Leptospirosis (lepto) is a bacterial disease that can infect animals and humans. In the past, this was a fairly rare disease in dogs. However, over the past few years, it has become more common and easier to obtain.
Lepto is acquired by coming into contact with infected urine or from coming into direct contact with infected animals. The most common sources our dogs may acquire infection from includes rodents and wildlife, such as squirrels, raccoons, deer, opossums, and skunks.
Our dogs can become infected by coming into contact with water or soil where the infected animal’s urine has spread. In fact, lepto can live in water and soil for weeks to months! It is a very persistent little bacteria! Our dogs can obtain the infection by drinking, swimming, or even just walking though water that is contaminated, as it can enter through the skin, eyes, mouth, or nose.
Lepto can be life-threatening to many dogs if they become infected. However, some dogs may not become sick, but could still shed the bacteria in their urine. Additionally, lepto can be shed in a dog’s urine for up to 3 months after infection.
Humans that come into contact with infected dogs are at a high risk of becoming infected themselves. This is very dangerous for children, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system. In fact, one-third of lepto cases in humans come from contact with infected dogs.
For this reason, and because of the communities of people we work closely with in promoting the human-animal bond, we follow the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation regarding lepto and dogs. The Centers for Disease Control recommends dogs be vaccinated against lepto yearly.
In the past, small dogs (dogs weighing less than 30 pounds) tended to have vaccine reactions to the lepto component of vaccines. Some would develop hives or facial swelling. However, over the past few years, vaccine technology has vastly improved and the risk of a vaccine reaction is far less likely now.
There is always a small percentage of dogs in which vaccine may not be 100% effective, and a small percentage of dogs that could still become carriers of the bacteria. While we can’t account for all of the variants, we can do our due diligence to protect the humans who our therapy dogs serve. Protecting this bond means minimizing any risk that may threaten it, which includes preventing infectious diseases that may be transmissible from dogs to humans.
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When Leanne Whitesell met Paws & Think’s Executive Director at Woofstock 2013, she was excited to learn of the opportunities the organization could offer for her dog. When she got Terrence three years earlier, she knew right away that his gregarious nature and his desire to be around people would make him a great therapy dog, but she struggled to find information about how to accomplish this goal for him. Paws & Think offered a path that made sense, and she says she was drawn to the organization by the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff and volunteers. “They were patient with me and Terrence as we negotiated our way through our new world and allowed Terrence to be himself,” she says. By January of 2014, they were a certified therapy team.
In the past three years, Terrence and Leanne have logged 97 therapy visits at 23 different venues. Terrence especially enjoys reading with children, and they regularly visited Eastridge Elementary School, where Leanne remembers two particularly special success stories where Terrance was able to help students improve their reading skills. One third grader improved by three reading levels and said that she believes that reading with Terrence made her enjoy practicing her reading more. Another student worked with Terrence for two years and formed a deep bond with him during their reading time – Terrence would crawl into her lap, and having his undivided attention helped to motivate her. She was the first student in her class to receive the Top Dog trophy for reading ten books.
Leanne appreciates that Paws & Think allows her and Terrence to volunteer together, and she feels their work is special because it provides opportunities for many people to engage with therapy dogs who would not otherwise be able to benefit from bonding with an animal. She says that Terrence loves visiting with people and making new friends through Paws & Think. “He is very aware of his responsibilities when he wears his uniform and takes his job very seriously,” she says.
Leanne and Terrence have been volunteering at the Indianapolis Public Library – Irvington Branch since June of 2014. You can stop by to visit them at our Paws to Read program the second Saturday of every month from 11:00am-12:00pm.
If you are interested in volunteering your time (along with your pet) for one of the Animal Assisted Activity/Therapy programs, our next available class begins in February! The class dates are February 11th, 18th, 25th, and March 4th. (Evaluations will be March 11th.) Please remember that prior to class, you will need to contact Carol Davenport at email@example.com as well as complete and submit an assessment tool. (Pre-registration and pre-payment is required.)
