Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

yellow tennis ball…

In Animal Rescue, Life with dogs, Mindfulness, Pets on Monday, 10 June 2013 at 08:18

this is difficult for my skeptic mind to process, but i can’t really think of another explanation…

as i write this, i am simply dumbfounded.  i had been reading a lot about dog reincarnation, the various ways they might try and communicate to their people and reading if there is any merit  to dog reincarnation at all.  i kept reading that there would be a sign, a gut instinct, some kind of ‘pull’ you get, but most people also had some definitive sign, something that made them sure.  while, as i wrote before in my story of baloo and jude, there are so many signs that make me think jude is baloo.  i think one of the biggest for me was when i said baloo’s name in that funny and distinct way that he knew and would always respond to while all the puppies were sleeping and jude jumped up and then fell right back asleep while the others slept the whole time.  being that puppies at that age (4 days) cannot see or hear, i thought that was my most obvious sign and maybe the most obvious one i would get. but, i also knew that all the signs that made me feel as if jude and baloo were connected somehow (if not one in the same) were made by my interpretations.  some of the stories i read from others who believed in dog reincarnation and, in fact, had experienced this spoke of very distinctive signs.  but… baloo was never one for grand gestures.  still, all day yesterday after my research on dog reincarnation, i started wondering if i was wishing and hoping so much that i might be making more of it than it really was.  i also wished and wished for a sign.  a real sign.  something that would tell me that jude is THE ONE.  but…i was happy enough with my thinking this whole adventure had baloo’s hand (paw) in it and that if i believed it to be, no matter what, this experience was starting to heal a bit of my heart by just feeling him again.  i was just so grateful to have another chance, be it baloo or not, but another chance to ‘do it over’ and give jude all the love i gave baloo, but the beauty to be able to ‘know him’ from day one and have him never leave my side.

well, as i said, i am completely gobsmacked right now.  i came downstairs as i do every morning to bring martha her extra special breakfast (along with her extra special lunch and dinner and a bowl that is always full.  she needs to put on weight and i am sure trying to help her!), jude was lying on the spot i sit on whenever i am with the pups.  it’s a bunch of pillows right next to the baby pool.  “okay,” i thought, “that is interesting that she had him with her on the pillows, but maybe he needed some extra food or something.”  it was an odd coincidence to me, but since there have been so many of those, i didn’t make a huge deal out of it.  i kind of took it as a sign that maybe she was saying, “here’s YOUR baby” or just that it was what it was, jude was waiting for his other mama  so, i put him back, checked on everyone, gave martha her breakfast, and started to change the blankets in the pool.  i was just sitting down in my spot to get on the computer to post some “day 10” photos and there was a lump in the middle of the baby pool.  maybe i didn’t spread some of the blankets flat down.  i pressed on it and it was hard.  i had to pick the pool up to get to it.  not an easy thing to do when there are nine puppies sleeping in it!  as i write this part, i really don’t believe it myself, truly.  there are things i believe, but this was too much.  especially for me, the self-proclaimed skeptic who finds much to agree with in the writings of descartes and hume and their philosophical theory of skepticism.  although, none of us should live a life of radical skepticism…we’d go crazy.  check out pragmatism and dewey.  but, I digress.

under the pool, right in the middle, was a yellow tennis ball.  first, let me say that when baloo passed i got rid of all his balls.  no one else liked to fetch or even play with them and they reminded me of him.  funny thing is, he LOVED the ‘real’ tennis balls.  he would play with whatever ball was around (or any round object that could be a ball), but given the choice, he liked the ‘real’ ones and would choose those over the others.  about 4 months ago, i had been given some toys as a donation and there were a ton of balls.  these balls were made for dogs and came in all sorts of colors.  they were not the ‘real’ tennis balls, the bright yellow ones.  they are the only ones i had in my house.  trust me, i looked all over after baloo passed.  so, all i can say is that, to me, THIS is the sign i needed.  jude being right on ‘my’ spot this morning coupled with the bright yellow tennis ball hiding in the middle of the pool…i can’t find a reason to deny that baloo is here either in spirit or soul.

i do live behind some tennis courts, but they are so far away that, much to baloo’s dislike as he would hear all those balls being hit over and over and unable to get even one, they never make it over the fence.  i’m not going to completely deny that could happen but i was never lucky enough to find any in the yard for my baloo.  okay, so if that did happen for the first time in the ten years  i have lived in this house, then maybe martha brought it in to play with.  but…while i tend to be very pragmatic in my thinking, i can’t see any way she would have been able to lift the pool (with all her babies in there) and place the ball in the middle of the pool.  trust me, when i try to move the pool, it’s heavy to me, so that would surely be a feat for her to accomplish!  so, i am done looking for signs.  done trying to feel or see something that would convince me even more than the signs i was possibly interpreting to give support to the strong feelings i have about this whole situation.

in my mind, there is just no way this could be pure coincidence.  why would martha have moved only jude to ‘my’ spot so that he would be there this morning when i came in?  i am sure there could be a reason for that, but i do find it odd that she picked jude.  but…the ‘real’ tennis ball?!?!?!  there is just no way she could have done that.  it was in the middle of the pool with the babies in it.  not to mention the fact that i have tried to throw the ‘dog balls’ to her and she, like all my others, has no interest.  she won’t even bring it back to me.  i have NO idea how that ball even got there.  there are many of the brightly colored dog balls outside in my attempts to get her to fetch, but no yellow ones.  and, as i said, i got rid of all baloo’s balls.  not to mention the ball is brand new.  it still has that new smell.  and, even if the ball was from the courts, how it got to be under the baby pool that must weigh over 20 pounds with all the babies in it is an absolute mystery.  well, maybe not a mystery.  maybe it’s just baloo.

i am done looking for confirmation.  i would have still been convinced jude and baloo are joined, but as i said, some of the stories and articles i’ve read about dog reincarnation say there will be a moment when something happens that is a sign from the pet that passed.  something undeniable. i knew all the things that made me ‘think’ baloo’s spirit or soul was in jude, but the usually very pragmatic, rational, and always looking for ‘proof’ person in me admits to wondering if i was making more out of all these ‘signs’ and they might merely be conicidences.  as i said, had that been the case, i was fine with it as i do look at it as a second chance to be able to do it all over again and just let myself believe.

i sit here completely and utterly dumbfounded.  i belived, but the skeptic in me had a bit of doubt.  i have no more skepticism.  i will no longer look for ‘signs’ in jude or his behavior to support what i believe; i will no longer doubt.  whether baloo’s soul chose to enter jude or this is the one that baloo wants to be my special boy, i have no doubts.  this, coupled with everything else, tells me my baloo is with me.  either in spirit or in jude, but he is here.  i cannot express my thoughts clearly enough.  i am shocked, grateful, amazed, comforted, and have so many emotions right now.  and I also have my sign.  my heart is full and i look forward to watching jude grow and become the dog that he is becoming.  and, in true baloo fashion, knowing his mom as well as he does, on an almost visceral level, he has given me my sign that he knew i needed.  as if to tell me to stop with even that tiny shred of doubt and just accept it.  he knows how difficult that is for me to blindly believe, so i think he was telling me to just shut up and let it be.  accept what i believe.  and love this little guy with all my heart.

once again, baloo, i am amazed by you.

10 june 2013

for more about martha and the pups please go to:


it is an open group and anyone can join.


flapping hands and wagging tails…

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, Child/Adolescent Psychology, Humane Education, Life with dogs, Pets, School Psychology on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 at 06:02

Your Hands Tell Me When You’re Happy

By: Stewart Duncan

Christmas was one week away, the excitement building as we prepared presents for friends and family. We laughed as we changed the words to our favorite Christmas songs, drank Egg Nog and opened the next door to find out what shape the next chocolate was in our advent calendars.


As we talk about Santa and what each of us is hoping for, I lean over to my son Cameron and say “Do you know how I always know when you’re happy?”


He said “No, how?”

I replied “Your hands tell me.”

He smiled and said “because I flap my hands!”

At that point, he began bouncing on his toes and flapping his hands so hard that I thought he might fly.

Beside us, sitting up against my hip, was my dog Spirit. She is Cameron’s best friend and, I think, Cameron is her best friend too.

I said to Cameron “Cameron, do you know how I always know when Spirit is happy?”

He said “No.”

I told him “Because her tail tells me.”

Again, the excitement building as he flapped his hands really hard, “She wags her tail!!”

I explained to him that Spirit doesn’t have hands so she wags her tail but I imagine that it’s very much the same feeling. There’s just so much happiness inside that it has to come out.

I told him that I know some people might bug him about it, some people might say silly things or tell him that he shouldn’t… but I’ll never stop him from showing me how happy he is.

He got up and gave me a big hug.


