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Underdog Blog

R-U-N-N-O-F-T : Chip Your Pet

Sabrina Ortiz

By Claire Oliver

If you’re anything like me, you’ve watched the hit-film O Brother Where Art Thou at least 100 times and can most likely quote the entire movie. When I think about why the decision was made to microchip our Coonhound, Boone, it was pretty simple really. All the times that dog decided to R-U-N-N-O-F-T. Just like Everett, Delmar and Pete, Boone gets a little taste of that freedom and hightails it before you can blink.

He is notorious for his ‘great escape’ adventures, as are many hounds. Yet I don’t think Boone’s escapades are premeditated. He’s a slave to his nose. You know the one. A hound’s sense of smell is stronger than the other four combined. Without that hot-nose they couldn’t ultimately do what they were bred to do. It leads them to a lot of things, including unintentional mischief.

There’s an old saying (because down South we love our sayings), “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. It’s a saying derived from the Old Testament that’s been engrained into the minds of my mothers’ side of the family for generations. Replace mind with nose and you’ve got yourself a Coonhound. My Coonhound. If he’s not sleeping, he’s busy sniffing. His nose is always hot. Always ready. Never idle. If it were, he’d go crazy.

So here’s a story about a runaway hound whose nose led him to trouble. A hound who got a little taste of freedom and ran like the wind…

It was getting close to 7 p.m. on a weeknight in September. I was enjoying an after-hours event when I received a call from my husband. “Hello?” “Boone’s Lost”, were the first words out of his mouth. My stomach immediately dropped. My mother had been keeping Boone like she does most days while we worked. The next words out of his mouth were, “Don’t get upset with your mom. She’s taking it very hard”. He usually knows what I’m going to say before I even say it. But it wasn’t until later that I realized he was right. My mother had taken Boone’s escape extremely hard and was blaming herself. She answered my phone call sniffling, in poor efforts to mask her crying. Trying to remain calm, I asked her what happened and it sounded like this…

Claire, he bolted! [sniffles] I didn’t realize the back gate was open and I ran outside to catch him but he was already half way down the driveway. I just can’t believe how fast he was running. I was hollerin’ and hollerin’ as loud as I could, but he never even looked back! He ran all the way down the driveway and then took a left going towards Lester’s farm. I’m so sorry. [sobs a little] I just can’t believe how fast he ran. [sigh]

Let me set the stage. My family lives in a rural area, however there is a main highway not far from their 22 acre farm which is heavily traveled (concern #1). It was 6:30(ish) and as I drove in that direction I realized there was not much daylight left (concern #2). Having read a significant amount on the Coonhound breed, I was aware that Boone could span miles and miles within a short period of time. My mind and heart raced as I tried to think about where he would go. And why was he running so fast? Did he see something? Smell something?

My husband, dad and I all spread out in our cars and drove slowly with our windows down hoping for a glimpse of him. I stopped anytime I saw someone outside and would ask if they’d seen a tri-color hound. I was searching in an area several miles away from his point of escape, thinking he had to be half way to the next town by then. My poor mother on the other hand decided to set out on foot. I didn’t witness it, but my husband said he passed her in his vehicle as she walked down the no-shoulder, winding country road. She was crying and yelling Boone’s name as her only spectators were the unamused Holstein cattle and neighboring donkey, John Henry. A sight I’m sure. She was in such a state of distress, I can only justify that’s how she completely forgot what Boone looked like when she walked up to a group of children and asked if they’d seen a white dog. “A white dog?” I repeated later. I didn’t say anything at the time, but I thought to myself a white dog is a Great Pyrenese, a Poodle, even a Malti-poo for God sakes. Yes, my Walker Coonhound has white fur amongst his black, brown and speckled body, but I would never refer to him as a white dog. We laugh now about her very inaccurate description of him. Bless her heart.

Forty-five minutes had gone by and the sun was disappearing into the earth. There was barely any daylight left or hope I was holding onto. My dad recognized the despair in my voice when he said, “Has anyone thought to check back at the house? Someone needs to go back in case he decides to return”. I thought yeah right, but decided to listen to him. It’s a funny thing how he’s always right. When I pulled up the long drive, something caught my eye. I noticed some paper wrappings and scraps of trash lying around near the outdoor trash bin that weren’t there before. Aha! A lead! I had a renewed sense of energy and hope. Then a lightbulb went off. Boone had gotten sick that morning so I decided not to feed him during the day. At that moment, I knew exactly what he had in mind and why he was running so fast after it. He was in search of the one thing that is the God of all Gods to a Coonhound:


I jumped out of the car and ran to the back of the property. The sun had completely set, but I could see just enough. I yelled his name and included his favorite word. “Boone, do you want a treeeaaat?”, I repeated slowly pacing the yard. Waiting, wishing for a sign of him. Then I saw it. Something running over the hilltop. All I could see were glowing eyes and the shadow of a four-legged body. I called his name louder “Boone, Boone!” and he ran faster towards me. It was him! Just like the scene from Homeward Bound where Shadow, Sassy and Chance run toward home, my runaway hound dog had found his way back. I crouched to my knees and he ran straight into my arms. I couldn’t quit repeating, “You came back! You came home to me!” He was loving the attention and rolled over on his back for a belly rub, soaking wet. The creek.

I didn’t care. I cried and hugged him hard. I led him around front at the same time my parents pulled up. I could see my mother in the front seat, now sobbing at the sight of his return. We made it inside and Boone was fed an extra helping. He was truly pleased with himself.

This wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last time Boone managed his freedom in search of something. He’s a wanderer and wants whatever his nose can help him find. It was, however, his last escapade without a microchip. I knew I never wanted to feel that unsettling feeling again, even if only for the two short hours he was missing. Now knowing if he does get lost, or R-U-N-N-O-F-T like most occassions, I have peace of mind knowing the chip is there to help us find him.

I’ve loved many dogs, but I have respect for Boone. He knows what he wants, does what he wants, and his love and trust have been earned. Yet sometimes I have to protect him from the things he wants, for his own good. He doesn’t know any better. And when I fail, because it happens, I know I have an extra measure in place. Hats off to whoever invented the microchip for dogs like Boone, who will always let their nose lead the way.

If I had the wings of an angel, over these prison walls I would fly.

Little Known Protective Facts For Pet Appreciation Week

Sabrina Ortiz

By Amber Kingsley


There are many ways that we protect our pets and according to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), the first part of June is when we celebrate Pet Appreciation Week. In order to better understand our four-legged friends, here are some lesser known facts about protecting them from harm and ultimately appreciate them even more.


Animals In The House

We’ve all heard the expression bats in the belfry, which is the uppermost part of a church in England, But this expression is actually tied to those who may be mentally unstable. But what about animals who may gain admittance to our house from other spaces like the attic for example? While many of us may imagine the upper part of our home may attract rodents like mice and rats, other critters like raccoons and skunks, the most common vermin to enter this space is actually the Eastern Grey Squirrel.

The easiest way to keep these critters out of this household crawlspace is to ensure that it is properly sealed. Other common approaches like traps and poisons are not good choices. The humane method of using a trap for relocation may end up harming or killing the animal and remains can spread diseases and may leave behind a nasty stench that’s difficult to remove. It’s best to simply seal this area off completely and use steel mesh over ventilation areas.


Let Standing Water Lie

We all know it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie, but when we’re out on a walk or other outing, make sure they never drink from standing water. We have no way of knowing if this still water contains insect larvae or potentially deadly poisons like antifreeze or other dangerous toxins.

Always bring bottled water and a small dish when travelling with your pet, taking them out on a walk, to the local dog park or other outing. There are plenty of specially designed, portable pet watering solutions available online, at pet stores and other outlets.

Tick Tock

Whether you use an oral tablet, a flea and tick collar or other measure to ward off these pests, they aren’t always 100% effective in every situation. After your pet has been in areas where fleas and ticks frequent, especially tall grasses and wetlands, be sure to inspect your animal thoroughly.

If you have been unfortunate enough to have endured an infestation in your home and have treated your house, be sure to take extra steps to avoid their return. For example, when vacuuming your house after a bug bomb was deployed, put a flea collar into the vacuum bag to kill any larvae or eggs that may have survived the assault.

Also, be careful about letting your animal back into the house too soon after treating your home with these types of pesticides. Consider shampooing carpets, cleaning floors and furniture thoroughly before your dog comes into contact with these surfaces.

