Shelters | Shelters http://www.dogster.com/shelters Shelters en-us Wed, 25 Feb 2015 08:00:00 -0800 Wed, 25 Feb 2015 08:00:00 -0800 http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss Orion <![CDATA["Home Is Where the HeART Is" Pairs Artists With Adoptable Dogs]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-portraits-paintings-oakland-animal-services Earlier this month, a bunch of artists from the San Francisco Bay area took part in a project to honor 25 dogs in the Oakland Animal Services system. Each painter or illustrator was paired with a dog looking for a forever home and given free reign to interpret the pup's personality in the artist's own style. Even better, anyone adopting one of the dogs also received the accompanying one-off artwork.

The full range of art is currently on display in Oakland -- but if you're unable to check out the Home Is Where The HeART Is exhibition in person, here are five of the best to peruse here on Dogster.

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Oakland-based Bar Davi has built up a spirited portfolio of pooch portrait paintings. Here the artist has turned her touch to Carmelo and accentuated the dog's distinctive black splodge around the right eye.

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The art of printer and illustrator Michael Wertz has been lauded by galleries and corporate clients alike. When given the task of creating a portrait of Dahlia, he spruced up her photo with a thoroughly contemporary process.

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Painter Adrienne Simms decamped from New York City to San Francisco when a teenager. These days, her artwork looks to explore the "tension between the macabre and the humorous," although I like to think her brushwork on young Bauer here imbues him with a stately sheen.

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Kim Roth is an illustrator who also runs a boutique stationery studio. Fittingly, her interpretation of Sally-Jane uses typography to turn the dog's beaming face into a tenderhearted motif.

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Frolicking in the field of mixed media, David Polka bills his art as an attempt to reveal "the lines connecting different facets of our existence with irrevocable patterns of life and death, destruction and rebirth." Frankly, I just think his treatment of lil' Pepper here looks kinda slick and cool.

See more Pix We Love 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.

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Wed, 25 Feb 2015 08:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-portraits-paintings-oakland-animal-services
<![CDATA[Dog Rescue Groups Come Together to Save Baxter, a Special-Needs Dog]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-rescue-maddies-fund-humane-society-silicon-valley
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Baxter, a Poodle mix with spinal issues, found his forever home with the help of a number of dog rescue groups and loving people in the Northern California area. Baxter's last stop before finding a family was the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV). Dr. Cristie Kamiya, chief of shelter medicine, helped us understand Baxter's journey and the people and places that helped him.

Maddie's Fund, a foundation working to achieve and sustain a no-kill nation, was working to help get Baxter placed in a foster home. Sheila D'Arpino, director of Maddie's Animal Care Center and a friend of Kamiya, reached out to her via text. D'Arpino explained to Kamiya that an HSSV employee had seen Baxter on its Facebook page and was interested in fostering him. Since Baxter was going to be fostered by someone who worked at the humane society, D'Arpino suggested it made sense for Baxter to come to HSSV for care, and Kamiya agreed. That conversation happened in the evening. By the next morning, Baxter was with his new foster mom at her work. 

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Baxter at HSSV. (Photo courtesy of HSSV)

At his new location, Baxter took the sometimes hard and time-consuming steps necessary to one day get adopted. His foster mom, HSSV finance employee Farinaz Khatabi, brought Baxter home. As a special needs puppy whose medical needs required that he limit his activity, Baxter came to work with Khatabi every day. "Being four months old, he was pretty difficult to contain. He was supposed to be confined to a crate for four to six weeks, and that is pretty difficult for a puppy," Kamiya explains. She describes Khatabi as being very patient with Baxter, which was, at the time, what he needed most.

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Baxter at HSSV. (Photo courtesy of HSSV)

Baxter definitely showed signs of spinal issues. If you picked Baxter up and supported him, he could stand, but when he tried to walk he would fall over. According to Kamiya, it was unclear at the time if Baxter's problem was caused by an injury, infection, or even a congenital defect. The rescue that took Baxter in had taken him to a neurologist for consult, and the doctor determined where the injury was -- in the middle of his spine -- but couldn't determine what the cause was. Since a diagnosis was still unclear, the best thing was to give him time to rest and heal. During the 10 days at the shelter, Baxter did seem to show improvement and HSSV hoped that trend would continue.

Lucky for Baxter, there was another group willing to help in his rehabilitation. HSSV has a partnership with Scout's House, a rehab center for animals and self-described champions of special need dogs and cats. Through its nonprofit entity, Scout's Animal Rehab Therapy Fund, Baxter was able to get additional treatment. With the help of donations, Scout's Fund is able to underwrite the cost of physical therapy for animals with special needs. Kamiya describes HSSV's relationship with Scout's Fund as "wonderful" and gives it credit for helping provide an extremely high level of care to some of its animal patients, whose treatment would have normally been cost prohibitive.

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The underwater treadmill treatment at Scout's House. (Photo courtesy of Scout's House Facebook page)

Baxter visited Scout's House once to twice a week for physical therapy. He spent time doing exercises to strengthen his back and legs, including utilizing the underwater treadmill. His work wasn't limited to his time at the rehab facility. He also worked with his foster mom, Khatabi, on his homework. With everyone's help and his hard work, Baxter continued to show signs of improvement.

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Kipper and Scout at play. (Photo courtesy of HSSV)

One day a couple came to HSSV looking for a companion dog for their shy hound mix, Kipper. They had in mind another Poodle mix they knew was up for adoption, but they never got that far. Christian Lawler, Inna Cheong, and Kipper met Baxter and his foster mom in the hall. When looking back at this meeting, Kamiya says, "There was an instant connection between Kipper and Baxter. They had just met and they started play bowing. We couldn't let Baxter play as quickly because he wasn't done with his treatment, so it was a little bit of controlled play, but it was perfect." Lawler and Cheong had their name put in Baxter's file as an interested adoptive party.

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Cheong, Lawler, Baxter, and Kipper at HSSV training graduation. (Photo courtesy of HSSV Facebook page)

Several weeks later the couple returned to take Baxter home. Baxter has settled in nicely with his dog brother. The two are described as best buds. Kamiya explains this doggie connection, "Baxter provides support to Kipper, who is a little bit shy, and through play and running around Kipper provides an opportunity for Baxter to get stronger and stronger." 

"He will probably never be a marathon runner or an agility champion," Kamiya says, "but as far as regular everyday life goes, he is perfect!"

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Baxter and his brother Kipper happy at home. (Photo courtesy of HSSV)

Baxter can thank his new life to a network of animal rescue organizations and dedicated animal lovers. Seventy-five percent of the animals who came through HSSV's doors last year required medical assistance. In order for the organization to continue the work it does, HSSV, along with the other groups that helped Baxter, rely on the donations of time and money. If you'd like to help, visit the Human Society of Silicon Valley's Facebook page and website for more details.

Read about more Dogster Heroes:

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

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Wed, 04 Feb 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-rescue-maddies-fund-humane-society-silicon-valley
<![CDATA["Rusty the Rescue" Teaches Kids Compassion for Shelter Dogs]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/rusty-to-the-rescue-childrens-book-shelter-dogs Many children have, at one time or another, begged their parents to let them go into a pet store to look at the puppies.
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 The little pups kept behind the glass are what attract children to these profitable retail stores, but children's author Christina Capatides is hoping her new book, Rusty the Rescue,  can help kids learn to adopt instead of shop.

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

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

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

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

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

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Capatides and her adopted rescue dog, Mooch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ryan Bauer-Walsh illustrated Rusty to The Rescue.

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

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

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

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Rusty has a bright future ahead of him.

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

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

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

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

Read about more Dogster Heroes:

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

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Wed, 28 Jan 2015 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/rusty-to-the-rescue-childrens-book-shelter-dogs
<![CDATA[After 15 Months, Eddie the Terrible Gets Adopted!]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/eddie-the-terrible-gets-adopted-chihuahua-humane-society-silicon-valley Eddie the Chihuahua had been up for adoption for 15 months, and things didn't look good. He wasn't a very nice dog. In face, he was a mean dog. He was a mean little Chihuahua. 

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As a result, the Humane Society of Silicon Valley had a moment of genius, which happens often in the rescue community, when people have to think different to get dogs adopted. In this case, the genius was pretty wicked: Staff rebranded Eddie as "Eddie the Terrible," and they wrote an insanely clever blog post about him. Titled "A Full Disclosure Blog: Three Reasons You DON'T Want to Adopt Eddie the Terrible," it featured lines (and hilarious photos) like these:  

While Eddie the Terrible has never actually attacked another dog, he's made it abundantly clear that he hasn't ruled out the possibility. He goes from zero to Cujo in .05 seconds when he sees another dog on leash. 

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Some dogs love kids. We have a bunch of child-lovin' dogs. Eddie the Terrible, however, is not one of them. Honestly, he's a little whiffy with some adults, too. Not in an eat-them sort of way, but in "this makes me very nervous" sort of way. Eddie's never actually bitten anyone, but we're not saying it could never happen. 

