MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Monday, December 29, 2008

Barack Obama Promise to Adopt A Dog Motivated by Puppy Mill Dog

It was Jana Kohl, Psy.D., author of the book A Rare Breed of Love (Fireside, Simon and Schuster) who reached out to Barack Obama in 2005 regarding her campaign to end puppy mills. Jana Kohl's book was written to raise awareness about the need to end puppy mills and promote pet adoption. Obama's promise to adopt a dog was made to the author back then when the time came for his family to get a dog.

The cover of the current Winter 2008 issue of The American Dog Magazine features Obama with Baby, Kohl's 3-legged rescue dog and puppy mill survivor. This issue of The American Dog is expected to to become a collector's item. Baby, was rescued from a puppy-mill after being confined for nine years in a cage. She can't bark because her vocal chords were cut. Baby also lost a limb due to maltreatment. Since being adopted by Dr. Kohl, Baby advocates for other abused dogs and animals. Her plight also inspired a Congressional bill to end the inhumane practice of lifetime confinement of breeding dogs. "Baby's Bill" was proposed by bipartisan members of the House and Senate and will be voted upon in the next Congressional session.

Raising awareness of the need to end puppy mills is an issue near and dear to my heart. I donate 10% of my royalties from my book, Maggie: the dog who changed my life to Mainline Animal Rescue (MLAR) in PA, an organization devoted to raising awareness of the deplorable conditions in puppy mills and in ending them. Oprah featured MLAR on her show in 2008. I am proud to say that MAGGIE is recommended in the same issue of The American Dog that features Barack Obama and Baby on the cover.

Dawn Kairns
Maggie: the dog who changed my life

Some information in today's blogpost is based on an article by CBH Communications and published on Nov 11, 2008, as well as the Winter 2008 issue of The American Dog Magazine.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Dog for a Christmas Gift?

I've always heard that a new puppy under the Christmas tree is not a great idea. I guess because the receiver of the gift should be making the decision for something that is such a big committment. If it's been agreed on in the family, that's another story, I suppose. But if you are considering such a precious gift for the holidays, please consider your local humane society rather than a pet store (unless it's a dog adoption from your local Petsmart) or a rescue group. You can usually get the breed you want if you go to a breed rescue group.

Here's why I'm plugging dog adoption today. Yesterday, I went to walk dogs once again at the Laguna Madre Humane Society in South Texas. They have a few hundred dogs. Sue, a local volunteer and I teamed up to get the dogs out of the back kennels since there are 2 or more to a kennel & it's almost impossible to get one dog out. It's very humid here. The cement floors were wet from a combination of it being hosed down, water bowls being spilled, and urine. Our clothes and faces were splashed as we walked through and the dogs went into a frenzy; barking, jumping, vying for attention. Sue put the collar over one dog's head and backed out of the kennel. The other dog cowered on the concrete and slid, afraid to stand up and walk, wanting to come out with me but backing away from the leash. We couldn't hear each other talk above the roar of barking and yelping dogs. This scene repeated itself over and over with each dog we walked. But we made such a small dent.

When the shelter closed and we walked out of the chaos and flying "water droplets", so many dogs not yet walked, my heart was breaking as I listened to their pleas. I could hear them begging, "Please, take me with you; I don't belong caged and in all this stress. I want to go live in a home where I can love and be loved." I stop and peer into the eyes of one beautiful dog soul. Her paws come through the kennel and wrap around my hand and she continues to look straight into my eyes. "Please give me my dignity back. I don't belong here. Please take me home."

The humane society does a good job here with the resources they have, which are very few. Their entire budget consists of $50,000.00 per year to feed and provide medical care for all the dogs and cats. Many shelters are in a similar situation, especially in these hard economic times. Please, if you are considering a dog or cat this Christmas, please share your home and your love with a shelter dog. They will love you for it.

Dawn Kairns
Maggie: the dog who changed my life

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Children Connect And Make A Difference Through Family Teamwork With Shelter Dogs

Yesterday I sat on one side of the quaint porch of One Particular Harbor, a gift shop on Padre Island, doing a book signing. On the other side were 6 young dogs in a pen from the Laguna Madre Humane Society. The store hosts Adoption Days for the shelter dogs twice a month. Helping out with the dogs were 7 year old Caley and 6 year old William; 17 year old Andrew works at the shelter on week ends and brought the dogs to his parents' store for exposure.

