View Products |  Sign In

Sheriff’s Office Has A Sniffing Dog

Harford County Sheriffs Department has added a new canine member to its police force. It’s very common for police departments to have dogs on the force to sniff out bombs, drugs, and people, but this K9 is the first of its kind in the State of Maryland.

Sata, a beautiful, fluffy black dog, is trained as a Electronic Storage Detection canine (or ESD). Sata can sniff out all kinds of electronic data storage devices like flash drives and cell phones. The dog and his human handler will be assigned to Harford County’s Child Advocacy Center Internet Crimes Against Children Unit.

The dog was brought to the department to help investigators find digital storage, often a crucial piece of evidence in crimes involving sexual offenses.

“K9 Sata will allow the Harford County Sheriff’s Office to expand our investigative capabilities to address the growing number of cases involving digital media,” said Sheriff Jeffrey R. Gahler.  “Access to this cutting-edge opportunity greatly enhances our abilities to protect the most vulnerable among us, our children.”

Sata is also trained as a therapy and comfort dog and will replace the department’s beloved therapy dog Kilo, who passed away last year. Therapy dogs can be used by law enforcement to comfort children and adults in stressful situations. Interaction with animals can help humans lower anxiety and blood pressure and take their minds off the situation. Sata is joined by her human handler, Detective Carey Gerres, and will help the department bring justice to the victims of child pornography and other sexual abuse crimes.

Sata was trained by a renowned K9 training company made possible by a grant from Neighborhood Electronic Detection K-9, a nonprofit dedicated to training dogs for ESD detection. Funding was also provided by the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention and the Harford County Task Force.

Can Guide Dogs Social-Distance

Guide dog Leo, a 2-year-old black Lab, helps his visually impaired owner, Samantha Ambrico-Custer, get around and navigate daily life.

He performs extraordinary tasks for her every day. But one thing Leo and other guide dogs can’t do: judge 6 feet between other humans.

Amid the pandemic, owners say their guide dogs have had trouble finding the end of a spaced-out line of people at stores, and obviously, they don’t understand the meaning of designated arrows on the floor.

“They are not trained to stand 6 feet apart from people and cross the street if someone is coming at me,” Ambrico-Custer said. “The situations I’ve been running into since the pandemic kind of set in are more related to people kind of getting frustrated that I can’t see. … My dog knows to avoid the person, but doesn’t know how to stay 6 feet apart.”

Ambrico-Custer is asking the public to be patient and understanding to the blind and visually impaired and their guide dogs.

“You can just say, ‘Hey, you’re coming at me and we are not 6 feet apart,’ or really anything to that matter, just to let me know that you are there and I’m not going the right way,” the Havertown resident advised. “I would prefer you letting me know than me continue on and continuously walk toward people when I should be going in the opposite direction.”

She said speaking up is the best way to keep everyone safe. However, never grab onto the person without asking if they need help, and don’t pet, feed or distract the animal in any way.

“Especially in this (COVID-19) situation,” Ambrico-Custer added, “where I don’t know where your hands have been and you don’t know where my dog has been. I think it is just really important to remember that if you see a service dog, they are working and they shouldn’t be distracted in any way, but specifically, don’t touch them.”

Paws For Life Rescue Program

Crazy Dog, a brand of Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis, recently donated 12,960 bags of its Crazy Dog Train-Me! treats to Paws for Life K9 Rescue (PFL). The treats will support the rescue group’s COVID-19 Operation Pandemic and Paws for Life Prison programs.

Operation Pandemic was launched to encourage people to foster a shelter dog during the COVID-19 pandemic. Treats will be sent to people who are fostering dogs through the Operation Pandemic program to help them meet the costs of caring for a pet, according to Kati Garrido, director of operations for PFL. The treats are being shared with two food banks that assist low-income pet owners in the Los Angeles area. PFL will also use the training treats in their Paws for Life program. PFL works with inmates in the California State Prison system to care for and train shelter dogs that later become service dogs for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“We are incredibly fortunate to be able to offer our dogs excellent training through our prison programs,” Garrido said. “A trained dog has better chances to have a successful adoption. Our trainers rely on treats to reward the dogs. Treats are such a vital part of our program, and a donation this generous really makes a positive impact because we are able to use the funds that we would have spent on treats on other things our dogs might need.”

Stacey Luna, a spokesperson for Crazy Dog, said that they are very pleased to make the donation.

“Paws for Life has quickly and effectively responded to the current crisis, and we are happy to be able to support their causes,” Luna said. “We know that well-behaved dogs are more likely to be successfully adopted, and training is important to get dogs out of shelters and into caring homes. Crazy Dog Train-Me! treats have been successfully used by thousands of professional trainers. I use them with my own dogs, Kerby and Myles, and I’m happy that they can play a role here.”

Dogs Adjusting To Social Distancing

Brian Hare, Ph.D. professor of evolutionary anthropology and director of Duke Canine Cognition Center, discussed how dogs help people to adjust to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. I want to understand how different types of cognition evolve, including in our own species. Dogs have provided a powerful way to test ideas about how selection can shape psychology. We have applied what we learned to help working dogs. Like people, we have found individual dogs have different cognitive strengths that give them their unique personalities. Currently, we are raising service dog puppies to examine how different socialization experiences might enhance their cognitive abilities. Our goal is to increase the chances they will grow up to be successful working dogs. The pandemic has forced many people to stay at home. This means that people are spending a lot more time with their animals. How do you think that this affects how people cope with the stress of the pandemic during this period? What do we know about the impact of animals on stress and anxiety during challenging times like we are currently experiencing?

First, I love that my dog is here to help the kids and grown up kids cope. Our dog does this in so many ways: He gets us out on walks, makes us play and hug, is always happy to see us and finally makes us feel good just by needing us. We know that for many people, dogs can be a powerful way to reduce stress and anxiety. Overall, I think that most dogs do a great job in a similar way with most families. In extreme cases, a dog becomes even more. For some, a dog becomes one of the most important, if not most important, social relationship. This is common in older individuals who have the greatest need to physically distance themselves. Their dog is a place of security, solace and love. These dogs are essential citizens right now. Luckily, in most cases, the dogs are also winning big, since they would always prefer to be with their human family. Other pets are playing a similar role, too—although I am sure there is more than one cat in all of this that is ready for their humans to go back to work!

