Why We Love Cats and Dogs

I was thrilled to discover this fabulous Nature film online as I missed its Feb 2009 debut on PBS. Why We Love Cats and Dogs – Pets and the Human-Animal Bond celebrates the fact that we share our lives with 73 million dogs and 90 million cats, their functioning as best friends and oftentimes the best part of our family. This film delves into these intimate relationships via the insights of  animal behavior experts, evolutionary biologists, veterinarians, and pet owners. It was quite impressive to have Dr. Nicholas Dodman and Dr. Marc Bekoff’s involvement.

Dr. Dodman is Professor, Section Head and Program Director at the Animal Behavior Department of Clinical Sciences of Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Bekoff is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. One of the world’s most eminent behavioral scientists, he has written over 20 books, our favorite being this one published in 2007, that we feature at our foundation store: The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter.

Vodpod videos no longer available.After watching this did I realize knowing about Tripawd Jerry, his parents,  Jim Nelson and René Agredano, dropping everything to travel with him after his bone cancer diagnosis. Jerry’s legacy lives on at tripawds.com, a wonderful support community for three-legged dogs and their people.

Below, is a video that accompanies an interview that Nature did with René regarding Jerry’s final days.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Kennedy AND his dogs … Grieving all the way around

I got to meet two of Senator Kennedy’s dogs three years ago during a second tour at the White House with my Senate pal, Patty Kennedy.
I had originally visited the US Senate in 2000, helping Patty with the publicity of her incredible book, Bailey Bymyside: Golden Lessons for Life (to see some of the lessons from the book, click here).

Senator Kennedy’s dogs were being walked by staff members as he was, of course, busy doing the people’s work. I was told that the Senator brought his dog to work about once a week. And, he brought a tennis racket as well so that he could hit balls for his dog to retrieve and bring back to him.

In the May 2006 Boston Globe Interview, Making a Splash, reporter Susan Milligan speaks to folks not really knowing Ted Kennedy, despite 40 years in the Senate and speeches galore. For, it was when you could catch him playing fetch with his dogs that one could really see him come alive. How disappointing it was that I was not able to see him do just that with his dogs.

Follow the senior senator from Massachusetts, known for beating up tobacco lobbyists and conservative Supreme Court nominees, into his Capitol Hill office – the inner office, the one decorated with a framed, handwritten note from John F. Kennedy as a child, with pictures of Edward M. Kennedy standing alongside Martin Luther King and past presidents – and he quickly morphs into 8-year-old Teddy Kennedy. “Do you know how much I missed you? Do you KNOW how much I missed you?” Kennedy coos at Splash, his Portuguese water dog who has been awaiting his owner’s return from a Senate committee hearing. Kennedy bounces a tennis ball, sending the large, curly-haired canine running around the bustling office before settling comfortably next to the senator.

It was endearing to hear him interrupt the interview to ask Susan if she wanted to see a trick. But, as we all know, our dogs do not always perform on command.

Splash, Susan would like to see the ball, if you would show it to her. Can you show me the ball? Will you show me the ball? Splash. Please. SPLASH. Will you show me the ball? Come on, come on, show me the ball. Thank you. You know I want that ball, and you know I want that ball now. SPLASH. Please. Now you know I want that ball, and you’re not going to give the ball to me? Come on, come on. Look. Show it to ME. Where are you going with that ball? Why are you teasing me? You know I want that ball more than anything in the world. Well, I guess you won’t let me see it.

I was happy to know that the good Senator was enjoying his last months by immersing himself in what he loved best — being by or on the water . . . with his beloved dogs by his side.

I only worry about how Splash, Sunny, and new puppy Cappy will handle his absence, as dog lovers do understand that dogs go through a grieving process as well, as expressed here by behaviorist Jean Donaldson.

