Lost Your Pet? There’s an ASPCA app for that!    #BTC4A

Lost Your Pet? There’s an ASPCA app for that! #BTC4A

Blog the Change for AnimalsThis post is in honor of Blog the Change for Animals, hosted by the newly designed BTC4Animals.com. BTC4A offers a fresh new monthly format that never asks for a cent but just a moment of time to make a difference for animals in need! Take a look and sign up for manageable monthly action alerts!


When our Newf and hound  jumped the fence in a two foot snowstorm, terror struck. Forced to think rather than feel to ensure their survival and return, it was difficult to shift gears.

Dog TrekWe hung fliers and organized friends, veterinarians, the mailman, and town garage crews in our search. As night fell, my husband snowshoed over the mountain in 14 degree weather serenaded by the shrill calls of hungry coyotes on the hunt. By morning, we found tracks suggesting the dogs had hunkered down in an abandoned trailer before moving on. When Tim pulled them from the deep woods, stumbling, weak, and dehydrated, they had traveled 6 miles. It took us all a week to recover from the stress alone. (Read “Both Dogs: Lost … and Found” in its entirety.)

In that experience, I’ve learned one thing. When you’ve lost a beloved pet (or two), panic consumes logic. Thankfully, there’s a new app that does the logical thinking for you.


ASPCA Mobile App

The ASPCA has launched its first interactive mobile application which offers step-by-step instructions on what to do if a pet goes missing. These instructions are tailored to each specific circumstance and a pet’s individual personality. It also allows pet owners to store vital medical records, and it will provide information on making life-saving decisions during natural disasters.


  • A personalized missing pet recovery kit, including step-by-step instructions on how to search for a lost animal in a variety of circumstances. This kit was developed by ASPCA pet care experts and based on the latest field research.
  • The ability to build a lost pet digital flyer that can be shared instantly on social media channels.
  • Access critical advice – even if there’s no data connectivity – on ensuring pet’s safety before, during, and after a major storm or disaster.
  • Store and manage pet’s health records.
  • Timely, relevant updates from the ASPCA about the latest in pet news and animal welfare.
  • Built-in ASPCA Twitter and Instagram feeds.


The app is available for free download on iPhone and Android. But don’t stop there. Enter your pet’s information now! If crisis strikes, you’ll be prepared.

Fortunate so far, the only escapes have been good ones: from the wrath of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. But our pets’ safety is always in our hands. Around here, we take that seriously. To stave off a repeat performance, we always ensure current microchip registration. We’ve invested in a new 6 foot fence. We’ve attached Tagg GPS trackers to our dogs’ collars and keep them properly charged. And now, I’ve added the ASPCA to my phone, too.


And Your Bird Won’t Sing – But He’ll Talk to David Louis

Animal Communicator David Louis

Ella and Frankie

Frankie, my best Cockatiel friend (named after Sinatra for his choral abilities and charm with the ladies), slowly stopped singing over the past couple of months. At the age of at least 18, it’s no wonder, really. At some point, oft-used body parts wear out. But, while Frankie has seemed perfectly healthy and happy in every way, I’ve been well aware that an end is near.

Kim Clune

This morning, Frankie’s breathing was slightly labored. In the moment I saw it, all my growing fear of his eventual loss liquefied, cascading in rivers down my face. This sweet fella has been by my side through every happy moment and life crisis, every job, apartment, and house. I couldn’t imagine life without greeting him every morning. But I envisioned the end crashing down upon us in a sudden heap of senseless trauma and pain.

The rest went as follows, which you can read in my open letter to Animal Communicator David Louis, for whom I am eternally grateful for having spoken with me. While compiling his website these past weeks, I’ve been reading letters about how many human/animal relationships he’s helped with and, while I cannot viscerally understand or envision the level at which this type of communication works, I do feel that something good is going on here. So, I called him.

After we spoke, I wrote this.

Thank you so much for helping me connect with Frankie’s wishes for his last chapter in life, David.

