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Tag: fundraising

Please help my sick, dying, fat, abused dog

obiethen

It’s no secret that a sad dog story, properly promoted on social media, can bring in some pretty huge donations — for an animal shelter, a rescue organization, or an individual.

Whether your dog needs life-saving surgery, or even an intense diet regimen, you don’t have to be a nonprofit organization to ask the public for help — and you shouldn’t have to be.

But with the rise of social media, and online fundraising tools like GoFundMe, IndieGogo, and all those other I-would-like- some-of-your-money-please websites, there are likely more bucks than ever before being donated directly to individual dogs in need.

With all that unmonitored money pouring in, what ensures that it’s going to the rightful place — namely, helping the dog in question? What ensures any surplus won’t end up going to the dog owner’s kitchen remodel? What’s to guarantee that the sad dog story is even true in the first place?

In a word, nothing.

Just as the Internet has made us all published journalists, photographers and autobiographers, it has given us an easy route to becoming professional fund-raisers.

What gets lost in that transition is knowing who we can trust.

We can only cross our fingers and hope that those engaging in outright fraud get caught, that those soliciting funds to help a dog don’t get too greedy, and that money sent in by good-hearted people seeking to help a dog actually goes to helping a dog.

It’s a fuzzy area — legally and morally. What accounting, if any, does a private citizen raising money to help a dog owe those who contribute?

In Oregon, at least, the answer seems to be some, at least in the view of the state  Attorney General’s Office.

Since January, the office’s charitable activities section has been looking into how Nora Vanatta spent, and is spending, all the money sent in to help Obie — the 77-pound dachshund she adopted and whose weight loss program became a much-followed story.

obienowVanatta, a veterinary technician who lives in Portland, never purported to be affiliated with a nonprofit, but she did seek and accept thousands of dollars from people around the world who were inspired by Obie’s story.

Vanatta initially fostered Obie, after reading about him on the Facebook page of Oregon Dachshund Rescue.

After Obie’s story went viral, the rescue sought to get the dog back, and filed a lawsuit. The case was later settled, and Vanatta was awarded permanent custody. (Obie is down to 22 pounds.)

Meanwhile, money — Vanatta won’t say how much — continued to come in, $15,000 of which Vanatta says was spent on lawyers she hired to fight the custody battle. Some of it went to pay for $80 bags of specialty food Obie required, and a $1,500 skin-reduction surgery.

Since January, Vanatta has been answering questions from the Attorney General’s office, which began looking into the matter after receiving complaints about how she was spending the funds, and is now in the process of working out an agreement with her.

“They wanted everything – copies of every penny in, every penny out,” she told the Oregonian.

The Attorney General’s office won’t identify the source of the complaint, and it says no wrongdoing was found in how Vanatta has spent the funds so far. (Apparently, nobody in that office full of lawyers had any problem with all the money that went to lawyers.)

But the office does disagree with how she plans to spend the rest. (Obie’s PayPal account was closed last year.)

Vanatta says the office objects to her using the money to help individual  dogs with medical needs, which is maybe a little ironic given the money was raised to help an individual dog with medical needs. The Attorney General’s office frowned upon her giving $2,000 to a family she met at the Tualatin veterinary clinic where she works to help them pay for their dog’s back surgery. Instead, the office wants her to give the money away to established nonprofits, and wants to set a deadline.

The case raises lots of interesting questions, and some disturbing ones.

We’re all for the attorney general keeping an eye on such fundraising drives; slightly less for that office dictating what good causes should receive the remainder of the money, and when.

We agree with Vanatta’s reasoning on that: “I strongly believe you do not have to be a nonprofit to do good,” she said.

What bothers us most, though, next  to Obie’s previous owners letting him get so morbidly obese, is how much of the money donated has gone to lawyers — $15,000 on the custody case, another $11,800 for lawyers to represent Vanatta in the attorney general’s investigation.

Obie may be becoming a slimmer dog, thanks in part to donations from the public, but, as always, lawyers — gobbling up the bulk of the donations — just keep getting fatter.

Hopeless dogs? Think again

There are plenty of rescue groups that likely do as good a job saving, rehabilitating and re-homing stray dogs as Hope For Paws.

But there is probably none better than that Los Angeles-based non-profit at documenting what they do on video.

Above is their latest rescue video — that of a pit bull, since named Bunny,  found abandoned on some government property. Shy, skittish and — even we’d admit — looking a little intimidating, she was lured in with hamburgers and trapped in a crate.

Not until she’s transported to safety and let out of the crate do we get the answer to the question that — in addition to the beautiful camera work — keeps us watching: How is she going to react, close up, with a member of the species that treated her so rudely?

Therein lies the beauty of the Hope For Paws videos, and the beauty of dogs.

Bunny, who apparently experienced little kindness in life — with the exception of one good Samaritan who would drop her off some food while she was living in the wild — doesn’t just give humans a second chance, she becomes an instant, gentle, trusting and tail-wagging friend.

After a few shy sniffs, she was resting her head on the laps of her rescuers.

Bunny is now up for adoption through Sevadog, an Oregon organization that helps dogs find forever homes. Hope For Paws often teams up with other rescues. In Bunny’s case, three were involved, including the group Rescue From the Hart, which notified Hope For Paws about the dog’s situation.

Hope For Paws went to the site, found the dog and got her veterinary care — shooting video the whole time.

The videos, which get millions of views on YouTube, help raise funds for the organization, and melt our hearts in the process. But they also bring attention to the issue of stray and homeless dogs, and remind us that, no matter how rough shape a being might be in, hope and love can conquer all.

The Internet age has seen us all become more adept at touting ourselves — as individuals, as non-profit organizations, as corporations. There are downsides to that. One is how easy it has become to mislead the masses. Another is the danger that we all end up spending 10 percent of our time on a project, and 90 percent of our time touting what we’ve done.

On the other hand, for a non-profit organization, showing the public what it does, in a way that touches the heart, can be a key to survival.

So, all things considered, we hope the Hope For Paws videos keep coming, and we urge you to take at some of the others by clicking the link in this paragraph.

You’ll see some dogs in pretty horrid shape, like this one found living in a landfill, but you’ll also get transported from sad to happy on your way to the final destination — hope.

Let’s limit the ice bucket challenge to the species that came up with it — humans

This boneheaded bloke decided his dog should take the Ice Bucket Challenge, and now the RSPCA is investigating.

Here’s hoping they track him down and file charges (and that he gets a taste of the prison cell challenge).

I have no problem with humans dumping buckets of ice water on their own heads to raise money for ALS research. But let’s not force it on our dogs.

This video shows a teenage boy in London tossing  his dog, head first, into a bucket of freezing water.

“‘Here’s my dog and she’s doing the ice bucket challenge,” he says. “She wants to nominate all the other dogs here and all the cats as well, yeah.”

The RSPCA is concerned others — given the Ice Bucket Challenge’s viral nature and the lemming-like behavior of many humans — might try to copy the asinine stunt.

“It is likely that the puppy in the footage could have been caused distress, if not harm, and we are very concerned that others would think this is appropriate,” a spokesperson said. “Causing unnecessary suffering to an animal is an offence under law and we would strongly urge people not to copy this video.”

Most of the videos I’ve seen of dogs having the Ice Bucket Challenge inflicted upon them have been cute and harmless, involving cups and only small amounts of water.

But there will always be jackasses who want to take things to greater extremes. If they want to try the ice block challenge, or the anvil from a rooftop challenge, they should have at it — but only as long as they use their own heads.

Talking dogs: A device, from Sweden, that tells you what your dog is thinking

A group of Swedes is selling a device they say can translate your dog’s thoughts into English — and they’re seeking investors to help pay for further development of what they admit is a “work in progress.”

The first of many things we find questionable about this is why the young researchers at Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery — constantly on the lookout, they say, for “cool” and “awesome” things they can do with technology — wouldn’t be translating the thoughts of dogs into Swedish.

The only answers I can come up with are that either they are far more interested in making some money than in figuring out what goes on in a dog’s head, or they view the residents of dog-loving, English-speaking countries as more gullible, and more likely to fall for what they are peddling.

We did buy a lot of Abba albums after all, didn’t we?

Already, they’ve raked in more than $16,000 in their IndieGoGo fund-raising drive.

nomorewoofThe product is called No More Woof. It consists of a headset, worn by your dog, the (non-intrusive) sensors of which pick up EEG signals, and software that translates those signals, via loudspeaker, into thoughts.

Strangely, this company-made video (above) never shows the device in action, yet the inventors are ready to sell you one — either a basic model for $60, or an advanced model for $85, or a more advanced model for $300, or a really, really advanced model for $600.

The development firm also takes credit for inventing a hovering lamp that follows you from room to room, an iPad-charging rocking chair, and “Nebula 12,” described as an indoor cloud. They are currently at work on a flying carpet.

It’s no joke — even if No More Woof sounds pretty laughable.

So far, No More Woof has come up with only four distinguishable statements they can attribute to a dog, based on EEG readings: “I’m excited, “I’m tired, “I am hungry,” and “Who are you?” Once detected by the headset, they are voiced by a loudspeaker.

The bottom line, as we see it, is that they’ve come up with a way — or claim to have, at least – to make the most fascinating animal on earth boring.

Imagine a quiet evening at home, your headset-wearing dog at your side: “I’m hungry. I’m excited. I’m hungry. I’m hungry. I’m hungry.”

And this after you spend hours trying to set the whole thing up, using directions we can only assume will be Ikea-like.

The firm says it is trying to advance human-dog communication. But it doesn’t come across as being sincerely interested in that. It seems much more interested in fund-raising.

nsidNo More Woof’s Indiegogo page repeatedly stresses that the device, while already for sale, is still in development: “To be completely honest, the first version will be quite rudimentary. But hey, the first computer was pretty crappy too.”

They don’t insist that you buy one. If you prefer, you can just send them some money for their continued research.

Our advice would be to hold on to your money, and if you want to communicate with your dog, spend more time with him or her, pay more attention to him or her, look more deeply into him and her, and make your relationship not one of giving and taking orders, but one of learning from each other and exploring life together.

You already know — or at least you should — when your dog is hungry, excited or tired.

Do we really need to be hearing a robot voice tell us that? Do we really need — even if it did work and could develop into something more sophisticated — to turn our intriguing companions into the equivalent of a nagging wife, demanding husband, whining kid, or, worse yet, Siri?

I prefer the silence. And, much as I often wonder what my own dog is thinking, I prefer the mystery.

(Photos and video from NoMoreWoof.com)

Man and his guide dog hiking 1,000 miles

A legally blind North Carolina man and his guide dog are hiking a thousand miles for charity.

Trevor Thomas, of Charlotte, and his guide dog, Tenille, set out on April 6, hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail to raise money for Guide Dogs for the Blind, which is where Tenille came from.

“The dogs are very expensive, the school receives absolutely no public funding at all,” Thomas said. “It’s all done on donation.”

blindhikerThomas, who calls himself “Zero/Zero,” a reference to his eyesight, was the first blind person to complete a solo hike of the entire 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail.

He has also completed two hikes through the Shenandoah Mountains, four through the Smokey Mountains, and, according to his website, is the first blind person to hike the length of the John Muir Trail in California.

“Getting Tennille was probably the best decision I’ve made since going blind,” Thomas said. “She has changed blindness from a negative to a positive, especially in my interaction with people. Now that I have Tennille people want to engage us, they want to find out more about this amazing dog that I have.

