Thursday, July 31, 2008

Run to Save a Shelter

…to offer refuge, medical care, nourishment and an opportunity for a second chance for life to injured and abused animals. To foster a public sentiment of humanity and gentleness toward animals and protect them from cruelty, neglect, carelessness and ignorance. To promote responsible pet ownership through humane education. To enhance the quality of human life with animal companionship. This is FCAR’s mission statement.

The Fayette County Animal Rescue shelter (FCAR) embodies the true nature of the puppy up! spirit. But it has been handed some serious trouble. The shelter, located in Rossville, Tennessee, and started in 1998 by Yvette Gilbert and Delores Provow, sits on 5 acres of private land, owned by Ms. Provow. In ten years they have turned what started as two kennels in a garage into a sanctuary that houses over 100 animals — one of the largest no-kill organizations in the Mid-South area. But recently a neighbor has been making trouble for this successful sanctuary. I interviewed Gina Thweatt, President of FCAR and Ammie Haggard, long-time volunteer with the shelter, and they gave me the lowdown on the problems the shelter is facing.

Apparently a neighbor who has lived near the shelter for as long as it has been in operation began complaining last year of the alleged “24/7” noise made by the dogs. He complained to the County Commission, and when they didn’t do anything about it he went to the Planning (Zoning) Commission to see if FCAR was violating any zoning laws. From their web page, FCAR states: “It is important to note that the previous and current Planning Director determined that FCAR was not in violation of zoning.”

Now the Planning Commission, in spite of its original decision 10 years ago, has decided FCAR is violating what’s called “the R1 Zoning Code,” which is government-speak meaning businesses cannot operate in residential areas. And, despite the fact that FCAR is a non-profit organization, and the Planning Commission has known this all along, they have now decided that FCAR is operating as a business. Gina explained that, “Originally, the owner of the property, when she started the shelter, went to the Planning Commission and asked if she needed any sort of permit for the building or for anything, and she was told no. She went on and built the shelter, and they have never had a question, never had a problem, until this man started complaining.”

In the meantime, FCAR has gone to great lengths to appease this neighbor. They built a privacy fence and planted many trees so the dogs wouldn’t be disturbed by passers-by. They installed vinyl noise-dampening material on a number of the kennel fences. They have even invested in anti-barking collars and put them on some of the dogs, and put music in the kennels.

Gina told me that the claim that the shelter dogs were making noise “24/7” was just not true. And she went on to say, “There are businesses operating within a couple miles of us that do not have any special exception.” As a matter of fact, there’s a Beagle Club (with several dozen Beagles), operating right behind the shelter. They’re a business and have been for 6 years. But when the Beagle Club went before the Planning Commission to ask if they needed a special exception, they were told no. Interestingly, the Planning Commission seems to have no trouble with the noise from the Beagle Club.

The story gets even more exasperating. As President of FCAR, Gina has naturally attended Planning Commission meetings to defend FCAR and point out its many benefits to the community, which the town and the county both enjoy. However, when she stood up at a recent meeting to state her case, she was told to sit down because “she was out of order.” The bottom line? Ten years into its service to the community, FCAR goes before the Planning Commission and “they just automatically say, you’re a business, you can’t operate in an R1 Code, you’re in violation, you must close by September 30th, or Miss Provow will be arrested... FCAR is operating illegally.”

But FCAR isn’t taking this lying down. They have hired an attorney who has already filed an appeal against the Zoning Board, arguing that what the Board did was illegal and they don’t have the authority to shut FCAR down. And he’s going to subpoena the Sheriff and the DA. And since their shelter is being used for the public good, and according to zoning laws one cannot shut down a facility that is being used for the public, their lawyer feels this is a compelling argument in their favor.

Gina did say the County is “acting like it wants to help,” and the mayor said he would offer FCAR some land if they could move. But there are several problems with this, the first being that the facility they have now was designed perfectly to suit their needs. “We have a beautiful facility” Gina said. “We have put in 10 years of hard labor — it is nice, the animals are used to it; the dogs need to stay where they are and not be uprooted and go somewhere else where it’s going to be hard on them. We have a pet cemetery there. We don’t want to move.” She went on — “The land they’re offering us is in a very bad neighborhood, it’s by a landfill, and it’s in a crime-ridden area.” And even if they are given the land? FCAR simply doesn’t have the funds to move and create a comparable facility in the new area.

FCAR doesn’t sit on its laurels all day. Besides its 10 years of rescuing neglected or abused animals, taking them in and rehabilitating them and finding them new homes, and providing a no-kill sanctuary to many who will never be adopted, FCAR also responds to animal cruelty calls. One case in particular has been covered in the news lately — a case involving over a dozen starving horses. FCAR, with the county’s blessing, rescued many of the horses themselves and the rest ended up in a Texarkana shelter. But because of FCAR's current situation, they have been forced to discontinue their animal cruelty investigations altogether. This means, while the calls for help keep coming in, Gina and FCAR “can’t do anything about them except call animal control who will probably pick them up and euthanize them.” They have also stopped receiving rescues, as they are unsure of the shelter’s fate and cannot in good conscience take in more animals at this time.

“We have found homes for between 1,000 to 2,000 animals” Gina said. “We’re a sanctuary, meaning that we have dogs that may never get adopted, but they will live their lives out at the shelter. We never euthanize what some might call an unadoptable dog to take in a more adoptable dog. We have a lot of dogs that may only like us! We play with them, we give them big yards, and we love on them.”

Gina said, “If FCAR has to close down, there will be nobody else to rescue animals in Fayette County and give them a second chance to have a loving home. If we are shut down there will be nobody else out there on the street rescuing these animals that have been abused and abandoned. We really need support from people to participate and volunteer in the race to help raise awareness about homeless animals and help FCAR continue its work. Fundraisers like this and donations are the only way we can remain open and do our work.”

Luke, Hudson, and Murphy will be at the 5k and 1 mile fun-run FCAR will be sponsoring this weekend, Saturday August 2nd at Shelby Farms, and Luke will be participating in the 5k run. If you’re in the area, please come out to the Dog Days of Summer 5k Run to support FCAR. If you’re not in the area, please consider making a donation or writing in support of their efforts.

puppy up! FCAR!

Dog Days of Summer Run link:
FCAR’s email:
phone number and address: Fayette County Animal Rescue
P.O. Box 44, Rossville, TN 38066
Phone: (901) 854-2565
Fax: (901) 854-2202
Shelter Hours: By Appointment

Special thanks to Gina Thweatt and Ammie Haggard of FCAR for taking time to do the interviews.

Blogger's note: Some of you may be wondering, "What does this have to do with K9 cancer?" Nothing, directly. But an animal in need is an animal in need -- whether he suffers from cancer or from neglect or abuse. And sadly, FCAR's story is not an exception. There are many shelters around the country that face similar problems. Won't you please pick a shelter and help? We can't take home every dog or cat we fall in love with (although some of us certainly try), but we can make their lives, and the lives of those who take care of them, a little easier by donating time, money, supplies, and just plain old-fashioned support. And that, after all, is what puppy up! is all about.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Erich Replies

The dog ate my blog! We'll just have to see what comes out.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

YBD wonders

where Erich has been.

Bout time ya quit squattin on yer spurs and started blogging again. What are we payin ye fer?

Hudson, Murphy, and I have been hard at work while you've been away....

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thank You, Emily!

Isn't it wonderful how dogs can win friends and influence people without ever reading a book. — E.C. McKenzie

Emily, a small Border Collie mix, embodied the true spirit of puppy up! Janet Graham, 2Dogs Volunteer Coordinator, recently shared a story about this very special rescue she came to know and love. While this is only the briefest glimpse of Emily’s life, it shows, once again, how the love and inspiration of one dog can change the lives of so many. Janet recently wrote in an email, “My rescue network is vast and I am blessed with amazing friends I have made on this journey. I have worked with Echo White Shepherd Rescue, and one dog in particular. Emily.”

Emmy was pulled from a shelter in Trumbull County, Ohio about one year ago. She was scheduled for euthanasia as she was malnourished at only 27 lbs and had recently been attacked by another dog at the shelter. Someone saw her and called ECHO White Shepherd Rescue, not even knowing if she had any White Shepherd in her or not. The rescue did not care. This sweet girl needed help and they gave it without hesitation.

A friend in Echo who lives near me was contacted and agreed to take Emily, knowing that the dog couldn't even be put on a 5 hour transport — the chance of her surviving the trip to the foster home was slim. My friend, Dee, drove 5 hours and got Emily and took her home. I spend a lot of time with Dee and her pack and have been involved with Emily from the start.

Emily was a stubborn dog. She often had to be forced to eat and only recently started to eat dog food. She HAD to be cooked for — gotta love the attitude. Hours and hours were spent with her, keeping her alive. She had an entire group of angels always rooting her on. We did a photo shoot shortly before her adoption took her to Florida for a calendar that is supposed to be released this fall.

This sweet spirited dog had her ups and downs with weight gain and loss, and many trips to the vet for various issues. Joshica's Planet Canine stepped up when they heard about Emily and donated swim time to help her regain her strength. Through all of this, Emmy gained a fan club of followers who mass e-mailed the latest developments and newest pictures. They sent best wishes, offered encouragement, and prayed ... a lot. They sent her many gifts, including a healing collar and t-shirts to wear. In the beginning, these were to protect her wounds and keep her warm; later they were simply worn as fashion statements. She seemed to enjoy all of the Harley Davidson apparel the best. This amazing group of individuals was given the moniker Emily's Angels. After months of rehabilitation, through triumphs and setbacks, Em finally reached a goal of 40 pounds and was ready for adoption.

This past February, a loving couple in Florida, Lori and Warren, who had been following her story, decided that she was the one for them and adopted her. Dee drove her all the way to Florida and her new start, and cried all the way back to northern Indiana, but knew that Emmy had found her place in this world and would finally be loved and cherished. The gaggle of well wishers, and let's admit it, star-struck fanatics, still received updates and had plenty to say about Emily and her new adventures.

Emmy thrived and loved the Florida beaches. She had found her home at last.

The surprising news came a few weeks ago that Emmy was not doing well. They weren't sure what was happening at first, as she had been walking on the beach, swimming in the pool, and enjoying her life to the utmost one day, and in declining health the next. It was determined that an aggressive cancer had taken over her body.

Lori and Warren were committed to Emily's comfort. Emmy got to make all of the decisions. They had the option of hospitalizing her, but felt strongly that she was happier at home. The cancer seemed so be all over, so putting Emmy through unnecessary medical procedures was not the choice any of us want for her.

Emily’s Angels set to work sending strength and love from all over the country to Emily and to her forever and foster families alike. Sadly, Emily died last week. The cancer was so sudden and advanced that Janet doesn't believe her type of cancer was even diagnosed. In the end, Emmy chose to move on and all her angels could do was wish her well and thank her for what she had brought to their lives. Many commented on how this great love for one dog had brought so very many people together.

