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JoAnna Lou participates in agility, rally obedience and therapy work with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She supports her canine hobby with a career in professional training and development at a New York financial firm. JoAnna has a diverse background working with animals that includes researching birds at the Bronx Zoo and helping a friend run a rat rescue group (yes, rats!). Her writing has appeared in The Bark, DogSport, New York Tails and New York Resident.

Service Dogs for Farmers with Disabilities
Missouri non-profit trains pups to help out on farms.

Service dogs play a key role in helping people keep their dignity, independence, and livelihood. But for those who work physically demanding jobs, like farmers, the needs for a working pup are unique.

That's what inspired Jackie Allenbrand to create P.H.A.R.M. Dog USA (Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri) in 2009. Her goal was to make life easier for farmers with disabilities, whether it be physical, cognitive, or illness related.

The dogs are trained by Jackie and other volunteers to do farm specific tasks, like retrieving dropped tools, opening latch gates, carrying buckets, and managing livestock. The pups are donated or adopted from shelters. The training process is a long one, and it takes about a year just to determine if the dog has the intelligence and temperament to be a service dog.

Thought to be the only one of it's kind in the United States, the small non-profit has placed ten dogs so far, with two more in training. Jackie receives requests from across the country, but is limited by P.H.A.R.M.'s shoestring budget and resources. However, the impact the group has made is immeasurable.

Alda Owen struggled her whole life with being legally blind. She managed her 260-acre Missouri farm as best she could, only being able to see blurry shapes and very close objects. Alda was making due, but after a bull knocked a gate into her, Alda's daughter decided she could use a helping hand. P.H.A.R.M matched Alda with Sweet Baby Jo, a Border Collie that she credits with helping her remain productive and keep the life her family has built.

Sweet Baby Jo not only helps with the chores, but provides key emotional support as well. Alda's disability kept her in her small comfort zone for most of her life, but since Sweet Baby Jo entered the picture, Alda has started traveling and speaking at panels about farmers with disabilities. Alda says she not has her self-esteem and pride.

It's simply amazing what can be achieved through the human-canine bond. 

Dogs and Kids Bond Over Shared Experiences
Best Friends Bash unites pets and children overcoming health challenges.

Kids often struggle with feeling different, so you can imagine the additional challenges of growing up with a craniofacial disorder. To help these children feel less isolated, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Penn Vet teamed up to introduce these kids to therapy dogs who have similar health challenges. Best Friends Bash has been so successful that this is the event's third year.

This year's canine attendees included, Cyrus, a mixed breed pup born without front legs, Bosco, a Rottweiler with a skull deformity who has also undergone four leg operations, and Jasmine, a Shetland Sheepdog who had surgery to remove a craniofacial tumor.

Many of the kids are shy and reserved, but they instantly light up when they meet the dogs. "Receiving unconditional love and attention is an essential part of the healing process," says Dr. Alexander Reiter, a professor at Penn Vet. The benefits that the children have gained from this event are countless.

Not only do the dogs provide comfort and an instant way to bond, the event also brings families together that are going through similar challenges, in various stages of the journey. Many friendships and support networks have grown out of the Best Friends Bash.

Learn more about this amazing program at the Penn Vet web site.

Rescue Dog Sniffs Out Incriminating Thumb Drives
A Black Labrador plays a key role in the arrest of Jared Fogle.

Former Subway celebrity Jared Fogle made waves when he was arrested earlier this month on child pornography charges. The team responsible for finding the incriminating evidence had a special MVP--a Black Labrador named Bear. The two year old pup sniffed out a hidden thumb drive that human searchers overlooked in Jared's house. The drive turned out to be a key part in the case.

Bear is one of only five dogs in the country trained to sniff out electronic data devices. The talented pup was also involved in the investigation behind this week's arrest of Olympics gymnastics coach, Marvin Sharp. Coming off of these two successful missions, Bear will now be joining the Seattle Police Department to help investigate internet crimes.

Steve DeBrota, the lead prosecutor on the Jared Fogle case, was skeptical when he heard about an electronics sniffing dog. But Bear quickly won him over with his abilities. Steve now calls Bear "a key part of the team."

