MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Don't Leave Me! (Steps to Deal With Separation Anxiety in Dogs)

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

Have you ever had a dog with separation anxiety? It can be one of the most challenging behavioral problems to deal with in your dog. After Maggie died, we were far from ready for another dog, so we got involved with the Humane Society of Boulder Valley and Front Range Labrador Rescue (today we have Safe Harbor Lab Rescue and Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue) and we fostered dogs. We fostered a handsome white lab named Bob. But oh my, we did not know what we were in for! I'd never even heard of separation anxiety in dogs before. But Bob took my husband and I on such a journey that I wrote about our adventures with Bob and some handy tips for dealing with separation anxiety in your dog in an article published in Real Travel Adventures online magazine. Here's the link if you'd like to read it:

Good luck!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Can Dogs Sense Cancer?

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

We've heard about it before, that some dogs can sense cancer. Here is another case reported by Diane Sawyer on ABC news, and a brief look at how cancer detecting dogs are detecting cancer through the scent of our breath, urine, and more... Click the link below to see the video:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Link Between Violence to Animals and Violence to Humans Studied at DU

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

Based on DU Study Ahead By a Cold, Wet Nose by John Davidson, The Denver Post, April 10, 2010:

According to John Davidson in his article DU study ahead by a cold, wet nose published in the Denver Post, a groundbreaking program at the University of Denver is "exploring the many ways people and pets are connected. The emerging results could reshape practices in social work, law enforcement and public policy, according to leaders of DU’s Institute for Human-Animal Connection.”

The executive director of the institute, Frank Ascione, has been looking into “the link between violent behavior to humans and violence to animals. Ascione was part of a study that "documented cases of violent husbands harming family pets to torment abused wives.” He testified awhile back in Colorado in behalf of a bill to include pets in domestic restraining orders.

As part of the people/pet study, students in DUs Graduate School of Social Work also "documented the positive impact of using therapy animals to teach responsibility and anger control to at risk children.” Although these connections may be obvious, the science behind them is novel and important according to the dean of the Graduate School of Social Work, James Herbert Williams.

The support of the American Humane Association and the Animal Assistance Foundation is credited by Williams for the Institute success, but all of these Denver organizations have brought so much to the table.

“Institute staffers are working on two new efforts: enlisting experts from around the world of fellows and then posting their studies at, and conducting a painstaking study of public and social institutions in Colorado to come up with a better understanding of how animal abuse cases are handled.” It is called the Colorado Link Project, and they are trying to individually target social welfare, law enforcement and the judicial system.

Researchers will look at animal cruelty cases to determine 'how they are investigated, what control the investigator has, what does and doesn’t get investigated, how they are prosecuted and what penalties are handed down,' in order to improve practices in each step.

Graduate students can work with kids in a program, Pawsitive Connection, that teaches them how to train dogs while learning compassion and responsibility for animals.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Finding Safety for Abused Animals Living in Domestic Violence Homes

Many women will not leave an abusive partner for fear of what the perpetrator will do to the animals in the house if she is not there. Does your state include pets in restraining orders if they are victims of animal cruelty or are threatened in a domestic violence situation? This is the second in a series of 3 posts taken from original articles on the link between animal and human abuse. Many women know there are safe houses for them to turn to if they are victims of domestic abuse. Women, children, and all victims of abuse also need to know there are resources, safe havens to turn to for protection for their pets. I encourage you to know the laws in your state regarding animal cruelty and protection orders.

This original article by Gabriela Sandoval  appeared in the American Dog Magazine, Fall, 2009

Domestic Violence
Human Victims, Animal Victims

What happens when victims of domestic violence have animals who are physically abused as well? How will one find a safe way out and also protect their beloved animal companions? What legal recourse is available and how can you help? While I am not an expert on domestic violence nor am I a therapist, I have come across this issue time and time again as an attorney representing both children in abusive homes and as a legal advocate for animals.

According to the ASPCA, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence conducted a study in which 84 percent of women and 63 percent of children who arrived at domestic violence shelters reported incidents of pet abuse. Abusers harm or threaten to harm animals for different reasons, including: to demonstrate power and control; instill terror and fear; gain cooperation; prevent a victim from leaving; coerce a victim to return by threatening to harm or kill the family pet; or to teach the victim "a lesson."

Victims of abuse are entrenched in a vicious cycle. Lives may be at risk. If you suspect domestic violence is happening to someone you know and have concerns about their animals as well, inquire about the animals. Friends may be more willing to talk about the abuse to their animals as opposed to abuse they themselves are experiencing. What are the signs? Abusers need to be in control. They may belittle, humiliate, criticize, yell, be overly possessive, limit access to money, friends, and family. Victims demonstrate fear of their partner, may become isolated, less available, have feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

Legal remedies that may be available vary from state to state as does the legal definition of "Domestic Violence." Some states include harm to or threats to harm a companion animal in their criminal definition when used as a means of intimidating or injuring a spouse or significant other. For example, Domestic Violence in Colorado now includes "a crime against an animal when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge." Also, in Colorado, a Protection Order (sometimes referred to as "restraining order") may now include an order "that prohibits the restrained person from contacting, harassing, injuring, intimidating, molesting, threatening or touching any protected animal, or from entering or remaining on premises, or from coming within a specified distance from the protected animal." Ten states in the U.S. allow animal companions to be included in orders of protection: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, New York, Tennessee, and Vermont. Find out more information about your state by visiting

Perpetrators of violent crime including Domestic Violence or Animal Cruelty may be incarcerated or ordered to complete a mental health evaluation and complete anger management or other recommended treatment. Anger management isn't always appropriate because domestic violence isn't really about angerĂ¢€”it's more about control.

