Pet Blogger Challenge 2105


Pet Blogger Challenge Jan. 10
Welcome fellow pet bloggers and readers. A big hello from me and Teddy.
Val Silver and Teddy

1. How long have you been blogging? For anyone stopping by for the first time, please give us a quick description of what your blog is about.

I’ve been blogging about holistic health for several years (and still do on my holistic-mindbody-healing.com website and in bellesprit magazine). For the last year have devoted this site to blogging about rescue and related topics. I changed the blog over as a support site for my book, Rescue Me. Now I am branching out and beginning to writing more about current issues and books related to dog rescue/adoption and animal advocacy.

ValBooksigning500

2. Tell us one thing that you accomplished on your blog during 2014 that made you proud.

Getting the blog set up and running. I am most proud of the page that shows the donations we have made thanks to Rescue Me sales. Perhaps proud isn’t the right word because it is actually very humbling. The two articles I am most proud of dispel myths about certain breeds of dogs and shelter policies that justify killing dogs. Those two posts were near and dear to my heart. They are Should All Pit Bulls Die?” and “Winograd’s Redemption“.

3. What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own blogs?

Write about what’s in your heart and write from your heart. As best you can, have your facts straight and speak the truth, even if it’s controversial.  Make it clear what is your opinion and what is fact. And have fun, enjoy the writing because it matters to you.

4. What have you found to be the most successful way to bring traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

I recently joined a blog chat group that helps each other by commenting on each other’s posts. I have also found that the above mentioned posts brought in traffic because they are topics people are interested in or feel passionate about.

5. What was your most popular blog post this year? Did it surprise you that it was your most popular?

Should All Pit Bulls Die? was my most popular post to date. I wasn’t surprised about this because there is a group I belong to addressing this situation. I posted about the article and that brought in the readers. What did surprise me was that the article did not elicit more comments and controversy. (Photo of Winnie, Pit Bull Mix adopted and much loved by Letha Hundley)

Winnie Rescue Me

6. Has your policy on product reviews and/or giveaways changed this year?

 I reviewed one book so far. Redemption was a book that I purchased and felt inspired and challenged by. I like that it was an unsolicited review so I didn’t feel any obligation to review or review favorably. I wrote the post because I loved the book and its message.  I have not done any product reviews or giveaways yet.

I intend to do more book reviews in the future if the books are related to rescue/dog adoption and animal advocacy. They would have to  be of value to readers and further the cause of animals.

7. What goals do you have for your blog in 2015?

I want to write more about animal advocacy and pet rescue and interview people who are active and knowledgeable about these topics. I would like to bring in more traffic and network more with other bloggers who are aligned with my mission.

8. What’s your best piece of advice for other bloggers?

Be an active networker. Share with other bloggers, comment on their sites, be generous with your wisdom, and be open to guest bloggers and guest blogging. The more we help each other, the better we all do. Collaboration is key, not competition.

9. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

How to engage readers more and bring in more readers. Even though blogging is a hobby or vocation for me, and not a business, I believe I have an important message to share and would like to share my message with as many people as possible.

Thanks for visiting. Please comment below and let me know you were here. I look forward to hopping over to your blog and doing the same.

 

Should All Pit Bulls Die?


Outraged dog lovers and pit bull advocates reacted to recent remarks made by Dr. Laura Schlessinger about pit bulls. In a nut shell, she said that shelters are full of pit bulls and pit mixes no one wants, so they should all be put down. She felt it was wasteful for shelters to spend so much money on their food. That breeder churn them out and dump them. And if two pit bulls met on a street, they would probably fight. Listen to the segment here.

When I learned of this today, I decided to turn it into an opportunity to help misunderstood dogs who often get a bad rap. I hope this open letter to Dr. Laura helps her and others see these dogs and their plight in a new light.

Dear Dr. Laura,

I was happy to hear you recommending that people walk with their pets to meet people and feel less lonely. Pets make wonderful companions and enhance our lives in many ways.

