Tuesday, April 29, 2014

National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day: Wordless Wednesday

(Pardon the demon-ish light in Riley's eyes - he is not possessed, just a bad angle + flash :) )
(You can also purchase this adorable little pillow right here!)

Today (Wednesday, April 30) is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day...There is really no better place than a shelter to find your forever friend.  I know you probably have had it pounded into your head by now, but there are millions of dogs and cats euthanized in shelters each year - something like one every ten seconds.  You can change lives by adopting a pet from a shelter.  And not just the animal's life - it will change your life, too!  I promise :)


Tuesday's Tails: Meet Rico!

(Photo courtesy of Love & Luck Photography)

Hi everybody!  My name is Rico, and I am a second-timer at the Humane Society of North Iowa.  You see, I arrived as a stray last year and was adopted out rather quickly.  Unbeknownst to the nice folks working at the shelter, I was shuffled around from home to home (and that's no life for a dog!), and I ran away and ended up here for a second time in September.  It's funny - the staff didn't recognize me at first (how could they not remember these devilish good looks?!) and decided to name me Randall!  One particularly observant staff member thought she remembered my...ahem...unique bark..., checked out some photos from my last visit, and discovered that it was indeed me - Rico!

I am a 3-year-old rat terrier, and as you can see from these photos, I am quite the handsome fellow - check out my expressive eyebrows and silly grin!  I like the ladies more than I like men, and I am still a little timid because of the bad break I've gotten in life.  But once I get to know you, I'm a total lover!  Don't be put off by my barking when I'm in my kennel; I am only trying to get you to notice me and take me for a walk!  Once I am out from behind bars, I am a calm and quiet gentleman.  I am great on a leash (though I might have to wear a harness as I get a bit excited at first), and my adorable trot will make you smile!  Although I am sad to be back in the shelter, I am loving all of the new people I get to meet...I love kids, and I even get along with cats and most dogs.  I enjoy being bathed and walked, but what I like more than anything is just a lap to snuggle up in.  

The lady holding me in the photo is one of my favorite visitors!  I like her husband, too, though when I first met him I was a bit shy...but once I spent some time with him, I kept putting my paws on his legs to be picked up!  Everyone who spends time with me knows that once I'm given a chance, I am a very affectionate boy - I am not shy about personal space, either; I like to bat at your hands with my paws to get you to pet me!  Most people think that's pretty cute. :)  I'm not sure why I have been at the shelter for so long - are people intimidated by the way I bark at them?  I don't mean any harm; I just want to get out of my cage. :(  I wish they could understand.  Please give me a second chance at a forever home; I am a great dog and I promise to be your loyal friend for life!  If you are interested in adopting me (please?!), contact the HSNI for more information.

xoxochelsea (and Rico!)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hangin' With Underdog Rescue!

Underdog Rescue, MN  is a wonderful non-profit rescue group that depends solely on volunteers and fosters to temporarily care for animals in need.  Their goal is to rehabilitate and rehome homeless dogs and cats of any age and breed; many of their adoptable dogs right now are senior dogs who have been rescued from puppy mills.  Underdog Rescue's adoption process is designed to find only the best, most loving homes for their animals.  The organization has been running strongly since 2000, and since then, they have adopted out over 2100 pets!  Since they don't have a building in which to house their homeless animals, they must depend on the kindness and generosity of volunteers, who foster the dogs or cats in their homes until the right home has been found.

The organization is mostly dedicated to "underdogs" - the pups who might be passed by or overlooked if they were in a regular shelter.  These include:  black dogs (and cats!), special needs animals, pit bull breeds, and puppy mill survivors, who, due to the trauma they have likely experienced, require some special love and care.  The fosters who temporarily care for these animals come to every adoption event, ready and willing to share stories about the dog's rescue, personality, and any special needs the animal might have.  Without these dedicated fosters, these homeless animals would likely be put into a city shelter, which tend to be pretty crowded in a metropolis.

Over the weekend, Jared and I made our way to Minneapolis, where Underdog Rescue was holding an adoption event in a pet supply store.  We weren't sure what to expect - we didn't think there would be too many people there, but we were wrong!  The place was packed, with one corner of the store fenced off and filled with cushy floor tiles and people and dogs everywhere!  Pekingese, Japanese chins, Yorkies, Shih tzus, Poms, and dachshunds all romping together happily in the play area.  (There were a couple of larger breed dogs - beagles, boxer, and lab mix - but there were many more small breeds.)  I was impressed at the friendliness of all the dogs...I didn't see one ounce of aggression, and the dogs all seemed to get along very well.

Jared snuggling with a sweetheart named Gavin!

A close-up of Gavin's little black bear face!  Gavin is a 5-year-old Pomeranian who spent his entire life in a puppy mill.  He is still a bit timid, but he loved being cradled like a baby by all the event's volunteers!  Check out Gavin and Underdog Rescue's other adoptable dogs here.

People seemed especially fond of Bauer the Boxer puppy, and Arnold the long-haired Doxie (who was wearing a very dapper tie!) kind of stole my heart.  Jared was partial to a Lhasa mix by the name of Crouton, while a dapple doxie (named Roxie!) adored him and kept curling up in his lap and refusing to move.  

Kiara caught my eye, since she was huddled under a folding chair in the corner.  While most of the dogs frolicked with the others and got attention from people, this poor girl was all alone.  I got closer to pet her, then scooped her up and held her on my lap for almost the entire event.  

Kiara is a 7-year-old Japanese Chin, and she is blind.  Another puppy mill rescue, she is still a bit timid but was such a sweetheart - she snuggled on my lap the whole time and rested her tiny chin on me.  Kiara seemed overwhelmed by all the chaos going on at the event, which isn't surprising - more sensory stuff going on than she was able to take in!

I have a soft spot in my heart for animals with special needs, and Kiara is definitely a heartbreaker.  Her foster came up to me toward the end of the event, asking, "Has Kiki been on your lap this whole time?!  Well, you have probably made her morning...she loves to snuggle, and this is all probably a little much for her."  Unfortunately, Underdog Rescue only adopts to people in the Minneapolis area...otherwise, I might have had to take Kiara home with me!