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Let's face it: Unless you're looking for a dog that's a little bit of work, Eddie the Terrible is not the dog for you. We know, we know. He's super loyal, easy in the house, and a lot of fun, but he's a little rough around the edges. Actually he's kind of a jerk. But he's a jerk we believe in. We're not expecting you to want to meet him, but if you must, we really can't deter you. 

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It also included this video, which is amazing. Eddie is a wicked little mean Chihuahua: 

The blog post went up Dec. 9. A flurry of news converge followed. Now, Eddie has a home. The Espinozas saw Eddie on a local news and thought, 'That's our dog.' 

"When I saw his face, that's when I said, 'Wow, that is a cute dog,'" Deborah Espinoza told ABC News

“We found the perfect dog for our family,” said her husband, Randolph Espinoza.

What a family!

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Of course, Eddie is a good dog deep down. The shelter just had to play up his bad side to make people notice his good side.  

“We do think he’s perfectly imperfect, and all he really needed was the right family,” said Humane Society of Silicon Valley President Carol Novello. 

And now, after 15 months in the shelter, Eddie finally has that.

Via ABC News; photos via the Humane Society of Silicon Valley

Read more dog news on Dogster:

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Tue, 23 Dec 2014 11:10:00 -0800 /the-scoop/eddie-the-terrible-gets-adopted-chihuahua-humane-society-silicon-valley
<![CDATA[Has a Dog Rescue Found You 'Unfit' to Adopt?]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/lets-talk-open-adoptions-dog-rescue Nine years ago, I lived in a third-floor apartment off the famous Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles with my boyfriend and our dog. I no longer have the apartment, nor the boyfriend, but I still have my love of my life: the dog, Riggins.

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Puppy Riggins doing what he did best: Be cute! Photo by Wendy Newell.

We had moved into the apartment because I wanted a puppy and where we lived didn't allow dogs. Once settled into our new home, I reached out to three or four popular rescue groups in the area and was told the same thing over and over again: no.

The rescues wouldn't let me adopt a puppy. It wasn't that they didn't have puppies; it was that they didn't think I should get one. I was a first-time dog owner (other than a family dog when I was young), living in sin with my boyfriend in an apartment that we both vacated during the day to go to work. We were labeled "not puppy material."

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Riggins and Wendy begging for treats. Photo by Fusaro Photography.

One day, my folks emailed me a flyer they had seen of a family offering puppies for sale in their neighborhood. I was on vacation at the time, but rushed over the day after I got back. I knew I should go through the steps of adopting from a rescue group, but the ones I had contacted left me discouraged.

The family's two dogs, a German Shorthair Pointer and a Samoyed, had had an accidental litter. I should have lectured them on the importance of having pets spayed or neutered. I didn't. Instead, I fell in love with the only male left, named Gargantuan.

I handed over $5 and walked away with my sweet baby. After a bath to de-flea, trip to the local vet, and drive home to meet his new daddy, Gargantuan became Riggins. The rigorous adoption rules of the rescue groups may have kept me from adopting one of their pups, but the situation led me to the best dog in the world!

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One big happy family: Darrell and Lori Fusaro with Gabby, adopted from Karma Rescue, and Sunny, adopted from the Los Angeles County shelter in Carson. Photo by Rita Earl.

Open adoptions such as the one that brought Riggins and I together are necessary for ours to become a "no-kill" society. In an open adoption, the goal is to place as many animals as possible with the acknowledgement that no one is perfect. This means no house checks, no vet checks, and no reference checks. Adopters aren't denied if the pet will be home alone while they work nor if the home does not have an enclosed backyard.  

Many in the rescue world do not approve of this type of adoption. Some have nightmares of dogs being scooped up to become bait or to be used for breeding. I currently volunteer for Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles, well-known for its open-adoption policy. Some believe that this means cuddly animals are handed out like cars at a very special taping of Oprah. "A dog for you, a dog for you, dogs for everyone!" That is simply not true. Groups that follow open-adoption policies still have guidelines.

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Gabriella's first picture with her new pup, Bonnie, who was adopted from Best Friends. Photo by Lori Fusaro.

If you want to adopt from Best Friends, you have to fill out a survey so your adoption specialist can better understand you, what you are looking for in a pet, and your living situation. You are interviewed, although you may not know it is happening. The specialist guides you to the dog that will best suit your life. Then there is an adoption fee and an extensive adoption agreement, which is gone over in detail before you sign. The entire process takes hours, not minutes, and not everyone who applies gets what they want.

I have had to turn down potential adopters based on what I learned while talking to them. I had a nice couple looking to adopt a cat, but they were adamant that he or she would be happiest living outside. Despite my best efforts to educate them on why an indoor cat's life is longer, they wouldn't budge. Best Friends, along with most rescue groups, requires that cats who are adopted be inside-only pets. This is usually in the adoption agreement and cannot be negotiated.

Best Friends also has a no-kill policy for the life of its animals. If an adoption doesn't work out, the organization ask that the pet comes back to the facility. This less-stringent adoption policy allows more animals to be adopted. That means more animals are pulled from shelters and saved from euthanasia. Is there a chance that after all the time and effort, someone with an ulterior motive will walk off with a pup? You can never say never, but if you are evil there are easier ways to grab your prey.

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Tricia Pierce and Beaux, who was adopted via a courtesy listing by Angel City Pits. Photo by Wendy Newell.

The rescue groups who don't have open-adoption policies take additional steps to make sure the connection between the pet and the owner is a good one. This can include house checks. I've heard from a number of people who are great dog owners, who said they were originally denied a pup because there was no one at home during the day (darn those humans for having to go to work!), their backyard wasn't big enough, or they lived in an apartment. Some (like me) were just told no.

Sometimes more thorough research is best for a dog. I recently rescued a very unsocial Chihuahua, Sparky, from a family who had him living in a small cage in their kitchen. They were more than happy to sign over ownership to me so that I could find him a home that would be a better match. He was a hard case: not fixed, not up-to-date on shots, and he acted like he was possessed by the devil upon first meeting a person. Eventually he became my cuddle bug and friends with the other dogs at my house, but he did not make a good first impression.

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Michelle Cramton enjoying a pretty day with her pretty Sadie, adopted from NKLA. Photo by Lori Fusaro.

After reaching out to every rescue group I knew of, I finally found The Fuzzy Pet Foundation in Santa Monica, which was willing to take Sparky. Because of the difficult cases it deals with, the organization does extensive research on potential adopters to find the best fit for each animal. For Sparky, this was the best adoption policy. He needed to find a family who would give him a chance to settle, all the while providing love and patience. Sparky now lives in a happy home with a Chihuahua sister.

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Alexander West, Kevin Calvo, and the newly adopted Paisley Blue with adoption specialist Pam Nelson of Best Friends. Photo by Monica Calvo.

There is a place for all rescue groups and their different adoption policies. Each one services a purpose: saving animals and placing them in loving, caring forever homes. If you have doubts about the positive aspects of an open-adoption policy, I ask you to visit a group that utilizes it, see how it works, keep an open mind, and then think of Riggins sitting here on my lap -- the lap of someone who was deemed "unfit" by many rescues to raise a puppy. This dog is living the life of Riley!

Has a rescue group ever deemed you "unfit" to adopt? What did you do? Tell us your story in the comments!

Read related stories on Dogster:

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 with hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area ,where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

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Wed, 05 Nov 2014 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/lets-talk-open-adoptions-dog-rescue
<![CDATA[AllPaws: It's Like Tinder But for Dog Adoption ]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/tinder-dating-all-paws-app-dog-adoption-shelter-dogs Considering how successful the dating app Tinder has been in helping people find partners to hook up with, it seems like it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the doggy equivalent.

Well, that time is here. Pet adoption site AllPaws.com has come up with an app that lets people browse through more than 200,000 dogs, cats, and other animals in search of the perfect one to adopt. AllPaws lets you filter your search by a number of variables.

Location is an important one, of course, because few people are going to drive from Seattle to a shelter in Albuquerque for their new pup. But searches can get much more specific, looking for breed, size, whether they've been neutered and vaccinated, and how well they get on with other animals. Once you've found the animal that suits your heart's desire, you can text the shelter directly for more info.

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Anything that gets more animals adopted is good. There's hardly a shortage of dogs and cats waiting for new homes in shelters across the country. And most shelters have put the Internet to good use to make the adoption process friendlier and more accessible.

Stephanie Shain, of the Washington Humane Society, told Slate that she sees the app as having great potential for getting more people interested in adoption. "Just getting those pictures in front of people is a terrific first step, because you're halfway there once they're looking," Shain said.

If you can get the pictures, of course. People who have an iPhone that is not the latest model might want to beware, at least until later releases or until they upgrade. I decided to do a quick test of the app myself, and it wasn't encouraging: It crashed while I was trying to do the initial sign-up. Fortunately, it seems like AllPaws.com got my info before the app tanked, and my login was valid according to the site. But then I tried to log in with the app, and it crashed repeatedly while it was "Retrieving pets." Four times. So far, I haven't managed to log in.

