Rescued or Rescuing, All Dogs Bring Joy

 “The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.”
M.K. Clinton

 

Here at Darwin Dogs, we have a special affinity for those dogs that go above and beyond.  Yes, all dogs are heroes (from the quiet comfort they give when you’re grieving a loss, or just the strong companionship they give to those who feel shut out from the world), but some are able to really show their heroism in some truly remarkable ways.

Jenny Holt,  who described herself to me as a mother and dog owner, described a story to me.  As she put it: “I’m an Italiophile (is that a word?) and love to go on vacation there whenever possible, so when I heard about the earthquake last year, I paid attention. Then I read about Leo and Sarotti, two earthquake rescue dogs, how they helped villagers trapped after the quake and also how some dogs tried to warn them of the impending tremor. “

The story of Leo and Sarotti is incredible: finding children who had been trapped in the rubble of destroyed towns after the children had been buried for close to a day.  Finding a child in seconds after searching had been looking for hours to find a lost child.  No wonder Holt was captured by the heroics of these dogs.  As she put it:

Dogs are simply amazing. They shower us with so much affection, provide loving companionship and go out of their way to help and rescue others. It is this unconditional love that dogs have for humans that make them wonderful in so many ways. Your furry animals are not only smart, but also have several desirable qualities that make them so special. They are loyal, affectionate and intelligent. Pooches also possess an incredible sense of duty and compassion that make them perfect rescue animals.

Whether dogs are being rescued or save fellow canines and humans from perilous situations, heartwarming tales of them are concrete evidence of an infinite amount of love and affection that they have. Read and enjoy the wonderful stories of how dogs have helped in many different cases from leading troops to safety in wars and catching a spy to recovering lost pets and delivering badly-needed medical supplies to remote and impassable areas.

A much-needed read on a tension-filled day such as today.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

About Scrappy…

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

- Neil Gaiman

Scrappy and Aleeyah

Scrappy and Aleeah

I think we can all agree that 2016 was a dumpster-fire-shit-show.  To end all shit-shows.  We were all glad to see it end, and we’re ready to start 2017 with that gleam in our eye: hope that we can, and will, do better.  Hope that we can make positive changes in our lives and in the lives of others.

Looking back at 2016, there were a few key moments that stand out for me, but the biggest one was when so many citizens answered a plea for help.  A little girl with cystic fibrosis was about to lose her best friend.  Her grandmother explained that the dog was a pitte, and that she had unknowingly brought a banned dog into her house when she allowed her son and granddaughter to move in with the dog.  The dog and the sick girl, Aleeah, were bonded, and that bond was important, because Scrappy is what helped Aleeah sit through her daily treatments for cystic fibrosis, a disease that will ultimately claim her life at a very young age.

So we fought.  Against Breed Specific Legislation; against discrimination, and against a disease that will take a girl’s life.  And against everyone’s best hopes, we won. Scrappy and Aleeah were allowed to stay together!  Clemency was granted for Scrappy (from a crime he never committed), but still!  A pitbull was allowed in Lakewood, Ohio!

Photo courtesy of cleveland.com

Photo courtesy of cleveland.com

We came together as a community to protect our most vulnerable citizens:  our children and our animals.

Almost a full year went by, and then I saw this:

 

Yup...it's Scrappy

Yup…it’s Scrappy.  On Craigslist.

Needless to say, I was absolutely horrified.  We had rallied around Scrappy and Aleeah, believing that we were fighting The Good Fight.  Believing we had won The Good Fight.  Our petition on Change.or had received almost 150,000 signatures and gained international attention.  Now it was all for nothing.  A worthless fight for a dog whose owner was rehoming him.

Or was it?

Certainly Scrappy is still in need of saving, but what about those of us who fought for him?  What did we fight for?  An end to BSL.  And end to the false stigma of the “aggressive, bloodthirsty” pitbull.  To show that pitties are a breed of dog, and just like any other breed of dog, capable of incredible highs and terrible lows.  In other words, to make a difference, that’s what we fought for.  And did we win?

Absolutely.

We rallied against an unfair and unjust law and we won.  We stood together as one, with a common goal and we won.  We managed to get a pitbull into Lakewood, a city with a strict and discrimintory law against dogs like Scrappy.  And yes, Scrappy is most likely leaving, but we didn’t fail.  We won.  And we did it: together. We’ve shown that many calm but firm voices standing together in our conviction can be stronger than discrimination.  Than ignorance.  We proved that we are a strong community and that we can, and will fight for those in our community.

We did it together.  

Because Scrappy isn’t leaving due to his behavior.  He didn’t maul a small child (sorry to disappoint you supporters of BSL).  He didn’t do anything negative.  He was a positive example of what a pit bull is:  a dog.  He’s a dog who loves his little girl.  He’s a dog who doesn’t know (yet) that he’s about to be re-homed. All he knows is that he has a job to do, and he will continue to do it as long has he can: love his family, take care of Aleeah, and just be the best he can be.