There was a skittish chihuahua or two, a gorgeous shih tzu who was fresh out of the puppy mill and still very wary of humans, and some senior poodles who were overwhelmed by all the hubbub, but overall I was so amazed by how well these dogs did.  Some of the puppy mill rescues had never been exposed to human affection before, so it was very impressive that they were able to not only allow a bunch of strangers handling them, but even enjoy it!  

While Jared and I took Crouton on a short walk, I asked her foster about the experience she had had fostering for Underdog.  "I love it," she responded.  "Underdog does a great job at finding the perfect home for these animals, so I don't have to worry.  And in the meantime, Crouton's kinda got the run of the household.  She gets lots of treats, even sleeps on my bed!  She really is an awesome dog."  

Arnold the Dachshund's foster rolled her eyes and smiled fondly as Arnold barked to get her attention (again!).  "He's only my second foster.  He's only been at my house for a few days, and he is already so attached to me!  He's a sweet guy, though," she said, scratching him behind the ears.

The foster of one of the senior poodles was a longtime veteran of the fostering scene.  "I've had seven other fosters," she told me as the poodle shivered on her lap.  "She has come so far since we first got her; she used to run and hide all the time, but now I can at least pet her."  I asked her if it was hard to see them go, and she replied, "No.  You know, you love them, but you learn not to get too attached.  They always end up in amazing homes."  It's volunteers like these that help Underdog Rescue to exist!  Without fosters, this organization simply would not work.

If you want to learn more about Underdogs Rescue, MN or send them a donation, you can visit their website here.  And as always, thanks for reading.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Book Review: Love Saves the Day

Love Saves the Day - Gwen Cooper (photo from Goodreads)

I was surprised by how much I loved this book.  Generally, I am not into fiction written from the perspective of the animal, but Love Saves the Day was definitely an exception.  An incredibly sweet novel featuring several different narrators, this is a perfect (purrfect?  No?  Too far?) book for cat lovers.

Prudence, the brown tabby cat at the center of the novel, has "adopted" a woman named Sarah; the two live a happy life together until, one day, Sarah doesn't return home.  Though it's not a major event shown in the story, Sarah has died.  Prudence, of course, does not understand where her beloved human has gone, and she continues to expect Sarah to come home throughout the novel.  I found this absolutely heartbreaking.  

Coming to Sarah's house to gather her belongings, however, is Laura, who is Sarah's nearly-estranged daughter.  Prudence's comfortable life is turned upside down when she is brought to live with this stranger and her husband.  Laura and her husband are not cat lovers - in fact, they barely know how to interact with poor Prudence.  The plot follows the struggle of Prudence to "train" her new humans while still longing for Sarah, as well as Laura's attempts to push away the memories of her deceased mother.  

Laura and her mother once had a very strong relationship that ended with lots of arguments and fighting.  Prudence the cat only reminds Laura of the bond her and her mother once had.  The book has three narrators, if I recall correctly:  Prudence, Laura, and Sarah (her memories).  Each was equally heartstring-tugging and poignant.  Books that are written from the POV of an animal can be gimmicky and cheesy.  This (despite the sappy title and cover) did not happen in this book, much to my relief.  Instead, the cat's chapters were clever and fun, and it made me wish I could hear the things that go on inside my pet's head.

This book is sad, but also very sweet and affecting.  It is not only a "cat book" - it is a powerful novel about reconciling with one's past, loss of loved ones, and regret and its effect on a person's life.  Even if you're not a cat lover, I would still give this one a shot.  Trust me when I say that the cover/title does NOT do this book justice.  (Buy it here for only about $12!)


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday's Tails: Roxie and Sasha

Isn't Roxie beautiful?!  An American Bulldog/Pittie mix, Roxie was abandoned at PAWS in September of last year - shelter employees found her tied to a tree near the building. :(  This 2-year-old sweetheart was of course sad and confused, but she has become used to life in the shelter.  She loves to play fetch and go for walks, but she also LOVES to snuggle and give kisses!  My husband and I visited her and tried to play, but all she wanted was belly rubs :)  

Roxie is still young and full of energy, but she is also very smart and would not be difficult to train.  She appears to be house-trained, as she tends to keep a clean kennel, and though she doesn't care for the other shelter dogs, staff is willing to test her out if potential adopters have a dog at home.  This sweet, cuddly girl is waiting patiently for a forever home...and unfortunately, pittie breeds like her tend to wait for a long time.  Please don't make her wait too much longer!  Contact PAWS for more information on Roxie, and in the meantime, share her photo and story to help find her a home! 

(Photos from PAWS website)

This is Sasha, an 8-year-old Domestic Medium Hair at PAWS.  She came to PAWS nearly a year ago, in rough shape and with a big, swollen belly - she ended up giving birth to six healthy kittens!  Her kittens were adopted, but Sasha still waits patiently for her human to come find her.  An older gal, she still plays sometimes but mostly just wants to cuddle and be petted.  Sasha is very mellow and gets along well with other cats.  When I went to visit the shelter, the other kittens were running around wildly and playing, and Sasha sat calmly on top of a cat tree, blinking slowly and overseeing all the action like a mother hen!  She is such a sweet girl, and she deserves a wonderful home!  For more info, contact PAWS, and be sure to share Sasha as well!

UPDATE:  Sasha has now been ADOPTED!!!  However, Roxie is still up for adoption...and has been for more than a year now.  Please consider bringing this sweet pittie into your life!

Thanks for reading and sharing!

Monday, April 21, 2014

An Interview with Jack-Jack, the Blind Puppy Mill Survivor!

Last week, I blogged about Dillon the Blind Cat and his inspiring rescue story!  This week, I'm going to continue with the special-needs pet trend and feature another Instagram sweetheart:  Jack-Jack, a rescue Pomeranian who had a very rough start to life in a puppy mill.  This sweet boy was saved from the puppy mill he was in by a shelter, and he eventually found his forever home with Katie (who was nice enough to speak with me for this interview).  Because of the horrible conditions he had lived in, Jack-Jack ended up having several health issues - seven years later, he is completely blind as well as a cancer survivor!  Handsome Jack is now a bit of a "celebrity" dog; he inspires many people to fight against puppy mills and adopt puppy-mill survivors or special-needs dogs.  He currently lives a happy life with his mom, a few cats, and two Pomeranian siblings in Chicago, where, thanks to advocates like Katie, the sale of puppy mill dogs to pet stores was recently banned!  Read on to learn more about Jack-Jack's rescue story!  (All photos are from Jack's Facebook page)

Jack-Jack wishes you a happy belated Easter!

