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2 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015

Publisher: Brian Edwards Revue Holding Company 65 Monroe Center Suite 5 Grand Rapids, MI 49503 Associate Publisher: Molly C. Rizor Managing Editor: Mary Ullmer


Creative Director: Kevin Kyser Dogs Unleashed is a bi-monthly magazine especially for dog lovers. It is available free throughout West Michigan. It also can be purchased via mail-order subscription by sending a check for $24 for 1 year or $36 for 2 years to Revue Holding Company, 65 Monroe Center, Suite 5, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. To advertise in Dogs Unleashed, contact All material published in Dogs Unleashed is copyrighted © 2015 by Revue Holding Company. All rights reserved. Reproduction of material presented in Dogs Unleashed is prohibited without written permission. Contents are for entertainment only. Publisher assumes no responsibility for the accuracy, safety or performance of information or products presented. The opinions presented are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or judgment of the publisher or advertisers. Send photos, questions or comments to: Find us online! Website: Facebook: DogsUnleashedMagazine

Printed in the U.S.A.

To Advertise: (616) 608-6170


5 Canine Calendar 6 Fetch! 7 Paws-Ability 8 The Groom Room 9 Animal Law 10 Ask the Vet 12 Working Dogs: Canine Actor 17 Feature: Doggy DNA 22 Feature: Mutts Gallery 30 The Tail End

on the cover

photo by jennifer waters

We invited readers via our Facebook page to participate in our “Strut Your Mutt” photo session, and our two sessions filled faster than you can say YorkiePoo. When it was all said and done, Wesley’s under bite stole our hearts and earned the cover spot.

January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 3


who we are

Writing: Dr. Doreen Comrie (Ask the Vet), Susan Harrison-Wolffis (Doggy DNA, The Tail End), Ginny Mikita (Animal Law), Linda Odette (Fetch), Kristie Swan (Paws-ability), Melissa Verplank (The Groom Room), Tricia Woolfenden (Working Dogs)

Mary Ullmer (Editor), is a former manager, editor, reporter and blogger who previously worked for the Grand Rapids Press, Chicago Tribune, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Springfield News-Leader and Muskegon Chronicle. Email her at

Cartoonist: Jonny Hawkins Copy editing: Linda Odette TO SUBSCRIBE To have Dogs Unleashed delivered to your home, send a check ($24 for 1-year subscription, $36 for 2 years) to:

West Michigan Spay & Neuter Clinic

6130 Airline Road Fruitport, MI 49415

Dogs Unleashed

c/o Revue Holding Company Suite 5 Grand Rapids, MI 49503

CONTACT US To submit items for our Canine Calendar, story ideas or inquiries, send an email to

Kevin Kyser (Creative Director), owns Kyser Design Werks, a full-service branding and marketing firm. Kevin and his wife Jody have four children, four cats and a 150-pound Lab/ Rottweiler mix named Gus. Email him at Jennifer Waters (Photographer), is a professional pet photographer at Grumpy Pups Pet Photography, (ad on p. 28) She also is a freelance writer and volunteer photographer at Harbor Humane Society. She credits her three boxers — the original “grumpy pups” — for her love of working with animals. View her work at or contact Jennifer at

SAVE THE DATE: March 30, 2015

HUMANE SOCIETY OF WEST MICHIGAN This extravaganza will feature the hottest restaurants, breweries and wineries in West Michigan. Guests will enjoy fabulous cuisine, tastings of fine wines & microbrews and an incredible auction. For further information or to get involved, please contact: | (616) 791-8138 4 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015



Animal Adventure Day, 9 a.m.3:30 p.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Dr. NW, Grand Rapids. Kids in grades 6-8 are invited to spend the day playing with the shelter animals, including dogs, cats and bunnies. They’ll also make enrichment items for the animals and much more. Cost is $35. To register, contact Jen Self-Aulgur (616) 791-8066 or


Paws 2 Remember, 6 p.m., Hospice of North Ottawa, 1061 S. Beacon, Suite 100, Grand Haven. A pet-loss grief support group presented by Clock Timeless Pets. Free. For information, call (231) 722-3721 or (616) 844-4200. Also held Feb. 3.


Toddler Tails, 10-10:45 a.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Designed for ages 2-4 and includes stories, activities, crafts and animal interactions. Cost is $5 per family. Contact Jen Self-Aulgur (616) 791-

CANINE CALENDAR 8066 or Also held Feb. 10.


Baby Ready Pets, noon-2 p.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. A workshop to help prepare your pet for the arrival of your bundle of joy. With a little training and assistance, you can make it a safe and stress-free experience for the whole family. Contact Jen SelfAulgur (616) 791-8066 or jaulgur@


Paws 2 Remember, 7 p.m., Scolnik Healing Center, 888 Terrace St., Muskegon. Petloss grief support group presented by Clock Timeless Pets. Free. For information, call (231) 722-3721 or (616) 844-4200. Also held Feb. 16.



Furry Friday Films, 5:309:30 p.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077

Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Kids in grades K-5 are invited to join HSWM for animal time, games, crafts and an animal movie. Pizza, pop and popcorn provided. Cost is $25 per child with a $10 sibling discount. Contact Jen SelfAulgur (616) 791-8066 or jaulgur@


Bow Wows & Brews, 6:30 p.m., Goei Center, 818 Butterworth SW, Grand Rapids. A dog-friendly fundraiser for the Community Spay/Neuter Initiative Partnership (CSNIP) featuring craft beer, food, games, photos and fun. For information, including sponsor packets, go to


Pet Education Day, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Scolnik Healing Center, 888 Terrace, Muskegon. It’s an event to celebrate National Pet Education month that will feature speakers, vendors, refreshments and more. Free. For more information, contact Clock Timeless Pets (231) 722-3721.

