Can you tell what kind of dog she is just by looking at her?

Is She Or Isn’t She?

Earlier this year,  a study from the University of Florida revealed that even experienced animal shelter workers often mislabel dogs as “pit bulls.” The researchers evaluated breed assessments made on 120 dogs by 16 shelter staff members, including four veterinarians at four different shelters, all of whom had at least three years experience. After the assessments, blood samples were taken from the dogs and researchers compiled DNA profiles for each animal. The study concluded that true pit bull-type heritage was positively identified only 33 to 75 percent of the time. Conversely, dogs with no genetic evidence of being pit bull-type dogs were mislabeled as pit bulls as much as 48 percent of the time.

Can you tell what kind of dog she is just by looking at her?

Can you tell what kind of dog she is just by looking at her?

In THE NEW BARKER dog magazine’s feature on Pit Bulls (“The Never-Ending Story,” summer 2015)  Page 28 – Luis Salgado, the animal services investigator who enforces Miami-Dade’s Pit Bull ban (Breed Specific Legislation or BSL) said, “There is no reliable DNA testing for that breed. DNA is useless. If you look at where that breed came from, there’s American Bulldog, there’s Terrier, all watered down and mixed together to produce the dog we now call the Pit Bull.” In enforcing the Pit Bull ban, Salgado went on to say that Miami-Dade relies on physical characteristics with a 47-point checklist. “Any dog that substantially conforms to the characteristics of a Pit Bull is considered a Pit Bull,” said Salgado. “Furthermore, it doesn’t have to be a purebred to be considered a Pit Bull. A Cocker Spaniel crossed with a Pit Bull is a Pit Bull. A German Shepherd Dog crossed with a Pit Bull is a Pit Bull.”

Also quoted in The New Barker article is Kris Irizarry, a professor of comparative genomics from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences. “There is no boundary between what genes may or may not be in the breed. That is why it’s not a breed. It’s a general dog and there is no way to predict its behavior from its appearance.”

Adopted from Hillsborough County Animal Services.

Adopted from Hillsborough County Animal Services.

Labeling dogs “pit bull” keeps them in shelters. The term “Pit Bull” covers any dog with a muscular build and big head. The true breeds most commonly labeled as “pit bulls” are the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Many dogs labeled as “pit bulls” don’t even have any DNA belonging to these aforementioned breeds.

However, according to an article in Newsweek earlier this year, shelters are unlikely to stop labeling the dogs as “pit bulls.” Ken Foster, a community dog program coordinator for Animal Care Centers of NYC told the Newsweek reporter that people expect breed labels and most of the inventories or databases that shelters use require breed labels.

An estimated 70 percent of dogs that end up in shelters in this country are classified as pit bull-type dogs. That is a devastating, oftentimes deadly label. Pit Bull detractors say these dogs are more likely to kill. Pit Bull advocates say the only thing they are more likely to do is die.

For more information, visit Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation. #TheNewBarkerDogMagazine


Lily at 8 months (left) and 15 years (right). Photography by Amanda Jones.

Dog Is The Subject.

The mind of a photographer never rests. In Michael Freeman’s book, The Photographer’s Eye, he states that design is the single most important factor in creating a successful photograph. He also states that the ability to see the potential for a strong picture is equally important. The following photos are part of a 20-year project created by photographer Amanda Jones. She had the foresight and the discipline to photograph, compile and create a book that features the lifespan of a dog.


Lily at 8 months (left) and 15 years (right). Photography by Amanda Jones.


The book, “Dog Years.Faithful Friends, Then & Now,” is a beautiful look at the lives and stories of 30 dogs. Of course, many people make it a practice to chronicle their dogs’  lives over the years through the use of professional photography. So, perhaps Amanda’s book came more as a result of opportunity. She saw the lives of her clients’ dogs transform before her in the prints and digital files she had amassed over a 20-year span.



Corbet at 2 years (left) and 11 years (right). Photographs by Amanda Jones.


Poppy at 1 year (left) and 7 years (right). Photographs by Amanda Jones.



Audrey at 3 years (left) and 12 years (right). Photographs by Amanda Jones.

Photography is an art that also requires the photographer to have some extra special people and animal skills.


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Yes, this is one photograph. The amazing work of Laura Allen, photographed outside Ulele Restaurant in Tampa, Florida. The dogs, all adopted, belong to two members of Ulele staff.


Obe Wan, the most awesome Pittie ever, at the UpDog Challenge in Brooksville, Florida.

Not only do our photographers have the artistic talent and social skills needed to do their job, they have heart and compassion. They are animal advocates and givers, always donating their time, skill and talent to their communities.

Peanut bw2

Peanut loves the camera, and her human, Brian Kalish. Riverview, Florida.

We have had the opportunity to work with some of the industry’s most talented photographers here at The New Barker over the last 10 years. How much do our photographers love dogs? One of them (who shall remain unnamed) sent us a note the other day. “Do you know what I like about people? Their dogs.” True that.


