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Dog Walking/Pet Sitting Services

Snoopy’s is a family owned, professional pet care service local to Bridgewater. We are insured by Pet Sitters Associates, have many references and a stellar reputation. Our services include dog walking on a regular or occasional basis, as well as pet sitting visits to your home for dogs, cats and other household pets when you vacation. Please see our Snoopy’s Safe and Sound Facebook page, and Nextdoor.com for reviews of our services. We will of course be following all safety precautions when we enter your home; disposable gloves and masks will be worn. Please give us a call to set up a meet and greet if you need us this summer, or even within the next couple of months as our lives gradually return to some sense of normalcy. Have a wonderful summer and be well!! Looking forward to meeting you and your furry family members!!

Attorney’s Office Adds New Member

The newest staff member at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office lay cradled in the arms of his handler and after five minutes of making his public debut, was ready to move onto the next distraction.

At four months old, Barrett the golden doodle puppy is still undergoing extensive training to prepare him to work with victims, witnesses and others. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the emotional support dog — the office’s first — will start some work in about six months.

“We find that they’re particularly useful in juvenile cases when kids don’t want to be witnesses — they don’t want to be there,” Freeman said. “As you can see, holding this dog has calmed me down.”

The county is joining a growing trend. The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office in July 2019 introduced its first emotional support dog, a golden retriever named Norie.

Kathryn Newman, Barrett’s trainer, said the first courthouse to employ an emotional support dog was in Arkansas in 2003. Other early adopters around that time included courts in Illinois, Arizona and Hawaii, she said.

“The most important thing for Barrett is that he is going to make people feel at ease when he is … here, whether it’s someone who is testifying or if it’s the staff here,” Newman said. “This can be a very stressful location for some people, so he’s got some big shoes to fill, but he’s up for it.”

The black, fluffy puppy is 75% poodle and 25% golden retriever, which will help reduce or eliminate allergic reactions, Freeman said.

Barrett is undergoing “sensory” training to familiarize him to the sights, sounds and smell of the courthouse. He is expected to begin full-time work in about a year, and will work five half-days a week.

Emotional support dogs can help traumatized victims open up, especially children, Freeman said.

“This courthouse is tough enough for us adults,” he said.

In Ramsey County, Norie has met with victims about three to four times a week for the past six months. Victims who are meeting with prosecutors to talk about their cases are informed about Norie and can request her attendance.

Tami McConkey, director of the victim, witness and community services division with Ramsey County, said Norie has helped 5-year-olds to adults, and recently assisted a sexual assault victim.

“We had one woman … who just got kind of overcome and just couldn’t talk,” McConkey said. “And then she just started petting Norie and really kind of calmed down and was able to resume telling the prosecutor what happened.”

But the use of emotional support dogs isn’t without challenges. According to McConkey, in some jurisdictions defense attorneys have opposed allowing them in a courtroom for fear they could invoke jurors’ sympathy for the witness.

While Norie only works at the county attorney’s offices, McConkey said the plan is to introduce her into the courthouse building and courtrooms with no juries present. Allowing her to accompany witnesses during testimony is a distant possibility, she said.

“The more facilities that can have dogs like this, the better,” McConkey said. “It’s good for everybody.”

Freeman said the notion of employing an emotional support dog first crossed his mind when the topic was presented at a national district attorneys meeting about four years ago. Talks about getting a dog grew more serious about two years ago.

Freeman has a dog of his own, a golden retriever named Sam.

“All of us dog owners know there’s nothing like having Sam come down the front steps to meet me and give him a little scratch behind the ears,” he said.

Barrett, who was named after brothers who play rugby and because of his bearlike appearance, lives with an attorney from the office.

Pups4Patriots

Coleman Natural Foods welcomed the next class of veteran and service dog teams to the Pups4Patriots program, which rescues qualified dogs in need of forever homes and trains them to be service pets for veterans with post-traumatic stress (PTS) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The six new pairs were matched and are making headway on training through a commitment the company made in 2019. Last fall Coleman Natural honored the first six graduates of the program.

“The resilience of these veterans and their dogs is something unparalleled,” said Mel Coleman, Jr., chief executive officer of Coleman Natural. “Despite additional challenges brought on by COVID-19, we are confident this group will excel in any environment.”

The veteran and service dog pairs include:

Mike & Mark Jacob: Mike is a veteran of numerous United States military branches, including the Navy, Air Force, National Guard, and Army. Mike is paired with a Labrador/German Shepherd mix named Mark Jacob.

Dean & Bama: Dean is a US Army veteran. His dog is Bama, a male Goldendoodle.

Joey & Bugg: Joey is a US Army veteran. He currently lives in Tennessee and is paired with Bugg, a female German Shepherd.

Michael & Scout: Michael is a US Air Force veteran. He lives in Tennessee and is paired with Scout, a male Labrador/Retriever mix.

Jeremy & Ali: Jeremy is an US Army veteran from Tennessee. Jeremy is paired with Ali, a female German Shepherd mix.

Joseph & Bellarosa: Joe is a US Army veteran. He lives in Oklahoma and is paired with Bellarosa, a female German Shepherd.

