Your Dog

I wait behind these cold, dark walls. Staring eagerly through the bars.

Wondering what I have to do… How to align the stars?

Thurston waits patiently for his forever home at the Staten Island center of NYACC

Thurston waits patiently for his forever home at the Staten Island center of NYACC

You have your faithful dog at home: Obedient, loyal, and true.

He is your partner, defender, and friend. He is so special to you.

What makes him different? What sets him apart? Do I not deserve the same?

I could be adventurous, devoted, and smart. I could be deserving of the same name.

Moxie is a frightened lady that wants to love volunteers at the Stark County shelter in Canton OH, but doesn't know how to trust. She needs a friend.

Moxie is a frightened lady that wants to love volunteers at the Stark County shelter in Canton OH, but doesn’t know how to trust. She needs a friend.

You grant him a spot at the end of your bed, a collar with jingling tags.

He gets a good dinner, fresh water, & treats; with thanks, his happy tail wags.

You see my photo and read what I’m about, but you don’t know who I want to be.

Take a chance on my life, on my paws, on my heart. Please, take a chance on me.

Jeffey has earned himself amazing evaluations from the staff at the Brooklyn ACC in NY, proving how much he deserves a loving family.

Jeffey has earned himself amazing evaluations from the staff at the Brooklyn ACC in NY, proving how much he deserves a loving family.

I could learn to be quiet, cuddly, and calm, or brave and defensive of you.

I could be athletic and strong and compete, I’m ready to begin anew.

Nookie was displaced by Hurricane Sandy, and has spent the past 6 months living in a cage in a NY vet's office. He needs someone to show him what living is really about!

Nookie was displaced by Hurricane Sandy, and has spent the past 6 months living in a cage in a NY vet’s office. He needs someone to show him what living is really about!

Some look at me and imagine the worst: assume I’m discarded for reasons severe.

But all that I want you to understand, is that your dog could have ended up here.

Your dog that you know inside & out, could have wound up stolen or lost.

He’d find his way to a place like this. In the kennel, without thought, he’d be tossed.

This boy has displayed excellent manners during his time at the Manhattan ACC. Though he came in as a stray, he is made for life as a part of a family.

This boy has displayed excellent manners during his time at the Manhattan ACC. Though he came in as a stray, he is made for life as a part of a family.

In the chaos of the shelter, would his voice be understood?

Amid his confusion and his fear, would anyone see the good?

Without a thing that is familiar, would he still remain the same?

Would he get a fair chance, or would your dog they blame?

Naji's good looks are only the cover of an amazing book... this girl earned a wonderful rating at the Manhattan shelter in NYC.

Naji’s good looks are only the cover of an amazing book… this girl earned a wonderful rating at the Manhattan shelter in NYC.

I know that you’d do whatever it takes, to bring your pup home, safe & sound.

So why do I wait forever it seems, my fate resting on the clock in the pound?

All I am trying to convey to you is that I’m no different than the pup in your bed.

The one that runs, guards, and plays fetch… The one who gets to live instead.

This is Howard. Despite glowing volunteer recommendations, and a winning personality, as well as stellar interactions with children, cats, and dogs alike, he was put to sleep due to a lack of interested adopters.

This is Howard. Despite glowing volunteer recommendations, and a winning personality, as well as stellar interactions with children, cats, and dogs alike, he was put to sleep due to a lack of interested adopters.

Though my stay is up, my life not worth your time,

Please help the others who wait, for they have committed no crimes.

They could be brave, quick-witted, & sweet.

Play with your children & sleep at your feet.

They are just like the dog that you call your best friend.

Their lives lie in your hands, for you to defend.

Our Georgia girl. Once a shelter dog, slated for euthanasia, she has proven to be a wonderful companion and part of our family.

Our Georgia girl. Once a shelter dog, slated for euthanasia, she has proven to be a wonderful companion and part of our family.

I’ve always felt that a part of the shelter problem lies in people placing their own dogs up on pedestals. We adore our pets, and so therefore we believe that they are above all others. However, the bottom line is that so many of our dogs would not show well in shelters, and so many shelter dogs have the capacity to make amazing family pets. We need to start imagining the dogs we see in shelters as our own dogs, so that there is a higher value placed on their lives.

If any of these dogs have captured your heart, please contact me for more information about fostering or adopting: sel1490@gmail.com

Fundraiser: Prize #7 – A New Leash on Life

If you read our little blog on even a semi-regular basis, by now you should know that we are offering a super awesome fundraiser that benefits the Luzerne County Pit Bull Owners, our pittie rescue, and also gives you a chance to win really cool prizes.

LCPO is currently (like, as I type!) saving 3 lucky pups from the New York Animal Care & Control. Most of us familiar with pittie rescue know more than we would ever care to learn about what goes on inside those walls, but for those of you that don’t, let’s just say that it is about the worst place any pup could end up. Not only do they produce mass euthanasia lists every night, but rumors of neglect and abuse run rampant, not to mention the noisy chaos and cluttered disorganization that can lead to kennel stress and cage aggression.