Warren talked to me a lot about living in the moment and celebrating Emmy's life. He has taken over 1000 photos of our Princess. Lori and Warren are committed to celebrating her life and gifts to all of us. They are truly the parents that Emmy was supposed to have.

In her memory, all of Emily's friends and extended family will be honoring her, along with other beloved companion animals who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, in a Memorial Service, Saturday at 6 PM at Joshica's Planet Canine .

A press release on Emily's passing reads, "We have all lost a furry friend at one time and know how important it is to be with others who understand this loss. They become a cherished part of our family. We invite you to gather with friends and celebrate the lives of those who are no longer with us. We will offer flowers in the water as a tribute. It is only fitting that we do this near water, which Emily loved so much."

Emily was such an inspiration to all of us. This will be our final gift to her, but in reality, it is Emily's final gift to all of us and to the world. Only Emily could have made this a reality, only Emily could have inspired so many people to be involved and given a voice to so many who had been silenced.

Finally, we want this to be a celebration. We want to celebrate Emily's life and love — a celebration of a "little furry skeleton with giant eyes" who touched our hearts in places that we didn't even know existed.

We are holding this memorial service Saturday at 6PM. For those in the area, we invite you to meet at Joshica's Planet Canine, then drive to the river for the service. For others, we invite you to take a moment and think of Emily and all those who have gone before, remembering them each in your own way.

They will all remain forever in our hearts.

Thanks to everyone who shared Emily’s life and her story:

Janet Graham and her friend Dee
Lori and Warren, Emily’s forever family
The people at Echo White Shepherd Rescue
The people at Joshica's Planet Canine, LLC
The people at Paws 'N Purrs with IMPACT, Inc.; Indiana Mission Pawssible and Canine Transport
And, of course, ALL of Emily’s Angels

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tonight I Reflect...

... on all of the dangers and threats we've encountered to date: a twister touching down a half-mile away, golf-ball sized hail, scorching asphalt, gale force winds, a tree toppling over not too far from our tent, lightening strikes within meters, several bridges of death, feral dogs, teenage kids trying to play chicken with us on the road, a grandmother with Mr. Magoo eyeglasses, Uncle Jesse from Dukes of Hazzard (no kidding!), supersized semis driving recklessly, trigger happy sheriffs, a stalking cattle farmer, venomous snakes ....

I planned for all of them (except Uncle Jesse) yet nothing could have prepared me for what I awoke to yesterday morning. It started out with a spider in the bathroom sink. Sleepy eyed I thought nothing of it at first but upon closer inspection, I realized it was none other than a brown recluse staring up at me.

Now I've watched enough Discovery Channel to know that these spiders didn't just come by their common name accidentally and that made me curious so I began pulling out furniture in the guest house we were staying at. I can't remember much between that and the horrifying reality that came shortly afterwards - we had slept in a place infested with one of North America's most deadliest creatures.

I found them on the shower curtain, in the kitchen cabinets, and a nest with babies behind one of the couches; some I captured in a plastic container and photographed above. It was like a real life version of the movie Arachnophobia. For those who lack familiarity with the brown recluse, they're also called fiddleback spiders because they are readily identified by the 'violin' shaped dark pattern on their cephalothorax.

Relatively small (about the size of a quarter including leg span) but their bite can pack a wallop as evidenced by these photos. WARNING - VERY GRAPHIC. It starts with blistering and ulceration around the wound and can very quickly lead to necrosis (tissue death) and other complications like kidney failure.

The good news is only a small percentage of cases result in that. Medical studies show that if you have been bitten, the wound will become extremely painful and itchy within 2 - 8 hours. Since our encounter, Ive kept constant watch over my boys and am quite convinced now they're fine. However, YBD is still trying to shake off the experience.

Walking "The Plank"

(From Previous Post) But I had to shake it off and keep moving. We've got to make Memphis in a couple of weeks and the best way to deal with dangerous situations is being back on the road.

All throughout Arkansas, I've written about their shoulderless bridges and today provided me with a unique opportunity to show you. In this video, I crossed the Caddo River on a narrow concrete embankment. I've been calling them "Planks" because that's what I feel like walking across them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An Interview with Tracie Hotchner

I had the good fortune to talk with Tracie Hotchner, author of THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know and web and radio host of Dog Talk and Cat Chat. While we talked, she was massaging her dog’s knee. Scooby Doo, one of her two Weimaraners, had recently had knee surgery. Tracie had met with Jody Chiquoine, canine clinical rehab consultant to Luke and The Boys and owner of Fitter Critters and had learned some massage techniques to help Scooby Doo.

I asked her how she became so interested in and committed to companion animal issues. She told me she’s “an investigative reporter who wanted to get facts to people about how to care for their dogs and cats. What are the right ways to feed them, what are the right ways to exercise them, what are the right ways to meet their psychological and physical needs?”

She sees herself as “a consumer advocate for dogs and cats and the people who share their lives … I’m there to tell you the truth. To not be biased, emotional, hysterical. My intention is to be as balanced as possible.” She said she feels incredibly lucky that she has been able to create her radio shows and the web site that goes with them. “They’re a place where people can come and read something that is transparent, unbiased.” The information she provides is based on material she’s researched, and if anybody gives her new information she’s thrilled to learn more. Her point is to be as flexible and knowledgeable as possible. “Nobody has the last word on anything” she said. “If you’re being led down the garden path and sold a bill of goods, I’m there to tell you about that … you need to know what’s being done to your pets and the pets of others in America in the name of something that may in fact just boil down to commerce.”

