Culture: DogPatch
Q&A With Temple Grandin
Take Three

Q: What do dogs need?
A: People, play and lots of opportunities to explore and learn.

Q: How can we better understand our dogs?
A: Dogs are sensory thinkers—they store information as pictures, sounds, smells. If you want to understand an animal, you have to get away from verbal language.

Q: Given all that we know about genetics, why choose a mixed-breed dog?
A: Mutts tend to be physically healthier, because traits like dysplasia tend to disappear after one or two generations. They’re also more likely to be emotionally stable.

Temple Grandin, PhD, teaches at Colorado State University and is the author of several books, including Animals in Translation and, most recently, Animals Make Us Human.

News: Guest Posts
Zia Needs A Home
Are you ready for an “earth goddess”?

Yesterday, we received a call from Jennifer Rabinowitz in New Mexico. She wanted to know if she could place an ad in Bark to help find a home—ASAP—for her rescue dog. Since we publish every other month, we couldn’t get the word out quickly enough. When we heard about all Jenny had been through for Zia, we were reminded of how hard it can be for some dogs to land in the right place. We were also reminded of the determination and resourcefulness of so many folks who are dedicated to doing right by homeless dogs.

  We got back in touch with Rabinowitz, a 49-year-old former development director, and asked her to tell us more about Zia, a small, 14-month-old Labrador, and the effort to find her a good home. [Editors Note: If you're interested but think Zia lives too far away, Jenny says she'll deliver the pup to pretty much anywhere in the United States, as long as she finds a good home.]   How did Zia come to you? I moved to New Mexico from Washington D.C. almost a year ago to attend graduate school in social work. My first week here I volunteered at an adoption event for dogs from the Las Vegas (New Mexico) pound, a dark place for dogs—both literally and figuratively. A crate of puppies arrived at the event, and for six hours I tried to get them adopted. By afternoon’s end, nobody had adopted them and I couldn’t bear to see the puppies go back to the Las Vegas pound, which has one of the highest euthanasia rates in the state. I thought I could easily share my rental home with the pups until I could get them adopted! The problem is that I could not find an appropriate home for them.   How did she get her name? When I brought her home (together with her brother and a puppy from another litter) she was lethargic, even limp. I thought I would have to take her to the vet. A 10-year-old girl who lived next door stopped by and scooped the lethargic puppy into her arms, holding her and rocking her. She then looked up at me and said, “This is Zia.” I asked why, and she said, “Because she is an earth goddess.”   Tell me about her. Zia is very playful, even creative in her play. She is affectionate. She is also somewhat fearful of other dogs. While she is not dog-aggressive, she is unsure of herself around dogs. I used to take her to Santa Fe’s Frank Ortiz no-leash park. She loved the park and not once did I hear a growl from her. If anything, I saw her lay down next to dogs or run alongside them. My other foster dogs, however, were less forgiving of her, and twice they went to attack her. It is no wonder that she is shy or reticent around dogs.   When I lived in the New Mexico countryside, I would take Zia to the Pecos River twice a day. In the winter, Zia liked to break the ice formed on the river. In the spring, she’d sit next to me leaning into my side, and we’d watch the water flow by. I’ll miss her.   Why do you need to find a home so urgently? I had to move about eight weeks ago because my landlord gave me an ultimatum: Get rid of some of the dogs or get out.  I moved. During my first two weeks at my new place, Zia and Blaze (also a female and the same age as Zia, but from a different litter) had a horrific fight. The experience was unnerving, and because Blaze gets along with the other two (Zia’s brother and Nick, my Mastiff), I must find a home for Zia. In short, I’m trying to weigh one dog against three dogs who get along well. It’s harder to place three dogs than it is one dog.  But, believe me, it’s a tough decision.   What have you done to find Zia a home? I’ve reached out to environmental groups (Sierra Club/Northern Rio Grande chapter, WildEarth Guardians, Northern New Mexico Law Center, and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance so far), churches, synagogues, my grade school (where my flyer will be read at the noontime meeting), my high school (will email my graduating class), a meditation center in Washington DC, my yoga studio, and so on. In short, I’ve tried to identify where the kind of people I would want to adopt her would likely be. I’ve asked a church in Santa Fe if I could make an announcement after Sunday morning’s sermons—they graciously said yes! Still, I have had little luck.     It sounds like you have fostered dogs before. If so, is this the most difficult experience you’ve had placing a dog? I’ve never fostered dogs before. I’ve always adopted shelter dogs, but only dogs that were full-grown. Working with puppies while caring for an aging Mastiff with health problems has been the challenge of my life. It is something I will never forget. It has offered a profound education in ethics, morality and love.   Getting her placed has felt like climbing Everest with no oxygen. Virtually everybody says to simply dump her at the Santa Fe Humane Society (which is a kill shelter). I can’t be so insensitive to her life and her right to live it.   What’s making it so difficult? I think it is the economy. New Mexico is a poor state, and we are in difficult economic times.     How will you feel once you have found a loving, stable home for Zia? Ecstatic and relieved.       If you want to provide Zia with a stable, loving, one-dog home or if you have ideas for Jenny, contact her via email at jennifer.rabinowitz@gmail.com.


