Adoption | Adoption http://www.dogster.com/adoption-rescue Adoption en-us Thu, 29 Jan 2015 10:40:00 -0800 Thu, 29 Jan 2015 10:40:00 -0800 http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss Orion <![CDATA[Bubbles the Dachshund Loves Her 3D Printed Wheelchair]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/dog-adoption-rescue-bubbles-dachshund-3d-printer-wheelchair-pictures-photos We've seen a lot of dogs in wheelchairs -- a lot, really, just so many, even one called Anderson Pooper --  but never before have we seen a dog in a wheelchair made with a 3D printer

Presenting Bubbles:

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Handsome gal, isn't she? She was born without her legs, and fortunately her parents Trevor Byers and Elissa Smoak did a little web-searching and figured, hey, we got this. They bottle-fed Bubbles and committed to getting her a wheelchair once she was old enough. 

And then, being the tinkering sort, they decided to make their own, using a combination of, and we quote www.3ders.org, "carbon fiber, model airplane, and 3D-printed parts."

This is what those parts look like:

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And because they made those things, they're able to add a little flair as they tinker with the design:

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According to www.3ders.org, the couple wanted to encourage others to use their design, so they uploaded the wheelchair design to MakerBot Thingiverse, where you can download the files. They think they have a winning product, saying it's cheaper and more immediately accessible than other dog wheelchairs out there.

"She is the reason I bought my printer in the first place, and she loves the freedom it has given her," Byers says on the site. 

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Here's Bubbles racing around in her newest cart:

Via CNET and www.3ders.org

Read more dog news on Dogster:

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Thu, 29 Jan 2015 10:40:00 -0800 /the-scoop/dog-adoption-rescue-bubbles-dachshund-3d-printer-wheelchair-pictures-photos
<![CDATA["Rusty the Rescue" Teaches Kids Compassion for Shelter Dogs]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/rusty-to-the-rescue-childrens-book-shelter-dogs Many children have, at one time or another, begged their parents to let them go into a pet store to look at the puppies.
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 The little pups kept behind the glass are what attract children to these profitable retail stores, but children's author Christina Capatides is hoping her new book, Rusty the Rescue,  can help kids learn to adopt instead of shop.

"It's a first introduction to the concept of a shelter dog. It tells you where they are, that they've gone through some tough things, but that they are just as good as the dog in your mind -- that perfect dog you imagine."

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Capitides hopes her first children's book will eventually spawn a series.

Passionate about helping shelter dogs and the no-kill movement, Capatides -- a playwright and lyricist who has written three full-length musicals -- has previously tackled the topic of shelter dogs in song form, but Rusty the Rescue is her debut effort as a children's author. She was inspired by her own dog, Mooch, who had severe elbow dysplasia when she adopted him.

"His two front arms were lame; he walked around like a person," she says, noting that while the details about Mooch's early life aren't clear, it is likely that the dog is a puppy mill survivor.

"I think he was in such a cramped area, that his legs sort of grew malformed."

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Capatides and her adopted rescue dog, Mooch.

Mooch is doing great these days, having received the love and medical care he needed to make use of his front legs and thrive. Capatides hopes her book can teach young animal lovers about the reality of what rescue dogs like Mooch go through.

"It does so in a subtle way, without the gruesome aspect," she says. "It also introduces kids to the concept of a mixed breed."

In addition to teaching kids about shelter life and dog diversity, Rusty also helps kids understand resiliency and how to move forward from setbacks in life.

"Shelter dogs are one of the most important examples of resiliency they can get," explains Capatides.

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Like these dogs, Rusty is a resilient pup with a second chance.

Teaching kids about shelter dogs is not new territory for Capatides, though. When she's not writing about Rusty, she serves as the content and editorial creator for the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum, a program used in classrooms from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 throughout the United States and Canada to teach kids about empathy for animals in need, which we previously wrote about. The program uses stories about shelter dogs, activities, and animal interactions to teach children about compassion, empathy, and ethical decision-making.

Mutt-i-grees was created in partnership with North Shore Animal League, and Capatides knows just how important the work North Shore does is -- not just in advocacy and education, but also in directly saving the lives of shelter pets. North Shore is a leader in the no-kill movement and has found homes for more than a million pets.

"We're going to donate 10 percent of the proceeds to North Shore Animal League America," says Capatides, who partnered with illustrator Ryan Bauer-Walsh to create Rusty.

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Ryan Bauer-Walsh illustrated Rusty to The Rescue.

Rusty the Rescue is Bauer-Walsh's first fully illustrated children's book. The title character is based on a stuffed toy he had as a kid.

"My parents never let me have a dog, so it's kind of a way to live vicariously," says Bauer-Walsh.

Now that Rusty the Rescue is complete, Bauer-Walsh and Capatides are already working on follow-up titles. The pair plans to continue the series and have Rusty develop into a superhero of a dog who can rescue others. 

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Rusty has a bright future ahead of him.

Bauer-Walsh say he hopes kids -- and their families -- can also become superheroes for dogs and take the message behind the book to heart. "Owning a dog is bringing on a new family member," he explains, adding that pets should never be viewed as just another accessory to bring home.

Capatides hopes Rusty's story resonates with children and teaches them lessons that last a lifetime. The children reading about Rusty now will one day be adults, making important choices that affect the lives of the animals around them. 

"We wanted to write a book that could educate the earliest readers and give them empathy about what shelter dogs go through, so they can the make responsible decisions," says Capatides.

Both the author and the illustrator hope their book teaches kids that dogs don't have to come from stores -- and that those dogs who don't are just as lovable as the puppies in the pet shop window. They've created a fictional dog hero, but Capatides and Bauer-Walsh are real-life heroes to the next generation of dog lovers.  

Read about more Dogster Heroes:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

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Wed, 28 Jan 2015 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/rusty-to-the-rescue-childrens-book-shelter-dogs
<![CDATA[Cat the Senior Pug Alerts Her Human to Visitors -- and Seizures]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/cat-pug-seizure-senior-dog-rescue-adoption Her name is misleading, but Cat the Pug is definitely all dog.
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"She's not vicious at all, but she barks like she is," says Cat's human, Heidi Klahre.

This little Pug with the runaway tongue takes her watchdog duties very seriously, peering out Klahre's picture window and raising the alarm if someone gets too close to her home. While Cat makes sure to let her human know about any approaching visitors, she's also alerted Klahre to something much more serious.

"I had a seizure episode a few years ago, and Cat sensed it before I even knew what was going on," Klahre explains.

Klahre says the Pug -- who usually sleeps soundly at the foot of the bed -- was acting extremely odd in the hours leading up to the seizure.

"She spent the entire night before right up at my head, watching me," she recalls.

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Cat on guard at the window. (All photos courtesy of the Cat the Pug Facebook page)

The next day, when Klahre got up to go to work, Cat was still acting strange. The adorable dog followed Klahre around the house all morning, crying and trying to get her attention. Klahre did not know what to make of her odd behavior and had to go to work. About a half an hour after leaving the house, she experienced a seizure for the first time. During her commute, she recognized something bad was happening and was able to call for help while she still had the ability.

"When I got home from the hospital, I discovered Cat had actually clawed the floor," says Klahre, who realized her Pug had been trying desperately to keep her safe. Trained seizure-alert dogs will behave strangely when anticipating a seizure -- having noticed changes in their human's behavior, body language, or even odor, some scientists theorize -- in an effort to warn the person of what's to come. Cat has not been trained, but was certainly acting out of the ordinary on that day, and it's possible that she is among the small percentage of dogs who are naturally inclined to alert. 

Klahre has never had another seizure, and she's also never seen Cat repeat the odd behavior she exhibited that day.

"Believe me, now I would be looking for it," says Klahre, who will be quick to seek help if the Pug ever raises the alarm again. "We have just meshed so tightly that she knew something was wrong and was trying to warn me."

Cat and Klahre are inseparable now, but the two weren't always so close. When Klahre adopted Cat in 2010, the then four-year-old Pug didn't know what to make of her new human. Before being rehomed to Klahre's place, Cat had always lived with multiple pets, and didn't know what to expect as the only animal in her new home.

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The only other animals in Cat's house are the stuffed kind.

"She hated me. She sat in the corner for three days straight, facing the wall," Klahre remembers. "I cried nonstop. I actually thought I was going to have to give her to someone else."

Klahre, a first-time dog owner, went so far as to attempt to rehome the unhappy Pug, but to her surprise Cat clung to her when it was time to say goodbye -- the pup made it clear that she wanted to stay with Klahre. The two returned home, and the tiny dog embraced life as an only pet, eventually coming to enthusiastically enjoy life as a pampered Pug princess.

"I don't think she would like it if I got another pet now," says Klahre, who adds that adorable Cat tends to attract a lot of attention from the humans around her. "She's turned my life upside down, but in a good way."

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Cat enjoys her new life and new home.

Before adopting Cat, Klahre had spent much of her life afraid of dogs. She'd never had a pet, but when she came face to face with a Pug for the first time she knew she wanted one. Instead of buying a puppy, Klahre brought home four-year-old Cat, who came already dubbed with the moniker that causes confusion and double takes.

"They look at me funny whenever they call for Cat at the vet and I bring her up," Klahre says.

Now that the protective Pug is entering her senior years, the vet's office is used to the interspecies name, and her social media followers can't get enough of the dog named Cat. Her Instagram and Facebook followers have noticed Cat's tongue lolls out of her mouth in most pictures. The unravelled tongue is the result of a couple of medical issues.

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Cat's tongue is rarely in her mouth.

"I've been told that she might have a slight neurological issue that is causing the tongue," explains Klahre. Tooth decay could also be a factor. "She's had to have a lot of teeth removed; they were pretty bad."

She adds that Cat's overall health and quality of life aren't impacted by her relaxed tongue, although the petite fawn Pug does have a few other health issues, including arthritis. 

Klahre has learned that Pugs are a lot of work and can have expensive vet bills. Still, she would never discourage anyone from adopting one -- especially an older Pug. She says she even considered training Cat as a therapy dog after witnessing the Pug's sweet and empathic nature.

"After my grandma passed away, she crawled up on my grandfather's lap -- and he doesn't even like dogs. Cat would just put her little paw on him, like she was trying to comfort him."

Once afraid of dogs, Klahre's life now revolves around one. At the start of every school year, the elementary school librarian proudly tells her kindergarten students that she's got the only Cat that barks. The Pug that wouldn't even look at her four years ago has become the queen of Klahre's household and heart.

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Cat is a princess, but she can be outdoorsy when she needs to be.

"I actually bought my house on Cat's birthday," says Klahre, who adds she insisted on closing on that date. "My house was a birthday present for Cat."

Cat the dog has everything a Pug could want, and she proves that while older dogs may need some time to adjust, they can be just as loving as young pups.

Read more Monday Miracles on Dogster:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

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Mon, 26 Jan 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/cat-pug-seizure-senior-dog-rescue-adoption
<![CDATA[Would You Do a Trial Adoption With an "Imperfect" Dog?]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/trial-adoption-dog-rescue Some rescue dogs are great at selling themselves to potential adopters. My Lab mix, GhostBuster, looked up at my husband and I with those big brown eyes as he sat quietly in his kennel, and was giving me paws and kisses within minutes. We knew pretty quickly that he was the dog for us.

But what about dogs who don't show so well? The ones who cower in the corner and need time to develop trust?

Many rescues have found that short-term trial adoptions are the solution for these animals. The concept doesn't work for all organizations, but it is helping some "imperfect" dogs find their perfect home -- and my little Marshmallow is living proof that it works.

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GhostBuster was final sale. Marshmallow came with a return policy. I will love them both forever.

"I think that if we didn't offer trial adoptions, some of the dogs with behavioral concerns wouldn't have as good of a chance," explains Jennie Devereaux, adoption coordinator for Forever and a Day Small Dog Rescue Society (FAAD) in Alberta, Canada.

Devereaux was with me the day I met my second dog, Marshmallow (known then as Mindy), at her foster home. I'd been searching local shelters and rescues for weeks before I learned about this adorable (but very shy) dog. Marshmallow had traveled more than a thousand miles to find a family, having come to the rescue from the Northwest Territories SPCA in Yellowknife. I really hoped that my household would be the right fit for her.

