All About Autism Service Dogs

Photo courtesy of Autism Service Dogs of America

Photo courtesy of Autism Service Dogs of America

In the spirit of Autism Awareness Month, all of April, I’d like to put the spotlight on some very special dogs that have helped countless children, teens and adults with autism: Autism Service Dogs.

There are all kinds of service dogs, and you have probably seen many of them throughout your life. They can be spotted wearing a vest or jacket indicating that they are “on the job.”

About service dogs in general

When most people think of service dogs, they think of guide dogs, for example – for the blind. At least that’s what I always imagined. I wasn’t aware until the past few years that there were service dogs for many other impairments and health issues, including:

  • hearing dogs
  • seizure alert dogs
  • mobility dogs
  • psychiatric service dogs
  • autism dogs

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Pig

Emotional Support Pig

I had not heard about “emotional support animals” until the news of the emotional support pig that got booted off the plane last fall – here’s a link to that story. Emotional Support Animals don’t even have to be dogs, they can be pretty much any kind of animal. More information about these types of support animals can be found here.

Autism Service Dogs


Today however, I’m going to talk about Autism Service Dogs. I find this fascinating, partly because I have a son with autism, and partly because I just think it’s a really intriguing concept. How does one train a dog to specifically work with those who have autism?

It’s certainly not as cut and dried as I would imagine other service dogs work – for example vision and hearing guide dogs.

Paws With a Cause, an organization that breeds and trains dogs specifically for life as a service or guide dog, has this to say about Autism Service Dogs:

“Service Dogs for Children with Autism act as constant companions to children with autism to help them improve social interactions and relationships, expand verbal and nonverbal communication, teach life skills, increase interest in activities and decrease stress within the family. A PAWS Dog doesn’t pass judgment, but breaks into the world of autism and becomes a crucial part of the family’s life.”

Hmmm, that’s pretty cool! I did some homework on this, and here are some of the things Autism Service Dogs can do (courtesy of the website Canines 4 Hope):

  • Impulsive Running – dog will help retrieve and get child back to parent
  • Self Harming Behavior – dog will interrupt behavior and alert parent
  • Awakening at Night – dog will bark to alert parents
  • Interpret Mood Swings – dog will crawl into child’s lap to calm child
  • Interrupt Social Isolation – child tends to focus on dog companionship
  • Non-Verbal Child – child learns to give dog commands
  • PICA – dog will stop child from eating inappropriate items
  • Self Stimulation – dog can interrupt behavior

The only one of the above services I’m a bit “iffy” about is the dog interrupting self-stimulation – in autism-speak this is known as “stimming” – and in my experience, unless it is a harmful behavior, I do not try to stop my son from stimming because it is a self-soothing activity that helps him cope. However, I am sure this is something that can be trained on a case-to-case basis.  Certainly if there are self-harming behaviors that would require alerting the parent!

Social Skills – a huge benefit


I love the idea of a dog helping a child (or teen or adult) with social skills. Rare is the person who doesn’t love a dog. They are like magnets when you take them on walks or to the park for example. I can definitely see how pairing up a person with autism with a dog could help them to relax more in environments that might cause them anxiety.

The child can be transformed from “the kid with autism” to “the cool kid with that AWESOME dog!” – not that I am in any way, shape or form saying that someone needs to be “cool.” That’s ridiculous, in my opinion. However, from personal experience, I’ve seen the awful ways that people can look at anyone who is different – and those with autism get this a lot. If having a great, friendly, wonderful dog can help them to be more at ease in social situations, I think that is a huge positive.

When Jake was in the fourth and fifth grade, his lead teacher in special education had a service dog present in the classroom. She reported – and we observed – how much Jake benefited from the loving companionship of this dog. It was heartwarming to see this darling dog interact with the kids, how she made them smile and laugh, and how she was able to calm them when they had occasional “meltdowns.”

Autism Service Dogs can be a great conversation starter, a way to help someone with autism get some low-pressure practice at conversational skills. They are a calming presence, which can be enormously helpful to those with autism who also suffer with anxiety (the two can go hand in hand, understandably so).

Safety, security and protection – priceless

Safety and protection are another great perk of Autism Service Dogs. They can be trained to watch over a child who has a habit of running off (this is a very common problem among younger children with autism – we had many heart-stopping moments when our then non-verbal son would take off at the speed of light and disappear with no warning, leaving us panic-stricken and filled with anguish. 911 was called on more than one occasion). They can alert the parents and can track the child immediately. Some children have tethers with their dogs (who are trained to guide them this way), which adds an extra amount of security and safety.

Show me the money

Autism Service Dogs are pricey, no doubt about it.

I’ve seen rates from $12,000 to well over $20,000 – but on the other hand, many organizations are very happy to help the family in fundraising efforts to make their dream a reality. So I wouldn’t say it’s an impossible dream for those without a lot of money. On the contrary, I think if it is something a family really feels positive about, that it can help their child or family member, that it can be done. Passion and fundraising can go a long way!

As for me, well – our dog JJ is not a trained Autism Service Dog – but Jake (my son with autism) loves him, and JJ loves Jake. That love is plenty enough for me. However, if I had heard of Autism Service Dogs when Jake was first diagnosed (way back in 2003), I probably would have jumped at the opportunity!

Nowadays, awareness of this kind of service dog is spreading, and there are organizations popping up everywhere that train and provide those with autism a service dog who is a custom fit for their temperaments, personalities and needs.

