by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
One day when I and my partner at the time went over to my mom’s house, we weren’t expecting to rescue any baby squirrels. In fact, we had gone over to clean out our storage area in her basement. It was getting a bit unorganized. But Operation Rescue Baby Squirrels was about to interrupt us midway.
In the midst of the cleaning and sorting, one of my teens rushes down the stairs and says “Grandma needs you! There’s a squirrel in the truck.” We rushed up the stairs and out to the truck. A big squirrel had run out of the truck, revealing a baby and a nest. So we got to work on getting the baby out because he had wedged himself in between some of the wires of the engine.
While I’m working on coaxing the baby to an area where I can grab him, Tee (ex's nickname) is busy pulling out all of the leaves, couch stuffing, and other debris that was forming a nest among the truck engine’s wires. All of a sudden he says “Oh no, Baby! There’s more!” More turned out to be just one more. His tail was poking out one side, while his body was on another, making it look like multiple squirrels at first.
Since the second baby was in an easier location to grab, I pulled him out first with my fuzzy-gloved hand and placed him an inside a baby blanket. The super fuzzy glove was worn to make the squirrels feel safer, since they’re used to beings with fur, not human skin.
I took that baby squirrel over to the tree that Mama Squirrel had run into and placed him underneath, all cozy in the baby blankie. Then, I got back to work on the feistier squirrel sibling. Operation Rescue Baby Squirrels was going well so far.
Some who know me will know this is far from my first animal rescue operation. I’ve become quite the expert. But this other baby squirrel was determined to challenge my expertise. He kept burrowing himself further into the wires. But of course, there was a reason I chose the fuzzy gloves.
I kept putting my fuzzy-gloved hand in front of the baby and eventually he started coming toward it. Tee was able to gently nudge him from behind for further motivation. He finally got into my hand and I placed him gently in the blanket with his furry sibling and Tee cleaned out the rest of the nest from the truck engine.
At first, the mama squirrel didn’t notice where I had placed her babies. She hopped into the next tree and I was afraid she wouldn’t see them. So I went into the house and chopped up some fruit to place under the tree near the babies for scent/attraction purposes – and also for nourishment, of course.
Success! In no time, Mama Squirrel ran over to the food and spotted the babies. She chose the food first! That was a shock. I had expected her to rush to the babies. But perhaps she was eating while coming up with a master plan. She ate an apple piece about a foot from her babies. Then, she came back, scooped them up one at a time and carried them into a hole in the tree.
Once she got them inside, she stuck her head out and when she noticed us taking pictures, she peeked out even more. Then, she looked at us and kept posing and climbing and posing again on near branches. So we took more pictures. There is a limit of ten pictures per post, so I’ve only shared some of the best ones here.
Eventually, Mama Squirrel came back and carried all of the fruit into the hole with her babies. She also grabbed some leaves and other debris. She attempted to drag the baby blanket up, but of course it was a bit big and heavy for her and she was unsuccessful. Once she is no longer making attempts, I can cut the blanket into smaller pieces that she can handle, so that she’ll have something soft and fuzzy to keep her babies warm with. Sorry Mom, I’ll have to get you another one. *Smiles*
Operation Rescue Baby Squirrels appears to be a success – and it felt very good to be able to help out that mama. It was a good addition to the day for Tee and I -- and a reminder of how connected people are to nature. It needs us to respect it and care for it in order for it to continue growing and giving us all this beautiful home.
UPDATE: Mama Squirrel ended up replacing the nest in Mom's truck several times and being a pain in the butt, making my mom remove it again and again. But at least her and the babies were cute enough to mask some of the trouble.
*I originally published a version of this article elsewhere (no longer published there)
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
On a family visit to the local pet shelter, your kids see a cute little fuzzy hamster. This hamster has special needs and requires some extra care. Can kids care for a hamster with special needs? My kids have rescued several hamsters who all had extra care needs as compared to many other hamsters. But just because some kids have had success with this does not mean that all kids will. It also depends on each unique situation.
