“You have no idea what a best friend is until you’ve worked together.” A girl and her rescue dog.
by Anna Cooke
Well yes, sometimes a rescue dog truly does need rescuing. Maggie had spent the first seven months of her life inside an Alabama animal shelter. When volunteers from Ewenity Farm Herding Dog Haven offered to take her, life was looking up for her. Understandably, Maggie would need someone with patience to help bring out the best dog she had inside of her.
Stephanie Cox knew she had her work cut out for her when she adopted Maggie. As with most challenges, we never know the level of difficulty we’re facing until we’re deep into it.
Maggie was afraid of life; of everything around her. “She was afraid of cars, even parked cars,” said Stephanie. “And she definitely didn’t like car rides.” This was just one of many challenges the two faced, early in their relationship. Maggie did not want to let Stephanie out of her site, and a car ride was necessary for their weekly obedience classes. They managed, and after completing basic obedience, Stephanie decided to work with Maggie in agility.
“She is not a couch potato kind of dog. I felt she would do well with an activity like agility,” said Stephanie, whose other dog, Diamond, excels in the sport. She set up a course in her backyard, and Maggie loved it. However, classes at the dog training club proved to be another challenge. Maggie panicked in the agility ring, and then froze every time.
“I cried many times during agility class,” said Stephanie. “There were moments, driving home together, when I wondered if I was doing the right thing for Maggie. I was worried that she might feel I was punishing her.”
Support from other members of the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club continued to gently encourage Stephanie and Maggie. “We just worked on her confidence. And my confidence as well,” Stephanie said. “I had to learn not to stress over anything Maggie was doing; to understand the process and the journey we were both on.”
When we met with Maggie and Stephanie last year, Maggie had already won her Novice title in four trials. “I knew she always had it in her,” said Stephanie.
In an agility trial, a dog demonstrates her agile nature and versatility by following cues from her handler through a timed obstacle course of jumps, tunnels, weave poles and other objects. “The bonding experience is incredible,” said Stephanie. “You have no idea what a best friend is until you’ve worked together.”
Stephanie reiterates that there are no lost causes. Whenever her two young children are faced with a challenge, Stephanie reminds them, “Remember Maggie?”
Every dog requires a certain amount of time to find her way in life and fit into the dynamics of her new environment.
“Maggie always had grit. I just had to help her find it.”
Shelter Silence How was it that 100 hundred shelter dogs at Seminole County Animal Shelter stopped barking, and laid down calmly as I slowly walked down the aisle between the kennels? My body language was non-threatening and neutral. My energy, using my training in QiGong and Reiki, was directed toward a calm and favorable outcome to them, and lastly, my mental thoughts were those of calmness. The dogs read all this. Watch as Jo Maldonado, using body language and thoughts, calms stressed shelter dogs in a few minutes at Seminole County Animal Shelter.
Body Language Body language is the most primitive and significant form of human communication. It came into existence even before our ancestors developed speech and language. The study of body language is called kinesics and has been studied since the early Greeks. Research studies suggest that your body is the reflection of your mind, and the way you control your body will have an impact on your mental processes. It is a mutual process. Your body posture adapts to your thoughts, so if for example, you are depressed your shoulders may slump, your head may drop, you may shift weight onto one leg vs. standing equal weight on both legs If you’re nervous, your gestures may be more jerky, not smooth and controlled; you may pace.
Power Poses My studies with body language originated with studying Professor Amy Cuddy, Social Psychologist and Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, known world-wide for her Power Pose study. Her studies showed that we send messages of leadership to people through “Power Poses.” Each posture or pose, gives off a certain and very different energy signal. Each body position carries with it an emotion which is triggered by our thoughts and the memories our cells have stored within our body. There are power poses and submissive poses, each respectively affecting the people and animals around us in a different manner.
Power Poses and Animals I went one step further after following Prof. Cuddy’s poses with humans, and applied it to animals, specifically horses and dogs. Dogs are predators, and responded in a subservient manner, recognizing the human as pack leader; horses the prey, responded in a threatened manner, in flight mode. My conclusion supports what we should already realize: use caution when approaching unfamiliar dogs. Communicate clearly what it is you want the dog to know or do. Some dogs are leaders, and others are pack followers. If we are to apply strong forceful body language upon a follower type dog, it may create adverse reactions in a now fearful dog. On the other hand, if we apply a power pose to a dog who clearly wants to be in charge, we would get a response more in our favor, and you win the pack leader role.
