This blog is a tribute to Belle, and all the dogs who have come before and after. They are my friends, my companions, my teachers and my students. They bring me both joy and heartache, laughter and tears. There is nothing as sweet as the smell of puppy breathe, and nothing as sad as the final goodbye.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!

Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic

On January 29th, the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation will be bringing their mobile unit to Shirley Feed. Please call 631-566-8870 to make your appointment, see flyer for pricing and more information. If anyone needs financial assistance, they should contact PAC at 631-505-3833.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

How to adopt the perfect rescue dog

There is no limit to the joy the right dog can bring to your life
By Leslie Turnbull | November 27, 2014

Why not adopt a rescue dog?
"When you adopt a dog, you save two lives — the one that you adopt and the one who takes her place in a shelter or foster home," says Kristin Waters, co-founder and director of Project Blue Collar, a global grassroots movement dedicated to promoting dog adoption and elevating the status of rescue dogs by portraying them as prized pets.
Dogs are rescued from all kinds of situations. A "rescue" may be the beloved purebred companion of someone who has passed away or become unable to care for an animal for health or financial reasons. A rescue might be a healthy, good-natured young dog abandoned because his or her original family did not look past the fun of having a cute puppy, or even one of a mixed-breed litter born from a surprise (and unwanted) mating. Rescue dogs are all breeds, all ages, and all temperaments. The thing they all have in common is the need for a new human caretaker and the gratitude they express when they are placed in their new "forever" home.
Unfortunately, there are not as many homes available to rescue dogs as there are dogs in need of adoption. Many are euthanized — not because they aren't perfectly healthy, well-behaved animals — but because rescue dogs are unfortunately stereotyped as damaged and undesirable. People hear "rescue" and they think of a dog that has been abused to the point of psychosis, or a beast so vicious or incorrigible that no one wants him. Nothing could be further from the truth, says Project Blue Collar's Waters.
"Rescue dogs make superb pets! There's something unique about rescue dogs that pulls us in and offers us a whole new type of love."
Interested humans just need to make sure they go about finding and adopting the right dog, in the right way. We asked Waters, an expert in dog adoption, to outline the steps to finding your perfect canine rescue match.

1. Evaluate your lifestyle
"Being realistic about what you can and can't take on will help both your search for a dog and the rescue group representatives who will help you find the right match," Waters says. "Think about your life as a whole — the place you live, your family or the people you interact with, your travel schedule, your budget, your activity level, and whether you have other pets. This may take some time, but it's worth serious consideration. First time dog owners really need to evaluate their willingness to educate themselves about living with dogs as well as the their commitment to training their dog … especially if they get a puppy."
2. Do your homework
"Websites like and Adopt-A-Pet are basically search engines for rescue pets and have useful criteria like location, breed, gender, age, and size. The mobile app BarkBuddy is another handy, on-the-go tool that can geolocate rescue groups to visit through your phone."
But don't underestimate the power of word-of-mouth, either.
"Ask your friends, coworkers, family members, or visitors to the dog park where they adopted their dogs, and if they found the experience positive," Waters suggests.
3. Be patient
The right dog, like the right life partner, can take some time to find.
If your online research leads to a dog whose profile interests you, contact the rescue organization to ask any questions you might have about background, temperament, and energy level, and see if the dog is still available. Don't be frustrated, though, if you don't hear back immediately. Waters explains:
"It's important to understand that the majority of people involved with rescue groups are volunteers or employees who are very pressed for time. Have patience throughout the adoption process. The people on the front lines of rescue are busy folks with hearts of gold, but they may not be as responsive as most service organizations we're used to."
Once you've made contact and think an available dog might be a good fit for you, or if you think a particular shelter may be a good resource, get ready to go visiting.
4. Be prepared
Rescue organizations vary a great deal. Some are small groups whose adoptable dogs are presented at mobile adoption events; others have facilities for you to walk through. Not all will have the same protocols for adoption, but all will require you to do some paperwork and other preparation.
"Just make sure to check the organization's website, Facebook page, or online pet profile ahead of your visit. If the organization offers you a chance to submit your application online, make sure you get that in ahead of time," Waters advises.
Some key items to bring along on your first visit to an adoption event or shelter are:
1) A list of all the dogs you would like to see from that group
2) Your current veterinarian's contact information (if you have one)
3) Your landlord's contact information in case you rent (Make sure you have permission to have a dog and find out if there are any weight/breed restrictions.)
4) The contact information for two references in case you're asked to list them
5) Your driver's license
6) A check or credit card. All rescue organizations will charge a fee. The amount varies. You can find out in advance how much you will be asked to pay by visiting the organization's website or calling ahead.
Be ready to be interviewed and asked a few questions. Some organizations will do same-day adoptions, while others might require a home visit to inspect your home or fence ahead of releasing a dog. Some may request that you bring any current dogs in for introduction to the dog you wish to adopt.
Waters explains the reason for this kind of diligence.
"All of the hoops you might feel you're jumping through are because these organizations really care about where their dogs end up. They've seen their share of heartbreak on the front lines when dogs come in. It only makes sense that they'd be vigilant about adopting those dogs out."