Pet Education Day! saturday • february 28, 2015 10 am - 4 pm • No Charge At The Scolnik Healing Center 888 Terrace St. • Downtown Muskegon

Speakers • Refreshments Demonstrations • Vendors Other Sponsors: Dogs Unleashed magazine Grumpy Pups Pet Photography Must Love Dogs Boutique and Spa Lifetime Veterinary Care

Heaven at Home Pet Hospice Ebby’s Pet Bakery Fur Crazy Pet Salon Cara Galbavi Law Scolnik Healing Center

Sponsored by

Clock Timeless Pets 231-722-3721

January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 5



PUT IT HERE What it is: A cool-looking storage box for all those toys your dog has managed to accumulate. But wait, there’s more: It’s 13 x 13 x 13, made of polyester and fits most cube shelving units. Fetch it: It’s $16.99 from 3 Sprouts. Find it at products/dog-storage-box.

PAT, PAT THE DOG DRY What it is: This Microfiber pet towel is perfect for drying your dog after a bath or spending time at the beach. But wait, there’s more: It’s 34 x 19 inches and has two paw-shaped pockets to make drying easier. Fetch it: Made by Paws ‘n’ Claws, you can find it on for $8.98.

A TREAT FOR TEETH What it is: Milk-Bone’s new Brushing Chews are a dental treat for dogs. But wait, there’s more: They are as effective as brushing with a toothbrush, with a patent-pending “twist and nub” design, and have won several awards for product innovation. Fetch it: You can find a box of 36 for about $10 in your grocery store’s pet food aisle.

DID YOU HEAR THAT? What it is: The ultrasonic Hear Doggy! is a squeak toy only your dog can hear. The squeak is set at a high frequency which dogs can hear, but humans can’t. But wait there’s more: It’s available in two plush designs, stuffed (available in small or large) and flats (in one size, with no stuffing in the body). Fetch it: The Hear Doggy! is $17 and you can get it at The site also includes a video explaining how the toy works.

6 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015



Don’t let winter freeze out pooch’s play time Winter in Michigan can be challenging on many fronts. For dog owners, sometimes the biggest challenge is getting enough exercise and stimulation to ward off problem behaviors. When you see an increase in unwanted actions, consider your winter and warm-weather routines and the impact change may have on your dog. Cold weather options are plentiful if you get creative and/or invest in good winter gear for you and your dog. With the advent of all the new textiles, you don’t have to look like Randy from A Christmas Story to stay warm and comfortable. Many dogs love and thrive in the cold weather, so preparing yourself to be out with them is a gift to you both. There are plenty of outdoor items for dogs. A product called Musher’s Secret is great to run into the pads of more tenderfooted dogs. Remember when walking to avoid salted sidewalks unless you know a pet-safe product was used. Winter also is a great time of year to take an indoor class to learn something new or brush up on rusty skills. Canine Pilates is excellent for building core strength, which can help prevent injuries and expensive repair procedures. It also is a great energy burner: 20 minutes of Pilates can be as tiring as a 45-minute walk. Once you learn proper form, you can work with your dog at home. Food games are another way to occupy your pup’s time. Treat-hiding toys and puzzles can be purchased, but here are some do-it-yourself ideas:

Many dogs love and thrive in the cold weather, so preparing yourself to be out with them is a gift to you both. Practicing desired obedience skills can be fun as well. A round-robin recall (coming when called) game can be practiced inside or out. Use a high value reward and hide through the house while family members call your pup to them. Come spring, you’ll have a wonderful recall. Teach the individual names of toys, then ask your pup to choose one by name. If you have a good “drop it,” put a basket under your dog’s mouth and teach him to put his toys away. The possibilities are endless. Working the body and mind is important to the overall health of your dog. Rather than seeing winter as a tough time to exercise, try something new and have fun year-round. Kristie Swan, a certified professional dog trainer, is head trainer and manager at Whiskers University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Contact her at (616) 575-5660 or

• Use an old empty Parmesan cheese shaker, add kibble and watch your dog work to get to the kibble. • Roll treats up in a yoga mat for your pup to unroll and discover. • Put that great sense of smell to work by tossing treats in a dark interior room. • Take cardboard paper towel tubes, put treats inside, crimp the ends lightly, then place around a room. • Place kibble in a muffin pan, then cover each compartment’s kibble with tennis balls. • Plastic party cups can be used to teach the shell game. Poke holes in the cup so your pup has an easier time figuring out which cup hides the treats, then slowly use fewer holes to make the game more difficult. January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 7

the groom room

melissa verplank

Winter grooming tips for your dog Many parts of the country already have been blasted with an early taste of winter. And as I look at my own dogs, I know I still have some work to do to get them ready for another season of frigid weather and plenty of snow. What can you do for your pooch when the thermometer dips into single digits? Winter bathing and skin care

It’s perfectly fine to bathe your pet in the winter. And, with all the snuggling, regular brushing is more important than ever. However, many dogs experience the same types of problems we do with our skin and hair in the winter: dryness, flakiness, itchiness and static. Using a high-quality shampoo and conditioner designed for pets is one of the best ways to combat this problem. Lower quality shampoos can strip the essential oils from the coat, leaving the skin dry, itchy and flaky. Adding a conditioner can minimize static while adding moisture to the skin and coat. Many grooming salons offer special skin and coat treatments during the winter months to combat these problems. Professional salons have the tools and equipment to bathe and dry your pet quickly and safely. If you are bathing your pet at home, you will want to speed up the drying process so your pet does not get chilled. If you prefer to do it yourself, here are some tips: • Make sure your pet is totally dry before it goes back outside. • Encourage your pet to shake at the end of the bathing process to eliminate as much moisture as possible. • Thoroughly dry your pet with towels. On smaller, light-coated dogs, one towel might be sufficient. Larger dogs or dogs with heavier coats will require more towels. 8 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015

• If you don’t have a dryer designed for dogs, use a human hair dryer on the low setting to dry your dog. Use your fingers or grab the correct brush for your dog’s coat type. Gently work through the coat where the warm air is blowing the coat. Make sure you work right down to the skin, but keep the dryer moving. Staying too long in one spot — even on low — can burn the skin. • Keep your pet in a warm environment for a few hours after the bathing process to ensure they are totally dry. Winter grooming and haircuts