When Frankie stopped singing, perhaps two months ago now, I surmised that it was because he reached the age of 18 and, in Cockatiel years, that’s a long, lovely life. His repertoire of microwave mockery, The Addams Family theme song, Pop Goes the Wease (because he never learned the last syllable of weasel), and other songs had been reduced to the mere whisper of a wolf whistle over time – and now he barely gives a hoarse squawk. It seemed he just grew tired and his song went utterly silent.

But is he just tired? Or is he suffering physically? The biggest part of me suddenly worried that he stopped singing because he was unhappy, a signal often seen in stressed parrots. Did he need more from me?

When I woke to Frankie’s slightly labored breathing this morning, I panicked. Is this a growing tumor that will slowly choke him? At my husband’s suggestion, I called our local vet but I was hesitant knowing how difficult it would be to get Frankie there. Then came the brick to my heart. No longer providing avian services, our vet referred me elsewhere.

Forced to step back from my initial trajectory, I felt exceptionally frustrated with our vet’s discontinuation of service. Once I called, I felt sure they could help, but that option was ripped away.

Then, while pausing at the thought of using strange vets in a strange place, that’s when I understood. The only mild sense of comfort our own vet could offer was to me. Having to catch Frankie, clip his wings, force him into a carrier, drive him to a cold examination table, he would feel utterly distraught no matter where we went.

Then it came ’round again, that feeling of ” But what if something can be done?”

Bird health can fail like a flash in the pan. I was torn.

I went to Frankie. He tapped his beak on his perch the moment I came near, a sign of flirtation among birds and bonded bird/human pairs. He came to me and preened my bangs when I leaned in to kiss his beak. While obviously winded, he still seemed happy and not in distress, unlike me in that moment.

I shoved aside our vet’s referral numbers and called my husband. I told him that I didn’t want to do anything but wait and see. If Frankie began to suffer, we would work quickly to end that, but I didn’t want to take him out of his comfort zone and away from his family flock. There, I said it. I had made a choice.

Still I had doubts.

I, I, I…

Up to this point, all my thoughts had been about me – what I should do, what I want, what I feel is best. No more. It was time for me to learn what Frankie was thinking and feeling.

That’s when I called you.

As one who cannot communicate with animals the way that you do, and I’ve said this to you before, I don’t know how to believe in what I can’t experience for myself. But I’m not a non-believer either.  Whatever I am, the more that you and I gather stories for your website, the more I feel that there is something here.

And then you made me laugh without intending to. You asked, “You have birds?”

In our chance meetings over the years, dog or cat rescue was typically involved in some way – but that was it. I not only found it amusing that you didn’t know that I’ve had birds for 1/2 of my life, I was relieved by that. I didn’t want to influence your connection with Frankie in any way.

In the short sentences I shared with you about why I was calling, you gave me so much more in return. What you said was exactly what I felt I knew about my fabulous feathered friend, a companion who has been a huge part of my life going back to my early 20s. I wrote down every word you uttered when I could see the paper through my tears.

Thank you for sharing the universe’s response to your opening prayer asking who Frankie is. I will always cherish the answer: “Frankie – the beautiful soul who has chosen his life with Kim.”

When I chose Frankie and brought him home, I just had to have a bird. I had always wanted one and, having moved out from under my father’s bird-restrictive roof, I finally had he opportunity to get one. It never occurred to me that Frankie had chosen me too. I’ve just always seen him as a cheerful little companion who has made me happy all these years, not necessarily a being with a grand destiny. But what a grand destiny that is, now that I think about it.

You described Frankie’s first layer of existence as so filled with bliss and peace that you had to press him to address the heart of any physical discomfort. “He is always happy,” you said, but the singing takes too much work now, even for my “energizer bunny,” as you aptly called him. You added, “He says that was the old Frankie, you won’t likely hear anymore singing, but he says he’s not ready to go either. He still has work to do.” For the “couple more months” of living you felt he has left, I will do what Frankie told you he wants. Together, we’re “gonna shine until that last moment.”

When he does wind down, which you feel may be heart related (“There is something slowing down within the engine that drives everything,” you said), I’m so glad to know that our wishes are in line with one another’s. As you described, I will honor what I now know Frankie and I both want, to experience his passing together by sitting with it and through it, by experiencing the beauty of our deepest friendship, and by receiving the healing of allowing the end to happen naturally without putting that control in the hands of a stranger.

“It will be sad, but it will be healing. It won’t be traumatic. There is something beautiful in being there for one another,” you said.

I believe that.

Most poignant to me, as one so heavily focused on dog rescue, was hearing the words, “You don’t have to save this one.” Oh, how that resonated to the depth of my core and stomped every ember of my initial animal saving fire.

My mind is at ease now that we can go on living a beautiful life for whatever time Frankie has left. We won’t distract ourselves from that precious opportunity while trying to cheat an inevitable death.

Thank you so much for sharing what Frankie feels, especially without knowing what I wanted – because I couldn’t 100% decide what that was until after we spoke.

And now I’m off to sing to my bird who can longer sing to me. Because there are still joyful songs left to experience, no matter the vocalist.

With all our gratitude,
Kim and Frankie

For More on David Louis

Animmal Communicator David Louis

As an animal communicator, David has worked with many species, from dogs, cats, horses, bunnies, ferrets and hedgehogs to raccoons and porcupines. He has taught, presented workshops, talks and sessions throughout the northeastern United States, in Canada and Europe. And, with an eye toward the stressors often endured by rescued animals, David regularly uses his skills to assist and raise money for nonprofit animal rescue organizations. Talk to Your Animals is a sole proprietorship started by Animal Communication Specialist David Louis in 2001.

David has studied interspecies communication extensively with the finest teachers available, most notably Penelope Smith (www.animaltalk.net) the author of four books on the subject, including Animal Talk and When Animals Speak. He has assisted Penelope with her workshops at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and the Omega Institute. He lives in Wynantskill, New York with his family, which includes his wife, stepchildren, three cats and three dogs.

If you’d like to contact David for your own reasons, I invite you to visit talktoyouranimals.co,  write him or to call (518) 892-9161.

Help Little Molly Spread the Word – No Pet Store Puppies!

Help Little Molly Spread the Word – No Pet Store Puppies!

Joey and Molly

Sunday, July 21st is “No Pet Store Puppies Day,” the third year of the ASPCA’s campaign to fight puppy mills. But it doesn’t end there.

Molly and her dog Joey know that puppy mills are bad and why to avoid pet stores that sell puppies. That beats 78 percent of consumers who remain unaware that most pet stores puppies come from puppy mills. (This according to a national study conducted by Lake Research Partners and commissioned  by The ASPCA.)

Molly may be a child, yet she has the power to educate millions, if we help her. Besides, she and her dog are too adorable. See for yourself.

In honor of ending the puppy mill industry, please share Molly’s message. Do it for the dogs.

  • Share the “Meet Molly” video across their social networks, thus educating people that shopping in pet stores that sell puppies supports puppy mill cruelty.
  • Take the Pledge not to shop for anything –including pet food, toys, etc – at pet stores stores or on websites that sell puppies.
  • Check out the newly launched consumer tool that allows consumers to see photos taken inside U.S. Department of Agriculture licensed commercial dog breeding facilities that sell puppies to pet stores around the country.
  • Join the ASPCA Puppy Mills Awareness Twitter chat with the hashtag #ASPCAchat taking place on Tuesday, July 23rd from 1pm-2pm EST!


Let’s up the stakes! Leave a comment below about why you agree with Molly and you’ll earn a chance to win a special No Pet Store Puppies gift pack!

Inside, you’ll find:

ASPCA Gift Pack


Our winner, randomly selected on July 24, 2013, is JEFF! Congratulations, Jeff! I hope you enjoy your ASPCA gift pack!!


I’m now off to find homes for mill rescues that just came in. They are clearly happy to be set free!

Too Many Mill Dog Rescues. Make It Stop. #BTC4A

Too Many Mill Dog Rescues. Make It Stop. #BTC4A

Leila, our latest Mill Dog Rescue

In April, my dog rescue was invited to work in support of another to save mill dogs. Contrary to my title above, there are never too many mill dog rescues. I want to save them all. But there are far too many reasons to have to rescue, and that’s what needs to stop. You have the power to make the difference just by making a simple, educated choice – even if you aren’t in the market for a dog.

