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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. At this time, it is available free of charge at more than 300 locations in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties. To advertise or become a distribution location for Dogs Unleashed, contact Mary Ullmer at: All material published is 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:

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6 Canine Calendar 8 Fetch! 10 Ask The Vet 11 Good Grief 12 The Doctor Is In 15 Giving Back 16 Doggy Destination: Seattle 20 A Whole New Ballgame 23 Born To Run 28 Working Like A Dog 31 Profile: Shelley Irwin 34 Kid Stuff 36 That’s My Dog 37 Scenes from Westminster 38 The Tail End a minute?

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Contributors Jeff Arnold (A Whole New Ballgame, p. 20) is a sports reporter with The Northwest Herald in suburban Chicago. He has worked as a journalist for 20 years and his long-form feature work has appeared most recently on Yahoo!Sports, and ESPN. com. Jeff and his wife, Rachel, are the proud parents of a mischievous cat, Beatrix Elizabeth, named after the queens of The Netherlands and England, with Rachel’s Dutch heritage taking precedence over Jeff’s proud British family ties. For more sports features, check out Contact Jeff at

Patti Eddington (Fetch!, p. 8 and Doggy Destination, p. 16) is a freelance journalist who is married to Dr. James Moore, owner of Harborfront Hospital for Animals in Spring Lake. She owns a ridiculously needy, but lovable greyhound named Gabbana Huffington, and writes a blog about her life: “Don’t Look in The Freezer, the Life and (Sometimes Strange) Times of a Veterinarian’s Wife.” Her blog can be found at dontlookinthefreezer. Cindy Fairfield (Working Like a Dog, p. 23) is a freelance writer and editor with 26 years experience at The Muskegon Chronicle, including as sports editor, projects editor, news editor and executive editor. She has won nearly 50 Associated Press and Michigan Press Association writing awards. She and her husband, Dusty, have three grown daughters, Sam, Casey and Alex, two grandsons and a border collie, Corbin. Contact Cindy at Susan Harrison Wolffis (The Tail End, p. 38) is an award-winning journalist, retired from newspaper work after more than 40 years on the job. While she’s more of a cat person, she also loves dogs (just not as much). She and her husband currently live with two rescued cats — Vincent and The Little Cat. Contact Susan at

Your Pets’ Personal Assistant! Call... (616) 633-9902 4 Dogs Unleashed

March/April 2013

Ginny Mikita (Good Grief, p. 11) is a certified candidate for ordination in the United Methodist Church and for the past two years has served as Night Chaplain at Spectrum Health-Butterworth. Ginny is a 1991 graduate of Notre Dame Law School and was honored to be named by Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly as one of Michigan’s Top Ten Lawyers in 1998 for her work in the animal protection field. Ginny and her husband, Bob Kruse, have their own law practice, the Mikita Kruse Law Center. They have two school-age children and one black Lab/beagle rescue named Kadie. Ron Rop (Giving Back, p. 15) is the communications director for U.S. Retail, franchiser of Pet Supplies Plus.

He also is the co-publisher of the Muskegon-based website and worked 31 years as a sportswriter in Muskegon. Ron and his wife, Kristi, have three sons, Aaron and Andrew, who are serving in the U.S. Navy, and Alex, who is in high school. They also are proud owners of two dogs, Chance and Bisquit. Contact Ron at Wendy Swift, DVM, (Ask The Vet, p. 10) is Associate Veterinarian at Ottawa Animal Hospital and Surgeon at West Michigan Spay Neuter Clinic. Contact Dr. Swift at Shane Thellman, DVM, (The Doctor Is In, p. 12) owns Modern Health Veterinary Hospital in Grand Rapids with his wife, Nikki, who also is a veterinarian. The Thellmans have a son, Clayton, as well five cats, two dogs, a tortoise and an iguana. Contact Dr. Thellman at Jennifer Waters (Photo contributor), is a professional pet photographer at Grumpy Pups Pet Photography. 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 a at or contact Jennifer at

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 News-Leader and Muskegon Chronicle. Email her at Kevin Kyser (Creative Director), owns Kyser Design Werks, (ad on p. 3) 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

Here’s to a new year, and a new beginning Hello, my name is Steve Adams and I am the CEO of U.S. Retail, Inc. Our company is the franchise owner of 21 Pet Supplies Plus stores located in Alabama, Texas, Wisconsin and now, in West Michigan. For 17 years, my leadership team and I have lived in West Michigan, yet we never owned Pet Supplies Plus stores here in our hometown. We are excited finally to be able to offer our own unique version of pet retail to our home town with the recent purchase of five stores in Grand Rapids and one in Holland. In the past couple of months, our organization made the decision to partner with Mary Ullmer, editor of Dog’s Unleashed, because we are dog lovers just like you. My wife, Heidi, and I have a beautiful Labradoodle named Bella who

is just 9 months old. We saw Dogs Unleashed magazine and loved the content. One of our team members, communications director Ron Rop, worked for years in the newspaper industry with Mary and introduced us. From that meeting, we chose to partner with Dogs Unleashed. Our vision is to bring even more interesting content to you each issue. We have a team of writers, local pet professionals and now our own highly trained leaders at Pet Supplies Plus to bring you helpful information to take the best care of your dog. At Pet Supplies Plus, we have partnered with Dr. Sarah Abood, DVM, PhD at Michigan State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Abood has certified more than 60 employees of our company as Certified Pet Nutrition Advisors. Those experts will be offering excellent content to help you sort through the myriad of choices in pet food and, most importantly, give

from the publisher

steve adams

you confidence that you are making the right choice for your pet and budget. As we train our local team here in West Michigan the next few months, we hope you come visit us and learn firsthand how we can help you take the stress and frustration out of pet ownership. Lastly, I want you to know about an exciting event coming in April. We are again sponsoring the West Michigan Pet Expo, April 13-14 at DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids. We will have several of our pet nutritionists on hand to provide free nutrition consultations and body score assessments. Dr. Abood will appear on April 14, teaching the basics of good pet nutrition. I will be at our booth all weekend and look forward to meeting fellow pet lovers from West Michigan. Please feel free to stop by the Pet Supplies Plus booth and say hello. We hope you enjoy this issue of Dogs Unleashed and thank you for supporting our magazine.



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Bow-Wows & Brews, 6:30-10 p.m. at DeltaPlex Arena, 2500 Turner NW, Grand Rapids. Dogs are welcome at this event to benefit C-SNIP, West Michigan’s only low-income spay/neuter clinic. Sample great microbrews, munch on heavy hors d’oeuvres (vegan and traditional), win raffle prizes and bid on great items in the silent auction. Tickets are $40 per person or $75 for two and can be purchased through C-SNIP’s website, or call (616) 455-8220 ext. 112.


Adoption event, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Chow Hound 628 N. Beacon Blvd., Grand Haven. Hosted by Humane Society and Animal Rescue of Muskegon County. For more information, call (231) 773-8689 or email


Toddler Tails, 10-10:45 a.m. at Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Have a toddler who loves animals? Toddler Tails is designed for ages 2-4 and keeps your tot engaged through stories, activities, crafts and animal interactions. Cost is $5 per family. Pre-register by contacting Jennifer Self-Aulgur (616) 791-8066 or


Low Income Vaccine Clinic, 3-5 p.m. at Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Distemper ($10), rabies ($15), bordatella ($10) heartworm test ($10), felv/FIV test ($20), pet microchip ($10, with vaccination only). Both dogs and cats welcome. There is a $10 charge for unaltered pets (with payment, clients will receive $10 coupon for spay/ neuter services at C-SNIP). Clients must show proof of low-income status. No appointment necessary. Contact Carlita Gonzalez at (616) 791-8056 or cgonzalez@


Future Voices Kids Club, 6 p.m. Monthly meeting at Orchard View Middle School, 35 South Sheridan Road, Muskegon. Topic will be brainstorming ideas to help out non-profit organization Paws With A Cause, which trains assistance dogs nationally for people with disabilities and encourages independence. Call (231) 788-6029, email or check out the Future Voices Kids Club page on Facebook for more information.

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Furry Friday Films, 5:309:30 p.m. at the Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Kids in grades K-5 are invited to join HSWM for a fun night of animal time, games, crafts and an animal movie. Pizza, pop and popcorn are provided. Cost is $25 per child with a $10 sibling discount. To register, contact Jen Self-Aulgur at (616) 791-8066 or jaulgur@


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 place where those bound by the experience of the impending loss or death of a pet can come together on a regular basis to share stories, receive validation of concerns and feelings, learn about grief and the mourning process, and reflect upon the meaning of it all. Please register by noon on the day of the meetings with facilitator Ginny Mikita (616) 460-0373 or Jen Self-Aulgur (616) 791-8066 or


Paws, Claws and Corks, a fundraiser for Humane Society of West Michigan, at the Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place, 303 Monroe Ave. Event begins at 6 p.m. and will feature the hottest restaurants, breweries, and wineries in West Michigan. Guests will enjoy fabulous cuisine, live and silent auctions and an opportunity to bid on amazing experiences. Tickets are $100 per person ($50 of ticket price is tax deductible). Contact Tammy Hagedorn at (616) 791-8138 or for more information.


Low Income Vaccine Clinic, 4-7 p.m. at South End Community Outreach Ministries, 1545 Buchanan Ave. SW, Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids. Sponsored by HSWM. Distemper ($10), rabies ($15), bordatella ($10) heartworm test ($10), felv/FIV test ($20), pet microchip ($10, with vaccination only). Both dogs and cats welcome. There is a $10 charge for unaltered pets (with payment, clients will receive $10 coupon for spay/neuter services at C-SNIP). Clients must show proof of low-income status. No appointment necessary. Contact Carlita Gonzalez at (616) 791-8056 or



Kids-n-Paws Spring Break Camp, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Mini camp provides kids with a fun and interesting opportunity to further their knowledge about animal care while helping to shape future responsible pet owners. The three-day mini camp will feature animal interactions presentations, crafts, snacks and games. For information, contact Jen Self-Aulgur at (616) 791-8066 or jaulgur@


Adoption event, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Petsmart, 1720 E. Sherman Blvd., Muskegon. Hosted by Humane Society and Animal Rescue of Muskegon County. For more information, call (231) 773-8689 or email


Toddler Tails, 10-10:45 a.m. at Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Have a toddler who loves animals? Toddler Tails is designed for ages 2-4 and keeps your tot engaged through stories, activities, crafts and animal interactions. Cost is $5 per family. Preregister by contacting Jennifer Self-Aulgur (616) 791-8066 or


Low Income Vaccine Clinic, 3-5 p.m. at Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Distemper ($10), rabies ($15), bordatella ($10) heartworm test ($10), felv/FIV test ($20), pet microchip ($10, with vaccination only). Both dogs and cats welcome. There is a $10 charge for unaltered pets (with payment, clients will receive $10 coupon for spay/ neuter services at C-SNIP). Clients must show proof of low-income status. No appointment necessary. Contact Carlita Gonzalez at (616) 791-8056 or


Future Voices Kids Club, 6 p.m. Monthly meeting at Orchard View Middle School, 35 South Sheridan Road, Muskegon. Special guest speaker is Christine Mahaney from WhatADog dog training and her celebrity dog Toula, who has been featured in several movies and television commercials. Call (231) 7886029, email or check out the Future Voices Kids Club page on Facebook for more information.


