General Interest

Cover story video: Piper and GP

posted July 20th, 2012 by
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When I received my assignment for the latest issue of Tulsa Pets Magazine, I was thrilled!

My task was to interview Julie, a woman whose dog was mothering a baby goat. When I arrived at the interview I was absolutely tickled that she had not only brought along Piper, her pit bull, but also GP, the baby goat!

Though it won’t be quite the same experience I had in person, be sure to watch these videos of Piper with the goats. And don’t forget to read the story in the latest issue of Tulsa Pets.

-Lauren Cavagnolo

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Tanner and Blair

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Anna Holton-Dead

Photography by Karen Miller

The heartwarming story of Tanner and Blair is unique to say the least, making local and national news—a seeing eye dog for another canine.

At Woodland West Animal Hospi­tal in Tulsa, the pair’s temporary resi­dence, Blair happened into the yard with blind Tanner and instinctively be­gan to lead him around by holding his leash in her mouth. Tanner, who used to seize nightly, has had a total of three seizures since February when he and Blair connected. Mike Jones, DVM at Woodland West, says he’s never seen anything like it, but at the core of it is something we already know to be true. “It shows that companionship can lead to reduced stress and a bet­ter life,” he says. Less stress and a bet­ter life are something both dogs could certainly use.


   Although she is the service dog as­sisting Tanner, Blair’s rough past has left problems and scars all her own. A Labrador mix believed to be about 2 years old, she was found along with her sister by a Good Samaritan. She had a gunshot wound to her left pelvis, but thankfully, no permanent physi­cal injuries. Emotionally, it’s a different story. “While her sister was easily ad­opted, Blair was extremely shy, scared and wouldn’t come up to people,” Dr. Jones says. She’s been residing at Woodland West Animal Hospital since January of this year.


   Then there’s Tanner, blind with a seizing disorder. In January 2010, he came in to Sooner Golden Retriever Rescue with four siblings at 7 weeks old. He was adopted soon thereafter, but his owner died in November of the same year. He again found himself back at SGRR. Fostered out twice, nei­ther home was able to offer the time he required or the ability to care for his special needs, which were more than a handful at his size during a seizing fit. Neither foster home was able to care for him longer than a month at best.


After a brief stint at Woodland West Animal Hospital, Pam Denny of SGRR fostered him in her own kennel build­ing. “Someone has to be home a fair amount of the time,” Denny says. “While he was with me, I let him out every four hours to take care of busi­ness; he would get anxious, and his sei­zures could occur, causing him to use the bathroom.”

But even with Denny, it was not an ideal long-term situation. Again, Tan­ner found his way back to Woodland West Animal Hospital where he was ambling about the yard the fateful day that Blair trotted up and took his leash. Dr. Jones says he truly believes Blair in­stinctively knew Tanner was blind, and he’s not surprised by their bond or the benefit it has had on both canines.

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“It’s safe to say that we recognize the human-animal bond helps de­crease blood pressure, etc.,” he says. “But I think this shows we should also recognize the animal-animal bond, and the good it can do as well.” Tanner’s re­duction in seizures is the proof of that, and Blair has become friendlier with people.


Since their story made national news, Sooner Golden Retriever Res­cue has received over 100 applications from people all over the country in­terested in taking on the pair. Denny says SGRR is taking its time to respond to each applicant in order to find the most perfect fit to meet Tanner and Blair’s needs. There is much more to consider in choosing the right home than willingness and love.


“We have responded to everyone by email or phone call and are in the process of talking to these various potential adopters,” Denny says. “We are talking to them to let them know what’s going to be involved in the adoption of these two. Do they have experience with blind dogs, seizure dogs? Tanner’s anxiety issues are no­where near what they were. He’s a lot more settled and calm with Blair, but moving them to a new environment will create a toll on him.”