I asked her to comment of the Menu foods calamity. “You know, I had already written the truth about how pet food is made… Big business definitely has its hooks into places that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.” She went on to say she thought, “The food recall was actually a real blessing in disguise. I think it was the first time that people really stopped and said, ‘What am I putting in that dog’s mouth?’ … I think it saved a lot more deaths down the road and a lot more illness, even for people. None of us was really very clear how little food is made in America anymore and how much [food comes from] countries where they have a completely different value system — be it about animals or about people.”

So, how did she come to know about 2Dogs2000Miles? “…through The Honest Kitchen.” As she was on the road publicizing her books, she gave out samples of their food. Her dogs have been eating The Honest Kitchen food as part of every meal for many healthy years. “It was a way for people to see the diametric opposite of commercial dog food — something virtually unprocessed and completely healthy.” It was the Honest Kitchen’s owner, Lucy, who got in touch with her and said they were providing food for Luke’s dogs. Was there any chance that she could help get the word out about his walk? So that’s how Tracie came to know about 2Dogs and Luke, Hudson, and Murphy.

What is her advice to people whose dogs are about to go through or are going through chemo? The first advice she would give people, particularly those who own breeds that are at higher risk for cancer is, you have to have pet insurance. “You cannot make the decision to have a high risk breed in a vacuum. For an average of $30.00 a month [per dog] you will get up to $100,000.00 worth of any kind of medical care [the animal] needs. In a country where half of all dogs of every breed over the age of 2 are going to get cancer, when people say ‘I can’t afford it’ all I can say to them is you can’t afford not to.” Without insurance “you’re making decisions based on your pocket book. And you always have to say about cancer, if it wasn’t going to cost me anything, what would I do? The answer isn’t always, well, I would lay it all down. It isn’t always that. So my advice would be to anybody with any dogs who haven’t had cancer, get insurance immediately, with a cancer rider.”

Her second piece of advice: “Get a second opinion from another oncologist. Somebody has to tell you what the up side is of giving chemo. The really good oncologists are learning something new every single week. Your own vet doesn’t know it. It’s not realistic to ask your vet to know it. You have to take the animal to an oncologist. You have to find out what you can buy in terms of quality lifetime. They now give drugs that accompany the chemo that basically take away any of the down side in terms of nausea, and all those issues that plague people so badly.”

But, she also made this point: “Are you prolonging a mediocre quality of life? Stop a minute. Let’s talk about quality end of life care — where you stay home all day and feed them steak! Spend the money on steak. Spend the money on drives out to the beach and sit together and look out at the sea. You have to look at quality of life issues. What is it you’re prolonging? Is it quality of life or is it simply life because you cannot bear to let go? You have to put the dog’s quality of life before your own emotions. You have to be thoughtful in figuring out what you’re doing.”

Before we ended our conversation, I asked her to tell me something funny about her dogs, her two Weimaraners, Scooby Doo and Teddy, and her Collie Mix, Jazzy. (pictured above)

“Weimaraners are an extraordinary sort of dog. What would it be like to have a dog that would be totally fine if you left the room? I don’t know what it would be like to not have two, three dogs following me at all hours in any room I come and go from. It’s quite interesting to be a Pied Piper. It’s the nature of the breed. You cannot exclude them. They’re fine as long as somebody is talking to them or touching them every waking hour. Other than that, they’re really low maintenance! With Scooby Doo – if he looks at you and you don’t look back at him, he barks as if to say ‘Look at me!’"

And her Border Collie mix? “She’s a beautiful little dog. But Border Collies rile up other dogs. They bark in this high-pitched, shrill sort of way. They feel they have to alert you to everything going on; they have to go herd the car, herd the people, and the barking makes the other dogs think there’s something up that they should be worried about. Living with an animal on high alert – one eye open, one ear cocked all the time.” No wonder her name is Jazzy.

Very special thanks to Tracie for the interview and for her interest in and support of 2Dogs2000Miles. If you haven’t tuned into her radio show, which is archived on her web site, please do so. She talks with Luke twice a week, during her Dog Talk and Cat Chat shows, and every show offers great advice on animal care. And you can hear Tracie on WLIU 88.5 FM (Long Island University Public Radio) live at 11:00 AM Saturdays (Eastern time) as well as on Sirius Satellite Radio, channel 112.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Memphis, Here We Come

As Luke and The Boys make their way through Arkansas towards the Tennessee border, many exciting events are being planned for 2Dogs’ arrival in Memphis during the first weekend in August.

On Saturday morning, August 2, 2Dogs has been invited to be guests at the Dog Days of Summer 5k event and 1-mile fun run at Shelby Farms Park Conservancy (North Pine Lake Drive, Memphis, TN phone 901-767-PARK) to benefit the Fayette County Animal Rescue . The race starts at 8:00 AM and registration will be from 7 to 8 AM. There will be an awards ceremony that should start around 9:30. One of the local radio stations, Q107.5, is hosting their event and PetCo is one of their Top Dog sponsors. Aside from the awards ceremony there will also be music, a raffle, and prizes, as well as food and refreshments for volunteers and participants. The Fayette County Animal Rescue Center is the only no-kill shelter in Fayette County and, like many no-kill shelters, cares for some animals that simply can't be adopted. Please come out and help support the Fayette County Animal Rescue!

Later that day, 2Dogs will be in downtown Memphis. “Downtown Memphis” has granted us permission to have a ceremonial walk with Luke, Hudson, and Murphy down a section of Main Street that is reserved for pedestrians only. We invite everyone to walk with them. The time of the walk will be at 4:45PM and the starting place will be Main Street and Court Square. Bring your dogs (leashed, of course) and your cameras and enjoy a walk with The Boys.

