MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Adventures in the Life of A Therapy Dog

During my years with Maggie, I didn't know about therapy dogs and all the places they could visit to make a difference in people's lives. Service dogs, yes, but not therapy dogs. I wish I had, because in retrospect, Maggie would have been an amazing therapy dog. She was a natural with the people she met, and brightened their days, but had I known, I'd have her visiting people as Chloe (our 11 year old Golden retriever we adopted a year after Maggie passed) did at Sunrise Assisted Living, and the way Maddie is now doing at the Juvenile Center.

On my visit this past Wednesday at the Juvenile Center with Maddie, I talked about canine intelligence. "How many words can dogs understand?" I asked the kids.

"200 words," offered one boy.

"Pretty good! Plus or minus," I said. "Some dogs can understand 250 words, and some people think perhaps even more."

Yet when I asked, "How many of you think dogs are intelligent?" this same boy shook his head.

"Why not?" I inquired.

"They're just animals," he said.

Just animals. Wow. So we talked about different kinds of intelligence; the left brain intelligence humans typically live in compared with the more instinctual intelligence of animals that many humans have lost touch with.

"I hope by the time we finish today you might change your mind about dog intelligence and capabilities." I informed them about seizure and diabetic alert dogs, and how some dogs have alerted mothers to an infant that stopped breathing, saving the baby's life.

"I didn't know dogs did that," the boy said with a bit of wonder and a smile. Watching his openness to the new information he was hearing warmed me.

Then I mentioned how humans respond according to what's expected of them, children and adults alike. If people are seen through a filter of not being very smart, that's often how they respond. Yet if teachers and parents look at a child through eyes that say "you are are smart--that's often the performance they get from the child.

"Perhaps dogs respond similarly to what we expect of them," I suggested. I know that's how it was with Maggie. I spoke to her as though she'd understand what I wanted, and most often she did. Through her I learned to see dogs as capable of so much more than I'd been taught, because like this boy I,too, was raised to believe that "they're just animals." Thankfully, my 2 dogs since Maggie have benefited from what she taught me.

I taught them about positive reinforcement dog training, and how dogs learned so well when it was fun and they were rewarded for what they did right rather than only receiving corrections to what they did wrong. I asked how they felt if they only heard about the things they did "wrong" vs. praise for what they did well. I think they got it.

Maddie took turns retrieving her toy with each most of the teens there -- one boy didn't wish to participate, appearing to be lost in his internal world. Difficult, no doubt. The holidays approaching and here he was ... I taught the kids some of the commands Maddie knew so they could use them with her while playing: (come -- drop -- give it -- wait -- watch me -- and OK). I had her shake with them.

Our time was up quickly. Today was a court day for them. I wished them all luck.

"I learned something today," said the boy who previously thought dogs to be unintelligent.

Nothing could have made my day more at that point. Maddie and I left, feeling we made a difference in at least one high risk teen's life today, and hopefully for the dogs and animals that cross his path in the future. We walked out through the secured doors, hoping for a brighter future for all of them.

Top Photo: Maggie (age 3 1/2 years) & me
Lower Photo: Maddie on a hike with Tom and me

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of
MAGGIE the dog who changed my life A Story of Love

Website: Blog: Dawn Kairns and Maggie the Dog Twitter:

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Send Your Old Sweaters to Help Shelter Dogs Stay Warm

I have fond feelings for Hattiesburg, Mississippi since my husband and I traveled there to help the displaced dogs following Hurricane Katrina. Here are a couple of compassionate folks living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi who are reaching out to collect sweaters for outdoor shelter dogs to protect them from the cold. They began by purchasing 12 hand-me-down sweaters from Good Will and with a little sewing creativity began making the doggy sweaters for their local shelter. They have now expanded their mission beyond their small town and are reaching out to you and me to help.

How you can help:

Send your old sweaters to the following address and these folks will recycle them and distribute them to animal shelters all over the United States. They say the smaller the better:

PO Box 19071
Hattiesburg Ms

You can follow their updates and find instructions at their blog here:

They also ask that you pass their blog along to others to spread the word:


Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of
MAGGIE the dog who changed my life A Story of Love

2009 Indie Book Awards Finalist
DWAA 2008 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award Finalist

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Therapy Dog Sessions Create Immense Opportunity

In my post last week I promised I would share more detail about the time Maddie and I spent with the kids at the juvenile center during Maddie's therapy dog work, and what else I get to do with the kids at the center. Here's what I'm so excited about ...

