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.
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?
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.
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 email@example.com
Contact the office of Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez: firstname.lastname@example.org Call 305.375.1880.
Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners:
District 1 – Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan: email@example.com; 305.375.5694
District 2 – Commissioner Jean Monestime: firstname.lastname@example.org; 305.375.4833
District 3 – Vice Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson: email@example.com; 305.375.5393
District 4 – Commissioner Sally A Heyman: firstname.lastname@example.org; 305.375.5128
District 5 – Commissioner Bruno A. Barreiro: email@example.com; 305.643.8525
District 6 – Commissioner Rebeca Sosa: firstname.lastname@example.org; 305.375.5696
District 7 – Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez: email@example.com; 305.669.4003
District 8 – Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava: firstname.lastname@example.org; 305.375.5218
District 9 – Commissioner Dennis C. Moss: DennisMoss@miamidade.gov; 305.375.4832
District 10 – Commissioner Javier D. Souto: email@example.com; 305.375.4835
District 11 – Commissioner Joe A. Martinez: firstname.lastname@example.org; 305.375.5511
District 12 – Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz: email@example.com; 305.375.4343
District 13 – Chairman Esteban L. Bovo, Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org; 305.375.4831
This Sunday in America is Super Bowl Sunday. It’s the New England Patriots vs. the Atlanta Falcons. Earlier this year, Michael Vick made a triumphant return to the Georgia Dome, riding onto the field in a convertible to a raucous ovation. According to a story in USA Today, Vick received by far the loudest ovation from the sellout crowd of 70,835 during a ceremony honoring the final regular-season game at the team’s home of 25 years. This, despite an online campaign calling for the Falcons to revoke their invitation over a 2007 dogfighting case that sent Vick to prison for nearly two years. A decade after his final game with Atlanta, the animosity that Vick’s name once stirred among Atlanta fans appeared to have turned to forgiveness. Not one boo or jeer was heard from the crowd.
The End Of An Era? “There are a lot of people who forgave me,” said Vick before the game. “It gives me another opportunity to show a different side of myself. I’m just thankful I have a lot of supporters.”
And this from Arthur Blank, Falcons owner, “Mike obviously has a great history with us, a great history with the franchise, an important player in our history. Michael represented an important part of my ownership period. I think our fans, based on the response I saw and felt, I think our fans were excited to have him as well.”
Gone But Never Forgotten. Two dogs from Vick’s dogfighting ring Bad Newz Kennels passed away this month. Best Friends reported that Denzel died on January 10, 2017, nine years after he came to live at the sanctuary.
From Denzel’s obituary, Best Friends wrote: “Denzel was a fighter, but not in the way that NFL player Michael Vick wanted him to be. This brave dog fought against the trauma of his past to find happiness and friendship at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. He also fought against serious health issues that threatened to take him down, time and again. He suffered from a strain of the blood parasite babesia, which is spread among dogs forced to fight by way of bites. It can be managed but not cured, and each bout takes an increasing toll.”
Another Victory Dog rescued from Bad Newz Kennels in 2007, passed away on January 15. Oscar lived with Rachel Johnson since 2012. This was posted on Oscar’s Facebook page: “Friends, on Sunday, I let Oscar go. I’ve watched his bad days start to overshadow the good. So Sunday, we had breakfast in bed, read and cuddled, went to the drive-thru for cheesy burgers…” Oscar’s Facebook page is here.
Michael Vick’s playing days are over. “I’m very content with my career and what I’ve been able to accomplish. I’m ready to move forward in life.” Vick has recently expressed an interest in coaching.
Rawhide is a dangerous treat, given unknowingly by pet parents to their dogs. It is not, as many folks believe, the by-product of the beef industry nor is it made of dehydrated meat. It is actually the by-product of the leather industry. Producing rawhide begins with the splitting of an animal hide, usually from cattle. The top grain is generally tanned and made into leather products, while the inner portion, in its “raw” state, goes to the dogs. Harmful chemicals, glue and paint are added to the product. A brief 4-step explanation below this illustration describes how the actual process transforms the hide to the dangerous chew stick. And, below the explanation, we’ve included some safer, healthier treat option suggestions (vegetarian option as well).
STEP 1: Normally, cattle hides are shipped to tanneries for processing. The hides are treated with a chemical bath to help “preserve” the product during transport to help prevent spoilage.
