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.



The harsh reality of Detroit’s stray dog problem

This puppy is left chained to a porch railing for days. The owner has threatened anyone who tries to intervene or feed the puppy. A blue bowl next to the puppy is empty–no food or water. (Jennifer Waters photo)

This puppy is left chained to a porch railing for days. The owner has threatened anyone who tries to intervene or feed the puppy. A blue bowl next to the puppy is empty–no food or water. (Jennifer Waters photo)

The latest issues of Dogs Unleashed magazine includes a story many of us would just as soon not know about.

Unfortunately, the stray dog problem (and economic woes) in the city of Detroit are a reality we live with. Like any stories we see posted on Facebook of neglected and abused pets, of pets facing euthanasia in urgent need of adoption and of puppy mills and dog fighting, we would rather close our eyes and wish it away.

But these stories are out there, and they need to be told. Jennifer Waters, photographer for Dogs Unleashed magazine and owner of Grumpy Pups Pet Photography, went to Detroit to document first-hand the stray dog problem in the city, and the efforts of Detroit Dog Rescue to do what it can to help the situation.

You can read Jennifer’s full report in our September/October issue of Dogs Unleashed (subscribe for just $9.99 a year at dogsunleashedmag.com by clicking “subscribe” in the header, or pick up a copy at any of the six Pet Supplies Plus stores in West Michigan).

Jennifer also wrote a blog post on her experience, which you can read by clicking here. A word of warning: It is not a tail-wagging, happy experience. But it also is one to which we can turn a blind eye.

I encourage you to read the story, and the blog post, and share with others who need to know about the harsh realities facing dogs in Detroit these days.

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



Celebrate Bow-Wows & Brews, and wish C-SNIP’s Pat Schoen a fond farewell

It’s a bittersweet day for anyone who has been involved in C-SNIP. It happens to be the last day of work for Pat Schoen, the organization’s executive director the past seven years.

C-SNIP co-founder Pam Olsen, left, and outgoing Executive Director Pat Schoen at the 2011 Bow-Wows & Brews event. (C-SNIP photo)

C-SNIP co-founder Pam Olsen, left, and outgoing Executive Director Pat Schoen at the 2011 Bow-Wows & Brews event. (C-SNIP photo)

Schoen took over in 2006, when C-SNIP, the Community Spay and Neuter Initiative Partnership in West Michigan, moved from a mobile unit to its current building at 1675 Viewpond SE in Kentwood. The building was donated by Lois Levy and allowed C-SNIP to perform many more surgeries, including those on dogs.

About the time the doors to the new building opened, Schoen had taken early retirement from her previous job. She had planned to perhaps work part-time somewhere. But Pam Olsen, Betsy Pullen and Sue Carl, founders who founded C-SNIP in 2001, had other plans. Before she knew it, Schoen was in place as C-SNIP’s director and charged with taking the organization to the next level.

During her seven years there, C-SNIP has performed 75,773 spay/neuter surgeries on dogs and cats. All told, C-SNIP has “fixed” some 96,000 pets since its inception in 2001. Many pet owners couldn’t afford the surgery at their veterinarian, and C-SNIP has never turned away an owner for inability to pay for the procedure.

“I think that’s what I’m most proud of,” Schoen told me Thursday morning, her last day at work. “Through grants donations, we have been able to subsidize surgeries. We have never, ever, turned anyone away for lack of finances.”

Her swan song, so to speak, will be next week’s Bow-Wows & Brews event at DeltaPlex Arena in Grand Rapids. The event, from 6:30-10 p.m. on March 7 (that’s a Thursday), features sample microbrews, heavy Hors d’oeuvres (both vegan and traditional), silent and live auctions, raffle prizes and photos of your dog by Grumpy Pups Pet Photography‘s Jennifer Waters.

 Bow-Wows & Brews is all about, food, beer, fun, dogs and a good cause. What's not to love?

Bow-Wows & Brews is all about, food, beer, fun, dogs and a good cause. What’s not to love?
(C-SNIP photo)

Dogs are welcome, and encouraged to come with their owners. Tickets are $40 per person (with $28 tax deductible) or $75 for two ($51 tax deductible) and can be purchased through the C-SNIP website. (I purchased ours this morning and was amazed at how simple it was … it took me less than a minute!).

I checked out the list of items available in silent and live auctions, and a fun new event, “Heads of Tails.” It’s more like a game, and the last person standing wins a fabulous prize, including an iPad, certificates to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. The 50-plus silent auction items include lift tickets to Boyne Mountain, a weekend spa getaway and a kid’s birthday party for 10 at the Humane Society of West Michigan. Live auction bidding includes — get this — a trip to Chicago’s Wrigley Field worth $1,400.

If you’re a pet lover in West Michigan, I encourage you to attend Bow-Wows & Brews and help support the wonderful work C-SNIP and Pat Schoen have come to represent. Their efforts have prevented unwanted litters of puppies and kittens and have made a difference in our community.

“We have brought awareness to the absolute necessity to spay and neuter our pets by offering affordable services to people who otherwise could not afford it,” Schoen said. “We are seeing a reduction in our area of dogs, specifically, at the animal shelter and humane society.

“Cats still remain a big effort. The cat population continues to explode because of the ability of them to have several litters per year.”

Schoen and the C-SNIP staff have come up with various programs and specials throughout the years, including “Beat the Heat” with reduced fees for cats and kittens, and “Primp Your Pit,” which last summer offered reduced fees for those who brought their pit bull or pit bull mixes in for spay/neuter surgery.

C-SNIP is able to offer such specials and affordable surgeries thanks to grants from various organizations, notably the Bissell Pet Foundation and PetSmart Charities, and with the money it makes at its annual fundraising events, like Bow-Wows & Brews, Antiques Road Show and the C-SNIP Classic golf outing.

And while we’ll be saying good-bye to Pat at this year’s Bow-Wows & Brews (although she has “volunteered” for the golf outing committee), we also will be saying hello to C-SNIP’s new executive director, Kara Eagle. Eagle, a native of Grand Rapids, has nine years experience in non-profit administration, including five in animal rescue. She served a year on the board of directors at C-SNIP.

“I’m absolutely delighted with Kara,” Schoen said. “She is going to be able to take this organization further and she has the same passion and same approach. She’s very friendly and is very good working with people. She believes in the mission and we consider ourselves lucky. She already has a head start (from serving on the board).

“Because Kara is taking over, I have no problem walking away and don’t have to worry. The only think I have to worry about now is me.”


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.