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How to Relieve Arthritis Aches in Your Dog

It seems like yesterday I was trying to tone down Chipper’s leaping, sprinting and quick-turn maneuvering — especially inside my home. I envied her nonstop energy. Now nearing her 14th birthday, my slow-moving Husky-Golden Retriever mix needs time to rise up from a nap and to steady her legs.

Chipper has arthritis in the spine and, like many of you with dogs dealing with arthritis, I ache emotionally each time I watch my good old dog walk gingerly, wince or let out a short yip from pain. It’s tough to find specific statistics on the percentage of dogs who develop arthritis, but arthritis is more apt to strike large breed dogs like German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers; dogs with long backs like Dachshunds and Pembroke Welsh Corgis as well as any canine who is overweight or, worse, obese.

So, what do you do to relieve pain and mobility limitations in your arthritic dog — and more importantly, what can you do to possibly even prevent this disease from showing up?

Two simple but powerful solutions: exercise and diet. By keeping your dog engaged in some form of daily exercise, you can prevent him from transforming into a canine couch potato. By not dishing up overflowing bowls of kibble and excessively heaping on treats, you can keep him from morphing into a hairy ottoman.

Research conducted in 2015 by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that more than one half of adult dogs in the United States are overweight. Sporting extra pounds not only spurs arthritis, diabetes and heart disease but reduces the dog’s life span by two to five years compared to dogs kept at healthy weights and exercised regularly.

“Combining an exercise routine (like taking daily walks on level surfaces, rolling the ball during fetch sessions and swimming in safe bodies of water) with proper diet that keeps your dog at a healthy weight can positively affect the health of your dog,” declared Nancy Soares, D.V.M., president of the American Animal Hospital Association and owner of the Macungie Animal Hospital in Macungie, Pennsylvania.


Dog swimming by Shutterstock

Denis Marcellin-Little, DACVS, DECVS, a certified canine rehabilitation veterinarian and associate professor of orthopedics at North Carolina State in Raleigh, added, “Being overweight can certainly accelerate the progress of osteoarthritis and make mobility much more limited. Mobility is immensely important in dogs for their longevity, comfort and joy.”

And here’s a surprising fact: Excessive fat tissue not only packs on the pounds and impairs mobility, but these tissues (known as adipose tissues) actually secrete hormones that promote pain.

“Adipose tissue is a major endocrine organ within the body that secretes hormones and other substances, and these substances secreted trigger an inflammation cascade, which brings about pain,” Dr. Soares explained.

Even if your dog is diagnosed with arthritis, be it in the form of hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis of the knee or other joint, our experts assessed some tactics to ease the aches and pains:

1. Nutraceuticals do best in supporting roles

Consult your veterinarian about the possible benefits of providing supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM to your adult dog before or at the early signs of arthritis. “While most products in this category are not studied and cannot make claims regarding their efficacy, anecdotally, anti-inflammatory benefits can be seen,” Dr. Soares said.

2. Think outside the (conventional) box

Acupuncture, therapeutic massage, hydrotherapy and laser therapy may be beneficial, but make sure they’re administered by certified professionals. “Hydrotherapy is a form of exercise, so it is effective, but realistically, it is easier to take your dog on a walk than finding a place that offers an underwater treadmill,” Dr. Marcellin-Little said.

3. Fight the pain safely

Pain management medications prescribed by a veterinarian, such as anti-inflammatories and analgesics, can reduce swelling and pain in the joints, but steer clear of human medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), as they are both extremely toxic to dogs.

4. Weigh the benefits of surgery

Yes, some dogs do well with joint replacement surgeries, but make sure the operation is performed by a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. “Our pets deserve specialty treatment when advanced care is warranted,” Dr. Soares said.

5. The jury is still out on stem cell therapy to treat arthritis in dogs

“There is limited clinical evidence to support the expense and invasiveness of stem cell therapy,” Dr. Soares said. “Additional research is underway to determine the best treatment and efficacy for the best outcome.”

6. Tap the powers of turmeric

A holistic option being hailed by veterinarians and physicians is turmeric, a powerful spice that new studies show has the ability to help lessen arthritic inflammation. Also consider adding turmeric root to your dog’s diet as a preventive aid in the battle against arthritis. A little bit goes a long way (see our suggested recipe that includes turmeric root powder).

The parting message: “The big three weapons in combating osteoarthritis in dogs are managing pain with medications, losing excess weight and exercising regularly to help your dog stay strong and have good joint mobility,” Dr. Marcellin-Little said. “Your dog will feel better and move better and, hopefully, enjoy a long, quality life.”

Want to try turmeric?


Spices by Gina Cioli/Lumina Media

Check out this recipe for Golden Paste by Australian veterinarian Doug English (BVSc) from his website As always, consult with your veterinarian for best treatments for your pet’s specific health issue.


  • 1 ⁄2 cup turmeric powder
  • 1 cup water, plus 1 cup water in reserve (if needed)
  • 1 ⁄3 cup raw, cold pressed or unrefined coconut, extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed-linseed oil
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (Omit if dog can’t tolerate, although the recipe states it will be less effective.) powder


  1. Place turmeric and water 3 in pan. Stir over gentle heat until you have a thick paste. (About 7 to 10 minutes; add additional water if necessary.)
  2. Add pepper and oil. Whisk to incorporate the oil; allow to cool.
  3. Place in jar with lid and refrigerate. Add 1 ⁄4 teaspoon of paste per 10 pounds of body weight to your pet’s diet.

The post How to Relieve Arthritis Aches in Your Dog appeared first on Dogster.

8 Tips for Taking Your Blind Pup to the Dog Park

Just because a dog can’t see, that’s no reason for them to stop having fun. When my Chuck lost his sight to diabetes, I wanted to be sure his life was still stimulating and interesting. That meant we continued his daily walks … and even our trips to the dog park.

But, I had to make sure the park remained a safe place for him.


Hey! Something new to smell! (Photo by Amber Avines)

If your pup loses his sight due to age, disease or even if he was born that way, he can still do all the things a sighted dog can; it’s just up to you to do a little of the seeing for him!

Here are some tips to ensure your blind dog’s trip to the park is fun and as safe as can be.

1. Do a walk-through

The first few times you take your blind dog to the park, keep him on leash. Walk throughout the property and let him explore. He’ll stay safe as you guide him and will become increasingly confident in his ability to navigate.

2. Go during off hours

You dog will enjoy the park most if he doesn’t get overwhelmed; that means avoiding peak hours (like going after work). A few dogs in the park is good, but too many will mean your dog is more likely to bump into other pups, and that could spark an altercation.


It’s a great day to soak up some sun at the dog park. (Photo by Amber Avines)

3. Make sure your dog is on solid ground

Many dogs love to dig holes, especially when they’re at dog parks. That means, if your park is like mine, there are usually at least a few craters around. You certainly don’t want your pooch falling into one, so walk around the park and if you see a hole, kick the dirt back into it.

