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from Pet Supplies Plus

January/February 2014 | $2.00


Canines crucial to veterans coping with PTSD

Animal Attraction

Celebrating Valentine’s Day with couples brought together by their love of pets

Toronto, eh?

Make PawsWay a doggy destination across the border Vol.2, No.3

We’ll treat you right


Full-service animal hospital • In-house lab • Laser technologies • Digital X-rays • Broad surgical expertise • Boarding


• State licensed • FEMA designated emergency response shelter for natural disasters • Adopt from our clinic or our Heart-to-Heart mobile unit


• A non-profit group — all volunteer, unpaid staff • Dedicated to finding homes for displaced pets • Provides treatment to animals in need to prepare them for adoption • 100 percent funded by donations – donations welcome!


Kelley’s Circle of Care

• West Michigan’s leading source for animal stem cell therapy • Regenerative treatment without drugs for issues related to: Joints, Kidneys, Skin and Liver


Animal Clinic Caring for your pets is what we do best! 4011 Remembrance Road, Walker, MI 49535 • (616) 453-7422 • • 2 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

Kelley’s Animal Clinic

Subscribe Publisher: Steve Adams U.S.R. Services 3597 Henry St. Suite 103 Muskegon, MI 49441 Editor: Mary Ullmer Creative Director: Kevin Kyser Dogs Unleashed is a bi-monthly magazine especially for dog lovers. It is available at more than 300 locations in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties or by paid mail-order subscription. To advertise or become a distribution location for Dogs Unleashed, contact Mary Ullmer at: All material published in Dogs Unleashed is copyrighted © 2013 by Dogs Unleashed. 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 the 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:

View Dogs Unleashed online at

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Today! Every other month you get: • Expert advice

from Pet Supplies Plus

• Fetch! Products • Doggy Destination


PeRFeCt hOSt

• Entertaining stories

John O’Hurley on dogs, books, life and, yes, J. Peterman

• Great photography

3 for the show

• Products and services from great advertisers!

A trio of new breeds debuts at this year’s National Dog Show

Pooch Patrol

Wyoming K9s protect and serve

To subscribe visit Vol.2, No.2

Also available at your local


5 Canine Calendar 6 Fetch! 8 Paws-Abililty 10 The Doctor is In 12 Animal Magnetism 22 Psychiatric Service Dogs 26 Destination: Toronto 32 National Dog Show 34 The Tail End

on the cover

photo by jennifer waters

Since Iago is a owned by a former U.S. Marine, we thought it only fitting to photograph him with the American flag as a backdrop. Old Glory is painted on a barn in Hudsonville.

January/February 2014 Dogs Unleashed 3

Contributors Writers: Emma Fox (Kid Stuff), Susan Harrison-Wolfiss (Working Dogs, The Tail End, Profile: Melissa Verplank and Marc LaFleur), Paul R. Kopenkoskey (Profile: James and Bette Kelley), Linda Odette (Fetch), Deb Reid (Doggy Destination: Toronto), Kristie Swan (Paws-abililty), Dr. Shane Thellman (The Doctor is In), Tricia Woolfenden (Profile: Jane and Todd Urbanski and Veronica and Joe Dainelis). Copy editors: Linda Odette, Amy Snow-Buckner

to subscribe: Order a one-year subscription (six issues) to have Dogs Unleashed delivered to your home for just $9.99. You also have the option to order it as a gift for a dog-loving friend. Go to, click on the SUBSCRIBE link and complete the payment information using our secure credit card form. For more information, write to

4 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

who we are 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 NewsLeader and Muskegon Chronicle. Email her at Kevin Kyser (Creative Director), owns Kyser Design Werks, (ad on p. 21) a full-service branding and marketing firm. Kevin and his wife Jody have four children: Courtney, Cameron, Collin and Caden. They also have three cats and a 150-pound Lab/Rottweiler/ Newfoundland mix named Gus. Email him at Jennifer Waters (Photographer), is a professional pet photographer at Grumpy Pups Pet Photography, (ad on p. 27) 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



Winter Camp Kids and Paws, 9 a.m.12:30 p.m. and/ or 1:30-5 p.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. A fun and interesting opportunity for kids to learn about animal care in an interactive environment. Choose to attend a half day or bring a lunch and stay all day. Two-day minicamp features animal interactions, presentations, crafts, games and a snack. Cost is $35 for half day, $65 for all day. Contact Jen Self-Aulgur (616) 791-8066 or


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) 7918066 or


Furry Friday Films, 5:30-9:30 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@


Teen Series: Training cats and dogs, 9:3011:30 a.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Teens 13-17 are invited to attend the first of a three-part teen series. Teens will learn to teach shelter dogs basic obedience and train cats to follow basic commands. Hurry, class size is limited. Cost is $15. Contact Jen Self-Aulgur (616) 791-8066 or


Paws 2 Remember, 10 a.m., Mercy VNS & Hospice Services, 888 Terrace St., Muskegon. Pet loss grief support group presented by Clock Timeless Pets. Free. For more information, call (231) 722-3721 or (616) 844-4200.


Baby Ready Pets, noon to 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., Mercy VNS & Hospice Services, 888 Terrace St., Muskegon. Pet loss grief support group presented by Clock Funeral Home’s Timeless Pets. Free. For more information, call (231) 722-3721 or (616) 844-4200.


Companion Animal Grief Support, 6-7 p.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Group sessions offer a safe, confidential, structured environment. Please preregister by noon on the day of the meetings with facilitator Ginny Mikita (616) 460-0373 or Jen Self-Aulgur (616) 791-8066 or


Therapy Dog Seminar, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Seminar covers the basics of therapy dog work so you can decide if it is a good fit for you and your dog. Therapy dog testing will be available. Class size is limited. Cost is $25. Contact Jen Self-Aulgur (616) 791-8066 or




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. Pre-register by contacting Jen SelfAulgur (616) 791-8066 or jaulgur@


Paws 2 Remember, 10 a.m., Mercy VNS & Hospice Services, 888 Terrace St., Muskegon. Pet loss grief support group presented by Clock Funeral Home’s Timeless Pets. Free. For more information, call (231) 722-3721 or (616) 844-4200.


Paws 2 Remember, 7 p.m., Mercy VNS & Hospice Services, 888 Terrace St., Muskegon. Pet loss grief support group presented by Clock Funeral Home’s Timeless Pets. Free. For more information, call (231) 722-3721 or (616) 844-4200.


Companion Animal Grief Support, 6-7 p.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Group sessions offer a safe, confidential, structured environment. Please pre-register by noon on the day of the meetings with facilitator Ginny Mikita (616) 4600373 or Jen Self-Aulgur (616) 7918066 or


Pet Education Forum, Scolnik Healing Center, 888 Terrace St., Muskegon. Sponsored by Clock Funeral Home’s Timeless Pets. Please contact Timeless Pets at (231) 722-3721 for times and information.

January/February 2014 Dogs Unleashed 5



Book proves dogs even smarter than we thought What it is: “Chaser” is a book about a border collie who knows more than 1,000 words, has been the subject of a scientific paper, and whose TV appearance went viral. Reviewers have said it will “forever change the way we look at dogs” and that it’s “the most scientifically important dog book in over a century.”

The bowl that folds What it is: This cotton-canvas dog bowl is perfect for traveling, as it takes up a lot less room than a steel or ceramic food bowl. But wait, there’s more: It comes in several colors, including red, navy and hot pink, plus water lily and navy stripe patterns. It has a waterresistant finish and a leak-proof PEVA liner. It measures 6½ inches by 4½ inches when folded. Fetch it: $14.50 at under the “home products” pulldown menu.

But wait, there’s more: Co-author John W. Pilley and Hilary Hinzmann show you how Chaser was taught the commands and how you can teach your own dog. Fetch it: The 272-page book published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt can be found at local book stores or amazon. com for about $15.

Dogs need desserts, too

Puttin’ on the dog earrings What it is: You say you don’t have any dog jewelry? Vet Apparel Company offers plenty of styles, from dog paws to dog bones to dog faces. But wait, there’s more: VAC is located in Battle Creek, so technically you’re buying local. It specializes in vet apparel and has been around for more than 30 years. Fetch it: Call (269) 963-7810 or (800) 922-1456 or go to

6 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

What it is: Carob bacon bark, blueberry twists, cannolis and more are made right at Dogwood Barkery, and you can’t have any. These gourmet treats are for the dogs. But wait, there’s more: If you’re bothered by all the additives and preservatives in the treats you’ve been feeding your dog, these will relieve you of some of that worry. The Barkery owners created these treats because they love dogs and wanted to provide them with healthy snacks. Fetch it: Baked treats are $1 per ounce and once you hit $10, you get a treat on the house. Dogwood is located at 4693 Wilson Ave. SW, Suite A, 1 Plaza, Grandville. Check them out online at or call (616) 288-3130.

