A heart-wrenching, but right, decision: Dogs Unleashed magazine bids farewell


I am not Superwoman.

That realization came to me in the past couple of months. And with the realization came disappointment and frustration.

I thought I could do it all … manage a career, help manage a household and our three dogs, and manage my passion, Dogs Unleashed magazine.

Instead, I managed to wear myself down. But I had help. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the past year and will continue treatment well into 2016. While my prognosis is positive and I have made it through the most grueling of my treatments, chemotherapy and radiation, I am tired. I need to get healthy, and I need to reclaim my life.

Because of this, I have decided to indefinitely suspend publication of Dogs Unleashed, effective immediately. I couldn’t have picked a better issue on which to end – our current November/December issue features an incredibly worthwhile cause, Paws with a Cause.

Dogs Unleashed debuted in September, 2012 with a stunning photo of Seth Casteel's "Underwater Dogs."

Dogs Unleashed debuted in September, 2012 with a stunning photo of Seth Casteel’s “Underwater Dogs.”

In its 3½ years of existence, Dogs Unleashed covered many topics, from service dogs to senior dogs to lost dogs to mutts. We explained the danger and deceit that comes with puppy mills. We encouraged adoption, and I’d like to think we helped get a few dogs out of shelters and into loving homes.

I am incredibly proud of Dogs Unleashed and the many people and businesses who contributed to its success. We managed to survive in a time when print media is fading from the landscape and accomplished our goals of entertaining, educating and informing people about dogs and those who love them. There were many people behind the magazine whom I cannot thank enough.

Jennifer Waters of Grumpy Pups Pet Photography worked tirelessly to bring the best images to readers of Dogs Unleashed. She even wrote a few stories along the way. Her pieces on the stray dogs running the streets of Detroit and her most recent effort, on Paws with a Cause puppies, are exceptional. I can’t thank her enough for her contribution to the magazine as my right hand (paw?).

Kevin Kyser of Kyser Design Werks, whose career also included many years in the newspaper industry, was responsible for the design of Dogs Unleashed.  He created a format that presented material to readers in a way that was visually appealing and made sense.

Our final issue, available now, features Paws With A Cause puppies and dogs.

Our final issue, available now, features Paws With A Cause puppies and dogs.

So many veteran writers, most of whom I knew from our days as newspaper journalists before they lost their jobs in downsizing, worked for low pay to bring stories to Dogs Unleashed readers. They, like me, did it out of passion. Susan Harrison-Wolffis, whom I met as a kid starting out at The Muskegon Chronicle, approached The Tail End column and various other stories with the same professionalism she embodied during her decades of work at The Chronicle. And she’s a cat person.

Linda Odette, Tricia Woolfenden-Boot (another cat person), Paul Kopenkoskey, Dave LeMieux and countless other journalists contributed. So did non-journalists involved in the pet industry, who wrote columns in their areas of expertise.

Brad Uhl, with whom I worked at the Grand Rapids Press, helped get Dogs Unleashed off the ground before “retiring” because of his own health problems after the first issue. Kim Wood, one of the most enthusiastic women I know, came on board late as our advertising representative and helped keep Dogs Unleashed afloat for the past several issues.

Dogs Unleashed would not have existed without the many advertisers and businesses who supported it. I will be forever grateful to BISSELL Inc. and the Bissell Pet Foundation, whose full-page advertisement appeared on our back page from the start.  Their presence brought prominence and success to our magazine, and awareness of the importance of pet adoption to readers.

Many advertisers supported Dogs Unleashed through our entire 20-issue run. They saw a viable product that helped grow their business and was popular with readers.

We collaborated briefly with a couple of business partners, namely Pet Supplies Plus and Revue Holding Co., to help keep the magazine alive. When those partnerships fizzled, many of the responsibilities of producing a quality magazine, from production to distribution to advertising to billing and more, fell to me.

I happily accepted the challenge, knowing I had the support of photographers, designers, writers and advertisers behind Dogs Unleashed.  We managed to continue on for another year. But breast cancer brought me back to reality.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading the magazine as much as we have enjoyed producing it.

Mary Ullmer is an associate editor with espnw.com with more than 30 years experience in journalism. Since 2012, she has produced Dogs Unleashed magazine (now suspended indefinitely) and will continue to write occasional pet-related blog posts.



Thanks to BISSELL Blocktail Party grant, WM Spay & Neuter Clinic reaches 7,000 surgeries

Congratulations to the West Michigan Spay & Neuter Clinic on performing its 7,000th spay/neuter last week! The clinic, located in Fruitport, opened its doors in October, 2010.

