Rescue | Rescue Rescue en-us Tue, 31 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0700 Tue, 31 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0700 Orion <![CDATA[Rescued From Dog Fighting, a Sweet Pit Bull Needs a Family]]> Watching Daijon the Pit Bull bound across the yard in fast pursuit of a tennis ball, you’d never suspect that this goofy, playful hunk of a dog had been on the brink of death just a short time ago. Following an anonymous tip on Feb. 6 that a dog had been hit by a car and was lying on the side of a road in Atlanta, Fulton County Animal Services went out to retrieve the animal. They assumed the dog would be deceased, but when they came upon the motionless Pit Bull, they not only realized he was still alive but also that his injuries were inconsistent with those from a car accident.

“There were multiple puncture wounds and lacerations to his neck, shoulders, legs, and face, typical of one or several dogfights,” says Cris Folchitto, a full-time volunteer and foster with Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving companion animals from high-kill shelters throughout the state of Georgia. “He was probably a fight-dog fail in that they tested him, but he showed no aggression, or he was used as a bait dog. Once animal control realized this, they sent me a text and our rescue went into action.”

Share this image
Daijon after his initial surgery. You can see the stitches where his lip was sewn back together. (Photo courtesy Angels Among Us Pet Rescue)

Dog fighting is a vicious, sadistic blood sport that sets two dogs against each other in a gruesome fight to the death, all in the name of human entertainment and financial gain. American Pit Bull Terriers and other bully breeds are the most common dogs used for fighting, due to their brute strength, strong sense of loyalty, and willingness to please their humans. Fighting dogs are either killed after losing “matches” or die from their wounds, while submissive dogs who won’t fight are typically used as sparring partners, or “bait.” So while spectators may win big money gambling on the outcome of dog fights, the dogs are the ones who always lose in the end.

But the newly named Daijon, which means “pillar of strength,” wasn’t about to lose his battle with death. Besides massive bite wounds and ripped and oozing flesh, the Pit Bull was also emaciated and loaded with heartworms. Though he must have been in great pain, the gentle dog showed no aggression, only trust, as he allowed the emergency veterinarian and his staff at Georgia Veterinary Specialists to do whatever they needed to do, as if he knew these kind humans were trying to save his life.

“He has an extremely gentle and sweet demeanor,” reads Daijon’s initial medical assessment. “He maintains a stoic face even when he is poked and prodded during his exams. He shows no aggression, has soulful eyes, and seems to embrace any affection that humans will offer to him.”

Share this image
Cris Folchitto comforting Daijon after his surgery. (Photo courtesy Angels Among Us Pet Rescue)

Undaunted by the challenge of piecing the torn and battered canine back together, the vet and his team went to work cleaning and suturing Daijon’s myriad wounds, which included a torn and infected upper lip, a pus-riddled ear canal, and a deep, infected shoulder wound that would require a suction drain for 10 days. After a week under GVS’s expert care, the stitched-up pup was transferred to Chattahoochee Animal Clinic, where he would undergo daily wound care and cold laser therapy to promote healing. The long road of recovery had begun for the courageous Pit Bull.

Several weeks after his rescue and surgery, Daijon is a different dog. Most of his wounds have healed, his body has gone from bony to muscular, and his white and blue coat has transformed from dull to glossy. While his amber eyes glow with joy and renewed vigor, at times you can still see traces of sadness in his gaze, perhaps the residual effects of the abuse and neglect he has endured in his brief two years on the planet. But with a long life ahead as someone’s beloved companion, the sweet Pit Bull’s sad memories may soon be long forgotten.

Share this image
Daijon’s snaggle-tooth grin. (Photo by Lisa Plummer Savas)

While Daijon remains at the clinic -- where he has become a staff favorite –- and undergoes his heartworm treatment, AAU is avidly seeking the right foster home where the gentle dog can be loved, doted on, and acclimated to life with a family. Unsurprisingly, he recently passed his professional temperament assessment with flying colors, demonstrating no aggression or defensiveness toward other dogs or humans, so he’ll have no problem living in a house with fur brothers and sisters as long as they’re not too dominant, says Folchitto.

“He loves people and is very food driven, which will make him easier to train,” explains Folchitto, who has fallen in love with Daijon (like everyone else who meets him) and says she would adopt him if she didn’t already have eight dogs of her own. “Rehabilitating a former fighting dog requires love, stability, a solid pack leader, and exercise. These dogs should avoid stimulations like tug-of-war toys or stressful environments. Socialization and structure are the winning factors in raising and rehabilitating any dog.”

Share this image
Daijon LOVES to play ball! (Photo by Lisa Plummer Savas)

As the most euthanized, neglected, and mistreated breed of dog due to their unfortunate association with a subculture that has used, abused, and overbred them, Pit Bulls have definitely been given a reputation they don’t deserve. Forgiving, resilient, smart, and loyal, they are eager to please, often the easiest to train, and make amazing family companions, says Folchitto, who has adopted, fostered, trained, and served as an advocate for bully breeds for almost two decades.

“They are big goofballs, and their smiles are contagious, but they can also be hardheaded and bossy, which is why they need an experienced dog owner who will provide them with solid leadership,” she says. “They are great companions and very patient, especially with children. They’re not great guard dogs, as they love everybody and only in extremely rare cases have they been aggressive toward humans. In fact, the American Temperament Test Society actually ranks them as one of the easiest breeds to train, with the best overall temperament.”

Share this image
Daijon flashing that infectious Pit Bull grin. (Photo by Lisa Plummer Savas)

So what would be the perfect forever home for Daijon, the unsinkable, people-loving Pit Bull?

“An experienced dog owner or a person who is willing to learn, be patient, and devote time to him,” says Folchitto. “He would definitely benefit from a home with one or more balanced young dogs with whom he can let out his energy, and a fenced backyard would be paramount for him to run and play. If the home has children, they should be above the age of six, as he is clumsy, goofy, and doesn’t completely know his strength.”

If you live in Georgia and you think Daijon could be the perfect pup for you, please contact Angels Among Us and fill out an application. You can also learn more about the amazing organization by visiting its Facebook page.

Read more on dog fighting on Dogster:

About the author: Lisa Plummer Savas is a freelance writer, journalist, devoted dog mom, and animal activist. In an effort to help make the world a more compassionate place for non-human species, she is especially focused on using her writing to spread awareness about controversial animal welfare issues, including the dog and cat meat trade in Asia and Africa. She lives in Atlanta with two spoiled German Shepherds, one very entitled Pug, and a very patient, understanding husband. Read more of her work.

Tue, 31 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/pit-bull-bait-dog-rescue-angels-among-us
<![CDATA[Meet the 57 Dogs Rescued From a Dog Meat Farm in South Korea]]> Humane Society International has prevented another group of dogs from becoming dinner in South Korea. Rescued last week from a dog farm outside of Seoul, 57 dogs and puppies -- including Beagles, Poodles, Korean Jindos, and Japanese Tosas -- are now safe and sound in several of HSI’s emergency partner shelters in the Bay Area in Northern California.

Share this image
Curious Jindo puppies gaze outside the only home they’ve ever known - a dog meat farm. (All photos courtesy HSI)

Instead of living short, miserable lives in squalid conditions, simply waiting to be butchered for their meat, these fortunate pooches are now getting medical treatment, care, and rehabilitation at the San Francisco SPCA, East Bay SPCA, Marin Humane Society, and Sacramento SPCA. Once they have been evaluated and cleared for adoption, these deserving dogs will be placed in permanent, loving homes within the region, according to HSI representatives.

Share this image
Even though Jindo dogs are revered as national treasures in South Korea, they still end up in the dog meat trade.

“These lucky dogs will live the rest of their lives as valued and treasured members of a forever family in the U.S.,” says Adam Parascandola, HSI director of animal protection and crisis response. “These amazing animals are full of character and will make loving and loyal companions. But millions more dogs back in South Korea will die for [their] meat, so our work will continue to shut down more farms and call for an end to this cruel trade. With the Winter Olympics coming to Pyeongchang in 2018, we have a clear opportunity to end the dog meat trade as the world focuses on South Korea.”

Share this image
HSI consultant Lola Webber pulls a pup from his cage.

Share this image
Rescued dogs gearing up for their big journey to the U.S.

As part of a new campaign to stop the trade, HSI worked with the dog farmer to shutter his gruesome, 20-year operation and to transition into produce farming. The agreement required him to relinquish all 57 dogs to HSI, and the organization will track his progress to ensure continued compliance. The farmer also agreed to act as a spokesperson against the South Korean dog meat trade as well as connect HSI with other dog meat farmers interested in transitioning to more compassionate livelihoods.

South Korea is the only Asian country that primarily supplies its dog meat trade with animals raised in dog farms, cruel and filthy operations that would rival our country’s most inhumane puppy mills. In other dog-eating nations, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and parts of China, dog meat traders and traffickers typically rely on sourcing stray, lost, or stolen dogs for the industry. These unfortunate animals are then electrocuted, hanged, bludgeoned, or boiled to death prior to being butchered.

Share this image
A Jindo pup receives a medical evaluation at the San Francisco SPCA.

In a country that houses thousands of dog farms and consumes almost two million dogs per year, HSI’s anti-dog meat campaign couldn’t come soon enough in South Korea. In fact, this is the second dog rescue and farm conversion HSI has orchestrated this year. Last January, HSI rescued 23 dogs from a smaller operation north of Seoul and helped the farmer transition to blueberry farming. All of those dogs are now enjoying life as family pets or are undergoing rehabilitation with HSI’s emergency partner shelters in the Washington D.C. area.

Going forward, HSI plans to continue reaching out and working with other dog farmers who want to get out of the trade permanently and transition into the more humane crop growing.

Share this image
Scared Jindo pups comfort each other at their new digs - the San Francisco SPCA.

With an increasing international movement against the dog meat trade and a growing distaste inside the country for dog meat, pressure has been rising on the South Korean government to do more about the illegal, unregulated trade and its barbaric cruelties. And with the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang on the horizon, HSI sees a great opportunity to not only keep that pressure rising but to also help change attitudes about the raising, eating, and caring of dogs in South Korea.

For more about this wonderful rescue, check out HSI’s video:

Read more about the dog meat trade on Dogster:

About the author: Lisa Plummer Savas is a freelance writer, journalist, devoted dog mom, and animal activist. In an effort to help make the world a more compassionate place for non-human species, she is especially focused on using her writing to spread awareness about controversial animal welfare issues, including the dog and cat meat trade in Asia and Africa. She lives in Atlanta with two spoiled German Shepherds, one very entitled Pug, and a very patient, understanding husband. Read more of her work.

Wed, 25 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/humane-society-international-rescue-south-korean-dog-meat-farm
<![CDATA[Born With Deformities, Chuda the Husky Puppy Beats the Odds]]> In honor of National Puppy Day, this week's Monday Miracle is a pup who has been beating the odds since the day she was born. Her name means “miracle” in Russian, and little five-month-old Chuda has certainly earned the title as the sole survivor of a litter plagued with severe birth defects. 
Share this image

“She is astonishing us on a daily basis,” says Lisa Decker, the director of MisUnderstood Siberian Husky Rescue (MUSH) of Indiana.

“We weren’t expecting her to walk,” she says. “It’s not a productive walk, it’s not a normal walk, but it’s definitely the Chuda walk.”

These days, Chuda is a headstrong puppy, but when Decker first met her, she was just a lucky little newborn in need of rescue. The pup was only a few hours old when Decker got a message from a fellow rescuer who’d noticed a concerning posting in a community garage sale group on Facebook.

Share this image
Chuda won't let anything stop her from getting where she wants to go. (Photos courtesy Chuda's Facebook Page)

“Somebody was offering a Husky they’d found who had just given birth that morning to four puppies. She couldn’t keep them and wanted somebody to pick them up,” says Decker, who contacted the poster, despite the fact that she was in another city.

Decker explained why such young puppies shouldn’t be separated, and the dangers of giving dogs away for free online. The woman said she suspected something was wrong with one puppy's mouth, and from what she described, Decker believed the puppy probably suffered from a cleft palate.

