Petfinder Foundation News

A Special Way to Remember a Best Friend

Lisa Robinson, executive director

When I adopted my BoxerLab mix, Luckie Boy, eight years ago, I had no idea the kind of true love that I would be given. I quickly found out how tossing a ball and running in the park with my new furry friend could be the best time spent.

black dog

Luckie Boy was a great dog.

A few months ago, Luckie developed a bone tumor in his nasal cavity. The news completely devastated my family. Over the next few months, the tumor grew — it created a bump on his head that got bigger as the days went on. His breathing became heavy and he started getting nosebleeds.

His personality changed too; he became withdrawn. This week we made the hard choice to put him to sleep. While the decision was hard, I find comfort knowing that we gave him a wonderful life and that he blessed my life with true unconditional love.

As we move forward as a one-dog family (although I don’t think that will last long — our five-year-old Lab, Scarlett, seems lonely and has been looking for Luckie), I am truly touched by the support of our friends and family.

People have given us flowers and cards, and made donations in Luckie’s memory. I’m reminded how many lives my little black dog touched. I’m also reminded what a great way a donation is to honor a pet’s life.

At the Petfinder Foundation, we often receive donations in memory of loved ones, two-legged or four. Like all the funds we receive, they go exclusively into programs that provide direct care to homeless pets across the country. Improving the lives of pets still waiting for their forever homes is a wonderful way to honor a life that has blessed yours.

To make a donation in memory of a loved one for whom you’re thankful, click here.

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Sandy Refugee Storm the Dog Gets a Second Chance

Meet adoptable Dobie/Am Staff mix Storm at Westchester Humane Society in Harrison, NY.

Westchester Humane Society got a disaster grant from the Petfinder Foundation to care for the animals it took in because of Hurricane Sandy. Board member Irma Jansen wrote to us about one of those refugees, a Doberman/American Staffordshire Terrier mix named Storm (pictured above).

Storm with a pal

This is Storm, one of the 18 animals the Westchester Humane Society in Harrison rescued from New York City. Storm came from Staten Island the day before the hurricane hit.

They were evacuating shelters and were overcrowded. In order to help prevent a lot of animals from being euthanized, we rescued a total of 18 dogs and cats.

Storm, named in ‘honor’ of the hurricane, was saved from Sandy and did not seem to care that a week after the hurricane, a snow storm hit our area! It has been quite a week in the NYC area.

She loves the snow, this 2-year-old girl! She is an absolute sweetheart and we are happy we were able to have saved her. Thank you so much for making this rescue possible!

Some of the other shelters and rescue groups receiving disaster grants in Sandy’s wake include:

These puppies, at Tails of Love Animal Rescue in Staten Island, will benefit from a Petfinder Foundation disaster grant.

  • Tails of Love Animal Rescue, Inc., in Staten Island, NY, which lost heat and power and suffered damage to its roof and outdoor kennels, and also needed money for food, blankets, a generator, food bowls (since staff could not wash them without hot water) and cleaning supplies.
  • Seer Farms, Inc., in Jackson, NJ. “We took in over 50 animals in the first weekend after the storm, which is an approximately 10% increase in our population, and we are taking in new animals every day who were either rescued from abandoned homes or brought by their owners who are living in shelters,” says owner Laura Pople. “We lost power for several days and spent several thousand dollars on tree removal.”
  • Abandoned Angels Animal Rescue in Columbus, NJ, which took in pets for people whose homes had flooded and will care for them until their families can find housing for themselves and their pets, or find them new homes if their guardians can’t take them back.
  • Helping Every Animal Live Society, Inc. in Lodi, NJ, which needed to relocate to a safer building. “We lost all or vaccinations and antibiotics that needed refrigeration. The river swept away many of our crates and destroyed pallets of dog food,” says vice president Benjamin Ortiz. “This grant will be used solely to relocate our rescues to a safe and healthy facility.”
  • Animal Rescue R Us, also in Lodi. “We lost crates, bedding, food and supplies due to damage from flood,” says president Christina Chavis. The grant will allow the shelter to replace those items to care for its 20 adoptable pets.

We are able to help these organizations continue their lifesaving work thanks to donors like you. Thank you to all who gave — every little bit helps.

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Hurricane Sandy: We’re Giving $1 Million+ to Help Pets

Hurricane Sandy has devastated animal shelters in the northeast — but the Petfinder Foundation is getting cash and goods worth more than $1 million to Petfinder shelters and rescues in need. Here are just a few ways we’re helping:

Humane Society of Atlantic County dogs were crammed into tiny cat cages to escape floodwater.