If you are interested in volunteering your time (along with your pet) for one of the Animal Assisted Activity/Therapy programs, our next available class begins in January! The class dates are January 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th. (Evaluations will be February 4th.) Please remember that prior to class, you will need to contact Carol Davenport at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as complete and submit an assessment tool. (Pre-registration and pre-payment is required.)
Note! December 17th is our last evaluation date for 2016 for those wanting to evaluate or re-evaluate.
Could your dog be the next social media sensation? Submit your pup’s best photo to the Paws & Think 15th Anniversary photo contest!
One randomly chosen winner will have their dog’s photo displayed on the Paws & Think website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and in the next edition of the e-newsletter. In addition, the winner will receive a gift package with goodies for both human and canine – including a Paws & Think branded shirt, travel mug, bag, treats, toys, and Frisbee.
Entering is easy!
Visit the contest page online or at the bottom of this article and submit your dog’s photo through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can earn additional contest entries by completing one or more of the following tasks:
- Following Paws & Think on Twitter
- Tweeting with the hashtag #PawsAndThink15
- Visiting the Paws & Think Facebook page
- Visiting the Paws & Think Instagram page
- Subscribing to the Paws & Think YouTube channel
The last day to submit your dog’s photo is Sunday, November 27th, with the winner being announced on Monday, November 28th. So start snapping away! We look forward to seeing your pup’s best pose.
Ireland’s journey has been a rough one, as any shelter dog’s is. She came to the Pawsitive Corrections Youth-Canine Program at Marion County Juvenile Detention Center as a shy and uncertain seven-year-old who was confiscated from her previous owner due to abuse and neglect. At first she was nervous with the youth, afraid of the brush when they tried to groom her, but she soon started to warm up and respond to the positive reinforcement training. After excelling in the week-long program, she returned to Indianapolis Animal Care Services where she waited anxiously to be adopted by a new family.
After a few days though, Ireland was not faring well. Her stress levels rose the longer she waited in the chaotic kennels of the shelter, and eventually she was removed from the adoption floor because of her anxious temperament. Her life was now at risk, and Paws & Think had to pounce to action to help save her. Frantic emails went out, and another shelter, the Humane Society for Hamilton County, agreed to rescue her if a foster home could be found. More emails went out, and finally a volunteer stepped up to save Ireland’s life.
Dr. Linda Hoss, a retired dentist who has been volunteering with Paws & Think’s Youth-Canine program for over three years, rose to the call to rescue one of the program’s graduates. “I just couldn’t let one of ‘our’ dogs be euthanized,” she said, explaining that she took a risk in offering to foster Ireland, knowing nothing about her except that she had not been treated well in her past but was a favorite in the program for her sweet nature. Linda had no idea if Ireland would get along with the other rescued dog in her home, but she volunteered to take her in, trusting that she could help Ireland on her path to finding a permanent home. It has been less than three weeks since she moved to her foster home, and Linda reports that Ireland is looking happier and healthier already.
Linda said that she was initially drawn to Paws & Think by a presentation from a former Board member who shared his experience with his beloved dog. After recently retiring, she was looking for a cause to commit to, and she has found that she enjoys interacting with the dogs and the teens in the Pawsitive Corrections Youth-Canine program. Not only is she inspired by the way the dogs blossom with the love and attention they get during the program, but she also says she has met many wonderful people through her involvement with Paws & Think: “The spirit of cooperation and the dedication involved are a beautiful thing to see.”
When Linda is not saving lives, she enjoys cooking, reading, movies, and hanging out with her dog and her friends. She teaches at the IU School of Dentistry and occasionally returns to her former career of dental practice as a substitute. Her one child lives in Tennessee, and she currently lives in Indianapolis with Ireland and her other rescued dog, Venus.
Ireland is available for adoption from Humane Society Hamilton County. Please contact them at 317-773-4974 to set up a meet and greet.
There are some people that claim to not be a “dog person”. Those people haven’t met George.
