Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Certified Trainer Rings in on Rescue Dogs

Some people have reservations about adopting a dog because they are concerned it might be un-trainable or won't bond with them. Today I caught up with a highly experienced dog trainer out of Central Ohio to go beyond these myths. Guy Kantak, "The K9 Guy," is a Certified Professional Trainer (CPT) and a member of both the National K-9 Dog Trainers Association and International Association of Canine Professionals. Here's what he has to say:

HTB: Guy, I know you've got some adopted dogs of your own. When you got your first dogs, what drove you to adopt instead of buy?

GK: Both my wife and I have a long history of adoptees in our families, my parents had a rescue dog in our home before I was born. We've had such great experiences with rescues, and are so overwhelmed by the number of great dogs needing homes, that we are very committed to supporting and adopting from shelters.

HTB: Some people are hesitant to adopt dogs because they think adopted dogs will be more difficult to train. What is your experience?

GK: As a professional trainer I have a deep appreciation that every dog is unique. Some dogs can be more difficult to train than others, but it is not dependent on whether the dog is from a rescue or from a breeder. Individual personalities are a much more critical factor here! My own preference is to adopt a 6-12 month old dog with a developed personality that I can assess to be certain he will fit in well in our home. You can watch one of my adopted dogs doing some training work on my website. Everything you see him doing on that page he learned in less than six weeks.

HTB: People also sometimes believe that adopting older dogs is a bad idea because they won't bond with you as much. Please share your thoughts on that.

GK: Dogs never forget people they've met, but they are very adaptable creatures who will form new ties if their environment changes. I've worked with older dogs, that for various reasons have had to go into new living environments. They all adjust and bond with their new family. Older dogs are often more calm, already house trained, and less easily distracted which can hasten any training the new owner desires.

HTB: Why is it important for someone who has adopted a dog to hire a trainer? I've heard people say, "I don't want to hire a trainer because my dog won't even listen to me. How is he going to listen to someone else?" What do you say to people with concerns like this.

GK: A good trainer will work with more dogs each week than most people will live with during their lifetime. If a dog is not "listening" to an owner, it's because it doesn't care to listen or is confused. In either case, working with a certified professional trainer can help an owner develop effective communication with their dog while helping the dog to understand its role in the home. This makes everyone (dog and owner) much happier! Because dogs are not people and they do not think as we do, hiring a trainer is no different than taking a course to learn a foreign language.

HTB: For anyone with a rescued dog who is looking for a trainer, how do they evaluate which trainer to use? What should they look for?

GK: That's a great question.... My recommendation would be to either call or meet with prospective trainers and interview them. Some questions to consider would include:

Are they certified? By what agency?
What are their professional affiliations and background?
Is the trainer easy to talk with and easy to understand?
Can the trainer demonstrate a dog they have trained, especially one from a rescue?
What methods do they use? Trainers experienced using multiple training methods ( vs. only one method) will be able to provide more options to owners in reaching their desired goals.
How many dogs do they work with annually, and what is their experience pertinent to your desired goals.
You should also inquire about fees, and ask for some measure of client satisfaction.

I'm affiliated with the National K9 Dog Trainer's Association and the International Association of Canine Professionals. Both have websites with trainer locators where owners can find a local trainer by inputting their zip code:


I would recommend those web pages as a good starting point in finding a local trainer.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dogs Deserve Freedom

Emily is a volunteer at her local Humane Society and an animal advocate, using her Dogs Deserve Freedom blog to share her thoughts and ideas on how we better live in harmony with dogs. She's another shining example of a person using her talents and skills to support dog rescue. I hope you'll be inspired to do the same!

HTB: What was the inspiration to start your blog, "Dogs Deserve Freedom?"

Emily: I began blogging on "Dogs Deserve Freedom" on October 15, 2008 because I needed an outlet for my frustrations. I had just finished rehabbing the most gorgeous dog I have ever met and was exceedingly frustrated that people judged her by her looks. She was (at best guess) a Rottweiler/Thai Ridgeback mix who had not had a great start in life (being tied up to a tree for the first year and then taken to the pound by canine control will do that to a dog). She didn't trust anyone and would snarl at people/dogs/anything if they pushed her too far too fast. Unfortunately, this bought her an extended stay at the pound and the discussion was begun about possible euthanasia. I took her in and after a few months of extensive rehab/retraining she ended up the most friendly, well rounded, happy go lucky dog ever.

HTB: What is the philosophy behind "Dogs Deserve Freedom?"

Emily: I wrote a few blog posts about this. To read the full explanation, check out my post Dogs Deserve Freedom - Say What? or read my first post.

Here's a summary... Dogs Deserve Freedom means that all dogs deserve:

- freedom to live without the need for crates, leashes and other training 'tools'
- freedom to live without fear and anxiety
- freedom to be outside without the need for fences or other containment items
- freedom to interact and play with animals, children, adults, etc without the impulse or need to bully or do harm
- freedom to be a valued member of a family enjoying the love and companionship freely given within the boundaries of this relationship

The beliefs that spur my theories and thoughts are:

- I believe in Crate Training
- I believe that dogs should be able to function on leash without harming themselves, their owners, or other people/dogs.
- I believe you should be able to trust your dog to interact safely with children/other animals/adults in any situation
- I believe that breeders should breed responsibly and that BackYardBreeders (BYB) are making more problems by helping us fill our shelters with poorly bred dogs
- I believe you should be able to take your dog to a restaurant and your dog should be well enough trained to take a nap under your table without begging for food or bothering anyone around

It is the responsibility of dog owners to train their dogs properly in order to fulfill these needs.

HTB: What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?

Emily: Mainly, I want to raise awareness. I am a big advocate for the shelter dog, and I hate puppy mills as well as back yard breeders, with a vengence. If I can convince one person to adopt instead of buying a dog or "saving it" from the pet store, I've done a good job.

I want people to know that they don't have to donate all their food money in order to make a difference. I want them to know that even if they spent one hour per week volunteering at a shelter or charity, then they have helped. Many rescues and shelters are SCREAMING for volunteers. I want the dog walkers to know that if they went and took one dog out for an hour long walk once a week, that they would change the outlook of that dog. What most people don't get is that it's not a matter of how many dogs can you walk in the 60 minute time frame, it's the quality of the time you have spent.

In the next year, I want to show people the fun things they can do with their dogs when they are properly trained. I believe this is likely where the blog will go, so stay tuned!

HTB: Tell us three things that everyone should know about proper dog care:

Emily: Proper dog care should include three key elements:

- Adequate nutrition (see your veterinarian for details)
- Thorough training (both soft skills and obedience)
- Spay / Neuter

Since I know you will probably ask ... am I against breeding? No. If your dog is worthy breeding stock, than by all means. That means the dog is purebred, registered, has NO genetic malformations, has healthy parentage (no genetic malformations), has no history of crazy temperaments in the entire litter, has earned it with championships (could be obedience, agility, herding, conformation, etc.), is not aggressive in any way/shape/form and there is a need for the breed. That means there shouldn't be over 1,000 unwanted dogs in rescue of that particular breed (did you know that the Labrador Retriever is over 20,000! That's not including the dogs that have been subdivided into "Black Labrador Retriever, Yellow Labrador Retriever and Chocolate Labrador Retriever).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rescuing Dogs from Poor Nutrition

Lynda Wood is an animal advocate and founder of The Waggary Pampered Paws Dog Treats. She’s got a great blog featuring adoptable dogs and dog adoption news, and has been kind enough to share her experience with dog rescue. This interview shares great advice about pet food and treats towards the end, so be sure to read the whole thing!

HTB: Lynda, I understand that you became involved with dog rescue as a teen. How did that come about?

LW: It certainly wasn’t from a lack of things to do :) I was a student and I had three part-time jobs already, but that’s all they were to me: jobs. They weren’t my passion. I had always toyed with the idea of maybe becoming a vet one day, or at least a vet’s assistant, so volunteering at my local humane society seemed like a great way to start helping animals in some capacity right away.

I began volunteering on weekends along with several others my age, and by about week three I was the only one left. Scraping hardened dog food off kennel walls and hosing down dirty kennel floors is not glamorous work, but I loved it. Anything I could do to make the dogs’ environment better while they were at the shelter, that’s what I wanted to do. Eventually I began going out on rescue calls with the shelter attendants, and also tagging along with the dog catcher as he made his rounds.

