An Underdog Becomes Leader of the Pack.

The dogs at Tito’s Handmade Vodka offices and distillery are a constant reminder of the company’s mission to “unite with our friends, fans and partners to better the lives of pets and their families far and wide.”

by Anna Cooke

One of the very first employees of Tito’s Handmade Vodka was a dog named Dogjo. She was right by Tito Beveridge’s side when he started his distillery in 1997. It was the first legal distillery in Texas and the only crafts spirits distillery in the country, at the time.

During those early years, Tito’s Handmade Vodka was a one-man operation – from crafting and packaging to selling, delivering and dealing with paperwork. Beveridge and Jo often ate and slept at the warehouse. The 50-pound bags of dog food that Beveridge stored for Jo eventually attracted a revolving door of homeless pups, fondly called “distillery dogs.”

Beveridge has always said that he makes the vodka he likes to drink. “Since I was the guy making it, bottling it and selling it, I realized I couldn’t make something for somebody else. It was just fortunate for me that my palate falls into the bell curve of what vodka drinkers like.”

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This is Taki, the current official distillery dog.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka grew and so did the number of dogs who hung around the distillery, as Beveridge continued to feed and take care of them. Today, the distillery is home to a handful of rescued dogs, including Taki, the current resident distillery dog who eats, plays and lives there. The dogs are a constant reminder of the company’s mission to “unite with our friends, fans and partners to better the lives of pets and their families far and wide.” Following the devastating destruction that resulted from Hurricane Harvey in 2017, it is no surprise that this dog-loving team came together to brainstorm the most effective and immediate ways to help those affected.

“When a natural disaster strikes, one of the largest groups affected is always stray and abandoned animals,” said Amy Lukken, Chief Joyologist of Tito’s Handmade Vodka. “We knew we would have to act quickly, even before the storm made landfall, in order to save as many animals’ lives as possible,” she added. The Tito’s team has an ongoing relationship with local animal shelter Austin Pets Alive! When they reached out for help, the Tito’s team provided as much support as possible, even as some of their own family members in Houston and surrounding areas would be displaced because of the hurricane.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka animal advocacy program, Vodka For Dog People, donated money to Austin Pets Alive! to help with the purchase of food, supplies and shelter for displaced animals after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. More than 5,000 animals who were in Harvey’s direct path have been saved. Vodka For Dog People also gave locally to Wags Hope and Healing and Bailing Out Benji. On the people front, the company partnered with the American Red Cross with a dollar-for-dollar match of up.

Although Austin Pets Alive! and other Texas shelters have done a fantastic job at providing aid to these animals, disaster aid is still needed beyond the Texas border. The Tito’s team continues to help fund transportation methods for pets out of the Caribbean and Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

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Tito’s employees and volunteers collecting donations after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Through the Vodka For Dog People (VFDP) initiative, more than 1,000 animal welfare nonprofits in over seven countries have been helped since its inception, six years ago. VFDP, which partners in more than 700 fundraising events each year, has been a permanent company-wide cause program for three years.

In Florida, VFDP has provided support to more than 50 different events and charities, including Vets For Pets Charitable Clinic in Tampa and Pet Pal Animal Shelter in St. Petersburg. “We expect those numbers will continue to grow as our Vodka For Dog People program gains more recognition and visibility, thanks to partners such as The New Barker,” said Beth Bellanti, Vodka For Dog People Program Manager at Tito’s Handmade Vodka. “The easiest way to get involved with Florida animal advocacy programs is by donating to local shelters and charities. We host VFDP events all over Florida,” Beth added. By the way, we saw a beautiful raffle basket of Tito’s Handmade Vodka with fun goodies at Manatee County Animal Services 4th Annual Adopt-A-Palooza  this past Saturday.

Vodka For Dog People is the perfect legacy to honor Jo, Tito’s first companion dog, almost 21 years ago. “Everyone has an incredible rescue story, including those of us who have adopted dogs from the distillery,” said Beveridge.