5. Get to know your dog
As with first dates, you may not feel love at first sight when you first meet an adoptable dog. As with potential partners, cut the creature you're meeting some slack during the course of your first encounter.
"Consider how the stress of the shelter environment or the bustle of the mobile adoption event may make a dog apprehensive," Waters reminds us. Give the dog time and space to get comfortable with you.
"Be careful not to be too much 'in a dog's face,' or too hands-on during your initial meeting. Let the dog come around on her own terms. Some dogs like lots of affection right away, but others need time to feel safe interacting. Make sure to convey this approach to any children accompanying you."
And don't be hesitant to arrange a second meeting, or a third.
"Sometimes multiple visits give you a better sense of a dog's personality," Waters says.
Don't be frustrated if you don't meet "the one" right away … but do listen to suggestions from shelter staff or volunteers. Once they've learned more about you and your lifestyle, these folks (who know the dogs in their care very well) might recommend you meet a dog you hadn't previously considered. According to Waters:
"This is the best time to stay open-minded, because you may end up finding a better match than the dogs whose profiles you were drawn to!"
6. Get the house ready
Once you do find your canine soul mate — and you've met all the requirements of the organization that rescued her — it's time to bring her back to her forever home. Besides appropriately sized water and food dishes, a bed, and some toys, what will your new pooch need to succeed?
A routine.
"The more closely a routine is followed during your dog's first days and weeks in your home, the better he'll adapt," Waters suggests. If your pup has not yet been housebroken, "Following a routine will greatly help with potty training, too."
Waters is also a big fan of dog crates.
"Crates are very good training tools if used with positive reinforcement and for short periods of time initially. They also offer a place for your new dog to have some very important downtime. There is a lot of information online about successful crating techniques and their benefits, especially for puppies."
Whatever you do, make sure Fido or Fluffy gets plenty of exercise. Waters explains:
'There's a saying: 'A tired dog is a good dog.' Exercise is not only beneficial for your dog's health and mood, but it also provides an ideal opportunity for you to bond with him. Daily walks help you both experience the sights, smells, and sounds of your neighborhood together."
If you already have another dog or dogs in residence, start off with a walk around the neighborhood together for them to get used to each other and then progress to a confined area where they can interact together on their own terms. Give them space to figure each other out, but be ready to intervene should one or both dogs seem anxious or overwhelmed. Waters suggests leaving their leashes on initially, even inside the house. Remind both dogs with lots of pats and training treats how much you love them both.
"Above all," says Waters, "Recognize that your newly adopted dog needs time to settle in. Some dogs will adjust faster than others. Don't wait until it's too late to get help with any behavioral issues that might arise. Consult a trainer or contact the rescue group for advice and resources."
After all, everyone — the rescue group, you, and your dog — wants this to be a successful partnership. And when that happens?
"You can't put a price on all that love," Waters asserts.
Finding and adopting a lifetime companion can take some time and effort. But if you are willing to do some research and have some patience, the perfect rescue dog for you is out there. Have fun finding her!
Leslie Turnbull

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Our thoughts & prayers are with the families of 

the two NYPD officers who were brutally 

murdered in Brooklyn today. RIP

Winter Training Tip

Dogs need to burn energy and don’t care if it’s bitterly cold outside. They will drive you crazy if you don’t provide them with both physical and mental challenges to get them (and you) through the long, cold winter months. Of course practicing obedience with your dog will accomplish this as it burns both physical and mental energy. Below are a few fun ideas to use in addition to working obedience to help exercise your dog in the coming cold months ahead.

Games and toys that will help wear them out mentally would be:
1) A game of tug. If you have a serious tugger, not only will a 10-15 minute game of pulling back and forth wear your pup out, but you will have burned some calories as well. Holding on to the rope itself requires mental energy!
2) Treat puzzles. You can purchase them at the store, but there are a few that you can rig on your own.

            Muffin tin. Place treats in select holes of your muffin tin and then fill all the holes with 
            obstacles such as balls. Your dog has to use his sense of smell to find the treats and 
            also lift the ball up to receive them.