Not only do we get to visit and interact with the kids therapeutically (of course I'm not sure who gets the most therapeutic benefit -- Maddie, the kids, or me), I get to teach kids about dogs. Both last Wednesday and today my teaching centered on positive reinforcement dog training, and educating them on what puppy mills are. This is a dream opportunity, to be able to incorporate humane education topics along with my therapy dog work with Maddie ... to introduce love, respect, and positive treatment of dogs/animals to a group of high risk teens and hopefully make a difference both for the kids and animals they have contact with in the future. What an honor!

When I defined positive reinforcement training and gave some examples, one of the teens asked, "But how does positive reinforcement/rewarding good behavior work with juveniles -- don't you have to use other ways, too?"

I can see these folks are going to keep me on my toes! "Positive reinforcement doesn't mean there aren't consequences," I explained. I gave an example of a less than charming behavior of Maddie's when we first adopted her, where she grabbed anything that contained a tennis ball, whether it was a human hand or a flinger. One day at the dog park an innocent man was standing and talking to another person. His ball flinger rested on his left arm while he held it with his right hand. Maddie suddenly launched through the air and attached her mouth to the ball end of the flinger. After apologizing profusely to the man, I removed Maddie from the dog park.

"So the consequence was simply that Maddie didn't get to do something she enjoyed doing. There is no actual punishment, or telling her she's a bad dog," I said. The boy nodded and smiled. I sensed he really got it.

I later explained how in puppy mills dogs are stacked in cages, often with chicken wire floors that they never stepped out of. I shared that these dogs often never saw the light of day, were bred repeatedly, usually did not receive needed health care, and were disposed of when no longer needed. With the exception a couple of the teens who had an idea what a puppy mill was, the others were clearly surprised when I described the conditions and how the dogs are treated.

"So when you buy a dog from a pet store, the cute puppy in the window, you're actually supporting puppy mills," I told them.

Some of the kids looked a bit stunned, so I let that register for a moment. Then I made the distinction between puppy mills and responsible, reputable breeders. We talked about dog adoption, and how you can get just about any purebred dog from a breed rescue group.

"But what about the cute puppy in the pet store?" asked one of the boys. "It's not their fault they came from a puppy mill, and they need rescued too."

"That's a good point," I responded. I just want you to know that if you buy that puppy in the window that your money is supporting puppy mills. And often those pups from the mills end up with health problems."

And doesn't he make an excellent point? What is the answer to that one? It isn't the pup's fault, and they do need rescued! I think the answer lies in prevention and getting those pet stores to either close or adopt out rescued dogs instead, so the puppy doesn't end up there in the first place. Then puppy mills will have fewer outlets to sell puppies to.

"Why are puppy mills legal? I mean, how can they be?" asked another of the boys.

How do you explain that one? "Great question," I tell them. "Animal advocates are working to legislate changes, like reducing the number of dogs a facility can have, but the needed changes are slow."

"Why is something like dog fighting illegal but being locked in a cage 24/7 not illegal? They're both hurting the dog," comments another.

"Great point," I tell him. "I wish I could answer that one." I like these kids. So does Maddie. After each one tossed her toy for her, I gave them a verbal post-quiz for what we had covered. Their positive reinforcement for right answers? Jolly Rancher candies. Although I was a bit embarrassed by how many times I reached into Maddie's treat bag to give them a treat rather than the candy bag! Whoops!

I was moved by their attention and interest in our humane education topics. I thought these kids raised some great questions. What do you think? If you have responses to some of their questions I'd love to hear them.

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of
MAGGIE the dog who changed my life A Story of Love


Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Joy of Dog

I woke up yesterday morning in a funk. I recognized the familiar feeling that I get when I let myself get out of balance. Too much computer time. Okay, sure, it's necessary for an author, I know. But, I am a "hands on" person and need a strong dose of real life interaction each day, with people and animals, to balance my cyber life. I got that dose beautifully yesterday thanks to Maddie, my rescued black lab. Of course given that it was December 9, the day looked nothing this summer mountain photo with Maddie!

You see, it was Maddie's first official day of work as a therapy dog at the juvenile center. She got the nod of approval last week from administration and met briefly with the kids. I'll share more detail in a future blog post about the hour Maddie spent with the kids, and what else I get to do with the kids at the center that I'm excited about. For now, suffice it to say she brought smiles to all eight of them as she engaged and played with each one.