4. Scout the park for obstacles

Take a look around to identify any items that your dog can bump into. Our park has plastic chairs that people move around throughout the day; if those chairs aren’t being used, I’ll pick them up and group them around the trunk of a tree. That way I just need to be sure Chuck says away from that one area.

The park might also have pooper scoopers, which are frequently propped against a fence for easy access. Collect the wayward obstacle and put it next to the garbage can. Same goes for water bowls; put them next to the water spigot. Again, the goal here is to group moveable obstacles with stationary ones so there’s fewer places to avoid.


I’m outta here! (Photo by Amber Avines)

5. Go on doody duty

Although everyone at the dog park should clean up their own dog’s poop, not everyone does. That means your dog could very easily step in some strange dog’s mess. Not only is that unsanitary, it’s unhealthy, too. So, as much as you shouldn’t have to do this, for the safety of your blind pup, be sure to pick up any poop you see. It’ll be way easier to clean it up, than to scrape it out from between your dog’s paws (gross, but true).

6. Stay clear of the play zone

At some point when we’re at the dog park, there’s usually someone who is playing fetch with his dog. That means some lucky pup is all keyed up and running like greased lightening to chase down a ball. Make sure you’re watching the park for when these games begin so you can keep you dog away from action. Better yet, relocate to the other end of the park.

7. Inform others your dog is blind

Depending on who’s at the park and their demeanor, I sometimes tell other park patrons that Chuck can’t see. Mostly so they know if they move toward him, they shouldn’t expect that he’ll move out of their path. That way they don’t trip over Chuck, or hurt him by plowing into him. This seems like a basic thing, but it’s the basic things that you need to consider when your dog can’t see.

8. Stay attentive

Just if you were to have a blind child, a blind dog requires your complete attention. Don’t let yourself get lost in a conversation or become distracted while at the park; stay engaged.


Well, hello. Nice to meet you! (Photo by Amber Avines)

In closing, remember that confidence is the key to your blind dog having a fun time at the park. If he is confident that he won’t have any negative encounters (like falling into a hole, bumping into a pooper scooper pole or getting run over by a ball chasing youngster), he’ll be more apt to roam about happily.

Creating a positive experience for your blind pup at the dog park is almost entirely in your hands. Take that responsibility seriously…and then have some fun!

The post 8 Tips for Taking Your Blind Pup to the Dog Park appeared first on Dogster.

5 Ways Your Toddler and Dog Want to Interact, and How to Help Keep Everyone Safe

“Pet her gently!” “Give Finley space!” “No swatting, please!” I spend most of my days playing zone defense between my active, always-wanting-to-play toddler and my equally active and always-wanting-to-play dog. As a parent to both human and furry children, I want nothing more than for them to like each other and get along. But I have to constantly manage their interactions because they’re both too young to understand things like being gentle and giving personal space. That kind of maturity and trust is still many, many years away. Plus, my dog, Finley, is super anxious by nature. So I asked leading pet expert Alyona DelaCoeur of Why Does My Dog for her tips on how to vigilantly supervise and proactively guide the five most frequent dog-toddler interactions in my home.

1. Toddler wants to pet the dog

My daughter frequently wants to pet Finley, but she’s not always as gentle as I’d like her to be. To work on making this kind of interaction safer, I’ve taken to keeping my dog’s head cradled in my hands while my daughter practices petting her on the neck and body. This seems to please both my daughter and my dog. DelaCoeur says I’m on the right path and should also give lots of treats with marker words like “Yesssssss” or “Gooooooood” that I should exaggerate to really hit the point home for my pup. I shouldn’t let my daughter hug the dog, but since Finley will often lick her in response to being close, I can allow that kind of closely monitored kiss if everyone seems comfortable. DelaCoeur just says I need to watch Finley for nervous body language, like bulging eyes, flat ears, heavy breathing and a tucked tail, and separate them if I see any of those behaviors.


2. Tot wants to feed the dog

My toddler daughter loves helping around the house and one of her favorite things to do is pour kibble into Finley’s feeder and even hand-feed her a little. DelaCoeur says that hand feeding is the best thing for fostering a good bond between child and dog. As long as my daughter is using an open hand and isn’t reaching into Finley’s bowl to get the food, I can let them enjoy this time together, while closely supervising of course. “Some other things that she can do with the dog during feeding is to leave a trail of food on the floor for the dog to follow around. She can also hide little piles of food for the dog to find and clean up,” DelaCoeur says, which sounds like a fun way to keep both of them busy. When my daughter has more language skills, I can also instruct her to have Finley stay and then release her once the food is in her feeder.

3. Both want to play tug-of-war

Both my dog and daughter desperately want to play tug-of-water together. If there’s a rope or plush toy within arm’s reach, one of them will grab it and coax the other to play. But a 19-month-old is way, way too young for this kind of roughhousing, so DelaCoeur suggests never leaving my dog and toddler alone (since I know they’ll engage with each other) and always playing with my own two hands on the toy at all times at a level that I’m comfortable with given their disparate size and strength. She also points to “conditioning” play, which means helping them play for about 20 seconds, then asking Finley to let go and lie down, or sit or give a paw before resuming play again. “This makes sure the dog never crosses the threshold,” she says.

4. Child wants to hold the leash

I take Finley for daily walks with my daughter, and recently she’s been wanting to hold the leash. I wasn’t sure if I should be allowing my child to “help” by holding the very end while I keep a firm grip closer to my dog. DelaCoeur says it’s fine and that I should include my daughter in as many bonding experiences with my dog as possible, as long as I keep control in case either one of them pulls on the leash. “Each time your dog is around your daughter, it should be the best time your dog can have. So, lots of loves and treats from you and lots of treats from your daughter,” she adds. But I should always keep in mind that if Finley needs space, we have to respect that and give it to her. Even if my daughter is begging to take her for a walk.


5. Little friends come over to play

I usually crate Finley when my daughter’s friends are over because kids are so unpredictable and I can’t control how other children are going to behave around or react to my dog. DelaCoeur assures me this is the smartest and safest thing to do, and that I should also make sure Finley’s time in the crate is pleasant and not a punishment. I always give Finley a treat for going into the crate, but I need to get into the habit of giving her something to chew on or a Kong filled with food or peanut butter. I also need to relocate the crate out of our living room and into our dining area, where kids won’t come right up to it and bother Finley in any way, DelaCoeur says. I can also consider putting up a baby gate to create an entirely safe zone for my pup.

Overall, I’m happy that my dog and child want to engage with one another and seem to enjoy each other’s company, but I know that I can never leave them together unsupervised. But that’s a good thing, because I don’t want to miss a moment of their sweet togetherness.


The post 5 Ways Your Toddler and Dog Want to Interact, and How to Help Keep Everyone Safe appeared first on Dogster.

Are These Pet Sitter Instructions Too Much?

