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Brought to you by Pet Supplies Plus

May/June 2013

Get your


It’s no wonder the BISSELL Blocktail Party is called the “best dog-gone party in town”

Cathy Bissell, founder of the

BISSELL Pet Foundation

Pugs, Pitties and Pirates … off to Pittsburgh!

Beware of your garden’s toxic plants Vol.1, No.5

C-SNIP is a non-profit, charitable organization, providing high quality, high volume, low cost spay/neuter surgery for dogs and cats whose caretakers cannot pay the fee at a full service veterinary clinic. It's a sad fact that there are more dogs and cats born every day than there are homes to accept them. Pet sterilization is THE solution to a problem that drains communities both emotionally and financially. Until every dog and cat born is assured of a safe and caring home, this essential surgery must be available to everyone. C-SNIP is making that happen by providing pet owners with a spay/neuter clinic whose prices they can afford. Learn more about C-SNIP on our website. If you believe in a proactive, humane solution to an age-old problem, would like more information, would like to help as a donor or volunteer, please email us at or call (616) 455-8220 x105. 2 Dogs Unleashed

May/June 2013

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:

View Dogs Unleashed online at Printed in the U.S.A.

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Expert advice Canine calendar Fetch! Products Doggy Destination That’s My Dog - readers’ photos Entertaining stories Great photography Products and services from great advertisers!

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6 Canine Calendar 8 Fetch! 10 Ask The Vet 11 Good Grief 12 The Doctor Is In 15 From Our Sponsor 16 Doggy Destination: Pittsburgh 20 Woman on a Mission 24 Bissell Blocktail Party 28 A New Bissell Commercial Star 30 Working Dogs 35 Kid Stuff 37 A Warm Welcome Home 40 Photos from Around Town 42 The Tail End

on the cover

Photographer Jennifer Waters transformed her home into an elegant evening under the stars to shoot this month’s cover photo in celebration of the Bissell Blocktail Party. For more of her shots of the party animals, see page 24 and visit Jennifer’s website,

May/June 2013

Dogs Unleashed 3

Contributors Madelaine Dusseau (Doggy Destination, p. 16) is an earnest office worker, freelance writer and editor who lives surrounded by violets in Swissvale, Penn. She shares her home with Chinese crested dogs Jonas and Archer, and Papillon, Bella, who also serves as a watch dog and deerhound. Contact Madelaine at madelained@ Patti Eddington (Fetch!, p. 8) 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: “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 (Party With A Purpose, p. 24) 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 and her husband, Dusty, have three grown daughters, Sam, Casey and Alex, two grandsons and a border collie, Corbin. Contact Cindy at csfairfield79@gmail. com Terri Finch Hamilton (Woman on a Mission, p. 20) is a freelance writer in Grand Rapids. After a successful career as a newspaper reporter and feature writer, she now works from her home office, where her springer spaniel, Toby, snoozes on her feet as she writes. Terri and her photographer husband, T.J. Hamilton, have two sons, Tate and Tanner; Toby the dog; Daisy the cat and Flippy the goldfish. Contact Terri at terrifinchhamilton@ Emma Fox (Kid Stuff, p. 35) 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.

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

Susan Harrison Wolffis (A Warm And Fuzzy Welcome Home, p. 37 and The Tail End, p. 42) is an award-winning journalist, retired from newspaper work after more than 40 years. 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 Paul Kopenkoskey (Working Dogs, p. 30) is a freelance writer and a zealous fan of Star Trek because he really does want to live long and prosper. He and his wife Barb own the world’s spunkiest pug and a very mellow cockapoo. Contact Paul at paulrk@ 4 Dogs Unleashed

May/June 2013

Ginny Mikita (Good Grief, p. 11) is a certified candidate for ordination in the United Methodist Church and Night Chaplain at Spectrum Health-

Butterworth. Ginny is a 1991 graduate of Notre Dame Law School. Ginny and her husband, Bob Kruse, own the Mikita Kruse Law Center. They have two children and one black Lab/beagle rescue named Kadie. Ron Rop (Offering An Assist, 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 Ron and his wife, Kristi, have three sons, Aaron, Andrew and Alex, and 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. Contact Dr. Thellman at smthellman@modernhealthvet. Jennifer Waters (Photographer) owns Grumpy Pups Pet Photography. She also is a freelance writer and credits her three boxers, the original “grumpy pups,” for her love of working with animals. View her work 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. 14) 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

Making strides to help owners and pets It has been four months since our company purchased the six West Michigan area Pet Supplies Plus stores. We are thrilled to be here! Since December, we upgraded the merchandising of the stores and began extensive training in client service and nutrition. We hope you notice these changes and that your buying experience is improving with each visit. Another change that we are excited about is our growing partnership and investment in area animal rescue organizations. Currently, we have nearly 100 organizations in four states that we partner with and invest in that focus on the rescue and placement of animals into loving homes. Last year, through the tireless work of our team members and partner volunteers, we were able to raise

more than $100,000 for rescue groups. This is why I am excited to share with you our participation in the annual BISSELL Blocktail Party, the “Best DogGone Party” in town. The event, put on by the BISSELL Pet Foundation, is June 12 at Mangiamo! restaurant. I encourage you to come, and bring your dog along as well. Be sure to check out our profile on BPF founder Cathy Bissell, as well as our story on how last year’s Blocktail Party helped area animal welfare groups. For more information on this year’s event, go Also in this issue of Dogs Unleashed, you will enjoy two educational articles by local veterinarians. Dr. Wendy Swift writes on the always relevant issue of preventing and treating fleas and ticks. Life gets very busy, but don’t forget to write on your calendar a reminder to treat your dog properly so both of you can avoid the mess and danger of fleas or ticks. Dr. Shane Thellman shares with

from the publisher

steve adams

us the dangers of toxic plants in your landscaping. Finally, I want to encourage all of our readers to note that PSP offers two free reports available for you to download. They provide valuable information on two of the biggest threats to your dog’s health: dental care and obesity. The growing overweight and obesity problem is plaguing more than 40 million dogs in the U.S. Check out the links in our Pet Supplies Plus ads in this issue to download your free report. I want to thank editor Mary Ullmer and her team of great writers (and photographer Jennifer Waters), who assemble great content for you to enjoy with each issue. They are all professionals and they are passionate about pets. At Pet Supplies Plus, we have a phrase that we talk about all the time that captures the relationship we all have with our pets. The phrase goes like this; “People don’t own pets, pets own people.”

The Biggest Threat to Your Dog’s Health and the One Thing You Can Do About It. 41 million dogs in the U.S., or 53 percent, are classified by veterinarians as overweight or obese, taking 2 – 21/2 years off their life span.

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Muskegon Humane Society’s Cosmic Bowling, 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Northway Lanes, 1751 Evanston Ave., Muskegon. Enjoy unlimited cosmic bowling, two slices of pizza and a soft drink and enter to win “pawsome” door prizes. Bowl as a single or enter a team of four. Tickets available at Muskegon Humane Society, 2640 Marquette Ave., Muskegon, and at Northway Lanes. Tickets are just $15 per person or $50 for a team of four and proceeds benefit MHS. Contact MHS at (231) 773-8689.


Low Income Vaccine Clinic, 3:30-5:30 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@


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


Future Voices Kids Club, 6 p.m. Monthly meeting at Howling Timbers, 6806 E. Evanston, Muskegon. All kids are invited to join the free club. May meeting will include a brief tour (bring a camera) and helping with the

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animals at Howling Timbers, so dress in old play clothes. Bring a friend and be entered in a drawing for end-ofthe-year prizes. Call (231) 788-6029, email or check out the Future Voices Kids Club page on Facebook for more information.


Furry Friday Films, 5:30-9:30 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 Jennifer SelfAulgur at (616) 791-8066 or jaulgur@


Million Meal March, Outdoor Discovery Center, 4214 56th St., Holland. Join Harbor Humane Society and Feeding America West Michigan on a 5K hike to help families and homeless pets. Register at or call (616) 339-2119 ext. 111 for more information.


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 Jennifer Self-Aulgur (616) 791-8066 or

june TBA Future Voices Kids Club. June’s meeting will include participating in water rescue as well as the end of the

year party. The date will be dependent on the weather. To sign up for June’s gathering, call Jodi at (231) 893-1227 or (231) 788-6029.


Spring Open House, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Muskegon Humane Society, 2640 Marquette Ave. Event includes semi-annual yard sale and baked goods sale. For information, contact MHS at (231) 773-8689.


Petapalooza and Pet Fair, noon to 4 p.m., Harbor Lights Middle School, 1024 136th Ave., Holland. Free to the public, the event includes animal rescue groups, vendors, pet-related merchandise, demonstrations (including Ultimate Air Dogs) and activities for the kids. Check out the Petapalooza Facebook page, facebook. com/petapaloozaholland?fref=ts for more information.


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


BISSELL Blocktail Party, 6-9 p.m. at Mangiamo!, 1033 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids. The outdoor event, in its ninth year, features food, drinks, a huge silent auction and pet photography. Last year’s event drew more than 800 people, many of whom were accompanied by their dogs. Proceeds benefit 10 Blocktail Buddies and other area animal rescue groups who are approved for a grant from the Bissell Pet Foundation. Tickets are $55 if purchased online before June 11. After June 11, tickets are $65 and available at the event. For tickets or information, go to


Low Income Vaccine Clinic, 3:30-5:30 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) 7918056 or


Camp Kids and Paws, Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson NW, Grand Rapids. Camp is 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for 5- to 7-year-olds and 1:30-5 p.m. for 8- to 10-year-olds. Cost is $75 per child. The five-day camp features animal interactions, presentations, crafts and games. Learn about animal care and

how to be a friend to all animals in our community. To register, contact Jennifer Self-Aulgur at (616) 791-8066 or


Companion Animal Grief Support, 6-7 p.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson 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 pre-register by noon on the day of the meetings with facilitator Ginny Mikita (616) 4600373 or Jennifer Self-Aulgur (616) 791-8066 or


Furry Friday Films, 5:30-9:30 p.m. at the Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson 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 Jennifer SelfAulgur at (616) 791-8066 or jaulgur@


Animal Care Experience Camp, Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson NW, Grand Rapids. For 7- to 9-year-olds. Delightful Dog session from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Fun Felines and Crazy Critters from 1:30-5 p.m. Cost is $75 per child for half days, $140 per child for full days. This hands-on camp gives kids an in-depth look at dogs, cats and small animals. All-day campers should bring a lunch. Each session will focus on different aspects of animals, including breeds, grooming, training, basic care and more. To register, 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



SOGGY DAY DUDS > What it is: Spring and summer showers are nice for the flowers, but also can bring the scent of wet pooch with their balmy breezes. Help keep your friend comfy, warm and odor free with one of these fashionable raincoats from My Outward Hound. The Foul Weather Rain Jacket is made from a lightweight, breathable microfiber fabric with mesh lining. The adjustable design allows for a comfortable fit and non-restrictive movement. But wait, there’s more: My Outward Hound also can keep your foyer dry in inclement weather with it’s Soggy Doggy doormats. Constructed of absorbent, durable, microfiber chenille, the mats come in beige, blue, caramel and chocolate brown and feature a contrasting line drawing of a bone. Fetch it:




What it is: Acrylic portraits of your favorite pooch by Mona Lisa Studio. Owner Tracy Conley is an animal lover and art teacher at East Crest Charter Academy in Holland. One of her renderings was a popular Art Prize 2012 entry. But wait, there’s more: Conley also gets her students involved with her passion for animals. They have donated artwork and created greeting cards for the Harbor Humane Society and have volunteered at the organization. Fetch it: tracy.conley44@gmail. com or 616-334-7471.

