Dogs Walk Together To Fight Blood Cancers

Did you know that September is Blood Cancer Awareness month?  Last weekend, Icy and I participated in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Charity Walk in Farmingdale in Long Island, New York.  The event was held on Farmingdale’s Village Green on Main Street.

Dozens of dogs and their owners walked down Main Street together in support of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, raising awareness and donations.  Farmingdale is a quaint Long Island village, with lots of wonderful restaurants and shops.  We had so much fun meeting all the other dogs and their owners, and a few merchants as we paraded down Main Street and then hung out together on the Village Green.  It was an awesome event and a great way to show support for an important cause!

Lots of doggie lovin' went on all day!!

Icy did some shopping at Thomas Ellen along the way, then stopped for a brief rest at The Nutty Irishman, a popular Irish Pub.

We made lots of new friends!

It's was a beautiful day & a great time for everyone!

Icy is convinced she found her Mini-Me, a gorgeous puppy named Anya!!

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world's largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services.

Blood Cancer Facts: Source: LLS

💖     Approximately every 3 minutes one person in the United States (US) is diagnosed with a blood cancer.

💖     An estimated combined total of 156,420 people in the US are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma in 2014.

     New cases of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma are expected to account for 9.4 percent of the estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed in the US in 2014.


Happy Wordless Wednesday everyone!  And Happy Rosh Hashanah to those who celebrate it!

On Monday I published a blog post about puppies who are being raised and trained by prison inmates to be service dogs for Veterans, and as working dogs for law enforcement.  During my interview with Barbara Schwartz, a Puppy Sitter for the non profit organization Puppies Behind Bars (PBB), I had so many great photos but wasn't able to squeeze them all into Monday's post, Puppies Being Raised In Prison For A Life Of Service.  I loved all the photos so much I wanted to share them in today's Wordless Wednesday post - I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Max, a 14 month old PBB service puppy being raised and trained by a prison inmate. This was taken during one of his weekend Puppy Sitter outings with Barbara.
More photos of Max during his weekend outings away from the prison with Barbara:

Potential young service puppies cuddling together:

Click on this link to read my interview with Barbara and learn about the important work she does as a volunteer PBB Puppy Sitter, helping to prepare puppies for a life of service!


Puppies Being Raised in Prison For A Life Of Service

Can prison inmates be trusted to raise and train puppies, and prepare them for a life of service?  Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) is proving they can!  Puppies Behind Bars is a non-profit organization in the New York area that utilizes prison inmates to raise and train puppies as service dogs for wounded war veterans, and as explosive detection dogs for law enforcement.

Puppies raised in prison for a life of service

The staff and volunteers at PBB believe that dogs can change lives. They can change the lives of law enforcement agents whose job it is to search for hidden explosives, providing  them with a canine partner whose extraordinary sense of smell will help them keep the public safe.  They can change the lives of wounded war veterans whose transition back home has become both difficult and frightening.   They can change the lives of prison inmates, offering them an opportunity to give something to the community. 

This puppy is being groomed for a life of service
14 month old Max, one of the puppies in the PBB program

Puppies enter a prison when they are 8 weeks old and live with their inmate puppy-raisers for about 2 years.  Inmates accepted into the PBB program as puppy raisers are given rigorous training to become skilled dog handlers.   A large part of the puppies’ training includes the PBB Volunteer Program, which provides the puppies with the vital socialization skills they will need once they are placed as service dogs for a veteran or as explosive detection dogs for law enforcement. 

My friend Barbara Schwartz has been a PBB volunteer Puppy Sitter for over 10 years, providing much needed socialization for more than 90 dogs!  Barbara graciously agreed to let me interview her about her role as a Puppy Sitter.  We got together at her place for the interview, which was especially fun because her current PBB puppy, Max, was there to join us!

Volunteering as a Puppy Raiser for service dogs
Barbara with Max during Max's weekend visit with her
Dogs Luv Us And We Luv them:
Barbara, what first drew you to  the Puppies Behind Bars organization and why did you choose to volunteer there?

