The Starfish Dog

The Starfish Dog // Suzanne Cardiff, Unleash Jacksonville Contributor // Photos by Suzanne Cardiff

 

We’ve all heard the story about the person walking down the beach, purposely throwing starfish back into the water. “It matters to that one!” In our lives, we each have times to ask ourselves, is this my starfish? For me this story became reality one December evening many years ago with a dog named SuzieQ.

Her story is much like a starfish being tossed across ocean waves as it moves toward the beach until thrown on shore through no fault of its own. For Suzie it started far before we knew of her landing on Animal Control’s euthanasia list immediately following the minimum stray hold. On the outside she had a scar from a previous C section, was fearful and was a biter triggered by touch. On the inside she was complex and broken, her true self only to be revealed with time and compassion. A small rescue stepped forward for her.

I met her after she had been at the rescue for a while. Volunteers passed her by intimidated by her wild display known as barrier frustration. When it was my turn, I held out the leash in peace offering for her one chance to get outside. As I slowly opened the crate door, she walked right into the slip lead.

Over the next nine months, my dog and I showed her a great deal about the world and her place in it. Until one afternoon when a group of dogs turned on her leaving her scarred physically and emotionally. Then a few days later her rear became paralyzed. No longer able to walk she regressed to a point of feeling threatened by everyone and everything. Yet, fate was not finished with her. I was at AVS for my own dog when the surgeon offered to examine her after hearing her story. The diagnosis, a slipped disc pushing on her spinal cord. He said most likely it had been slipping for a long time which explained her biting behavior when being picked up. The attack was the traumatic final blow to that disc. IVDD or Intervertebral Disc Disease. SuzieQ had a successful surgery, less than a year of rehab her back recovered leaving little residual nerve damage. The surgeon gave me caution it was probably the worst case he had seen and she probably would not survive another surgery. With the absence of pain for the first time in a long time, she was a like a puppy playing and chasing her ball. Her behavior improved some but the lasting effects of her trauma remained. I adopted her on August 1, 2014 as we celebrated her 5th birthday and adoption together.

Life with SuzieQ is always filled with twists and turns.
She was a dog wanting to live like any other dog but with more baggage then any being should have to carry. She is small but fierce, with a bold, independent, adorable personality that had gotten her through the toughest experiences of her life.Once labeled “unadoptable,” over the years she has enjoyed all the good things in life. She has a safe, comfortable home with healthy foods, affection and enrichment. She loves going on car rides and our adventures around town. She learned to feel comfortable around people, even kids. We have been through phases of medications and treatments for her behavior and her back. Physical therapy, acupuncture, laser therapy, Reiki, EMDR, salt cave, music therapy, essential oils and even a pet communicator. Some experiences in her early years were revealed and she has had many traumas leading to her PTSD behaviors.

Fast forward several years to Fall 2018 when she was diagnosed with a pinched nerve in her lower back. Life may be different now for her but the trauma from her back injury is still very real for her. Monthly acupuncture and laser therapy minimize progression of that pinched nerve and keep her comfortable. These treatments have become necessary to keep her moving and with the goal of preventing another slipped disc. This past year she was diagnosed with a heart condition possibly as a result of ongoing hypertension. We recently started Reiki sessions with Jade Paws, and it has become a greatest resource in addressing her past traumas.

I am still the only person she allows to touch and handle her. I can pick her up, give her a bath, even put on a muzzle. The one lasting challenge we have is in grooming. Her fear of the tools and being hurt again far outweigh any grooming benefits. These years of experience with her, and other misunderstood rescued dogs, has drawn me into the life of dog behavior and rehabilitation. She has led me down a path to studying positive and partnership training methods and teaching dog’s necessary life skills to fit into our world. I find alternative therapies and positive approaches to training outperform conventional methods. SuzieQ did not have to experience all her trauma. Of the traumas we know of, they were a result of human error in the form of lack of knowledge or access to providing appropriate vet care, a safe environment, and even basic knowledge of dog behaviors.

And now we’re here in the midst of a world crisis that has brought our medical and veterinary facilities to limiting patient services to curbside and drop offs. We cast aside the special needs of dogs like SuzieQ who once again do not conform into the mass molds. What happens to them? For SuzieQ, we’re fortunate to have places like the Saint Francis Animal Hospital which continues to keep the needs of the individual animals as their priority. For SuzieQ and me, this is not a new reality. For even specialists have refused her necessary care. My dog has PTSD and will not allow anyone near her without me handling her. This is her choice, her safety net, after all she has survived and grown through. And is she worth it? To be tossed another chance? To encourage us to perceive differently? When they ask her, I can see in her eyes and heart she is saying back, “Are you?” Maybe we need to put our egos aside more often and ask ourselves, are we worthy of their trust?

So, when is a dog a starfish?
When one is at your feet washed up on the shore of possibility. Be open, be mindful, and most importantly, listen. If you watch quietly with an open heart, they will tell you, “I am meant for more.” •

Should you bring your dog … just because you can?

/ Published in Unleash Jacksonville The FREEDOM  issue, written by Kate Godfrey, owner Comprehensive Canine Training

There are many reasons why people are bringing their dogs to more “human” events—it can be really fun to have your dog with you, for one! However, it’s important to learn how to read your dog’s subtle signals so that you aren’t unknowingly putting them in a situation that stresses them out.

Not all people do well in crowded places with lots of activity and noise, and the same goes for our dogs. Maybe you have a dog that wouldn’t be comfortable at a concert, festival, or sporting event, but may enjoy a less busy venue like a coffee shop patio, low-key restaurant patio, or park.

If your dog is sensitive to sounds and noise, consider that when planning an outing. Some dogs are sensitive to motion—think children playing, bikes, skateboards, or running humans. Don’t put your dog into situations in which they can’t cope. You don’t want to go full-hog and expose this type of dog to such things (this is called “flooding” and is not a sound training method). Take the time to figure out what outings your dog might enjoy, and respect them.

How do you know if your dog is comfortable?
The dog’s body language will give you all sorts of clues as to their comfort level—the more you get to know your dog, the better you’ll be at picking up the subtle and not-so-subtle messages he sends you.

Signs of canine fear, anxiety, and stress include but are not limited to: Lip licking, tail tucking, turning their head away from stressful stimuli, yawning, lifting a front paw, trembling, wet dog shaking when the dog is not wet or dirty, scratching, sniffing around, excessive salivation/drooling, nose dripping, hackles up, half-moon/whale eye (google that!), refusal to take treats or play with a toy they otherwise love, actively trying to leave the situation, hiding under a table or behind you, and paw sweating. Paw sweating is real. If you take your dog somewhere and see that they’re leaving paw prints on the floor, do them a favor and get them to a space where they’re more comfortable. The behaviors listed above can be thought of as “whispers” in which a dog is quietly telling you—and other dogs—that they’re in distress.

More obvious signs of fear, anxiety, and stress are: Growling, baring teeth, snarling, snapping, and actually biting. A dog doing anything on this list is no longer whispering, it’s shouting, please, please, I need my space—I am warning you! Of note, it’s a bad idea to punish a dog for growling—growling is a warning that should be heeded. Growling is what a dog will resort to when the subtle signs of distress have been ignored or disregarded. If you punish a growl, you’ll create a dog that no longer gives a warning. Instead, interrupt what is happening and get the dog to a place it’s more comfortable. If you need more help, consult with a trainer that practices modern, science-based training methods that do not endorse the use of force, fear, pain, or dominance theory.

A wagging tail isn’t always indicative of a happy dog. Take a look at what the dog’s body, ears, eyes, and mouth are doing. A loose and relaxed body along with the ears in their natural position and an open mouth are good indicators of a relaxed dog. A tight body, closed mouth, ears back, hackles up, and laser-focused stare can be signs that things are not going so well. Redirect the dog’s attention and get them back to a state of comfort, this may require leaving the situation, depending on the dog.

This applies not only to dog outings but to training as well. There’s no sense forcing a dog to try to train or do an activity if it’s frightened or above threshold. No good learning can take place under these circumstances. Now, there is a difference between a dog that is cautious and a dog that is afraid. A cautious dog will likely do some investigating and may overcome its initial aversion, while a dog that is afraid shouldn’t be forced to “suck it up” with the flooding technique mentioned before. Forcing a dog to endure something it’s afraid of is equivalent to forcing some who’s terrified of snakes to hold one.

Manage how people interact with your dog.
I always tell clients, This is your dog, you get to dictate how and IF people interact with your dog. There’s nothing wrong with a polite no thank you, or, we’re in training, please give us space, if someone asks to pet your dog or if they want their dog to say “hello” to your dog. Their dog may be friendly, but if you or your dog are uncomfortable it can be risky. Emotions travel down the leash—if you’re tense and not breathing, you’d better believe that canine at the other end of the leash knows about it.