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Keep in mind, I have an iPhone 4S that is getting a little long in the tooth, but still, it's an example of a rule that more developers should remember: Have pity on the people with crappy hardware. More backward compatibility, guys. Not all of us can rush out to buy the shiny stuff as soon as the shrink-wrap has cooled. Especially those of us who, for whatever incomprehensible reason, are trying to make money writing about dogs.

That's too bad, because I would have liked to see the AllPaws app in action. It's a good idea to bring the shelter closer to people via their devices. 

At the same time, I wonder if it might make people's adoption hunts narrower. There are already problems with people favoring some dogs over others. Dogs are less likely to get adopted if they're old or disabled, or just not photogenic enough. The fine-grained search function may well allow people to just completely bypass those kinds of dogs altogether.

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Will mobile tech help get this dog a home? Dog in Animal Shelter by Shutterstock.

However, according to Slate, Shain thinks I'm wrong. "This could even be a win for the less photogenic pooches," Laura Bradley writes. "Darker dogs are said to take longer to get adopted, perhaps because it's harder to photograph them -- a phenomenon some shelter workers call Black Dog Syndrome. An app like this brings people in to see one dog, but also means they'll walk in and meet several others."

For those of you who can get AllPaws to work on your phone, let us know about your experience. Do you think it encourages people to look at more kinds of dogs, or fewer? You can search for animals at the AllPaws website, FYI.

Via Slate and iTunes App Store

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

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Tue, 04 Nov 2014 12:45:00 -0800 /the-scoop/tinder-dating-all-paws-app-dog-adoption-shelter-dogs
<![CDATA[Mutt-i-grees Curriculum Helps Students and Shelter Dogs]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-rescue-shelters-mutt-i-grees-curriculum-pet-savers-cesar-millan-foundation It's no secret that most children love dogs, and caring for a pet can help a child foster positive social and emotional skills such as empathy, compassion and responsibility for another living being.

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One program is building on children's natural affinity for animals to help develop young minds while helping animals in shelters at the same time.

The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum was developed by the Pet Savers Foundation -- an affiliate of the North Shore Animal League America -- in collaboration with Yale University School of the 21st Century, and funded by The Cesar Millan Foundation.

The pre-K though grade 12 curriculum uses shelter animals, or "Mutt-i-grees," to teach social and emotional skills to children of all ages, and is "unique in its bridging of humane education and the emerging field of social and emotional learning."

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In many schools, former shelter dogs are trained as therapy animals and brought into classrooms, much to the students' delight.

Christina Capatides, the content and editorial manager for the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum, explains that the program is now present in more than 3,000 schools in the U.S. and Canada, in nearly 550 libraries, and has also just developed a shelter guide to get the program into shelters across the United States.

Originally tested out in primary grade levels, the curriculum quickly became popular at every grade level in schools. "High school students were thrilled to work with and learn about the dogs, so we expanded the curriculum accordingly," Capatides explains.

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Reading books with mutt-i-gree, Bill, at the Hesston Public Library in Kansas.

And the person responsible for creating the curriculum, Dr. Matia Finn-Stevenson of Yale University, says that this program has gotten the most enthusiastic response of any program she's ever developed.

Thanks to a lot of research, the multi-faceted units of study that make up the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum are adapted to different ages and levels, and are designed to "harness the benefits of human-animal interactions." Those benefits include the secretion of oxytocin in the brain (the "bonding chemical"), which leads to feelings of calm, happiness and decreased stress levels.

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Through activities, crafts and worksheets, students learn how to care for animals and develop skills such as empathy and compassion for others.

"The curriculum promotes responsibility, self-confidence, and resiliency by tapping into the children's natural affinity for dogs. It actually incorporates [the children], and is the 'whole child approach' to education; not just an academic intervention, but an emotional one, too," says Capatides.

She goes on to explain that many schools have adopted a dog from a local shelter, who is then trained and certified as a therapy animal before working with the children during the day and going home with one of the educators at night. Other schools take class trips to community's animal shelters to teach kids about the plight of shelter animals -- meaning these children will be more likely to adopt a dog or cat from a shelter when they grow up -- and several elementary and middle schools have started internships at their local shelters for interested students with faculty supervision, according to Capatides.

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Former shelter dogs become stars in the classroom!

And while it's not always possible for a shelter pet to be physically present in a classroom, Capatides notes that even just studying shelter dogs through lessons and activities produces amazing effects in the children.

"Children naturally develop self-esteem, self-confidence, and respect," she says. "Then, they're better able to empathize with others and less likely to exhibit problematic behaviors like bullying and class disruption. Cognitively, positive relationships with animals also increase academic skills, concentration and mental acuity. So, learning about shelter pets actually makes kids better students."

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High school student, Carlos (bottom right) interned in the training department at North Shore Animal League and learned all about rescuing a dog, nurturing and training it with help from his program mentor. Carlos worked with mutt-i-gree, Ralphie, (giving him a kiss in the photo), and thanks to Carlos's efforts, Ralphie found a forever home and Carlos now wants to work with dogs as part of an FBI or CIA career when he grows up.

Every lesson in the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum was designed with both the child and shelter dog in mind. Capatides talks about one lesson plan that encourages discussion around strategies for coping with stress and anxiety, and how physical activity and play can help alleviate symptoms of stress. The lesson explains how lack of exercise in dogs can lead to anxiety and destructive behavior, such as chewing, and the students learn not only that physical exercise is important for dogs to be happy, but also how it can relate back to themselves.

Similarly, a lesson plan called "Who Is There For Me" in the grade-school curriculum focuses on resiliency, coping mechanisms, and the ability to ask for help, something many children have difficulty with. 

"It includes a worksheet that asks the students to think about who they can contact if they need help," Capatides explains. "The companion worksheet is 'Who Is There For Mutt-i-gree,' and the students have to think about who is there for a dog when the dog needs help. It might be a veterinarian or a shelter worker, or even the student himself. Lessons like this simultaneously promote both resiliency and an understanding of shelter animals."

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Through class trips to local shelters and internship programs, the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum allows students of all ages to connect with shelter animals and learn about what they can do to help.

Jeter is one of the animals who is helping make the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum such a success.

The school counselor at Fenton Charter Public Schools in California adopted this Mutt-i-gree through the North Shore Animal League, and brings the dog to school every day. Jeter has become somewhat of a local celebrity and even has his photo on a banner on Santa Monica Blvd. Community Charter School's campus.

Capatides says that the students read to the dog in the library and write to him for advice on problems they are having in their lives. "[He] even has his own advice column, called 'Jeter's Tail Wagging Tips,' and he replies to all of the student letters he receives."

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Jeter, a former shelter dog, and his owner, Toni Frear. Jeter is having a positive impact on the children he meets at school, and even has his own student advice column.

Students who might be too embarrassed or scared to speak to an adult about their problems open up more easily to Jeter and end up getting help that way. Jeter's owner, Toni Frear, also notes that Jeter has been able to calm a disruptive child simply by being present in the classroom. The boy, who had been acting out in class, immediately calmed down when he noticed Jeter at the back of the room and starting asking questions about the dog. Frear says that the situation was diffused without incident, and that "like children with autism, this defiant little boy could make safe, calm contact with a gentle animal, could look him in the eyes without fear or judgment or rejection, and could regain control of his emotions and settle into a quiet conversation with the human on the other end of the leash."

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Mutt-i-gree Jeter and some of his young fans.

In addition to the inspiring work the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum is doing in classrooms, libraries and shelters all over North America, Capatides is excited to talk about a new project she's working on with kids and Mutt-i-grees in mind.

She is writing an educational children's book called Muttigree with illustrator Ryan Bauer Walsh and hopes that it will be published and available for purchase in time for the holidays.

"[The book] will teach kids about the plight of shelter animals, how special they are, and it will hopefully encourage a new generation to come of age believing pet adoption is a viable option. And all of the proceeds will go to the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum, so that we can change the lives of more children and more shelter pets."

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The presence of a dog can nurture a child's ability for empathy and contributes to stress reduction and alleviation of anxiety.

Capatides urges anyone who is interested in what the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum has to offer to spread the word to their local schools, PTAs, libraries, after-school programs, special ed programs and animal shelters. More information and updates can be found on the program's website as well as its Facebook page.

And for educators who might be interested in implementing the program at their schools or libraries, a complimentary copy of the curriculum can be ordered on the website or by contacting jaynev@animalleague.org. Professional development and curriculum presentations are also available upon request.

All photos courtesy of Christina Capatides or via the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum Facebook page.

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

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

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Fri, 10 Oct 2014 04:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-rescue-shelters-mutt-i-grees-curriculum-pet-savers-cesar-millan-foundation
<![CDATA[Brightly Colored Eyes Have Kept This Dog in Shelters 7 Years]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/black-dog-collie-mix-yellow-orange-eyes-bagheera-shelters-adoption A sad reality about dog adoption is that not all dogs are equal in the shelter. We have to keep making that point over and over in our articles: If a dog is old, disabled, sick, a breed that's unpopular, or just not pretty enough, that animal stands a much smaller chance of ever finding a forever home outside of the shelter. That's one of the reasons that we love Muttville so much; it's one of the few organizations that tries to find older dogs permanent homes.