Adoption event, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Chow Hound, 628 N. Beacon Blvd., Grand Haven. Hosted by Humane Society and Animal Rescue of Muskegon County. For more information, call (231) 773-8689 or email


West Michigan Pet Expo, DeltaPlex Arena, 2500 Turner NW, Grand Rapids. Saturday hours 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday hours 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event includes more than 60 pet-related vendors, animal-related entertainment, informative seminars and a pet adoption area. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for children ages 6-12 and free for children 5 and under. Attendees can save $2 per ticket by showing their Pet Supplies Plus Preferred Pet Club card, available free at any of the six Pet Supplies Plus locations in West Michigan. Tickets are available at the door or in advance at the DeltaPlex box office and are on sale at select Pet Supplies Plus locations in West Michigan.


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 place where those bound by the experience of the impending loss or death of a pet can come together on a regular basis to share stories, receive validation of concerns and feelings, learn about grief and the mourning process, and reflect upon the meaning of it all. Please register by noon on the day of the meetings with facilitator Ginny Mikita (616) 460-0373 or Jen Self-Aulgur (616) 7918066 or


Furry Friday Films, 5:309:30 p.m. at the Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Kids in grades K-5 are invited to join HSWM for a fun night of animal time, games, crafts and an animal movie. Pizza, pop and popcorn are provided. Cost is $25 per child with a $10 sibling discount. To register, contact Jen Self-Aulgur at (616) 791-8066 or jaulgur@


HSWM Adoption Carnival, 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Join the Humane Society of West Michigan for their 12-hour adoption event, featuring fun games, interesting demonstrations and lots of great adoption specials. For more information, contact Jennifer Self-Aulgur at (616) 791-8066 or

I saw my owners using to plan their next trip. Looks like I’ll be going too! Don’t leave your pets behind on your next trip! Use for a full list of Pet Friendly accommodations, beaches, and parks in West Michigan.

Photo by Kevin Povenz

BE KIND TO ANIMALS POSTER CONTEST The Humane Society of West Michigan is holding a Be Kind to Animals poster contest! Kids are encouraged to create a poster showing a kind act to animals in celebration of Be Kind to Animals Week, May 5-11. There will be one winner per grade (Grades K through 8), and winners receive a scholarship to HSWM Summer Camps! Posters are due by Friday, May 3 and can be dropped off or mailed with a completed registration form to Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Dr. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49534 (attn: Education Department). Registration forms can be found at the HSWM website, Winners will be announced Friday, May 10 and will be featured in the July/August issue of Dogs Unleashed!


A perfect fit >

Fido’s fork


What it is: Hand knit, one-of-akind pet sweaters, coats and even leg warmers, by New York designer Jenya Cimilluca. A resident of the Hudson Valley, Cimilluca began creating dog sweaters as a hobby for her local animal shelter, as well as family and friends. She finds inspiration for her creations through the “peace and tranquility of nature and wildlife.” She also loves the work of designer Mondo Guerra (season 8 of Project Runway) and says his use of patterns and textures has been the basis of some of her most creative designs. But wait, there’s more: It’s not all about glamour. Cimilluca’s goal is to create garments that have ease of movement, good fit, fabulous construction and a style that the pets — and their humans — are proud to flaunt. Fetch it: Cimilluca’s original designs can be found online at

What it is: The Best Friend’s Fork is designed specifically for dogs, created to prevent a utensil from being pulled from an owner’s hand by an overly excited — or hungry — pooch. It was created by Val Arnold of Davisburg, Mich., out of a deep love for her four-legged family members. But wait, there’s more: Each fork comes with a bit of bling. Choose from a blue, pink or clear Swarovski crystal on the handle. Fetch it: Forks are available at

Tagg, you’re it > What it is: GPS tracking for your dog by Tagg — The Pet Tracker. The tracker uses advanced GPS and wireless technology to help you locate your missing pooch through a device which affixes to an existing collar and sends messages to a computer or mobile device if a pet leaves your pre-determined “Tagg zone.” But wait, there’s more: The device also allows owners to track the activity of their dog — every walk, run and nap — and creates a 90-day activity timeline so owners can spot trends and determine if a pet is getting enough exercise. Fetch it: The Pet Tracker is available at Target, Sams Club, Best Buy or

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Silver paws > What it is: Keep a reminder of your very best friend close to your heart with this solid-cast dog paw necklace by by Silver Loon Jewelers. Matching earrings and a charm are also available and all are constructed of sterling silver. But wait, there’s more: Based in White Lake, Silver Loon is an approved Pure Michigan company. In addition to pet products, Silver Loon creates other Michigan-inspired jewelry — think lighthouses, turtles and eight-point bucks. Fetch it: You can check out Silver Loon Jewelers at

Stay organized > What it is: The Precious Friends – My Pet Journal gives dog lovers a convenient way to keep track of medical records, contact information for pet sitters, groomers and veterinarians and even has a section for pictures. The journal is printed in Michigan using soy-based ink on acid-free recycled paper. But wait, there’s more: The journal is available in a 200-page, 7.5- x 9-inch size and a smaller, 3- x 5-inch, 120-page size. Fetch it: Find the pet journals at or

< Something to snout about What it is: Apply Snoutstik, a no-mess healing and moisturizing balm to provide relief for Fido’s dry, cracked nose. Created by Opie & Dixie Wholesome Pet Solutions, Snoutstik is made in the USA from domestically sourced, 100 percent natural vegan ingredients. It’s a combination of shea butter, sweet almond oil and jojoba seed oil and comes in lavender, pumpkin and rosemary scents. But wait, there’s more: Fans of Snoutstik may also like the Opie & Dixie line of healing paw balm, natural and organic shampoos and nutritional supplements. Fetch it: Visit

Send us your product! To have your product featured in Fetch! - send us a professional product shot of your featured item along with a description to be written in our Fetch! format to the email address below. Photo must be at least 300 dpi with the smallest full-size dimension at least 2 inches. Do not use software to increase the resolution. Please save as JPEG and send to

Remember every detail. Custom photo sessions for pets that are part of the family.

Photo Albums | Canvas | Wall Prints | Unique Gift Items | | 616.322.5589

wendy swift, DVM

Dear Dr. Swift, I used to swear to my vet that my dog put on “winter weight,” and she would always roll her eyes at me. But my little terrier always gained a couple of pounds in the winter and by summer was lean and fit. Is winter weight really a problem for our family pet? Dear Reader, Seasonal weight change is a real problem, but with a few lifestyle changes during the colder months, you can prevent it from happening to you and your pet. It is as simple as evaluating your diet and exercise plan and modifying them to fit your needs. Whether young or old, couch potato or marathon runner, there are many options for you and your canine companion. All of us tend to overindulge during the holidays. We purchase edible chew treats for our dogs and then give them more than what they really need. We also tend to share our holiday feast with our pets (which is not recommended, but we all have done it). Either way, as pet parents, we are increasing the number of calories our dogs are consuming and usually not taking away any of their normal meal rations. Treats always should be fed in moderation, and an age/breed appropriate diet should be offered at recommended amounts divided into two equal feedings (unless your dog requires more frequent meals due to a health concern) or free fed as directed by your veterinarian.

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Just like humans, dogs can put on weight in winter

Packing on the pounds A good philosophy to live by is “a tired dog is a good dog.” Every dog, regardless of age, size or breed, needs 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. This exercise must include both physical and mental stimulation to be most beneficial for your dog. Physical activity needs to be altered slightly during the winter months when your favorite sidewalks are covered in ice and snow. Consider visiting a busy dog park or enrolling your canine companion in doggy daycare. For extremely active dogs, skijoring, snowshoeing or treadmill exercise are great options. Mental exercise should be provided to your dog year-round, but it is especially important during the winter months when they are generally less active, both mentally and physically. Bored dogs tend to be destructive (dig holes, destroy furniture, etc.) and bark more than mentally stimulated dogs. Enrollment in an obedience or

agility course or just simply working on basic commands and tricks in the comfort of your home will help cure your dog’s boredom. Many dog toys (treat balls and boxes, dental chews, etc.) require your dog to “work” to get a reward. Check with your veterinarian or local pet store to find the best type of mental stimulation for your dog. Preventing seasonal weight change will help prevent your dog from becoming overweight. Studies have shown that obese dogs tend to have more health problems (heart disease, arthritis, etc.) and live up to two years less than optimum weight dogs. Contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your canine companion’s weight change, and visit their clinic monthly to weigh your dog during the winter season and make sure you are on the right track. With a proper diet and an appropriate exercise plan, your dog will enjoy seasonal changes as much as you do.

photo by jennifer waters


good grief

ginny mikita

Somewhere over the Rainbow? “Just this side of Heaven is a place called the Rainbow Bridge.” -- unknown Almost without exception, someone during the monthly grief support group I facilitate at the Humane Society of West Michigan will ask about or refer to The Legend of the Rainbow Bridge. The Rainbow Bridge tells of a pastoral place filled with green meadows and hills located just outside of Heaven’s gate. According to the legend, when a companion animal dies, he goes to this place — free of illness and injury but saddened by the continuing absence of his human companion. The animal, it continues, playfully romps with other animals as they patiently await the arrival of their human companions. Upon the death of an animal’s human companion, the two reunite to walk over the bridge into Heaven, hand-in-paw, to live eternally ever after. It is unknown who originally penned The Rainbow Bridge. A number of people claim authorship, including the following: Paul C. Dahm, a grief counselor who is said to have written

the poem in 1981 and published it in a 1998 book of the same name; William N. Britton, author of Legend of Rainbow Bridge; and Dr. Wallace Sife, head of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, whose poem All Pets Go to Heaven appears on the Association’s website as well as in his book, The Loss of a Pet. Today it appears in publications as well as websites throughout the world. Veterinarians routinely provide copies to their human clients upon the death of a companion animal. There are a stack of take-home cards with the words printed on them sitting on a small table alongside a box of tissues in the Serenity Room, the room offered to people whose animals have just died, at HSWM. The legend has inspired writers to gently dissect the rainbow by color and meaning and use it as a launching point for the development of a grieving kit. There is even an interactive virtual memorial home for companion animals at The Rainbow Bridge is undergirded by what some would believe to be religious ideas of an afterlife and Heaven. While none of the world’s religions ascribe to such a place, in Genesis, the first book

of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in the Judeo-Christian tradition, after the flood, God establishes a covenant with Noah and “every living creature.” God tells Noah to keep an eye out for rainbows, as they will forever serve as a reminder of God’s eternal promise. The legend also shares similarities with the setting of Canadian Margaret Marshall Saunders’ 1902 book, Beautiful Joe’s Paradise. Her book was a sequel to her 1893 story, Beautiful Joe, for which she had won an humane society writing contest. Saunders’ version in her book differs slightly from that of The Rainbow Bridge. In Saunders’ imagination, companion animals arrive to a green land to heal and learn from neglect and abuse suffered during their lives. When ready, animals are taken to Heaven by a balloon. When The Rainbow Bridge is broached in our group, the reactions mimic those I’ve received to my informal inquiry made in preparation for writing this month’s column. Most people experience an extreme response. Either the legend provides a great source of comfort, or it evokes an expression of scornful derision. A veterinarian friend of mine shared her love-hate relationship with the idea. On the one hand, she finds it to be a kitschy cliche to which people desperately cling for comfort. On the other, it actually is a source of deep comfort and healing. She went on to share that she had recently attended a conference in which The Rainbow Bridge was put to music and played during a guided grief meditation. My friend admitted to being instantly reduced to tears. In the end, the critical question isn’t whether one believes in the existence of The Rainbow Bridge or not. I think the legend provides comfort in sadness, light in darkness and a hope in despair. March/April 2013

