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Tag: families

Comfort dogs arriving in Orlando

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As they did after the Boston Marathon bombing, the Sandy Hook school shootings and the Charleston church massacre, comfort dogs are headed to the scene of an American tragedy — this time, the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history.

About a dozen dogs from seven states were headed to Orlando yesterday to provide comfort and encouragement to the relatives of the dead, surviving victims, their families, first responders and a stunned community.

Forty-nine people were killed and 53 were injured when what authorities are describing as a “home grown extremist” opened fire inside the crowded Pulse nightclub with a semi-automatic weapon.

Lutheran Church Charities, which began its comfort dog program in 2008, said a dozen dogs and 20 volunteers arrived in Orlando yesterday, where they will work with local hospitals and churches.

“They help people relax and calm down,” Tim Hetzner, president of the LCC Comfort Dogs, told ABC News.

“Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable, and people end up talking,” Hetzner said. “They’re good listeners, they’re non-judgmental, they’re confidential.”

The program has more than 100 dogs in 23 states.

Yesterday, many of them, along with handlers and volunteers, sprang into action.

gracieGracie, a 5-year-old golden retriever in Davenport, Iowa, who was little more than a pup when she went to the Sandy Hook shootings that killed 26 in Newtown, Connecticut, was aboard a flight to Orlando out of Chicago.

“Her purpose is to share love and compassion with those who are suffering,” Jane Marsh-Johnson, one of Gracie’s handlers, told News 10.

“The dogs do more for those suffering than human beings can do.”

Sasha, a 19-month-old golden retriever left Hilton Head Island with her handlers, Brenda and Phil Burden. It was Sasha’s first comfort mission, though the Burdens brought comfort dogs to Oregon last year after a gunman killed nine people at Umpqua Community College.

The Burdens told the Island Packet they will likely visit with the first responders who are dealing with the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in American history.

Other dogs were responding from Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Nebraska and Texas.

While in Orlando, they will be based in Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Orlando.

Travel for the dogs and volunteers is funded by donations.

(Photos: At top, a comfort dog at Sandy Hook, by Allison Joyce / New York Daily News; below, Gracie, a comfort dog from Iowa / Lutheran Church Charities)

Coming out of the (walk-in) closet

There’s something I need to tell you, and I hope it doesn’t lower your opinion of me. On top of coffee and cigarettes, I now sport a third addiction: HGTV.

About three weeks into my stay in the mansion basement, I realized I had access to more than just the handful of channels I was getting on my small TV – that simply by reprogramming the remote I could get more than 100. Three weeks after that new horizon opened up, there is only on channel number I have memorized, the one for HGTV. (It’s 69 on my dial.)

When I’m eating lunch, when there’s a lull in my day, when I need to step away from the keyboard and let my carpal tunnels reopen, I tune in Home and Garden Television and watch designers upgrade homeowner’s kitchens, or install a media-filled “man cave” in the basement, or turn a bedroom — from blah to ahhhh, from drab to fab — into a serene and spa-like paradise.

At the end, the homeowners get to see the transformation and say “ohmigod” a lot.

In other HGTV programming, shows follow people — young couples usually — as they search for a new home altogether, viewing three homes and then making their choice.

The part of it I like, when it comes to the design shows, is watching a project from conception to fruition, with, of course, the final touch of colorful accessories that really make the whole thing “pop.” It appeals to the Virgo, or something, in me. With the househunting shows, I like guessing which house the couple will pick (I get it right every single time), and predicting how long the marriage is going to last.

(When you can’t agree — or at least rationally discuss — something as simple as hardwood floors versus Mexican tile, your union’s days are numbered.)

Each episode of “Househunters” ends with a visit, a few months later, to the couple in their new home, into which they have comfortably settled and fixed those things they found most intolerable — whether it be wallpaper that is “too busy” or the devastating lack (it’s a cruel, cruel world) of granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

Then – and this explains a lot of why I’m hooked – as soon as one episode ends, another begins, with no commercial break … “Tom and Nancy have outgrown their modest home in Modesto, and, with another baby on the way, need someplace larger, with a large master bedroom, an en-suite bathroom and a fenced yard for their dachschund, Scooter.”