Animal Assisted Therapy (also referred to as "AAT") can be very effective treatment or complementary treatment for both perpetrators and victims. AAT is unique therapy because of the fact that a therapy animal is present and actually plays a therapeutic role during sessions. AAT addresses bullying, helps build empathy and compassion, improves conflict resolution and relationship skills, and heightens motivation and engagement in therapy.

Often, victims feel they cannot escape their situation. Feelings of shame, humiliation, hopelessness, denial, blame and fear take hold. There may be financial issues that prevent victims from fleeing. Victims also refuse to flee because they don't want to abandon a family pet who has been or may become a victim of the abuse. Not every city or town has the resources to assist animal victims but the number is growing. There are many websites and local and national organizations that publish resources for people and animals in crisis.

To find a shelter for you and your animal, visit American Humane and Ahimsa House online.

If there is a safe haven for you but you can't bring your animal, be aware that some animal shelters will temporarily house animal victims. For instance, Colorado's Denver Dumb Friends League has a temporary Pet Assistance Program for people who need to protect their animals from violence in the home. A Pet Support Program in Maryland "will offer victims immediate alternative housing for their companion pet(s), providing victims the peace of mind needed to seek their own safety... and will organize a foster care network to shelter large pets, such as horses and livestock, which are just as susceptible to abuse." They can be reached by calling 410.222.8900. Find animal shelters in your area that can assist during a crisis by visiting
The Humane Society of the United States online.

With these resources at your fingertips you can really make a difference for victims of abuse - human and animal. If, in good faith, you suspect that an animal is being harmed consider calling your local humane society and requesting a "welfare check" for the animal. Not only will they go into the home to ensure the animal's safety, but if other abuse is suspected they may be required to contact local authorities. Providing direct access to local resources may empower a victim to take advantage of the support available - especially when a beloved animal's life is at risk.
Read original story in American Dog Magazine at:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Important Address Change to My Subscribers

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

If you are subscribed to my blog through Feed Burner, please update your subscription at I played with the address in my Feed Burner account and may have interfered with current subscriptions. So sorry!

You should receive a post from me tomorrow, and if not there's a problem with the feed address. I did place a 30 day re-direction request with Feed Burner, so it may be fine for a month, but if my feed disappears after 30 days and you haven't yet updated at Dawn Kairns and Maggie the Dog, please do so if you want to continue automatically receiving my feed. I am so sorry for any inconvenience to you. Please update your subscription if you don't receive my post tomorrow, Tuesday, April 26. Again, I apologize for any inconvenience!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Abused Pets Are Often Domestic Violence Pawns

Did you know that the link between animal abuse and human abuse/violence has been made? That when someone abuses an animal they are that much more likely to abuse a human? That perpetrators often abuse pets to manipulate and control their victims in domestic violence situations? When I read this article in O Magazine a few years ago, I began to recognize how imperative humane education was for children, particularly for high risk children/teens. I will devote two more posts to this topic since domestic violence and animal cruelty are the painful lives faced by so many women and their animals. I want to be sure that as many battered women as possible are aware of resources available to them and their abused pets.
The Case of the Battered Pet
Originally published in O, The Oprah Magazine, June 2008,  by Barry Yeoman 
Who would suspect that a family’s animals could be pawns in domestic violence? Or that their sad condition might tip off investigators to women in trouble? The terrifying truth about cats and dogs.
MARCELLA HARB-HAUSER, DVM, WAS DOING HER morning rounds at a San Rafael, California, veterinary hospital when she first met Malibu. The gray tabby was hunched in his cage, his face swollen and right eye bulging. His lungs were bruised. His ribs were broken. He had a fractured tailbone. When Harb-Hauser examined the cat's mouth, she says, "it looked like an eggplant inside."

An experienced emergency vet, Harb-Hauser tried to make sense of the medical evidence. The cat had obviously suffered a trauma, but there was no sign of a car accident or fall from a window. "This didn't just happen," she told her colleagues. "Something is fishy." The cat's owner, she learned, had brought him in at 5 a.m. and for the past three hours had been sitting quietly in an exam room. Maybe, she thought, the young woman could provide some answers.

Malibu's owner had milky skin and dark eyeliner, with tattoos on both arms. She was barely 30, her face youthful, but her gaunt frame and blank expression suggested a hard life. Speaking in a high, thin monotone, she told Harb-Hauser that she had separated from her boyfriend a year earlier, moving three times to escape him, only to have him track her down and break into each successive apartment. This morning she'd come home from a trip and found him waiting. Fresh scratches and bite marks covered his arms. The apartment was wrecked, and Malibu was hiding under a glass table, barely breathing.

"I really don't know how to tell you this, because it breaks my heart," Harb-Hauser said. "But someone tried to strangle your cat." For the first time, emotion registered on the woman's face. She looked up and locked eyes with the vet. "Yeah," she said. "My boyfriend likes to do that to me, too."

The 2006 conversation reinforced for Harb-Hauser what researchers are only now starting to understand: With devastating frequency, animals are the collateral victims of domestic violence. Dogs and cats, lizards and rabbits, horses and other farm animals-abusers torture and kill them, or threaten to do so, in order to maintain control of their spouses. And it works. Because most battered-women's shelters don't accept animals, victims are often forced to weigh their pets' safety against their own. According to various studies, between 18 and 88 percent of shelter residents delayed leaving their tormentors for fear that their animals would be injured, or worse. That doesn't count the many women who never escape.

"Pets have become pawns in the battle of power and control that marks domestic violence," says Phil Arkow, head of human-animal bond programs at the American Humane Association. While any victim of battering may be trapped in a landscape of terror, for women with cats or dogs at risk of abuse, "they not only lose the sense of safety and comfort their animals provide but all too frequently feel unable to leave."

THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN STORIES, SUSPICIONS. Harb-Hauser's first hint that an injured pet could be an SOS for an owner in danger came just after her graduation from vet school in 1992. At the New York animal hospital where she interned, a middle-aged woman with a downcast face brought in a Yorkshire terrier whose eyes had been glued shut with a powerful adhesive. "I have to have this dog back tonight," the woman told one of the doctors. "We're not supposed to leave the house. If my boyfriend catches us gone, this is going to be trouble." The next time the client returned, the Yorkie's eyes were sealed again; so were her ears and sexual organs. Despite the owner's pleas, the hospital confiscated the dog. "I always wondered what happened to that woman," Harb-Hauser says.

It wasn't until 1998 that the research started catching up. The first published study was small but groundbreaking. Frank Ascione, PhD, a psychologist at Utah State University, surveyed 38 women at a domestic violence shelter. Of those who reported having owned pets, 71 percent said that their partners had threatened, tortured—even killed—one or more of their animals during the relationship. Abusers had shot dogs, drowned a cat, and set a kitten on fire. "Many of the descriptions sounded like calculated behavior to terrorize the woman in her home," Ascione says.

Since then, a decade's worth of studies have confirmed, and expanded on, Ascione's initial findings. In Atlanta, for example, researchers surveyed 107 battered women who sought help at a family violence center after being indicted for various crimes. Of those who reported pet abuse, 44 percent said that their partners told them they would hurt the animals unless the women joined in the illegal acts. One 33-year-old said her husband punched and choked her during their five-year marriage and forbade her to see her family without him. Two weeks after he lost his job, he robbed a bank and swore he'd kick her dog to death unless she drove the getaway car. "I was sure he would kill my little Terry Terrier if I didn't do what he said," she explained. "I felt trapped."

Experts say it's no coincidence that a man who bullies his spouse also abuses pets—it's part of a methodical campaign to isolate the woman. He will hide the car keys. He'll rip out the phone. He'll ban her from holding a job or visiting neighbors and family. That leaves her with just one companion, the family dog or cat. "The animal is often the sole source of unconditional love and support for the victim, and that is not lost on the abuser," says Melinda Merck, DVM, senior director of veterinary forensics for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The batterer knows there's no weapon more effective than severing, or promising to sever, that last remaining bond. "The ultimate goal of the abuser is to strip the victim of everything of value," Merck says.

Often batterers will injure animals as part of a threat to do the same to the people in their lives. "I have heard accounts," says ASPCA senior vice president for anticruelty initiatives Randall Lockwood, PhD, "from victim advocates in all 50 states of a husband or boyfriend who assembles the family and makes them watch as he bludgeons or beats the family dog, cat, horse, cow, bunny, hamster, gerbil—with the message of, 'You could be next.'"

AFTER MALIBU'S OWNER BLURTED OUT that her ex-boyfriend had been abusing her, Marcella Harb-Hauser knew she couldn't just treat and release the strangled gray tabby. So she contacted the Marin Humane Society, up the road in Novato, California. Cindy Machado, the society's animal services director, took firm charge. "Hold this cat as evidence," she recalls telling the vet. "Do not let it go out the door." Then Machado invited the victim, who is called Jane Doe in court documents to protect her safety, into her office for a chat.

Doe showed up exhausted and withdrawn. "In the first five minutes of the discussion, I realized, Oh, my goodness, she's going to have a really hard time telling me what happened," Machado recalls. She asked the young woman, who was craving a cigarette, to sit with her at a picnic table outside. "You can smoke all you want," she said. "I don't care what you do. Just talk to me."

Once Doe started speaking, she didn't stop for hours. She explained that her ex-boyfriend, Danh Phi Huynh, had choked her repeatedly, as he would later do to Malibu. At least six times the woman blacked out from his assaults. Huynh also warned that he would kill Doe and her family, and a month earlier had kidnapped one of her other cats, Monster. No one has seen Monster since.

"I could tell she was a survivor," Machado says. "I felt we had a kindred-spirit connection. Something just said, Don't let this woman down. You've gotta do whatever you have to do to help her." Machado arranged for the Humane Society to pay Malibu's vet bills, which totaled $5,400. She found a pet-friendly hotel where Doe and her cats could live, and instructed the staff to call Machado at any sign of trouble. And she visited Malibu, who was still hospitalized. "I saw a spark in this cat that touched my heart," she says. "It was not just a cat that was sick. It was a cat telling me to help his guardian." Though Doe was wary of the police—declining in the past to follow through on a restraining order against Huynh—Machado convinced her to press charges this time against her ex. At one point she gave Doe an enlarged photo of Malibu, bandaged and on intravenous fluids. If Doe didn't do something, Machado told her, she could wind up the same way.

A warrant was issued for Huynh's arrest. He continued to menace Doe. "I guess Monster's not important to you, is he?" the ex-boyfriend said in one voice-mail message. The following day he warned, "When you least expect it, and you don't even have the slightest clue, everything you know will be destroyed or dead." Though Huynh pleaded guilty to three felonies, his attorney argued that there were no witnesses to the strangling. The lawyer also argued that Huynh would be more likely to seek treatment for his addiction to drugs if he were not behind bars. Nonetheless, in July 2006 a judge sentenced Huynh to five years and eight months at San Quentin State Prison.

As harrowing as Doe's ordeal was, she was lucky to find an escape route. Without shelters that take pets, many women who do flee wind up living with their animals in their cars. "How are you supposed to work or go back to school when you're stuck like that?" says psychologist Lori Kogan, PhD, an assistant professor at Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "Then they go back to the perpetrators because they don't have good options."

Only in the past decade have many domestic violence professionals recognized the barrier that these no-pet policies create. In Arlington, Virginia, the Doorways for Women and Families Safehouse is developing a plan to house its clients' pets in kennels on-site. Just four other programs nationwide currently offer this service. "My greatest hope is that when a survivor of violence is ready to leave, there will be no barriers," says Doorways domestic violence program director Marielle Filholm.