Yuck, yuk from a cup What it is: When we saw this cup that says “Everything Tastes Better with Dog Hair In It” at Meijer, our reaction was a combination of “yuck,” because no one likes to eat a dog hair, and “yuk,” because it was hilarious. But wait, there’s more: You also can get platters with this saying. We suggest you put together a big platter of nachos that covers the words, which will then slowly be revealed as people chow down the nachos. Fetch it: Since Meijer stock changes constantly, we went online and found it at various websites, including and Costs were $10-$12 for the mug and $24.95 for the platter.

Love that purse What it is: Stylish, handmade purses put your love of dogs where everyone can see. Warning: You’ll probably have to frequently answer the question, “Where did you get that purse?” But wait, there’s more: Sue Vanderveen of Lowell makes the purses out of recycled wool. She also makes wool coats lined with fleece for dogs. Fetch it: The purses are $46. Call 340-8451 or email



The tail wagging the dog: What does Pop star Beyonce melodiously chants “to the left, to the left” when she’s telling a man to “go ahead and get gone.” Well, that sentiment may actually mean the same thing to another species. When it comes to a dog’s tail wag, “to the left, to the left” means pretty much the same thing. Canine communication is rich in nonverbal expression. The way the body moves from the tip of the nose to end of the tail tells us what dogs are thinking. Neuroscientist Giorgio Vallortigara from the University of Trieste in Italy

and veterinarians Angelo Quaranta and Marcello Siniscalchi from Italy’s University of Bari discovered a tail wag can tell us a lot. Their study revealed dogs wagged their tail with a bias to the right upon seeing something positive, such as their owner. Left tail wags occurred when the dog viewed something for which they had negative feelings, such as a seemingly unfriendly stranger or dog. The researchers believe this correlates with left versus right brain activity. The left side of the brain (wag to dog’s right) is believed to control the desire to approach while the right side of the brain (wag to dog’s left) controls a desire to withdraw. This knowledge could be very helpful in evaluating social behavior between dogs. If two dogs, upon viewing each other, wag vigorously to

the left, it is likely not a good idea to push an introduction. When it comes to socialization, it is not simply being with another dog that counts. The dogs must enjoy the interaction for it to truly be considered positive socialization. After the researchers uncovered the direction of positive and negative feelings expressed in tail wags, a new question arose: Would another dog recognize the meaning? Does this work as a form of communication? In their next study, the dogs were shown a realistic image of a dog’s tail wagging one way or the other. It did not matter if researchers used the realistic image or simply a silhouette. When dogs viewed a left bias wag, their heart rate increased and other signs of stress were exhibited. When viewing a right bias wag, the dogs remained calm. Vallortigara cautions that simply

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it mean? because Dog B becomes anxious about Dog A’s left tail wag, it does not mean Dog A intends it as a form of communication to Dog B. Evolutionary biologist Marc Bekoff does not readily agree, saying more research needs to be done. Bekoff, however, says the results do indicate communication. Whether intending communication or not, we now know more about left and right bias tail wags. What about the world in between? Dog owners know that tails move in more than one direction. Tails can be held high, straight, low or even tucked. Sometimes, a tail moves side to side or in a circle helicopter-style. Speed plays a part as well. A tail can gently swish back and forth (think happy golden retriever) or move so quickly that feet leave the floor and at times even appear to vibrate (think terrier watching a squirrel)! The tail is an extension of the spine and the posture of the body is carried all the way to the end. A stiff, forwardleaning body will not have a slow, wide swishing tail. The tail is more likely to be held straight out or upward, with fast and abrupt movement. This displays an intense level of excitement sometimes associated with prey drive. A content dog may have a straight tail, but it will likely be making side to side movement (possibly with a right bias). A gleeful dog is pretty easy to spot with a wide arcing tail and curvy body. Observing the full body is important, especially when trying to discern the state of mind of a stubby-tailed dog. We may be able to see whether the little nub is ticking more to the right than left, but it is certainly not as obvious. It is not always obvious to other dogs, either. Since it is the human that makes most of the decisions regarding social interaction, it is up to us to learn as much as we can about what our dog is communicating. New information tells us that when we see the tail move “to the left, to the left,” it is best to move along. Kristie Swan, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is head trainer and manager at Whiskers University in Grand Rapids. Contact her at (616) 575-5660 or email her at

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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 2014 Dogs Unleashed 9



Recognize and react to stress in your pet If you think you were stressed out during the holiday season, imagine how your dog felt! Yes, our dogs get stressed out, and it’s important that pet owners are aware of signs of stress in their animals. Communication between you and your dog is a combination of visual (body language), vocal, olfactory (smells) and tactile (petting). Difficulty may arise when humans misinterpret stressful behavior signs such as excessive licking, panting, urinating inappropriately or chewing on things as some form of bad behavior. With this understanding, it stands

to reason that these cries for help should not be met with punishment or confrontation, but rather a more subdued approach. You may already know what stresses your dog (doorbell, car rides, strangers, etc.) and have learned to adapt to such behavior. If you’re unsure of what stresses your dog, start looking at your dog’s posture, body position and reaction to new stimuli. Once you have identified your dog’s stressors, try to find and establish a stress threshold — the point to which your dog no longer responds to verbal commands. Fearful behavior such as submissive body postures, head down, crouching, backing away, lip licking and lack of basic obedience are some signs your dog has already reached its threshold level. Punishments and reprimands should be stopped as they will only

serve to intensify fearful reactions. Instead, remove the dog from the stressful situation and start over once they have calmed down. It’s common for dogs to experience extreme stress in a short period of time, making prompt recognition of your dog’s stress signs extremely important so proper measures can be taken. Reward acceptable behavior with treats, toys or play time. During times of stress, it’s natural to comfort your dog with petting, baby talk or even picking up your dog. As noble as these attempts seem, they should be avoided. Your dog may misinterpret them as rewards and positive reinforcement for the unacceptable behavior. Basically, if your dog is barking and growling at a stranger, telling him it is “OK” only serves to reinforce the misbehavior.

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THE DOCTOR IS IN Instead, the goal should be to instruct them to relax and be calm during times of stress via verbal command, maintaining the obedient behavior. A very effective method is to offer treats and positive reinforcement for good behavior by using a location, such as a crate with a snack inside. When your dog is becoming stressed with visitors coming in the home, focus on finding a healthy, happy distraction for them such as a treat, special place (bedroom, crate, etc.), or encouraging the new guests to play fetch. Try separating a stressed dog by bringing them to a comfortable room or the backyard until your guests are in the home and settled. When your dog appears to be less stressed in its safe place, let it explore the new guests on its own terms. Make sure guests are aware there is a slightly stressed pup on premises and that they should let the dog come to them instead of trying to make friends with a pet that might only

want to be left alone. Another type of stress that is often overlooked is the drastic weather change. Weather can have a profound effect on mood and behavior, and this is certainly detected by our pets. Some people become excited with the cooler weather; to them, snow brings outdoor fun. Others tend to retreat indoors as the cool air sets in and the days get shorter. Your dog will react to subtle changes in mood or tone of voice, and even your deviations from routine can be alarming. By making an effort to keep a “normal” routine through the winter months, you limit this subtle stress for your canine companions. For example, if you walk your dog every morning during the summer, replace this time with doggy play time for winter. Better yet, consider spending that 15 minutes a day working on a new trick or brushing up on obedience training. Doorbell training is perfect for bonding and helping guests enter the home. Your


dog should be taught to sit and stay (for at least 10 seconds) in a “greeting spot” of your choosing a few feet away from the front door where guests enter. Only attempt to actually ring the doorbell after your dog has mastered the “greeting spot” command. If your dog does not successfully maintain obedient behavior, give no reward and decrease intensity of the exercise for the next go around. This same training can also help with dogs that love to jump up on new guests. Jumping up on guests can be a dangerous situation and should be avoided. These exercises in obedience may not be as physically intense as their usual daily walks, but the bonding time is critical in maintaining a strong bond over a long winter. Shane Thellman, DVM, owns Modern Health Veterinary Hospital in Grand Rapids with his wife, Nikki, who also is a veterinarian. Contact Dr. Thellman at

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animal magnetism

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we thought we’d introduce four West Michigan couples whose love of pets led to love for each other. Together, these couples have made it their mission to better the lives of pets and their owners. 12 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014