The last thing you want to do is ignore regular grooming routines during the winter. In winter, many owners stray from their regular four- to six-week appointments. They fear their pet may get cold. In reality, there is nothing worse than not maintaining regular grooming appointments. Think about how you feel in wet clothes. You get chilled quickly, right? So do your pets after a romp in the snow — especially if they have longer fur. What about that wool sweater you washed and then tossed into a warm dryer? What happened to it? It shrank to a point only a small child could wear, right? There are many pet-coat types that do the same thing without regular brushing, grooming and haircuts. The more this type of dog is out in the elements, the more matted and tangled the coat becomes. It won’t take long for the matting to become so tangled that shaving it off is the only humane option. If you have a dog that gets regular haircuts, don’t forgo your regular haircut appointment. Instead, opt for a slightly longer style. Hair growth does slow slightly during the frigid months. Many pets can have their regular haircut appointments bumped out a week or two. If you’re pushing out your pet’s haircuts by a couple of weeks, regular bathing and brushing is still important. Your professional groomer can counsel you on how to bathe and brush your

pet in between haircuts. If you do not want to do this yourself, they can set up regular maintenance grooming appointments for your pet between haircuts — many times at a reduced rate. Winter brushing

Dogs come in a wide variety of sizes and coat types. Brushing and/or combing your dog more frequently in the winter can help prevent tangles. Regular brushing also helps distribute the natural oils in your dog’s coat. These oils naturally help relieve the dryness that comes with the extra time spent indoors with their families. Each coat type requires a different type of tool to keep it in optimal condition. Talk to your groomer or pet care professional about which tool would be best for your pet’s coat type and how to use it effectively. Winter paw care

Snow, ice and salt can be exceptionally uncomfortable to your dog’s feet. You can minimize the discomfort by following these tips. • Trim toenails regularly. Cold nails break more easily, especially when running through snow and ice. • Trim the excess hair growing between your dog’s toes and pads. Minimizing the excessive coat between the pads in

Photo courtesy of Melissa Verplank

the toes will alleviate the snowballs and ice accumulation from sticking to the fur. • Rinse your dog’s feet or wipe them down with a warm cloth. This will eliminate any salt accumulation or gravel caught between the toes and remove snowballs that might have collected there. • For some pets, booties designed especially for dogs might be helpful. They come in a wide variety of styles and sizes.

made in america

Canine sweaters and coats

Just as we have a wide variety of sweaters and coats for different situations, so do dogs. Make sure you match up the right garment for the job. Lighter sweaters and sweatshirttype materials are perfect for indoor use. When your pet goes outside, more than likely, it will need a heavier jacket, just like we do. It will be important to make sure the garment stays dry while your pet is wearing it. Remove the sweater or jacket frequently and wash them regularly. If your pet has longer fur, it will be important to continue a daily brushing routine to ensure the coat does not mat and tangle. Static can pose a problem, too. To minimize static on your pet, especially while wearing coats and sweaters, use a pet antistatic spray misted lightly onto its coat. Or simply rub a laundry dryer sheet over your dog to minimize the static. As a bonus, your dog will smell fabulous. For most of us in colder climates, winter is a perfect time to spend snuggling with our pets. With the proper grooming and coat care, your dog can remain comfortable, attractive and avoid the dreaded “springtime shave off.” Melissa Verplank has more than 30 years of experience in the pet industry. She has won numerous national and international awards for her mastery of grooming and is author of the award-winning books “Notes From the Grooming Table” and “Theory of Five.” She also is creator of Learn2GroomDogs. com, an online educational video library for pet grooming, and has owned multiple West Michigan pet companies, including Paragon School of Pet Grooming and Whiskers Pet Resort and Spa.

Why Pet Stop brand? Pet Stop is a genuine pet fence system innovator and the most reliable pet containment system you can find. EcoLite™ Rechargeable Receiver! • Lightweight (a mere .78 ounces) • It is cross-compatible with other brands • Optional LED feature lets you keep track of your pet after dark 616-974-9470 • •

You’re welcome At Tun-Dra Kennels, we welcome all breeds and varieties to our clean, serene country setting. We offer: Personal service. The owners of Tun-Dra Kennels live on site and deliver hands-on care to each dog. Experience. Tun-Dra has been family owned and operated since 1964, and has cared for dogs in West Michigan for more than 50 years. A Happy, Healthy Environment: Our large indoor/outdoor kennels are designed to promote physical and mental well-being. Each dog has territory to call his own.

“Like” us on Facebook: Tun-Dra Kennels • 16438 - 96th Ave • Nunica • (616) 837-9726 January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 9

animal law

ginny mikita

Justice can be blind when it comes to value of pets For the past two years, I have had the privilege of writing the grief column for Dogs Unleashed. Beginning with this issue, I don my primary professional attire -— a legal suit — and write about what I know best: animal law. And what better way to start than with dispelling one of the most widely held legal myths: Companion animals are priceless. In November, a Cedar Springs man brutally killed a kitten named Luna in front of a crowd of horrified onlookers, including children. It’s a felony under Michigan’s animal anti-cruelty laws. After the jury’s conviction, Kent

County Circuit Court Judge Donald Johnston sentenced the man to up to eight years in state prison. While justice was seemingly done, Luna’s owners, should they choose to sue in civil court, would be entitled to recover nothing more than her street market value. “Luna is treated under the law as if she were a table lamp or some other piece of personal property,” said Johnston. “Street market value” is generally calculated as the amount of money someone would pay on the date of death for an animal of the same age, breed and condition. Nothing more. Most families’ pets do not hold pedigrees. Many are rescues or mixed breeds. In the eyes of the law, they have little or no market value. In contrast, when a human family member is injured or killed due to


Mikita Kruse Law Center Providing compassionate legal counsel to the voiceless — animals, children and incapacitated adults — and to those assisting their aging family members in West Michigan for 20+ years