News: Guest Posts
Big, Fat, Free Adoptathon, June 12-13
Maddie’s Fund underwrites an unprecedented Bay Area effort

The Maddie’s Matchmaker Adoptathon isn’t your typical adoption drive. It’s big (41 participating shelters and adoption-guarantee organizations), ambitious (aiming to empty all the shelters in Alameda and Contra Costa counties), and, most important for potential adopters, FREE! Oh, and it’s a fundraiser for the participating organizations.


And that’s not all: The adoptathon is only a step in Maddie’s Fund’s jaw-dropping goal to save all adoptable animals in the country. We asked the organization president Rich Avanzino to break it down for us.


Is this the first free adoptathon Maddie’s Fund has sponsored?

It’s the largest one as far as we know in the Bay Area, bringing over 41 different shelters and adoption-guarantee groups [together] in a collaborative effort to empty the shelters to save all the healthy, treatable animals’ lives. As far as I know, it’s the first one to be done for free in the Bay Area, ever, and it’s also the first attempt to empty the shelters countywide in both Alameda and Contra Costa. It’s going to save a lot of lives.


Who pays for the adoptions?

Maddie’s Fund will pay $500 for every adoption [they normally range from about $50 to a couple hundred dollars] so it’s not just covering the cost to the shelters; it’s giving them a little more incentive to help save these lives. And in a tough economy like we’re suffering with today many of the not-for-profits and the municipalities are hurting for money. So this is an effort to recognize their great efforts … and to draw attention to the fact that both the rescue organizations and the shelters have wonderful pets available for adoption all the time.


I didn’t realize there was this stimulus side.

Yes. It’s a win-win. Obviously the people who take home a pet are going to have the opportunity to have the love of their life. The animals obviously get their lives saved, which is rather spectacular because these are wonderful beings that just need to find a home. And then it will provide a little monetary incentive for the shelters and rescue groups to carry on their great services and provide the wonderful programs that they do to save animals.


Why is it called Maddie’s Matchmaker Adoptathon?

This is done in the spirit of the little dog that Maddie’s Fund is named after, a miniature Schnauzer who enriched the lives of our founders Dave and Cheryl Duffield. They promised to basically do right by her by giving back in dollars some of what she gave them in love. We started with a $300 million gift to help animals in need of loving homes. We think this has the potential to be a model for the nation to get us to our goal, which is to save all the healthy and treatable animals countrywide by 2015.


That’s a huge goal.

It is a very ambitious goal but we think we are basically on path to achieve the result.


What do you think the adoptathon is going to cost Maddie’s Fund?

We’re hoping to spend well over a half million dollars. We think we have about 1,000-plus animals to save. The rescue and shelter world is very enthusiastic: Many of them have extended their hours, some of them have opened their facilities for Sunday adoptions, many of them who used to do one satellite are now doing several. So we’ve got great buy-in. We think it’s going to save at least 1,000 lives, maybe more. We hope to spend a half-million dollars but we’d love to spend a million. So it all comes down to the public and the rescues to help get us to goal.


Those who will be attending the adoptathon, hoping to bring home a cat or dog, what should they have in mind?

First of all, each agency has it’s own adoption criteria, so they are going to be adopting out to qualified pet owners—people who are responsible, caring, loving.

They’re not going to have to have any money—it’s a free comrade and lifetime partner. They should be prepared for the fact that it’s a lifetime commitment. They are going to take home a pet who needs food, living accommodation, toys and all that sort of stuff so the money they don’t spend on the adoption fee will give them a little extra to spend on pampering their new pooch or kitty. They are going to get unconditional love but in return this four-legged best friend/family member is going to rely on them to be taken care of and loved.


Are you concerned that by not requiring a fee, it communicates the animal has less value?

Absolutely not. The adoption agency and rescue groups and shelters that we’re dealing with are committed to the best interests of animal welfare, they’re doing this not for money, they’re doing this because they are focused on helping animals in need, and ending an animal’s life is not providing a great deal of assistance. The groups’ … screening programs are going to be well in place. They are going to select the best homes. We hope they have a lot of applicants from which to choose the best.


