Open Letter to Tom Collins, Puppy Mill Broker

Companies should not have a singular view of profitability. There needs to be a balance between commerce and social responsibility…

– Howard Schultz

Robin, don't be a douche

Robin, don’t be a douche!

Hi Tom.  (You don’t mind if I call you “Tom”, right?).  I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced..  I’m Kerry Stack.  Dog lover, animal rescuer, Supernatural fan girl.

dog dean

A German Shepherd and Dean Winchester in a ’67 black Chevy Impala. It’s on my Christmas list every year.

One thing you may not know about me is that I’m passionate about animal rights. You may be asking yourself what the purpose of this letter is.  Well, to put it bluntly, I’m truly hoping you can convince me that you are passionate about animal rights as well.

I’m aware that you run “Pick of the Litter” pet store in South Park Mall in Strongsville, Ohio.  Let’s just say that the results of a  search for reviews of your establishment have been less than stellar.  Reports of sick animals.  Stories of puppies stuffed into fish tanks.  And of course, the allegations that your animals are coming from puppy mills.  Knowing how the internet can sometimes be more of a lynch mob than a school of thought and logic, I think it’s you deserve to get a fair shake, and have your say.

So I ask you:

Why the fish tanks? With pine chips?

Yeah, I know puppies can be destructive little twerps sometimes.  As soon as you clean up a mess from them, they are off to make another.  And given your choice of (ahem) profession, I can see why you would need to keep them contained.

In fish tanks? On pine chips?

Two  dogs, one fish tank.

Two dogs, one fish tank.

Where are these guys supposed to run?  Play?  Not inhale sawdust?  I understand that you are in the business of selling dogs for profit, but is the most profitable way to sell them is to stuff them in fish tanks?  I’m aware that other puppy mill brokers pet shops such as yours (ahem: Petland) need to keep track of their inventory puppies, and that it’s better than the wire cages that Petland utilizes….

But that's like saying the guy on the left is cuter.

But that’s like saying the guy on the left is cuter.

Inhaled and ingested wood chips, small, confining fish tanks for puppies?  Seriously, you can do better.


…and that’s not a challenge.

What are your responses to the allegations that your dogs lack fresh water and adequate health care?

According to Lisa*, who purchased a pup, the puppies are unable to use the hamster water bottles placed in all the cages.  Luckily she is a veterinary technician, because her puppy almost died from lack of care given by Pick of the Litter:


 I am a registered veterinary technician so I had fluids on hand I gave him. I just remember him being very lethargic and dehydrated. As soon as I gave him fluids and some food he perked up. And then I realized as I was trying to give him water in a bowl he was just putting his mouth in the bowl but he didn’t understand he had to lick. He loved licking my hands though so I started putting my hand in the bowl for him and that is the only way he would drink any water for over a week until he figured it out. So since I couldn’t be home 24/7 I would supplement him with the fluids. All you have to really do is go in there and look at the gums on the dogs and if they feel tacky or if you pull on there[sic] skin and it doesn’t go right back they are dehydrated. My dog had both of these signs.
Unfortunately, this lack of concern does not sound like the actions of a person who has an animal’s best interests at heart.  There have been numerous stories of peoples’ contracts with your business being voided because they took their puppies to a vet other than your own personal vet.
Consider the story of John & Cindy Yakim who purchased a puppy from Pick of the Litter in 2013:
 I didn’t check the background of this pet store at all. First mistake.  Within the first 24 hours she was dying do [sic] to pneumonia. They told us at the store to bring her back and a portion of her purchase price could go towards another dog. Of course we didn’t do that and took her to our own vet. Some $4000.00 later she got well.  The store told us as soon as we took her to are own vet any contract was on null and void. I love my dog very much but feel I would rescue one from a shelter all though if I didn’t purchase her she would have been left for dead and no records would show how many puppies die in there[sic] care. I also feel she was not the breed that they told us she was. The callous nature of the sales and facility should have been my first deterrent.   The girl’s name was Diane and was dating the owner at the time. They wanted us to bring her in and they would take her to there [sic] vet. Never once did they give a name. She was close to dying at our vets and once they heard that the deal was off ( in there [sic] words). If any paperwork from our vet would help your cause I could get. We are not opposed of using our name. I have heard almost the same story regarding this store. I am personally sad they are still open.

Who is this “personal vet”, and why are the the “health records” you provide from said vet  (according to at least 3 testimonials I’ve received so far) merely some scribbles on a note card, if they even exist at all? If your standards are high, then why would a second opinion from a new dog owner’s vet be of concern to you?  Are you unable to stand by your puppies’ health?  Because the list of illnesses and congenital defects found in the puppies you sell are staggering:

- ear infections
- giardia
- patellar luxation (knee problems that require surgery)
- parasites
- heartworm
- pneumonia 
…and the list goes on.  It would seem that any diseases that are common in puppy mills, your puppies seem to get.  Which brings me to my final question:


Where do you get your puppies from?

