House Hunting For You and Your Dog

From time to time we are fortunate to have contributors to the Darwin Dogs’ blog, as we like to look at things from a fresh pair of eyes.   Our most recent contributor is Bernie the Boxer.  Special thanks to him for this blog post, and his amazing ability to type it out without opposable thumbs.  

Boots and Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

You love your dog and want him to be happy. He greets you at the door when you come home from work, tail wagging and eyes staring at you with adoration. He senses when you’re sad and even snuggles with you as you sit on the couch drowning your sorrows in a pint of ice cream. So is it any wonder that when you begin house hunting, you want to find a house he’ll love just as much as you do? But how do you go about finding the right home for your dog? Read on for tips on how to score the perfect home for you and your precious pooch.

Pet-Loving Realtors

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

When you want to find a home, think about hiring a realtor who’s a dog lover. Realtors who adore man’s best friend are more likely to take your dog into consideration when helping you find a home. Some realtors may even get sellers to agree to let your pet visit homes with you as you check out different houses. This way, you get your dog’s opinion on the home too!

Style of Home

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Determine the style of home you want. Do you prefer a two story? This might be a wonderful type of home for dogs who are young and spry. But what if your dog is elderly? Older dogs may not be able to climb a lot of stairs because of joint pain. Tiny dogs like toy poodles may not have the ability to scamper up a flight of steps. Consider these factors before deciding on a style of home.

Your Canine Companion’s Size

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Before you select a new home, consider your dog’s size. Larger breeds like golden retrievers and labradors need enough space to walk through rooms without knocking over your prized knickknacks. Trying to cram a super-sized dog into a one-bedroom home or condo might make your dog unhappy and uncomfortable.  If you own a smaller dog, tiny homes probably won’t bother him at all.  And don’t forget to consider the yard: small dogs won’t mind much if space is limited outside, but big dogs love expansive yards where they can romp and play.

Location of the Home

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Dogs are social animals that crave love, attention and companionship. You’re their entire world. So it isn’t surprising they don’t handle it well if you’re absent from the house most of the time. Dogs who are frequently left alone for extended periods of time develop separation anxiety. This leads to chronic barking, excessive chewing and other undesirable behaviors. Save you and your dog a boatload of heartache by choosing a home that isn’t too far away from your job. When you have a long commute back and forth to work, it takes time away from your furry friend.

If you still end up purchasing a home far away from work, enroll your dog in doggy day care or pay someone to pet sit him for a few hours.

Nearby Dog-Friendly Parks

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Do you long for a home your pet will adore? Consider buying a house near a dog park. Dog parks are amazing outdoor places where dogs run free, play and hang out with other dogs. Whether your pooch wants to meet some new furry friends or just lay out in the sun, dog parks are the perfect place to make it happen.

Getting Used to the New House

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Dogs love being the masters of their domains. So when you take a dog out of his usual territory, he may feel confused. Prevent this by letting him visit the house before you move in. Take him on a walk through the new neighborhood so he becomes accustomed to the sights, sounds and smells of his new domain. He’ll get the chance to see some of his new dog neighbors, and he won’t feel threatened by them.

Before your dog enters the house, take a towel from your old home and rub it against the walls and furniture of your new home.  Familiar scents from the old house will make your canine feel more comfortable.  Make sure you’ve tucked away any detergents, bleach, or other household cleaners you may have used to prepare the house for move-in—your pup might chew to ease the anxiety of his new environment, so keep anything toxic completely out of his reach.

As soon as your dog enters the house, let him explore the rooms. Show him where his dog bed and toys are located. And don’t forget to have his favorite blanket ready for him to snuggle against.  Of course, make sure he knows where his water and food bowls are located as well.

Don’t just find the perfect house for the humans in your family. Canine family members need to approve of the new house too. If you take the time to choose a home that fits the needs of your furry baby, he will grow to love the new house as much as you do!


Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland Ohio

The Problem with Pitties

It matters not what one is born, but what they grow to be.
- Albus Dumbledore

3-13-14(1)I recently wrote a post on why I love (accurate) breed profiling.  I briefly mentioned pitties (A.K.A., pit bulls), but didn’t really go into depth about them as a specific “breed” of dog. Right now pit bulls are a polarizing breed.  Lovers or fighters?  Vicious or victims?

As I’ve previously written, I’m all for accurate breed descriptions, or profiling. Name things accurately. Describe things correctly. As Dumbledore pointed out to Harry Potter, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”  Sage words.

Polarizing things, such as pitties, puts them in angel or devil categories, each side slinging skewed statistics and unrealistic qualities, towards the other:

  • Their jaws lock on their victims/There’s no such thing as an aggressive pittie
  • The pit bull terrier is the breed of choice for criminals./Pit bulls are the best family dogs.
  • Pit bulls will readily fight other dogs/Pit bulls are the most social dogs out there

Who’s right?  The problem lies within the fact that we only have two choices within to categorize pits: angel or devil.

In 1820, Sir Walter Scott wrote his famous Ivanhoe, a medieval romance set in 12th century England.  One of Ivanhoe’s characters that doesn’t get a lot of credit is Isaac of York, a Jew.  In 12th century England, where the story is set, Jews were basically a pariah. Hated and maligned, and apparently quite capable of witchcraft against Gentiles, according to the ludicrous thinking of the period.  They had mostly, if not always, been portrayed in western fiction as evil, base and cowardly.  After a bit of time, a small, select group of people began to loathe the treatment of Jews in literature, and portrayed them to be enlightened people, who were innocent beyond reproach (even Rebecca in Ivanhoe was treated as a pinnacle of beauty and innocence).  Obviously neither description of Jews was accurate – any large group of people cannot possibly be all good or bad.

Then comes Isaac.  Sir Walter Scott did something amazing when he created the character of Isaac:  he allowed Isaac to be base and elevated. Kind and cruel.  Able to be callous one moment, and show extreme tenderness the next.  In other words, Scott made him real.  To my recollection, this was the first time in history that Western culture had portrayed someone Jewish as, well, neither angel nor devil.  He was merely human. He was just like other humans.  And we judge humans on a case-by-case basis, not by gender, by ethnicity, or by…well, anything other than who the individual is.

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Consider Isaac when debates about pit bulls come up.  The best thing we can do for pitties as a “breed” is to allow them to land somewhere between angel and devil, just like any other breed of dog living being.  Pitties are not perfect. Please don’t put that label, so full of pressure, on them.  Pitties are dogs, no more, no less.  Just like every other dog, they have their quirks, and they have their amazing redeeming qualities.  Most importantly, they are individuals, not to be defined as a one-size-fits-all breed standard.

I am admittedly a pittie fan.  Being a trainer, I am familiar with these dogs. I’d say roughly 60% of my clients own pitties/pittie mixes, however, I have never been bit by one. They can be very timid sometimes, and occasionally very submissive, but stand-offish is not a word for them.  Sometimes shy, sometimes boisterous.  Always a riot, though.  Typically, they’re the type of dog who’d apologize for apologizing too much.

I’ve worked with a few clients who had dog-reactive pit bulls, but then again, I’ve had 4 pugs in the last week who were dog reactive.   Pitties are not suitable for every situation, but then, no dog is. But I’d confidently say they’re appropriate for most situations. I will not lie and say they are without fault; believe me, they can have faults, just like every other dog.  But they have heart. They have loyalty.  They seem to be willing to try to do what ever you want them to do. They are a dog. I personally do not own one because, unfortunately, that would be illegal in my home city of Lakewood.  But hopefully I will be able to in the near future.  I’ve kinda developed a crush on pitties, you see.