Editor’s note: Have you seen the Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our April-May issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

Your bags are packed, and the pet sitter is on the way when you decide the four-page Word document you’ve laminated for your canine caregiver left out some key details. A few Post-its later, you feel confident that you’ve covered everything — but perhaps crossed the line from concerned to crazy. Do these sticky note notations sound familiar?

1. A word (or a dozen) on water

A Post-It stuck to the water bowl says, “Filtered water only. Brita in fridge.” A note in the fridge instructs the sitter on how to use said Brita pitcher. What the writer doesn’t know is that as these notes were being written, the dog was helping himself to an open-lidded toilet.

2. Farm to floor dining

One fridge shelf down from the best practices for water bowl filling, another note is stuck to one of several Tupperware containers. It reads: “Prepped the pupper’s dinners for three days. Brown rice, free-range duck, organic carrots. I also got frozen pizzas for you!”

3. Treat traditions


Dog with treat by iStock

Four Mason jars sit on the kitchen counter. A sticky note on the first says, “Salmon treats for when the doorbell rings.” The note on the second reads, “Chicken: not before noon.” A third note suggests taking a pocketful of turkey jerky on walks, and the fourth is labeled, “Special cookies only to be given if he doesn’t bark when neighbor’s Pug walks by.”

4. Bedtime routine

A note on the bedroom door: “I’ve changed the sheets. When you want to go to bed, just brush his teeth, yawn in his face, start turning out lights and sing Lullaby and Goodnight. He should follow you right in here.”

5. Co-sleeping

Beyond the bedroom door, another Post-it lies on the freshly laundered bed. It reads: “He’ll sleep on the dog bed … unless there’s a thunderstorm, a loud passing car or he has a nightmare. In those scenarios he’ll need to sleep with you. P.S. He might spoon you.”

6. Screen time

A note on the television reads, “If you go out, please turn on TV for him. He likes Bob Ross on Netflix or Animal Planet on cable. Please do not watch The Walking Dead in his presence as it gives him nightmares.”

7. Leash laws

Two leashes hang by the door. One blue, one green. A sticky note says the blue one is for walks, the green one is to lead him to the car. “Do not touch the green one unless you want to actually go for a car ride. Trust me on this,” it reads.

8. The friend zone


Dogs greeting by Shutterstock

Next to the leashes is a hand-drawn map of the neighborhood indicating the dog’s preferred routes. “You must take 5th Street in the morning (so he can say hi to his friend, Pete the Bulldog) and 9th Avenue in the evening (because that’s when his Poodle girlfriend is in her yard).”

9. List of enemies

Beside the map is another little square of paper. This one warns: “Do not under any circumstances turn left after Pete’s house because there is a Pug down that way (you know how he feels about them) and a mean Chihuahua on 6th Street.”

10. Skype schedule

A note left on a laptop gives instructions for logging into a Skype account. “We can video chat at 8 o’clock every morning and again at 8 p.m. to see how his day was.”

11. Thank you, thank you, thank you

The last note is semi self-aware. “I’m sorry if all these notes seem crazy — I’m just crazy about my dog. Also, please see the below diagram of how his poops should look.”

The post Are These Pet Sitter Instructions Too Much? appeared first on Dogster.

How to Include Your Dog in Your Wedding

Your wedding is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. Celebrating love with your friends and family obviously includes your fur babies, right? More and more people are adding their dogs to their wedding party, so it’s really no surprise that when my fiancé and I began planning our wedding, a common question was “Are your dogs going to be in it?

Which brings me to my very first point about dogs and weddings. The answer to that question for us is no, our dogs will not be at our wedding. Is it because I don’t want them to be a part of our special day? Not at all. It’s because I know they wouldn’t want to be a part of it. Between Sadie’s stranger anxiety, Buster’s overexcitement and Daisy thinking that every person in the world would be there just for her, it would not be a relaxing experience for any of us. They will be much happier waiting for us to come home afterward.


Even if your dog can’t be in your wedding, they can be in your pictures. (Photo by Shutterstock)

How to decide if your dog should be in your wedding

If you are considering having your dog be a part of your wedding, there are a few things to think about first:

  • Does your dog have the right temperament to be around that many people? Are they friendly and confident?
  • Do theylisten to commands?
  • Does your venue allow dogs? (Many have a no-pets policy.)
  • Is there someone you trust to “be in charge” of your dog throughout the day, making sure they are in the right places, have bathroom breaks, and get fed?
  • Is there a place where your dog can safely hang out before and after?

Once you’ve figured out those logistics, the fun part begins!

What is he going to do during the wedding?

Just like everyone else in the wedding party, you need to decide what role your dog will have. Some ideas include:

  • Have them walk up with the flower girl (which is adorable, by the way).
  • Tie the rings around their collar and have them be the ring bearer.
  • They could simply be the “Hound of Honor” and walk with the Maid of Honor.
  • Have your dog walk in front of you with a “Here Comes the Bride” sign.
  • If your dog is well-behaved enough, have them sit next to the groomsmen/bridesmaids so they are truly a member of the wedding party.

With a little planning, your dog can definitely be a part of your big day. (Photo by Shutterstock)

Other considerations

  • While you may get really excited and want to include your dog in every part of the wedding process, have a safe place for them to hang out after the ceremony. The reception can be really loud and a little too much for even the friendliest pups.
  • It’s also important to rehearse with your dog as much as you can. The more they are familiar with the smells and sounds of the venue and the area around it, the easier things will be on the big day. Be sure to have them wear a special collar/sign/outfit before the day of the wedding, too. While it would be cute for your dog to stop in the middle of the aisle to roll around and try to get the sign off of her, I think we can all agree that it’s not ideal.
  • Also let your photographer and guests know that your dog will be there. This way no one will be surprised, and people with allergies will be prepared.
  • Make sure your flowers are dog-friendly. There are some plants and flowers that are actually poisonous to dogs.
  • And last, but not least, make an appointment for the groomer before the wedding. It may sound like common sense, but once you get caught up in everything that needs to be done in the weeks and days before your ceremony, you might forget. As much as we love our dogs, no one wants to actually smell like one on the big day.

The post How to Include Your Dog in Your Wedding appeared first on Dogster.

New Teacup Sizes from Beast + Babe


We love Beast + Babe‘s strong SoCal-Bohemian aesthetic and their use of vintage textiles and fabrics. While their collar sizing has always accommodated dogs from the typical 10″ to 26″ range, pups on the itty bitty end of the spectrum were left out — until now!



Dogs that weigh in under 10 lbs can now let their Boho style shine with Beast + Babe’s new teacup sizing, which fits dogs as small as 3 lbs. Check out all the available styles, as well as matching leads, on

Photos: Jack Strutz

5 Things You Need to Consider Before Getting a Giant-Breed Dog

Are you thinking about going big? Really really big? Giant dogs are amazing, but regardless of which of the breeds you decide is the right fit, they do come with some unique challenges. After years of dreaming and planning, I’ve added a Newfoundland puppy named Sirius to my family. Before you bring one home, there are five big things to consider.

