General Interest

Simone II

posted May 27th, 2013 by
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by Anna Holton-Dean

Saint Simeon’s assisted living and retirement community recently hosted a giant birthday celebration— that of Simone II, the 4-year-old canine and “chief executive cuddler” who spends her days walking the halls and bringing joy to all who take a moment to visit.

As an important part of life at Saint Simeon’s, Simone the Golden Retriever received a birthday party on April 2 fit for a queen-with about 150 guests attending in her honor-residents, family members and employees alike. No party is complete without cake, so there was Alpo cake appropriately made by the Saint Simeon’s culinary club, along with dog biscuits for the canine guests and a non-Alpo cake for people.

Famous beyond the walls of Saint Simeon’s, Simone has a Facebook following of 600 and counting. Her wish is that all dogs would find a forever home as she has, so her birthday extravaganza was the perfect place to invite a few rescue organizations—the Sandite Team Animal Rescue of Sand Springs (STAR), the SPCA and Pet Adoption League of Tulsa (PAL ). One dog went home with its forever family, and many more were being considered for adoption by the party’s end.

Saint Simeon’s Marketing Director Lindsay Morris said the party far exceeded anyone’s expectations. “By the time everyone showed up, the party was standing room only, which is by far the biggest party Simone has ever had from what I understand,” she said. “It was one of the biggest birthday parties I have ever attended and definitely the biggest party I’ve ever been to for a dog! So, yes, it was a smashing success.”

“More than anything, all of the staff here at Saint Simeon’s is just so pleased that a dog got adopted, and that some possible additional connections were made for more dogs to find loving homes!” she added.

How did Simone feel about the party? “She was smiling the entire time and interacting playfully with the other dogs, so I would say she loved it,” Morris said. “From early that morning when I was setting up balloons for the party, it was as if Simone knew something—that everything was happening just for her.”

Simone visited the Doggie Style Groom Room (where she regularly visits at a generous discount) in order to look her best for the special day. She was on her best behavior with the other canines as well, thanks to training she received at K9 Manners & More and her Canine Good Citizenship Certificate. She routinely works on her doggie social skills at Joe Station Dog Park, so she can properly welcome guests to Saint Simeon’s—canine and human alike.

The importance of her socializing with other dogs is not lost on Simone’s mom, Kathy Hinkle, education director at Saint Simeon’s—a lesson learned through the life of Simone I, who passed away due to a genetic heart condition.

Simone II’s predecessor, Simone I, also grew up at Saint Simeon’s and didn’t get the opportunity to socialize with other dogs. “Simone II has learned how to be polite with big and small dogs,” Hinkle said. “She has learned the equivalent of shaking hands, developing her social skills. She is welcoming to all dogs that come to visit with families and to therapy dogs.”

Although beloved to residents, Simone I did not grow up around children or other animals, and she was not always nice to every visitor who did not fit the typical Saint Simeon’s profile she was accustomed to seeing, Hinkle said.

Learning from the areas where Simone I struggled, Simone II’s life has been strategically planned to ensure the best possible outcome for all situations she will surely encounter at Saint Simeon’s. The first task was to choose a puppy that had no genetic physical conditions (in order to live as long as possible) and a genuine love of people.

“She was handpicked for her gentle, loving nature; she was crazy about people,” Hinkle said. “She was being raised with a family for the first 9 or 10 months before training to learn the sounds of children, cars and family life.”

Simone then went on to live with Hinkle where she accompanies her to work each day, accomplishing her duties as chief executive cuddler.

“The residents want to touch her, and she wants to be touched. It is a win-win,” Hinkle said. “She is calm but still has enough energy to do mischievous things, and people love to be entertained in that way. It is very unlikely that she would ever bite.

“She doesn’t even chew up stuffed animals people give her; she carries them around and grooms them. She always has a stuffed animal in her mouth. At night she sometimes sleeps with a paw in her mouth, like a pacifier or something.”