How did you get involved with animal rescue? 
I got involved with the rescue Jack is from through a friend who was adopting through them.  I drove the 3 hours to the rescue coordinator's, Jo's, house with her to pick up her dog.  I hit it off with the rescue coordinator, and she asked me if I would foster.  A few days later she told me she had a dog named Pedro from a puppy mill that really needed a foster home.  I agreed, and picked him up the next day.  Jack was that dog named Pedro.  I knew he had a spot on his right eye, and my Mom re-named him Jack (after 'one eyed Jack'). Jack had never really been outside or experienced life outside of a tiny cage in a puppy mill.  I bonded with him immediately.  He sat on my couch and just stared at everything going on.  Three days later Jo called and said she had a possible application on him, but had seen the instant bond we had and I had first rights on him.  It also happened to be my 24th birthday.  Without hesitation I said 'He's mine!'  He was the first- and last- dog I fostered.  I knew I wouldn't be able to continue fostering unless I ultimately wanted to keep the dog.  Instead I work on fund raising for a few different organizations.  I also own a pet supply store in Chicago called Parker's, and we hold adoption events and foster cats for a local cat rescue.  We also do a lot of fundraising for a local pet food pantry and recently donated almost 5k lbs of food to them.

What made you decide to adopt Jack-Jack rather than purchasing a dog from a breeder?
I decided to rescue after I got my first Pom, Parker.  I did all of the things you're supposed to do to find a reputable breeder- went through the breed's parent club, spoke extensively to the breeder... There were definitely some red flags, but they were easy to ignore when she was sending me super cute pictures of my tiny puppy!  Parker has had extensive health problems since he was a puppy.  When I emailed her to ask if he had been having constant bouts of diarrhea with her and to tell her I was working with the great vets at Purdue to figure out what was wrong with him, she never emailed me back.  I never heard from her after that!
(Note: Poor Parker :( This is a sad but true consequence that can happen when purchasing a dog from breeders.  Many breeders can seem very trustworthy, while they are actually just trying to get you to buy a dog from them.  If you want to go through a breeder for a puppy, make sure you physically see the living conditions in which the dogs are kept, and ask if you can meet the puppy's parents as well.  A reputable breeder should let you do this with no problems.)

Jack-Jack with his siblings Parker (left), Bebe (right), and a stuffed Pom friend!

 What is Jack's personality like?  How does he seem to have adjusted to life outside of a puppy mill?
Jack has an amazing personality.  He is absolutely bombproof- you can do anything to him and he would never think of getting upset.  You can take him anywhere and he's well behaved.  His medical team at Purdue LOVES when he comes because he's such a good patient.  He "works" at my store every day greeting customers and stealing treats and chews.  He's really a dream and absolutely the dog of a lifetime.  Jack is my heart dog, no doubt.  He survived distemper at a puppy mill, he survived a puppy mill, then started going blind, survived cancer... And he still has an amazing attitude. 

There definitely were challenges with both him and Bebe coming from a puppy mill.  He was actually the easier of my 2 mill rescues.  Jack pretty much lived on my couch for 6 months.  He just watched everything going on, took it all in.  I even fed him on the couch!  I learned early on with him to just let him do what he's comfortable with.  Eventually he decided that the world wasn't a scary place, and he should come off of the couch!

One of the amazing things about Jack is how well he adapted to going blind.  He has Progressive Retinal Atrophy.  My mom first noticed his sight issues a year or so into me owning him.  Since then his retinas are completely degenerated.  He copes so well with being blind even this ophthalmologists at Purdue don't understand how he does so well!  Every once in a while he bumps into things, and he does have a higher gait when he's in an unfamiliar place.  He still goes up and down stairs, though!  Unless you tell someone it's VERY difficult to tell he's blind.  He still goes to daycare once a week, too.  He wears a soft cone in unfamiliar places so that he doesn't hit his head, but he rarely even does that.  It's pretty amazing.

Yet another inspiring story about how special-needs pets can endure and thrive when given a wonderful home!  Katie and Jack's story definitely makes me want to get out there and rescue a puppy-mill survivor.  Puppy mill dogs have often never even set foot on grass before - they have been kept in a small cage for the entirety of their life.  These tossed-aside, neglected animals all deserve a second chance at having a happy life, and it seems like rescuing one and seeing it adjust and improve day by day would be extremely rewarding.  A huge thanks to Katie and Jack for sharing their story!  If you'd like to read more about Jack-Jack and the journey he has had since living in a puppy mill, I encourage you to check out his website, Instagram, or Facebook page.

If you'd like to be included on the blog or have a success story to share, please feel free to contact me!  Thanks for reading! <3


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cyber Saturday on Easter Sunday!

This remote-control sized MinPin is Walter, and his deformities are the result of inbreeding.  After spending a year locked in a cage by heartless owners, Walter was rescued.  His story has a happy ending, as he now lives in a loving, caring home!  Click the link for more adorable photos!

Pitbull lovers, rejoice!  The inaugural One Million Pibble March on Washington is coming up on May 3rd; this event is meant to spread awareness of the goodness of the breed.  Pittie lovers will assemble on the the lawn of the US Capitol, fighting for the end of breed-specific laws as well as stronger laws against dogfighting.  It is a human-only event that will hopefully help us to make great strides in the fight against breed discrimination!

I want these soooo bad!  Vans has collaborated with the ASPCA, designing these awesome cat-print sneakers and their high-topped canine companions, to raise money for the prevention of animal cruelty.  i need them!!!  (Buy the super-cute toddler version here!)

Lola the Pitty, one of my favorite doggy-bloggers, put up a recent post about Dog Fighting Awareness Day.  This post lists some tips on how you can help prevent it, and it provides some really useful info...definitely check this one out!

