General Interest


posted September 16th, 2012 by
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by Camille Hulen

In early August, Oklahoma was on fire. During the evening of August 4, the sky darkened, and the smell of smoke lingered over Tulsa. Ash from the fires in Creek County even fell on cars in Midtown Tulsa. There were many pictures on TV of the devastation throughout the state. But what about the animals? Here are three personal stories of people and their pets in the Mannford, Bristow and Thunderbird fires.


On Saturday August 4, a young couple called me wanting to board their cat because fire was nearing their home in Mannford. They had evacuated their home and spent the previous night in a motel, fearing the worst. When they brought “Mr. Stitches” to me, they told me that not only was their home in danger, but also the homes of their relatives, who were electing to stay and fight the fire. At least this couple had insurance; their relatives did not.

Fortunately, on Sunday, I received the good news that Mr. Stitches’ home, as well as those of his relatives, had been saved, and he might go home on Monday. When they reached their home, however, electricity was still out, so they elected to stay away until Wednesday. Mr. Stitches was understandably stressed and not too happy with the situation, but he was safe.


The next call that I received was from Cathy, a lady from the Drumright area. Cathy explained that she had barely escaped, as helicopters whirled overhead; and the flames spread to the trees on the western edge of her property. She had two cats, but had been able to find only one in time to flee. She and her kitty were spending the night in Tulsa with a relative, and then she would bring the kitty to me on Sunday.

On Saturday night, the rain came, and eased the situation somewhat. When I spoke to Cathy on Sunday, she was trying to get back to Drumright to see if her home had been saved. One can only imagine her anxiety throughout the day as she was trying to find alternate routes into town. Major roads were blocked while firefighters continued to battle the blaze. The only vehicles permitted on the roads were emergency vehicles and equipment.

Finally, at 9 a.m., on Monday, Cathy called. Her house had been saved! It was only then that I learned the rest of the story. She had recently lost a son, and throughout this entire time, her husband had been hospitalized in Tulsa, suffering from a stroke. She had remained so calm in talking to me to make arrangements for her cat that I had no idea of the other difficulties in her life. However, her neighbors knew. They called in friends who traveled cross-country through burning fields to help. They just had to save her house. Using whatever resources they had available, they battled the blaze for seven hours and were successful. And, what is more, when Cathy reached her property, her missing cat “Snoball” came running to greet her.


Sometime during the weekend, I received a call from Oklahoma City, seeking shelter for four cats. This family in the Thunderbird fire was not so fortunate. They had lost everything, but their horses had been saved; and a member of Thunderkatz, an OKC cat advocacy group, would be bringing their four cats to me. Another anonymous donor called to say that she would be sending a donation on their behalf. I have since learned that this family too had other difficulties. The husband is handicapped from an accident, which happened exactly one year ago to the date, and was scheduled for surgery within the week. “Sophie,” “Scrappy,” “Drew,” and “Zuko” are now rested and happy and will be staying with me until their living situation is resolved.

When tragedy strikes, there are so many heartwarming stories of good people helping others. PALS was on the scene immediately to rescue animals at the Mannford shelter before the fire reached them. And Kudos to the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals and Tulsa SPCA, who spearheaded the rescue efforts in Creek County. Also, numerous unnamed, generous people donated supplies, veterinary care, and foster homes for animals.

A Facebook page has been established to reunite owners with their pets, Creek County Displaced Animals. The need will be ongoing, as many acres of farmland were destroyed. Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and Forestry has set up a donation site for hay or feed at the Creek County Fairgrounds. Donations may also be sent to Oklahoma Alliance for Animals (11822 E. 15th St., Tulsa, OK 74105) for its continuing work.

The Story of Clancy Chester

posted September 15th, 2012 by
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by Lauren Cavagnolo

Clancy Chester—it’s a big name for a big cat. He’s a lot like most house cats. He likes to snuggle in his human’s lap while she works at the computer; he loves to climb his cat tower, and he always cleans his plate. Always. Life is good.

In fact, Clancy Chester is only missing one thing—his right front leg—though he hasn’t slowed down enough to notice.