In 2015, I plan to approach the Michigan legislature demanding the value our laws place on our companion animals align with their value not only in our hearts and lives but in their very being. the intentional or even negligent act of another, the family usually has the right to sue the responsible party for damages. The legal system recognizes and allows for compensation to the victim and the victim’s family for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering or loss of companionship, love and affection. Despite the roles pets play in millions of our homes, most

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Pet Funeral Home • Cremation • Cemetery 24 Hour Emergency Services

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Bob Kruse 616.460.4476 | 10 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015

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ASK THE VET states, including Michigan, make no such provisions. Of the handful of states that do allow for some limited monetary compensation, it is minimal. For example, in California, a plaintiff arranged for an elaborate funeral for her 15-year-old poodle, including a head stone, an epitaph and attendance by plaintiff ’s two sisters and a friend. Upon opening the casket, the plaintiff found the body of a dead cat. The court ruled she was entitled to $700 in damages beyond her dog’s street market value for the shock, mental anguish and despondency she suffered due to the wrongful destruction and loss of her beloved’s body. In Tennessee, a leader in this arena, a companion animal owner may, under limited circumstances, seek noneconomic damages up to $5,000 for the death of a companion animal against a person who intentionally or negligently causes the death or injuries leading to the animal’s death. These damages are not for the intentional infliction of emotional distress of the owner or other civil claim, but rather for the direct loss of “reasonably expected society, companionship, love and affection of the pet.” The handful of states that have made way for a recognition of a pet’s “intrinsic value,” described by one court as “a pet is not just a thing but occupies a special place somewhere in between a person and a piece of personal property” are to be commended. They have boldly taken the first step toward increasing the status of companion animals under the law. In 2015, I plan to approach the Michigan legislature demanding the value our laws place on our companion animals align with their value not only in our hearts and lives but in their very being. Please contact me if you are interested in supporting this effort. Ginny Mikita is an attorney and owner of Mikita Kruse Law Center, specializing in animal protection law. Contact her at

dr. Doreen Comrie

photo by jennifer waters

Dogs can be adept at masking pain


“My dog doesn’t act like he is pain because he doesn’t cry. How do I know if my dog is in pain, sick or just getting old?” Unless there is a very intense and acute source of trauma, such as a severe blow to the body by an automobile accident or nerve pain, dogs generally do not cry out or vocalize when in pain. It is far more common for pets in pain to simply avoid things that cause them more pain. They tremble or shiver, seem restless when trying to sleep, or pant. They stop doing their usual enjoyable activities, become less social or are reluctant to move. Pets in pain are less active and may gain weight, compounding the problem of overloading joints. Dogs may hesitate to get in the car or on furniture. A


dog may not greet his family when arriving home or may no longer bark at the window to show interest in his environment. Chronic pain causes biochemistry changes resulting in behavioral changes and depression. Dogs may become less tolerant of people or other animals, and some will seclude themselves from the rest of the household. Pain can cause disorders that mimic allergic skin conditions. Lick granulomas (severe skin sores induced by constant licking) can be the result of a compulsive behavioral disorder in an effort to try to suppress pain elsewhere in the body. Laser light therapy is used to trigger a reduction in pain reception at nerve endings and increase serotonin levels, helping to treat conditions like lick granulomas.

January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 11


dr. Doreen Comrie

Depression can be related to a lack of physical activity. Physical activity is known to reduce chronic pain through increasing endorphin chemicals in the brain. Laser therapy and physical rehabilitation are newer treatments that are becoming widely available for treatment of many painful conditions in pets. Painful conditions are incorrectly attributed to “just getting old.” Aging pets may have hidden arthritis or underlying organ dysfunction. They may be reluctant to go for walks and appear to lack energy for play. Arthritic pets have reduced flexibility of the joints and resultant loss of muscle mass. Muscle aches or weakness may be related to organ disease or endocrine conditions. Veterinarians are trained in medical and orthopedic examination to look for obscure sources of pain owners may not

recognize in daily handling of the pet. Dental disease is a common undertreated source of pain in animals. Dogs with dental pain will still crunch and eat hard food. Occasionally, dog owners report a reluctance to fetch objects or chew objects. Since pets do not chew their food like humans (a dog’s teeth are designed for grabbing food and eating it whole, not chewing food like humans), dental pain is easily overlooked by pet owners. Hidden, painful dental conditions are found by your veterinarian through an oral exam under anesthesia and dental radiographs. Once the dental condition is addressed, many pet owners report their pet acts more youthful, energetic and playful. Consult a veterinarian to catch hidden conditions before they become debilitating and painful. Your veterinarian can determine the cause of

Painful conditions are incorrectly attributed to “just getting old.” Aging pets may have hidden arthritis or underlying organ dysfunction. pain and effectively improve your pet’s condition through both traditional and nontraditional medical management. Dr. Comrie, a graduate of the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, worked in private practice before opening Rogue Valley Veterinary Hospital in 1999. Her primary focus is in the sports medicine and canine physical rehabilitation unit, a subspecialty of RVVH. K-9 Sports Med-Hab receives referrals for sports medicine and physical rehabilitation from all over the Midwest.


Rogue Valley Veterinary Hospital • Wellness Exams • Dentistry • Diagnostics • Specialty & General Surgery • Intensive Care

• Spay & Neuter • Radiology • Physical Rehabilitation • Dog Training • Boarding • Dog Daycare You can get more expert advice in Dr. Comrie’s “Ask the Vet” column.

