The Life of a Show Dog, Abuse of Another Kind?

Please Adopt MeFebruary Westminster holds its famous dog show. I love dogs and as an animal advocate, I love all animals. Of course I’m very bonded to dogs having been the guardian of three over the span of 19 years, so I used to love watching all the beautiful dogs of different breeds on TV during the telecast of the show. But, I now know that while it is a “Dog Show”, it really is more about “People Big Business”.

Why do I say this? Well, aside from the prize awards given to winners, there are big advertising bucks, hundreds of dog products marketed and sold at the exhibit hall, hell, even my N.Y.C. local non-for profit Veterinary Hospital has a booth drumming up business. But aside from these and more, breeders bring their puppies for sale at high prices, which are sold out usually within the first day bringing in big bucks. Let me say upfront that I now consider it unethical to breed more dogs while beautiful, precious dogs, puppies, mixed breeds and purebreds are in shelters, rescue groups, foster homes, all needing love and forever homes. Millions that don t get adopted are killed.

I also wonder, can these show dogs really enjoy being shown? Do they enjoy traveling almost constantly locally and nationally around the country? Do they enjoy being groomed constantly, especially the long haired breeds, who require much cutting, trimming, brushing, blow drying etc.? Can this really be what a dog enjoys? Okay, we humans may call it pampering, but if they could speak our language would they tell us they enjoy standing still for hours being brushed and combed? While many of them also live in the home as beloved companions, the majority of all show dogs and dogs bred to show do not. Do we know what goes on behind the scenes for the vast majority of show dogs?

It takes a lot of work and training to show a dog in the ring, costs a lot of money, and a large investment to breed show dogs so let me add, it means breeding many dogs to get one or two that have potential to win in a show, whether local, regional or national.

What is the life of a show dog and particularly the litters bred to show? And what happens to all the dogs that don’t make it because they don’t fit the physical specs, or they don’t have that personality and temperament to be in the ring? I’m not referring to the litters that the breeders bring to the show purposely to sell. This in part is what pays for the large amount of money they must lay out to show their dogs. But what about the dogs bred, trained and shown that do not have what it takes to be entered into more competitive shows? How are they living in the meantime? Do they have fun, do they get to play, and do what comes naturally and instinctually? What are their lives like for the first few years?

I cannot answer all these questions of course for several reasons since it does depend on the breeder, but their lives are not what you would think. And what I can ask again is that with so many millions’ of precious loving healthy dogs including purebred, purebred puppies, and mixed breeds in shelters, rescue groups, foster homes, and sanctuaries that need homes, should we really breed millions more for profit?

“For Every Dog Bred is Another Dog Dead” was a campaign slogan used by an animal welfare group in Florida (ARRF) and it is a slogan that I will never forget.

Again, while I cannot answer all the above questions about the life of each show dog, these questions and more came up from my own experience and talking to people who know behind the scenes. I was told by an insider, that she has given medical care to dogs bred to show, with 18 dogs kept in kennels, not as companions. I can also share a few things about my dog Sophie, bred to be a show dog. Sophie was bred to be a show dog, trained to show, and shown, but for one reason or another, was not suited to do well. The reason my guess is, because of her shyness, a personality trait that is not suited for show dogs. But Sophie was one of the luckier ones to be given to a wonderful rescue group that rescues Poodles and Poodle mixed breeds. Not all such dogs bred to show are that lucky. Yes, I adopted my Sophie from a rescue group 3 years ago after losing one of my precious companions at the age of 10. Sophie could not be sold, since she was 2 years old.

She is indeed a beautiful Toy Poodle. But I did not adopt her because of her outward beauty, but knowing I would only adopt, I contacted a Poodle rescue group, and opportunity knocked. Sophie needed a home, and I had experience knowing that I was able to provide for her needs. So, she came home with me Christmas Eve 2012. Because she was 2 I knew they were would be some adjustments, different than bringing home a puppy, but there were some I didn’t expect. And there were some behaviors that led me to learn more about the life of dogs bred for show. While I can’t tell all here since I’m not writing a book, there are a few behaviors that surprised me although my first clue came when I was told that she didn’t live a very good life.

Sophie didn’t only not know that our walks were for relieving herself, she also didn’t know that they were meant for her to use one of her most important senses, the sense of smell. It took a couple of months of taking her for walks for her to do what comes naturally to dogs, stop and smell all the scents on route. On our walks, she walked as though we were in the show ring, her prancing alongside me head up at all times. In fact, I practically had to break into a jog to keep up with her pace. Not a fun walk, but like we were always training in the ring.

Sophie was a picky eater I was told, and indeed when I brought her home she wouldn’t eat much, nor any human food even a little piece of prized chicken. Toy Poodles should weigh about 7 pounds but little Sophie weighed just 4. I’ve learned that not only are the dogs being trained to show not given any variety of food, but the majority are purposely kept underweight. Well, I am pleased to say with the right food, she eats all her food and the bowl looks as though it never had a speck of food in it. She now weighs in at a healthy almost 7 pounds.

Sophie wasn’t just shy either, she seemed to not know how to play, either with me or other dogs even after becoming familiar with them. She didn’t pick up any toys for weeks, and it took a couple of months for her to really begin to play. One well- known signal that a dog wants to play is the bow position, which comes naturally to dogs given play time. I cherished the day she did the play position, running around then with a toy.