Simone’s gentle nature can be seen in the way she interacts with the residents she has come to know intimately, as they are a part of her everyday life. “One of the residents died [recently], and he and his wife have an apartment where Simone stops every day; they have dog biscuits for her. They loved dogs,” Hinkle said.

“He died in his bed, and Simone went in that day and picked up the rawhide bone they had bought her. She put her head on the bed next to his face, holding that chewy as if to say, ‘thank you for this.’ Then she came to me and buried it in the garden. I don’t know if she wanted to keep it of his. Most dogs would have chewed it right up, but she is hanging on to it, treasuring it.”

The residents benefit from Simone’s antics, but Hinkle says she is good for them both physically and mentally. “She can be a distraction if a resident is upset,” she says. “Most may have had pets growing up, and it connects them to how an animal looks at you with unconditional love.”

“Her main purpose is to be in the life enrichment department. She can go around, and they take turns brushing her or talking to her, watching her play. Simone’s personal mission in life is to catch one of the squirrels. She knows she isn’t allowed to touch the peacocks on the grounds, but she tries every day to catch the squirrels before they get up the tree, again entertaining the residents.”

Just a typical Golden Retriever, acting as a dog should, but Simone has a large role to play in the lives of the residents and visitors to Saint Simeon’s, and her popularity proves she does it well. “She makes grandkids want to come visit, “Hinkle said. “She even received a Valentine’s card from a little girl who wants a dog like her someday. She has amassed a growing collection of bandanas that people give her, around 60 or 70, and she sports one around the facilities daily.”

To learn more about Simone or see what she is up to today, visit her on Facebook. She always has room for more friends.

They are What They Eat

posted May 27th, 2013 by
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by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

Whole chicken, corn gluten meal, whole grain wheat, turkey meal, brewer’s rice— just a few of the ingredients you may find on your dog’s bag of kibble.

When it comes to feeding our dogs, we want to make the best choices, but read any dog food label and let the confusion begin. Add creative marketing and appealing product names to the mix, and the choices become immediately overwhelming.

So how do you decide which food is right for your dog? Dr. Jennifer Miller, a veterinarian at 15th Street Veterinary Group in Tulsa, says that pet food ingredient labels have become a hot topic of discussion with her clients and with consumers in general. According to Miller, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding pet food ingredients, and that makes it increasingly difficult for consumers to make an educated choice.

One way to start to make sense of it all is to follow two basic rules that I came up with in the course of researching this topic:

1. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

2. If it sounds terrible to you, it might just be really good for your dog.

So first things first, a name is pretty much just a name, but the pet food bag is actually a legal document. “If you are looking at a particular pet food website or watching a commercial, and they make a big claim about their food that doesn’t show up on their food bag, then it may not be true and could just be part of an advertising gimmick,” Miller says. “Make sure you read the bag.”

There’s a lot of fancy terminology being thrown around in conjunction with pet foods these days, so it’s important to understand which terms actually have legitimate meaning and which words just sound good from a marketing perspective. “What we have to keep in mind is that some of the terms used in promoting dog foods have no legal definition and can be used by anyone that wants to make a claim,” Miller says.

The word “organic” is a term that has been assigned a legal definition and is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AA FCO )—a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies that regulates the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies.

According to USDA regulations, organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones during their lives.

Organic food is produced without using harmful, conventional pesticides; fertilizers containing synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. If you are looking for an organic food, Miller says you should look for the USDA organic seal on the bag. That seal means 95 percent or more of the diet content is organic.

“Natural” is another term with a legal definition. Miller explains that a food claiming to be natural must have ingredients that are found in nature, not artificial or manufactured, and without ingredients that are chemically altered.

On the other hand, she points out that the term “holistic”—a word widely used in pet food marketing—has no legal definition relative to pet foods. “Anyone can claim their food is holistic with no standard for the ingredients chosen,” Miller says.