More information: videos

Here are some cool videos that showcase the many benefits of Autism Service Dogs:

How Elf the Autism Service Dog can help protect “his boy”

Boy with Autism Finds Support from Service Dog

Service Dog accompanies Autistic Child to school

More information: websites

Here are some websites you can visit for more in-depth info:

Autism Service Dogs of America

Service Dog Central (general site about service dogs, this link goes right to the page about Autism Service Dogs)

Autism Speaks (page with resources about Autism Service Dogs)

Earlier this month I highlighted several dogs and cats who “lit it up blue” in support of autism awareness – they really stepped up to the plate to show their support!  You can check out these awesome pets at: Dogs Supporting Autism Awareness and Cats Supporting Autism Awareness.


I hope you found this information as interesting as I did! If you have any experiences with service dogs – for autism or otherwise – please share in the comments below, or write me at –  I’d love to hear your story!


Blog the Change: please consider adopting an older pet!


(Photo courtesy of the Humane Society of North Iowa)

Today is “Blog the Change for Animals” – a posting challenge to write about a cause near and dear to your heart, and to make a fresh commitment to that cause.

I have been nuts about animals my whole life. All critters, really. I started trying to “save them all” even as a small child. I swear every stray in the vicinity knew my address, because they knew a little girl lived there who would give them food, water and love. I wasn’t able to do much back then, but I tried.

The ones that needed me weren’t puppies and kittens. They were older, street-smart if you will. They didn’t have that adorable kitten/puppy aspect – they didn’t roll over and act cute and sweet. They were tired, hungry, and most of all, wary.  Most didn’t come near me. But I’d watch from behind a corner as they gobbled up the food and water I left for them.

Many were old, very old. One in particular, I named “Prince” (thanks to my obsession with the “artist formerly known as Prince” – this was back in the 80s). I eventually won his trust, after many months. Over time, he let me get closer and closer, until finally – he trusted me enough to where he would let me just sit with him in front of our house.

Soon after that, he would come rambling up to me as soon as he heard me come outside, and let me pet and love on him. He had the loudest purr I’d ever heard (and it still hasn’t been matched!).

I convinced my mom to let me keep him. Prince had won her heart as well. 🙂

I was overjoyed, but I didn’t realize then that Prince was reaching the end of his life. He started moving more slowly, and he was getting thinner, although we were feeding him well. He only got worse… he started getting listless and was clearly getting ill.

My mother took him to the vet, and she came home with bad news: Prince was not OK. He was dying, and he was in pain. I sobbed in my mother’s arms when she said that the most loving thing we could do for him was let him go.

I was twelve, and I had to make the hardest decision of my life up to that point.

My heart was broken. But I knew my mom was right, and that it was the kindest, most loving thing we could do for Prince.

He took his last breath peacefully and passed over the Rainbow Bridge while in my loving arms at the veterinarian’s office. I will be forever grateful to my mother for entrusting me to be able to handle it.

I grieved for a long time for my buddy, but looking back, I realize what a valuable gift he had given me. You see, he came to us when he was at the end of his life. There is no telling how old he was, but let’s just say he’d been around the block a few times, and had definitely used up all his nine lives!

I never knew him as a playful, fluffy kitten. Just a wiry, skinny, battle scarred old tomcat who, against all odds, put his trust in a human being (most feral cats never, ever do this, in my experience).

He chose ME, a 12-year-old girl, to take care of him and to love him at the end of his life. And I did. What a lesson in love he gave me!

We’ll never know what life he had before he showed up in our lives, happy to find a regular supply of food and fresh water. A place where he could rest his weary bones. But what I do know is this: his very last months on this earth, he knew he was loved. He knew that someone cared about him. He knew he had a family.

That lesson, that feeling, has never left me.

It’s been 30 plus years since I had the privilege of knowing and loving Prince, but he is still right here in my heart. And what I learned from him was this: the cats and dogs who are older, in their later years, need human love just as much as the adorable, sweet-as-pie little kittens and puppies.

Just because they are old, slow, and grey, doesn’t mean they don’t bask in the glow of adoration and devotion from someone who loves them.

My sweet Kiki

My sweet Kiki

If anything, they probably appreciate it even more. I don’t know this, of course – but it’s just a hunch on my part.

It’s probably why every pet I’ve ever had for most of my adult life was adopted as an adult. Not all of them, but most.  I don’t choose them, they choose ME. Because if I’m in a shelter, greeting the dogs and cats looking for homes – my eyes immediately go to the older ones. The ones that most people pass right on by while heading to the adorable fluffs of joy we call kittens and puppies.

And adorable they are! No argument from me there! In fact, my most recent rescue was a kitten that was barely three weeks old. I was definitely NOT in the market for that. It was fate.

So this past year I’ve had one of my only experiences with a young kitten, and it’s been quite fun! He’s a real ham, and we adore him.

But still, my heart yearns for the older cats and dogs. I think of the ones who have spent years just waiting for someone to notice them. For someone to give them a chance. For a family to claim them as their own, so they can know the joy of having a family to love them and cherish them even though they aren’t tiny and cute anymore. For whatever reason, they missed the opportunity to get adopted during that brief time of life.

Or, in way too many cases, they were indeed adopted when they were tiny and cute, and then unceremoniously dumped off at a shelter once they were grown and the children tired of playing with them, or maybe the family was moving and just didn’t want the “hassle” of taking them along, or – well, there’s a lot of reasons this happens, and none of them are good.

And at that point you have a traumatized, grieving older pet who has lost the only home they have ever known, the family they gave unconditional love to. And they wonder just what they did wrong.


Why did their family abandon them? They have no words to ask why. But if you’ve volunteered at a shelter long enough, you know that look – it’s in their eyes. And day by day, you see that they lose hope.

