Pets can bring out your inner entrepreneur
Thursday, October 29, 2009

Inspiration can be found in everyday things… and in everyday pets, it turns out. This discovery I’ve come to realize is two-fold, the fact that some people who have pets love to pamper them with frivolous gifts, toys and treats. The second part of my realization is that someone has to be coming up with the ideas for these frivolous items in the first place. My local pet store is filled wall to wall with items to pamper pets with. Does anyone (or their pet, for that matter) need these items? Absolutely not! But when I walk into my local pet store I feel compelled to make a silly purchase every now and then– my dog gives me so much and asks for so little in return. At least that is how I can justify it.

Completely disproving the notion that necessity is the mother of invention, I spoke with Ricky Namavong, who recently began a small pet costume business out of their home. Their idea? Animal tutus for dress up. My coworkers and I were charmed when he brought one in from home, and we placed it on one of the dogs in our office. With the understanding that pets should only be dressed up while under supervision and when they enjoy it, I ordered one on the spot for my dog. (After all, Halloween was coming up and my dog was still costume-less!) These tutus are cute and are sure to put a smile on your face when an animal is instantly transformed into a pretty ballerina.

I asked Ricky how they came up with this idea in the first place. He explained, “We decided that we wanted to make a tutu for our little girl, we are expecting in November. Once she finished making her first tutu, we needed a model. After pondering for a few minutes, my cat Zoe jumped on the table. We put the tutu on my cat Zoe and a light bulb turned on in my head. The rest was history.”

I admire a small business idea that sprouted from a pet; I like the idea that anyone can be an entrepreneur.

When I started asking around I heard similar stories of ideas that came to people completely by chance. A met a woman at a festival last month who was selling cloth bags that attach to a dog leashes. They hold a plastic bag of feces while on a walk with your pet. The woman selling them told me how this idea came to her, while she was sitting outside a coffee house, completely disgusted by how many people walk around with transparent bags of animal feces. She decided to manufacture a way to store those transparent bags until you can get to a trash can-- a simple but sturdy craft project. She told me they could hold a full can of soup, and that they sold for $15 each. I bought two.

Interested in a tutu for your Pet? Contact Ricky at

Have a spooky Halloween,


Yvonne’s life was transformed by two blind dogs…..
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Yvonne Harper is just an ordinary person like you and me whose life was transformed by two extraordinary little rescued dogs, Twinkle and Kizmit.

Like many people, Yvonne had managed to survive a challenging childhood, but it had left her wounded. She was stuck in a destructive pattern which she feared was destined to repeat itself throughout the rest of her hollow existence.

She knew deep down inside she still had a little fight left but nothing seemed worth the effort, until she met them.

“Them” are her two dogs, first Twinkle, a Shih Tzu who had been beaten so badly his eyes ruptured and had to be removed. Then Kizmit, a Pekingese who also lost his eyes due to trauma. These are her miracle dogs that entered her life when she needed them most and changed the very course of it.

Yvonne told me “Twinkle and Kizmit are living testaments to unconditional love. Life had been so cruel to them yet they trusted and loved me completely, without hesitation. I was humbled by their inner strength and watching them barrel through the darkness with no self pity or doubt gave me the courage to start making changes in my own world.
I began by cutting toxic people out of my social circle. I also recognized the power I had given fear and how negatively it was impacting my day to day decisions.

My boys put everything into perspective for me and helped me understand that love and forgiveness are stronger than hate and fear. They truly made me believe that anything is possible. I started to experience a positive shift in my world and knew I had them to thank. In a very short time they had helped me alter things I had been struggling with for many years. They are quite simply pure love; they not only stole my heart but healed and opened it.

My boys made such a positive impact on my life that I decided to dedicate my time to photographing and documenting stories of other special needs rescue dogs. To illustrate how these astonishing dogs positively influence the lives of the families who adopt them. It has become my mission to help raise awareness for special need dogs like my own sweet boys. So you see they did not just heal old wounds, they made me realize my purpose.

The result of this journey is my book Blind Faith, titled so because blind faith is exactly what I experienced the day I brought Twinkle home. I’d never had a dog of my own before, never mind one that was blind. I was terrified but adopting him was the best thing I ever did.”

I loved Yvonne’s book! Readers will see her dogs and the others they share the pages with, not as helpless or hopeless but as inspirational whole beings that deserve a second chance. If you are interested in learning more about Yvonne’s book Blind Faith please visit her website at

Yvonne, thank you for sharing Twinkle and Kizmit’s story and how they helped turn your life around……the healing power of pets!

An Unlikely Journey From Out On The Street Into People's Hearts
Monday, October 26, 2009

I recently became a second Pet Partner with Mocca, a disabled Labrador rescued from the Humane Society of Greater Miami. Mocca and I are working in pediatric units at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, where she is helping to improve the lives of hundreds of young patients.

I adopted Mocca in February 2008 after hundreds of other potential pet seekers passed over her due to her disproportionate leg. I instantly knew, from the moment I saw this young chocolate lab with a sweet baby face that she had a heart of gold and would not only overcome her own disabilities but give lots of love to others.

Mocca joins Lucky, my other rescued dog, adopted eight years ago – who also is a Pet Partner with me. Studies have shown that patients benefit immensely from the love and compassion provided by therapy dogs. Some children even get their chemotherapy treatments with Mocca or Lucky present, which gives them great comfort in the face of events that can be pretty scary to these youngsters.

It has been five years since I saw Lucky get the first smile from a hospitalized child, and we continue to give these kids some distraction from their fear and pain (and their parents a break from their constant worrying). It’s truly rewarding to see smiles despite the fact these children are going through such incredibly painful experiences. My dogs and I are incredibly happy to provide our time and hope to inspire others to follow in our footsteps and do similar work with their pets.

I am a strong believer in spreading awareness of the positive aspect of adopting animals, and providing the dogs the opportunity to “give back” and improve the quality of human lives.

Please visit any humane society near you. Maybe you can find a potential therapy dog, but for sure you can find a lasting relationship with a new best friend. Don’t be afraid to share your love with a four-legged (or, in Mocca’s case, a three-and-a-half-legged) partner.

Dayana Susterman (guest blogger)
Dayana is pictured above at home with Mocca and Lucky.

Pets: The Ultimate Social Network
Thursday, October 22, 2009
My husband and I moved to West Seattle in April 2008, into a quiet neighborhood where most people keep to themselves. As a new couple to the area, we didn't know anybody and we were hoping to make some new acquaintances. Lucky for us, we own a dog. It seemed as if three out of five houses had pets - and not only that, but they loved to interact with other people who had pets. Just yesterday I was on my front porch taking pictures of my dog with a red hat on. No doubt a funny sight from the sidewalk, so much so that a woman stopped to ask what I was doing. This sparked a conversation that put me in a great mood, she had a dog who she liked to dress up too.

It is a noticeable difference in our neighborhood when we are out with Luci and when we leave her at home - more conversation and more smiles happen when she is at the end of a leash. I, myself usually approach a stranger and their dog with one of two comments, "What a beautiful dog, what kind is it?" or, "How old is your dog?" This sparks a conversation, as I find that people are so proud of their dogs. I have the same sense of pride when someone asks me about Luci. Although I am somewhat of a shy person, I find it especially easy to talk about her. I like to share that she is just over three years old, and a wild child in every sense of the word. This opens conversation for people's personal experience, stories, or a bit of advice on how to manage her better. There are times at the dog park when Luci connects with another dog and plays for a long time, first Luci chasing, then being chased. This makes for a lot of time for the dog parents to talk. More often than not we laugh about the silly things they do. It could be the only time all day I have a good laugh, and the funny thing is that it is shared with a complete stranger.

This has got me to thinking that in a time when people are spending so many hours on the Internet with Myspace, Facebook and other networking sites, perhaps the one that has given me the "most hits" has been the social networking I have done with my dog.

Danny has a gentle spirit and gives so much to our patients and staff…..
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Danny, and his human Pet Partner Dick Thayer, have been going to University of New Mexico Hospital’s psychiatric ward for over a year. One of the social workers there said she’s seen Danny touch the hearts of patients, who otherwise might be hesitant to interact with the people around them. Danny’s presence on the unit facilitates calmness and he always brings a smile to everyone who interacts with him. Another employee mentioned that his calm and friendly demeanor brings joy to the patients and the staff who see him each week.

The fascinating part of Danny’s ability to help others is that his life was almost a tragedy and his second chance at life has truly been a blessing for him and now to all the people’s lives he touches as a therapy dog.

Dick said” No one knew how long the emaciated Collie had been wandering the streets when he came into a feed store and collapsed. Under the matted and dirty coat, skin and bones were all the existed. He had severe wounds on his front legs and half a tail from some mysterious incident in his past.

A good Samaritan took pity on this poor creature and took the almost lifeless body home. Giving food and water to the starved Collie seemed to ignite a tiny spark of life. The individual tried to find his owners but to no avail. The Southwest Collie Rescue was called and asked if they could take him. The person said he seemed like a real nice dog and there was just something about him that said ~ I want to live, I have a purpose.

During six months of healing, the dog slowly recovered. His photo was placed on the Collie rescue site for adoption. Something within me said Danny, as he was named, was the one. After a short time of evaluation and paperwork, I was allowed to adopt him.”