More often, shelters are teaming up with animal welfare agencies to create foster programs for the pets of women fleeing abuse. Sometimes the animals live with volunteers until they can be reunited with their owners. Other times they stay at veterinary hospitals or animal shelters. The Humane Society of the United States lists about 170 safe-haven programs—a start, but not enough to cover the whole country.

Without a refuge for her pets, Yvonne Creswell would never have been able to leave her abusive marriage. Troubled almost from the start, the relationship bottomed out in late 2004, after the navy wife, then 30, was admitted to a San Diego hospital with complications from her first pregnancy. Because her husband had grown increasingly violent—even warning he'd kill her beagle, she says—she asked him by telephone to stay away. He refused. "I'm coming, and I'm coming armed," she recalls him saying. "How would it be if I have to hurt people to get to you?" Police arrested him after he showed up at the hospital carrying two kitchen knives and a screwdriver. He eventually pleaded guilty to a concealed-weapon charge and served time in jail.

Until then, Creswell hadn't left because there was nowhere to take the dog and cat that had provided solace during her three-year marriage. At the hospital, though, someone handed her a brochure that mentioned the Animal Safehouse Program at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Encinitas, California. Knowing there was a foster home for the animals enabled Creswell and her newborn to make a getaway.

"It may seem bizarre, even crazy, that we stay in these situations because of our pets," says Creswell, who has a new partner and a second child. "But we rely on these animals to give us comfort. It's almost like therapy: You have something you can hold, that you can love, that loves you back. Because those two animals had taken such great care of me, I owed it to them to look after them and not have them subjected to cruelty.

"To know that they were safe meant that I could go forward," Creswell says. "To know that they were being given love gave me the opportunity to reclaim my life."

WHEN POLICE AND PROSECUTORS GRASP THE LINKS between domestic violence and animal abuse, it makes it easier to protect survivors of all species by getting offenders into jail or treatment. An abused spouse might be unwilling to press charges against her partner, "but a dead cat is not going to recant," says the ASPCA's Randall Lockwood. Sometimes, then, the most surefire way to prosecute a batterer is on charges of animal cruelty, which, if severe enough, is a felony in many states. "The abuser has so little regard for the animal that he doesn't even realize how serious a crime it is," Lockwood says. "You may even get a confession right there: 'Yeah, I killed the damned cat.'"

As far as the pet victims go, the law has traditionally turned a blind eye. "Many jurisdictions say animals are property," explains Diane Balkin, senior deputy district attorney in Denver. The climate, however, is changing. Until two years ago, no state gave judges the explicit right by statute to protect animals in domestic violence cases. The courts could order a batterer to stay away from his wife and children, but not necessarily from his dog, even if he had threatened the creature. Then, on a snowy day in January 2006, 50-year-old Susan Walsh drove about 75 miles to tell her story to Maine state lawmakers—and helped kick off a reform movement that is spreading across the nation.

Walsh's ex-husband had never beat her in the traditional sense. "The physical abuse was directed at things that I valued, things that were an extension of me," she says. First he targeted inanimate objects, she says—smashing a treasured gargoyle and throwing away her personal papers. Then, she says, he progressed to the turkeys and sheep living on their 32-acre farm.

Walsh, a vegetarian, enjoyed watching the turkeys' antics during what she calls their "awkward teenage years." But when her husband found the young birds nibbling on some berry bushes, "he went on a tear and killed every one of them," she says. "Broke their necks and left them in a pile. Later that day, he told me to go down and pick blueberries—and to pick them in the rows where the bodies were," so she would find the carcasses. (Her ex-husband didn't respond to requests for an interview.)

Then, one Easter, Walsh and her two children visited her parents in Pennsylvania. Her husband stayed behind with her blind, arthritic border collie, Katydid. The day after Walsh left, she received a call: He had run over Katydid in their driveway, as he'd promised to do with other pets, she says. He claimed it was an accident. She was certain it wasn't. "It was his way of saying that anything I have, anything important to me, he can take away," she says.

Walsh's voice trembled as she recounted the ordeal before a legislative committee in Augusta, which was debating whether to protect animals in domestic violence cases. Leaving her husband, she said, would have imperiled not just her pets but all the animals living on the farm. "I might possibly have gotten my dogs out, maybe even the cats," she testified. "But I knew any animal I left behind would be dead within 24 hours."

"When she got up and testified, you could hear a pin drop," says Anne Jordan, Maine's commissioner of public safety. At the hearing, Jordan was sitting in front of some opponents of the legislation. "When Susan Walsh testified about what her ex did, I heard the [lobbyists] behind me say, 'We can't testify against this bill.'" Two months later, Maine became the first state in the nation authorizing judges to include animals in protective orders. Since then, nine states have followed suit, with more on the way.

Walsh says she won't be content until the law safeguards all women and their animals. "Every state needs to have this protection on the books—and the stronger the better," she says. "Our message to abusers must be firm and unwavering: Threatening or harming animals to hold a partner hostage in a relationship will not be tolerated." 

Go to original O Magazine article here:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maddie Expands Her Therapy Dog Duties and Spreads Her Joy

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

 Many of you know our dog, Maddie, is a therapy dog at the County Juvenile Center where we visit the kids each week. A few weeks ago, Maddie and I tried something new. We made a therapy dog visit to my grandson's preschool. What fun this was! My husband,Tom, joined us on this one. They were having "career week," where parents came and talked to the kids about different jobs (have kids advanced since I was that age?) -- so I talked about what a volunteer is and types of animal-related volunteer jobs. And Maddie let them know all the different important jobs that dogs do for humans, like her current job as a therapy dog, service dogs, search and rescue dogs, etc.

