Tails: If you are considering giving your time or money, think small and local…

It is a new year and, often, people contemplate getting more involved with a charitable organization or, perhaps, donating to one. I thought this would be a great time to share MY OPINION on those issues concerning animal welfare organizations.

My first words are, “GIVE LOCALLY!”  It is easy to be enamored by the large groups such as The Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, and Best Friends Animal Society.  Beyond the calendars and free address labels they send out, their brand is everywhere.  How many of us have cried at the Sarah McLachlan commercial?   They are big and glorious and appear to be saving all the animals.

(Just a quick FYI… PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is BEYOND controversial in the animal welfare world.  In my world, NO ONE believes they do good for domestic animals.  In fact, most reports show them killing homeless animals as a way to “save” them from the horrors of people.)

I have a lot of friends who seek out my advice when it comes to giving money to animal groups. I used to tell them this, “Give locally if you want your money to actually go towards saving a dog or cat.  If you don’t mind your money being used for legislative lobbying, give to the big guns.”

I would say that still rings true, however, in the last few weeks, I have seen the big guns, HSUS and Best Friends, lobby for legislation that I, and many others, including The No Kill Nation do NOT find to be in the best interests of the animals or their families.

In Wisconsin, HSUS and Best Friends are both lobbying to shorten the stray hold for dogs from 7 to 4 days.  Meaning that if your dog gets lost, you have 4 days to find him in a shelter before he is adopted out, transferred or killed.

Shelters tend to want shorter stray holds because they can turn dogs over faster, instead of allowing dogs to take up cage space.  However, if your dog gets lost, he could easily travel out of your initial search area and end up in a shelter counties away, and it could be days before you even think to call a shelter so far away.  If you wait more than 4 days, your dog could be dead.

Best Friends and HSUS swear that they are out to save the most animals possible.  I argue that they have lost touch with the day-to-day reality of rescue.  If they really want a shortened stray hold then they should ALSO be lobbying for better return to owner programs.  Most stray dogs don’t fall from the sky!  Most stray dogs aren’t stray at all – they are simply lost.

Lost dogs are the most overlooked issue in the shelter and rescue system.  Instead of focusing on getting dogs BACK home, we focus on getting them into homes.  Return to Owner (RTO) rates in most shelters are heartbreaking.  Until recently, there were few laws to even require shelters to scan for microchips!

There are ALL-volunteer groups popping up across the states called Lost Dogs WI, Lost Dogs IL, Lost Dogs FL, etc… They are all part of a group called Lost Dogs America.  They are 100% committed to helping people reunite with their dogs.  They are assisting with THOUSANDS of reunions every month.  They are proving every single day that RTO matters.

When groups like HSUS and Best Friends barge in with their expensive data and fancy calculations and not one ounce of day-to-day experience reuniting dogs and families, I, and others, have a hard time believing they have any real understanding of what is going to save “all the animals.”  Not to mention having any respect or compassion for the human-animal bond.  They are completely overlooking the desperate family longing to find their lost pet.

So, I digressed a bit and picked a particular subject that is getting press right now.  Let me venture away from one specific and generalize.  If you want to get involved or if you want to donate money to save animals, I highly advise you to look locally and think small.

There are thousands of rescues and local, independent shelters throughout the United States.  And, while they might not be saving THOUSANDS of animals each, each one of them is saving lives.  Those are the places you want to research.  If you do your homework, you will see that it is the smaller rescues and shelters who are giving 100% of YOUR money to the animals.  No overhead, no free address labels  – just dedicated volunteers saving 4 legged lives.

I am not naive, in fact, we are battling a rescue in my area right now because she is a scam artist.  She is bringing up dogs by the truckloads and turning them over in the name of rescue to make money.  Her pups are sick and dying.  She is running from the law as we speak.  So, it is important to do your research.  I wish I could say ALL rescues were run well, but that is sadly, not the case.  If you are reading this blog and have questions, feel free to post or contact me.  I would be happy to help guide you to the “good ones.”

Beyond the local rescues and shelters are the local individuals who are forever fighting for the cause.  Between the fight we have going with the bad local rescue and the recent Winona County, MN protests against the approved Amish puppy mills, I have seen every day citizens stand up and fight with fury.  During these battles, I contacted the big guys like HSUS and Best Friends.  Their canned answers were nowhere near as passionate as the people I have met spending sleepless days and nights rallying to make a difference.

Organizations tend to get too big, lose their focus, and forget about the day-to-day struggles.  As an animal advocate, I have lost faith in the big organizations.  My time and money goes to the rescues and organizations I see working hard on a daily basis.  The groups who are in the trenches treating sick dogs, organizing thousand mile transports, and physically holding protest signs.