“Even people who profess to not like dogs have been won over by George’s gentle charm,” says Maggie Ward, the owner of the Corgi/Border Collie mix. “I wanted to be able to share his happy attitude with other people,” she says of her decision to form a therapy team with George in March 2015.
George has charmed his way into the hearts of many since starting to “work” with Paws & Think. He is quite the adventurer so his career trajectory has been a little different than other dogs in the organization. “George gets bored with sitting in one place for too long so I know he couldn’t be a Paws to R.E.A.D.(r) dog,” recalls Maggie.
However, his adventuresome spirit has been a perfect fit for assisted living centers, where he gets to hop from room to room, making friends with each resident he meets. “He’s never met a stranger, everyone is his friend,” says Maggie. “He will be friends with any human or pet.”
One of George’s favorite “assignments” is going to colleges to visit stressed students during exam time. “He’s a ham for all the attention,” says Maggie. Upon arriving at the IUPUI library one night last winter, “George dragged me over to the circle of students so he could start climbing into and rolling around in everyone’s lap. He worked his way around the entire circle, taking turns in everyone’s laps, loving on them and getting pets.”
For anyone considering forming a therapy team with their dog, Maggie offers some advice. “Know your dog’s temperament. Not every venue is going to be a good fit. If you can tune into your dog’s likes and dislikes, that will go a long way with finding the right venue and atmosphere that makes your dog the happiest. Once you find the right fit, your dog will love heading out ‘to work’ at your favorite venues.”
UPDATE: This class is now full!
Our next class will be held in January 2017.
This is the last class of 2016!
If you are interested in volunteering your time (along with your pet) for one of the Animal Assisted Activity/Therapy programs, our next available class begins in October! The class dates are October 29th, November 5th, 12th and 19th. (Evaluations will be December 3rd.) Please remember that prior to class, you will need to contact Carol Davenport at email@example.com as well as complete and submit an assessment tool. (Pre-registration and pre-payment is required.)
If you are interested in volunteering your time (along with your pet) for one of the Animal Assisted Activity/Therapy programs, our next available class begins in September! The class dates are September 17th, 24th and October 1st and 8th. (Evaluations will be October 15th.) Please remember that prior to class, you will need to contact Carol Davenport at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as complete and submit an assessment tool. (Pre-registration and pre-payment is required.)
“If it were not for Millie, I am not sure what would have happened that day,” recalls Beth Welch. She remembers the moment she realized her 9 month old Goldendoodle possessed an extraordinary gift.
“My mom had some changes in her medication that caused her some confusion,” says Beth. One morning after giving her the medications, Beth began working on laundry while her mother went to her bedroom. After a short time, Millie burst into the laundry room, barking loudly. She then grabbed the back of her sweatshirt and pulled her through the house into her mother’s room. “To my horror, Mom was starting to take her medications again. Fortunately, Millie had distracted Mom so she did not take them. That was the moment I knew Millie was a special dog.”
After that experience, Beth knew that Millie was destined to be a therapy dog. But where? “I had struggled with reading as a child and Millie loves children. I had heard about programs with dogs and reading and thought this would be a good fit for both of us,” says Beth of her decision to join Paws & Think with Millie as a therapy team.
With Millie, Beth is able to help children that have similar struggles with reading. “I needed a program like this as a young reader. Here, we are giving children the confidence to read out loud. Millie does not judge or laugh. She is happy to hear a child read.”
Millie can even sense when a child might need a little extra time to warm up to her. A few years ago, Millie began a reading partnership with an autistic girl named Olivia. At first “Olivia would sit on the opposite side from Millie. Instead of moving closer, Millie gave Olivia her space,” recalls Beth. But as the weeks went by, Olivia became more comfortable and the two began to move closer and closer to each other. “Soon, you did not know where Millie began and Olivia ended,” says Beth.
Although Beth and Millie have helped countless children discover the confidence to become life-long readers, Beth has found that she learns just as much from the kids themselves. “The children remind me to stop and take my time. As adults, we get so busy in our daily lives that we forget to stop and enjoy ourselves. We have a wonderful group of supportive staff members who train us and encourage us. It is a very special organization!”