A happy pet is a healthy pet and we can protect and appreciate them every day of the year, not just during the first week of June. Do your very best to keep your companion animal well loved, appreciated and healthy all year long.

Heartworm Awareness Month

Sabrina Ortiz

By Claire Oliver

Looking at this dog, would you think he’s heartworm positive?

Just looking at him, I wouldn’t. He appears beautiful, strong and happier than a lark. But I know this dog. I helped write his story. I can tell you that he is incredibly handsome, resilient and happy. But he does, in fact, have heartworms.

Boone is a seven-year-old Treeing Walker Coonhound who was rescued in 2015. Before my husband and I took him in I knew nothing about heartworm disease and am still by no means an expert. But I fiercely love my dog. A dog who I watched suffer immensely because of something I knew so little about. I know more now than I did then because of our journey through treatment. So, I’m writing to share that story and shed light on a disease so deadly, yet even more so preventable.

Boone was found emaciated and malnourished in West Tennessee, where the inescapable heat widely attracts heartworm carriers: the mosquito. Foot-long worms were living in his heart, weakening his body every day. Although the worms weren’t visible to us, they made their presence known in his labored breathing, the blood on the floor when he coughed, and his fatigue. Even though he made desperate attempts to fight it.

Watching someone suffer is heart-breaking. It’s no different when that someone has four-legs. Not only does the disease itself bring tremendous heartache, but the treatment is equally as trying and consists of several steps (accompanied by an emotional rollercoaster).

Step 1: Prep Work. We started Boone’s four-month heartworm treatment journey in December of 2015 beginning with a twice-daily dose of Doxycycline for a month. Doxy is an antibiotic to combat bacteria that is released when the worms begin dying. Not all vets require this step, but we wanted to take the extra precaution.

Step 2: Drug Injections. Boone’s first injection in January was administered into his lumbar, or back, muscles. The first month’s injection left him unusually sore. So sore that the next day I left him for work lying on the floor instead of his usual tail wagging, staring me down from the window, jubilant self. I couldn’t get him outside to relieve himself, or even convince him to get up and eat. Two hours later, I had the gut feeling something wasn’t right. I drove back to the house to find Boone exactly where I left him: lying on the floor in visible pain. To this day, I don’t know how I was able to coax him off the floor and into the front seat of my 350 Z. I’d like to think it’s because he trusted me, but at that point his options were limited. His face, squished on the dash, gave me the look like he’d died and gone to you know where as we sped off to the vet’s office. The trip resulted in steroids to ease his pain and the Abba song ‘Money, Money, Money’ playing in my head. Our investment in heartworm treatment was increasing what seemed like every week.

In February, Boone’s second and third injections were administered together. He was given twice the dose at one time to kill off any remaining worms. During this more concentrated round of injections, he was required to stay overnight at the vet’s office to be monitored for any negative reaction.  

Step 3: “You Want Me To Do What?” The most critical, yet challenging part of heartworm treatment is the “quiet time”. Hands down. We were told that during the months Boone received the injections his activity level must be strictly limited. But it doesn’t stop there. Additionally, to be safe we would need to restrict his activity for the two months that followed the injections. That’s four months total of restricted activity! No exercise from January – April. Only taking him outside to potty. No walks or anything to excite him.  Any dog owner can empathize with me here. How would he not go stir-crazy? How would I not go crazy?

After the initial shock, fear set in. The vet didn’t just tell us this to make our lives miserable. There’s a critical reason why. As the medicine works and the worms die, fragments of dead worms can block blood flow through the vessels. Too much exercise increases blood flow to blocked areas, causing capillaries to rupture as the body tries to pump blood through the blocked vessels. In terms that I understood, increased heart rate could result in death. And a quick one.

The ‘what if’ was enough to haunt me to this day. Thankfully, we made it through the four-months of restricted activity, and our lives slowly but surely resumed as normal.

Step 4: The Retest. It wasn’t until six months later that we could retest Boone for heartworm disease. I had the retest day in June marked on my calendar for what seemed like a very long time. After months of heartache, worry, vet visits and steep vet bills, I was confident we’d be walking out of there with our heads held high and a piece of paper that read Heartworm Negative. Blood was drawn, Boone was pacing and I had another gut-wrenching feeling that something wasn’t right. It could have been the look on our vet’s face as he walked back in the room, or the way he made small talk before addressing the test results. A piece of paper with our future sat on the desk right in front of him. The elephant in the room. Finally, he delivered the news that Boone had again tested heartworm positive.

It was all I could do not to cry. Not to feel completely defeated. Not to feel so sorry for Boone and myself, admittedly. Our vet shared that out of the 100 dogs he had treated for heartworms Boone was the only case in which he retested positive, and we don’t know for certain why.

So much for a happy ending, right?

Although it wasn’t the major feat we’d hoped for, it was still a victory.  We learned the treatment killed off a significant portion of the adult worms, so there’s an incredibly fewer number and the likelihood they will eventually die off in time. They also no longer have the ability to reproduce because of the monthly preventative. Boone no longer coughs, feels fatigued or struggles to breathe. I can confidently say that he is a very healthy (and happy) hound. Once defined by the worms living in his heart, he is not any longer. And for that, I am grateful. That’s our victory.

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. Our story is certainly not to scare or deter anyone from heartworm treatment, but it is worth sharing that this costly treatment is no simple matter. Prevention, prevention, prevention is key! For a disease so complex, the preventative is simple. A monthly heartworm preventative averages at $5-$15 per month (we use Interceptor Plus, but there are several on the market to get the job done). Compare that to heartworm treatment which averages $400-$1,500. 

I will forever have a soft spot in my heart for the animals who are heartworm positive. Many of them, like Boone, are underdogs whose health was not made a priority. We all share a common goal for our animals: to live out their best life in good health. After a long road we’re face to face with that goal, and I’m happy to report that Boone no longer suffers.

Except for the occasional stomach ache from too many hotdogs. And if he could talk, he’d tell you it’s worth it.

Phoebe & Friends Photography

*Always test an animal for heartworms and consult with a veterinarian. Please note that heartworm treatments differ based on a situational basis and veterinary recommendation.




Redfin Expert Tips on Moving with Pets

Sabrina Ortiz

Our friends and sponsors at Redfin have some excellent advice for keeping your pets in mind during moves. Check out these excellent resources provided to us:


Tips for Moving with a Pet


How to Prepare Your Pet for a Big Move


Looking for a new place in Washington DC? 

Basic Training Tips with our Underdog Trainer!

Sabrina Ortiz

By Beth Aldrich from Monument Dog Training


January is National Train Your Dog Month!  With this; many people may be examining their own dog to see if training is needed.  There is a wide range of training out there and you can go from obedience champion level on down to basics that could be life saving.  The numbers of dogs euthanized each year due to behavior issues is staggering and more than any other health issue COMBINED.  Behavior wellness is just as important as your yearly check up with your Vet. 


A few things all dogs should do on command reliably and under distraction.


1) Sit -having a reliable sit command can make your dog less of a target to other dogs and sets you as the owner up to be in control of any situation that requires your dog to be under command and not asserting itself into a space; for example in a vets office or waiting in line at your local pet shop.

2) Crate - This means you can crate your dog when you are at home or away and have them be in the same calm mental and safe physical state that they were in when they entered the crate.  If your dog has severe separation or crate anxiety this can lead to other behavior issues in and out of the home.  You need to seek the help of a professional.

3) Heel - This means your dog can walk calmly without pulling by your side through distractions and other dogs.  Most all leash reactivity aggression lunging so on and so forth begins behaviorally by tension being applied to the leash and harness or collar mechanism at the wrong time.  Constant pressure or tension on the lead is a sure fire way to escalate any situation from goo to bad or bad to worse and is completely preventable by teaching a reliable heel command.

4) Come-  In the dog park or after your dog has made a quick escape from the car, house or leash it can be crucial to call your dog back to you on command.  This is not simple and takes practice and diligence but in the end could end up saving your dogs life.  The reality is if your dog does not come back on command your dog should NEVER be off lead.  This includes an open dog park that is fenced in.  So go ahead and put that practice in with a professional and teach your dog this life saving skill.


If you need help accomplishing these basics or just want to have a more behaviorally balanced dog please do not hesitate in contacting a professional. 


If you would like to visit my website it is


Happy Training!