Keeping Your Pup Entertained

Is there anything better than a doggo friend? Having a furry pal is the bees knees, but when it’s time to leave, it’s heartbreaking to lock the door on glossy eyes and whimpering cries. If your pup reacts to anxiety with accidents in the house, you end up in an endless cycle of feeling guilty and frustrated. Why not try to relax your dog with this video streaming subscription made especially to help dogs overcome anxiety and boredom? It’s worth a shot.

RelaxMyDog is a subscription service that hosts videos and music to help your dog overcome anxiety, loneliness, stress, boredom, and hyperactivity. Dogs share the same emotions of anxiety and boredom as humans, but they don’t share the opposable thumbs, so all the content loops for an unlimited number of hours while you’re away.

Maybe you’re thinking “streaming for dogs? are you crazy?” But riddle me this: when you have a stretch of insomnia, a bad cold, or just a busy mind, you’re likely to turn on a binge-worthy show to calm and distract your brain. Dogs need the same comfort when they’re feeling uneasy! Don’t just press play on a seven-season sitcom before you head to work, put on something that’s created especially for Lassie or Rover’s viewing pleasure.

RelaxMyDog might even end up saving your favorite pair of shoes or chair leg since dogs are known to destroy your things out of boredom, stress, or even in protest.

No Longer Marking Dogs

An updated version of China’s Directory of Genetic Resources of Livestock and Poultry was released Friday, and it notably does not include dogs on the list of animals that are allowed to be bred, raised, traded and transported for commercial purposes.

“With the progress of the times, people’s civilization ideas and eating habits are constantly changing, and some traditional customs about dogs will also change,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs told reporters, according to a translated transcript posted to the ministry website.

The change is in line with the recent announcement from the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs that China would no longer classify dogs as livestock.

“As far as dogs are concerned, along with the progress of human civilization and the public concern and love for animal protection, dogs have been ‘specialized’ to become companion animals, and internationally are not considered to be livestock, and they will not be regulated as livestock in China,” an April notice from the ministry read, per Reuters.
Humane Society International estimates that some 10 million dogs and 4 million cats are killed in C hina every year for meat. HSI spokesperson Wendy Higgins told The Guardian last month that the new policy is a potential “game-changer moment for animal welfare in China.”

The update to the Directory of Genetic Resources of Livestock and Poultry comes less than a month before China’s Yulin Dog Meat Festival is set to take place.

The festival, created in 2010 in an effort to boost flagging dog meat sales, according to HSI, has long been controversial both in and outside of China. This year, it is planned for June 21 through June 30.

“In just a few weeks, the dog slaughterhouses of the city of Yulin will be full with terrified dogs awaiting bludgeoning and butchery for its infamous dog meat festival,” Higgins told The Daily Mail. “Experience tells us that many of those dogs will be precisely the beloved companions and helpers and service dogs the national government talked about in its statement as being not for food.”

Service Dog Cast Members

Are you a Disney fan? If so, we can guess you follow a ton of Disney related Instagram pages. Maybe even stumble upon some Disney Cast Members who are featured in Instagram photos. But have you ever found a Disney Cast Member’s Instagram page? Well, one of our very own ITM team members this week found a Disney Magical Duo!

Rachel and her four-legged sidekick have been together since 2016, when Mozart was assigned the job of his life: to be Rachel’s mobility service dog, and above all, best friend! But that was only the beginning of their mission together.

Inside the Magic had the opportunity to interview Rachel and discuss Mozart and their journey together on becoming Cast Members. “I’m a born and raised Disney lover, Disney has always been my happy place to leave the crazy world to be surrounded with magic,” Rachel told ITM.

So, it was no surprise that in 2018 Rachel became an official Walt Disney World Cast Member. And of course, Mozart became one too! According to Rachel, Mozart is one hundred percent part of the Cast Member team, with his own cast name tag and ID. “I love that now I have the opportunity everyday to make that magic for guests with my best friend, Mozart, by my side.” For the past two years, this Disney Magical Duo has worked at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT, and they have done such an amazing job that now, Rachel and Mozart train other Cast Members at EPCOT.

ITM asked Rachel “How did Disney adapt to having Mozart on their team?” in which she replied that the company always makes sure to include Mozart in everything they do as a cast. “Disney has gone above and beyond to accommodate Mozart and make him a valued member of the team,” said Rachel. “When I celebrated my year with the company, they made him a certificate too and gave him a service pin, which is a big deal for Cast Members.”

And when they became trainers, Mozart got his trainer pin too! Rachel went on to say that her fellow Cast Members and Supervisors make sure Mozart is safe and protected, so he can do his job, and make the duo successful as Cast Members. “Like he’s a member of the team too, because they know it’s important to me. He’s a piece of me and they honor that,” Rachel explained.

But, their love and dedication for Disney does not stop with their Cast Member duties. When the duo is off the clock, they also like to visit the theme parks as guests and enjoy the magic themselves. So, of course we [ITM] had to ask Rachel and Mozart their favorite things to do and what their favorite parks are!

Mozart’s favorite thing to do is meet Pluto and ride on Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Magic Kingdom, while Rachel’s favorite Disney characters are Dug from Up and Mulan. There are even images of Mozart meeting and playing with Pluto on the duo’s instagram page!

Bomb-Sniffing Dog

 

A Marine Corps veteran is fighting to keep a bomb-sniffing dog he said he has spent “almost every second” with for the past year at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, as their deployment together comes to an end this week, even though it would be a breach of protocol.