Shyness a personality trait partially genetic, is also influenced during a critical period in early puppyhood. The majority of dogs bred to show I’ve learned, are soon kept in kennels lacking socialization and play with other dogs, and exposure to different people and situations. Sophie was very shy around people too, but more than shy, she exhibited fear. While dogs being trained to show are handled by breeders, handlers, and groomers, they generally do not come in contact with other people. While I would never try to force her, I have worked on conditioning her to not be afraid. I always ask people with and without dogs to ignore Sophie and allow her to approach rewarding her with praise when she does showing her people are a good thing. And over time, this has helped tremendously since Sophie not only approaches more dogs and people, but she does so with a happy tail. People that I have introduced Sophie to in my neighborhood tell me how much she has changed. She’s a different dog they say. And indeed she is.

These are just a couple of behaviors, that while not the type of abuse we hear about, but abuse nevertheless. Keeping dogs in kennels constantly, training them to only walk a certain way with little exposure to play, and depriving them of their natural instincts until such time they exhibit no potential to make money either showing or breeding, is about making money and is abuse. It is also in my opinion, again unethical to breed and promote breeding while we put to death millions of dogs.

Sophie is no longer a show dog, and I’m sure if she could verbalize, she would tell me how happy she is to have left that life behind. In fact, she doesn’t have to say it, I can see it. And I will say it again and again that it is my joy, reward and luck to have adopted her. Adopting, changing her life to become a happy playful pup has brought me more joy that I ever expected.

“According to HSUS & Maddie’s Fund and The Ad Council” there are about 17 million people in the market for companion animals this year (Stated for 2013). Only about a quarter of them will get a dog or cat from a rescue or shelter”. (1)

Number of Companion Animals entering shelters nationally each year 5 million
• Number of Companion Animals euthanized in shelters each year 3.5 million
• Number of dogs euthanized in shelters each year 60%
• Number of cats euthanized in shelters each year 70%
• Total percentage of purebred dogs in shelters 20% (2)

Although I love the dogs, I certainly no longer love to watch Dog Shows.

Adopt and Save a Life!

1. Pacelle, Wayne; The Beagle Has Landed, A Humane Nation Blog 6/24/2013
2. American Humane Society, Born Free U.S.A., Pet Finder as of 8/22/2012


All Dogs are Good Dogs!

Dogs and Cats
Yes, all dogs are good dogs (cats too, of course), which is what came to mind the other day when Sophie did her business right where she was supposed to, versus my rug or my bed (What a relief, those days are over). I repeated to her over and over, “Good Girl, Good Girl” in my usual high pitched voice gently clapping my hands and jumping for joy like a good little girl myself. And indeed, Sophie really has come a long way to doing all the things I set out to want her do. But the thought hit me right then, “yes she’s a good dog”, but “All Dogs are Good Dogs”. So I’ll say it again as I said it to myself, all dogs are good dogs even when they do something we prefer that they don’t. And I’ll add, “There are NO bad dogs”!

What we do have are poor training techniques, and poor behaviors ourselves. Now, I have mentioned before that I prefer conditioning and reconditioning versus training our best friends because too many times I witness people using “no” too often and especially too harshly when “training their dogs”. I personally have only used the word no two or three times in 8 months, and it isn’t because Sophie came home with me behaving perfectly (Don’t want a perfect dog anyway).

Now I am not an animal behaviorist so please know that I am not writing as a professional here, but the training methods including “corrections” are just not in my repertoire. Yet, I can say that positive reconditioning and reinforcement techniques are and have worked for me, while I have witnessed people correcting their dogs over and over for the same behavior that they want changed.

Here’s just one example.

My neighbor tugs and jerks her little dog’s collar every single time he barks quite ferociously as a bigger dog is coming down the block. Her dog starts barking when the bigger dog is about ¼ of a block away and continues while lunging as the dog passes. Yet, each time that she jerks his collar calling him a bad boy, he continues. Good dog, poor reconditioning. Some people may call it poor training, but I hope we can “recondition” ourselves to never say bad dog.

While I did touch upon animal behavior in school, I learned more about some wonderful conditioning tips from a book titled “For the Love of a Dog” by Patricia McConnell. What I did do with my little Sophie was to reward the positive behaviors and ignore the not so positive behaviors. The rewards were and are anything from me lightly squealing in a high pitch voice repeating good girl jumping and clapping with big smiles, to giving her little pieces of chicken. And boy did she catch on fast. While all dogs have individual personalities with individual temperaments generally they want to please us, and getting a favorite treat doesn’t hurt either!

You might ask, but how does that prevent the not so good behaviors? That is where part of the reconditioning comes into play. If we can catch the behaviors beforehand, we can distract and reward another behavior that is positive immediately. So if we have our dog turn away and sit at the first sign of another dog approaching before he barks, rewarding him, then over time this reconditions the behavior we want. The point is to gradually reward the positive behavior as an approaching dog gets closer and closer until he realizes that he will be rewarded for not barking and lunging. Of course, I’ve really simplified this. Let me say that along the way, I developed more patience, a more positive behavior myself as well.

