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 is a good example of how, when something is close to your heart, you can make a difference. Diarmuid, founder of, 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.