The Sergei Foundation


The Animal Rescue Site

B-more Dog


Pinups for Pitbulls



Mid Atlantic Pug Rescue

Our Pack, Inc.

Maine Coonhound Rescue

Saving Shelter Pets, Inc.


LD Logo Color

Tag: disabilities

How many ways can we say helper?


Ahhh, words. They can be almost as fun to play with as dogs — and that’s just the beginning of what words and dogs have in common.

Words, like dogs, can be used to befriend, repel or attack, depending on the person behind them. Both can inform us, frustrate us, console, entertain and enthrall us. Words, like dogs, can bite or soothe. Both need to be used responsibly.

And, given we humans created both of them, it is up to us to safeguard them and, once in a while, stand up for them — as in, for example, when they are being abused.

Generally, both words and dogs are at their best when they are unrestrained.

And yet sometimes they need to be restrained.

And yet too much restraint can make them dull and lifeless, sucking out all their natural spirit and joy.

It’s not this week’s presidential debate that’s sending me off on this wordy tangent. It’s the word “facility,” and the growing use of the term “facility dog.”

In a post last week, I lauded the University of Southern California’s decision to add a “facility dog” to the staff of its student health center — but I poked a little fun at the term.

“Facility dog” is a cold, undescriptive and institutional-sounding label, in my view, that just doesn’t go with the goldendoodle’s playful given name, Professor Beauregard Tirebiter.

Beauregard is trained as a therapy dog. Calling him a “facility dog” — no matter the reason behind it — disguises that fact. Words are supposed to clarify, not obfuscate.

I don’t like the idea of labeling a dog based on the building in which he works, as opposed to the noble work he is doing.

But, most of all, I just don’t like the word “facility.”

USC didn’t come up with the term “facility dog;” it is being used increasingly to describe a dog — generally a therapy dog — that is based in a particular hospital, nursing home, school, prison, mental institution or other … well, facility.

emotionalIn journalism school, I was taught not to use the word “facility,” because its meaning is so vague and the mere sight of it tends to put people to sleep.

But it’s also, in its vagueness, a safe word — the kind bureaucracies like, not just for their political correctness, but because it lets them avoid plain talk, clarity and specificity.

“Facility dog is an official certification as designated by Canine Angels Service Teams,” reads a comment sent into ohmidog! from someone at USC’s health center, in response to the post.

“While his credential is ‘Facility Dog,’ the University of Southern California has given him the title ‘Wellness Dog’ as his intended purpose is to enhance the wellness of students on campus.

“He does not work in a therapy/counseling setting, but rather as a staff member in the Office for Wellness and Health Promotion. As such, he is not a pet and does not violate the USC policy referenced in the article.”

(I pointed out in my post that USC has a no-pets policy, only to suggest that maybe it’s time — given all dogs do for us, given “wellness” should be achieved campus-wide as opposed to just at the Student Health Center, given all dogs, in a way, are “wellness dogs” — to give those antiquated rules another look.)

I almost hate to say it, but I’m not too keen on “wellness dog,” either. It, too, is vague and touchy-feely and fails to describe the work Beau is doing.

But it’s a little better than “facility dog.”

“Facility dog” makes it sound like Beau is manning the boilers. “Wellness dog” makes it sound like he’s dispensing medication, taking blood pressure and giving nutritional advice.

Google the term “wellness dog” now and you get links mostly to the dog food that uses that name, or pet insurance companies only to happy to provide your dog a “wellness plan.”

But “wellness dog” will surely join the ranks of terms used to describe dogs that are trained to help us humans cope.

There are already enough of those terms to thoroughly confuse the public —
service dogs, assistance dogs, therapy dogs, emotional support dogs, comfort dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs and seizure dogs — and my personal favorite “companion animal.”

“Companion animal” is what we used to call a pet. As in:

“Hi, I’m John and this is my dog, Bowser. Do you mind if we use the facilities?”

“You are welcome here, just make sure your companion animal uses the fecal matter containment system.”

“You mean a poop bag?”

“We try not to use that term.”

The surplus of terminology for dogs who help us is first and foremost a reflection of just how incredibly much dogs help us — with disabilities, with illnesses that range from diabetes to epilepsy to PTSD, and with all the other obstacles, fears and anxieties that get in our way.

Those distinctions become important because different dogs, depending on their label, have different rights.

service-dog1Under the legal definition, service dogs are those trained to perform tasks for an individual with a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or mental disability.

A service animal is entitled to accompany that person anywhere members of the public are allowed.

Emotional support dogs, comfort dogs and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Assistance dog” is a catch all term to describe them all, and is not a legal category.

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need all those distinctions — and any dog that is helping a person cope would be allowed to accompany that human to a restaurant, workplace, etc.

But, in an ideal world, the word “facility” wouldn’t exist, either.

Canine Angels, the outfit that provided Beauregard to the university, says on its website that it trains and provides service dogs, “social dogs” and “facility dogs.”

It defines facility dogs as those that “are placed with teachers and health care/rehabilitation professionals whose clients/students can benefit from the therapeutic qualities that a well-trained dog can offer. These dogs can provide emotional and unconditional support and can be used by their handlers to motivate and reward clients/students. Facility Dogs live with their handlers and are only allowed public access to the specific facility at which their handler is employed.”

Sometimes, those handlers are called … wait for it … facilitators.

I doubt that there is any significant difference between what a therapy dog is trained to do and what a facility dog is trained to do. Similarly, I’d go out on a limb and say a “wellness dog” and a therapy dog likely receive identical training.

Therapy dog is a perfectly fine term, and there’s no need to put a mask on it.

When a university decides it wants to have a writer on campus, allowing him or her to pursue their mission while their brilliance rubs off on the student body, they call him or her “writer-in-residence,” not “facility writer.”

Dogs deserve at least that much respect.

Is the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest getting too ugly?


A Chinese Crested-Chihuahua mix with malformed legs and an “oozing sore” won this year’s World’s Ugliest Dog contest.

SweePee Rambo took home the title Friday night at the annual Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, beating out 15 other malformed and/or offbeat pooches, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported Saturday.

wurtzJudges in the contest, now in its 28th year, take into account bad appearance, bad odors, poor complexion and a host of other maladies, inherited and acquired — some of which, maybe, we shouldn’t be laughing so hard at.

Or even with.

I’ve already noted my growing dicontent with the contest, starting two years ago, when the winner was a dog whose appearance was believed to be a result of abuse — albeit abuse inflicted by a previous owner.

That — and the fact that the once-cute and well-intentioned little contest has become big business — led me to stop regularly reporting on it, at least in that cutesy manner that chuckling anchorpeople cover it with year after year.

Somehow the party atmosphere at the event — all the pageantry and hype — seems especially wrong when the appearance of some of the contestants is a result of being horribly mistreated at the hands of man.

There’s no evidence that SweePee — who is mostly hairless, blind in both eyes, has to wear diapers and has a tongue that sticks out — was mistreated. Still, I’m not sure an oozing sore should be celebrated:

“Judge Neal Gottlieb seemed particularly impressed with a sore on SweePee’s leg, noting dogs get extra points for ooze,” the Press Democrat article said.

I get what the contest was, originally, all about. But I also get what it has become, which is a little too big, a little too cut-throat and a little too prone to bestowing awards on the most disabled dog.

Owner Jason Wurtz, 44, of Encino, won a trophy and $15,000. He says he will use the money to pay for the removal of a tumor that recently popped up on SweePee’s gum line.

(Top photo by Peter Dasilva / EPA; bottom photo by Alvin Jornada / Press Democrat)

Owners surrender dog at Florida shelter, then take her wheelchair home with them

angieWhen I hear about someone surrendering their dog at an animal shelter, I do my best — though it’s not always easy — to withhold judgment.

Maybe that person or family is facing some hard economic times. Maybe the dog has become ill and getting him or her health care is beyond their means. Maybe they themselves have become unable to care for the dog.

I try, especially when details of the situation are scant, to give those humans the benefit of the doubt.

But I’m having an especially hard time withholding judgment on the Florida dog owners who surrendered their paralyzed 2-year-old cocker spaniel Sunday to Miami-Dade Animal Services, because — before leaving the shelter — they asked for the dog’s wheelchair back.

The owners said the dog, named Angie, had lost the use of her hind legs about two weeks earlier. They took her to a veterinarian, who prescribed oral medication and recommended further diagnostic procedures for the dog.

The owners said they were unable to afford the tests and decided to surrender Angie.

Then — for reasons I can only guess at — they said that, while they were leaving their dog there, they wanted Angie’s wheelchair back.

Perhaps it was a rental. Perhaps they had another dog back home that needed it. Perhaps some agency had provided it to them on a temporary basis.

