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]