She says some questions that must be considered in finding the right home are: Does the person have a fenced yard, not too large a yard? Are there any obstructions or swimming pools that could be a hazard for a blind dog? Tanner has to be kept in the house with limited access and a safe area.


Another factor is Tanner doesn’t travel well, Denny says. He cannot be crated, or he will get too anxious, which may cause him to seize.


The good news is with so many ap­plicants SGRR has narrowed it down to “a handful of very strong prospects— people who are experienced and un­derstand what will be involved with these two,” Denny says. “We don’t know how Blair will be. She’s becom­ing a better dog, a lot more outgoing and friendly. We are still getting ap­plications actually and a list of people yet to call to get background info on and to explain to them what will be involved. The applicants range from California to New York to Florida, and all over the place.”


Dr. Jones agrees the perfect home will have to meet very specific require­ments. He says the owners must have an intense understanding of seizure disorder and be willing to take on a huge commitment both financially and emotionally, but he’s confident that Tanner and Blair are in good hands for finding the right fit. “There is no doubt [the right person/family is out there], and I applaud Sooner Golden Retriev­er Rescue for taking the time needed to find the right forever home.”

Serving Those Who Have Served

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Stacy Pettit

Photography by Bob Foshay

   For some veterans, the battles continue every day even after the guns have qui­eted, and they have returned to what was once a peaceful home. In Afghani­stan and Iraq, each gun shot that stole away fellow soldiers and friends, and each IED blast that ripped away any chance of normality, left these veterans not only with obvious, external scars, but also with deep, hidden wounds. For these servicemen and women, the ghost of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continues to haunt their everyday lives, leaving some trapped in a dark world of war.


But one organi­zation is training its own team to battle PTSD’s effects on veterans by lead­ing them away from the unending battle with a little help from some four-legged friends. This past January, Thera­petics Service Dogs of Oklahoma began a pilot program to train a group of puppies to become service dogs for returning veterans suffering with the mental illness.


“Our goal in this program is the same as the goal in our main program,” says Susan Hartman, executive director for Therapetics. “We want our veterans that we serve through this program to be able to get their lives back, to do the things they want to do in life that they’re not able to do currently. If they just want to get out of the house and go grocery shopping, if they can achieve those goals with one of our ser­vice dogs, then we have met our goal.”


For the first time in its 20 years of serving individuals with physical disabili­ties, Therapetics is adding a program to include veterans without physical dis­abilities.


“For some time, veterans with physi­cal disabilities received priority status in our application process,” Hartman says. “The idea of serving our returning veter­ans has always been really important to Therapetics. PTSD was a medical condi­tion we were going to be faced with. We needed to learn about it.”


In fact, experts believe PTSD has im­pacted 11 to 20 percent of returning veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs website. PTSD is also associated with elevated rates of suicide and substance abuse among veterans.


After discussing the possibility of the pilot program with community mem­bers, Hartman says she discovered the overwhelming need for such a program for veterans in Oklahoma. The new pro­gram was not expected to begin for a few more months. However, when Thera­petics volunteers donated three German Shepherd puppies to be trained specifi­cally for veterans with PTSD, Hartman says she knew the time to begin serving veterans with hidden, but sometimes crippling, disabilities was now.


“You could be talking about working with a veteran who hasn’t even left his house in six months, or who hasn’t gone into a restaurant in a very long time,” she says.


That life of fear and isolation was ex­actly the world Shawn Wright had lived in for more than a decade before turning to Therapetics. After serving as a com­bat medic in Bosnia in the 1990s, Wright was not able to break free from the feel­ing that he needed to be aware of the potential threats around him. And any­thing could trigger a flashback says his wife, Julie. At one time, while ordering take-out from a restaurant, an employee dropped a plate in the kitchen. “He actu­ally hit the ground,” Julie says.


Wright continually avoided crowd­ed public places and could not keep a steady job, eventu­ally leading him to alcohol to deal with his dark world. Af­ter years of battling his life of fear, he was diagnosed with PTSD along with a traumatic brain injury. But having a name for his de­mons did not make life easier.