When will you know how many animals will be adopted?

We’re doing it hour by hour. We’ll have a running tally. We’re putting the entire Maddie’s staff (“roving reporters”) out in the field. We’re going to be capturing every placement in real time and sending it back to our Facebook page.


That sounds great.

The enthusiasm couldn’t be at a higher pitch. The weather’s nice. The animals are fabulous. The shelters are excited. And now we’re just hoping the public comes down and takes advantage of this.

Free adoption of dogs and cats will be offered to qualified homes throughout the weekend, June 12-13, at each participating organization, as well as many PETCO, PetSmart and Pet Food Express locations. To find hours, locations and participating organizations visit: MaddiesAdoptathon.org. 




News: Guest Posts
Q&A with Maren Bussey
Young author follows shelter dogs in a new book

With more than 100 books to her credit, four adopted dogs in her home and a canine-behaviorist mother, it was probably only a matter of time before Maren Bussey wrote a book about shelter dogs. Tackling the project like a journalist, the cub reporter followed dozens of dogs surrendered to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC) in her hometown of Phoenix, Ariz., and then profiled 15 in Forgotten Friends—Stories from an Animal Shelter. Bussey’s tales of lucky—and a few not-so-lucky—pups, along with daunting shelter facts and advice on how to help, make a compelling case for adoption aimed at young folks by one of their own. (The book is published on demand through booksbymaren.com, ten percent of the $20 cover price goes to MCACC.)

  TheBark.com: Why did you write Forgotten Friends? Maren Bussey: A lot of books for kids talk about getting pets from pet stores or “buying” pets. I thought it was important to teach kids about adopting and showing them that shelters are full of good dogs.   Do you have a favorite dog among those profiled in your story? I really like Toby and Rocket. They both have intriguing stories; Toby kept getting passed by, almost didn’t find a home and then found the perfect one. Rocket was also overlooked and then someone who worked at the shelter realized how great he was so adopted him herself!   Was it hard to write about the dogs who weren’t adopted? And why is it important to include them in your book? It was sad when I heard that two of my dogs didn’t get adopted. But I thought it was important to have their stories in my book to show that there are a lot of great dogs who don’t get adopted; not everyone will find a home. This, again, shows how important it is to adopt.   Why do you think so many people still don’t choose to adopt from a shelter or rescue? And what would you tell them to change their minds? I think a lot of people think shelters are full of dogs that are there because they are “bad” or have “issues.” Also, a lot of people think that purebred dogs are better than mutts. I would tell them that shelters have great dogs; many are there because something happened to their families and they couldn’t keep their dog anymore. One of the dogs in my book had to go to the shelter because her family’s house burned down and they couldn’t keep the dog. I would also tell them that mixed breeds are often healthier than purebreds and can be just as great, too!   You knew a lot about animal welfare issues before Forgotten Friends, did you learn anything new during the project? I was surprised to learn how many dogs and cats actually do not get adopted. I thought more people adopted, than actually do.   I read that you’ve written more than 100 books, any other dog books among them? What else do you like to write about? I wrote a book about one of my dogs and how we adopted him. I also like to write fantasy and science fiction.   What’s your next book? My next book is also about one of my dogs and all the funny stuff he does. That is all I can tell you right now… but it will also benefit a rescue organization.   Do you have a favorite book or story about a dog or dogs written by someone else? I liked Nobody’s Pets by Deborah White, a fiction book about dogs and cats living in shelters. Right now I’m reading Out of Harm’s Way by Terri Crisp. She has devoted her life to rescuing animals from disasters—she rescues everything from Great Danes to little frogs named Kermit!   Do you think you might be a writer or maybe a veterinarian when you grow up? Actually, I think I want to be a detective but I’ll probably keep writing just for fun.
News: Guest Posts
Lab Crashes the Superbowl
5 Q's for prize-winning filmmaker

Did you see the “Underdog” commercial during the Superbowl XLIV? Or maybe later in its viral incarnations around the Internet? An adorable young Lab outsmarts a person (who has it coming) with the old bark collar–switcheroo in order to get a bag of Doritos. It was one of four winning commercials—out of 4,000 created by Average Joes and Janes—to air during the game.

Twenty-four-year-old Joshua Svoboda created the submission for Frito-Lay’s “Crash the Superbowl” contest in three days with a budget of $200 (including the cost of dog treats and toys), and filming at a favorite childhood park. For his efforts, he took home a second-place finish, $600,000, and a healthy respect for professional canine actors. A fledgling filmmaker from Raleigh, N.C. (check out his reel at 5pointproductions.com), Svoboda hoped success in the contest could kick start his career.  