Pet food manufacturers are also required to state maximum and minimum concentrations of nutrients that must be present for small and large animals in various life stages. Every bag or can of dog food also includes a statement provided by AA FCO detailing how a food’s nutrient content has been verified. Miller explains that pet food can either be formulated—meaning the nutrient content is verified in a laboratory—or it can be tested through a feeding trial.

In the feeding trial, the food has not only been laboratory tested, but has also been fed to animals in the appropriate life stage for a required length of time to show that the animals thrive on the food

“A pet food company that has taken the time and money to have feeding trials performed on their food has essentially proved that their diet works as they claim it does,” Miller says. “The feeding trial method is considered to be the gold standard.”

All product claims, testing, and marketing hype aside, it would seem you could just read the list of ingredients to decide which food is right for your dog. Simple—that is, until you walk to the dog food aisle of your local pet store and stare at row after row of brands and varieties with a dizzying plethora of formulas and ingredient options.

For example, here are the first several ingredients found in three popular dog foods:

1. Whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), meat and bone meal, soybean meal, egg and chicken flavor…

2. Chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), ground flaxseed…

3. Deboned lamb, oatmeal, whole ground barley, turkey meal, whole ground brown rice, peas…

So which food would you pick? If you’re anything like me, you’re still confused. Back to the classroom we go, and here’s where we touch on my “if it sounds terrible, it may actually be good for your dog” rule

“Probably the biggest myth is that meat by-products are horrible for your pet, and if it doesn’t have a whole meat product as the first ingredient, it isn’t good,” Miller says. “The big issue with this statement is in the legal definition of the ingredients.”

For example, Miller explains that when a pet food label lists chicken by-products as the protein, that means a chicken carcass that has had all of the meat used for human consumption removed (breast meat, wings, thighs, legs), but still contains the cleaned organ meat and bones with leftover meat on them.

While this definition of the term “by-products” sounds anything but appealing to the majority of the human race, it likely has our canine counterparts drooling and actually affords them an excellent source of protein.

Here’s where it gets even trickier, according to Miller—when the label lists whole chicken as an ingredient. It is actually the same thing as the chicken by-product meat, but without all of the cleaned organ meat. This means there is a higher bone (ash/mineral) content to protein ratio.

“Consumers think that they are getting an entire chicken because that is what it sounds like, but legally that is not what it means on an ingredient label,” Miller says.

That brings us to meal. Many dog food labels will list a meat meal as the protein source. Certainly a whole meat ingredient sounds more appealing than something that is a meal. Take chicken again, for example. You might be more likely to buy a food that lists whole chicken as the first ingredient over a food that lists chicken meal.

Guess again. Miller’s colleague, Dr. Erin Reed, explains that in commercial dog food, a high grade meat meal can actually be a better source of digestible protein than the whole meat from which it was made.

Meat meal is the dried end-product of a cooking process known as rendering in which the water is cooked away. The residue is then baked into a highly concentrated protein powder better known as meat meal.

Whole chicken contains about 70 percent water and 18 percent protein, while chicken meal contains just 10 percent water and 65 percent protein. That’s more than three times the protein per pound than whole chicken contains. So maybe now chicken meal doesn’t sound so bad, right?

Armed with a little knowledge, you can make a responsible decision when choosing the bestdiet for your pet. If you want to take it one step further, Miller suggests that you contact the pet food company directly.

There should always be a contact phone number for the pet food company on the packaging, and Miller suggests you ask if they have a veterinary nutritionist on staff. You can find out how and where the food is manufactured, and ask any other questions you may have to try to make a well-educated choice for your pet.

If none of the packaged meals sound appealing to you, you may consider preparing home-cooked meals for you dog, but Miller cautions that the do-it-yourself route isn’t easy either. “If there are consumers out there who truly want to make a home-cooked diet for their pets, there is nothing wrong with it,” she says

“However, it is extremely important to follow a recipe that offers a balanced diet. Feeding your dog chicken and rice with some veggies isn’t going to cut it in the long run because the mineral content will not be balanced.” She suggests visiting petdiets.com or balanceit.com to find a recipe to meet your dog’s dietary needs.

What it boils down to is there are a lot of great commercial pet foods readily available. These foods are designed to meet your pet’s specific nutritional needs at various life stages. On the other hand, there’s a lot of low quality dog food out there too.

As tedious as it may seem, it’s your job to read the labels, sort through the facts, know your dog and any specific needs he may have, and then make the most educated choice possible.

It’s always a great idea to discuss dietary concerns with your veterinarian. Many veterinarians, like Miller, are well-versed in pet food lingo and can help guide you through the pet food aisles. Just remember that appealing names and pretty photos on dog food packaging are designed to catch your eye but may not represent the true quality of the food inside. Do your homework… your dog is counting on you!

The Long Goodbye

posted March 9th, 2013 by
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by Martha Bright

With great sadness, I sat down on the step outside my back door this morning and watched as my foster dog bounced toward me with complete abandon. I opened the door and he ran full tilt into my “dog-safe” house and skidded across the floor to sit ever so perfectly in front of the kitchen cabinet to wait for his food. Finally, he was the picture of health. Finally, he was unafraid of me.

I could not help but grin at his happy face and wagging tail. Looking deeply into his eyes – no longer clouded with infection, but clear and glowing – I could see that the abject fear, chronic illness and generally poor health had been eradicated and in their place was joy, health and love. The clear warmth of his perfection radiated out from his beautiful, sweet soul. He holds no ill will toward man. He forgives us all.

I continued to look at him, determined to impress this one last look of him into my heart, and I realized what a very fine creature he had become. Tears slowly pooled and then spilled over my cheekbones as the deeper realization of how wonderful this dog is sank into my mind, and the knowledge that I had helped him become this creature filled my heart to bursting.

Yes, he is “just” a dog, but he is a far better creature than I am. He forgives quickly, passionately enjoys the simple things in life, accepts change and gets on with his life, lives for today, and loves unconditionally. Life lessons at their finest.

This very lovely dog will leave me today. He will go to his new home where he will have the life he has deserved since his birth. He will forever be a part of me because he helped me grow and improve even as he healed. I already miss him. I will never forget him for I gave him a bit of my heart as he left.

A Different Breed of Cat

posted March 9th, 2013 by
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by Camille Hulen

When you think of a baby kitten, playful balls of fur come to mind. In contrast to that image and the fuzzy kitten on this issue’s cover, consider the hairless Sphynx. This breed did not originate in Egypt, as one might think, but rather in Canada as a result of a spontaneous mutation, born to a black and white domestic cat.

The Sphynx does, in fact, have a very short downy coat, which can be seen only with difficulty; to the touch, it feels like suede or chamois cloth. Their skin may be a variety of colors and patterns similar to other cats (Tabby, Torti, etc.). In addition, the Sphynx has an unusual body type— long, thin and muscular with no whiskers and huge ears.

In cats with normal coats, the hair helps to regulate body temperature, so the Sphynx requires special care. It is subject to sunburn and sensitive to cold. This, of course, allows the doting owner to acquire an extensive wardrobe for the cat! Some Sphynx are real “clothes hounds” and wear them proudly, while others resist.

Some might think that the lack of hair would make the Sphynx the ideal pet for allergy suff erers. however, this is not the case because allergies to cats are triggered by a protein called Fel d1, not cat hair itself. Fel d1 is a tiny, sticky protein primarily found in cat saliva and sebaceous glands. Those with cat allergies may actually react worse to direct contact with Sphynx cats than other breeds!

While Sphynx cats lack a coat to shed or groom, they are not maintenance free. Body oils, which would normally be absorbed by the hair, tend to build up on the skin. As a result, regular weekly baths become necessary, along with ear cleaning and nail clipping. Now, instead of cleaning cat hair off of the furniture, you must remove oil stains.

With regard to personality, some references say Sphynx are loners, resist cuddling and prefer to be an “only child.” My friend Terry (who has been owned and trained by several cats) agrees with other reports, saying that they are very social, demand attention and are real purr machines. This confirms my experience that every cat is an individual, regardless of breed, and we must appreciate their idiosyncrasies.

Now meet Flora, Terry and husband Donald’s newest family member, who was adopted from Sphynx rescue alliance in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Incidentally, if you are considering a purebred cat of any type, please rescue rather than support breeding.) rescue organizations for all breeds are accessible via the internet; one is Specialty purebred cat rescue in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Flora’s name is particularly fitting, because she was born in the spring eight years ago and has indeed blossomed since coming to live in her new home one year ago. Most recently, Flora was named Sphynx of the Week by Facebook group Naked Nonsense. Flora, herself, perhaps gives the best endorsement for the Sphynx breed; excerpts from her interview follow.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: I will eat anything I find to steal! They never feed me. (Sphynx have notorious appetites in order to maintain their body temperature.)

Q: Favorite toy or activity?

A: I have a rubber chew toy that I carried with me everywhere until I had my dental surgery. I no longer need to chew to make my mouth feel better, so I have no favorite toys right now. I prefer chasing my siblings around the house when the spirit moves me.

Q: Greatest talent?

A: Waking the dead. Since I had bi-lateral ear ablation surgeries, I can hear only muffled sounds. I want to make sure everyone hears me when I want attention or food (‘cause they never feed me).

Q: Naughtiest moment?

A: Stealing food from my brothers and sisters (‘cause they never feed me) and biting brother Skynard’s ears when he won’t sit still while I’m bathing him.

Q: Most embarrassing moment?

A: probably the way I looked after my ear surgery. One eye was completely closed; one eye was half open; my head tilted, and I had to wear one of those embarrassing collars!

Q: Your secret love?

A: “My Skynard” and it’s no secret. We are inseparable. He grooms me; I groom him, and we sleep together all the time. We went together to OSU last year to check our hearts, since Momma says that Sphynx are prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). I have a heart murmur, but Skynard is perfect (which I already knew).

Conclusion: These Sphynx cats, in spite of the extra care required, are loved dearly!

Merle’s Door by Ted Kerasote

posted March 9th, 2013 by
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Book Review

by Dr. Lynn Frame

A FERAL LABRADOR RETRIEVER mix with no collar, no history and every appearance of surviving by his own devices in the desert crossed paths with Ted Kerasote while he was rafting down the San Juan river. The dog immediately joined the rafting group, acquired the moniker of Merle, and accompanied Ted home to Wyoming.

Back at home, Ted gave Merle free run of the house and eventually installed a dog door, allowing Merle to come and go at will, permitting him the freedom to continue a life of his own—outside the bounds of a human’s dominance.

And what a life it was. Merle made his daily rounds checking on everyone and everything in their small community. He was welcomed everywhere he went and was soon regarded as the “Mayor” of the town.

By some unknown attraction, Merle was often off to track herds of elk. Not a hunter by nature, he would unfailingly find the large animals and just watch from a distance.

We also get to meet Alison, Ted’s significant other and fellow animal lover, along with a host of neighborhood animal companions with their own stories, some funny and some sad.

Although Kerasote frequently anthropomorphizes Merle’s activities, he goes behind that by delving into the scientific basis of dog evolution and behavior. His account of the two alternate theories of wolf-to-canine domestication is fascinating, including an explanation of why dogs turn in circles before they lie down.

Kerasote’s poignant description of Merle’s last illness is well done. It is more than a wonderful animal story; it’s an acknowledgment of the dignity of “man’s best friend.”

I give it four bones and three hankies

The Dog Greeting Cards that Give Back

posted March 9th, 2013 by
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by Judy Langdon

As animal lovers, we know the joy of welcoming new pets, both puppies and rescues, into our homes and hearts. We care for them, celebrate their milestones and lives, and finally, experience the sadness of losing them.

We also search for unique cards featuring animals, especially ones that give back to the community and animal welfare groups, to send to friends and loved ones during all those same special moments.

Local photographer Sherry Stinson of TylerDog Photography in Bartlesville and Lori Griffin McPherson, a 1996 graduate of the University of Tulsa, both champion for animal causes through pet photography and greeting cards.

Recently I contacted Stinson and McPherson to learn more about how their pet photography ventures work.

Stinson has been a pet lover since childhood, and she’s spent most of her life with a camera in her hand. “A good day is one spent taking pictures,” she says. “A great day is taking pictures of pets.”

It was the death of her adult Doberman Pinscher, Tyler, many years ago that prompted Stinson to begin TylerDog Photography, creating pet sympathy cards in his memory as a way for her to “give back” to the community. TylerDog Photography eventually expanded into birthday, all-occasion and holiday cards.

“For years, we sold our cards strictly on eBay and by word of mouth, experiencing great success with these methods,” says Stinson on her website, Tylerdog.com.

Unfortunately, Stinson has recently deleted her online store due to the dip in the economy, although she has placed a couple of her more popular variety packs on the website. “Until I decide on another e-commerce option, that’s all you’ll see online for sale.”

TylerDog has been featured in local and national media, including KJRH Channel 2 Works for You, Tulsa; Tulsa’s News Channel 8; USA Today; Animal Wise Radio and The Tulsa World.

Recently she was involved, through a petition of 9,200 signatures garnered in two weeks, in the overall defeat of Oklahoma Senate Bill SB32, which would have allowed cities to restrict ownership of any breed dog, enabling breed specific legislation to become law.

TP: Have you been a dog lover all your life? Do you have favorite breeds?

Stinson: Yes, I have. I love them all, but have owned Doberman Pinschers for almost 30 years, and I also have a special place in my heart for Pit Bulls. They have a way of working their way into your heart (and lap).

TP: How do you learn about the dogs featured on your cards? What are their typical ages, sizes and histories?

Stinson: Each dog featured on a greeting card comes with a story, which I ask the owner to provide. There’s no set age, size or history to any of the models who appear on our cards. It’s everything from a tiny puppy to a grand old senior with every breed imaginable, and a few you can’t quite imagine, in between!

TP: Are proceeds or partial proceeds given to non-profit animal welfare groups, and if so, which ones?

Stinson: I started a “Shelter Dogs & Alley Cats” line that features shelter dogs and cats. Each card sold from this line has a portion of the sale going to each individual rescue the animal may have come from. It could be Legacy of Hope Dog Rescue in Tulsa, as I’ve photographed several of their dogs, or any other shelter I’ve helped across the state

TP: Have there been any dogs you have featured on your cards with very memorable stories?

Stinson: Plenty. One of the hardest cards to create was one featuring Grady, my Doberman pinscher who passed away six years ago. i felt he would make a wonderful sympathy card, and in writing it, i was in tears the whole time. I’ve also featured dogs who have wonderful rescue stories to go along with their photos, such as Hayden, a Presa Canario, who was saved from a gassing facility in Altus, then adopted a few short months later by a wonderful family.

he literally was at death’s door, waiting to be gassed before he was saved by a local veterinarian. I helped with all the dogs saved from that area over the summer and grew quite attached to Hayden, so he became a greeting card.

TP: What is the most rewarding part of having a business like this, as well as the most difficult?

Stinson: The focus of my photography business is client and rescue photography. I specialize in creating timeless portraits for my clients, and in turn, I give back to rescues and shelters by donating free photo shoots for their adoptable animals. That truly is the focus of what I’m doing. We’re seeing adoption rates increase with the better photos and greater social media presence. In the seven weeks I’ve been helping the city of Tulsa animal Welfare, their January euthanasia rate was only 45 percent.

