MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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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

Monday, October 12, 2009

Considerations and Positive Aspects of Pet Adoption


Although there are literally millions of pets in shelters, pounds and other ‘temporary housing’, many pet-owners-to-be don’t think about pet adoption when they’re looking for their new four-legged friend.

Many people who want to get a pet just are not aware of how many pets are available at shelters. They might also have the misconception that pets are shelters might be there because there was a problem with the animal. In fact, most pets end up in shelters not because of any problem pet behavior, but because an owner died, moved, or simply didn't have the time or money to care for the animal. In some cases animals are lost and never found by their owners. These animals are healthy and very eager to please. Rescues pets are wonderful- just ask anyone who has one.

Some people are seeking purebred animals or puppies and think these are not available in shelters. In fact, nearly a quarter of all animals in shelters are purebred. Often someone buys an expensive purebred animal and then attempts to breed that animal to recoup their money. Often these puppies or kittens are not placed in homes, and end up in the shelter. Puppies and kittens often up in shelters as well, but it is important to note that your animals, especially puppies, require a lot of work and training and can be quite destructive (peeing on the carpet or chewing shoes). Puppies are great but often people are much happier getting a dog who is older, and whose size and temperament is a known quantity.

With, people can search all their local pets and see pictures and descriptions of the animals on the site. This way, they can find the exact pet they want, call the animal shelter or rescue group, and get information on how to adopt that specific animal.

The 5 Most Important Things A Potential Adopter Should Consider
When Choosing Their New Pet has a blog post on this highlighting the top 10 things they believe are important when adopting. Here are five:

1. You need to make a real commitment to care for your pet for its entire life.
2. Verify in advance that you’re allowed to keep a pet where you live.
3. Never adopt a pet on a whim or because you feel it’s love-at-first-sight
4. Provide sufficient exercise and stimulation during the first few weeks, this will help the pet adjust.
5. Make any necessary modifications to your yard and fence to provide for your pet’s safety.

The other 5 considerations can be located by visiting 10 Things To Consider Before Adopting A Pet.

5 Positive Aspects of Pet Adoption: Why It’s a Good Option

1. When you adopt an adult animal, you can see his/her size and temperament. This helps ensure that the pet is right for you and your family.
2. It feels great to know you have saved an animals' life and everyone you meet will give you kudos for that for years to come.
3. Adopted pets are very loyal and know they have been given a new home.
4. Adopting a pet can be an important lesson to teach your children-- both about the value of life, and also about civic responsibility and even recycling- in this case recycling a living and loving animal into a new home.
5. Choosing a mixed breed animal can help avoid many of the genetic health problems that have developed in purebred animal due to overbreeding and inbreeding.

5 Things You Can Do to Get Involved To Help Homeless Pets
But Can't Adopt At This Time

1. People can do Social PETworking! They can run a search on, find a pet they want to help get exposure for, and use the share tools on the site to post the pet link on their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or other social network page. Or, they can email the link of a pet in need from site to their friends.
2. They can place a link/graphic or even a search widget for on their personal website to encourage their users to see pets in need at local shelters (on the links page are graphics that can be used as links).
3. People can add their information to the volunteer database so shelters who need volunteers can find them.
4. People can search to find a local shelter, and make a cash donation to that shelter to help them with the costs of housing, feeding and medical care of shelter animals.
5. People can encourage other pet owners to spay or neuter their pet to help prevent unwanted births.

The other 5 ways to help homeless pets can be located by visiting The Adopt-A-Pet Blog at this link:

Posted By:

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

Friday, October 9, 2009

Adopt Your Next Pet from

You all know how I encourage the rescue and adoption of our millions of homeless pets. is doing their part to get shelter pets into homes while they wait for people like us to find them on the website and adopt them. Are you thinking a adopting a pet? Consider adopting through, the largest non-profit pet adoption website in the world.

What is is the world's largest non-profit pet adoption website. We are like an ad agency for shelters and shelter pets. Sadly there are 4 million healthy adoptable companion animals killed in shelters each year due to overcrowding. We do our best to relieve that problem and put pets from shelters in the homes of pet seekers all over the country.