616-863-9390 • • 4210 14 Mile Road • Rockford 12 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015


The Antler Lady from Michigan

working dogs

canine actor

Sunny gets her Encore A Second Life – in the Spotlight – for a Very Special Rescue

story By Tricia Woolfenden Photo by Joan Marcus January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 13

working dogs


canine actor

t’s not such a hard-knock life for Sandy. The loveable mutt — best pal to Little Orphan Annie — actually has it pretty good. The pups (there’s more than one) who portray the beloved fictional dog on stage and screen lead a rather charmed existence. Adoring fans, a safe and loving home, an abundance of play and attention: It’s a dream come true for most any dog, and perhaps even more so for the homeless dogs rescued by celebrity animal trainer Bill Berloni. The Tony award-winning theater professional has trained dozens upon dozens of animal actors, including as many as 40 Sandys. He even trained the “brand-new-looking” Sandy for the recently released film reboot of Annie starring Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx. Dog and theater lovers in Michigan can see Sunny — one of Berloni’s Sandys — in action when the touring production of Annie hits West Michigan in January for eight performances with Broadway Grand Rapids. Sunny, a roughly 4-year-old terrier mix, first debuted in the role of Sandy on Broadway in late 2012. She and her understudy are touring the country with the major musical production and

Photo by Joan Marcus

When the curtain goes up, eliciting desired behaviors from the dog on stage falls to the actors.

are working under the care of one of Berloni’s trusted trainers. Like Annie, Sunny (and most every dog Berloni has worked with in his more than 40 years of professional animal training), comes with a rags-to-riches back story. “These are animals in shelters that nobody wants,” Berloni said of his trainees. Sunny, an affable, wiry-haired dog, was in a kill shelter and less than a day away from being euthanized when Berloni and crew spotted her online and made a life-saving call to Houston, Texas, to issue something of a “stay.” Berloni sent a handler on a flight to retrieve Sunny just hours before her time was up. The nationwide search and rescue process — and Sunny’s training — were captured on film for a Hallmark Movie Channel mini-documentary, Annie’s Search for Sandy. It’s available on YouTube. Happy, but hard-working, too

Photo by Mary Bloom

Sunny, who plays Sandy in the stage production of Annie, graces the cover of Bill Berloni’s book about the many rescue dogs he has trained for acting roles.

14 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015

The Sandys’ privileged existence doesn’t mean the animals in Berloni’s care don’t contribute their share to the partnership. “Being a stage performer is the toughest assignment for dogs in entertainment,” Berloni said. He explained that while a dog with a role in

“Being a stage performer is the toughest assignment for dogs in entertainment,” — Bill Berloni a movie or on a television show can have a consistency in its schedule, a touring dog must be especially adaptable. “They lose everything that’s familiar to them (when they go on the road),” Berloni said. “Touring dogs live in a different city every week. They pee and poop in a different city every week. They’re changing climates, altitudes. They have to acclimate to their environment and not let it affect their job.” Berloni said the dogs who perform in a Broadway or nationally touring production are among the most clever and hard-working animals around. They not only have to have the right look, but excellent temperaments, good physical health and an eagerness to learn a variety of behaviors. (Don’t call them “tricks” — it diminishes what they do, Berloni said.) A stage dog must be able to tolerate any number of changing circumstances, from bright spotlights and loud noises to people in costume and a flurry of close activity, such as choreographed fighting and dancing. That’s not even taking into account the variables that come with a

If you go Broadway Grand Rapids presents Annie When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13-16; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 18 Where: DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids Tickets: Starting at $30 More information:

live audience, which some nights may be 20 feet from the stage and other nights only three feet away. “They’re going from theater to theater,” Berloni said. “The set may be the same, but what’s in front of them changes.” All of these challenges make it crucial that Berloni find the right dog for the right role. He said a dog’s “ability to deal with stress” ranks high on the list of requirements. He also must feel absolutely confident there are no

aggression triggers or a chance for injury to dog or human. “This dog is in the public eye,” he said. “It must be trustworthy. It can’t turn and snap and ask questions later.” Intelligence also is important, and Berloni doesn’t necessarily favor one type of breed over another when seeking out that trait. He sticks with adult rescues in lieu of puppies: “It’s hard to judge what a puppy’s temperament is going to be,” he said. For her role in Annie, Sunny had to master 32 behaviors, many of which are crucial to the plot. “Sunny has to play a character,” Berloni said. “If she doesn’t do a behavior, the story falls apart.” An additional challenge for stage dogs is that the trainer is not the person leading the canine star when the curtain goes up. Berloni must train the human actors so they can elicit the desired behaviors at the precise moment. In the case of Annie, this means handing over the reigns to a child. “I have to turn over that level of skill to a 10-year-old girl,” Berloni said. “(The trainer) is in the wing: We’re not

working dogs

canine actor

controlling the dogs. That’s really what separates what we do from film to stage.” An animal’s happiness is the final, perhaps most important, component to the “How the heck do you get them to do that?” puzzle. A dog must be treated well to give an outstanding performance and an unhappy dog won’t cooperate (or at least not in any audience-convincing capacity). The dogs Berloni puts on stage or on screen are those that enjoy what they’re doing. The rare times when an animal Berloni has rescued doesn’t want to act, he finds a home for it with a better forever fit. “I create an environment where a dog wants to (act),” Berloni said of the power of positive reinforcement. “If a dog doesn’t want to do a behavior, they retire.” Some dogs are involuntarily placed into retirement, such as when arthritis or other ailments kick in. Berloni said this can be tough on the aging animals, particularly when they’ve come to




WALK I N NAI L TRIMS WELCOME $5.00. January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 15

working dogs

canine actor

embrace the “extended family” and social and positive atmosphere of theater life. “They get sad,” Berloni said. “They don’t realize we’re being kind to them. … We go out of our way to make them happy.” Retirement means living full-time on the 90-acre farm Berloni shares with his wife and daughter in Connecticut. The property houses 28 dogs. Only eight are working. The rest are a mix of retirees and up-and-comers. Everything from a 160-pound Irish wolfhound to the Chihuahua that played Bruiser in the stage version of Legally Blonde live there, along with four Totos and five Sandys, the canine character Berloni said created and defined his career. His house is specially designed and built to accommodate the large number of dogs, and his property provides ample room to play. “They get to just be dogs,” Berloni said of life after Broadway. “They sleep, run around, dig holes.”