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What it is: From Doxie Moxie, to Pug Principals, Jack Rascals and Yorkie Diaries, Willow Creek Press, located in the woods of northern Wisconsin, may be off the publishing world’s radar, but it produces beautiful, photo-filled books for aficionados of every sort of dog breed. But wait, there’s more: In addition to the more than 60 titles for dog lovers, Willow Creek Press also prints dog calendars. In 2013, it released 99 titles. Fetch it:


What it is: A small portion of a beloved pet’s ashes or fur fused into fine quality glass and placed in a pendant, keychain, sun catcher or jewelry box. Customers pick the colors and shapes. These one-of-a-kind pieces are created by Blue Lake, Mich., artist Jodi JarvisTherrian But wait, there’s more: A portion of all proceeds are donated to local animal charities. Fetch it; Visit www. or call (231) 788-6029. On Facebook, look for Memory Stones by Jodi.

SPOT ON > What it is: From those dog loving folks at BISSELL, the SpotBot Pet. Load the little machine with formula and hot water, place it on a pet stain and push the start button. The hands-free SpotBot Pet goes to work to scrub and extract the stain. It’s portable, so you can also use it on the carpeted interior of your car. But wait, there’s more: Purchase the SpotBot Pet in a store, then go to bissell. com/savepets and activate a $10 donation to the BISSELL Pet Foundation, which provides resources to help lost and unwanted pets get the care they need until they are adopted. Purchase the product online, and the donation is automatic. Fetch it: At stores everywhere or



What it is: When you put a beleaguered — some might say lovably cranky — marketing executive in charge of three strong-willed Dachshunds hilarity is bound to ensue. At least, that’s what happens in Hounded, a new book by New Jersey author Matt Ziselman, who mixes his hilarious canine stories with heartfelt reminiscing. The result is a funny, poignant memoir illuminating life’s most important lessons, courtesy of Ziselman and his dogs Baxter, Maya and Molly. But wait, there’s more: There actually will be more. Ziselman is hard at work on his second memoir, about the summer of 1973, which he spent with his family at a bungalow in the Catskill Mountains. Fetch it: Hounded, is available at bookstores May 15. It can be pre-ordered at and

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 Reader, Flea and tick prevention is very important, especially during the warmer months. Fleas can spread disease to pets and people and can cause severe allergic reactions, called FAD (flea allergy dermatitis) in some pets. Ticks can also spread disease to pets and people and a simple blood test can be performed at your dog’s annual appointment to determine if there has been any exposure to many of these diseases. There are multiple products available to prevent fleas and ticks, but many factors must be considered to determine which product is best for your pet. One, is it safe for your dog or cat and the people and other pets in your home? Two, is it effective for the exposure risk that your pet has daily? Three, is there veterinary support if you have a question or concern about the product? Four, does the product have a guarantee? And five, what is the chance that you will comply with the recommendations for proper use of the preventative? Topical treatments are fantastic if the correct one is chosen for your pet. There are many combination products that prevent many types of parasites, including fleas and ticks. Safety can be an issue for some topical

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Dear Dr. Swift, What do you recommend for flea and tick prevention? Topical treatments, a pill or a flea/tick collar? I have heard that some pets have reactions to the medication in topical treatments and that collars are dangerous.

There are options to make fleas flee and to tick off ticks treatments. Not all are safe to use on cats, causing toxicity, and some dogs and cats have sensitivities to topical products that can lead to skin irritation, hair loss and hair discoloration. In addition, people may have contact with the topical medication until it dries on the pet’s fur, causing concern for the younger members of family. Risk exposure and product selection must be discussed with your veterinarian, as only they can make the best recommendation for your pet. Be aware that topical treatments purchased from a retailer, other than your veterinarian, will not have product support for application advice or a guarantee on efficacy of the product. Also consider that topical products must be applied as directed by your veterinarian, with most having to be reapplied monthly. Oral medications are a wonderful option if you would like to prevent fleas,

intestinal parasites and heartworms. At this time, the pills on the market do not cover tick prevention. The oral medications are relatively safe, easy to use without any topical residue, and are available through your veterinarian, who can evaluate whether the product is right for you and your pet depending on exposure risk and health status. All pets in the home must have consistent dosing with these products, or fleas can still become a problem. There is a new long-acting flea and tick collar available that lasts up to eight months. This collar, by Seresto, can be safely used for cats and dogs with no human exposure to the medication in the collar. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you if this collar is right for your pet. Not all collars have the safety, efficacy or product support the Seresto collar has, and my recommendation is to avoid purchasing over-the-counter flea collars unless advised to do so by your veterinarian. Holistic options also are available for flea and tick control if none of the previous options are what you’re looking for and your pet has minimal or no risk of exposure. Products such as VetriRepel contain certain essential oils that naturally repel fleas and ticks. Remember that these types of products will need more frequent application and are not proven to prevent the spread of disease. All in all, the most important factor to flea and tick prevention is compliance. If you do not use the product you purchase, it will not prevent flea and tick infestation. Contact your veterinarian and discuss the options for your pet, as there is a perfect flea and tick preventative for every pet and every owner. Make sure to inquire about any promotions your veterinarian may have for flea and tick products. It will save you money, ensure you have a guaranteed product and give you the confidence and peace of mind that you are protecting all the members of your family from the dangers of fleas and ticks.

good grief

ginny mikita

Getting Your Dog House in Order Four years ago, WOOD-TV8 in Grand Rapids aired a story about Buddy, the longtime live-in canine companion of 99-year-old Minna Helm. Minna and Buddy lived in a local retirement community. When Minna became ill and required temporary hospitalization, the facility’s Enrichment Director took Buddy to the local humane society, claimed she had a legal right to him and ordered him euthanized. According to the news story, “Minna died a month or so later after living the last few weeks of her life without Buddy.” Sadly, Minna had not left directions for Buddy’s care or custody in the event she became unable to care for him. Had she done so, the facility’s Enrichment Director would have hopefully reached out to the agent designated by Minna, thereby preventing Buddy’s untimely death. Under Michigan law, companion animals are deemed property. A Durable Power of Attorney for Companion Animal Care (DPOA) is a legal document in which you can ensure your companions are cared for in your absence due to temporary or prolonged illness as well as travel. In the event your pet should require boarding, veterinarian care or hospitalization while you are away, the DPOA assures third parties the caretaker named in your DPOA has the legal authority to authorize on your behalf provision of and payment for service. A DPOA’s validity ceases upon your death. To better understand the process, I’ve prepared a few simple questions and answers.

Q: What is a Power of Attorney? A: A Power of Attorney (POA) is a written authorization designating someone to act on someone else’s behalf in a legal or business matter. The person authorizing another to act is you, or the Principal/Grantor of the power, and the one authorized to act is the Caretaker, or Agent/Attorney in Fact. A POA may be limited to one specific act or type of act, or it may be general. A POA is “durable” if the grantor specifies it will remain effective even if the grantor becomes incapacitated. Q: How do you ensure your pet is cared for if you are not present or unable to be reached for consultation/consent? A: Prepare a written DPOA for Companion Animal Care and include the following: • The name of your Agent, the person authorized to care for and make decisions regarding your companion animal in your absence. If your Agent is unavailable, who is second in line? • Specific decisions your Agent is authorized to make. If you completely trust your Agent’s judgment, you may wish to leave all decisions to your Agent’s discretion. If you have specific ideas regarding care, including end-of-life decisions which might need to be made, include them in as much detail as you like. You may wish to provide specifics regarding approved veterinarians, veterinary care and treatment, transfer to another appropriate veterinary service provider, the power to enter into contracts on your behalf for the benefit of your pet with any service provider or veterinarian and provisions for your pet’s essential needs. • Be sure to comply with state laws regarding validity, such as number of witnesses and/or notary requirements.

Q: Why is it necessary to put your wishes in writing, as opposed to just telling your pet’s caretaker what to do in an emergency? A: Putting it in writing eliminates any confusion that may arise regarding your Agent’s authority. For example, if an expensive medical procedure is needed, this document protects both your Agent and the veterinarian. The Agent is protected by your appointment in writing. The veterinarian is protected in following the direction of your Agent, based upon the written authority granted in the DPOA. Consider it a gift to your Agent to not be faced with, in an extreme situation, a life-and-death decision about which she is uncertain the decision you would make under the same circumstances. Q: Where should you keep the DPOA? A: After preparation and properly executing the DPOA, provide copies to your Agent, veterinarian and another close family member. Q: What other protections can you make? A: If you haven’t already done so, make sure your pet is legally licensed and microchipped (don’t forget to register the microchip and keep your contact information up to date). In addition, post a list of your pets (type and name) at each entrance to your home for emergency personnel and others, should you unexpectedly not return to your home. Cats, in particular, can be elusive. Many humane societies offer free pet alert stickers. Include a provision in your will in which you specify care and custody arrangements for your pets.

May/June 2013

Dogs Unleashed 11



Spring showers & deadly flowers

photo by jennifer waters

Be aware of toxic plants in your landscaping By SHANE THELLMAN, DVM

Winter is dwindling, finally, and spring is around the corner. I can’t wait to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather, spend time in the garden and clean that garage! Knowing that my dog is a digger, chewer and destroyer of plants, I want to make sure my garden doesn’t include fatal florae. Rather than focus on all the toxic plants sold in North America, I’d like to share with readers the common plants that have the potential to cause severe problems or plants frequently implicated in causing toxicosis in our canine kids. Let me start by saying if you suspect or know that your dog has gotten in to a toxic plant, please do not wait until 12 Dogs Unleashed

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the next day to call a veterinarian (or emergency veterinarian if your veterinary office is closed) or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435, as many toxic plants and substances may cause permanent damage to the organ systems if treatment is delayed. If you’re thinking of adding new plants to your flower garden, or already have these plants around your home, please be aware of their potential danger. Foxglove, Oleander, Lily of the Valley and Kalanchoe These plants are quite eye catching and provide much-needed color to most any drab garden. Caution must be taken when considering these plants for your garden, however. The toxic doses of these plant species is as little as 1.5 grams of leaves (2 to 3 leaves), resulting in severe vomiting, abdominal pain and bradycardia (severe drop in heart rate). All parts of these plants are toxic — the honey from the oleander has earned

it the nickname “mad honey.” Kalanchoe has also been reported to cause neurological issues. It would be best to avoid these plants at all cost, as they are not only toxic to dogs, but to children too. Prompt care should be taken if these cardiotoxic (toxic to the heart) plants have been ingested. Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and Laurels Rhododendrons are small shrubs that provide wonderful clusters of flowers in a variety of colors. The toxic dose of these plants is as little as 0.2 percent of the dog’s body weight: For a 60-pound dog, that is 1.2 pounds of any part of the plant. Once the plant has been eaten, clinical signs can develop in varied times ranging from four hours to three days. Symptoms are associated with heart arrhythmias, vomiting, diarrhea and difficulty in breathing (dyspnea). Prognosis is good with early treatment.

Castor Bean and Rosary Pea Castor bean is easy to grow and will bring a nice look to most gardens. However, it only takes a few seeds to cause real damage to any pet, especially our dogs. All parts of the plant are toxic with the seeds harboring the most concentrated ricin and abrum, which are responsible for the symptoms. After eating any part of the plant, symptoms



Cycad Palm (Sago Palm, Leather Leaf Palm, Japanese Fern Palm) Sago palms look as if they have been left over from the prehistoric age. Large blooming, semi-glossy leaves arranged in a feather-like pattern are a sight of beauty. Of the toxic plants commonly seen, these are, in my opinion, the worst and should be avoided at all cost! The toxic dose for these plants is around one to two seeds, which are fatal for a medium-sized dog. All parts of these plants are toxic with the most concentrated portions of cycasin, which causes acute liver failure with subsequent neurological signs (seizures). Prognosis is good if treated aggressively and early.