1. Cost

All dogs are expensive, but the bigger they are, the more expensive their stuff is. From collars and leashes to toys and food, be prepared for a budget to match their giant size. Feeding a premium food might seem more expensive when you look at the price tag, but with higher-quality food, you ultimately feed less and have a healthier dog. Some giant breeds are predisposed to different genetic health conditions, as well, so be prepared for the possibility of giant-sized vet bills.


Sirius is one big puppy. (Photo by Sassafras Lowrey)

2. Space

Many giant dogs aren’t super active, and some guides even include them as ideal for apartment life. While the dogs themselves might not need a lot of exercise, everything they do takes up space, as do all of their belongings.  My Newfie puppy’s crate is like a condominium for my Chihuahua, and her water bowl is like a swimming pool!

Also important to take into consideration is your living space and how compatible it will be to a giant dog. Do you own your home or are you renting? Renting with giant dogs can be really challenging because there so often are size or weight limits that they will always exceed.


No human treats for you, Sirius. (Photo by Sassafras Lowrey)

3. Longevity

How do you handle grief? I’m pretty sure no one does well when they lose a dog, but with a giant breed, you don’t have as much time to prepare for that inevitability. Unfortunately, longevity just isn’t one of the things giant dogs are built for. Knowing they have a shorter lifespan is always on your mind. It’s sad, but it also inspires you to make each day fun and memorable because they just don’t have as many days as another breed of dog.


Sirius is growing up. (Photo by Sassafras Lowrey)

4. Attention

Do you being a wallflower?  If so, sharing your life with a giant dog might not be the right choice for you. When you are walking down the street with a pet the size of a small horse, or one that looks like a bear on the other end of your leash, you will not blend into the background. Just a simple errand to the pet supply shop will involve stopping to talk to everyone who wants to know what kind of dog you have, how much they weigh, how much they eat, etc. Because your giant dog is a people magnet, it’s important to do a lot socialization and manners training to be sure they are prepared to appropriately greet adoring fans.


Dog or bear? (Photo by Sassafras Lowrey)

5. Strength

How strong are you? How strong are you willing to become? Giant dogs are not only big, but they are incredibly strong. You have to be prepared for the physical demands of having one in your life. To ensure her joints grow properly, my puppy won’t be cleared for jumping in and out of a car until she’s between 12 and 18 months old, which means she has to be lifted — it’s better than the gym!

Giant dogs are strong willed, as well. Having one requires the mental strength to commit to training. Training is incredibly important for any dog, but especially with a dog who weighs as much as an adult human. It isn’t about barking orders, but about learning how to communicate to create a strong relationship and approach life as a team.


Do you have a giant-breed dog? Share your experiences and advice in the comments!

The post 5 Things You Need to Consider Before Getting a Giant-Breed Dog appeared first on Dogster.

Gunnar the Lab Helps Other Paralyzed Dogs Get Moving Again

As a volunteer firefighter, Jason Parker deals with a lot of stress. As part of the jaws team, Jason helps free people from their vehicles after highway collisions. There were days he couldn’t talk to any person about the things he’d seen — but he could always talk to his black Lab, Gunnar.

“He was almost my therapy dog after difficult calls,” Jason tells Dogster.

Gunnar was always there for Jason, but on February 16, 2014, their roles reversed when Gunnar was hit by a car after trotting too far down the driveway. Now, it was Jason’s turn to be the support system.

“I was working that evening, and my wife called me and told me he had gotten hit — I was just in shock — and that he couldn’t get up, couldn’t move.”

Jason told his supervisor and left work, and then raced to the after-hours veterinary clinic to meet his wife, Stephanie. When Jason looked in the back of Stephanie’s car he saw his best friend was in bad shape.

“He’s a 110-pound Lab, and he’s never ever shown pain before. His nose was split open, he was missing teeth, he was crying — and I’d never heard this dog so much as whimper.”

X-rays didn’t reveal Gunnar’s spinal injuries, so the vet sent him home with stitches in his nose and told Jason to monitor his condition. The duo slept on the floor together, and in the morning, Gunnar still couldn’t stand.

Jason reached out to a childhood friend — now a veterinarian — who lives in another state.


Jason made sure Gunnar had the right care. (Photo courtesy Gunnar’s Wheels)

“I texted her pictures, and she instructed me to immediately take him to a university vet hospital.”

The closest one, the University of Minnesota, was two and half hours from Jason’s house. He fashioned a makeshift gurney from a piece of plywood and got Gunnar into the car. This was the beginning of an expensive medical journey.

“Right up front they wanted about $6,000 for an MRI, and they wanted about $2,000 for the surgery,” says Jason. “We maxed out our credit cards right there at the University of Minnesota.”

Of course, the expense was worth it to Jason. He was willing to do whatever it took to get Gunnar better. A week later, with a stretcher borrowed from his local vet clinic, Jason brought Gunnar home. Gunnar had the love of his people, but he needed one more thing: a $600 Walkin’ Wheels cart.

The Parkers were on a pretty tight budget after spending thousands of dollars on Gunnar’s surgery and ongoing vet care.

“My friends stepped up and donated the money for his cart,” Jason explains. “I knew we would pay it forward someday.”

With the cart and a special sling, Gunnar was able to stay active despite the paralysis in his back end. His family helped him with physical therapy, even taking him down to his favorite pond for water therapy. Every day, Gunnar got stronger.


Gunnar still loves the outdoors. (Photo courtesy Gunnar’s Wheels)

Meanwhile, Jason got busy online, connecting with others with paralyzed pets. Eventually, a Facebook friend asked him if he could help Hope, a Pit Bull mix in Houston, get a cart like Gunnar’s.

“She was picked up by BARC in Houston. She’s been hit by a car and crawled under a house to die.”

Jason found a secondhand Walk n’ Wheels cart — the same kind Gunnar uses — on Craigslist. He cleaned it up and sent it down to Houston for Hope. That’s how the non-profit Gunner’s Wheels was born.

“When I saw the video of Hope, I turned to my wife and said ‘this is how we’re gonna start giving back.’”

Gunnar’s Wheels has provided 130 wheelchairs to 152 animals. When an animal passes away or recovers, the cart comes back to Jason to be refurbished and sent to another paralyzed pet.

A crowdfunding campaign has raised more than $80,000 for the cause, and Gunnar’s Wheels was recently dubbed GoFundMe’s April hero.

As for Gunnar, he is now 10 years old and still loving life on wheels. Jason says their relationship got even stronger after the accident. Before Gunnar was paralyzed, Jason used to talk to Gunnar about his day — now, Gunnar talks back, using a series of soft barks, grunts and meaningful looks to communicate his needs.

“I don’t know if he knows it, but he’s helped a lot of dogs,” Jason says.

The post Gunnar the Lab Helps Other Paralyzed Dogs Get Moving Again appeared first on Dogster.