Briscoe at 1 year (left) and 10 years (right). Photographs by Amanda Jones.

Laura Allen.  Tina K. VaLant. Stephanie Hayes.  Brian Kalish.  Joyce McCombs. Jacqui Silla.



Today Is A Gift. That’s Why It’s Called The Present.

The golf ball bounced off the dog’s head, sailed over the fence and plopped into the canal that spilled out into Lake Okeechobee, 25 feet from the property. The dog obediently looked at her human playmate for a signal. “Okay, go get it.”


Chasing golf balls. It’s what professional golfer Ken Green has been doing since he was 12. And it’s also what Nip, his two year-old German Shepherd loved doing. Chasing and retrieving the golf balls Ken would throw during their playtime. She was good at catching them in mid-air too.

Nip was a constant companion as Green traveled the PGA and Nationwide tours during the 2002 golf season. She’d sit by the practice range. Waiting. Jumping into water hazards after the balls was no big deal to Nip. Jump. Splash. Retrieve.

On this particular day in 2003, Ken barely got the words, “Okay, go get it,” out of his mouth before his athletic beauty-of-a-dog was already scaling the fence. Splash. But the second splash, coming from Ken’s right side from behind the tree, made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. He knew instantly what it was and jumped over the fence to see the alligator cutting through the water. It was heading straight toward Nip.

Clueless of the impending doom behind her, Nip was swimming happily with her prized golf ball. Ken stood helplessly at the shoreline. “The gator and Nip were on a collision course. I was hoping the gator would make a move, miss and give Nip time to get closer to me and out of the water,” said Ken.

Suddenly, Nip yelped as the gator grabbed her and went underwater with her. There was complete silence except for the pounding inside Ken’s head as he was thinking, “Am I really going to do this?” And before he knew it, Ken was neck deep in the dark, murky water, groping for something. Anything. The gator’s tail popped up out of the water, but his mouth was still submerged in an effort to drown Nip. Ken grabbed the gator’s tail and tried to pull him back. At first, the gator wouldn’t budge, but he soon released his grip on Nip.

Ken describes what followed next: “Up comes the rest of the gator, and now everything’s moving toward me. So I take it, and I fall back, all the way in the water, over my head. Now the gator can do anything he wants, right? If he had grabbed me, I’d have been at his mercy. I’d have been done. I mean, I’m not afraid of dying. But not like that.” As the hunter became the hunted, the stunned and disoriented gator swam away, allowing Nip and Ken to get safely to shore.

Ken quickly drove to the emergency veterinary clinic where Nip received 25 stitches in her left front leg and shoulder. Ken sustained bruised ribs from his roll with the gator, estimated to be a seven footer weighing in at about 150 pounds.

“People have asked me, ‘What in the world were you thinking?’ And, ‘Are you stupid?’ Not one person said, ‘That was the right thing to do.’ But, I couldn’t just sit there and let that happen to my dog,” said Ken.


Ken Green and his sister Shelley, his caddy in the 1980s. Photograph from the Akron Beacon Journal.

Ken Green turned professional in 1979 and joined the PGA Tour in 1980. By the late 1980s, he had $2 million in the bank, endorsement deals and a line of golf memorabilia. He had already won five times and played on the 1989 U.S. Ryder Cup team. During his time in professional golf, Green earned a reputation for being rebellious, cantankerous and colorful (often wearing green from head to toe, including fluorescent green golf shoes). He amassed more than 24 fines levied by the PGA for stunts like sneaking some buddies into The Masters in the trunk of his car, and signing autographs while playing in a tournament. His stunts pale in comparison to today’s bad-boys-of-golf antics, including drinking beer during the 1997 Masters with Arnold Palmer. Paired with Palmer that day, Ken asked a buddy to bring him a beer at the 15th hole so that he could forever say, “I had a beer with Arnie.”

It was Ken’s personal life that began to take its toll on his playing time and quality of play. The usual suspects: divorce, gambling, alcohol abuse and clinical depression. He lost his Tour Card in 2000 and coped with financial problems.

In 2008, the year he turned 50, he vowed to make a comeback, setting the over-50 Champions Tour as his goal. In 2009, he was 54th on the money list with $123,906 in 11 appearances. On June 7, 2009, Green tied for 37th in Austin. Halfway through the schedule, it was already his best season since 1996.

Aside from the golf course, Ken’s second favorite place to spend time was in his 40-foot Holiday Rambler motor home. It literally had been his home for four years through mid-2009, often found parked on a friend’s lot in West Palm Beach. He traveled the Tour in his Holiday Rambler with longtime girlfriend Jeannie Hodgin, his older brother and caddie Billy, and Nip.

“I was at my happiest in the RV, traveling. All of us, driving around, talking a lot and having fun,” said Green.

Billy Green was 57 years old when he joined Ken to be his caddie in May 2009. They traveled to Birmingham, Cleveland, Des Moines and Austin. That Sunday evening of June 7 in Austin, Green loaded up the motor home and the four of them headed east into Louisiana for the night. The plan was to get to North Carolina for a week of rest at Jeannie’s home, then head north to upstate New York.