His story begins in July 2011, when he was abandoned in a box outside of StreetCats at 6520 E. 60th St. A volunteer found him and immediately took him to the vet, as is the policy of the 15-year-old nonprofit for homeless cats.

“The volunteer that was here that morning took him to the vet in the box, and it wasn’t until he got to the vet that we found out he only had three legs,” Linda Holland, StreetCats board member and volunteer, says. “He was taken to Feline Specialties, and they later called and said, ‘Did you know he’s a tripod?’”.

The cat, whom volunteers later dubbed Chester (the Clancy part will come later), was missing part of his right arm at what could be compared to his elbow. The cat’s paw had not been properly removed, and he now needed surgery to have the front arm completely amputated.

One of the StreetCats volunteers did some research on surgery costs, and that September, Dr. Ron Hooley of River Trail Animal Hospital performed the amputation.

“We’ve had other tripods in the past, and they’ve all been adopted and gotten along just fine,” Holland says. She then fostered Chester in her home until he was ready to mingle with the other felines at StreetCats. In the end, he would be with the organization for about ten months.

New Home, New Name

It was in April when things would start to change again for Chester. Jandra Smithen began volunteering at Street- Cats, helping to clean the facility and look after the cats that live there in what she lovingly refers to as the “group home.”

“I started volunteering there and just fell in love with [Chester],” Smithen says. “I just really wanted him, but I had always convinced myself that I couldn’t adopt another cat because my cat has always been an only child.”

Holland offered to let Smithen foster Chester at her house just to see how he would get along with Heffti, Smithen’s cat of six years. So on May 5, Smithen carried Chester home with her in a carrier and set him up in a room all by himself for the first few days. The two cats played footsie under the door until Smithen decided they were ready to meet face to face.

“On the third day, I brought Chester out and introduced the two of them, and I’m not going to say that they hit it off, but they didn’t hate each other,” Smithen says. “Heffti had never been around other cats, so there was definitely an adjustment period.”

Since then, Clancy has made a smooth transition into Smithen’s home, taking cat naps just inches away from Heffti on the same sofa and sharing everything from toys and water bowls to litter boxes. When Heffti and Chester finally accepted each other as brothers, Smithen decided it was time to give her new cat a new name. His white and orange coat combined with green eyes had Smithen thinking Irish when she came across the name Clancy.

“I looked at the meaning, red-haired warrior, and I thought, ‘oh, this is just perfect,’” she says. “He’s a redhead, and he’s got a warrior-like spirit. He’s definitely a survivor when you consider everything he’s been through.”

And so Chester became Clancy Chester. Living up to his new name, Clancy Chester doesn’t let something so small as a missing limb slow him down. “He is so adventurous, and he isn’t going to let that missing arm keep him from doing anything,” Smithen says. “He runs and jumps and climbs. He plays so hard. I’ve got a pet tower that I bought for Heffti’s birthday a while back. It’s over 6 feet tall, and of course, Heffti goes right to the top, but Clancy decided he wanted on there, too.

“So I allowed him to go on the first level, and I never thought he would jump higher. I came out of the kitchen one day, and he was on the middle level, which is almost 5 feet off the ground. I don’t know how he was able to jump from that first level up to the second, but he did

” Smithen says Clancy’s happiness and playful attitude inspire and encourage her.

“To be the happy, playful fellow he is in spite of everything he’s gone through, it’s almost like how can you feel sorry for yourself with your problems? He’s just great. He’s been a great comfort to me and a great inspiration,” she says.

Clancy Chester’s presence in Smithen’s home has even had a positive impact on her formerly only cat, Heffti. “He has definitely shown his generous, unselfish side,” Smithen says of Heffti. “This is the first time he’s ever been encouraged to share. He’s sharing everything. He’s never acted resentful that I’ve brought Clancy Chester in.”

Somebody to love

Clancy Chester’s story has a happy ending complete with a loving family, but not every homeless cat or dog gets adopted. Having a disability makes it even tougher for a pet to find a home.

Some facilities, like StreetCats, do not put time limits on animals and will house them indefinitely. Others don’t have the means or capacity and must humanely euthanize.

“Whether it’s him or another cat, just because they are missing a leg or they might be deaf, they still make good pets,” Holland says. “They are great animals. You just treat them like any four-legged animal.”

Many times, an animal with a special need can be incorporated into the home with minimal accommodations made. “They just all need a home and need somebody to love them, and that’s the most important thing,” Holland says.

Smithen agrees and wishes that more people would consider special needs cats and dogs when looking to a add a pet to their family. “So often, people want a younger pet that has no health problems at all,” she says. “There are a lot of pets out there that are older or maybe they have some physical disability, and I think if they’re just given a chance, they can make wonderful pets for people.

“I’m sure there were a lot of people that ooohed and ahhhed over him there at StreetCats. There were a lot of lookers but no takers. And I’m sure a lot of it was because of his missing arm, but those people really missed out on a great cat.”

Homeless Pups get a Second Chance

posted September 15th, 2012 by
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by Kiley Roberson

Homeless dogs in the city of Chouteau, Okla., are getting a second chance at life, and the pooches owe it all to pigs. It’s a bizarre and heart-breaking story that seems almost unreal to pet lovers, but it spurred the creation of what is now Chouteau Pound Pals, a non-profit and no-kill organization that helps homeless pups find new forever families.


Nancy Suda is the president of Pound Pals, but she began working as a court clerk for the city of Chouteau in January of 2008. As an avid pet lover, she was shocked to find out that the city’s dog pound was euthanizing the animals and giving away the others to anyone who wanted them.


“I spoke to the chief of police, and he encouraged me to help get them adopted,” Suda says. “So, I found out from a neighboring shelter in Pryor how they advertised their dogs online. I started taking pictures of the dogs as we got them in and posted them to the website for adoption.”


This new undertaking kept Suda extremely busy, but as each dog found a new home she knew her hard work was paying off. Suda wanted to do more for the pups, but it took some pigs to push the limit.


“One day a man came in and said he wanted all the dogs in the pound,” Suda explains. “When I asked as to why he wanted all the dogs he told me that he was going to feed them to his hogs. I was horrified!”

It turns out that the same man had been in several times over the past years and had taken all the dogs in the pound. Suda decided that day that it was time for a change.


“I was sick when I thought about what happened to those poor dogs,” she says. “I went to the City Council at that time and told them about this incident and asked if we could start charging an adoption fee. I also told them that the dogs given away free are sometimes sold to labs for testing on, or used as bait dogs for fighting. They agreed we could start charging $20, so I created an adoption form, and that was the earliest beginnings of what would become Chouteau Pound Pals.”


Chouteau Pound Pals has come a long way since then. The organization provides all of the food, vaccinations, wellness exams, spay/neuter, as well as any emergency care that the dogs in the shelter may need. In 2009, the organization received its 501(c)(3) status, making it an official non-profit group. Then in 2011, it reached another milestone, building a brand new shelter.


“The town shelter when we started consisted of four kennels under a leanto that opened to the north,” Suda explains. “The dogs were always exposed to the elements, cold in winter and summer. In the winter, during the coldest spells of freezing temperatures, we would have to board the dogs to keep them from suffering frostbite or worse. It was so bad that we couldn’t keep fresh water out for them. The water would freeze within 30 minutes.”


The new building has twelve indoor/outdoor kennels, a laundry room, isolation room and an office. It also has central heat and air to keep the dogs comfortable all year around. Before the new shelter was built, the organization could only house an average of 12 dogs at a time. Since the new shelter went up, they’ve had approximately 20 dogs onsite at any given time.


“We’re a little different than your normal rescue group,” Suda says. “We don’t pick dogs to pull from the shelter; we care for every dog that is brought into the town shelter. Our whole reason for being is to help shelter dogs have a better life.”

10 Tips for Containing Pet Costs

posted September 15th, 2012 by
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by Anna Holton-Dean

In today’s economy, everyone could use some cost-cutting measures, especially those who spend money on additional fourlegged members of the family. So, we asked some local experts for their best moneysaving ideas and compiled a list to help you stretch your hard-earned dollars.