Before adopting, consider the animal's needs. Not all special needs hamsters will be the same. Some needs will be minor, allowing a child to care for them. Yet others may be more complex. If your child can handle all of the extra responsibilities that will come with a special needs hamster, it's a great service to adopt an animal in need. My kids adopted a hamster named Buddy who was blind in one eye. They were able to provide the care he needed. However, his previous owners (who also happened to be kids)didn't treat him so well. If your kids are responsible and capable enough to provide for a special needs hamster, there is little reason not to adopt.
How serious is the animal's condition? Will the hamster need medicine or other frequent vital care? If so, can your child handle that? Is it better for the special needs hamster to go to a different home? If the kids cannot meet the hamster's needs effectively, as the parent you will need to do that. Sadly, Buddy's previous owners did not think of that. Once the kids couldn't care for Buddy, the solution the parents had was to bring Buddy back instead of caring for him themselves. While it might have taught them they couldn't have a pet if they couldn't provide care, it may have inadvertently taught them that pets are not as important as people. Animals have feelings too. If your kids are going to adopt a special needs hamster, be sure your home is the right one. Animals deserve to be part of a loving family just as much as people do.
What does the vet say? Talk to the shelter and/or animal hospital staff about the animal's condition. If possible, have a vet assess the situation beforehand and let you know if your kids are the right pet parents. The vet will be able to tell you everything your family will have to do in order to properly care for the hamster. In Buddy's case, he needed no medicines, as he was born blind. But since he had been abused and neglected, he was a bit feisty. He would bite any and everything that came within a few inches of him. The kids and I had to show him lots and lots of love and tender care for months before he stopped biting. He also was a little overweight because he had been deprived of food before. So he would hoard his food and overeat. In the beginning, he didn't even know how to use his hamster wheel and he would hide in a ball in the corner of the cage. If your kids adopt a hamster with special needs, such as depression, overeating, and aggressiveness, will they have the time and patience to help the hamster overcome it all?
What does your child's doctor think? Sometimes hamsters with special needs may also be sick. While it isn't common for kids to catch anything from their pet hamster,it is possible. Also, if your child has any conditions that weaken the immune system, a sick pet is more likely to infect your child. Talk to your child's doctor about the special needs hamster and any known conditions before adopting. Your child's doctor will be able to tell you what to watch out for and also give you some handy hints to help prevent illnesses spreading from pets to kids and vice versa. The vet should do the same. But your child's pediatrician is the best resource geared toward kids and the vet is the best resource geared toward your hamster.
Is the related care something a child can handle responsibly? While your child may be good hearted and have good intentions, remember that you are still dealing with a kid. Kids don't always stick to their responsibilities. Is your child responsible enough to complete every step in the animal's care plan every single time? Think about any other tasks your child has and whether they get done effectively. Also, consider your child's overall attitude toward animals. If you believe your child can adequately care for a special needs hamster (and you will take over if they don't), then what are you waiting for? Go welcome home your new family member.
* I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Parents, Please Educate Your Kids Before Adopting a Pet: Lessons From Buddy the Hamster, Rescued From Neglect
by Lyn Lomasi, Write W.A.V.E. Media Staff
Buddy the hamster is happily snoozing as I write this. He is nestled all cozy in his pile of natural bedding and other nesting materials. However, our cute little fuzzy family member wasn't always so happy. His situation is one of thousands involving pets of all kinds that constantly urge me to tell parents to please educate their kids before ever adopting a pet.
Buddy's previous owners were kids and the parents did not step up to help Buddy when the kids did not take care of him. Their solution was eventually to return Buddy to the pet store. That's when my mom and one of my daughters stepped in to save Buddy. We were not even looking for a pet yet. But who else was going to adopt an abused hamster who was blind in one eye?
