Category: Forever Owners to Forever Dogs

Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & Dogs

Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & Dogs

Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & DogsToday is Friday, October 13, 2017. With just a few weeks until Halloween, this puts Friday the 13th in the middle of the spookiest, scariest month of the year. Of course this is only one of the many superstitions that exist in our culture, along with broken mirrors causing seven years of bad luck, avoiding walking under ladders, knocking on wood to make something that you’ve said not happen, and trying not to cross the path of a black cat.

As someone who is not superstitious and only likes the not-so-scary aspect of Halloween like candy corn and non-terrifying costumes, I thought this would be the perfect day to take two of these superstitions and instead of buying into them, turn them around and celebrate the pet owners who got lucky with some of the most loveable black dogs and cats to ever scamper through their lives.

Black cats and dogs statistically have a lower adoption rate and higher euthanasia rate in shelters because of their color. As a result there are specific days to celebrate black cats and black dogs and bust the myths surrounding them, with Black Cat Appreciation day occurring on August 17 each year, and Black Dog Day on October 1. In addition to many people thinking that they look scary because their fur is so dark and their facial features are harder to see, they are also harder to photograph for the average point-and-click amateur photographer with a mobile phone camera. I cannot tell you how many photos of Jax and Tink end up with glowing alien dog eyes or are so dark you cannot see them. In dog shelters, the quality of the photos shared with the public can sometimes make the difference between a forever home and euthanasia for many dogs, so a bad photo of a black dog can be very detrimental to their adoption success.  

Snoop dreaming of frisbees

Of course I cannot help but include my own beloved black dogs first in our celebration of black dogs and cats. If you’ve read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, then you have read all about my first black Labrador Retriever, Snoop who was a constant companion and a fourth sibling to my brothers and me, always involved in our games and antics as we traipsed through the woods and mountains of rural northwest New Jersey. After Snoop there was Cinder, another black Labrador Retriever who joined our family when I was in high school.

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Babe on a beach adventure

My first dog of my own as an adult was my late black Labrador Babe, who I rescued as a two year old owner surrender and who quickly became my best friend and sidekick for the next twelve years. Her passing left the hole in my heart that first Jackson and then Tinkerbell filled with black dog awesomeness and love.

Maybe it’s because my first heart dog as a child was black, but black dogs are my favorite. I feel like the black coat is softer and more silky than other fur colors, shining like satin on a sunny day. Practically speaking, their fur shows up on fewer of my clothes. I love their coal black noses and how brightly colored collars pop against their fur. And knowing that they are so often misunderstood as scary just makes me love them even more.

I checked in with some of my fellow black dog and cat loving humans, and here are the awesome black pets that brought luck into their lives by joining them in their forever homes. Enjoy their stories and remember that if you are ready to add to your dog or cat family, a black dog or cat is just as sweet and loveable as the other fur colors, giving you nothing but good luck and love if their path crosses yours.



How Many Dogs Should You Have?

How Many Dogs Should You Have?

How Many Dogs Should You Have?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

How Many Dogs Should You Have? One of the most frequent questions that I am asked after explaining that I blog and write about dogs for a living is, “How many dogs do you have?”

“I have two,” I always reply.

“Oh,” is the frequent response as if the person asking is disappointed that I do not have a house overflowing with dogs like the ending scene of 101 Dalmatians, or perhaps the scene when the Dalmatians look like black Labradors from running through the coal bin.

“I want to make sure I give them the best life possible, so I make myself limit our dog population to two,” I will often add, which is true, but it is also important to point out that the right number of dogs varies for everyone.

Before Jackson and Tinkerbell and before my late Dutch and Maggie were in my life, it was just my sweet black Labrador Babe and me. With a one-to-one human to dog ratio, she went everywhere with me. When my mom passed away and her German Shorthaired Pointer, Dutch, joined Babe and me, the transition was extremely hard on all of us. It took at least six months to acclimate to having two dogs and to get myself to the point where I could enjoy walking both of them at the same time and taking them both on adventures together with me.

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Babe on a beach adventure

A year later I met my husband and when we joined his household, we suddenly had three dogs. Then as Babe and Dutch headed deeper and deeper into their senior years and each of them passed away at the age of 13, we felt utterly lost with only one dog and started to rebuild our dog family with the addition of Jackson and then Tinkerbell.

The decision of how many dogs to have in your own home is entirely personal based on your lifestyle and the relationship you want to have with your dog or dogs. I have one friend who easily manages five Labradors and Labradoodles, another friend who at one point had over ten dogs without being in a hoarder situation, and many friends who have a “human plus one” relationship with their dog.

My husband, the kids, and I all like to talk in both of our dogs’ fake human voices on a pretty regular basis. When Tinkerbell is pestering big brother Jackson to play with her by squeaking her favorite toy into his face for ten minutes without stopping or she is mounting him to try to get him to play, we often joke “I would have been ok as an only dog, Momma, seriously. I would have been fine, but NOOOOO, you thought I needed a playmate!”

Ninety seven percent of the time he eventually takes the bait (or simply gives up resisting) and starts to play with her, and the other three percent of the time he goes to his kennel and plops down with a huge sigh. At the end of the day, though, they are a truly bonded pair and he would be lost without his crazy little sister.

So why are we 100% set on sticking with “just” two dogs? Why not give Tinkerbell a second option as a playmate for those times when Jackson is not interested?

Our local dog ordinance is a big reason. It dictates that each home in our town can have a maximum of two dogs and two cats. We did live with one “extra” dog for the first few years that we lived together as a result of blending my 2 dog household with his 1 dog household. We would never have given a dog away, but after Babe passed away in 2009 at the age of thirteen, we knew we would remain a law-abiding two dog household because I had been very stressed about breaking a law that could affect my dogs’ actual lives.

A second important reason for limiting ourselves to two dogs is related to our budget. When we brought home first Jackson and then Tinkerbell, we committed ourselves to a lifetime of food, veterinary care, treats, toys, and all other dog related expenses. It would not be fair to them to stretch that budget by taking on another dog and then potentially not be able to care for all of them properly.

So would we get a third dog if we did not have a two dog ordinance and if money was not an object?

Probably not.

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Babe, Beau, Jake and Dutch

If you have seen the iconic movie Gone With the Wind, you might remember the scene with Scarlett O’Hara eating barbecue with a large group of suitors. “A girl has but two sides to her at a table,” she flirts with them as they hover in a group all around her, attending to her every need. When Babe and I used to dog sit for my mother when all three of her dogs were alive and she was actively going on scuba diving trips in tropical locations, I would sit down on the floor and essentially let all four of them (Mom’s three plus my Babe) wriggle their way in to get petted, to give me kisses, to lay across my lap, and generally be a 350 pound mass of squirming dogs all around me. Just like Scarlett flirting with the boys at the barbecue, I loved every moment of it, but it was impossible to give all of them an equal amount of attention.

I loved when we went outside and all four of them followed me around, everyone making eye contact with me when I said that it was time to go inside or if I offered up a biscuit. I loved bedtime when I squeezed into bed with all four of them and each dog found their spot to sleep. I loved it when I would wake up in the morning with my arm around one, another’s paws pushing into my spine, a third dog’s head on my feet, and a fourth dog laying on my pillow. I loved feeding time when I prepared four bowls and set them all out in their own spot, one at a time. I was in my dog lover glory with four dogs around me.

At the end of the day, though, just like a Southern Belle eating barbecue at a table in the old south, there are but two sides of me. Two hands for chin scratches, two hands to hold leashes, two hands to rub tummies.

When you have gone through a dog’s entire life cycle multiple times with different dogs who you all loved as heart dogs, from puppyhood through the senior years, you know exactly how quickly that time goes and you want to do everything that you can to make the most of the time that you have together. For me that means plenty of one-on-one attention with both of my dogs.

For being in suburbia, we have a nice large yard for potty breaks and playtime. It is perfect for games of zoomies or fetching a ball, but other than that it is not very interesting or mentally stimulating, at least not day after day. For the dogs to go on adventures we have to go to parks or forest preserves, and it is much easier to do so with two dogs instead of three or more.

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Jackson & Tinkerbell

Although I can and do take both of them together, I really prefer to take one of them at a time so that we can have a very special one-on-one bonding experience as well as so I can make sure that nobody is snarfing down contraband items that humans or nature left behind. With two dogs I can alternate who has that experience with me; if we were to add a third or fourth dog it would reduce the number of times any dog would go off on a fun adventure with me.

This also holds true for snuggle time. Most evenings end up with Jackson laying across my husband’s lap getting ear rubs and tummy scratches while Tinkerbell lays the entire length of my body on top of me on our recliner and gives me kisses and gets an ear rub. If my husband is not home, each dog can take one side of me. When we have had fosters in the house, someone was always being pushed aside or left out during snuggle time.

When our big chocolate Labrador foster named Kodiak was in the house, Jax was the one pushed aside, usually literally. Kodiak was a huge friendly dog who I think was part Great Dane based on his size and the structure of his hips. He loved to snuggle and took up most of the sofa when he laid in my lap for affection. When foster dog Destiny was with us, Tinkerbell pulled back from me entirely because of all of the attention that Destiny was taking from me. In fact my husband pointed it out that Tink was subdued and actually depressed and I did not realize it until after Destiny had gone to her forever home and my sweet happy Tink was back in my lap again.

This does not mean that people with more than two dogs are not giving their dogs enough attention or love, or that my limit of two dogs is the right thing for everyone. My friend/breeder who brought Jackson and Tinkerbell into the world has around eight or so Labradors and she has a special heart-dog relationship with each and every one. She is also a professional trainer with a large piece of land and a pond and an indoor training facility that she owns and operates, so she can handle all of them easily when they go to their favorite beach and offer them much more fun and excitement than a large rectangle of fenced in grass right in their own backyard. My friend with the pack of five Labradors and Labradoodles also has a large piece of property that offers plenty of fun and games and new smells without going into suburbia for something new to sniff or see.

At least once a day I receive a note from someone with a wonderful dog in need of a home. “You love dogs, you need another one!” the message will say. Believe me when I say that there are many times I am tempted to throw all of our logical reasons for staying with two dogs away and adding to our dog family. But I always hold firm and try to share the information with other potential dog owners who can give the dog the one-on-one attention that it deserves while my dogs get the attention that I promised them when they were both little pups.

I do love dogs, without a shadow of a doubt. I love dogs so much that I have committed my life, my profession, my everything to caring for my two dogs, to getting the most out of every precious moment together, to giving them a healthy life that gives us more days than we might otherwise have, and reaching out to the world to help other dog owners create a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle for their forever dogs. And it is that same love of dogs that forces me to stick with two dogs.

At least for now.



Love, Laugh, Woof Celebrates All American Pet Photo Day

Love, Laugh, Woof Celebrates All American Pet Photo Day

Love, Laugh, Woof Celebrates All American Pet Photo Day

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Today is All American Pet Photo Day and here at Love, Laugh, Woof I am all for a celebration of photos of Jackson, Tinkerbell. After all, they are the biggest “why” behind what I do! Here are some photos of our summer so far:





The Next Generation of Animal Lovers: Your Children Are Listening

The Next Generation of Animal Lovers: Your Children Are Listening

The Next Generation of Animal Lovers: Your Children Are Listening

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

The Next Generation of Animal LoversYesterday was Mother’s Day, a day that used to be very difficult for several years after my own Mom passed away when I was just thirty-four, an age at which you are a full-fledged adult but also assume that you are going to have your parents around for a good twenty or more years. These days, though, I am blessed to be celebrated for my own maternal role in the lives of my kids.

I became a step-mom in April 2007 when I moved in with my husband and his three young children. He shares custody with the kids’ mother but because he has residential custody and the kids go to school in our district they are with us perhaps 60% to 70% of the time, especially now that they take the bus to school. This means that I became much more than an every-other-weekend step-mom, and I have been quite happy to take on the increased responsibilities and time with these incredible kids.

In 2013 when I left my corporate job to become self-employed, I really dug into the role of being a mother as I was able to give rides to school and actually make it to games and concerts instead of getting stuck in traffic during my commute home and feeling like I was missing out on everything that was important in life. In those last four years of being extremely active and present in their lives I have developed an even greater love for them and truly feel like they are my own. They are far more than “step” kids to me.