1 Use coupons. There’s no need to stockpile or spend hours searching for coupons when a quick browse of the Sunday newspaper inserts can yield many pet food coupons, adding up to a significant savings over the course of a year. If you cannot deviate for health reasons from your pet’s usual brand, check out the manufacturer’s website and sign up to receive emails. Most offer promotions or coupons right on the website and periodically email coupons to their subscribers. And, finally, don’t forget to check out Tulsa- Pets’ coupon link where you can find savings for local services, such as grooming or exams.

2 Invest in prevention. Dr. Jana Layton of Riverbrook Animal Hospital says it’s crucial to invest in routine care as opposed to costly treatment. “Examples are vaccines and Parvo—$15 to $20 vaccines versus $750 to $1,000 or more for treatment, or $10 to $20 per month for heartworm prevention versus $300 to $800 for heartworm treatment. You get the idea. Education by your veterinarian is priceless and can save thousands,” she says.

And quality food is also worth the investment. “People may have to pay more at the moment, but will have to feed less, resulting in savings over time,” Layton says. You will save money by dishing out only what your dog needs daily, not to mention overweight and inactive dogs have more health problems. Hence, remember to exercise your dog daily. Lastly, Layton says two necessary preventative maintenance measures are brushing your pet’s teeth and hair (for long-haired breeds). “It will prevent matting, which sometimes requires serious, expensive grooming or even sedation with the vet to shave the mats out. Brushing their teeth can save hundreds on professional dental cleanings that involve anesthesia. Also, it keeps them healthy so much longer, saving even more money over time.”

3 Get cooking. If you normally buy treats, which can have unhealthy ingredients and unnecessary costs, try whipping up your own batch of goodies. Many websites, such as, offer recipes which can be tailored to your pet’s likes or needs, including vegetarian and organic variations. This isn’t limited to only house pets. Ruth Steinberger, founder of Spay FIRST! even suggests working with your vet to make your own horse feed, which can reduce daily food costs by as much as $4 per day. That’s over $1,400 a year in savings.

4 Know when to keep them in. Keep cats indoors to avoid injury, disease, parasites, extreme heat/cold, etc., pet advocate Dolores Proubasta says. The importance of keeping all pets safely confined goes beyond health and can help avoid costly lawsuits in case of bites or attacks in your absence.

5 Reciprocate pet sitting services. Find a trustworthy friend, neighbor or colleague who also has a pet and an occasional need for pet sitting services. Each can keep the other’s pet during vacations, sickness, etc., with no money exchanged.

6 Skip the chemical cleaners. Store bought cleaners might smell nice, but aren’t necessarily good for you or your pet, Proubasta says. Instead, reach for white vinegar and baking soda, which clean and deodorize just as well as expensive brands for pennies on the dollar without the harmful residue of chemicals. For tough stains or smells, a little Dawn or diluted Clorox will do the trick at a fraction of the cost, she says.

7 Go generic. Check with your vet for reputable generic drugs for heartworm prevention or other issues.

8 Check out Care Credit. TulsaPets Rescue Coordinator Casey Rose Largent suggests Care Credit as an affordable option for those who find themselves with unexpected vet bills. It is provided by GE and is accepted by many vet offices, providing 0 percent interest if paid off within the promo period—an invaluable tool to help with emergency vet visits. “Care Credit is a great resource if people keep up the payments on time,” Layton says.

9 Investigate to see if pet insurance is right for you. Pet insurance premiums may not have a place in your budget, but if you are willing to take on thousands of dollars in medical bills should your pet fall ill, it could save you from falling into debt over time. With advances in veterinary science, vets are able to perform lifesaving surgeries and procedures that weren’t possible in the past, meaning incurable diseases are now treatable and could cost up to $5,000, according to MSN Money. Premiums are based on many factors, including breed, age, where you live, etc., but it is an option worth looking into for those willing to go the distance for their pets.

10 Spay now, save later. While spaying and neutering have many non-monetary benefits, it will also save in your pocketbook. Forking out the cash to spay or neuter your pet now can save from feeding extra little mouths and providing vaccinations in the long run. Again, prevention is key.