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Marshy at the NWTSPCA. (Courtesy of the NWTSPCA Facebook page)

When we walked into the foster home, you could tell Marshmallow was a timid little thing. A petite half Jack Russell Terrier, half who-knows-what, her body language betrayed the fact that she didn't trust easily, men in particular we would soon learn.

During that first meeting with me, Marshmallow was definitely not comfortable. She had to be picked up and brought over -- she wasn't about to come over to me on her own. Once she was on the couch with me, Marshy froze like a statue, obviously afraid of the new people around her. She looked at the foster family's cat instead of looking at me.

As I chatted with the foster family and Devereaux, the three-year-old dog eventually lightened up, and I spent some time petting her. The dog was being fostered by two women, and was obviously bonded to one of them. I was told she picked up house manners quickly, especially for a dog who hadn't had much exposure to human lifestyles before coming into care.

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Marshy's first night at home. She still didn't really trust me (and Ghost Cat wasn't sure about her yet).

After the shy little dog had a successful meet-and-greet with GhostBuster, Devereaux paid my husband and I a visit at home. We passed the home inspection, and after another visit with Devereaux and the foster family, we decided to move forward with a trial adoption. We would care for Marshmallow in our home for two weeks before signing the adoption papers.

"I offer them to people that I would adopt to," explains Devereaux. "Some people just know right off the bat that it's not necessary, but in cases like Marshmallow, when the dog is a little bit more finicky or has a behavioral issue, it's a good opportunity to see if they jibe."

Before meeting Marshmallow, the biggest concern my husband and I had about adopting a second dog was how she would fit into our existing pet dynamic. GhostBuster gets along great with our two kitties, Ghost Cat and Specter, and we knew any potential adoptable dog would have to love cats. After meeting Marshmallow, we were confident that she would like GhostBuster and the kitties -- we just didn't know if she would like us, especially my husband.

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Marshmallow quickly became cuddle buddies with all our pets.

The first few days with Marshmallow were interesting. She loved our pets but did not trust us. At first she didn't eat much, so I tempted her with delicious microwaved wet food. Within two days, it became obvious that I was becoming her preferred person, and we made the decision that my husband would be the only one to feed Marshmallow.

At the end of the first week, Marshmallow will still so nervous around my husband that we discussed the heartbreaking possibility that maybe our home wasn't the right place for her. She wouldn't pee or poop for my husband if I wasn't home, and even tried to run away from him once.

Despite her man-fear, Marshmallow had made so much progress in other areas. She was sitting on command and had stopped having accidents in the house. We decided to see how she would do in the second week.

Slowly, Marshmallow warmed up to my guy. At first, she would only sit on the couch with me if she was not between me and my husband, but by the end of the second week she would sit beside him. She would even sleep between us in our bed at night. As she continued to make slow progress, we made our trial adoption permanent.

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She's always the last one to get out of bed in the morning.

Marshmallow never would have warmed up to us during a visit or an adoption event, but the trial adoption allowed her to reveal herself and develop trust at her own pace.

"It's just such a good way of getting to know the dog," says Devereaux. "It sets people up for success."

While some rescue organizations, like FAAD, find that trial adoptions work well for them, some rescues and shelters do have policies against them. The Saskatoon SPCA, for example, points out on its website that animals can be stressed by moving to and from homes, and that trial adoptions mean the dogs aren't available for viewing and therefore may be missed by a potentially perfect family.

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Marshmallow now goes to my husband for affection.

In our case, a trial adoption was the perfect fit, and although my little Marshy is still a nervous dog, she continues to build confidence every day. She still won't play fetch with me when my husband is home, but she wags her tail when he walks her, and will now poop even if I'm not there. These days she cuddles up to my guy, and pushes her nose into his hand for affection. She'll never be as outgoing as GhostBuster, but we're making progress.

Read more about life with Marshy and Ghostbuster by Heather Marcoux:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

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Mon, 26 Jan 2015 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/trial-adoption-dog-rescue
<![CDATA[On Change a Pet's Life Day, We Remember Maggie the Puppy Mill Dachshund ]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dachshund-national-change-a-pets-life-day Saturday, Jan. 24, marks Change a Pet's Life Day, an annual celebration of animal adoption. It's also a day when Jennifer Devereaux will celebrate the life of a dog who changed hers.

Devereaux wasn't looking to get another dog when Maggie, a nine-year-old Dachshund, stole her heart and became her very first rescue pup.

"It was only short-lived, but Maggie changed my life," explains Devereaux, who now serves as a board member and adoption coordinator for Forever and a Day Small Dog Rescue Society in Alberta, Canada.

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Deveraux and Maggie the rescue Dachshund.

"She was a puppy mill breeder, she was food aggressive, and she didn't play," she remembers. "The only reason we ended up with Maggie was because she was another wiener dog, and someone knew I already had two wiener dogs."

That someone was a Facebook friend who was trying to find a home for an aging puppy mill dog with a heart condition and a mouthful of rotting teeth. Despite being busy with her own dogs, Daisy and Noodle, Devereaux took Maggie into her home as a foster dog for Forever and a Day.

Right away, it became apparent that Maggie's life had been a tough one. When Devereaux petted the senior dog, she could feel the Dachshund's ribs jutting out in a strange way.

"It was one of my concerns when I took her to get vetted for the first time. I thought she had a broken rib," she recalls. The veterinarian explained that while Maggie's ribs were not broken, they had been disfigured by years and years of breeding.

"It happened because she'd just had so many litters of puppies," she says.

The problems with Maggie's ribs may have been obvious, but her future was not. A heart condition prompted one veterinarian to recommend euthanasia, while another thought she could possibly have another five years left in her. Still, Maggie's health problems made her an unsuitable candidate for adoption, which was just fine with Devereaux. She found herself growing attached to the senior wiener dog.

"I figured, okay -- I have a permanent foster."

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Maggie was a big fan of food.

Because of Maggie's food aggression and behavior issues, Deveraux didn't feel comfortable leaving her at home with the two playful, younger dogs during the work day. Instead, she brought Maggie to work with her.

"She was so grateful to be with me," says Devereaux.

After several weeks of nearly constant companionship, little Maggie began to change. At first, the changes in her behavior were small, but one day, Devereaux looked into her car's rearview mirror and was shocked to see old Maggie playing with an ugly toy ball, which had been discarded by other dogs.

"When we got Maggie we were told no, she doesn't play. She likes bones and being under blankets and that’s about it," explains Devereaux. "But I looked back in my car, and there she was with this ball."

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Maggie with her ugly ball and her beautiful Dachshund siblings, Noodle and Daisy.

Maggie's newfound playful side coincided with another change in behavior that made feeding time a lot less stressful for Devereaux, her boyfriend, and the other two dogs. The food-aggressive dog, who had been known to scarf down all three food bowls if given the chance, was suddenly sharing.

"Within a couple months of her being here, she and Daisy were starting to eat out of the same dish," says Devereaux.

After nine happy months of improvements, Maggie's health finally started to decline. She fell down the stairs -- an accident that would prove to be too much for her frail body to handle after a lifetime of producing puppies.

"I had to give her hourly [pain] injections in her neck through the night, and it seemed like she was bouncing back," Devereaux remembers. "The day before she passed away, we even took her to get her nails clipped."

Unfortunately, the rebound was short-lived, and soon Deveraux was counting as Maggie took 82 breaths per minute. As Devereaux approached Maggie to give her an injection, the now 10-year-old Dachshund panicked. "It just wasn't fair to her to be doing hourly injections," she says.

At that point, Devereaux made the incredibly difficult decision to call the vet and have Maggie put to sleep. "She passed away peacefully, in my arms."

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Wrapped in loving arms.

Maggie left this world just before Christmas 2014, but her legacy lives on in Devereaux, who is dedicated to helping more people change the lives of rescue dogs.

"She has an awesome last few months of her life, and I am a different person because of her," she says.

You can change a dog's life, too, by getting involved with animal rescue organizations in your area, and Change a Pet's Life Day is the perfect time to start. Here are a few ways you can make a difference:

Volunteer

Shelters and rescue organizations are always looking for extra pairs of hands to help out, whether it be with walking dogs, cleaning kennels, or participating in fundraising events. Without volunteers, many shelters and rescue groups wouldn't be able to operate. By donating your time, you're not just changing the life of one dog -- you're helping to change the lives of all the animals who find a home through that organization.

Foster

Rescue groups can only help as many animals as they have space for, so many organizations are happy to add additional foster homes to their existing roster. By fostering a dog, you're not only providing a roof over her head, you're also rehabilitating, training, and teaching the dog what it's like to be a pet. Foster homes change the lives of both the dogs and their future forever families.

Adopt

With millions of dogs ending up in shelters every year, it's easy to see that dog overpopulation is a problem in our society, and yet puppy mills continue to use dogs like Maggie to breed puppies for profit. When you choose to adopt instead of shop, you're not only saving the life of the dog you take home, but also the life of the next dog who can fill the vacant space at the rescue or shelter.

Read more Monday Miracles:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

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Fri, 23 Jan 2015 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dachshund-national-change-a-pets-life-day
<![CDATA[Angels Among Us Rescues 40 Dogs From an Overburdened Shelter]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/angels-among-us-pet-rescue-foster-adoption Emptying an overburdened municipal shelter -- like the one in the rural community of Fitzgerald, Georgia -- would take a miracle, but last week a group of rescue angels made the impossible happen.

On January 16, more than a dozen volunteers from Angels Among Us Pet Rescue descended upon the shelter, quickly clearing the kennels of 40 dogs and six cats.

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"When I emailed, I was asking them to take one dog," says shelter volunteer Valerie Veal. "We never even dreamed they would come and clear us out!"

Veal moved to Fitzgerald from Atlanta one year ago and began volunteering at the Fitzgerald Ben Hill County Humane Society. The shelter takes in more than 2,000 animals a year, and local ordinances require that it hold all animals brought in by the animal control department for at least 72 hours before a pet can be placed for adoption or euthanized. When Veal began volunteering there, she was impressed by the efforts staff make to adopt out the animals brought in by animal control, and she says the shelter rarely has to euthanize animals for space.

"This is a place where we want to make sure each and every dog and cat makes it out," says Veal.

That's why she was surprised -- and concerned -- to see the shelter at maximum capacity when she arrived to check on a stray dog she'd first spotted in a church parking lot.

"I knew cold weather was coming later that week, so I spent three days myself feeding that dog and trying to get her to let me put her in my car -- and she never did."

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Valerie Veal with her two dogs, Alf and Cabella. (Photo courtesy of Valerie Veal)

Despite Veal's efforts to coax the brindle Plott Hound mix into her vehicle, in the end, animal control had to set traps so the dog could be brought to the humane society. Inside the shelter, she would be protected from the elements as the temperatures dipped below freezing.

"Mostly when I was trying to catch her, I was telling her that if she would just trust me I would keep her safe."

An animal lover with two dogs of her own, Veal couldn't get the stray out of her mind and went down to the shelter on January 13 to check on the brindle beauty she'd been feeding. It was during that visit that Veal realized just how full the shelter had become. Afraid of what the future held for the dog she'd promised to keep safe, Veal asked staff to call her if euthanasia became a possibility for the pretty Plott Hound.

"I realized, we're about to start killing these adoptable animals, and that's when I called Angels," says Veal.

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The Plott Hound, now known as Aileen, Valerie was desperate to save. (Photo courtesy of Angels Among Us/Becky Henson)

One of more than 500,000 people who follow Angels Among Us on Facebook, Veal was familiar with the rescue's many success stories. On the other end of her call for help, the folks at Angels were familiar with the challenges municipal shelters face in small towns.

"We know how often these rural shelters just do not get the kind of exposure or press that they need," says Elizabeth Hale, manager of publications and media promotions for Angels Among Us.

"We knew what this little shelter down in Fitzgerald was facing, we knew what Valerie was facing -- how could we turn away?"