Once at the tannery, the hides are soaked and treated with either an ash-lye solution or a highly toxic recipe of sodium sulphide liming. This process will help strip the hair and fat that maybe attached to the hides themselves.
The hides are then treated with chemicals that help “puff” the hide, making it easier to split into layers. The outer layer of the hide is used for goods like car seats, clothing, shoes, purses, etc. But, it’s the inner layer that is needed to make the rawhide, and other things like gelatin, cosmetics, and glue.
STEP 2: The post-tannery stage: Hides are washed and whitened using a solution of hydrogen peroxide and/or bleach; this will also help remove the smell of the rotten or putrid leather. (Research also shows that other chemicals maybe used to help the whitening process if the bleach isn’t strong enough.)
STEP 3: Now it’s time to make these whitened sheets of this “leathery by-product” look delicious. So, here is where the artistic painting process comes in.
Basted, smoked, and decoratively tinted products might be any color (or odor) underneath the coating of (often artificial) dyes and flavors. They can even be painted with a coating of titanium oxide to make them appear white and pretty on the pet store shelves.
The Material Safety Data Sheet reveals a toxic confection containing the carcinogen FD&C Red 40, along with preservatives like sodium benzoate. Tracking the effects of chemical exposure is nearly impossible when it’s a matter of slow, low-dose poisoning.
STEP 4: How does it last forever? Because the FDA does not consider these chews to be food, it’s a free for all when it comes to the manufacturers of these leather strips, and the products they may want to add to these chews, to get them to last forever. Any sort of glue may be added here to help ensure they never come apart.
When tested: Lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium salts, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals have been detected in raw hides.
Finally, it’s time to package and attach all the glorious marketing labels to the product. The fine print warning is attached with some rawhide products: “Choking or blockages. If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, the rawhide can get stuck in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Sometimes, abdominal surgery is needed to remove them from the stomach or intestines. If it isn’t resolved, a blockage can lead to death.“
How do proactive veterinarians feel about these chews? This is what world-renowned veterinarian Doctor Karen Becker has to say on the matter:
“The name ‘rawhide’ is technically incorrect. A more accurate name would be processed-hide, because the skin isn’t raw at all. But the term “rawhide” has stuck. Rawhide chews start out hard, but as your dog works the chew it becomes softer, and eventually he can unknot the knots on each end and the chew takes on the consistency of a slimy piece of taffy or bubble gum. And by that time your dog cannot stop working it — it becomes almost addictive.At this point, there’s no longer any dental benefit to the chew because it has turned soft and gooey, and, in fact, it has become a choking and intestinal obstruction hazard.“
An investigation by Humane Society International stated in their report, “In a particularly grisly twist, the skins of brutally slaughtered dogs in Thailand are mixed with other bits of skin to produce rawhide chew toys for pet dogs. Manufacturers told investigators that these chew toys are regularly exported to and sold in U.S. stores.”
Healthy, Safer & Delicious Treat Alternatives, as Suggested by THE NEW BARKER dog magazine.
Atticus’ Own Pet Products – a variety of delicious treats, chock full of all things healthy, like glucosamine and chondroitin. A super treat to keep you dog’s hips and joints healthy. The jerky is made from USDA-certified, all-natural chicken breast from family farms right here in the USA. In fact, Atticus’ Own Pet Products is headquartered right here in Florida. Grain free. No wheat, corn, soy or additives. In addition to the chicken jerky, Atticus’ Own offers Fish Jerky treats “like heaven in a bag…” A great source of omega-3’s. For dogs and cats. Follow the adventures of Atticus’ Own Gibbs and Sunshine at Atticus’ Own Pet Products. Better yet, order up some treats at http://www.atticusown.com
Earth Animal No-Hide Chicken Chews – 100% USA-sourced chicken, made in the USA. The chicken has been carefully rolled, cooked and uniquely dried for a one-of-a-kind chew. No hormones or additives. Also available: Beef and Salmon. You’ll find these delicious dog treats at fine Florida dog stores such as Dog Mania & Cats in Dade City.
Al CaBONES – We’ve watched customers load up on these treats, as their dogs just love them. The treats are actually beef marrow bones wrapped in chicken. No additives, preservatives or fillers. All goodness, sourced and made in the USA. Bada bing, bada boom. Trust us. This is a treat your dog can’t refuse. Available at fine independent pet retail stores including Fluffy Puppies in Clearwater and Pet Food Warehouse in St. Petersburg.