Shopowner and Mom, Sherry, is the impetus behind it all. "If I could spend all my time doing rescue work with the dogs and didn't need to work, this is what I'd do," she says. I am touched watching this family work together for the benefit of the dogs.

"It's beautiful what you are teaching your children, Sherry," I tell her. "Working as a family, as a team, to help the animals in need. In this day where kids are so tied to computers and cell phones, yours are learning this respect, this hands-on connection with you and the dogs; the importance of making a difference."

"It's my church," Sherry says. "It feels right to do this with them. I do hope they're learning the importance of it."

We talk about how Spirit is in all life, animal and human. We two animal lovers don't make a distinction in the hierarchy of spirit in life forms.

"I really connected to what you said in your book about spirituality, to the lack of judgement," Sherry tells me. We discuss religion vs. spirituality for awhile.

It seems to me that consciousness is consciousness--it's just packaged in different forms. Isn't all life divinity expressing itself?

Dawn Kairns
Maggie: the dog who changed my life

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hurricane Dolly Affected South Padre Island More Than Realized By Rest of Country: Local Humane Society Volunteer Base Affected as Result

In Florida we'd be called "Snowbirds," but not here in Texas. This is our trial at being "Winter Texans," a fond term Texans call those of us here from out-of-state on South Padre Island for a few months in the winter. I also thought Texas can be another fun place to introduce my book, Maggie: the dog who changed my life.

At the Laguna Madre Humane Society in Port Isabel, just across the bridge, I walk a sweet little black lab mix named, "Jane." Another dog I attempt to walk freezes when I put the leash on--she doesn't know how to do this yet. At this time of year the very modest shelter counts on numerous "Winter Texans" because they are the primary volunteers who walk the Laguna Madre Humane Society dogs.

But even now, after being here over a week, the condo we are supposed to rent is still not ready due to hurricane damage. And that's the scenario with numerous condominiums in many complexes on the island. There is no place for many disappointed retirees to stay who have spent their winters on South Padre Island the past several years. It also means that the Laguna Madre Humane Society dogs are missing out on the volunteer help that comes with the winter influx each year.

My heart was touched when I meet Ollie, a gentleman I'd guess to be in his early 70's; he'd been at the shelter for almost 6 hours walking dogs, trying to pick up the slack. Bless you, Sir! You motivate the rest of us!

That's one of the beauties of being in such a small place: one person (like Ollie, like you, and like me) can make a huge difference in the lives of others.

Dawn Kairns
author of Maggie: the dog who changed my life

Friday, December 5, 2008

Rescue Work Doesn't Stop With the Dogs...

Yesterday, Maddie and I walked the beach on South Padre Island where Maggie and I once walked. Maddie's joy and love for life as she played ball and ran into the ocean was palpable. That's when I saw it--a little brown blob floundering on the sand. It was a bird but I didn't know what kind. A baby, who could not yet fly. Then Maddie saw it, too, her labrador genes driving her towards it, trying to decide if it was more important to go after than her ball. When the baby bird (a "greeb" I later learned) grabbed my pant leg with it's beak and webbed feet in panic at the same time I emphasized "leave it!" to Maddie, my girl surprised me by backing off and giving the bird in trouble a respectful distance, but kept watching curiously.

We hurried back to the condo, grabbed a bucket, towel, Tom (my husband), and our truck, and headed to the beach access closest to the bird. Still there, surrounded by seagulls. Were they waiting for the inevitable? I wasn't sure, but wasn't going to chance it, either. My fisty little rescue was grabbing at the towel and wildly craning its' neck when the bird must have decided the bucket was a safe haven--it crawled in and I placed the towel over the bucket. The baby calmed immediately, even when we took off in the car (Maddie stayed in the back seat politely as if she had no idea we had that baby bird so close). Off we went over the bridge to Port Isabel. I knew where to take the bird this time since I had rescued a bird last year on the road while out on my bike.

Inside the Sealife Center, a man greeted us as he looked at the bucket. "Do you have a bird?" he asked, his eyes exuding hope. "I'm the bird man!" He suggested the baby just needed to grow and needed a safe place with the right food and water. He was confident it would be fine. Ahh.

Off we drove to the Laguna Madre Humane Society to sign up for walking dogs, a bit late due to our bird detour. It's a small shelter with very few staff and volunteers, so they count on tourists on South Padre to come walk their dogs. Many of the dogs live outside with shelter due to their cramped space inside. 2 dogs greeted us at the fence. But we're too late--it's closed for the day. We'll be back...