“I said if she would allow our rescue to take them, I would contact the vet, and she could drive them directly to the vet,” she remembers. As a MUSH foster home began preparing for a litter of puppies, the Facebook poster arrived at the vet clinic to drop off mama dog Juneau and her babies.

"The vet texted me to say, 'I want you to sit down. I’m getting ready to send you some photos,'" Decker recalls.

"She said, 'You were misinformed when you were told about the puppies problems. I need you to sit down, and these are going to be hard to look at.'"

Share this image
Chuda's siblings were very sick, and they suffered from several very severe birth defects.

When the pictures arrived, Decker was shocked to see two puppies with severe cleft palates, missing limbs, and deformed hindquarters.

“The severity of the deformities was pretty breathtaking. None of the vets at the clinic had ever seen a litter quite this severe.”

According to Decker, several vets have since come to consensus that Juneau must have gotten into something toxic very early in her pregnancy.

On the advice of the vet, Decker and the team at MUSH made the heartbreaking decision to euthanize the two most severely deformed puppies. Another pup had died before even arriving at the vet's office.

Share this image
Chuda was the only one of Juneau's puppies who came home to foster care.

“And then we had Chuda. At that point, taking pictures of her, we didn’t appreciate any other deformities. Other than her flipper paw we were good to go.”

Little Chuda and mom Juneau were whisked off to a MUSH foster home, where they were in the care of an experienced Husky handler.

“It’s a 24-hour-a-day job with Juneau and Chuda. Mom herself has some behavioral and emotional issues,” Decker says.

Share this image
Sleepy Chuda and smiling Juneau share the bed in their foster home.

As Chuda grew, it became apparent that she was not developing normally and was suffering from more birth defects than previously thought. Her spine, ribs, back, legs, tail, and hips were all affected.

MUSH needed to get Chuda in to see a specialist vet, and it started a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for some of Chuda’s medical costs as the list of physical challenges got longer and longer.

Share this image
At first, Chuda needed a sling to help her stand.

“She has a mild form of spina bifida. The shape of her chest is part of the spina bifida,” says Decker, who adds that Chuda’s chest deformity isn’t obvious in photos, but is clear to anyone who pets her in person.

“Her ribcage severely bellows in and is flat. It pushes her heart and other organs a little lower, towards her diaphragm, so everything she does takes a lot of energy. It’s more work for her heart, it’s more work for her lungs.”

Because Chuda also has a condition known as "swimmer puppy syndrome," she cannot stand or walk normally. MUSH has been helping Chuda get the physical therapy she needs and has helped her get into custom carts -- but Chuda (who is half Siberian Husky, half Golden Retriever) definitely inherited some Husky stubbornness and would rather walk than roll.

Share this image
Chuda is not a fan of her cart. She would rather walk her own way.

“She’s figured out that if she stands up and she leans on a wall for her bad hip, she could hop along that wall and not fall down,” explains Decker, who adds that Chuda’s walk has eventually evolved to not involve walls.

“As she’s starting to use her back legs more, we want to see if that’s not maybe a realistic option. Maybe with more physical therapy, maybe she can use her back legs until she gets to an age or a weight where she can’t.”

Unfortunately, due to the way Chuda’s chest cavity is situated, it’s not safe for her to go under anesthesia now. Even if surgery would help her back legs, Chuda likely wouldn’t survive it. It’s possible that her chest may shift as she grows, making surgery possible, but the vets can’t guarantee that will ever be an option.

Share this image
No one knows what her future holds, but right now, Chuda is a happy little girl.

“They don’t know what the future holds,” says Decker. “She could be with us for 10 more years, she could be with us for 10 more weeks. We don’t know.”

Chuda’s long-term health may be a question mark, but one thing is certain -- this little puppy is determined. Recently, her foster mom got the shock of a lifetime when she walked up a flight of stairs and turned around to find little Chuda right behind her, climbing away.

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+.

Mon, 23 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/chuda-husky-puppies-birth-defects-special-needs-dogs
<![CDATA[DNA Testing Lets Shelter Rebrand Chihuahuas and Boost Adoptions]]> Ever since Watson and Crick discovered the double helix back in 1953, the benefits of DNA testing have transformed the medical, judicial, and law enforcement fields.

But we know where DNA is put to its best use: Helping pups find their forever homes, of course.

The Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA in Burlingame, Calif., not far from San Francisco, has certainly embraced the technology, particularly when it comes to its large population of Chihauhuas. According to the Associated Press, roughly 25 percent of the dogs in the PHS’ shelter are Chihuahuas, with many of the same characteristics. So in order to help distinguish the pups from each other -- and make them more individually attractive to potential forever families -- the organization turned to DNA testing.

Share this image
As DNA testing shows, there are many different and interesting mixes of Chihuahuas available for adoption.

Under the slogan “Who’s Your Daddy?” the humane society performs DNA tests to determine the exact breeding of the Chihuahuas. The purpose is two-fold: It gives potential owners a more complete background profile of the dogs, complete with potential behavioral traits, and allows the shelter to give the dogs their own “designer” breed names, to make them more adoption-attractive.

Consider: A Chihuahua-Australian Shepherd-Jack Russell Terrier-Collie mix is now a "Kiwi Collier," a Yorkshire Terrier and Beagle mix is a "Yorkle,” and a Golden Retriever-Miniature Pinscher-Chihuahua is a "Golden Chinscher."

The testing and re-branding paid immediate dividends, according to Scott Delucchi, the shelter's senior vice president. Of the first 12 dogs to undergo the testing, 11 showed unique mixed breeding and were placed in forever homes within two weeks, twice as fast as untested dogs.

According to the AP story, one owner, Lynn Mazzola, found the DNA testing of her rescue Lily -- a Chihuahua-Yorkie terrier mix called a “Chorkie,” helped her identify cues to Lily’s behavior.

"It explains why she goes after birds and mice and she's not nervous like a Chihuahua," Mazzola said.

While Delucchi said the DNA “gimmick” has boosted adoptions, it’s still a small part of the solution to the booming Chihuahua population in California.

"Another part is making spay-neuter low-cost or free to the community," Delucchi said. "If you have a lot of one breed, you target that breed and those owners and make it easy for them to do the right thing and get them fixed."

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at PHS:

Via AP News

Read more dog news on Dogster:

About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for 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).

Thu, 19 Mar 2015 08:20:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dog-dna-test-chihuahua-peninsula-humane-society-spca
<![CDATA[One Woman Is Working to Save Mexico's Beach Dogs]]>
Share this image

Angelique Schornstein moved from Philadelphia to Todos Santos in Baja California, Mexico, 25 years ago. She has spent her time since working tirelessly to help the dogs and cats of the area live healthier and happier lives through her organization, Amigos de los Animals de Todos Santos (AATS).

"When I came down here to live permanently, I saw the sad state the animals were in," Schornstein says, explaining that the condition of street and beach dogs, as well as family pets, was less than ideal. Sterilization was not a standard practice at the time, and as you can imagine that caused a population of animals who could not be cared for financially by owners and the community. 

Share this image
Local dog Chile before being helped by AATS. (All photos courtesy of AATS)

Share this image
Chile after!

Schornstein was greatly disturbed by the government's response to the animal overpopulation issue. "I found out that the military, twice a year, would go around and shoot mangy dogs and packs of dogs all over our little town." As an animal lover, she knew she had to find a way to help.

The help Schornstein was able to provide developed into her nonprofit group. AATS focuses its efforts on spay and neuter clinics, animal rescue and adoption, and community education.

Share this image
An AATS adoptable pup. (All clinic pictures by Kaia Thomson)

At the center of the group, Schornstein is quick to credit volunteers for all the positive work that is done, although it is clear she is the driving force and is not afraid of hard work. For 15 years, she went every couple of days to feed dogs at two different beaches, get them fixed, and help them get adopted. That work has since been taken over by likeminded people.

AATS' spay and neuter clinics, which now happen twice a year, were originally conducted annually by one vet from California, and at the beginning on a countertop of a friend's house. That vet was a member of the Veterinarians for World Animal Health, a no-longer-active nonprofit group out of California. He helped for three years and, per the group's website, performed 329 surgical sterilization on cats and dogs in Todos Santos from 1999 to 2001.

As soon as the clinics were started, the military stopped shooting dogs. A huge victory, but when VWAH went inactive, Schornstein, once again, had to look for volunteer and vet assistance. 

Share this image
A volunteer prepping a dog for surgery.

Share this image
Getting help from Dr. Bruce, a volunteer.

At this time, there were no veterinarians in Todos Santos, so she traveled to La Paz and asked every doctor she knew to help her community by volunteering once a week. She was successful in convincing one vet to join the effort. He traveled to Todos Santos every Friday and offered his services in a building provided by Schornstein. It became more than just a place for animals to get medical attention. "It was a social gathering location," she explains. "There was a little bench outside of the office, and people would sit there and wait for the vet."

Now Schornstein says she can rely on a team of 15 to 20 volunteers, whom she identifies as "gringos," who come to help with the twice-annual spay and neuter clinic, manning the MASH unit from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Support also comes from a sister group in the U.S., The Refuge Animal Society.

Schornstein didn't start collecting statistics until 1998, but from that time until 2014, more than 3,300 animals have been sterilized through the efforts of the volunteer-manned clinics.

Share this image
Heading to recovery.

Share this image

In addition to the special clinic days, the group has paid for more than 2,500 sterilization operations provided by local vets, including the two who are now a permanent part of the area. Raising money to help continue surgeries beyond the clinics is important. As Schnornstein points out, "Two clinics a year is fabulous, but it doesn't eliminate the problem because dogs and cats get pregnant during the year and don't wait for the clinic!"

Schornstein started helping animals when she lived in Philadelphia. "It's my life at this point," she explains. Two dogs and two cats accompanied her to Mexico back in 1990. She admits that she felt bad for bringing more animals to an area she knew had so many in need, but she had made a lifetime commitment to her animals. This commitment is something she takes very seriously, and she works to instill this value in the residents of Todos Santos. 

Education is an important part of the group's work, and Schornstein has found that focusing on teaching through school programs is extremely effective. "It begins with the children. If the children are on board, we are all on board." Once taught that stray puppies and kitties cannot be cared for appropriately, the students will help educate the adults and push to have their family pets sterilized. It seems to be working. "People are becoming more aware of tending to their animals and going to the vet, which is amazing."

Share this image
Sweet pup.

Share this image
Recovering kitties.

All of this hard work takes money, and the need for more of it -- as well as for additional volunteers -- is dire. The AATS and the Refuge Animal Society are in desperate need of funds for all of this important work and community growth to continue. "We are sort of at a loss, and we are trying to generate funds and not to let this dry up. Our [Todos Santos] streets, considering Mexico as a whole, are very very clean, and you hardly ever see a mangy animal anymore, and that is due to the volunteers." 

Amigos de los Animals de Todos Santos' next clinic is today through Saturday (March 19 to 21). Schornstein is actively looking for volunteer doctors to help with November clinic. To volunteer, visit the group's website, and to donate, go to its GoFundMe page.

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

Read more stories of people helping dogs around the world:

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.

Thu, 19 Mar 2015 04:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/todos-santos-mexico-dog-rescue-spay-neuter-angelique-schornstein
<![CDATA[Rocky the Rescue Picks His NCAA Bracket]]> On the day that our rescue dog, Rocky, was born in Morristown, Tennessee -- on June 11, 2011 -- I was practically a bounce-pass away in Knoxville, doing an event at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame for my recently released book, Bird at the Buzzer, about the University of Connecticut women's program.

At the same time, in the summer of 2011, the UConn men's team was the reigning NCAA champions. UConn's mascot, of course, is a Husky.

So it's really no surprise that Rocky has become quite the fan of college basketball. And each March, he excitedly hops up on our couch, takes control of daddy's laptop, and fills out his bracket for the NCAA Tournament.

This year is no different. While Rocky's heart is heavy -- neither his adopted Huskies, nor his hometown Tennessee Vols made the field of 68 -- he spent his Monday night back in front of the screen, making what is sure to be the winning bracket on ESPN's Tournament Challenge.

Share this image
Even though his beloved Huskies and Vols didn't make the Big Dance, Rocky still made his NCAA picks.

Of course, Rocky's methodology is nothing like conventional bracketology, as you shall see. Let's just say, in Rocky's version of March Madness, every dog has his day.