On the morning of June 8, Team Green left Shreveport. About 40 miles from the Alabama border, something went terribly wrong. Going about 70 miles an hour, the right-side tire of the RV blew out, causing it to veer off the road, slamming into a large tree. The impact was so hard that it knocked the tree down. Jeannie, Billy and Nip died instantly, Ken was told.

“The next thing I know, I’m in the hospital,” said Ken. Upon seeing his sister Shelley and her husband Slugger White, he said, “What are you guys doing here?” He didn’t know where he was. The last thing he remembers is leaving Shreveport. Ken suffered injuries to his left eye, his jaw, torn ligaments in his left ankle and a badly damaged right leg. After conferring with his doctors, Green concluded amputation would be his best bet. His contemporaries called him at the hospital: Arnold Palmer. Jack Nicklaus. Mark Calcavecchia. Fred Funk. Mike Reid. Greg Kraft. Gary Player.

“When I heard about the leg, I just lost it,” Calcavecchia said. “But as it turned out, Ken asked the doctors what he had to do to possibly play golf again, and when they said the leg would have to go, Kenny said ‘Cut it off.’ That’s Ken.”

Ken spent the next three months recuperating at the Ormond Beach home of his sister Shelley and her husband, PGA Tour official, Slugger White. It was a good environment to be in, surrounded by three active kids and five dogs. “She would have more dogs if her husband would let her,” said Green, who added, “Seriously, I would have been lost without her.”

Having just lost his home, his brother, girlfriend and dog, golf was all this man had left and he was determined that he would play again. That was his promise to Jeannie, Billy and Nip. Minus his lower right leg, Ken set his sights on being the first professional golfer to play with a prosthetic leg. In August 2009, Ken was fitted for a prosthetic leg and began learning how to walk with it. A month later he was on the course again, playing for the first time since the accident. He shot a three over 39 for nine holes, but had to quit, exhausted after 11 holes. The constant pain he struggles with can be pretty debilitating.

“Kenny Green, regardless of what you say about him, has a huge heart,” said long-time supporter, West Palm Beach Dodge dealer Jimmy Arrigo. “He was the kind of guy who, if he had a lot, he’d make sure the people around him had what they needed. Over the years he was never portrayed that way.”

In September 2009, 100 golfers played in a charity event at Ridgewood Country Club in Danbury, Connecticut. The Friends of Green Golf Tournament raised money for the Ken Green Living Trust Fund, established by the PGA to assist with Green’s medical bills. PGA players voted to donate half of all 2010 Pro-Am purses to Ken and equally hard-hit fellow pro Chris Smith, who lost his wife Beth in a tragic auto accident that also critically injured two of his children.


Ken Green in his West Palm Beach home with his dogs Black, the Labrador Retriever and Munch, his German Shepherd Dog, a six-month-old puppy at the time of the photograph.

Not quite a year after Ken’s accident, my publisher and I are sitting in his West Palm Beach home. He is surrounded by dogs; some by his feet, a couple on the couch. Two of the dogs belong to a visiting friend, and one of them belongs to his son, Ken Green, Jr. Sitting right next to Ken is Munch, a six-month-old German Shepherd Dog and most recent addition to the Green household.

About 20 years ago, Ken had played the Pro Am with an individual who loved German Shepherds. After hearing about what had happened to Nip, he called Ken to tell him a friend’s dog was having a litter. “He wanted to give me the pick of a most recent litter. I turned him down at first. I just didn’t think I was ready for another dog, especially a German Shepherd. Nip and I were just so tight,” said Ken. “You know, Nip could tell where I was going and whether or not she was going to come with me by the clothes I was wearing. She was an amazing dog.”

Ken eventually called the guy back and soon found himself on his way to Dallas to pick up his new puppy, whom he would name Munch. “The feeling was just so strong. Something told me to go get this dog,” said Ken. “Munch gives me another boost to live. I’ve got someone to take care of,” Ken said.

In addition to the pain, Ken struggles daily with the loss of his loved ones. And as if all that wasn’t enough, in early 2010, his younger son Hunter was found dead in his college dorm room at SMU. How much can one human being endure?


Munch’s paw.

Ken rubs Munch’s big, soft floppy ears and reflects. “You’ve got to keep moving forward. That’s the only way.” Ken continues to be an inspiration to those on and off the golf course. And despite the physical and mental pain, his sense of humor is intact. “Ken Green and inspiration were not exactly synonymous,” he said in March after playing 36 holes at the Coors Light Open at Fort Myers Country Club. “It’s a wonderful feeling when people that you don’t know come up and just say that you’re really giving them hope and joy. As men, we don’t like to admit that it hits us, but it does. It’s a great feeling when that many people care.”

Ken’s first public comment after the accident: “I have a pretty good faith in God and my belief is that if you believe in God, you shouldn’t be too upset over the fact that you’ve lost three of your best friends on the planet. They’re having a hell of a lot more fun right now than I am, I can tell you that. I know that He’s kept me breathing because I have to do something. One, I have to go figure that out, and two, I have to go do it. I’m assuming that it’s through golf that I have to go out and try to accomplish some things that haven’t been done and make people aware of certain things. So, in that sense, it’s given me a desire and a motivation to do it and I have to do it. And as far as I’m concerned, if I don’t do it, I’m a complete failure.”

Ken is scheduled to play the LEGENDS in Savannah, April 23-25 (2010) with Mike Reid. “I’m so psyched about playing with Mike. I will have enough time to bring my game up a notch or two. I am currently at level two with only three to go before I can honestly say it’s time to go play out there. I don’t want to play out there if I can’t compete. I will not to be a “show and tell.” Munch, having settled comfortably into Ken’s side on the couch now, has a calming effect on Ken. The bond is already clearly a strong one in this relatively new partnership. “Dogs won’t let you get in a rut. Munch just won’t allow me to. Dogs need to be exercised and they need to play. There is no time to feel sorry for yourself with a dog around. Munch is a constant joy to me,” said Ken.

This story by Anna Cooke first appeared in the Spring 2010 edition of The New Barker dog magazine. To learn more about what Ken Green is up to now (including rescuing homeless dogs) visit his Facebook page and let him know The New Barker sent you.


Tyrnan.The story of a therapy dog.

Pawsibilities is a Pinellas County courthouse program that uses therapy dogs to comfort children who must face their abusers on the witness stand. The children, sometimes as young as six years old, are victims of rape, witnesses to murders, or have suffered abuse by a friend or relative. For a child who has been through severe trauma, connecting with adults can sometimes be difficult.
Coleen Chaney, a victim advocate and co-founder of Pawsibilities said, “Handing the leash over, empowers the child.” There is a lot of waiting in and around the courthouse. “A child is more open to waiting when they have a dog. They transition from victim mode to caregiver mode. And, they become more open to talking.”
TyrnanTyrnan, a Great Pyrenees, was a therapy dog with the Pawsibilities program. “Anyone who has looked into the calm, all-knowing eyes of a Pyr knows immediately the values these dogs have as therapy animals,” said Lori Fricker, former president of the Florida Great Pyrenees Club and Tyrnan’s human handler. Intelligent, Pyrs have a sixth sense about them, and an instinct to gently protect, especially children.
Currently, the dogs are not allowed to go into the courtroom. But, in the wings of the courthouse, Tyrnan would snuggle next to a child, willingly accepting hugs or the stroking of his fur. Sometimes, the child would fall asleep, wrapped in the comfort of Tyrnan’s giant gentleness of protection.
After one particularly trying court day, Lori and Tyrnan were leaving the courthouse with Belinda Darcy, a victim advocate and also a co-founder of Pawsibilities. “We were in the elevator when the doors opened, and two men in suits entered. Tyrnan stood up, and moved in close to them. Talking to one another, the men were oblivious to the dog. I began to gently correct Tyrnan when Belinda motioned for me not to,” said Lori. Before the men exited the elevator, Tyrnan had “slimed” them – puffing up and blowing his coat, leaving fur all over mens’ suits. After the elevator doors closed, Belinda looked at Lori and told her that the men were the defense attorneys. “Tyrnan had never even met them. He had heard them, though, questioning the victim – a child – on the witness stand through the court room doors. Once that child had left the room we were in and entered the courtroom, Tyrnan never took his eyes off the thick doors. How he knew, could hear or sense what was going on is still just amazing to me,” said Lori.
In May 2014, Tyrnan was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. He died on Memorial Day. “Tyrnan was the best therapy dog I have ever had,” said Lori.
You may read the full story, Murphy’s Law, as it appeared in the Summer/Fall 2014 issue of The New Barker dog magazine.

A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes.

Nobody is ever really inspired by statistics alone. People are inspired by something that will create meaning in their lives. Karyn Ringhaver of Apollo Beach knew she had much to be grateful for. She loved her family and friends, and always put their needs and comfort before her own. She was a champion of the underdog and could rally her friends to join her causes, the strongest of which was the wellbeing of animals, especially dogs.

For years, Karyn volunteered at Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center. Her commitment and vision to help homeless dogs escape the threat of euthanasia inspired her friends to join her as at the shelter.


Karyn Ringhaver, Jagger (shortly before he died) and Maggie. Photo courtesy of the Ringhaver family.

Then, in 2007, Karyn’s beloved Yellow Labrador passed away from bladder cancer. How would she ever get over the loss? Determined to honor this dog’s life not by grieving, but by helping more dogs, Karyn had a vision that would become Jagger’s Dream.

Years ago, the late Steve Jobs, legendary entrepreneur and Apple CEO, was also Disney’s largest shareholder. A Disney executive charged with revitalizing the Disney stores, turned to Jobs for advice. Jobs response was simple: “Dream bigger.”