Your pet is not a toy or a decoration. This an important lesson that all children need to learn. I know what you are thinking when I talk about a hamster. It's just a hamster. There's the problem. Buddy is not an 'it'. Any living creature is not 'just' anything, but is the same as you and me. Kids need to know this before ever getting a pet. No matter how big or small, animals have feelings just like us. When you don't feed them, they feel starvation, just like you would. When you don't play with them, they feel neglected, just like you would if no one paid attention to you.
Pets require love and attention. You cannot buy a pet and just let him sit there on the shelf in his cage. He needs your love and attention. If your kids get a pet, they need to give him lots of love and attention. In Buddy's previous home, he did not receive love and the attention was the worst kind. When we first brought him home, his gut reaction was to instantly bite anything that came anywhere near him. It took months of love and special attention to get him to the point of allowing anyone to hold him without him showing aggression. If you met Buddy the day he came to us and again now, you would think you were meeting two different hamsters. His personality has completely changed - all because of love. Of course, the opposite could also happen in an instant, if he fell into the wrong hands again.
Pets require proper care. Just like a baby, your pet relies on you to thrive. Your kids need to know this. In Buddy's situation, he was not properly fed, not given water often enough, not paid attention to, nor was his cage cleaned often enough, if at all. He already had a hard life (being blind in one eye) and neglectful pet owners made it that much harder on poor Buddy. When Buddy came into our home, he did not even know how to use the hamster wheel or the hamster ball. All he did at first was sleep in the corner of the cage and every now and then he'd get up to eat or drink. Now that he is being cared for properly, he runs in his ball and wheel daily and stands up begging for attention whenever anyone is near his cage. He is much more active than he was when he came to us. Not feeding or caring for an animal can cause them to have depression, be ill, or even die from neglect or starvation - just like if that happened to a human.
Educate your kids before getting a pet. Talk to your kids about proper pet care. Buy books and do research together on the animal your children will adopt. Many pet stores and shelters have special classes that kids can take on how to properly care for their furry family member. If your kids are not responding well to pet lessons, by all means let someone else adopt the pet. You may think you are doing a good deed when adopting a pet in need, but if your children will neglect the pet, it's a much better deed to let another family take on that responsibility. It is very true that having a pet can teach responsibility. But at the same time, kids should be knowledgeable of their care and be willing to provide it before ever adopting an animal.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
by Lyn Lomasi, Write W.A.V.E. Media Staff
You glance at your hamsters and they are standing upright making moves as if they are in a boxing ring. Do hamsters box? As an experienced hamster parent and rescuer, I've seen this behavior in several hamsters. I know what you're thinking: "Are my hamsters really boxing?"
Are my hamsters boxing? Yes and no. Hamsters often stand on their hind legs. If they feel threatened or frightened at the same time, they may also kick with their front legs and hiss or squeak. This results in what appears to be boxing. If two hamsters are doing this to each other, it may appear as if they are in a boxing match. If they do this to a person or to their cage bars, it may look like they are practicing for a match.
Why do hamsters box each other? This is a natural defense reflex that some hamsters have. I have noticed as a hamster rescuer that Russian dwarf hamsters seem to do this more than Roborovskis. When Robos are frightened, they usually hiss loudly, squeak repeatedly, and retreat. Although, I have also witnessed Roborovski hamsters boxing as well. When hamsters do this, it means that something has frightened them or seems like a threat. Many hamsterscannot be housed together in the same cage because of the possible boxing or fighting. While generally friendly with humans, hamsters can be vicious with their own kind. All of our rescue hamsters always have their own cages to prevent this type of issue. Sometimes they will see or smell each other through the bars and box the cage walls briefly.
