Rescue dog teaches environmental awareness

Working to raise environmental awareness in K-5 students, the TurfMutt company has developed teaching materials in which the leading character, rescue dog Lucky, “paws it forward” by fighting environmental villains with the help of his friends, “The Outdoor Powers.”  

The company is also hosting an essay contest, “Be a Backyard Superhero,” giving students a chance to apply what they’re learning from Lucky and friends to real life, plus an chance to win a $5,000 grant for a “green space makeover” at their school. Learn more at for rules and entry information.

Thinking of starting a rescue?

Insights from the top 

It’s 5 am and I sit, numb. I just learned the pup I’ve been working feverishly to make well has died from a complication. This epitomizes what it means to do rescue. This baby didn’t ask to be born or to get sick. In her corner till the very end: that to me is the definition of rescue.  

I started OFOSA (Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals) 15 years ago when I was much younger and had way more energy. I was going to save the world! Friends joined me in the mission. Webster’s defines “To rescue” as: To save someone or something from danger or harm. We set out to do that. At that time shelters in Oregon were in the dark ages: they killed without reserve, and “the shelter” was no shelter. Since then rescue has evolved. Today Oregon’s shelters are progressive and clean, so we focus on where we are needed the most — currently that is California.   

So you want to start a rescue 

You have been inundated with social media pleas, crowdfunding pages, and the like. How do you jump in and not drown? It’s a tricky question. There is of course much paperwork (for which there is a lot of help), but let’s look at the emotional and physical work, and the energy it takes to start, sustain, and love rescue.  

The best way to get started is to volunteer with an existing rescue that shares your philosophies. Rescues are all different; while swimming in the same river, opinions vary drastically on how to drive the boat. Establishing your own rescue philosophy early on is paramount to success. You must set boundaries. For example, behavior cases are not OFOSA’s strength, so we don’t take them. You can’t be good at everything, and spending time and energy on areas you’re not great at often does two things: 1) it bogs down a situation that could be handled better by those who are good at it, and 2) it keeps you from serving the greatest good by applying your strengths in areas where you can get things done quickly, efficiently, and with greater success.  

Take a hard, honest look at your strengths and weaknesses, then recruit folks to fill the areas in which you are weak. I was always medically-focused and horrible at finance. So to ensure emotional and practical balance for OFOSA, our first board consisted of a medical person, finance person, a pragmatic person, and a skeptic. The pragmatic and the skeptic help avoid decisions that can sink you.  

Here’s an example. OFOSA once rescued 20 puppies from a California shelter. One by one they fell ill – at one point there were 12 on IV fluids. The expense was almost $8000, and only five survived. While my heart said ‘well, we saved some,’ the pragmatic person pointed out that if we spent that much every time we took pups from this shelter we would be done.  

In the beginning you are motivated and plow ahead undaunted. Rescue becomes your passion and mission. One of the most important things at this stage is protecting the things that nurture YOU – hobbies, exercise, time with friends and family. These can easily fall away as you work tirelessly to help sick animals, fundraise, plan events, and handle transports. As with anything in life, your best work happens when you’re taking good care of you.  

The second thing is to remember the mantra: “You can’t save them all.” Of course you want to, but allowing that desire to drive you is where burnout starts. I get all the emails, FB pokes, and such about cruelty, neglect and worse. But you MUST KEEP PERSPECTIVE. You can make a difference in your area of the world; the rest will fall into place.  

Here is where your heart and head collide. Mastering this concept is critical if you are to sustain your rescue and succeed.  

Finally, when that animal who earned you 20 new grey hairs finds his or her family, go to their forever home, or when the parvo puppy finally eats for the first time, I can tell you: there is no feeling in the world. It sustains your soul, your passion, and your love for the furry babies you love and save.

Cathy Nechak is founder and president of OFOSA, and a professional nurse. She lives in Aloha with her husband and their three dogs.

Is That Dog Going to Bite?

National Dog Bite Prevention Week happened recently, and it’s a subject worth keeping front and center. Deborah Wood and Jen Keene shared the following award-winning article for Spot readers, covering the subject thoroughly, and showing how we can all help reduce dog bites in our community. —The editor 

At the Bonnie Hays Small Animal Shelter, we have the responsibility of investigating  every dog bite in Washington County — about 350 dog bites a year. All of these bites involve a dog that has broken the skin — from fairly small bites to serious attacks. The overwhelming reaction  from the dog owners is almost complete surprise that their dog bit a human. Consider some facts and tips:

Many dog bites happen because dogs are frightened, stressed or anxious, and find themselves in situations where they don’t feel like they have another option. It is important to remember that any animal with teeth can — and will — bite under some circumstances. It is much better to prevent a bite rather than deal with the aftermath. Contrary to the surprise and disbelief that many people express, most bites did have warning signs and could have been prevented.

Often, people minimize a pet’s past behavior and don’t realize that it can be a predictor of later, more serious problems. For example, a snap or a bite without damage should definitely be a wakeup call to pay attention to what dogs are telling us.

Knowledgeable animal lovers can be a powerful force in preventing bites — which also means preventing dogs from feeling so terrible that they feel they have to bite in the first place. Don’t be afraid to speak up and take action if you see a problem. There are two important things to watch for to prevent dog bites: body language signals and “stacking triggers.”

Body Language

Dogs use body language to communicate — both consciously, like lowering themselves submissively to signal that they are not a threat, and unconsciously, like showing the whites of their eyes because they are recoiling from something scary but are afraid to take their eyes off of it. By learning to recognize a few common signs that a dog may feel the pressure is on, savvy people can stop bites before they happen.