  • We’ve given $18,500 and counting in cash grants to affected shelters, including the Humane Society of Atlantic County in Atlantic City, NJ. The shelter was flooded with seawater a foot deep; large dogs had to be moved into tiny cat cages to escape the rising water; and the organization lost thousands in damaged supplies and equipment. Our grant will help staffers repair the facility and care for local residents’ pets in need of medical aid, food and shelter.
  • Thanks to pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), we’re donating vaccines to shelters and rescue groups that lost medications during the storm (many vaccines need to be refrigerated, so shelters that lost power had to discard theirs). BI will work with the Petfinder Foundation to figure out what vaccines each shelter needs most.
  • DelMonte is donating 1,200 lbs of Nature’s Recipe premium dry cat food to be distributed to organizations in need via a Petfinder Foundation grant.
  • With help from our partners at Wahl, we’re donating grooming supplies and shampoo to shelters that lost theirs due to Hurricane Sandy.
  • True-Dose is donating its Calming supplement to shelters to help relieve anxiety in pets going through the stress of being displaced from their homes, living in an unfamiliar environment and being separated from their families.
  • We’re giving KONGs to shelters that need to replace toys damaged by the hurricane thanks to a donation from our partners at that company.

Still, we need your help. Even the smallest donation makes a difference. Please give today.

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The Petfinder Foundation Helps Victims of Hurricane Sandy

I think I speak for everyone at the Petfinder Foundation when I say that our thoughts are with everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. All of us here have been working diligently to provide whatever assistance we can to help pets, and the people who care for them, during this difficult time.

Pets like Doddy at the Humane Society of Atlantic County will be helped by a Disaster grant from the Petfinder Foundation.

For me, awarding grants is one of my favorite parts of my job as Program Manager at the Petfinder Foundation because I know each grant I award is directly helping homeless pets. Most recently we awarded $10,000 to the Humane Society of Atlantic County in Atlantic City, NJ. They were hit extremely hard by Sandy. The shelter had approximately a foot of sea water throughout during the worst part of the storm and because of the flooding they lost a significant amount of medical and shelter supplies, including medications, food, and other items.

In addition to the damage, the Humane Society is also offering assistance to the pets in the community that were affected by the storm in the form of medical care, food and shelter. This is a great example of the role animal shelters play in their local communities. When disaster strikes, shelters not only cope with their own losses, but work overtime to care for the pets of those around them so that people who’ve lost everything can at least know their pets are safe.

Danielle Tustin, Adoption Counselor for HSAC, says, “We are hoping to replenish our medical and shelter supplies, and establish a point where those affected in the community can bring their pets for medical care and any needed supplies. We will need to purchase medications, vaccines, and food, as well as pay doctors and staff to help care for these animals. We anticipate caring for a significant of local animals from the community in the coming weeks as a result of this disaster.”

The Petfinder Foundation is continuing to reach out to and award groups affected by this storm. If you are a group in need of help, please fill out the disaster application here. To help other organizations impacted by Hurricane Sandy please make a donation to the Petfinder Foundation here.

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Petfinder Foundation Helps With Hurricane Sandy

The Petfinder Foundation has always been concerned with the safety of homeless pets when a disaster hits.  Hurricane Sandy is no exception. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the Frankenstorm including our fuzzy friends. At this time, the Foundation is preparing to help Petfinder members in a variety of ways, including providing disaster relief grants, assistance with transport of homeless pets to safer areas and providing education and care to those who need it.

Here are some of the ways that we are helping:

The Petfinder Foundation IFAW truck prepares for recovery efforts.

The Petfinder Foundation partnered with International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to fund a recovery and disaster vehicle. The truck has proven to be helpful in a variety of ways when a storm hits. Often the PFF truck is loaded up with supplies like food, medical equipment and crates to help homeless pets affected by a storm. Once deployed, the truck provides additional assistance by transporting homeless dogs out of the disaster area to a safer environment where they are better able to find forever homes. Currently, the Petfinder Foundation rig is loaded up with boats and water rescue gear in preparation for water support of the devastated areas. The truck is also prepared with sheltering supplies to make sure to address whatever unmet animal needs there might be following the storm.

The Petfinder Foundation partners with National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC) to address specific needs when disaster hits. As there is a great need with Hurricane Sandy, we are actively working with our NARSC partners to ensure that proper procedures are followed and that organizations are working as a team to bring the best support to affected shelters and rescue groups.

Hurricanes and other disasters can devastate animal rescue and shelter organizations. The Petfinder Foundation oversees a Disaster Fund to help pets and animal welfare organizations when natural or man-made disaster hits a community. We are currently accepting applications from Petfinder members who were hit by Hurricane Sandy. We have already received several applications and are reaching out to groups to award disaster grants and help them through this troubling time.