With so many animal lives in jeopardy, the network of volunteers at Angels Among Us began making plans to move the Fitzgerald pets out of the shelter and into foster homes in the Greater Atlanta area. The foster-based rescue has no brick-and-mortar facility -- just a lot of volunteers with room in their homes and hearts.

Three days after receiving Veal's call for help, 13 Angels volunteers arrived in nine vehicles at the humane society. Animal control officers and the mayor of the community of 9,000 were waiting to thank the group.

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Called #OperationInvisiblePaws, the effort moved 46 pets out of the overwhelmed Fitzgerald shelter. (Photo courtesy of Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Humane Society via Facebook)

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A total of 40 dogs and 6 cats were driven to the Greater Atlanta area during #OperationInvisiblePaws. (Photo courtesy of Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Humane Society via Facebook)

They called it Operation Invisible Paws, and two hours after the Angels arrived, 46 animals in the Fitzgerald shelter had made the nearly four-hour journey to Atlanta, where six veterinary offices were waiting to assist.

Of the 40 dogs, two young puppies were suffering from parvo virus and were taken to an emergency veterinary hospital. One died, but the other is now responding well to treatment.

Medical treatment for the parvo puppies, as well as the other 44 pets, resulted in thousands of dollars in vetting expenses for Angels Among Us. Spaying and neutering surgeries, as well as heartworm treatments and extractions for dental disease, created the rescue's largest ever need for funding.

According to Hale, Angels spends an average of $700 on each pet it rescues, and the current situation has the nonprofit renewing calls for donations. Hale suggests those who want to help can make a donation specifically for the Operation Invisible Paws pets or even for a specific animal.

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Little Keefe is among the dozens of Fitzgerald pets that are now safe and sound in foster care. (Photo by Lori Chapman)

"We have a very low overhead," says Hale. "Ninety-four percent of all our donations goes directly to our animals."

While the rescue is hoping for financial gifts to help cover the costs of the 45 Fitzgerald fosters, the animals have already been given the gift of life, and the Fitzgerald Ben Hill County Humane Society has been given the priceless gift of social media savvy.

"They gave us a lot of tips," says Veal, referencing the vast social media reach of Angels Among Us. "In fact, our shelter -- as of now -- has a Facebook page."

Thanks to Veal and Angels Among Us, Operation Invisible Paws spawned its own hashtag and a social media legacy that means the next generation of adoptable animals in Fitzgerald will be online -- and no longer invisible.

Read about more Dogster Heroes:

Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at dogsterheroes@dogster.com.

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

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Thu, 22 Jan 2015 08:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/angels-among-us-pet-rescue-foster-adoption
<![CDATA[Wheeler Gets Cruising After Escaping Euthanasia]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/wheeler-shih-tzu-poodle-dog-wheelchair-wheels With his back end in a doggy wheelchair, Wheeler the Shih Tzu-Poodle doesn't sit still for long, but before he got his wheels, this dog didn't get around much, despite having such a determined personality.
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"Wheeler's incredible," says Melyssah DeVrye, who brought the special-needs dog into her home in early 2014, just days before he was scheduled to be euthanized.

An experienced animal rescuer, she heard about Wheeler after his first owner found herself unable to keep the four-year-old dog, who had been losing control of his back legs for years.

"The lady who originally had him, had him since he was a puppy," explains DeVrye, who was told that Wheeler started losing mobility in his hind quarters when he was five or six months old.

According to DeVrye, Wheeler's former owner needed to move to a larger apartment after having a child, but was unable to find a dog-friendly rental. The woman then tried to rehome Wheeler (then known as Wheezy), but couldn't find anyone willing to adopt a dog who couldn’t use his back legs.

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Wheeler was a happy boy even when he first arrived at DeVrye's. (All photos courtesy of Facebook.com/TeamWheelsXoXo)

"When I heard about him, I reached out to a couple of rescues, but no one was able to take him," says DeVrye. "After months of trying to rehome him, it was going to come down to euthanasia."

DeVrye knew she could not let that happen, but wasn't ready to take on Wheeler herself. At the same time as she was trying to help Wheeler's owner rehome him, DeVrye was also in the process of moving. She was moving from a house to a sixth-floor apartment, while caring for three rescue dogs and a couple of cats. It soon became obvious to her that apartment living was not a good fit for one of the dogs -- a shepherd named Dallas, who DeVrye had been hoping to make a permanent member of her pack.

She worried Dallas' hips would not be able to withstand the constant stair climbing and began interviewing potential adopters. Although she was heartbroken, DeVrye also knew that finding a more appropriate home for Dallas meant Wheeler could come live in her apartment.

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Happy on his new wheels.

"I sacrificed rehoming probably the best dog ever to be able to care for Wheeler," she says.

When DeVrye was confident she would have the space to accommodate Wheeler, just a week before his scheduled euthanasia date, she called the woman seeking to rehome him.

"I told her, 'Use me as your last resort, not euthanasia,'" DeVrye recalls.

Soon Wheeler was in her care, and DeVrye began pouring over his old vet records, looking for some clue as to why his back legs stopped working. She says the vet records show that while Wheeler's first owner took him in for his shots, she declined the vet's suggestions of neurological consults and X-rays.

DeVrye believes Wheeler's first owner declined the vet's suggestions due to financial concerns, and adds that while her own financial situation is not vastly different, she's been able to provide for Wheeler's medical needs through self-sacrifice and outside support. Some of Wheeler's medical bills have been paid through a sponsorship by Bialy's Wellness Foundation, an organization that helps special-needs animals.

"He's had X-rays done now, he's been neutered, he's going to have a neurological consult this month," she says.

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Wheeler is now getting the medical care he needs.

While Wheeler got a chance to catch up on his vet visits when he came to live with DeVrye, he also got to use a wheelchair for the first time.

"I don't think he was so used to being able to move about the apartment freely," says DeVrye, who carries Wheeler up and down half a dozen flights of stairs to take him out for walks. While he gets assistance on the staircase, once outside it's all up to Wheeler.

"I don't baby him -- if he wants to go over a curb, he'll go over a curb," says DeVrye, who is aiming to help Wheeler develop confidence and independence.

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Wheeler is taking on the world (even in the winter).

While Wheeler is getting used to using his wheels, he's also getting used to living with other animals. "He had to adapt to cats and dogs," says DeVrye. "He's never alone anymore. I think that helps with his anxiety."

According to DeVrye, Wheeler's former human used to keep him in the bathroom at night and whenever she was out of the apartment, in an attempt to calm his separation anxiety. "He understood right away that things are different here. If I'm home, he can go anywhere he wants," says DeVrye, who keeps Wheeler safe behind a baby gate when she's away from home.

All the exploring Wheeler has been doing at home and outdoors has helped him get stronger -- he's so strong his back end is now lifting up out of his wheelchair. "He's gained a lot of mobility in his back end and built strength in his core muscles."

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Wheeler loves the outdoors.

While Wheeler keeps getting stronger, DeVrye and Wheeler's vet worry about a two-pound weight loss. Further testing is required to determine if Wheeler's weight loss is due to a GI tract disorder, which could be preventing him from properly absorbing proteins.

Despite his ongoing health issues, Wheeler maintains a sunny disposition. "He's the happiest dog you would ever meet, and he doesn't think he's any different than a dog who can walk on all fours," says DeVrye. "Honestly, Wheeler has changed my life."

DeVrye says she isn't the only human this determined dog is having an impact on. "Wheeler's helped a lot of kids -- they look up to him. There’s a child in my town who is also in a wheelchair, and Wheeler is his hero."

DeVrye hopes Wheeler continues to inspire people, particularly people who are considering adopting a pet. 

"A lot of people have more cons than pros about adopting a disabled dog," DeVrye explains. She says that life with Wheeler isn't about what he can't do -- but what he can.

Read more Monday Miracles:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

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Mon, 19 Jan 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/wheeler-shih-tzu-poodle-dog-wheelchair-wheels
<![CDATA[The Beagle Freedom Project Gives Retired Lab Dogs Forever Homes]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/beagle-freedom-project-lab-animal-testing As a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, the Animal Rescue Media Education group (ARME) works to eliminate the suffering of all animals. One way it does this is through the Beagle Freedom Project.

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According to Kevin Chase, vice president for the project, it exists to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome animals from laboratories around the world. By sharing stories of individual animals rescued, it is able to "promote and provoke a public conversation about animal testing and our moral obligations toward these animals who suffer and endure so much for our ostensibly benefit." 

Chase, who has adopted two former lab Beagles himself, explains that many people don't realize that dogs are still being used as test animals in the United States.

Beagles are the breed of choice for laboratories for the same reason they make great family pets. They are docile, people pleasing, forgiving, and easy to take care of. Although the Beagle Freedom Project will, and has, rescued other dog breeds as well as other animals -- including cats, rabbits, pigs, goats, guinea pigs, rats, and even goldfish -- 96 percent of dogs used in testing are Beagles.

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Kevin and his dog, Raymond. (Photo by Josh Stokes)

Taking the steps to rescue these animals is no easy task. First, a laboratory has to be convinced to release its "retired" animals. Chase explains, "We [the Beagle Freedom Project] have a policy position against animal testing. We don't like it philosophically, scientifically, even personally. We don't like it. But that doesn't mean we can't find common ground, a common-sense solution, to bridge two sides of a very controversial and polarizing debate, which is animal testing, and find this area in the middle where we can get together to help animals."

Often because of the type of testing the animal has endured, he simply cannot be released and must be euthanized for necropsy and/or tissue samples. If a dog can be released and the lab is willing, the Beagle Freedom Project will negotiate for exactly that. This usually means paying for all costs and providing all support needed, including vet care and transportation, to find him a home. The group offers to sign non-disclosure agreements so that no one beyond the rescue group knows where the animal came from; liability agreements also release the lab of anything that may happen post-rescue. 

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Beagle Freedom Project president Shannon Keith holds one of seven Beagles released from a Washington, DC-area lab. All were named in honor of the founding fathers. (Photo courtesy of BFP)

There may be a two-week or even as little as 24-hour notice for rescue opportunities. The Beagle Freedom Project has to rely heavily on its volunteers. Without a loving, stable, and far-reaching group of volunteers, the rescues cannot happen. Once a lab has agreed to a release, the Beagle Freedom Project will call all volunteers who have agreed to foster in that nearby area. On release day, fosters and animals all meet in one location.

That first meeting can be very emotional. The Beagles are brought to the location in cages from the lab and, when the doors are open, they take their first step on grass. Chase explains, "Sometimes they come barreling out of those crates. Sometimes it takes 15 to 20 minutes before they put that first paw out and begin to explore." Once the dogs have taken that first hesitant step toward freedom, they start to socialize and meet the foster families.

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After a rescue, Kevin Chase takes Beagles out of the transport van for their first taste of freedom. (Photo by Josh Stokes)

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These Beagles came from a Denver-area lab. (Photo by Susan Weingartner)

Once the dog is home, a foster's job has just begun. Everything is new for these pups. According to Chase they are "like puppies in full-grown dog bodies." These dogs have lived their entire lives, often many years, in a laboratory. They spent 23 1/2 hours out of every day in a metal cage. This cage sat inside a room with cinderblock walls, concrete floors, and florescent lights. Walking on grass, on-leash, playing with toys, sleeping on a comfortable bed, all of these are new experiences.

Some dogs respond very quickly to their new environments, but others take more time, remaining timid due to the trauma they experienced. Chase has adopted two Beagles who were once lab animals. One, Junior, spent five years in labs and yet, as Chase explains, "His first night jumped up on bed and wanted to cuddle, and that is where he has slept every night since." Junior still has some obstacles. Chase says he still doesn't play with toys. Since he was never socialized as a puppy he just never learned how.

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Barney, a rescued Beagle. (Photo courtesy of BFP)

Raymond is Chase's other dog. Raymond spent three years in a lab, and the first week at home with Chase was kept on a leash. "That was the only way to get a hold of him. He was so afraid of the human hand reaching out to him." After six to seven months of anti-anxiety medication and daily trips to the dog park or daycare for socialization, Raymond was able to acclimate and be willing to cuddle with Chase.

