MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ode to Animal Rescuers

It has truly been a time of unprecedented disasters: earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, to name the most recent. Many lives have been lost, humans as well as animals. With each disaster, animal rescuers are called upon to search for, assist, and transport displaced animals to safety. Having traveled to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina to help care for displaced animals, I have a sense of the effort it takes and the sadness it can involve. I also remember the sense of immense satisfaction and fulfillment available to those helping the animals.

This tribute is for you, all of you animal rescuers who give so much of yourselves to help our furry angels. It is for those of you who travel long distances to rescue in emergency situations; for you who travel to kill shelters to save those whose time is up to transport them to waiting rescue groups; for all of you kind souls who foster animals in your homes, for without you there would be no rescue groups; for all of you who adopt dogs, cats and other animals; for the thousands of you on twitter and Facebook sharing information and links to help save the animals across the country and throughout the world; for all of you volunteers at animal shelters and rescue groups; and for any of you who I have failed to mention to make the lives of homeless animals better, this tribute is to you:

By the love of those who I've been privileged to rescue
I have been rescued.
I know what true unconditional love really is 
for I've seen it shining in the eyes of so many
Grateful for so little.
I am an animal rescuer.
My work is never done. 
My home is never quiet. 
My wallet is always empty.
But my heart is always full.
--Author Unknown

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Pawty" Time: Reading Therapy Dogs Celebrated by Columbine Elementary

Columbine Elementary Canine Reading Program had their end of year "pawty" for the dogs and handlers yesterday. The kids made chocolate chip cookies for we humans and dog cookies to thank the working dogs, too. And whoops! The first thing Maddie did when she walked in the room was grab a HUGE chocolate chip cookie from the platter! I had my hand in her mouth digging it out in no time! Luckily, I retrieved most of it.

I know I don't act like a therapy dog ... but I make them smile and play!
She was all over the place with excitement -- not at all the behavior you might expect from a therapy dog -- a reading program therapy dog no less! The kids took turns taking her leash and walking her in circles around the room, and Maddie complied so readily. It was such a joy watching the children's joy with the dogs, and vice versa. I realized that much more was happening here than helping kids to read. This program is also a form of humane education. The young children watch the handlers with our dogs and without words realize the dogs are so valuable and precious to us. They take in our bonds and form their own with the dogs. They play, love, learn compassion and the joy of dog. And they will grow up and hopefully always hold these memories in their hearts, of love and compassion for animals.  May they transfer it to people, too.

We hugged good-bye until next year. Some we won't see as they move away or go on to Middle School...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Intuition, Our Personal Built In Guidance System

Do you ever find yourself doubting the power of your inner voice, your intuition? Those of you who read  MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life know I paid a big price for not following my intuition. One of the profound ways I was changed through my relationship with Maggie was learning to trust my intuition. Our intuition, our gut sense, is a gift from the Divine. If you are not already trusting and listening to yours, I strongly encourage you to listen pay attention and begin to foster your gift ...
The following excerpt is from the article, Intuition: The Most Trusted Guide
by Isaac E. Nwokogba. 

"Developing our intuition is not as difficult as it may seem. We all have it and it's always working even without any effort on our part. It is a force within us that is constantly yearning to express itself especially when so much is at stake for us. Our challenge is to recognize its powers and follow its directions more often than most people currently do. All that is required is for us to pay more attention to what it has to tell us.

Allowing your intuition to express itself may be as simple as asking who's at the other end of the line before picking up the phone; where should I go for dinner? Which road should I take? Should I make this call now or wait, or will I get this job? These are simple questions we sometimes ask ourselves without allowing the answers to come from within us. The tendency here is to immediately interrupt the response with objective analysis or try to guess the answers: maybe it's my mother calling; I don't like this or that about that restaurant; or that road is always too busy.

Developing your intuition is as simple as allowing the answers to these simple questions to come from within, without interruption, guesswork, or objective analysis. Unlike probing the subconscious where you seek general guidance and the response to which is not expected to be immediate, you ask these questions with the expectation of an immediate, direct response from within. Well-developed intuition can be our most trusted guide. It is always right and responds in our best interests."

Visit, Daily Inspiration for more inspirational articles or to receive the wonderful Daily Inspiration messages.


Monday, May 16, 2011

How to Control Fleas Without Chemicals

This is the time of year many pet guardians have to think about protecting their dogs and cats from fleas and ticks. Because they are recommended by veterinarians and common place to use, many folks don't realize that many flea and tick products are toxic to both their pets and to humans. This excellent article by author Ingrid King (see her full bio below) addresses the use of safer natural alternatives for you and your pets.