“Finding where you fit into society is kind of rough,” he says. Last sum­mer, after research­ing ways to deal with PTSD, Shawn and Julie contacted Therapetics to ask if they would be in­terested in training a service dog for Shawn. A few months later, Shawn was partnered with his service dog Jake.


Shawn says Jake has made an over­whelming difference in his life, allowing him to go out in public and live a life again. With ease, Jake will stand be­tween Shawn and another person dur­ing conversations, a situation that at one time brought Shawn anxiety when someone seemed to be too close. When Shawn has nightmares, Jake will turn on the bedroom light. And in times when Shawn is overwhelmed and in a panic, Jake will immediately bring comfort by standing against Shawn.

“Having Jake there reassures me that it’s OK to be in a crowd, and that no one will come behind me and attack me,” Shawn says. “He gives me a sense of security.” The success of Shawn and his dog last year were the roots for the new pilot program. Now, to ensure vet­erans like Shawn can get back to living a life free of fear, the donated German Shepherds for the new program are un­dergoing basic and advanced obedience classes. They are also working on learn­ing how to do certain tasks for the vet­eran, which Hartman says is imperative, even if the client does not have a physi­cal impairment.

“The service dogs that will be part­nered with a veteran with PTSD will do a lot more than simply provide emotional comfort through their existence,” she says. “It goes far beyond that. The dog can go into a dark room and turn on a light. In some programs, dogs are trained to wake up a person when they’re having a nightmare.”


Like Jake does for Shawn, service dogs can also learn how to help ease a panic attack by leaning on the person, placing a paw on him or her, or resting its head on the individual’s lap, which provides a physical feeling to ground the veteran.


Before moving to Oklahoma to be a service dog instructor for Therapetics, Donna Willis instructed service dogs in California, training many of them spe­cifically for PTSD service. Even though training a dog to be a service dog takes months of hard work, funding and dedi­cation, Willis says it is more than worth it once the dog is matched with the client.


For the past four months, she has been working with three volunteer pup­py raisers and trainers. These volunteers give their time to not only take care of the dog as their own pet, but also train it at home, in the Therapetics classroom, and out in the community.


Although the German Shepherds are quickly learning commands, the most difficult piece of training these dogs for the PTSD program will be socializing them in public, Willis says.


“Socialization is such a key part, be­cause these dogs have to be pretty much bulletproof and 100 percent ap­propriate in public,” she says. “If you sat and thought about every place you as an individual might go, that’s what these dogs have to be exposed to.”


And because the clients for this pilot program might struggle with being in public due to their PTSD, Hartman says they plan to be patient when the time comes that the veteran begins work­ing and training with the dog out in the community.


“When you walk into Wal-Mart with a service dog, your anonymity goes out the window,” she says. “Going out into the community with a service dog will be different for a veteran with PTSD be­cause oftentimes they don’t want to be noticed. They don’t want to have to deal with the public.”


Hartman says the organization will be­gin taking applications for the dogs in a few months, and she expects to have the three dogs fully trained and placed in 18 months. Through donations, fundraising and grants, Therapetics will place these trained service dogs with individuals at no cost.


Volunteer puppy raiser and trainer Jennifer Bagley has been helping train one of these dogs, Trigger, for the past few months.


Although Bagley says Trigger has much more to learn before he can be placed with a client, she says she is proud to be part of such a needed pro­gram for veterans who have already giv­en so much.


“I have never served my country, so this is my way to actually do that,” she says.

Pearly Whites for Pets

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Kiley Roberson

If you thought trying to get your kids to brush their teeth was hard work, try handing the floss to Fido.


Of all the members of your fam­ily, it isn’t hard to guess who has the worst dental hygiene: your pets. They don’t brush or floss their teeth, and this can go on for years. If you want to show your kids what will happen to their teeth if they don’t brush regularly, just look at your pet’s teeth—or worse, smell his bad breath.