Cowering — Hunched or lowered body posture.

Brows Furrowed — Just like people, dogs wrinkle their brow when concerned.

Panting – Stress panting happens even when a dog is not hot. It is usually fast and accompanied by thin drops of drool.

Yawning — Dogs will yawn when stressed, even when they’re not sleepy.

Licking lips/nose — A dog flicking his tongue to lick his own snout, especially if there no food around, is likely showing stress, not hunger.

Change in movement — Walking in slow motion, pacing, moving away. It may seem obvious, but if a dog is moving away from a person or situation, it may be because it is stressing him out. Pacing and walking very slowly can also be signs that a dog is not 100% okay.

Stacking Triggers

Be aware that multiple triggers — things a dog finds stressful — can “stack” to make a bite much more likely. Here are some common situations in which dogs may be more stressed than normal:

• Crowded public events

• During fireworks or thunderstorms

• When children are present

• Being away from his owner

• When sick or injured

• When someone is near the dog’s bed, food bowl, bone or toy

• People trying to hug or kiss him


Once you know what to look for, take preventive steps and be prepared to take action when needed. If your dog is stressed when strangers are at your house, try putting her in another room before people arrive. Your dog will likely be much more comfortable, and you have removed the risk of a bite. Before petting – or letting your children pet – someone else’s dog, ask permission. Remember, the owner may not actually be a good judge of the dog’s comfort level. Observe the dog’s body language and surroundings and make an educated decision about whether or not the dog actually wants to be petted by a stranger.

These simple steps will help keep people and pets safer in our community. Share it with friends, families and neighbors and help reduce dog bites in our community!

Jen Keene CPDT-KA is the Animal Behavior and Outreach Coordinator for the Bonnie Hays Shelter, and Deborah Wood is the Manager of Animal Services. A version of this article earned a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America for the best article in a canine newsletter. 





DoveLewis employee wins Vet Tech of the year

Megan Brashear, CVT, VTS (ECC), a 14-year employee with DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital, was named the 2014 Veterinarian Technician of the Year by PetPlan Pet Insurance.  One of 250 technicians nominated. Brashear impressed the judges with her passion for teaching, particularly as the face of DoveLewis’s groundbreaking On The Floor @Dove web-based series devoted to teaching animal care practitioners.  “I’m honored to receive this award,” Brashear says.  “I do so on behalf of veterinary technicians everywhere who are vital to veterinary medicine yet often go unrecognized for their work.”

From grief to great adventure

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Everyone handles loss their own way.  Lisa Cohn and her 5-year-old son, Michael, coped with losing their 6-year-old Golden, Lucy, by getting busy.  They started “Michael’s Dog Blog,” creating fun kid-and-dog how-to videos, authored a just-released children’s book, and more.

"What began as an attempt to overcome our grief has morphed into a mission to instill in kids a love of dogs and dog books," says Lisa Cohn. 

Their children's book, "Bash and Lucy Fetch Confidence," illustrated by Portland artist Heather Nichols, is about a wise but mischievous Golden Retriever who teaches a boys’ team about sportsmanship, and instills confidence in the players. 

Michael’s Dog Blog provides kids with fun dog facts, kids’ dog book reviews, and advice about raising dogs from a kid’s point of view.  Cohn says her son comes up with most of the ideas, including vlogs on subjects like “How to Identify a Dog Having a Bad Day,” and “What to Do when Your Dog Barks While You're Taking a Bath.”  Based in Portland, OR, some videos and vlogs feature local animal experts.  Michael’s reputation as a reviewer of dog books “has gotten attention,” says his mom, an award-winning author herself.  “Authors have been sending him books to review, and he has a big stack to go through!” 

Lisa and Michael plan to visit schools to talk to young kids about how and why they wrote their book and how much they've learned doing their blog.  See Michael’s Dog Blog at  Contact Lisa Cohn at Check out Michael’s videos at or  

Lewis and Clark offers world’s first advanced animal law degree


Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland has long been at the forefront of animal law with its internationally renowned Center for Animal Law Studies and Animal Law Clinic, which help organizations and attorneys working in animal protection, legislation, and policy.  Now the college is the first to offer animal law students the ability to obtain an L.L.M. degree.  “The new L.L.M. degree marks another historic milestone in the evolution of animal law,” says Pamela Frasch, assistant dean of the Animal Law Program.  “With the new L.L.M., our graduates will be poised to become leading legal educators and advocates in the field.”  Learn more at

The newest resident on Sesame Street — a service dog


A new Muppet character named Brandeis will teach children about service animals on a new episode of Sesame Street airing Nov. 12 and 30 on PBS nationwide.  The episode summary explains that Brandeis, a yellow Lab, is trying to find a job when he meets series regular Gina and her service dog in-training, Hercules.  Brandeis decides he too wants to be a service dog, and after weeks of training is paired with Liliana, who is in a wheelchair.  Sesame Street consulted with the Canine Companions organization to create the special episode as an awareness campaign for service dogs. 

Seattle Humane and WSU team up to save lives

Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine  has joined forces with the Seattle Humane Society  to provide medical care and spay/neuter surgeries as part of the students’ clinical training beginning May 2013.  Students will be able to participate in routine exams, provide vaccinations, and work with Seattle Humane’s foster family network, gaining building skills with both people and pets.  “This partnership will benefit the community in so many ways,” says Seattle Humane’s CEO David Loewe.  “With the veterinary students on board, we will have the capacity to spay and neuter more shelter pets and offer additional medical services to other shelters in need.”