Barbara:  Their program fit with my schedule and lifestyle, and I liked the work they were doing.  I also liked the idea that it was a way for prison inmates to gain responsibility and confidence, and give something back.  I wanted to do some good and I wanted to have a puppy on the weekends!  I'm not able to have a dog of my own right now.

Dogs Luv Us And We Luv them:
What is your role as a volunteer and how does it help the dogs and PBB?

Barbara: My role as a Volunteer Puppy Sitter is socialization of the pups.  One weekend a month I bring a puppy home with me and work on socialization skills.  If the pups stayed in the [prison] facilities they would be very well behaved and very well loved, but they wouldn't be in a position where they would do well in the outside world.  From the time I pick up a puppy from the prison they are being exposed to things outside the prison environment; car rides, new people and places, grass, tile, carpeting, ringing telephones and doorbells, airplanes flying overhead, public places such as malls and eating establishments and more.

Puppies are being trained as service dogs by prison inmates
Sleeping pups take a break from training!

Dogs Luv Us And We Luv them:
Wow! I didn't realize how many things the pups need to become familiar with in order to prepare for life outside the prison, and how important it will be in preparing the pup to live in a home as a working dog.  What is a typical weekend like for you as a volunteer puppy sitter?

Barbara:  I go to the prison on Saturday morning and sign in.  The inmate who is raising the puppy that I'm going to take home for the weekend brings the pup to me.  She also provides a letter with information about the pup, and may include recommendations on what the puppy needs to work on such as mouthing or scavenging around for food.  I take the pup home and spend some 1 on 1 time together, then we go for a short walk.  I take the puppies to visit my mom (she loves dogs!), and introduce them to some of my friends and family.  I continue to socialize them, introducing them to different people, places, and noises until I have to bring the puppy back to the prison on Sunday. 

Watch this video to see how one of PBB's service dogs changed the life of an Iraq war Veteran: Video source: YouTube

Dogs Luv Us And We Luv them:What do you like most about being a PBB volunteer, and what do you find most challenging?

Barbara: The thing I like the most is being able to help so many people; veterans, law enforcement and prison inmates.  And.... I get to have puppies!  The biggest challenge is when a pup is difficult; not listening, super high energy, not staying off furniture, etc.  It's rare, but sometimes I get a puppy that is more difficult to work with.  When that happens, I've learned to keep them on leash while in the house to prevent them from displaying behavior that is not acceptable.  You have to be really patient and calm.

Bunch of sleeping pups, some of which will become service dogs
A bundle of puppies to be expertly trained for a life of service
Dogs Luv Us And We Luv them:
Tell me about the dogs; how they are selected and what happens if they don't successfully complete the program.

Barbara: PBB utilizes Labrador  Retrievers and Golden Retrievers obtained from high quality breeders.  Pups that don't make it through the program successfully, or who are determined not suitable for placement with a Veteran or as an Explosive Device Detection Canine, are released for adoption [there is an application process and adoption fee of approximately $3,000, but the fee can vary]

Dogs Luv Us And We Luv them:
Barbara, thanks so much for providing us with a glimpse into the Puppies Behind Bars program and what it’s like to be a PBB volunteer Puppy Sitter!  Thanks to you too, Max, it was a pleasure meeting you and playing fetch together!
I hope you enjoyed my interview with Barbara. You can learn more about Puppies Behind Bars and the great work they are doing, on their web site.

Congratulations! to Puppies Behind Bars for earning its seventh consecutive 4-star rating (4 out of a possible 4 stars) from Charity Navigator, America's premier independent charity evaluator!  Puppies Behind Bars is funded entirely by private contributions

Two pooped puppies!
Two pooped pups taking a break!

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: Show Your Love Of Animals By Wearing These!




How To Get Your Dog To Finally STOP Pulling On Leash

As the mother of a Siberian Husky, a breed that was meant to PULL, I know a thing or two about dogs pulling on leash!  Dogs practically dragging their owners down the block during walks is one of the most challenging behaviors. 

If there's tight tension on the leash and your dog is way out in front of you, you're not walking your dog, your dog is walking you!