We pass the Boys and Girls Club and sign up to volunteer for their Christmas party. The manager takes an interest in Maddie and is considering letting her come spend time with the high energy children--she'll let us know. That will be great, since Maddie "failed" her first Canine Good Citizen's test due to over-exuberance, which meant she couldn't yet enter the Therapy Dog programs through the Humane Society of Boulder Valley! Maybe she'll get a stab at being a therapy dog after all down here in Texas with kids whose energy levels match hers.

posted by Dawn Kairns

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Helpful Books on Pet Loss

Anderson, M., Coping With Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet, Pergrine Press, 1987.

Kairns, D., Maggie The Dog Who Changed My Life: A Story of Love, iUniverse, 2008.

Kay, T., To Dance With the White Dog, Washington Square Press, 1990.

Kay, W., et al, Pet Loss and Human Bereavement, Iowa State University Press, 1984.

Luckenbach, P. The Kingdom of Heart: A Pet Loss Journal, Spiritual Living Press, 2005.

Montgomery, M., and Montgomery, H., A Final Act of Caring: Ending the Life of An Animal Friend. Montgomery Press, 1993.

Neiburg, H., et al, Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children, Harper and Row, 1982.

Sife, W., The Loss of a Pet: A Guide to Coping With the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies, 1998.

*taken from The Human Animal Bond Trust, Argus Institute, and personal experience*

posted by Dawn Kairns

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nominees for the 2008 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award by the Dog Writer's Association of America

I am happy to share the nominees for the 2008 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award for the Dog Writer's Association of America Contest (DWAA). The criteria for the Merial Human-Animal Bond Award stated on the DWAA website are the media that "best highlights the special bond between people and their treasured pets, promoting the strengthening of this bond and highlighting the special relationship between a dog and its owner, as well as between dogs and veterinarians."

The nominated authors (alphabetically) and books are:

Dawn Kairns, “Maggie: The Dog Who Changed My Life”
Jenny Pavlovic, “8 State Hurricane Kate”
Barbara Gail Techel, “Frankie, the Walk’N Roll Dog”

I am honored that my book has been nominated for this special award. My hope in writing "Maggie: The Dog Who Changed My Life" was to pay tribute to who Maggie was and that very special bond between us. This makes me feel I have done justice to my angel with fur.

Dawn Kairns

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pet Loss Support List (Colorado and National)

I am compiling this pet loss support list to give to local veterinarians to have on hand for their clients when they lose their precious pets. It would have helped me if my veterinarian had directed me with such a list when we had to euthanize Maggie, my black lab soulmate (Maggie: the dog who changed my life). I hope now it will help others to find the support they need at that very difficult and painful moment when they say good-bye to their angels with fur. This is not complete--I will soon add a Pet Loss Support Reading List. I will also post this on my website when it is complete at Until then, may this direct and help you who are grieving the loss of your beloved pets.

Pet Loss Grief Counselors in CO

Anne Cattarello: 720-352-0930; (Gunbarrel, CO)

Argus Institute (at Colorado State University Veterinary Hospital) 970-297-1242

(provided for CSU clients. Non-CSU clients receive 1 free support session & a pet loss packet.)

Pet Loss Support Groups in CO

Pet Loss Support Group of the Denver Area Veterinary Society (303-318-0447)

Every Thursday 6:30-8:00 pm

Colorado Veterinary Medical Foundation-Harrison Center for Animals (NE entrance)

191 Yuma Street in Denver.

No cost to attend. No need to call before attending.
Please bring a picture of your pet if possible.

National Pet Loss Support Hotlines (staffed by university veterinary students or trained volunteers)

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (New York) 607-253-3932
Tuesday-Thursday 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time

University of California Davis 530-752-3602 or 916-752-4200 or toll free 800-565-1526
weekdays 6:30-9:30 p.m. Pacific Time

University of Florida 352-392-4700, then 1 and 4080
weekdays 7:00-9:00 p.m. Eastern Time

University of Illinois 217-244-2273 or toll-free 877-394-2273(CARE)
Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday 7:00-9:00 p.m. Central Time

Chicago Veterinary Medical Association 630-325-1600 or 630-603-3994. Leave voice mail message; calls returned 7:00-9:00 p.m. Central Time (long-distance calls returned collect.)