Defense contractor Constellis hired Richard Pickett-White through a subsidiary to help dogs like Abel, a herding dog known as a Belgian Malinois, pass a certification process proving he could sniff out deadly explosives. Pickett-White and Abel, who were paired together several months before heading overseas, were never intended to go home together. But the former Marine said he and the dog have developed a strong connection that he’s not ready to break.

“Just having to let go, to end this bond, is hard. You can’t just expect it to disconnect like a plug from a socket,” Pickett-White said over a video call from his 85-square-foot room in Kabul. Abel, who resembles a German shepard, sat by his side throughout most of the interview. Pickett-White first contacted the security firm about the possibility of purchasing Abel late last year, when their pairing was initially expected to end. Constellis officials said they communicated a negative response. In February, Pickett-White launched a GoFund Me to raise $25,000 to offer to the company — a figure he said far exceeds Abel’s market value. He has raised nearly $30,000 to date.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Pickett-White and Abel will soon board a plane together and arrive in Washington, D.C. on Friday evening. It’s there that they are slated to separate — possibly forever.

Under the terms of Pickett-White’s contract with Constellis, which runs until May of next year, he is set to go on a short leave and then return to Afghanistan to begin where he left off with a different dog, Constellis officials said. Due to a change in the way government contracts are handled, Abel is no longer eligible for the same service, according to Pickett-White. Without Abel, Pickett-White is no longer sure he wants to deploy again. Constellis officials declined to go into details about the contracting process, but said Abel could still do important work — whether in the United States or abroad. They added that nothing had changed in their contract with Pickett-White as of Wednesday, and he had not communicated a desire to end his employment.

Once Abel is set to retire from his specialized work — which Constellis officials said depends both on the dog’s age and personal desire to work — he will be made available for adoption, according to company policy. His previous handlers, including Pickett-White, would be given the option of first refusal. Pickett-White estimates Abel, who just turned 3, won’t retire for another four years.

It’s common for handlers and their dogs to develop a close relationship, but there’s a business element inherent to the profession, according to Ohio-based police dog trainer Paul Shaughnessy, who was not familiar with Picket-White’s situation and spoke generally.

“Their dog becomes their confidant, they get this great bond, and it’s a wonderful thing,” Shaughnessy said. “It’s just that in this situation, that dog belongs to the company. He signed a contract.”

Zach Skow, owner of Marley Mutt’s Dog Rescue in California, shared Pickett-White’s campaign with the nonprofit’s 214,000 Instagram followers on Memorial Day to raise awareness. Despite the extenuating circumstances, Skow is not convinced it has to be so cut and dry.

“I think there’s there’s room to be more empathetic, especially when you’re talking about veterans who fought in this country,” said Skow, who runs programs that connect dogs with marginalized populations.

Service Dog Sponsored

It’s been a few years since the Grosse Pointe Board of Realtors was introduced to Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, but their partnership continues to grow.

The GPBR recently began sponsoring its fourth service dog with the organization, which provides specially trained dogs to veterans and first responders who have post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, seizure disorders, glucose imbalance, mobility issues and more.

The local realtor board began its longterm commitment to Guardian Angels by first sponsoring GP, named for Grosse Pointe, along with The War Memorial and private community donors. Since then, the GPBR has sponsored Mack, named for Macomb County, and Sterling, named for Sterling Heights.

Sponsorship of its fourth dog, Harper, named for Harper Woods, began late 2019.

While admittedly the outbreak of COVID-19 has put a damper on sponsorship efforts, GPBR members regularly provide funds for Guardian Angels, CEO Bob Taylor said.

“Additionally, one of our members held a Halloween party last year, which kicked off our fundraising for Harper,” he added. “The proceeds were $10,000. This year, if willing, we will raise the balance to complete the funding for Harper.”

It takes approximately $25,000 to train a dog qualified to be a Guardian Angels service dog. Expenses include 24/7 care, food, shelter, specialized training and the cost to bring the identified recipient to meet the dog and train, Taylor said. “These dogs are provided at no cost to the recipient,” he added.

Harper still is in the training stages at Guardian Angels, based in Williston, Fla. As Taylor explained, “From birth until about 18 months, puppies go through general training. Over that time, trainers access the skills of the dog, allowing them to create a ‘best fit’ when it comes to placement. Harper’s training will only be complete after a recipient has been identified and they train together. On average, this whole process takes 24 months.”

“We would love to have Harper paired with a veteran or first responder from Harper Woods, but this cannot be promised,” said Mary Lamparter, Guardian Angels’ regional coordinator for Michigan. “However, if anyone knows of a veteran or first responder living in Harper Woods that would benefit from a service dog, please encourage them to contact Guardian Angels at medicalservicedogs.org.”

With three matches already made through GPBR efforts and another in the works, this is a commitment membership does not take lightly.

“Only after you start on this journey to support our veterans and first responders do you start to appreciate the unique sacrifice they make on behalf of the rest of us,” Taylor said. “Only after you hear the stories of how what they do or have done has made living far more difficult than any of us can imagine. Death by suicide, divorce or homelessness are all common outcomes of those impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Additionally, in a time when so much of our charitable giving goes toward causes, a search for a cure, etc., all of which may get ‘fixed’ someday, the placement of the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dog with a recipient provides an almost instantaneous result,” he continued. “We had one member so moved by the story told by a recipient’s wife, he wrote a check out for $5,000 and he is usually most skeptical. When we — all of us — contribute to a pairing, we give a significant other back a loved one, a father or mother back to children, a son or daughter back to parents and a neighbor back to a community. There is little we can do anywhere that accomplishes this and for no more than a few dollars per person. We owe our way of life to these people.”

