Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Tail of Two Dog Friendly California Cities


We woke up early Saturday and as we were perusing Facebook with coffee - we came across some information that changed our plans for the day. Jessi and I live outside of downtown Sacramento, just a quick 10-minute drive to central downtown or a five-minute walk to the river, depending on what we are looking for. Today, we decided to head out to the neighboring city of Davis because the college was having their popular (at least locally) plant sale. Their student nursery is right next to the U.C. Davis Arboretum, a place I’ve wanted to explore, but never made the time. Today was the day.

We jumped in the car and took the 20-minute drive out to Davis, stopping for coffee at the local Dutch Bros (a favorite West Coast coffee stop) where Jessi got lots of attention, much to her excitement. When we arrived at the plant sale it was mildly busy and incredibly well organized.
Like most of Davis, the campus is very dog friendly and Jessi and I walked around looking for some new and interesting plants for the yard. After making a couple of selections we walked back to the car and tucked away our purchases. With the shopping done, it was now time to play!

The Arboretum is right next to the nursery so we walked on over and were amazed! The paths are a mix of tiny crushed rock and paved options with gazebos, tree groves, gardens and several big expanses of lawn. Lots of squirrels running around to draw Jessi’s attention and adoring walkers who like to stop and chat - with the offering of lots of ear scratches and pets. Jessi loves making new friends when we go out so we spend a lot of time stopping and talking with people.

 After spending an hour wandering around, it was time to head back to Sacramento to meet up with friends for brunch at one of our favorite spots.   Just half a block from Capitol Park, de Vere’s has a patio that runs across the front of the restaurant that makes it great for people watching while enjoying time with friends.
 The staff is attentive and nice, making sure we had a water bowl for Jessi and a good mix of English and American food for the rest of us. http://deverespub.com/?loc=Sacramento

Jessi made the rounds to say hi to everyone before settling down to alternately watch passersby and nap. By the time we were ready to leave she was ready to spend some time in Capitol Park, which is one of my favorite places -- even after working downtown for years.

The Capitol is planted with native California trees, shrubs and flowers – there are citrus trees interspersed with redwoods and interesting shrubs.  

Around the Capitol we always keep an eye out for a sighting of the First Dog of California Sutter Brown. This time we didn’t expect to see Sutter as he continues to recover from a serious surgery. With the whole state pulling for him he has recently returned home and we hope to see him out on walks as he continues to get better!

We took a few extra minutes in the rose garden that sits along 16th street and is my personal favorite, although Jessi was not as fascinated with the varieties in color and type as I was. As we wandered back to the car, I realized we don’t spend nearly enough time downtown together – often choosing to go out to the Auburn trails or spending our time on the miles of riverfront trails that are close to our house or even going on trips up north to visit family.

We had a really fun time trying something new and meeting up with friends to share the stories or our adventure. We always look forward to trying out some of the new places that keep popping up as Sacramento continues to expand its farm to fork movement.

Want more dog friendly ideas for exploring Sacramento? 
Great ideas here -- http://dogtrekker.com/Destination/Sacramento_Capital_City

 Kaitlyn MacGregor is a dog-loving communications professional and a Sacramento native.  She and Jessi, her 10 year old springer spaniel mix Jess take advantage of the California capitol’s dog friendly venues and great weather!



Monday, October 17, 2016

Halloween Costumes for Dogs -- Trick or Treat?

If you’re anything like me, autumn brings excitement for crisp, cool weather, cozy sweaters and pumpkin flavored everything. If you’re like my husband, you are concerned about your Halloween costume at the first sign of the foliage turning orange.

This is our first fall with Tessie, and she is loving the season. It’s no longer too hot for morning walks, and she enjoys lounging on patches of sun in the back yard peppered with fallen leaves. The hubs is a big fan of getting decked for Halloween, and he suggested the three of us dress up as a trio for trick-or-treaters. 