FETCH Exclusive: Leashes and Harnesses from Big & Little Dogs

The following post is brought to you by FETCH. We’re very paw-ticular about our partners and only feature those we think are top dog.


FETCH is known for serving the fashion-forward dogs of New York in their brick and mortar store, but if you can’t make it in person (pawson?), their online shop will bring all the trendiest dog wares to you! While we love all the brands they carry, we’re super excited to see that Australian brand Big & Little Dogs is now available in the U.S. exclusively through FETCH!



Big & Little Dogs creates harnesses, along with matching leads and collars, with dogs of all sizes in mind! This collection focuses on maximizing comfort and style, which is most apparent with their comfy reversible harnesses. There are currently six fun designs to choose from, all of which are available exclusively through FETCH. Oh, and fun fact: FETCH offers free shipping on all U.S. orders! How pawesome is that?

We talked to Karen Durka, the founder and co-owner of FETCH, to learn more about her shop and latest finds!

Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to open FETCH? 

I loved shopping for my dog CoCo. But most of the time I found a very limited selection and sizing was always a problem, which was frustrating. I also noticed that most stores that I shopped in did not spend much time on merchandising apparel and accessories or store design. There were so many wonderful boutiques for women, men and children but not many at all specifically catering to dogs. When I decided I wanted to open my own business, the concept of a beautifully designed boutique that people would enjoy shopping in with their dogs, filled with well merchandised products seemed like something out of the ordinary and worth pursuing.

FETCH is the first retail shop in the US to carry Big & Little Dogs. What do you love about this brand?

What made me notice the brand was the prints. They were all so much fun! Then I realized that many of the harnesses were reversible which made me love the product even more. I also love how well made the products are and most importantly how comfortable they are. Every customer that has tried the harness has been pleased with how it fits. The only issue with the brand is that customers can’t decide which print to choose because they want them all!

What is your go-to source for staying on top of the latest pet trends? What is one trend you’re most excited about for 2017?

Dog Milk of course! I also do what I always did in my former career as a Children’s apparel manufacturer. I spend time researching what the trends in colors and fabrics and prints will be for the coming season. Then I translate that knowledge and merchandise collections in the boutique that will be suitable for dogs. We are very excited about stripes, whimsical prints and embellished denim for Spring 2017. For Fall 2017 we will focus on a neutral color palette, plaids and metallics.

Thanks Karen!



Shop the complete Big & Little Dogs collection online, and check out all the other available goodies, at

We’re Obsessed With Diego Lukezic’s Tango Dog

Editor’s note: Have you seen the Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our April-May issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

When I was in New Orleans last fall, I visited the Kezic Gallery, which features artist Diego Lukezic and his wonderful Tango Dog artwork. Tango Dog was inspired by a small dog Diego played with as a child in an outdoor market of Buenos Aires. Diego’s artwork is bold and fun, and I love it!


Kezic Gallery in New Orleans. (Photo courtesy Kezic Gallery)

For you cat and bird lovers, Diego also created Downtown Cat and Arnie Bird, who can often be found hanging out with Tango Dog. Diego told me he has expanded the studio since I had visited, so there is even more to see. He also has a studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for those of you exploring the Southwest. Or, peruse his paintings on the Kezik Gallery Facebook page.

The post We’re Obsessed With Diego Lukezic’s Tango Dog appeared first on Dogster.

Meet 5 of Our Favorite Black-Coated Dog Breeds

Today we’ve moved the vibrant-colored breeds, such as the Irish Setter, off stage. Instead we’ve asked five breeds that (at least sometimes) have black coats to lead our applause for dreamily dark appearances.

1. Affenpinscher


Affenpinscher Misty courtesy Tammy Mayfield

Known both as the monkey-terrier and the little devil in a mustache, we were bred in Germany as ratters and mousers. In Europe and England today, we’re a black-coated breed. Here in the United States, acceptable colors include black, of course, but also gray, silver and a few other colors. You’ll notice the magnificence of my shimmery black coat paired with my dark mustache and beard. The dramatic black frames my charming monkey-like face, don’t you think? My renowned little lips hold an adorable pout, and lend to a comic seriousness.

2. Doberman Pinscher


Doberman Pinscher courtesy Alina Fokina

You’ll see cousins of mine in red, blue and fawn, but we often display an impressive black coat. And it’s more than our appearance that’s impressive! Friedrich Louis Dobermann, a German tax collector harassed by thieves, developed us specifically for protection and companionship. We were indispensable military dogs in the Pacific during WWII. In fact, a memorial statue, Always Faithful, pays tribute to our work and spirit. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Whether we sport black coats or coats of another color, we’ll turn blue in freezing weather. But if you put a dog sweater on me, don’t make it too frilly, okay?

3. Labrador Retriever


Labrador Retriever courtesy Steve Harmon, Kathy J. Yaccino photography

Our coat colors include yellow and chocolate, but we black-coats make up a large contingency of lovely Labs. And since we’re the most popular breed in the world, that’s quite an abundance of dark beauties. Our history explains our athleticism, adaptability and gregarious nature. My predecessors, working with fisherman off the Labrador Sea, were celebrated for energy for family fun, even after a hard day’s work. More recent forefathers were developed to hunt and retrieve in England. Whether black, chocolate or yellow, we’re an exceptional family dog. We’re also stars in obedience, tracking, hunting and field trials. We excel in service work, search and rescue, explosive detection and water and avalanche rescue.

4. Rottweiler


Rottweiler courtesy Jean Hanna

We’re always black, but we boast clearly defined rust to mahogany markings that draw focus to our noble, self-assured expression. Notice the lovely spots over my eyes, as well as my gaze. My eyes mirror my calm, confident, and courageous inner temperament, now don’t they? Developed in Rottweil, Germany, our forefathers were early Roman guard and drover dogs. In the middle ages, our ancestors were all-around farm dogs, herding livestock and hauling carts. These days we excel in family adventures, as well as sports such as barn hunts, obedience or dock diving.

5. Mudi


Mudi courtesy Laura Kinne

Some of our colors include yellow, gray and white, but today the dark black Mudik have the say. We’re a rare breed, developed in Hungary to work livestock, guard the house and keep rodent populations at bay. You may be more familiar with my cousins, the Puli or Pumi, but we may be the oldest of the Hungarian sheepdogs. Some historians say we date back to the 16th century. History aside, we make our mark as wonderful family dogs, as well as a successful obedience, fly ball or agility competitors. In Hungary, you’ll find us still reliably handling livestock. In the States, we sure do appreciate herding trials, providing us a chance to show off our natural talents.

Top photo and homepage photo: Labrador Retriever, courtesy Steve Harmon, Kathy J. Yaccino, photography.

The post Meet 5 of Our Favorite Black-Coated Dog Breeds appeared first on Dogster.

Did You Know That These 7 Items Can Be Toxic to Your Dog?