This year's tournament bracket posed some challenges for Rocky, as it seemed the NCAA Selection Committee put virtually all the dog mascot teams into just two of four regions. So some tough choices needed to be made as the region narrowed its way to the Elite 8. In the round of 64, there were the obvious picks: Albany Great Danes, Georgia Bulldogs, and North Carolina Wolfpack (gotta go with the ancestors there). Rocky hates cats, but he chose the Villanova Wildcats because this dog knows the ultimate underdogs -- the No. 16 seeds -- have never won a first-round game, and 2015 figures to be no exception. (See: Kentucky Wildcats).

But the pick that captured Rocky's heart was Virginia, the Cavaliers. One of Rocky's best friends is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Mia, so he put Virginia through to the Elite 8 against University of California, Irvine. They are the anteaters, and Rocky would just love to play with a stuffed anteater. Who wouldn't?

Share this image


In some ways, this was Rocky's toughest region to fill out. In another way, it was the easiest. Tough, in that there is only one dog mascot in this group of 16: the 12th-seeded Wofford Terriers. But the always-savvy Rocky knows the 12-seed has become the most-likely of the double-digit seeds to pull upsets, so he has them reaching the Sweet 16. But the team he takes all the way to the regional final is Wisconsin. They are the Badgers, and one of Rocky's most-beloved buddies at his daycare is a Corgi named Badger. This was a very easy call.

Share this image


Another region short on canines, but loaded with Eagles (E. Washington), Ospreys (N. Florida), Hawkeyes (Iowa), and those darn Wildcats (Davidson). There's even a Bison! (N. Dakota St.). So this region is truly about survive and advance for Rocky, who rides Gonzaga (Bulldogs) and Georgetown to the Elite 8. Why Georgetown? We don't know what a Hoya is, but their mascot is a Bulldog. Good enough.

Share this image


Rocky, who lives in Quincy, Massachusetts, and whose daddy once attended Northeastern University, gets a triple-whammy here, as the Northeastern Huskies made the Tournament for the first time in 24 years. Sadly, the Huskies face off in the Round of 32 against the Butler Bulldogs. Only one can win, and Rocky loves Butler's pedigree. They made the finals in 2010 and 2011. In the Final 8, Rocky picks Butler vs. Maryland. Why the Terrapins? Well, they're a turtle, and Rocky remembers that crazy summer day when a giant snapping turtle meandered into his backyard. Must be a sign. It had better be, because Rocky has picked Maryland to end Kentucky's undefeated season in the process.

Share this image


In the Elite 8, Rocky goes with what he knows: The two Bulldogs (Butler and Gonzaga), Wisconsin (for Badger), and Virginia (for Mia, the Cavalier King Charles). But Rocky remembers that one time when he tried to steal a carrot from Mia and she gave him a smackdown, so he takes Gonzaga to win that semifinal. But Rocky has never had anything but fun times with Badger, so it's on Wisconsin! All the way to the national championship. And, hey, let’s face it, Hank the Ballpark Pup lives in Milwaukee. And we all know he's the top dog.

Share this image

Read more about dogs and sports:

About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for 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).

Tue, 17 Mar 2015 08:15:00 -0700 /the-scoop/march-madness-ncaa-bracket-rocky-rescue-dog-picks-dog-mascots
<![CDATA[How Colwyn Went From Puppy Mill Survivor to Pampered Pet ]]> To see photos of Colwyn, an adorable Shih Tzu-Maltese mix, you would never know this spotlessly coiffed and costumed dog was ever anything but adored, but his early life was certainly not picture perfect. 

Share this image

“Here’s this little puppy mill dog who was scared to death, and now he’s like this little model,” says Colwyn’s human, Lisa Murphy, who frequently photographs her fashionable pup for his Facebook page.

Murphy is no stranger to the realities of puppy mills and backyard breeding. Prior to adopting Colwyn, she brought home another shy puppy mill rescue, a beautiful Shih Tzu named Macy. Murphy was also a close friend to Rosie the Chihuahua, who was born into a backyard breeding/hoarding situation and suffered from almost every congenital defect possible. She created the Everything Rosie website and helped manage the dog’s Facebook page. Murphy was devastated when Rosie and her own senior dog, Diva, both crossed the Rainbow Bridge in 2013.

“After a little bit of time, I decided to adopt in Rosie’s name,” she remembers.

Meanwhile, Colwyn was in the care of Hearts United for Animals (HUA), a Nebraska-based organization Murphy was familiar with because of her connection to Rosie’s social media sphere. The no-kill shelter and sanctuary has devoted many resources to rescuing puppy mill dogs.

Share this image
Colwyn never went outdoors before HUA rescued him from a puppy mill. (All photos courtesy Lisa Murphy and Colwyn's Adventures.)

“I went and checked out their site, and I found Colwyn. By the dates that I saw on his page, he had been at HUA for at least four years, and no one was adopting him,” she recalls. “I couldn’t understand that because he was pretty adorable.”

HUA had rescued Colwyn from a Missouri puppy mill in 2009, but he’d clearly been traumatized by the cramped and filthy cage he lived in for his first year of life. The team at HUA worked patiently over the years to socialize Colwyn, who grew very attached to fellow resident, Alani -- a female Shih Tzu. Despite making a friend, Colwyn still didn’t show well to potential adopters.

“They told me that he was kind of unadoptable because he was really skittish,” Murphy says. “When adopters in Nebraska would come by to to see the adoptable dogs, he would run away. Nobody would ever really get to see him.”

Luckily for Colwyn, Murphy has been through a similar situation with her previous rescue dog, Macy, and was used to dealing with dogs who need some time to build trust.

Share this image
Like Colwyn, Murphy's Macy is a puppy mill rescue.

“I usually go for the shy ones,” she says. “I know they’ve got the personality in there, they just don’t have that loving home yet to bring it out.”

Murphy applied to adopt Colwyn and was accepted. She drove four hours from her home in Illinois to meet the HUA transporter, who had brought Colwyn halfway from Nebraska. Colwyn was almost in his forever home, but it wasn’t an instant happy ending.

“And then he came home with me, and he was scared to death. It was really bad,” she recalls.

Colwyn’s fear kicked into overdrive less than 48 hours after his arrival at Murphy’s house, causing him to panic and injure himself. It’s something she will never forget.

“I just walked by him -- not even touching him -- and he flew and ran and bashed his head into the corner of a door, and he ended up needing corneal surgery. So his first few months here, he was in the cone of shame.”

Luckily for Colwyn, his new home came with a built-in best friend. He took to Macy the same way he had fallen for Alani back at HUA.

Share this image
These days, Colwyn and Macy are BFFs.

“He wouldn’t leave her side for six months,” Murphy says. “He was her shadow.”

The comfort he felt when curled up next to Macy helped little Colwyn adjust to his new household, and as his eye healed, he realized the humans in his new family were not out to hurt him.

According to Murphy, it took about a year for Colwyn to become completely comfortable with his new surroundings, but eventually he started gaining confidence.

“He still loves his sister and still follows her around, but not like he did. He’s really come out of his shell and shown his true self,” she says. “He has such a personality -- he’s the funniest little dog.”

These days, Colwyn is feeling safe and secure in his new home and is busy playing with the squeaky toys he carries with him everywhere. Unfortunately, a recent medical problem sent him back to the vet for another surgery.

Share this image
Colwyn needed some pretty serious surgery to deal with a mysterious mass.

“I felt this big lump on his neck and ran him to the emergency room on a weekend,” Murphy explains. When Monday came, Colwyn went to see his usual vet, who determined the little dog would need an operation to remove the mass and insert drainage tubes. Murphy says the veterinary team had almost finished the surgery when Colwyn’s heart stopped.

“He had pretty much died on the table for like three minutes, and they just kept trying to do everything they could, and out of the blue, he came back out of it.”

Colwyn’s resuscitation wasn’t the only medical miracle that his family would be grateful for in the coming weeks. Thankfully, the lab work done on the mass proved it was cancer-free. While the exact cause of the lump is unknown, it is possible that he ran into something that caused blunt force trauma, which caused the mass, but that’s just one of many possible factors. His family will never know what caused the lump that almost cost Colwyn his life, but they do know that he is safe and sound now and surrounded by love.

Share this image
Pampered Colwyn loves his toys (especially his carrot).

Once upon a time Colwyn lived in a dirty cage, but now he is living his happily ever after.

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+.

Mon, 16 Mar 2015 04:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/shih-tzu-maltese-puppy-mill-survivor-hearts-united-for-animals
<![CDATA[We Chat With "Scandal" Star Bellamy Young About Shelter Pets and White House Dogs]]> If you're a Scandal fan, you know Bellamy Young from her role as Mellie Grant, the bold and politically ambitious first lady. Unlike her onscreen persona, the actress has a warm and friendly personality, with a particular soft spot for shelter pets.

In fact, she has teamed up with the Humane Society of the United States, the Shelter Pet Project, Maddie's Fund, and the Ad Council to create a video in the "Meet My Shelter Pet" series. It features her adopted dog Bean and cat Sadie; Young wants everyone to know that "euthanizing healthy pets is a scandal." I loved the video and wanted to know more about Bean (and Sadie), and I also had a burning Scandal question to ask ...

Share this image
Bellamy and her adopted dog, Bean. (Photo courtesy HSUS)

Meghan Lodge for Dogster: Are Sadie and Bean your first adopted pets? Tell me more: When did you adopt them? How old were they? Do you know what breeds they are?

I've always adopted rescued pets. I'm adopted myself, so adoption is, of course, very near and dear to my heart. I believe every little soul alive has love to give and that no life is disposable. I feel so lucky whenever I get to adopt or foster, like I'm getting to play my part in the grander scheme of things.

I adopted Sadie about eight years ago from the North Central shelter here in Los Angeles; she's a tortie and every bit as chatty as they're purported to be. You can have full paragraphs of conversation with Sadie, and she'll always get the last word in. Bean came from the Carson shelter in Gardena. I pulled her and a Terrier mix, then called Winston, at the same time that go around. Winston is now named Hank and living on a farm in Georgia. I thought Bean would make a great second dog for my mom in North Carolina, but it turns out she was meant for me all along.

What inspired you to adopt a cat and a dog? Is one of them the boss of the household?

I've always spent my life in the company of animals; I can't imagine not. They bring such peace and unconditional love to every day. And, of course, with Sadie, I have the bonus of an extra opinion on everything -- she's the alpha in the house and always makes her preferences known. Luckily, she has unerring taste.

Did you grow up with pets? What do you think encouraged your love for animals?

We always had animals when I was growing up. Everyone in my family did. And the animals were part of the family, not some strange subset or an afterthought. I think most of all it was my amazing Aunt Norma, who taught me what an honor and responsibility it is to love an animal. They put their whole lives in your hands, their complete trust, and they love you unconditionally. That is a sacred space to operate in and a real blessing in one's life. That kind of love heals you. And makes you more compassionate for the more conditional animals we deal with every day -- like other human beings.

Share this image
Bellamy Young with Bean and Sadie. (Photo via Twitter)

What is your most memorable moment with Sadie and Bean?

I know it seems silly to say, but getting to shoot with the Humane Society of the United States for the Shelter Pet Project campaign commercial was such a special day. I'm lucky enough to get to work a lot, but to get to take them to work with me was just a dream. And they were such naturals! So calm and sweet. Once Sadie saw that all the lights and all the people were focused on her, I could feel her relax, as if to say, "Finally! Things are as they should be!" She was in heaven!

Bean wasn't sure what to do with herself, but luckily I had brought her favorite blanket, so as soon as I brought that out she was like, "Oh, sleep here? OK! Got it!" The icing on the cake was getting to see her cute little mug in Times Square. Priceless!

OK, fans want to know: Just how spoiled are Sadie and Bean?

They're pretty chill animals, honestly. My house is a no-divas zone, so nobody really acts up. Everybody's pretty fond of napping and of the word "treat." It's snuggly love all day long. Though I will say Bean needs to be covered up at all times -- she'll give the lowest, tiniest grrrrrr, more of a beg than a demand, until you notice her and pull the blanket up. Sadie needs a nice conversation every now and then. And she would be happy being petted until the end of time if she could be!