About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

Retrieved from:  http://www.stuartduncan.name/autism/your-hands-tell-me-when-youre-happy/

awesome reading suggestions for a rainy, dark saturday…

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Genes, Life with dogs, Pets on Saturday, 23 February 2013 at 15:41


a story of rescue…

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Life with dogs, Pets on Monday, 11 February 2013 at 16:02


humane education and issues in animal rescue-new blog

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Life with dogs, Pets on Monday, 11 February 2013 at 06:50


a girl and her puppy…

In Animal Rescue, Happiness, Humane Education, Life with dogs, Pets on Monday, 11 February 2013 at 04:50

animal rescue is important for so many reasons.  not only are you changing the life of the animal, but the life or lives of the  lucky ones to adopt that animal.  a great deal of research has been done on the multitude of benefits of companion animals (physiological, psychological, academic, etc…) and those who live with companion animals will forever be better for it.  the hours and hours spent taking care of a foster (or fosters), the money spent, the many baths, walks, lessons…all the things rescuers do with pleasure are even more worth it when you see something like the video below.

the story behind the video…riley came to volunteer with angels among us pet rescue (www.angelsrescue.org) and her mom is a good friend of the foster mom (me) to a litter of beagle/basset puppies, so she has known them since they were saved (there were six). riley’s mom fell in love with the one we called gretl. when riley came to volunteer, she IMMEDIATELY fell in love with gretl as well (like mother, like daughter). riley spent the adoption day with gretl and when she had to leave, cried and cried knowing that she would likely get adopted and riley would not see her again. in riley’s mind, she was the “best one” and riley could not imagine she would not be snatched up immediately! when she left, she got to the car and started to cry. riley said she was crying because she was sad about leaving her, but was happy for gretl because she would certainly find a home. little did riley know, plans were being made at that very moment that involved her and gretl. riley went home to her mom’s house that night and, unbeknownst to riley, her dad came to meet gretl and pick her up for a “sleepover” to make sure all was well with gretl and their dog without riley knowing in case it did not work out. it actually worked out better than could have been imagined and gretl and her “big brother” love each other. THIS is a video of riley getting to her dad’s house with NO IDEA what, or actually, who, would be there to greet her. what you see is pure joy and love and the reason i devote my life to animal rescue. rescue ONE until there are NONE.

videos edited by jimmy burrito with a little help from his mom…

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Life with dogs, Pets on Monday, 28 January 2013 at 07:49

here are some wonderful videos of recent angels among us pet rescue animals.  the videos were made by a wonderful aau volunteer, janet, and recent foster failure, jimmy burrito.  when we say “foster failure” it is really the ultimate foster success as the foster parent ends up realizing that their foster animal is already right where they belong, with their foster parent!  foster becomes adopter and all us “failures” get the ultimate gift.  saving a life, then seeing that life lived out free from abuse, uncertain death, neglect.  so, in reality, everyone wins!!!

jimmy burrito, janet's recent foster failure and editing partner.

jimmy burrito, janet’s recent foster failure and editing partner.

i am proud to have my own foster failures, maddie and callie.  maddie was saved 30 minutes before she and her brother were going to be taken “back” to be killed.  they were shelter favorites, having stayed many months as part of a cruelty case. like so many black dogs (maddie has some white markings, her brother was all black), they are the first killed in shelters and the most overlooked.  they are killed more than many others because they are black.  maybe none of the interesting markings some people like?  i think black dogs are fabulous.  i have always had multiple black dogs and will continue.  

my other foster failure is callie.  callie was at the shelter with horrific acid burns down her back,  it has been reported that dog fighters do this to “bait” dogs.  at any rate, callie’s burns have healed and she has what looks like a white lightening streak where her hair is growing back.  despite whatever she has been through, she is one of the sweetest, most playful, loving dogs ever.

if you would like to help out by becoming a foster home, please look up your local rescue or, if you are in or around the atlanta area, please go to http://www.angelsrescue.org and, if you are looking to add a pet to your family, please adopt, don’t shop.

rescue ONE until there are NONE! 


maddie my foster failure...saved with her brother one hour before they were scheduled to be killed after being part of a cruelty case.  maddie has a condition called "cerebellar hypoplasty" similar to cerebral palsy.  i hope to one day take her to classes with children who have cp, so they can meet her.

maddie my foster failure…saved with her brother one hour before they were scheduled to be killed after being part of a cruelty case. maddie has a condition called “cerebellar hypoplasty” similar to cerebral palsy. i hope to one day take her to classes with children who have cp, so they can meet her.

callie in her pajamas.   all 16 pounds of her!!!

callie in her pajamas. all 16 pounds of her!!!

puppy cam…

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Life with dogs, Meditation, Mindfulness, Pets, Well-being on Sunday, 27 January 2013 at 09:13

colleges now have “puppy rooms” during final so that students (and staff) can go in and spend time with puppies during what is a stressful time with finals and late nights studying.





just spending time with animals has been shown to lower blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety, heighten feelings of well-being…the research consistently supports the use of “animal assisted therapy” time and time again.  i can also speak from my own experiences with my very own pet therapist, linus, who has been working in the schools with me since he was a baby (this is his 11th year!).

linus, my pet therapist...

linus, my pet therapist…

while it would be great if all places of business, schools, colleges, etc. could have a puppy room (or a pet therapist/professional pet cuddler), two of my wonderful rescue friends have created “puppy cam.”  so far, there was puppy cam I, featuring liza and her puppies who all got adopted…then puppy cam II, with the two feist puppies, and now, puppy cam III where mia has JUST HAD PUPPIES starting at about 0100 this morning!!!  so, now we have new puppies to watch!  

so, in the same vein, i am posting the link to the angels among us puppycam so that, hopefully, you can watch when you are feeling stressed or just in need of watching the unconditional and instinctual love of a mom for her pups and watch the pups as they grow and develop. 

PUPPY CAM LINK: http://www.badferret.net/puppycam/

i hope you enjoy watching mia and her babies as much as we all do!  for more information, please visit http://www.angelsrescue.org or like our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/angelsrescue?fref=ts

for information regarding some of the many benefits of pet ownership, please see : http://wp.me/p2IpfL-2q

Watch “Just One Chance: A Story of Angels” on YouTube

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Education, Humane Education, Life with dogs, Pets on Saturday, 26 January 2013 at 17:02

know the statistics…

In Education, General Psychology, Humane Education, Personality Disorders, Pets, School Psychology, School violence on Sunday, 16 December 2012 at 12:47


Pet loss

In Life with dogs, Pets on Monday, 1 October 2012 at 06:22

When my dog Lucky died, I disappeared too

By Bob Sullivan, TODAY

Among the cruelest truths of biology is this: A dog’s life is considerably shorter than a human’s life. The math is unforgiving; if you love a dog, you will lose a dog, and you will suffer the pain and biting lessons that death brings — probably several times over.

A million things are wrong when your dog dies. Here’s just one: You become invisible.

My Lucky passed away a year ago this spring and my loss was profound; those of you who’ve been through this understand; those of you who haven’t, I’m not nearly a good enough writer to describe it to you. My grief was complicated because, as my reporting sidekick for many years, Lucky was a mini-celebrity. He had completed several cross-country trips with me as we chronicled American life. We even had a theme song (“It’s Bob and Lucky’s/Hidden Fee Tour of America!”). He was a fantastic journalist. And he died suddenly, just as we were going to leave on a new trip, so I had the task of disappointing readers and sources from coast to coast, telling them that Lucky wouldn’t be sticking his head out my Jeep window this time.

But my sadness grew even deeper as I realized that my entire life, right down to how I interact with the world, had changed. Pet owners know the “You’re Fido’s owner!” phenomenon well. Plenty of neighborhood folks knew me only by my dog. They knew his name, not mine. When he passed away suddenly, I felt like I’d disappeared.

I wrote a column about turning to social media for comfort in my time of grief. It was among the most popular pieces I’d ever written, even though it had nothing to do with my day job. No question, the Internet helped.

But Facebook friends and retweets are a meager replacement for the dozens smiles and laughs from strangers that spoiled me daily, thanks to Lucky. They were gone now.

When my dog Lucky died, I disappeared too

By Bob Sullivan, TODAY

Walking my old Lucky around the block was like going to a never-ending cocktail party. Everyone would stop for a pet, and a chat, and 30 minutes later I had 10 new friends. Now, I would arrive home from work, dreading the thought of walking into an empty apartment, and set out to walk around the block. I got in the habit of taking the slowest stroll I could, as if I’d become the aging geriatric dog that Lucky never got to be. It wasn’t just my heart that hurt; it felt like every muscle of my body suffered a dull ache, as if my blood didn’t really have the heart to push its way through my veins any more. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

The worst was the blank stares. If I did, occasionally, work up the strength to smile at a sidewalk passer-by, I’d get an odd look, if I got any response at all. There certainly was no stopping for idle chat. Sure, some neighbors I knew better did pause and ask me how I was doing, but it wasn’t nearly the same. The party was over.