Rescue work, I learned very quickly, is not easy work. You see things you never want to see, and it changes you. You begin to look at the world in a different way, and there were days that my heart felt so heavy from being such an up-close witness to the cruelty humans can inflict on helpless animals. But none of that ever compared to the pure joy that came with the unconditional love these dogs gave in return. Their ability to forgive and trust in mankind again was inspiring to me, and every time a family came into the shelter and found the perfect dog for them, I experienced such a deep sense of satisfaction. It made all the heartache and hard work worth it.

HTB: What advice would you give teenagers who are interested in getting involved with dog rescue?

LW: Do it! It’s hard work, and there will be times when you feel as if your heart is breaking, but it will also prove to be some of the best, most satisfying work you ever do. Dogs give us so much and there is such personal reward in giving back to them.

There is no job, no kind gesture, and no amount of time spent, that is too small. Cleaning up a dog’s living quarters, taking him or her for a walk, offering a gentle hand or throwing a ball—these are all things that make a difference. Some of these dogs have rarely heard a kind word or felt a loving human touch. As many of the homeless dogs as there are starving for proper nutrition, there are those starving for a single moment of attention meant just for them.

Don’t stop at volunteering at your local human society either. There are numerous dog rescue organizations popping up every day as dog lovers do their best to combat the growing need for care and shelter of the neglected, abused, and abandoned. Most of these rescue organizations are run by volunteers so every helping hand is an important one, and very much appreciated.

No matter how much you give to dog rescue, you will get more out of it than you could ever imagine.

HTB: Your love of dogs has led you to start Pampered Paws Dog Treats. What makes your treats special? Where can people get them?

LW: Well I never did become a vet, but I did work at a veterinarian hospital, and what I saw there on a daily basis proved to be the catalyst for Pampered Paws Dog Treats. Young dogs, very young dogs, were being diagnosed with cancer. Allergies and chronic ear infections were being treated in alarming numbers. There was clearly something going on, and even my own dog Toby, a miniature poodle, was suffering from undiagnosed seizures. These seizures were becoming so frequent, and so severe, that I felt it was only a matter of time before I would have to make the painful decision to have him put down. It broke my heart as he was my best little buddy, but watching him suffer was beyond painful.

In the midst of that, I adopted my German Shepherd, Temperance. The breeder was retiring her from the show ring due to an injury, and it was through this breeder that I first became interested in nutrition. She only feeds her dogs natural food, and all it took was a little investigative research on my part before the horrors of what really goes into commercial pet food were revealed to me, and had me switching over to the same diet.

I did my research, spoke to professionals, and within weeks of transferring my two dogs, as well as my daughter’s dog, over to a natural diet, Toby’s seizures began to lessen in frequency and severity. I didn’t even make the connection at first; I was just so happy to see him thriving as he was. I kept researching, kept learning all that I could, and that learning led me to looking into what was in the treats I gave my dogs, and ultimately finding healthy alternatives to the preservative-packed options that are out there. The most fun alternative turned out to be baking my own dog cookies, which my dogs were very happy about. They went crazy over these treats and when I began sharing them with family and friends who have dogs, and their dogs loved them like mine did, I decided to share them even further by creating Pampered Paws Dog Treats.

What makes Pampered Paws Dog Treats the most special is probably what they don’t have in them, more so than what they do. There are actually very few ingredients in my dog treats, but those that I use are all of the highest quality, organic whenever possible, and healthy. What Pampered Paws Dog Treats don’t have is added salt or sugar, no artificial colors, and they don’t have any of the harmful preservatives that allow commercial dog treats to sit on the store shelves for months, sometimes even years at a time. They are also baked fresh, by hand, in my home kitchen with the same care I use when baking for my own dogs. For me, every cookie is a representation of the importance of proper nutrition, the care that goes into that, and something every dog deserves.

There will be a more permanent Waggery website in the future, but for now
Pampered Paws Dog Treats are available on-line at http://thewaggery.ecrater.com/

If anyone has any questions, or if they’d like to talk with me about a dog with special needs (like allergies), they can also email me at thewaggery@gmail.com

HTB: What are the three top things people should know about pet food and treats?

LW: Well, firstly, pet food manufacturing is a multi-billion dollar industry that is basically self-regulated. There is no one outside of themselves holding them accountable, and as Ann N. Martin writes in her book Food Pets Die For – Shocking Facts About Pet Food:

. . . there are many deplorable ingredients that legally can be used in pet foods as sources of protein—in particular, euthanized cats and dogs, diseased cattle and horses, road kill, dead zoo animals, and meat not fit for human consumption. In addition, fiber sources in many foods are composed of the leftovers from the food chain, including beet pulp, the residue of sugar beets, peanut hulls, and even sawdust sweepings from the floor of the rendering plant!

Secondly, preservatives that are known toxins are used to prevent the fatty contents of pet food from becoming rancid. The main three to watch out for (and completely stay away from) are BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and Ethoxyquin.

Wendell Belfield, D.V.M. writes of his concerns in a letter to the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM):

“Chemicals such as BHA and BHT, which can initiate birth defects, and damage to liver and kidneys are commonly used preservatives.”

And Animal Protection Institute (API), a nonprofit advocacy organization, states in a 1996 report:

“Ethoxyquin has been associated with immune deficiency syndrome, leukemia, blindness, skin, stomach, spleen and liver cancer in companion animals.”

Pet food companies will often times state that they do not add these particular substances to their foods, however what they won’t tell consumers is the fact that the meat suppliers they use may well have added one or more of these preservatives before shipping those raw materials to the pet food company. If this is the case, the pet food company does not have to list that on their ingredient label; they need only list those ingredients they knowingly added themselves.

Thirdly, just because a commercial dog food or treat is labeled “veterinarian approved” does not mean it is healthy. I hold great admiration and respect for veterinarians. I love, love, love my vet, who is also a personal friend, but they don’t teach animal nutrition at veterinarian school. The basis of their nutritional instruction comes from what pet food company representatives have to say, which is why so many vets will caution against using anything but commercially prepared dog food and dog treats. They really are advising you how they see best, but it’s up to you, as a responsible dog owner, to do your own research and make the best educated decision for your beloved friend based on what you believe is best for them.

As for the decision I made, I am very happy to be able to say that since putting my dogs on a natural diet, and feeding them only Pampered Paws Dog Treats, they are all shining examples of health and vitality, and Toby has not had a single seizure since. It’s been two years now and he is healthier than he has ever been. I have also rescued a Boston Terrier in the last year, one that was suffering from horrible skin allergies and whose future looked to be filled with medications that included steroids. Fortunately I’ve been able to control her allergies with diet alone, and her itchy, painful skin is now a thing of the past.

For me, having happy, healthy dogs is what matters most. It’s the best recipe for life :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Like Santa's Elves

(Lowrey, lovingly wrapping our Holiday Gift Sets as we scrambled to get all of our orders filled)

This post is a departure from our usual advocacy posts, but I thought you might be interested in seeing what goes on behind the scenes at Happy Tails Books when our books arrive from the printer, and pre-orders need to be filled.

Every time we publish a book, we allow customers to pre-order it as it's being printed. This helps cover the cost of printing, and it works out great for our customers because we offer either $2.00 off per book or a double donation to rescue. When the books finally arrive, I ship the orders immediately.

The volume of orders I need to ship is usually manageable, but this time around we had Pit Bull book orders, Labrador book orders, and Dachshund book back orders to fill, resulting in about 500 books needing to be shipped. The pressure was on not only because of the high volume of books, but also because it's almost Christmas and we knew we had to ship the books the moment they arrived.

And ship them we did! The books didn't come until 2pm, only leaving us 3.5 hours to pack orders and get them to the post office. Luckily, my co-editor, Lowrey, drove up to help (about an hour drive in questionable weather), and my parents lent a hand. We really did feel like Santa's workshop! My dad could pass for Santa, I could easily be mistaken for an elf, and Bill was our reindeer. (Which reindeer was the nervous one? That was Bill.)

It was a stretch, but at 5:05 all of the books had found their way to the post office. The total number of packages we sent was about 200. I'm crossing my fingers that everything arrives quickly, will you cross yours with me? We really did our best!

I've placed a "rush delivery" option on all of our books now, so procrastinators can still get books in time for the holidays. If I'm talking about you, please place your order soon!

