The Day of Atonement

Entitled, The Tree of Life, the piece shown here was created by Rebecca Shore. I just love it and thought it was perfect to set off this post about the holiday (be sure to click on it to see a larger version).

At sunset last night began the most sacred day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur means Day of Atonement. The first Yom Kippur took place after Moses returned from his second trip to Mt. Sinai with the replacement set of tablets containing the Ten Commandments. He had broken the original set when he returned the first time to discover the children of Israel worshipping a golden calf rather than G-d, who brought them out from Egypt.

Moses successfully pleaded with G-d on their behalf, and on the first of Elul (sixth month of the Jewish year), he ascended the mountain, this time for a second set of tablets. In Moses’ absence, the nation fasted from sunrise to sunset. Moses descended the mountain on the tenth of Tishri (which falls during the months of September and October on the Gregorian calendar). Upon returning, Moses found the nation truly repentant and announced that G-d had forgiven them. He decreed that the tenth of Tishri would remain a day of atonement for all generations.

Yom Kippur services begin with the prayer known as Kol Nidre, which must be recited before sunset. It is chanted with a sense of emotional anticipation and a centuries-old feverishly moving melody. There is one of pianist, Ben Zebelman’s Kol Nidre Variations that I just love.

I adore what Rabbi Joseph R. Black says about the essence of this holiday.

The truth is, strip away the layers of all of the prayers, the fasting, the philosophy – if you want to know what Yom Kippur is all about I can sum it up in one sentence: “G-d, let us live another year, give us another chance to be more careful in the things we say and do to one another.” Taken in this light, Kol Nidre is a prayer about the fragility of life. It is about our mortality. Our Rabbis taught: “repent one day before you die.” We can never know when that day will come so we must live our lives in a constant state of repentance – as though each day were our last.

Kol Nidre releases us from all that binds us to our imperfect selves. We are released so that we can confess. There is even a confession of the sins of the community. This type of communal confession reminds us that we are not alone either in sinning or in healing. In today’s New Haven Register, Rabbi Steven J. Steinberg offers such a “confession.”

O G-d, on this Day of Atonement we ask forgiveness for these sins:
For willing and ignoring the destruction of our planet.
For praising democracy while suppressing voting.
For being dividers while claiming to be uniters.
For not having universal health care.
For saying “My way or the highway.”
For thinking being a “super-power” means being a warrior and not a healer.
For claiming to speak for G-d.
For choosing medievalism over modernity while claiming to improve education.
For treating government as an evil, not a hope.
For prisons that in number and treatment shame our country.
For allowing corporations to poison the population in the name of free enterprise and profit.
For calling any who seek a better life in this country “aliens.”
For calling any citizens “minorities.”
For all these sins, O Lord, hold us responsible, punish us, make us repent.

I also am fascinated by the Yom Kippur Sermon, “It’s Time for Peace,” written by M.J. Rosenberg. In it he details, The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million,” a new book written by Daniel Mendelsohn. The writer’s search for the truth behind his family’s tragic past in World War II becomes a remarkably original epic – part memoir, part reportage, part mystery, and part scholarly detective work – that brilliantly explores the nature of time and memory, family and history. The Lost transforms the story of one family into a profound, morally searching meditation on our fragile hold on the past. Deeply personal, grippingly suspenseful, and beautifully written, this literary tour de force illuminates all that is lost, and found, in the passage of time.


Why am I not surprised? (Updated)

Hard to believe that I have 35 postings already in my ‘Scott Shields Fraud’ Category. For those unfamiliar with this scam artist, just go here (Trading in on Tragedy for Fame: Succumbing to the Lure of Truthiness) to get the original story.

Scott is no longer behind bars, and surprisingly, it took him no time at all to break the terms of his probation. He was not to leave the state of New Jersey, and was specifically told not to venture into New York City, especially to the Ground Zero area.

But, that is just what he did, a friend of mine almost having a heart attack when he saw him 2 weeks ago at Engine Co. 10 Ladder Co. 10. on the remembrance of 9-11, no less.

Of course, he was busy telling his stories about being the big hero at Ground Zero, lapping up all the attention by having Golden Retriever Theo with him. My friend was able to get photos with his cell phone and then contacted Scott’s probation officer. She was none too pleased.

I’ve learned that Scott has plead guilty to breaking probation, as I am sure he realizes he is screwed due to his continual lying and scamming. I will surely keep folks updated as to the outcome of this breach.

Specifically, Scott is on supervised release for three years, following his prison sentence. No travel is allowed outside the district of New Jersey for the first 60 days. Scott violated his supervised release by traveling to NYC on 9/11. Reportedly, he has admitted to being there and violating his supervised release. After his 60 days (possibly longer now), Scott will have to ask permission to leave the district. I seriously doubt his probation officer will allow him out of the district to defraud the public. So whatever permission he gets may be under false pretenses.