These custom crayon carvings are created by an artist in California, who uses plain ol' crayons to make a perfect replica of your dog!  Cutest thing ever, with so much amazing detail!

Don't click on this link if you are prone to crying big, ugly tears (as I did) while watching sad animal videos.  This is Miley, who was found in terrible condition in the middle of a trash heap.  After being saved by a rescue, taking care of this adorable black chihuahua, and generally winning the world's collective heart, Miley has found herself a forever home!

Same goes for this tearjerker of a video:  This dog waited for eight days outside a hospital in Brazil, where his owner was undergoing surgery.  The video is of the two being reunited, and it turned me into a sobbing mess.

This is the cover photo for Heath's Haven, a rescue dedicated entirely to special-needs dogs.  They find and take in dogs with neurological illness and paralysis, among other issues, saving them from being euthanized and get started on their rehabilitation and recovery.  Eventually, they set the dog up with a wheelchair and help them to find a forever home!  This is an absolutely amazing organization that gives dogs second chances that they wouldn't have otherwise been given; I encourage you to check out their website - there's some really inspiring stories there!  Thanks to Sharon of the amazing blog Lessons from a Paralyzed Dog for posting about Heath's Haven.

Have you heard about the new awards program for dogs and cats called Best in Shelter?!  It is an upcoming television prime-time special focusing on shelter pets - kind of like the Westminster for homeless animals!  This is a concept that is pretty groundbreaking; shelters across the country are ridiculously full, and hopefully something like this will help people take more notice of shelter animals.  They will also not only be showcasing adorable kittens and puppies, but "tripawds" and special-needs animals as well!  The when and where of this program has not yet been announced, so stay tuned!

The Black Dogs Project is a photo series intended to show off the beauty in the often-ignored black dog.  Black dogs are some of the least-adopted in shelters, for whatever reason, and this photographer wants to show the world that they shouldn't be passed by!  Thanks to Melissa of Bubby and Bean for alerting me to this project's existence.

Don't forget to check out my other blog; the latest posts involve candy-colored fashion, my siblings, and the best and worst of TV boyfriends!  :)  Thank you for reading, and I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter Sunday!



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Personal Plea for Goldie: Tuesday's Tails

Today's Tuesday's Tails is a difficult one to write, simply because of the stress this poor dog has been through.  I've written about her before, but thought I would feature her again, since in the shelter she still sits.  Remember Goldie?  She is the survivor who was abandoned in an outdoor kennel for three weeks, chewing off her tail because of the extreme fear and hunger.  The landlord of the empty apartment found Goldie (along with several other dogs inside the building) and wasn't sure what to do with her - the bone in her tail was exposed, and the dog was clearly very distressed and in terrible pain.  The day he was going to take her to the vet to be euthanized, he decided to make one last desperate call.  That call was to the Humane Society of North Iowa, and they agreed to take Goldie in and see what they could do. (All photos via HSNI website)

Goldie when she arrived at the shelter, 20 pounds underweight

Goldie was of course stressed out and in pain, but also excited and eager to make friends with everyone.  Her tail was amputated, and she was given special food to help her gain weight.  The vet estimated her at about ten years old.  She gained weight quickly and became a healthy dog again.  Once Goldie's amazing story of resilience and strength got out, it spread fast.  The applications poured in from many different states, even one from Australia!  Everyone wanted to give this beautiful golden retriever a second chance at a happy life.  

That was a year and four months ago.

For a year and four months, this energetic girl has sat behind bars, wiggling her butt and waiting for someone to come take her for a walk...or better yet, take her home.  People want to know why she is still there; why, if so many people were interested, hasn't she found a home yet?  Goldie is a very special case.  She cannot be around other dogs or cats, and she needs a fenced-in yard since, given the chance, she will immediately run away.  Due to the trauma Goldie has been through, she is no longer housebroken (who knows, perhaps she was always only kept outside), though the staff believes she is a smart girl and will be able to be trained.  Because of these limitations, nearly all of the applications had to be rejected.  The few that were left came to meet Goldie, expecting to see a calm and lazy senior dog relaxing on her blanket.  This description does not fit this girl!  Though she is now eleven years old, she has TONS of energy - she will play fetch for hours!  Once they met Goldie and saw how high-energy she was, they unfortunately changed their minds. 

Goldie's other favorite pasttime is playing in the water - she LOVES it!

Now, over a year later, no more calls come about Goldie.  No more applications for her are turned in.  People have lost interest in her story.  Where the shelter once spoke with the media about Goldie's progress and how far she has come, they no longer do this - there's nothing to report.  Goldie has definitely come leaps and bounds since her arrival at the shelter, but after such a long amount of time, she has kind of plateaued.  She still loves all the things she used to (water, food, walks, toys, treats), but I believe any dog would go rather stir-crazy if they had been in a cage for more than a year.  Goldie has her days - when she is stressed out, her hair will fall out in clumps.  She is a very happy girl, and the staff has done some amazing things with her.  But she needs a home.

know the perfect owner is out there - though that person hasn't come yet, there has got to be a very special home for this very special girl.  I know that Goldie would be a wonderful pet if given a chance.  "[Goldie has] pretty much been ignored and neglected her entire life.  She's never known what it is to be someone's pet.  She DESERVES a second chance," says a staff member who has gotten to know Goldie very well during her time at the shelter.  If you think you could be that person for Goldie, or if you may know someone who is, PLEASE contact the HSNI.  Consider this a personal plea...this girl deserves to see what a forever home truly feels like.  If you can't adopt, please share...your shares can help Goldie get out of the shelter, which has been her home for far too long.  Thank you so much.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Dillon the Blind Cat: An Inspiring Interview

This past weekend, I wrote a blog post about "tripawds" - three-legged dogs and how amazingly resilient they are.  Today, I'm going to feature another furry friend who has special needs, though this kitty isn't so much "special needs" as he is a rockstar with senses that most other cats don't possess!  Dillon is a blind rescue kitten who was picked up as a stray by the Animal Rescue League of Boston, who later found out he had eyes that never fully developed.  His eyes were removed to reduce risk of infection, and little Dillon was put into foster care with a loving couple and two other cats.  As is often the case, these foster parents became foster fails - they fell head over heels in love with Dillon and turned his temporary home into a forever home!

