Creative Volunteerism: Quantifying the Issue

I was thrilled to receive an email from Sandy Shephard today, a volunteer with Angels’ Arms Rescue in Mobile, Alabama. She told me about their unique approach to raising awareness about euthanasia in their community. I think this photo and press release says it best:


Drivers will be stunned by the visual image along Highway 90 West in Theodore, AL.  Angels’ Arms Rescue has created a memorial of 8,450 small white crosses to represent every animal killed in local shelters last year.

 The event was created to bring attention to the ongoing problem of euthanization due to overpopulation.  According to organization volunteer Sandy Shepard, “the purpose of the memorial is to spread the message that every life matters.”

 Volunteers will be on-site at 5731 Highway 90 West on Saturday, October 8 from 2pm-4pm, to discuss solutions to this ongoing community problem.  Rescued pets and their families will share their experiences and homeless pets will be available for adoption.

 According to renowned wildlife expert, Jane Goodall, “Only if we understand can we care.  Only if we care will we help.  Only if we help shall they be saved.”

Bravo, Angels’ Arms. 

I hope that other rescuers consider this effort and whether or not you could do something similar in your area. People simply can’t ignore this, and the impact will surely be far-reaching. Like we always talk about in business school – if you can quantify your message, it tends to really bring it home. Angels’ Arms have certainly put the euthanasia issue in terms people can understand.

Side Note: 

I was told by Sandy that they printed out and used some of our humane education documents for the event. Of course I was thrilled! I hope that if you have a humane education event coming up, you will also consider making some of these documents available for people.


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Choosing the Right Breed

Written by Kevin Sloan of Find The Best:

Rescue With Care: How to Choose the Right Dog Breed

When it comes to finding a new dog — aside from picking the one with the cutest pug-nose, the floppiest ears or the nicest coat — consider a few of the factors below before taking one home.

Research ‘Breeds’ Success

Before visiting the local animal shelter, make sure to do your homework (no, the dog eating it is not an excuse). Here are some things to think about when comparing different dog breeds:

1)      Do you live in an apartment or a house with a small backyard? If so, don’t get a dog that requires a lot of space to run around and play.

2)      Can you handle hair…everywhere? Some dogs shed more than others; don’t get a golden retriever if you don’t want to clean up hair all the time.

3)      Do you have other pets or children? If so, make sure to get a breed that plays nice with both.

Diamond in the ‘Ruff’

Start at your local pound or animal shelter on your quest for a new dog. Shelter owners say these dogs make great pets because they are so grateful for some much needed TLC.

If your local shelter doesn’t have the breed you’re looking for, don’t be discouraged.  Many animal rescue agencies specialize in particular dog breeds; a quick Google search should return specialized rescue shelters.

Caring for Your Pooch

In addition to upfront costs, long-term expenses to contemplate are:

1)      Dog Food: Large bags might be cost-effective, but some breeds require specialized food, which might be more expensive. *

2)      Pet insurance:  Some breeds are more likely than others to have health problems as they grow older. Vet bills can be extremely expensive, so insurance is worthwhile depending on the breed and age of your potential dog.

*(There are a lot of differences between dog food brands, like nutritional value – visit FindTheBest to compare dog foods.)

 Millions of dogs are euthanized every year because of over population in shelters. Help save a shelter and an animal by rescuing the next time you get a pet.

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Finding Homes for Less Adoptable Pets

In honor of’s Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week, I thought a post about adopting out “less adoptable” pets was in order.

Some popular adjectives that come to mind for many when conjuring up the perfect dog include young, happy, healthy, and good-looking, however, these are not necessarily the marks of a great pet (at least, not right out of the gate). It’s true; dogs who are available for adoption are sometimes “less than perfect,” but it’s also true that “perfect” puppies sometimes turn into “not-so-perfect” dogs.

(In this video, you’ll see Max, a disabled dog whose front leg is fused at the elbow. This video shows that he can still have a great time. He was my foster dog and has since gone on to make a family very happy!)

As a person who has adopted and rehabilitated a puppy mill survivor with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, I can personally attest to the fact that sometimes the “less adoptable” dogs make the best pets. The way I see it, adding a dog to your life is like adding a child: It’s a big responsibility, and you often get out of it what you put in. As rescuers, how do we get people to understand this and encourage them to take a chance on a pet who may seem less adoptable?