These photos show that Scott just cannot commit to the straight and narrow, continuing to wear rescue-themed costumes and put a rescue vest on his untrained, dog-aggressive Theo. Talk about keeping a low profile . . .

Do stay tuned. I will have more to add on this continuing 8 year saga in a couple of weeks. The wheels of justice turn very slowly and I do not want to give Scott an up on the case by publishing specific information here. When I have heard that his probation officer is okay with me sharing his status, I will do so.


According to self-proclaimed Ground Zero hero, Scott Shields, his Golden Retriever “Bear was the first Search and Rescue Dog inside the World Trade Center. He found the most live people.”

But, wait for it . . . . . . . THERE WERE NO LIVE FINDS MADE BY A DOG.

Of course, that doesn’t stop Scott from telling the lie over and over and over again to whatever patsy he can find.

Fields of Gold

The Golden Retriever Club of Greater Los Angeles Rescue (GRCGLAR) is the oldest Golden Retriever rescue organization in continuous operation in southern California. They have taken in over 2,000 Golden Retrievers since 2003 with an all-volunteer force numbers, over 120 strong in six southern California counties. Although ready to help any Golden in need, the commitment to the neediest cases, the old, the sick and the injured, remains unparalleled in the rescue community.

Folks who are forced to relinquish their dogs due to death, divorce or financial downturn know that GRCGLAR has the experience, knowledge and expertise to make the best possible placement for their dog, and the organization’s stability provides their dog with the best possible safety net and assurances for a lifetime of help and protection.

Enjoy their beautiful video that has been created to provide more visibility for the rescue.

Meet the 1st Golden to win AKC’s Law Enforcement ACE Award

ROBIN IS THE FIRST GOLDEN RETRIEVER IN HISTORY to win the American Kennel Club Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) in Law Enforcement [2009]. This is an incredible feat and we are so proud that Mary MacQueen and her Golden Robin are the recipients. We came to know about Mary’s exceptional work in 2002 when she shared the story of Golden Working Dog-in-Training Buddy, and continue to be amazed by her strong work ethic.

Six-year-old Golden Retriever Robin (Am-Can Ch. Nitro’s Boy Wonder SDHF BISS TDI CGC, Police K-9/Search and Rescue Dog) and Mary MacQueen work for the Salamanca Police Department, the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office, and assist with searches for the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force in Western New York State. In 2009 alone, Robin has been responsible for getting about half a million dollars worth of dangerous narcotics off the streets.

Robin and Mary’s work with the Cattaraugus County, NY Sheriff’s Office includes jail & vehicle searches, school searches, and searches during community festivals. Robin, the first narcotics certified K-9 in Cattaraugus County, is their first to be allowed to search people/students due to his easy going temperament and passive “sit” alert when he locates drugs.

Mary MacQueen and Robin also assist with searches for the Southern Tier Regional Drug task force and Kinzua Search Dogs, a non-profit, all volunteer group that endeavors to locate missing persons. Based in southwestern New York, Kinzua Search Dogs conducts searches in New York State as well as Pennsylvania.

Robin and Mary were recipients of the 2008 Police Officer of the Year award for the Salamanca Police Department. In addition to his work in law enforcement, Robin is also a therapy dog, AKC Canine Good Citizen, AKC Champion of Record, and the recipient of the Golden Retriever Club of America’s Show Dog Hall of Fame title.

When Robin’s busy schedule allows, he also leads local parades, visits hospitals and nursing homes, and makes trips to schools to educate students about the dangers of drug abuse. They say during community events and fundraisers that he can often be seen carrying a donation basket or lunch box filled with candy for the kids.

As shown in the video below, Robin appeared on NBC’s Today Show while at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show with Mary.

At our foundation’s site, get the whole story and learn about this guy’s training that began at a mere 7 weeks of age.

Comparative Veterinary Oncology: Studying Canine Cancers = New Cancer Treatments for both Humans & Dogs

Our Golden Oliver led the way when our site came online in 1997. And, his valiant struggle and loss to lymphoma helped us channel our efforts in more healthful and holistic ways. Yet, even with reduced vaccinations, filtered water, a chemically-clean environment, organic foods, and more, we did not escape a fibrosarcoma diagnosis with our Golden Darcy in 2005.

An Alarming Rate
One in three persons as well as companion animals are developing cancer, an alarming six million dogs annually diagnosed with a spontaneous, naturally occurring cancer. And, over 45% of dogs older than 10 years of age are dying of the disease, as cancer is the leading cause of death in this age group. Cases continue to increase, a recent study indicating that 63% of Goldens will die of cancer. It is believed that the next breakthrough will be in the form of targeted therapy, such as molecular targeted therapy or gene therapy.

Disease Trumps Species: Winning the War by 2015?
The National Cancer Institute Director issued a challenge to cancer researchers to “eliminate the suffering and death caused by cancer by 2015.” Our dogs may be critical to making that a reality. Humans and dogs have been partners for thousands of years, our canine friends quite active in the fight against cancer.