This is why Darwin Dogs is so vocal about ending breed specific legislation (“BSL” or “Breed Bans”), and are aggressively pursuing an end to them..  As our mission statement proclaims, we are dedicated to peacefully and logically examining the necessity of Breed Specific Legislation in various cities, starting with our hometown of Lakewood, Ohio.

So instead of serving the Kool-aid of “Perfect Pitties” or the poison contained in the BSL’s, it’s time to give the victims of the BSL laws what they deserve: the opportunity to be looked upon with all their glorious faults and beauty.  In other words, just a regular dog. Perfectly imperfect.

Please help us in our fight against stereotypes, such as BSL.  For more information about how you can help, please check out All Breeds Lakewood, which is comprised of a handful of Lakewood citizens who have banded together to end breed discrimination and promote dog safety in our city.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio



It’s a beautiful day; don’t let it get away.

Orion and Sparta.  Brittany Graham Photography

Orion and Sparta. Brittany Graham Photography

This time of year can kinda suck if you have asthma.  Which I do.  I’ve got an upper respiratory infection on top of it.  I’m miserable. I feel like death warmed over.  In the history of sickness, I don’t think anyone has ever been as sick as I am right now.


Then I realized that I was being stupid.  The temperature is 53 degrees – warm for Cleveland (or the Arctic Tundra, but I repeat myself).  The sun is shining.  It’s an okay day for hiking, or at least going for a short walk with my best friend.  And here I was squandering it feeling sorry for myself, which is what I’ve been doing or the past 2 days.  Yes I’m legitimately sick.  But that doesn’t negate my dogs’ need for activity.  I’ve been cutting corners, using the treadmill for Orion, and a backpack plus some minor agility for Sparta, as outlined here and here, but nothing really beats a good walk.  Sunshine only adds to the benefit.  It was time for me to suck it up and go outside.  But I still don’t want to.

The hurts

The lights…it hurts

Then I saw an update in the mail from my dog’s vet, reminding me that Sparta was due for her rabies shot.  I looked through her medical records to verify, and stumbled across something that I’d forgotten: Sparta is  7 years old.

Now, that’s not such a big deal.  She’s not old (yet), but it did make me stop and reflect.  Most dogs live to be roughly 13 years old.  That equals only 676 weekends.   So far she’s almost exactly halfway through that allotment.  Technically speaking, she only has 338 weekends left with me.  That means, at the very most, we are down to 169 weekends to drive that hour down to Bow Wow Beach, so I can watch her swim.  We only have so many hikes left together.  Only so many more times she can jump into the backseat of my car without help.  And there I was, squandering this time because I have a cold.

Sometimes we think of dogs in human terms, including how much time we’re given together.  At 39 years my young(ish) age, I still have a lot of time left.  We tend to include our dogs in that time because we assume that they’ll always be there.   But there is a set amount of time with them.  Perhaps 676 seems like a lot of weekends to romp with with your dogs.  Enough time to do do anything  you want.  But I’ve already used up half of those with Sparta.

It made me think.  It made me, well…

Damn, I hate when that happens

So I took my dogs for a walk.  Not far.  Just far enough to change my perspective. Which was far enough to make me want to hike even farther.  I’m not going to waste today anymore.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Porter’s Holiday


Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

The key to a self-fulfilled life lies in consistent selfless deeds – Edmond Mbiaka

Well, it’s that time of year again. The holidays are here, which means lots of family visiting, lots of visits to stores and for some, lots of traveling. I’m one of those people that travels for the holidays. I travel home to New England and then from there tour all of New England to see the family.

There’s lots of air travel and car travel involved. It’s a hectic time with not lots of structure or knowing when I’ll be able to be home next. Which means, Porter doesn’t come with me. This isn’t because I don’t want him there. Trust me, as I’m writing this post, I am dreading dropping him off at sleep away camp. Not because I think he’ll have a bad time, or misbehave, or not get enough exercise. No, I’m dreading it because I’m selfish and will miss him terribly. But again, this is one of those times where I need to let go of my own selfish feelings and do what’s best for him.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Why is sleep away camp better for him than coming with me during the holidays? Well, here are a few reasons:

Schedule? What schedule?