Now that we've got our massive mailing out of the way, I'm refocusing on our upcoming breeds for 2010. We base our book order largely on rescue group enthusiasm, and so far the Boxer folks are really stepping up! I believe we'll be doing Boxers first, then German Shepherds and Pugs. I'm still trying to get a Chihuahua book together, but it has been surprisingly difficult to collect enough stories. Weird. Please help by encouraging your friends and family with rescued dogs to send over a story. Who knows, it might end up in a book!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood

Out of the 250 stories of adopted dogs I've edited so far, I would estimate that at least a quarter of them involve a dog who had cancer. It is so common, and information about how to best care for a pet with cancer is so conflicting. Today I caught up with holistic pet care advocate, Nadine M. Rosin, to discuss cancer in pets and her book, The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood.

HTB: Tell us about The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood. Who should read your book? What do you expect he/she will take away from it?

NMR: The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood is a true story about the human-animal bond, healing cancer holistically, senior canine care, and an empowering new take on the grieving process when a beloved animal passes away. It reads like a novel and has an underlying 3-fold mission:

~Helping pet parents realize we may be unconsciously contributing to the skyrocketing increase of cancer in our pets by unknowingly creating highly toxic environments in our homes
~Providing comfort, camaraderie, and validation for pet parents experiencing the devastating loss of a beloved pet
~Helping to remove the words, “It’s just a dog/cat” from the lips of non pet parents everywhere

One of my favorite emails from a reader was a woman whose grown sons just couldn’t understand the grief she was going through after her beloved Bichon passed away. After reading my book, which she said gave her incredible comfort and insight, she had Amazon ship a copy to each of her sons. She told them that if they promised to read it, and still didn’t understand “why she wasn’t over it yet,” she’d never mention the dog again. Well, it turns out the boys loved the book AND apologized profusely to their mom for having been so insensitive. They ended up providing her great solace.

HTB: Buttons is the dog featured in your book. Did you have dogs before Buttons? What made Buttons so special?

NMR: I have had dogs all my life and have dearly loved them all. Buttons, was my heart-dog. When she was eight-years-old, she was diagnosed with cancer and given six weeks to live without chemo, radiation, and amputation. After much soul-searching (described in book), I decided to completely forgo the prescribed treatment and instead, implement a completely holistic approach: one of cleansing and strengthening the body so it could heal itself, rather than one of squelching the symptoms and fighting the cancer. Four months later, Buttons was cancer-free and she thrived for an additional 11 years. Hers was a story I had to share with other pet parents.

HTB: What is some advice you give to people who have pets that are faced with a severe illness, like cancer?

NMR: My advice is to educate yourself BEFORE getting the diagnosis of a serious disease. Our pets metabolize everything so much faster than we do, they are like the canaries in the coal mine. The household chemicals we expose them (and ourselves) to might take 30 years to show up as disease in our bodies but only five years in theirs. Just because something is sold in the grocery (or health food!) store doesn’t mean it’s safe after years of exposure. Do a little online research about the unbelievably toxic ingredients in major brands of fabric softener, dryer sheets, and air fresheners to name a few. I have some listings and safer alternatives on my blog.

HTB: What are the top three things people can eliminate from their homes to give themselves, and their pets, the best chance at a healthy life? Is there anything they should add to their homes?

NMR: A holistic approach means looking at everything: food, water, treats, chews, cleaning products, flea poisons, medications, etc. Since the book has been published, I have started offering holistic consultations to help people look at everything harmful they may be unknowingly exposing their sweet animals to. I do this on an offering basis so that no pet or pet parent is left behind because of inability to pay. That information can also be found on my blog. In addition, our pets are extremely sensitive to emotion, so eliminating any constant stress or negativity in one’s household is vital to a healthy environment.

HTB: What are your thoughts on adopted an older dog vs. a puppy?

NMR: What I know is that for every dog rescued, there is at least one human rescued in return. Older dogs have so much to teach us. Buttons lived to be 19. With a conscious approach to home environment and care, most dogs can live healthy lives into their 20’s.

To learn more about Nadine M. Rosin and The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood, visit http://www.thehealingartofpetparenthood.com/Home.html.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Barbara Cooper is the author behind the Fur-licity blog about her dog, Daisy's journey from life in a puppy mill. She kindly took a moment to give us some advice about adopting puppy mill dogs. Here's what she said:

HTB: How did you make the decision to adopt a puppy mill dog?

BC: When I was a child, my father took me to the SPCA or similar organization when I wanted a dog. As an adult, I continued to look for canine companions at the local SPCA. It just seemed the "right thing to do." After the death of my last dog, Jessie, I went to the local SPCA but found they only had large and active dogs. My age and mobility prevented me from adopting there this time. I went on-line and found two rescue groups for small dogs that were close to home. I applied for a dog and the Coordinator of FureverAfter did a home visit. She then matched me with Daisy, which was an excellent choice. I was really impressed by the care they take to find the right home for their rescues.

HTB: How has Daisy changed your life?

BC: Daisy is the first dog I've adopted who was abused; the others were surrendered for different reasons. So it's been a new learning experience. I've had to deal with discouragement, and learning new levels of patience. But each step she has made toward being less fearful and more confident brings wild waves of happiness and delight. She "points" toward my own growth and makes me more aware of it and the future possibilities. So we are kind of in this together.

HTB: Some might ask, why would anyone go through the trouble of rehabilitating a puppy mill dog. What do you tell them?

BC: It's not for everyone. But for those of us willing and able to do it, the rewards are great.

HTB: What advice do you have for other people who have adopted puppy mill dogs?

The best advice I have received is "relax". Stressing over whether I'm doing the right thing or not can drive human and dog completely nuts. Listen, observe, allow the dog to find comfort at his/her own pace without trying to rush things. Keep a journal so you can see progress when you are discouraged. Join a support group such as shy k-9s on Yahoogroups. Search the internet for information about puppy mills and the effect on dogs. Keep learning, together.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From Belgium to Bostons

I have had the privilege of getting to know Eveline Soors through the Happy Tails Books project over the past several months. Our friendship grew from a mutual love of Boston Terriers. She would love to rescue one but it’s just not that simple in Belgium. Inspired to do her part to help the little guys, she instead signed up with American Boston Terrier Rescue to help them with their website. She’s a wonderful example of how a person can make a difference in dogs’ lives, even if she is not directly interacting with them. I hope this interview will inspire you to also come up with creative ways to give back to dog rescue – they need your help!

HTB: Eveline, you've got a blog about dogs and you've recently become a volunteer with rescue. Where did your love of animals begin?

ES: I have always loved animals. Our first dog was already there when I was born (or… well… he was there for as far as I can remember). He would follow me around the yard and then go crazy on the grass by running in really big circles around it and then laying flat on his side and just moving his legs very quickly. He was so funny and an excellent entertainer for a little kid! When I grew a bit older we got other dogs and learned a lot about dog training over the years. Ever since we got a boxer though I just fell in love with the flat faced dog breeds. I am an only child so the dogs were my only playmates. Why I love them so much? They entertain you, they get all cuddly when you feel sad, and they protect you. It’s just such a great feeling to know you have someone around you who ‘feels’ you and who doesn’t judge and is just always there for you with a love and devotion that is unconditionally.

HTB: What is it about Boston Terriers that you like so much?

ES: There are a lot of things I like about them. Of course their flat muzzles, big ears and attention-seeking eyes. When they’ve done something bad, those eyes are just so cute that you can’t get mad at them! I also like that they look a bit like little boxers, especially as a puppy, but that they do have a very different, very unique temperament.

Being a couch potato, having a dog that’s very lively will be perfect for me, he’ll get me out of my couch, up and running. Also the fact that Boston Terriers are very intelligent dogs is something I’m looking forward to since after reviewing so many dog books, there are lot of dog tricks and games I want to teach my future dog!

A lot of people might consider their ‘sounds’ a negative thing but I got used to that by growing up with boxers that snored and farted. The only sound I don’t like that much is barking, and Bostons don’t bark much so that’s great!

I think they would be a really great fit, in the end I’ll have a little dog with a big dog temperament! (as my boyfriend wanted a little dog and I wanted a big dog we will both have what we wanted)

HTB: What inspired you to help the rescue group? How did you decide which one to work with?