Photo by Joan Marcus

PROFILE: Bill Berloni For more than 40 years, Berloni has made a career training dogs and other animals for stage, television, commercials and film. His credits include everything from the Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts film Charlie Wilson’s War, to ads for Miller Beer and Purina Dog Chow, and TV shows like HBO’s The Leftovers and Sesame Street. A self-taught expert, Berloni has trained dozens of canine thespians for the stage, among them Bruisers for Legally Blonde and numerous Totos for The Wizard of Oz and Sandys for Annie. Berloni also is an author and actor and received a special Tony award in 2011 for his many years of training animals for Broadway and touring shows.

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doggy dna

photo by jennifer waters

Through DNA testing, owner Graham Colligan learned Banjo is part Basset Hound, Boxer, English Setter, Harrier and Rottweiler.

What’s in your mutt? DNA tests can reveal surprises


It was love at first sight. One look at the 10-week-old puppy named Banjo, and Graham Colligan couldn’t resist. Those long ears. The big feet way too big for such a little guy. The sweet face; that profile. “As soon as I saw him, I had to have him,” Colligan remembers. “He was just so cute.” Because Banjo was a rescue, adopted from the Noah Project, a no-kill animal shelter in Muskegon, little was known about his heritage. Colligan was partial to Basset Hounds, and there

was something faintly reminiscent; something in the way Banjo looked that reminded Colligan of one. But there was more to Banjo than potential Basset Hound, and Colligan struggled to come up with the perfect description. “He has the body of a Basset, the face of a Beagle and the color of a Rottweiler,” Colligan says. The mixed resemblance only got more pronounced as Banjo matured. Now 1½ years old, Banjo looks a little like an indulgent committee designed him — body long and low to the ground; feet still too big for the rest of him; floppy ears that droop to the floor and wave in the wind when he runs; and

photo by jennifer waters

Veterinarian Ingrid Hutchins had her own dog, Bonnie, tested … with mixed results.

January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 17


doggy dna

Dr. Ingrid Hutchins’ dog Bonnie has Collie, Papillion and “mixed breed” in her genetic makeup, according to DNA tests.

a personality bigger than his size would suggest. “People always are asking me: What kind of dog is that?” Colligan says. All he could do is shrug his shoulders and guess a little of this, a little of that — until his veterinarian, Dr. Ingrid Hutchins at Lakeshore Animal Hospital, told Colligan about a DNA testing kit that could give him some insight into Banjo’s genetic makeup. “I mean, it doesn’t make a difference to me what he is,” Colligan says, “but I decided to get the test to put things into context.” DNA testing kits for dogs have been on the market since the mid-2000s when modern technology made it possible to match DNA sequences to specific dog breeds. Some kits — which range in price from $45 to upwards of $120 — are found online or at pet stores. The technique is simple. Pet owners are asked to swab the inside of

18 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015

their dog’s cheek to retrieve the DNA sample (cells), send it through the mail and wait for the results. Colligan decided to go with a slightly more sophisticated profile — the Wisdom Panel Insights from MARS Veterinary — that required his veterinarian to draw a sample of Banjo’s blood to send in for the test. The results floored Colligan because the testing reached back three generations, back to Banjo’s great-grandparents, grandparents and parents, all of whom are unknown and anonymous. “We could only guess,” Colligan says. “I was curious; it was curiosity that made me get the test.” In the end, according to the Wisdom Panel profile, it looks like Banjo is a Basset Hound, Boxer, English Setter, Harrier and Rottweiler mix. “In other words, he’s a purebred mutt,” Colligan jokes.

photo by jennifer waters

If this all sounds too confusing — or even slightly fanciful — rest assured science is at the center of the testing. Purebreds have often undergone testing for their actual heritage, and scientists have developed a technique to identify certain dog breeds based on genetic markers. The various companies that test the DNA of mixed breed dogs — all those lovable mutts in houses everywhere — often have hundreds of genetic markers in their databases. The results satisfy more than a sense of curiosity, Hutchins says, although she never underestimates people’s need to know not only their own heritage, but also their dog’s. “You’d be amazed at how many people come in with dogs they’ve adopted from the shelter, and they want to know what kind of dogs they are,” Hutchins says. The test results can offer up some incredibly valuable information, like


how big they’ll be or what health issues might be in their future. Some breeds can’t handle certain medicines. Others are prone to certain medical or physical problems. Labrador Retrievers are predisposed to hip dysplasia. Boxers are prone to getting cancer. Dobermans sometimes have bleeding disorders. Other breeds are vulnerable to arthritis. The DNA testing can give insight into what’s inside Heinz 57 dogs. Hutchins has stories of other curiosities discovered through DNA testing. One person thought she’d adopted a “mostly” Bernese Mountain Dog, but the DNA test says otherwise. It’s really an Australian Sheep Dog. Another turned out to be an unlikely combination of Lab and Beagle. “Love knows no bounds,” Hutchins quips. Out of curiosity, Hutchins had her own dog, Bonnie, a rescue she thought was a Sheltie mix, tested. On one side of

the family tree, Hutchins’ dog is a Collie/ Papillion mix. On the other side, there is just no telling. The only identifier is “Mixed Breed.” The genes are “too diluted” to identify, Hutchins says. “Sometimes, you just have to embrace their ‘muttness,’ ” she says. That happened to Jan Beukema and Ron Norton, who adopted a Yellow Lab mix in 2010 from the Osceola Animal Control Center Shelter. The couple had just lost their Yellow Lab, whom Beukema describes as the “most wonderful pet.” But purebred Labs have health issues — among them, hip dysplasia — so Beukema and Norton decided to look for a mixed breed, a rescue, as their next pet. They got more than they bargained for. They got Nellie, a 2-year-old pup who looked like a Yellow Lab, but she sure didn’t behave like one. “I should have known,” Beukema says.


doggy dna


When Nellie didn’t behave like a typical Yellow Lab, owners Ron Norton and Jan Beukema had the adopted dog’s DNA tested.


