Sunbear Squad Watch Tip of the Week: March 29th

The Sunbear Squad has resolved to make a difference for neglected and abused companion animals. They are transforming animal lovers into animal welfare defenders — with knowledge, tools, and inspiration.

Watch Tip: Watch and listen for pets that are being tormented or tortured by bad teenagers and children, and call the authorities immediately to save their lives.

Be Sunbear Squad Informed
5 Simple Things
Bill of Rights for Pets
Risk Factor List
Learn about Abuse
Action Guidelines

Be Sunbear Squad Active
Neighborhood Watch
YouNet FAQ
Start a Squad
Free Materials

Be Sunbear Squad Prepared
Wallet Card
Roadside Rescue Kit
Disaster Plans
Reciprocal Fostering
SCRAPS Breathing
Be Sunbear Squad Inspired
Roadkilled Blessings
Be a Good Samaritan
Inspirational Sayings
Avoid Dog Slang
Humane Awards

Canine PTSD

This article is a very sad commentary on the utilization of innocent dogs for quite dangerous endeavors. While I do realize the life-saving that takes place via our canine friends at times such as earthquakes or on the slopes due to avalanches, I could never engage a dog of my own in such a field.

Lazy Dog’s Guide to Enlightenment

Enlightenment doesn’t always come in the form we expect it. It need not be a self-styled guru or a complicated contraption measuring some mysterious quality. Sometimes it’s as close as the Chocolate Lab bounding happily through the backyard, or the feisty Terrier contentedly curled up on one’s lap for a nap.

In the foreword to this thoughtful, wonderfully illustrated gift book by Andrea Hurst and Beth Wilson, Dr. Bernie Siegel says, “Dogs are healers. . . . They seem to have figured out how to live beautifully so much better than we humans have.” Loosely modeled on 1980’s underground classic The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment, this charming book celebrates the simple wisdom and that special combination of natural earthiness and subtle spirituality that characterizes humankind’s best friend. Distinctive black-and-white dog images by acclaimed photographer Zackary Folk are accompanied by captions of down-to-earth spiritual wisdom “from” the dogs to their often confused “owners.”

We simply love this book! The wonderful photos show many breeds and the wisdom is just so apropos for us 2-legged folks, as we often need guidance from our spiritual furkids. Some of our favorites are:

►Admit to your faults: What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine too.
►Be content. Longing is the root of all suffering.
►Be willing to ask for forgiveness. We all make mistakes, but who we are is not one of them.

Get the book with a bonus of free glossy puppy stickers & an art illustration greeting card. Profits from this purchase, of course, go towards the grants that we provide for cancer treatment.

She couldn’t resist him.

Golden Retriever Alfie & Feral Rescue Kitty Cindy

I recently gave Alfie a much needed bath and decided to try a new shampoo-conditioner combination. Many years ago I attended a professional grooming workshop with one of the top handlers in the country. I was definitely out of my comfort zone and learned that weekend that every piece of equipment I owned and method I was using was wrong wrong wrong. So, I listened and went out and bought sheers that cost $200 plus a pair and lots more. I actually have an electric table in my basement that is cherished given my having difficulties with both my overall strength and pain in my hands doing repetitive movements. And, I had all the recommended grooming shampoos, sprays, conditioners, you name it. But, none of them are organic or truly sensitive in their formulas. So, I decided to try some products from a new eco-friendly line, and brought on Aroma Paws, a product line launched in 2008.

I have been delighted with the products and it wasn’t until a recent bathing that I got the best, most un-biased recommendation, of just how truly wonderful they were.

I am not too-much into fragrances so I have found combining the hypo-allergenic shampoo with one of the fragrances gives me just a touch of scent. So far, the honeysuckle jasmine dry skin formula is my favorite, and Kitty Cindy loves it as well. Let me tell you how I know.

Cindy (small 6-pounder) is not too enamored with Alfie (60-pounder), and essentially only tolerates his presence, demonstrably jealous of the attention he receives. But, when Gary and I decide to watch a movie in our big screen tv room where there is a 2-seat small couch, she must be there along with Alfie who squeezes between us.

Last week, I had just finished a 3-hour grooming session with the boy using my Aroma Paws 2-shampoo combo. Alfie bound upstairs and I slowly and painfully trudged up as well. After using this shampoo, I have noticed that the texture of Alfie’s fur is just like silk. It is just so soft and luxurious that Gary and I cannot keep our hands off of him after a bath. Alfie always has a great sheen, but I owe that to the 6000 units of pure Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Oil that he gets daily. But, it is the shampoo that gives him the most delicious soft scent and the glorious feel.

Well, we decided to watch a movie after this long grooming session and therefore the pileup commenced on our small viewing sofa. I think this was the first time that Cindy was so close to Alfie after a bathing. Well, all of a sudden she began sniffing him. She pushed her nose back and forth from his paws up his legs to his chest. And, then she took her head and burrowed it into his fur. I almost could not see it any longer as it was almost covered entirely by Alfie’s fur. You could honestly tell that she was mesmerized by him. She could not seem to get enough and continued this behavior for a while. Poor Alfie did not know what to make of it since she is perpetually slapping him silly over one perceived injustice after another. So, he froze and just let her proceed. I only wish I had tried to get it on film, but it never would have captured the sensory experience that you needed to capture via smell and touch.

Honestly, I would love to hear from other folks after using this shampoo. I don’t typically get too excited about products like this but anyone who would have experienced this Kitty-Golden session would be similarly convinced.