As a scientist, I also know the story is much more complicated because the relationship between a pet and human is an interaction. Like any relationship, expectations can be too high, mismatches are frequent, and even good relationships age as novelty turns to duty. While many pets, and especially dogs, are known for reducing stress and bringing joy, pets can increase stress, too. Sheltering in place can make charming behaviors unbearable problem behaviors (e.g., constant singing, barking, walking on keyboards). Take time to include your pet in the daily plan. Sharing responsibility for care has become more critical than ever. Seek veterinary advice about how to prevent or address new problems caused by more time at home. Everyone may need a hug—even your pet. Many people are considering getting a dog or a new pet during this time. Being home offers a great opportunity to care for a new or young animal, but a new pet can be a blessing or curse depending on so many factors. One of the main difficulties physical distancing will present is how to properly socialize dog puppies during their critical developmental window between eight and 24 weeks. During this time, they need to experience as many places and people as possible to build up their confidence. This experience is critical to preventing fear and aggression as adults. They also need to spend time on their own so they do not develop separation anxiety. Many people may be able to come up with strategies to work around these problems, but another idea is to foster an adult dog instead of getting a new puppy. Fostering means you host a dog in your house from a rescue. Fostered dogs tend to have higher adoption rates and success once adopted because they have the chance to learn or remember all the appropriate skills they will need as part of a human family. Finally, avoid purchasing exotic pets or keeping local wildlife as pets—it may be illegal, and the pet trade threatens many species with extinction.

Police Welcomes New Recruit

The Moose Jaw Police Service has a new recruit, but he’s of the four-legged variety.

“Merc” passed his validation testing last week and he is now the fourth dog to join Moose Jaw’s K9 Unit.

“Usually, that’s the proper protocol is that when an old dog retires a new one is brought in or when the service is increasing say dog power or canine handlers they will bring in other dogs and begin training from there,” said Cst. Jim Biniaris, who is Merc’s handler.

In many ways, this dog holds special meaning to Biniaris. The dog is named in honour of Cst. Jason Mercer, an 18-year veteran of the Moose Jaw police force who died on March 23, 2016.

Biniaris said he was very close to Mercer.

“Jason was actually my field training officer for the majority of my career and so we found it fitting that I’d get Merc as my police service dog,” he said.

Police dogs go through rigorous training and Biniaris and Merc just finished training and Biniaris said he’s looking forward to getting back into patrolling with his new partner.

The K9 Unit can be deployed for a number of different reasons. These include alarm calls, violent offences, scenarios where a suspect has fled the scene, searching buildings and vehicles and assisting in missing person cases.

Puppies Helping Firefighters

Hanford Fire Department will have some furry new recruits soon.

The department is partnering with the California Service Dog Academy in Visalia to train two new puppies to help firefighters with stress.

Firefighters Connor Kurtz and Matt Martinez are heading the program and will be the two primary handlers for the puppies that are chosen for the department.

Kurtz said there are several services already available for firefighters coming back from particularly bad or difficult calls, like counselors, therapy sessions or talking to a chaplain, but he thought having a dog around would be a beneficial outlet as well.

He said being able to hang out with a dog can relieve stress and anxiety, as well as raise morale in the fire house.

Martinez then reached out to California Service Dog Academy, which trains dogs to help veterans with their mental health.

“It seemed like kind of a natural extension to help out local first responders as well in the same exact way,” Rebecca Corso, head trainer at California Service Dog Academy, said.

The academy decided to donate two puppies to the department as a way to not only alleviate the mental stress of the firefighters, but also to bring joy to the community.

This will be the first of the academy’s programs aimed at first responders.

A litter of 10 golden retriever puppies explored HFD Fire Station 1 Tuesday morning and visited with some of the firefighters.

Corso said she wants the 8-week-old puppies to become acclimated to the sights and sounds of a fire station, so as part of their training the puppies listen to recorded sounds from the fire house every time they eat so it becomes a positive experience for them.

The department will know which two puppies it’ll be getting on Saturday and the puppies will be delivered a week after that.

For the next year or two, the academy will support HFD with all the training needs for Kurtz and Martinez on a regular basis. Martinez thanked the California Service Dog Academy for not only donating the dogs but for putting the time and effort into training them and working with the department.

Kurtz said he hopes other local agencies see what the department is doing and in turn start their own programs. Corso said the academy has already received interest in the program, which they hope to expand in the future.

Kurtz said he’s grateful for the opportunity and is excited to see the outcome of the program and how it helps the firefighters in the long run.

Name suggestions for the puppies are being taken on the Hanford Fire Department Facebook page.

Working Dogs

We’re pulling for Draco, the German shepherd, who’s in training to become a K-9 law enforcement officer with the police department in Cape Carteret. There’s been some budget debate about whether the town can fund Draco as an ongoing line item.

The “Draco dilemma” was described by reporter Brad Rich in the May 24 edition of the Carteret County News-Times. Let’s hope town officials get it right.

Meanwhile, the South Lyon (Mich.) Herald reminded its readers of the cancellation of the traditional Memorial Day observance at the Michigan War Dog Memorial in South Lyon this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One visit to the park-like setting, and you gain a greater appreciation for the significance of military and law enforcement working dogs and all service dogs throughout America’s history.

The 2.5-acre site at South Lyon was developed as a pet burial ground in 1936 by Dr. Steve Elkow, a new veterinarian in town. He called it the Happy Hunting Grounds Pets Cemetery.

The story connects to one of the bravest military canines from the World War II era – Sgt. Sparks.

A Doberman pinscher, Sgt. Sparks had “enlisted” with the Marine Corps in 1943 and was shipped out to serve as a scout and messenger in the Pacific Theater.

Sgt. Sparks saw battle action on Bougainville Island in New Guinea, at Guadalcanal on the Solomon Islands and at Okinawa, Japan. His final station was on Guam in 1945. Sgt. Sparks was discharged in 1946 and went home to Michigan with his handler.

The dog was one of the “dignitaries” to attend a dedication ceremony later in 1946 for the unveiling of a 16-ton granite war dog monument in the South Lyon cemetery…and the official renaming of the graveyard as the Michigan War Dog Memorial.

After Sgt. Sparks died in 1947, his master requested that the dog “be wrapped only in a blanket,” like so many of his buddies on the World War II beaches…and interred at the base of the new monument.