First, let’s get one tiny disclaimer out of the way: In today’s industrialized society, it’s nearly impossible to purge every single toxin from our surrounding environment. The actual air we breathe often contains elements that are risky from some perspective, depending upon which expert you ask. So when it comes to environmental toxicity — as it pertains, in this case, to our dogs — we should acknowledge that excessive worry can itself become rather toxic and disabling.

But on the flip side, I’d argue that a balanced level of concern is warranted. After all, chemicals and additives really do seem to originate from everywhere these days. As responsible pet parents, most of us would never willingly expose our faithful furry friends to more risk than absolutely necessary. So it’s probably smart to familiarize ourselves with common, everyday hazards that may stem from surprising sources. Often, making just a few focused adjustments in unexpected places can measurably reduce our dog’s toxic load.

With that in mind, the following checklist highlights a range of these risk factors. Some may cause you to reconsider at least part of your pup’s daily diet and lifestyle routine. That’s precisely the point — because sometimes, what appears to be a “good thing” is more like a good opportunity to re-evaluate what we’ve come to believe. Accordingly, here are some areas to consider:

1. Water

While the World Health Organization (WHO) has shared Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality, contaminant levels can vary by region. Some areas have problematically high levels of hazardous chemicals such as arsenic, fluoride and iron; while in other areas, water may contain alarming concentrations of known endocrine disruptors such as phthalates, bisphenols, pesticides and pharmaceuticals. The British Medical Bulletin published a fairly comprehensive report on the topic, which may be enough to make almost any reader avoid tap water altogether. Using a home filtration system is always a smart safety measure, for you and your pup. Well-known manufacturers such as Brita, PUR, Aquasana and others offer a range of affordable, easy-to-use faucet-mounting and pitcher-style options that help remove a large percentage of health-jeopardizing contaminants.

2. Cans


Pet owners spend millions of dollars annually on commercial canned diets that greatly enhance mealtime convenience. Yet recent research from the University of Missouri has found that even short-term feeding of certain commercially canned edibles may lead to a three-fold increase in systemic concentrations of endocrine-disrupting bisphenol A (BPA). Sometimes, our hectic lifestyles make canned options a virtual necessity. But it’s smart to be aware of the issues surrounding this packaging method. Increasingly, it’s possible to find cans that use protective liners and feature a “BPA Free” logo on the label. 

3. Vaccinations

This is a highly debated topic because vaccinations can play a vital role in protecting our pets from a variety of health-threatening ailments. Some are even required by law. Conversely, however, “over-vaccinating” pups could trigger problems. Vaccinations mobilize the immune system, so giving too many may compromise or hyper-stimulate immune response. In his Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, Dr. Richard Pitcairn also points out that the vaccinations themselves may contain harmful ingredients. Problematic additives and preservatives can include mercury-based Thimerosal, aluminum, even formaldehyde. So it’s worth asking your vet about alternatives (such as the three-year rabies vaccine) that can help increase intervals between updates.

4. Parasite preventives

Flea and tick preventives are proven effective when it comes to killing parasites, but those same active ingredients might pose health problems for certain pups. Common culprits include the growth regulator Methoprene, plus insecticide agents known as organophosphates that are readily absorbed through the skin and can cause delayed neurotoxicity. Of course, fleas and ticks can themselves cause a range of serious health issues and diseases. So in this instance, you truly need to weigh the pros and cons. Herbal collars/powders (like Planet Natural brand) are available, but their long-term effectiveness may be hit-or-miss, depending on your dog’s surroundings.

5. Rawhide


Rawhide by Shutterstock.

The closer you look at the manufacturing journey of a commercial rawhide chew, the more you may want to explore other options for your dog. Rawhide is a by-product of what’s known as the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) — another term for our industrialized farming industry. In his book The Meat You Eat, author Ken Midkiff mentions that CAFO cattle ingest a sustained cocktail of antibiotics, arsenicals and hormones specifically intended to increase production output. And when the animal hide is being prepared for commercial production, removing the hair often involves a highly toxic and corrosive process called sodium sulphide liming. When tested, toxic rawhide residues have included arsenic and formaldehyde. Smarter, healthier chew options include deer antlers, bully sticks, raw carrots, dehydrated sweet potato slices and the absolutely awesome Himalayan Dog Chew.

6. Household products

Of course, most of us keep our pets away from obviously corrosive or irritating cleaning substances, such as chlorine bleach, ammonia or paint stripper. But that pleasantly scented carpet cleaner or room spray may contain 2-butoxyethanol, which could cause blood, liver, kidney, reproductive and/or pulmonary disorders. A compound called trisodium nitrilotriacetate (NTA) is often used as a builder in laundry detergents, and it’s listed as a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Scuff and graffiti removers frequently contain xylene, a suspected reproductive toxin that can also cause neurological and memory issues with repeated exposure. Even plain old mothballs typically contain either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, suspected carcinogens. Once you consider how frequently your pet comes into contact with areas or surfaces impacted by these substances, you may decide to re-think your cleaning routine.

7. Medicine cabinet staples

Naturally, you keep your dog away from human pain relievers, sleep medications and prescriptions. But have you thought about Xylitol? This sugar substitute can be extremely toxic to canines. And while it’s commonly found in gum, you’ll also see it listed on the ingredient labels of many cough drops, cough syrups, cold remedies and over-the-counter digestive preparations.

How have you helped decrease your dog’s toxic load over time? Share your insights and suggestions below.

The post Did You Know That These 7 Items Can Be Toxic to Your Dog? appeared first on Dogster.

Is Garlic Good or Bad for Dogs?

I come from an Italian family, so my personal relationship with garlic is what you might call “cemented into my DNA.” In the house where I grew up, garlic was used to season almost everything except breakfast cereal. So as you might expect, our family dogs were around the stuff on a regular basis. But it was always stored up high, out of the way. That’s because we’d been taught that garlic is harmful to hounds.

Over the years, I’ve asked my dog-loving friends for their opinions on garlic; and without exception, I’ve received the same decisive reply: “Garlic kills canines.” Yet curiously, I’ve often encountered the opposite insight while researching animal nutrition. Garlic is already considered a beneficial herb for humans — and apparently, several animal health experts believe it’s a worthy wellness ally for furry friends too. So really, what’s the story?

Reeking of confusion

Native to Central Asia, garlic is a species in the onion genus, Allium. That means its close relatives include onions, leeks, chives and shallots.  Make no mistake that onions are extremely toxic for your four-legged friend. That’s because they contain high concentrations of the sulfate ion thiosulphate, which can damage a canine’s red blood cells and lead to a condition called Heinz hemolytic anemia. In her book Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine, veterinarian Dr. Susan Wynn points out that this same ailment can be triggered by benzocaine-based topical preparations and acetaminophen ingestion… and it can be deadly.