In the 1960s, psychiatrist Eric Berne introduced a new model of psychology that he ultimately called Transactional Analysis. It has many components, but the simplest is this: Our days and nights are filled with small and large “transactions” between people. A quick hello from a friend is a small, positive transaction, while a dirty look from another driver is a negative one. A deep conversation with a lover is a large transaction — it might be positive or negative, depending on the outcome. Berne believed that people’s happiness was a function of how these transactions went, and how many positive interactions a person piled up during the day. He believed that positive transactions were as important to mental health as water and food are to physical health. Chart a few days of your interactions with people, and I think you’ll become convinced that Berne was onto something.

When Lucky died, I lost probably 100 or more happy transactions every day. The ache I felt was primal. Berne would say I was starving. OK, I’ll say that.

Enter Rusty.

As pet owners know, you can’t just replace your lost loved one. Pets aren’t like cars or refrigerators. The timing is different for everyone, but you must wait until the time is right, lest you cheat yourself out of that critical soul-searching “in-between time,” and you cheat your new dog by expecting the pup to be too much like your old dog.

So I waited a year….past the point when every day was a sad anniversary…and mentioned to a friend that after a long summer vacation, I thought I’d be ready to love again. During my trip, she found Rusty at a shelter, facing an uncertain end. When I got home, he was, essentially, waiting at my door for me.

There are a million reasons not to get a dog, and anyone who’s ever thought about it can cite them all chapter and verse. You travel too much; your apartment is too small; you don’t want your stuff destroyed, peed on, or chewed up, you don’t want to miss after-work happy hours; you don’t want to disturb the neighbors. All those can be good reasons, as taking on a pet is a serious, life-long commitment to be made with both head and heart. The problem is that while the reasons not to get a dog are specific, and easy to cite, the benefits of having a dog are far more subtle, and hard to count. Let me clumsily offer one:

You become visible. Dogs make you somebody in the eyes of the universe.

Maybe the isolation I felt after Lucky died says something about alienation in modern life, and the fact that people would rather text than smile while walking; or about the cruelness of urbanity, the heavy social armor city-dwellers must wear to protect themselves. Or maybe it just says people in some places aren’t friendly enough. Whatever — dogs are the world’s best icebreakers, and that can’t be argued.

I don’t know a lot about Rusty’s past, but I do know he hadn’t been on a leash very much before meeting me, and I’m pretty sure no one had ever told him to lie down. As a roughly 8-month-old golden retriever, Rusty is at the age that often gets dogs in trouble. Dogs’ bodies grow much faster than their brains. Rusty is almost full-grown, but he’s still very much a puppy. That means he has puppy fits, when he wants to jump on everything and everyone, he wants to steal food, socks, remote controls, and anything else that I don’t want him to steal.  If he’s not getting what he wants, he literally bats people — in the face, even! — with his paw. He can’t resist trying to wrestle with every dog we encounter. In short, he’s doing things that would be adorable if he were 15 pounds, but are dreadful now that he’s 50 pounds. This is the age at which many dogs end up in shelters.

But Rusty is also a beautiful, auburn-red golden retriever who melts hearts as easy as he chases tennis balls. Passers-by can’t resist patting the fur on his soft, soft head. The second someone shows the slightest bit of interest (“What a cute dog! He’s so red! What is he?), he hurls himself onto his back, on his “victim’s” shoes, and demands a belly rub. One block=30 minutes. At least. And at least 100 or more smiles, hellos, handshakes, how-do-you-dos, etc.  An NBC colleague often reminds me that golden retrievers are the bartenders of the dog world. True, but I know Rusty isn’t just being friendly for the tips.

Transactional therapy has few real advocates now. It’s viewed as old-fashioned and incomplete. But you’ll find fewer more thought-provoking books than Berne’s “Games People Play,” which describes the stunts people pull (rackets, Berne calls them) to fill their emotional needs when they aren’t being filled through normal daily life. Since learning about it years ago, I’ve often thought about the troubles of suburban life in America. It’s possible to walk from your house into your garage, drive to work, pull into the office garage, and take the elevator to the cubicle without ever interacting with another human being. That life might not be sad, but it’s certainly not happy. Berne would say it’s like trying to get through the day without eating.

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I’ll just say that, according to the American Humane Society, 61 percent of U.S. Households are dogless, and that number is creeping up slightly because of the recession, as some people give up their pets for financial reasons. Those folks might not know what they’re missing.

It’s been about a month now, and Rusty has changed everything. I’m unmistakably visible —particularly to friendly folks my dog pees on when he gets so excited as they are petting him that he literally can’t contain himself. Last Sunday, walking down the block, a small puppy and his companion walked towards Rusty and me. Our dogs played, while we chatted. Then, a man walking two other dogs arrived. More playing, more talking. A petless woman we’d met the day before, who missed her childhood dog, strolled up and joined the fun. Then, an older woman and a pug nicknamed “Piggy” snorted their way towards our dogpile. I mean, our spontaneous cocktail party. I loved every minute of it; my heart was filling up.

I’m sure Lucky paused from chasing a tennis ball in heaven to smile down at the scene.

To those who walked this walk with me, who contributed to my So Lucky dog memorial page, thank you. To anyone who feels invisible, or even sad — the ASPCA estimates that 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year in the United States. The life you save may be your own.

Retrieved from: http://animaltracks.today.com/_news/2012/09/12/13825121-when-my-dog-lucky-died-i-disappeared-too#.UFEgvqZGedM.email

When Lucky died: A grief observed, on social media

By Bob Sullivan, TODAY

In fact, finding others who understand is probably the only way to get through it. This story will explain how this devoted skeptic of social media found it to be a great source of comfort during my time of great need.GOLDEN, Colo. — There’s a reason the expression goes “You look like your dog just died.” Losing a dog is a sadness so profound that it’s useless to explain to anyone who hasn’t been through it.

Many of you know that last year I traveled America with my golden retriever, sniffing out scams and ripoffs as part of “Bob and Lucky’s Hidden Fee Tour of America.” (There was even a theme song.) Naturally, Lucky stole the show, getting on national TV twiceand appearing live on local TV in several towns along the way from Washington to Seattle. His pawprint was far more popular than my signature at every book signing. We made hundreds of friends in dozens of newsrooms, bookstores, hotels and rest stops along the way. He spent nearly all of those 3,000 miles with his head nudged onto my right shoulder, leaving drool stains on the right arm of every shirt I had brought for the trip.

We were all set to make the same trip this summer, but Lucky decided to go on a longer road trip instead, taking the expressway to dog Heaven on June 11. He was roughly 10 years old — he was a rescue, and he landed in my life eight years ago — and the calendar said I should be ready for this. I was not. He acted like a puppy until the day he died. Right to his last afternoon, every muscle of his oversize body was desperate to say hello to every man, woman and squirrel we encountered. So it was a complete shock when he died of heart trouble — an enlarged heart, to no surprise — during one horrible night at the vet a few weeks ago.

I am writing this piece in Golden, Colo. — that’s an accident, but a good one. Lucky sure would have liked it here: My hotel is crawling with dogs.

* * *

Comparing personal tragedies is a game you should never play, and I would never dare say my sadness is equal to that of anyone who’s lost a job, a home or a child. I will say simply that in losing Lucky this month, my sorrow is complete. When I finally got home to my family about 5 a.m. that awful night, I lay in bed wide awake and could feel every cell of my body hurt. I can still feel that as I type now. No one, nowhere, will ever love me like Lucky did. He was typically food-obsessed, scarfing every meal in seconds, but there was one time he wouldn’t eat — if I were rushing in the morning and threw food in his bowl on my way out the door. On those occasions, when I came home after work, I would find his food still in the bowl. In the morning, he’d followed me to the door, laid down and waited there for me all day. The second I opened the door, he’d say a quick hello, and then the poor starved animal would run to eat his breakfast at 6 p.m. He just couldn’t eat without me. Now, I feel the same way.

This kind of loss leaves you searching for answers, and in the sleepless nights that followed I spent a lot of time fruitlessly reading about enlarged hearts, alternatively looking for an explanation that might calm my racing analytical mind or an excuse to blame myself for the ailment to distract my aching heart.

You probably know the ending to that trip. I found no answers. But I did find a lot of places to share. For all its faults, the Internet is very good at sharing. In particular, for all the scary things about social media — Facebook’s consistent abuse of privacy and the Twitterverse’s self-absorption — I found these tools indispensible in my grief.