Here are some strategies:

1) Make sure your dogs are clean and fresh. Nothing is a bigger turn-off than a dog who stinks. Adopters won’t even want to touch him or her, let alone take him or her home. Partner with a local dog wash to help you clean or dogs or have volunteers come in regularly and before your big adoption events to make sure everyone is looking good. If your dogs are housed in foster homes, ensure fosters have what they need for grooming and help them to understand the best ways to do it.

2) Give your dogs basic training. Potty training, sit, stay, and come can go a long way to convincing someone that a “less desirable” dog will actually be a great companion. One of the most requested attributes is that a dog is potty-trained. This can be difficult in a shelter setting, so if your dogs are housed in a shelter, try to shuffle your “less adoptables” off to foster homes where they can get the TLC they need to become “more adoptable.”

3) Post photos that show the dog’s personality. Photos are the first thing that a potential adopter will see, and they will judge adoptable dogs primarily on photos. Therefore, counsel your adopters about how to take good photos. (Click here for more marketing and photo tips.)

4) Take your “less adoptables” to as many adoption fairs as possible to get them out in front of people. These dogs can be their own best marketing tools – you just have to give them the opportunity!

How does your rescue market your “less adoptable” pets? What has worked best for you?

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Importance of Good Photos to Increase Adoptions

In Road to Rescue, we discuss the importance of taking good photos of each animal to increase his or her chance of adoption. Sharon Sleighter of Legacy Boxer Rescue did a great job starting the discussion on this topic on our blog. Now, the news is picking up on it:

What do you think? Can good photos make a difference in a dog’s chances for adoption? What are some tips?

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DON’T Kill Bill Aerial Performance

The next Don’t Kill Bill show will be on March 10th, 2012, at the Lakewood Cultural Center near Denver, CO. Our drive is high to take the show across the country, but in order to do so, we need sponsors.

Because the show is eclectic, unique, and message-driven, describing what to expect is a daunting task. Therefore, the first step for us is to put together some video of the first show. The DON’T Kill Bill show is truly an example of how a picture can speak a thousand words. Here’s the first in the DON’T Kill Bill video series. Enjoy!


Would you like to see DON’T Kill Bill come to your town? Leave us a comment!

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How NOT to Communicate

Rescuers, you are running A BUSINESS. In the rawest essence, you are entrepreneurs providing goods and services to customers. As entrepreneurs, you tend to have many great characteristics that lend to your success: perseverance, vision, passion, etc. However, many rescuers also share one significant flaw with most entrepreneurs: communication.

It is well documented that entrepreneurs often make terrible managers, and for the good of the business, once it grows to a certain point, the entrepreneur should step down and put a more communicative, detail-oriented manager in place. At the very least, the entrepreneur usually hires a more “managerial-type” personality to stand at his or her side.

In rescue, this is not always possible since, hey, we’re all doing it for free. However, both entrepreneurs and rescuers can strive to increase their communication and management aptitudes. I had a conversation with a rescuer (let’s just call her “Beth” – not her real name) today that really highlighted this point. My friend put in an application for a dog Beth had available. Beth emailed back and said she was approved, but the dog needed to be spayed. When could she come meet the dog?

My friend surely had questions: 1) The website states she will get a home visit and vet check before being approved. That didn’t happen. 2) The emails passed back and forth said something about taking the dog home unspayed and having the spay performed at a local vet. Huh? 3) Beth flatly refused to talk on the phone with my friend to answer her questions and help her understand the process.

My friend asked for my advice, and I decided to contact Beth myself because I, too, was confused, and considering the nature of our mission at Up For Pups, obviously it upsets me when I hear about people having bad experiences with rescue. To Beth’s credit, she called me immediately upon receipt of my email. I was impressed, but that’s where the good feelings ended.

Again, going back to the essence of things, one could say the conversation went like this:

Me: “Hi, I’m trying to understand your process, but it seems that you say you do things on your website that you don’t do. Was my friend approved to adopt even though she didn’t have a home check or vet check?”

Beth: “Your friend was not approved. She was just approved.”

Me: “She was very interested in adopting a dog from you, but since you refused to talk with her on the phone, she lost confidence.”

Beth: “All of your friend’s questions were driving me crazy. My emails said it all. Is she slow? I’m sorry. I didn’t realize she was slow.”

Me: “Uh…. Could I offer your some advice?”

Beth covering her ears and sticking her tongue out at me: “I’ve been doing this for 20 years. There is nothing you can say that will be worthwhile for me. I don’t have to listen to you!”

Me: “Uh…”

Beth: Click.