According to, 80 percent of dogs over age 3 have some kind of gum disease, and for those adopted from shel­ters, the percentage is almost 100. That number doesn’t even include cats. That’s why Tulsa’s Partnering for Pets had to get involved. The organization donated a den­tal machine to the Tulsa and Owasso ani­mal shelters to make sure the animals at both locations have healthy smiles.


“We have seen pets at the shelters with poor teeth and bad breath, which poten­tially makes them less adoptable,” ex­plained Sherri Griggs with Partnering for Pets. “A prospective pet parent might be hesitant to adopt an animal with tooth de­cay or heavy tartar. If you have ever had tooth pain, you can empathize with an animal that isn’t feeling well and may even be nippy or grumpy.”


Griggs is a volunteer for Tulsa’s Part­nering for Pets. In fact, everyone at the organization is a volunteer. Partnering for Pets is a non-profit organization founded in 2008 and funded entirely by donations and grants from charitable foundations.


Partnering for Pets works mostly with local animal shelters and communities; they also hold adoption events for home­less pets and teach humane education.


“Humane education is targeted to pro­mote responsible pet ownership: reduc­ing the overpopulation of unwanted pets, offering reduced-rate spay/neuter and vaccination service, providing food and shelter for your pet, dog training, groom­ing, and, yes, brushing your pet’s teeth,” said Griggs. “Dental health can make a significant difference in a pet’s well-be­ing, and without such care, gum disease and infection can lead to life-threatening illnesses.”


Periodontal disease is disease around the outside of the tooth. Our (human) dentist reminds us that if we do not reg­ularly brush away plaque on our teeth, it will become tartar. When tartar builds up, it begins to affect the gums. As the dis­ease advances, it damages the ligaments, and eventually the actual bone around the tooth can begin to deteriorate. Bacteria in the mouth can travel through the blood­stream leading to infection in the heart, liver, kidneys or other organs.


All of this is true for your pets, too. But, thanks to Partnering for Pets, the shelter animals in Tulsa and Owasso have some­thing to smile about. The new donated machines polish and clean, scrubbing away dangerous tartar and revealing clean, healthy teeth.


“Dental equipment, or specifically, a simple scaler or polisher helps shelter pets have a little better chance to be adopted,” Griggs explained. “In addition to removing the tartar and polishing the teeth, the electric scaler polisher saves time. Not only will these animals feel so much better without a toothache, but it will help them put their best paw and smiles forward.”


Cathy Pienkos, DVM, with Tulsa Animal Welfare was extremely happy about the donated dental machine. She says the shelter’s first patient was a 4-year-old Sia­mese mix named Jo. Jo came to the shel­ter as a neutered and declawed stray cat with some fairly bad teeth. With the help of the new dental machine, Dr. Pienkos was able to clean Jo’s teeth and during the process found two teeth that required extractions. He recovered well and was moved to adoptions the very next day, where he soon found his forever home.


“This dental machine will greatly im­prove the health of our adopted animals. It will also help us save lives, as we will be able to adopt out more middle aged and older animals,” Dr. Pienkos explained in a thank you letter to Partnering for Pets.


Jo’s story is just the beginning. Now lots of homeless pets in Tulsa and Owasso will get the much needed dental care they de­serve, living longer and healthier lives.

Fabio – Spay First Spokesman

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

OF COURSE, Fabio Lanzoni is known for his long, flowing hair, impeccable phy­sique and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter commercials—he’s also been known to grace the cover of a romance novel or two—but what many may not know is he is a long-time animal lover, advocate and owner of many rescued dogs. We recently had the chance to catch up with him dur­ing his trip to Oklahoma City in support of Spay FIRST! and his new MVP K9 Pro­tein supplements. Knowledgeable and passionate about the pet overpopulation problem, Fabio talks about his own pets and explains to us why the Spay FIRST! program is so important to animals and our country.

