategic Planning for Heart of Texas Lab Rescue

Dear Heart of Texas Lab Rescue (HOTLR) Community -Adopters, Volunteers, and Donors,

You are the “heart” in our mission and whether you are new to our community or a long-time supporter, we are grateful for your energy and commitment to our efforts to rescue Labrador Retrievers.  Now we ask for your assistance in helping us design our future. 

We are at a major crossroads and need to take stock of our past and our present as we look to our future.  We cannot continue to operate in our current manner and need to consider all options including shutting down operations (worst case scenario).  To determine the best way for us to continue serving these amazing dogs and our community, our Board is engaging in a strategic planning process that will begin in September and we’d like your input to that process. 

Heart of Texas Lab Rescue began as the passion of Dick and Luanne Lindsey who provided these Labs a kennel facility on their property.  It was a safe place for the dogs and provided a valuable central location for our supporters like you.  Unfortunately, the development of the Parmer Lane area caused us to lose this facility and our Founders moved to Arkansas.

Just like our amazing dogs, we adjusted and partnered with a boarding facility.  However, this was a costly solution and did not provide us the ability to quarantine new dogs.  An outbreak of Kennel Cough at that facility caused the friendly dissolution of this partnership.
Today we have a network of foster homes and provide temporary housing for new dogs at a Board member’s property outside of the Austin area.   Housing dogs on the Board Member’s property was only meant to be a temporary solution when we could no longer place dogs in the boarding facility.   Our dogs are spread across the city.  Our centrally located “meet and greet” location is about to be unavailable.  We need a permanent solution.
  • We need more volunteers.  We are extremely grateful of our volunteers and everything they do (from gift-wrapping to phone duty) but while we have a large volunteer database with over700 names, we struggle to place dogs in foster homes and a small group of individuals (Board Members and volunteers) carry a large burden for the organization.
  • We need a good location for meet and greets.  We are losing a central location for “meet and greet” activities and currently do not have another option.
  • We need new Board Members.  Board member turnover has been high (40% this past year).

Our Action Steps
We need to take action now to ensure we can continue to serve these precious dogs and our community.  We believe that this strategic planning process will help us to:

  • Develop a direction and plan forward so that we can continue saving the lives of these amazing Labradors.
  • Identify and implement a Board and Volunteer structure that will meet our current and future organizational needs.
  • Identify new methods and approaches for providing safe, transitional housing for these dogs until they find their forever home.
  • Foster a higher level of engagement from our supporters and community.
  • Identify and attract Board Members who have the necessary skills, experience and resources to support our cause.
  • Increase the awareness of our mission and ensure we have the right people, support, and funding to reach our aspirations.

How You Can Help
We plan to invite our current and some past Board members to a facilitated retreat in October (at no cost to the organization).  In preparation for that event, we need your input.

Whether you are an adopter, foster, volunteer, former volunteer, or donor, we want to hear from you.  Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts, comments, and suggestions with our facilitator by completing an online survey.  All survey responses are confidential and results will be combined and shared with our Board at our October retreat.
The link to the survey is (you may need to cut and past the link into a web browser) and will remain open until Thursday, September 20, 2013.

Thank you for being a part of the Heart of Texas Lab Rescue community.  We will keep you updated on the outcome of the retreat and of our future plans; we are doing everything we can to keep our organization’s doors open to rescue Labrador Retrievers.
Thank you in advance for your participation and support of our organization.

Margaret Huston
President, Heart of Texas Lab Rescue

Friday, August 16, 2013

Squeamish Beware!

Today’s blog is difficult to write.  It’s like I’m sharing a dirty family secret.  My dog Chuy has Coprophagia (the name given to the habit of eating stools-either the dog’s own or another animal’s).  It’s not pretty, but it’s a fairly common problem. Chuy has done this all his life as far as I know.  He may have picked up the habit when at the shelter when he was a hungry puppy.  I had hoped it was something he would grow out of but he will still do it from time-to-time. 
Research suggests several reasons as to why a dog develops this habit:

  • Dogs are basically scavengers (they eat what they can to survive)
  • They are wired to keep their “dens” clean and tidy
  • Inattentive parents (the dog may be doing it for attention)

I’ve also learned that there are medical reasons as to why a dog has Coprophagia, but these are not common.  To name a few: dogs with malabsorption syndrome, dogs on corticosteroid therapy, those with Cushing’s syndrome, diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and intestinal parasites.  
Chuy does not have any of the medical reasons above, however our vet does caution us to watch for parasites in his stool in case he ingests something that contained larva of some variety.