It seems implausible that dogs, who bond so strongly, would not feel really bad when someone they’re close to disappears. Now, whether they have the accompanying cognitions that so complicate human grief is something I’m less convinced of. I know people whose dogs have struggled with the loss of a family member (people and dogs), becoming depressed, anxious, lost and rudderless. And I can see how this could be compounded by changes in routine brought on by the grieving process of remaining family members.

And, I am sure that Kennedy’s dogs will be missed on the hill, as he was never hesitant to utilize his furry companions in every aspect of his working life.

Now, lobbyists, staffers and other Hill dwellers say they mourn not only the passing of Kennedy but also he end of a unique chapter in Capitol Hill’s canine history. With their black curly hair, floppy ears and bouncy gait, Kennedy’s dogs became a part of the lawmaker’s nearly 47-year Hill tenure.

Kennedy’s Senate office always had water bowls and tennis balls on hand. Major legislation was hammered out as White House officials patted fuzzy heads and threw balls during meetings. The dogs were known to snooze under committee room tables.

“It’s like the end of an era,” said Kennedy’s former judiciary committee general council David Sutphen. “I find it hard to believe you’ll have another senator with a dog who comes to meetings all over the Capitol. It’s kind of the closing of a chapter.”


Joyce Miller and her new Golden Retriever Joy

Joyce Miller and her new Golden Joy. Photo by Andy Burriss

This news story by Andrew Dys is simply wonderful. I only wish I could see this special pair in person, so lucky to have each other.

Miller immediately fed the limping dog, which Miller described as “looking like a golden retriever but probably has some Irish setter in her.” Miller got some antibiotics for the dog in case the bites were infected. She bathed the dog’s wounds. She put a cover on the couch, and the dog jumped right up there and took a nap.

“This dog just needed a friend,” she said.

Miller is 71. She just had rotator cuff surgery on her shoulder, and the other shoulder needs the same. She can’t lift even a gallon of milk and has to go through physical therapy. She sure can’t lift a big dog. The physical therapist who comes to Miller’s home, Nancy Barbieri, said she was worried the dog was more than Miller could handle. “But I always have trouble getting Joyce to stop helping others and slow down and think of herself,” Barbieri said.

Still, Miller said, “this dog needed me.”

By Wednesday, the dog was following her around the house. The dog hadn’t so much as barked once — let alone gotten into a scrape with man nor beast. By Wednesday night, the dog was sleeping at the foot of Miller’s bed.

By Thursday morning, the dog had moved past following Miller and had taken to sitting in front of her — staring back at Miller. “The dog just looks right at me,” Miller said.

On Thursday afternoon, Barbieri came to give Miller her treatment, and the dog was right there, two feet away, watching the whole thing.

Miller acknowledged that over decades, she has helped almost anything with legs. “Counting a skunk and two rabbits not too long ago, this dog makes 232,” Miller said, referring to the animals she has taken in.

But Miller’s recent health struggles meant no more animals. Until now. “The dog is staying,” said Miller. “I love her. I think she loves me, too.”

Miller petted that dog a lot Thursday. She had no choice. The dog went wherever Miller went. The dog just sat and stared at her. Or stood and stared at her and wagged its red-gold tail.

Miller has already given the dog a name. Because not only is the dog doing better after three days at Miller’s home, but Miller is feeling better. Stronger. More lively.

“I named her Joy.”

A very sad day

It is very sad today as two very close friends are dealing with serious illnesses with their Goldens. Our board member, Marti, is hoping to keep her sweet girl Carly from going into renal failure. Carly has had much to deal with as she has had arthritis difficulties and then weight issues on top of that. So, please keep her in your positive thoughts.

I am also so very worried about our famous freestyling Golden boy, Rookie. This very loving guy, who amazingly has a 15th birthday coming up in January, is dealing with increased symptomatology from his recent cancer diagnosis. My heart just sinks to my feet whenever I read the short updates from Carolyn, as they always manage to speak volumes.