Although Porter is great at going with the flow, when there’s no routine or structure away from where he (or any dog) is comfortable it can be stressful. Also, sometimes my own schedule when I’m home stresses me out. And guess who is going to pick up on that immediately? At sleep away camp he has a normal routine. He’s comfortable there and has his toys and blankets that smell like home. He’ll know what to expect day to day which will make him relax and cut down on any unnecessary anxiety.

No Travel

Porter’s a little too big to travel under my seat on a plane. Yes, I’ve totally looked into it. And quite honestly, a 9 hour car ride is tough on him and me. It’s not worth it. He gets bored and with only him and I it’s tough when it comes to taking breaks. It’s a long drive and not fun for either of us. He’ll do it if I ask him to. But, I try not to put him in that position too often. By him staying here, he doesn’t have to be cooped up in a small space for a long time.

A picture that was sent to me from Porter's sleep away camp! He loves it there!

A picture that was sent to me from Porter’s sleep away camp! He loves it there!

Activity Levels

While on holiday, I can’t guarantee how much activity I’ll be able to give him. My schedule will be all over the place and I can’t guarantee where we will be when. Which means, his normal activity levels will suffer. This can create more anxiety and the feeling of just being pent up. Now, I know at sleep away camp he gets out several times a day and gets to run around until he tires himself out. Which is what he would prefer any other day of the week. So, why not this week?

Less Stressful Situations

If he came home with me, he’d have to travel from house to house with so many new people, locations and situations he’s not used to. This can be very stressful. I don’t want to add more unnecessary stress in his life if I don’t have to. And keep in mind, in those stressful situations I have to make sure I’m Piloting 100% of the time. And I can’t guarantee that. So, it’s not fair to put him in those situations if there’s another great option available.

Porter beyond tired after a week of playing with new friends

Porter beyond tired after a week of playing with new friends

Yes, I’ll feel guilty and wish he was coming with me. But guess what? Those are my selfish feelings. So, I’ll drop him off without drama (because seriously, this is the best option so why get dramatic about the drop off and create more anxiety), give him a quick pat, and know that this is the best decision for both of us. And I’ll know it’s the right decision the minute I get the first picture of him running around with 7 of his new best friends.

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Scent Detection

Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains. 
- Diane Ackerman

Porter, ready to do some Work! Brittany Graham Photography

Fun fact for the day: While humans have about 5 million scent glands, it’s nothing compared to your pup, who has anywhere from 125 million to 300 million scent glands.

We see the world predominately through sight, whereas dogs come to understand the world through smells. Think of it this way, if you were to make a crockpot meal and have it on low for the full 8 hours your dog wouldn’t just smell the stew for 8 hours. Your dog would smell the carrots, the onions, the beef and the broth all separately as their own entity… for 8 hours. Now, this post isn’t about making you feel guilty about crock pot meals, it’s about finding a fun way for you to bond with your dog as well as give him some mental work outlined in the PAW method while using his Super Smeller.

I’m sure you’ve seen dogs that do scent detection work. They look for missing persons, contraband in airports and even prey (i.e. fox, rabbits). But you can do scent detection in your own home with your pup. He may never find Timmy in the well 5 miles away, but he can find objects you have around the house.

Scent Detection Fun

To start working with your dog on scent detection, you need a trigger object (what your dog is trying to find).  When first teaching a job scent detection, I favor strongly scented objects, such as lemons and limes. Place your dog in a sit-stay command. Hold the object in front of his nose (if you need to lightly cup your hand around the bridge of the nose to make your pup focus more that’s fine). Repeat the word “Scent” at least 5 or 6 times. Give the stay command, and in a very short distance in plain sight place the trigger object down.