Adopting Sophie has been much more rewarding than I ever expected. I had my own expectations and quite a few surprises from Sophie about her many behaviors, which now are well on their way to being all positive. One, which I mention in my first post, would have been a deal breaker 20 years ago.

Behavioral problems are one of the top reasons people bring their dogs to shelters, and bring back their adopted dogs to a shelter. Is it a dog’s fault? Is the dog bad? Absolutely not. One major problem is a lack of positive conditioning, knowledge, patience and commitment.

Of course there are other reasons people give up their dogs and cats, including not choosing the right species, breed, personality, etc. when they pick a new dog or cat. I know that 20 years ago I chose a wonderful dog but the one wrong for me and my lifestyle. Good dog, wrong decision on my part. All Dogs are Good Dogs. So while some reality shows have titles such as Bad Dog, or The Cat from Hell, these titles are meant to grab our attention. Bad Dog shows the mischievous ways our friends can behave, while doing so in a humorous way, and The Cat from Hell I am pleased to say addresses what behaviors we humans need to change versus blaming the cat. I can only hope that we change our perceptions and behaviors so that we don’t need to name these shows with sensationalized titles reinforcing how we use animals in a negative way in our everyday language (He treated me like a dog, for instance).Maybe then we can contribute to less good dogs and cats becoming homeless.

Adopt and Save a Life.

Next: What studies suggest about selecting a best friend!


Sophie is Home!

Sophie & the BowWhen I first wrote about Sophie, I gave the first post the title “Sophie’s Homecoming”. Now, my title reads “Sophie is Home”; so what’s the difference?

Sophie’s homecoming was about her behavior, reactions, and adjustments that first day, week and first several months that I observed. Now, eight months later, I sense from my observations, that she is truly home. Truly home meaning totally relaxed, confident, playful and all the things I surmise feeling at home might mean for her. In so many ways, I compare this to when we humans feel at home after arriving in a new place.

She has her favorite spots, her favorite toys, routines; she plays, has her” I want to rest spot”, goes pee pee exactly in the appropriate place, runs away like a little devil when the brush comes out, along with all the little habits, which take time to form, and well I can go on and on.

You may think I’m anthropomorphizing, but all I can say is that she is a completely different dog than eight months ago, and even than 6 months ago, and I’m not the only one noticing. In fact, all my neighbors have noticed too.

So what’s my point? Well, my point is that when we humans adopt a human child, we usually get counseling, and ongoing support, with all sorts of information from social workers, adoption agencies, school teachers, etc. We’re also told all about the adjustment stages children go through after being in foster care, etc., and the amount of time it may take to achieve that “I’m Home” feeling. But what are we told, or counseled in about the adjustment and time needed when we adopt a dog or cat for them to feel at home?

While human needs are more complicated of course, the dogs and cats we adopt have deep feelings, and need adjustment time too. Maybe much more than many people realize. And just as matching children to the right family is vital to the success of the adoption, so is matching a companion animal to the right family also vital for success. Unlike human adoptions, animal adoption decisions are commonly made within a visit or two to shelters.

According to a recent study,

“The majority of the 6 to 8 million animals that are homeless each year are dogs (National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy, NCPPSP 2009; Humane Society of the United States 2010). Of the dogs that end up at shelters each year, most arrive there because of owner relinquishment. Worldwide, studies reveal that a significant number of adopted dogs are returned to shelters. The return rate of dogs to shelters ranges from about 15% +(Mondelli et al. 2004) to 50% (NCPPSP 2009). Approximately 60% (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ASPCA 2011a) are euthanized.

In an attempt to keep so many dogs from being euthanized, pet adoption has been promoted, but with limited success. There is a need to reduce the number of dogs relinquished each year by owners. One way to achieve this is to understand the factors related to pet satisfaction”. 1.

Calling upon my own psychology studies, I’d like to add that expectations play a large role in success or failure of the things we choose. Unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointments, and my guess is this plays a role also in why so many people relinquish their dogs, adopted or not adopted. Whether this means unrealistic expectations of the companion animal chosen and the adjustment period, expectations of the responsibility, or not choosing the “right companion animal” or all of the above, realistic expectations prior to choosing an animal is part of what will make it successful.

The research paper goes on to give some reasons for relinquishing their dog based upon a unique study

“The problem of relinquished dogs is a worldwide concern. In Italy, in the first study of its kind (Mondelli et al. 2004), researchers reviewed questionnaire responses of people who returned a dog to a shelter. They found that, during a six-year period, 86.3% of dogs were adopted, and of these about 15.2% were returned. Of the people who returned a dog, 71.2% completed a survey. Responses indicated that 38.8% of these people returned the dog primarily for behavioral reasons. Some of the problematic behaviors were “vocalizes too much, hyperactive/stereotypes, destructive/soils house, escapes, and disobedient and problems with other pets.” Next, 34% stated management problems, which included “animal medical issue, no time for pets, personal or family reasons, pet conflict, small house, and no apparent owner”. Other reasons people returned dogs were aggression (14.9%), allergy (5.5%), and apartment block regulation (4.5%). In a few instances (2.3%), people did not give a reason for returning the dog (Mondelli et al. 2004).

I can only speak for myself. I had my own expectations and a few surprises from Sophie about her behavior, which as I stated in my first post would have been a deal breaker 25 years ago. Although I admit I would have never left a dog at a shelter. But since then I learned how deeply they feel, and I am still learning every day.