Reflecting on those earlier days, Tito thinks about failure in terms of energy. Harkening back to his geophysics days (he graduated from The University of Texas with degrees in geology and geophysics in 1984), Beveridge said, “Energy isn’t destroyed. It simply changes forms.” He uses this knowledge to his advantage whenever he is struggling with a project. “Your first instinct is to blame everyone else,” said Beveridge. “But, don’t blame it on anyone. Wrap your arms around [the failure] and take the blame, so all the energy becomes yours. You can’t destroy energy. You can, however, change the phase.”

We’ll toast to that.

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The marketing team for Columbia Restaurant Group invited Tito Beveridge to Ulele. The Tampa restaurant serves Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

The New Barker is a Florida-based lifestyle magazine all about dogs and the humans who love them. Featuring original stories with award-winning photography in each quarterly publication since 2006 – each cover of The New Barker features an original work of art by a different artist. Subscribe today. 

A Bed For Every Shelter Dog.

Cold weather in Florida, with recent record-breaking temperatures hitting freezing or below in some areas, has a strange way of motivating Floridians. What began with a simple post on a personal Facebook page has blossomed into a full-blown movement, proving once again, that there is good in this world.

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Puppy at SPCA Tampa Bay, photographed by Anna Cooke for The New Barker.

While visiting a couple of shelters in the Tampa Bay area to donate some dog toys, Cindi Hughes learned that many of the shelters don’t accept toys with stuffing – or beds, for that matter. “The dogs may choke on the stuffing if they rip them up,” said Cindi. As she stood in the shelter, she noticed a steady stream of people coming in to donate towels and blankets. It was going to be a particularly cold night for the dogs at the shelter. The towels and blankets would be used to keep them warm.

Later, that evening, Cindi thought, “Throwing a towel in a crate is rarely warm or comfortable for these dogs. Why can’t I take two to four towels, sew them together for more comfort and warmth and donate a few to the shelter?” She posted her thoughts on her Nextdoor app on January 6, asking if anyone would be willing to help her with donations and sewing. It was just a thought; a small way to help the shelters with their immediate need for beds.

The response was overwhelming and continues, a little more than a month since Cindi’s initial post. At the end of almost every day, she comes home to find her front porch stacked with donations of towels, blankets, pillows and bolts of fabric from her friends and neighbors. Realizing she was going to need help, Cindi created a Facebook page, Beds For All Paws, and posted another request to “ladies who sew.”

The first sewing session, a few women showed up to sew beds. The group, meeting every Wednesday, has grown and in less than a month’s time, they have produced 310 handmade beds.

Last night, we attended the sewing session in Safety Harbor and some 30 people showed up to cut, sew and stuff beds. They completed another 200+ beds in a couple of hours.

The group is mostly comprised of women, many of whom are retired, from all walks of life.  All of them came together through the Nextdoor app and/or Facebook. The common thread was their love of companion animals, especially those in need of forever homes.

Catharine said she was looking for a dentist when she came across Cindi’s post on Palm Harbor Happenings. “You could say a toothache brought me here,” said Catherine, whose sister Christine, a retired teacher, was the primary donor to build the much-needed pet kennels at CASA St. Petersburg. Of course, CASA will be receiving a donation of beds.

Lisa works for Suncoast Credit Union. The company gives each employee eight hours a year of paid leave to donate their time to a charity of their choice. “This was an approved cause,” said Lisa, as she sat sewing at her machine. Dan, her husband, was volunteering his time for whatever was needed. “He always comes with me to support my causes,” added Lisa, smiling at him as he cut fabric and stuffed beds.

Hannah told me about Boom Boom her Yorkie. She was in her veterinarian’s office when she saw someone come in with the tiniest of creatures. “He was just an hour old. You couldn’t even tell what kind of animal he was,” said Hannah. The breeder, she told me, brought the Yorkie puppy in to be euthanized. “He said the puppy wasn’t sellable because he was missing a toe. And for that, he was going to die,” recalled Hannah. She simply asked if she could take the puppy home with her. That was a year ago. “Boom Boom is my pride and joy and has everything he wants or needs. He is the reason I’m here, tonight, to sew beds for those dogs who don’t have a warm home, like Boom Boom does,” said Hannah.

Marcia, who moved to Florida from Pennsylvania a year ago, uses Facebook to stay connected to family and friends. She just happened upon Cindi’s post and was immediately intrigued. “I worked with a cat rescue in Pennsylvania for many years. We did a lot of TNR (trap, neuter, release of feral cats). I thought this would be a great way to meet new people who love animals like I do,” said Marcia.

Ed is a part time Floridian who splits his time between Minnesota.  As the owner of the Perkins Restaurant & Bakery at 2626 Gulf to Bay Boulevard in Clearwater, he has been donating some delicious sweets and coffee for the sewing group. “I’m an attorney in Minnesota and I’ve had the restaurant for 20 years. I’ve been blessed with a great team there,” said Ed. “I told Cindi to let me know whatever she needed. I am happy to support this effort.” Not coincidentally, Ed’s wife, Jeanne Lechner, volunteers for the Animal Humane Society in Minnesota.

Desanya, whose dog-friendly SeaDog Cottages is an advertising partner of The New Barker, also read about Beds For All Paws on social media. “I contacted Cindi and asked her what could we do to help.” Cindi had been looking for space to store the growing donations of supplies, including sewing machines. She was running out of room in her home. Desanya offered to donate the use of her storage space until Cindi could find something permanent. The two women met last week, for the first time, and quickly filled the space.

Local area shelters benefiting, so far, from Beds For All Paws include Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, Humane Society of Pinellas and soon, Pet Pal Animal Shelter. Volunteers load their cars to the brim with the beds and make the deliveries, wherever needed. As word gets out, more shelters are putting in their requests for beds. Cindi was also contacted by some folks in California who asked for her help with setting up a local Beds For All Paws there.

“The outpouring of support has taken me by complete surprise,” said Cindi, who is easily overcome with emotion and tears. “If you give people a chance to be good, they will,” she added, as the whirring sound of sewing machines filled the room.

Visit the Beds For All Paws website for more information and how to help.

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It Feels Sew Right.

 

Every Dog Has His Lucky Day.

As the Jacksonville Humane Society celebrates the grand opening of its new facilities, we revisit our story about the devastating fire in 2007.

Excerpted and edited from a story in the Holiday/Winter 2008/2009 edition of The New Barker.

It was late night/early morning on April 7, 2007, when Leona Sheddan, former Executive Director of the Jacksonville Humane Society received a startling phone call: The Humane Society had burned to the ground and all the animals were dead. With thoughts of death and destruction fresh in her mind, she rushed there not knowing what she would find.

To her disbelief as she approached the shelter, fire trucks had blocked off the roadways and dogs were running in the streets. At that moment, Sheddan said, “I felt things would be okay, because we could rebuild buildings, but we couldn’t bring back life.” Unfortunately, this would turn out not to be the case.

Animals were still trapped inside the burning structure. Firefighters began to open crates and toss animals out of the burning building, hoping they would run to safety. Dogs quickly exited, but cats burrowed themselves in corners and underneath crates making them more difficult to rescue. Dogs also proved to have their own difficulties as the very same ones brought out by firefighters were following them right back into the fire, forcing firefighters to put the dogs inside their trucks. Firefighters helped saved 80 animals that night, but another 86 lost their lives to a fire of unknown origin.

After the fire was extinguished, firefighters began to search what was left of the once lively building. They made a startling discovery: Belly deep in a pool of standing water, was a 10-month-old puppy. Luck struck this young pup twice that night as not only did he survive the fire, he found a home with the loving firefighters of Ladder 28. Fittingly, they dubbed him Lucky.

Lucky, a Labrador mix, was not the only miracle to come from the fire. A couple of days later, Sheddan and a few members of the staff were making another pass over the rubble, when a board member heard a noise. Silence quickly fell over the area, as everyone was intent on discovering the source of the sound, when a cat poked its head out of the debris. Sheddan remembered the face well, saying, “this cat gave us a look that said, where the heck have you people been? I’ve been here for two days. I’m hungry, tired, and dirty.” Like his canine counterpart, the pretentious feline was dubbed Lucky as well. Later that day T.J., Lucky the Cat’s brother, was also found alive. Of all the animals in that area, Lucky and his brother were the only survivors.

Lucky the Cat, painted by Ron Burns.

After the fire, the Jacksonville Humane Society was closed for five days. More than a year later, the shelter was still working out of close quarters. Two temporary modulars were moved onto the property, one housing adoptions and admissions, the second serving as a vet tech center for examinations of animals entering and leaving the shelter. Despite the cramped conditions, donations poured in from 27 states and two foreign countries. The community of Jacksonville was also quick to come to the aid of its Humane Society. The Boyd Family, long-time Jacksonville philanthropists, donated six acres of land worth $3.5 million. Artist Ron Burns, The U.S. Humane Society’s Artist-In-Residence, donated a percentage of his earnings from artwork sold at a local gallery. His donated paintings of Lucky the Dog and Lucky the Cat were on display at the temporary Humane Society offices as a constant reminder of hope. Donations were earmarked for a planned 45,000 square foot structure.

Priced at $12 million, construction of the new facility was estimated to take at least two years. The goal was to turn the Humane Society into more than just an animal shelter, by making it a destination point for families in the community, with expanded programs to benefit people as well as dogs and cats. One proposed program would allow senior citizens to leave assisted living homes for visits to the Humane Society, where they could interact with shelter animals. Another proposed program would allow for children’s parties and sleep overs.

Built along a creek, the Jacksonville Humane Society’s plans at the time, also called for construction of a promenade along the waterfront, where people could sip coffee and relax with their dog. Additional plans called for a Pooch Park, where people would bring their own dogs for interaction with the shelter’s dogs.

All surviving animals from the fire were adopted, many into the homes of emergency personnel who helped fight the fire that night. Lucky Dog spent most of his time at home, while his owner, Rod Zinick, continued to work at the fire department. For awhile, Zinick would take Lucky to the fire station with him during every shift. Lucky would play at a neighboring park or hang out at the station, but he never wandered far. “We would go out on a call,” Zinick says, “and when we came back, he was waiting in the bay.”

Lucky and his rescuers, the crew of Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department’s Ladder 28. Photographed in 2007.

On November 10 and 11, 2017 the Jacksonville Humane Society will be hosting Grand Opening celebrations of their new Adoption, Education and Community Resource Center. Bacon Group Architects, out of Clearwater, Florida, was the Architect of Record and Project Manager. The shelter, led by current Executive Director Denise Deisler, is located at 8464 Beach Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida. JaxHumane.org

 

One Dog At A Time.

In 2006, during a tour of duty in the Afghanistan town of Now Zad, Royal Marine Sergeant Pen Farthing helped break up a dogfight. Located in Helmand Province, this was an area once described as the most dangerous place on Earth. Pen could not resist the soulful eyes of one of the street dogs he saved, whose ears had been cut off for fighting. He ended up befriending the dog and named him Nowzad.

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Pen Farthing and Nowzad.

After his tour of duty ended, Pen went through a difficult process to bring Nowzad home to the UK. He quickly realized that he wasn’t the only one hoping to do the same. Pen founded NOWZAD, and soon began the process of reuniting dogs with the soldiers who had befriended them in war zones around the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Kuwait and Libya. Through donations, happy homecoming destinations have included USA, UK, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Jordan and South Africa.

Seven of the rescued street dogs have become fully fledged service dogs in the United States. The dogs are a much valued and loved lifeline to their veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD. That these dogs endured a war zone like their handlers only strengthens the connection and understanding.

Service dog Hannah with Nate
Nate, reunited with Hannah through the efforts of NOWZAD. Hannah is now Nate’s service dog.

“As the troop sergeant in Afghanistan, I was there to motivate the guys and get them fired up again to go out and do the job. But no one was doing that for me,” said Pen. “My time with this dog was a way of de-stressing, collecting my thoughts and popping my head back in the game.”

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Lexi, moments after being rescued. Sadly, Staff Sergeant David P. Day, 26 of Gaylord, MI, later gave his life in service with Fox Company, 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, during combat operations in Badges Province, Afghanistan, April 24, 2011.

Hope For Animals In A War-Tone Region. The charitable organization has reunited more than 900 dogs and cats with the soldiers. NOWZAD also runs the only animal shelter and clinic of its kind in all of Afghanistan. Currently, it is home to around 150 dogs, 40 cats and six donkeys. The modern veterinary clinic is staffed by a team of Afghan nationals. In addition to animal welfare education, NOWZAD’s mission at the clinic is the prevention of the spread of rabies. They are also implementing a humane trap, neuter, vaccinate and return program in Kabul for cats.