It can be difficult not to pass judgment on his owner, but let’s also remember this: she went to bat for Aleeah’s dog.  She hired an attorney to fight the BSL.  She fenced in her yard as per the law director conditions of keeping Scrappy in Lakewood.   She did the best she could with what she had: a dog that she didn’t pick out, that was dumped on her. So while this hurts me that his owner won’t be keeping him, this doesn’t reflect badly on pitties.  If anything, it’s just another stunning example of how pit bulls are still the dogs that love and will be loyal to their families, regardless of the amount of loyalty that they receive from their owners in return.   So rather than allowing this to be something that drives a wedge in our pittie community, let’s turn it into something positive.

We got a pitbull in Lakewood, and he behaved exactly as a pitbull would: with love and devotion.  Thank you, Scrappy, for all you’ve done to unite us, and for all you’ve done for your little girl, Aleeah.

Keep calm

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Lakewood, Ohio

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.

Tanks!

…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 Sunday, January 8 from 12-3 we will be protesting against Tom Collins and Petland for their animal rights violations.  Please join us on Sunday, January 8, 2017 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 revolution of such blatant animal rights abuses.  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

My Other Kids

Raising children is a creative endeavor, an art rather than a science.
- Bruno Bettelheim

I had a parent a few weeks ago ask me if I knew how to train kids.  I find the question funny both because I hear that a lot, and because there really isn’t much difference between raising kids and raising dogs.  Neither are (fully) domesticated, both emit strange odors, and each are a joy to come home to, regardless of what kind of mischief they’ve gotten into in the past few hours.  To answer the parent’s question, I sent her this article from last Christmas.

1546318_963648480331824_9123469569825680319_n

I dragged my kids (Eric, 9 and River, 7) yesterday to Jo-Ann’s.  That’s right up there on the “fun-o-meter” as tire shopping for them.  I spent about 20 minutes trying to find what it was that I needed.  They stuck right by me.  As they passed in front of someone standing in an aisle, they politely said, “Excuse me”.  As we left, the cashier wished me a happy holiday.  I wished her the same thing.  My children chimed in with “Have a great day!”.  They followed me out to the car, with Eric automatically taking River’s hand to help her across the parking lot.  I put on their favorite song in the car, to which the both said, “Thank you” as soon as the first few notes became recognizable.

Magic?  DNA jackpot?  Nope.  Repetition, repetition, repetition.  My children know what good manners are and are able to execute them because of a couple of factors.

  • I set them up for success.  River has problems behaving if she hasn’t had enough protein.  Eric can become overwhelmed in crowds.  Both are very hyper and need outlets for their energy.  If I take River to the store right before lunch after she’s been on the computer all morning, well, then, it’s my fault if she “misbehaves”, isn’t it?  I know the parameters within which she’s capable of behaving.  If I drag her outside that area, how is she supposed to behave?  It’s like taking a car off the road and into a lake, and then wondering why it isn’t working properly.
  • I give a negative when necessary.  I don’t like people being dismissed, be it a waitress, cashier or any other individual, for that matter.  I want my children to have the same mind-set.  That person behind the counter isn’t a robot, they are a human, and worthy of good manners.  Sometimes when I’d be completing a transaction, my children’s minds would float off.  The clerk would wish me a good day, and I’d thank them and wish them well.  My children would sometimes forget to reply in kind.  ”Excuse me?”, I would say to them, giving them an opportunity to fix their omission. They usually give the appropriate response at that point. Sometimes a bit more negative is necessary.  The other day, both kids were being little wretches in the car.  They had been set up for success, as I described above, but they started bickering in the car.  I reminded them twice that this behavior was unacceptable.  They started again.  They each lost use of their computers for two days as a result.  No, I don’t like doing that to them, but my job as a parent isn’t to always like what I do: it’s to parent.  I don’t enjoy taking my kids to the doctor for vaccinations and causing them (temporary) discomfort, but it’s for the greater good, so I yuck it up and do it anyway.
  • I praise/reward behavior that I want.  How much does a word of praise cost you?  Nothing.  When my children passed in front of the person in the aisle at Jo-Ann’s and used good manners, I complimented them on their manners.  When we got to the car, I put on their favorite song as a tiny reward for their behavior in purgatory Jo-Ann’s.  I do expect good manners from them, but manners can become linked with a positive.  In their minds, being well-behaved can get them anything from a word of praise (often) to a trip for ice-cream (less often, but still feasible).  Manners are good because when used, something good usually happens.
River and Eric at their favorite ice-cream shop.

River and Eric at their favorite ice-cream shop.

Pretty soon my kids were on auto-pilot.  They can fly through most situations without prompts from me, navigating the complexities of manners quite nicely.  Until the day I die, I will still compliment them on their manners whenever presented the opportunity to do so.  Again, what does a kind word cost you?  Nothing.

