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!”



Sharing Your Life With a Furry Friend

Late in 2011, the American Humane Association launched a one-of-kind study to understand why three to four million adoptable pets are euthanized every year in shelters across the country.  “Keeping Pets In Homes” is a three part study to curb pet homelessness. The goal is to learn why some people adopt a cat or dog, some remain pet-less and others surrender them to shelters.  The first phase of the research was just released and the results are very interesting.

While there are 117.5 million households in the U.S., only 46.3 million have a dog in their family and 38.9 million own a cat.  That leaves 27.5 percent of the households in America without a pet.  The first phase of  Keeping Pets In Homes examined the reasons why so many people do not share their lives with furry friends.

Funded by a generous grant from PetSmart Charities, phase one, “Reasons For Not Owning A Dog Or Cat,” interviewed 1,500 adults who previously owned a pet and non-pet owners to determine the reasons behind their decision.  Understanding the respondents’ hesitation to bring a cat or dog into their families is the first step toward developing effective strategies to get more homeless pets adopted.

Phase one also examined if people in the study were open to the possibility of becoming a pet guardian in the future.  Here are the top reasons cited for not owning a cat or dog:

  • The cost associated with having a pet is too high.
  • Not enough time to care for an animal.
  • Grief over the loss of a previous pet was too much to      handle.

Surprisingly, people named the death of a previous pet as the top reason why they did not currently have an animal in their household.  20% of dog owners and 17% of cat owners said the stress of watching a beloved pet grow old and die was so traumatic they had chosen not to go through experience again.

When respondents were asked if they were open to the possibility of pet ownership in the future they said:

  • 45%  of previous dog owners would consider getting another, while 34% of previous cat owners were receptive to another cat.
  • 25%  of those who had never owned an animal said they were “probably” or “definitely” open to bringing a dog into their family compared to 10% for cats.
  • Previous owners said they would adopt from a shelter or rescue organization for obtaining a new dog or cat.
  • Those who have never owned an animal, 51% said they would rescue or adopt a dog and 42% indicated they would use a shelter to adopt a cat.

Some of the data from the study was discouraging.  More than one-third of non-pet owners said they dislike cats and only 22% of previous dog owners and 18% of former cat owners said they obtained their past pets from a shelter or rescue group.  And despite the documented health and emotional benefits of pet ownership, an overwhelming 90% of seniors said they were not open to owning a dog or cat in the future.

“There are still significant hurdles to overcome in helping to keep more of these healthy, adoptable animals out of the nation’s shelters,” said Dr. Patricia Olson, chief veterinary advisor for American Humane Association’s Animal Welfare Research Institute.  “Using the data gathered and the work to be done in future phases of this study, we hope over time to decrease pet homelessness and relinquishment.”

“By understanding the reasons why so many Americans do not own a pet, and learning what we can do to increase lifelong retention of those that do,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of the American Humane Association, “we can take the necessary steps to change minds, change policies and change activities to help get more of these beautiful animals out of shelters and into the arms of loving families.”

Phase two of the study is underway. The focus is to examine people who have adopted a cat or dog in the last six months from public and private shelters in three major cities and determine how they and their new pets are adapting.

More data to come and hopefully better qualified owners will adopt and keep their loving pets.  With so many reasons and such wonderful benefits to owning and loving pets, it’s only natural that the numbers will grow.

My three rescue dogs, all females are posted below because I want you to see first-hand what LOVE truly means!  Best wishes my friends …







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!