Sadly, many owners stop walking their dogs altogether because they don't want to deal with being dragged down the block on walks.  I can relate, I went through a very challenging time getting Icy to finally stop pulling me halfway across the county during our walks!  Now I can honestly say that walking Icy is the joyful experience I always hoped it would be!  It took time and a lot of persistence, but it really paid off.  Here's how I got her to finally stop pulling on leash.

Your dog should be close to your side with a loose leash, not way out in front pulling you along with tension on the leash

First off,  begin training your dog to walk nicely on leash separately from potty walks.  If you try to train while also getting your dog to do his business, it usually doesn't work very well.  Set aside the extra training and walking time to focus solely on teaching your dog not to pull on leash.


Curtailing leash pulling starts before you even reach for the leash or say the words "Wanna go for a walk"?  If your dog is in an excited state jumping up & down, spinning, or lunging toward the door as soon as he knows a walk is forthcoming, you'll have a tough time getting him to calm down once you're out the door.  His excitement will escalate and result in him walking you!

Quietly reach for your dog's leash & harness.  When your dog starts getting excited simply stand still without talking to or touching him. If he jumps up on you, turn your back on him. Wait a few minutes. Your dog should eventually sit down, which is a dog's default behavior when they don't know what else to do. Don't put the leash or harness on until your dog is calm.  If he hasn't sat down, put him in a sit and put the leash & harness on.  If he starts jumping around all excited again, firmly say "Ah, Ah!" and put the leash & harness away.  You may need to repeat the exercise several times before he learns that excited behavior means no walk, but a calm sit gets you to put the leash on.  If needed, put his leash on and let him walk around the house with it on in order to reduce excitement associated with the leash.  Don't give treats during this time, save the treats to reward later for walking without pulling.  Calm behavior is a very important first step.

Once the leash & harness are on, make your dog sit and wait at the door before you open it.  Go out the door first, then invite your dog to go through behind you.  If he's crowding you at the door, step in front of him and give the Sit/Wait command so he knows you own the entryway, the door, and ultimately the walk.  Don't get into a tugging match if he's resisting you at the door, simply close the door and wait until he acquiesces.  Walk away and try again later if needed.


Like anything else worth doing, you need the right tools to get it done.  There are several effective tools that will help with your training.

A Head Halter is a type of collar that wraps around the dog's muzzle.  It gives you more control over his head; if you control the dog's head and nose you can better control where he goes.

You can find head halters at PetSmart and other pet supply stores.  Martha Stewart, Great Choice and other companies make head halters.

We used a head halter when Icy was a puppy, and later switched to a No Pull Harness. This is not the same as most of the harnesses you see hanging on the racks at the pet store.  You specifically need a no pull harness.  It typically has a ring in the front at the dog's chest, not on the top at the dog's back.  This type of harness has straps just behind the front legs that create pressure if the dog pulls, discouraging pulling.  Bring your dog to a pet supply store and ask them to help you find a no pull harness.  They should be able to help you select the right size and adjust the harness on your dog for you.  A regular harness can actually encourage pulling!

There are a few different kinds of no pull harnesses.  We use the one pictured here, by Easy Walk.  It made a huge difference on our walks.

Another helpful tool is to have your dog wear a doggie Backpack on walks.  Bring your dog to a pet supply store and ask them to help you choose one, and find the right size for him.  They can also help you determine how much weight your dog can safely carry in the backpack; usually no more than 10% of the dog's body weight.  We've used hand weights in the pack, but some people use canned food such as tuna or pet food as weights.


Now that your dog is calm and you've got the right tools, you're ready to go for a walk!

It might be helpful to start the training in the yard where there are fewer distractions.  Once you've got it down in the yard, then hit the streets.  Remember to start with your dog in a calm state, make sure you go out first and that he waits at the door for you to escort him out.  Once you cross the doorway, stay in front of him.  When he tries to lunge ahead of you, STOP.  Stand still until he stops pulling or sits down.  Call him back to your side.  You'll do this many times, be patient and don't give up!  Know that the first day you may not even make it out of the driveway.  That's ok, it's the training and behavior, not the walk itself that's important.