So you’re probably wondering, When does this article start to talk about dogs?  Isn’t that why I’m here?  Who’s to say I haven’t been talking about our canine companions the whole time?  Raising dogs and kids, to some degree, isn’t much different.

river2

  • I set them up for success.  Cody is a 9-month old Labradoodle.Labradoodle (n.) – Latin for perpetual motion.  See also: Hyperactivity.  Frivolity.Cody is an exceptionally sweet, kind, and loving animal. But at this young age, he has a very distinct set of circumstances that need to be adhered to to attain good behavior. For example, right now Cody is contentedly sleeping on the floor by my feet as I work on my computer.  This didn’t just happen.  I knew I needed to get some work done today, so Cody got an extra does of the PAW Method.  I gave him his Activity when we went for an extra long walk while wearing his backpack.  We then handled his Work needs by working on some new tricks with him and then feeding him through his enrichment feeder.  He is set up for success now.
  • I give a negative when necessary.  I’m ready to work, but Cody starts asking me a lot of questions:

    Can I play with the cat?  No.  Can I throw my ball around? No.  Can I play with the cat?  No.

I will continue to answer his questions as he asks them.  The first time he asks me about the cat, I use gentle negative body language from my seated position.  The next time he asks, I get up and “claim” the cat with my body, using much stronger body language.  Cody’s response?  Okay! Got it…so that’s a “no” on the cat then, right?

  • I praise/reward behavior that I want. Cody grabs a chew toy and plops down by my feet.  That’s a couple different positives I need to address there: he’s calmed himself down, and he’s redirected himself in an appropriate manner (the chew toy).  I give him a few seconds to “settle in” to this behavior, and then I gently start scratching his head.  He doubles down on the chew toy, so I up my ante and start to give him some very gentle very softly-spoken praise (I want him calm, so riling him up would be my bad).  He continues along the righteous path.  I stop petting him so I can start working, but every few minutes give him a word of gentle praise.  Pretty soon he drops his chew toy and puts his head down.  He’s ready to sleep.  I whip out the big guns:  a single Cheerio.  Cody is in the process of learning what’s acceptable behavior.  He needs to have his positive behaviors marked with a pretty strong positive.  That’s how he learns what we want from him.  Catching the moment.  I try to catch as many of his moments as I can, which means a lot of Touch, Talk, Treat.  He’d get sick on so many larger treats, so I use Cheerios.  Eventually, I’ll start to wean off the treats and focus on touch and talk.  But for now, he’s still learning.

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It’s a process.  I expect mistakes (mostly from me).  It’s difficult, but oh so rewarding.  I don’t expect perfection; that’s only at the end of the rainbow.  What you’re working for is much more precious than perfection:  you’re working towards being a family.  That’s even better than perfection.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Touch of Grey

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
– Mark Twain

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

I just got home from my third puppy session this week.  I’m exhausted.  Puppies are the worst.  Don’t get me wrong… I love puppies!  They’re adorable, entertaining and so stinkin’ cute!  I guess I just like other people’s puppies. Personally, I wil most likely never own a puppy again, because under that exterior lies an un-housebroken, hyper, destructive little beastie.

It's all fun and games until someone chews a shoe.

It’s all fun and games until someone chews a shoe.

Puppy sessions are easy in the sense that I know I won’t have to deal with aggressive behavior (usually).  I know I can hang out on the floor with the little demon angel and play while I work with the owners.  I also like knowing that people are getting of on the right start with a puppy by having it trained and knowing how to avoid problems in the future with a little effort starting now.  But let’s face it:  puppies are just…exhausting.

The PAW Method is rooted in the belief that dogs can ask questions:  “Can I eat this?”  ”Can we play now?”  ”Can we cuddle?” and that it’s up to you to answer their questions in a way they understand and doesn’t require force nor bribery.  You Pilot them to answer their questions, which puts “money” in your Piloting Piggy Bank.  The more “money” you have, the easier it is to Pilot your dog.  Which brings us to puppies.

Puppies don’t have a lot of money in their own piggy banks, so it’s not tremendously difficult to get that money out.  It’s just constant.  Like furry little toddlers, they scamper around asking questions about everything (integral to their learning, but highly annoying). And just like toddlers, they’ll ask a question, accept the answer only to immediately ask The Same Question.

How about now?

How about now?

So yeah, puppies have very little “money” in their Piloting Piggy Bank, but even when you Pilot it out of them, they can refill it faster than you can say, “But how about now?”.

Of course, in the words of Shakespeare, “This too, shall pass.”  Puppies grow out of their little toddler stage, they being to gain some sanity, and you don’t have to watch them like a weeping angel.

tennant

Or you’ll poop in the hallway AGAIN.

So puppies are adorable, but they are so much work!

“But I wanted to get my kids a puppy for the holidays/their birthday”, you may say.  That’s all fine and dandy but are you ready for the work that a puppy entails?  The work that your children say they will help you with but in reality won’t?  Didn’t think so.  So consider this: adopt a senior dog.

Now I know you want that whole Hallmark moment of a puppy in a box with a bow, and the accompanying chorus of “awwww…”.  But there are many reasons why the better choice may be a senior dog.

.

1) Senior Dogs Aren’t Usually “Old”.

I know…it doesn’t make sense.  But remember, a lot of dogs are considered seniors at just 5 years old.  For a smaller dog whose life expectancy can be around 15 years…., well, let’s just say that would make me more of a senior citizen than that dog!