Really, it didn’t go exactly like that, but for the most part, that’s what happened. I had a really crafty email composed to follow up on the phone call, but I don’t think I should send it. She won’t get the message anyway. No matter, I’ll still get a kick out of sharing it with you:

Dear Beth,
Thank you for your call today. I appreciate your promptness. However, since you couldn’t understand what I was saying to you on the phone, you must be slow. Your questions and comments were driving me crazy.

How does that feel? That’s exactly what you said on the phone to me about my friend not understanding your emails.

What really happened on the phone was that I did not do an effective job of communicating with you. Do you see a parallel?

If this doesn’t make any sense to you, there is nothing more I can say. Please stop running “a rescue.” You’re making us all look bad.
Warm regards,

The lesson from business is this: If your customer is not understanding you, YOU are not communicating effectively, and it’s on YOU to find a better way to get your message across for that particular individual.

What do you think about this situation?

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The Truth About Ticks


The Truth About Ticks…Myth vs. Fact

*Provided to us by

Disease-carrying ticks pose health risks to dogs and people, no matter where they live. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that ticks in every U.S. state carry diseases, and the number of tick-borne diseases is increasing.

Since signs of tick-borne diseases are difficult to recognize in both pets and humans, simple preventive measures and understanding as much as possible about these creepy crawlers are the best ways to keep everyone safe. Here, a leading authority on the subject – – debunks some of the most commonly believed myths about ticks.

MYTH: The best ways to remove a tick are with a lit match, fingernail polish or petroleum jelly.

FACT: None of these methods cause the tick to “back out,” and all of them may actually result in the tick depositing more disease-carrying saliva into the wound, increasing the risk of infection.

Experts say the best way to remove a tick is to grasp it as close to the skin as possible with tweezers and pull the tick’s body out with a steady motion. Wear rubber gloves, and clean the skin with soap and water after removal. Dispose of the tick by placing it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet.

MYTH: Lyme disease is the only illness that ticks can transmit to dogs and humans.

FACT: Lyme is the most widely-known and common tick disease, but there are many others that ticks carry and can transmit to dogs and people. These include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis (sometimes known as “dog fever”), ehrlichiosis and some emerging diseases with potentially devastating effects.

MYTH: If I find a tick on myself or someone in my family, Lyme and other tick diseases can be ruled out immediately with a blood test.

FACT: According to the CDC, laboratory results for tick-borne illness in people are often negative on the first sample and require a second test 2 to 3 weeks later to confirm infection. Further, children are more susceptible to infections due to their immature immune systems.

Signs of Lyme are flu-like symptoms such as fever and malaise with or without a bulls-eye rash, but many people (and dogs) with tick-borne illness don’t experience any symptoms – especially in the early stages of the disease.

MYTH:Ticks aren’t a problem in the winter, when it’s too cold for them to live outside.

FACT: In most areas of the country, high season for ticks runs from April to November. Experts recommend year-round preventives, however, as infection can occur at any time of the year. In the winter, for example, some tick species move indoors and are in even closer contact with pets and people, while others make a type of antifreeze to survive during the winter months.

MYTH:Ticks live in trees, so as long as I don’t live near or visit a wooded area, I don’t have to worry about them.

FACT: Ticks live on the ground no matter the locale, be it an urban park or a rural area. They typically crawl up from grass blades onto a host and migrate upwards, which is why they’re often found on the scalp.

MYTH:Ticks are insects.

FACT: Ticks are a species of parasites called arachnids that belong to the same family as mites.

To learn more about how to keep your pets and families safe, visit

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Short Film Starring a Rescue Dog Needs Your Support

Support a short film starring an adorable rescue dog!  Jed Cowley, a Columbia University MFA candidate and Sundance alum, has made an awkward romantic comedy.

It’s about Dudley, a bored and communication-inhibited man in his mid 30s.  One day, in the attempt to end his own life, he thinks he hears his white basset hound, Maximo, tell him he shouldn’t go through with it.  

Stunned and rejuvenated with a new and exciting purpose in life, Dudley tries to get his dog to talk again.  But, he must go to uncomfortable lengths to accomplish this, namely, talking to a girl.

Check out a trailer here:

Paul Newman, the dog featured in this film, is a rescue.  You can read all about his story on his website,  With this project, the filmmakers want to draw attention to and support rescued animal shelters.

The filmmakers are looking for enthusiastic contributions to help them to put together their post-production team, which includes sound designers, sound editors, composers, etc.  So please check out their Kickstarter campaign.  Even a $2 donation helps!

If you can’t donate money, you can support this project by spreading the word through blogs, tweets, facebook, or your choice of social media!

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Education Rally: A Veterinary Opportunity

Rescue is hard, period. There are days when you feel like your little efforts to save one life at a time are adding up to something bigger. Then there are days when you feel like the stream of dogs needing help will always be endless because people just aren’t “getting it.”

We’re fortunate to be based out of Boulder, Colorado, where most people “get it.” We have one of the best shelters in the country, our population adopts more than they shop, and people parading their unaltered dogs around town quickly find that someone is interested in educating them around every corner. Life is good for most pets here, but leaving town can plunge a person “in the know” about dog rescue issues into a pit of despair.

I recently adopted a puppy who came into our rescue with parvo. She was adopted out and returned, so I figured it was meant to be. Two days ago I took her to the Longmont Humane Society Well Pet Clinic for her second set of shots. My vet would have charged me $65+ for Hillary’s shots. Longmont Humane charged me $25, and I got great service. The vet techs were very kind to Hillary, and we didn’t have to wait too long to be seen.

However, visiting the clinic was a painful experience for both human and animal. Hillary yelped a little from the prick of the needle. I wanted to yelp a lot when I realized that every dog who entered was unaltered… and was not there for a spay/neuter appointment. I felt deflated. At a clinic where a spay only cost $90 and a neuter $80 (very cheap for Colorado, and cats were even less expensive), there were still people going in and out who didn’t get the message, and the front desk staff was doing nothing to educate them.

Now, I understand the staff tiring of having the same argument over and over, and I understand them not wanting to turn people off because, of course, it’s a good thing that people are at least bringing their dogs in for shots and veterinary care. But why isn’t every person sent out of that clinic (or any clinic) with some kind of humane education pamphlet?

I’ve spent the past two days lamenting the ineffectiveness of our work because the visit made me realize how few people are getting the message about pet euthanization. But, as I always do, I’ve found a path out of my despair and a way to again stand up for our pets. Today I’m calling the clinic and offering to have our educational hand-outs printed up for them for free if they promise to encourage their front desk staff to include the appropriate ones in the paperwork of each person who leaves. This way, at least, I’m doing my part.

Is there a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in your area? Would your regular vet be receptive to providing this essential information to those who need a nudge? Please check out the handouts, print out a few, and take them to your vet to see if they would be willing to participate. If you can’t afford to have them printed, please contact us. We’d be happy to help.

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Designer Dogs

This post came across my email via Trainer Tori, who, by the way, has a killer newsletter. Definitely worth signing up for. We wanted to reprint this here because we believe this is information you should know. What do you think about “designer” dogs?

Designer Dogs

Super-Mixes Or Mixed Blessings?

by Oregonian Pet Talk Columnist Deborah Wood © 2006

Reprinted with permission

The hot fashion news in the dog world this year is designer genes: So-called “designer dogs” are mixes of purebred parents with cutesy names: labradoodles (Labrador retriever-poodle mix), puggles (pug-beagle), schnoodles (schnauzer-poodle).

These mixes don’t come cheap. Some fetch as much as $2,000 for a puppy — often twice as much as their purebred parents.

One such designer dog is Angel, a sweet, funny, smart puggle. The 1-year-old pup has a repertoire of tricks, plenty of energy for long walks, and is a snuggle-bunny for any family member with a lap. And she’s undeniably cute. “I call her perma-puppy. She looks like a perpetual puppy,” says Paige Richardson of Portland.

Angel has a pug’s orientation toward people and a beagle’s energy and enthusiasm. She seems to epitomize the argument that the mixes offer the best of both breeds.

The reality isn’t that simple. The truth is a mix of science, hype, mythology, genetics — and the luck of the draw.

The truth and hype about hybrid vigor: The argument in favor of mixed breeds is that they have “hybrid vigor” and are healthier than purebreds. That’s true. Sometimes. Maybe. Until the second generation.

There are some diseases created by a recessive gene. In some cases, these recessive genes are limited to certain dog breeds. It takes parents with both genes for that genetic problem to express itself. Cross two different breeds and their offspring can’t have those breed-specific problems. So, the puppies from a Labrador-poodle cross won’t have the poodle genetic problems or the Labrador problems.

Sounds perfect, right? Not so fast, say the experts.