As we move forward with recovery efforts, the entire Petfinder Foundation would like to personally thank all the shelter and rescue groups staff and volunteers for their time and effort to help save the lives of homeless pets.

To support the Petfinder Foundation Disaster and other programs, donate here.

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Rescue U Helps Renovate Five Shelters with Mars Petcare

Rescue U is at it again! We just got back from the Nashville, TN area working with Mars Petcare, which includes Pedigree, helping coordinate their Mars Volunteer Program at five local animal shelters. Volunteerism is the heart and soul of our Rescue U program. Helping Mars/Pedigree by showing their employees how they can improve the living conditions for animals in shelters is yet another way Rescue U is training animal advocates.

The Petfinder Foundation’s Rescue U team poses with volunteers from Mars/Pedigree behind the agility step platform they built at Nashville Metro Animal Care and Control. This platform will not only give the shelter dogs there agility training, but alleviate fear of open stairs, making them more adoptable.

The Mars Volunteer Program is a month long endeavor where Mars employees are given time off to perform various community services as team building events. Rescue U participated this year by designing and running their animal shelter activities. Mars/Pedigree has done animal projects in the past, but they wanted to take their program to a whole new level, so they brought us in. Mars/Pedigree selected the 5 shelters we are going to help, the Williamson County Animal Shelter, the Maury County Animal Shelter, the Sumner County Animal Shelter, the Humane Society of Sumner County, and Nashville’s Metro Animal Shelter, and Rescue U got to work.

We worked with the 5 shelters to determine what their greatest needs are. We then designed the projects to be completed in a single day with new volunteers working each day. While that may sound like a simple task, most shelter staff is so busy surviving the day to day upkeep of their animals they don’t even realize what their greatest problem areas may be. They may realize that their cats suffer from upper respiratory issues but not understand the connection between mental and physical health. The same is true for their dogs. They know they are stressed and slightly kennel crazy even though they spend time outdoors, but they don’t realize that most of their outdoor time isn’t productive exercise time since the dogs are hunkered down in the one corner of their play yard that provides afternoon shade.

Mars volunteers install sunshades over the outside dog runs at Williamson County Animal Control. The sunshades will shade the yard, allowing dogs to enjoy it year round.

Though these projects were completed in a single week, running Rescue U projects is like running a cooking show. Isn’t it always cool how the onions and peppers are already cut up and put in cute glass dishes? Well that is what Rescue U does. We prep the projects so the volunteers can show up on a Monday morning ready to pour concrete into the mystically graded, graveled and formed concrete pad that was awaiting them. No magic here — just us, working all day Saturday and Sunday getting it ready. The easier we can make it seem for the volunteers, the more fun they will have and the more likely they will be to want to do it again!

The projects the Mars/Pedigree volunteers completed included creating a cat stimulation garden to enrich the lives of the cats in one shelter, putting up shade screens to protect dogs from the blazing Nashville sun, constructing a storage building for food, installing exercise pens, painting, adding shelving, installing wall fans, replacing doors and repairing others, in addition to adding agility equipment, benches and landscaping to make the shelters more appealing to potential adopters. We had a blast on this project! We will have more pictures and video for you soon!

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Win $5,000 for Your Shelter With a Picture of Your Dirty Dog!

Admit it — your dog likes to get dirty. This is one time you should encourage it!

Meet Bino, an entrant in this year’s contest. His mom tells us: “He loves to romp in the grass with his canine brother!”

Your dirty dog’s photo could mean up to $5,000 for the Petfinder.com shelter or rescue of your choice, as well as a dog wash fundraising event sponsored by WAHL. All you have to do is enter WAHL’s Dirty Dogs Facebook contest by October 31. WAHL will choose their top 25 entries, and the public will vote for the winners through November 16th.

Celebrate your dog’s desire to get dirty for a good cause and you’ll have a shot at some cool prizes:

    • 1st place: We’ll give $5,000 to the Petfinder shelter or rescue group of your choice, WAHL will sponsor a dog wash fundraising event at the shelter, you’ll get a grooming kit for your dog and a gift certificate to wahlhomeproducts.com.
    • Two 2nd place prizes: We’ll give $1,000 to the shelter or rescue group of your choice, and you’ll get a grooming kit for your dog and a gift certificate to wahlhomeproducts.com.

Help WAHL show that adoption is not a dirty word by posting your dirty dog in the Dirty Dogs Facebook contest! Enter your dog now!

