By Anna Cooke, Editor of The New Barker dog magazine.
What is Humane Lobby Day? It’s the biggest day of the year for animals and animal advocates. The annual national event is sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States. Citizen animal advocates gather, at the state level, to learn and practice lobbying protection laws in each state. The full-day event includes a lobbying workshop and an overview of relevant bills in your state legislature. Appointments are made for you with the legislatures who represent you. You will be given specific talking points for visiting with the legislators and/or their staff, face to face, and ask them for their animal-friendly votes.
When and where is Florida’s Humane Lobby Day? March 12, Florida State Capital; Challenger Learning Center, 200 South Duval Street, Tallahassee. 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (9a-Noon/workshop and lunch; 1p-4p appointments with legislatures).
What legislation will we be discussing? Two bills of particular interest to The New Barker dog magazine: Strengthening the penalty for killing a K9 Officer: SB 96, HB 67. And, puppy mills – specifically stopping the importation of puppies from puppy mills. Florida is one of the leading states importing puppies and kittens that are used to stock retail stores. There are about 65 ordinances in Florida currently banning the retail sales of cats/ dogs and this number is growing. However, the preemption bills that have been considered in the legislature would remove those 65 ordinances and prevent any future ordinances form being passed. So we are fighting the efforts to preempt pet retail sales bans and educate our legislators about this issue. There has not been a preemption bill introduced yet this year, but the opposition (Petland) will likely try to amend it to a bill that’s moving, just as they did late in the session, last year. We have defeated them for three years now and will continue to fight it. But many of our legislators are not aware of this important aspect of preemption. This is why we need your vote and your voice.
What should I do to prepare? No prior experience is required to get involved. The goal of the workshop is to educate you on the bills and provide the support you’ll need to make the largest impact. It is helpful to know who your legislatures are before going into a meeting with them. Most elected officials have a website. Also check out these two nonpartisan political organizations, each one encouraging informed and active participation in government: League of Humane Voters – Florida Chapter and League of Women Voters – Florida Chapter.
This is an amazing opportunity to meet with like-minded people from across Florida; to learn about the issues and how you can make a difference. And then, to go out and visit with your representatives in their offices. We hope to see you there.
This story first appeared in the Summer/Fall 2018 edition of The New Barker dog magazine in our Men Who Love Dogs series. by Anna Cooke
FIGHTING HATE WITH LOVE. The longer you’re in prison, the more hardened you become. “Suddenly, a dog in my life I learned how to control my anger. I was allowed to finally show emotion because it was with a dog,” said Jason Bertrand. “Sugar Mama meant love. She gave me hope while I was in prison. She gave me a reason to want to get out.”
Having been incarcerated since the age of 12, Jason spent most of his life in prison. “Being a good person is not easy when you’re used to being a bad person, and you think it’s easier to be bad. I’ve lived my life in a fight mode. It was easier to stop someone physically than to talk it through,” he said. “But, I don’t want to be that guy anymore. The world I grew up in, isn’t this world. It’s kind of like the Tarzan movie, where the world he grew up in wasn’t the real world.”
Jason was released from prison in December 2016. “I’m beating the odds,” he told us. We spoke with Jason and his wife Crystal over a cup of coffee, outside Cappuccino’s Fine Wine & Espresso Bar in Dunedin in September 2018. We met Sugar Mama, the dog who helped Jason change his attitude and turn his life around while still in prison. They were introduced by the TAILS program.
TAILS (Teaching Animals and Inmates Life Skills) is a collaborative effort that brings together prison inmates and hard-to-adopt shelter dogs. Through partnerships with Northeast Florida shelters and the State of Florida Correctional System, dogs are placed in correctional facilities to be trained, socialized and cared for. The program was developed by First Coast No More Homeless Pets, now operated by Pit Sisters, a Jacksonville-based 501c3 organization that finds foster and permanent homes for hard-to-adopt dogs. Members of the Pit Sisters team assess at-risk dogs at the shelters to select candidates for the TAILS program, matching them with inmates signed up for the program. Pit Sisters also provides transport of the dogs to the correctional facilities.
“TAILS benefits dogs, trainers, families, prison staff and the entire community,” said Jennifer (Jen) Deane, founder and executive director of Pit Sisters. Sugar Mama had been confiscated in a raid to break up a dog fighting ring. She ended up at Putnam County Animal Control. Jason was at the Jacksonville Bridge Community Release Center, a transitional program, when Jen brought Sugar Mama there in April 2016.
When Jason first laid eyes on Sugar Mama, and was told her story, he was filled with a lot of different emotions, all at once. “Here is this dog, with scars and a broken back, recovering from surgery, and she’s smiling and wagging her tail,” said Jason. “I asked myself, why am I so angry? If this dog, with what she’s been through, can be happy, why couldn’t I be happy?”