Take the time to decide what issue matters the most to YOU and what YOU think will improve animal welfare.  Look hard at organizations and dig deep to find what their stance on issues are.  You might be surprised at their beliefs and values.

I would encourage you to take an hour and research where you want to spend your time and who you want to spend your money.  Personally, I would rather see my $50 go directly towards the treatment of an injured dog, than 100 free calendars given to strangers.


Tails: “Cheers to Animal Advocacy in 2016”

I have been working on a  new post since New Year’s.  My idea was to focus on the positive in animal welfare… and, then, this week happened.  The county of Winona, MN allowed SIX permits for Amish puppy mills!  I am crushed.  I feel like someone stabbed me in the heart.  I feel like we just went backwards 10 years!

Major cities across the U.S. are passing laws and ordinances to prevent pet stores from selling puppies who come from puppy mills and Winona, MN approves SIX more?

For 8 years I have fought passionately to rid the world of mills.  I have educated and advocated until I was hoarse.  What happened this week in Winona, well, it broke my heart.

It definitely made me pause and re-think my original New Year’s post – all about the positive in animal welfare.

However, I saw something else happen in the last few days… I saw so many people outraged by what Winona did.  So many people being the voice for the animals.  So many people who shared their personal stories about their own rescued mill dogs.  So many people who want things to change.

Eight years ago, I felt very alone in this fight.  Through-out my book I talk about how I didn’t think anyone else understood me.  I didn’t believe anyone cared as much as I did.  So, to see the many posts of strangers reaching out to help and to act IS a very positive thing.  It is something to be celebrated.

In my original draft, I wanted animal advocates to realize that they are not alone.  I, think, all too often, we believe we are the only ones who care, the only ones who will save them. I think, in some ways, animal welfare organizations have led us to believe that because they want us to take action. They show sad commercials of desperate animals and imply that you are their only hope.

I want to change that because I do not think it is the healthy way to look at things. It is much healthier and more productive, if we feel like we are part of a much bigger group – if we feel surrounded by people who want to change things – if we believe that we aren’t alone. If I have learned nothing else in 10 years, I have learned that there are A LOT of people out there working hard to change the lives of animals for the better.

I worry about animal people because it is easy to lose  your sense of balance.  Each animal matters and each situation seems dire.  However, I have seen too many animal rescuers lose themselves and when that happens, no one wins.

Every single day I see posts for dogs on euth lists. Desperate cries for help. They make my stomach turn. There is no way that I could respond to each one. However, after a day goes by, I go back to the posts and I am always reminded at how many people there are fighting for the animals. There will be 100 shares and 100 comments of names and organizations willing to step up for that dog. No, sadly, not every dog gets saved, however, so many do and sooooo many people are trying.

My goal in 2016 is to make people feel good about rescue and animal welfare. I don’t want to show the hurt, injured animals anymore. I want to share the stories of reunion, the stories of transformation. The stories that show us how many good people there are out there who love animals.

We live in such a negative world. The media loves surrounding us with murder and disparity and prejudice. I want to surround people with the glory of animals and the overwhelming amount of love and kindness that is expressed each and every day to them.

Animal welfare is hard. I mean gut-wrenching hard. If you aren’t wiping tears, you are wiping pee off the floors – it is physically and emotionally demanding. Add to that the myriad of personalities you meet along the way. Many of who, do not see eye to eye with you. Animal people love animals, but they don’t always have the same forgiveness or understanding when it comes to humans.

So, while you are crying over the euthanasia list, you can also be having a screaming match on FB with someone who is also crying over the euthanasia list but firmly believes the exact opposite of you. It is a messy business.

I don’t know if I can change that, but I do think I can offer a more positive outlook.  I spent the last 10 years like Eeyore  – all doom and gloom.  I want to focus on the positive.  I want to focus on the compassion and the passion people have to help animals.  Yes, what happened in Winona is an atrocity, but the reactions and the actions of the animal advocates have been truly amazing.

I say, “Cheers to animal advocacy in 2016!”  We are THE most passionate group of people on this planet.  We fight battles every single day with only the animals in mind – not money, not greed.  We ARE a force to reckon with and I plan to celebrate that each day in 2016!


Tails: To Save Them All, the Antiquated Rules of Rescue Must Change

To the rescue who just denied my friends adopting a dog: shame on you! Not only did you break my friends’ hearts, you broke mine because you ruined it for so many other rescues by degrading my friends and making them feel like criminals.

You denied them based on a background check and charges you found from 13 to over 26 years ago! You never even met my friends. You didn’t even call their reference checks. You based your decision on something that happened decades ago. I think, Duke, the dog they wanted to adopt, cared more about who they are today.

They are a good family. They live in a nice neighborhood. They both have fantastic jobs. Duke would have lived a life of luxury filled with love. Kids to play with, doggie daycare to socialize at, and training whenever needed. They are actually an ideal family. Even the Animal Control officer WHO MET THEM gave her approval.

I have spent the last 10 years of my life entrenched in animal welfare. I have worked as a kennel tech in a county shelter holding the heads of dogs as they were euthanized. I have pulled dogs out of Amish puppy mills. Dogs so broken, they broke my very soul. I have lobbied in front of legislators begging for change. I have publicly spoke in hall meetings to improve the lives of shelter dogs in Chicago. I pull dogs from the shelter for my rescue and foster them. I spend every single day of my life educating people on the horrors of pet stores and encouraging everyone to adopt their next dog.

When rescues do what you did, it ruins everything we all work so hard for. Now my friends, feeling like criminals, believe the only way to get a dog is to buy one. Isn’t that what we, in rescue, fight so hard against? Yet, you have taught them that their only hope is to go to Petland or order a dog on-line. Rescues like yours infuriate me. You enjoy playing God and judging people and yet, your actions only make things worse for animals everywhere.

There are hundreds of thousands of pits who will be killed this year simply because of space, and yet, you deny people like my friends the opportunity to adopt one? I get that a few bar fights might persuade you to think my friend is dangerous, but that was 25 years ago when he was 20 years old? Do you really feel people don’t change? Do you really believe people should have a perfect record to adopt a dog?

Why wouldn’t you at least take the time to meet them and see where they live? Why couldn’t you call their references? Why was it so easy for you to hit the DENY button, when so many dogs are being killed? My friends want to save a dog and YOU didn’t let them.

The Kansas City Pet Project founder spoke at a Best Friends conference in July and said something to this effect:” “Imagine you are walking by a pond and you see a thousand dogs drowning. You jump in the pond and you just start throwing the dogs out of the water to ANYONE who will help save them. You don’t ask a lot of questions or worry about who the people you are. You just want to save the dogs. Well, people that is where we are right now. There are thousands of dogs drowning and we need to start acting like it.”

Your rescue is NOT looking at the whole adopter nor are you looking at the whole picture. We have millions of dogs to save, denying good people solely on background checks is never going to save them all.

Rescues like yours should be held responsible for euthanasia rates and the number of dogs bought in stores and on-line because you can’t see the forest from the trees. Sure, you might think you “saved” Duke, but your actions have now led to consequences that will do more damage. My friends will tell other friends never to bother adopting because of their horrific experience.

Their experience was horrible. It took your rescue two weeks to even get back to them on their original application. Two weeks. When will rescues learn that they are running a business and people should be treated like customers? And, after you denied them, it took your rescue another THREE days to tell them why.

If we really want people to think of rescue and adoption as a positive experience, we have to make it one. My rescue does. I wish I could say the same about yours.

I work too hard in this field to ignore what you did. I spend too much time and give too much of myself to let you off the hook. Rescues like yours are not making a positive impact on animal welfare today. I am sure you have a long list of the dogs you have saved and if that is enough for you, so be it. But, people like me are truly out to save them all – and to do that takes initiative and creative thinking. It means not judging people from behind a computer screen or with a generic point sheet. If we want to find homes for the million dogs who will be killed this year, the antiquated rules of rescues like yours must change.

Tails: A Week of WOW!

It is easy to lose hope when you are in the animal welfare world.  Everyday I am blasted with dogs on death row, rescues who need money for veterinary costs, or petitions to stop the abuse of animals across the world.  It is a sad, sad group to be a part of most of the time.

However, the last week of my life has proven to me that there is so much hope, so much to be thankful for,  and to be proud of.

Last Sunday, my husband and I did the first transport leg from Chicago to Minneapolis.  We were the ones picking up the fostered dogs.  There were two dogs: Carl and Smokey.  They were Shih Tzu from CACC who were both on death row until NorthStar Shih Tzu Rescue stepped up to take them.  And NorthStar was only able to because two compassionate women said they would foster the dogs sight unseen.

Carl had a troubled past and could be a bit reactive.  Smokey was old and had some severe illnesses that needed immediate treatment.  These two women each took a dog  for 30 days and treated him like a king.  When they met us in the Ikea parking lot, there were tears streaming downs their faces.  They had fallen in love.  Carl’s mom wanted to make sure he would get the training he needed and be placed in a home that would understand him.  Smokey’s mom went down the list of meds and foods that he needed as she wiped the tears from her cheeks.  Both of them handed us shopping bags full of things the dogs had acquired in just 30 days: toys, blankets, food, treats – these dogs were loved more in 30 days than, perhaps, their lifetimes.

