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

BY MARY ULLMER

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.

 

 

BISSELL Pet Foundation, Kent County Animal Shelter Team Up To Offer Free Adoptions

Did you happen to catch Good Morning America today? The popular morning program featured pets from the North Shore Animal League in New York to help promote pet adoption.

This family got a new addition during last year's free adoption event at the Kent County Animal Shelter.

This family got a new addition during last year’s free adoption event at the Kent County Animal Shelter.

By reaching oh, a few million viewers, it’s likely many animals at North Shore will find a home for the holidays.

A couple of weeks ago, a story aired in Chicago about an animal shelter in Akron, Ohio, that apparently adopted out all its animals – 93 dogs and cats in total – within the first 90 minutes of the shelter’s sixth annual adoptathon. More homes for the holidays for animals in need.

Now, thanks to a grant from the BISSELL Pet Foundation, pets in the West Michigan area can find their forever homes in time for the holidays, too. BPF has partnered with the Kent Count Animal Shelter for its second “Home for the Holidays” campaign.

To help the animals get home, 100 percent of adoption fees for pets at KCAS are covered. The only cost is $12 for a dog license. The pets come spayed and neutered, microchipped and up-to-date on vaccines.

Talk about paying it forward. The BISSELL Pet Foundation and KCAS are giving you a beloved family member. All you have to do is show up (well, OK, you have to fill out an application) and open your heart.

Animal shelter supervisor Carly Luttmann said 22 pets found new homes on Monday, the first day of the event. Last year, 270 pets were adopted through “Home for the Holidays.” That helped KCAS reach a record 1,028 adoptions for 2014. The animal shelter is zeroing in on that record, with 931 adoptions through the end of business Monday.

“We are looking forward to the second year of the adoption program because last year was so successful,” Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, said in a news release. “Last year, twice as many cats than the average per month were adopted. With the free adoption program, we’re helping to save two lives – your pet and the pet who gets that open spot in the shelter, out of the cold and elements. We hope our community will rally around this important cause by visiting the KCAS and help a lucky pet find a forever home.”

The free adoption campaign runs through the end of 2015, so if you don’t find the pet of your dreams on your first visit, check back. KCAS is available to take in a limited amount of transfers from other shelters in the area, but many of those shelters also are holding adoption specials.

“If every shelter around running adoption specials finds homes for all their animals and it gets to a point where we don’t have any transfers to take, I’m fine with that,” Luttmann said. “If we all adopt out all our animals, that’s a good thing.”

To expedite the adoption process, be sure to fill out a dog or cat adoption application and get pre-approved. KCAS requires a pre-adoption counsel and application. In lieu of the regular adoption fee, potential adopters are encouraged to donate canned pet food or new blankets.

The animal shelter is located at 740 Fuller Ave NE, Grand Rapids and can be reached at (616) 632-7300. Shelter hours are Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 2-6:30 p.m. Adoptions are processed from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 2-5:30 p.m. KCAS will be closed for Thanksgiving through Sunday this week.

 

BISSELL Blocktail Party smashes previous fundraising record

There were an estimated 300 to 400 dogs at this year's BISSELL Blocktail Party, including this happy pup. (Photo by Jennifer Waters/Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

There were an estimated 300 to 400 dogs at this year’s BISSELL Blocktail Party, including this happy pup. (Photos by Jennifer Waters/Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

Just approaching the beautiful grounds of Mangiamo! restaurant in East Grand Rapids on Tuesday night, there was a sense the night would be special. The weather was perfect … 80ish degrees and blue sky, and the outdoor area of the restaurant, as well as the check-in area in the parking lot, already were abuzz.

To say the 10th anniversary of the BISSELL Blocktail Party was a success is a gross understatement. This year’s event for the BISSELL Pet Foundation that provides grants to West Michigan animal advocacy organizations not only broke last year’s fundraising mark of $250,000, it obliterated it.

When the early numbers were crunched on Wednesday, the day after the party, Blocktail had raised an amazing $500,000. An estimated 900 people and 300 to 400 dogs attended the event, with a private sponsors party the previous evening raising additional funds.

“The stars aligned for us this year,” said Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation and creator of the BISSELL Blocktail Party. “We had the perfect storm without the storm. We knew we wanted to raise more money, but never imagined we would double funds raised from last year.  We could not have done it without the amazing support from our volunteers and most importantly our community.”

it was a family affair for BISSELL Pet Foundation founder Cathy Bissell (right), who welcomed her daughter, Alissandra Kruer (center) and mother, Mary Jane McDonald (left) to the party.