The answers I’m receiving from previous customers and even some of your own friends and acquaintances are truly disturbing

I interviewed Cathy*, a former friend of yours.  She had initially defended you (on the Darwin Dogs’ Facebook page) from the allegations made against you.  She soon realized the awful truth.  Here’s what she had to say only one day later:

I have know Tom for years. I believe he once had compassion and truly tried and wanted to help animals. Last night I argued with numerous people on sight defending him. Now I have never supported the aquarium “cages” it not healthy in my opinion. But long story short after defending the man I knew who truly had a heart of gold I reached out to a few people who have close contact with him. I myself haven’t seen him in at least 4-5 years. Today I was given confirmation he DOES in fact get his dogs from Puppy Mills. He has a broker who obtains them from the mills. He said everyone does it. He claims to have local breeders which is a blatant lie. Please understand that this was devastating news for me to hear. I trusted him, I believed in him and I defended him. But today my respect ended. Today I learned he has become a money hungry monster seeking fortune at the expense of these helpless defenseless dogs.  … So to get confirmation that Tom is in fact utilizing Mill Puppies to stock his store. It’s inexcusable! I am extremely sorry I defended him last night. I’m extremely sorry to now know he in fact is using Mills. Thank you for doing what you do. Awareness makes a difference!!! Like the awareness of a man I respected is now an enemy to me.  Again my apologies for my defending him. But the sources and information today come from people close to him that are well aware of his doings. I hope the protest is wonderful and raises questions for many and changes are made. Thank you.

There’s a pretty slippery slope when it comes to selling animals.  For a lot of unwary and unsuspecting soon-to-be pet owners, it can be difficult to determine if a pet you’re considering purchasing is from a puppy mill or from a reputable breeder.  In short, some pretty damning evidence and testimony has been uncovered regarding your business practices and the inhumane treatment of your “stock”, or as we refer to them: pets, animals, living beings.  We await your response, Tom Collins.UPDATE - On January 2, 2017 we started receiving some messages from supporters of yours, including the following.  Please explain this, Tom.
It's okay, he's "rescuing" them from puppy mills.  And by "rescuing" he means "brokering".

It’s okay, he’s “rescuing” them from puppy mills. And by “rescuing” he means “brokering”.  Thanks for the clarification, Lynnette!

On Saturday, October 21, from 11-1, we will be protesting against Tom Collins and Petland for their animal rights violations. This will be our third protest against the cruelties inflicted by the puppy mill industry.  Please join us  for a peaceful demonstration against such practices as listed above. Attendees are encouraged to wear animal rights clothing, and carry signs indicating their disgust and revulsion of such blatant animal rights abuses.  We will be meeting in the Southpark Mall lot across the street from Panera, on Royalton Road.  The address is 500 SouthPark Center
Strongsville, OH 44136.  For more information, please visit our Facebook events page.  Thank you.
 Keep calm and pilot on
Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio
*Some names in this post have been changed for privacy

Personally Speaking

I am a great believer in found families and I’m not a great believer in blood.

Joss Whedon


A few weeks ago I was chatting online with a friend of mine.  He wanted to know what I thought about a certain “breed”of designer dog.  His wife wanted one for the family, and she had fallen in love with a friend’s new puppy, and they wanted one, too.  He told me that the puppy was from a well-respected “breeder”.  They got the information on a breeder website….as in, “We breed schoodles, morkies and shih-poos…”.  As soon as I saw that, flags went up.  This wasn’t a breeder – this was a puppy mill.

I tried to explain to him that respectable breeders didn’t advertise online.  Nor did they specialize in more than one breed, let alone claim to be breeders of dogs that aren’t even a breed.  Unfortunately, it all fell on deaf ears.  They proceeded to purchase a puppy.  I don’t believe they even set foot in a shelter.  Rather than rescuing a new family member, they attempted to purchase a designer label.  But at what cost?

Puppy Mills

We all know the horror behind-the-scenes of a puppy mill.  We’ve seen the numerous dogs who were rescued.  I’ve worked with dogs who were saved from years spent in a tiny 2′x2′ crate, giving birth to litter after litter in squalid conditions.  These dogs are no more than livestock, there as a commodity, conditions be damned.  Each one of those viable puppies is worth between $800-$1000.  Unfortunately, those chasing after the supposed prestige that comes with having a purebred dog usually don’t want to pay purebred prices.  So they buy a knockoff.  Unfortunately, just like knockoff Prada, someone always pays the price, usually behind the scenes.  Child labor in sweatshops or abused and neglected animals. Both victims of the “designer” label.