Sophie really is home, and my experience of watching her blossom from her previous unhappy life has been a joyful and fulfilling learning experience that I can’t help writing about.

Next: More on choosing a companion animal for a successful adoption.

Adopt and Save a Life!

1. Lisa A. Curb, Charles I. Abramson, et. Al, The Relationship between Personality Match and Pet Satisfaction among Dog Owners, ANTHROZOOS VOLUME 26, ISSUE 3


Pit Bulls, Our Best Friends!

pit lovePit Bulls, are Our Best Friends, but again I ask, “Are We Theirs? Pit bulls are among the sweetest dogs I personally have known. Over the many years as a dog lover, I’ve noticed dogs more than people, and I usually say hello to more dogs than I say hello to people. And, no I’m not unsociable to my own kind, just a dog lover. Here in Manhattan there is a large population of pitties especially in my neighborhood, and I don’t mean the areas known for drugs and crime. I happen to live in the fashionable Midtown East area, also known as the Upper East Side. And several of my favorite neighbors just happen to be Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixed breeds. There are just on my city block at least half a dozen, with one living in my building! I’m grateful that the breed discrimination against these dogs is minimal here compared to other areas of the country.

Dogs that are referred to as Pit Bulls are the American Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier, but most are mixed breeds and are usually categorized according to their appearance. And I’d like to add that the well- known rumor about their jaws locking is FALSE (Scroll down to a link for the full ASPCA article on this).

According to the ASPCA

“Most experts describe them as short coated with a wide skull, powerful jaws, and a muscular sometimes stocky body.”

They go on to state

“There is much variation in their appearance, typically weigh 35-65 pounds, strong and athletic, with impressive stamina and a staunch work ethic”. (1)

Well, I can see by this description why they are the most used in one of the most abusive ways by some of the most abusive inhuman humans. However, my question is, are we always just a product of our physical prowess using it to be violent? Why are dogs different? Solid evolutionary theory, and Charles Darwin’s ideas about what he coined evolutionary continuity in which he recognized that the differences among species in anatomical, physiological, and psychological traits are differences in degree rather than kind.

Thinking back on this, I still smile at the memory of my 6- pound Charlie snapping at one of my neighbor’s huge Pit Bull’s. One of the largest Pittie mix I’ve ever seen, he was just a gentle giant who one day sniffed my little girl maybe just where she didn’t want to be sniffed. Well, she snapped and he jumped back and hid behind the legs of my neighbor. Think this is rare or unusual for a powerful breed? Here are some statistics I found

“According to the American Temperament Test Society, temperament evaluations of American Pit Bull Terriers show that this breed has a very high passing rate of 82.6%. The average passing rate for the other 121 breeds of dogs in the tests: 77%”. (2)
Speaking of temperament, one of my favorite neighbors is Jekell, a Pittie mix who lives a few floors above me. Always a gentle greeter to Sophie and me with a wagging tail, he immediately sits for Sophie so she feels at ease to greet him. Many times he’ll sit with his back to her and while I can’t swear that he does this on purpose, it puts Sophie most at ease as we approach. What I love also about Jekell is the way he looks me in the eyes, and I see and feel a mutual affection.

Jekell didn’t learn to do this because Laura bought him and trained him as a puppy, but rather he was found roaming the streets of NYC. A wonderful couple found him half starved and brought him home, and then to a Vet. Laura who is part of a Pit Bull Rescue Group then adopted him. I met Jekell when Laura brought him home, still all bones even though he had been eating more food for a few weeks. Gentle and sweet, what Laura pointed out and what I noticed was that Jekell was always “on guard” when outside, constantly on the look out. I would guess this is what a dog must do to survive on the streets.

One year later, Jekell still the sweetie, is more trusting as Laura tells me, and while he stills keeps his eyes open, he is much more relaxed. Jekell was once attacked by a smaller dog while at the dog park, but didn’t fight back. Doesn’t seem in his nature, and while I not an animal behaviorist, my understanding is many times during play dogs can become overexcited. Sometimes within a second the play can turn into more. Just like us I’ve seen children do so adults and us humans are responsible for keeping a close eye. P.S. The other dog wasn’t a Pit Bull.

Pit Bulls, and all the dogs that are categorized as these terriers, are indeed strong dogs, but it is humans who have used this physical prowess for the violent purposes that have now brought us to discriminate against them. People from drug dealers, to gang members, to ringleaders of dog fighting to kids who use them as their alter egos, and even to wealthy professional athletes like Michael Vick using unspeakable methods forcing them to fight have given them the reputation that they now have.

Speaking of the above athlete whose name I don’t want to repeat again, here is a link to happy ending story from Best Friends Organization titled “Layla Goes Home.” Layla, one of the severely abused Pit Bull dogs from the fighting ring gets the love she deserves in a new forever home. Given the love and reconditioning, she is now giving only love back.

Should we have breed discrimination? I say yes, yes against the breed of humans who raise and/or use the wonderful attributes Pit Bulls have against them. Let’s not generalize an entire breed of dog due to what humans have done to them. Let’s make the distinction.
Well got to go, Sophie and I are on our way to meet Laura and Jekell for a walk!