Paws Giving Independence

Paws Giving Independence is a service dog program based in Peoria that trains dogs to help people with various disabilities.

During the pandemic, training looks different and PGI is finding new ways for trainers to teach important skills.

“There’s still people out there that have disabilities and need these dogs,” said Michelle Yuen, director of animal intake and training.

Soon, the service dogs will help people in wheelchairs and alert owners to medical issues like seizures.

“These dogs really are essential workers,” said Yuen.

And training is key.

“Sometimes it can be the difference between life and death,” said Donna Kosner, director of community outreach, education, and applications.

So, Paws Giving Independence is getting creative.

“Our training has changed a bit with social distancing and just with the changing of the standards of groups,” said Yuen.

Virtual training sessions are helping dogs learn and practice skills during quarantine.

“A lot of our dogs have been training mainly at home, so the skills carry over at home is similar to in public but again it’s definitely not the same,” said Yuen.

Training in public is a huge part of working on service dog’s skills.

To help, Northwoods Mall is stepping up.

“We trained regularly at Northwoods Mall before all this happened, so the fact that they’re inviting us back here is really great,” said Kosner.

In small groups, trainers are now able to work with dogs, giving them real life experience.

“The dogs can practice still one on one with some of the skills that they need to learn,” said Yuen.

The trainers and dogs are making the current circumstances work in an effort to serve people with disabilities in the area.

“We’re really trying to find creative ways to get our dogs safely and keep the community safe,” said Yuen.

Leaders say they hope to continue training at Northwoods Mall while it’s closed to the public.

During this time, Paws Giving Independence is still taking applications and conducting interviews virtually.

Animal Welfare Charity

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is an avid animal lover and dog mom, so she’s doing her part to assist the U.K.–based animal welfare charity Mayhew as it struggles amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

According to Newsweek,  the duchess has been making secret calls to Mayhew, which is currently experiencing financial hardship due to the global health crisis. An organization that works to keep homeless individuals with their dogs, whom they rely on for emotional support, Mayhew has seen a devastation in its income recently, as the public fundraising events it relies heavily on to sustain the charity have been halted due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines.

“The Duchess is in touch and working with Mayhew at this time,” a source confirmed to Newsweek.

According to the outlet, Mayhew is urgently asking for help to fund the purchasing of food, as well as flea and worming treatment for the dogs.

“We receive no government support or anything so we rely completely on public donations, which are for the most part gathered from fundraising events,” said Mayhew’s media officer Sarah Hastelow. “It’s been a steady decline of operations and funds. We are trying to be as adaptive and reactive as possible.”

Mayhew was one of the last engagement visits Meghan embarked on as a working royal in England. The duchess shared photos of her visit to the organization in the days after she left for Canada, where she, Prince Harry, and their son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, resided before relocating permanently to Los Angeles, California.

Dogs Smelling The Virus

We all know dogs have a great sense of smell, but can they sniff out the COVID-19 virus in people?

Everything has an order to it, to dog it’s not that big of a deal but to us it is. Dog’s sense of smell is so above and beyond what we we’re able to smell and sense things that we just had no idea is there,” said Jack Grigg.

Jack and Lori Grigg the owner’s of Paradise dog training specialize in training certified service dogs to do unique tasks, such as search for bed bugs and tell diabetic owner’s when their blood sugar is too low.

They believe they can train a dog to detect COVID-19.

“We have been doing a little bit of research and Penn State has a program where they are training COVID-19 dogs and there is also a program in Britian,” said Lori. “We thought we’d get on the bandwagon and train a dog to detect the COVID-19 virus in asymptomatic people.”

They would train the dogs by having them smell a clothing item that someone who has COVID-19 was wearing. The dog will pick-up on the smell, and be able to detect the virus in a human with positive dog-treat reinforcement training.

In order to train the dogs, the Grigg’s will need some help.

“What we need is people who have the COVID-19 virus. That will give a pair of white cotton gloves or white nylon socks, wear them for 10 minutes and then we get the samples. We ask them to put them in a baggie and seal the baggie up and they won’t get more contamination and then we’ll train the dogs off the socks and the gloves,” said Lori.

The dogs won’t be exposed to the virus because they will be sniffing the items through the sealed baggies.

Guide Dogs Goes Virtual

Leanne Wilson doesn’t go anywhere without her dog, a black Labrador retriever named Kanyon.

The dog guide is not only a beloved companion; he helps the Welland resident, who is blind, maintain her independence.

“Kanyon guides me around and helps me with things like crossing the street and navigating all the sidewalk furniture — things like signs and benches that might be out on a sidewalk,” Wilson said.

Thanks to Kanyon, Wilson no longer feels anxiety before heading out the door.

“Kanyon provides me with my independence and makes me feel safe. I would not go back to a white cane because when I am out and about with my dog, it’s so much easier.”