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NUTRITION MYTHS AND FACTS n MYTH: Corn is a filler, poorly digested, causes allergies and has no place in dog food. n FACT: “Filler” has no official

ringing a new puppy home is a monumental experience. But after the excitement and joy dies down, you may find yourself overwhelmed with how to keep your puppy healthy. What do you feed your new best friend? To find answers, you may spend hours reading pet food reviews online. When you finally arrive at a pet store, a sales representative likely will greet you. Diet is a hot topic, so you start asking questions: Which food is most nutritious, which is most affordable, which diet do they feed their own dog? What you need to ask is, which diets have been tested in feeding trials. A trial involves feeding the diet to a set group of animals, measuring the nutrients and determining biologic effects of the diet. Feeding trials also provide reasonable assurance the diet is complete and balanced. The trials are not mandatory, but demonstrate the company’s dedication to quality and provide evidence a diet is safe and sufficient. Most companies base their nutrient composition on other company’s feeding trials and never actually feed the diet to an animal for a substantial duration. Canine nutrition was revolutionized in the late 1800s when a food called Dog Cake was produced to ensure proper nutrition, and again in the mid-1950s when Purina released Dog Chow and Cat Chow. Before the creation of commercial pet foods, dogs were left to table scraps and whatever else they could find. This resulted in severely malnourished pets. Today, commercial pet food choices have become so abundant and complex that new misconceptions on canine dietary needs flood the market. Ingredients used in commercial dog food are legally defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), AAFCO tries to regulate commercial pet food quality by providing standardized food labels for pet food sold in the

Nutrition: What’s the beef about? United States. Pet food labels are considered a legal document and companies must comply with AAFCO and FDA guidelines. There’s a difference between “nutrition” and an “ingredient.” Dogs require nutrition to sustain metabolic needs. It would appear having all the “right” ingredients would provide proper nutrition. Unfortunately, there is much more to consider. For example, the processing of an ingredient can increase or decrease its nutritious value. This brings us to common misconceptions in the dog food industry.

definition, but is commonly used to imply a part of a diet that has no biological value and is merely used to make the animal feel full. Corn actually is a nutritionally superior grain when compared to other grains. Remember, dogs are NOT strict carnivores and do require grain in their diet. Corn also provides a highly available source of complex carbohydrates as well as linoleic acid — an essential fatty acid important for healthy skin. Corn also supplies fiber necessary for dietary regulation and additional amino acids. True corn allergies are infrequent and the most common food component causing canine allergies is often the more complex proteins such as soy or chicken

n MYTH: By-products and by-product

meal should be avoided as they are inferior ingredients.

n FACT: Meat “by-product” is the non-

rendered, clean parts, other than meat (meat defined as muscle), derived from slaughtered mammals. Meat by-products for commercial pet food can include lung, spleen, kidney, brain, liver, blood, bone, fatty tissue and stomach or intestine emptied of contents. Meat by-products do NOT include hair, horns, teeth or hooves. Some of the by-products used in pet foods are ingredients that can actually be used for human consumption, such as liver and tripe. These things may seem inferior (or even gross) to you, but your dog has a natural affinity for these protein- and nutrient-rich organs. Truly, this is a more natural diet for canines when compared to human meat consumption of only the muscle and fat. n MYTH: Organic, natural and/or holistic foods are better for dogs because they have fewer chemicals.

n FACT: Foods labeled as “natural” by

definition must be free of chemically synthesized ingredients. Basically, it is the way the ingredient is processed from nature. Natural products may be processed by any means except those requiring chemicals. Companies are allowed to label the diet natural no matter how the protein source is handled (heat pressurized, ground, etc.) as long as no chemical was used. In addition, a commercial pet food can be labeled as “natural” as long as a portion of the ingredients are “natural.” Therefore, its entirety may not be 100 percent chemical free. Terms such as: “organic,” “holistic,” “gourmet” and “human grade” have no legal definition or standard when being used to describe dog food. They are simply marketing terms. Also, there are some names and titles on dog food bags that tell consumers how much chicken, beef or pork is in the diet. A title on canned food that has “beef ” in it is required to have 70 percent beef. If the title states “beef dinner,” it is required to have at least 25 percent beef. If you choose a natural diet, make sure

Terms such as: “organic,” “holistic,” “gourmet” and “human grade” have no legal definition or standard when being used to describe dog food. it is fortified with the correct balance of vitamins and minerals. n MYTH: Food allergies are not possible

in my dog because I haven’t changed his food in years.

n FACT: Food allergies can often take

years to develop. The average age of dogs at the time of food allergy diagnosis is 2 to 3 years, and it usually manifests as a non-seasonal itch. About 25 percent of dogs with a food allergy will have chronic ear infections with a greater number exhibiting chronic ear infections and licking at the paws. The immune system must be exposed for a long period of time to develop antibodies to trigger allergic reactions. Having a reaction to food on the first or second feeding is most likely food intolerance vs. a true

food allergy. If you feel your dog has developed a food allergy, contact your veterinarian for advice, as they will often have great ideas and can develop a feeding program for you and your canine friend. Food allergies can be daunting to diagnose and treat with over-the-counter diets due to natural inconsistencies with protein sources, which often get the blame for causing food allergies in canines. Hydrolyzed diets are designed to minimize or prevent the immune reaction to dietary proteins. Another approach to dealing with food allergies would be a new protein source. I have had variable results with this method. Most dogs will do slightly better, but complete resolution is very difficult. Just as it is with people with food allergies, it only takes ONE hint of the allergen to cause severe clinical signs — kind of like an allergy to peanuts. Just one peanut can cause anaphylactic reactions in a person. Some people can’t even have food produced in the same factory as peanuts. That also is true for our canine

Modern Health Veterinary Hospital is a fully equipped pet care center utilizing the latest techniques and technology for the complete care of your dog or exotic pets. Dr. Shane Thellmen is an experienced surgeon who, with his staff of pet health professionals, provides the animals you love with the finest, most advanced care available. Young or old, paws or claws... the experience and care you need is waiting for you here at Modern Health Veterinary Hospital.

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Dogs Unleashed 13

without human presence. Our domestic dogs are descendants of wolves that lived alongside humans and ate many of the same foods humans did, including starch and grain.

Shane Thellman, DVM

counterparts. Even if the food label states there is no chicken or pork (examples of proteins), the food may actually have enough particles of chicken or pork to cause an allergic reaction if the food was manufactured in the same plant as chicken and/or pork products. The concern for unwanted protein contaminants in dog foods has resulted in the creation of special prescription diets to limit symptoms of food allergies and keep dogs comfortable. n MYTH: Dogs need real bones to help

with vitamin deficiencies and keep their teeth clean.

n FACT: Bones do contain vitamins and

minerals that dogs need, however, the health risks related to bone ingestion are of a greater concern. Our domesticated dogs are not wolves. Wolves have adapted to their environment over thousands of years

Risks of offering bones to our domesticated dogs include fractured teeth, intestinal foreign bodies, upset stomach and/or colitis, infection (bones may harbor infectious bugs.), constipation and mouth injuries. On multiple occasions I have removed rib bones that have become lodged between the upper teeth crossing the roof of the mouth (ouch!). The amount of vitamins and minerals derived from bones is minimal and does not outweigh the risks. Most commercial diets should contain the necessary vitamins and minerals without any supplementation needed. n MYTH: The first ingredient on the list

should be a meat product, which means there is more meat protein than any other ingredient in the product.

n FACT: Labeling on dog food has rules,

as stated previously. Ingredients are listed in order of weight — sounds simple. Not so fast. Direct comparison of two diets must be made on a dry-matter basis with all water removed. Water does not have nutritional value when taking

into account protein content. Most labels only list the “as fed” ingredients vs. the “dry matter,” which may lead to false claims and misinformation. If the first listed ingredient is chicken, this includes the water, which results in chicken appearing at the top of the list. If the first ingredient is chicken meal, this means the chicken has been cooked down (rendered) and has had the water weight removed, which will result in chicken meal being lower on the list even though nutritionally they are basically the same. If you are unsure about which diet will be best for your dog, consider bringing your current dog food label to your veterinarian for interpretation. I enjoy interpreting food labels and find it rewarding to help create a sound nutrition program from puppy to geriatric. This article has only skimmed the surface of nutrition and may have left some of you with questions not addressed. If you would like more information about nutrition, contact your veterinarian, or you can email your questions to smthellman@ Many diet questions, though, will be best answered by your veterinarian as they will know your dog’s condition and detailed needs.

Four of five dogs have periodontal disease. We can fix that. Periodontal disease is hard to detect, but very painful, and it can’t be cured with over-the-counter methods. Dr. James Moore lectures internationally and writes for veterinary publications about the topic. He is skilled at root canals, oral surgery and orthodontia. Call us for a complete evaluation of your buddy’s oral health. Harborfront Hospital for Animals, 807 W. Savidge, Spring Lake, 616-842-7011

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March/April 2013

MSU nutritionist’s classroom extends beyond campus By RON ROP

On any given day, at any given moment, you never know where you will find Dr. Sarah Abood. She wears many hats in her position at Michigan State University, and those hats get changed back and forth numerous times each day. For the past 13 years, she has been employed at MSU in the College of Veterinary Medicine, where she serves as the assistant dean for Dr. Sarah Abood. student programs as well as the small animal clinical nutritionist in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “The day-to-day part of my job involves constant juggling because I’m an instructor, administrator and parttime clinician,” Abood said. “I shift gears every hour or so throughout the day and have to be ready for anything at a moment’s notice. I often drop the balls I’m juggling, which gives me the chance to re-learn, re-tool and improve.” What brings the biggest joy to Abood, she said, is working with MSU students who strive to “live their dream” of becoming a veterinarian. “The excitement and struggle and awakening are a daily inspiration to me,” she said. Early on, Dr. Abood aspired to become a dairy veterinarian. She loved the lifestyle, the driving from farm to farm and spending most of her time outdoors. However, along the way, a few of those doors closed, but some windows opened. That’s when she became involved in veterinary clinical nutrition for pets. She received her bachelor of science degree (1984) and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (1988) from MSU. She completed a one-year internship in large animal medicine and surgery at the University of Minnesota, then spent five years working on her PhD at Ohio State University. She

earned her PhD in 1997 and, during that time, worked as a nutrition scientist in Research and Technical Communications at Ralston Purina Company in St. Louis, Mo. “While I was working in the pet food industry, I was also trying to finish my PhD,” Abood said. “Once I finally managed that, I began to think about starting a family, and that’s when I also started looking around for other opportunities. The chance to return to Michigan State was quite timely, since both my husband and I are from Lansing and we have lots of family in Michigan, so raising kids near family solidified the choice to take the position at the College of Veterinary Medicine.” Pet nutrition has become one of her fields of expertise. Her research includes nutrition for small animal patients, obesity prevention and obesity management. Her vast knowledge in pet nutrition is what got the attention of Steve Adams, owner of Pet Supplies Plus stores in West Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas and Alabama. Adams approached Abood to train his store managers in pet nutrition with the purpose of giving

giving back his employees an upper hand in the pet supply business. “We were impressed by Dr. Abood’s expertise and her passion to reach pet owners directly,” Adams said. Abood designed the Certified Pet Nutrition Advisor program, and completing the course earns employees a CPNA certificate. They then will be prepared to address customers’ nutrition questions and concerns. “There are a lot of myths about pet nutrition and our clients told us it was a major source of frustration and concern,” Adams said. “Our CPNAs are able to sort through all the clutter and give pet owners solid knowledge they can use because of our partnership with Dr. Abood.” Now her focus is on West Michigan since Adams and his group purchased five Pet Supplies Plus stores in Grand Rapids and one in Holland. That means there are more employees in need of the specialized CPNA education. Abood will be speaking at the West Michigan Pet Expo, held April 13-14 at DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids. She is scheduled to speak on Sunday, April 14, and will focus on obesity prevention. “It’s far easier to help dog and cat owners prevent their pet from gaining weight than it is to work on getting the pet to lose weight,” Abood said.