The culmination of the walk will end at The Majestic Grille, at 145 S. Main Street (901-522-8555), which will be hosting Hudson’s birthday party that evening. Hudson’s party is tentatively scheduled to begin around 5 PM. They have outdoor seating and welcome dogs as long as they are leashed, have had their shots and their parents bring “doggie” bags (you know the kind I mean). In order to get a good idea of how many people plan to attend, please RSVP to Lori at so she can contact the restaurant. Dining will be outside on the patio, dress is casual, all checks will be separate (they accept AMEX, MasterCard, Visa, and presumably still take cash) and there will be no cover charge.

And on Sunday, August 3rd, thanks to the generosity of the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby Country (935 Farm Road, Memphis, TN 38134), we will be hosting several events on their 8 acre grounds, starting around 11:00 AM. We’ll be holding an auction (entry fee of $5.00,) which will include a gift bag of goodies for each entry AND a raffle ticket to be entered into a prize drawing for a terrific gift basket. There will also be vendors — both food and other goodies — so come hungry and be ready to spend some money to help two very worthy causes — 2Dogs2000Miles and the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby Country. There will also be games and demos including the Big Dog Back Pack Agility Race! Rescues and shelters, start selecting the contestants you think can beat the Big Dog in a race on all fours, wearing a small backpack, maneuvering around a short course of cones! The entry fee per participant is a mere $10.00. OK — people, on all fours, with back packs, scrambling around orange cones — that alone is worth $10.00! And remember, the money does go to two great organizations. Bring your video cameras for this one!

Oh, and if you have some goodies you’d like to donate for the auction, or if you’re a vendor, please contact .

Two days of happenings with 2Dogs, Hudson, Murphy, and Luke! We invite you to join in the fun!

Even as all the preparations are going on for Memphis, we're already looking ahead to Nashville, since it's only a little over 200 miles from Memphis. Naturally, we will be holding events there as well. If you’re in the Nashville area and have ideas for venues, possible participants (shelters, other organizations, etc.), please contact Kathy at, 2Dogs’ Volunteer Chairperson. She already has a number of events in the works, but if you need further information or would like to volunteer to help with events, please contact her.

By the way, if you’d like more frequent news, why not sign up for the 2dogs2day daily email? We include not only the big events that are scheduled, but also -- when we know -- we give the latest information on where Luke and the Boys are, what adventures they’re having, etc. Just visit our home page and sign up for the nightly daily. It goes out almost every night, so you’ll be current on 2dogs happenings. Please remember, when you sign up for the Daily, you will get a confirmation email. You MUST "confirm" the subscription, or you will not get it … check your ‘spam’ folder – the confirmation email can sometimes end up there if your server thinks it’s junk mail – which it most certainly is not!

We hope to see you in Memphis for the next border crossing – from Arkansas to Tennessee. As more details become available, I will let you know.

puppy up!

WOW! What A Party! Thanks!

Talk about a party. I’m now seven years old. Notice the candles are in the shape of a seven. Just two days before my birthday, I received the best gift ever; a great report from the vet. To say that everyone is in the mood to celebrate would be an understatement. There have been hugs and kisses galore, music and singing, tasty food and gifts, good wishes and prayers of thanks. We had a great day. My three new foster family pyrs, (Samson, Delilah and Thor) joined the party to make it a special day. Papa made us all a homemade chicken supper and a yummy peanut butter cake for dessert.

He helped me open all my birthday wishes and spent the whole day playing with us.

During all the fun Papa learned a very important lesson. If you sit on the floor in the middle of five Great Pyrenees with peanut butter cake, there won’t be any left when you finally mange to get up. We had a blast!

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes and pictures. I’d love to meet you all, so please come out to see us whenever you can. I know, meet us in Downtown Memphis on Saturday August 2nd for a ceremonial walk at 5pm and Hudson’s birthday at The Majestic Grille restaurant at 145 S. Main Street. That way you can give us both birthday hugs and have your pictures taken with us. See you in Memphis. Until then…Puppy Up! Love Murphy

Friday, July 11, 2008

The People of 2dogs2000miles

I'd like to introduce you to Malea Barber, Director of 2 Dogs 2000 Miles. She’s been a part of this journey even before it was a thought to Luke. As it happens, Luke and Malea met through a pet cancer support group shortly after Luke lost his beloved Malcolm. The two forged a deep and heartfelt friendship through the many hours spent on the phone talking about their boys. Malea had lost her beloved Max, a Rottweiler, to hemangiosarcoma in April of 2001.

Malea has great faith in the mission of 2 Dogs 2000 Miles, and has been a steadfast supporter and spokesperson for the Foundation. We would like to share with you some of her background in her own words:

I live just west of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Animals have always been a very integral part of my life. When I was growing up we had dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rabbits. My best friend had horses and we spent many hours riding. My maternal grandparents had a farm in Northeast Oklahoma, and one of my uncles had a 9,000 acre working cattle ranch, so I have spent my life around large animals as well. When I got out on my own I had to have a furry companion. How could I not after having grown up with so many? My life always has, still does, and always will revolve around animals.

While I adore all dogs, my breed of choice is the Rottweiler. I’ve had Rotties for 25 years, and have trained and worked them in obedience, Schutzhund, and therapy work. I have been an obedience instructor with Tulsa Dog Training Club for 22 years, and have held most every Board and Chairman position with the club. I am a Certified Tester/Observer for Therapy Dogs Incorporated and for a local group, Karing K-9s. Also, I am the facilitator for the Tulsa Area Pet Loss Support Group, and I am a moderator on the Delphi Forums Pet Cancer Support Group chat.