Body Language & Energy Animals measure their trust in you, their communication with you, and their understanding of you by the energy that you send when you are in their presence. It’s not complicated. The fascinating thing is, that we ALL send messages to other species, all the time. All beings share their energy with others. The thoughts that you have, create a vibration, a specific frequency which is then perceived by others around you. This is also why you are able to detect if someone is being genuine and authentic in the words they speak, you instinctually pick up on the thoughts and vibrations which the other person is giving off. When a person’s words and their thoughts do not match, you can perceive this through their body language. This intricate process of translation is all done subconsciously. Dogs’ proficiency in reading body language should come as no surprise since, as pack members, dogs have to communicate with each other without the benefit of a verbal language. Instead they communicate through conscious and subliminal signing or gesturing, and watch for the actions and reactions of the other individual.
Body Posture Your body posture: head carriage position, shoulders, hip stance, position of arms, behind you vs. in front of you, send the same messages to animals as they do to people, just more intensified. Each posture or pose gives off a certain and very different energy signal. Each body position carries with it an emotion which is triggered by our thoughts and the memories our cells have stored within our body.
So, how did we get all those dogs to stop barking, and relax? 1) Posture: Shoulders Back Did you know that more testosterone is emitted when your shoulders are back, vs. when they are in a slumped-over position? Dogs’ senses are keen. When you emit more testosterone in dog language you are saying that you are in charge; in a dog pack, the dog with the highest level of testosterone is in charge; shoulders slumped to the front is submissive, signaling that you don’t want to be in charge. Higher testosterone is associated with confidence, power, and higher risk tolerance. This combination is linked with effective leadership. Contracted body language (closed) is linked to feelings of lower status and worth, and is exemplified by hunched shoulders, head lowered, crossed arms and legs, and not smiling, says social psychologist Amy Cuddy.
2) Knees Locked vs. Knees Relaxed Knees should be unlocked, or in a relaxed position if standing, legs equally apart at a stance, and grounded “like a tree” is most optimal. When you lock your knees, your muscles tighten. Tight muscles are typically a response to either severe cold temperatures, excitability, heightened emotions, or unbalanced energy, and can deliver an unfavorable response to dogs. They may also be viewed as threatening. Example: a fearful person tends to tense up and stare. Dogs may tend to misread a fearful person’s behavior as a “challenge” posture, like that of a dominant dog squaring up to an opponent. This immediately puts a dog on the defensive.
3) Legs Apart Stance: A neutral pose to be assumed with equal weight distributed on each leg as you stand, as opposed to shifting your weight to one or other leg which sends a message of uncertainty. When you are standing equally, you are more in control of your dog and are sending messages of strength and confidence to your animal.
4) Head Position: Very significant in body language. A person’s head, due to a very flexible neck structure, can turn, thrust forward, withdraw, tilt sideways, forwards and backwards. All of these movements have meanings, which given some thought about other signals can be understood. The best position to work with animals is a high head position which signifies attentive listening, usually with an open or undecided mind, or lack of bias.
5) Gait: All participants were instructed to stand sideways, in front of one or two dog kennels. No gait was incorporated.
6) Facial Expressions: Neutral. No eye contact. Each participant stool parallel, sideways, not facing the dogs. Relaxed facial muscle.
7) Tone: No words were used.
8) Thoughts: All were instructed to think of the dogs in a neutral, relaxed position. Begin with slow relaxed breathing, deep sigh, then seeing the dogs in your mind’s eye sitting, then laying down. The goal was to think relaxing thoughts about the dog.
Our Emotions Are Showing Did someone ever tell you that you “wear your emotions on your sleeve?” Take that a step further. Animals are keen observers of our intentions and emotions, and can read us with an objective eye – even those movements and positions that you may not be aware of. Practice your body language as though the whole world were watching. Animals (and your dogs) will let you know if you have it right.