Who Rescued Whom? Often, the brave men and women serving their countries in war zones around the world, find themselves adopting a stray dog or cat struggling to survive. The animals end up providing a respite from war; a moment of peace, home and love. Leaving them behind, after their tour of duty is over, is unthinkable for many of these soldiers. NOWZAD arranges for the dog or cat to safely get to the Nowzad clinic where shelter and care are provided. They spay/neuter all rescues and provide any other required medical attention as well as vaccinations. Then, they carry out all necessary checks and paperwork to ensure the animal will arrive to its final destination, back in the arms of its loving warrior.

NOWZAD’s Policy Statement On The Import Of Dogs. There has been an increase of press speculation in reference to the irresponsible importation of dogs in the UK and the US. “It has been reported that more than 30,000 dogs were brought into the UK from the EU alone, with the majority coming from Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania; many of which are via puppy traffickers or negligent organizations that do not adhere to the strict regulations that are required to import a dog or cat into the UK. Irresponsible dog importation poses a health and safety threat not only to the dog itself, but to other dogs and humans it may come into contact with. Many of the dogs imported are not a typical domesticated dog that easily integrates into a household environment; a fact not always communicated fully to a new owner,” states NOWZAD on its website.  While there have been numerous calls to prevent this international rehoming as standard practice, NOWZAD adds. “Whilst a complete ban would be unfavorable to us as it would prevent us reuniting soldiers with the dogs or cats, we strongly advocate the need for tighter regulations to prevent rogue importers who are detrimental to the hard work of reputable and responsible animal charities like ourselves.”

Cathy Kangas, who sits on the Board of NOWZAD says of Pen, “He has shown that one person can have an amazing impact, bringing good to an environment written off by many. NOWZAD is demonstrating what can be achieved when people from all walks of life and cultures cast differences aside and work toward a common goal.”

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November, 2011/JFK Airport. With the help of American Dog Rescue, NOWZAD was able to make this emotional reunion possible between Adam and his battle buddy Freedom.

The New Barker dog magazine was first introduced to Pen Farthing and NOWZAD in 2011 by Florida’s own Arthur Benjamin of American Dog Rescue. Pen has written the bestseller “One Dog at a Time, Saving the Strays of Helmand.” The NOWZAD charity has support from animal lovers all over the world, including Ricky Gervais, who  donated the profits from one of his warm-up gigs, earlier this year. The warm-ups took place ahead of Gervais’ national tour of his stand-up show, appropriately called Humanity.

“If You See A Risk And Walk Away…

Then hope you never have to say, I could have saved a life that day, But I chose to look the other way.” From a poem by Don Merrill, “I Chose To Look The Other Way.”

by Anna Cooke, Editor-in-Chief of The New Barker dog magazine.

We have a problem in this state. Call it whatever you want: pet overpopulation. Blame it on the irresponsible public, if you’d like. It has reached epic proportions in Miami-Dade. Law enforcement and government officials are turning the other way, saying it’s not their job, not in their pay grade, not in their circle of knowledge.

Small bands of animal advocates are stepping in, but it’s only a bandaid. The problem is growing, and dogs are dying as a result.

Dogs are being dumped in an area known as the Redland Rock Pit. Volunteers with organizations like the Redland Rock Pit Abandoned Dog Project are trying to help the dogs by either capturing or feeding them have witnessed cars driving up, doors opening to let a dog out, then driving away. In one heartbreaking scene that played out just last week, a German Shepherd Dog chased after his owner’s car. The dog stood on the corner as the white car took off. A volunteer with Racing 4 Rescues coaxed the dog, now named Brady, safely into her car. Racing 4 Rescues volunteers were already in the area with the goal of pulling a momma (another German Shepherd Dog) and her two pups to safety.

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Momma and her two pups in the Redland Rock Pit area. Photography by Jaime Wald Seymour-Newton of JSN Photo/Animal Rescue.

 

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Her puppies were pulled. But, momma eluded volunteers with Racing 4 Rescues.