ES: I had heard from rescue groups before and I always thought to myself “I wish we had that in Belgium. I’d love to be able to take care of an animal that’s in a bad condition and bring it back to health.” By reading the rescue books from Happy Tails Books somehow I felt much closer to these organizations and the people who volunteer. It’s different than just browsing the internet. After reading a story about someone who started off by doing a rescue group’s website a bell started to ring in my head. Okay, maybe I couldn’t actually do something with dogs to help them out; I could help out with the website! I love making websites and I love dogs so what better mix could there be? I looked at a list of Boston Terrier Rescue groups and American Boston Terrier Rescue of course was at the very top of that list. I visited their site which was a work in progress, a good sign for me at that moment. It had a menu saying they could need programming skills etc so I decided to give it a go! I wrote to them and offered my help for the site. Shortly after, I was hired!

HTB: Are there similar dog rescue efforts in Belgium like there are in the United States? Are the problems of dog overpopulation as severe as in the United States?

ES: We have no or very few breed-specific rescue groups in Belgium. I personally don’t know any. We have a few organizations that come up for animal rights and we have the shelters for dogs, cats and rabbits. The dogs in shelters are, in general, all in good health.
To give you some idea on dog shelters in Belgium, here are some facts:

• In 2008 33.868 dogs ended up in shelters, 19.216 of them were lost dogs.
• 56,8 percent of the dogs that were lost were reunited with their owner.
This percentage has been increasing these last years because of the obligated ID chip that dogs have to have now. It makes it less simple to dump the dogs and easier to reunite them with their owner.
• 5.447 dogs (16 percent) were euthanized. It's a lot less than previous years but it is still a lot.
• 246 dogs (0,7 percent) died of natural causes.
• 52,3 percent were rehomed. This is less than the year before. I think one of the reasons is the fact that there are more and more breeders or stores who sell a wide variety of dogs with open hours and no parent dogs available. Several ad websites are flooded with these kinds of advertisements and people are only seeing the cute puppy pictures and are forgetting the breed specific official breeder dogs and the dogs in shelters.

People who spend big money on a breeder dog usually have put a lot of thought in it. People adopting a dog also adopt with a purpose. A lot of people who buy dogs at dog stores buy them on an impulse and a lot of these dogs eventually land on ad sites, are sick because of import or are put in a shelter.
Most common reasons for giving up their dog is: couples breaking up and nobody wanting the dog, changing work and having no time for the dog anymore, moving and not being able to take the dog along. I’ve seen a lot of those ads pass the revue..

I do think that, in comparison with the US, people over here feel more responsible in general for their dogs. We might not always admit it but we find it very important what other people think of us so leaving our dogs in bad conditions is something we won't quickly do because we know we would get judged for it pretty quickly. Everyone lives so close together that there's not much that can be hidden.

HTB: What advice would you give someone who may want to volunteer but be struggling to find a way they can help?

ES: Rescue groups are always in need for good foster homes since the list of dogs needing to be rescued just seems endless. Besides fostering there are so many other things you could do. Like transporting the dogs from one place to another, helping out with event preparations or being there at the actual event to promote the rescue group, looking for fundraiser ideas… But even if this is nothing for you there are still many more things you can do that may involve less time, like organizing a special day at work to gain some profit for the rescue group, handing out flyers, if you have special talents maybe make some art work or knit some doggie suits or have people donate toys and such for rescue dogs as they enter or leave a store.. Even if it’s just once, rescue groups need all the money and help they can get for the poor dogs in need. If you want to volunteer just go ahead and ask one of the rescue groups and I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to know that they can possible count on another helping hand!

* Source for statistics of dogs in shelters: FOD Economie - Algemene Directie Statistiek

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cornelia Jones, the Canine Crusader

Cornelia Jones, the "Canine Crusader," has been a rescue advocate for years. She posts two blogs, “Rescue of a Stray Dog” about rescuing Darlin', a stray dog, and “Dog Blog for Five Dogs” about the dogs in her family. Today she took some time to tell us about her adventures in adoption.

HTB: Had you ever adopted a dog before you found Darlin?

CJ: Yes. I grew up with dogs and was once handed a puppy when I answered my front door; however, the first dog I adopted from the Humane Society was in 1994. My Lhasa Apso died when my daughter was a year old. Less than a year later my life changed suddenly when I lost my first husband tragically. The next four years were spent adjusting to my new life and it was during those years that I didn’t have any pets at all.

By the time my daughter was five years old and with my infant son, I began to feel more settled and started thinking about owning a dog again. I wanted a small dog that would be a house dog so we went to see who was available at the Humane Society. The shelter evaluated our application and didn’t recommend a small dog because I had young children. A six year old Australian Shepherd mix was being processed while I talked to the shelter worker. She thought Daisy would be a perfect match for us. I wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea of a medium size dog with so much hair living in our home, but I decided to take their advice and give her a chance. The Humane Society had some veterinary records on Daisy. I called the Vet to ask if I could get copies of her records and found out that they treated her after she was adopted out from the Humane Society previously. I realized that I was her third home in six years and I told her that day that she would never have to leave again.

Daisy was the most wonderful dog! She was the most calm, quiet, naturally obedient dog that anyone could ever ask for. She obviously had some training because she wouldn’t get on the furniture or beds, and no amount of coaxing would change her mind. I would wash my car while she lay in the yard content; nothing stirred her curiosity, she never thought about leaving her yard. We also had a fenced back yard. Daisy loved to be near children. She didn’t really play or interact with them; she just wanted to watch over them. In nearly the decade that she lived with us, I only carried her leash on walks because she never needed it, as she would never think to leave my side. Family and friends used to tell me that I was so lucky to have a perfect dog. The smartest thing I did was following the shelter worker’s suggestion that we choose Daisy. Daisy crossed the bridge in 2003 when she was fifteen years old.

In 2004 I adopted Sam, our Blue Heeler, and then this past February I pulled some Jack Russell’s from a pound in Tennessee that Russell Rescue agreed to take. I had planned on fostering one because I still had a foster at home in addition to the three other dogs I own. I brought Toby home and knew within twenty-four hours he would never leave.

HTB: How has your experience with Darlin changed your life?

CJ: Darlin’ has helped me to understand the canine world better. If it were not for Darlin’ and her fear issues I would have never read any literature about canine body language and communication. I might never have known how to work with a fearful dog, how to alleviate some of the stressors, and what to expect as far as rehabilitation. She has been a learning experience for me. She has helped me to become a more patient person, which was not my strongest virtue in the past, although I always give allowances for dogs.

Darlin’ has changed the way I live and my family has been influenced as well. When she was a stray I committed myself to keeping her alive through winter. I knew that if she was fed, I could put weight on her and that would help her body fight off the cold. Darlin’ was a mystery to me because I never saw her except at feeding time. My entire family had to adjust to her feeding schedule for six months. If I wasn’t able to do it, someone else had to. She was a frightened dog that showed up at a tree to eat, but she wouldn’t let anyone get close to her.

When I trapped Darlin’ and brought her home I had no idea what she would be like. We only knew each other from a distance. I had hoped that she would be wagging her tail within three days. I’ve never had a dog that didn’t love me right away, nor did I have a dog that showed any signs of stress or anxiety other than during a thunderstorm. She was so fearful that my heart ached for her, wondering what her life must have been like before we met. It was an emotional time for me.

My daily routine changed because I needed to spend time teaching her (to the best of my ability) to trust me. That meant I had to carve time out of my usual schedule just for her. I began cooking for her and offering other high valued foods to show her that good things come from the hands that feed her. Also, she was fearful of my dogs which meant she had to be confined in the beginning of her rehabilitation. Not only did she have to learn to trust me, but she also had to learn what it’s like living with other dogs. Gradually, as she made progress in one location, she was moved closer to the dogs and my family. As she grew more trusting and showed signs of feeling safe with me, I couldn’t leave her for too long because I didn’t ever want her to feel abandoned, not even for 8 hours. I’m fortunate to be able to stay home with her and my other dogs, but there are times I’ve had to leave her as long as twelve hours for a rescue transport or to visit family out of town. During my time away my children are asked to care for her which is a challenge for them, as she is still fearful of my family. We take Darlin’s fear issues and insecurity seriously because we all want her to live as a family pet in our home like our other dogs.

Because the number of dogs in our home grew from three to five this year, it was important for me to be outside in the yard with them. Darlin’ needed to see with her own eyes how we live and interact together. I sat on the ground a lot this past year! I actually took time off from my home business because she required more time to adjust than I could have anticipated. In the beginning, after bringing Darlin’ home, most of my energy was concentrated on Darlin’ and my family had to fill in with my other dogs. I began to feel like something was missing from their lives—me! It was then that I started spending quality time with each dog individually so that they understood that life doesn’t change for them no matter how many dogs they live with.