            Two liter bottle. Place some high value rewards that can easily fall out of the opening 
            inside a clean and dry 2 liter bottle. Let your dog throw it around and roll it to receive
            his reward. If you have a dog that gets discouraged easily, you can create more holes 
            in the bottle so the treats fall out easier.

3) Kong. Simply stuff the Kong (where the tongue can reach) with cream cheese (my favorite) or peanut butter. Freeze for an hour and then give it to your dog. It takes mental energy to hold the Kong and patience to lick out the frozen reward.
4) Find it. A fun game of teaching your dog to find a toy or a treat.
5) Trick training. Training your dog requires tons of mental energy. Check out YouTube or purchase a trick book from your local book store.
5) Hide and seek. This is a great game for you or your kids to play with the dog. Someone holds the dog while you run and hide. Then the person hiding says “go”! Release the dog! (If you have a dog that gives up to easily, your hider may have to occasionally say the dogs name)
6) Frozen broth cubes with treats inside. Even though its winter, your dogs are still thirsty. Take your old fashion ice cube trays and pour low sodium broth in them and add a couple of their treats. Put the frozen treat in their food bowl and they will chase it around with their tongue to lick it.
Blowing physical energy
1) Fetch. Yep, fetch in the house. Chuck it brand balls has a indoor version ball and thrower for you and your pal to be able to play fetch in the house. The hallway is a safe place to do this!
2) Take your dog for a field trip. If you dog is used to going for a walk every day, take it indoors!  Pet Supply Plus, PetSmart and Petco allow dogs. Don’t go shopping; take your dog for a power walk. While you’re there, practice your lose leash walking techniques and manners with customers.
3) Go play in the snow or the rain with them! Bundle up and go play a game of Frisbee, fetch or go make a snow angel.
4) The tub game. This is a great game if your dog loves to play with balls, but if they don’t, you can use a treat. Toss your dog’s ball in the tub. When your dog jumps in, have him drop the ball in your hand and then throw it out the bathroom door. When he comes back, toss it in the tub and start over again. If you are using treats, your game will just be jumping in and out of the tub. The jumping burns tons of energy!
The inclement weather should not keep you from exercising your dog both mentally or physically!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Owning a dog is a lifetime commitment 
requiring time, effort and money.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All Animals Go To Heaven

Pope Francis says that
"All Animals Go To Heaven"
In his weekly address at the Vatican late last month, Pope Francis issued a remarkable statement that’s sure to come as welcome news to anyone who’s ever lost a beloved pet. According to Francis, the promise of an afterlife applies not only to believers, but to all animals as well.

This isn’t the first time that Francis, who adopted his papal name in honor of the patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi, has spoken out on behalf of nonhumans. In his first homily as pope, Francis articulated mankind’s role in serving not only the divine, but in all creatures born from it:
"The Holy Scriptures teach us that the realization of this wonderful plan covers all that is around us, and that came out of the thought and the heart of God," Pope Francis said, as quoted by Italian news site Resapubblica.
The Pope then went on to say that “heaven is open to all creatures, and there [they] will be vested with the joy and love of God, without limits.”
“The vocation of being a ‘protector,’ however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as St. Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

I am so grateful to have  worked with so many wonderful dogs and their people. 

Wishing each of you a blessed Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Erica Knors - A Life in Animal Rescue

A wonderful tribute to my beautiful and talented collegue Erica at NSALA

Erica Knors - A Life in Animal Rescue
“It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s an old adage often used to demonstrate how children are not only raised by their parents and guardians, but by the influence of their surroundings. 

Here at North Shore Animal League America, the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization, we feel the same can be said about all of the shelter pets that wind up in our care. At any given time, the Animal League’s Port Washington campus can be the temporary home of up to 350 animals who need a special kind of love and support before finally finding their permanent homes. With that many dogs and cats to rescue, nurture and hopefully get adopted, there’s no question that a little piece of each of the dedicated employees and volunteers will be instilled in every one of the animals in some way, shape or form.

Although everyone at the Animal League has a way of touching the lives of these shelter pets, whether it be directly or indirectly, there is one group who has the distinct opportunity to make an impact on a deeper level. The Pet Behavior Training team here at the Animal League is made up of a group of six dog trainers and two cat trainers. The main focus of this specialized unit is to assess the animals when they come in, evaluate them for certain behavioral traits, and then work closely with them to enhance their lives to prepare them for the fateful day when they can shine on the adoption floor.