Q So what do you think of Oklahoma so far?

A Love it… very pretty town. I know it’s a city, but when you live in New York and Los Angeles, it’s more like a town. The people are so nice. The middle of the U.S. really has the nicest people. [All over the country] there are great people. That’s why I live here.

Q What kind of pets did you have growing up in Italy?

A I’ve had animals since I was 3 years old. My parents always let me keep a few dogs. Me, my sister and my brother, we always had our own dogs. For many years we had German Shepherds, a couple of Dobermans, my brother had a couple of hunting dogs; we had some Great Danes, but eventually I stopped owning Great Danes because their life spans are too short, and you are having to say goodbye. You know, the average age is 6 to 8 years. So I started rescuing Rottweilers, and I cur­rently have six of them. My family has hunt­ing dogs and a Lab.

Q Where do you live now, and how did you get involved with spaying/ neutering efforts there?

A I live in Los Angeles… I live here the majority of the time so that’s where I have the majority of contribution. My best friend is one of the top professors at UC Davis for the vet school, teaching surgery there. That’s why I always get involved with different associations and now with Spay FIRST! I always knew the importance because she told me when you spay and neuter a dog, you improve their life and help prevent cancer; you give them a lon­ger life span, you know. It’s scientifically proven.

First, for health reasons, you have a healthier pet. Second of all, everybody is so concerned about cutting costs. When you think about it, it’s the easiest cost to cut… $2 billion a year to euthanize about 4 million dogs and cats. This is the most advanced country in the world, and this shouldn’t happen here; it’s a shame. It would be way better for everyone to spay or neuter their dog; I think that $2 billion a year should be back in the pockets of taxpayers.

Q How did you get involved with Spay FIRST?

A I used to work a lot for the American Cancer Society with Tina Mosetis. She contacted me with Ruth Steinberger (founder of Spay FIRST!), and said, ‘You’ve had dogs all your life; what about being the spokesperson, making people aware of the situation?’ The majority of dogs I’ve had we’ve always rescued from shelters. Four of my current dogs are shelter dogs, so I know the problem—there’s overpopu­lation. People get a pet then take it to the shelter because they get tired of taking care of it.

Q What would you say to people who do not realize the importance of spaying/neutering pets?

A There’s nothing more awful than an animal lover seeing a dog suffer in the shelter. They can smell the death all around; they can smell all the other dogs that have been euthanized. Even the most macho dogs walk into the shelter, and they start shaking; they know how they are go­ing to end up. It always takes my heart.

In L.A., and other places, I always got involved to help and place some of the dogs, tried to get some of my friends to adopt some of these dogs. I’ve placed at least 50 dogs by convincing friends, ‘Come on, I’ll help you to get a dog.’ You know, it’s amazing they know you saved their life. They really do. When you invest in a dog you didn’t rescue, there’s a dif­ference. The rescue dogs know you saved their life.

Most of these dogs in shelters, they come from mistreatment or abuse, so they really have a tough life. You can tell if you take a before and after picture of a dog who you rescue, you will see in the dog two different faces, two different personalities. I know every time you leave the first year, they are really afraid you are going to leave them [permanently]. Other [non-rescue] dogs wag their tails when you leave and when you come back; they know no difference.

If you want your dog to be healthy and to prolong the life of your dog, it should be spayed or neutered. It also resolves any ag­gression problem. It’s very rare that a dog spayed will bite a person. It’s important to keep the population under control, and if you want to cut costs in government, it’s a good place to start—not kill 4 million ani­mals every year. It’s a no brainer and keeps more money in taxpayers’ pockets.

Q What’s the most important thing you want people to remember about the homeless pet population?