WHEN: April 13-14

Adopt-A-Pet Area


Reptile and Amphibia

WHERE: Delta Plex Arena and Conference Center, 2500 Turner NW, Grand Rapids.

Pony Rides

Thousands of Pet Pr Children’s Area

HOURS: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

APRIL 13 & 14 WHAT: The event includes more than 60 pet-related vendors, animal-related SATURDAY 10AM–7PM


Pet First Aid Semina

Free Samples & Cou


entertainment, informative seminars and an adoption area featuring many of . . West Michigan’s shelters. @ DELTAPLEX



ADMISSION: $6 for adults, $4 for children ages 6-12 and for children Forfree Vendor Information Contact Us At faceb ages 5 and under. Attendees can save $2 per ticket by showing their Pet Supplies Plus Preferred Pet Club card, which is available free of charge at any of the six Pet Supplies Plus locations in West Michigan. TICKETS: Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance at the Delta Plex box office. Tickets also are on sale at select Pet Supplies Plus locations in West Michigan. FAST FACTS: The expo, in its eighth year, is the longest running and best attended pet expo in Michigan. … Organizers expect this year’s event to attract more than 10,000 visitors. March/April 2013

Dogs Unleashed 15

doggy destination: seattle

Caffeine &Canines

The Emerald City is known for coffee, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also famous for being Fido friendly

16 Dogs Unleashed

March/April 2013



hen Dorothy took Toto on that whirlwind, spur-of-themoment trip to Oz, some of the locals were not only unfriendly to the pair, they were downright witchy. Silly travelers. They visited the wrong Emerald City. Seattle, known as the Emerald City, is a laid-back land for Fidos with a plethora of dog friendly hotels, parks and restaurants. A more welcoming place for dogs would be hard to find. Maybe that’s why Seattle news organizations reported last fall that there are more dogs in Seattle than children: about 153,000 dogs to 107,000 kids. The figures don’t surprise Seattle resident Gina Karaba. She works at Seattle’s landmark Pike Place Market,

where dogs are frequent guests, just like they are all over the city. “It’s really routine here to take your dogs with you into stores, and most places don’t mind at all,” said Karaba, who takes her Deer Chihuahua, Harold, on strolls through the market. “A lot of my friends want to come here to visit me and bring their dogs.” Just down the street, Kodi was waiting patiently outside a pastry shop for owner Sarah Mohr to return. Kodi, a 6-year-old Great Pyrenees, is the survivor of a stage two mass-cell tumor and one of the loves of Mohr’s life. An employee at Amazon, she is able to take her pal with her to work every day, and said the city is absolutely perfect for people like her — and dogs like Kodi. “Seattle is wonderful,” she said. “Seattle is like dog heaven.”

A four-legged patron at Norm’s Eatery & Alehouse

If you’re staying More than 50 hotels in greater Seattle — which includes satellite cities like Bellevue and Fremont — allow dogs to share accommodations with their owners. Fees for bringing Fido range from free at the La Quinta Inn and Suites Seattle Downtown to $40 or $50 a night. In keeping with Seattle’s dogloving philosophy, plenty of lodging establishments will ... ahem ... “put on the dog” for your beloved pet. At the Chambered Nautilus Bed & Breakfast, dogs receive a Pampered Pooch Basket with towels for muddy feet, poop bags and treats. At the Monaco Seattle, canine guests receive a water bowl, a bag of biscuits and more treats at turn down. If desired, the staff will even

Norm’s eatery & alehouse photo

March/April 2013

Dogs Unleashed 17

Patti Eddington photo

Harold the Deer Chihuahua and owner Gina Karaba at Pike Place Market.

create a personalized doggie itinerary. More information about dog friendly hotels, inns and homes to rent in Seattle is available at If you put the code “2013” in when making a reservation, you’ll get a $5 discount on pet friendly hotels.

If you’re hungry Since Seattle is temperate — if moist — al fresco dining is popular. It’s hard to find a bistro with outdoor seating

that doesn’t boast a dog lolling at an owner’s feet. At Norm’s Eatery and Alehouse in Fremont, people go for the beer, the burgers, the happy hour specials and because they can take their dogs — inside. The Seattle Times calls Norm’s a “dive bar for dog lovers” and says dogs on the bar stools are not unusual. Norm’s is plastered in doggy photos and offers a nightly “Dog Bowl Special” for humans. Another love for Seattle-ites is coffee, and it gets mixed with dogs at Bark Espresso. On the city’s north side, it includes a dog lounge called The Hound Hang Out. At the neighboring Great Dog daycare/obedience/grooming facility, two-and four-legged patrons can stop to mingle and smell — or sip — the java.

For exercise, the bark park Seattle boasts not one, not two, but a dozen off-leash parks. A popular nine-acre area at Warren G. Magnuson Park is located at 7400 Sand Point Way NE on the shore of beautiful Lake Washington. The Magnuson off-leash area was developed in 1999 and underwent improvements in 2005. It has a large play field, winding trails and a specific

area for “small and shy” dogs. Park devotees even have a Facebook page. (See box below for list of more parks).

Fun and funky • The year-round Seattle Ferry Service Sunday Ice Cream Cruise offers a 45-minute tour of the Lake Union floating homes, a peek at Dale Chihuly’s glass studio, plus a glimpse of the Gas Works Park (featured in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You) and the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat. Dogs, of course, are welcome. • While your pooch can’t go to the top of the iconic Space Needle to catch a view, he can wander around the base of the needle and Seattle Center. The Center was home to the 1962 World’s Fair and is now a 74-acre park, including museums, a children’s theater and the 12,000-seat Memorial Stadium. • Finally, you can always take your friend to bark at the cranky Fremont Troll, who lives a solitary existence under the George Washington Memorial Bridge. The troll, a mixedmedia sculpture with a hungry glint in its one silver eye, clutches a Volkswagen Beetle and draws a steady stream of visitors. It’s kitschy, fun and just the sort of thing dogs adore.

For exercise, the bark park is the thing Seattle boasts not one, not two, but a dozen off-leash parks, including a popular nine-acre area at Warren G. Magnuson Park at 7400 Sand Point Way NE on the shore of beautiful Lake Washington. The Magnuson off-leash area was developed in 1999 and underwent improvements in 2005. It has a large play field, winding trails and an area for small and shy dogs. You can check it out on its Facebook page (Magnuson Off-Leash Park). A list of off-leash parks: Blue Dog Pond

1520 26th Ave. S

Denny Park

100 Dexter Ave. N

Dr. Jose Rizal Park

1008 12th Ave. S

Genesee Park and Playfield

4316 S. Genesee St.

Golden Gardens Park

8498 Seaview Place NW

I-5 Colonnade

Beneath I-5, south of East Howe St.

Magnolia Manor Park

3430 27th Ave. W

Northacres Park

12718 First Ave. NE

Plymouth Pillars Park

Boren Ave. & Pike St.

Regrade Park

2251 Third Ave.

Westcrest Park

9000 8th Ave. SW

Woodland Park

1000 N. 50th St.

18 Dogs Unleashed

March/April 2013

photo by jennifer waters

Seattle is known for its off-leash dog parks, as this pug discovered.

where to go in seattle Shopping n Fremont Sunday Street Market Location: 400 N 34th St. Contact: (206) 781-6776 Website: The scoop: This open-air market features not just fabulous eateries, but a marketplace with collectibles and fresh produce. Dogs need to be on a short-leash. n Ballard Sunday Market Location: Ballard Ave. NW at 22nd Ave. NW

n The Dray

n Summit Public House

Location: 708 NW 65th St. Contact: (206) 453-4527

Location: 601 Summit Ave. East, Suite 102


Contact: (206) 324-7611

The scoop: You don’t even have to have your dog on a leash at this friendly neighborhood bar, where they serve up house olives and a white cheddar pickle sandwich.


n Nollie’s Cafe


Location: 1165 Harrison St. Contact: (206) 402-6724

n Kenmore Airlines pet friendly sightseeing tours


Location: 6321 NE 175th St.

The scoop: The small combination cafe, breakfast spot and coffee shop welcomes dogs and even bakes all-natural dog treats.

Contact: (866) 435-9524

Contact: (206) 781-6776 Website: BallardWelcome.html The scoop: While you’re walking around with your dog (short-leash policy) in an old-world atmosphere, buskers will be entertaining on the street corners. It’s open year-round on Sundays, and you’ll find a great selection of artisan cheeses, local produce, craftspeople, restaurants, wine and coffee shops.

Location: Mercer Island 2040 84th Ave. SE Contact: (206) 275-7609 Website:

Contact: (206) 447-5744 Website:

n Bark! espresso Location: 11335 Roosevelt Way NE Contact: (206) 364-0185 Website: The scoop: The coffee shop also offers a few food items. Bark! espresso teamed up with Great Dog, a doggy daycare, obedience, kennel and grooming shop next door, to offer customers a chance to hang with their dogs in the Hound Hang Out.

The scoop: How many dog owners can brag about checking out Seattle from an airplane with their dog sitting on their lap? You can if you take this Kenmore Airlines ride. The flights take off from the water in a seaplane and cost about $55 for 20-minute flights.

n Luther Burbank Park

Location: 2690 University Way




n University Village

The scoop:You’ll have lots of fun at this dog friendly, open-air shopping center. Restaurants run from the Veggiegrill to Blue C, a Seattle sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt that is perfect for families.

The scoop: Dogs are welcome outside on the patio and in the bar. It’s a great place to find beer and cider from the Seattle area and Europe.

n Norm’s Eatery and Alehouse

The scoop: If you want to get your pooch in the water, there’s an off-leash park about 3 miles from Seattle on Lake Washington. It’s 1.25 acres and includes a separate area for small and shy dogs, plus a hose down area. The main park has 77 acres filled with wildlife. Dogs are required to be on a leash in these areas.