Beagles rescued from labs also can have other obstacles. Stairs are unknown and can take coaxing and time to use. Beagles, in general, are good with feline siblings, but these rescues are often hesitant of the new creature. Many, like Junior, just don't know what to do with toys, and others have a fascination with mirrors and their own reflection. "When I first got Raymond home," Chase explains, "I had to put a blanket over the mirror in the hall because my neighbors were complaining; he would just stare at it howling."  

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Kevin Chase carries one of nine beagles rescued from a Minnesota lab. The dogs were named in honor of legislators supporting the Beagle Freedom Bill, which would mandate the post-research release of laboratory dogs and cats. (Photo by Josh Stokes)

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Cherise was one of six Beagles rescued from a New Jersey laboratory. Here she poses at a New York City event in support of the Beagle Freedom Bill. (Photo by Ethan Wolf)

After a few weeks with a foster family, which allows for a better understanding of an animal's personality to ensure a good match, and a clean bill of health, the group will begin looking for a suitable adopting family. That is, if the dog hasn't already convinced his foster family to keep him. Even with all their emotional hurtles, Chase guesses that 70 percent of the foster families become "foster fails" and end up adopting.

As a nonprofit, the project relies on a variety of people to support its mission. Potential fosters and adopters can sign up on the Beagle Freedom Project website. Anyone interested in the work it does can get updates on its Facebook and Twitter. Finally, Chase suggests that cruelty-free shopping is the best way to help put the Beagle Freedom Project out of business -- the group has a smartphone app called Cruelty-Cutter, which allows for quick and easy access, by barcode scanner, to the animal-testing status of a company.

Read more about dogs in research labs on Dogster:

Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at dogsterheroes@dogster.com.

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of "always be closing" to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy's new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

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Fri, 16 Jan 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/beagle-freedom-project-lab-animal-testing
<![CDATA[TLC Rescue Founder Saves 21 Foster Dogs From Fire ]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/tlc-rescue-founder-saves-21-foster-dogs-from-fire-tammy-carper-go-fund-me They're okay. They're all okay.

That is about the only good news for Tammy Carper and her foster dogs right now -- all 21 of them.

Carper, from Bean Station, Tenn., is a driver for Movin' on UP Volunteer Animal Rescue Transports. But her other great pup passion is fostering. Last Thursday, she had 21 dogs under her care at the TLC Rescue.

"TLC" is Carper's initials, and the rescue location is actually her home. And those who know Carper understand that she always puts the dogs ahead of herself.

That was never more true than last Thursday.

In a flash, her double-wide mobile home was gone. Apparently sparked by a wood stove inside, a swift-moving fire gutted the residence and the rescue. But Carper, who was home at the time, managed to get all 21 of her dogs to safety, even as all of her worldly possessions went up in smoke.

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Carper posted this photo of the fast-moving fire on her Facebook page.

"She went into the living room while it was already totally in flames and started grabbing dogs and getting them out the back door," said Pamela Hughett McKee, a close friend of Carper's and a fellow foster provider in nearby Morristown. "She made a sweep through the house and grabbed the small [dogs] that were indoor dogs."

One of the dogs hid under the mobile home as the fire raged above. Carper was able to bust through sheeting that surrounded the dwelling to make a hole large enough for the dog to escape unharmed.

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The remains of the home's interior after the fire (Photo courtesy of Pamela Hughett McKee)

Several of Carper's larger dogs were in an enclosed outdoor area away from the structure and were not in immediate danger during the blaze. But while all lives were spared, material goods were wiped out.

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Some of Carper's foster dogs. (Photo courtesy of Pamela Hughett McKee)

"She's lost all her supplies. From food, to crates, bedding, she's lost all of that," McKee said. "Medicine, her own clothes … it's all gone."

Within hours, news of the fire reached other rescuers in the area, and they immediately began working to find temporary shelters and homes for the dogs.

"There's a very special bond between us rescuers," McKee said. "We're very defensive of our babies, the homeless and abandoned. We all have the same heart, you might say. When someone is in need, we're often always willing to step up and put our own needs aside to help. Whatever it takes to get the job done."

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Tammy Carper and one of her rescues, Rue. (Photo courtesy of Pamela Hughett McKee)

Toward that end, a Gofundme campaign has been started on Carper's behalf, with a goal of $20,000. Hope Haven for Animals, a rescue in nearby Rogerville, Tenn., for which Carper serves on the board, is also accepting donations of material goods for both Carper and the dogs. It can be reached at HopeHavenforAnimals@yahoo.com or 423-923-3908.

"I'd like to get back on my feet at my property, you know living, and to get me a reliable van to continue my rescue," Carper told WATE.com. "I'm not going to stop. That's what I live for, I love my dogs and they need me."

Read more news about dogs:

About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for MLB.com and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).

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Wed, 14 Jan 2015 08:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/tlc-rescue-founder-saves-21-foster-dogs-from-fire-tammy-carper-go-fund-me
<![CDATA[6 Things I've Gained Through Animal Rescue]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/animal-rescue-adoption-fostering-benefits I recently wrote about the sacrifices I've made through my involvement in animal rescue, but here I'm going to share the things I've gained, which, of course, trump the sacrifices, or else I wouldn't do it.

It wasn't until my mid-30s that I got involved in animal rescue, after a dream I had about a cat, which prompted my first adoption, a kitty named Miko, from Seattle Humane Society. We later adopted a couple of companion kitties for him. Then my teenaged daughter, Zinnia, and I started to volunteer at Regional Animal Services of King County, where we became a foster family. And that led to the adoption of two dogs. And a couple of cats. We are currently fostering a white Pit Bull mix, Crystal. She has leash aggression and can be a bit of a handful when she sees other dogs out in public, which I also recently wrote about.  

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Our foster dog, Crystal. (All photos by Kezia Willingham)

Today, I have a house full of animals and no longer volunteer at the shelter, but my passion for animal rescue has not subsided. Writing for Catster and Dogster is perhaps one of the greatest highlights of becoming involved in rescue -- and something I would never have imagined doing a few years ago.

Now on to what I've gained through animal rescue:

1. My animals provide companionship  

This is the first thing that comes to mind. Inevitably, there is a kitty sitting next to me as I type on my laptop. In fact, I am never truly alone because I have many furry friends to keep me constant company. 

There is something special about the time I spend with my felines -- the quiet camaraderie that is not found anywhere else. I love cats and dogs equally in different ways. I cherish my early morning time with my cats, but one of my favorite things about having dogs is walking them. My dogs love to follow me around wherever I go, and I believe they love their walks as much as I do. My kids and I definitely feel more safe walking, and living, with a dog pack.

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Daisy on her first day at our house.

While my cats will come visit me when the circumstances are just right, my dogs always want to be right next to me. And I can't help but enjoy their eager company. I am thankful for the companionship I feel with both my cats and dogs. 

2. They inspire me 

My animals inspire me to work hard to care for them. I didn't have animals as a kid or young adult, so I've had a steep learning curve over the last few years. I've had to learn everything, from how to feed and groom them to how to crate train. I like learning, and my animals provide me with the opportunity to continuously learn and grow as a person. And trust me, there is NEVER a dull moment when you live with a pack of rescued animals!

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Having so many rescue animals, including May Belle, really inspires me to work hard to give them a great life.

3. My dogs and cats bring me and my kids joy

Perhaps this is one of the quintessential aspects of having companion animals in your life -- such a sense of joy! The pleasure gained from simply gazing at them, sitting with them, and observing their crazy antics! Even better is witnessing my children interact with them lovingly. One of the things that makes me happiest is the connection my children have with our animals. I feel blessed that they get to grow up with animals and learn to feel comfortable with them from an early age (in the case of my son). I was very scared of dogs for most of my life, so I am pleased that my children do not share this fear. Nothing melts my heart more than seeing my kids cuddled up together, surrounded by our animals.

4. They show me what loyalty means 

Friends come and go from your life. Partners may leave. Family members get busy, or maybe they marry people who don't like you so you don't see them as often. But if you bring an animal into your home and provide a loving environment, you will experience no greater sense of loyalty. This is true for both cats and dogs, in my opinion. Felines demonstrate their loyalty more quietly than canines, but both will stay by your side in a way that no human ever will. I was estranged from my father for most of my life. Then he died before we ever got a chance to reconcile. He never met his grandchildren or saw me graduate from college. I'll tell you, there is nothing quite like the pain of never having closure with someone as significant in your life as a parent.  

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My son, Justin, and my daughter, Zinnia, with our dogs Daisy, Lilly, and May Belle.

5. My animals bring me true inner peace

Some people do yoga, meditate, or go to the spa to feel centered. I find my sense of inner peace when I allow myself to relax and enjoy a moment with my cats and dogs. One of my most favorite, peaceful activities is to settle down in bed with my pets around me. Usually when I come home, my dogs get really excited and run around crazily trying to get my attention. But after they get that out of their system, they settle down all around me and my kids. The cats choose to surround me early in the morning when the dogs are still asleep. But every now and then I'll have a couple of cats and all the dogs, and it feels perfect!

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Daisy on the couch.

6. They give me a sense of giving back

When you bring a formerly abused, abandoned, or lost animal into your home, they are initially unsure of their place. But slowly, day after day, they start to learn that they are warm and safe. They learn they will be fed every day. They learn that there are people who enjoy their presence in their lives. 

All of my animals are rescues, but my dog Daisy is the only one who showed obvious signs of past abuse. At first, Daisy winced whenever we tried to reach for her. She did not know how to go to the bathroom like most dogs -- it would just fall out of her. Daisy carried herself as though she was constantly fearful. 

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May Belle loves to curl up with the humans who love her.

A year later, Daisy is the biggest cuddle bug in the entire household. She loves nothing better than to curl up next to you while you watch TV, take a nap, or whatever. She now knows how to go potty outside and also inside on pads. And I love to see her defend herself when May Belle is trying to bully her. There is something to be said for witnessing a living creature gain the confidence she lacked.

Animal rescue requires a lot of work. But it also pays huge dividends. Becoming involved in animal rescue has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, and for that I am grateful. 

What about you?  What would you add to this list? Tell us what you gained through animal rescue in the comments!

Read more by Kezia Willingham:

About the author: Kezia Willingham is a Breadwinning Laundry Queen who works as a Health Coordinator for Head Start. She is a regular contributor to Catster and Dogster. Her writing has appeared in Literary Mama, The New York Times, The Seattle Times, and multiple anthologies. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, which includes a number of rescued cats and dogs. You can follow her on Twitter.

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Wed, 14 Jan 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/animal-rescue-adoption-fostering-benefits
<![CDATA[Motley Zoo Animal Rescue Works With Rock Stars to Find Dogs Homes]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/motley-zoo-animal-rescue-dog-adoption-motley-crue
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Seattle-area folks who help dogs and cats can't help but be aware of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, which was recently awarded a KEXP-FM Community Partnership Grant. It will raise funds for the organization during March. KEXP is hands down the hippest independent radio station in Seattle, and for the rescue to receive one of its awards is quite an honor.

I wanted to learn more about Motley Zoo, and its founder, jme Thomas, was kind enough to answer my questions via email.

Dogster: How did Motley Zoo get started? 

jme Thomas: Motley Zoo was founded in 2009, after my husband and I became disillusioned with some other rescues we volunteered for. After two years, we saw there were things that worked, but there was a lot that didn't -- and we believed that a "better" way was possible, one that appreciated and respected the volunteers more and ensured animals that didn't fall through the cracks; we wanted one where quality would always trump quantity.

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Motley Zoo has fun with its name on T-shirts and other promotional items. (Photo courtesy of Motley Zoo)

We had met other likeminded people through this work, and those people joined us to comprise our board. The board has since changed a bit, but my husband and I remain, along with Nancy Jones, who had joined shortly after founding. Thankfully, we are a close group of people who really provide a strong support system to this organization.

Since our inception, with a current crew of 150 volunteers, we have rescued and rehomed more than 1,400 animals.

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Buzz Osborne of the Melvins with Hannah Levin and jme thomas. (Photo courtesy of Motley Zoo's Facebook page)

What kinds of animals do you rescue? Do you have a shelter or foster network?