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Even the British press has characterized Bagheera as having "demon eyes."

You could hardly ask for a better example of that dynamic than the case of Bagheera, a black Collie cross who recently arrived at Teckels, a shelter in Gloucester, England. Bagheera recently made the trip to England from Italy, where she's spent the past seven years moving from kennel to kennel.

Bagheera's main disadvantage is the bright yellow-orange eyes that inspired her name. In Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Books, Bagheera is the black panther who acts as Mowgli's tutor and companion.

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Bagheera's literary namesake as depicted in the Disney movie.

Unfortunately, many people find Bagheera's eyes frightening. Whether it comes from superstition or just an instinctive discomfort with her bright, wild stare, people who come into the shelter looking to take home a dog have turned away from her again and again. Teckels brought her to Gloucester hoping for better luck than in Italy.

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But of course, with age come certain other issues. Besides the eyes, people nearly always come to shelters looking for young dogs that they can raise from puppyhood. And Bagheera has never lived with a human family; all of her behavior has been learned in shelters since she was six months old.

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"Bagheera is quite nervous, and we are struggling to find her a home," senior kennel technician Alice Breaks told the Gloucester Citizen. "She needs to go to a quiet, adult-only home which is ideally in a rural setting. ... She will always have certain issues but I have taught her some English and she will sit and give her a paw when she feels comfortable."

Most of our readership is in the United States, but we hope that someone will be able to look into Bagheera's eyes and give her the home that she needs. We hope, too, that when people go to shelters here in the States, they will take a closer look at all the dogs that need homes, not just the few that fit the media image of "cute."

Via The Gloucester Citizen

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Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/black-dog-collie-mix-yellow-orange-eyes-bagheera-shelters-adoption
<![CDATA[What It Takes to Be a Volunteer at a Dog Shelter]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-rescue-shelter-volunteer-what-it-takes-tips Editor's note: Today is International Volunteer Day! Let Shannon Farrell's story inspire you to help out at a local animal shelter.

Even as a crazy dog lover, I admit that being unmarried and living in New York City makes it downright impossible to have a dog -- no matter how much I envy every dog owner walking their pooch in the park. To get my weekly (if not more) puppy fix, I’ve contemplated volunteering at a local dog shelter. What better way is there to spend my free time than giving love to abandoned pups without a home? Before entering my new volunteer career, I did some research. It can’t all be fun and games, right? October is Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, an ideal time to share what I found out.

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A volunteer and pup at Oakland, CA-based shelter East Bay SPCA.

1. It doesn’t require a specific skill set

Although certain skills, like medical experience or knowing how to handle a large dog, are encouraged, they aren’t required. “Experience isn’t necessary to become a volunteer,” says Julie Sonenberg, the manager of volunteer programs for the ASPCA Adoption Center. “We look for people who really stand out as dedicated animal lovers. However, because we get so many submissions, we also need to look for candidates who can fill the capacity we need most at that time.” If you can work mornings and afternoons on weekdays, you’re more likely to get hired. Evenings and weeknights are much easier slots to fill. 

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A puppy receives care at New York's ASPCA.

2. It requires training

You’d think being a dog owner is all the training you’d need. Yet, most shelters offer extensive training programs. Because many of these dogs have been abandoned and abused, volunteers need to know how to interact with them. Policies also differ among shelters. “At the ASPCA we have two-hour classes specific to volunteering,” says Sonenberg. “First we have the orientation class to learn about the ASPCA and its procedures. Then we have a level one, three-hour walking and socializing class where volunteers receive hands-on training, learning basic shelter rules, body language tactics, and how to walk a dog in New York City.” 

Randall Starewicz, who volunteers 25 hours a week at The Calumet Area Humane Society in Indiana, received similar training before spending almost all of his time after retirement in the shelter three years ago. “Not only do you learn about sanitary habits, but also how to interact with these dogs. You should always be slower than them when they don’t know you. If a dog gets startled, you will get bit. There was only one time I had to go to the doctor, and then I learned my lesson.”

Although it seems intimidating, other volunteers have your back. “It took me two or three months before I felt totally comfortable,” says Starewicz. “My biggest help was being apprenticed with another volunteer for two hours my first five days. Now it’s my job to apprentice new volunteers.” 

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An ASPCA volunteer walks dogs along the East River in Manhattan

Leon Rawlinson, the Volunteer Services Manager at the Easy Bay SPCA, has a similar structure set in place. “New volunteers train with one staff member for their entire first shift. Then they are put on a regular work schedule every week, but the first four weeks is really training.” Senior volunteers are always on hand to provide assistance. 

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An ASPCA volunteer house trains a shelter dog.

3. It isn’t just play time

Volunteering shouldn’t be confused for just play time. Although most shelters do offer the opportunity to walk and spend some time with the dogs, a majority of understaffed shelters will require you to clean the kennels, help with animal-care feeding, and even assist medical staff by holding the dogs down when receiving shots or treatment. However, when you do get to walk the dogs, “stop to pet them and rub their tummies,” says Starewicz. “Get to know the dogs and give them love and hope.” 

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An East Bay SPCA enjoys some downtime with one of the shelter dogs.

4. The dogs will inspire you

This isn’t a job where you walk in, put in your hours, and walk out. You become invested in the dogs’ well-being. Since beginning his volunteer work, Starewicz has written six children’s books, three under one title called Shelter Us: The Tails of Max and Miles, inspired by his work in the shelter. (All of the proceeds go to Calumet Area Humane Society). Director Steven Latham created the PBS series Shelter Me based off of his experiences spending his free time in six different shelters around L.A. “The TV show’s focus is on the human animal bond,” says Latham. “Most people don’t know that most of these dogs have had homes before.” His main goal is to disprove this idea that shelter dogs are "damaged."

“These dogs deserve a second chance. A shelter isn’t a place of goodbye, it’s a place of hello where you pick up a dog,” he says.

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An ASPCA volunteer partakes in a training course.

5. It does take commitment

Most shelters have a structured volunteer program that requires consistent hours. For example, the ASPCA, even with its large volume of volunteers, requires each individual to work a minimum of eight hours a month. With work and family commitments taking up most if not all of our time, this can be the biggest deterrent in volunteering. 

Latham offers another solution. His website Shelterme.com allows would-be volunteers to offer as much or as little time as they want, creating awareness about shelters around the country. He created the website for individuals to post profiles of dogs up for adoption, creating a viral platform where the posts can be shared on Facebook. “People are encouraged to post photos and videos of the dogs to really show their personality. This content becomes sharable everywhere. The idea is that networking an animal can help them get adopted.”

Those who don’t have the time to volunteer regularly have the option to visit a local open-admission shelter, play with a dog, take photos and videos, and post a profile online. “People are now coming into a shelter and asking for a specific animal,” he says. The new site proves that just an hour of your time can really help these dogs find a home. 

Any shelter manager will agree that the most important thing a volunteer or walk-in can do is give love to the dogs. “Just getting a dog out of his cage is important,” says Latham. “Just allowing them to be dogs.” 

Do you volunteer at a shelter? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!

Learn more about volunteering with shelter dogs with Dogster:

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Thu, 02 Oct 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-rescue-shelter-volunteer-what-it-takes-tips
<![CDATA[A Shelter Does the Impossible: Finds Homes for All Its Dogs]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/dog-adoption-rescue-petaluma-california-animal-services-homes-all-dogs I'm used to writing about how so many dogs get left behind in shelters because they're too old, disabled, missing a limb, not cute enough, or just because there aren't enough people wanting to adopt dogs. It's part of the basic vocabulary of writing about dogs or cats or other kinds of animals, but it can be really disheartening to write over and over again. So it was something of a relief when I came across a story that reverses the theme. Last week, Petaluma Animal Services posted the following announcement on its Facebook page:

No dogs in our kennels today for the happiest reason there is -- everyone got a home. Kitty lives inside, so he'll be in our dog training office lounging on his multiple beds, and playing with 400 toys. We're off to visit our rescue partners so we can pick up some cuties to bring to Petaluma. Meanwhile, we're thrilled to be a no-kill shelter who runs out of dogs, and has to post signs like this.

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Sign posted at Petaluma Animal Services. How many shelters get to post this? (Source: Facebook)

That was Thursday, Sept. 25, so by now, the kennels are probably filling up again. The sad underbelly of a story like this is that there's always more dogs to fill the kennels back up again. Just last night, Petaluma Animal Services posted these pictures of three new arrivals.

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We hope these three and the others arriving with them will find new homes soon, but it's good to know that for however briefly, the kennels were empty and quiet because the dogs had found homes.

"We like to look at this as sort of like a crummy summer camp that'll just be a memory for them," training center director Valerie Fausone told a reporter from TV station KTVU. "Here, shelter means shelter. It doesn't mean you have six days to find yourself a home or get killed."