About the author: Jo Maldonado is an animal communicator, and has been an advisor and contributor to The New Barker since 2010. She is the founder and owner of Gryphons’ Claw The School of Practical Magic, and is department head of the Animal Communication Division. Jo is available as a lecturer, instructor and consultant for private clients and animal shelters. She may be reached via email at Jo@AnimalReader.com
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.”
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.
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.
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.
“Having a dog in my life completes me,” said Pam Stuart. The human+dog bond is one of the most beautiful things to stand back and observe. That’s just what we did while attending several dog agility events, recently, in Florida.
by Anna Cooke
Of all the things we’ve experienced over the last 12 years of publishing The New Barker, the bond between a dog and human is one of the most beautiful things to stand back and observe.
A few weeks ago, we checked out DACOF, the dog agility competition held at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee. The dogs competing were happy to be running, jumping and barking alongside their humans. People cheered each other on and there were a lot of atta boy and good girl praises, no matter the outcome of the agility run. Everyone was smiling, especially the dogs. Could it have been the bacon jerky treats?
Sunday, July 29, 2018, we attended the annual Summer Games for members of the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club (USDTC) in Clearwater. In addition to the fun and camaraderie, the event raised funds for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), surpassing the club’s goal of $1,000. We had an opportunity to speak with some of the members and interact with their dogs.
Big MacGyver was heading outdoors for a potty break, toy securely in mouth, when we first saw him. The French Bulldog+Boston Terrier mix will be two in October. His human, a nurse, has been training with him at USDTC for about a year. Dressed in her uniform, she would be heading to the hospital to work the night shift after attending the Games. “I always take time out for my pup,” she told us.
Tiny Tim has titled in dog tricks, Beginner Novice obedience and Rally Novice. His human Janie has been a member of USDTC since 1981, when the club was located in Dunedin. She loves Afghan Hounds, but after her last Afghan passed three years ago, Janie realized her days running with a bigger dog were limited. But living without a dog was never a consideration. Tiny Tim, a Chinese Crested Powder Puff, came into her life almost three years ago. The career hairdresser told us, “I knew I had to have another dog with hair.” She said that Cresteds and Afghans have similar personalities. “They’re both very independent breeds.” she said. “I’m very proud of Timmy and his accomplishments. Besides, he’s going to keep me young for another 10 years.”
Sid is a 15-year-old Schnauzer. The retired service dog has earned the right to be a quiet observer, lounging in his chair while his human competed with another dog. A cyst in his left eye required surgery to remove the whole eye. He now has bladder cancer, and is actually doing remarkably well. “He’s had a wonderful life,” said his human, who adopted him from the SPCA Tampa Bay. “He was just a puppy when I found him at the shelter, about to be put down because he had kennel cough.”
Lately, we’re hearing from quite a few of our readers, informing us of their dog’s passing. That’s the sad reality of having been publishing The New Barker since 2006. Sometimes, the deadlines and workload make the time seem like it’s been never-ending. But, for life with dogs, it’s never long enough.
Bruce and his Newfoundland Ransom are regulars at a lot of dog-friendly events around the Tampa Bay area. The family’s Newfoundlands have been featured in The New Barker several times, over the years. We first met Ransom as a puppy, during a Clearwater Threshers Baseball Bark at the Park. During Sunday’s event, Bruce said, “Thankfully, for many of us, our dogs have been forever immortalized on the pages of The New Barker. I am happy to have saved the magazines over the years and enjoy revisiting them. Always good memories.”
Callum is Pam Stuart’s puppy. The club’s current president, Pam has been a contributor to The New Barker, writing about her favorite breed, the Vizla. Her contribution about gun dog broke dogs, was one of our most highly-commented-on pieces. She has since lost two of her own Vizslas, Monty, who passed a few years ago, and Pete, just within the last couple of months. She says of Callum, who is four months old. “I had to have another dog. I’ll always have a dog in my life. Dogs complete me.”
Excerpt from Broken Down Angel. Fixing The Spirit of a Broken Dog by Pam Stuart
“That dog is not gun dog broke,” observed George Hickox, a top dog trainer and handler. “That dog is just broken.” Someone yelled to Lonnie Spell, another dog trainer on-site: “Hey, Lonnie, you want that piece of crap?”