I do know, at these times, that time is always better spent on celebrating the time we have, and remaining in the moment. And, I know that Carolyn is doing just that as she no longer leaves Rookie’s side.

I thought I would make a small clip from footage obtained for our upcoming Gotta Dance Documentary to show Carolyn just how much her special relationship with her little yellow boy, as she refers to Rookie, has meant to thousands all over the world. Listen to the words that Dr. Allen Schoen shares as he speaks to the gift that Carolyn and Rookie have provided so many.

Golden Retriever Paws for Purple Hearts


See 11/18/08 video update here.

Pictured above is Golden Gabe with his latest idea of how to help our veterans. He turned 12 last week and is still making such an incredible contribution. Learn more about Paws for Purple Hearts by checking out the wonderful Fall 2007 newsletter from Dr. Bonnie Bergin’s esteemed Assistance Dog Institute.


Building on the time-honored tradition of veterans helping veterans, Paws for Purple Hearts engages servicemen diagnosed with PTSD in a mission to train service dogs as part of their rehabilitative therapy.  Training service dogs provides
a way for veterans with PTSD to practice emotional regulation and give their days focus and purpose. The dogs help to facilitate social relationships with members of the community since a critical element of training is properly socializing the puppies and practicing their training skills in public.

Paws for Purple Hearts replaces the brotherhood of the military unit in the field with the brotherhood of shared purpose and caring for their fellow injured soldiers.

Dr. Bonita Bergin invented the concept of the Service Dog to assist people with mobility impairments in 1975. At that time she founded Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), the first nonprofit to train and place Service Dogs. After leaving CCI In 1991, Dr. Bergin founded the Assistance Dog Institute.

Under Dr. Bergin’s leadership, ADI continues to break new ground in “Helping Dogs Help People” – founding the only college offering Master of Science and Associate of Science degrees in dog studies, creating the High School Assistance Dog program for at-risk teens, and researching how to teach dogs to read and how to train pups as young as three weeks.

The Assistance Dog Institute is doing such pivotal research work in the training of assistance dogs. I believe the future of this critical field lies in the new information that is being gleaned through the Institute.

Canine Freestyle Fun

You can learn all about Canine Freesyle and about Carolyn Scott, the most famous freestyler in the world here at our foundation’s site.
We also just discovered a woman who freestyles with her dog, who reminded us of Carolyn, as she has taken a rescue dog and developed such an incredible bond with him.

Tina Humphrey puts Chandi, her amazing dog, through her paces for a popular daytime Chat show. Chandi – a bluecroft rescue dog, was rescued by Tina some years ago, before her transformation into the amazing freetyle dog.


This lady has had quite a lot of TV coverage recently and rightly so. Here she is performing at the Crufts Freestyle Heelwork to Music contest at Crufts 2007. This dog should show the world that rescue dogs are capable of great things. Just look how much Chandi loves Mummy.

Honoring Golden Retriever Guide Dog Yosie

Sheila and Yosie

Learn about the powerful bond between a Golden guide dog named Yosie and her appreciative and loving person, Sheila Aspinall. Sheil believes Yosie helped her to recover from cancer.

Sheila Aspinall, 75, says she could not imagine what life would be like without her golden retriever Yosie .The 10-year-old guide dog has been through thick and thin with Sheila who earlier this year had to travel to the Christie Hospital in Manchester daily for radiotherapy treatment on her facial cancer.

Every day between January and March Yosie would wait by the front door until she heard Sheila’s transport arrive, leading her outside and remaining with her at the hospital. Sheila, from Standish, is recovering well and is in no doubt who she needs to thank for her happiness and independence.

Golden Retriever Rusty

I love this little snippet from Susan Fischer about her Golden Boy.

We never imagined our golden retriever would bring so much joy and happiness. His name is Rusty and he is 6 years old. He is absolutely beautiful. Hair like silk and eyes as dark as coal. The love that he gives is extraordinary.