I carry several of the products in the line at the site, 100% of our profits, of course, going towards the grants that we provide for cancer treatment. The two products that I combined and used on Alfie are from those shown below:

Aroma Paws Luxury Hypo-Allergenic Shampoo & Conditioner in One
This hypoallergenic & fragrance free formula is a blend of Organic Honey, Colloidal Oatmeal & Pro Vitamin B5. It was designed for dogs with sensitive skin and allergies to the dyes and chemicals found in many pet grooming lines. This chemical-free shampoo is pH Balanced, Eco-Friendly, and Bio-Degradable. It contains NO dyes, NO parabens, NO alcohol, NO salt & NO phosphates.

Instead, the shampoo contains:
Aloe Leaf Extract to relieve itching of sensitive or irritated skin; soothe bug bites.
Chamomile Flower to restore the pH balance to your dog’s skin & coat.
Sweet Almond Oil to soften the skin.
Organic Honey which is an antioxidant and natural antimicrobial.
Green Tea Leaf Extract which is a natural antioxidant.

Ingredients: Purified Water, Earth Derived Cleansers (from Coconut, Palm & Corn), Glycerin, Panthenol, Colloidal Oatmeal, Pure Honey, Sweet Almond Oil, Coconut Oil, Macadamia Seed Oil, Green Tea Leaf Extract, Extracts of: Apple Fruit, Lime Flower, Beet Root, Aloe Leaf, Chamomile Flower, Cucumber, Pine Tree Root, & Dandelion, Cellulose Gum, Palm Stearic Acid, Citric Acid, Blend of Botanical & Essential Oils

Aroma Paws Fragrance Shampoo & Conditioner in One

Aroma Paws Shampoo & Conditioner is blended with Green Tea Leaf Extract for a shiny coat, Aloe Leaf Extract to soothe skin, and Sweet Almond & Coconut Oils to relieve dryness and detangle. Their all natural, CHEMICAL FREE cleansing agents will safely, gently and naturally cleanse your dog’s skin and coat.

These chemical-free shampoos are pH Balanced, Eco-Friendly, and Bio-Degradable. They contain  NO dyes, NO parabens, NO alcohol, NO salt & NO phosphates.

The ingredients for these fragrance shampoos are: Purified Water, Earth Derived Cleansers (from Coconut, Palm & Corn), Glycerin, Panthenol, Colloidal Oatmeal, Pure Honey, Sweet Almond Oil, Coconut Oil, Macadamia Seed Oil, Green Tea Leaf Extract, Extracts of: Apple Fruit, Lime Flower, Beet Root, Aloe Leaf, Chamomile Flower, Cucumber, Pine Tree Root, & Dandelion, Cellulose Gum, Palm Stearic Acid, Citric Acid, Blend of Botanical & Essential Oils

These shampoo formulas all have the same base ingredients, only differing in the blend of botanical and essential oils that give each its own special properties.

LAVENDER CHAMOMILE Anti-itch & Hot Spot Relief Formula: contains French Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Ylang Ylang, and Eucalyptus. French Lavender Oil is a relaxant and skin soother. Roman Chamomile helps restore the pH balance to your dog’s skin and coat. Ylang Ylang Oil softens the skin. And, Eucalyptus Oil naturally refreshes and cleans the skin.

HONEYSUCKLE JASMINE Dry Skin & Dandruff Relief Formula: contains Honeysuckle, Indian Jasmine, and Sweet Violet.  Honeysuckle Soil is a natural emollient. Indian Jasmine Oil is a mood elevator and antiseptic. And, Sweet Violet Oil helps to reduce insomnia and stress.

COCONUT PAPAYA Sensitive Skin Formula: contains Coconut, Vanilla Bean, Hawaiian Papaya, Seagrass, and Seaweed Extract. Coconut Oil is a natural moisturizer. Papaya Extract conditions the skin and coat. Vanilla Bean Oil is a soothing, stress reliever. Seagrass Extract purifies the skin and increases circulation. Seaweed Extract is an anti-inflammatory.

Dr. Bauer’s Biological Trojan Horse – A Great New Cancer Treatment

In the Greek tale of the Trojan horse, soldiers hid inside a large wooden horse, which was then placed outside the walls of Troy. Thinking it a gift, the citizens wheeled the horse inside the city. Once inside, the soldiers sneaked out and overtook the city. Think of that same strategy in terms of battling cancer. What if something could hide until it has made its way deep inside a tumor, then suddenly become active and kill off all the cancer cells from the inside out? This Trojan horse anecdote is one that cancer research scientist Joseph Bauer, Ph.D. uses to illustrate how his approach to chemotherapy works.

While in graduate school and reading a biochemistry book about vitamin B-12, it hit him. Why not get the vitamin to secretly carry a deadly chemotherapy agent into the tumor? Dr. Bauer’s invention uses B-12 to deliver the anticancer drug, nitric oxide, to the tumor. Cancer cells love B-12, actually having receptors to draw it into the tumor. They are completely fooled because they have no idea that a deadly agent lurks inside. “The nitric oxide that’s released inside the tumor cell has a half-life outside the cell on the order of milliseconds. It doesn’t have time to kill the surrounding cells, so it just kills the tumor cell,” Dr. Bauer explains. “Then, with the cancer cells dead and the nitric oxide no longer active, the vitamin B-12 can get out into the blood stream and help the body heal.”

Dr. Bauer’s “biological Trojan Horse” may be one of the best things to happen in cancer research in recent years. Preliminary National Cancer Institute testing noted its anti-cancer effects, showing inhibition of the growth of human tumor cells on 60 different types of cancer. This vitamin B-12 based compound, nitrosylcobalamin (NO-Cbl), preferentially targets cancer cells with minimal side effects to normal cells. Learn more here.