Finally – always supervise your pet when giving any chew treats. It’s also a good idea to check with your veterinarian, especially if your dog is on a special diet.
Sources: Pet nutrition blogger Rodney Habib, Planet Paws, The Whole Dog Journal and The Bark.
THE NEW BARKER dog magazine, established in 2006, publishes quarterly. Each cover of THE NEW BARKER dog magazine features an original work of art by a different Florida artist. For more information, visit http://www.TheNewBarker.com
The following, by Anna Cooke, first appeared as a feature in the Spring 2011 issue of The New Barker dog magazine.
Many of us who live with dogs probably don’t really want to know what they’re thinking. To know may bring in the realities of life like dealing with what they think of us. Who needs that extra burden? We already have to cope with what our parents, siblings, significant others and business associates think of us. It’s one of the reasons we love dogs so much. We believe everything they have to say to us is said through their eyes. And of course, it’s nothing short of adoration and unconditional love, right? Our dogs are sentient beings with a conscience and feelings. They are intelligent and many people believe, they live with a purpose and set goals. The Reverend Nedda Wittels, M.A., M.S. believes that dogs make life choices. Maybe that’s why we don’t really choose dogs, rather they choose us.
It seems that every one in the animal world can tell a story of how they loved and lived with animals since they were very young. Jo Maldonado is not much different. As a young girl she would try to save the fish her father caught. In her teens she took dog-training classes and won ribbons with her devoted companion Rex; in her 20’s she rode horses and in her 30’s and 40’s she volunteered with German Shepherd Rescue in Pennsylvania doing canine assessment and fostering. And, for almost 30 years she lead a successful career as a publicist, owning her agency. But it wasn’t until she and her husband moved to Florida and her children had moved on with their lives, that a continuous odd series of events forced her to change her life’s path. Volunteering at local shelters and seeing the infinite line of discarded animals, and almost losing one of her dogs, led Jo to follow her animal passion and give back to the community.
“Three years ago I realized that I was not following my soul’s purpose, not fulfilling what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I was hospitalized twice, broke my hip, had two surgeries, was in two car accidents and almost lost two members of my family.” But it wasn’t until a series of events involving animals that Jo finally listened to what some other worldly force was trying to tell her. There was the black bear that began appearing in her driveway on a regular basis. Then hundreds of crows began following her around. A woodpecker began “talking to her.” And one day the door to her china cabinet flew open spewing forth china from past relationships.
Jo began reading every book on animal communication and angel healing that she could find. After she completed several classes on the same subject matter, it became clear to Jo that her purpose in life was to work with her first love: animals. Her Centers for Animal Therapies is based on the theory that both sides of the brain are necessary to truly communicate with the animal world. “The left side of the brain is the fact based, scientific side, while the right brain is intuitive, innate and natural,” said Jo.
Animal communicators speak with pet companions who live with humans, oftentimes facilitating a change in varied situations. Why is the cat spraying? Why is the dog cowering or food aggressive? Each situation may have something in common with another situation going on within the pet’s home. For instance, when there is a fear problem there is generally a kidney problem that results in uncontrolled urinating in the house. By communicating with the dog, Jo can show their humans the relationship their dogs would like to have with them. How we live with our dogs can result in a positive or negative affect on them and ourselves.
No telepathic communicator is one hundred percent accurate all the time. The reasons for error may include a weak telepathic connection; the human client has emotional and/or mental blocks about the situation; or the dog may be choosing not to communicate fully. Reverend Wittels adds that each telepathic communicator can bring their own emotional and mental baggage to the situation: belief systems, expectations, past experiences or emotions. A good animal communicator will know how to leave their baggage behind in order to be a clear channel.
As with any professional, it’s good to have a rapport with them before delving into this area of you and your pet’s lives. We had been working and speaking with Jo for the past year on various projects. One thing lead to another, and it seemed almost a natural progression to agree to let Jo communicate with our brood: Zoe, a 13 year-old Cockapoo, her 11 year-old niece Chloe, our adopted MinPin Rita, and our most recent adopted addition, Dougie (pronounced Doogie), a two year-old Scottish Terrier.