2) Senior Dogs are Usually Housebroken.

Obviously this is not always the case, and even housebroken adults can have a few accidents in a new house during their adjustment period.  But that’s a far cry from a puppy who goes every two hours, yet somehow still leaves you looking for paper towels and cleaner.

3) Senior Dogs Have “Been There” and “Done That”.

Yes, it’s totes adorbs to take your new puppy on their first adventure to the park.  To the pet store.  To the vet…but after the 1,224th “new adventure”, the constant questions and wrangling of a quick-as-lightening puppy can get tedious as they find new and innovative ways to get into trouble.  Your senior dog?  He’s already been to the park numerous times, and is more interested in your company during the hike, rather than investigating that hornets’ nest nestled near that tree.

senior 1

4) Senior Dogs Can Focus.

Remember how organized and rational your thoughts were as a child?  Remember how you could focus on anyth-….hey wanna ride bikes?!  Yeah, me neither.  Older dogs aren’t wrestling with their need to explore Everything All At Once.   Meaning it’s often easier to teach an old dog new tricks, rather than working with your kinetic little puppy who…wait….where did the puppy wander off to now?!

5) Senior Dogs Have Little Hope of Finding Homes

shelters

Let’s face it: everyone wants “this year’s model”.  Grey isn’t cherished and revered anymore.  Puppies fly out of shelters, while the senior dogs look on, not knowing that they most likely won’t ever see the inside of a home again.  Simply giving a senior dog the chance to love, and be loved, when everyone else overlooked them…well, isn’t that the greatest gift of all?

So re-think what it means to bring a new best friend into your home and into your children’s lives.  While I will always love my puppy sessions, it’s truly the sessions with the “new” old dog that I cherish.  Because the love I see in the eyes of a senior dog, that kind of love only grows greater with age.

marcella

Marcella, is a super sweet, friendly senior available through Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter. She’s 8 years 3 months 9 days old. Just right!

 

5 years 2 months 19 days

Canberra looks like he’d make the perfect hiking companion at 5 years 2 months 19 days.  What a face!  He is available through Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter.

Gucci is 7 years 2 months into looking for a forever home.  Sweet companion, he's available through Cleveland APL

Gucci is 7 years 2 months into looking for a forever home. Sweet companion, he’s available through Cleveland APL

Delilah is a 15 year old former beauty queen who wonders why she all alone.  She is available through Cleveland APL.

Delilah is a 15 year old former beauty queen who wonders why she all alone. She is available through Cleveland APL.

 

Sanctuary for Senior Dogs is truly a beacon of hope for dogs who have been "thrown away" by owners because they are "outdated"  Please consider a donation to their worthy endeavor.

Sanctuary for Senior Dogs is truly a beacon of hope for dogs who have been “thrown away” by owners because they are “outdated” Please consider a donation to their worthy endeavor.

As Garcia sang:
Oh well a Touch Of Grey
Kind of suits you anyway
That was all I had to say 
It’s all right…

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

Dogma

Fanaticism comes from any form of chosen blindness accompanying the pursuit of a single dogma.  - John Berger

mollyI was with a friend and her friend the other day, and we (of course) started talking about dogs.  My friend’s friend, who we will call Donna, was talking about a dog she has.  Or rather, about the judgment she receives from many different sources about her even owning a dog.  I don’t know Donna well, and have only met her twice, so I instinctively braced myself for the barrage of atrocities she must be visiting upon said dog.  With anger already rising, I asked her why she shouldn’t own a dog.

“Because I work”, was her reply.

I thought I didn’t hear her correctly.  I verified this answer.  Yes, she was being judged for not being a stay-at-home dog mom.

Now, let’s get a little bit more in-depth.  Certainly that couldn’t be the end of it.  Perhaps she was in a position, say such as a nurse or fireman, who wasn’t home for extended hours during the day, and hadn’t made proper arrangements for the dog’s care during those hours.

Nope.  Bankers hours. She owns an older, very low energy dog, who she happens to leave home alone while she works during the day.

I see this type of judgment much more than I care to.  Someone isn’t able to give all the luxuries to their pet that others can.  Such as having a someone home most of the day.  Being able to afford a more expensive, premium brand of food.  Using a low-cost clinic rather than the up-town vet.  Perhaps we need to go over a few things here.  Some uncomfortable truths.

1. Your world can’t revolve around your dog.

Sure, it would be lovely if you were able to stay home and cater to your dog’s every whim.  I know I would have a blast with 4 walks a day, 2 sessions of agility and 1 marathon grooming session every day.

or Shepherd, or Akita...

or Shepherd, or Akita…

But the reality is I work.  Bigger reality is that part of the money I earn by working goes for the care of my dog.  In other words, if I am unable to work, my dog is unable to eat, go to the vet, etc.  I’m the first to admit that due to the hours I work, and my ability to make my own schedule, I have enormous flexibility with my pets’ care.  Other don’t. They are doing the best they can with what they have.  So when one of my clients nervously admits that their dog is crated for 8-9 hours a day while they work, I say “Good for you!”.  Not because of the length of time their dog is crated, but because that dog isn’t in a shelter, kennel, or worse.  They are patiently waiting to be spoiled rotten when their owner comes home after a long day of work, ready to give hugs and kisses to them to ease the stress of their human’s day.  Dogs still love their owner, and aren’t angry. Instead, they are grateful for what they have: a home, a human, food, shelter, and above all, love.