Sharing makes nothing better. It doesn’t replace a wet nose, a joyful face, the endless presence of love that follows you everywhere. But still, sharing eases pain.

* * *

Of course, there’s nothing new about online grieving. People have been finding new and sometimes strange ways to express loss and mourning since the arrival of the Internet. Virtual wakes appeared almost as soon as Web pages did.

Among the newest forms of digital mourning: following someone on Twitter who has recently died. Ryan Dunn, a TV personality made famous through the TV and movie franchise Jackass, had 30,000 followers before he died in an automobile crash June 22. Now, he has 145,000 after a surge of followers arrived when the news hit. Why would someone follow a recently deceased person? The urge to connect, and the Internet’s ability to deliver it, sometimes both seem to be stronger than even mortality itself.

Online mourning raises sticky issues. You might have noticed not all Web users maintain a sense of decorum or class. Posting a page describing your grief opens you up to hurtful sarcasm, or worse. For that reason, Facebook now offers a “memorial” state for accounts of the deceased that blocks strangers from making posts.

Still, the urge to virtually eulogize — even among strangers — is strong, as evidenced by the success of a relatively new site named 1000Memories.com, which makes it easy for loved ones to create a memorial page for the deceased. It promises to never allow advertising or to charge a subscription fee. Bring your Kleenex if you click.

* * *

As in “real” life, mourning the loss of a pet doesn’t get quite the same regard as mourning the loss of a person, and perhaps it shouldn’t. You can’t tell me that right now, however.

When Lucky first died, I spent a lot of time reading Web sites that offer advice on surviving the loss of a beloved pet. There’s many places offering tips on how to cope. I suspect some would find them helpful. I did not. The sheer amount of people discussing the problem helped me hang on to my sanity, however. A couple of the better sites are here and here.

There are also a number of sites that allow grieving pet owners to post memorials of their lost dogs, with pictures and paragraphs that serve as online odes to the beloved pets. Some of these post advertisements; some promise not to. I chose not to put Lucky on any of these sites, but reading through the stories there, I found,  helped a little. Misery loves company. Here’s a few:






But using the Internet as part of the mourning process, rather than just a source of information, was much more effective, I learned. Plus, I was facing an immediate problem. Lucky was a social butterfly and had hundreds of close friends. And I’d already promised readers another Red Tape road trip with Lucky as the mascot for my blog. How would I tell everyone?

When someone you love dies, there is always the complicated and painful affair of telling others about the tragedy. The conversations often force you relive the horrible moments, when people naturally ask questions like “How did it happen?” No one knows what to say, and you, as the recipient of the kindness, always sense that and spend your energy trying to make sympathizers feel better instead of saving your strength for you.

When a dog dies, less sensitive non-dog-owners will inevitably ask a dumb question like “So, are you going to get another dog now?” as if you were trading in a used car. Others will just breeze past the sadness with a trite “He had a good life,” and change the subject.

It all begins to feel like piling on, and sometimes you just can’t face all that pain at once.

Facebook turned out to be a powerful friend in this dilemma.  I wrote a simple status update that explained the basics and created a photo album for Lucky. I was able to tell most of my friends and family at once. It was the most effective way I could avoid telling and re-telling the story hundreds of times. As is custom now, I changed my Facebook avatar picture to an image of Lucky, which signals to Facebook users that something might be wrong. I did the same with my professional Facebook page, letting readers know that he wouldn’t make my coming trip for the saddest of reasons; I called attention to the notice by Tweeting it.

I was surprised that pressing “share” on Facebook turned out to be another one of those painful goodbye moments, like packing up his dog toys or placing his dog collar around my car’s rear-view mirror. I knew it would set off another chain reaction of sadness, but I was committed to getting that part over with as soon as I could.

I expected to cry again.  I didn’t expect the incredible outpouring of love that came flying through the Internet during the next 48 hours. There is just something about losing a dog, and either you know about it or you don’t. I heard from hundreds of people who did, strangers who expressed deep sympathy and then sent me their own tales about their beloved pets who’d passed away. One woman I heard from was even named Sullivan and had lost her dog named Lucky.

The notes I got from friends touched my heart even more. Many confessed to secretly giving treats to my dog when I wasn’t watching (I was very strict) or reminded me of long-forgotten sweet moments. I won’t tire you with stories of how special Lucky was. Your dog is just as special, no doubt. But Lucky lived an amazing life and brought not just joy but healing everywhere he went.  Indulge me this one tale:

A friend and co-worker told me a secret I’d never heard that was seven years old. She’d lost a baby to a rare childhood illness, and would often seek out Lucky when the depths of her sadness were unbearable. “Things just seemed better” after playing with him, she said. “He just seemed to get people, intuit what they needed and purely, simply offered love.”

My dog was able to comfort a woman grieving the loss of her baby, and I never even knew about it. Oh, did that make me cry. Every time I re-read her note, I cry.

But somehow, things seemed better. All these kind thoughts, these memories, these well-wishes — they felt as important as food and water to me during this time.

I think this point is particularly important for men, who in are society are neither well equipped to give nor to receive this kind of emotional outpouring in public. I was able to privately read these notes over and over when I needed to, particularly when a wave of sadness came, and somehow, it did make things better. I was in awe of how much good Lucky did in his short life.

None of this has made hotel rooms less lonely as I make my way across country now. I miss the way Lucky would charge into each new room, taking complete inventory of the place with his nose and then try to beat me to the toilet bowl. His breathing at night —even his snoring — was more powerful than any sleeping pill. It’s so strange not having to wake up early and run outside to search for just the right patch of grass so Lucky can  do his business.

Sharing things on social networks is hardly foolproof. Despite how it seems, not everyone reads Facebook every day. Plenty of readers and sources I’ve encountered on this road trip have still asked me why Lucky wasn’t with me. Then they felt bad, and I felt bad.

But Facebook and Twitter saved me hundreds of these dreadful encounters and eased my pain. For me, it was the perfect tool for tastefully sharing bad news and for facing grief head on. Social media 1, social media critic 0.

I know I will get another dog someday, probably sooner than seems right now. As another friend put it, “another fellow will just wander up to your campfire when the time is right.” But that’s not until I get over the irrational anger I feel every time I see a healthy dog running, jumping and wagging his tail. I’m going to be sad for a while, and that’s how this is supposed to work. For now, I will hope and pray that whatever family has my future rescue pet today is taking good care of him and that whatever the reason they will eventually put him up for adoption, the pain of separation will not be too great for them or him.

Retrieved from: http://redtape.nbcnews.com/_news/2011/06/30/6979113-when-lucky-died-a-grief-observed-on-social-media?lite#__utma=40784765.1908236897.1347448063.1347454467.1347461478.3&__utmb=40784765.1.10.1347461478&__utmc=40784765&__utmx=-&__utmz=40784765.1347461478.3.3.utmcsr=newsvine.com|utmccn=(referral)|utmcmd=referral|utmcct=/_nv/publish/blog&__utmv=40784765.|8=Earned%20By=todayshow%7Ctoday%7Ctoday%20pets%20%26%20animals%7Canimaltracks=1^12=Landing%20Content=Original=1^13=Landing%20Hostname=animaltracks.today.com=1^30=Visit%20Type%20to%20Content=Internal%20to%20Original=1&__utmk=87462301

Pet overpopulation…an Illustration.

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Humane Education, Pets on Saturday, 15 September 2012 at 10:41

It really adds up!

please spay/neuter


for my fellow animal rescuers…

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Humane Education, Pets on Saturday, 15 September 2012 at 10:35

animal rescue is one of the most rewarding things i do, but also one of the most gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, and difficult.  but…the rewards are immeasurable.  still, some advice for my fellow rescuers:

“Rescuers Need Rescue, too.”

 By Chandra Moira Beal

 Animal rescue is deeply rewarding yet extremely difficult work.  To survive in this realm, one must find healthy ways to cope with the emotional challenges.

Here are 10 points to ponder:

1. You can’t save them all.  Even if you spent every hour of every day working to save animals, you still wouldn’t be able to save them all.  Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in your efforts.

2. Work smarter, not harder.  Manage your rescue efforts like a business.  Organize tasks to make the best use of time.  For example, time spent recruiting more volunteers may make more sense in the long run than trying to do more yourself.  If you find yourself pulled in many directions, you might be more effective if you focus on one rescue facility, one geographic locale, or one species or breed.

3. Just say no.  Many people feel guilty when they can’t take care of everything that comes up.  Be realistic about how much you can handle!  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to say, “I can’t right now.”  Delegate to others when possible, and ask for help when you need it.