While researchers have a greater understanding of cancer biology, their artificially induced cancers in rodents have not afforded them with much success in human trials.

Yet, as Dr. David Waters, Co-director of the Purdue Comparative Oncology Program indicates, dogs and humans are the only two species that develop lethal prostate cancers. And, the breast cancer that affects dogs spreads to bones, just as it does in women. Further, osteosarcoma, which is the most frequent bone cancer of dogs, presents in the same way as it does for our teenagers. In fact, under a microscope, cancer cells from a teenager with osteosarcoma are indistinguishable from a Golden Retriever’s bone cancer cells.

According to researcher, Dr. Melissa Paoloni, this sharing of genetic signature has been the genomic proof of principle that the Comparative Oncology Program researchers have been seeking.

Comparative Oncology Findings
Researchers have discovered a genetic cancer link between dogs and humans. Jaime Modiano, V.M.D., Ph.D., University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and Cancer Center, and Matthew Breen, Ph.D., North Carolina State University’s Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research, collaborated on this research study. Their findings are published in the journal Chromosome Research, in a special March 2008 edition on comparative cytogenetics and genomics research.

Drs. Modiano and Breen have found that humans and dogs share the same genetic basis for certain types of cancer. Furthermore, the researchers say that because of the way the genomes have evolved, getting cancer may be inevitable for some humans and dogs.

“Many forms of human cancer are associated with specific alterations to the number or structure of chromosomes and the genes they contain,” Breen said. “We have developed reagents to show that the same applies to dog cancers, and that the specific genome reorganization which occurs in comparable human and canine cancers shares a common basis.” More specifically, Breen and Modiano found that the genetic changes that occur in dogs diagnosed with certain cancers of the blood and bone marrow, including chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), Burkitt’s lymphoma (BL), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), are virtually identical to genetic abnormalities in humans diagnosed with the same cancers.

“Interestingly, we found that the same translocation of chromosomes happens in dogs as in humans for the three blood and bone marrow cancers we studied,” Modiano said. Breen and Modiano conclude that despite millions of years of divergence, the evolving genomes of dogs and humans seem to have retained the mechanism associated with cancer, and that the conserved changes in the genomes have similar consequences in dogs and humans. The next step for Breen and Modiano is to use grants received from the National Cancer Institute to start pinpointing risk factors for cancer in various breeds of dogs.

Spontaneous Mammary Intraepithelial Lesions in Dogs—A Model of Breast Cancer was published November 2007 in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. Purdue University research reveals that pre-malignant mammary lesions in dogs and humans display many of the same characteristics, a discovery that could lead to better understanding of breast cancer progression and prevention for both people and companion animals. The similarity between canine and human lesions associated with breast cancer makes dogs an ideal model to study progression of the disease while it is still treatable.

The main form of treatment of breast cancer tumors has been surgical removal. Researchers, Mohammed and Miller, would like to find out if there is a way to identify the lesion early with noninvasive screening, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging. “Once a lesion is identified, it can be treated with hormonal therapy if it is estrogen receptor (ER)-positive, but for low-risk and ER-negative lesions, we can’t do anything but wait and watch to see if it grows into a tumor,” Mohammed said. “With a dog model, we could study these lesions and test different prevention modalities before it becomes a cancer.”

Click here for our foundation’s comprehensive materials on canine cancer.

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Meet our Grand Prize *Golden* Winner!

Golden Retriever Tally & Best Friend Keller

“Keller and Golden Tally (Goldiva’s Tangled Up In Blue CGC) are the world’s best playmates. All they need is a simple stick to have a blast as long as they’re together.” — Photographer Laura Jill Simmons.

It doesn’t get much sweeter than this. Come check out all the winners in our prize-packed contest.

So happy to help Service Dog Gadget

Meet Sharon Wachsler and her Bouvier des Flandres Service Dog, Gadget [9/2009]. Gadget, who is with his partner 24/7, was trained by Sharon to do the following:

  1. Open and shut doors
  2. Turn lights on and off
  3. Retrieve items
  4. Carry necessities
  5. Answer the phone (getting the phone when it rings)
  6. Brace on command, stiffening body to play the Rock of Gibraltar, to steady Sharon after she get up or after Gadget pulls her to her feet
  7. Alert to the stove timer
  8. Alert to people that they are needed to help Sharon in some way

Gadget has worked with Sharon for seven years, trained via positive methods such as the clicker, and provides a critical function for increased independence despite her disabilities. Sadly, Gadget was diagnosed with Lymphosarcoma in May 2009 and then with a Mast Cell Tumor in September 2009. Our foundation’s Cancer Treatment Grant will hopefully give Sharon a little bit of relief, being utilized for Gadget’s chemotherapy treatments.

Check out the following videos that show Gadget and Sharon working together.

Sunbear Squad Watch Tip of the Week: Sept 21st

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 pets without fresh water as warm breezy fall days cause dehydration. Pets without shade are more vulnerable to heat stroke. Be a Good Samaritan for animals.

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

Yes . . . You Raise Me Up

I just love this song by Josh Groban, but this version is truly special. The fact that it is being sung by a young man with Asperger’s, an autism spectrum disorder, after shutting himself in his home for 7 years out of fear, is simply amazing. As a school psychologist and private clinician, I have diagnosed and worked with several youngsters with this disorder, learning to never doubt the inexplicable pockets of talent or intelligence that may lie within.

Scott James reminds me somewhat of Susan Boyle in that no one would have expected to experience such wonderful passion and talent. He has worked for years to get up the courage to audition and I will surely be rooting for him in this season’s X Factor from Britain.

Al Franken’s *Golden Retriever* inspiration – Update

I’ve posted about Al Franken here, here & here, and continue to be so impressed by what he is trying to do in truly making a difference for his constituents. He is a dog lover, of course, as one would expect him to be. A Labrador Retriever guy, in fact.

Contributing Editor Warren Kalbacker squared off with Franken for hours across the comic’s dining room table while Franken’s Labrador relaxed underneath. “He is a thoughtful host,” Kalbacker reports. “He’s intense and obviously opinionated. He’s also physical. He interrupted our sessions a couple of times to wrestle his huge retriever into a headlock.”

It was very hard to learn about his beloved Kirby.

Franken shifts positions and pulls his wallet out of his back pocket and throws it on the coffee table next to a wooden bowl full of fake cherries Franni bought at Target. It’s all chewed up—the work, he says, of the late Kirby, the dog pictured in the Vikings helmet in the campaign slideshow and also framed on the wall in this room. “Now I don’t want to get rid of it, because Kirby did this,” he says, looking at the gnawed wallet. “Because we had to put Kirby down about a month ago. It was awful. He was only 8. He had cancer in his leg, in his bone, and at any minute his bone could shatter. And so I would have cut his leg off—I’ve seen some very happy three-legged dogs—but it had metastasized, so we had to put him down, and it was just awful. You know, it’s the whole family being with Kirby and hugging him while he’s being injected, and it’s the worst.” Franken’s voice is cracking a little. “Let’s not bring it up anymore, because I get upset,” he says, wiping his eyes. “I get really … boy, that was a terrible day. That was a terrible weekend. Really tough. George Carlin once said that anytime you buy a dog you’re buying a tragedy.” He laughs but he has to wipe his eyes again, and again he asks that we move on to another topic, so I ask about what kind of politics he was raised with.

“Great. You go from my dog to my parents. Gimme a second. Sheesh.” Franken takes his glasses off, and Franni comes in and wipes his eyes with her thumbs. She holds his face in her hands and says, “Why don’t you excuse yourself for a minute?”

So, learning that his first goal as a new Senator was to provide Service Dogs for war veterans did not surprise me in the least. He has obviously done his homework and knows how dreadfully expensive (~$25,000 per dog) it is to train these types of service dogs. Hoping to provide hundreds of them to veterans through his bill would be something, for sure.

“Service dogs … can be of immense benefit to vets suffering from physical and emotional wounds,” Franken wrote in a column published in the Star Tribune. “Yes, they provide companionship. But they can also detect changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent to anticipate and ward off an impending panic attack with some well-timed nuzzling. They are trained to let their masters know when it’s time to take their medication and to wake them from terrifying nightmares.” …

The Minnesota Democrat also said there is evidence to show that this kind of program could help reduce the suicide rate among veterans. “Frankly, I believe it is enough simply to improve the lives of those of whom we asked so much,” Franken wrote. “But this program isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. This is win, win, win, win.”

What is also fascinating is how this desire was spurred by his meeting Luis Carlos Montalvan and his Service Golden Retriever Tuesday at an inaugural event this past January, as noted in AL’s OpEd: Al Franken: A wounded veteran’s best friend: A chance encounter inspires my first bill — Legislation making the service dog program more affordable for our troops.

Luis had been an intelligence officer in Iraq, rooting out corruption in Anbar Province. In 2005, Capt. Montalvan was the target of an assassination attempt. Now he walks with a cane and suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Luis explained that he couldn’t have made it to the inauguration if it weren’t for his dog.

As someone who’s spent time with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan on USO tours and met wounded warriors at Walter Reed and Bethesda, I feel a deep obligation to the men and women who have risked life and limb on our behalf.

After I met Luis, I did some research. Service dogs like Tuesday can be of immense benefit to vets suffering from physical and emotional wounds. Yes, they provide companionship. But they can also detect changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent to anticipate and ward off an impending panic attack with some well-timed nuzzling. They are trained to let their masters know when it’s time to take their medication and to wake them from terrifying nightmares.

Service dogs raise their masters’ sense of well-being. There is evidence to suggest that increasing their numbers would reduce the alarming suicide rate among veterans, decrease the number of hospitalizations, and lower the cost of medications and human care.