I don’t think Coprophagia is uncommon so thought I would share some of the things we do to curb his nasty habit:
  • Keep walks around the sixes.  We’ve learned that both Chuy and Nikki’s general potty routine is around 6:00am and 6:00pm.  We try to keep twice daily walks around this time so we can pick up the tempting pleasure.  If we see either dog potty in the backyard we try to pick it up as soon as possible (we also spot check often).
  • Either chop carrots smaller or switch to another bulky supplement (like green beans) that is not as sweet when supplementing my dogs’ food. (I’ve been adding chunks of carrots to the dogs’ food to help control weight gain but this makes the stools tastier to Chuy as the carrots don’t digest thoroughly.)
  • Keep toys and other distractions in the yard to curb boredom.
  • No access allowed to the litter box (although our cat has since passed).
  • Keep Chuy away from flower beds when on a walk (they seem to be a favorite potty spot for some cats in our neighborhood)  
I have not tried any of the additives below but have learned of them while doing research on this subject: 
A number of ingredients have been suggested as additives to the dog’s food to improve digestion or to render the stools unappetizing. A partial list includes meat tenderizers, crushed pineapple, Viokase, B-complex vitamins, sulfur, glutamic acid, monosodium glutamate, sauerkraut, and canned pumpkin. There are no scientific studies to prove or disprove the effectiveness of any of these additives, but anecdotal reports suggest they may be of benefit in some cases.   A product that may be recommended by your vet is called Forbid.   It is made from alfalfa that gives the stool a disagreeable odor and taste.
I would suggest you check with your vet about Coprophagia before you make any changes to your dog’s diet and to ensure your beloved pet does not have a medical condition that needs attention.

P. Miner - Heart of Texas Lab Rescue Volunteer Coordinator

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Top 10 Reason’s to Foster a Heart of Texas Lab Rescue Pup

1.   Animal shelters are scary places.
2.   It’s hot.  Dogs need a friend and air-conditioning!

3.   There are only reruns on TV; a Lab would provide hours of entertainment and help you start an exercise routine.  All that, with a bonus of unconditional love.

4.   Fostering would be a great summer project for that teen in your house that loves dogs and would benefit from taking on a community service project (with your supervision of course).
5.  Labs come in all sizes and special needs; we’ll try to match your requirements (cat friendly, exercise level, etc.).

6.  Your assistance will help us place the dog with the perfect forever home (think bragging rights)!

7.  Your pet could get a new BFF and help socialize a Lab that is eager to join his or her forever pack.

8.  It does not take as much time as you think; the sweet pup is grateful for your attention and will learn quickly (they are a smart breed and adaptable).  Fostering can be as long-term or short-term as you would like.

9.   Every day you will see changes in your foster that will amaze and tug at your heart strings; Labs are resilient and so eager to please.  You will be very proud of the work you have done.
10.   The Heart of Texas Lab Rescue is in desperate need of fosters.  Without fosters we cannot save the lives of so many wonderful dogs.  If you can’t foster, please help spread the word of our need to family and friends, you might be surprised at who steps up.

Volunteer at:

Submitted by Paula. Miner, Heart of Texas Lab Rescue Volunteer Coordinator

Monday, June 17, 2013

Attack of the Shed Monster

The calendar may say summer doesn’t officially start until Thursday, but one step outside proves otherwise.  Heat and humidity offer a too-close-for-comfort embrace, making anyone want to evacuate towards the closest air conditioned space.  It also makes me reach for cooler clothes, with generally less (still appropriate) fabric.  Aware for quite some time that “winter” was nowhere near long enough, the dogs have been preparing for the upcoming heat the last few weeks with the start of seasonal shedding. What started as a small bundle of fur floating to the floor after a tummy rub, or a few loose hairs set free after a back scratch has recently turned into a full on shed-fest.  Short-haired and bare-bellied Doggie even makes significant contributions to the fur pile. His white hair, often mistaken for Pumpkin’s lighter flank fur, he gladly lets her take the blame.  Daisee and Pumpkin seem to shed their body weight in fur on a weekly basis.  An innocent love pat, shake, or stretch releases enough fur to coat the carpet.  Knowing this process allows for a new, healthy coat to grow, it’s shocking to think that much fur was needed for a mild Texas winter.  I’ll admit, I am continually amazed at the shear generation of dead hair and find amusement when I look down at the floor after some distracted petting and see a mound of hair.