Melissa & Marc Marc LaFleur and Melissa Verplank at home with their dogs (left to right) Reagan, Keto, Pearl and Cache. Story by SUSAN HARRISON-WOLFFIS Photos by jennifer waters


s a kid, Melissa Verplank was always “dragging” home animals: the wounded and lost, the unwanted and strays, even the neighbors’ dogs and cats she figured needed a little extra attention. “I was always an animal kid,” Melissa says. “I love my animals. I adore them.” Then and now. When she was still in high school, Melissa went to work at a neighborhood kennel in Spring Lake, cleaning cages and other duties only someone who “absolutely loves” dogs would find rewarding. One day three years into her job, Melissa’s boss asked her to step up to the grooming table and take over. “I’d never groomed a dog in my life,” Melissa says. But something took hold. By all accounts, Melissa was a natural, an artist with her shears – and a remarkable visionary within a profession

she since has influenced far beyond West Michigan’s boundaries. She is internationally known, a global entrepreneur and a called-upon expert. “I had no idea that this industry would take me on this path,” she says. Once an entry-level kennel worker, Melissa is an award-winning author, certified master groomer and owner of a half-dozen businesses – all dog-centric in nature. She is the founder and owner of The Paragon School of Pet Grooming in Jenison, which has prepared thousands of students since it opened in 1991. Selftaught, Melissa opened the school to help others “make their dreams reality” and to teach them what she had to learn on her own. She is author of Notes from the Grooming Table, an acclaimed guide considered the bible of the trade for the professional pet stylist. She has followed that with Theory of Five and Notes

Pocket Pal, all released by her publishing company, White Dog Enterprises, as well as other educational products for the pet professional. Not one ever satisfied with the status quo, in 2007, Melissa designed, built and opened Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa, a luxury pet care facility, and Whiskers University, a dog training center, in Grand Rapids. In October, she broke ground on a $2.5 million expansion of that business. In 2010, she launched, a series of online training videos and interviews with the industry’s top groomers and teachers. “Work is my passion,” Melissa says. “My mind never shuts off. ... I live and breathe this.” But work isn’t all there is. There also is romance, a love story uniquely her own and the man she loves. In 2004, Melissa Verplank eloped

January/February 2014 Dogs Unleashed 13



on horseback with her best friend and business colleague, Marc LaFleur. They kept it a secret from everyone, even their four best friends whom they had invited to join them on a trail ride through the Cumberland Gap in Tennessee – until a minister showed up, also on horseback. “It was a total surprise,” Melissa says. Marc and Melissa had been friends and coworkers since the 1980s, when Marc worked as a groomer for one of her early businesses, Four Paws Mobile Grooming. Now, here’s something you don’t hear every day: When they met, Marc was dating another of Melissa’s groomers. And when Marc and the groomer were married, Melissa served as the maid of honor. “Well,” Marc shrugs when asked about things and then grins. When he grins, so does Melissa. And before long, the dogs in the house notice something is going on and get up from their various spots on the floor and join in, and then so do the cats. “Dogs are man’s best friend,” Marc quips, grabbing hold of a dog or two and spare cat, “and cats, too.” Obviously, there is a business side to Melissa Verplank and Marc LaFleur How they met: In the 1980s, Melissa was maid of honor at Marc’s first wedding. His first wife worked as a dog groomer for Melissa at the time. Later, so did Marc. Relationship history: Friends and work colleagues for almost 30 years, together as a couple since 2000 and married in 2004 Family/pets: Three Maremma Sheepdogs: Cache, Pearl and Reagan; one rescued Bernese Mountain dog, Keto; five cats: Quiver, Onyx, Claire, Chaps (short for Charlie Chaplin) and Crispy, a little miracle cat found alive after Verplank and LaFleur’s barn burned down; and six Dutch Friesian horses: Ilene, a retired 28-year-old mare, Olympia, Gevalia, Ricki, Engelina and Mia.

14 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

Melissa Verplank, Cache and Pearl watch over a busy yard of horses, chickens and dogs.

Melissa and Marc’s story, and a second and third chance at love. This is Melissa’s third marriage; Marc’s second. But at the heart of everything – businesses, marriage, balancing the two – is their mutual love of animals. First things first: their dogs. Melissa and Marc have a chorus of dogs, a small herd of beautiful beasts: Caché, Pearl, Reagan and Keto – three Maremma Sheepdogs and a rescued Bernese Mountain Dog. They are big, each weighing in at 100 pounds or so. They are loud, sending up a round of barking heard long before anyone approaches the front door. And they are spectacular. The three Maremmas – Italian livestock guardian dogs, similar in size and appearance to Great Pyrenees – have white coats, expressive brown eyes and fiercely protective natures. The fourth dog, Keto the Bernese Mountain Dog, is equally magnificent in looks. “We like big, furry animals,” Marc says. Then, there are the cats. Five of them: Quiver, Onyx, Claire, Chaps (short for Charlie Chaplin) and Crispy, a little miracle cat found alive after their barn burned down. Not a one has a pedigree. All are rescues and constantly underfoot or in a lap. “I have to have a cat,” Melissa insists. And don’t forget the horses. Four dogs and five cats on the

premises are not quite enough for Melissa and Marc. They also raise Friesian horses, glorious in stature and reputation. Sometimes called “the black feathered horse,” Friesians are athletic and sweet-tempered, drawn to humans. Melissa, who once was a competitive equestrian, calls her horses “magical.” She and Marc regularly travel with the horses – and always a dog or two – on business trips, stopping to ride whenever possible, exploring the world on horseback. These days, they travel the country for interviews for; Melissa doing the interviews and Marc doing the videography. “We work well together,” she says. “We understand each other. We know how each other’s mind works, where we’re going with each project.” A NATURAL TEAM

Originally trained as a chef, Marc was one of Melissa’s stars of that early fleet of mobile vans. He was a leading stylist, a whiz with animals and a natural trainer. He left for a while to open his own business, took a short hiatus from grooming and later came back to work as a trainer at Paragon. Sometime around 2000, one thing led to another, and they began dating. Melissa works around the clock, an inspired entrepreneur who “lives and breathes” what she does. Marc is “mostly retired” as an educator and trainer at Paragon and other Melissa Verplank

enterprises. “A lot of people couldn’t sit where Marc sits and make it work,” Melissa says. Most of her businesses were envisioned and started before they were even a couple. Still, she says, she’s always lived by the belief “that you can achieve more with a team than going solo.” “We enjoy working together, traveling together,” Marc says. And coming home to Black Falcon Farms, their breathtakingly beautiful 160-acre farm in Kent City, perfect for horses and riding trails. There is so much more to their story, details that make up their lives. Both certified master groomers, Melissa and Marc are advocates of better regulation of the grooming industry. Melissa’s businesses employ a total of 45 people. She has “at least” four more books in mind ready to be written. She is sought after as a speaker and motivator. She once won the World Poodle Groomer Title and earned a spot on Groom Team USA. Google her name, and up pops an award-winning website.

“I love her passion and drive,” Marc says. “Sometimes, it drives me nuts. But if she’s not here, I don’t know what to do with myself. I miss her.” Same goes for Melissa, who says when she and Marc are on separate projects, away from one another, it feels like “my best friend has left.” Again with the look exchanged between the two of them, that silent communication except for the sound of tails thumping. Without warning in the middle of a conversation unsaid but very understood, the dogs return from their brief retreat to the floor. The cats shift spots on laps and various other resting places. Melissa sighs a little, a sound Marc recognizes and echoes. It is a lovely moment of contentment. After all, she was that girl who brought home every animal within her reach. He was a kid who wasn’t raised with pets, who had to wait until he was grown to know the joy. “Family,” Melissa says, sharing a cup of coffee with her husband, dogs

Marc LaFleur plants a kiss on Reagan’s nose.

and cats within reach, horses on the other side of the window. “Whether it’s human or animal, family always comes first. It’s what life’s all about.”

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Veronica & Joe The Dainelis clan (left to right): Sofija, Joe, Finn (4-year-old Golden Retriever), Izzy (12-week old terrier mix), Veronica and Frank (9-year-old pug).