Candice, from NYCACC. New name TBD!

Candice, from NYCACC. New name TBD!

NYC's Charlie, new name TBD

NYC’s Charlie, new name TBD

NYC's Charlie II, AKA Zeppelin!

NYC’s Charlie II, AKA Zeppelin!

Walking a dog out of the shelter, through the doors to fresh air and freedom, up into your car to nestle with cozy blankets, and eventually into your house to decompress in comfort and quiet, might just be one of the greatest things you ever do…. Not only for the dog, but also for yourself. LCPO is saving not just one, but THREE lucky dogs. While there are many loving, adoptable dogs behind those doors, the three that are coming to safety are about to have a whole new outlook on life. How cool is that?!

We all sit online each night, seeing the pathetic faces of dogs who face death while living a life behind bars. We wish we could do something about it… LCPO is one of the groups that actually DOES. Every. Single. Day. Let me be their voice, and ask for a little bit of help. Pulling three dogs at once is no easy feat, and they can use every penny we can bring them! Often when you make a donation to a non-profit, you get nothing in return, aside from the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made a difference. This time, I’m offering you a way to simultaneously give back, and also take a little. 😉

Each of the incoming LCPO dogs will be promptly outfitted with some brand-spankin’ new duds from…

 2 Hounds Design: Collar & Custom Harness/Leash Combo

The brain, beauty, and brawn behind 2 Hounds Design is Alisha Navarro, a self-proclaimed collar addict artist. 2 Hounds Design began in 2003 as a creative outlet to produce the perfect collar for her two Greyhounds, who are retired racers. She has now developed a team of people who all work long and hard to perfect the art of collar-making, here in the United States. They use only premium hardware and the finest quality fabrics. Alisha employs a hands-on approach, selecting each fabric and ribbon herself; from hand-loomed Laotian and Scalamandre silk, to French Jacquard Ribbon and Asian Silk Brocades, they produce a stunning and extensive selection of dog collars!

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What began as a way to create a special, custom-design for her own two pups hounds, turned into a dog-lover’s true life passion. Alisha considers herself lucky to be living her dream, and doing what she loves, all while providing customers with a great experience and one more way to (stylishly!) spoil their best friends. While this is how she makes her living, Alisha and 2 Hounds Design have helped to raise more than $350,000 for adoption groups all over the world. She does so much for the canine community, and makes an effort to give back in any way she can. One way that they do this is by providing donation matching. If you purchase one collar as a donation to your non-profit dog rescue group, 2 Hounds Design will match your donation for up to 3 collars!

2 Hound Designs are best known for their stunning martingale collars and matching leashes, but did you know that they also produce custom harnesses? Wiggles, Wags, and Whiskers is their sister company, which creates the harnesses you have seen on Georgia and her other LCPO friends. One of the common purchases is the Freedom Training Package, which consists of the harness and double-connection training leash. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the patented Freedom No-Pull Harness does exactly what it is designed to do, by featuring a loop on the back of the harness, which tightens gently around your dog’s chest. This discourages pulling and makes your daily walks a much more enjoyable experience!

Gia models both her 2HD cupcake collar and custom harness!

Gia models both her 2HD cupcake collar and custom harness!

To be eligible to win both a gorgeous collar and custom harness from 2 Hounds Design, you simply must make a contribution toward our fundraising efforts for LCPO, here. Minimum amount for eligibility is $10, though each increment of $10 will earn you an additional entry. Every little bit truly does help!

Enriching our Animals!

The new hot-button word in the world of dog rescue and training is ‘enrichment’. It is a tool that has so many applications and approaches, but is endlessly beneficial in the world of animal behavior.

Animal enrichment first originated in the world of laboratory animals, particularly of the primate variety. It was soon apparent that the primates housed in the laboratories needed more than just the typical food, water, and shelter to contribute to their well-being. Not only did a lack of socialization and stimulation obviously contribute to their mental and emotional decline, but these issues also appeared dramatically in their physical health. It soon became common practice to provide mental stimulation to many animals housed in laboratory settings, and researchers now even go so far as to house most primates with other animals. This realization has spread to zoos and most recently, animal shelters.

The blogger that I consider to be the ‘queen’ of doggie enrichment is essentially a hero to shelter dogs, and pit bulls to be precise. Not only is she a blogger, photographer, and foster, but she herself works in a shelter! You can learn more about Juliana and her enrichment pointers here. It is certainly worth the read, and is where I’ve learned some of the information I will share with you!

Why is enrichment so important to a dog’s well-being? A dog, or wolf, in the wild is constantly searching for food, water, and shelter. They are probably interacting with their pack. Their senses are on overload. Compare that to a dog in a small, bland ‘jail cell’ for 23.5 hours a day, in many shelters across the US, and it is easy to see why behavior issues may quickly develop. Oftentimes, these negative behaviors, such as jumping or barking, are not indicative of the dog’s true personality, but simply a product of boredom, stress, and monotony. Enrichment activities are essential to a dog’s happiness and physical health, because they allow the dog to exercise their minds and their senses, and provide an outlet for excess energy. Not only does it make the dog happy, and keep their mind healthy, but it also improves the behaviors that they display to potential adopters. Win-win-win!