Next: The Value of Animals.

1. http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-articles/the-truth-about-pit-bulls
2. http://defendpitbulls.com/pit-bull-attack-statistics/


Our Best Friends!

great friends

Our Best Friends always near to us are our dogs and cats in our homes and hearts. Dogs in particular have long been known as ” Man’s Best Friend”, but my question here is “Are We Theirs?”

There are a multitude of scientific studies about how companion animals benefit us, from companionship, improved physical health and mental health, to social benefits (I have made several great friends while walking my Charlie and Teddy).

This is just a start. Military dogs, police dogs, bomb sniffing dogs, seeing eye dogs, cancer sniffing dogs, rescue mission dogs, therapy dogs, service dogs and on and on and on. Oh, how about bed bug sniffing dogs. Can you think of any other categories in which our best friends are by our side helping us? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of this as long as they benefit too (There are a couple of categories I’ve listed above that I am personally not in favor of).

But how as a society are we protecting them? Since I became aware of the abuses of animals and specieism, I have asked myself why are we not protecting our companion animals more since they do so much for us (I want all animals protected, but for my blog I’m discussing our dogs and cats)? While there are many many wonderful people who are a part of the Animal Protection Movement from organizations to animal Shelters, rescue groups, and all the employees and volunteers who selflessly dedicate themselves to helping animals, abuse continues in many forms. How about legal protection? How are the laws protecting our dogs and cats that we love?

First, here are two reports on the impact of sharing our lives with companion animals

“Although a wide variety of species are kept in our homes and near to us for companionship, the great majority are dogs and cats. And according to an article titled Companion Animals and Human Health, “sharing our environment with animals has a profound effect on the health of the humans concerned. As keeping companion animals is a very widespread activity, about 50% of all households in the Western world have some sort of animal, the effects are far reaching”.

In fact, in another study published in Public Health Reports, the researchers found “a positive correlation in survival rates in heart attack patients 1 year after discharge from hospitalization, meaning a higher survival rate in patients who lived with a companion animal than in patients who did not”.

Yes, most of us will testify how much our best friends mean to us. I’ve already written how mine have changed me and the course of my life. Yet, as a society and according to the law, our dogs and cats are property. If someone were to damage your property, the law would consider the financial worth to us in a lawsuit based upon replacement of the property. Since our companion animals are property, the law basically is stating they as property do not feel pain or suffer and their value is as close as the nearest pet shop to replace. We can also buy and sell them at whim like new or used furniture, discard them and breed them in puppy mills the same way as if they were cars on an assembly line. While things are changing, it still feels like an overwhelming uphill battle to change laws. But….

We can keep spreading the word to adopt of course so we save more lives. Sophie is my first adoption, and I will adopt another friend sometime in the future. I know I never want to contribute to the money the puppy mills, puppy stores, and even some veterinarians make (More on this another time) regardless of the abuse.

But, I’d also like to suggest that we change some of our language that objectifies our best friends. I call myself Sophie’s Guardian and sometimes, furry mom but never owner. I call Sophie my companion animal, little furry best friend, and sometimes my furry child but never again pet. I’d also like to suggest we replace “it”, with her/him, they for instance as we so often do when we refer to our furry friends. Sophie isn’t an “it”, she is a “she”!

I learned in my Animal Studies program that legally, a person is defined as a human of course, but a “corporation” is also legally defined as a person or as having a personhood. Hmm, a corporation is a personhood, but not our best friends? Our dogs and cats are living, breathing, feeling and thinking beings, not property, objects, or an “it”. If a corporation can be defined as a person, why isn’t a living being of another species legally defined as a person? As living beings why are they legally defined as objects? To me, this is even where the term pet comes from, and not just owner.

Language affects our perceptions; actions and eventually it can help to change laws. Perhaps another step to protecting our best friends in our society is to change our language. I will always call myself Sophie’s Guardian and she and any companion animal in my home, my Best Friend. Will you pledge to do this too?

Adopt and save a life!


Have questions about protecting your best friend legally? Go to http://aldf.org/

Are you a vegetarian with a great original recipe? And even if you aren’t, but want to cook more plant based meals, The Humane Society is sponsoring a Meatless Monday recipe contest so go here for more details: https://secure.humanesociety.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=meatless_monday_contest&s_src

Next: My series on adopting our Best Friends starts with
Laura and Jekell!


Every Dog Bred is Another Dog Dead.

Adopt Me Please“Every Dog Bred is Another Dog Dead”. Sobering statement, isn’t it? When I read this, my heart sank. I had to stop and process it and what it meant. After all, it is a shocking statement, obviously meant to. I read this statement in a newsletter a few years ago from ARRF, an Animal Rights Organization, when they used it during a campaign. I had received this newsletter before I lost my two beloved dogs Charlie and Teddy, and it was one more reason for me to decide to never buy a dog again. But it wasn’t my first clue about the repercussions breeding more animals has.

My first clue that something wasn’t right about what goes on at some breeders was in 1997 when the pet shop salesman told me that Charlie was missing an ear. I say some breeders because back then I did not know much about the breeding practices of puppy mills. He told me that all their dogs came from a reputable breeder, but unfortunately accidents sometimes happen. Charlie’s ear accidentally got caught in a closing gate. Charlie was a wonderful smart sweet soul, who only twice exhibited tremendous fear I am guessing was an overreaction due to her accident. But I wondered about what really happened, was it just an isolated accident or was it indicative of mistreatment of all the dogs at the breeder?