When we finished and walked out into the parking lot, I was almost on a high. What happened to my funk? As Maddie dove headfirst into the snow next to the parking lot, submerged herself, rolled joyfully and kicked her feet out with snow flying in every direction, I laughed out loud. I realized just then that I'd been smiling from the moment I walked into the juvenile center over an hour earlier. Hmmm. So that's where the funk went-- transformed once again by the magic of DOG, this black bundle of joy-- my Maddie. Just as she transformed the kids inside and brought them into the present moment, even if only briefly. Maggie, my black lab soulmate I wrote my book about, was the first dog to teach me this lesson of living in the now...the first dog to bring elation and playfulness to my life each day. How blessed are we to have these angels to remind us, to help us out of our bad moods by reminding us to stay present and find the joy right before our eyes?

Our next stop was the Mt. Sanitas Valley Trail, where Maggie and I took numerous hikes together during her lifetime. Once off leash, Maddie flashed ahead, again buried her entire body in the snow, then tucked her butt in the same way that Maggie used to do her tail-tuck- and-run. Maddie has somehow mastered doing it much more vertically, though, which I find hysterically funny! Yep, still smiling... Her joy has now become mine. Thank you, Baby Soul (one of my pet names for Ms. Maddie).

Then came a young black lab pup walking towards us with her person (7 months I learned seconds later). He spotted Maddie, and dashed towards her. "Hey, you're one of me!" Maddie seemed to agree with Oscar as they chased each other as fast as they could. Still smiling. How is it possible that a down mood can be replaced by an inner glee so quickly, simply by osmosis from Maddie's joy, and the joy of other dogs? Oscar and his guardian moved on.

We walked onward, then turned to come back down the trail. Maddie found a stick and her pride and joy grew-- I could see it in the way her prance shifted. We met up with the next dog/guardian couple. This pup grabbed Maddie's stick and clearly wanted Maddie to chase her. This little brindle eventually took off with Maddie stick as Maddie watched on, and took it in for a moment that her prized possession had been "stolen." No problem. Within seconds Maddie found a 4 1/2 foot dead pine tree limb. Yes, I said 4 1/2 feet! Head and tail raised, she strutted with it down the trail. Right then I realized that no, I hadn't been smiling. I'd been grinning ear to ear pretty much from the time we entered the juvenile center.

Not only did Maddie's joy transform my "funk" into delight, she also reminded me of the law of abundance. Lose your stick? No problem. There's always more where that came from. Can we lose our attachment to the things in our lives that readily and move on to "bigger & better" things as Maddie so easily did?

What has your dog taught you about joy and abundance lately? Or has he/she tried to get your attention, to teach you, to transform you, but you forgot to listen? I'd love to hear your stories ...

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of
MAGGIE the dog who changed my life A Story of Love


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Honoring Main Line Animal Rescue During Puppy Mill Action Week

In honor of Puppy Mill Action week, I'd like to place Mainline Animal Rescue (MLAR) in Pennsylvania in the spotlight. Both puppy mill awareness/rescue and Mainline Animal Rescue are near and dear to my heart. I donate 10% of my book royalties to MLAR. Why to MLAR? It was MLAR who posted a billboard where Oprah Winfrey and her producers couldn't miss it. It said, "Oprah, please do a show on puppy mills; the dogs need you!" And Oprah did! (Thank you, Oprah!)

There are so many worthwhile and wonderful organizations dedicated to puppy mill awareness, and I want to thank each and every one of you for your incredible labor of love. I am particularly grateful to Mainline Animal Rescue for creatively making sure that what happens to dogs in puppy mills was brought to millions of us in our living rooms on the Oprah show, making more people aware, including myself, of the deplorable conditions and treatment of puppy mill dogs. It was the most watched Oprah show ever!

The following is taken & re-arranged from the Main Line Animal Rescue website

Who is MLAR?

About Us

"We are leading the fight to improve conditions for thousands of dogs in Pennsylvania's Puppy Mills by educating the public to the horrors of our state's puppy factories. Our Anti-Puppy Mill Billboards are now educating drivers along the Pennsylvania Turnpike and we also placed one outside St. Louis in Missouri, a state that harbors more Puppy Mills than any other state in the country. By raising public awareness to the plight of Puppy Mill dogs, we hope to inspire the changes needed to end their suffering.

It is also true that MLAR rescues and places many dogs from some of the worst Puppy Mills in Pennsylvania. We also accept pets from private surrenders and re-home strays. But the majority of our animals come to us from other Rescues or SPCA’s. We take them when other shelters become too overcrowded or if they have a dog or cat that requires special veterinary care and cannot afford their treatment.