This brings up so many emotions in me I can’t put it into words. But the message I want to express is this: the gratefulness and love these older pets bring to families is, quite simply, unmatched. It will take your breath away, if you experience it for yourself.

If you have never considered adopting an older pet – I don’t judge you at all!  This post is not meant in ANY way to lecture or judge.  And again, I completely understand the excitement of getting a new kitten or puppy – it’s a fun adventure, and they are just made for cute videos! 🙂

But if I can convince just one person to take some time to think about giving an older pet a chance at having a real family, if I can just get one person to consider how much joy they will give that cat or dog, and how much love, SO much love, and loyalty, they will get back in return – then I will feel like I’ve scored a major victory.

I want as many people as possible to speak up for the older pets – the ones that get passed by every adoption day, the ones no one notices in their rush to play with the puppies and kittens. It’s time to do my part.

Please consider taking some time to sit down and visit with one of the “senior” cats or dogs at your local shelter. Spend some time with them. Maybe even foster one for awhile so you can see how much love they have to give – I promise you will be astonished. And they are quite entertaining in their own way. 🙂

My Noble Cat Kade!

My Noble Cat Kade!

Also consider these perks of adopting a “senior” pet:


  • You don’t have to go through the exhausting potty training ordeals that a kitten or puppy need.


  • They don’t have teething issues, so your shoes are safe! 😉


  • They are much less rambunctious than the little ones. They are generally calm, and just want someone to sit by their side and give them affection and love.


  • What you see is what you get: you never know what a little pup or kitten will grow into – but with an adult/senior pet – they are exactly what you see – no guesswork involved!


  • They don’t require constant supervision – and puppies and kittens definitely need that!


  • Last, consider this: the older ones don’t last long in shelters that aren’t “no kill” – they just don’t get much time, if any, before being euthanized – though even a 10 year old (considered senior) pet will most likely have many more years of love to give you! So you can adopt knowing that you are saving them from either many more years of loneliness, OR from imminent euthanasia if in a county or city shelter where they just don’t have the room to house the “older inmates.”

As suggested by the Blog the Change for Animals suggests, I’m going to make a fresh commitment to my cause: getting older pets adopted and into loving homes.

  • I pledge that I will use my spare time to advocate for them whether through highlighting older pets who need adoption on this blog, or sharing on other social media.


  • I pledge that I will work with my local shelters to get the word out about their adoptable older pets.


  • I pledge that I will foster and/or adopt another senior pet by the end of this year.

The website has a fantastic searchable database so you can find the perfect senior pet match – you can just use the drop down menu under the “age” category and click “senior.”

If you have adopted a senior pet, I’d love it if you’d send me your story and photos to to help spread the word about what a truly wonderful experience it is!

Have any of you had the experience of adopting an older pet? Or are you considering it? If so, please share in the comments below!

Cats Supporting Autism Awareness!


April is Autism Awareness Month, and here in my home – it is a month of celebrating the gifts and joys that come with having a child (or sibling – according to my other kiddos) with autism. Our son Jake (15) has autism, and we wouldn’t change one thing about him. He is the epitome of unconditional love and happiness – he just radiates it!

Our sweet & handsome Jake!

Our sweet & handsome Jake!

“Light it up Blue” is the motto of Autism Awareness Month – people wear blue, or might change their porch light to blue, or make blue posters for their school or workplace. Cities and homes and people are awash in blue, and it is a beautiful thing indeed.

As I highlighted in my post earlier this month, Dogs Supporting Autism Awareness, our pets can join in for the cause, too! Turns out they know a thing or two about showing support, not to mention unconditional love. They don’t see a “person with autism” – they simply see someone they adore.

So today I proudly present some truly fabulous felines showing off their support of Autism Awareness!

I will start with my own four kitties – Kiki, Kade, Blazer and Sally. They all gravitate to Jake – he adores our cats! He loves to pet them and kiss them on their heads, and they love it, and love him!

Kiki –

Pretty Kiki showing her support!

Pretty Kiki showing her support!

OK so I admit Kiki doesn’t look thrilled in this picture – but she patiently allowed me to fuss over her with our blue bandana, so she gets super-extra-credit for that!

Kade – 

Kade proudly rockin' the blue for autism!

Kade proudly rockin’ the blue for autism!

Blazer – 

Blaze showing off - he's proud to wear blue!

Blaze showing off – he’s proud to wear blue!

Sally – 

Our sweet Sally with her blue flair for autism!

Our sweet Sally with her blue flair for autism!

Next up we have beautiful Amber and handsome Max – both are here courtesy of the wonderful blog Pawesome Cats – which is a MUST see blog if you love cats!

Beautiful Amber shows off her pretty blue harness!

Beautiful Amber shows off her pretty blue harness!

Handsome Max claims this blue bag to show his autism support!

Handsome Max claims this blue bag to show his autism support!

Here we have magnificent Molly – she just melts my heart!

Isn't Molly just beautiful in blue?

Isn’t Molly just beautiful in blue?

Introducing Pacey – this handsome green-eyed fella is proud to show his support! Pacey is one of the featured pets on the blog Totally Rosalie – this is another must-visit blog for pet lovers – with tips, reviews, giveaways, and general pet entertainment posts, you will love it!

wowza - what a gorgeous fella lighting it up blue for autism!

wowza – what a gorgeous fella lighting it up blue for autism!

Check out the aptly named Miss Parker Prettycat  – she is showing off her beautiful blue blanket in support of “lighting it up blue!” You can see more of this beauty at her blog here! Also check out Aimable Cats!


Miss Parker Prettycat showing off her blue blanket for autism!

Miss Parker Prettycat showing off her blue blanket for autism!