  How to Control Fleas Without Chemicals 
Many of the flea and tick treatments available today contain toxic chemicals that can be hazardous to pets and to people.  Even when these products are used according to the manufacturer's directions, these chemicals are not safe for pets or humans.  The Environmental Protection Agency, in coordination with the Food and Drug Administrations Center for Veterinary Medicine, is pursuing a series of actions to increase the safety of spot-on products for pets.  These actions are designed to help consumers use these pesticides safely.  However, many pet owners prefer to not use these products at all and are looking for safer, more natural alternatives instead.

There are safer, natural ways to control fleas.  They may require a bit more effort on your part, but isn't that effort worth it if it's safer for you and your pet?

Use a good flea comb with tightly spaced teeth.  Comb your pet daily during flea season and drop any fleas you find into a bowl of soapy water to kill them.

Bathe your pet with a gentle shampoo such as oatmeal.  You don't need to use harsh flea shampoos - most of them have chemicals in them, which is what you're trying to avoid by not using the pesticide spot-ons in the first place.    Fleas tend to accummulate in bedding, so wash your pet's bedding as well.

Vacuum thoroughly, including on and under furniture and in crevices and near baseboards.  Discard the vacuum bag immediately after vacuuming to prevent fleas and eggs from reinfesting your home.  Severe infestations may require professional steam cleaning.

Feeding a high quality, varied diet can help prevent fleas.  A stronger diet leads to a stronger immune system, and it is believed that this can contribute to your pet being more resistant to fleas.  Pet owners who feed raw or homemade diets have reported that their pets no longer have flea problems.  

Maintain Outdoor Areas
Keep your grass mowed and keep shrubbery trimmed short in areas where your pet spends time.  This will increase sunlight and dryness, which will help reduce the flea problem.  Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in your yard to cut down on the flea population.  Diatomaceous earth also makes a great natural pantry bug killer, it works for all insects.  It's reported to be safe around pets, but don't sprinkle it directly on your pet!  

Natural Flea Control Products
There are numerous natural flea control products on the market, but not all of them are safe for pets.   In particular, avoid using products containing essential oils such as Pennyroyal, Tea Tree or Citrus oils.  None of these are safe to use around pets, especially around cats.  The Lavender Cat is an excellent website devoted to scientific research about cats and essential oil safety.  The site is currently being revised, but it has some good basic information about why essential oils are not safe to use around cats.  Some manufacturers of essential oils claim that their oils are pure and safe to use around cats, but quite frankly, I wouldn't take any chances on statements of that nature unless they're backed up by research by an independent toxicologist.

The National Resource Defense Concil's Green Paws website has a comprehensive directory of flea and tick products, including natural products, and lists ingredients and toxicity warnings. 
If you're using natural products to control fleas for your pets, please share with us what has worked for you in a comment.

(c) Ingrid King 2011 
Re-printed with permission of the author

Ingrid King is the award winning author of Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher.  She is a former veterinary hospital manager turned writer. Her online magazine News for You and Your Pet goes out to subscribers around the world. Her blog, The Conscious Cat, has been called “educational cat nip for the cat lover” and is a comprehensive resource for conscious living, health and happiness for cats and their humans.  For more information about Ingrid and Buckley’s Story, please visit

Photo: Public Domain Pictures

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An Act of Dog Is Born: Can the U.S. Become No-Kill?

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

Can the U.S. Become a No-Kill Nation?

This post by Megan Drake was on the Care 2 Blog earlier this month. I think the commitment of Marina Dervan and Mark Barone to make the U.S. a no-kill nation bears sharing:

Can the U.S. Become a No-Kill Nation?
Every once in a while, you come across a very creative person -- or two -- with the commitment and determination to make a difference for a cause dear to their heart.  Marina Dervan and Mark Barone are two such people.  Their cause: make the United States the first no-kill nation on earth.

Dog lovers for decades, they are still mourning their 20-year-old dog, Santina, who died last year. Mark and Marina were beside themselves with grief.  When they finally decided it was time to adopt a new canine into their lives, they started a search online and contacted shelters and rescue groups.
Through this research, they discovered some facts about homeless pets in the U.S.and were stunned to learn that most shelters have a 60% kill rate -- or higher.  They decided they had to do something about it. 

"We simply asked ourselves...what can we do?  We have got to get the truth out there, and stop the outrageous killing," Marina told me in an email.  "How can we combine our talents to change the status quo, wake people up, so collectively we don't remain silent about things that matter?"

