Keeping Your Dog Safe and Calm on July 4th

Fireworks Photo

“…and the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air…”

I love the Fourth of July, watching a fireworks display lighting up the dark sky.  However, my golden retrievers do not react the same way. Sadie is pragmatic; she just walks away from the noise and all is good. Marley, on the other hand, prefers to get close to me, pants and paces; he doesn’t like the celebration at all. Maybe it is because he is a rescue who lived outside or maybe I am making excuses. Millions of dogs are frightened of fireworks.   Anatomically their hearing is so much better than ours (40 kHz vs. 20 kHz). Those loud pops and flashes of light must sound overwhelming to them.

Puppies especially are unpredictable and sometimes insecure. Observe how your pup reacts to loud noises. Don’t leave her alone until you know how she will react. Make sure your fur baby feels safe and secure.

???????????????????????????????????????????????  If your dog is fearful of fireworks like Marley, there are many ways to ease the stress this Independence Day.

First let’s look at the common reactions dogs have to loud noises:

  • Barking, howling or whining
  • Hiding or seeking out familiar people
  • Trembling, shaking, panting, pacing and salivating
  • Destructive Behavior
  • Peeing or Defecating
  • Running/Fleeing (the worst response)

Here are Nine Tips to Keep Your Dog Calm:

 1.  Avoid

This is a no-brainer. Do not take your dog to fireworks displays. It is not fun for a dog. Avoid setting any fireworks off close to the house.  Besides severe burns on the face and paws, even unused fireworks contain toxic substances.  

 2.  Identify 

July 5th is the busiest day of the year at animal shelters.  There’s a 30 – 60% increase in lost pets July 4-6.  Only 14% of lost pets are reunited with their owners.  If the unthinkable happens, an up-to-date name tag and microchip increase the odds your pet returns to your loving arms.  The tag and microchip should contain your latest contact information.  Don’t have your pet microchipped?  Check out your local humane society; most offer discounted microchip service.  Your veterinarian can also implant one quickly and easily.

3.  Stay Inside

Not you necessarily, but bring your dog inside the cool comfort of your home during the celebration. It will put your pooch at ease and reduce the risk he might jump the fence or run into the street. Keep the windows, doors and curtains closed. This helps muffle noise and keeps your dog seeing flashing lights that might scare him.  One caveat: don’t crate your dog. He’ll still be fearful when in the crate and is likely to injure himself while attempting to escape the crate.

4.  Distract

Turn on the TV or radio. Besides softening the pops and crackles outside, a constant source of noise might help calm your fur baby. Soothing classical music has been shown to work best. Try playing the music a couple of hours before the festivities start so your dog associates it with calm and comfort.

5.  Give

Give what? A blanket, some exercise earlier in the day, a treat or her favorite toy. Stuff and freeze a Kong, bone or consider other long lasting interactive chews like bully sticks, stuffed marrow bones or Nylabones. How do you stuff a Kong? Check out this video from Vetstreet:
NOTE:  Some dogs are too nervous to eat. If none of these suggestions work, don’t force her to accept your goodies. Shutting down a little is Sadie’s way of coping with the loud noises.

6.  Hide

If your dog hides, let him! My granddog Frank likes to hide under the clothes in the closet; all you see of him is his butt sticking out. When dogs are afraid, it is their natural instinct to hide. If your dog is scared enough to hide under a table or bed, don’t pull him out. This will just stress the dog more.

 7.  Stay Calm

Be sure to stay calm when you’re around the dog. A dog will naturally react to your behavior, so acting panicky or excited around the dog will only make matters worse. If you’re having a lot of people over, try keeping the celebration outside.

8.  De-sensitize

Counter-conditioning. Desensitization. Behavior modification. These are all terms for techniques to teach your dog to respond non-fearfully to stimuli that frightens her. Be careful using behavior modification: If these techniques aren’t used correctly, they won’t be successful and could even make the problem worse. Begin by exposing your dog to a noise level that doesn’t frighten her; pair the noise with something pleasant, like a treat or a fun game. Gradually increase the volume as you continue to offer her something pleasant. Through this process, she’ll come to associate “good things” with the previously feared sound.

There is a You Tube video designed to desensitize dogs to fireworks sounds. For complete instructions on how to use this, please watch

9.  Other Options

Consult your vet for possible medication to help during acute situations, whether prescription or herbal remedies. Thunder Shirts or Anxiety Wraps are designed to calm dogs by providing swaddling comfort.  Pheromone sprays are the synthetic copy of the comforting pheromone released by a mother dog. Some people spray it on bedding or a bandana.

Once the boom and the bang of the celebration is over, your pooch will be grateful that you made it as stress-free as possible. Sadie, Marley and I hope you and your dog have a pleasant 4th of July.

July 4th Dog w Flag and Hat



American Humane Association –

Vetstreet –

Humane Society of the U.S. –

Op Barks Blog –

Jim Burwell, Petiquette –

Pets Lady –

Cesar’s Way –

Dogs and Fireworkshttp://  

Karen Wild –

Caroline Thomas, Hoof and Paw Holistic Therapies –

Posted in Behavior, Golden Retriever, Health, Holiday, In the News, Tips & Tricks, Videos, Welfare & Advocacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

American Beagle Outfitters

Christmas is over and the long, gloomy days of winter are stretching before us.  If you were fortunate to get a gift card from your relatives for the mall or American Eagle, why not spend the money on an outfit for your dog?

That’s right – your dog.  According to news outlets such as Bloomberg and USA Today, American Eagle Outfitters has introduced a line of apparel that is exclusively designed with your furry friend in mind.  This is a huge deviation from the brand’s typical niche, which targets teens and young twenty-something’s.  The news was released on April Fool’s Day (, leading the media and public to think it was a joke.   It was not a joke however; the line officially debuted in late November for the 2014 holiday season.