We are foster-based and primarily rescue dogs and cats, but as the name "zoo" implies, we are open to whatever animals are in need. Our fosters' availability, skills, experience, and willingness dictate which animals we can take and when. We have the occasional "small furry" house-pet, but we have also helped birds, a pig, and even a cow! 

Primarily we work to support the shelters, so they usually contact us when they are overflowing or if animals have a medical or behavioral need that can't be properly addressed there. This can mean a dog with a broken leg who requires crate rest and frequent care, for example.

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jme thomas of Motley Zoo with Motley Crue's Tommy Lee. (Photo courtesy of Motley Zoo's Facebook page)

What would you say makes your rescue unique?

Motley Zoo is unique in a few ways -- namely our fresh, forward-thinking and go-get-'em approach, which has helped propel us forward. Part of this is our rock-and-roll aesthetic. We have a fun, cool vibe, which attracts many followers.

Besides our look and attitude, we also have fun marketing gigs that help raise awareness and attention to our cause. For example, we name our animals after musicians and bands (or their songs), and then take the animals to meet [the musicians] when they come to town. We take pictures with them and have them sign memorabilia, which we hang throughout the studio, and the musicians share on their social media, which helps generate interest not only in the general idea of rescue, but in specific animals as well.

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Alan White of Yes stopped by and got mobbed by some of the Motley Zoo dogs. (Photo courtesy of Motley Zoo's Facebook page)

When you're looking through a bunch of animals online, and you see one named Tommy Lee or Nikki Sixx [of Motley Crue], you're going to take notice! This not only gives the animals more individuality, but it increases their rate of adoption, too. Our animals have met Snoop Dogg, ZZ Top, Slayer, Rob Zombie and his band, Tommy Lee, and many more. It has been an amazing opportunity to spread the word about how rockin' rescue can be.

How do you connect with the celebrities? Do they ever adopt from you?

We are so fortunate and proud of this aspect of our marketing! It actually was born out of a dream I had one night. While anticipating attending an upcoming Rancid show, I chose the band members and a bunch of songs for a crew of cats and kittens who came in. The night before the show, I dreamed I took the kittens to the concert and showed the band, who thought it was hilarious. I woke up and was laughing telling my husband, who also thought it was hilarious ... then I stopped mid-laugh and said, "I'm going to do that." He said, "What? You're going to bring kittens to a concert?" 

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jme thomas of Motley Zoo with Motley Crue's Tommy Lee. (Photo courtesy of Motley Zoo's Facebook page)

"Yes," I said, like this was the most normal thing in the world!

He looked at me funny (although he should know by now not to question my ideas!), and I went about making my plan. I showed up early to the show, handed the tour manager our card, and explained what I was there for. The little crate of mewing kittens certainly helped drive it home. 

The band thought this was fabulous, and I was taken backstage to do a quick photo shoot. They were so nice and spent more than a half hour with me, asking about what we do and talking about their pets -- they even invited us to be on the guest list!

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Motley Zoo with Tommy Lee and some of the rescue dogs. (Photo courtesy of Motley Zoo's Facebook page)

Of course, when I called my husband and told him that, he asked which show was next -- and our celebrity meet-and-greet concept was born. Through some of the other meetings, we hooked up with a DJ from a radio station and her photographer friend, who helped connect us to more band encounters.

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jme thomas brought a bunch of adoptable puppies to meet the band Kongos. (Photo courtesy of Motley Zoo's Facebook page)

Since then, as we've become known for doing this, it's been a lot easier to set up meetings, even last-minute ones. We have even been invited to concerts and festivals to hang out backstage and in the VIP lounge, to provide the artists some much needed comfort and relaxation. It's been a big hit!

I love your T-shirts. Who designs them?

I come up with most of the ideas, but my husband is the true artist, who perfects and helps them come to fruition. I used to design clothing myself, so this is a fun outlet for me now that I am too busy to do it running Motley Zoo. 

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My daughter, Zinnia, in my Motley Zoo T-shirt. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

Would you like to share a story about any of rescues you currently have?

Mr. Melvin for sure. He is a red Miniature Pinscher named after Buzz Osborne of the Melvins. He even got to meet him! Melvin was a bit shy with him, but as a guardian of rescued terriers himself, Buzz was very sweet and patient.

He came to us from a local shelter with a grade-four heart murmur. When you pick him up, you can actually feel the blood flow in his chest, bypassing his heart. It's scary. You'd think this would make him fragile, weak, lethargic, and sickly -- but no! He is the fastest, spunkiest, most lively and playful dog. A bit of a spaz actually, but so super sweet and lovable. He just turned one year old on Nov. 7.

He needs a surgery to save his life, which will cost $5,000 to $10,000. We have never done this before ... we routinely spend thousands on animals, but four thousand has been the limit thus far (for an eight-week-old puppy with a liver shunt). Mr. Melvin will be available for adoption from Motley Zoo Animal Rescue after his surgery.  

This is a very prohibitive obstacle, but as we vowed never to let any dollar figure cloud our judgment, we are hoping we can go forward with it, raise the funds, and find him a permanent home. The surgery is indeed a requirement for him to live a full life. We are talking with a college in the state, to see whether it can perform the surgery, but it is five hours away and requires a few visits in the meantime, so we are seeking a temporary foster situation nearer the school to try and arrange that.

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TV on the Radio plus puppies = cuteness. (Photo courtesy of Motley Zoo's Facebook page)

Sadly, too, his foster family here had a house fire and are currently displaced. They can no longer have him in their home, as they are staying in temporary digs themselves, with their own pets. You know you have great fosters when they are crying at having to hand over their foster dog. She just kept saying she didn't want him to go, and when they get things figured out they want him back.

So Melvin is again in need of fostering, for a different reason. This poor guy never seems to catch a break.

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Some of the adopted dogs and cats who found homes via Motley Zoo in 2014. (Photo courtesy of Motley Zoo's Instagram)

In the meanwhile, he's hanging out with me, coming to Rock Star Treatment [Motley Zoo's doggie daycare], and having a blast. But he misses his foster family, and my house is really boring for him. I have older, sedentary dogs, and he needs a bit more action. He's a true rock star and wants to party like one -- at least until we can get him the surgery he needs. Then maybe he'll slow down a tad for recovery, but he'll no doubt be back to his usual "live fast" lifestyle very soon!

Find out more about Motley Zoo on its website (check out the T-shirts and hoodies!) and on Facebook (where you'll also find Rock Star Treatment). Also check out Motley Zoo on InstagramYouTube, Pinterest, and Twitter

Read more about celebrities helping dogs:

Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at dogsterheroes@dogster.com.

About Kezia Willingham: Kezia lives in Seattle with her pack of rescued cats and dogs.  She identifies as a Breadwinning Laundry Queen who works for Head Start by day and is a frequent contributor to Catster and Dogster.  Her writing has appeared in multiple anthologies, the New  York Times, and the Seattle Times.

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Tue, 13 Jan 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/motley-zoo-animal-rescue-dog-adoption-motley-crue
<![CDATA[Chloe the Wonder Pup Survives Abandonment and Parvo ]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/chloe-wonder-pup-pit-bull Chloe the Wonder Pup's story begins during a snowstorm in North Carolina. The tiny Pit Bull was just a week old when authorities were called to the home where she and her dog family had been abandoned, left behind when the last tenants moved away.
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Chloe's father, chained up outdoors, had already succumbed to starvation and exposure.

"Her mom was clinging for her life," explains Amber Oravsky, who adopted little Chloe seven weeks later. "They brought mom and three or four siblings into the shelter, but Chloe was the only one who survived."

Without a mother to nurse her, the shelter was no place for such a young puppy, so an employee of the Stokes County Animal Shelter in Germanton, North Carolina, took little Chloe into her own home as a foster puppy. The tiny dog needed to be bottle fed every two hours.

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Baby Chloe when she arrived at her foster home. (All photos courtesy of Chloe the Wonder Pup Facebook page)

In foster care, Chloe was loved and cared for by humans for the first time. Her foster family made sure she was fed, cuddled, and socialized extensively.

"They took her everywhere. If they went to a baseball game, Chloe went to a baseball game," says Oravsky.

Eventually Chloe's foster family turned her over to The Fort, a no-kill shelter dedicated to the rescue of all dogs, but Pit Bulls like Chloe in particular. Founded by reality TV star Jake Gardner, who appeared on Animal Planet's Pit Bulls and Parolees, the shelter serves an area of North Carolina that sees 30,000 dogs enter shelters annually.

Oravsky and her fiancé live in upstate New York, but were planning a trip to visit family in North Carolina when a nephew posted pictures of Chloe. 

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It's not surprising Oravsky fell in love with Chloe's pictures.

Despite having two dogs and two young children at home already, Oravsky and her fiancé both fell in love with the puppy in the pictures, and were soon completing The Fort's application process. The family drove to North Carolina and stopped at the shelter to pick up eight-week-old Chloe on the way to Oravsky's in-laws.

The whole family fell in love with the adorable puppy, but their happy vacation was quickly overshadowed by concern.

"When we first got her, the first couple of days she was okay, but then she got real lethargic," Oravsky recalls. "She wouldn't eat. Every time she drank, she threw up." Oravsky rushed little Chloe to the emergency vet and received devastating news. Chloe had parvo.

Parvo, also known as canine parvovirus, can cause a fatal illness in dogs. The highly contagious virus is spread either through contact between dogs or through feces. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, canine parvovirus type 2c is the most common variant of parvo in the United States, and it can remain infectious in soil for at least year. The ASPCA notes the virus severely impacts a dog's intestinal tract and also attacks white blood cells. Young animals who survive parvo can suffer cardiac problems for the rest of their lives.

After the frightening diagnosis, Oravsky's in-laws suggested taking Chloe to their regular vet, where she stayed for several days of treatment.

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Chloe the Wonder Pup pulled through after a diagnosis of parvo.

"We caught it early enough," says Oravsky. "She bounced right back. They gave us daily updates while she was in the infirmary."

The experience of almost losing Chloe has made Oravsky a vocal advocate for pet vaccination.

"Chloe did have the booster, but she obviously didn't get it in time because she ended up with parvo," says Orvasky, adding that Chloe probably picked up the virus as a very young puppy, before her arrival at The Fort.

"Make sure that you vaccinate your pets. Take them to the vet when they need to go to the vet, because parvo can be prevented," she says.

After Chloe won her fight against the virus, she came home to find she had another fight on her hands -- this time the little puppy was up against breed bias. Some of Oravsky's extended family members remain skeptical of the Pit Bull, who shares the house with two children younger than two. Oravsky says she simply doesn't believe in bad dog breeds, just bad owners and bad training. She says that Pit Bulls make delightful family dogs.

"Pit Bulls were known as nanny dogs in the beginning. They were meant to be with kids. She is so good with my two boys," Oravsky says. "They're goofy, they're playful, and their tails -- well, at least Chloe's -- are always wagging."

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Young Chloe with one of her human brothers.

Oravsky maintains that happy Chloe has proven that she can overcome anything, and as the dog enters adolescence she has another challenge to take on. After a recent scrap with her older dog sister Kiki, an Olde English Bulldog, young Chloe wound up needing stitches and a drain.

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Chloe is now recovering after a fight with her dog sibling.

Oravsky is confident that with the right tools, both dogs can learn to live in harmony. She says the next challenge for her wonder pup Chloe will be training with a behaviorist. 

Read more Monday Miracles:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

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Mon, 12 Jan 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/chloe-wonder-pup-pit-bull
<![CDATA[An Open Letter to Jack's Previous Owner on His Last Day Alive]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-rescue-adoption-open-letter-jack-italian-greyhound Italian Greyhounds are my "heart dog," as cheesy as the phrase sounds. They're that breed you encounter at some point in life and know instantly you can't live without. There's just something about them -- the way they prance, lighter than air. The knack they have for burrowing beneath blankets without needing any help. The way they dance with each other, paws on shoulders, when they meet. The way they are Velcro dogs in every sense of the word and always want you in their sight.

It breaks my heart when I read stories about any dog being abandoned or distressed, but that happens doubly so when an IG is involved. Perhaps because I know how fragile they are, how sweet their dispositions can be. There is a special place in hell for people willing to break that spirit. 