Training my dogs just seemed to come naturally for them, but Darlin’ had to learn everything by association. There has been a methodical process for everything she has learned.

At first, I took treats to her while she lay in her bed. She wouldn’t take it from me, so I would leave the treat and walk away. Once she felt secure taking a treat from my hand in her bed, she started meeting me half way in the bedroom. I was elated that she would come to me, but she ran back to her bed for the treat! Eventually she took one standing and I’ll never forget the look on her face as if she had made a mistake. Several days later she met me at the bedroom door. After she was comfortable taking her treat at the door, she began taking a few steps towards me in the hall. Weeks went by when one day she met me at the kitchen doorway! I was so proud of her! Finally, she showed up in the kitchen! After she was familiar with that routine, I began teaching her to sit for her treat. Now she will walk in the house and go right to the kitchen and sit, always on the same rug where she learned to sit for her treat!

Nothing has come easily or quickly. Now you know why I said I’ve learned to be more patient. If I had given up on her and left her treats without encouraging her to transition from one step to the next, she might still be having her treats alone when no one was around.

HTB: What were the biggest challenges when you first brought Darlin into your home?

CJ: Waiting for her to come out of her dog house! That was the longest three days of my life! I would sit at my window, watching and waiting. I never had a dog living outside so that bothered me, but I knew it was best to give her space and time to come out of her shell, away from noise and further confusion. Thankfully, we live in a warmer climate and it was spring. She refused food and treats which was difficult to imagine. She would turn her head away no matter what I offered her. Seeing her tremble and her labored breathing was not easy. She looked as if she was freezing as she shook with such intensity. She was heartworm positive which was of great concern. She was treated at home by a mobile vet. I wasn’t comfortable with anyone handling her, but I knew we shouldn’t wait to treat her. It’s a challenge for anyone to bring a dog home that is so frightened and mistrusting of humans. Dogs like Darlin’ need a lot of time and shouldn’t be pushed or they could be set back from any progress that has been made.

HTB: What have been the biggest rewards?

CJ: Just knowing that Darlin’ has a home for life, where she will be loved and cared for, makes my heart happy. I drive down the highway she used to cross often, and I’m still amazed that she is here with us. I don’t think I’ll ever drive by or go to the grocery store without thinking back on those six months when I fed her.

Every milestone Darlin’ has made has brought me so much joy. She still needs more time before she’s where I want her to be living as family dog, but every step she takes in learning to trust us has been a truly gratifying experience that I celebrate. I see her sweet, gentle spirit that wants so much to be a part of our family, but due to her past experiences it’s been very difficult for her to move forward. Knowing that side of her makes me want to help her even more. While she has been the most challenging dog I have ever owned, she’s also becoming one of my greatest achievements. I’m extremely proud of Darlin’.

HTB:What are the most important things that our readers should know about dog adoption:

CJ: Before adopting a dog one should consider the expense involved.

Dogs need more than feeding and a lot of dogs end up homeless due to the fact that the owners can no longer afford them. Dogs require yearly immunizations and in some states licenses. Depending on the climate, fleas or mosquitoes could be a big problem. The ideal solution to control these pests and keep your dog healthy would be to purchase recommended products from your vet, and not the cheap, substandard products that don’t work and could harm your pet. Heartworms can kill dogs, and the treatment is more expensive than preventative care. Depending on the size of dog, treatment could cost as much as a thousand dollars. Sometimes, but not always, purebred dogs tend to have more health issues than mixed breeds. Alternatively, some breeds are prone to specific health issues; one example is Luxated patella—a common knee problem in dogs. During early or midlife, the dog may be treated with anti-inflammatory medication; however, sometimes surgery is required later in life. In the event that a healthy dog requires emergency veterinarian care, the costs could amount to more than what one can afford.

Research breeds because your dog should be a lifetime commitment:

I have a friend with a small child and a newborn baby. He called me and stated that they wanted to get a dog and were thinking of a Husky or German shepherd. They have no previous experience with dogs whatsoever, so I didn’t hesitate in voicing my opinion and asked him to reconsider. I told him that my comments had nothing to do with any intolerance I had for the breeds he had chosen, but that I didn’t think either of those dogs would be a good match for their lifestyle. I also told him that the biggest reason I wanted them to reconsider was because I wanted them to keep their dog, and not resort to giving away a dog they couldn’t handle! He told me that he could appreciate that.

Adopting a dog should be given a great deal of thoughtful consideration. The dog you choose should fit your lifestyle. If you don’t vacuum often, a breed that blows its coat several times a year may not be right for you. If the dog is alone most of the day while you work, a high energy, active breed wouldn’t be suitable for that lifestyle. I heard that Eskie’s were vocal dogs, but at the time I really didn’t understand what that meant before owning mine. If you work the night shift and sleep during the day, you probably wouldn’t want your dog to howl at trains or sirens when you are trying to sleep. There are exceptions in every breed, but basic care and characteristics of the breed should always be considered. Animal Planet has done a great service to dogs and people with the show Dogs 101 because it offers valuable information on a variety of dog breeds.

In working with rescues I’ve run into all kinds of reasons why people give up their dogs. They had a baby and can’t keep the dog, which is how we got Sam, our Blue Heeler. Another reason is that the dog jumps on the children. Some dog breeds tend to get over-excited when children are running, especially a young dog or a dog that hasn’t been properly trained. Herding dogs sometimes corral the children. In addition, in my opinion, children should be taught appropriate behavior around the dog. Not long ago I read an ad where a beautiful white shepherd was heading for a kill shelter if someone didn’t take him that day. The lady stated that the dog nipped at her three year old when she pulled its tail. The number one reason why dogs are abandoned by previous owners is that they are moving and can’t keep the dog. Consider that if you were to relocate, would you be able to take your dog with you? We relocated two years ago 650 miles with 30,000 pounds of household goods, three cars, two teenagers, three dogs, and four cats. Never once did we consider leaving any of them behind, teenagers included.

The dog you meet may not be the same dog in six months:

One should allow a grace period of approximately two weeks for the dog to adapt to his new environment. Naturally, if the dog is fearful like Darlin’, it would require more time. In most cases your new dog will be adjusting to his new home and family during the first two weeks. If the dog is coming from a shelter environment, it might not have had much contact with people while there. Allow the dog a few weeks to adjust to his new home before assuming that his behavior will remain the same as when you introduced him to the home. As the dog becomes more comfortable in his new surroundings (usually within the first two months), you’ll learn more about his personality and sometimes see the signs of why he ended up abandoned. For instance, most newly adopted dogs that are barkers won’t bark right away. Once they become comfortable in the home and realize that the home is their new territory, they are more apt to be protective of it. A dog’s natural instinct is to protect its pack from intruders. Similarly, if the dog has any fear issues, destructive tendencies, or little quirks, you should see them during this time. Some dogs do come with issues; however, with proper guidance and training, most can be overcome. That said, there are numerous dogs in shelters and with rescue groups right now that need a loving home and have no issues whatsoever.

Adoption fees:

I’ve heard these questions so many times. “If the dog was pulled from the pound, why is there an adoption fee?” “If the dog was going to be euthanized and needs a home, why should I pay to get it off the shelters hands?” “Well, if I’m going to give it a home, why should I have to pay for it?” There seems to be some confusion in the public about the cost of adopting a dog from rescue groups and shelters.

The cost of adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue provides some assurance that the adopter can afford to meet the needs of the dog. Anyone that is willing to pay the adoption fee is more likely to have the resources to provide for the dog. Sure, there are people who can’t or won’t pay the fee, but could provide food and shelter for the dog; however, that would require more screening which takes time.

Dogs that are available for adoption have already received their vaccinations, micro chipping, and have been spayed or neutered. There may be more money invested in the dog than the adoption fee itself. Many dogs come to rescues ill with kennel cough (requiring antibiotics), skin problems, or worse, heartworms, and have received heartworm treatment and a clean bill of health. The new adopter basically pays those costs during the adoption process by paying the fee. The new owner gets to take the dog home knowing their new friend is healthy.