Story by TRICIA WOOLFENDEN Photos by jennifer waters

our-and-a-half-year-old Sofi sits at the dining room table with her parents, Veronica and Joe Dainelis. Finn, a kind-eyed Golden Retriever, is stationed below the table, his chin resting atop a guest’s foot. Frank, the family’s rescue pug, occasionally cruises by to check out the visitor. Izzy, a tiny foster-pup-turned-adoptee snoozes on the couch in the adjoining living room. “She can name so many dog breeds already,” Joe says of Sofi as she carefully ticks off a list of some of her favorites, among them the popular “doodle” incarnations. Indeed, Sofi already shows signs of following in her parent’s animal-loving footprints. When asked what she’d like to be when she grows up, she responds first with “pilot” before reconsidering her answer and telling her father – the Kent County Animal Control supervisor – “I want to do what you do and go in the same truck as you.” “OK,” Joe says, smiling at her. “You can definitely go in the same truck as me.” Sofi’s interests only seem natural. After all, she is being raised in an

16 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

animal- friendly environment with parents who have dedicated their careers to improving conditions for animals in Kent County and beyond. Their home on Grand Rapids’ Northeast Side is no stranger to in-need animals, and Sofi herself has helped to raise and foster three kittens. ANIMAL WELFARE CRUSADERS

Sofi’s home is a different environment than the ones in which Veronica and Joe grew up. As a kid, Joe didn’t really have pets. He kept a cat for a time, but his dad “didn’t like it” and the arrangement was brief. “Once I moved out, I wanted a pet,” Joe says. When Joe struck out, he adopted a kitten and a boa constrictor, a seemingly precarious but ultimately successful combination. It also signaled the beginning of Joe’s animal-centric career arc. He began at a pet store before moving on to a position with what now is known as the Humane Society of West Michigan. It’s there he met Veronica, who was working as a vet technician. Joe eventually moved on to the Kent County Animal Shelter, where he steadily moved his way up the ladder.

“I feel like it was supposed to happen,” Joe says of the trajectory. Veronica’s story is similar in some respects. She was raised in the country, where her well-intentioned family saw a steady stream of animals “coming and going.” “We were terrible pet owners,” Veronica says bluntly, explaining they often “discarded animals” instead of viewing them as lifelong members of the family. Veronica’s background gives her a different perspective on the pet adoption process. As a reformed “bad” pet owner, she is open to the reality that some people can and do change their ways and become responsible pet owners. “You can give people a chance,” Veronica says of pet adoption. Even so, both Veronica and Joe are unwavering in their belief that people should be held accountable for their actions toward animals. Having both worked at the humane society – and especially considering Joe’s work with animal control – the couple is familiar with the dark side of the human-animal equation. Both have seen firsthand the effects of abuse, neglect and abandonment.

In turn, each has a demonstrable, positive impact on animal welfare in the region. FINDING STRENGTH IN ‘WINS’

Veronica spent several years at the humane society before accepting her current position as Bissell Pet Foundation’s coordinator. She manages all operations for the foundation, including overseeing grants, communications and marketing efforts. One of her key tasks is to determine where the foundation’s money can have the most impact and offer financial and other resources to those groups. Veronica says the foundation, which is a “dream come true” for wellknown pet lover, businesswoman and founder Cathy Bissell, is a good match for her own personality. “It’s great to work with someone who shares the same passion as me,” Veronica says. Joe, meanwhile, acknowledges his daily work can be emotionally draining and physically exhausting. Throughout

his tenure, he has witnessed some of the worst things people can do to animals, from starvation to hoarding to physical abuse. He has worked hard to find a balance between his career and home life, often taking solace in the unconditional love of his pets. He says he also tries to stay focused on the long-term goals of his work. “It’s all about perspective,” Joe says. “You can’t be unaffected all of the time.” To that end, Joe is pleased with the atmosphere at the Kent County Animal Shelter, which in recent years has benefitted from a new facility and new management. The county has a “progressive philosophy,” he says, and the organization is working to help educate the public about animal welfare and the services provided by the animal shelter, including pet adoption. Even so, Joe acknowledges some days are particularly challenging. He points to the high turnover rate in his field and says he takes steps to avoid burnout and the buildup of job-related stress. Fortunately, he has a partner who

Veronica and Joe Dainelis How they met: Working together at the Humane Society of West Michigan Relationship history: Married five years; together for nine What they do: She’s the Bissell Pet Foundation coordinator and he’s the Kent County Animal Control supervisor. Family/pets: 4-year-old daughter, Sofi (Sofija); two cats, Milfy and Sullivan; 9-year-old pug, Frank; 4-year-old Golden Retriever, Finn; and 2-month-old terrier mix, Izzy.

understands his challenges. “Veronica can relate. She knows what I’m going through,” Joe says. “We have similar passions and can support each other,” Veronica agrees. “The other thing is the ‘wins,’ ” Joe says. “The day-to-day can be difficult. But when we get one of those wins, it can feel real good.”

Help us Fight Animal Neglect and Cruelty.

License Your Dog.

Michigan law requires all dogs four months of age or older must be licensed. It’s quick, easy, and a tag will help your dog get home safely if lost. Licensing helps fund Animal Control in Kent County, who investigate hundreds of cases of animal abuse and neglect every year. Tags reduce the chance of theft, show your dog is vaccinated against rabies, and spare you from an expensive citation. One-year and three-year tags are now available in Kent County based on rabies vaccine expiration. Many local veterinary clinics* in Kent County now sell dog licenses, so you can get a vaccination and a license in one stop. *Fees for administration of vaccinations are determined by each clinic and you must schedule an appointment. Please contact clinics directly for details.

We thank you for being a responsible pet owner:

Leash, License, Love your Dog! Call (616)632-7300 or go to: January/February 2014 Dogs Unleashed 17



Bette & James Bette and Dr. James Kelley with their seven dogs (left to right), PJ, Abby, Jade, Ditto, Jasper, Roamer and Squeaks. Story by PAUL R. KOPENKOSKEY Photos by jennifer waters


hen it comes to ensuring surrendered or abused dogs and cats find loving homes, Dr. James and Bette Kelley walk the talk. In June 2010, when Michigan’s economy was still in the grip of recession, the couple founded Kelley’s Heart-to-Heart Pet Adoption Center. The center is housed inside Kelley’s Animal Clinic in Walker, where an average of 30 cats and 10 dogs are harbored inside the veterinary practice James Kelley – an early advocate of stem cell therapy in animals – has owned for 43 years. Heart-to-Heart includes a pet adoption mobile unit, specifically a 2010 Ford cutaway van, that operates nine months a year. James vividly recalls when banks were foreclosing en masse on the homes of some of his clients, resulting in people having to let go of their pets. Some brought them to animal shelters,

18 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

which funneled a number of them to Heart-to-Heart because they were unable to handle the influx of animals. “That was the main crux of the problem,” James said. “People, for example, were obviously losing their jobs and had no place to go with their pets, and they flooded these shelters with these pets. And they still do. It’s a fact a lot of animals are dropped off for various reasons.” Dropped off and, in too many cases, euthanized. The Kelleys decided to become a channel for a more humane option. “We saw a bigger need and asked ourselves, ‘Should we start our own pet adoption?’ ” said Bette, who retired from Steelcase Inc., and is vice president of Heart-to-Heart’s nonprofit board of directors. “We brainstormed and decided there was a big enough need even though [James] was in his twilight years.” Heart-to-Heart’s adoption fee

averages $160, which includes spay/ neuter, heartworm check, dental care (if needed), vaccinations and more. Their temperature-controlled pet adoption mobile unit, which can house about 20 pets, was donated in 2010 by one of Kelley’s clients. James estimates the mobile unit cost between $140,000 to $150,000, and it helps in increasing a pet’s chances for adoption. The van operates in two veins. Sometimes, the clinic receives requests from area animal welfare organizations such as Pound Buddies in Muskegon, Kent County Animal Shelter and the Montcalm County Animal Shelter to pick up dogs and cats that otherwise would have been euthanized. The unit also is used to transport animals ready for adoption to events such as pet store promotions, the Pulaski Day Parade in Grand Rapids, the Halloween attraction The Haunt and the West Michigan Pet Expo. When the van is in storage for the

winter, adoptions continue out of Kelley’s clinic in Walker. Through November, 257 cats and dogs had been adopted out via Heartto-Heart in 2013. “We’ve been around for a while, so we have people call us and ask, ‘Would you like to come over and at least visit our place?’ and we will,” James said. “In most cases, we’ll hit the major events.” In that same vein, the Kelleys founded the Tallie Memorial Fund to address the health needs of rescued and surrendered animals. The fund is named for Tallie, a 6-month old Golden Retriever who arrived at Kelley’s clinic in March 2013 severely ill from kidney failure and multiple foreign objects in her abdomen. She lived four-plus months in the Kelleys’ home – time enough to reaffirm the importance of unconditional love and zest for life. “It becomes part of your soul,” James said. “After doing this for many years, you get a soft spot in your heart.” The Kelleys have been married for 10 years. Bette said she was drawn to James

Bette and James Kelley How they met: James was the veterinarian of Bette’s pets for 10 years. Then, following the death of James’ first wife 11 years ago, they dated for 10 months before marrying. Relationship history: They will celebrate their 10-year anniversary on May 29, 2014. Roamer, a 3-year-old Golden Retriever, can often be found “roaming” the offices at Kelley’s Animal Clinic.

because of his abiding love for dogs. “It would have been a personality defect if he didn’t love dogs,” she said. “Whether he was a vet or not didn’t matter too much, but he had to love dogs.” And on that level, James has never wavered or disappointed her. “In his mind, he’s always looking for a way to help pets,” Bette said.