The next day, Mark -- a prolific artist -- told Marina he decided he will paint portraits of the total number of dogs killed every day in U.S. shelters.  The idea started to take shape when Marina began researching websites and shelters to determine the number of dogs killed every year.

She discovered there is no mandatory reporting of kill numbers from shelters in the country.  She learned about Asilomar Accords -- an attempt to standardize data collection from shelters --  through Maddie's Fund and realized they would have to estimate the conclusions.  And so 5,500 U.S. shelter dogs killed per day is the number they calculated.  Marina and Mark actually believe the number to be higher but settled on what they estimate as a conservative figure.

An Act of Dog Is Born
With no-kill as their goal, Marina and Mark came up with an idea to help raise funds for the many animal rescuers who are working at the local, hands-on level to save animals.  They understand the actual saving of pet's lives is taking place there and not with the national organizations like HSUS or PETA.

They are attempting to raise $20 million to be spread among the frontline workers.  Yes,, $20 million is a lot of money, but they have a unique way to raise it.

Mark will create 5,500 paintings of actual dogs who were killed in shelters and display them to the public.  That is, after all, the low-ball number Mark and Marina calculated; that's how many dogs are killed every day in U.S. shelters. 

They will display the paintings on ten foot high panels that will take up the length of two football fields.  It will be a stunning statement.

An Act of Dog Evolves
An Act of Dog continues to evolve.  At first, the couple thought they would display the portraits at various cities throughout the country and eventually sell the paintings.  As they realized the enormous visual impact a display of 5,500 portraits will have on the average person, they understood it would not be enough.  A grander idea was conceived. 

They now plan on giving the display -- the size of two football fields -- a permanent home in a theme park-like setting where people can visit with their family, both human and canine, and browse shops and attractions at the same time.  Think Disneyland for dogs! They are currently searching for a permanent site and are open to hearing from any area of the country.

An Act of Dog is progressing, but is still in its infancy.  Phase One started when Mark and Marina put out a bid to 32 cities to host the creation of the portraits.  Ultimately Louisville, Kentucky was chosen and recently Marina and Mark moved there from their home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The Mellwood Art Center in Louisville has generously donated the space for Mark to create the portraits.

The portraits are just the beginning.  In Phase Two, Marina will be working on making a documentary on the no-kill movement in an effort to educate the public about the issues we face in continuing to fund high-kill shelters.  "We aspire to become the greatness that our beloved pets already believe us to be, by ensuring with our voices and actions that America becomes a No-kill Nation" is the message on the homepage of An Act of Dog.

Work on the documentary is scheduled to begin in the next couple of months.  Marina has already interviewed some shelter workers who are willing to reveal what goes on in the infamous killing rooms and how the animals are disposed of.  The purpose, of course, is public education with the goal of no-kill. 

Some Disturbing Statistics
Marina told me there are between 8-12 million pets per year who find their way into the shelter system.  With the exception of those in privately funded, no-kill shelters, the vast majority of pets will eventually be killed because they were not adopted in time.  The typical ordinance, though every municipality differs, mandates that a stray pet must be claimed by an owner within 72 or be euthanized.  Some shelters will keep the pet longer if space permits, but not all.

People who are interested in participating in this novel initiative can visit the website to donate toward expenses.

The Work Moves Forward
"No-kill people already get it," Mark told me in an interview.  "Our goal is to show the general public what is happening in high-kill shelters, so things can change."  When asked how emotionally draining the creation of these portraits may be on Mark, he responded,  "the mission fuels me."

"I must pay homage to their spirits and to do that I study their photos."  He went on to say how difficult it is to connect with a spirit of a dog that is now dead, knowing there is no valid reason the pet lost his life.   "We are determined to see it through," both Marina and Mark agreed.  "We do not want the dogs to have died in vain."
Would You Like to Help?
Both Mark and Marina are so committed to the no-kill concept they have dedicated the next two years of their lives to making it a reality.  They will be working on this project full time until it is complete, with no personal compensation.  Want to join them in their efforts?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

2 Women Save 8,952 Animals

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

Colorado Animal Rescue Express, or C.A.R.E. seems appropriate to post about on Mother's Day, since these 2 amazing women, Linda Fox and Lisa Mendelsberg are responsible for saving the lives of 8,401 dogs and 551 cats since C.A.R.E's inception on 6/27/2007 (as of February, 2011). Isn't that what mothers do -- love, nurture, protect, care, save ... ?

I was fortunate to pick up a dog several months ago from the C.A.R.E. transport when it arrived in Denver, to take to her new home. How incredibly inspiring it was to see all these dogs in the vans, who likely would have been euthanized, having a second chance on life. They were all going to have a home in Colorado soon. Equally inspiring was seeing all the volunteers from the myriad of rescue groups picking up the dogs to take them to their foster homes. I will never forget Linda Fox's face -- the joy, peace, and satisfaction living there. I knew I'd where that expression, too, if I knew I was responsible for saving all these lives.

