Month: June 2014

Panda Paws Rescue

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Panda Paws Rescue is devoted to helping animals that were once homeless, abused or neglected.

Thanks to this organization, a boxer puppy named Duncan Lou Who has a new outlook on life.

After being born with severely deformed rear legs and pelvis, doctors claimed that corrective surgery wasn’t an option for Duncan Lou Who. Instead of losing hope, the team at Panda Paws Rescue chose to have the puppy’s hind legs amputated. This decision proved to be lifesaving, and thanks to their love and continued support, Duncan Lou Who has relearned to walk and run!

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This is a fantastic example of the good work being done by Panda Paws Rescue.  Check them out!

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Why Pet Hospice?

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I’m a Social Thanatolgist. If you’re asking yourself – “A WHAT??” – believe me, you are not alone.

A Thanatolgist is someone who studies death, dying and bereavement. A Social Thanatolgist looks at how people and cultures deal with the same issues. In other words, I am interested in how the interconnected web of our culture and society deals with death, dying and bereavement.

The company I started 4 years ago, New England Pet Hospice & Home Care, helps people care for ill, elderly and special needs animals at home following the human hospice model of interdisciplinary care. Like human hospice, we support the entire family unit in all areas of suffering through aging, illness, death and bereavement.

Our team of more than 25 professionals includes veterinary nurses, counselors, home health aides, groomers, a chaplain, grief companions, energy workers, massage therapists, and many more – all working as one cohesive team to bring comfort to the ailing and peace to the suffering during a time that all of us consider sacred and important.

When I say this I generally get one of two reactions – people think I’m NUTS. Or people think I’m an angel.

Honestly, I don’t think I am either. I’m just a devoted animal lover who believes death is a sacred and important time that reveals much about how we live our lives and teaches volumes about heart-centered living.

Think about this – in the last 100 years, our society as a whole has lost touch with the dying process, death and healthy grief. In the early 1900’s, 80% of people died at home and half of all children died before their first birthday. People of all ages cared for their ill and dying with their own hands, prepared bodies after death, sat vigil in their homes and buried their dead.

Today, most children will live to adulthood and 75% of adults will die in an institutional setting. We send our elderly to nursing homes, our dying to hospitals and our dead to funeral homes. Children – and often adults also – are kept from the ”ugliness” of death, away from the sight of their own loved ones as they age and especially as they die.

We no longer know how to care for our own and we are extremely uncomfortable doing so.

At the same time, unrealistic, accelerated, sensationalized depictions of death, dying and bereavement flood our homes daily in the news, television, movies and other media. We see death as it rarely is – quick, violent, and without consequences.

We expect instant death or steady decline. We are wholly unprepared for the more common progression of age and disease leading to death – its unpredictable, unstable, slow and confusing pace.

So how does hospice for pets fit into this??

Consider this – we accept animals into our homes now more than ever before.

39% of homes in the United States have at least one dog and 33% of homes have at least one cat. With an average lifespan of 12-15 years, it is clear that most of us animal lovers will see our animals age and die in their time with us.

Furthermore, 64% of homes with children under age 6 and 75% of homes with children over age 6, have companion animals. This means most children in this country will experience the death of a beloved animal before they reach maturity. What we teach our children about caring for animals in illness and infirmity informs their worldview of how to treat all living beings in similar situations.

When we care for our animals well, we learn skills that benefit not only the animal, but all for whom we will care in the future – whether they have skin, hair, fur, fins or scales. When we accept the unpredictability and sacredness of aging and dying, we learn to live much more fully, in the moment and with a stronger appreciation for what truly matters.

In my time working in both human and animal hospice I have seen much and learned more:

• That as we have lived, so shall we die. Lovingly. Loudly. Quietly. Angrily. Peacefully.

• That something comes next, even if we don’t know what.

• That loss is loss – whether it is loss of a person, animal, job, marriage, hope or dream.

• That the skills needed to cope with loss in a healthy way can be learned and are transferable.

• That when we open our hearts to the difficulty and uncertainty of loss, we live more fully.

• And, that our lives, our losses, our joys are all interconnected.

–  Heather Merrill

New England Pet Hospice & Home Care supports those caring for ill, elderly and special needs animals at home following the human hospice and palliative care models of interdisciplinary care. Learn more and get your FREE subscription to Wag & Purr: Your Guide to Comfort Care for Pets at

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Guest Blogger, Lisa Luckenbach (Wiggleless Dog Back Brace)

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The Story Behind WiggleLess® Dog Back Brace

My name is Lisa Luckenbach and I am the owner/founder of WiggleLess® Dog Back Brace.

June, our beloved mini long haired dachshund, passed away in 2011. She, along with her older brother, Henry, who has also passed on, inspired me to create WiggleLess® Dog Back Braces. You see, June, while in her prime, was diagnosed with IVDD (intervertebral disc disease), a string of fancy words that translate into lots of back problems for dachshunds.