There are good reasons to induce vomiting if your dog has ingested something toxic, but it should not be a substitute for contacting your veterinarian or ASPCA Poison Control Center for advice. Vomiting will eliminate some stomach contents, but complete stomach emptying can be achieved only with professional care. Foxglove is a common, but poisonous, plant found in landscaping.

Emesis (vomiting) should be forced only if the following criteria are met: 1. Ingestion within the past 30 minutes.

2. Dog is not brachycephalic (smudged face nose -- pug, boxer, bulldog types). 3. Dog is conscious, alert and no seizure activity is noted. 4. The material ingested was NOT a strong acid (drain cleaners) or strong basic (bleach) solution. 5. The material ingested was NOT kerosene, gasoline or lighter fluid. Note: The most commonly used home substances to induce vomiting are hydrogen peroxide and syrup of ipecac. The dose varies and advice on dosing should be given by a veterinarian or ASPCA Poison Control Center at time of ingestion.

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 Thellman 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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1971 E. Beltline NE in Knapp’s Corner • (616) 551-3901 May/June 2013

Dogs Unleashed 13


As beautiful as azaleas are, they can be toxic to pets.

will appear as soon as six hours, lasting up to a few days or until death. Once symptoms are evident the prognosis is very poor, even with aggressive medical care. Food for thought After successfully picking a variety of plants for our garden, now we need to think about feeding our new plants. What is the best fertilizer out there for my plants without adding danger for my dogs? Fertilizers are made up of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK). Each fertilizer may have different concentrations and sources

for each of the elements. Fertilizers come in liquid, granular and solid forms. Fertilizers largely have a wide margin of safety and most likely mild gastro intestinal (GI) signs are expected after ingestion. Additives to fertilizers may include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, iron, copper and zinc. These additions increase the likelihood of GI and systemic signs. If bone or blood meal is not properly stored, it could be prone to bacterial growth. Bacterial gastroenteritis could result in severe vomiting and/or diarrhea with subsequent profound dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Natural fertilizers such as fecal matter (various sources) are very good for plant growth. However, they may also contain parasites, creating an unsafe environment for you, your children and your dog. Natural fertilizers should only be used in inaccessible areas of the garden. ASPCA is a great source for information on toxic plants and substances ( Pet-care/poison-control). Veterinary Partner is also a valuable website for toxicity information (htpp://

Publication design that’s right under your nose. Proud to be the designer of Dogs Unleashed. Wanna see more? Sniff around the website. kevin@kyserdesignwerks design | branding | marketing

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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from our sponsor

PSP offers an assist By RON ROP

Several years ago, the needs of area animal rescue groups caught the attention of the owners of six West Michigan Pet Supplies Plus stores. The owners, along with the store managers, decided it was time to focus on doing what they could to assist these groups wherever it could. Today, Pet Supplies Plus hosts adoption events and makes charitable donations to nearly a dozen area nonprofit groups. “Last year, we gave more than $100,000, corporate wide, to rescue groups, so that has been our primary place of giving,”said Steve Adams, who along with his partners owns 21 PSP stores in Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin and Tim Haight Michigan. Tim Haight, manager of the Pet Supplies Plus store on Alpine NW in Grand Rapids, works on events that bring prospective families together with pets in need of a loving home. His store works primarily with Safe Haven Humane Society in Ionia with the adoptions of cats. “Clients will come in and if they are interested, they fill out an application form with all their information and references and we send them to Safe Haven,” Haight said. “Safe Haven looks it over and if they approve them, they come here to pick up their pet. We give them a free bag of cat food and a coupon toward the purchase of the stuff that they need.” Safe Haven isn’t the only rescue group with which Pet Supplies Plus has partnered. The Muskegon Humane Society on Marquette Avenue is the major beneficiary of Pet Supplies Plus in Holland. Randy Kosters, the Holland store manager, also works with several other rescue groups on a more limited basis. Periodic visits by Allies for Greyhounds of West Michigan are a hit at the Pet Supplies Plus store in Kentwood. Manager Steven Ulberg

brings in the greyhound rescue group the third Saturday of each month. They not only have a display of information, but bring in some of their dogs for show and for adoption. “Clients love to see the greyhounds and talk with the rescue workers,” Ulberg said. “We have even had some luck in finding these greyhounds a home with our clients.” While greyhound visits are a oncea-month occurrence, Ulberg’s store also is involved with pet adoption on a daily basis. Cats and kittens from Safe Haven are available for adoption. Other groups working with Ulberg include Crash’s Landing, Focus on Ferals and Reuben’s Room Cat Rescue. But it’s not just about pet adoptions at Pet Supplies Plus. Most stores have a donations barrel near the entrance for customers to fill with pet food, toys and other pet-related items. It has been a big hit at most of the stores, where the barrels can fill up in a week’s time. Kosters said he has noticed a rise in the number of rescue groups in recent years. And, of course, each is looking for any help they can get. “It seems to be branching out where others are starting groups on their own. I know there are more and more requests for donations,” Kosters said. “We try to do what we can, and everyone is willing to help out.” Adams and his partners have been working tirelessly to make it possible for Pet Supplies Plus to make an impact. “At our company, we receive literally hundreds of donation requests every month,” Adams said. “And for a long time, it was frustrating to me because we weren’t successful enough at the time to help all the people who wanted help. What it really came down to was, we needed to pick our spot where we are really going to invest, where we can give with impact rather than spread it out like a disco ball effect.” The decision was made to focus on rescues and pet over-population. “All of these programs benefit our store, clients and fellow rescue groups,” Ulberg said. “They give Pet Supplies Plus a chance to be involved in the community and give back.”

Seriously, what are


doing this summer? Want to help build a house for a deserving family? Pound some nails? Wield a paint brush or, more fun still, use a power tool? Then join the friends and family of Andy Angelo, longtime Grand Rapids Press editor and beloved friend of Grandville Avenue, whose memory is being honored with this Habitat for Humanity project. Located across Grandville Avenue from the Cook Arts Center, where Andy gave his time and his heart, this house will provide a cozy, safe haven for a deserving family. To volunteer, or to make a donation to the project, contact Mary Angelo at or go to: The House That Andy Built on Facebook. Or, contact: Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, 425 Pleasant St., SW Grand Rapids, MI 49503,

May/June 2013

Dogs Unleashed 15

doggy destination:


STEELY RESOLVE Pittsburgh has transformed itself from its industrial past to an adventurous city for people and pooches alike

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isitors to Pittsburgh often are surprised to find not the smoky industrial city of the past, but rather a city that blends the best of the old and the new with shining skyscrapers reflecting varied, highly crafted buildings of past centuries. One modernized steel mill still is in operation, but the Steel City has reinvented itself, with the economy’s emphasis now focused on high tech, medicine and education. Cozy neighborhoods, worthy of famous Pittsburgher Mister Rogers (who lived in the Oakland neighborhood), have interesting upscale and downscale restaurants to support the emerging foodie scene. It also is one of the few cities where you can, in season, rent a kayak and paddle about looking at the gleaming downtown, with picturesque hills and rusting industrial ruins. It’s estimated there are nearly 2,000 bridges in Pittsburgh, which is situated at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers that form the Ohio River. And for those wondering if Pittsburgh is dog friendly, look no further than three of the many dogrelated stories that abound.


PUG MEETUP The friendly, ear-to-ear grin of the pug is a fitting emblem of Pittsburgh, sometimes known as the city with a smile on its face. And if you find yourself at just the right place at the right time, you’ll be ankle deep in pugs. The Pittsburgh pug meetup group, with 827 members, meets once a month at various dog friendly locations throughout Pittsburgh. Meetups are posted and documented on the group’s website and draw around 25 to 30 pugs and owners at a time. Lisa Ward is an assistant organizer

who’s associated with the Southwest PA Pug with Special Needs organization. In tandem with the meetups, SWPAPUG holds four major fundraisers per year: pet photos with the Easter Bunny, pet photos with Santa, the Hawaiian Pug Luau & Pool Party and Pugtoberfest. The Luau includes pug swimming at Lucky Paws Resort and dog park in Freedom, Penn., costumes and a bathing beauty beach contest. As spectacular as the Luau sounds, Pugtoberfest has an even larger turnout, with more than 400 people and pugs (and other breeds … they don’t discriminate). Ward’s organization takes in pugs of all sorts — pugs who are blind, pugs who have seizures, elderly pugs, pugs with cancer or pugs who come from overcrowded shelters. Some stay in rescue for the remainder of their lives, but many are placed into loving homes. Ward pointed out several who had been placed and now attend the pug meetup with their people. All the pugs, Ward said, seem to have ear-to-ear grins.

HELLO BULLY A few years ago, there was talk of passing Breed Specific Legislation in Pennsylvania, a law that would have put regulations on or banned pit bulls. Hello Bully, a non-profit group in Pittsburgh that rehabilitates pit bulls pulled from shelters or confiscated from dog-fighting rings, gathered thousands of signatures and stopped it from happening. “We’re very fortunate we don’t have BSL at the state level, and therefore nobody on the local level can do it because they can’t supersede state law,” said Nicole Garritano Meloy, director of development and events for Hello Bully. The all-volunteer organization offers educational and training seminars. Meloy helped plan its first Lovers Not Fighters gala, which this year raised $30,000. She’s in charge of the organization’s events and fundraisers and serves on its board of directors.


PUGS, PITTIES AND PIRATES • Pittsburgh Pug Meetup Group: Meetups are posted on the group’s website at Pittsburghpugs. • Hello Bully: For information about this all-volunteer group that provides education about pit bulls and works to keep them out of shelters, go to • Pup nights with the Pittsburgh Pirates: The remaining dates are May 7, May 21, June 11, July 9, Aug. 6, Aug. 27 and Sept. 17. Order tickets early — the events often sell out. All fans attending with dogs must show proof of vaccinations and sign a waiver. Because the event is so popular and can get crowded, those with large breeds might consider buying an additional seat for their dog for a little space. • More fun in Pittsburgh: Kayak around the town with its nearly 2,000 bridges, take in a festival like the Three Rivers Arts Festival (June 7-16) or visit The Andy Warhol Museum (info at warhol. org). Fall and winter offer the Pittsburgh Ballet, the Pittsburgh Symphony orchestra and the Pittsburgh Opera.

photo by KAYAK PITTSBURGH/VISITPITTSBURGH For a great view of Pittsburgh, try a kayak.

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Dogs Unleashed 17

Hello Bully isn’t a typical rescue operation. It slowly and patiently rehabilitates a few dogs at a time at the Hello Bully Halfway House, which opened in 2011. A maximum of six dogs can stay at the house for as long as it takes to prepare them for life in a “normal” loving home. “A lot of dogs we take in have lived all their lives on a chain, and they’re not exposed to things we take for granted,” Meloy said. “They don’t know what a TV is, and they’ve never seen a ceiling fan. We acclimate them very slowly to these things that they’re not familiar with. We’re not very big … we’re more about quality than quantity, and we take the time to work with the dogs we pull from a local shelter or from a dog fighting confiscation.” A caretaker stays at the Halfway House, which features a large fenced-in yard for playtime. Volunteers come and go throughout the day. “We have four shifts a day, because we keep the dogs on a strict schedule,” Meloy said. “We have certain times for play, potty and, of course, feeding. We don’t want the Halfway House to be their forever home, but they’ll be here for as long as it takes. It is a pretty cushy life for them, though.” Bulletproof Sam is a special dog currently in the Halfway House. He came to Hello Bully via a seizure of a dog-fighting ring by the Humane

photo by Jeff Greenberg/VisitPittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood.

