by Anna Cooke – This feature first appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of The New Barker Dog Magazine.
One year, out of the blue, 15-year-old John Patrick asked his parents for an English Bulldog as a Christmas present. With his sister Sarah looking on, their parents, Jo-Ann and John Lefner said no, citing the family’s current dog, a rambunctious Yellow Lab named Jake, as exhibit number one in support of their argument. The young man quietly left the room. His parents looked at one another, wondering about their son’s curious request. This, from a most giving child who himself had never really asked for anything. How could they deny him?
And so it was that a little brindle English Bulldog puppy entered the lives of the Lefner family, instantly finding a place in each of their hearts (except maybe Jake’s). They named him Dauber after coach Dauber Dybinski, a character in Coach, a popular television series at the time.
Dauber was not long for this world, passing away just a few months later at the age of one. The whole family was so devastated they could not even process the thought of bringing another dog into their fold. Even Jake, the Yellow Lab, seemed out of sorts. But, we don’t find dogs. It seems, when the time is right, they find us.
One afternoon, Jo-Ann was watching domestic diva Martha Stewart on television. Martha has a signature closing at the end of every show. “It’s a good thing.” Those words never rang more true for Jo-Ann than right at that moment.
“This family,” she thought to herself, “needs a good thing, right now.”
Just then, Jo-Ann’s telephone rang. It was Dauber’s breeder. “I have a litter of Bulldog puppies, and there is one that I think would be perfect for you and your family,” she told Jo-Ann.
And so it was that a second little English Bulldog entered the Lefner’s lives and, once again, stole their hearts. Jake took one look at his new housemate and glared up at Jo-Ann with a wrinkled brow as if to say, “What have you done to me now?” They named the English Bulldog puppy Martha Stewart, and she would lovingly torment Jake the rest of his days.
Over the years, the Lefners and their dogs would travel from their home in New York to spend their winters in Charleston, North Carolina. Jo-Ann and Martha Stewart would take walks, visiting the many beautiful parks. While most of the parks allowed leashed dogs, Jo-Ann found that they weren’t really very dog-friendly. There were no water stations or designated places to dispose of dog waste. Soon Jo-Ann and Martha Stewart became crusaders for improving Charleston’s dog parks, successfully campaigning for these and other amenities.
Fast forward a few years. Martha Stewart (the domestic diva) was being released from prison after having served a five-month term for conspiracy to obstruct justice. Ever the marketing maven, she had a quirky idea for her first television show following her incarceration. Why not have a program featuring everyone they could find named Martha Stewart?
The staff Googled “Martha Stewart” and found 167 women, and one English Bulldog, all named Martha Stewart. The internet’s search engine found Martha Stewart, the 10-year-old English Bulldog, via stories about the Charleston dog park campaign.
“Having a dog named Martha Stewart, well, you can imagine the crank calls we had endured from friends and family over the years,” Jo-Ann explained. “Questions like ‘what is Martha Stewart cooking up for dinner tonight?’”
Jo-Ann recalled the evening she received the phone call from someone claiming to be a producer with the Martha Stewart Show. She and John were having friends over for dinner.
“We were in the kitchen, and I picked up the phone to hear someone tell me they were from the Martha Stewart Show. They asked me if I had an English Bulldog by the name of Martha Stewart.”
Jo-Ann immediately thought it was one of her friends joking around, and responded accordingly with a sarcastic answer. Suddenly, she realized that the person on the other end of the phone was serious.
“No, really. I am a producer for the show, and we want your dog to be on Martha Stewart’s first show of her new season,” the woman told Jo-Ann.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. They wanted our Martha Stewart to be on the Martha Stewart Show?”
They were flown, all-expenses paid to New York to be on the show in 2006.
“My dog, Martha Stewart went to hair and make-up and Martha Stewart, the star of the show, baked dog cookies for her,” smiled Jo-Ann.
The fame never went to Martha Stewart’s head (the dog, that is).
In December 2010, Jo-Ann Lefner opened a boutique on Anna Maria Island and named it after the family’s fourth English Bulldog, Bella. Regulars loved seeing Bella at the store. Over the years, The New Barker co-hosted a couple of fundraising events at the store in support of animal advocacy, including Florida English Bulldog Rescue.