Fast forward and after months of training, Danny passed the Pet Partners test and became a registered therapy dog.

“Danny had been given a second chance to live and a special purpose to accomplish, in a new life. It is something he does without question and always with the built in eternal smile that everyone who meets him notices”, says Dick.

The hospital staff say that Danny and Dick are an outstanding Pet Partners team and I agree wholeheartedly. Dick, thanks for rescuing Danny. You two are making many people feel better every week!

A new service for seniors and their care givers
Monday, October 19, 2009

This past weekend, a new website launched – It was created to be an all encompassing site for people to reference when they have questions about caring for seniors. Per their site, “Caring for aging parents and loved ones has many rewards, but it can also be overwhelming, complicated, and exhausting. This is a time of tough decisions. Every day brings new challenges. And all the fine print—whether it’s on prescription warnings or legal and financial documents—is confusing. Take a deep breath. You’re not alone. You’ve found your village.”

Delta Society is honored to have been selected as the provider of information about how animals can help seniors live healthier and happier lives for this site. In addition to posted articles, there are several short videos which share information about Delta Society, the healing power of pets, and the Pet Partners experience. Pet Partner Betty Hume is featured sharing her experience of visiting seniors and hospice patients with her dog Caspian.

If you are a senior, or caring for one, check out this new website which is filled with information from experts across the country – as well as interspersed with people sharing their own personal stories and thoughts about aging and caring for loved ones.


(Betty is pictured above relaxing on the beach with her beloved Caspian.  Caspian unfortunately recently passed away unexpectedly.)

A Coordinator Looks Back on her First Month with Delta Society
Friday, October 16, 2009

I am nearing a month at my job as Delta Society’s Marketing Coordinator. With any new job you can expect to learn a great deal in a short time – office procedures, people’s names, maybe a new twist on responsibilities from your last position – that much can be expected. What has been the most astounding in my experience at Delta Society has been the amount of information I have taken in on a more personal level. I have become a ‘human-animal bond’ sponge, speaking to strangers that I have met at the booths I have volunteered at for festivals, hearing the experiences of other staff members, meeting people who have visited Delta Society for a Discovery Session. The dinner table conversation has taken on a noticeable shift, when my husband asks, “How was your day?” I speak less about what I did, and rather about what I’ve heard. 

I have been in awe of Pet Partner’s dedication, and their grace in difficult or heartbreaking situations. The stories recounted from Pet Partner visits to places like Seattle Children’s Hospital and Bailey- Boushay House have had a profound impact on me. Hopefully one day I can become a Pet Partners team; I think I would gravitate most towards a reading program because of my love for children and books. But who knows? One thing I have heard repeatedly from Pet Partners is how your interests can change once you begin to volunteer, you take on a broader sense of how you (and your pet) would like to make a difference.

A big lesson I have learned with my new position at Delta Society is to always have tissues handy. No matter where you are. At the booth for the Salmon Days festival, we were approached by a mother and daughter… truth be told the daughter came running over to hug Sawyer, a Pet Partner Bernese Mountain Dog. The girl had been in and out of the hospital since she was born with a rare condition in which her bones could not fully harden. She explained, teary eyed, that she always looked forward to the days when animals could visit her at the hospital. As she hugged Sawyer she opened up, sharing stories of the operations she has undergone. Her mother watched her with a proud look on her face, and I felt a different sense of pride.   How wonderful to be involved with an organization that has given this brave 11 year old so much happiness. In the middle of that festival, with pony rides and cotton candy and other happy things, we reached for tissues. I’m not sure if we were crying happy or sad tears, but it was an incredibly touching moment.

There have been so many learning experiences that have come along with this Marketing Coordinator position. It really isn’t a job that you can “leave at the door” at the end of the day – it is inspiring and it feels good.   All of this at month one.


Mandy Helps Kids with Developmental Challenges
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Lima Memorial Health System in Ohio is thrilled to have a new hospital auxiliary member….but as their newsletter states “the new member is not your ordinary member. The newest member is a therapy dog named Mandy”.

Ray and his wife rescued Mandy, a German Shepherd and Golden Retriever mix, from a local humane society. Ray and Mandy have been a busy Delta Society Pet Partners team since 2002. They volunteer within six areas of the hospital including the Children’s Developmental Center (CDC).

