Dog Rescue in Action – Students Impact the Future

 Three girls on sofa


When Julie Ogden tells her Woodcliff Middle School science students about her volunteer work at The Last Resort Animal Rescue in West Milford, NJ, they want to help.


Unable to assist the rescue in traditional ways due to their ages, Ogden’s students formed Woodcliff Animal Rescue Engineers (WCare) in 2008.  Through the extracurricular club sponsored by Ogden and technology teacher Fred Matzan, students use technology skills learned in the classroom to promote animal rescue.


The partnership between WCare and The Last Resort exemplifies an increasingly popular education model and a national trend in animal rescue.  Service learning combines community service with social and academic learning.  Service-learning projects allow students to gain firsthand knowledge and hands-on experience while effecting change in their community.  These projects encourage a high level of engagement in the cause and the learning process. 


Students become more concerned citizens and are more likely to stay committed to a cause after the project is completed,” says Ogden.  “Likewise, students become more active learners and are better equipped for future academic and social success.” 

Last Resort pet adoption event in NJ

More than 20 WCare members meet weekly to create digital videos of The Last Resort’s dogs and cats, aiding in their adoptions by drawing attention to their unique qualities.  With these videos, Ogden’s students make a significant contribution to the rescue.


“Unlike many of our adult volunteers, children are tech savvy,” Ogden says.  “They have the skills and the time to create persuasive videos, incorporate music to set the mood and post them on You Tube for Potential adopters to view.” 


WCare is a valuable experience for the students too.  “In addition to practicing their technical skills, students learn how to edit photos and sound to reach people with a specific message,” Ogden explains.  “They have to carefully consider purpose, audience and communication strategies.  The world is changing rapidly.  More people are watching videos than reading.  These skills are going to be invaluable to these students’ futures.” 


WCare students are also developing leadership and social skills through engagement with their community.  Students are fostering dogs with their families and assisting with adoption events.  They are coordinating fundraisers and attending community events to raise awareness for rescue, and several past members have started rescue clubs in their high schools.


“These children are becoming concerned citizens who will be a force to be reckoned with,” says Ogden.


The Haven-Friends for Life in Raeford, NC, takes a different approach to service learning with its animal rescue internship program.  The program offers people 18 or older hands-on learning in administration, photography, building and contracting, graphic design, dog grooming, writing and outdoor recreation.  Internships require a commitment of 20 hours per week with at least one eight hour weekend day. 


The Haven started its internship program in 2009 but always has welcomed people seeking an educational experience with the rescue.  When David Osgood, of Dedham, MA, was stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC, the animal loving-sergeant began volunteering at The Haven.  Upon realizing the high level of need at the rescue, he decided to formalize nd promote the internship program. 


“The Haven has a real need for quality volunteers who are passionate and professional,” Osgood says.  “Volunteers work hard with no pay.  To have someone who is self-motivated do the job makes all the difference in this kind of work.  Our interns have wonderful drive and make The Haven a much stronger organization.


Osgood also recognizes the program’s benefits for the interns.  Our program gives interns a wealth of opportunities,” he says.  “They gain skills and, if they wish, credit hours while working for a good cause.  Employers today are happy if you have a degree, but what they really want to see on your resume is work experience.  If you can point to proven results – hours worked, projects completed – you will be far ahead.  This advantage is something The Haven can provide.”


Career preparation and an advantage in the work force are valuable benefits of service-learning experience at rescue organizations, especially for people interested in pursuing a shelter or veterinary career.  The Teen Track program at the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA (AAWL) in Phoenix, focuses on teaching sixth through 12th grade students about animal rescue.

AZ Animal Welfare League & SPCA during Teen Tracks training program


Teen Trackers receive in-depth training in animal body language and animal handling skills, assist with daily care of the pets, observe and shelter veterinary clinic staff members, participate in guest presentations and education field trips, and help lead shelter programs.


Students participate in a minimum six weekend shifts during the semester-long course.  As they complete training and accomplish projects and volunteer tasks, students advance through the program’s levels: caregiver, handler and curator.  With each level comes advanced training and greater responsibility. 


Program coordinator Rachael Gardner of Phoenix says most Teen Trackers participate in the program because they want to work in animal-related careers.  “The Teen Track program gives them a head start,” she says.  “Students also learn responsibility and gain public speaking, problem solving, team building and leadership skills.”