For Erica Knors, Assistant Pet Behavior Manager at the Animal League, a life of animal rescue is something that comes as naturally as breathing. “Rescue, Nurture, Adopt,” isn’t just a slogan to her, it’s been a lifestyle since she was a young grade school student growing up in Marietta, Georgia. It was at that time when Erica said she began helping her mom, Jill, a big proponent of Trap-Neuter-Return, in controlling the population of cats in her neighborhood and in the heavily wooded area behind her family home. Since the age of five, Erica said the act of rescuing and caring for animals was deeply ingrained in her by her mother, as well as other members of her family including her dad, Eric. So, when it came time to decide what she wanted to do with her life, continuing to embrace her passion for animals was the only logical choice.

“My mom has been the biggest influence on my life, and was the one who gave me my introduction to rescue,” said Erica. “Even after moving to New York when I was 12 years old we did the same thing. I remember there’d be times when we’d rescue 15-20 cats at once, get them spay/neutered and try to place them. We’ve always just been a family with a house full of pets with everything from dogs and cats to snakes and bearded dragons. Animals are just part of who I am.”

Animals may be part of who Erica is, but there’s no question she has meant a great deal to the countless animals she has worked with during her four years as part of the team here at the Animal League. Erica started out as a volunteer and eventually worked her way up the ladder as her work ethic and knowledge of the organization’s ultimate mission became too apparent to ignore. She worked as a shelter associate for close to a year before finally earning the chance to join the highly knowledgeable and heavily relied upon staff of the Pet Behavior team. The eight-person cast of trainers and behavior specialists, which Erica refers to as “a very tightly knit group,” consists of Manager, Vincent Buscemi, Feline Behaviorists, Dorit Shani and Matthew Stephens, and trainers Michelle Knapp, Sonia Rodriguez, Sonia Saakian and Tracy Pendergast-Mesisca. Erica said working alongside a group of such talented and caring people every day makes the job so much more rewarding.

“One of the great things about this job is that it takes me in so many different directions and allows me to work with so many amazing people,” said Erica. “I could be working with the kennel managers in the shelter. I could be assisting the doctors and the vet techs in the medical center. I might be over in the Ark with Chris Miller, giving baths and helping out in grooming, or going out with off-site team on rescues. The best part about working in Pet Behavior is having the ability to have your hands in every single department. That’s what keeps it exciting and alive.”

The life of a Pet Behavior Trainer at the Animal League is certainly not your typical nine to five job where your daily schedule is mapped out before the week even begins. Many days the only time Erica is in her tiny office above the Cat Habitat is when she first arrives for her shift in the morning and when she closes up shop at night. It’s the hours sandwiched between where the real magic happens with her and the animals she works with. On any given day, Erica and the other dog trainers can work with up to 20 dogs, each having their own behavioral issues that need to be mended before they can be considered highly adoptable. Her day usually begins when she feeds, walks, and medicates her dogs before working with them on behavior protocols and other training techniques. She and the rest of the behavior trainers go through this process three times during the day to ensure each dog is getting adequate attention in all areas. In between that, Erica can be found doing evaluations, admitting new dogs, assisting the kennel staff with adoptions, and interacting with potential adopters to provide the answers to any questions they may have about a specific animal. She also finds time to give training advice and teach obedience classes and orientation classes for first-time adopter.

Even with a jam-packed schedule, Erica even found the time to develop a special bond with one of the staff’s favorite dogs. Pippen, who came to the Animal League by way of Virginia, is a beautiful, young Boxer mix, who has become a mainstay in the Behavior Trainer office. Because she is still a bit too shy and introverted to be shown on the adoption floor, Pippen has become the team’s official mascot of sorts, hanging out in the office and getting some alone time with her Animal League family. When you have the opportunity to witness how loving, playful and cuddly Pippen is when she is comfortable with her surroundings, you realize why Erica has the motivation to do even more work in order improve the dog’s chances of finding a loving home.

“Erica brings an extreme amount of knowledge to the position. She excels at dealing with the dogs who have behavioral issues, especially fearful or anxious dogs that require more attention and care, said Pet Behavior Manager, Vincent Buscemi. “The best compliment I can give her is that she’s an all-around team player with a well-rounded skill set. She goes above and beyond and is really a vital member of the team.”

Each day can bring a variety of challenges that not only leaves Erica mentally and physically exhausted, but proudly sporting a layer of cat and dog hair on her standard black Animal League Trainer shirt. Smelling like a mixture of cat and dog and being covered in hair when she leaves for the night is just another day at the office for Erica, but she said she wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder of all she’s accomplished that day.

“I don’t think mentally I ever leave this place. When I go home at night I may not physically be here, but my mind is still completely entrenched in everything that’s going on here,” Erica said. “There’s a constant reminder that I’ve got to get back because there’s still so much more work to do. There are many more lives to improve and ultimately many more to save.”