Society of the United States. One look at him, and it’s clear he was a fighting dog. Part of his snout is missing, exposing some of the teeth. Sam was a champion fighter, but a video shot by HSUS at the time of the confiscation makes it clear he also is an affectionate, loving dog. “We’ve had Sam for a year, but he’s a different case,” Meloy said. “He needs to be an only dog. People want him and adore him, but they have other pets. Situations like that take longer (for adoptions). Others, like Lena Horne, we pulled in January, and her adoption is already pending. She happens to be good around other dogs and had lived with cats and kids, so she’s easier to adopt out.” One of the organization’s biggest accomplishments, Meloy said, is the Pit Fix Plus program. In an effort to stem overpopulation, Hello Bully partnered with the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania to offer free spay/ neuter and vaccines to Pittsburgh area pit bulls. Since it started in 2008, Pit Fix Plus has spayed and neutered around 1,800 pit bulls. “We’re pretty proud of that program,” she said. “We feel that it’s making a huge impact.”


Pup Night at PNC Park is popular with pups and their owners.

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While several Major League Baseball teams have “bring your dog to

the ballpark” events, it’s doubtful they rival the Pittsburgh Pirates when it comes to letting the dogs out. Pittsburgh has not one or two, but eight Pup Nights at PNC Park. On designated Tuesdays, fans can sit with their dogs in the deck area near left field. The area has its own entrance, separate concessions and an area large enough for dogs to play during the game. “Penny loves Pup Night,” said Pirates fan and frequent Pup Night attendee Jessica Poutous. “She gets to watch the game sitting on our laps and spend time playing with other dogs when the game loses her interest. They always have lots of free treats for those arriving early, and there’s a designated potty area right on the deck makes things a lot easier.” Terry Rodgers, coordinator of business communications for the Pirates, said 200 tickets, at $25 each, are set aside for fans in the dog-designated area. Each ticket sold generates $5 for local animal shelters. Rodgers said the reason behind the multiple Pup Nights at PNC is simple. “The Pup Nights are very popular with our fans and another fun way for people to enjoy a great night out at the ballpark,” said Rodgers. “With this in mind, we wanted to make sure as many Pirates fans as possible are able to come and enjoy a ballgame with their pooch.”

where to go in:


n Animal Nature Location: 7610 Forbes Ave. Contact: (412) 723-2194 Website: The scoop: Located in the dog-crazed Regent Square neighborhood, Animal Nature offers high quality treats, toys and food for dogs as well as small animals. Foods are monitored for quality production and raw foods are available. Your well-behaved dog is welcome in the store, but be mindful there is a store cat as well as two hens and sometimes other small animals. n Burton’s Total Pet Location: Multiple Western Pennsylvania locations Website: The scoop: Smaller Western Pennsylvania chain offering large full-service stores with pride in a knowledgeable staff. Many locations offer self-service dog wash facilities. Pets are welcome. n Petagogy Location: 5880 Ellsworth Ave. Contact: (412) 362-7387 Website: The scoop: In the heart of the trendy and upscale Shadyside neighborhood, Petagogy offers premium and natural pet foods and supplies. Events include quarterly yappy hours with treats for dogs and adult libations for owners and frequent rescue benefits. Dog Washes n Woody’s Dog Wash and Boutique Location: 5843 Brownsville Road, South Park Contact: (412) 714-4644 Website: The scoop: Do-it-yourself dog wash and full-service grooming available. Located near dog-friendly South Park. Day Care/Boarding n The Dog Stop Location: East End and South Hills Contact: (412)-364-7867 Website:

The scoop: Boarding, day care, doit-yourself washes, grooming and pet food all are available. Open room daycare, separated by size. n Grandma’s Dog Daycare Location: 431 Cabot Way Contact: (412) 586-7094 Website: The scoop: Smaller, cage-free daycare with curbside pickup. Includes organized play activities with staff such as fetch and “Let’s Dance,” as well as unorganized games like chase and tug. n K9 Kingdom Location: 155 Lake Dr., Wexford Contact: (724) 935-3647 Website: The scoop: Daycare, boarding, transportation, grooming and training are offered at this indoor dog park. All areas are heated and air conditioned, and fresh water is always available. Daycare dogs are carefully monitored at all times and grouped by size, age and personality. Annual Events n Western PA Kennel Club dog show When: March Where: Monroeville Convention Center, 209 Mall Boulevard, Monroeville Website: The scoop: Large, all-breed dog show with junior showmanship. More than 1,000 dogs shown, and up to 10,000 spectators attend each day. n Sewickely Unleashed When: May 18, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Where: Broad Street, Sewickley Website: The scoop: A street fair and 5K walk/ run for people and their pets with proceeds benefiting the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. n Black Tie and Tails Gala When: November Where: Circuit Center, 5 Hot Metal St. Website: The scoop: Annual black tie social event with cocktails and an art auction benefits Animal Friends of Western Pennsylvania, a no-kill shelter. Evening

includes live and silent auctions, dancing, food, photo booth, coffee bar and ice cream cart. Last year’s soldout event raised $400,000. Dog Parks n Frick Park Website: The scoop: 561-acre park abuts Squirrel Hill and Regent Square neighborhoods. Miles of wellmaintained trails, off-leash area, creeks and woodlands. Very popular, high dog and human traffic. No large/ small dog separation. n Bernard Dog Run Website: The scoop: In the very hip, up-and -coming Lawrenceville neighborhood, Bernard Dog Park opened in 2012 and is named in memory of a local designer and animal activist, Jay Bernard. Well-maintained dog runs between the riverside Heritage Trail and railroad tracks. Separate areas for large and small dogs. n South Side Riverfront Dog Park Location: 21st St. near the river, Meriman St (entrance on 18th St.) The scoop: Opened in 2012, the popular park includes areas for large and small dogs. n Misty Pines Location: 2523 Wexford Bayne Rd., Franklin Park Borough Contact: (412) 364- 4122 Website: The scoop: Private 25-acre dog park north of Pittsburgh offers day care, boarding, accessories, training classes for dock diving, agility, swimming, pulling and bird dog training, n Venture Outdoors Website: The scoop: In addition to many city, county and nearby state parks, Venture Outdoors, an organization offering guided hikes and other outdoor activities, sponsors some hikes-with-your-dog events.

May/June 2013

Dogs Unleashed 19



From her own lovable Labs to the many causes she supports, Cathy Bissell is ...

a woman on a mission ________________________ Story by TERRI FINCH HAMILTON | Photos by Jennifer Waters ______________________

Cathy Bissell is telling about her family vacations as a kid growing up in Bloomfield Hills, when they’d pack up luggage and pets and head to Harbor Springs. She laughs as she recalls the family’s Labrador retriever paddling along in Little Traverse Bay after the family’s ducks.Wait a minute. Family ducks? The ducks went on vacation to Harbor Springs? Bissell nods matter of factly, as if this is no big revelation.


ix kids, ducks, rabbits, dogs, all in the station wagon,” she says. “The dogs slept in the footwell. The ducks just rode.” She thinks for a minute. “Maybe the bunny had a cage.” She shrugs. “I think we begged,” she says. “My mom couldn’t say no to six kids.” Where there was Cathy, there were dogs. Beagles, golden retrievers, Irish setters, a Great Pyrenees.

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When Bissell lived the high fashion life in New York City, working at Harper’s Bazaar and GQ magazine, she didn’t have dogs, but took care of her boss’ pooch. Bissell is director of corporate affairs for BISSELL Inc. Her husband, Mark, great-grandson of Melville and Anna Bissell, who created the company in 1876, is president and CEO. Cathy Bissell needs dogs the way she needs air.

But her mission goes way beyond her own three sweet pooches to help dogs and their causes all over the country. First, she started, a website she founded with her sister, Janie Jenkins. Lost Pet U.S.A. requires no registration or fee but allows people to quickly post information and a photo of a missing pet or search through a log of those found. From, things sort of snowballed.

She hatched the Bissell Blocktail Party in 2005 after attending a similar party in New York. “I thought, ‘We can do that.’ ” It’s the dog event of the year, set for June 12 at Mangiamo! in Grand Rapids. Last year’s bash drew 800 people, pets in tow, and raised $183,000. Of that, Bissell says, $173,000 went to 10 local animal welfare agencies. Only $10,000 went toward party expenses. Originally, Blocktail Party proceeds went just to the Humane Society of West Michigan, but the event soon raised so much money each year, organizers decided to share the wealth among 10 area organizations. Bissell also brainstormed Partners for Pets, where a portion of the sales of Bissell products go to shelters and rescue groups.

LAUNCHING BPF But Bissell’s biggest deal is the Bissell Pet Foundation, designed to address the growing problem of displaced, unwanted and homeless animals in the U.S. and to help every pet find a home. While money raised from the Blocktail Party stays local, funds from the foundation are dispersed not just locally, but all over the country. More than 60 animal welfare organizations from Pennsylvania to Texas have received funds. Interested groups have to fill out a grant application. “It’s long,” Bissell says. “You have to be serious.” They look at how many animals are served, what the needs are and how the money will be used to meet those needs. “It’s a tearful process,” Bissell says. “We read the applications and we cry. “My ultimate dream is to raise millions of dollars through the pet foundation, and give it away.” She has a good start. The foundation started in 2011 and already has awarded $440,000, with funds from BISSELL Inc., the Blocktail Party and private donors. Organizations have used Bissell Pet Foundation funds in all sorts of ways: Dog food for German Shepherd Rescue of Central Florida. Care and treatment for 60 dogs rescued from a

For more about the Bissell Pet Foundation, visit For more on the Blocktail Party, visit suspected dog fighting ring in Kentucky for Animal Rescue Corps. Care for senior poodles rescued from a puppy mill for the Little Traverse Bay Humane Society. Free microchipping for the public for the Monmouth County SPCA in New Jersey. Locally, Bissell Pet Foundation funds have gone to a long list of animal welfare organizations, from lab equipment for the vet clinic at Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary to the rescue of senior pets from shelters for Vicky’s Pet Connection. And lots of money to fund spay and neuter surgery. “They all ask for that,” Bissell says. “Because people won’t spend the money to do it themselves. So the humane societies want to offer that at no charge, because they won’t adopt out a dog or cat without doing that first. “It’s a whole world I never wanted to be exposed to, honestly,” Bissell says with a sigh. “It’s really tragic. So many animals are euthanized.” Five out of 10 dogs in shelters and seven out of 10 cats in shelters are destroyed simply because there is no one to adopt them, according to the

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “It’s much easier living in my own nice world where my dogs are loved and have beds,” Bissell says. She’s quiet for a minute. “I couldn’t do what they do,” she says of the shelter staff. “There are places where animals are given up, they give them four days and then they euthanize them. They don’t want to. They hate it. They love those animals. It’s not their fault — they just don’t have room.”

PROMOTING ADOPTION So, she says, something needs to change. “If you have to give a dog up, do whatever you can to find a good home for it, to keep it out of a shelter,” she says. “Or work with your dog and do the best you can to keep that dog at home.” It bothers her that not all owners take dog ownership seriously. “It means a lot of time and a lot of work,” she says. She says she couldn’t finish the book Marley and Me, about a rambunctious yellow Labrador retriever, and wouldn’t watch the movie. “His owners didn’t give him enough rules,” she says. “That’s why he was wild. He wasn’t a bad dog. He had bad owners. That really upset me.” While it’s tempting to choose a pet Marley style, from an adorable litter

Mark and Cathy Bissell have a fondness for black Labs, who love to lounge around the house.

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Dogs Unleashed 21

A benefit for the animal welfare organizations of West Michigan

Come. Sit. Stay. The “BEST DOG-GONE Party in Town” is back! Join the BISSELL Pet Foundation for a casual evening where you and your dog can mingle, enjoy scrumptious “yappetizers,” and participate in our one-of-a-kind silent auction.

June 12, 2013

6:00-9:00 p.m.