Last year my husband had a knee replacement. When I came home from the hospital, Rusty was wondering where his “daddy” was. Sensing something was wrong, he crawled up into the recliner where my husband sits and stayed there all night. Words cannot express the devotion he has for us. We are definitely joined at the hip.

Golden Bodie is Working Miracles

Bodie Jones is the 2006 Service Dog of the Year. He was trained at the Saint Francis of Assisi Service Dog Foundation in Roanoke, VA., one of many wonderful assistance dog organizations that we have included at our Worldwide Assistance Dog Group Listing.

I tell you, this organization, is so cool. It is hard to stand out when it comes to the selling of wares, and it is always impossible to choose as so many groups are doing great work. But, this group has two items out that you may want to look at.
There are two new “dogs” at Château Morrisette, and both are “dogs for a cause.”

In partnership with Saint Francis of Assisi Service Dog Foundation, Château Morrisette has created LIBERTY and INDEPENDENCE, two new wines that pay tribute to service dogs and their dedication to enhancing the lives of children and adults with emotional and/or physical disabilities. They are providing a percentage of gross adjusted sales to Saint Francis. You can learn more here.

Okay, now back to Golden Bodie. I have a wonderful article to share below. but first you need to go watch a GReat news feature on this boy and what he has managed to accomplish in the short time he has been paired with his companion.

Click here and at the page for the TV segment ‘Power of One: Bodie’ then click on the tiny square photo under the word “Videos”.

Service Dog Works Miracles
Written By Peggy Fox 9 News

We’ve all heard how having pets can be beneficial for children. But there may be no limit to what a pet’s unconditional love can do. Take, for example, the story of a boy and his dog, a dog that appears to be working miracles. Bode is a talented golden retriever. He’s a service dog trained to help people like 11-year-old Jake Jones of Fauquier County, who was born with cerebral palsy.

After going through training, the Jones’ brought Bode home in November. Since then, he’s been Jake’s constant companion. He picks up things for Jake, brings him his shoes, helps him get dressed, opens and closes the elevator door and even plays tug of war with his new pal.

But the most important thing Bode has done for Jake took zero training. And it was a complete and wonderful surprise.Since Jake was two, he’s had regular seizures, sometimes 30 a month. Since they got Bode, he hasn’t had any. Jake’s mother, Lori Jones, thinks Bode’s love has calmed her son’s brain. With Jake not having seizures anymore the family has been able to go places without the constant worry he might have a seizure. And Jake is starting to get a taste of independence.

Goldens and Body Language: My Doggie Says Book

We just discovered a new book about Goldens and body language, written by Fred Haney. It looks to be a wonderful addition, even though this story is tinged with the bittersweet as the depicted Golden in the book died from lymphoma shortly after its publication.

Fred Haney considers himself lucky to have had a pet as sensitive and expressive as Jamie. He’s also fortunate that his work as a high-tech angel investor allows him to spend time in his home office, so that he can observe Jamie, and his other pets, in all kinds of daily situations.

Fred became aware of Jamie’s dog talk when she was about five years old. Realizing that Jamie was expressing herself frequently with her dog body language, he tried to become a better “listener,” which, of course, made Jamie better at dog talk. In his daily life, Fred spends a lot of time nurturing entrepreneurs. He never dreamed he’d be cultivating his Golden Retriever’s communication skills.

Analytic by nature (his Ph.D. is in Computer Sciences, from Carnegie-Mellon University), Fred began to see patterns in Jamie’s messages. In 2001, he started to capture Jamie’s dog body language in a collection of golden retriever pictures. By 2004, he had assembled hundreds of images, and, he began writing brief stories about them. The result is My Doggie Says…

You can see a few sample pages by clicking here, and at Amazon, you can EXPLORE MANY PAGES OF THE BOOK . Just click on the book in the left hand corner of the page that says, SEARCH INSIDE!