That’s all it takes. Based on that simple plot introduction — and my need to see the tidy outcome — I’m in for another 30 minutes.

Why every station doesn’t do the no-commercials-between-episodes thing – it’s sort of the TV viewer equivalent of chain smoking — is beyond me.

I think another part of the HGTV addiction – in addition to having crushes on at least two of the designers (Howyadoin’, Genevieve?) — is that the urge to nest is growing stronger in me, after nearly a year traveling the country with my dog, living out of suitcases and staying in too many Motel 6’s.

I don’t know if urge to nest is making me watch HGTV, or if HGTV is adding to my urge to nest, but I definitely have an increasing desire to have a box of my own, put my stuff in it, make it functional and decorate it with some colorful accessories that really make it pop.

There is a third factor, I think, to the addiction. Watching HGTV makes me mad, and we, for some reason, like to watch people who make us mad  — hence the success of shows like Survivor, and The Apprentice, and all those “real” housewives with artificial parts, not to mention sensitive bachelors willing to probe the souls of multiple women in search of their true lifemate.

On “Househunters,” there can be a perfectly cute and loveable young couple — the kind I could be friends with — that I instantly start hating the moment one of them turns up their nose at a laminate wood floor, or a stove and refrigerator that are, gasp, white. They seem convinced they can’t find true happiness without granite countertops.

The wealthier and pickier they are, the more I hate them, and want to send them to go work for the Peace Corps for a couple of years.

I find myself getting infuriated even more by “Househunters International” where homebuyers, usually seeking a second home, say, in the south of France, are forced to confront the bitter reality that there is only one walk-in closet, or that the ocean view from the Mexican villa they are looking at is slightly blocked by a palm tree.

Part of it, I’m sure, is jealousy — the fact that my financial situation for the moment precludes stainless steel appliances, the fact that a commodities broker, whatever the heck that is, can afford a $2.3 million second home while I can barely afford a commode.

Then again, maybe these people aren’t so greedy, and this is just another stereotype that HGTV, by taking things out of context, is reinforcing — that of the spoiled rotten gimme generation.

For sure, HGTV reinforces gender stereotypes. With every househunting couple, the woman demands walk-in closets and, generally, jokes about maybe giving her husband a little space in it. Just as the female needs closet space, the male needs a man cave, where he can watch sports on a large flat screen TV, play video games, have the boys over for poker and otherwise avoid the wife, who’s probably out buying shoes anyway.

Just once I’d like to see a man who wants a space to work on his scrapbooking, or a woman who’s interested in a barbecue pit.

My final objection to HGTV — though, of course, I don’t object enough to change the channel — is grammatical in nature.

It’s the use of the term “price point.”

I don’t know if HGTV invented this term, or if it’s something real estate agents came up with to make their jobs seem multi-faceted and complex, as opposed to something a monkey could do. For centuries, the word “price” worked just fine. Now, we have “price point,” as in “You’re not going to find anything else like this at this price point.” Or, “granite countertops are rare at this price point.”

I don’t think just cutting back on HGTV will work for me. I think the only solution is clean and total break (sorry, Genevieve) — a moratorium on HGTV. Like onion dip and coffee, it seems I can’t be happy with just a little of it. Instead, it makes me — much like the stainless-steel-appliance-seeking homebuyers — want more: More episodes, more closet space, more upscale home furnishings, and of course more colorful accessories that will really make things pop.

Evacuating Japan: Will pets be left behind?

Will families of American military personnel in Japan be forced to leave their pets behind when they evacuate?

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is seeking the anwer to that question.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the non-profit organization asks for a clarification of the U.S. government’s policy on whether or not military families can bring their pets with them — or must be forced to choose between staying in harm’s way and abandoning a beloved companion.

Family members of military personnel stationed in Japan began evacuating today amid the increasing threat of radioactivity in the wake of last week’s earthquake and tsunami.

ALDF says it has received desperate emails from some of them, who say they’ve been informed pets will not be allowed on evacuation planes chartered by the U.S. Department of State.

“In a context of terrifying natural and nuclear disasters, with military personnel and their families already being separated from each other, we would hope that the U.S. government would not place an additional burden on military families by disregarding the very real bonds they have with their animal companions” said Carter Dillard, ALDF’s director of litigation.