On a doomed mission to stop the shedding, I know I will never succeed!  A dog’s hair grows in a three-phase cycle.  First is the anagen phase in which the hair grows rapidly.  Just before it reaches full length, the short catogen phase is entered and hair growth ends.  Finally, the Labrador’s favorite stage, telogen, during which no growth occurs and the shedding onslaught begins.  Knowing that shedding is a natural process that can’t be stop, what’s a dog lover to do?

Brushing, of course, is a good first step to displace loose hair.  I use a FURminator on Pumpkin and Daisee with great success.  The amount of hair littering the yard after a furmination looks like an oversized plush toy recently run over by a lawn mower, and is limited only by the tiring of my arms. Without a doubt, the FURminator works on our Labs.  It also works fairly well on our cat who only endures the process for 2-3 minutes before claws come out.  As its main function is to remove fur belonging to the undercoat, I do find, at least for Pumpkin, her fur to be a little less soft after a good furmination.  Neither of the Labs enjoys furmination of the tail, and Pumpkin often doesn’t tolerate the treatment on her Golden Retriever-like flanks. 

Doggie is a bit more sensitive, and with his short hair, a Kong Zoom Groom (rubber brush with stout nubs) works well.  The nubs dislodge loose hair on the top coat and provide somewhat of a massage in the process.  Some in the Retriever community give high praise to an undercoat rake.  With no firsthand experience, comments suggest the FURminator “cuts” hair that is not loose, while an undercoat rake simply removes hair that is already loose. A good bathing does wonders for all three of our dogs, though the results seem short-lived.  A dog’s coat does provide much needed insulation, even in the summer months, so make sure you opt for a trim and not a buzz cut if you go the grooming route. 

Best of luck to all who try to tame the shed monster this summer!

Written by Lori Burkhardt- HOTLR volunteer, former foster mom, adopter and dog lover

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Back to Obedience School -

I recently put myself and my two year old black Lab Chuy back through obedience school (more for my benefit than his).

A little bit of first adopted rescue Nikki was a handful. She needed to learn social skills to deal with people and dogs. Our first walks together became super stressful because she would react to every dog and every person she saw. I knew we needed guidance from professionals. We were lucky enough to take a few classes with the late Lee Mannix. He jokingly called my yellow Lab "Blondie" and said she was super smart; she just needed a job. We diligently followed through with the steps of the program and become a human "pack leaders". Nikki responded beautifully. She went from the "worst in the class" (always in timeout) to top of the class. She learned to look to us for guidance rather than react to all situations. Today, we accept the fact that she will never be perfect, but she has come a long way. For the most part her public behavior is acceptable (we can proudly take her to Petsmart and only on rare occasions will she decide to have a melt down and bark at a dog that looks at her wrong). She will always be shy and a little reticent to meet strangers but I know she now has coping mechanisms.

Having been through extensive training with Nikki, you would think when we adopted eight month old Chuy we would have used the tried and true approach with his training. Not so. Chuy is the opposite of Nikki; friendly and outgoing with all humans and dogs. We spoiled him rotten. When he turned two we realized we had created a monster. He knew the basic commands, but was very stubborn about whether or not he would obey them. He did not see us as "pack leader" but saw himself as center of the universe (my interpretation). I decided that the best thing for Chuy was for "me" to go back to obedience school. I won't say that Chuy was the most improved in the class, because he started out in a pretty good place, but he has improved immensely. I needed to re-learn what I should have been doing. I also have a new fresh perspective that training should be on-going and fun for both you and your dog.