Next up we have Waffles! First of all, have you heard of a cuter name for a cat? I love it, and I love this sweet kitty!

Gorgeous Waffles lighting it up blue for autism!

Gorgeous Waffles lighting it up blue for autism!

Next is a kitty cat who resides on the world-famous Poezenboot in the Netherlands – the only animal shelter that is literally in the water, on a houseboat in the Amsterdam canal! One of my pet loving buddies shared this with me, as she was lucky enough to visit these fab felines. You can read about her visit on the blog Dash Kitten. This kitty in the blue “castle bed” is a fine choice for lighting it up blue, don’t ya think? For more information about this fantastic place, you can visit their website at The Poezenboot (TIP: Google will translate the page into English for you!).


King of the Blue Castle!

And here is beautiful Lola, prettily perched on her blue pillow!

Lola says "I support autism awareness!"

Lola says “I support autism awareness!”

To round out these fab felines, here are three beautiful kitties who are in need of a loving forever home! I met them at an adoption event this past weekend, and their foster mama was more than happy to have them model some blue flair for autism awareness! Their names are Icicle, Vito and Sylvester – and they are all sweet as can be! They were happy to be held, petted and loved on!

If anyone is interested in inquiring more about them – please contact me at and I’ll get you in touch with the contact person. Although based in the Houston area, they can be transported – woot woot! 🙂

Beautiful & Sweet Icicle says "I support autism awareness!"

Beautiful & Sweet Icicle says “I support autism awareness!”

Vito looks quite dashing in blue, don't you agree?

Vito looks quite dashing in blue, don’t you agree?

Cutie-Pie Sylvester is lighting it up blue!

Cutie-Pie Sylvester is lighting it up blue!

Let’s give a big round of applause to Kiki, Kade, Sally, Blazer, Amber, Max, Miss Parker Prettycat, Pacey, Molly, Waffles, the kitty on the Poezenboot, Lola, and the three sweet kitties waiting for their forever homes – Icicle, Vito and Sylvester. A huge thanks to these fab felines for showing that they too, can light it up blue!

Do you have a pet showing off some blue flair for Autism Awareness Month? If so, I’d love to show them off, just send me a photo and their name to

If you enjoyed the beautiful kitties that participated in this post, or if you know and love someone with autism, please share in the comments below!

National Pet Day 2015 – Celebrate Your Pet!


Today is National Pet Day, the perfect day to show your pet(s) how much you cherish and adore them!

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” ― Anatole France

We're ready to party!

We’re ready to party!

We humans have birthdays, holidays, mother’s day, father’s day, heck – even siblings day – so it’s only right that our pets – who give us such unconditional love – get a day in their honor. 🙂

This is love...

This is love…

“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.

It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.” ― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog

So what are some ways you can celebrate with your beloved furry friend?

Here are some ideas I’ve come up with:

  • Take your pet to PetSmart, PetCo, or another pet-friendly store and let them pick out a treat
  • Take some photos of your pet and yourself and post them with all the reasons your pet is the best pet EVER. 🙂
  • Make some homemade doggie treats! You will definitely want to visit these blogs for some super “pawsome” recipes (links to specific pages with recipes):
    • DogVills – chicken biscuits dog treats
    • DogVillshypoallergenic pumpkin oats nut-free recipe
    • Dogvillscinnamon pumpkin treats
    • Dog Mom Days – a whole page of homemade dog treat recipes!
    • Bones and Fishes – pumpkin oat dog cookies
    • Bones and Fishes – chicken jerky dog treats (there have been recalls on jerky treats lately, the store-bought kind can be fatal in some cases, so if your dogs love jerky, you’ll definitely want to check this one out for their health and safety)
    • Dawg Business – another safe, homemade jerky treat recipe – this one beef!
    • Kol’s Notes – lots of homemade dog recipes here – and I mean LOTS! 🙂
  • Don’t forget your feline friends, you can make them homemade kitty treats too!
  • Donate to a local shelter – they can always use blankets, toys, kitty litter, etc. (lots of shelters have a list on their website of things they need the most – so you might want to check that first)
  • Make a charitable donation to a local shelter in your pet’s name
  • Take your dog to a local dog park – there’s even an app for that! For iPhone, check out Dog Park Finder, and for Android users, a good one is Dog Park Locator
  • Send pictures of you and your beloved pet(s) to me at so I can show them off!
I'll always be here for you....

I’ll always be here for you….

Do you have any other ideas? How are you celebrating your pet today? Please share in the comments below!

National Greyhound Adoption Month – why you should consider adopting a retired racer


Many years ago, a friend took me to a local greyhound racing event. I was uncomfortable but curious. I just didn’t like the idea, but I went along to see what it was like.

The beauty, grace and pure primal speed of these beautiful dogs took my breath away – I remember getting chill bumps all over just watching them nearly fly by…

Look at her FLY!

Look at her FLY!

But when we left – I felt a sense of despair wash over me, because without even knowing anything about it, I had a gut feeling that they didn’t lead exactly pampered lives outside of their racing lives.

My gut feeling was spot-on. I read up on it, and what I found was distressing.

However, the point of this post is not to promote any kind of “shock value” scare tactics, it’s about sharing all the great reasons for adopting a retired racing greyhound!

So let’s get to it!

April is National Greyhound Adoption Month. According to the website Greyhound Expressionsthey are typically only about 2 to 5 years of age when they retire. Needless to say, that is quite young and they still have a lot of life to live and love to give!

What a beauty!

What a beauty!