If there is something in the world for me to do that does not involve animals, I haven’t found it. After my Max left this earthly plane, I became a Reiki Master/Teacher in two schools of Reiki. My work involves sending healing energy to animals all over the world, most of which have cancer. Even in my Shamanism studies there is involvement with animals. There is just a deep spiritual connection for me with the animal kingdom.

When Luke decided to form the Foundation he asked if I would take a place on the Board of Directors. Little did I know that I would wind up being an acting Director. I have to say that it is an honor to be in such an active role. It is wonderful to see people become impassioned about what the Foundation is doing, about our cause. What excites me the most is that we are ‘living outside the box’ by looking for the CAUSE(S) of cancer when every other organization is looking for ‘the cure’. Cures, as well as more proactive prevention, will come much more easily once we know the cause(s) of different types of cancer.

In thinking about the mission of 2 Dogs 2000 Miles my mind recalls the symbolism of the badger. Badger symbolizes abandoning compromise and fighting valiantly for what one believes in. So, like Badger, we have abandoned compromise and the dissembling that leads to defeat, and taken a firm, unwavering stand to fight valiantly, openly, and aggressively in what we believe in so that we do not risk losing it forever.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Olivia’s Bass

This is Bass and his little girl, Olivia Brown. Like many little girls, Olivia absolutely adores her dog. Bass is 13 and Olivia only 5, so she has never known life without him.

But Bass has cancer. Specifically, Bass has lymphoma. Stage 4. And that makes Bass a very sick dog. So, a while ago, Bass started chemo. His vet, Dr. Suzanne Caruso-Brown, is also his "mom." That makes her Olivia's mom too. And that puts Suzanne in a very difficult position. "It's hard to be the mother and the doctor, let me tell you ... how do you tell your husband and your daughter that your family dog has lymphoma? My medical mind and my maternal heart are in battle."

But, after discussing Bass' options with one another, Suzanne and her husband Michael decided that chemo was the choice for Bass, for now, as long as they see positive results. It's been a difficult struggle, as you can imagine. One day things look pretty good. The next day, not so much. Sometimes Bass eats, sometimes he doesn't. Instead, he expresses his disdain for his food-of-the-day by burying it under any piece of laundry that's handy. Indeed, despite his disease, Bass still has a sense of humor. So, Bass now gets pretty much what he wants to eat. Grilled chicken? You bet. Arby's roast beef (without the bun, of course) -- why not? Suzanne says they're now cooking for Bass, and he's on a 95% meat diet. Olivia calls it "canned spaghetti and cheese meatballs." It's really his food with his pills hidden in cheese. And who hasn't done that trick before!

Suzanne and Olivia heard about 2dogs2000miles from Malea, the Director of 2dogs, whose own dog Max was himself a cancer patient of Suzanne's some years ago. Reading the 2dogs web site is where Olivia learned the expression "puppy up!" One night Bass got growly while Suzanne was unhooking his fluid line. But Olivia was right there with a "puppy up!" for him. Everyone should have a best friend they can tell "puppy up" to.

For the most part, Bass seems in good spirits. Like Suzanne says, he has his growly days, but that's to be expected. In her updates, Suzanne writes about the different drugs they're trying, and the tremendous progress that's been made in anti-nausea drugs and powerful drugs for pain. Bass is still eating his 'spaghetti and cheese meatballs' and gets his Arby's too. Bass, you really need to demand a nice thick steak!

And now Bass sports a very special collar too, one given to Suzanne by Malea, and tucked away long ago, hoping it would never be needed. It was Max's collar, made for him when he was struggling with cancer. Suzanne writes, it's a "very special black collar with healing stones that belonged to a very special cancer fighter named Max. The stones are a light pink [quartz] and hand sewn on with the greatest detail. He will wear the collar until the end of his fight." It now has a St. Francis medallion attached to it as well. So Bass is both well loved and well attired.

When Bass was first to start treatments, Suzanne had decided he would have to be hospitalized for at least 48 hours after his chemo, for his own comfort and because of safety issues -- to keep Olivia from being exposed to the drugs he's being given. The morning he was to leave for his first treatment, Suzanne had placed Bass' bed in the front hall with her purse, his chart, and her lunch, before leaving for work. "Olivia cried about me wanting to take his bed to the hospital ... in a way she was almost acting like if his bed was here then he would have to come home. She took his bed and placed it on top of ours, then laid on it. She then offered up her blue star blanket instead, making me promise that I would wash it when he was done using it."

The first time Bass came home after his chemo, Olivia made Bass a wonderful Welcome Home sign. And just the other day, Suzanne writes, "Olivia and her sitter made cupcakes and she found a candle to put in one of the cupcakes." (Suzanne notes that this was all Olivia's idea.) "When I got home with Bass she asked us to light the candle and we made a circle on the kitchen floor. Mike and Olivia held the cupcake in the center of the circle. We all joined hands as best we could, with Olivia and I holding opposite sides of Bass' rose quartz collar. Michael led us in a prayer -- (remember, Olivia's idea) -- thanking God for bring Bass to our family and asking if it is His will to make Bass better to guide us with the knowledge to help make that happen. Olivia blew out the candle and Bass got to eat the cupcake!"

As for Bass' name -- Suzanne writes, "My husband is with the Tulsa Police Department. When we first moved to Oklahoma from Boston, so that I could attend veterinary school, he was studying Oklahoma Law Enforcement History. The first black United States Marshal was from Muskogee, Oklahoma and his name was Bass Reeves. It just seemed to be a good, strong, brave name."

And so Bass is!

Olivia and Bass, Suzanne and Michael -- you are the true spirit and heart of 'puppy up!'

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Can You Help Find Errol?

We have something very important to share with you, in hopes that some of you in the area of Meridian, Mississippi might be able to help.

I got an email today from Jonette Jones. Remember when Luke helped with the Applebees’ “Pancakes for Pets” breakfast June 14th? Well, Jonette was one of the folks there as well. She wrote me today asking for our help:

Luke helped at the Applebees’ pancake breakfast here and I'm hoping you can use your site to get info out for us. Donna Hinkle's daughter, Destiny, was headed home to Hope, Arkansas July 4 when she was in a wreck.

Our male Irish Wolfhound, Errol, was in the wreck as well, survived, but got out of the car and into the woods in Meridian Mississippi. We have a massive search underway for him. Please help us. I'm headed to Meridian myself very soon … Donna is in Meridian with her daughter, Destiny, who is doing very well and may come home tomorrow. Here is a link to a newspaper article on the whole situation which may be easier than my trying to tell you. Thank you, Jonette Jones, Destiny's aunt.

The news article describes Errol as: a cream colored Irish Wolfhound wearing an orange collar. He is almost 35 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 145 pounds. He also is micro chipped, which can prove his identity and ownership. Pictures of Errol can be found in his photo album on the Web site:

"Destiny was home schooled," Holmes said. "So, Errol spent every day hanging out with her while she did her school work."

Friends and family have contacted local animal control personnel, police and fire departments, and local veterinarians. They've distributed posters to try to find him.

If you are in the area or know someone who is, please ask them to be on the lookout for Errol.

Anyone with information about Errol should call Hinkle at (870) 703-3118, Amber Holmes (a family friend) at (501) 626-9247, or Jonette Jones at (870) 703-2598.

Thank you all for any help you can provide. Please feel free to distribute this widely. Hopefully Destiny and her best friend Errol will be reunited soon.

Direct link to information about and a picture of Errol.:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Beyond Hope...

... Arkansas, that is. We were greeted by a herd of cattle just outside of Prescott and Hudson now thinks he's a cow whisperer. They seem to follow him whever he goes so there may just be something to that.

Though the pic's a tad blurry, that's my first tick of the trip (NOTE - this is my CALF not my CRACK. Jeez, some people...) YBD's not afraid of much anymore but these little parasites can carry dozens of different diseases, few of them easily treatable. Just read this recent CNN article about a woman's ten year battle with Lyme disease. The good news is if you catch em early enough and get the head, chances of transmission are fairly low.

This is a photo of the pink puffy blossomed Mimosa set against Arkansas' state tree, the loblolly pine. Right now the Mimosa, Magnolias, and Crape Myrtles are all in full bloom. It sure is gorgeous here and it's of no wonder they call it the natural state. Perhaps the only complaint I have is that few of their highway bridges have shoulders. I've been able to manage it since most have been pretty short but they're getting longer and longer like the one at the Little Missouri River (can't wait to meet the big brother - heh!). The only thing that makes it passable is you have visibility for miles and traffic's not too heavy. We're about to come to one that's not - it's arch shaped and so oncoming vehicles won't be able to see me making it too risky for Hudson. I'll go it alone.

The events at Little Rock were awesome! Two TV stations came out to interview us and we were happy to get coverage for the BoxAR rescue group. They have desperately been trying to get traction with the media for years. Unfortunately, the links to the archived video aren't working for some odd reason (we've contacted them but it still hasn't been fixed... ) We have some cool photos of the boys in their red, white, and blue bandanas which I hope will get posted soon.

Lori and Silas drove all the way up from Edom TX to join in the day's festivities and left is a pic of them with Murphy winding down afterwards. They've been helping us tremendously and they're part of the family now. Thanks guys - see you in Memphis!!!

Since Hudson and Murphy snubbed me for them, YBD found himself a mate to snuggle with. Meet Mac, a handsome brendal Boxer, asleep atop YBD. Man can he saw some logs. I could barely hear the television. Do all Boxers snore that seriously?

I wanted to add something to my previous post about volunteering at the Humane Society of Clark County. My experience was great and I had a ton of fun. Your Big Dog must admit he was afraid of getting his heart broken there but it was nothing like that at all. Alyssa had me mending kennels in the morning and that gave me the chance to meet their dogs and boy did they have some beauties: Daisy and Smiley, Duchess' three puppies, Ladybug just to name a few.

In my previous post I neglected to open up about the experience but I was doing some serious introspection. You see, ever since Malcolm, I've always considered myself a hardcore dog lover yet until this trip, I had never spent even a second in a shelter. So personally now, I don't feel one can truly call themselves a cat or dog lover until and unless they help the ones most in need.

So Git off yer butts & volunteer! Ever so lovingly, your big dog

Happy Independence Day Everyone

Unexpectedly I spent the fourth of July weekend in Winnfield Louisiana at the Allen Family Reunion (my mother's side). Had planned on helping Mimi's Rescue out on Saturday but as fate would have it, a series of events occurred that enabled me to take the time off and be with family. And boy am I glad I did.