“I had to say yes,” Lonnie remembered. “It would have been easier to say no, but sometimes the easy thing is not always the right thing. And saying no would mean that pup was destined to be dumped in an after-hours outdoor run at a kill shelter with all the other dogs. It wasn’t my job to make this guy’s dump at the shelter easier, but taking that dog would be the right thing. It would save a life. And, I knew that dog.” ###
So, about those treats we mentioned before, whether they’re bacon jerky or another secret weapon handlers may use to gain a dog’s full attention. My conclusion, after observing so many dogs over the years, is that they will do anything – anything – for their humans in exchange for warm praise, a gentle touch and especially the simple gesture of companionship. Time spent with dogs is never wasted.
A few other dogs we met during the July 29 Summer Games in Clearwater.
Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club (USDTC) is an all-breed training facility in Clearwater, Florida. For 50 years has empowered people to become better dog owners through positive training and education. The classes are for every dog, from puppies to seniors; manners to competition. Classes offered include obedience, rally, agility, conformation, tricks and canine freestyle. They also offer therapy dog training for those who want to give back with their dogs to the community.
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.
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.
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.
The unconditional love of a dog heals the soul, reaching into the heart to cross canyons of loneliness and despair. Military researchers are trying to learn if there’s real science behind that semi-mystical link and whether it can help treat the signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
by Anna Cooke
“We had never trained a tripod to be a service dog,” said Mary Peter, CEO and founder of K9 Partners For Patriots. The Brooksville, Florida program is helping veterans win the war against suicide, depression and anxiety through the experience of training their own service dog. The dog Mary was referring to, a Jack Russell Terrier mix, had been pulled from a kill shelter by a Spring Hill rescue group called Furever Friendz Inc. When volunteers picked him up, he was jaundiced with an infection in his right leg and parts of his right shoulder. He looked as if he’d been to hell and back. Once his caregivers nursed him back to health, including treating his infections, he was scheduled for surgery to save his leg. During surgery, the doctor discovered that the injury to the dog’s leg was so severe, amputation would be the best solution.
The happy little guy re-habbed really well, hardly noticing the difference. Furever Friendz Rescue Inc. made him available for adoption. He ended up in a most unusual place.
In War, There Are No Unwounded Soldiers. Every veteran has a story. Sometimes, it’s the wounds that are unseen that hurt the most. The conditions of Post Traumatic Stress Disease (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are often invisible to other service members, family and society. Each condition affects mood, thoughts and behavior. Yet, these wounds often go unrecognized and unacknowledged. Roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide, according to new data from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The problem is particularly worrisome among female veterans, who saw their suicide rates rise more than 85 percent between 2001 and 2014. Women make up 15 percent of our All Volunteer Force. About one-third of these women will be sexually assaulted during their time in service.
The first step to helping our veterans is to educate them about PTSD and what is going on inside of them. “They need to stop seeing themselves as broken, instead understanding that their brain did exactly what it was supposed to do to keep them safe in combat. They trained for combat; now they need to train to be home,” said Diane Scotland-Coogan, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Saint Leo University. She provides counseling for many veterans with PTSD.
Two major U.S. government studies are investigating the ways that trained service dogs may help veterans with TBI and/or PTSD. The first study is underway at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Participating troops are paired with puppies that they will raise for two years to serve as assistance dogs for other injured veterans.
A second study, conducted by the VA, has taken several years and is almost complete. The focus of the study is to determine if “there are things a dog can do for a veteran with PTSD that would qualify the animal as a service dog for PTSD.” K9 Partners for Patriots is participating in the study.
We All Have A Destiny. Mike, a retired veteran, has been through many tours of duty, including theatres in Desert Storm and Panama. Daily, he faces the mental, emotional and physical challenges as a result. Like many graduates of the K9 Partners for Patriots program, Mike returns to volunteer his services, wherever needed. His wife Lana volunteers as well. The day we met Mike, he was recovering from knee replacement surgery. Standing next to him was Lt. Dan, the aforementioned tripod Jack Russell Terrier mix. Mike named the dog after the character in the movie Forest Gump. Lt. Dan is now Mike’s service dog. It turns out this burly man with the imposing presence has a soft spot for the feisty little breed.