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What they do: She’s the vice president of their nonprofit, Heartto-Heart Pet Adoption Center. He is president of Heart-to-Heart and the owner-operator of Kelley’s Animal Clinic in Walker. Pets: Three Golden Retrievers: 3-year-old Roamer, 1-year-old Jasper and 6-month-old Abby; and four Shih Tzus: 9-year-old Ditto, 8-year-old Squeaks, 5-year-old Jade and 3-year-old PJ.

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January/February 2014 Dogs Unleashed 19



Jane & Todd

Jane and Todd Urbanski with (left to right) Ryley, Cooper and Skylar in the backyard of their Ada home. Story by TRICIA WOOLFENDEN Photos by jennifer waters


any couples travel together. Some go on wine excursions. Others plan trips around famous culinary destinations, extreme sports or lighthouses. For Jane and Todd Urbanski, travel typically revolves around animals. The longtime couple has traveled everywhere from Australia to Africa and across the U.S. Invariably, most of those travels – even brief business excursions – include some element of the animal kingdom. The Urbanskis visit zoos, animal rescues and sanctuaries, such as Best Friends Animal Society in Utah or an exotic feline rescue in Indiana. The couple spends time learning about each

The Urbanski’s Golden Retrievers (left to right): Skylar, 6; Ryley, 12; and Cooper, 6.

20 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

organization’s work, often volunteering time to the cause. “We plan a lot of our vacations to tour and visit these sanctuaries,” Todd said. The Urbanskis don’t limit their animal interactions to those times when they’re on the road. They donate time and money to animal welfare programs in Michigan as a matter of habit. They never had an interest in having children, but the Urbanskis did share a love for animals. More than 15 years ago, they decided to put that into action and started volunteering with local animal organizations. “We wanted to do something fun together,” Jane said. They started in the mid-90s with the Humane Society of West Michigan and pet therapy with dogs in local nursing homes. Eventually, Todd developed a seasonal role as “Santa Paws,” the pet-friendly Santa. He now acts as Santa Paws for Harbor Humane Society, the Humane Society of West Michigan and Safe Haven Humane Society. (See “Paws with a Claus” in the Dec. 2012 issue of Dogs Unleashed) “You can bring the whole family in [including pets],” Todd said of the role.

“It’s such a rewarding experience.” In 2008, the Urbanskis started a once-a-week appointment with the Humane Society of West Michigan. There, they donated four to five hours every Friday evening to walking the shelter’s dogs. “The rule was, you walk until everyone was walked,” said Jane, who even changed her work schedule to accommodate the activity. “You want to make sure they all get their exercise,” Todd agreed. The couple also has donated time to assist with the socialization of sheltered rabbits and cats, an activity that can significantly increase an animal’s adoptability and chances of securing a forever home. On the more exotic end of the spectrum, Jane and Todd have volunteered at John Ball Zoo for 14 years, assisting with educational programs and teaching the public about such animals as ferrets, hedgehogs, skunks, chinchillas, bearded dragons, snakes and birds. Jane’s personal favorite is the opossum. “It’s a good way to educate people,” Todd said of the programs. Jane has served on the zoo

“When you’re on the inside you know if someone can get a dollar, that may buy a can of cat food and give a cat one more day to get adopted,” Jane said of the impact that even the smallest of donations can have for a small organization. “A dollar can make a difference.” — Jane Urbanski

volunteers’ board of directors since 2003, filling the roles of treasurer, secretary and now vice president. She also has been a member of the Harbor Humane Society’s board of directors since 2010, serving as secretary. In addition to her board positions, she has loaned her marketing skills to Harbor Humane, helping to edit its newsletter and assisting with other writing tasks. The Urbanskis’ volunteer spirit is so strong, they’ve even started helping out at the Missaukee Humane Society when spending summer weekends up north. “They have very few resources,” Jane said of the shelter where she and Todd have helped with everything from walking to washing dogs to representing the organization in the Independence Day parade and assisting with communications and marketing efforts. All told, Jane typically logs about 650 hours of volunteer time each year. Todd’s variable flight schedule makes it more difficult for him to devote those regular hours. Instead, he snaps up drop in volunteer opportunities any chance he gets. For Jane, the volunteering helps to fill the hours when Todd’s work sends him on the road. It also has put them both in touch with people who share similar interests and values.


The Urbanskis’ efforts don’t end when they walk in their own door. Several of their pets – Remi the cat and Cooper the dog – are considered special needs. Both have health concerns that demand more patience and dedication than the typical pet. Remi has expended nearly all his allotted nine lives, having suffered kidney problems and a minor Christmas Vacation-like episode with an electrical wire. When he was hospitalized with a serious illness, the couple visited the cat for a consecutive month at the vet, performing physical therapy with him and gradually getting his weight back to normal. “I don’t think anyone else would have put up with it,” Jane said. For Jane and Todd, it’s not even a matter of question. Their pets are their family, and they will do what is necessary to give them the care they deserve. They hope by getting the word out about regional and national pet rescues, more animals will have an opportunity to experience that level of owner compassion. “When you’re on the inside you know if someone can get a dollar, that may buy a can of cat food and give a cat one more day to get adopted,” Jane said of the impact that even the

Jane and Todd Urbanski How they met: In Kalamazoo, when Todd was attending Western Michigan University. Relationship history: Married 27 years What they do: She is a communications project leader at Steelcase Inc., and he is a corporate pilot for Amway. Family/pets: Three Golden Retrievers: 6-year-olds Skylar and Cooper and 12-year-old Ryley; a 10-year-old cat, Remington (aka Remi); and two rabbits, Willow and Wrigley.

smallest of donations can have for a small organization. “A dollar can make a difference.” The couple gives financially to roughly 20 animal welfare organizations. But, for them, it isn’t just about donating cash to the cause. “It’s not just about money; it’s about time,” Todd said of volunteering. “You go see the [shelter] dogs pre-walk and post-walk, and it’s a world of difference. A tired dog is a happy dog.”

Jane Urbanski gives a hug to Cooper while Ryley takes a break on the stairs.

January/February 2014 Dogs Unleashed 21



Dogs on Duty Shannon Schaefer says of his dog, Iago, “he gives me something to hold onto.”

With canines at their sides, veterans with PTSD are learning to cope Story by SUSAN HARRISON-WOLFFIS Photos by jennifer waters

Before Iago, Shannon Schaefer didn’t care whether he lived or died. Literally. Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 2012 after a harrowing 18-month hitch in the U.S. Marines, Schaefer was alternately depressed, anxious, impatient with everyone around him — and suicidal. He couldn’t hold onto a job. His relationships were a mess. He was

Iago wears a vest in public identifying him as a service dog.

22 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

isolated, withdrawn from the world around him, unsettled. Then, he got this dog: Iago. At the time, Iago looked as pitiful as Schaefer felt. Abandoned, abused and unwanted, the dog — a pit bull/English bulldog mix who’d already lived a hardscrabble life — was up for adoption at the Humane Society of West Michigan in Grand Rapids. At first, Schaefer — considered 100 percent disabled by the Veterans Administration — was simply looking for a pet, a dog around the house. But then, his counselor told him about a new therapy option for veterans diagnosed with PTSD called psychiatric service dogs. Schaefer knew it would be a perfect addition to the therapy he already was receiving. “He gives me something to hold onto,” Schaefer says. “I feel more comfortable with him around.” More secure. Safe.