Since then, Dillon (as dillontheblindcat) has become something of an Instagram sensation.  Buzzfeed even featured him in an article on "up-and-coming pets," and he now has over 5,000 followers!  Fans of Dillon seem inspired by the curious kitty - though he is without eyes, he is far from disabled.  On the contrary, his photos show him to be quite a normal young cat; he maneuvers onto furniture and down stairs with no problem, and the attention he gives things that most cats and humans don't even notice really seems to speak to people.  I was lucky enough to ask Dillon's human mom a few questions, and she had some wonderfully eloquent responses.  Check it out below!  All photos are from Dillon's Facebook account and can also be found on his Instagram.

Dillon and his mom

First, tell me a little bit about yourself, your family, your kitties, etc.  Have you always been an animal lover?
I have always had a special bond with animals -- I feel that the compassion and love that I have for them has always run deep in my veins, an instinct. I especially connect well with cats. Their body language is easy for me to read, and I rather think like a cat myself, so I can relate to them. While I love all animals, cats certainly have a special place in my heart. A relationship with any one cat is completely unique -- and to receive love from a cat is undoubtedly rewarding. Cats are honest about how they feel -- they don't lie about loving anyone. So, I find that earning a cat's love really does say a lot.

To no surprise, I have three cats. They were all rescued [separately] from the streets of Dorchester, MA by good citizens who brought them to the Animal Rescue League of Boston, where they would find a home with my fiancé and me. I used to work at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and after I took a new job I still continued to volunteer as a foster parent. Each of our cats was, at one point, one of our foster cats. 

Tell me a bit about Dillon.  What made you decide to adopt a special needs kitty?  What is his personality like, and does his lack of vision seem to affect him?
Our youngest [cat] is Dillon. Dillon lived as a stray for four whole months before getting picked up by a volunteer and taken to the Animal Rescue League of Boston for a community spay and neuter program, called a "Trap and Release" (or TNR) clinic. Most cats that come into TNR clinics are feral, meaning they are pretty un-domesticated, or wild. (Contrary to popular belief, not all "stray" cats are "feral". Feral cats would not do well in a home, in fact they could be very stressed and depressed. They do best in their own community of feral cats.) Volunteers quickly noticed that Dillon was not feral, however, and decided that he would be a suitable candidate for adoption rather than for re-release into the feral cat community. Also, it did not seem fair to re-release a cat in Dillon's condition -- Dillon never had fully developed eyes. 

Veterinarians could not specifically determine whether his underdeveloped eyes were the result of genetics or ocular herpes (a common virus that most cats are exposed to, whether they exhibit symptoms or not), but they did believe that he was completely without sight. My fiancé and I fostered Dillon for a few days before he was scheduled for surgery to have his "eyes" (though they weren't much of eyes at all) to be removed to prevent ulceration and infection. We did not notice any difference in behavior or personality before and after the surgery. He did not seem confused or depressed, which was even more confirmation to us that he was never able to see in the first place.

We think he is a very lucky cat, considering the fact that he doesn't have eyes. His other senses were able to develop so fully as a kitten that he lives an extraordinary life now, with enhanced hearing and smell. He is curious, brave, and tenacious, and we believe that is how he survived for so long on his own before he was rescued.

I have to admit, it was love at first sight for me. The moment I got him in the car with me to take him home, I knew. I said to him as he rubbed his little face on my hands, purring, "You're coming home with me, and our family is going to love you for the rest of your life." He had my heart. How could he not?

My fiancé fell in love instantly when he met him, too, and we knew we were going to adopt him. We nursed him through his recovery from surgery, and watched him build a relationship with our other two cats. It wasn't long before he had memorized every inch of our apartment. He was so fluent with his surroundings that he didn't need to check with his paw to make sure he was where he thought he was -- he would just jump right up onto furniture because he knew it was there. We were so amazed with his intelligence, and with how gracefully he was going through life without such a major sensory organ. 

It was especially neat to see his fascination with stairs. We had carpeted stairs, so they were good for him to cling to at first, when he wasn't sure of what they were. Once he became familiar with what they were and how they felt, he would race up and down the stairs over and over. He was so happy and excited when we threw toys down there for him to fetch. Oh yes, and he plays fetch!

He is truly amazing. Most people who follow Dillon on Instagram and Facebook remark on how good we are to adopt a "special needs" kitty, and how difficult it must be. But I have to say that Dillon is far from "special needs". He is so incredibly normal, usually I forget he doesn't have eyes. He even "stares" us right in the face most of the time, and he is constantly getting the better of his sisters. 

He has completely embraced his blindness, which has really taught us so much. Watching him discover the world without eyes is, ironically, eye-opening. We binocular beings often take little things for granted, like the smell of a passing breeze, or the sound of a crackling ice cube in water. For Dillon, it's an entire mystery and fascination. To watch him explore with such interest something that seems to us, and to our other cats, so mundane is truly inspiring. It is such a positive way to view life, and reminds us to appreciate even the smallest experiences. 

What made you decide to rescue instead of buying a pet from a pet store/breeder?  
There is something deep about the connection you make with a cat from a shelter. Many shelter cats have a sad history -- they were either abandoned, abused, hoarded, or orphaned -- and yet if you visit with a shelter cat, most of them will embrace your love and will return your affection within seconds of meeting you. 

There is something about saving a cat from its possibly sad past and promising to love and care for it for the remainder of its life that is so cathartic. Most people who have adopted rescue animals will tell you that their animal actually saved them. It couldn't be truer -- it's a completely symbiotic relationship, where the exchange is purely love.  This is, of course, true of any shelter or rescue animal, not just of cats.

What would you tell people who don't understand the importance of adopting?
 It is so important for us to remember how much we help our community and animals in need when we adopt, rather than when we "buy". There are so many good people and organizations out there that do so much to aid helpless, homeless animals, and I know from experience that the work is far from easy. It makes the tough days worth it when a shelter animal finds its forever-home -- it's a happy ending that brings tears to your eyes. So, the question really is, why wouldn't you adopt? The reward is just so great.

