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Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet: Helping Military Members Keep Their Beloved Pets

March 25th, 2010 1 comment

Military service members who get deployed often face the harsh prospect of having to give up their pets simply because there is nobody at home to take care of them while the service member is away. 

For those of us whose pets are very much part of our hearts and families, this seems unthinkable.  Our military personnel already sacrifice so much to serve the country.  They should at least be able to look forward to being reunited with their best friends when they return home again.

Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet (or “GASP”) is an all-volunteer non-profit organization whose mission is to support “military service members, veterans, and their beloved pets to ensure the pets are reunited with their owners following deployment or emergency hardship.”  Toward that end, GASP has established three programs:

  • The Foster Home Program provides an “alternative to the unwanted surrender of beloved pets of our deploying service members.”  The group has a network of volunteers all over the country who open their homes to provide a loving and healthy environment for the pets until they can be reunited with their owners.  This program is provided at no cost to the military service member. 
  • The Military Pet Assistance Program assists those involved as foster pet parents through the Foster Home Program.  When funds are available, the program will also assist military service members, military spouses and veterans facing emergency hardships.
  • The Military & Veterans Pet Sanctuary Project is working toward setting up facilities throughout the country to provide temporary shelter for pets until a foster home can be found. 

Anyone interested in fostering a pet, contributing or volunteering in some other fashion will find all the information they need at the group’s website.

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How to Make Wise Choices About Charitable Donations

November 25th, 2009 No comments

Donating to a Shelter?  Make Sure Your Money Goes to the Dogs

Donating to a Shelter? Make Sure Your Money Goes to the Dogs

Make Sure Your Charitable Donation Really Helps Those in Need

During the holiday season, many people feel moved to open their hearts and wallets to try and help those who are less fortunate.  There are many wonderful charitable organizations that do a lot of good work with the monetary donations people provide.

There are other charitable organizations that end up spending most of the money they receive on fund-raising and other expenses.  Not that there is anything inherently wrong with administrative spending and fund-raising.  After all, there are expenses involved in running a charity, and fund-raising plays an important role in helping many charities stay alive.

BBB Says at Least 65% Should go to Charitable Activities

But how much is too much for a charity to spend on telemarketers and other fund-raising efforts?  The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability suggests that charitable organizations should spend at least 65% of their total expenses on program activities (the actual “charity” part of the equation), and no more than 35% of the money you donate on fund-raising.

Want to Know Where Your Money is Going When You Donate to Charity?

If you want to know how your donations of money are being used by a charity, there are a couple of easy ways to find out.  Charities that meet all of the BBB’s Standards for Charity Accountability can receive accreditation through the BBB.  The website provides a National Charity Report Index that makes it easy to search for information about charities that are BBB accredited.

Charities are not legally required to submit information and seek accreditation through the BBB, but many reputable charities do so.  If a charity has received BBB accreditation, you can be sure that most of the money you donate to the charity will be going to the actual work of the charity.

Charity Navigator is an independent charity evaluator that provides information about many of the largest charities in the United States.  They have a searchable database that gives a detailed breakdown of each listed charity’s revenue and how that revenue is used.  Charity Navigator evaluates only public charities in the U.S. (that is, charities that are tax exempt under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and that must file IRS Form 990).

Another good source of information about public charities can come from your state’s government websites.  Many states require that all public charities that solicit donations within the state comply with the state’s charity registration laws.  For example, Florida’s Solicitation of Contributions Act regulates the solicitation of public contributions and requires full disclosure of certain types of information from those who solicit charitable contributions in Florida.

The Florida Division of Consumer Services website has a great deal of valuable information, including a Gift Giver’s Guide that allows Floridians to access information about specific charities registered in Florida.

Incidentally, we decided to check the State of Florida registration for Animal Friends Society, Inc. The rescue organization from which we adopted Lucy, devotes an impressive 89% of its total revenue to program services.  By doing a little homework, I know that when I give to Animal Friends Society, the money really goes to the dogs.

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Operation Baghdad Pups

November 11th, 2009 2 comments

Helping Returning Military Personnel Reunite With Their Dogs and Cats

SPCA International has set up a program called Operation Baghdad Pups to help U.S. military personnel who have befriended stray animals in the war zones bring their best friends back home with them.