According to Forbes contributor Carmine Gallo, a compelling vision that inspires everyone’s best efforts meets four criteria: Big dreams are bold. Big dreams are specific. Big dreams are memorable. Big dreams are consistent. Jagger’s Dream now encompasses all of these, but the vision’s humble beginnings started out with a more concise focus.

Through her work at the Pet Resource Center, Karyn noticed that the dogs confiscated as a result of human criminal activities, were held at the shelter for months, sometimes even years, during litigation, without socialization. They were the forgotten ones, the un-adoptables, with nowhere to run. Karyn convinced her friends to join her in fundraising efforts that would lead to the creation of a park for those dogs. Jagger Park, a fenced-in grassy area on the campus of Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, was officially opened in March, 2008.

The fundraising efforts of Jagger’s Dream Team, as they were affectionately known, were so successful that there was money left over. That money was used to help shelter dogs with medical issues, which the shelter could not afford to provide, like heartworm treatment. These efforts meant that more dogs would be successfully adopted, resulting in less dogs being euthanized. Jagger’s Dream Team was unstoppable. Members would come to the shelter to walk the dogs, clean kennels or “fluff them up” as Sue Green, one of Karyn’s friends and a volunteer, described.

“When we left the kennels at the end of our volunteer shifts, you could hear a pin drop. The dogs were that tired after our walks and time spent with them,” said Alyce McCathran, another friend and Jagger’s Dream Team member.

Four years after Jagger’s Dream Fund was created, Karyn was diagnosed with cancer. She continued tirelessly volunteering and fundraising for Jagger’s Dream. Her friends were amazed at her resilience, but not surprised. She had six rescue dogs of her own at home and cooked for them twice a day. Her sense of humor never waned. And she continued asking about the health and wellbeing of others.

Chris Carter, who has worked for Lance Ringhaver (Karyn’s husband) since 1985 said, “I witnessed Karyn’s love of animals and her desire to help them early on. Her level of commitment was infectious to everyone who loved her. You could not say no to Karyn.”

Karyn lost her battle with leukemia on August 19, 2014. While she was alive, Jagger’s Dream was a ragtag group of friends making a difference in the lives of dogs. “We were seat of the pants,” smiled Cathy Unruh, one of Karyn’s friends.

Today, Jagger’s Dream, Inc. is a 501(C)(3) non-profit that continues to help not only dogs, but also cats in Karyn’s honor and memory. Her friends continue to volunteer at the shelter and donate to the fund each month.

County-run shelters don’t always have the funds to help all of the sick, injured, and heartworm positive dogs in their care. In the last year alone, by covering the medical costs, Jagger’s Dream has helped more than 200 dogs find forever homes from Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center. Jagger’s Dream has also partnered with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay to help lower the cost of heartworm treatment. These efforts not only help increase adoptions, they help lower owner surrenders, ultimately saving more dogs from euthanasia.

“God gave us animals to have dominion over them in order to care for them. We are the stewards of the earth. Jagger’s Dream has been very fulfilling for me,” said Chris. “I’m grateful that we’re able to continue supporting Jagger’s Dream. And, thank goodness for the rescue groups that have stepped up to help.”

“By keeping Jagger’s Dream alive, we’re keeping Karyn’s dream going,” said Cathy “Keeping Karyn’s legacy alive keeps her with us,” she added.


The original Jagger’s Dream team: Sue Green, Chris Carter, Alyce McCathran and Cathy Unruh, shown here with Boomer. Photograph by Jacqui Silla for The New Barker.

SIDEBAR: Jagger’s Dream board of directors includes Alyce McCathran, Sue Green, Chris Carter, Lance Ringhaver and Cathy Unruh. They decide on a case-by-case basis which cases to fund. After adopting a dog, the new pet owner reimburses Jagger’s Dream fund what they can, if they are able. Such was the case of Josh and Boomer.

Since moving to Florida from Texas three years ago, Josh had been without a dog. He knew, when the time was right, that he would end up adopting a dog. Josh attended a dog adoption event and met Boomer at the Florida Big Dog Rescue (FBDR) tent. “I saw Boomer and fell in love with him right away,” said Josh.

Boomer had already been adopted and returned to the shelter once, coming back with medical issues. Jagger’s Dream covered Boomer’s medical expenses and Florida Big Dog Rescue pulled him from the shelter. After Josh adopted the dog, he ended up paying back all of the medical expenses to Jagger’s Dream. Josh affectionately calls Boomer a Pocket Rotti. “We run a lot together,” said Josh. “We go to the Mango Dog Park and I make sure he receives plenty of exercise and attention every day.”

A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes, by Anna Cooke, first appeared in the winter 2015/16 edition of The New Barker. For more information on Jagger’s Dream, visit



Unconditional Love. It Works Both Ways.