As time marched on, the cemetery land began changing hands in the late 1970s, and the pet cemetery deteriorated from neglect.

Ownership of the land eventually transferred to Lombardo Homes, a residential development company. In 2013, CEO Tony Lombardo donated the cemetery portion of the property to a newly established nonprofit organization that agreed to take it over.

Its president, Phil Weitlauf, an Army veteran, said his group is financed entirely by private donations and no tax dollars are involved.

The board was committed to “restoring the cemetery to its former grandeur and protecting these hallowed grounds,” Weitlauf said.

The facility is now widely regarded as the “Arlington Cemetery for dogs,” said Jeff DeYoung of Muskegon, Mich., a retired Marine dog handler.

Weitlauf says: “There are about 36 war dog memorials throughout the United States, but only two memorials offer burials, one in Hartsdale, N.Y., and ours.”

Weitlauf’s organization has provided DeYoung’s dog Cena and others with a “full military honors funeral.” The established protocol is:

Bag piper, full color guard, eight German shepherds escorting the remains to the table of honor, invocation, reading of the biography, presenting a folded American flag to the handler, “Taps” by a bugler and “Amazing Grace” on the pipes.

As a finale, the German shepherds have been trained to howl on command, called a “K9 Salute to their Fallen Comrade,” for a full 30 seconds.

The military and public safety working dogs and service dogs “are our companions,” Weilauf said, “and when you bond with a dog, that dog bonds with you for life. It’s totally unconditional love.”

Future Service Dogs

Three volunteer pilots left California’s Sonoma Jet Center on March 28 with precious cargo in tow: puppies.

The planes were safely transporting golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and mixed puppies to their new, temporary homes. It was each puppies’ first step in becoming an assistance dog.

The pilots were helping Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit that provides trained assistance dogs to people with disabilities free of charge.

With the help of the volunteer pilots, the nonprofit has brought 108 puppies to southern California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Texas. The nonprofit connected with Martyn Lewis, Josh Hochberg, and Jeff Stewart, three private pilots who fly out of a nearby airport in Sonoma, California.

“Not only are they giving their plane, but their time, their fuel,” Michelle Williams, the public relations and marketing coordinator at Canine Companions, told Insider. “They’re going out for full days … it’s just incredible.”

Hochberg, the owner of Sonoma Jet Center where the planes fly out of, had never flown with puppies before.

“Once they get into the plane, they require less attention than my daughters,” he told Insider.

His two daughters will often ride along during the puppy flights. They play with the puppies an hour before takeoff, which wears them out. Once they’re on the plane, the puppies usually sleep the entire ride, Hochberg explained.

He said this work has created some positivity for his family in these challenging times.

“It’s more fulfilling than I could have possibly imagined,” he said. “So fulfilling that I actually got a puppy of my own.”

Hochberg’s family added a new member, Charlie, an American Brittany, which he fully attributes to his work with Canine Companions.

The biggest challenge now is finding volunteer pilots with planes that have the capacity to travel farther east.

“We’ve got the West Coast covered,” Hochberg said. “The challenge is the dogs need to go all the way across the US.”

The dogs are bred at Canine Companion’s headquarters in Santa Rosa, California. At the nonprofit’s breeding center, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and mixes of the two are bred for traits like calm temperament.

The 8-week-old puppies are then placed in temporary homes where families and individuals will raise the dogs. The volunteers will socialize the dogs and teach them about 30 commands. Once the dogs are about a year and a half, they’ll be placed in professional training centers, where they’ll learn more advanced commands.

“Disability doesn’t disappear in times of crisis,” Williams said.

Canine Companions currently has 400 people on its waiting list for a service dog. “If we were to put everything on hold, those people are going to wait longer for their assistance dogs,” she explained.

Luckily, the work hasn’t paused, and now the puppies can begin their road to becoming a service dog.

Veteran Services Has A New Employee

Animals have the ability offer a great source of comfort and support. While on the surface, the COVID-19 pandemic has been horribly tragic, there is a silver lining there. At least there is when it comes to Lincoln County Veteran’s Services. The director of Lincoln County Veteran’s Services, Alex Patton, is constantly looking for ways to better serve the county’s veteran population. This time, he’s not only found a way to help veterans, but also animals available for adoption at the county’s shelter.

In an effort to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus, Lincoln County shut their offices down to the general public the middle of April. While they opened back up on April 27, many offices have reduced traffic. The veteran’s services office is no exception.

“Most of our cliental are a high-risk group,” Patton said. “They’re older and sick and wouldn’t be coming to see me if it weren’t to file a claim. We don’t want to put them at risk. I’m not going to completely open until June 1. If they need forms, I either send them by email or drop them off on their doorstep and call them and tell them they’re there. I don’t want someone to say they got sick coming to my office or sitting in the lobby. Believe me, I want people back in here, but I don’t want anyone to get sick.”

Last year, a joint program between Lincoln County Veteran’s Services and Lincoln County Animal Services was developed so that veterans could adopt a shelter animal for no fee, but Patton wanted to take this relationship further.

“We were thinking about potentially going to the shelter and bringing a dog here and letting them spend the day and then take them back,” he said. “But you don’t know every dog’s personality or who would be a good fit and who wouldn’t.”

Patton has had Lucy, a rescued small mix-breed dog for about five years. A pregnant Lucy had been left on the side of the road. She also had temperament issues that led rescuers to believe she had been abused in the past.

About a year ago, Patton started having church-related home groups at his house.

“There was a little, bitty girl who was less than a year old that her parents would bring,” he said. “She’d play on the floor while we had our meeting. Lucy and that little girl took up together. She could pull Lucy’s tail and do just about anything to her and she just let her. My grandson is four and they’d chase each other around the house. That led me to think that we could promote animal rescue and have her here for emotional support.”

When the county offices shut down, Patton would bring Lucy with him to the office as he answered emails or telephone calls to see how she’d do. Lucy has fit in like she was made for the job. Before Patton started bringing her to the office, Lucy didn’t like to ride in a vehicle, but that’s all changed. She races him to the car now.

“It shows that a pet can calm you down and offer you emotional support,” Patton said. “It also shows that you can go to a shelter and get a good pet. People have a perception of what you can get from the ‘pound’ and that’s so far from the truth. Lucy had some issues when we first got her, but she’s worked through them. She’s turned into a good lap dog.”

People that share Patton’s office are enjoying Lucy’s company as well.

“It’s been a win-win situation,” he said. “If someone comes in and is having a bad day – well, you can’t pet Lucy and have a bad day for too much longer. I’m fortunate that I work for a good individual. Kelly (Atkins) has been adamantly onboard with this. He allows me to do a lot of things that other people may not be able to do to help veterans. This helps animal services too. There’s no downside to it.”

Free Pet Food

Every local business has been hit by the pandemic. Queenie’s Pets in Mount Airy, is no exception. “We lost 80% of our dog walking business,” said owner Adina Silberstein. What Silberstein, 44, hasn’t lost is her dedication to the community and her love of animals.

“We understand that many people are unemployed and afraid they cannot afford to keep their pets. So starting on May 7, we launched Queenie’s Kibble Kitchen, a no-contact, drive-thru, free food pantry for dogs and cats,” Silberstein said. “Every other Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m., pet owners can drive to our West Mount Airy Street entrance, remain inside their car, tell us what kind of pets they have, and Kibble Kitchen volunteers in masks and gloves will load food and litter directly into your car.”

The service will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last. Walk-ups are not permitted in order to maintain safe social distancing.

“The goal is to provide food and supplies for the dogs and cats that provide crucial emotional support during this time of crisis,” said Silberstein.

Queenie’s Kibble Kitchen is funded by online donations from the community.

“We set up a Venmo account at @QueeniesKK,” Silberstein said. “We have received donations ranging from $5 to $500. Before the end of the first week, we had raised $1,000.”

This effort reflects her company’s mission: “Making the lives of pets and their humans better.”

For Silberstein, this is an opportunity to give back to the community that has supported her since she first launched Queenie’s Pets from her home in 2006, now located at 7174 Germantown Ave., next door to McMenamin’s Tavern.

“I attribute my success to the community,” she said. “When I first started my dog-walking service, I had eight clients. Now I have 18 employees.”

Previously a middle school teacher and manager of catering services at Cresheim Cottage Cafe, Silberstein traces her love of animals back to her childhood.

“I grew up in Mt. Airy and have always been obsessed with animals,” she said. “When I got married, I vowed to love my husband as much as I loved my cat.”

These days, Silberstein is the owner of a Rottweiler-Scottish Terrier mix named Melodrama and four cats, all rescues.

What started as a dog-walking and pet-sitting business has evolved into a full range of services designed to meet pet owners’ needs at every stage. Queenie’s Meet-n-Greet is a prerequisite to all services they offer. A store manager and a potential walker or sitter come to the client’s home for an hour to meet the pets and “sniff” each other to make sure they are a good match.

Their Wedding Bells Package transports your furry friend to and from the wedding venue, plus an overnight for up to two pets. They also offer Labor & Delivery Packages to make sure your pets are in good hands while you are making your own special delivery. Plus a Newborn Relief Package for sleep-deprived new parents who would like to be relieved of morning dog walks.

Queenie’s Pets opened their storefront in 2015, carrying just a few items like leashes and some toys.

“It wasn’t until last summer that we added pet food, including brands such as Verus, Acana, Fromm’s, Blue Buffalo and Taste of the Wild. We can also get big brand names like Purina and Royal Canin,” said Silberstein.

“We also offer a crate rental program for those fostering dogs or who aren’t sure what size they will end up needing, and we do harness rental programs for growing puppies.”

Don’t see what you want? Queenie’s will custom-order for you. They also stock flea and tick protection and can make I.D. tags in their shop.

Among the many advantages of buying from a local business is their ability to deliver faster than corporate companies.

“Chewy is behind three weeks in deliveries, and we are not,” said Silberstein.

“Queenie’s is a great neighborhood resource,” said Ann Mintz, of Mt. Airy, who donated to the Kibble Kitchen. “I’m proud to help launch an initiative that will enable our neighbors to take care of their beloved pets.”

Mintz, who has four dogs and three cats, has been using Queenie’s for almost 10 years.

“Our dogs adore their Queenie’s caregivers,” she said. “They go ballistic with joy when we run into one of them in the park.”

Preparing Your Pets

It is true that pet adoptions have spiked nationwide during the pandemic, one of the few silver linings of this tragic situation. As families have more time at home to transition a pet into their lives, and have greater need for the emotional support and physical comfort of a pet, it makes sense that this trend is occurring. But, as communities begin reopening and people are returning to work, it will be important to make sure your pets are prepared for the adjustment. In other words, as the country reopens people need to make sure animal shelters don’t fill up again from pets you no longer have time, interest or patience for.

The reality is that life during COVID-19 has been really good for many pets. Having our people home more and soaking up the love we have to give has been unprecedented and delightful for many pets. Pets have become accustomed to new routines of sleeping in, daily walks, play sessions, dancing naked in the kitchen and long conversations while cuddling. Your pets are not going to be happy if it all vanishes at once.

If you know your routine is going to change back to work mode, I recommend you begin to slowly shift back to your former routine in advance. The goal should be to maintain some quality time with your pet once your schedule resumes to pre-pandemic times. This may be challenging, but you will need it just as much as your pet does. Trade in the post-work routine of the couch and a beer for a lovely evening walk with your best furry friend or a game of learning new tricks.

For those of you who added a pet into your family these past months it is even more important that you make a slow transition that emphasizes keeping your connection with your pets. And remember that pets are very tuned in to our people’s emotional states, and if you feel guilt or angst about leaving us, we will pick up on that. Don’t make a big deal of it; depart (and return) as though you are going for a quick errand, no stress equals no mess.


My name is Molly Jolly, and I am a 1-year-young female Husky and cattle dog mix. The thing about me is that I love people, which makes me very easy to love. I haven’t met a person I don’t like. Can any of you say that? I am calm and well trained, sort of like the adopter’s dream come true really. I put the word awesome in family dog. This pandemic will some day end, but your love for me will remain. Call my staff today to schedule an appointment to meet me. Stay smart and well out there everyone.

Assistance Dog Registration

Assistance Dogs Of America is the answer to ending the frustration you feel as a person who relies on the comfort, support and therapeutic value of your beloved animal.