If you buy from a real breeder, you should feel as if you are applying for the CIA.  Background checks may be involved.  These are their lives’ work!  A breeder’s dogs are more like a family dog/work of art/live’s mission all rolled into one.  They will never let ou pick a dog from their litter – they interview you to find out which one of their puppies’ personalities will fit best in your household.  In other words, they have dogs, not investments. They aren’t a money making device!  Breeders typically don’t breed their dogs more than a handful of times in the dogs entire life!  According to Animal Rescue Corps., dogs in a mill have a much different schedule:

“Females are bred repeatedly, usually twice a year, every year, until they can no longer produce puppies. This is incredibly stressful on their bodies but they are viewed as moneymaking machines, as disposable property, not as individuals with inherent worth. Female dogs are commonly bred before it is safe to do so because the earlier they start, the more puppies they will produce in a lifetime. Puppy mill breeding dogs are often given hormones and steroids to try and increase the number of puppies they produce. These drugs can cause extreme pain and serious side effects – all in an attempt to increase the number of puppies for profit.”

But at least you got your cute puppy.

Designer Puppies

I just got a new niece. Her mother is Chinese, and her father is a mix of Finnish and Irish.  The baby is beautiful.  However, I am intelligent enough to know that she is one of a kind. I can’t recreate her, no matter how hard I try, even with parents of the same ancestry.  She will always be unique, from her looks to her personality.  My own children don’t even look like they’re related to each other, and their personalities are about as polar as they can be.

River and Eric at their favorite ice-cream shop.

River and Eric.  Or as my husband and I call them, Machete and The Professor.

So why are you trying to recreate your neighbor’s adorable puppy, who happens to be a something-poo?  Your inability to realize that you can’t recreate a living being is disturbing to me.  I can understand having a type…. I personally prefer Am-Staffs (or pitties). I also love Shepherds.

Yes, Orion.  Papillons too.

Yes, Orion. Papillons too.

But here’s the thing:  I can rattle off why I love those breeds:  I love how fun-loving and goofy pitties are.  How they are desperate to have a rollicking good time and want nothing more than a good snuggle, followed by more fun.  I love how Shepherds are always so desperate to learn something new, and how absurdly stoic they can be.  I love how Papillions are such lively little creatures who are really too big on the inside for those tiny little bodies.  I love how they are just as rugged of a dog as a Coonhound or a Lab.  I understand that each dog in a specific breed will always have its own personality, it generally falls within a certain area.  If you’re going with a purebred, finding out breed standard for that specific breed is a very good start to having a wonderful companion rather than a chore, or even worse, an owner surrender to the local shelter.

In other words, I love these dogs based on more than how I think they look. When I asked my friend why they were heading towards the designer “breed” they had in mind, the response was, “he’s cute”.  Seriously, they’re basing living the next 10-15 years with a dog on nothing more than “he’s cute”.  Temperament is merely an afterthought.  As is exercise requirements and how much Piloting the dog will need.  It is imperative to come up with a list of wants vs. needs when choosing a new dog, whether it be from a shelter or a breeder!

Remember that a mutt (which is what your designer dog is) is a dog that can not be reliably bred to have a certain standard.  In other words, if I were breeding Golden Retrievers, I can with a high degree of certainty state that the next litter will contain pups who will grow to be a certain size, with a very predictable temperament (fun, easy going, eager to please, and friendly).  Same with Poodles:  I can reliably breed very intelligent and active dogs of a certain “look” who, while easy to train, want to know why they should be listening to you and not following their own orders.  (For that reason, I generally steer families with small children away from poodles.)  Now, let’s breed a Golden and a Poodle together.  What do you get?  Just about any mix of all these traits.  Anywhere from a dog who looks exactly like a Golden but acts just like a Poodle (and vice versa), to a complete blending of the two looks and temperaments.  In other words, a mutt.

Mutts are awesome, but just like every other dog, they must be judged on an individual basis before you decide to buy/adopt. Judge the dog on who they are, not what they appear to be.

You Blew Your Chance to Save A Life

Seriously, Robin.  Don't be a douche.

Seriously, Robin. Don’t be a douche.

Let’s not forget the biggest reason to adopt rather than shop. Or rather the 2.7 million reasons to adopt.  That’s the number of dogs and cats euthanized each year.  Yeah, sure, you can argue that you can only rescue one,and what’s “one” in the face of such a large number?

"Just one" is the most important number Boise can think of.  He only has a 1/600 chance of making it alive out any shelter.  Check out Boise, who's up for adoption, at the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter.
“Just one” is the most important number this little guy can think of. He hopes it’s his, because as a pittie, he only has a 1/600 chance of making it alive out any shelter.

To be truthful, I had high hopes of convincing my friend not to shop for a puppy, especially not from a place that hit every single hallmark for being a puppy mill. I’d like to say this hasn’t changed how I view my friend, but there are only so many matted, filthy dogs I can help rehabilitate before it becomes personal.  Only so many dogs I can work with who are afraid of everything, who’ve never been outside their breeding box in the 2, 3 or even 8 years they’ve been on this planet, before I become judgmental and angry, even with longtime friends.  There’s a finite number to the dogs I can say goodbye to, and take them for their last long walk and few moments of fetch, before their time is up before it gets personal.

Yes.  It is personal.

Keep calm and pilot on



Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


Standardized Test

Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

  – Dr Ian Malcom; Jurassic Park

Breathe much?

Breathe much?