AE Woof BeanieAE Woof Beanie and Fair Isle Sweater

So will this move save American Eagle?  Like comparable teen stores, sales are down.  At the end of the second quarter, total net revenue for the company decreased 2% to $711 million from $727 million last year  In contrast, Abercrombie & Fitch’s second quarter was down 1%. Hollister, American Eagle’s largest competitor, was down 10%

Just from gauging the numbers, is marketing dog apparel to older teens and young adults a sound strategy?  As a pug owner and mother of two, I am not sure whether or not I can completely justify spending $40 on a parka for my dog.  On the flip side, American Eagle does make quality mass-produced garments, and I think that their dog clothing will be no exception.  For the discriminating dog owner, this product is unique. Time will tell if this move will help set the brand apart from the rest.

About the Guest Blog Author:

Jenny Picture  Jennifer Josleyn is the author of Independent Fashion Blogger and Indie Paranormal Research.  She has two daughters and lives in the Indianapolis, Indiana area.

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Do Dogs See and Hunt Ghosts?

I visited St. Augustine, one of the most haunted cities in the world.  It is a beautiful coastal town with lovely architecture, especially the old homes.  While I was there, I HAD to go on one of the many ghost tours offered.  If anything, walking and looking at historical sites would be fun.

Our tour guide was awesome.  Dressed in the garb of years past, she floated along the streets in a long skirt and hat, carrying a lantern.  The scene was set; this was going to be a fun night.  We explored the city streets, heard tales of hauntings in many areas, and even went to Fort Castilla del San Marcos.  It was built to protect the entire town’s population inside its walls during a battle.  This fortress was never taken, though the town was burned.

Legend has it that a Captain Marti had his wife Dolores and her purported lover, Captain Abela, chained and entombed in the walls of the Fort to end their lives.  Many visitors report smelling perfume, seeing orbs when checking their camera’s pictures or hearing boot steps from the soldiers that inhabited the fort. Some claimed they heard the EVPs recorded by the popular Ghost Adventures series.  It was a fun tour with interesting history and ghostly lore.  Unfortunately I did not hear any odd noises or see any apparitions.

As a dog lover, the event got me thinking: Are dogs used to hunt ghosts and can they actually “see” or sense them? 

Canine Paranormal Hunters                scooby-doo-098314        

The most famous spirit-hunting dog is of course Scooby Doo.  I always wondered if he pretended to see ghosts just to get his Scooby snacks!  Seriously, even Animal Planet’s series “The Haunted” includes episodes with instances of family dogs reacting to the apparent presence of spirits, reactions that have no easy explanation for the out-of-the-ordinary behavior. Dogs have keen senses; so can they hunt the paranomal?


Cheryl Edmond, paranormal researcher, offers training for dogs to hunt ghosts. She states she has trained over 100 dogs. Since the demand for ghost hunting canines has become so strong, Edmond is making a video on training your dog to hunt and has plans to start a ghost hunting dog school.

She brings her fur baby Stanley, a Rottweiler, along on ghost hunts around the country to help detect entities and protect her in the haunted world she inhabits.   She believes his personal paranormal ESP instincts and awareness are more highly tuned and developed than her own.


When paranormal investigator Jason Hawes of the SyFy series Ghost Hunters decided to add a four-legged ghost hunter to his team, he adopted Maddie, an Australian Cattle Dog/German Shepherd mix, at a high-kill shelter in Tennessee.  Maddie was used to living on the land, not in a house.  When the Hawes family first gave her dog food, she would eat little and prefer to go outside and hunt for worms.

When on a case, Maddie alerts Hawes through body language — raised hackles, upright ears — to sounds not audible to humans, high electromagnetic fields, follows smells and zooms in on slight movements. Maddie catches EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), high EMFs (electromagnetic fields), phantom smells, and shadow figures. Team members then investigate further in an attempt to either debunk the activity or verify it as evidence of the paranormal.   According to Hawes, the team was on a case in South Carolina with a family who believed a relative was haunting their home. Maddie picked up on sounds the investigators did not.  When they reviewed the recording, there were EVPs.


Then there is 10-year-old Pixie, the ghost-hunting Jack Russell terrier. She is a member of the Ghost Tours of America along with her owner, Peggy Schmidt. Pixie is brought to purportedly haunted locations to identify paranormal activity. Schmidt is the author of the book “Tails of the Afterlife”, which chronicles multiple incidents of mysterious actions by dogs who apparently interact with someone (or something) unseen.

Sadie Nose Dark JPG

Making Scents

Can dogs sense a supernatural entity we can’t? Is an animal’s Sixth Sense simply be the result of biology? Canine eyes detect more delicate movements than ours; his sense of smell is 1,000 to 10,000 times more sensitive than a human’s. He can hear much higher frequencies, and at four times the distance of a human.

Wild and domestic animals seemed to sense the approaching Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, communicating their anxiety with vocal warnings, running for cover or refusing to go outside. Some experts believe animals could sense the vibrations on land from impending earthquakes before humans could.

Dogs’ heightened sense of smell is credited with their ability to detect cancers in humans, illegal drugs and cadavers. Seizure service dogs are alert to subtle shifts in body smells and dilated pupils, allowing them to warn their owners of a pending convulsion.

Because dogs can’t vocalize in human language, there’s no way to know what exactly is going on. The fact at this time is that we don’t know for certain that dogs can see or communicate with spirits. That being said if your dog is fixated on something you can’t see, hear or smell, you may dismiss his behavior.

Or is he communicating with the unknown? You decide.


Posted in Behavior, Golden Retriever, In the News, Service Therapy | Tagged , | 2 Comments

¬Is Your Dog Cool? Keeping Pets Safe in the Heat

Dog Hot Cartoon   Every summer we see news headlines of humans who leave their dogs in a hot car and the animal perishes from heat stroke. Some people take their dogs in the car when running errands, thinking it will only “take a minute”. After a week of actually tracking this, my shortest errand took 15 minutes.

 Here are just a few of the tragic stories found recently on this topic and the legal outcomes:

–  “Dog Dies in Hot Car while Owner Enjoys State Fair” – The owner attended the state fair with his girlfriend and left his Labrador retriever in the car for 4 hours.  He received no jail time and was only put on probation, which prohibits him from possessing companion animals. 

