Ways to give back this #GivingTuesday

Now that we’ve gotten through Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s time to focus on a day that really matters – Giving Tuesday. I love that this event falls right during the busy holiday season because it gives us a chance to step back from the hustle and bustle of the holidays and do something good for others.

This Giving Tuesday I thought I’d focus again on some ways that you can help out local rescues and shelters. Here are just a few ideas to make an impact this holiday season:

Giving Tuesday events

Meet Tuna Melts My Heart

Instagram star @TunaMeltsMyHeart will be visiting the Cleveland APL for Giving Tuesday on Nov. 27. Bring items to donate (food, toys, treats, beds) to the APL and get your picture taken with Tuna. He will be at the adoption center (1729 Willey Ave.) from 4:30 to 6 p.m.


Holiday Hops for Hearts

On Nov. 27, the 4th annual Holiday Hops for Hearts benefitting The Plankton Fund, will be held at Forest City Brewery. The Plankton Fund was started in honor of a dog named Plankton who arrived at the kennel in 2014 and tested positive for late-stage heartworm disease. Tickets are $25 and include one drink ticket and two raffle tickets. Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/events/249289622444677/

Upcoming holiday fundraisers:

Holiday Puppy Yoga

Join the Friendship APL and “animal Yoga pioneer” Julie VanMeter-Moffitt on Sunday, December 9th from 4 to 5:00 p.m. for a special holiday-themed puppy yoga event. Ugly Christmas sweaters are encouraged, and light drinks and snacks will be provided. This is a humans-only event, although there will be puppies there to do yoga with you. Tickets are $25 and space is limited, so purchase your tickets today. All proceeds from this event will support the Friendship APL. Find out more here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/2252497415027669/


Ugly Sweater Christmas Party

Hosted by Second Chance Animal Rescue, the 2nd Annual Ugly Holiday Sweater Party will be held on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2018 from 6 -9:00 pm at Scalpers Bar and Grille in Lyndhurst. Dress up in your favorite ugly Christmas sweater and enjoy dinner, drinks, raffle baskets, 50/50 raffle. All proceeds benefit Second Chance Animal Rescue. Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/events/556801858113157/

Check out the dog-friendly events calendar for more events including all of the Santa Paws events that raise money for local rescues/shelters: http://dogsinthecle.com/dog-friendly-events/

Purchase from a Wishlist

While doing your holiday shopping this year, why not throw in a few gifts for the local homeless dogs and cats in our community? It is so easy to purchase items that a shelter or rescue group needs by searching Amazon for their wishlist and purchasing items on the list. The best part is that you can ship the items directly to them.

You can also use Amazon Smile while you shop on Amazon this holiday season to donate a percentage of your purchase to the rescue group of your choice. Search for one here: https://smile.amazon.com/

Here are just a few Amazon wishlists for local rescues. Many organizations have wishlists on Amazon or have a list of items they need posted on their website.

Cleveland APL: http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/17JWHFI8ZR6ZV/ref=topnav_lists_1

Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter: http://www.amazon.com/wishlist/15JCVK42TMWEY/ref=sr_1_1_acs_wl_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1388683921&sr=8-1-acs

Lake Humane Society: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/13A29C482PO0Y

Sign up to volunteer

Rescue groups always need volunteers to help with fostering, transportation, dog walking, events, and fundraising. If you are new to volunteering, the Cleveland APL is a great place to start. They always need more volunteers to keep up with the animals in their care. Check out more information about volunteering here: https://clevelandapl.org/volunteer/steps-to-become-a-cleveland-apl-volunteer/

The next volunteer orientation for the Cleveland APL will take place on Dec. 5 at 6 pm at St. Wendelin’s Parish.

Most rescue groups have information about becoming a volunteer on their website, so check out your local shelter to see what they need.


Hold your own fundraiser

It is now easier than ever to raise funds for local rescue groups thanks to Facebook. You can start a fundraiser right on Facebook for the local animal charity of your choice and get donations from your friends and family. On Giving Tuesday, Facebook and PayPal will match a total of $7 million in donations, so it is the perfect day to set up a fundraiser and make it easy for others to donate to the group of your choice.

Happy #GivingTuesday everyone!

Common Misconceptions About Fostering

When I took in my first foster Vinnie for Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue someone said to me, “Oh that’s great that you took him in so he doesn’t have to stay at a shelter.” I didn’t have the heart to tell this person that actually Vinnie couldn’t stay at the shelter, that the shelter was days away from putting him down. Overweight and old, Vinnie had sat at the shelter for weeks with no interest. Luckily, many shelters network the dogs they take in and this shelter connected with Pom-savior extraordinaire, Kim Ray at COPR, who agreed to take him in. But Kim couldn’t do that without a network of fosters.