... Every year, our organization rescues and finds homes for hundreds of unwanted companion animals. All of our dogs and cats are spayed or neutered prior to placement and receive any and all necessary medical care. MLAR is also proud to be able to help so many animals with special needs. And once an animal passes through our adoption programs, we are responsible for them for life. In fact, we insist that if for any reason the adoptive family cannot keep their pet, he or she must be returned to us for re-homing."

As Main Line Animal Rescue approaches its twelve year anniversary, we look back with warm remembrances of the thousands of animals we have been able to help, both in our shelters and ones whose lives we have touched through advocacy. And we look ahead with excitement to the many opportunities offered to our volunteers. The work is difficult but MLAR can't help but renew it's commitment to our four-legged (and some three-legged) friends every time we look into their eyes."

Links on MLAR site to learn more about puppy mills:

Puppy Mills:

Have You Met Your Puppies Parents?

How To Spot a Puppy Mill ... Buyer Beware:

Anti-Puppy Mill Billboards:

Please take a moment to visit the Main Line Animal Rescue site to discover more about who they are, what they do, and see how you might become involved during Puppy Mill Action Week.

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life A Story of Love

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday Gets New Meaning: Day to Rescue Black Dogs Black Cats

Make Black Friday about Rescuing Victims of Black Dog Syndrome & Black Cat Syndrome

From Care 2 Animal Welfare by Sharon Seltzer

Traditionally Black Friday is the highly anticipated shopping event held the day after Thanksgiving when retailers slash prices to kick off the holiday gift buying season. It is also a day of competing

with fellow shoppers over parking spaces, pushing your way through crowded department stores and standing in long lines to pay for prized merchandise.

However, there is another type of Black Friday shopping event that is sure to lower your blood pressure, improve your overall outlook and still offer those deep discounts. It is a Black Friday Pet Adoption and there is sure to be one in your area.

The concept came about by animal rescue groups that wanted to capitalize on a special day they could highlight hard to place black cats and dogs. The idea quickly caught on and now there are hundreds of Black Friday Adopt-a-thons held from one end of the country to another.

Cats and dogs with black coats have a lower adoption rate at shelters and are euthanized more often than other pets.

This phenomenon is so common in black dogs that it has earned the name of the Black Dog Syndrome (BDS). It has even inspired some animal welfare organizations like Black Pearl Dogs to specialize in helping these overlooked pups find new homes.

Homeless black cats have an equally difficult time getting adopted. In a video produced by Pet Rescue by Judy, it states that in some shelters up to 40% of the cats euthanized have black coats.

There are many speculations as to why this phenomenon exists:

  • The color black is often vilified in the media.
  • People have superstitions that black is synonymous with bad luck.
  • People falsely believe black cats are less friendly.
  • People falsely believe black dogs are more aggressive.

However, many animal rescue groups think it is really a matter of animals with black fur literally “gettting lost” in a shelter.

People cannot clearly see their faces and have a hard time reading their expressions. Rescue groups admit that even pictures of pets with black coats do not show their features as well as other animals. It’s been noted that potential adopters actually walk past their cages; as if they were ghosts.

So if you want a stress free Black Friday shopping day, visit a Black Friday Adopt-a-thon in your city. The event gives black cats and dogs a day to shine and show off their good qualities and it will still offer pet guardians those deep discounts they are seeking.


Photos: cat from Care 2 Site; Maddie & me, my rescued black angel dog

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Dog Rescue Railroad

Did you know there are silent networks across the country that rescue dogs, cats, and other animals from death in kill shelters and transport them to a new life in another state?

One such network is The Dog Rescue Railroad that Deborah Eades writes about in her book, Every Rescued Dog Has a Tale. I was touched by the stories of the many dogs rescued over the years thanks to the efforts and commitment by the dedicated volunteers along the dog rescue railroad. Deborah Eades is one of these volunteers who drives a leg of a journey each weekend to rescue dogs who would otherwise be killed. Each chapter is a tale of one or more dogs rescued from a variety of situations, from being chained and starving in an owner's backyard to getting them out of a kill shelter moments before they are gassed.

Yes, I said gassed. It's been a shock to me over the last several months to learn from more than one source that what most of us know euthanasia to be, that is, an injection that is typically quick and painless for the animal, is not what happens to many animals in our country. These unfortunate animals are rounded up into a room and suffer the inhumane practice of being gassed. I'm not sure why, but my guess is that it has to do with lack of adequate funds and inadequate laws protecting animals from this inhumane practice. I know there are movements to stop this horrendous way of killing animals. It is people like Deborah Eades who save so many precious animals from this fate. As my dog rescue work was motivated by my black lab and soulmate dog, Maggie, Deborah transports dogs to safety in honor of her "heart dog," Sam.