“Every Dog Bred is Another Dog Dead” led me to think again about breeding practices when there are millions of dogs in shelters that need homes (This applies to cats too, of course). And why are we breeding millions of more dogs in this country when there are so many available wonderful dogs that need a home? As I have written, there are puppies and purebreds available for adoption too, not just adult dogs. I can only think of one main reason, money. Heck, aren’t the expensive designer dogs such as Labradoodles really just a mixed breed?

Puppy mills especially breed solely for greed. But they do so causing pain and suffering to innocent animals that depend upon us completely as human babies do. They want nothing from us other than companionship, love, food and shelter. As a matter of fact research has shown that dogs are the only species that need humans as much and more than their own. All species have socialization needs in varying degrees, but dogs need us more than their furry friends for their well being (The optimal socialization being human and other furry companionship). So, while dogs descended from the wolf, we domesticated them, we brought them close. We bred them into the hundreds of breeds that we now see at the dog shows for centuries to suit our needs. Yet…

Look at these statistics (1)

· Number of Companion Animals entering shelters nationally each year 5 million
· Number of Companion Animals euthanized in shelters each year 3.5 million
· Number of dogs euthanized in shelters each year 60%
· Number of cats euthanized in shelters each year 70%
· Total percentage of purebred dogs in shelters 20%

I’m left with the thought that these numbers do not include small rescue groups, foster homes, etc. such as where I adopted my Sophie.

Speaking of Sophie, each week I notice another wonderful behavioral change. This week I noticed that she is looking into my eyes now (Still not looking at the camera!), and rolling around on the floor giving me her belly to rub. She’s pulling out all the toys from her toy basket, which is amazing since she didn’t pick up a toy for over a month. She’s also walking so much more relaxed outside, and for the first time slowly greeted a beautiful Labrador nose to nose. May not sound like much, but seeing her blossom from fear to playful to more trusting means so much to me.

People that I have introduced Sophie to in my neighborhood tell me how lucky she is to have been adopted by me. But, I’ll say it again and again it is my joy, reward and luck to have adopted her. Adoption and helping Sophie has brought me more joy that I ever expected.

“According to HSUS & Maddie’s Fund and The Ad Council, there are about 17 million people in the market for companion animals this year. Only about a quarter of them will get a dog or cat from a rescue or shelter”. (2)

Adopt and save a life.


Next: My First Interview.

1.American Humane Society, Born Free U.S.A., Pet Finder as of 8/22/2012
2.Pacelle, Wayne; The Beagle Has Landed, A Humane Nation Blog 6/24/2013


Sophie’s Homecoming!

Sophie just homeI picked up Sophie the day before Christmas from Daryl Masone, a wonderful woman who runs Poodle Rescue of Connecticut. She rescues Poodles, Poodle mixes and other breeds. I found Daryl though the Poodle Club of America during my online rescue search. Daryl explained that she was fostering 2 girl Poodles almost ready for a new home. I answered several questions, gave references, and got her approval to be a new Poodle mom. I also thought that the timing was good over the Christmas holiday since I would be home to help ease her transition for 10 days. So when opportunity knocked to adopt Sophie, my heart said yes.

Sophie has a background unlike most shelter dogs, that is, the ones I came across during my online and local shelter searches. Daryl told me that Sophie was 2, beautiful, healthy, bred to be a show dog and shown but surrendered (I think due to shyness). I felt a bit guilty; after all rescuing a dog should be about adopting an abused dog that is waiting in a shelter for a home. But I also knew that after the emotional roller coaster I went through caring for my Teddy for almost a year and charging her medical care beyond my means, that maybe this was meant to be for my first adoption. Sophie needed a home too, and Daryl told me she didn’t have a good life up until then. I surmise that the majority of dogs bred specifically to be show dogs live in kennels, travel a lot, and well, we’ve all seen the extensive grooming, which I doubt isn’t fun for them (More on dog showing another time). I did have a few expectations about bringing home an adult dog, and a dog that may not have been taught to go pee pee on wee wee pads, or on concrete (I live in NYC), or used to the noise on city streets. Of course, I also expected she would need time to adjust to me and a new home. So off I went taking a deep breath with the help of a friend of Daryl’s, a woman who does a lot of rescue work, who drove me 2 hours away to bring Sophie home.