Share this image
Bellamy Young with Bean and Sadie.

Scandal fan question: Why don't the Grants have a dog? Having a dog seems to be a White House tradition, so we dog lovers are curious!

I lobbied long and hard for a White House dog -- Shonda [Rhimes, Scandal creator] finally said, "Of course you have a dog; it's just off-screen." I like to think that the dog spends his days playing with Teddy. They have a great love going in my mind.

What's one piece of advice you'd give someone who is looking to adopt a new pet?

Don't expect everything to be perfect all at once. You know how long it takes to learn about another person; trust takes time. Just open your heart and let your new companion know that they are safe, that you're there for them, that you're listening -- and then really do listen. Believe me, they're trying to communicate and want to please you. Once you start understanding each other, the trust is built, and sooner than you know you'll have a love that lasts a lifetime.

Read our most recent stories about celebrities with dogs

About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it's in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I'm a former quiet nerd who's turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.

Fri, 13 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/scandal-star-bellamy-young-shelter-pet-project-dog-rescue-adoption
<![CDATA[We Talk to Buzz Osborne of the Melvins About His Rescue Dogs]]>
Share this image

One of the things I enjoy most when writing about animal rescue work is how one story often leads to another. I interviewed jme thomas from Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, a Washington state-based organization that networks with rock stars to promote animal adoptionOne of those musicians was Buzz Osborne of the Melvins, a legendary sludge metal band, also from Washington, who were early friends with and influences on Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. 

I was delighted to talk to Buzz about the passion he has for his own pack. Here is an edited-for-length version of our email interview.

Share this image
Buzz Osborne. (Photo courtesy Buzz Osborne)

Kezia Willingham for Dogster: So, I hear you have dogs. What are their names? What breeds/mixes?

Buzz Osborne: We now have three dogs: two Jack Russells and an English Staffordshire Terrier. Their names are Buster, Coco, and Gigi. Coco is a Jack Russell and the oldest of the three at 18! Buster is also a Jack Russell and is five years old, and Gigi is a rescued English Staffordshire at six.

My wife and I have had dogs for most of the 21 years we’ve been married. I can’t imagine not having dogs. When I was growing up, we had a few dogs, but they were family dogs and not mine in particular. One of them lived to be about 16, one disappeared, and one was smashed flat by an 18 wheeler right in front of me when I was four years old. The truck driver didn’t even stop and just left me there to deal with our now very dead dog. It was a heavy trip for a four-year-old; in fact it would be a heavy trip for me now. I can’t imagine something that terrible happening to one of my dogs.

Share this image
Gigi, Buster, Itchy, and Coco. (Photo courtesy Buzz Osborne)

How did your current dogs enter your life?

The first dog my wife and I had was a rescue Pit Bull-Whippet-Lab mix named Itchy. He lived to be 17, and we had to finally put him down a little over a year ago. That was tough. He was pretty much the best dog ever. 

When we got him, he had been severely abused and had never been indoors, never slept on a dog bed, and never eaten or drank out of a bowl. He was malnourished and extremely skittish. The people who had him before us used to let their children throw baseballs and other assorted garbage at him while he ran around terrified and helpless in their backyard. People who behave like that should be in jail. They ended up abandoning him to a neighbor of theirs, who told us the whole story.

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

He didn’t trust us at first, but once we started treating him right he warmed up and became a wonderful companion for the better part of two decades. I can’t imagine a better dog. The first time he ever tasted steak, I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head.

When it got to the point where he couldn’t walk anymore and we had to put him down, my wife didn’t want to show him how upset we were and stayed cool until after he was gone. That was the single hardest thing we’ve been through together. He always hated going to the vet, so we had him euthanized in the back of our jeep. It was really tough, and it’s hard to write about. Afterward we went home to the three dogs we still had, and they helped us feel a whole lot better. Dogs always make you feel better.

We rescued a VERY severely abused 100-pound American Bulldog named Baccus who we had for about 10 years, until he died of natural causes. He hated everyone until he got to know you, which took forever. He was covered in horrendous scars from terrible beatings he’d received in his horrible past. The American Bulldog Rescue had found him in the Los Angeles dog pound, and we ended up with him.

Share this image
(Photo courtesy Buzz Osborne)

We gave him a great home, but he was a real challenge. I don’t know if I’d take on another dog who’d been that abused, but I feel like we did our part for the great abused dog spirit, so it’s all good. As long as he was alone with us and the other dogs he was fine, and you could see what an amazing dog he really was. Big heart and very appreciative. We saved him and finally gave him the good life he deserved. I miss him a great deal.

Our dog Coco, my wife bought from a friend, and she’s the first Jack Russell we ever had. To this day, I can’t believe she sold her to us because she’s such a good dog! My wife has a saying that our dogs are not for sale. For any price. And she means it.

Coco showed us just how cool, smart, and special Jack Russells are. Now I can’t imagine not having a Jack Russell. So much fun. We’ve had a wonderful time with Coco for over 16 years. Now she’s in the twilight of her life and basically deaf and becoming blind, but she still gets around pretty good for such an old girl. As old as she is, she still runs around like a young dog after she gets a bath. It’s really cute! At this point we’re just trying to make her comfortable.

Share this image
(Photo courtesy Buzz Osborne)

Buster is a young Jack Russell we got as a gift when he was still a mischievous puppy. We’d never raised a puppy before, and it was a pain in the ass, but that’s how it goes with puppies; it was never really a problem.

Buster is the poster dog for what makes Jack Russells my favorite breed. He’s a wild man in need of exercise, and that’s exactly what we do. A tired Jack Russell is a good Jack Russell. Those are words to live by with these dogs. If you might be thinking of getting a Jack but you’re not sure if you can run their ass off every day, DO NOT DO IT. A Jack Russell without exercise will destroy your house.

Buster is a great hangout dog and will follow you around the house all day, studying whatever it is you’re doing. If he can do it he will do it, so you have to keep your eye on him all the time. Jack Russells are hunters and vicious killers and will do so whenever possible. They cannot be trusted around small animals. Killing is what they were bred to do, so you have to keep that in mind.

Share this image
Buzz with his dog Buster. (Photo courtesy Buzz Osborne.)

Gigi is an English Staffordshire Terrier we got from a rescue online, but she wasn’t a rescue in the traditional sense. Gigi is a prize-winning former show dog whose owner had died of cancer. She loved Gigi and wanted her trainer to find a good home for her. When my wife contacted them, they had to come to our house and see exactly how we treated dogs before they would give her to us. They were extremely impressed with how healthy and old our dogs were and remarked that it was obvious that we didn’t give up on dogs. 

Gigi is a great dog who almost never barks. She loves food and adventure. I’ve taken her to the recording studio with me a number of times, and she likes to lie on the couch there -- that is, when she’s not trying to con someone into giving her food. Ha!

What are your favorite parts about having dogs?

My wife says who needs cable TV when you have two Jack Russells to take care of? Boy is that true. We don’t have cable TV, and a lot of that has to do with the pooches. I don’t mind at all. Dogs are always happy to see you when you come home, which I love. They stay in the moment and seem to be spiritual giants, as silly as that sounds.

Share this image
Photo courtesy Melvins' Facebook page

If you sit on the couch at our house, then you immediately have a dog sitting next to you. I love that, and as a result I’ve become used to being perpetually covered in dog hair. The drummer in Napalm Death pointed this out to me like it was a bad thing. I’ve tried to ignore that comment.

I love dogs, and I love living with dogs, and I’m sure that the human race has developed for the better as a direct result of our association with dogs. They’re day hunters just like us; I saw a documentary that says you can trace all dog DNA back to day-hunting gray wolves.

I can’t imagine all the things they’ve given us, AND they’re amazing burglar alarms! Remember it was the DOGS who warned the Indians that Custer was attacking! Good dog!

I find Buzz's devotion to his dogs inspiring, and it's nice to get to know a different side of a rock star's life. To get more familiar with Melvins, follow the band on Facebook

Read more by Kezia Willingham:

About Kezia Willingham:  Also known as the Breadwinning Laundry Queen, Kezia lives with her family, which includes a pack of rescued cats and dogs, in Seattle. A regular contributor to Catster and Dogster, her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Seattle, and Literary Mama. You can follow her on Twitter

Thu, 12 Mar 2015 04:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/buzz-osborne-melvins-interview-dog-rescue-adoption-motley-zoo
<![CDATA[Old Man Red Gets a Loving Home for His Final Years]]> Two years ago, Old Man Red was 15 years old with a face full of white fur, a single tooth, and the kind of health issues one would expect to see in a little dog who had spent time living on the streets as a stray. He was not what most people would consider adoption material, but Cheryl Adler couldn't wait to bring this elderly Miniature Pincher-Chihuahua home.
Share this image

"He's just a real love, very affectionate, very sweet -- and I think, thankful," she says, adding that she is grateful for the opportunity to give Old Man Red love and dignity in his final years.

Red's connection to Adler and his forever home began back in 2013, when he made a new friend at Synergy Animal Rescue, a San Diego-based sanctuary and rehab for special needs animals.

Red was awaiting adoption at Synergy when the rescue pulled an emaciated Pit Bull mix from a high-kill shelter at the last minute and named her Ladybug. Thousands of Facebook supporters -- including Adler -- watched as the folks at Synergy gave Ladybug the love and care she had never before received in her short life.

Share this image
Old Man Red kept poor Ladybug company in her final days. (Image via Synergy Rescue)

Many of the pictures Synergy posted of Ladybug showed Old Man Red right there beside the much larger dog as she received treatment. It seemed like Old Man Red wanted three-year-old Ladybug to know that he was there if she needed him, but unfortunately, Red and the folks at Synergy couldn't save Ladybug. The extreme neglect she suffered before she was rescued left her body in ruins, and in April of 2013 she was sedated and euthanized as advanced diabetes and kidney and liver problems ravaged her poor body.

Share this image
This four-pound dog offered plenty of empathy to poor Ladybug.

On the other side of the country, in New York state, Adler was crying while reading the Facebook updates detailing Ladybug's journey over the Rainbow Bridge. In the days that followed, she couldn't stop thinking about the little old dog who showed Ladybug so much love in her final days.

At first, Adler was sure someone from California would come forward to adopt 15-year-old Red, but when no locals wanted the old dog, Adler -- who was still quite upset about Ladybug's death -- asked her husband what he thought of adopting Red.

"He said to me, 'Would you stop crying if I said yes?'" she recalls. "Then he said, 'Okay, if nobody in California adopts him, we can adopt him.'"

With her partner on board, Adler started making calls to Carla Naden, founder and director of Synergy.

"At first I think she thought I was crazy because I said I would fly out to California to pick him up, and she was really very, very cautious," explains Adler, who spent weeks providing proof that her home was the right place for Red, even sending videos of her house, her backyard, and her other dogs.

"Eventually I guess she realized that I was serious and that I really would like to adopt Old Man Red, and she agreed. This took probably a month or two."

According to Adler, the wait for Red was well worth it, and in the end, she didn't even have to travel all the way to California to pick him up. When the founder of Synergy needed to fly to Baltimore to see family, she brought Old Man Red with her, and Adler drove four hours to Maryland to meet the dog she'd fallen in love with online.

Share this image
Tiny little Old Man Red travelled a great distance to meet his new family.

"He's been a joy to us ever since," she says. "He's a happy, happy dog, and gets along quite well with the other three in our home."

Adler's 10-year-old Boxer, Ruby, her Black Lab-mutt, Ralph, and little Lilly the mini Dachshund accepted Old Man Red into their pack as the humans in the home accepted the elderly dog into their hearts.

Share this image
Little Red with his big buddies, Ruby and Ralph.

"My family was very, very nervous about me getting him, because of his age," says Adler, who can understand why her loved ones were hesitant to endorse the adoption at first.

"When something happens to him -- as with any of my pets -- it's going to be very very difficult, emotionally, but I would still highly recommend adopting a senior dog to anyone."

Share this image
Old Man Red enjoys the company of his fur sibling, Lilly.

According to Adler, adopting Old Man Red was worth any future emotional cost, but it's also been a lot of work. Because he only has one tooth, Old Man Red requires special food. He will also be on medication for the rest of his life to prevent sinus infections, as food can travel through the holes in his mouth left vacant by his missing teeth.