In return, Teen Trackers help to change staff members’ perceptions about teenagers’ capabilities.  “I think there are perceptions in our society that teenagers are self-absorbed and don’t care,” Gardner says.  “The Teen Track program shows they can accomplish a goal and help society.”


Service-learning collaborations offer numerous benefits to students while helping to advance animal rescue goals and create long-term animal rescue supporters. 


“I can’t think of anything more empowering than these students discovering they have the ability to change the world,” Ogden says.  “The thousands of animals I have rescued pale in comparison to the impact these students will have on the future.”





Kids Unhappy Left Alone – Are Dogs Also? You Bet !


Leaving for work in the morning sometimes isn’t a happy experience for many folks. It’s not that you don’t love your job necessarily but you hate it when you have to leave your pets home alone, just like when folks have to leave their little kids behind.  A lot of animals aren’t particularly fond of it either.  Many dog lovers tell how sad they (and their dogs) feel when they go out of the house for their jobs, on errands, or even to have some fun on their own.  More activities are becoming dog-friendly but for the most part, time outside the home is time that you don’t get to spend with your dog.

Dogs have very little to occupy their time while you’re gone, especially if they’re the only pet in the household.  We’re their entertainment.  Some dogs are content to nap away their day while you’re away.  Other dogs have a much harder time coping with the situation when they’re home all alone.  These dogs can suffer from boredom, stress or separation anxiety.

How do you know if your dog is unhappy about being left alone?

Some dogs make their displeasure quite obvious by leaving behind a trail of destruction.  You could return home to find your furniture or personal belongings chewed up, the garbage ransacked, paper or pillows chewed to shreds, or you may find that your dog has vomited, urinated or defecated in the house.  Some dogs eat everything in sight when you’re away, and others become almost anorexic.  Some dogs groom themselves incessantly to calm their nerves.  Others vocalize their dissatisfaction by howling, whining and barking while you’re away.  And if you have neighbors nearby, you’re sure to hear about it!

If your dog is bored, anxious, depressed or destructive while you’re away, “environmental enrichment” can help.  This is the act of adding interesting items to your dog’s surroundings to safely entertain them.  When you give your dog plenty of fun things to do and see, his unhappy time alone can be transformed into a very satisfying day.  Here are some suggestions:

• Hire a dog walker, even if it’s every so often
• Invest in doggy day care at least a couple of days a week
• Leave plenty of fun toys for your dog (like puzzle toys that you fill with treats, or even the newer created interactive toys they enjoy for hours of fun)
• Tire him out with some active play before you go


I’m fortunate my three girls, while not necessarily liking whenever I go out, do not destroy nor ruin anything in the house.  The worst they do, which is actually good to me, is that they leave all their toys all over the living room.  But then I know that they’ve been playing and having fun which is so good for them.  And what I’ve tried to do on many an occasion is to bring a new toy to them upon my return if it happened to be a longer time away from home.  Or just a small biscuit treat after they hug me upon my return.  It concentrates on the fact they were good while I was gone.  So much so that as I arrived home recently, one of my white boxers, Casey, brought a toy to me to show, “See I’ve been good and playing!”



Do Pets Help With Depression

Could the warmness of a cat or a dog, or the purring of a cat or wagging of a dog’s tail and cheerful smile help with your depression?  It certainly can and does.  I’m living proof since I’ve rescued three female dogs and nothing has brightened my outlook more.  I’m now happier, look forward to my time with my “furry kids” along with smiling and laughing more than I ever thought possible while handling my depression.  There have been many baby steps which, in the aggregate, amount to much healing over the course of time.  I still have further to go for healing, but now I realize that I will be able to do so.

Being around pets indeed as some say can feed the soul and heal the spirit.  And pets offer us unconditional love and forgiveness in all we do or forget to do.  This can be extremely helpful to those suffering from depression.

The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.  The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well being.  ~Dalai Lama

You Don’t Have to Live With Depression

Understand the symptoms of depression, from sadness to hopelessness to headache.

Studies show that animals can reduce tension and improve mood.  Along with treatment, pets can help some people with mild to moderate depression feel better.  If you’re depressed, here’s a rundown of how pets could help.

  • Uncomplicated love.  Are your relationships with family and loved ones complicated and frayed?  A pet can be a great antidote.  With a pet, you can just feel.  You don’t have to worry about hurting your pet’s feelings or getting advice you don’t want.
  • Responsibility.  You might not think you can take care of a pet right now.  I didn’t at first.  My dear friend tried to be helpful and brought me a pet.  However, it was too soon and I became so anxious and afraid, she had to return it.  She now understands, however, and realized what I was going through back then and has seen the progress in me over time.