In addition to receiving awesome gifts like my favorite Starbucks drink, a card with a giraffe Mom and baby, and a new Pandora bracelet, their hand written messages in my card were the true gifts. They were at their mom’s house for the day so for dinner my husband took me for sushi, my favorite dinner out. We came home and resumed my catching up on The Walking Dead (I am on Season 5, episode 6, Chuck and our middle teen watch it as it happens) and chilling with Jackson and Tinkerbell.

When the kids came home from their mother’s house later that evening, our youngest girl filled me in on her progress with her 8th grade English project in which they had to write about a cause that was close to their heart and use Pathos, Ethos and Logos to prove their point. Her cause: ending animal abuse. 

She told my husband and me all the information she had researched and written about, including the difference between direct physical abuse and indirect abuse/neglect. She went on to talk about how she had researched puppy mills and included those conditions as being abusive and also concluded that the lack of screening of potential puppy buyers in the pet stores that sell puppy mill and backyard breeder puppies could mean that abusive humans were able to easily purchase puppies from these stores and continue the abuse. She also concluded that this same lack of screening could contribute to dogs being surrendered to animal shelters because it meant that anyone could buy a puppy and then decide they did not want it anymore.

“Have you read my book?” I asked her.

“No,” she replied.

“Uh, ok, because you just touched on a number of topics that I am extremely passionate about in my blog and my book, so I am super proud that you came up with that on your own!”

“No, I haven’t read your blog at all but I understand why you said it takes so long to write and research each post, I have a new respect for what you do!”

That right there was the mic-drop moment of parenting, my friends!

We are pretty old school parents and we refuse to raise entitled self-centered brats. My firefighter husband sees the best and the worst of humanity. He won’t bring the stresses and horrors of his job home to us but every now and then he has shared stories with the kids now that they are teens, when they get a bit too big for their decision-making britches and think they know everything, and those stories of “what can happen when you make bad decisions” are eye-opening.  Same with my job only much different and less hands on: I hear about the heartwarming stories of dog lovers going above and beyond for their dogs, and I hear the tragic “what the hell is wrong with people” stories that stick with you and make you wonder what could cause such evil.

For our 14-year-old daughter to come up with those concepts and thoughts on animal abuse on her own and then say “I have a new respect for what you do” is an incredible feeling. It was hands down the most incredible mother’s day gift that I could have received.

One of the main focuses of my book and my blog is to encourage people to be compassionate dog owners. Putting yourself in your dog’s position is the Woof in Love, Laugh, Woof. I am not naive enough to think that I can change the entire world and make everyone loving and compassionate toward animals. But I do know one thing: our kids are listening to what we say.

Our kids are among those who we can impact with lessons about being kind to dogs and to all animals. They are the next generation of dog owners and will use the lessons they learned about pet care in the same way many of us learned from our own parents, so keep talking to them about topics like preventing animal abuse, being a responsible owner, why it is so important to do your research before getting any pet, making sure you make time in your life for your cats and dogs, and all of the other things that are so important in raising compassionate human beings. It can make a difference, it will make a difference, and we are already making a difference.




Owner Surrenders: When Dog Owners Give Up for All the Wrong Reasons

Owner Surrenders: When Dog Owners Give Up for All the Wrong Reasons

Owner Surrenders: When Dog Owners Give Up for All the Wrong Reasons The other day I was at a business networking event and I ran into a woman who volunteers in dog rescue in addition to owning her own business. She told me that she had read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner and also bought a copy for the rescue organization with which she volunteers. I was delighted to hear this and we chatted for a bit.

As we discussed my book and dogs in general she mentioned that Chapter 4: Are You Ready for a Dog? REALLY Ready? was very intense and might actually scare away some potential first time dog owners. She was not being critical, just sharing her thoughts on the book. For the last several days I have thought about her input and wondered if I should have toned down that chapter a bit. I mean, I am from a long line of outspoken women from New Jersey, but I also do not want to risk any dog not having a home because I scared the owner away from life with a dog with my book!

Was the chapter too intense? Was it too much to talk about the hair, the mud, the slobber, the gross things in which they scent themselves, the dead animals that some bring to you like children bringing home a trophy? Was it too much to talk about house training, obedience training, to share that my dog care bill for a 10 day vacation is $500 and that’s on the inexpensive side in our area? Was it too much to share the reality of having a senior citizen dog, that when we had three senior dogs at once my entire paycheck seemed to go straight to the vet every payday and we had a drawer full of medicines like a canine nursing home? Is it fair to tell them all of the harsh realities that can happen with dog ownership to try to desperately avoid the owner surrenders that happen as a result of unprepared humans getting dogs on a whim?

I mean, of course I follow-up those negative things, the sharing all of those downsides, with the beautiful relationship that we create with our dogs, the miracle of having a best friend and constant companion who is more loyal than any human could ever be. I share that I would die of a broken heart without a wet nose waking me at 6 a.m. every single day of my life, without Labrador hair to vacuum every few days, without a 70 pound Tinkerbell stretched across my lap daily.

I was not offended by her critique; getting feedback is part of being a writer and putting your ideas and words out for the world to consume. When you put strong opinions out into the world, you must have a thick skin to go along with those opinions. But I really, honestly worried that perhaps I had been too honest.

Photo credit:

Then I came across a post about a German Shepherd puppy on Facebook from another blogger who shared that the reason of the owner surrender was that “they just didn’t want her anymore.” Now, we all know that everything you read online or on Facebook is subject to being completely wrong or made up, but the reality is that I have no reason to doubt that blogger because this is a reason dogs are surrendered all the time

For some dogs their crime against humanity (insert frustrated sarcastic tone) is that they shed too much, that they got too big, they had too much energy, that they ate too much. One poor dog pooped too much for his owner and ended up being abandoned at a shelter, wondering when his family was ever coming back.

I don’t know what these owners expected; if they wanted a big stuffed animal, they have realistic versions at Amazon that won’t eat, shed or poop and are perfectly huggable. And that is not a joke, I would recommend a snuggly fake dog to them. Any living breathing creature is going to do these things. We humans do, too! My husband snaking the drain of our shower every few months is testament to how much we shed! It is absurd to adopt a dog and think that she will not shed, poop, grow, or want to play and release their energy.

For the dogs who get adopted into happy homes, their owner surrender was probably the best thing that could have happened to them when it is all said and done. For the ones who are euthanized, though, the people who gave up on them for absurd and preventable reasons killed them as if they had murdered them in cold blood. Unfortunately when someone surrenders a dog to a shelter, there is no way to guarantee which fate the dog is going to meet, the happy ending or the tragic loss of life. 

I shared the post about the German Shepherd puppy on my personal Facebook page and a friend of mine who I met while volunteering at a rescue group commented immediately. She works at an animal clinic and she replied, “Your chapter is 100% spot on and I couldn’t agree more. Believe me, I’ve actually wanted to throw your book at people and tell them to read it. Around March/April I start getting calls at the clinic asking if I know a rescue that will take their puppy because they had no idea.”

When you follow as many dog related organizations, businesses and dog lover friends as I do, you end up seeing horrific stories about animal abuse. Sometimes I cannot bear to read another and I have to take a break. In fact that was one of the most beautiful things about watching April the Giraffe for all of those weeks; the wait for “Baby G” was a nice respite from political news and tragic stories that make up social media and the regular TV news.

It is extremely important to point out that there are sometimes valid reasons to re-home a dog. My late Babe came to me because her owners, who were not extremely old when they got her, both suddenly declined in health at the same time with extremely serious and debilitating issues. In the blink of an eye they went from recently retired and looking forward to ten or twelve more years with their beloved young Lab to being completely unable to care for her. I am in no way shape or form talking about situations like that, or extremely dire financial circumstances or life threatening allergies in a child. I am not commenting on situations in under-served communities with extreme poverty. My disgust is directed at people who simply didn’t bother to prepare themselves or look for a solution. 

There is a solution to a dog who has “too much energy” in the form of training, walks, exercise, dog games, interaction with the humans.

There is a solution to shedding, in the form of frequent brushing, good quality food, regular grooming appointments.

There is a solution to “being too big” at least in terms of what I can imagine would be the issue with size, like leash pulling or accidentally knocking things and people over, again in the form of obedience training, walks, exercise, dog games, structured playtime. When trained correctly a huge dog should be as easy to walk as a small dog. A big tired dog will curl up to nap just like a small tired dog after a mentally and physically engaging activity with his owner.

There is even a solution to pooping too much, in the form of finding a better quality food. If you feed a dog a 600 Kcal/cup food you feed half the amount as if you feed your dog a 300 Kcal/cup, which equals less poop with which to contend.

At the end of the day, I stand by Chapter 4 of my book. Someone who wants a dog badly enough is going to say “Ok, dog hair, no problem, vet bills, I’m signing up for pet insurance, puking at 3 am, geez I hope not, but I’ve got my cleaning supplies!” I can only hope that someone who is iffy and perhaps at risk of making a decision about a dog on a whim will read those things and think, “Whoa, I had no idea it was like that!” and either prepare themselves or decide not to get a dog at that time.

It takes hours upon hours of work and patience to go from puppyhood to this!

If I can help even one dog be saved from going through an owner surrender, then it will make a difference for that dog and for the one who will be saved by the opening at the shelter that the first one did not fill. As I write in my book,

“I had to lay out the negatives, every last one of them. It would be unfair to dogs to do any less. Those cute puppy dog eyes are a blessing and a curse for many dogs, like the dogs who are bought on a whim because the owner is caught up in the cuteness and novelty of a dog, but not ready for the reality of one and then casts the dog aside without any regard for the fact that it is a living, breathing feeling creature whose heart will break once he or she is abandoned in a shelter to fend for him or herself.

If you are ok with the negatives, if you go into dog ownership prepared for all of them, the cost, the mess, the inconvenience, the responsibility of another life, then you are ready for the positives, because when you are ready to be a dog owner the positives make up for any amount of dog hair and early morning potty breaks.”

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What to do if you lose your dog.

What to Do if You Lose Your Dog

What to Do if You Lose Your Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

What to do if you lose your dog.A few weeks ago a friend of mine relayed a story about a terrifying event in which two of her three young Doberman Pinschers slipped under their fence and took off. I’ve known this particular friend since high school and know that she is an amazing dog owner, as attentive and careful as any of us whose dogs are beloved family members. She relayed the story to me and said, “Even though I am an educated dog owner, in those particular moments, the panic, fear, sadness just took over. I never expected to be in that situation, and I don’t want to be in it again.”

I definitely understand that panic and have felt it myself. Almost ten years ago I had let our late dogs Babe,  Dutch, and Maggie out into the yard. It was before my rule of “always go outside with your dogs no matter what” was in place. They were all adult dogs between the ages of eight and ten and I trusted them not to eat random contraband objects or jump the fence. While they were outside I always prepared my coffee and watched until one-by-one they came to the door.

That morning Babe came in first. I could see Maggie sniffing the perimeter of the fence like she did each day. About five minutes later I needed to get my morning routine underway so I leaned out and called for Maggie and Dutch. At first I thought she was ignoring me, but each time I called Dutch’s name, Maggie turned her head and looked toward the gate that was out of view. Thinking that she was acting odd, I ran outside into the back yard in my socks, rounded the corner around our house and felt my stomach drop in fear as I stared at the open gate.

I ran out the gate, shut it behind me and into the front yard, yelling “Dutch!” as I went. I spotted him trotting down the street away from me about to round a corner into our local playground/park. He was on the other side of the street and I yelled “DUTCH!” and he turned and looked at me. I ran down the street and held up my hand in a “wait” hand gesture and told him “WHOA!” which was his command to be motionless and stay. That command had been drilled into him; in a bird hunting situation there is no room for error and dogs are trained hour upon hour. I felt a wave of relief wash over me as Dutch sat and waited for me to get him and lead him back home.

The carabiner clips went on our gates that same day.

After that incident I became the gate police. We started off with always checking the gates when the dogs went outside and when Jackson and Tinkerbell came home, we changed the rule to include spending the entire time outside with them. But as our foster dog Destiny taught us (by leaping the fence while a potential family was here to see her), and as my friend’s Dobermans taught her earlier this month, young agile dogs can go over or under the fence even when you are standing there watching. What to do if you lose your dog.

At my friend’s request and to conclude our series on the importance of pet IDs, the difference between microchips and pet trackers, and preventing lost dogs, here are some things to review before you are in a situation in which your dog has gone missing. 