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doggy dna

Nellie’s previous owners had surrendered her because they “couldn’t handle her anymore. She had too much energy.” “She was like a yo-yo,” Beukema says. “She was bouncing all over the place.” And she didn’t calm down. She was nothing like any Lab they’d ever known. She was destructive, didn’t mind and was really high strung. Beukema and Norton worked with a professional trainer and even considered finding Nellie a different home or returning her to the shelter. But both are pet lovers, and they wanted it to work. “I got to wondering: Just what was in her?” Beukema says. She turned to BioPet Vet Lab, a biotechnology company specializing in animal genomics she found online, and ordered a DNA testing kit to find out whatever she could about her dog. Beukema swabbed the inside of Nellie’s

20 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015

cheek — “It was real simple,” she says — and found out why Nellie doesn’t act like a Yellow Lab. She is mostly Beagle. “Looks can be deceiving,” Beukema says. “She looks like a small Yellow Lab.” According to the test results, Nellie has eight different breeds in her heritage. Most predominantly: Beagle and American Eskimo Dog. She also has a small percentage of Australian Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, English Springer Spaniel, Irish Setter and Keeshond. “Amazing, isn’t it?” Beukema says. Like Colligan and Hutchins, the test didn’t change how Beukema and Norton felt about their dog or how much they loved her. But knowing her lineage, discovering just who Nellie was, helped fill in the missing pieces. “It explains a lot,” Beukema says. “We were expecting her to be something she isn’t.”


Despite her looks, Nellie is not a purebred Yellow Lab. In fact, a DNA test reveals she has eight different breeds in her heritage.


doggy dna

‘Official’ registry gives mutts their due BY SUSAN HARRISON-WOLFFIS


t first glance, Jack and Syd look like just a couple of mutts. Dogs of questionable heritage. Pooches without papers; not a pedigree between them. But their owners — Kay Hargett and Julie Lenio — are crazy about them. It doesn’t bother them a bit that Jack and Syd are nothing but mutts. In fact, they celebrate it. “Really, they’re the best of all breeds,” Lenio says, and she means it. She’s not resorting to a clever pun, taking aim at the world of competitive dog shows, just to make a point. “Mutts are great dogs,” she continues. Lenio and Hargett are so serious about honoring mutts — dogs of mixed ancestry — they’ve created a website called The Official Mutt Registry. It is a novel idea, one the former neighbors cooked up back in 2008 when Lenio and Hargett lived on the same block in a Grand Rapids neighborhood. Lenio had Syd, an adopted puppy delighted by her Heinz 57 parentage mix of Collie, Lab, Chow and Husky. “She has one ear up, and one ear down,” Lenio says, “but we don’t care what she looks like. She’s a great dog.” Hargett felt the same about Jack, an improbable Husky/Beagle mix, who stole everyone’s heart in the family with his personality — and still does. “I think (mutts) get overlooked,” Hargett says. “They don’t get their due.” With that in mind, she and Lenio dreamed up The Official Mutt Registry, where people can register their dogs, receive certificates that document them as true, certified Mutts — and give them a little respect. “Really, it’s a fun way to give these

dogs some recognition, but we’re serious, too,” Hargett says. For several years, Hargett and Lenio used the old-fashioned word of mouth method to get the news out about the registry, continuing even when Hargett and her husband moved to Pentwater in retirement. Lenio, who works parttime in the financial aid department at Aquinas College, and her husband live in Grand Rapids. In 2014, they created the website, complete with photos of dogs registered, options for certificates and packages that range in price from $19 to $79 — and a poignant reminder that “You don’t need a pedigree to be a best friend.” They can point to Jack and Syd as Exhibits A and B but Hargett also

For more information, visit loves to tell the story of Addie, the first Official Mutt registered, who became the constant in the lives of two boys after their parents were divorced. The parents had joint custody, and the kids spent one week with their mom, the next with their dad. Addie, a black mutt rescued from an animal shelter by the family, went with them, back and forth between houses, always there for the boys. Such is the story of mutts — no pedigree; just unconditional love. “I think that’s pretty special,” Hargett says. “There’s just something about mutts, that special spark ... that love you just know is there.”

PHOTO COURTESY mutt registry

January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 21

Sakaya Siberian Husky/Pit Bull/Black Labrador Retriever mix Age: 1½ Owners: Peter & Lyndsey Baculi, Grand Rapids

special photo gallery


We’re nuts about photos by Jennifer waters

Bina Pit Bull mix Age: 3 Owner: Eleanor Dotson, Grand Rapids

22 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015


Chloe Dachshund/Beagle/ Schnauzer/Cocker Spaniel/ Irish Setter mix Age: 11 Owners : Deb & Ed Cusic, Kentwood

Scruffy Chihuahua/Rat Terrier/Jack Russell Terrier mix Age: 8 Owners : Deb & Ed Cusic, Kentwood

Ferris Dachshund/ Miniature Pinscher/ Australian Shepherd mix Age: 4 months Owner: Virginia Brophy, Grandville

Turkey Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix Age: 14 Owner: Laurie Sanger, Grand Rapids

January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 23

Lucy Australian Cattle Dog/ Border Collie mix Age: 12 Owners: Abraxas & Terri King, Grand Rapids

Sophie Yorkshire Terrier/Chihuahua mix Age: 11 Owners: Chris, Doug, Izabella & Hunter Yeakey, Coopersville

Levon Black Labrador Retriever/Chow mix Age: 6 Owners: Claire & Joe Boomgaard, Sparta

Pumpkin Basenji/Whippet mix Age: 9 Owner: Tonya Christiansen, Grand Haven

24 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015



Piston Chocolate Labrador Retriever/American Bulldog mix Age: 4 Owners: Sarah Uzarski & Anthony Milano, Hudsonville