How much money would you spend on your dog’s medical care? The following appears in the current/winter issue of THE NEW BARKER. It is the story of Zack, a Lakeland Terrier, and his devoted human, Stella. Today, sadly, we learned of Zack’s passing this week. Rest in peace, Zacky. This edition of Weekend PUPdates is dedicated to you.


Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin loses melanin, the pigment that determines the color of skin, hair and eyes. If the cells that produce melanin die, depigmentation occurs, causing patches of white irregular shapes to appear on the skin. It usually starts as small areas of pigment loss that become larger with time, striking any part of the body and anyone, regardless of race. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious, but alters the life of the patient physically, limiting sun exposure to avoid severe burning and blistering. It can also have an extremely emotional effect on the patient, especially children.

When Stella Pavlides developed vitiligo, she was only 22 and had just given birth to her son, Greg. The cosmetologist with flawless skin suddenly looked like a patchwork quilt, as she describes it. “I’ve had people refuse to take money from me,” said Pavlides. “They think what I have is contagious.”

After learning there was no cure, and that between four and five million people in the United States are afflicted with the condition, Pavlides contacted the Vitiligo Foundation. She wanted to help fund research to find a cure for vitiligo and became a faithful donor. When the animal advocate discovered that animals, including dogs, were being used for research and testing, she was conflicted. “I wanted a cure for vitiligo, but I wanted more humane research.” She asked the president of the foundation to consider going the humane route after discussing her concerns with the now late Dr. Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Dermatology Service at Boston’s Mass General. She was turned away.

The Clearwater resident then traveled to Gainesville to meet with Wayne McCormack, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine. McCormack told Pavlides that if she provided the funding for the research, he would use donated blood and skin from people with vitiligo, not animals.

Since 1995, the American Vitiligo Research Foundation Pavlides founded, has given around $200,000 toward vitiligo research at UF. The money comes through fundraisers and donations.

To say this woman is unstoppable in whatever she takes on is a gross understatement. Even baseball legend Tony La Russa, who founded the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in 1991 with his wife Elaine, said of Pavlides, “She is a dedicated, hard-working person, devoted to her causes. She is also an avid animal lover. I admire her tenacity and drive as well as her determination to overcome obstacles.” Pavlides’ own rescue Airedale, Alex, was one of ARF’s first mascots.

In February of 1999, Pavlides adopted another dog, Sophie, a Lakeland Terrier. Several months later she received a phone call asking if she could foster another Lakeland Terrier who was just a puppy – one of Sophie’s puppies, in fact. Where Sophie was sweet, kind, high-spirited and loving, Zack was the exact opposite. He was aggressive, suffered separation anxiety and self-mutilated in addition to a host of health issues that would surface several years after Pavlides adopted him.

Pavlides allows herself to wonder, once in awhile, whether she would have adopted Zack had she known about his issues beforehand. One thing is certain: this determined, tenacious woman never gave up on Zack once she committed to bringing him into her home.

She did all the right things. Neutering Zack seemed to help with some of his aggressive behavior, but not to the extent she had hoped. She hired a professional dog trainer who told her he had trained many dogs and was certain he could train Zack. After Pavlides invested a lot of money for Zack’s training sessions, the trainer told her the dog was not trainable. Pavlides then took Zack to a licensed dog psychologist. She attended a presentation at the Humane Society of Manatee County by Cesar Millan. She purchased and read his book and applied his theories on Zack. Nothing seemed to help with her dog’s anxiety or aggressive behavioral issues.

Eventually, Pavlides accepted Zack for the dog he was. She realized his aggression and anxiety were all fear-based, and vowed to never put him in a position to fail ever again.

Zack’s physical issues began to manifest when he was five years old. He had surgery to remove cataracts in both of his eyes. He has suffered from chronic allergies, ear infections, and extensive seizures. His self mutilation involved spinning and biting his tail to the point of requiring surgery. He has seen almost every kind of veterinarian specialist within the Tampa Bay Area. At The University of Florida in Gainesville, he was seen by specialists in dermatology, ophthalmology, acupuncture, neurology and a licensed dietician.

Zack’s veterinary bills are currently more than $80,000. That does not include the money Pavlides has spent around her home to help keep her dog’s allergies in check: having the grass removed and replaced with cement; replacing her carpet with tile; providing Zack with a special daily diet of fresh cooked tilapia, salt-less peas and cream of rice.

The point at which we, as pet owners, determine enough is enough is a different decision for each of us. Factors will include the dog’s overall health and well-being, the bank account balance, and our own ability to cope with the situation.

There was a time, in the not so distant past, where euthanasia was the only solution for our pets’ suffering from chronic disease. Dogs have moved from the backyard doghouse into our homes, living as part of the family blend. We have come to learn how diet plays a role in the health of our dogs. Veterinary medicine has vastly improved over the last 10 years, offering pet owners a multitude of options.

We move forward and base our decisions on all the facts presented to us. Living with dogs takes a certain amount of patience, devotion and lots of faith.