"It's a constant effort to keep him as healthy as possible and keep his quality of life as good as possible."

Share this image
Old Man Red is getting the care he needs in his golden years.

Old Man Red's health issues don't stop him from loving life -- a life Adler documents on Facebook for almost a thousand of Red's fans.

"He had a lot of people that were following him through Synergy when I adopted him, and I think I was probably one of the first people from that rescue who adopted so far away," she explains, adding that she created the Old Man Red’s Facebook page so that Red's California friends could keep up with him.

"I find that if for some reason I don't get a chance to post very often, people start to worry about him, which is really very sweet."

Share this image
Red loves to snuggle with Cheryl Adler.

Old Man Red has made many connections thanks to his Facebook page, including one with a Canadian couple, who even flew to New York State to meet Adler and Red. The couple ended up staying for a week, and Adler is sure they'll be friends for life.

"They plan on coming again this year to visit with us."

Adler can't guarantee that Old Man Red will still be around when that visit happens, but she can guarantee that Red won't be her last senior rescue.

"I will definitely do it again. Even though I know it's going to be really, really hard to lose him."

Read more 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+.

Mon, 09 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/old-man-red-senior-dog-rescue-adoption
<![CDATA[Operation ResCUTE Teaches Kids the Importance of Pet Adoption]]> As animal lovers, we all know the importance of supporting responsible pet adoption. But less than 30 percent of pets are actually acquired through adoptive means. That's why it's up to us as adults to teach the next generation of children about the value of rescue dogs. And what better way to do that than with a kid-friendly book-and-toy set, with all of the author's profit going to shelters in need?

Share this image

Founded by adoption activist Laurie Brown-Nagin, Operation ResCUTE has created a limited-edition book-and-stuffed-animal set that will warm the heart of any dog lover, young or old. The Story of Jingles is an illustrated book about Brown-Nagin's rescue dog, whom she discovered on the streets of Manhattan just as an animal control officer was taking the puppy to receive some pro-bono veterinarian care. Jingles had been found with a broken jaw in a garbage can in the Bronx at just four months old.

As someone who grew up with purebred dogs and owned Wheaten Terriers for years, Brown-Nagin hadn't been directly exposed to the world of pet adoption before. She's always supported organizations such as the Humane Society and the ASPCA. But with two dogs already at home, the Brown-Nagins weren't exactly looking for another pet. Still, Laurie didn't hesitate to make Jingles part of the family.

Share this image
Operation ResCUTE founder Laurie Brown-Nagin hopes to get families talking about pet adoption. (All photos courtesy of ResCUTE)

Like so many adopted pets, the beautiful, mixed-breed dog was incredibly lucky to have found her forever home. "She's loyal beyond what I've ever known from a dog," Brown-Nagin says of Jingles. "She's just heartfelt. She's never been afraid of anyone. She loves everybody."

She's also what inspired Brown-Nagin to leave her career in marketing and product development to launch a nonprofit centered around putting a happier, friendlier face on shelter dogs. "If a kid walks by a pet store, they think that's where dogs come from," she says. "My goal is to change the conversations about pets. One way to do that is to educate the new generation of kids, because they typically prompt the purchase or adoption (hopefully) of a dog."

Share this image
The limited-edition book-and-toy set also comes with a special Operation ResCUTE Club Membership sticker.

Three years in the making, The Story of Jingles came out in September, and it aims to get kids and parents talking about pet adoption. It's the first in a collectible series of children's books "authored" by the dogs themselves, with each plush being in that particular dog's image. "With each purchase, a child is empowered to know that they helped a dog be adopted somewhere," Brown-Nagin says.

Readers, especially children, will gain an appreciation for animal adoption and also learn empathy. In fact, kindergarten teachers have been using the book as a tool to teach that all-important emotion in the classroom. Alongside the book is a stuffed-animal version of Jingles and a special Operation ResCUTE Club Membership sticker. For just $29, the purchase of this unique set can make a difference in the life of shelter animals across the country. And an impressive 100 percent of profits from sales goes toward adoption services in shelters.

Share this image
The real-life Jingles cuddles up with her plush puppies.

The next book in the series, The Story of Tanner, is set to launch in a few months and will similarly share the true-life tale of a three-week-old shelter puppy who tries to escape and ends up finding her forever home with a loving couple. The third book in the series is about a dog who's overcome a disability; it will publish at a later date, dependent upon book sales. After that, Operation ResCUTE will look to its ongoing contest, through which people can enter their own adoption stories. Periodically, the organization will select a group of contestants whose respective shelters will receive donations, plus one ResCUTE pup to be featured in an upcoming book and toy set.

"Entrants frequently say they didn't just rescue their dog, their dog rescued them," Brown-Nagin says. Of course, for every wonderful adoption story, Operation ResCUTE hopes that many more great lifelong connections will take place. But the realization of this noble goal relies upon spreading adoption awareness through educational channels such as Operation ResCUTE. You can help by buying The Story of Jingles through its website and by following Operation ResCUTE on Facebook and Twitter.

Read about more Dogster Heroes:

About the author: Whitney C. Harris is a New York-based freelance writer for websites including StrollerTraffic, Birchbox, and A former book and magazine editor, she enjoys running (with Finley), watching movies (also with Finley), and cooking meatless meals (usually with Finley watching close by).

Wed, 04 Mar 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/operation-rescute-dog-book-toy-shelter-dogs-pet-rescue-adoption
<![CDATA[Birdee, the "Chicken Wing Chi," Helps Other Special-Needs Dogs]]> Last summer, Dekalb County Animal Services in Georgia answered a call about a vacant house with possible abandoned animals inside. They found three dogs, one of whom was a Chihuahua with deformed front legs. According to DCAS director Susan Feingold, they examined the little dog and gave her the medical attention she needed, including deworming and vaccinations. Because of her birth defect, though, the Chi was transferred to Society of Humane Friends of Georgia, a nonprofit rescue, to get additional care and attention.

Share this image

The society enlisted Jacki McDonald as a foster for the little Chi, now dubbed Little Miss Birdee Smalls. "The kennel supervisor called me when Birdee came in specifically because I had a 'chicken wing' dog foster previously," McDonald says. "She hopped around like a baby bird, so that's how her name came about."

When McDonald had to go out of town, she left Birdee in the care of Brian and Christina Cribbs. Although the Cribbs had sworn off more dogs when they adopted No. 4, those few days with Little Miss Birdee was all it took to win them over. 

Share this image
Foster Jacki McDonald with Miss Birdee Smalls.

Share this image
Little Miss Birdee Smalls and her new parents.

The Cribbs were already dog parents to two other Chihuahuas, one Pit Bull/Dachshund mix, and a deaf Pit Bull. Little Miss Birdee Smalls fit right in with their family. Brian and his wife affectionately refer to her as a "Chi-rex," due to her short front legs and habit of hopping around on her back feet. At just over a year old, Birdee weighs a surprising 3.8 pounds and gets around by "hopping around and bracing herself on her more formed arm," Brian says. "We call it her beefy arm." The Cribbs wanted to make it easier for Birdee to get around, though, so they started doing some research on carts.

They met with Alicia Williams, a vet tech at Duluth Animal Hospital. She also had a special-needs Chihuahua, named Roo, who uses a cart and shares his life with a chicken. Williams offered some very useful insight on cart types and fitting, and the Cribbs decided to get one for Little Miss Birdee. Initially, they were going to build their own, but it proved more cost-effective to use Eddie's Wheels for Pets. After taking molds of Birdee's chest and legs, they sent her measurements off to have her own cart specially made. 

Share this image
Miss Birdee taking it easy. (Photo courtesy of Brian and Christina Cribbs)

The Cribbs created a Facebook page for Miss Birdee so others could follow as she adjusted to her new life and, particularly, to her new wheels. Although she adapted to the cart very quickly, as shown in many adorable videos, Birdee did need some help with the change in height it created. She loves her chew bone, so the Cribbs made a small wooden block for Birdee to prop it on, and they raised her food bowl. Her cart also enabled her to sit on her side, which, according to Brian, "might not seem like a big deal, but this is pretty huge. The wheels are about so much more than walking. She can sit like an average dog, though she's way better." 

When not wheeling through life, Little Miss Birdee (along with her humans) gives back to the community by volunteering and shares her home with fosters from Laskey's Lucky Ones and Volunteers. She and Christina also recently visited inmates through the Canine CellMates program at Fulton County Jail. Christina is a certified therapy-dog handler through Atlanta Pet Partners, and Brian is going to get his certification soon. And now that Birdee is old enough, they are going to move forward with getting her certified as a therapy dog, like her fur-sibling, Emilio, so that she can do even more in the community.

"We love our dogs and love that other people get something out of visiting with them like we do," Brian says. 

Share this image
The whole Cribbs fur-family. (Photo courtesy of Brian and Christina Cribbs)

Through sharing Little Miss Birdee's pictures, videos, and accomplishments online, the Cribbs quickly found out they were not alone in having a little "chicken wing dog" or "Chi-rex," connecting with others such as Bunny Angel and Ellie May and Madi. They've also amassed quite a following from fans who have just fallen in love with the little quirky Chihuahua.

"We like helping special needs dogs," Brian says, "because we like for other people to know they're just like every other dog, they just need some help learning or moving around." 

Paws up to Little Miss Birdee Smalls and the fantastic family she has found!

Read more Monday Miracles on Dogster:

About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it's in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I'm a former quiet nerd who's turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.

Mon, 02 Mar 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/little-miss-birdee-smalls-chicken-wing-chihuahua-dog-birth-defects-wheelchairs
<![CDATA[Meet the Pug Who Has Her Own Coffee Shop]]> When Tom Cash and husband Mike Zukoski opened a coffee shop in Asheville, North Carolina, they named it after their prized Pug, Edna. The idea of a business owner looking to a pet for titular inspiration might not be a revelatory one, but in Edna's case it was apt after the dog got caught trying to sneak sips of coffee while Tom and Mike weren't looking.

Share this image

These days, if you stop by Edna's of Asheville, you will likely see Edna holding court on the patio while customers slurp their way through cups of java.

Taking a break from his bean-roasting duties, I spoke to Mike about the origins of this coffee adventure, Edna's own java antics, and how the coffee shop works with Brother Wolf Animal Rescue.

Share this image
(All photos via Edna's of Asheville's Facebook page)

Dogster: When did Edna come into your life?

Mike Cash: We got her in Long Beach when we lived in California, before we moved to Asheville. We had two Golden Retrievers that were littermates, and Tom decided we'd like another dog in the house, so we got Edna. Then, of course, we discovered that she loves coffee! She really goes crazy for coffee. I remember when we left a coffee mug on the table and saw her getting into the coffee.

So when we decided to move to Asheville to reinvent our lives, we opened up a coffeehouse and called it Edna's, named after the Pug.

Share this image

When did you first realize that Edna likes to sneak sips of coffee?

She was probably not even a year old, still a puppy. We drink coffee without any sugar in it, and we found out she really likes Americanos and sometimes coffee with a little cream. But she only drank coffee a couple times before we caught her -- we don't let her drink coffee, but she did enjoy it when we were not looking.

Share this image

Share this image

Do you think Edna is a coffee snob at heart?

Oh, yeah, for sure. We roast our own coffee [at Bad Puppy Roasting] twice a week, and she definitely knows if the coffee is fresh or not. She's pretty good about it. For instance, she's in the shop on a regular basis -- not every day, but she's around -- and she checks up on people. She loves visiting with people while they have their coffee. She loves to dress up -- she has a couple of dresses that were made specifically for her. In our second year at Christmastime, we put [her in] one of those red and white muffs with a little belt on it, and she got excited and ran around, and then when we attempted to take it off of her, she would become depressed. She ended up wearing it until nearly March!

Share this image

Do any other customers buy coffee for their dogs?

I don't know if too many people order coffee for their dogs, but we do have a drive-through area, and every dog in the drive-through gets a Milk-Bone. It's pretty funny when you get to know who the regular customers are because their dogs are at the window for their cookie while they're waiting in line. They learn that they're gonna get their cookie pretty quickly. Then, if you come to the patio area, for every dog that comes in, there are always water bowls and free cookies laid out for them.