Your comments about killing all pit bulls, however, left me feeling sad. Instead of reacting in anger, I am choosing to separate fact from fallacy and to use this as an opportunity for compassion and education. I hope you will read this letter. Even though I disagree with your opinions, I respect your right to them. I know many others share the same perceptions and beliefs. It is my hope that my responses to your words cause you to consider this problem in a new light.

1- You are right in saying many pit bull type dogs are in shelters. According to the ASPCA, they account for 20% of shelter populations nationwide, not 95%. One-third of shelters do not allow pit and pit mix adoptions. The dogs, regardless of their disposition, must be rescued or killed, often within days. Estimates are that shelters kill one million pit bulls yearly and that over 90% never make it out alive.

2- It is true that unscrupulous pit bull breeders churn out too many dogs. To make it worse, they purposely breed dogs to be aggressive, especially with other dogs. However, not all their dogs acquire that trait. You may remember that that several of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs were rehabilitated and became therapy dogs or live with children. Bait dogs are often submissive and gentle. Responsible breeders produce loving, gentle, loyal pit bulls who make wonderful family members and good citizens. You may be surprised to learn that 86.4% of 804 Pit Bulls tested by the ATTS had a good temperament. This is a higher percentage than every dog breed on the list except for the Labrador Retriever.

3- Far too many pit bulls are dumped. For that matter, far too many dogs of all kinds are dumped, approximately 8 million a year. Sometimes people have to give up their pitties and other blacklisted breeds because their communities or housing areas ban them. Sometimes people fall on hard times or get dogs they can’t handle. Sometimes, they can’t be bothered with the dog. Often, the dog did nothing to deserve getting dumped.

4- Do people want pit bulls as pets? Yes. Many people have pitties and adore them. We have a high percentage in our community shelters. It may take a few months, but eventually most of them get adopted. I know in some areas it is more difficult. This beauty is Winnie, a pit bull/greyhound mix adopted and much loved by Letha Hundley. Their story is in our book, Rescue Me. Winnie Rescue Me 5- Should adoptable pitties be killed because there are too many of them, they stay too long, and eat too much food? Should we shun all pit bulls because a number of them have been made bad by humans? It seems to me the humans creating this problem should be dealt with, not their innocent dog victims.

You may find these rhetorical questions offensive, but I ask them to make a point. Should homeless children no one wants be killed because they take up space and eat too much food? Would it be appropriate for people to cross the street to get away from an individual because a high percentage of people from his race or religion commit crimes? Should we ban all of those people from our communities? Most of us would say, “Of course not.” We know decisions like that are based on ignorance, prejudice and fear.

But that’s different you say. Is it really? We humans like to think we are special and so different than animals. We are not. MRI scans show that dog brains light up in the same region as human brains when they see someone they love. They have preferences. They think, problem solve, and have emotions. They feel pain.

Dr. Laura, I know that you, like me, grew up in a time when we were taught that animals don’t feel or think. We were taught to refer to them as “it” even if we knew their sex. We were taught humans are superior to animals even though they are clearly superior to us in some ways. Instead of valuing them as fellow creations with whom we share the earth, we were taught animals exist for our use. This is all lies. We think that because we can, we have the right to use, abuse and decide which animals have the right to live or die. We forget that God who made us all gave humans the responsibility to be stewards of the earth. He expects us who are made in his likeness to care for all of creation as He would. Dominion is not license to destroy, it is a call to the highest responsibility.

“Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.” Proverbs 12:10

“For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.” Psalm 50:10-11 ”

Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

I believe the world would be a much better place if we took those words to heart. Every person deserves to be treated as an individual. Each deserves to be considered and treated as innocent until proven guilty. Dogs and other animals deserve the same. Do you agree that is the moral thing to do?

If so, I am asking you to make it right, not by issuing an “apology” for causing distress (you and I both know that really isn’t an apology), but by sharing the facts with your readers and listeners. Admit where you were wrong, even if you thought you had your facts straight. Use it as a lesson. Encourage them to discern truth from fallacy, to judge by the content of one’s character, and to act responsibly toward all creatures, human and animal. We will all be better for it.