Veterans report that service dogs help break their isolation. People will often avert their eyes when they see a wounded veteran. But when the veteran has a dog, the same people will come up and say hi to pet the dog and then strike up a conversation.

Two months ago I posted about this special team: Sit! Stay! Snuggle!: An Iraq Vet & his Service Golden Retriever Tuesday.

Like any other golden retriever seeking a treat, Tuesday nudged his owner’s hand with his snout one recent morning and waited expectantly. Luis Carlos Montalvan got up from a chair in his small Brooklyn apartment and walked to the kitchen. Tuesday followed close behind, eyes fixed on a white cabinet. The retriever sat alertly as Mr. Montalvan, an Iraq war veteran with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, reached for a vial of pills, lined a half-dozen on the table and took them one by one.

The dog had gotten what he wanted: When the last pill was swallowed, he got up and followed his master out of the kitchen, tail wagging.

Tuesday is a so-called psychiatric-service dog, a new generation of animals trained to help people whose suffering is not physical, but emotional. They are, effectively, Seeing Eye dogs for the mind.

Tuesday is with Mr. Montalvan at all hours. Taught to recognize changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent that can indicate an imminent panic attack, Tuesday can keep Mr. Montalvan buffered from crowds or deliver a calming nuzzle. Other dogs, typically golden retrievers, Labradors or Labrador retriever blends, are trained to wake masters from debilitating nightmares and to help patients differentiate between hallucinations and reality by barking if a real person is nearby.

“Tuesday is just extraordinarily empathetic,” said Mr. Montalvan, 36 years old, a retired Army captain who received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered in Iraq. “In bad moments, he’ll lay his head on my leg, and it’ll be like he’s saying, ‘You’re OK. You’re not alone.'”

Here are two of the video clips detailing this wonderful working union.

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Senator Franken’s bill, the Franken-Isakson Service Dogs for Veterans Act, was passed unanimously in July, tacked onto the Defense Authorization. However, now it must pass a joint committee to become law.

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Specifically, the Franken-Isakson Service Dogs for Veterans Act will:

  • Pair a minimum of 200 veterans and dogs, or the minimum number necessary to produce scientifically valid results on the benefits of the use of the dogs (whichever is greater).
  • Ensure that 50 percent of veterans participating in the pilot program will be those who suffer primarily from mental health disabilities, and fifty percent those who suffer primarily from physical injuries or disabilities.
  • Direct VA to partner exclusively with non-profit agencies who do not charge for their animals, services, or lodging.
  • Require VA to provide seed money to pay for the first 50 service dogs, and match its non-profit partners’ contributions for the rest of the service dogs.
  • Continue the pilot program for at least three years; the Secretary of the VA must make annual reports to Congress on its implementation; the National Academies of Science is directed to study and report on the program’s effectiveness at the end of three years.
  • The scientific study of the pilot program will study both the therapeutic benefits to veterans, including quality of life benefits reported by the veterans; and the economic benefits of using service dogs, including savings on health care costs, such as reduced hospitalization and prescription drug use, and productivity and employment gains for the veterans.

Sure needed Golden Burt’s story to brighten this sad day

Golden Retriever Burton "Burt"

I just received a funny, quite doggy tale from Scotty Richardson. Scotty actually submitted a prize-winning entry, Goldens ─ Behind Bars, in our very first contest here at the Land of PureGold.  Scotty currently [9/2009] has four Golden Retrievers, and they have all worked up a storm, doing some mighty fine therapy dog work. You must check out his canine comedian tale, “Burton, Killer Watchdog!

Burton is a rescue, or a placement depending on whom is asked. He came to us at 18 months with—issues. With our other “used dogs” we’ve always been able to get them over their quirks. But not Burt. We love him dearly, but Burton was sent to us from on high as a trial. Burton is nearly 9 now, and there is no sign of mellowing.

Burton picked up a habit from our dearly departed “Fecal Gourmet”; Peggy Sue. Peggy Sue got gourmet status from only eating her own turf tacos. Never the other dogs. Perhaps she was afraid of germs? Burton is not nearly as discriminating but twice as sneaky. Mostly he cleans up after Porkchop. This is partly because Porkchop does the “old dog defecation” meaning she has to walk as she poops, leaving a 30 foot trail of little turdlets difficult to find in the grass. A couple of times I’ve watched Burt, hoping to scare him s***less, literally.

Keep reading the tale of Burton here.

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I just received a funny, quite doggy tale from Scotty Richardson. Scotty actually submitted a prize-winning entry, Goldens ─ Behind Bars, in our very first contest here at the Land of PureGold.  Scotty currently [9/2009] has four Goldens, and they have all worked up a storm, doing some fine therapy dog work. You must check out his canine comedian tale, “Burton, Killer Watchdog!”

Burton is a rescue, or a placement depending on whom is asked. He came to us at 18 months with—issues. With our other “used dogs” we’ve always been able to get them over their quirks. But not Burt. We love him dearly, but Burton was sent to us from on high as a trial. Burton is nearly 9 now, and there is no sign of mellowing.