When someone puts a puppy in your arms, it is different than when someone puts an adult dog in your arms. At least for me it was. Sophie sat on my lap very still, not budging for a second. I felt as though I was meeting a stranger for the first time knowing she was about to come home with me, or perhaps I felt a bit strange because I was still grieving for Teddy. Puppies usually squirm, lick, and want to play, etc., but Sophie acted like a very quiet good little girl just leaning against me. We packed up, I signed a few papers, said my thank you, and off we went for the 2 hour drive back. Not once did Sophie make a move, or noise. I thought, maybe she’s used to cars and traveling. We arrived home, and I can say the rest of the day was a bit of a blur, Sophie just a quiet little girl, but what did concern me was that she didn’t do pee pee for the next 16 hours. Of course, worried I called Daryl at bedtime who told me that this was not uncommon when a doggie arrives at a new strange home. I was up much of the night checking on her, while she clung to me in bed all night long. Let’s just say she didn’t let me out of her sight all day, all night, and actually all month. When she finally did pee pee, of course it was not on the wee wee pad that morning, nor that first month. In fact, since Sophie was quite the athletic girl with the ability to jump onto my high bed, I’d say my king size bed became one huge wee wee pad. I still thank goodness I had an extra thick blanket on that first day she made her pit stop there. She was determined to continue going on my bed only when I wasn’t home, regardless of my spraying it with OFF for dogs, layering it with toys, pillows, tin foil, trash bags, and me almost beside myself. Sophie the perfectly proportioned stubborn little Poodle was maybe trying to tell me something, I just didn’t know what. During my absence she was confined to a small hallway, and my bedroom and bathroom, plenty of space. In addition if it wasn’t the bed during my absence, it was on my bare floors instead of the wee wee pads when I was home. Making things a bit more complicated was the fact that she wouldn’t go to the bathroom if I were in the room, obviously making it difficult to catch her and gently correct her. Of course, not only did she not go pee pee outside, but also didn’t smell all the wonderful odors that we humans hate, but dogs love. Instead, she would trot alongside me looking up as though we were in the show ring.

I think there is a saying that it is harder to break or change habits than first learn new ones. When and where Sophie learned her bathroom habits, this saying seemed to apply. However, with patience and luck, things would change soon; I was committed and not giving up!

Adopt and save a life.

Next: Sophie becomes a puppy!



Teedy, Charlie, Sicily 043I am Health & Fitness Specialist with an extensive educational and professional background working in the field for the last 25 years. I hold a Master’s Degree in Health, and undergraduate degrees in Behavioral Science, Nutrition, and Exercise Science along with several certifications. But during this time I also developed a passion for animals.

I have experienced firsthand what it is to have a relationship with our best friends, the companion animals we share our homes with. The relationship I had with my Toy Poodles Charlie and Teddy brought me joy, fun, love, and kept me in the moment. I learned so much from them over the span of the 15 years I shared with them. I also felt deep pain when I had to say goodbye. I learned that by giving my unconditional love, a whole new world opened up for me. My life and perceptions changed from living my life with them. While I will continue to help human clients achieve greater health, fitness and weight loss, I now dedicate myself also to Animal Welfare and to helping people with their Canine/Feline friends’ Health through Optimal Nutrition.

I hold a post graduate certificate from HSUS in Animal Studies, where I learned about the Animal Protection Movement, it’s Ethical and Cultural bases, Animal Behavior, and scientific discoveries regarding Animal Sentience. I am also a team member of the Guardian Campaign initiated by In Defense of Animals.

I recently completed an approved AVMA program as a Veterinary Medical Assistant as well as studies in Canine/Feline Clinical Nutrition. My educational and professional background in Human Health with an M.S. in Health, B.S. in Behavioral Science, A.A.S. in Nutrition, and additional certifications allowed me to enter the nutrition field for dogs and cats.

For more information about me, go to www.junefit.com/about_us_june.htm Contact me at june@junefit.com for information about my Canine/Feline Nutritional Consultations.


My Pledge to Adopt!

I took a pledge to adopt a companion animal instead of buying one several years ago especially after reading about Best Friend’s Campaign “Puppies are Not Products”. For me, saving a life is very important after learning so much about puppy mills, and even about many breeders. Too much is about making big profits, and well, buying a life now doesn’t seem right to me.  Thus my search began knowing that I wanted to save a life by adopting. I went to the ASPCA website since their local shelter is near me, but I also found that I could do an extensive search beyond their shelter by putting in my zip code and the distance I would be willing to travel to. Their search engine gives results for all the shelters and rescue groups within the mile radius you give (Here’s their linkhttp://www.aspca.org/Home/Aspca-nyc/adoptable-dogs ).  
 I had read almost everyday about the thousands of dogs and cats that are waiting for a forever home, but actually seeing all the faces and descriptions of them for hundreds of pages was unbearable, and my heart hurt. I had put in a 25 mile radius for a female dog 3 and under, which brought up hundreds and hundreds of dogs. Puppies, mixed breeds, purebreds, and to my dismay, it appeared that the majority were pitbulls and pitty mixes.I started to think about adopting a pitbull mix, but knowing a strong high energy dog would be hard for me to give the optimal exercise and care, which would not be fair to  him or her, so I decided upon a poodle or poodle mix. A small dog such as a poodle would be a more appropriate and mutual match for my lifestyle and abilities.  Since my Charlie and Teddy were poodles I am familiar with the breed, and have come to love their mischievous, clever ways. I read that many “experts” don’t recommend bringing home another furry companion too soon, nor bringing home the same breed, but I think this is something very personal, so I decided to start my search and become more familiar with the adoption process figuring I’d take my time to find  my new best friend. Sometimes we can’t pick an exact right time, but I did know that I wanted to care for and share my home and heart with another doggie in the future, so my search began. I think that also in beginning my search, I was trying to forget my pain from saying goodbye to Teddy, but as I’ve told so many people who love their companion animals, another one needs and is waiting for that love.I learned that there are not only adult dogs, but also many puppies waiting for homes available from rescue groups. There are purebred rescue groups as well, and thus, Sophie at the age of 2 came home with me and with my commitment to her a forever home. I think once again that in making this commitment, I would no longer be an owner, but now I would be a guardian. I thought about and knew that bringing home an adult dog is different than bringing home a puppy.  I admit that part of me was a bit scared; can I love another dog so soon after losing Teddy? 