“It is our hope that the tragedy of people forced to abandon beloved pets in order to evacuate to safety, which we saw play out on a heartbreaking scale during Hurricane Katrina, is not replicated during the current crisis in Japan.”

ALDF says it has heard from numerous families who say they are hesitant to evacuate from the escalating radiation danger if they are required to leave their pets behind.

Some families have turned to Facebook for help, including Mariaelena Rodriguez Geoffray, shown above with her dog, Bella. Seeking a commercial flight, she has been told by two airlines that temperatures are too cold to fly a pet.

Her dilemma is recounted on the blog Two Little Cavaliers.

There are about 43,000 dependents of American military personnel living in Japan.

A dog once dragged now helps others


A dog who was dragged behind a car in Kentucky seven years ago now helps people who are dealing with an illness in their family.

Roadie, an 8-year-old beagle and a certified therapy dog, greets guests at the Hospital Hospitality House of Lexington, WKYT-TV reports. The facility provides temporary overnight accommodations to family and friends of patients in Lexington area hospitals.

“Everybody loves Roadie,” said Hospital Hospitality House Executive Director Lynn Morgan. “Roadie knows people very well and she knows how to make them feel comfortable.”

In July of 2004, the beagle was dragged on the street behind a car in Pulaski County, losing an eye and nearly her life. Dennis Wayne Fitzpatrick, of Somerset, pled guilty to cruelty to animals and was fined

After the accident, volunteers at Hospitality House put in an application to adopt her. Morgan said that initially he wasn’t sure the house was the place for a dog.

“To my surprise I was wrong, it was a very good place for a therapy dog. Roadie has been a companion and a caring counselor to our guests,” he said. “She is so much like the people who stay with us — she’s been through a very difficult medical situation and she survived it.”

“Through a Dog’s Eyes” re-airs tonight

PBS will be showing an encore presentation tonight of “Through a Dog’s Eyes,” a documentary that followed four families on their journey to receiving a service dog.

The program, which highlights the non-profit service dog organization Canine Assistants, originally aired April 21.

It can be seen tonight — Wednesday — at 8 p.m. (eastern), 7 p.m. (central).

More Americans buying holiday gifts for pets

holidaydogMost Americans say they plan to spend less for holiday gifts this year, but a new poll indicates the family dog is even more likely than last year to find something under the tree.

Sixty percent of dog owners — more women than men — plan to buy their pooch a holiday gift, according to an Associated Press-Petside.com poll.  About 40 percent of cat owners planned on shopping for their pet for the holidays, the poll said.

All in all, 52 percent of pet owners plan to buy their animals a holiday gift — up from 43 percent last year.

The increase in pet gifts comes despite the fact that 93 percent of Americans say they plan to reign in spending on gifts this season, according to a separate AP poll.

According to the AP-Petside.com poll, 62 percent of female owners said they would probably buy their pet a gift, while just 40 percent of the men said they would.

Left behind: List of casualties grows

One hadn’t eaten in a month. The other had a skin infection so severe one of her ears was swollen more than twice its size with blood.

Both ended up at the Animal Medical and Surgical Center in North Scottsdale after being found abandoned — two more dogs in the continuing parade of pets being left behind by families foreclosed upon, evicted or simply thoughtless.

The two dogs were brought in within days of each other, Channel 15 News in Phoenix reported.

Veterinarian Sheila Martin said one of the dogs had not eaten in about a month and was infested with thousands of ticks. The dog’s owners left her behind when they moved out of their El Mirage home a month ago.

El Mirage Police are looking into filing charges against the dog’s owner.

Earlier this week, a second dog was brought into the Animal Medical and Surgical Center. She too had been abandoned by her owner. Martin said it will take about three months for her to recover from a skin disease that caused most of her hair to fall out.

The Lost Our Home Pet Foundation, a group that rescues pets left behind due to foreclosures or other financial hardships, is paying for the dogs’ care.

In the past three weeks, the group has seen three pets so badly neglected the animals have needed hospital care, said Jodi Polanski, president of the foundation,

“You keep thinking you see a bad case and then you have another one come right after that.”