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Voting for Fuzzy Nation Finalists

The Petfinder Foundation is extremely excited to be Fuzzy Nation’s partner for the Fuzzy Nation Super Model contest. The contest, in its second year, does an excellent job in promoting adoption by showing that an adopted dog can be a Super Model too! Each of the 100 dogs and shelters who made it to the final round are worthy of the much needed funds Fuzzy Nation is donating.

Unfortunately, some people are accusing others of cheating and misusing the multiplier codes Fuzzy Nation introduced this year. It is important to note that these concerns are not valid and there are safeguards in place to ensure cheating is not happening.

It clearly states in the Terms and Conditions of the contest that “Codes on Fuzzy
Nation merchandise may be used to multiply the value of a vote up to 100x, once. Multiple uses of the same code by the same user will not be counted.” Every person who votes has a unique Facebook ID number. By looking at a log of all the votes, we can determine who has used codes multiple times, and these votes will not be counted. We are following the log and will address issues of misuse as they arise. Furthermore, the voting application is safeguarded against automated scripts. Any claims that automated scripts or any other automatic voting method are being used are false.

Last year’s winner, Francis, presenting the donation check to CARA

We encourage the finalists to send email blasts, post on Facebook, and reach out to local media to get support behind their entrant. Fuzzy Nation has hidden a code on their website and created a scavenger hunt to complete to find it.  Click here to find out more.

Let’s not forget what this contest is about – promoting adoption! Last year’s winner, Francis, inspired us all with his story of overcoming all odds thanks to the support of Community Animal Rescue and Adoption. He presented his grand prize check to CARA at a large adoption event that was a celebration of the spirit of this contest.

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Meet the Fuzzy Nation Judges

The entries are in for this year’s Fuzzy Nation Super Model contest, and our judges are narrowing it down to 100! The finalists will be announced some time on Sept. 18, and voting begins Sept. 19 at 12AM PST. We introduced you to our panel of celebrity judges a couple of months ago. Let’s learn some more about them:

Katherine Heigl

Katherine Heigl

Katherine Heigl became a box-office sensation starring first in Judd Apatow’s smash hit comedy, Knocked Up, followed by a starring turn with Ed Burns and James Marsden in the romantic comedy, 27 Dresses, and then opposite Gerard Butler in the romantic comedy The Ugly Truth, which she also executive produced. These earned Heigl “Female Star of the Year” honors at the 2010 ShoWest awards.

Heigl next stars with Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams in the comedy feature The Wedding, opening nationwide in October.

In May of 2009, Katherine Heigl and her mother Nancy launched the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation in honor of her older brother, who died much too young in an automobile accident and whose strong, compassionate nature and great love of animals was the cornerstone of their endeavors. The Heigls are using their resources to work directly to address the pet population crises in Los Angeles and across the country.

Toward that goal, the Foundation launched the “Compassion Revolution” in September of 2010, pledging over one million dollars to a variety of low cost and free spay/neuter programs in Los Angeles and surrounding counties, as a key component to reducing the number of animals in shelters. The Foundation also presently funds pet education programs, actively supports spay/neuter programs, pet adoption programs, and fund and supports small dog transport from local shelters to both no kill shelters and rescues facilities throughout the country. To date the Foundation has funded more than 5500 spay/neuter surgeries, the transport of over 1300 animals out of high euthanasia shelters to areas where they are rapidly adopted and an overwhelming variety of adoption and training programs intently focused on improving the plight of our pets.

Betsy Saul

Betsy Saul

With a vision to change the way the public views shelter pets, Betsy Saul harnessed the infant technology of the Internet in 1996 and molded it into one of the most successful Web businesses to date. The first site of its kind, Petfinder, which Betsy describes as a social profit company, is on a mission to see that no pet is euthanized for lack of a home and to increase the value of the family pet. In this corner of the Web, currency is “lives saved” and profitability is measured in increasing the effectiveness of the shelter and rescue worker. Almost 15 years of consistent and steady growth (in adoptions, traffic and revenue), even in the face of turbulent “dot bomb” and recession years, translates to over five million unique visitors each month and over two million adoptions annually. Betsy was recently named by Woman’s Day magazine as one of fifty “Women Who Are Changing The World.”

In 2005 Betsy co-founded PetVideo.com, which has become the adoption and training video initiative of Petfinder and Animal Planet.com. In 2006, media giant Discovery Communications acquired Petfinder.com in what Ad Age magazine called one of the “best (and sweetest) acquisitions of the year.” Betsy continues to serve Petfinder, focusing on strategy, partnerships and public relations.