I was completely enamored with the affection these women had for the dogs.  Sure, I had fallen in love with foster dogs before, sometimes in as little as 2 days, but to see other people fall in love and care so deeply about a “temporary” dog they never met before, I was beyond hopeful.

Tuesday, a few animal advocates and I read public statements at the Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting.  We are trying to bring about change at the Cook County Animal Control department.  Chicago is huge and crazy, but to see a group of us willing to take it on is hopeful.

Wednedsay I was invited to speak at a high school near the city.  I spoke to over 200 students and many faculty about my book Bark Until Heard and the truth about puppy mills and pet stores.  I hate public speaking, but I loved every moment BECAUSE the students and the teachers were so interested in the subject.  They truly cared about the conditions of the dogs and they really want to do the right thing.  The questions they asked were phenomenal.  I sold out of my books and they want me and Thorp to come back with more.  To engage with future generations about improving animal welfare and to see their eyes light up and make a genuine connection is beyond hopeful.  I left the school that afternoon on cloud 9.

Later Wednesday afternoon, I found myself at CACC to pick up a senior dog named Snuggles who was surrendered by his owner.  CACC’s Director retired last week and the 2nd in command left about a month ago.  I was pleased to feel a different vibe when I walked in.  I could actually sense change in the air.  The employees were kinder, more helpful.  It felt better.  Add to that a group called Advocates for Chicagoland Animals petitioning the Mayor to hire a Director with animal sheltering experience and a passion for saving animals, and I could hardly hold back a smile.  Chicago is on the precipice of HUGE change.  A high kill facility has the potential to soon save lives IF the right personnel are put in place.  There are over 1200 signatures on the petition in less than 24 hours.  So many individuals stating their personal reasons as to why they demand better for the animals at CACC.  YOU can help by signing the petition here.

Thursday rounded out the week with three more hopeful experiences.  I was interviewed by a Florida newspaper for my upcoming book signing in Cape Coral at The Waggle.  I never know how reporters will feel about my work, but this reporter was extremely supportive.  She, too, understands the horrors of puppy mills and backyard breeders.  She rescued her dogs and believes strongly in adoption only.  She was pleased to share my story and encourage people to attend my signing.

I had also gone into a small local book shop in Crystal Lake and asked if he would carry my book.  Once he learned what it was about, he, too, was supportive.  He would love to share that message and do whatever he could to bring about awareness.

By nighttime, I had read that the Chicago ordinance to prohibit pet stores from selling puppies and kittens from mass breeding facilities was UPHELD in court!  We had won!  Thanks to The Puppy Mill Project, pet stores in Chicago can only offer cats and dogs from shelters and rescue organizations!  Even on a political level and a judicial level there was absolute hope for animal welfare!

In my world, tears come everyday.  The sick dogs and unwanted cats make for depressing reading all of the time.  As animal advocates we can easily become overwhelmed and burned out.  This week has taught me so much and given me such hope.

We are not alone.  There is an entire population wanting to make a difference, eager for more knowledge.  There is a new generation who WANTS to do the right thing.  They care about animals.  From people wiling to share their homes with strange, complicated dogs to people willing to speak publicly in the name of change, the tides are turning.

The days can be sad, but it is time to wipe the tears and look-away from the heart wrenching posts and celebrate how far we have come and how much we have to look forward to!  This week is just the beginning.  Animal advocates pat yourselves on the back – we ARE making a difference and there is an army of people waiting for us to give them direction so they can join in and help!

Tails: Animal Control, Rescues, and Shelters, oh my…

This little blurb ran through my FB feed this morning and spurred something in me.  What is the difference between shelters and rescues and really, it should have included animal control.  To be truthful the blurb seems to make the assumption that all shelters are government run, but that is not the case.  There are thousands of private 501(c)3 shelters out there.  Just as there are thousands of private rescues who foster cats and dogs in individual homes.

So, where should you go for your next dog or cat?  Personally, I have always looked to petfinder.com as my map to the right place.  You can search for the animal you want simply by putting in what you want and where you live.  Petfinder as well as adoptapet.com run databases of ONLY rescue animals.  In seconds, you will see so many dogs needing homes and from there you can pick the ones who seem to touch your heart and you can either go to the shelters they are at or contact the rescues they are in.

But, then what?  It is true dogs at animal control (government run shelters) will have much lower adoption fees.  Typically under $100 and all their vaccines, microchip and spay/neuter is included.  I worked at AC for awhile, so I am happy to share a few things.  Personally, my heart breaks a little more for animals in government run facilities.  The employees are often employees who don’t care if they work at AC or for Streets and Sanitation or for the Mayor.  They needed a job and they got one.  It is true that the government is FAR less likely to spend any extra money on a dog needing vet care.  So, if there are broken bones or cancer or a continual viral infection, unless a rescue comes in to pull the dog, AC will put it down.

The thing that people have to remember is it was never the dog’s choice to go to AC.  Either they got lost and were never reunited with their families or their families brought them there for a myriad of reasons. Typically they are: the family had a baby, the family was moving, the family was getting a divorce, someone was allergic.  Rarely are dogs at AC because they are bad dogs or misfits or “have baggage.” REALLY AWESOME dogs are at animal controls across the country.  Purebreds, puppies, you name it.  I highly recommend checking them out.

Shelters and rescues have their own benefits.  When you adopt from them they tend to really know the dog you are interested in.  USUALLY, the people who work/volunteer at rescues and shelters WANT to be there because they love animals, so when you ask them about a specific dog, they have lots to share.  They tend to be, personally, invested in that dog and only want to see a positive, lifelong outcome.  If you go with a breed specific rescue, they are going to know a lot about that breed and be able to tell you if that breed fits with your lifestyle.

It is true that most private rescue and shelter adoption fees are high.  They can be anywhere from $200-over $500.  However, that always includes vaccines, microchips, and spay/neuter.  Depending on the dog’s behavior, that also might include training and/or additional medical treatment.  Unlike animal control, rescues and shelters are willing to invest a lot of money in a dog just to see it live the life it deserves.  They will take it to training, get it surgery, etc… While not every dog needs those things, by charging a higher adoption fee for all dogs, they are able to give services to the ones who need it.  Animals rescue or not – we all have to run on budgets.

Here is where I put in my sly commentary… I am often irritated by people who roll their eyes at adoption fees, looking at me like rescue dogs should be free or something.  Yet, those same people and many others will walk into a pet store and buy a puppy for over $1000.  That same puppy will then need a $300-500 spay/neuter surgery, a $50 microchip, and over $100 in vaccines.

I always tell people, “No dog is free.”  Even if you get a free dog, one day you will have to spend money on vaccines or surgery or illness – not to even mention food, treats, and medicine.

As for AC, shelters or rescue…there are fantastic dogs at all of them.  So many dogs who never chose to be abandoned or lost or unwanted.  The important decision is to ADOPT.  1.5 million dogs will be euthanized this year, wouldn’t you like to know YOU were solely responsible for changing that by at least 1.



Truths: Have Faith and Believe in your Dreams

I had a moment yesterday.  The Puppy Mill Project was at an event, Hiking for Hounds, and I was selling my book, Bark Until Heard.  Angie had this great idea that Thorp should pawtagraph books, so I finally got an ink pad, and, for the first time, Thorp was signing books,  too.

Later in the day, Christine photographed Thorp signing the book and texted it to me.  When I opened it and looked at the photo, my heart melted.  It was perfect.

I thought about the picture the whole ride home.  I can re-call 7 years ago, March 12, like it was yesterday.  The smells, the noise, and the pure heartache remain amazingly vivid for me.  I also remember the exact feeling I had in my soul when I decided in an instant that I would rescue Thorp and write a book about him.

I am by no means a religious person.  I don’t go to church or read the Bible, but I can attest that the feeling I had that day had to be driven by something much larger than me.  I remember sitting in the crappy bleachers, looking around at what seemed like Hell to me, and being overcome with this idea that I could do something to make a difference.

I knew writing the book about Thorp was something I had to do.

It was a difficult road, no doubt.  The writing wasn’t always easy, but the entire journey was  challenging.  Going to two more auctions nearly did me in – emotionally.  Being surrounded by broken spirited dogs is beyond gut wrenching.  The pain and the anger and helplessness were hard to wrap my head around at times.  The fighting and the pleading with legislators took a toll.  Every beat of my heart was wrapped up in the emotional roller coaster ride I spent 7 years on.  Yet, I never once chose to give-up.

The book is out and the reviews have been great.  The last few months have been surreal to say the least.  I am still attempting to take it all in.

Seeing Thorp making his paw print under the words “Bark Until Heard” not only made it all very real, but made me realize how important it is to listen to your soul and to have faith in things bigger than yourself.

I certainly didn’t know the extent of the journey when I felt the desire to save Thorp and pursue writing his story.  I only knew it had to be done.  Now, I find myself at these wonderful dog events being able to share my story and raise the awareness of puppy mills.  I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who are volunteering their time to rescue dogs and improve their lives.  I get to meet adopters whose lives have been changed by their rescue dogs. I spend time petting dogs of every single kind of breed or combination. My heart is full.

I can’t stop smiling.

It isn’t and it never was about “writing a book.”  It has always been about so much more.  I am not a life coach, but I just want to encourage others to follow what they feel in their heart, to listen to their soul when it speaks.  Have faith and believe in your dreams because not only are they possible, the journey they take you on is far better than you ever imagined.

Bark Until Heard is my first book.  It can be purchased on amazon or signed copies can be bought on my web-site beckymonroe.com.  


Tails: Maybe they don’t know any better

Last weekend we headed up to our cabin in Wisconsin for the weekend.  As usual, Penelope, our Shih Tzu/rescued mill dog, sat on my lap in the front seat while Thorp and Jack slept peacefully in the back.  Penelope gets shotgun because she gets car sick.  We have found that letting her sit in the front seat with the A/C blowing on her alleviates it.  Secretly, I think she is over the carsick thing, but I can’t imagine not having her sit on my lap.

So, she was sitting on my lap and for whatever reason, I just looked down at her and held her tight.  I often find myself re-living her puppy-mill past and reaching towards her to make myself feel better. As I held her close, I had this spontaneous thought, “What if not all humans are given the heart to love animals like I have?  What if they really do not feel the way I do about dogs?  What if, when they look at a dog, they only see a furry animal and not a loving soul?”

What if?

It is unfathomable at first, but maybe it is possible.  Why else could it be so hard to save them all?  If everyone felt like I do, surely things would be different by now.

As I let my hand softly stroke Penelope’s coat and watched her rhythmic breathing,  I paid close attention to that feeling I have in my heart.  That feeling that makes me feel whole when I hold my dog close. That feeling that makes my soul feel at peace.  When I hold an animal, all is right with the world.  I feel connected and loved and in the moment.

Could it be that not everyone has had the same experience with animals?  Are there people who don’t feel that connectedness?  People who don’t feel that warmth in their hearts when they pet a dog?

For the first time in my life, I felt sadness for people like that.  All of the puppy-millers, the abusers, the neglecters… was that why they chose to be so awful to dogs?  Were they really not given the gift of connecting to animals on such a higher level?  Did they really not ever have “that” moment with a pet?

How very sad.

I can never excuse their actions nor stop condemning them for their behaviors.  I will never cease advocating for animals and expecting better treatment for them.  However, to begin to acknowledge or at least theorize that there are people who don’t spiritually connect to animals like I do, allows me to better understand the world and why it is taking so long to make things better for the animals.

It also reminds me how fortunate I am.  Sure there are days when being so connected to an animal hurts, but the benefits of loving an animal so selflessly, of feeling so unconditionally loved back.  I cannot imagine my life without those feelings in it.

I have never just seen a dog.  I have always felt a soul looking back at me.

Tails: What Puppy Mills Mean to Me

September is Puppy Mill Awareness month.  In some ways, I have completely overlooked this fact.  The truth is, to me, every day is about puppy mill awareness.

If you haven’t read my book, Bark Until Heard, you don’t truly know how much puppy mills mean to me.  See, my entire life changed the day I walked into the Amish auction barn and saw hundreds of dogs bought and sold like commodities.  Commodities no one gave a shit about.

Mere mention of that day and my entire soul is catapulted into a different time.  I can feel my heart stop and feel the tears well up in my eyes.  When you love dogs like I do and you see them so spiritually broken, there are no perfect words to describe what is the most heinous experience you will ever have.

That day was 7 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  I rescued a dog I now call Thorp.  He was unlike any dog I had ever seen – even after years of working in a county shelter.  He was an empty shell.  He looked at me with such sadness.  He didn’t know grass or stairs or toys or a warm bed.  He certainly didn’t know the love of a human being.

He changed me in ways I never saw coming.  He taught me patience and the ideals of unconditional love.  He helped me find my courage to fight against the mills and to fight for dogs everywhere – locked in metal cages, forced to breed, unable to ever see the light of day.

Today, Thorp is a certified therapy dog.  He works with kids who are emotionally and behaviorally challenged, something Thorp understands.  For 5 years, Thorp has been a hero at Clay Academy.  We just returned last Wednesday to start the school year.  Within minutes of our arrival, Thorp was surrounded by kids who love him.  They brushed him and talked to him.  Many of them have grown with him and are now teaching the younger students about Thorp and his past.

Our journey is definitely one I will continue to share.  It is so full of pivotal moments and beautiful accomplishments.  However, the number one thing I want people to take away is that our journey is real.  Thorp lived a life of hell in a crappy cage for over 4 years.  I saw him and hundreds of other dogs bought and sold like used cars.

There are THOUSANDS of dogs just like Thorp waiting for someone to free them, so they can change the lives of others.