Share this image

If Edna was in charge of the coffee shop for a day, what changes would she make?

Well, we can't actually allow dogs inside the restaurant because of the health code, so we have a big patio, but Edna would definitely let dogs in for the day, and they would get to order from the proper counter. She'd really want a walk-up counter for the dogs.

Share this image

You're also involved with the Brother Wolf Animal Rescue organization. How did that come about?

When we started the coffee shop, we really wanted to be active in the neighborhood and the community, so we wanted to work with a charity, and because we love animals and own a coffee shop named after a dog, it was logical for us to work with an animal organization. Brother Wolf is spectacular -- they do such good work. We do pet adoption days at Edna's, and a couple of times a month, we do meet-up days for people with their dogs, just to give people a chance to socialize their dogs and meet with other people. Then we also do pet-food drives twice a year to help get food and supplies for Brother Wolf. 

Read related stories on Dogster:

About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world's foremost expert on rappers' cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it's not quite what you think it is.

Wed, 25 Feb 2015 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/ednas-coffee-shop-asheville-north-carolina-pug-dog-friendly-restaurants
<![CDATA[Update: Burned and Abandoned Puppies Have Been Adopted!]]> Border Collie puppies Jim and Tim were found burned alive and abandoned in a ditch in Valdosta, Georgia. The pups were taken to Lowndes County Humane Society for treatment, during which one of the puppies' ears and part of a tail fell off. Jim and Tim were placed in a foster home with Nikki Nelson to continue healing. Their story made headlines across the nation, outraging dog lovers and spurring a flood of adoption offers and donations.

Share this image
Border Collie puppies Jim and Tim recovering from their injuries. (Photos courtesy of Lowndes County Humane Society)

Nelson and her family have a long history of fostering and placing dogs, and it was to a family member that one of the puppies went. Nelson's aunt, Lara Seaton, had been following Jim and Tim's journey via her niece's Facebook page. Seaton and her partner decided to adopt one of the dogs, and, as Tim was already spoken for, they asked to take Jim. There was just one minor issue: Seaton lived in Austin, Texas, and Jim was still in south Georgia. Where there's a will, there's a way, though, so Nelson and Seaton met at the halfway point in Louisiana. 

Back home in Texas, Jim, now known as Cooper, joined his new family of three other dogs, several cats, chickens, and two goats, which he enjoys "herding." Cooper has been back to the vet for a checkup, as well as to get his second round of puppy vaccines. The vet gave him a clean bill of health and said he's a "healthy, happy puppy."

Share this image
Cooper with his new sister, Ella. (Photo courtesy of Lara Seaton)

Cooper now has three acres of land to play on, as well as a warm house to sleep in and all the toys a puppy could want. He even gets to go on wagon rides around the yard! Seaton and her family are very happy to have him. "We feel very fortunate to have had Cooper come into our lives, and are grateful for the work the Nelsons and the Valdosta/Lowndes County Humane Society are doing to help the many animals in need of safe and loving homes," Seaton said.

Share this image
Cooper with the goats. (Photo courtesy of Lara Seaton)

When Zane Sirmans heard about Jim and Tim via Facebook, he immediately reached out to a friend at the humane society. He wanted to help any way he could, and he decided the best thing he could do was to give one of them a home. He originally intended to adopt Jim, but Tim would "sit between my feet and lay his head down on my shoes and just look at me, so at that moment I knew I was supposed to adopt Tim," Sirmans said. It was definitely a case of a dog choosing the owner! He renamed him Bear, because he "looked like a bear cub."

Share this image
Bear taking a ride. (Photo courtesy of Zane Sirmans)

Bear is Sirmans' first dog to raise on his own. He grew up with cats and dogs, so it's always been a part of his life to have a pet. When he first brought Bear home, the pup was a bit woozy from the anesthesia he had been under while being neutered. Once the medicine wore off, however, it was easy to see that he was a playful, happy little puppy and grateful for a new home. He enjoys playing with Sirmans' roommate's German Shepherd, which helps Sirmans feel better about having to leave Bear alone while he works during the day. He also has family members who walk Bear before Sirmans takes him out at lunchtime.

Share this image
Bear playing with one of his canine pals. (Photo courtesy of Zane Sirmans)

Having met both Jim and Tim in person and being a dog lover himself, Sirmans has "no idea why someone would want to hurt one of them. They are both sweet dogs." Even though they have been through a lot in their very young lives, it doesn't seem to have affected the way they interact with people. Bear "is so excited when I come home or if someone comes over," Sirmans said. "He is just a happy dog!"

Authorities are still investigating the case, although they do not currently have any leads. In the meantime, Jim (Cooper) and Tim (Bear) have certainly come a long way from their horrific start in life, finding themselves spoiled and loved with new families, human and canine. Thanks to the team effort from rescuers, the humane society, and a dedicated foster family, Jim and Tim were given a second chance to at the life they deserve.

Read more dog news on Dogster: 

About Meghan Lodge Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it's in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I'm a former quiet nerd who's turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.

Tue, 24 Feb 2015 10:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/burned-puppies-georgia-tim-jim-dog-rescue-adoption
<![CDATA[A Pastry Chef Gives Back by Baking Cookies for Shelter Dogs]]> When we think of people who use their professional skills to help animals, our minds conjure up images of veterinarians in white coats and dog trainers leading large packs, but the truth is, you don't have to be in the animal industry to use your professional chops to help pets.
Share this image

Greg Connally, a baker and pastry chef from Kansas City, Missouri, is proving that professionals in all industries can figure out a way to lend a hand to dogs in need.

A passionate pastry chef, he is used to serving up exquisite baked goods to human patrons at the Ameristar Casino and Hotel in Kansas City. Recently, after being inspired by his rescue dog Oliver, Connally has also been whipping up cookies that can be consumed by the dogs at Wayside Waifs, the animal rescue organization that brought Oliver into his life.

"It's a way to show appreciation," says Connally. "I really appreciate what they did with Oliver."

Connally credits Wayside Waifs with not only saving four-year-old Oliver from a high-kill shelter, but also with rehabilitating the resource-guarding Basset Hound-Lab, and making him adoptable. "He was homeless and, they think, probably abused when he came to them," explains Connally.

Share this image
Wayside Waifs gave adorable Oliver a second chance.

"They really took faith in Oliver and saw potential in him," says the pastry chef, who was particularly impressed with the work of a trainer who spent several days inside a kennel with the then-adolescent dog, teaching him to trust humans. "They worked with him to make him more social. I think he was there at Wayside Waifs for about six months."

After substantial rehabilitation, Oliver was able to move to a foster home, where he he lived with two women who continued to work to improve his behavior. As Oliver was improving in foster care, Connally, his partner Steve, and their Dachshund, Chloe, were mourning a death in their family.

Share this image
These days, Oliver is taking on all kinds of challenges with his family.

"We lost one of our dogs, an older dog," says Connally. They eventually began looking at adoptable pets on the Wayside Waifs website. When he saw a video of Oliver playing with a ball, he wanted to meet the adorable dog. "He pretty much stole my heart as soon as I saw the video."

Soon after seeing the video, Connally and his partner set up a meet-and-greet with Oliver, who they had been warned favored women over men. "Right away, I called him and he came right up to me," says Connally. "We introduced him and Chloe, and they got along great."

Oliver seemed to be the perfect fit for their family, but Connally knew the adorable dog had special challenges. "He definitely had some resource guarding tendencies, so we read up about it."

Share this image
A happy family: Greg and Steve with Oliver and little Chloe.

Confident they could help Oliver with his resource guarding, Connally and his partner completed Oliver's adoption and brought the formerly homeless dog into his forever home. Wayside Waif wayside recommended a dog behaviorist, who made a visit and recommended a few tips for getting Oliver socialized with other dogs.

Although Connally and his partner had both studied resource guarding, some of Oliver's behaviors were especially hard to deal with.

"It was a challenge at first," explains Connally. "He wanted to resource guard the couch. He didn't want anyone else on the couch, and of course that wasn't going to work for us."

Recognizing that Oliver is a rescue dog with difficult past helped Connally to understand why the dog's urge to guard resources was so strong.

"I think when he was homeless and on the street, he really had to protect whatever food he had or whatever shelter he had." The couple worked patiently to help Oliver learn to trust and to share the couch with the rest of his family. "He's a special guy, and we're glad we got him."

Near the end of 2014, Connally realized that his skills as a baker were one way he could give back to the organization that gave Oliver not only a second chance, but also the rehabilitation he needed to be able to live with a family. Connally tested a recipe for cookies that can be eaten by humans and dogs, and then he got busy.

Share this image
Greg shares a treat with one of the puppies at Wayside Waifs.

Using the commercial kitchen at work, Connally whipped up dozens and dozens of the paw-shaped treats, along with a gingerbread house for the holiday season. Connally made so many cookies, his coworkers had to help him bring the treats to Wayside Waifs.

Share this image
Greg's team delivered dozens of these dog cookies to Wayside Waifs.

The cookies are made with dog-safe ingredients such as peanut butter and banana, and they were a big hit with both the staff and the shelter residents. Connally says the eggs in the cookies are good for dog's coats, while the oats can be good for their skin. Oliver, who has now been with his forever family for more than a year, is a big fan of the cookies.

Share this image
Connally's cookies are a hit with dogs and dog lovers.

This special treat made in the honor of a very special dog proves that we all have talents to tap if we wish to give back to shelter animals -- and to the humans who care for them in their time of need.

Read about more Dogster Heroes 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+.

Mon, 23 Feb 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/greg-connally-cookies-shelter-dogs-wayside-waifs
<![CDATA[Bulletproof Oakley, Shot as a Puppy, Helps Stop Animal Abuse ]]> Kristie Karcanes doesn't know much about what happened to her rescue dog, Oakley, in the first couple months of his life, but she can be certain he was the victim of a very violent act.
Share this image

"I just know he came into the shelter with a bullet in his spine before he was nine weeks old," she explains.

According to Karcanes, little Oakley the Pit Bull arrived at the Montgomery County shelter in North Carolina as an owner surrender, but the person who brought him in didn’t mention the bullet. They told shelter workers that Oakley had been born without the use of his hind legs. Karcanes says the fact that Oakley's paralysis was caused by people wasn't discovered until rescuers pulled him from the shelter.

"They took him to the vet immediately, and they did an X-ray on him because they wanted to see what was causing his paralysis. That's when they found a bullet near his spine."

Share this image
The bullet is clearly visible in this early X-ray of Oakley. His doctors decided to leave it there because the damage was permanent and its removal could cause other problems. (All photos courtesy of Bulletproof Oakley's Facebook page)

It's a story Karcanes is getting used to telling -- and one that is attracting plenty of attention online. After adopting the pup in 2014, Karcanes started a Facebook page for Bulletproof Oakley with the hope of spreading the word about the consequences of animal abuse. Her platform for advocacy is fitting, considering it was social media that brought Karcanes and Oakley together in the first place.

Active in North Carolina's rescue community, Karcanes first noticed Oakley on her Facebook feed in 2014 and watched as a group she hadn't before worked with, Friends FUR Life K9 Rescue, started Oakley on the road to recovery by ridding him of worms and urine burns.

"I liked their page and started following his story because I just wanted to make sure he was OK," Karcanes remembers.

After a few days of keeping up with Oakley on Facebook, Karcanes couldn't stop thinking about him, so she reached out to the director of Friends FUR Life K9 Rescue to ask if she could meet the endearing little pup.

Share this image
Oakley will never have use of all four legs, but he gets around quickly in his wheels.

"I just wanted to meet him, with maybe a possibility of wanting to foster him," explains Karcanes, who ended up bringing Oakley home as a foster just one day after meeting the paralyzed Pit Bull puppy, who impressed her by bouncing around on his bottom.

Although Karcanes knew she was drawn to Oakley, she didn't even consider adoption at first as she wasn't sure if she could commit to a dog with complex medical needs and life-long incontinence. She also didn't know if her other three dogs -- Jasper, Ollie, and Kya -- would accept Oakley.

"That was my biggest worry. I wondered if they were going to take him in," explains Karcanes, adding that two of her dogs were indeed weirded out by Oakley at first.