There were four dogs and so it took Jo a little longer to assess the situation and discern their different personalities. “I took a deep breath before looking at each photograph you sent of the dogs,” said Jo, who told us she took classes to learn how to communicate through the eyes of an animal. “But dogs don’t like for you to look directly into their eyes. That is why I like to use photos,” she told us. “I pick up the physical characteristics and I pick up the soul. I try to get through the layers in order to connect and communicate.”
She began first by saying that each of these four dogs represents a characteristic in each human member of our household, in this instance a husband and wife. “It’s up to you to figure out those characteristics of you,” said Jo. From the pictures, Jo described the aura of energy emanating from each dog, which assisted in giving the following information. “Your life to them seems scattered. You’re in multiple places at one time. You seem to be going from point A to point B in an instant. You are way too busy and they’re picking up on that. I received a strong sense from the dogs that you are very tired,” Jo said.
For many dogs, a situation such as the one Jo described could be confusing to them, causing problems such as becoming the take-charge being within the household. The Alpha dog if you will. But in this instance the dogs all seem to have adjusted. “Each one of them knows their role within your family,” she told me. “And,” she added, “Your dogs are all very funny. They are just all real characters.”
Dougie, the two-year old Scotty, knows exactly what he is supposed to do. He looks around at his humans and the other dogs and wonders why they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing? He knows he is a purebred. In fact, somewhere in his lineage, there is a champion or two. So he demonstrates quite a lot of pride as if to say, “Of course I can do that. It’s exactly what I am supposed to do.” Jo said that if she were to humanize Dougie, he would be a career fisherman. “I could see him bellying up to the bar at the end of each successful fishing excursion,” she said. Dougie is a highly intuitive dog and would be excellent in agility. “Oh, he would be a natural,” said Jo.
Chloe, the 11 year-old Cockapoo.“Dougie was pointing at Chloe when I was communicating with him. He told me that while he feels very grounded, Chloe is constantly running around in circles, figuratively. Yet, she thinks she’s the one that has it all under control. But she doesn’t.” Jo explained that she sensed a bit of a Napoleonic complex in Chloe. She is constantly reminding everyone that she is in control; she is in charge, but she isn’t, of course. “If she could talk to you, she would be a tattle-tail and rat everyone else out. Chloe does feel confused most of the time, but thinks that’s okay because her humans are confused and running around in circles too.” Chloe communicated with Jo in such a rapid-fire way that she was almost stuttering. “I have too much to do and too little time in which to do everything,” is what Chloe communicated to Jo. “Interestingly, Chloe and Dougie have similar personalities. If you were to put Chloe in another pack, the other dogs would find her annoying. But she is well-accepted in your pack.”
Zoe, the 13 year-old Cockapoo. “She tends to believe she is the matriarch of the family. I could sense her little quirks. She does like her food and is set in her ways. She has a sense of entitlement, that whatever she gets, the others should not be allowed to have because they are not as deserving as she is. She can get snappy, only to let others know that she does not approve of what they are doing. But she would never display any kind of aggressive behavior towards anyone, human or animal, within her pack.” Jo spoke to me directly about the next point. “Anna, Zoe feels that the two of you are one. She is content to follow you and be wherever you are.” And then Jo added, “Oh, I’m hearing from her again that she really does love her food though. She likes that crunchiness and soft combination you give her.”
Rita, a five year-old MinPin, found wandering the streets. “I like Rita very much. She has this I-am-cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor. She likes to check things out, like a private detective before getting all excited, unlike the rest of the dogs in your pack. She smirks at the other dogs as if they’re ridiculously out of control. If I were to humanize Rita, she would have red hair, red-painted fingernails and a cigarette dangling from her mouth. She’s like one of those cool people you may see at a party. You don’t know them, but you walk up to them anyway and compliment them on the shirt they’re wearing. Instead of saying thank you, Rita would answer, ‘Huh. You don’t really give a damn about my shirt now, do you?’”
So it appears we have an odd little pack, with a funny mixture of personalities, each one of them strong in their own way. They all have their quirks but everyone gets along, albeit grumbling along the way. Most important, they all seem to be functioning as a pack and each feels they have jobs, which is a good thing. “They are all who they are as long as they’re all with the two of you. And as long as you make sure what your expectations are of them, they’re all pretty happy,” Jo said.
