Too tempting for your dog?

The Toe-Eating Terrier

Sometimes my email inbox seems booby-trapped. A couple of weeks ago, I got a press release with this subject line:

Cautionary Tale for People with Diabetes: Dog Consumed Part of a Sleeping Patient’s Toe, Leading to Amputation

Among the details that followed:

In a case study that illustrates the need for people with diabetes to be cautious of foot injuries and to protect themselves from pets, a woman with numbness in her feet caused by diabetic neuropathy slept through a traumatic episode in which her Jack Russell terrier chewed off part of her slightly infected big toe, according to an article published in this month’s issue of the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association.

The press release goes on to say that the patient’s wound required surgery, ultimately leading to the amputation of her leg, leaving her a double amputee. It concludes:

This case illustrates the perils of pet ownership in diabetic patients who have numbness in their hands or feet caused by neuropathy.

Seriously? The perils of pet ownership for diabetics? How many more diabetics are helped by the exercise of dog walking than have their toes chewed off by their pups? And what about the first leg that was amputated, with no Jack Russell involvement?

This is part of the spate of recent stories about the dangers of sleeping with your pet — a vague, totally meaningless concept because we don’t have comparative data for the number of people who are made ill by sleeping with other people. I’m not the only one who noticed this. As Sarah Blakemore pointed out in an article at, humans can transmit everything from the mono to the plague to their bed mates.

And that’s not even counting sexually transmitted diseases.

In short, the toe-eating terrier is pure sensationalism to the end of publicizing the hospital that did the study — which I therefore refuse to mention.

Which brings me to…

The Tortured Kitten

I still get comments on my Open Letter to Nathan Winograd, in part because journalist Mike Stark linked to it at Huffington Post. That letter was never intended to cast doubt on the sincerity of Nathan Winograd — this stuff gets nutty; he’s been accused of ties to puppy millers — or on the goals of the no-kill movement. No one I know wants to destroy animals.

The only question I have is the best way to achieve that goal, and here’s where Winograd and I part ways. He clearly thinks that dissing various animal welfare organizations is the way to get there. I don’t.

I understand that, if you have a limited amount of money — or even if you have a lot —  you would want to avoid giving it to organizations that don’t spend it as effectively as others, and donating to local shelters is always a good idea. But screeds like the following, in Winograd’s latest newsletter, are like the toe eating terrier: Sensationalist for no reason.

Winograd writes:

In light of the tragedy surrounding the cruel death of a suffering kitten; it was tempting to believe New York City’s pound system could not get any worse. It has. Where is David Duffield and Maddie’s Fund which claim NYC is a model of compassionate care while NYC descends into chaos and animals are neglected? Nowhere to be found.

If you want to see a picture of the kitten and read more dissing of Maddie’s Fund (one of my personal favorites, by the way), click here. But I wouldn’t advise it.

News we Can Use

What would I prefer to see? Well, an example I came across around the same time as the toe press release and the kitten newsletter was a post by Mary Haight  on Dancing Dog Blog, about the trashing of air-conditioning units at the Animal Welfare League.  Full disclosure: Mary is my friend and the founder of Animal Cafe, where I am a co-host. But there’s a reason I like to hang out with her, virtually speaking.

Among the features of the story that are hallmarks of solid citizen journalism:

Context: The story notes that this was not an act of random vandalism but, likely, a recession-related theft that was part of a national trend.

Dispassionate presentation of the facts and their implications: The impact of  the destruction of the air conditioning system on the animals is offered in detail but without overblown rhetoric or unnecessary drama.

Call to action. Rather than just presenting bad news, this post gave specifics about where donations might be sent to help alleviate the problem.

There was also a follow up post, which made me smile. Rather than just leaving the story without an ending, which would have been easy enough to do, Mary followed up with the tale of how a radio host raised so much money that the Animal Welfare League got a new air-conditioning system — AND a security system to help protect it.

There’s enough bad news in the world. I’m no Pollyanna, as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, but I think that we can be  — need to be —  inspired without being hopelessly naive about human nature.

Mary is on the board of a no-kill shelter, Lake Shore Animal Shelter, by the way. Presenting useful, upbeat information and supporting no-kill are not mutually exclusive.


Have you voted for me for Funniest (sometimes in a black humorous way) Blogger on DogTimes Petties site yet — or yet today? Why not? The dogs and cats of the Southern Arizona Humane Society, to whom I will donate the $1000 if I win, are depending on you. (Yes, you’ve stepped outside the boundaries of the guilt-free zone here.)

21 thoughts on “News You Can’t Use: Toe-Eating Terriers & Tortured Kittens”

  1. Great post! That first article on toe-eating terriers is just ridiculous. Sometimes I think that the media have nothing better to do than to scare people. Seriously — of all the things that diabetic people should be worried about, they should worry that their little dogs will chew off their toes.