Location: 460 N. 36th St. Contact: (206) 547-1417

n Medina Dog Park

Website: None, but you can find it on Facebook at Norms-EateryAlehouse

Contact: (425) 233-6400

The scoop: One online reviewer says it all: “Dogs make up the atmosphere and decor for us (not the three sports TVs) -- the exquisite dog art, leaded glass, photographs, signs, and the happy, well behaved dogs themselves make this place feel welcoming and homey. My dog, Casey, learned his table manners here. (Did you know that Norm himself is a beautiful golden retriever?)”

Location: NE 12th St., and 82nd Ave. NE Website: The scoop: This two-acre off-leash park about four miles from Seattle has a pond that’s nice for swimming (although it’s not fenced in). And while we’re not sure if it’s a reason to go, one website says it has the “nicest poo-poo bags around.” For information about more of Seattle’s dog parks, go to offleash.asp or call (206) 684-4075.

March/April 2013

Dogs Unleashed 19

feature story

A Whole New Ballgame

Former Major League Baseball manager Tony La Russa hits a home run with his Animal Rescue Foundation



iving of oneself always had been a staple of Tony La Russa’s baseball philosophy. But in 2011, the last of his 33-year managerial career in Major League Baseball, living up to his own expectations had become increasingly difficult. Managing not only his team, but the game itself, had always come natural for La Russa, who was the mastermind behind two World Series championships and five league championships. But, for three or four years, La Russa had found difficulty in concentrating the way he once did, making him wonder if he could continue to set the standard for his players when he was struggling on a day-to-day basis to pour himself into the game to which he had devoted 50 years of his life. La Russa asked himself how he, in good faith, could ask players to follow his leadership when deep down, he was wrestling with just how much more he could give. The more the questions arose, the deeper he delved into himself. “Where it starts is with personalizing yourself ,” La Russa told ThePostGame in a phone interview. “I can’t ask players to do things I wouldn’t do myself.” Maybe he needed a change, he thought.

20 Dogs Unleashed

March/April 2013

Perhaps, after all the wins and all the championship seasons, his priorities needed to shift. After all, for La Russa — the third all-time winningest manager in Major League Baseball history — personal involvement always has gone well beyond baseball. For 33 years, Chicago, Oakland and St. Louis had become engrained in who he was, making it seem only right that La Russa put a piece of himself into the baseball stops that became home. Which brings us to the cat. By 1990, La Russa had come to know every square inch of the Oakland Coliseum. As manager there since 1986, he knew the spots where balls tended to carom off the wall and the spots in the infield where routine grounders turned into base hits thanks to a fortuitous bounce. He also knew about the cats. The felines congregated under the seats, feeding off scraps left by fans. Occasionally, they’d find their way onto the field during batting practice, testing their courage in exchange for some room to run. So on that night against the New York Yankees when a calico cat darted out of a hole in the wall near the New York bullpen, La Russa wasn’t shocked. But what happened next helped lead La Russa down a philanthropic and charitable path he hadn’t seen coming. The cat ran to center field, only to be spooked by Yankees outfielder Roberto Kelly. Sensing danger, the cat changed course, going to the right field corner, then turned right and ran past the Yankees dugout. From there, it dashed behind the plate before running out of gas near the A’s dugout. La Russa used his foot to divert the cat, which disappeared into the dugout and into a nearby bathroom. La Russa closed the door, prepared to move on with the game — and his life as he knew it. After the game, Alameda County Animal Control officers came to pick up the cat. La Russa told his wife, Elaine, who had seen what happened on television and who had phoned her husband to inquire about the cat’s whereabouts.

Tony La Russa and his wife, Elaine, sport some Animal Rescue Foundation garb while celebrating the Cardinals’ World Series championship in 2011.

Knowing the county animal shelter likely was over-populated, Elaine told La Russa some disturbing information. “If the cat stays there,” she said, “they’re going to kill it.”

A HOME FOR EVIE, A CAUSE FOR LA RUSSA The next day, La Russa phoned the shelter, informing animal control officials he intended to drive the 25 miles from his home in Contra Costa County and take the cat to a shelter there, where it could be saved and put up for adoption. He and Elaine named the cat Evie and were able to find a home for her. Now, 22 years later, Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) has helped raise awareness around the nation, traveling to shelters to help provide a safe haven for a large number of pets brought into county facilities around the country on a daily basis. Most county shelters have a staggering over-population problem, La Russa says. “As soon as (shelters) reach their limit, they have to euthanize thousands and thousands of adoptable animals,” he says. Since establishing ARF in 1991, La Russa devoted as much time as he could to raising awareness of animal rescue.

But given the time constraints he faced during the seasons he managed the A’s and Cardinals, he discovered he couldn’t spend as much time working with his foundation as he liked. After guiding the Cardinals to a World Series championship in 2011, La Russa retired, and spent 2012 working with the cause that helped build a $17 million, 38,000-square foot animal rescue and educational facility in Walnut Creek, Calif. The center includes a 23,000-square foot rescue shelter for animals put up for adoption. It also includes 15,000 square feet for classroom space and a learning center, where groups such as special needs kids or senior citizens can visit, learning how much companionship pets can bring once they become a member of someone’s family. Last fall, ARF reached a milestone of having 25,000 animals adopted since opening. An 11-week-old kitten named Rumpelstiltskin became No. 25,000 when it was adopted after a local animal shelter surrendered it to ARF. Last year, ARF placed 1,974 pets in homes, a giant leap from the foundation’s first year when it saw 157 animals adopted. ARF executive director Elena Bicker said the foundation’s mission is a daily battle to save animals, rescuing them from shelters that euthanize 40,000 pets every year. ARF has a no-kill policy, meaning 100 percent of the animals the organization

photo by Animal Rescue Foundation

A rescue worker unloads a transport being brought to the Animal Rescue Foundation.

March/April 2013

Dogs Unleashed 21


Animal Rescue Foundation photo

Tony La Russa hangs out in the dugout with one of his favorite players … an Australian cattle dog.

takes in are adopted. Bicker says La Russa keeps an office at the foundation’s headquarters, often working nights and weekends to care for the animals. “You put a puppy or kitten in his lap, and he just becomes a huge marshmallow,” says Bicker, who has worked with ARF since 1993. “A lot of people have seen him in the dugout with that intense, fierce face — the drive to win — and that transfers over to the motivation and energy into the rescue work. “But I don’t know that man in the dugout with the sunglasses. The guy who shows up for work at ARF always has a smile on his face.”

La Russa grew up without pets in the household. His mother had been traumatized by a shot she was required to get after being scratched by a stray cat. It wasn’t until he married Elaine, who owned a cat and a poodle, that La Russa discovered what pets can do for humans. “Within two days, I realized that in all my dreams of having a pet, I had underestimated how wonderful it was to have that companion,” La Russa said. Now, he works to make sure others can experience love for animals. In addition to the dogs and cats brought in, La Russa’s foundation travels around the area collecting pets from facilities that can’t house as many animals and that often are forced to euthanize them within 24 hours. La Russa’s foundation hosted its inaugural Leaders and Legends event in November at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Over two days, a collection of former athletes — including National Football Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Gale Sayers and baseball Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Dennis Eckersley — came together with former coaches and business executives to raise awareness and money for animal rescue efforts. La Russa says a large portion of the proceeds will go toward continuing what ARF has done, and expanding a Pets for Vets program that pairs soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with animals. The pets can provide

Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation built this $17 million facility in Walnut Creek, Calif. 22 Dogs Unleashed

March/April 2013

companionship and comfort for veterans who often face uncertainty once they return from active duty.

SETTING AN EXAMPLE Throughout his managerial career, giving back to community became a key message La Russa passed down to his players. No matter where they devoted their time and energy or for what cause, La Russa encouraged them to expand their careers into something much greater. “He sets a hell of an example,” says retired relief pitcher Eckersley, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004. “But when you see Tony’s involvement (with ARF), it’s more than the average charity – this is a passion that runs through his veins. “It’s everything to him. It’s right next to baseball. It’s a close second.” Over time, LaRussa has seen more of a willingness for athletes to give back, following an example he was taught by former White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and former A’s owner Walter Haas. “I can think back to years ago when the players were much more into themselves,” La Russa said. “It was like nothing else existed except for their fame, their fortune and their families. But I think that’s something that has changed over the past 10 to 12 years, and you start to see guys get involved with things. “And it doesn’t matter what it is, once one guy is involved, everyone becomes involved.” Players who followed La Russa’s lead soon came to see a different side of him – the side that many who work alongside him at ARF see on a regular basis. “They’re not the same guy,” says Eckersley of the stoic manager vs. the charitable La Russa. “When you know that about Tony, that’s when you know the true guy, the true man. But I feel closer to him because I’ve seen the level of his commitment and his passion and the caring side of him. “The other guy was my boss. This guy was the real man.”


Thanks to sled-dog racing, 70-year-old Al Hardman and his dogs have had the adventures of a lifetime


al hardman photo

Born to


Al Hardman could hardly make out the trail in front of him. Snow was whipping, darkness had fallen and the only sound for miles was the wind whistling across the frozen tundra of Alaska. Hardman was tired. The light strapped to his head was bobbing, casting patchy shadows on the pack of dogs running in front of him. He started to nod off.

March/April 2013

Dogs Unleashed 23

WORKING LIKE A DOG Suddenly, out of the darkness, a Leprechaun appeared, dressed in bright green, sitting on the back of Hardman’s dedicated lead dog, Titus. “Don’t worry,” said the Leprechaun. “I’ll lead the team.” So Hardman went to sleep. Fatigue, cold, hunger, loneliness and sometimes even delirium are all symptoms of those who catch the bug to compete in the grandaddy of all sleddog races — the 1,150-mile Iditarod, which takes place annually the first Saturday in March and stretches across some of the most barren, beautiful and blustery country known to man. “In sled-dog racing, there are only two good times,” said Hardman, 70.

“That’s when you are leaving Anchorage (the start of the race) and getting into Nome (the finish line).” And yet, most “mushers” do it again, including Hardman. He has competed in four Iditarods and wouldn’t mind doing another one if his wife of nearly 40 years, Carol, would relent. “It’s the challenge,” Hardman said. “The first time I ran the Iditarod, I thought after I got out there, ‘You are out of your fricking mind.’ I told myself I ain’t never doing this again. But when it’s over, you look at all the mistakes you made and you want to fix them the next time.” Carol, his wife, sat across the table in their majestic Ludington home rising above the Lincoln River on a recent afternoon and shook her head knowingly. “It usually takes him about two months after a race to change his mind and want to do it again,” she said, smiling. “But he’s not running another one. He’s supposed to be retired with me.”


mary ullmer photo

Wooden plaques celebrating Al Hardman’s Iditarod adventures adorn the living room wall. AL HARDMAN Age: 70 Born: Hamilton, Ontario Resides: Ludington, Mich. Iditarod races: Has raced in four Iditarods — 1997, 2000, 2002 and 2004 — since taking up sled-dog racing at age 50. His best finish was 21st in 2002: 10 days, 4 hours. Family: Wife, Carol, and five adult children. Occupation: Retired. Hardman is the former owner of Hardman Construction, which specializes in building bridges.