2. A good home isn’t about income, fenced in yard, or how clean your house is.

I am the proud parent of two human children, two cats, and two dogs.  My human children I was allowed to have and raise without any input from anyone.  As long as I didn’t neglect nor abuse them, people just roll their eyes when you do/don’t allow too much/too little screen time.  When you do/don’t feed organic food.  When you do/don’t have viola lessons 2x week per kid.

The reality is that we are much more judgment about who is allowed to have a pet.  Which is ridiculous.

According to the SPCA, “Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats).”

Let me repeat that number for you:  2.7 million animals are euthanized 

And you’re worried that I don’t have a fenced-in yard?  That the dog will be home alone for too long during the day?  What that translates to is a dog is better off dead than in a home where he will be crated 8 hours a day.  Maybe not Rex that’s currently up for adoption, but Rex is taking up a spot that Cooper needs.  See, Cooper is scheduled to be euthanized tomorrow due to overcrowding at a local shelter.  You can neither create nor destroy matter, which means we can not just will another open kennel in a shelter.  There’s only so much room on the Ark, and not everyone is going to make it.  Cooper won’t make it because Rex still hasn’t found the perfect home.

Some disillusionment needs to happen.  There is no such thing as a perfect home.  Even if there were, we don’t have time to find the perfect home.  There are too many animals dying.  We can’t wait to adopt animals out to the perfect home; we are doing triage.  And the longer Rex sits waiting for that mythical “perfect home” the more dogs will die as a result.

In order for a home to be perfect, there has to be love, and an ability to care for an animal, which means food, shelter, water and exercise.  So Agatha, the potential adopter is 83 years old ad wants to adopt a 1-year old mixed breed named Finn.  Yes. Most likely Agatha will be dead before Finn is even 8 years old, but guess what?  Finn will be dead by this time next week if she doesn’t adopt him.  Even in the worst case scenario, where after Agatha has gone and nobody steps up to take Finn, who is subsequently euthanized, Finn will have had a great life.  Shorter than it should have been, but so much longer and fulfilling than one week at a shelter before being euthanized.  Agatha has also opened up a cage for another dog by adopting Finn.

And Finn helped Agatha live longer, more independently.  It’s a virtuous cycle.  Funny how love works.

- Brittany Graham Photography

– Brittany Graham Photography

3. That’s the wrong breed of dog for you.

Nobody has ever told me that my children are the wrong breed for me.  That my daughter has too much Viking-Finnish blood from her father for me to handle.  Or that since my son’s background is completely unknown (as he’s adopted), I shouldn’t take a risk on him.

Why do we do that with dogs?

I thought we had come to a point in our society where we stopped looking at what a person is, but rather who that person is.  We’re not perfect, but we’re getting there, I guess.  Slower than I like, but we’re picking up speed.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch, too.  From this:

ruby

Ruby Bridges, entering William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans on November 14, 1960 with armed guards.

To this:

I don't care if you do/don't like him personally.  Our first black president was born 1 year after six-year old Ruby bravely stood up to end segregation.

I really don’t care if you want him impeached or if you want him for a third term; our first black president was born 1 year after little Ruby bravely stood up to end segregation.

We are growing as a society to look past ethnicity…to even embrace our differences in culture, religion and gender.  But somehow that ends when it comes to adopting out a dog.

We look at what a dog is (boxer, pittie/chihuahua) rather than who a dog is (friendly/shy/in-between).  When we judge a dog by its breed, rather than its character, we all lose.  Dogs languish in cages because Akitas are hard to handle (maybe… if you’re talking about handling all that fur…).  Pitties are aggressive (about as aggressive as a human…meaning they are each unique but vastly non-hostile).  Mastiffs drool (okay, got me there *shudder*).

If I can handle my little Viking child, let’s at least give the family of four a chance to pick out their own dog regardless of breed, and respect that they probably know more about their situation in life and ability to care for a dog than you do. By all means, give any facts or information you have on the individual dog to the family, or perhaps known health issues (prevalence of hip dysplasia, etc) but let them process the information and make a decision.

Boots and Bee Photography

Boots and Bee Photography

So back to my acquaintance, Donna, and the horrible, wretched life she is imposing by leaving her dog home alone for 8-9 hours per day, as well as all of you who actually work for a living:  You’re doing just fine.  You’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got, and you should never apologize for it, nor should you be made to feel like a villain.  Donna, you are an incredible mother to your dog.  The best dog mom or “dog-ma” there is, just like all of us who are working with what we’ve been given.  And nailing it.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

I’ll Just Call Him a Companion Animal

Here at Darwin Dogs, we love guest blog posts!  We firmly believe in sharing information, and that education is meant to be shared and utilized by us all.  Regan Brown’s thoughts on  companion animals is one such example.  

