Kiki at the helm — she enjoys boating.

Friendly & Loving — the Perfect Combination

Kiki is a “visiting animal” for Project PUP. And she pretty much qualified herself for that title. This little mixed breed comes naturally by all of the necessar traits needed to do the job.

According to Amanda, her pet parent, Kiki interacts extremely well with both adults and children. “She has that personality,” she said. “She makes everybody happy.”

The traits Kiki comes by naturally are that she is gentle and calm, friendly, never recognizes anyone as a stranger, doesn’t mind being petted and fussed over, knows enough not to jump up on people or bark at anyone.

And she’s a favorite here at Happy Camper.

“Kiki Fisher is so near and dear to my heart,” said MaryBeth. “She is one of those dogs that make you smile the moment you see her. I am so pround of her becoming a therapy dog. She will win everyone’s hearts.”

If being sung to when you enter the building is any indication, Kiki has won our staff’s hearts. They sing Drake’s “In My Feelings” when she arrives. “Kiki, do you love me? Are you riding? Say you’ll never ever leave from beside me, ‘cause I want ya, and I need ya…”

Pretty good for a little mixed breed dog of indeterminate age. “She’s either 8 or 9,” said Amanda. “I got her as a rescue when she was around 3.”

And, knowing Kiki, we wonder who rescued whom.

Project PUP

Since 1984, Project PUP has been providing pet visits to health-care facilities bringing comfort and joy to everyone they meet. The group Kiki is associated with serves the Tampa Bay area, including Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

This is a nonprofit organization with approximately 400 volunteers — mostly dogs, but there are a few friendly cats. The PUP human volunteers screen pets for temperment and behavior suitable for visiting nursing homes, rehab centers, assisted living facilities and hospitals nationwide.

In order to qualify for Project PUP, an animal must be at least 1 year old and have the following qualities:

1- must have an annual check-up with a vet, for vaccinations of rabies, distemper and parvo, and a negative fecal examination
2 – be gentle and calm.
3- be friendly with a willingness and eagerness to meet new people.
4- walk calmly on a loose leash at the handler’s side.
5- know basic commands such as sit, stay and down.
6- have good manners.
7- be housebroken.
8- should not bark at or jump on people.
9- have the stamina to do a half-hour to an hour visit.

For more information:

Gizmo now stands on William, while the other dogs surround him — Olive, Rigley, Athena , Tess C, Raya and Finn W.

Meet William

He showed up one day with his resume in his hand looking for a job at Happy Camper. And he’s still here.

William, 17, is a senior at Riverview High School, Riverview, Florida, where he’s on the soccer team. He’s spending his summer in St. Pete with his father while he works here and interns at Keep Pinellas Beautiful, reflecting his interest in the environment.

“He’s an excellent worker,” said MaryBeth. “We’ve never hired ‘just for summer’ because of the safety and extensive training our staff goes through, but I couldn’t resist the initiative William showed to be hired.”

William has a 10-year-old Shih Tzu and recently lost his pet boxer who was 9 1/2. He says he’s always liked dogs, and that’s why he applied at Happy Camper.

We’re glad he did.

Fireworks and Thunder and How it Effects Dogs — The Fear Factors

Mocha models her ThunderShirt

New Year’s Eve is past, but the 4th of July is coming up faster than some of us would like it to. And both holidays mean fireworks — a terrifying experience for approximately 40 to 50 percent of dogs. Then, along with the heat and humidity of summer, there’s also thunder to deal with.

MaryBeth’s Riley is a prime example of the fear factor. He is Terrified of thunder and frantically climbs as high as he can to get away from it. MaryBeth says she just holds him and waits for the problem to pass,.

There is a number of things that you can try if your pooch is one that trembles and hides under the bed when the booms and bangs begin. (It’s such a common problem that animal shelters report that their busiest day for taking in runaway dogs is July 5.)

One suggestion for dealing with this dog terror is relaxation training. For the dog and maybe for you too. And, if you can find a place that offers it, let us all know.

How about counter conditioning? With this, you expose your dog to the noise of fireworks along with something positive such as a treat. According to the New York Times, this was found to be effective by approximately 70 percent of dog owners.

A product called the ThunderShirt — sometimes described as an anxiety coat for dogs — was reported to be effective by 44 percent of the owners. Some dog parents also use medication. For their dog. Mocha, a pit mix, wears a ThunderShirt, and her pet parent Susan also uses a number of other methods to try to keep the 12 1/ 2 year old dog calm. She also has a pheromone spray that can go on the ThunderShirt or on Mocha’s bed, and Susan also gives Mocha GNC Pets Ultra Mega Calming Formula Beef Flavor Chewable Tablets Dog Supplement.

The chewable pills, according to the medicine’s website, are specially designed to keep dogs calm during stressful events that may contribute to anxiety. Mocha thinks they’re a great treat.

In 2016, the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for canine noise aversion (a term encompassing mild discomfort to phobia) came on the market. The drug, Sileo, inhibits norepinephrine, a brain chemical associated with anxiety and fear response. The new canine noise aversion drug, Sileo, is actually a micro-amount of a medication approved as a sedative for minor veterinary procedures —- a flavorless gel, measured in a syringe, that is squeezed between the dog’s cheek and gum and absorbed within 30 minutes. A syringe costs about $30 and holds several weight-dependent doses. Sileo’s main side effect, in 4.5 percent of dogs, is vomiting. Orion, the Finnish company that developed it, tested it on several hundred noiseaverse dogs during two years of New Year’s
fireworks. Three-quarters of the owners rated the dogs’ response as good to excellent. The drug lasts several hours, after which another dose can be administered. There are warnings about which dogs shouldn’t have the drug, so be sure to talk to your veterinarian about it.

Besides the calming pheromone and tablets, some pet parents use CDs of thunderstorms mixed with Beethoven to desensitize their dogs, which studies show are only about 50 percent effective. Some even use Prozac and Valium. Some vets prescribe the strong sedatives, but sedatives work only in the moment without treating the cause of the fear response.

A popular treatment also is CBD, a compound found in cannabis and hemp. There are no formal studies to show how it affects dogs, but there is anectotal evidence it can treat pain and help control seizures, as well as causing drowsiness.

Cats may experience noise aversion as well. Some experts say you shouldn’t try to comfort a terrified animal. Other experts say that soothing a spooked animal, bred to seek safety with its human, is just fine.

Other tips include muffling noise with quiet music and, if possible, staying with the dog in a windowless, interior room when the big bangs occur. Susan says that Mocha’s favorite retreat is a bedroom closet.

Whatever works.

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