Pet Rescue Art: If I am breathing I will be rescuing.
I just recently finished this little diddy…I decided a long time ago that since we all exit this life the same way eventually (empty handed and six feet under) that rather than accumulate “things or experiences” that I wanted to be completely used up when I die…I choose to use up whatever energy and resources I have being involved with pet rescue…whether its using my art, caring for my own house full of rescues, training rescue dogs or fostering homeless dogs…it is truly the highest privilege in life to find the vocation God destined me for…I live a blessed life.
This painting is an acrylic on canvas…11×14…glossy archival finish. This and many other of my paintings are available at my ETSY shop. I donate a portion of all of my sales to pet rescue groups.
Memorial Day Dog Leash for fashionista dogs….
Hey everyone…here is a shameless plug for my Patriotic Dog Leashes. Kringles and Lacey sport theirs every Memorial Day and 4th of July. These are a feature item in my Rescue Chic line…a Pawsitivley stylish way to make a difference. We donate a portion of our leash sales to pet rescue charities.
These leashes are made of an Acrylic yarn…very durable. They are 36 inches long…1.5 inches wide…with a 3/8 inch swivel snap hook. They are safe for small dogs. I use these leashes for my Pom and my Lhasa (11 pounds and 15 pounds) and feel very safe walking the dogs with them. The leashes have jingle bells attached under one of the flowers…because every little cutie should make a little jingle when they walk!
Leashes are available at my ETSY shop!
Pet Rescue Art…important messages from the pets we love…
Hands down… the sassiest dog I have ever met is our Lhasa mix; Lacey Mae. They say that the dogs that challenge us the most are the dogs we love the most…I can say from experience that this is true. Lacey was a challenge literally from the moment I met her…and we love every bit of her. Now that my shop is up and running steady I (in theory) have time to expand this year and Lacey Mae is going to step up to the plate and become my newest Pawffiti Artist. Through her I plan to do some Pawffiti Art that is considerably more snarky than I have done in the past.
Lacey’s persona evolved over a series sketches that occurred on Saturday nights. My husband’s favorite thing to do on Saturday nights is watch UFC matches. He likes me to watch with him. So just like he does, when I drag him to the opera, I sit and enjoy UFC with him. I usually bring either a sketch pad or some yarn and a crochet hook. It was on a few of these Saturday fight nights that Lacey’s character evolved.
Lacey came to live with us shortly after Bret and I got married in 2008. For some odd reason…we decided we wanted to open our home to a small breed dog…because two labs and rottweiler weren’t enough for us I guess. We met Lacey through a friend who thought that perhaps we could give this “troubled little dog” a chance.
We drove about an hour to meet her. We loaded up our three big dogs to do a meet and greet with Lacey. She did great with our dogs…particularly since she is just a fraction of their size. However, she pretty much just ran in circles around my husband and I and growled at us. When I tried to greet her…at what I thought was a safe distance…she charged, jumped up and bit my nose….HARD. Oddly enough…we took her home anyway. Not because we bonded with her, obviously, but because she clicked so well with our big dogs and frankly…she was out of options.
Lacey had been surrendered by her owners for “chronic biting”. She seemed to have no use for humans other than to charge, growl and chomp on them.
When we first brought her home…she spent a good portion of the day following me around the house charging me, growling and biting and my legs and hands. If the door was open…she was gone…it was like Chariots of Fire running down the street to get away. My poor husband chased her one morning in nothing but his PJ bottoms (no shoes)…into the woods…over fences..through our neighbors backyards…he caught her eventually…he wasn’t very happy with her that day.
Lacey is smart…and despite her growly ways…all she wanted was some attention. She very quickly figured out that she would get plenty of attention when she was calm and gentle…when she wasn’t calm and gentle…she was ignored. It didn’t take her long at all to win us over and show us her charming and affectionate side.
Lacey will always be a sassy dog with boundaries that need to be respected. She has personal space issues (so does mommy)…and she will snap at someone if they push her too far. But we know her limits and she knows our rules…she has become an irreplaceable member of our family.
I am not a dog trainer that believes that every dog with problematic behavior can (or should) be saved. There are unfortunately some dogs who are just simply a danger to humans and other dogs and it is in everyone’s best interest for them to either live life out in a sanctuary (there are very few that can do this) or be humanely euthanized…it sucks (believe me it sucks) but it is sometimes the most humane outcome. Lacey however, despite being labeled a “chronic biter”, was not one of those dogs.
She has become the princess of the household…sleeping in the middle each night…riding the Harley with mom and dad…and she has become the dog we take everywhere. She runs errands with mom…she goes on vacation with both of us. She doesn’t mind dressing up (really…she doesn’t) and has a large wardrobe so she can gussy up for every occasion. She also doesn’t take any crap and has a growly opinion about just about everything…hence she is going to be my newest artist. She has always had a lot to say. I am so excited to see what happens as Lacey unfolds on canvas…I hope you will follow her progress!
Pet Rescue Art…Pawffiti
Hippie Pittie was at it again…what do you think? She is 11×14 and available at my ETSY shop.
New designs for my handmade pet sympathy cards…
I have been having a burst of creativity and inspiration to make some new pet sympathy cards…I am sure it is has everything to do with losing Sparky. Funny thing grief is…we never “get over it”…at least I don’t believe we do. We just learn to live with it…and over time living with it makes it an important part of who we are as spiritual beings. Funny thing too…grief can happen in such flashes…I was at Hobby Lobby, buying some card making supplies, when I felt inspired to buy a wind chime for our backyard…to hang in honor of Sparky. At first I just felt moved as I was picking one out…almost a bitter sense of comfort in the memory of him and for doing something in his name…and then a moment of guilt came over me because I realized that it was the first time I had thought about him that day. Grief is weird.
I believe we are all put here to play a special part…to be involved in a spiritual enterprise that rubs the rough edges off us as we grow…for me it is pet rescue. I make no apologies for my pets playing such a large role in my life…not to friends…not to family…it is who I am…take me or leave me as I am. I was made for taking care of them.
Sparky rubbed a lot of rough edges off of me…it was patience and persistence that he taught me for sure…but more important and especially later in his life it was that every day he reminded me to never waste an opportunity to have a little enjoyment. I had six dogs when he was still alive and I am a bit of nut about exercising my dogs…which takes a lot of time in my day and a lot of my energy. Sparky was SOOOOOOOOO slow the last year of his life and he had a bit of doggy dementia…so often we would walk back and forth down the same street…he would get confused about which direction we were walking…I always just went with it. But I had to walk him separate from the other dogs and even a very short walk took an enormous amount of time (sometimes I would even bring a book). But dammit…I was gong to make sure he had his time…he loved his walks and it was one thing I could give him…I new that one day he wouldn’t be there…if today was by chance the last day…it was going to be one he enjoyed. I find a lot of comfort today in my patience and persistence for him and his walks. It has made me a better person.
I am one of those oddly wired people that needs to create to be whole. I lose time when I am creating…whoooda thunk it would be pet sympathy cards that I enjoy to make…but that is how it just turned out….so I go with it. If I can be a small part of bringing a tiny bit of comfort to someone grieving a pet…I am glad to do it. I write my own greetings for my cards…they are not poetic…just genuine thoughts from someone who knows a little something about grieving a pet.
If you ever need a pet sympathy card, keep me in mind…they are available at my ETSY shop…I take great pride in making them and in my customer service in regards to them.
Love your pets today…and everyday…you are their whole world.
Please follow my blog if you are interested in seeing more of my work and hearing more of my opining about all things pet. I post 1-2 times/week on my blog and daily on my Facebook Page.
What makes you smile…my dogs make me smile. Every dog has that one thing that just makes them crazy with happiness…a game of fetch…a special treat or toy…for our Lacey…its Harley Davidson motorcycles. She is our little biker dog…when she hears the bike fire up she tries to crawl up my legs to get in to her harness…
Taking Lacey for motorcycle rides was born out of Bret and I trying to figure out activities for her that would satisfy her crazy side…Lacey is a fun dog but she is a mischief maker and has little to no fear of heights (she will leap off of anything), no fear of other animals (of any kind)…pretty much no fear of anything that most dogs would shy away from…she likes a challenge and adventure.
When we met Lacey she had been surrendered because she was a “chronic biter”. She definitely sharpened her choppers on us a few times. In fact, the day I met her she leaped at my face and bit me in the nose…hard. Most people would pass on such a dog…but Lacey was out of options…she had no where to go. The day she put a few holes in my nose she also met my other dogs; which back then was my two labs and my Rottweiler. Despite being a fraction of their size she instantly took to them and was running with the pack like she belonged with them her whole life. She was also taking their cues…when they backed her down…she heeded them…I saw hope for her in that. We have never looked back from the day we met her…Lacey came home with us and very quickly figured out new patterns of behavior (that didn’t include biting people). Lacey is not the type of dog that will cooperate with typical training methods…she wants nothing to do with. When I try using my clicker, treats and typical methods…she literally turns her back to me. She is above my style of training. So I had to use the approach of “capturing” behavior. The first few months that Lacey lived with us she would only get rewards…food, pets, snuggles when she was calm…when she acted up I instantly removed from what pleased her (just removing my interaction and presence from her worked magic). To teach her to sit, down, stay, etc…I had to “capture” those behaviors and reward them as she naturally performed them…she caught on fairly quickly without have to “subject” herself to being trained. While capturing is a slower road to train a dog it is certainly effective.
Today, Lacey is the love of our life…she is the dog we take with us every where …the dog (well one of the dogs) that sleeps in the middle and definitely the apple of her daddy’s eye.
The bike is tuned up…the weather is warming up and Lacey is saddled up…she was truly Born to Ride! We are looking forward to a summer of riding fun…discovering new things in Kentucky with our little biker dog!
I am working on new sketches of Lacey in her tough girl gear…she has a lot to say and its time to put it to canvas…she is going to be my newest Pawffiti artist.
Have a great week!
The best dog stroller on the market…
Yes, I am one of those “crazy ladies” who takes her dog trolling around the neighborhood in a stroller. Kringles, my 16+year old pomeranian has an enlarged heart. He can no longer go for walks…he tires within a minute or two…but Kringles does not want to get left behind either…so I am not leaving him behind! I am sure that there are plenty of neighbors and passers by that laugh or poke fun at the crazy lady with her dog in the stroller…good thing I am not one to care what anyone thinks…especially when it comes to taking care of my dogs. Kringles and I proudly troll the hood and will continue to do so every day that Kringles still can.
The first stroller I purchased for Kringles was rickety and uncomfortable…the cheap plastic wheels made for a bumpy ride and I really could only use it on flat paths at the park…no chance of navigating curbs. Bret, (my wonderful husband) picked out a stroller fit for a king so Kringles could cruise in style. We ordered the “Pet Gear: stroller from Amazon...it wasn’t cheap…it was $366.00 (shipping was free because we are Prime members) but it is now listed on Amazon at $329.00. I have subsequently noticed this stroller on sale in a few catalogs for considerably less as well.
But was it worth it? We’ve been using the stroller for months now and it was worth every penny! We use it daily for Kringles and we often use it with foster dogs we take in as well. Here are my thoughts on the value of this stroller:
1) While it did require some assembly…Bret assembled it in less than 30 minutes…I am sure it would have taken longer if I had to do it but not bad.
2) The basket of the stroller is incredibly roomy…we could fit two dogs in it if necessary. There are times when my Jack Russell, who walks with me and Kringles, tires out. I just add him in the stroller and he rides comfortable with Kringles. The stated capacity of the stroller is 90 lbs…I can’t imagine pushing 90 lbs worth of dog in stroller, can you? When Kringles and Turnip are in the stroller together (combined weight of 35 lbs) I can comfortably push the stroller. There are tethers on the inside of the stroller basket as well to keep a dog that might jump out from running away.
3) The tripod frame and air wheels make it very stable (no tipping even if Kringles is jumping around). The front wheel has two positions, locked and unlocked. If it is unlocked you can turn the stroller with ease but if you speed up in this mode the stroller will wobble (not comfortable for the dogs). I use with the front wheels in the locked position because I power walk. In locked mode the ride is very smooth for the dogs no matter how fast I am walking. The turns are bit more difficult however I have find that if I make my turns wide they are much easier.
5) There are plenty of storage pockets for my phone, keys, poop bags, etc. It has a cup holder on the handle bars. It comes with a rain cover (how cool is that). There is also storage space under the basket.
6) The bottom half of the basket stands high enough and is sturdy enough that I don’t have to worry about Kringles falling out even if have to stop fast.
7) The cushion in the basket is thick and soft. It is lined with a black plush fabric. I add a cool pad to the bottom of the basket on hot days.
8) The air wheels make it a very smooth and comfortable ride for Kringles. They also make it easy to turn and go up and down curbs without Kringles being bounced around. Because of the air wheels and the sturdy frame I can power walk with this stroller while still maintaining a comfortable ride for Kringles. It is really helpful to have the tires properly inflated. My husband keeps our wheels at 40lbs of pressure.
9)The stroller does collapse down nicely to fit in the car. The only downside I could find with this stroller is that it is a bit heavy for me to get in and out of the car…I can lift it but it is a bit of a struggle for me by myself.
10) This is a no zip stroller. The hood comes down and snaps securely with one clip in the front. Anyone who has used a pet stroller for awhile knows that zippers and furry creatures are not a good mix!
Hands down …this wagon was worth every penny. This truly is the Cadillac of dog strollers.
My dogs, like most all dogs, are lovers of routine…we have a daily schedule which makes managing an eight pet household pleasant for everyone…part of that routine is our daily exercise..which now, thanks to the Pet Gear stoller, Kringles can participate in again.
I added a picture of a painting I finished recently. It is inspired by the spring and summer need for cats to be rescued from shelters. The original painting is sold but prints will be available shortly at The Rescue Mama ETSY shop. For other product reviews check out my Parent Resource Page. If you are interested in all things pet, pet rescue and pet art follow my blog for weekly articles, my Facebook Page and my Pinterest Page. If you are in need of pet sympathy cards, pet rescue art or pet adoption cards check out my items at The Rescue Mama ETSY Shop.
Pet Rescue Art: Dog Fighting Sucks…what is wrong with Kentucky?
I live just 20 minutes north of Lexington, KY. Lexington is the horse capital of the world. In my county and several of the counties surrounding us…horses are a focal point of community life. The barns built for horses here are nicer than most folks houses. There is a retirement home for race horses a few minutes from my house…some of these horses have earned upwards of $90 million dollars in their life time. The horse is sacred here.
For the most part everyone I meet here is also a dog lover. Just about everyone has a dog or two. Hunting dogs are everywhere here…for the most part the hunting dogs live productive lives as working dogs here…the bond between the hunter and his dog something to respect. The local humane societies are well supported…and there are numerous smaller fringe rescue groups as well. But there is also a dark underworld for animals here that few folks want to talk about.
Kentucky has the worst laws in the nation for protecting animals…dead last…they are in fact a disgrace. Because of the pathetic laws the abuse and neglect of animals (especially dogs) goes on publicly and is never punished. Sure, folks can (and will) call and report the abuse they see…but there is often little the authorities can do…dogs are left to suffer out in the open for everyone to see. There are no laws here to fit the crimes of cruelty to animals here…it is a sad, sad state of affairs.
Kentucky is also the ONLY state in the nation that does not consider raising dogs for the purpose of fighting a felony…literally the only state in the nation! Why is it so important to classify raising dogs for fighting as a felony you might ask? Because this is the only way to stop dog fighting. It is very rare that the authorities will catch dog fights “in theater”…their world is too secretive. The only way to stop dog fighting, that every other state in the union has already figured out, is to bust the creeps for raising fighting dogs in the first place. In Kentucky…raising fighting dogs goes on right out in the open. Kentucky is in fact a safe haven for dog fighting.
We also must not be naive about the world of dog fighting…its not just about cruelty to animals…its about drugs and violence against humans too. These are dark hearted people with no regard for life…not a dog’s life…not my life…not your your life.
The Louisville Humane Society recently stated that 80% of the dogs they in take are pit bulls or pit mixes…80%….and most of them come in with wounds and scars reminiscent of dog fighting. We also have another problem here in Kentucky…dog fighters need bait…animals that they can use to teach their fighting dogs to kill…we therefore have an epidemic of stolen family dogs. It’s sickening…but if your dog goes missing here…we want to hope for the best but we are in fact forced to at least entertain the idea that the very worst of fates has befallen our dogs.
There is a group here; Kentucky Coalition to End Dog Fighting, that has been tirelessly working to get laws passed to make raising fighting dogs a felony. But alas…there are legislators standing in the way…many of them. They “kill the bills” to protect the dogs by adding abortion amendments, ag gag amendments and other amendments that have nothing to do with dog fighting. Its disgusting but these politicians are elected (over and over) and have been getting away with this for years. There is still a chance that a bill will pass this month where anti-dog fighting language will itself be an amendment…we can hope and pray that it passes. If it doesn’t I hope for public outrage against these legislators standing in the way…but I doubt it.
I have no desire to opine about corrupt politicians and their role in the suffering of animals here in Kentucky..most thinking people know that the role of “career politician” has simply become a euphemism for corruption…removing all “career politicians” with term limits is the only answer to cleansing our corrupt government.
I do think it is worth reflecting on the state of a society that passively stands by in the face of cruelty. Basic kindness to animals should be easy…and it should be a key measure by which we judge our communities. Abominations such as dog fighting (any kind of animal fighting) are a blight…a dark spiritual sickness that every single civilized person should be unwilling to tolerate in any form. Here though…there is an entire segment of society accepts things like dog fighting and cock fighting as part of their “culture”. Whenever there is actually a raid of a dog fighting ring or cock fighting ring here there is a hardcore group of people that are outraged by the intrusion of government on this pillar of their history and culture…literally they identify things like cock fighting as “part of their culture and heritage”.
This is a picture my husband took in eastern, Kentucky (click on it and enlarge it). If you don’t know what you are looking it…the barrels are for fighting roosters. Roosters are tied to these barrels (which are their homes) until they are taken to the ring to fight. This picture was taken “in town”…it wasn’t hidden from civil society…these fighting roosters were being raised right out in the open for all to see…everyone driving by knows what the fate of these roosters will be…and nothing can be done for them.
Where I personally struggle the most with issues like cruelty to animals is NOT in pondering “how could they?”…”how could anyone be so cruel?”…I don’t wonder that at all…I know exactly how individual people can be so cruel…they are spiritually sick…in many cases spiritually bankrupt.
What I do struggle with is how can everyone else stand by and do nothing…how can we have a such a high level of “dis-interest” in ending cruel practices going on in our own communities…Most of us would never consider engaging in the world of dog fighting or cock fighting ..but at least in Kentucky…the voting population repeated elects legislators who refuse to put a legal end to it. This is a dark blemish on our society…we (Kentuckians) must end it…we (Kentuckians) cannot stand by in disgust and judgment rather we must be the voices for these animals. We have to do something about it…the animals can not put an end to dog fighting…but we can.
It appears there is one last chance for Kentuckians to speak up and encourage our legislators to finally do the right thing and stop dog fighting. There is a bill that has passed the Senate…was amended in the house and now must pass the Senate with the amendments again. It is SB143 and it has the anti-dog fighting provision as an amendment. Will you make the phone call? Call your state senator (800-372-7181)…call the Senate leadership…ask them to support SB143 and to take a stand against dog fighting. If you don’t know who your Senator is…click on the link here Kentucky Coalition to End Dog Fighting…and they have details and links to find your Senators and details about the bill. Like their page on Facebook if you want to follow this more closely…the phone calls matter THIS WEEK!!!!! I will be making the phone calls this week…will you?
Pet Rescue Art: “Live to Rescue” Pawffiti
I have spent the last few months learning the process of getting giclee prints made of some of my paintings…maybe I am just getting older…but navigating new things (especially technology) gets ever more complicated and frustrating. One of things I have learned the hard way with my budding art store is that it is a constant time battle to try to manage on an online store and have enough time to create. Running an online shop has required me to learn Search Engine Optimization, advertising and networking on social media and photography (which I still really stink at still). I have learned online payment systems…photo editing…the list goes on. My little art store has now shipped products to 29 different states in the U.S.! I am hoping to hit all 50 in the next year or so and at some point I would like to ship internationally.
I believe I have finally put together a cost effective yet very high quality team to get my art prints made. I am really excited that I can use my prints to generate even more funds for rescuing animals. So far in just the first quarter of 2015 The Rescue Mama Shop has generated $820 in donations of cash and merchandise to rescue groups. I am hoping to grow this number significantly throughout the year. I am hoping that my “Live to Rescue” Pawffiti will be a big part of that. When I first posted the original painting on Facebook last month it was well received and I had a lot of requests for prints (and tshirts and bumper stickers, etc).
Getting prints made requires professional photographs of the originals…I have found a wonderful photographer in Lexington (Mary Rezny) who does an amazing job creating my electronic art files for me and has been generous with her time answering my endless questions about the process. It also required finding a high quality printer that can provide archival quality prints that don’t break the bank…after test running a few shops I have been thrilled with the product I am getting from http://www.iprintfromhome.com.
I sell all of my originals and prints at my ETSY shop. 25% of the sales price of my originals go to rescue donations (the buyer can choose which rescue group gets the donation if the desire). For all of my print sales I donate 10% of the sale. I accumulate the total all quarter for my print sales and then write one check at the end of each quarter to a rescue group that I choose (which is usually a group in Kentucky as the needs for animals is so great here but there are other groups that I send to as well).
I have also been making cards with each of my new prints. They make great cards for new pet adoptions or simply as “thinking of you” cards for pet rescue friends, dog walkers, veterinarians. I am selling them for $3.99 at my shop.
This “Live to Rescue” painting was inspired by my Sparky…who as you know passed away last week. I can’t put in to words how deeply I miss him. Sparky spent his days either laying next to my easel or laying next to my desk…the house seems decidedly empty without him. I am so grateful that I have painted so many pictures of him…I bet he gets a kick out of knowing that his sweet face is hanging in so many homes around the country.
Years ago…the reason I started painting in the first place was the loss of my Rottie, Hercules. It was only a few months after he had passed that I realized I was losing my mental image of him…so I started doodling pictures of him and eventually I painted him…it was then that I realized…hey maybe I can do something productive with my painting. Here I am several years later with my own little shop. I am having fun…keeping the spirit of my dogs alive, giving voice to homeless and abused animals and raising some extra money for other dogs.
If you are interested in following my work more closely please follow my blog where I post weekly about my art, crafts and life with a house full of rescued pets and like my Facebook Page where I post daily.
Early Saturday morning my Sparky crossed over to the other side of life.
Sparky came to live with me in 2001…the vet thought he was about 2-3 years old when I met him. Sparky had a good long life. Prior to living with me he had been picked up as a stray and taken to the Humane Society. The Humane Society in Waukesha, WI had adopted him out several times to families and each time the families returned him because of his wild ways. The Humane Society handed me the paperwork from the families that returned him…they described a wild and out of control dog who destroyed things, soiled the house and ran away any chance he could get…rather than get turned off by those reports…it made me want to cry…I was naive…but I wanted to give him a chance. My only other dog at the time, Hercules, loved Sparky when they met and I let that be my guide. While I didn’t believe this then…I know now that every animal that comes in to my life…arrives exactly when it is supposed to…
When I met Sparky he was feral…he had no interest in attention or affection from me at all…and no clue how to adjust to living indoors with a family…he was not house trained…he would freak out and destroy amazing amounts of my things if he was left alone in the house…simple things like getting him in the car were an enormous challenge…but in spite of his wild ways we stuck together anyway…we had a connection and understanding that there were reasons we were together and together we were going to make sense of the world. Slowly over the years Sparky came to appreciate indoor living and family life. This picture of us taken together was taken about four years after Sparky came to live me…we both look so young here…I discovered on this day that despite his rambunctious nature Sparky loved to pose for the camera…I am thinking he new just just how handsome he was.
At a very dark time in my life…Sparky began to completely shed his wild ways and became the most affectionate and loyal companion a girl could ask for…when I needed him the most he stepped up to the plate. He was a constant and quiet companion who would hike with me for hours on end and was friendly and gentle to everyone he met. He turned out to be a true gentleman. Sparky also loved to party…he was always up for a good time with friends (k9 and human).
Eventually, Sparky was the dog that went through dog training certification school with me. He rocked it at school…my mentor marveled out how focused he was and how easy he was to train (so did I frankly).
In his old age, when his body began to fail him…it was my privilege to step up to the plate and take care of him. There is something bittersweet about an older pet…their honest dependence on their human at that stage of life gives us a chance to truly give back to them…Sparky never seemed to carry any sense of self doubt or frustration when his legs wouldn’t hold him up…or when he was confused about which direction we take on our walks…he just looked at me and expected me to give him a lift or point out the right direction…I felt so honored to be trusted and I loved every minute of caring for Sparky. I loved holding him in my arms when he took his last breaths.
Sparky wasn’t just a great companion for me. My cats loved him…he never minded them crawling on him, kneading him, or sleeping curled up at his belly. He can be credited for helping other dogs. His patience and tolerance with our naughty Lhasa was remarkable. He had a gift for helping dogs that are struggling with behavior (most recently Buster & Turnip) figure out how to live happily with humans and other dogs. Sparky’s calming presence was like magic for other dogs…or perhaps a better word for it is grace.
There is unique solidarity among pet parents once we have experienced making this final but most important decision for a pet. There are few other times in life when I have to suck it up and be selfless in such a painful way…for the sake of another’s suffering…it is an odd sense of strength that I rarely feel at any other time. There is a saying…that goes something like this…”if you love…it will hurt…and it is worth it.” I knew this time was coming with Sparky…not just because his health was failing but because he was entering my dreams more and more. I could feel him saying good bye to me.
Sparky passed with dignity…as they say “he went out with his boots on”. I am grateful for every minute that I could call him mine…and I look forward to seeing him again someday on the other side. For now though…my heart is broken as it is hard to imagine the days without his sweet presence beside me.
Rest in Peace Sparky…I will always love you.
Happy Valentines Day from the Halverson Pack!
We are almost through our first winter in Kentucky…we LOVED IT….we have had several days in January with temps in the 50’s and we have had a lot more sunshine than we were used to with Minnesota winters. My husband has even had his motorcycle out in both January and February.
We have had our hands full with our expanding family since we moved to Kentucky…Turnip continues to make great strides…he has started following Bret around the house in the evenings…a nice change from his days of running from men. He had his first visit with our regular vet…he hated it but behaved like a true gentlemen…he wore his new hoodie to his appointment…
I have been busy in my studio with both new paintings and with learning the process of getting prints made of my paintings…I have several prints available at my ETSY shop now….my prints of my Vera painting came in this week…they turned out fabulous. I finished this Rescue Dog on a Motorcycle painting this week…I envision many versions of this painting in the future.
Buster continues to make great progress in his training…while his energy level and enthusiasm for everything is quite remarkable…he is also a lovey and snuggley boy…he has become a pleasure to take on walks and manages himself much better (not perfect but better) in the presence of unfamiliar dogs. Working with Buster is something I plan to write about a lot in 2015….Buster is not my first rodeo with a reactive dog…we have learned a lot and I am hoping it can be helpful for other parents with dogs who need just a bit more help managing stress
Whenever Valentines Day comes around I am reminded of all the reasons why I love my husband….and there are many, many things about him that are lovable…but it is the love he has for our pets that melts my heart. I am not married to a man who will buy me jewels…I am married to a man who comes home with pet strollers for our Pomeranian who can’t go on walks anymore…who sits up with our pets all night when they are sick…who never tires of playing with them when they are rambunctious….I am blessed with husband who was made for caring for all these animals…
TAGG GPS tracker for pets
I recently purchased a TAGG GPS system for our newest adopted family member; Turnip. We have not had problems with our pets ever going “missing” but 10 million pets are lost or stolen every year. The newest addition to our family, Turnip, is afraid of everything and runs for a place to hide when he gets scared. We decided to try a GPS tracking system on Turnip as an extra precaution against losing him. We chose the TAGG GPS system. I have to admit; initially I thought putting a tracker on my dog was leaning to far in to the “helicopter mom” paradigm…but now that I see how practical the system is I believe the additional safety it provides is a “no brainer”.
The reasons I chose the TAGG system over other systems:
1) The TAGG range and battery life are the best available. The entire point of the tracker is preventing a worst case scenario. The TAGG tracker has the longest battery life on the market (it claims 10 days is possible) but I read reviews that had significantly longer battery life. The only limit to the range within which your pet can be tracked is the range of Verizon service coverage in your area. The battery life and range make for the maximum safety provision of all available trackers on the market in my opinion.
2) TAGG works with any internet enabled device. The tracking system is run with GPS (through Verizon) and software. I don’t have to use a receiver to track my dog. Systems such as Marc Polo, Loc8tor, Romeo and Garmin need receivers to track the dog. If I lose my phone I could track my dog from any internet enabled device. If I lose a receiver I am out of luck.
3) The hardware component for the dog is not intrusive. The TAGG is small enough and light enough (it weighs 1.1 ounces) that it does not bother my dogs to wear it. One specification worth noting is that is recommended for dogs (or cats) that weigh over 10 lbs. Supposedly the TAGG is waterproof (I didn’t test that out but we have walked in the rain with no issues).
4) The system is a good value for a multi-pet household. The initial hardware cost per device is $100. The monthly service fee is $7.95/month if you pay for the entire year upfront. It is $9.95/month if you pay monthly. At first I thought the monthly service was expensive…until I realized that the trade off having to use a receiver. The monthly service means I can track my pet from any internet enabled device. If I just had a receiver and no monthly service I run the risk of losing or breaking the receiver and not being able to track the dog. Adding additional pets to the service is only $0.95/month/pet. You can add up to 9 animals to one subscription. (Each animal needs its own hardware though).
The TAGG was super easy to set up…if I can do it anyone can. All I used to get going was the Quick Start Set Up Manual that comes with the hardware and the web software (activate at http://www.pettracker.com). I didn’t need any additional support but TAGG does have a support phone line and videos on their website for help. The monitor requires an initial charging period. While the TAGG was completing its initial charge I set up my system online. It only took about 15-20 minutes to get the tracking system running on my computer. All you have to do is enter your pets data, your contact data and set your “safe zone”. Once it was running on my computer I set up the phone app. The TAGG system has both iphone and Android apps. It only took a few minutes to get TAGG running on my Galaxy S5 (downloaded right from the Playstore). You can set the TAGG software up to alert you via text messages. It can be set up to text messages to you anytime the dog is out of your pre-set range, when the dog returns to the safe zone, if the battery is low and when the battery is fully charged. You can set up multiple people to receive the alerts. (My husband likes this feature because he says he can track me from work!)
How it works:
When you do your initial set up at http://www.pettracker.com you will define a “safe zone” for your dog. I chose the smallest radius of space around our house that I could (which is what the software defaults to). That smallest “safe zone” is about a 3 acre range around your home. If your pet is out of the “safe zone” you will get a text message (or email). At the time of the alert you would then ask the software to track your dog to get the dogs location. The TAGG system is not a “real time” tracker on your device.. You need to ask the software to track the dog’s location (which only takes seconds) once the dog has left its pre-determined safety zone.
The Activity Monitoring Feature:
One of the features of the TAGG is that it can monitor your pets activity levels. Unfortunately, the TAGG needs to be attached to a collar around the neck to do function as an activity monitor None of our dogs wear neck collars but rather all wear harnesses so this is a feature that we cannot use.
I have ordered two more TAGG systems for Buster and Lacey. The new systems will be the TAGG Plus. The TAGG Plus is an upgrade in battery life and will have a temperature sensor. New purchases of TAGG Plus are now not shipping until April/May. When I ordered two more TAGG’s back in December the ship date was February…so expect at least a 3 month lag to get your product. TAGG also recently merged with Whistle. Whistle is a product that focuses more on pet activity monitoring. I am sure that will mean some platform changes in the future.
Our Turnip is such a sweety…we are grateful for technology that can help us keep him safe.
I hope this was helpful!
Pet Rescue Art…the stories that steal our hearts…
Allow me to introduce you to Vera. Vera is a pittie girl who was rescued by a group called Muttley Crue Rescue in Ohio. A few weeks ago I was contacted by Muttley Cure looking for a painting for their Mardi Paws event in Cleveland, OH next month. I found Vera’s story on their website and fell in love with her…I just had to paint her. Prior to her rescue by Muttley Crue some horrid person poured hot oil on her body and left her to die. But look at her now…isn’t she lovely! I think everything about her just says “joy”. I am always amazed at how fast dogs and cats can recover both physically and emotionally after they have suffered at the hands of creepy humans.
The statement on Vera’s painting was a theme that Muttley Cure used on their website. I will be shipping off Vera’s painting for auction as soon as I have it photographed. I hope the painting raises a bunch of dough as Vera also has a heart condition and will need an expensive surgery. I will be making prints of Vera’s painting which I will put up for sale at my ETSY shop. I will donate a portion of the sale of each print to Muttley Crue. It will be a few weeks before the prints are available.
My paintings are my way of doing a little something more for dogs and cats who are still waiting for their forever home while still allowing me to be present at home for my house full of rescued pets…each painting I do is completed in a studio full of cats and dogs. Check out my Art Gallery to see more Pet Rescue paintings I have done.
Odds are I will never meet Vera but it was an honor to paint her!
Who is your hero?
Do you know a lot of heroic people? I believe I know a lot of them…I think they are all around us. Everyone has their struggles…some people wear them on their sleeve…some people bury them deep inside….but we all fight battles and those battles makes living life on life’s terms heroic in its own right. Still, we have the more obvious heroes…like our soldiers. A hero comes in many forms…and sometimes its the sweet soul who wanders to the shelter and rescues a dog…and sometimes it’s the dog.
Sparky, my black lab, has been creeping in to my art more and more…he creeps in to my dreams more too. He is very old now and sometimes I think his presence in my dreams is his way of beginning to say good-bye to me. I love to draw and paint him. He is a fascinating dog. When I first adopted him he was near a feral dog. I could not touch him or even get very close to him…he was never aggressive but he had no use for me…would not even take food from my hand. He had no concept of how to live in a home with humans and destroyed miraculous amounts of things in my home and would jump up and down (several feet up) when I put a leash on him. What kind of crazy woman adopts a dog like that might be a fair question…honestly…one that didn’t know any better.
While I was clueless then I know now that dogs come in to our lives when they are suppose to. Sparky, who for years wanted nothing to do with me…turned in to a loyal companion. He never leaves my side and has become a hero to other dogs. Whenever I hear someone say a dog is not adoptable…I cringe. Sparky was in that category. The weekend I adopted him (he had been adopted out several times and returned to the Humane Society) was his last chance…he was on doggy death row for the following week. Don’t get me wrong…the early years with Sparky were not easy….sometimes I could do nothing but cry at the things he destroyed …at the frustration of trying to manage little things like getting him in to the car. But oddly enough…in the midst of a very dark time in my life he started to change and calm down…he became the dog I needed at that time. Eventually, Sparky was the dog that went through dog training school with me…all of which were efforts to help my other dog (Hercules) who was terribly reactive. Sparky rocked dog training school…my mentor couldn’t believe his ability to focus on me (neither could I really…I think now of all the years I was underestimating what he could do). Now Sparky is the dog that I use to work with other dogs…those that are fearful and those that are reactive in the presence of other dogs. (Reactive is the politically correct way to say dog aggressive). There is something about Sparky’s presence that calms and guides other dogs to better behavior. I won’t pretend for one moment that I understand it nor do I feel the need to.
Sparky has a way of communicating with other dogs…his body language, his eyes..in ways that say all sorts of things I suppose…its so hard not to anthropomorphize our dogs…I would imagine he says things like…”knock it off you obnoxious idiot” to dogs like Buster and “follow my lead I’ve got your back” to dogs like Turnip.
But make no mistake…he is a near 100 pounds of a take no prisoners bad ass if he needs to defend his family. Very few times in all the years that Sparky has lived with me have I seen him go in to a guard dog state…but each time it has happened I have been both startled by and also proud of his fierceness…I believe he would die defending our pack. The first time my husband saw Sparky defend the pack he was shocked.
Since we moved to Kentucky Sparky has worked his magic with our two foster dogs; Turnip and Buster. Turnip is a fearful dog and Buster is a reactive dog. Sparky is a dog that gives other dogs a second chance…it is really a magical thing. Turnip was afraid of his own shadow…taking him for a walk in the neighborhood was nearly impossible…a blowing leaf, a passing car, a garbage can…all were potential threats in Turnip’s eyes. We started walking him with Sparky and it changed Turnip’s world. After his Sparky therapy…Turnip walks the hood like he owns it! Buster was an obnoxious idiot that wanted to hump and bully every dog he encountered. Sparky very quickly taught him some manners. Turnip and Buster will be Sparky’s last miracles…we declare him officially retired and will focus on caring for him in his old age.
We all owe Sparky a lot….the dogs and certainly Bret and I. We enjoy every day we have with him…and relish in the grace with which he is dealing with his old age. He is totally deaf now, his kidneys don’t function well, his hips are weak and he farts all the time…still he hangs with pack, goes on his daily walk (slooooowly) and rarely leaves my side. While he isn’t going to live here on earth with us forever…he will be in my dreams and in my art until we reunite on the other side…and I find great comfort in that. He is like magic to me…or maybe a better word is grace. Sometimes I think that in certain moments with our dogs we get rare but clear glimpses in to the mystery of grace…the only other place I have felt it is in my marriage…dogs and husband…what more could a girl want.
I leave you with all these thoughts and images of my Sparky…my sweety, my magic and when he needs to be … a badass!
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Bret and I have never been so proud to fail at something!
On January 3, 2015 Bret and I became official “foster failures”. We are so proud to introduce Turnip Halverson…he is now part of his forever family. Turnip has been a joy and also a challenge for our home. Anyone who knows me… knows I love a challenge… also that I have a knack for falling in love with dogs who need a little extra help figuring life out.
Turnip was so painfully shy when he came here. It took quite a bit of time and patience to win his trust but eventually we did. He came here as a foster because he was struggling to make connections with humans at his first foster home. The day I met him all he did was pace…. back and forth…over and over…the pacing continued here for several days. Even corralling him in and out of the house to potty was a bit of a challenge as he was terrified to walk through door ways with a human present and he didn’t want us to touch him.
Every time I meet a dog I believe I can help in some way I am repeatedly thwarted by the magic influence dogs can have on each other. After a week or two Turnip adjusted to the most basic elements of life with our pack. He followed the lead of our dogs (my labs especially) and figured out meal routines, potty routines, sleeping routines and finally that it was safe to approach us.
Anytime Turnip made a new leap …like walking up the stairs for the first time (he was terrified of the stairs) or getting in and out of the car without me having to carry him (he was terrified of the car)…Bret and I would brim with excitement and pride. Our most recent big excitement has been Turnip’s walks. Turnip is afraid of everything…a blowing leaf, a passing car, a garbage can. Raising his comfort level to walk in the neighborhood has been no small accomplishment. I attribute most of his success to my labs…who walked flanking Turnip for weeks…up and down the same streets…now a clicker and a few pieces of meat are all that is necessary for Turnip to venture out without the labs and stay relaxed.
Turnip was not neutered when he moved in…he had been too sick to undergo the surgery. For me, having an intact male in the house was something new…I have always had rescues that came neutered or spayed. This raised the challenge a bit as Turnip wanted to mark EVERYTHING and he was having trouble (at times) getting a long with our other dogs. (He was the instigator of several squabbles that ended with me getting bitten.) I used Simple Solution belly bands for the marking situation…I tried a few brands and this seemed the most comfortable for him and by far the most absorbent. They are easy enough to wash (though I wouldn’t recommend putting them in the dryer). After he was neutered I used the umbilical cord technique to potty train him…which only took a few days…we have not had any problems since. His play style with the other dogs improved significantly after his neuter as well and mom no longer gets bitten!
I used several proven techniques for working with shy dogs to train with Turnip. I am not a novel dog trainer…I rely on the wisdom of those who have many years of successful experience working with dogs with behavior challenges….Jen Severud (who was my mentor), Emma Parsons, Debbie Jacobs and Patricia McConnell. I use a clicker for just about everything I work on with Turnip. One thing that is particularly challenging with fearful dogs is getting them to generalize behavior (perform the same behavior in different settings). Using a clicker makes the process of generalization go much faster which significantly reduces the dogs stress in new settings. There are two things you will pretty much always find on me when I am out and about…dog hair all over my clothes (ish) and a clicker hanging from wrist!
I played a game called “touch” with Turnip…we play it still. It makes approaching new things a fun game for Turnip instead of a scary experience. Since Turnip is a very playful dog this has worked wonders. Another thing I made sure I worked hard at when training with Turnip is always making sure I am setting him up to succeed in his training. If I am asking my dog to perform a behavior and the dogs is failing…ITS NOT THE DOG! It is my role as his trainer (and well now his mama) to make sure that he is successful…if he is struggling with his training …I back up and revamp the situation to a scenario in which he can succeed…then work back up the difficulty more slowly.
The night before Turnip’s official adoption Bret and I became resolved to no longer speak of Turnip’s past in our home…this is the last time I will write about it too. Turnip led a hellish life for years…but that is not what makes him special…what makes him special is his fight…he is a tough dog who first survived neglect and abuse, then a horrible illness and then began fighting his way to learn to lead a normal life with a family. We won’t be looking at the old pictures…we won’t be recalling how badly he was treated…because it is all upside from here for him. Turnip’s identity now is one of a playful, energetic and affectionate (and even sometimes naughty) member of our permanent family.
I can’t end this post without calling out my husband. Turnip is terrified of men…it has been no small exercise in patience for Bret and Turnip to adjust to each other. It gets better all the time…due entirely to my husband’s huge heart and persistence. Turnip still won’t go in or out the door for potty if my husband is close by but he does hang out on the couch with him and eats out of Bret’s hands. The fact that my husband fell in love with a dog who still fears him is a testament to his heart. I don’t have the kind of husband who buys me jewels…but rather one that loves broken creatures and believes in second chances…I am so lucky!
This is a picture of me and Turnip at my desk. Whenever I sit down to write at my computer Turnip climbs on my lap and falls asleep…sitting up like this…it is so darn cute. I have figured out how to type with him on my lap…he has become my muse.
The last thing I will say about Turnip…he barks…Turnip was in the rescue process (fostered, hostipalized, etc) for about one year….that whole time no one heard him bark. Turnip has found his bark…he barks all the time now…I love the sound of him barking…he also howls now…every time the sirens pass our house…it is so cute.
I love the sound of dogs, the smell of dogs and the chaos that comes with of a house full of dogs…and I love Turnip.
I leave you with this picture of Buster…our other foster dog. He is also here because he has some behavior challenges…but he is making great progress too. The night of the party, with a few exceptions (like leaping on to the table of food) he behaved wonderfully and had a great time…so much so that he was caught dozing off with his party hat on.
Many blessings to you and yours and Rescue On!
Pawffiti…important messages from the pets we love.
This is my latest Pawffiti…it marks the return of Hippie Kitty…I have painted her in the past with a different setting and with a different message. For reasons yet unknown to me it was time for her to return to canvas. My art is my way of doing more…it allows me to be present at home for my house full of pets yet still do a little something to help the some of the pets still waiting for a family. Hippie Kitty is going to be my first painting of which I have prints made. I have never made prints of my artwork before. I am not sure if that is because I didn’t have the time and energy to figure out how to do it or because I just wasn’t ready…but I suppose the more paintings and now prints I sell the more I can donate to help more animals. I found a fabulous photographer in Lexington, Mary Resney, who specializes in photographing artwork…she has been so helpful and patient with an amateur such as myself. She is making digital files of my artwork so not only can I do prints but at some point perhaps even some T-shirts and other merchandise. The prints will be available in a few different sizes and will be printed on canvas. The original is already listed for sale at my ETSY shop.
Like most of the country…Kentucky is having a wicked cold snap this week. Here that means that too many dogs and cats are scratching out a living outside on their own. There are a few counties in Kentucky that are really proactive…the animal control teams run non-stop responding to calls from concerned citizens who see dogs and cats left out in the cold. But in most counties here…these animals get little to no help. The laws protecting animals here are weak (the worst in the country in fact) and the appetite to change these laws even weaker. The flagrant social acceptance of things like cock fighting and dog fighting are hard to stomach. While I struggle with knowing what is going on around the state…I know I was meant to be here…time will tell what my own little role will be in the narrative of creating better lives for animals in Kentucky perhaps it will just be more painting. I will be going to Humane Lobby Day next month in Frankfort and hope to hear some positive news about what can be done to make Kentucky a better place for animals. It is going to take an army of advocates to change things here. If you are a Kentuckian…please join me in Frankfort on Feb. 24th…email me if you need details (email@example.com). If you want to follow more things going in KY to help animals follow my Facebook Page...I post any events, petitions, etc. there.
With all of our critters running around our house there really is no such thing as quiet time at the Halverson home…but we love our chaos and as the years pass Bret and I learn to appreciate life with animals more and more. I have come to the conclusion that the animals choose us…each one coming in to our lives when they are suppose to and leaving when they are suppose to. We have three very senior dogs and a senior cat…they began slowing down a lot in the last year or so and each has some sort of chronic health issue now. All of them manage to maintain their normal patterns albeit at a slower pace and they remain steadfast in their affection for us. I am always amazed at their graceful acceptance of their aging and limiting bodies…as I get older I hope I age as gracefully as they do. I consider it an honor to walk through their senior years with them and appreciate this time in their lives when they really do need their mama.
Its hard to believe that we have lived in Kentucky for six months now. Despite some of the heartbreaking scenes we see for animals here Bret and I really do love it. Kentucky is a beautiful state, the weather beats the pants off of Minnesota weather and we have made wonderful new friends here. We have decided we didn’t really buy a house here…we bought a great big project…more work than either of us realized. But this is our first home that we chose together as a married couple and despite the drafts, creaks in the floors, crooked doorways and questionable plumbing (eeek)…we love this house and for the first time in a long time…we feel like we are home. We have decided we want to name our home…so far we have a few potential ideas….but want to stew on it a bit longer…if you have any suggestions feel free to offer them up!
Blessings from all of us and Rescue On!
Real Men Don’t Chain Dogs!
This painting has been a long time in coming…it has been on my mind since Turnip (our foster) entered our home. Seeing dogs living on chains is new for me…and it is so hard…no impossible for me to understand. When I see a dog on a chain…I DON’T think…”how could someone do this?”…because I know how one person can do this…they are spiritually sick. What I DO ask myself is…”how can an entire community stand by and let this happen to so many dogs…”
Kindness to animals is (and should always be) easy for us as a civil society. It is one of many important characteristics by which the spiritual health of our communities can and should be evaluated. I paint because I want to share the things that tug at my heart…the number of dogs living in distress in my own community weighs heavily on my heart…so here is my painting…what do you think?
The painting is for sale…it is up on my ETSY shop…as with all my paintings I donate a percentage of my sales to rescue groups.
Here is the picture of Turnip when he was rescued by SOAR. Here is a picture of Turnip today…