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For mushers, the call of the wild can be mesmerizing. Hardman, who owned his own construction company in Ludington, didn’t get the bug until he was almost 50. He owned two Samoyed dogs as pets and “someone gave me a toboggan, and I had one of my dogs pull me on it and I was hooked ever since.” His first race was in 1990 with the Mid-Union Sled Haulers (MUSH) group, based in western Michigan. He borrowed a Siberian Husky from his secretary and competed in a threedog race at Whiskey Creek, finishing 17th out of 23 teams. A year later, he purchased a 10-dog team and all the equipment needed for competition from a fellow MUSHer in Garden, Mich. In 1993, he raced in the UP 200 — a 240-mile loop from Marquette to Escanaba, Mich., and back again. But his lead dog, Zippo, contracted diarrhea and he had to scratch with 100 miles left in the race. “I realized I was way over my head and needed a new lead dog because

al hardman photo

A member of Al Hardman’s sled-dog team takes a rest during the Iditarod.

Zippo would take off on any trail and not stick to the sled-dog trail,” said Hardman. He invested in a team of Alaskans “because they will run forever whereas Siberian Huskies tend to be stubborn and hold back.” It made a big difference. He finished third in the UP 200 in 1994. Then he invested in two lead dogs from legendary sled-dog racer Susan Butcher, who has won four Iditarods. “I went from a Volkswagen to a Ferrari with those two dogs,” said Hardman, who averaged three races a year before declaring himself ready for the Iditarod. Hardman has competed in four Iditarods, in 1997, 2000, 2002 and 2004. His best finish was 21st in 2002, when he beat out about 50 other teams in 10 days, 4 hours. His rookie year was his slowest, finishing in 13 days, 58 minutes. His total prize money in the Iditarod is $11,528. “You don’t do it for the money,” said Hardman, who trained his dogs for six months with 4,000 miles of racing prior to each Iditarod and figures he invested about $15,000 to run in the first Iditarod.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DOGS Training for a 16-dog Iditarod race is a grueling process and having great dogs is an investment, costing anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 apiece. That’s not counting the equipment, where a pair of gloves costs about $150 and boots another $300. “The first thing you have to have to be successful is really good dogs,” said Hardman, who likens the dogs to football players. “Some are not as good as others and you cut those from your team.” In 2004, Hardman had two teams of outstanding dogs, so his former sonin-law, Jim Conner, who was 32 at that time, ran the Iditarod with Hardman’s second-string team, finishing 67th out of more than 100 teams. “It was tiring, don’t get me wrong,” said Conner, of Spring Lake, Mich., “but it was an unbelievable experience. I had the rookie rush going and was just running around with a big grin on my face.” Conner had helped Hardman train his dogs in previous years, but training for the Iditarod was an investment in time and money that proved to be a one-time experience. “I’d love to do it again but it’s expensive, and it takes a lot of time away from your family,” said Conner, who was driving to the Upper Peninsula every weekend for three months while working a full-time job. Most mushers have dog handlers who help train the animals and provide support during the training season. But once a musher takes off from Anchorage, he is on his own, racing for about six-hour stints before stopping for six hours at various checkpoints along the route. Stops, however, aren’t necessarily rest periods for the musher, who typically sleeps about two hours a day during the race. It takes time, Hardman said, to care for the dogs, which includes taking them off their lines, thawing food to feed them, changing the booties they wear on their paws to protect them from ice scrapes and having them checked by a veterinarian. “It takes 30 minutes just to change

SLED DOG BREEDS Siberian Husky Strong, compact, working sled dogs, they like to exercise and roam. They also are loving, gentle, playful, happy-go-lucky dogs that are fond of their families. They were used for centuries by the Chukchi Tribe, off the eastern Siberian peninsula to pull sleds, herd reindeer and as watchdogs. They also were used to transport medicine during the famed diphtheria outbreak in Alaska. Alaskan Husky Larger and leaner than Siberian Huskies, these dogs have greater endurance in sled racing. They are gentle and playful and fond of their family. The breedings of the Alaskan Husky are planned breedings and are technically pedigreed. However, they are not considered pure and are not registered by the American Kennel Club or the Continental Kennel Club because they are sometimes crossed with other Northern and nonNorthern breeds to produce the best working dogs possible. Samoyed Accustomed to working in teams with an instinct to herd, Samoyeds are devoted, easy going, friendly and quite playful, and tend to love everyone, including intruders. They are an ancient working breed originating in Siberia. A Samoyed’s color should be pure white, white and biscuit, cream or all biscuit.

Seppala Siberian A descendant of the Siberian Husky, the Seppala is considered more of a working dog than its predecessor, which today is considered more of a show dog. With many of the same characteristics as the Siberian Husky, the Seppalas have longer legs and bodies and are generally lighter in weight and build than the Siberian Husky. Alaskan Malmute The largest of all Arctic dogs, the Alaskan Malamute has excellent strength and endurance with a will to work. It is extremely loyal, intelligent and affectionate toward its master. It is a Nordic sled dog descended from the Arctic wolf. Alusky A cross between a Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malmute, this dog has many of the characteristics of both breeds. Chinook Hard-working and versatile, performing a given task is the primary goal of the Chinook. In addition to sled-pulling, the breed also can be used for carting, obedience, search and rescue, and packing. The Chinook is a Northern breed derived from a single ancestor, originating in New Hampshire in 1917. Source:

Al Hardman tends to his team of dogs at a checkpoint during the Iditarod.

March/April 2013

al hardman photo

Dogs Unleashed 25

WORKING LIKE A DOG all their booties,” Hardman said. Every dog is micro-chipped prior to the Iditarod and receives a vet check, including a blood test and EKG at every checkpoint. “The dogs’ well-being always comes first,” said Hardman, who once had a dog die on the trail. “That was my second Iditarod and I had a dog named Toebuck, who had been a real easy keeper, die outside of Elam because he regurgitated acid,” said Hardman. “I tried mouth-to-mouth and CPR but nothing worked. Now I give each of my dogs a Pepcid before a race and I haven’t had a problem with that since.” Mushers must pack all of their equipment on the sleds, and Hardman said a pot for boiling water to drink and to heat food is one of the most important items. He brings various meats for his dogs, including pork, beef, lamb and beaver, and his wife vacuum seals meals for him that can be dropped into boiling water to heat. Choosing food can be tricky because wind-chill temperatures on the trail can dip to near 100 degrees below zero. “No energy bars,” said Hardman. “You can go a mile and still be trying to take a bite out of them because they are so frozen.”

Mushers also include a bag for transporting injured dogs on the sled, where they are left at the next checkpoint. Most mushers complete the Iditarod with 10 to 12 dogs on the team, but are required to finish with at least six.

RARING TO GO Mushers like Hardman say that sled dog breeds like Alaskans and Siberian Huskies love to run long distances. “My dogs are always champing at the bit to get in a harness when I ride up in an ATV for training,” said Hardman, who keeps his dogs at his cabin near McMillen, Mich. “They love to run.” That’s why he has loaned out or leased his dog team to others in years when he has not raced in the Iditarod. Rodney Whaley of Tennessee was the last to use one of Hardman’s teams — in the 2008 Iditarod in which he scratched before finishing. “Al is a special person,” said Conner. “Unlike a lot of sled-dog racers, he will do anything for you and try to help you achieve your dream, even if it costs him. He’s let guys stay in his cabin for free to train for the race and done a lot of other things that most mushers would charge for.” And he’s especially good to his dogs, Conner said.

BY THE NUMBERS 2 Average hours of sleep per musher per day. 4 Races run by Ludington’s Al Hardman. 9 Fewest days taken to run the race. 16 Most dogs allowed on a team. 40 Years the race has been held. -100 Typical wind-chill temperature. 1,150 Race miles. 10,000 Number of calories a dog burns in a day. 11,528 Dollars in prize money earned by Hardman. 50,400 Dollars awarded to first- place finisher.

But not all animal rights groups are supportive of sled-dog racing. The Sled Dog Action Coalition cites 142 dog deaths since the Iditarod’s inception in 1973 and claims the conditions of the long-distance race are too extreme for even dogs that are bred to run. PETA opposes mushing in general, but the Humane Society of the United States has remained more or less neutral, according to an article in the Huffington Post. “Sled dogs are working dogs and not my house dog,” Hardman said. “Some people think a happy dog is Fido sitting on the couch, weighing 70 pounds. Sled dogs want to be outside working.” Hardman’s stance has been supported by veterinarians. “Anyone who has ever witnessed a sled-dog race can attest to the enthusiasm that sled dogs demonstrate for their sport,” chief Iditarod veterinarian Stuart Nelson said in 2010. “Running is what they are born to love.”


Al Hardman packs his sled as he prepares to start the Iditarod.

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al hardman photo

Sleep deprivation can be one of the scariest parts of racing in the Iditarod. “If a musher falls asleep, he can fall completely off the sled and be left behind,” said Dan Anderson, of Nunica, Mich., who co-owns Tun-Dra Kennels and is friends with many of the Iditarod

legends, such as Rick Swenson, winner of five races. That nearly happened to Hardman. “In my first Iditarod, I fell asleep and when I woke up all I could see was my two wheel dogs (the two closest to the sled) and I thought the others had gone over a cliff. I nearly jumped off of my sled.” Another time he could have sworn he got passed by a woman musher wearing only mukluks (moose-hide boots) and a fur hat. And yet another time, he thought he saw an expressway bridge in the distance. “You try not to fall asleep but it’s hard not to,” Hardman said. “Once I woke up and a mountain I had seen in the distance was way behind me.” Sled dogs know only a few basic commands and will keep running until the musher tells them to stop. “There are reflectors on the trail but the dogs will follow the scent of other dogs that have gone before them, and they will keep going even if you do fall asleep,” Hardman said. Aside from things he thinks he saw, Hardman has sledded past rarely seen

mary ullmer photo

Al Hardman and his wife, Carol, in their Ludington home.

animals such as a muskox and wolves on his trek across the Yukon. Conner said night racing in Alaska can be daunting. “You can’t see anything, you are literally in the abyss. It’s like turning your headlights off and trying to drive down the road in the dark.”

SHARING THE LIGHT While Hardman still gets the bug to do one more Iditarod, he is focused on smaller goals these days. He competes in the UP 200 in February “for old times sake” and is a co-founder


of the annual Seney 300-mile race in the Upper Penninsula in January. The Seney 300 is a five-day race that provides an opportunity for even recreational sled-dog racers to try to qualify for the Iditarod since qualifiers are so few, Hardman said. It also raises money for the sight-impaired through a partnership with Lions Clubs. About $20,000 has been raised since the race’s inception 10 years ago, Hardman said. While future Iditarods may be out for Hardman, he keeps the dream alive by exposing his grandchildren to the joys of sled-dog racing and maintaining his dog team up north … anything to get him outside. He still has a Samoyed dog for a pet, 14-year-old Oscar, who Hardman said “keeps the sled dogs in order” when he’s around. “He doesn’t let them jump on me, he’s clearly the dog in charge.” Hardman also toggles back and forth to a second home in Florida, featuring sunshine and a happy wife who “despises” cold weather. All told, Hardman figures he just might be the luckiest man in the world.