Personally, the idea of dressing up always seems good in theory, but I usually lose interest before I make it to the store. This year seems different, though, now that we have our little girl who hasn’t experienced the holiday with us – or at all, since she was rescued from Thailand earlier this year. Channeling Carrie Bradshaw, I took to my computer because I couldn’t help but wonder…do dogs even like getting dressed up?
My first Google search brought up a blog by Tara Parker-Pope for the New York Times, which referenced an article from The New Yorker on the very subject. Nice, I thought, I’m a good doggie parent for considering Tessie’s emotional well-being. The New Yorker piece asked Alexandra Horowitz, the author of “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know,” what our pets might think of being capped, zipped and Velcroed. Her response: “Inasmuch as I can speak to the experience of any animal (including members of my own species), my answer is “The dog, he does not like it.”

Yikes, not what I want to hear. Over the summer, I stumbled on a set of red, white and blue sweat bands for her.

As a new American citizen, I was sure she wouldn’t mind showing off her new national pride for Independence Day and the Olympics! She hated the headband, which I respected, but she didn’t seem to mind the bands around each of her paws. Earlier this month, the autumn spirit brought me to purchase a pumpkin-themed bandana, which was just darling paired with her new denim collar. Again, she seemed unfazed.  

With Halloween just around the corner, we’ve discussed a few costume possibilities. I liked the idea of dressing up as Scarecrow, the hubs as Tin Man and Tessie as Cowardly Lion, a la the Amazon commercial. But without Dorothy, this scenario fell flat. Then there was Tessie as Chewbacca and we would be Han Solo and Princess Leia, except it felt disingenuous since we’re not really Star Wars fans.

Then, thanks to a coworker, we landed on The Addams Family: Gomez, Morticia and Cousin Itt.

This creepy and kooky trio is currently the frontrunner, but it is contingent on finding comfortable accessories for Tessie. A wig seems out of the question, but it might work with doggie sunglasses and a hat…unless she’s going to hate us for festooning her for our own entertainment (well, ours and also the adorable trick-or-treaters we’re sure to impress.)

Thankfully, Horowitz also has some encouraging words for me and any others out there considering the same:

This is not to say that it is entirely torturous for your pet…Thoroughly domesticated, having put up with human behavior and its attendant silliness for something on the order of fourteen thousand years, the dog may suffer some costuming gladly…He gets your attention, and probably an extra round of liver treats. Aside from the liver, there is little as nourishing to a dog as the attention of his owner.

This weekend I visited a friend and spent some time with her dog Sable. When I took a seat on the kitchen floor to better connect with Sable, my friend did a double take. “I’m a dog person now,” I bragged. She smiled, knowing I was hesitant on welcoming a dog into our house. Tessie has since won my heart, and dressing her up for Halloween isn’t about making her look foolish; it’s about making her part of the family. And Horowitz’s assessment is enough of a blessing to give it a go.

Maria Poulos Pimentel is a New Jersey transplant now settled in New England.   Maria works in marketing and publicity by day and snuggles with her sweet collie/shepherd/husky Tessie by night. She was a reluctant dog owner at first, but she's quickly learning the ropes and discovering all the joys of doggie parenting. Maria will be sharing more of her adventures in dog love with PawsGo.

Do your PawsGo trick or treating?  Tell us your story!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Teaching "Old" Dogs New Tricks

Agility -- Great for Dogs and Their Humans

When I tell friends about my new hobby, I often get confused looks – the equivalent of the way your dog cocks her head and perks up her ears when she has no idea why you just made some kind of nonsensical noise.
“Daisy and I are getting into Dog Agility,” I tell my friends, with excitement.

 “WTF is Dog Agility?” my friends’ eyes say in response.

 “Sorry, you might not know what dog agility is,” I explain, “but I promise you’d know it if you saw it – you’ve probably seen videos of dogs running through a series of jumps, tunnels, hoops and obstacles, almost like horses doing a steeplechase.”

This usually creates the visual and some understanding, but I’m pretty sure people still have no idea how fun it can be to work with your four-legged best friend to run an obstacle course.

So let me tell you.

It’s really, really, really fun.

And you really, really, really need professional help and instruction.

I’ve been taking dog agility classes at a local training facility – Woofs Dog Training Center – with my Australian Shepherd mix, Daisy Sue, for the last six months. Our instructors required that Daisy first pass a basic obedience class, which was also quite fun.