Todd Jordan, a deputy fire chief in Anderson, Indiana, is the man behind this amazing pup. Todd adopted Bear a year ago and spent four months training him using reward based methods. When Bear sniffs out a device, Todd gives him a handful of food. Small memory cards easily missed by the human eye can be found easily by the canine nose.

Now that Bear is moving to Seattle, Todd has plans to train more dogs to do this type of work. In our internet age, it's certainly a skill in growing demand!

 

Emergency Shelter for Pets
Animals get their own sanctuary from the Washington state wildfires.

The wildfires in Washington state have grown so large that specialized firefighting crews have come from as far as New Zealand to join the battle. Now considered the largest wildfire in state history, the disaster has been steadily destroying homes and displacing thousands of people.

In order to help the affected families, the Washington State Animal Response Team (WASART) has set up a shelter for pets, giving evacuees peace of mind knowing their whole family--two and four legged--has somewhere safe to go. The sanctuary is headquartered in a local elementary school next to the Red Cross shelter for people.

WASART is a all-volunteer organization that helps animals in these types of disasters, but also in rescue situations such as saving pets that have fallen down a well or ravine. The group was founded in 2007 by Gretchen McCallum and Greta Cook after they learned about people forced to leave their pets behind during Hurricane Katrina. Gretchen and Greta wanted to ensure that if a similar disaster happened in Washington, evacuees would never have to make such a difficult decision. WASART has grown so much that they now hold training classes in field response and animal rescue, and have a dedicated emergency phone line.

To learn more about this amazing organization, or to make a donation, visit the WASART web site.

Adopting her Canine Rescuer
A British woman brings home the dog who saved her on vacation.

This summer Georgia Bradley was vacationing in Greece and went for a walk alone on the beach. Two men began harassing her and started to become aggressive, when a small black dog ran over and scared them away. The pup then followed Georgia back to her rental apartment.

Georgia took the dog to a local animal shelter and vet, but was turned away by both. During the rest of the vacation, Georgia kept seeing the pup wandering around, hanging outside of restaurants, and waiting by the entrance of her apartment. When it came time for Georgia to go home, the dog even ran after her car to the airport.

Back in England, Georgia couldn't stop thinking about her canine rescuer. So she did the only thing that seemed right--book the next flight back, which was two weeks later. When Georgia returned to the small town of Georgioupoli, she found the pup on the same beach where they'd first met.

Georgia decided to name the dog Pepper and found a vet on the island to do a full check-up and issue a pet passport. Pepper had to spend 21 days in quarantine before entering Britain, where her story took another incredible turn. Pepper was pregnant! Within one week of arriving back at Georgia's home, Pepper gave birth to six puppies.

Both Georgia and Pepper were lucky to find each other. I wish them the best as they start an amazing life together!

Helping the Homeless and their Pets
The summer brings unique challenges to people and pups on the street.

In the summer, I always have to be mindful about walking my pups over hot pavement. It can be easy to forget about their sensitive paw pads when you have the protection of shoes. Fortunately I have many grassy areas to bring my dogs, and can always quickly usher them back into our air conditioned house, but it never occurred to me that this can be an inescapable dilemma for homeless people and their pets.

This summer, Lisa Peterson noticed a homeless man in Glendale, Arizona struggling to carry his dog, Roger. After speaking to him, Lisa found out that the pavement was so hot, the man had resorted to carrying Roger around all day to save his paws. You can imagine how difficult this must be to maintain day in and day out. Arizona has an extremely hot summer!

So Lisa reached out to Helping Hands for Homeless Hounds, who deployed a volunteer to give the man food, water, and a canine stroller to more easily tote Roger around. The organization also plans on sponsoring veterinary care, neuter surgery, vaccinations, a microchip, and a dog license.

Sometimes we can take our ability to retreat from the heat for granted, so this was an important reminder that not everyone is so lucky. And that the summer temperatures can manifest in some unique challenges for homeless people and pets.

If you're interested in supporting the work that Helping Hands for Homeless Hounds is doing, visit their web site.

Grassroots Social Media Effort Reunites Pets
An Indiana Facebook group has had a big impact on lost animals and the local shelter.

When Melody Heintzelman created the Facebook group South Bend Lost and Found Pets, she simply wanted to help reunite people with their pups. But in the last three years, Melody's social media creation has become so much more than what she initially thought was possible. With over 4,500 members, there's always a network of people looking out for wayward animals in the north Indiana city.