Wilson found Kanyon through Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, which provides life-changing dog guides to Canadians with physical and medical disabilities at no cost to them.

He is the second dog that has assisted Wilson. The first dog guide Wilson had was a golden retriever named Madison, who was retired from service last year.

The foundation’s annual fundraiser, Pet Valu Lions Walk for Dog Guides, which is scheduled for this Sunday (May 31) will look very different this year. That’s because the walk will take place virtually due to restrictions in place because of COVID-19.

Participants are encouraged to show their support for Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides by going for a walk around the block, lifting some weights, running on a treadmill at home, dancing at home in a living room, jumping on a trampoline or doing anything physically active all while practising social distancing.

Wilson expressed her gratitude for the program, otherwise she might not have been able to afford a dog guide.

Families or individuals in need of a service dog can apply to the Lions Foundation of Canada. It’s there at the foundation’s Oakville-based facility where a person’s need will be assessed and paired with a dog.

Greg Clarke, head instructor with Dog Guides, said the Lions Foundation of Canadian has been greatly impacted by the pandemic.

“These have been really difficult times for everyone and Dog Guides is no exception,” he said.

Dog Guides start training at seven weeks with volunteer foster families.

“During this crucial time, foster families teach the dogs basic obedience skills and socialize them as much as possible (take them on bus rides, to the grocery store, to work with them,” he said.

When the dogs are a year old, they return to the foundation where they are trained for six to eight months and are matched with a qualified applicant.

“Last year we were able to train 161 dog guides and unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this year’s number will be very different,” Clarke said, speaking of the animals.

Dog Guides are trained in one of seven programs to assist people living with vision or hearing loss, seizures, a physical or medical disability, diabetes and autism, or someone recovering from a traumatic situation.

Clarke said spring and summer training classes were cancelled due to safety concerns related to the pandemic, which has an impact on 58 applicants expecting to train with their dog guides.

“They were excited to meet their dog guide and start their journey with their new best friend. However, the safety of all took priority and when we got back to normal, these applicants will finally get to meet their new dog guides,” he said.

Clarke said 120 dog guides in training were sent to foster families and sitters. Instructors also had to figure out how to continue to stay on top of the dogs’ training while remaining physically distant.

Weekly video calls, emails and phone calls were implemented in order to check in on the teams’ status and also provide training exercises for dog guides in training.

Clarke said the foundation relies heavily on donations as it receives no government funding for the programs it offers.

The cost of training each dog is about $25,000 so every penny raised by the walk will go a long way toward helping people who need it the most.

“Now more than ever, we need the public’s support so that when things go back to normal, we can go back to helping more Canadians with a medical or physical disability,” Clarke said.

“This is why the Pet Valu Virtual Walk for Dog Guides is so important; it is our most successful fundraiser.”

Since 1985, the annual walk has raised more than $18 million. The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides supports 328 foster families taking care of future dog guide puppies, 120 dog guides in training and more than 1,000 graduates across Canada.

Medical Service Dog

Craig Hodgkins and his medical service dog Foxy have been together just a few days, but the Pittsburgh man said he already feels like it’s been a life-changing experience.

And a life-saving one.

“This was my last hope … She looks in my eyes and I feel relief,” he said.

On Thursday at Memorial Park in Grove City, Foxy, a long-haired German shepherd, leaned up against Hodgkins. The dog studied the man’s face, and sensed emotion.

That’s what Foxy was trained to do.

Hodgkins was one of five people who received a service dog this week through Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, a nonprofit agency based in Williston, Fla. TANNER MONDOK | Herald Marine Corps veteran Ryan Yoder, of Harrisburg, pets his service dog Rik Thursday at Memorial Park in Grove City during a Guardian Angels Service Dogs event.

The organization, founded about 10 years ago, has paired more than 350 dogs with veterans, first responders, and people with disabilities.

Service dogs are sponsored by businesses and other organizations, so there is no cost to the recipients, said Joanne Werner, a traveling trainer.  The trainers had planned to bring the dogs and their new humans together in March in Florida, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to make other arrangements, so the group came to Mercer County.

The trainers introduced the dogs to their humans this week at the Avenue of 444 Flags in Hermitage and the pairs have been together ever since.

Over the past several days, the dogs and their recipients have undergone training, learned about each other, and visited businesses so they both could get a feel for what it’s like to be in public together.

The recipients said their dogs are great matches and they couldn’t wait to to head home with their new best friends.

“He’s a lot like me … I’m very, very happy,” said Ryan Yoder of Harrisburg about Rikki, his service dog.

He’s been calling the 1-year-old German shepherd “Rik,” and said he feels like they already share a special bond.

Yoder, who served in the Marine Corps for four years, is veterans coordinator for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

He learned about Guardian Angels through his state post and learned that medical service dogs can provide assistance to veterans, especially those living with disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Yoder said he was excited to meet his new buddy, and looks forward to bringing Rik home to meet his wife and kids.

Rik is trained to help with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Yoder credited the organization and Carol Borden, Guardian Angels founder and chief executive officer, for its work.

Guardian Angels is sending the recipients home with supplies, including dog food, and prevention treatments for fleas, ticks and heartworm.

Hodgkins served 21 years in the Marines. He said 5-year-old Foxy is calm and reassuring, which helps with balance and anxiety issues.