Operation Baghdad Pups Reunites Our Heros With Their Best Friends

Operation Baghdad Pups Reunites Our Heros With Their Best Friends

Their motto is “no buddy gets left behind.”  The program “provides veterinary care and coordinates complicated logistics and transportation requirements in order to reunite these beloved pets with their service men and women back in the U.S.”

Supporting this wonderful effort is a great way to say “THANK YOU” to our veterans on Veterans Day.  These people have risked their lives at war, we should all be grateful for our service personnel who do the jobs they are called upon to do on our behalf.

Please visit the website and read some of the stories of dogs and cats who have made life in the war zones more bearable for our fighting men and women, and how Operation Baghdad Pups can help bring more of them home to give comfort and support to our returning troops.

The website has information about how one can donate to these laudable efforts.  There is also information about how one can request assistance in bringing a dog or cat home from the war.

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My Dog Growls When I Go Near Her Food Bowl

October 30th, 2009 4 comments

Training Your Dog Not to be Aggressive at Feeding Time

Lucy is a sweet-natured, playful dog who has never had any hesitation to share toys and beds with her adoptive brother Frankie, another Labrador retriever mix of about the same age.

But My Dog Doesn’t Want to Share Her Food Bowl

Growling at People is Unacceptable

Growling at People is Unacceptable

In fact, she doesn’t even want Frankie anywhere near her food while she’s eating.  She growls in a threatening manner if he gets too close, and he usually backs away.  (He is the type of dog who likes to pick at his food anyway, so there typically is not much conflict.  He never really tries to take any of her food away from her.)

Growling at Other Dogs

Most dog trainers feel that it is not a cause for alarm when a dog tries to protect his food from another dog.  After all, dogs have an instinctive tendency to protect their food when another animal gets too close.  Among dogs, protecting one’s food is a way to ensure one gets enough to eat.  It is also part of the competitive process of establishing one’s place in the pack.

In Lucy’s case, add in the fact that she was rescued from near-starvation, and it seems only natural that she would want to keep every kibble in her food bowl for herself.

The simple solution is to feed the dogs in separate bowls and to perhaps place the bowls a distance away from each other.  Each dog will feel he has his own space for eating.

Training Your Dog Not to Growl at People

The real problem arises, according to dog trainers, when the dog growls at people.  In the book The Well-Mannered Dog, the authors explain that dogs who show aggression when their humans get too close to the food bowl are forgetting their rightful place in the pack.  That is, they are trying to assume the lead position in the pack over their humans.  As the authors state, “Food aggression can be a problem because it invariably leads to other kinds of aggression.”

Dog Training Techniques to Stop Food Aggression

There are several dog training tools that owners can use to modify their dog’s aggressive behavior at feeding time.

  • The dog should never be fed first.  In a pack, the leader eats first.  The leaders are the humans in the family and the dog should not be fed until after having watched the humans eat.
  • The dog should be given a training task or two to perform prior to receiving her food bowl.  It could be something as simple as a sit or a down command.  But a training task will focus the dog’s mind and emphasize the idea that the human is the pack leader.
  • Reward the dog with the food only after she has performed the training tasks.
  • Stay with the dog while she eats.  The authors of The Well-Mannered Dog note that leaving the room while the dog eats can give her the idea that she is entitled to be left alone with her food.  Staying with her reinforces the human’s status as the pack leader.

Train Your Dog to Understand that You are the Leader of the Dog Pack

Make the Dog Sit and Wait for her Food

Make the Dog Sit and Wait for her Food

These training tips for aggressive growling behavior around feeding time seem to be working with Lucy.  In the past few days, I have done the following, without hearing any growling:

  • Gave her sit commands and made her earn a couple of hand-fed kibbles before putting down her food bowl.
  • Held the food bowl in my hands for the first minute or so after she started eating.
  • Moved the food bowl a few inches after putting it down.
  • Stood over her while she ate.
  • Promptly removed the food bowl after she finished eating.

I think Lucy is catching on to the fact that I am the leader of this dog pack, and she is a well-loved but subordinate member of it.

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