–  “Cop Leaves K-9 Locked in Care Overnight, Dog Dies”  – This policeman left his German shepherd in the car in his cruiser overnight in the garage.  He received no legal repercussions.  The Sheriff’s Department said he was “reassigned to other duties.”

–  “Several Dogs Found Dead in Parked Car at Walmart” – The owner said she went shopping and left the car windows closed but the air conditioner on.  Purportedly one of the dogs ‘turned it off.’  Charges are pending, but the maximum in this state is a Class B misdemeanor, resulting in one year jail time if convicted. 

–  “Dog found dead from heat exhaustion in car” – A student employee at a local pet care facility had two dogs in his car, but found out he could only take one in the facility. He left the other dog in the car for 5 hours; it was 87 degrees outside. Charges are currently pending, but he can only be charged with a misdemeanor in this state.

 When you evaluate these events, most are committed by owners who profess to be dog lovers and in most cases they are. Whether through ignorance or neglect, the outcome is still the same. The sad truth is we need more education for dog owners regarding the dangers of leaving your pooch in a hot vehicle.

 Let’s cover the “parked car” facts first.

  • The temperature in a parked car, even in the shade and with the windows partly open, can rapidly reach a level that can cause nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage or even death in a matter of minutes.
  • When it is 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can soar to 120 degrees in just a half hour, even with the windows cracked.
  • Most of the temperature rise in a hot car takes place in the first 15 to 30 minutes.
  • It is not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet
  • Dogs pant to cool themselves and release heat through their paws. They basically do not sweat and cannot cool themselves like we can.
  • Pets have been known to accidently jump into a car with the door inadvertently shut with the pooch inside. This could easily happen while bringing groceries or other items into the house.  
  • Dogs with short noses, such as pugs, are more easily prone to heat illness as are dogs with thick coats, such as Siberian huskies and Pomeranians. 

Dog Heat Stroke What are the signs of heat stroke?

  • Heavy panting and/or drooling
  • Increased heart rate
  • Trouble breathing
  • Disorientation, stumbling or poor coordination
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, weakness
  • Excessive thirst
  • Red tongue and lips that can turn bluish
  • Collapse or loss of consciousness
  • Seizure
  • Respiratory arrest

If you see a dog in a hot car posterA dog is in a hot car is in distress. How can you help?

You are in a shopping center parking lot and notice a dog locked in a car with the windows barely open or totally closed. You note some of the heat stroke symptoms listed above. What can or should you do?

  1. Write down the description of the car: color, model, make, and license plate number.
  2. Have a friend or another person keep an eye on the dog. Don’t leave the pup alone until situation is resolved!
  3. Go to the stores around the parking lot and have the owner paged. Many stores have security personnel that are able to take action.
  4. If the owner is not found, call the police.
  5. If police do not respond or are slow to respond and the dog’s life appears to be in imminent danger, try to find a witness (or several) who will testify to the emergency situation.
  6. Take steps to remove the suffering animal from the vehicle, and if possible wait for authorities to arrive (see below for a discussion on this topic).
  7. If the dog exhibits heat stroke signs, take him to an emergency vet! 
  8. You removed the dog from the car but feel he must be cooled before getting to the veterinarian.   What now?
  • Immediately move the animal to a cool, shady place if possible.
  • Wet the pup with cool water. Target the belly, chest, head and neck. Do not apply ice as it can actually constrict the blood flow and prevent cooling.
  • Fan vigorously to promote evaporation. This process will cool the blood, which reduces the dog’s core temperature.
  • Allow the pup to sip some cool water or chew ice.
  • Get to the nearest veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment!

I feel certain if the situation was dire I would be able to force my way into a car to rescue a dog. This should be a last resort. It sounds heroic, but how do you break a car window? First try to have emergency personnel perform a rescue. They have the tools and expertise to handle the situation. Even though it is illegal in some states to forcibly enter an automobile, some states like Tennessee specifically have laws allowing a citizen to use force after calling 911 and if there is no other way in. Search for something heavy and blunt, like a tire iron, brick, or 2 x 4. Do not use your hand. Break out the window opposite the pet if possible.    

Be aware that 14 states and many municipalities have laws that specifically address the problem of animals left in cars in extreme temperatures. These laws often authorize law enforcement officials to enter a vehicle and remove the animal. Even states without these provisions may consider leaving an animal in an enclosed car to be animal cruelty. Be aware there are legal ramifications depending on the laws in your area. You could possibly face criminal charges, like criminal mischief or vandalism. You could also be civilly liable for any damages. That is a chance you must be prepared to take. In reality would the dog owner or police actually prosecute your action? My opinion is probably not because of the ire of dog lovers everywhere.

My Dog is Header

What resources are available to provide education about this situation?

The danger of leaving a dog in a hot car is reported frequently by news media and animal groups. As a dog lover what can you do to help educate owners? The Red Rover website has a plethora of materials to download and order. Is your dog cool?” fliers are meant to be shared and passed along to other animal lovers. You can print out other leaflets to leave on cars. So check out this web page and print the signs provided. Keep some in your car and don’t be afraid to put these on a car or give to business owners to display.

Share the video – “Watch what happens to a chocolate lab left in the car on a hot day.” – on social media. It is an excellent visual to get the point across to those people who are not convinced this issue is a deadly.

Practice Basic Summer Safety

Our dogs can struggle with the heat in everyday life, not just when left in cars. It is always good to practice basic safety on these hot summers days and nights to ensure the health of your golden retriever.