Three and a half years ago, something amazing happened at the Crufts dog show:  the Best of Breed winning Pekingese and Bulldog and were both sent home the first day, eliminating them from competition.  They were found by vets on site to be so grossly distorted through selective breeding that it was determined they were not able to have lives as normal, healthy dogs.

Many dog lovers pumped their fists in the air in triumph.  As a society, we’ve finally started to accept perfection is a stupid endeavour, and that beauty comes in many forms. Women no longer cram themselves into corsets.  Models have freckles, and can have three square meals a day!  How wonderful!

Dogs, on the other hand, are still being genetically manipulated in a macabre Dr. Moreau fashion.   Not being able to breathe takes second place to an adorable smooshed-in face.  Back problems aren’t a breeders problem, so breed ‘em long and low.  It’s sick and grotesque. And the AKC is celebrating these deformities!

I’ve long maintained that the AKC is a culprit in over-population (AKC doesn’t follow up to make sure that the dogs you’ve registered aren’t participating in a puppy mill.  Just pay the fee, and you’re good to go with your registered purebred!).  The AKC is also aiding and abetting in what can only be described as Frankenstein-eque practices.  Giving awards to those who can most grotesquely twist a dog’s features like origami.

For example, the bulldog. As a breed, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dog more impishly lovable.  A sweet, stubborn disposition.  All trapped in a body that can’t procreate without medical intervention.  That alone should tell you something is wrong.  The fact that an animal who has been so twisted by breeders that they can’t even give birth safely, but can still win an award for the best conformation, tells you everything that is sick and twisted in dog shows.

The Science of Dogs blog recently did an article giving examples of how various dogs have changed in 100 years of selective breeding.  Over the course of one hundred years, dogs who were athletic, healthy breeds have become sick, gasping ghosts of themselves.  Compared side-to-side, one couldn’t be blamed for mistakenly thinking these dogs had been exposed to a high level of radiation and mutated.

Obviously not all breeders are to blame.  Some breeders take a look at a specific breed and say to themselves, “I love that dog!  But I bet I can make it healthier, better, happier!”.  To those breeders, thank you!  You are maintaining the standard of lovely dogs I hope we never lose!  To the other, more selfish, revolting “breeders”:  learn to love dogs.

Take a look below and you’ll see some pretty drastic differences in dogs in just 100 years.

selective-dog-breeding-7 selective-dog-breeding-6 selective-dog-breeding-1 selective-dog-breeding-2 selective-dog-breeding-3 selective-dog-breeding-4 selective-dog-breeding-5

Time to put an end to these disgusting practices.  Time for the AKC to stand up for true breed standards.


Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio



It’s a Dog

The more you find out about the world, the more opportunities there are to laugh at it.

 - Bill Nye

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Phone call.  I just barely missed answering it (okay, I was busy eating raw cookie dough from the mixing bowl – priorities, ya know). Voicemail:

“Hi, my name is ____ and I’m looking for some help.  I just recently acquired a dog.  She’s a…well, ….dog.”

This person gets it.  She doesn’t have a “doodle”, nor a “GSD”, nor even a “mutt”.  She has a dog.  Her dog’s name might be Fifi or Rascal.  Her dog might love fetch and snuggles and long walks on the beach (along with chewing up the furniture).  That’s what her individual dog’s personality is (and yes, they do have different personalities).  However, Fifi/Rascal is still a dog, and that’s an incredible being who doesn’t need a specific breed to make it even *more* awesome!

After all, I’ve never made an appointment with a doctor and immediately pointed out that I’m half Slovak, and part Scottish and German.  Because I’m human, with a distinct personality.


Confession:  I’ve always had a pretty big crush on Bill Nye.  I mean, he’s smart, funny, and knows his way around a bow tie.  I think I can honestly call myself a Nye Girl.  Nye-list?  I kinda “a-Nye-hillated” that one, but I think you catch my point: I wouldn’t kick him out of the lab for eating crackers.
Hey Bill....I got my ion you

Hey Bill….I got my ion you

You can imagine how thrilled I was over this little tidbit of his that I recently discovered regarding dog breeds, and origins of dogs.  It’s a short little piece, but the concepts introduced, when you put it all together at the end, is pretty amazing.  I’ll admit, at first I wasn’t quite on board with what he was saying, but he tied it all up nicely with, well, a bowtie.

If you’re offended at the concept (or rather, revocation) of breeds, ask yourself, why?  Does Rover really need to be a AmStaff for your to love him the way you do? Is your little Bella any less precious if you think of her as a dog rather than a poodle?  Your dog isn’t less special if you eliminate the breed description and replace it with “dog”.  It makes them unique, with their own little personality, all packaged up in a big/little, fluffy/short-haired, being called dog.
Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


Hack Job

Many of the qualities that come so effortlessly to dogs – loyalty, devotion, selflessness, unflagging optimism, unqualified love – can be elusive to humans.

John Grogan

Who is better looking?

Who is better looking?