We walked around the circle so all the children could meet and pet Maddie, except for those with allergies, who sat back from the circle so we wouldn't stop there. A great time was had by all of us! As we were leaving, one little girl said, "we had fun, did you?" Precious!

Maddie is expanding her therapeutic circle in other ways, too. In addition to her every day interaction with people she touches, who comment as they did with Maggie about how happy she is, we visited a children's reading program at Columbine Elementary School in Boulder last week. I'd never considered a reading program before as I thought Maddie was way too high energy for such a "sedentary" job. 

Well, she was a bit off the wall in my book, but the kids loved her and so did the teachers. I credit Lisa, the special education teacher and program initiator, and her relaxed, fun, flexible attitude with seeing Maddie as very workable.

"Can we read with you?", asked two of the children hopefully as soon as we walked into the room. Of course, they wanted to read with the new dog in class!

There were 3 dog/handler teams that day for the children to read to. The kids came over in pairs and each one read a page to Maddie and me. After 10 minutes, each pair switched and moved on to another therapy dog/guardian team.

"Can she come lay in the middle of us," asked one child when Maddie was lying on one side of me. I love that young children will just ask for what they want!

"I'm afraid of dogs," Eileen calmly smiled at me as Maddie placed her head on her lap while she read. I never would have read it in her body language. I moved Maddie to a more comfortable distance for her. "I like them here, just not too close to me," she said. Once again, refreshing honesty! I learned that before the reading program began Eileen was terrified of dogs. What a long way she has come!

"Can we have a card?" asked the children each time a pair finished reading with us. Lisa saw my puzzled look and showed me the cards with the other dog's photos, birthdays, and "Paws to Listen" written on the card. A canine business card! She explained to the kids that this was my first day and I didn't have a card yet.

"We'd love to have you both. She did great!" smiled Lisa. "We really need dogs for the program.

"I love her energy!" said one of the other teachers. "I hope you come back."

 "J.J. was off the wall when he first started," his handler/guardian told me. "Maddie did fine!"

Needless to say, we felt so welcome and it was a joyous atmosphere. Oh yes, we'll be back! Today, in fact. We are going to finish out this school year as a reading program therapy dog team, which is part of Longmont Humane Society's Paws to Listen Program.

(All photos are from our visit to my grandson's preschool, and not from Columbine Elementary's Paws to Listen Reading Program).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Update on Japan Animal Relief from American Humane

Reprint posted By Dawn Kairns, Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

By Debrah Schnackenberg, Senior Vice President, Emergency Service, American Humane

It’s been three weeks since the earthquake hit northern Japan. What’s happened in the meantime to help animals? 

The tragedy in Japan touched the hearts of people around the world and prompted an outpouring of support. American Humane Association immediately began reaching out to our partners on the ground following the disasters and has already provided $10,000 in cash, along with 2 shipments of critically needed animal sheltering supplies to support local animal relief efforts in Japan. This assistance to the Japan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) and the Japan Animal Welfare Society (JAWS) will help provide shelter to the thousands of animals that were displaced by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency affecting the country. American Humane Association’s renowned Red Star Animal Emergency Services™ team is also standing by to assist as soon as we get the go-ahead from the Japanese. As you may have heard, due to the safety risks and the complexity of the disaster response effort, the Japanese government has not yet requested international organizations for large-scale animal rescue operations, and no legitimate animal welfare group deploys without a formal invitation from the responsible government/agency. This policy is for the safety of both the victims and the responders. Relief and rescue on the ground in Japan is an extraordinarily complex effort. In addition to the challenges and risks presented by the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, the radiation dangers from the stricken nuclear power plant have made the situation even more challenging. In the meantime, we and other relief groups with which we are allied, such as the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition, are pooling our collective expertise and resources to assist well-qualified local groups on the ground in Japan and to support recovery efforts that will help animals well into the future. 

What are the top animal rescue priorities right now? 

There are three unique and fundamental challenges that are being addressed simultaneously. The first is to rescue any animals that were left in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. Given the destruction, this is a daunting task. Farm animals that had to be left behind are particularly hard-hit, and search-and-rescue efforts for companion animals are also under way. It’s hard to put in words the challenges that exist, not the least of which is the wholesale destruction of infrastructure, which makes it difficult to get people or equipment into the disaster zone. The second challenge that’s being addressed is sheltering animals that did get out when their families evacuated. Despite the leaps and bounds that have been made by our Red Star team and others over the years to ensure that animals are considered in disaster management plans here in the United States, many human shelters in Japan can’t accommodate animals evacuated with their owners. Finally, there are large evacuation areas around the damaged nuclear plants. When people were told to leave, they took what animals they could, but had to leave many behind. Those animals are in need of food and shelter, but the risk from the radiological emergency makes entering that zone unsafe for rescuers. 

Some people say that focusing on animal rescue is a waste of resources when so many people are suffering. What do you say to that? 

That’s a question we get asked any time Red Star responds to an emergency, whether the crisis in Japan, the devastation in Haiti, or the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. First, we believe that rescuing animals is simply the right thing to do. And that is the focus of Red Star — to rescue and shelter animals, just as there are organizations whose focus is to rescue and shelter people. Our work with animals does not take resources away from efforts to help people. In fact, animal rescue and human rescue are related in many respects. For instance some people won’t evacuate their homes if they can’t take their animals with them. This endangers not only the individuals themselves, but also the search-and-rescue teams that are there to help them. Every second matters in these situations, and delay can literally mean the difference between success and tragedy. Beyond that, recovering from these disasters – physically, emotionally, economically, socially – is a long and arduous process. Families and communities want to rebuild their lives; to be whole again. For many of us – especially children – that means staying with our pets and animal companions, or being reunited with them as quickly as possible. 

Are there lessons we should learn from this tragedy? 

