Wednesday, July 24, 2019

BRAT 2019 Convention News

 This is BRAT’s 20th year in operation. Twenty years ago Bill Clinton was President; Shakespeare in Love received the Academy Award for best Movie; The Sopranos, Friends, and X Files were some of the hit TV shows; gas cost $1.30 per gallon; and Basenji Rescue & Transport, Inc. (BRAT) began its journey rescuing Basenjis. A lot has changed since then, but thanks to dedicated volunteers, BRAT is still rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming Basenjis.

BRAT’s Mission: “To rescue, rehabilitate and re-home dogs of the Basenji breed; to educate and support owners, potential adopters, and admirers of the breed; to rescue and foster Basenjis in safe and nurturing environments; to provide the care that each dog needs; and to work hard to educate ourselves so that we can confidently place adoptable dogs in the best homes possible for a happy and harmonious outcome.”

The sixteenth BRAT Convention was held in Portland, Oregon, June 13 – 15, 2019. There were Basenjis in meeting rooms and with their people everywhere at the convention because they are why we work, plan, hope, and celebrate. They are the center of BRAT, the reason volunteers devote a great deal of time, energy, and other resources, quietly and daily paving the way for happy endings.

Finding great forever homes for Basenjis in need of a second chance is what BRAT does. That’s why we spend so much time sitting in front of our computers, transporting, fostering, and handling all the particulars that make BRAT work. That’s what inspires people from across the US and Canada to join BRAT. It’s the reason 64 people along with 37 dogs came together from diverse backgrounds and locations to spend the weekend discussing challenges and celebrating rescue successes, reconnecting with veteran BRAT members, and meeting some volunteers new to the calling of rescuing Basenjis.

Deserving of special thanks, applause, and baroos are Deb Hughes, who hosted the convention, along with Debbi Johnson and Liz Newton. Thanks also go to Patricia Dukes for the program layout and to Mark Ziegler for the convention logo. Official convention historian Michael Robinson provided valuable assistance in myriad ways. Additional cheers and appreciation to the spouses and other family members who were conscripted to assist in the countless to-do lists involved in planning such a successful event.

The convention planners contributed countless hours to prepare the details that made the convention such a success. As just one example of the thoughtful preparation, attendees received canvas tote bags filled with swag of the fun and useful sort, including BRAT bandanas, BRAT M&Ms, convention logo medallions to add to key chains, and BRAT themed crossword puzzles, programs, and schedules.

The clever Basenji cookie centerpieces were courtesy of Deb Hughes and Mike Robinson, who also offered more homemade dog treats, which Basenji attendees were happy to sample. A cookbook with recipes for all sorts of great Basenji treats was provided so Basenjis’ humans could make more treats for them when they returned home.

The convention got underway on Friday with member introductions followed by presentations. The convention itinerary included a variety of presentations that were both educational and entertaining, not always an easy combination to achieve. 

Dr. Marty DeWees, DVM gave an excellent presentation on Basenji dental problems, how to properly care for your dog’s teeth, what treats to avoid, and what vets can do to provide the best dental care. I took lots of scribbled notes, but I’m delighted Dr. DeWees agreed to share her presentation so concerned Basenji parents have a guide for talking to their veterinarians about dental care. The presentation, “Dental Care for BRAT Rescues: Helping Our Basenji Rescues Become Pain and Infection Free," has been uploaded to the BRAT Facebook page.

Professional Animal Communicator Bridget Pilloud gave the thought-provoking presentation “Pets are Talking: Use Your Intuition to Understand Your Dog.”

Foster heroes Terrie and Dean Sigler talked about “Fostering: the Good the Bad and the Ugly.” They shared insights from their wealth of experience as foster parents and Basenji lovers.

And, it just wouldn’t be a BRAT convention without contests for the Basenji attendees. There were contests for best costumes, most freckles, best baroo, most white, curliest tail, etc. The Basenji contestants were remarkably tolerant of all this, and some even seemed to like the attention and applause.

There was time in the schedule for Basenji attendees to visit a dog park to run and play after attending presentations with their humans.

This was followed by sniffing contests which involved hiding treats under a few of several cups arranged in the conference hall. The Basenjis had to lead their people to the right cup and find the treat under the cup. Basenji problem solving is a wonderful thing to behold.

Saturday began with more introductions, and then Liz Newton gave a presentation entitled “BRAT: A Look Back at 20 Years of Rescuing Basenjis in Need.” She talked about BUR, The Basenji Underground Railroad, and how this became BRAT. Mike Swan, the first president of BRAT, was joined in efforts to establish BRAT by Don and Jackie Kuhwarth, who still maintain the BRAT databases and web page, and several other founding BRAT members, many of whom are still active in BRAT today. Liz showed several examples of the BRAT web page over the years, and talked about the amazing rescue efforts of some of the devoted volunteers who make up BRAT. 

