Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Unsung Hero's of Washington State Rescue and Recovery

This face speaks volumes
A true testament to the essence of dog.

In this March 27, 2014 photo, a search dog waits to be washed by the feet of Washington National Guardsmen after working the debris field created by the mudslide near Oso, Wash. Some 70 Guardsmen from across Washington have been activated to help with search and recovery efforts in the mudslide's wake.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Winnie's Happily Ever After

A great big "thank you" to those of you that have patiently been following my erratic blog! I thought I would do a Winnie update before 2014 got too far away from me.
Winnie showed up on the radar again in August of 2013. For those of you not familiar, Winnie is the pit bull terrier that crawled to my doorstep and collapsed back in the summer of 2012. She was bloodied, exhausted and scared. She had tire marks on her back from being hit by a car. Her face, neck and chest had the suspicious bites, scars and injuries that come from being used as a bait dog.

This photo was taken shortly after we met.  She wouldn't even look at me when I tried to take this picture It still makes me sad to see it.
Winnie was not spayed and had given birth fairly recently when she came to me.  She treated her toys like babies and would whimper and coddle them.  It was heartbreaking.  It took a little over 2 months for Winnie's body and psyche to heal. I had come to love her so much but I knew I could not keep her. It was time to find her forever home.
Many people fell in love with Winnie but no one was able to adopt her. She went on a couple of meet and greets but she wasn't the right fit. My husband and I were leaving for a trip and I had to place her before we left.  I was getting nowhere. I had done all the usual things, lots of networking, posters, friends of friends but no luck. The situation was down to the wire. I had to find somewhere for Winnie by the weekend. It was Friday and I had no leads.  Pat McIntosh (Winnie's social media person) put out a desperate plea on Facebook. Kate Wolfson founder of California Pit Bull Rescue responded and offered Winnie a place at her booth during the Pet Food Express Bay Area Pet Fair and Adoptathon in Marin. It was all very last minute.  I scrambled to get Winnie's records and shots. I had her chipped the morning of the event. Pat brought her Ipad with Winnie's story loaded on it and off we went.  We were there for 3 - 4 hours.  Winnie was so good. There was so much going on. Lots of dogs, people, noise etc. I could tell Winnie was getting tired and a bit stressed but she soldiered on.  She had a few semi interested inquiries but nothing promising. I was feeling discouraged -  then we met Lisa. Lisa walked with us and asked alot of questions. I was skeptical about her intentions because of all the earlier disappointments. Lisa read Winnie's story on the Ipad and seemed to really be moved. I still didn't think she was serious but the next thing we knew Lisa was filling out the paperwork to foster/adopt Winnie.  Lisa later told us that she was not planning on adopting a dog that day but something about Winnie's story touched her deeply.
Divine Intervention?
My friend Karen and I, drove to Lisa's home with Winnie's beds, toys and food. Karen and I were a mess of tears. We said our goodbyes then Lisa and Winnie went for a walk.  Winnie never looked back.                                                                                                 
This photo was taken by Kate Wolfson founder of California Pit Bulls the day she finalized the adoption.

Winnie and her new mom!

I kept in touch with Lisa. She let me babysit Winnie once when she went on a family vacation. It was so good to see her.  Winnie had been well taken care of. I knew that Lisa devoted all of her time, energy and resources to Winnie. She worked with trainers, had a dog walker, and did basically everything a good dog mom would do. Life was finally good for Winnie. Then in August of 2013 Lisa met hard times. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she was forced to start looking for a new home for Winnie.  Lisa was devastated.  Winnie was a very loved, confident, healthy and happy girl because of Lisa. Lisa had given Winnie a new life - A great life - but now we were all worried about her future.

Enter into the story Beth.  Beth was a jogger I had crossed paths with on the trails. She would occasionally stop to meet the dogs of the day and make conversation. During these encounters I learned she had 2 male pit bulls and had recently lost her beloved female pit bull Mookie. Her eyes would well up with tears when she spoke of her. She had lost her in January of 2013 and she desperately missed her girl.
I saw Beth on the trail shortly after Lisa's call in August. As Beth jogged by, I took a chance and asked if she was looking to add to her family. To my shock, she stopped and said "maybe". She asked for the details and I told her Winnie's story. Beth was cautious with her response. She didn't want to give any false hope. She wasn't sure if she was ready yet and she wasn't sure how her 2 male pit bulls would react but she promised to consider. We exchanged numbers. A few days later I received a text from Beth saying she had talked it over with her husband and she would like to meet Winnie. My heart soared with the news!
Beth and Winnie's first meeting