Jessie, a kitten found in a dumpster, became West Michigan Spay & Neuter Clinic's 7,000th patient thanks to a grant from the BISSELL Pet Foundation.

Jessie, a kitten found in a dumpster, became West Michigan Spay & Neuter Clinic’s 7,000th patient thanks to a grant from the BISSELL Pet Foundation.

The lucky No. 7,000 was a kitten named Jessie. Anne Munford, director of WMSNC, said Jessie and a littermate were found in a dumpster. The family that adopted Jessie brought her in to be spayed.

Munford was pleased to announce that Jessie’s surgery was only $25, thanks to a grant from the BISSELL Pet Foundation. BPF recently awarded its grants from the proceeds of its wildly popular BISSELL Blocktail Party, held each June.

The West Michigan Spay & Neuter Clinic received a $12,000 grant from BPF, allowing the clinic to continue offering affordable spay and neuter services.

BPF awarded grants to 16 West Michigan organizations to help fund programs that align with its four focus areas of adoption, spay/neuter, microchipping and foster care. This year’s Blocktail Party set a record with nearly $250,000 raised and 800 guests, many of whom brought along their dogs. Pet Supplies Plus, which publishes our Dogs Unleashed magazine, was proud to join forces with BPF as a sponsor for this year’s Blocktail Party.

“The BISSELL Pet Foundation exists to provide support to shelters and rescues so that they can ultimately find a loving family for the millions of homeless pets in our country,” Cathy Bissell, Founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, said in a press release. “We are very proud to support these 16 local organizations with funds from this year‟s party and have been thrilled to see how collaboration between many of these groups is changing the face of animal welfare in our community. I am so thankful that through the BISSELL Blocktail Party our community can show their support for these progressive and compassionate groups. Together, we are working to save lives!”

A breakdown of the BISSELL Blocktail Party grants awarded this year:

Congratulations to all the recipients who work incredibly hard to prevent pet overpopulation and to find homes for all the pets in our already overcrowded shelters and rescues.

Here’s hoping next year’s Blocktail Party, the ninth annual, sets yet another record in its fund-raising efforts to help these wonderful organizations.



Stifling heat dangerous to our pets … know the warning signs

Baby, it’s hot out there! The Dog Days of Summer arrived a bit earlier than usual (that term is usually reserved for August), and much of the nation is sweltering these days.

I’m fortunate to work from home, where I can put our dogs in the air-conditioned house. Yes, they want to be outside, but it takes only a few minutes for them to realize perhaps indoors is the place for them. When they are out, we find the shady spots near our home and I make sure to fill up their kiddie pool with fresh cold water. So far, they’re surviving.

There also are products available, such as cooling pads and beds that sit up off the floor, to help keep our furry friends stay cool.

My friends at The Uncommon Dog sent along a cool infographic on recognizing heat stroke in our dogs. It’s especially important to keep our dogs cool in this 90-plus degree heat, with heat indexes hitting 100 in many parts of the country. Be sure to take a look, and take action if your dog is suffering from heat stroke (do not put your dog in an ice bath … use a cool damp towel to cool them instead!).

Thanks, Uncommon Dog, for the info, and stay cool!

PrintMary Ullmer is editor of Dogs Unleashed, a lifestyle magazine for dog lovers. Contact her at info@dogsunleashedmag.com. To subscribe to Dogs Unleashed, visit dogsunleashedmag.com, and be sure to “like” Dogs Unleashed Magazine on Facebook.


Muskegon-based company acquires six area Pet Supplies Plus stores

A West Michigan group announced Tuesday it has purchased five Pet Supplies Plus stores in Grand Rapids and one in Holland.

U.S. Retail, Inc., an ownership group led by West Michigan businessmen Steve Adams, Chad Bush and Aaron Young, finalized the deal Monday night, according to a news release. U.S. Retail is based in Muskegon.

The Grand Rapids-area Pet Supplies Plus stores purchased by the group are located at 3593 Alpine NW, 6159 Kalamazoo SE, 3110 28th SE, 2033 28th SW (Wyoming) and 4920 Wilson SW (Grandville). In addition, the Holland store at 12579 Felch Road now is owned by Adams’ company.

“We are excited to add to our company the West Michigan Pet Supplies Plus stores,” Adams, CEO of U.S. Retail, said in the news release. “We believe that we will be able to successfully grow these stores as we invest in expertise and customer engagement training that has defined our culture in our other stores around the country.”

U.S. Retail now operates 20 Pet Supplies Plus stores nationwide and plans to open two new stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area next year, the release said. The group began operations with its Pet Supplies Plus store in Appleton, Wis., in 1996.

