Archive | May, 2012

If You Love Your Dog

31 May

Couldn’t be more true.


Heroic Sacramento Police Dog Released from Hospital

29 May

Thanks Aunt Diane, what a great story!

There was a police chase in Sacramento that ended with a chase on foot. Bodie, pictured below, cornered the suspect and was shot twice in the foot, shattering his paw and jaw. Bodie has been released and is expected to fully recover and return to duty. “The department said that Bodie was a hero, taking bullets that may otherwise have hit officers or people in the neighborhood.” Sure sounds like a hero to me!  Below is the full article.

The Healing Power of Animals

29 May

Project PUP, is an organization that brings animals to hospital, nursing homes and senior living facilities to help with the healing process. Animals have proven to lower blood pressure and increase the attitudes of those healing from a multitude of illnesses. There’s just something about animals ability to break through any sort of barrier that people put up. Animals, especially cats and dogs, know when something is wrong, when you’re feeling sick or sad, they just know. That’s what makes them so good for these therapy positions. Another great cause that I’ve enjoyed learning about through my blogging journey. Below is the full article… So inspiring. I would love to get involved in these organizations. Aren’t animals incredible?!

By Larry Prescott

Dogs may be more than just man’s best friend. The animals may also help the sick heal more quickly.

A study of heart failure patients at the University of California Los Angeles showed those who were visited by a therapy dog while in recovery saw their heart pressure drop by 10 percent, epinephrine (a hormone the body makes when under stress) levels drop 17 percent and anxiety levels were lowered by 24 percent.

Project PUP, a local therapy dog organization, has been bringing dogs to hospitals, hospice facilities and senior living communities for more than 25 years.

The group brings pups to Grand Villa of Largo, an assisted living and Alzheimer’s residence, once a week. The animals provide companionship and perform tricks to lift the spirits of the residents.

Pets have long been recognized for their unique ability to offer comfort and companionship in times of stress, but many studies have shown that the benefits of interacting with a loving animal are far greater than one might expect.

For nearly 40 years, pet therapy has been studied extensively by healthcare practitioners and nursing professionals. Research findings indicate an increase in the quality of life for individuals participating in pet therapy, particularly with children and the elderly. In addition, bonds that patients develop with a pet lead to an increased emotional connection, helping to reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation often experienced as they age.

Research has shown that pet therapy can increase social interaction, lower blood pressure, improve self-esteem and even decrease anxiety and depression. In a study conducted by Kal Kan pet food, 57 percent of psychologists would recommend pet therapy to a patient and research indicates this number is on the rise.

Seniors are at a higher risk of experiencing depression as they become less able to do things for themselves. Visiting with pets provides an easy and enjoyable way for seniors to be social, reduce stress and boost their self-confidence.

About this column: Caring for aging parents while managing your own life can be a daunting task. Larry Prescott, executive director of Grand Villa of Largo an assisted living and alzheimer’s care facility, gives you resources to help you along the way.

Memorial Day Article – Fellow Animal Lover

29 May

Cesar Remembers Dogs of War

By Cesar Millan

This Monday is Memorial Day, when many of us will spend a nice long weekend with our families hanging out at the beach, having a picnic in the park, or grilling in the backyard. School’s almost out and summer’s almost here. Sometimes in all the fun, it’s easy to forget why we have this weekend in the first place—because so many of the ones we love are not here to enjoy it.

Memorial Day began after the U.S. Civil War to honor the fallen soldiers. The last Monday of every May has been observed ever since to remember the men and women who gave their lives to protect our freedoms. I myself give great thanks to these amazing people who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and I would include in my gratitude the working dogs of the military.

Sergeant Stubby

Since ancient Egypt dogs have been used during times of war and for other military uses. In World War I, they were used to deliver messages between units behind the lines. One of these dogs, Sergeant Stubby, became the first dog to be given a military rank, and received a national medal for his service. Dogs became used more and more in conflicts. Over 5,000 dogs served in Vietnam alone. They had a large presence in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, joined Navy SEAL Team Six in the attack which killed Osama bin Laden.

Dogs have been able to provide valuable services to the military. With their powerful noses and compact sizes, they are able to accomplish things humans cannot. Their keen hearing makes them excellent sentries. Our men and women in uniform can sleep soundly knowing that their canine comrades will alert them if danger approaches.

Dogs are able to use the same skills they use at home as police dogs. They are able to track scents, detect bombs, and find bodies. They also can be used as scouts, going ahead of the humans in their unit to look for enemy combatants, explosive devices, or other dangers that might wait for them.

Dogs have become such important parts of the unit, that army psychologists say that when the unit loses a canine member, the grief in the rest of the unit can be as great as when a human member is lost. Dogs and their handlers become so bonded, that often upon discharge they live out their civilian lives together. Other soldier dogs transition to military hospitals upon retirement where they can serve as helpers or companions to the injured.