Every Monday during the school year, they visit the CDC. The director of the CDC, Chris Wagner, says that Mandy helps teach trust, patience, and even speech skills while being calm, gentle and friendly. Saying Mandy’s name helps some of the kids with their speech delays. Ray and the teachers help the kids to learn to say ‘man’ and the letter ‘D’. As the children combine the two syllables, they can say the dog’s name – MANDY! The children become so excited with their ability to speak her name.
Mandy is also able to work with stroke and trauma patients. Rays says it is amazing what just the touch of Mandy’s soft fur does to help patients as they move their fingers over her and it calms them. She also helps lift the spirits of cancer patients…she makes her rounds visiting patients receiving radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Ray and Mandy work together to offer loving therapy to patients of any age and ailment. Lima Memorial staff say they are very lucky to have this special Pet Partners team as part of their hospital team.

Ray says “I truly feel that I have been blessed to be able to help people with the help of my beloved therapy dog Mandy.”

Ray and Mandy are a great example of how animals are improving health through gentle strokes and cuddles! Thanks for your dedication and wonderful volunteer work you’re performing each week.

Instant Fun, Just Add Dogs
Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The first time I laid eyes on Luci, my dark gray Weimaraner, I was in puppy love. I knew that Weimaraners were high energy, but she was my first dog, and I had no idea what was in store. Luci has proven to be an unending and unparalleled ball of energy, more so than I ever imagined. This was not always a good thing. I sought out the advice of experts, people I knew, as well as advice from the internet. My vet told me that she would relax a little after being spayed – didn’t happen. Other human parents of Weimaraners told me that they experienced much calmer dogs at age two– that birthday came and went and Luci showed no signs of slowing down. I tried exercising her multiple times a day, brought her to behavioral classes (we were asked not to come back, she was causing the other dogs in the class to get too excited). The best advice I received was to take her wherever I could with me. It worked-- after a very full day of activity, Luci was ready to relax.

The notion of bringing my dog along whenever possible is one that my husband has embraced as well. The new car we bought had to have enough space in the back to fit Luci comfortably. Our weekends often times revolve around outings that Luci can join us on. Sometimes we are so blinded by wanting her company, we forget that she is not actually a person. Like the time we showed up at the University of Washington’s boat house, to rent a canoe for the day.

“We’ll need three life jackets, two paddles,” my husband told the girl working behind the counter. She studied the two of us, and looked down at Luci. She realized we weren’t kidding. It seemed like a no-brainer to us, Luci is very much a water dog. Why wouldn’t she enjoy canoeing? So off we paddled on cold Lake Washington, with a very hyper dog who didn’t entirely grasp the idea, and who, more times than one, threatened the balance of our canoe when ducks swam by. Luci added adventure and laughs to that day on the canoe, and made it an experience we will never forget. 

Truth be told, while all of this activity was helping Luci to act more normal, I noticed a big change in myself as well. Taking Luci along makes me happy. Having her along strikes up friendly conversation with strangers, makes children in the next car over laugh while at stop lights, makes me a more patient person. Luci makes the most everyday tasks more enjoyable. Dogs have a unique capacity to do that.


"You Gotta Have a Dog"
Friday, October 02, 2009

Photo credit AP photo, WKT Public RelationsAt the near end of a very public fight with stage-four pancreatic cancer, actor Patrick Swayze's publicist released a picture of him and his wife, Lisa Niemi, posing with their dogs at their ranch in New Mexico. The poodle on the left is named Lucas, and the Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy is named Kumasai. Kumasai is a puppy the couple got during the beginning stages of Patrick’s illness, and was a source of pride and comfort for him from the start. He said, "There is a brand new, 12-week-old, Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy named Kumasai in my life who is gorgeous and already showing that he will be one special dog.”

The circulation of that image began a wave of conversation about Swayze’s message of hope and looking toward the future. When I saw it I thought to myself that they weren’t thinking about an ending – they were expanding their family and bringing new joy to their lives.

I suspect they also knew that this new member of the family was adding more than just comfort. While it has been medically proven that pets can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels – it has also been recorded that pet owners who are Seniors will talk about the present and the future, instead of thinking or speaking about the past.

Animals were a large and important part of their lives, Swayze was a known dog lover, and he and his wife trained show horses on their ranch for years. Many of the interviews he did over the years had questions about his animals, it was a subject he enjoyed talking about. His love of animals was a very powerful tool throughout living with cancer. When asked about the power of love in an interview with Barbara Walter’s after he was diagnosed, Swayze’s said, “You gotta have a dog.” There is no doubt that his dogs were helping him through some of the hard days. If anything else, they were a healthy dose of optimism.

Swayze’s wife was a pilot and could fly him to the hospital in a private plane for treatments. I do not doubt that the couple did everything they could do try and overcome the cancer. Not many Americans living with cancer will have the means to do as much as they did. But in a time of confusion throughout our country regarding health insurance, the healing power of animals is something everyone can be covered by. I hope that the image – a healthy picture with two dogs at his side – will draw awareness to the most down to earth form of all treatments, promoted by a Hollywood star.



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