Canine Labor Matters

VSSF Admin - Monday, September 01, 2014
They don’t belong to unions. They don’t demand equal pay for equal work. They never complain and they are more often than not tireless in their efforts. All they ask is a pat on the head and a biscuit every once in a while. They are the working dogs that are all around us, often forgotten but always there.

Dogs’ versatility and heightened senses make them ideal for many jobs that humans can’t do. Some are fun, some dangerous and others sad. All are important.

Just like cats, dogs work as service and therapy animals. If you have a dog with an especially sweet temperament, you can have your dog certified as a therapy dog and then you can volunteer to take him or her into hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities for visits. Note that therapy dogs are not service dogs and are not allowed into public places that forbid animals from entering. Service dogs work as seeing-eye dogs for the blind, companions for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and help paraplegics and quadriplegics live independently. These dogs can always accompany their owners into any building or situation and are not subject to “no dogs allowed” rules.

Dogs also serve to sniff out both survivors and cadavers in tragedies involving collapsed structures with people inside. Many of these dogs helped search after the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedies and one could find scattered around New York City afterward statues commemorating their service.

You can find dogs working in police K-9 units, helping catch fleeing criminals and sniffing out suspected drugs at traffic stops. They go into war zones with our military, where they can sniff a bomb and alert their handlers before detonation, saving thousands of lives.

Dogs also play a role for hunters, sniffing out prey or retrieving a kill. Others, like cats, serve on farms. Shepherd breeds guard herd animals like sheep, making sure they don’t stray too far, protecting them from predators and rounding them up and pushing them back to the safety of a more enclosed pasture or barn.

The fact is, without our working dogs, life would be a lot more dangerous and difficult for humans. The above examples are only a few of the many things our dogs do for us.

Cats Have Jobs, Too

VSSF Admin - Monday, August 25, 2014

Labor Day is next week, a day celebrating the human worker in the United States. But many other species have “jobs” that are often just as important. This week and next, we will discuss first cats and then dogs that spend their days serving society.

You can find the most common “working cat” on any farm. They are especially useful on farms that produces food, but almost any place with a barn will have a few cats around. These cats help keep the rodent population in check, thus protecting the farmer’s livelihood: the food he sells. But they are just as important on farms where animals live to keep the feed safe from both little chewing mouths and deposited waste.

There are programs in several states that work to place rescued feral cats as barn cats on local farms, an alternative to putting them down due to their unfriendliness and the difficulty in adopting them out to other kinds of homes. If you’re in need of such a cat, check to see if there is a program in your area. In such cases, the program expects the adopter to ensure the cats have proper food, water and medical care.

Even the pampered cats people keep as pets in their homes are “working,” even if you don’t realize it. If you live in the “country” and haven’t seen rats or mice in your basement or found evidence of them in your kitchen, thank your cat. If every spider you find in your house is already dead, thank your cat. And, finally – particularly in the Southeast and more specifically in Florida – if you never see a living palmetto bug, thank your cat. Even cats that don’t need to hunt still enjoy it as an instinctual part of their personalities and they will go after anything smaller than they are that moves.

But cats’ work skills don’t end with their hunting abilities. Some cats receive training as service animals for a variety of conditions. Some cats can predict when their owners are about to suffer a seizure. The cat’s timely alert allows the owner to get to a safe place or take medication that stops seizures. They also serve to calm people suffering with anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses. Still others visit hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities to bring joy to patients and residents.

Let’s Swim!

VSSF Admin - Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer is winding down, but these furry friends aren’t ready to give up their days bumming it at the beach: