First I cried … and then I got mad


For some weeks now, I have attempted to draw attention to a powerful story that not only recognizes the importance of canines in our lives, but draws attention to the current real life effects of a seemingly never ending war. Unfortunately, the solitary newspaper article in the San Antonio Express-News (noted below) failed to be picked up by any other news organizations or, more importantly, any local Texas TV stations. And, it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Yet I know that without such coverage, there is absolutely no chance for folks to even become aware of the story.

To spur tax-deductible donations for HARLEY, the Land of PureGold Foundation has offered Ollie Plush Pups for donations of $50 or more. Yet, so many have turned down receiving this gift, instead wanting these pups presented to the soldiers at the Brooke Army Medical Center. We have begun sending pups to Andrea for this purpose, and will also be donating several more pups so that they can be given to soldiers as a memento from Harley.

This is the letter I just received that made me break down….

Hi Rochelle,
I wanted to thank you for the plush golden retriever, it is beautiful and I will always cherish it.

Harley is doing fine. He is still weak in his back legs due to the medication he is on. We have not been able to visit for the past few weeks. I did go today by myself so I could give a plush Golden Retriever that Lauren from San Antonio donated specifically for a soldier at BAMC.


I gave the pup to soldier named Frank. He was injured in Iraq a few days before Thanksgiving. His vehicle was hit by an explosive and he lost both of his legs. He is a remarkable young man. I told him about Harley and about the donation. He was genuinely touched. To see the smile on his face that this gift brought was priceless. He held the pup and I asked him if I could take a picture to share with your website and was happy to agree. Along with the pup I gave him a card with Harley’s paw print which said “Get well soon, Love Harley”.


If anyone has any media contacts or ideas about how the local folks in Texas or even National media can learn about this story, please do try to make something happen for this guy, shown here with Andrea.

The following letter is what I have sent out to the media. Anyone wanting to make further contacts can extract any or all of the information.

A recent article in the San Antonio Express-News detailed a very special boy who has been cheering up wounded Iraq soldiers at the Brooke Army Medical Center, despite the diagnosis of a brain tumor.

The Land of PureGold Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization, has set up the Helping Harley Fund ( ), but attention to it has been very slight despite the news article and the foundation’s best efforts. I feel this inspiring story desperately needs television exposure in order for it to make a difference.

A recent article in the December 2006 issue of Scientific American ( Cancer Clues from Pet Dogs: Studies of pet dogs with cancer can offer unique help in the fight against human malignancies while also improving care for man’s best friend) details the importance of cancer treatment for our canines and how comparative oncology (study of cancers that occur similarly in humans and companion animals) is an important key for all of us, 2 or 4-footed.

The Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, who provided cutting age therapy for Harley, are among the top veterinary oncologists in the country, also offering very valuable clinical trials as part of a network of National Institutes of Health researchers.

Although Harley’s tale may seem to be merely a human interest story about a ailing Therapy Dog, it is truly so much more. For it can bring attention to some information that is valuable to all as statistics currently indicate that one in three persons, as well as small companion animals, will be diagnosed with cancer. It also details how some very special people, no matter the adversity, are trying to do their part to help assist our returning wounded soldiers.



Care is an elixir for dog with tumor
By Rose Mary Budge, San Antonio Express-News Staff Writer

It’s past midnight when Andrea Hanssen finally dozes off, exhausted after studying for her nursing board exams. Then Harley starts to bark. Instantly awake, she hurries to his side and starts dispensing her special brand of medicine. “I tell him Mama’s here and everything is going to be all right,” Hanssen says.

Harley, Hanssen’s 11-year-old golden retriever and hospital-visitation partner, needs extra encouragement and TLC these days. The things he used to do so easily — romping, jumping up on the couch, going for walks with his owner — are harder now and, occasionally, it’s tough for his weakened back legs to get traction on the tile or wooden floor.

“He can’t quite figure out what’s going on,” Hanssen says, “and that’s why I think he gets a little anxious at night and barks. I give him Valium to calm him if it’s really needed. But mostly I just stroke those wonderful golden ears and lie down by his side until he goes to sleep with his head between his paws.”

Harley has a brain tumor — cerebellar meningioma, the veterinarians call it. According to Dr. Stacy Randall of San Antonio’s South Texas Veterinary Specialists, a meningioma is a benign growth that normally affects the brain’s periphery and usually shows up in the cerebrum. In this case, the tumor has penetrated into a virtually inoperable area in the cerebellum, and the prognosis isn’t promising. Maybe six months. Maybe a year.

But Hanssen is trying to stay optimistic despite the odds, and she’s doing all she can to save her dog or to at least have the satisfaction that she tried.

Dots on Harley's head mark the spot where doctors guide radiation therapy.

Already her pet has been through radiation treatments, pneumonia and seizures when death seemed imminent. (Dots on Harley’s head mark the spot where doctors guide radiation therapy.) He’s taking an array of medications, including lomustine, (a chemotherapy drug), phenobarbital (an anti-convulsant), prednisone (a steroid) and Valium(a relaxant). Medical bills through September totaled well over $10,000. Hanssen has been maxing out credit cards and bank accounts and selling items on eBay to pay the bills.

“I’m hoping for a miracle,” she says, “and the cost doesn’t matter. My dog means everything to me, and he has an important job to do.”

Harley specializes in “furry therapy.” He and his owner volunteer under the auspices of Paws for Service, an organization that provides canine visits to hospitals, nursing homes and schools. The two started out at the children’s oncology ward at Methodist Hospital and for the past five years have been regulars at Brooke Army Medical Center, bringing smiles to both staff and patients whenever they visit.

Lillian Stein, volunteer coordinator for BAMC’s department of ministry and pastoral care praises their contributions. “They’ve been out here almost weekly and Andrea also comes out to help with our barbecues and parties. She’s always upbeat, which means a lot to the patients, and Harley’s just this great, lovable guy who cheers everyone up.”



Golden Benson Survives … with a little help from his dog friend

Daily Record and Sunday Mail Ltd

A MUCH-LOVED pet is on the road to recovery after another dog saved its life – with a blood transfusion.

Golden retriever Benson needed surgery for a ruptured spleen but was given only a 25 per cent chance of surviving the op.

And things looked bleak when the nine-year-old started losing blood.

But blood donor Star, a five-year-old greyhound and a former rescue dog, was on hand to help.

Benson’s owner Linda Booth, 56, of Warrington, Cheshire, said, “I’m so grateful to Star and her owners. “Without her and the vets, Benson wouldn’t be here. Their kindness saved Benson’s life.

“I didn’t even know dogs could donate blood. It’s a great idea and more people should be aware of it.”

Star’s owner Andrea Clark said: “We’re really proud of Star and really pleased we registered her as a blood donor.”

Confusion reigns when guide dogs get together

Confusion reigns when guide dogs get together
By Glenda Sanders, Daily Sun

THE VILLAGES — The chaos was as organized as it can be when seven large puppies are assembled in a single room. “It’s psycho dogs time,” said Jody Peterson of Fruitland Park. Peterson was attached to the leash of a half-grown black Labrador retriever, Mayo, who was en route to the courtyard to visit his friend Brutus, another black Lab. It was a boisterous reunion. The two puppies tussled, sniffed and played together.

Many of the puppies were good-sized — Labrador, golden retrievers, a collie. They are black, yellow and a mixture of colors, but their wardrobe was identical. Each wore a blue vest identifying it as a guide dog puppy from the Southeastern Guide School in Palmetto.

Eventually, these beautiful puppies will mature into working dogs, leading the blind. Now, though, they still are in formative stages, still mitigating their obedience training with the energy, curiosity, inexperience and mischief of youth.

They are foster puppies of the people who brought them — devoted volunteers who love them, care for them and get them started down the path to dedicated service. The bottom line, however, is puppies will be puppies, and chaos occasionally erupts when puppies get together.

So, too, with this group of carefully bred puppies — chosen from parents selected for mild temperament, intelligence and responsiveness to training — does learning. Cathy Johnson, area coordinator for puppy raisers in the Ocala area, was there Tuesday to make sure it did.

Puppy raisers meet with Johnson every other week to monitor their puppies’ progress, discuss any problems and get guidance from Johnson about what they should be doing next. The Tuesday session was at Ruth and David Hamaker’s Weston Manor villa. The Hamakers have raised puppies in the past, but now are taking a break from full-time puppy raising to be “puppy campers,” hosting other raisers’ dogs for two- or three-week intervals.

“Camping” with temporary hosts is part of the puppies’ pre-training regimen, to train them to accept change so that when they leave their raisers to return to the Guidedog School for training they are not traumatized.

There’s more…….

New Golden Wares Discovery — & a 15% off Coupon too!


I’ve been running a couple of Yahoo email lists (Land of PureGold Newsletter & Golden Finds) for several years now. Due to spammers, I’ve had to limit messaging that goes on and I need to approve everything that is sent to me which doesn’t encourage much interaction. But, one of my groups’ posters did provide a GReat message today.

Elizabeth, mom to two gorgeous Golden gals named Morgan & Mulligan, is one of my Golden Finds members and I just found out that she is very talented with a scroll saw. The one-of-a-kind item shown above, that I snatched up this morning, was featured at her Art4MilkBones Etsy crafts store. To make purchases, you also need to become a member of Etsy, but registration is a cinch.

Elizabeth is offering a 15% off discount to folks, all they’re needing to do is mention that they are a member of “GoldenFinds” in the note to seller box when checking out.

All of the items are handmade from start to finish by Elizabeth (in a smoke-free dog friendly enviroment :). And, no two items will ever be exactly the same. Each design is very limited so you better not delay if you are interested in an item. Elizabeth’s pupsters’ antics inspire her crafty-ness … and make her smile, of course.

You need to go meet the pupsters on Flickr. Below, is puppy Mully trying to best Morgan. Elizabeth is a big supporter of Golden Rescue & 3-legged dogs, as Mulligan is her rescue pup. Mully was born with a deformed leg, it actually being more like a nub than a leg. Her breeder brought her in to be put down at 2 days of age but the vets convinced her to let them foster Mully. They then waited until she was 8-weeks-old and strong enough to handle the amputation.

An extremely tiny puppy, the vets weren’t sure she’d make it, but she is doing great, now 2 1/2 years of age. No one told Mully that she’s handicapped, and you will be able to see in the many photos at Flickr, it doesn’t slow her down one little bit. Learn more about having a Challenged Golden by clicking here.



Mulligan sporting her beloved red ball

If only I wasn’t on a diet lol …..

This is just such a cool deal. The fabulous auction right now for the Golden Retriever Club Greater Los Angeles Rescue (GRCGLA) has just added these adorable Hamish cookie tins. They are a huge 8″ by 2.5″ in diameter. You can get one for free, filled with delicious cookies (uh oh), and have it sent to you for free.

All you have to do is make a $25 tax-deductible donation to the rescue. Now, what could be better than that. Everybody comes out ahead and there is a GReat present for someone on your holiday gift list.

The auction is going to adding cool items during the next 10 days so you better stay tuned. And, there are 25 tins up for immediate buynow opportunities. Just CLICK HERE to get on over to the full auction page and to these adorable tins!

Dave the Math Dog making the Rounds


Letterman gives Dave the math dog two paws up
By Herb Meeker, Journal Gazette and Times-Courier Staff Writer

Dave the Math Dog may not be at the top of the list of animal acts yet but he certainly was a hit on national television last week. The 7-year-old golden retriever, owned and trained by Frank Ferris of Lerna, took the audience by brainstorm on Late Night with David Letterman during the misnamed “Stupid Dog Tricks” segment last week. Dave — the four-legged one — completed an addition and division problem before leaving Letterman in awe by doing the square root of 36, which is six. If you missed his act, Dave the Math Dog uses his paw to count out the right answers.

“Dave Letterman asked if that was all our Dave could do and I said he could do square roots,” said Ferris, who said he is merely Dave’s prop holder. “And Letterman said, ‘square root!’ And Dave did it. Then Letterman said, ‘I’ll take your word on that one.’ The audience loved it.”

Letterman got more mileage out of Dave’s act by working on a calculator and coming up with the wrong answer later in the show, or making other references to Dave’s act. Matthew Broderick, Letterman’s featured human guest that night, had high praise for Dave the Math Dog. “‘That is the smartest dog I’ve ever seen,’ Broderick told Letterman.

“That was a great moment,” Ferris said. After the show, Dave’s Web site — — had more than 100 hits, Ferris said. A phone call also came in from a Los Angeles couple interested in booking the furry math whiz.

Could the national exposure create more opportunities for Dave and Ferris?

There’s more ……

All is Well …. Thankfully

Family safe, grateful and warm — A father, his four girls, his girlfriend and two dogs recuperate after mountain ordeal
By Holley Gilbert, Oregon Live

VANCOUVER — Randy Kellems had taken his boots off for the night when he awoke late Sunday to a noise and saw headlights in the rearview mirror of his truck, where he, his girlfriend and his four daughters were holed up in deep snow on Mount Hood.

Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler and his Sno-Cat looked so good to Kellems that he bailed out of his silver Toyota Tundra in his sock feet. “I didn’t feel any cold, I just ran to the Sno-Cat and a gentleman got out and gave me a big hug,” said Kellems, 37. “I don’t know who was happier, him or me.”

Tears and laughter followed. “We’re so grateful we were rescued,” said Tamera Warnecke, 41, Kellems’ girlfriend. The Vancouver couple and Kellems’ girls — ages 4 to 14 — were catching up on sleep, showers and food Monday, safe after their Saturday Christmas tree-cutting trip turned into a 30-hour ordeal in subfreezing temperatures in the Mount Hood National Forest.

They survived by running the truck’s engine for warmth, melting snow to drink and eating fruit and Halloween candy they’d brought along. Kellems and his oldest daughter, Jessica, tried to hike out for help Sunday morning but returned tired and demoralized, unable to maneuver through waist-deep snow. They leaned on one another in their sleep and rotated each child into the front seat to be closer to the heater. “Our girls are pretty tough,” he said.

Before they left Saturday, Warnecke, as a precaution, called Deborah Carter, Randy Kellems’ mother, to tell her where they were going and that they’d be home about 9 p.m., she said. They stopped for a cutting permit and the girls did a little sledding before they turned, they thought, toward U.S. 26, eventually ending up 17 miles from the road.

At about 5:30 p.m., the truck’s back end fishtailed into a ditch on Forest Service Road 18, 10 miles from the Lolo Pass intersection. Efforts to free it didn’t work. When the snow started 15 minutes later, the six — Kellems; Warnecke; Jessica, 14; Autumn, 9; Emily, 7; and Madison, 4 — plus Jessica’s golden retriever, Chloie, and Autumn’s yellow Labrador retriever, Hannah — piled into the pickup cab and hunkered down for the night.

There’s more…….

Golden Josh — What a Sniffer!

Dogs Sniff Out Vineyard Pests
KGO By Wayne Freedman

Once again, California wine country is challenged by a nasty little threat to its enormous success. It’s a tiny little bug with a talent for destroying vineyards whole. Now one of man’s favorite beverages is getting help from man’s best friend.

Now for the oddest of sites — no, not this vineyard on a fresh fall morning, but Edwina Ryska in the middle of it, blowing bubbles. All very scientific because in a few moments, a golden retriever named Josh will be taking a test. His task is to find one little stick among all these vines — a piece of wood scented with just a trace of pheromone from a female mealybug, a tiny creature that hides beneath the bark of vines. As the world warms, and species migrate, it has become an approaching, potentially expensive menace in California’s wine country vinyards.

Michael Honig, vintner: “The problem with the bug is that by the time you see it, it’s almost too late.” To stay ahead of it, growers have funded a research program with the Assistance Dog Institute in Santa Rosa. Canines already use their sense of smell to find bombs, narcotics, even cancer. So why not this new pest as well?

They train the dogs by introducing puppies to the scent of mealybug pheromones at feeding time. Bonnie Bergin, Assistance Dog Institute: “We want them to love it so much that they will tell us about it because it excites them.”

We all know dogs have a keen sense of smell, but much more than you might ever imagine. About one-third of Autumn’s brain, dedicated to that nose. Rick Young, dog trainer: “They say humans, when they smell stew cooking, smell stew. Dogs smell carrots, onions. They have the ability to detect everything out here.” Which means that dogs have smelled mealybugs and whatever else, in places like this for eons. Only now, it’s not just a mealybug anymore. It’s a meal ticket.

Go check out the TV News video of Josh in action. It is so unbelievably cool!

Golden Dave: The Math Dog UPDATED!

Last week I had the following story about the Wednesday night David Letterman Show. He was doing Stupid Dog Tricks, which are really not stupid at all, but that is the tag he gives this features. He had on Golden Dave, a smart dude From Illinois.

Well, yesterday I received this unbelievable email from Golden lover Gerri:

My husband and I were stopping at Petsmart Friday evening. As we were parking, a man and a Golden were walking into the store. My husband said, “That looks like Dave”. I agreed, but thought that it could not be Dave because we live in Indiana and Dave lives in Illinois. We went into the store and the man and Golden were talking to the ladies at the cash registers. My husband said “Hi Dave”. The owner said, yes this is Dave. We had met a celebrity!

Dave had something in his eye and they had stopped there for some eye wash on the way home from the David Letterman show in New York. Dave showed us some tricks (he knows sign language also!) and I took a picture of him with my cell phone. After allot of petting, we left them to go on their way. What a Great Dog!

Here you can see Dave doing his thing at the Hawthorne Elementary School in Salem.




Illinois dog to do ‘stupid pet trick’ on ‘Late Show’
By Laura Followell,The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Dave the Math Dog is on his way to stardom after making the cut for the Stupid Pet Tricks tryouts staged last month in the Indiana Theater. On Wednesday, the dog will trot on to CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman.”

The golden retriever was en route to New York today after his owner, Frank Ferris, was informed Monday the dog had been chosen to appear on the show in the Ed Sullivan Theater. Dave the Math Dog will perform his mathematical wonders as Ferris stands by to help the dog communicate his answer. “He’s already gotten a bath,” Ferris said, laughing. “He got his nails trimmed and his ears cleaned. So he’s all prettified.”

Dave the Math Dog and Ferris traveled to Terre Haute in October from Lerna, Ill., just southeast of Mattoon, and auditioned for a spot on the “Late Show.” The dog appeared onstage with his owner. A volunteer from the “Late Show” then wrote math problems on a dry-erase board, such as “12 ÷ 4,” and displayed them to the dog. The dog pawed at his owner’s hand three times, indicating the correct answer.

Ferris and his wife, Debra, opted out of free plane tickets to New York and chose to drive. “They won’t let Dave sit in the seat next to us [on an airplane], so we drive,” Ferris said. “We don’t put Dave in cargo hold — no way. So we’re driving.” The trio will arrive in New York today after a 15-hour drive. Dave the Math Dog and Frank will perform for the show’s 11 a.m. taping.

Read more……

Way Cool Golden Rescue Auction – UPDATED!


I recently received an email from Barbara Davis, “shamelessly stumping for homeless Goldens” for Golden Retriever Club Greater Los Angeles Rescue (GRCGLA). This is what she had to say

In addition to some neat dog items, we have autographed books, Susan Dey’s own personal Laurie Partridge lunch box (complete with a letter from Susan authenticating the piece!), Stockard Channing’s own personal director chair from the set of “West Wing”, a night at Magic Castle, consultations with casting directors and a walk-on part on “Scrubs”! And that’s just a few of items available this week! The auction runs two weeks, and new items will be added periodically, so don’t let these one-of-a-kind opportunities pass you by!

So, just CLICK HERE and bid away. I’ve bid on one item (see if you can find it) but I fear it may soon be slipping from my grips lol.


UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Barbara is quite special. Besides being an advocate for Golden Rescue, she is doing incredible work with the kinds of positive, humane dog training that we believe in here at the Land of PureGold. Just check out ….


Truly Dog Friendly


Golden Rainier on the Job


Pets make hospital rounds, bring ‘therapeutic touch’ to patients
By Susan Phinney, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter

They may not have medical degrees, but in some places they have staff name tags and status that entitles them to breaks, beds, toys and water bowls. Rainier the rehab dog has a station in the medical rehabilitation gym on the fourth floor at Harborview Medical Center. His “dog-mother” is physical therapist Amy Icarangal, and she’s been taking him to work at least once a week for more than five years. And when this 8-year-old is around, everyone is all smiles.

On a recent Friday morning, he was with patient Shawna Caffey, who was working on upper body strength, sending a buoy flying along a line and back — a sort of horizontal yo-yo. Caffey, recovering from an accident, said Rainier makes the environment happier.

“It’s more relaxed, and it takes me away from thinking about my situation,” she said, squirming in a body brace and carefully transferring from wheelchair to therapy bed, where she was soon joined by Rainier.

“Dogs wag tails, motivate patients to take a step,” said David Frei, director of communications for Delta Society, a Seattle-based non-profit that’s been introducing professionally trained animals to people who have mental and physical disabilities for almost 30 years. Frei, a former Seattleite, has been a spokesman for the Delta Society since 1999, but he now lives in New York City where he’s also director of communications for the Westminster Kennel Club. His two Brittany spaniels do volunteer work at a Ronald McDonald House where his wife is a chaplain/therapist.

“People with pets do have healthier lives, better mental health. It was anecdotal for years, but now there are studies that demonstrate the therapeutic touch,” Frei said. “If you pet a dog, cat or a horse, it raises the level of good hormones in the body” and eases stress.

A 1999 study done at State University of New York in Buffalo involved two groups of stockbrokers already taking medication for hypertension. One group had pets, the other did not. Researchers put both groups into simulated stressful situations. Those who had pets went from 120 to 126 for systolic blood pressure. Those who had no pets went from 120 to about 148.

“Dogs are best because they’re so responsive, so in tune with people,” Frei said. He said the Delta Society mainly certifies dogs, but some cats, at least one potbellied pig and a pygmy goat have also passed the society’s training programs. Rabbits can also be good therapy animals because they’re quiet and soft, he said.


C.J. Boehlke rolled into the Harborview therapy room and played what the therapist called “a really mean game of keepaway” with Rainier. The ball flew between Velcro-covered paddles, Rainier chasing it back and forth. When one finally landed within dog-range, Rainier got even. He caught it and didn’t give it back until it was fully slobbered.

There’s more…….

Golden Lilli Going to the Ball


PAWS volunteers acted as pup-arazzi as guests — including Lilli, the golden retriever, escorted by owners Aaron and Nichole Charfoos — arrived on the red carpet.

Society: PAWS Chicago Fur Ball
By Mary Cameron Frey, Chicago Business/Crain Publications

They circled one another cautiously, waiting to be introduced. They checked out what everyone else was wearing — especially the shiny jewelry and hair ornaments. Only when they started some serious sniffing did their behavior differ from that of their owners.

So it went at PAWS Chicago’s fifth Fur Ball on Saturday at the W Chicago City Center Hotel, with more than 450 guests plus 100 pooches packing two ballrooms for an evening of food, drink, barking and that sniffy thing they do.

The guests were a merry mix of folks who love their pets and like nothing better than dressing those cuties up for a party. One could only be impressed that there were few scuffles or “accidents” except in designated areas where fake turf was ready and waiting. Food, water and dog-friendly cookies were all around, as were adorable puppies and kittens ready to be adopted.

All this hilarity was to benefit PAWS Chicago, a no-kill organization that offers adoption programs, free spay/neuter services and community outreach.

Paws (Pets Are Worth Saving) Chicago, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1997 and is the largest no-kill shelter and humane organization in the Chicago area. In 1998, the group opened the Paws Lincoln Park Cat Adoption Center, followed in 2000 by the Lurie Family Spay/Neuter Clinic on West 26th Street. Construction is under way on the Adoption & Humane Center that will open in June 2007 on Clybourn Avenue.

Golden Teachers


Dog training helps the teachers, too
By Mark Agee, Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Stephanie Deacon of Sanger and her son, Daniel, 7, work on training their 5-year-old golden retriever, Diana, during a class at the dog park in Denton.

Jonny and Pennie Beckett’s 1-year-old terrier Sadie was pulling on her leash and not coming when she was called. After four weeks of training for the dog and her owners, Sadie is still a rambunctious youngster, but she’s learning. “She’s doing much better,” said Pennie Beckett, of Denton. “She’s a great puppy. She just had a few bad habits we needed help with.”

The Becketts are among about 15 dog owners who meet at the Lake Forest Dog Park in Denton on Sunday afternoons to receive free training from University of North Texas students.

The Organization for Reinforcement Contingencies with Animals — made up mostly of students from the university’s department of behavior analysis — began offering the classes this year so members could hone their skills, club President Katie Kalafut said.

There’s more…..

Andy, a Golden Confidence Builder


Rescued from an area puppy mill, golden retriever finds new life as a service dog
By Alissa Eaton & Mark Nance, Sun-Gazette

Charles B. Miller of DuBoistown enjoys a “lick down” from his service dog Andy after a swim Monday at the YWCA’s warm water pool. Miller, who is wheelchair-bound, takes Andy with him everywhere, including the pool and the Gibson Rehabilitation Center, as a therapy dog. “I wouldn’t have the confidence to go out without Andy,” says Miller.

If my wife had to pick between me and Andy, I think the dog would stay,” Charles “Chuck” Miller said laughing. Miller and Andy, a golden retriever and an Eagles Wings Service dog, are quite a pair. Miller, who has been a wheelchair for two-and-half years, has had help from Andy for about 14 months. “I would recommend to anyone, who is in a wheelchair, to have a service dog,” Miller said.

Andy was trained by Ann Sanders and Cindy Sortman, who work at Eagles Wings Service Dogs in Eagles Mere. Although Andy is big and playful, he also is good at doing specific chores that Miller needs him to do. He can open the refrigerator, retrieve the telephone, help Miller dress and undress and even help put laundry away.

“Each dog is trained to meet the needs of the individual recipient,” according to the Eagles Wings Service Dogs Web site.