Stay as Calm as Possible 

I know it may seem impossible, but try to stay as calm as possible. When your adrenaline starts pumping your dog can smell the hormonal changes to your body. Dogs are also extremely good at reading body language, so the more you can remain someone your dog wants to come back to, the better.

If you can see your dog: 

  • Use your Reliable Recall. This is a word that your dog will come to no matter what type of distractions there are, because you have taught her that when she gets to you she is going to have the best few minutes ever, with toys, treats, and a huge happy dance from you. This is the exact situation for which you train on this concept.
  • Do Not Chase Your Dog! Either you will make your dog think it is a game and that you are trying to chase him, or you will freak him out, both with the result of making him run more. Instead of chasing, if you have your dog’s attention and eye contact, run the other way and encourage him to chase you. Or sit down on the ground and pretend that you are discovering the coolest thing ever in the dirt or sidewalk. You can even proactively practice these things in your yard from time to time and give them plenty of treats as a reward when he comes to you.

Immediately begin searching for your dog: 

  • Before you go looking, put something that smells like you or your home in front of your house. This will help your dog use her incredible sense of smell to find her way home, whether it’s her dog bed, a blanket, your sweatshirt from the laundry or all of the above. Grab these things as you are heading out the door to search for your dog.
  • Search your neighborhood on foot and by car if applicable. If you have other family members or neighbors who know your dog, they can help, but too many strangers looking may scare your dog. Search along your most common walking routes, in friends/neighbors yards, local parks and other places that you and your dog might frequent or that are likely to have good smells that would attract your dog, like the scent of other dogs. On your way out grab your phone, a squeaky toy and some sort of stinky treat that your dog would like, like a hot dog or their favorite human food like a banana or jar of peanut butter. Make sure you have those open and wave them around while you are walking the neighborhood; your dog’s nose is much more powerful than yours and there is a chance that she will smell the food and look for the source. If you see your dog, make sure you use a happy, fun voice that indicates that you want to play. Big dogs can easily run five miles from home so make sure your radius considers that your dog could be running.
  • Notify friends and neighbors via text and social media. Quickly text your dog’s photo to friends and neighbors who can post the information to social media. If you do not have resources for this, quickly post to your neighborhood or local Facebook groups and include your dog’s name, your contact information and any information like “do not chase!” or specific instructions. If your dog’s collar fell off, someone may be trying to locate an owner at the same time that you are looking for your dog. If using Facebook make sure your privacy setting is set to public if you want friends to share with other people. If you post a photo of your dog and it is restricted to your friends, they cannot share your post, the most they can do is download the photo and repost. If they do not understand how privacy settings work, they may not know this.
  • Check home frequently. Your dog may have gone the opposite way from you and found his way back home. Circle back home often to see if he is laying on the bed you put outside for him waiting for your return.
  • Go door to door. Someone may have caught your loose dog and is letting him or her hang out in their yard or home while they figure out how to locate you. Many people have the best of intentions and will hold onto a dog instead of turning them into the shelter.
  • Contact local businesses. If you have a retail store or other business near you, make sure you tell the employees that you are looking for a lost dog. My friend whose Dobermans temporarily went missing told me, “We were extremely fortunate that they were found and brought home safe even though they were 1.5 miles away. I learned that in addition to calling the obvious agencies, that making a call to the less obvious, in my case a tiny little lone gas station on a corner, could make all the difference in the world.”

In addition to searching your neighborhood: 

  • Call all somewhat local shelters including outside of your town/county. Do not limit your search to the shelter in your town or county. Make a wide radius around your home and contact them all once or twice a day. It is possible that someone may have been passing through the area and picked up your dog and took him to the closest shelter that they knew about instead of the one that you would consider closest.
  • Notify your town or state Lost Dog website and Facebook pages. Here in Illinois we have Lost Dogs Illinois. Find this information in advance so that you know who to contact in the event of an emergency.
  • Alert your microchip provider. Depending on the chip registry that you use, a lost pet notice will go out to veterinary clinics and shelters so that they will be on alert should a good Samaritan bring your dog to them.
  • Contact local veterinarian offices. Once again, some people are afraid to take dogs that they have found to the shelter but might take them to their veterinarian or a nearby vet to scan for a microchip.
  • Contact the local police. People may report sightings of your dog to the police or notify them if they are able to get her to come to them. In some locations the police are the ones who pick up found pets or stray dogs and take them to animal control. Sometimes the police will recognize habitual escape artist dogs and know who their owner is.
  • Contact local rescue groups, especially if your dog is a purebred. If someone finds your boxer they may contact a boxer rescue instead of the local shelter. Remember that not everyone knows what to do when they find a lost dog.
  • Print posters and share them liberally. Throw together a “lost dog” poster with a photo of your dog, your dog’s name, other dog specific information, and your contact information. You can also offer a monetary reward. Hand them out to people you encounter and post them on every available surface including light posts, telephone poles and neighborhood notice boards.
  • Create a Facebook page for your dog. I have a circle of friends who I met when one woman’s Labrador/Basset Hound mix was spooked by a large and unexpected crowd at her veterinarian’s office, slipped out of her grasp, and ran off into the woods. He went into survival mode  immediately and spent a month in the subzero January weather while owners did everything they could to capture him and bring him home. Fortunately they were successful and although part of his tail had to be amputated, he was otherwise fine. If your dog is missing for more than a day, social media is a good way to share photos, get tips on sightings and share information on what not to do for people with good intentions who want to help but may hinder your efforts if they do the wrong thing.

One of the most important things is to not give up and don’t lose hope. There are stories every day of dogs being reunited with their owners after weeks, months or even years. Keep calling the shelters daily, keep sharing flyers and your social media posts. Additionally, please research other blogs and resources in addition to this post. Sometimes one blogger or pet professional will have a suggestion or information that someone else does not know or think to share.

Additional Resources: 

The Humane Society of the United States: What to Do if You Lose Your Pet

Petfinder: How to Find Your Lost Dog

Missing Pet Partnership: Lost Dog Behavior

Patricia McConnell: How to Find a Lost Dog


Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker

What To Do If You Find a Lost Dog

Many people are afraid that taking a found dog to the local animal shelter means one thing: certain death. This is not necessarily true, though. In fact the local animal shelter will be one of the first places that a dog owner whose dog has been lost should check and the sooner the dog is taken to the shelter the sooner the owner can find it, potentially saving hours of angst and worry.

Beau the labrador escape artist

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Beau the labrador escape artistEarlier this week a viral video went around that showed a Great Pyrenees easily letting himself out of the boarding area of a Virginia animal hospital and through multiple doors all the way to the outdoors. I feel pretty confident that I am not the only dog owner who watched the video and realized they were watching one of their biggest fears happening in front of their eyes.

This video also brought back a nearly forgotten memory of my Mom’s yellow Labrador Retriever named Beau. Beau was an incredibly good dog, very sweet and chilled out similar to my Jackson in personality but with a passion for hunting birds with Dad and playing fetch endlessly with tennis balls.

Beau was the son of our family dog Jake and was just a year or so old himself when puppy Dutch joined the family. Sort of the middle child in the dog family, Beau bonded with Dutch the moment Dutch trotted into the house. Beau was so good and so intuitive that we watched him divert Dutch’s attention anytime Dutch started to get into naughty puppy mode and become essentially a puppy sitter. If Dutch tried to chew on a contraband item, Beau would bring him a ball or a toy or start playing with him to make him stop.

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist
Beau and Dutch spooning

Similarly to what I wrote about yesterday in the blog Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect, Beau had one big behavioral issue: he was an expert escape artist. As a young and physically fit Labrador, Beau was able to jump over my parent’s fence from a standing position, which he did several times. Their yard at the time was a glorious heavily wooded four acres in the country, with chain link fence around 3 sides and a beautiful cedar plank fence along the front of the house. The chain link portion was higher than the cedar and as a result of Beau’s escapades, Dad added an extension to the entire length of wooden fence. It looked ok but of course made all of us joke that the next step would be rolled barbed wire like you see outside of prisons.

The dogs also enjoyed expansive dog runs in the basement that were about four times the size of the extra-large crates that Jax and Tink have now. I loved how well-trained they were and how when I would visit or dog sit that I could just give the “kennel up” command and they would all run down the basement steps and into their own runs, Jake on the left, Beau in the middle and Dutch on the right.

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist
Beau the Labrador Escape Artist

Beau also made a habit of jumping out of his dog run and either roaming the basement or joining Jake or Dutch in their kennels. As a result, Beau’s kennel had a roof added to it to ensure that he stayed in his own run while the humans were away.

Several years later my Mom was out-of-town and the dogs were being kenneled at their usual boarding kennel, a wonderful facility in the country that my parents had used for years and where I also occasionally boarded my black Labrador Babe. We loved the owners and staff and they adored our dogs, which helped alleviate the worry and guilt over boarding them.

One morning when my Mom was on a two week scuba diving trip in Fiji, I got an early morning phone call from the kennel. Looking back, I am not sure why I was not dog sitting but I was home with Babe at my own apartment and was the emergency contact for the kennel.

“You need to come and get Beau right now, he is no longer allowed at this kennel,” they said.

“Oh my gosh! What happened! Is he ok” I asked, worried.

“He is banned for life!” they said, “He broke out of his kennel the night before last so we let that slide and tried to secure his door better. Then he broke out again last night and ate all of the food that we had prepared the night before. ALL of it.”

“Oh no!!! How much did he eat?” I asked.

All of the food for every single dog in here, so about twenty bowls of food, plus all of their medicine that was measured out into their bowls! You need to get him NOW!” 

“Ok, I will be there in a half hour, I’ll just take all three at the same time, then.” I said, already starting to put on my shoes.

I drove to the boarding kennel, loaded all three dogs, their food and their bedding into my small-ish Honda, and headed over to my mother’s house to drop them off before going back to my own apartment, picking up Babe, her food and any clothes and toiletries I would need for the rest of the time Mom was gone, and then headed over to dog sit at her house for the remaining of her vacation. It was easier for Babe and me to stay at her house and impossible to imagine watching all four dogs in my tiny apartment with the unfenced yard. Thankfully I was off work that day because I would be on close watch to make sure Beau was ok after eating miscellaneous medications.

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist
Babe, Beau, Jake and Dutch

I knew Mom was landing at night when she returned in a week so there was no chance that she would be going straight to the kennel from the airport, so I did not try to get in touch with her all the way in Fiji.  It was long before texting and social media via smart phones would make it easier to reach someone in another country and there was no need to worry her when I had everything under control. Instead I left a message on her mobile phone voice mail that I assumed she would check when she landed.

“So, I picked up your dogs at the kennel and Babe and I are staying at your house. You can ask Beau why this is, but he’s banned for life from the kennel,” I said cryptically.

As I predicted, she listened to my voice mail and called me on my mobile phone to find out what had happened. I had had several days to dramatize the story of Beau’s escape artist ways and his gluttonous escapades that had gotten him banned for life from the boarding kennel. By the time I was finished we were both roaring with laughter, although he could have easily killed himself if he had ingested the wrong medicines, not to mention the fact that those other dogs were now short a dose of their medications while their owners were away.

Beau’s bad behavior was one of those situations that would turn into a family story that we would tell for years, only now in 2017 without my mom alive anymore to share those stories, I had nearly forgotten it until General’s escape from his boarding facility went viral this week refreshed my memory. I am relieved that the dog from the video was found safe and sound and sleeping in a neighbor’s yard and a little grateful for him, too, for reminding me of this incident in my life with dogs that was truly the epitome of the laugh in Love, Laugh, Woof.

Do you have a topic you would like to suggest for the Love, Laugh, Woof blog? Email me at with topics that are on your mind! 

Professional Pet Sitter Week: Celebrating Real Life Pet Sitters

Professional Pet Sitter Week: Celebrating Real Life Pet Sitters

Professional Pet Sitter Week: Celebrating Real Life Pet SittersProfessional Pet Sitter Week: Celebrating Real Life Pet Sitters

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

As we wrap up Professional Pet Sitter Week I checked in with three different pet sitters who are all at different places in their pet sitting careers and who all love the work that they are doing with animals. Dawn Hernandez is the owner of Walkin & Waggin Pet Concierge of Long Island, New York and fellow member of the American Pet Professionals, with over twenty years of experience. Katherine B. is my own personal pet sitter and unofficially adopted family member who has been caring for animals part time while working and going to college, and Denise G. is a personal friend of mine who is two weeks into a brand new career as she follows her dream of working with dogs.