Of course the first thing we need to focus on is what needs to be done right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people and animals who are suffering, and those who are risking their lives to save others. In terms of what we can learn, the most important thing, I think, is that we should always be prepared – at both the personal and community levels. Regardless of where you live, the fact is disaster can strike any time. American Humane Association has a number of tips for individuals and families on that front. We also encourage people to get involved with their city or county disaster response teams to make sure animals and pets are included in community disaster planning when it comes to preparing for the evacuation and care of pets in the event of a disaster. 

What can I do to help? 

The most important thing for animals in Japan right now is that their needs be met in a coordinated, professional manner. One hundred percent of the contributions made to American Humane Association for animal relief in Japan will go to animal relief in Japan. We have the experience and the contacts to ensure that the money is distributed in the most effective and efficient manner possible. No matter who you consider donating to, we urge you to thoroughly research that organization to make sure your contribution is going to be used in the way you intend. Aside from that, having been on the ground myself in very difficult situations, I can tell you that it actually does mean something to people – and, I believe, animals – to know that the world is watching … and help is on the way.

Read original article at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Landlords and HOA's Can Save So Many Animals: Just Say Yes!

Landlords, this one's for you. You can make SUCH a huge difference in saving countless dogs and cats by simply allowing them into your home and apartment rentals. I don't usually post about animals needing a home since there are so many. But this one hits close to home, so please read on beyond my note and look at the precious canine faces below. You see, this is a flyer from a good friend of mine who has had her beloved dogs for years. Finding herself needing to move from her home, she was unable to find a house or apartment in Boulder who would take her dogs. Now she is in the heartbreaking situation of having to give them up. 

Boulder, CO you are supposedly a dog-loving, dog-friendly town, with one of the best shelters in the world, with one of the highest adoption rates. Now, calling all home and apartment owners, who rent your places out, and all HOA's -- have you considered how many animals you can save from being turned into shelters and euthanized if you simply said "yes" to pets? Sure, they can be destructive at times. I'm not naive -- I own a rental. So ask for an extra pet deposit and have a heart. You can make a difference between saving an animal's life or having it killed. You can prevent animals from going through the grief and heartache of a broken bond. You can make a difference in the numbers of broken and lonely human hearts, . And Boulder landlords, right now I'm especially talking to you! Especially at a time like this when so many people are losing jobs, homes, etc. Many lose their animals, too, simply because of the "No Pet" clauses in your contracts. PLEASE revisit your rental contracts and recognize your power to make an incredible positive difference rather than an unimaginably painful difference.


Hi! I look like my mom, a rough collie like Lassie. At about 44 pounds, I’m smaller like my dad, a border collie.  I’m fond of helping—you can teach me new skills.  (I’d probably enjoy agility training.) I’m happy to lie beside you quietly or go with you on a walk or a hike.  About the only time I bark is when I play ball with you and say “I got it! I got it!”  (I don’t mean to brag, but I can catch a Frisbee in midair.)  I’m about six years old now and came to live with my guardian Mary when I was one.  My name is Guinness.

My name is Opal. I came to live with Mary and Guinness two years ago.  I’m four and weigh 22 pounds. Like most dogs, I lie around a lot when I’m not sniffing tiny creatures in the yard.  I enjoy hiking, though I have better things to do than catch Frisbees…like sit in your lap.  I’ll alert you when someone comes to the door. When I hear “no barking”, I know I’ve done my job and am quiet—until the mail carrier comes. I don’t go on and on like some little yappers I won’t mention—that would be tedious.  I’ll be a good friend.

We are mellow people dogs and have played with a rabbit and even a cat or two.  We’re well-mannered,healthy and housetrained.  We stay off the furniture and will lounge on our cushions in the kitchen when you need your space. On the other hand, we had a petsitter who let us sleep with her, which was way cool. We sit, stay, lie down, like car trips and the dog park, behave at the groomer and the vet, and aim to please.  We can’t have pups of our own, but we’re great with babies, kids, young adults and seniors.

We need a new home by April 30 because Mary is moving to an apartment complex where the HOA has no idea what great tenants we would be. We’ll be happy together or separately if you are kind and spend time with us.  We come with pet stuff and no rehoming fee.  We’ll make you laugh and feel warm and fuzzy

Please email Mary at or call 303.834.8168 or 303.931.2280

Friday, April 15, 2011

World's Oldest Man's Secrets to a Long Life

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

Walter Breuning, the world's oldest man, just died in Montana at 114. His philosophy was simple. Here's the world's oldest man's secret to a long life according to the Associated Press:

'• Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. ("Every change is good.")

• Eat two meals a day ("That's all you need.")

• Work as long as you can ("That money's going to come in handy.")

• Help others ("The more you do for others, the better shape you're in.")

Then there's the hardest part. It's a lesson Breuning said he learned from his grandfather: Accept death.

"We're going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die," he said.'

Wow. Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? So much wisdom lies in simplifying, finding ways to keep things simple in our complex world. Thank you, Mr.Breuning, for sharing the wisdom of your years ...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What Are Our Animals Capable Of?

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

As topics I wrote about in MAGGIE, I addressed the questions below about dogs/animals in many of my radio interviews for my book, and when I spoke to groups at book signings. What do you think? I'd love to hear your responses:

Miss Maggie

1. Are dogs/animals capable of reading/knowing our thoughts? If so, how do you think it happens?
2. How do dogs/animals communicate with us? Do you know how to read them?
3. Are dogs/animals equal or lesser beings than humans and why do you think so?
4. Do dog/animals have emotions?
5.What is the best diet for a dog? Share the up and down sides of dog food.
6. How often should dogs/cats be vaccinated?
7. Where would you get your dog/pet if you were going to bring one into your home?
8. Do you think losing a pet is easier, harder, or the same as losing a family member? Do you know how to best support a friend or loved one who has lost a pet? Do you know how and where to get support for yourselves?
9. How have your own dogs/pets changed or made a difference in your lives or the lives of others?
10. What important messages have you received in your dreams?