Miller is in a wheel chair because of Spinal Stenosis, a condition that causes a narrowing of the lumbar spinal column and produces pressure on the nerve roots causing back and neck pain and usually decreasing physical activity. “I had surgery on some of my vertebrae, C3, C4, C5 and C6 were all split open to relieve the pressure,” Miller said.

After the surgery, Miller and his wife, Sherry, spent more than $30,000 making the downstairs of their DuBoistown home more handicap accessible. The kitchen floor was raised so Miller could reach the counters, a dishwasher was installed, the porch was raised and a ramp was built. Some doors and doorways in the house also were widened so a wheelchair could fit through. Miller decided that getting service dog might be a good idea when he spoke to a woman who attended the YWCA with him and whose daughter had a service dog.

Miller has been swimming at the YWCA for about two years because it is the only physical activity that he can do. Eventually, Andy began joining him when he went swimming. Although Andy does not get in the water, he walks up and down the side of the pool and never takes his eyes off Miller.

Andy retrieves things that Miller might need while he is in the pool. He can pick up flippers with his mouth and give them to Miller.“If something goes wrong, he is there to help me. He gives me a boost,” Miller added.

There’s more…… 

From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava


A good dog pal just turned me on to this new book, From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava.

When Marines enter an abandoned house in Fallujah, Iraq and hear a suspicious noise, they clench their weapons, edge around the corner and prepare to open fire.

What they find during the U.S.-led attack on the “most dangerous city on Earth,” however, is not an insurgent bent on revenge but a tiny puppy left behind when most of the city’s population fled before the bombing. Despite military law which forbids the keeping of pets, the Marines de-flea him with kerosene, de-worm him with chewing tobacco and fill him up on MREs.

Thus begins the dramatic rescue attempt of Lava from Iraq and Lava’s rescue of at least one Marine, Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman, from the emotional ravages of war.

From hardened Marines, to war-time journalists, to endangered Iraqi citizens, From Baghdad, With Love tells an unforgettable true story of an unlikely band of heroes who learn unexpected lessons about life, death and war from a mangy, little flea-ridden refugee.


The author, Jay Kopelman, 46, is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a graduate of the University of Miami, he began his military career in the U.S. Navy in 1985. He transferred to the Marine Corps in 1992, where he trained to become a forward air controller and earned his gold naval parachutist wings while assigned to 1st Air/Naval Gunfire Liaison Company.

In 1996, Jay left active duty to pursue opportunities in the Internet and financial services industries. He stayed active in the Marine Corps Reserve, and was recalled to active duty after September 11. During his career, Jay has made multiple overseas deployments to Okinawa, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, and twice to Iraq, participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

In September 2004, as the Special Operations Forces Liaison Officer for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), Jay deployed to Iraq to train the Iraqi Special Forces. In October, he was assigned as the liaison officer to an Iraqi Army battalion, and in November they entered Fallujah to battle insurgents for control of the city. It was there that he met and adopted Lava, a five week old puppy abandoned during the days before the invasion.

Following his return to the United States, based on his experiences in Iraq, Jay was asked to help train the Marines who would return to Iraq as advisors to the Iraqi armed forces and police. He currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for advisor training at I MEF.

Jay contributes his time and Lava’s name recognition to the Helen Woodward Animal Center and Canine Companions for Independence to help raise awareness and money for abandoned and assistance animals. He also recently served on the board of directors of the Enduring Freedom Killed In Action Fund, an organization that provides grants to survivors of military members who are killed in action in the war on terror, but whose benefits are “lost” in the system.

Golden Bailey’s New Leash on Life

Trainer gives dog new leash on life
By Philip Gailey, ScrippsNews

With an unseemly election behind us and the holiday season just beginning, I thought this would be a good time for a progress report on Bailey, the young golden retriever we adopted last March. After being dragged through months of gutter politics, it’s worth remembering that dogs embody the qualities so sorely lacking in our politicians — selflessness, honesty, loyalty, good will and concern for others. A dog story is never wasted space in the newspaper.

Bailey has overcome a lot since he came to live with us. He spent the first eight months of his life confined to a cage — excuse me, kennel — for 12 hours or more a day because his owner, who cared enough to give him up, was a traveling salesman. Bailey has hip dysplasia, and the long hours of confinement only made it worse. His hips had atrophied from the lack of exercise and he wobbled slightly when I took him on his first walk.

He had another problem: an immediate need for basic obedience training. He was undisciplined to the point that taking a walk around the block was an unpleasant journey for both of us, with me screaming commands he didn’t understand and him straining on the leash to chase a lizard or greet a total stranger. Fortunately, we decided to do something we had never done before with a dog — we enrolled him in a basic home obedience training course. And what a difference that has made.

After six weeks of home training, Bailey received a certificate of achievement from the All American Dog Training Academy in a little ceremony at the house presided over by his trainer, Joe Delvecchio, a retired Army dog trainer who came to our rescue. I couldn’t have been prouder if Bailey had just received a diploma from Harvard or Yale.

Sgt. Joe, as I called him, drilled Pvt. Bailey once a week, somehow getting the dog to do amazing things, like walk without straining on the leash, sit on command, stay put on command, lie down on command and, my favorite, go to a small rug that had been designated as his “place” and stay there until a release command is given. We like to show off when guests arrive and see Bailey take his place on the rug on the command of “place.” Sometimes, however, Bailey puts us in our place by ignoring the command and has to be escorted to the rug.

There’s more…….