Beth spent at least an hour with Winnie and Lisa that day. It was a very emotional experience for Beth. Winnie looked alot like her female pit bull Mookie that had died in January and this introduction brought up alot of memories. I could tell that Winnie knew Beth was sad. (Winnie has a way of reading people).  Winnie stayed by Beth and was so calm. It was very sweet. Beth felt the connection but she needed time to do some soul searching. She wanted to make sure she was up for the commitment. It was not a decision she was going to make lightly. Lisa respected Beth's wishes. Lisa was committed to keeping Winnie as long as she possibly could to find Winnie the right home.
A week went by and Beth asked if Lisa could bring Winnie out to the park again. Beth wanted her husband Craig to meet Winnie. Lisa agreed. Winnie was so happy to see Beth. She gave her a hero's welcome. Winnie had everyone wrapped around her little paws that day. Craig adored her. They decided they wanted to give Winnie a try.
Now the hard part.   How would Winnie get along with the 2 male pit bulls?
Beth and Craig wanted to make the introductions slowly over time. They were going on a trip and didn't want to rush the meet.  They decided to wait until they returned.  They would be gone for 2 weeks.
When they returned things started to fall apart.  The adoption was put on hold. A month or so went by.  We had no other leads. Lisa was in a desperate state. She reached out to Beth again. Beth wasn't sure the time was right but she talked it over with Craig and they decided to go forward.
Beth and Craig put everything on a fast track. They set up the introduction with their big boy Guapo. I was so nervous about that meet but I understand that Winnie and Guapo did great. There was one lip curl from Winnie but Beth and Craig felt that they could manage her. One step closer.....
We were now into November. Beth and Craig spent their Thanksgiving Day digging post holes - building a fence so Winnie would have her own area.  They were serious! Here is a photo of Craig standing in front of the fence built for Winnie

such a lucky girl!

The fence was close enough to being finished by December and Lisa was out of time. The day had come that Lisa would have to hand Winnie off to her new family. It was very difficult for Lisa but I think she knew in her heart of hearts that this was a blessing. Still it didn't make it any easier to say goodbye....
Beth had Winnie's homecoming all set up. Winnie would sleep with her in their own room. Beth took off work so she could be with her and help her acclimate to her new life. Winnie had still not met Rabbit the other boy. He was recovering from surgery so they kept everyone separate. Once Rabbit recovered from surgery they introduced them slowly. They started doing neighborhood walks separately and gradually started walking them all 3 together! I understand that Rabbit and Winnie are playmates. He is wild and loves to play and she loves his energy. Guapo and Winnie have a different relationship.  They respect one another, play sometimes and other times they just hang out. So far so good!  Beth and Craig are very happy to have added her to their family. They are devoted to her and very much in love. I don't think anyone could take Winnie away from them at this point!  I could not have scripted a better outcome.
Winnie reached her destiny with a lot of help from her friends.  Nancy Sidebotham drove Winnie to  Dr Jenny Taylor at Creatures Comfort the day she came to my door. Dr Taylor gave Winnie the very best of eastern and western care. Her staff put a flyer up at their front desk and collected donations for her ongoing treatment. Pat McIntosh donated social media and offered her home on weekends where she, Greg, and Lexie helped nurse Winnie back to health.  Ruth, Diane, and Vanessa at Paws and Claws put posters up and gave discounts for Winnie's food and supplements. My husband, brother and sister in law were front and center with everything from financial to moral support. Others gave their time distributing posters. Contributions came in from Jackie Conlin, Lydia Day, Karen LeTourneau, Linda Harris, Corinne Lambden, Christopher Burnharte, Monique LeCoe, Elizabeth Rago, Susan Cohen-Stuart, Donna Jeanne Manguiat, John Byal, Lynn Zeller, Meigs Matheson, Heather Dean and Randy Rosenberg. If I have misspelled or forgotten anyone please forgive me. Winnie brought out the very best in so many people. The love and compassion that each person  gave in her name is a testament that there are more good than bad people in this world. Because of all of you this is not just Winnie's happy ending but OUR collective happy ending too...

Guapo      Rabbit     Winnie


Monday, February 18, 2013

Presidential Pooches.

President Obama and Bo

It's Presidents Day. A day to commemorate the life and work of our past Presidents.  We thought it was just as important to pay tribute to the four legged ambassadors that have been by their side. Here is a glimpse into the life of their dogs.

Roosevelt and Fala out for a ride.

Herbert Hoover and King Tut

President Warren Harding and Laddie Boy

Lyndon Johnson and his singing partner, Yuki

President Kennedy and his Welsh Terrier Pushinka

The First Family and their pups.

Nixon and the infamous Checkers.

Ronald Regan and his Bouvier Lucky.

Gerald Ford and Liberty.

George Bush Sr. and Millie.

George W. Bush and Barney

President Bill Clinton and Buddy share a moment.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Winnie's Happy Ending

Kate at california pit bull rescue sent this photo taken Saturday 2/02/2013 of Lisa and Winnie.
I hear they are both madly in love with each other (Winnie's expression says it all)! I just love that little girl and am so happy she has found her forever home! A BIG "THANK YOU" to all who followed Winnie's journey. Your love and support made this happen.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Winnie Takes a Test.

Sara Scott, DPTD,owner of What's Up Dog Training, and her assistant Scott, came over to meet with Winnie last Sunday and to perform a temperament test. The goal of the test was to determine Winnies reaction to different "stressors" and to, generally speaking, get a reading on her psyche. Team Winnie (Pat McIntosh my social media expert and dog lover; Karen my lifelong friend; and myself) watched with pride as Sara pulled, prodded, pinched and generally rough housed this sweet little girl. My eyes welled up with tears as I watched Winnie getting confused, but continuing to tolerate these strangers and their actions. As I had hoped, she passed with flying colors!

