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.”

Taki
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. 

The Human+Dog Bond.

“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?

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Marina, owner of ARTPool Gallery in St. Petersburg and her dog Franklin, were at DACOF in Kissimmee. “We closed the store to attend the event with Franklin,” she told us.

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.

MacGyver
Big MacGyver – His face can fix anything that’s troubling you.

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.

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Janie and Tiny Tim. “He helps get me out of the house.”

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.”

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Sid
Sid has earned the right to sit and observe the action.

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.

IMG_9140_RansomBruce 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.”

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Callum
Callum, a four-month-old Vizsla.

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.”

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Pam with Monty and Pete.

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.

Cruiser
Cruiser, a seven-year-old Sheltie. Crossing his legs is his favorite thing.
Lily
Lily is a Bichon Frise. She’ll steal your heart after she steals the photograph.
Star
Star is a five-year-old Jack Russell Terrier.

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.

Dog Training Club of St. Petersburg

Dog Training Club of Tampa

Orlando Dog Training Club

Sarasota Obedience Training Club

Greater Ocala Dog Club

Imperial Polk Obedience Club

K-9 Obedience Club of Jacksonville

Obedience Club of Daytona

Miami Obedience Club

The Greater Gainesville Dog Fanciers Association

Marion-Alachua Dog Training Association

Fort Lauderdale Dog Club

Tallahassee Dog Obedience Club

Ochlockonee River Kennel Club

Dog Obedience Club of Hollywood

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.

Let’s Go Global.

by Anna Cooke and Heather Schulman

Even with a concise list of manufacturers to visit, we managed to get sidetracked at Global Pet Expo, last week in Orlando. The industry trade show for pet retailers is sensory overload with miles and miles of displays and products. Thank DOG for the various canines walking the floor, who helped bring us back down to earth on several occasions. There was Indie, catching the show from a backpack. And a sweet Pup In Pink Polka Dot whose name we did not catch. Then, there was Seamus. Oh Seamus, you stole our hearts. The Pyrenean Mastiff was part of the booth display at All Four Paws, makers of The Comfy Cone, The Chill Collar and The Wipe It Drool Towel (which Seamus was wearing).

 

Beds – There were lots of fun novelty items, like these Disney-themed beds and pillows (below). We loved the look and feel of the faux fur dog beds from Baylee Nasco, designed and manufactured out of Hialeah, Florida. That’s Chai Latte sitting on a pile of their beds at the show. One Lucky Dog in St. Petersburg carries the Baylee Nasco line. Feeling is believing.

 

Our favorite beds, paws down, are the ones made by Bowsers Beds. We have some throughout our home, and they still look brand new, after years of machine washing and drying. Now, it’s time to make an investment on some new ones. The dogs love them. The new, soft neutral colors are fabulous and will look good with any home’s color scheme or decor style. Fluffy Puppies Dog Store & Salon will be our go-to for our next round of Bowsers Beds.

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Travel – Luggage can be a fashion statement. For those of us who love taking trips with our dogs, The Pet Collection from Chariot Travelware is the hound’s bow WOW! The hard side cases are fully lined inside and feature a high quality telescopic handle with push button locking system. They are gorgeous. If you order online, tell them THE NEW BARKER dog magazine sent you.

 

Unleashing The Power Of Play – We enjoyed meeting the new team at Planet Dog. This Maine company continues to impress us with their innovative creations of tougher toys. They don’t forget to include puppies and seniors in their plans when thinking up new product designs. And, the toys are all 100% guaranteed. You can’t beat that. We’ll be heading to Pet Food Warehouse in St. Petersburg, BarkLife Market & More in Seminole and Dog Mania+Cats in Dade City for our next toy supply. Our dogs can’t have too many, right?

Planet_Dog_TheNewBarker.jpgNeat Stuff – It’s always nice to put a face to the months of email correspondence. We met Jane with foufouBrands, creators of foufoudog designer wear. They also make Vegalicious, a 100% natural vegan treats for dogs, made in the USA. We also met the exuberant Kevin Roberge, who was passionate about the new product lines being created by ThunderWorks, inventors of ThunderShirt. #ThunderShirtYourself Although we missed seeing our contact Andrea Friedland with PAWZ, stay connected to THE NEW BARKER, as we’re planning something fun with them, later this year.