If you watch the interview, Fausone seems almost giddy about the empty cages, and it's hard to blame her. No matter how well you run a shelter, it's never going to be able to compete with a real home. Even with the best intentions and full resources, it's hard to raise a shelter above the level of just being a "crummy summer camp."

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From KTVU's report, one of the empty cages for a dog that now has a home.

The question lingers, of course: How did the shelter do it? Based on the KTVU report and its Facebook page, all I can say is that I'm not sure. It may have been a fluke, or a special organizing push, but ultimately, it got all the dogs into homes.

I suspect that part of it may have to do with social media strategies. On Facebook at least, Petaluma Animal Services is highly engaged with the community. It updates several times a day, and not only does it show the dogs who need homes, it regularly features updates on shelter alumni, showing how the dogs and cats are doing in their new homes. The people following the page seem highly engaged with the staff and the animals the shelter cares for. (For whatever reason, its Twitter feed seems to have been abandoned since December, however.)

The momentary success seems to have inspired the staff to set new, bigger goals. Specifically, it wants to do the same thing for the shelter's cats:

A moment of empty kennels for our dogs gave us an idea. Popular shelter folklore says, it is impossible to have empty cat cages (due to the numbers of cats). Should we believe this, or attempt it? Should we fail to try, or get busy? You know we like big gnarly goals. This week, we'll be harnessing our resources, putting pen to paper, and hatching a plan. Could there be a day when the news comes to film empty cat cages? What would you be willing to do to help us get it done?

Here's hoping that it can pull that off.

If you live in Northern California near Petaluma and feel inspired to adopt a dog or cat, you can call the shelter at (707) 778-PETS (7387) or email info@petalumaanimalshelter. It also keeps applications online so you can get some of the paperwork out of the way before arriving at the shelter.

Via KTVU and Petaluma Animal Services Facebook page.

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

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Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dog-adoption-rescue-petaluma-california-animal-services-homes-all-dogs
<![CDATA[Remember Me Thursday: Honor Your Pets and the Ones Who Never Got Out of Shelters]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/dog-cat-adoption-shelters-remember-me-thursday-helen-woodward-animal-center-candles For most people, their pets are unforgettable, even after they're gone. Dogs and cats become such inextricable parts of our families and our lives that we couldn't forget them if we tried.

But what about the animals who never get families? What about the dogs and cats who live and die in shelters without ever being taken home so that they can become part of someone else's life?

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Today is their day, the day that they're remembered, even by people who never had the chance to know them. Or maybe especially by the people who never had that chance.

This is the second annual Remember Me Thursday, founded last year by Mike Arms, president of the Helen Woodward Animal Center. It's a day intended to specifically remember all the dogs and cats who died without ever getting to go home to a family of their own.

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So today, remember those animals. There are a lot of them. Thousands die in shelters every year. The best way to commemorate Remember Me Thursday would be to go to a shelter and bring home a dog or cat to become part of your family. That's an especially good thing to do if you happen to live near a high-kill shelter. Adopting from one of those is literally a rescue, especially if you take home a dog or cat who's old, disabled, or just not pretty in some way. Those are the ones who wind up on the euthanization table most often. People tend to want cute puppies, not adult dogs who might not be around for as long as a young animal. But older dogs, dogs with missing limbs or chronic illnesses deserve the chance to be remembered as part of a family too.

For those who aren't able to adopt an animal from a shelter today, there are other ways to observe the day, and make sure that we all remember how many animals need homes. The Helen Woodward Animal Center recommends three ways that people can participate:

First, you can light a candle, either in real life or virtually. Pet organizations around the world are having candle-lighting events, and it's easy to find out if one's happening near you. If not, you can do it online at the event's website. Either way, it's a gesture that will help ensure that people think about shelter pets, even if it's just for a minute.

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Remember Me Thursday emblem, suitable for Facebook or Twitter.

Second, you can talk the day and the cause up on social media. The Helen Woodward Animal Center has started the Twitter tag #LightForPets for people to talk about pet adoption. Join in the conversation, on whatever social network you favor.

Third, the center asks people to change their Facebook or Twitter icons. Whether you do it for one day or several, it can make a strong impression in social media if enough people do it.

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Of course, everyone will find their own way to remember pets, whether they're the ones that you owned, or ones that you might have owned. We hope that your memories for the day are good ones, either way.

Via Remember Me Thursday

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

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Thu, 25 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dog-cat-adoption-shelters-remember-me-thursday-helen-woodward-animal-center-candles
<![CDATA[A South Florida Billboard Dares Drivers to "Kill This Dog"]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/south-florida-billboard-no-kill-this-dog-pets-broward-county-rescue-shelters If this doesn’t get motorists’ attention, nothing will. Displayed high above a stretch of road on U.S. Highway 1 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a billboard that features an adorable Golden Retriever puppy. Next to the picture is the shocking URL KillThisDog.com.

Those who visit the website will be asked, “Should we kill this dog?” Visitors are given the option to click on the “KILL” or “SAVE” button.

The “SAVE” button brings them to a page that says, “Thank you, you’re awesome” and explains how, with the public’s support, shelters can move from one that kills animals to one that is a no kill community.

The sick individuals who click on the “KILL” button are taken to a page with sobering statistics about the number of shelter animals who are killed each year in Broward County.

Purchased by Broward County group Pets' Broward, the in-your-face campaign as a way of driving traffic (both kinds) and raising awareness about the pet overpopulation crisis in South Florida.

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The controversial billboard that is driving traffic and educating South Floridians on the pet overpopulation crisis.

"Most people don't have any idea that thousands of animals are being euthanized every year," says founder Meredith Bruder.

In April 2012, Broward County passed a resolution that stated the intention was to adopt a no-kill policy at the local animal shelters. Around the same time, a resolution was passed that required county animal shelters to share euthanasia rates with people who send in a written request and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

The unfortunate reality? Killings at Broward County Animal Care have increased.

"It was a feel-good, hollow resolution they put out, and they have people believing they are no-kill," Bruder says. "But now people can obtain the stats and find out it's so far from no-kill it's scary."

The data shows she’s correct. While the percentage rate of animals killed at the shelter has declined since 2010, the total number of animals killed has increased. Between October 2010 and April 2012, 799 pets were euthanized on average per month. In the months since the resolution passed -- from May 2012 to the end of 2013 -- the monthly average of pets killed jumped to 889.

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An image from KillThisDog.com

Pets' Broward advocates that all shelters become no kill and suggests they do so by bringing in more money; offering high-volume, low cost spay and neuter clinics; providing trap-neuter-release programs for feral cats; strengthening adoption campaigns and community outreach, education, and marketing campaign; and strengthening surrender-prevention program.

“The idea was not to offend people, though a few were [offended], but to raise awareness about the truly offensive thing happening every day in Broward County, killing innocent and healthy shelter pets,” Bruder says. “In order for this to stop, we needed to raise awareness and get people's attention. That is what the board is about and that is why it was created."

The feedback has been 95 percent positive, Bruder says. She reports that most people she has talked to get it, and a few people have emailed complaints.

"The billboard is doing its job, and we hope that it leads to Broward County commissioners fulfilling their 2012 no kill resolution, where they promised us to work towards a no-kill community.”

For more information, visit Pets' Broward or KillThisDog.com, and follow Pets' Broward on Facebook.

Read about what other dog owners experience on Dogster:

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Tue, 23 Sep 2014 11:30:00 -0700 /lifestyle/south-florida-billboard-no-kill-this-dog-pets-broward-county-rescue-shelters
<![CDATA[Two Dogs Found Friendship in a Shelter, Then Found a Forever Home Together]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/shelter-dog-friends-ares-zeus-rescue-florida Most shelter dogs are lucky if they find a forever family. Very few leave the shelter -- if they do leave the shelter -- with a forever friend.

The "if" in the sentence above is what makes the story of Ares and Zeus such a touching and special one. They very nearly did not make it out of the Orange County Animal Shelter in Orlando, Florida. The dogs were scheduled to be euthanized on the fourth and fifth of this month; if Ronda Chewning hadn't seen their picture on the Second Chance Rescue Facebook Page, that would be the end of their story. It would be an unremarkable end, because thousands of dogs end their stories the same way every year.

Ares and Zeus came into the OCAS one day apart from each other, and became instant friends. They've remained friends ever since, and fortunately, Chewning was able to give them a home together. "I had no plan to get any dogs, let alone two," Chewning told The Huffington Post. "We live on a tight budget, and two dogs weren't in the budget."

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And the family certainly wasn't lacking canine members. They already had two, a Miniature Pinscher and a Maltipoo. But the picture of the two dogs touched something in Chewning, and she felt that she needed to be involved in some way. She posted on Facebook that she was going to the shelter to check on the two dogs. The response she got was remarkable; not only did she get encouragement to go ahead, many people offered money if she'd go ahead and adopt them. "Everyone said get them, they would donate."

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The original picture that drew so much attention to "the boys."