Taking care of yourself may seem hard enough.  But give yourself a little time and after a while, experts say that adding a little responsibility can help.  It adds a new and positive focus to your life.  Taking care of a pet can help give you a sense of your own value and importance.  It will remind you that you are capable — that you can do more than you might think.

  • Activity.  Are barely getting off the couch these days? You need to get more physical activity.  Pets can help. If you have a dog, that dog needs to be walked.  A little extra physical activity is good for your physical and mental health.
  • Routine.  Having a daily schedule helps people with depression.  An animal’s natural routine — waking you in the morning, demanding food or walks — can help you stay on track.
  • Companionship.  Depression can isolate you.  It can make you pull back from your friends and loved ones. If you have a pet, you’re never alone.  That can really make a difference.
  • Social interaction.  Having a pet can gently push you to get more social contact.  You might chat with others while walking your dog at the park or waiting at the vet. Pets are natural icebreakers and other pet owners love to talk about their animals.
  • Touch.  Studies show that people feel better when they have physical contact with others.  Pets offer something similar.  There’s something naturally soothing about petting a cat on your lap.  Studies have shown that petting a dog can lower your heart rate too.
  • Better health.  Research has found that owning a dog can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and boost levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain. One study of Chinese women found that dog owners exercised more often, slept better, reported better fitness levels and fewer sick days, and saw their doctors less often than people without dogs.

Drawbacks of Getting a Pet for Depression

Pets aren’t for everyone with depression.  If you’re depressed, think carefully before getting a pet.  If you have a loved one with depression, don’t assume that surprising him or her with a kitten will help.  It could make things worse.  Here are four things to ask yourself before getting a pet to help ease depression.

  • Are you comfortable with animals?  A lot of people helped by pets had them as children.  They’re used to having an animal as a source of comfort.  If you’ve never had a pet, it may be less likely to help now.
  • Will having a pet make you worry?  Dwelling on death is a common sign of depression.  If getting a pet just means that you’ll worry constantly about it dying, that won’t help.
  • Is your depression too intense right now?  Taking care of a pet is not unlike taking care of a small child.  If your depression is so severe that you can’t take care of an animal, it’s not a good idea to get one.
  • Can you afford a pet?   The reality is that caring for pets can be expensive.  The ASPCA estimates that in the first year, a cat can cost more than $1,000 and a dog up to almost $1,850.  Yet the price of owning a dog or cat, not as expensive as dealing with serious major depression issues, can be a bargain at providing you with love, understanding and unquestionable forgiveness.

Even if getting a cat or dog isn’t wise right now, other animals could help. Birds can be surprisingly affectionate and cost only $270 a year in care. While you may not want to snuggle with a fish or a turtle, caring for them could also improve your mood.  It creates responsibility and a new focus. Studies have shown that watching fish can lower your pulse and ease muscle tension too.

Pain insists upon being attended to. 

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences,

but shouts in our pains.  It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.  ~C.S. Lewis 

How To Honor National Dog Day

How To Honor National Dog Day

Some go into law enforcement. Some go into medicine. But they all appreciate a good belly rub. Whether they’re saving lives or simply enriching them, rescue dogs, police dogs, therapy dogs and family dogs are selflessly devoted to making the world and their homes a better place. But with four million adoptable animals put down every year, many dogs never get the chance to put their big hearts to use.

August 26 is National Dog Day, a holiday to celebrate dogs and all that they do for us, and to welcome those in need into our lives through animal rescue.

National Dog Day founder Colleen Paige was inspired to create the holiday after looking at a coffee table book that depicted the horrors and triumphs of 9/11 without a single mention of the hundreds of rescue dogs who put their lives on the line at Ground Zero to help the emergency crews.

“The lack of attention for what these dogs endured and accomplished made me weep,” said Paige. “It also made me realize all that they do, unconditionally, and how so many are abused and abandoned. I felt that they needed a day of recognition, a day for us to say “thank you” for saving our lives, lowering our blood pressure, guiding our blind, protecting our streets, our homes and our families, and to show our appreciation by helping to celebrate them and save lives in return.”