4. You are making a difference.  Whenever you question whether you’re  helping very much, remember the old parable about the man walking on the  beach, picking up starfish who have washed ashore and tossing them gently,  one by one, back into the ocean.  Another man approaches, notices that there are starfish on the beach for as far as the eye can see, and asks, “What difference can you possibly make when there are so many?”  Looking at the creature in his hand, the first man replies, “I can make all the difference in the world to THIS starfish.”

5. Celebrate victories.  There are happy endings to many rescue stories.  Rejoice in what is working.  Of course, seeing an animal go home with a loving family is the greatest reward of all.

6. Small kindnesses do count.  It’s common to think that small efforts don’t mean as much as large victories, but stopping to pet an animal, even for just one minute is worth doing.  Your touch may be the only friendly attention he or she receives that day.  Grooming, holding and comforting, or intoning softly that you care, are activities that many shelters don’t have time for.

7. Find outlets for emotional release.  Rescue work can be physically exhausting, emotionally draining and spiritually challenging.  Don’t dismiss your feelings or think you’re a wimp for being affected by it all.  Talk to someone you trust about what you’re experiencing. Cry when you need to.  Write your feelings in a journal.  Channel your emotions into action by writing to the editor of your newspaper or your local representatives about the need for animal protection legislation.

8. Take care of yourself.  Make time to do whatever makes you feel good.  Take a relaxing bath, or go out to dinner and let someone else do the cooking.  You need to recharge your batteries in order to maintain mental and physical health.

9. Don’t downplay your compassion.  When people ask me why I rescue animals,  often I’m tempted to say, “Oh, it’s not big deal” or “Somebody’s got to do  it,” when in reality I rescue animals because I care so deeply about them.  Compassion is healthy, normal and necessary for this work.  Let people know how important this cause is to you.  You just might inspire others to become involved.

10. Never give up.  When you get discouraged, it is tempting to throw in the towel.  Despite all your hard work, you may not see real change in your lifetime.  Still, giving up won’t make it any better.  Take a break, and come back fighting.  And remember the man and the starfish.


and for those who may not be able to actively rescue but want to help:

What Can One Person Do?


Here are some suggestions about items to donate and ways to volunteer. The suggestions are based on what many local animal organizations and animal control officers typically need.

Please note: It’s always a good idea to start by checking with your local rescue group or shelter to see what kind of help they really need, Some groups may be desperately in need of materials, like dogs beds, that you’d be willing to provide. Another group may benefit more by getting help with publicity. Checking with the staff first ensures that your donation or service will genuinely be of help to the organization.

These suggestions are based on what many local animal organizations and animal control officers need. Be sure to check with your local groups to see if they can use the type of help you would most like to provide. For example; if you’d like to help get publicity, you’ll want to ask in advance if the organization would like your assistance – after all, you want to be sure that your donation or service is genuinely of help.

Things you may be able to give:

Basic things many shelters can use:

•               Bedding; towels, sheets, blankets, a cat or dog bed, carpet squares

•               Cleaning supplies

•               Cat and dog food, cat litter, toys, collars, leashes

•               Scratching posts, metal bowls, dog crates, grooming supplies

You don’t have to spend a lot of money: Perhaps you are no longer using some of these items around the house, or you may spot them at a yard sale or thrift store.

Doghouses: If you have an old doghouse that isn’t being used, you can clean it up and pass it along for a dog in your neighborhood who could use it. Or give it to your local animal control agency and ask that it be given to a needy dog. Sometimes feral cat groups can refurbish and use doghouses.

Office stuff: office supplies, computers, office furniture, or equipment. The next time your office is upgrading equipment ask about donating it to the local shelter.

Coupons: Some shelters can use free or discount coupons for animal food or cat litter.

Medical supplies: Many spay/neuter clinics and some shelters can use medical supplies.

Humane traps.

Use of a photocopier: Many groups cannot afford a copy machine and would appreciate an opportunity to duplicate flyers and forms.

Prizes for fundraising auctions or raffles.

Things you may want to do:

Be a foster home. Open your home to an animal that needs a place to live and learn until he/she can find a home.

Set up a donation coin can or food program. Create donation cans and place them in area businesses OR pet food donation collection bins at local super markets.

Fix an animal. Help a friend or acquaintance fix their pet. To find a local low-cost spay neuter program call 1-800-248 PETS OR 1-888-PETS911 OR visit: http://www.1888pets911.org

Donate your special skills and talents:

•               Computer skills: Create or manage a website for a local group, or help create a mailing list database.

•               Desktop publishing skills: Create a brochure, newsletters, or posters.

•               Sewing, knitting, or crocheting talent: Offer to make pet beds or catnip mice.

•               Building/Construction skills: Make repairs around the shelter, or build doghouses or feral cat shelters

and feeding stations.

•               Writing talent: Offer to write their newsletter or an article for the local paper.

•               Organizational skills: Help out with administrative tasks or event planning.

•               Gardening skills: Ask if you can help beautify the landscaping around the shelter.

Provide care for shelter animals. Volunteer to clean cages, feed, groom, or walk the animals in a local shelter.

Feed a feral, or two, or three. . . Many organizations practice trap/neuter/return and can use help with feeding cats. Offering to help with feeding once or twice a week can provide a nice break for a busy caregiver.

Promote animal adoptions:

•               List homeless animals on an adoption website (contact us for a list of sites).

•               Photograph shelter animals.

•               Create adoption posters and hang them around the community.

Tell your friends and neighbors. Don’t underestimate the value of word of mouth. Tell others what you are doing and why. Invite them to help out too.

Larger projects you could help to organize:

Plan a fundraising event. This could be as simple as holding a yard sale and donating the proceeds to a shelter, or as involved as planning a benefit auction or walk-a-thon. We have helpful information on planning some types of events.

Organize an adoption event. We have a manual on planning Super Adoption events and off-site adoption programs.

Coordinate a local feral cat spay/neuter program or one-day event.  We can offer advice on how to do this.

Start a local organization or program. Create a community animal welfare group or volunteer Brigade to help other local groups. We can send you information on starting a local program to help the animals.

Start a community e-group to help unite like-minded people, spread the word about animals in need of homes, promote local events, and volunteer opportunities. An excellent model is the Austin Pets Alive No-Kill Handbill. You can see a sample at: http://www.io.com/~mvb/ARCHIVE/ or subscribe at: http://www.austinpetsalive.org

Create a local event: You could plan a local observance of: National Homeless Animals’ Day (www.isaronline.org), National Feral Cat Day (www.alleycat.org), or Spay Day USA (www.ddaf.org).

Start a Week for the Animals. We have a manual to help you create a Week for the Animals in your town, city or state.

Retrieved from: http://www.bestfriends.org/nomorehomelesspets/pdf/WhatOnePerson.pdf

100 Ways To Help A Rescue Without Adopting or Fostering:

Can you:1. Transport a cat/dog?

2. Donate a dog/cat bed or towels or other *bedding* type items?

3. Donate MONEY?

4. Donate a Kong? A Nylabone? A hercules? cat toys?

5. Donate a crate?

6. Donate an x-pen or baby gates?

7. Donate a food dish or a stainless bucket for a crate?

8. Donate a leash?

9. Donate a collar?

10 .Donate some treats or a bag of food?

11 .Donate a halti or promise collar or a gentle leader?

12. Walk a dog?

13. Groom a dog?

14 .Donate some grooming supplies (shampoos, combs, brushes, etc.)?

15 .Go to the local shelter and see if that dog is the breed the shelter says it is or go with rescue to be a second opinion on the dog?

16. Make a few phone calls?

17. Mail out applications to people who’ve requested them?

18. Provide local vet clinics with contact information for educational materials on responsible pet ownership?

19. Drive a dog to and from vet appointments?

20. Donate long distance calling cards?

21. Donate the use of your scanner or digital camera?

22. Donate the use of a photocopier?

23. Attend public education days and try to educate people on responsible pet ownership?

24. Donate a gift certificate to a pet store?

25. Donate a raffle item if your club is holding a fund raiser?

26. Donate flea stuff(Advantage, etc.)?

27. Donate Heartworn pills?

28. Donate a canine/feline first aid kit?

29. Provide a shoulder to cry on when the rescue person is overwhelmed?

30. Pay the boarding fees to board a dog for a week? Two weeks?

31. Be a Santi-paws foster to give the foster a break for a few hours or days?

32. Clip coupons for dog/cat food or treats?

33. Bake some homemade doggie biscuits?

34 .Make book purchases through Amazon via a web site that contributes commissions earned to a rescue group?

35. Host rescue photos with an infornation link on your website. ?

36. Donate time to take good photos of foster dogs for adoption flyers, etc.?

37. Conduct a home visit or accompany a rescue person on the home visit?

38. Go with rescue person to the vet to help if there is more than one dog?

39. Have a yard sale and donate the money to rescue?

40. Be volunteer to do rescue in your area?

41. Take advantage of a promotion on the web or store offering a free ID tag and instead of getting it for your own dog, have the tag inscribed with your Club’s name and phone # to contact?