Mangiamo! 1033 Lake Drive SE

Grand Rapids, MI


Purchase in advance at for $55/person or $65/person at the event

Questions? Visit or call 616.735.6666

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of wriggling new puppies, Bissell urges otherwise. “Think about adopting,” she says. “You can find any kind of dog at a shelter. If you want a dog who will run with you, you can find one. If you want a dog to sit on your lap, you can find that, too. “The shelters are full of dogs just looking for a place to live.” She adopted Roxy, one of her three black Labradors, from the Humane Society of West Michigan. Roxy, 6, is one of a trio of black Labs that romp through the Bissell house, greeting guests at the door politely, long tails wagging. The others are DJ, 14, and KC, 8. “C’mere, old man,” Bissell says fondly to DJ, stroking his sleek black head. The senior dog can’t see or hear well these days. He clearly adores her, resting his big head on her lap as she talks. “He doesn’t like me talking to anybody,” she says. “Even talking on the phone. “They’re definitely spoiled,” she says with a smile. “I give them a lot of attention. If I’m here, they’re by my side.” The Bissell dogs have beds all over the house. They get exercise daily — off their leashes at area dog parks. “This old guy,” she says tenderly, petting DJ’s head. “Every day is important for him. Because we don’t know how much longer we’ll have him.” Ask Bissell about how a dog enriches your life, and she hesitates at first, as if the question might be too big to tackle. Then she answers, and it’s sort of like poetry. “How could you live without a dog?” she asks. “They teach you how to love. Every child should have a dog. They love unconditionally. They adore you. If you have a crying moment, you can hug

Jimmy Le, Laura Caprara and Cathy Bissell judge LaughFest’s pet contests.

Cathy Bissell gives a bit of love to one of her three black Labs, KC.

your dog. They listen to everything. “Cats, too,” she says. “I don’t have a cat right now, but they’re so sweet.” She tells of a wild cat she rescued from a gutter. She brought him home and named him Bush. She laughs when she tells how, like her dogs, he would sit and beg for meat. “He even learned how to bark,” she says. So how does she keep from being a woman with 20 pets? “My husband,” Bissell says with a laugh. “I told him, ‘If anything happens to you, I won’t remarry. You can imagine me here, with 12 dogs. And I’ll probably have some cats, too.’ ” Everybody can do something to make a difference for an animal, Bissell says. “Volunteer at a shelter or a humane society,” she says. “Give up your time, if you can, for animals.” Take in a foster pet and care for it until it’s adopted, she suggests. Pets get stressed at shelters and are much happier in a home. Of course, you might find yourself a “foster failure,” the way Bissell did. Roxy was supposed to be a foster. Stressed at the humane society, she came to live with the Bissells. You know, just for a while. “Just as a foster,” husband Mark kept reminding her. Sure, sure, Cathy said. She knew. One day friends came over and met Roxy. Gee, they were looking for a dog.

And didn’t this one seem nice? They just might want her. Oh, hmmm, Cathy said. Hmmm. Later that night, she called her friend. “I said, ‘You can’t have this dog. I want her!’ ” Seems Bissell had already bought Roxy a nice collar with her name on it, and the Bissell phone number. Mark, who kept reminding his wife that Roxy was “just a foster,” slipped the collar over the pooch’s sleek head. She smiles. “He said, ‘Welcome to the family.’ ”

DJ, the oldest of the Bissell black Labs, is 14.

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cover STORY


Collaboration among animal welfare groups is what makes BISSELL’s Blocktail Party much more than a fundraiser.


The goal, of course, is to save more cats and dogs. The idea is to find them the loving homes every pet deserves. The problem, of course, is that too many pet owners are irresponsible, avoiding the simple steps of spaying or neutering that can make a real difference in curbing the exploding population of unwanted cats and dogs. Enter the BISSELL Pet Foundation and the annual Blocktail Party, set for June 12 at Mangiamo!, 1033 Lake Drive SE, Grand Rapids. Last year, the event raised $183,000 to help pets in West Michigan. But beyond the dollars, it sparked a united front among the agencies and charitable organizations that tend to pets’ needs, creating efficiencies and surely saving

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more lives along the way. That’s because Cathy Bissell, founder of the Bissell Pet Foundation, required those seeking grant monies to exercise collaboration with other pet non-profits to eliminate overlap and ensure that each dollar granted went as far as it possibly could to make a pet’s life better. “The Blocktail Party has really fostered collaboration among organizations that love and want to help animals,” said Shannon Reinecke, foster care/adoption coordinator at Vicky’s Pet Connection in Ada. “I think that has made a bigger difference, even beyond the dollars. The grant process has inspired all of us to work together to see how we can best help pets.” It has allowed the organizations to specialize in many areas, ensuring that no dog or cat is left behind. From spaying and neutering, to caring for the needs of at-risk senior dogs and cats, monies raised at the annual Blocktail Party are making a difference in West Michigan. “It’s amazing,” said Carly Luttmann, program supervisor of the Kent County Animal Shelter. “I can’t say

enough what it means to all of our organizations around here to not only have the Blocktail Party but to have the Bissell Pet Foundation.” And it means a lot to plenty of cats and dogs, too, who have been saved from euthanasia and/or placed in loving homes. “It is amazing to have an organization right in our backyard that recognizes the unheard voices of the millions of homeless animals,” said Trudy Ender, executive director of Humane Society of West Michigan. “Bissell Pet Foundation is a wonderful resource not only in West Michigan, but beyond.” To illustrate BPF’s reach in West Michigan, here’s what the grant money from last year’s Blocktail Party did for area organizations.

KENT COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER, $41,000 With 7,500 animals per year coming through the Kent County Animal Shelter, workers have focused on increasing the save rate of unwanted dogs and cats. Of the $41,000 in grant money received, $25,000 was


“It is amazing to have an organization right in our backyard that recognizes the unheard voices of the millions of homeless animals,” — Trudy Ender used for spaying and neutering with the adoption program; $11,000 was used to underwrite adoption fees for low-income would-be pet owners and $5,000 was used to spay and neuter stray dogs and cats. “Spaying and neutering is the most important thing,” said Luttmann. “If people realized that a simple act has such a positive repercussion on the animals saved because of it, they would do it more.” Luttmann hopes to change the culture in West Michigan to align more with areas like Denver, Colo., where it is unusual not to have a pet spayed or neutered. “Our goal is to increase live release all the way,” Luttmann said. KCAS, which is funded primarily through county government, takes in about 7,500 animals per year and has a save rate of about 30 percent, Luttmann said. In the spirit of collaboration, the shelter has worked with other agencies, such as Vicky’s Pet Connection, to place animals and give them the best chance for adoption. “We work a lot with other agencies in the area,” Luttmann said.

COMMUNITY SPAY NEUTER INITIATIVE PARTNERSHIP (C-SNIP), $30,000 C-SNIP’s mission is “fixing” pets so they don’t reproduce, and last year’s grant helped the organization focus primarily on its Big Paws Project, which spays and neuters dogs 50 pounds and bigger. “Larger animals will have larger litters,” explained former executive director Pat Schoen, who retired

in February. “We have never turned anyone away for lack of affordability, and we offset the costs of what the client cannot pay.” C-SNIP, which has facilities in both Muskegon and Kent counties, opens its doors to anyone throughout the country and has spayed and neutered more than 95,000 cats and dogs. A fully staffed operation, C-SNIP’s funding comes from donations, surgery fees and grants. Schoen said about 96 percent of C-SNIP’s clients are low-income. “Our mortality rate is probably the lowest in the country because of the skills and attention of our staff,” said Schoen. Still, she is particularly concerned about the “overwhelming continuing explosion” of cats in West Michigan and grant money not used for the Big Paws project has helped with spaying and neutering cats. C-SNIP partners with the Humane Society of West Michigan two days a month to provide vaccinations for low-income pet owners. It also waives fees for active military personnel and women who are entering a shelter situation and need help with their pets.

What: Annual outdoor event featuring food, drinks, photos, silent auction and, of course, dogs, benefiting area animal welfare groups through grants from the BISSELL Pet Foundation. When: Wednesday, June 12, 6-9 p.m. Where: Mangiamo!, 1033 Lake Drive SE, Grand Rapids Tickets: $55 if purchased before June 11 at bissellblocktailparty. com; $65 after June 11, purchased at the event About: More than 800 people attended last year’s event. … Plenty of water, including a kiddie pool for dogs, and snacks are available for your well-behaved dog. … The event is held in the yard, with relief areas and plenty of clean-up bags available. … Please, no flexible leashes, and keep in mind that dogs are not allowed inside the restaurant. A volunteer will be happy to watch your dog if you need to go inside. … Was your dog adopted? Tell the volunteers at check-in and your dog will be given a special bandana to wear at the event.

VICKY’S PET CONNECTION, $27,000 Older dogs and cats present special challenges, Reinecke said, because their needs are greater and they are more difficult to place in homes. So Vicky’s Pet Connection used $15,000 of its Blocktail grant for its Golden Paws program. “We pull at-risk senior dogs out of shelters and provide them with

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Dogs Unleashed 25

cover STORY medical attention and try to get them adopted,” Reinecke said. They include dogs like Franny, a beagle taken from the Allegan County Animal Shelter and then Wishbone Rescue, who was in critical shape by the time she reached Vicky’s. Franny had extensive dental work as well as a three-inch tumor removed from her paw. “These animals are remarkable,” said Reinecke. “Most of the time they can be rehabbed into very loving family pets.” Vicky’s also takes in and adopts out about 600 cats a year, but focuses primarily on aging and special needs dogs. Vicky’s used $5,000 of its Blocktail grant for its Buddy’s Big Fix Fund, which focuses on spaying and neutering larger dogs, while $7,000 has been used for microchipping pets.

HUMANE SOCIETY OF WEST MICHIGAN, $21,600 The bulk of HSWM’s Blocktail grant has been used on adoption specials, including its Silver Paws Program for senior dogs. The remaining dollars were spent on microchipping for low-income pet owners and providing animal transfer subsidies. With an annual operating budget of $1.5 million funded primarily with grants and donations and an intake rate of about 3,500 animals per year, every dollar is critical to helping animals in West Michigan, Ender said. The oldest help agency for animals in West Michigan — the organization was founded in 1883 — it works closely with other organizations to provide homes and care for cats and dogs. “The grants fueled by funds raised at the Blocktail Party have such a

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positive impact on Humane Society of West Michigan’s mission, enabling us to improve and extend the care we provide to animals, increase the number of animal adoptions, expand opportunities, and launch new initiatives that benefit the community’s animals and pet owners,” said Ender. “The Bissell Blocktail Party is another philanthropic testimony that as a community, we are in it together — we are joined together for life-saving measures for animals in our community.” Specifically, the grant allowed the Humane Society, located in Walker, to subsidize six months of adoption specials and to provide reduced-rate vaccinations and free microchipping for low-income pet owners.

that.” Yet, the Blocktail grant allowed the shelter to increase its capacity by 8 percent to 130 cats. Other monies have been used to publicize the facility, which has resulted in more than doubling the number of adoptions per month, from an average of 7 to 19. An added bonus: Volunteer numbers also have more than doubled. “We’ve worked very hard in 2012 to alter the public perception of Crash’s Landing,” said Grant. “I believe we were perceived as difficult to adopt from — even standoffish.” Crash’s has used $7,000 of the grant to promote adoptions and community outreach and $3,000 for food and supplies.



There are plenty of behind-thescenes costs that go into helping animals, and equipment is just one of them. Carol Manos, founder of Carol’s Ferals in Grand Rapids, said the Blocktail grant was instrumental in purchasing a washer and dryer and dishwasher to help clean the bedding and dishes for the thousands of cats passing through the organization on a yearly basis. “These purchases have really helped us provide more sanitary conditions for our cats,” said Manos. Remaining Blocktail grant funds have been used for the shelter’s spay and neuter program, the top priority at Carol’s Ferals.