When we caught up with the young director a few days after the Superbowl, he was—appropriately—shopping for a television. He snuck into the mattress department to answer a couple questions.

Which came first—the dog or the concept?
The idea. We were in a friend’s basement reminiscing about  electronic collars, and how as kids we would put them on.

Where did you get your dog star?
Rosie is my fellow writer/director’s sister’s puppy. She’s a Lab-Boxer mix.

When we did the test shots, she was surprisingly well-behaved. The second day [filming the actual ad], she was running around, chasing kids, barking at old people. She settled down once we threw the ball for her a few times and gave her treats.

Were those really Doritos in the bag?
Yes, she just stuck her head all the way in.

Do you see yourself directing dogs in your future?
No. I personally won’t be handling animals at all. It’s pretty difficult.

Do you have a dog?
No. I do love dogs but I live in an apartment. Right now, I have two cats.

News: Guest Posts
Dog Hair in Everything She Does
Meet the singing dog groomer

When friends and relatives who don’t have dogs visit, I do a fairly rigorous vacuum to make it look like I don’t live in a rising tide of dog fur. Personally, hair bunnies don’t bother me but I figure it’s disgusting to folks who aren’t really used to it.

I know I'm not alone. To hear her tell it--rather sing it--Randi Breese is no stranger to fur in the silverware tray, the swimming pool and the chapstick. She went so far as to turn it into art, “Dog Hair in Everything I Do.” Before I posted it here for your relating pleasure, I tracked down the singer/songwriter to learn a little about the story behind the song.

The Bark: Is music a full-time gig for you?
Randi Breese: No, I have been in a few bands from time to time, but my occupation is as a dog groomer. So I have lots of experience in all kinds of dog hair!

Are the dogs in the video yours?
Two of the dogs are mine. My Border Collies, Riley and Crazy Parker. The chocolate Lab, Cammie, is owned by my friends Jim and Jennifer Zelasko, and the toy Poodle, Madison, is owned by my friends, Jim and Sandy Whittlesey.

Tell me about your dogs.
My dog, Crazy Parker, is 4-years-old and loves to compete in DockDogs. That’s where the scene of the hair in the pool came from. He holds an Elite title, which means he can jump over 23 feet! Riley is 8 and mostly likes to do agility, chase the cats and sleep on the sofa! I love them very much and their hair being everywhere is part of the inspiration for the song. The idea for writing the song came when my friend, Jim, said to me that the next song I write should be about dog hair being in everything I do. Then, voila, this funny little song was born!

Do you have any CDs?
No, I don’t. I once made a demo CD with a band I was in, but it is not available. I have lots of songs I have written over the years, though.

Where do you live?
I live in Lodi, Ohio. I love this town so much that I’ve written a song about it!

News: Guest Posts
A Better Rap for Dogs
Q&A with hip-hop artist MC Esoteric

Seamus Ryan, a Boston-based hip-hop artist who goes by the nom de plume, MC Esoteric, dropped a concept album this fall that turns old school rap depictions of fighting dogs upside-down. Saving Seamus Ryan tells the semi-autobiographic story of a man who is redeemed by the love of a Labrador Retriever. To mark the CD debut and Esoteric’s Saturday, Oct. 24, appearance (with his dog Logan) on Animal Planet’s SuperFetch, we tracked him down in London, where he answered a few questions for us via email.

In the song “Max (Goodbye)” the singer puts his old dog to sleep--was Max your dog?
Max is a fictional character in the story Saving Seamus Ryan, but he is based on Boo, my first dog, an Irish Setter. Boo was the family dog, and he actually taught me how to walk. I’ve been told that I learned to walk by using his tail. He lived a long, long life and was such a good-natured dog. We’ve had dogs our whole life, but Logan (my Lab) was the life-changer. He had a lot of health issues as a youngster, such as pneumonia, elbow dysplasia and he impaled his throat on a stick one Easter. Dealing with these things only strengthened our relationship and made me that much more crazy about him. As my mother would say, he has a lot of spirit.
Is Logan the inspiration for “Back to the Lab” [watch video] and “The King Is The Dog”?
Yes. He has pretty much been the inspiration for most of my music for the past three years. He is a Lab in every sense of the word: Great with kids, swims like a champ and eats like a pig. Mischief is his middle name … even with an hour or two of exercise, he can still get into trouble. You could say the ghost of Marley certainly visits Logan on a weekly basis. And in the song, I mention that it “ain’t just about the Labrador Retriever” because I’m a fanatic of all things canine—from Newfies to Springers, from Vizslas to Akitas—I love them all. And Logan is nice enough to bring me out to meet a lot of them daily.