42. Talk to all your friends about adopting and fostering rescue dogs?

43. Donate vet services or can you help by donating a spay or neuter each year or some vaccinations?

44. Interview vets to encourage them to offer discounts to rescues?

45. Write a column for your local newspaper or club newsletter on dogs on dogs currently looking for homes or ways to help rescue?

46. Take photos of dogs available for adoption for use by the Club?

47. Maintain web sites listing/showing dogs available?

48. Help organize and run fundraising events?

49. Help maintain the paperwork files associated with each dog or enter the infonnation into a database?

50. Tattoo a rescued dog?

51. Microchip a rescued dog?

52. Loan your carpet steam cleaner to someone who has fostered a dog that was sick or marked in the house?

53. Donate a bottle of bleach or other cleaning products?

54. Donate or loan a portable dog run to someone who doesn’t have a quarantine area for quarantining a dog that has an unknown vaccination history and has been in a shelter?

55. Drive the fosters’ children to an activity so that the foster can take the dog to obedience class?

56. Use your video camera to film a rescue dog in action?

57. Pay the cost of taking a dog to obedience class?

58. Be the one to take the dog to its obedience class?

59. Go to the foster home once a week with your children and dogs to help socialize the dog?

60. Help the foster clean up the yard (yes, we also have to scoop what those foster dogs poop)

61. Offer to test the foster dog with cats?

62. Pay for the dog to be groomed or take the dog to a *Do It Yourself* Grooming Place?

63. Bring the foster take out so the foster doesn’t have to cook dinner?

64. Pay a house-cleaning service to do the spring cleaning for someone who fosters dogs all the time?

65. Lend your artistic talents to your club’s newsletter, fundraising ideas, t-shirt designs?

66. Donate printer paper, envelopes and stamps to your club?

67. Go with a rescue person to the vet if a foster dog needs to be euthanized ?

68. Go to local shelters and meet with shelter staff about how to identify your breed or provide photos and breed infonnation showing the different types of that breed may come in and the different colour combinations?

69. Go to local businesses and solicit donations for a club’s fundraising event?

70. Offer to try and help owners be better pet owners by holding a grooming seminar?

71. Help pet owners be better pet owners by being available to answer training questions?

72. Loan a crate if a dog needs to travel by air?

73. Put together an *Owner’s Manual* for those who adopt rescued dogs of your breed?

74. Provide post-adoption follow up or support?

75 .Donate a coupon for a free car wash or gas or inside cleaning of a vehicle?

76. Pay for an ad in your local/metropolitan paper to help place rescue dogs?

77. Volunteer to screen calls for that ad?

78. Get some friends together to build/repair pens for a foster home?

79. Microchip your own pups if you are a breeder, and register the chips, so if your dogs ever come into rescue, you can be contacted to take responsibility for your pup?

80. Donate a small percentage of the sale of each pup to rescue if you are a breeder?

81. Buy two of those really neat dog-items you “have to have” and donate one to Rescue?

82. Make financial arrangements in your will to cover the cost of caring for your dogs after you are gone -so Rescue won’t have to?

83. Make a bequest in your will to your local or national Rescue?

84. Donate your professional services as an accountant or lawyer?

85. Donate other services if you run your own business?

86. Donate the use of a vehicle if you own a car dealership?

87. Loan your cell phone (and cover costs for any calls) to s/one driving a rescued dog?

88. Donate your *used* dog dryer when you get a new one?

89. Let rescue know when you’ll be flying and that you’d be willing to be a rescued dog’s escort?

90. Do something not listed above to help rescue?

91. Donate a doggy seatbelt?

92. Donate a grid for a van or other vehicle?

93. Organize a rescued dog picnic or other event to reunite the rescued dogs that have been placed?

94. Donate other types of doggy/kitty toys that might be safe for rescued animals?

95. Donate a roll-a-treat or Buster cube?

96. Donate clickers or a video on clicker training?

97. Donate materials for a quarantine area at a foster’s home?

98. Donate sheets of linoleum or other flooring materials to put under crates to protect the foster’s floor?

99. Donate an engraving tool to make ID tags for each of the rescued dogs?

lOO. Remember that rescuing a dog involves the effort and time of many people and make yourself available on an emergency basis to do *whatever* is needed?


Can You Speak Dog?

In Animal Welfare, Life with dogs, Pets on Saturday, 15 September 2012 at 09:48

Can you speak dog?




Take this quiz to find out if you’re a communicator or a dictator.

You and your dog speak different languages. Dogs have millions of years of evolutionary baggage telling them that digging in the flower bed is the proper way to store food and that barking is a vital form of communication. Your job is to explain that here in the land of naked apes, certain behaviors don’t always go over well, while others, like darting out into the road, are downright dangerous. The question is, are you educating your dog like a kindergarten teacher or a drill sergeant? Take this quiz to find out.

1) The Western you’re watching on TV has just gotten to the big shootout scene when Rover starts whining at the door. You:

a. promise yourself that SOMEDAY you’ll see this movie all the way through as you hop up and let Rover out.

b. ignore Rover until the next commercial, then let him out. Getting up now just rewards him for whining, which you are trying to teach him to stop doing anyway.

c. tell Rover “No.” He needs to learn he can’t go in and out every five minutes.

Answer: a. HELLO! Rover is VERY politely telling you he needs to go outside. (So what if he just went out five minutes ago, he obviously forgot to do something important!) Ignoring Rover’s whine is like ignoring someone’s “please” and forces him to move on to something “rude” like scratching the door or having an “accident.” If you ABSOLUTELY can’t let Rover out right away, at least acknowledge him: “I hear you, buddy-I’m coming.” Telling him “no” is the cruelest of all-imagine telling someone that you have to go the bathroom and they say “no!” Tell it to your bladder!

2) Maggie is a confirmed “chow hound.” Every night at dinner, she hovers at your chair, drools on your knee, and tries to “steal” food off the table. What should you do?

a. Slip her some tidbits every few minutes-she’s so pathetic!

b. Never give her scraps; this only encourages her and makes her want “people” food instead of dog chow.

c. Tell her to lie down and stay until dinner is over, then reward her with scraps.

d. None of the above.

Answer: c. Go ahead and give poor Maggie some variety in her life and feed her nutritious table scraps, just make sure you feed scraps at the RIGHT time. First, always feed Maggie her dinner BEFORE yours. If she still comes begging, ask her to lie down and stay. Teaching Maggie to wait for her tidbits calmly is really kinder than keeping her anxious by sporadically slipping her food. (Often, dogs doze off on a down/stay, which is as relaxing as it gets!) Slipping Maggie morsels during dinner TEACHES her to beg, unfairly setting her up for a scold when you decide that paw-swipes at your arm are no longer cute, or when you’re entertaining dinner guests.

3) Fido knocks the wind out of everybody he meets with an enthusiastic pair of paws planted firmly on the chest. How can you stop him from jumping?

a. Step on Fido’s back feet so he learns to associate discomfort with jumping up.

b. Give visitors food treats and instruct them to tell Fido to sit when he greets them.

c. Put your knee up as Fido jumps, so he hits the knee instead of you.

d. None of the above.

Answer: b. Stepping on Fido’s back feet is unnecessary and painful and could cause injury. Same goes for kneeing. Fido is jumping on people because he is happy to see them; do you really want him to associate being friendly with pain? Why hurt and confuse Fido when asking him to express his greeting in a different way, such as sitting, gets the message across?

4) Princess is busy chewing on a tasty sofa cushion. You walk into the room and wail “Princess!” She looks up, drops the cushion, and bounds over to you, joyfully wagging her tail. You:

a. tell her she’s a bad dog and give her a stern lecture on the high cost of sofa cushions.

b. turn around and ignore her.

c. bite your tongue and give her a pat and a hug.

Answer: c. This is perhaps the most important rule you can learn about communicating with your dog: NEVER, EVER, EVER SCOLD A DOG WHO COMES TO YOU WILLINGLY-no matter how long she dawdled, no matter how bad she was mere seconds before. If Princess had ignored you and kept right on chewing, then saying, “No! Chew on THIS,” as you took away the pillow and handed her a toy would have been in order; but she didn’t—she stopped her “bad” behavior and came to you instead. Coming to you should ALWAYS be a thrilling experience; scold her and she learns—not to stop chewing cushions—but that coming to you isn’t always such a great idea.

5) Benji is the Joan Rivers of dogdom. He barks at EVERYTHING: the moon, the sun, dogs, cats, squirrels, cockroaches, dust mites. How can you get him to quit that incessant yapping?

a. Give Benji a biscuit to distract him.

b. Sneak up behind Benji and startle him with a swat him on the rump as you yell, “No!”

c. Get one of those nifty electronic collars that zaps Benji whenever he utters a peep.

d. None of the above.