Sincerely,

Val Silver

Sources:

  • http://www.aspcapro.org/resource/disaster-cruelty-animal-cruelty-animal-fighting/facts-about-pit-bull-cruelty
  • http://einhorninsurance.com/california-insurance/pit-bulls-pass-atts-temperament-test/

Readers, if you have facts or opinions to share, please do so in the comments below. Inflammatory remarks will not be published.

 

Ghost Dogs and Spirits


Ghost Dogs and Spirits – a true Halloween Story

When I rented a furnished home for a few months, the last thing I expected to see were ghost dogs and spirits. But it happened to me.

One sunny fall morning I looked up from my bowl of oatmeal and was taken quite by surprise to see a column of hazy white in front of the door to the indoor porch. What surprised me even more was the nonchalance I felt upon seeing her, as just the thought of seeing a ghost sends me into instant fear.  As I gazed upon my visitor to figure out who or what it was, I noticed there was no discernible human form per se, but the energetic sense felt female and benign. She remained there, unmoving, until I broke my gaze. She appeared a week or so later in the same spot. I looked up from my dinner and there she was. My curiosity was piqued, but I told not a soul.  All I knew was that this lakeside home was renovated from an old cottage.

A second, less mysterious apparition appearing in that house was a small, dark haired, terrier-like dog who walked by me as I was lying in bed with the light on. He entered the room, took several steps, and vanished. This also happened twice. Just as with the ‘white lady’, I doubted that I had actually seen a ghost dog and kept my visions to myself.

The confirmation of the white lady’s presence came when a friend was visiting. She had no such doubts about spirits or her ability to see them, and blurted out, “You know, you have a spirit in this house.” I looked up from the living room floor to see her pointing at the door the dining area.  “I know”, I replied matter-of-factly, “I’ve seen her twice already in the same spot.”

The little dog’s identity was confirmed when I noticed a little photo of him on the dresser. When I asked my landlord about it she said, “Oh, yes, that was my dog Gizmo.” I did not share about seeing him walking past the bed. The next several months passed without incident.  Were my spirit visitors still in the house?  Were they staying hidden once they knew they were seen? I’ll never know. When I moved out I took the secret of my spirit visitors with me. That was the last time I can honestly say I’ve seen a ghost.

A few words from Teddy:

Teddy Yoda500Teddy wishes you a happy Halloween and asked me to remind you that there are many scared dogs in shelters and rescues waiting for you to take them home as real, live companions who will love you forever. Please adopt, don’t shop and spay/neuter your pets.


Keep the Tail Wagging

Winograd’s Redemption and No-Kill


redemptionMy interest in reading Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America by Nathan J. Winograd (Jun 16, 2009) was fueled not only by my commitment to helping homeless dogs (and cats), but by the flurry of charged reviews and comments it generated–for or against, some with great emotion, frustration, and defensiveness.  I knew the author must have hit a nerve to elicit such responses, and I wanted to find out what that nerve was. It turns out there are two – his position on pet overpopulation and his indictment against shelters and national associations (think ASPCA, PETA, and the Humane Society), which in our shared opinion should be devoted to preventing animal cruelty and saving as many lives as possible. Instead, they have a long history of laying blame on the public while promoting mass killings as the way to control homeless pet populations. As badly as dogs suffer with this mindset and policy, feral cats fare worse.

As Winograd states, much of this book is about history, beginning with Henry Berg’s founding of the ASPCA in 1866 and his commitment to stopping the cruel treatment of city work horses and other animals, to the atrocious policies and conditions of so-called “shelters”, to the challenges and successes of the No-Kill movement (through 2005).  This history is laced with the good, the bad, and the ugly of animal control, legislation, and sheltering, which unfortunately even today is still more often than not bent on killing than saving animals.

If I were to boil down my most important take away from of Redemption, it would be that instead of laying blame and setting up a punitive system (which doesn’t work) against the public as a primary strategy for opting out of lifesaving in favor of killing, shelters have a responsibility to do right by the animals they take in as their first priority. This means implementing a multi-pronged approach of providing good care, fair, reliable behavior testing, rehabilitation if needed, and a commitment to making adoption an appealing option to the public by way of education, a foster home network, cooperation with rescue groups, good customer service, clean facilities, spay/neuter before adoption, and liberal adoption hours. Only animals that are hopelessly ill or vicious are euthanized (about 10% of incoming animals) and all others, most of whom are young, healthy and friendly, are candidates for adoption. As for unadoptable feral cats, trap-neuter-release and vaccinate. Allow people to feed and care for them instead of legislating against them.

Euthanasia is ...killing someone who is very sick or injured in order to prevent any more suffering. ~Merriam Webster Dictionary

Euthanasia – the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease. Mercy killing

The most heated discussion among reviewers and people commenting was caused by Winograd’s stand that pet overpopulation is a myth.  One would think that with 4-5 million dogs and cats killed in shelters every year (down from almost 18 million in the 1980s), and facilities inundated with more animals than they can handle, that overpopulation surely is a problem. Not so. Winograd maintains that while overpopulation in shelters may be problematic at times, the use of foster homes and space in facilities is often not maximized, which contributes to the problem. Seeking convenience and maintaining the status quo trumps change and life. He claims there are more than enough homes available for adoptable dogs and cats. The US Humane Society backs up this claim. So where are these people? They are getting their pets from pet stores (think puppy mills), breeders, friends, anywhere but shelters. Why? Because of the misperception that homeless animals are damaged goods and facilities are often perceived as dirty, unfriendly killing places where the public is not really welcome.

 

 Today in 2014, in northern NY where I live, I thankfully see a somewhat different picture than Winograd paints.  I say somewhat, because our SPCA has a disturbing policy of not taking dogs over 5 years old or animals that are sick, even with easily treated conditions.  On the more positive side, they have a foster program, support TNR, and  have liberal adoption hours. They maintain a satellite site at PETCO (cat adoptions are way up because of that), a committed staff, lots of volunteers, a play area and dog park, and they spay/neuter/vaccinate before adoption. Our dog pound (renamed  dog shelter), where dogs once had seven days to live if not adopted, now has a 90 day policy. I know for a fact that the staff goes above and beyond to keep them alive longer. Several  residents, many of them pit bull breeds, live there over six months before the happy adoption announcements are posted.  Unfortunately, they do not allow volunteers, but they do welcome donators, including me with my gifts of cushions for the seniors and bones and toys for all.

 I wish I could say this shift toward No Kill and decency were widespread nationwide, but I know it is not. Winograd’s point and indictment of many facilities still stands valid. Although the tide is surely turning since Redemption was published and before, mostly due to public pressure, we as a nation have a lot of work to do. Since writing Rescue Me, and becoming more connected with rescuers, I see daily post after post pleading for the lives of dogs in shelters, many with 72 hour policies or less.  I read of dogs being injured while their cages are pressure washed, sick and injured animals receiving little to no treatment, animals living in deplorable conditions, and shelters with a no-adoption policy (REALLY?!!). I read of corruption and animals killed cruelly and too soon, sometimes to spite advocates.  I see videos of animals being neglected and abused in places where they should find refuge.That’s what the word shelter means, but in some places, it is nothing more than a word that covers up what they really are – horrible places where their number one mission is disposing of animals, including healthy, friendly adoptable ones, primarily by murdering them.

Recently, this unfortunate realization personally hit home with me. A plea went out by Julia Buie, one of Rescue Me’s contributors, for vetting and transport funds for several dogs. I donated the $95 needed to gain freedom for a young coonhound named Wesley, only to learn that he was killed shortly before his rescuers arrived.  It may have been a mix-up, but for Wesley it was still death. How sad to be in such a hurry to kill. And what’s even sadder is that some staff members have been brainwashed to believe they are doing a good deed for the dogs and society by killing. How sad.