No longer alone. “He means more to me than I mean to him, that’s for sure,” Schaefer says. Psychiatric service dogs are trained to help comfort veterans when they wake up with nightmares and help them cope with the flashbacks that can hit at any time. Like most service dogs, they also are trained to do specific tasks: open doors for the physically disabled, retrieve dropped items, recognize and move in when their person is emotionally distraught or having the panic attacks that are common to the disorder. A veteran of deployments in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Schaefer doesn’t have any outward physical scars. Inside, however, he remembers his wars, his service to his country. Although he wasn’t in the kind of conflict today’s soldiers face in Iraq and Afghanistan, his work was grueling and dangerous. “We picked up a lot of dead

bodies,” he says. They are the stuff of his nightmares. After just a few days together, the bond between man and adopted dog was already strong, so strong Schaefer could feel the healing power that pets offer naturally. But Schaefer, 40, also knew Iago was capable of more and that he needed more than just a pet. Schaefer looked for an organization that could help him train his dog, not just in good manners and obedience but as a psychiatric service dog. CHANGING LIVES

Eventually, Schaefer, who lives in Sparta, landed at the doorstep of Stiggy’s Dogs in Howell. Founded in 2009 for the purpose of training service dogs for veterans with PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Stiggy’s took on Iago’s training. It is an exacting process. “It can be really intense,” says Angel Vogel of Holland, who helped train Iago for Stiggy’s. She and the other trainers work one or two times a week with the veterans and their dogs. First, the dogs have to pass the Canine Good Citizen certification test. Then, they move on to specific tasks for “their” veterans. In all, the dogs put in about 120 hours of training — a standard number for most guide and service dogs. The second level of training is tailor-made to what the individual veteran requires. “We don’t use a cookie cutter approach,” says Donna Fournier, Stiggy’s lead trainer in Howell. “Everyone is different; every dog, every veteran.” Sadly, Fournier says, there is no legislation requiring certain training for service dogs and no uniform certification. Stiggy’s adheres to the Americans With Disabilities Act requirement, and dogs must pass the ADA’s public access test to qualify. Can they handle crowds? Do they have good etiquette in restaurants or public places? Can they ride elevators? Can they walk

through a store without knocking everything off the shelves? The final level of training is what Fournier calls “a mini-boot camp” during which the staff and trainers address the psychological aspects of the matches. “This is when the dogs learn when to use their training ... to be aware of their handler’s mental state at all times,” Fournier says. “In other words, do the job they’ve been trained to do.” In its first four years, Stiggy’s already has paired 27 veterans with dogs. Many of the dogs are rescued from shelters, trained by Stiggy’s staff and matched with veterans. That was Stiggy’s original intent: rescuing one to rescue another. “Gives everybody a second chance,” Fournier says. But the waiting list was so long and the need so great, Stiggy’s added a Train Your Own program for people such as Schaefer, whose dog’s original duty was simply as a pet. “Getting one of these dogs is life-changing,” says Jennifer Petre, who founded Stiggy’s in memory of her nephew, Benjamin “Doc Stiggy” Castiglione, a Navy corpsman killed in 2009 in Afghanistan. “It gives these veterans lives that are lives.” Veterans like Fred Koster of Holland. Ask him about his psychiatric service dog, a beautiful 4-year-old Shetland sheepdog named Sasha, and the man weeps. “She’s changed my life,” Koster says, sobbing. “She’s given me freedom and hope. Friendship goes without question. She’s given me independence. She’s totally changed my life.” PTSD wreaked havoc on Koster’s life for 40 years, although he says he didn’t know it and had never heard of it. Many of his symptoms were similar to Schaefer’s. Koster was depressed, sick, isolated and “bitter” about his lot in life. He has been married three times, divorced twice. He had troubles on the job. All classic symptoms of PTSD. A Vietnam veteran, Koster’s nights were interrupted by nightmares and his days were haunted by flashbacks of the 18 months he fought in the jungle when

Stiggy’s Dogs trainer Angel Vogel (left), catches up with Fred Koster and his granddaughter, Destiny Carlson, as well as Koster’s dog Sasha at a recent Veteran’s Day event in Holland.



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January/February 2014 Dogs Unleashed 23

he was just out of high school. He was a member of a four-man reconnaissance special forces squad whose work was dangerous, and most of the men with whom he served didn’t make it home. In his mid-50s, Koster suffered a near-fatal heart attack, and then another. His medical condition was complicated by the devastating effects of constant exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam: kidney problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a compromised lymphatic system, diabetes and ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease. “I was killed in Vietnam,” Koster says. “I just haven’t died yet.” Doctors also diagnosed Koster with PTSD. He started talking to a counselor and other veterans — a first. Soon after his heart attack, he and his wife, Karen, got a puppy, a Sheltie they named Sasha. Koster, too, started hearing about psychiatric service dogs. The use of dogs in psychiatric therapy gained national attention in 2011, when Luis Carlos Montalvan’s book Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him, made the New York Times bestseller list. The book is a stirring account of Montalvan’s battle with the physical and emotional wounds of war in Iraq and Afghanistan — and of Tuesday, his service dog. ‘TRAIN YOUR OWN’

Koster connected with Stiggy’s, and Sasha — all 20 pounds of her — became the organization’s first Train Your Own service dog. How she helps Koster, who is in a wheelchair, is nothing short of astounding. Sasha picks up keys that he has dropped. She brings him the shoes and socks he cannot bend over to get. She barks loudly when he is in medical distress. And several times a day, she

Iago helps create space between his owner and others while doing routine tasks, such as waiting in line at banks or stores. 24 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

Iago and Shannon Schaefer visit public places such as Rivertown Crossings Mall in Grandville so trainers Donna Fournier (left) and Angel Vogel (right) can assess the dog in various public situations.

responds to a sound on his cell phone. As soon as it chimes, Sasha fetches a bag containing Koster’s medicine and brings it to him. He is on a regimen of 30 pills a day and cannot remember when to take them. But Sasha can. The best thing she does is read his emotions, her eyes watching his every move. When he’s depressed, she’s in his lap, nudging him, comforting him. “She takes me outside of myself,” Koster, 62, says, “and back into the realm of the real world.” At a Veterans Day event in Holland that Koster and Schaefer attended, Sasha was on constant alert, almost pacing in place. Iago, whose temperament is a little more laid back, expressed himself differently but no less accurately. When he sensed Schaefer’s anxiety rising in the crowd, Iago — a muscle-bound 65 pounds — placed himself between Schaefer and everyone else, pushing against him as his rock and refuge. “See how he did that?” Schaefer asks. “He knows what I need.” The dogs always wear a vest or scarf identifying them as service dogs on the job. But Schaefer says it’s tough keeping people away from his dog. “He’s like Mr. Ambassador,” Schaefer says. “I don’t know how to say this, but he helps me get out ... and talk to people.”

Betty Greathouse’s dog Sasha recently passed her Canine Good Citizen test.

At least 1 in 4 Vietnam veterans suffers from the lingering effects of PTSD, says David Eling, executive director of the Western Michigan Veterans Service Center in Muskegon. The number is “running the same” for those veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars — with some significant differences. Today’s veterans also return home with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and a newly diagnosed and recognized disorder, Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Eling says. “It’s a big difference,” he says. “It means there are different levels to be treated.”

STIGGY’S DOGS What: A nonprofit organization that provides military veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) a method of healing through psychiatric service and companion dogs. Where: 2610 Bowen Road, Howell, MI 48855 Contact/Online: Call (248) 6678364, email info@stiggysdogs. org, check out the website and Facebook page and follow on Twitter @ StiggysDogs

Fred Koster and Sasha meet students at Lakewood Elementary School in Holland.

The psychiatric service dogs are not meant to take the place of mental health counseling and other therapies. But what the dogs do “is nothing short of amazing,” Eling says. “It’s huge,” he says. “Until you’ve seen it for yourself, you can’t believe it.” Just ask Betty Greathouse, a 42-year-old mother, grandmother and veteran of a 15-month deployment in Iraq in 2006-2007. A mechanic in the U.S. Army Reserves, Greathouse saw her share of death, destruction and war even though she officially wasn’t on the front lines. “At night, I can still feel the bombs going off. My skin gets hot and I can hear [the sounds of war] in my head,” she says. Greathouse was diagnosed with PTSD in 2008 shortly after returning home to Battle Creek and her job as a military technician for the Army Reserves. She had a lot of “anger issues and road rage” in her daily life. Loud noises made her “jumpy” and anxious. The nightmares and flashbacks came later. Like Schaefer and Koster, Greathouse isolated herself, staying away from crowds and anything that could be stressful. One day, her counselor suggested she might want to get a dog and have it trained as a psychiatric service dog. Enter Sasha, an 8-week-old Labrador-

Saint Bernard mix puppy when Greathouse brought her home in 2012. That puppy now weighs 110 pounds. Greathouse and Sasha just completed the first level of training. “She is amazing,” Greathouse says, repeating a description used by everyone who has or knows a psychiatric service dog. “She is always at my side. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

About Stiggy’s: Stiggy’s Dogs was founded in honor of Benjamin “Doc Stiggy” Castiglione, a Navy corpsman who was killed in September 2009 while caring for soldiers in Afghanistan. About PTSD: PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. — Sources: Stiggy’s, Mayo Clinic

Lakewood Elementary students gather around Iago to pet him, while Iago keeps a watchful eye on owner Shannon Schaefer for signs of stress.

