This Sunday in America is Super Bowl Sunday. It’s the New England Patriots vs. the Atlanta Falcons. Earlier this year, Michael Vick made a triumphant return to the Georgia Dome, riding onto the field in a convertible to a raucous ovation. According to a story in USA Today, Vick received by far the loudest ovation from the sellout crowd of 70,835 during a ceremony honoring the final regular-season game at the team’s home of 25 years. This, despite an online campaign calling for the Falcons to revoke their invitation over a 2007 dogfighting case that sent Vick to prison for nearly two years. A decade after his final game with Atlanta, the animosity that Vick’s name once stirred among Atlanta fans appeared to have turned to forgiveness. Not one boo or jeer was heard from the crowd.
The End Of An Era? “There are a lot of people who forgave me,” said Vick before the game. “It gives me another opportunity to show a different side of myself. I’m just thankful I have a lot of supporters.”
And this from Arthur Blank, Falcons owner, “Mike obviously has a great history with us, a great history with the franchise, an important player in our history. Michael represented an important part of my ownership period. I think our fans, based on the response I saw and felt, I think our fans were excited to have him as well.”
Gone But Never Forgotten. Two dogs from Vick’s dogfighting ring Bad Newz Kennels passed away this month. Best Friends reported that Denzel died on January 10, 2017, nine years after he came to live at the sanctuary.
From Denzel’s obituary, Best Friends wrote: “Denzel was a fighter, but not in the way that NFL player Michael Vick wanted him to be. This brave dog fought against the trauma of his past to find happiness and friendship at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. He also fought against serious health issues that threatened to take him down, time and again. He suffered from a strain of the blood parasite babesia, which is spread among dogs forced to fight by way of bites. It can be managed but not cured, and each bout takes an increasing toll.”
Another Victory Dog rescued from Bad Newz Kennels in 2007, passed away on January 15. Oscar lived with Rachel Johnson since 2012. This was posted on Oscar’s Facebook page: “Friends, on Sunday, I let Oscar go. I’ve watched his bad days start to overshadow the good. So Sunday, we had breakfast in bed, read and cuddled, went to the drive-thru for cheesy burgers…” Oscar’s Facebook page is here.
Michael Vick’s playing days are over. “I’m very content with my career and what I’ve been able to accomplish. I’m ready to move forward in life.” Vick has recently expressed an interest in coaching.
Meet Angel, the newest addition to The New Barker staff. Like Bailey, the dog in the movie A Dog’s Purpose, we’re clueless as to what Angel’s purpose is at the moment. We’re not even certain what compelled us to adopt a puppy at this stage in our lives. It’s been 18 years since we’ve raised one, and evidently our memory bank was devoid of all that is involved. Maybe it has something to do with her name, given to her before we adopted her from VIP Rescue Florida in Clearwater. Divine intervention for two broken hearts?
Our home, over the last 10 years, was complete with four dogs. As editor of The New Barker dog magazine, there are many opportunities for dogs to cross my path, increasing the odds of falling in love, over and over again. In A Dog’s Purpose, Bailey falls in love over and over again with a different human. Without love, after all, what is the purpose of life?
While attending this year’s Florida Gulf Coast Classic Clusters dog show with a dear friend, she mentioned why she enjoyed coming to the show so much. “I love watching you interact with the dogs, because every dog you see, it’s as if it’s the first time you’ve ever seen a dog.”
Over the course of eight months during this past year, we lost our two Cockapoos, Zoe and Chloe. They had been a big part of our lives for 18 years, and boom, just like that, we were a family of four – two humans and two canines.
One of the reasons it’s so difficult getting over the loss of a dog is the simple fact that they are so dependent on us. They won’t “grow up” and develop a new circle of friends, go off to college, establish a career and start families. They leave us only when their time is up, whenever or however that may be. Their departure opens a space in the heart that may never be filled. But, what if, having known that one dog, a place is opened in the heart to make room for more love, compassion, faith and hope? Room for another dog, whose purpose may not be clear at first.
With it’s cool soundtrack, A Dog’s Purpose is not just a story about dogs. It’s as much a story about humans, with our foibles, our loneliness and our ability to forgive and love again. Yes, it’s a love story that will make you laugh and cry, then laugh again, which is exactly what dogs do.
While Angel’s purpose may not be clear to us, for now, she is helping to mend a pair of broken hearts. And, at present, that’s all we can ask of a nine-week old puppy.
Angel’s Adventures will be a weekly feature of The New Barker blog, so be sure to sign up. Follow The New Barker on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram and Pinterest for a cuteness overload of Angel as we follow her growth and discover just what her purpose in our lives will be.
Rawhide is a dangerous treat, given unknowingly by pet parents to their dogs. It is not, as many folks believe, the by-product of the beef industry nor is it made of dehydrated meat. It is actually the by-product of the leather industry. Producing rawhide begins with the splitting of an animal hide, usually from cattle. The top grain is generally tanned and made into leather products, while the inner portion, in its “raw” state, goes to the dogs. Harmful chemicals, glue and paint are added to the product. A brief 4-step explanation below this illustration describes how the actual process transforms the hide to the dangerous chew stick. And, below the explanation, we’ve included some safer, healthier treat option suggestions (vegetarian option as well).
STEP 1: Normally, cattle hides are shipped to tanneries for processing. The hides are treated with a chemical bath to help “preserve” the product during transport to help prevent spoilage.
Once at the tannery, the hides are soaked and treated with either an ash-lye solution or a highly toxic recipe of sodium sulphide liming. This process will help strip the hair and fat that maybe attached to the hides themselves.
The hides are then treated with chemicals that help “puff” the hide, making it easier to split into layers. The outer layer of the hide is used for goods like car seats, clothing, shoes, purses, etc. But, it’s the inner layer that is needed to make the rawhide, and other things like gelatin, cosmetics, and glue.
STEP 2: The post-tannery stage: Hides are washed and whitened using a solution of hydrogen peroxide and/or bleach; this will also help remove the smell of the rotten or putrid leather. (Research also shows that other chemicals maybe used to help the whitening process if the bleach isn’t strong enough.)
STEP 3: Now it’s time to make these whitened sheets of this “leathery by-product” look delicious. So, here is where the artistic painting process comes in.
Basted, smoked, and decoratively tinted products might be any color (or odor) underneath the coating of (often artificial) dyes and flavors. They can even be painted with a coating of titanium oxide to make them appear white and pretty on the pet store shelves.
The Material Safety Data Sheet reveals a toxic confection containing the carcinogen FD&C Red 40, along with preservatives like sodium benzoate. Tracking the effects of chemical exposure is nearly impossible when it’s a matter of slow, low-dose poisoning.
STEP 4: How does it last forever? Because the FDA does not consider these chews to be food, it’s a free for all when it comes to the manufacturers of these leather strips, and the products they may want to add to these chews, to get them to last forever. Any sort of glue may be added here to help ensure they never come apart.
When tested: Lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium salts, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals have been detected in raw hides.
Finally, it’s time to package and attach all the glorious marketing labels to the product. The fine print warning is attached with some rawhide products: “Choking or blockages. If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, the rawhide can get stuck in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Sometimes, abdominal surgery is needed to remove them from the stomach or intestines. If it isn’t resolved, a blockage can lead to death.“
How do proactive veterinarians feel about these chews? This is what world-renowned veterinarian Doctor Karen Becker has to say on the matter:
“The name ‘rawhide’ is technically incorrect. A more accurate name would be processed-hide, because the skin isn’t raw at all. But the term “rawhide” has stuck. Rawhide chews start out hard, but as your dog works the chew it becomes softer, and eventually he can unknot the knots on each end and the chew takes on the consistency of a slimy piece of taffy or bubble gum. And by that time your dog cannot stop working it — it becomes almost addictive.At this point, there’s no longer any dental benefit to the chew because it has turned soft and gooey, and, in fact, it has become a choking and intestinal obstruction hazard.“
An investigation by Humane Society International stated in their report, “In a particularly grisly twist, the skins of brutally slaughtered dogs in Thailand are mixed with other bits of skin to produce rawhide chew toys for pet dogs. Manufacturers told investigators that these chew toys are regularly exported to and sold in U.S. stores.”
Healthy, Safer & Delicious Treat Alternatives, as Suggested by THE NEW BARKER dog magazine.