It turns out that wasn't idle Internet chatter; as of now, a fundraising campaign has raised $8,050 for Ares and Zeus's medical expenses and adoption fees. The two dogs have remained inseparable in their new home. "They are still connected at the hip. They walk side by side," Chewning says. "They even eat side by side."

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Ares, Zeus, and one other furry member of the household.

When Chewning first took Ares and Zeus into her home, she intended it to be temporary, but now she's not so sure. The idea of giving them to another home makes her feel "really torn."

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Ares and Zeus have come to live with Ronda Chewning and her daughter, but their adoption has been a community matter. A Facebook Group called Ares and Zeus "The Boys" is thriving with over 12,000 likes. The community rallied around the dogs when they needed it most, just on the verge of death. Through the Internet, that same community is watching them live.

Want to donate to support Ares and Zeus's new lives in the Chewning family? Their crowdfunding campaign is still open on GoFundMe.

Via Huntington Post and Facebook

Check out more cuteness on Dogster:

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Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/shelter-dog-friends-ares-zeus-rescue-florida
<![CDATA[Today's Dogster Hero Is Adopt an Angel, a Rescue Devoted to Special-Needs Dogs]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/adopt-an-angel-a-dog-adoption-rescue-special-needs-dogs
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Jill Jones' supercharged visual memory haunts her with images of dogs at shelters whose time is almost up. There are dogs whose cages are branded with “Has Heartworm” signs, black dogs, furry guys with huge tumors, blind pups, injured dogs, and senior hounds -- all dogs who are less likely to be adopted. She remembers exactly where their cages are and remembers the expressions on their faces. 

“It is imprinted in my memory when I see them,” she says. And the memory is imprinted in her heart. She can’t let these special beings die.

Jones, co-founder of Adopt An Angel, along with about 40 other volunteers, visits shelters in and around Wilmington, N.C., and grabs as many of these special needs dogs as possible. The volunteers find ways to fund their medical treatment and then find them homes.

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Adopt an Angel co-owners Gloer (left) and Jones with a heartworm-positive dog named Lady.

Since 2007, when Jones and other volunteers founded their rescue group, they’ve invested their Saturdays, Sundays, and hearts to their cause, scooping up these dogs from shelters, raising funds, attracting animal-loving supporters, treating and neutering pets, and organizing and staffing adoption fairs at the local Petco.

And their heartfelt efforts, although emotionally exhausting, have paid off. Jones and friends have rescued nearly 8,000 angels in 10 years -- mostly dogs and cats.

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Jax was a blind stray who was cared for by Adopt an Angel until he was adopted in 2013.

“The work is heartbreaking. It’s not fun and it’s not glorious. I feel cursed that I care,” she says.

The organization is based in a region of the country characterized by pet overpopulation. In and around Wilmington are three counties with about 300,000 people, but only three pet shelters. Eighty percent of the population doesn’t spay or neuter pets, and in the warm weather, the pets reproduce quickly. As a result of these factors, nearly 7,000 to 8,000 pets die a year in shelters, says Jones.

“There are several small rescue groups scrambling to save as many dogs as we can,” she says.

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Lily with her new adopters at a recent Adopt an Angel adoption fair. Photo courtesy Adopt an Angel's Facebook page

When Jones and the other volunteers first began, they saw many dogs in shelters branded by signs on their cages as heartworm-positive. Jones and friends helped the dogs by making them “panhandlers,” she says. “We went to the public and raised money for their care. We put cans on their heads, saying, 'Please donate for my heartworm treatment.'” 

Nine-year-old Charlie came to Adopt an Angel with a 16-pound fatty tumor that needed to be removed before he could find a home. Here's a video of Charlie before the surgery:

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Charlie recovering from surgery to remove the tumor.

The organization raises funds in other ways, too. Some of it comes from online donations. Sometimes, the group organizes fundraisers, with partners like Wilmington Furball and Bow Wow Luau.

“At one point we had 12 heartworm positive dogs in the system. It’s prevalent here because of the mosquitoes. We had a fundraiser by throwing a party at a bar and raised $1,200,” Jones says. 

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Adoption fair volunteer with Daisy, who is looking for her forever home.

Adopt an Angel doesn’t have a home, but instead is a network of private individuals, boarding facilities, pet stores and vets. Their angels are dogs and cats who would otherwise find no home.

“Typically, we take animals who are at the shelter longest and have been overlooked. These include older, bigger, blacker animals, and sometimes the sick or injured, and almost always the heartworm-positive dogs. We also take those too young for adoption such as nursing kittens and puppies. We made a pact to never overlook black cats and dogs and to absolutely always rescue the mothers when taking in litters,” Jones says.

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Adopt an Angel makes a point of taking in the dogs who have been overlooked or who have special needs. Photo courtesy Adopt an Angel's Facebook page

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Ten-year-old Sammy was adopted from Adopt an Angel in 2005 and was recently returned due to divorce.

Jones and friends began their mission with the belief that they were doing a good thing, and that others would step up to help them. That belief became reality. For example, one retired vet treats dogs for heartworm at his cost. That’s a treatment that can cost up to $1,000, depending on the size of the dog.

The dog lovers who step forward don’t adopt the dogs in spite of their problems; they step forward because of them. “They won’t give up on special-needs dogs,” says Jones.

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Finnegan with his new family after being rescued and receiving heartworm treatment through Adopt an Angel.

Sometimes, it takes a community to care for a dog before the dog becomes a pet.  

Recently, a group of volunteers took turns feeding a Pit Bull with heartworm living in a junkyard. Initially, no foster homes were available. But the dog went blind, and it became clear she could no longer live in the junkyard. Jones asked a man who already had one blind dog if he would take another one, and he said yes. Now, the rescuer of two blind dogs has become an expert in caring for blind dogs.

Not only does Adopt an Angel strive to rescue dogs in shelters, but Jones and friends try to prevent the overpopulation problem at its root cause. They organized and funded a neutering clinic, opened last year, which has neutered 3,000 animals.

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Volunteer Cody hangs out with one of the dogs at a recent adoption fair. Photo courtesy Adopt an Angel's Facebook page

Jones doesn’t spend much time focusing on her many accomplishments. Instead, with her keen visual memory driving her, she concentrates on all that she must achieve.

“It’s so heartbreaking to go into shelters, and take a few and leave the rest. It really kills you. Some people say, ‘You can’t save them all.’ For me, that’s a copout. If we keep plugging along and moving forward and getting more people to care, we can save them all,” she says.

For more information, visit Adopt an Angel's website and keep up with the group's work on Facebook, Twitter, and on YouTube

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About the author: Sarah Lacy and her son, Harrison, are the author and publisher of Bad Dog Bailey! a children's picture book inspired by their troublesome and lovable family dog. 

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

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Tue, 12 Aug 2014 06:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/adopt-an-angel-a-dog-adoption-rescue-special-needs-dogs
<![CDATA[It's DOGust 1: Which Means It's Your Birthday, Shelter Pups!]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/dogust-1-universal-shelter-dog-birthday Here at Dogster, we're big fans of celebrating "gotcha days," and by this we mean that day you were drawn in by those sad or hopeful eyes behind the bars at the shelter and made that pup a permanent part of your pack. The gotcha day oftentimes replaces an adopted dog's birthday celebration since rescues or shelters don't always have that data to share. 

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Pictured: Dogster Shasta, a proud rescue mutt.

But if you neglected to mark your calendar the day you took your dog home, fret not. For today is DOGust the first, the universal birthday of shelter dogs everywhere. Yes, yes this is a thing. And it has been since August 2008, when the North Shore Animal League declared it so:

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Pictured: Dogster Rocco, a pound pup!

"Many pet parents are known to select a random date to celebrate their adopted dog’s birthday, such as a significant occasion, a family member’s birthday, a special holiday that reflects the dog’s personality, or in many cases, the date on which they adopted the animal. Now, pet owners can truly designate a celebratory date with the unveiling of DOGust the First." 

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Pictured: Dogster Cooper Huxley, a German Shepherd-Beagle mix saved by the Midwest Dog Rescue Network.

Anyway, whether you buy it or not, we are always looking for reasons to celebrate our dogs here at Dogster, so we're into it. So, if you were looking for an excuse to give your dog an extra long walk or her favorite treat today, it doesn't get any better than this. 

To help you celebrate, we're doing a little giveaway here at HQ. If you share your rescue pup's adoption story with us in the comments below, you'll have the chance to pick up one of our limited edition summer totes (pictured below). We will pick our three favorite stories (and we'll ship worldwide to encourage our Dogsters outside the U.S. to share). 

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Take me home!