Their yearly average last year was 62 percent. That’s quite a decrease and Jean Letcher, the director, feels our photos and the increased social media presence is what’s helping bring that number down. The most difficult thing about rescue photography is knowing an animal I photograph Wednesday might not be there when I go back a week later.

TP: How is your business making a positive difference in the lives of dogs and dog lovers?

Stinson: I‘m creating timeless memories, whether it be with a portrait or a greeting card. I’ve had people tell me when they receive a TylerDog greeting card, they don’t throw it away; they put it in a drawer and keep it. Knowing I’ve touched someone’s heart through my work is what really matters to me. I would love to be able to have all my greeting cards available online, but truthfully, cost and lack of help is what prevents it [for now]. For more information please visit www.tylerdog.com. Hooray for the Underdog!

Lori Mcpherson serves as the “community Guru” for Hooray For The Underdog!, a photography venture founded in 2006 by husband and wife team Janet Healey and Joe Grisham, headquartered in downtown Dallas. Priding itself on being a give back company, HFTU! even prompted Oprah Winfrey to call it one of the best companies in the U.S. that gives back two years in a row.

a resident of the Dallas area for the past eight years, Mcpherson says it was at a local post office in 2010 where she first learned of Hooray For The Underdog! cards. Mcpherson, mom to her rescue dog Presley, joined the HFTU! team in 2012 after she and her husband began participating in Hooray!’s “First Thursday” outreach.

“Presley was adopted from the humane Society of Tulsa in October 2007, and he is now 7 years old,” she says. “he has been photographed for the Hooray For The Underdog! line, and his card should be available this summer.”

According to Mcpherson, Hooray For The Underdog!’s mission “is to educate others on the importance of animal rescue and adoption through beautiful photography. We are a ‘giveback’ company.

“The Healey-Grisham team has spent more than a decade photographing homeless animals once a month to enable shelters to find homes for their rescues. The first Thursday of every month we invite local rescue organizations into our studio to photograph their animals and allow them to present our photos on their websites and on Facebook.

“On the back of all of our cards we tell the story of the animals featured. Most of the animals that we use already have families, but all were rescued,” she says.

Although Hooray For The Underdog! products can be found at large retailers such as Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Hobby Lobby and Sunrise Greetings (a division of Hallmark Cards), Mcpherson says, “We are currently bringing our line back ‘in house…’ we are building our brand every day, and we even hope to expand beyond the United States.”

In addition, Healey and Grisham just launched their first cookbook, “The Dog Gone Good cookbook,” with author Gayle Pruitt.

TP: How does Hooray For The Underdog! learn about rescue dogs used in its various products?

McPherson: Janet and Joe find dogs everywhere, sometimes at local rescue events and even at the dog park. Considering we do photograph homeless animals once a month, often we find a “model” for our next card, cookbook or promotion.

TP: Do you have a special memory of any dogs in particular that have been featured?

McPherson: We actually found a precious terrier mix during a First Thursday photo shoot that was homeless, and we knew she would be it was really special that her new mom was able to bring her in. We often get to see the work come “full circle,” which is why we are dedicated to what we do. We know that the best way to get an animal adopted is through beautiful photography.

TP: What is the greatest accomplishment for you personally, as an employee of Hooray For The Underdog!? Have you always planned to combine your work in communications with an animal welfare organization?

McPherson: as a relatively new employee, I think my greatest accomplishment is yet to come. I am a true fan of this beautiful work and the mission behind what we are doing every day. i want hooray For The Underdog! to become a household name in the world of animal welfare and to partner with large organizations to make a difference.

Gina Gardner, president and founder of Humane Society of Tulsa asked me to serve in a volunteer capacity as the merchandising coordinator, and that’s what I have done from Dallas to help my home community.

When Janet and Joe approached me about working for them, I knew there would not be a better fi t for my passion and commitment to saving homeless animals in Tulsa, Dallas-Fort Worth and around the country.

For more information please visit www.hoorayfortheunderdog.com