Piper and GP

posted August 10th, 2012 by
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Piper 1A

by Lauren Cavagnolo

Stop by the Free’s residence on any given day, and you’re likely to run across a pretty common sight: a mama dog looking after her baby, cleaning out his ears and play wrestling, preparing him for the world. Piper and GP are like any other mother and puppy. Nearly insep­arable, Piper guards over GP the way only a loving, nurturing mother can. But Piper is not GP’s natural mother, and that isn’t the only thing that makes this couple different.


Piper is a 2-year-old rescued Pit Bull mix, and GP, short for Goat Puppy, is— you guessed it— a goat. “They wrestle in the front yard together. The neigh­bors absolutely think we have lost our minds, I know,” said their owner Julie Free.


Free and her husband, Nathan, are self-described “animal nuts.” They share their property in Inola with horses, dogs and goats. “That’s plenty, trust me,” Julie said.


Piper and GP’s unusual relationship began in April the night GP was born. Nathan is a truck driver, and Julie was home alone the night GP and his two sisters came into the world. But the birth did not occur without compli­cations, leaving Julie in a frightening situation.

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“[GP] wasn’t moving. I’d already called my husband and said I don’t think we can save this one,” Julie said. “Me being the animal nut I am, after all of the babies were born, I took him in­side to put him on a heating pad. I had all the dogs but [Piper] in their crates, and I had put him on a towel in the middle of the floor.”

Piper stared at the lifeless baby goat until Julie allowed her to inspect him. “I finally said, ‘OK,’ her release word, and she started licking him, and he came around,” Julie said.


In that moment Piper and GP forged a special bond. The first few nights of his life, GP slept in a dog crate inside the Frees’ home. Guided by her motherly in­stincts, Piper made sure to check on her new companion about every two hours during the night—just like any new mom would wake to check on her baby—and also waking the Frees in the process.


Though the couple has raised baby goats before, they say they have never had another animal take up with the goats like Piper has taken to GP. “They just absolutely adore each other,” Julie said. “My guess is he’s kind of imprinted on her. That was his first experience after he was born.”


The fact that GP’s actual mother re­jected him makes his relationship with Piper even more important. “She just wouldn’t take them. She wanted nothing to do with him or his sisters,” Julie said. GP’s mother and both sisters have since been sold to other families to be kept as pets.


In addition to accompanying Piper on her walks at night, GP has even fol­lowed her over jumps during her agility practice—no easy feat for a little goat. They also play wrestle together; though like any parent, Piper is gentle with her smaller companion. “Most of their play sessions end with Piper on her back,” Ju­lie said. “It’s amazing to watch.”


While the Frees plan to keep GP and say he can spend as much time as he wants outside with Piper, he won’t be coming in the house to hang out on the couch with her anytime soon. “He stays with the other goats. There are limits,” Julie said.


Natural Instinct

Piper’s relationship with GP is not the first time the Frees have observed her mothering abilities. “The first time we fostered puppies, she got us up in the middle of the night to go check on them,” Julie said. “We would think she would have to go out, but instead she would go to the crate where the puppies were and just stare at them and make sure they were OK and then go back to bed.”


Surprisingly, Piper has never had her own litter of puppies. But that hasn’t prevented her ability to nurture at all. “It doesn’t matter what it is; if it is a small animal, she loves it,” Julie said.


Erin Reed, DVM at 15th Street Veteri­nary Group, says Piper’s behavior is based in instinct. “The goat will have imprinted on (bonded to) the dog, but only instinct really explains the connection from the dog to the goat,” Reed said. “It is amazing how animals bond.”


And as astonishing as it is to see a Pit Bull mother a goat, or any of the other unusual mother-baby pairings that pop up in the media occasionally, the behavior isn’t completely uncommon. “It really just amazes me as much as everyone else, and I can’t explain it,” Reed said. “It is amazing how in sync they become with each other. We do hear a lot of those stories, but by the same token, I think it’s an amazing thing.”