Many people might feel sorry for the dogs, who obviously don’t have much choice in the matter. They don’t join ROTC or go to a recruiting office. However, I’ve always believed that dogs who have a purpose thrive. Whether it’s herding sheep, leading the blind, or aiding the police, these dogs live fulfilling lives. Dogs have always bonded with humans and the bond that is formed in wartime is very powerful for the dogs and the humans.

This is not to say that these dogs don’t face the same issues that their human counterparts face. Many dogs have to deal with the constant stress of being in the field and the workload can burn many of them out. Dogs also experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which only now is being studied and treated and they often face great obstacles adjusting to a civilian life.

I was honored recently to be asked by the U.S. military to help out an Alaskan National Guard K-9 unit that was being used to sniff out bombs on the supply route between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unfortunately that trip had to be canceled due to security concerns, but I hope to have the opportunity to work with military dogs again in the near future.

These dogs have saved countless human lives, sometimes at the expense of their own. They are often the line in front of the front line. And often, they are the first casualties. For every hero like Sergeant Stubby or Cairo, there are thousands of dogs whose names we’ve forgotten, or never knew, who have given their lives so their human comrades could live.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. It’s a great time to be outdoors with your family and your dogs and enjoy the blessings our country has been given. I hope you all take a moment to remember the brave women and men who have given us this gift. And when you play fetch or throw a Frisbee with your dog, I hope you remember all the dogs that gave their lives so that you can.

Stay calm and assertive,

Service Dogs Help Washington Soldiers Battling PTSD

29 May

I’ve posted multiple articles about how shelter dogs are being trained and used to help war victims suffering with PTSD. Below is an article that will explain it all. These articles give me butterflies; So glad to see these animals making a name for themselves!

**When the walls shrink and the panic sets in, Specialist Mike Ballard reaches for his service dog, Apollo, to help him get through his worst symptoms of the post-traumatic stress disorder that is a remnant of an explosion in Afghanistan that ended his career as an Army medic.


Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. —When the walls shrink and the panic sets in, Specialist Mike Ballard reaches for his service dog, Apollo, to help him get through his worst symptoms of the post-traumatic stress disorder that is a remnant of an explosion in Afghanistan that ended his career as an Army medic.”The room starts to breathe in and out. You get really dizzy and instantly sick to your stomach,” Ballard said, describing his worst symptoms. Apollo, a 2-year-old short-haired collie, is always near Ballard, so that when an episode begins, “I can just sit there with him and pet him.”

“It starts lowering my blood pressure and I get more focused simply petting his fur,” he said. “There was a point when I had to see my psychiatrist at least once a week, and now with Apollo, the anxiety level has come down so much she’s only on an as-needed basis.”

Ballard, 41, was just a few months into a tour in Afghanistan in August 2009 when the Stryker in which he was riding rolled over the top of a roadside bomb. The explosion broke the medic’s right femur and destroyed his left knee. He had emergency surgery in Kandahar before being flown back to the United States, and is now a part of the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which helps injured soldiers recover from their physical and emotional injuries from war.

Ballard received Apollo through a program that’s been in place at the battalion since 2009. Last year, the base partnered with Bellingham-based Brigadoon Service Dogs to bolster the effort to pair dogs with soldiers returning from combat who suffer from postwar side effects, including PTSD.

So far, 12 dogs have been placed at the base, six of which came from Brigadoon, but officials hope to see that number increase as more soldiers learn about the program and the number of dogs being trained increase. Brigadoon, which has provided service dogs to the civilian population since 2004, expanded to veterans last year, and has now partnered with the state Department of Corrections for a pilot program that has prisoners training dogs for the first six months before they return to Brigadoon for specialized training.

That training program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, which has been in place a few months, is currently training five dogs.

Because the wait time for a dog is usually around a year, the hope is that by outsourcing the early training to the prisoners, more dogs will be available for soldiers.

Ballard heard about the base’s service dog program after he was diagnosed with PTSD, and started the training process after meeting Apollo about a year ago. It wasn’t until Apollo graduated from his training earlier this year that he went to live with Ballard full time.

Because Ballard has issues with walking, Apollo helps keep him balanced, and also picks things up off the ground for him. But more importantly, Ballard said, Apollo is keenly attuned to how he feels.

“He’s my battle buddy now,” Ballard said. “He’s got my back and I’ve got his.”

There are numerous programs across the country that provide service dogs to soldiers, and in January, the Army released an official policy regarding service animals and the use of dogs by service members. The policy, which is still under review by the Army Surgeon General’s Office, includes requiring that eligible service members receive training from approved organizations before getting a service dog, and requiring service members to provide a care plan to their commander.

“Our policy is supportive of the use of service animals in treating physical disabilities as well as PTSD,” said Maria Tolleson, a spokeswoman for the United States Army Medical Command.

Ellen Bloom, the chief of behavioral health for the Warrior Transition Battalion, said that the idea of service dogs for soldiers returning from war was first discussed in 2008 by officials at Madigan Army Medical Center, which operates the battalion at the base just north of the Washington capital of Olympia.

She said that it evolved from the use of therapy dogs who occasionally met with soldiers to the current program, in which service dogs live with the soldier.

Bloom said that the benefit to soldiers is significant.