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How does this apply to those of us that don’t work in shelters? Very well, in fact! Enrichment can be great for puppies, or any dogs with higher activity levels, as well as foster or adopted dogs that may be learning to adapt to a new environment.

First of all, giving a pup toys or puzzles to chew on means that what they are NOT chewing on are your shoes, couches, walls, etc. You may have heard the training tip, that if you find your pup chewing something that they should not have in their mouths, you take that object away, and replace it with something more appropriate. While that is great advice, and a good example of positive reinforcement, what would be even better is to prevent that behavior before it starts! One way I approach training with my dogs is by not giving them an opportunity to make bad decisions. If, for example, your rescue puppy is working on a toy or puzzle, they are not going to be interested in going for Dad’s brand new, $400, insulated, steel-toe work boots. 😉 Not that we speak from experience, or anything.

Georgia already has a bone to pick...

Georgia already has a bone to pick…

Another great benefit to enrichment, is that it actually serves to tucker out your dog! Believe it or not, a great session with a puzzle oftentimes serves to make our pups just as tired as a long hike on the farm! Their brains are so busy concentrating on just how to destroy or discover or dismantle their toys. One of Juliana’s foster dogs stated it perfectly when he explained that he will, “lie there for hours, meticulously ripping and pulling at my toys, planning exactly which piece of string to pick apart next. I work really hard to be the best Captain Destructo I can be.” In most cases, once the puzzle is complete, your pup will pass out on the spot from the shear mental exhaustion!

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Now that we know about some of the applications of enrichment, what are some ways we can provide it to our dogs? Well, from the most basic of standpoints, a simple toy that your dog wants to chew on can be enrichment. The way they tear at it provides an outlet for their energy. But for dogs that have not been exposed to toys very much, or for dogs in a more stressful environment such as a shelter, we need to find more high-value benefits. In addition, heading to your local pet store and buying toys that you know your dog is just going to destroy, can really add up! Especially on the budget of a shelter or rescue. Therefore, we get creative.

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One common form of enrichment is frozen kongs. Kongs can be stuffed with anything; vegetables, fruits, peanut butter, meat, dog food (wet or dry!), cheese, or just about anything else! What is most important is that it is stuffed in tightly, and that there is a good ratio of liquid to solid, so that the contents will freeze inside. It helps to place a little bit of peanut butter around the openings, to lead the dog into the interior contents, and then place in the freezer for at least a few hours. Some shelters will use pvc pipes with various sized holes, in place of the kongs. Just a cheaper option! A simple google search for kong ‘recipes’ can give you some creative stuffing suggestions.

"Ok now Foster Dad, heavy on the cheese, light on those crunchy orange carrot thingies."

“Ok now Foster Dad, heavy on the cheese, light on those crunchy orange carrot thingies.”

A fun summer-time enrichment for dogs is to fill a bucket with hard toys, like nylabones, treats, etc. This bucket can then be filled with water, and frozen. Talk about a puppy popsicle!! A cold weather version of this game can be to stuff a bucket VERY tightly with various toys, ranging in size, shape, and texture. It can be a fun game for your dogs to work on pulling the toys from the bucket. This game can occupy hours of your dog’s time and energy, because each toy they pull from the bucket will require a good chew or sniff!

Some pet stores are getting on board with enrichment activities, and providing puzzles for your dog. You may remember that I told you yesterday about a fun outdoor toy that our dogs ADORE. It is the only toy that hasn’t resulted in boredom or complete destruction! It is a large plastic ball, with holes, and a smaller plastic ball inside. It is just the right size for two dogs to play tug-of-war, but also allows the dogs to spend hours trying to free the inside ball from the trap! You can find it here.

Gaige playing with their Paw-zzle ball.

Gaige playing with their Paw-zzle ball.

Another great pet store find was actually a gift to the pups from my own mom! It is a three-tiered star, with pockets for treats or dog food. A dog has to figure out how to move the star around with their paws or nose, in order to gobble up the treats! Not only is it an enrichment activity, but it also helps with a dog who eats their food too quickly. To learn more, it is sold here, but there are many variations in most pet stores.

Georgia working hard for her dinner!

Georgia working hard for her dinner!

(It is important to remember that when it comes to food-based enrichment, we don’t want to be adding unnecessary calories to our dog’s diet! Unless your dog is underweight, be sure to decrease the size of their meals, in relation to the amount of food they’ve received from their kongs or other food-related puzzles.)

Enrichment is one of the greatest ways to stimulate our dogs, and exercise their minds. Not only that, but it can be a wonderful way for our dogs to bond with us, and feel more comfortable in their environment. What enrichment activities have you tried with your pets? Which ones have worked for you, and which haven’t? We’d love to hear your ideas!