Hodgkins said he has always loved dogs – he’s had several Great Danes. But after a doctor recommended a service dog, he said Foxy came into his life at just the right time.

He was in a “low place,” and having Foxy has made him feel comfortable for the first time in many years.

Jim Grossman of Hermitage, who served in the Marines, heard about the organization from his counselor.

He said he was a little uncertain about the idea at first, but he’s now glad he decided to apply.

“He’s very calming to me. We just seem to click,” said Grossman, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5286 in Farrell, as he looked at 4-year-old Judd.

Grossman said Judd is already helping him sleep better.

Alexis Taggart of Philadelphia, who served in the Army from 2011 to 2016, spent quite a bit of time researching service dogs.

The Guardian Angels application process is long and includes a background check, but she said the wait was worth it.

“I cried my eyes out,” she said of her first meeting with Doc, a female German shepherd who is almost 2.

They have a really strong bond, and Doc helps her with panic attacks – like she has a sixth sense, said Taggart, who is studying to earn a doctorate degree in psychology.

Jay Cox of Charlotte, N.C., is retired, having worked in diplomatic security for the U.S. Department of State and as a police officer in Maryland.

Cox worked in special weapons and tactics, and as a detective, investigating homicides, kidnapping and serial murder – what he called “the absolute worst of society.”

And it affected him, he said.

Cox was seriously injured in the line of duty. During a hostage situation, another officer detonated a flash-bang grenade near Cox’s head, which left him with a traumatic brain injury.

Someone recommended a service dog, and his daughter Carly Cox, whom he calls a “hero,” helped him with the application. Cox said he prospect of getting a dog gave him something to look forward to.

“This is the first thing I’ve been excited about,” he said.

He’s excited to go home to his wife with Whaler, a German shepherd who helps him with PTSD.

The dog is intense and strong-willed, and he has already helped Cox deal with nightmares by jumping into bed at night and redirecting his attention.

“He broke that loop. I couldn’t believe it,” Cox said.

Sponsors of the dog were PNC for Whaler, Yellow Ribbon Fund for Rik, Armstrong for Judd, and the Colcom Foundation for Foxy and Doc.

Training a medical service dog can take up to two years, and the organization looks for dogs with low or medium energy and are willing to learn and work, Werner said.

The organization itself owns the dogs, and the recipients sign a contract that imposes conditions including getting the dog established with a veterinarian and securing pet insurance.

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs checks in on the dogs to make sure things are going well. The organization plans to open a second facility, in Moon Township, Werner said.

She also works with inmates at the State Correctional Institution at Mercer in Findley Township. The inmates are veterans, and she teaches them how to train the service dogs.

A lot of thought goes into pairing dogs with recipients, and that first meeting is always a tearjerker.

“It’s amazing … It’s very humbling and rewarding,” Werner said of her job.

Pet Owners Companionship

The social ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States involve more Americans spending time in their homes. For pet owners, this means spending more time with their pets. A recent survey conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital describes how this could impact how pet owners care for their animals going forward.

“The human-animal bond now, more than ever, plays an integral role in people’s lives,” said Molly McAllister, chief medical officer at Banfield Pet Hospital. “…This survey shows that pets are always here for us — even, and especially, during the most difficult of times — and we’re encouraged that as a result of spending more time together, people are committed to finding new ways to better be there for their pets.”

The survey was fielded between May 11 and May 15, 2020 and included 1,000 dog and cat owners across the United States.

Overall, the pet owner sentiments around spending more time with their pets is positive. According to the Banfield survey, 84% of respondents said they feel “more attuned to their pet’s health,” and 67% said they plan to change how they care for their pet.

This includes 47% of pet owners who said they plan to spend more time with their pets, 21% who are willing to adjust their work schedule to spend more time at home with their pets, and 10% who plan to adopt another pet to keep their current pet company during the day.

Additionally, 20% of pet owners surveyed said they prefer their pets as “co-workers,” 73% expressed concern for going back to work and spending less time with their pet, and 59% said they are worried their pet could suffer from separation anxiety once daily schedules return to normal.

Overall happiness and comfort among pet owners is another measure of this emphasized human-animal bond. According to the Banfield study, 39% of pet owners said being around their pet has helped reduce anxiety and uncertainty during the pandemic.

Broken down by demographic, 47% of Millennials said their canine and feline companions have provided emotional support at this time, compared to 43% of Gen Z pet owners and 43% of Gen X pet owners.

Pet behavior is another indicator. More than one-third (38%) of surveyed pet owners said their pets appear to be happier as a result of spending more time together. Another 35% said their pets are acting more playful. In return, 65% of pet owners reported they are showing increased affection toward their pets.

As shelter-in-place order keeps more pet owners at home, many are reassessing how they care for their pets. According to Banfield, 37% said they are paying more attention to their pets health, such as dental health; 42% said their pets are getting more exercise in quarantine; and 46% said their pet is more active than they would be if left alone during the day.

Additionally, 20% of pet owners said they plan to take their pet to the veterinarian more often for preventive care, and 41% said they have consulted with a veterinary professional during quarantine to improve their pets’ health.

Since the beginning of March, Banfield itself has seen a 90% increase in its Vet Chat activity, the company’s telehealth service for remote veterinary care.

Headquartered in Portland, Ore., Banfield operates more than 1,000 general practice veterinary hospitals across the United States and Puerto Rico.