What does the cover of Saving Seamus Ryan (a yellow Lab sitting next to collapsed man) represent?
That’s a scene from the story. Everything is wrong in my life at this time: I’ve lost Max; I’ve been robbed for my long-overdue engagement ring that I was about to propose with; and my girlfriend is ready to leave me. That’s when Logan stumbles into my life and changes things. He actually helps get the ring back at the end.

Are you active in animal welfare?
Before leaving for this tour, I worked for the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center. I was seeing many hard things and many wonderful things on a daily basis, all of it being very enriching and challenging. I plan on returning there in 2010, I miss the dogs and their stories. The things a dog can bring out in people should be bottled-up and sold.

What will you be doing on SuperFetch?
The song “The King is the Dog” from Saving Seamus Ryan is the theme of the episode, and we are shooting a video for it. Logan basically has an old school dance routine that he attempts to execute, and it is up to me to train him to pull it off. I saw the footage, and it is pretty hilarious stuff. Logan had a lot of fun learning and playing throughout the shooting of it. He loves attention.

Finally, rap and hip-hop are often criticized for glamorizing dog fighting and contributing to problems for Pit Bulls and other breeds, is this something you have in mind with your songs and videos?
Yeah, totally. My peers joke about how I’m ruining their image by being the lovey-dovey-dog-guy. Friends in the rap industry thought I was nuts, but now they call me for dog advice. Fans ask about Logan in the same breath as the music. It is amazing. On this last tour of the U.S. and Canada, people have been approaching me with pictures and stories of their dogs. They used to just come up to talk about my music. I wrote an entire song that harshly criticized Michael Vick but never released it since I have touched on him in other albums, including this new one. Dog fighting is one of the most cruel and heartless acts of violence a human can commit.



News: Guest Posts
Thursday Night Suppers
Kansas City couple honors their dog’s memory by inviting strangers to dinner.

When Tricia and Mike Smith put their dog Molly to sleep earlier this year it left a big hole in their lives. They missed their Boston Terrier’s zest for life but weren’t ready to adopt a new pup. So they decided to pay tribute to Molly’s love for parties and socializing by entertaining—with a twist.

Tricia, a 35-year-old deputy in the office of the Platte County Recorder of Deeds, and Mike, a 40-year-old business analyst for a local telecommunications company, created Thursday Night Suppers, which is essentially an invitation to bon vivants in the Kansas City area to dine chez Smith. There is no fee.

Of course, a Thursday Night Suppers website (with a blog) outlines the details and how to make reservations, but the Smiths’ ambitions are not about building virtual connections. They’d like to be hosting sit-down suppers for six once a week.

Tricia Smith talked to The Bark about opening her heart and her house--and the dog who inspired it all.

How did Molly come into your life?
Molly started her life as a pet store puppy. When the pet store let all the animals get ill a rescue group from Conway, Mo., stepped in and rescued them. The people at the rescue group affectionately named her Phat Girl. From there, a couple adopted her and renamed her Molly. Later, they wanted to get rid of her because they were moving. From my point view, they obviously never understood what a wonderful creature they were living with because if they did, they never would have let her go. I found a posting for Molly on my company’s intranet site and we bought her for $90—the best money we ever spent!

Why did you have to put her to sleep?
Molly was diagnosed with Glomerular Kidney Disease. It hit her really fast. One week she was fine, the next week she started throwing up. It took about a week to determine her immune system was mistakenly attacking her kidneys. We tried a couple of medicines to slow down and halt her immune system, hoping it would give her kidneys a chance to recover enough to function, but the medicine failed. Our veterinarian then had to tell us there was no cure and Molly would only get worse. By the time we decided to put her to sleep she had stopped eating and we were carrying her outside to go to potty. From the time she got sick to the time we put her to sleep, it was only about a five-week period. We knew the kindest thing to do, no matter how difficult, was to put Molly to sleep before she suffered. I’m positive that we made the right decision, but not a day goes by that I don’t wish we could have had more time with her.

Why host dinners in Molly’s honor?
Before our veterinarian came into the room to put Molly to sleep, Mike and I promised her that we would live a life that would make her proud. I believe that the most important thing a person can do in life is make a difference in another person’s life so if through Molly’s death and because of our tribute to her—the website, the blog, the dinners—two people become friends or if one person is comforted then Mike and I will have accomplished everything we hoped.