  1. Limit exercise on hot days
    • Adjust the duration and intensity of exercise on hot days. Limit exercise to early morning or late evening. Be careful with dogs that have white-colored ears (more susceptible to skin cancer) and short-nosed breeds like pugs (difficulty breathing).
  2. Asphalt and concrete get very hot and can burn your pet’s paws. A simple test to determine how hot is too hot is to press the back of your hand on the surface for 10 seconds. If you have to remove your hand, do not walk your dog.  
  3. Provide shade and water. Carry water with you when exercising to keep your golden hydrated. If your pet is outside, make sure she has protection from heat and plenty of fresh cold water. Tarps and tree shade work well because air flow is not restricted. A dog house is NOT a solution; in fact it intensifies the heat. Of course, the best solution is to keep your fur baby inside in the cool air conditioning with you.
  4. To fan or not to fan? Because dogs sweat through their feet, a fan does not cool off pets as effectively as we cool off.
  5. Hot days, cool treats! There are many great refreshing recipes to cool your dog on the inside. Here are just a couple links: peanut butter popsicles and an ice lick by freezing toys, bones, and chicken broth into a cake mold. 
  6. Treat a pet suffering from heatstroke per the instructions above. Know the warning signs and move your dog to the shade or air conditioning. Run cool water or damp cool towels over her head, neck and chest. Let her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Immediately take her to a veterinarian.
  7. Prepare for power outages. Before a summer storm knocks out the power in your home, create a disaster plan to keep your golden retriever safe from heat stroke. Check out these instructions from the Humane Society.
  8. Don’t run errands with your dog. Here are some alternatives to leaving your dog in the car.
    • Use the drive-through for errands when available.
    • Bring a friend to play with your dog outside while you run your errand.
    • Shop at pet-friendly stores where your dog is welcome to accompany you.
    • Eat at outdoor cafes that allow your dog to sit with you.
    • Leave your dog at home!!!

Dog Licking Ice w ToysNow that you know how to protect your dog from the heat, have fun and enjoy the summer with your best friend!

Sunscreen for Dogs


Police K-9 Unit Dogs Are Being Left In Hot Cars, And Sadly Dying | and

Posted in Golden Retriever, Health | Tagged | 1 Comment

Celebrate Earth Day with your Dog

ImageWhat can you “doo” to celebrate Earth Day with your pooch? Minimize your carbon pawprint with these easy tips:

  1. Join the Poop Brigade. Cleaning up after your pet is a no-brainer to help the Earth (and your back yard!). Don’t forget to scoop in the dog park to keep diseases like parvo from spreading. Let’s face it: dog waste looks and smells bad.
  2. Make the Switch. Use biodegradable poop bags. These bags decompose in about the same amount of time as an apple core, about 2 months. Compare that to an estimated 400 years for plastic bags!
  3. Go Natural. (We’re talking about your dog, not you. What happens in Vegas ……) Consider feeding your pup foods and treats that are more natural and have a high vegetable content. Don’t forget to do your homework though; the terms “organic” and “natural” are not always synonymous. A raw meat diet is a current trend but the jury is still out as to the real benefits for domesticated canines.
  4. Clean Green. Use cleaning and household products that are good for the environment.    Most are made from botanically derived ingredients.   Of course, an inexpensive option is white vinegar. Sure, it has a certain “aroma”, but is nontoxic and leaves no harmful residue your dog can lick. It disinfects many household surfaces from windows to toilets.
  5. Don’t Bug Me. Pests can inflict a lot of damage to your yard and garden. Wait — so can your dog! But bugs are just not as cute as our furry babies. There are insecticidal soaps that can be used to repel insects yet are safe for people and pets. For more information, consult a local nursery. Now if only there was something that could really fix those yellow spots in the yard…..
  6. Proud to be Sanitizer-Free. Hand sanitizer contains alcohol, which kills germs but is toxic. If your dog were to ingest a small bottle of hand sanitizer, it would be about the equivalent of a shot of hard liquor. This could cause a severe drop in your pet’s blood sugar, loss of coordination, low body temperature, nervous system depression, coma, and death. Keep them out of reach of your pooch. Better yet, wash with good old soap and water. Scrub as long as it takes you to sing the Happy Birthday song. You’ll feel a bit silly, but your dog will be safe.
  7. Please Recycle. Linens. Donate old blankets and sheets to your local shelter or rescue. They provide beds and comfort for the animals housed there.
  8. Sock Monster. Does your washing machine eat your socks? Make a dog toy out of it. Put a tennis ball inside a sock. You can fling it pretty far and your pup will love chasing this novel toy.
  9. Recycle. Adopt a Dog. Want a new friend for yourself or your pet? Adopt a dog from a rescue group or shelter. Have your new pet spayed or neutered to reduce overpopulation. Can’t adopt right now? Volunteer with a rescue group to help pups in need find their forever homes. You’ll always have the satisfaction of knowing that you saved a life on Earth Day.

Wendell Berry said it best: “The earth is what we all have in common.” How better to celebrate Earth Day every day with our best friend.

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Pet Poison Prevention – The Poisonous Toad

Seriously – toads dangerous?  Unfortunately the answer is yes.  A friend’s greyhound came into contact with a toad in Florida; luckily Diablo was treated promptly and the outcome was good.  However, quick action on your part is vital.

Image   Does your golden retriever like to lick or catch toads in his mouth?  This curiosity is dangerous as toads secrete a poison from glands on the back of their heads, which cause our pets to have seizures and other symptoms. This highly toxic chemical is most often absorbed through the mouth, but it may also enter the eyes. Toad venom toxicity is a health emergency requiring immediate treatment as its effects can be lethal.

The most venomous species of toads are the Giant Toad, Marine Toad, Cane Toad and Colorado River Toad.  They generally distinguish themselves by their large size.  These toads are typically found in Arizona, California, Florida, Texas and Hawaii. The Marine Toad is considered to be most toxic; many dogs poisoned by these toads will die if untreated. Even just mouthing or holding the toad in the mouth can result in poisoning. Dogs can even ingest the toxin by drinking the water out of container that a toad sat in.

Most cases of poisoning occur in the spring and summer and after a heavy rain.  In addition, canines typically come into contact with toads during the very early morning or evening hours. These toads have also been known to eat pet food that has been left outdoors.


