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


I am not Superwoman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Sweet little stray benefits from kindness of strangers

The lucky little dog went to her new home in much better shape than when her new owners found her.

The lucky little dog went to her new home in much better shape than when her new owners found her.

I’m not sure how it happens, but it seems to happen often. I run into a dog who needs help. Or people who need help with a dog.

The other day, I attended a funeral visitation in Muskegon. Since I was in the area, I thought I’d stop by the Muskegon Humane Society to drop off some issues of Dogs Unleashed magazine. I knew they were closed on Wednesdays, but I also knew someone would be there tending to the animals.

An older couple pulled into the parking lot just after I had arrived. I informed them the shelter was closed, but that we could likely rouse someone. The woman had a little dog wrapped in a towel, so I inquired whether the dog was injured.

When she was found, the Shih Tzu mix was covered in fleas and dirt.

When she was found, the Shih Tzu mix was covered in fleas and dirt.

It was not, she said, but it did have issues. The little dog was found wandering up and down their street, barely avoiding getting hit by a car. She was covered in fleas and had no collar or tags. She was thin and clearly dehydrated. The couple wanted to keep the dog, but wasn’t sure what to do about the fleas. They were hoping Muskegon Humane Society could help.

Sure enough, Andrea Benes Bruce of MHS came out. She checked the dog for a microchip; there was none. She wasn’t able to help with the fleas, especially since their office was closed. I grabbed my smart phone and searched for a groomer. Turns out Kimmy’s Pampered Paws pet grooming was practically around the corner. Since I had magazines to deliver, I offered to have the couple follow me there, where we hopefully could talk Kimmy into an “emergency groom” for the poor little girl.

Kim Vanderberg, owner of Kimmy’s Pampered Paws, didn’t hesitate to take the dog in, even though she was busy grooming another dog. She told the couple it would take a few hours … a flea soak, shave down, etc., would be in order. She also advised them to de-flea their home since they had brought the dog in, attempting to bathe her themselves. She took their number and said she’d call when the dog was finished.

When the couple left, I slipped Kim some money to pay for the grooming. After seeing the condition of the dog, I figured it was the least I could do to help. The little girl (they hadn’t figured out a name for her yet) was going to need a visit to the vet. She also was going to have to be spayed — it appeared she may have been in season — and would need licensing and likely vaccinations.

A big thanks to Kimmy's for their willingness to perform an "emergency groom."

A big thanks to Kimmy’s for her willingness to perform an “emergency groom.”

There are some serious expenses awaiting the new owners, and I thought having the grooming taken care of was one less thing they’d have to worry about. I was so impressed and thankful that they took the time to help the dog that Ii wanted to help them.

And a huge thank you to Kimmy’s Pampered Paws for taking her in on a moment’s notice, and for making her look and feel beautiful. A good dog day, indeed.


Senior dogs hold a special place in our hearts

RIP, Buddy

RIP, Buddy

When we decided to dedicate the March/April issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine to senior dogs, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. We sent out a call to senior dog owners to have portraits of their elderly canines shot for this special issue, and ended up with 27 dogs for our “Senior Portraits” gallery.

The owners braved the bitter January cold here in Michigan to attend two photo sessions, and we met some pretty special dogs, ranging in age from 6 to 16. As you’ll read in this issue, age is relative when it comes to labeling a dog “senior,” depending on the breed and size of the dog.

March April final cover
One of our favorites was Buddy, a 15-year-old mixed breed. Buddy had been rescued a few years ago from an abandoned home, where he survived for two weeks with no food or water. Nicole Notario-Risk, who adopted Buddy, is featured in a story about people who go out of their way to adopt senior dogs, giving them a loving home in their last years of life.

Sadly, Buddy passed away just a couple days ago. We’re so thankful to have met him and grateful to people like Nicole who find a way to open their hearts to make sure these special dogs have a few great years before the inevitable happens.

Be sure to pick up a copy of our special senior issue at Pet Supplies Plus stores in West Michigan, Dallas/Fort Worth, Birmingham, Ala., area and Appleton, Wis. It will be available in West Michigan later today and in our out-of-state stores early next week.

If you’d like the magazine delivered to your home, go to getdogsunleashed.com to subscribe.

When you glance through the pages and see the wonderful photography by Jennifer Waters, be sure to remember Buddy and know that he got what every dog deserves — although for him it came later in life — a home filled with love.

Iago and his owner a tale of inspiration for those with PTSD

Our latest issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine features some pretty amazing dogs. When we first met Iago, a short burly pit bull with tightly cropped ears (we later learned his ears had been cut off and he was abused before he made his way into a shelter) we knew we had to feature him some day.

Iago, a rescued pit bull who is now a service dog, graces the cover of the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed. (Photo by Jennifer N. Waters)

Iago, a rescued pit bull who is now a service dog, graces the cover of the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed. (Photo by Jennifer N. Waters)

Iago and his owner, Shannon Schaefer, attended an event last year that both photographer Jennifer Waters and I also attended. We learned Iago was a service dog and that Shannon, a former U.S. Marine, suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While he was hesitant to talk about it at the time, Shannon soon warmed up enough to tell his story to writer Susan Harrison.

The organization responsible for Iago and Shannon’s training, Stiggy’s Dogs, provided a few more  veterans for us to interview, and Susan wrote of the frustration of their condition and the appreciation and love for the dogs trained to help them cope with their mental and physical disorders. To a person, each veteran told Susan they don’t know where they’d be without their service dog.

While we featured just a few vets suffering from this very real disorder in the January/February issue of Dogs Unleashed, we know there are thousands more suffering. For many, a therapy dog might be the answer. Many states have organizations like Stiggy’s that work to pair up veterans and service dogs.

By publicizing the fact there is help for veterans suffering with PTSD — and for many dogs in shelters who can be trained to assist these veterans — it’s our hope readers will share these stories and perhaps provide a little help for those in need.

Mary Ullmer is creator and editor of Dogs Unleashed magazine. To subscribe to the print edition of the bi-monthly magazine for just $9.99 per year, click here



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.



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.


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.”


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.”


Ready for Blocktail? Bone up on last year’s grant recipients and get your tickets today

Editor’s note: The following appeared in the May/June issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine. 


The goal, of course, is to save more cats and dogs. The idea is to find them the loving homes every pet deserves.

Our dog, Truman, is ready for the party scene. Are you? Bissell Blocktail tickets are $55 today and go up to $65 Tuesday. The event is Wednesday at Mangiamo! in Grand Rapids. (Grumpy Pups Pet Photography photo)

Our dog, Truman, is ready for the party scene. Are you? Bissell Blocktail tickets are $55 today and go up to $65 Tuesday. The event is Wednesday at Mangiamo! in Grand Rapids. (Grumpy Pups Pet Photography photo)

The problem, of course, is that too many pet owners are irresponsible, avoiding the simple steps of spaying or neutering that can make a real difference in curbing the exploding population of unwanted cats and dogs.

Enter the BISSELL Pet Foundation and the annual BISSELL Blocktail Party, set for June 12 at Mangiamo!, 1033 Lake Drive SE, Grand Rapids. Tickets are available for $55 until Tuesday, when they increase to $65. Go to the Blocktail website to order them online today.

Last year, the event raised $187,000 to help pets in West Michigan. But beyond the dollars, it sparked a united front among the agencies and charitable organizations that tend to pets’ needs, creating efficiencies and surely saving more lives along the way.

That’s because Cathy Bissell, founder of the Bissell Pet Foundation, required those seeking grant monies to exercise collaboration with other pet non-profits to eliminate overlap and ensure that each dollar granted went as far as it possibly could to make a pet’s life better.

“The Blocktail Party has really fostered collaboration among organizations that love and want to help animals,” said Shannon Reinecke, foster care/adoption coordinator at Vicky’s Pet Connection in Ada. “I think that has made a bigger difference, even beyond the dollars. The grant process has inspired all of us to work together to see how we can best help pets.”

It has allowed the organizations to specialize in many areas, ensuring that no dog or cat is left behind. From spaying and neutering, to caring for the needs of at-risk senior dogs and cats, monies raised at the annual Blocktail Party are making a difference in West Michigan.

“It’s amazing,” said Carly Luttmann, program supervisor of the Kent County Animal Shelter. “I can’t say enough what it means to all of our organizations around here to not only have the Blocktail Party but to have the Bissell Pet Foundation.”

And it means a lot to plenty of cats and dogs, too, who have been saved from euthanasia and/or placed in loving homes.

“It is amazing to have an organization right in our backyard that recognizes the unheard voices of the millions of homeless animals,” said Trudy Ender, executive director of Humane Society of West Michigan. “Bissell Pet Foundation is a wonderful resource not only in West Michigan, but beyond.”

To illustrate BPF’s reach in West Michigan, here’s what the grant money from last year’s Blocktail Party did for area organizations.


With 7,500 animals per year coming through the Kent County Animal Shelter, workers have focused on increasing the save rate of unwanted dogs and cats. Of the $41,000 in grant money received, $25,000 was used for spaying and neutering with the adoption program; $11,000 was used to underwrite adoption fees for low-income would-be pet owners and $5,000 was used to spay and neuter stray dogs and cats.

“Spaying and neutering is the most important thing,” said Luttmann. “If people realized that a simple act has such a positive repercussion on the animals saved because of it, they would do it more.”

Luttmann hopes to change the culture in West Michigan to align more with areas like Denver, Colo., where it is unusual not to have a pet spayed or neutered.

“Our goal is to increase live release all the way,” Luttmann said.

KCAS, which is funded primarily through county government, takes in about 7,500 animals per year and has a save rate (adoptions, reclaims and transfers in comparison to euthanasia rate) of about 30 percent.

In the spirit of collaboration, the shelter has worked with other agencies, such as Vicky’s Pet Connection, to place animals and give them the best chance for adoption.

“We work a lot with other agencies in the area,” Luttmann said.


C-SNIP’s mission is “fixing” pets so they don’t reproduce, and last year’s grant helped the organization focus primarily on its Big Paws Project, which spays and neuters dogs 50 pounds and bigger.

“Larger animals will have larger litters,” explained former executive director Pat Schoen, who retired in February. “We have never turned anyone away for lack of affordability and we offset the costs of what the client cannot pay.”

C-SNIP, which has facilities in both Muskegon and Kent counties, opens its doors to anyone throughout the country and has spayed and neutered more than 95,000 cats and dogs. A fully staffed operation, C-SNIP’s funding comes from donations, surgery fees and grants. Schoen said about 96 percent of C-SNIP’s clients are low-income.

“Our mortality rate is probably the lowest in the country because of the skills and attention of our staff,” said Schoen.

Still, she is particularly concerned about the “overwhelming continuing explosion” of cats in West Michigan and grant money not used for the Big Paws project has helped with spaying and neutering cats.

C-SNIP partners with the Humane Society of West Michigan two days a month to provide vaccinations for low-income pet owners. It also waives fees for active military personnel and women who are entering a shelter situation and need help with their pets.


Older dogs and cats present special challenges, Reinecke said, because their needs are greater and they are more difficult to place in homes.

So Vicky’s Pet Connection used $15,000 of its Blocktail grant for its Golden Paws program.

“We pull at-risk senior dogs out of shelters and provide them with medical attention and try to get them adopted,” Reinecke said.

They include dogs like Franny, a Beagle taken from the Allegan County Animal Shelter and then Wishbone Rescue, who was in critical shape by the time she reached Vicky’s. Franny had extensive dental work as well as a three-inch tumor removed from her paw.

“These animals are remarkable,” said Reinecke. “Most of the time they can be rehabbed into very loving family pets.”

Vicky’s also takes in and adopts out about 600 cats a year, but focuses primarily on aging and special needs dogs.

Vicky’s used $5,000 of its Blocktail grant for its Buddy’s Big Fix Fund, which focuses on spaying and neutering larger dogs, while $7,000 has been used for microchipping pets.


The bulk of HSWM’s Blocktail grant has been used on adoption specials, including its Silver Paws Program for senior dogs. The remaining dollars were spent on microchipping for low-income pet owners and providing animal transfer subsidies.

With an annual operating budget of $1.5 million funded primarily with grants and donations and an intake rate of about 3,500 animals per year, every dollar is critical to helping animals in West Michigan, Ender said.

The oldest help agency for animals in West Michigan — the organization was founded in 1883 — it works closely with other organizations to provide homes and care for cats and dogs.

“The grants fueled by funds raised at the Blocktail Party have such a positive impact on Humane Society of West Michigan’s mission, enabling us to improve and extend the care we provide to animals, increase the number of animal adoptions, expand opportunities, and launch new initiatives that benefit the community’s animals and pet owners,” said Ender. “The Bissell Blocktail Party is another philanthropic testimony that as a community, we are in it together — we are joined together for life-saving measures for animals in our community.”

Specifically, the grant allowed the Humane Society, located in Walker, to subsidize six months of adoption specials and to provide reduced-rate vaccinations and free microchipping for low-income pet owners.


There are plenty of behind-the-scenes costs that go into helping animals, and equipment is just one of them.

Carol Manos, founder of Carol’s Ferals in Grand Rapids, said the Blocktail grant was instrumental in purchasing a washer and dryer and dishwasher to help clean the bedding and dishes for the thousands of cats passing through the organization on a yearly basis.

“These purchases have really helped us provide more sanitary conditions for our cats,” said Manos.

Remaining Blocktail grant funds have been used for the shelter’s spay and neuter program, the top priority at Carol’s Ferals.


A cat rescue placement center in Grand Rapids, Crash’s Landing doesn’t aspire to be the biggest shelter in West Michigan.

“We never set out to be the biggest shelter,” said Kimberly Grant, vice president and director of communications for Crash’s Landing. “We are more than happy and satisfied to, as the motto states, ‘help our little corner of the world, one cat at a time.’ We firmly stand by the ideal of quality over quantity and do not apologize for that.”

Yet, the Blocktail grant allowed the shelter to increase its capacity by 8 percent to 130 cats. Other monies have been used to publicize the facility, which has resulted in more than doubling the number of adoptions per month, from an average of 7 to 19. An added bonus: Volunteer numbers also have more than doubled.

“We’ve worked very hard in 2012 to alter the public perception of Crash’s Landing,” said Grant. “I believe we were perceived as difficult to adopt from — even standoffish.”

Crash’s has used $7,000 of the grant to promote adoptions and community outreach and $3,000 for food and supplies.


Mackenzie’s takes in out about 100 dogs per year but was unable to provide some of the on-site care needed to prepare them for adoption.

The Blocktail grant has been used toward purchasing laboratory equipment to assist with diagnostics. “We are not able to do in-depth eye exams, run more accurate fecal samples, urinalysis, etc.,” said Jorel Davis, assistant general manager of Mackenzie’s. “This was the first step towards the future.”

Davis said he’s excited about what Mackenzie’s, located in Lake Odessa, will be able to do to help homeless dogs with an on-site veterinary clinic.

“We will be able to impact a greater number of deserving animals relinquished to animal control facilities, humane societies and other types of facilities that euthanize,” said Davis. “Through this, we will be able to show our community that these dogs are not to blame; given needed attention and some time, they are great companions that just need to find their forever home.”


Located in Ionia, Safe Haven has used its grant to create a dog-training program for people who adopt their dogs, in addition to supporting a free spay/neuter program for female cats and their litters.

Safe Haven focuses on rescuing cats and dogs from abandonment situations.


Reuben’s has targeted its grant for helping with the needs of its senior cat population.

Reuben’s Room facilitator Jeanine Buckner is convinced that cats make a difference in senior citizens’ lives and she has focused on matching her older cats with elderly men and women. Her program is called “Worry Free Adoption for Seniors.”


This dog and cat shelter in Fremont, has used its grant to purchase 200 Avid microchips in hopes that animals can be reunited with their owners sooner than Bonnie and Clyde, two elderly Beagles who came to the shelter in 2011.

Carmen Froehle, facilities manager at Bellwether, said the elderly dogs stayed at the shelter for nearly a year when a young boy showed up after seeing photos posted online. They were the boy’s dogs, named Daisy and Gunner, and “the family was overjoyed” to get their dogs back.

Had the dogs been microchipped, they would have been reunited much sooner. With the Blocktail grant, Froehle said they can now ensure every cat and dog is microchipped before they are adopted.


MidAmerica Border Collie Rescue serves the Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Indiana areas and has used its grant to microchip its border collies before putting them up for adoption. There is no facility for the rescue. Instead, adoptable dogs are housed in foster homes.


HSWM Project B.A.R.C. volunteer among missionaries killed in Haiti

I was so sorry to read a Facebook post from the Humane Society of West Michigan regarding the deaths of four missionaries from west Michigan, who were killed in a car accident in Haiti  on Friday.

One of the accident victims was a member of the HSWM volunteer staff who worked with the kids at the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center on Project B.A.R.C. Here’s the post from HSWM:

We were deeply saddened to receive the news last night of the 4 victims involved in the accident in Haiti. Matt Kutsche, one of the victims, was one of our Project B.A.R.C. volunteers. Through his volunteer work, he not only helped many of our dogs but he made a tremendous impact on the residents in the program. Matt was a very dedicated volunteer who helped many young men at the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center learn how to train and treat dogs. His enthusiasm, dedication and inspiration will be deeply missed.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the friends and family of Matt and the other victims in this tragic accident.

Project B.A.R.C. works with detention center youth (they must apply for the position, just as they would apply for a job) to train select dogs (they, too, must meet criteria) from HSWM. It’s a win-win in that the kids learn responsibility, unconditional love and much more, while the newly trained dog becomes more attractive to potential adoptive owners.

The Project B.A.R.C. program is featured in the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Matt’s family, including his family at HSWM and the juvenile detention center, and families and friends of all the victims.


Zeus shows why he’s king of the dog world

Zeus posed for several pictures with the children at HSWM’s mini Kids Camp.

There’s a reason we labeled the dog featured on the cover of the latest edition of Dogs Unleashed magazine “The Greatest Dane.”

Not only is Zeus, the Great Dane from Otsego, Mich., the current Guinness Book of Records world’s tallest dog, he also is a GREAT dog. He showed just how great he is at the Humane Society of West Michigan‘s winter camp, Kids & Paws, on Thursday.

Zeus and his owner, Kevin Doorlag, spent a couple of hours at the camp, running around HSWM’s training room and entertaining the 34 children in attendance. He was so impressive that several adults, staff and volunteers at HSWM, made it a point to join in and get a look at the colossal dog. Jennifer Self-Aulgur, HSWM’s humane education coordinator who puts on the camp, was kind enough to invite me to meet Zeus as well.

Zeus, the world’s tallest dog, is featured in the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine.

It truly was a treat to see the 163-pound dog make his way around the room and pose for pictures with the children and adults. Doorlag and his daughter, Miranda, answered questions from the kids and had Zeus “perform” by standing on his hind legs to show off his 7-foot-4 height in that position. They also riled him up so he’d bark, something the gentle giant thankfully doesn’t do on a regular basis.

If you’d like to read more about Zeus, be sure to pick up the latest edition of Dogs Unleashed, currently being distributed to several locations (including HSWM, the Kent County Animal Shelter and Grand Rapids area Pet Supplies Plus stores) in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties.

You can also check out the online version by clicking here and you can see outtakes from the magazine’s photo shoot by Grumpy Pups Pet Photography owner Jennifer Waters on her blog by clicking here.

Beginning with the March/April edition, Dogs Unleashed will be available via subscription, so you can have it mailed directly to your home for a very affordable rate. Stay tuned in the next couple of months for information and details on subscribing.

Meanwhile, enjoy this video feature of Zeus from the folks at Guinness!



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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