Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

SAVING CLAYTON

SOCIAL MEDIA, NETWORKING, AND DEDICATED PEOPLE CHANGE RESCUE AND ADOPTIONS FOR THE BETTER

By Kim Campbell Thornton

In January, a sporting dog rescue group asked Lori-Lynn Clayton of San Angelo, Texas, to go look at a dog in her local shelter thought to be an English springer spaniel or Brittany. He was a springer, emaciated and near death.

She struggled to get him released, battling shelter workers and then veterinarians who said it would be better to euthanize him. She got on the phone to Beth Maryan, the north Texas representative for English Springer Rescue America, who agreed to help, and arranged a flight for him with Pilots N Paws volunteer Tyler Chapman to Carrollton, Texas, where he could get the specialized veterinary care he needed. Kim Mrozek stepped up to foster the dog, soon named "Clayton," once he was well enough to leave the hospital.

No one can quite pinpoint why, but people who saw the dog's picture fell in love with him. As specialists fought to reverse the effects of starvation and dehydration and figure out why his body wasn't absorbing nutrients, people across the country and around the world followed his progress on ESRA's website and then on Facebook, where Mrozek set up a dedicated page for him called, simply, Clayton.

Within 18 hours, the Clayton group had 600 members and eventually rose to 1,759. They called themselves the Clayton Nation.

The social media exposure ensured that Clayton's extensive veterinary bills -- $23,000 for three weeks in intensive care -- were covered, and then some. Mrozek estimates that people donated approximately $50,000.

"It seemed like every time I would post about him, people would go to his ESRA site and start donating money," she says. "There were people sending $500 at a time. He had more donations than any special-needs dog ever."

Not every pet can be a Clayton, but Christie Keith, social media manager for the Shelter Pet Project, the Ad Council's public service campaign promoting pet adoption, says social media is an incredibly powerful tool that has revolutionized the pet adoption landscape.

"It enables individuals who don't even work or volunteer for shelters or rescue groups to help spread the stories and photos of pets who need homes or are looking for other kinds of help," she says. "They can do this literally with the click of a mouse or a click on their mobile device, and there is no barrier to them being able to get a pet in front of people who aren't connected to the rescue or shelter world: their friends, their family, their college roommate. You never know when someone is looking for a pet or when a pet's story will inspire someone to adopt."

Although his life hung in the balance for two weeks and he needed a feeding tube for two months, Clayton's story has a happy ending. Tony and Mary Davies of Durand, Illinois, adopted him after following his story from the beginning. They drove to Texas in May to pick him up and on the way back made stops so other Clayton supporters could meet the springer celebrity. He made a smooth transition to life on their 20-acre farm.

"It is a glorious sight to see this dog who was knocking on death's door finally get to live the life he deserves," Mary Davies says.

When he's not playing with the Davies' other dogs or digging holes, though, Clayton keeps busy with important work. He makes appearances at ESRA functions to raise money for other special-needs springers.

"He is giving back, and we are grateful for everyone who has helped him," Davies says.

Q&A

Fear usually triggers

aggression in cats

Q: My cat is sociable at home and even makes therapy visits to nursing homes, but at the veterinary clinic, she turns into a screaming, scratching nightmare, even though they have always handled her gently. Why does she behave this way, and is there anything we can do about it? -- via email

A: Aggression is a common behavior problem in cats, and it is often triggered by fear. The smells in a veterinary clinic -- other cats, dogs, unknown people -- are enough to give any cat the heebie-jeebies. Cats go on the defensive when they're scared, responding with attempts to escape, dilated pupils (to let in more light and improve their peripheral vision for better defense), hissing, growling, biting and clawing.

If you're facing a defensive cat, the first thing to do is back off. That way he doesn't feel trapped, and you don't run the risk of injury. Never punish him for a fearful reaction because that will just make him think he has good reason to be scared.

To help your cat feel more calm at the veterinary clinic, start by helping him to enjoy riding in his carrier. Leave it out at home, and stock it with treats or place meals inside it to encourage him to hang out in it. When you must take him to the veterinarian, spray the carrier beforehand with synthetic feline pheromones that have a calming effect.

At the clinic, let your cat wait in the car until it's time to take him into the exam room. The technicians and veterinarian should speak softly to your cat and hand out plenty of treats before beginning any exam or procedure. Stay calm yourself so your cat is less anxious. You and your veterinarian can find more tips on helping cats feel comfortable during veterinary visits from the Catalyst Council at www.catalystcouncil.org. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

'Rescuing' kittens

isn't always best

-- Do you know what to do if you find a litter of kittens? You might be surprised to learn that Best Friends Animal Society says newborn kittens born outside have the best chance for survival when they are left with their mother. Before you scoop them up and take them to a shelter, wait to see if they have really been abandoned. Their mother may simply be out hunting so she can feed them. If she is caring for them, it's best to leave them alone until they are old enough to be trapped and spayed or neutered, usually when they are 8 weeks old.

-- More babies are born from June through September than during any other part of the year. If you're a dog owner who's expecting, start preparing your dog now for the new arrival. He should have a good command of basic obedience skills, including sit, down, wait and leave it. Get him used to a more unpredictable schedule by randomly changing the times he eats or is walked, or plan how you can keep his schedule the same by using an automatic feeder or hiring a dog walker. Don't hesitate to consult a trainer or behaviorist who's experienced in working with dogs and children.

-- Protect your pet bird from household hazards. The Association of Avian Veterinarians says birds can be at risk from sandpaper-covered perches that irritate or injure the bottoms of their feet; cigarette smoke, insecticides and toxic fumes from overheated nonstick cookware, all of which can cause respiratory problems and even death; easily dismantled toys that can cause toxicity or intestinal problems when they are chewed or swallowed, such as those made with balsa wood, small-link chains, metal clips or skewers, or lead weights; and toxic houseplants, such as bleeding heart, calla lilies, dieffenbachia, elephant ear, philodendron, pothos and ranunculus. -- Kim Campbell Thornton

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

CAPTIONS AND CREDIT

Caption 01: Social networking, including Facebook and YouTube, helped a desperately ill dog survive and find a new home. Position: Main Story

Caption 02: Before the baby comes, accustom your dog to the possible heavy pats and tail grabs he may accidentally experience from a young child. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 2