New west Michigan animal welfare alliance debuts Saturday at Grand Rapids event

A terrific event is happening on Saturday that will benefit animals in need all over west Michigan.

Thanks to a collaborative group of animal welfare advocates, shelter animals in west Michigan will have a better chance at finding a loving home.

Thanks to a collaborative group of animal welfare advocates, shelter animals in west Michigan will have a better chance at finding a loving home.

The Subaru of America “Share the Love” event takes place at Delta Subaru, 6025 28th Street in Grand Rapids, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Subaru of America has joined with several charities, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to donate $250 from the purchase or lease of every new Subaru. The buyer can designate which of the participating charities, including ASPCA, gets the donation.

But Saturday’s event is about more than just getting a slick new Subaru. It also marks the “coming out party,” if you will, of the West Michigan Network of Animal Protection. The WMNAP is a collaboration of six area animal welfare organizations working to increase pet adoptions and put an end to pet overpopulation and euthanasia through education, advocacy and spaying/neutering of animals. The six organizations forming WMNAP currently represent care for 95 percent of west Michigan’s homeless pet population.

Many in west Michigan already are familiar with the organizations that make up WMNAP: Kent County Animal Shelter, Humane Society of West Michigan, Community Spay and Neuter Initiative Partnership (C-SNIP), Vicky’s Pet Connection, Carol’s Ferals and Reuben’s Room Cat Rescue. The groups began meeting in late 2011 and WMNAP has been busy planning throughout 2013. It was awarded a $5,000 capacity building grant from the Dyer-Ives Foundation in May.

As part of Saturday’s festivities, WMNAP and Delta Subaru have created an off-site adoption event at the Grand Rapids dealership. If you’ve been thinking of getting a new dog or cat for the holidays, come by and meet some of the shelter animals available.  There also will be free pet ID tagging, dog licensing and appointments for low-cost spay and neuter.

Attendees also can help “Stuff the Subaru Outback” with donated pet food and supplies for homeless pets under the care of WMNAP partners.

The logo for the new group dedicated to helping animals in west Michigan.

The logo for the new group dedicated to helping animals in west Michigan.

If you’ve had interaction with any of the organizations involved in WMNAP, you no doubt are aware of the struggles they face every day. By joining forces, the groups can brainstorm new ideas, share resources and simply help one another out. West Michigan is fortunate to have such a dynamic and dedicated group working on behalf of the homeless animals in our area.

“Nearly 10,000 pets are still entering the two largest shelters servicing our community each year,” Jennifer Self-Aulgur of HSWM said in a news release. “The bleak reality for these animals is that there simply are not resources to find all of them a home. In 2012, positive outcomes were achieved for 43 percent of the animals entering the shelters.  Working together and sharing new and innovative ideas is the only way we will be able to help solve the problem of pet overpopulation and homeless pets in our community.”

I urge you to take the time to stop by the event Saturday. You can meet the folks behind the WMNAP, discuss how you can be a part of their efforts and help the homeless animals of west Michigan. Don’t forget to bring some dog or cat food to “Stuff the Subaru Outback,” which has a direct impact on our homeless cats and dogs.

Inside the show ring at the 2013 National Dog Show

Dogs Unleashed magazine photographer Jennifer Waters attended the 2013 National Dog Show presented by Purina on Nov. 16 and captured some beautiful images of the breed winners as they took to the ring for Group competition.

Here’s a look at her great photos from the show, which airs on Thanksgiving from noon to 2 p.m. on NBC.

The Pekingese requires quite a bit of grooming, even on the judge's table.

The Pekingese requires quite a bit of grooming, even on the judge’s table.

The Bischon Frise focuses on a treat before heading to the meet the judge.

The Bischon Frise focuses on a treat before heading to the meet the judge.

The Norfolk terrier often is confused with the Norwich terrier. Here's a handy tip: Norwich terriers have pointed ears, like a witch's hat, while a Norfolk terrier's ears are down.

The Norfolk terrier often is confused with the Norwich terrier. Here’s a handy tip: Norwich terriers have pointed ears, like a witch’s hat, while a Norfolk terrier’s ears are down.

The bearded collie, despite the name, looks nothing like "Lassie."

The bearded collie, despite the name, looks nothing like “Lassie.”

Schnauzers come in three sizes: Giant, standard and  miniature.

Schnauzers come in three sizes: Giant, standard and miniature.

The American foxhound shows his stuff.

The American foxhound shows his stuff.

The Portuguese water dog is the same breed as Bo and Sunny, the famous dogs currently residing in the  White House.

The Portuguese water dog is the same breed as Bo and Sunny, the famous dogs currently residing in the White House.

The German shepherd dog strikes a perfect pose.

The German shepherd dog strikes a perfect pose.

The Pembroke Welsh corgi, shown here, is slightly different than the Cardigan, which has a tail.

The Pembroke Welsh corgi, shown here, is slightly different from the Cardigan, which has a tail.

The locks on a Puli form naturally and feel a bit like felt.

The locks on a Puli form naturally and feel a bit like felt.

This Brittany spaniel zeroed in on our photographer.

This Brittany spaniel zeroed in on our photographer.

It's understandable why the Komondorok (referred to as the Komondor) is a fan favorite.

It’s understandable why the Komondorok (referred to as the Komondor) is a fan favorite.

Yes, there's a whole lot of skin, and weight, to the Neapolitan Mastiff.

Yes, there’s a whole lot of skin, and weight, to the Neapolitan Mastiff.

The boxer, standing at attention, is another crowd pleaser.

The boxer, standing at attention, is another crowd pleaser.

This Ibizan hound looks a little perturbed at the handling by the judge.

This Ibizan hound looks a little perturbed at the handling by the judge.

The flowing coat as it runs through the ring is a characteristic of the Afghan hound.

The flowing coat as it runs through the ring is a characteristic of the Afghan hound.

The wire fox terrier was Best in Show at the 2012 National Dog Show.

The wire fox terrier was Best in Show at the 2012 National Dog Show.