 Getting started in agility can feel slow – feeding your dog a million treats just for sniffing an obstacle or touching it with her paw. But even early on, the communication with your dog starts to deepen. My husband noticed, within a few weeks, that Daisy was looking at me and following me around the house in a new way – we looked more like a “team” than ever before (and I’ve had her for more than six years!).

 Three series of classes later (each course lasts seven weeks and meets for one hour each week), Daisy and I are able to complete a course like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdQ6wm1eskg

Daisy is also running through tunnels, jumping through ‘tires’ and scrambling over A-frames. In our next class, we’ll tackle the super-cool category of weave polls!

Daisy is one of the older dogs in our classes – she’ll probably never become an agility champion, because she simply won’t be as fast as the younger dogs.
But, you know what? I don’t care one bit. For one hour each week, Daisy and I are learning together, bonding, and I am grinning from ear to ear – while also getting a decent workout of my own! For us, the rewards of agility training are immediate, lasting and don’t require a ribbon or trophy.

Daisy likes agility so much -- she has her own outdoor course!!

Jean Card is a writer and dog lover living in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband Noel Card, their dog Daisy Sue, foster dog Savannah and their two cats, Ricky and Lucy.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

PawsGo to Work-- Every Day Should be Take Your Dog to Work Day!

Tessie Goes to Work

I am lucky enough to work for an organization that allows dogs in the office. They encourage it, actually. As a newcomer to both the office and this doggy parenting stuff, I wouldn’t have even considered bringing Tessie to work. But by popular demand, I brought her with me about three weeks after she trotted into my life.

She did great at the office, but I did not. At this point, we were still getting to know each other and I was worried she was going to take off like she had from our house two weeks prior. To allay this fear, I hooked her leash under my desk leg, giving her plenty of room to move around my office cube.

As I typed away, I wasn’t aware she was silently chewing her leash, almost severing it completely. Obviously she didn’t love being tethered to my desk, and I was a nervous wreck letting her run loose in the office. The whole thing was too stressful, so I decided to hold off on Tessie’s work visits for a while.

Tessie on break
Fast forward to July. She’d been with us for five months and the hot summer weather forced my hand. But by now we had bonded, she hadn’t bolted, life was good. I was going to give the “bring your dog to work day” another go.

To my relief, it went great – for both of us. Tessie was excited, sniffed around a bit, but ultimately she settled nicely right next to me. Unless I had to get up to go to the printer, in which case she needed to escort me every single time. Coworkers oohed and ahhed over her, enjoying the new doggie in the office. This time around, I had faith the office door would stay closed, but also that Tessie wouldn’t take off if it didn’t.

Taking Tessie to the office has also allowed her to socialize with other dogs. Enjoying the company of fellow pups hasn’t been her strong suit, to say the least. We’ve been working on it, and meeting Ollie, my co-worker’s adorably fluffy Australian Shepherd-Bichon mix, proved she was making progress. Tessie was skeptical at first, as she is with most dogs, people and things, but she and Ollie co-existed nicely in the office, one would even call them friends. I was a proud momma.
Tessie and her work friend Ollie

This experience has me thinking about the concept of bringing a dog to work and why companies allow it. According to research by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, about 20 percent of all U.S. companies allow employees to bring their pets, mostly dogs, to the workplace. I was surprised this number is so high. I always felt pets were a distraction – an adorable one, of course – but one nonetheless. Weren’t we at work to do, well, work?

 Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012 found that employees who were around dogs in the workplace reported feeling less stressed than employees who have dogs but left them at home. The same study also found that pets triggered workplace interactions that would not normally take place. Tessie is proof – several of my coworkers who wouldn’t typically stop by my desk swing by to say hello to my pooch.

Bringing her to work, even if it is once or twice a week, has definitely brought me closer to my coworkers. I’d almost feel left out if I didn’t have her! Her sweet face brings smiles and melts away stress, if only for the moment. I didn’t know I would enjoy having her in the office so much, which could also be said for having her in my life.

Maria Poulos Pimentel is a New Jersey transplant now settled in New England.   Maria works in marketing and publicity by day and snuggles with her sweet collie/shepherd/husky Tessie by night. She was a reluctant dog owner at first, but she's quickly learning the ropes and discovering all the joys of doggie parenting. Maria will be sharing more of her adventures in dog love with PawsGo.
 Do your PawsGo to work with you?  Tell us your story!!