Beth Aldrich is a certified dog trainer and behavior specialist who has spent almost 8 years in the canine industry of the DC metropolitan area, working as a dog walker, a dog caretaker in a group facility, and a manager of several doggie daycares. Beth works with science-based training methods that give people the knowledge, confidence and information to stabilize communication with their dogs. She also graciously volunteers her time to rehabilitate countless rescue dogs to prepare them for forever homes. Beth serves the DC metro area and more, and she cannot wait to meet and help you and your pup!

My Year As A Dog Owner

Sabrina Ortiz

By: Katie Walsh

Dec. 17 was a delightful day in our house – we celebrated our little Ren’s birthday. Well, technically, we don’t really know her birthday, but at her first checkup the vet said that she was right around a year old, so the day we adopted her – her “Gotcha Day” – was good enough for us to call it her birthday.
Naturally, she got a present…

(The little Santa toy that she’s currently ignoring)
And a cake…

(That one she did NOT ignore.)

So suffice it to say, it’s been a wild ride, this year of dog ownership. We’ve had some successes and some failures, and I think I’ve learned a lot along the way. Here are some of the things I’ve learned throughout this year:

1. And this is most important: Don’t expect your dog to love you right out of the gate.  
If it happens, that’s GREAT. It’s what I was hoping for, obviously. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen with Ren. The first night we brought Ren home, she ran around our house enthusiastically, getting to know her new surroundings. But soon after that, a general malaise overtook her for a few weeks. More than that, she did a few of what I call “protest pees” – she didn’t have to go out; she just wanted to let me know what was on her mind. Since she can’t form words to show she’s miffed, my carpet took the brunt of her feelings.  It took several months of getting to know her – and letting her get to know us – to realize that’s her behavior when she’s sad. When my husband and I go out of town and get a friend or relative to watch her, she does the same bit of laying about and lacks her usual playfulness.  It’s her way of saying she misses us – and when we first brought her home, it was her foster mom that she missed. 
Fast-forward to today, and everything is wonderful. Ren has learned that we’re her people, and that we will always play with her toys, take her for long hikes and give her as many treats as she wants (well, within reason). In return, she gives us puppy kisses and snuggles under a blanket with me at night. It was a rocky beginning, but I’m really glad we stuck it out with her. And it all absolutely makes sense to me – it takes time to make friends with humans, so why wouldn’t it take at least a little time to make friends with a dog?

2. Fostering is a slippery slope that leads to owning more dogs.
Because Rural Dog Rescue relies on fosters to help rescue as many dogs as they can and because Ren had been given that opportunity due to a selfless foster, I wanted to pay-it-forward and become a dog foster myself. So on a hot day in July, we brought home Ginger (fka Miss Kay), a beagle mix rescued from North Carolina. 
My husband had taken Ren out to the dog park so I could get Ginger settled in to her temporary new surroundings. I let her in the house, took her off leash and sat down on the couch to give her a little bit of space to get used to things. She meandered about for a minute, then trotted over to the couch, climbed up and immediately snuggled onto my lap, giving me this look:

Oh man, that face. I was a sucker and she knew it. In that instant, I decided I could never give her up. My husband, however, had made me PROMISE that fostering wouldn’t lead to us adopting another dog. I cried my way through a few adoption events with her before he finally relented and let us make her an official member of our family.
So, unfortunately, I’m not allowed to foster anymore because we literally can’t fit another dog comfortably in our bed.  Oops.

3. Training is harder than you think it will be after you’ve watched an episode of “The Dog Whisperer.”
This is one thing we’ve dropped the ball on as of now. Ren’s terrier nature means that she has exactly zero attention span, and Ginger’s incredible beagle sniffing abilities mean she goes absolutely nuts on walks. 
We did sign up Ren for a training class when we first got her, but she was still in her “malaise” phase and it failed spectacularly. I think it would have gone better if we had waited a little bit for her to get to know us/like us more. Then when we got Ginger, we were just scrambling to figure out a new routine with an additional canine family member, and training just went by the wayside.
I’ve now hired someone to come to our house to give us private pup lessons. The girls are 80 percent good girls in the house, 35 percent good girls on walks… so I’m really hoping those numbers improve with our trainer.

4. If there is an opening, they will go for it. 
I’m ashamed to admit this, but we’ve had a couple of close – too close – calls with the girls escaping. The first week we got Ren, we let her run around in my mother-in-law’s backyard, where she easily slipped under a portion of the fence that had become dislodged from the ground. A few weeks ago, I opened the door to shoo a wayward stray cat off our flower bed when BOTH the girls burst through the door behind me to chase the feline down the street. There have been a few other instances of this (mostly with Ginger, who previously was a country dog and used to roaming wherever she pleased), and I’ve been lucky enough every time to get them back without incident. But I know I’m on borrowed time with that. If there’s one thing I cannot emphasize enough, it’s caution around open doors. 
And pay attention to your fences, too. Periodically, they may need maintenance to keep your puppers safe. It’s actually on our agenda this weekend to make a Home Depot trip for more soil and fence-reinforcement supplies. I’d lose my mind if I lost my girls.

5. It’s absolutely worth it.
I’ve cleaned up more poop, puke and pee than I ever imagined. I’ve pulled countless gross chicken bones out of their mouths. I’ve choked down an $800 vet bill (side note: !!!!!!!!!!). But the joy I get from playing with my dogs every day outweighs anything else they may throw at me. My favorite part of any day is the moment I walk in the house and the pups greet me with exuberant tail wags and slobbery kisses. That actually might be tied with the moment where they get tired and snuggle up next to me on the couch.
They are a lot of work, but I wouldn’t trade my year with these dogs for anything in the world!

Volunteer feature: Raghu Vadali works to gain dogs’ trust

Sabrina Ortiz

By Katie Walsh


Raghu Vadali isn’t always easy to find at Rural Dog Rescue adoption events. If the dog he’s volunteered to monitor is a little shy or scared by the noises of the busy street, he might be sitting with the pup in a quiet alcove down the block, helping it to feel more secure. Instead of merely serving as a tether for a dog on the sidewalk outside of Howl to the Chief, he might have taken it on a brisk run several streets away.

But no matter where he is, there’s one thing that’s for certain: The dogs love him.


Vadali is demure, however, when asked about his connection to the dogs.

“I think the moment one dog is comfortable with you, the other dogs want to see what’s up,” he said. “It’s just like a monkey-see-monkey-do thing. I don’t think it’s anything special with me, per se.”

On that point, RDR’s staff and other volunteers might disagree. Vadali is known for his even-keeled demeanor and calm approach to the pups, something he says has largely been shaped by a deep love and respect for all animals.

“I’m quite passionate about animal welfare – I’m vegan for this reason,” he said. “I do animal activism stuff even for other animals, be it farmed or caged, or pigs and chickens and cows and so on.”

It’s this passion, as well as a busy work and social life that can’t necessarily accommodate a pet at the moment, that drove him to seek out a regular volunteering opportunity. He said that in February 2016, he reached out to several organizations, but Rural Dog Rescue caught his eye because it was a small and volunteer-run.

“I thought it was a fun way to both do good and kind of help me get my fix,” Vadali said.

He has been volunteering at Rural Dog Rescue’s adoption events on nearly every Saturday ever since.

At the events, Vadali said that the first thing he does when he is handed a dog is to take it for a run around the block, as fast as the pooch wants to go. It’s part of a process of developing trust with the pup.

“I’m just there for them – I don’t try to be a friend,” Vadali said. “There’s no active ‘let’s be friends’ part of it. It’s like, you know, when you’re comfortable, we can be friends. And if you don’t – if you’re not the kind who wants to be friends, then that’s OK, too. So I try to be at peace with what the animal wants as well. This is not about me.”

In that vein, Vadali has risen to the challenge for the dogs in his care. In particular, he remembers one Saturday where he was tasked with giving a bath to a pit bull who had just pooped “in a very messy way.” It was a chore that was an entirely new experience for him because his parents never allowed him to have pets growing up.

“But then, even though it was obvious the pit bull didn’t like being in the bath – he looked at me like he was being betrayed – but nonetheless he trusted me,” Vadali said. “He could really attack me if he wanted to, but he didn’t. It just felt cool that I was able to gain an animal’s trust even though obviously there’s no straightforward means of communication.”