Lastly, no adoption fee puts any profit in the pockets of rescue groups or animal shelters. Most rescues work with inadequate funds and invest their own money to save these dogs. Some dogs spend years with rescues or in foster care waiting on a forever home. During those years, the dog not only requires food and lodging, but ongoing vet care to keep them current on vaccines and other necessary preventatives. For every dog that finds a home and an adoption fee has been paid, it means that another dog, maybe even two others, can be pulled and saved from imminent death. The cycle continues with hope that more dogs will be rescued and altered, helping to control the overwhelming homeless animal population. This is the only way that animal welfare groups can gain some level of control over the thousands of helpless creatures euthanized every day.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Finding a Way to Fill a Need

This post is a little different than our usual interviews, but I think that K9friendsunited.com is a good example of how, when something is close to your heart, you can make a difference. Diarmuid, founder of K9friendsunited.com, didn't even have a dog when he started this endeavor, but he noticed a need and wanted to fill it. As you read this post, think about the following questions: What do you really care about? What creative way can you make a difference?

Where do I start, I suppose you have heard the old saying, that sometimes the most creative ideas can come from the most unexpected sources. I’m sure when you finish reading this you will agree; that they don’t come any more unexpected than me.

Finding a Way to Fill a Need
By Diarmuid Scullin

My name is Diarmuid Scullin I live in Cookstown, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland and I am a long distance lorry driver.

It all started a couple of years ago on my long haul journeys throughout England and Ireland, I began to notice time after time as I drove through towns and villages, that dog owners the length and breath of the country who were out walking their dogs always tend to be on their own, very seldom did I ever see any of them walking together or stopping to talk to each other. I used to think why they don’t organize a meeting place where they could meet up and go for their walk together.

One night I was parked up in a truck stop, I was listening to a programme on the radio about the internet and web sites, which I found really interesting, they were discussing social networking sites like facebook, bebo and you tube, at the same time listening to the radio, I was watching a few people walking past the lorry with their dogs, some on one side of the road and some on the other side. I wondered then if there was one of these social networking web sites for dog owners.

When the programme ended it got me thinking, if there was one of those web sites for dog owners they could use it to meet up and chat to each other the way people use these other sites. I just took the idea into my head that I should look more into this, instead of lying in the lorry at night doing the usual boring nothing, I could start learning about computers and web sites and maybe through time I could try and make one of these sites for dog owners.

The only thing was I hadn’t a clue how to start, where to start, who to talk to or how to go about it, not a notion, I don’t even have a dog, although I am passionate about them. I have no formal training in computers or web design and I spent the first 3 months sorting the site out on a note books and bits of paper (I still do). I bought a second hand lap top that took me ten minutes to work out how to open it (that’s no joke) and my office is the cab of the lorry where everything is run from.

I tried to talk to web developers and explain what I intended to do but they wouldn’t listen, they didn’t want to know. Some laughed at the idea and said it was stupid that it would never work, some asked for thousands of pounds, some said it couldn’t be done and some just thought I was simply crazy. I thought how people like this can be so dismissive when they won’t listen to what I was saying. I put my heart, my soul and every bone in my body into finding out all there was to know about the workings of computers, the internet and web sites.

I trawled through libraries, read books, magazines and studied everything I could get my hands on till my eyes nearly fell out. I remember going into a book store once and coming across a book called, Web Sites for Dummies, I lifted it up looked at it and said quietly to myself, they must have knew I was coming. I knew in my heart it would work, everything I read and studied pointed to the fact that it could be done, it might not be straight forward, it might take a while to work it all out but it can be achieved, if nobody else can see the picture, I can and that’s all that mattered and by God it wasn’t going to beat me.

K9 Friends United fully supports and recognizes the very important and significant role of Dog Rescue Centres. They set the highest standards for dog welfare, from taking in unwanted and lost dogs, providing shelter and care, finding secure and loving homes, giving support and guidance to pet owners, they always strive to tackle the welfare crisis from every possible angle. We extend an open invitation to all Dog Rescue Centres to promote and advertise absolutely free. The vision of Dogs Rescue Centres is a world where all dogs are wanted, loved and cared for, k9 friends’ united share that vision with you. If there is any possible way that we can help or be of any assistance, please do get in touch, it would be a privilege and a pleasure to of service.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Two Week Shutdown"

(Juno, a dog who benefited from "The Two Week Shutdown")

I'm putting together our book about Pit Bulls, and one of my authors, Marva Burnett, who fosters for New Hope Pit Bull Rescue, mentioned some "new foster Two Week Shutdown" policy. Needless to say, I was interested in hearing more, since I'm a foster and the only "shutdown" my dogs get it when I put out my hand to get them to stop jumping on me. Maybe there's a better way?

Alicia from New Hope kindly wrote me back to give me more details. Here's what she said:

"I learned about [the two weeks shutdown] before I became involved in rescue. I adopted a second dog, Cyrus, much more laid back in personality than my crazy girl Deja! We figured we could leave him to roam the house the very first day! After losing some blinds and some trash, it was pretty obvious that wasn't the case. It was on either day two or three when he snapped at Deja over a toy. By nature, I'm a researcher. I'd joined a very valuable resource called The Pit Bull Forum a month or so prior to adopting and came to realize there were a ton of knowledgeable people there that I trusted would lead me the right direction. So, I posted my problem and asked for ideas.

Needless to say, I received a very stern, "You're moving too fast!" and was instructed to slow WAY down with things. At first, it didn't make any sense at all to me because Cyrus, to me, was a naturally GOOD dog. But, what did I have to lose except a dog that I wanted to be mine and that I had committed to? So, for a week straight, my dogs only saw one another in passing. Cyrus had newfound crate issues so it afforded me the chance to work on those things too while giving each dog their own time out. The second week, the dogs got VERY brief play sessions. About 10 minutes or so at first. Over the course of the next few weeks, we increased the time out. We reintroduced toys as well. Overall, it forced me to grow up and be a leader. With Cyrus's crate issues, it took about 2 months before we got to the point that both dogs were out at the same time when someone was home. And two this day, I KNOW that the shutdown SAVED another dog and also gave me the best two dogs ever :)

I've also used the shutdown with my new fosters and it really helps in laying groundwork and giving them a chance to de-stress. Just like with Marva, it helped everyone get to know one another slowly and allowed time for interactions to end on a positive note. I really can't speak highly enough about simply giving the dogs time when they come into a new home. The foster homes who haven't quite followed the two weeks are more likely to come to us with behavioral issues later on.

Anyhoo, when I sit here and look at my two laying on their blankets on the floor or when they're napping with me weekend afternoons, I thank all the stars for having people out there to be bold with me and tell me to slow it down. I'm confident that the simple advice given in the two week shutdown helped me in creating some harmony so that I could enjoy life with two dogs. I wouldn't trade them for the world."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Shelter Pet Project

I've been seeing some commercials around about The Shelter Pet Project, a cooperation between the Ad Council, Humane Society, and Maddie's Fund to raise awareness about the importance of animal adoption. Here is some interesting information from their very cute website:

According to The Humane Society of the United States and Maddie’s Fund, of the eight million pets that enter animal shelters and rescue groups every year, approximately three million of these healthy and treatable pets are euthanized due to a lack of adoption. While there has been steady progress on the issue (in the 1970s approximately 24 million pets were euthanized), the continued euthanasia of our best friends and family members is a national tragedy.

Adopting a pet is a life-changing and enriching experience. When adopting a pet, people are obtaining companions that give them unconditional love, affection, and attention. Adopting a pet from a shelter not only saves an animal's life, but is also good for our own well-being as research shows that owning a pet has many positive psychological and physical health benefits. The animals rescued from shelters know you’ve saved their lives, and they typically treat their rescuers with lifelong loyalty and affection.

-To eliminate the stereotype that there’s something wrong with shelter pets.
-To make shelters the first choice and desired way for acquiring a companion animal, ultimately increasing the rate of animals adopted from shelters.
-To encourage people to visit www.theshelterpetproject.org, to find out more information about how to adopt a pet from a shelter. The website also includes a "Pet Personals" section, where users fill out a questionnaire and are then matched with potential pets from a local shelter or rescue group.

-Each year approximately 4 million pets are adopted.
-Of the 8 million pets that enter animal shelters each year, approximately 3 million healthy and treatable pets are euthanized.
-It is estimated that 17 million people will acquire a pet within the next year.
-To save all the healthy and treatable pets that are euthanized, we just need 3 million of these people to adopt.
-In its 60 year history this is the first non-human focused issue that the Ad Council has worked on.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dog Holidays Calendar

(photo courtesy of Courtney Po Photography)

I thought I would depart from our usual interview format to bring you a fun way you can celebrate your adopted dogs: keep up with dog holidays on your calendar! I found a posting on Squidoo.com that actually tells you how to add a gadget (or whatever it's called) to your Google calendar that will automatically populate it with dog holidays. Check out the information at http://www.squidoo.com/dogholidays.