Local Animal Rescuer

During the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a generous outpouring of people helping people get through the disruption of normal life. Pets on the other hand, have not received nearly the same attention.

Kandace Kuwahara saw the disparity of neglect for pets and sought to make a difference. Kuwahara, who runs a non-profit organization called Infinite Love Animal Rescue, made a sizable donation of pet food to the city of Gardena in early May.

An unofficial count of her contribution is impressive: more than 1,705 packets of Wellness Core “Mini Meals” dog food (143 boxes); 540 Inaba Foods Chura cat treats; 450 Inaba Foods Chura dog treats; and 4 bags of pet food.

Kuwahara, a Gardena native, started collecting items to be donated on April 11. She “meditated” on how she could be of service to the Gardena community

“I was inspired when I read an article on people shopping for groceries for senior citizens who are on ‘shelter in place’ order,” Kuwahara told the GVN. “And so the idea came to me that they would probably need pet food as well. I had a friend who had a difficult time finding pet food in the beginning of the ‘safer at home’ order and that’s how I came up with the idea.”

She credits Wellness Pet Food, Best Friends/NKLA, Inaba Foods (USA) Inc. and Beatriz Martinez for their pet food donations, which were specifically intended for Infinite Love’s Pet Food pantry. No monetary contributions to Infinite Love by supporters was used for the recent Gardena donation, Kuwahara emphasizes.

With businesses shutting down and workers finding themselves with an uncertain future due to COVID-19, Kuwahara is aware that some families face the unthinkable decision of giving away their pets.

She also acknowledged that the cost of pet food has put a strain on the family food budget. Preventing the problem before it begins, she says, is a key to keeping the family intact.

“It is heartbreaking to think that some people cannot afford to feed their furbaby, which is a reality people have to face, especially now,” Kuwahara says. “For the past month, I have been calling pet food manufactures asking for donations specifically for seniors with pets. I contacted Thomas Kang, retired Gardena police chief, asking if he can recommend anyone to help me distribute the food or any pet pantries that I can contribute too. He referred me to Jackie Arcos with Human Services at the City of Gardena. She said that they are in need of pet food for the senior meals program and emergency services program that supports people who (have pets and) are financially struggling.”

While some people have had to give up their pets, others have used the ‘stay at home’ order to bring homeless animals into the household, she says.

“The heartening news is that there has been a great spike in adoptions and fosters since the beginning of the quarantine,” Kuwahara says. ”It is the perfect time to introduce a new dog/cat into the family.”

In 2017, she founded her nonprofit rescue organization, Infinite Love. The name was inspired by her late pup “Boo,” who she says taught her that love is infinite and eternal. Boo was a Jack Russell-chihuahua mix that Kuwahara rescued from the spcaLA in Hawthorne.

Boo also serves as her group’s logo model, which was designed by Kuwahara. ILAR is dedicated to finding homes for abandoned and displaced dogs, while educating the public to be more responsible pet owners, she says.

“Our goal is to help (rescued dogs) in every way we can… emotionally, socially, and physically so that the transition into their forever homes will be as smooth as possible,” Kuwahara says. “We specialize in small family dogs that are scared and shut down, provide them with the medical attention and the unconditional love that they need to blossom.”

Infinite Love identifies the needs of each furbaby for its uniqueness. The group’s foster program determines the “idea lifestyle” for each dog, she says. Does the dog enjoy a lot of activity, like to cuddle, love children?

An example would be a chi-weenie named Strudel, now available for adoption.

“She has a little separation anxiety and we think it’s because she came from a hoarding situation,” Kuwahara says. “So we are searching for a home with someone who is retired or who works from home, and isn’t away from the home too long.”

ILAR incorporates a thorough adoption process, which includes an application, phone interview, meet and greet, and home check, she says.

As a small organization, Infinite Love operates with a volunteer staff and a small budget. Kuwahara, who has spent more than 20 years volunteering with various rescue groups in the South Bay and Los Angeles, confides that it’s a challenge caring for animals in need of forever homes while simultaneously handling the administrative duties.

“Currently, we are 100% volunteer-run,” Kuwahara says. “I rescue full time, every day, all day. I do not get paid. I am currently living on my savings account. I used to work full time as a graphic designer, plus rescue full time, but that became overwhelming for me, so now I am fully committed to rescuing animals.”

Love success stories include Lotus (now Lollypop). The 10-year-old Yorkie mix had infections, mange, and stage 2 breast cancer. Kuwahara’s group provided the dog with the medical attention needed before finding Lotus with her forever home.

Another dog, Trinity, was a tri-pawd, that was limping on a leg that was fractured and never healed. “Two vets said that her leg needed to be amputated,” Kuwahara says. “So we paid for her procedure and cared for her and now she is running and thriving in her forever home.

“This is the importance of receiving financial donations,” she says.

In 2019, Kuwahara had a chance reunion with Daryle Nagano-Krier, a former Gardena High School classmate. Nagano-Krier, a fellow animal lover and rescuer, joined Infinite Love Animal Rescue as a volunteer.

“She is positive, self-motivated, a great communicator, and organized,” Kuwahara told the Rafu Shimpo in a 2019 interview. “I am grateful to be able to lean into her for support and know that she will get it done.”