Vadali intends to keep volunteering for Rural Dog Rescue as long as his circumstances allow. Though he didn’t grow up with animals, Vadali is looking forward to the day his living situation changes and he can adopt a dog – or four.

“I want to have my own running gang,” he said.

But more than that, Vadali just wants to show kindness to RDR’s dogs, many of whom have been plucked from shelters where their euthanization was imminent.

“I just want to show, whether they like me or not, that they’re worthy of attention,” Vadali said. “That whatever else happens, you know, we’re going to have a good time for two hours.”




A new leash on life: Asha and Crystal’s journey toward their furever homes

Sabrina Ortiz

By: Katie Walsh


I remember when I saw the post from Rural Dog Rescue several months ago. They were raising funds to rescue several dogs from the illegal dog meat trade in Thailand. As a dog lover, I was horrified, and immediately pulled out my credit card to make a donation. These dogs were the ultimate underdogs, fighting for their survival, and I was determined to do my part.

Fast-forward to today: I’m not the only one who felt that way, and today, the girls, Asha and Crystal, are at a foster home in Maryland and making huge strides toward finding their “furever” homes.  

And when I say, huge, I mean HUGE. Asha and Crystal had been kept in large pens with hundreds of other dogs, had to learn house training,  how to walk on a leash, and how to interact properly with other dogs and people -- essentially, how to be, well, a dog.

Rural Dog Rescue knew it would take a very special foster family to help Asha and Crystal adjust to life as pets in America, and the rescue found one in Jeanne and Paul Bellis.

The Bellises currently have four dogs -- Asha, Crystal and two dogs of their own -- as well five cats who were also rescues. While the Bellises aren’t certified or professional dog trainers, they have a lot of experience handling dogs, and Jeanne even taught obedience classes previously. The task of teaching Asha and Crystal how to be be American pets was a challenge, but one they could undoubtedly handle.

Jeanne said she uses a combination of training methods with the girls. She said she looks for the environmental triggers that cause the dogs to behave in ways that are less than ideal, then figures out how to train them out of it. Jeanne takes the dogs out for many short outings to get them accustomed to walking and interacting with people and other dogs. She specifically lets people pet her dogs first so that Asha and Crystal see the other dogs receiving attention and decide to seek attention for themselves.

It’s been a long, slow process, but the girls have come a long way. They have even started to initiate play with other dogs, which was a huge milestone, Jeanne said.

Asha and Crystal have unique personalities, Jeanne said. Crystal is more outgoing; Asha is shy and easily freaked out by things. However, both dogs’ suspected breeds -- Thai Ridgeback and Jindo, respectively -- are typically extremely loyal, meaning neither one of these girls really needs or wants attention from strangers. They are intelligent and active dogs, so an ideal owner would be someone who can keep them moving!

Jeanne has some fantastic ideas for who would make an ideal owner for both of the girls. For Crystal, it has to be a combination of Captain Morgan, Ms. Frizzle from “The Magic School Bus,” YouTube sensation Batdad, and 12-time stolen base champion Rickey Henderson, meaning someone who is adventurous, smart, active and willing to laugh at Crystal’s antics… which are sometimes troublesome.

For Asha, Jeanne would like to see an owner who is a combination of Dorothy Gale, Mr. Rogers and Hagrid from “Harry Potter,” meaning someone a little softer spoken, calm, nurturing and empathetic to Asha’s previous trauma.

It’s plain to see from the passion with which Jeanne talks about these dogs that with the right owner, someone who is consistent with training and doesn’t have young children at home, that the girls will be wonderful pets someday.

And for all of us who donated to their cause and have been rooting for them, that’s all we can hope for!


Foster feature: Fate and a love of dogs drive Abby Cave to foster

Sabrina Ortiz

By Katie Walsh


With Rural Dog Rescue foster Abby Cave’s first foster dog, the stars aligned. Cave had brought Adele, a redbone coonhound mix, with her to work at her then-job in Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso’s office. A lobbyist visiting the office that day was immediately drawn to the pup’s striking dark-red coat.

“He was like, ‘That’s the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen. Where’d you get her?’” Cave remembers the lobbyist saying.

She responded that Adele was actually her foster dog and was up for adoption.

The lobbyist put his meeting on hold and called his wife. Later that week, he tracked down Cave’s email address to learn more about the Rural Dog Rescue adoption process. Cave sent him a bunch of information, and about a week later he took Adele home, where the pup has lived happily ever since.

He periodically sends pictures to Cave, which makes her very happy.

“Adele was very underweight when I got her, and she’s a nice, happy, fat dog now,” she said.

And it wasn’t only with Adele that a divine hand intervened -- it seems Abby Cave’s career as a dog foster has been largely driven by fate.

In fact, Cave herself even describes initially becoming a dog foster as a “fluke.”

Back in January, Cave had just enjoyed a mimosa-fueled brunch when she found herself walking down Barracks Row and past Howl to the Chief during a Rural Dog Rescue adoption event. It was there she learned that in lieu of adopting, she could foster a dog while it looked for its forever home. Cave had been a dog lover for her entire life -- “I came home to dogs when I was born,” she said -- but at that point in her life, she was working in short-term contract positions and couldn’t necessarily commit to fully owning a dog. However, it was the first time in her life she had been without canine companionship, which she said made her feel “angsty,” and fostering presented the perfect opportunity for her to care for a pet for a little while without worrying what would happen to it if her job went away and she had to move.

She applied to be a foster, and took a dog home a little while later. Since then, she’s had four longer-term fosters and several weekend pups.

“I think it’s a cool way to give a dog a home while it’s looking for its forever home,” Cave said.

Fostering has brought its ups and downs, Cave said. While, fortunately, all of the dogs she’s brought home have appeared to have been housebroken, they’ve come with myriad other challenges. Hobbes, a hound mix, would howl all day when Cave left the apartment, resulting in an admonishing phone call from her landlord. Dolly, another redbone coonhound and Cave’s most recent foster, was missing a paw and had a wicked stubborn streak. Whenever Dolly decided she didn’t want to cooperate anymore, she would simply lie down in her current spot, whether it was safely inside Cave’s apartment or the middle of a street while the crosswalk sign was ticking down.

But perhaps the most terrifying fostering situation for Cave has been with Charlie, a hound-lab mix.

Cave loved Charlie. He was about 5 or 6 years old, but he acted like an “old man,” she said. He seemed to have a tough time with stairs, so for the first few nights she had him she slept downstairs with him. Charlie had Cave completely convinced of his feebleness.

And that’s when he decided to make his move.

“One day while I was at work and my roommates were still home, he hurtled over the couch with amazing grace and ran a mile and a half away from our house,” she said.

Cave said she called Animal Control through tears every hour until they finally rounded up the doggie fugitive and brought him safely home.

“He went for quite a run that day,” she said. “It was terrifying.”

But even with her little escape artist, Cave has loved fostering with Rural Dog Rescue. It has enabled her to have a dog in a way she couldn’t have without their help. For example, Cave doesn’t have a car, so when Dolly had to have a vet appointment, an RDR volunteer came and picked up the dog.

“And the fact that they are happy to provide all the supplies [the dogs] need too is super nice,” she said. “I have a whole set of dog supplies now I just keep in my house, but at first it was nice to not have to go buy food and a kennel and all that stuff because I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it at that point.”

Cave intends to keep fostering as long as her work and life circumstances allow -- or until she gets a dog that captures her heart so much that she “foster fails” and keeps it. But until then, she highly recommends the process to anyone who is thinking of giving a dog a temporary home.

“It’s such a fun thing and it’s such a rewarding thing to do,” Cave said. “You get somebody who loves you unconditionally even though they just met you. And they’ll snuggle you, and there’s nothing like a good ol’ dog kiss.”


Keeping Your Pit Bull Active, Healthy and Happy

Sabrina Ortiz

By Amber Kingsley

In honor of National Pit Bull Awareness Month, held every October since 2011, we thought it was a good idea to honor these great terriers and give some advice on keeping them active, which will lead to a longer, healthier lifestyle. Pit Bulls have long held a bad reputation for being mean or aggressive, but they aren’t alone in these canine-based myths, which are often devoid in fact.

Back in the day, it was German Shepherds that were sometimes seen in a negative light, perhaps because of their association with the police and military. Then came Doberman Pinschers, often used as guard dogs, which may have been the cause of fear. But just like Pit Bulls, they make great family pets and are almost always gentle with children. In fact, when it comes to your personal safety and health, you’re in more danger coming into contact with fecal matter than you are when it comes to interacting with these playful animals.