The dogs were all in agreement with one special request. “What they would like you to do is schedule more family time with them, altogether. They would prefer daily, but they’ll settle for weekly jaunts to a big fenced in field or park to run around.” I told Jo that we have a big backyard and take them out many times throughout the day. “No,” she answered, “They want family time. They want everyone in the car at the same time, to go somewhere together. And Chloe said not to forget the treats. That was a very strong communication to me. They want you to think about nothing but the present during these field trips with them.”
“Somewhere in time, an animal’s soul has made a pact with the human’s soul to help them. I look at what I am doing as my privilege to be able to work with two beings, human and animal, to decipher what that help might be,” Jo Maldonado.
“People will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to help their pets while totally ignoring the obvious to help themselves. We humans must recognize that we need to change to improve our own health and well-being. Through the voice of their pets, a person can help themselves,” Jo Maldonado.
“I’ve never found an animal who communicated to me that they hated their human. I know instantly when I go into that animal that there is a need for them to express themselves as to why they are here,” Jo Maldonado.
Jo Maldonado can be reached at email@example.com or 386.279.0257
Yes, it’s true. Even the greatest gift giver in the world does the research to make a list. For dogs and dog lovers on his list, he’s been known to refer to The New Barker dog magazine for ideas. So take heart, gentle human gift giver – for the dog and dog lover on your list, who seem to have everything they need (each other), here are some unique ideas from The New Barker, of course.
Dog lovers with a sense of humor. Clothing, like this t-shirt that plays into the Star Wars craze right now, with just the right touch of dog. Available at The Doggie Door in Winter Park (407.644.2969). Or maybe the dog lover on your list is into craft beer. How about this hoodie, available at Pet Food Warehouse in St. Pete (727.521.6191) and Earth Pets Organic in Gainesville (352.377.1100).
Dog lovers with a sense of style. Nothing says ‘put together’ like the accessory of a scarf. The fashionista on your list will appreciate this cosmo-PAW-litan scarf with dog silhouettes. Available in assorted color combos of grey/blue, grey/peach or grey/light green. One Lucky Dog in St. Pete (727.527.5825).
Dog lovers who are tea connoisseurs. Add a little whimsy to their tea and crumpets ritual with these whimsical hand-painted ceramics. Cats In Bloom Tea For One tea pot and mug designed by artist Sharon Bloom. Catzilla Covered Butter Dish designed by artist Candace Reiter. Both are available at Pawsitively Posh Pooch in St. Pete (727.892.9303).
Dog lovers who insist on at least one cup of java before heading out for their power dog walk. How about a breed-specific coffee mug? Beautifully hand-painted, the details bring out each breed’s characteristic. Available at Fluffy Puppies, Clearwater (727.446.7999).
For the homebody dog lover. How about dog art, underfoot with a machine washable accent rug? They’re so reasonably priced, you’ll want to buy one (or two) for yourself. Each rug is artist-inspired. The bright colors won’t fade through many washes and will stand up to heat, cold and sunlight. Available at Pet Food Warehouse, St. Pete (727.521.6191).
Dog lovers who sleep with dogs. Nothing shows off someone’s sense of humor, style and love of home than a well-made bed, accessorized with dog-themed pillowcases. 300 thread count for extra softness. Made in the USA. Available at One Lucky Dog, St. Petersburg (727.527.5825) and Sweet Sage Cafe & Boutique, North Redington Beach (727.391.0453).
Dog lovers who love to dress their dogs (big and small). EZ Reflective Royal Elegance Harness Vest. No choke design – pulls on chest, not the neck. Designed for easy on/easy off (not over the head). High quality quick release buckle with reinforced D-ring and reflective safety striping. Available at Fluffy Puppies, Clearwater (727.446.7999). For big dogs, visit Dade City’s Dog Mania & Cats to see their line of unique, hand-crafted clothing and accessories. Dressing up is not just for the little ones, anymore. Dog Mania & Cats (352.467.9622). Visit their beautiful new store on Meridian Avenue.
For the dog lover who is also a romantic. You must see and touch this beautiful collection of vintage hinged trinket boxes to appreciate them. Made of sculpted resin, decorated with enamel and 24 karat accents; bejeweled with Swarovski crystal. Each one is worthy of holding precious keepsakes. Available at Pawsitively Posh Pooch, St. Petersburg (727.892.9303).