Why do hamsters box with people? Whenever there are quick movements from large objects (like a human's hand) near our rescue hamsters, they immediately begin to box. They will do the same if someone touches their food dishes or taps their cages. If your hamster is trying to box with you, this is an indication you have done something to frighten or harm your hamster. Give your hamster time to calm down and be sure you don't repeat the action that prompted the boxing. If your hamster boxes you all the time, slowly gain trust. Occasional treats and lots of talking with a soothing voice can help. Your hamster also may be simply frightened of your hand invading the cage. One of our hamsters is this way. If we want to take him out, he is much calmer if we simply open the door and let him climb out into a hamster bed. From there, he will climb into someone's hand.
Should I encourage my hamster to box? Absolutely not. This can cause your hamster to think of you as an enemy. Your goal is to discourage the boxing when it comes to the way your hamster interacts with you. Because this is a natural defense mechanism, the goal is not to discourage the act completely. Your hamster should only box you if you're doing something to make him feel threatened or unsafe.
How can I stop my hamster's boxing habit? Talk to your hamster in a calm and soothing voice often. Do not ever act scared or angry toward your hamster. If you are calm, the hamster is more likely to be calm. Slowly regain trust by using treats and a gloved hand. The reason your hand should be gloved is that your hamster may bite while boxing. While hamster bites do not always hurt, they may cause an automatic jerking reaction from your hand, which can injure or stress out the hamster. Make it a habit to soothingly call your hamster's name, provide a treat, then leave your gloved hand there afterward to invite the hamster to come to you. After repeating this for as many days as it takes, your hamster is likely to begin coming to you without boxing. If not, a vet may offer other suggestions or tell you to leave your hamster be unless it is time for the exercise ball or to change the cage.
*Always contact a licensed veterinarian for the health of your animals. The information above is not meant to replace the advice of a qualified professional and is derived solely from the author's own personal experiences.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
As I write this, my 8-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter are cleaning a hamster cage and a gerbil cage. I'm such a mean mom, right? Not exactly. They're willing participants and there are several reasons kids with pets should be doing things like this. Our first hamster was neglected by children in another family before we adopted him. It happens more often than some realize. But it can be prevented.
Respect and love for animals starts early
It's more difficult, though still possible, to teach an adult to do things differently than it is to teach kids about something right from the start. The earlier a child starts learning how to have compassion for animals, the better. Part of that includes providing them with the things they cannot provide for themselves, like clean water, a clean cage, and food. If your child is neglecting the hamster, please address it immediately.
If your child is going to “own” a pet, they also own the responsibility
Owning an animal means caring for that animal. Helping kids care for their first hamster is all about responsibility from the start. If your child adopts a hamster but you end up being the one to clean the cage, provide food and water, provide stimulation, and handle other care, this defeats the purpose. If your child is not ready for all that, your child is not ready for a pet. All parents should properly help their child adopt a hamster with preparation.
Having pets teaches further responsibility and life lessons
By learning how to provide for a hamster, your child will learn important life skills that all humans can learn from a hamster. They will also learn many other life lessons from hamster care that can be applied elsewhere.This might be practice for babysitting, working elsewhere, or even as preparation for caring for oneself. Kids with pets should be learning how to budget for their care, what types of food they need and how often, what stimulation is appropriate, how to be gentle, and much more.
Does your child have a hamster or other pet? Are they caring for them as they should? Please leave your thoughts and concerns in the comments section below.
Pulling herself slowly with all of her might, a small black puppy – who looked very unhealthy – landed at my feet, exasperated from the efforts. I immediately bent down and patted her head, looking around to see if anyone was missing her. The only people in sight were completely ignoring her and walking by. I scooped her up in my arms, instantly falling for her and knowing something was very wrong. The kids and I were on the way to a relative's to celebrate a birthday for my oldest. This was not the sort of surprise we were expecting to occur on this day.
When the kids and I missed our first bus that day, we were frustrated knowing friends and family were awaiting our arrival. But as soon as we met with this helpless being, we knew right then why we were late. She was meant to find us and we were meant to help her. Why else would a puppy in such condition happen to come across a family passionate about helping animals – a family who had just recently adopted yet another from a kill shelter? At the time, we had no idea what we were getting into or what kind of dog this was – just that she was a creature in desperate need of love and care.