Realistic & Unrealistic Expectations

If you’re expecting a Pit Bull to be a guard dog purely due to their reputation, you’re not thinking correctly. Just like any dog, you can train them to be protective, but what you should truly be expecting from them is the need for a great deal of exercise. While many of them are perfectly happy to be a couch potato, this sedentary lifestyle isn’t good for them long-term.

Remember other factors when it comes to their activity levels as older dogs won’t need as much exercise, nor should they be as rambunctious as a puppy. Sometimes it’s a personality thing as some Pit Bulls will want to run and play all day, and others are happy to be lap dogs. Be sure to check with your veterinarian to ensure your canine is getting enough activity and exercise.


Do’s and Don’ts

Again there’s some expectations about Pit Bulls that aren’t true, for example, if you think they’ll be happy spending all day (or night) outdoors without you, this is another fallacy. These terriers are extremely social and friendly animals and should should expect this canine to be your constant companion. These dogs are happiest when they’re by your side, in your lap and want to be cuddled and given plenty of love and affection.

They’re also extremely intelligent and when coupled with their high-energy levels, they’ll need to be trained and supervised. You’ll find these brainy and brawny dogs are capable of almost any kind of activity you’d associate with other canines, such as:

  • Agility and endurance courses

  • Fetching and playing tug-of-war

  • Hide-and-go-seek whether they’re looking for you or a treat

  • Hiking, jogging and biking alongside you

  • Dock diving / jumping and swimming

  • Search and rescue animals



Here at Rural Dog Rescue, we believe in every dog, from little Chihuahuas to enormous Great Danes, they’re all equal in our eyes. Equal of being treated with the same level of love and respect as any animal, regardless of their size or breed.


Travel junkie, Amber Kingsley, is a freelance writer living in Santa Monica, CA. Her art history background helps her hone in on topics that are of interest to readers. She is a dog enthusiast and loves spending time with her pomeranian, Agatha.

23 thoughts I have when walking two dogs at the same time: A memoir

Sabrina Ortiz

By Katie Walsh


After weeks of wheedling, cajoling and coaxing my husband into agreement, I finally did it: I made the leap from dog mom to dog foster mom. Miss Kay, a sleepy/extremely needy beagle mix, came home with us on July 10. The whole experience, which I will write about when it comes to a conclusion (whatever that may be), has been challenging, rewarding and different from anything I could have imagined -- particularly when it comes to going for walks.

Here is a list of 23 thoughts I have when walking my two dogs at the same time:


  1. Aaaaand we’re off! Of course, one of you went left out the door and the other went right. Great.

  2. Going in the same direction now, awesome! … but now one of you is peeing while the other is straining at the leash to continue. Argh.

  3. And now the other one is peeing. It’d be nice if you could coordinate your efforts!

  4. Stop tangling me in your leashes, you guys.

  5. If I get one dog’s leash in one hand and the other dog’s leash in the other, it feels a bit like I’m driving a dogsled. Mush, doggies, mush!

  6. No, dog, you can’t eat that chicken bone.

  7. No, other dog, you can’t eat that chicken bone either!

  8. For real though, who is the mystery chicken bone discarder? Or is it that chickens are coming here to spontaneously combust? Are they experiencing the rapture? WHY ARE THERE SO MANY CHICKEN BONES ON THE GROUND IN THIS CITY?!

  9. Stop tangling me in your leashes, you guys.

  10. First poop of the walk. Let me pick that up and get to the nearest trashcan...

  11. Man, that was a long time to find a trashcan! So glad to get this poop bag out of my hand.

  12. Other dog is pooping now. Coordination, dogs. Coordination.

  13. “Hahaha, yeah, I know, ‘who’s walking who,’ it’s funny because two dogs are hard to walk. Thanks for pointing it out, guy on my corner! Have you ever tried stand-up comedy?!?”

  14. Stop tangling me in your leashes, you guys.

  15. Controlling two dogs on leashes is really cutting into my side gig as a Pokemon trainer.

  16. Yes, neighborhood children, you can pet them.


  18. I’ve gotten really good at doing high kicks over your leashes to untangle myself. Bolshoi Ballet, here I come!

  19. Except for I just tripped a little. Lord help me when it’s January and icy out and I try this maneuver.


  21. Ooh ooh ooh, careful of the broken glass! Watch your little paws!

  22. Good lord, MORE broken glass! THIS CITY IS A DOGGIE DEATH TRAP.

  23. Home again, thank God. Here are treats for being such good girls… Aww, thank you for the kisses. You guys are cute. We’ll go walkies again in a few hours.

Foster feature: Jessica Rubenstein works through her dogs’ “quirks”

Ali Legros

By Katie Walsh

For Rural Dog Rescue foster Jessica Rubenstein, her first foster dog was the most difficult one. The little plott hound mix called Lion was “so smart it got her into trouble.”

Lion was so smart, in fact, that she figured out how to unlock her crate from the inside, staging daily prison-break scenarios in Rubenstein’s Northeast D.C. rowhouse.

“So then I got zip ties, and I zip tied the crate, and she broke the zip ties and jumped on the table and bit all the zip ties in half, so I could never zip tie her in again,” she said. “It was the most ridiculous thing!”

However, Lion was such a loving little dog that Rubenstein was willing to forgive her daring daytime escapades. After all, she said, working through her foster dogs’ unique “quirks” is what being a foster is all about.

Rubenstein had been a dog lover long before beginning to foster for Rural Dog Rescue, having grown up watching her grandmother dog-sit for a number of years.

“It’s just kind of always been something that I’ve been around -- dogs coming and going,” she said.

As an adult, Rubenstein also frequently dog-sat. She said she thought a lot about getting her own dog, but she’s not quite at a point in her life where a forever dog is an option since she lives with roommates and doesn’t have a space of her own. Fostering was the next best thing, and so in November 2015 she connected with Rural Dog Rescue and brought Lion home. Since then, she’s cared for six different rescue pups, including Lion.

Rural Dog Rescue presented a perfect fostering opportunity for Rubenstein because of how convenient they make it, she said.

“I like that their adoption events are in the same location every week,” Rubenstein said, referring to the regular Saturday and Sunday adoption events held at pet store Howl to the Chief, 733 8th Street SE. “I don’t have a car, so I can walk there with the dog and back.”

She added that RDR makes it really easy to both start and stop fostering as needed and has other fosters step in to care for the dogs if their foster parents go out of town.

Rubenstein also loves what she calls the “social aspect” of fostering. She has enjoyed walking her foster dogs around town and explaining the foster and adoption process to anyone who may strike up a conversation with her.

“A lot of people have heard of it, but they have no idea that it’s pretty easy to do, and that it’s really rewarding,” she said.

Today, Rubenstein is fostering Pooh, a German shepherd/boxer mix who is getting along famously with her dog and cat foster siblings.  Pooh has been Rubenstein’s longest foster, which is “crazy because she’s such a good dog -- she’s an easy dog.”

Pooh’s adoption listing notes that she’s good with other dogs and enjoys walks and activity just as much as hanging out and cuddling on the couch. She also seems to really love running around in Rubenstein’s sizeable backyard. Though, something that Rubenstein has had to work through with Pooh is her shyness.

“Today I learned that she’s terrified of skateboards. I’ve never had her pull so hard to get away -- she ran right back in the house when one went by,” Rubenstein said. “In terms of fight or flight response, she’s like, flight. When she gets scared she’s like, ‘I’m gonna run away right now,’ so I don’t think that she could ever really be off-leash.”

Even though she’s really enjoying having Pooh around, there will come a day when Rubenstein will be tasked with transferring her to her forever family. While those moments can be bittersweet, Rubenstein tries to keep them in perspective.

“Fostering is kind of a mentality where you’re constantly reminding yourself that the dog’s going home soon,” she said. “Everybody’s always like, ‘How do you not get attached?’ It’s a mentality that you keep: The dog’s going home soon.”

Also important to being a foster is making sure you have the time commitment, Rubenstein said.

“Those first couple days when you bring them home are really crucial, just to put in the time and make sure they recognize that you’re a safe person,” she said. “And really, the only way you get there is putting in the time and being with them.”