How to Enter

  1. Create a Disqus account, if you haven't already, and include a valid email. It takes just a minute and allows you to better participate in Dogster's community of people who are passionate about dogs. If you already have a Disqus account, check it to ensure the account includes a valid email.
  2. Comment below using your Disqus account, telling us how your rescue or shelter dog came into your life. Bonus points for photos! Our three favorite comments win.
  3. Check your email for a “You've Won!” message from us after noon PST on Thursday, August 7. We'll give the winners two days to respond before moving on to our next favorite.
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Fri, 01 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dogust-1-universal-shelter-dog-birthday
<![CDATA[Is Adopting Shelter Dogs Really a "Crapshoot"? The Facts Say No]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/dog-adoption-shelter-dogs-breeders-crapshoot-erin-auerbach It's hard enough to get people to go to the shelter to get a rescue dog instead of favoring the cute doggies in the pet store window, but it's even more so when you have someone like Erin Auerbach around. In case you haven't seen her latest column, the title should sum up the problem for you: "Why I'd Never Adopt a Shelter Dog Again"

Auerbach has apparently had some bad luck with dogs from shelters, and on that count, my heart aches for her. The first one she describes is Yogi, who was diagnosed with cancer six months after she adopted him. Next came Clarence, who didn't have cancer, but had epilepsy. The anti-convulsants caused liver deterioration, weight gain, and anxiety.

"Five years later," she writes, "his seizures and pancreatitis got the best of him. Euthanizing him was a relief."

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Two Puppies Look Through the Bars of a Cage by Shutterstock.

The third one is Mookie, whom Auerbach had even before Yogi. Mookie had been healthy for more than 10 years when he started to have a series of health problems, including seizures and senility. After two years of rushing him to the vet, she found a vet who would euthanize him at home.

It's hard not to sympathize with this series of grief, pain, and loss. And of course, I absolutely do. But the conclusion that Auerbach draws -- that she can avoid living through all of that sickness and pain by getting her future dogs from a breeder -- is not only wrong, but potentially lethal to thousands of dogs.

Rescue and shelter dogs are a crapshoot. Although it's hard to track down reliable statistics, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that about 3.9 million dogs go to shelters each year and 1.2 million are euthanized. Generally, these groups know only how an animal came into their possession. Behavior issues, illnesses or a high maintenance cost usually only rear their heads after adoption.

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Dog in an animal shelter by Shutterstock.

The sad fact is, that no matter how much we love them, the animals and people in our lives will become sick and infirm and die, given enough time. That's just an inevitable risk of love, rather than an argument for avoiding the shelter (or, in the case of people, OKCupid).

The flaw in Auerbach's argument becomes apparent very quickly once you take a closer look at the history of her dogs. Mookie lived with her for more than 10 years, free of health problems, before his body started to get old and infirm and he died. How long would Mookie have had to live before she considered his life with her to be a good example of what you can get from adopting a shelter dog?

The fact is, there are a lot of risks to buying a dog from a breeder as well. The risk-free certainty that Auerbach craves just doesn't exist. In fact, one of the problems with dog breeders is that decades of inbreeding is likely to magnify the risks of certain health problems by combining and recombining recessive traits, making them more likely to manifest than they would in a mutt. The examples of breed-related health problems are legion. Golden Retrievers, for example, have a 60 percent chance of dying of cancer, about twice that of other breeds. Bulldogs have respiratory problems because they've been bred to have very short snouts.

There have been many responses to Auerbach's piece by dog lovers through social media and blogs. A quick survey of Twitter will show scores of people declaring that she should never own a dog again. What I consider one of the best responses comes from Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Washington Humane Society, who debunks Auerbach's claims with reason and facts:

Reality, as reflected in research and hard data, simply doesn't support her conclusions. When animals develop a medical condition the chances are good that singular genetic or environmental factors -- or a combination of the two -- are at play. This is true for dogs who are purebred, and those who are mutts. It is true for those who come from professional breeders, casual breeders, and shelters. There are no guarantees of long-term health for any animal. It's a crapshoot all the way around.

Having seen the surrender of untold thousands of animals in my career, I can pull back the curtain on a little known fact: Many of the dogs who come through my shelter, and shelters across America, originally came from a breeder. Some of them are with us because of a health condition the owner no longer wished to deal with.

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Husky in a shelter cage by Shutterstock.

Dogs die. It's a simple reality of being a dog owner, and you won't dodge that by going to a breeder. As LaFontaine points out, many of the dogs that you'll find at the breeder's are the exact same ones that you will find in the shelter. Getting your dog from a breeder will not prevent you from, sooner or later, having your heart broken. It will, however, mean that one more dog will languish in the shelter, waiting for someone to give him or her a home, perhaps in vain. Let us know what you think about Auerbach's decision in the comments below.

Via The Washington Post and Huffington Post

Read about what other dog owners experience on Dogster:

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Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dog-adoption-shelter-dogs-breeders-crapshoot-erin-auerbach
<![CDATA[Attention Shoppers: Find a Rescue Dog to Match Your Couch at Select IKEAs]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/dog-adoption-ikea-shelter-dogs-attention-shoppers To witness the latest brilliant idea to get shelter dogs in front of more eyeballs, you need only travel to IKEA in Tempe, Arizona. There, in the cavernous showroom, among the fully furnished kitchens and living rooms and bedroom, are shelter dogs. Not real ones, but cardboard-cutout representations of them.

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The idea, of course, is that when when you stop, cock your head, and look at this kitchen or that bedroom, imagining your new, modestly priced future, you will also see a new dog. That dog! He's right there. And just as you would pick up your actual Mandall dresser in the adjoining warehouse (I recently did this, and am VERY pleased with it, provided I never think of the four-hour horror-show assembly again), you can pick up the same dog at a nearby shelter. 

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It's a great match: People who shop at IKEA are looking for bargains, and the adoption fee for shelter dogs usually isn't much. People who shop at IKEA also love to eat Swedish meatballs and walk two miles to extricate themselves from the store -- both things dogs would love, too. (Dogs wouldn't love all the young couples fighting over $1 dishes and $49 area rugs, though. Please take that behavior to Target.) 

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The program began in Singapore, with a partnership between Ikea and Home For Hope, a coalition of pet adoption agencies, according to Business Insider. It then moved to the Tempe IKEA, which partnered with the Arizona Humane Society. Each cutout features a barcode, where you can access information about the animal. During the initial run, six cutouts were placed around the Tempe store, and all six dogs were adopted. More are heading into the store on July 29.  

Watch a video of the operation in Singapore:

 "We thought it was a perfect way to show people what their home would look like with a pet in it," IKEA marketing director Becky Blaine told Business Insider.

Via Business Insider

Read about dogs in the news on Dogster:

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Fri, 18 Jul 2014 10:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dog-adoption-ikea-shelter-dogs-attention-shoppers
<![CDATA[Meet Daphne, a Doxie Saved with Minutes to Spare]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/dog-rescue-adoption-shelter-dachshund-daphne-pictures-photos
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I know my Monday Miracles usually feature a dog with a Facebook page, but I've decided to change things up because this is a story I am just in love with. When I learned about Daphne, I was enamored with her harrowing near-death epic, and just had to share it with you, especially since I know seniors have a soft spot in our heart.

Daphne's story started as a hazy, golden suburban dream, where she cavorted in her own backyard with her partner, a male Dachshund like her. Everything seemed perfect and pristine. Until everything was no longer perfect. Until the day the baby came. At 10 years old -- during what should have been her cozy golden years -- Daphne found herself haplessly dumped alongside her mate at a high-kill shelter. She was separated from her mate and locked in a cage with an aggressive dog, who intimidated poor, confused Daphne.

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"Scratch my belly!"

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Daphne all curled up snug as a bug.

She had five days to be adopted, and with her graying face, Daphne's prospects did not look good. That's when a rescue group heard of Daphne and her mate, and rushed in to pull them from the shelter. They were too late to save her mate, who was euthanized. Fortunately, they were able to get Daphne out.

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Daphne was ready to take flight, she just needed someone to give her wings.

The rescue group devoted themselves to finding Daphne a loving forever home. It's not that Daphnie didn't have fans -- people loved her -- but her trauma left her scarred with a fear and anxiety that was too much for most families to handle. Knowing they couldn't give her what she deserved, they'd return her to the rescue.

Then Daphne came into the hands of a man named James, who took Daphne with him on all his long walks throughout San Francisco. The walks through the bustling city helped Daphne gain her confidence, and she soon charmed a couple living in the Mission District. They took her home, and instead of abandoning her at the first sign of Daphne's anxiety, they hired a trainer specializing in cases like hers.

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Daphne at home in San Francisco.

It took a while, but two years later, Daphne is still with that couple, braver, more trusting, and more confident than anyone ever thought possible. It's amazing what a little love can do. In her new home, Daphne has earned the nicknames the Flying Nun (yes, after that show from the '60s), Doodlebug, Snickerdoodle, and Lickerdoodle. Her favorite activities include burrowing under a warm blanket and -- surprisingly -- riding in a basket during Critical Mass.

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On Critical Mass!

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Daphne got a second chance, and now she gets to live out the rest of her days in peace.

And now Daphne's human friends have taken on another "abandoned" dog. His name is Mr. Dog and he's the star of a long-forgotten storybook called Mr. Dog's Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn, which will be published this fall. The book tells a different kind of holiday story. You can learn more about Mr. Dog and how his story fits into Daphne's family's holiday traditions at the Facebook page.

All photos courtesy of Daphne's family, who are letting me use them with permission.