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Brittany Graham Photography

Move your attention to your dog, point at the treat/toy and say “Find it”. Your dog should go straight to the toy/treat. Once he engages with the object by touching the object he was searching for, praise him like crazy. You can praise him by using the Touch, Talk, Treat method. Give your pup a light touch while saying a phrase , such as “good dog” and then pop a treat in their mouth. Soon they’ll start to align getting the Touch and Talk with the Treat and you don’t have to use the treat every time.

Do this a few times with the toy/treat in plain sight. When you feel your dog has a handle on it, go ahead and hide the object around a corner or behind another object, but somewhere we he can see you put it down. Repeat the word “find it” and always praise him when he does.

Soon, you can have him in a sit/stay command and hide an object in the other room. Always make sure you give him the scent of the object before you hide it. If he needs help, stand near the object you have hidden to give him a hint as to where to look.

Feel free to have fun with it and change up the object. Once your dog has a handle on it, switch up the objects he’s looking for. It doesn’t have to be one of his own – it can be a shirt of yours or a towel. Anything you can think of! The key is to always reward him when he does find it, even if it takes him a while. Remember, positive reinforcement is a must for this situation.

Let’s say your dog is having some trouble finding the object. If he’s looking around for the object frantically or doesn’t seem to understand what you’re asking him to do, gently direct him to the object while repeating the phrase “find it”. You can do this by gentle tugs on the collar until he gets to the object. Once he engages (i.e. picks it up, touches with his nose or makes even eye contact with it) then praise again.

So to break it down in some easy steps:

1. Sit/Stay command

2. “Scent, Scent, Scent, Scent, Scent” while letting your dog sniff the object

3. Hide Item

4. “Find it” command

5. Praise like crazy when your dog finds the object

This is a great way to bond with your dog and get some more mental activity in. I highly recommend taking advantage of it now when it’s hard to go on long walks with your pup. My Porter personally likes finding limes,and I have a great time working as a team with him.That’s what bonding is all about!

Brittany Graham Photography


Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore

Darwin Dogs, LLC

Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

A Little Less Ego

-Brittany Graham Photography

-Brittany Graham Photography

The biggest challenge after success is shutting up about it – Criss Jami

Dog’s have no ego. Which is a big reason why we love them so much.

The dog that saves his family from a fire, doesn’t go up to the news crews wagging his tail saying “I did it! That was me!”

Balto didn’t make sure he sent out a press release before he made his journey. Nope, he just did it.

The dog that puts himself in between his owner and harm doesn’t post it on Facebook after to see how many likes he can get.

Dogs don’t look to feed their ego. They do what they do because their hearts are made of gold and it’s the right thing to do.

- Brittany Graham Photography

– Brittany Graham Photography

Wouldn’t it be nice if people worked that way too? Yes, of course we all like a little positive reinforcement.

We like to hear someone say “good job” and that they appreciate what we’ve done for them. But, do we necessarily need to have our name attached to it if it’s for the betterment of the community?

So, in human terms, let’s make a larger analogy here. We know there’s multiple universities and research labs that are looking for a cure for cancer. No one can argue that a cure for cancer wouldn’t be an amazing feat for mankind. Let’s say University X discovers a piece of information that could help the other researchers get one step closer to a cure. What would you expect University X to do? Share it right? Ok perfect. University X shares this groundbreaking knowledge. And let’s say University Y says “ummm… thanks but no thanks. We’re working on that as well, so don’t need your help”.

Now, you’re scratching your head right? Because, let’s be honest, if this piece of information could help us get that much closer to a cure wouldn’t you want to use it? Wouldn’t you want to discuss this information with University X and see what further developments you can make? After all, it’s all the same end goal correct?

But see, this is where we as humans are sometimes flawed and dogs are, well, quite perfect. We have egos. And unfortunately some people need their name attached to the feat. They need the press release stating that they’re the ones that accomplished something great. They’re the ones that need the Facebook likes and the shares. And sometimes, this can cause our community not to improve as quickly or rapidly as one would hope.