Rubenstein makes sure to give her foster dogs space and let them come to her, but she also acts as a disciplinarian, ensuring that they follow a schedule and introducing them to new things slowly. She also recommends taking time to get to know the foster dog, since every dog has a different personality.

But whatever dogs come through her door, Rubenstein said she knows that fostering them will be worth it. She recalled a time when she left town for a day to go to a wedding, and when she returned, her foster dog was so elated he jumped on top of her. Moments of experiencing a foster dog’s love like that are priceless to her.

“I think that’s why I do it,” she said. “If they were in a shelter, they would definitely not have those moments for themselves either.”



Keeping your dog safe at home this National Lost Pet Prevention Month

Ali Legros

By Katie Walsh

Just before bed last night, I saw some heartbreaking news in a friend’s Facebook status:

“My Bella ran away.”

While I’m not totally sure what happened -- my friend was upset and not really answering questions -- I’m guessing that round after round of Fourth of July fireworks freaked out the little chihuahua, who subsequently bolted in an attempt to get away from the booms.

Since I became a dog mom in December, this scenario is one of my worst fears. It took me exactly 2.5 seconds to become totally attached to my fur baby, and, scarily enough, that’s all the time it would take for her to slip through an open door and out of my grasp.

As it turns out, this July marks the third-annual National Lost Pet Prevention Month, and there are many things you can do to both prevent your dog from getting away and to speed his return if he does get out.

For some initial precautions:

Make your dog wear a collar with identifying information. While doing some research for this blog, I discovered there’s some debate on the Internet over whether or not you should put your dog’s name on her tags. Some places indicate that’s the best possible way to get a dog returned; other places say dogs will more easily trust a person who calls their name, which can result in dognapping.

Where everyone agrees is that dogs with collars featuring the phone numbers of their owners are more likely to be returned, so make sure your dog is always wearing a collar with your contact info.

Get your dog microchipped. If your dog gets out and somehow slips her collar, she can still be identified by the teensy tiny microchip embedded under her skin. Luckily, Rural Dog Rescue pups all get microchipped, so all you have to do once you adopt is fill out the paperwork to register the dog to your name and information. And don’t forget to keep the microchip registration updated if you move or change your phone number!!!

Maintain current records/photographs. It’s easy to snap away when you first get your dog, but after the initial adoption excitement goes down people tend to take fewer pictures. However, recent pictures are absolutely necessary to have on hand just in case your dog gets out. If your dog looks wildly different after grooming, take a picture. If you’ve let your dog’s hair grow out, take a picture. If it’s been a few months, take a picture. Get a picture that clearly shows your dog’s face and accurately represents his/her size so that you can use the photo for missing posters.

Double check your fence. If you have a fenced in backyard, that’s great, but don’t take it for granted that your dog is safe back there.

One of the most terrifying experiences of my life happened about a week after we adopted Ren:

We took her to my mother-in- law’s house and let her run around in the fenced in backyard. What we didn’t know was that there was a section of the fence that had become uprooted from the ground, allowing Ren to slip underneath it when she saw birds on the other side. We managed to chase her down within minutes, but that story could have just as easily had an unhappy ending.

Make sure your fence doesn’t have unsecure areas and is properly locked at the gates before you put your dog out there.

Don’t let him off leash in an unfenced area.

Even the best-trained of dogs could have a lapse in obedience and take off after a squirrel, running into traffic or away entirely. Not only that, but off-leash dogs could run through bushes and brambles, making them susceptible to ticks and other vermin. As a safety precaution, keep your pup leashed up.

Get a harness for walks, not a collar.

Many dogs can easily slip out of collars, which would have the doubly awful effect of leaving them without their identifying information. Harnesses, which are secured at the back and loop around the pup’s legs, offer a more reliable way to safely walk your dog.

Keep your eyes on your dog.

Remember, it only takes a few seconds for your dog to slip out of its collar, chew through its leash or be stolen if you leave it unsupervised outside, whether in your own yard or tied up in front of your favorite restaurant. Yes, it’s hard to be vigilant every second of the day, but it’s better to do that than be wondering where your dog went.

(For what it’s worth, I once had my dog on a walk and realized I had just 10 minutes to pick up a package at our local hardware store before it closed for the evening. Instead of tying her up outside while I ran my errand, I just walked her into the store, and no one said anything to me about it. While this was rule-breaking and not necessarily recommended for every situation, I figured the worst that could have happened was they would have said, “Hey, you have to leave,” and I’d have been no worse off than I was before. Just saying -- you can bring your dog more places than you think.)

And if your dog does get out, you should take some quick actions:

1. Keep your phone with you.

If you put your phone number on your dog’s collar like I suggested above, it might be your best bet for a safe return. Answer any time the phone rings!

2. Get friends to help you search, and bring some of your pup’s favorite treats.

If your dog hears you calling his name and you’ve got a pocket full of yummy hot dogs, he will be more likely to come out to you/know you’re not mad at him.

3. Make posters to hang all around, and put them on neon cardboard.

Posters with recent pictures of your dog as well as your phone number and a reward will help get your dog safely back to you. If you put fliers on top of neon poster board, the signs will be more likely to be seen by passersby in vehicles, leading to more eyes looking for your dog.

4. Alert local shelters.

If the local shelters know you’re missing your dog, it will be easier for them to contact you if someone turns her in.

5. Check lost and found sites.

I am a member of Nextdoor, which is a neighborhood news app. Very frequently, I see people posting messages either about lost pets or found animals, which often results in pets being reunited with their owners. If your pet has gone missing, make a posting on a site or app like this, and comb through postings to see if anyone has your dog.

Hopefully, with a few safety precautions and a little grit, you can keep your dog safe from harm.

And remember, if you see a dog wandering around, report it to animal control if you don’t feel comfortable approaching it. The person who lost that dog will likely be very grateful that you did. As for my friend, her story fortunately has a happy ending. Someone brought Bella to a shelter, and they were reunited later in the day.

Here’s to a July with no more lost pets!

Animal Rights Week!

Ali Legros

June 19 through 25 is Animal Rights Awareness Week this year, and one major animal rights issue which has gained publicity in the past few years is pets in the meat trade. Animal rights can mean many things to different people, and humans are (traditionally) omnivores who do eat meat. Many of us are more and more concerned with how that meat is raised, however – recognizing that part of the human diet is designed to include animal protein, we want to obtain that nutrition without causing suffering to the animals. Groups are working with farmers and companies to encourage more humane practices, such as free range chickens who are no longer kept in tiny pens, and allowing cows a more natural diet without hormones and chemicals to make them unnaturally large. 

Cultures all over the world have different cuisines and consider different animals to be edible. In America, we raise livestock animals for food, such as chickens, cows, and pigs. Some people hunt wild game for food, like ducks, deer and boar. But we have a bright line dividing pets from food here – we do not eat cats or dogs, or reptiles and rodents. This is not the case elsewhere, and recently attention has been focused on eastern Asia, where dogs are, if not a common source, at least an accepted source of meat. American activists have targeted China and Thailand especially, and there are many groups which deal specifically with the fate of these dogs in the meat trade. 

This is surely an animal rights issue – it is not so much the cultural difference of what meat sources are acceptable as it is the treatment of these clearly intelligent, empathetic and emotional animals. Similar outrage has met the practice of eating monkeys or dolphins and whales. The good news is that dogs are easy to rescue – they can be rehabilitated from the disease they often suffer due to a caged life, and they can be placed in homes here in America for a whole new life. 

Rural Dog Rescue has recently been part of this effort – we took in several dogs who were rescued from Thailand, where they were destined to be locked in cages until they were killed for meat. Several of the dogs have already found loving homes, but you can check here for dogs just emerging from rehabilitation and awaiting a forever home!

A doggone mystery: What is my rescue pup’s breed?

Ali Legros

By: Katie Walsh

So, “Ren” is technically our dog’s nickname. Her full name is O-Ren Ishii, after a character played by Lucy Liu in the movie “Kill Bill.” In the movie, O-Ren Ishii is a Chinese-Japanese-American military brat who gets orphaned and then grows up to be the leader of a Japanese gang. She’s very sensitive about her ethnic makeup -- I won’t spoil the movie, but a gang member who speaks ill of it pays a pretty hefty price.

In any case, it’s a silly name and we thought it kind of worked for our dog. She’s an orphan too, after all. And, of course, she’s also of mixed heritage.