Through transport using rented vans, C.A.R.E. volunteers have driven over 472,000 miles to save these 8,952 animals. As of this writing the numbers will be even higher since these figures are several months old.

"The mission of C.A.R.E. is to arrange and provide safe transportation for domestic animals who are going to approved rescues and adoptive homes.
Twice a week, C.A.R.E. arranges and provides the safe transportation of dogs and cats from high-kill shelters in Colorado and neighboring states that are going to rescue groups or adoptive homes. C.A.R.E. works with over 110 rescue organizations who commit to taking the homeless animals into foster care for proper assessment and placement."

Each transport consists of renting multiple vans to move approximately 20 animals. C.A.R.E. currently transports animals from
high kill shelters in rural Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Nebraska.  
"Donations and grants are needed to cover the rental van charges, gasoline, and the purchase and maintenance of transport supplies.  It costs C.A.R.E. an average of $29 to transport an animal to safety."  

Linda Fox and Lisa Mendelsberg were awarded Denver Channel 7's Everyday Hero Award on 3/17/2011. Please visit the C.A.R.E. website to learn more or/and to donate to their wonderful cause at:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Birthday, Maddie Girl

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

You, my girl, are truly a joy ...

You NEVER stop smiling.  You make people on the trail laugh when you circle them and drop a stick at their feet, hoping they'll throw it for you. You bring happiness to us, to the kids at the juvenile center, the kids in the reading program at Columbine Elementary, and to everyone you meet.

Your tail never stops wagging and that earned you my nickname for you of "Thumpy." You brighten my life, Maddie Girl. I treasure our morning cuddles in bed, your greeting when I walk in the door, the way you lick my tears when I cry.

 I love you with all my heart.

You, Tom and I know our little secret of how your 5-5-05 birthday connects back to Maggie :)

Thank you for coming into our lives, Baby Angel. Happy 6th Birthday, Maddie, and may there be so very many more!

Monday, May 2, 2011

It Was "Just" a Pitbull ...

Can We As a Therapy Dog Team Change That Perception?

Last week when Maddie, my therapy dog and I made our weekly visit to the juvenile center, I had intended to talk to the kids about animal cruelty. However, when we arrived and there was only 1 teen there, I thought about saving this talk for a larger group. But for some reason I decided to go ahead and talk about what constitutes animal cruelty, what an individual can do about it, and the link between animal and human abuse.

I asked a question I'd never asked before. "Have you ever witnessed animal cruelty? At home? On TV? By a friend?"

Dustin, a caseworker, with Maddie

"Yes," came the surprising answer back. Surprising because of his rapid forthrightness with his response. "I've seen a relative hit his pit bull. But it was just a pit bull. I've hit a pit bull, too. But I would never hit a dog like that one," he said, motioning to Maddie.

Maddie and me: We talk first and then the kids play with her

First, I had to keep my mouth from dropping in order to respond and not blow all rapport with this young man.

"What do you mean, just a pit bull? Hitting an animal to punish him/her is not OK," I said.

"But it's a pitbull," he said. "They're different." He made some reference to himself doing something wrong, and said if punishment wasn't OK then he shouldn't be in the juvenile center. Then I talked about the importance of drawing boundaries and having consequences for both humans and dogs -- as opposed to striking any being. I could see he was still dubious, and likely brainwashed by his relative or others with a mind set that pit bulls are fighting dogs or mean and need to be "put in their place."

Ms. Maddie paying attention to "Mom"

"You're not buying this, are you?" I asked him.

"I'm listening," he said.

Maddie and Nick, another caseworker (he really loves her!)

"Did you know animal cruelty is against the law in Colorado?"

"I don't pay much attention to the laws," he quipped.

"Hmm. Do you suppose that's why you're in here?" I was amazed at his response!

He smiled and shrugged. As he began playing with Maddie, I talked about the stereotype so many people have re: pit bulls; how it was humans who bred fighting genes into the breed and try to make them mean; and how at the turn of the century they were the family dog.

Barb, juvenile center supervisor, with Maddie

I do find it interesting that while some part of this young man believed that pit bulls somehow deserved to be hit to control them, where other breeds do not, he did clearly recognize it as cruelty given his immediate response to my first question. Did Maddie and I make a difference in this teen's thinking about animal cruelty and pit bulls? I'll probably never know. I can only hope we planted a seed.