“They sleep better, they interact with people better, they go out in public more,” she said. “Once they get their dog, it’s almost like they’re a different person. It takes the focus off of what they’re experiencing.”

Brigadoon founder Denise Costanten said that in addition to the five dogs at the prison, five others are in advanced training. She said that takes up to two years to train a service dog, and costs about $20,000. All of the dogs that have gone to veterans have been donated.

By having the prisoners help with the early training months of the dogs, she said she’ll be able to put more dogs out to veterans, and she hopes to see the program double.

Ballard said that while the explosion in Afghanistan changed him forever, being with Apollo helped him find a new goal for his future. Once he retires from the Army in the next few months, he plans to raise and train dogs so that other soldiers don’t have to wait so long to get one.

“I can’t go back to any of the things I did before,” he said. “I had to dig deep and find something new. After getting Apollo, I know my new purpose.”


Brigadoon Service Dogs:

Warrior Transition Battalion:

Washington state Department of Corrections:

Follow Rachel La Corte on Twitter at AP photographer Ted Warren contributed to this report.

Documentary Created to Raise Awareness of Animal Shelters

29 May

Steven Latham, an employee at PBS, has decided to create a documentary that is a new take on awareness of animals living in shelters. When we see those commercials that are endorsing the SPCA, we change the channel most of the time because it’s an add campaign of “pity” more than anything. I am one of those people that has to change the channel. They choose the animals that are the worst off, suffering from diseases, looking sad and too big for their kennels, and it breaks my heart. They actually bring tears to my eyes and now, I just change the channel. What Latham is doing sounds like an idea that could really prosper.

This documentary is going to be about how great it would be to make these animals a part of the family, rather than “we’re suffering, send money.” These campaigns are going to show people how these animals are capable of entering new homes after being rescued and how these animals are being trained and use with Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from battle. It’s time that someone told the true story and worked to get these animals homes, not money. People are apprehensive to send money to these places, because honestly, how much goes to the animals, right? This documentary is going to give people a different view on adoption and I look forward to seeing it. Please take a moment and see what Latham has to say about his campaign and what he hopes to accomplish.

Vicktory Dogs – Rescued Fighting Dogs Surival Stories

29 May

Vicktory dogs’ purple collars and golden hearts

May 24, 2012 – By Francis Battista – ( 22 Comments )

The Vicktory dogs continue to amaze and defy the stereotyping that almost cost them their lives. Indeed, the life expectancy of the rescued canine victims of dog-fighting busts used to be shorter than their unfortunate kin who remained in the ring. That’s because as soon as dogs were sprung from the ring, they were killed by their rescuers because they were — choose your poison here — “bad by breeding,” “time bombs waiting to go off,” “game-bred dogs”… whatever description made killing them the ethical thing to do.

The Vicktory dogs changed all that.

Owing to the high-profile nature of the case, the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s hellhole could not be quietly and conveniently disposed of behind the scenes. The voice of Best Friends, and others who advocate for treating every dog as an individual rather than as a category, prevailed. The Vick dogs were individually evaluated, and to the surprise of naysayers, more than half of them were released to rescue organizations for immediate adoption to the public. The 22 most challenging of the dogs, those who had suffered the greatest trauma and neglect, those who needed more than just a little TLC, came to Best Friends and became known to the world as the Vicktory dogs.

The Vick dogs have been victims of and witnesses to mind-shattering criminal violence. They came with massive scars and other signs of physical abuse — some of the females having had their teeth removed so that they would be more compliant forced breeders. They also came with heartbreaking mental and emotional scars. Some were just too terrified to move in the presence of a human, and some were so reactive that they could only be handled at first by our most experienced trainers.

That was the picture of the Vicktory dogs when they arrived in January of 2008. At that time, the authorities in Kane County, Utah, where Best Friends Sanctuary is located, required us to keep the Vicktory dogs away from visitors and volunteers. Our visual coding for dogs with this staff-only designation is a red collar — one of three color codes for Dogtown dogs. Green collar dogs are easy for any volunteer of any age to handle and walk. Purple collar dogs have minor issues — often only size and strength. We require staff and volunteers to be 18 years of age and over to handle and walk them.

Last week, seven Vick dogs graduated to purple collars and are set to follow nine of their friends who have already been adopted, have an adoption application pending, or are in a foster home. It was a happy day at Dogtown.

While the court ordered that a couple of the Vicktory dogs spend their entire lives at the Sanctuary, I am confident that this class of purple collar scholars will be in wonderful homes before long.

They deserve the best because their hearts of gold have broken the stereotype of the canine victim of dog fighting as dangerous animal. Because of their intelligence and their desire to please the first humans who were kind to them, they earned the right for thousands of similar victims who followed behind them to be treated as individuals and given a chance at a new life. Dogs rescued from fight-ring busts are now routinely evaluated as individuals thanks to them.

The Vicktory dogs, unfortunate victims of cruelty that they were, turned out to be what we always knew they were … just plain old regular dogs, and they now have the purple collars to prove it.

To view a video of the purple collar crew, click here.

Francis Battista