So garlic’s built-in “onion association” has prompted concern. Further complicating perceptions, however, a 2000 Hokkaido University study showed that four dogs fed steady amounts of garlic extract for seven consecutive days demonstrated red blood cell changes. While none of these dogs developed acute anemia or outward toxicity symptoms, wary researchers issued a garlic warning.

Similarly, if you were to research recent communications distributed by the ASPCA, Pet Poison Helpline and various pet insurance companies, you’d probably see garlic listed as a significant canine health hazard. In fact, during one interview with Pet Life Radio, ASPCA veterinary toxicologist Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant noted that even small amounts of ingested garlic may cause underlying red blood cell damage.

Yet some animal herbalists like Rita Hogan, co-founder of Farm Dog Naturals, have emphasized that the Hokkaido study relied upon garlic extract fed in fairly excessive amounts. Interestingly, those same animal researchers eventually softened their original recommendation; noting that allicin, another compound found in garlic, can demonstrate positive effects on cardiovascular and immune function.


Dog sitting at table by Shutterstock.

Pungent possibilities

Certain holistic animal care experts feel confident enough to praise fresh, food-based garlic outright — noting its antiseptic, anti-carcinogenic and anti-parasitic properties.

One such noted expert is holistic veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, who has observed that fresh garlic, fed within six hours of crushing, can naturally help repel fleas and ticks. In the book New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats, holistic veterinarian Dr. Thomas Van Cise cites limited servings of fresh garlic as a safe, healthful way to stimulate canine appetite. Additionally, holistic veterinarian Dr. Richard Pitcairn touts garlic as both a flea/tick repellant and an effective appetite stimulant. In his book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, he observes that “not only is garlic tasty to many pets, it also helps to tone up the digestive tract and discourage worms and other parasites, including fleas. Garlic is particularly potent when it’s added fresh.” Other advocates include veterinarian Dr. Martin Goldstein, author of The Nature of Animal Healing; and veterinarian Dr. Shawn Messonnier, author of The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs.

Before deciding whether you want to explore garlic as a dietary addition for your own dog, it’s crucial to remember that different pets may react in different ways to any food or supplement. That’s why careful consideration, plus a candid conversation with your own trusted vet, is often the smartest approach. It’s also why jumping in “whole hog” is a dangerous idea.

Given its demonstrated effect on red blood cells, for example, garlic should be avoided in pets with pre-existing anemic conditions; or in young puppies whose immune system is still developing. It should also off-limits when an animal is scheduled for surgery. Additionally, the Johns Hopkins Lupus Center notes that garlic can stimulate the human immune system. That means in humans (and theoretically animals as well), ingestion could potentially amp up an immune response that’s already in overdrive.

Seasoned with care

Let’s say you’ve researched the pros and cons of fresh, food-based garlic; discussed opinions with your vet; and decided that it might be worth a watchful try. Remember that careful dosage level and feeding frequency is imperative. It’s always wise to start very small, and monitor very carefully.

For example, Dr. Pitcairn’s book generally recommends a conservative fresh garlic feeding approach for canines, based upon body weight. Keep in mind that “one clove” of fresh garlic generally equals roughly 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic. The Complete Herbal Book for the Dog and Cat, by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, recommends this schedule:

  • 10 to 15 pounds – up to ½ clove daily
  • 20 to 40 pounds – up to 1 clove daily
  • 45 to 70 pounds – up to 2 cloves daily
  • 75 pounds and over – up to 2 ½ cloves daily

Animal herbalist Gregory Tilford, author of All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets, also notes that very limited amounts of powdered garlic can be used to help stimulate appetite. Tilford maintains that most dogs can safely consume up to 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder per pound of food, no more than three times per week. Again, for safety’s sake, it’s always a good idea to build up to this very gradually.

Have you ever investigated garlic for your furry friend? Share your own insights here.

The post Is Garlic Good or Bad for Dogs? appeared first on Dogster.

What I’ve Learned About the Latest Neutering Methods as I Prepare to Have My 3-Year-Old Dog Fixed

Being a breeder for 15 years, we’ve not had experience with spaying or neutering dogs. We are now closing that chapter of our lives, and are looking to get our French Bulldog Louie neutered. I had no idea how many options were available. I thought it was as simple as making an appointment and suffering through healing with your dog, but that is no longer the case.


Louie is being retired as a stud dog. (Photo by Karen Dibert)

I talked to my vet about what neutering involves, and got the 411 on sterilization options available for male dogs.

“It is important to discuss your reproductive concerns with your veterinarian. There are pros and cons to neutering,” explained our vet, Dr. Stacey Sheahan of Animal Medical Center. “It reduces roaming, allows population control, can reduce some behavioral issues, and decrease risk of prostate problems and testicular cancer. The cons can be urinary incontinence and increased risk of certain cancers. Research is being done to develop safe methods for sterilization while reducing risks.”

Traditional neuter

“The traditional neuter, or orchiectomy, removes the testes,” said Dr. Sheahan. This can be done as a traditional surgery or with lasers. The laser option has advantages in terms of cauterizing, but the procedure is the same.

Scrotal ablation

Another option is scrotal ablation.This is in addition to a neuter.

“Scrotal ablation removes the scrotum as well as the testicles,” explained Dr. Sheahan. “This prevents some post-op issues in larger dogs, such as scrotal seromas and swelling. There is a lot of space left after you take the testicles.”

This makes sense in larger dogs, and may also be an option to consider for Louie. As an older dog (3 years old), his scrotum is stretched to the point where it may not shrink much after simply having a neuter.

“There are also testicular implants, such as Neuticles, if people don’t like the look of a neutered dog,” said Dr. Sheahan. Neuticles are generally implanted at the time of neutering, but can be implanted years afterward in most cases.


A vasectomy is another option for dogs, and is just like the procedure for humans. The testicles remain, but the dog is unable to reproduce due to the removal of the vas deferens, which conducts the sperm from the testes. This option may not eliminate behaviors associated with an intact male. Louie has issues with mounting, so I would definitely be looking for behavior-altering options, and hope it takes care of the problem.


Zeuterin is one of the newer options on the market. It is an injectable sterilization for dogs 3 to 10 months of age that kills sperm. It is considered very effective and allows a dog to keep his testicles. He will also have limited hormone production, so while there may be some behavior modification, you can’t rely on this to remove unwanted behaviors. Dogs who are Zeutered will get a “Z” tattoo to let others know he’s been altered. Louie is too old for this option, so he’ll not be getting his first tattoo with surgery. It’s kind of too bad; I may have asked them to add a heart with MOM in it as long as they were tatting anyway.


Louie heard we planned to neuter him. (Photo by Karen Dibert)

We haven’t decided, yet, which route we’re choosing for Louie, but I’m glad that I took the time to discuss options with my vet. Being educated helps me make the best decision for my dog. While it didn’t apply to our situation, you’ll also want to consult your vet about what age is best to neuter your dog based on his breed and/or size. According to Dr. Sheahan, “A lot of the recommendations are to neuter later in larger-breed dogs. Part of the reason for later is growth reasons, and there are some studies about reduction in cancers.”