"But Ollie took him right in. Ollie didn't care that he was different. He got down to his size and just played with him. I think that made it easier for the other two to warm up."

Within two weeks, Jasper and Kya also had accepted Oakley into their pack and Karcanes had accepted him into her heart. Oakley became a foster failure and a permanent member of the household. These days, the furry foursome loves to run together in the backyard -- with Oakley keeping up in his wheelchair.

Share this image
Oakley and his fur siblings. From left to right: Jasper, Kya, Oakley, and Ollie.

"I totally fell in love with him," says Karcanes, who adds that caring for Oakley has included some unexpected challenges. Recently, the pup had to have a paw amputated.

"It didn't even cross my mind that something like this was going to occur -- that he would actually chew at his own feet. I had no idea."

Unable to feel his back paws, young Oakley took to chewing on one of them. Karcanes tried bandages, the cone of shame, and a muzzle, all to no avail.

"We went in and actually amputated a toe and a half first, trying to save the paw."

Then one night when Karcanes was sleeping, Oakley injured himself so badly that the whole his paw had to be removed.

"He hasn't tried to go for it since, and he's not trying to go for the other foot," says Karcanes, adding that Oakley's vet has also tried medications for nerve pain as well as antidepressants to keep Oakley from chewing himself.  

Share this image
Poor Oakley chewed his paw beyond repair.

After what she's experienced with Oakley, Karcanes says she encourages other potential pet owners to consider getting a special-needs pet, but wants people to recognize that it is a very big responsibility -- one that often includes unexpected outcomes.

While Oakley continues to recover from his amputation, Karcanes continues to devote herself to advocating for greater awareness of animal abuse.

"Before Oakley came into my life, I knew of animal abuse, but I didn’t know how bad it was until I started his Facebook page and started seeing all these other animals and the things that they have been through, the things that they’ve survived."

"If I don't know that -- and I actually work in rescue -- there must be so many other people out there who don't know at all," she says.

That’s why Karcanes is making Oakley into the poster boy in a campaign to stop animal abuse.

"We've made shirts. We've made hoodies. I'm actually making a website now,” she says. “People need to know that if you see it, it needs to be reported, because so many people see it and don't do anything about it."

Bulletproof Oakley will never walk or regain feeling in his back end because of the bullet that pierced his flesh as a puppy, but Karcanes hopes his influence may save other animals from a similar fate.

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+.

Mon, 23 Feb 2015 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/bulletproof-oakley-animal-abuse-pit-bulls-dog-rescue-adoption
<![CDATA[Seattle Animal Shelter Houses Pets of Domestic Violence Survivors]]>
Share this image

Nationally, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, so it should come as no surprise that numerous companion animals are affected by domestic violence as well. 

Here are a few facts from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women.
  • 71 percent of owners entering domestic violence shelters report that their batterers had threatened, injured, or killed family pets.
  • An estimated 13 percent of intentional animal abuse cases involve domestic violence.

One of the most important things we can do to combat domestic violence is to talk about it and give others the space to do so. I grew up in a family profoundly affected by domestic violence, and one of the worst aspects was the shame involved in having to keep secrets and hide reality -- even years afterward.

Share this image
Christy Mack and one of her pitties, Pitrick Swayzee. (Photo courtesy of Christy Mack's Instagram)

Late last summer, model and actress Christy Mack, who also is a Pit Bull advocate, was brutally beaten by her ex boyfriend, War Machine, a pro MMA fighter. This attack shocked me, both for the sheer violence involved and also for the intense victim blaming that happened immediately afterward. Because Mack works in the adult film industry, some people thought she deserved it due to her profession. Not only did she suffer physically but emotionally as she was dragged through the gutter. I couldn’t get over the fact that people blamed her for the beating. It was her fault he almost murdered her? 

I've followed Mack on Twitter and Instagram for a while and have always appreciated her affinity for companion animals. (Her pages often feature her Pit Bulls, snakes, and ferrets. She is clearly an animal lover, and fortunately none of her animals were hurt in the attack.)

Share this image
Christy Mack's dogs, Pitrick Swayzee and Cleopitra. (Photo courtesy of Christy Mack's Instagram)

But most of all I've been impressed with her honesty and willingness to speak out against the violence that she survived. She's become a heroine to many. Her strength inspires those who value truth, justice, and faith in doing the right thing, even when people question your integrity. 

Mack's profession and income were entirely dependent upon her physical beauty. After her beating, she had to have major reconstructive surgery. She wasn't able to breathe out of her nose, she had teeth knocked out, and she lost vision in one eye. While her injuries have healed, I can’t imagine the experience of looking into the mirror and having my face look totally different due to a vicious attack by someone who claims to love me. This is not what love is supposed to feel like.

Share this image
Mack on the road to recovery after her beating. (Photo courtesy of Christy Mack's Instagram)

Share this image
Mack has shown tremendous strength in her recovery. (Photo courtesy of Christy Mack's Twitter account)

Fortunately, she has money, fame, and a support network. But think about abuse survivors who have none of these things. What do they do? The Animal Welfare Institute has a national resource directory for abuse survivors who are needing to find safety for their pets as well as themselves.  

Around the time of Mack’s assault, I was planning to become a volunteer at Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS). During the training, I learned that it has a program that will temporarily house pets of domestic violence survivors. I was ultimately unable to volunteer due to scheduling constraints, but I did use the experience to interview Donald Baxter, manager of Animal Care and Volunteers, to learn more about how one shelter is working to help the pets and people affected by violence. 

I asked him how the domestic violence program got started at the shelter.

"This was a joint effort during interdepartmental meetings between Seattle Police Department (SPD) victim support team and SAS, after recognizing a need," Baxter told me in an email interview. Families have to be referred by a support agency or by a police victim support team. The shelter will hold family pets -- not just dogs and cats, but any critters that are legal to have as pets in the city -- for 14 days, so people can find appropriate temporary boarding. And of course you can visit your beloved pets, too. 

Share this image
An adoptable dog (not a pet of a domestic violence survivor) at the Seattle shelter. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

"We ask that a pet owner is able to cover the boarding costs, but that is not a requirement for the program," Baxter says. The only requirement is that the owner will need to purchase a Seattle pet license when picking up the pets if they live in Seattle.

As noted above, Mack's pets weren't harmed in the attack, but I was concerned about how the shelter could keep people's pets safe. Baxter says there have been no issues so far: "We keep domestic violence safekeeping pets out of public view just for that reason. It is a great program that helps individuals who are dealing with stressful situations in their personal lives by hopefully removing a little of the stress of having to worry about their pets."

Share this image
S.A.S. volunteer Caetlin with adoptable dog Tyrion (not a pet of a domestic violence survivor). (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

I'm glad to see that programs like this one may play a crucial role in helping domestic violence survivors make the transition to independence from their abusers by providing a safe place for their animals to be boarded in the interim. I believe every community should have a program of this nature. 

In observance of the survivors of domestic violence who have had the courage and ability to leave their abusers, I think we should all take some time to reflect upon those who may be less fortunate than ourselves and advocate for programs that assist these people in their path to a healthy, stable life. And that includes resources for their companion animals -- and the willingness to listen when someone shares their story.

For more information about safe havens for pets and victims of domestic violence, visit the Safe Havens Mapping Project and visit the Animal Welfare Institute on Facebook.

Read related stories on Dogster:

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

About Kezia Willingham: Kezia was raised by a strong single mother who had the courage to leave her abusive marriage to a police officer during the 1970s, before domestic violence was a household term. Kezia credits the experience of not being able to talk about the violence as part of the reason she is a tell-all writer today. A former high school dropout and single mother on welfare, Kezia has bachelor's and master's degrees today and works as a Health Coordinator for Head Start. You can find her on Twitter.

Fri, 20 Feb 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/christy-mack-domestic-violence-survivors-seattle-animal-shelter
<![CDATA[My Shelter Dog Got Invited to Westminster!]]> Some no doubt consider me a crazy dog lady, as I have built my adult life around making my canine companions happy. Dog-friendly vacations. A dog bed in every room, mostly unused as the dog lounges on the couch. Social invitations that usually include dogs. Planning my errands around the stores my dog likes to visit. As many walks and adventures as desired, play dates, agility -- anything and everything to make my dog self-actualized. My dog's raincoat is far more stylish than my own. I even channeled and self-published my beloved late dog Annabelle's thoughts on life in New York City

I have adopted four dogs in my life, three of them adults, and all, I thought, were mixed breeds. With each I have wondered about their history. How did they come to be in a shelter? How old are they? And most of all, who owned them?

Share this image
Gabriel’s Petfinder photo gave me a jolt of love at first sight. Petfinder is a surer bet for love than Match!

My current canine pal, Gabriel Byrne (named by his rescue group), has been a real mystery. He doesn't look like any one common breed; I'd thought him to be from a long line of randy mixed breeds (he, too, was unfortunately and irresponsibly "intact" when picked up as a stray). In fact, I'd had in the back of my mind as a party theme to "guess Gabriel’s DNA," at which I'd reveal test results to acclaim and surprise. 

He was listed on Petfinder as an Australian Shepherd mix. I immediately loved his hopeful, resilient expression. "It was a moment," I’ve said. (At least he used a current photo.) 

Someone loved Gabriel and trained him well. Although I didn't ask him to so much as sit for the first year I had him, it became apparent in his first class that he was thoroughly trained, even with hand signals. How did he end up in a high-kill shelter? With his warm, loving personality, it's not too surprising that three different rescue groups -- Dog Bless, Pilots and Paws, and See Spot Rescued -- as well as a loving foster mom worked together to make him one of the lucky ones to find a new home.   

Share this image
No, I won’t pose. I don’t “do” photos. You’ll have to Photoshop me in later. (Photo by Priscilla Eshelman)

When a passerby recently stopped my dog walker to ask about Gabriel, it started a wondrous journey I couldn't have foreseen or dared to dream. In one month, my goofball has morphed from estimated "West Virginia fence jumper" to likely Kooikerhondje, a rare Dutch dog of ancient lineage. The Kooikerhondje Club of the USA (KCUSA) has shown themselves to be remarkably open-minded and open-hearted; they bestowed upon us the high honor of joining the pack in their booth at Meet the Breeds at Westminster. Yes! "Gabriel was invited to Westminster," I have exulted to both friends and strangers. "I can’t help but look at him differently," a friend said.

Seeing him engage with other Kooikers has been the greatest joy of all. On our first walk with two others, he positively trumpeted, "We are here!" over and over again. Imagine the relief of being really understood after years of obscurity. 

Meet the Breeds was held on a freezing cold New York day, but it felt as magical to me as a beach in St. Tropez. When we arrived at the venue, I beseeched Gabriel to pose nicely on a snow drift with the "Welcome to Westminster" signage behind him, but he was too anxious to get inside. He could already tell this would be a day like no other.

Share this image
Stop to smell the tulips: In the booth at Meet the Breeds (note misspelled sign, Kookier, rather than Kooiker; the easy-going group laughed about it all day). (Photo courtesy of Priscilla Eshelman)

We excitedly walked through the great halls where dogs were showcased like gems. Gabriel could tell this was a place where dogs are exalted. When we got to the Kooikerhondje booth, he reacted like a kid at the gates of Disneyland. Where to go first?! He fondly greeted each fellow Kooiker and again started crowing, "This is my town, these are my people." The other Kooiker owners greeted us warmly, and the KCUSA former president expertly apprised Gabriel from tip to tip, pronouncing, "If he’s not 100 percent, he's darn close."

As I watched Gabriel engage with the other dogs and later greet hundreds of people who came to our booth, I was as proud of him as if he'd toddled through Swan Lake. He thoroughly enjoyed his role as Kooikerhondje emissary, and was as happy as I've ever seen him. I felt immense satisfaction that I had made this extraordinary opportunity happen for him. (I have all the makings of a Stage Mother from Hell, I'm afraid.)

Share this image
"Ja, ik ben een kooikerhondje." (Yes, I am a Kooikerhondje) (Photo by Priscilla Eshelman)

There is no DNA test that can prove Gabriel is pure Kooikerhondje, but his looks and behavior fit. He intently watches birds fly, and he has the enormous white tail Kooikers historically used to lure ducks. He grooms himself like a cat. He splays completely flat to relax. And he will hardly leave my side.