Thank you, Deborah, to you and all the volunteers along the dog rescue railroad, and the many networks like it across the country, for being the silent angels that you are in bringing thousands of dogs to safety and giving them a second chance. Debra's hope is that proceeds from her book will help fund various animal rescue groups and no kill shelters across the country. Her wish is also that many of us who read her stories will volunteer with a dog transport group in our area to save even more lives.

According to Deborah, you can connect with other volunteers through Yahoo groups and other online communities simply by typing in "dog rescue" or "dog transport." You can join these groups and then find listings for transport groups that need drivers in your part of the country. You can find more detail about the best ways to do this and how it works at the end of her book. According to Deborah, "the fulfillment you get from helping these pitiful animals is priceless, and it is so easy to do."

What do you say? How about looking for a dog/animal transport in your part of the country? Let's get as many of these precious creatures saved as possible. In the meantime, please spay and neuter your pets to prevent future unnecessary euthanasia.

Photos are from Every Rescued Dog Has A Tale website.

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Book Review: Buckley's Story Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher

My blog often goes to the dogs, but today's post is devoted to their feline buddies -- one special feline in particular named Buckley. This is my review of Buckley's Story Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher by author Ingrid King.

Buckley's Story Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher is a moving love story between a woman and her joyful, affectionate cat that will touch the hearts of animal lovers. Buckley enriched and impacted Ingrid King's life in unexpected ways when she made that decision to make her home Buckley's forever home. With her self-appointed job as official greeter, Buckley brought joy to whoever walked through King's doorway. The author reminds us of the unconditional love our animals offer us and the spiritual beings that they are. She also reminds us to listen to our pets and learn the lessons they have to teach us.

Sadly, Buckley is diagnosed with heart disease after only two years of living with the author and her other cat, Amber. The second half of the book addresses the heartbreaking illness, diagnosis, treatment and final letting go of Buckley that so many pet lovers will relate to. The author also shares good medical information on the symptoms and treatment of this form of heart disease.

Ingrid King shows us both her struggle with and her ability to live in the present and enjoy the short time she has left with Buckley rather than focus on her inevitable loss and death. She also teaches us the importance of following our intuition with our pets even when it disagrees with veterinarian expertise.

I love King's observation that cats create a sense of peace in the home. I had never thought about it before in this way, but I realize how true it is with my own cat, Cinnamon, with the calm presence she emanates. Cat lovers, Ingrid King's passionate love for cats shines through beautifully in Buckley's Story Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher.

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Solution to the Heartbreak of Losing Your Pets in Home Foreclosures

People losing their homes to foreclosure has been a sad and unfortunate fact of life for some time now. The cost to these folks in mental and emotional stress is immeasurable. Add to this stress that many of those who have lost their homes have also had to give up their pets, and I can't even begin to imagine their heartbreak. Then there is the heartbreak and grief the pets experience as most are placed in shelters with an unknown fate, not really understanding why they've been abandoned. I don't know about you, but it is so painful for me to think about.

I have some first hand experience. A year after Maggie died, my husband and I adopted Chloe, an 11-year-old golden retriever from Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies. Her family of 11 years moved to Peru. It was Chloe who taught me the deep grief a dog experiences when they are abandoned, for whatever reason, by the people they so love and are bonded to. I know people sometimes feel they don't have a choice, so when I speak of abandonment my intention is not to make the people wrong or judge them. Most of them, too, are heartbroken. I am speaking purely from the dog/cat/animal's emotional point of view here.

As for Chloe, the grief was literally written all over her face. The woman who fostered her commented, "I have fostered Goldens for years, and this is the first time I have had one cry the entire night after her person dropped her off." You see, Chloe knew she'd been left behind forever by her loved ones. She was an incredibly sensitive girl, and her heart was absolutely broken. We were lucky to see her grief stricken eyes begin to smile over time as she delighted in the active and stimulating life we offered her. Although she loved us dearly during the 3 1/2 years she graced our lives, I know she never forgot her original people.

My second experience with animals being separated from their people and families was when I traveled to Mississippi and worked in a makeshift animal shelter after Hurricane Katrina. I worked with the dogs, and after all that they'd been through, their stress level was high. But it was bigger than the trauma of living through the hurricane and its aftermath. I can remember one in particular, a black lab mix who I brought into my lap outside to hold and comfort. But the entire time I held her, she was not really with me. Her eyes looked far beyond me and were searching, and I knew she was looking for her people. My heart ached for her.