“Crossing two different breeds masks recessive traits during the first generation, but in the second generation of designer dogs the negative genes reappear with a vengeance,” said Patti Strand of Portland. Strand is on the board of directors of the American Kennel Club, and bred the Dalmatian that won the Non-Sporting group at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

In the example of labradoodles, the dogs can carry disease genes for both poodles and Labradors, meaning both sets of diseases could show up in the next generation.

“The one thing about a mix, you may be able to cover up recessive genes,” said veterinarian Ray Calkins. Increasingly, he said, there are genetic tests for finding problems in purebred dogs. But “the test that works for the Labrador may not work in the labradoodle.”

Problems such as hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (which causes blindness) and a tendency toward allergies are common in most of the breeds that are being crossed for designer dogs. When breeders screen their breeding stock to produce healthier puppies, problems are less likely to crop up. But problems like hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy rarely show symptoms until the dog is into adulthood, so those raising designer dogs in puppy mills may not be checking the long-term health of the offspring, which means the recessive genes aren’t necessarily getting weeded out.

“If you start with bad genes, you will end up with bad genes,” said Calkins, whose Wilsonville Veterinary Clinic works with many dog breeders in Oregon and Washington on reproductive issues. Calkins says that there are some labradoodle breeders, for example, who are working conscientiously to breed healthy dogs. They are doing all the appropriate tests, such as checking for hip dysplasia, eye disease and heart disease. That kind of responsible breeding — whether it’s a designer mix or a purebred — leads to healthy puppies.

Designing for performance: Let’s face it: all purebred dog breeds started out as mixes. Doberman pinschers were a designer dog created from several breeds (including Rottweilers and some terriers) in Germany at the turn of the last century. Around the same time, Americans were developing the Boston terrier, starting with the mix of bulldogs and terriers. Even ancient breeds were selectively created at some time by humans who were crossing the best hunting dogs or the best herding dogs. That same kind of creative breeding is going on today.


Carol Helfer loves the sport of flyball. This is a lightning-fast relay race where a team of four dogs take turns flying over a series of hurdles, hitting a box that throws out a tennis ball, and then running back with the ball over the hurdles to their owners. Helfer traveled to Michigan — home of the world champion flyball teams — to find her puppy, Hotshot. The sleek, active, black-and-white dog is a cross between a border collie and a Staffordshire bull terrier.


“He has the border collie intensity, drive and focus, and the Staffy muscle and temperament,” said Helfer. In this sport that’s won by fractions of a second, she said, the mix is like “putting an after-burner on a border collie.”


Hotshot’s breeders did the genetic tests appropriate for both breeds, including X-rays for hip dysplasia and screening for eye disease, and also did hearing tests on the puppies. All the puppies were spayed or neutered before being released to their new homes. Still, says Helfer, some of her purebred dog buddies seem to react to her intentional mix with raised eyebrows.


But are they breeds? Designer mixes are often called breeds but that’s not accurate — at least yet.


“A breed is a group of dogs that have been selectively bred to predictably possess and produce certain characteristics, such as speed, size, temperament, performance ability or appearance,” said Strand. “It takes generations of selective breeding to produce healthy dogs that breed true to type.”


Flip through the puggles calendar at the Richardson home, and you won’t find two dogs that look a lot alike. While the hype is that these mixes are the “best of both worlds,” the truth is that the combinations are still unpredictable. Some labradoodles have soft, wooly coats, others have wiry ones. And their temperaments are just as mixed. Some have the sweetness of a Labrador combined with the cleverness of a poodle. Others have the high need for mental activity of a poodle inside a big Labrador body with that powerful tail that can wipe everything off a table.

“Sometimes you get the worst of both worlds,” said Calkins.

Helfer, who is a veterinarian, says that she thinks of the breeders of designer mixes are in two camps: the “good guys” who are breeding for specific purposes, and “bad guys” who are selling a commodity. Too often, the hype around designer dogs is about making money. In fact, labradoodles and goldendoodles in particular are often sold as money-making ventures.

“People see that these dogs sell for huge amounts of money and think they’re going to make a lot of money selling puppies,” says Calkins.

It’s too early to know which of these designer dogs will be passing fads — and which, like Doberman pinschers and Boston terriers, will be respected and popular breeds 100 years from now.

“Only time will tell which ones will stay around,” says Calkins.

Oregonian Pet Talk columnist Deborah Wood is the author of 10 books, including “Little Dogs: Training Your Pint-Sized Companion.” You can reach her at

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