Here is what each of them had to say about the job of being a pet sitter.

Dawn Hernandez, Walking & Wagging Pet Concierge,

Lynn Stacy-Smith: How did you get started as a pet sitter? 

Dawn Hernandez: I actually started by my PASSION, and my passion grew through years of sharing my life with canines and learning so many life lessons from them. They have been some of the best teachers I have had and changed my life in so many good ways, always reminding me what is important in life. It is through dogs that I have found my solace, my serenity. Back in the 90s I was literally pet sitting numerous friends, family and neighbors. I was constantly so busy that as a joke a dear friend of mine said, “Hey! You should do this as a living, and the rest is history.”

Lynn Stacy-Smith: And how long have you been working as a pet sitter?

Dawn Hernandez: I’ve owned my own business for twenty years and became bonded/insured in 2000 after learning how much I love being able to help people have a stress free lifestyle and being able to travel with ease and peace of mind.

Lynn Stacy-Smith: What are your best memories of the dogs who you have cared for?

Dawn Hernandez: My best memories are taking the journey with some wonderful furry four-legged babies and being there even in the end.  It was beautiful knowing my presence became just as important to them as their owners. In the end the owners/clients wanted me to be fido’s last sight as well as theirs.

Lynn Stacy-Smith: Do you have any laugh-out-loud moments that you can share with readers?

Dawn Hernandez: One day I walked in the home of a regular client of mine who has been with me for over four years. I frantically called for her because I could not find her, a Tibeten Terrier named Moli. I called her name and looked high and low, but she was nowhere in sight! Finally I looked in strange places and found her sound asleep deep in a closet! Moli just looked at me like I was crazy and I had to laugh out loud because I was in a frantic frame of mind and I scooped her up and kissed her like I never wanted to go. She just seemed to want to go back to sleep!

Lynn Stacy-Smith: Do you have any dogs with whom you have formed a special bond?

Dawn Hernandez: I share a special bond with each and every client, they are all special to me. I feel like they are my own pets and the bond we grow is so magical, I can’t think of the day I will no longer spend with them. There is no love like an animal’s love, it’s ingrained in my DNA. You also get to be the person who walks in the door and is greeted by an excited dog who can’t wait to go for a walk a couple times a day. It’s just about the best feeling in the world to walk into house after house and get greeted like you’re a rock god! Bad moods evaporate on impact!

If you are in the Long Island area, Dawn Hernandez services zip codes 11755 ,11767, 11779 , 11725, 11706 , 11780, 11787, 11788,  11730, 11752,  11751 .11749 .11795, 11746,11754  plus other surrounding areas. Check out her website for the Walkin & Waggin Pet Concierge: 

Katherine B., Pet Sitter, Oswego/Montgomery/Yorkville, Illinois

Lynn Stacy-Smith: Katherine, how did you get started as a pet sitter, and how long have you been doing it?

Katherine B: I got started because you and I were talking in the lobby where I worked and I jokingly offered my services, and things just went from there. I guess it’s been a few years ago since the first time!

Lynn Stacy-Smith: Well, you have no idea how happy I am to have found you! What are your best memories of pet sitting?

Katherine B: My best memories are honestly cuddling with the animals. Dogs or cats, I feel such a bond once we have shared a cuddle. I guess that’s weird if you aren’t an animal person!

Lynn Stacy-Smith: No, I totally understand! Do you have a bond with any particular animals?

Katherine B: I have a bond with all of the animals I watch. After being with them on so many occasions for periods of time, you just get to know them. They are like my family, each and every one.

Lynn Stacy-Smith: Jax and Tink definitely adore you! Sometimes I don’t think they cared that we were gone, which is a good thing! So do you have any funny moments with the animals you’ve cared for?

Katherine B: Honestly, your dogs make me laugh all the time! They are so silly when they play bitey-face or even just the little quirks that they have.

Denise G., Pet Sitter, Yorkville, IL and Surrounding Areas

Lynn Stacy-Smith: Congratulations on your new career! When did you get started as a pet sitter?

Denise G: I just signed up on Rover a couple weeks ago. And within a day I received my first dog walking client! I also have an overnight stay booked. So far, two clients and one pending.

Lynn Stacy-Smith: Awesome! What made you decide to pursue a career as a pet sitter?

Denise G: Well, I always thought about doing something that involved being around dogs. So I tried going to a friend that owns her own doggie daycare to help out, and I went there once and I loved it. So I thought of doing dog walking and drop in visits myself. It is my intention to do this full time.

Lynn Stacy-Smith: How long have you been a dog owner?

Denise G: I have had dogs most of my life. I unfortunately had to put down my Golden Retreiver due to an aggressive form of cancer on January 12 of this year. He was my life and I miss him very much. I know my calling is to take care of animals one way or another, it’s my passion and makes me happy to see their smiling faces.

Lynn Stacy-Smith: Well, I’m excited to add you to the extremely short list of people I trust with my dogs, and I can’t wait to watch your business grow! My dogs loved their walk with you!

If you are within a 20 mile range of Yorkville, Illinois, check out Denise G. on Denise is an experienced dog owner and truly loves animals. 

There are tons of amazing pet sitters out there who are working hard to take care of our beloved pets while we are away at work or on vacation. They definitely make our lives easier and less stressful when we know that someone who loves our dogs and cats is caring for them in our absence. Thank you to all of the pet sitters who put us at ease on a regular basis!

Create Your Own Dog Care Binder

Create Your Own Dog Care Binder with Instructions for PetSitters

Create Your Own Dog Care Binder with Instructions for Pet Sitters

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Create Your Own Dog Care BinderSeveral years ago when I was updating my annual dog care instructions for our pet sitter I noticed a spare binder on my desk. I added a cover photo, got out the three-hole punch, and the dog care binder was born.

I won’t lie, I’ve taken some loving teasing about the dog care binder, or the “manual” as some in my family and inner circle have called it. My husband joked that we never left so many instructions to care for the kids as we do for the dogs. When it comes down to it, though, the human kids can talk; the dogs cannot, at least not in a way that someone new would understand right away like I do through our daily life together.

As I mentioned in my other Professional Pet Sitter Week blogs, you never know when you might get called away at the last-minute. Emergencies come up and you might find yourself booking a flight for that same day and hopping on a plane, leaving your home and dogs in the hands of someone else while you go to be with a sick family member or an emergency work meeting. Creating a dog care binder with details on everything someone needs to know to care for your dogs as well as your home will give you incredible peace of mind. Trust me on this, I have walked the walk.

Dog Care Binder Love Laugh Woof
Sample Half Inch Binder

As my free gift to you, I have created a PDF with fields that you can fill in on your computer and then print to easily make your own dog care binder: Love Laugh Woof Dog Binder Template with Fill In Fields. You can also print it and hand-write the information if you prefer. I like to use a three-hole punch to add holes in order to keep mine in a small half-inch binder like this Avery version with a spot for a front cover.

Here is the information you can include in each field:

Front Page: Dog(s) names. This will also fill in the area on the top of all of the pet care pages.

Page 1: 

Food: Use this section to include the brand and formula of food that you feed, the amount, frequency of meals a day, the time of day that your dogs typically eat, and any additional notes like food allergies, a backup brand, where the pet sitter can get more food if they run out and other information.

Outdoor Activity/Walks: Do you want the pet sitter to walk your dog on leash walks or keep them in the yard for play and potty time? Where are their leashes kept? Do you use harnesses or attach to their regular collars? Is there a particular walking route or any quirks of your dog that you want to share? Where are the poop bags located? How do they react to other dogs? Do you require that they heel or walk a certain way?

Treats: Use this spot to share the brands/formulas of treats that you permit, as well as how often and when the dogs receive treats. For example “Jackson and Tinkerbell receive treats when they come inside, when they go into their kennels and at bedtime.” Also indicate if  you have any snacks like carrots or bananas that they can have and where to purchase additional treats if you run out.

Play/Toys: Include information on whether or not you want toys to be left with the dogs when unattended, what games the dogs like to play, any rules involved when playing. For example, “Jax and Tink may not play one hour before or after eating to prevent bloat. Jax likes to play tug-o-war and Tink loves to play fetch. Please do not leave any toys in their kennels when they are gone. Tink may try to eat any fleece toys so please watch her with those. Fleece toys are kept on the shelf in the kitchen when they are not actively playing with them.”

Page 2: 

Kennels/Crates: Use this space to share instructions on whether or not your dogs go in kennels or crates when not attended. For example “Jax and Tink know the word ‘kennel up’ to go into their kennels when we are leaving the house. They will run right into their specific kennel and wait for a treat. Please secure the top and bottom latch.”

Front Door Procedures: Does your dog go to a certain spot when the door rings? Are they a flight risk who might run out the door to see a stranger or to follow a scent? Use this spot to explain how you would like this handled in your absence. For example, “Please do not open the door if you are not expecting anyone and use the viewer in the door. Both dogs are to sit and wait on the carpet away from the door. They know the phrase, ‘Go to your spot’ and must sit and wait until you release them. You can also put them in their crates for a few minutes if you have someone coming over or a pizza or food delivery to err on the side of caution.”

Grooming: Use this spot to share any grooming requirements while you are out-of-town.

Page 3: 

Training Commands & Recall Words: This is important since dog owners often use different words for commands. For example, Jax and Tink know both wait and stay interchangeably. They know “off” instead of “leave it” and we use it in many ways, whether it is to leave something alone that has fallen on the floor or to get their attention off of something like another dog while we are walking.

Information for Pet SittersSleeping Arrangements: Where do your dogs sleep at night if the pet sitter is staying at your home? Where do they sleep if nobody is staying overnight at your home? If you have multiple dogs, do they each have a preferred sleeping spot? Do they try to “call wolf” by waking you up earlier? For example, I can tell by my ADT alerts that my dogs wake my dog sitter at 4 am when she is here so I have to remind her that unless Jax is holding his tail up at the base or they stand by the bedroom door (signs that they do need to go out versus wanting to get up and eat) that they can wait until 6 am.

In Case of Lost Dog: Do you have people in your neighborhood that could post to a Facebook group if the dog(s) escape from the house or yard. Is there a reliable recall word or process you want the pet sitter to take in the event of this emergency? Is there a spot the dogs frequently go to, like my childhood Lab Snoop used to visit our neighbors for a dip in their pool.

Page 4: 

Heartworm Preventative: Use this space to share the brand of heartworm preventative, the date that your dog receives their pill each month, any information on how to administer the pill and any additional information. This is where you can write something like, “Their pills are chewables but I put a glob of peanut butter on each one to ensure that they eat it. Please use caution and make sure each dog gets their pill and only their pill.”

Additional Medications: Use this space to list any additional medications that your dog either takes on a daily or regular basis, along with how to give this medicine to them. Also include any medications that you have on hand in the event that something happens. For example, “We have Panalog in the cabinet in case Tinkerbell’s ear gets red again.”

Page 5: 

Veterinary Information & Emergency 24 hour Clinic Information: Use this page to list your regular veterinarian, their phone and address, any existing conditions that your dog has, how you would like emergencies handled, and the information for the closest 24 hour or emergency clinic.

Page 6: 

This is a blank page for any additional information for your specific dog(s) not already mentioned.

Page 7: Household Information

Heating/Cooling: Do you have a specific temperature at which you keep your home in the winter or summer, particularly to keep your dog safe if your pet sitter is coming and going rather than staying in your home. Is your thermostat on a schedule? Can they adjust it as necessary if they are staying in your home? Who is your preferred emergency repair service for your heating and cooling system. Do you allow windows to be left open if you are not home?

In Case of Fire: If there is a fire while the pet sitter is home, are the dogs trained in a particular way? Is there a particular outdoor location where you want them to take the dogs? For example, “To the extent possible, please take the dogs to my neighbor at this address.”

Other Emergency: Use this space if other emergency situations apply. For example, “If a tornado watch is released, please harness both dogs and take them to the basement. Tink will run right down and Jax needs some encouragement. There is an emergency dog bag in the basement with antlers and treats to occupy them. They have been trained to run to me anytime the tornado siren goes off.”