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Virginia is for DOG Lovers

PawsGo to the Dog-Friendly Williamsburg Farmers' Market

One of the greatest things about having a dog is – they are always up for an adventure.  Whether you’re going on a hike or exploring an historic landmark, they are always game!
My sister and I recently joined her 14 year old Shiba Inu, Akira, for a morning adventure at the farmers' market in Williamsburg, Virginia. 


As we drove into Colonial Williamsburg, Akria knew something exciting was about to happen.  Tree lined roads gave way to a colonial thoroughfare – Duke of Gloucester Street, or DoG Street, as the locals call it.

The Williamsburg Farmers' Market is located on DoG Street in Merchants Square and is bustling on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.
The market was opened in 2002 – 303 years after the City of Williamsburg was founded as the Capitol of the Virginia Colony (1699 if you don’t feel like doing the math).
In addition to lots of dogs –the market features locally grown and sourced items ranging from fruits and vegetables to seafood and of course dog treats! 

Live music and delicious baked goods make it a great place for a Saturday morning snack or breakfast.

Feel like hanging around for lunch?  Lining Merchants Square are plenty of dog-friendly shops and restaurants, including the DoG Street Pub, with its adjacent dog-friendly tasting room, that’s right, your dog can join you while you’re tasting locally crafted beer.
Merchants Square is surrounded by the sites of Colonial Williamsburg, which provides a beautiful and historic walk for you and your dog. 


Want more information about Williamsburg, Virginia?  Go to  www.visitwilliamsburg.com
Where do your PawsGo?  Do you have a favorite place?  Share it with us!  Visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or leave us a comment!  We'd love to hear from you!

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Husband and Wife Honor Their Beloved Dog by Saving Others

From No Place to Odie’s Place

On a sunny afternoon in early June, Kerrie and Brian Harrington are headed to court. Not for an offense, but to help unveil portraits of nine dogs they have helped save through their rescue, Odie’s Place. In addition to students’ artwork, Odie’s Place alumnae now adorn the halls of their local Probate and Family Court, a shining example of how two people really can make a difference.

 To say Kerrie and Brian are dedicated and passionate would be an understatement. The husband and wife team have made rescuing dogs their life’s work after losing their beloved dog, Otis, who they nicknamed Odie.
Odie, his humans have honored him by saving others
“We experienced so much love and fulfillment with Odie and of course all our furbabies, that we want any animal we come across to have a high quality of life and to enrich their human’s life as well,” said Kerrie. “When Brian and I had enough hands-on experience from a local shelter, we felt we were ready to do it our own way.”

Since its inception in 2014, the no-kill shelter has saved 60 dogs, finding forever homes for dogs who literally have no other place to go. Based in Southcoast, Massachusetts, the rescue has yet to secure a physical building, so they rely on a network of fosters until they find the right home – and they do find the right home. They have a sixth sense for finding a compatible match, zeroing in on personality and habits to assure the best fit for both owner and pup.

 One of the ways they reach potential adopters is through adorable, compelling and informative posts and videos on social media. They’ve drummed over 9,000 ‘likes’ on the rescue's Facebook page, a robust YouTube channel, even a presence on radio and local television. It’s also a great way for Odie’s Place to keep up with the dogs they’ve placed. “The most fulfilling thing is seeing an unwanted dog thriving in his or her forever home,” said Kerrie. “Seeing a dog who came to us matted, with tumors, never knowing love and being in their new home clean, fed, loved, spoiled makes us giddy! All the hard work from everyone –us, our veterinarians, fosters, adopters, volunteers, trainers, donors, supporters – has paid off.”

And it does take a village. One of the dogs currently available for adoption is Chloe, an 8-year-old Yorkie. She was rescued by Odie’s Place after beating cancer, but while waiting for her forever home, her foster mother discovered another tumor. 
Chole, who can resist that face?
“Chloe just underwent tumor removal surgery by our incredible veterinarian’s office and the biopsy result is clean,” said Brian. Now cancer free, Chloe is on the road to finding her forever home. “This is Chloe’s third chance at life!” said Brian. “We are looking forward to her getting adopted, spoiled and treated like a baby.”