Symptoms usually appear within a few seconds of the toad encounter and cause your golden to paw at its mouth or eyes.  The toad toxin results in severe, immediate drooling followed by difficulty breathing, stumbling, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, and even death.


If you suspect that your pup has encountered a toxic toad, immediately take the dog to a nearby veterinary hospital for emergency treatment.  Time is a crucial factor in the survival of your golden retriever.

You will need to provide the veterinarian with a thorough history of your dog’s health, description of the onset of symptoms, and the likelihood of contact with a toad.

Your veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examination, with blood and urine samples taken. The results of the laboratory tests are often found to be normal except for unusually high levels of potassium (hyperkalemia). Your dog may also exhibit an abnormal heartbeat, and if your doctor has time to conduct an electrocardiogram (ECG), the results will typically confirm this finding.


The first step of treatment is to flush the mouth with water for 5-10 minutes to prevent further absorption of the venom through the mouth membranes. The vet will keep your golden’s body temperature stable, which may require keeping it in a cool bath. Your pup’s heart will be monitored continuously to evaluate response to the treatment.  Drugs can be used to control the abnormal heart rhythm and reduce the amount of saliva your dog is producing in response to the toxin.

Prevention & Help

What can we as pet owners do to prevent toad poisoning?

  • Don’t leave your golden retriever out in the yard unsupervised, especially if you live near water sources.  Leash walks during high incident times are safest.
  • Remove dog food from outside to prevent toads being attracted to your yard.
  • If you suspect your furry baby mouthed, licked or ingested a toad, rinse the mouth out immediately with a garden hose, pointing the water to run outside the dog’s mouth and ensure it is not swallowed.  Rinsing the dogs paws is helpful.
  • SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION NOW!  Your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) will provide immediate life-saving advice, but taking your retriever to a veterinarian immediately will be necessary.
  • If you find a toad, the most humane way to kill the nasty little creature is to place it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for three days.  When handling any toad, it is a good rule of thumb to always protect the eyes, wear gloves, and thoroughly wash your hands before and after touching the animal.  Cane toads can cause intense pain and inflammation in humans.

Remember – the only good toad in your yard is a fake one!

ImageReference Links

Pet Poison Helpline:

Pet MD:

The Tampa Tribune, March 17, 2014:

Animal questions:

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What Makes a Successful Spay/Neuter Program?

“No other disease or condition of companion animals takes as many lives as euthanasia. In fact, no other disease comes close.” ~Janet M. Scarlett, DVM, Ph.D, Cornell University.


February is Spay/Neuter Month

We’ve all heard public service announcements, read articles and saw social media blurbs about the need to spay or neuter your pets.  Most pet owners take this responsibility seriously.  Of the 62% of American households that own at least one dog or cat, 80% of owners spay or neuter their animal.  Why then are an estimated 5 million dogs and cats euthanized in shelters every year?  What makes a spay/neuter program successful? 

Pet Overpopulation

I hate to bore you with statistics, but the numbers don’t lie.  According to the Humane Society of the United States, two unaltered cats and all their descendents can theoretically number 420,000 in just seven years, while two unaltered dogs and all their descendents can theoretically number 67,000 in six years!  No wonder our shelters and rescue organizations are overburdened. 

Cause and Effect

In most U.S. cities the majority of animal shelter intakes occur from a small percentage of pet owners. It’s the 80/20 rule: 80% of the problem comes from 20% of the population. Typically most of the unwanted dogs or cats come from three segments of the community:

  •  Low-income Areas – Research shows that poorer neighborhoods have several times the number of unaltered dogs and cats than affluent areas.  Those pets reproduce and are surrendered to shelters at a much higher rate.
  • Backyard Breeders – Studies show backyard breeders turn over the kittens and puppies they are unable to sell to animal shelters.  (Note:  there are many responsible breeders; I am only singling out the negligent ones.) 
  • Homeless Dogs and Feral Cat Colonies – Many dogs and cats are turned out or dumped by their owner, left to fend for themselves. In many communities feral cats make up a large majority of the felines euthanized in shelters. 

How does a Spay/Neuter Program Succeed?

Successful spay/neuter programs must be comprehensive.  In addition to targeting the above three segments, communities must focus on the needs of every type of pet owner.   If programs are punitive, people tend to do everything they can to avoid the law.  Some owners will not take their dog or cat to a veterinarian because they worry they will be turned into the authorities. 

According to the ASPCA, some of the necessary components for a successful mandatory spay and neuter program are:

  • The community should have an “adequately funded, readily accessible, safe, efficient, affordable spay/neuter program.”  Low cost or free spay and neuter clinics are essential. 
  • The community should “produce programs that are targeted to those populations” that contribute the most to pet overpopulation.
  • The community should “provide compelling incentives to have the surgery performed.”  This can be accomplished by free vouchers or public education materials.
  • Spay and neuter programs should be written with high quality veterinary guidelines so that every surgery is safe.
  • There must be a component that addresses feral cats, such as a Trap-Neuter-Release program.
  • There must be a plan to financially keep the program ongoing through grants, taxes, business or individual donations, etc.

The Pawsitive

The good news is the number of cats and dogs entering animal shelters in the U.S. has been on a steady decline.  In the 1970’s the euthanasia rate was 12-20 million pets per year compared to 5 million last year.  While even one dog or cat euthanized is one too many, the progress of spay/neuter programs are positive.  Spay and neuter problems address a preventable problem with a rational solution. 

Do Mandatory S/N Laws Work?

Mandatory spay and neuter laws have been compared to seat belt safety laws.  While most people would buckle up without an edict, there are a minority that chooses to ignore the facts.  Still, the laws were passed to regulate the minority of offenders. 

The same is true with spay and neuter issues.  Studies consistently show that sterilization is sound and most people elect to have their pets fixed.  However, 20% still continue to add to the burden.  More communities are taking it upon themselves to act on behalf of animals. 

