Julia Kamysz Lane

Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

News: Guest Posts
Head Count
One of the challenges of a multi-pet household

A few days ago, a friend encouraged her six dogs to go outside after dinner then let them back in. She and her husband returned to watching TV in the living room. Fifteen minutes later, they heard a high-pitched bark that seemed to be coming from outside! Sure enough, one of their dogs had not followed the rest of the pack. After some more backyard fun, he had patiently waited at the back door before giving an alert bark.

  Despite the cold and snow, he was fine, but his owners were upset with themselves for not having noticed his absence. After sharing the story, my friend said, "I forgot to do my head count!"   I knew exactly what she meant; we do a head count now, too. A couple summers ago, when we had five dogs and two cats, our Pit Bull mix, Shelby, enjoyed a backyard sleepover because we didn't do a head count. I remember opening the back door in the morning to find her sitting on the back stoop, watching for squirrels. It was a sickening feeling; even though we have a fenced, half-acre property, I imagined many terrible things that could’ve happened while we slept.   If you have multiple dogs, do you always do a head count? What else can you do to keep track of a large pack?
News: Guest Posts
Risks of Board and Train
Alleged animal abuse against dog trainer

When Californian Regina Collins picked up her 12-week-old puppy, Chance, after being boarded and trained at Ridley K9 Academy, he was afraid to come to her. She demanded that owner/trainer Garrett Ridley tell her what he had done to her puppy; she was informed that she shouldn't approach him because he was "in trouble."

A vet examination revealed that Chance was covered in urine, dehydrated, and his eyes were hemoraging. The latter is usually caused by being restrained at the neck or high pressure around the neck.

This is why it's so important to interview potential boarding facilities. What kind of training methods do they use? Can they give you client references? Ask to tour the facility and see the staff engaged with the dogs. How are the dogs responding? Do they seem relaxed, stressed, scared?

Of course, if you are not welcome to visit behind the scenes, you are better off boarding elsewhere. Better yet, find a petsitter so your dog can relax in familiar surroundings and take a training class with your dog when you return so you can both learn and strengthen your bond.

News: Guest Posts
When Rescuer Needs Rescuing
Diane Eldrup arrested for deaths of 20 dogs

A broken family. Foreclosed property. Twenty dead dogs. When I first read the story of Diane Eldrup and her suburban Chicago rescue, Muddy Paws, I cried. Her husband had finally received court permission to enter their property after a year-long absence only to find that his estranged wife and their 8-year-old son were living among decaying animal corpses and 5 to 10 tons of fecal matter. Jail is where Eldrup is likely headed, but it’s not what she needs.

Rescuing animals can be addictive. When I co-founded New Orleans German Shepherd Rescue in the early 2000s, my intentions were noble yet naive. Despite knowing next to nothing about dogs, much less humane work, I was going to save every single healthy German Shepherd Dog that came through the doors of the Louisiana SPCA. Soon, I was getting desperate calls and emails from shelters and volunteers throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere. These dogs needed a hero; I could become that person.

Well-intentioned animal lovers and friends fueled the “high” I would get from helping each dog. They praised me, claiming that I was such a good person for doing this. They rewarded me with donations of food, toys and money. They said they could never do what I did. I was a hero in their eyes, too.

If you weren't with me, then I had no time for you. In fact, if you told me I couldn't save a particular dog, I worked even harder to prove you wrong. More phone calls, more emails, more adoption events, more transports, more of my own time and money. It was never enough.

Rescue became a way of life. My 9 to 5 job got in the way of my real, meaningful work. It wasn’t unusual for me to take extra time on my lunch hour and spend it at the shelter in my suit and heels. I took photos to post on the rescue website, introduced dogs to prospective adopters, and checked to see which dogs had limited time. These animals needed me. The shelter staff began to ask me to help them find homes for their favorites because I seemed to have a knack for it. I was addicted to feeling needed and the power of changing lives.

When I got into a heated argument with a friend about how rescue should be important to everyone, she told me I was “self-righteous.” It gave me pause, but at the moment, I was so emotionally wound up that I angrily stomped out of her house and didn’t talk to her for awhile. Why should I? She clearly was incapable of caring as much as I did.

Over the years, I became increasingly isolated from family and friends. My parents lived far away and I remember being on the phone with my mom and hearing her ask if everything was okay. No, everything is not okay! There are thousands of beautiful, loving animals dying needlessly in shelters every day!

She gently interrupted me and tried again. Are you okay? I abruptly changed the subject.

Finally, my husband said enough. We’re broke. We have our own zoo of four rescued dogs and three cats to care for. There is a constant merry-go-round of foster dogs in this tiny house on a city lot. You’re stressed out. You’re not happy. You’re never here. He said all of this in a diplomatic way that got through to me. He was—and still is—a strong, sensitive man who yes, loves animals, but loves me more.

The intervention worked. I quit the rescue group cold turkey. The shelter staff were dismayed but said they understood. One rescue volunteer sent me flowers at work, pleading with me to come back. Another rescuer called and left a sobbing message asking if I could help with just this one dog this one time.

For me, rescue is a drug. I can’t say no. I didn’t call her back.

To all the rescuers out there who are struggling on their own, there is no point in trying to save every single animal if you hurt yourself and the people you love in the process. Get the help you need before something tragic happens. Delegate to volunteers, see a counselor, learn to say no, spend money on something you need for a change. You have value as a person whether you rescue animals or not.

And to those unique individuals who are able to balance life, people and rescue, thank you. Perhaps one day, people will recognize that their irresponsibility toward animals doesn’t just lead to neglect, suffering, pet overpopulation, and euthanasia of healthy, young animals. It also hurts people and can destroy human lives. 