Atticus’ Own Pet Products – a variety of delicious treats, chock full of all things healthy, like glucosamine and chondroitin. A super treat to keep you dog’s hips and joints healthy. The jerky is made from USDA-certified, all-natural chicken breast from family farms right here in the USA. In fact, Atticus’ Own Pet Products is headquartered right here in Florida. Grain free. No wheat, corn, soy or additives. In addition to the chicken jerky, Atticus’ Own offers Fish Jerky treats “like heaven in a bag…” A great source of omega-3’s. For dogs and cats. Follow the adventures of Atticus’ Own Gibbs and Sunshine at Atticus’ Own Pet Products. Better yet, order up some treats at http://www.atticusown.com
Earth Animal No-Hide Chicken Chews – 100% USA-sourced chicken, made in the USA. The chicken has been carefully rolled, cooked and uniquely dried for a one-of-a-kind chew. No hormones or additives. Also available: Beef and Salmon. You’ll find these delicious dog treats at fine Florida dog stores such as Dog Mania & Cats in Dade City.
Al CaBONES – We’ve watched customers load up on these treats, as their dogs just love them. The treats are actually beef marrow bones wrapped in chicken. No additives, preservatives or fillers. All goodness, sourced and made in the USA. Bada bing, bada boom. Trust us. This is a treat your dog can’t refuse. Available at fine independent pet retail stores including Fluffy Puppies in Clearwater and Pet Food Warehouse in St. Petersburg.
Finally – always supervise your pet when giving any chew treats. It’s also a good idea to check with your veterinarian, especially if your dog is on a special diet.
Sources: Pet nutrition blogger Rodney Habib, Planet Paws, The Whole Dog Journal and The Bark.
THE NEW BARKER dog magazine, established in 2006, publishes quarterly. Each cover of THE NEW BARKER dog magazine features an original work of art by a different Florida artist. For more information, visit http://www.TheNewBarker.com
The holidays may be over, but the spirit of the season of giving and hope lives on in this dog story.
Miami-Dade Animal Services (MDAS) is a loud place, often crowded with more dogs than space. Macho was one of the lucky ones. On December 12, volunteers from a West Palm Beach rescue group, Feeling Fine Canine and Equine Rescue, pulled Macho. He was emaciated, very weak and looked as if he had lost his will to live.
He was immediately taken to Gardens Animal Hospital for tests. Along with a diagnosis of pancreatitis, high levels of calcium in his blood indicated Macho had cancer. Tracey Godin, founder and operator of Feeling Fine Canine and Equine Rescue, said that Macho was able to spend Christmas with her family. Caela, Godin’s daughter, hand-fed Macho and slept on the floor with him. Macho must have known he was loved. Just 18 days after he was pulled from MDAS, Macho peacefully passed away.
The following day, Godin’s mother was scheduled for surgery that would require her to be under anesthesia for four hours. Prior to her mom’s surgery, Godin said a prayer, asking everyone she knew in Heaven to keep her mother safe.
“After surgery, my mom told my aunt that she spoke to my father, who had passed away last February,” said Godin. “In the hospital room, I said to mom, ‘so I hear dad visited you?’ And mom answered, ‘Dad has Macho…’ She repeated it several times. The crazy thing is, mom had only met Macho one time for about 10 minutes.”
Do dogs go to Heaven? In the 18 days Macho was with Godin and her family, he managed to touch the hearts of many. Why, out of all the dogs at MDAS, was Macho pulled by this rescue group? Some people believe there are no coincidences in life. There seems to be a guardian angel watching over a family who gave their hearts to him for a short period of time. Peace, Macho.
Four years ago First Coast No More Homeless Pets invited Northeast Florida animal shelters and rescue groups to fill a huge Jacksonville Fairgrounds exhibit hall with adoptable dogs and cats for three days. About 900 animals found new homes at that first Mega Adoption Event.
Since then, 13,249 animals have been adopted at local mega events, which are sponsored by Petco and organized three or four times a year at the fairgrounds. The record mega adoption tally was 1,164 in July 2014, according to the nonprofit, which runs two low-cost veterinary clinics and leads Jacksonville’s no-kill effort.
Now First Coast No More Homeless Pets has begun to help other animal welfare organizations across the country stage their own large-scale adoption events, mentoring them on logistics, marketing and other issues. The first such out-of-town advice was for the inaugural mega in early December by Brandywine Valley SPCA in Chester, Pa.