Tales of the ‘Trojan horse drug’ and the ‘miracle dogs’
American Chemical Society Press Release

SALT LAKE CITY, March 23, 2009 — Diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of cancer called anal sac adenocarcinoma, Oscar’s future seemed bleak. Bedridden and unresponsive to chemotherapy or radiation, he would be lucky to survive three months. But thanks to an innovative new drug treatment, Oscar’s cancer receded and he was walking again within two weeks.

Oscar’s recovery was extraordinary enough, but his case was unusual for another reason. Oscar is a Bichon Frise, who scientists reporting here today at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society call “the Miracle Dog.” Joseph A. Bauer, Ph.D., and colleagues described promising results with a drug called nitrosylcobalamin (NO-Cbl) in battling cancer in Oscar and three other canines without any negative side effects. While it gives profound hope to dog owners, NO-Cbl also points to a powerful new cancer treatment for humans — one that infiltrates cancer cells like a biological Trojan horse.

“We are one of the few research groups that is offering to treat dogs with cancer that otherwise have no hope,” Bauer said. “With no other options available, most people in this situation opt to euthanize so that their pets don’t go through the pain of disease and trauma of surgery.”

About six million dogs are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), pets with cancer provide a win-win opportunity for cancer researchers. Scientists can study new cancer treatments in animals other than lab mice. And pets get access to new treatments that provide hope and in instances like NO-Cbl, additional time.

Bauer put it this way: “The beauty of using a dog or a cat to test a cancer drug is two-fold. First, the animal can get the benefit of the most up-to-date drug in cancer medicine. Second, the NCI gets data on pets that are exposed to the same environmental factors their owners are. They breathe the same polluted air and drink the same polluted water that you and I do every day. If you can find an agent to treat cancer that occurs in a dog with success, there is a higher likelihood that you can take that to the human population and have a much higher response rate than with mice.”

Although NO-Cbl has been used in only a few dogs, daily treatments have led to promising results in each case. “In all four dogs, there has been a significant reduction in tumor size without any toxic side effects or discomfort,” says Bauer.

Oscar was the first success story. Since then, Bauer has treated two other dogs. A six-year old golden retriever named Buddy was unable to walk due to a spinal tumor pinching essential nerves leading to his right hind leg. After nine months of daily NO-Cbl treatment, Buddy’s tumor shrank by 40 percent and he was going on two mile walks. A 13-year-old female Giant Schnauzer with inoperable thyroid carcinoma also showed tumor reductions of 77 percent in less than 10 weeks.

“Our case studies demonstrate anti-tumor efficacy with limited toxicity to normal tissues,” Bauer added. “NO-Cbl sensitizes multidrug-resistant cancer cells to the antitumor effects of several different drugs, so it may be valuable when utilized in combination regimes,” he added.

The drug targets cancer cells with “biological Trojan horse technology.” Cells have receptors for vitamin B12 on their outer surface. The receptors serve as docking ports where molecules of the vitamin, essential for cells to divide and multiply, attach and then enter the cell. In order to divide at their abnormally rapid pace, cancer cells grow extra B12 receptors — 100 times more than normal cancer cells. Scientists have been trying since the 1950s to exploit that vulnerability and make B12-based drugs that attach to the receptors, sneak into the cell, and deliver a knock-out dose of medication.

Bauer and his colleagues from the Cleveland Clinic attached nitric oxide (NO) molecules to vitamin B12. NO kills cancer cells. The B12 acts as the Trojan horse, easily slipping into cancer cells. The subsequent release of toxic NO kills the cancer cells from within.

The team’s goal is to successfully treat 10 dogs with NO-Cbl and slingshot the drug into human use as soon as possible. Because of the genetic similarity between dogs and humans, Bauer says his approach should have a much better chance of getting through the FDA’s strict drug approval chain.

But Bauer stresses he wants to get the NO-Cbl dog treatment approved, as well. “I’m committed to the animals, and my goal would be to do a dual clinical trial, Phase One human and Phase One dog,” says Bauer.

Oscar is still alive and well. Today, Bauer is treating another Golden Retriever named Haley with a spinal tumor.

“This is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life,” says Bauer, the owner of a two-year old Beagle. “It gets boring working in the lab, but to see the fruits of your labor in a positive outcome like this and to know you’re responsible in some small way, that’s pretty cool.”

The Bauer Research Foundation was established to promote the drug discovery work of Joseph A. Bauer, Ph.D. Their mission is to promote and provide ethical and equitable therapies to fight cancer in animals.

Currently, the Bauer Research Foundation is working with local veterinarians as well as veterinary offices in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to treat dogs and cats with a vitamin B12-based chemotherapy agent, nitrosylcobalamin (a non-toxic drug, patented in 1999). Animals will be accrued (informed consent) through the offices of local veterinarians and animal hospitals. Eligibility requirements include 1) Animals must have a reasonable performance status (can walk and eat on their own), 2) No prior anti-tumor therapy is preferred but animals with a minimum of 6 weeks since last treatment may be considered, 3) Tumor size of 7 cm diameter or less is preferred, 4) Tissue biopsy is required to establish the diagnosis, 5) Eligibility decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Once eligibility requirements are met baseline imaging (MRI preferred) will be performed. The animal’s veterinarian will demonstrate, to the owners, the technique for subcutaneous (under the skin) injection. This allows the owner to administer NO-Cbl to their dog on a daily basis in the comfort of their own home. Monthly blood draws will be taken at the veterinary office to ensure the health and safety of the patient and to monitor for any signs of toxicity. The blood draws will analyze basic blood chemistries including liver enzymes, GGT, and BUN, creatinine (to assess kidney function), serum nitrate, serum B12, and complete red blood cell and white blood cell count, including differential counts. If the drug is well-tolerated after three months, with the consent of the veterinarian, the blood draws can be limited to every other month. A follow-up MRI will be required every 6 months.