You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.

- William S. Burroughs

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Mental health care is slowly gaining ground in Western society. People are more able to openly receive the treatment they need without fear of judgment from others. Of course, we haven’t hit the point of acceptance we as a society should. People who struggle with their mental health are too often accused of faking their symptoms or lying to get what they want. One of the hottest topics for the ongoing debate about mental health care is companion animals.

A companion animal is defined as a pet that provides some form of health benefit for their owner. As these animals are considered a “prescription” of sorts, they are granted legal rights other pets may not have. For example, a companion animal has the right to live with the owner, regardless of the residence’s policies.

If you have a pet and have attempted to move to a rental home, you may have considered exploiting this companion animal policy. If you think this is an acceptable action, continue reading.

People who legitimately use a companion animal have a health concern. Most often, that concern is related to mental health though animals can certainly benefit physical health as well. These animals provide stress reduction in people with anxiety, depression, and other common mental health problems. Dog in particular are known to reduce depression, encourage physical fitness, and provide comfort when their owner is having an episode. In short, these pets are needed for the overall wellbeing of their owners.

 

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Now let’s say you own a dog that, of course, you enjoy and would like to live with. You call up your doctor and easily acquire a tentative diagnosis for depression or anxiety which is all you need to provide your pet companion animal status. You laugh about how easy it was to work the system and spread the word to your friends.

A few of your friends in similar situations also decide to get their pets companion animal status. Then they tell their friends, pleased with this new trick. Suddenly hundreds of pets are now considered “companion animal” when in actuality their owners have no health issues whatsoever and have merely decided to utilize a law to their benefit.

A woman who suffers from severe anxiety and chronic panic attacks shows up to an apartment manager’s office, clutching a companion animal letter. Her dog stays close to her side, occasionally offering up a comforting nudge or lick. Simply entering the office and greeting a stranger already has her chest tight and palms sweaty but the presence of the dog beside her keeps her steady. The manager scoffs and accuses the woman trying to get her dog into a pet-free apartment with no good reason. The manager knows this because he’s dealt with “people like her” before.

You recline in your new apartment just a few doors down from the manager’s office. Your lease was signed a few months ago with a companion animal letter attached. You wear a smug grin for having finagled your way into this beautiful, pet-free apartment alongside your “companion animal”. He lies out on the floor, fast asleep, offering you no comfort, no depression relief, and is unlikely to spring to your side if you were to have a panic attack.

Meanwhile, outside your building, the woman and her dog have just stepped over the threshold. She drops down into a hunched ball, trying to slow her rapid breathing. Her dog puts his paws on her back, the pressure working to control the panic attack induced by the manager’s harsh, unsympathetic response to her condition. She will go on to repeat this process again and again with several other apartment managers, because all of them have seen too many people like you.

When people take advantage of progressive laws that allow a person to tend to their mental health, suddenly those with genuine illnesses cannot be taken seriously. If you spoke to five people who claimed to have anxiety and one who actually had it, how likely are you to believe that one person? Not very.

Before you abuse a policy for personal gain, take a moment to consider how your actions affect those the policy was put in place for. Don’t call your dog a companion animal just to put an apartment manager in a legal bind. Take some extra time and find a pet-friendly alternative because you have the luxury of living life without mental illness.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Regan Brown is a content writer and pet parent with a vested interest in social issues. She spends most of her time crocheting and keeping Thistle, her Chihuahua’s, Instagram up to date but plans to pursue a Master’s in Heritage Tourism. With her Bachelor’s in Anthropology complete, she and her dog are currently in the process of becoming world travelers.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

I Can’t Keep Him Anymore

You and I will meet again, When we’re least expecting it, One day in some far off place, I will recognize your face, I won’t say goodbye my friend, For you and I will meet again.

Tom Petty
2-12-14(2)

An open letter to my dog’s new caretaker.  Not every relationship is forever.

I’d like to introduce you to my dog Darwin.  He’s a great dog.  I just can’t keep him here.  I know you’ll do a better job of caring for him, and I know he’ll be happy with you. I really don’t want to say goodbye to him, but I guess I must.  As I said, I can’t keep him here.

Before you take him, there are a few things I’d like you to know about my best friend.  I’ll never meet you before you take him, so I thought I’d write them out for you.  Please pay attention, these are important:

1) Never, ever, EVER leave him unleashed near any amount of water.  That goes for anything from the size of Lake Erie to that rut in the middle of your lawn that sometimes fills with water when it rains.  He will wallow in it like a pig.

2-12-14

Actually, scratch what I just wrote.  Some of my favorites memories of Darwin are of him wallowing in the mud, with a silly smile on his face, tail wagging.  Enjoy those times, too.  If you can’t find the humor in those moments, you don’t deserve my dog.

2) Darwin’s not as fast as he used to be.  He doesn’t get up to greet me anymore when I come home from work.  He still wags his tail when he sees me, but he has an embarrassed look on his face.  One that says, “I love you, Lady, but I’m afraid I might need some help getting up to greet you properly”.  Don’t make him get up…if he’s comfortable, and you make him get up to greet you, you don’t deserve him.  I’d ask for him back, but as I said, I can’t keep him here.