A I want people to realize when they buy a dog, it’s a responsibility, and they should be man or woman enough to care for it. That dog is going to be in their life for 12 or 14 years. Just because it chews on furniture or shoes all of a sudden, you don’t dump it. It’s like a kid; you have to care for it. It’s not something you buy then dispose of like a Kleenex.

Animal Control from a New Angle

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Bob Foshay 

I have been photographing animals at the Tulsa Animal Shelter for TulsaPets Magazine for about two years with the specific goal of helping to increase adoptions. As time went on, I wondered about these animals that came to the shelter. I wanted to see the other side of the stray animal issue, so I asked and was allowed to spend the day on patrol with an Animal Control Officer.


After all, I had only seen a small part of the job the shelter and its officers are faced with every day, and it certainly is not the old dog pound and dog catcher. These people are dedicated and committed to ensuring that the animals are cared for in a humanitarian manner with the resources, the law, politics and public opinion all being what it is.


Our day started at 9 a.m. The first call came in from dispatch to Officer Susan Stoker to pick up a stray cat at a woman’s house. It had wandered into her back yard and appeared to be ill. When we arrived, the homeowner directed us to her back yard where we found the cat lying lethargically on the patio. Officer Stoker carried the cat back to the truck, and we headed back to the shelter. With a little food and care, the cat appeared to be fine. It was checked for identification; if none is found (i.e. tags, ID, implant, etc.), it is placed in holding for three days to see if the owner comes to claim it. If no owner shows up, it goes to adoption.


The next call, which came almost immediately after we arrived back at the shelter, involved a dog hit by a car, and the dog was still trapped under the car. Back to the truck we headed for the emergency call. When we arrived on the scene, we found the woman who had hit the dog stopped and could not see the dog. She moved her car into a nearby Walgreens’ parking lot where a passerby told her the dog was trapped under her car. The woman jumped out of the car, finding the dog was trapped in the undercarriage of the vehicle.


   Stoker crawled under the car and found the dog was actually impaled on a long bolt. With expert confidence, she removed the dog from the bolt, brought her safely out to the patrol truck, and we hurried back to the shelter. Upon arriving at the shelter, the dog was immediately taken into the care of a vet and treated for a large puncture wound on her left side and abrasions on her legs. We stayed with the dog for about 15 minutes while she was being treated. The dog was very gentle and amazingly calm considering the trauma she had just endured.


Today, that dog has been fostered and fully recovered, thanks to the immediate care of Officer Stoker and the shelter staff. More than likely the dog had strayed from home; she had a flea collar on but did not have identification; due to that fact, the owner may never be located.


The rest of the day was more mundane; four calls dealt with complaints ranging from barking dogs to a neighbor keeping chickens in the back yard. These types of calls involved leaving door hangers describing the complaint since the people were not home.

   Wrapping up the day was a call to a dog biting, or, I should say, a dog nipping. A landlord was at the door of his rented property when the tenants were not home, and a stray dog the tenant’s children had befriended nipped the landlord on his leg and ran off. When we arrived two other Animal Control patrol trucks were already on the scene chasing and tracking the dog. The dog ultimately escaped, and we returned to the shelter for the day.


I learned from the day’s events that homeless pet issues come from more than spaying and neutering—although this is still a big factor. The problems are very complex and multi-faceted:

  • Overpopulation and feral animals
  • Due to age or financial reasons, some people can no longer care for their pets
  • Abused animals (fighting dogs, abandoned pets, chaining animals in bad conditions, beating, not feeding and many other conditions)
  • Nuisance issues (owners letting pets run loose, barking, etc.)
  • Unidentified pets that have strayed from home because of the failure of fencing, door latching or the owner just dumps an unwanted pet)


Of course, I don’t have the answers to these issues, but I can say spaying and neutering is important, along with staying current on vaccinations, proper tagging, and educating about the responsibilities of pet ownership and pet training. These issues need more research, study, and ultimately, solutions—because no matter how good the shelters are, they are not the best place for pets. Good forever homes are still the best place