Frankenweenie, Howl n’ Boo and help humane society, all at once!

Admit it. Although we’re adults, we LOVE kids’ movies. And as animal lovers, we especially enjoy movies made for kids that feature animals. My personal favorite? My Dog Skip, since I’m a Jack Russell owner. Yes, it leaves me bawling every time, but I adore the movie.

I also am a sucker for the many animated movies featuring dogs, like Up (“Squirrel!”), 101 Dalmatians, the Fox & the Hound, Lady & the Tramp… the list goes on.

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And now, there’s Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie,” an animated/computer generated take on the classic story of Dr. Frankenstein, but with a young boy bringing his faithful companion dog back to life.

Full disclosure: I’m an employee of, which is owned by Disney, the company behind Frankenweenie and a gazillion other great movies. But that’s not why I’m encouraging you to load up the kids and go see this movie.

I’m encouraging you because by taking the family to see Frankenweenie at Celebration! Cinema North on Saturday, Oct. 20, you can help the Humane Society of West Michigan and see a great movie.

HSWM is holding a fundraiser at the theater that day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It includes a private screening of Frankenweenie and access to HSWM’s mini version of “Howl n’ Boo,” featuring carnival games, treats, crafts and more.

The movie starts at 1 p.m., so families should arrive early to enjoy “Howl n’ Boo.”  Tickets are $15 per person or $50 for a family of four. Admission includes the private screening, free pop and popcorn (that alone would cost a family of four more than 50 bucks!) and the “Howl n’ Boo” entrance.

The event is open to people of all ages, since the movie is rated PG. Don’t have kids? Do what I do … borrow some! What friends or relatives wouldn’t jump at the chance to have someone take their kids to a great event?

Whether you bring kids or go solo, enjoy the show and help the animals awaiting adoption at HSWM at the same time.

To reserve your seats and purchase tickets, contact Nicole Cook, HSWM Marketing and Events Coordinator at (616) 791-8089 or


Crash’s Landing, Kent Co. Animal Shelter, Harbor Humane all could use our help

You know what? The world would be a much better place if we all helped each other out just a little more. Sounds pretty simple, but oftentimes opportunities are lost when even one small gesture could make a huge difference.

Taking anywhere from 8 to 30 seconds to vote for a good cause on Facebook, helping an organization or person/pet in need. Signing a petition on or some other cause. Donating when you have a few extra dollars instead of spending it on something frivolous.

Not only do you make someone else feel good, you feel pretty good about being able to help, too.

I bring this up because some events are going on (and coming up) that require action, and because some of our own stepped up to help out others in need.


Crash’s Landing & Big Sid’s Sanctuary is the only pet-related organization to make it to  the top five in Erhardt Construction Building Our Community contest. The top vote-getter for the final round will receive a $45,000 construction project. For those unfamiliar with Crash’s, it’s a cage-free shelter for sick and injured stray cats in Grand Rapids.

Check out the video Crash’s submitted for the contest: Cat Rescue–Crash’s Landing Video for Erhardt Building Our Community Contest

Only one vote per person is allowed in the final round of voting, which started Monday and continues through Aug. 17. You must register to vote, and you’ll be sent a confirmation e-mail after you vote. Note that you must click the link on your confirmation in order for your vote to count!

If Crash’s wins the big prize, it plans to build an on-site medical treatment room for its many cats in need. To register and vote for Crash’s, go to: Check for updates on Crash’s Facebook page.


The Kent County Animal Shelter made it through the qualifying heat of the ASPCA/Rachael Ray $100K Challenge and now must “save” 300 more animals from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31 than it did for those three months in 2011. A “save” is defined as an adoption, stray animal reclaim to its owner or transfer to another organization that results in an adoption.

To meet its goal, KCAS must save at least 843 animals (300 more than during that period last year). If you or your friends or family have been thinking about a new pet, visit KCAS during the Challenge and help them meet their goal.  

KCAS will have a Challenge Kick-Off Party on Saturday, Aug. 4, featuring extended Saturday adoption hours, free pizza, raffle prizes and demonstrations. The BISSELL Pet Foundation is sponsoring the bash, which runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The last adoption counsels that day are at 3 p.m.