Here are some must-know facts about retired racing greyhounds:

  • Racing greyhounds are retired when they do not win, place or show within six races. This is why they are retired so young, between ages 2 – 5.
  • Despite their large size and Cheetah-fast speed (up to 45mph!), they are a very gentle, docile breed of dog. They are very sensitive, sweet-natured and extremely loyal. They will bond quickly with you!
  • It is a myth that they need a home where they can have tons of room outside and time to run and run and run. See, they don’t have to race anymore, what a relief! They really just need a standard sized, fenced in backyard. Yes, they will run – but they don’t require a lot of it.
  • Speaking of running: if you prize your grass and garden, you might want to re-think adopting one – they do love to run laps around the yard occasionally, and if you grow faint at the idea of some messed up grass, this isn’t the dog for you. Well, that goes for many dogs, so…..
  • Although extremely gentle, they are quite large – 50 to 95 pounds is the average range. They would do best in a home with older children who aren’t likely to be accidentally knocked over! This applies to any large dog breed, of course.
  • Another myth is that they are super energetic: actually, they are extremely laid back dogs, so much so that many owners call them “couch potatoes.” 🙂

Speaking of couches – greyhounds have some pretty bony joints and they need a soft place to rest. Snuggling up on the sofa with their beloved companion/guardian is something they really love.

Let's cuddle and watch a Netflix marathon!

Let’s cuddle and watch a Netflix marathon!

So is your interest piqued? I hope so! I’m trying to nudge my own husband into adopting a retired racer. He grew up with one, named Blacktrain – and he said she was the sweetest, most laid back dog ever, who loved cuddling and just hanging out relaxing with the family. She also got along great with all the other pets (cats and dogs) in his home as well. 🙂

We would need JJ’s approval as well (find his story here), and he’s not too keen about other dogs (though he does love cats!), so we’ll see.

Here are some fantastic resources for you to explore if you are interested in finding a retired racer to adopt:


This is the official website of The Greyhound Project. Their mission is:

“to promote the welfare and adoption of greyhounds by providing support and information to adoption organizations, adopters, and the public.”

Greyhound Expressions

This website is all about finding forever homes for rescued greyhounds. Their mission:

“Greyhound Expressions is devoted to placing rescued Greyhounds into forever homes that will provide love, dependable care, and a lifetime commitment. We believe that all Greyhounds deserve a quality of life regardless of age, sex, color, or whatever the circumstances. It is our promise to open our hearts and homes to these magnificent animals”

Retired Racing Greyhounds – 10 reasons NOT to adopt!

This is an interesting page because it starts off with the 10 reasons to NOT adopt a retired greyhound. Sounds depressing, right? But it’s not to deter people from giving them loving homes – it’s to deter the wrong kinds of adopters! Really good info about the realistic expectations (hint: yes they shed, like any other dog).

Following the 10 reasons not to adopt one, it goes into 10 great reasons why you SHOULD adopt a retired racer. Balance. 🙂

Well, I’m off to go show my husband some adorable pictures of retired greyhounds, so wish me luck. Maybe this awesomely funny and cute YouTube video of Cal the Greyhound will help!

Do any of you have experience with retired racing greyhounds? If so, please share in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Also, for all you proud greyhound owners out there, please send your photos and names of your dogs to me at, so I can show them off!

Dogs Supporting Autism Awareness!


April is Autism Awareness Month, and it’s a time of celebration here in my home, because Jake – our 15-year-old – has autism, and he makes our world a much better place, just the way he is!

“Light it up Blue” is the motto for this time of year – people wear blue shirts, scarves, accessories, and so on. They might change their porch light to blue, or make pretty blue posters for their school or workplace.

Come to find out, our precious pets want to celebrate and raise awareness for autism as well!

Here is our own JJ, proudly showing off his blue bandana in honor of Jake and all people with autism:

JJ rockin' the blue for autism awareness!

JJ rockin’ the blue for autism awareness!

Here is handsome Rolo, showing his support!

Rolo is proud to

Rolo is proud to “go blue!”

Here is Mort, clearly a SUPERHERO dog! Be sure and check out the blog of Mort’s guardian – Dogthusiast – it’s a really fun blog “for dog enthusiasts with active dogs” – you’ll find tons of great info there!

Mort is fired up and ready!

Mort is fired up and ready!

Next up we have sweet Harley – he doesn’t typically like to get dressed up, but he was eager to show his support – thanks Harley! If you look closely, you can see that the shirt Harley is sporting is from a company called Good Reasons – they employ adults with developmental disabilities in their dog treat operation – how cool is that? Be sure and check out the blog that Harley’s guardians run – called My Dog Likes – they feature lots of reviews of those yummo treats, and tons of other informative and entertaining things for dog lovers!

Handsome Harley showing his support!

Handsome Harley showing his support!

Checkout Spencer the Goldendoodle! Now that is one stylish and photogenic dog!

Spencer the Goldendoodle is happy to  help!

Spencer the Goldendoodle is happy to help!

And here is Dexter, braving the snowy day and lighting it up blue – isn’t he wonderful?

Dexter is one amazing fella!

Dexter is one amazing fella!

Next, courtesy of Rosalie of the blog Totally Rosalie, is her precious dog Spenser, wrapped in beautiful blue. He recently passed, and I am truly honored and touched that Rosalie has shared this poignant photo of her handsome boy. We will see Spenser again at the Rainbow Bridge!

Sweet, precious Spenser!

Sweet, precious Spenser!

Last but absolutely not least – we have a feline friend here to support the cause as well – her name is Amber and she is eager to show her support with her pretty blue collar and harness – isn’t she gorgeous? All you cat lovers out there head over to Pawesome Cats – a fabulous cat blog full of great info, reviews, articles and more!