We are so happy that Dillon is so loved and adored by thousands of people, as we've seen on Instagram and Facebook. His fans say some of the sweetest things that just warm our hearts to no end. Some people have told him that just his picture has completely turned their day around for the better, and that he is an inspiration -- that is just so wonderful to hear. We are so pleased to have a cat that not only is loved by us, but that is loved by many, and who now has the following to potentially make a difference for other animals in need. He and our other cats are the lights of our lives, and we can't even fathom the day when they will no longer be with us. Until then, though, we will love them just as they love us, whole-heartedly and without question. 

For photos and information on Dillon, follow @dillontheblindcat on Instagram, or "like" him at www.facebook.com/dillontheblindcat .

Well said on SO many counts, Dillon's mom!  :)  Dillon is a great example of why you should take a second look at the cat (or dog!) that other people might pass by in the shelter.  What makes them different is what makes them special, and, like Dillon, they could end up inspiring you and changing your life.  

A HUGE thank you to Dillon and his parents for the interview, and thanks to all of you for reading <3

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tripawds: The Wonderfulness of Three-Legged Dogs

"Oh, look at that one there!  He is soooo cute!  What about him?"

"Aw, but wait.  He only has three legs!"

"Aww.  Poor guy."

"Look, look at this one over here!"

This was a conversation I heard all too often when working in a shelter.  During my time there, there were several dogs with missing limbs...and they had another thing in common besides that:  They were all amazing dogs.  Unfortunately, potential adopters seem to think that rescuing a dog with a missing limb will be a huge undertaking, that it will require many lifestyle changes.  So they pass the dog by for another one with all four legs.  What they don't realize is that for most dogs, it only takes days for them to become used to having one leg less; it really isn't much different from owning a four-legged dog.

Three-legged dogs (tripawds, as they are sometimes lovingly referred to) can be missing a limb for many reasons.  Perhaps it had to be amputated due to a car accident, or maybe the leg had to be taken because of bone cancer.  Whatever the reason, dogs are all about living in the moment, so the loss of the limb usually doesn't faze them for too long.  This energetic, young dog was running and jumping only minutes after the anesthesia wore off!  Lots of dogs tend to make up for the loss of a leg by using the other three differently when walking, running, or going to the bathroom...

Take Judah, for example.  Judah was a miniature pinscher with a missing back leg who was at the shelter for far too long before (finally!) being adopted.  He had lost the leg in an accident, but to watch him walk, you would hardly know it was missing at all.  Until he went to go potty, that is.  He would shift all his weight forward onto both front legs, lift his back leg off the ground, and pee like a circus dog, standing on his front paws!  Sometimes he staggered forward in his handstand, creating a sort of sprinkler effect that you had to watch out for if you were standing close :)

This is not Judah, but the technique is definitely the same!  :)

I often kenneled Judah, cleaning up his kennel and taking him outside - the first few times I did so, I had no idea he was missing a leg.  Seriously, no idea.  A coworker later mentioned something about the "three-legged min-pin," and I had to ask which dog they were talking about.  Judah always distracted me by giving me little licks on the chin when I'd scoop him up to take him outside!  I was once cleaning up a nearby cage when a woman returned from a walk to return Judah to his kennel (he was always a customer favorite for taking on walks!); the woman did not fully latch his kennel and left without realizing.  I hurried over to the little dog, sure he would take off running for the exit.  But he simply nosed his way out of the kennel and calmly walked over to the inside door, waiting to be taken outside like he is every morning.  Seeing this, my heart broke a little for Judah.  So used to the routine of shelter life.  I can't really explain why it made me so sad.  But it did.

Thankfully, Judah was eventually adopted, and as far as I know, he has a wonderful life in his new forever home.  Dogs aren't always so lucky.  When given the news that a vet may have to amputate, some owners will choose to have their dog euthanized instead, sure that having one fewer limb will somehow keep the dog from having a happy life.  This is not so!  The dog will forget that he has only three legs.  He will not be comparing himself to other, four-limbed dogs, crying himself to sleep at night with jealousy and body-image issues.  If you adopted a tripawd, chances are that you'd forget, too - only when people ask, "How did he lose his leg?" will you remember that others consider your pet to be "special needs."  

(Photo courtesy of Love & Luck)

Take Dan, for example...short for Lieutenant Dan.  Dan came in as a stray, so we had no idea how he lost a leg.  He seemed to be an American Bulldog mix, which are commonly confused with pit bull breeds.  I got asked - on TWO separate occasions - if he lost his leg "in a fight."  Sigh.  Anyway, as you can see from the photo above, Dan was far from hindered from his missing back leg.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Not only did he walk in a parade, he was probably the happiest and FASTEST dog I had ever met at the shelter.  If you threw a ball across the outside dog run, Dan would have it in his mouth seconds later.  Quite an amazing dog and a staff favorite...so it was no surprise that he got adopted pretty quickly.  Just goes to show how wonderfully adaptive dogs can be!

Capable as tripawds may be, they still may need a little help sometimes.  Their remaining joints are more fragile than dogs with four limbs, so owners need to be careful they don't injure a leg.  Exercising is hugely important, to keep the joints flexible and strong.  Being overweight is a definite no-no, with all dogs but especially those with a missing leg.  You can also help them to stretch their legs, and they may need help at first maneuvering around new things, like stairs, or swimming.  There are even special harnesses made specifically for dogs missing limbs!

My last tripawd story is that of Bella, an incredibly sweet puggle who was released to the shelter by a previous owner.  She, unlike Judah or Dan, was missing a front leg, which tends to be more difficult.  Bella did have some issues walking on a leash, and I was definitely always aware of her needs.  But oh, she was a great dog.  Very calm and sweet, just a super-loving dog.  A middle-aged man stopped in front of her kennel one day and asked me about her.  "She's very cute," he said, "My wife would love her.  But I just don't know about that missing leg..."  

"Do you want to spend some time with Bella in the multipurpose room?"