For people who don’t live it every day it might not be the easiest thing to understand. How can someone like Erica, or any of the other employees or volunteers here at the Animal League, dedicate such a big portion of their lives to one organization’s mission statement? You don’t have to look much further than the visitor’s parking lot to find that answer to that question. Notice the smiling faces of overjoyed adopters who just found their new best friend, or the non-stop wagging of the tail of a dog who realized they’re leaving with his forever family. When you see the happiness that these animals bring to their new families and vice versa, it all suddenly makes sense.

Like the old proverb says; “It takes a village to raise a child.” Even if that child has four legs and has an affinity for chew toys.
James Fitzpatrick, Staff Writer

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why do dogs like to lick our faces?

— by Roger Abrantes
Dogs like to lick our faces, a behavior that is disturbing for many dog owners and particularly non dog owners. Yet, this behavior is a demonstration of friendliness, an attempt at pacifying us and themselves, a hand (though not literally) reaching for peace. It’s a compliment a dog gives you, “I like you, you can be my friend.”

The behavior originates probably in the neonatal and juvenile periods. Pups lick everything as a way of gathering information about their world. Licking our faces may give our dogs much more information about who we are and how we feel than we probably can imagine.
Pups also like to lick one another, a behavior which seems to make both donor and recipient relax because it is a pleasant and undemanding activity. Grooming and self-grooming also include licking and are again undemanding and bonding practices.
Canine mothers lick their pups, a way not only to keep them clean, but also to stimulate physiological processes as urinating, defecating and maybe even digestion.
When the pups become a bit older and begin eating solid food, it is common for them to lick the lips of the adults, a behavior which should elicit their regurgitation of recently intaken food, a good source of nutrition for the youngsters. Even though not as common as when our dogs were closer to their wild ancestors, this regurgitation behavior is still widespread among our canis lupus familiaris if we give them the opportunity to live a relatively normal dog life.
Pacifying behavior is, in general, behavior that originally performs essential functions related to survival and well-being, and that in latter stages assumes these same functions, though in different areas and with different outcomes: licking produced food regurgitation, licking produces friendly behavior.
Next time a dog licks your face, don’t be too alarmed or disgusted. Just close your eyes, yawn, and turn your head away. This shows in dog language that you accept its offer of friendship.
By the way, don’t be too afraid either of the bacteria you may be given when your dog licks you—they are not much worse than those we get from kissing one another—and we’re not going to stop kissing, are we?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Winter is a coming - Tips for keeping your dog's paws safe in the snow

Cold Weather Tips:

In the winter many homeowners and businesses use rock salt and chemical de-icers to clear the ice and snow from sidewalks. These products can irritate your dog's paws. Many dogs will quickly start whining, biting or lifting their paws after just a few steps. If this occurs to your dog while out on a walk gently rub the bottom of his paw to remove the salt. When you return home inspect the paws, making sure to check between the pads and examine the foot for cracks. To help prevent ice balls in between the pads, trim the hair around your dog's paw pads. Also check for snow that can cling to longhaired dogs. There are many pet safe, veterinarian approved nontoxic balms and ointments that protect dogs' paws from ice balls and stinging available at most pet stores.  Dog booties may also be beneficial if you walk your dog in heavily salted areas. If you are a homeowner there are also a number of pet safe salt products that melt the ice without causing irritation to your dog’s paws. After battling the elements don’t forget to take care of yourself as well. Pour yourself a large glass of cabernet and count the days until Spring!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Thoughts on training

Thought for today -

If you want a well-trained dog, it is important to view every interaction with him as an opportunity to incorporate some aspect of training !

Why pay a dog trainer to train your dog if you are not going to follow up with daily practice? It always amazes me that so many people think that they need not participate in the training process to have a well trained dog.  Do they not ‘get’ that in and of itself, training means nothing to a dog. Therefore if it is not reinforced daily and consistently,  a dog will just as soon forget about it and behave in a manner that, in the dog’s mind, works best for what he wants and needs.  Like-wise, training doesn’t exist in a bubble, by which I mean it must be incorporated into the day-to-day business of living.  If you practice for short periods each day but fail to incorporate the training by utilizing it through practical application as you go about your daily routine, your dog will never generalize the training skills learned outside the practice sessions.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Only the beginning...

Too often this is the case. Learn when to start eliminating the treats so that your dog is obeying your commands, not for food, but simply because YOU SAY SO. Call Ain't Misbehavin' to discuss your training needs. Our goal is to teach you how to make your misbehaving dog a well mannered pet!