Pet Tales: Wildlife finds help at Animal Rescue




People have become enchanted and obsessed with the bald eagle nest in the Hays section of Pittsburgh, with nearly 1 million views on the PixController live camera that has captured every step in the long, slow process of hatching three eggs.

As we continue to watch the eagle cam with bated breath, rooting for the fuzzy gray babies to grow up, the City of Champions may have earned a new nickname: PittsBIRD!

Hawks and a raccoon earlier tried to steal the eggs, but the mama and papa eagles fought them off. The Pennsylvania Game Commission lets nature take its course and will not step in to help the eagles. Some people think that's wrong.

There are people who intervene to help injured and orphaned wildlife. They are wildlife rehabilitators, and they need our help. They need donations, especially in the spring baby birthing season.

Baby squirrels, rabbits and a little owl have already been taken in at the Animal Rescue League's wildlife center in Verona. The eggs of song birds generally hatch in May, and some of those little ones will need the help of rehabbers.

Last year, 2,746 animals were taken in and cared for -- but not cuddled or petted -- because the goal is to keep the animals wild enough to be put back into woods and fields. ARL reports a release rate of 65 percent, which it says is nearly twice the national average.

A small number of animals will live out their lives at the center for various reasons, including permanent injuries that would doom them in the wild. Others, like three foxes, were illegally raised as pets and don't know how to survive in the wild. Permanent residents are "education animals."

Some, like a porcupine named Irwin, make visits to schools and other venues. Irwin was 2 weeks old when he came to Verona three years ago. His mother, owned by a breeder, rejected him.

"He was basically orphaned, so we hand-fed him and raised him as an education animal," said Jill Argall, director of the ARL Shelter & Wildlife Center.

Irwin is quite cute, with a black face, black paws and black and silver quills. "When he gets mad he shows us his quills," she said.

Initially, I stood a good distance away from Irwin because I've see pictures of dogs with dozens of barbed quills sticking out of their faces. I thought porcupines flung quills at them. I was wrong.

"Porcupines don't release their quills. They can't," Ms. Argall explained.

If a person or a dog touches or tries to bite porcupines, they may get quills on their hands or faces.

Gilda M. Arroyo carried Irwin outside for a Post-Gazette photo session. She has mastered the art of handling him without getting stuck. She's the manager of humane and environmental education, and she takes Irwin to schools. "He goes out a lot with me, and we are sort of buddies."

Another educational animal, a great horned owl, is currently foster mother to an wild baby.

"She's teaching him to be an owl," Ms. Argall said. "She seems happy to be taking care of a baby. She has fostered several."

The center's 14th annual Baby Shower Fundraiser is today. Cash is always appreciated, but you can also donate supplies, including paper towels, garbage bags, hand soap, white copy paper, freeze-dried blood worms, kitty litter and more. Go to www.animalrescue.org for the complete list as well as information about how to help injured wildlife and get the animals to the center.

Supplies can always be taken to the center. Baby shower drop-offs today are at Galleria of Mt. Lebanon, Journeys of Life in Shadyside, Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District, Free People in Bakery Square and Kenny Ross dealerships in Irwin, Castle Shannon, Zelienople and Moon.

For information on other wildlife rehabbers, go to these websites or Facebook pages: www.wildbirdrecovery.org for Wildbird Recovery in Middlesex and www.skyes-spirit.com for Skye's Spirit Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Harrisville.

Top dog

Sonny, 6, a border collie owned by Lucy McCloskey of South Park, won the American Kennel Club Rally National Championship on March 28 in Harrisburg. Sonny scored 394 out of a possible 400 points in four runs. Rally is a form of obedience competition with dog and owner working their way through 20 stations, each requiring a specific obedience or performance skill.

Ms. McCloskey is the training director at the Keystone Canine Training Club in Baldwin Borough, and she works in the accounting department at an investment counseling firm. She said Sonny is a "very friendly, always happy" dog who enjoys meeting people and other dogs at two or three dog competitions every month and in volunteer visits as a certified therapy dog.

His registered AKC name is Hamilton's Mystic Lord of the Dance, and he's earned more than 10 degrees in obedience, agility and freestyle dancing from multiple organizations that sponsor canine competitions.

The 56-pound black-and-white dog also portrays the groom in the wildly popular "dog weddings" Keystone members put on at nursing homes. Dogs wearing gowns and tuxedos portray all the members of a bridal party, including bridesmaids.

You can meet Sonny and other accomplished canines from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the club's free open house, 5167 Brownsville Road, 15236. At 2 p.m., dogs dressed in red, white and blue will march to military music to debut a new routine called Salute to the Troops.

Dogs will demonstrate agility, nose work, tricks, rally and obedience. There will be free prizes including vouchers for training classes, Pirates tickets for Pup Night at PNC Park, a photo shoot and free samples of dog food, treats and supplements.

Other open house events include free training workshops, including "Get off the sofa!" at 3 p.m. "Enjoy your walk!" at 1:30 p.m. teaches loose leash heeling. You can bring your own dog, but you must bring a copy of current vaccination records.

Go to www.keystonecanine.com for further information.

Dog shows

About 1,000 purebred dogs will strut their stuff at Western Pennsylvania Kennel Association shows today and Sunday at the Monroeville Convention Center, 209 Mall Blvd., Monroeville, 15146.

Doors open at 7 a.m. and judging starts at 9 a.m. both days. The best in show is expected to be judged at 5 p.m.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., look for the Meet the Breeds area. You can meet and greet dogs while owners answer questions -- including whether this would be a good breed for your family. Vendors will sell things for dogs and for dog lovers. They often have merchandise that can't be found in chain pet stores.

Admission is $9, $3 for children 5 to 10 years old and free for children age 4 and younger.

To find judging times for your favorite breeds, go to www.wpka-inc.org and click on "dog show" and then on "judging schedule."

Service dog eye exams

"Active working animals" certified by a formal training program have until April 30 to register for free eye exams, courtesy of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists and Stokes Pharmacy.

The program is national, but in the Pittsburgh area exams will be done by three veterinary eye specialists at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in Ohio Township: Lawrence Bagley, Rachel Keller and Michael Finn.

Eligible dogs include those that lead the blind, assist the handicapped, detect, make therapy visits and do search and rescue. Since 2008, 22,000 service animals, including horses and a donkey named Henry, have had free eye exams.

Register at www.ACVOeyeexam.org. The site includes contact information for participating vets so that owners can schedule appointments for May exams.

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Contact Linda Wilson on her Facebook page, lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to petpoints@post-gazette.com. It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.

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