Dogs don’t need their name attached to anything. They do the right thing and they move on. If there’s more than one of them doing the right thing? They’re perfectly content with that.

- Brittany Graham Photography

– Brittany Graham Photography

Ego. Try letting it go. Do good just to do good. That’s what dogs do. They give you affection, not because they expect anything in return, but because they are emotionally attached to you. If we’re all working towards a common goal, let’s be more like our canine friends and be supportive. After all, who cares whose name is attached to anything? How about just putting our pack name on there – The Community. We all have a stake in the changes that are made each day. So, let’s take away the credit by giving us all the credit. And let’s live a little bit more like dogs. Because, what a wonderful fulfilling life that would be.

Keep calm and pilot on

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

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


Flower Power

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them – A.A. Milne

There’s a lot of reasons I like SNL. I love the talent, the laughs and the thought that anything can happen when they’re on stage. But, what I love most is seeing the guest stars show a different side to themselves.

Seeing tough guy Robert DeNiro singing with Kermit the Frog warmed my heart and makes you realize he’s just another person. In fact, he kinda makes you want to hug him without fear.

Live From New York….

Watching the dead pan Christopher Walken ask for more cowbell made you see a side of him that probably made your sides hurt from laughing.

Then there’s the time that Peyton Manning showed us he had a goofy side when he danced like a crazy man in the locker room with Will Forte.

Break it down Peyton…

Sometimes, it takes us seeing someone in a different light for us to truly understand what they’re like. It causes us to reevaluate our current feelings of someone and change them.

That’s exactly what photographer Sophie Gamand is trying to do. She’s a pitbull advocate and is using her skill as a photographer to help people see these dogs in a different light than they’re used to. Sometimes, it takes an artistic and different approach to change minds. Even if it’s just one person’s mind it’s worth it. Check out her take on pitbulls here. The pictures are beautiful, soft and invoke a sense of peace and calm. Just like pitbulls.

Sometimes, the louder you raise your voice, the less people listen. It’s coming up with peaceful and creative approaches to changing others’ minds that is the most efficient way to make a difference.

 Keep calm and pilot on

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


Off with you! You’re a happy fellow, for you’ll give happiness and joy to many other people. There is nothing better or greater than that!

 - Ludwig van Beethoven

In the words of Beethoven, "huh?"

In the words of Beethoven, “huh?”

I’m a nerd.  Really.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, you really haven’t been reading many of my posts, have you?  Well, this post shouldn’t shock you either.

Too much?

Too much?

Something happened today that made me want to listen to Beethoven (we’ll get to the incident in a moment).  Specifically, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, hailed as perhaps one of the greatest pieces of music ever composed.  I’m sure you know it, or at least how it starts out.  The same five notes, over and over, twisted around new forms, altering their tone, tempo, or sound, but constantly, those same four notes.  It’s very moving in a dark, desperate kind of way.  Almost chaotic. 

Dark and terrible.  That’s what most people think of when the Beethoven’s 5th comes to mind. We’ve seen its resonance as the heroine runs through the dark forest only to trip and fall as Some Dark Figure approaches.  We’ve heard it playing as we do our taxes.  Perhaps we’ve heard it as background on a war documentary.  It feels passionately hopeless.

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So that’s what imagery is conjured up by Beethoven’s terribly magnificent 5th Symphony.  The first movement.  See, there are four movements.  But we’ll get to those in a moment.  Now, on to what made me think of Beethoven.  Meet Beethoven.

Not what you wanted to see?  Me neither.

Not what you wanted to see? Me neither.