The website makes it easy for anyone with an internet connection to find profiles and pictures of adoptable animals by location, breed, gender, age, size, and color. Over 8,000 shelters posts pets on our website displaying over 125,000 pets available for adoption at any given time. We also help volunteers connect with shelters, and currently host over thousands of people listed in our volunteer database for shelters.

What Makes Unique:
On the website, people can use something called “Search Saver.” This feature will notify users by e-mail when a particular pet of their specifications in available for adoption. For example, I can tell “Search Saver” where I live, and what type of breed I am looking for. When that animal is available, I am notified the next time a pet matching my search is added on

As of this summer has made it easy for their visitors to find pets and then recommend them to friends and family via Facebook, Twitter and other social applications. They are calling the idea “Social Petworking.” Here is how it works; once you have searched and found a pet in need, on the pet details page simply hover over the button labeled “SHARE,” there you can send the pet details page to any of your friends. For more information visit this page

In addition to dogs and cats, now features all kinds of pets for adoption, including rabbits, farm animals, ferrets, hamsters and other small animals, horses, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and even fish. This was a major initiative that took many months to research and program into the site, and it is being well-received within the shelter community.

By teaming up with the renowned street-artist Shepard Fairey, who designed the iconic Obama "Hope" image, has available a number of stylish ways to promote pet adoption. Shepard was able to translate his work with Obama to an image that can be used to represent pet adoption support. Merchandise can be found at ""

Blog has begun blogging and created a Twitter Page along with a Facebook Page. Their blog is located at There you can also join their Facebook Group, or follow them on Twitter.

Look for more on my blog about next week, and be sure to visit their blog at

Posted By:

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

Monday, October 5, 2009

Animals Have Feelings Says Author Temple Grandin

I recently took a solo driving trip to the Midwest to visit family. As I was driving back to Colorado a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't help notice (with my visual and olfactory senses), the several feedlots I passed with the cattle packed in. The stench of ammonia filled the air. It always bothers me to see them in such degrading conditions. My gut tightened as I realized they will soon be off to slaughter, and I was reminded of an article written about Temple Grandin in the Rocky Mountain News earlier this year, before it closed it's doors as a newspaper in Denver. Temple Grandin is known as the person who designed more humane handling facilities for livestock now used widely throughout the United States. I wondered, after being in the inhumane conditions of the feedlots, would these cattle be transported off to one of these "more humane" slaughter facilities?

Temple Grandin is the author of the best-selling books, Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human. She is also well-known because she is one of the most accomplished and well-known autistic adults in the world, and is an associate professor at Colorado State University. She has advocated for animals all of her life, and in her latest book she explores animal's core emotions and how we can make their lives better.

Her goal in writing Animals in Translation was to document that animals have emotions. According to the Rocky Mountain News interview, Grandin says "the emotional circuits in animals were first researched years ago, but most of the findings were buried in the research sections of libraries." She feels her autism has given her special insights into how animals think. She says she thinks in pictures and most people think in language. Animals, too, think in pictures, smells, and touch sensations--not in language.

Temple Grandin also believes that we are over-regulating our dogs, and that some behavior problems we are seeing in dogs is a result of that over-regulation and because they no longer run free. Having had 2 of my own dogs hit by a car as a child, I don't believe we should let dogs run free--it's too dangerous. But I do believe they and all animals need to be seen as the emotional, intelligent beings they are, and respected as such. They need exercise, fun, and stimulation.

I encourage you to read Temple's books, as she covers more, like how we are overloading the biological systems of animals with feed additives, growth hormones, and certain breeding practices that over select for certain traits.

In MAGGIE the dog who changed my life I came to some of the same conclusions through my experiences with Maggie that Temple came to in her research: that dogs/animals indeed have emotions, and that they think in pictures and pick up our thought images. Why has it been buried that animals have emotions? Personally, I think that it makes it easier to justify atrocious treatment of animals, such as the horrendous slaughter house practices that Temple Grandin worked so hard to change, experimenting with dogs and other animals in laboratories, and the deplorable treatment dogs receive in puppy mills. This just names a few.

How would it be different if puppy mill owners, cattle folks, and those who experiment on animals in laboratories let it in that animals emote as we do? That they think? At the very least, having love and compassion for the animals would be a start. At the very best, the practices themselves would change.

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE the dog who changed my life