How the dogs come…

An unending supply of beautiful little souls arrive through a contact who begged puppy mills to give up their unwanted dogs. These dogs would otherwise be shot for lack of productivity or for missing traits of the breeds that they are supposed to represent.

Our contact gets the call, retrieves dog-filled crates at the end of a mill’s driveway, surveys the dogs for immediate health concerns, and sends them on a 12 hour transport to freedom.

When 2 means 30…

Last Thursday’s call said two dogs were ready for pickup. Somehow 2 meant 30. Mills are dumping dogs now that a new law went into effect. Puppies were pulled from 3 young moms by millers that morning and the mothers, leaking milk, were shoved into small crates two at a time.

On Friday, 11 of the 30 dogs came to New York (photos). Before that it was 17. It takes 3-4 rescue organizations to handle this many dogs at once and so we’ve joined forces to do the greatest amount of good.

11 Puppy Mill Rescues

Its estimated that our mill sources house anywhere from 500 to 800 breeder dogs living a life of pure hell. Jemma, a white rescued Chihuahua, was just one of these dogs. And yet she is such a happy, shining soul despite her need for reconstructive surgery for poor genetics (We know her one son, now adopted, was born the same way and nearly thrown away, yet the mills kept breeding Jemma and selling her “purebred” pups.). Can you please chip in for Jemma’s care? 

When the dogs arrive…

Never have you seen a more happy dog when the world opens before them beyond a crowded chicken wire cage. These dogs light up regardless of oozing paws damaged from wire cage floors, eyes so sticky the dog can’t see through the flies, internal parasites so plentiful that up to 3 dewormings are required, teeth fully rotted from poor nutrition and lack of water, or kidneys so weak they only have 35% function.  Some immediately seek human touch and comfort. Others take a bit longer to understand, but they do learn with patience and love.

What boils my blood…

We protect our contact’s identity to preserve a mill’s hard-earned trust, trust that took years to build and which remains precarious regardless. But I abhor the fact that we must shield the identity of the mills in order to save the dogs. None of us in New York know where exactly the dogs come from beyond which state. The paperwork is color coded so we are kept blind to the details. We must often remind ourselves that, at the end of the day, our contact and the Companion Animal Placement Program has saved truckloads of dogs this way and that we at Dog House Adoptions have joined a valiant and vigilant fight.

Know the facts…

Pet stores will tell you that their puppies come from “USDA licensed breeders.” USDA licensure is a good indicator that the breeders are, in fact, puppy mills. Licensing by the USDA as a commercial breeder is strictly reserved for those selling puppies to pet stores or brokers. Even the meager guidelines they tend not to enforce are horrific.

According to the ASPCA:

Under the federal Animal Welfare Act, which is enforced by the USDA, dogs in commercial breeding facilities can legally be kept in cages only six inches longer than the dog in each direction, stacked on top of one another, for their entire lives.  It’s completely legal to house dogs in cages with wire flooring and to breed female dogs at every opportunity.

One way mills skirt the law is to sell their dogs strictly online. This type of sale falls into a loophole that does not require USDA licensing or inspection. If you think paying good money for papers ensures a healthy breeding stock, you are sorely mistaken.

Do your dollars support the mill dog industry?

ASPCA - Don't Shop 'til They StopYou may be supporting a life of cruelty for millions of dogs confined to pumping out puppies like machines. Refuse to do either of the following and you can change that fact:

  • Do not purchase a puppy at a pet store or online
  • Buy your pet supplies from stores (online or brick and mortar) that do not sell puppies

Find ethical pet stores by zip code thanks to the ASPCA. Visit the database to find one near you or add one that you know of! Just remember, don’t shop ’til they stop. Your dollar makes the difference.

Meet the one that grabbed my heart…

Kim Clune and Puppy Mill Rescue, Leila

Kim Clune and Mill Rescue Leila

This little lady from Friday’s transport made me fall apart, a little momma who ran joyfully like the others but instantly froze and closed her eyes at my touch. Being spayed today, she’ll never have to deliver or lose another puppy. (Her last puppy was taken away.)