Answer: d. For starters, how come people can talk all day, but one peep out of Benji gets a “shut up” from you? Benji is barking because he’s trying to tell you something-“Look out, here comes that guy in the noisy truck!” or, “Hey, I’m lonely out here by myself,” or, “I’m terribly bored; can we go for a walk now?”

But what if you’re not feeling particularly interested in what Benji has to say about the trash truck at 7 a.m.? Hitting Benji and shouting at him is cruel and unfair-you’re punishing him for something he thinks is very important-alerting you to intruders (an instinct you’ll thank him for if a burglar shows up!)

Electronic shock collars are no better: They punish Benji indiscriminately (and painfully), plus they have a number of other drawbacks. Dogs trained with shock collars and “invisible fences” may develop fears or aggression aimed at what they BELIEVE is the source of that pesky shock-kids riding by on bikes-whom Benji starts to chase and bark at until he gets an unpleasant surprise-or the dog next door, who “administers” a painful jolt every time Benji runs up to play (two confused and frustrated dogs once killed a neighboring dog when he crossed the boundary to play). Dogs have also been known to run heedlessly through invisible barriers in hot pursuit of a squirrel or fleeing scary fireworks, then become terrified to cross back through it.

So what can you do? Ask Benji to do something else! Start making 7 a.m. on trash day practice-lying-down time until Benji gets the idea that lying down is the thing to do when the garbage truck comes. (Give Benji a treat only AFTER he does what you ask, not before, otherwise you will be TRAINING him to bark!) You also may try teaching Benji the meaning of the word “quiet” by GENTLY closing his mouth with your hands (no rough treatment, you’re simply showing him what “quiet” means) as you say the word. Remember, don’t lose your temper, holler, or otherwise abuse or over-use the “quiet” command-let Benji talk sometimes!

6) While you were at work, Fluffy emptied the trash can and created a lovely “mixed media artwork” of soda cans, melon rinds, and shredded plastic wrap on the living room floor. What should you do when you come home?

a. Bring Fluffy over to her “masterpiece,” rub her nose in it, and tell her “bad dog!”

b. Lock Fluffy in the garage every day until she learns her lesson.

c. Act like Fluffy’s redecorating is no big deal and figure out where to put the trash can so she can’t get into it.

Answer: c. Naughty human! What Fluffy did was YOUR FAULT for failing to supervise her! (OK, so you can’t quit your job and watch her all day but that’s not HER fault!) Corrections work only as a warning IMMEDIATELY beforehand (“Na-aah-aah, don’t even think of touching that trash can!”) or while Fluffy is “in the act.” If you wait until hours (or even minutes) later, Fluffy will think she’s being scolded for what she’s doing RIGHT NOW, such as being happy to see you!

The solution lies, as always, in prevention. Your best bet is to stash the trash in a pantry or “kid-safe” cabinet. (Confining Fluffy works for YOU, but it doesn’t solve HER basic problems-boredom, loneliness, and lots of energy.) Make sure Fluff has a variety of toys (and/or companions) to keep her occupied and that she gets plenty of exercise, particularly in the morning: A tired dog wants to sleep, not redecorate!

How’d You Score?

Give yourself a point for each correct answer.

0-2: Hey, Mussolini, lighten up! How about we yell at you for getting sick on the carpet, smack you for talking to your friends, lock you in the basement for raiding the refrigerator, and see how YOU like it!

3-4: You’re not quite fluent in “dog-ese” yet, but you’re getting there. Brush up on your communicating skills by reading a book like Dogs Behaving Badly by Dr. Nicholas Dodman or Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor, and sign yourself up for a good training class.

5-6: Gandhi would be proud! Now go spend some quality time with that lucky pooch of yours!

Win bonus points if you do the following:

· Stop and smell the roses-and the fire hydrants! Imagine the frustration of sitting around the house all day waiting for a walk and then, when you get one, being hauled around the block without ever getting a chance to explore! Give your dog a break with a retractable leash (available at most pet supply stores): It gives him or her room to run ahead or linger over fascinating trees and can be shortened up for safety when crossing busy intersections. Also, play it safe by walking your dog on a harness.

· Many dogs, especially smaller, energetic breeds like beagles and poodles or larger, delicate-boned breeds like greyhounds, are prone to neck injuries, which can be extremely painful and debilitating. For serious pullers, try a neck-saving “no-pull” harness, which creates a slight “pushing” feeling on dogs’ chests when they tug, causing them to slow down.

· Don’t give your dog orders all the time. Try to make suggestions and ask questions, too. Learning the meanings of words and phrases like “cookies,” “outside?” “water?” “all done,” and “wanna-go-for-a-walk?” can make your dog’s life a lot easier.

· Make a housebreaking schedule and stick to it. Take puppies out at least once every two hours (or within a half hour after eating or drinking), and guide them to the same spot where they can smell having gone before. Until their bladders get bigger, they can spend the night in a crate by your bed so they can wake you up when they need to go. If you use a crate, be careful not to abuse it. Don’t leave dogs in crates for more than three hours at a time during the day and never use the crate as punishment. The dog should view the crate as a safe, secure den, not a dungeon. For more housebreaking tips, click here.

· Let your dog be a dog! The idea behind training is to set up boundaries within which dogs are free to be themselves, not control their every movement. For enthusiastic diggers, for example, don’t flat-out prohibit digging-give them their very own special places to dig. Teach them to use a “sandbox” by burying favorite toys in it.

· Be considerate! Think about how many times you go to the restroom during the day. Now imagine what it must be like for dogs to have to “cross their legs” all that time! Take your dog out at least four times a day: in the morning, in the afternoon, right when you get home, and before you go to bed. If you can’t come home at lunchtime, arrange for a neighbor or professional “petsitter” to take your dog out. Another option is a “doggy door”; however, this is safe only if your yard is fenced and locked against intruders.


The story of Mike Arms

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Inspiration, Life with dogs, Pets on Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 07:33

Mike Arms has done so much for animal welfare.  I find the story as to how he came to the profession inspiring and touching.  I hope you enjoy!


Our president-Mike Arms


Helen Woodward Animal Center President Michael Arms is a pioneer in the animal welfare industry. He is recognized worldwide as the creator of both the International Pet Adoptathon and “Iams Home 4 the Holidays”.

Mike is credited with saving the lives of more orphaned animals than anyone else in the history of the planet.

Since his arrival in 1999, Helen Woodward Animal Center has grown dramatically. Pet adoptions have leaped to record levels. Our Education program has multiplied as we teach children about the unconditional love that only comes from animals. And our therapy programs touch the lives of tens of thousands of people each year.

Mike Arms. Just one more reason why Helen Woodward Animal Center is known around the globe as, “The Animal Shelter of the Future!”

The Story of Mike Arms

Mike Arms came to animal welfare in a most unusual way. He arrived in New York in the 1960’s ready to take on the world with an accounting degree and the desire to make it big. An employment agency suggested that he might take a position at the ASPCA because it would look good on his resume. Mike didn’t even know what an ASPCA was at that time, but thought it would be a good experience to manage the finances of such a large organization. The stress of seeing the horrors that mankind perpetrated against the animals of New York quickly became too much for Mike, as the ASPCA was killing over 140,000 innocent animals a year at that time. He gave his resignation and was running away from animal welfare.

With just six days to go until his last day, Mike got a call that there was a dog hit by a car on Davidson Avenue in the Bronx. There were no ambulance drivers available, so he took off his suit jacket and put on an ambulance driver jacket and drove out to the accident scene. Upon his arrival he saw a black and tan shepherd/terrier mix lying in the street. The dog had been hit with such force that his back was broken – he was literally bent in half. As Mike approached the injured dog two men came out of a nearby doorway and asked him what he was doing. Arms calmly explained that the little dog was dying and he was taking him to the hospital. The men told him that he wasn’t taking the dog anywhere. Mike inquired as to if it was their dog and they said, “No, but we are taking bets on how long it is going to live.” Arms told them they were sick and turned to lift the dog into the ambulance. As he bent to lift the injured puppy, the men attacked him with a bottle to the head followed by the smack of a baseball bat and the sharp pain of a knife thrust into his hip and shoulder. Mike was knocked unconscious and as he lay in the street bleeding the little dog, who should not have been able to move, crawled to Mike’s side to lick him awake.

It was a true epiphany for Arms as he spoke to God and said “Let me live, and I promise you, I will do everything in my lifetime to protect them.” Mike has remained true to his word as the man who has saved more animals than any other person, living or dead, in animal welfare history.