However, most laws seem to be most successful when they are wide-ranging rather than a “one-size fits all” solution.  Still, in addition to saving lives, spay/neuter programs can substantially decrease the number of animals euthanized and the costs to shelters, municipalities, and the public at large of handling stray or unwanted animals.

Successful State-Sponsored Spay/Neuter Programs

There are many ways for a state to fund a program; some have been successful, others not so much.  It may take a combination of these options to make a spay/neuter outreach successful.  Increasing dog license fees, implementing a pet food tax, and surcharges on rabies vaccinations are just a few avenues to fund a state-run S/N program.  Here are some “lessons learned” from New Hampshire’s spay/neuter assistance program:

  •  Increase dog license fees – New Hampshire’s program is fully funded by a $2.00 increase in dog license fees.
  • Work with legislators to help them understand the impact of pet overpopulation on their communities. 
  • Enlist veterinarians to show them how the program benefits them, shelter adopters and people in general.
  • Streamline the program – Keep it simple to benefit vets and pet owners while keeping a low administrative fee ($10/surgery).
  • Help make the program affordable for lower income people by charging them only $10 and providing up to $15 worth of free pre-surgical shots to keep it affordable.
  • Subsidize the costs – New Hampshire vets have donated a 20% fee reduction; low-income pet owners have a copayment of $10 and shelter adopters a copay of $25. 
  • Work together to foster growth – Humane groups working with breeders, legislators and municipal officials make up a panel created by the state legislature to benefit the neutering assistance program and other animal welfare initiatives.
  • Neutering programs save money – Neutering programs are affordable for the poorest pet owners, but the investment is high impact.  Animals are neutered that never would be otherwise.  The high initial cost is offset by the savings from the dramatic drop in the number of animals entering shelters. 
  • Neutering programs save lives ­– The year before the program started, 30 cats and dogs were put down every day in New Hampshire shelters.  This number had been the same for more than ten years.  By the end of the second year that number had dropped 38% in only two years.     


Successful Shelter Spay/Neuter Programs

Many states do not sponsor a neutering program.  However, most animal shelters offer low cost spay/neuter services for pet owners and partner with rescues by reducing their surgery fee.  How do various shelters cope with the issue of overpopulation, underfunding and spay/neutering issues? 

  • Grant Applications – Many grants are available through public and private funds.  The Morgan County (Indiana) Humane Society received a $67,500 grant from Petsmart Charities.   This allowed the shelter to spay and neuter 1400 animals in a seven-month period.  As a result of their efforts, the number of dogs entering the group’s shelter declined by 41%.  Even better, the number getting adopted rose to 93%.
  • Transfer Pets from public shelters to private – There are many canine and feline transportation programs like the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, a public facility and a source of pets for the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland.  They adopt out 60% of their pets and transfer many of the remaining pets to ASAP partners.  Those partner groups also help them with supplemental spay/neuter and medical care for their pets. 
  • Animal Welfare Organization Partnerships – The Sonoma County Love Me, Fix Me mobile spay/neuter program provides high-quality dog and cat spay and neuter surgery for $30. It is a joint effort between founding agency Sonoma County Animal Care and Control and partner Sonoma Humane Society.  The goal is to provide twice as many low-cost surgeries.  Love Me, Fix Me is made possible by a grant from Community Foundation Sonoma County, support from VIP Petcare Services, and donations from individuals in the community.
  • State Agency Partnership – Spay Neuter Services of Indiana receives $25 for each ‘Pet Friendly’ specialty license plate purchased by Indiana drivers.  This funding allows SNSI to facilitate thousands of spay/neuter surgeries each year through three programs:
    • The Spay-Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides $20 surgeries for limited-income Indiana residents.
    • The Pet Friendly Group Grant program provides free spay/neuter surgeries for 501(c)(3) non-profit animal welfare organizations and municipal shelters.
    • Special programs targeted to spay/neuter surgeries for community cats and pit bull terriers, animals that are all too common in shelters and harder to adopt.
  • Solicit Donations – Private shelters often must turn to individuals or corporations to donate and support their spay/neuter programs and public outreach.  Many shelters do not receive any public funds and operate with private funding.  Most spay or neuter an animal before adoption to prevent future litters.  The adoption fee barely covers medical costs.  Whether donations are solicited by mail, social media, group presentations or fundraisers, promoting neutering programs to the community-at-large takes committed staff working with volunteers, local businesses and adopters.
  • Education – Many shelters provide educational programs for children.  The Washington DC Humane Society offers an education program free-of-charge to local schools, service organizations, church groups, summer programs, and youth organizations. Students participating in the program become aware of the numerous responsibilities, including cost and time commitments, associated with caring for a companion animal. 

Ensuring Success

Spay/neuter is the only proven way to ensure that our pets, community cats and street animals will not add to the millions of homeless animals.  Thanks to the efforts of many special people and successful spay/neuter programs, the euthanasia of healthy dogs and cats continues to decline.  It truly is a preventable tragedy.  But thanks to the international attention of this problem we can get closer to the goal of ending needless loss of life and collaborate on the best spay/neuter practices. 


Humane Society of the United States:

Care 2:


American Humane Association:

Petsmart Charities:

Sharon J. Secovich; Case Study: Companion Animal Over-Population Programs in New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Maine and A New Program for Maine

 Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana:

 Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland:

 Washington DC Humane Society:

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Dogs Deserve Better: Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week


“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”  –  Nelson Mandela

Does the sight of a chained dog break your heart?  Unfortunately winter is a time when horrid living conditions, with dogs frozen in the snow and suffering frostbite, are exacerbated.  To you it may seem cruel, but there are people under the misconception that it is acceptable to chain a dog outside in any kind of weather. 

Dogs Deserve Better is a national award-winning nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the practice of perpetually chained dogs.  The group bought Michael Vick’s former Bad Newz Kennels in May 2011.  Every year they sponsor a program for children to make Valentine’s Day cards for dogs.  DDB then sends the valentines and dog food/treat coupons to canines across the country during its Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week in February.  Included is a brochure for the dog’s owners explaining why continuous chaining of animals is a form of abuse.  The material encourages people to bring their dogs into the home or to find better homes for them.  In 2013 valentines were delivered to 19,893 dogs nationwide.  This year the group hopes to reach 21,000 dogs! 