I found a more simplified pet holiday list at the Big Paw Designs website too: http://www.bigpawdesigns.com/napetho.html (I know nothing about their business - just was glad they had a calendar posted).

I was disappointed to find that we just missed "Squirrel Awareness Week!" Think of the fun we could have had with our dog: reading about squirrels together online, studying the different squirrels he should be chasing while out hiking; perhaps I would have even bought him a stuffed squirrel, but now he's going to have to wait until next year. Oh well, we still have "Cat Herders Day" to look forward to in December...

Monday, October 12, 2009


Leslie Brown is the chief editor of Dogspired, a great website for dog lovers to share stories. She's also a rescue advocate and the guardian of several adopted dogs. Here's her story:

HTB: I know you've rescued several dogs in your life. What prompted you to want to adopt a dog instead of buy one?

Leslie: I became very involved with Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest sanctuary in the country. I began to understand how shelter dogs needed homes more than dogs from a breeder. My interest led me to be very aggressive in saving dogs from destructive homes and either fostering them or taking them to the Humane Society where they had a chance of finding a better home environment.

HTB: What are some challenges you've faced with your dogs that may be unique to the fact that they were rescues?

Some of my rescue dogs were both wild and insecure, coming from a shelter or on the streets. Being older dogs for the most part, it was hard to train them, and although I gave them all the love that I could, they still carried around some scars from their puppyhood.

HTB: What is the greatest joy you've found in adopting dogs?

Leslie: I knew how much love I could give these dogs that were originally so sad and homeless. I was happy to give them a good home and a wonderful new life.

HTB: Tell us about Dogspired.com. What is it and how did you get involved?

Leslie: Originally, I found an ad on Craig’s List in the Seattle area calling for writers who love dogs. I was thrilled because I’ve been a writer for years, and have always had dogs. Dogspired looked like the perfect opportunity to share my stories about my many dogs. Most of the articles were and continue to be personal accounts of how inspiring being a companion to a dog can be. I added stories, and then asked about editing. I soon became Chief Editor, involved in the day-to-day writing and editing efforts of the blog. David (the founder) is amazing in how he manages the site, so it was easy to become passionate about making sure the articles, some correspondence, and some administrator involvement were the best that they could be.

HTB: How can the rescue community benefit from becoming a member of Dogspired.com?

Leslie: Dogspired is unique in that it allows for all kinds of stories about dogs, including many rescue stories, as well as any number of personal stories about dogs. The shelter stories are peppered with details about rescue and the joy that these dogs bring to people who adopt them. The rescue community can benefit from being involved with Dogspired by reading and becoming inspired by the many wonderful adoption stories that have happy endings.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An Extension of Her Motherhood: Sherry Carpenter--Journalist and Animal Care Provider

Guest feature by Walter Brasch

Ask Sherry Carpenter of Bloomsburg, Pa., anything about pets--any species, any breed--and she'll cheerfully give you the answer or find it for you. Just don't expect it to be a short conversation. She'll answer your question, then others you may not have asked, then others you didn't even know you needed to ask, leaping transitions of thought as quickly as she's available to help.

"As long as I'm talking, I'm always learning about others," she says. But, her rambling conversations are really a cover to keep others from probing too much into her life--"we're very private people," she says about her family. But, have a problem, especially about pets, and she'll talk all night if she has to, and she's not shy about talking about her English Springer Spaniels, three of whom were American Kennel Club champions.

Although she has raised AKC champions, her first English Springer Spaniel was from an SPCA shelter in New Jersey. "We had just lost Butch [a beagle]," she says, "and although we were still mourning him, we knew that you can't have a home without a dog." She doesn't remember why she chose Joy, but it was the first of many English Springer Spaniels who would be her companion.

Carpenter, an award-winning freelance journalist, is executive director of Animal-Vues, a national organization which promotes "compassion for animals, and to help strengthen the bond between animal professionals and the public." She takes no salary from Animal-Vues, and accepts only a fraction of the expenses to which she's entitled. "The work is more important," she says. In 1984, she and Dr. George Leighow, a Danville, Pa., veterinarian, founded Animal-Vues. The organization is an outgrowth of "Animal Crackers," a popular weekly radio show they hosted for more than a decade on WCNR-AM (Bloomsburg). Animal-Vues, says Carpenter, "has given my life focus, purpose, vitality, and joy." Animal-Vues has developed dog bite prevention programs, and is now working with local agencies to help autistic children to be able to be safe with dogs.

Among Animal-Vues' other missions is one to assist in training individuals and local governments about emergency disaster evacuation. Until four years ago, most disaster organizations refused to take pets, forcing their human companions either to abandon them or not seek shelter. Hurricane Katrina changed a lot of attitudes. Television cameras showed the tragedy of abandoned animals, but it also showed another reality. "Far too many people refused to be evacuated in New Orleans unless their pets could go with them," says Carpenter. Animal-Vues, which had pushed for pet evacuation for years, finally was able to help local and state governments figure out ways to provide shelter not just for people but their pets as well.

In addition to one-to-one counseling, Carpenter also taught non-credit classes about dogs and dog training at Bloomsburg University. Her six-session classes, with veterinarians as guest speakers, one of whom later became the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), covered first aid, animals rights, and grief counseling. "It put me in touch with pet owners, and gave me more purpose in what I do," she says.

This caring 77-year-old was always surrounded by animals, almost in opposition to her parents who, she says, "were not animal friendly." As a child, Carpenter brought frogs' eggs home and watched tadpoles hatch and go through metamorphosis to become an adult frog. She also had dogs and cats, turtles, rabbits, and birds--"any animal that can love you back," says Christian, her younger daughter and co-owner of Murphy Communications, an advertising/public relations firm in State College, Pa. But she especially loves horses. As a teenager, she and Red, a horse "with a lot of personality and playfulness," would go into the woods. "I'd ride him sometimes, but we often just walked together," she says. They'd stop, chat, rest, and think. Like many animals, Red died violently. A man who was boarding Red became annoyed at some of the horse's antics "and just shot him," says Carpenter. "You never get over that." She never owned another horse.

In one of the few contradictions in her life, although Carpenter is uncompromising in opposing cruelty to animals, she also believes that hunting is necessary, but "I couldn't be a hunter myself." Her father, a businessman, was a hunter and trapper. As her father became older, says Carpenter, "he became more compassionate," although he still enjoyed duck hunting. She doesn't talk much about her mother, except to say she was a Realtor and art gallery owner who liked to shoot birds.

Carpenter entered St. Lawrence University on a New York State Regent's Scholarship, planning to become a physician. In her senior year, she married, and decided to go to graduate school in education not medicine "so I could devote more time to raising a family." She earned an M.A. in one year at Alfred University, and then went to the University of Buffalo for doctoral work in psychology with additional courses at the medical school. She thought she could handle the demands of motherhood, psychology, and medicine. Six months into her first year of doctoral study, Carpenter dropped out.

"They were operating on brain centers in cats to test responses," says Carpenter, who says she will never forget having to decapitate the animals in order to take histological samples while the animals were still alive, then hearing their death gurgles. "I didn't like it," she says, not defiantly, but with reluctant acceptance. She pauses, thinks a bit, as if searching for the right words, and then quietly adds that the other reason she couldn't continue was "because I decided I'd rather be a mother full-time," something she could do to help develop life, not take it.

"She always wanted to be at home when we came home," recalls her older daughter, Sherilee, now an editor at Penn State. At home, Carpenter made sure her daughters developed a love of reading and writing. "She loved books about horses and dogs, but we read everything we could," says Sherilee, recalling that the family "seldom watched TV." Their mother "was pretty strict about that."

She was also strict about establishing rules and "making us be good to people," says Christian. "She taught us the spiritual side of life and what school can't teach you."

Carpenter says she was neither helped nor hindered by the feminist movement for equality, even when confronted by the flaming rhetoric that questioned why women would want to give up careers for motherhood. "Equality really means that each woman should be allowed to be whatever she can be," says Carpenter, proudly stating she is "so much because I am a mother."

Both daughters, when younger, constantly said they wanted to be mothers--"just like Mom." They married, but neither gave birth. "For many years, their nurturing instincts," says their mother, "have been sharpened by cats and dogs."