I have a saying, or shall I say a tool from my Junefit weight loss program coined, “Make it a Trade-off” because I believe most things in life involve trade-offs. And so, I thought that this included bringing home an adopted adult dog versus a puppy.  Some things I expected, and well some I didn’t! Now, of course the trade-offs depend upon the dog we bring home, his or her background, experience, health etc. I had my own preconceived ideas of what to expect, would I need to do, and what I would not need to do for us to live happily ever after. So, taking a deep breath having never adopted a dog before, Sophie came home  with me the day before Christmas. I Hope you’ll follow me and Sophie and our homecoming story as we’ve come a very long way in a brief time; and my journey further into the world of animal passion, welfare and animal adoption!  

Next week: Sophie’s transformation.


I Was an Owner, but Now I’m a Guardian; Part II

I wasn’t always a guardian, I evolved into one while caring for Charlie and Teddy, both girl toy poodles  (Yes, girls with boy’s names!). When I refer to myself as a guardian now, I can see a quizzical look on many people’s faces, which usually leads me to explain the difference between a guardian and an owner..But more than using the word, I’ve thought about how I came to feel like a guardian instead of an owner. I called myself one after studying animal welfare 2 years ago, but the feelings of being one really hit me when I had to say to my younger Teddy 7 months ago after we battled a serious disease for 10 months. This after having to goodbye to Charlie barely a year prior during an emergency. But I really became a guardian over the 15 years, losing them one year apart both whom I raised since puppies. 
Charlie the older of the two wasn’t my first dog, nor was she the first dog that I bought from a pet shop. I bought my first dog Mariko, an Akita puppy in 1988. I’ve always loved big dogs, but at the time as a first time owner, I didn’t give enough thought about how much time I had available to spend with her,  to walk her, to take her to the park,  to exercise her, housebreak her, etc. The long story short is that I realized after 8 months with my schedule of being gone 8 to 10 hours a day rushing home in -between, well it was more than I could handle. Besides, she was spending too much time alone. I made the decision to find another home and I did. I found a very good home with a family who had a large backyard, worked at home and had another dog. I told myself that this was best for Mariko, but I did feel guilty about giving her away. I never thought about how she would feel going to a new strange home. I didn’t think about a dog’s feelings, except that she would be happier with them than being crated for hours alone. A few months later, off I went to buy a cat, certain that cats tolerate being alone much better, only to decide later on to give him, Smokey my blue Persian, a companion cat, who I named Cotton.A year later, a friend bought a puppy, and after listening to her talk so much about her new puppy, I began to stop in the neighborhood pet shop to look at dogs. I didn’t think I would actually bring one home, but this time I thought about my lifestyle before looking at the adorable puppies and chatting with the salesman. When the salesman put this tiny poodle in my arms telling me that she was missing an ear because there was an accident at the breeder catching her ear in a gate, my decision was made. Besides, she just laid in my arms staring at me, how could I resist?
I bought little Charlie from this pet shop in 1997 still unaware of puppy mills and the abuse that has been exposed over recent years. Unfortunately several months later, I realized that a family of 3 animals was biting off more than I can chew, so when Cotton was about 10 months old I gave him to one of my clients who was a Cat lover, and had just lost her cat. I thought that he would adjust, after all he was under a year old, would have a cat friend waiting at his new home, and I would still get to see him. What I didn’t expect was to find that he acted in a manner resembling a human depression for over 6 months in his new home. My client even called in an animal behaviorist after a visit to the vet confirming that he was healthy. This was my first exposure to realizing how deeply animals feel.
By now my Charlie was about 2 and had been an easy puppy giving me very little work. She was an angel, she would watch my every move, look me adoringly in the eyes, study my moods,  try to please me, and as a student of behavior I loved observing her and especially 3 years later watching her interact with Teddy, a little devil. And how we all played together! Teddy though was not an easy puppy, and to this day, I credit a lot of my new found patience to her, and to learning how deeply animals feel. Over time I observed how they grew from puppies to adults, how they expressed emotions from joy to fear to pain.  I had to say goodbye to Charlie almost 2 years ago after sharing 14 years with her; then more recently I had to say goodbye to Teddy at 10 years of age after much heartfelt care. I feel that I changed after sharing my life with these little girl doggies. I became more patient, nurturing, and loving in general. Now as Guardian to Sophie, my role is one of protector, health advocate, human parent and buddy. It is a relationship, as many animal lovers know, unlike any other. In fact it was my love that grew for these special little beings that led me to my passion to study about animals, about their welfare and the movement to protect them.  I’m now adding to my human health career a consulting practice for our best furry friends having just finished a Veterinary Medical Assistant program and Nutrition studies for Canines and Felines . I hope to help other guardians, as well as take the best care of Sophie that I can, because I am her Guardian. 
Next, Sophie comes home, my first adoption.