Michigan State University 517-432-2696
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 6:30-9:30 p.m. Eastern Time

Iowa State University 888-478-7574
September through April: seven days a week 6:00-9:00 p.m. Central Time
May through August: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 6:00-9:00 p.m. Central Time

Tufts University (Massachussetts) 508-839-7966
Tuesday and Thursday 6:00-9:00 p.m. Eastern Time or Monday through Friday; voice-mail messages returned daily, collect outside Massachusetts.

Ohio State University 614-292-1823
Monday-Friday, 6:30 pm-9:30 pm, ET or Monday, Wednesday, Friday 6:30-9:30
Saturday and Sunday 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. ET (depends on volunteer availability)

Virginia-Maryland Regional College 540-231-8038
Tuesday and Thursday 6:00-9:00 p.m. Eastern Time

Washington State University 509-335-5704
Monday-Thursday 6:30-9:00 p.m. Pacific Time during semester; Saturday 1:00-3:00 p.m. PT

**Information taken from the websites and/or brochures of the Argus Institute at Colorado State University, The Human Animal Bond Trust of the Denver Area Veterinary Medical Society & Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine**

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obama's Puppy Decision Major

I love it that President-elect Obama is referring to the family decision to get a puppy as a "major issue." It is! Not only because daughter Malia is allergic but because all of us who have a great relationship with our dogs know the time commitment involved in caring for our four-legged buddies. It takes training, exercise, mental stimulation, boundary setting, patience and lots of love to build the foundation for a loving, connected, lifelong relationship with our canine companions.
The Obama family prefers to adopt their new puppy from an animal shelter or rescue group. Kudos to them! Has that ever happened with a prior president? What a great example for the Obama's to set for the country and the world, to raise consciousness about the millions of abandoned animals in need of rescue.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Grief from Pet Loss is Profound

It may surprise people to realize that the human-animal bond is often so deep that the grieving process may take longer than when you lose a human loved one. I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming, ongoing grief when my dog, Maggie, died from thyroid cancer. I often felt alone with my loss. Our culture allows negligible time and space to grieve our human losses, let alone our pet losses. People need tremendous compassion and support when their cherished pet dies. In recognition of the need to talk about our beloved pets, I began a social network for people at to do just that. I am also in the process of creating a pet loss support list for local veterinarians to offer to their clients after a pet dies or is euthanized. It includes local, regional, and online pet loss support groups and a reading list. It would have helped me. I’d like to make these resources available for others so they don’t have to search for it at such an emotionally stressful time. If you are a veterinarian, it may empower you at a helpless time to offer your grieving clients a direction, one more way you can express compassion to your distressed clients. If you would like a copy of the pet loss support list, including a reading list, it will soon be posted on my website at

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why I Wrote "Maggie: The Dog Who Changed My Life"

Maggie was a very special being I was blessed to share my life with. The depth of our love for each other, of our human-canine bond, was deeper and beyond anything I imagined a bond with a dog could be.

Maggie's way of being so present in the moment brought me more into the present moment. She reached out to people and brought them into our circle. Maggie's genuine, loving way brought people into their hearts, and so my communication with others became more genuine and from the heart. Through her I learned the power of now, of living in the present, and that the most important things in life are love, connection, and following our hearts.

My journey with Maggie helped me make important personal and professional decisions about who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live; to honor my wants and question my shoulds. She taught me the importance of being over doing and to follow my intuition.

Maggie showed me that she read my thoughts somehow and understood me more than I thought possible in a dog. Call it telepathy. Call it a sixth sense. I wrote MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life in the hopes that you the reader will tune more into your own dogs and see them through the eyes of beings who understand you, their human, and read your thoughts and energy more than we realize; and in the hopes that you will look at animals as different beings, not lesser beings. Tuning into your dogs at this level deepens the experience of being a dog whisperer with your own dog.

I also wrote Maggie: the dog who changed my life to encourage you, the readers, to listen to yourselves, to your intuition, and to question veterinarians when your gut feelings disagree with a vet's diagnosis. I also encourage you to evaluate the information available about pet food and vaccination frequency and ask yourselves as I did in Chapter Nine in Maggie: the dog who changed my life, "What's Really Best for Our Pets?"

Finally, my hope is to help you know that the deep grief you feel when you lose your precious pet is normal; to help you feel supported and understood, and most important, to not feel isolated in your grief.

Now you know a few things about why I wrote Maggie: the dog who changed my life. To learn more about my book, visit Do you have a special dog story you want to share, past or present? Your own special once-in-a-lifetime dog? Let us hear from you. Go to and tell us about your special pet or share your comments on this post.