January/February 2014 Dogs Unleashed 25

doggy destination:


Four paws up for

PawsWay 26 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

Photo courtesy OF

Crusoe, the celebrity dachshund who has his own award-winning blog, posed for a shot atop the bronze dog statue at PawsWay’s door.



ust a few hundred kilometers (or miles) east of Michigan is the capital city of Ontario — Toronto. The largest city in Canada with a population of nearly 2.8 million, Toronto is known for its diversity, theater, restaurants and green space. It also is a city of dog lovers. While not everyone may agree that Toronto scores a perfect mark for being dog-

photo by mary ullmer

friendly, it has events, off-leash parks and places that definitely score a 10. One of the most innovative and unique venues for dogs and pet lovers is PawsWay, a 16,000-square-foot facility on Toronto’s waterfront in the shadow of the iconic CN Tower. It’s a place where pet lovers and their animals can come together to enjoy exhibits, events and activities for the purposes of education and the celebration of pets. PawsWay was born from Purina Canada’s desire to find a permanent home for the Purina Animal Hall of Fame that would be accessible to the public. “We asked ourselves, what else could we do with the space? How could we show people that we are passionate about what we do? How do we get this out?” said Mary Siemiesz, executive director of Purina PetCare Legacy, an initiative of Purina Canada that funds programs and

projects in the pet community. Purina created a facility where people could come with their pets and learn about responsible pet care and ownership in a fun and creative environment. Partnering with Harbourfront Centre, a nonprofit cultural organization that creates events and activities that enliven, educate and entertain a diverse public, seemed like the perfect fit. The 10-acre site draws more than 12 million visitors a year, so what better place to attract pet owners and their pets to come and experience something new and innovative? Walking along the waterfront, you know you have come to the right place when you see the large, playful statues of a cat and dog outside the building. The bronze-coated statues are the creation of local artist Mark Paul, whose work also

January/February 2014 Dogs Unleashed 27

doggy destination:


can be seen at the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto. Because of construction on the rapid light transit system in front of PawsWay, the statues have been removed temporarily to keep them safe from any potential damage. As soon as it’s safe, they will be back where they belong. Just inside PawsWay, you will find William’s Fresh Café, where people can come with their pets and enjoy everything from gourmet coffees to grilled sandwiches, soups and salads throughout the day. Toronto’s health codes do not allow animals other than service dogs into restaurants, on patios or anywhere food is served in general. The café worked around this by offering a common area for seating and a barrier that animals are not allowed past where only take-out food is sold. This compromise seems to have made everyone happy, and the restaurant is a busy hub for breakfast, lunch and dinner, especially during the summer when people are out with their dogs exploring the city. Upon entering PawsWay, the tone is set with the posting of the Canine Code of Conduct that ensures all canine visitors and their guardians will behave

in a safe and appropriate manner so everyone can enjoy their visit. And yes, accidents happen. A few “whoops” stations are set up throughout the facility to make sure they are tidied up immediately. There is something at PawsWay for every dog lover, whether you are an owner or are considering adding a dog to your family. Keeping with the mission of promoting positive pet ownership, the exhibits take you from choosing the breed that is best for you using the My Best Match Breed Selector through health and nutritional information to keep pets in their best condition and shape during their lifetime. In the My Puppy/My Kitten area, you will find My Puppy School, a space that includes videos and important information on training and raising a puppy. The Health and Discover Centre will help you understand how to keep pets healthy -- be it nutrition, exercise or even love. Whether you peruse the library, talk to the knowledgeable staff or engage in the videos and computer programs, there is something for every dog owner to learn here. The featured exhibit is the Purina Animal Hall of Fame, which honors Canadian pets and services dogs for their extraordinary acts of heroism and bravery in saving human lives. Since 1968,

Photo courtesy OF deb reid

Yes, PawsWay makes all sorts of accommodations, like this drinking fountain, for its four-legged visitors.

PAWSWAY What: A 16,000-square-foot facility on Toronto’s waterfront where pet lovers and their animals can come together to enjoy exhibits, events and activities for the purposes of education and the celebration of pets. Where: 245 Queens Quay West, Toronto Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays (closed Tuesdays), 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday About: PawsWay was born from Purina Canada’s desire to find a permanent home for the Purina Animal Hall of Fame that would be accessible to the public. Contact: Email or call 1-888-608-PAWS (7297) Website: http://www.pawsway. ca/en Facebook: PawsWay

Photo courtesy OF deb reid

A cafe with a common area that allows dogs welcomes PawsWay visitors.

28 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

Twitter: @PawsWay

the award has gone to 159 animals. This includes 132 dogs, 26 cats and one horse. The exhibit was housed for decades in the lobby of Purina Canada’s headquarters with no access for the general public. Now, it is a permanent display featuring photographs and stories of amazing animals who have displayed courage, devotion, intuition and perseverance to save not only their owners but also strangers. After reading some of these incredible stories, you might never look at your pet the same way. One of the most touching areas is the Forever in Our Hearts memorial gallery that allows people to commemorate their pets who have passed. People are encouraged to leave a memorial and take a moment to honor the love and life they shared with their pet. PawsWay also hosts a pet loss support group for anyone grieving the loss of a pet. While there are lots of exhibits to explore, many activities also take place. After all, the idea of the facility is to

learn, explore and participate. In the back of the building is the Indoor Pet Park, which holds scheduled events and activities to participate in and be entertained by. The space also can be rented for private events that relate to the wellbeing of pets, from fundraising galas for pet organizations to lectures from professionals in animal care. PawsWay is more than a onetime spot to visit; it’s also a big part of the community. Trained staff and professionals offer courses from agility, rally, pet first aid, off-leash playtimes, canine good neighbor testing and other activities that benefit dogs and their owners. You may drop in with your dog and try out agility equipment or allow them to have some fun with other dogs in a playtime session. Once you have seen and experienced everything PawsWay has to offer, make sure you check out the Paws Shop and its nifty selection of accessories and toys. Purina and Pawsway are working toward making Toronto a more dog-

doggy destination:


friendly city for visitors and citizens by launching their “Pet Friendly Loyalty Program.” This initiative rewards people for taking their companion animals out with them as they go about their daily living and lets them earn rewards and discounts at participating PawsWay pet-friendly businesses. The Pawsway website ( en/PetFriendlyToronto/Vendors) lets you search neighborhoods to find participating businesses and includes more than 60, from hotels to hardware stores. So where does a facility like this go from here? Siemiesz said new exhibits using technology that will be more interactive for people are being developed. Her company also is developing a “nutrition coach,” building on its 14-year study on keeping pets in shape. And there also will be a focus on helping homeless pets. That falls in line with Nestlé Purina

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doggy destination:

PawsWay offers classes in agility and obedience and opens its large indoor space for playtime or special events.


Petcare Company’s acquisition early this year of Petfinder, an online database of animals who need homes. Purina wants to know what people want to learn about responsible pet ownership and it wants to be able to evolve and improve the center to meet those needs in innovative, creative and fun ways. So if you are planning a trip to Toronto, don’t leave your pet at home. Come and see what PawsWay and the city have to offer. Deb Reid is a native Torontonian and owner of two Pembroke Welsh corgis, Jemma and Rupert, and two cats, Ella and Tucker.

Photo courtesy OF deb reid

PawsWay’s Code of Conduct • My (guardian, owner, family) and I will always be polite and keep sniffing to a minimum. • If another dog or cat wants to meet me, I’ll be friendly but not too friendly. • As a good dog, I agree to be on a 6-foot leash and my guardian won’t use a retractable leash while here. • My guardian agrees to pay attention to me at all times (he/ she loves doing that anyway) and together we’ll be respectful guests ... because we want to be invited back!

• If I have an accident (sorry!), I promise my guardian will clean things up on the spot. If needed, my guardian will ask a PawsWay staff member for extra help. • I promise: no bark, bark, barking to the point of being rude. • I promise to avoid aggressive behavior. • I know PawsWay reserves the right to ask that my guardian and I leave the premises. • At the end of our visit, we promise to leave PawsWay in the same tidy condition in which we found it.