It has been almost two years since Zack has had a seizure. Pavlides credits Dr. Gregory Todd at Animal Hospital of Dunedin, and his recommended combination treatment of acupuncture and Chinese herbs. “Zack’s indomitable spirit has been a great ally in overcoming his health challenges. But, none of it would be possible without Stella’s unwavering commitment as a pet parent, to a lifetime of love and care,” said Dr. Todd.

Pavlides knows that without each and every veterinarian and caregiver in Zack’s life, he would not be here today. Through her own trials and tribulations, as Pavlides puts it, Zack is now 16 years-old and has become a very kind, loving soul. To her, Zack has been worth every penny spent, every tear shed.

"Our last picture together," said Stella, shown here holding Zack.

“Our last picture together,” said Stella, shown here holding Zack.


What Do Our Dogs Think Of Us?

The following, by Anna Cooke, first appeared as a feature in the Spring 2011 issue of The New Barker dog magazine.

Many of us who live with dogs probably don’t really want to know what they’re thinking. To know may bring in the realities of life like dealing with what they think of us. Who needs that extra burden? We already have to cope with what our parents, siblings, significant others and business associates think of us. It’s one of the reasons we love dogs so much. We believe everything they have to say to us is said through their eyes. And of course, it’s nothing short of adoration and unconditional love, right? Our dogs are sentient beings with a conscience and feelings. They are intelligent and many people believe, they live with a purpose and set goals. The Reverend Nedda Wittels, M.A., M.S. believes that dogs make life choices. Maybe that’s why we don’t really choose dogs, rather they choose us.

It seems that every one in the animal world can tell a story of how they loved and lived with animals since they were very young. Jo Maldonado is not much different. As a young girl she would try to save the fish her father caught. In her teens she took dog-training classes and won ribbons with her devoted companion Rex; in her 20’s she rode horses and in her 30’s and 40’s she volunteered with German Shepherd Rescue in Pennsylvania doing canine assessment and fostering.  And, for almost 30 years she lead a successful career as a publicist, owning her agency. But it wasn’t until she and her husband moved to Florida and her children had moved on with their lives, that a continuous odd series of events forced her to change her life’s path. Volunteering at local shelters and seeing the infinite line of discarded animals, and almost losing one of her dogs, led Jo to follow her animal passion and give back to the community.

“Three years ago I realized that I was not following my soul’s purpose, not fulfilling what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I was hospitalized twice, broke my hip, had two surgeries, was in two car accidents and almost lost two members of my family.” But it wasn’t until a series of events involving animals that Jo finally listened to what some other worldly force was trying to tell her. There was the black bear that began appearing in her driveway on a regular basis. Then hundreds of crows began following her around. A woodpecker began “talking to her.” And one day the door to her china cabinet flew open spewing forth china from past relationships.

Jo began reading every book on animal communication and angel healing that she could find. After she completed several classes on the same subject matter, it became clear to Jo that her purpose in life was to work with her first love: animals. Her Centers for Animal Therapies is based on the theory that both sides of the brain are necessary to truly communicate with the animal world. “The left side of the brain is the fact based, scientific side, while the right brain is intuitive, innate and natural,” said Jo.

Animal communicators speak with pet companions who live with humans, oftentimes facilitating a change in varied situations. Why is the cat spraying? Why is the dog cowering or food aggressive? Each situation may have something in common with another situation going on within the pet’s home. For instance, when there is a fear problem there is generally a kidney problem that results in uncontrolled urinating in the house. By communicating with the dog, Jo can show their humans the relationship their dogs would like to have with them. How we live with our dogs can result in a positive or negative affect on them and ourselves.

No telepathic communicator is one hundred percent accurate all the time. The reasons for error may include a weak telepathic connection; the human client has emotional and/or mental blocks about the situation; or the dog may be choosing not to communicate fully. Reverend Wittels adds that each telepathic communicator can bring their own emotional and mental baggage to the situation: belief systems, expectations, past experiences or emotions. A good animal communicator will know how to leave their baggage behind in order to be a clear channel.

As with any professional, it’s good to have a rapport with them before delving into this area of you and your pet’s lives. We had been working and speaking with Jo for the past year on various projects. One thing lead to another, and it seemed almost a natural progression to agree to let Jo communicate with our brood: Zoe, a 13 year-old Cockapoo, her 11 year-old niece Chloe, our adopted MinPin Rita, and our most recent adopted addition, Dougie (pronounced Doogie), a two year-old Scottish Terrier.

There were four dogs and so it took Jo a little longer to assess the situation and discern their different personalities. “I took a deep breath before looking at each photograph you sent of the dogs,” said Jo, who told us she took classes to learn how to communicate through the eyes of an animal. “But dogs don’t like for you to look directly into their eyes. That is why I like to use photos,” she told us. “I pick up the physical characteristics and I pick up the soul. I try to get through the layers in order to connect and communicate.”

