Kathy Diamond Davis

Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

Author of the book "Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others," 2nd edition published by Dogwise Publishing. Canine Behavior Series at www.veterinarybehavior.com

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

I also loved it when the George Peppard character on "A Team" would say that. Actually, he still says it, in reruns.

This morning I had a dog food delivery after staying up writing all night. I put Gabriel and Spirit in the bedroom to rest and be out of the way for when the delivery man arrived. The dog food goes into the freezer. This time I opened the garage door (I love the automatic opener; so kind to my arthritis) and had it ready for him to back the truck up to the doorway in the rain.

I had Believer with me, leash hooked to my chain belt. Love that belt. I like the look, plus it's good for my diet and my dog handling. Leaves me one hand to work with while the other handles the cane.

I was reading a book, and tucked it under my arm when he drove up. She started to stare, which I did not want to see transition into excited barking. I had Iams MiniChunks in my pocket in a plastic spice jar. I whipped them out, said her name and stepped backward, getting her eyes with the treat. I kept the treats and movements and eyes going while he got the dolly loaded and started into the kitchen where he fills the freezer.

I took her inside, reducing frequency of treats and eventually stopping them. He spoke to her after awhile, and before he left, invited her to greet and to sniff the dolly, at which point I told her "Go Say Hi," and she did, calmly.

This is exactly what I want her to do, and it's so empowering to know I can shape it. In her, and in future dogs. Thank you to Linda Newsome for teaching me this! Thank you to crazy Spirit for motivating me to learn it or else! Thank you, Gabriel for showing me how easy it is with a stable dog--you did it for just a tennis ball, you dollbaby boy!

And to Believer: wow, girl. Thanks to her obviously talented breeder Susan Quesnel in Canada and to my brilliant breeder who clearly knows how to pick 'em--Believer has what it takes. Thanks to what Linda and a lot of others taught me, including much inspiration straight from God--she knows how to use it! When a dog makes that leap beyond anything you have taught her, and somehow just makes the right things happen, that is awesome. Believer does it every day. I am striving to learn all I can from her--and from Gabriel, who still has much to teach me. And from Spirit, though I don't always enjoy the lessons from her!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Pets in Disaster Shelters

I wrote a little more today about the idea of how to handle pets in shelters set up for people being cared for after disasters:

I've been giving this a lot of thought, and have some how-I-think-it-would-work ideas. People have assumed it would be a mess, but I think if the right trained volunteers/FEMA personnel could be on site, it could be a huge plus.

One area in the shelter could be designated NO PETS, for those who don't want to be around them or are phobic or allergic. If they want to be in that area, they should be treated with respect, no questions asked, etc. Don't impose the animals on anyone.

Most of the rest of the human part of the shelter would be designated pets only in certain situations, including training and full attention from a human every moment and proper confinement.

Then adjoining the shelter in whatever manner can be arranged, a pet facility that has some spots where people can sleep. Those who cannot bear to be separated from their pets can sleep with all the pets. Volunteers and/or paid staff will have to be on duty (awake) in the pet area 24 hours a day to protect the pets from wandering kids letting them out, theft, etc.

Actually, having people with them would keep them quieter as well as safer. And letting anyone from the shelter who behaves themselves come to visit the pets, night or day (but NOT remove a pet from its cage, unless it's THEIR pet) would provide a powerful emotional benefit to many of the non pet owners as well as the pet owners.

The pet experts willing to work HARD will have to be there as fast as the workers ministering to the humans for this to be feasible. But I'm sure it is, and I'm equally sure it will save human lives and even reduce post traumatic stress syndrome. I don't think that is an overstatement at all.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

About Disaster Response

A Canadian email pal wrote today and asked me what I thought about what happened in New Orleans. In particular, she wondered if I thought it was a "race issue." Here are some of the thoughts I shared with her:

No, the difficulty getting rescue going in New Orleans was not a racial issue. A lot of the mistakes were made by the mayor, and he is black! The city is 67% black. The mayor wasn't properly schooled in what to do in this kind of emergency, and neither was the state governor. The federal government in the US does not govern the states, and in this situation the state's poor leadership resulted in people not getting help with the speed they could have.

Another problem was that no one has ever seen an emergency like this one. They had to create new methods to handle it, and it is going to add many pages to all the training manuals. Because the criminals who remained in the city--many of them released from flooding jails--were shooting at rescue workers and helicopters, many things normally done in rescue had to be delayed until they could be captured. No volunteer rescue workers could be allowed in, and normally the Salvation Army and Red Cross volunteers are the ones who actually take care of people once they have been plucked out of danger.

The difficulties were not the fault of George Bush. The blame game is foolish, and only interferes with getting help to the people and the city--several cities, and more than one state--that will need help for a long time.

It's so seldom that a disaster affects everyone in a city. Many of the people who did not leave New Orleans before the flooding--and there was a LOT of warning, several opportunities to leave--were the poorest, and had other problems, too. Certainly a lot of them had no transportation or money. Some were too ill or disabled to leave. Some were too poor to take pets with them if they left, and stayed for that reason. Many were so out of contact with the world that they had no idea what was happening. Some were mentally ill. You are probably aware that many homeless people are mentally ill, too. That is often why a person winds up homeless.

Nationally, more of the poor are white than black. But nationally a higher percentage of the population is white than black. In New Orleans, 2/3 of the population on all economic levels is black, so it stands to reason that they would have a lot of black people who are poor. The rescue workers on all levels, especially the Salvation Army and the many churches who are helping the survivors, are very experienced in helping poor people year-round. They did not hesitate to jump in and help, just as soon as they could get in.

New Orleans has to be made secure and rebuilt, because it is an essential port. That is a matter of national security, and there will be time for niceties of the federal government and the state and city figuring out how to work together. It's a shame that New Orleans doesn't have a City Manager as my city does. We elect a mayor, but our City Manager is carefully chosen by an application process, so that this person does know the technical aspects of running a city. Obviously the mayor of New Orleans does not.

Governors are elected as a "popularity contest," too, and the governor of Louisiana did not know what to do in the crisis. She failed to request help as she was supposed to do, and turned away help when it was offered. The Governor and Mayor were both apparently more concerned with their own images than with the safety of citizens. They gave contradictory orders for the running of the rescue operations. It was a real mess.

If we saw a disaster in Haiti or Jamaica and people needed rescue, we wouldn't be surprised that those people were black, because those countries have more black people than white people. New Orleans does, too. So what? People are people, and everyone rushed to help them.

Put a city underwater, cut the power and the communications off (including cell phones, since the towers were all offline), turn all the criminals loose and let them break into stores and steal guns, fill the water with human waste, dead bodies, snakes, alligators and other hazards--and see how fast anyone can get to everyone stranded in that mess.

The criminals included gangs, looters, and even people who came INTO the city when the levee broke, specifically for the purpose of stealing. They shot police, volunteers, and people who had lost their homes. They raped women and young girls.

Remember that police did not have communications, either, and everyone was trying to rescue people who had no food or water. That was so difficult that they were unable to take children in the same helicopter with their mother, so they got separated into different shelters. There were at least 150 children in that situation. The helicopter can't hold many people at a time, and they wanted to get the kids out, not leave them until there was room for a parent with them.

People have been desperate from the beginning to get in there and rescue the stranded animals, but rescuing humans had to come first, and the damn criminals delayed all rescues. I don't know what the government could have done about that any faster than they did, other than to immediately send in SWAT teams and Navy SEALS, and I think eventually that's exactly what had to be done.

No one anticipated the level of crime that happened. It hasn't happened in other American disasters. It was disgraceful. I doubt that particular problem will ever catch authorities unprepared again.

Another kind of criminal has been developing as we've had these disasters that bring lots of donations. After 9/11 there was a lot of misappropriation of the huge amounts of money donated to help the families. This time that problem is far worse than ever before, and getting worse by the day. You need to be very careful who you donate to, in order to know that your money is going to help people rather than into the pockets of criminals.

It's also sad that people in other destroyed areas may not get the help they need, because the media has been so focused on New Orleans. And as people rush to give donations to this disaster, they cut down their donations to other groups who depend on donations to carry on their work.

One thing that is going to be a huge problem as they get the water out of the city is that looters will be hitting homes as well as the businesses they have already been hitting. There is no way the police or anyone else can guard all the property. For one thing, they have to allow some access by people who live in the area. So property that survived the disaster so far may still be stolen or destroyed by looters. They've been having a lot of fires. It's, well, a disaster.

A couple of things I think will change as a result of this disaster. I think the staging procedures for disasters handled by our federal agencies will change. I think that many more individuals will be trained in running operations for various scenarios of disasters. I think that FEMA will be removed from Homeland Security and become an independent agency again.

I think this disaster made it abundantly clear that human lives will be lost if people are forced to separate from their pets to be rescued. They are going to have to rescue the pets, too, if the person asks them to.

Some pet owners don't care, and maybe those pets will need to be left for later. But they have to stop telling people they can't keep their pets with them if they evacuate. All the rescue groups, including the volunteer agencies, are going to have to figure out how to cope with rescue pets. Some people will die rather than leave them, and that must stop. We can do better, and we will.

At the disaster here in Oklahoma City in 1995, local Red Cross authorities altered the dog policy and brought volunteer handlers with their therapy dogs on the scene to work with the waiting families and the resting rescue workers. That was the first time, I believe, that the Red Cross let dogs in. Then therapy dogs served extensively after 9/11 in New York City and also with the people in emotional need associated with the Pentagon crash the same day.

In contrast, when we've had destruction of homes from tornadoes, hurricanes and floods, people need to know that their own dogs are safe. Therapy dogs could be upsetting to them, by reminding them of what happened to their own dogs. In order to take care of someone whose pet is part of their family, we need to take care of the pet, too. I think that is the kind of care we will be seeing in future disasters.