CRASH’S LANDING AND BIG SID’S SANCTUARY, $10,000 A cat rescue placement center in Grand Rapids, Crash’s Landing doesn’t aspire to be the biggest shelter in West Michigan. “We never set out to be the biggest shelter,” said Kimberly Grant, vice president and director of communications for Crash’s Landing. “We are more than happy and satisfied to, as the motto states, ‘help our little corner of the world, one cat at a time.’ We firmly stand by the ideal of quality over quantity and do not apologize for

Mackenzie’s takes in about 100 dogs per year but was unable to provide some of the on-site care needed to prepare them for adoption. The Blocktail grant has been used toward purchasing laboratory equipment to assist with diagnostics. “We are not able to do in-depth eye exams, run more accurate fecal samples, urinalysis, etc.,” said Jorel Davis, assistant general manager of Mackenzie’s. “This was the first step toward the future.” Davis said he’s excited about what Mackenzie’s, located in Lake Odessa, will be able to do to help homeless dogs with an on-site veterinary clinic. “We will be able to impact a greater number of deserving animals relinquished to animal control facilities, humane societies and other types of facilities that euthanize,” said Davis. “Through this, we will be able to show our community that these dogs are not to blame; given needed attention and some time, they are great companions that just need to find their forever home.”

SAFE HAVEN HUMANE SOCIETY, $5,000 Located in Ionia, Safe Haven has used its grant to create a dog-training program for people who adopt their

dogs, in addition to supporting a free spay/neuter program for female cats and their litters. Safe Haven focuses on rescuing cats and dogs from abandonment situations.

REUBEN’S ROOM CAT RESCUE, $4,000 Reuben’s has targeted its grant for helping with the needs of its senior cat population. Jeanine Buckner of Reuben’s Room is convinced that cats make a difference in senior citizens’ lives and she has focused on matching her older cats with elderly men and women. Her program is called “Worry Free Adoption for Seniors.”

BELLWETHER HARBOR, $2,050 This dog and cat shelter in Fremont has used its grant to purchase 200 Avid microchips in hopes that animals can be reunited with their owners sooner than Bonnie and Clyde, two

elderly beagles who came to the shelter in 2011. Carmen Froehle, facilities manager at Bellwether, said the elderly dogs stayed at the shelter for nearly a year when a young boy showed up after seeing photos posted online. They were the boy’s dogs, named Daisy and Gunner, and “the family was overjoyed” to get their dogs back. Had the dogs been microchipped, they would have been reunited much sooner. With the Blocktail grant, Froehle said they can now ensure

every cat and dog is microchipped before they are adopted.

MIDAMERICA BORDER COLLIE RESCUE, $1,000 MidAmerica Border Collie Rescue serves the Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Indiana areas and has used its grant to microchip its border collies before putting them up for adoption. There is no facility for the rescue. Instead, adoptable dogs are housed in foster homes.

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On and off screen, Bissell’s message comes through

hen Cathy Bissell was asked to join a meeting to discuss ideas for BISSELL Homecare television commercials, she had no idea what was coming. She sat with others in the meeting, viewing story boards and listening to various pitches. Then, she was presented with the last story board. “It was of me with our dogs,” Bissell said. “It was the commercial, basically. I started laughing.” Bissell was told that all the ideas were tested with focus groups, and the story board featuring her and her black Labrador retrievers was a hit with the focus groups. The company never had focused on its legacy of family ownership. “I told them the person in the story board was young, and they should have put wrinkles on her to make it more realistic with the focus group,” Bissell said, laughing. “I did have to think about it. And I decided I wanted to do it, for the company. I didn’t want to let people down.” The ads currently are airing nationally and can also be seen on the company’s website ( focus on BISSELL upright and portable deep cleaning machines. photo courtesy of bissell homecare, inc When it came to filming the Cathy Bissell and two of her black Labs, KC (left) and Roxy, who appeared in the TV spots. commercials, Bissell offered her own home in East Grand Rapids. It didn’t products, Cathy Bissell also is trying to DJ, 14; KC, 8; and Roxy, 6. Bill Casey take long to convince her otherwise. educate people on the joys of adopting of Los Angeles, who trains animals for “I met with the advertising agency shelter animals. She founded the commercials, was scheduled to work for because I thought it was important BISSELL Pet Foundation in 2011. five hours with Bissell’s pets. to meet me so the commercials could “We’re trying to show that adopted “After a half hour, reflect who I was,” dogs are easy, great dogs,” Bissell said. Bissell said. “We talked “We’re trying to show he said, ‘Your dogs are “We want to convey that message for perfect,’ ” Bissell said. about different things, that adopted dogs are “He really didn’t know adoption and about adoption. As much and I was saying that as we love DJ and KC, it would be what to do because easy, great dogs,” maybe they should tough to ever go back and NOT adopt they’re really great dogs. just do it at our house, — Cathy Bissell (from a shelter) when you know there He was booked for five because it has to be real. hours, but he said there’s really no point are so many dogs in need. People don’t They told me, ‘Well, if you’d like 100 realize that if they really want a good, in sticking around.” people in and out of your house and calm, gentle dog, they should look for Bissell is proud of the fact that her trucks parked all down your street, we an older dog (in a shelter). “newest” dog, Roxy, is featured most can do that.’ ” The commercials instead were shot in prominently. Roxy was adopted two “I really wanted the focus to be on a home in Chicago. Bissell insisted on Roxy for the commercials. She has been years ago by Cathy and her husband, using her own dogs, so an animal trainer Mark. with me two years, and she has been was sent to the Bissell home to meet amazing from the time she walked in.” In addition to promoting BISSELL

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akland County Family Court Judge Joan Young has seen the fear in children’s eyes associated with testifying in her courtroom. The experience is unsettling, because it may require them to be in close proximity to a person accused of physically or sexually abusing them. And no matter how much preparation they receive beforehand, being brought in as a witness still comes as a thunderclap for many kids. That’s why Young considers Amos, a trained Labrador retriever, a godsend. The 5-year-old 70-pound canine has an intuitive ability to assuage children’s courtroom dread, Young said. She allows the dog to be near the children during a bench trial. “It’s a pretty scary thing for children just to be in a courtroom,” said Young, the first judge in Michigan to allow a dog to appear in bench trials. “Amos is a wonderful dog. He’s very friendly and seems to really sense the kids need some comfort.” Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester donated Amos to the Canine Advocacy Program, founded in Novi in 2009 by Daniel Cojanu. CAP had its first case in 2010 after Cojanu decided to retire from the Oakland County prosecutor’s office, where he worked as the supervisor of victims’ services. Cojanu gradually has convinced a handful of prosecutors, assistant prosecutors and judges in Michigan that CAP dogs can have a calming effect on children, said Cojanu. Jeannie Wernet, crime victim rights coordinator for the Ionia County prosecutor’s office and handler of Patty, one of CAP’s Labrador retrievers, said the court proceedings that often rattle adults are more of a white-knuckle experience for children. “Before, it was sit there and wait, and talk about things that are probably the hardest in their lives,” said Wernet. “Patty changes that focus completely.” Some defense attorneys object to the dog in the courtroom, and Young said she is careful to weigh their concerns. “Some defense attorneys are

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photo Paul Kopenkoskey

From left, Ionia County Crime Victim Rights Coordinator Jeannie Wernet (Patty’s handler), Patty and Canine Advocacy Program founder Daniel Cojanu.

Canine Court Advocacy program allows dogs in courtroom to calm nerves of children testifying

concerned the presence of the dog may influence the way the jury views the witnesses’ testimony,” said Young. Cojanu said defense attorneys he’s met have warmed up quickly to the idea. “They would rather have a witness they can cross examine than one crying in the witness box,” he said. It was when Cojanu still worked at the prosecutor’s office that a co-worker mentioned how the Four Legged Advocate Program in Florida was using dogs to assist victims in courtroom procedures. The idea immediately struck a chord with Cojanu. For the next two years, Cojanu worked on bringing a similar program to Michigan. Since Amos, CAP has trained

nine other dogs. “My court Labs are all donated from Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Michigan,” said Cojanu. “They’re already beautifully trained. Temperament is critical. The Labs have a wonderful temperament to kids. They’re very docile, and they’ll take getting their tail stepped on. The Dobermans are the same thing. They have a wonderful personality. They have an empathy.” It’s the dogs’ empathy that has proven particularly poignant for Bay County Prosecutor Kurt Asbury. After a victim advocate in his department heard a speech Cojanu gave in September 2010, Asbury was convinced to institute the program in his county. Leader Dogs for the Blind came through by donating Dodger, a 2-year-old yellow Lab. “If we can do anything at all to help reduce that anxiety and stress, that’s good,” said Asbury. “We have actually seen how a child will react when Dodger is introduced to them. It just takes their mind off why they’re here.” Dodger lives with Asbury and his wife, but is housed in Asbury’s office during the day. “He’s the first canine advocate based out of a prosecutor’s office in the state of Michigan,” Asbury said. Dodger’s first court case was December 2011, and it involved a 9-yearold boy who was sexually assaulted by a family member for years. The Lab sat next to the shaken boy in the courtroom. A family member read a victim’s statement the boy had written during the sentencing phase of the trial. As it was read, tears started streaming down the boy’s cheeks. Asbury still remembers what happened next. “Dodger faced the little boy and licked the tears off his face,” said Asbury. “That was on the first day of Dodger’s job. He instinctively knew the little boy was emotionally reacting.” Such stories serve as fuel to Cojanu’s fire. “They are so frightened when they are sitting 20 feet from somebody who may have sexually assaulted them,” said Cojanu. “That’s difficult enough for an adult, and with a kid six or seven years of age, it’s terrifying. When you have a dog there, it’s a whole new focus. A big fuzzy dog they can pet or take for a walk alleviates so much of that anxiety.”


Yukon, a Bernese Mountain Dog, helps brighten the day for visitors of Degage Ministries.



Therapy dogs can brighten even the darkest days By PAUL R. KOPENKOSKEY

It’s a Wednesday morning and the 40 or so people waiting on Degage Ministries’ second floor to receive assistance appear a bit glum. Then, Yukon saunters into the room, and the release of emotion begins. The Bernese Mountain dog and his owner, Kathy Applegate, promptly start making the rounds with the people awaiting their turn for help at Degage, an ecumenical non-profit based in Grand Rapids’ Heartside District that provides immediate and long-term assistance to homeless and low-income people. Services include securing a bus ride, use of a locker or private shower on Degage’s premises, mailing services, finding a job, or assistance in obtaining a state ID or birth certificate.

