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!



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 ( 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)

To adopt or support former lab dogs for adoption

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 to order yours!