CROSSING THE BORDER Traveling to Canada from the U.S. with your dog(s)? Here are a few required things you should plan to bring with you.

Your Pets’ Personal Assistant! Call... (616) 633-9902

For people: • Current and valid passports For dogs younger than 8 months: • Rabies vaccination certificate (rabies tag alone is not acceptable.) • Dogs younger than 3 months do not require a rabies certificate. • A veterinary certificate of health (see the Government of Canada website for details.) Dogs older than 8 months: • Rabies vaccination certificate (rabies tag alone is not acceptable.) Also recommended: 30 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

• Any ownership records for the dog(s), such as receipt or registration for purebred


emma fox

These dog movies may be oldies, but they’re goodies Winter is a great time to hunker down, pop some popcorn and catch up on favorite movies. Many of my favorites center around dogs, and I’d recommend them to any family looking for something good to watch on a cold winter night. Here are five great dogrelated movies on my must-see list. Babe (1995): Taken from his mother as a baby, Babe is alone in the world. A kind border collie takes the piglet under her wing, and Babe soon becomes adjusted to his new life. But after discovering what happens to pigs on a barnyard, Babe decides that he needs to become useful. He dreams

of being like the border collie and becomes a herder. Against all odds, Babe works to join competitions and earn the respect of the other dogs, and the confidence of his owners. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993): Chance, a young, troublemaking boxer; Shadow, a wise old golden retriever; and Sassy, a snobby princess cat, are left in the care of a strange woman while their family leaves for a vacation. The threesome, worried their owners might leave them forever, escape and race for cover in the wilderness. They have many encounters as they race home, unaware that their human friends are searching for them. Milo and Otis (1986): Join two friends -- a pug and a cat -- on the journey of a lifetime. They wander too far from their home, a farm, and meet

new friends -- and new enemies. Can they stay together and find their way home? Feel-good movie! Benji (1974): Meet Benji: Lovable, scruffy, stray. But he’s also clever, and he proves it to the world when he helps rescue two kidnapped children. Follow Benji as he meets new friends, of all shapes and sizes, to pull off a rescue that the police just couldn’t accomplish without him. Marmaduke (2010): Based on the newspaper cartoon, the lovable great Dane makes a big move from a rural lifestyle to a suburban neighborhood in California. Marmaduke seems to make a big mess wherever he goes, despite his efforts to do otherwise, and finds that making friends in a big city, with fancy dogs, isn’t always easy for an oversized, clumsy, goofy dog.

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on the road:




Here come the big dogs! Crowd favorites, including the Saint Bernard and Great Pyrenees, take the stage as part of the Working Dog Group.

These Basset Hounds waited patiently as their handlers carefully placed each of their feet in position, adjusted the angles of their heads and finally displayed their tails for the judge in the preliminary breed competition.


A Pembroke Welsh Corgi gets a quick groom in the benching area.




This Neopolitan Mastiff shows off his loose skin and thick wrinkles, which are desired traits for this ancient working dog.

Just minutes before his turn in the ring, Chauncey the Hungarian Komondor displays his dislike of the hair dryer. Owner Denise Wilczewski had just finished applying baby powder and chalk to Chauncey’s fur.



This Afghan Hound and handler lead the way as the entrants in the Hound Group take the stage for judging.

32 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

Meet the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, which was recently recognized by the American Kennel Club. This primitive breed is a hunter, related to the Basenji and Ibizan Hound, but much smaller. According to handler Stacy Faw from Indiana, these dogs can put aside their inner hunter, preferring instead to be hugged and kissed.

It’s not easy being beautiful. This Black Standard poodle from Maryland patiently endures hours of grooming in preparation for each show: 2-5 hours for bathing and drying and 1-2 hours to get brushed out, sprayed with hairspray and “scissored,” which is the term for shaping all those poodle poofs on the legs and behind.

This Samoyed is as white as pure snow.

Handler Lisa Miller of Mechanicsville, Md., looks shocked as her American Foxhound, Jewel, is announced Best in Show winner.


This Ibizan hound looks a little perturbed at the handling by the judge.




The National Dog Show is one of only five “benched” format competitions remaining in the United States. “Benched” format means that the show is open to the public and the canines are on display all day long so that attendees can see the dogs up close and meet their owners to learn about the breeds and about responsible dog ownership.


Jewel, an American Foxhound, became the first dog out of the Hound Group to win Best in Show at the National Dog Show.


This Bearded Collie was a fan favorite in the Best In Show group, showing off his long, flowing fur with a few jaunts around the ring.

Photos by Jennifer Waters


This Pekingese made it all the way to the Best in Show judging, thanks in part to his handler’s constant grooming and fluffing — even while the dog was walking.

January/February 2014 Dogs Unleashed 33

the tail end


Furever grateful for pets — and lint rollers So, I was at this meeting the other day. For whatever reason, I had decided to dress up a little more than usual – somewhere between blue jeans and a sweatshirt (my favorite outfit in retirement) and the business suits I used to wear to the office every day. The first thing I had to do was pull out a lint roller. Before I had even brought out the slacks and top, the jacket and jewelry, I had reached for one of those sticky things, as stout as fly paper. I didn’t even have to look at the outfit I chose. I had known I’d need it. I am a woman with cats. Two of them: Vincent, a long-haired tuxedo cat, and Little Cat, who not only has outgrown her name, she is a shorthaired, shedding machine. Her fur is the kind that is so coarse, it weaves itself like needles into whatever fabric I’m wearing, sitting on or near. I don’t go far without my lint roller. I have one in the car, my bathroom, the closet. I used to keep one in my desk at the office for the inevitable fur-lined outfit I didn’t intend to wear to work. The last thing I did every morning before pulling on my coat or walking out the door was a quick onceover with the lint roller, then back away, attempting to hold the cats at bay. “Back, back!” I’d shout like a lion tamer holding the big cats off with a chair. “Don’t get near me.” But they always did, and I always went to work unintentionally fuzzy. When I was growing up, we had lots of dog hair with which to contend. We had this dog named Tugboat, who was half Standard Poodle and half Collie. In case you’re curious, it was a summer

romance. His parents met at a couple cottages at Stony Lake near New Era, and the people were so busy sunbathing and swimming and sailing no one noticed the dogs cavorting. A couple months later, voila, puppies. Given his heritage, Tugboat was quite the sight. He had dreadlocks before anyone even knew what dreadlocks were. He was cinnamon-colored and his fur was everywhere, mostly on my brother and me because we adored him and couldn’t keep our hands off him. To be completely truthful, he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the pack — Tugboat, not my brother — and he stole stuff and wasn’t very brave even though he was a big bruiser. And, more to the point, he shed with the best of them. He shed like a cat. We could have knitted sweaters out of Tugboat’s fur or enough winter hats for an entire neighborhood school. We could have copped the world record for the largest fur ball swept off the kitchen floor. It didn’t matter how much we brushed him – a challenge given the dreadlocks – he still was a champion shedder. But I digress, sort of. If you have animals, even those dogs and cats that aren’t supposed to shed a lot, you’re going to have fur. It’s just a fact of life – life with dogs and cats, which brings me back to this committee meeting. Midway through, I noticed my colleagues watching me a little more closely than usual. I did a quick check: no spinach in my teeth or lipstick on them, no slip showing since I wasn’t wearing one, buttons all buttoned. Then, it dawned on me. Every time I made a point, gesturing for emphasis, using my hands to speak, cat hair floated through the air. Despite my best efforts with the lint roller, I’d missed some cat hair — a fine coating

over my entire outfit. I talked. Cat hair drifted to and from, hither and yon. The others in the room watched, eyes synchronized, gazing in unison. I tried to ignore it, but it was impossible. Finally, I grabbed at the fur in midair, trying to hide the evidence. “Cats?” one of the guys asked. “How’d you guess?” I responded. He held out his coat sleeve, so furry it could have passed as one of Santa’s white cuffs. “Got a dog myself,” he said. He reached in his briefcase, hauled out a lint roller and handed it to me. “Never go anywhere without one,” he said. “Want it?” I reached across the table. The fur flew, his and mine, tumbling, colliding, mixing it up. Nobody said a word, but there was a lot of checking of collars and pant legs. And when we were done, everyone asked to use the lint roller. Trust me, they needed to. Susan Harrison-Wolffis is an award-winning journalist, retired from newspaper work after more than 40 years. Contact her at


34 Dogs Unleashed January/February 2014

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January/February 2014 Dogs Unleashed 35

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