“She is literally the final piece in the puzzle to be able to undertake this trek working as a team, that’s the only way we’re going to be able to get from one end of this to the other. Just the sheer companionship alone is worth its weight in gold,” he added. “Tennille’s not only a guide, she’s a friend.”

For more information about his hike, visit blindhikertrevorthomas.com

A matter of Faith: Girl, 5, gets service dog


A family in northern Maine says it is “overwhelmed” by the generosity they saw from friends and strangers who donated enough money for them to get a service dog for their 5-year-old daughter, Faith.

Faith has spina bifida and experiences seizures. The new dog — a black Lab named Dandy — has been trained to detect when they might be coming.

Bruce and Beverly McNally, of Island Falls, took Faith in as a foster child, then as their adopted daughter. They quickly realized they needed help monitoring her for the seizures, which could be deadly if not addressed.

“The family became very worried, which is why they wanted to get the dog,” Michele King, Faith’s aunt, told the Bangor Daily News.

King is also the chief administrative officer for Brave Hearts, a nonprofit Christian home for young men in Island Falls, and that organization sponsored a fundraiser last month to try and raise the $2,500 that was needed.

King said that donations came from the more than 100 people who attended a benefit supper, and from people as far away as North Carolina.

“We just couldn’t believe it,” Beverly McNally said. “We eventually had enough money and we had to gently turn people away. We had to tell them that we had enough for the dog, but that we wanted them to donate the money to a charity of their own choosing.”

Dandy came from CARES — Canine Assistance Rehabilitation Education and Services — a nonprofit organization in Concordia, Kansas, that trains and matches assistance dogs with owners.

“Dandy has just been wonderful for Faith,” McNally said on Friday. “She picks up on a chemical change in the body when a seizure occurs. One day when we got back, Faith was very lethargic. She was in the chair with me and needed to be snuggled a lot more. And the dog got up in the chair and started whining. And I didn’t realize what was going on. And 45 minutes later, Faith had a seizure. Then I realized what the dog was trying to tell me.”

(Photo: Michele King)

Why will 500 dogs cross the Brooklyn Bridge?

No, it’s not to get to the other side.

The 500 dogs expected to march from Manhattan to Brooklyn Saturday night are taking part in the second Brooklyn Bridge Pup Crawl — a parade that raises funds for animal shelters and rescues across the country.

“In this difficult economy, shelters and rescue groups need donations more than ever to keep up with the demand for their lifesaving efforts, “said Jane Hoffman, President of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a coalition of more than 150 animal shelters and rescue groups committed to ending the killing of healthy and treatable cats and dogs at New York City shelters.

The march was launched in 2009 to help animal shelters hard hit by the economic crisis.

Proceeds from The Pup Crawl event are shared equally between five non-profit animal rescue organizations: Ace of Hearts (Los Angeles), Bobbi & The Strays (New York), Sean Casey Animal Rescue (New York), Get-A-Life Pet Rescue (Ft. Lauderdale) and Pets for Life NYC, a program of The Humane Society of the United States that provides free and reduced cost hands-on assistance, resources and solutions to help keep pets with their families for life.

“The Pup Crawl walk is a great way to raise awareness and funds for shelter pets,” said Jane Harrell, associate producer of Petfinder.com, the online directory of adoptable pets. Petfinder is one of the event’s major sponsors.

Advance registration is required for The Pup Crawl, which begins in City Hall Park at 5:30 PM on Saturday. Anyone can support The Pup Crawl, though, by attending the event, or purchasing a Pup Crawl (illuminated). The Pup Crawl Leash program provides three dollars to shelters and rescues across the country every time they refer a sale online. Any non-profit shelter or rescue in the United States can participate

The Pup Crawl was conceived as the first-ever nighttime dog parade over the Brooklyn Bridge, an event aimed at raising money to help the one million pets expected to lose their homes to the foreclosure crisis.

For more information on the event, visit www.thepupcrawl.com.

(Photos: courtesy of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals)