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December 2011
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Vets Helping Heroes| Animal Assisted Therapy and Soldiers

79-year-old Irwin Stovroff knows something about being a warrior, and carrying out a mission. In WWII after his plane was shot down, he parachuted behind enemy lines, but managed to toss the dog tags that identified him as Jewish, before being captured. He spent the next year in a Nazi POW camp.

In 2008 this honored combat vet began a new mission, one that focused on wounded warriors. Stovroff launched Vets Helping Heroes a nonprofit to help soldiers by providing them with service and guide dogs.


After learning that the federal government has no program to match injured soldiers with service dogs, Irwin Stovroff started a charity in 2007 called Vets Helping Heroes. Since then, he’s raised $3 million to supply vets with seeing-eye and therapy dogs. "I really recognize what a dog can mean, what a dog can do for somebody," he told NBC’s “Nightly News.” "The dog is a true lifesaver."

The highly trained service dog, Stovroff said, can give the wounded warrior "mobility, independence and a companionship that he can't get from any other way." Lt. Col. Kathy Champion served with distinction for 27 years and commanded a special combat unit in Iraq. After, returning home, she went blind from a mysterious virus she contracted in Iraq that attacked her spinal cord. At first, Champion shut herself off from family and friends.

"I became a hermit in my own house," she said. "I quit school. I quit my job. I quit being social. I didn't want to talk to anybody. I stopped answering phone calls from my son and daughter. I didn't tell anybody what was wrong. I didn't want anyone to know I wasn't the soldier I had been."

Concerned friends forced her out of her shell and she applied for a service dog from Southeastern Guide Dogs, one of the country's leading training facilities. Stovroff’s charity donated thousands of dollars to sponsor the dog, and Champion spent 26 days living and training with "Angel" at the facility's Florida campus. She described it as a "life-changing" event.

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Three Hikers Two Dogs Dramatic Rescue From Northern California Cliff

Their bravery and technical skills saved the lives of three hikers and their two dogs. They aren't members of Seal Team 6 but this cohesive group carried out a daring rescue this weekend in Northern California as if they were. We salute the men and women of Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue all-volunteer crew.


In what Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue called “our most complex rescue to date,” three hikers were rescued from the cliff above No Pass Point south of Shelter Cove. The two men, Pierce Shippam, Timothy Phillips, and one woman, Whitney Hackett, as well as two dogs had hiked down a creek to the ocean. When the tide started coming in they clambered up the cliff. They ended up stranded in an area of Pampas grass and using a cell phone to call for help.

Here are some of the intense details of the Shelter Cove rescue:

UPDATE 1:02 P.M.: The first victim and dog have reached the beach!

UPDATE 11:45 A.M.: “One of the rescuers has reached the victims,” Diana Totten just called in by phone from Dead Man’s Gulch to announce. “They are going to bring one at a time from where they are all the way down to the beach….It is such a technical and complicated rescue,” she went on to explain. “We have 4 ropes. We need to have safety for everything we do. Ropes to pull up. Ropes to bring down. This is taking a huge amount equipment”

She’s grateful that Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue team and Shelter Cove Fire have gotten alot of grants and raised a lot of money from fundraisers. “We are dealing with equipment bought with money from Humboldt Co. Office of Emergency Services. [The crew has] the best equipment and has spent a lot of years training… As I sit here, it looks like the navy seals are here. We have 18 people that are doing the rescue here.”

At this point, Totten isn’t willing to divulge the plan to bring the victims down. “This is a very fluid rescue,” she says. “Things can be changed. We’re probably dealing with people who have never repelled before. There are a lot of rocks falling and a high chance of injuries. We’ve ordered a trauma bag to be ready. There are rocks the size of basketballs. If something falls on someone, we want to be able to treat ‘em and evacuate as soon as possible.”

UPDATE 10:25 A.M.: Diana Totten former rescue worker who is on the scene at Dead Man’s Gulch described a terrifying rescue attempt being set up by the well respected Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue team (SHTR) and Shelter Cove Fire crew. “The risk level is extreme,” she explained.

The all volunteer crews (no government agency people are involved at this point) shot a parachute cord out into the water which in turn the rescue swimmers were able to pull over No Pass Point. Read the rest [...]

Read the full story from Lost Coast Outpost and see the dramatic photos

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Puppy Bowl VIII Starting Line-Up | Cuddly versus Cute

It's going to be an epic match-up this year! Cuddly will go head-to-head with adorable and cute. The players come from adoption agencies all over the country. You'll find lovable male and female puppies in the ranks. Big breeds and small are represented to make the playing field even. We can't wait to watch! 


Update: We just read that there will be an exciting kitten half time show. Will you be watching this year? 

Click here for the entire cuteness known as the starting line up!

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Dogs keep kids excited about reading

Dogs make a wonderful mentor to kids. What teacher or parent wouldn't love to hear these words from a second-grader?

"The best thing about Delta Dogs is you don't have to get bored with reading. You get excited," said Faith Gunnell, a Dudley second-grader who participates in the program.


Dogs are helping students at Dudley Elementary School learn to read better.

The elementary students are improving their reading skills in a program they enjoy and look forward to with excitement, said Principal Lisa Bowman.

Each week, half a dozen volunteers bring their specially trained, therapy dogs to the school for the reading sessions with the students.

Dudley Elementary is participating in Delta Dogs, a Reading Education Assistance Dogs program. The national program is dedicated to improving the reading skills of children using certified therapy teams as literacy mentors.

The owner-handlers and their dogs work with individual students during school hours on a one-on-one basis for approximately 15-20 minutes each per week. There is no charge for the program.

"The best thing about Delta Dogs is you don't have to get bored with reading. You get excited," said Faith Gunnell, a Dudley second-grader who participates in the program.

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Influence Positively Interview | Sandra Estrada


Sandra Estrada grew up with animal companions, living in the country, they were her most frequent playmates. She could ride, as soon as she could walk. Her love for animal continues throughout her life. She founded and ran a non-profit dedicated to helping zoo bound animals for over a decade. She worked with the USDA to create new and improved requirements for maintenance of primates in Zoo. She even helped teach orphaned baby orangutans how to climb trees. She opened and ran the first Holistic pet store in San Francisco for another decade, and now dedicates her time to baking organic dog treats via

Sandra also works to raise public awareness about the needs of Military Working Dogs (MWDs), and she loves every minutes of it all. Her goal for the future is a statue of a Military Working Dog in Arlington Cemetery, (can you believe our country does not have a National Monument for these courageous dogs?) and a retirement home for the MWDs. She would love to raise public awareness so that everyone knows about the plight of these dogs and help them to get bullet proof vests, and cooling vests.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A world awake, aware, and grateful for all the great and daily wonderful help we get from the animals who share the planet with us. I always have wondered why we spent for much time and money on exploring space and other planets when we have so much to explore and learn right here.  

Continue reading "Influence Positively Interview | Sandra Estrada" »

Subscribe to the blog here and never miss a post! | 10 ways a puppy prepares you for parenthood is an online parenting resource. They sent us this list of ten ways that a puppy might be the best idea for those thinking about becoming a parent. Pet care and vet bills will be for the life of your dog. Being prepared for medical costs, number five on the list, rings true for me. Having a budget for vet bills, and exploring pet insurance, are important considerations before having a dog. How do you think a dog, as a puppy or a senior, prepares you for being a parent?



5 of 10: There is no such thing as a free puppy.

Vaccinations and spaying/neutering add up to a number of pricey vet bills in the first few months of companionship. Spoiler alert: Puppies don't get cheaper as they grow up, and neither do kids.

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Illinois man pulls his dog to safety from frigid lake waters

“His paws were flailing to get out.”

Not waiting for firefighters, Robert Jordan to jump into freezing lake waters to save his dog Ollie from drowning.


Robert Jordan jumped into the chilly waters of Lake Storey on Thursday around 3 p.m. after his dog Ollie fell through the ice. He said Ollie had been chasing geese and fell into the cold water about 25 yards from shore.

“He was either going to go or I was going to save him. I wasn’t going to wait for these guys (firefighters),” Jordan said. “His paws were flailing to get out.”

He got on his hands and knees and began to creep toward Ollie, searching for the path with the thickest ice. He only gained a few yards before it started to crack. He partially fell in headfirst.

After catching his balance, Jordan switched to a new direction and made his way to the pooch. With one swift tug he pulled him from the water.

Jordan and his wife wrapped a towel around Ollie, and it didn’t take long for the dog to warm up. Within minutes, he was walking around and wagging his tail.

Fremont Fire Station Capt. Michael McDorman praised Jordan’s actions, saying he has only heard of a couple of ice rescues in his 19 years of service. Not a single call involved a man saving his dog.

“It’s pretty commendable what he was going to do to save his dog,” McDorman said.

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Answering Call to Duty | Foster Pet Families Helping Deployed Service Members

It is wonderful to see military families getting support from local animal shelters and national organizations for help with pet care.


Many military pet parents struggle with what to do with their forever friend when serving our nation away from home. It can be tough to stay focused on the mission at hand if family affairs aren’t in order.

Enter our partners in the nonprofit sector. For the past several years, many organizations have stepped up to the plate, providing foster pet services to our deploying troops.

“Military members have a hundred things to worry about when deployment or training comes up. The last thing they should have to worry about is the care of their pets while they’re away,” said Alisa Johnson, a Marine Corps officer and president of Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit organization matching service members needing a foster pet family with volunteers who have agreed to take in their animals.

Alisa and her husband, Shawn, a Navy officer, observed the challenges military families face when it comes to pet care, which led to the creation of this service.

“We’re especially concerned with those military members that may live on one coast, while all their family lives on another, limiting those that they can rely on in their times of need,” Alisa said.

Since they launched the organization in June, more than 140 families have volunteered to be “boarders” and 20 dogs have been placed in temporary foster care.

Along with national organizations helping troops — including Dogs on Deployment and Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet — many local animal shelters are answering the call of duty and creating programs in their communities to help deployed service members with pet care.

The Hawaiian Humane Society’s Pets of Patriots program provides pet care assistance to military personnel deploying on short notice due to war.

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Oregon rope search and rescue team saves stranded dog from cliff

To jump into action and save frightened Ringo, the Ibizan hound before he fell any further down the cliff, and after he'd already spent all those hours alone..these amazing volunteers get a huge tip of the paw from us! 


Eight volunteers led a dramatic cliff-side rescue on Jan. 14 that saved a Portland-area author's dog. "It's a small thing, I'm sure, in the search and rescue world, but for our family, it was enormous," said the dog's owner, Brian Doyle.

Ringo, Doyle's Ibizan hound, was clinging to the side of the steep, muddy cliff when he was spotted by beach goers below. "They said they heard a dog kind of yelping plaintively, which is very unusual for him, he must have really been frightened," Doyle said.

Doyle's daughter had brought the dog with her during a stay at the family's Neskowin home. Ringo had, apparently, wandered behind the neighborhood of houses on South Beach Road overlooking a 200-foot cliff and, unbeknownst to his owner, fell over the edge. He was last seen Friday morning.

At around 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, Deputy Dean Burdick, a member of the Sheriff's Office Search & Rescue Team, responded to a call from a concerned beach goer. He found the dog precariously stranded about 30 feet below the ledge. At the bottom of the cliff were huge, jagged boulders meant to slow erosion.

Burdick quickly called Bay City Fire Chief Darrell Griffith, who had access to rope rescue equipment. Griffith suggested Burdick also contact Netarts Fire Chief Tim Carpenter, whose department had a dog rescue harness. Meanwhile, Ginger Slavens and her son, Tucker Slavens, both volunteer members of Nestucca Rural Fire Protection District and the Search & Rescue Team, arrived and began to assemble their own rope rappelling equipment.

"I can't say enough about the fire departments that we have in our county, because they know how to work together," Burdick said.

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Giving Fearlessly | Story Behind Pooch Park Wear

Dogs are amazing creatures. Their ability to sense when we need them the most, and their innate skills at helping us heal, surely explains the growing use of pet therapy programs across the country. Love for our dogs, can not only get us to run into a burning house to save them, but also to run away from an abusive husband.

In her own words, here is the story of Shelly Poochpark*, a woman spurred to take her beloved dog and herself, away from domestic violence, and toward a new life in San Francisco.


[Beloved Baby modeling a custom shirt. She passed away in 2010.]

I met Baby, a brown Chiweenie, while I was visiting the SPCA in Southern California. She had just been surrendered by her family. It was love at first sight. Her loving eyes and beautiful face just made me want to hold her and keep her. They kept her for 48 hours to spay her and check her out, and then I fetched her. Baby changed my life from the moment she came to live with my now ex-husband and me.

Continue reading "Giving Fearlessly | Story Behind Pooch Park Wear" »

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73-year-old Grandfather saved by Labradoodle after falling 40 feet

Good boy Monty!!


"I woke up and the water had come up to my chest and I was aware that I was bleeding from my head. I looked around and saw Monty sat next to me."

The 73 year old grandfather-of-eight said he knew the only way out was to go back up the steep riverbank.

Mr Holder, a retired sales director, was told that the time frame was critical due to his head injuries and his accident could have been fatal.

"Monty got me to level ground and then I just lay down to get my breath back and as I did Monty ran away.

"He came back around 15 minutes later with a nice gentleman who helped me back to the car and an ambulance came."

Maurice was taken to Royal Cornwall hospital where they treated him for two days for head injuries, broken ribs and cuts and bruises to his back.

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Donations Needed For First and Only Pet Pantry In El Paso Texas

In San Francisco, working with PAWS Pets Are Wonderful Support, I have seen first hand how much a pet pantry can help low income and disabled pet owners. For some folks, it can be the difference between keeping their pet, or surrendering them. If you live in or near El Paso, consider donating to Ben's Pet Pantry. They need your help.




Ben's Pet Pantry is named after an adorable dog named Ben. He was wandering the streets of El Paso when Josie Gonzalez spotted him, took him in and gave him a loving home complete with two brothers, Casper and Cody. "Animals are like family," Gonzalez said. "They give you companionship. You talk to them about your problems. They may not give you advice, but they're always there."

Josie's love of animals led her to take action after finding out about a situation going on in our community. "I had been reading articles on animals being turned into rescue groups and shelters due to the fact that their owners could not provide for them," Gonzalez said. Gonzalez found out there was no pet pantry of any kind in El Paso so she founded Ben's Pet Pantry, which she runs out of her home.

Since August, Ben's Pet Pantry has helped 10 families with more than 100 lbs. of dog and cat food, as well as cat litter. "We also accept pet bowls, pet supplies, bedding, collars, leashes," she said. "Give me a call. If you want any more information, visit our website.

And we're always looking for donations." For more information about Ben's Pet Pantry you can go to their website

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Heroic Dispatcher Saves Two Dogs from Icy Drowning

We salute Marblehead dispatcher and EMT Teresa Collins for her quick thinking, and action on the ice. We hope the Dunkin Donuts gift certificates the grateful dog owners gave her, keep her in hot coffee for the rest of winter!



With the dogs' owners frozen, Marblehead dispatcher and EMT Teresa Collins took off her coat, stepped toward the edge of the pond, grabbed Fenway and hurled him toward the shore, she said. Fenway was then able to scramble out on his own. Collins went in up to her shins, the women said, and she grabbed Finnegan with both hands on each side of his head and hauled him to safety.

"She was at the right place at the right time," Godes said. Goldman said there was no way she could have saved her dog from the pond, and he probably would have drowned without Collins coming to the rescue.

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Maryland Therapy Pets Encourage Kids in Paws to Read Program

Encouraging kids to read is wonderful, and such a confidence booster.

At the event, Thompson said she planned to read “Carl and the Kitten” to the cat. “This is the first time,” she said of her participation in the program. “We’re really excited about it. I want to be a pet store owner.”


The event, “Paws to Read,” began four years ago as a means for early or struggling readers to develop their skills by reading to a listener who would not criticize them, Children’s Department Coordinator Beverly Izzi said. “It’s an opportunity for a beginning reader or a reluctant reader to read to an animal, and an animal’s just a good listener,” Izzi said. “They’re not gonna correct them. So it’s a really positive experience.”

Izzi said six therapy pets and their owners signed up to volunteer their ears for the event — five dogs and one cat. Though the cat arrived about an hour in, it was the first year the event ever had a cat since most therapy pets, animals that are trained to be calm in a public setting, are dogs, she said.

Carol Thompson, 5, of Prince Frederick, a pre-school student and avid lover of cats, held out for as long as she could waiting for the feline audience to arrive, and Izzi said she was glad it finally worked out that Thompson could read to the cat.

“She had a birthday party to go to, but she really didn’t care about the party,” Izzi laughed on Monday.

At the event, Thompson said she planned to read “Carl and the Kitten” to the cat. “This is the first time,” she said of her participation in the program. “We’re really excited about it. I want to be a pet store owner.”

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Dogs Alert Family to Fire Before Smoke Detectors Went Off

These dogs saved this disabled father and his elderly daughter before they became trapped themselves in the burning house. Heroic firefighters saved the heroic dogs..





The dogs were able to alert the woman of the fire before the smoke detectors went off.  

“I am so grateful and I am just… these are my heroes, because neither one of us would have gotten out if we would have been in there another couple of minutes, if they hadn’t woke us up because the fire was moving very fast ,” said Cheryl Washington, the house owner.

Washington had just enough time to evacuate her and get her disabled uncle in his wheelchair; her two dogs however, got trapped by the flames inside a room.

Firefighters worked for over an hour to rescue the dogs and they also made it out safely.

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