We’re going to heal her eyes and I will do everything in my power to help her see that touch is every bit as good as she thinks it might be. Last night, in my lap, she flattened to me as if to disappear … yet she let me feed her this way. I set her down and she came right back. It’s a start.

I’ve named her Leila, honoring her with more than a number, if she even had that. My husband and I are personally sponsoring her care. This one has my whole heart wrapped around her. If she weren’t at the vet, I’d be with her right now. Since I’m not, I’m using my time to ask for your help.

Please consider adoption.

Every single day, sweet dogs like Leila need you and they will quickly blossom in your care. Nothing feels better than knowing that you gave a dog a chance.

Blog the Change for Animals the 15th of every January, April, July and October, an event sponsored by Be the Change for Animals.

Fling Poop and Skydive with @GoPetFriendly and @ThisOneWildLife!

Fling Poop and Skydive with @GoPetFriendly and @ThisOneWildLife!

Rod Burkert of GoPetFriendly Skydives

It’s been a year since the GoPetFriendly RV was parked in our driveway and, boy, do Tim and I miss it. Taking a break from traveling the country reviewing the best pet-friendly places to visit, Amy and Rod Burkert and their dogs Buster and Ty spent a full month with us, although not by choice. Here’s how that happened.

We Blew Up the RV

GoPetFriendly RV

To make our week-long guests more comfortable, Tim had an outlet installed to run the RVs air conditioner. Our attempt at being good hosts went bust. Once connected, flames shot from the fusebox. The microwave went Ffffft. Well, the whole RV went Fffft, really.

And so we made the best of a month of repairs, but not before Amy, navigator extraordinaire, got us lost for 2 hours in my own home town. And we killed my car battery. And we jammed my hood shut on said battery – with two freshly altered rescue dogs in the back seat on a 90 degree day. After all that, we were still nowhere near even. But we were still laughing. Should I mention that all this happened on the same day?

Can I Get a Fffft for Friendship?

Our husbands, who had never met before, fast tracked a friendship that Amy and I already enjoyed. They talked RVs and lifestyle while Amy and I resized our wedding bands. As a foursome, we celebrated our wedding anniversary, Tim’s birthday, and Rod’s birthday, all within 2 weeks. Amy and Rod dog and house sat during my grandmother’s memorial service and crashed our nephew’s graduation party. Everything we did was fun. Even flinging dog poop was a game, which was the only way to survive our clan of four big dogs in a single dog yard. But the best was the 4th of July…

Can I get a Fffft for Fire-free Fireworks?

Happy Birthday CupcakesStumped on Rod’s birthday present, Amy suggested an iPad, and other fun thoughts. Rod, a pretty content guy, had no pressing wants. But he did have a bucket list, and on that bucket list was skydiving.

On the Fourth of July, Rod was about to fall from the sky like a firework. He just didn’t know it. But his good friend Tim wouldn’t let him go it alone. Why make Amy the only widow when we could do that in pairs too?

With the RV in for repairs, the Burkerts moved a few things into our man cave for their extended stay. Solid footwear was not one of those things. So we told Rod we were going on a hike in Saratoga and that he ought to wear something more stable than sandals. At the shoe store, we stifled our snickering as we watched Rob prepare himself for what could be his last birthday wish – given our luck with vehicles and fire.

Can I get a Fffft for a 200+ MPH Freefall?

As we pulled into the the small airstrip and passed the skydiving sign, Rod thought we were on our way to a trail head. Amy dropped the bomb. Rod said “Nooooo” with wholehearted conviction, as if it would change the plan. Threatening rains prolonged dreadful anticipation, but then the skies cleared and the plane took off…

Tim Clune and Rod Burkert

Amy and I weren’t the ones in need of new shorts, but Saratoga Skydiving Adventures provided us with complementary thongs all the same – which we promptly modeled for our brave fellas. We may not be crazy enough to jump from a perfectly good airplane, but we rock all the same.

Saratoga Skydiving

Neil Brogan Dishes on Life With Dogs!

Neil Brogan Dishes on Life With Dogs!

Neil Brogan Still Living Life With Dogs

If you haven’t already heard, the Life With Dogs website is a world leader in dog news and entertainment. You’ll find dogs in the news, reviews and giveaways, fun dog and puppy videos, and the co-home of the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop.