Beautiful Amber lighting it up blue!

Beautiful Amber lighting it up blue!

I am rounding up more cat pictures so I can make a whole new post featuring our feline friends lighting it up blue for Autism Awareness Month – so if you have a kitty who has something blue – send a photo and name my way at!

It’s not too late to add more doggies to this post either – so if you’ve got ’em – send ’em! The more the merrier – let’s keep the blue going all month!

Let’s give a huge round of applause to JJ, Rolo, Mort, Harley, Spencer, Dexter, Spenser and Amber for showing that they too, can light it up blue!

Do you have a pet  who wants to show off some blue flair for Autism Awareness month? Send me their name and photo to so we can show everyone that pets can show support and spread awareness just like anyone else!

April is Heartworm Awareness Month – please protect your pet!


If you have ever been in an veterinarian’s exam room with your pet, you’ve most likely seen it. “The jar.”  The jar filled with heartworms. If you are like most people (like me, for example), it is both horrifying and disgusting, and you prefer to look at the cute posters on the wall showing different dog and cat breeds.

So gross! Stay away from my pet!

So gross! Stay away from my pet!

I get it. I too prefer to look at the cute pictures, who wouldn’t?

I never paid to much attention to “the jar” – it was just too disturbing. And, well, gross. We kept our dog Jo (who passed in 2012) on heartworm meds and just didn’t think much of it. Until it hit home, hard.

I posted about our sweet dog JJ recently in a post about his rescue by a group of angels from a local group, Volunteers for Animal Protection.

Not only did this poor pup have two badly injured paws (one was smashed by who-knows-what and he still limps) and a bullet in his leg, but we found out shortly after we adopted him that he tested positive for heartworms.

We were devastated. But, we didn’t know the gravity of the situation until the veterinarian told us he couldn’t reassure us that JJ would make it, because he had a severe case. So we had to prepare for the worst: death.

Miraculously, JJ made it – but not without having to go through extremely painful treatment. I will never forget how he cried after his injections, how he hid under our bed trying to “get away” from the pain. But it had to be done, and it saved him.

My poor baby :(

My poor baby 😦

Heartworms get into your pet (not just dogs – cats and other mammals can get them too) through the bite of an infected mosquito, and we all know how prevalent mosquitoes are. Just one bite, that’s all it takes. I slap them off my arms and lets constantly where I live – even in the cooler months, so the chance of your pet being bitten is quite high.

According to the American Heartworm Society:

“Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and—in rare instances—humans.”

Common symptoms in dogs include:

Fatigue, even after mild/moderate activity
Loss of appetite
Weight loss

Common symptoms in cats include:

Asthma-like attacks
Fainting, collapsing
Weight loss

So now for the good news: as serious and often-fatal as it is, it is also completely PREVENTABLE!

Even better? Prevention of this horrific disease will not break the bank! As PetMd says,

“For less than the cost of going to Starbucks for a weekly coffee, you can prevent heartworm disease… There are monthly pills, monthly topicals that you put on the skin, and there’s also a six-month injectable product. The damage that’s done… and the cost of the treatment is way more than the cost to prevent heartworm disease. A year’s supply of heartworm preventative will cost about $35 to $80, depending on weight.”

It goes without saying we all want to keep our pets safe from harm, so if you haven’t gotten them on preventative heartworm meds yet, please do so as soon as possible!

JJ is all better now, by the way. Here he is now – happy and heartworm-free!

Healthy, happy & heartworm free!

Healthy, happy & heartworm free!

For a thorough breakdown of signs, symptoms, stages, prevention and treatment guidelines for heartworm disease, you’ll definitely want to check out the American Heartworm Society website.

heartworm infographic

Please share this information with everyone you know so we can prevent unnecessary suffering and deaths of our beloved pets!

Have you ever had a pet with heartworm disease? What was your experience? Please share in the comments below!

Pet Rescue Adventures: Cindy’s Stories

The Pet Mom reader Cindy is a true friend to rescue dogs in need – four of the five dogs she’s ever had were rescues, and she wants to spread the joy of adopting rescue dogs, especially the ones that “no one else wants.”

Her stories moved me deeply – and I know they will move you as well.

After reading, please be sure and check out Cindy’s blog, Life Lessons of a Dog Lover.

Here is Cindy’s story of her rescues, in her own words:

Four of the 5 dogs I have had were rescues of some sort. My first rescue was a 7 month Lab cross. When I saw him at the shelter it was his second time there. He was originally found as a puppy wandering the streets in a town north of Toronto ON. He was brought to the shelter, given his shots, neutered and was ready for adoption. After a couple of months he was adopted by a family with a young girl. Unfortunately it was not a good fit, the girl had some medical issues and became very hyper and uncontrollable when the dog was around. So back to the shelter he went. That’s when I found him. He was a handsome dog and knew a few basic commands.

At the time he was named Taco. I brought my 10-year-old son to the shelter to see if he could walk him and to ensure Taco would listen to my son.

Everything worked out beautifully, and we changed his name to Paco. He was a very loving and loyal dog. Once we managed to work through his stubborn streak, he fit into our family very well.

Unfortunately, he passed away about 4 years ago, but a lot of good memories remain including images of this black lab mix, in a bright yellow life jacket riding in the front of our boat – paws on the bow leaning into the wind ears flapping or him sitting in the middle of our canoe and almost tipping us when he decided to learn over for a drink.

(Note: Cindy lost these precious photos when her laptop got stolen last year)

Our second rescue was another Lab mix. A wonderful woman in the north end of Toronto ON heard about a dog who was living in a farmer’s field and had just had 6 puppies. This was in November and a tough time for any dog to be exposed to the elements and especially hard on a new mother with puppies.