For the practical dog lover. There’s no shame in being practical, and practical doesn’t have to be boring, right? Anyone who has ever owned a Dog Gone Smart Dirty Dog Rug has gone back to purchase more. We love using them just outside the shower area for a spa-like feel underfoot. Millions of microfiber strands create an extra large super-sponge for use just about anywhere in your home. Place them in crates; under food and water bowls to keep water and kibble in place. Plush, velvety soft and easy to wash. Non-slid backing helps it stay in place. Available at all the shops listed above as well as: Animal House, St. Pete (727.328.0503), Fuzzy & Furries, St. Pete (727.954.3952), Pet Supplies Plus, Pinellas Park (727.415.8016) & Clearwater (727.453.9131).
Go forth and shop, fellow dog lovers. You have now been properly advised, and Santa can’t hold a cookie to your super shopping powers.
We wanted to share a story that was first reported by the New York Daily News on Monday, December 17. The comfort dogs are able to bring is no surprise to dog lovers. The New Barker joins the nation in sending our thoughts and prayers to those who lost loved ones as a result of this tragedy.
Comfort dogs help ease pain of mourning Newtown Community. By Jennifer H. Cunningham and Adam Edelman for the New York Daily News. Photography is by Allison Joyce for the New York Daily News.
A pack of sympathetic groups bearing supportive canines spent much of Monday with bereaved Connecticut residents affected by last week’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, providing children and adults alike with the cuddly comfort that only a four-legged friend can give.
The therapy dogs were brought in by at least three groups late Sunday to help kids and adults alike cope with last week’s horrific shooting in Newtown that left 20 first graders and six school officials dead.
Among the groups was the Hudson Valley Golden Retrievers Club, whose members spent the afternoon at a makeshift memorial near the town center, where both kids and adults in need of compassion stopped to pet and cuddle the dogs.
Mourning or otherwise devastated children and parents said that petting the dogs gave them relief from their sadness.
“I just love dogs, so whenever I’m around them, they make me feel better,” said 12-year-old Ryan Williams. “When they come over and you pet them you kind of forget about what’s happening for a little bit.”
Jenna Stuart, a school bus driver from Newtown, said the dogs were an enormous help to her four-year-old daughter, Kylie, who attends preschool at the Children’s Adventure Center in front of Sandy Hook Elementary and lost friends in the tragedy.
“I like the dogs because they made me happy,” said Kylie, after petting one on the head. “The dogs love me.”
Some residents, who weren’t directly affected by the bloodshed, found peace in simply bringing their own dogs to help others.
Sandy Hook resident Ann Mari Cioffi, a member of the Hudson Valley Golden Retrievers Club, brought her dog, Libby, 5, to comfort victims, at a memorial in the center of town.
“They’re just gentle, caring, kind and sweet. Cioffi said of the dogs. “They just seem to sense it. They just sense when somebody’s sad.”
Massachusetts- based K-9’s For Kids Pediatric Therapy Dogs was also among the groups sharing their tail-wagging buddies.
Crystal Wright, 52, of Becket, Mass., a dog handler with the group for Rhiku, a 5 year old Sheltie, said the canine had been easing frowns all day.
“Everyone likes to pet a dog,” she said. “It changes the mood. It kind of takes them away from what they’re going through for a moment. I think it’s helping. I think they needed it.”
Some canines even traveled across the country to help out.
Trainers from the Chicago-based Lutheran Church Charities, which has deployed its comfort dogs to other communities hit by tragedy in the past, brought in 10 to 15 Golden Retrievers and their handlers to Connecticut to help with the consolation efforts, Tim Hetzner, the president of the organization, said.
This month, the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development might want to consider re-branding the Sunshine State to the Good Dog State. From Jacksonville to West Palm Beach, Tampa Bay to Orlando and everywhere in between, Florida is chockfull of dog friendly events.
What’s more, if you’ve been thinking about bringing another dog into the family, October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. Many of the events this weekend and next will have rescue groups and their adoptables on hand.