The bottom line is that each dog is different. “You and your veterinarian can tailor a plan for your pet based on your pet’s needs,” said Dr. Sheahan.

The post What I’ve Learned About the Latest Neutering Methods as I Prepare to Have My 3-Year-Old Dog Fixed appeared first on Dogster.

Rescued Huskies Find Their Purpose as Sled Dogs

On the trail, the Huskies on Richie Camden’s Breakaway Siberians sled dog team propel themselves through the snow, their eyes shining with purpose. In the living room, they flop on top of each other and go to sleep. Pets first and sled dogs second, this team of underdogs came together one rescue at a time.

They run for fun and came in last in their only competitive race last season, but the formation of Breakaway Siberians is the realization of a dream that began back when Richie was a one-dog guy. He and his first Siberian Husky, Koivu, were out rollerblading in the park one day when out of nowhere, Koivu came to a complete stop, nearly tripping Richie in the process.

“Five feet away from us was another Siberian Husky wearing what looked like a chewed-up leash,” says Richie, who hooked the other end of Koivu’s leash to the obviously lost dog, attaching the two Huskies.

“I turned around to go back to the car, hoping I would find that dog’s owner on the way back, and we just took off. The two dogs were just flying with each other.”

Richie says he remembers being pretty nervous as his rollerblades gathered speed beneath him, but at the same time he was impressed by the intuitive teamwork he was witnessing. The trio made it back to the parking lot and were able to track down the lost dog’s human, but Richie was a changed man.

“That was pretty much the moment when I realized I wanted to have a job where I could, one, work with Koivu and two, that it would be awesome to start a sled dog team,” he remembers.


Richie and team hit the trail. (Photo courtesy Breakaway Siberians)

Richie didn’t let the fact that he lives in St. Louis, Missouri — with its hot summers and slight snowfall — deter him from going after a dream more geographically suited to Alaska.

He went back to school to become a dog trainer, and while completing required shelter volunteer hours, he noticed Siberian Huskies were not in short supply in rescue. When he started dating his future wife, Leah, Richie told her how he wanted to create a sled dog team from rescued Siberian Huskies. In 2010, the couple adopted their first rescued Siberian, Fleury, from Indy Homes for Huskies.

Over the course of the next year, Koivu and Fleury became best friends and teammates. The two Huskies did everything together, and Richie says when it was time to add a new team member from Indy Homes For Huskies in 2012, the two pals weren’t impressed.

“When Spezza came, they kind of shunned him a little bit. They didn’t open up and receive him very well.”


Spezza now gives other dogs the welcome he didn’t get. (Photo courtesy Breakaway Siberians)

A former stray, Spezza was shy and timid, more so around Richie than Leah.

“He instantly took to Leah. Still to this day, the way he looks at Leah is just with so much love in his eyes — and he finally looks at me that way too, now.”

It took time to build the trust that helped now 6-year-old Spezza gain confidence, but with love, attention and teamwork, he was able to find his role. Richie says he’s come such a long way, not just as a sled dog, but also as a house pet and the official welcoming committee of the Breakaway Siberians.

“Whenever we adopt a new dog, he is always the first one to accept them and take them in. It’s almost as if he introduces himself, and then takes them around and introduces him to the team,” Richie explains.

Over the last several years, Spezza has welcomed 10 more teammates into the household. Dogs who were surrendered because they were destructive when crated now thrive under Richie’s regiment of long runs and routine.


The team — plus coach Bebe — pose for Diamond Naturals. (Photo courtesy Breakaway Siberians)

The roster now includes 13 Siberian Huskies, including Koivu’s sister Mikko, and Balto, who was originally Leah’s sister’s dog. The rest of the sled dogs — Kaiya, Roenick, Marleau, Backes, Bure, Mandy, Chara and Cookie — have come from rescues, including Free Spirit Siberian Rescue, Dogingham Palace Rescue, Gunner’s Run Rescue, Raven’s Husky Haven and Rescue, Dog Saver, Texas Husky Rescue, Adopt A Husky and Indy Homes for Huskies. Leah’s Pomeranian, Bebe, serves as honorary team coach.

Despite (by Richie’s own admission) having no chance of beating the Alaskan teams, the Breakaway Siberians recently picked up a sponsorship by Diamond Naturals. These professional athletes may never win a race, but they’ll always be the happiest team on the trail.

The post Rescued Huskies Find Their Purpose as Sled Dogs appeared first on Dogster.

Topo Designs Dog Leash


I love, like, everything that Topo Designs does, so it comes as no surprise that I totally love their take on the classic dog leash as well. It’s made from heavy-duty nylon and features an aluminum carabiner clip. It’s also got a cute (but functional!) little paracord loop for attaching your keys, poop bags, or other particulars. Topo Designs leashes are handmade in Colorado and are available for a totally reasonable 29 bucks. Check ’em out at Topo.





How Nextdoor’s New Pet Directory Can Help Bring Home Lost Dogs

In the past if your dog got lost, the best way to let the neighborhood know was to create a flyer and make dozens of copies to hang on poles and hand out to people. These days, smartphone apps have replaced the photocopier as the most effective way to get a lost pet’s picture seen — but not all eyeballs are equal during such a search. While a Craigslist ad might be read by folks on the other side of the city, and a Facebook post might reach your out-of-state friends, a new feature from Nextdoor will get your dog’s photo in front of the people most likely to see him: your neighbors.

Just in time for National Pet Day, Nextdoor — the private social network for neighborhoods — has launched the Nextdoor Pet Directory to help get lost dogs, cats and other animals recognized and returned home.

As of today, you can use Nextdoor to virtually introduce your pup to your neighbors by adding them to the pet directory. When you add your dog’s info — name, photo, breed, color and size — their profile will be automatically shared with your Nextdoor community. Adding or updating a profile also will get you a $25 credit with for petsitting, walking and boarding services. (Note: If you previously included your pet in your profile when you signed up, Nextdoor automatically added him to the directory. You can delete the profile if you do not want your pet info to be public.)


If this little Lab goes wandering off, neighbours will know who he belongs to. (Photo courtesy Nextdoor)

If your dog goes missing, his profile in the Nextdoor Pet Directory can help your neighbors know to keep an eye out for him. On the flip side, if a lost pup shows up on your front lawn one day, you can scroll through the pet pictures in the directory to see who the escapee belongs to.

Getting to know your neighbor’s pets isn’t just handy when they’re lost — it could also come in handy if you’re looking for a canine playdate or recommendations for a local pet sitter or dog walker.

It’s pretty neat that the same app that lets you borrow a wheelbarrow or sell a bike could also reunite a family with their dog. When it comes to locating lost pets, we can never have too many technological tools in our arsenal.

The post How Nextdoor’s New Pet Directory Can Help Bring Home Lost Dogs appeared first on Dogster.

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