The site, now managed by multiple authors, leaves little to be desired for the dog obsessed pet lover. Except for Life With Dogs’ creator, Neil Brogan. Oh, he’s still around in an advisory capacity, but he’s also shifted focus on life, love, and how to best use his talents to impact dogs’ lives going forward.

I miss Neil’s larger-than-life presence, and I recently caught up with him (interview below). Doing so brought back lots of memories.

Life With Dogs: The Early Years

What I treasured most about Life With Dogs: The Early Years were Neil’s hilarious, shoot-milk-out-your-nose memoirs and comics. If you’re new to the site, you’ve missed spectacular stories about what it meant for Neil and his wife, Mrs. Author, to be pet parents to dogs Nigel, Sola and Truffles – and Cracker, the oft dog-snubbed cat.

One precious gem entitled “Who You Gonna Call?” offers a voyeuristic glimpse into life at the Brogan household. Neil writes:

Got junk? Life With Dogs For some reason not known to me, Nigel, Sola and Truffles share a common goal: complete and utter fruitbowl decimation. Not a day passes without a paw, tail, or deliberately thrown snout making contact with my nether regions. It is not at all uncommon for Mrs. Author to walk around a corner to find me writhing on the floor, cursing one of our critters.

SPOILER ALERT: Mrs. Author crafted this fashion accessory in Neil’s defense. Meet Mr. Strainer … and then go read the whole bit. It’s 100% worth it.

Strained - Life With Dogs

Where in the World is Nigel Buggers?

Dog lovers identified a bit of themselves in Neil’s stories, and a special bond grew. But Neil didn’t stop at storytelling.

Leading greyhound Nigel Buggers appeared in a limited edition print by Kathleen Coy used by the Friends of Buggers Society (FOBS) to raise funds for A Place to Bark animal rescue. The project not only raised a good deal of money, it joined an entire global community in a game of  “Where in the World is Nigel Bugger (WITWINB)?

Nigel’s print appeared around the world – from posing with Elvis and Gene Simmons impersonators in Vegas to crashing tropical island weddings. And Neil shared every picture that came in saying:

This journey continues to astound me, and I am ever so thankful to this gutsy, humorous, dog-crazy group of fun loving people who continue to push the boundaries of good taste in the name of charity.

Nigel and Elvis Nigel and Gene Simmons

The Funtastic Fudge and Friends

Fudge and Friends Stick

The site also became home to Jason Dodge’s Fudge and Friends comic strip, complete with story line competitions that earned winners a comic strip featuring their own dog.

To see our winning entry, visit Our Favorite Dog Word: “Fudge!”. Although our use of fudge is a euphemism for another delicous F-word, Fudge in Life With Dogs’ terms refers to Neil’s beloved dog Truffles who is also nicknamed Fudgepants.

LWD Turned Activist

One of the more difficult shifts for me to watch was the very conscious decision Neil made to raise awareness about the not-so-pretty life of dogs. In 2010, the passion of pet bloggers attending a conference opened Neil’s eyes to the power of online animal welfare education. So moved by the community, he decided to use Life With Dogs to shed a bright light on the dark underbelly of animal abuse.

As an animal advocate often working in the trenches, it is too difficult for me to follow abuse cases of situations that I cannot change, and so I stopped frequenting Life With Dogs but for the fun and funny post that would grab my attention on Facebook. I know many others who felt the same way. But we are clearly in the minority.

Life With Dogs’ popularity rapidly grew and, while dog lovers rallied in anger behind the abuse stories, they also frolicked in the fun stories, cried at the most endearing stories, and laughed out loud at the most silly dog situations. What Neil says he prided himself on was daily care and attention to always mix it up. You never knew what you were going to get at Life With Dogs but you’d often experience every emotion available to humans.

An Interview with Neil Brogan

So, how did Neil manage all this, a career in IT, a marriage, and still remain connected to his 4 pets? I asked him to spill the beans…

TOWL: Neil, what kind of commitment did it take to run Life With Dogs and how did that level of commitment change over the years?

