• Are You Raising a Furkid

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Pet parents or dog ownership: Are they just words? According to the law as it stands right now, dogs are property. Being a dog owner for many years, I think of my dogs as companions, but not furkids. Is that wrong? If the law changes to non-property for our dogs, the courts can step in at any time for any reason, and it will be up to the courts to decide your case. I think the only time the court should step in is in the case of abuse. In the world of different methods of training, I ask what is abuse? Shock collar training? Heavy metal; chains, choke, prong collar training?

    Mark Peters of Good delves into the words of the dog world.
  • Florida Aid for Pets

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Helping People and Pets Stay Together

    Low cost spaying and neutering services, free food programs, help with housing and medical care.
    List organized by Patricia Collier, Owner of ForidaPets.net

  • One in 8 Million New York Characters

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    One in 8 Million - New York Characters in Sound and Images - The New York Times

    A lovely rescue story with sound and images. Narrated by Stefanie Rinza.

  • Best Dog Alternative Media Award

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Thank you for the nomination for runner up for Best Dog Alternative Media

    Runner Up: 2007, 2008

  • I Find Dead People

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    I Find Dead People:

    How I got started in Human Remains Detection


    Loralei Nistal

    It was June, 2003, and I had 15 minutes before clocking out of my job as a senior keeper in the Birds and Reptiles Department at the amusement park Busch Gardens. I was looking forward to the best part of my day – the couch and air conditioning.

    I decided to make the best use of this time by finding some “victims” to give a short talk to about the American Flamingos. This was my favorite time of the year to talk about the Flamingos as they were still acting out their breeding displays which gave the guests a good visual as I explained each movement the flock would make.

    I “targeted” a couple right in front of me and began explaining all the graceful movements these beautiful pink birds were doing to display just how desirable they were to the rest of the flock. After some time of impressing them with my knowledge of Flamingo behavior, I asked about them.

    Heidi introduced herself and her husband, Mike. She said they were from Thomasville, Georgia, and were in town to pick up a puppy for Search and Rescue. I could barely contain my excitement as I dug deeper for more information. Heidi told me there was an outstanding team right here in the Tampa Bay Area, and I should contact them. Wow! I was so excited about being in the right place at the right time as I had been interested in learning more about Search and Rescue for some time.

    We exchanged pleasantries and email addresses and I asked if they would have someone on their team contact me. Away they went to collect their new puppy, and, unbeknownst to me, I started my journey into the field Human Remains Detection (HRD). In Human Remains Detection dogs are trained to identify the smell of human tissue decomposing. The dog are trained to signal a find with a behavior that the handler can easily identify and reward.

    The very next day, I received an email from one of the team and within a week I was being introduced to the whole team. Now this might seem intimidating to some, but my full time job required that I get into a display with 13 alligators everyday, this was mild by comparison.

    You could tell that the team was a closely knit group of people. The team leader and founder, Sharon, was outgoing, outspoken, charismatic and BLONDE! Lyn was tough, a little aloof and had a good sense of humor. She was small, but could pack a powerful punch as evidenced by the fact that she is currently a civilian K9 Handler on her second tour of Iraq. Then there were Sylvia and Harold. Sylvia was very intimidating and knew it, which immediately made me like her. Harold, on the other hand, was outgoing and baked cakes for each team member on their birthday. Of course, who wouldn’t like a man that cooks! Then there was Mike who was in charge of Technical Support. He had everything you needed or ever would need to survive for a week in the woods, and it was all in his car. Getting lost with Mike around was not an option since he was a master of the compass and navigation. Terry and Beth were great people, and would give you the shirt off their backs. They also made up part of the technical support on the team. Rob was Director of Training and Shelly was his wife, but since they lived so far away I rarely saw them. The strangest thing was I had just met all of these people but felt like I had known them for years.


    Training was every Tuesday night in Dunedin from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. I would fight my way over in the after work traffic and then drive back to Tampa so I could get up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for work. But this was just beginning to prepare me for what would be involved in being a K9 Handler. It isn’t unusual to have to get up at 3 or 4 a.m. on your day off, to drive several hours to do a search in 90° heat, train, test for certification and then get up the next day and do it all again. Then there are the six hour training days each week with your team just to maintain your dog’s skills and physical condition.

    I started by observing the handlers training their dogs. This meant that I followed behind each handler and watched each dog work. Some handlers had more than one dog, and some had as many as six. All the dogs were trained and certified, meaning each team had made huge scarifies to be where they were.