I hope one of those is true, and that they aren’t trying to sell the device on eBay. That — dropping off their dog but taking home that dog’s only means of getting around, in hopes of making some profit — would lead me lose a bit of faith in my fellow man.

On a happier note, Angie’s plight quickly became a cause on social media, and she was scheduled to be sent from the shelter to a sanctuary yesterday.

As a new resident of Lovey Loaves, an animal sanctuary in Orlando, Angie will receive a new set of wheels and be whisked to Chickasaw Trail Animal Hospital, where her condition will be reviewed.

“We have had luck with past rescues in our care improving some or completely reversing paralysis using acupuncture, laser therapy, hydrotherapy, HBOT, etc… but it just depends on many factors, so we’ll have to see,” Lovey Loaves posted on its Facebook page.

“Even if she will not recover from her paralysis we know that she can still lead an extraordinary quality of life,” the post continued. “Were surrounded by wheelie dogs everyday (four in our own home!) We’ll get her a new set of wheels (we like Eddie’s Wheels for Pets) custom fit to her precise needs and measurements, and then she’ll roll with the best of them. Many many MANY folks offered to buy her a new set of wheels.”

The organization reported that it has already received enough donations to get the wheels, but contributions can still be made for Angie’s care.

“The Present”

This animated short was shown at more than 180 film festivals and won more than 50 awards in the two years after its release in 2014.

Now the makers of “The Present” have posted it on Vimeo for all the world to see.

Jacob Frey and Markus Kranzler were students at the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg in Ludwigsburg, Germany, when they worked on the film together.

“Kangaroo dog” draws crowds in Peru

A dog born without her front legs has learned to get around by hopping on her rear ones like a kangaroo — and she’s becoming a bit of a tourist attraction in Peru.

Estrella was abandoned on the street as a puppy, but taken in when she was six months old by a couple that runs an animal shelter in the small town of Tinga Maria, according to Reuters.

While many have asked to adopt her, Ivan Escobar and his wife Elva Carhuaz, who operate the shelter, say they plan to keep her.

The dog’s presence has led to an increase in visitors to the shelter, and more donations to help care for her and other dogs.

Elva Carhuaz said Estrella helps increase awareness about stray dogs and about dogs with disabilities.

See Daisy run

A Chihuaua mix named Daisy is running as she has never run before — thanks to some blade-like prosthetics.

Abandoned on the streets of Los Angeles when she was two months old, Daisy had congenital deformation of her elbows, right shoulder, and back hips, making it difficult for her to walk, and impossible for her to run.

She was set to be euthanized at a local shelter when A Home 4Ever Rescue pulled her out.

daisySeveral months later, she found her forever home with Sheena and Christian Main of Los Angeles.

For years, she used a a set of wheels to move around, but that put too much pressure on her spine. She has been using the blades, designed by Animal Ortho Care in Chantilly, Virginia, since August.

Daisy, now 5 years old, has her own website, as well as Facebook and Instagram pages.

(Photo: From Daisy’s Facebook page)

Great Dane helps girl find her balance

Fifth grader Bella Burton has gained both confidence and mobility since a service dog came into her life last year — a dog that outweighs her three to one.

George, a Great Dane who tips the scales at 131, was paired with Bella through the Service Dog Project, an Ipswich, Mass.-based non-profit organization that trains and matches Great Danes with people who have mobility and balance limitations.

Bella, who turned 11 last week, has a rare genetic disorder called Morquio Syndrome, or Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS) IV.

“She used to pretty much be confined to a wheelchair or have to use crutches to get around, but with George, she’s become so much stronger and active,” said Bella’s mom, Rachel.

Since George loped into the picture late last year Bella has gone from dreading school to enjoying it.

“I couldn’t play on the playground, and I had to use crutches when I was at home,” Bella said. “Now, I’m running outside and I love to go to school.”

Bella and George were featured on ABC News last week.

Next month, George will be honored by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as one of five dogs to receive the Award for Canine Excellence, at the AKC’s national championships in Orlando, Fla.

The Burtons spent about a year trying to find Bella the right balance support dog. Once Bella met George, the two bonded almost immediately.

Last October George started staying with the Burtons on weekends. By January, George was permanently placed with the Burtons, who have two other non-service dogs.

Bella and family plan to donate the $1,000 cash prize from the AKC to the Service Dog Project.

“Between the training and adoption fees, it probably costs around $20,000,” Rachel said. “They didn’t want a dime when they placed George with us.”