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Dog obsessed journalist and photographer

A Shaggy Savior

I woke up expecting a Sunday like any other in May. Late that Sunday afternoon though, it became a day I will never forget.

Last February, I became very sick. An eating disorder had taken me too far off the beaten path. I had to decide: I could continue to merely survive, or I could take time away from all reality, fight my demons, then thrive.

I decided it was time to fight. I dropped out of school and with a sense of hope in my heart, went into treatment at the nation’s leading facility in Denver, Eating Recovery Center. While there, seizures began to plague my every day life. I was confused and scared.

In late April after a painful weight restoration process and a quick, unexplained discharge, I left ERC feeling abandoned and more hopeless than ever before. The seizures continued to occur and my depression took over.

I spent day after day lying in bed, praying my life would end.

The second Sunday in May was when the phone call came; there was a service dog who needed a new partner. The original partner had neglected the shaggy, blonde Labradoodle, and from my profile we appeared to be the perfect pair for each other.

I would have to come out to meet Maggie to make sure, but if we were compatible with each other, the working, seizure-alert dog was mine. All it took was a matter of seconds.

From across the yard, I swear she could hear the brokenness in my voice and amidst her own brokenness, she turned, looked at me and came running full-speed into my arms.

Not only were she and I immediately a match for each other, we were best friends. I took her home and put her bed next to mine. The first morning together, I woke up to the gentle licking of my hands, and for the first time in weeks, eagerly jumped out of bed.

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Maggie Rose and I’s first photo together.

Maggie Rose, as I named her, became not just the reason I got out of bed each day, but the reason I am here today.

She came everywhere with me: all my appointments, Target, the drug store, coffee shops, and when I was sent back into treatment in Chicago in June, she came too.

Off-duty, Maggie Rose takes a spin in my wheelchair.

Off-duty, Maggie Rose takes a spin in my wheelchair.

She put a ray of sunshine into each day.

Whether it was the simple wagging of her tail or the way she made sure to be up in my bed to snuggle each morning, she made life worth living.

She detected every seizure that came with her loud, alerting bark and furious pawing at me. She did her job so well, getting help for me when needed, retrieving medications and never leaving me alone.

Maggie Rose on an outing to outside of the Chicago Tribune.

Maggie Rose on an outing to outside of the Chicago Tribune.

It was her unbridled loyalty that taught me how to trust again. It was her unconditional love that taught me it was okay to let people into my heart.

Her constant joy taught me that it wasn’t always big things in life that created happiness; more often than not, it was the smallest that were worth celebrating. My long-term goal in treatment and in life remains to be the person my dog thinks I am.

The progress I made in Chicago never would have been possible without my Maggie Rose. She became my other half; my better half.

We weren’t home long from Chicago before we were sent to St. Louis for one last round of treatment. In St. Louis they placed a feeding tube and I felt as though I would never get better. I wanted to quit fighting, to give up and go home.

It was Maggie Rose who comforted me and reminded me of the value of my life during those days.

Maggie Rose reminds me through her mere presence to cling to hope.

Maggie Rose reminds me through her mere presence to cling to hope.

Today, I am home receiving treatment on an outpatient basis. My seizures have diminished almost completely thanks to an incredible neurology team and their medication recommendations. And my Maggie Rose? She’s lying right beside me, looking at me with her deep brown eyes, permanent smile stuck on her face.

She continues to be my constant companion and my inspiration. She gives me a reason to get up every morning and a reason to smile each night. I truly cannot put into words how much I love my shaggy servant and how much of a divine intervention I know she was.

She was and is my lifesaver…all five flavors. She will be my hero for my whole life and my better half for her whole life. Without her I wouldn’t be here today, but because of her I have the courage to fight each day with the unfailing motto, onward and upward.

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Playing the naming game with a new dog

Kelly Drummond, of Kansas City, Mo., had finally found the perfect breed in her search for a family dog. It had been a long and difficult process deciding on which breed would fit their busy family lifestyle.

Drummond, along with her husband and two daughters, drove to a farm just outside Kansas City to pick up their new German shepherd dog. The kennel, collar, leash, dog food and new family awaited; the only thing missing for the dog was a name.