I don’t like my daughter’s ears.  They stick out at a weird angle.  Plus, she doesn’t look like other girls her age, and I want to maintain the standard.  So she’s going in for surgery.  They’re just going to cut a little bit off the top and around the sides. She’s young, so she doesn’t need any anesthetic.  She’ll recover quickly and then be happy that she looks like every other little girl now.

I seriously hope that most of you are considering reporting me to Child Services for those comments.  Now, I want you to take the words “daughter” and “girl” and substitute it with “dog” and “puppy”. Where’s the difference?

I have long maintained that tail docking and ear docking were among the more cruel and inhumane practices we subject our animals to, and that’s saying something.  The background for cropping and docking is solid, though.  Dogs were used for fighting, war, and protection:  we didn’t want to give their adversary anything to hold on to or get a grip on.  Fair enough.  Dogs were used for herding or hunting in scrubby, brushy areas: tails were docked to prevent the tails from getting caught in briers and brambles and sometimes literally getting ripped off.  Um, again, fair enough.  A couple hundred years ago, people thought that removing a dog’s tail would prevent rabies.  Wrong, but okay, at least you’re trying.

So, tell me, why is your dog’s tail missing?  Hopefully because your dog was born that way.  Sometimes trauma, like my own Darwin, who got his tail caught in a door when he was about 10 (one of the most horrific injuries I’ve ever seen, and requiring a massive amount of Piloting from me during the emergency vet trip (see here for how to act during such a trip).  There’s always my “favorite” reason: happy tail syndrome.  Dogs with long, bony tails who, through their exuberance for life, keep breaking their tails over and over again against walls and corners.  Yes, please dock those tails – those dogs are causing themselves injuries.

Other than that, though, I’m very hard pressed to come up with a good reason to dock a dog’s tail.  Even more hard pressed to find a good reason to crop ears.  England has banned the practice for more than 20 years.  Maybe for good reason.  People who have their dogs cropped typically point out that it’s AKC standard.  Funny, that’s the same excuse my children try to use for their bad behavior:  someone else gets to do it.  You’re really going to site the AKC as a bastion of putting pet health over “showiness”?  That’s like asking the folks at Project Runway to sponsor a project on helping girls cope with their body image.

When did THIS become fashion?

When did THIS become fashion?

Let me put it plain and simple:  docking isn’t for the health of the dog.  Docking isn’t to make the dog feel more comfortable.  Docking is putting your dog through painful surgery to remove their flesh and bone merely so you can have, what is in your mind, a better looking dog.  End of story.  Pure bred or not.  The excuse of “it’s breed standard” is thin at best.  If you wouldn’t subject your child to a similar surgery, why would you do it to your pet?

I see plenty of AKC dogs in my profession.  Most of them have been chopped up.  Whenever I see a Dane with scars on their ears, or a Boxer who is missing pieces, my hear immediately goes out to them.  I’m sorry we’ve done this to you.  We make a promise to these pets to love and care for them for the rest of their lives, and the first thing we do is go make them look better?  We love dogs for their ability to see through what we may look like, what disabilities we may have, and love us for what we are.  Isn’t it about time we give them the same level of dedication?

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OHio

Dogs of Ireland

The moon is none the worse for having the dogs bark at her.
- Irish Proverb

I'm not even sure if there's actually a dog under all that green!

I’m not even sure if there’s actually a dog under all that green!

Cead míle fáilte and welcome to our St. Patty’s Day blog post!  To celebrate the holiday, let’s take a look at breeds that have originated from the Emerald Isle.

Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier

Wheaton Terriers are possibly on the of the oldest dogs of Ireland.  Previously known as “the poor man’s dog”, they were used on farms for a variety of reasons, including protection and herding, but are at their best when doing their “terrier’ thing:  hunting down vermin.  Weighing in at about 30-45 lbs, they are a nice, solid dog.  In my opinion, they are also one of the sweetest dogs in the Terrier group (ever heard of the “Wheaton Greetin”?).



Kerry Blue Terrier

Also known as the “Irish Blue Terrier”, Kerry Blues are a gorgeous, animated and lively dog weighing in at approximately 30-40 lbs.  They originated in the 1700′s in County Kerry, Ireland, their namesake (as well as mine!).  They tend to be little jesters, who, like most terriers, are very intelligent and like to show off.  Typically friendly, they can be very courageous if needs be.  They are a good all-around working dog, taking occupations from herding and companion animals, to “the verminator” on some farms.

Kerry Blue Terrier

Kerry Blue Terrier

Kerry Beagle

Kerry Beagles were developed in, you guessed it, Kerry County, Ireland, as a scent hound.  Typically weighing in at roughly 60 pounds, it is still used for hunting fox.  Kerry Beagles almost died out, but fortunately, there are still people maintaining this lovely breed.

Kerry Beagle

Kerry Beagle

Irish Terrier

Also known as the “Irish Red Terrier”, this sprite little guy weighs in at under 30 lbs.  They are always ready for some fun, and can be a great hiking companion, as they have endless energy.  It is believed that these little sprites were one of the first terriers, and may be over 2000 years old!