Of course there are challenges, the most obvious being that it’s impossible to save every cat and dog. Lack of funding, physical location and fosters prevents them from saving more innocent lives. “The pit bull breeds have the highest kill rates in shelters, so naturally we would like to save more of them,” said Kerrie. Plus, some landlords and home insurances discriminate against certain breeds, like Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Akitas and Rottweilers, which prevent them from being placed in a loving home.

 She also points out the number-one mistake people make with their dogs is to give up on them. “We live in a society where disposing dogs is acceptable. When you combine knowledge, hope and love you can teach your dog what they are supposed to do.”

 “The most surprising thing to both Brian and me is the ignorance or lack of empathy of humans in regards to cats and dogs in facilities,” she said. “Thousands of cats and dogs are killed in our country everyday. Yet, there are people who still go to a breeder instead of adopting. When you adopt you are saving lives!”

 If you want to learn more about Odie’s Place, become a foster or donate to help with adoption costs and medical bills (like Chloe’s surgery), please visit www.odiesplace.org .

Maria Poulos Pimentel is a New Jersey transplant now settled in New England.   Maria works in marketing and publicity by day and snuggles with her sweet collie/shepherd/husky Tessie by night. She was a reluctant dog owner at first, but she's quickly learning the ropes and discovering all the joys of doggie parenting. Maria will be sharing more of her adventures in dog love with PawsGo.

 Tessie was adopted through Odie’s Place, a small privately run animal rescue program in Massachusetts.

Do you have a story about an individual or organization that's making a difference for animals?  Share it with PawsGo!  Leave us a comment!  We’ll follow up!



Friday, June 10, 2016

Expanding the Pack -- Adding a Puppy!

Finding Balance With a Puppy and an Older Dog

 At the beginning of the year, my husband and I decided it was time to expand our little pack and adopt a puppy.

 Although we adopted our eldest dog, Juno, as an adult, we felt ready for the challenge of a puppy one more time. But we would still adopt rather than buy a specific breed. We were hoping to find another lab mix, though, so focused our attention with that criteria in mind.

 We watched the listings from our local ASPCA and then also contacted a few rescue organizations. As luck would have it, Black Dogs, Second Chance (BDSC)came back to us with a 4-month-old puppy who was rescued from the streets in southwestern Texas. BDSC felt that our house made for a good fit for the little guy, as he was displaying a little bit of apprehension toward young children which they felt might become an issue.

 Seemingly overnight, we were puppy parents. Our older dog, Juno, was not terribly amused, but she took the newcomer in stride. We named him Polonius, or Polo for short.

 Having both a puppy and an 11-year-old in the house at the same time proved challenging, primarily for the same issues that any new puppy parents face: crate training, redirecting the puppy’s chewing habits to appropriate toys (rather than furniture or us), and making sure the little guy is properly socialized. Of course, Polo wanted to play with Juno, but she has never been one to bounce around and play doggie games, so that left my husband and I to fill the gap. Juno was a little displeased to have her naps interrupted, but soon learned she could move away a little while we played with him so she could go back to her snooze. I can’t say that I didn’t shed tears during the whole process (they were), but after a little while, we found a good routine with both dogs.

Therapy Dog Juno!
 Once the puppy was trained, it was time to re-establish balance in our household. So, we pursued some additional training for the puppy, while our eldest returned to her Therapy Dog visits. I strongly believe the dogs need to have individual attention time from us to be happy and healthy, just as much as it’s important for them to socialize together with other dogs.

 Today, Polonius is not only a graduate of puppy kindergarten, but has gone on to a more advanced “boot camp” where he honed his skills (and added a very useful command called “Place”). He’s currently enrolled in an Advanced Obedience class that’s a precursor towards earning his Canine Good Citizen certificate. We also aspire to have him join an agility team to help him focus his tremendous energy for chasing balls. Of course, he adores his big sister, and can’t wait to see her after he goes to daycare or a class to tell her all about his day. He also still loves to sleep as close as possible to her.