Lauren Johnson, DVM with Hammond Animal Hospital, agrees that it’s not easy to ex­plain. “As far as those animals with a mothering instinct that have never had offspring, it’s hard to know what brings that out in any species,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen male dogs and cats with maternal instinct. I think most living things have an innate instinct to take care of babies, but some take it further than others.”


In fact, the natural instinct to mother is the reason orphaned puppies and kit­tens are often paired with nursing dogs and cats. “We do a ton of adoption work, and often find orphaned litters in need of nursing moms,” Johnson said. “If we can­not locate any, we find ourselves volun­teering to bottle feed.”


Not What You Would Expect

Ironically, Julie says if she had realized Piper was part Pit Bull, she and her hus­band probably would not have adopted her. “We found Piper online and went to the shelter to meet her. This skin and bones dog just curled up on my lap,” Julie said. “We took her to the vet for a checkup, and the vet said, ‘We think she’s a pit,’ and I went ‘Oh, my gosh!’ because I didn’t know any more than what you hear in the media.”


Julie and Nathan decided to give Piper a chance and started taking her to dog parks and dog classes to socialize and train her. “This has been so totally oppo­site of what you hear in the media about Pits or Pit mixes,” Julie said. “She’s the best behaved dog we have.”


Piper even inspired Julie to start a Facebook page called Piper’s Pit Bull Place that she uses to provide resources and information about the controversial and often misunderstood breed. Train­ing tips are posted monthly and Pit Bulls available for adoption are promoted on the site.

The page is a joint effort with Chou­teau Pound Pals, the shelter from which Piper was adopted. Piper and GP also re­cently helped raise money for the shelter in June by performing an agility demon­stration together at their fundraiser, Pups in the Park.

Regardless of what others may think, GP doesn’t seem to mind that Piper is part Pit Bull. “He darn sure thinks he’s hers,” Julie said. “I’m not convinced he thinks he’s a goat.”

Big PAWprints to Fill

posted July 21st, 2012 by
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Toby blue square2

In October 2010 the world learned about Toby, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever who was rescued by Charmaine Hammond and her husband from an animal shelter and later found his purpose as a Pet Therapy Dog. At first, Toby was not what you would categorize as a dog lovers dream; he destroyed everything in his path, had quirky habits that included demolishing toilet tank lids and closets and did everything in his power to get himself sent back to his rescue organization

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Something magical happened when Charmaine realized that Toby (even though he was a dog) needed purpose and focus in his life and redirected his boundless energy into becoming a therapy dog and leaving pawprints on people’s hearts around the globe.

“Bringing kindness to the forefront is a priority for us”, said Hammond. Approximately 160,000 children miss school everyday due to the fear of bullying by other students according to the National Education Association and workplace violence continues to threaten the safety of employees around the world. Cyber bullying is on the rise, more weapons are being found in schools, and an increase in suicides resulting from bullying.
This issue requires attention and intervention.

Sadly, in late 2011 Toby passed away peacefully of natural causes, he was 10 ½ years old, but has left big pawprints to fill. Kindness was a big part of Toby’s mission. In addition to volunteering, Toby also presented to close to 10,000 students and children across North America, raised thousands of dollars for charities and enlisted more than 7,000 on his first kindness mission. Toby’s volunteer work was chronicled in the Chicken Soup for the Soul- what I learned from the dog in 2009. On Toby’s Terms (Bettie Youngs Books, Sept. 2010) was published and is scheduled to become a major motion picture in 2012. Toby’s new children’s series, Toby the Pet Therapy dog (Bettie Youngs Books), was released in 2011. The first book in the series is titled Toby the Pet Therapy dog & His Hospital Friends, and the second in the series Toby Says Be a Buddy, Not a Bully is scheduled for a 2012 release

In honor of Toby, Charmaine and her husband Christopher launched A Million Acts of Kindness – Toby’s Global Mission on February 14, 2012. This mission will be ongoing. The goal is to bring kindness to the forefront in our family, community, workplace, and ultimately, the world. We know from Toby that every act of kindness that is extended leaves a PAWsitive impact and inspires another. The mission will offer activities for classrooms to PAW it Forward, writing and literacy contests pertaining to kindness, Random Act of Kindness events and more!