With the support of the Animal Miracle Network, National Dog Day has grown annually with events expanding as far as Puerto Rico, England and Italy.  Affiliates are welcomed to host their own National Dog Day events ranging from dog shows, walkathons and photo contests to picnics, adoption drives and fairs.

If you’re already a proud pet owner, take some time on National Dog Day to show your dog how much you appreciate him.  Some recommended holiday activities include having a picnic at a dog park, inviting the neighborhood dogs over for a pool party, coordinating a costume parade on your street, taking your dog shopping to pick out a new toy and planning a pet-friendly getaway.

If you’re looking to give a homeless dog a loving home, visit to meet your new best friend.  Or you can go to any of the ASPCA sites in your state or local rescue sites.   With pet adoption, you’ll find that National Dog Day will be the first of countless great ones to come.

“It is the Human Condition to Love.
It is Love that Changes the Human Condition.
It is the Love of one Human that can Change a Nation.
It is that Love which empowers one Nation, to save man’s best friend.”
~ Colleen Paige – Founder of National Dog Day



National Dog Day has officially gone International with 6 countries participating this year!
Thank you United Kingdom, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Spain and Canada!

Dogs Help Save Lives – Need Family And Home

Be aware that each decade seems to bring with it a new ‘breed’ of dog that certain people tend to run with as dangerous.   However, it is NOT a breed that is dangerous.  It is the way certain dogs are treated and trained to be aggressive and made to be in dog fights, which are illegal in the United States.

Here is fascinating info on civilian dogs.  You don’t get to be the 2008 Dog of the Year for nothing and Maya pictured here is no exception.  Maya took home the year’s honor for courageously saving Angela Marcelino, her owner, from a vicious male attacker.  The pitbull’s act of bravery earned her some high praise from the Animal Miracle Foundation, who was happy to report that, “the pitbull breed can be hero dogs just like any other breed.”

Unfortunately we don’t seem to hear too much about those wondrous acts that often pitbulls carry out.  Some of the media and other people are too busy chasing who is the latest breed of dog to sequester since they’re so dangerous to mankind.

We need to judge every dog by its individual behavior, NOT by its breed.  Pitbulls are no more dangerous than a Chihuahua.  It is through training and utilizing certain dogs for dog fighting that we obtain bad behavior in dogs.

The 2012 Department of Defense K-9 Dog Trials were held recently, where Military Working Dogs from all four service branches competed for the title of Top Dog.  I read of two dog and handler teams:  Air Force Tech Sergeant Justin Kitts and his canine partner, Dyngo; and Army Sergeant Jason Cartwright and his dog Isaac. It was amazing to watch the video for both teams to hear them talk about the bond between dog and handler.


Both teams recently deployed to Afghanistan, where their primary job was explosives detection, searching for IED’s and roadside bombs.  Dyngo and Isaac (and their well-trained noses) saved hundreds of lives abroad, but they also served an equally important mission: one of being a companion and a reminder of home for both their handlers and the other service members who served next to them.
These days, both dogs and handlers are back home.  Tech Sgt. Kitts is currently stationed at Luke Air Force base in Arizona where he works as an instructor in the dog program, while Sgt. Cartwright, who was the only competitor from the Army’s Engineer Canine Company, is based out of Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri.  Both men hope to adopt their dogs upon their retirement from the Military Working Dog program.

If you’d like to find out more about the Military Working Dog program, including information about adopting retired dogs from Lackland Air Force Base, check out the program’s website here.

If this article helps improve your thoughts or anticipation of fostering or adopting a rescue dog – great!  This may also help your decision.  Of course there are terrible abuses in this world and dogs unfortunately are not exempt from these attrocities.  There are also other reasons, however, why many dogs end up in the dog pound or rescue sites.

In fact, the most common reasons a dog ends up with a rescue organization, or the pound, include the following:

  • The owners don’t have time for the dog.
  • The owners find that they can’t afford either basic vet care or the expense involved in treating an illness or injury.
  • The owner dies or goes into a nursing home.
  • The owners divorce and neither party can keep the dog. (You’d be amazed at how many dogs the pound gets as a result of divorces!)
  • A young couple has a child and no longer has time for the dog, or the dog no longer fits into their “lifestyle.”
  • The owner is moving to an apartment building that doesn’t allow dogs.

All dogs are loving creatures, but a pup from the pound is even much more so.  Don’t think your dog doesn’t recognize the difference between the crowded pound where he or she didn’t get the love that only a doting owner can give and of course your home.  Every loving dog needs and wants a home and loving family!