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PET HAPPENINGS - JUNE 2001

Pam Walston ~ Animal Lover At Large
by Carol N. Wells

Pam Walston has come to the aid of animals ever since she can remember. Indeed, it seems she is one of the people on this planet who’s destiny is that of doing animal humane work of some kind throughout their entire lives.

In fact, when Pam was a little girl, she wanted to be a big, silver horse. In ancient cultures, more than one legend speaks of the clairvoyance of horses and their ability to recognize those involved with magic. They are symbols that can express the side of humans. And so it seems that Pam already knew at a young age, her magical abilities to save and nurture hurt and/or unwanted animals that would continue to cross her path.

Pam successfully owned and operated Canyonlands Kennels until her health mandated that she give up her kennel business.

Among the many animals that Pam has taken care of, a goat that was leash trained is part of the list. Most of the pets Pam has kept, are unadoptable and all have their own sad stories.

Take for instance, Sunny, an orange tabby who was part of a litter being given away at City Market. When no one would take poor Sunny, she was abandoned in the parking lot and wandered amid the noise, heat, and confusion for three days before Pam ended up with her. Pam states that, “I’ve never worked with an animal so terrified. It took months of working with this eight-week old kitten before she was able to respond in a somewhat normal fashion.”

Then there is Pounce dé Leon, who is a wonderful, long-haired black and white tuxedo cat that I had the pleasure of watching perform his many tricks. Yes, this cat does tricks on command. He begs, waves goodbye, sits, lies down, turns in either direction on command, and gives his right or left paw on command. Pounce got his name because he did more pouncing than walking when he was a kitten. Pounce was rescued from an abusive family situation. The father was abusing the entire family and using Pounce as the object of his powerplays.

Sally, Pam’s pure bred border collie, was one of a litter of seven puppies who were abandoned with their mother in La Sal. The owner, who was breeding border collies, decided to move, leaving Sally, her mother, and littermates behind. By the time they were found and caught, they had become “racks of bones.” Pam helped place the puppies in good homes. Pam was hoping Sally would also be adopted, but it seems she was meant for Pam. Since Pam knows that the nature of a border collie is to have a job, Pam has trained Sally to play several “games” during the day and to retrieve whatever Pam might ask for. Whenever Pam says, “Beam me up,” Sally will bring Pam the TV remote control. Sally will retrieve 2-liter pop bottles full of pop in case Pam is thirsty. And, Sally knows how to play “hot” and “cold” to find items in the house that Pam would like her to retrieve.

After working with all kinds of animals her whole life, Pam says, “You can trust an animal to act like the animal it is; we’re the ones who impose our own restrictions and unrealistic expectations on them.”

Since Pam has nurtured so many dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, for placement in homes and has always lived with both, I asked her if dogs were easier to train than cats. Pam told me that, “Cats are just as easy to train as dogs. Their motivation is also through food. Cats have problems because they become bored. They need the equal attention that dogs get. We have the assumption that because cats act more independent, that they don’t need the same kind or as much attention as we give our dogs. That is untrue. To train a cat, I use a clicker to target the behavior I want to reinforce. Clicker training works with dogs as well. The clicker becomes the bridge between the behavior and the treat. You click exactly on the behavior you want and immediately treat. So it becomes, click and treat, click and treat. You have to make it seem like it’s the cat’s idea. You can even train lions and tigers on clickers.”

I asked Pam what she considered the main differences between cats and dogs overall, “Cats have a better developed flight reflex, and dogs have a better fight reflex, for one thing,” says Pam. “Cats live in a colony and have a pecking order that can shift around, whereas dogs live in a pack that has a rigid hierarchy. In a pack, all the dogs look up to one alpha leader, then the beta, and each dog knows his place in the pack. The leader must be challenged and beaten if he is to take the alpha role. In a colony of cats, there is a pecking order but it’s not as rigid. It’s more like a benevolent dictatorship, having more to do with personalities,” says Pam. “Also, cats come into heat several times a year and will continue to come into heat until they have mated, whereas dogs only come into heat twice a year, which accounts for the greater numbers of cats needing homes than dogs,” says Pam.

As a whole, cats do better indoors, and when taken care of, can live on the average of 15 years. Outdoor cats that are taken care of only live on the average of 8 years, and feral cats only live up to 5 year, according to the ASHS.

Since we were sitting in Pam’s yard during the interview, I noticed several pinwheels in Pam’s garden. She told me that she has found that the pinwheels keep the cats out of the garden, and she has also tried moth balls and fresh orange peels with some success.

Pam is, of course as you might guess, involved with the Humane Society of Moab Valley, and volunteers her services as well as being a foster home. Currently, Pam is nursing two young kittens who have lost their mom and are too young to be adopted yet. We spoke of the importance that a humane organization and how a successful one depends on a ot of good volunteers, adequate funding and the fact that Moab’s humane society could use more foster homes. As we discussed foster care, Pam told me some of the depressing statistics about our animal population across the country. Did you know that 3,000 animals per minute are euthanized? If we emptied all the humane shelters and “pounds,” each person in this country, and I repeat, each person, would have to adopt 69 pets. Can’t afford to spay or neuter your pet? 100 cans of pop or 25 packs of cigarettes will equal the cost of a spay or neuter. I costs more to properly raise four puppies than to have your dog spayed. The American Veterinary Medical Association has done studies that show it is safe to spay and neuter as early as six to eight weeks of age, and has also found that this cut down on the chances of cancer, mammilary cancer and pylometra (infection of the uterus). Knowing this information, makes it difficult for anyone to have an excuse not to spay or neuter their pet.

Pam and I spoke a long time about the overwhelming numbers of abandoned animals, abuse, and also the uplifting stories that come from bonding with a pet, indeed, volumes could be written on the subject. But it is Pam’s hope and mine that as a culture we become more responsible for the futures and well being of the animals we have domesticated. I believe it was Niche who said, “You can determine the advancement of a civilization by how it treats its animals.”

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