I wrote before about Ren’s life before us being a total mystery (and why I won’t let her off leash). I have zero clue what she was doing for the nine months before Rural Dog Rescue stepped in. But, for me, perhaps the biggest mystery of all is what combination of dogs came together to make our beloved little pup.

Ren’s online adoption listing had her marked down as a “feist.” My husband and I had never even heard of that before. A brief Google search concluded that it’s not so much a breed as it is an amalgamation of terriers, and they’re usually found in the South.

But if you’re going to try to pinpoint exactly what terriers, well, best of luck to you. There literally is no combination of dogs that makes sense!!!

Ren’s body is shaped a little like a jack russell terrier, and she certainly has the energy of a jack russell. But her legs are far too long, and her coat coloring isn’t found anywhere in that breed. So with that coat -- black brindle with patches of white on her chest -- I move on to thinking she’s a bit of a pit bull. Her muzzle definitely looks a little pitty, and people tend to ask me if she’s a pit bull puppy. But Ren’s fully grown, and at 27 pounds, she’s too small and skinny to be any of the pit bull breeds.

So, that’s gotta be it, right? She’s a jack russell terrier/pit bull terrier mix! Case solved! To be honest, when I’m asked what kind of dog she is -- and she’s so curiously shaped and sized that I’m asked at least twice on every single walk -- that’s usually what I say. However, even as I say it, I know it’s not right. Neither of those breeds take into account her glorious, glorious ears.

Those EARS, amirite? How cute is this dog?! I love her ears! But loving them is one thing; explaining what kind of dog they came from is entirely another. Rat terrier? Maybe, but the dog is way, way too small. Bull terrier? Again, maybe, but the bull terrier face is so distinctive that you’d think it’d sneak its way in there somehow.

Adding to the mystery is the fact that Ren’s initial vet paperwork has her listed as a pug.

A PUG! What?!?

For point of reference, here is a pug:

Of all the possible things Ren could be, a pug is the LAST thing. I don’t see my dog in there whatsoever.

It’s been suggested to me that occasionally vets will manipulate paperwork of rescue animals to give them a better shot at getting adopted due to the misconceptions that come with certain breeds, so her pug notation to me actually serves as further evidence that she really might be at least half pit.

But I’ll never know for sure, and Ren of course can’t tell me. For now I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and telling curious passers-by that she’s whatever kind of dog I think they want to hear (a surprisingly effective technique for making friends in our neighborhood).

Maybe one day we’ll splurge for one of those doggy DNA tests for Ren. But until then, I figure I can just ask the internet. So, what kind of dog do you think Ren is?

Why I Will Never Let My Dog Off Leash In An Open Area

Ali Legros

By Katie Walsh

If you’ve ever walked the streets of Capitol Hill East, you may have seen me and my little pup trotting down the brick sidewalks, taking in the old architecture of the D.C. row houses and enjoying the outdoors. You may have also seen us trekking through Lincoln Park, the beautiful park where Massachusetts Avenue, North Carolina Avenue and East Capitol Street converge. And if you’ve seen us at Lincoln Park, you surely noticed one thing that sets us apart from all the other dogs and dog parents: I don’t let Ren off leash.

Before I had a dog, I frequently would run through Lincoln Park because of its unofficial dog park status -- unofficial, I say, because it’s a totally open area. There are no fences to speak of, just trees, sidewalk, street. Nevertheless, it was always a joyful for me to see the dogs frolicking with each other, and I knew that one day I would bring my very own dog there.

But, the longer I’ve had Ren, the more I realize we will never be one of those carefree dog-and-owner combos. Even with more training, there are just so many reasons why I will never let her off leash in an area without fences.

1. Ren loves people too much.

Now I know you’re probably saying, “But Katie, isn’t that a good thing? Don’t you want a friendly dog?” And the answer is, yes, of course. I love that Ren is such a sweetheart -- that’s why I adopted her! But Ren is like a trusting little kid on a playground -- if you offer her candy, she will get in your van. It’s only going to take one nefarious person with hot dogs in his pocket for me to be dogless again.

And honestly, who wouldn’t want to kidnap this one? Look how sweet she is!

2. Ren has an insanely high prey drive.

My absolute favorite thing about my dog is her ears -- she’s so expressive with them, and you can tell exactly what she’s thinking based on where they’re pointing. To the back and folded down, she’s submissive and excited to see you. Pointing out and angled back, she’s freaked out about something. And straight up and pointing to the front? There’s a squirrel in the vicinity.

I’m currently taking finals in my grad school semester and I have never focused as hard on something as Ren does on vermin in her line of sight. She stares, crouches and moves oh-so slowly forward so as not to alert the little critter to her presence. Then, all of a sudden, she’ll lunge, taking my arm holding the leash with her. In those moments, nothing -- and I mean NOTHING -- can break her concentration. She’d run across a four-lane highway to get a squirrel if she weren’t attached to me by leash.

3. Ren is an extremely curious pup.

If there’s a piece of poop, she’s smelling it. If there’s a person, she’s greeting him. If there’s anything out of the ordinary at all, she’s investigating. Pretty much nothing scares this dog. She’s genuinely interested in All The Things. And that means that in an off-leash situation, she’s bound to get hurt. It may be that she runs up to an unfriendly dog and gets mauled; it may be that she eats something off the ground that makes her sick. Whatever the case may be, I’m not trying to find out.

4. Ren’s life before us is one big question mark.

Ren was rescued from Rutherford County, North Carolina, where she was found as a stray. Beyond that, we don’t know much about her. She’s clearly a terrier mix, but what combination of which breeds we’ll never know. We’re theorizing she was part of a litter that was bred to be hunting dogs due to the aforementioned prey drive and the fact that she was found during what would have been the hunting season, but that’s about all we’ve got.

The point is, we just don’t have any idea what her life was like prior to Oct. 27, 2015, the day she was found. And because of that, on some level we’ll never be totally sure of what she’s capable of. I’m 99.99 percent sure Ren loves us and loves our home, but if she were off-leash, would she take off into the woods on instinct? I can’t say for sure. So, on leash and out of Lincoln Park she stays. Knowing what I know now, my advice to other dog owners is to really, truly take stock of the dog you’ve got. I know there are some dogs that can be trained and can handle an off-leash open area, but there are dogs like Ren that simply can’t. If you want to keep your pup, make a note of which one you’ve got.


Ali Legros


By: Grace Kulkarni

April is a good time to focus on canine health & safety. The week of April 10-16 is Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week, and April 30th is the celebration of World Veterinary Day. But what if you find an injured dog, or worse what if your pet is hurt, and you don’t have access to an Animal Control Officer or a world-class Veterinarian?

April is also the American Red Cross’s Pet First Aid Month, and they have produced lots of great resources aimed at the special types of first aid dogs and other pets need – lifesaving measures that can buy you the time to get to an urgent vet center or hospital.

In my last post, we discussed the symptoms of pet poisoning – from the minor (drooling, loose stool) to the seriously worrisome (seizures, bleeding). These are other symptoms to be wary of, and what you can do for your dog if they’re suffering.

SEIZURES: A seizure can look different depending on how serious it is – the most dire cause loss of consciousness and convulsions, but seizures can also cause collapsing, jerking, stiffening, muscle twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, chomping, tongue chewing, or foaming at the mouth. It is also possible your dog will defecate or urinate while seizing.

If your dog is having a seizure, DO NOT restrain him in any way. Keep your hands away from his mouth, he could bite you involuntarily. Seizures can be very scary to watch, but your job is to remain calm – slide your dog gently away from anything he could strike while convulsing. You don’t need to put anything in his mouth, dogs won’t swallow their tongues like we can. Try to time the seizure if you can for the vet’s information. If the seizure continues longer than a few  minutes, your dog may overheat so aim a fan at him if you can do so easily.

If this is your dog’s first seizure, take him to the vet immediately after the seizure concludes (and after he’s comfortably breathing and conscious, of course). If this is part of an on-going disorder, it is best to call your vet after any major seizure to determine whether he’ll need to be seen.

HEATSTROKE & DEHYDRATION: In the summertime, pets love to be outside – but sometimes this is not the best thing for them. If you suspect your pet is dehydrated, pull up on the skin between his shoulder blades – it should spring right back down. If it stays tented, get him some water! The symptoms of heatstroke in dogs are similar to those seen in humans – collapsing, wobbling while walking, difficulty breathing, unable to calm down or unable to get up from lying down, excessive (for a prolonged period or very hard) panting, bloody stools or vomiting, red mouth, increased salivation – if you see any of those, take him inside and cool him down with a fan or near an A/C unit. DO NOT try to submerge or bathe your dog in cold water, this may send him into shock.