The latest acquisition makes U.S. Retail the largest franchisee in the Livonia-based Pet Supplies Plus company, with approximately 400 employees. Pet Supplies Plus has 260 stores across the U.S.

Dogfighting bill passes, but other legislation doesn’t sit well with animal advocates

It was one big step forward and two steps back for the Michigan legislature the past two days, at least as far as animal advocates are concerned.

On Tuesday, the state House of Representatives passed a package of bills that would make Michigan the national leader when it comes to punishment for animal fighting. Senate Bills 356 and 358, which originated in the Senate, now to go Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. A third bill aimed at cracking down on animal fighting with stricter penalties, HB 5789, which essentially is a version of an earlier senate bill regarding animal fighting, now goes to the Senate and is expected to pass.

I wrote about the background and details of the animal fighting bills back in February, when they were scheduled for a vote in the House. Essentially, the bills will make the punishment for animal (dog) fighting in Michigan the most severe in the country, since it would view animal fighting as organized crime.

The bills would allow for seizure of property and other assets purchased with profits from animal fighting, define property used to house animal fighting as a public nuisance and would include animal fighting in the state’s racketeering laws.

“We are one step closer to the enactment of additional legislation that will be critical in further curtailing the barbaric and heinous practice of animal fighting” Cal Morgan, president and CEO of the Michigan Humane Society, said in a news release. “Our cruelty investigators and local law enforcement are fighting this battle everyday on behalf of the animals and they need more tools to bring these offenders to justice.”

While the Humane Society of the United States and the Michigan Humane Society applauded Tuesday’s vote, legislation passed on Wednesday by the House Agriculture Committee regarding the Large Carnivore Act was disheartening.

One bill allows for more exemptions to the Large Carnivore Act, passed in 2000. The law states that people in Michigan cannot have large carnivores, such as bears or big cats, in their personal possession.

Exempt from the law are zoos accredited through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), USDA Class C licensed exhibitors and other entities such as an animal control shelter or a veterinarian with temporary custody of a large carnivore.

Now, however, a group of private exotic animal owners has gotten accreditation from the Zoological Association of America (ZAA) and is working state-by-state to get exemptions for ZAA accredited owners.

“The ZAA has much lower standards for accreditation (than the AZA),” said Jill Fritz, the Michigan state director of HSUS. “They are getting exemptions state by state, getting them to add exemptions for ZAA members to the Large Carnivore Act.”

Fritz offered testimony to the House Agricultural Committee opposing SB 210:

The ZAA supports the private ownership of exotic pets and the commercialization of wildlife, which is contrary to the purpose of the Large Carnivore Act. A number of ZAA-accredited facilities are nothing more than privately run menageries that breed and sell exotic animals, furthering the pet trade and contributing to the problem of unqualified individuals possessing dangerous wild animals. By contrast, in recognition of the negative conservation and welfare impacts of certain private uses of wildlife, the AZA recognizes that wild animals do not make good pets.

Despite the arguments of HSUS and Detroit Zoo, SB 210 passed through the senate on October 11 of last year. Just one week later, a Zanesville, Ohio exotic animal owner released his animals from the pens on his property before killing himself, resulting in most of the animals being killed by law enforcement for public safety. Although the memory of that carnage is still fresh even a year later, SB 210 was passed by the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday and now goes to a full vote before the House, where it is expected to pass.

Another bill easing restrictions on the Large Carnivore Act also made it through the House Agriculture committee on Wednesday and is on its way to the full House.

Senate Bill 1236 would allow the public handling of bear cubs up to approximately nine months of age. Michigan’s Large Carnivore Act currently prohibits direct public contact with big cats and bears in facilities approved to have them.

A HSUS report cites “disastrous outcomes” of human interaction with captive bears and also summarizes problems with Michigan facilities’ history of animal welfare and safety issues. SB 1236, the report says, “would permit these sub-standard facilities to endanger the public by allowing direct contact with bears up to about nine months of age.”

“More and more states are cracking down on private possession of dangerous wild animals, and Michigan should not take a step backwards just so someone can have a picture of himself with a bear cub,” Fritz said in a HSUS release. “Young bears have sharp teeth, powerful jaws, and non-retractable claws that can inflict serious injury. Lawmakers should be strengthening our laws that deal with public safety and the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals as pets, not punching holes in them.”

To read the HSUS alert and get more information regarding the treatment of bears in Michigan facilities, click here.


Now’s the purrfect time for your pet’s photo with Santa

I love getting Christmas cards from friends that include photos of the family, especially if the family members have four legs and wear fur.