Support Dogs Calm Students

One family’s tragedy turned into a blessing for not only the special needs students at Sunnyslope Elementary School, but for virtually every student fortunate enough to meet Perla, a five-year-old English Labrador retriever. Principal Joe Rivas said the dog’s demeanor and professional training as a service animal can calm any kid down in seconds.

Perla—also known as Perl—spent four years as a companion to Grant Burillo since he was six years old and a student at Escuela Bilingue International in Emeryville. Grant died in a boating accident in September 2019.

Rose Burillo, Grant’s mother, said Perla became stressed when she was no longer working with her son or going to school. Burillo contacted Monkey Tail Ranch, where the dog was born and trained, to determine the best course of action. They decided Perla needed to go back to work.

Since Feb. 27, Perla has been at Sunnyslope Elementary School in Hollister. On March 10, Burillo came to the school to see how Perla was fitting in. As it turned out, Perla has been more than a curiosity to the children; she has been an emotional life saver.

“It was a hard decision to make, as losing Perla was another loss,” Burillo said. “However, being able to see Perla and meet her new owner [Rivas] and her new community was a beautiful moment for me. It is hard to let Perla go, as I have lost so much.”

Burillo spoke of how Perla was able to calm Grant during anxious moments, acting as a buffer in stressful situations.

“Perla also allowed Grant to be more independent and helped him feel safe at night,” she said. “She learned to apply deep pressure on him when he was anxious and could easily redirect him. I know Grant would want Perla to continue to work and to be with other kids. Being able to see firsthand the love Sunnyslope has for Perla confirmed I made the right decision.”

Principal Rivas told BenitoLink that Perla came to his home Jan. 21. Before bringing the dog to campus, Rivas was trained on how to work with her.

“She knows everything,” Rivas said. “I had to be trained on the commands, and we did some testing at Target and some in the neighborhood. And then she came to the campus.”

Rivas described Perla as a “repurposed service dog, who is now an emotional support facilities therapy dog” to help children who have suffered any type of trauma, “or general education kids who are just having a rough day.”

“She knows how to make students feel better,” he said, adding that Perla is so mellow that he’s the one who gets nervous when students rush up and surround her. He said when he brings Perla out to the playground, children beg to walk her.

“She’s trained to go with other students to provide that emotional support,” he said. “She’ll walk with any student at any time.”

When not walking around the playground or being with one of the students during an emotional time, Perla stays in Rivas’ office, where students seemingly just happen to drop in and end up petting her. At home, Rivas said Perla magically transforms.

“She’s a completely different dog,” he said. “When her vest comes off, she’s a dog. She’s a little more excitable, runs in circles.”

While Rivas spoke with BenitoLink, students continually came up to pet Perla and ask if they could walk her. Perla is so popular, she even has her own Instagram account.

“She loves coming to the school,” Rivas said. “On weekends, when we’re home, I believe she misses being here. When I walk her here, she almost dives towards the kids, even if there’s a huge crowd, just to get petted and loved. She lives for this.”

Rivas said that after the boating accident, Burillo returned Perla to Monkey Tail Ranch, where she stayed for a few months. He said she was offered first to the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office and then San Benito High School.

“It sort of trickled down to us, and I asked Hollister School District Superintendent Diego Ochoa and let him know we had this opportunity for a facilities support dog and he said ‘let’s do it,’” Rivas said. “Now she’s working with our students. She’s calm and doing great.”

When Burillo showed up at Sunnyslope Elementary on March 10, it was obvious that Perla remembered her as she ran to see her former owner. It was both a happy and sad reunion.

Burillo and Rivas, along with Tim and Elise Houweling from Monkey Tail Ranch, took Perla to a classroom where many of the students had met the dog before, yet couldn’t resist reaching out to touch her as Burillo led her between their desks.

Tim Houweling told the students that before coming to the school, Perla once helped another little boy named Grant. He told them how Perla went to school with Grant every day.

“Grant’s no longer with us,” he told the class, “but we have Perl here, and she loved kids so much we had to find her another job. We know from Mr. Rivas this is Perl’s favorite thing. Thank you for giving her all the pets she needs, because that’s what she works for, the attention and your love.”

Service Dog Training

Eric Caron, a retired guidance counselor who has been blind since birth, recently moved to a new home. He noticed his guide dog, a yellow Labrador retriever named Ryan, had trouble leading him across a busy intersection he must cross regularly. Caron knew what that meant: It was time to retire Ryan, a near-senior citizen at 9 years old, to pet status and get a new guide dog.

But as the novel coronavirus spread, Caron’s “dog day” appointment on April 2, at the New York-based Guiding Eyes for the Blind, was postponed indefinitely.

“I had packed my bags a good month before the class date, including some special toys for the new dog,” said Caron, of Brattleboro, Vt. “I had a new pair of shoes for walking and a special shirt for graduation. I was ready. And now, you just have to take that bag and roll it in the closet.”

Like many people with disabilities, Caron relies on a service dog to help him navigate not just the world, but also his home and property. The dogs are trained to do specific tasks such as guiding people in public, opening doors and interrupting anxiety attacks. That training can last up to two years, and it is now on hold nationwide as the coronavirus crisis continues.

The handoff of already-trained service dogs to people like Caron also is paused, because it has to be done in person and with instructors and clients standing close together. That means people whose dogs are ready to retire, as well as people who have been on waiting lists a year or longer to get their first service dogs, remain in limbo.

“We’re under orders, depending on what state you live in, not to do activities that are not deemed as essential. Because this is considered education, it’s not deemed essential,” said Ben Cawley, director of training at Guiding Eyes for the Blind. “A guide dog-user would argue that it is essential, but we can’t be putting our staff or volunteers or applicants in an irresponsible situation.”

When New York ordered a statewide shutdown, Guiding Eyes for the Blind had 178 dogs in its Yorktown kennels as well as puppies in a second facility. Those dogs went home with staff and volunteers who are keeping them happy but who can’t train them during the pandemic to walk in grocery stores or down crowded sidewalks.

Canine Companions for Independence, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., faced a similar situation. Its six nationwide campuses are now closed, some 420 of its dogs in training are living with staff and volunteers, and the 400 people with physical and hearing disabilities on its waiting list are going to have to wait for the program to resume.

“We would love to be able, during this time, to continue to train the dogs at home and then perhaps look at doing some virtual training,” said Jeanine Konopelski, national director of marketing at Canine Companions, “but still, that in-person connection, the person meeting the dog, that still has to happen, and we can’t do that right now.”