She began first by saying that each of these four dogs represents a characteristic in each human member of our household, in this instance a husband and wife. “It’s up to you to figure out those characteristics of you,” said Jo. From the pictures, Jo described the aura of energy emanating from each dog, which assisted in giving the following information. “Your life to them seems scattered. You’re in multiple places at one time. You seem to be going from point A to point B in an instant. You are way too busy and they’re picking up on that. I received a strong sense from the dogs that you are very tired,” Jo said.

For many dogs, a situation such as the one Jo described could be confusing to them, causing problems such as becoming the take-charge being within the household. The Alpha dog if you will. But in this instance the dogs all seem to have adjusted. “Each one of them knows their role within your family,” she told me. “And,” she added, “Your dogs are all very funny. They are just all real characters.”


Dougie, the two-year old Scotty, knows exactly what he is supposed to do. He looks around at his humans and the other dogs and wonders why they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing? He knows he is a purebred. In fact, somewhere in his lineage, there is a champion or two. So he demonstrates quite a lot of pride as if to say, “Of course I can do that. It’s exactly what I am supposed to do.” Jo said that if she were to humanize Dougie, he would be a career fisherman. “I could see him bellying up to the bar at the end of each successful fishing excursion,” she said. Dougie is a highly intuitive dog and would be excellent in agility. “Oh, he would be a natural,” said Jo.


Chloe, the 11 year-old Cockapoo.“Dougie was pointing at Chloe when I was communicating with him. He told me that while he feels very grounded, Chloe is constantly running around in circles, figuratively. Yet, she thinks she’s the one that has it all under control. But she doesn’t.” Jo explained that she sensed a bit of a Napoleonic complex in Chloe. She is constantly reminding everyone that she is in control; she is in charge, but she isn’t, of course. “If she could talk to you, she would be a tattle-tail and rat everyone else out. Chloe does feel confused most of the time, but thinks that’s okay because her humans are confused and running around in circles too.” Chloe communicated with Jo in such a rapid-fire way that she was almost stuttering. “I have too much to do and too little time in which to do everything,” is what Chloe communicated to Jo. “Interestingly, Chloe and Dougie have similar personalities. If you were to put Chloe in another pack, the other dogs would find her annoying. But she is well-accepted in your pack.”


Zoe, the 13 year-old Cockapoo. “She tends to believe she is the matriarch of the family. I could sense her little quirks. She does like her food and is set in her ways. She has a sense of entitlement, that whatever she gets, the others should not be allowed to have because they are not as deserving as she is. She can get snappy, only to let others know that she does not approve of what they are doing. But she would never display any kind of aggressive behavior towards anyone, human or animal, within her pack.” Jo spoke to me directly about the next point. “Anna, Zoe feels that the two of you are one. She is content to follow you and be wherever you are.” And then Jo added, “Oh, I’m hearing from her again that she really does love her food though. She likes that crunchiness and soft combination you give her.”


Rita, a five year-old MinPin, found wandering the streets. “I like Rita very much. She has this I-am-cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor. She likes to check things out, like a private detective before getting all excited, unlike the rest of the dogs in your pack. She smirks at the other dogs as if they’re ridiculously out of control. If I were to humanize Rita, she would have red hair, red-painted fingernails and a cigarette dangling from her mouth. She’s like one of those cool people you may see at a party. You don’t know them, but you walk up to them anyway and compliment them on the shirt they’re wearing. Instead of saying thank you, Rita would answer, ‘Huh. You don’t really give a damn about my shirt now, do you?’”

So it appears we have an odd little pack, with a funny mixture of personalities, each one of them strong in their own way. They all have their quirks but everyone gets along, albeit grumbling along the way. Most important, they all seem to be functioning as a pack and each feels they have jobs, which is a good thing. “They are all who they are as long as they’re all with the two of you. And as long as you make sure what your expectations are of them, they’re all pretty happy,” Jo said.


The Cooke Brat Pack, photographed at Steinhatchee Landing Resort, soon after Jo Maldonado’s reading.

The dogs were all in agreement with one special request. “What they would like you to do is schedule more family time with them, altogether. They would prefer daily, but they’ll settle for weekly jaunts to a big fenced in field or park to run around.” I told Jo that we have a big backyard and take them out many times throughout the day. “No,” she answered, “They want family time. They want everyone in the car at the same time, to go somewhere together. And Chloe said not to forget the treats. That was a very strong communication to me. They want you to think about nothing but the present during these field trips with them.”


“Somewhere in time, an animal’s soul has made a pact with the human’s soul to help them. I look at what I am doing as my privilege to be able to work with two beings, human and animal, to decipher what that help might be,” Jo Maldonado.

“People will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to help their pets while totally ignoring the obvious to help themselves. We humans must recognize that we need to change to improve our own health and well-being. Through the voice of their pets, a person can help themselves,” Jo Maldonado.

“I’ve never found an animal who communicated to me that they hated their human. I know instantly when I go into that animal that there is a need for them to express themselves as to why they are here,” Jo Maldonado.

Jo Maldonado can be reached at or 386.279.0257