Now’s the time to get your pet’s photo taken with Santa in time to send out your holiday cards. A few West Michigan events are being held and will benefit local animal welfare organizations.

If you’re planning to use your family pets as models for your Christmas cards this year, the time is now to get those photos taken. West Michigan businesses are hosting pet photos with Santa events in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, the Future Voices Kids Club is putting on a pet photos with Santa event at Must Love Dogs Boutique & Spa at 211 Washington in downtown Grand Haven. Future Voices Kids Club was started by Jodi Jarvis-Therrian (of Memory Stones by Jodi) and meets monthly in Muskegon.

The club educates kids on all things pets, including animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, brings in guest speakers and also conducts fund-raisers to help pets in West Michigan.

Wednesday’s photos with “the real” Santa takes place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Photos are just $5 for a picture to be emailed or $10 for an emailed photo and a 5×7 to be delivered to Must Love Dogs for pickup. If you bring a bag of pet food to donate, emailed photos are free, and an emailed photo and 5×7 will cost just $5. Jarvis-Therrian promises photos will arrive in plenty of time to use for Christmas cards.

Proceeds for the event benefit Pay It Forward Outreach‘s low-income pet clinic, Black Cat low income pet food pantry and Best Pal Animal rescue center.

Both dogs and cats are welcome to the event. Cats should be in carriers and brought to Must Love Dogs’ back door to avoid the stress of hanging out with the dogs!

If you can’t make Wednesday’s photo opportunity in Grand Haven, Shampoochie Pet Grooming and Boutique in Kentwood (4445-B Breton Road SE) is hosting pet photos with Santa on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

There is no cost for Saturday’s event, but donations are appreciated and will benefit Crash’s Landing and Big Sid’s Sanctuary. Aside from monetary donations, people may donate supplies in need, including: paper towels, 9 Lives or Friskies canned food, Temptations treats, baby wipes, tall kitchen garbage bags, laundry soap and bleach.

Crash’s Landing and Big Sid’s Sanctuary also has pet photos with Santa events scheduled at a couple Pet Supplies Plus locations on Dec. 8 (at 4920 Wilson Ave. store) and 3110 28th Street (near Woodland Mall) on Dec. 9 from noon to 3 p.m. A $5 donation is suggested for each of those.

So get your dog or cat (or maybe even your iguana) spruced up in their reindeer antlers and send your family and friends a holiday card sure to make them howl with laughter. In the process, you’ll be supporting local animal welfare organizations.


BISSELL turns your love of pets and Pinterest into donations for shelter animals

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and leave it to the BISSELL Pet Foundation to find a way to give to shelter pets in the United States.

BISSELL Homecare Inc. announced this week it has launched an online fundraising campaign through BPF to raise $50,000 for shelter animals in need.

The campaign is called “Pinning for Pets” and will run through Nov. 30. It combines people’s love of Pinterest with raising funds. If you’re already using Pinterest, it’s pretty simple to contribute: Create a virtual pinboard showing support for homeless pets and submit it through BISSELL’s Facebook page.

I had not participated/signed up for Pinterest, but I have many friends who love it. And when I saw I could help shelter animals through this campaign by BISSELL, well, I signed up! I haven’t yet created my pinboard (I’m just learning about this, after all), but you bet I’ll be participating.

For every pinboard posted, BISSELL Homecare Inc. will contribute to BPF, which will then donate $10 to the Petfinder Foundation. Grants to Petfinder Foundation will go to Rescue U, the group that rehabilitates animal shelters around the country.

Rescue U spent a week at Humane Society of West Michigan this summer to help spiff up the place.  Aside from cosmetic and some structural improvements, Rescue U created a play/training area for dogs and installed turf in the outdoor dog runs, replacing the crushed stone pebbles that often became too hot and painful for dogs’ feet in the summer.

“As longtime advocates for pet adoption, we know animal shelters and rescue groups play a vital role in creating a second chance for homeless pets, and they often have extremely limited resources to provide the necessary care needed until these pets are adopted,” Cathy Bissell, founder of BPF and director of corporate affairs for BISSELL, said in a press release announcing the campaign.

“By simply creating a Pinning for Pets board, everyone has the opportunity to support shelters and better the welfare of homeless animals. However, the goal of this program is not just to raise funds — it’s also to raise awareness about the vast number of adoptable pets living in shelters across the country. Ultimately, we want to see more homeless pets welcomed into their forever homes, but we believe they deserve a comfortable place until that home finds them.”