Touching Winnies ears inside and out.

Sara judges Winnie's reaction as she pinches the pads of her feet mimicking the feeling of someone accidentally stepping on her.

Generally fussing with her mouth.

The next part of the test involved food. Sara placed a disgusting, but apparently delicious, bowl of canned food down for Winnie. Just as Winnie was in full on food nirvana, Sara took it away from her, gave it back to her, and continued to take it away again. Winnie's reaction, of rather lack of reaction, was perfect! YAY Winnie!

The Food Test

Next came the fun part... play! Sara pulled out some toys from her bag of tricks. The goal was to see how Winnie plays, how aroused she gets, and how quickly she can settle down.  Winnie was having a blast! Tail wagging, she was full of fun. She was a bit mouthy, according to Sara, but with a soft mouth. Nothing to be concerned about, but something to fine tune. Sara also felt that someone had teased her with their hands, so I have been given a couple of exercises to help her understand that a fast action towards her face is a good thing and not a slap!

Winnie at play.

I'm ready!!

Ok, I'll tug on this if you want me too!

Testing her tolerance and her bite.

Winnie, happy as can be.

The last part of the test was the most anticipated (for me). Interacting with another dog. Sara brought her dog Mikey a female pit mix. Her assistant, Scott, paraded Mikey around Winnie from a distance, getting closer and closer at a very relaxed pace.  Winnie was very interested and enthusiastic, but to her credit, not confrontational. She just wanted to sniff that butt and Mikey was sweet enough to let her do it! We all let out a collective sigh of relief (I imagine Mikey did too)!
So to wrap this up, it is my understanding that at this point, Winnie would probably be best with an experienced dog owner. Cats and small children would be a challenge, and not because she is mean, but because she gets excited and wants to play play play. Other dogs would probably be fine, but as with any dog, it is important to introduce them properly and to supervise their interaction at all times in the beginning.
These observations are my interpretation of what took place on Sunday. When it was all said and done, Sara simply confirmed what I already knew... Winnie is a love, and if given the chance, will make a house a very happy home!   Sara has promised to send me her evaluation in writing and I will gladly share it with all of you.
A big thank you to Sara and Scott.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Winnie's Tale.

On Thursday August 30th this poor creature was abandoned and found her way to my front porch.  It is said that dogs find you, you don't find them. If that is true than this little girl, torn and tattered, must have known that my home was a haven for 4 legged creatures. 
At first glance, and being my optimistic self, my mind and heart were hoping that she had her own people, had become lost, perhaps in a fight or hit by a car. But after a visit to my vet, they saw her wounds for what they were... She had been used as a bait dog. 

Restrained and helpless, her mouth taped shut to render her unable to bite her attacker, she was a living tool used as bait in order to train the fighter dogs how to fight...and kill.
In the early stages of fight training, bait dogs become the prey. With every defense mechanism stripped away, they're rendered completely helpless. Their mouths are taped shut, their legs are bound, and their bodies are restrained. Then, they're thrown into a ring with another dog... who has been trained to kill them
I was sick to my stomach. Like all of us, and especially being in the business I'm in, I have seen the news,read the stories, and been appalled by the plight of the Pitt Bull. But nothing prepares you for the harsh reality of golden eyes looking into your soul and reaching out for help. Despite her wounds, broken scapula, and tire tracks on her back,  there she was licking my face and showing a human creature, the very species who betrayed her, pure love. 

With her wounds tended to, a bright new collar, a new name, and a warm bed to sleep in, I started spreading the word.  Having a menagerie of my own, and boarding my four legged clients, I was only in a position to keep her for a short time. She would need time to heal, and I was determined to keep her out of a shelter where I was certain her will to survive would be for naught. My campaign was fast and furious, Social Media spread the word in my small community and donations started coming in. After being so shattered by the dark side of our species, my heart filled with gratitude for those who came to the rescue. Donations are allowing her return visits to the vet, an upcoming appointment to be spayed,the necessary shots, and a temperament evaluation by a trained behaviorist. I want to give her the best chance possible to start a new life in her forever home. 

 I have managed to find foster care for a couple of weeks, but the campaign for her adoption continues. Sadly, simply by the predetermined prejudiced of her breed, finding her a permanent home is a daunting task. All the right adjectives describe her perfectly: loving, sweet, quite, gentle, playful, and with a strong desire to please. If these were attached to a photo of a Golden Retriever or Labrador, the phone would be ringing off the hook. But mention Pitt Bull, and her plight becomes a strong one. 

Please help me in finding Winnie the love she so deserves in return for the heart she is willing to open and sound of her wagging tail. Pass this on to everyone you know and reach out where you can. You can read more about Winnie's updates on my Facebook Page
You can also contact me, Coleen, at 510-908-1680

Winnie and Greg, her foster Uncle.

Good night kiss.

What am I supposed to do with it now?

Please, just shoot my good side!

Every girl needs a bit of bling.

Is that biscuit for me?

Thursday, July 5, 2012


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