Let me hear your thoughts ...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why is the USDA Bending Over Backwards to Accommodate Our Nation’s Puppy Mills?

Main Line Animal Rescue (MLAR) continues to educate the public to the terrible plight of dogs confined to our country's large-scale commercial dog breeding facilities -- puppy mills. This is why I continue to donate portions of my book's proceeds to their cause. The following information comes from their anti-puppy mill campaign:
"In 2010, the Office of the Inspector General released the results of their audit on the USDA. What they found will shock and disgust you. 

While the USDA (APHIS) is charged with protecting dogs in commercial breeding kennels and broker facilities, in case after case, the federal agency has failed to enforce our laws and has allowed untold dogs to suffer while protecting the very people who abuse them. 

We urge you to read the report, look at the photographs, then contact your representatives in Congress and demand that they take action to ensure the USDA is enforcing our laws to the fullest extent."

Please go to the site below to read MLAR's full story and be sure to click on their bus photo that MLAR wrapped in order to "raise public awareness and to cast a light on the inability of some APHIS employees to properly protect these dogs":

Breeding Contempt | Why is the USDA Bending Over Backwards to Accommodate Our Nation’s Puppy Mills?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Just a Dream? I Don't Think So

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

A couple of days ago I posted about dreams, and shared that one motivation for writing my book, MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life,  was to share with you the significance that dreams played in our relationship, especially towards the end of Maggie's life. Those of you who read MAGGIE know how shocked I was to discover that some of my dreams about her were even prophetic.

Just days before Maggie passed
Maggie passed on July 24, 2001. On June 9, 2000, more than a year before her death, I had the following dream:

There is a 22-year-old Golden retriever who can run faster than Maggie. She clearly has more stamina than Maggie does, and I'm worried because Maggie's stamina is not as good as this dog's is. I want Maggie to live this long and I am afraid she won't.

I didn't know this dream was our next dog announcing herself. Of course you know it was true that Maggie didn't live to be 22 years old. I grieved deeply for Maggie and finally, after a year, we decided to adopt another dog. For months prior to doing so, a voice inside kept telling me, "adopt an older dog." I wasn't sure why exactly. But I wanted to honor that voice. And I kept picturing a Golden retriever or a Golden lab mix. 

Chloe--her grief is obvious--she so missed her family
We ended up adopting Chloe, an 11-year-old Golden retriever from Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies. No, she wasn't 22 years old. But oh my did she have the stamina for an 11-year-old! And yes, it far surpassed Maggie's stamina!  

Chloe's family had moved to Peru. It felt right to bring this golden angel into our lives to love and be loved by during the remainder of her golden years. Queen Chloe shared her life with us for 3 1/2 years. 

 Not all the pieces match 100% in a clairvoyant or prophetic dream as you can see here, but the gist of the dream manifested itself. By no means are all of our dreams prophetic, but taking the time to journal our dreams and understand them can open new doors to personal growth and insight. Dreams can help us become more of who we are, and give us personal direction in our lives if we pay attention.

 I encourage you to begin a dream journal. Write down what small or seemingly nonsensical piece of a dream that you remember. The more you show your unconscious that you are listening, the more it will reveal to you as time goes on. In other words, the more dreams you will recall  in more detail. Find a Jungian therapist as I did to help you with dream symbolism when you begin this wonderful inner journey. And remember, they are not "just dreams!"

Friday, April 8, 2011

Brain Freeze: Information Overload Is Paralyzing Our Decisions

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

Do you ever feel overwhelmed trying to keep up with Twitter, Facebook, email, texts, and your blog? I know I do, and have consciously had to cut back and limit my time with each. That's why the March 7, 2011 issue of Newsweek grabbed my eye with its' cover, Brain Freeze: How the deluge of information paralyzes our ability to make good decisions (by Sharon Begley). 

 If this overwhelm speaks to you in any way, I encourage you to read the full article by clicking the link under this article excerpt:

"... The research should give pause to anyone addicted to incoming texts and tweets. The booming science of decision making has shown that more information can lead to objectively poorer choices, and to choices that people come to regret. It has shown that an unconscious system guides many of our decisions, and that it can be sidelined by too much information. And it has shown that decisions requiring creativity benefit from letting the problem incubate below the level of awareness—something that becomes ever-more difficult when information never stops arriving ..."

The Science of Making Decisions - Newsweek

What about you? Would you be happier, calmer, and make more sound decisions if you decreased the amount of electronic information coming your way?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dreams Provide Solutions and Direction In Our Lives

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

 No Such Thing As "It Was Just A Dream"

One of my motivations for writing my book, MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life,  was to share with you the significant and even prophetic information I received in my dreams, about Maggie and myself. Dreams are messages from our soul. Understanding our dreams makes us more of who we are; more genuine and authentic. They are not "just dreams" when you learn their language, as Carl Jung so aptly taught us. This excerpt I received today from The Daily Inspiration explains why understanding our dreams is so important in our lives:

Excerpt from Living Authentically: Follow Your Dreams  by John D. Goldhammer, Ph.D.

"Why try to understand our dreams? Because our contemporary world urgently needs the intervention of a perspective that brings greater soulfulness and compassion into our experience and actions; qualities that our dreams help cultivate and develop. And because our dreams have a profound purpose: the creation of distinct, integrated individuals who will add vitally needed qualities to our collective life as well as encourage the development of mutual respect, interconnectedness, and empathy for each other and for our natural environment.

Indeed, our dreams are screaming solutions for the imbalance, injustice, and social chaos that permeates our present age.