 

Friends and Associates – We ran into a longtime friend of THE NEW BARKER, Tom Brennan at the American Pet Nutrition booth. We said hello to Dr. Marty Becker at the Media Roundup Luncheon and ran into his daughter, Mikkel Becker, on the showroom floor. We saw Kris Logan, then said hello to the Pasadena Pet Motel and STK9 Training teams. David Fine of Bark N Bag regaled us with a Bernadette Peters birthday story. We said Aloha to Kelly Ison who was introducing a new line of treats at Einstein Pets. The Luau Time dog treats are handcrafted from natural and nutritious, premium raw ingredients in the USA. The treats are produced in small batches with only seven ingredients: Oat Flour, Coconut, Pineapple, Honey, Pork, Ginger, Chia Seed. BarkLife Market & More in Seminole and St. Pete carries the Einstein Pets line of treats. By the way, Abbey the Westie takes her job as taste tester serious. She remained at the Sarasota headquarters, working her little wiggle butt off. Way to take one for the Einstein Pets team, Abbey.

Curious Puck, our canine traveling companion, was a trooper. He allowed exhibitors to treat him, pet him and try some things on him. He didn’t turn his nose up to anything, even bravely pulling a bone out of a basket at one of the booths. Special thanks to Puck’s human, Heather Schulman, for bringing him along.

 

We loved hearing about companies donating a portion of their sales to various animal advocacy programs – especially the smaller businesses. Found My Animal is one such company out of Brooklyn, New York who, over the years, has supported Austin Pets Alive, Best Friends Animal Society and Bully Breed Rescue, to name a few. We were first introduced to their gorgeous line of collars and leashes by Rene of Hyde Park’s Downtown Dogs, many years ago.

Cool Find – PillStashios is a company that makes an edible pill stasher for dogs. You’ll find it at Pets Life Naturally in Palmetto and The Doggie Bag in Lakeland. The product, inspired by nature, looks like a pistachio. You insert the pill inside the edible stasher, snap it shut and serve it to your dog. We were given some samples for Dougie, our Scottish Terrier, who is on medication for skin allergies. It’s a dream to use and he loves the taste. The PillStashios product is 100% natural, free of gluten, wheat, corn and soy. This was a fun product and great group of people at the booth.

PillStashios.jpg

Raising the Woof – Food and treats were a big part of Global Pet Expo. It was good to see so many new products offering a variety of options for the consumer and their pets. We LOVE Pawsitively Pure Dog Food, a Central Florida company offering a line of products that include dog food, dog treats and bone broth. They use only the finest, freshest and purest human-grade ingredients. “We are committed to replacing conventional ingredients with certified organic alternatives whenever possible,” said Carole Brooks, the Founder and CEO. Carole started her company in 2007, after that year’s major pet food recall. The company’s mascot and taste tester is Ryley Jones, a Weimaraner. Carole gave us a sample of the fresh-made bone broth after we told her about Rita, our MinPin who has arthritis. She is digging the broth on top of her kibble.

Paws_Pure_DogFoodIt’s A Wrap – The work that all of these companies put into their products, then the time they take to travel, display and talk about them is impressive. Equally impressive: the number of pet retailers walking the floor looking for the most innovative products to bring to their customers. Check in with your local independent retailer and find out what new goodies are in store for you and your dog. Until next year, #GlobalPetExpo. We were doggone tired and our feet were definitely barking by day’s end.

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Happiness Is Running With A Friend.

Have you ever considered running a marathon with your dog?

by Anna Cooke – Have you signed up for the 2017 Goody Goody Turkey Gobble? It is dog-friendly with giveaways, awards and a delicious post-race meal. Information below.

Jeff Odell has been running with his dog Kuma since she was old enough to start training.  “I did enough reading to know that it is not healthy to run a dog before they are at least a year old,” said Jeff, who ran a fair amount when he was younger.