Irish Terrier

Irish Terrier

Irish Water Spaniel

Justin McCarthy from Dublin, Ireland created this incredibly useful dog for retrieving on land and in (sometimes icy) waters.  Intelligent, active and possessing an amazing stamina, this was the go-to dog for hunters.  Unfortunately, they are rather rare now since the increasing popularity of Labradors has taken their place.

Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Wolfhound

Not sure if this is a dog or a pony, as this breed is gigantic weighing as much as 150 lbs. and can be 7 ft tall on their hinds legs.  Sweet (almost to a fault), they are the dogs who would apologize for apologizing too much.  Gentle giants, they are more likely to let an intruder in and serve them coffee rather than raise an alarm.  Originally bred for hunting wolves, as the name implies, they are a very, very old breed dating almost 2000 years.  As far as I can see, there only flaw is their lifespan, which is an all-too-short 6-8 years.

Irish Wolfhound - my personal favorite!

Irish Wolfhound – my personal favorite!

Irish Red and White Setter/Irish Setter

Two separate breeds, but essentially the same dog excepting colors (red vs. red and white), both Setters remind me of nothing so much as frolic and mirth on steroids.  Weighing in at up to 75 lbs., they are a very energetic breed and always looking for some fun.  These guys definitely have a mind of their own, and they sometimes can be a free spirit.  They excel at any type of hunting you throw at them, making them a very well-rounded gun dog.  Red and White Setters were originally much more common than their Red counterparts, but then in the mid-19th century the Reds gained popularity, so much that the the Red and Whites almost became extinct!  Fortunately, people have managed to preserve this wonderful variation for all to enjoy.


Irish Red and White Setter


Irish Setter

Glen of Imaal Terrier (Glen Terrier)

A very stately individual is the Glen Terrier.  Small, compact and low to the ground, this little guy packs a lot of courage and poise in that short little body.  They are intelligent and brave, and can be quite fierce when on the hunt.  They are truly kingly little dogs.  They derived their name from Glen of Imaal, in County Wicklow, Ireland. They have been used to kill foxes and badgers, as well as “turnspit” dogs (walking on a crude treadmill, they would turn meat on a spit for hours).  To me, they personify 35 lbs of quiet dignity.

Glen Terrier

Glen Terrier

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Fad saol agat, gob fliuch, agus bás in Éirinn!

Do you have a personal favorite?  Do you happen to own one of these beauties?  If so, let me know what your thoughts are on any of these breeds.

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

The Power of Experience

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything – George Bernard Shaw

Remember those days, where posters of your favorite movie star or boy band covered the walls of your room? It basically looked like a teeny bopper version of a stalker’s basement. Or remember when you would see your favorite movie star or boy band on tv or on a magazine, you would squeal and go on and on about how amazing they were and all their great qualities?

These guys used to cover my walls

These guys used to cover my walls

Well, my poor parents had to go through that stage with me twice. Once, when I was an actual teeny bopper. And once when I was older and found out that pitbulls had stolen my heart. Anytime one was on tv I would stop and stare after letting out a slightly embarrassing sound that I hadn’t used since my ‘NSync days.

If we saw a pitbull on the street, I would come close to drooling. I had pictures of them on my desktop background and I was constantly sharing facts and videos of them.

When this first started my parents didn’t seem to fully understand what was happening. They, like most people, hadn’t had much contact with any pitbulls. In fact, pretty much none. I was the only one that had met and interacted with bully breeds out of my family.

 Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

At first, my parents would ask about certain traits that many people haven’t been around pitbulls or haven’t been able to gain enough information about the breed (I use the term breed loosely, because as we know, they’re just a mix) ask:.

Aren’t they aggressive?

Their jaws lock don’t they?

Don’t you think they’re kind of funny-looking?

Why aren’t they allowed in certain apartment complexes and towns?

This was my opportunity to educate! I would share the knowledge that I had gained about them every time the opportunity came up. My parents would just nod and smile. I never knew what they were thinking really. It was kind of like my teeny bopper days, they accepted it but didn’t fully understand. But that was okay with me. I went on oohing and aahhing over every pitbull I came across.

When Vesta came into my life (she’s the reason that I want BSL to end), I could tell they were hesitant again. But, they were supportive and went with it.

Vest as an adorable little puppy

Vest as an adorable little puppy

Vesta was a lovebug. As they would come to visit, I could see my parents warming up to her more and more. They saw how happy she made me. They also saw how sweet she was. She had an amount of devotion towards me that was extraordinary. She knew what my next move was going to be before I did. She knew how to make me feel comfortable and how to cheer me up. She also knew how to make everyone around her laugh and that endeared her to them. They were able to see the dog she was and not just the breed.

It’s hard to connect or change your mind about something or someone if you’ve never interacted with that individual or animal. You’re only able to go off of facts or stories that other people have told you. It’s not the same thing as experiencing it yourself. And sometimes, those that are able to change others minds can do it without even knowing.