We need to become much more conscious, more aware of who we are and of our particular destiny, our true vocation. Understanding dreams and incorporating their meaning into our waking life makes individuals a source of creativity, a wellspring of insight, character, and integrity, renewing society and reinvigorating culture."

Monday, April 4, 2011

Losing Your Pet Redefines You: Finding Yourselves and Your Lives Again

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

The Queen ... Ms. Cinnamon
This is a continuation of my April 1, 2011 post, Losing Your Pet: Grief Responses That May Surprise You, where I adapted information from a Hospice support group I attended to apply it to the intense grief most of us feel when we lose a beloved pet.

You go, girl -- in camper, just weeks before Cinnamon passed
Losing your pet is a life-changing event. Please refer to my earlier post to learn more about the vast range of grief responses  that may experience in the early stages of grieving. Thankfully, healing does begin in time, and we are eventually ready to move forward with our lives; though we never forget our beloved pet who has passed. Although I lost Cinnamon in August, 2010, I still "see" her in so many places, still feel her presence often, still cry at times. We never, ever forget. But we can also honor our loved pets in the choices we make as we move on in our lives ...

Positive things to lead you in the direction of appreciating life again:
  • focus on the people who love you and need your love
  • try not to please everyone
  • notice your good and peaceful moments
  • bring comfort or joy to someone elses' life. Helping homeless animals really helped me heal after my dog, Maggie died
  • set a new goal that interest you
  • continue to remember your beloved pet in your own special ways
  • live each day with the awareness of all that your beloved pet (and people too) has given you to enrich your life
Redefining Yourself, Roles and Relationships

When someone or an animal loves you, they are a mirror for you, reflecting back to you who you are. When a loved one or beloved animal dies, the mirror is broken and your self image may be shattered. your role changes as you have lost a sense of who you are in the world. You may find yourself wondering "who am I?"

One task of grieving is to create a new self-image and look for new ways of being in the world. Changing your roles, relationships, and patterns takes time so be patient with yourself as you find the strength and resources within yourself and in relationships with other animals (when the time is right). You will always be influenced by the effect of the relationship that you had with your lost pet.

My thanks to these animals who have touched and inspired me and helped me move through loss:

My Maddie

Marky, who we rescued in SouthTexas

"Flash"  -- a very special street dog in Chile

Name unknown, but he melted my heart   

In Chile on a farm -- sent by Cinnamon so I could cuddle her and hear a purr again.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Over 100 Dogs Rescued From Tennessee Puppy Mill (Video)

Re-Posted By Dawn Kairns, Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Original Post "120 Dogs Seized From Unlicensed Tennessee Puppy Mill" by Sharon Seltzer on the Care 2 Blog

More than 120 dogs that were living in horrendous conditions at an unlicensed puppy mill in Tennessee were rescued and taken to the State Fairgrounds by Animal Rescue Corps and the Warren County Sherriff’s Office on March 29.

The case began when Animal Rescue Corps (ARC) received a tip concerning the welfare of the dogs.

“These animals were suffering from starvation and various untreated illnesses.  We got here just in time for some of them,” said Scotlund Haisley, president of ARC  “Every year, the estimated 10,000-plus puppy mills in the U.S. produce more than 4 million puppies while millions are killed in shelters.”

Mr. Haisley took time from the exhausting efforts to care for the seized dogs to give a personal account of the rescue mission.

ARC rescuers found Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Brussels Grissons and other small breeds living outdoors in crowded 2x3 foot rusted rabbit hutches on the property of Wilma Jones. 

Haisley said the conditions “were among the worst he’s ever seen.”

The dogs all showed signs of neglect with overgrown nails, severely matted fur, bad teeth, untreated infections, burns from being soaked in urine and fecal packs. Some had “significant medical issues” and all of them were ”extremely thin.”

As the rescue team released the breeding mothers from each cage, they came across seven deceased dogs.

One small dog broke their hearts when the team found her squeezed between the bodies of two dogs that had died as she tried to keep herself warm.

Many of the dogs were covered with a pink stain that came from the rust on their wire cages.  Haisley said, “When the dogs were washed the black dirt and rust just kept running off their fur.”

Newborn puppies and their nursing mothers were found living in the basement of Ms. Jones’ home.  The level of ammonia coming from the dogs’ urine was so strong the Hazmat team wouldn’t allow rescuers inside to help the animals until they neutralized the fumes. 

Haisley is proud of ARC’s rescue mission, “The majority of the dogs were adults and breeding mothers that have been trapped on the property their whole lives. Now they have the opportunity for a better life.”

Haisley also said, “We haven’t lost any of our charges since seizing the dogs and their numbers keep rising because several litters have been born at the fairgrounds.”

The dogs will remain at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds until Tuesday when Wilma Jones will be charged by District Attorney Lisa Zavogiannis with violations of county and state cruelty laws.  Ms. Jones contends that she ”loves her dogs greatly.”

If ARC is given custody of the animals the plan is to eventually place them with local animal shelter partners and rescue groups that will ultimately find new homes for the dogs.

In the meantime, 24 hour care is being provided.  Each dog is receiving veterinary care, grooming and socialization.  Haisley said the surrounding community has been very supportive and brought blankets, towels and food.

An army of local and national volunteers are cleaning cages, feeding the dogs, teaching them how to walk on a leash and doing whatever needs to be done.  Local groomers have taken time away from their businesses to bath the dogs and cut away their matted fur.”
But Haisley says, “The best job at the Fairgrounds is the crew who gets to socialize the dogs.  They are resilient and caring and the dogs are eating up the attention.”

ARC estimates the entire cost for the rescue mission and rehabilitation of the dogs to be $65,000. That includes temporary housing for volunteers, food, generators to keep everyone warm, transportation and more.

Here is a non-graphic video of the rescue.