I follow several breed-specific groups online, and through one of them encountered the story of Jack last year. I've been meaning to share it with you for quite some time. I read it with tears in my eyes from the first paragraph onward, and felt it was an incredible reminder that senior dogs -- of all breeds -- need our love. Contrary to the "free dog" posts that hit Craigslist every day, they are NOT trash, and they deserve to go to the bridge knowing they mattered.

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Jack enjoying the sunshine. (All photos courtesy of Heidi Wagner)

Grab a tissue, and please read this note posted by Heidi Wagner, who took Jack in when others would not. She runs Boxer Butts & Other Mutts, a rescue based in North Carolina, and has her hands full, but she still managed to make the end of his life special. The world needs more people like you, Heidi.

++++

To Jack's Previous Owner:

I held your dog today as he took his last breath -- wrapped in his favorite blanket and in his favorite cuddly bed with my tears falling on his little face, reminding him that I will always love him.

His name was Jack, and you dumped him, a 16-year-old blind and deaf dog, at the shelter because he was having accidents in your house. My heart was not ready to take another senior in, but I saw his face and knew I had to help him, as his life had been turned upside-down.

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Sweet Jack.

Did you ever stop to think about how scared he must have been when you left him at that shelter, only able to smell all the terrible smells? We got him out of there the same day you dropped him off. He was scared and confused when I got him, but it did not take him long to realize he was going to be okay.

He was too frail, too skinny, anemic, had a horrible eye infection, and an oral infection around the only tooth he had left, along with terrible arthritis. We treated everything, and while always frail, he enjoyed his cuddle time and the sunshine on his face.

Once he started feeling better, his appetite was great. He would eat at least every two hours and would let you know when he was ready for his food. I would have fed him every two hours for years if that was what he wanted. I was blessed to have him in my life for two months and five days. In that short amount of time, he helped heal my heart.

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Jack cuddling with blankets, as Italian Greyhounds do.

I needed him as much as he needed me. So, though it makes me sad and angry that you could so easily dump your 16-year-old dog at the shelter, I wanted to thank you, because I was beyond blessed to be part of this amazing little dog's life.

Over the past few weeks, he had started to slow down, and today he let me know that he was done fighting and he could no longer get up. With tears in our eyes, my daughter and I took him to the vet's office. We said our goodbyes and held him until he took his last breath. He did not die alone and scared in the shelter that you dumped him at. He lived a life filled with love and comfort and was reminded every day how much his little life mattered and how much he was loved.

Rest in peace, my sweet little Jack. Your little paw prints will forever be etched in my heart.

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Jack outside.

Read related stories on Dogster:

About the author: Janine is your typical annoying Aries overachiever with nine human siblings and a soft spot for sighthounds. She is a tattoo collector, tea drinker, and unabashedly into marshmallows and cheesy musicals. She was formerly editor-in-chief of Dogster and Catster and is now the executive editorial director for their parent company, I-5 Publishing.

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Thu, 08 Jan 2015 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-rescue-adoption-open-letter-jack-italian-greyhound
<![CDATA[How Do You Talk Yourself Out of Adopting a Second Dog?]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/talk-yourself-out-adopting-second-dog-adoption-rescue I like to window-shop online. I waste a lot of time looking at houses for sale, clothes I can't afford, and dogs I should not adopt.

Most rescues would consider me their dream adopter. I work from home and usually break up my work day with a very long walk. I actually like dog training and enjoy spending my weekends wandering in the woods with my pup, Maybelle. In other words, on any given day I could probably go to just about any local rescue and adopt a dog within a few hours. And it's really hard for me not to do exactly that.

Within three minutes of my house there is one rescue -- which, thankfully, only has cats on the premises -- and a large chain pet store, which regularly hosts adoption events. I have, on more than one occasion, gone to buy a bag of food on adoption day and had to fight my way through a crowd of adorable pups. I've even seen one of those doggy transport trucks dropping off pooches in the commuter lot near my house.

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Maybelle, in front, likes running with her buddies, but I suspect she prefers to have the couch to herself.

And then there is social media. I made the mistake of following a city shelter on Facebook. Most of the towns around me don't have a big stray dog problem. I live in Connecticut, where people are generally very good about spaying and neutering. We have low-cost programs and mobile vets galore. And we have a lot of rescue organizations willing to step in and help when town pounds need help placing animals. But, like most places, our state's urban centers tend to have bigger stray problems. The volume of dogs is much greater, and they have short adoption windows. So, every day, my Facebook feed is filled with "urgent" posts from the shelter.

It's hard not give in, but I tell myself the same thing I used to when I volunteered for Canine Advocates of Newtown: "You can't take them all home." 

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This is Russell, one of the many dogs I had to resist adopting when I was volunteering. Sadly, he is still looking for a forever home.

The Internet is a dangerous place for people like me -- especially Petfinder. I have spent hours of my life perusing the available dogs in my area. Maybe I could get a retired Greyhound and dress him up in cute coats. I could adopt a dog who likes to fetch, since Maybelle finds it to be beneath her. Maybe I could just get another cattle dog, which would then give me a good excuse to buy a farm and get some livestock. All of these are bad ideas.

When you have the time and love to give, it's hard to come up with a good reason not to adopt another pet. Every time my friend's dog comes to stay with me, and Maybelle spends the day playing in the yard instead of sleeping under my desk, I think it would be a great idea to find her a permanent playmate.

It's easy to fool yourself into thinking having two dogs is just as easy as having one -- and in many ways it can be, but not always. Sure they can entertain each other, but when you have more than one, other things become more complicated. Last winter, when I went to visit my best friend in Maine, I took Maybelle along. She happily played with my friend's Border Collie, and we all went for a nice long hike along the icy coast. When I went on a cross-country road trip with my cousin (who happens to be my go-to dogsitter), I left Maybelle with friends who have a dog. If I had two dogs, I would have felt like I was imposing in either of those situations. And if I had to board two, I probably couldn’t afford to go anywhere.

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Down for the count, Maybelle got pinned by her host while I was on vacation.

If those logistical arguments aren't enough to convince me that adopting another dog isn't a good idea, I can always go look at my vacuum -- or my couch, eternally covered in fur. I can sweep the tumbleweeds of cat hair out from under the table or grab the pooper scooper and head out into the backyard. But those kinds of petty concerns aren't really enough to keep me from bringing another animal into the house.

It usually comes down to finances. I have two cats who are on an all-wet-food diet -- which is expensive and strangely time-consuming. They both have had urinary tract problems, and they're getting old. One of them had a bout with gallstones last summer, which cost me a pretty penny. Maybelle has been pretty healthy so far, but she still needs vaccinations, heartworm preventative, rare trips to daycare, and treats. (Not to mention I'd need to invest in a bigger couch!)

The simple fact is that adding another animal to the household right now would dramatically impact the care I'm able to give the ones I already have. If I had another mouth to feed, I would probably have to buy less expensive food. I've been thinking about taking Maybelle to a nearby farm to see if she has any aptitude for herding, but if I had to take a new dog to obedience classes, I would have to put that on the back burner. 

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Maybelle will stay an only dog for now.

But maybe, just maybe ... I could be a decent foster parent for some poor dog? Quick, talk me out of it!

What keeps you from bringing another dog into your home? Tell us in the comments!

Read more about second dogs:

About the Author: Theresa Cramer is a journalist and editor by trade, an NPR addict, and an avid gardener. She blogs at Writer on the Prowl, where you will find pictures of her garden, her pets, and musings about whatever is on her mind. She is working on a book about content marketing and how to make the transition from journalist to brand journalist. ]]>
Tue, 06 Jan 2015 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/talk-yourself-out-adopting-second-dog-adoption-rescue
<![CDATA[From Burn Victim to Law Maker, Susie the Dog Is a Hero]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/susie-pit-bull-puppy-burned-animal-cruelty-laws-north-carolina Beaten and burned by a human when she was just a young puppy, Susie the Pit Bull-German Shepherd was determined to survive. Despite suffering the horrific attack, this dog went on to change lives and laws in North Carolina. She also helped a human victim of animal abuse reclaim her love of dogs.
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"One Pit Bull nearly took my life, and the other one saved it," says Susie's human, Donna Lawrence.

Just 10 months before Susie came into her life, Lawrence also survived a horrific attack, this one by a neighbor's Pit Bull. The dog had been left behind in a move, so Lawrence, a long-time animal lover, was taking food to the Pit Bull when the dog suddenly attacked her. She sustained significant injuries, and the attack would have a lasting impact, both physically and emotionally.

"I lost an early pregnancy because of it, and then found out I wouldn't be able to have kids," Lawrence explains.

After spending time in the hospital, she eventually returned home to her husband and her small, mixed-breed dog, Baby-Girl.

"I think I had what you would call post-traumatic stress -- I mean, I would shake and have nightmares," says Lawrence.

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Donna Lawrence with Susie and Baby-Girl (All photos courtesy of Susie's Hope)

While Lawrence wasn't afraid of little Baby-Girl, seeing other larger dogs terrified her and reminded her of the attack that cost her so much.

"I was almost killed, and you just develop this fear," she explains.

Lawrence was still feeling fearful almost a year later, when she met Susie through a friend who volunteered with the Guilford County Animal Shelter.

The puppy was recovering from horrific abuse she had suffered at the hands of a man who beat and burned her -- knocking some of her teeth out before dousing her in lighter fluid at just eight weeks old. When Susie was found in a park two weeks after the attack, she was terrified and covered in maggots. The ordeal left her with second- and third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body, and her little ears were burned right off.

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Susie was just a baby when a man set her on fire.

"They had to put her to sleep for treatments because it was so painful," says Lawrence, who believes the people at the shelter recognized Susie's will to live early on.

"Sometimes when a dog comes in in that shape, they have to put them down," she explains, adding that Susie's wagging tail made it clear she wasn't giving up.

"It was like she wasn't living in the past, she was living in the moment."

That attitude was contagious, and Lawrence started spending as much time with Susie as possible before eventually adopting her.

"I thought, if she can conquer her fear and trust humans again, so can I," says Lawrence. "It was really like as if she brought healing to me."

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Susie helped Lawrence overcome her fear of larger dogs.

Susie's presence helped Lawrence cope when she learned the dog attack she'd suffered had left her without the ability to have children.

"Physically, I was healing from the scars and stuff, but it took a lot longer emotionally."

While Lawrence and Susie were both recovering, the man who'd hurt Susie was arrested. The case went to trial, but those seeking justice for Susie were disappointed to find out that he wouldn't do any jail time for animal abuse. According to Lawrence, back then North Carolina's cruelty-to-animals felony classification meant no jail time for first-time offenders under the state's structured sentencing guidelines. Because Susie technically belonged to the man's girlfriend, he received a stiffer penalty for a property crime.

"He ended up doing eight months for burning personal property, as Susie counted as the personal property," explains Lawrence. "You could burn your neighbor's couch and get more time than burning a dog."

"Everyone was outraged in the community," says Lawrence. "That's why we set up a Facebook page called Susie's Law and started rallying all over North Carolina to change the law."

Lawrence and Susie went to court, pressing for change, and in 2010 Susie's Law was signed. It reclassified animal cruelty felonies and increased penalties for animal cruelty. Judges can now send animal abusers to jail for 10 months.

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Susie added her paw print to the signing of the law.

Despite the victory, Susie's work wasn't done yet. With Lawrence at her side, Susie has become an advocate for increased penalties for violence against animals.

"My goal is to do a national movement to protect animals and stop this epidemic of animal cruelty," says Lawrence, who has fully committed herself to sharing Susie's incredible story with the world. Through their non-profit organization, Susie's Hope, they aim to foster education and understanding about animal abuse.

Lawrence has written extensively about Susie's story, publishing a range of books for both kids and adults.

"When I did the books, I just really felt like this would be a really great movie," says Lawrence, who got her wish in 2013 when Susie's story was turned into a movie -- the appropriately titled Susie's Hope.

In addition to becoming a movie star, Susie also became a therapy dog in the years after her attack. She goes to schools, hospitals, and nursing homes with Lawrence, inspiring and encouraging others who've been victimized.

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Susie was just eight weeks old when she was attacked by a human.

"So many people have told me they were able to forgive bad people because of Susie," Lawrence explains.

In 2014, Susie’s efforts as a therapy dog were recognized as she took home the American Humane Society's Hero Dog Award for making the world a better place for dogs and humans.

And Susie isn't done sharing her story. In 2015, it will reach yet another audience as she is featured in the documentary, A Dog Named Gucci, a film about animal abuse laws in the United States.

Despite all that she suffered early in life, Susie has gone on to help Lawrence, many other humans, and an unknown number of animals through her advocacy work. This dog who survived against the odds is a hero to both dogs and humans.

Meet more Dogster Heroes:

 

Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at dogsterheroes@dogster.com.
About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.
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Tue, 06 Jan 2015 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/susie-pit-bull-puppy-burned-animal-cruelty-laws-north-carolina
<![CDATA[We Catch Up With Oogy, a Former Bait Dog Who Became the Star of a Bestselling Book]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/oogy-bait-dog-dogo-argentino-oprah He's missing an ear, his face tilts to one side, and his scars will never disappear. Oogy is no ordinary dog -- he's a survivor, and an ambassador for all the other bait dogs who weren't rescued in time.
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The 12-year-old Dogo Argentino was just a puppy when he met Larry Levin and his twin sons by chance at the Ardmore Animal Hospital in Ardmore, PA. The Levin family had just said goodbye to their 17-year-old cat, Buzzy, when clinic staff brought Oogy out.

"The whole left side of his head was bright-pink scar tissue and looked like it had melted," explains Levin, who was told that the pup was brought to the vet clinic after police rescued him during a raid, possibly in connection with a drug investigation.

The details of exactly what happened to Oogy as a puppy will never be known, but evidence suggests he was used as a bait dog in an illegal dog fighting operation. After suffering significant and numerous injuries, Oogy was likely left for dead -- abandoned at the location where police eventually discovered him.

His horrific past didn't stop young Oogy from behaving like a happy puppy when he first met Levin and his sons at the animal hospital, and despite the dog’s startling appearance, it was love at first sight for the family. The disfigured little puppy was quick to cover Levin's twin boys with kisses.

"They were 12 when we adopted Oogy, they're 24 now."

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The Levin boys grew up with Oogy. (All photos courtesy Larry Levin)

In the dozen years since they met, Oogy and his family have experienced a lot. Oogy's family discovered that their dog had been mislabeled -- Oogy was not a Pit Bull, as they had initially been told. Even though Oogy is actually a Dogo Argentino, he looks enough like a Pit Bull to bring out the breed bias in many people. Levin (who was once guilty of breed bias himself) became an advocate for bully breeds and was asked to submit Oogy's story to a website dedicated to the often persecuted dogs.

Oogy's story spread quickly, and in 2008 Levin got a call from a producer with the Oprah Winfrey Show, inviting Oogy to appear on Oprah's Valentine's Day broadcast. Levin was eager to share the dog's story, but knew Oogy couldn't fly.

"The vet said the best way to get Oogy out there is to drive him," Levin recalls.

That road trip to Harpo studios in Chicago changed the fate of both man and dog. Ten days later, a literary agent called, and soon Levin -- who'd always wanted to write -- was busy putting Oogy's story to paper.

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Oogy's biography has been read by people all over the world.

"I spent two years writing it," Levin explains. "They basically gave me as much time as I wanted, or as I needed."

In 2010, Oogy's story, as written Levin, became a New York Times bestseller. The book, Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love, has increased awareness of the horrible cruelty of dog fighting and made Oogy famous in the process.

"People all over the world know Oogy," says Levin. "He’s one of the most recognizable dog faces in the world right now."

The book has been published in multiple formats and continues to find new readers.

"The fact that the story is getting out there and is still resonating is really gratifying," says Levin, who has become very involved in fundraising for rescues and has made hundreds of appearances with Oogy at schools and libraries over the years.

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Oogy's met many young fans over the years.

"When we go to schools, we ask the teachers to select a non-profit or a rescue and ask the kids to take up a collection," explains Levin.

These days, Oogy is making fewer personal appearances due to his advanced age and health history. Over his lifetime, the beloved dog has needed numerous surgical interventions to correct the damage done to him in his puppyhood.

"He went through three operations on his skull -- the first one to save him and the second one to rebuild his face," explains Levin. “Then in 2011, he collapsed. They thought it was a brain tumor."

An MRI revealed Oogy had collapsed not due to a brain tumor but because of a massive infection, which prompted his third head surgery.

"Inside his skull, pieces of fur and pieces of his cheekbone from nine years before had become infected," recalls Levin. "They cleaned it all out, and he survived."

Levin doubts Oogy would be so lucky again, as the dog's doctors couldn't intubate him after his last surgery.

"He should have his left hip replaced, but he would never survive."

Despite his troubled hip, Oogy is still making a few appearances close to home, including trips to a nearby prison. Levin and Oogy volunteer on behalf of New Leash on Life USA, a prison-based dog training program that sees inmates train dogs to increase their adoptability.

"For each class, we talk to the guys about dog fighting," explains Levin, who adds that the program helps the inmate trainers gain employable skills, and it helps influence change in street-level dog fighting.

"They go back into the communities where dog fighting is endemic, and they've got this changed view."

Although Levin hopes to spare other dog's from suffering the same fate as Oogy, he doesn't regret the series of events that brought them together.

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Levin and Oogy are inseparable, even during a nap.

"The worst thing that ever happened to this dog is also the best thing that ever happened to him."

After 12 years together, Levin and Oogy are still inseparable.

"We're the missing parts of each other," says Levin, who adds that Oogy still sleeps with him every night.

"We're just a couple of old guys helping each other."

Meet more Dogster Heroes:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

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Mon, 05 Jan 2015 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/oogy-bait-dog-dogo-argentino-oprah
<![CDATA[The Positive Pit Bull Works to Change Perceptions About the Breed]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/pit-bull-breed-positive-pit-bull-paige-burris
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After adopting her own Pit Bulls in 2008, certified dog trainer Paige Burris experienced firsthand the daily discrimination they face on. In 2009, she founded The Positive Pit Bull, Inc., a group dedicated to educating the public about the dogs and debunking myths surrounding the breed.

Using social media, The Positive Pit Bull strives to put forward the most positive face for the dogs, often by showing their best trait -- love for and loyalty to people. Boasting more than 735,000 Facebook fans, the Positive Pit Bull is clearly not alone in its mission and love for the breed.

Burris doesn't rely solely on social media; she keeps the group heavily involved in the community, particularly in the Christmas and St. Patrick's Day parades. In the Positive Pit Bull's home of Raleigh, North Carolina, the Christmas parade "is the largest between NYC and Atlanta on the East Coast," according to its Facebook page, with more than 80,000 people in attendance; plus, it's televised. The Positive Pit Bull participated for the first time in 2011, and it actually won the People's Choice Award by thousands of votes!

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Paige Burris with her dog, Rocco. (Photo courtesy of Evie Curley)

Focusing primarily on education, Burris and her group work to educate people who have never actually met a Pit Bull, yet already have an aversion to them due to negative media. The group's goal is to see these dogs treated and portrayed fairly.

"We know that every dog is an individual and the behaviors one particular dog exhibits is always a combination of nature (genetic traits he was born with) and nurture (the environment he's lived in and the way he's been treated)," says Burris in an email interview. "Until we start judging dogs (and their behaviors) as individuals, many more innocent dogs will be targeted and killed because of their looks alone. We don't believe it is right, and we can't and won't sit around while it happens. We actively advocate for the breed."

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Cricket, Burris, and Rocco. (Photo courtesy of Steve Exum)

One of the ways the Positive Pit Bull works to portray the dogs in a positive light is by getting as many CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certified as possible. Burris holds CGC classes and tests the dogs, and she also encourages those who pass to train and test their dogs to become certified therapy dogs. She did this with two of her own dogs, Rocco and Cricket, and they now visit local hospitals and nursing homes to bring cheer to the sick and the elderly.

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One of the calendar shots by Burris. Isn't Cricket adorable?!

Besides her work with the Positive Pit Bull, Burris personally advocates for Pit Bulls by showing their softer side through her own photography. "I believe in the power of photography. I've seen it help save many dogs' lives. I regularly photograph dogs at my local shelter, and I see them go to homes right away; without good photos, they can languish and sometimes never make it out. I use my skills to help the breed as much as I can," she says.

Each year, the Positive Pit Bull offers calendars featuring Burris’ photos, which show the silly, joyful, and soulful side of the breed. Fans from all over the world order the calendars. "There are Pit Bull fans worldwide, and we are uniting," says Burris.

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Burris and her dog, Cricket, having some fun. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Hudson)

In 2011 and 2012, the Positive Pit Bull hosted two huge spay/neuter events in Raleigh's Historic Oak View Park, targeting two primary Zip codes where Pit Bulls regularly end up in shelters. More than 400 Pit Bulls came to the events each year, some being walked on wire coat hangers, in very dirty and too-small collars, and on chains. Those dogs were immediately given new collars and leashes, dog food, rabies vaccines, microchips, toys, treats, and information on responsible ownership.

The group signed dogs up for free spay/neuter surgeries, and also had a flyball exhibition, weight pull, and agility exhibition set up so that people could see some positive activities they could do with their dogs. The first year of this event, the Positive Pit Bull spayed/neutered 100 dogs! It collaborated with several area vets, who continue to do spay/neuter surgeries for the group. 

From fighting breed-specific legislation to encouraging responsible dog ownership, Paige Burris and the Positive Pit Bull are true Dogster Heroes!

Read more about Pit Bulls:

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Wed, 31 Dec 2014 08:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/pit-bull-breed-positive-pit-bull-paige-burris
<![CDATA[We Present the 5 Greatest Dogster Heroes of 2014]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dogster-heroes-2014-sophia-yin
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In a world where animals are abused and abandoned with alarming frequency, stories of humans and dogs who make our world better are a much-needed foil to the disheartening headlines. I love reading (and writing) about the dogs and dog lovers who make a difference -- we call them Dogster Heroes.

A Dogster Hero can be a person, a pet, or a group whose actions are helping others, and there were many stories that fit that bill over the last year. It was hard to choose just a few to highlight here, but I finally have my list.

Here are my five favorite Dogster Heroes of 2014.

1. Dr. Sophia Yin

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(Photo courtesy of Dr. Sophia Yin's website)

The death of Dr. Sophia Yin was one of the saddest news stories to hit the dog world in 2014. Although she passed away in September, her website, videos, ebooks, and training manuals are still helping new dog owners around the world become the best pet parents they can be. Her legacy will live on in the advice that she so generously gave to better the lives of so many dogs. One Dogster commenter put it perfectly when she wrote, "Sophia may be gone, but her influence will live on." Dr. Yin's passion and commitment to animals makes her one of the greatest Dogster Heroes of all time.

2. Louise Coleman of Greyhound Friends

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This five-year-old retired racer rescued by Coleman is called Hero, although I'm sure she is his. (Photo courtesy of Judy Barrette Photography)

After a decades-long love affair with retired racers, Louise Coleman, founder of Massachusetts-based Greyhound Friends, has expanded her rescue operation to help other kinds of unwanted Hounds. As Greyhound racing dwindles stateside, Coleman's rescue is now full of lurchers, Beagles, and mixed-breed hunting dogs. Although she has love in her heart for these other hounds, Coleman will never stop advocating for the Greyhound and is currently lending a hand to help racers in Ireland and Argentina.

3. Lisa the Terrier rescued from the dog meat trade

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Little Lisa, raised as meat, is now a pet called Pickles. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Fox)

Every time I read this one, I choke up a bit. The story of Lisa, the little terrier rescued from the dog meat trade in Indonesia, has a horrible start but a happy ending. It begins at an orphanage, where Lisa was one of several dogs being raised in cages. If it weren't for the actions of an orphanage volunteer, Lisa and her puppies may have ended up on a child's dinner plate. Thankfully, all are now living the life these dogs deserve -- that of a cherished pet.