This Beethoven has had a tremendously horrific life thus far.  He was found in Cleveland this week by a good Samaritan who brought him to All Dogs Heaven.  He weighed 36 lbs. His body temperature was 94 degrees (99-102 is considered normal).  I will spare you the visuals of his condition, but suffice it to say his limbs look like hamburger meat.  He can’t walk. If he makes it, it will be a long, difficult journey.

He made me think of those famous first four notes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.  This Beethoven has had the same four notes playing his entire life.  Pain. Hunger. Terror.  Loneliness.  Over and over again, swelling and cresting, but constant companions.  Pain. Hunger. Terror. Loneliness.

But did you know about the other 3 movements in Beethoven’s 5th?

The second sounds like what I imagine Beethoven must have felt when someone finally slowed their car down as they passed him huddled in the street, temperatures below zero.  It must have sounded like one little glimmer of hope as a woman, sobbing over his condition, gently cradled him as she placed him tenderly into her warm car.  Just a tiny little sliver, but nevertheless a break in the excruciating four notes that had thus far filled his days.

Huddled in the backseat of the car, he was then transported to a vet, who initially had to leave the room to composer herself before she could start to treat his wretched condition. Tender hands working to console him, care for him, love him. The third movement of Beethoven’s 5th.  Pain, Hunger, Terror, Loneliness is starting to melt away into something else.  Uncertainty? Maybe.  Pain?  Still there.  But so were friends.  Beethoven’s tail started to wag (and 2 days later still hasn’t stopped!).  Food is replacing the hunger.  Certainty is replacing the dreadful unknown.



A scratch behind the ear.  Love. Affection.  Our furry little Beethoven is about to enter into the 4th and final movement, which is the sound of rebirth.  He’s only just started, a few moments into the final movement, and he needs your help!  His medical bills will be quite staggering, and his rescuer is quite burdened with other fosters in her care.

Beethoven needs his final movement played.  At least given the chance to hear his symphony end with triumph instead of those same callous four notes he’s been hearing his entire life!  Please consider making a donation to his cause by clicking here.  All donations go directly to his care.  Let’s help him discover that last movement of the greatest symphony of all time.



Ludwig von Beethoven gave birth to what was the greatest era of music:  Romanticism.  He embodied perfection in composition.  Our little Beethoven?  He embodies every dog. His inability to give up.  His endurance despite desperate circumstances.  But most importantly, the beauty of living here and now, in the moment, and despite all he has survived so far, to have enough hope to start to wag his tail.  I for one would like to hear his triumphant finale rather than an unfinished and discarded masterpiece.

Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

10 Ways to Help Your Local Shelter

Porter, adopted from Multiple Breed Rescue in Elyria, OH Brittany Graham Photography

Porter, adopted from Multiple Breed Rescue in Elyria, OH
Brittany Graham Photography

 The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We’re all animal lovers. Really, why would you be reading this blog if you weren’t? So, I’m guessing we all want to do our part to help. Here’s a list of 10 things you can do to help out your local rescue or shelter. Not all require a lot of time or money. So, take a look, pick a rescue/shelter and get helping!

 1.Volunteer Your Time

So, we’ll start with the obvious ones. You know how it’s a new year and we all made some of those resolution things? Well, maybe one of yours was to volunteer more. So, GO OUT AND DO IT! Visit your local shelter or rescue’s website and see what requirements they have for volunteers. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to foster, it could just mean you get to go in and walk and play with pups and cats. Which, in my book, is pretty fantastic.

2. Adopt!

Another obvious option. If you have thought about adopting and have made your list on what you’re looking for in a new family member and have come to the conclusion that right now is a good time for a new addition, make sure you’re adopting! This doesn’t mean you have to go to the first shelter you find on an internet search. There are a ton of options in the Cleveland area alone as well as some great rescues out there. Take some time to look around and find what feels right for you and your family.

Sadie, adopted from the Cleveland APL

Sadie, adopted from the Cleveland APL

3. Spread the Word

Talk your local shelters and rescues up! If you have a friend that mentions that they’re looking into adding a dog or cat to their family, make sure you mention the adoption option! Talk about all the great best friends that come out of shelters and rescues.