Page 8: 

Emergency Contacts: Use this space for the names and phone numbers of neighbors, friends or family who the pet sitter can contact if there is an emergency that they can’t handle, if there is an emergency and they cannot contact you, or even if they have an emergency and they need to leave town for a sick relative or something beyond their control.

In the Event of the Pet Owner(s) Death: Yes, this seems morbid, but in the event of an accident or unexpected death, who should the pet sitter or anyone reading the dog binder and caring for the dogs in that situation to contact? For example, we provide the name and contact information for our breeder and we have told our families and friends in no uncertain terms that our dogs are to go back to her no matter who offers to take them. This is not a topic we want to think about, but it is necessary to provide for our beloved dogs.

Security System: Use this area to include any instructions like “Please ensure that the security system is set to Armed Away anytime you are away from the house and Armed Stay if you are sleeping. There are cameras in these locations outside…”

Mail: Is the mail on hold or should the pet sitter bring it inside daily? Should they check for packages on a regular basis anywhere other than the mailbox?

Page 9: This is a freeform area for any additional instructions for the household, like “Since we are away for Halloween we have bought candy that you can give out. If you are not home or are not up to doing it, just turn off the front light and you can eat any candy left over. We will be watching calories when we get home so don’t worry about leaving any!”

Additional Documentation: In addition to these pages, I also include the following documents:

  • Our travel itinerary including flight information and hotel/resort or family contact information if visiting family
  • A letter to the vet authorizing the pet sitter to bring our pets in for care
  • Printouts of each dog’s microchip information
  • Copies of their most recent vaccination records
  • Pet insurance information
Download your FREE Love Laugh Woof Dog Binder Template with Fill In Fields


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Professional Pet Sitter Week: Finding Pet Sitters & Kennels You Can Trust

Professional Pet Sitter Week: Finding Pet Sitters & Kennels You Can Trust

Professional Pet Sitter Week: Finding Pet Sitters & Kennels You Can Trust

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Professional Pet Sitter Week: Finding Pet Sitters & Kennels You Can TrustBack in 2005 when I first moved to Illinois I had to travel for work with just a few days notice. Being new in town, I desperately researched local kennels to care for my black Labrador Babe, and found one that looked promising. I spoke to the owner on the phone, asked her a lot of questions about the facility, how long she had been in business, her experience with dogs, what she did in the event of an emergency, and then I booked Babe’s stay.

The owner was somewhat gruff as I dropped Babe off but I had no other options and I was literally headed to the airport immediately after dropping her off. Plus I was hiring her based on her pet care experience, not her human communication skills.

Two days later I arrived back home and sped to the kennel to pick up my Babe. She reeked of urine, dog smell and something else that was just generally bad and stale. Her dog bed also smelled so badly of urine that I ended up just throwing it out and buying her a new one. I also had to take her to the vet to be treated for a UTI. I was appalled that she had suffered through those conditions for just a few days; I felt like the worst dog owner ever.

As I sat down to write this blog I decided to look on Yelp to see what type of feedback they were getting twelve years later. At first glance there were four reviews, three extremely positive and one with a photo of a dog with sores and lameness. There was also a link that read “Four other reviews that are not currently recommended.”

Of course I clicked that link, and this is what I found:

“I am in shock!  I asked about coming for a visit to see where my dog would be and was told no, they don’t allow that!  She said I could drive by the property and look in the window!  Really!”

“That place scares me. I stopped in and the whole property reeked.”

“My dog came home smelling horrible…. like urine and feces. The whole location always smells horrible. He seems to have a urinary tract infection as he is peeing constantly. He also has been throwing up for two days.”

“When I picked her up she appeared dirty and was limping.  After a cursory examination I found feces dried on her fur (not near her rectal area) and red-scaly spots between her toes.  The vet determined that she has both a yeast and bacterial infection between the pads of her feet.  This is most likely the result of standing in her own feces and urine for an extended period of time.  The stench of fecal matter and urine was overwhelming inside the facility.”

So how do you avoid ending up somewhere like that kennel and find pet sitters and kennels who you can trust ? Research, research, research and more research. Fortunately there is far more information that you can find now in 2017 from online sources and connecting with other humans online.  

Resources for Finding Kennels & Pet Sitters: 

Other Dog Professionals: Reach out to the other dog professionals in your life, like your veterinarian, your dog groomer, your training facility. Not only are they likely to have their own pets who need to be boarded occasionally, but they will probably know other people int he pet care industry.

Facebook neighborhood groups: Most towns and even neighborhoods have Facebook groups that you can use to ask for suggestions on local businesses. You may end up with ten entirely different suggestions or find that the same business is recommended over and over.

Yelp: When searching Yelp, make sure you look at all of the reviews, even the ones like I found that were listed as “not currently recommended.”  Yelp gives an explanation about why they recommend certain reviews over others and based on their explanation, I would personally consider all of the reviews posted by dog owners when finding a pet care facility.  In my opinion, if someone is inspired enough by a positive or negative experience to create an account and draft their first review, I want to know about it.

Better Business BureauThe Better Business Bureau website includes business ratings, owner information, how long the business has been open and also has an area for customer reviews and complaints along with the ability for the business owner to address and respond to the complaint. I have not found as much information on here as other sites but it is worth checking. I believe you can tell a lot by the way that a business owner handles complaints.

Angie’s ListAngie’s List lets users grade businesses on price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality and professionalism using the A-F system like you find in academia. You are now able to create a free membership.

Judy’s Book: Judy’s Book consists of user reviews posted directly to the site as well as reviews from other sources. There is also a spot for the best and the worst review, but again when it comes to finding a trusted boarding facility for your dog, I suggest reading every review thoroughly.

Google: Ok, recommending you use Google is not exactly rocket science. Most users only go through the first page of results; for this type of research, my suggestion is to go many pages deep and not only Google the name of the business but the owner’s name and the address as well.

DogVacay: You can search for pet sitters to watch your dog in your own home or in their home, a concept that is growing in popularity more and more. According to the DogVacay information, they have an extensive vetting process and educational courses for their pet sitters and as I spot checked sitters near me they all had rave reviews and five stars (the maximum) with only a few exceptions. You can also find pet sitters who watch your dog in your own home either overnight, go to your home to let your dog outside for potty and play breaks and meals, or for dog walking.

RoverJust like DogVacay, you can search for boarding in a pet sitter’s home, dog sitting in your home, drop-in visits, dog walking and doggie day care in a sitter’s home. You can research ratings, repeat customers, detailed reviews, whether or not the pet sitter has passed a background check, if they have taken courses, and if they have access to the pet care hotline.

National Association of Professional Pet Sitters:  The mission statement of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters is “The only National non-profit professional pet sitting association dedicated to setting the industry standard and championing the welfare of animals.” You can search for pet sitters in your area who are part of the group through their Pet Sitter Locator function.

Pet Sitters International: Pet Sitters International is “a pioneer in the pet-sitting industry and a trusted educational resource for pet sitters and pet owners alike.” You can search for a local pet sitter who is a member of their organization  at this link:

Questions to Ask: 

Here are two fantastic must use resources whether you are choosing a pet sitter or a boarding kennel:

Pet Sitter International Tips for Conducting a Professional Pet Sitter

International Boarding & Pet Services association: Questions to ask a pet boarding or daycare facility. 

Tomorrow I will share my dog care binder and information on why it’s important to keep dog care instruction handy should you have to leave your dogs with a pet sitter.

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Dog Care Options: Pet Sitter or Boarding?

Dog Care Options: Pet Sitter or Boarding?

Dog Care Options: Pet Sitter or Boarding?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Dog Care Options: Pet Sitter or Boarding?If you are like me, the thought of leaving your dog in someone else’s care is one of the things in life that can cause your anxiety level to soar to levels previously unknown. The list of people I trust to care for Jackson and Tinkerbell is extremely short and even some of my closest friends are not on it. So how do you decide your dog care options and whether a pet sitter or boarding is right for your dog?

Fortunately I have found an amazing friend who I also hire professionally to watch my dog who graciously accepts my many post-it notes throughout the house, frequent check-ins, my dog care binder, and all of my other quirks as a dog owner. If you are blessed to have someone like this in your life to take care of your dogs, then you know what an incredible relief it is. Shower them with thanks and pay them well!

Even if you rarely travel or if you take vacations with your dog, I strongly suggest having at least one trusted dog care option on-call in the event of an emergency. You never know when you will have to go out-of-town for a family emergency. In fact, in the almost six years since Jackson was born we had three incidents in which we had to leave town on a moment’s notice for a family emergency. In honor of Professional Pet Sitter Week we will examine this topic in a series of blogs for both new and veteran dog owners.

Boarding Options

 There are many, many options for finding pet sitters and boarding facilities these days, with DogVacay,,, Yelp and more. So how do you choose what is right for you?

Vet Clinic Boarding: Many vet clinics offer boarding for non-medical stays, either in traditional dog runs or in crates in a designated area. Depending on the clinic, boarding is open to just clients or the general public.

Traditional Dog Boarding: Traditional boarding kennels have indoor runs for each dog or bonded pair. Some are built with outside areas that your dog can access when their specific gate is open and others are entirely inside and dogs are walked to the outdoor area. Dogs are kept separate from each other throughout their stay and each get solo time outside for potty and play breaks.

Doggie Daycare: Doggie daycare is a type of dog care facility in which the dogs are allowed to play together and interact with each other for either portions of the day or the entire day. Dogs are typically separated at night when they are not being watched by a staff of humans and sleep either in crates or traditional dog runs depending on the facility. Dog Care Options: Pet Sitter or Boarding?

Pet sitter at your own home: Pet sitters come into your home to tend to your dog in his or her own environment. Some pet sitters are willing to live at your home while you are gone and sleep there overnight. Others make visits approximately every eight hours or more depending on your particular dog’s needs. These visits include potty breaks, playtime, meals and fresh water.

Pet sitting at the sitter’s Home: Some pet sitters now offer dog care in their own home, so that your dog stays with the pet sitter and his or her own pets and family.

Kennel versus At Home?

With so many options for dog care,  how do you decide if you should board your dog in a traditional kennel versus letting them stay at home?

 1. Are your dogs in crates/kennels at home? One of my main requirements for an at-home dog sitter is that they be available to stay at my home overnight and sleep here. This is primarily because my dogs are in large wire dog kennels when we are not home. While this is fine for as long as eight hours to ten hours for an average workday, running errands, going to a social event or everyday activity, there is no way I would want them in there for twenty-four hours at a time with just periodic potty breaks.

2. Is the space at the boarding kennel larger than their crates at home?When we board them, we book the “Luxury” kennels in large, which are about three times the size of their crates at home and can fit both of them together. So not only do they have plenty of room to move around, they can be together and snuggle and do a little bit of playing. I also pay for as many extra play sessions outside as I can, to give them extra time to run and stretch their legs.

3. What type of  security is there at the kennel versus at home? I will be the first one to admit that I am a bit on the neurotic side when it comes to the safety of my dogs, but security is something to consider no matter where your pet stays. Does the boarding kennel have a security system connected to the police department? What is their protocol in the event of fire or a break-in? What type of neighborhood are they in? If you choose a pet sitter who is not sleeping at your home, do you have neighbors nearby? Will your police department do vacation monitoring? Do you have a security service for your home like ADT with cameras and fire and flood monitoring? Do you have a doorbell like Ring that records all of the people who come to your door? Do you have a thermostat like Nest to monitor the temperature of your home remotely? Do you have neighbors to help keep an eye out on your house?

4. Does your dog have special needs? When we went on vacation, our senior dogs Babe, Dutch, and Maggie were perfectly fine and happy staying at home with a pet sitter who came to the house four times a day. All three dogs were seniors who got along great, slept about 90% of the day, and had the entire downstairs to roam. When Jackson came into our life and before we knew our current dog sitter, we decided to board him at the kennel to give him more room to move around than his crate would allow. He and Maggie stayed at our veterinary clinic in separate dog runs so that puppy Jax would not trample his elderly sister and re-injure her spine that had been operated on years before. When Tinkerbell joined the family,  she shared a run with Jax at the vet clinic. Once we found our dog sitter who would sleep over, we started leaving the dogs at home with her while she lives in our home while we are away. Different dogs with different needs and different situations.