So when I began hearing about the many animals being given up to shelters in the wake of all the foreclosures, I felt desperate as I considered their uncertain fate in being added to the already overcrowded shelter populations. I thought there must be some way for our country to deal with this so that people would not have to give up their animals forever, that they could be reunited at some point and have both animal and human spared the painful grief of losing each other.

Well, Scott Lanz clearly felt the same way and created According to Scott,"the goal of is to provide a FREE SERVICE where current homeowners can establish an account where they will be able to post their pet’s information, including photos, description, and contact information in order to find them a temporary home or a new family. We also encourage other rescue groups/non profits/and even agents to post animals they have or may find in foreclosure homes on our site."

The mission of is to help any homeowner facing foreclosure in the United States "to find a new home and/or temporary adoption for their pets until they can get back on their feet." According to Scott Lanz, there are over 1.6 million foreclosures and with the current economy there will be more in the near future. Even worse than taking their faithful pets to a shelter, many are being left behind by homeowners to fend for themselves. This is resulting in animals starving and dying. Please don't do this to your animals. They can't survive on their own, and they suffer horribly when they are abandoned this way. They deserve so much better treatment.

Foreclosure Pets also has a lost/found section for animals on their site. So if you find a pet or lose your own, you can post the information on their website. If you or someone you know are in danger of losing their home, please have them visit to give their pet a chance to find a loving home.

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pilots N Paws Saves Innocent Animals From Euthanasia

Information taken from Pilots N Paws website with permission
All photos from Pilots N Paws Website

Do you know about Pilots N Paws? They transport large numbers of animals to safety from "kill" shelters to non-kill shelters, rescue groups, foster homes, or a forever home. They do the noble work of saving large numbers of animals regularly who are on the brink of being euthanized.

Pilots N Paws have identified three serious issues that adversely affect animals in our country.
The first and most important issue is that about 4,000,000 animals or more are euthanized annually in the United States. This would not be the case if there were more and better spay and neuter programs and laws regarding owners’ responsibility for their animals.

The second issue is that because the problem is primarily regional a lot of these innocent animals could find permanent “forever” homes if they could be transported from high kill regions to areas with homes available. To accomplish this Pilots N Paws desperately needs more pilots to help with transports.

The final issue is that Pilots N Paws feels that while aviation has proven to be a successful way to transport animals to safety, general aviation in this country is threatened. See their website at for more details on this issue.

"It is truly the best of humanity working hand in hand to save these animals from euthanasia along with other remarkable stories such as service dogs, therapy dogs, two pups coming to the U.S. ... who were adopted by American Soldiers, just on and is extremely rewarding and heartwarming."
Debi Boies, Co-Founder, Pilots N Paws

The Pilots N Paws Team

To transport many animals to safety is a large undertaking, and it involves shelters, rescues, foster homes for animals and pilots. Each will play a role in the success of a rescue mission and each must commit to its success.

At least three parties will make up each “team” participating in a rescue. The starting point is the sending shelter or rescue. They will dedicate themselves to making one or more animals available to be transported to safety. They will pair up with the receiving rescue, shelter, or adoptive home. These two parts of the team will be central to the event. Ideally the receiving party should be no greater than 300 miles in a straight line from the starting shelter because the majority of the planes that will be used will be able to do a transport of that distance. Anything beyond that distance is likely to eliminate some types of planes, making it more difficult to find a pilot willing to do the transport. However, if the distance has to be greater all is not lost, it just narrows down the number of pilots that will be willing to consider the transport. If the distance gets much greater than 300 miles then Pilots N Paws encourages the shelter to locate an intermediate shelter, rescue, or foster, and treat the transport as a relay with additional start and end points.

Pilots N Paws asks that if you are a potential receiving shelter, rescue group, or foster who is willing to participate in any way, that you contact shelters, rescues or fosters in high kill areas and offer to receive the animals that are pulled for the Pilots N Paws rescue. If you only want dogs or even specific breeds of dogs let them know, but don’t remain silent. Having people available to receive the animals rescued is critical.

The final part of the three part team will be the pilot(s). Once the sending and receiving rescues have joined, pilots will be able to identify that transport as one they will volunteer to do.
See the Pilots N Paws website and form for more specific details for how the team is set up.