Nagano-Krier, a Communication Studies educator at El Camino College and Los Angeles Harbor College, has since been named Infinite Love’s program manager.

In the past year, the organization has grown exponentially, Kuwahara says. Infinite Love has participated in many community events by having adoption and outreach booths.

“This year, we were planning to expand our Humane Education programs and bring emotional support dogs to nursing homes, but that will most likely take place in 2021,” Kuwahara says. “We have also doubled the amount of dogs that we rescued from the previous years thankfully to my wonderful team of volunteers.”

Her book, “Be Your Own Sunshine,” was to be published this year.

Some of Kuwahara’s 2020 plans have been altered due to COVID-19.

“The pandemic has really slowed down my rescue and it’s been challenging,” she admits. “But it gave me the opportunity to work on the ‘behind the scenes’ tasks like partnering with more shelters (Riverside County Department of Animal Services), pet food manufacturers, and administrative duties. 

Emotional Support Dog ID Cards

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Federal Law Prohibits Discrimination Of Breed,Size,Training Level Or Age Of Any Emotional Support Or Service Dog.

Care For Pets

The Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation announced today that it has received a $200,000 grant from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, Pet Assistance and Support Program to help house, feed and provide basic veterinary service to the pets of its clients.

Chinn, who spent much of her childhood living alone in a garbage dump during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution after her mother was jailed and her siblings sent off to labor camps due to her parents’ wealth and Christian beliefs, has operated one of the few West Coast shelters to allow animals.

“Betty has long recognized the importance that some homeless individuals attach to their companion animals,” the release states. “Dogs provide emotional support, companionship, warmth and security to people living in the street. However, they also present a significant barrier to services because many shelters do not allow dogs, and this prevents some of the chronically homeless from accessing case management services geared toward regaining their self-sufficiency.”

Training Service Dogs

Since 2012, the Retrieving Independence Serving with Canines program has partnered with TDOC to train offenders to raise and train puppies to be service animals for people with mobility disabilities, seizure disorders and diabetes.

Last summer, the program which started at Turney Center Industrial Complex (TCIX), added the Tennessee Prison for Women (TPFW) to the list of facilities with the training program. After a month away, due to COVID-19 concerns, the dogs were returned to TPFW on Tuesday.

“These dogs change these ladies’ lives, by having a companion that shows them unconditional love, and when you are loved unconditionally, it changes your way of thinking. “says Corporal Craig Hawn who oversees the program. Corporal Hawn also tells us “The reward for me is seeing them change their lives. I can tell you every single one of these women in this program have grown from when they started out.”

During the nearly 18-month program the dogs undergo an intensive training process, teaching them everything from seizure detection and wheelchair assistance, to opening and closing doors and loading laundry.  A recipient for each dog is matched early on and the training program is tailored to meet that person’s specific needs.

“Good Boy” Movie

Hulu’s latest entry into their holiday-themed Into the Dark horror movie series might leave you side-eyeing your newly adopted pup. On Thursday, May 28, the trailer dropped for the newest Into the Dark installment, Judy Greer’s new horror comedy Good Boy, which is set to premiere June 12 on Hulu. The movie is tied to Pet Appreciation Week, but it presents a unique take on the owner-pet bond that’s way deadlier than you might expect.

Greer stars as Maggie, a woman who is dealing with an excess of anxiety and stress in her life. In hopes of improving her state of mind, she adopts an adorable terrier to be her emotional support animal, but the little guy takes his job a bit too seriously. As shown in the trailer, her 10 pound dog responds to her stress by killing anyone he perceives to be causing her any pain or emotional distress — and she might actually be OK with that.

In the trailer, Maggie’s friend marvels that her new dog has “made all of your anxiety disappear.” Maggie’s chilling response? “Like magic.” Despite Maggie’s emotional support animal taking the term overprotective to a whole new level, dog lovers shouldn’t worry about Maggie’s pup being the villain of the movie. After all, the tagline reads: “there are no bad dogs, just bad owners.”

ood Boy is especially timely given the coronavirus pandemic, when pets are providing more emotional support than ever before. As shelter in place orders were put in place across much of America, people stepped up to adopt and foster animals in record numbers with the ASPCA seeing the number of animals being fostered increase by nearly 70% this year over last year’s numbers, as reported by CNBC. More and more people seem to be inviting pets into their homes, and new pet owners are still adjusting.

Greer, a dog owner herself, signed on for the role because she knows firsthand what it’s like to adopt a dog. In an April interview with Variety, she shared that she related with Maggie’s “desire to have a companion dog,” and end up with a pet that wasn’t exactly how she imagined. Like her character, Greer also adopted a terrier, Mary, in hopes of having an animal that could travel with her. However, it turned out Mary needed her pet mom more than the actor could have anticipated.

“She’s so awful to everyone that I can’t let anyone take care of her because if she bites anyone they’ll totally sue me, so I can’t really take her with me when I go places and she’s not emotionally supportive,” Greer said of her dog. “In fact, she stresses me out so much because of her nature and how troubled she seems and how f*cked up her life was before I met her. So I feel like I really am her emotional support human.”

It seems Greer knows firsthand that every pet adoption story is different, but even a dog with a complicated past can still bring joy to your life. Good Boy seems to have the same message at its heart — it’s just presenting it in a much more heightened, murdery way.