Puppy Mill Awareness month is great, but the message needs to be heard every single day until mills are a thing of our past.  Please, NEVER buy a dog or cat.  ADOPT.  And, take a few minutes to contact your legislators and demand justice.  I no longer find hope in “making mills better” instead, we need to stop the selling of cats and dogs in pet stores and replace them with rescued animals.  Once we stop the demand, the mills will close.  They were never about the love of the dog, only the greed and profit.

I will be at the March this Sunday, September 27, in Chicago on Michigan Ave.  Join me and help make a difference.  You can register and find more information at The Puppy Mill Project.


Tails: It is Time to See the BIG Picture

Every day people, just like me, post things declaring “millions of dogs and cats euthanized each year.”  Yet, I don’t think many of the people who post those phrases truly grasp the gravity of the words.

I write this blog under duress.  I am pissed off and frustrated.  I feel completely helpless and overwhelmed.  Once again the municipal shelter system is to blame.  For me it is CACC, but I know Chicago, sadly, isn’t alone.  There are hundreds of these crappy shelters across the United States.  Hundreds of shelters killing thousands of animals for NO good reason.

Let me describe my current situation.  A woman contacted me through Facebook.  Her rescue would like to pull two dogs who are “transfer only” from CACC, but her rescue has not been approved yet as a Homeward Bound Partner, so she can’t.  Unfortunately, like her, our rescue, who applied months ago, has not been approved either, so I can’t help her.

Before I continue down what I deem a horrific path, let me address the issue of “transfer only” because, it, too, is one of the ridiculous practices of CACC.  There are hundreds of “transfer only” dogs listed everyday for CACC.  Transfer only means that the dog must go to an approved rescue.  If no rescue pulls it, it will be killed.  The crazy thing about this policy is that we have pulled “transfer only” dogs only to turn around and adopt them almost immediately to people living in Chicago.  The very same people who would have adopted the dog at CACC.  The process would have been quicker and cheaper.  Our adoption fee is $300, CACC’s is like $70.  Why does a perfectly good dog have to be “transfer only?”

I have attended meetings at CACC only to hear their volunteers voice the same concerns.  They say repeatedly, “We never have any dogs for adoption.  People come here from all over the city on a Saturday and the adoption room is empty.”  So, the citizens leave pissed off and never return because who wants to waste their time?

CACC could have lots of dogs for adoption – all different kinds of dogs.  The dogs we pull are small, fluffy dogs – the cute ones – the ones who are almost always easily adopted.  There is no reason why CACC can’t be adopting these dogs out themselves.  Well, there are a few reasons but they only scream words like, “lazy, irresponsible, uncaring, pathetic, etc…”

Back to the scenario…  So, knowing that I can’t help this woman and her rescue,  I turn to FB contacts begging for help.  No answer.  Two dogs are sitting in a city shelter days from euthanasia… there is a rescue who is willing to take them…and yet, absolutely nothing can be done.  Can anyone feel my rage?

I got comments, of course I did.  “Quit whining and network.”  (I believe that is what I am trying to do) “I won’t help anyone right now, there are too many hoarders.”  (So fear of a possible hoarder trumps saving the life of these two dogs?)

In July, I attended the Best Friends Animal Society conference.  I was fortunate to choose to attend  The Kansas City Pet Project session and meet Brent Toellner.  During his presentation he described this scenario:

“Imagine you are walking by a pond and see hundreds of dogs drowning.  You immediately jump in the pond and start saving the dogs by throwing them to anyone who will help on the shoreline.  You don’t ask if they own a fence or if they work all day.  You don’t even care if they have another dog.  You are just grateful that they are willing to help you.”

He went on to say, “That is where we are right now.  Millions of dogs are drowning (dying) in shelters.  We cannot afford to be choosey.”

We have convinced ourselves that saving one is better than saving none.  We say things like, “Saving the life of one dog might not make a big difference, but it is everything to that dog.”  The truth is WE can save them all, if we are willing to fathom the whole problem and not just the two eyes staring us in the face.

No, you or me can’t take a million dogs into our homes, but we can create policies and procedures that take into account the BIG picture and not just a few dogs at a time.

The truth is if we really want to save them all, we can no longer compartmentalize a problem that is in actuality a monumental disaster.  We MUST see the entire picture.

In a nation euthanizing a million good dogs a year, it makes ZERO sense that it takes months to process a rescue application, especially in a giant city euthanizing thousands of dogs a year.  If the applications were processed faster, MORE dogs would be leaving that shelter sooner.

Oh, I know, some of you are worried about hoarders or dog fighters or all of the other terrible possibilities, but as you sit there, why not start counting the number of dogs killed while you were wasting time thinking about all the “what ifs.”  Euthanasia is a given, for each dog you ponder cautiously, at least 5 other wonderful dogs are killed.

If we truly want to save them all, we have to stop being so cautious.  We have to believe what is actually true: there are more good people than bad.

We have to bank on these odds because the numbers don’t lie.  Millions of dogs are killed each year.  We can either choose to change that statistic or we can continue to drag our feet and let dogs die.

Tails: March Until Heard

This Sunday, I will march down Michigan Ave. in support of National Puppy Mill Awareness Day, September 27th. It will be my first march, but my fight started 7 years ago when I walked into my first Amish barn and saw lifeless dogs bought and sold like junk.

Seven years ago, I estimate that 1 in 100 people knew what I meant when I said the words “puppy mill.” Today, I estimate that to be 1 in 25. The message, long in the making, is quickly becoming louder. We are being heard.

84 cities across the nation have bans on the retail sale of puppies unless they come from rescues and shelters. More cities and counties are in the process of adopting similar ordinances. The message is strong and it is simple, but it is not without contention.

I believe that we are on a precipice of enormous change for mill dogs everywhere. I believe that we have reached the 2nd stage of truth as quoted by Arthur Schopenhauer, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second, it is violently opposed and third, it is accepted as self-evident.”

For years, those of us fighting for mill dogs were ridiculed, often ostracized for caring more about dogs than kids. We overcame such initial scrutiny and as our fight has grown momentum and tripled in strength, we are being met with anger, often pure rage.

Recently, we have been called controversial, as if exposing the horrific reality of mill dogs is questionable.   The people we are fighting are running out of options. They have gotten mean and nasty.

It can be frightening to go up against such violent and irrational individuals, but we cannot show fear. We cannot succumb to their tactics. We must march on…

That is what we ALL need to do on September 27th National Puppy Mill Awareness Day. We will walk together – unified in our mission and strong in numbers. We will march and show we are here to educate, to bring awareness, and to fight for the dogs who have no voice.

Fierce opposition based on greed and cruelty is opposition we are more than willing to take on… For the love of dogs of everywhere,  for the freedom of mill dogs locked away in dark barns and for the future of canine companionship, we will walk and we will be heard.

What we speak will soon be the self-evident accepted truth.

*** For information about the Chicago March visit the Puppy Mill Project.  For information about other events on National Puppy Mill Awareness Day or how to get involved visit The National Puppy Mill Project.   Here are some events around the nation:

San Diego Humane Society Adoption Event
www.sdhumane.org California

Protest, 1 PM National City Puppy & Min Toy Puppies
https://www.facebook.com/events/136106673403868/, San Diego, Ca

Awareness Day Proclamations
Brower County and Maimi Dade County Florida

Paws For A Cause Meet and Greet
www.facebook.com/PFACG Georgia

Indiana Puppy Mill Project, Tails on Trails, Fort Wayne
www.facebook.com/inpuppymillproject Indiana

Legislative Meeting on Puppy Mills
www.wp.iowavca.org Iowa

Bailing out Benji 30 protests days 30
www.bailingoutbenji.com Iowa

The Puppy Mill Project, Chicago March
www.thepuppymillproject.org Illinois

Petland Protest, 12-4 PM Roundlake, Il

Harper College Animal Rights Club, leafleting Palatine, Il

Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills, Protest Tropic Pets, Waterboro
www.facebook.com/mainecitizensagainstpuppymills.com Maine

Boots Place Against Puppy Mills, Protest, Rockville
www.bootsplaceagainstpuppymills.com Maryland

Puppy Mill Awareness of SE Micigan, Human Chain through Novi
www.michiganpuppymills.com/ Michigan

Protest Amaze’n Farmyard/Clearview Kennels, Minn, Mn

Petland Protest 11-2 PM 6131 Ronald Regan Dr, St Louis, Mo
more info: “leannefritsch@yahoo.com”

Residents Against Pet Stores in Cherry Hill, Protest
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1597746227155105/?fref=nf NJ

Ohio Voters for Companion Animals Ohio

Boycott The Family Puppy Store – Human Chain Toledo
https://www.facebook.com/tfpboycott Ohio

Leo’s Helping Paws, Puppy Ribbon Project, Lancaster, PA

Puppy Mill & Backyard Breeders Awareness Day 9/26
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Puppy-Mill-Backyard-Breeders-Awareness-Day-2015/481388368730540 Peach Bottom, PA

Puppy Mill Awareness Austin, Festival
www.pmadtx.com, Tx

Wisconsin Citizens Against Puppy Mills Protest 9/26 Wi
Wisconsin Citizens Against Puppy Mills

Petland Protest off Milton Ave, Janesville, Wi
1-5 PM

International *****

Puppymill Awareness Working Solutions, Ottawa Ontario
9/19 Awareness Event Pet Value Kanata

Puppy Farm Awareness Walk, Penang, Malaysia