The Pilots N Paws Website and Discussion Forum

Here's how it works. The Pilots N Paws website is a meeting place for those who rescue, shelter or foster animals, and pilots and plane owners willing to assist with the transportation of animals. Pilots N Paws do not coordinate the volunteers who provide rescue, shelter & foster services, nor do they arrange these services. They do provide the environment for those involved to come together in a common place and arrange or schedule rescue flights, overnight foster care or shelter and all other related activities.

If you participate you are encouraged to check the discussion board daily at for new listings for the purposes of volunteering or assisting in efforts to save animals. This is where information about transports is publicly exchanged. Then an entire transport can be set up and all necessary information to successfully accompish the goal can be shared. This is where you can volunteer your efforts if you see how you can fill a need. All who participate in the discussion board are working for a common goal.

There are links to general information that is specific to pilots or those involved in the sheltering or rescue, and Pilots N Paws requests that these be respected and used just for those purposes.

Posting for a transport is the key to success. Transport needs must be posted as soon as possible and the sending & receiving shelters, and the pilot(s) must team up to handle and coordinate their own transports and media coverage. The posting must be in a specific format. Please visit Pilots N Paws at or the forum at for instructions and examples.


Pilots N Paws always needs more pilots. They are a 501C3, so portions of a pilot's flights are considered a charitable donation, says co-founder Deborah Boies. Pilots willing to do an animal rescue transport can use the postings to find a transport that suits their abilities. See Pilots N Paws website for details and instructions. Commercial airlines have and can offer a great service to the transporting of rescue animals. Pilots N Paws invites and encourages other airline employees who are willing and able to provide travel for rescues to participate in this program. Interested airlines and pilots can visit Pilots N Paws and can learn more about regulations of shipping pets on their airlines and on the situation that general aviation pilots are facing at


Please visit Pilots N Paws website to see the abundant news coverage they have received for their incredible animal rescue missions.

Thank you Pilots N Paws for the amazing service you do for the animals and bringing together the people who want to help and participate!

"Spay and neuter is our mantra as well as adopt a pet in need." -- Debi Boies, Co-Founder, Pilots N Paws

Posted By: Dawn Kairns

Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Twitter A Critter: Help Homeless Pets Get Adopted

Twitter A Critter

Original Post by Abbie on's October 20th, 2009 Blog

If you haven’t heard, is promoting the use of Twitter and! The idea behind TwitterACritter is simple: if you find a pet on that you really want to see adopted, just click “Tweet Me” on that pet details page to share that pet with all your followers. It’s a simple action that can have a huge impact. Lots of celebrities have been catching on! Kevin Nealon, Alyssa Milano, Denise Richards, Kristin Chenoweth, and many other celebrities have taken up the cause and tweeted links to their favorite shelter pets listed on In each case, immediately after the celebrity’s tweet, hundreds of their followers tweeted homeless pets as well… and their followers tweet, and so on and so on. The celebrities create an avalanche of compassion!

To learn more about TwitterACritter and how you can help by Tweeting a homeless pet go to You can follow the campaign on Twitter at

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Maggie

October 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, my sweet MAGGIE girl

You will always, always be in my heart and soul

We will be connected through all time and space ... forever.

I love you always.


Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Black Dog Syndrome: Dog Discrimination?

In Honor of Maggie and Maddie, My Beautiful Black Dogs, Past and Present
and all the homeless black dogs and cats everywhere

I'm somewhat amazed I didn't know about this until a few months ago, being the huge dog lover I am, author of a dog book, and a big fan of large black dogs, labs in particular. I've been wanting to post about this -- it's been rolling around in my brain waiting to come out for days. After passing several black dogs on the trail on my hike yesterday with Maddie, and even passing a black bear asleep up in a tree, I decided that "black" was speaking to me and today is the day to write about it. After all, today is Maggie's birthday. It seems appropriate, don't you think?

Having had 2 of my own wonderful black labs: first Maggie, the dog I wrote my book about, who changed my life, and now Maddie, our 4 1/2 year old adopted lab, this subject is near and dear to my heart. Black Dog Syndrome (BDS), that is. I was shocked to learn that black dogs and cats are statistically the least likely to be adopted, passed over consistently more than other color dogs or dogs with markings, and the most likely to be euthanized in shelters, and in very high numbers. Thank God Maddie spoke to me from her website photo, because she came from a "kill" shelter!Articles have already been written in MSNBC, Time Magazine, Bark Magazine and USA Today about the black dog adoptions and euthanasia crisis . Thankfully, there are websites dedicated to educating the animal welfare community and public to recognize and eventually change this phenomenon: and

In a Friday, June 20, 2008 article in TIME titled "Do Black Dogs Face Discrimination?"Hilary Hylton questions, "Is it superstition? Black cats are considered unlucky by some. Is it mythology? Big black dogs have been portrayed as symbols of death in literature and legend, cast as bad guys in movies like The Omen, and even featured in modern stories like the dog Grim in the Harry Potter tales."