You can also spread the word without ever leaving your house or getting dressed! Seriously! Follow your local shelters and rescues on Facebook and share those dogs that are looking for new homes. You never know who is going to see a dog and fall in love instantly. It could be a friend of a friend of a cousin, or it could be your next door neighbor. But share away! This is so helpful for shelters and gets those dogs’ and cats’ faces out there to be seen by their potential new family.

4. Amazon Wish List

Many times shelters and rescues have Amazon Wish Lists. It’s this great little place on Amazon where local shelters and rescues can add the items that they need to run a great temporary home for these dogs and cats. Items can range from toys and treats, to GPS’s. It’s a great way to have the items sent straight to the shelter and they’re getting exactly what they want. Again, this option is great if you don’t want to leave the house or get dressed. Click here to see The Cuyahoga County’s Amazon Wish List.

 Brittany Graham Photography

Pete and Tank, adopted from the Cleveland APLBrittany Graham Photography 

5. Amazon Smile

This is a great little tool as well and doesn’t cost you any money! Seriously! So, you know how you end up ordering a bunch of things from Amazon? Some needed, some not so much, but all seemed so necessary at the time of purchase? Well, if you join Amazon Smile, 0.5% of your purchase total can go towards a charity of your choice! I’m serious! Next time you sign into Amazon, go ahead and do a search for Amazon Smile. All you have to do is sign up and pick which charity you want to donate to! A lot of local rescues and shelters are on the list. It’s a great way for them to get some extra donations and you to feel better about those impulse buys!

6. WoofTrax

This is a great little App for your phone. Since you’re all giving your dogs the PAW that they need, that means that you’re also going for lots of walks with your dog. Well, this little handy app will actually donate to a rescue or shelter of your choice for every mile you walk with your dog! Just start the app on the beginning of your walk and it will record the distance that you and your pup have covered. Now, the amount they donate changes as the money that they donate comes from sponsors, advertisers and investors, however, anything will help!

Don’t have a dog? Guess what- you can still walk and help your shelter/rescue of choice! There is as Walk for Cassie option which allows you to walk on your own and still counts your mileage towards a donation. It’s a great idea and the more people walking for your shelter/rescue the better. So spread the word!

You can download the app by visiting their site here.

Bowie, adopted from Berea Animal Rescue Friends Brittany Graham Photography

Bowie, adopted from Berea Animal Rescue Friends
Brittany Graham Photography

7. Start a Donation Drive

This doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Set up a box at work or with your friends and ask people to donate some pet items. Treats, toys, collars, leashes, blankets…. Quite honestly the list is endless. Then, take a trip out to your local rescue or shelter and donate all the items you’ve collected. They’ll be beyond grateful and you’ll feel good about the situation as well.

8. Show Your Gratitude

Quite simply – say thank you. If you see a volunteer say thank you. Tell them how much you appreciate the work they do. This can be in person, a letter or a Facebook review. Let them know the community is behind them and what they do touches all of our lives.

Molly, adopted from Muttley Crew Brittany Graham Photography

Molly, adopted from Muttley Crew
Brittany Graham Photography

9. Throw a Benefit Party

This doesn’t have to be as crazy as you might think. Seriously. You know that Super Bowl party you just had? What if you asked everyone to donate $5 when they walked in the door for your favorite local rescue or shelter. So, invite everyone over for a get together and tell your friends you’ll provide some food and that you’re collecting donations and why. At the end of the night, tally the money up and write out a check to the rescue/shelter you’ve chosen. You had a great time, your friends had a great time, and the shelter will be so thankful.

10. Show off your own Rescue Dog

Have a rescue dog? Show him off! Whenever someone says how cute he is or how well behaved she is tell them about where you adopted them from! They can be an ambassador just like you can!

Keep calm and pilot on

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