In animal welfare, Betsy’s attention is focused on broad-scale progress. She splits her time between Petfinder, the Petfinder.com Foundation, as chairman of the board, and the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs, where she serves on the board of directors. Betsy also serves on the Board of Overseers for Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine for Tufts University and is the co-founder of HEAL Mobile Veterinary Services. Her top priorities are identifying strategies to increase the quality of life for animals and their people, finding alternatives to “warehousing” companion animals who are waiting for a home, and searching for alternatives to traditional spay/neuter programs.

Betsy has been working with and volunteering for animals since she was a teen. Prior to creating Petfinder, she worked as an urban forester for the State of New Jersey, as an agriculture extension agent at Rutgers University, as a park ranger at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska, and as a field scientist for the Army Corps of Engineers in South Carolina. She received her M.S. in forest ecology, specializing in groundwater hydrology at Clemson University. Her work has always emphasized collaboration and partnerships.

Betsy prides herself for having friends in high and low places, so her family includes a diversity of animals ranging from the very large, like Missy, the black Angus cow, to the diminutive Sydney, the box turtle.

John Paul DeJoria

John Paul DeJoria

John Paul DeJoria’s rags-to-riches biography exemplifies the American dream – he is a first-generation American turned entrepreneur, philanthropist, government servant, and pillar of the business community. John Paul DeJoria has struggled against the odds not only to achieve success, but to share this success with others. He knows firsthand what it’s like to be the ‘underdog,’ and strives to help as many as possible overcome their challenges and achieve their full potential.

The prestigious Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans – an organization that honors selected individuals who have overcome humble beginnings and adversity to achieve success – recently recognized John Paul for his exemplary journey. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas inducted John Paul as a lifetime member in a ceremony that took place in the Supreme Court of the United States. Members of the Association – including such notables as Secretary of State Colin Powell, Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, Oprah Winfrey, Norman Vincent Peale, and J.C. Penney – mentor young people and sponsor over $5 million in Horatio Alger need-based scholarships awarded annually to high school seniors who have proven their ability to overcome adversity and humble beginnings.

John Paul DeJoria was born in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California – one of two children of immigrant parents (his father came from Italy and his mother’s family came from Greece). His mother raised him as a single parent before John Paul reached the age of two.

John Paul started out selling greeting cards at age 9 and delivering newspapers in order to help support his family. After high school and service with honors in the U.S. Navy, John Paul did whatever it took to make ends meet – he sold encyclopedias, photocopying machines, dictating equipment, and insurance; he also worked as a janitor, pumped gasoline, drove a tow truck, and repaired bicycles. John Paul was even homeless at one time. Even then, he didn’t give up and collected bottles to stay afloat.

Eventually, John Paul got his break – an entry-level marketing position with Time magazine. Within a short period of time, he was promoted to Los Angeles Circulation Manager. He then moved to his first position in the hair care industry. Within eighteen months, he received a promotion to National Manager of Schools and Chain Salons. John Paul left this position and served at the National Manager and Vice President level for several hair care and cosmetic companies before becoming an independent consultant. He joined his marketing expertise with the hairdressing talents of his friend Paul Mitchell to launch their now-famous professional hair care system.

Although Paul Mitchell tragically died of pancreatic cancer in 1989, the two partners’ dream has flourished. Today, John Paul Mitchell Systems has annual salon retail sales approaching $900 million. The company currently produces over 90 products (including the brands Paul Mitchell®, Modern Elixirs™, Tea Tree™, Paul Mitchell LAB™, and Paul Mitchell Professional Hair Color). All John Paul Mitchell System hair and skin care products are manufactured within the United States. John Paul Mitchell Systems products are sold through 25 distributors within the United States and thousands of hair salons and schools. Internationally, John Paul Mitchell Systems works with distributors in 75 countries that supply thousands of hair salons.

John Paul Mitchell Systems ardently supports a wide variety of philanthropic causes.
Recent donations (totaling millions of dollars) of cash, products, and services have been made to non-profit organizations operating in the fields of health care, social services, environmental protection and awareness, animal welfare, and the arts.

Kristin Hanggi

Kristin Hanggi

Kristin is most known for directing and developing the international smash-hit Rock of Ages which was nominated for five Tony Nominations including Best Direction of a Musical for Kristin Hanggi. She has directed the productions on Broadway, the West End, Australia, Toronto, and two National Tours.