Check out more cuteness on Dogster:

About Liz Acosta: Dogster's former Cuteness Correspondent, Liz still manages the site's daily "Awws," only now she also wrangles Dogster's social media. That's why she wants you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and -- her personal favorite -- Instagram. See ya there!

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Mon, 30 Jun 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dog-rescue-adoption-shelter-dachshund-daphne-pictures-photos
<![CDATA[Is Black Dog Syndrome Real? Yes. No. Kinda-Sorta]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/black-dog-syndrome-adoption-rescue-real-yes-no-kinda-sorta It's a truism among dog lovers that black dogs are less likely to get adopted at shelters. But is it actually true?

An interesting article at io9, Gawker's site for science-fiction nerds, takes a close look at the science behind Black Dog Syndrome and finds that it's not actually that big a deal. According to the numbers, at some shelters, black dogs do get adopted less than other dogs; but at others, it might in fact be a selling point. Even when black dogs are viewed less favorably by potential adopters, the color of the coat is only one of many factors that come into play. Whether a dog's coat is dark or light often falls behind other factors, such as whether they're a purebred or a mutt, how old they are, their size, and so on.

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A Dog in an Animal Shelter by Shutterstock.

Esther Ingliss-Arkell's article is valuable not only in relation to the specific issue of Black Dog Syndrome, but as an excellent example of how dangerous that media phrase "a study says ..." can be. Those words are used to convey a certain authority on a conclusion, but not all studies are created equal. When I'm researching a study, the first thing I check is how many people were included in the sample, and who they were. A sample population that's made up of 50 undergrads at a university is very different than one that includes 2,000 people across the continental United States. Its amazing how many studies cited in headlines actually resemble the first rather than the second.

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Little Black Dog in a Cage by Shutterstock.

There's a place for those studies made up of undergrads; usually they come about because the researchers were given just enough of a budget to afford some decent statistics software and the pens and paper to give to the subjects. They're usually starting points for larger studies. If the researchers can come up with some decent results from using undergrads, they can go to the faculty or other sponsors and say "This looks kinda cool! Just imagine what we could do if we had actual money!"

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Checkboxes with Pen by Shutterstock.

The point of Ingliss-Arkell's article is that Black Dog Syndrome is not a clear-cut issue; there are studies that prove and disprove it, so people who have a bias toward either side have plenty of evidence to make their case. Of course, in making that case they have to ignore or dismiss all the studies that prove the opposite side. Ingliss-Arkell makes an excellent point about the inherent limitations of studies themselves:

This is the problem with experimental science. Studies are done under two assumptions -- that a sample represents the whole, and that during the experiment that sample is doing what it always does. When we look at Black Dog Syndrome, it seems like a pretty simple idea to test. Animal shelters keep records. How hard can it be to go through them and see how often and how fast black dogs are adopted? And yet studies stack up proving and disproving the same idea. A sample taken from the Midwest shows a trend exactly opposite to one in Los Angeles. A sample taken one year looks different from a sample taken another year. The sample doesn't represent the whole, and there's wide variation in what a sample of any given group of people do in one situation or another.

This is why it's not only useful to have multiple studies, but to sometimes do meta-studies. A meta-study involves gathering as many studies on a given topic as you can and identifying patterns between them. They're helpful because they provide an aggregate vision of what the research as a whole is saying, not simply what the the latest headline is telling you. A good meta-study can provide a more complete picture over time and geographical area, rather than results that came from, say, a three-month period in Los Angeles.

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Lonely Labrador Retrievers Behind a Fence by Shutterstock.

So is Black Dog Syndrome a real thing? The best answer is "maybe-kinda-sorta." Some studies show it occurring in certain times and places, and sometimes dogs with dark coats actually get adopted faster. Fashions in what kind of dogs people want come and go with time, and there are factors that usually outweigh color, such as breed. In other words, it's there, but maybe not as important as we often are led to think.

Via io9

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

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Tue, 13 May 2014 13:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/black-dog-syndrome-adoption-rescue-real-yes-no-kinda-sorta
<![CDATA[How to Get Your Kids a "Dog Fix" Even if You Can't Have a Dog]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-rescue-shelters-help-dogs-and-kids-fix Madison Bradley was one of those children whose heart raced at the sight of any animal. But as a child with allergies, furry encounters meant a fit of sneezing, sniffing, and dripping eyes. Reluctantly, the Boston youth admired from a distance, until a scout meeting left her with new inspiration.

“My troop wanted to help our local shelter, but we weren’t old enough to come on site. So we had a bake sale, and raised a couple of hundred dollars,” she recalls.

That good feeling stayed with the young animal lover, and over the years, she looked for other ways she could reach out from afar.

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A woman and her kids with a puppy by Shutterstock.

“I held a food collection at school a couple of times, and a car wash,” says Madison, now in her 20s. “My favorite was in high school. For a community service project, I arranged to have some shelter dogs visit during our big football game, to get some exposure. I just loved watching the dogs get all that love.”

It’s heartbreaking for a parent to deny a child’s pleas for a cat or dog. For whatever the reason animals might be off limits -- allergies, family dynamics, rental agreements -- you can still foster your child’s love for animals. Here are some ways that children of any age can feel close to animals, without actually living with them.

1. Start a penny drive

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American coins by Shutterstock.

Even the youngest of children can hold a penny drive, whether they simply collect change at home or take part in an organized effort. At The SPCA in Tampa, they’re often approached by teachers or organizations looking for ways their students can raise funds.

“We’ve paired up with a local credit union, which has a penny counting machine,” says Nora Hawkins, managing director at the shelter. “They supply plastic bags, with their logo on it. The children fill the bags and bring them to the credit union, who sends us a check.”

2. Provide linens and towels

Animal care organizations are always in need of towels and linens. These items are used as bedding, after baths, to clean muddy feet, or to help comfort an ill or frightened animal. Your child can be in charge of collecting towels, blankets, and sheets as they get discarded from your own family, or the child can even extend the efforts to the neighborhood or community.

3. Organize goods collections

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Lots of dogs without homes need food or other goods. Dog dreams by Shutterstock

Food, treat, and toy drives are common efforts that usually result in at least a trunkload of goods. While these items are helpful, shelters often are in need of less-glamorous items: office supplies, cleaning products, and postage materials. Before launching a collection, ask the shelter you aim to help what it needs most.

“Many shelters have a wish list available that contains things that help their budget -- paper towels, bleach,” says Hawkins.

While your child may not find it exciting to collect envelopes or cleaning supplies, the experience can be an early lesson in budgeting; money saved from your donated items allows the shelter to spend its money on the animals.

4. Help make a place beautiful

Animal care organizations want their human visitors to feel welcome and comfortable, so that the visitors will relax and take their time meeting available pets. One way to help with this is to offer to beautify the grounds. If your family has a green thumb, consider helping to plant flowers or rake leaves. If you’re not a gardener, you could donate seasonal decorations or artwork.

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Animals as well as people like to be around pretty vegetation. Jack Russell by Shutterstock.com.

5. Provide office help

Shelter staff members are often pulled in many directions, so if you have a teenager who is good with computers, talking on the phone, or organizing things, there are tasks that can be done from home: screening prospective adopters, organizing files, and arranging funding or medical care. Social media skills can also be put to good use by broadcasting updates of available dogs and cats, upcoming events, or needed items.

6. Spread awareness

Animals always need a voice, and children or teens are perfect. Next time your younger children need a topic for a school project, suggest an animal rights issue: spay/neuter programs, breed equality, or puppy mills. Teens in need of a community service project could launch a website or social media campaign to raise awareness.

7. Tap their talents

If you can’t think of a way to volunteer, stop and reflect on what your child is good at. These talents can often be put to use; for example, in the Tampa Bay area, some dogs are more comfortable today, thanks to the woodworking skills of some helpful young men.

“In Florida, we have regulations about providing an adequate shelter to the animals, so a few Boy Scouts made beautiful dog houses, which we were able to give out,” says Hawkins. “We’ve also had scouts made things like wooden lean-tos and agility equipment.”

8. Raise money for disaster relief

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Dogs and other animals often are endangered by natural disasters, and raising money can help the rescue efforts. topten22photo/Shutterstock.com

A natural or human-made disaster affects animals and animal care organizations. When a crisis occurs, suggest your child lead a relief effort. Possibilities include basic fundraising and a more organized effort, such as a dance-a-thon or basketball shootout. Be sure to investigate the proper avenue for sending the funds to the affected area.

9. Investigate the calendar

“Almost every day is some kind of holiday -- National Cat Day, Hairball Awareness Day, Take your Dog to Work Day,” says Hawkins. Do an Internet search on animal holidays, and see what shows up, and let a holiday be a springboard for an idea.

While they may not be able to snuggle up on their couch with a furry critter, doing good for animals can satisfy a child’s longing and provide an early taste of the rewards of philanthropy.

Read more about the bond between humans and dogs on Dogster:

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Mon, 28 Apr 2014 06:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-rescue-shelters-help-dogs-and-kids-fix