It was a family affair for BISSELL Pet Foundation founder Cathy Bissell (right), who welcomed her daughter, Alissandra Kruer (center) and mother, Mary Jane McDonald (left) to the party.

Bissell said when online ticket sales stopped, 290 had been purchased. The event drew 100 walk-up ticket sales, and the rest were included in the sponsorship packets. If you’re interested in sponsoring the event next year, and attending the private sponsorship event, check out the Blocktail website for information.

Because it was the 10th anniversary of the event, Bissell opted to take a risk and add a private sponsorship event, including a concert by Kenny Loggins and his new band, Blue Sky Riders, the night before Blocktail. That event was a huge success as well, and something Bissell plans to incorporate into future Blocktails.

“We thought we might lose money on that part but we knew we had to so something special for the 10th anniversary, and we ended up making money,” Bissell said.

A live auction at the private event generated $60,000, and Loggins and his band played well beyond the hour and 15 minutes required in the contract. Bissell said she spent a year trying to find the right sound for the event, and fell in love with the band’s CD (the only one currently available). The name of the CD — “Finally Home” — was a sure sign Bissell had found the right band to play the event. The BISSELL Pet Foundation’s motto is “Until every pet has a home.”

“I worked all year to find the right sound, and Kenny Loggins loves animals,” Bissell said. “His new band has an amazing female vocalist, Georgia Middleman, and she and her husband, Gary Burr, are songwriters. … I started listening to their sound and I loved it. By the time I finished listening to the disk I was waking up and singing their songs and saying to myself, ‘They’re good. They’re really good.’ We decided to book them, and they were fantastic.

“When I talked to Shannon Reincke and Heather Garbaty, (committee co-chairs for Blocktail), they listened to the CD and came back with the same thought. And they loved the fact it was ‘Finally Home,’ because that’s our mission.”

Bissell said the band played for two hours, something Loggins himself said was unprecedented.

“They were just having fun watching people dance and kept playing,” Bissell said.

The lead-up to the Blocktail Party was a hit and the main event itself was spectacular. In addition to the cocktails for people and “yappitzers” for the four-legged guests, several local food vendors were on hand, offering guests a variety (yes, including vegan) of selections, all included in the price of a ticket. Bissell said by the time it was said and done, the vendors ran out of food — and that’s a good thing.

“It’s great for them because they don’t want to have to pack up leftover food, and it just shows the people loved their food,” Bissell said.

Chris LaPorte, grand prize winner at ArtPrize 2010, was on hand to draw caricatures of guests' dogs.

Chris LaPorte, grand prize winner at ArtPrize 2010, was on hand to sketch caricatures of party-goers’ canine family members.

Also on hand for the event was ArtPrize winning artist Chris LaPorte, he of the famed “Cavalry, American Officers, 1921” mural that won the grand prize at the 2010 event. LaPorte offered himself for a different type of work … he drew caricatures of guests’ dogs on site.

“For him to come and do caricatures, how cool is that?” Bissell asked. “It was his suggestion. And he offered a ‘Cavalry’ print that we auctioned off the night before at the live auction.”

As Blocktail continues to grow in popularity, the atmosphere at Mangiamo! remains fun and relaxed for people and their pets. With so many dogs on hand, that’s not easy to pull off.

“I think people are pretty careful,” Bissell said. “If their dogs aren’t going to mingle in a crowd, they don’t bring them. If they know if they have a dog that likes people, that’s how they play it out. Why stress out your dog?

“We haven’t had any issues, and you never know, because dogs on leashes can be more aggressive in that situation. But if you see a dog and yours doesn’t like it, you go to a different area. Thank god Mangiamo! is so big and beautiful.”

The best part of Blocktail is what it does for West Michigan pets in need. Grants from the event help organizations like C-SNIP, a low-cost spay and neuter services for low-income families, to animal rescue organizations large and small.

“This event has been part of our community for 10 years and we hope we can show a significant reduction in the number of pets in need of homes in the next 10 years,” said Blocktail co-chair Garbaty. “Everyone who attended the party or supported our cause came through to make a difference for pets. That’s why this party is so special.”

 

 

BISSELL Pet Foundation, Humane Society of West Michigan team up to expand cattery

This cat and all the cats and kittens at HSWM are about to get a huge upgrade in their temporary living conditions.

This cat and all the cats and kittens at HSWM are about to get a huge upgrade in their temporary living conditions.

The cats and kittens in the care of Humane Society of West Michigan are about to get a huge upgrade on their digs.

If you’ve been to HSWM, you know the cattery there is filled with felines awaiting adoption into their forever home. Unfortunately, the cat population there has outgrown the current space (spay and neuter, people!) and cats are being housed in areas of the facility, not an ideal situation for the cats or the staff at HSWM.

Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, scoops up the first shovel of dirt at HSWM where the cattery expansion will take place.

Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, scoops up the first shovel of dirt at HSWM where the cattery expansion will take place.

Tuesday, HSWM held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the BISSELL Cattery Expansion Project. Cathy Bissell, director of corporate affairs at BISSELL Inc. and founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, was on hand to celebrate the event.

She even dug out the first shovel of dirt where the expansion will take place, heels and all.

“If I can vacuum in these, I can dig dirt in these,” Bissell said, laughing, as she dug in her heels to break ground on the cattery.

Mark and Cathy Bissell created a matching gift challenge for the cattery expansion, calling for $25,000 to be raised by HSWM donations. So far, HSWM has raised $20,500, less than $5,000 away from the goal set by the Bissells.

When complete in the fall of 2014, the cattery expansion will create spacious and low-stress environments for the kittens and cats in HSWM’s care.

In addition to the BISSELL Cattery Expansion, funds raised through the campaign will:

  • Create a window in the cat holding area to provide natural light
  • Construct cat meet and greet rooms (currently, these rooms are right next to the dog kennels, where barking dogs can put stress on the cats meeting their potential adopters)
  • ·Purchase Crijo climbing structures for cat enrichment
  • Expand cat housing in the medical room
(left to right) HSWM's Andrew Aulgur, HSWM executive director Trudy Ender, BISSELL Pet Foundation's Cathy Bissell, Vander Kodde Construction's Jack Jolman and Walker Mayor Mark Huizenga were on hand for the cattery ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday.

(left to right) Architect Andrew Aulgur, HSWM executive director Trudy Ender, BISSELL Pet Foundation’s Cathy Bissell, Vander Kodde Construction’s Jack Jolman and Walker Mayor Mark Huizenga were on hand for the cattery ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday.

The campaign’s completion will provide cats and kittens with more space, which reduces stress and enriches their lives until they are adopted, HSWM said in a press release. The expansion also allows adopters to better interact with the cats and kittens in a more natural state as they will have room to climb, jump and play.

Also on hand for Tuesday’s groundbreaking were representatives from Vander Kodde Construction, which is providing the work on the expansion, Walker Mayor Mark Huizenga and board members, volunteers and staff from HSWM.

Several naming and donations opportunities are still available if you’d like to contribute to the fund and help match the Bissell’s generous offer. If you’re interested in helping out, get in touch with Tammy Hagedorn, HSWM Director of Development, at (616) 791-8138 or thagedorn@hswestmi.org.

Congratulations to HSWM Executive Director Trudy Ender and her staff on this wonderful news, and a big thank you, once again, to Cathy Bissell and the BISSELL Pet Foundation.

 

Dogs from Grand Rapids seizure case will need time, medical attention before adoption

Dr. Laurie Wright holds one of the puppies brought out to meet the media Friday.

Dr. Laurie Wright holds one of the puppies brought out to meet the media Friday.

The dogs seized in a Grand Rapids neglect case have been forfeited to the Kent County Animal Shelter. Now, it’s time to get them the help, the rehabilitation, the medical treatment, the loving homes they need and deserve.

Kimberly Savino, who faces criminal charges of neglect in the case involving the seizure of 39 dogs from her Grand Rapids home, did not pay Kent County the $106,430 required to hold the dogs until after her upcoming criminal trial. For the news story on the forfeiture, click here for Barton Deiter’s story on MLive.com.

The dogs, of varying breeds, mixes and sizes, became the property of KCAS on Friday afternoon. Dr. Laurie Wright, veterinarian at KCAS, and animal shelter staff brought some of the dogs, including 11-week-old puppies, out into the shelter’s play area to meet with the media. The dogs appeared happy and healthy.

The puppies will need to be spayed/neutered before they are available for adoption, Wright said. Other dogs still face an uphill road to recovery. Some of the dogs will be made available for adoption as soon as possible, likely at the end of next week. Many others will take longer.

But keep in mind, even those dogs available in the coming weeks will require patience from their new owners. They will need time to adjust to new surroundings. They have been in a kennel at the animal shelter since June 27, and can suffer from kennel stress as a result. As with adoption of any dog from a shelter, patience is the key.

All the dogs will be re-evaluated and it is likely many will be transferred to rescue agencies, some of which may place them into foster homes before they’re ready for adoption. Some have behavioral issues – they may show aggressive tendencies, anxiety or lack of socialization. They will need to be rehabilitated, and KCAS will work with individuals and rescue groups to ensure they get the training and behavior modification they need before they are made available for adoption.

“Some of the dogs have severe behavioral and medical issues that require treatment,” Kent County Animal Shelter Supervisor Carly Luttmann said in a news release. “We are working with partner agencies to help transfer these dogs to places that can best meet their needs. As dogs are treated and deemed ready for adoption, they will be moved from KCAS on-hold status to adoption kennels.”

The Humane Society of West Michigan is one option for the dogs. Trudy Ender, executive director of HSWM, said her staff would welcome some of the dogs.

“Humane Society of West Michigan will definitely partner and help to the best of our abilities in caring for these animals if the Kent County Animal Shelter needs us,” Ender said Friday. “We have a great relationship with KCAS and collaborate and partner in situations such as these.”

Most of the dogs need medical attention, particularly in the area of oral health. They came to KCAS with dental issues, some severe. Some have heart murmurs. Others have issues that will require daily medication. Medical treatment for these dogs will be expensive and will be ongoing, and I would caution anyone seeking to adopt them that they should be prepared to take on those expenses.

The animal shelter could be inundated with applicants once the dogs are put up for adoption. Again, patience will be required. The staff there will do its best to handle the influx of applications. They will take their time in deciding where the dogs in their facility will be placed. For dogs sent to other facilities or rescues, applicants will be screened by those groups once the dogs are available.

If you are interested in adopting an animal from the Kent County Animal Shelter, applications are available at ICPAWZ.com. Cost to adopt a dog, thanks to a grant from the Bissell Pet Foundation,  is $50, plus the licensing fee ($12 for one year, $30 for three-year license; $6/$15 for senior citizen adopters 62 or older).

Applications can be submitted to the animal shelter in person, via email or by fax. Getting an application in for pre-approval will expedite the adoption process. They may be emailed (Cathy.Hand@kentcountymi.gov) or faxed to 616-632-7324.

BISSELL Blocktail Party continues to set records

Among the activities at this year's Blocktail Party was a temporary color treatment that turned dogs into walking works of art. (Photo courtesy of Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

Among the activities at this year’s Blocktail Party was a temporary color treatment that turned dogs into walking works of art. (Photo courtesy of Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

The numbers are in, and the annual BISSELL Blocktail Party once again has broken its previous fundraising records.

The annual event celebrated its ninth anniversary on June 11 on the lawn at Mangiamo! restaurant in Grand Rapids. Despite rainy weather much of the day, the party drew nearly 700 guests, many of whom were accompanied by their dogs.

Armed with a new silent auction app in which guests – and even those who couldn’t make it to the party – could wander about the event and make bids on items via their mobile device, this year’s BISSELL Blocktail party raised more than $250,000 to help West Michigan animal advocacy organizations.

Bidders were able to make and track their bids via their devices without having to circle back to crowded auction tables. The convenient app also meant non-party goers could get in on the bidding for great auction items or simply make a donation for the event.

While we weren’t able to attend this year – our Jack Russell terrier, who is deathly afraid of thunderstorms, kept us at home – we were able to make a donation to Blocktail from home thanks to the new system. Since we usually come home from Blocktail armed with artwork, local services or other goodies we “won” in the silent auction (including the computer on which this blog is written), we figured we would at least donate an amount we’d normally spend at Blocktail. It was our way of contributing to such a wonderful event from 25 miles away!

And we know our contribution will be well spent. Monday, the event’s committee announced the recipients of Blocktail grants through the BISSELL Pet Foundation. The organizations help West Michigan pets in a variety of ways, from spay/neuter programs to microchipping, adoption and rescue, care for senior pets and medical care of victims of cruelty and neglect.

“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 news release. “We are very proud to support these 14 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!”

We’ll be back for next year’s Blocktail Party – we missed seeing all the dogs and people and, of course, the food. And we can take comfort in knowing we were able to contribute to this year’s event and help those who help animals in our community.

A list of the BISSELL Blocktail grant recipients from this year’s event (“Blocktail Buddies” each received an additional $1,000 gift earlier in 2014 to recognize their dedication to animal welfare):

• Community Spay Neuter Initiative Partnership (C-SNIP): $45,000
• Humane Society of West Michigan: $40,000
• Vicky’s Pet Connection: $27,000
• Pound Buddies (Volunteers for Muskegon County Animal Control): $19,500
• Kent County Animal Shelter: $18,845
• West Michigan Spay & Neuter Clinic: $18,000
• Crash’s Landing & Big Sid’s Sanctuary: $12,500
• Safe Haven Humane Society: $10,000
• Lake Haven Rescue: $10,000
• Reuben’s Room Cat Rescue: $6,750
• Carol’s Ferals: $5,000
• Kelley’s Heart to Heart: $5,000
• Focus on Ferals: $5,000

These fancy abodes have gone to the dogs

 

Are dog houses a thing of the past? For most of us, our furry family members spend their days in our house, not in a structure sitting in our back yards.

But for those whose dogs do spend a good deal of time outdoors, secured in their fenced-in yard, a dog house is great protection from the elements. It’s a place to cool off on a hot summer day, or seek shelter on a cold rainy (or snowy) one.

And more and more, dog houses are becoming sophisticated domiciles for our best friends. That was evident at the recent Home & Garden Show at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Mich. The annual event included Bark Prize, a contest voted on by the public to select the best themed dog house.

West Michigan companies submitted entries that were on display at the show. The event, in its second year, raised $4,000 for the BISSELL Pet Foundation as people bid to purchase the houses.

More than 7,300 people cast a vote for their favorite, with “Ye Old Paw Mill,” a replica of an old style saw mill built by Out On A Limb Playhouses, taking Best In Show.

Here’s a look at each of the five entrants for Bark Prize, now an annual event at the Home & Garden Show. The photos are courtesy of Grumpy Pups Pet Photography, on hand for the event.

For the second year in a row, Out On A Limb Playhouses won Best In Show. This year's entry was Ye Old Paw-Mill, themed after an old-fashioned saw mill, complete with a working water wheel.

For the second year in a row, Out On A Limb Playhouses won Best In Show. This year’s entry was Ye Old Paw-Mill, themed after an old-fashioned saw mill, complete with a working water wheel.

Gratitude, from Montell Construction.

Gratitude, from Montell Construction.

Canine Cabin, from Pioneer Construction.

Canine Cabin, from Pioneer Construction.

The Mutt Hutt, from J. Visser Design/Scott Christopher Homes.

The Mutt Hutt, from J. Visser Design/Scott Christopher Homes.

New Hounding Brew House, from New Holland Brewing Co.

New Hounding Brew House, from New Holland Brewing Co.

 

 

 

 

Raise the Woof! Bark Prize doghouse design contest returns to Home & Garden Show

Headed to the  West Michigan Home & Garden Show at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids this weekend? If you’re going (the show runs March 6-9), a MUST-SEE at the annual event is Bark Prize, a designer dog house competition.

The 2013 Best in Show winner at Bark Prize was a pirate ship design, complete with a "poop deck."

The 2013 Best in Show winner at Bark Prize was a pirate ship design, complete with a “poop deck.”

Five custom dog houses, designed and built by west Michigan companies, will be available to the public via silent auction. If you checked out the houses last year, you know your dog would be the envy of the neighborhood if you were to score one of these fabulous abodes.

And the best part is, 100 percent of the proceeds from the silent auction benefit the BISSELL Pet Foundation. Last year, $2,000 was raised for BPF, a non-profit started right here in west Michigan by Cathy Bissell.

The organization’s mission is to help reduce the number of animals in shelters, and to support organizations dedicated to the humane care and treatment of animals through pet adoption, spay and neuter programs, micro-chipping and foster care. BPF has given nearly $1.2 million to support homeless pets across the country in less than two years of existence.

Last year’s Bark Prize winner (the public can vote for “Best in Show”) was “Scally’wag,” a dog house designed like a pirate ship. It even included a “poop deck.” It was built by Mike Fraser of Out On A Limb Playhouses. Fraser will back this year with “Ye Olde Paw Mill,” a dog house resembling a saw mill, complete with a fully functioning water wheel.

“Last year’s Bark Prize custom dog houses were so unique and so fun and raised $2,000 for homeless pets, so we knew we had to make this an annual event,” Cathy Bissell said in a news release about this year’s event.  “The idea behind Bark Prize came from Mike Fraser, who owns Out on a Limb Playhouses. We are so thankful for that idea, and to the Home & Garden Show for welcoming the fundraiser and to all the builders giving time and materials to create the custom dog houses. The West Michigan community is very supportive and giving toward our animal welfare organizations, and this is a great opportunity to raise even more awareness.”

 The featured dog houses range in value from $250 to $4,000, so there’s something for everyone. They’ll be on display in the Grand Foyer at DeVos Place, outside the Expo Halls.

Whether you bid on a custom dog house or not, you need to stop by the exhibit and appreciate the creativity of these designers and builders. And don’t forget to add your vote to “Best in Show.”

 

 

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.”

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.