Ms. Hanggi’s other productions include acclaimed pop opera bare produced by Dodger Theatricals which was rated the #1 production in New York by Zagat audiences and ran to sold-out audiences in Los Angeles and off-Broadway, for which she received the Ovation Award Best Musical, LA Weekly Award Best Musical, Robby Award Best Director. Bare continues to be produced all over the world. Ms. Hanggi also directed initial production that launched the Pussycat Dolls, “Pussycat Dolls Live at the Roxy” with Christina Applegate, Carmen Electra and special guests Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Brittany Murphy, Nikka Costa and Charlize Theron. Other stage productions include: And the Curtain Rises at the Signature Theater; the 2007 winner of the New York’s Fringe Festival, Catch The Fish; Brian Crano’s play Twelfth Premise (LA Times Critics Pick); the Los Angeles Premiere of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi (2001 Ticketholder Award, Best Production; 2001 Ticketholder Award, Best Director; 2001 Robby Award, Best Director of a Play); Crane, Mississippi (LA Times Critic’s Choice, Backstage West Critic’s Pick); the New York and Los Angeles productions of the underground cult-hit Ann E. Wrecksick and the Odyssey of the Bulimic Orphans; Greystone (Los Angeles Theater History Project at LATC); Wayside (LA Weekly Pick of the Week). Additionally, she directed Glen Mary Glen Rose: Women Do Men, a benefit for “Step-Up” and the Revlon/UCLA Breast Cancer Center at UCLA’s Royce Hall starring Susan Egan, Amy Brenneman, Teri Garr, Vicki Lawrence, and Jean Smart, among others.

As a screenwriter, she has recently adapted the hit book series, “Dear Dumb Diary” into a musical movie, which she is also directing, under Executive Producer Jerry Zucker. She is also attached to direct Shopping For Boys for Paramount with Mena Suvari and Amy Smart.

Kristin graduated with her Masters from USC after receiving her Bachelors from UCLA in Theater. She is currently developing a musical television series with GREEK creator Sean Patrick Smith, produced by Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films, and The Outsiders as a stage musical for Francis Ford Coppola and American Zoetrope.

Kim Kavin

Kim Kavin

Kim Kavin is a widely published award-winning journalist, as well as a volunteer worker dedicated to fostering puppies who have been saved from high-kill shelters but who have not yet been adopted. She lives in Long Valley, NJ, where her hobbies include cooking, wine tasting, and hiking local park trails with her dog Blue. Her most recent book, Little Boy Blue: A Puppy’s Rescue from Death Row and His Owner’s Journey for Truth, was called a “riveting read” by Dogster.com, and is in the top 5 pet books on Amazon.com. A portion of the proceeds from her book benefit the Petfinder Foundation.

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Betsy’s Story

Betsy

Teresa Calafut of Uniondale, PA, is one of the many generous donors who gave to the Petfinder Foundation through Orvis, which all this year has been matching donations dollar-for-dollar (learn more or donate now).

Nearly everyone who gives to the Petfinder Foundation has a deeply personal reason for doing so, and when we learned that Teresa had donated part of the settlement she’d received after her dog Betsy was shot by a hunter, we felt she deserved to tell her story — both as a cautionary tale to fellow pet parents and as a way to honor Betsy’s memory.

I asked Teresa what advice she would offer our readers to help them avoid a similar tragedy. “Remember that there is always the possibility that a hunter is near where you and your dog are hiking,” she said. “Hunting regulations are different in each state, and you need to know what they are for yours. In Pennsylvania, coyotes can be shot any day of the year so there is always a risk. But most of the hunting takes place in the fall; I don’t take the dogs anywhere from September to January unless hunting is prohibited, and they always wear bright orange jackets (from the Orvis catalog). And be aware that hunting is allowed in places you wouldn’t necessarily expect, like state parks in Pennsylvania.”

Here is Betsy’s story in Teresa’s own words:

Betsy with her Frisbee

Betsy’s adoption and personality

Betsy was a collie mix; she looked like she was part collie, part golden retriever with other breeds mixed in. She was born in March 2005 in North Carolina and she and her brother were rescued from a shelter when they were very young.

I started looking for a dog about that time; I’d had cats for over 20 years but had not had a dog as an adult. I wanted a puppy whom I could raise and be with for many years, through her adulthood and old age. I was kind of looking for a collie-type dog since that is what we had growing up, a mutt who needed a home. A friend at work told me about Petfinder.com, where I found Chicklet, soon to be named Betsy.

When Betsy was 3 months old, the rescue group brought her and a bunch of other dogs up to a rest stop in Carlisle, PA, just south of Harrisburg, and I made the three-hour drive to get her. After I paid the balance of her adoption fee, the rescue person put little Betsy into my arms and I had a dog, a little ball of fluff who just wanted to sit on my lap. I drove the whole way home with her on my lap, then sat on the porch and carried her around the house. She must have been tired and stressed out from the long ride. She slept a lot, then started looking around. Later in the day she helped me plant flowers by digging a hole and she found some sticks to chew and pull. I had prepared a place for her with a bed, toys and water, but she was only interested in following me around.