 As for Juno, she’s continuing her Therapy Dog work, and, even though Polo misses her when we leave for a visit, he’s learning the importance of some “alone” time. Like Polo, she greets her little brother with “kisses” when she comes home from her volunteering, and doesn’t mind his snuggles any longer.

Pursuing a balanced pack is a challenge for any dog owner, but it is possible even when they are on different ends of the age spectrum.

Did you know that in shelters, black dogs are the last to be adopted and first to be euthanized?

Find out more at Black Dog, Second Chance Rescue -- http://www.blackdogsecondchance.org/

MJ Courchesne is a freelance publishing consultant, writer, and part-time personal trainer with a passion for gardening, walking, wine, and travel. She lives in a restored 1890s Victorian home situated in the heart of Buffalo, NY with her husband and lab mix, Juno and puppy Polo.. Her new blog can be found at http://nickelcityboomerang.blogspot.com/.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Life is sweeter with a dog

Girl Meets Dog: How Sweet It Is
Life is sweeter with a dog. You probably already knew this, but I am only now seeing life with a doggie by my side.  
Two months ago my husband and I adopted a 3-year-old rescue from Thailand. He was insistent, I was hesitant. Thankfully we were matched with perfect pooch and none of my worries have come to pass. In fact, as you can imagine, Tessie is a total joy.

Having Tessie has introduced me to the friendly dog community I had never realized existed. We live by a great, large park, which Tessie and I walk every morning. We’ve met some lovely new people and pups, even though Tessie’s not too fond of other dogs at the moment. We’re working on it, but I feel the need to explain why Tessie is giving another dog the cold shoulder. Inevitably the conversation goes something like:

“I’m sorry, she’s scared of other dogs,” I say.

“Is she a puppy?” he or she asks.

“No, but she’s new to us.”

“Good for you!” or “All she needs is love!” or “Thank you for saving her!”

How’s that for starting the day off on the right foot?
At Tessie’s first grooming appointment, I was a mess. I arrived late, and I was surprisingly nervous. This groomer came highly recommended, but it was the first time I was leaving her with a stranger. In true dog community fashion, Merissa from Diamond in the Ruff (who recognized us from the park!) put me at ease. Back at home, I was struck by how quiet the house seemed to be without Tessie. She doesn’t make much noise, but I had the nagging sense of loneliness while I waited to pick her up. No tags chiming around her collar every time she lifts her head. No deep breathing while she naps in her bed. I was so eager to pick her up, I arrived before they called. She did great and smelled even better.

This past weekend my husband and I went to a nature reserve to see the daffodils in bloom. Bringing Tessie turned a walk in the woods into an adventure, and we loved watching her explore a new place. Tessie sat alongside us as we basked in the peaceful daffodil garden, sipping our coffee. If there was a moment that made me feel like a true pet owner, this was it. We took a ton of photos to commemorate the trip, including a great family photo.

Tessie did a bit of exploring during Easter as well. She finally met my family, who all fell in love with her sweet face and disposition. She also met her fur family (three Chihuahuas!), which has helped with her aversion to other dogs. She did great around a full house of new people, including the kiddos. She’s a dream in the car, and slept through the two-hour ride.

The best part of having a dog – hands down – is coming home to that happy face and wagging tail. Tessie does this adorable thing where she nods her head and lets out a faint cry in excitement when we walk through the door. Pure joy. She spends the evenings by our side, curled up in her bed, or if we’re lucky, she joins us on the couch.

I can’t help but feel Tessie completes our family. I am blessed to have lots of love in my life, and I could have lived without Tessie, I guess. But life is just better now that she’s here. Sure, I’m never early to work anymore and I’m covered in dog hair. It’s just a small price to pay for all the sweetness I get from Tessie every day.
Freshly groomed Tessie

 Maria Poulos Pimentel is a New Jersey transplant now settled in New England.   Maria works in marketing and publicity by day and snuggles with her sweet collie/shepherd/husky Tessie by night. She was a reluctant dog owner at first, but she's quickly learning the ropes and discovering all the joys of doggie parenting. Maria will be sharing more of her adventures in dog love with PawsGo.