Here is a wonderful article that appeared about the book:

Is your dog talking to you?
Probably, says the author of a new book, but you have to know how to listen.
By Melissa Heckscher, Daily Breeze Staff Writer

A golden retriever whose strawberry blond face had grown powdery white by the time she was 12, Jamie (short for “Donnor’s Jameson del Campo”) had a fancy for tug of war, liked to chew on champagne corks and loved — really, really loved — her rainbow-colored stuffed basketball.

How could her owner, Fred Haney of Palos Verdes Estates, know all this? She told him. Well, she told him as clearly as a dog can tell anyone anything about tug of war … corks … or a basketball.

“I’m not saying that I think Jamie is unique among dogs,” said Haney, who recently self-published My Doggie Says … Messages From Jamie, a book chronicling various “messages” from the beloved brown-eyed dog who died just before Christmas, shortly after the book was released in local stores. “On the other hand,” he added, looking over toward his sofa where a framed photo of Jamie sits propped up by a pillow, “she may have had a little more of an inclination to communicate, and it may be partly because we reinforced it.”

In the 90-page full-color book, Haney presents a photo-illustrated guide to Jamie’s every move, bark and whimper. Readers shouldn’t be surprised to see that her missives are the “I’d like to go outside now” and “I want my squeaky toy” sort of statements that don’t require canine-mind reading to understand.

It’s not altogether groundbreaking; but then, Haney didn’t mean for it to be. He only wanted people to learn how to pay attention to their pets. “I think there’s more going on here than people understand,” he said. “You’ve read scientific articles about, ‘Are animals smart? Can animals think?’ And they always conclude, ‘Well, they can’t do a Rubik’s cube, so they must be stupid.’ But I just have a feeling that animals aren’t that far behind us, and maybe they’re a little brighter and have more emotional dimension and intelligence than we give them credit for.”

Haney started transcribing Jamie’s messages about five years ago when he awoke to her standing — her face inches from his — beside the bed he shares with his wife, Barbara. “She made a ‘wuuf’ sound and pawed at the bed,” Haney wrote in the book. “My dog was talking to me!”

Haney supposed that in some canine-to-human dialect, Jamie was trying to say: “Lift me up onto the bed, please.” “At that moment, I vowed to ‘tune in’ to the messages Jamie was sending,” he wrote. And he did. Camera in hand, Haney observed as Jamie played with other dogs, took naps with Okie-Dokie, the family cat, and eagerly tagged along on daily errands. He noticed when she moped over losing her favorite stuffed ball, when she shivered with fear at the sound of thunder, and how she appeared disgusted when Okie-Dokie dragged dead mice into the house.

After five years of watching and photographing Jamie, Haney put together the book. In it, he chose 87 photos and an assortment of Jamie-speak, including “If I lie across the hallway, maybe you’ll stay home”; “I know you’re getting ready to travel; I hope I get to go”; “I’m upset you were away so long, so I’m going to destroy my toy.”

And so on.

“It’s easy to start to think, ‘Well, this animal really has feelings and this animal has emotions and he’s really bonded and connected,’ but maybe all she was about was getting fed every day,” Haney said. “But it felt very similar to a relationship with a person. She was really a part of our family.”

Which made it all the more difficult when last fall, Jamie was diagnosed with lymphoma. She died Dec. 20 at age 12. “She had already gone to two book signings,” Barbara Haney said, her voice wavering with emotion. “And one of the last things our vet said to us was, ‘Well you’ve immortalized Jamie in the book. The timing was almost providential.'”

When Jamie died, the Haneys’ daughter-in-law, Karen, wrote a farewell letter on behalf of the dog. It was a letter “from Jamie,” and it said: “When I got here in doggie heaven, everybody already knows about me because they read the book.”

Jamie’s Rules for a Good Life
• Don’t bark if a “wuuf” will do the job.
• It’s OK to be afraid sometimes.
• Have a favorite toy.
• Share your favorite toy with others.
• Play by the rules even when there’s no referee.
• Get out of the house when you can.
• Chase lizards and squirrels when you can.
• Rest when you’re tired.
• Be gentle with children.
• Ask for the things you need.
• Drink lots of water when you go running.
• Go places where they treat you well.
• Make people feel good when you greet them.
• Be true to your nature.

The Emotional Lives of Animals

What a great book to start out the new year! I’m ordering mine right away. Of course, finding the time to read it with everything else going on will be a challenge.

Based on Marc Bekoff’s years of experience studying the social communication patterns of a wide range of animals, this important book shows that animals have rich emotional lives. Not only can animal emotions teach us about love, empathy, and compassion, argues Bekoff — they require us to radically rethink our current relationship of domination and abuse of animals. Award-winning scientist Bekoff skillfully blends extraordinary stories and anecdotes of animal grief, joy, embarrassment, anger, and love with the latest scientific research confirming the existence of emotions that commonsense experience has long implied. The author also explores the evolutionary purposes of emotions in a wide range of different species, showing how science is discovering brain structures that produce emotions, how we can track an evolutionary continuum based on shared brain structures among species, and how new information is being revealed by noninvasive neurological research techniques. Filled with Bekoff’s light humor and touching stories, The Emotional Lives of Animals is a clarion call for reassessing both how we view animals and how we treat them.

Smarts are going to the dogs – Study shows pooches can put names to faces
By Amy Sacks, Daily News Writer

Calling your dog’s name may do more than get Rover’s tail wagging. Scientists are now suggesting a dog can create a mental image of their owner upon hearing his voice.

“This is a very interesting and important study because it shows us that we really are connected to dogs and they to us,” said Marc Bekoff, an ethologist and biology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Animal lovers have long felt that their beloved canines are able to recognize them. It’s not rocket science, Bekoff said, but scientifically proving a dog can distinguish its owner’s face illustrates that canines are extremely intelligent and emotional beings.

“Taken together with a lot of other data, we see that dogs have very rich mental lives and are not robots – they are thinking and feeling beings – sentient animals who are able to vary their responses to varying stimuli,” said Bekoff, author of “The Emotional Lives of Animals

There’s more……

Pulling on those Heartstrings

Dog sat at owner’s grave – Journey to cemetery a mystery since home about 7 miles away
By Peggy Mishoe, The Sun News

Two days after Eartha Bodger was buried in a cemetery in the Duford community, Luther Enzor spotted a starving little dog lying on her grave. “She was so thin, you could count every rib,” said Enzor, who lives nearby and was gathering straw when he saw the dog. Someone told him the dog was Bodger’s, but Bodger had lived more than seven miles away, so it seemed impossible.

Enzor tried to coax the little golden retriever off the grave, but she wouldn’t budge. For several days in October, he and his grandson, Christopher Enzor, fed her and tried to get her to go with them. “She was skittish of us, and she never left the cemetery,” said Christopher.

One rainy day, Enzor and Christopher built a shelter, picked her up and put her under it, but as they were leaving, they looked back, and she was on the grave again. She was still there in the days following. “I felt so sorry for her, I didn’t know what to do. I just could not leave her there,” Enzor said.

Finally, he picked her up and took her home. Christopher named her Biscuit and made an adoption certificate for her. They thought she had mange, but instead she had insect bites all over her body. So far, Enzor has paid more than $600 in veterinary fees for her care. Now she is healing, gaining weight and having fun with his two big dogs. And when Christopher, who lives nearby, makes one of his frequent visits to his grandparents, she gets to play with him, too.

Paula Bodger of Loris said it is indeed her mother’s dog, though how she found her way to Eartha Bodger’s grave is a mystery. Eartha Bodger raised the dog from a puppy. She named her Sunshine, loved her and took good care of her, Paula Bodger said. When her mother unexpectedly died and was taken to a Mullins funeral home, Sunshine disappeared.

“It’s kind of strange to me,” said Paula Bodger. “I’m so happy that little boy’s got the little dog. It was a miracle from God that his granddaddy found it for him. That little boy has my heart. I’ve got him in my prayers, and I’ll always be thinking about him and his little dog.”

Sunshine, now called Biscuit and about 10 months old, was taken back to the cemetery for the first time recently.

There’s more . . . .

Angels are Everywhere

This little beauty is Georgia, furchild of celebrated Bailey Bymyside author, Patty Kennedy. Patty has had to deal with much sadness in the last couple of years; yet, she wouldn’t take no for an answer when Darcy was ill, then helping me get her to Virginia for an MRI to determine the extent of her fibrosarcoma.

Darcy left my side in February and sadly, after a May 2004 diagnosis at age 2 of lymphoma, sweet Georgia left her family’s side this past July.

Both Georgia and Patty are special angels, and they came to mind when I received the story below.

Angels are Everywhere

Some of you may know that our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month (8/23). The day after she died, my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to G-d so that when Abbey got to heaven, G-d would recognize her. She dictated and I wrote:

Dear G-d,
Will you please take special care of our dog, Abbey? She died yesterday and is in heaven. We miss her very much. We are happy that you let us have her as our dog even though she got sick. I hope that you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and swim before she got sick. I am sending some pictures of her so that when you see her in heaven you will know she is our special dog. But I really do miss her.

Love, Meredith Claire
ps: Mommy wrote the words after Meredith told them to her

We put that in an envelope with 2 pictures of Abbey, and addressed it to: G-d/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Mer stuck some stamps on the front (because, as she said, it may take lots of stamps to get a letter all the way to heaven) and that afternoon I let her drop it into the letter box at the post office.

For a few days, she would ask if G-d had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had. Yesterday, for Labor Day, we took the kids to Austin to a natural history museum. When we got back, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch. Curious, I went to look at it. It had a gold star card on the front and said “To: Meredith” in an unfamiliar hand.

Meredith took it in and opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers, When a Pet Dies. Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to G-d, in its opened envelope (which was marked Return to Sender: Insufficient address). On the opposite page, one of the pictures of Abbey was taped under the words “For Meredith.” We turned to the back cover, and there was the other picture of Abbey, and this handwritten note on pink paper:

Dear Mer,
I know that you will be happy to know that Abbey arrived safely and soundly in Heaven! Having the pictures you sent to me was such a big help. I recognized Abbey right away. You know, Meredith, she isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me–just like she stays in your heart–young and running and playing. Abbey loved being your dog, you know. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets!– so I can’t keep your beautiful letter. I am sending it to you with the pictures so that you will have this book to keep and remember Abbey.

One of my angels is taking care of this for me. I hope the little book helps. Thank you for the beautiful letter. Thank your mother for sending it. What a wonderful mother you have! I picked her especially for you. I send my blessing s every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I am in heaven and wherever there is love.

Love, G-d, and the special angel who wrote this after G-d told her the words.

(As a parent and a pet lover, this is one of the kindest things that I’ve ever experienced. I have no way to know who sent it, but there is some very kind soul working in the dead letter office. Just wanted to share this act of compassion

“The Bond”


This is a senior Golden Bullet and Troy, the baby brother that he saved some years back. Some folks would say that it was beshert, which means fated or destined, as Bullet almost did not live to be around that day when Troy stopped breathing. He had needed surgery and Pam, his mom, had taken out a loan just to be able to have the procedure done.

Well, I learned of another tale today, that shows the power of the human-canine bond, that was also beshert. a woman taking in an abused 2-week-old pup and nursing it back to health — that dog recently returning the kindness by saving her life.

Click here and watch a video clip that tells about this incredible tale.

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Golden Harley Needs his Story to be Heard – Update

I have been busy getting the word out on Harley’s story. I would like to thank all those who have donated to Harley’s fund. It is heartwarming to know that people care. Dr. Randall called me today concerning Harley’s blood work. She was pleased to say that it was normal. Harley is doing well. I try to take him for a ‘ride’ in the car almost everyday. It is one of his favorite things to do.