BISSELL also is giving back through the purchase of its products. For every new BISSELL pet product purchased and activated online at bissell.com/savepets, BISSELL will donate $1, $5 or $10 to the BISSELL Pet Foundation. And pet product purchases on bissell.com  through the end of the year will net between $2 and $20 — double its normal donation — for the BISSELL Pet Foundation.

For information on the complete line of BISSELL pet products, cleaning tips and more, visit the online Pet Lovers Community at bissell.com/pets. If you want more information about the BISSELL Pet Foundation, check out their site at bissellpetfoundation.org.

Those who participate in the Pinning for Pets event will be entered into weekly prize drawings for a chance to win various pet clean-up products, as well as a $250 donation to their local Petfinder.com shelter. Visit pinningforpets.com to join the campaign!

Check out Great Pyrenees/alpaca outtakes from Dogs Unleashed photo shoot

Alpacas from Irish Rose Alpaca Farm in Ada, featured in the November/December issue of Dogs Unleashed. (Photo by Jennifer Waters/Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

If you’ve managed to get your paws on a copy of the latest edition of Dogs Unleashed magazine (we’re out distributing daily if we haven’t hit your area yet!), you no doubt were impressed by our “Working Like a Dog” feature about the 10 Great Pyrenees who are guardians of an alpaca herd in Ada.

The story was written by LeAnn Secord and the stunning photos come courtesy of Jennifer Waters, owner of Grumpy Pups Pet Photography. Jennifer, who recently added to her family of grumpy pups by adopting a boxer from Harbor Humane Society (giving her three boxers), has posted “outtakes” from the photo shoot at Irish Rose Alpaca Farm.

Be sure to check out the additional photos on Jennifer’s blog via her Grumpy Pups website. I’m especially fond of the one featuring the alpha dog of the house, the Jack Russell terrier named Tucker (sorry, my JRT bias is showing again!).

A big thanks to Lori Anderson and John Byrne, owners of Irish Rose Alpaca Farm, for opening up their home and sharing their wonderful story with Dogs Unleashed.



Woo hoo! Howl-iday issue of Dogs Unleashed now available!

Sure, it’s going to be 80 degrees in Michigan today, but it’s not too early to think about the holidays! And hot off the press is our latest edition of Dogs Unleashed!

Here’s the cover of the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine! The photo and design for the cover were done by our awesome art director, Tom Dodson.

We’re billing it the howl-iday issue since this bi-monthly publication covers November and December, just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. For those who don’t live in West Michigan and can’t pick it up at the more than 300 locations in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties, feel free to “thumb” through it via our electronic version! Be sure to click on the ads to go directly to advertisers’ websites!

West Michigan residents can pick up Dogs Unleashed (have we mentioned it’s FREE?) at several locations, including grocery stores, pet supply stores, veterinarian offices, coffee shops, pet boutiques, gas stations and more! We’re just getting started with distribution, so be patient as we get them out to the public.

We hope you enjoyed the first issue of Dogs Unleashed, featuring Underwater Dogs photographer Seth Casteel. You may have noticed he has been all over television of late, with feature stories on The Insider, Inside Edition and Good Morning America. Somehow, we at Dogs Unleashed knew he would make it big-time and feel fortunate to have scored an interview with him beforehand!

Casteel is busy promoting his Underwater Dogs book (also featured in the first issue of Dogs Unleashed) and is hoping to make it to the top of the New York Times best seller list. Be sure to check it out at his website, Little Friends Photo. At less than $12, it makes a great Christmas gift.

We’d love to hear your feedback about Dogs Unleashed. Check out the “howl-iday” issue and let us know your thoughts!

‘Underwater Dogs’ a bargain and a must-have book for dog lovers

Our hardcover copy of “Underwater Dogs” arrived Thursday, and even our corgi, Truman, enjoyed the fantastic photos.

If you enjoyed the small sampling of photos in the first issue of our free bi-monthly magazine, Dogs Unleashed, you’ll really dig the hardcover book “Underwater Dogs” by photographer Seth Casteel.

I had pre-ordered mine a couple of months ago, and it arrived yesterday. I’m here to tell you, it is fantastic. And for only $11.62, you’d be wise to order a few as Christmas gifts for your dog-loving friends and family.

The book is page after page — 132 pages! — of spectacular photos of dogs diving under water and even lists the name, breed and age of each dog in the photo. Many of the photos are new to those of us who have viewed Casteel’s work on his Little Friends Photo website. At the end of the book are “mug shots” of each dog as they appear on land.

Congratulations to Casteel on a fabulous book that belongs on every dog lover’s coffee table!

To order your copy, or purchase an “Underwater Dogs” calendar, head to Little Friends Photo site.