Miami-Dade Animal Services is crowded – at capacity. Same story, different town. This, in spite of a grand opening in June 2016 of the brand new Miami-Dade Animal Services Pet Adoption and Protection Center. “The new Pet Adoption and Protection center is a significant accomplishment for our pet loving community and will help Animal Services continue to save lives,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. “We built the best facility to help ensure every pet gets adopted, offer more low-cost spay/neuter services and enrich our life-saving programs,” he added.

Yet, in a response to the Redland Rock Pit problem, the Mayor sent this email last year, around the same time: “The shelter has rescued over 1100 strays from the Redlands/Homestead/Florida City area in this time period (three years). ASD continues to stand ready to respond to any issues identified by volunteers and asks all individuals to provide specific addresses and locations so that they can respond and follow-up on stray animals or cruelty issues.”

Mayor Gimenez, emails and phone calls are going unanswered. The dumped dogs, many of whom are unaltered, are left to fend for themselves. They are breeding, adding to the problem. Cruelty issues include dogs being sacrificed in Santeria rituals. Death by poisoning, or from being hit by cars. Starving to death.  Have you seen some of the cruelties, Mayor?

Welcome to Miami, Florida (warning – graphic images within this video)

Meanwhile, people and businesses from outside your community are coming in to help, donating time, services and food. Resources that could be used to help shelter pets and the pet overpopulation problems in their own communities.

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Food, donated by Pet Food Warehouse of St. Petersburg, is loaded onto a truck bound for Miami.
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Yoho Automotive & Towing, owned by Danielle Yoho – also the founder and president of Racing 4 Rescues.

But, your situation, Mayor Gimenez, has moved people to want to help, because it is a problem that belongs to all of us. And yet – no word from anyone in your offices, Miami-Dade Animal Services or law enforcement. Tell us, please, what should your constituents do? What can we, as concerned Florida animal advocates, do? We would love to speak with you. We’d love to hear your take on the situation. It is only going to get worse. My email address is anna@thenewbarker.com

Contact the office of Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez: mayor@miamidade.gov Call 305.375.1880.

Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners:

District 1 – Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan: district1@miamidade.gov; 305.375.5694

District 2 – Commissioner Jean Monestime: district2@miamidade.gov; 305.375.4833

District 3 – Vice Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson: district3@miamidade.gov; 305.375.5393

District 4 – Commissioner Sally A Heyman: district4@miamidade.gov; 305.375.5128

District 5 – Commissioner Bruno A. Barreiro: district5@miamidade.gov; 305.643.8525

District 6 – Commissioner Rebeca Sosa: district6@miamidade.gov; 305.375.5696

District 7 – Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez: district7@miamidade.gov; 305.669.4003

District 8 – Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava: district8@miamidade.gov; 305.375.5218

District 9 – Commissioner Dennis C. Moss: DennisMoss@miamidade.gov; 305.375.4832

District 10 – Commissioner Javier D. Souto: district10@miamidade.gov; 305.375.4835

District 11 – Commissioner Joe A. Martinez: district11@miamidade.gov; 305.375.5511

District 12 – Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz: district12@miamidade.gov; 305.375.4343

District 13 – Chairman Esteban L. Bovo, Jr.: district13@miamidade.gov; 305.375.4831

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Brady, the dog left behind in front of witnesses at Redland Rock Pit, is in the caring hands of volunteers at Racing 4 Rescues. He has tested HW negative and is receiving treatment for skin issues.

What’s So Super About Sunday?

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.

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Denzel with Best Friend veterinarian Dr. Patricia Patterson.
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Dogtown caregiver Paul Lindley with Denzel.

 

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.”

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Oscar and Rachel Johnson.

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.

 

The Occupational Hazard Of Working With Animals.

Society is disrespectful toward not only the animals, but shelter workers as well. Most often, animal caregivers leave shelter work, beaten down and disillusioned. The ones who stay, grow the proverbial “thick skin” in order to deal with the negativity they face, day in and day out.

Anna Cooke, Editor, The New Barker Dog magazine.