From Ken & Marti Johnson of Akron, OH, here is the story of Golden Retriever Buddy. He is definitely a wonderful success story as a result of receiving this cancer targeting therapy.

Buddy – Meet Dr. Bauer!

Buddy now enjoys his daily walks, almost limp-free, and constantly retrieves silly things, as only a Golden can. We would never have got to where we are, had it not been for Dr. Bauer’s care and persistence. His research means the world to us; we only hope expanded use of this therapy will lead to even greater results, and not just for the canine community.

A visit to the Pittsburgh clinic on Feb. 27, 2009 confirmed that the tumor has shrunk again, now having shrunk by 70% of what it was when the treatment began.

Buddy showed no ill effects from the drug; his activity and appetite were unaffected, and we slowly but surely noticed a change in his general demeanor. His limp got slightly less pronounced over the first few months, and his movement in general seemed more like the ‘old’ Buddy. He also seemed to be pain-free. As the months went by, these changes became even more pronounced. A follow-up MRI in August of 2008 brought some wonderful news: his tumor had shrunk by about 40%. Our enthusiasm was matched by Dr. Bauer’s: we continued with the drug regimen, which continues to this day.

When our normally bouncy Golden Retriever, Buddy, began balking every time I tried to take him for his daily walk back in the late spring of 2007, I thought it was time to call in the ‘dog whisperer’. What had been one of his favorite activities to that point became an effort in futility. He’d just stop a few steps into the walk, plop on his hind end, look up at me, as if to say, ‘It wouldn’t be prudent to continue, not at this juncture’.

At that time, he seemed to be showing no other signs of physical discomfort, but to be on the safe side, we took him to our family vet, hoping for a simple explanation of what might be going on. Nothing was evident, and when Buddy then began to develop a slight limp in his right front leg, our vet suggested some X-rays. These also proved negative, but then during a follow-up exam, a point of tenderness was found deep in Buddy’s shoulder. An MRI was suggested, and a trip to PetsDX in Pittsburgh ensued. The results were devastating to us: a large tumor was discovered, and Buddy was given little chance to survive beyond six months or so.

We brought him home, realizing by now the cause of his reluctance to walking all this time, and tried to keep his environment as comfortable and safe as possible. He showed few other effects of the tumor, other than the pronounced limp which by now had gotten significantly worse. His love for people, however, was unaffected, and that’s when fate intervened. One afternoon, a normal ‘potty’ break outside was interrupted when Buddy suddenly spotted a familiar face down the street, one of our neighbors enjoying a walk with her two dogs. He limped on down to say hello, as only he can, setting in motion a chain of events which has brought us to where we are now.

Naturally, a conversation ensued, and Buddy’s health became the primary topic. The neighbor, Kari Bauer, mentioned that her brother, Dr. Joe Bauer, was engaged in canine research specifically related to carcinomas, and might be able to help us.

From that point on, Buddy’s world, and our world, changed dramatically. After reviewing the X-rays and MRI results, Dr. Bauer concluded that Buddy would be a good candidate for his current research, and the drug therapy associated with it. We got Buddy started almost immediately, and with a little help from our vet, learned how to administer Buddy’s twice-daily injections prescribed by Dr. Bauer of nitrosylcobalamin (NO-Cbl) based on vitamin B12, in February of 2008.

Sunbear Squad Watch Tip of the Week: March 22nd

The Sunbear Squad has resolved to make a difference for neglected and abused companion animals. They are transforming animal lovers into animal welfare defenders — with knowledge, tools, and inspiration.

Watch Tip: Listen for pets that whine and cry for more than one day — they are distressed. Call the authorities.

Be Sunbear Squad Informed
5 Simple Things
Bill of Rights for Pets
Risk Factor List
Learn about Abuse
Action Guidelines

Be Sunbear Squad Active
Neighborhood Watch
YouNet FAQ
Start a Squad
Free Materials

Be Sunbear Squad Prepared
Wallet Card
Roadside Rescue Kit
Disaster Plans
Reciprocal Fostering
SCRAPS Breathing
Be Sunbear Squad Inspired
Roadkilled Blessings
Be a Good Samaritan
Inspirational Sayings
Avoid Dog Slang
Humane Awards

Alex & Me: A Human-Animal Bond of true wonder

Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence–and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process, written by Irene Pepperberg, is an incredible book.

On September 6, 2007, an African Grey parrot named Alex died prematurely at age thirty-one. His last words to his owner, Irene Pepperberg, were “You be good. I love you.” What would normally be a quiet, very private event was, in Alex’s case, headline news. Over the thirty years they had worked together, Alex and Irene had become famous—two pioneers who opened an unprecedented window into the hidden yet vast world of animal minds. Alex’s brain was the size of a shelled walnut, and when Irene and Alex first met, birds were not believed to possess any potential for language, consciousness, or anything remotely comparable to human intelligence. Yet, over the years, Alex proved many things. He could add. He could sound out words. He understood concepts like bigger, smaller, more, fewer, and none. He was capable of thought and intention. Together, Alex and Irene uncovered a startling reality: We live in a world populated by thinking, conscious creatures.