5. Does your dog do well with other dogs? If your dog is used to playing with other dogs and generally gets along well with other dogs, a doggie daycare option will be fun and your dog might never want to come home. Well, not really, your dog will always choose you, but as long as they play nicely with others, a doggie daycare is like camp for your dog and they are generally worn out from playing and socializing by the time you get home from your trip.

Of course your primary goal is to choose the safest, most comfortable option for your particular dog so that he or she is safe and happy upon your arrival home. You want your dog to be happy to see you and as happy and healthy as you left her with her caretaker when you arrive home.

 Tomorrow we will discuss how to find the pet sitter or boarding kennel that is right for you and your dogs at  

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World Spay Day Worldwide Issues and How to Help

World Spay Day: Worldwide Issues and How to Help

World Spay Day: Worldwide Issues and How to Help

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

World Spay Day Worldwide Issues and How to Help Two years ago my foster dog Destiny changed my life forever. She did it in small ways, by letting me teach her to trust people, to transitioning from being terrified of anyone touching her anywhere other than under her face to being the type of 60 pound lap dog who sprawled across your entire lap in a deep sleep. She did it by letting me rehab her from a terrified former stray into a beloved and happy dog headed into her forever home.

One of the most noticeable thing about Destiny was that her nipples were extended as if she had had puppies recently or just so many litters of puppies that they never went back to normal. When found as a stray, tied to a tree and left to die in a wooded area of Puerto Rico, she was around six or seven years old and un-spayed. Like many rescue dogs, she was promptly spayed before making her journey from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Chicago, Illinois.

Destiny crashed out after a game of ball

Because of Destiny, I began following the work of the non-profit organization Love Puerto Rico Goldens on Facebook. Because of Facebook translations I was able to learn about their near-daily task of rescuing purebred Golden Retrievers and Golden Retriever mixed breed dogs and puppies who have been abandoned and left entirely homeless. Because most of them are intact and able to reproduce, they do, in plentiful numbers.

A few months after Destiny found her forever home a friend of mine went to Puerto Rico for a wedding. “You can probably bring a few puppies back in your carry on,” I joked, although it was a joke with a wish that she could save a few dogs while down there. She texted me from there and said, “Oh, Lynn, it’s so heart breaking, there are dogs and puppies everywhere, just wandering along the streets.”

According to an article on CNN Money, “People are literally fleeing Puerto Rico because the island’s economy is so bad. One in 10 people is out of work. The island’s government has run out of money and is $72 billion in debt. Over 10% of the population has booked a one-way ticket out (mostly to Florida, Texas and elsewhere in the mainland U.S.) in the past decade. Sometimes people just leave their homes and lock their dogs inside, never to return.”

The same CNN Money article includes ways to help with dogs in Puerto Rico: . You can also donate directly to Love Puerto Rico Goldens, which is 100% dependent on donations:

Even more heartbreaking is that this issue is in no way unique to Puerto Rico. If you remember leading up to the Sochi Winter Olympics there was a massive culling of stray dogs and the despicable and inhumane term “biological trash” used to describe the innocent dogs who are a victim of irresponsible humans. These situations happen all over the world.

How can you help?Donations, spreading awareness, volunteering and spaying or neutering your own dog(s) are important things that you can do to help with pet overpopulation problems both here and around the world.I found three web sites with important information on how you can make a difference.

Click on these links to read more: 


Spay/Neuter Awareness Month: Reasons to Not "Fix" Your Dog

Spay and Neuter Awareness Month: Mythbusting Reasons to Not “Fix” Your Dog

Spay/Neuter Awareness Month:  Mythbusting Reasons to Not “Fix” Your Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Spay/Neuter Awareness Month: Reasons to Not "Fix" Your DogI did not neuter Jackson until he was a little over two and a half years old. I spent a good two years running into issues when I wanted to take him to training classes, dog parks and other areas. “He’s still intact because he’s competing in conformation shows,” I would explain, “Not because of ignorance or any other reason.”

On Jackson’s first birthday I sent several photos of him to our breeder as well as a Happy Birthday message to his litter mate who she had kept. She messaged me back and said, “Jackson is turning out to be spectacular, if you want you can hold of neutering him and try him out in a few UKC (United Kennel Club) shows and then depending how he does maybe we will change his AKC registration from Limited to full and think about using him as a stud dog.”

I cancelled the appointment I had already made to have him neutered, registered him with the UKC, and started training with him on the skills he would need in a dog show. We practiced gaiting and stacking, and I envisioned him going all the way to Madison Square Garden and being on TV representing his breed in Best In Group and being the Labrador to finally win Best in Show. I found hot pink dress pants to pop against his black fur, put on functional shoes and we were ready!

In reality we did three dog shows. We earned a few Best of Breeds and a third in the Gun Dog Group, which is the UKC version of the Sporting Group. Each time I laughed at myself as we drove to shows that took place in warehouse type spaces in industrial parks in suburban Illinois, a far cry from Madison Square Garden.

At the third show we won Best of Breed and headed to the group competition. There were a ton of dogs there that day, far more than the first few shows. Jax was more interested in playing that day and tried to befriend the Golden Retriever…in the middle of the competition. When the judge came to inspect him, Jackson rolled over on his back with all four paws in the air. Then we ran out of bait and I lost his focus entirely. As he tried to jump on top of the Golden again, I politely took my dog and left the ring. I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t upset, I doubt it was proper etiquette, but I just did not want to be that person whose dog was distracting the other well-behaved dogs.

“Well, big man, I think that is the end of your show career, what do you think?” He nuzzled my face and snorted, which is one of my favorite Jax signature moves. “Come on, let’s go home to Daddy and Tinkerbell. I’ll get you a puppacino on the way home, my handsome boy.”

A few weeks later I made the appointment to neuter him and spay Tinkerbell, who was coming up on seven months old, the same day. Had I hired a professional handler, I’m sure Jax could have had a stellar show career; the reality was that he already had a full-time dog job: to be my best friend and companion. I would never be the person to send him off with a handler, on airplanes and in strange places without me, just for him to be a champion.

After the procedures, Jax was my same quirky and special boy and Tinkerbell my same crazy girl. Literally nothing about their activity level or temperament changed, at least once they healed. Of course you have to keep them calm and on kennel rest while they heal, but after that they were the exact same dogs.

Jax was still a typical boy, peeing on every single tree, light post and mailbox (if I’d let him) on our walks, somehow able to ration his urine to make it through a long walk and still be able to claim every single vertical object as his own. Tink was still insane with endless energy, running zoomies as fast as her legs could carry her and then snuggling sweetly with us every night.

Too often I hear some interesting reasons for not spaying or neutering a dog, usually online in various groups and forums and occasionally at pet expos. It goes back to the Woof in Love, Laugh, Woof. Woof means celebrating the differences between our species and understanding that your dog is a dog and not trying to push human feelings onto them. Let’s take a look at some of the wrong reasons for not spaying/neutering a dog:

Females need to experience giving birth to a litter: Emotional regret over not having offspring is entirely a human thing. Although I love to celebrate a mother dog’s love for her puppies, your dog is not staring out the window wondering why she never had puppies. That doesn’t mean a dog doesn’t have a strong maternal instinct, but it kicks in after she is pregnant. Dogs live in the moment, your dog is perfectly happy experiencing other things besides giving birth to puppies. Take her on adventures instead, she will love you even more for sharing such amazing bonding experiences and it will never cross her mind that she did not “get” to have pups.

Still a big boy, happily neutered!

Neutering makes males less male: Well, if you’re talking about moving mountains to get to females in heat, embarrassing dog erections for no reason, or marking your furniture, yes, neutering will change that. But in terms of the good parts of a boy dog, there is no difference. Your male dog does not care that he lost his testicles. That’s a human hangup. Although the procedures are definitely different, your male dog is still just as male as a man who has a vasectomy. All that’s changed is their ability to have an heir. Unless your dog is the King of England, he doesn’t need an heir. Period.

“Fixing” a dog makes them fat: Just like we humans, too many calories and too little activity makes dogs fat. If you see them gaining weight, adjust their calories. I promised a “no fat Labs” promise and have kept to it. Jax and Tink weigh exactly the same as before they were spayed and neutered.  You are in control of how much you feed your dog, how much exercise he or she gets, and ultimately how much they weigh, intact or sterilized.

Children should experience the miracle of life: I call BS on this. I am a parent, there are books for that, they take classes on that in health class. There is no logical reason for a child to learn about the miracle of life by bringing innocent puppies into the world. Parents who really want their children to see the process can view a variety of births on YouTube. It is miraculous, I once sat and watched a professional breeder’s dog give birth via webcam for an entire afternoon; I was not going to submit Tinkerbell to that just for the experience.

If you hear friends talking about breeding their dogs, please have the important conversation with them, asking them to reconsider and ask them not to become a backyard breeder. If none of the arguments above are sufficient, there are 1.2 million other reasons not to breed, in the form of dogs who are euthanized each year because a home was not available to them.



National Prevent a Litter Month: The Importance of Spaying and Neutering

National Prevent a Litter Month: The Importance of Spaying and Neutering

National Prevent a Litter Month: The Importance of Spaying and Neutering

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

National Prevent a Litter Month: The Importance of Spaying and NeuteringEarlier this month I blogged about Responsible Pet Owner Month and how virtually all of the special dog days in this month all tie back into the idea of being a responsible pet owner. It makes sense that February is also National Prevent a Litter Month, a time for us to talk about the importance of spaying and neutering. Unless you are a professional/show/hobby breeder, it is my belief that to allow your female to become pregnant or your male dog to father puppies is among the most irresponsible things that a pet owner can do. 

According to data from the ASPCA Shelter Intake and Surrender page, 90% of the dogs who enter a shelter, as strays and owner surrenders, are intact and able to create a litter of puppies. Also according to their data, “the average number of litters a fertile dog produces is one a year; the average number of puppies is four to six.”

If 3,900,000 dogs enter shelters each year, that means that 3,510,000 are not spayed or neutered. If we were to imagine that half are females, that means 1,755,000 dogs able to produce approximately 7,020,000 puppies a year. That is the equivalent of one puppy for every single resident of the state of Washington. 

In my blog, Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders, I wrote about responsible breeders and that they require that their puppies be spayed/neutered and that the owner submit proof that the procedure has been performed by a certain date. Some responsible breeders include in their contract that they can take the dog back if the puppy buyer fails to have their dog neutered or spayed. Additionally, responsible breeders sell their puppies with Limited Registration instead of full AKC registration in order to keep puppy buyers from breeding AKC registered dogs on their own.

Shelters and dog rescue organizations also require that their adopted dogs be spayed or neutered and usually the procedure is done before the dog is available for adoption. So if responsible breeders are requiring that puppies be altered and so do rescue groups and shelters, how are so many dogs living their life intact and able to create more dogs?

According to additional data on the ASPCA site, 28% of owners acquire dogs from breeders, 29% from rescue groups and shelters, and 43% from family and other acquaintances. Unfortunately the site does not specify what type of breeder they include in the 28%, but unlike responsible breeders, backyard breeders and puppy mill operators are unlikely to require that the puppies be fixed or that the puppy buyers are educated about puppies and ready to assume responsibility for the dog for life. 

In the family and other acquaintance category you will find those owners who either intentionally or accidentally created a litter of puppies and now have the difficult task of finding homes for the puppies. It’s a common scenario: someone’s intact male found his way to someone else’s fertile female and created a litter of puppies. They are free to a good home or inexpensive to cover the cost of their puppy shots, and the owner of the female is desperate to find homes for them all. They do not know how to screen a puppy buyer and they don’t have a way to demand that the puppy be spayed. Both scenarios present the same two problems: too many puppies and not enough of a screening process to ensure that those puppies do not end up in shelters or as strays. 

When you look at the reasons for owner surrender of dogs to shelters, 29% of owners cannot have pets in their home or apartment. Behavioral issues, divorce/death, and not enough time are all equal at 10%, and other issues make up the final 41% of owner surrenders. All of those named issues, even death, are part of comprehensive screening of potential owners by both responsible breeders and shelter/rescues. That means at least 59% of those owners would have been asked:

  1. What is your training philosophy? Where will you take the dog for training issues? How will you handle behavioral issues? What books have you read about training dogs?
  2. When will you spend time with the dog? What activities will you do with the dog? Who will take care of the dog if you are called out-of-town or have to work late?
  3. What will happen to the dog in the event of divorce or death?
  4. What is your current living situation? What will you do if you have to move? How will you ensure that you will live somewhere pet friendly?