After 10 successful years, Jo-Ann has decided to close Bella by the Sea Home Boutique. She made her decision just after the first of the year and long before the pandemic crisis. After years of sitting on various Boards, supporting community activities and going to market for her store, Jo-Ann is looking forward to visits with her children and grandchildren.
“It’s time to sit back, enjoy life, and think about my next new adventure,” said Jo-Ann.
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.
Who knew that drinking vodka would be for the greater good of dogs? Not just any vodka, though.
by Anna Cooke
Earlier this year, THE NEW BARKER partnered with Tito’s Handmade Vodka to create a social media contest for adopted dogs. The contest post reached more than 15,000 people on THE NEW BARKER Facebook page. The top three dogs with the most votes received the honor of having a cocktail created in their name, using Tito’s Handmade Vodka, of course. In no particular order, the winners are (below, left to right) Taj from Boca Raton (photograph by Tina VaLant); Reggie from Tampa and Aggie from St. Petersburg.
We will share the refreshing drink recipes and more about these dogs in an upcoming blog. For now, a bit about the man behind the Vodka For Dog People.
Twenty years ago, in Austin, a geologist-turned-mortgage-man began a hobby with his trusted white German Shepherd mix, Jo, by his side. Tito Beveridge (his real name) began distilling vodka using hand-crafted stills he made himself. “Jo was the only contact I’d have with another life form in days,” said Tito, as he cooked batches of the product, then bottled and loaded it for distribution. During those early days, Beveridge often slept on a cot he’d set up inside the warehouse, his companion Jo curled up nearby. “She was with me the whole time. I still can’t talk about her without tearing up,” he says.
In 2001, Tito’s Handmade Vodka won the Double Gold Medal for vodka at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, beating out 71 other vodkas. Even The Dude (aka Jeff Bridges) in the movie The Big Lebowski recommends Tito’s as the best vodka with which to make a White Russian. Tito has done something even more extraordinary than creating his handmade vodka. He launched VodkaForDogPeople.com to help save homeless dogs after noticing the many stray dogs wandering onto his distillery’s property. The distillery is located just outside Austin city limits, where feral dog packs had been a growing problem. Tito’s employees began to adopt or foster them. Today, employees’ dogs can be seen lounging around the marketing office, while the distillery has many dogs who live on the property full-time.
The distillery became an unofficial dog adoption center. Strays would come onto the property, where they were cared for and made available for adoption. Tito’s staff took many of the stray dogs to Emancipet, an Austin-based organization devoted to making spay/neuter and preventative veterinary care affordable and accessible to all pet owners. Once the animals received treatment, Tito began talking to people in the community about adopting the dogs. He has since found homes for more than 60 dogs through the distillery.
Tito’s, the brand, has officially partnered with Emancipet to reach communities outside of Austin, like Hillsborough County’s Vets 4 Pets Charitable Clinic in Tampa. You could say that, using Tito’s Handmade Vodka in your mixed drinks is the right thing to do. Ethical inebriation, as blogger Claire Cudahy calls it. Today, Vodka For Dog People sells leashes, collars, dog bowls, and clothing. All of the profits from the sales go directly to Emancipet.
“Google ‘Successful Failures’ and you’ll find that everybody that you think is a great success in the world has gone through multiple failures.” –Tito Beveridge
Jo, the German Shepherd mix who helped Tito start it all, is buried on the distillery’s property. Few expected Tito to succeed when he first began making his vodka. His successes and subsequent partnerships with Emancipet and other animal-rights organizations have become a way for him to support a community that helped him when he was a struggling entrepreneur. He may just see a bit of himself in the dogs he’s helped along the way. “My loyalty to those who believed in me shows in the consistency of those partnerships 20 years later. I believe you should dance with the one who brought you.”
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
How much money would you spend on your dog’s medical care? The following appears in the current/winter issue of THE NEW BARKER. It is the story of Zack, a Lakeland Terrier, and his devoted human, Stella. Today, sadly, we learned of Zack’s passing this week. Rest in peace, Zacky. This edition of Weekend PUPdates is dedicated to you.
Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin loses melanin, the pigment that determines the color of skin, hair and eyes. If the cells that produce melanin die, depigmentation occurs, causing patches of white irregular shapes to appear on the skin. It usually starts as small areas of pigment loss that become larger with time, striking any part of the body and anyone, regardless of race. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious, but alters the life of the patient physically, limiting sun exposure to avoid severe burning and blistering. It can also have an extremely emotional effect on the patient, especially children.
When Stella Pavlides developed vitiligo, she was only 22 and had just given birth to her son, Greg. The cosmetologist with flawless skin suddenly looked like a patchwork quilt, as she describes it. “I’ve had people refuse to take money from me,” said Pavlides. “They think what I have is contagious.”
After learning there was no cure, and that between four and five million people in the United States are afflicted with the condition, Pavlides contacted the Vitiligo Foundation. She wanted to help fund research to find a cure for vitiligo and became a faithful donor. When the animal advocate discovered that animals, including dogs, were being used for research and testing, she was conflicted. “I wanted a cure for vitiligo, but I wanted more humane research.” She asked the president of the foundation to consider going the humane route after discussing her concerns with the now late Dr. Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Dermatology Service at Boston’s Mass General. She was turned away.
The Clearwater resident then traveled to Gainesville to meet with Wayne McCormack, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine. McCormack told Pavlides that if she provided the funding for the research, he would use donated blood and skin from people with vitiligo, not animals.
Since 1995, the American Vitiligo Research Foundation Pavlides founded, has given around $200,000 toward vitiligo research at UF. The money comes through fundraisers and donations.
To say this woman is unstoppable in whatever she takes on is a gross understatement. Even baseball legend Tony La Russa, who founded the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in 1991 with his wife Elaine, said of Pavlides, “She is a dedicated, hard-working person, devoted to her causes. She is also an avid animal lover. I admire her tenacity and drive as well as her determination to overcome obstacles.” Pavlides’ own rescue Airedale, Alex, was one of ARF’s first mascots.
In February of 1999, Pavlides adopted another dog, Sophie, a Lakeland Terrier. Several months later she received a phone call asking if she could foster another Lakeland Terrier who was just a puppy – one of Sophie’s puppies, in fact. Where Sophie was sweet, kind, high-spirited and loving, Zack was the exact opposite. He was aggressive, suffered separation anxiety and self-mutilated in addition to a host of health issues that would surface several years after Pavlides adopted him.
Pavlides allows herself to wonder, once in awhile, whether she would have adopted Zack had she known about his issues beforehand. One thing is certain: this determined, tenacious woman never gave up on Zack once she committed to bringing him into her home.
She did all the right things. Neutering Zack seemed to help with some of his aggressive behavior, but not to the extent she had hoped. She hired a professional dog trainer who told her he had trained many dogs and was certain he could train Zack. After Pavlides invested a lot of money for Zack’s training sessions, the trainer told her the dog was not trainable. Pavlides then took Zack to a licensed dog psychologist. She attended a presentation at the Humane Society of Manatee County by Cesar Millan. She purchased and read his book and applied his theories on Zack. Nothing seemed to help with her dog’s anxiety or aggressive behavioral issues.
Eventually, Pavlides accepted Zack for the dog he was. She realized his aggression and anxiety were all fear-based, and vowed to never put him in a position to fail ever again.
Zack’s physical issues began to manifest when he was five years old. He had surgery to remove cataracts in both of his eyes. He has suffered from chronic allergies, ear infections, and extensive seizures. His self mutilation involved spinning and biting his tail to the point of requiring surgery. He has seen almost every kind of veterinarian specialist within the Tampa Bay Area. At The University of Florida in Gainesville, he was seen by specialists in dermatology, ophthalmology, acupuncture, neurology and a licensed dietician.
Zack’s veterinary bills are currently more than $80,000. That does not include the money Pavlides has spent around her home to help keep her dog’s allergies in check: having the grass removed and replaced with cement; replacing her carpet with tile; providing Zack with a special daily diet of fresh cooked tilapia, salt-less peas and cream of rice.