Sadly, I have bumped up this posting due to the limited response it has generated. I have also contacted the local television stations in Texas and some national media in hopes of their bringing more attention to the story. Andrea has made contacts as well. But, no one seems to be interested. If anyone has any media contacts or ideas about how the local folks in Texas or even National media can learn about this story, please do try to make something happen for this guy, shown here with Andrea.

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

A recent article in the San Antonio Express-News (http://www.mysanantonio.com/salife/stories/MYSA111406.1P.harley.200c571.html) detailed a very special boy who has been cheering up wounded Iraq soldiers at the Brooke Army Medical Center, despite the diagnosis of a brain tumor.

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

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

The Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists ( http://www.gcvs.com/oncology/index.htm ), who provided cutting age therapy for Harley, are among the top veterinary oncologists in the country, also offering very valuable clinical trials as part of a network of National Institutes of Health ( http://ccr.cancer.gov/resources/cop/ ) researchers.

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

We recently were contacted by Andrea Hanssen, who shared her inspiring story of Golden Harley. We are hoping that the following article brings needed publicity to the cause and to the Helping Harley Fund. Please do share the article link with all of your family and friends, and then have them visit Harley’s page ( http://harley.landofpuregold.com) at my site.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Enjoying Leaves and Life


The photo above shows off the very first entry in the recent SWEET GOLDEN SMILES contest of ours. Entitled, “A Glowing Golden on a Sunlit Autumn Afternoon,” it shows off 3-year-old Azure’s Raging ‘RIVER’, beloved Golden of Maggie McGovern, from Brockville, Ontario Canada.

And, this photo below shows off (IF YOU CAN FIND HER), 10 1/2 year old Golden girl Briggitt (or more formally Can. CD Hilltops Bridge of Friendship UD AXJ OA). Her Mom Ruthie from Oak Park, MI calls the image “Where’s Briggitt?”


I’d love to share more of these fall photos of our leaf lovin’, life appreciating Goldens. If you think you’ve got something wonderful to share, simply send it to me at the following address (blog at landofpuregold dot com). My favorites will get posted here at the blog throughout the fall season.

The following article does a great job of summing up this living life to the fullest attitude that our beloved Goldens employ. And, even though it fails to provide a photo of Golden Webster, I think we all can pull up those images evoked.

Scott Free: Even the family dog has a lot to teach us
By Scott Peterson, Editor in Chief, Lake Country Reporter

His huge nose twitches eagerly, drinking in the smells of the autumn day. It seems to intoxicate him. If a dog could have a season, our golden retriever, Webster, would have autumn.

A dog as big as Webster is a magnificent creature. I have never owned an animal that was so strong and fast, and yet so loving and gentle. When we are out raking leaves, there is a new sparkle in his eyes, his tail waves his enthusiasm and the smells seem to invigorate him.

He stands at attention, all 90 pounds majestically pointing into the wind. The aromas seem to capture his imagination, as if he were building pictures in his head based on each of the millions of scents that tickle his senses.

He is quite docile, but his smooth coat and muscle tone give hint that he is a powerful animal. It’s hard not to admire him. Once his ancestors were wild, but through careful breeding, today he is man’s best friend. He loves his family with the deepest conviction, but his heart belongs to the outdoors, and this season that passion is at its zenith.

Bounding through the snow, rolling in the grass or slopping through the mud, there is no time when he does not belong. But he delights in burrowing his head into the leaves, wrestling with his adoptive family in the piles, romping off with fallen twigs and just being out there with us in that crisp air.

He was built for this. He dashes around the yard as if he cannot get enough of it. His thick coat, too hot for summer and maybe not quite thick enough for the worst of winter, is ideal for the chill of fall.

Read more……