"Well...sure, I s'pose I'll do that.  And then I'd like to take that dog over there in the room too, if that's okay."  He pointed to an energetic terrier in another kennel.  We brought Bella into the room, and he asked me a few questions about how I thought she'd get around, going up stairs, and so on.  I answered honestly, that I thought she might have some trouble at first, but she'd get used to it quickly.  The man tried to toss some toys, but Bella didn't seem interested - all she wanted to do was lay at his feet while he scratched her ears.  Uh oh...I thought...this doesn't seem to be going too well.  Then Bella stood up on her hind legs, placed her single front paw on the man's shoulder, and licked his nose - just once - then curled up in his lap.  

He didn't end up needing to see the terrier, after all.  His wife came back with him the following week to meet Bella and speak with the shelter manager, and it was a done deal - Bella was going home!  And this man and his wife were going to learn just how rewarding rescuing a tripawd can be.  If you're a tripawd parent (or own other "special needs" pets), there really should be more people like you out there.  (And did you know there is even a website made just for you?)  You're in good company, too - Sandra Bullock has a three-legged dog that she often walks while carrying her two-legged dog!  I love the idea of not only rescuing a dog, but rescuing one that others might overlook - a senior dog, a pit bull or black lab (which, for whatever reason, are the breeds most often in shelters), or a dog who has "special needs."  It makes the rescuing experience that much more meaningful.

(Photo from here)

Thank you, as always, for reading!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My Dog Looks Like Falcor: Wordless Wednesdays

(Photo from here)

(Photo from here)

Check out the goofy underbite!!

Also, an abused senior chihuahua named Baby NEEDS your help!  Susie's Senior Dogs is a wonderful program that helps senior dogs find forever homes.  Baby the Chihuahua is a very special case, and she needs help finding a California home.  She is 12 years old and was badly abused by her previous owner; as a result, she has a difficult time walking.  Baby is too fragile to be transported long distances, so they are asking for California adopters to please come forward - this girl NEEDS a wonderful home in which to spend her remaining years.  Please see the original photos and story below:

 LOS ANGELES, CA: We're trying again, actually, we're pleading again. We need a serious applicant for Baby. We posted her desperate, abusive story one month ago, certain the SSD community would be able to spread her case far enough to help. However, we recently learned that all of her potential adopters had fallen through and Baby still needs a forever home. Of course we are not going to stop at that.

Ready Pet rescue originally wrote, "[I got a call] asking for help for a senior that is in an abusive situation. She has a friend who has apparently been on a major downward spiral due to drugs and has been physically abusing her 12 year old Chihuahua, Baby. The dog is female and 4.2 lbs. She has trouble walking due to the injuries sustained from this abuse. She has lost almost all of her teeth so she requires soft food, and her previous owner was very bad about feeding her regularly."

Baby was immediately pulled from the abusive environment and placed in a good, but temporary living situation. She needs someone to step up and gently love her for all of her final days.

Today, Ready Pet wrote, "Baby suffers from incontinence, which is what turned a lot of people off.  But apparently Kim found a medication that assists with that problem and has been able to get a handle on the situation. She's very skittish due to the trauma she endured at the hands of her former owner, so she isn't very good with big, rowdy dogs or super hands-on children."

Baby is too fragile to be transported around the country. She needs someone within driving distance who can meet her and give her the warm home that she very much deserves. If you can come to Baby's rescue, please contact Kim by emailing twinletoz@aol.com or calling 310.529.6298.

WITH LOTS OF SHARES, we can help this poor Baby find a home!  Please help <3  Thank you for reading.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tuesday's Tails: Starlight + Tamer!

Tuesday, April 8th is National Dog Fighting Awareness Day.  Dog fighting is a heinous act that most are unaware of - by talking about it and encouraging conversation about the horrors of dog fighting, we can increase awareness and hopefully inspire some action to be taken.  In honor of this day, I have joined several other bloggers in featuring shelter pit bulls who are in need of a home.

When a shelter adopts out a pit bull, they have to be especially careful - because of the breed's reputation, they are often targeted for dog fighting.  Pit bulls tend to attract owners that won't be adopting the dog for companionship; instead, the dogs will be used for protection or fighting.  Even though dog fighting is obviously illegal, there are still people out there who breed and train pit bulls specifically for this purpose; many underground operations partake in this cruel abuse.  The most high-profile case is obviously Michael Vick and his dogs, but there are plenty of money-making fighting rings all around the country.

Starlight and Tamer, both current residents of the HSNI, are in need of wonderful forever homes, with caring owners who will never subject them to abuse.  They are both amazing dogs who have been dealt a bad hand in life, and they need your help (and shares!) to help find them a good home.  Starlight and Tamer were both picked up as strays, and they were saved from an uncertain fate when they were brought into the shelter.

(Photo courtesy of Arickx Photography)

Starlight is a 5-year-old pittie mix, and she has been at the shelter for just over a year.  A kennel is no place for an energetic pit bull, and though Starlight is a pretty docile girl, she is growing restless behind bars.  She prefers to be the only dog in your household - in return, she will give you lots of love and cuddles!  Starlight is my husband's favorite dog at the shelter; he loves how, when the other dogs are going a little wild and barking for your attention, Starlight only sits quietly, wagging her tail and waiting for you to make your way to her kennel.  I have only actually heard her bark a handful of times...she is a very calm and ladylike pittie!

Starlight is a rather tough one to photograph, since during playtime, she is always in motion - as you can see by the crazy wagging of her tail in this photo!  She loves to play and chase after toys, but when it comes to walking on a leash, she is a perfect lady; she rarely tugs, and she is content to walk at a leisurely pace and sniff everything out.  In person, she is a very beautiful girl - she has white boots on her paws and a sassy streak of white down her nose.  Give Starlight a chance...she has been in the shelter for long enough.  For more information or to apply for Starlight, contact the Humane Society of North Iowa - whoever adopts this sweet girl will be a lucky person indeed!

(Photo courtesy of Love & Luck Photography)

Check out this handsome fella!  With his dark, human-like eyes and that comical right ear, Tamer is definitely one of the cutest dogs in the shelter.  A 2-year-old pit mix, he still has a lot of puppy in him and has energy to spare!  Tamer loves long walks and then, when he's all worn out, he wants nothing more than to curl up on a blanket and rest.  This lovable guy will have been at the HSNI for a year this June, and no one can really believe he's still there!  With that face and ability to learn, he would be a wonderful addition to any family.