She grew. I’d had in mind a medium-sized dog, but Betsy had big paws and grew into them, to be about 50 lbs. She was light brown, with some white on her chest, paws and rump and some black on her tail. She was very energetic and a very picky eater and was always thin. But she loved treats and the bones I made for her once a week. She had long fur with curly tendrils around her ears, a long collie nose, and one of her ears sometimes flopped over.

I took her most places with me: to the grocery store, visiting friends and relatives, for ice cream, to dog classes at Petco. She liked to sit in the front seat and look out the window. In the grocery store parking lot, people would laugh at seeing her sitting in the driver’s seat staring straight ahead, as if she were driving. She liked to walk in her wading pool and would swim or walk in the water in ponds and streams. She liked to walk and sometimes sit in the mud; once she almost got stuck in quicksand. I tried to train her to sit in the canoe with me, but she kept jumping in the water and swimming alongside.

Betsy on the couch

She liked to sleep on the couch and on the bed. She got along well with the cats and liked to play with their toys sometimes. She loved their laser toy and would go crazy chasing it. And she really liked their cat food.

She liked to play with sticks and balls, especially fetch, and she liked to tear her toys apart and find the squeaker. But her favorite toy was a Frisbee. She was obsessed; she would play for hours and hours, bringing the Frisbee back and dropping it at someone’s feet; if they didn’t respond, she would nudge it with her nose and stare at it fixedly. She brought Frisbees to anyone who was around and took them for walks and in the car. I kept buying new ones as they were chewed up or disappeared and found a few Frisbees in the yard or field after she died.

We went for walks every day in the field and pasture behind my house. She wasn’t interested in the horses but did get sprayed by skunks a few times. Sometimes we would go for longer hikes in local parks; longer hikes tired her out and she slept a lot the next day, giving me a rest from being continually bumped with a Frisbee. We went camping and hiking in the Adirondack Park in New York; she seemed to enjoy seeing new places and things. Of course she always brought her Frisbee. She was a sweet dog, never ran off anywhere, and everybody always liked her.

Betsy’s last hike

On October 26, 2007, Betsy and I and a group of seven hikers were hiking near Slate Run in the Pine Creek area of central Pennsylvania. Betsy was glad to get out of the car and was running around exploring the woods near the trailhead. There were no signs near the trailhead except the trail sign, no warnings of possible hunters in the area. We started up the Pine Trail, a rugged, steep trail up Hemlock Mountain, then stopped for lunch once we reached the top. As usual, Betsy kept running around while everyone else rested, and I played tug and fetch with her with sticks. Then we started up again along the ridge of the mountain, on Big Trail Road, a grassy, little-used road. Betsy found a puddle and enjoyed walking in it. I waited for her but the others kept on, and she ran to take the lead again. If only she had stayed a minute longer in the puddle. I was in the back of the group.

Up ahead, Betsy stopped at an interesting smell and was there for what seemed like a few minutes. On our right was a wooded area and the steep slope of the mountain; on the left was a more gradual downward slope with an open, brushy hill. Where the hikers were, a large bush on the left prevented a view of the hill on the left, but Betsy, about 30 feet ahead, was in the open area.

It was fast. Someone in the front of the group said, “There’s a hunter,” and immediately I was past the bush to see a hunter aiming a long gun at my Betsy. He was wearing camouflage, without any noticeable orange or reflective wear. I screamed; people shouted, “Don’t shoot!” Then I heard a pop. Betsy was still standing; I thought maybe he missed, but then she took a few steps and fell over on the other side of the road in some grass and leaves. The hunter came over to look at her, I screamed at him to get away from her. He said he thought she was a coyote. We learned later that he was using a scope. He shot her from a distance of about 40 feet. Betsy was shot in the abdomen and back area on her right side. She was shot at about 1:30 p.m.

The hunter said he would go get his truck to take her to a vet and he left. We didn’t know if he would return or not. One of the hikers tried to call 911, but could not get cell reception. Someone started to make a litter from branches and jackets so we could carry her down. Two others bushwacked down through the woods to get help. Another hiker and I sat by Betsy, petting her and talking to her. I tried to stay calm. My life was falling apart.

The hunter came back up the road. The remaining hikers and I put Betsy in the back of the truck and climbed in the back. We drove to a tavern/campground where there were a lot other people around. A woman who said that she was a former army medic looked at Betsy and said that she did not think the wound was severe and applied pressure to Betsy’s wound. Betsy was bleeding onto the bed of the truck. The hunter called around for a vet and located one 30 miles away near Williamsport. The hunter and I went to the vet; the other hikers stayed at the tavern/campground. Two volunteered to drive my car to the vet’s office.