Compassion fatigue is also known as “secondary-traumatic stress disorder (STSD).” The symptoms of STSD are similar to those of PTSD. As with PTSD, compassion fatigue can lead to depression and thoughts of suicide. “Animal care professionals are some of the most pain-saturated people I have ever worked with,” said Psychotherapist J. Eric Gentry. “The very thing that makes them great at their work, their empathy and dedication and love for animals, makes them vulnerable.”

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Siberian Husky Rescue of Florida. 2010 Get Rescued In Gulfport. The New Barker.

Most animal caregivers go into the work, either professionally or as a volunteer, carrying a true love for animals in their hearts. They certainly don’t choose the work because of the extraordinary benefits or high salaries. Patricia Smith, founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project believes that those who work in animal welfare face different challenges than those in other areas of care (i.e. – nurses, social workers, EMTs).

“I found in my work as training and development manager at a shelter that people enter this field very idealistic, really hoping to make a difference in the way animals are cared for and treated,” said Smith. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for that bubble to burst.”

In other helping professions such as health care, teaching or firefighting, the workers are respected and even idealized. This is not the case with shelter workers. Most people believe shelter workers are part of the problem especially at shelters where the dogs and cats are euthanized.

“Society is disrespectful toward not only the animals, but shelter workers as well,” said Smith. “Most often, animal caregivers leave shelter work, beaten down and disillusioned. The ones who stay grow the proverbial “thick skin” in order to deal with the negativity they face, day in and day out.”

When the majority of workers/volunteers in an organization suffer the symptoms of compassion fatigue, the organization itself takes on the symptoms of organizational compassion fatigue. The result is high Worker’s Comp claims, absenteeism, inability of staff and management to collaborate, inability of staff to follow rules and regulations and lack of flexibility and adaptability among workers. Rescue groups experience a high turnover rate with volunteers.

Eventually, this all affects the bottom line and lack of funds creates another layer of challenges: paying decent wages and benefits, lack of quality care the animals receive, inability to retain talented workers. The list is endless.

“Turning around a shelter environment that is plagued with compassion-fatigued workers is the job of management,” said Smith.

As a caregiver, whether as a professional or as a volunteer, self-care is the only answer to healthy caregiving, especially in animal welfare. It takes hard work to become “self directed” Smith explained. “Self direction means that we have personal boundaries, we are able to say “no” without feeling guilty. We know our limitations and we honor them. We practice self-care daily. We need to heal our deep hurts and not allow ourselves to be re-traumitzied by the work we choose to do,” she added.

Compassion Fatigue is not the same as burnout, but they can co-exist. Burnout can happen to anyone in any profession. It’s a cumulative process marked by emotional exhaustion and withdrawal associated with increased workload and institutional stress. It is not trauma-related. Compassion Fatigue is specific to those who are working with a traumatized or suffering population.

“Stress is too much: too much work, too much pressure, too many deadlines. Burnout is not enough: not enough time, not enough resources, not enough energy.  When you add compassion fatigue to that mixture, you have a crippled individual in body, mind and spirit.” –Patricia Smith, founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project.

“I truly believe the number one thing we can do to reduce stress and avoid burnout is to be self aware. What causes our stress? What are the triggers? How do we manage our stress? Self awareness begins with education. Not only learning about stress, burnout and compassion fatigue, but learning about ourselves,” said Smith. “Create a Personal Mission statement (what is my promise to myself?) and follow up with a Self-Care plan (start with one goal and make yourself accountable). We can begin the path to healing that will make it possible to continue to make a difference in the lives of animals.”

 

This Thursday, October 27, the Tampa location of The Pet Loss Center is hosting a Compassion Fatigue Seminar. It is free and open to all who are in animal care: veterinarians, vet techs, shelter employees and volunteers, rescue organization volunteers. The doors will open a 6p with refreshments served. The seminar is from 6:30p – 7:30p followed by networking. Pets are welcome.The Pet Loss Center will donate $5 for every attendee that comes to the Open House+Seminar on behalf of a local shelter or rescue organization. The rescue whose organization has the most attendees represented during the Open House will receive a $500 donation from The Pet Loss Center.

The Pet Loss Center, Tampa: 6091 Johns Road, Suite 5 33634. 813.999.4040.

Penelope