Spreading the word

on sled-dog racing



ven before the Iditarod was coined the “Last Great Race on Earth,” a Nunica man was instrumental in laying the groundwork. The late Dean Cheadle spent much of his time in Alaska, fascinated by the abilities of sled dogs and the natives there who used the dogs for so many things. “With snowmobiles and other things coming on the scene, Dad wanted to return racing to its roots and helped organize the Iditarod even before it became a big race,” said Lyn Anderson, Cheadle’s youngest daughter, who co-owns her father’s business, Tun-Dra Kennels, with husband Dan Anderson. The Iditarod, an 1,150-mile sled dog race established in 1973, is held in March and spans some of the most challenging and remote regions of Alaska. Cheadle also created a business in Nunica that bred and boarded some of 28 Dogs Unleashed

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photos by jennifer waters

Children who are part of the Pathfinders program in Muskegon Heights get an up-close look at Dan Anderson’s Siberian Huskies (above). At top, the dogs line the alley outside the church where the demonstration was held.

the first Siberian Huskies in the United States and sold equipment for sleddog racing and other winter activities. Today, the 50-plus year-old business focuses less on the retail end and more on boarding and educating others about what goes into sled-dog racing. While Lyn Anderson maintains the kennel operation, Dan Anderson, who is a U.S. Postal carrier by day, conducts sled-dog racing presentations throughout West Michigan, especially during the cold-weather months. Recently, he shared his sled-dog knowledge with about 30 children in Muskegon Heights who participate in a three-day-a-week Pathfinders program that provides educational after-school programming for inner-city youth. “I like doing the programs because I think kids find it interesting, and I want them to have a passion for what they do,” Dan Anderson said. As Dan Anderson showed the children coyote and beaver pelts, equipment for the mushers and,

Dan Anderson conducted 30 educational programs in January and February alone. of course, the Siberian Huskies themselves, the children looked on wide-eyed. “I was scared because I thought you would fall off a sled like that,” said Danyea Wallace, 10. “I wasn’t scared,” chimed in Sanyia Lowery, 9, “because we had read about this stuff in school.” Anderson let the children try on the parkas, goggles and boots, making his presentation interactive and educational. “Listen up,” he said to the children. “We’re going to teach you a little history, science, math and music.” While impressed with the size and $300 cost of the mushing boots, the children were not as enthusiastic about singing along with a CD of Hobo Jim’s “Iditarod Trail” song. Still, their eyes lit up when they went outside to see a demonstration of a three-dog sled team in action. Pathfinders staff member Chris Thomas said the program was a good one “because we’re actually trying to

show the kids a different aspect of life that might get them interested in something they never thought about before.” What began as a guest appearance at a classroom in Coopersville several years ago has become a business that is hard to keep up with for the Andersons, who have four grown children. “It seems like we have more requests than we have time for,” said Lyn Anderson. “But it’s been a good little sideline business.” Dan Anderson conducted 30 educational programs in January and February alone. While the bulk of the Andersons’ business is with boarding dogs, which is open to all breeds, Lyn Anderson gets satisfaction with carrying out her father’s message about the beauty and reliability of the Siberian Husky breed and the wonders of sled-dog racing. “We love our dogs,” Lyn Anderson said while sitting in the office area of the old, refurbished farmhouse where her father started his business so many years ago. “All of my memories are here. Sitting in on a litter of pups when they’re being born gives me an innate understanding of what life is all about.”

That’s why we do this.”

photos by jennifer waters

Dan Anderson outfits a member of the Pathfinders group during a demonstration.

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To listeners of local public radio, the silky smooth and sultry voice gives the impression that all is calm in Shelley Irwin’s world. The host of WGVU’s The Morning Show with Shelley Irwin is in control in the studio, and one can’t help but picture that voice belonging to a woman who has her act together and her life in order. What the public doesn’t know about Irwin — a fixture in the Grand Rapids community and on the airwaves since late 2001 — is that once she leaves the comfort of the Eberhard Center downtown and walks through the door of her home on the west side, chaos ensues. Owning three adopted Jack Russell terriers will do that to a person. Jack Russells are feisty, energetic (that’s putting it mildly), aggressive, humorous, intelligent and, well, the epitome of a terrier. Three under one roof living in the city? Irwin’s sanity

Three Jacks (Jack Russell terriers, that is)

and one queen

(that’s radio host Shelley Irwin)

make for a …



might come into question. But those who know Irwin don’t bat an eye at her choice of breed. The 52-year-old Indiana native is a dynamo herself. “I’m high energy, so I wanted a high

energy dog,” Irwin said. Besides her day job, Irwin serves on “five or six” boards of directors for various community organizations, has speaking engagements lined up from here to eternity and plays host and emcee for numerous local fund-raising events throughout the year. She figures she’s out in public three or four nights a week (she keeps Monday nights to herself, to catch up and prepare for what’s next). Throw in her weekend activities, which usually involve some sort of running or biking competition, be it a half marathon, mini triathlon or 5K, and one might wonder if Irwin ever sleeps. She hasn’t missed a day of work and has taken exactly one extended vacation — an 8-day trip to China — since she started at WGVU in December 2001. She insists weekends are her vacation. “You get out of something what you put into something,” Irwin said. “I do it because I can do it.”

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Dogs Unleashed 31


“I’m high energy, so I wanted a high energy dog,” — Shelley Irwin And when it comes to life with three Jack Russells, well, Irwin just does it. Whether it’s Petie, hoarding and tearing apart the three new squeaky toys intended to be shared among all three dogs, or Ralphie, chasing and jumping at the shadows on the living room wall cast by the bright sun on a wintry day, or Leah, climbing her way to the top — of the dog crate, the table or the counter top — these Jacks keep Irwin jumping. “I’d say Petie is probably the dominant one,” Irwin says when asked to evaluate the three. “I’m not going to say he’s my favorite, but he is soooo cute. They’re all smart, but he’s really smart. He’s a great problem solver, and someone really worked with him. “Leah is the princess and gets along with Petie and Ralph. She knows what discipline is, and yet she’s spoiled. She’s the little girl, and she’s the one that gets to go on two walks (one with each boy) every time. She pretty much will go with the flow, but she is a little princess.” And Ralph? “Ralphie is trying to find his way,” Irwin said. “Ralphie definitely has some

issues as far as wanting to be dominant, but will lay on his back if you walk up to him. But he still has that title of ‘King Ralphie.’ ”

GROWING FAMILY What started as a one-dog household for Irwin last spring, with Ralphie being the lone dog, blossomed into three in the span of a weekend. Her first Jack Russell, Sparkle, lived to the ripe old age of 18, despite the fact she had epilepsy. Irwin got Sparkle at 6 weeks old from a breeder in Cincinnati. “She was a great dog,” Irwin said. “We got her epilepsy controlled and she really only had two major seizures in her life. We got her on medication and really had no problems after that. She lived a long life.” Ralphie, adopted from the Humane Society of West Michigan, joined the household in 2010, when he was about three months old, Irwin said. “Ralphie and Sparkle lived their lives together,” she said. “He was dominant with her. She had begun to lose her eyesight and was dependent upon me. There were no fights or anything like

Shelley Irwin cuddles with “King Ralph,” who seems more interested in the photographer.

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Ralph, who was adopted by Shelley Irwin in 2010, often chases after flashes of light and leaps at shadows in the house.

that, but it was clear he was dominant.” Irwin was devastated when Sparkle died in January 2012. She knew she’d eventually get another dog — a Jack Russell terrier, of course. What she didn’t know was how long it would be before she was able to move on from Sparkle. “It took a few months, but I knew it was time,” Irwin said. “My mom volunteers at a shelter down in Indiana, and I told her to keep an eye out for a Jack. And other friends knew that I liked Jacks … I don’t know if they knew I was looking yet ... and kept putting them in my face. “So, Mom spotted Leah and the weekend I was going down to get her, I got a call from a friend who said, ‘Check Petie out.’ I checked Petie out, at the Kent County Animal Shelter, and he laid under my chair. So, I went and got Leah and decided if I’m going to get Leah, I’m going to get Petie, too. Sooooo, I got them both in the same weekend!” Three Jack Russells, all adopted, under one roof. Irwin freely admits it has been far from easy. Watching the mayhem in her living room, one would never suspect Irwin was somewhat of an expert in dog obedience growing up in

southern Indiana. “We always had horses, cats, dogs,” Irwin said. “My mom and dad bred poodles, and I had a miniature poodle, Merry. She was my first dog. Merry and I won the 4H Obedience at the state fair when I was 12. You wouldn’t know that, watching these dogs.”

RULING THE ROOST Irwin said her parents have made remarks regarding her dogs’ behavior, and she’s well aware of the need to establish more control in her home. She has nicknamed her dogs King Ralph, Prince Petie and Princess Leah, yet hasn’t gotten around to declaring herself the queen of the castle. “I don’t want to get into my parents, but my mom and dad will say, ‘I can’t believe your dogs act like that,’ ” Irwin said. “I think I know what to do, especially when it comes to obedience, but for some reason, I’m not ready to do that yet. “We’re still working on establishing who is going to be the leader of the house. It needs to be me, I know that, but I don’t know if that’s happened yet. We’ve had our little tiffs with the boys, so they are trying to figure out their path. I have to at least get them into some type of obedience class or find more of an outlet for them with other dogs. I need to get them more socialized. “I don’t really have people over, because they’ll jump on people. I know how to correct that, but I don’t do it. So, it’s probably just a little more accountability and discipline of myself.” Irwin’s love of Jack Russells (Ralphie and Leah actually are Jack Russell mixes) and the fact that all of hers were rescued more than makes up for the chaos that greets her daily. “While my first two (Sparkle and a Sheltie named Taylor) were from breeders , I don’t think I would go back there again. There are plenty of purebreds in shelters,” Irwin said. “After Sparkle, I just really wanted to stay with the (Jack Russell) breed. I knew I could provide an outlet for them and I understand them. “I have no regrets.”

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pet grooming & boutique Walking all three Jack Russells isn’t easy (top photo), so Shelley Irwin often takes two at a time. Leah (middle photo) enjoys a toy on top of her crate while Petie (above) tends to tear around the house with his toys.


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March/April 2013

Dogs Unleashed 33


emma fox

DOG TOYS Courtesy of These toys are fun for your dog and inexpensive to make! n The Sock ‘n’ Ball Items needed: • 1 sturdy sock • 1 old tennis ball To make toy: Place the ball inside the sock to the toe-end, and then tie a knot just above the ball to seal it inside. Probably the cheapest, easiest, and handiest do-it-yourself pet toy you can make. n The Rope Ball Items needed:

Save money and have fun with do-it-yourself projects

• A piece of old rope • 1 tennis ball To make toy: Drill or cut a hole in each side of the ball, big enough for your piece of rope to squeeze through. Put the rope through until the ball is in the middle, and tie knots on either side of the ball to keep it in place. Tie knots at the ends of the rope for grip. You now have a killer tug-of-war toy that is also good for playing fetch and for chewing. n Kitchen Towel Braids

Often times, purchasing beds and toys for dogs can be costly, especially for those dogs who tend to be a bit on the destructive side. Likewise, purchasing dog food and treats can add up in a hurry. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to find several craft projects so pet owners can make their own toys and beds, as well as some recipes for kibble and treats. Making your own not only will save you money, it can also be a good project to get the kids involved during the cold winter months. Emma Fox is a 13-year-old dog lover, a volunteer at Humane Society of West Michigan and an aspiring writer. She currently has an adopted dog, Lexi.