News: Guest Posts
Canine Christmas Thief
Clever dog does her own shopping

How far would your dog go for a Christmas present? A few years ago, a clever dog decided to pick out her own gift. The mystery stray traveled six miles to a grocery store, sniffed out the pet food aisle and grabbed a rawhide bone to take home. Her shopping adventure was captured on store security cameras and shared with the local media. The clever culprit was later identified as Akira, an 11-year-old Husky known for her escapades. The owners eventually returned to the store to pay for Akira's purchase and reunite with the amused store staff.

News: Guest Posts
Canine Christmas Shoplifter
An 11-year-old Husky picks out her own gift

Is your dog happy with his Christmas presents this year? A couple years ago, this Husky decided to pick out her own gift, a large rawhide bone from a grocery store. Eleven-year-old Akira traveled nearly six miles from home to get it. Months after the original security camera footage aired on local TV stations, the owners came forward to pay for her purchase and buy her a new rawhide bone. Happy holidays, everyone!

News: Guest Posts
Puppies Not Always Perfect Present
Something to remember this holiday season

I came across this blog post, "Wanna Puppy, Little Girl?" and it reminded me of how many calls I will get regarding my Puppy Kindergarten class starting in January. After the puppy and his new family complete the six-week session, they might go on to my Beginner Obedience class. The lucky pups will continue to go to classes and have fun and learn for the rest of their lives. Sadly, there are a few people who will think they took one obedience class and training is now "done." The kids, to whom the puppy was given, should now "know" how to feed, shelter, play with and otherwise take care of him. These are the exasperated people I hear from when the puppy is 8 months to a year old, demanding I help them find a home for him immediately "or else." They repeatedly point out that the dog is a purebred and they "paid good money" for him. So please, if you or someone you know is thinking about buying a puppy for the kids as a Christmas present, please wait until the new year. Better yet, only get a dog if it's for you because it's unfair to the kids and to the puppy to expect them to take care of each other. 

News: Guest Posts
Beware of Backyard Bombs
Procrastinating instead of winter poop pickup

It has been cold in the Chicago area. Really cold. I let my four dogs outside to do their business and within minutes, the two Dalmatians are hobbling back to the door because their pink pads are frozen. The two mixes adore the snow and can wrestle in it for hours. Ginger Peach even likes to scoop up the snow with her long snout and toss it over her shoulder like a tiny brindle elephant. Me, I fantasize about the mild winters down south as I layer on the clothing and coats Christmas Story-style before heading out to do my weekly duty: winter poop pick up. Chiseling out frozen brown treasures and narrowly sidestepping yellow snow patches are not exactly my idea of fun. It wouldn't be so bad if I picked up on a daily basis but when the temps plummet, it's all I can do to hussle from hot house to lukewarm car much less wander in circles around a half-acre yard with a poop bag for a mitten. Any suggestions on how to make this winter chore more bearable?   

News: Guest Posts
Vet’s Generosity Saves Lives
Pet owners can work off bill with community service

Last year, my husband and I were forced to make a difficult decision regarding our 12-year-old Catahoula, Desoto. He needed back surgery, but at an estimate of $5,000-$7,000 plus post-operative care, we simply could not afford it. I remember crying and screaming in frustration that I could not provide whatever Desoto needed.

  After many weeks of deliberation, we ultimately decided that the combination of his advanced age and heart murmur made surgery too risky. That relieved some of the guilt and panic, but the experience got me thinking: How many other people are in the same situation? Here I had been so quick to judge anyone who euthanized their pet because they couldn’t afford the necessary treatment. That person could’ve easily been me.    Just imagine how veterinarians and their staff feel when delivering such horrible news and knowing that their clients can’t pay for it? Dr. Lori Pasternak decided she never wanted to take no for an answer again. If the pet needed life-saving emergency surgery or treatment, she would make it happen with the client’s help. Earlier this year, she and business partner Jacqueline Morasco opened Helping Hands Affordable Surgical and Dental in Richmond, VA.   The clinic’s sole focus is surgery and dental care at affordable prices. There is no office visit fee or general exam fee. Instead, there is a $5 fee per procedure that is collected for a Good Citizen Fund that goes toward others in need. Clients are asked to devote one hour of community service to Helping Hands or other local pet-related charities for every $10 of their bill. This gives pet owners a chance to pay it back and maintain their dignity.   Has a vet or other animal care professional ever gone out of their way to help you when times were tough?
News: Guest Posts
Pet Food Pantry
Seniors often share what little food they have with their pets

No one should have to choose between feeding herself and feeding her dog. Sadly, volunteers with the mobile food pantry Meals On Wheels discovered that many elderly and disabled clients were sharing their hot meals with their pets. Dog Scout Troop 208 of North Aurora, Ill., teamed up with its local Pet Supplies Plus to hold a "Meals for Seniors Pet Food Drive" from November 27-December 15. All food and monetary donations will go toward pre-filled gift bags, which will be distributed by Meals On Wheels to seniors with pets. To participate or start a pet food drive in your area, contact your local Meals On Wheels and/or Dog Scouts chapters.

News: Guest Posts
I Made Food! I’m Magical!
The moving adventures of simple dog & helper dog

I have a million friends who love dogs and another million who know I love dogs. This is why my email and Facebook inboxes are constantly jammed with multi-forwarded messages featuring sentimental dog stories, links to THE funniest dog video ever, and multiple memory-sucking photos of costumed canines posed or Photoshopped next to everything from babies to ostrichs complete with silly captions. So my thumb was practically twitching over the delete button when friend after friend kept forwarding and sharing the same blog post, "Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving." Finally, I gave in and read what is THE funniest dog-related blog post ever thanks to its belly-laugh inducing illustrations. The author-artist and her boyfriend attempt to move from Oregon to Montana without completely stressing out their two dogs. They are not entirely successful. Enjoy.