Apparently the farmer would occasionally feed the family, but was making comments that he was tired of them, and was going to drown the puppies. So our heroine sent her husband to go and get the dogs. By time he got there three puppies were missing but three male puppies were still there. She took all four dogs into her home and paid all the medical bills to bring them back to good health. She had named the three puppies Larry, Curly and Moe. Then she set about finding good homes for them all.

We were lucky enough to pass her screening and we adopted Moe.  No one had expected Moe to survive. He was undernourished and full of worms when taken to the vets. A few weeks later when we saw him his was a brave adventurous puppy.

Fast forward 7 1/2 years and Moe is a 100 lb trickster, with a personality bigger than life itself – he keeps us on our toes!



Often when my husband and I are watching TV he will come prancing into the room with a towel he has “stolen” from a bathroom. He won’t rip he will just present it as a trophy.

He has minor health issues – some food allergies and hypothyroidism – but nothing that can’t be controlled with medication and a strict diet. We are not sure if it’s a throwback to his first few weeks but he loves finding a “den” for sleeping and loves sleeping in a bath tub.

My third rescue was Taz. We first saw Taz in a PetSmart in Reno, NV, where we were living at the time. He was obviously an older dog, with a bit of a grey muzzle, and was 100% mutt. To me it looked like God had made him from spare parts.

We had three dogs already. Tasha, a Collie my husband got as a puppy and was 7 by then, Willa, a Australian Cattle Dog/Border Collie cross that he got when she was 7 months old (and he found out his owner needed to give her up) and was 6 now, and of course Moe who was now about 2.

So there was no way we could adopt Taz…

Three weeks later, back at the same PetSmart we saw Taz again, sitting forlornly in his crate with no one paying attention to him. Everyone was flocking to the puppies. My husband asked the volunteers to let him out of the crate and Taz almost knocked him off his feet trying to get close to him.

That was it, he had won our hearts!



I went to the shelter the next day to bring him home. He was an older dog and not the smartest dog we had met, but he was one of the most loving dogs I have ever had. Unfortunately we lost him to cancer last July.

He was only with us a few years but he enriched our lives giving us plenty of laughs and love and memories.

Thank you Cindy, for sharing your stories with us!

Cindy is passionate about getting the message out about adopting older dogs – the ones that most people pass right on by to their way to the adorable puppies. I agree that puppies are absolutely precious, and I would never suggest people shouldn’t adopt puppies – who can resist them?

But I’d like to say, there is something immensely fulfilling and wonderful about adopting a senior dog (or cat, for that matter!). How amazing it is to know that as they live out their later years, they can know that they were truly loved and had a family they could call their own, after years of being passed by – and in some cases, dropped off and abandoned by “owners” who no longer want them because they are no longer the “cute puppy” they wanted….


Cindy adds:

“I encourage everyone who is thinking about getting a dog to check out the local shelters and rescue organizations. There are far too many dogs, including puppies and pure breeds that need good homes.

But please do not overlook the older dogs. You will not have to go through the house training and teething required by a puppy. They normally have learned the basic training (sit and come). Also they have gone through the crazy high energy puppy years and will sit quietly by your side happy to just observe what is going on around them.

They will offer all their love and will be very loyal companions”

I couldn’t agree more, Cindy. Thank you for sharing your story! Don’t forget to stop by Cindy’s wonderful blog, Life Lessons of a Dog Lover.

Has anyone else reading this ever adopted an older dog or cat? Tell us about it in the comments below! Also, if you have time, email me your pictures and/or stories to – I’d love to share and show them off for you!


It’s Purple Day – Epilepsy Awareness

PurpleDayBlogHopBadge (1)

Today is National Epilepsy Awareness Day – also known as “Purple Day.”

My son has benign rolandic epilepsy, which is thankfully one that most grow out of by the teen years.  It’s been a long time since he has had a seizure, so we are crossing fingers that it has finally passed.

Some are not so lucky, and they have to deal with epilepsy their entire lives. This is a day to show our support for them.

Because this is a pet blog, I wanted to spotlight pet epilepsy – something that maybe not too many people are aware of! It is very similar to the kinds of epilepsy that humans have.

Any breed of dog or cat can get epilepsy, but the breeds with the highest risk factors include:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Beagles
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Dachshunds
  • German Shepherds
  • Irish Setters
  • Schnauzers
  • Huskies
  • Persians
  • Siamese

From personal experience, I can tell you that to witness a seizure in your loved one is terrifying. However, I also learned that it is important, even critical, to remain calm and reassuring in the midst of one.

Here are some common signs or symptoms of a seizure in a pet:

  • They suddenly fall to their side with their limbs stiff and outstretched
  • Jaws clenched
  • Release of bowels and bladder
  • Sometimes the signs are subtle – you might think they are just being quirky, with sudden strange facial tics or odd movements (my son first exhibited these “odd” symptoms before he ever had a grand mal seizure)

If there is even a suspicion of your pet having a seizure, remain calm, reassuring, and comforting – they will likely be very scared. In the aftermath, contact your veterinarian immediately and get them thoroughly checked out and evaluated.

For more information about pet epilepsy, visit Canine Epilepsy Resources (they have an entire section on feline epilepsy as well), 2nd Chance Info, and the FiveSibes blog (that is their badge at the top of this post!), featuring their precious dog Gibson.

You can spread awareness about Purple Day (for humans and furry companions alike!) by wearing purple, sharing through social media, and sharing links as well as hashtags like #PurpleDay #Paws4Purple #CanineEpilepsy and #LiveGibStrong.