3)  Darwin has a sneaky sense of smell (it’s one of the few senses that haven’t failed him).  He can’t hear me unless I’m close to him, but damn!  That dog can smell a pill in an entire jar of peanut butter.  Mercifully, you won’t have the same problems with needing to give him pills.  But I’m sure he’d still love the peanut butter.

4) Affection.  Darwin is part Lab, part Care Bear.  Make sure you let him know you love him.  His favorite spot is behind his left ear, but recently he loves having his sides scratched.  He’s too old to get at them himself – his legs are so arthritic now, he can only give those areas a perfunctory swipe before he gives up.  Help the old guy out won’t you?

Darwin and Pirate

5) Let him know I love him.  Tell him every day that I didn’t want to give him up.  That I fought tooth and nail for him.  That I fought long after I should have stopped.  Because he’s ready to go with you now.  I can see that.  Like I said, I can’t keep him here.  It isn’t right for me to keep him here.  I know he’ll be fine with you, but it’s so scary for me to watch him cross that bridge, knowing it only goes in one direction.  Just let him know that I’ll be there for him, and that he’s still my boy.

Take care of him.  Tell him I love him.  But most importantly, tell him I’ll be coming for him when I can’t stay here anymore either.  You may have to care for him until I join him, but he’s always going to be my dog.

Darwin's last pic.

I lost my best friend, Darwin, in 2007, after ten years with him.  He was a rescue, roughly 1.5 years old when I adopted him, and I cherished every moment with him, even when marriage, babies and work made those moments not quite as frequent as they used to be.  It’s been almost ten years since I lost him, and I still am amazed at how training a client’s Lab, who happens to look a bit like Darwin, will make me teary-eyed, or how hearing the song “Atomic Dog”, which all my friends dubbed “his” song, will make me long for a hike with D-Dog.  But above all, I’m grateful to have had him in my life.  

darwin

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

3 Options for the Traveling Pet Parent

From time to time, Darwin Dogs loves the chance to post articles written by third parties.  One chance came a few weeks ago when Paige Johnson contacted us, asking about submitting an article for us.  As we have a big travel weekend coming up for Labor Day, here are some thoughts for those of us who prefer to travel with a companion.  Interested in submitting an article to be published?  Submit your ideas to kerry.stack@darwindogs.org.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Owning a pet has been shown to enrich lives, reducing the risk of disease and lengthening the lifespan of their owners. Having a loving animal to come home to can make a world of difference in your daily life. Unfortunately, our furry friends can make it difficult to travel. However, being a pet parent shouldn’t stop you from going on vacation. Here are a few options you have for making your vacation stress free for both you and your pet.

Freelance Pet Sitters

If you would rather your dog stay in the comfort of their own home, you might consider hiring a freelance pet sitter. Rover.com is a great place for seeking an at-home sitter for your pet. The site can put you in touch with someone to provide your pet an overnight stay, either in your home or the sitter’s, daily check-ins, and even walking. Rates vary depending on the individual, and the site customizes the results based on the sitter’s proximity to your home.

Boarding Facilities

Pet boarding facilities have been spreading at a rapid pace as our lives become busier and busier. These facilities vary widely in their prices and practices and should be researched thoroughly before you entrust one with your pet.

Good boarding facilities will allow a walkthrough of the facilities. You should check for cleanliness and daily routines within the facility to ensure your pet will not be trapped in a small space for the duration of your trip. There should be playtime, interaction with the staff and other dogs, access to an outside play space. Reading the reviews of a boarding facility is also a great idea to ensure your pet will be well cared for.

Take Them with You

A dog with all its vaccines and a microchip can travel almost anywhere. Of course, this means you need to plan your trips far in advance but being able to take your dog with you makes it all worth it. If your pet is going to be around water, double check that any pool chemicals and other cleaning supplies are properly stored so that your curious pet can’t nose his way into trouble.

If your dog is too big to fly in the airplane cabin with you, permitting them to fly in the cargo hold is not an acceptable option. Pets die every year as a result of airline negligence. Though some flights boast pet-friendly options, this does not always guarantee your pet’s safety. For large dogs, it is safer to stick to locations within driving distance.

Though owning a pet can restrict your freedom to travel, there is always a way to make things work. Regardless of what you opt to do, it is always possible for both you and your pet to enjoy your vacation.

Paige Johnson is a self-described fitness “nerd.” She possesses a love for strength training. In addition to weight-lifting, she is a yoga enthusiast, avid cyclist, and loves exploring hiking trails with her dogs. She enjoys writing about health and fitness for LearnFit.org.