The other day, I was home visiting when a neighbor was talking about a new dog in the neighborhood. It was a pitbull and they relayed concerns and incorrect facts about pitbulls. I took a deep breath to start in on my arguments and all of a sudden my parents piped in:

“They’re very loyal dogs you know”

“They’re not what the media makes them out to be”

“I saw him the other day, just standing there, wagging his tail with a big smile on his face. Looked like a great dog.”

I took a step back and just realized, the individuals that had never understood my pitbull obsession were standing up for my pitbull obsession. They were able to rely on experiences that they had had with the breed and help others appreciate these misunderstood dogs.

Vesta and I playing around

Vesta and I playing around

This is why the Pittie Parade is so important. It’s a chance for individuals to encounter well behaved and gentle dogs that they might not have met in any other circumstance. They get to meet the wiggly butts and goofy smiles that pitties so lovingly posses. That’s what it takes to changing minds. No yelling, no screaming, no yelling out facts over and over. It takes someone to say, “hey, this dog is really sweet” for some changes to start to take place.

If we can change just one mind, we’ve succeeded. If we can change more? Well, that could create some more loving homes and arms for wiggly butts and goofy smiles everywhere.

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH



“…so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” -Ian Malcom, Jurassic Park

o-PITBULL-570This is Hulk.  At 175 pounds, he is the world’s largest pitbull (which yes, I know isn’t even a breed, but rather a conglomeration of different breeds).  He is owned by Marlon Gannon of Dark Dynasty K9.  Hulk has been bred, and according to Gannon, is a trained professional guard dog, who will heed his owners every command and protect them with his life. Lisa Gannon claims she trusts him around her toddler “precisely because of his thorough guard-dog training” and even lets her toddler ride him(!), a very dangerous (and stupid) thing to do.

Because nothing shows respect so much as letting your children ride your dog

Because nothing shows respect so much as letting your children ride your dog

Let me start by stating that anyone who claims their dog will follow their “every command” has some ego problems.  My dogs and I are pack members. I have nothing to prove to them except that I will always take care of them, and in a crisis situation (say, intruder breaks in or a zombie apocalypse) I know they will do their best to protect me.  I will never claim any animal (or human, for that matter) will obey every command, as every creature has a breaking point.

I’ll admit it: I don’t respect guard dog trainers very much.  I think it takes a special kind of bully to turn a dog into a compensating appendage.

Contact your doctor if you try to compensate for more than four hours.

Contact your doctor if you try to compensate for more than four hours.

I do realize that there are indeed special circumstances that actually require a guard dog, and that there are indeed wonderful trainers who can train dogs to safely handle these situations.  Police dogs, military dogs, even personal protection dogs, are all a necessary evil.  However, I do wonder at the ludacris number of “guard dog trainers” out there. Especially the ones who use pitties as guard dogs.  One of the worst choices for the job.  Yeah, they’re muscular, but so was Michael Clarke Duncan.  Who was a vegetarian.  

So wait, muscular individuals don't dine on baby flesh?

So wait, muscular individuals don’t dine on baby flesh?

I stumbled across the best statement about this whole “Hulk” debacle on Facebook.  Trainer Shannon Duffy, from Your Good Dog, had this to say about it:

“This may come as a surprise but I am not a fan of Hulk. Well, Hulk I love, the situation around him is despicable in my opinion. Hulk, the 175 pound “Pit Bull”, is the latest internet sensation. Hulk is also a mutation that is the result of irresponsible breeding that is done purely for looks and size with no regard for the health or temperament of the dogs created. He seems to be a great family dog even when the parents, showing extreme poor judgment, allows their child to ride him like a horse. I wish him all the best and hope that he continues to be a good ambassador for Pit type dogs but I cannot support the concept of breeding based purely on appearance (looking at you too AKC).”

And that sums up everything despicable surrounding poor Hulk. I, too, wish you the best in this crazy world you’ve been thrust into, big guy.

Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


Ugly Truth

  My eyes were made to erase all that is ugly.

  – Raoul Dufy

"Ug"- Britain's reigning champion of the Ugliest Dog Contest

“Ug”- reigning champion of the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest

“What an ugly dog!  Wow…it looks like he fell out of the Ugly Tree and hit every branch on the way down.”

“Why yes, he most certainly does look that way!  He’s the winner of the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.”  

I absolutely despise these Ugly Dog contests.  Yes, I realize that these dogs don’t have feelings like humans do – they really couldn’t care less what they look like.  Problem is, they are perfectly capable of caring what they feel like.

Every time I see a pic of a dog on Pinterest, or on Facebook, touting how ugly a specific dog is, I cringe.  Ever wonder why a dog might look like that?  Yes, some dogs are lucky enough to randomly draw from the wrong genetic material, but for the most part, these ugly dogs are made.