Spaying and neutering not only prevents overpopulation of dogs and cats, it also means that unprepared owners are not in a position to deal with litters of puppies. At the end of the day, just because you find a home for a dog does not mean the dog is safe from being abandoned as a stray or at a shelter. Responsible breeders and rescue groups typically work extremely hard to filter out the bad homes, the people who are getting a dog on a whim, all to make sure their dogs go to loving, capable forever owners. Spaying and neutering is the most effective way of preventing the pet overpopulation problem and the tragic and unnecessary death of 1.2 million dogs each year.  






Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day: Share Your Love of Dogs Daily

Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day: Share Your Love of Dogs Daily

Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day: Share Your Love of Dogs Daily

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day: Share Your Love of Dogs DailyToday is National Love Your Pet Day. I can safely assume that anyone reading this blog is going to say along with me, “But that’s every day, or at least it should be!”

As a lifelong dog lover, most of my friends are also dog lovers who share not only my love of dogs, but also my commitment to my dogs. We are there for each other when we have fun with our dogs, when we worry about our dogs, when we have to say goodbye to a dog who has gone to the Rainbow Bridge.

Dog lovers understand each other. In fact, my cat owner friends also understand; they may not share the same obsession with dogs but they understand what it is to be best friends with an entirely other species. They all understand that my dogs are not “just dogs” and I understand that their cats are not “just cats.”

Although most of the people in my life are animal lovers, I have a handful of friends who just are not into having a dog or a cat or any sort of pet. They don’t oooh and ahhh at my photos, they don’t understand how I am best friends with dogs, they aren’t interested in affectionate welcomes by my dogs when they come over and they probably think I’m their slightly crazy dog lady friend. Well, “slightly” might be an understatement.

I admire them for knowing how they feel and for not bringing a dog or cat into their life despite periodic requests from their spouse or children to have an animal in their home. I respect that they understand that they will be the one caring for the dog or cat and that it would not be fair to the animal if they were to get one without being as passionate about being a pet owner as a pet owner should be.

Jax is putting the Laugh in Love, Laugh, Woof!

I would estimate that 99% of what I share on social media revolves around dogs, whether it’s available dogs who need a forever home, articles about dog care, my own blogs and posts from my Love, Laugh, Woof page, or pictures of Jackson and Tinkerbell. Their photos make up the majority of my posts. I always assume that my non-dog loving friends just scroll on past those photos, but over the last year or so I have had not one but two of them give me the same compliment.

“Your love for your dogs has made me understand why people love their pets so much.” 

What an amazing thing to hear!

Two different friends who do not know each other said those exact words. I consider that the ultimate compliment, the ultimate success that I am making an impact by helping change the minds and hearts of those who do not feel the same as I do about our beloved dogs.

Celebrate your love of dogs daily and share the word about how much you love your best friend!

So how can this help you celebrate National Love Your Pet Day? It means that you, too, can make a difference simply by sharing the love you have for your pets with all of your friends, dog lovers and non-dog lovers. Whether it’s you and your dog on an adventure or a photo of them sleeping, people are listening to what you have to say.

Share the reasons why a simple photo of your dog napping fills your heart with so much love. In fact, share not just the love you have for your dogs but the whole Love, Laugh, Woof philosophy!

Share the laughter you have with your dog, the laughter you enjoy because of your dog. When you illustrate through your own experiences that dogs are downright funny creatures with a sense of humor, you can help open the minds of people who have never experienced that, never considered that dogs are funny or how human laughter is one of the happiest sounds your dog can hear.

Share the woof of Love, Laugh, Woof by sharing what it must be like to be a dog in a human world. Share the photos of the terrified dog in the shelter who is confused and heartbroken and explain how dogs feel emotional pain and fear just like us.

Share your stories of training your dog and teaching her how to be a dog in a human world,  share how special it is to have that interspecies friendship where we communicate without words, and love each other so much despite our differences. Many people who do not live with dogs do not understand how special this is or that it’s not always easy for dogs to acclimate to our lives and homes.

Anyone can be a dog/human ambassador just by sharing with friends!

You may not turn everyone on your friends list into a dog lover or a dog owner, and that’s ok, because not everyone should be a dog owner.  Helping even one person understand why we love our dogs so much, why dogs are considered sentient beings with real feelings and emotions,  is one more step in the right direction of creating a more humane environment for all dogs.




Ten Traits of Responsible Dog Owners

Ten Traits of Responsible Dog Owners

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

Ten Traits of Responsible Dog Owners The month of February has quite a few different awareness events and in the end, all of them fall under the umbrella of being a responsible pet owner. In fact, that is what Love, Laugh, Woof is all about: being a responsible and forever owner from the moment your dog steps their first paw into your life until the last breath that they take by your side. So while every single month is Responsible Pet Owner month in reality, let’s take this opportunity to share ten traits of responsible dog owners:

Jax is everything a lab stud dog should be…we neutered him anyway! No puppies from this boy!

1. Responsible owners spay or neuter their dogs: Responsible owners leave the breeding up to professional/hobby/show breeders who already have a demand for their dogs before they create the supply. By spaying your females you never have to worry about them going into heat (as messy and miserable as it is for human women) or having unwanted canine suitors lining up outside your fence to get to your female like Scarlett O’Hara at the barbecue. In the same way, neutering your male means that he can focus on being your best friend instead of searching out a mate and acting like a testosterone driven dog. Let’s face it, there’s a reason we refer to overly promiscuous men as “dogs”, right? Take that desire off your male dog’s mind and let him just be your best friend; he does not need a female dog to be his friend with benefits.

2. Responsible dog owners provide good medical care: I once had a vet who told me “thank you” for choosing to go with more elaborate tests to seek a diagnosis for my now late German Shorthaired Pointer Dutch. “Why are you thanking me?” I asked, legitimately confused. Dutch was my dog, a part of my heart and soul, why wouldn’t I do everything possible for him? “Not everyone goes this far to try to keep their dog healthy,” was their answer.

What an eye-opening lesson that was! In my mind proper medical care was a given. A sick dog went to the vet, period. You did everything in your power and budget to help them.

Responsible pet owners provide basic care like annual exams (or even better, twice a year), heartworm pills, and vaccinations. They also know how their dog looks and behaves when healthy, notices changes like acting lethargic or a change in appetite or lumps and bumps that appear, takes them to the vet, pays for testing and treatments and follows the vet’s orders for home care.

Dogs on the sofa? Totally!

3. Responsible owners create a comfortable living environment: Today I shared via Facebook a heart wrenching video of extremely young puppies covered in flea bites, scabs and a horrible skin disease. All they had known was disease, misery, pain, suffering and filth for the few weeks since they had been born, and they were so young that they were not even ready to leave their mother. Luckily they had been rescued after their owner literally dumped them off somewhere. There was no sign of their mother and my heart breaks even more wondering what her fate is.

Responsible owners provide a clean, climate controlled, bug and pest free, safe, comfortable environment for their dog in their residence. Dogs are pack animals and want to be with their humans. They should live inside the family home with the human family, whether it is a family of one or ten, and be with the humans when they are home or safely in their own secured, climate controlled spot with access to water when the humans are away.

4. Responsible owners train their dogs what to do: Imagine being hired for a new job. Nobody tells you what to do, what they expect of you, or how to do it. When you try to do it your own way they yell at you for doing it wrong. That is what it is like for a dog who does not receive training. Although we are able to create loving bonds and incredible friendships across our different species, living in a human world does not come automatically to a dog. Training them what to do is responsible and gives them the confidence to go about their day-to-day lives with you with joy and the relaxing knowledge that they are pleasing you.

5. Responsible owners are calm, fair, kind and compassionate: Good leaders do not need to yell and use aggression to motivate and lead people. This is the same with dogs. Your dog needs you to be their leader, establish rules and be firm, but they also need you to be calm, fair, kind and compassionate. Anything else will just scare and confuse them and break their trust in you. The fact of the matter is that dogs living in a human world need you. Their entire life revolves around you, for love and companionship, food, water, and every basic need. Any good leader respects her team, and it is quite possible to respect and honor your dog while still being their leader.

6. Responsible owners provide quality nutrition: You don’t have to be able to afford the most expensive food on the market for your dog, but providing a good quality food made with safe ingredients is important. Dogs are like computers: garbage in, garbage out, and the better the food your provide the healthier your dog should be. If you are on a super strict budget, try to avoid anything with the words “animal” or “by-product” and the controversial menadione. Dog Food Advisor is an amazing website that can help you research particular brands of food.

7. Responsible owners exercise with their dogs: Whether you participate in an official dog sport like agility, or if long walks are your thing, responsible dog owners make sure their dogs get plenty of exercise and enjoy getting exercise together. There is a mind meld that you get with your dog when you are out exploring the world together.

Tink going on an adventure

8. Responsible owners make time for their dogs: Obviously life happens and sometimes you have to work long hours or go to human only events, but spending time with your dog is the whole reason you got them. One of the cruelest things you can do to a dog is to ignore them or stick them in a kennel or room away from their humans. Dogs are fun, they are comforting, and they are some of the best friends I know I’ve ever had, and all they ask in return is for our companionship. Even when I was a single dog owner with a full time job and an active social life, I made sure I carved out substantial and frequent blocks of time that were dedicated just to my dog Babe.

9. Responsible owners are their dog’s rock solid support system at the end of their life: I have lain on the floor of the vet’s office with four different dogs at different times in the last twelve years as the veterinarian gave them the two injections to end their lives. All four times I held my own self together, not showing my fear or my grief or pain until they had all passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. It was only after the vet told me that each of them was gone that I let myself howl with grief, finally able to let my own pain out. Why? Because I did not want to stress them, worry them, scare them, or have any sort of negative energy around them during the final moments of their lives. My job was to be their rock, after all of the times that they had been there for me, it was the most important moment for me to be there for them. There are no excuses to not be there with your best friend, I don’t care how hard it is or how painful. It is an unwritten promise that we give to them the moment we accept them as our dog.


10. Responsible owners are forever owners: From the moment your dog steps their first paw into your life until the final breath that they take with you by their side. Forever. Responsible owners do not surrender their dogs to kill shelters, let them loose in the woods and drive off to let them fend for themselves, list them on Craigslist or anywhere else “free to a good home,” tie them to trees, tape their muzzles, or any of the other truly evil things that have been done to innocent dogs to “get rid” of them. They do not give up on them or harm them in any way. Period. And if extenuating circumstances happen, they reach out to every rescue group until they can find a no-kill option, pay the surrender fees, and make sure that their dog will find a new, loving, forever home.

Please share this with anyone you know who is considering getting a dog or who is a new dog owner. Irresponsible pet ownership is, in my opinion, the primary reason for the massive pet overpopulation problem in this country. It is my mission to help educate owners to become forever owners to help reduce the number of innocent dogs who are surrendered and euthanized each year.

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Pet Theft Awareness How to Keep Your Dog Safe

Pet Theft Awareness: Seven Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe

Pet Theft Awareness: Seven Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

Pet Theft Awareness How to Keep Your Dog SafeLast summer I made a new friend for a horrible reason: six very young puppies were stolen from the whelping pen of a hobby breeder and I was one of many people helping these strangers share information via social media to help locate them. Located in the country, they had felt safe putting the momma and whelping pen in their climate controlled barn, not knowing that someone would find out they were there and steal them to try to resell them.

A Facebook post advertising the stolen puppies for sale helped the police and breeder start to track down their location. Four of the stolen puppies were located in a box in a dumpster after someone gave a tip that they were there. Of those four, only one was alive; the others had died alone and terrified, away from their mother or their breeder, in a dirty and disgusting dumpster. The other two were found running along a beach in Chicago and were picked up by a good Samaritan and returned safely to their breeder. I was lucky enough to meet two of the surviving puppies and their breeder a few weeks after the incident, and felt incredibly lucky to get puppy kisses from these survivors of such a horrific act.

February 14 was Pet Theft Awareness Day, a day originally created in 1988 to increase awareness of pet owners to the crime of pet theft. Here are seven things you can do as a pet owner to help prevent your dog from being stolen or lost.