I dropped the kids off with the relatives, so as not to ruin the birthday fun and I took the puppy to get some help. She got scanned for a microchip, since she had no collar. I also proceeded to cool her down with free help from some kindly experts. It turned out that she was suffering from heat stroke and would have likely died not long after we found her had I not been there to help. I got her cooled down nicely and since no owners could be immediately detected, I had no choice but to bring her back to the birthday celebration with me. I wasn't met kindly with this decision by some people. But I can be stubborn when it matters and I did what I knew was right.
We knocked on several doors throughout the neighborhood up and down several blocks looking to see if she had escaped a loving owner, but it was to no avail. No one had seen her before or knew who she was. So we took her home that night. The kids named her Lulu as an assumed temporary name and she took to it right away. Because the area no-kill rescues were not able to help right away, I decided to let her stay for a while and provided her information to several places (like shelters and veterinary clinics) in case someone was looking for her. She was even put up on the popular lost section of one of the most common area shelters with zero results. The two calls we received in the entirety of Lulu's stay with us were not even close to leads.
Flash forward to a few months later and Lulu was doing so much better. She had grown both up and out. She was skin and bones when we found her but plumped up with us rather quickly – to the healthy size she should have been. Her coat was finally shiny and you could only see some of her prior scars if you knew where they were and looked closely. And Lulu was in love with us. We were a family. She chose my 8 year old son the first night and never left his side after that. We were still looking to see if Lulu had a family out there missing her. But our hope was fading.
Then, one early Sunday morning, sometime close to Christmas, I heard a rude knock at the front door. Because I am a single mom, I rarely open the door unless I know exactly who is there and know that person well. I looked out the peephole and saw a familiar stranger – a neighbor who I had seen yelling at other neighbors before. So I opted not to answer. I'm sure he knew we were there because my son and youngest daughter had been snuggling on the balcony with Lulu just minutes before the knock. He knocked a few more times, louder each time. We were silent, including the dogs. Then, came the yell “Animal control is on their way for that dog!”
I still didn't answer and still didn't quite understand which dog he meant or why. I then heard a faint voice utter “pit bull” and it dawned on me what she may be. Shit! If she was, they weren't allowed in my building or in my city. All that time, we thought she was a labradane or a lab/pointer. I took her to one place, hoping I was wrong and we could keep her. They affirmed my worst fear about the situation before I even asked. “Ma'am, this is a pit bull. We can't guarantee what will happen if she needs to stay here.” I cried and hugged Lulu close and I told them she wasn't staying there.
I enlisted the help of a good friend and we attempted one place that said they could help rehome her. But once we got there, they stated a 25% chance she would be euthanized. Again, I was not accepting that fate for Lulu. She was a good girl right from the start – untrained at first due to her condition, but extremely loving, tame, and very happy-go-lucky. No way was anyone going to kill her just for being born as a so-called vicious breed. No way. This is the kind of thing BSL (or Breed Specific Laws or Legislation) causes. Banning specific breeds often hurts innocent animals and family, rather than punishing someone truly at fault. My nickname for the BSL laws is “BS Laws” because, from what I can see, that is exactly what they are – BS – pure bull$***.
The third try was a charm. I found a place that would help Lulu find a good home and if for any reason she could not be adopted out, they would sign her back over to me so I could make sure she was safe. This was more hopeful. I didn't want to give her up at all. But I obviously had no choice. So, with tears in my eyes, I filled out the paperwork, giving them the equivalent of a book, outlining everything I could think of about her that would fit on the pages supplied. Some of the pages had text spilling over into the sides of the pages that weren't lined or meant for answers. But, I didn't care. I wanted to make sure everything was covered. This wasn't the time to stay in the lines.