If you hope for a little grief-relief from your guests, what do you hope they will get out of the experience?
It’s funny you asked this question. My next blog entry is going to describe what my dream is for Thursday Night Suppers. I’m hoping that through the Thursday Night Suppers people will connect with one another and friendships will develop, maybe someone who’s lonely will take a chance and come to a dinner and find a friend.

How many dinners have you hosted?
So far we’ve hosted two dinners. For the first dinner it was just Mike and I, but somehow we found it fitting that it was just us. Our second dinner attendance increased by 200 percent. A couple that we had met at the park came to dinner and they brought their Pug, Stanley. Molly had loved playing with Stanley at the park. After I told my mother about the second dinner, she said Molly would have had a wonderful time. I think the nicest thing about our second dinner was that we got to spend more than 10 or 15 minutes together with these people. We had the opportunity to sit down and have real conversations about our dogs, our families, our experiences. We were able to connect not just as dog owners, but as friends.

Are you ever worried about inviting strangers into your home?
When I told my dad what we were doing he said, “You’re crazy. You’ll have every nut at your house. You’re going to get knocked over the head and robbed.” Seriously though, yes, we do worry about inviting strangers into our house, but we don’t want to live our life afraid of doing something good because something bad might happen.

What has been the biggest challenge?
So far the biggest challenge has been getting people to come to dinner. We’ve gotten quite a few e-mails telling us what a great idea this is, but not many reservations to dinner. I understand how scary it would be to go to a total stranger’s house for dinner, but I tell people to put themselves in our shoes, we’re inviting six strangers into our home—we’re outnumbered six to two. We are starting to get a few reservations for the fall dinners. Hopefully, Thursday Night Suppers will continue to grow.

What has been the biggest gift?  
It has been a great way for us to work through our grief.

Is there another dog in your future?  
We’ve talked about it and we’ve come close a couple of times, but we’re just not ready. I don’t think we can put a timeframe on when we’ll be ready for another dog, but I know someday we will.

Who’s the cook?
That would be me. I love to cook, but I can’t bake to save my soul. I make a great roasted chicken, a pork lion with plum sauce and a baked salmon topped with macadamia nuts and fresh herbs.

We’ll be right over.

News: Guest Posts
Another Stop on the Underdog Railway
Q & A with Dawn Painter, who lets her fingers do the saving.

“The email that started us on this journey arrived in my in-box on December 23, with the subject line: Black Wednesday of Death in Harrodsburg, KY—Please, Help! … How could I ignore that plea?” writes Bark editor Claudia Kawczynska in her story about Kit and Holly—puppies she adopted from a Kentucky rescue last December.

For those of us who volunteer or work for or support shelters and rescues, this sort of e-missive is familiar. When we receive these dog-needs-home notices we become possible links in a chain that may connect a stray in Georgia with a loving home in Maine, or a puppy mill refugee in Kansas with a family in California. The email from “James Painter” that caught Claudia’s eye, actually came from his daughter, Dawn, who uses her parents’ email as part of her effort to help southern shelters and rescues find homes for homeless dogs often in far away locations.

We catch up with the Dawn Painter in the second part of our online series on the people behind animal transport—the grassroots network that moves dogs from shelters in the South or the Midwest to communities where they have a better chance of finding a good adoptive home. (In the first part, we talked to the founders of C.A.R.E., who transport homeless dogs and cats via van convoy from shelters in the Midwest to rescues in Colorado.)

Painter, 38, is a classic animal welfare advocate, making time to help in addition to a full-time job—in her case, in the planning department at UPS. She lives with four rescue cats in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. She has not website, and relies exclusively on email. As you might expect, we communicated with Painter via email and she responded in that efficient, spare text language that allows her to get more from each keystroke. (We have “translated” her answers into pre-texting English.)

TheBark.com: How did you get involved in this work?
Dawn Painter: I began by helping local shelters by going to yard sales and buying pet supplies then donating them. Seeing the shelters made me realize how Kentucky is in dire need of financial support for its homeless animals. I love going to yard sales, thrift stores, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Craigslist, and even dumpster diving for pet supplies.  Through the years, I have adopted through Animal Protection Association and Shamrock.

Bark: Are you connected to any organization or are you simply a one-woman advocate?
Painter: I just try to take turns with the different shelters and rescue groups. I do not officially work for any of them; I just do what I can.

Bark: As we understand it, you pull together and send out urgent calls for adoption or shelter help from around the country. Can you explain your role: How do you learn about dogs in need, and how you try to connect dogs in need with people who can help?
Painter: The people that head the shelters and rescue groups started adding me to their address books and thus the rescue, support and funding emails started. I forward them along to whomever I think can help. When my parents got a computer, I decided to make a breed-specific address book so that I can send the information directly to those who can help out that cat/dog. I also have a support group, so whenever there is an email regarding that I forward it there.