Michelle Barlak, a spokeswoman for The Seeing Eye in Morristown, N.J., said a class to pair dogs and clients was in progress when the state shut down most businesses. The organization accelerated the training, got the dogs into homes with clients and has been following up by phone, Skype and email, she said.

An immediate challenge, Barlak said, is that the organization’s in-house veterinary clinic also was forced to close. That means local veterinarians end up handling problems, a more costly option eating into existing funding.

Another concern is making sure essential workers who rely on guide dogs can keep doing their jobs, said Thomas Panek, chief executive of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. If for some reason such a worker needed a replacement dog, he said, handoff could be tricky — and their critical work put in jeopardy.

“Right now, there are people who are blind and on the front lines in this crisis,” he said. “I know four people who work in the federal government. They have to go into places like the emergency response centers. They’re using their service dogs to get to work. They’re part of the crisis response team; they just happen to be blind.” How quickly future cohorts of service dogs can be ready remains an open question. Training programs are run on schedules, and those schedules are set back every day the pandemic goes on. Dogs living in foster homes may be safe and content, but some are losing skills.

“Many of our dogs need to learn how to work around adaptive equipment like wheelchairs,” said Sarah Birman, national director of training and client services at Canine Companions. “I don’t have a wheelchair in my house to practice with. I don’t have the special light switch to practice with, like the one that’s specially constructed at our center.”

The longer the crisis persists, Barlak said, the harder it will be for the dogs to get back on track. For now, she said, “I think our dogs are going to be able to catch up quite easily. If we’re all still sitting here a year from now? Then, I would be concerned.”

Teal Morris, a family caseworker for the Indiana Department of Child Services, is waiting out the worry with her golden retriever-Lab mix, Phil. She got him through Canine Companions in 2011 to help with her lifelong spina bifida. Phil picks up things she drops, and she uses his leash to maintain balance if she stumbles or trips.

But Phil is 11 and due to retire. Morris was supposed to meet his replacement in May. Now, the earliest possibility is August.

“There’s just so many unknown factors,” Morris says. “I’m trying to take it one day at a time. I have a little girl who is 2½, and with her, things are changing every day about regulations and schools being opened and closed.”

Caron, in Vermont with his guide dog Ryan, also is waiting out the crisis as his wife picks up extra 12-hour shifts. She’s an emergency-room nurse treating coronavirus patients.

“I know that Guiding Eyes is trying really hard to keep everything flowing. When they know what the virus is going to let us do, they’ll get back to me,” Caron added. “I don’t even know which dog would have been mine, but in my heart, I’m picturing this dog just waiting.”

For now, he’s focusing on Ryan.

“I still have to go to Tractor Supply to get dog food. I still have to do things,” Caron said. “Right now, I need him to stay healthy so we can go for walks and stay connected to the world.”

Gift For A Veteran

Celeste, a service dog, came into a perilous situation when her owner died and suddenly she had no one to care for her and nowhere to go.

She was on the verge of being put down when, as fate had it, Martin Vallance, a veteran who served in the Desert Storm operation of 1991, was connected to Celeste via social media and was chosen to adopt her.

In a post made by the Hawkins police department, the page announced:

“Celeste (the dog) was a loyal therapy dog for many years and her owner passed away. The family members of the owner were not able to keep Celeste and she was going to have to be put down. Y’all know we can’t stand for that but with this page we were able to get in contact with Mr. Vallance, a disabled veteran that needed a therapy dog. Now Mr. Vallance has a new companion and Celeste has a new fur-ever home. We might have a little extra dog hair around the PD and will probably have jealous dogs when we get home but together we can make Hawkins a great place.”

According to Vallance, the chief of Hawkins started an animal rescue shelter, and had posted about Celeste on the Hawkins Texas Animal Shelter Facebook page. Vallance saw the post and knew he needed Celeste in his life.

“I saw the post and told him I was a disabled vet with PTSD and I would like to have the dog,” Vallance said. “He called me back and asked me a few questions to make sure he was going to a good home. A lot of my friends from church were telling him, ‘Martin needs a therapy dog,’ so that’s why he made the decision. A lot of people had seen the post and wanted her.”

During Vallance’s service, he survived a missile explosion that killed many of his friends and fellow soldiers. The experience brought upon PTSD, and since the COVID-19 pandemic has struck, his state had worsened, he explained.

“The biggest thing that happened to me is a gun missile hit a building and killed 28 of my friends. I was one that survived, I was outside and they were inside. My friends know I struggle with it. Celeste is a blessing.”

Vallance explained that if he has a nightmare, Celeste can wake him up and comfort him.

“Just having her around for less than 24 hours, we made an instant connection. Everywhere I go she goes and that’s a comfort. It was a God thing. I was at the point I needed to do something. I do therapy twice a week and this pandemic does not help at all. I saved her and she saved me.”

He went on to share that Celeste is very easy to love, and very in tune with his emotions. When he is feeling down, she can sense it and will go to him with a gesture of affection.

”She’s lovable,” he said. “She will come and just put her face in my lap — dogs can tell emotions and stuff like that and she’s real good at that.”

After receiving the opportunity to adopt Celeste, Vallance expressed his gratitude for the Hawkins Police Department, his wife, his friends and his church community who he said have been a great support system.

“I’m grateful to the police department and my friends who helped me get Celeste,” said Vallance. “I’ve also been going to Summit Heights Fellowship for 14 years, the men’s ministry is really here to help people. I wouldn’t be here without the church and my wife.”

Talking About Pets

How can I treat heatstroke before rushing my dog to the emergency clinic?

For mild heatstroke, bring your puppy into an air-conditioned space and turn on a fan, so the outside temperature is lower than its body temperature and panting can work. Offer ice cubes to lick, or cold Gatorade or Pedialyte or water to drink, and wrap it in cold wet towels.

For severe heatstroke, soak the pet in cold water from the hose, or in the tub or sink. Place ice packs (bags of frozen peas work well) in its “armpit” and groin region where there are major blood vessels. The cold will chill the blood, and as it circulates, it cools the whole body from the inside. Once its temperature drops to 104 F, wrap him up in a towel and get him to emergency room.

How to identify incontinence in older dogs?