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The Samoyed is white as pure snow.

The big dogs enter the ring as part of the Working Dog Group.

The big dogs enter the ring as part of the Working Dog Group.

The wirehaired Dachshund is one of three varieties of Dachshunds. The others are smooth and longhaired.

The wirehaired Dachshund is one of three varieties of Dachshunds. The others are smooth and longhaired.

Beagles come in two varieties: 16-inch and 13-inch.

Beagles come in two varieties: 16-inch and 13-inch.

Despite their appearance, Whippets are not miniature greyhounds (but they are fast!).

Despite their appearance, whippets are not miniature greyhounds (but they are fast!).

Host John O'Hurley is busy at work taping the show for broadcast on NBC.

Host John O’Hurley is busy at work taping the show for broadcast on NBC.

To the winners go the spoils ... and this awesome trophy.

To the winners go the spoils … and this awesome trophy.

Happy Thanksgiving: Behind the scenes at the National Dog Show

Dogs Unleashed magazine sent photographer Jennifer Waters to the 2013 National Dog Show presented by Purina, held Nov. 16 in Philadelphia.

John O’Hurley, host of the show’s broadcast on NBC, is featured in the November/December issue of Dogs Unleashed. To subscribe to the bi-monthly magazine, click here.

Here’s a sneak peek at Jennifer’s photos from the benching area of the show, which airs on Thanksgiving from noon to 2 p.m. on NBC. Stay tuned for more photos from the show!

 

Chauncey, a Hungarian Komondor, shakes off in protest while being blow-dried by owner Denise Wilczewski, just minutes before showing.

Chauncey, a Hungarian Komondor, shakes off in protest while being blow-dried by owner Denise Wilczewski, just minutes before showing.

With all the primping and prepping over, Chauncey waits for his turn in the ring. Owner Denise Wilczewski asked spectators not to pet him, but explained that his fur feels like felt.

With all the primping and prepping over, Chauncey waits for his turn in the ring. Owner Denise Wilczewski asked spectators not to pet him, but explained that his fur feels like felt.

Jenny, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, gets a brush and a little turn with a curling iron to tame a cowlicky tuft of hair. Jenny is co-owned, so she splits her time between a home in Connecticut and one in Massachusetts, depending on her show schedule.

Jenny, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, gets a brush and a little turn with a curling iron to tame a cowlicky tuft of hair. Jenny is co-owned, so she splits her time between a home in Connecticut and one in Massachusetts, depending on her show schedule.

Who can resist a look at the Basset hounds?

Who can resist a look at the Basset hounds?

Yes, there was time for a little fun and a treat, even in the show ring.

Yes, there was time for a little fun and a treat, even in the show ring.

Believe it or not, this big clump of fur is a standard poodle being groomed for the show.

Believe it or not, this big clump of fur is a standard poodle being groomed for the show.

 Daphne, a Westie from Florida, kills time in the bench area watching The Adventures of Tintin on an iPad. Owner Loren Marino, who now uses Daphne as a service dog instead of a show dog, explains that Daphne can use a remote to change channels, and can even turn the TV off if someone tries to watch a show she doesn't like.

Daphne, a Westie from Florida, kills time in the bench area watching The Adventures of Tintin on an iPad. Owner Loren Marino, who now uses Daphne as a service dog instead of a show dog, explains that Daphne can use a remote to change channels, and can even turn the TV off if someone tries to watch a show she doesn’t like.

This standard poodle seems to be a little annoyed with all the goings-on backstage.

This standard poodle seems to be a little annoyed with all the goings-on backstage.

8-year-old Awen, a Gordon Setter, gets his ears wrapped by owner and handler Iris Kaye Frankel. Wrapping keeps the freshly washed and dried ears from dragging in dog food when Awen gets a meal.

8-year-old Awen, a Gordon Setter, gets his ears wrapped by owner and handler Iris Kaye Frankel. Wrapping keeps the freshly washed and dried ears from dragging in dog food when Awen gets a meal.

This golden retriever struck a perfect pose while being readied for the ring.

This golden retriever struck a perfect pose while being readied for the ring.

 Another breed newly sanctioned by the AKC is the Chinook, a sled dog developed in New Hampshire. Callista, shown here, was one of two Chinooks in the National Dog Show, both owned by Karen Hinchy of New Jersey.

Another breed newly sanctioned by the AKC is the Chinook, a sled dog developed in New Hampshire. Callista, shown here, was one of two Chinooks in the National Dog Show, both owned by Karen Hinchy of New Jersey.

 Tango, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, is the No. 1 Podengo in the country, according to owner Stacy Faw of Florida. The Portuguese Podengo Pequeno was just recognized by the AKC.

Tango, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, is the No. 1 Podengo in the country, according to owner Stacy Faw of Florida. The Portuguese Podengo Pequeno was just recognized by the AKC.

This Xoloitzcuintle, or Xolo for short, got a lot of attention in the bench area for his unusual hairless skin. Most notable were pale scratches all over the skin, which, according to his owner, go away each time the dog goes in the sun--only to come back next time he gets an itch!

This Xoloitzcuintle, or Xolo for short, got a lot of attention in the bench area for his unusual hairless skin. Most notable were pale scratches all over the skin, which, according to his owner, go away each time the dog goes in the sun–only to come back next time he gets an itch!

Velvet, a 6-month-old Smooth-Coated Dachshund, sleeps in owner Kevin Herkelman's arms after his turn in the ring. Velvet is still learning the ropes as a show dog, and while he's worn out, Herkelman says the young dog is doing well.

Velvet, a 6-month-old Smooth-Coated Dachshund, sleeps in owner Kevin Herkelman’s arms after his turn in the ring. Velvet is still learning the ropes as a show dog, and while he’s worn out, Herkelman says the young dog is doing well.

Afghan hounds line up for the judge during breed judging.

Afghan hounds line up for the judge during breed judging.

John O’Hurley, aka J. Peterman, has gone to the dogs

Editor’s note: The following feature story is reprinted from the November/December issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine. If you’d like to subscribe to Dogs Unleashed, click here.

By MARY ULLMER
Editor, Dogs Unleashed

John O’Hurley, the man with the perfect voice, has found the perfect dog.
The multi-talented star, perhaps best known for his role as J. Peterman on Seinfeld, discovered the perfect dog last year as he was preparing for his role as host of the annual National Dog Show Presented by Purina, which airs on Thanksgiving Day on NBC.

John O'Hurley graces the cover of the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine.

John O’Hurley graces the cover of the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine.

A couple nights before last year’s show, O’Hurley relaxed on the couch with his then 5-year-old son, Will, in his arms. Part of O’Hurley’s role with the National Dog Show is creating entertaining segments for the viewing audience.
Suddenly, the idea came to O’Hurley and he created the poem “The Perfect Dog.” In the poem, his son asks, “What is the perfect dog?” and, in Dr. Seuss fashion, O’Hurley does his best to find the answer.
In a video piece that aired during last year’s National Dog Show and received rave reviews, O’Hurley and his son search the event’s benching area where visitors can meet all the breed entries and chat with breeders. O’Hurley’s perfect voice recites the poem he had come up with just a couple days earlier.
The poem since has become a children’s book, The Perfect Dog, available at amazon.com. The book includes photos of dogs and O’Hurley’s son. And the cover features a photo of Will’s dog, Puppy, a stuffed animal.
“Puppy follows him around everywhere,” O’Hurley said. “We have two dogs at home (a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Sadie, and a Havanese, Lucy) that we cuddle with, but Puppy is his.
“He’s very excited about the book coming out because, obviously, there are copies of it that will be donated to his school and he’s going to be doing a reading. There aren’t many first-graders who have their own book.”

O'Hurley's latest venture, a children's book, is now available.

O’Hurley’s latest venture, a children’s book, is now available.

It shouldn’t be too difficult for Will to recite the book to his classmates. He has the poem memorized, O’Hurley said.
“I wrote it with him lying in my arms two nights before the show, so it’s kind of neat that just a year later here it is as a book,” he said.

Even before The Perfect Dog was published, it was touted by the Children’s Book of the Month Club. That’s not surprising, given O’Hurley’s previous success as an author.
His first book, It’s OK to Miss the Bed on the First Jump, made The New York Times bestseller list. He wasn’t aware of the book’s success until he received a phone call while at the hospital after the birth of Will in 2006.

“Will was born about 11:30 the night before, so I stayed in the room with my wife, Lisa. I had a cot in there,” O’Hurley said. “I woke up the following morning and I got this phone call and it was from New York. I was kind of in a daze from being up so late the night before. … They said, ‘Congratulations.’ I said, ‘Thank you very much, mother and child are doing wonderfully.’

“They said, ‘No, your book hit the New York Times bestseller list.’ So, it was a happy day all around.”

A dog lover at heart, O'Hurley has been hosting the National Dog Show since NBC started airing it.

A dog lover at heart, O’Hurley has been hosting the National Dog Show since NBC started airing it.

O’Hurley has experienced success in just about everything he has done. Not only is he known by millions for his four-year stint on Seinfeld, he also is the voice of King Neptune on the wildly popular cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants. He hosted the TV game show Family Feud and was declared the winner of the inaugural season of Dancing With The Stars.

He currently stars in the stage production of Chicago and has several stage appearances to his credit, including Spamalot. Perhaps a lesser-known fact about O’Hurley’s career: He’s also an accomplished composer. He has released two CDs, Peace of Our Minds (2005) and Secrets from the Lake (2008).

But it’s his love of dogs that has helped make him a successful author. Before Your Dog Can Eat Your Homework, First You Have to Do it: Life Lessons for a Wise Old Dog to a Young Boy was his follow-up to It’s OK to Miss the Bed on the First Jump and was inspired by his Maltese, Schoshi, who lived to be 21.

“In my first book, the premise was that dogs really teach us everything we need to know in life in terms of life lessons, so that’s why it was entitled It’s OK to Miss the Bed on the First Jump,” O’Hurley said. “Schoshi really was the model for the second book, lessons on manhood to my son. Schoshi totally distrusted that I would be able to teach anything on the nature of manhood to my son, so he took it upon himself to leave a series of notes under the foot of the big blue elephant that sat in the chair in my son’s room. So they’re little scraps of paper, little sayings on manhood … as best [Schoshi] understood them.”

O’Hurley has had dogs as far back as he can remember, starting with a Dachshund when he was 4.

“That dog kind of followed me everywhere, on all my little adventures at the swamp near our house in Boston,” O’Hurley said.

He has had rescue dogs and purebred dogs and has “no qualms or prejudice either way, nor do I think anyone should.” For those who might criticize dog shows for celebrating and developing purebred dogs, O’Hurley points out the main message of both dog shows and dog breeders.

“It celebrates the rich history of breeding, and breeding is an important part of responsible dog ownership,” he said. “They’re trying to secure the history of these breeds, and I think there is a certain place for that. It doesn’t mean a dog is less lovable if they’re not purebred, and it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage adoption among people that don’t want to choose purebred dogs.

“But part of the whole program of the American Kennel Club and corresponding organizations is to teach responsible ownership of pets and that it’s a lifelong commitment and not something to be taken whimsically or temporarily. Unfortunately, too many of our shelters are filled with examples of people that don’t take [pet ownership] seriously. ”

David Frei, left, and John O'Hurley will once again be the voices of the National Dog Show presented by Purina, which airs on NBC on Thanksgiving.

David Frei, left, and John O’Hurley will once again be the voices of the National Dog Show presented by Purina, which airs on NBC on Thanksgiving.

DOG SHOW GUY
O’Hurley has been involved with the National Dog Show since NBC began televising it in 2002, Jon Miller of NBC Sports took home a copy of the film Best in Show, a satirical look at the dog show world.

“He came in Monday morning and said, ‘I know what we’re going to do with the two-hour time slot we have on Thanksgiving Day. … We’re going to do a dog show,’ ” O’Hurley said. “Before they laughed him out of the office, he was able to license the show from the Philadelphia Kennel Club and had Purina jump on as a sponsor.

“The next day, he called me in Los Angeles … and said, ‘Woof, woof.’ And that’s how it started. He had me at ‘Woof, woof.’ ”

O’Hurley teams with analyst David Frei at the National Dog Show. Frei is communications director for the Westminster Kennel Club and serves as analyst of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show — the “Super Bowl” of dog shows — each February.

“We had never met [before the National Dog Show]. It was a blind date,” O’Hurley said. “But we became fast friends. He’s one of the most gracious and generous people, with the therapy dogs he helps to sponsor around the country and with his ‘Angels on a Leash’ program … it really is quite spectacular.”

Frei has a mutual admiration for O’Hurley.

“He’s a class guy, and I’m fortunate to have a guy like that as a [broadcasting] partner,” Frei said. “We’re good friends and have done a lot of family things together. If he didn’t live in L.A. and us in New York, we’d be doing a lot more.”

Frei said some of his favorite moments during the show come when O’Hurley seems to slip back to his Seinfeld days.

“It’s also fun because I’m a big Seinfeld fan,” Frei said. “So it’s fun to be sitting there sometimes and we’re watching the monitor or maybe doing a voice-over and he’ll say something. I’ll say, ‘That’s Peterman. … Where’s Jerry?’ And I look around for Jerry. And my wife is great at quoting the dialogue [from Seinfeld] to him, and he’ll bounce right back with a response that’s a scripted response.”

And what kind of dog would O’Hurley’s Seinfeld character own?

“My instinct … the first thing that pops into my mind is an Irish setter,” O’Hurley said. “I think since they’re not making dogs out of really exotic corduroy … I think there is something about the Irish setter that kind of bespeaks the whole Peterman — the auburn coat, the outdoor type of dog. I think Irish setter accessorizes the Peterman outfit perfectly.”

LESSONS FROM THE DOG
O’Hurley said his favorite thing about hosting the National Dog Show isn’t necessarily the show itself.

“I think my favorite thing is really not in the ring,” he said. “It’s when my wife and I get to walk up and down the aisles and there’s more than 2,000 dogs there, 170 breeds, and it’s just a wonderful day, a spirited day. Everybody’s happy.

“That’s the wonderful thing about being around dogs. Nobody’s in a bad mood. When you put 15, 20, 25,000 people in an arena and everybody’s in a good mood because they’re around the dogs, it’s a joyful experience every year.”

O’Hurley, who also has a motivational speech program he presents to colleges and businesses titled The Peterman Guide to an Extraordinary Life, said people can learn a lot from dogs. The main lesson, he said, is to live in the moment.

“Dogs have no sense of future and they have no sense of past,” he said. “If you don’t believe me, if you try to reprimand a dog for something they did 15 minutes ago on the carpet, I guarantee you they’ve already forgiven themselves for it.

“They live moment to moment to moment, and I think that’s the greatest lesson they teach. They’re always joyful because they’re not worried. They forgive themselves very easily and they have very few expectations beyond the present moment. And whatever you’re doing is infinitely more interesting than what they were thinking of doing.

“If you think about it, for we mere humans, time is the biggest burden we have. Most of our stress is caused by either dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. But for people who live in the present moment, like all dogs do, they have very few worries and very little stress.”

RIP Little Pup, the love of Dad’s life

Bella, aka Little Pup. March 25, 2000-Nov. 4-2013

Bella, aka Little Pup. March 25, 2000-Nov. 4-2013

I was with my dad when he held Little Pup for the first time. It was only fitting that I was with him when he said his last good-bye this morning.

The first time Dad held Pup on the day he got her.

The first time Dad held Pup on the day he got her.

The 13½ years in between can’t be summed up in one little blog post. Pup, whose real name is Bella, had a life most dogs can only dream of. Dad treated her as if she were his child, the way many of us treat our beloved pets. Yet, as Dad’s actual child, I can tell you he treated her even better.

From the minute he got Pup all those years ago, Dad was in love. The little black and white Jack Russell terrier sat in my lap on the way home from picking her up at a little more than 6 weeks old, but only because Dad was driving. She landed on a 10-acre wooded parcel in Montague, where she and Dad would take multiple daily walks, in between dog naps and car rides.

Dad faithfully took Pup for a ride “into town” every day for the past several years. He stopped putting outgoing mail in his mailbox for the carrier to pick up, choosing instead to drive to the post office in town, Pup in tow, to send out bills or correspondence. It got to the point where Pup expected her daily rides, and Dad happily obliged.

The last picture of Dad with Pup, taken Sunday.

The last picture of Dad with Pup, taken Sunday.

Dad talked to anybody who would listen about his dog. He carried a picture in his wallet, a snapshot of Dad and Pup after graduation from obedience school. He’d proudly show friends – and strangers – that photo, explaining how she graduated third in her class (there were three dogs in that particular class).

Our own dogs would visit Pup on a regular basis. When Dad used to visit his friend in Texas during the winter, Pup would stay with us. Likewise, when we went away, Dad would welcome our dogs to spend time at “Camp Skeeter.” He’d have to be careful not to tip off Pup in either case, lest she get over excited a day or two early.

Pup’s last ride, aside from the one to the vet, was at 6 o’clock this morning. It was followed by a final walk in the woods, just as the sun was coming up. Dad couldn’t sleep, knowing his heart would be broken in just a few hours, so he wanted to get in one final ride and walk.

Pup had quit eating last week, a sure sign of a serious problem in a dog pushing 14. The vet confirmed Dad’s worst fear, that Pup’s days were numbered. Spots on her body and face that were once pink – inside the ears, the gums, her belly – now were jaundice, a telltale sign that cancer was ravaging her little body and has made its way to the liver.

After we got the results last Friday, the vet gave Dad the weekend to see if Pup would eat. If she did, she might be OK to live out her days without intervention. I think the three of us – the vet, Dad and me – all knew what was in store, but none of us wanted to say it just yet. While I wondered at the time about prolonging the inevitable, I’m so very glad Dad had the weekend to spend with her.

The picture from Pup's obedience school graduation, which Dad still carries in his wallet.

The picture from Pup’s obedience school graduation, which Dad still carries in his wallet.

My heart is aching for my dad, and for Pup. We visited Sunday, and as Dad broke down, Pup acted more worried about Dad than she did about her own demise. She didn’t have any signs of being sick until she stopped eating last week, perhaps knowing in the way dogs know things that she couldn’t put Dad through a long drawn-out process of trying to save her only to be left with the same inevitable result. She would do anything for Dad, and he for her. Their bond was that great.

Dad said to me more than once the past few days that he has no idea what he’ll do with himself without his little dog. Pup has been his life for so many years, starting their days with walks in the woods every morning and ending them when Pup paced in front of him in his recliner, signaling she was ready to go to bed. He’s not sure how he’ll get through the days now.

We’ll be there for him, I know, and he’ll survive, he knows. He also knows that, once he’s had time to grieve, he’ll get another dog, a shelter or rescue. As much as losing Pup hurts, Dad’s heart is big enough and strong enough to give to another dog.

For now though, he’ll spend his days walking in the woods, alone this time, the pain subsiding a little each passing day. And he will remember the sheer joy his Little Pup brought to his life.

RIP, Little Pup, and thank you for the joy you brought to Dad.

RIP, Little Pup, and thank you for the joy you brought to Dad.

 

Look who’s in the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed!

When National Dog Show representatives called us about featuring their event in the November/December issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine, how could we say no?

John O'Hurley graces the cover of the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine.

John O’Hurley graces the cover of the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine.

The annual dog show, sponsored by Purina, is held Nov. 16-17 and airs nationally on NBC on Thanksgiving Day, right after the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. Millions of Americans tune in every year to the event, hosted by the Philadelphia Kennel Club.

And while the dogs are the stars of the show, it’s John O’Hurley’s job to keep viewers entertained throughout the broadcast. O’Hurley, perhaps best known for his role as Elaine’s boss J. Peterman on Seinfeld, has been with the National Dog Show since NBC started airing it in 2002.

His latest book, a children’s book called The Perfect Dog, is available for purchase just in time for Christmas. O’Hurley wrote the poem the book is based on for a video segment that aired during last year’s National Dog Show.

Dogs Unleashed caught up with O’Hurley via telephone from his home in California. We think you’ll be delighted with our feature on the man of many talents — actor, a best-selling author, composer and, of course, dog lover.  Check out the latest issue at dogsunleashedmag.com or CLICK HERE to subscribe to have Dogs Unleashed delivered to your home.

Bissell Pet Foundation, Animal Rescue Corps team up to help Gary, Indiana’s homeless pets

Thanks to the Bissell Pet Foundation and the Animal Rescue Corps, this dog was transferred from a run-down facility in Gary, Ind., to the Humane Society Calumet Area, where he has a chance for adoption.

Thanks to the Bissell Pet Foundation and the Animal Rescue Corps, this dog was transferred from a run-down facility in Gary, Ind., to the Humane Society Calumet Area, where he has a chance for adoption.

Anyone immersed in the animal rescue business has run across horror stories. Whether it involves hoarders, puppy mills or deplorable conditions in which animals are housed, the stories have come across our Facebook feeds, emails or word of mouth.

Many times, such stories have a happy ending. Such is the case with the City of Gary (Ind.) Animal Control Department. Thanks to the support of the Bissell Pet Foundation and Animal Rescue Corps, the animal control department in Gary recently partnered with the Humane Society Calumet Area to give the homeless animals in their city a second chance.

“The story really starts about a year ago, when we started receiving information about the shelter [in Gary] from different contacts in the area,” Veronica Dainelis, Bissell Pet Foundation coordinator, said. “We had heard the animals coming out of there weren’t in the best health and were really struggling. We investigated ourselves to see what was going on. The dogs were being kept outdoors … there was not much indoor protection, and they were in an old dilapidated building.”

The outdated record-keeping system in Gary made it difficult to get a handle on the shelter’s euthanasia rates, but Dainelis said the numbers were not good.

“But it’s easy to blame a shelter for having to euthanize animals when, really, there’s nothing they can do,” Dainelis said. “They take in an average of 1,600 animals a year and their maximum holding capacity is probably about 30 to 40 cages.”

This summer, BPF paid for Scotlund Haisley, president of Animal Rescue Corps, to go to Gary for a full assessment of the shelter and offer recommendations on how to improve the conditions.

“He said there’s not much we can do without closing the shelter down,” Dainelis said.

But Haisley did work to find solutions as well. He approached other facilities in the Gary area and found HSCA in Munster, about 15 miles from Gary, to be a progressive organization with resources to take in other animals.

With the help of BPF, Haisley and Animal Rescue Corps, a plan was presented to Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and the city’s chief of police to have animals transferred to HSCA. In addition, animals picked up by Gary Animal Control would be taken to the Calumet facility, where there is adequate housing, proper veterinary care and behavioral modification programs. Instead of facing sure euthanasia in Gary, the animals will be put up for adoption at HSCA.

Freeman-Wilson agreed to the plan, and signed a contract with HSCA that runs through the end of 2014. Gary Animal Control will pay HSCA $50 per animal (feral cats are excluded) per month for its services, with an annual budget of $82,000.

The transfer of animals began in early October, and all are now housed at HSCA. The Gary Animal Control Department is still in operation, however.

“There still are animal control officers working for the city and doing the transporting,” Dainelis said. “They’re still patrolling, keeping the community safe and picking up stray animals.”

The difference is, those stray animals will be taken to the humane society, where they’ll have a second chance at life by being evaluated, cared for and put up for adoption.

And while some may balk at the fees the City of Gary is paying to save these animals, the alternative should be considered, Dainelis said. Building a new shelter in Gary isn’t a viable option, given the city’s budget. And besides the moral objections, euthanizing animals can be expensive.

“This definitely was the most economical option for them,” Dainelis said.” Euthanasia is expensive when you talk about everything that goes into it, including the removal of the animals. That’s where a lot of (Gary Animal Control’s) funding was going. Now, it will go to help keep the animals alive.

“It’s a much more positive outcome, the best option in many ways. The city wins and can run a more effective animal control department because they’re not trying to manage a shelter in addition, they’re not losing money, and the pets have a second chance.”

Dainelis said she hopes animal advocates in the area will still work to address the homeless pet population in the city. Ideally, a program to educate the community on responsible pet ownership, including spaying and neutering pets, would be put in place.

“We made recommendations about introducing humane education programs and safety net programs like spay/neuter, vaccinations and food to help keep pets in their homes in Gary,” she said. “It’s really a pets-for-life model. They don’t really have the resources, but there are rescue groups in the area that used to do a lot of rescue out of the shelter and I hope they might be able to do more safety-net type of programs.

“Now that the shelter animals are taken care of and we know they’re safe, it would be great if Gary could work at proactive means of limiting the amount of homeless pets. In turn, it will save them [money]. The less they’re taking in, the less they have to pay the humane society for taking them.”

Detroit Tigers star Austin Jackson is a dog lover at heart

Austin Jackson and the Detroit Tigers start their postseason run against the Oakland A's Friday night in Oakland.

Austin Jackson and the Detroit Tigers start their postseason run against the Oakland A’s Friday night in Oakland.

Editor’s note: The following story appears in the September/October issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine. To subscribe to the bi-monthly magazine, click “subscribe” at dogsunleashedmag.com.

STORY BY MARY ULLMER

PHOTOS BY JENNIFER N. WATERS

As Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson was preparing for a recent game against the Chicago White Sox, he seemed relieved to talk about something other than baseball in general and his early summer stint on the disabled list in particular.

Dog lover Austin Jackson is the main feature for the September/October issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine.

Dog lover Austin Jackson is the main feature for the September/October issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine.

In fact, Jackson was all smiles when he learned the topic was not baseball, but rather one of his other loves: dogs.

For those unfamiliar with Jackson, he’s the26-year-old leadoff hitter for the Tigers. When he joined the Tigers in 2010, Detroit fans were skeptical. The Tigers gave up center fielder Curtis Granderson in a trade with the New York Yankees to get Jackson. Granderson was a fan favorite in his six seasons in Detroit, and Tigers fans knew little about the young player who was taking his place.

In the years since, Jackson has won the hearts of Tigers fans. He’s a decent hitter, with a .279 career average in almost four seasons with Detroit, and in mid-August was named the American League’s co-player of the week, sharing the honor with his famous teammate, Miguel Cabrera.

But it’s Jackson’s ability to make spectacular plays in center field that has impressed the Tigers faithful. Time and again, Jackson has gotten to hard-hit balls in the vast outfield at Comerica Park, leaping fences, running down would-be doubles and triples and making diving catches.

And while fans admire his play on the field, most probably aren’t aware that off the field, Jackson is a dog lover at heart.

He and his girlfriend, Jonna Williams, currently have four dogs at their Garland, Texas, home: a 4-year-old English bulldog, Titus; a 4-year-old Yorkshire terrier, Chloe; and two French bulldogs, 3-year-old Mia and 2-year-old Roxy.
The Yorkie was Williams’ choice, Jackson said, while he picked out the English bulldog. Both chose the two French bulldogs, who joined the family a couple years later.

Jackson said he had every intention of teaching Titus to skateboard, since he gravitated to the English bulldog breed after seeing video of one skateboarding. But getting Titus to pull off the trick hasn’t quite worked out.

“He doesn’t want to do any activities that involve him having to learn something,” Jackson said of Titus. “He just wants to play and have fun, so I kinda gave up on the skateboarding. He knows how to sit and roll, but other than that, he just wants to have fun. (Rolling over) is not something he’ll do every time, either. Treats are definitely involved.”

Austin Jackson hangs out in the dugout between innings, seated beside pitchers Justin Verlander (left) and Rick Porcello.

Austin Jackson hangs out in the dugout, seated between pitchers Justin Verlander (left) and Rick Porcello.

DOG DAYS

The baseball season is a long grind, a seven-month marathon if a team is lucky enough to get to the World Series. Half of the 162 regular-season games scheduled are on the road, for three- or four-game stretches per city.

Jackson spends most of each season away from Williams and their beloved dogs. He rarely gets back home to Garland, Texas, during the season, which starts with spring training in February and ends in October.

“When I get to go home for All-Star break, or if we go play Texas, or if I can somehow get away, I get to go there for an off day or something, that’s pretty much the only time I get to see them,” Jackson.

“My dad, he took care of the English bulldog for the first couple of years. Now, I have a house [in Texas], and she just has all four of them. It’s hard… it’s tough.”

Jackson said he’s hopeful one day, perhaps soon, Williams and their furry “kids” will join him during the season in Detroit.

“I would like to have them here eventually,” he said. “If we get married soon … and hopefully I can bring them all here and they can be with me during the season.”

Thanks to today’s technology, Jackson can visit with Williams and the dogs in a one-dimensional kind of way. The couple use Facetime to keep up, and Jackson even spends Facetime with the dogs.

“When we’re on Facetime on the computer, it’s fun to get to see (the dogs), and they can hear my voice and see me,” Jackson said. “Just last night we were doing that and Titus was all excited. He heard me talking and he came into the bedroom and jumped on the bed. [Jonna] turned the screen around and he could see me and he was all excited. I seen him waggin’ his tail real fast. It was cool.”

Austin Jackson, the Tigers leadoff hitter, has been known for his stellar play in center field.

Austin Jackson, the Tigers leadoff hitter, has been known for his stellar play in center field.

Jackson said Mia, the French bulldog, isn’t as impressed with his face and voice on the computer. She’s too busy watching television.

“Jonna turned the screen around to Mia and said ‘Look what your dog is doing’ and Mia was sitting on the floor watching TV,” Jackson said. “I said her name and she looked at me and then turned right back around to watch TV. Literally, she watches TV, it’s not a joke. She’ll memorize commercials. She knows when there’s some type of animal on a commercial by the sound. As soon as commercial comes on …”

Jackson snaps his head in the other direction, mimicking Mia’s reaction when she hears a familiar commercial or show on TV.

“We’ll be messing with her and she’s laying down not paying attention, and as soon as that commercial comes on, she just snaps right to it,” Jacksons said. “She looks at it and just waits for that dog or squirrel or something to run across and she darts off the couch and she jumps up on the TV.

“It’s funny ’cause one night we were looking for her, we hadn’t seen her with the other dogs, and she’s sitting on the couch. I walked in, she saw me and she looked at me, and turned right back around and started watching her movie. She would sit there for hours to watch TV. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

PAMPERED POOCHES

Jackson and Williams aren’t much different from any other dog owners. While he doesn’t exactly approve, little Chloe, the Yorkie, does sleep in their bed. And as most English bulldog owners can attest, Titus’ snoring can be an issue.

“Every once in a while, we have to put him in the cage so we can get some sleep because he gets loud,” Jackson said, chuckling at the thought. “He snores like a human.”

And like many pet owners, Jackson and Williams – especially Williams – tend to spoil the dogs.

“My girlfriend, she buys them outfits and they have these special bowls to eat out of,” Jackson said. “They’re not just regular bowls, but nice bowls to eat their food out of. And their leashes and collars are nice and everything.

“She (Williams) came down here to the ballpark and went to the ‘D Shop’ (the merchandise shop at Comerica Park, where the Tigers play),” Jackson said. “She sent me a picture of the two Frenchies and Chloe and they had on Tigers shirts and Chloe even had on a little ‘D’ hat. It was hilarious.”

So, would Jackson go as far as saying his dogs are pampered? Well, not quite.

“They’ve living the good life, put it like that,” he said, grinning. “They’re definitely living the good life.”

 

Vocalist and ArtPrize artist Martha Cares sings the praises of adoption

Martha Cares and her dog, Poppy, at the contemporary art and sculpture gallery in Sawyer, Mich.

Martha Cares and her dog, Poppy, at the contemporary art and sculpture gallery in Sawyer, Mich.

Editor’s note: This story appears in the September/October issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine.  

BY TRICIA WOOLFENDEN

Poppy is bounding about her fenced-in yard like a bunny. Her white ears flop as she chases colorful plastic rings thrown for her, like Frisbees, by owner and professional singer Martha Cares.

The Glen of Imaal Terrier – a breed that originated in County Wicklow, Ireland – stops only to pick the rings up with her mouth. She then flips each circle, letting it fall around her neck. Some of the rings have worked their way down around her belly. The 22-pound terrier bounces on spring-like feet, collecting rings on her compact body until she resembles a Slinky.

Cares watches Poppy and smiles, speaking in the tone animal devotees reserve for their pets.

“Come on Poppy,” she coos, before tossing another ring.

As Poppy navigates the grass and trees, Cares describes a few of the large stone sculptures made by her artist husband, Fritz Olsen. The fluid figures populate the garden-like area behind the Sawyer studio and gallery space they’ve established inside a former azalea nursery. Olsen and Cares restored the structure – originally built in 1939 – and converted it into a regional arts destination.

Poppy, a daily visitor to the gallery, is in her element. The July evening air is heavy with humidity and mosquitoes, but neither Poppy’s nor Cares’ spirits flag. They’re a good match and it is clear that Poppy has inspired Cares, both as an artist and as an animal lover.

ART FOR THE SAKE OF ANIMALS

Those who made the trek last year to downtown Grand Rapids for the fourth annual ArtPrize may very well be familiar with Poppy’s form. Cares used the dog as the model for her first-ever ArtPrize entry “My Rescue.” The large-scale piece consisted of five inter-locked silhouettes of a dog. As is typical of Cares’ work, it struck a chord with audiences.

Martha Cares' ArtPrize exhibit this year features cats and kittens. She blended the cats with her "My Rescue" for these creations.

Martha Cares’ ArtPrize exhibit this year features cats and kittens. She blended the cats with her “My Rescue” for these creations.

“I had no idea how well-loved the sculpture would be,” Cares says of the piece. She frequently sells smaller versions in her gallery and through online sales.

The simple steel sculptures of “My Rescue” were each painted in a primary color – red, orange, yellow, green, and blue – with no other details, save for three black dots to represent the eyes and nose. The four-foot-tall dogs – created from a sketch of Poppy and carved and cut by Olsen – were lined up in a neat row in front of the fountain at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

“I couldn’t have asked for nicer people to work with,” Cares says of the museum staff, including museum Deputy Director Jim Kratsas.

Cares will return to the same venue for ArtPrize 2013. This time she will present “Homeward Bound – Happily Ever Rescued!” The piece is similar in size, scope, and style to “My Rescue,” but uses larger-than-life cats in place of dogs.

The animals have changed, but the message is the same. Cares aims to start a dialogue about pet rescue and welfare in the United States. To quote her artist statement from 2012: “In America, six to eight million animals are taken in by rescue organizations and shelters each year. Saving the precious life of an animal through volunteering, adoption, or donations moves well beyond rescue of a fellow living creature, for through these generous acts of love, we too are rescued.”

Cares became familiar with the issue of animal rescue and adoption when she met Kathryn and Jack Scott through Save A Stray in St. Joseph. The couple (who now work with animals via Paws of Hope in Buchanan) had acted as Poppy’s foster parents.

“Their dedication and commitment to finding the right homes for their animals and their love and care was inspiring and wonderful,” Cares says.

Cares has teamed this year with Trudy Ender and Tammy Hagedorn with the Humane Society of West Michigan. She is working with the organization to promote animal rescue through her ArtPrize entry. She also hopes to raise funds for the animal rescue organization.

“There are some special things in the works for this,” Cares says.

A LIFE GIVEN TO ART (AND ANIMALS)

Visual art is something of a new public platform for Cares, who is known professionally for her vocal talents. She appeared in more than a thousand performances of the national Broadway production of “Phantom of the Opera” and has loaned her voice to national commercial campaigns, including for McDonald’s and United Airlines. She still regularly performs in Michigan and beyond.

Martha Cares poses with one of her full-size "My Rescue" sculptures outside the gallery.

Martha Cares poses with one of her full-size “My Rescue” sculptures outside the gallery.

But even as she made a career using her voice, Cares enjoyed painting during her downtime. She even occasionally contributed her works to charitable causes: “I liked to do something quiet.”

“Art encompasses everything I do,” Cares says. “The arts enrich our lives and they can change our lives.”

Cares finds a parallel between what the arts can do for society and what an unwanted pet can do for an individual: “Rescue dogs can change our lives in a positive way.”

Certainly, Poppy has been a force of change in Cares’ life. After losing her beloved Peachy more than a decade ago – the Lhasa Apso was 16 when she passed away – Cares was reluctant to get another dog. It took meeting Poppy to help her finally get past the pain of losing Peachy.

“It took me eight years to be ready,” Cares says.

Olsen and Cares have made their Sawyer gallery a dog-friendly place where people routinely stop in just to say “hi” – both to the couple and to Poppy.

As Cares talks about art and animals, Poppy half-heartedly pursues a small flying insect that has followed her in from the yard. After a minute or two of chase, Poppy drops to the cool cement floor and relaxes into a pile of fur.

“Poppy is surrounded by art, music, and good people,” Cares says.

It’s the kind of life Cares would like to see for all of the unwanted, forgotten, and otherwise overlooked pets in the country: safe, simple, and forever.

About the author: Tricia Woolfenden recently returned to Grand Rapids after living in South Florida for four years. She writes about the environment, wildlife, music, art, and culture for a variety of publications and is researching and writing a nonfiction book about wild birds. Though she’s a devoted “cat lady,” she loves all animals and hopes to one day welcome a golden retriever into her family. Contact Tricia at twoolfenden@gmail.com.

A little giving goes a long way for dogs at Kent Co. Animal Shelter

Mindy Smith Pierman isn’t much different from the rest of us when it comes to shelter pets. When she walks in a shelter, she wants to take every animal home and give them the love they deserve. But the reality is, she can’t adopt them all.

Mindy Smith Pierman showed off the various sizes of Thundershirts donated to KCAS.

Mindy Smith Pierman showed off the various sizes of Thundershirts donated to KCAS.

Still, Pierman was able to make a difference for the dogs at the Kent County Animal Shelter. Tuesday morning, she delivered 55 Thundershirts to KCAS in hopes of relieving the dogs in their care from a bit of the stress and anxiety they face every day.

If you’re unfamiliar with Thundershirts, they’re the snug-fitting wraps that many dog owners have sworn by. It’s based in part on the work and research of Temple Grandin, that constant gentle hugging pressure can calm an anxious pet’s nervous system.

Side note: If you’re not familiar with Temple Grandin, you should read up about this amazing woman. And if you get a chance to see the HBO movie on her life, for which Claire Daines won a Golden Globe, do it!

Pierman’s own dog, a golden retriever named Murphy, was adopted from a shelter. Murphy, like many dogs, gets anxious around loud noises and thunderstorms.

“Last Fourth of July, my neighborhood sounded like Kabul,” Pierman said. “My golden retriever has storm anxiety and noise anxiety and she will literally pace around where I keep her Thundershirt if she feels a storm coming on. I get the shirt and put it on her, and she calms right down.

Mocha 1

“On Fourth of July it was so loud and so bad, and all I could think of was all the dogs here (in the shelter). They’re already under stress and they’re already scared, and there isn’t anybody to comfort them. So, I thought, they need Thundershirts.”

Because the animal shelter is a government organization, it can’t solicit funds like rescue groups. So Pierman solicited some help via Facebook and email and got friends to donate items for a garage sale.The proceeds would go to purchase Thundershirts for dogs at KCAS. Once her neighbors found out what the mission was, they brought items to put in the sale, too.

In all, Pierman raised $1,300 that weekend. And with help from Pet Supplies Plus on Alpine NW and Chow Hound at Breton and Burton, who ordered and sold the shirts to Pierman for a discounted price, it was enough to buy seven Thundershirts in every size to outfit the shelter dogs.

“It was just one long weekend, and this was a girlfriends’ kind of effort. It wasn’t a singular effort… I might have had the idea, but it took a whole lot of people to make it happen.”

Mocha was rewarded for her modeling efforts with a spoonful of peanut butter and cream cheese.

Mocha was rewarded for her modeling efforts with a spoonful of peanut butter and cream cheese.

Pierman points out that Thundershirts aren’t just for thunderstorms, and she hopes they go beyond keeping the dogs at KCAS calm and relaxed.

“They’re for anxiety … separation anxiety, barking issues, thunderstorms, loud noises, that kind of thing,” she said. “And it’s just a stressful situation for these dogs, just the fact that they’re here. Some have been abused or neglected or are in a bad situation. I kind of hope in the end that they may be a little more adoptable because they won’t be acting out and barking and jumping because of stress and anxiety. That’s where this kind of took us on this journey.”

Adam London,  Administrative Health Officer of the Kent County Health Department, was on hand for the delivery Tuesday.

“The shelter really is a community shelter,” London said. “The animals here belong to us and it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to take care of them and do what we can to give them a forever home and a second chance. This sort of thoughfulness is important to us because we can provide for basic care and do what we can to make their time with us as enjoyable as possible, however we also know this is stressful for them.

“This helps get them that second chance … when people come in here they are seeing dogs as relaxed and calm as possible.”