A lot of people are saying there is no way to handle the pets in shelters with the humans, that dogs will bite people, bother people, fight with each other, scare the cats, etc. I used to think that, too. But now I firmly believe it can all be worked out. One possibility would be to put the pet area next door to the people area, and make room in it for people who can't bear separation from our pets.

People comfortable in the people area with the ability to go next door and visit their pets anytime could do that. People who need to be closer could sleep in the pet area. Having some people in there would keep the pets quieter. The pets would likely be an enormous emotional benefit to people who didn't even have pets, too. A "people only" area could be maintained for the allergic and phobic folks. I KNOW this would work.

---Kathy Diamond Davis

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Poison Ivy

I read an article in the paper today about poison ivy and wrote in to the writer. She probably won't enjoy my email much, but what the heck, I'll post it here. Some "fond" memories there!

I've had poison ivy in my back yard, so I read your article with interest. It appears that the photo of the cluster of three green leaves on the first page of the Home and Garden section is not poison ivy. I'm sure you had no choice about the photos chosen--being a writer, I know how that goes.

I had a rash on my hand years ago that I thought was allergy to tomato plants. I showed it to a wise neighbor, and she said "Let me see your back yard!" She pointed out the poison ivy plants to me.

There's lots of stuff back there, including other types of ivy and Rose of Sharon bushes in every size. I had a lot of trouble identifying poison ivy leaves, especially compared to the Rose of Sharon leaves, until my neighbor Dr. Brimberry's little boy told me his daddy had taught him the poison ivy leaves have a "thumb." Sure enough, they do.

They are gorgeous in autumn, as your article mentioned. I've pulled them all out by now, after 26 years in this house, and only occasionally see a little bit. I think they move through the storm drains from Dolese Park. LOTS of it in the park the last time I looked. Poison ivy likes shade, so you want to be alert for it there.

I took a photograph years ago of my beautiful little Miniature American Eskimo Dog named Angel, wearing a red bandana and with a background of autumn leaves. I eventually realized those were poison ivy.

I was not allergic to poison ivy as a young person, but I discovered that repeated exposure can eliminate that immunity. I used to stand barefoot in my backyard right among those bushes in the photo behind Angel, picking mulberries from the trees above.

And then there was the time I got a new dog who romped like crazy with my other dog in the backyard on his first day with us, and needed 45 minutes of combing that evening. Talk about big hair, he had it. There was a poison ivy area out there I had missed, and the dogs ran through it on every pass around the yard.

That was Saturday, and on Tuesday I broke out with poison ivy on the inside of the forearm that had wielded the comb. The dog was fine. It is true that poison ivy doesn't bother them. Like many other dog owners, I'd rather suffer through it myself than have it happen to my dog.

Don't Mess with Texas/ Forgiveness

I've saved this web page for ages because I get such a kick out of it:

Now, whichever political preference is yours, please, please, please don't get off on that here! I just love that picture, and I think (I was born in Houston), that I really, really, really need a t-shirt that says "Don't Mess With Texas"!

We moved when I was 5, but visited Texas many times while I was growing up. I love the people there as much as the people in Oklahoma City. I'd love to live in Texas, except it's just too dang hot, LOL! It's as hot as I can stand it right here in Oklahoma City.

Wearing a "Don't Mess with Texas!" t-shirt might occasionally get me in trouble in Oklahoma, and I did graduate from OU, but Texans and Oklahomans are pretty good buds. There's a movie I love called Baja, Oklahoma with a theme song that refers to the relationship. And then there's the song that says "I've never been to heaven, but I've been to Oklahoma."

We don't get hurricanes here, but we hold some records for tornadoes. One thing about tornadoes, you don't have to agonize over whether to leave your house or not, because one way or the other, it's over quick. Once in a great while, your house leaves you! And if you need help, your neighbors will help you.

As I watch the coverage of the rescue efforts, I've been hearing the phrase about the authorities that "There's plenty of blame to go around." I'd like to add to that. There's plenty of forgiveness to go around, too. People are doing all they can now to heal the hurts. They can't bring back people and pets who have been lost, and those who intentionally hurt others will have to pay sooner or later. But the worst of it was not intended by anyone. I think it is a matter of national pride--and also national security--to rebuild New Orleans better than ever.

Friday, September 02, 2005

When People Suffer

In the aftermath of the hurricane on the Gulf coast, many people are suffering tonight. As I read my daily chapters in the Bible, I came across these words in the book of Romans, Chapter 8, verses 28 through 39, in the newest version of the New Living Translation:

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

"What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up fo us all, won't he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one--for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one--for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God's right hand, pleading for us.

"Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, 'For your sake we are killed every day, we are being slaughtered like sheep.') No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below--indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

For whatever reasons this terrible disaster has hit the people in the area and all the others whose lives will be affected as they go in to help and are otherwise involved, God has not abandoned his people. Many of them speaking to the media have testified to miraculous rescues. God has many people there in harm's way, and nothing can separate them from his love.