Eventually, raising a family and other things would take precedence, placing Jeff’s running on hold for many years. He picked it up again about 18 years ago when he was 42, focusing on long distance running and marathon training. He has completed 27 marathons and led a local chapter of the Jeff Galloway Marathon Training group in Tampa for five years. It was with that group in Temple Terrace where we first met Jeff, Kuma and some of the other runners early one Saturday morning. They had just completed their morning run of between 10 to 15 miles. Kuma, a Golden Retriever/Black Labrador Retriever mix, had done about five miles with Jeff. “Ten miles is her cool weather run,” said Jeff. “She let’s me know, but we usually keep it to between three and five miles in hot weather.”

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Jeff Odell, racing buddies Sandi Lake and Kuma. Temple Terrace, 2017.

Kuma has the coat of a Golden Retriever that is the color of a black Labrador. She is almost seven and sports a little white around her muzzle now. It would be three years after the death of Lightning, the family’s beloved Golden Retriever, before Jeff’s wife Therese considered another dog. “It took Therese a long time to get over losing Lightning, who had grown up with our kids. She thought she could never have another dog, until we met Kuma,” said Jeff. The couple’s middle child Joseph, who lives in Japan, took one look at the puppy, and said she looked like a fuzzy little bear cub or Kuma – the Japanese word for bear. “We liked it and the name stuck,” said Jeff.

IMG_KumaJeff and Kuma bonded right away and he knew he wanted to eventually run her for exercise, if she took to it. “When I was a kid in upstate New York, I had a mixed breed dog that followed me everywhere around town. The idea of generally doing things with a dog in tow is pretty ingrained in me. When you have a dog the size of Kuma, at 65 pounds, you need to give her plenty of exercise, so I thought, why not both of us?”

Jeff began working with the puppy by taking her on walks with a six foot leash, training her to stay on his left side. When she was around a year old, Jeff began taking her for shorter runs, gradually increasing their length. As part of her training, he also mixed in running and walking to help ease Kuma into it.

“She took to running right away,” said Jeff. “She was so in tune with walking that running just seemed the next natural step.”

Jeff said that Kuma has never run on the wrong side of a mailbox or sign. “She knows to stay on the same side as me. We never end up wrapped around anything – except on the rare occasion when a squirrel gets her attention,” laughed Jeff.

One of the most important tips Jeff stresses for running with a dog is learning to recognize the signs of fatigue. “As long as Kuma’s tail and ears are up, she’s good. When they start to droop, it’s time to take her home.”

Early in their training, Jeff noticed something else about Kuma. “In hot weather, she would want to stop and spread out in heavy dewy grass. She was cooling herself by getting herself damp. Now, I find that if I give her 10 to 15 seconds, she rolls over one side, then the other, gets up, shakes if off and is ready to go again. She does this every couple of miles. Sometimes, dogs are smarter than we are.”

A RUNNING TIP FROM JEFF:  There’s lots of gimmicky running  gear for dogs. I don’t use any of it. Save your money. You need a leash and a light.  Don’t use an adjustable leash. I use a six foot leash that also has a handle-like loop near the dog in case I need to grab it and pull her in tight. I do not use one of those ‘hands free’ leashes that attaches around your waist. I don’t want my 65 pound dog, upon seeing a squirrel or a duck, to pull me over. I’m more comfortable holding the leash in my hand.

Jeff blames the Labrador half of Kuma for her wanting to pick up and swallow all manner of junk along the road. “I have to keep a good eye on her, and my running group does too. They have heard me say ‘drop it’ so many times that they will tease me whenever I say it – which is often.”

At a race, Kuma is a great icebreaker. “Runners are, for the most part, pretty social. Having Kuma around attracts all kinds of people and sparks conversations on how she was trained and what is her longest run (13 miles). Many people tell me of their successes or failures at getting their dogs to run with them,” said Jeff.