Vinnie, my first foster
Vinnie, my first foster

The sad truth is that many shelters don’t have the capacity, or money, to keep dogs for weeks and weeks. There are too many dogs they take in on a daily basis, that space just doesn’t allow it. And if a dog shows any slight sign of aggression, is deemed too shy, damaged or old, the shelter may have to make a tough call. It’s a sad reality, especially since most of these dogs wouldn’t be the way they are in the shelter if they just got a chance to decompress in a home environment. It makes me so sad to think the price they have to pay for circumstances a human has put them in.

So yes, it is true that fostering saves lives. Unfortunately, there are never enough fosters out there to save them all. Part of this is just numbers, but part of it is also that there are still so many misconceptions about what fostering really involves. Here are a few common misconceptions I hear and why they aren’t really true:

It’ll be too expensive

Fosters are not expected to cover all of the expenses of dogs they foster. Vet visits, medication, and often food, are all covered by most rescue groups. Money should never be a deterrent to fostering. As long as you have love to give and a home to provide the dog, you can be a foster.

I’ll have no choice in the type of dog to foster

I love dogs, but I am also not very experienced in dog behavior or training. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to foster because it would only be the high maintenance dogs with behavioral problems that would need homes and I’d be in over my head. After talking with some other fosters, I realized that all help is appreciated and you could let the rescue group know what type of dog would best fit in your life and find the right fit for you. Since I knew I liked Pomeranians, I looked for a Pom rescue group to foster for. Start where you are comfortable and see how you like it. Ultimately rescue groups want the experience to be successful, so you should feel comfortable letting them know if you’d rather have a small dog or a low energy or older dog. You should never feel pressured to take in a dog that isn’t a good fit for you.

Beautiful Brady, my second foster.

It will be on me to find the dog a home

With most groups you can be involved as much or as little as you want in finding the dog a home. The rescue group will network the dog and find the right home, you just need to be in touch with them to tell them about the dog and give recommendations on what the best home for him or her will be. Some groups have events they may want you to take the dog to, but it’s usually not required. One thing you should be willing to do is to take lots of pictures!! Whatever rescue group you foster for will appreciate having pictures to share on their website and social media to network the dog.

I’ll want to keep the dog

To be honest, this one is usually true, but it’s not as impossible as it seems. Yes, it’s hard to say goodbye. Yes, you do get attached. But when you see the dog go off to a happy home, the sadness is fleeting. I think it would be a rare case to find a foster who regrets sending their foster dog off to a new home, no matter how much they loved him or her. It all really depends on your mindset. For as many fosters I’ve known that have “foster succeeded” and adopted their foster dog (I don’t use the term foster fail anymore, because really isn’t it a success when you love the dog so much you want to adopt him or her?) I also know plenty who haven’t. These people generally go in with the mind frame that this is temporary and they want to keep fostering, so they can’t adopt every dog they fall in love with. And one thing that can make it easier is knowing that you can play a role in finding him or her a home and then keep in touch with the family after the dog is adopted. I recently got the chance to watch Brady, one of my fosters, when his parents went out of town.



Brady with his new family. Look at those happy faces! How could you regret giving up a dog when the result is a family this happy?




And yes, I did foster succeed with Roscoe. Sometimes it happens. I don’t regret it for one minute, but it did make me have to step back from fostering. It’s important to know what you can handle and if the right dog comes along, you shouldn’t feel as though you failed. You gave that dog a home, and that’s always a good thing.


My foster success, Roscoe. Photo courtesy of Boots and Bee Photography.


Disclaimer: I am only speaking from my experience as a foster for COPR and from conversations I’ve had with other fosters. Different rescue groups may have different requirements or practices. It’s important to discuss with them what you can provide and what your concerns are to ensure it will be a good fit for you.

Check out my foster page to see two dogs currently in need of a foster home: http://dogsinthecle.com/adopt/

How to Help a Service Member this Veteran’s Day

Have you heard of the local organization Wags 4 Warriors? The group helps veterans with PTSD get a service dog at no cost to them. The non-profit, based in Brecksville, was co-founded by a veteran, Frank DeLorenzo (OIF Veteran) and Jen DeLorenzo to help service members who have come home and are dealing with some trauma from their combat experience.

Wags 4 Warriors works with local rescue groups to find appropriate dogs for the veterans and then pays for all of the training and support for the dog to become a part of the veteran’s family.

There are a few ways you can help this organization:

1. Organize a fundraiser – Some ideas they give on their website are:  Dress down days at work or school (pay a fee or make a donation to dress down), Garage sales, tag sales, bake sales etc., Gift basket raffles, Bike-a-thons, golf tournaments, wine tastings

2. Donate – You can make a monetary donation, or donate leashes, collars, bones, crates, treats, gentle leaders and other dog supplies. To donate, visit: http://www.wags4warriors.org/Support.html

Another great organization helping current service members is Dogs on Deployment. If you’ve ever considered fostering, but are worried you’ll get too attached to the dog, you might want to consider looking into this organization.