ImageHow can you give some love to chained dogs? 

  1. Make valentinesThis is a great project for kids, teachers, students, scouts and other organizations.  Visit  to see examples of valentines created by past volunteers and check out the deadline for submitting these works of art.  
  2. Clip coupons.  Help out this year by mailing any and all treat or dog food coupons you have to 1915 Moonlight Rd., Smithfield, VA 23430.  Please make sure their expiration dates are after February 20th.
  3. Send addresses.  Do you know of a chained or penned dog that would benefit from a valentine?  Take the time to find out the address of the dog near you.  It takes little effort but is crucial to reaching these animals.   You remain anonymous.  Call 877-636-1408 to report addresses, e-mail them to or better yet fill out the form on their website.
  4. Sponsor valentines.  The cost of this campaign is quite high due to materials and mailing fees, but is the best way to directly reach dogs in need.  You may sponsor valentines for addresses you provide or for others who provide addresses.  Sponsor your valentines at the Dogs Deserve Better website.
  5. Give.  Donate money, time, fencing supplies or anything else you think may be helpful to Dogs Deserve Better or your local humane organization.
  6. AdvocateDownload the Humane Society’s free toolkit “The Guide to a Dog’s Life: Chaining and Your Community,” a comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to pass an anti-chaining ordinance in your area.
  7. Report.  If see a dog left outside without food, water or shelter, contact your local animal control, humane society or police.  They will know the local laws and can help.
  8. Educate.  Spread the word by helping to educate people on better solutions than constantly chaining a dog.  Join the Dogs Deserve Better organization or a local group with the same mission.   They offer guidance and temporary assistance to owners who are willing to improve their pet’s quality of life.

Why do owners chain dogs?

Many people initially chained their dogs because the animal had behaviors that frustrated their owners.  The caretakers did not know how to properly train their dogs or have the resources to consult a professional dog trainer for help.  Others feel that a chained dog will protect their property.  Still others grew up with this mindset and do not feel this is cruel.  Many do not realize that an inside dog is more likely to deter a burglar than a backyard dog.

Why Chaining Hurts Dogs

As social animals, dogs need to have regular interactions with their family.  Dogs who are left chained or penned up outdoors suffer physically and mentally.  They often are forgotten and suffer extreme neglect.  Many of these dogs sit, lay, eat, and defecate within the same 10-foot radius their entire life.  The dogs endure constant exposure to the elements and often become entangled in their chains which prevent them from reaching their shelter.  Some animals have choked, or even hung to death, trying to escape. 

They suffer from being denied the companionship of other dogs or people.  Consequentially they become isolated, lonely, fearful, bored and protective of their tiny spaces.  This lack of socialization can lead to territorial and unpredictable behavior. 

Chaining is not only inhumane, but has taken its toll on this nation’s children as well.  A chained dog is 2.5 times more likely to bite.  According to DDB, from October 2003 through today, there were at least 379 children killed or seriously injured by chained dogs across the country.  A toddler or young child who wanders into this space can be attacked and killed before adults can intercede.  An attack in Arkansas left a 2-year-old dead from head and neck wounds.  He was attacked and killed by a chained female dog that had puppies.

Alternatives to Chaining

The Humane Society lists five alternatives to chaining your animal:

  1. If your dog jumps over the existing fence, install a 45-degree inward extension to the top of your fence. 
  2. For a dog that digs under the fence, bury chicken wire to a depth of one foot below where the fence meets the ground.  Bend in the sharp edges. 
  3. If your dog still is an escape artist, use a cable runner or electronic fencing.  These are not perfect options, but will give your dog more freedom.  Only use these options if you also have a fence that protects your dog from other people and animals. 
  4. If your dog digs in the garden or flower bed, put plastic fencing or other barrier around the area.  You can also provide your pup with his own sandbox to dig in.  Bury toys in the sand and use positive reinforcement to teach your pooch it is okay to dig there.
  5. Barking, chewing and digging are behavior problems, often the result of boredom.  Provide proper toys, exercise, people time and positive training. 

No matter what reason is given, it is NOT acceptable to chain a dog for life.  They should not have to exist chained or in small pens as prisoners, yearning for a place in a family, craving acknowledgement, respect, and love. Dogs deserve better.


Dogs Deserve Better website:

Humane Society toolkit:

FIDO (Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside:






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Change a Pet’s Life Day (and Change Your Life Too!)

Change a Pet’s Life Day (and Change Your Life Too!)


“Change a Pet’s Life Day” is January 24, 2014.  It is a day devoted to encouraging animal adoption and spreading awareness of animal welfare issues. There are many things you can do today (and other days) to change the lives of animals for the better.

