A Bed For Every Shelter Dog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It Feels Sew Right.

 

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Every Dog Has His Lucky Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucky the Cat, painted by Ron Burns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

One Dog At A Time.

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

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Pen Farthing and Nowzad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Christmas Miracle.

The holidays may be over, but the spirit of the season of giving and hope lives on in this dog story.

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Macho. Photograph, courtesy of Feeling Fine Canine and Equine Rescue.

Miami-Dade Animal Services (MDAS) is a loud place, often crowded with more dogs than space. Macho was one of the lucky ones. On December 12, volunteers from a West Palm Beach rescue group, Feeling Fine Canine and Equine Rescue, pulled Macho. He was emaciated, very weak and looked as if he had lost his will to live.

He was immediately taken to Gardens Animal Hospital for tests. Along with a diagnosis of pancreatitis, high levels of calcium in his blood indicated Macho had cancer. Tracey Godin, founder and operator of Feeling Fine Canine and Equine Rescue, said that Macho was able to spend Christmas with her family. Caela, Godin’s daughter, hand-fed Macho and slept on the floor with him. Macho must have known he was loved. Just 18 days after he was pulled from MDAS, Macho peacefully passed away.

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Caela and Macho. Photograph, courtesy of Feeling Fine Canine and Equine Rescue.

The following day, Godin’s mother was scheduled for surgery that would require her to be under anesthesia for four hours. Prior to her mom’s surgery, Godin said a prayer, asking everyone she knew in Heaven to keep her mother safe.

“After surgery, my mom told my aunt that she spoke to my father, who had passed away last February,” said Godin. “In the hospital room, I said to mom, ‘so I hear dad visited you?’ And mom answered, ‘Dad has Macho…’ She repeated it several times. The crazy thing is, mom had only met Macho one time for about 10 minutes.”

Do dogs go to Heaven? In the 18 days Macho was with Godin and her family, he managed to touch the hearts of many. Why, out of all the dogs at MDAS, was Macho pulled by this rescue group? Some people believe there are no coincidences in life. There seems to be a guardian angel watching over a family who gave their hearts to him for a short period of time. Peace, Macho.

 

Every Home Should Have a Dog. And Every Dog Should Have a Home.

Yes, we do love dogs. Leanne came perfectly dressed to work The New Barker dog magazine booth during Florida's Largest Home Show at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
Yes, we do love dogs. Leanne came perfectly dressed to work The New Barker dog magazine booth during Florida’s Largest Home Show at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Florida’s Largest Home Show and The New Barker dog magazine have teamed up to bring something warm and fuzzy to the Florida State Fairgrounds this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (October 18, 19 and 20). The Fall Fling Adopt-A-Pet will provide a free venue for Florida rescue groups to showcase their adoptables, hand out information and even collect donations for their cause: saving dogs from euthanasia.

For 29 years Turner Expo has produced Florida’s Largest Home Show in the Tampa Bay Area. With more than 900 exhibits, the shows have been selected as one of the top 30 premiere home shows in the country and featured in the National Home & Garden Show Series. The success of the shows inspired Turner Expositions co-owner Paige Kolm, to give back to her community, which has been so supportive of the Home Shows. The avid dog lover is concerned about the high rate of euthanasia and the number of homeless dogs. It is a fact that an astounding 9,000 dogs and cats are killed every day in shelters across the country. “I just wanted to stop being an observer and become a doer. We, as a community, have to help change this situation, and we cannot rely on one entity to shoulder the entire burden,” said Paige.

Of particular benefit to the rescue groups’ adoption efforts is that visitors coming to The Home Show are prepared to shop for the home. In other words, people come with the mindset to spend money. “It’s an entirely different demographic and vibe for the shelters and rescue groups participating,” said Anna Cooke, editor of The New Barker dog magazine. While browsing aisle after aisle of appliances, the latest in home entertainment technology, bedroom decor and comfort options, landscaping, high tech cookware and more, the visitor is pleasantly surprised by the appearance of puppies and dogs. “It’s a nice break for the shopper to interact with the dogs. And, it gives the volunteers fostering the adoptables an opportunity to reach out to a new group of people,” added Cooke. “Maybe some dogs will be adopted. Maybe some shoppers will be inclined to make a donation. In either case, we’re informing more people, outside of the world of rescue, about the work these volunteers are doing.”

Volunteer Pat Hose accepts a donation from The New Barker dog magazine.
Pat Hose, a volunteer for Dalmatian Rescue of Tampa Bay, accepts a donation from The New Barker dog magazine. The New Barker donated five dollars of each magazine subscription purchased via the Dalmatian Rescue of Tampa Bay website.

The Spring Show in March, 2013 was the first time Florida’s Largest Home Show invited the rescue groups. Animal Based Charities helped coordinate the rescue groups. “We had more than 25 groups participate over the three-day event,” said Kolm. “We were so pleased with the response from our guests, that we decided to do it again for our Fall Home Show.”

Home Sweet Dog Home. The New Barker booth during the Spring Home Show and Adoption Fling featured products by Bowsers Pet Products.
Home Sweet Dog Home. The New Barker booth during the Spring Home Show and Adoption Fling featured products by Bowsers Pet Products.

In conjunction with the Fall Fling Adopt-A-Pet, on Saturday, Bay Area Kennel Clubs are participating in an AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day. There will be Canine Good Citizen evaluations, demonstrations in Freestyle, Agility and Rally/Obedience. One-on-one sessions with a trainer, a Meet the Breed Parade and more. At The New Barker booth, homeowners will be able to speak with experts about liability insurance for their dogs, a different kind of home security and personal protection option, hospice care/end-of-life planning for the family pet and more. IN DOG WE TRUST will be selling their official NFL sanctioned line of dog bandanas.

Show hours are Friday, October 18, 11a-6p; Saturday, October 19, 11a-7p; Sunday, October 20, 11a-5p. The event is free on Friday during the ABC Action News FREE Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, adult tickets are $8; senior tickets are $7; children under 12 get in free. The Florida State Fairgrounds is located at 4800 US Highway 301 North, Tampa. Attendees will want to use the 301 entrance gate.

Yes, Florida's Largest Home Show is Dog Friendly.
Yes, Florida’s Largest Home Show is Dog Friendly.

Contacts:

Paige Kolm/Turner Expositions/813.677.6925

Anna Cooke/The New Barker Dog Magazine/727.214.7453