Dogs on Deployment (www.dogsondeployment.org) is an online network that finds foster homes for military personnel while they are deployed. Service members can go to the site to search for volunteers who are willing to board their pets while they are away.


Three Ways to Help:

1. Board

Go to the site and create an account. You can select what you want to do. If you want to be a foster for a service member, choose the board option. Once you create your account, you can connect with service members and make boarding arrangements. As a boarder, you have the option to choose the amount of time you want to board, whether it’s less than 1 month, 1-3 months, 4-6 months, 7-12 months or greater than 12 months. The site says a typical deployment can last 6-12 months, but they do occasionally have military members who need short term boarding. Read more FAQs about boarding here: http://www.dogsondeployment.org/faqs/detail/boarding

2. Volunteer

Dogs on Deployment is always looking for volunteers to help out with local events and spread the word about the organization. I don’t see that any upcoming events in our area (Looks like the strongest presence for this group is in the south and on the west coast – so share with dog lovers you know in those areas!)

3. Donate

Beyond connecting military service members to people who can foster their dogs, Dogs on Deployment also provides financial assistance to military members and their families. According to GreatNonProfits.com, Dogs on Deployment helps over 700 military-owned pets per year. You can donate online here: https://store.dogsondeployment.org/donate.asp

You can also buy a cute bandanna or dog treats to support the cause: http://store.dogsondeployment.org/category-s/1817.htm

And because you don’t hear it enough, I am sure – thank you to all who have served!

Freedom Rides!

This post is written by Susie Iacobucci-Alexander, a volunteer with Muttley Crue and Cleveland Animal Control. Susie is a friend of mine and one of the most dedicated dog lovers I know. She not only fosters dogs, but also volunteers, frequently helping groups out with “freedom rides” to transport dogs from a shelter to a rescue organization. For this blog, I asked if she would share her experiences as a transportation volunteer for local rescue groups. I can’t think of a better feeling than being there for that moment when a dog is released from the shelter to begin his or her journey to a new life! Read on to learn more about freedom rides and how you can get involved.

Have you seen any cars driving around town lately, emblazoned with the words “FREEDOM RIDE!” and wondered what the heck those people are doing? Well here to fill you in, a Freedom Ride expert!

In the animal rescue community, this phrase is a very happy sign that some fortunate critter (or critters) is on their first trip to FREEDOM – most likely from a high-kill Animal Control facility or city/county pound, such as the Cleveland Animal Control facility, which is right in our backyard.

Giving Freedom Rides is one of my absolute most FAVORITE parts of volunteering for animal advocacy groups. There is such a feeling of unbridled happiness and joy when you get to help a dog break out of a pound! Dogs may be scared at first, or they may literally jump out of their cages with joy (or perhaps they are just trying to escape because they are stuck in a tiny cement cell all day!), but when they get to go outside and into a car, something tends to click and they realize don’t have to go back to that awful place – and seeing this makes my heart sing!

Personally, I do freedom rides for 2 main groups – Cleveland Animal Control and Muttley Crue – but there are groups all over Cleveland and in every other city in need of transport volunteers. You can even track your mileage and deduct them on your taxes, too!

Cleveland Animal Control (AKA CAC and their new re-branding of City Dogs Cleveland) has a group of dedicated Transportation Volunteers, amongst other groups of volunteers. Muttley Crue doesn’t have a specific group of drivers, but my schedule allows me to get dogs from pounds in the mornings and get them to their vet appointments, foster homes, adopters, etc. Rescue groups also often need volunteers to drive their adoptables to follow up vet appointments, adoption events, meet and greets, training sessions, boarding stints, and many other places – so it’s not just a job for people with free mornings.

Most rescue organizations have no paid staff, and rely solely on the time and effort of volunteers to get their animals to and from wherever they need to be – so there’s always a dog somewhere that needs a lift. If you have some free time and a reliable car, rescue groups would love to have you on their team!

When I am getting a dog (or any other animal – CAC has had cats and even chickens!) from a pound, I like to make a big deal out of the fact that they are escaping the needle of death, and I decorate my car in an attempt to help spread the word about Freedom Rides and pet adoption. It may not have a big impact, but if I can spark the curiosity of even one other driver on the road, and get them to go look up “Shelter Freedom Ride, “ then I am happy with that – it’s a start!

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If you want to become a Freedom Ride Volunteer, or general transport volunteer, check out your local rescue groups and city/county pound. A few helpful links and tips:

And in case you need some additional inspiration – the shelter freedom ride movement is sweeping the nation! http://barkpost.com/shelter-freedom-ride-pics-that-will-melt-your-heart/

Contact your local rescue group to find out what help they need transporting dogs. This is a fun, easy, relatively inexpensive way to make a big impact on a dog’s life!