When out and about with your dog, please remember that you are in charge of keeping them comfortable and safe, and that may differ from what you want them to do. If if you notice signs of anxiety or if someone can’t follow the rules of interacting with your dog, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with exiting the situation. Your dog will let you know if they want to engage and if they don’t—but you need to pay attention and respect their body language and warning signals. If you do, outings with your dogs will be fun for both of you! •

Kate Godfrey, ABCDT, is the owner of Comprehensive Canine Training, LLC, and a major advocate for using science-backed, force-free methods.
www.comprehensivecaninetraining.com
(904) 236-3780

Reinforce the Good

/ Published in Unleash Jacksonville The NEW issue, written by Kate Godfrey, owner Comprehensive Canine Training

In 2020, I’d like to change the misconception some may have that positive reinforcement/force-free training is a free-for-all for the dog with no boundaries that relies on bribery. This could not be further from the truth. Positive reinforcement dog training is based on rewarding the behavior you do want. The aim is to make training quick, effective, and pleasant for both parties.

It’s simple—rewarded behavior continues—you get more of what you reinforce.

Part of good training relies on setting the scene up so the dog is highly likely to be successful, instead of putting the dog in a situation in which it’s over threshold, not likely to learn what you want, and ultimately setting them up for failure and punishment.

We control so many aspects of our dog’s world, that preventing unwanted behavior and setting the dog up to succeed is usually rather simple. This is called management—prevent the dog from rehearsing the undesirable behavior by controlling the environment.

Positive reinforcement training isn’t all about rewards. There are boundaries and consequences for making the wrong choice, but these consequences need not be painful or scary. A consequence can be positive, as a means for the dog to gain access to what it wants, or negative in the loss of the opportunity to gain access to what it wants.

All good relationships are built on trust. Trust is earned, it’s not given. By training with positive reinforcement, the dog is taught to trust the handler rather than fear the handler. We give the dog a choice by teaching the appropriate behavior from the start, rather than waiting for them to screw up and implement a punishment that is painful or scary.

Rather than going on and on about what you don’t want the dog to do, answer this question: “What do I want the dog to do instead?” This gives you the power and the opportunity to get what you want. If you can’t determine what it is you’d like the dog to do, imagine how frustrated the dog must be.

With this shift in mindset, you start seeing the opportunities to reinforce the dog for the behaviors you like and ways to prevent the unwanted behavior from occurring. When you start reinforcing the behavior you want, you can expect the dog to start offering more of it. •

/ comprehensivecaninetraining.com

Blood. Sweat. Tears.

 

Reprinted from the Unleash Jacksonville Brilliant Issue.

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When you see someone fully embracing their passion—and growing in it—BOOM! It’s pretty darn inspiring, right? Kelly Kinlaw of Fur Sisters has been dedicated to saving dogs from high-kill shelters for many years and always wanted to be able to do more. Save more. Last July, Kelly realized her dream when Fur Sisters opened a 750 square-foot transitional space for dogs coming from urgent situations. In this space, dogs can decompress while waiting for a foster or adopter. This time allowed to transition is so important, because dogs are often too stressed in shelters to show their true personality and they get overlooked time after time. In the week or so that dogs stay at Fur Sisters, they can relax in this calm space while listening to music, enjoying some aromatherapy, and getting lots of treats. They are also tested with cats and other dogs during this time to see what kind of home would be best for them.

Here is where we need to stress that the new space IS NOT an adoption center (although that is one of Kelly’s ultimate goals), and it IS NOT a drop off for found or unwanted animals. But, while it’s true the new space is not an adoption center and you can’t just drop in any ‘ol time, there are always some very amazing dogs hanging out and you may make an appointment to meet them!

Fur Sisters mainly pulls from Putnam, Bradford and Clay county shelters, as these shelters are constantly overcrowded and, unfortunately, euthanize for space. They’ve also taken in some sweet pups from emergency situations, like Norman, who was thrown out of a moving car on Normandy Boulevard, and Angel, who was found in a Walmart Parking lot, completely starved, and the bottom half of her stained yellow and brown—you can figure out from what. You may also have seen Fur Sisters on the news when they helped Louis, a homeless man living in the woods taking care of a pack of dogs. Louis was taking as best of care as he could of the dogs he loved—they were being treated better than he treated himself. Fur Sisters stepped in to help the dogs and are also continuing to help Louis.

Here’s some exciting news for those of you who are looking for a great hair cut and want to meet some dogs at the same time! Kelly has moved her “day job” to be in the same building, so that she can be more efficient in both her rescue work and her making-people-look-gorgeous work. Cuts by Kelly moved to the front of the Fur Sisters space in Jax Beach in September of 2017. Go get your human hairs cut!

The new Fur Sisters location is a fantastic asset to our beach community. If you’d like to become involved (and become a “Fur Angel,” as helpers call themselves), Kelly says they’re always looking for people to help walk and socialize dogs, especially on the weekends. You could take a dog for a beach romp! They also always have a need for chew bones, dry dog food, monetary donations, and fosters—most crucial to save more lives!

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Donation items can be dropped off Tuesday through Friday 10-4 or email fureverursrescue@gmail.com to coordinate a time, offer volunteer time, or set an appointment to meet some amazing pups!

Fur sisters currently has several dogs they’ve pulled from high-kill shelters in boarding and the bills are piling up. Kindly Donate to Fur Sisters on #GivingTuesday or offer to foster!

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SUNNY issue – digital edition released today!

SUNNY {adj} Cheery + Bright

We all needed an issue filled with just the good stuff! This issue will make you feel warm inside and out, and may make you wish you’d named YOUR dog Sunny. Maybe?

A HUGE thank you to Shane Patterson from Sunshine Paws Photography for creating the stunning cover of Lauren + Too Wyckoff of Brewhound. We deemed Lauren the Sunniest Person in Jacksonville, and you can learn just a little bit more about her in this issue.

Also in the SUNNY issue:
Guest Editor: Blue (Blue is Badass)
Snout Scout photos (Did we find your dog out and about?)
Behind the camera with Shane Patterson (Sunshine Paws Photography)
Cover contest time (Does your dog have what it takes?)
A summer recap diary entry by Hank the Hound
An intro to force-free training with Kate Godfrey (Comprehensive Canine Training, LLC)
Summer Smarts by Karen Camerlengo
Protecting Greyhounds – VOTE YES on 13 by Jessie Miller of Epic Outreach
Canine Concierge Program started by Pit Sisters
Upcoming event: Woofstock benefitting Safe Animal Shelter
The Major Dog House Project by Janice Frank
Meet your Good Nabr, Ryan Dunaway
Everything you wanted to know about Barkin’ Biscuits by Ellen Hiser
Fall in love with adorable adoptables!

Read the digital issue now! Pick up your physical copy next week.
Be on the look out for our Issue Release Happy Hour parties! (YES! Parties, plural).

Hü Poupe´d

by Anonymous

We’ve recently started using this adorable little french phrase in our home, Hü Poupe´d. I don’t expect you to be able to pronounce it—it’s ratha fancy-pants—but, roughly, it translates to “who pooped?” in English. I personally like to say it three times in a row, while looking at my suspects directly into their eyeballs. Surprisingly enough, in our house, the one who doesn’t look away is most often the one hü poupe´d (he’s a brazen bastard and uses the “But I’m paralyzed” card every. single. time.)

We don’t really need to ask this question. It’s always that same guy. We ask it, hoping for some sign of remorse, as he will stare back at me—through me really—as if to say, Yah, I did it and it was awesome. And guess what? In about three hours … gonna do it again. {shrug} Let me know if you wanna watch.

So … I mean … I’m not sure if you’ve ever allowed anyone to go number two in your home consistently, but if not, I’ll give you an insider’s perspective—it makes you feel downright disgusting. It makes you want to wash your feet sixteen times a day, that’s for sure, and it makes you not want to have Pastor Pat over for a nice lasagne dinner. {And diapers aren’t really a great option, for those of you with that suggestion.}

During a recent storm, I was looking for one of our pups who tends to be frightened, and I took a little look-see under my bed. That’s when life changed forever. I did find him there, curled up in his safe zone. Right next to a—well, let’s see—imagine the biggest turd you can think of. Go ahead and multiply it by two and add six. It was massive, it was impressive. Huh. I wonder how long that’s been there, I whispered out loud to no one. And then, crouched there, gazing under my bed at the silhouette of a massive turd … I wondered how I got here. Not knowing how long this thing has been under my bed?! That’s ludicrous. I’ve always known how long turds have been under my bed. When did this happen to me and is this how it’s just going to be from now on? How did I not smell it and am I still a good person? (It feels really good to talk about all this—my stinky little secret. Go ahead—tell all your perfect friends that Anonymous is absolutely hideous.)

Since starting to care for this dog who can’t help but accept—nay be proud of—what he can’t control, I’m begrudgingly learning the same. Ugh, life lessons are so dumb sometimes. I don’t like it. But I do like him. As part of our System of Containment, there is a garbage-bag-sized bag of dog poop on my front porch. You do what you gotta do. What of it? It keeps the peeping Toms from staying to long. (shrug)

I’ve come to realize the answer to my questions, following the discovery of MegaTurd (except how did I not smell it). This has happened to me because, as much as I may want to just take off in a jet plane some days, I’m not a deserter. I love my dogs through thick and thin; barf piles and endless mounds of poo-nami; even old age, I know that’s a crazy notion for some—yup, ‘til the end. So, accepting what I cannot immediately change, rest assured, I’ll invest in a super steamer and, yah. I do think I’ll check under the bed more often, too. •

Meet the cutest Sinner

This is Sinner. Not to be confused with A SINNER. He has a very interesting story! He was named after the Jacksonville Women’s Rugby: The Sinners, because they all pitched in to save his life from parvo. He was being held in puppy quarantine at Forever Vets Animal Hospital at Baymeadows, where one of the Sinners worked. Sinner’s new mom fell in love with him when he was in quarantine and she says he’s been the best puppy ever since! He sure is a handsome … uh … devil.

Blue’s Miracle

All eyes on me—gosh, I’m a lot nervous … but I’m honored to be featured. This is crazy! I’ve never written anything before. Sure, I did pee a really cool pattern onto the side of an ottoman once—I’m thinking maybe this will be similar in experience to that? I don’t particularly think I’m all that special, but I do have a story for you. Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything? A soft little lick on the hand, perhaps?

My name wasn’t always Blue. It really doesn’t matter much what it used to be—I go by Blue now and I like it. Beautiful things are blue, like the sky and the ocean and my foster mom’s feet in the winter—it’s been a real cold one, eh? I was given the official name “Little Boy Blue” by the staff at First Coast Veterinary Emergency in October of last year, when I was brought in by my family. I heard them tell the nurse I’d gotten caught in a fence and could no longer walk. No longer walk is right! I could barely move, I was in so much pain. The sweet nurse asked my family if they’d like to find out what was wrong with me. I saw them hand my family an estimate. Mom and dad put their heads down and shook them back and forth. Not what I wanted to see, I was hoping for more of a nod up and down. They pushed the estimate away and scribbled on another set of papers. I believe that meant I was signed over to the clinic to be … uh … euthanized.

I watched them leave and I wanted to go with them, but I couldn’t make my body move the way it always had. “Wait! You forgot me!” I screamed in my head. They never heard my headscreams before, so not sure why I thought now would be different. But I was really freaking out and everything hurt so badly … I was desperate. “Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.”

Well, sigh, they left. You probably guessed that. If they hadn’t this would be the end of a super boring story. But it’s not, and it’s about to get better, so stick with me.

Me … talking with my eyes.

Back in the treatment area, I lay in a kennel. I didn’t cry, but the pain was un-be-flippin-lievable. The staff was so kind to give me a pill which helped a lot. They would peer in at me and I would look up at them, and I tried as hard as I could to talk to them with my eyes—they were all I had. I wanted the staff to know that other than the fact that I had a broken back, I was a healthy, happy, sweet 6-month-old pup, and maybe someone could call mom and let her know she forgot to put me back in the car. Or call dad? We were good buddies! I really didn’t understand where my family went. I continued to talk with my eyes.

Then it was … my time. Dr. Tim Holloway was ready to see me. He put his hand on my head and sighed. I could read his mind. He didn’t like this part of his job. (Great! Finally something I could use to my advantage!) I poured on all the sweet I could, as if my life depended on it. Sweet eyes; check. Little soft hand licks; check; little head tilts; check. Cute face; checkcheckcheck. Some of the other staff was vouching for me—I kept hearing them say really nice things about me. (Thank you, thank you—you know who you are!) The next thing I know, I’m back in my kennel and they were all standing around it talking about something called a “McNicholas.” I tried to pay attention, I tried so hard. But all I wanted to do was sleep.

That’s Anette and her special friend, Dennis—he’s super nice, but not as pretty as my Anette.

I woke the next day to the face of an angel. My angel. She was, gosh, how do I describe her? Well, okay, so you know how dogs have the ability to see someone’s heart through their chest? When I woke up that day, ALL I could see was a huge heart with red hair pulled back into a cute little clip—classic Anette Nixon. She was cooing to me and petting me softly and making me feel warm inside—loved, I guess is the right word. I fell for her immediately. (I loved her even more when she brought me roasted chicken and helped me eat it out of her hand, but that’s jumping ahead.) Anette told me I had eyes that look directly into a person’s soul … which was really nice to hear, since that was how I liked to communicate at that time. She got me.

I came to find out on that first morning what a McNicholas was—I’m glad I didn’t have to wait too long, it was killing me! Turns out, it wasn’t a thing, it was a person! Haha, what a silly mix up. It turned out Dr. Holloway from the night before thought I was very sweet (way to work it, me) and he wanted the opinion of DOCTOR Tom McNicholas to find out if anything could be done. Apparently, Dr. McNicholas is … well, let’s just say he’s the best, and he knows a lot about fixing what’s broken.