Incontinence is the inability to fully control the bladder and/or bowels. A dog that looks at you and squats to eliminate is probably not incontinent. When a dog is truly incontinent, the urination and/or defecation can happen without the dog realising it until it’s too late. This can make the dog feel shame and even worry about being disciplined. True incontinence is not your dog’s fault. Common findings in incontinent dogs include:

Leaking urine while sleeping; Having a bowel movement while sleeping; Dribbling urine while standing or walking (not squatting first); Dropping stool while standing or walking (not posturing to defecate); Finding wet spots on bedding; Smelling urine and/or faeces on your dog.

How to treat incontinence in dogs?

If your dog is incontinent and there is no treatment to stop it, you can make some adjustments to improve your dog’s quality of life and preserve your sanity.

Increase the frequency of walks and potty breaks. Take your dog out immediately after eating, drinking, and waking up. It’s like how you treat a puppy.

Put waterproof covers on dog beds and other places where your dog sleeps.

Clean soiled areas well with an enzymatic cleaner to keep your dog from being attracted to that area for elimination in the future.

Place puppy pads in easy-to-access areas so your dog can get relief faster.

Use doggie diapers for severe cases. Just be sure to change them frequently to avoid skin irritation and infections.

Bathe your dog’s genital area often to prevent odour, irritation, and infections. You also may want to keep longer hair trimmed short in the genital area to make cleaning up easier.

What is the reason behind the leaking urine in dogs?

Urine leaking may be symptom of a disease process or the consequence of aging. Like in older dogs it may be due to the weakening of the muscles that hold urine or due to developing a disease that affects the bladder or urinary tract. In spayed females, this may be caused by lack of hormone estrogen.

How can you prevent urine leaking in your dog?

Let your dog outside often to urinate. An empty bladder is much less likely to leak.

Train your dog to sleep and lie down only on easy-to-clean surfaces in the house or provide waterproof puppy training pads in the dog’s favourite spots.

Consider having your dog wear doggie diapers, especially at times when you are out of the house.

Properly clean your dog to prevent any infection.

Most importantly, don’t punish your dog. Keep in mind that it’s not the dog’s fault and is simply a part of growing old for many dogs.

Do dogs suffer from social anxiety?

Yes. They suffer from a fear of people, other animals, or unknown places, sights, sounds, and other stimuli in the environment. A dog may be perfectly fine around its human family members then become anxious around strangers, for example. Likewise, some are fine indoors or in their territory, but panic when leaving home. Depending on the dog, the level of anxiety in a social setting can be mild or extreme. It can cause a dog to act out or behave in ways that are not normally observed when it’s in a familiar environment. While some dogs may become very timid, others may feel trapped and cornered, which often results in fear aggression. When a cornered dog experiences the biological fight-or-flight response, the only available action is to fight.

Aggressive behaviour, such as barking, growling or jumping, towards a person or animal.

Timid and fearful behaviour, including cowering behind the owner, whining, or even screeching.

Some dogs show signs of extreme nervousness like panting or drooling. They may even suddenly urinate or defecate without seeming to know it.

Puppies Helping Firefighters With Stress

Hanford Fire Department will have some furry new recruits soon.

The department is partnering with the California Service Dog Academy in Visalia to train two new puppies to help firefighters with stress.

Firefighters Connor Kurtz and Matt Martinez are heading the program and will be the two primary handlers for the puppies that are chosen for the department.

Kurtz said there are several services already available for firefighters coming back from particularly bad or difficult calls, like counselors, therapy sessions or talking to a chaplain, but he thought having a dog around would be a beneficial outlet as well.

He said being able to hang out with a dog can relieve stress and anxiety, as well as raise morale in the fire house.
Martinez then reached out to California Service Dog Academy, which trains dogs to help veterans with their mental health.

“It seemed like kind of a natural extension to help out local first responders as well in the same exact way,” Rebecca Corso, head trainer at California Service Dog Academy, said.

The academy decided to donate two puppies to the department as a way to not only alleviate the mental stress of the firefighters, but also to bring joy to the community.

This will be the first of the academy’s programs aimed at first responders.

A litter of 10 golden retriever puppies explored HFD Fire Station 1 Tuesday morning and visited with some of the firefighters.

Corso said she wants the 8-week-old puppies to become acclimated to the sights and sounds of a fire station, so as part of their training the puppies listen to recorded sounds from the fire house every time they eat so it becomes a positive experience for them.

The department will know which two puppies it’ll be getting on Saturday and the puppies will be delivered a week after that.

For the next year or two, the academy will support HFD with all the training needs for Kurtz and Martinez on a regular basis. Martinez thanked the California Service Dog Academy for not only donating the dogs but for putting the time and effort into training them and working with the department.

Kurtz said he hopes other local agencies see what the department is doing and in turn start their own programs. Corso said the academy has already received interest in the program, which they hope to expand in the future.

Kurtz said he’s grateful for the opportunity and is excited to see the outcome of the program and how it helps the firefighters in the long run.

“There’s a lot of support behind it from the department and the community and we’re just looking forward to it,” he said.

Name suggestions for the puppies are being taken on the Hanford Fire Department Facebook page.

Service Dog Puppies

Here’s something cute to help you brighten your week!

Sweet 8-week old puppies just arrived at Dallas Love Field on Monday by private jet after a long journey from California. The local chapter is based in Irving with multiple locations across the country. The headquarters are in Santa Rosa, California, where the puppies arrived from.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the group is keeping its mission going to train and provide service dogs for people with disabilities at no cost.

While the pandemic is limiting flights for many, it hasn’t stopped them from transporting these future assistance puppies. Canine Companions looked to private pilots for help, and they stepped up in a big way.

Private pilots Martyn Lewis and Josh Hochberg volunteer with a nonprofit organization that connects volunteer pilots and plane owners with animal groups that need animal transportation. Now, they’re offering Canine Companions their services in a time of need.

“It combines two of my greatest passions, flying and dogs,” Lewis said. “There is nothing better in the world than delivering a puppy to their new person. The impact the dog has on its future person is incredible.”

So far, private pilots have flown more than 100 Canine Companions puppies from the nonprofit’s headquarters in Northern California to their volunteer puppy raisers in Southern California, Colorado, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico and now, Texas.