    I certainly got my exercise following all the teams around, but I wanted to make a good impression. My task was to learn to read each dog’s body language. The problem was that it was dark most of the time. Flashlights didn’t help much, making it difficult to observe especially when you weren’t sure what you were looking for. On the other hand, I got a lot of practice walking in woods at night and learning how not to fall on my back side.

    I had never heard of Cadaver (HRD) dogs before but had assumed that recovery work was all about disaster work or missing people. In reality HRD teams are called in to help find dead human bodies. The bodies can be recently deceased or may have been dead for a very long time. Finding the bodies can help solve crimes or give families closure. To my surprise the next thing you know I end up on a HRD team. Although they had some tracking dogs, dogs trained to follow the trial of a live human, in the State of Florida they were never used since law enforcement did not use civilian teams to look for live victims. In other states civilian teams are more often used in tracking than HRD.

    One of my team mates, Sharon, had a German Shepherd named Kato, who was soon to be a father. Mom was Claire, a hairy beast Sharon co-owned with Sylvia who had been breeding German Shepherds and Shelties for many years. I really liked the look of Kato and had always wanted a German Shepherd, so I asked Sharon if I could buy a puppy.

    The puppies were born at the end of August. I went out to the puppy pen and stood in the middle of all the fluff and play when this one puppy came over, sat on my foot and proceeded to look out in the same direction that I was looking. At that moment I felt a real bond with that pup and in a few more weeks I brought her home.

    I named her Buffy as in the vampire slayer. That was not the name Sharon gave her and probably didn’t care for my naming a German Shepherd Buffy, but I was determined. I was a fan of the show, and after all our plan was to hang out in grave yards.


    The team used a buddy system for new dogs, and so for puppy training I was assigned to Sylvia. Little did she know what she was getting herself into. You’ve heard of squatters – right? For the next two years I lived and breathed training every spare moment of the day that I was not working at my day job. Sylvia and Harold became family to me and I got to eat cakes and pies on a regular basis thanks to Harold.

    My formerly intimidating coach Sylvia worked long hours with me and her passion was contagious. My new mentor allowed me to intrude on her 10 acres several times a week for 10-12 hours a day. Not once did she complain or act like I was intruding on her personal life.

    I learned how scent is influenced by heat, rain and terrain because we trained in all kinds of weather at different times of the day. I was amazed to see how scent travels into the trees and Palmetto bushes after only a couple of weeks and in six months the dogs could pick it up 20’ away from the bury site. I knew then I would have to work on my handling skills more than Buffy would have to work at detecting HRD, and I continue to work on them to this day. The learning never ends, that is a big part of the fun.

    Over the next two years Sylvia and I had some very exciting times – getting chased by loose pit bulls running in a pack, battling very large rattle snakes and lakes full of alligators were just a few of our challenges. Yes, although alligators are not a problem for a lot of the country, in Florida, as well as Georgia and Alabama, SAR handlers have to worry about their K9 member being eaten. Finally, it was certification time and water work was part of the agenda. When Sylvia, my 90 pound German Shepherd Buffy and me, a rather large woman, piled into the dingy I could only pray “Oh God, please don’t let my dog jump ship”. Buffy, true to her name, bravely stayed in the dingy and we passed with flying colors.

    Needless to say my coach Sylvia saved the day more than on one occasion. I told you she could intimidate the best of them and that included stray pit bulls. Finally, I decided if she could do it, so could I! I was having the time of my life working the dogs on all kinds of old crime scenes. I was learning to become an HRD team with my dog but also detected lots of mosquitoes and spider webs which always found my face before I saw them.

    Training included long conversations on dog nose time, how long a dog can use his nose before needing a break, the process of decomposition and impact on a search of certain conditions. Specifically I learned how to search for grave sites and how criminals think when trying to discard a body. You can imagine how devastated I was when my coach moved to Alabama, not to mention all the pies and cakes I would be missing from Harold. It was a sad day indeed but I would have to find another place to train the dogs.


    My dog smells dead people. But if you are into volunteering to find people it takes more than that to try to help. In HRD training there are tracking dogs, dogs trained to follow a live human and air scenting dogs that are trained to literally pull information out of thin air to find the person they are searching for. Tracking dogs will be given a person-specific scent article, like the scent of a pillow casing, and will then track that specific scent. Tracking dogs are used in tracking missing persons from where they were last seen. Air scenting dogs will find any live human in the area, rather than a specific person. Air scenting dogs are used more in disasters when people are buried in rubble or when people lost in the wilderness need to be found. HRD dogs are basically air scenting dogs with one difference. When a person dies and starts decomposing the scent or gases released become generic to every other deceased person. When a person is still alive their scent is unique, when we die we all smell the same.