“When we found our dog, not at a shelter, but at a terrible home in Kansas, my kids got to pick the name,” Drummond said. “It was either JoJo or Jello, and no big dog wants to be called Jello.

Regardless of whether a dog comes from a previous owner, a shelter or rescue, or breeder, all dogs need a name. Last week, Rover.com reviewed its database of thousands of registered users in the United States and compiled the list of top female and male dog names. The names Bella and Max took first place on the list of most popular dog names for 2013.

The Drummonds decided on JoJo. Drummond’s previous German shepherds were given to her as gifts, then named after the friends who brought them. Drummond said the names fit the dogs well, and she believes making sure a dog’s name fits its personality or appearance is important.

JoJo began responding to her name pretty quickly, she says, but began to develop nicknames too.

“She acts like a cat so we usually call her kitty,” Drummond said. “She will answer to either JoJo or Kitty.”

Similar to Drummond, Kendra Weinstein, a student at the University of Kansas, named her Lhaso Apso, miniature poodle mix Ellie. Weinstein’s parents had gotten the dog for her after a series of difficult family and personal challenges.

“In order to give her name meaning, I did a lot of research and found out that the Hebrew word for strength is ‘el,’” Weinstein said.  “I’m Jewish so I named her Ellie, that way whenever I saw her, she would remind me to stay strong. “

Similar to JoJo, a nickname that fit Ellie’s personality soon caught on. The nickname was fitting to the dog’s personality.

“She’s kind of a dainty, girly dog, with a show dog strut,” Weinstein said. “So I chose to name her Swag because I thought it was a funny paradox.”

Grace Lang is a certified professional dog trainer and works as a trainer at the Petsmart in Lawrence, Kan.

“As a trainer, I have seen firsthand how important the choice of the dog’s name is for future success in training,” Lang said.

Lang recommends owners stick to names that are one or two syllables, which can quickly catch a dog’s attention. Hard consonants and vowels are easier for dogs to hear than soft vowels and consonants, so the sound of the letters should also be considered.

“It’s better to wait a week or two before naming your new dog, rather than deciding on a name quickly, then finding the name doesn’t suit the dog,” Lang said. “The dog’s name becomes the key to his understanding because it signals to your dog to pay attention to your next words.”

“I once had a client who impulsively decided it would be funny to name his dog, Boy,” Lang said. “The poor dog was always seriously confused because of how often other owners said, ‘Here boy!’, to get their own dog’s attention.”

Fetched Photo Friday

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Penny, a Golden Retriever puppy, is the star of this Friday’s photo! Penny is a young pup and loves to play with her older sister, who is also a Golden Retriever, and also loves to fetch tennis balls and sticks in the backyard.

Doggone news: Jewel is crowned and pet hospice grows

The National Dog Show, which aired Thanksgiving Day on NBC, “Jewel” became the first American Foxhound to win Best in Show. More than 1,500 canines entered and over 18 million viewers watched the 2013 National Dog Show.

Lisa Clark introduced therapy dogs to the Lawrence school district for the first time about 20 years ago. Clark, who teaches first and second grade at Lawrence’s Schwegler School, recently fell, breaking her back, and now must rely on therapy dogs for her own recovery.

Across the country, a trend in pet hospice is growing. Veterinarians have begun to market pet hospice as a way to give animals and owners a more comfortable passing. According to The New York Times, the care can cost 25 percent more than euthanasia in a clinic, but vets and owners agree it can be worth it.

Dog news retrieval: deadly virus and homelessness strike dogs

Lawrence Humane Society announced Wednesday Executive Director Dori Villalon will step down at the end of November. Villalon was named executive director in 2011 and says it is the right time for her to move on and let new leadership take the organization to the next level.

Across the United States a new virus, called circovirus, is infecting dogs. According to NBC News, there is no vaccine and if left untreated, the disease has the potential to be deadly. It is important to visit your veterinarian for immediate attention if your dog exhibits any of these symptoms.

Earlier this month, “Operation Chihuahua Airlift,” a project to relieve the overpopulation of Chihuahuas in West Coast shelters, flew Chihuahuas from San Francisco to New York. According to the New York Post, Chihuahua’s are one of the most regularly abandoned breed of dogs. r

Having a dog in college is difficult but doable

The first few nights with his new best friend John Burnell didn’t sleep a wink. The six-week-old pup’s piercing cries left him rubbing his eyes, struggling to listen his professors. Burnell wondered if the decision to get a puppy would ever be worth his sleepless nights.