Tessie was adopted through Odie’s Place, a small privately run animal rescue program in Massachusetts.  Learn more about them here!   http://www.odiesplace.org/



Friday, May 6, 2016

An Experimental Lab Dog Becomes a Family's Lap Dog, With the Help of a Cat

Violet was afraid of people.

Frightened Violet on her freedom ride home

I first met Violet in the basement of an animal experimentation lab, where volunteers played with her and her fellow lab dogs a few times a day as an “enrichment” break from their cages.

 Violet didn’t know how to interact with humans or how to play. She just stared at us, with big, sad, hound dog eyes. I knew, looking in her eyes during that first meeting, that one day she would join our family.

 Like the rest of her lab mates, Violet was born and bred for animal experimentation. At taxpayer expense, she spent her early life as one of tens of thousands of puppies in government-funded experimentation labs across the country. The U.S. government spends more than $12 billion in taxpayer funding each year for experimentation on dogs, cats, and many other animals like Violet.

 Before I met Violet, I was already very aware of the real cost of the animal experimentation industry -- the cruelty, waste, fraud, and abuse. I am a co-founding Director of an innovative nonprofit advocacy group called White Coat Waste (whitecoatwaste.org) that is working to stop wasteful government spending that funds the majority of all animal experimentation.

 Violet was a forced participant in two different government-funded experiments, and when she completed the second experiment, my husband and I were allowed to adopt her and bring her home. Most hounds are not so lucky.

 We knew that after spending her life in a lab, Violet didn’t know how to be a dog. After all, she spent her entire life in cages.

 On Violet’s homecoming day, I lifted her from the back of our car and carried her over to the grass near our house. She had never played outside in grass or felt the breeze or the warmth of sunshine on her face. All of it terrified her. She didn’t know what to do.
 Violet huddled in her crate for hours once we brought her inside. I crawled in with her and held her, and I was soon joined by one of our cats, Bert, who sat next to Violet purring and kneading her blankets in order to help her calm down. Bert had the right idea: Violet needed love, patience, and time.

 Violet's transition from experiment to family pet hasn't been easy. Because her experimenters locked her in a cage for too long, she couldn't learn house training like a "normal dog." Now she needs to wear a diaper — just one instance of her post-lab trauma.

 It took her months to feel safe outside her crate or the larger playpen we set up for her. We would carry her into another room or upstairs, and she would run back down to her safe spaces. I spent half of each night for months sleeping with her on the floor of her playpen, my body wrapped around hers to help with her night terrors. Bert would often join us.

 We live in a four story townhouse, which posed difficulties for Violet getting around once she felt more secure in our home. Stairs were very tricky, but luckily Bert was able to help us. He would guide Violet up and down the stairs, meeping at her as if in encouragement.

 It took four months for Violet to feel comfortable outside her playpen and six months before she become less terrified of being outside. By month eight, Violet was sleeping in bed with me every night, learning how to play with toys, and making friends with strangers by covering them in kisses and begging for food.

Violet has been a member of our family for almost two years. She’s still growing and learning. She helped us adopt a new member to the family: a ten month-old kitten named Trucker Cat, who joined Bert and our other cats (Ernie and Jasmine) as Violet’s protectors and friends.

 Her story is one of love and trust: after everything she’s been through, Violet loves people and other animals with her entire heart. Despite the wounds of an early life spent in the lab, she has learned resilience, trust, and how to feel safe and protected.


Julie Germany is the COO of an advocacy organization.  She is the co-founder and serves on the board of White Coat Waste. She and her husband live in Alexandria, VA with Violet and their cats Jasmine, Bert, Ernie, and Trucker.

To learn more about White Coat Waste and how you can get involved (sign a petition, share info on social media or donate)  http://whitecoatwaste.org/

To adopt or support former lab dogs for adoption http://www.beaglefreedomproject.org/

To show your support, you can purchase one of these cool t-shirts, designed by PawsGo especially for Beagle Freedom and its fund raising event, Red White and Beagle.  Shirts are $20 each -- adult sizes.  50% ($10) from every shirt sold goes to support the Beagle Freedom Project through Red White and Beagle.  Go to www.pawsgo.com to order yours!