But perhaps the reasons for BDS are more practical. Several sources say it is poor lighting in photographs, with harder to read faces. That their eyes don't stand out well. Or that it's difficult seeing them when looking into poorly lit kennels. Black dogs do require special lighting to be well-photographed, so without that they don't show up well in pamphlets, flyers, or on shelter websites. I can speak from experience about how hard they are to photograph. Tom, my husband, learned how to photograph Maggie so that her beautiful, soulful brown eyes stood out. I know I learn to trust people by being able to read their faces. Their eyes in particularly tell me so much. It's important to be able to read dogs and cats, too. So it seems imperative that black dogs and cats are photographed is such a way that their eyes and faces are seen well.
According to TIME, Pam Black Townsend, an SPCA shelter volunteer, says to photograph black dogs outside in indirect light, or Photoshop the pictures to bring out the details.

Singer/songwriter Emmylou Harris says in the TIME article, "I have heard that black is the dominant gene and in general that's why there are so many of them." So are more euthanized simply because there are more black dogs? I think this alone is not the issue given shelter reports.

Hilary Hylton reports that some experts dispute the severity of black dog syndrome. "Kimberley Intino, director of animal sheltering issues for the Humane Society of the United States, cites one study by Pethealth Inc., a pet insurance and animal microchip company, that went through numbers from 679 shelters and found black dogs indeed had longer stays before being adopted — but just by two days on average."But even she felt the anecdotal evidence from shelters reporting seems hard to dispute.

The "Beware of Dog" sign often portrays a big, black dog with bared teeth. Perhaps we can best help black dogs and cats by becoming aware of the old superstitions we harbor unconsciously about black cats (don't let them cross your path) and the old mythology about black dogs.

Melissa Dahl says in a March 5, 2008 MSNBC article that "in British folklore, such as stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Walter Scott, the black dog is a creepy, spectral figure that haunts cemeteries and is an omen of death ... Another Englishman, Winston Churchill, battled serious bouts of depression which he called "the black dog." Maybe it's time to re-program our collective unconscious of the old mythologies.

Another possible reason cited is that even young black dogs might appear older to potential adopters simply because they may have bits of white facial hairs. Just think how hard this makes it for the already difficult to adopt out breeds like Pit Bull., Rottweilers, and Dobermans.

Madeline Bernstein, the Los Angeles SPCA president said in the MSNBC article that " some people turn in their black dogs to the shelters because they've gotten new furniture and don't like the dark fur their pet sheds." Ouch.

Some shelters place brightly colored, eye-catching blankets and toys in the black dog kennels. "At Bernstein's shelters, they tie pink ribbons around the necks of the girls, and fasten big bow ties around the necks of the boys," Dahl reports. Decking out the black dogs and cats with color seems like a great approach, though the dogs may tolerate it better than their feline buddies!

Another solution is to run special discounts on black dogs and cats, as MSNBC reported a shelter in Kettering, Ohio, the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals did.

According to Deb Hipp in her Bark Magazine article titled, "Black Dogs Face a Hard Choice at Shelter," some rescue groups have pleaded on their website home pages, "Please don’t overlook our black dogs.” Another shelter’s website just came right out with: “The general public is not aware of how doomed black dogs are when they are brought to a pound.” I think this is a good idea to just let the public know the truth so people can become aware of their unconscious biases if present and make a conscious choice to support black dogs and cats. I think if more people knew this grim truth, more would adopt black.

Another shelter effort to help showcase black dogs is simply to be sure they don't place multiple black dogs next to each other. "Most black dogs have to rely on shelter staff and volunteers to steer potential adoptors their way," says Hipp. Giving each black cat and dog a superhero nickname and photographing them in costumes is another approach some shelters have used, according to Emily Friedman in her October 9, 2009 ABC article.

How about you? Did you know about Big Black Dog Syndrome? When adopting, please consider a black dog or cat. Remember, BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL! Frankly, I'm very attracted to sleek, shiny black dogs! They may look plain to some folks, but to me they are bursting with personality! They are beautiful and they are the best!

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life