Over the last couple of weeks we have met some pretty amazing people who donate whatever time they have to volunteer for various rescue groups. Of course, we’ve met some pretty incredible dogs too. Like Petey, who was abandoned as a puppy along with his mom, both found wandering the streets. All Dog Rescue of Florida is fostering Petey, and has already put $800 into him for his medical treatment. And still, his adoption fee is only $300. So, in your travels over the weekend, should you happen to attend one of the following events and come upon a rescue group, please drop a dollar or two in the donation jar. Petey (and many more like him) will thank you with puppy love and sweet kisses.
While you’re out and about on Saturday, October 20, you will definitely work up an appetite. And that’s a good thing, because our best event pick of the day is happening at the Clearwater Quaker Steak & Lube. Don’t miss the Red Hot Rescue Chili Cook Off from 1p until 6p, hosted by the Florida Great Pyrenees Club. There will be some delicious samplings from some pretty competitive cooks, along with live entertainment, rescue groups, raffle items, giveaways, auctions and demonstrations. Not only will you satisfy your appetite, but your heart and soul will be filled up as well. All proceeds will benefit the participating rescue groups.
If you happen to be traveling through Lutz on Saturday, you might think you’re seeing spots. You would be right, since Dalmatian Rescue of Tampa Bay will be hosting their annual fundraiser, Dal-loween at Lake Park just off North Dale Mabry Highway. This is another one of those rescue groups whose volunteers have worked tirelessly over the years, and this is the one event that helps them sustain as a 501c3 all year long. Go, Spots. Go.
About 2000 people and hundreds of their dogs are expected to be at the Shell Factory’s Doggy Heaven this Saturday, October 20 for Goldenfest, hosted by Golden Retriever Rescue of Southwest Florida. If you know Golden Retrievers, you’ll love that one of the offerings throughout the day will be Pet Brushing and Furminating. The Shell Factory (located in Fort Myers) is also home to SunCoast DockDogs, so demonstrations and competitions will be held. Other organizations on hand with adoptables: SW Florida Wiener Dog Club, Healing Paws-Ability Agility, Gulf Coast Humane Society, Grey Muzzle, Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida, and the Pitbull Crew of Florida.If you happen to stick around through Sunday, check out the Doggie Church, a half hour non-denominational service held at 12:30 pm. By the way, our choice for dog friendly hotel accommodations would be Hotel Indigo, just minutes from the Shell Factory.
Maybe you’re a fan of the low-riding wiener dog. You’re in luck. The annual Dachstoberfest takes place on Sunday, October 21 between 10a and 2p at Centennial Square in West Palm Beach. There will be a Dachshund Parade, Doxie Dash Race, and a Costume Contest Competition conducted by The New Barker rover reporter and award-winning photographer, Tina Valant. Proceeds from this event benefit Dachshund Rescue of South Florida. Tina will also be handing out complimentary copies of The New Barker while supplies last. Travel tip: You’ll receive a delicious brunch during your stay at Hibiscus House B&B in West Palm Beach. Your dogs get to wander around the lushly landscaped, fenced-in yard, while you dine poolside.
We’re betting that the biggest gathering of dogs and people in Florida will take place this Sunday, October 21, at the 12th Annual Stride for Strays 3k Walk and Fundraiser for Animal Coalition of Tampa. Curtis Hixon Park on the Riverfront is one of the coolest venues in Florida. Stride for Strays has proven time and again, to be one of the most entertaining, fun-filled afternoons for the entire family. The Doggie Fun Zone will be set up for Agility demonstrations, and there will be plenty of food available (including vegan-friendly menus). Be sure to check out Groovy Cats & Dogs and Lucky Dog Daycare for specials and treats.
Also this Sunday, The Jacksonville Landing is hosting their 4th Annual Howl-O-Ween Bash and Yappy Hour between 2p and 5p. This has become known as the Largest Dog Costume Contest in Jacksonville. Complimentary copies of The New Barker will be available. Travel tip: Hotel Indigo does have a Jacksonville location as well.
Pitbull advocate and singer/songwriter John Shipe will be coming to Florida next weekend, courtesy of Pitbull Happenings. He will be at the 4th Annual Dogtoberfest at The Shops of Wiregrass, a daylong adoptathon on Saturday, October 27 with multiple rescue groups from all over Florida on hand. The event is hosted by Animal Based Charities.
Whatever you do, wherever you go, be safe. Florida dogs are counting on you to look out for them (and to not leave them behind). For now, we’ll leave you with a funny (yet, sadly true) PSA from The Shelter Pet Project.