Any type of abuse cases, I have a contact who is a prosecutor. Of course, I have a cat group so a lot of my emails go to those no-kill sanctuaries. Shelters that are in dire need get forwarded to my animal welfare organizations (Best Friends, IDA, ASPCA, etc.). I also have a rehab and rescue group, and all the dogs that are good therapy dogs I send their information to them.

I love to get news clippings about how dog/cats help inmates or residents at nursing homes. I forward these to shelters in the hopes that they will contact their local facilities. I also have media-type contacts where I forward any emails regarding abuse, special events by animal organizations, puppy mills, etc.

Bark: Do you know what happens after you send out emails?
Painter: I usually find out when dogs have found a forever home and I just praise God and St. Francis.

Bark: Do you worry that there will be too many email alerts going out and that people will start to tune you out?
Painter: I try not to worry about sending out too much. If someone wants me to remove them from the list I always do so.
Bark: Are you ever overwhelmed?
Painter: It is very sad how many dogs/cats are put down each year. Every night, I say a prayer to St. Francis in the hopes that people will bring love, care, funding to all animal-related issues. I pray people become more responsible regarding spay/neutering. I pray that those four-legged babies who were put down are now in pet heaven and are playfully running through the fields and soaking up the sun with not a care in the world.

News: Guest Posts
Have Van, Will Travel
Q & A with the women behind C.A.R.E.

It’s a simple truth that a homeless dog in the South or the Midwest may have a better chance of finding a good adoptive home in the Northeast or cities in the West. For these dogs in overcrowded, under-funded shelters, transportation can mean the difference between life and death.

When Bark editor Claudia Kawczynska adopted Kit and Holly from a rescue in Kentucky over Christmas, she learned the shelter had a program for sending dogs to new homes in the North but not out West where she lives. A little more digging to find a ride for the puppies revealed a formal and informal network of individuals and organizations with planes, trucks and automobiles working together—supported by countless Internet posters and email blasters—to get dogs to places where their future is brighter.

Inspired and intrigued by this grassroots cooperative effort, TheBark.com will be talking to folks who are part of this underdog railroad. We begin with Linda Fox, transport coordinator, and Lisa Mendelsberg, program administrator, for Colorado Animal Rescue Express (C.A.R.E.), a 501c3 public charity.

At least once a week, C.A.R.E. drivers provide safe transport for homeless dogs and cats in the Midwest to Colorado, where rescue organizations have promised to find them new homes or where adoptive families are already waiting. Through Jake’s Fund, C.A.R.E. also provides help, when possible, with veterinary expenses and spay/neuter procedures. C.A.R.E also collects donations of food and supplies and delivers them to shelters and rescues. In the two years since C.A.R.E. began, Fox, Mendelsberg and an army of dedicated volunteers have logged more than 245,000 miles to bring 3,993 dogs and 345 cats to 96 rescues.

In May, we talked with Linda Fox, while she drove in a three-van convoy through a rainstorm more than 300 miles to Hays, Kansas. She was on the pick-up leg of what would be C.A.R.E.'s biggest transport to date—73 dogs from Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas. In early June, we caught up with Lisa Mendelsberg, who was working on grant requests to cover the costs of the transports. They talked to us about the logistics, challenges and joys of transport.

TheBark.com: How did you get started?
Lisa Mendelsberg: We both volunteered for Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue in Colorado and met at a holiday party in December 2004. At that time, Linda was arranging intake and providing the transport for Golden Retrievers coming in from out of state. I started driving with her and it was evident that we felt our transports could help all breeds of dogs. We formed C.A.R.E. in June 2007 to provide lifesaving transport to all dogs and cats with rescue commitments.  

Bark: How do dogs get onto a transport?
Linda Fox: Most of the dogs come on our transports because rescuers network the dogs on the Internet. For example, pictures and bios of dogs needing homes in Holton, Kansas, would be sent to me and to the other rescuers and we post them on our rescue network. Once rescuers in Colorado say they’ll accept a dog in their program, the shelter or rescue group sends me all the pertinent travel information, assurance that a Health Certificate will be obtained, and then transport is arranged as soon as possible.

Bark: Who pays for transportation?
Fox: C.A.R.E. runs on individual and rescue donations, grants and fundraisers. It costs an average of $26 to transport each dog to safety. We continuously need to fundraise.


The transports are expensive. We pay for rental vans in multiple cities, insurance, gasoline and we cover our drivers’ out-of-pocket expenses. This transport today to move the 73 dogs will be more than $1,300.