Because of Lulu's undying loyalty to my son, she refused to go into the examination room and would only go with the staff when they had my son come along. She was the same way regarding the kennel. She would not leave a room my son was in. So we had to lead her to the back and put her inside that cage. We don't cage our animals at all, so this is the part where we all really started to break down. But for Lulu, we hid the pain and gave her love while she wiggled her happy body, not knowing what was really happening. She trusted us fully and while I felt like we completely let her down, I knew in my heart this was the only way to save her from a worse fate. But I still felt that I had failed her, seeing her trusting eyes on me from inside the kennel. I completely broke down at that point and had to leave.
Lulu ended up getting what is hopefully her furever home just days after we signed her over. I know that we saved Lulu's life, not once, but twice. The pain still cuts very deep, and I am in tears writing this. But stories like Lulu's need to be heard because people need to know the true consequences of BSL (Breed Specific Legislation). Yes, some people do raise pit bulls to be mean, vicious, attack dogs. But they are not born that way. They are naturally loving dogs, like Lulu. It is the people doing wrong, not the dogs. Don't punish the breed. Don't punish the animal. Punish the people in each specific offending situation. BSL is nothing but racism and segregation all over again, only this time it's within the dog race instead of the human race.
Lulu was one of the lucky ones, even though she went through quite an ordeal. Why? Because she is alive. Sadly, most of these dogs don't get as far as Lulu did. They are killed every day in American shelters, simply because of who they are. They didn't ask to be here and they don't deserve to be treated this way. According to at least one source, pit bulls are the number one bred dog in the United States. They're also the hardest to adopt out, in part due to BSL and in part due to misinformation being spread about them. Every year, 3-4 million dogs are euthanized in the United States. It is said that at least a third of them are likely bully breeds, maybe more.
What am I doing to help change this? For starters, I am working on opening up my own no-kill animal rescue. I also spread the word in various ways and bring attention to current bully breeds at risk of being euthanized in United States shelters.
You can view some of my rescue work at Heart 'N Mind Paw Rescue
All Images © Lyn Lomasi; All Rights Reserved
(You tell me how vicious Lulu looks in these photos...)
Pit Bulls Were Once America's Babysitter
What's in a Name-Bully Breed and Pit Bull Myths
Banned Breeds are no More Aggressive Than Others, New Study Finds
Why BSL Doesn't Work
Why Not to Breed Pit Bulls
"Needs loving home with her own space. Can be aggressive." This is the type of 'warning' label placed on more than one of the hamsters we have adopted. Some people would be turned off when reading that. Not us. That's exactly what we are looking for. We take on the small animals that others may not and they've all turned out to be great pets.
Hamsters are Small
An aggressive hamster is not going to do much harm to a human. A little nip may hurt a tiny bit. But hamsters are so small that it should be quite insignificant. If it's that bothersome, it's nothing a pair of gloves can't solve.
Aggressiveness is Not Always Permanent
We've successfully tamed three hamsters labeled as aggressive. All it took was a little time and lots of love. Another of our hamsters was labeled as aggressive. But once we got her home, she was completely different. She's actually the tamest and friendliest of all of the hamsters we've rescued.
Hamsters Live in Cages
Because hamsters are not going to be free roaming the house, it is not likely that aggressiveness will be a huge problem. Some hamsters do like to come out and play in a designated, properly secured area. But even during these times, it is not likely that an aggressive hamster is going to be a threat. Wear gloves during feeding and handling times, as well as during cage cleanings if you're worried about the boxing and nipping.
Aggressive Animals Still Have Feelings and Needs
Usually aggressive animals are that way due to mistreatment or health conditions. That doesn't mean they don't deserve a loving home too. They still need to eat, have access to fresh water, and live in a comfortable and safe environment. Sometimes providing those simple things is all it takes to tame a hamster. Sometimes it takes more. Sometimes they remain aggressive. Either way, they are still living, breathing creatures with feelings and needs.
Talk to your local animal rescues and shelters (and do the proper research on care) if you are interested in learning more about adopting aggressive hamsters.
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