Sleepy Pups

Do you like my Golden babies masthead above? It comes from one of my most favorite photos that I took of a 3-pupper litter. Boy, were those guys butterballs.


You can support our Foundation and its blog (at which I am working so hard at and updating a few times a day with informative and fun articles & photos) with this adorable new design, which I have placed on the mug you see above (both front and back). Just click here!

My original 3-pups photo can be found on items here and my 1-pupper sleeper here as well.

Golden Basil’s Cure — Hope for Many More


In Trials for New Cancer Drugs, Family Pets Are Benefiting, Too
By Andrew Pollack, The New York Times

This is Basil, with Alan P. Wilber, his owner, who was found to have bone cancer in 2001. Basil is cancer-free now, but had to have a leg removed.

Dogs have long been used for medical research, usually to the dismay of animal-rights activists. But now pet owners are enrolling their dogs in medical trials meant to benefit humans and animals alike. And some animal advocates are applauding the development.

Most of the trials, often sponsored by drug companies or medical device makers, involve pets with cancer — a leading natural cause of death in older dogs — in which the animals receive groundbreaking drugs or other treatments that are eventually meant for people.

The drug giant Pfizer has already introduced a human cancer drug that was given an early test in pet dogs, and a California company, IDM Pharma, recently filed for federal approval of another cancer drug that received similar testing.

Treating dogs gives researchers an idea of whether and how the treatment will work in people, while at the same time possibly helping the pets. “It can help in reshaping the image of animals in science, from being considered tools to being considered patients,” said Martin Stephens, the vice president for animal research issues at the Humane Society of the United States. “And we would love to see that change.”

The National Cancer Institute has set up a consortium of more than a dozen veterinary teaching hospitals to conduct the tests. The consortium has just completed its first study, with another to begin in a few weeks and several more planned for next year. Government and academic scientists are also now setting up a nonprofit group to study DNA and tumor samples from pet dogs, in an effort to pinpoint genes associated with cancer in both dogs and people. The government push is adding momentum to an approach in progress for several years among universities and medical centers that have been testing companies’ drugs and devices. Meanwhile, dogs whose owners enroll them in these trials often benefit from the best cancer treatments available.

Basil, a golden retriever, with Kathy Wilber, his owner

An exemplar of the trend is Basil, a 6-year-old golden retriever who sometimes wears a scarf reading “I’m a cancer survivor.” “They call him the miracle dog,” said Alan P. Wilber, a history teacher at a community college who, along with his wife, Kathy, lives with Basil in Los Banos, Calif.

Basil developed bone cancer in 2001. By the time the affected leg was amputated, the disease had spread to 11 sites in his lungs and was deemed beyond surgical hope. But the Wilbers enrolled Basil in a study of a drug developed by Sugen, a biotechnology company, being conducted at the University of California, Davis. Enough tumors disappeared so that the rest could be removed surgically, and Basil has been free of cancer for three and a half years.

There’s much more…….

Beating Cancer — Dogs Leading the Way for us all

Dogs May Help Find Genes That Cause Cancer
By Andrew Pollack, The New York Times

About half of all Bernese mountain dogs are prone to an unusual blood cancer called malignant histiocytosis. Boxers are four times more likely to get lymphomas than dogs in general, while Pomeranians are 10 times less likely. Cocker spaniels are more likely to get B cell lymphomas, and huskies are more susceptible to T cell lymphomas.

Such differences among breeds provide evidence that the risk of getting cancer is at least partly inherited. And they suggest that dogs could be useful in the search for genes that cause cancer, with the findings probably applicable to people, as well.

“The role of heritability is easier to track in dogs than in people,” said Jaime F. Modiano, a veterinarian and immunologist at the University of Colorado, who said it had been difficult to find many cancer-risk genes in people.

Dogs are ideal for such studies because there is relative genetic homogeneity in a breed. And it is possible to have five or six generations of dogs alive at the same time, providing ample genealogical information.

Dr. Modiano is one of about 15 academic and government scientists who are forming the Canine Comparative Oncology and Genomics Consortium, a nonprofit group, to look for cancer genes in dogs. The group is separate from the National Cancer Institute’s recently formed team of veterinary hospitals to test cancer drugs in dogs, although the two groups have members in common.

One goal of the new genetics organization is to assemble a collection of tumor samples and DNA from dogs to be used in studies.

Other necessary tools are also becoming available. The complete genome sequence of a dog — a boxer — was published last year.

Scientists led by Elaine A. Ostrander, now at the National Human Genome Research Institute, have already discovered a genetic mutation responsible for a rare syndrome that causes kidney cancer and skin nodules in German shepherds. The mutation was in a gene also involved in a similar rare human disease called Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome.

Hunts are going on now for other cancer-risk genes like the one for the cancer in Bernese mountain dogs and for bone cancer in Rottweilers.

There’s more…..

Some People Need to Get a Life

Family with service dogs ticketed — A neighbor complains about too many canines, but a judge cites federal law on disabilities and takes the side of ailing owners in Worth
By Wendy E. Normandy, Special to the Chicago Tribune

Stitches, Brooklyn and Skittles may bark, play and look like average pets, but the three dogs hold vital jobs in a Worth home. They are certified service dogs for members of the Kocourek family who have respiratory and other ailments. They share the home with Angel, a cherished 9-year-old border collie mix.

On Friday, the family was shocked to learn a complaint had been filed against them for having too many dogs. A village ordinance allows three in a single-family home.