Written by: P. Miner - Heart of Texas Lab Rescue Volunteer Coordinator, adopter of two rescues.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I'm a Vegetarian

I’m a vegetarian and so are my dogs.  Well, sometimes. Keen to hear the command “clean-up” which entails appearing immediately at the site of dropped food; Doggie, Daisee and Pumpkin often find themselves in a vegetarian food situation.   Frozen green beans, sweet potatoes, and carrots are often given as treats, along with a myriad of other fruits and veggies which are sometimes mixed with their dry kibble.  Doggie, a Red Heeler mix, will “clean-up” most veggies, with the exception of leafy greens.  He will always give them a chance, but inevitably spits them out in a soggy lump.  Daisee (Lab) and Pumpkin (Lab mix) seem to enjoy veggie snacks under obligation or jealousy.  They won’t let Doggie get all the goods.  Instead, they’ll muscle through that carrot, chewing as if they have a grass burr caught in their cheek, swallow it down, and ask for more… only if Doggie is.  Strategically mixing fruit and veggies with their kibble seems to go over better.  Beans and canned pumpkin go down the hatch with everything else.

There does seem to be some (often heated) debate regarding the classification of dogs as carnivores or omnivores.   Of the order Carnivora, and of wolf ancestry, it seems an obvious conclusion that “carnivores” are the clear winner.  Teeth types, chewing technique and digestive anatomy all point in favor of a carnivorous bias.  Doggie, Dasiee, and Pumpkin all have a much higher salivation (aka drool) response when a meat treat is approaching, leaving no doubt their preference.  Research does suggest that dogs are able to digest and remain healthy with the addition of plant nutrition in their diets.  Canned pumpkin does wonders for certain back-end digestive issues.  Flax seed keeps bones strong and coats shiny.  Green beans provide filling sustenance, and are a healthy kibble substitute for doggies that may be somewhat rotund.  Other plant-based foods that most agree are safe for canine ingestion include broccoli, blueberries, celery, apples (minus the seeds), sweet potatoes, and carrots.

 You should always be mindful of what, and how much, you feed to your dog.  While the omnivorous nature of canines may be up for debate, certain people foods are not.  The Humane Society of the United States keeps a good list of foods (plant-based and otherwise) that should always be off limits.

 Try adding some produce to your dog’s regular diet routine.  They might be pleasantly surprised!

Did someone say, "Veggies?"

Written by Lori Burkhardt- HOTLR volunteer, former foster mom, adopter, and dog lover

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Bunny Hop

Falling oak pollen, budding trees, and the abundance of cottontails making our yard and field their home are a constant reminder that spring is here.  Longer hours of daylight mean more opportunities for evening hours games of fetch.  Pumpkin embraces this opportunity!  One of the “P” puppies from HOTLR alum, Juno, Pumpkin is a retriever through and through.  Channeling greyhound thoughts, she will tear through most terrain in a sleek, hair-blowing-in-the-wind fashion to fetch a rolling ball, Kong, or anything else in her path leaving no doubt that she is “all dog.”  That is until she catches up to the moving object. In a combo movement of bunny-like hop and cat-like pounce, Pumpkin completes her fetching mission. If she manages to surge ahead of said moving object, she’ll wait and crouch in a hop-ready position to pounce on the incoming object.  A similar maneuver is performed upon tossing the ball her way.  In a sitting position, she’ll follow the ball through the air with her eyes and will then spring up with her back feet and seemingly try to catch the ball with her two front feet- not her mouth. Too much time spent chasing bunnies in the field, perhaps, has influenced her style.  Her humans love her unique grace, and Pumpkin has never left a ball un-fetched!  How does your Lab celebrate springtime? 

Written by Lori Burkhardt- HOTLR volunteer, former foster mom, adopter, and dog lover

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring has Sprung

Every year about this time I get the itch to start digging (gardening that is).  You’d never know from my front yard, which stays pretty presentable…. neat, clipped and manicured thanks to a little sweat and the sprinkler system, that my back yard is sorely abused.  Big Lab paws create pathways and makeshift beds (holes). Toys are scattered around the yard like litter.   But when the weather turns nice I start imaging how beautiful the backyard could be with a little careful planning.  Pots are out (they were long ago relegated to the front or side yard because of puppy plant fascination).  I think Chuy, my black Lab, has grown out of the “play with pot” phase but I’m not willing to risk the shredding of a beautiful plant by putting it in his reach. 
Planting native Texas plants in beds seem like a no-brainer but care should be given to the toxicity of the plant.  You’d be surprised to learn how many plants can be toxic to your pets.  The Home Depot representative at the return center was surprised to learn that Lantanas are highly toxic when I returned a flatbed full of them (it’s a shame, they would have looked great in the flower bed next to the fence)!