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Items needed: • 1 old kitchen towel To make toy: Cut two slits along the length of a towel, equidistant from each other, and stop cutting about an inch from the top. Then braid the towel as you would braid hair. Knot the loose ends, and you have a tough dog rope toy! For an even tougher toy or one more fit for bigger dogs, braid three complete towels together and tie up or sew the ends. Using strips of old blue jeans also makes a sturdy braided toy.

DOG BED Courtesy of An easy and quick way to make a bed for your pooch! Items needed: • Two pieces of fleece, 26 inches square (adjust for larger or smaller dog, just make sure pieces are the same dimensions)

• Scissors • Stuffing (fiberfill works well) To make the bed: 1. Line up and stack the two fleece pieces on top of each other. Create fringe on the sides by cutting a 4-inch square from each corner, then cutting fringe pieces all the way around the edges of the fleece. Each piece of fringe should be 1 inch wide by 4 inches long. 2. Tie the fringe. Beginning at one corner, tie the top and bottom pieces of fringe together with tight, double knots. Do this around the entirety of the fleece until you have only four or five sets of fringe left to tie. Note: You will want to place something heavy on the fleece, or try taping it to the floor, to keep it in place while you tie the fringe. 3. Stuff the bed. Using the opening you left in the fringe by leaving four or five sets of fringe untied, stuff the bed full of fiberfill. Use enough that it makes the bed soft, but not so much that it pulls the fleece tight or makes the bed too firm. Once you are done stuffing, tie the last pieces of fringe.

DOG BOWL MAT This is great for sloppy eaters! I have made this one myself at a pet festival when I was younger and had it for years. Items needed: • Scissors • Large plastic needle (with eye big enough to fit yarn) • Any color yarn • Rubber mesh fabric, with holes large enough to allow the needle to fit through To make the mat: Cut the rubber mesh fabric to any size you need and thread the needle. Tie a knot at the end of the yarn and weave through the holes in the fabric to make any design you want! Tie another knot at the end of the yarn piece. Put the mat under your dog’s water and food bowls to help with the puddles they make when they splash around!

DOG KIBBLE RECIPE Courtesy of This recipe is convenient because it allows you to customize it by adding ingredients for picky dogs! Ingredients

Don’t make it more then a ½-inch thick. Bake at 200 degrees for at least 45 minutes — you want the kibble to be completely dry. Storing your kibble

• 4 cups whole wheat flour • 2 cups rolled oats (dried oatmeal) • 3 cups cooked brown rice • 2 cups powdered milk (instant milk) • 3 cups water or broth (chicken or beef) • 4 eggs • 1 cup shortening (or lard)

After the kibble mix is ready, let it cool completely and then tear or cut it into small pieces. Store in a container in the refrigerator and use as needed. It should be used within two weeks. If you don’t plan to use it that quickly (this makes a rather large batch), you can freeze it in plastic bags, then thaw as needed.


Customizing the kibble mixture

Mix flour, oats, brown rice, powdered milk, water (or broth) in a bowl.

If your dog loves a specific ingredient, add it to the kibble mix! You can mix in cuts of lean cooked meat, cooked carrots, thawed frozen peas, or any other ingredient!

Beat eggs with a fork and add the eggs, shortening (or lard) into the flour mixture Mix until well blended, using a big spoon. Baking You want to pour your kibble batter into a shallow pan so it will cook evenly. Cookie pans will work well.

Ingredients • • • • • •

2 1 6 2 3 1

cups mashed banana tablespoon butter tablespoons carob flour teaspoons vanilla tablespoons unbleached flour teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation Blend thoroughly and spread on cool cake made for dogs or on dog treats. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. The frosting contains carob, which is a safe chocolate-like flavor substitute for chocolate. Refrigerate when done.

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients • 12 ounces nonfat cream cheese, room temperature • 2 teaspoons honey Preparation

DOG TREAT ICING Courtesy of This icing is great for decorating dog treats! Banana Carob (from Three Dog Bakery)

Beat with hand mixer until fluffy. Frost treats with spatula or fill a pastry bag fitted with a fine tip and pipe onto cookies. For variety, add 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3 teaspoons cinnamon. Refrigerate.

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THat’s my dog


Kane, a 2-year-old pit bull owned by Annie Kasianowicz of Grand Rapids, was adopted from the humane society in 2011. Kane enjoys hanging out in the snow, and staring down squirrels and birds before chasing them.


Whenever her humans go to work in the gardens near her grandparents’ home on the Pentwater River in Hart, Mich., Hina takes the opportunity to romp in the mud created by Artesian wells and springs. Owners Caleb and Cindy Beth Davis-Dykema adopted her from the Hawaiian Humane Society in Kailua-Kona. Hina, now 5, is a mixed breed … or, as they say in Hawaii, a “poi dog.”


Darren loves the water, whether it’s going to the lake or getting a bath (seriously). The 5-month-old golden retriever pup lives in Grand Rapids with his humans, Amber and Scott Jones.


Sully St. Clair doesn’t let a little snow interfere with his Frisbee playtime. The 8-year-old standard poodle, owned by Alice St. Clair of Wyoming, Mich., has been a member of West Michigan Therapy Dogs for almost 7 years, lifting spirits by visiting hospitals and nursing homes.


Sirius is serious when it comes to chilling out in the snow. Owner Matt Sinkovich of Grand Rapids recenty shot this photo of his 6-year-old Siberian Husky while the two were visiting the Wyoming Dog Park.


Koda is a 4-year-old golden retriever who loves water, in all forms, according to owner LeAnn Secord of Grand Rapids. Secord and Koda make the 40-minute drive over to play at Muskegon Dog Beach no matter what season it is.


Derek Beam doesn’t like his paws getting wet, so he’s not a big fan of snow. The 3-year-old Pembroke Welsh corgi from Lee’s Summit, Mo., belongs to Christi and Brian Beam, who say Derek is a big ol’ teddy bear.

36 Dogs Unleashed

March/April 2013

Show us YOUR dog! We welcome photos of readers’ dogs. Just send your picture (minimum 300 dpi, .jpg format) along with information about your pet, including name, breed and age, as well as your name and city of residence. Be sure to include some of your pet’s favorite (or least favorite) things, or a little anecdote on him or her. E-mail photos to


Dogs Unleashed editor Mary Ullmer had the pleasure of attending the 137th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City in February. For more stories and photos from the show, check out her blog posts at


Billie Jean, a Russell terrier co-owned by Mark and Laurie Ulrich of Sawyer, Mich., won best of opposite sex in the first-ever judging of the breed at Westminster. Her â&#x20AC;&#x153;brother,â&#x20AC;? Bosse, won best of breed and went on to place fourth in the Terrier Group.


It was a long day for this little Pomeranian, who took time to rest in the arms of her handler while greeting the crowds at Pier 92/94.


Mick, a Cardigan Welsh corgi from Naples, Fla., is happy to pose for spectators in the benching area at Pier 92/94.


A cocker spaniel chills out on the grooming table in the benching area at Madison Square Garden prior to the Sporting Group judging.


DeeDee, a smooth Chihuahua owned by Gloria and Art Johnson of Grand Haven, won Best of Opposite Sex for her breed. She previously had been a breed winner at Westminster.


Surrey Sugar Baby, the miniature poodle breed winner from Pennsylvania, gets some last-minute preparation before entering the ring for the Non-Sporting Group competition.


Cole, a Komondor from Indiana, has a little fun with his handler before showing in the Working Group at Madison Square Garden.

March/April 2013

Dogs Unleashed 37


As The Good Dog goes, so goes the neighborhood I didn’t know his name, until later. I didn’t know he was born the runt, the last of a litter of purebred yellow Labs, bought to hunt pheasants before he decided he was really a family man; the perfect dog for four boys, their mom and dad. I just called him “The Good Dog.” As in: “Look, The Good Dog’s out for his walk.” Or: “Have you seen The Good Dog today? He’s later than usual.” And just about then, just when I was worried that something might have happened, there he’d be. The Good Dog. His owner. And the other dog. The dog that needed to be on a leash. A young dog that needed training, his master’s voice, rules. The Good Dog, limping a little with age, would bring up the rear. The other dog — a beautiful chocolate Lab, muscular, young, on a leash — and the owner would lead the way. The Good Dog was always a beat or two behind, walking without a leash, without a word from the boss. He didn’t need to be told not to wander, not to linger, not to go in the road. That’s how well trained he was; how good and smart he was. He was The Good Dog. I first noticed him a year or so ago. He, the other dog and the man would show up every morning, like clockwork, walking the same route, the same time of day. There are no sidewalks on our side of the road, but we have a perfect

38 Dogs Unleashed

March/April 2013

view of all who pass by: skateboarders and runners; bike riders and people who walk the sidewalk as if it were an expressway; people who walk their dogs for exercise, to be out in the fresh air and to have something to do. There’s the woman who pushes her little dog in a baby stroller. Another who has two big dogs on two leashes tied in the middle which looks far too complicated for me. A man and his beagle. A man who runs with his dog’s leash tied to his waist. Truth is, they are part of the rhythm of my day, the landscape of the neighborhood. I look for them, notice their absence, count on them to be there, even call them neighbors. People don’t know their neighbors like we did when I was growing up, but that doesn’t mean we’re totally isolated from one another; that we don’t notice or don’t have a relationship — even if it’s one-sided, from the window. Last November, I didn’t see The Good Dog, the man and the other dog for a couple of weeks. I tried to talk myself into thinking that I’d missed them, that they’d changed their routine, that they’d gone on vacation. But deep

down, I knew. I knew The Good Dog was old. I knew he was walking more slowly, that he was falling behind. One morning, I finally saw the man and the other dog, still on a leash, walking their same path. It was cold, but I opened the patio door and raced out in my slippers and pajamas. “What happened to your dog?” I shouted, raising my voice over the traffic, slightly aware how batty I must have seemed with no coat or boots on, not even bothering to introduce myself. “Where’s your Good Dog?” The man, Kurt Hildwein, pulled off his knit cap so I would recognize him. I’d written about him some years ago for a Father’s Day story. I never put it together that he was the guy with the dogs. “Is he OK?” I called. Rather than shout, Kurt and the 1-year-old chocolate Lab whose name is Bentley, crossed the road to talk. The Good Dog — Slater — had died a couple weeks earlier. He was 13, and as good a dog as anyone could ask for, even a stranger who didn’t know his name. “We brought him home,” Kurt said, “and whammo, he was immediately part of the family. He fit right in.” Whammo. That’s the word for it, all right. Whammo. The world needs Good Dogs — at least my neck of the woods does — to love and count on, to make it a neighborhood, and when they’re no longer around, it’s a mighty empty place. The landscape is achingly empty.

Relax We’re here for both of you.

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Dogs Unleashed March-April 2013  

March-April 2013 issue of Dogs Unleashed

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