The conference attendees are part of a group of the 1,271 volunteers who support BRAT in various ways. The fabric of BRAT is made of these volunteers, whose efforts are woven together to achieve what might seem impossible: 90 dogs rescued so far this year and 4,000 Basenjis rescued over the last two decades. 

In his presentation  “Back to the Basenji Origins: Two Trips to Africa,” James Johannes shared slides and an account of his trips to Africa to bring back more native Basenjis. He brought one of his imported Basenjis with him to the convention.

After lunch, Liz Newton explained “Walking a dog through BRAT,” detailing the steps in the adoption process and a dog’s journey to a forever home.

The beautiful and heartbreaking BRAT Memorial Slideshow of our Basenjis waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge was shown Saturday afternoon.

This convention also included a game for humans: BRAT Jeopardy, the perfect game for BRAT volunteers who are smart and have quick reflexes, necessities for living with our nearly prescient Basenji family members.

Saturday night’s schedule was packed. First there was a tasty buffet. Then several devoted and hardworking volunteers were given awards for extraordinary service to BRAT. The evening concluded with the raffle and auction. A lot of wonderful items were donated for raffles and an auction to raise money for BRAT. BRAT is full of generous people who donated many wonderful Basenji and dog related treasures for the fund raising events. Bill Newton ably handled auctioneering duties as he and several volunteers kept the proceedings moving along and enjoyable for everyone.

The weekend flew swiftly by, and soon it was time to exchange goodbyes and make plans to attend next year’s convention, wherever it might be.  (Details forthcoming.)

When I think of BRAT, I think of the many Basenjis who have been rescued and adopted by grateful families over the last 20 years. I think of the Basenji lives saved and transformed, and the grateful humans whose lives were so enriched by their adopted Basenjis. I think with profound and humble gratitude of the five Basenjis we’ve adopted from BRAT over the years.  

Intertwined with all of that, I think of the many BRAT volunteers –and everyone at BRAT is a volunteer—who form a safety net, from one set of hands to another. I think of the miles driven, the hours spent evaluating and coordinating dogs, the home visits, and the care given. I think of the amazing foster parents who take in frightened, confused, bewildered dogs and help to restore hope and love in their lives. I think of the jobs, families, and lives juggled to work for these small magical dogs. The image of hope and joy that comes to mind when I think of BRAT is one of volunteers from all backgrounds with their hands full and their hearts open, giving of themselves to achieve the happy miracles of forever homes for Basenjis. 

BRAT received generous support from Donna Troyna’s TotalBasenji, Earth Rated Poop Bags, Harness Lead One World One Leash, Little Dog Brewing Co., Max & Neo Quality Dog Gear,  Mark Murphy K9tag, Inc., Rai-Tei Basenji Dresses, Tearraribles, Xtreme Pet Products, and White Orchid Body & Bath

The photos in this article are courtesy of various BRAT volunteers.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Tiegan and Miles Hunt Easter Eggs

While we’re still enjoying spring weather, I’ll report on Tiegan and Miles’ Easter egg hunt. We have a great back yard for Basenji playtime, and wonderful trees that produce oxygen and provide lots of shade that makes our porch and back yard so much cooler in the summer. However, grass does not thrive in all that shade so this area is follicularly challenged in regards to grass type foliage. We aren’t dedicated lawn aficionados, so this doesn’t particularly alarm us. However, rain transforms this naked expanse of dirt into mud, and that, my friends, is a bit of a challenge. Miles does not like having his feet wiped, so we resort to a variety of methods, some of which work better than others. One of the more effective methods involves wiping Tiegan’s dainty feet first, with a running commentary along the lines of “See, Tiegan’s feet need to be wiped and she’s being a very good girl. She gets a treat when we wipe her feet.”

All that as a segue into photos of our little darlings hunting Easter eggs in their back yard, running from egg to egg across a lawn that looks like the top of the Jolly Green Giant’s head if he were going bald.
The Easter eggs are scattered in twos because Tiegan and Miles are like small children, running together to this group of eggs then that group of eggs. No matter that there are eggs all over, they race together to every spot, sure they will miss something crucial if they don’t. Then they each grab their eggs and trot off to separate spots to open the plastic egg and retrieve the treat within. They have so much fun we might also have a Fourth of July hunt and maybe a Labor Day hunt as well.


Monday, January 21, 2019

The Tiegan and Miles Show: Miles has Surgery, Tiegan Chews the Blinds, and Sleep is but a Distant Dream

     We approached the holidays happily anticipating visits with friends and outings to museums and favorite restaurants. There was a change in plans.