Someone moved Betsy to the floor of the cab of the truck and I sat on the seat above her. The hunter drove fast down the winding road, racing toward the vet, who was waiting outside to meet us. The hunter and the vet carried Betsy inside. There was a trail of blood; there was blood all over. The vet did x-rays and examined her, and then came to talk to me. He said that Betsy had internal bleeding, and that the bullet had fragmented into pieces inside of Betsy. The vet recommended surgery to remove the bullet fragments. The surgery began at 4:30 p.m. and I waited alone in the waiting room until the two hikers who brought my car arrived. They waited with me in the waiting room.

When the surgery was completed, the vet came out and told us that he had removed 14 inches of Betsy’s lower colon and stitched up other sections of her colon. The 14-inch piece was too damaged to save. He removed as many bullet fragments as he could, but couldn’t get them all. Betsy’s stomach also had holes in it. She’d lost a lot of blood; they had to give her three pints. From losing so much blood, her core temperature had dropped and they had her on a heating pad to warm her up again. They had one tube draining from her stomach and another tube draining from her side. He said the first 12 hours were going to be the hardest time for her.

I wanted to stay overnight with Betsy, but the vet told me I couldn’t. Instead, I stayed overnight at a local hotel. In the morning, I called the vet and heard that Betsy had died at 2:00 a.m., in her sleep.

The shooting was investigated by the chief ranger for Tiadaghton State Forest and the report transferred to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The hunter was to be cited for shooting on or across a highway, shooting at game near a road ($100-300 fine), damage to property (Betsy, a fine of $75-200), and damages ($1,700 veterinary bill). The hunter lost his license for one year.

I had a lot of trouble dealing with the representative from the game commission; I got the impression the game commission existed only to protect hunters. The representative I dealt with was difficult to contact; he said he was busy with bear season. He put me off when I requested copies of statements made by other hikers, a copy of the citation or his report of “damage by gunfire.” He never sent them, and kept losing the fax I sent him of the veterinary bill. I got the impression he knew the hunter, and I was dissatisfied with the penalties for killing Betsy. Also I hoped that a court case would set some sort of precedent someone could use in the future so that eventually hunting penalties would be more in line with the crimes committed.

I had trouble finding a lawyer — most said you could only sue for the price of the “property” –- but finally found someone who would sue for damages and infliction of emotional distress. The legal process was slow and stressful, with questionnaires, depositions, evaluations, pretrial meetings, jury selection and finally a settlement meeting. The hunter had hunting insurance and was represented by a team of lawyers from a Philadelphia firm. I took the settlement, not knowing at the time that a settlement could not be cited in a future brief.

I didn’t want the money from the settlement and decided to donate it to pet charities. I had planned to donate to the Petfinder Foundation, and when Orvis said it would match a donation, I sent in a check.

Gracie

Gracie and Millie

I was devastated after Betsy died. It was hard to get up in the morning and get through the day. An animal communicator I contacted said there was a dog out there who needed me and Betsy would send me a dog, a collie with a white blaze down her nose and white under her chin and on her chest and belly.

I started looking at the dogs who needed homes on Petfinder and thought I would like to adopt two dogs someday, since two dogs was the most I thought I could handle, and young or older dogs and not puppies, since puppies find homes more easily. After a few weeks of looking, I found myself drawn to a collie mix at Collie Concern Rescue in Tennessee. I printed out her picture and kept looking at it several times during the day. Every morning I would look her up on Petfinder. Finally one day I called about her and found out she was born in March 2007, had been rescued from a shelter in August, and was now in foster care. I went through the application process and a few weeks later, just before the holidays, I drove down to Tennessee between snow and ice storms to bring her home with me. She was smaller than Betsy, about 35 lbs., with orange-brown fur, white on her chest, stomach and tail, and with a white blaze down her nose.

Gracie was a happy dog but she had lived with other dogs in her foster home and I thought she would like another dog in the family. In the spring I contacted Collie Concern Rescue and in July I adopted a sable and white rough collie who had been found wandering near someone’s home. They thought she was a young dog, a few years old. I picked her up in Allentown, PA, this time, meeting the dog transport from Tennessee there at 4:00 in the morning. Gracie and Millie got along really well right from the start, and both seemed to like having another dog around.

Gracie and Millie go for car rides, walks and hikes and play together or with their friends. Gracie is 5 this year and Millie maybe around 7 years old. Gracie is a high-energy dog, high-strung and bouncy, and Millie is calm and serene. They are my best friends and I hope we have many more years together.

Teresa with Gracie (left) and Millie

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