The fame that resulted was extraordinary. Yet there was a side to their relationship that never made the papers. They were emotionally connected to one another. They shared a deep bond far beyond science. Alex missed Irene when she was away. He was jealous when she paid attention to other parrots, or even people. He liked to show her who was boss. He loved to dance. He sometimes became bored by the repetition of his tests, and played jokes on her. Sometimes they sniped at each other. Yet nearly every day, they each said, “I love you.”

Alex and Irene stayed together through thick and thin—despite sneers from experts, extraordinary financial sacrifices, and a nomadic existence from one univer­sity to another. The story of their thirty-year adventure is equally a landmark of scientific achievement and of an unforgettable human-animal bond.

Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist and Professor of Anthropology at The College of William and Mary. Her writings are amazing and her blogging should not be missed. Here is part of her must-read article: A Tale of Alex, Bird with a Walnut-Sized Brain (And What a Brain it Was)

For 23 years, Alex the African Grey Parrot had been surprising scientist Irene Pepperberg with his skills, skills no birdbrain was supposed to have. One day in 2000, working at MIT’s Media Lab, Pepperberg soared beyond surprise to sky-high astonishment. She was engaging Alex (so named in honor of the “Avian Language Experiment”) in sounding out phonemes, the individual sounds that make up words.

Alex had already made progress on this task. If shown a tray of plastic letters, the kind parents affix to a refrigerator door to stimulate their kids’ alphabet learning, he responded correctly to questions. Shown an array of letters that included, say, a red “Ch,” a green “N” and a blue “S,” and so on, when asked, “What sound is blue?,” Alex answered “Ssss….”

That day, some of MIT’s corporate sponsors had flocked to watch Alex do a demo. Alex answered a phoneme question correctly, but then piped up with “Want a nut.” Like students everywhere, Alex liked a good snack now and again, and to push his luck with his teachers.

Wanting to keep him on task, Irene pressed Alex with another question, and got the correct answer and immediately, another “Want a nut.” A third Q&A round followed, but this time Alex underscored the seriousness of his craving with the avian equivalent of italics: “Want a nut.”

At this point, Pepperberg writes, Alex “became very slitty-eyed, always a sign he was up to something.” He looked at her and slowly said, “Want a nut. Nnn…uh….tuh.” No birdbrain there! Alex had just leaped from sounding out phonemes to spelling out the letters of a whole word.

This vignette is one of my favorites in Alex and Me. It conveys Alex’s smarts but also his sass. Alex was an independent bird with a haughty streak and an entitlement complex. Star of The Alex Project and darling of the media, Alex commanded English to convey one thing most clearly: Boredom was his enemy. Irene and her team of students asked him question after question in a quest to satisfy skeptics with statistically significant results. The whole process just wore on his nerves. And sometimes, as with his pointed n-u-t response, he’d just fly beyond the tests, and leave the testers behind.

Go do yourself a favor and read the rest. It is such a special piece.

March Golden Retriever Orphan of the Month – Coltrane

Coltrane is a 3-4 yr. old Golden Retriever who is a lover! He is a very sweet, obedient dog who likes to hike, run and be around people. He is a wanderer so would do best with a fenced in back yard. He came to Adopt a Golden Atlanta as a stray. Coltrane likes to be in charge, so he would do best as an only dog, or paired with a submissive dog. He is very trusting and loving and will make a great pet to his forever home. For more information on Coltrane and other orphans, please visit Adopt a Golden Atlanta.

Better to hop on three legs than to limp on four

I got the following story tip below from some great folks at Tripawds, a 3-legged tripod dog resource and help center to learn about and cope with amputation, canine osteosarcoma or other dog cancers, and life on three legs.

Their cool motto is: It’s better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.

Please check them out as well as other resources for our challenged furry family members at our foundation site.


I just love this story about Lab-Golden Retriever Mix Comet, a Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) skilled companion dog from Colorado Springs. It is wonderful that CCI provides support to its graduate teams for the lifetime of the dog, as I am sure that they were pivotal in making sure Comet got the best and most appropriate care.

Veren Betzen, 14, pets his service dog Comet after American History class at Russel Middle School. The (The Denver Post, Hyoung Chang)

Veren Betzen, 14, pets his service dog Comet after American History class at Russel Middle School. The (The Denver Post, Hyoung Chang)

Click here to experience an audio slide show that is truly so moving.
It tells the story in an expressive way that I seldom see.

All the particulars can be found in the great article below:

Three legged dog keeps up care for disabled teen
By Michael Booth, The Denver Post

COLORADO SPRINGS — The timeless act of the faithful dog resting his wet nose on his loving boy’s lap is a bit more complicated with Comet and his master, Veren Betzen. First, Comet has to jump over the arms of Veren’s motorized wheelchair. Second — and it’s a heart-stopping second — Comet now has only three legs to propel himself into the lap of a boy whose legs barely work at all.

But Comet would never let down the boy he has served for half of Veren’s 14 challenging years on the planet. So, the golden retriever-yellow Lab mix rears back on two of his good legs and launches his black nose into Veren’s laughing gut. It was mundane a thousand times over before this winter, when a cancer threat nearly put Comet down. Now, it’s a spectacular act of affirmation that tends to draw a crowd.

“I expect medical issues with my son,” said Verlene Betzen. Veren has been poked, soothed, realigned and sutured since birth. “But when it happened with Comet too — oh, my gosh, that was rough.”

Veren has cerebral palsy, largely immobilizing his legs and limiting the dexterity of his arms and fingers. For seven years, Comet picked up Veren’s fallen books and pens, pulled off his pajamas and put on his socks, and closed the back gate on the way to Veren’s grandparents’ house. For a growing teenage boy, is there any higher use of a dog than tugging on a rope to open the refrigerator?