The point at which we, as pet owners, determine enough is enough is a different decision for each of us. Factors will include the dog’s overall health and well-being, the bank account balance, and our own ability to cope with the situation.
There was a time, in the not so distant past, where euthanasia was the only solution for our pets’ suffering from chronic disease. Dogs have moved from the backyard doghouse into our homes, living as part of the family blend. We have come to learn how diet plays a role in the health of our dogs. Veterinary medicine has vastly improved over the last 10 years, offering pet owners a multitude of options.
We move forward and base our decisions on all the facts presented to us. Living with dogs takes a certain amount of patience, devotion and lots of faith.
It has been almost two years since Zack has had a seizure. Pavlides credits Dr. Gregory Todd at Animal Hospital of Dunedin, and his recommended combination treatment of acupuncture and Chinese herbs. “Zack’s indomitable spirit has been a great ally in overcoming his health challenges. But, none of it would be possible without Stella’s unwavering commitment as a pet parent, to a lifetime of love and care,” said Dr. Todd.
Pavlides knows that without each and every veterinarian and caregiver in Zack’s life, he would not be here today. Through her own trials and tribulations, as Pavlides puts it, Zack is now 16 years-old and has become a very kind, loving soul. To her, Zack has been worth every penny spent, every tear shed.
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
We first met Jolene, a beautiful white Standard Poodle, in Tampa at Woofstock, hosted by TampaPets.org. Her fur had been accented in pink to show her support for Breast Cancer Awareness. The following is an original feature from the winter 2015/16 (current) issue of The New Barker dog magazine, written by Anna Cooke.
At fifty years old, Barbara Mahoney decided to end her abusive marriage and sell her business. She knew the change would be good for her, but realized she was still not in a good place, emotionally. She recalled how happy she felt around her mother’s dogs while growing up, especially the Poodles. Now, she wanted a constant companion, someone who would give her unconditional love. A dog who would go swimming with her. Heck, maybe she’d even get into agility, she thought. Jolene came into Barbara’s life in 2011, and she decided to let the dog show her just what she wanted to do in the way of “work.”
When she was just a year old, Jolene began her athletic career in dock diving. She received her canine therapy certification in water rehabilitation. She took the Southeastern Regional Division championship in her class, and all was good. Then, someone threw a Frisbee. Jolene ran after it, and caught it. She and Barbara were hooked. Barbara sought out competitions and talked to other people about Jolene’s talent. “I even found people to throw Jolene the disc when I broke my clavicle,” she said. “I didn’t want her to stop having fun while I was laid up.” The duo’s devotion to the sport and hard work quickly paid off. Jolene became the only World Qualifying Standard Poodle in the sport.
“Working with dogs in activities like disc and agility enriches and completes our relationship with them,” Barbara told us. “Jolene is an exceptional Poodle, but she is also an incredible disc dog.”
Barbara and five other people formed Up Dog Challenge, an organization they hope will inform dog lovers how “awesome this sport is,” she told us. The group’s goal is to provide a non-intimidating forum where people will feel comfortable asking questions about the sport. Go to an Up Dog Challenge event and everyone involved is approachable and enthusiastic about the sport. “We want more people to know how fun this is,” added Barbara. “All ages and skill levels are welcome. All breed types, size, and shape. We’ll even teach you how to throw a disc so that your dog will catch it. We have trainers that are very good with newcomers to the sport. They explain how your dog thinks and will train you to throw the disc in a way that maximizes your dog’s success. We want to optimize that play for you both.”
Dogs are happiest when they have something to do, when people play with them. “Happy dogs equal happy people,” said Barbara. “Look what Jolene did for me. She changed my life.”
MORE: 2016 marks the 42nd consecutive year of competitive canine disc sports. The first annual UpDog International Finals will be held March 18 – 20 in Brooksville, Florida at Florida Classic Park (5360 Lockhart Road). Qualified teams must pre-register by Sunday, January 31. For more information, visit UpDogChallenge.com
This story originally appeared in the current issue of The New Barker dog magazine.