1. Do not let your pet roam freely: I often think about growing up in an extremely rural area where our dog was allowed to go outside without us and without a fence. Right after that thought I get goosebumps imagining doing that today. That was another time and another place. Yes, we talk about surviving the 70s as human kids with our lack of booster seats, bicycle helmets and seat belts, but things are different and we know better now. Just like you would not transport your toddler without a car seat in 2017, do not let your dog roam freely without a fence. Period. I don’t care if you own 1,000 acres, put up a fence to protect your dog.

2. Always go outside with your dog: One of our teenagers asked me a few years ago, “So, the dogs are not puppies any more, when are they going to be allowed in the yard on their own?” My response, “Um, NEVER!” A fence allows your dog to run and frolic and select a place to eliminate waste without a leash. It is not the dog equivalent of plopping your child in front of the TV so you can get stuff done. I will freely admit that when I first moved to our home I did let the dogs outside on their own without a human. One day as I pulled into the driveway after work, all three dogs ran to greet me, right out of the gate that one of the kids had left open while playing with friends. Another day our escape artist Dutch opened the gate on his own and took off down the street before I realized he was gone.

My parents’ late Beau and my former foster dog Destiny could both jump a regular fence from a standing position. Between dogs going over fences, digging under them, opening up gates on their own, kids or meter readers accidentally leaving gates open, and the risk of pet theft, there are simply too many risks of losing your dog or having them stolen, not to mention things that they can get into when left to their own decision-making. It’s not hard to go outside with them each and every time, I’ve been doing it for six years. In fact, you can stay warm with my winter gear suggestions from last week if you live in cold climates. 

3. Do not leave your dog in the car alone: Unless you are only going to places where you can take your dog, skip the car ride and leave them at home. For one thing, in most parts of the country it is simply too hot to leave them in the car for at least six months out of the year if not longer, but it is also extremely easy to break into your car and take your dog. Several years ago there was a tragic story in a nearby suburb in which a man  stopped at a business for a quick errand and left his elderly dog in his van. The van was stolen with the dog inside and the dog was never recovered. I love having my dogs with me every moment I can, too, but I would rather them be safe and sound at home.

4. Do not tie your dog out…anywhere: Last week we addressed the problem of chained dogs, but not in terms of your dog getting lost or stolen. I also do not recommend tying your dog anywhere, even to run into a store for a moment or two. If you are with your dog and your dog cannot go into a business, neither should you. It is far too easy to untie the leash or unclip their collar. There are some locking leashes on the market, but collars can be cut or slipped over a dog’s head if someone is really motivated to steal your dog. 

5. Utilize cameras and home security systems: There are now many products on the market to help secure your home through alarms and cameras, most of which have apps to send alerts to your phone. Some even allow you to listen to sounds in your yard and speak to people who come to your door even if you are thousands of miles away.

6. Research potential pet sitters & groomers: Hire reputable pet sitters and groomers that you know already, are suggested by trusted friends or other dog professionals, or through pet sitting or grooming companies with reliable reputations.

7. Microchip your dog: Microchips are a permanent way of identifying your dog, but they do rely on someone scanning them with a microchip scanner. It is also essential to keep your chip information current if you move or change your phone number. Microchips won’t help in some instances of pet theft when the thieves have no intention of providing veterinary care, but they make it possible that if someone takes your dog to the vet or if your dog escapes or runs away from the thieves.

The bottom line: any time your dog is out of your home, keep them on-leash and in your sight. It may seem dramatic to give such strong warnings, but the fact is that dogs are stolen on a regular basis, and this is not a fate you want for your best friend.

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How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation

How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation

How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet OverpopulationAs I wrap up our three part series during Westminster Dog Show week, here are some ways that hobby/show/professional breeders help prevent their dogs from ending up homeless, abandoned or in shelters:

1. The application process: Good breeders will require an extensive application to be submitted by potential puppy buyers to ensure that their puppies are going to forever homes where they will receive the appropriate care, socialization, training, affection and exercise. Our application for Jax was multiple pages long including questions about our philosophy on dog training, books we had read, our experience with dogs, what had happened to other dogs in our life, and a variety of other questions.

2. Lifetime Return Policy: This means that the breeder will take the dog back at any point in its life and dictates that the owner is not allowed to surrender the dog to a shelter or rescue under any circumstances. Some breeders (including ours) ask to be the backup contact on the dog’s microchip for life and will take the dog back if the owner passes away.

3. Limited Registration: Many show/hobby/professional breeders will only sell dogs with a Limited Registration, meaning that the dog itself is fully registered with the American Kennel Club but any puppies that he or she produces cannot be registered. This protects the bloodline and means that puppy buyers cannot sell registered puppies from their dog, which would take away some of the monetary value that they could receive for puppies and reduces the likelihood that they will breed the dog.

4. Having a Demand Before Creating the Supply: Responsible breeders wait for a demand for their puppies before they create a supply. Jax was already in utero when we found him and we honestly got lucky. There was one spot left for a puppy buyer because his mother was pregnant with one “extra” puppy. Otherwise we would have been on a waiting list for the next litter which was planned for the following winter. He was born in March. Of course if we had not come along he would have simply stayed with the breeder just like his brother.

If you look at the page of the German Shorthaired Pointer who won Best in Show at Westminster in 2016 as of today it says, “We are sorry but at this time we have no litters available.” The Planned Litters page indicates that two litters are planned for the spring and that potential buyers can join the waitlist. This is the same with the Labrador Retriever who won Best of Breed last year and is indicative of a very responsible dog breeder who is committed to not creating dogs without a list of puppy buyers waiting to take them into loving homes.

5. Mandatory Spay/Neuter Clauses

Many breeders require their puppy buyers to spay/neuter their dogs within a certain time period. This also helps reduce unwanted litters, both intentional and accidental. This is dual purpose in helping decrease the pet population and potentially reducing the risk of certain cancers for both male and female dogs.

6. Co-owning Unaltered Dogs

Another common practice is for show/hobby/professional breeders to only allow co-owned dogs to be kept intact and able to reproduce. A co-owned dog typically lives with the puppy buyer full time and is only bred when the original breeder chooses.

7. Promoting Rescue and Shelter Adoptions

Of course purebred puppies from a breeder are not going to be the right option for everyone, and there are plenty of incredible purebred or mixed breed dogs waiting for their forever home in shelters and rescue organizations everywhere. Responsible breeders are often extremely supportive of dog adoption and rescue and will send potential puppy buyers to these resources if they do not have litters on the way or when they think that a buyer might do better with a grown dog or a different type of dog. This type of breeder is an overall dog lover and is just as upset by the rampant dog overpopulation problem and heart breaking euthanasia of healthy, innocent dogs as other dog lovers.

Rather than pointing the finger at responsible hobby/show/professional breeders who love their dogs and care about what happens to each and every puppy that they produce, we should continue to work on the extremely important work of stopping puppy mills, encouraging the adoption of both purebred and mixed breed dogs from shelters and rescue organizations, educating about why it is so important to spay and neuter all dogs who are not going to be bred by responsible breeders, and to teach current and future generations that dogs are a lifetime commitment, not something to be picked up at the mall or from a classified ad with the same amount of consideration as a sweater or a new handbag.

Different Types of Dog Breeders

Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders

Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

Today is the second day of the Westminster Kennel Club show, a prestigious event that celebrates breeding stock of purebred dogs and my favorite sporting event of the year. With a pet overpopulation problem that results in 2.4 million innocent and healthy dogs and cats being euthanized each year, there are sometimes critics who say that we don’t need anyone breeding dogs and bringing additional animals into the world. I disagree, though, and feel that our purebred dog breeds are all an important part of the dog world that should be preserved for future generaDifferent Types of Dog Breederstions.

To make that assumption that all breeders are responsible for homeless pets is unfair, and I think it is important to educate people that not all breeders are the same. In fact there are vast differences between responsible breeders and puppy mill operators. This is a topic that I cover in detail in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner in Chapter 5: Breeder or Rescue, Where to Get Your Next Dog. Rather than re-write the wheel, here is an excerpt from my book:

“The words ‘dog breeder’ can elicit some very negative responses from individuals in the dog community. The truth is that there are a variety of different types of dog breeders ranging across a wide spectrums of levels of care, and it is neither fair nor accurate to lump them all in together. Some breeders love their dogs as if they gave birth to them, and they put care and love into each litter. Others are unscrupulous and inhumane to their dogs and help contribute to the pet overpopulation problem in two ways: producing more dogs than they have a need for and not sufficiently screening puppy buyers to ensure that they are committed to caring for the dog humanely for its entire life.

Unfortunately, too often good breeders are lumped in with bad breeders, but the fact of the matter is that there are many wonderful breeders who operate in such a way that if everyone who bred dogs followed their lead we would not have the heart wrenching pet overpopulation problem that we do in this country and across the world. While I agree with the ‘don’t shop, adopt’ concept, it is important to note that good breeders of purebred dogs are important to the world of dogs and to maintaining the breed standard of the breeds that we love so much.”

Here’s the difference:

Large Commercial Breeders: Large commercial breeders breed and house puppies in a manner similar to raising livestock: in large quantities in cages. These operations are known as “puppy mills” because they breed in large quantities. There are many horror stories of puppy mills in which dogs are undernourished, dehydrated and kept in cages too small where they bred over and over and over again. It is not uncommon for puppy mill dogs to never touch grass, run around or live a normal life.

These puppies are usually sold through pet stores. Because of the lack of attention to care, genetic issues, temperament or socialization from the puppy mill operators, many puppy mill puppies have substantial health issues. Adding to the tragedy is the fact that most pet stores do not full screen buyers sufficiently, if at all, to ensure that they are making a lifetime commitment instead of an impulse buy.

Backyard Breeders: The term “backyard breeder” typically refers to people who breed their own dogs but do not offer the same health guarantees and health checks as Hobby/Professional/Show Breeders. Some backyard breeders will breed just one litter because they have a beloved female dog and want one of her puppies to keep for their own, or because a friend or family member wants one of her puppies. In this situation it is quite possible that the parents and puppies are well-loved, quite healthy, and receive the utmost care and socialization.

Other backyard breeders are less scrupulous and breed their dogs for profit without the same high quality care and treatment. Backyard breeders who fall into this category often neglect their dogs and simply view them as a way to bring in income, similar to puppy mill operations but on a smaller scale.

Photo source:

Hobby/Show/Professional Dog Breeders: Professional dog breeders, sometimes called hobby or show breeders, breed for love of the breed and usually possess extensive knowledge of genetics, their bloodline, and common health problems of the breed. They are dedicated to maintaining the breed standard in all areas: health, appearance and temperament.

Professional breeders will ensure that all of their stud dogs and dams pass the standard tests for their breeds with the OFFA, also called the OFA, which is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. For example, with the Labrador Retriever, you should look for breeders who test for hips, elbows and eyes. Their females lead regular happy lives and only produce a few litters in their lifetime before they are spayed and retired. Some hobby/show/professional breed multiple litters a year and rely on that income and others breed just once or twice a year or when they would like to add another dog to their own dog family.

This type of breeder is the type involved in conformation shows like the Westminster Kennel Club show. They also participate in common sports and activities for the breed. For example, our friend/breeder from whom we purchased Jackson and Tinkerbell is actively involved in Hunt Tests, Conformation, Obedience, works professionally as a dog trainer and runs a boarding kennel in her community. One of her labs is in agility and another has worked as a reading dog, going into classrooms where children read to the dog to help their confidence and reading skills. Her dogs all live in the house with her and are beloved pets. 

What type of breeder can make it to Westminster? 

Often the Westminster coverage includes information on the day to day lives of some of the dogs in the competition. To debunk the myth that show dogs are only “good” for shows, many of the dogs who compete also participate in the sports and activities for which they were bred. For example many of the sporting breeds also hunt birds and have other jobs outside of the show ring as well as being beloved pets and companions.

The Westminster Kennel Club Show website has a great page called Find the Right Dog for You and includes this paragraph,

“As we have for many years during our televised broadcast, The Westminster Kennel Club will continue to make the following announcement: “If you are planning to add a dog to your life and have come to look over the best of the best, please note, no dog you have seen here (yesterday or today) came from a pet shop, or was the ‘product’, if you will, of a puppy mill. If you want a dog, go to the people who care – the dedicated specialty breeders who have made dogs like those you see here – a lifetime effort. Talk dogs with dog people who care and understand.”

Watch tomorrow for a related blog about tactics professional/show/hobby breeders use to help prevent pet overpopulation.