4. Pumpkin the therapy dog

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Pumpkin in a pumpkin patch.

This Golden Retriever is the perfect ambassador for therapy dogs everywhere. The adorable and well-trained Floridian works full-time in health care (as does his sister), bringing smiles to hospital patients who need a shot of happiness during a stressful time. I hope that if I ever have to spend time in a hospital, I will have an animal visitor like Pumpkin to restore my spirits. Pumpkin and his fellow therapy dogs are proving something that many dog lovers have long suspected -- experiencing a bond with an animal really can make a person feel better.

5. Henry the tripod

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Henry the tripod is now happy and healthy. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Morrison)

I've gotta have a fellow Canadian on this list, and I have a soft spot in my heart for the first Dogster Hero I ever wrote about -- Henry, the amputee from Northern Saskatchewan. This former stray hails from the village of La Loche, where he lived on the streets until his soon-to-be human, Michelle Morrison, paid a visit to the community and brought him indoors. Despite losing his leg while still adapting to indoor life, Henry is very happy and healthy these days. This hero pup is showing the world that tripods can do anything and that no dog is beyond saving.

Did I miss your favorite Dogster Hero of 2014? Let's look back at this last year together. Tell us about your favorite Dogster Hero in the comments (and links and pictures are welcome)!

Meet more Dogster Heroes in our archives!

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

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Wed, 31 Dec 2014 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dogster-heroes-2014-sophia-yin
<![CDATA[How a 12-Year-Old Cancer Survivor Pays It Forward to Shelter Animals]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/mckenzi-taylor-poundwishes-shelter-rescue-dogs When young Mckenzi Taylor asked her father why there wasn't a Make-a-Wish Foundation for dogs, Curtis Taylor knew that his kindhearted and compassionate daughter's idea was inspired by personal experience.

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Mckenzi was diagnosed with leukemia at age two, and at age four, the Make-a-Wish foundation granted the little girl's wish to be a princess for a day during a three-day trip to Disneyland while Mckenzi was undergoing chemotherapy. The experience positively impacted the now healthy 12-year-old.

Because of her illness, Mckenzi knows just how important it is to feel cared for and supported in times of need, and she wanted to do something to help others as she was helped by hospital staff and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

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Mckenzi Taylor's own fight against cancer motivated her to help the plight of shelter animals and to prove that dedication and compassion know no age. "Never doubt yourself," she says. "And always be the best you can be."

A big animal lover, Mckenzi knew she wanted to pay it forward for animals who needed help the most: sick, injured, and abused shelter pets.

"That realization stayed with me, and when I visited a shelter looking to adopt a dog, it hit me how shelter pets are so helpless and that the really sick or injured pets had almost no chance of getting their wish of a second chance in a happy home," Mckenzi said about how she was inspired to help shelter animals.

With her parents' help, she started PoundWishes, a nonprofit effort that connects shelters and animal rescue groups with pet lovers all over North America to grant the wishes of dogs and cats in need of surgery, rehabilitation, medication, and other lifesaving intervention. Their mission is to get these animals as healthy as possible in order to save them from euthanasia and to facilitate adoption.

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Nigel's PoundWish to get treatment for his severe mange was granted when pet lovers generously donated more than $800. Nigel is now healthy and happy and in a forever home.

Between three to four million animals are euthanized every year in shelters in the United States, and those who come in sick, injured, or with behavioral issues are the first ones to be put down in order to keep spaces open for animals deemed more adoptable. Mckenzi wanted to reach out and give these pets in need a second chance at a happy, healthy life.

Since launching the website in March 2014, PoundWishes has raised more than $40,000 for shelter pets and their rescue groups, funded more than 1,112 PoundWishes, and has more than 225 shelter partners, according to Kim Coutts, the director of communications for PoundWishes. And in the first six months following the website's launch, PoundWishes was able to collect enough donations to fully grant 150 shelter pets' PoundWishes.

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Clyde the Collie was rescued with 13 other dogs from a terrible hoarding situation in New Jersey, but this "shy and easy-going gentleman" needs treatment for his severe pancreatitis and other ailments from neglect and malnutrition. To read more about Clyde's story and make a donation to his PoundWish, please check out his profile page.

PoundWishes works on the crowd-funding concept. On the website, every dog and cat listed has his or her own profile explaining the animal's story and the amount needed to fund the PoundWish. People can donate as much or as little as they would like, to help pay for everything from critical surgery to treatment for skin conditions to prosthetic limbs. Some dogs, though physically healthy, need intensive training and rehabilitation to overcome the psychological effects of abuse and neglect before being able to find a forever home.

And to help these deserving animals even more, the PoundWishes website also posts adoption listings for shelters all across the United States with a searchable database for available pets.

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This beautiful young dog is Anubis. He lost his hind leg in an accident, and PoundWishes is trying to raise enough money to cover the cost of his prosthetics so that Anubis can enjoy his life to the fullest. To learn more about his story, and to donate to his PoundWish, you can check out his profile page.

"It's hard for us to keep an accurate record of the PoundWish pets that are adopted because it would be up to the our very busy shelter partners to track and report those numbers separately," Coutts explains. "But we do keep pretty close tabs on our Wish pets' progress, and it's always a really great day when we see their pictures posted with their new forever families on social media or the shelter's website."

And while PoundWishes aims to fund critical lifesaving wishes for shelter animals, it also helps collect donations to provide routine care such as dental work and vaccinations as well as spay or neuter surgeries for the cats and dogs. Visitors on the PoundWishes website can see rescued shelter animals in foster homes who require simple procedures such as sterilization in order to find a forever home.

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Elliott was thrown from a moving vehicle and both his back legs were broken. Elliott's PoundWish will help fund his amputation surgery and rehabilitation. As soon as he recovers, Elliott's rescuers at Don't Bully Me Rescue and foster family know he'll make a wonderful pet. You can find out more about Elliott's journey on his PoundWishes' profile page.

"Many people don't realize that the most common reason people relinquish pets to a shelter is their inability to pay for this kind of care, so we continue to help fund these requests knowing it will increase stability for many pets once they are adopted," says Coutts.

PoundWishes' success is not only due to the fact that it's the only website of its kind that raises money for shelter animals who have little chance of adoption -- or survival -- without donations for lifesaving interventions, routine care, or rehabilitation, but also because of how much heart its small team, including Mckenzi, puts in.

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The PoundWishes website allows you to click on each featured shelter pet, like Clyde here, to learn what the animal needs and to help fund his or her wish. Thanks to generous donations, PoundWishes has granted more than 150 wishes to deserving animals since its launch.

"Pets suffer as much as people do, and we need to help," the inspiring 12-year-old says. "I really want people to get involved and volunteer at their local shelter or donate through PoundWishes." Mckenzi hopes the foundation will be able to raise more than $50,000 by the end of 2014 to help fund the shelter pets' wishes, and she also wants people to consider adopting pets from the PoundWishes website.

PoundWishes is focused on expanding its network of supporters and animal rescue partners in order to help as many sick and injured shelter pets as possible.

"The next big challenge is building a strong, national community of pet lovers and crowd funders who are willing to help," explains Coutts. "I think [our current success] really speaks to the value of Mckenzi's mission and what we can accomplish if we unite all the pet lovers out there behind a common goal."

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Mckenzi and furry friend Willie at Seal Beach Animal Care Center in California. Willie has since found a forever home.

If you would like to help grant a PoundWish for a shelter pet in need, please go check out the animals' profiles on the PoundWishes website. The foundation also features photos and information about the shelter pets on its Facebook page.

All photos courtesy of PoundWishes website and Facebook page.

Meet more Dogster Heroes:

About Crystal Gibson: A child-sized Canadian expat in France who is fluent in French and sarcasm. Owned by a neurotic Doxie mix, a Garfield look-alike, and two needy Sphynx cats. An aspiring writer and pet photographer with a love of coffee and distaste for French administration, she can be found as @PinchMom over on Twitter.

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Mon, 29 Dec 2014 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/mckenzi-taylor-poundwishes-shelter-rescue-dogs
<![CDATA[What Have You Given Up for Your Dogs?]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dogs-cats-pets-realities-sacrifies-animal-rescue-adoption We make many sacrifices when bringing animals into our homes. They are a major responsibility, just like children. When I think about the pervasive loneliness I felt before adding animals to my life, I am thankful for the companionship they've brought to my children and myself. Some people don't have large, extended, loving families. But we can create that sense of belonging with an animal family.  

The more involved I get in animal rescue, the more I realize that sacrifice is an inherent part of having animals. Here are the top five things I sacrifice in order to provide for my cats and dogs.

1. We don't take vacations

I've wanted to take my kids to Disneyland for a few years now. At this point in my career, I probably could afford to if I didn’t spend so much money on my animals. But I love my animals and enjoy spending time with them every day, whereas a vacation is a temporary event. So even though I've prioritized my animals over a vacation, it's not a decision I regret.

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Walking in the snow with your loved ones is kind of like a mini-vacation, right? (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

2. We don't have nice furniture  

I bought my first house about six years ago. Part of living in a nice house is having decent furniture. I also bought my first couch and first bedroom set. Well, within months of purchasing the new bed frame, my dogs chewed on it. They still do once in a while. 

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My dogs are very comfortable on the couch. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

My leather couch, on the other hand, has had the entire bottom ripped apart by the cats. In fact, somehow the cats lounge inside the underneath of it. I don't know how. I don't know why. But they do. When I first brought my dog, Daisy, home as a foster, she peed and pooped on my $2,000 couch because she didn't know how to go to the bathroom like a normal dog. She would walk around, and it would just fall out of her. Fortunately, Daisy now mostly uses potty pads and goes outside. She never uses my couch as a bathroom anymore. The thing about things is: They are temporary. They are not living beings. I do not ban my pets from my furniture because the furniture is not my priority. My relationship with my animals is. 

3. We don't have a lot of spare time  

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I am never lonely, even if I am "alone." (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

I don't like to be away from my house more than I have to because I miss my animals when I'm gone. On the days when I have a lot of errands to run, I feel slightly guilty for the time spent out and about. Fortunately, there is almost always someone at home, so the animals are not left without human company for extended periods. For this I feel blessed. I enjoy spending time with my animals. They bring a sense of peace and comfort to my life. The time I spend with my animals is an investment in their well-being, as well as mine. 

4. We don't see friends and family often enough

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Ruby hates house guests, especially my ex. But she loves us! (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

My husband of five years left me about six months after I adopted my first foster cat, a black kitty our son named Starry. Most people would consider that a pretty significant sacrifice. And while it was initially a difficult transition, I've managed just fine. In fact, I now consider it a blessing. As far as other people go, I'm naturally an introvert and prefer to spend a lot of time alone. I'm even less likely to invite people over because my Chihuahuas are not super social, either, and like to guard their property. But, again, this is probably more of a personal preference than a sacrifice. I do have a few good friends who have allergies to cats and cannot come over anymore. I miss being able to invite them over like I used to.

5. Our house isn't spotless -- but so what?  

There is no way you can maintain a perfectly spotless house when you provide a home to multiple children and animals and have a full-time career. I do my best, but it's far from perfect. I'm trying to teach my children responsibility by having them care for our animals, but this is definitely a process. And let's face it, I'm definitely going to need to replace my carpets sooner than later. 

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I woke up to this one morning. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

Our animals enjoy our company as much as we enjoy theirs. They are happy to see us when we come home. There is always someone who wants to curl up in my lap. They provide a sense of purpose. They inspire us to work hard to become better caretakers. And even though there are some sacrifices involved, there are many things we gain in the process. And for that I feel blessed. 

What have you given up for your dogs? Let us know in the comments!

Read more by Kezia:

About Kezia Willingham: Kezia lives in Seattle with her children and pack of rescued cats and dogs.  She is regular contributor to Catster and Dogster and has an essay in the soon to be released anthology Blended: Writers on the Stepfamily Experience by Samantha Waltz: https://www.facebook.com/BlendedStories 

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Mon, 29 Dec 2014 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dogs-cats-pets-realities-sacrifies-animal-rescue-adoption