Though Tamer is a typical pit and can be stubborn, he is a very smart boy and would be able to pick anything up quite quickly.  He is one of our favorites to play with in the multipurpose room at the shelter, since he is fascinated by every toy we show him!  I really can't say enough good things about Tamer (or Starlight!) - he is just an amazing, young pit who has been ignored for nearly a year now because of his breed.  It makes me very sad, because he has so much potential.  If you are interested in adopting Tamer or want more information about him, please contact the HSNI - this boy is worth an extra look!


If you're interested in learning more about Dog Fighting Awareness Day and want to help put an end to the cruelty, the ASPCA is hosting a Google Plus Hangout on Tuesday, April 8th - national experts will be discussing the underground world of dog fighting and suggesting ways in which we can help.  You can also always keep your eyes and ears open for news of dog fighting in your area, and be sure to contact the authorities if you suspect something.  Another great way to help is by writing your local law enforcement officers to let them know the importance of investigating dog fighting or animal cruelty cases - animal cruelty is often overlooked by police officers, and it NEEDS to be an issue of higher priority!  And finally, help prove the pittie stereotypes wrong by adopting one yourself!  Show others how good of an example a pit bull can be, and make your dog an ambassador of the breed!  Of course, continue to spread the word on the awful world of dog fighting so that together, we can help to stop it.


Monday, April 7, 2014

An Interview with Eric of Love and Luck Photography!

What helps a shelter animal get adopted?  Sweet personality, adorable face, friendly towards children?  Sure - all of these things come into play when adopting a pet.  But something that you might not think about is the importance of a great photograph of the animal.  When a homeless animal is represented by a professional and positive photo, their chances of adoption increase.  Shelter employees usually take their own picture when the animal first comes into their care; however, the dog or cat is often very scared, sad, even dirty or matted when arriving at the shelter.  This does not result in a very good photo - the animal can end up looking miserable or intimidating, which is not an accurate representation of their personality.  If a potential adopter sees a web photo of a large pitbull that appears to be distressed, they are less likely to come in to see that dog than they would if the photo showed him "smiling" with his ears up.

This is where people like Eric of Love & Luck Photography come in.  Eric and his wife Lexi run their photography business together out of Mason City, doing shoots of all sorts of events.  Their services include:  maternity, senior, family, children, weddings, engagements, couples, newborns, even headshots!  They also attend many local events to take wonderfully candid shots.  And of course, Love & Luck offers photo shoots of you and your pet.  Jared and I were thrilled with our shots with Riley from last fall; Eric was great with our pup, and he brought props that looked very cute in the photos.

Last year, Eric volunteered to take some time and photograph the animals at the HSNI, hoping that some quality photographs could help them get adopted.  He patiently spent several hours among restless labs, playful kittens, and hard-to-photograph black dogs and cats.  The next day, some photos were up and edited for us to look at...and they took our breath away!  The perspective Eric uses to photograph the shelter animals allows you to see a side of the animal you usually don't get to see when they're in a kennel - the cats look much more unique and playful, and each dog's personality is shown perfectly.  His animal photography, in my opinion, is museum-quality work - I even have an "animal-themed" gallery wall featuring some of his pieces, including the two photos below.  Since then, he comes back to the shelter (as well as some others in the area) every few months to take new pictures.

(The other staff members loved this photo so much, Eric blew it up and made it into a canvas for the shelter!)  And FYI; here is the original photo of Boss - who is a total goofball and not intimidating at all - what a difference a photo can make!

Amazing, right?!  Anyway, without further adieu, here is my interview with Eric of Love & Luck Photography!

First, tell me a bit about yourself.  How did you and your wife start Love & Luck Photography?
I have always had a love for photography. We started off very small working out of our home; although I have taken many photos, our first actual photo shoot was my son’s newborn photos. This photo shoot happened within an hour of coming home from the hospital. This was in 2011; now a few years later, we are in our own photography studio and our business is thriving - it was not an overnight success. We may not get much sleep but we are doing what we love, and that is what matters. 

How did you decide to start volunteering your time to photograph shelter animals?
Both my wife and I have had animals that were special to us in our childhood. My wife is extremely allergic to animal hair and we cannot get a pet. Although we cannot adopt a pet I can still do my part to help.

The work that you have done definitely helps to get the animals noticed and adopted, and I think that is mostly because you are able to capture really perfect moments that show off the animal's personality.  Is there a certain moment or "magic" that you try to capture when photographing animals?  What is your goal during each shoot?
My goal during every photo shoot with an animal is to capture that image that really speaks to people. I love to get the photo where their eyes are speaking to the viewer; capturing the bond a pet and owner has is what I strive for.

What is the most difficult thing about taking photos of animals?  Do you prefer taking shots of animals, humans, or something else completely?
You cannot pose an animal so I really have to be on my toes and in the moment.  I have a general love for photography so I like taking photos of anything and everything.

What is the most rewarding thing about volunteering for shelters?
Even having just a small part in bringing a great pet to their forever home makes me feel like volunteering is completely worth every minute.

Any more shelter photo shoots in your future?  What can we expect next from Love & Luck?
Yes, definitely. Love & Luck is in the process of expanding. We are getting a larger studio space and will have a room specifically for newborn photography. So look for many new and exciting things coming from Love & Luck in 2014 including lots of new products and Pet Mini Sessions!

We can't WAIT to see what's next for Love & Luck Photography!  Again, they are located in Mason City, and they have a shop as well where they sell many handmade items, like children's hair accessories and adorable crochet headbands/hats!  All photos are obviously courtesy of Love & Luck Photography.  I highly recommend Eric and Lexi for any event you may need photographed - they do amazing work!

Look for other interviews (hopefully every Monday) in the weeks to come, whether they are from successful shelter pet parents, fosters, animal shelters, or other individuals in the business of animal rescue!  You can also contact me if you'd like to be featured on the blog :)  As always, thanks for reading!