Yukon is there to make their lives a little more pleasant just by being himself. Wearing a medium blue cape with the words “Ask to Pet Me. I am Friendly” printed on it, Yukon approaches people with his head bowed just a touch, allowing his silky fur to work its tactile magic. The response to Yukon’s presence is immediate. Smiles crease people’s faces. Laughter fills the space. Anticipated stares beam squarely on the dog. No hard sell is needed to get people to pet Yukon, who soon indicates where he’d like to be pat: on his large paws, his back, behind his ears. With one Degage patron, he rolls on his back for a receptive belly rub. This makes Aster Andererhan, 42, originally from East Africa who’s at Degage to receive help with English, laugh with delight. “I never met a dog in my life who’s so sweet and friendly,” enthuses Andererhan, while Yukon wags an appreciative tail. Applegate continues to walk Yukon around the room, interacting with people who welcome a listening ear. Some channel their frustrations, fears

WEST MICHIGAN THERAPY DOGS What: Launched in 2001, West Michigan Therapy Dogs Inc. is a volunteer-operated non-profit organization that provides the region with Animal Assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Therapy. How it works: Handler and dog teams partner with community health, education and rehabilitative services to provide emotional, physical and psychological support through a human-animal connection. AAA: Animal Assisted Activities provide educational, recreational, entertainment and social interaction with residents and patients of a facility. AAT: Animal Assisted Therapy visits are tailored to a particular person or medical condition that is generally supervised by a professional. Contact: Visit or call (616) 726-1256

May/June 2013

Dogs Unleashed 31


Yukon gets a little love in return, and a smile, from a woman at Degage.

and desires to Yukon, knowing the dog is not there to preach or judge. “What we do is bring some joy to the waiting time they have there,” said Applegate. “We give them something else to think about besides waiting for their turn to do something. They have conversations with the dogs, but it’s primarily hugging and petting. It brings smiles to people’s faces.” Applegate, a veterinarian in Standale, started volunteering with West Michigan Therapy Dogs, a non-profit founded in 2001, last year. WMTD is comprised of volunteers who fulfill a two-pronged mission of making available trained canines for Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) and Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). AAA dogs’ mission is uncomplicated: Enhance people’s lives. Trained canines like Yukon do that by simply showing up and being a friendly reprieve from the hardscrabble life homeless people face day in and day out. The AAT side of WMTD includes traveling to long-term and assisted care facilities and hospitals, nursing homes and youth centers. It also includes rehabilitation, hospice, psychiatric and mental health facilities. Dogs are tasked with assisting in improving patients’ social, emotional or cognitive functioning. 32 Dogs Unleashed

May/June 2013

“Those programs have dogs written into some type of therapy program,” said Barbara Geno, president of WMTD. “It’s where the dog is written right into a patient’s rehab program.” WMTD’s AAA outreach program includes the Holland Rescue Mission’s emergency shelter for men as well as Degage Ministries. AAA dogs undergo a six-week training period that includes acclimating them to unfamiliar surroundings, smells and noises, as well as sudden gestures people might make. “Part of it is to train us (the owners) and part of it is to make sure the dog isn’t overly sensitive to that kind of stuff and react in a wrong way,” said Applegate, who nearly every Wednesday morning either brings Yukon or her other dog, Boomer, a Labrador retriever, to Degage. Applegate’s Wednesday morning dependability has forged a loyal following of sorts for her dogs, said Bonnie Mulder, Degage’s volunteer coordinator. “Because Kathy brings a dog at a specific time, patrons come at that time just to see the dog,” said Mulder. “Many of our patrons had dogs in the past but don’t have the ability right now (to own one) because they don’t have their own place to live. For those who enjoy dogs, it’s their opportunity to interact with an animal.” “Interact” may be too clinical a

term, said Mulder. There’s a bond, a connection of sorts, that’s built. “What’s important in a pet relationship is the relationship,” said Mulder. “It’s the recognition you get from the animal. It’s very therapeutic to have the unconditional love of the pet and have the pet get some appreciation.” LuAnn DeVries’ golden retriever, Chloe, also enjoys a following when they visit an average of 15 to 30 homeless men Wednesday afternoons at the Holland Rescue Mission. “Chloe goes around and visits everyone,” said DeVries. “She knows anybody who’s new, she remembers from the time before the men who don’t care for her and if that’s the case, she’ll continue on. “For others, when Chloe walks in that room, relaxation comes across them. The men open up and start sharing things with her. They relax, it breaks up their time, and they think this is their dog.” Despite scant money in their pockets, some of the men still purchase Chloe a box of Milk Bones. It’s their way of being grateful. “They tell me what a difference she makes,” said DeVries. “It makes them feel human having Chloe there. There’s a man who comes from the train tracks once a week to get a meal who said she loves him no matter what color he is, she loves him anyway. “What a lesson for all of us.”


A Degage Ministries patron reaches out to Yukon for some unconditional love.




Austin, a first grader, reads to 12-year-old Labrador retriever Colie and Colie’s owner, Denise Griffith, at the Grand Rapids Public Library.

Telling tales to tails West Michigan Therapy Dogs lend their ears, and their love, to help children improve reading By PAUL R. KOPENKOSKEY

With a voice as soft as an angel, Liliana Wilstermann reads a book about dolphins out loud to Charlotte, an 8-year-old pit bull, who’s laying next to her. Liliana plumbs the book’s prose on why dolphins captivate people with their intelligence, chattering, ability to jump and — perhaps most important — why they always seem to be smiling. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s tail wags in a dreamy rhythm while her handler, Amanda St. Amour, strokes her ears. Liliana’s reading session is over in a matter of minutes. Did it seem odd reading to a dog? Not really, said Liliana, a second grader at Grand Rapids Christian Elementary, who also reads at home to her golden Labradoodle, Molly. “It’s kind of funny,” Liliana said.

Charlotte has been an audience of one to dozens of children since 2007, the same year she became a therapy dog, through a program called Ruff Readers. St. Amour has another pit bull, Chico, also in the same reading course. “It’s more fun to read to a dog than reading out loud in class,” said St. Amour. “It raises kids’ self confidence in reading. The kids often seem more calm when reading to a dog. A lot of times the kids will reach out and pet the dog even while reading, almost unintentionally.” Reading to a canine is not a linguistic lark. Instead, it’s part of a program West Michigan Therapy Program initially launched in conjunction with the Grandville branch of the Kent District Library in summer 2002. It since has expanded to 14 of KDL's 18

branch libraries, KDL communications manager Heidi Nagel said. Between 250 to 300 students will interact with about 60 handler/dog teams this summer. Ruff Readers also is offered at the downtown Grand Rapids Public Library and its Yankee Clipper branch, but only in the month of March. The libraries provide the books, and children register for 15-minute sessions with a dog and handler. Many of the participating libraries provide creative book marks or certificates that include the dog's name as a reward for each 15-minute completed session. Ruff Readers’ intent is to help children gain a better grasp on their reading skills by reading vocally to a sociable, non-judgmental dog who does not make fun of them if they flub a word or sentence. The reading exercise is intended to reduce the performance anxiety some children feel while reading out loud, thus boosting their confidence while gaining a better grasp of prose. Children learning English as a second language and those with autism also are enrolled in Ruff Readers. “We try to create an environment May/June 2013

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away from traffic and the busy-ness,” said Nagel. “The children usually sit on a blanket and the children pick a book and read a book to a dog. A lot like to pet a dog and the dogs are so beautiful and wonderful. They do sweet things like maybe lick the child’s hand and for some children struggling with reading, that’s a priceless opportunity for them. “Nearly everything we do with our youth programming is to instill a love of reading, of exploring, of curiosity and instilling a habit of lifelong learning. And a large way people learn is through reading.” It’s Ruff Reader’s nonjudgmental aspect that convinced Liliana’s parents to enroll her in the program. “She can use the extra reading time and the non-corrective aspect to the dog is kind of good for her,” said her father, David Wilstermann. Ruff Readers started under a different name after Kris Vogelar, the children's librarian at KDL’s Grandville branch, arranged a one-time event for kids to sign up to read to the WMTD dogs in 2002. “In 2003 we did this again but for four weeks. It was called Paws for Reading,” said Terrilynne Lymburner, WMTD’s director of education and training. “In 2004, we branched out to the Byron

Center branch with additional teams.” Paws with a Cause, a non-profit group that trains assistance dogs for people with mental and physical disabilities, had copyrights to any organization names with “Paws” in it, so the program became Ruff Readers in 2005. Dogs participating in the reading programs are not service dogs, which are trained to meet the specific needs of one person in order for that person to function daily. Therapy dogs belong to their handlers and are loving pets with specialized training to serve the needs of various populations. The dogs do a great job of representing Ruff Readers, said Kristen Krueger-Corrado, GRPL marketing and communications manager. “We know these dogs are trained and go to hospitals and other public institutions,” she said. “We’ve really not had any concerns. Most people are usually pretty excited when they see a dog in the library.” Ruff Readers’ success has caught on with school districts as well. Educators generally ply the program into a halfhour tutoring sessions in about 12 schools that geographically span from Hudsonville, Newaygo, Kalamazoo, Fremont, Greenville, Wyoming, Ada and Grand Rapids, said WMTD president Barbara Geno.

RUFF READERS Information: Visit GRPL at or KDL at, then refer to library branch or the month. To enroll or volunteer: To enroll in a Ruff Readers program or to volunteer your dog visit or call WMTD’s answering service at (616) 726-1256.

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emma fox

McDuff helps KDL readers who have it ruff Since 2004, the Kent District Library has offered Ruff Readers, a program designed to help young readers. Diane Cutler, a librarian at KDL’s Cascade branch and an active participant in the program, owns a 7-year-old West Highland white terrier who has been a registered therapy dog for five years. His name is McDuff, after the books by Rosemary Wells, and he is a Ruff Readers dog. When training to get into the program, Cutler found McDuff to be a quick learner, and he passed three obedience classes, received his Canine Good Citizen Certificate and started therapy school within eight weeks. In addition to the Ruff Readers program, McDuff visits the preschool at Cutler’s church as well as Vacation Bible School (last year he was a sheep/camel/lion). McDuff came from a breeder in Ypsilanti, Mich. He comes from a line of show champions but, because his ears tip over, he wasn’t a show quality dog. Luckily, he makes an excellent therapy dog. I recently interviewed Cutler about McDuff and the Ruff Readers program through KDL. Q: Which KDL branches host Ruff Readers?

Q: How many dogs are participating in the program?

A: 14 branches: Alto, Byron Township, Cascade Township, Comstock Park, East Grand Rapids, Englehardt, Gaines Township, Grandville, Richard L. Root (Kentwood), Krause Memorial, Plainfield, Spencer Township, Walker and Wyoming.

A: West Michigan Therapy Dogs has almost 350 members and about 30 are regular Ruff Readers.

Q: When does the program start this year? A: KDL offers Ruff Readers during Summer Reading at KDL (June through August). Q: What ages can participate? A: Ages six and up. Q: What was the inspiration for the Ruff Readers program? A: Ruff Readers is based on the READ program from the Intermountain Therapy Animals based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Q: What are the costs to participate? A: There is no cost to the library or to the kids and their families.

Q: Why do you use dogs? A: Kids love dogs, and dogs love kids. Dogs can also be really great listeners, which is important to boost the confidence of the readers. Q: What breeds of dogs are best for the program? A: All dog breeds are welcome to participate. Q: Are all of the dogs registered therapy dogs? A: Yes, because we want to provide the best experience for the readers ... and because as active, certified members of West Michigan Therapy Dogs, we have special insurance that covers us, just in case. Q: How many times per year does the program happen? A: Kent District Library offers Ruff Readers just in the summer. Other libraries or schools have the program year-round.

photos courtesy of Diane Cutler

McDuff (top photo), a West Michigan Therapy Dog member, participates in the Ruff Readers program. Above, he sits with owner Diane Cutler, a librarian with Kent District Library.

May/June 2013

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Summer Camps June - August • Ages 5 - 15

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36 Dogs Unleashed

May/June 2013


Army Spec. Farrand “Buddy” Raymond IV and girlfriend Victoria Swanson relax at home with Tank.