    I am SO happy on the other hand that the Animal Welfare Society got a new air conditioner and security system because of productive efforts. There are all sorts of bad things happening with animals in this world but by being dispassionate and honest, we can achieve a great deal more than scaring people with nonsensical rhetoric.

    1. Thanks, Akila. It’s kind of like politics these days — we’re always being frightened rather than inspired.

  2. Edie, if you really want to have fun, why don’t you edit the guy’s Wikipedia entry: 🙂

    I can get chills looking at my own pooch, because if not for us (sorry to be blatant about it), he would have ended up at a shelter that kills animals within three days of admission. He might have been killed immediately, because that particular shelter works for-profit and has no interest in animals per se, so our dog’s fear aggression might have set them off.

    Money. It all comes down to money. All the things Winograd wants cost money: vet care, space, rehabilitation programs, etc. I’m glad it worked in SF. I wish it would work everywhere. If wishes were cookies, I’d be knee-deep in chocolate chips right now.

    1. Ha! That might be fun. I’ve never done that.

      Winograd wants the things we all — we all who care about animals — want shelters to be. He doesn’t have a monopoly on that. I think he’d get more money to achieve his goals if he didn’t piss so many people off.

  3. Thanks for the great shout out Edie! That toe-eating story and warning diabetics about dog ownership – too c r a z y for me to wrap my brain around. That kind of story along with how dangerous it is to sleep with your dog because of disease…yikes!

    Love Lori’s suggestion about editing Wikapedia – hee heeeeeee!

    I voted twice today for WillMyDogHateMe? and others up for a Pettie! It’s a good thing – all the negative stuff that is part of shelter work gets a good kick out the door when I stop by to read your latest! Thanks for the many laughs, guffaws, and rofl moments!

    1. You’re welcome, Mary. Thanks for writing such consistently “useful” stories.

      And thanks for voting for Will My Dog Hate Me 😉

  4. This is a good lesson about all kinds of press–not just stories related to animals. I agree that Mary Haight does a great job of investigating issues and covering them fairly. She could teach a lot of “journalists” something.

    One of my journalistic heroes, Bill Moyers, calls for reporters to uncover “verifiable truth.” If everyone who writes news had that phrase tattoed on their hearts, we’d be reading very different stories in our newspapers.

  5. Mary Haight: informs her readers, seeks change by knowledge and debate
    Whinograd: preaches to his flock, seeks change by influence.

    Conclusion, we need more Mary’s !

    1. Excellent analysis. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but you’re right — Winograd relies on his personal “brand” to try to effect change. Was the pun on “whine” in your spelling of his name deliberate or a typo? In either case “Whinograd” is very apt!

  6. I vaguely remember reading about the diabetic/toe/dog business, but the impression I had, in the context I read the story, was that the dog was sounding an alarm to his/her owner – trying to be helpful – I wouldn’t know since I haven’t read the original source etc. Maybe someone can track it down in this perilous email conga-line-party world we live in!

    1. Dogs have been known to warn their owners about everything from low blood sugar to seizures, so maybe it was in that context? And I’ve heard of dogs poking their owners to warn them of dangers in the house… I hadn’t heard the toe story until I got the press release, just a lot of dumb pet danger story.

  7. Great post. I remember reading about the toe-eating terrier and thought what a bunch of sensationalist junk being passed off a science and sound medical advice. Thank you for deconstructing this bunch of bunk….and Hail Mary! Dancing Dog Blog is outstanding.

    1. You’re welcome. That press release came in the wake of all those “be very afraid” of sleeping with your pet stories, which I’d been thinking about covering anyway, and it kind of pushed me over the edge.

  8. You have to wonder where – if anywhere – the line will be drawn…. I can’t even stomach dog-politics anymore because of stuff like this.

    Can you imagine how much further we’d get if we’d stop bickering among ourselves and actually *gasp* worked together to achieve a common goal? I mean…it’ll never happen – we’ll always be too busy arguing over methods and morals and who get to be king-of-the-mountain or however that game goes.

    The article blaming Maddie’s Fund for the death of that kitten just made me smirk. It’s sick, but that’s CLASSIC Winograd, blaming, slandering, and smearing anyone he can. At least he’s smart enough to close comments. (Sorry if that sounds rude, but I have noticed that as a pattern with him; if you don’t agree/adhere, or if you are convenient to be blamed, he will try to tear you down with brutal efficiency.)

    I agree with Leo. Let’s all follow Mary instead. Now, *she* is a true leader.

    1. I guess it’s divisive of me to call someone divisive 😉 But at least I provided an example of an alternative!

  9. I volunteer down at Animal Welfare League and the news of the A/C destruction was just an awful way to end the week. But then there was an amazing outpouring of support for the team down there and it was so heartwarming to follow. I’d like to think that even more good came out of it in the long-term in raising the profile of the shelter (run by true rescue heroine Diane!) and the work they’re doing with limited resources.
    Thanks to Mary for keeping it upbeat – I do believe that promotes the cause much more effectively than tales of doom and gloom.

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