Ottis Bernie

Shepherd/Husky/Chow mix Age: 9 Owner: Ashley Dahl, Grandville

Shepherd/Hound mix Age: 11 Owners: Gina & David Moore, Wyoming

January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 25

Layla Boxer mix Age: 2 Owners: Ron & Molly Vincent, Wyoming

Sophie Marie

Shar Pei/Pit Bull mix Age: 4 Owner: Jane DeYoung, Grand Rapids

Spinelli Boxer/Hound/Shar-Pei mix Age: 2 Owner: Ashley Dahl, Grandville

26 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015

Blue Bulldog/Shih Tzu mix Age: 5 Owner: Eleanor Dotson, Grand Rapids



Wesley Dachshund/Shih Tzu mix Age: 2 Owners: Brooke & Gordi Wiest, Grand Rapids

Miya Cocker Spaniel/Chihuahua mix Age: 1 Owners: Brooke & Gordi Wiest, Grand Rapids

Indy Chihuahua/ Pomeranian mix Age: 5 Owner: Sierra Thomas, Kentwood

Jojo Pit Bull mix Age: 2 Owners: Kipp & Erin Chillag, Ada

Cali Terrier mix Age: 4 Owner: Sierra Thomas, Kentwood

January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 27



Beagle mix Age: 7 Owner: Jorel Davis, Belding

Maltese/Yorkie mix Age: 2 Owners: Tim & Patti McDonald, Hudsonville

Julia Whippet/German Shepherd/Husky/Beagle/ Sheltie/Terrier mix Age: 13½ Owner: Debby Wolters, Grandville

28 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015

Watson Chihuahua/Pug/Dachshund mix Age: 4 Owner: Jess Smith, Lowell

Entourage German Shorthair Pointer/ English Setter mix Age: 2½ Owners: Caleb & Lori Baker, Grandville




Labrador Retriever/ Spaniel mix Age: 8 or 9 Owners: Tim & Patti McDonald, Hudsonville

Butters Boxer/Saint Bernard mix Age: 4 Owner: Stacie Walton, Hudsonville

Loki Miniature Pinscher/ Chihuahua mix Age: 1 Owner: Tammy Walton, Hudsonville

George Golden Retriever/ Border Collie mix Age: 1 Owners: Abraxas & Terri King, Grand Rapids

January/February 2015 Dogs Unleashed 29

the tail end


Sometimes, therapy dogs aren’t just for patients Sometimes the story comes at the end of the interview — in an unexpected detail, the tone of voice, even an unspoken exchange between a man and his faithful dog. You think you’re there to hear one thing, to witness a piece of a man’s afternoon of volunteering and the benefits to the recipients, but with one sentence, the story goes in a different direction. This is such a time. Every week, Herb Czerwon and his Norwegian Elkhound with the decidedly poetic name of Molly Rose visit a couple of assisted living residences, spreading the joy of having a dog in the house. One week, they go to Seminole Shores Assisted Living Center in Norton Shores, and the next, Oak Crest Manors in Spring Lake. “Have you had any Elkhound kisses lately?” Czerwon likes to tease the people he visits when he first walks into their rooms. Czerwon, 73, is a retired probation officer for the State of Michigan. Molly Rose, 9, has been a certified therapy dog for most of her life. She spent a few years on the dog show circuit when she was younger, competing in the ring and winning more than her share of awards. She is a beautiful dog, silver and black with a luxuriant double coat. At 50 pounds, she is athletic looking — a trait of the sturdy breed whose ancestors were bred to hunt moose, elk, bear and other wild animals. “You don’t see many of these dogs around,” Czerwon says. Almost from the minute our paths first crossed, Czerwon started lobbying me to write about Molly Rose. He listed all her good qualities, like how smart she is, bragging that she has the vocabulary of a 3-year-old human. And

30 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2015

there is no doubt about the benefits of visiting with a therapy dog, even if it’s for just a few minutes: lowered blood pressure, raised endorphins, reduced anxiety, lifted spirits, reminders of home. Just petting a dog calms most people. It gives them a sense of security. It makes the day better. Molly Rose — and Czerwon — earned their certification through Therapy Dogs, Inc., training in various nursing homes in Grand Haven. “I needed something to do after I retired,” Czerwon says, “and this was a good way to give back.” When asked what makes Molly Rose a good therapy dog, Czerwon answers quickly: “She’s loving, gentle and loves to meet people.” And, I might add, she’s absolutely focused on Czerwon. That’s what I noticed. Unlike other therapy dogs I’ve met, Molly Rose’s attention is on her owner, even more than the people she’s visiting. Czerwon laughs when I mention it, saying Molly Rose is “food driven,” and she’s interested in the pocketful of Cheerios

he carries for her treat. But there’s more to it, and that’s when the story changes. There are other people in the room, including Czerwon’s wife, Kristi, who is a nurse at an assisted living center in Holland; my husband and me. But Molly Rose sticks by Czerwon’s side, lifting her nose toward his face. “Hello, my lovey,” Czerwon says, rubbing her ears. His words are so sweet, such a contrast to his big booming voice, gravely rough in character. And that’s when the details of life come forth; when the real need for a therapy dog is revealed. Czerwon is a cancer survivor, a man whose cancer is “holding steady” but always present. During months of treatment, he and Molly Rose still made their rounds, man and dog on weekly visits to others. Therapy, but for whom? The people they visit? Or Czerwon? When asked, he shrugs his shoulders. He can’t answer. During the worst of his treatment, when he was exhausted and nauseated, Molly Rose got him up and outside of himself. She was the reason he went on those visits: to share his dog. “It made me think,” Czerwon says, his hand resting again on his dog’s back. Molly Rose sits for the longest time at his side, more than a companion. And that’s the story, the real story. Sometimes in the giving, the sharing, there are benefits beyond belief. There are Elkhound kisses and comfort; there is a sense of well-being and being needed. “Isn’t that right, Molly Rose?” Czerwon asks, not waiting for an answer. “Isn’t that right?”

Photo by Mary Ullmer

Molly Rose, a Norwegian Elkhound who is a certified therapy dog, pays a visit to Art Wolffis at Oak Crest Manors in Spring Lake.

Susan Harrison-Wolffis is an award-winning journalist, retired from newspaper work after more than 40 years. Contact her at

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Dogs Unleashed - Jan. - Feb. 2015  

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