In 1969, Carpenter's husband, William, by then a corporate executive, had a stroke at the age of 39, leaving his left side paralyzed. "He had given up hope for recovery," says Carpenter, noting "I don't remember how many times I saw him fall." But he had the support of his wife and a special assistant. "Willie just looked at him and wondered what he was doing," says Carpenter. " Willie was an English Springer Spaniel, Ch. Holly Hills Winged Elm—"We called him Willie Lump Lump," says Carpenter. Willie was one of the first therapy dogs, an affectionate 50 pound bundle of encouragement. Willie helped William regain his will to do the necessary exercises to regain mobility; there was never any question as to which breed Sherry Carpenter would prefer over the next four decades. Because of Willie, Carpenter's husband improved and "never had to go on permanent disability."

The Carpenters had received Willie from the wife of a Penn State professor. "She told us that when Willie received his championship, we could have him." It's not uncommon for show dog owners to give away males, says Carpenter, noting " the female is more important in breeding."

Willie, "who gave us a great deal of joy," died in 1978. "He just laid down under an apple tree and died," says Carpenter. Willie, the fourth English Springer Spaniel the Carpenters owned was 10 years old. "He was such an influence on my life that I decided to pursue writing in order to give back to him all he had given to me." Carpenter thinks a moment, makes a couple of random thoughts, and then quietly adds, "I hope there will be service dogs like Willie for all our returning veterans suffering from physical or emotional disabilities."

Carpenter's husband, having regained most of his muscle use except for his left arm, eventually returned to a career in corporate personnel, including work at Johnson & Johnson in Somerville and Princeton, N.J., the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa.; and as personnel director of Centre County, Pa., home of Penn State, where both daughters graduated with journalism degrees. "I still go to the home football games," says Carpenter, almost as agile in climbing the steps to Beaver Stadium in 2009 as she did in the early 1970s when her daughters were journalism students at Penn State. Sherry and William Carpenter separated in the early 1990s; William died in 1998. By then, Sherry Carpenter had established herself as a journalist. Writing "was my own therapy," she says.

She had written her first magazine article while a high school student, using the income to "buy presents for my family and friends." During her four decade career, she was a newspaper reporter and columnist in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, a radio news director, a public relations account executive, and a substitute teacher, all part-time jobs, always a full-time mother. For almost 20 years, she wrote a monthly column for Dog World magazine. It was the first column to focus upon the Canine Good Citizen program, which is open to all breeds, whether pure-bred or mixed. Dogs must pass the program to become therapy or rescue dogs. Carpenter proudly recalls, "In some way, I hope my column had been the reason why that program expanded." Equally proud, she has kept many of the letters she received from readers "who said they learned something from my column."

Carpenter also wrote a weekly column for the Danville Daily News and the Sunbury Daily Item, both of them Pennsylvania dailies, and several articles for the AKC Gazette. She is the winner of five Maxwell medals from the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA). In addition to her column, she was honored by the DWAA for a video about the Canine Good Citizen program and a widely-used handbook for police officers to learn how to deal with dangerous dogs. She and Leighow also won a special DWAA award for their Animal Crackers radio show. Among other awards she received for her writing are two from the New Jersey Press Association and the Thomas Paine Award for Citizen Journalism. The Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association honored her in 2005 for her columns, one of the few times the PVMA gave any award to someone not a veterinarian.

Her insight into both psychology and medicine gives her a special perspective few writers have. She occasionally reviews scientific articles for the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and often contributes book reviews. "As a non-veterinarian, especially, it's a real mark of distinction," she says, her pride evident that she has been making a difference for pets, their companions, and those who work with them.

Like many who work for others, Sherry Carpenter doesn't have a large income, now living off of social security, a few investments, and small monthly checks from her writing. "Sometimes it doesn't matter how much you make as long as you enjoy what you're doing," she says. She pauses again, another of her rare pauses. She doesn't say much more about what she intentionally hides about her life, but she reveals all anyone needs to know. "Everything I do is an extension of my motherhood," she says. "That's just who I am."

For further information about Animal-Vues, contact the association at 570-784-037 or read the Carpenter blog

[Walter M. Brasch, an award-winning former newspaper reporter and editor, is a syndicated social issues columnist and professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University. His latest book is Sex and the Single Beer Can, a probing and humorous look at the nation's media. You may contact him through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Man and His Bike Make a Difference

Steve Martin and a group of friends founded Ride 2 The Rescue, a great example of how two passions - dog rescue and bicycling - can support each other. I hope this interview inspires you to take a look at your own passions and hobbies and see how you can use them for a greater good. Here's what Steve has to say about it:

HTB: Steve, tell me a little about your history with dogs. My understanding is that you lost your dog Jake, and in looking for a new dog you came to know about Lab rescue. Was Jake a rescue? What inspired you to become passionate about Lab rescue?

SM: No, Jake wasn't a rescue, but he was probably the reason we got so involved. He had a joint disorder as a pup (an OCD in the elbow.) The breeder offered to take him back, but of course we loved him too much by then -- and all his naughtiness. So, we agreed to accept his half sister, Sadie and get him a companion. She was eight months old, sweet and they hit it off instantly.

After Jake passed some 10 years later (bad to the last, stealing paper out of the trash before our last trip to the vet!) we went looking for another dog for Sadie. From our past experience we went back to breeders looking for an adult dog -- we were done with puppies. They turned us on to Lab Rescue. It was there passion and dedication that really got us hooked. Our contact, Pam, was so concerned about us, our emotions and finding the perfect dog for our environment, we couldn't help but feel part of their "family."

We rescued Emily, a sweet chocolate girl to round out our home and be there for Sadie. And, when Sadie passed from age and complications from diabetes, we adopted Shilo.

Sadly, Emily died suddenly and too young, so we are on the lookout yet again!

HTB: What is Ride 2 The Rescue? How does it work?

SM: Ride 2 The Rescue is a group of friends who share similar passions; cycling and dogs. My friends up north convinced me to train for a long ride in the mountains of Virginia, The Mountain Mama. It ended up being the most physically challenging thing I have ever done to date. The hard part was getting fit for mountain climbs when I live in flat, coastal Florida. So I began packing on the miles. Being summer, in Florida, it was hot -- exceptionally hot. As I rode I asked myself, what are you doing this for -- this is crazy? And right then I decided I could do it if I had the right motivation. Raising money for Lab Rescue and shelters seemed the most fitting. I talked to my friends to get involved, we started writing, designing and building the web site http://www.ride2therescue.com. The Web site is basically how we raise money and awareness, aside from word of mouth and tying in with other groups. But the message is we'll do the hard part by riding the miles, you just have to donate a little for our efforts.

HTB: Do you have any plans to fundraise for other rescues, or would you recommend others set up their own ride for rescue programs if they enjoy biking and would like to support rescue?

SM: Honestly, I focus on Lab Rescue but hope that other riders might join in and expand our efforts -- it is definitely needed. We ride events for a sense of camaraderie with a cause, but I would encourage people to share in our goals or start theirs locally. Cycling events happen all across the country all year long, and if you have a passion, it is a great "vehicle" for fund raising. One event we participate in has over 6,300 riders. That is a lot of impressions to see our logo and promote our Web site.

HTB: http://www.ride2therescue.com/How successful have your efforts been to date?

Our first year we raised over $2900. The best part was I later found out that Lab Rescue was out of money and my ride saved the group and helped them rebuild. Last year was tougher for several reasons, the economy mostly so we only garnered a fraction of year one's funds. But this year's efforts have already surpassed last year and I haven't even done my "official" first event yet. That shows promise for my cause and Lab Rescue.

HTB: What do you hope is the future for Ride 2 The Rescue?

SM: I hope Ride 2 The Rescue becomes well recognized across the country and becomes a way for cyclist to ride for a reason other than themselves. I have riders that participate from Florida, to the Carolina's, DC and Minnesota. I would like to see my group help spread the wealth to other rescue groups in their respective regions.

Give us three reasons that people should adopt:

SM: First, you get a dog that is thoroughly vetted, hopefully, by a rescue group and foster. As for Lab Rescue they make sure the dog is right for us, and we are right for the dog.

Dogs have no voice, they have no choice, only destiny. By adopting you can write that destiny with a "yappy ending."

Dogs only want to love unconditionally. So with an adoption and fee, in my opinion, money can buy you love.