Burton picked up a habit from our dearly departed “Fecal Gourmet”; Peggy Sue. Peggy Sue got gourmet status from only eating her own turf tacos. Never the other dogs. Perhaps she was afraid of germs? Burton is not nearly as discriminating but twice as sneaky. Mostly he cleans up after Porkchop. This is partly because Porkchop does the “old dog defecation” meaning she has to walk as she poops, leaving a 30 foot trail of little turdlets difficult to find in the grass. A couple of times I’ve watched Burt, hoping to scare him s***less, literally.

2 Goldens who survived: A 9-11 Story … & Update

Goldens Hope & Darwin

Eight years ago I featured a story at my site about two Golden Retrievers who survived very traumatic beginnings, and then were met again with tragedy. But, thankfully special love from some truly Golden folks continued to follow them wherever they went.

Nan Schramm told the tale and brought it full circle today with a sad update about her two loves, Hope and Darwin, who will soon be resting together once again.

September 11, 2001 began as a typical one for my husband and me at our apartment one and a half blocks south of the World Trade Center. We awoke to a beautiful, sunny, cloudless fall day and walked our two Goldens, Hope and Darwin.

Hope had been through a hair-raising rescue up near Albany New York as a puppy. She, her littermates, and their mother were found starving to death in a backyard-breeding nightmare.

All of them were rescued by Golden Rescue Operated With Love Statewide and “Hope” was christened thusly, as she was not expected to live through the night. Needless to say, she defied all odds and when we adopted her as an eight-week-old puppy, she had enough spunk for the whole litter.

We got our Darwin from Long Island Golden Retriever Rescue. He had been found wandering Long Island, New York, with no hair. After getting his thyroid in check, he blossomed into the most beautiful male Golden I have ever seen.

On September 11th, they were given their breakfast and fresh water and off we both went to work. All the windows, which faced North into the towers, in our 17th floor apartment were left open. My husband, Eric, who often times worked from home went to his office in midtown. I usually walked to work to my office near Wall Street, but had an early client meeting in the Bronx, north of Manhattan, so off I went.

Read the rest of the story and updates here . . .

Golden Retriever, Bloodhound & Otter unlikely best friends

A little black 18-month old otter named Ottie was hit by a car. He was taken to the Sanctuary on the Sapelo in Pine Harbour, Georgia, a wildlife sanctuary caring for injured animals, where he made a full recovery.

During Ottie’s rehab, which took several weeks, he became friends with Donor, an 11-month-old female bloodhound and Chelsea, a 13-month-old female Golden Retriever. Both dogs are residents at the independent wildlife reserve, where the animals forged their unusual partnership.
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Don’t know who is funnier: Golden Porkchop or her Dad

I just added the funniest tale to my Foundation site’s Golden Oldies section. The author, Scotty Richardson, who has done much therapy dog work, actually submitted a prize-winning entry, Goldens ─ Behind Bars, in our very first contest here at the Land of PureGold. Here is the beginning of Golden Retriever Porkchop’s story:

No, this is not a eulogy. Although Porkchop, now 14 years young, recently suffered a nasty infection. We did fear for her life. Antibiotics cleared up the problem, and we’re happy to report Porkchop is back to being perverse. A true curmudgeon!!

I don’t like eulogies. Make me feel bad. Usually means somebody died. Plus they’re generally inaccurate. All of a sudden somebody you thought was a real S. O. B. is characterized as another Ghandi or Mother Theresa. If you thought so tell the individual before they’re tossing dirt in their faces. Or not. You could just go with the S. O. B. and tell them how you REALLY feel. So I’m writing this instead. A**tribute** to a truly Golden character! Before she qualifies for Sainthood!

Porkchop is the result of a gaggle of loose women gathered—uhhhh—strike that—a loosely organized group of women aptly named “The Divas” getting together for some fun in Texas. One of this group brought along a couple of Goldens to join in the fun at the hotel. Porkchop was one of them. From that first meeting with Porkchop, my bride, Michael knew there was something different and alluring about Porkchop. This was confirmed the first night when Porkchop endeared herself to an unnamed Diva. You see, Porkchop has this little game she plays with—herself. She grabs a tennis ball, jumps up on a bed or couch and balances the tennis ball as close to the edge as possible. She then nudges the ball with her nose **ever** so gently, until the ball becomes a victim of my old enemy, gravity, and tumbles off the edge. Next, reflexes take over. The point of Porkchop’s penultimate polo is to catch the ball before it hits the floor. Hence, a 70-pound dog lunges off the bed attempting to catch said ball. The act of lunging and leaping is cute, unless you’re the hapless Diva upon whose bed Porkchop has chosen to play with herself. Did I say play with herself? That didn’t come out right.

And, here’s the rest of the story . . .

Dr. Wolfelt’s Companioning vs. Treating – Updated

Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., C.T. is an internationally noted author, educator and grief counselor. He serves as Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition and is on the faculty at the University of Colorado Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine.