Cat adoptions for the event are just $5, and dog adoptions are just $50 plus the cost of a dog license. Pre-approved adoption applications are highly encouraged for this event to help expedite the adoption process on event day. Go the KCAS adoption program page to download the application by clicking Dog Adoption Survey.

Once the Challenge begins, follow the progress on the Kent County Health Department  Facebook page.


Harbor Humane Society recently sent out a plea for financial assistance from the public. The organization experienced a spike in serious medical conditions of many of its animals and launched an emergency medical campaign to raise $75,000 in public donations.

While it isn’t flush with funds, the Humane Society of West Michigan stepped up to help. HSWM will take in two of Harbor Humane’s dogs who are in great need of medical assistance. One dog has a broken front leg and the other is heartworm positive.

 “Animal welfare is not a single organization’s responsibility.  In order to have the most impact we must collaborate and assist one another whenever possible,” Trudy Ender, HSWM Executive Director, said in a press release.  “Our staff at Humane Society of West Michigan are pleased to shelter these two animals and assist Harbor Humane in this difficult time. “

HSWM is caring for more than 275 animals on its own and couldn’t take in more from Harbor Humane, but is doing what it can by taking a couple of the more severe medical cases.

If you’d like to donate to Harbor Humane’s emergency medical campaign, click here.


BISSELL Blocktail Party grants announced: $163,650 shared by recipients

A  whole lot of dogs and cats, and those who care about their well being, are a whole lot happier today. Eleven animal welfare organizations in the Greater Grand Rapids area received word on their BISSELL Blocktail Grant applications, and the dollar amounts they’ll receive are staggering.

Daisy the dachshund was the 2011 “Blockstar” and attended this year’s BISSELL Blocktail Party as well. (Photo/Yvonne Reames)

This year’s BISSELL Blocktail Party, held on June 13 at Mangiamo!, set a record by raising $187,000. More than 800 people attended Blocktail, another record. Proceeds from the event ($163,650 after expenses) benefited the BISSELL Pet Foundation, which then distributed the money to the organizations applying for grants. Included in the event’s expenses were the $1,000 donations made to each of 10 Blocktail “party partners” before the event even took place.

Many of the groups receiving grants couldn’t dream of raising the amount they received from BPF in a single fundraiser. The BISSELL Pet Foundation should be applauded for coming to the aid of these hard-working organizations who are on the front lines fighting pet overpopulation and promoting pet adoption through shelters and rescues.

“The West Michigan community never fails to stand behind a great cause, and this event shows that we believe pets are important, too,” Cathy Bissell, event co-chair and founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, said in a news release announcing the final dollar amounts.  “The community really pulled together to make this our best year yet.  We are overwhelmed with appreciation from the outpouring of support.  Every year, local sponsors and donors help to make this a unique event, and this year was no different.  We’re so thankful for everyone’s generosity.”

The Kent County Animal Shelter received a whopping $41,000 grant, while C-SNIP, which offers low-cost spaying and neutering services, received $30,000.

“It’s exicitng to be recognized by BISSELL as the solution to pet overpopulation,” said Pat Schoen, executive director of C-SNIP.  “They’re the first local corporation that has really stepped up to the challenge and has recognized those organizations that are addressing pet overpopulation and adoptions.”

Schoen said $15,000 of C-SNIP’s grant will go toward her organization’s BISSELL Big Paws Fund, which will help offset the cost of spay/neuter surgery for dogs 60 pounds or more. Another $10,000 will go to the community spay/neuter assistance fund for smaller dogs and cats, and the remaining $5,000 will assist rescue organizations who bring dogs and cats to C-SNIP for spay/neuter services.

Schoen said now that C-SNIP has some funding, the challenge is to get people through their doors.

“Today, we had seven no-shows with dogs and 10 no-shows with cats,” she said Monday. “That’s 17 people who had appointments today that didn’t show up. We run on a 12 percent no-show rate. We have the money, now it’s a matter of getting clients in.”

Here’s the breakdown of all 11 BISSELL Blocktail grant recipients and the amount they received, according to BISSELL’s news release:

Kent County Animal Shelter received $41,000 to support their adoption efforts through the upcoming ASPCA and Rachel Ray $100K Challenge that takes place from August to October.  In addition, the grant money will be used to help with spay/neuter costs for stray pets that are being reclaimed by their owners.