It's all the more remarkable the KCUSA has embraced Gabriel because he seems to be a sort of "missing link." Gabriel is not descended from the line of known Kooikerhondjes, a breed brought back from the brink of extinction after WWII. Did a Dutch war bride bring a breeding pair with her to America? Could West Virginia, with its large population of Dutch settlers, still house a Dutch colony, living in the traditional ways? His dashing asymmetrical facial markings are not the breed standard, but I've been told he has an Old Country look about him.

In an effort to tidy his appearance, I'd ignorantly cut long hair from his ears -- these "earrings" are a distinguishing breed characteristic, and I'm now rather urgently brushing them in an effort to regrow (um, Dance Moms much?). He's about five pounds heavier than the breed standard, and if that's not a good reason to lose weight, I don't know what is. 

Share this image
In the booth at Westminster’s Meet the Breeds. Reunited, and it feels so good (ecstatic Gabriel on the far right). (Photo courtesy of Priscilla Eshelman)

Animal shelters are filled with remarkable dogs, and there's no shortage of purebreds. That alone doesn't explain my deep pride. My delight comes from the unexpectedness of it all, and from his redemption. Don't we all want that ourselves?  

It seems to me Gabriel's tale is intrinsically American. We love to see underdogs triumph, and certainly to be invited into the company of kings at Westminster is that. 

Perseverance counts for a lot. We're a nation of immigrants. Our vastness is wondrous and still holds secrets. My greatest hope remains finding his former owners and letting them know he lives on, happily.

Read more about the 2015 Westminster Kennel Club dog show:  

About the author: Priscilla Eshelman finds dogs to be more admirable than people by virtually every measure (alas, our opposable thumbs give humans an edge); so unsurprisingly she's been acting as a sort of dog valet her entire life. When not working to keep the Internet free with advertising, she can likely be found on marathon dog walks in Central Park. Read her book on Manhattan as seen through a dog's eyes, When Annabelle Moved to the Big City, perhaps the first children's book in which a dog goes to a liquor store for a biscuit.  

Thu, 19 Feb 2015 13:05:00 -0800 /lifestyle/westminster-dog-show-kooikerhondje-breed-rescue-dog
<![CDATA[A One-Eyed Cocker Spaniel Travels From Mexico to Montreal]]> She shares her name with the Australian rapper, and Iggy the one-eyed Cocker Spaniel has certainly had her own international hustle and struggle, going from the streets of Tijuana to her forever home in Montreal.

Share this image

Now at home in snowy Quebec, this beautiful dog once spent her lonely days as a parasite-infested and feral stray in Mexico, her right eye hanging out of her head. The eye was infected, likely the result of a traumatic injury, and it was causing poor Iggy untold amounts of pain. Thankfully, a Good Samaritan snapped a photo of the sick dog and shared it on Facebook. When the photo reached Eldad Hagar's Hope for Paws rescue, her international journey to a better life began.

Hagar and the Hope for Paws supporters mobilized to get her medical treatment and across the border to Los Angeles. Soon afterward, a Canadian woman -- Agi Szabo -- saw Iggy’s story online and couldn’t stop thinking about the poor pup.

Share this image
This photo was taken after Iggy's rescue. (All photos courtesy of Iggy's Facebook page)

"You see the videos, and you shed a tear, you make a donation, you write a post, and you carry on, but for some reason I got stuck on Iggy’s story," Szabo says.

An experienced Cocker Spaniel guardian and mother to one human daughter, Szabo had been looking to adopt a senior Cocker since the death of her 16-year-old dog, Buddy, but her daughter wanted a puppy instead. The family ended up bringing home a young male pup named Lolo, and Szabo continued to seek out an adoptable senior.

"Then I saw Iggy, and all of a sudden I thought, maybe it doesn't have to be a senior dog."

Share this image
Iggy's infected eye had to be removed before she could find her forever home.

Knowing that an international adoption would be challenging, and even unlikely, Szabo wrote a heartfelt letter to Hope for Paws, which agreed to consider her application. She began gathering letters of reference, videos, pictures, and other items required. In the meantime, Iggy remained in California, recovering from the surgery that removed her infected eye. She healed well and enjoyed the pack life in her foster home at Road Dogs & Rescue until it was time for her to come north.

"Iggy flew to Canada on August 6," Szabo recalls. "She was happy, she was very friendly, she was licking and kissing everybody at the airport, but you could tell she was a little dazed."

Share this image
Adorable Iggy met Szabo and her daughter, Hailie, (left and center) when she landed in Montreal.

The warm welcome Iggy got at the airport was not repeated when she arrived at Szabo's home to meet Lolo. Although the two Cockers are best friends now, Lolo's aggressive introduction was so concerning that Szabo sought advice from dog trainers right away -- a decision that was obviously the right one, as their relationship quickly improved. 

"By day three, I wouldn’t say it was perfect, but definitely fine," she says. "Within a couple of weeks, it was like she'd been here forever."

Share this image
Iggy and Lolo are now BFFs -- they even celebrated Lolo's birthday together.

Because Szabo works as a school teacher, Iggy was able to enjoy the rest of August with her new people by her side full-time, becoming best pals with young Lolo. It seemed Iggy was adjusting well, but when school started in September the little dog who’d come so far suffered a major setback.

"When I went back to work, Iggy began suffering severe separation anxiety," Szabo explains. "She started peeing and pooping in the house -- she was laying in it, sitting in it, walking in it. I was freaking out."

Szabo was bathing Iggy up to four times a day when she again sought the help of dog professionals; she decided to crate Iggy during the day.

"That was not the life I had envisioned for her," she says. Eventually, Szabo contacted Hope For Paws, explaining that she wasn't giving up on Iggy, but was concerned about the dog's quality of life in her home. The organization made plans to come to Montreal and retrieve Iggy at the end of December.

The family was heartbroken, but didn't stop trying to help Iggy. In the weeks leading up to the dog's intended departure date, Szabo continued to work with behaviorists, including one who suggested that what the formerly feral Iggy really needed was outdoor space -- something their half-duplex didn't have.

"So I made a deal with my landlord, and I now have access to the backyard," says Szabo, who adds the change she witnessed in Iggy was almost miraculous.

Share this image
Iggy needs frequent outdoor time to help her feel her best.

"It's only been a month, and she's perfect. There are no accidents, no separation anxiety. I look at her sometimes, and I'm like, 'What was that three months that we went through?'"

Szabo no longer doubts that Iggy has found her forever home at last and can't imagine life without her one-eyed pup. Although she considers herself well-educated when it comes to dogs, she admits to being caught off guard by Iggy's anxiety issues and suggests that anyone adopting a rescue dog needs to be prepared to work through unexpected behaviors.

Share this image
Now Iggy and her buddy Lolo have a backyard to play in. Iggy is even starting to love snow.

"I'm so happy that we invested the time, and in the end it paid off," she says, adding that Iggy's ability to overcome adversity and anxiety is inspiring.

"She had been through so much already, that poor little dog," says Szabo. "I as a person definitely have grown with Iggy in my life."

Read about 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+.

Mon, 16 Feb 2015 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/cocker-spaniel-hope-for-paws-eldad-hagar
<![CDATA[A Vodka Distillery and a Spay/Neuter Group Team Up to Help Homeless Dogs in Austin]]> They say that good fences make good neighbors, but in a rural area of Austin, Texas, it's good liquor and a love of animals that unite neighbors in a good cause -- and in a Valentine's Day tradition.
Share this image

"Tito's Vodka is a company that's based in Austin, just down the road from our flagship clinic," explains Amy Mills, CEO of Emancipet, a nonprofit provider of affordable and accessible spay and neuter services.

"We've spayed so many of their dogs over the years," she says.

The dogs she's referring to aren't really Tito's -- or at least, they weren't at first. Dozens of homeless dogs and cats have found their way to the distillery over the years. The rural location seems to attract animals who have nowhere else to go. The team at Tito's Handmade Vodka has absorbed many of the strays into their own families and wanted to give back to Emancipet for helping the animals who stole their hearts. That's why the folks at the distillery created Vodka For Dog People, a booze-free line of dog toys and accessories to showcase one's dual love of vodka and dogs. Squeaky toys, T-shirts, leashes, and food dishes are among the items bearing the Tito's branding to benefit Emancipet.

Share this image
Dog-loving vodka drinkers can show their love for Tito's by gifting these plush bottles to their furry friends.

"Everything that they sell, 100 percent of the money goes to Emancipet," says Mills.

Of course, the dogs rescued by Tito's aren't the only ones receiving low- or no-cost spay and neuter surgeries through the Central Texas organization.

Since its inception in 1999, Emancipet has helped more than 200,000 pets get spayed or neutered at little or no cost to their families. After humble beginnings offering free weekly spay and neuter services from its mobile clinic, Emancipet opened its first permanent clinic in Austin in 2005, and by 2011 the team had added a second mobile clinic, allowing the organization to expand out of the city and into Central Texas. A second brick-and-mortar clinic was opened in Pflugerville in 2013, and a mobile trailer was permanently parked in Killeen in 2014. The organization expects to continue its expansion.

Share this image
The mobile clinic in Killeen.

"Right now we're working to identify cities that either don't have low-cost spay and neuter clinics or don't have enough services available for the number of low-income families," Mills explains.

Mills has seen first hand what can happen when families can't access spay and neuter services in time. She has four dogs and a cat at home -- all of them rescues.

"Gracie's my oldest, she is almost 14 years old. She is my chocolate Lab," says Mills, whose second oldest dog, Rudy, is almost 12.

Share this image
Mills with her oldest dog, Gracie.

"My last two dogs were born at Emancipet," she says, adding that the owners of the dogs' mother did not realize their Lab mix was pregnant when they brought her in for a low-cost spay surgery.

"I've been with Emancipet for eight years, and that was the only time that that has happened," says Mills, who dubbed the surprise pups she adopted Angus and Banjo.

Share this image
Banjo is all grown up now.

The birth of the dogs may have been unexpected, but unwanted pet pregnancies are an all too common story. When financial times get tough, it can be difficult for families to put a high priority on spaying or neutering their pets, so organizations like Emancipet need support to be able to provide these much-needed veterinary services at low or no cost.

That's one reason why Emancipet teamed up with local pet company, PrideBites (the same company behind the Tito's branded squeak toys) to create a line of Emancipet-branded collars and leashes, so pets and their people could show their support for the organization on every dog walk.

Share this image
The line of collars includes solid turquoise, solid black, polka dot, and chevron styles.

According to Mills, the Vodka For Dog People line and Emancipet's own accessories are a great way to spread the word about the organization and its services.

"These products are a really awesome way for us to do that."

While the Vodka For Dog People products are helping spread the gospel of Emancipet's spay and neuter mission, Tito's core product -- Handmade Vodka -- is also part of Emancipet's Sit Stay Day kits, a made-in-Austin alternative to a Valentine's Day dinner out.

Share this image
The Sit Stay Day kits include all the ingredients for a romantic dinner for two on Valentine’s Day.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the dinner, drink, and dessert kits, which include dozens of local products, to be delivered to hundreds of Austin homes and offices the day before Valentine's Day. Along with Tito's Handmade Vodka, the Sit Stay Day kits also contain beers from Independence Brewery Co. and the Houston-based Saint Arnold Brewing Company, along with dinner ingredients, snacks, sweets such as LovePuppies Brownies, and even treats for furry family members. The kits each sell for $175, money that helps Emancipet help pets in need -- a mission that would be a lot harder if it weren't for neighbors like the team at Tito's and the rest of the Austin-based businesses who donated to the Sit Stay Day kits.

"We serve thousands and thousands of pets and their families," says Mills, who is grateful for all the love Austin businesses show Emancipet on Valentine's Day, and every other day of the year.

On February 14, when hundreds of romantic Austinites settle in for an evening at home with their Sit Stay Day kits, they -- along with the folks at Tito's Homemade Vodka, the other businesses donating to the kit, as well as Mills and her team at Emancipet -- will become heroes to the dogs of Central Texas (and the families who love them). 

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+.

Fri, 13 Feb 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/titos-vodka-emancipet-low-cost-free-spay-neuter-dogs-cats-austin