  • Adopt – Change a dog’s life by adopting from your local shelter or rescue.  If you are rescuing a purebred dog, do your homework on the breed to make sure it fits into your lifestyle. There are many rescue groups dedicated to specific dog breeds.  Adopt from your local shelter; most dogs through no fault of their own are surrendered or strays who will flourish with your love and attention.  Ask the adoption counselors their opinion to help make the perfect match for your family.  If this is a second or third dog, most shelters and rescues encourage an introduction meeting for both pets to make sure they are compatible. 
  • Donate – Make a donation (monetary, food, cleaning supplies, toys, bedding, towels, etc.)  Check your local shelter or rescue’s wish list; some have an account with Amazon set up so you can order needed items online and have them delivered directly to the shelter.  Monetary donations can include a one-time donation, monthly gift or memorial gift. 
  • Volunteer at your local shelter or rescue organization.  If you are not able to adopt at this time or just want to work with dogs, giving your time is fulfilling for the animals and you.  Roles range from walking dogs, socializing them, cleaning cages, photography, providing transportation, and customer service roles.  Volunteering at my local shelter has been one of the best experiences of my life.  Learning more about how shelters and rescues operate, fundraise, and care for dogs is very interesting.  Every bit of time you spend with a dog makes it that much more adoptable.  Interacting with other volunteers and sharing tips about the specific needs of each dog provides consistency of training and development.
  • Image
  • Shop Purchase a product from a company, rescue or shelter that donates a percentage of the cost to dogs.  Amazon, Free Kibble, and the Animal Rescue site are a few examples.
  • Foster – Open your heart and home to prepare a dog to be adopted.  Fostering isn’t a lifetime commitment; it’s a commitment to save one life.  Contact your local rescue or shelter.  It could be the best thing you’ve ever done with your life – to save theirs. 
  • Spay and Neuter – Approximately 3.7 million animals are euthanized every year.  Don’t contribute to the problem.  Most shelter and rescue dogs are already neutered or offer discounts for the surgery.  If you love them, fix them! 
  • Attend an Event – Local rescues and shelters have fun events that benefit dogs like walks, runs, festivals, fairs and dinners.  For example, the Indianapolis Humane Society has a “Mutt Strutt” fundraiser every year where participants donate and walk with their dog around the Indy 500 track.
  • Create AwarenessPromote local rescues and shelters; share success stories on the organization’s Facebook page; tell someone about your experience with the group.
  • Involve Kids – Help the kids in your life improve the lives of homeless pets.
    • If your local shelter has a Parent and Me program, let your child volunteer or shadow you
    • Sponsor a Contest at School- Which class can bring the most pet food or other items for your shelter’s wish list? Offer the winning class a fun activity, such as a pizza party or lemonade stand.
    • Read to a pet – Some shelters offer programs where children sit outside kennels and spend time reading a book to a pet.  This interaction helps de-stress dogs and helps your child practice reading skills.
    • Start a tradition in your family of giving to a pet food bank . . . not just at Christmas or the holidays, but throughout the year.
    • Birthday party donations – instead of bringing gifts for the birthday boy or girl, have the kids bring an item to donate to the local rescue or shelter.  Plan a field trip to deliver the items.
    • Attend a summer camp – Activities can include time with dogs and cats, training, arts & crafts, games, group bonding activities, cleaning laundry and dishes, kennel/yard cleaning, and many more experiences
  • Report Animal Cruelty – Don’t just talk about your neighbor who mistreats their dog; call your local police or animal control organization to report abusive people.  Most states have laws to prosecute offenders. 
  • Advocate – Help fight for the passage of strong anti-cruelty laws on federal, state and local levels by writing letters to politicians, newspapers, or attending a local rescue or shelter event.  The ASPCA provides an advocacy toolkit to help you get started. 

I hope these suggestions provide information on how to change a pet’s life.  It will not only help a dog who cannot speak for himself but enrich your life at the same time.  It is truly a win-win situation. 


Humane Society of the United States –

Indianapolis Humane Society –

Freekibble –

Animal Rescue Site –

Amazon Smile Program –

Petfinder (list of shelter and rescue organizations) –

Animal Protection Laws by state –




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Are Dogs Like People?

 As golden retriever lovers, we instinctively know our dogs are actually furry people.   However, recent studies finally back up our theory.

In the past, researchers relied on observation to give us an idea what is inside a dog’s head.  Unfortunately because dog’s can’t speak (at least in our language), some in the scientific community have not totally accepted behavioral science.  Many feel it can be subjective and difficult to quantify, making it questionable without actual physical evidence.   However, now that has changed. 

Gregory Berns is a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University and the author of “How Dogs Love Us:  A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain.”  Dr. Berns and his colleagues have trained dogs to go in an MRI scanner — completely awake and unrestrained.  The goal was to determine how dogs’ brains work and what they think of us.  Their conclusion:  dogs are people too.  (Hey, we knew that!)

 By looking directly at their brains, MRIs can tell us about dogs’ internal states.  The problem is, if you have ever had an MRI, you know how noisy, confining and absolutely still you must stay during the procedure.  Conventional veterinary practice is to anesthetize animals so they don’t move during a scan.  But brain function such as perception or emotion cannot be studied in an anesthetized animal.   

 Dr. Berns’ rescue dog Callie was the first subject.  With the help of a trainer, Callie was taught to go into an MRI simulator.  She learned to walk up steps into a tube, place her head in a custom-fitted chin rest, and hold still for periods up to 30 seconds.  On top of that, Callie had to learn to wear earmuffs to protect her sensitive hearing.  After months of training in a real MRI scanner, they had the first maps of brain activity.  At the start of the tests researchers measured Callie’s brain response to two hand signals in the scanner.  In later experiments they determined which parts of her brain distinguished the scents of familiar and unfamiliar humans and dogs.  Within a year the researchers assembled a team of twelve dogs who were all “MRI certified”. 

 Although this is just the beginning toward answering basic questions about the canine brain, there is striking similarity between dogs and humans in the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus.  The caudate has dopamine receptors which play a key role in things humans enjoy like food, music, love and money.  But can this association infer what a person is thinking just by measuring caudate activity? 

 In dogs the researchers found that activity in the caudate increased in response to hand signals for food, smells of familiar humans, and even the return of an owner who stepped out of view.  Do these findings prove that dogs love us?  Not quite, but the caudate activates positive emotions of humans and it seems there is now evidence that our pups seem to have emotions like us.  Dr. Berns feels this ability suggests we rethink how we treat dogs. 

 Currently the law considers animals as property.  If we were to grant canines the rights of a person, they would be afforded protection again exploitation like puppy mills and dog racing, in addition to current laws regarding inhumane treatment.  Someday maybe a case can be heard arguing for a dog’s rights based on the brain-imaging findings of this study. 


 Berns, Gregory, Professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University and author of “How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain” and the New York Times October 6, 2013 op-ed “ Dogs are People Too”.

 Psychology Today, “Animal Emotions: Do Animals Think and Feel”, Mark Bekoff


 ABA Journal, “What are the Legal Implications of Animal Emotions?“, Debra Cassens Weiss,

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