Dogs are a big responsibility, especially for busy college students. They can also be the perfect way to reduce stress and ease homesickness. John Burnell was a senior at University of Kansas when he and his roommates decided to adopt a yellow Labrador Retriever puppy from the Lawrence Humane Society.

“Senior year was the perfect time for me to adopt Drake because I already had job lined up for after graduation and knew I would be able to bring a dog with me,” Burnell said. “For me it was the easiest way to meet new girls and it was also a great stress reliever for me and my roommates.”

Before adopting the puppy, Burnell and his roommates wanted to make sure to find a dog that would be a good fit for their busy, sometimes crazy, college lifestyle.

John Burnell adopted Drake from the Lawrence Humane Society his senior year of college. Burnell believes most people have more time for a dog in college than in their first few years in the working world.

John Burnell adopted Drake from the Lawrence Humane Society his senior year of college. Burnell believes most people have more time for a dog in college than in their first few years in the working world.

“Being in college and owning a dog presents unique challenges and opportunities,” Burnell said. “Most people have more time to deal with a dog in college than they will have the first few years in the working world.”

The Humane Society of the United States believes that the idea of having a dog or other pet in college might not make the grade. An online article published by the organization says college students often have little time to care for pets and need to decide if the dog can wait a few years.

Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the adoption center for the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), believes that college students, such as Burnell, can be more than capable of caring for a dog, as long as they understand the responsibility and commitment that comes along with the dog.

“Dogs can offer a sense of companionship and comfort to stressed students and a constant ‘buddy’ who loves you no matter what,” Buchwald said.

Burnell found the biggest challenge of having a dog in college was finding places for Drake to stay when he went out of town. The financial responsibility was also a challenge as it quickly became more expensive than he had expected.

“Dogs can be really expensive, especially when they are puppies,” Burnell said. “Drake decided he wanted to eat a family-size bottle of Advil and had to spend two nights at the vet’s office which ended up costing me $1,500.”

Buchwald believes that owning a dog will not teach a student responsibility. Contrarily, the student needs to already be responsible in order to be a proper home for a dog.

The ASPCA doesn’t recommend specific breeds for certain situations, but encourages adopters to think about the personality and needs of the dog they think would be the best fit.

“If the student is at class for large stretches of time, they should be looking for a dog that is comfortable being left alone for hours,” Buchwald said. “Each dog is an individual and should be considered as such.”

One final idea to consider before the dog is brought home is who will own the dog after graduation in order to make sure the dog does not end up back at the shelter. Buchwald reminds students that life changes quite a bit after college, and the dog should be taken into account.

“The person you are as a student might not be the person you become in your late 20s, early 30’s,” Buchwald said. “Don’t adopt a dog if you think there’s any chance you won’t be able to care for it in the future.”

Burnell graduated in 2012 and took Drake with him. Burnell never regrets his decision to get a dog in college.

“I felt like I had done enough research on what breed would be a good and the costs of dogs, I mean, really thinking it through, before I got Drake,” Burnell said. “I graduated college and had to leave most of my friends for my job, but I got to take my best friend back home with me, which made all the challenges and dollars spent on Drake well worth it.”

Top 10 dog breeds of 2013

Canine companions are stars in the headlines

Albert Rizzi of New York was escorted off a US Airways plane in Philadelphia last Wednesday night, Nov. 13, with his guide dog, Doxy. According to CNN, other passengers on board became outraged with the flight-crew’s treatment of Rizzi. The flight was cancelled due to “safety concerns” regarding the angered passengers. Rizzi says he is considering a law-suit.

World Vets, a non-profit organization that provides care to animals in developing countries is sending help to the animals affected by Typhoon Haiyan. According the the organization’s website, on-the-ground teams, veterinary supplies and financial support are being sent in response to the devastating typhoon.

To help find a cure for canine cancer the  Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) Pet Trust has created a new video inspired by the 1985 song, “We Are the World.” The video features a group of dogs all silently barking to the tear-jerking tune. Every donation made to the Pet Trust goes to fighting the disease which kills one out of four dogs (findavet.us).