    HRD dogs have to be trained on a broad scent picture using scent sources that range from very freshly deceased to very old. A reliable cadaver dog should alert on a body that has been dead 20 minutes, 20 days or 20 years. A team may be called to look for a child that has been missing for two weeks and is presumed deceased, or a cold case that is twenty years old and there has been a new lead, you never know what will be needed. Some people train their dogs to only work and indicate archeological digs of old Indian sites and the like. For their purposes these people only train on old scent so their dogs are more reliable for this specific purpose. My HRD dogs are trained on all phases of decomposition and most of the teams I work with today also train this way.

    HRD dogs are trained to work lots of different locations from vehicles, buildings, wilderness, under water, under the ground, or hanging in a tree. This takes a lot of time out of a handler’s life, a commitment that continues for as long as the team is willing to be deployed. Once your dog is trained you are ready to try for the National Certification. Most certifications are through a law enforcement organization that certifies police K9s in drug detection, bomb detection, tracking of live humans, and tactical or bite work. Most organization certifications meet specific standards that are approved by Federal Agencies like FEMA. There are some other very good certification agencies, but they may not meet all the strict standards. Today my two dogs are certified through NAPWDA (North American Police Working Dog Association) and NNDDA (National Narcotic Drug Dog Association).

    Every year you and your dog have to be recertified. If someone else wants to work your dog they have to also have to certify with your dog so that they can be a team. NAPWDA has a test set for vehicle, building, water, rubble, above ground, and buries. Two hides each with one being low and one high. Buries are at different levels below ground and water hides are at different depths. Buries will have dummy holes dug around because dogs can false alert on fresh dirt if not trained well enough. Dogs (like humans) can get lazy in training and try to take shortcuts. You must make sure your dog understands that they only get the reward when they locate the dead body – the dog will test you more often than once a year. Also part of the certification is to place animal bones and carcasses in the area to make sure your dog will not false alert on animal bones. Animal remains release different gases than human remains and training requires proofing so the dog only alerts on the human remains. Scent training is not a perfect science you and your dog have to work hard to be able to pinpoint the location of a dead body. The last thing law enforcement wants is to dig somewhere and find a buried deer, which will probably be the last time your team is used by that agency.

    For the NAPWDA Certification, you and your dog are only allowed to only miss one of the twelve sources of decomposition scent. If your dog false alerts on an animal it is an automatic failure and you will have to reschedule your certification. In some cases, if your dog ingests the scent source it is also a failed test. In order to certify with NAPWDA there are prerequisite courses that must be completed prior to certification: OSHA Blood Borne Pathogens, DOT- Basic HazMat Training, Crime Scene Preservation, and FEMA IS-100, IS-200, IS-700 which are on the National Incident Management systems called (NIMS). You will also have to obtain a background check from the FBI. This is a rather daunting list of prerequisites and not all are easy to obtain and planning is required to ensure all are completed prior to certification.


    It’s been six years since I met Heidi and Mike, as well as so many other people, who have become some of my best friends. The people who do this kind of work have to truly love what they do. They are dedicated, strong, and don’t know the meaning of the word no. They give of their time, money, and heart in order to give people the gift of closure. I found that spending a week in the Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. People do appreciate the hard work that goes into training and maintaining the HRD standards. I still have much to learn and even more to give. I am currently one of the Directors of Bay Area Recovery K9’s and also a training mentor. Like most things there are ups and down. People move, puppies pass, and new dogs and handlers come into our world. I can honestly say that this experience has been one of the main sources of joy and friendship that I can not imagine getting anywhere else. There is no better feeling than being in the woods on a cold winter’s morning and doing what your dog does best - using its nose. Watching your dog work out a problem and seeing the way their body movements change when they get into scent. Sometimes the behavior changes are very subtle, but often you’ll see the dog’s tail go high and his head snap like something grabbed his tail, the he’ll stop dead in his tracks, look at you with eye contact that could burn a hole in your chest, and give his trained indication. Then you think to yourself, I trained that dog and look at him. Isn’t he beautiful? Life is good! We have made a find.