On Friday, a small contingent of us travelled to Mitcham Peach Farm, a lovely seventy-five acre ranch a few clicks north of Ruston LA. They had finished picking for the day and were closing down but we arrived just in time to purchase a few cartons for cobbler and sample their homemade peaches and cream

Your Big Dog awoke early Saturday to make his famous 'Uncle Luke's Chunky Guacamole' for the occasion. It's a special recipe he's been perfecting for years and thus far, he's converted over a dozen of anti-guacamolians into true believers... it's just that good. And BTW, YBD hopes to do for canine cancer what he's done for guacamole!

We had over 100 friends and relatives show up at the Allen Reunion, the most important to me of course was my mother. That's her flanked on the left by my uncle Jamie and her sister, 'Just Betty',on the right. As most of you know, mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's not so long ago but she did so good at the reunion.

She remembered names and faces and it was such a special day. And afterwards, we stayed up late sharing family stories and she laughed and laughed. The following morning, as she and my father were leaving, she looked at me and told me to take care of the boys and be safe out on the road. For the first time since I left, I felt she knows what I'm doing and why. (Note to anyone who worries about us, YBD always listens to his mother).

Hoping your holiday was just as special... and don't even think about asking for my guacamole recipe :)

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Muttley Crew

OK, Muttley Crew probably sings too, but they're of the four-legged persuasion. Mimi, Co-Host of The Power Morning Show on KPWW FM radio, Power 95 FM (, is the one woman show at Muttley Crew. On her web site ( she writes:

The rescue is operated solely on donations and the income of the main dog-feeder, Mimi. In August of 2006, I left my comfortable 3 bedroom brick home in town and moved to a shack in the country with 5 acres to open a dog rescue. I have probably had somewhere around 300 dogs come through my rescue in the past year and a half. Most of the dogs are rescued from the local animal shelter or intercepted before they get to the shelter. I have a volunteer group that helps with adoption events the first Saturday of every month at Petsmart in Texarkana, Texas. Most dogs have some obedience training and often have received some housetraining. I mainly rescue German Shepherds but often have different mixed breeds too. I also have an email group called The Muttley Email Crew. I email photos and information about dogs and cats (and sometimes horses) that need new homes. The plan is to try and prevent the animals from going to the shelter. You can join that crew by emailing me at

I have applied to Extreme Makeover Home Edition for a RESCUE MAKEOVER! Wish me luck! If you are interested in helping with the nomination, please send an email to me and I will forward details to you:

I like that -- a rescue makeover. Can't you just hear them yelling, "Move that bus!" and seeing all those animals with a new place to live until they find new homes?

Thanks to Mimi and the thousands of other unsung heroes around the country who open their hearts and homes (and wallets) to help animals find new, loving homes. How amazing people can be when given a chance!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"The Humane Society of Clark County" by YBD

Thank you, Erich, for your most recent post but Your Big Dog is quite certain he falls well short of both Messrs. Churchill and Spock. Hudson and Murphy are the real stars - I am, afterall, just the guy carrying their luggage.

I have, however, discovered some new stars along this stretch of the road. Meet Abby. She and her aunt, Mary Sue, came into the Humane Society today for, as they said it, "fun time". They played with the cats and dogs for hours which in of itself is a noble thing but Abby cleaned kennels, too, and took some dogs out to exercise.

On the eve of Independence Day, I can't help but feel that the people I met at Clark County Humane Society are our true unsung heroes. Theirs is a pretty thankless job that rarely gets press and publicity. And it's dirty and gut wrenching, too, but you'll never hear them complain. Alyssa (left), their Executive Director, is an inspiration to me. She's been on the job less than two months, knows the names of all of the animals there, and nothing seems to despirit her.

We here at 2 Dogs 2000 Miles have been blessed by whom Lincoln called the better angels of our nature, yet shelters and rescues see some of the most depraved and indifferent people and that's one of the ways YBD wants to try to help. But this is still all quite new to me and I'm still learning.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Where's Luke?

We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.
-- Winston Churchill

Tomorrow Luke will be rolling up his sleeves and volunteering at the Humane Society of Clark Country in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

I spoke today with Alyssa Haynie, the Director, and asked her to tell us a bit about the shelter, and what she has planned for Luke's day tomorrow. She explained this shelter (like many shelters) is funded by donations and grants , but is a no-kill shelter. She made an important point about no-kill shelters and that is that once a dog or cat is surrendered, its home is with the shelter until it is adopted. This is an awesome responsibility, and Alyssa told me the Clark County shelter has had some animals for years. Currently they are booked to capacity, with 30 dogs and 70 cats.

As for what she has planned for Luke's day, Alyssa told me she hopes Luke will help her with the dogs tomorrow. She has a few fences that need mending and is going to ask Luke to work on those. She said, "I'll keep him busy until he has to leave!" Hopefully Luke will have time to get those fences back in shape. Let's hope, too, that it will be a good day and he'll be able to help with some adoptions as well!

Alyssa is no stranger to dog care. Before she worked for the animal shelter she showed Mastiffs for 10 years. Currently she has 10 dogs of her own: 6 Mastiffs and a Rottweiler, 2 Border Terriers and a Jack Russell, so she has her hands full. She laughed, "I clean up after them here at work, and then I go home and clean up after them there!" With all her dog experience, she's a definite plus to the Clark County Animal Shelter and all the animals who live there.

"It's a lot of work, but I enjoy it -- it's worth it. Especially when you see one go to a new home, it's really worth it."

As with all shelters, they're always in need of volunteers. Volunteers can make all the difference to animals in shelters. More hands mean more love, more attention, and more affection. Luke will certainly have his hands full tomorrow, and I'm sure he'll give every furry head the loving touch and big smile they all deserve.

The miracle is this -- the more we share, the more we have.
-- Leonard Nimoy