Dr. Wolfelt is the author of When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing. Affirming a pet owner’s struggle with grief when his or her pet dies, this book helps mourners understand why their feelings are so strong and helps them overcome the loss. Included are practical suggestions for mourning and ideas for remembering and memorializing one’s pet. Among the issues covered are understanding the many emotions experienced after the death of a pet; understanding why grief for pets is unique; pet funerals and burial or cremation; celebrating and remembering the life of one’s pet; coping with feelings about euthanasia; helping children understand the death of their pet; and things to keep in mind before getting another pet.

Best known for his model of “companioning” versus treating the bereaved, Dr. Wolfelt is committed to helping people mourn well so they can live well and love well. His 2009 book, The Handbook for Companioning the Mourner: Eleven Essential Principles, is partly a counseling model and partly an explanation of true empathy, exploring the ways companionship eases grief. For caretakers who work with grieving people or for friends and family just hoping to stay close, 11 tenets are outlined for mourner-led care. These simple rules call for understanding another person’s pain, listening with the heart rather than the head, not filling up every minute with words, respecting confusion and disorder, and relying on curiosity rather than expertise. We love his Companioning vs. Treating model:

  1. Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
  2. Companioning is about curiosity; it is not about expertise.
  3. Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about leading.
  4. Companioning is about walking alongside; it is not about leading.
  5. Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
  6. Companioning is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling every painful moment with words.
  7. Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
  8. Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about directing those struggles.
  9. Companioning is about being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
  10. Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
  11. Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.

UPDATE: Learn more here and now also get a PDF attractive printout of these 11 tenets.


From Mika, We Are Golden

Unfortunately, not as in Golden Retriever. I do love Mika’s last album, but am not so sure what the new one will be all about. This song is the first to come out from his latest CD, The Boy Who Knew Too Much.

A year and a half ago we blogged about Mika and his eclectic debut album, Life In Cartoon Motion, showing Golden Retriever Chunk singing along to the song, “Grace Kelly” …. as this cutie is a Mika fan too! The beginning is too funny as it seems Chunk has some cleaning chores to take care of before he sings. But, watch Chunk tilt his head to and fro to the music. He is especially taken with Mika when he sings those high notes he is famous for. That is when he joins in. It is just too, too funny.

This song from Mika’s first album, Big Girl (You Are Beautiful), is one of my favorites!

The Boy Who Knew Too Much

Veterinary Hospice or End-of-Life Care: An Evolving Field

A fabulous 2009 article, Veterinary Hospice: Ways to nurture our pets at the end of life, speaks well to the delicate issues in this emergent area.

As animal guardians, we must make choices for our pets, but on the whole, the veterinary profession – while excellent at offering medically oriented solutions – is not well equipped to help people make end-of-life decisions. These decisions are fraught with emotions and bring up all sorts of practical, ethical and existential questions. What value do we place on life? Does that extend to animals as well as humans? What constitutes suffering? How do we know when euthanasia is warranted?

It is reported that about 100 veterinarians nationwide offer end-of-life support as part of their regular services, compassionately viewing dying as the final stage of living. A few clinics, including the Argus Institute at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, are dedicated solely to end-of-life treatment for animals. Dr. Nancy Ruffing, a mobile hospice veterinarian in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, feels that “Owners have to have some type of a mental plan for what to do at the end of life, but you have to look at your pet critically when they’re having a good day so you can recognize the subtle differences on a bad day. You really have to be in tune with your pet, and that starts at the beginning.”

There is quite intense debate around the question: To end life or let life end? Dr. Kathryn D. Marocchino, who founded The Nikki Hospice Foundation for Pets in 1996, and has organized two animal hospice symposiums, speaks to this issue. “Hospice to vets means, ‘I will do everything to help you, but I have a quality of life scale, and when the dog reaches a certain number, it’s time for euthanasia.'”

At the symposium, Marocchino says only two veterinarians in attendance had ever witnessed the natural death of an animal. This fact suggests to her that euthanasia is used too frequently and too readily by veterinarians. “They’re not giving death a chance,” Marocchino says. “Euthanasia should be a last resort.”

The majority of people working in pet hospice, however, do believe that euthanasia is a necessary – and humane – tool. Some of them worry that the larger veterinary community, and the general public, will misinterpret the term “pet hospice,” believing that death without euthanasia is a fundamental tenet.

“Hospice is not about replacement of euthanasia,” says Dr. Robin Downing, owner of the Downing Center for Animal Pain Management in Windsor, Colorado. “In 23 years of practicing oncology, I have a fairly high conviction that the number of animals who die a natural death is few and far between. Most animals reach a point where they are actively in distress, and we have an obligation to let them leave while they still know who they are and who their family is. The only time a client has expressed regret to me is the regret that they waited too long.”