June’s life with IVDD began when she was only two years old and weighed about eight pounds. While playing in the backyard she injured her back to such a degree she could barely walk. I rushed her to the ER where the oncall vet administered Rimadyl for inflammation, Tramadol for back pain, and Roboxin to relax muscles. But the worst was yet to come. My smart, feisty little girl was to be “confined to rest” for a month! Whaaaat?

With a lot of diligence on my part, June recovered, only to re-injure her back when she was three years old! After a series of x-rays and veterinary examinations, I learned that June was a “chondrodystrophic” breed, which means a dog with short legs and long backs (but not always), prone to IVDD. When the vet told me that June’s back was like a “ticking time bomb” and suggested spinal surgery or possibly euthanasia, I panicked. Was my sweet angel destined to a life of pain and other maladies than can accompany IVDD such as shaking, and loss of appetite and bladder control? I felt an immense sadness and frustration. Why did June have to suffer so? I took a little time to worry and commiserate, but then…I got busy.

I realized that if June remained still, she wouldn’t injure her back. But what kind of life is that for a dog? Dogs need to be active. I had to find a way to keep June from twisting her spine and wiggling so much, while she went about her daily business. That’s when the solution came to me. June needed a back brace for dogs, something like what the chiropractor gave me when I had injured my back.

I immediately combed through the pet shops and searched online. I even asked my vet for a dog back brace, but there was nothing out there that would work for June. Unwilling to give up, I hired a seamstress and together we designed a cheery, yellow vest with side boning to keep June from wiggling. And guess what? It worked! And that was the very first WiggleLess® dog back brace. It afforded June the comfort and stability she needed to live a full, comfortable and happy life!

My vet was so impressed he encouraged me to make them available for all dogs who require back support—there are a lot of them!

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Fast forward to today and there are now eight sizes of WiggleLess® dog back braces available. When used as directed the vet recommended and patented WiggleLess Dog Back Brace curtails twisting, relieves stress and provides comfortable, firm, back support for dogs.

June continues to inspire me and to watch over her four legged friends who desperately need the same support she did. It is she, who keeps me motivated ensuring WiggleLess® dog back brace is available to most dog sizes and shapes with back problems. June is and always will be our WiggleLess® Guardian Angel. We love you, June!

For more information on WiggleLess Dog Back Brace go to: 












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Want to Save a Shelter Dog? Give It a Job

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More and more groups are saving shelter dogs in a new way: by identifying dogs who have the potential to be working canines. This saves their lives and makes the world an easier place to navigate for the people with whom they are paired.

Best Friends Animal Society’s Canines with Careers program, run by animal behavior expert Sherry Woodard, teaches dog trainers and rescue groups—as well sheriff’s department personnel, prison staff, people who work with at-risk youth, and health care professionals—how to identify, screen, select, train, and place appropriate shelter and rescue dogs for career work.

Last year, Best Friends Animal Society and a team of committed people successfully placed more than 380 rescued canines in jobs that saved the dogs’ lives and benefited people. “There are millions of reasons for this program,” Woodard says. “Every day thousands of dogs are dying in shelters across the country, simply because they are homeless. At the same time, millions of people with psychiatric or physical disabilities don’t have the service dog they need. The Institute of Medicine estimates of the more than 40 million people with disabilities, only about one percent of those who could benefit from a service dog actually have one.”

Search and Rescue

Many search and rescue teams are without qualified dogs. Somewhere between 400,000 and 600,000 military veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder could benefit from having a service dog. And every year, about 25,000 U.S. children are diagnosed with autism and must endure a long wait for a trained dog to help them communicate and keep them safe.

Traditionally, the assumption has been that career dogs must be “purpose-bred,” utilizing purebred puppies placed in training between 18 and 24 months of age. Drawbacks include a high cost (between $10,000 and $40,000 per dog), a 50 percent failure rate of dogs who aren’t suited to be career dogs, and long waiting lists.

In Missouri, Heddie Leger, a certified dog trainer and owner of The Paw Zone, was one of the first dog trainers to work with the State of Missouri Department of Corrections in Puppies for Parole, a highly successful program through which selected offenders have the opportunity to become trainers for dogs from local shelters. Dogs that are in danger of being killed are often participants in these programs.

The program has spread to almost every prison in the state, making Missouri the national leader in this type of program. More than 2,000 dogs have been adopted. Leger works with offender handlers in three different Missouri facilities, and collaborates with shelters in several different communities in rural Northwest Missouri, where dogs are often considered a disposable commodity.

One woman who received a dog through Puppies for Parole and Canines with Careers has been very pleased with the positive improvements the dog, “Gabby,” has brought to her life. Sandra Jones, who lives in Cheyenne, WY, submitted an application through Best Friends’ Canines with Careers program and contacted Woodard about needing a dog to help her with balance issues (Jones has multiple sclerosis). Leger identified a boxer mix from the Cameron Animal Shelter, admitted to the Missouri Puppies for Parole Program for training, who she believed could potentially provide the necessary help that Sandra needed.

Woodard says, “Sandra’s description of what she needed in a service dog points out that it is the dog’s individual traits rather than breed that determines its suitability for the job. Among the traits she needed in her dog were: ‘rock-solid nerves, obeying even in the midst of chaos, intelligence, abundance of good common sense, and a strong desire to please.’”

Another person who has benefited from Canines with Careers is disabled veteran Ted Martello. Martello was wounded during a tour of duty in Iraq and suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury. He lives in Flagstaff, AZ, and works as a local veteran’s employment representative to help other disabled veterans find work.

“I called Sherry and told her what my situation was,” he says. “I would not go out in public except for work and it was too overwhelming being around crowds. She sent me photos and descriptions of three dogs and I knew Buster was the right one.”

Buster was a Chow mix who lived at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, where Woodard had identified his potential and started working with him. Martello drove to Best Friends’ sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, where Woodard introduced him to his new service dog.

Today, Martello is experiencing a big difference in how he feels. “Now Buster is my little buddy, and if I get upset, he calms me down by nudging my hand, which distracts me enough to stop the bad feelings. And because I have to walk him, it helps me to interact with people. Everybody in town knows Buster. If I’m having nightmares he wakes me up. To put it bluntly, if I didn’t have Buster, I wouldn’t be here.”

Woodard has a clear vision of the future: “Best Friends and other organizations with similar programs hope to fundamentally change the career dog field by providing a compassionate, less time-consuming and more cost-effective alternative to the traditional model. People’s lives will be enriched, and dogs previously without any future are now saved.”

Michele C. Hollow writes the animal advocacy blog Pet News and Views. She also writes investigative animal stories for Who What Why. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Working with Animals. You can follow her at Twitter

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Guest Blogger, Sadie (Dog Survivor of Abuse)

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I am Sadie and I want you to know my story.

I was found in the mountains of Kentucky in April of 2012.  After having a litter of puppies, I was led up a mountain by my owner and was shot between the eyes and in the back and paralyzed.  Why did he have to do that? 

Please read on because my story is about an amazing journey! 

Kind people found me and took me to a doctor.  After a quick observation, somehow I was deemed still viable and was transported to a no-kill shelter in Wisconsin to live out my life.  I was urinary and fecally incontinent and I couldn’t walk. 

Not twenty four hours after I arrived, I was with a volunteer outside of the basement where I was being kept and this woman walked past me and asked what my story was.  This woman was not looking for another dog because she was only there to donate pillows and blankets.  When this woman found out what my story was, I was suddenly whisked up and put into an SUV where I was driven to doctors and given a grim prognosis.  The doctors urged this woman to do the kind thing……but she didn’t listen and instead took me home and put me into her garage with a nice bed with food and water for the night.  The next day, this woman took me to a holistic doctor, Dr. Jodie from the Animal Doctor who said that I should given a chance. THANK GOODNESS FOR DR. JODIE!  

So, my new life began in earnest. 

Fast forward to today:  I receive intensive rehabilitation every day including some form of acupuncture, aqua puncture, cranial sacral, chiropractic, e stim, Russian e stim, Far Infared Therapy, Power Plate, air splints, braces, swimming and a high protein diet with LOTS of supplements!  My mom (formerly called THAT WOMAN) has adopted me and the only way that my life could be any better would be if my legs were strong enough for me to stand and support myself.

That is only half of the story. 

I have been on the FRONT COVER of six major publications, multiple TV shows including the Lifetime Network, radio and international radio, I had a presence at the Oscars and the Academy Awards, I am scheduled to be on Animal Magnetism with Carolyn Henessy from General Hospital and I make personal appearances all over the area.  I am also the spokespuppy for GooFurr, which is a natural product that my mom mixes my pills in to make them taste delicious!

The message that I am sending is one of acceptance of people and animals who are disabled.  Children in wheelchairs especially love me because they can relate to one’s legs not being strong.

I also work on getting the laws against animal cruelty strengthened because with my signature photo (the one with the bullet hole between my eyes) my mom calls me the Ambassadog against animal cruelty.

My quality of life now?  I am no longer urinary or fecally incontinent, and I am the happiest and healthiest dog that you would ever see and I just taught my mom how to howl!  What fun we have! 

If you would like to read more about my story, just go to and please pass it on to others! 

I was saved for a reason and I would like my story to be an inspiration to others!  

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