Dr. McNicholas reviewed all the charts and graphs and stock reports and digital shiznitz and decided my back was broken. Surgery could possibly be done, but there was no guarantee that I would walk and the surgery would be very very difficult (and expensive). That’s when my angel, Anette, quickly stepped in and said, “Great! Let’s do it! We’ll start a gofundme for Blue. We’ll get the funds.” Anette is very convincing and she gets things done. That’s why I love having her on my side. Surgery was scheduled.

These were not my favorite days.

My back was so broken—so crunched to bits—that my first surgery took 5 hours! Think about what you can do in 5 hours. That’s practically a whole work day, for those of you a with job. For those of you without jobs, that’s 5 episodes of Ellen, or 10 episodes of Family Feud! The staff of First Coast Veterinary Specialists was working on my messed-up back for FIVE HOURS. Shew. I owe them a drink.

Out of surgery and on to healing up we go! At this time, I didn’t want to eat anything. I was feeling the pain, but still not letting anyone know. (But they knew. And I knew that they knew. And they knew that I knew that they knew.) Nothing smelled good and I was getting skinny. I think I mentioned before that Anette started hand-feeding me roasted chicken and that’s about all I would eat. For her to buy chicken meant she really loved me, because she loves all animals so much that she doesn’t ever eat them.

Even though she’s not my REAL mom, Amy loves me.

It was during this time that Anette started assembling my “team”. She reached out to Carolyn Edwards of Friends of Jacksonville Animals (FOJA) and they pledged to help with half the cost of my surgery—wuf wuf! (Thank you FOJA!) Anette then called her friend Amy to help start getting the word out about me. Amy called (or more likely texted, she hates talking on the phone) her friend Tyler to help start raising funds to pay for the rest of my surgery and future rehabilitation. I got my very own Facebook page so people could follow my progress and Tyler set a up a gofundme. So many generous people gave money even though they’ve never even met me! A community of love—I felt it all around me. That meant more than anything.

So … where am I now? Well, you’d know if you were following my Facebook page, silly. Take a minute and do that now. Blue’s Miracle.

Anette put out a plea for someone to take me home from the clinic because she thought I was getting sad. Which is true. I’m a people pup. ENFJ. Social. I like cuddles, bro, don’t judge. Anette’s aforementioned friend, Amy, who had come to visit me at the clinic said I could come hang out at her house for the weekend. That was many many many bowls of food ago, so—I’m not great with time, but I’m loving this long weekend!

My whip.

Also! I have wheels! Anette reached out to K9 Carts, which is a great organization, and they sent me a cart just my size. When not in my cart, I still pull myself around with my front two legs really super fast. I’m still working on remembering how to use them pesky back ones. I’m going to rehab at Veterinary Acupuncture and Wellness, which is sometimes fun (and, may I be frank? Sometimes not.) They have a water treadmill, which is pretty cool and I get lots of treats. They have a Dr. Jessie Burgess who is very smart and extremely beautiful—I may have a crush but don’t tell her, I’m working my angles. She does electro acupuncture and laser to help me heal and stimulate nerve function. I love every single staff member at VAW and look forward to going there. A huge thanks to owner, Dr. Jenna, for believing in me.

Can I tell you I’ve met the most gorgeous people throughout this experience? Yah, it’s been a real crap deal what happened to me, but the people I’ve met … almost makes it worth it. Constance the Pet Messenger did a psychic reading and she just seemed to know so much about me! Doryan Cawyer from Jade Paws comes to visit me quite often to do stretching, massage, and reiki. I get really excited to see her and always feel so wonderful during and after our sessions. I had a fantastic Christmas with another foster mom—Pam Davis! She was so kind to me while Amy was away. She got me my own stocking and let me play with her Alvin and Bubba. I loved hanging with them!

In the water treadmill at Veterinary Acupuncture and Wellness.
Getting Laser at Veterinary Acupuncture and Wellness

So many people have sent me toys and treats and belly bands and my friend Becky even bought me a cozy bed. I also have my own stylist—Custom Dog Bed Creations by Holly! She makes all my sexy collars. Salty Paws Healthy Pet Market has been SO GENEROUS to sponsor my food and CBD oil. They gave my foster mom a ton of samples so that I could pick what I liked.

There are just too many people to thank—but most importantly, I’d like to thank Dr. Tim Holloway and Dr. Tom McNicholas and all the staff at First Coast Veterinary Emergency for sparing my life. That’s not what normally happens in those situations.

Life can be kind of scary sometimes, since I don’t have a rescue backing me. I have my tribe, though, and they really take care of me! Now all I need is my own new family. Someone who believes in me and will let me cuddle with them whenever I want and will love me forever.

Thank you for letting me tell my story! I’m not giving up. There’s too much sweetness in life left to discover and too many wonderful people I need to meet! Walk on, my friends.

Much love & many little hand licks,
Blue

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Every day Blue’s foster mama talks to him about his real family and how they are going to be so happy to have him.

“Will anyone want me as I am?” He always asks. Yes, Blue! You are loved by many people already for your heart and your amazing spirit and your funny personality … and your real family will fall in love with every single part of you. Whether you walk or don’t walk.
“Well, I am going to walk,” he always says.
Yes! We know you are Blue. We’re all rooting for you.
“Thanks mama. I’m sorry I pooped on the rug.” I know you are, Blue. It’s ok.
“So … where is my family? Why don’t they come for me?”
Blue, they haven’t seen your amazing face yet. Sometimes the stars need to align in a perfect pattern and then Love happens.
“Well (puppysigh) I’ve been waiting a long time … how about some treats to make me feel better?”

Blue would love a family that wants to help him go through rehab. He’s hoping they have lots of love and laughter in their home. He’d love another dog, but would also be happy having all the attention. Blue requests lots of outside time and walks in his cart. He also asked us to put in here that he’d love someone who is liberal in dolling out treats and someone who likes to CUDDLE.

For more info, please private message the Blue’s Miracle Facebook page.

Hey, thank you. I mean it.

Amy Olivieri | Unleash Jacksonville

I was thinking about the power of a thank you this week. It’s kind of immeasurable. (I guess, in all transparency, if pressed … and maybe given a floor-to-ceiling chalk board, and a three-year grant, I could come up with a mathematical formula. But I’d kind of like to get this post finished today. Immeasurable. When you say thank you and mean it … it most definitely has far reaching effects beyond the smile you put on someone’s face, or the opening of their heart.

Let’s consider the absence of a thank you for just a sec (but only for a sec because it’s  yucky) … the impact is immediate. (I’ve already discovered the mathematical formula for this, but I don’t think you’d understand it. It’s really really advanced.) You let someone in front of you on the road and … no wave! What the …?  You open the door for someone and … they whisk past you—all you’re left with is the smell of their stinky dryer sheet which probably causes cancer. Well F you, then. You buy your friend a beer and … not so much as a cheers! You’re so frickin’ rude, dude. The “thank you” absence births stress, anger, tongue biting, violent hand motions, squelched feelings, and it leaves you feeling less likely to do that lovely gesture for that lovely person in the future. Depending on what it is and the mood you’re in, the anti-thank you can ruin your day.

When you are grateful for the awesomeness of someone or something they did, you can participate and expand on that energy. Thank you, you are amazing for bringing my mail every day (even though it’s just a MINT magazine and a bill for the sewer)—you don’t have to mention that last part. Being appreciated truly energizes people. It’s encouraging to know you have purpose and that you are connected and that someone notices you. The young man at the grocery store took extra care with your produce … Thank you for doing a great job. I appreciate it. I kinda hate your haircut, but to each their own—again, maybe don’t mention that last part. A sincere thank you makes that baggerboy want to keep doing a good job. Your dog leaves you the last piece of pizza because he knows you’ve had a hard day at work. Thank you for thinking of me, Bingo, you’re very kind. Sometimes I think about what it would be like if we were boyfriend girlfriend—I really need to learn to just stop at the thank you part.

Thank you, rain. I mean it. I was feeling your absence.
Everything is connected.

As someone who is connected to some of the most self-less, big-hearted, seemingly-tireless-but-ever-tired animal rescue and advocacy human beings (some personally, some only on the Facebook), it seems like it could be lonely. It seems like it can be heart wrenching, emotionally and physically exhausting, and I see it can definitely be thank•less. It seems to also be rewarding and happy and victorious at times, but it’s never ending. It’s a passion and a calling and something you can’t just up and walk away from. Fuck it, I’m not doing this any more … doesn’t seem like an option (but a thought that I’m sure happens maybe daily?) There’s that big heart—I can see it glowing with goodness—it’s soft and mushy for suffering animals. They’re empathetic beyond what most people can imagine. I have a feeling those in the trenches of rescue physically hurt inside much of the time—mostly in that heart area, but a lot of the time in the stomach, too, because of the things they can’t do. I see them spend their own money even when they have none. They can’t turn their backs, it would go against everything in their being. They do things people say they wish they could  do … I wish I could save that dog. These beings who are rescuers find a way to do it. I wish I could go to the shelter and help, but it’s too sad. These beings who are advocates go, because they don’t want to think about what happens if they don’t. They embody the strength and the forward motion for all of us.

Changing a situation for just one animal can take a chain of events and a slew of people—you are very likely one of them. Even sharing a post can have great impact that you may never know about. Thank you to all, I mean it.

Here is the gist of what I’m getting at today—let’s work on connection through thank you. Gratitude seems to be a buzz word right now, but I hope you’re not tired of hearing it. It’s the way to happiness, people. We are connected (if you don’t feel like it today, try doing something about it). We are a community. Animal lovers. Rescuers. People who want to help. People who do help.

A teeny-tiny act of kindness + gratitude is all it takes. This will take literally 5 minutes (unless you don’t have a piece of paper. Then you’ll have to go to the store—in that case, tack on 30 minutes—pick up envelopes and Doritos while you’re there.) Let’s go old school and write a thank you note today! Unleash Jacksonville has almost 2000 awesome followers … imagine the impact if even half participated in our “Hey, Thank You” exercise! This week, I’d like us to thank Fawns Small Dog Rescue, who often pulls older small dogs in need of medical care that are dumped at shelters. (They’ve got a lot of younger small dogs as well, so if you’re looking to adopt small—young or old, check them out.) If you follow them on Facebook, you will see some of the sweet dogs they’re working on saving and finding homes for. I’m going to suggest sending them a physical thank you note, even if you’re just learning of them today. If you love animals you can send them heartfelt thanks in an effort toward connecting. Think of the impact we can have as a group if we all send a thank you with a five-dollar-bill (or one dollar-bill or twenty-dollar bill or just a lovely simple thank you note!). Just a little somethin somethin for doing great work for our community.

Fawns doesn’t know we’re doing this—except tagging them may have tipped them off, I guess. I hope they’ll find at least a few thank you notes in their mailbox, and it will make them feel loved.

Fawns Small Dog Rescue
PO Box 2607
Orange Park, FL 32067

Hey! Thank you for reading. I mean it.

Pet Doctors of America Works to Give Patients a Fear-Free Veterinary Experience

by Jennifer Legrange, DvM

As a veterinarian, I’ve always been interested in behavioral medicine. Over the years as a general practice doctor, I noticed that many patients display fear, anxiety, and stress during their appointments or while boarding. While attending a veterinary conference earlier this year, I learned about the Fear Free Initiative, which is a training program for veterinarians and their staff that teaches low-stress handling techniques and ways to alleviate patient fear at the veterinary hospital. Upon completion of this training program, I was awarded the title of Fear Free Certified Professional. I was elated to learn that implementing these fear-free protocols throughout the clinic at Pet Doctors of America improved my patients’ veterinary experience and helped them get the care they needed without having to experience fear, anxiety, or stress!

The emotional well-being of your pet is such an important part of their overall health. Since invoking these new fear-free protocols at Pet Doctors of America, we’ve been able to truly make strides in making our patients’ visits actually pleasant for them! It all starts when you call to book your appointment. You’re asked about past veterinary experiences that may have caused your pet to be scared or nervous. By knowing more about your pet’s individual preferences, we’re better able to customize the veterinary visit to relieve angst. This may entail waiting in the comfort of your car with your pet prior to the appointment if he or she gets nervous in the lobby around other pets, or even having your dog examined outside if they become anxious upon entering the hospital! For pets that show excessive signs of stress during visits, one of our veterinarians may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or calming supplements to administer prior to the appointment to ensure a safer, more relaxed visit.

In addition to personalizing your pet’s veterinary experience, Pet Doctors of America has reevaluated how our hospitals are perceived by our patients. Because dogs and cats can be more sensitive to environmental stimuli than humans, our staff utilizes gentle control when working with patients which allows for the safe, comfortable administration of veterinary care. Our staff members bring the procedure to the pet in the examination room whenever possible, so that your pet can stay with you where he or she likely feels the most relaxed. We create a calming environment in our examination rooms, treatment areas, and boarding facilities by playing classical music, using species-specific pheromone diffusers and aromatherapy, and we minimize frightening stimuli to promote relaxation. Cozy hiding spots are provided in examination rooms and boarding facilities for our feline patients, non-slip surface options are available throughout the hospital, and water bowls are provided for all of our patients during appointments. Our patients are also offered a variety of yummy treats—if medically appropriate—during appointments to help condition a positive emotional response with our hospital.

I’d love to personally invite you to bring your pet in for a “happy pet” visit to ask us more about our Fear Free practices and how we can reduce your pet’s stress level during your next veterinary visit—we’d love to meet you! •

You can make your appointment at one of
Pet Doctors of America’s two locations:
14471 Beach Blvd., Jax (904) 223-5700
1103 3rd Street S., Jax Beach (904) 853-6223