A friend to draw in others
The purpose Verlene initially meant for Comet was to be a best friend for a boy who might always have trouble making others. And the good-natured Comet became the four-legged shill that would gather in school-age strangers made shy by Veren’s ungainly wheelchair and strained voice.

It worked. At Russell Middle School in northern Colorado Springs, a steady stream of eighth-graders come by to bump fists with Veren and snag some love from Comet. They don’t have to talk about movies or girls or sports. It makes Veren smile just to have someone nearby, scratching Comet’s fur-covered stump.

Comet was limping badly on that former leg in November, whining in pain. The Betzens’ vet took an X-ray and saw what looked like cancer on the right front shoulder. Most dogs with osteosarcoma die within six to 12 months. But the vet suggested more work at Colorado State University’s veterinary hospital. Many tests later, Dr. Clara Goh suspected something other than cancer. Amputation would both treat the symptoms and allow for tests on the spots.

Vets can be far more sanguine about amputation than pet owners, and Goh knows that. “We joke sometimes that dogs are born with three legs and a spare,” Goh said. “Right after surgery, they hop up with minimal help and hardly seem to notice.” They worried that Comet, though, might need all four legs to push a door shut or tug that fridge for an after-school snack. And Verlene fretted that the trainers might not consider Comet a service dog anymore, or the school might not let in a dog that wasn’t providing service.

CSU did two weeks of tests on Comet’s leg and eventually concluded it wasn’t cancer. Possibly a stroke in the bone or a focused infection, Goh said; most important, Comet would survive to Veren’s high school years and his own 10th birthday.

If only he can survive the kindness of bored adolescents. Comet’s first move when leading Veren into a classroom is to park his intact hindquarters near the teacher’s desk and beg for a carrot. “He has protein allergies,” Veren explains, “so he can only have simple proteins like carrots and figs. And he likes to sneak things when no one is looking.”

Verlene is a district-salaried paraprofessional now assigned to Veren. While she attends Veren’s social studies work in Karen Peyer’s classroom, Comet alternates napping and taking jaunty hops down the hall. He knows where the other teachers are who keep carrots, and he knows his way back to Veren.

Keep reading here . . . .

Yea, an organic garden at the White House

I originally posted below almost 2 months ago about the Obama family planting an organic garden at the White House. We signed various petitions and today it has been confirmed. There will be a garden!!

First Family To Plant White House Veggie Garden

ABC News’ Brian Hartman Reports: President Obama’s latest shovel-ready project is close to home — in fact, right in his own yard. In an effort to promote healthy eating, the first family will be planting a vegetable garden right on the White House grounds. ABC News’ Ann Compton and Sunlen Miller report that the new White House vegetable garden will be dug up and planted on the South grounds of the White House — near the fountain but out of view of the main house.

Though the 16-acre complex is maintained by the National Park Service, one worker who preferred to remain anonymous assured ABC News that National Park Service staff won’t do the sowing and planting. The White House residence staff will handle that.

As first reported online by food writer Eddie Gehman Kohan, who reports on food issues related to the Obamas, First Lady Michelle Obama told Oprah Winfrey’s “O” magazine, “We’re … working on a wonderful new garden project.”

In the April issue of the magazine, Mrs. Obama tells Winfrey, “We want to use it as a point of education, to talk about health and how delicious it is to eat fresh food, and how you can take that food and make it part of a healthy diet.”

A variety of organic food and sustainable agriculture advocates have been pressing the Obamas to plant such a garden.


1792: Construction on the White House – known first as the ‘President’s House” – begins on what had been a tobacco plantation.
1800: Construction is completed. President John Adams and First Lady Abigail Adams move into the White House as its first residents. Adams plants the first “First Vegetables” but is soon after voted out of office.
1801: Thomas Jefferson takes office, reaps where Adams sowed, and redesigns the garden plan adding a number of ornamental and fruit trees. It is worth noting that some of the first White House gardens, including Jefferson’s, were dug and tended by slaves.
1814: British troops set fire to the house, destroying its interior. Three years of reconstruction and renovations take place which include building the portico and painting the President’s House white.
1825: President John Quincy Adams plants fruit trees, herbs and vegetables to help support his own household.
1835: President Andrew Jackson builds an “orangery” for growing tropical fruit.
1857: Orangery is demolished and a full-scale greenhouse is built.
1902: Greenhouse is demolished and replaced by West Wing.
1918: President Wilson and First Lady Edith Wilson recruit a flock of sheep to mow and fertilize the First Lawn at a time when the country was trying to conserve resources – human, financial and fuel – for the war effort.
1943: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt plants a large Victory Garden on White House lawn over the objections of the US Department of Agriculture inspiring millions of Americans by her example.

1954: President Dwight Eisenhower installs a putting green on White House lawn.
1979: President Jimmy Carter installs solar panels on the White House roof and tends an herb garden.

1981: President Ronald Reagan removes the solar panels and proposes that ketchup be considered a vegetable for public school lunches, a proposal that is lambasted by health officials and the media and quickly withdrawn.

1990: President George H. W. Bush declares the White House kitchen a “no broccoli zone.
1995: Chef Alice Waters writes to President Bill Clinton calling for organic gardens on the grounds of the White House and the Vice Presidential mansion. Clinton at one point responds “send me the seeds,” but soon after gets caught sowing his own wild oats in a scandal that becomes the dominant flavor of his second term of office.


Edible landscapes for all: can you dig it? Yes, you can!