The truth is, No-Kill is achievable with committed shelter leadership and a well-functioning network in place. When the organizations do their part, and the public does theirs, very few animals will ever have to die for no good reason.  Isn’t that what you would want for you and yours? Should it be any different for them?

Do you want to know how to bring No-Kill to your shelter? Download the No Kill Advocacy Center’s FREE No Kill Advocate’s Toolkit, 13 step by step guides to help you reform your local shelter.

Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America

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Rescue Me Wins 2014 Readers Favorite Award


Val Silver and Team Rescue are very happy to announce that Rescue Me won the 2014 Reader’s Favorite Book Award – Silver Medal in the Nonfiction Animals category. Val will be attending the awards in November and more photos will follow.

RFSilver-300

Read the review here.

Thank you, Readers Favorite, for choosing Rescue Me as an award winner, and all of you for your continued support in our mission to help homeless dogs and advocate for animals.

Teddy’s Good Life


Update on Teddy

Teddy’s story was originally shared in Rescue Me. He had made a lot of progress, and it has been so wonderful watching him continue to blossom into his true and maturing self.

Teddy’s good life didn’t start out that way. Actually, Teddy started life very sadly and quietly in our house and did a fair amount of hiding under the bed. That, combined with the awful condition he arrived at the SPCA, suggested a prior not-so-good life. When he played, which wasn’t often, he never uttered a sound. One day, after several months with us, he surprised us with tentative little r-r-r sounds during a game of tug-o-war. We were delighted!

Now, Teddy has so much fun playing, that even when amusing himself with a stick in the yard, he runs and prances while making making his adorable, happy growly sounds.

It warms my heart to watch him having so much fun, enjoying himself with head and tail held high, especially when I remember how he was at first. Teddy is a joy, and his joy of life can’t help but enhance ours. Just last month he has started laying against me at night when we’re sleeping, instead of putting distance between us. (Sometimes I’m not so sure that’s a good thing, but usually I love it!) We are so happy this boy found his way to our home as a foster to forever.

Rescue Me Teddy

Read Teddy’s story – “From Foster to Forever” – in Rescue Me.
 

Do you have a happy ending story about your rescue dog? We’d love to hear it. Please share in the comments below.

Mom and Dog Memorial


Dear Readers,

I thought you might enjoy this note I received from Reverend Riki Renfro, a member of my Holistic Mindbody Healing website who purchased the kindle version of  Rescue Me.  In this note, Riki shares a delightful story of Mom Lelah and her pomeranian Polly, and the fitting Mom and Dog Memorial given them. And how cute is that photo! :)

 Hi Val,

Sorry it took me so long to get back to you; it’s been a busy summer.  I finally had time to complete the book and enjoyed every bit of it.

One of the things on our long list of “to do’s” was to complete my mother’s memorial service.  Based on her pre-death instructions, we took her ashes to a local lake where my brother died seven years ago.  My father’s ashes were also put into the lake a few years ago. 

Since her little Pomeranian, Polly, died a week after Mom died, we mixed their ashes together and put them into the water together after sharing stories and memories of the two of them.  Polly was with Mom her last 16 years and was unquestionably the love of her life. To be honest, I was probably the favorite (and youngest) of Mom’s three children, but Polly quickly surpassed my standing as “favorite kid”. 

Mom was 96 when she died and I know it was having the love of this little puff-ball that contributed to her longevity and gave her a purpose for waking up every morning.  Mom also attributed her longevity to the nightly martini she had.  Polly didn’t care for gin, but she loved the green olives more than any doggy treat.  Mom would put 5 green olives into her drink: one she ate, the other four were Polly’s.  As we dispersed the ashes we also poured a fifth of Mom’s favorite gin into the water for her and a bottle of green olives for Polly.   It certainly was not your conventional funeral service, but was definitely a fitting and meaningful ceremony for all of us. 

There definitely is a reason why DOG spelled backwards is GOD.  Thank you for a lovely book.  I’ll look forward to more in the future.

Rescue Me Review

Polly with her blanket crocheted by Mom Lelah

Rev. Riki Renfro
Peaceworks Universal Life Church
Shared with permission.

 

Rescue Me in Rescue Me Magazine


We are so delighted and honored to be featured in the July/August 2014 issue of Rescue Me Magazine. And look who’s on the cover – my favorite cat man, Jackson Galaxy, of “My Cat From Hell” with his rescue cat Barry (to the left-not visible in this shot) and his beautiful Chow-Shepherd mix, Mooshka.

Get your autographed copy of Rescue Me here.  Also available on Amazon for kindle and in paperback.

Good Reads Rescue Me

Rescue Me is a new magazine – only in it’s third edition. Like us, Rescue Me magazine is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of homeless animals, and support causes, organizations and people who promote pet rescue, adoption, and the human-animal bond.  Besides all the interesting articles, tips, and shout-outs to rescuers in the magazine, half of your subscription fee goes to the non-profit of your choice. Check out their website and get your subscription here: RescueMeCentral.com.

 

TapInfinity Has Gone to the Dogs


TapInfinity has gone to the dog in celebration of the release of my new book, Rescue Me: Tales of Rescuing the Dogs Who Became Our Teachers, Healers, and Always Faithful Friends. 

Rescue Me is a collection of 12 original true stories by 10 contributors. These stories, and the accompanying quotes, highlight the companionship between humans and dogs, and how when we rescue them and make them part of our lives, we really rescue ourselves in return. In addition to raising sensitivity to the plight and needs of homeless dogs, funds from Rescue Me sales benefit non-profit shelters and rescues.

Rescue Me paperback 3D

Get your copy, listen to free audios, and more here.

I wrote Rescue Me because dogs have always been a big part of my life, and have saved me emotionally more than once. They have taught me about unconditional love and living in the moment. With so many homeless dogs (and cats) in need, I had to do something to help. Please join us in giving back to these deserving beings.

  Rescue Me Val Silver quote

Service Dogs


Service dogs can be a real godsend for people with physical and mental disabilities. They can alert them to medical problems, provide comfort, be their eyes and ears, and offer them a better quality of life.These highly trained dogs are required to perform tasks that assist someone with a disability.

Sadly, some people are using a loop hole to call their untrained pet dog a service dog. Then they take that untrained dog to restaurants, on airplanes, shopping etc and this untrained dog does all sorts of UNBELIEVABLE things like going potty, barking, grabbing at food or goods, lunging, snapping at people, and worse biting people.

Service dogs spend many months in very intensive training to ignore any distractions as well as learn how they will service their new owner. You will never see a trainer service dog make any of the mistakes I listed above yet shop owners, airlines, etc are starting to turn away REAL service dogs because someone wanted to break all of the rules.

Here is a list of things service dogs are trained for:

  • Seeing eye dogs not only do they guide their owners, which is huge, they have to be able to pick up dropped items, get their working harness, go potty on command, never touch food not given to them, and remain in a down stay for hours and hours at a time.
  • Hearing dogs are trained to notify their owner (without barking) of any sound that needs to be responded to,  such as doorbell, oven timer, fire and carbon monoxide alarms, alarm clock, etc.
  • Physically disabled assistance dogs are trained to pull a wheel chair, open and close doors, open appliances  such as the refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, washer,  and dryer. They learn to turn on and off lights, and so many more specific skills based on their person’s needs.
  • Seizure and Diabetes alert dogs are trained to smell very slight changes in a person’s body chemistry prior to a seizure or sugar crash and to alert both the person getting ready to have an event and anyone else around that person so that they can be ready for the seizure or medicate the diabetic to stop the event.
  • PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) dogs are trained to detect a panic attack and push into the owner to provide comfort and help reduce the panic attacks, most are trained to find the cell phone and bring it to the owner as well as many other tasks based on each person’s issue.

Then there are therapy dogs like mine and Judy’s dog, Frances (see a Tale of Two Judys in Rescue Me), that are in no way service dogs, but have training to provide comfort to those that find the presence of a dog comforting.

Written by Jean Owen of NJ FixMyDog.org