Miles's face after initial vet visit

    It started with a slight swelling on Miles’ right cheek. The vet prescribed antibiotics. The next day, no change, but at 3 am the following morning, Miles woke us and the entire right side of his face was hugely swollen. Thank heavens our local vet, a 24/7 hospital, is about 15 minutes away. They sent us to the specially veterinary service for a CT scan which revealed no foreign bodies, but a huge abscess. Surgery cleaned out the abscess and collected cultures and biopsies. No fractures, dental causes, bacteria or cancer—something I hadn’t even thought to be terrified about. There was a huge abscess with no distinct cause, perhaps a trauma; although that’s just a guess. After a couple of days in the hospital, he came home with an incision nearly from mouth to ear on the right side of his face. I’ve always found another option for my convalescing babies—a rigid turtleneck type collar, an inflatable donut—but  this was on his face, so it had to be a cone. I’m disappointed I couldn’t find a better alternative.

Miles at specialty vet about 4:30 am

Miles was a good brave boy through all of this, despite being captive in the inconvenient and tiresome cone. We shut the doggy door because the cone would not fit. He also couldn’t get into a cave bed with the cone. Not to worry, we had in reserve a cave bed cover that Miles had customized by destroying the tent piece, so we pulled out this untented fluffy bed and he decided he could sleep on that.

Despite my efforts to distract and cheer her, Tiegan worried while Miles was gone. We took him away and could not explain where he was. When we brought Miles home, he was wearing a cone so Tiegan growled at him whenever he came near her for the first few days. The right side of his face was still swollen due to the surgery. There was to be no rough play, running or jumping, and only quiet walks on a leash. We blocked off the stairs and took turns sleeping in the kitchen by Miles’ favorite bed.

Tiegan and Miles are energetic Basenjis who see no reason to go around furniture when they can go over it. They run the Basenji 500 frequently, bouncing off the back of the couch, running on the end table, bounding over the love seat. Given the list of restrictions, we needed help of a pharmaceutical nature to keep Miles calm. I entertained Tiegan with long walks and visits to the library.

A sedative to keep Miles somewhat less active was added to the list of pain medication, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory drugs. We kept our pill-splitter, collection of prescription bottles, and detailed schedule of doses at the ready.

About 9 days after surgery

Miles, always a champion pill taker and lover of Pill Pockets, decided soon after he came home from the hospital that he was so over Pill Pockets. Eric pulled out the cheese and summer sausage (thank heavens for those holiday gift baskets) and we made a production of giving cheese treats with summer sausage chasers. Tiegan got summer sausage treats as well while we enthusiastically exclaimed “good doggies get treats.” We used small amounts of cheese and slivers of sausage. Fortunately this worked, because at one point we were dispensing 12 doses of medication each day. We gave extra sweet potato in their food and they suffered no digestive mishaps.

We received a list of ominous symptoms to watch for when Miles was discharged from the veterinary specialty hospital. They did not mention his incision would drain watery blood for several days, which prompted worried visits to our vet. During one of our vet visits to assuage my panic, Tiegan let us know it mattered not that it was a dark night with cloud cover and nothing to see outside; we really should have opened the blinds before we left. Eric replaced blinds on the window behind the couch for the fourth time since we adopted our princess. 

We visited our regular vet hospital many times in those two weeks. When a new receptionist asked us if we’d been there before, I said with a sigh, “We practically live here.”

I do not function well on little or no sleep. Exhaustion and worry took a toll. On day ten, we delayed a dose of sedation which resulted in vigorous romping, and the stitches near Miles’ mouth began to bleed. I had visions of additional sleepless weeks plying our cone-encumbered boy with medications. We went to the vet, yet again, as I despaired about this potential setback. The vet was far less worried; this was not a major problem.

Eric, who is calm, rational, logical, sane –all the things I am not—decided he would sleep with Miles each night while I went upstairs to sleep with Tiegan, as my stints with Miles resulted in little sleep for me. Eric was far less likely to waken jarringly alert every time Miles shifted positions, and therefore managed to sleep fairly well with Miles and the cone. Regular sleep worked miracles, and I am once more functioning at a near normal level.

Miles learned to maneuver his cone and manipulate us. We found a smaller water dish that fit inside his cone so he could easily drink water. He decided it was more expedient to tip the dish and drink water off the floor. When Miles tapped his foot warningly on the rim of the water dish, we rushed over to hold it for him so he could drink in maximum comfort. A smaller food dish was also supplied, but we discovered the more acceptable level of service was for us to hold the dish just so while he ate.

The stitches were removed on day 15. While our regular vet removed sutures, Eric held Miles and I dispensed his favorite smelly Mackerel treats. Dr. D  knows her stuff and was able to remove stitches without incident.

Miles 1 month after surgery

Miles does not bother his incision site, which is healing nicely. The swelling has drastically decreased and the right side of his face appears nearly normal. He gallops up and down the stairs and in and out the doggy door. My garden Crocs are once again filled with wanderlust and migrate from their post by the back door to visit other parts of the house. We are delighted to watch Miles join Tiegan steeplechasing over the furniture. It is joyful chaos, and our hearts smile.