My hubby has planted an organic vegetable garden at our home since 1987, as well as several fruit trees. Our Golden Retrievers have loved it, of course, and often have taken to feeding themselves . . . or trying to dig up the spoils (such as sweet potatoes). The organic yield is unbelievable, but sadly, we are virtually the only home in the neighborhood that utilizes much of our small piece of land (1/3 acre) this way.

The future is going to be more fresh, juicy and delicious than a lot of us realize. That’s because edible landscapes are going to be more integrated into our yards, neighborhoods, towns, and cities in the future than they have in the recent past. To make this happen, though, more people need to be asking for and digging these landscapes. Here are a few things you can do to help:

1) Sign the “White House Food Garden Petitionwhich Eat The View will deliver to the Obamas along with a diverse collection of heirloom seed packets. Eat the View is the citizen-led campaign to plant a large Victory Garden on the White House lawn. (I signed already and it took virtually no time at all.)

2) Identify a landscape near you that you think should be “edible-ized”. Start with your own yard, neighborhood, or child’s schoolyard. You can also ask your elected officials at the state and local level to lead by example. The Governors of Maine, North Carolina & New York are already eating from gardens planted at their official residences.

3) Become a supporter (check out my forum profile page here). Also, grab some great photos or widgets to place on your own webpages and blogs. You can grab photos here and you can get some really cool widgets here. This is our favorite photo.

Learn more about gardening at Kitchen Gardeners International, a 501c3 nonprofit founded in Maine, USA with friends from around the world. Their mission is to empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve greater levels of food self-reliance through the promotion of kitchen gardening, home-cooking, and sustainable local food systems.

Stevie Wonder-ful . . . Final Version


Click here to see the performance.

On February 25, 2009 I provided the post below. But, it was not complete as I was still waiting anxiously for the Library of Congress to add the webcast of their “Sketches of a Life” commissioned piece. Well, it was just posted on its Web site. And, it does not disappoint.

Folks definitely need to take the time out to experience this special gem. Stevie alternates between three different instruments, surrounded by a 21-piece chamber orchestra, surely an event you would not ever expect to see. His early classical training shows through and one sees an artist that can master it all.

Stevie’s commissioned piece is then followed by two delightful encores of “Overjoyed” and a sing-along of “My Cherie Amour.”


Photo by Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press

As Shepard Fairey’s iconic HOPE portrait came to represent Barack Obama’s candidacy for President in 2008, Stevie Wonder’s music and exuberance came to symbolize the the campaign’s soul. His music (songs like “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and “Higher Ground”) was heard at nearly every campaign stop.

Honestly, I think very few folks can resist Stevie Wonder’s music, or deny his incredible talents. Already one of the most decorated artists in pop music history, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with 25 Grammy Awards and an Oscar, on Sept 2, 2008, the Library of Congress named Wonder the winner of its second Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

Monday night Wonder received the award, also performing a new piece commissioned by the library for the celebration.

Stevie Wonder reminisced Monday night about getting “talking books as a little boy from the Library of Congress” before premiering a new song commissioned by the library, which will award him its Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. I didn’t know that anyone would ever ask me to do it,” says Wonder about the instrumental composition Sketches of a Life, which he played on two pianos and his signature harmonica, accompanied by a 21-piece chamber ensemble. He began working on the piece in 1976 and finished it in 1994, the day Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa.

Sketches draws upon his life experiences, including memories of his late mother, Lula Mae. “I can hear her voice, I can hear her joy, I can hear my cry of missing her,” he told reporters before the show in the library’s Coolidge Auditorium. “Those cries are really tears of joy, knowing that we are closer than ever to becoming a united people in the United States.”

The audience of about 450 included Wonder’s wife, two sons and brother, plus members of Congress and the family of George and Ira Gershwin, for whom the award is named. They gave the new composition a rousing standing ovation. Wonder thanked the crowd for influencing him: “You’ve allowed me to see that you’re able to see beyond color and to see into the soul of the heart.”

Wonder’s work had been initially recognized by the Library of Congress in 2005, his 1976 double album, “Songs in the Key of Life,” added to the National Recording Registry. This collection honors recorded works that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.”

In writing this post, I learned that Stevie Wonder undertook the study of classical piano, and later, music theory. Such classical leanings, however, are not surprising.

At the Library of Congress last night, the Motown legend spoke of a longtime “love for classical music” — of listening to Stravinsky, Bach and Beethoven. And then Wonder ambled onstage at the library’s Coolidge Auditorium and gave the world-premiere performance of “Sketches of a Life,” a classical composition that he began writing in 1976, when he was still at the peak of his pop-songwriting powers.

Accompanied by a 21-piece chamber ensemble, Wonder alternated between piano, electric keyboard and his trusty harmonica during a largely autobiographical work in nine movements. His melodic gifts were on generous display during the nearly 20-minute piece, though the chords tended to be darker and more haunting than the ones Wonder usually writes. The music, though, was no less lyrical or soulful.

He’s hardly a classical purist, of course: “Sketches” leaned at times toward pop show tunes and jazz. One movement was something like chamber funk, with Wonder vamping on the clavinet as the ensemble’s sound swelled. Another segment was basically a blues-jazz instrumental, with Wonder taking off on a lyrical harmonica run over piano chords and a swaying beat — all while jazz legend Herbie Hancock nodded his head in the audience.

Still, Wonder seemed comfortable with the form, and even displayed impressive restraint for a newcomer in the classical sandbox, staying away from bombast and saving the musical flyover for the triumphal, regal finale, which was full of horn fanfare.


This video below of Pavarotti & Stevie Wonder additionally shows Stevie’s comfort with classical performers. When asked about his own personal heroes and influences, Pavarotti was included. This song, “Peace Wanted Just To Be Free” from the 1998 performance, Pavarotti & Friends for the Children of Liberia, is just fabulous. Be sure to catch the end where you will see how genuinely moved Pavarotti was by Stevie’s performance.