When Buddy Raymond returned from war, his girlfriend – and a lovable rescued pit bull named Tank – were there to greet him. By SUSAN HARRISON

By all accounts, it was love at first sight. Girl spots dog. Dog looks up, makes eye contact, thumps tail against the floor. “That one,” the girl whispers. “That’s the one for me.” Well, not really. Victoria Swanson of Whitehall was at the Pound Buddies Animal Shelter and Adoption Center in Muskegon last November as a matchmaker; an emissary of affection. The dog, the one whose tail beat out a tattoo that sounded like the pounding in her own heart, was actually for Swanson’s boyfriend — Army Spec. Farrand “Buddy” Raymond IV — a battle-worn soldier serving in

A warm and fuzzy welcome home

Afghanistan. Only 18, Swanson had this feeling ... call it instinct ... that when Raymond came home in March, he’d need the companionship of a good dog. “I didn’t want him to be alone,” Swanson said. “If I couldn’t be with him, I wanted him to have somebody. I wanted him to have a dog to love.” Months after the fact, Swanson still gets emotional when she talks about

the moment she and the perfect dog for her boyfriend first connected. What she remembers most is that he didn’t get up. He just lay there, looking at her from the back of his cage, not moving, even though his tail worked overtime. “It’s like he’d had given up, almost,” Swanson says. Swanson asked to meet him — a beautiful half-grown blue pit bull — and then she did what people do these days. She hauled out her cell phone, took a picture and e-mailed it to her beau. “I want this dog,” she told Raymond in the message. “I need this dog.” Swanson sensed the dog was living on borrowed time. A stray, the dog had been picked up two months earlier. Until Swanson came on the scene, no one else had showed any serious interest May/June 2013

Dogs Unleashed 37

in adopting him. “I fell in love with him,” she said. Her soldier, halfway around the world in the wilds of Afghanistan, wrote back as soon as he could, answering: “Me, too.” And that is the story of how Swanson came to rescue a 2-year-old pit bull nobody else wanted — and how the pit bull, whom the couple named Tank, is helping Raymond reclaim his civilian life back home in Whitehall. Just by being a dog. Always there, ready to play or go for a walk. Always there, at Raymond’s side. Always there, a 65-pound bruiser who thinks he’s a lap dog; a great big puppy who likes to take naps with Raymond, snuggling under the covers. “He has an amazing personality,” Raymond said. “Everyone who meets him loves him.”

A WIN-WIN-WIN Growing up, Raymond, 22, always had dogs. Four years ago, when he enlisted in the 1436 Army National Guard Engineering Co., headquartered in Montague, he had to give up his dog at the time. In 2011, when Raymond came home from an 11-month deployment to Iraq and Kuwait, he was lonely without


While serving in Afghanistan, Buddy Raymond used Skype to get to know Tank.

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Victoria Swanson said she “fell in love” with Tank the minute she saw him in the Pound Buddies shelter.

a dog in the house. Just nine months later, he was deployed with the 507 Engineering Battalion from Kalamazoo for a 10-month tour of duty in Afghanistan where he worked in convoy security. When he left for his second deployment in less than two years, Swanson vowed that when he came home in March, he’d have a dog waiting. A pit bull named Tank. “This is a heartwarming story, not only for Buddy, but also for the (pit bull) breed,” said Connie Karry, director of the Pound Buddies facility in Muskegon. “I love this story. It is all-encompassing ... I mean, look what (Raymond’s) done for his country, and what he’s done for this dog.” Often maligned as aggressive, pit bulls are “a wonderful breed, loving, gentle and loyal,” Karry said, “but they don’t get a chance with lots of people.” Of the 2,000 animals taken in by Pound Buddies every year, approximately 600 are euthanized. A full half of those are pit bulls, pit bull mixes or “bully breeds” — Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and American pit bull terriers. Their reputation didn’t deter matchmaker Swanson. “They’ve always been my absolute favorite dog,” Swanson said. “You can’t judge a dog by its breed. You have to get to know its personality.”

To introduce Tank and Raymond, Swanson turned to technology. She used both Skype and her cell phone so Tank would recognize Raymond’s face and voice. She posted pictures of Tank on Facebook so Raymond would know that this was one big dog waiting for him. Tank has done his duty. In the months since Raymond’s been home from war, Tank has seldom left his side. “You know, when you’re in the Army, there’s always somebody with you. You’re never alone,” Raymond said. “It’s just nice not to be alone here.”

THERAPY WITH FUR The connection between humans and their dogs is powerful; so powerful that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is using dogs as “an alternate means” of therapy or assistance for some veterans returning from war, said David R. Eling, director of the Muskegon County Department of Veterans Affairs. “Dogs and veterans are a big thing now, especially for these guys and gals coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq,” Eling said. In addition, there is a shelter-driven adoption program called Pets for Patriots that matches veterans of all wars with “last-chance” shelter animals up for adoption. What’s more, wounded veterans qualify for service dogs trained by the Paws With a Cause program. “A dog doesn’t judge you,” Eling said.

“It offers unconditional love. It doesn’t ask what’s wrong with you or why you aren’t sleeping or why you aren’t talking. It doesn’t tell you that you’ve changed. It just lays its head in your lap and loves you.” Eling said doctors and therapists report that “many veterans need less medication if they have a dog or a cat in their life.” “You know, these soldiers are used to being with their unit 24/7. They’re used to being responsible for one another, taking care of each other, and then they’re sent home, alone,” Eling said. “A dog — or a cat — can go a long way in filling that gap.” And don’t forget the benefit to the animal adopted. Karry confirmed that the “clock was ticking” for Tank at the animal shelter, “not because he wasn’t a good dog, but because ‘bullies’ are hard to place.” Had Swanson not seen Tank’s potential; had Raymond not “instantly fallen in love” with the image he saw posted on Facebook, the dog most likely would

have been euthanized, Karry said. “And look, he’s become a wonderful companion,” Karry said, preaching the gospel of what animals can do in someone’s life. “Pets are wonderful therapy for anyone going through a tough time, whether you’ve lost your husband or your job or your home, or you’re just dealing with the day-to-day worries of life,” she said. “I wish people would consider shelter animals when they think about getting a pet. They add so much to our lives.”

FAMILY BOND As for Swanson, Raymond and Tank, the future is still forming itself. Wedding bells are sounding on the horizon, although there’s nothing definite yet — except Tank will serve as their ring bearer, complete with a tuxedo, in the wedding party. A confirmed dog lover, Swanson wants to become a veterinarian technician. “If we got every animal she wanted, we’d have a zoo,” Raymond said.

POUND BUDDIES What: Pound Buddies Animal Shelter and Adoption Center Where: 1300 E. Keating, Muskegon MI 49442 Phone: (231) 724-6500 Email: Online: Visit the website at or check out their Facebook page, facebook. com/poundbuddies.muskegon

One day, Raymond and Swanson hope to buy a house with enough land to foster dogs for shelters and rescues. In the meantime, the three of them -- Raymond, Swanson and Tank -continue their love story, the one that started while Raymond was away at war. “I feel like now that I’m home, I’m a better person than I was before,” Raymond said, stroking the dog’s ears as he talked. “I definitely couldn’t have done it without them,” he adds. “There’s a lot of story here.”


May/June 2013

Dogs Unleashed 39




Jordan Carson of WOOD-TV8 poses with her Yorkshire terrier, Sammy.


Evie, a 11/2 -year-old French bulldog, has a comical personality, according to owners Libby McGehee and Rob Bond of Grand Rapids.


Golden retrievers Amber, left, and Sierra belong to Laura Orean. Sierra, 7, was adopted from Great Lakes Golden Retriever Rescue. Amber is 2 years old. Predictably, both love water!


Heather Watkowski of Grand Rapids says her 3-year-old Yorkiepoo, Bear, is a social butterfly who loves everyone he meets.


Daisy Mae, an American bulldog mix, and Sweets, a golden retriever/boxer mix, both are 6-year-olds. They’re owned by Nick and Cindy Conkle of Grand Rapids, and are great with the couple’s 6-month-old baby, Abernathy, Cindy says.


Lola, a 7-year-old pit bull, was an emaciated stray in Harlem, N.Y., who was adopted from a Manhattan shelter by Kate Pullen of New Orleans. Pullen, who grew up in Rockford, works for the ASPCA.

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 photos@



Honey, an English bulldog belonging to Eric Vorpi, takes a break during the festivities.

40 Dogs Unleashed

May/June 2013

Simone, a poodle owned by longtime animal advocates Pete and Tuti DeMaagd of Grand Rapids, hams it up for her photo.



Kelsey, Hank (the dog), Heather and Ashley Peterson pose for a shot after winning the Best Dog Costume contest.


Nani, a French bulldog, does a dance for a treat in LaughFest’s Best Dog Trick competition.





No, Sparky didn’t break out of jail, but did manage to score a prisoner costume for LaughFest.

Lily, a 2-year-old boxer, gives a hug to a fan participant who stopped to pet her.




Ron, a Bassett hound, poses with his owner during LaughFest’s costume contest.


Miracle (now Macy), gets and gives some love with 6-year-old Jensyn Wiederhold at Humane Society of West Michigan’s Paws, Claws & Corks event. Miracle, adopted by a single father whose daughter has cerebral palsy, was the star of the event.


Kerry Akred (left), Bow Wows & Brews committee member and BISSELL Blocktail Party committee member, and Kristie Swan (right), C-SNIP board president and Whiskers University dog trainer, enjoy a cocktail at HSWM’s big event.

May/June 2013

Dogs Unleashed 41

the tail end


Here’s to a Prince who lived like a king You’d think this is my story the way it is seared into my memory; that I was there. But they tell me I wasn’t even born the day my grandfather brought home a black and white border collie named Prince, a dog trained to herd the cows on the dairy farm; a working dog who knew hand signals and was well-educated in a series of commands; a dog who was going to pull its weight in the fields and barn. Now, this all came down before I was on the scene, and yet, I’ve heard the story so many times, I think it is my own. You know how it is when families get together. Favorite stories get hauled out like the best china for Thanksgiving turkey. They’re brought up over one last cup of coffee and another game of pinochle before the clock says it’s time to go home. They’re the second servings at the simplest meal; the extra icing on a birthday cake. Remember the time Grama Kay took

a broom to the bull because it snorted at her? The day Grampa Kay brought in a trailer load of corn from the field, and Grama and your mom had to can all night? And then there was the time Grama spotted some new equipment she didn’t know about on the far edge of a field, just out of view. That was the day she drove into town and bought the biggest freezer there was, and Grampa didn’t dare say a word. Hear the stories often enough, and if you’re like me, they get embedded into your DNA. You think you were there — that you actually saw your grandmother swat the bull with the kitchen broom; that you were in the barn with your grandfather, whose favorite cat, a Manx named Memow, sat on his knee while he milked the cows; that you can actually smell the wood stove working overtime to get the harvest in. Or the day Prince came to the farm. My grandfather was a practical man. Like many men of his era, he mellowed with age, but in his earlier days, I hear tell he wasn’t much for sentimentality. He didn’t cotton to lazing around. He believed that work was its own reward. His work ethic included my mother


42 Dogs Unleashed

May/June 2013

and my three uncles, the animals of the farm, and I am here to say, it was passed down to my generation, too. So it was no surprise Grampa would get a working dog. The wonder is that he’d pay money not only to get a dog, but to have it trained. But as my Grama used to say, that’s what — and if this is offensive to some, my apologies in advance — the damn fool did. The day Prince moved in, my Grampa got a big barrel, insulated it and turned it into a kennel. Then he instructed my mom and uncles; he told everyone within ear shot, that Prince was not a pet. He was not to be messed with. He was on duty. I can only imagine the awe with which that information was received. There were always dogs and cats on the farm. But to have a dog who only answered to Grampa? Incredible. No one had ever seen anything like it. The first night Prince was on the farm, it thunderstormed. After a few mighty rock-and-rolls in the sky, my grandmother turned to my three uncles and said: “Go get that dog.” They looked at her. They looked at my grandfather. Kids caught in the middle. One more look both ways, and then they skedaddled out and brought the dog in from the storm. I wasn’t there, but I hear that Prince never worked a day in his life. He had a bed behind the wood stove in the kitchen, seldom ventured into the fields because he was scared of loud noises like tractors (and thunderstorms) and never left my grandmother’s side. He didn’t need one bit of training to know he wasn’t my grandfather’s farm dog. Given one kind gesture -- a warm bed, shelter from the storm, a pat on the head -- he was my Grama’s dog, no instructions needed.

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Dogs Unleashed 43

Dogs Unleashed  

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