For Jeff, having Kuma in his life has been very rewarding. “Finding activities that your dog can participate in with you makes the dog part of your family and everyday life. In that sense, I’m like any dog owner that likes their dog around in varying circumstances.”

Knowing he has to walk or run Kuma continues to motivate Jeff. “When a personal or family issue arises and you don’t feel like getting out there, knowing Kuma will enjoy it gets me going when I otherwise might not want to.”

The New Barker dog magazine is a co-sponsor of the 2017 Goody Goody Turkey Gobble, 5K, 8K and 1 mile run on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 23, 2017. Reeves Volkswagen will provide the official Pace Car. The start/finish is near Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa.

Reeves_Pacecar

Here are some FAQ’s – good information for run day. Registered runners and their dogs will receive a Doggie Swag Bag from THE NEW BARKER. Post race will include a delicious meal provided by Goody Goody Famous Burgers. Sign up today for the best prices. We are limiting the number of dogs to 150. The best part of the race is that the proceeds will go to support LIVESTRONG at the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA for cancer survivors and their families. We’ll see you on race day, bright and early.

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Last year, Rita was ready for some post-race chow.

I’ve Got Your 6.

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.

Lt. Dan, the tripod, pulled from a kill shelter, fostered by a rescue group, adopted by a veteran to be his service dog.

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.

IMG_8453_TheNewBarkerWe 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.”

Army veteran Paul and his service dog Hans, a Lemon Dalmatian/Treeing Coonhound mix.

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.”

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.

A Bacteria That Can Kill Your Dog.

by Elizabeth F. Baird, DVM, CVPP, CCRT, CVMA

It may be a rare bacteria, but it is ever-present in Florida.  Dr. Baird, of Country Oaks Animal Hospital in Palm Harbor, weighed in on Leptospirosis for The New Barker dog magazine, a year ago in the Spring 2016 issue. It is just as relevant today,  as cases of Leptospirosis is rising.

Leptospirosis, a disease common to many mammals, is caused by a type of bacterium called Leptospira. It seems to be on the rise in dogs the last few decades and has shifted from a rural disease to a suburban and even urban problem. Dr. Carsen Brandt of the Emergency and Critical Care Service at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has reported a tenfold increase in cases since 2013. There have been fairly recent outbreaks in Fresno, California and Denver, Colorado. Dr. Richard Goldstein of the Animal Medical Center in New York City says he sees cases of Lepto every week, including in dogs that have never left Manhattan. So much for the image of this as a rural disease.

lepto_post_thenewbarker

A typical scenario goes something like this: A raccoon urinates on the grass in a suburban yard or in a puddle at a park during the night. A dog then sniffs or licks at that curious odor while out for a walk the next day. Bingo! The dog has now been exposed to one of the eight strains of Leptospira bacteria that can cause Leptopsirosis in the dog. The bacteria quickly begin to replicate and move into various target tissues such as the kidneys, liver, spleen and central nervous system. The infected dog typically begins to show signs of illness within 7 days of exposure. The severity of the illness can vary considerably, from mild and vague symptoms to acute kidney failure and fairly sudden death.

So, what other wildlife carry these Leptospira bacteria in their urine? In addition to the ever-present raccoon, mice and rats are common carriers of Leptospira and this includes the ubiquitous wood rats and citrus rats that populate most of Florida. The opossum, skunk, deer, cow and pig can carry other infectious strains of Leptospira bacteria. There is some question as to whether squirrels are also carriers for Leptospira.

If a dog contracts Leptospirosis, what happens next?

Unfortunately, the clinical symptoms of the disease are not very distinctive, making diagnosis trickier. The affected pet will usually be lethargic and have a poor appetite, sometimes showing signs of a fever. The majority of affected animals will have some vomiting and about a third will have diarrhea and weight loss. None of this is terribly specific and it sounds like many other illnesses. Routine lab tests may show significant abnormalities in the urinalysis, as well as the kidney and liver values. None of these are terrifically specific either, but it does start to help narrow the diagnosis list. At this stage, the veterinarian is likely looking to test for Leptospirosis. The older Lepto test can take up to a week and won’t catch every patient. A newer type of test, an Elisa test, can be run right in the hospital in under 30 minutes. It’s still not perfect, but it will detect many patients right away. A patient with these symptoms is likely already on intravenous fluids and medication to help with the vomiting and discomfort. A diagnosis of Leptospirosis indicates a need for very specific antibiotics as not all antibiotics will do the trick. If IV fluid support and the appropriate antibiotics are started in a timely manner, the prognosis is good and most patients (80-plus percent) will recover. If it takes longer to diagnose due to the vague symptoms or a delay in seeking medical care, the dog may suffer kidney failure, but many can still be saved with dialysis.