Bark: Where do the vans come from?
Fox: We rent cargo vans from Enterprise. We analyzed buying a van, but for safety reasons, it is better to rent with inspections and cleanings before each trip. Also, if we were to break down, Enterprise would respond with delivery of a similar vehicle. If we owned our own van, can you imagine trying to check into a hotel with 30 dogs while it was being repaired?!

Bark: Who are your passengers?
Mendelsberg: Dogs and cats come primarily from high-kill shelters, owner surrenders and from other rescue organizations. We are also fortunate to be able to transport dogs being released from puppy mills. This year because the economy has been so challenging, we’re transporting a lot of dogs that have been abandoned when people move, the ones that are the silent victims of the economy.

Bark: What does it mean for the dogs in Colorado when you bring dogs in from out of state? Or put another way, why shouldn’t regions take care of their own dogs?

Fox: I do think there will always be the need to transport some animals to safety. In the second half of 2009, Lisa and I will be working with our strong Midwest contacts to help them utilize the existing resources in their own communities. We will work with them to educate their local citizens on the benefits of sterilizing their pets, thereby reducing the number of unwanted litters and animals that will be euthanized in shelters.

What does it mean for the dogs in Colorado? The rescues that I talk to say shelters in Colorado are doing a good job of getting the dogs adopted. In the rural and remote areas, options for rescue and adoption are not very easy. If some dogs need transport instate from a rural area to a metro area, C.A.R.E. will help cover the cost of transport. Sadly, there are still dogs being euthanized in Colorado and Midwest shelters.

Mendelsberg: Each dog that we transport has a rescue commitment. Our network has dedicated individuals and organizations in Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas that work diligently to save the homeless animals in their area. The purpose of C.A.R.E. is taking a dog from a place where they have virtually no chance of being adopted and moving them to areas where they will go into rescues and have visibility and be placed correctly and hopefully permanently. We are just fortunate to have the resources in Colorado to help our neighboring states with their pet overpopulation.

Bark: Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the fact that there is this constant supply of dogs needing new homes?
Fox: I do feel that every day. You try to look at the good side rather than dwell on the bad. You think about the success stories and the wonderful new homes for these dogs that have come to Colorado rescues. Of course, you think about the ones you could not save, and then you start over working on obtaining rescue commitments for more homeless dogs.

Mendelsberg: Absolutely, I feel that we’re making a difference for the dogs we are able to save through our C.A.R.E. transports and Jake’s Fund distributions. However, basically what we are doing is just a Band-Aid for the overpopulation dilemma. We have learned that people must be educated on the necessity for sterilization and we are hoping our new C.A.R.E. brochure on spay/neuter will have some impact. We also are raising the awareness that people should adopt from shelters and rescues instead of buying from the pet stores. 

Bark: What other goals do you have for C.A.R.E.?
Fox & Mendelsberg: Our key focus besides transport and Jake’s Fund is to really work with our excellent rescue contacts in the Midwest and help them help themselves more than just relying on C.A.R.E. to move the homeless animals to Colorado. We will be working on setting up and helping to fund spay/neuter events. We will work with veterinarians in these areas to offer their local population affordable spay and neuter procedures. Last, we’re hoping our new spay/neuter brochure will debunk some of the myths on sterilization and make people realize the best thing they can do for their pets is to get them sterilized.
Bark: Does your work for C.A.R.E. take a lot of time?
Fox & Mendelsberg: C.A.R.E. is a team success. We’re the engines but we rely so much on good assessments of the dogs, our tireless drivers, and all the rescuers who take these dogs into their programs. Everybody is a hard worker and makes such a special effort to assure the safety and comfort of those travelling. It takes a community to save one of these dogs. To make this work, we need an army of people committed. It’s total cooperation among so many people who put the dog’s best interest and well being first.  Surely the Internet, digital cameras and cell phones have contributed to the rescue of countless animals from places where it would be hard for them to find a second chance at a real family life.
Why do we do this? We all love the dogs. It's not the dogs that are lucky; it’s the people who are getting the dogs that are lucky to have their lives so enriched. These animals have been through so much but they are so forgiving and so resilient. There is so much that can be learned from these wonderful rescue animals.  


C.A.R.E. is always looking for volunteers to help with driving, fundraising, and educating the public on the necessity for spay/neuter.


To learn more about C.A.R.E., see photos of dogs saved through transport, and find out how you can support them, visit www.caretransport.org. Donations can be made online at or by mail to C.A.R.E., 5276 South Hanover Way, Englewood, CO 80111.