The subject of death prompts strong feelings in most humans, and there are no easy answers for doctors or people with pets when confronting an animal’s final days. As the veterinary hospice field grows, it is crucial that practitioners remain open to divergent opinions and values, says Shanan, who this year co-founded the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. “We must humbly accept that the subjective experience of dying is a great mystery,” Shanan says. “Also, we are acting as proxy for the wishes of a patient who is not of our species. It is very easy to err no matter what guiding principle we choose to follow.” …

While some veterinarians may have been providing hospice care for many years, it may not always be labeled in such a way. And, one may have a difficult time in finding practitioners.

“There’s a Catch-22 right now, and that is we don’t have very many people who see themselves as providers in this area, and there are a lot of potential users of animal hospice who have no idea that it exists,” says Dr. Amir Shanan, who has offered veterinary hospice for more than 10 years in his Chicago general practice. “Pet owners don’t ask about hospice services, and veterinarians don’t offer information because, they say, pet owners aren’t asking about it.”

I have aggregated the following hospice-related resources at my foundation site, as veterinary hospice is a critical area to that of Canine Cancer.

  • Dr. Hancock’s Veterinary Hospice Concepts & Applications
  • AVMA Guidelines for Veterinary Hospice Care
  • Dr. Ella Bittel’s Spirits in Transition
  • Dr. Villalobos Pet “Pawspice” Home Care Tips
  • Dr. Villalobos Quality of Life Scale
  • Dr. Anthony Smith: Compassionate Care FAQ
  • Informative Articles & Books on Animal Hospice
  • Dr. Wolfelt: Center for Loss and Life Transition
  • Angel’s Gate Animal Hospice Guidelines
  • Taking a Bite out of Cancer
  • Sanctuaries & Veterinarians Offering Hospice: State Listing
  • Hospice Readings, Prayers & Spiritual Resources
  • (North Texas) Animal Chaplain Services

In viewing dying as the final stage of living, one needs to learn more about these issues … sooner than later. Come and read more and hear from Dr. Jaime Glasser, who, this past weekend, live-tweeted some wonderful insights from the Second International Symposium on Veterinary Hospice Care.

Sunbear Squad Watch Tip of the Week: September 6th

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 pets along rural highways that have been injured by farm machinery during the harvest season. Be prepared to act quickly. Be a Good Samaritan for Animals.

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

Missing my sweet Golden Darcy

Friendship Darcy Makena AX AXJ CGC—or Darcy Girl as I often called her—is no longer by my side. She lost her battle to fibrosarcoma on February 12, 2006, and honestly, I haven’t been the same since.

This is the adorable image that fills the screens of two 21-inch flat screen computer monitors that sit on my desk. It is a photo that I took of an 8-week-old sweet but spunky, mind-of-her-own, haughty, loved by all, beauty of a girl. It is the most appealing Golden Retriever photo I have ever seen, bar none. And, it will probably always be that way.

I try to remember this image instead of the look of the cancer that took her life and literally ate away at her beautiful face and well-being from the inside out. And, I know I need to be thankful for the time I was able to share, with a soul so sweet, that it shined from the inside out.

I just entered this photo in Luke’s 2 Dogs, 2,000 Miles 2010 Cancer “Can’t Keep a Good Dog Down” Calendar Contest. The contest honors and recognizes dogs who have been touched by cancer. Luke is actually walking from Austin to Boston with his two Pyrenees Mountain dogs, Hudson and Murphy, to bring attention to canine cancer.

You can support this organization and honor my Darcy with your vote at the same time. Just click here.

Tedicare . . . Golden Retriever Style

I saw Phoenix Woman’s blog post, Public Option: Tedicare for All, and knew I wanted to create a compelling image to go with the idea.

So, now that we’ve established that what Max Baucus and his insurance-industry buddies want is not what Teddy Kennedy wanted, the question is: What did Teddy Want?

We’ve already established that, too: Single-payer, or “Medicare for all”. But since he couldn’t get that, he compromised by backing the inclusion of a strong public option in whatever legislation came before Congress.  HR 3200 has it. So does the Senate HELP Committee bill. But nothing that Big Bucks Baucus backs has a public option of any sort, much less a strong one.

Baucus is trying to fool us all into thinking he and Kennedy never disagreed on anything health-care-related, when in fact Kennedy and Baucus sparred openly this year over the inclusion of a public option in health care reform legislation.

As both David “Kagro X” Waldman and Jane Hamsher point out,  naming a bad bill after Teddy is an insult to his memory.   It’s better to name the key thing he wanted, the one thing that was non-negotiable to him, after him:  The public option.

My first image, which is free for folks to use and share with others who believe in a public option CHOICE in health care reform, was this cute teddy bear as it so fits the loving nature of Senator Kennedy.

But, then I decided to create a Golden Retriever inspired Tedicare image. What do you think? Click on it to see a supersized version

You can also get some cool items with these images at my foundation’s Cafe Press store. All profits from their sale will be donated to Firedoglake’s campaign for the public option. To check out our Tedicare items, just click here.