“The Gershwin Prize was created to honor an artist whose creative output transcends distinctions between musical styles and idioms, bringing diverse listeners together, and fostering mutual understanding and appreciation,” James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, said in a statement. “Stevie Wonder’s music epitomizes this ideal.”

The prize, which was created last year, commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the legendary American songwriting team whose extensive manuscript collections reside in the Library of Congress. The prize is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins. Essentially, it is the pop music corollary to the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The first Gershwin Prize was awarded in May 2007 to Paul Simon.

Tonight, some mighty lucky folks will be able to experience Stevie Wonder and many other performers at the concert, In Performance at the White House.

President Obama might turn a few heads if he broke into song tonight while presenting Stevie Wonder with the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. But Wonder would be unfazed.

During inaugural festivities in January, “I gave the president my harmonica,” Wonder says. “He said, ‘I can’t play this thing.’ But I said, ‘You could do anything.’ ” ….

Wonder remembers discovering George Gershwin through Sam Cooke’s rendition of Summertime. “Later I found out that came from Porgy and Bess, and was amazed to learn about all the different places and genres” his music drew on, and the diversity of artists who embraced it. “You have jazz musicians playing it and opera singers doing it. That’s incredible music.”

President Obama greets Stevie Wonder on Wednesday night during a concert in the East Room of the White House held to celebrate the musician being awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama greets Stevie Wonder on Wednesday night during a concert in the East Room of the White House held to celebrate the musician being awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Thankfully, the concert will be broadcast tomorrow on PBS at 8pm EST. It looks to be amazing. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated Stevie Wonder’s life and music, bestowing upon him the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

In an interview with Rolling Stone last year, the then senator said: “If I had one musical hero, it would have to be Stevie Wonder. “When I was at the point where you start getting involved in music, Stevie had that run with Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Fulfillingness’ First Final and Innervisions, and then Songs in the Key of Life. Those are as brilliant a set of five albums as we’ve ever seen.”

The show features performances from: Wonder, India.Arie, Tony Bennett, Wayne Brady, Anita Johnson, Diana Krall, Mary Mary, Martina McBride, Rickey Minor, Paul Simon, Esperanza Spalding,, and Mary Mary.

This was part of President Obama’s presentation of the award:

So, it is my extraordinary privilege to present the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular song to an artist who has stirred our hearts and our souls for a generation, whose music knows no boundaries, an inspiration to us all.

Stevie has always drawn on the incredible range of traditions in his music. From them he’s created a sound that at once uniquely American, uniquely his own, and yet somehow universal. Indeed, this could be called the American tradition – artists demonstrating the courage and talent to find new harmonies in the rich and dissonant sounds of the American experience.

Tonight’s prize is also personal for me. As Stevie knows, I’m a huge fan. And he has been a great supporter. When I was first discovering music, just like Michelle, it was Stevie’s albums that I found and his songs became the soundtrack of my youth. Through them I found peace and inspiration, especially in difficult times. And I think it’s fair to say that had I not been a Stevie Wonder fan, Michelle might not have dated me. We might not have married. The fact that we agreed on Stevie was part of the essence of our courtship.

And I’m not alone. Millions of people around the world have found similar comfort and joy in Stevie’s music, and his unique capacity to find hope in struggle, and humanity in our common hardships. This gift that music affords us, transporting us from the here and now, relieving us of our burdens, even if it’s just for the length of a song. And this gift given to us by artists like Stevie is something we can all share.

Here is another video of Stevie showing his versatility, in a magnificent duet with Tony Bennett:

Is it a duck’s life or a dog’s life? You decide

Cherry Valley duck Essy...Essy, a Cherry Valley duck on a lead ready for a walk with owner Steph Tufft, 25 and her Staffordshire cross dogs Rachka, two (left) and DD, four, in Bournemouth, Dorset. Photo by Chris Ison/PA Wire

Quackers duck thinks it is a dog

A nine-month-old duck has become a local celebrity in Dorset for her canine capers. Essy, a Cherry Valley duck, thinks she is a dog and even has her own lead to go for walks around Bournemouth.

Owners Steph, 25, and Tony Tufft, 35, take her out with their Staffordshire cross dogs Rachka, two, and DD, four. Mrs Tufft says the duck also goes to the pub and gets “quite put out” if she has to be left behind while the dogs are taken out. “She’s famous throughout Charminster,” Mrs Tufft said.

“She just adores the dogs and is quite the legend in Charminster. She even comes to the pubs with us. She curls up with the dogs to sleep and the dogs are incredibly protective of her, they adore her. “They all clean each other.”

Essy has a bedroom in the airing cupboard but prefers to sleep with the dogs. She also plays in the garden with them and competes for treats.

We know it’s quackers but this fowl thinks she’s a Fido!

Steph, 25, a dog groomer who also makes wedding cake figurines, said she has always loved ducks and they’ve had Essy since she was eight weeks old.

Essy was even at their wedding reception in Cornwall in September as a guest of honour, and was also represented as a figurine alongside them and their dogs on their wedding cake.

Sunbear Squad Watch Tip of the Week: March 15th

The Sunbear Squad has resolved to make a difference for neglected and abused companion animals. They are transforming animal lovers into animal welfare defenders — with knowledge, tools, and inspiration.

Watch Tip: Watch for flooded back yards and cold, wet dogs living in the muck. They may be at risk for skin diseases and sickness caused by drinking bad water.

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