Community Spay Neuter Initiative Partnership (C-SNIP) received $30,000 to fund programs aimed at subsidizing sterilization surgeries for low-income families and local rescue groups.

Vicky’s Pet Connection was awarded $27,000 to initiate a community microchip and ID tag program and help support programs that provide care and treatment to “at-risk” animals that are rescued from local shelters.

Humane Society of West Michigan received $21,600 to fund monthly adoption promotions, including subsidies to support low-cost adoption of senior pets, and to support their live-saving efforts with animal transfer and microchipping.

Carol’s Ferals was granted $12,000 to support their TNR (trap-neuter-return) program for feral cat populations and to provide appropriate equipment needed to care for their adoptable cats.

Crash’s Landing and Big Sid’s Sanctuary received $10,000 to support their Humane Education and Adoption Programs and to provide food and supplies for cats in their care.

Mackenzie’s Foundation received $10,000 to purchase needed equipment for a planned on-site veterinary clinic.

Safe Haven Humane Society was awarded $5,000 to create a dog training program for their adopters and to support a free spay/neuter program for female cats and their litters.

Reuben’s Room Cat Rescue received $4,000 to provide care and treatment for cats in their care, with funds targeted to supporting the special needs of senior cats.

Bellwether Harbor was given $2,050 in needed funding to help advance their microchipping program.

MidAmerica Border Collie Rescue received $1,000 to purchase a requested microchip kit and additional microchips for adoptable pets in their care.

Congratulations to all the organizations and a big thank you for all they do for animals.


First-round voting ends this week in Erhardt’s ‘Building Our Community’ contest

I have received a few emails and noticed several Facebook posts asking for my vote in the “Building Our Community” contest. Erhardt Construction is celebrating its 50th Anniversary by joining project partners to give away a construction project and prizes totaling $50,000 to West Michigan non-profit organizations.

Among the 60 non-profits who sought votes in the contest, which began June 18, are four organizations whose mission is to reduce pet overpopulation and promote adoption from shelters and rescues: C-SNIP, Crash’s Landing, Harbor Humane Society and the Humane Society of West Michigan.

Until now, vote totals could be viewed by the public. This week, however, voters will not be able to see which organization is among the leaders. It is the final week of voting, so if you haven’t already, I encourage you to register and vote for your non-profit organization. You may vote once per day.

Press Unleashed has not weighed in on the contest to ask support for any particular organization for good reason. With so many dedicated hard-working non-profits in our community, I can’t possibly single one out.

I think all of those entered, whether related to pets or not, are deserving of the grand prize, $45,000 toward a construction or renovation project. I know all of them struggle to raise that kind of funding, and I know all would put the prize to good use.

The first round of voting ends Friday. On Monday, July 16, the top five vote-getters will be announced. Voting among those top five begins July 23 and continues until Aug. 17. The grand prize winner of the $45,000 toward the construction will be announced Aug. 23.

The other four finalists will receive cash donations: $2,000 for the first runner-up, $1,500 for second runner-up and $1,000 each for the final two finalists.

It’s not too late to vote for your favorite non-profit. And once the top five is announced, it’s my hope you will continue voting, whether your favorite organization is among them or not.

Here’s more information on the animal-related entries, and how they would benefit from the money toward a construction project (be sure to check out more detailed information, including photos and videos, on the Erhardt’s voting page):

C-SNIP (Community Spay/Neuter Initiative Partnership)

C-SNIP, a non-profit spay/neuter clinic, has performed over 88,000 surgeries since its opening providing high quality, low cost spays and neuters for pet owners in the community not able afford to have their pets altered through a private veterinarian. C-SNIP and its rescue partners provide transportation services for clients unable to bring their pets to the clinic for surgery. A GARAGE to provide an enclosed area for the safety of the transported cats and dogs and a safe place for staff to clean as well as a protected area for the vehicles is a real necessity. Presently, the dogs and cats are unloaded at our back door regardless of weather conditions (rain, snow, sleet, extreme heat). Not only does this create a hazard it also presents a safety issue as transported animals could escape from their leashes or carriers during drop-off and loading. Also, staff has to wash, clean, and sterilize crates and carriers every day. The only area available is outside and this is a major hardship especially in the winter and rainy seasons.

 Crash’s Landing

Our greatest need is an addition for a medical treatment room. 85% of the cats we take in are sick or injured. Our founder, veterinarian Dr. Jen Petrovich nurses the cats back to health and then we find them fur-ever homes. An on-site treatment room will allow us to provide top-notch medical care in a hospital-like setting. It will prevent the spread of infection, reduce stress on the cats and decrease medical costs as we serve the community by reducing the numbers of homeless pets in our area.

Harbor Humane Society

 A leaky roof. Structural damage. Pets confined to small spaces. These are all problems facing Harbor Humane Society. But, if fixed, they would allow us to provide more secure and ample housing for the animals in our care, more appropriate quarantine, surgical and recovery areas, and more healthy and adoptable animals to the public at a faster pace. Vote to help us help the animals and build our community together.

Humane Society of West Michigan

Humane Society of West Michigan seeks to improve our cat viewing sanctuary to increase adoptions by creating an environment for our cats that allow them to be happier & healthier. Kittens & cats should have sufficient room to stretch their full body length; a safe hiding place when stressed; freedom from dog view & noise; space to jump, climb & run; resting surfaces; & space for playing with toys. Happy cats provide adopters with social support, stress relief & health benefits.


Freaked over fireworks? Here’s a natural alternative to keep your canine calm

We’ve all seen the posts from our Facebook friends:

“Fido is shaking and panting! He hates thunderstorms!”

“Boo Boo won’t come out from under the bed. She hates thunderstorms!”

“Our neighbors lit off fireworks. Our Lab, Murphy, went berserk and tore up our couch!”

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Many friends swear by Thundershirt, which uses gentle, constant pressure to calm your dog. Others say it doesn’t have much effect on their dog.

I discovered an alternative while surfing online, just in time to order some for the July 4 fireworks (Stuart, our Jack Russell, is quite anxious when it comes to fireworks and thunderstorms).

The product is called Canine Calm, and it’s a spray mist made of all natural ingredients, including pure essential oils such as lavender, tangerine and geranium.

The maker of Canine Calm, Earth Heart, is running a “buy one get one free” special right now. Those ordering via by July 1 can type ShareTheCalm into the promotion code area and get a second bottle free. The idea is to give the second bottle to  a friend with a fireworks-phobic dog. (I know a few).

Vicki Rae Thorne, Earth Heart founder, assured me those ordering by July 1 will receive it in time for the fireworks. I ordered Monday and it was shipped out the same day. I plan to give it a try with Stuart since we’re expecting thunderstorms later this week.

Thorne, based in Dundee, Ill., recommends misting your fingertips with Canine Calm and then applying it to your dog’s ear tips. One or both ear tips is fine, she said.

“There are a lot of blood vessels in the ears, and applying the mist there allows you to get it into the bloodstream quickly,” Thorne said in a phone interview. “It also keeps you from overwhelming their sense of smell. It’s a very diluted solution so as not to overwhelm a dog and it can be applied as often as needed to any size dog.”

It also can be sprayed into your car or dog crate for traveling, even if you’re only headed to the vet or the groomer’s. Thorne told me her product has a 90 percent-plus success rate. She said the reason it may not appear to work on some dogs is simply because the owner isn’t using enough, or isn’t using it often enough.

“Sometimes a little dog might need just one spray, or it might need four,” she said. “Sometimes, a big dog might need one spray, or it might need six or eight. It depends on the individual dog — the size, the age, the health, the level of anxiety.”

Thorne also recommends spraying a bit of the mist on yourself (it won’t stain or leave a residue) and being around your dog during a normal, calm period when first trying it.

“Spritz your shirt or your hand and hang out with your dog,” Thorne said. “You can then see how your dog responds to the scent. If your dog starts to relax even more in a calm non-stressful situation, you’ll have an indication of how long it takes to take effect. You’ll also bond the dog with the scent. It will be a comforting scent to them when you go to use it again.”

She said it typically takes 10 to 20 minutes for Canine Calm to have an effect. Try using it  the moment your dog starts behaving anxiously because of an impending thunderstorm, Thorne said.

“Your dog’s behavior changes when there’s a thunderstorm coming,” she said. “They might pant, pace, whimper or hide. You can apply it right at that moment, and they’ll quiet down before the storm hits.”

Because it’s made of essential oils, Canine Calm is safe for you and your dog.

“I started my company working in aroma therapy in 1992,” she said. “At the time, I had a 5-year-old and I was pregnant with my second child. I started working with pure essential oils, which are very concentrated, and I needed to be sure they were safe, with me being pregnant and with a 5-year-old.  Our main goal since the beginning is that everything has to be family friendly.”

Canine Calm may not be for everyone wearing fur, Thorne said.

“It can be used in limited capacity with cats,” she said. “A cat’s skin is different from a dog’s. It’s physiology is different. It is OK for occasional use with extremely diluted products. If a cat freaks out when you’re trying to put it in a cage to take to the vet once or twice a year, spraying Canine Calm on a blanket in the cat carrier will help reduce stress. One spritz is going to help a cat a lot more than stressing it out. I don’t recommend it for cats on a daily basis, but it doesn’t hurt them to be around it or to use it with them a couple times a year.”

Thorne said she has had customers who told her Canine Calm did nothing to ease their dog’s anxiety.

“Some people use it in combination with a Thundershirt or herbal remedy,” Thorne said. “Some say it didn’t work at all. At $11.98 a bottle, that’s about two cents per spray, so it can be one of the least expensive things you do for your dog. If it works for you, it’s a very low investment.”

Canine Calm is in about 200 retail stores now, although none in Michigan at the moment. Thorne didn’t even take it to the retail market until a few years ago, and said it’s “flying off the shelves” in the Chicago area.

“I have been working with aromatherapy, massage oils and body care products since 1992,” Thorne said. “About 12 years ago, a kennel owner took a class from me and asked if I could help in calming down her dogs. That’s when Canine Calm was born, to use in her kennels. After about two years she came in and said her customers wanted to take it home with them, that they loved how calm their dogs were when they picked them up from the kennel.

“So, we came up with the mist, and it started selling locally and was spreading by word of mouth. It got picked up by a distributor and I bought my first ad about 2 1/2 years ago. It has started to take off.”

Harbor Humane Society names Culp as director of development

Sue Ann Culp has found a job that’s closer to home, in more ways than one.

Sue Ann Culp, with her adopted 7-year-old collie Percy, is the new director of development for Harbor Humane Society. (Courtesy photo)

The former chief executive officer of the Humane Society of West Michigan has been appointed as director of development at Harbor Humane Society in Holland. Culp lives in Zeeland, practically next door to Holland.

The new position also puts her a little closer to her roots in that she has spent the majority of her career in fund development and non-profit management. She previously has worked for the National Child Safety Council, March of Dimes and Disability Network. She also was the executive director of Holland Hospital’s Foundation for four years.

Harbor Humane’s news release announcing Culp’s appointment said her development strategies have been included in national publications such as Successful Fund Raising and Non Profit Communications.

“Sue Ann’s accomplishments over the past twenty years serving in leadership roles in several non-profit organizations, including her work in animal welfare, made her a top candidate for the Director of Development,” said Gregory Dziewit, Board President of Harbor Humane Society, said in the news release.

Culp said in the release her desire to help Harbor Humane expand its support network, as well as her love for animals, were vital to her decision to take the position.

“Even as a child, my pets were rescued animals from local shelters or rescue organizations,” said Culp, who with her husband, Michael, has a 7-year-old collie that was adopted in January. “My husband and I continued that practice. We are committed to giving these animals a second chance at life and love and believe that pet ownership was instrumental in instilling compassion and accountability in our children.

“Animal welfare has long been a passion of mine and I am thrilled to be able to use my skills to serve hurting animals here in my own community. I was especially impressed by Harbor Humane’s ability to serve to so many animals with so little resources. They are in dire need of support which ultimately resulted in my decision to join their organization.”

Culp graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, majoring in piano and voice performance with minor in English. She also has a bachelor’s degree in English/creative writing with minor in theater from Empire State University of New York.