When your dog walks properly next to you, praise and treat him.  Don't treat if he's lunging ahead.  The goal is to get him to stay by your side and focus on you.   Treat every few steps at first to get & keep his focus on you.  When he lunges ahead, say "Ah, Ah!" firmly and STOP. Your goal is to teach him that he goes nowhere if he's pulling.  The more he walks nicely by your side the further he gets to walk and the more treats & fun he has.

Another way to gain his focus, in addition to stopping, is to change direction quickly and often.  As you're walking down the street, as soon as you see tension start on the leash immediately turn and walk in the opposite direction.  Your dog will need to focus on you in order to keep up with your changes in direction!

Everyone in the household who walks the dog should follow this process.  If everyone isn't consistent it will be much harder to change the behavior.

Walking together is a pleasure when your dog isn't dragging you halfway across the county!
Leave us a comment and tell us how your dog walks on leash.  Have you had to overcome any leash walking challenges?

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: Rub A Dub Dub, Some Dogs really HATE the Tub!!

As far as little Phoebe is concerned, Bath Time just plain stinks!!

Uh Oh.  Mommy put me in the tub in the kitchen.  I know what that means....

UGH!!  I knew it!  I'm getting another stinking BATH! 

OH NO!  Mommy made me look like an Alien freak again, didn't she??


Is it finally over?  Please tell me it's over!  Do I at least look cute?!?
Oh, Phoebe you are SUCH a drama queen!!


PetSmart's Gift To Pooches & Their People; A Dog Park In A Box!

PetSmart created a unique concept to help dogs and communities.  The PetSmart Pop Up Park (PUP) is basically a dog park in a box!  The PUP is a metal shipping container that includes everything needed to set up a temporary, portable dog park.   You’ve gotta love this dog park in a box idea! 

The PUP transforms a vacant space into a 6,500 – 10,000 square foot dog park.  The PUP container includes fencing, access ramps, cleanup stations, solar powered lighting, a storage closet, doggie play features, and benches for the humans to sit on!   The containers themselves function as the entry and exit point to the park.  The park is portable and could be moved to another location if needed.  It could also potentially be used as a temporary forum to host a variety of pet related events, such as large adoption events.   Each PUP costs approximately $50,000, which is a bargain considering the construction of a permanent dog park costs several hundred thousand dollars.  Once the PUP is installed, it is independently maintained by the community.  Here's a video of the first PUP, installed in Phoenix, from AZ Central:

So far, PetSmart has installed PUPs in vacant city spaces in 3 cities; Phoenix, Sacramento, and Detroit.  The PUPs create a usable dog park space for dogs and their owners,  help clean up and beautify unused city spaces, and put unsightly vacant lots to good use.  

PetSmart’s PUP started as an initiative with the city of Phoenix to help beautify and utilize vacant lots across the city for the good of the community.  As I’ve said before, Arizona is one of the most dog friendly cities I’ve ever been in!  It’s one of the things we love most about living in Phoenix.

Hey, have you guys heard about the PetSmart Pop Up Parks (PUPs)?  Paws are slappin' and tongues are waggin' about these portable dog parks!
After the first PUP rolled out successfully in Phoenix, AZ,  a PUP in Sacramento, CA (for small dogs)  and a PUP in Detroit, MI were installed.  A fourth PUP is expected to be created in one more community by end of 2014.  The PUP was Detroit’s first official dog park!

The PUPs align nicely with PetSmart’s belief in “enriching people’s lives through the power of pets”.  I know all of us share in the philosophy of enriching lives through the power of pets!

Have you been to one of PetSmart's PUPs?  If so, tell us about it by leaving a comment!  I think implementing PUPs to repurpose vacant lots into a place for dogs, their owners, and the community to enjoy is a brilliant idea!  Do you agree? 


WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: The Dog Days of Summer Have Come To An END

Us humans aren't the only one's sorry to see Summer come to an end, our dogs aren't too pleased either!
Hey Phoebe, did ya have a great time playing in the pool this Summer?  I hate to tell you, your pool days have come to a close. Summer's over and Fall is on the way!

HUH??  Whatdya mean?  Who says?

What?  The Lazy Girl's Club is closed too?? 
So you're saying I can't lounge around under a shady tree all morning?  You're not gonna make me go to school or anything,..... ARE YOU???