“We are so grateful to Martyn and to all the pilots, staff and volunteers who are helping our puppies get to their volunteer puppy raisers during this unprecedented time,” said Canine Companions CEO Paige Mazzoni in a statement. “At times like these, it is wonderful to see the goodness and kindness in people who want to help however they can.”

Canine Companions still has over 400 people waiting to be placed with an expertly trained assistance dog.

Yogi’s Law

The black dog is Ron Fenton’s ever-present companion. Usually, it sits on his shoulder. Sometimes, it creeps up and whispers in his ear, telling him it’s time to have what Mr Fenton calls “a little chat”.

On the day the former policeman found out he had terminal liver cancer, it jumped right off his shoulder and screamed in his face, “Now! Now is the time!”

It was another dog – a chocolate-coloured Labrador to be precise – who saved him. For two nights, Mr Fenton’s canine companion Yogi sat with him patiently, nuzzling his hand insistently.

“For the second time in my life, Yogi talked me out of suicide,” he says.

Mr Fenton suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, a diagnosis that can be traced to his near death on the job in 1984. A gunman who had murdered a security guard in Clayton opened fire on Mr Fenton’s police car, riddling the vehicle with 27 bullets and leaving 37 fragments in Mr Fenton’s head.

Mr Fenton survived the physical injury and the mental scars to achieve what he hopes will be his legacy long after the cancer takes him.

Yogi, his trained PTSD assistance dog, was donated to him in 2017 by a veterans’ charity and since then, the almost five-year-old Labrador has been a salve for his suffering.

But despite what Mr Fenton’s lawyer called demonstrable evidence of the dog’s effect, WorkSafe rejected his claim for the insurer to pay for Yogi’s expenses.

So Mr Fenton took legal action and, in an 11th-hour settlement just before he was due to go to court this month, achieved his goal.

It’s a win the 64-year-old hopes will make it easier for other emergency service workers to access financial aid for assistance dogs.

“I wanted to leave something behind,” Mr Fenton says.

“The boys [his ex-police mates] are calling it Yogi’s Law. It’s not a law, it’s just a precedent but I’m pretty proud of it.”

His lawyer, Kathy Wilson, from Melbourne Injury Lawyers, has been handling workers’ compensation claims since 1989 and this was the first assistance dog case she’s run.

Ms Wilson negotiated the settlement under the Accident Compensation Act, which stipulates WorkCover pays for the reasonable cost of services. She argued that under the act, the cost of Yogi was a personal or aide expense requested by a medical practitioner. Mr Fenton’s doctors wrote to the court saying that Yogi reduced the former policeman’s reliance on medication and need for psychological counselling. Yogi also stops Mr Fenton’s nightmares, pushing his paw on a pressure pad to turn on a bedroom lamp which wakes him before the terrors take hold. His GP added that it would be cruel for an insurer not to pay for Yogi.

Ms Wilson said the case signalled assistance dogs would become more readily accepted in WorkCover claims.

“It should be heartening for people who may have had rejections and thinking they couldn’t do anything about it to now know it can be challenged and should be challenged,” she said.

A WorkSafe spokesman said in a statement it would meet annual accreditation costs for a trained psychiatric assistance dog.

“Requests for support for trained psychiatric assistance dogs are assessed individually by WorkSafe’s clinical panel,” the spokesman said.

Assistance dogs are a relatively new concept for the treatment of PTSD, with the federal government only now trialling dogs destined for veterans in a pilot with La Trobe University.

Assistance Dogs Australia’s Richard Lord, who runs one of the few accredited suppliers of PTSD dogs in the country, said Mr Fenton’s win was a step in the right direction.

“More and more people are going to see how these dogs are helping people who are injured and traumatised through the work they do and there will be more support for the organisations supplying these dogs,” Mr Lord said.

With the win for Yogi under his belt and his first grandchild being born, Mr Fenton says he has a lot to live for, even if his cancer diagnosis gets in the way.

“No one is getting out of this game alive. We’ve all got to die of something, at least I’ve got some sort of ability to prepare,” he says.

And if the black dog comes, he has the chocolate one dropping a slobbery tennis ball at his feet.

“When I’m down, he brings a tennis ball and says, ‘come on Dad, play’, until I give in and get outside, get fresh air and change my mindset.”

In Memory of Diesel

When Rolette and Josh Warren’s dog, Diesel, needed an expensive operation several years ago, the Binghamton couple couldn’t find any financial help.

They dialed animal rescue organizations as far away as New York City and California, but were turned down by every organization.

“We ran into a lot of roadblocks,” Rolette Warren said.

They handed over their life savings to pay for Diesel’s medical treatment and ultimately lost their home. Diesel could not be saved. Since then, the couple has recovered financially and now run a non-profit organization in Diesel’s memory that helps pet owners with food and other services.

“Our goal is to help be the bridge between the rescues and everybody else that’s trying to do something different within the pet community,” Warren said.

In Memory of Diesel, which received its nonprofit status in 2017, runs a pet food pantry for dog and cat owners in need, as well as help for cremating pets and providing support for their grieving owners. They also donate pet food to local pet rescue organizations, including Every Dogs Dream, Harpers Haven and Pibbles & More.

Future goals of the organization include providing help for emergency veterinary services, pairing people with disabilities and military veterans with service dogs, and rescuing and rehoming dogs from high-kill shelters.

The pet food pantry recently expanded its pet food services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down schools and businesses, and left many people unemployed.

“During this pandemic, we decided to pass out pet food every week rather than twice a month because of the influx of need in the area,” she said.

Since March, when the pandemic started, the organization has given away 1,400 pounds of pet food, Warren said. The goal is to help pet owners make it through tough financial times without having to give up their pets to shelters.

“We believe that you don’t need to surrender them during that time when you’re just down and out for a short period of time,” she said. “We believe everyone should have the opportunity to give their pet a fighting chance to stay with their family.”

Warren knows firsthand how strong the bond can be between pet and human.

“He was a great dog and an escape artist,” she said of Diesel, who was a Siberian Husky. “He was a character. He was the protector of our kids.”

Diesel was an active dog who never slowed down until the day he started getting sick.

“We knew something was wrong because he never acted like a 12-year-old dog. He acted like a puppy,” she said of Diesel.

Diesel was eventually diagnosed with a fungal infection which infected his lungs. He died in November 2014 but he’s not forgotten.

“That’s why we do it,” Warren said. “This is a way to honor his memory.”