JJ's rockin' the purple to support epilepsy day!

JJ’s rockin’ the purple to support epilepsy day!






Pet Rescue Adventures – JJ – Fall of 2012

Send me YOUR pet rescue stories to me at – let’s inspire others to discover the joy and fulfillment this brings, and how much love you bring into your life when you do so!

This is part 2 of my personal pet rescue stories – JJ’s story. He is our Doberman/German Shepherd mix boy. Isn’t he handsome?


That’s our boy today!

He first came into our lives in the fall of 2012. Our favorite local animal shelter, Volunteers for Animal Protection (VAP) had discovered a pack of dogs eking out a dangerous life living in a pretty bad part of town, near a busy highway known for a high incidence of animals being hit by cars. By the way, when I say “our” I’m referring to my family: my husband, 3 kids and our pets – now 5.

Please help me, his eyes seem to plead...

Please help me, his eyes seem to plead…

So, back to the pack of dogs. There were several, at least 7, barely making it day by day – foraging for food where they could, and all suffering multiple injuries – causes unknown. The angels of this dedicated rescue group from VAP worked on saving them for more than a year, slowly earning their trust by leaving them fresh food and water, and then one by one bringing them to the shelter for veterinary care, spaying and neutering, fostering, and so on.

Dogs before rescue

Dogs before rescue

We first heard of this feral group from our son, Austin, now 18. He has been a dedicated volunteer at VAP since he was in middle school (he loves all animals and plans to be a veterinarian one day). At this time Austin was about 15, and he told us how badly these dogs needed families. Our dog Jo had just crossed the Rainbow Bridge at the age of 13, and we were ready to bring another dog into our family, so we went to the VAP shelter to meet the new arrivals.

At the time, JJ’s name was Fox (more on the name change soon), and he was very badly injured. He was kept in a separate area because of this. Both of his left-side paws were hurt, the front one looking as if it had been smashed somehow. He could barely walk, and it was heartbreaking to watch him try.

Further examination revealed that he had been shot in the leg as well. He still has the 22 slug in his leg (it doesn’t bother him anymore, but I digress).

We said hello to him and patted his head, but he didn’t get up, or even look up at us. We went out to see the other dogs and were playing around with a few. One in particular caught our eye – he was really happy and hyper, so we planned a second day visit to get to know him better. On our way out that day, one of the shelter volunteers asked if we could take JJ (AKA Fox) out for a short potty break. So we leashed him up, and helped him gingerly make his way outside. We gave him lots of pets and encouragement, then returned him to his crate.

Fast forward to the next day, when we returned to visit the dogs. When we walked by Fox, he carefully, unsteadily stood up in his (extra large) cage/crate, and started wagging his tail wildly, and he SMILED at us. I immediately started crying – turned to my husband and said – that is our dog, he belongs with US. He agreed, the kids agreed, and after some paperwork and getting his vet care records, we carefully helped him into our SUV and took him to his new home. The sheer joy on his doggie face was unmistakable. Heck, I’m crying as I write this.

Our girl Kate with our boy JJ!

Our girl Kate with our boy JJ!

We weren’t that into the name “Fox” so we took a family vote, and named him JJ – after JJ Watt, our favorite NFL player (GO TEXANS!). He took to the name right away. And he has the same never-give-up spirit that JJ Watt has, so it’s fitting.

He fit right in with our (at the time) 3 other cats (we now have 4). They hissed a bit at first, as cats tend to do…but he’s so sweet and charming they chilled out very quickly and accepted him into our tribe.

They even nap together!

They even nap together!

So all of this happened in late fall, so the holiday season was upon us. He got tons of doggie presents and comfy beds, toys, and of course – loads of affection. We had to soak his injured paws daily and he didn’t like it, but he complied. He knew our intentions were to help him.

And then, the hammer dropped. We shortly found out that his records had incorrectly noted he was heartworm free. Well, he wasn’t. In fact, he had a severe case of heartworms. We were absolutely devastated. We immediately took him in for treatment, and the veterinarian was quite grim. He had so many heartworms, the vet thought there was NO way JJ would make it. It took two very painful, horrific treatments – but he made it. He did it. That’s our tough boy!

Good dog!

Good dog!

Smashed paws, getting shot by some jerk human, and a horrific amount of heartworms could not take him down.

This boy is my hero.

Fast forward to more than two years later, and JJ is the most loved dog in the world. OK so a lot of other dog loving folks make that claim, but – for REAL, people! : )

His personality is hilarious. He adores plush toys – we call them his “loveys” because he always has one in his mouth.

JJ with a favorite "lovey"

JJ with a favorite “lovey”

We think it’s like a toddler who carries around a blanket – it makes him feel secure. He carries them around, sleeps with them, takes them everywhere. Oh and he loves car rides -nothing gets him more excited than when he sees me putting my shoes on -he starts dancing in circles knowing he’s probably getting to go with me to pick up the kids from school, or run errands (no worries folks, I don’t leave him in a parked car).

Did someone say "car ride?"

Did someone say “car ride?”

I hope you all enjoyed my story of JJ, who is, and always will be, my hero.

He is the epitome of everything a hero should be: brave in the face of grave danger, loving and kind to all humans, though he was treated horribly by at least one in the past, gentle and sweet with kids and little kittens alike. Best buds with our cats. Best buds with all of us. Couch cuddler. Bed snuggler. Getting a bit chunky because it’s hard to not give him treats (we’re working on that!).

Now it’s your turn, fellow pet fans! I know many of you have heartwarming, wonderful stories of your pet rescue adventures – share with me at so I can showcase your sweet furry friends!