NB: Those are two entirely different questions – because the focus of the site changed so dramatically. Initially, I only worked when inspiration struck. Once it was apparent that an audience was building, I had to reevaluate where my time was best spent. So for the first year or two I had a normal, sane life. Then everything exploded.

When our content focus shifted I felt self-induced pressure to stay on top of all things dog related. That is impossible of course, but holding myself to a high standard benefited the site in the long term. I considered it sweat equity. And for the last two years, LWD ate up my entire existence. There isn’t a single night in that period when I got more than 4 hours of sleep. I worked around the clock.

TOWL: How did two-legger Mrs. Author, survive it – (or has she)?

NB: Just barely. Were she not the most patient woman I know we could have ended up in trouble. She jumped in to help with giveaways, PR and reader relations. And it was still too big for both of us. For the last year, we had no time for non-essential communication. We had a million visitors a month and were receiving 150-300 e-mails a day. So call her a saint…

TOWL: When Life With Dogs eventually became about all things dog, advocacy suddenly and often took center stage. You began to share and track dog abuse stories in order to raise awareness – a move that felt very different from LWD historically. What was the specific impetus for this shift?

NB: I shifted the focus – away from myself and my dogs – because I knew that a large audience could actually impact some of the greater challenges facing this wonderful species that gives us so much more than we were able to give back.

TOWL: How did your readers react?

NB: Surprisingly well. They rolled with it and I did not expect that. But by this time many readers were also friends and were willing to support the change.

TOWL: What was your most popular type of feature?

NB: Given our demo (75-80% female readership) stories that featured women saving dogs or dogs saving women were always a hit. And our features regarding dogs that had languished in shelters for years were shared far and wide. Each ended in success, and those were my personal favorites. Seeing a dog go home after 8 or 10 years in a shelter was a huge relief.

TOWL: Have you been involved with any real-life advocacy projects beyond Life With Dogs?

NB: We were instrumental in getting public support for a bill that outlawed roadside puppy sales. We did news interviews and helped make Vermonters aware of the bad breeders who were coming here from other states to peddle puppy mill dogs.

We celebrated the passage of the bill, and shortly thereafter, three dogs we rescued from a mill breeder (who was selling sick dogs on the side of the road in Vermont) all died in a one year span – and all from complications caused by bad breeding. It was a heartbreaking exclamation point of sorts.

TOWL: What has the latest transition at Life With Dogs been like?

NB: Hard. I am very much a hands-on person and am no longer allowed to be. I am retraining myself. I like to roll up my sleeves and get in the trenches and I have to resist that temptation.

TOWL: How involved are you still?

NB: I remain involved in an advisory capacity. I no longer create daily content. I need time to grow the non-profit I’ve founded and can’t find enough time in a day to do both.

TOWL: What do you like most about Life With Dogs now?

NB: The fact that it has so much reach and impact. It continues to grow to this day, and I’m smart enough to realize that at this point it would probably continue to do so without me. I like that.

TOWL: How are the dogs and cat enjoying semi-retirement? 

NB: That question assumes that they have worked at some point. If they have, I want their jobs!

LWD - Shuffleboard

In all seriousness, this has been great for them. It’s ironic – I created a website for dogs that became so busy I had little time for my own. When I realized that was the case, I knew it was time to step back and reclaim my life. Hence, the merger. Now we have time again, and it’s been a blessing.

TOWL: What does the future hold for the Life With Dogs clan?

NB: We’re getting ready to launch a new non-profit. If all goes well, it will provide millions in charity (on an ongoing basis) for shelters and rescue organizations.

TOWL:Neil, this is all very exciting, and I wish you all the best! I do hope you’ll come back and talk about your launch.

And to you, my dear reader, I suggest you keep a lookout. From everything I’ve learned about Neil’s exciting new non-profit, its grand scope will make an enormous difference for dogs in need – in a way that every pet lover can take part.

While trading in his punchy personal essays for a massive IT challenge, Neil remains dedicated to the many loves of his life (in addition to Mrs. Author, of course)…. dogs. And we’d expect nothing less from the man who brought us that special online community with the grandiose life of its own, Life With Dogs.