My “Pet” Project

In Life with dogs, Pets, Well-being on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 06:22

This is a paper (edited) that I wrote as part of my proposal for my dissertation.  Unfortunately, I was told my topic was not “scientifically relevant” and I ended up having to choose a different topic.  I find it quite ironic that, recently, there has been a great deal of research (even in the mainstream press) about living with pets and the impact they have on our lives.  Maybe I will  carry out my study anyway one day…


Pet Ownership Benefits: A Brief Review of the Literature

Lorie Ederr


In the year 2006, Americans shared their homes with 68 million dogs, 73 million cats, 19 million birds, 19 million pocket pets, 9 million reptiles, and 165 million fish (Frischman, 2007).  Additionally, Americans spend approximately $36.3 billion on their pets annually on things such as food, veterinary care, boarding, and gifts (Densa, 2007).  While pets are an important part of many American’s lives, research regarding all aspects of pets (ranging from the benefits of pet ownership to pet bereavement) has been seemingly absent from the empirical literature.

Animal studies progresses without the blessing of mainstream clinical psychology.  Although authors publish in a variety of journals, relatively little appears in academic clinical psychology journals…it is not clear whether this “furry ceiling” is due to Animal Studies professionals being affiliated with areas other than clinical psychology, academics not submitting to clinical journals, or to journals’ being reluctant, for content or research designs, to publish work in this field.  Funding for research appears scarce and tends to be internal or from humane organizations (Raupp, 2002, p. 355).

While research on animal abuse and resulting conduct disordered behavior has been given some attention, research related to more positive aspects of companion animals and the use of therapy animals is scant (Raupp, 2002).  Raupp (2002) searched the PsychINFO database for “animal-assisted therapy” and did not find any references in clinical psychology journals, although a broader search found references in health service journals.  Additionally, a search of about 30 clinical journals for references to “animal abuse,” “animal collectors,” and “animal-assisted therapy” showed only three references for the years 1991 through 2001 (Raupp, 2002).  Furthermore, it appears that the majority of references are older and there is a lack of current empirical research on this topic.  As stated above, there is scant research on the positive aspects of pet ownership and how pets positively affect peoples’ lives.  This study attempts to determine whether or not pet ownership is related to an increase in overall well-being.

Do people that own pets evidence higher overall well-being scores than non pet-owners?  The literature is not abundant in this area and the studies have conflicting data based on sample demographics (elderly versus adult; low SES vs. higher SES; attachment to pet).  This literature review is designed a meager attempt to answer that question.  Allen, Blaskovich, Tomaka, and Kelsey. (1991) were interested in exploring the differences for women who were exposed to a stress task alone in a lab and again at home in the presence of a pet, a friend, or neither varied in their autonomic responses.  They found that autonomic reactivity was moderated by the presence of a companion, the nature of whom was critical to the size and direction of the effect.  Ss in the friend condition exhibited higher physiological reactivity and poorer performance than subjects in the control and pet conditions.  Ss in the pet condition showed less physiological reactivity during stressful tasks than Ss in the other conditions (Allen, et al., 1991, p. 582).

Demello (1999) showed that the presence of a pet after the termination of cognitive stressors resulted in reduction in heart rate and blood pressure than when the pet was not present.  Garrity, Stallones, Marx, and Johnson (1989) discovered that, in people aged 65 and older, “pet ownership failed to predict depression and illness behavior, while pet attachment significantly predicted depression but not illness experience” (p. 35).  Ory & Goldberg (1983) found that pet possession and well-being in elderly women evidenced a positive correlation when the attachment to the pet was strong and the women had a higher SES.  Sable (1995) concluded that “pets may supply ongoing comfort and reduce feelings of loneliness during adversity or stressful transitions such as divorce or bereavement.  They can also provide an opportunity to nurture others.”  Serpell (1990) established that pet owners reported a significant reduction in minor health problems at one and ten months following pet acquisition, as well as improvements in psychological well-being and self-esteem.  Siegel (1990) discovered that “respondents who owned pets reported fewer doctor contacts over the 1-year period than respondents who did not own pets.  Furthermore, pets seemed to help their owners in times of stress” (p. 1081).

Conflicting studies also exist.  Johnson and Rule (1991) hypothesized that “pet owners may be perceived by the general public as more lively, extraverted, and social, with higher self-esteem than non-owners even if this is not true” because of a “social stereotype” that illustrates the consensus of public opinion, not actual research, on the subject of the positive benefits of pet ownership (p. 249).  Straede and Gates (1993) studied 92 cat owners and 70 non-owners and did not find significant differences for owners versus non-owners on measures of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, nurturance, social desirability, or life events.  Parslow, Jorm, Christensen, Rodgers, and Jacomb (2005) used survey information for 2,551 individuals aged 60-64 years and who did or did not own pets.  Parslow, et al. (2005) discovered that “female pet owners reported worse physical health than their counterparts who did not have any pets” (p. 45).  It was also discovered that pet owners reported a higher incidences of usage of pain medications than non-owners (Parslow, et al., 2005).  Another finding from the Parslow, et al. study (2005) was that “owning or caring for a pet was not associated with any reduction in numbers of GP services obtained over a 12-month period” (p. 45).   Moreover, “an unexpected finding was that owners and carers of pets reported significantly higher levels of psychoticism than non-owners and non-carers” (Parslow, et al., 2005, p. 46).  The authors concluded that “there are no health benefits associated with pet ownership for this age group” (Parslow, et al., 2005, p. 47).  Johnson and Rule (1991) compared pet owners and non-owners on self-esteem, extraversion, neuroticism, and social self-esteem.  Findings indicated that no significant differences were found between the two groups in any of the areas (self-esteem, extraversion, neuroticism, and social self-esteem) and that “theorists may tend to rely on assumed stereotypical personality traits of pet owners, creating false assumptions about the therapeutic effects of pets” (Johnson & Rule, 1991, p. 250).  Tucker, Friedman, Tsai, and Martin (1995) examined longitudinal data of 643 men and women with a mean age of 67 and discovered that playing with pets was not associated with better health and that those who reported playing with pets regularly did not have a lower mortality rate than those who did not interact with pets.  The authors concluded that “the present results do not support previous research that has found an association between human-pet interaction and physical health” (Tucker, et al., 1995, p. 6).  Hirsch and Whitman (1994) found that pet owners reported more headaches and chronic pain than non-owners.

Statement of the Problem

Millions of Americans share their homes with companion animals although the benefits and positive aspects of doing so have received little attention in the literature up to this point.  Studies that have been conducted relating to pet ownership are dated and more current research is needed.  As Raupp (2002) pointed out, very little was found in the academic clinical psychology journals related to companion animals, positive aspects of pet ownership, and animal-assisted therapy.  While it appears that pets are a major part of people’s lives, the research community does not seem to show a great interest in the effects companion animals have on all aspects of an individual’s life and development.  Outwardly, it would not appear that pets would be of great benefit to their owners.  Responsibilities such as caring for them, feeding them, obtaining necessary veterinary care, and the costs associated with having a pet would appear to be drawbacks for owners and reasons not to acquire a pet.  In spite of these “drawbacks,” Americans live with 68 million dogs, 73 million cats, 19 million birds, 19 million pocket pets, 9 million reptiles, and 165 million fish (Frischman, 2007).  The total amount Americans spent on their pets in 2006 was approximately $36.3 billion (Densa, 2007).  So, it would follow to that there are many benefits people gain from their pets despite costs, care, and related issues. The research community should show an interest in exactly what the specific benefits are as well as quantifying them.

Companion animals appear to be a very important part of many people’s lives.  While there are many anecdotal stories and personal experiences that support the benefits of pet ownership, the clinical research community should follow with empirical evidence to support these claims.  More research is needed looking at companion animals and the associated benefits to children, adolescents, adults, older people, and therapeutic populations.  Studies supporting companion animals’ positive effects, effects on child development, effects on empathy and prosocial behavior, and effects on physical and psychological health will hopefully lead to more positive attitudes towards animals as well as more humane treatment of animals, a decrease in animal abuse and neglect, and lead to less animals being killed in shelters every year.  Information regarding whether or not owning a pet contributes to one’s positive well-being would be important when determining therapeutic treatments for those who might be in danger of decreased feelings of well-being.  Research has repeatedly shown that sharing a home with a companion animal has positive effects (Allen, et al., 1991; Demello, 1999; Garrity, et al., 1989; Ory & Goldberg, Sable, 1995; Serpell, 1990) while others have found no correlation or a negative correlation (Hirsch & Whitman, 1994; Johnson & Rule, 1991; Parslow, Jorm, Christensen, Rodgers, & Jacomb, 2005; Straede & Gates, 1993; Tucker, Friedman, Tsai, & Martin, 1995).



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