As he sat with Sugar Mama at their first TAILS meeting, Jason also wondered what kind of person could do this to an innocent being? What kind of person could be so cruel and selfish and intimidating? “Then, I realized that the person I was describing was someone like me. I had been that kind of person.”
He breaks down easily at the memories of hurting the people he loved through his behavior; scaring people – the victims of his crimes. “Just when I think I’m over the tears, every time they come, I’m surprised by them. Prison made my heart calloused and hard. I shut down my emotions and became the kind of man that other men are afraid of. You’re either scared and victimized, or you’re tough. I was dangerous, because I felt that I had needed to be. And that’s how I lost myself. Sugar Mama gave me back my humanity. She melted my heart.”
The reality is, rehabilitation at the Department of Corrections doesn’t exist. In 2018, the Florida Legislature passed and Governor Rick Scott signed an $87 million budget that was $28 million short in prison funding. To close the gap, the Florida Department of Corrections began eliminating programs that prepare inmates for their return to the community. One of those recently closed was Bridges of Northeast Florida, the transitional program that Jason was in when he met Sugar Mama, almost two years ago.
The goal of the TAILS program is to have the inmates train and socialize the dogs, readying them for adoption to families outside the prison system. After the eight-week program of living with and caring for the dogs, they are taken from the inmates, who know this going into the program. Jason knew it. When he finished the program with Sugar Mama, he would have four months left in the transitional program before being released into society. Four months without her. The rest of his life without her, if she was adopted by someone else.
There have been occasions when an inmate is able to adopt the dog they’ve been paired with in the TAILS program. A family member must be available to take in and foster the dog until the inmate is released from prison. “Jason approached me about adopting Sugar Mama,” Jen told us over the phone. “But, he didn’t have family to send her to; he didn’t even have a home. He told me he would live under a bridge if it meant keeping her with him. She was that critical to his humanity.”
“I had to have her in my life,” said Jason. “She was the first living and breathing being I had ever had unconditional love for. And she reciprocated that love.” Jen went to the Community Release Center’s supervisor on Jason’s behalf. “We both saw the changes, not only in Jason, but Sugar Mama. We agreed that without Sugar Mama, Jason would most likely end up back in the prison system,” said Jen. “We made an exception and let Sugar Mama stay with him until his release, four months later.”
What makes the TAILS program unique is that it is not funded by the Department of Corrections. “Our program is the one vehicle that helps the inmates transition. We pair hardworking guys with positive reinforcement training that gives them experience and discipline, making them more employable when they’re released. They receive certificates from the program,” said Jen. “While we’ve seen a decline in recidivism, we’re working with a professor at the University of North Florida who is helping us pull those numbers together and quantify the benefits of the program. TAILS has been in existence for three years and all of the dogs have been adopted. Zero percent have been returned to the shelter,” said Jen.
The TAILS program teaches inmates how to be responsible. “It’s about being part of a team. It’s about showing up when you’re supposed to,” said Jason. “Yes, it’s about getting up at 5am to put food in the dog’s bowl, but that’s just the superficial level. It’s a lot deeper than that.”
Jason has a lot going for him now, including a good job working as a technician for a heating and air conditioning company. He has a family – Crystal, Sugar Mama and the couple’s other dog, Emma, a Jack Russell Terrier. He has a home and a car. It’s the first time in his life he’s putting the needs of others before himself. He’s also become a spokesperson for TAILS, traveling to the facilities that have the program to talk to inmates.
When speaking to a group of inmates, the first thing Jason tells them is his DOC number, so they know he was an inmate. “It’s a way of letting them know that I am no different from them. Inmates don’t care what the free world thinks. Sharing my DOC number helps break the ice. I want them to know that there is life after prison.”
While in Tallahassee, Jason listened to an inmate speak. “He had a tough guy presence; acted like he didn’t care about anything. Just then, one of the TAILS dogs walked over to the inmate and nudged his hand. Instinctively, the guy started petting the dog, as he continued to talk. And, I had to stop him to point out what was happening. I told him that, right there, that was an act of unconditional love and kindness towards him. I reminded the group to never minimize any experience.”
It costs $300 for a dog to go through the TAILS program. When sponsoring a dog, you’ll be able to choose your dog for the program and receive updates about the dog you are sponsoring.You’ll be invited to attend graduation where you’ll meet your sponsored dog, along with the trainers and the new adopters.
For more information on TAILS, contact Jennifer Deane, Founder/President and Executive Director of Pit Sisters for more information. Email Jen Deane at jen@PitSisters.org Jen is also a Regional Director for the Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation. Since 1989, it has been illegal in Miami-Dade County to own or keep American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers or any other dog that substantially conforms to any of these breeds’ characteristics. More info on TAILS at: PitSisters.org/Tails Miami Coalition Against BSL: MCABSL.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.
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.
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?
Neat 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.
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.
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.
It’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.
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.
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.”
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.
Jeff 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 runningwith 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.”
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.