Brandywine staff and volunteers did the work, while First Coast founder and CEO Rick DuCharme provided guidance and encouragement.
“I held their hand throughout the whole thing,” he said.
When Brandywine ran out of adoptable animals two days into its three-day event, DuCharme even mobilized the Northeast Florida animal rescue community to truck almost 100 dogs and cats from Jacksonville to Pennsylvania to fill some of the empty crates.
“Duval County is nationally recognized for our no-kill status and this is one more example of our communities’ passion for the mission of helping dogs and cats find new homes — wherever they might be,” he said.
Leading the Way
When Brandywine staff first pondered having a large-scale adoption, they knew where to go for advice. CEO Adam Lamb, who formerly worked in Lakeland, knew DuCharme and Denise Deisler, executive director of the Jacksonville Humane Society, a First Coast partner agency. He knew about their success with mega events and reaching no-kill status in Jacksonville, which means at least 90 percent of shelter animals leave alive.
“They are very big [in animal rescue],” said June Iv, Brandywine’s chief development officer. “Everybody in Florida knows them.”
Including the Northeast Florida animals, 886 dogs and cats were adopted at the Brandywine event, she said. The event went so well that Brandywine is already planning its second mega sometime in 2017.
“It was very successful. We were shocked by how successful,” Iv said. “We were thinking 500. That was crazy for a first-time deal.”
Pennsylvania is not exactly in First Coast’s service area, but DuCharme said helping shelters across the country falls in line with the nonprofit’s overall mission: ending the killing of shelter animals in Jacksonville, Northeast Florida and the nation, he said.
Jacksonville achieved no-kill status in 2014. Meanwhile, First Coast also helps neighboring counties work toward the no-kill goal through free and low-cost spay/neuter and adoption initiatives and programs that help struggling families keep their pets, among other things.
Also, many shelters and rescues across North Florida participate in the mega events. The mega concept was patterned after similar but smaller-scale events at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, which is a national no-kill leader and has funded various First Coast initiatives. Initially, DuCharme, Deisler and Scott Trebatoski, then director of Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services, had joint adoption events at their three locations. Then they worked “hand in hand … to structure, refine, set up and carry out mega events” at the larger Fairgrounds venue and share the idea with other areas, Deisler said.
“Megas have benefited animal welfare through both marketing efforts focused on adoption and by providing additional adoption avenues — especially for some of the smaller groups,” she said. Also, they “provide great selection in one place for potential adopters,” Deisler said.
Brandywine’s Iv agreed. Many potential adopters are more likely to go to a “fair-type atmosphere” to adopt a pet than to a shelter, which some people find depressing, she said.
Adoption numbers at Jacksonville’s megas have declined in recent years — 668 animals found homes at the December event — but that does not necessarily indicate that fewer animals are being adopted in the community, Deisler said. Several factors are at work, such as shelters having more regular marketing efforts during the year.
“The novelty may be wearing off as well,” she said. DuCharme said local media outlets do not give the events as much attention as they once did.
But megas will remain “a very significant adoption program,” Deisler said. “That Jacksonville is considered a model community for mega and other progressive and successful animal welfare practices is a feather [in the community’s cap] for sure — a very positive statement about an engaged and compassionate community,” she said.
Committed to the Cause.
Now DuCharme is seeking additional funding to expand First Coast’s mega-reach to as many as 25 animal rescue organizations across the country. How First Coast and its local partner agencies responded to the animal shortage at the Brandywine event shows their commitment to the cause, he said.
“When I was first notified that they had been so successful, I knew it was an opportunity, but I also knew few teams could rally so quickly to make this happen in less than 10 hours,” DuCharme said, referring to the overnight transport of animals from Jacksonville-area shelters to Pennsylvania.
Such long-distance transport goes both ways at First Coast. Among the adoptable animals at the Dec. 16-18 mega event in Jacksonville were 28 dogs rescued four months earlier from floodwaters in Lafayette and Baton Rouge, La. The dogs were nursed back to health by volunteers at the Saint Tammany Humane Society, just north of New Orleans, and brought to Jacksonville for adoption. Each of them found new homes.
First Coast No More Homeless Pets To make an appointment or get more information, call (904) 425-0005. To donate or ask fundraising-related questions, call 904.520.7900. Clinics are at 464 Cassat Ave. and 6817 Norwood Ave., both in Jacksonville.