Did I mention that you can catch Leptospirosis too? Yes, it is actually one of the most common infectious diseases in humans worldwide. Thankfully, it is not common in humans in the U.S., at least outside of Hawaii. The odds of catching it directly from your dog are pretty slim, but if your dog has been diagnosed with Leptospirosis, your vet will give you detailed instructions on methods to protect yourself and family. You are far more likely to catch it from swimming in rivers, streams or walking through swampy water. In 2005, 44 out of 192 adventure racers in Tampa (23% of the participants) caught Leptospirosis from running through swampy water. There was an earlier outbreak in Illinois in Triathlon runners. Dogs can contract it directly from contaminated water as well.

Given the large population of potential wildlife carriers and the difficulty in diagnosing the disease early, prevention is a more prudent approach in the areas where Leptospirosis is a risk. The older vaccines (1970’s and 80’s) carried a higher risk of vaccine reaction and only covered two strains. Because of this, they had fallen out of favor in that era and were used only in the higher risk rural areas. Leptospirosis was labeled a non-core vaccine to use only for “at risk” populations. But the definition of which dogs are at risk seems to have shifted significantly in the last decade or two. The rural outdoor large breed dog that was the poster child for Leptospirosis in 1985 is now a fluffy suburban or urban Shih Tzu or Cocker Spaniel. We currently have Leptospirosis vaccines that protect for four strains. They have a much lower risk of vaccine reaction than the older vaccines – and are more highly purified as vaccine manufacturing technology has evolved over the last 30 years. Some internists believe that even though our current vaccines only cover four of the Leptospira serovars, there may be cross-reactivity and some protection from the other infective strains as well. Leptospirosis is very uncommon in vaccinated dogs, regardless of the strain or serovar of Leptospira bacteria involved. It is a series of two doses given 3-4 weeks apart and then yearly boosters.

If your pet tends to be sensitive to vaccines and you’re worried they may react, have this administered separate from any other injectable vaccines. The more vaccines given in one day, the higher the risk of a vaccine reaction, regardless of which specific vaccinations are given.

Given the changes in Leptopsirosis over the last few decades, from the shifts in which strains are causing disease and the populations of dogs being affected, it is time to rethink our approach to managing this dangerous disease. The vaccines are more protective and less reactive than ever before and our suburban house dogs are at a higher risk than we believed possible even twenty years ago. If your dog is not already protected from Leptospirosis, it may be time for a conversation with your veterinarian about the risk factors in your specific area and whether vaccination is appropriate for your beloved dogs. I can assure you that mine are vaccinated against this potentially deadly disease. Raccoons, opossums and citrus rats are rampant in my suburban neighborhood and the risk of potential exposure is real. And all too scary to ignore.

For more on the subject, here is a recent video from CBS Miami.

THE NEW BARKER VETERINARY ADVISORY BOARD INCLUDES: Dr. Elizabeth Baird, Country Oaks Animal Hospital/Palm Harbor; Dr. Mark Brown, Central Animal Hospital/St. Petersburg; Dr. Eddie Garcia, Urgent Pet Care of South Tampa; Dr. Shawna Green, Medicine River Animal Hospital/Madeira Beach; Dr. Timothy Hodge, Harbourside Animal Hospital/Downtown Tampa and Cross Creek Animal Medical Center/Tampa; Dr. Steven Lewis, Davis Island Animal Clinic; Dr. Gregory Todd, Animal Hospital of Dunedin.