A judge on Monday expressed similar outrage, granting Joanne and Tom Kocourek a reprieve. Judge John Weimar, citing federal laws that exclude counting service dogs as pets, questioned why a neighbor had complained. “What was the purpose of filing this complaint?” Weimar asked Ordinance Officer Sue Murawski. “Was it to prove that the neighbor knew how to count?”
He directed Murawski not to issue more tickets to the Kocoureks regarding their dogs.

Murawski said she wants the village to amend ordinance to accommodate service dogs and head off future conflicts. She wrote the ticket only after the neighbor insisted, she said. “It’s hard to believe that anyone would make an issue about this, but changing the ordinance would prevent this from happening to other families in the future,” Murawski said.

The Kocourek sisters, Kristen, 16, and Annalies, 21, have debilitating respiratory problems and depend on ventilators to help them breathe. Kristen was 3 when she was diagnosed with a rare condition that affects her central nervous system while Annalies was healthy until her early teens. Additional medical problems have limited the sisters’ mobility, often requiring high levels of skilled care.

Their mother has lupus and depends on Skittles, a golden retriever, to help her at home with her daughters and with work responsibilities. Joanne Kocourek walks with a wheeled three-sided cane, and Skittles helps with doors, cabinets and elevators ands picks up items.

The dogs came to live with the family about three years ago after a shortage of home care nurses forced Kocourek to seek alternatives. She needed a way for her daughters to have more independence from the round-the-clock monitoring of their breathing equipment. Stitches, a golden retriever, and Brooklyn, a yellow Labrador mix, did just that.

There’s more

Art Helping Animals

Newbury Park woman’s paintings help homeless pets
By Nicole D’Amore, Ventura County Star Correspondent

Through her art, Stella Violano helps homeless animals find better lives. Her oil paintings show the animals in appealing surroundings. A little dachshund mix that couldn’t walk is pictured on a sofa surrounded by children. There is Jack, a pit bull, standing at the prow of a boat, painted as a pirate because his leg had to be amputated. Some are in costume, dressed for the holidays or as royalty; some are in outdoor settings, others looking comfortable curled up in a soft chair, a life left behind.

“I have done over 200 homeless pet paintings,” the Newbury Park resident said. She includes a little story of each animal and lists it on her blog, Sometimes a copy of her picture and write-up is posted on the animal’s pen at the shelter.

Violano is a founding member of Art Helping Animals, a fellowship of 12 artists throughout the United States and Australia dedicated to making a difference in the lives of animals through art. The organization ( serves not only dogs but also cats, other domestic pets and even wildlife. “I work with different rescues all over the United States now,” she said. “If they have a real hard-luck case, they will tell me about it.” She donates a portion of the sales of her paintings back to the shelters.

“I paint older, less-able-to-be-adopted dogs,” she said, telling the story of Duke, a “very senior” golden retriever who was abandoned and ended up at the Agoura shelter. She made friends with him at the shelter, painted him and listed the painting. A veterinarian’s wife in Illinois e-mailed her, wanting to adopt him and pay for his flight to her home, but when Violano contacted the shelter, she found that he had been adopted that day. The veterinarian’s wife purchased the painting and asked her to give it to Duke’s new owner.

“When I went to deliver it, I found Duke as happy as he could be, the loving companion of a lady who adores him,” she said. “We get happy e-mails from her telling of how he is a pillow hog.”

There’s more……

A Man and his Dog

Greenville man, 77, and dog rescued after night in woods
By Diana Bowley, Bangor Daily News

GREENVILLE — An older man who spent the night huddled in the woods with his dog was found by searchers Thursday morning in a swampy area about three-quarters of a mile from his home. Robert Fenn, 77, was cold, stiff and sore, but he was able to walk on his own with his rescuers to the nearest road where transportation was waiting, Warden Sgt. Roger Guay said Thursday. Fenn was taken by ambulance to the Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville for evaluation.

“He’s doing fine,” Ruth Fenn, his daughter-in-law of Greenville, said Thursday morning. “It’s a happy Thanksgiving.”

Fenn, who had moved to Greenville about a month ago, left his Wild Berry Lane home for a walk with Buddy, his golden retriever dog, at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. When the pair failed to return by late afternoon, Ruth Fenn notified the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department. A ground search was conducted throughout the afternoon and night by wardens and their search dogs, police and volunteers. The Maine National Guard used its heat detection aircraft to search from the air for Fenn.

As the temperature hovered around 20 degrees overnight, wardens worked feverishly to find Fenn, who has medical problems and who was ill-equipped for the night air. Finn left his home wearing a hat, jeans, and a quilted flannel shirt, according to Guay.

There’s more…….

Therapy Golden Dickens Honored

Golden Dickens, Therapy Category Award
New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association Animal Hall of Fame
dickenss.jpgFive-year-old Golden Retriever Dickens is a value assistant to the psychiatric staff at the Holy Name Hospital. Dickens’ weekly visits to patients with mental illness,, mood disorders, Alzheimer’s and other illnesses give them a positive, loving experience to anticipate. Dickens’ patient, outgoing manner has made him a favorite and his successes include motivating a severely arthritic man, an anorexic woman who began to eat after Dickens’ visits, and an Alzheimer’s patient who had been mute but began speaking after his visits.Owner – Susan Stone
Veterinarian – Dr. John DeVries