Since Melody started the group, South Bend Animal Care and Control manager, Matt Harmon, has seen a decrease not only in the number of animals coming into the shelter, but an increase in return to owner rates and a decrease in euthanasia rates.

On the Facebook page, members post pictures of lost and found dogs, hoping someone else in the network can help. Melody also encourages people that find a stray pet to scan the animal's microchip in order to try and locate their family before automatically turning them into the shelter. On off-hours, like weekends, Melody and other group admins make themselves available on-call to scan microchips with the universal scanner they have.

In order to increase the number of places where lost pets can be scanned, Melody is now raising money to buy microchip scanners to provide to other businesses in the area.

With the impressive statistics the South Bend Animal Care and Control has seen over the last three years, I hope animal lovers in other parts of the country will consider setting up similar Facebook groups. This is a great example of how a small action can make a big difference when we come together through social media.

Dangerous Fur Styling
Viral trend #DogBun is potentially harmful to canine ears.

I've seen people use non-toxic coloring to dye their dogs' tails and paint their pups' nails, however the latest canine styling trend is not only slightly bizarre, but also harmful (albeit unintentionally). The dog bun involves styling fur and ears together on the top of a pup's head, typically using an elastic hair tie. The fur style has been growing in popularity with over 2,000 pictures on Instagram bearing the hashtag #DogBun so far, with more photos are being added each day.

While the style looks cute, Dr. Ann Hohenhaus at New York City's Animal Medical Center says that bands or clips should never be used to pull back dog ears. They could interrupt blood flow and cause serious damage, potentially leading to ear flap amputation. Additionally, I can't imagine that having your ears bunched up is comfortable or conducive to hearing.

People set on styling their pup should stick to ear-less buns, using elastic bands to gather only fur, while those with short haired dogs should skip the bun all together.

Do you style your dog's fur?

Care Packages for Military Dogs
Non-profit sends goodies and supplies to war pups and their handlers.

According to the United States War Dog Association, over 1,000 military working dogs are on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. When these pups are in action, explosive detection rate jumps to as high as 80 percent. General David H. Petraeus once said that military working dogs outperform any other asset in the Army's inventory. These brave and courageous pups are valued members of our country's military.

Recently I found out that you can support these dogs by sending care packages to war canines and their handlers via the United States War Dog Association. This non-profit organization has been sending goodies to military pups all over the world since 2003. There's a full list of needed items on their web site, but here are a few examples of commonly requested items:

  • Canine cooling mats and coats
  • Canine nail clippers, brushes and combs
  • Canine salves for paws/noses
  • Canine toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Kongs and heavy duty chew toys
  • Doggles
  • Collapsible nylon dog water bowls
  • Dog shampoo
  • Dog treats made in the USA

And don't forget the handlers! Some of the suggested items or the humans include chapstick, sun block, chewing gum, and beef jerky.

Quanto's Law
Canada institutes new penalties for killing a police dog or service animal.

Last year a Canadian police dog named Quanto was killed while trying to apprehend a suspect fleeing from police. As a result, Joseph Vukmanich, who stabbed the German Shepherd multiple times, was sentenced to 26 months in prison for animal cruelty, among other charges.

In response to the tragedy, a new federal law called Quanto's Law was created to institute a maximum jail sentence of five years for anyone convicted of intentionally killing a police dog or service animal.

Last week Tim Uppal, the federal minister for multiculturalism, met with Edmonton police officers to officially mark the enactment of the new legislation. They hope the law will send a strong message to anyone that injures an animal in the line of duty. Tim put it succinctly when he said, "They're there to protect us and we should be protecting them."

In the United States we have the Federal Law Enforcement Animal Protection Act, which was introduced in 1999. It states that a conviction of assaulting, maiming, or killing a federal law enforcement animal will result in a fine of at least $1,000 and a maximum of ten years in prison. Since then many states have passed or are considering passing harsher protections. For example, in Georgia, legislation is being considered to make injuring a police canine punishable with ten to twenty years in prison.

What's cool about the Canadian law is that it protects service dogs as well. I hope that other countries and states will take note and expand their laws to include all working pups!

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