When a woman is pregnant, she takes many precautions against her health.  Pre-natal vitamins. Doctor visits. Getting enough rest.  Why?  So she can have a healthy, happy baby.  But what if we locked her up in a cage? Forbade her to bathe? Fed her sub-par food?  Never allowed her even the freedom of movement? Made her sleep on metal mesh flooring? That would be a horrible and despicable act against humanity! But think of this?  What would happen to her child, if she were even able to carry it to term?

The world has seen examples of what can happen to mothers who gave birth after periods of extreme deprivation. War and poverty has produced birth defects in babies.  Poor health as children.  It is a wretched cycle.

So…think again how that that funny little dog came to be so funny-looking.  Not so funny anymore.  And how about the concept of the world’s ugliest kid?  Not too appealing once you realize how they may have achieved that dubious title.  Instead of laughing and celebrating the health conditions that lead to the title “Ugliest”…what about education instead?  How did this dog get to be so unhealthy that it even effected his physical appearance?  Poor breeding at best.  Probably a puppy mill at its worst.  Disposable dogs for a disposable society.


Poor Ug was at a local animal shelter.  Fortunately, he was adopted into a loving home, and renamed “Dough”.  Even his current owner has an interesting statement about him, though:

‘When people see him they do a double take. He looks comical with his bug eyes and cross teeth and he’s always bumping into things.”

Isn’t that hysterical?  He bumps into things because he’s so malformed!  Such a bringer of amusement!

Let’s stop it.  Other’s misfortune (yes, even animals’) is never legitimate source of humor.  Ellen DeGeneres has a wonderful quote about what’s funny and what isn’t:

Most comedy is based on getting a laugh at somebody else’s expense. And I find that that’s just a form of bullying in a major way. So I want to be an example that you can be funny and be kind, and make people laugh without hurting somebody else’s feelings.

Yes, dogs don’t have feeling based upon what they look like, but they do have feelings about how they got to look the way they do.  Let’s put energy into making sure there are no more contestants for the Ugly Dog Contest instead of giving an award that amounts to Ugliest Puppy Mill Survivor.

Doug, I’m sorry you went through what you did. You didn’t ask to look like this, nor did you ask for what happened to make you look like this.  But fortunately, beauty is indeed skin deep, as you’ve already shown your new owners.

Never again will I laugh at how ugly a dog is.

Ug, renamed Doug, photographed with his new owner, Skye

Ug, renamed Doug, photographed with his new owner, Skye


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Keep calm and pilot on






A Great Dane waits to be judged during t

  Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.

  – Wernher von Braun

Today is the last day of the Krufts dogs show.  Quite a few of my friends are talking about it (with British accents, of course).  My friends typically fall silent when I enter the room, though.  They know I’m a huge proponent of rescue and shelter dogs.

They don’t understand that I also love the purebreds!

Believe it or not, the two can live hand-in-hand.  Just because I love purebreds doesn’t mean I support puppy mills.  Just because I love and champion rescue dogs doesn’t mean I feel all breeders should immediately cease breeding.

There are indeed a finite number of homes, and what seems to be an infinite number of dogs in the words needing those homes.  When a client hires me to help them with dog selection, after making their list wants and needs for their dog, we always shuttle off to the local animal shelter to find the dog that fits that list.  However, sometimes the list is very, very long.

For example, when I made my list for Sparta (obviously not knowing her yet), on the list was large, black, good with kids and my cat. Not much of a list, as she was going to be strictly a family pet (and she is).  I was able to walk into the local shelter and have my pick of dogs that fit that profile.

But what if your list is longer?  Say…you need a dog who is intelligent, agile, hard-working, low prey-drive, medium sized and can work as a pack?  Oh, and has a natural ability to herd sheep?  In other words, you are looking for a Border Collie. Yes, there are some dogs at shelters who can fit this bill, but not many.  The list is too precise.  Dogs are not commodities to be exchanged if they don’t work out.  Due diligence is integral.

That’s why we have specific breeds.  You are even using a breeders services when you are at the kennel.  Want an over-grown lap dog?  Take a look at the lab mix in Cage 5.  Want an exercise partner and general “buddy” dog?  There’s a Boxer/Pit mix in Cage 17.  You are still using breed standards to find the perfect (rescue) dog.  I’ve stated many times, the breed standard Jack Russell Terrier would not be a good dog for me, and I know this because of the breed standards for the dog.  The dog isn’t bad, but just like a size 6 shoe, it doesn’t fit me.

A dog can be a commitment lasting more than a decade.  That’s longer than most marriages these days. Do your research.  Check the local shelter, but be realistic:  if you don’t find a dog that fits your wants and needs, wait. Find a breed-specific rescue.  Or even go to a breeder.  Just do the prep work to make sure you can love and care for your new pet for the rest of their life.  Keeping dogs out of the shelter is a huge step in eliminating the need for shelters to begin with.

“Someone” has to maintain the jaunt in a Jack.  ”Someone” has to preserve the lovable Labs.  There are so many puppy mills out there, or back yard breeders interested in making a buck.  Don’t lump the true, respectable breeders in with them.


Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio