will your pet be safe if a natural disaster strikes? #NatlPrep #giveaway

This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I can't believe it's been that long. Hitting the Atlantic coast and costing over 1,800 lives, it was one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. Families with pets faced torturous decisions, as no provisions had been made for pets in such a disaster. Many people were forced to leave their pets behind, which was a huge emotional blow in such a time of crisis, not to mention the health and safety risks the situation posed to the pets. Some people refused to evacuate without their pets, which further complicated rescue efforts. In all, over 600,000 pets died or found themselves homeless, and almost half (44%) of people who refused to evacuate said they did not leave because they were not allowed to bring their pets. 

Will your pet be safe if a natural disaster strikes?

Will your pet be safe if a natural disaster strikes?

PETS Act

Hurricane Katrina was the catalyst for the PETS Act–the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act. The act had bipartisan support in both houses, and the legislation passed quickly through Congress and was signed into law in October 2006. It ensures that state and local emergency planning addresses the needs of households with pets.

our hurricane katrina rescue dog

In addition to the lives lost and families displaced by Hurricane Katrina, many animals found themselves astray. The stray animal population was too much for the Gulf Coast area to handle, especially as they began a long process toward recovery, so animals were sent to shelters and rescue groups all over the United States in hopes that by dispersing the stray population, more animals would find homes. Our dog, N.A.S.H.A. was one of those dogs. 

Our dog, N.A.S.H.A., is a Hurricane Katrina rescue.

Our dog, N.A.S.H.A., is a Hurricane Katrina rescue.

We adopted N.A.S.H.A. in September of 2005 when she was just a pup. She was with a rescue group that had taken on a large number of strays left homeless in the wake of the hurricane. My step-son, B, and I walked past her crate, and she went nuts. We watched from afar as others passed her crate and noticed that she only got excited when we walked by. B asked if we could take her out and hold her. That's when I knew we were in trouble. We weren't even thinking of adding another dog to the family. She chose us, and we couldn't deny her. 

do you have a plan in place for your pets if disaster strikes?

Thanks in big part to the PETS Act, our animal companions are now being considered when disaster strikes, but many of us don't have a emergency plan for our pets. Whether you live in a place where a hurricane or tornado could strike, you live in earthquake country, or you live in a place that could flood in a matter of moments during monsoon season (that's us), it's important to have a solid plan in place for your pets. 

We're working with the ASPCA to help spread the word about disaster preparedness for families with pets. They have created a handy infographic to break down the most important things to consider:

september is national preparedness month–take the pledge and enter to win a disaster preparedness pack

September is national preparedness month. Are you prepared to take care of your pets in a natural disaster? Are our pets safer than they were ten years ago when Hurricane Katrina struck? Join me in taking the pledge to prepare for your pets in the event of an emergency by clicking here.

Enter to win this ASPCA Disaster Preparedness Pack.

Enter to win this ASPCA Disaster Preparedness Pack.

The ASPCA has generously offered to give a Disaster Preparedness Pack to one of our readers! The pack includes:

• emergency ready pet first aid kit

• Subaru roll-up picnic blanket

• Subaru penguin umbrella

With this pack, there's no excuse not to be prepared.

Have you and your pets been through a natural disaster? Are you prepared to care for your pets in the event of an emergency? Please tell us about it.



8 great reasons to adopt an adult dog

Puppies are impossible to resist. For that reason, they rarely have trouble finding a willing family to take them in. Once they are past just a few months of age, they start to loose their desirability. Are they tainted? How come nobody wants them? What did their previous owners do to mess them up? Are they aggressive? Are they ill-behaved? Adult dogs find themselves in shelters for as many reasons as there are dogs in shelters. The bottom line? When you adopt an adult dog, you'll have a much better idea of what you're getting into. 

Puppy fever? Check out 8 great reasons to adopt an adult dog.

Puppy fever? Check out 8 great reasons to adopt an adult dog.

8 great reasons to adopt an adult dog

1. You'll know if you have an introvert or extrovert on your hands. Knowing what you're getting into in terms of personality is a great thing, in my opinion. Though when you meet a dog at a shelter, he may not show his full personality to you right away, you can get a pretty good idea as to whether there are any major deal-breaking issues so that you can figure out if the animal would be a good fit for your lifestyle and family. Puppies are all pretty much cute lumps of fluff, ready to be molded. That molding is a time-consuming task that doesn't always work out as planned. When you adopt an adult dog, you'll know if he gets along with kids, needs a great deal of exercise, or is fearful of loud noises, for example. You can choose your new family member based on what works for you. No surprises!

2. Potty training–check! Adult dogs are usually potty trained. It's true that some have not been properly trained in this area, but you'll know that going in. Rescues and shelters will generally know which dogs are potty trained and which aren't. If you don't want to go through the grueling process of potty training, an adult dog may be for you. No puppy comes potty trained.

3. Size matters. Unless you get a pure-bred puppy, the size your puppy may eventually be is pretty much a mystery. I can't tell you how many times a pet sitting client says to me "yeah...we didn't realize he'd be this big when we got him." Size may not be as important as temperament and activity needs, but if you are expecting a chihuahua and end up with a pony, it might make a difference to you. 

4. They might know some stuff. Chances are, your rescued adult dog will come home knowing at least a handful of commands. Even if they don't, they have a longer attention span than puppies, so they will catch on quicker when you want them to "sit" and "stay."

5. Adult dogs aren't the time-suck puppies are. During the first year (and sometimes beyond) of life, puppies require near-constant supervision to make sure they are safe and behaving themselves, which is usually not the case, if left to their own devices. All that potty training and training training can be exhausting and can take up a ton of time. Adult dogs become acclimated to the house rules much faster.

6. They won't eat your couch. Teething puppies tend to gnaw on anything they can sink their teeth into. If proper chewing toys are not provided, they will resort to things you probably find valuable, such as your Jimmy Choos or your couch. Puppy proofing is often a trial-and-error process, and there may be casualties along the way. Though adult dogs still like to chew (and should for dental health), they typically know what is appropriate and what is not.

7. Health isn't a mystery. It is expected that senior dogs may come with a health issue or two, but when you adopt an adult or senior dog, you have a better idea of what you're getting into. You may choose to adopt an ill or disabled dog (extra hero points for you), but if that's not your thing, most dogs in rescues and shelters have been checked over by a veterinarian, so any health issues present are known. With a puppy, it's more difficult to determine because of the limited health history. 

8. You get to rock a dog's world. Adult dogs aren't considered as cute as puppies, as far as the general population is concerned. Puppies go like hot cakes, because, who can resist the pudge and innocent eyes? But if you take time to think about what you might mean to a dog that is already grown up, well, you'd be a rockstar. They want homes. They want families. They want a rock star like you to make that happen for them.

Adult dogs in rescues and shelters come from varied backgrounds. They come in all ages, all shapes, and all sizes, and they have different needs. The common thread is that they all need homes. When you adopt an adult dog, you at least have a fairly good idea of what you are getting into, so there's a greater chance you'll find that perfect match–that BFF for life. 

Have you ever adopted an adult dog? Will you please share your story?

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art studio holds "paint a pet" fundraiser for the humane society

I enjoyed an evening with some of my best gal pals last week for "Moms' Night Out" hosted by our local MOMS Club. We all brought some food and wine to share and met up at Be...An Artist, a local art studio recently opened by artist Sandra Marshall. I was excited to do something different...slap some paint onto a canvas, but it was even more fun than I expected. While we were there, Sandra mentioned that the studio would be hosting a "Paint a Pet" fundraiser for the Arizona Humane Society, and my ears perked up. 

Our MOMS Club had an awesome time at Be...An Artist.  photos courtesy of Sandra Marshall, Be...An Artist.

Our MOMS Club had an awesome time at Be...An Artist. photos courtesy of Sandra Marshall, Be...An Artist.

So a few days later, I found myself back in the studio with Sandra and her fabulous team. When the Arizona Human Society's Waggin' Wheels Mobile Adoption Wagon pulled up, the small crowd watched in excitement. For, inside were not only furry models for the budding artists, but adoptable models, at that. Once the wagon was parked in front of the studio, the side rolled up to reveal a wall of adorable critters in see-through kennels. The onlookers released a collective "Awwwww..." The back of the wagon said "NEW FAMILY MEMBERS ON BORD," which totally melted my heart.

The crowd gathered outside the Waggin' Wheels Wagon.

The crowd gathered outside the Waggin' Wheels Wagon.

The hopeful pups check out the crowd, hoping to become the newest addition to a great family.

The hopeful pups check out the crowd, hoping to become the newest addition to a great family.

Inside, Sandra and her team had set up canvases for potential adopters as well as for birthday party-goers. What a great occasion for an animal-loving tween to have a party! Sandra started the art lesson by teaching everyone how to draw the animal they wanted to paint. Step-by-step, she showed them how to form the shapes the would somehow come together into a masterpiece. What I love about Sandra is her attitude. Though she is an accomplished artist, she instructed both "spirited" moms and young animal lovers on how to create a painting to be proud of. Throughout the process, she occasionally asks "are you happy with it?" If you say you're not, she'll ask what you're not happy with and help you find a solution. Remarkable patience.

Sandra helps the artists every step of the way.

Sandra helps the artists every step of the way.

Back outside at the wagon, I spoke to Megan Merrimac, Mobile Adoptions Coordinator for the Arizona Humane Society. I asked her about the Waggin' Wheels program. She explained that since the program's inception in July of 2014, they have had over 250 adoptions out of the wagon. They bring 6-8 dogs and a couple of cats each time they take the wagon out, which is three or four times a week. Sometimes they attend events, and sometimes they just hit the road. I asked Megan if the pets had to meet any special requirements in order to board the Waggin' Wheels Wagon. She said that she always make sure the animals are good with kids. That seems understandable, as the wagon was attracting small humans like bees to honey. 

Who could resist these cute faces?

Who could resist these cute faces?

At Be...An Artist that day, AZHS adopted out four animals. Pretty awesome! And Sandra donated a portion of the proceeds to the cause. We love that!

Be...An Artist has a wide variety of sessions and events geared toward children, teens, and adults.  They even offer summer camps and classes for people with special needs. It's a great place to have a birthday party, as I was lucky to witness first-hand. I think my art-loving daughter, Campbell, would absolutely love to have her next birthday party there. 

The party-goers were pleased with their masterpieces.  photo courtesy of Sandra Marshall, Be...An Artist.

The party-goers were pleased with their masterpieces. photo courtesy of Sandra Marshall, Be...An Artist.

Have you been to Be...An Artist, yet? Or if you're not in the Phoenix area, is there anything like this where you live?

View the Be...An Artist calendar of events.

Connect with Be...An Artist on Facebook.

View the Arizona Humane Society's Waggin' Wheels Mobile Adoption Vehicle calendar.

Connect with AZHS on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+.

green dog rescue project: inspiring change, educating, and saving lives

"These aren't prisoners. These dogs deserve a second chance." –Colleen Combs, President, The Green Dog Rescue Project

While browsing my Twitter feed last week, I stumbled upon an organization called The Green Dog Rescue Project. Being an environmentally-conscious animal wellness blogger, I was immediately intrigued. Now I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, so I was driven to check out what it's all about. What I discovered is truly remarkable.

The Green Dog Rescue Project, located in Windsor, California, is the nation's first predominantly non-kennel shelter and educational facility. When you think of a dog shelter free of kennels, do you envision chaos or peace? Having been in quite a few kennel-based shelters, I immediately had a sense of calm wash over me as I thought about the energy at The Green Dog Rescue Project shelter. I'm sure there are a few scuffles, a small price to pay for dogs getting freedom, exercise, love, sunlight, and interaction. Think prison vs. park. Where would you be happier spending your time?

This short video is an excellent snapshot of what The Green Dog Rescue Project is all about:

The dogs at The Green Dog Rescue Project live as a pack, teaching each other and interacting in a positive environment, a sharp contrast to a traditional shelter, where dogs are typically isolated in small, individual kennels. This pack environment helps them physically and socially and makes them more adoptable. 

And it's not just about this one facility. The Green Dog Rescue Project offers to consult with other canine rescues. They work with shelters on a one-on-on basis, and they also offer a workshop series to educate rescuers, trainers and volunteers. They are setting out to change the system.

The Green Dog Rescue Project's adoption process is unique. Potential new dog parents don't just pop in, point at the most attractive pooch and walk out with him. GDRP has designed an adoption process that allows for a more successful pairing between a dog and his new family:

We spend a great deal of time with each animal learning about their temperament, energy levels, disposition, and social skills. We also learn their quirks and characteristics, taking the responsibility of helping to make great matches very seriously. Consider us the 'Match.com' of the dog-to-human world. We encourage a 'date night' once a match is made, allowing all parties the opportunity to get to know one another a little better in their own home environment, improving the chances of making a successful match.

Though GDRP accepts some private surrenders, their approach is unique. They first attempt to work with a family by offering advice and training, but if the dog is truly not a good match for a particular family, they will consider accepting a surrender or even allow a family to be part of their "exchange" program to help them find a better fit. GDRP's philosophy about education and finding that excellent dog-human match has proven quite successful.

What is GDRP's mission?

To inspire change, educate, and save lives.

The Green Dog Rescue Project introduces a nature-based philosophy to the animal welfare industry. Our interests are to educate the community and industry in the methods and language of animals in an effort to improve the manner in which we house homeless animals and minimize the lives lost as a result of behavior issues, poor social skills, overcrowding, and other traditional criteria.

We are a "realistic" organization and understand that, due to over-breeding, genetic disorders, health issues, irreparable injuries, chemical imbalances, and various other severe psychological or physiological conditions, not every animal can be saved. HOWEVER, with over 9,000 animals a day in this country facing euthanasia, we DO BELIEVE that the highest majority of those animals are being euthanized unnecessarily.

Through education and community outreach programs, GDRP teaches the language and social structure of dogs, mentors shelters willing to participate in pioneering industry-wide changes in housing methods, and brings awareness and assistance to over-breeding. We provide retention training and counseling for families struggling with the decision to keep their pet due to behavior issues, guidance and counseling to families during the process of adopting a new pet, match senior dogs with the elderly community, and social rehabilitation to dogs that have failed in traditional animal shelters. 

We spoke with GDRP President Colleen Combs to discover even more about their facility and mission:

Colleen Combs and part of her pack. Photo courtesy of GDRP.

Colleen Combs and part of her pack. Photo courtesy of GDRP.

WM: How many dogs do you have at your facility at one time, and what is the intake process like?

CC: Green Dog Rescue Project (as an organization) is still in 'Foster Care.' In other words, GDRP is currently hosted by a company called 'King's Kastle,' which is a dog boarding, rehabilitation, training, and day care center. They have been very kind to allow us to invade their facility and operate our entire program out of their building. As a result, however, we have agreed to limit ourselves to thirty dogs at any given time (solely GDRP)...which is why we generally have fifty dogs or so at any given time (laughs).

The Kastle have been very supportive of our breaking the rules and continue to help us as much as possible. In any case, between GDRP and the dogs of King's Kastle's clientele (once the GDRP dogs pass health and behavior assessments, they 'join the pack' of all dogs on site, regardless of origin), there is generally an average of 150 dogs at any given time on site. Once GDRP raises funds to obtain their own building, we expect to host as many as 150-200 animals a day.

WM: How do you match families with dogs?

CC: Part of what separates us from traditional shelters is how we approach adoptions. We begin by spending thirty days with each dog, first. This time allows the dog to transition and 'settle' back into their personality. During this time, we get to know the energy level, personality, disposition, and behavior traits, such as social skills with kids, dogs, strangers, cats, etc. Once we have this information, we can better determine what type of family and home would give the dog the greatest chance of successful long term placement.

For example, we may determine that although this adorable Shitzu is a great size for a lap dog, they may, in fact, have such a high energy level that they will need a firm handler and lots of focused exercise in order to be a good family dog...thereby not being a great match for a sedentary family or elderly person. 

Once we have 'figured out' the dog, we can begin talking with adopters and coaching them into finding the dog that would better suit their lifestyle. We spend time with the potential adopters and share all we have learned about the dog, spelling out for them what they will need to do to make this a great match. 

Once that is accomplished, we send the dog home with the family for a 'sleep-over' for a few nights. We coach people in understanding that the dog is unfamiliar with what the end goal is, so we ask them to be patient, teach them to establish 'house rules' from the moment the dog enters the environment, and remind people NOT to throw a 'Meet the New Dog' party any time soon, as it becomes VERY overwhelming for the dog. We encourage people to 'date' and get to know the dog, allowing the dog to get to know them as well...BEFORE introducing them to all their friends and extended family. You would never wear your wedding dress on your first date and feel comfortable...don't expect your dog to. We ask them to put themselves into the dog's role and evaluate how they would feel if thrust into a new environment with a new family, new routines, new smells, and NO way to communicate to one another. It's overwhelming...let's SLOW DOWN and help the dog understand what we are trying to accomplish.

Once the overnight visits seem to be working, a final adoption process occurs, and all records are transferred into the new family's name, and adoption fee is paid, a picture is taken, and we provide them with a 24-hour emergency number in the event that the dog gets loose or they need support in some way.

WM: Your pack philosophy and methodology seem to be similar to those of Cesar Millan, who most people are familiar with. What are some similarities and differences?

CC: Yes, there are many similarities. We do believe that dogs are social creatures and are negatively impacted when housed in a 'prison-like' manner. Being housed in individual kennels, often accompanied by incessant and stressful barking, is simply not how dogs were meant to live. Nor were they intended to live in individual rooms/suites/bungalows, completely deprived of their major senses (smell, sound, sight). This type of housing has unintentionally added to the stressful results that manifest into unwanted behaviors such as fear-based aggression, withdraw, possessiveness, lunging, pacing, etc. These behaviors often become a death sentence to a dog. We are able to take a dog out of that environment and introduce them to the 'pack,' seeing a change in the demeanor of that dog within minutes. Literally. For those who are more severely effected by long-term damage (staying a longer time in a kennel), we may need a few more days–sometimes a week or so–but they generally ALL recover in a relatively short period of time with the proper influence and direction from the trained humans as well as the influence of the pack.

Perhaps one of the things that differentiates us from Cesar is that we are working to introduce this approach to shelters across the nation. We aren't using 'pets' for our examples. We are using dogs that have been deemed 'unacceptable,' who have no owner willing to stand up for them and learn what has to be done to make them a great dog. We are trying to convince shelters to let us have this 'bad dog' that can't be 'turned around' and then find its forever home. We also spend a GREAT DEAL of our time teaching, not training. The dogs are often the easy part. We spend a great deal more time teaching people than we do training dogs.

WM: How do you consult and help other shelters apply your methodology?

CC: Currently, GDRP is mentoring two California shelters as they begin to implement a pack-based shelter model. We are seeking two more shelters to mentor for the 2015 year. Candidates must have the support of their Board of Directors as well as their Administrative Directors, as well as the willingness to remain patient and committed to learning new methods. These candidates do NOT have to be local. As a matter of fact, we are currently in communication with a shelter in Connecticut as to their request to be considered for our mentoring program. Once we receive a request from an interested shelter, there is a timeline that allows us to visit the existing shelter, meet with Directors, Staff, and Volunteers, and discuss requirements for commitment and resources, etc.

We completely understand the need for cost-effectiveness for shelters, as we are restricted by the same parameters. That being said, we assist shelters in using what they currently have by way of space, equipment, staffing, and finances and help them to re-think how they are using these resources, making them more user-friendly and beneficial for the animals in their care. We provide additional training to the staff and volunteers, invite them to participate in our 'pack' and learn from our professionals, as well as assist them in learning the language of dogs in order to apply it to other dogs in their facility. For these first four shelters, we have agreed to provide our services pro bono, as long as they cover our expenses for housing and transportation if not within reasonable driving distance.

Shelters, rescues, and other individuals  NOT in our mentor program can still learn the techniques and skills we use by taking any of our 'open to the public' workshops scheduled for 2015. Organizations not chosen for this year's pro bono mentoring program are also welcome to contact us and hire us independently to achieve the same goals. We do work on a sliding scale and encourage shelters to apply for educational and new programs grants to offset the fees of our services.

Surprisingly, we have received more requests from shelters outside of the U.S. than we do within the U.S. It appears that shelters outside the U.S. are more willing to accept these methods as a more natural approach than those in the U.S. that are convinced that food rewards and diversion tactics are much more humane...neither of which work well with a dog suffering from anxiety or stress...manifesting in the behaviors that lead to euthanization in traditional shelters.

GDRP believes there is a distinct difference between 'trained behaviors' and 'social expectations.' Dogs do not offer food rewards or diversions to one another if unwanted behavior is exhibited. For that reason, we do not believe food-based coercion is the quickest route to solving a behavior problem in a dog. On the flipside, dogs do not ask other dogs to 'sit,' 'stay,' 'shake,' or 'roll over' the way humans do. For those tasks, treats seem appropriate, for they are outside the natural expectations of the 'dog' social norms. 

Consider our own society. Highway Patrol does not offer a $20 bill to us if we promise to slow down and follow the speed limit. As appealing as that might sound, it simply isn't realistic, nor is it something we as a society might feel is impactful enough to change our speeding motorists. However, Highway Patrol will quickly pull you over and provide you with a consequence for breaking the social rules. Speeding = hefty fines. The officer does not walk away and lose sleep that night because they gave you a ticket. You, however, may still be seething that night because of the perceived injustice. The impact of that experience results in most people slowing down while on the road. The officer is simply an enforcer of our social norms, just as an Alpha should be the enforcer of a pack's social norms. Why this concept is so appalling to us humans when we apply it to our pets is beyond me.

We hope to help people learn the similarities between our species, as well as the differences, in an effort to gain a more effective and harmonious relationship between our pets and our own species.

Colleen invited us to visit GDRP the next time we visit the area, and we look forward to the experience. 

How do you feel about GDRP's pack-based shelter vs. the traditional kennel-based shelter?

Browse the GDRP web site.

Check out The Green Dog Rescue Project 2015 Workshop Schedule.

Connect with GDRP on Facebook and Twitter.