Image via Pixabay by rafibh

 

Depth Perception

 “We are all animals of this planet. We are all creatures. And nonhuman animals experience pain sensations just like we do. They too are strong, intelligent, industrious, mobile, and evolutional[...]And like us, they are surviving. Like us they also seek their own comfort rather than discomfort. And like us they express degrees of emotion. In short like us, they are alive.” – Joaquin Phoenix

Pic courtesy of The Mandarin Duck

Pic courtesy of The Mandarin Duck

My mom hated cats when I was growing up.  She would never harm one, but she claimed they were creepy and sneaky.  And it totally grossed her out the way they would come slinking up around your legs, like a snake coiling around a tree branch, eyeing its prize. My mom was never raised around cats.  Dogs, sure.  But there was never a cat in her house when she was a child.

One day, when I was 15, my mom accompanied me to the stables where we boarded our horses so I could work on some horsemanship skills.  She usually didn’t come with me, but today she did.  Inside one of the empty stalls was one of the many barn cats.  And in the corner of that stall, was a mewling mess of adorableness – she had given birth to her kittens!  I showed mom, and she mumbled something about them being cute.

The next time she accompanied me to the stables, the kittens were about 6 weeks old and a patchwork quilt of tabby, calico and gray fun.  I watched them and laughed as they scampered about the stall.  My mom stopped to look, too, staying for a few minutes before moving on.  I noticed that one of the kittens hung back under the feed bin, and every once in a while, one of the larger kittens would come and terrorize the little calico, who happened to be a runt.  My protective nature took over.  I rushed inside and seized the tiny little calico and brought her outside to spend time with me while the horses were in paddock.  I showed her to my mom, and mentioned how the other cats were picking on her.  My mom gave her a little rub on the head.  The kitten sat down on the picnic table we were sitting at, and looked up.  With those eyes.  You know the look I’m talking about.

The Look

The Look

“But mom”, I wailed, “If we leave her here she could die!”  The little kitten played along gamely, vogue her best pathetic “If You Leave Me Here I Could Die” look.  My mother caved. I named her Belle, and she lived with me for the next 15 years of her life, until the day I had to let her go. She went with dignity, as she had gone through her life.  My mom sobbed the day I had to had say goodbye to Belle.  For something had happened.  Belle had charmed her.  About a week after I brought her home, Belle started winding herself around my mother’s legs in hope of some canned food, or at least a cuddle.  And my mother would respond!  My mom mentioned she never realized cats could be actual loving, sweet companions.  Who could blame her?  She’d never been around one.

I’m proud of my mother because she was able to open her mind that something could be more than what it was perceived to be.  She entertained the notion that she may be wrong about a preconception she had, and more importantly, was willing to change.  Since I moved out with Belle, she has had 7 cats, all of whom have lived to a ripe old age.  Two are still with her.

So what am I doing writing about cats on a dog post?  Animals are animals.  All are able to feel pain, fear and abandonment.  Those feelings were the reason my mother took Belle in to begin with: not because she liked Belle, or even liked cats.  It was because my mother was capable of understanding an animal’s need for safety, and my mother was able to reach past her distaste to help an animal in need, even one she didn’t particularly care for.  In the process, she found a new trove of love and companionship she didn’t realize existed before:  cats.

This doesn’t happen to cats alone.  In some societies where dogs are considered vermin, people are changing.  My friend, Jocelyn, writes a blog a blog about love, family and relationships in China, including AMWF (Asian male/Western female) love called Speaking of China. 洋媳妇谈中国.  Obviously there are going to be some cultural differences in a marriage such as Jocelyn’s.  Finding common ground and understanding can be difficult.  But “if you open up your mind, maybe I can open up mine” is the only way to go about it.  This includes the concept of what deserves compassion.

Jocelyn recently referenced a story a peer had written:  The Day I Changed my Chinese Parents-in-law. Minds can be changed, even in a small village in China.  A family who once looked at dogs as vermin can accept that maybe they were wrong.  And look at the rewards they get:  love, kisses and the companionship that only a dog can give you.  A true, loyal friend.

Jocelyn herself even mentions a similar situation with her in-laws:

“They weren’t always kind to dogs either, but now that John and I helped raise their newest dog Snoopy (who we’ve socialized to be a very loving and affectionate dog), I think everyone in the house has fallen in love with Snoopy!”

 

 

Jocelyn's husband, Jun, and their dog Snoopy.  Where Jocelyn is living in rural China, most people keep dogs to protect their property.  Having a dog as a companion is unusual, but gaining popularity.  Photo courtesy of Speaking of China

Jocelyn’s husband, Jun, and their dog Snoopy. Where Jocelyn is living in rural China, most people keep dogs to protect their property. Having a dog as a companion is unusual, but gaining popularity. Photo courtesy of Speaking of China

I’m not asking you to change your mind about an entire species, as these people all did.  This blog is (supposed) to be about dogs.  If you’re here, you already love dogs.  Spread the word about what humanity means.  Be an example of education, the same way Belle educated my mom about what a cat can really mean to a human. Don’t assume that because you love animals and care about their welfare that everyone does.  Some people have never been around a dog or a cat, and therefore have no commonality with them.  Without shared experiences and memories to draw from, it’s hard to make a connection, and without a connection, there is no empathy.  Help share that empathy.   After all, that’s the greatest gift of all:  finding love and companionship where you never realized it could exist before.

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