    To contact Loralei Nistal go to www.CourteousCanine.com

  • Free Kibble Update

    Monday, November 09, 2009


    We're thrilled to say that, thanks to all of you for playing Bow-Wow and Meow Trivia, Freekibble has now generated over 1.5 MILLION MEALS to homeless dogs and cats - Thank you!

    Freekibble and YOU are literally helping SAVE LIVES at animal shelters across the country. Working with Halo, Purely for Pets, Freekibble just donated 65,000 lbs of kibble to 37 more shelters desperately in need. To get the food to these shelters, we got some amazing help along the way...You can read the full story http://blog.halopets.com/2009/08/31/mimi-13-halo/

    Follow Freekibble on TWITTER, and FEED MORE ANIMALS! For each new follower at http://twitter.com/freekibble Halo will donate a meal to freekibble to feed shelter dogs and cats - and ANOTHER meal for each new follower of Halo at http://twitter.com/halopets - up to 100,000 meals each - Spread the word!

    So, please keep kibbling and help us feed more hungry pets - every dog and cat deserve a decent dinner!

  • Petfinder Adopt a Senior Dog Month

    Thursday, November 05, 2009

    Who knew that it was Adopt a Senior Dog Month. I did just that! Adopted! Milk Dud, my foster lab. Divine and 9. The following is from Lynn Katz, Specialist - Shelter Outreach -I want to make sure you're up to date with the latest happenings that can help your adoptions. Petfinder recently partnered with PetFirst Health Insurance to provide your adopters with low-cost pet health insurance. People who adopt from you are eligible for a plan that offers $1000 of accident and illness protection for newly adopted dogs and cats (I'm sorry rabbit folks!) for $5 for the first month and $14.95 each month thereafter. Unlike all other pet insurance plans, Pet First has NO AGE RESTRICTIONS. That means if you're currently celebrating Adopt A Senior Pet month as we are at Petfinder, this is something you can offer that will really help take down one of those barriers to adopting senior pets. PetFirst has higher customer service satisfaction rates than all other shelter pet plans on the market (http://www.petinsurancereview.com) so that means less complaints back to you both for illness AND insurance issues. There are many reasons we chose to work with PetFirst and help promote their product. In this tough economy, we're hopeful that having this option will help people choose to adopt. Feel free to pass this email on to anyone and please call or email me if you need more information. Lynn Katz Specialist - Shelter Outreach Petfinder.com lynn@petfinder.com 732-993-7838 Office 240-662-8654 Fax 2009 Adoption Options stops - http://www.petfinder.com/adoptionoptions http://www.petfinder.com Adopt A Homeless Pet! "Lots of people talk to animals...Not many listen, though. That's the problem." -Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh
  • Pumpkin Carving Stencils of Dog Breeds

    Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    I know it is a few days after the big day, Howloween, or Halloween. Dog breed stencils available for pumpkin carving. Here is the link for *free* download of stencils from Better Home and Gardens. http://www.bhg.com/holidays/halloween/pumpkin-carving/pumpkin-carving-stencils-of-favorite-dogs/?page=1 Remember: No chocolate or raisins for dogs.
  • Dog Food Feeding Program in Pasco County

    Thursday, October 08, 2009

    Article written by Camille C. Spencer, Times Staff Writer, titled "FiFi and Fido join bread lines", October 4, 2009. (I looked for the link, but couldn't find it, sorry) If someone finds it, would you please send it to me?


    While it is a cute grab with headline news, it is sad that owners are surrendering animals because of the economy. A few weeks ago, a dog came to my house to live as a foster, for this very same reason.

    How we can help in our community:

    In Ms. Spencer's article there is mention of The Volunteer Way food bank that aids families, and gives vouchers for free pet food to be redeemed at the SPCA, a nonprofit animal shelter on Congress St., New Port Richey.

    The SPCA is running low on food, so please donate food so many of these animals can stay in the home.

    If you volunteer for a rescue group, Nature's Select of Tampa Bay will give a generous discount to you and free home delivery. www.NSTampaBay.com
    All natural "human grade" ingredients - no corn - no wheat - no soy - no by-products - made in the USA.

    I have no affiliation with Nature's Select.

  • Emotions in Dogs

    Sunday, October 04, 2009

    Does jealousy exist in dogs? With a study, a book, and a blog, there are several scientists that believe so.

    Study Finds, Dogs Understand Fairness, Gets Jealous

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


    Dr. Patricia McConnell ‘s article on canine cognition