When Lana first found the three-legged dog on the Furever Friendz Rescue website, she called her husband. “Honey, I’ve found a Jack Russell but, there might be one problem; he only has three legs.” Mike didn’t miss a beat. “Not a problem. Let’s bring him home,” he told her. Once home, the dog instinctively began alerting Mike to oncoming anxiety attacks. Mike’s wife noticed the overall calming effect Lt. Dan had on her husband and wondered if he could be trained to do more as a service dog. Lt. Dan passed the preliminary tests conducted by the trainers at K9 Partners for Patriots. He and Mike were immediately enrolled in the 19-week program.
Lt. Dan was further trained to alert Mike to oncoming anxiety attacks, wake him from nightmares and calm him down in other certain trigger situations. At home, throughout the day and night, Lt. Dan never leaves Mike’s side.
Never Give Up. Never Give In. In the Army for 23 years (1983-2007), Paul had been working at one of the highest security clearance levels. “There was a sense of purpose,” he said. “But once the VA slaps you with a diagnosis, you’re out. And all dignity is lost. Once, we were someone important. Now, we’re forgotten.”
Paul was diagnosed with PTSD, TBI, MCI (mild cognitive impairment) and GWS (Gulf War Syndrome). “I’ve seen quite a bit; lost friends,” he told us. “I was taking so many medications, just to get my head clear.” In 2000, a doctor predicted Paul would be dead in three years. He credits his faith, sense of honor and the medical profession with keeping him alive. “And my two daughters, Caroline and Viktoria. They’ve stuck with me through it all,” he said.
About two years ago, Dr. Mueller, Paul’s clinical psychiatrist with the VA in New Port Richey, handed Paul a piece of paper. It had the phone number for K9 Partners for Patriots. When he called, he was told they would be able to evaluate his dog Moose, a black Labrador Retriever. If his dog passed, they would be trained together over the course of 19 weeks.
“How much is this going to cost me?” he asked. Not a dime, he was told. There had to be a catch. “Nothing is free,” he thought, out loud. “You’re right, Paul. Nothing is free. You’ve already given us a lot. All we need now is your commitment to participate,” he was told.
One in 25 dogs assessed actually makes it into the K9 Partners for Patriots program. “We look for dogs who can sense the adrenaline. Some dogs are repelled by it. Others could care less. We look for a dog who is attuned to it,” said Mary. Moose was 12 years old and it was determined he was too old for the service dog program. The Acquisition Team set out to find the perfect partner for Paul, which usually takes anywhere from two to six weeks.
“We interview the veteran to find out their needs. We also want to see a commitment from the veteran before we spend the time and money to find a dog,” said Mary. “We ask them to spend time at our facility to get used to the environment and meet the other veterans in the program. We invite their families.”
Hans, a two-year-old Lemon Dalmatian Treeing Coonhound mix, was transported from a North Georgia shelter to the K9 Partners for Patriots campus and paired with Paul. During their second night together, Hans pushed his head into Paul to wake him. “It was late and he was just looking at me. I thought he had to go outside. But he didn’t. Then I realized, I was having a flashback, and Hans woke me up and stayed by my side.”
Paul and Hans graduated from the K9 Partners for Patriots program earlier this year. They continue to come to the campus to volunteer wherever they’re needed. “I’ll cut the grass. I figure if I can do something to free up the trainers so they can focus on what they do, then, it’ll help save another vet’s life,” he said.
I’ve Got Your Back. Mary has never been in combat. “But I’ve seen some things that affected me while working in forensics recovery, and I had no one to talk to about it,” she said. She feels a higher power called her into action to help her community. “I cannot change the world, but I can sure help my corner of it,” she told us. The second hardest part of Mary’s job is convincing the medical field that the program is working. “Many of our veterans come into this program as highly medicated, barely functioning individuals,” she said.
In spite of this roadblock put up by some medical practitioners, K9 Partners for Patriots has been recognized by experts as a successful path forward for veterans living with PTSD. “When veterans come to K9 Partners for Patriots, they may not be able to visualize what their life could be because of the symptoms of PTSD. But if they trust the process, they can take control away from the symptoms of PTSD and start to live their lives again,” said Diane Scotland-Coogan, the associate professor at Saint Leo College. She has been working with K9 Partners for Patriots, conducting the double-blind studies that will be presented as a report to the Department of Defense. Continue reading “I’ve Got Your 6.”
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.
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.”
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