BITES: If your pet is bitten (by another dog or by any wild animal), take him to the vet as soon as possible. If he is bleeding, apply pressure using gauze – apply more gauze on top if the blood soaks through. DO NOT try to clean the wound yourself, you risk exposing yourself to rabies or other microorganisms which are dangerous to humans.

CHOKING/COLLAPSE: If your dog is choking, DO NOT attempt to do the Heimlich maneuver learned for humans.  Likewise, DO NOT attempt human style CPR on a dog. Below is a quick guide on how to perform artificial respiration, and how to add chest compressions if cardiac arrest occurs.

Remember also that RESPIRATORY arrest is very different from CARDIAC arrest. A dog can stop breathing and be unconscious but his heart is still beating – if that is the case, perform the artificial respiration below. If his heart also stops, also perform the compressions or CPR.

For RESPIRATORY ARREST, perform artificial respiration:

1.      Lay your dog on his side on a flat surface.

2.      Be sure your dog has stopped breathing: watch for the rise and fall of the chest, feel for breath on your hand, look at the gums - they will turn blue from lack of oxygen.

3.      Check the airway - it must be clear. Extend the head and neck. Open the mouth and look for a foreign object. If an object is blocking the airway, grab the tongue and pull it outward. If this does not dislodge the object, use your fingers, pliers, or tongs to carefully grasp it. If the object cannot be reached or pulled out, use the Heimlich maneuver (here’s a link on how to do the Heimlich on a dog in various situations:

4.      Once the airway is clear, begin rescue breathing: With your dog on his side, lift the chin to straighten out his throat. Use one hand to grasp the muzzle and hold the mouth shut.

5.      Put your mouth completely over the nose and blow gently; the chest should expand. Blow just enough to move his chest (blow harder for large dogs, gently for cats and small dogs).

6.      Wait for the air to leave the lungs before breathing again.

7.      Continue this, giving 20 breaths per minute (one breath every three seconds), until your dog breathes on his own or as long as the heart beats.

If there is also CARDIAC ARREST, do the same as the above and have another person perform compressions:

For Small Dogs or Puppies (under 30 pounds)

1.      Lay your dog on her side on a flat surface.   Place the palm of your hand on the rib cage over the heart. Place your other hand on top of the first. (For puppies and kittens, put your thumb on one side of the chest and the rest of your fingers on the other side.)

2.      Compress the chest about one inch. Squeeze and release rhythmically at a rate of 80 to 100 compressions per minute.

For Larger Dogs (over 30 pounds)

1.      Lay your dog on her side on a flat surface.  Place one hand on top of the other over the widest portion of the rib cage, not over the heart.

2.      Keeping your arms straight, push down on the rib cage. Compress the chest ¼ of its width. Push/squeeze and release rhythmically at a rate of 80 compressions per minute.

Don’t be afraid to Google for help – there are many good YouTube videos  and articles that will coach you through many of these situations. But do make sure you’re using reliable sites – like the Red Cross, or the ASPCA – don’t rely on Dr. Joe’s Holistic Hokey Health because it came up in the search. Try to find sites with .edu, .gov, .org or similar domains. is a good resource that breaks that rule – it is run by veterinarians.


PLUS the Red Cross has a handy-dandy Pet First Aid App for iOS and Android !



‘So much cuter in person’: My tale of adopting a black dog

Ali Legros

By Katie Walsh

It’s a refrain I’ve become accustomed to hearing from my friends upon meeting my dog, Ren: “She’s so much cuter in person!”

While I’m appreciative that they recognize that why yes, I DO have the most adorable pup in the entire world, thank you very much, it also makes me a tiny bit sad because I know why they think that: It’s the color of her fur.

Let me back up a bit.

I wanted to adopt from Rural Dog Rescue because I liked their stance of rooting for the “Underdog” -- the dogs less likely to be adopted for various reasons. Years earlier, my sister took a chance on a little shih tzu that nobody wanted because he only has one eye. That dog she adopted -- Teddy Bear, my dog nephew -- has brought immeasurable joy to our family. To this day it hurts my heart to think that people were passing up that loving, fuzzy little guy because he can only wink, not blink.


In any case, seeing Teddy get a happy home inspired me to seek out a dog with similar bad adoption luck. And that was what led me to a Rural Dog Rescue adoption event at Howl to the Chief. I wanted an Underdog.

Before the event, I perused every dog on Rural Dog Rescue’s adoptable list and decided on one I wanted to meet. But, when we got to Howl to the Chief, something unexpected happened. Amid a dozen excited pups prancing about on the brick sidewalk, one I could have sworn I hadn’t seen on the website caught my eye. A little black dog with gigantic ears was standing upright on her hind legs, seemingly performing circus tricks.

“Wait, who’s this?” I asked.

“This is Ren,” said an RDR volunteer. “She loves to stand like that.”

I knelt down to greet her and totally fell in love. We spent the rest of the event practicing walking her, running with her and playing with her, and we filed adoption papers later that afternoon.

Happy as I was that we were getting a dog, I was flummoxed. How could I have missed this little girl? On the car ride home from the event, I had my husband pull up Ren’s adoption listing on his phone. As he was reading the words, I realized I recognized them. I had read Ren’s listing before; I just had totally overlooked it. I looked at the picture that accompanied the listing:


And, well… she’s so much cuter in person, frankly. That picture just does not do her justice. She looks… I don’t know, I can’t even describe it. Lacking expressiveness? Definitely not the animated little pup I’ve come to know and love. Whatever it is, I can tell you for a fact she’s simply way more adorable in person than in that photo.

And that, my friends, is why she’s an Underdog. Ren doesn’t photograph well.

I guess it’s a phenomenon that animal shelters know all too well. Dogs with black fur don’t generate as much adoption interest because the photos that go with their listings just do not show them very well.

According to official White House photographer Pete Souza, who has added “black dog photography” to his resume on account of having taken many photos of first pets Bo and Sunny Obama, two Portuguese water dogs, something about the black fur “tends to suck up the light.” As someone who has tried time and time again to snap a good pic of my black dog, I can say for a fact this is true. Observe:


See? I can never get the lighting to accurately reflect the expression on her face! Add to it the fact that I’ve never taken a photography class in my life and my only recourse for taking a picture is through a smartphone that I recently dropped in the toilet, and yeah, you can see why all the pics are garbage.

There are actually a ton of websites with tips on how to take better photos of black dogs, and most of the tips revolve around finding proper lighting. For what it’s worth, Ren fares a little better when we’re talking Instagram. The “Clarendon” filter really brings out the brindle in her fur:


But I guess what makes me sad is that I’m one of those people -- I nearly overlooked the dog who has become my baby, the thing I look forward to the most on any given day. My hiking and running buddy would not be my top exercise motivation today had I not physically met her. The little cuddlebug who snuggles up next to my thigh and snoozes with her head on my leg at night might never have gotten that sleeping place if fate hadn’t placed us both at Howl to the Chief on that day in December. She’s just so much cuter in person.

So don’t scroll past that blurry photo mess of dark fur. You will cheat yourself out of something amazing. Behind the lens, I guarantee, is a wonderful pup -- one who’s so much cuter in person. 

The Dog Poisoning You Know, and the Dog Poisoning You Don't

Ali Legros

By Grace Kulkarni

You've probably heard that onions are dangerous for dogs to eat - did you know garlic and avocado are both toxic, too? No guacamole for the dog, unfortunately. We all know chocolate, especially dark and baking chocolate varieties, are poisonous for dogs to ingest - but really, any excessive sugar can spike their blood glucose dangerously and any caffeine can affect a dog's heart in a major way. You know that grapes and raisins are bad for dogs, but un-baked yeasted dough is far more dangerous in smaller quantities. It makes sense that prescription and over-the-counter human medicines are extraordinarily bad for dogs, but just like childproofing, dog owners should secure all household cleaning products. You'll already know that rat poison and insecticides are potentially lethal for dogs too, and we've all heard about antifreeze. What you may not be aware of are heavy metals found in coins or lead paint. You may have heard about the dangers of poinsettia, but many plants are toxic for dogs: daffodil and tulip bulbs, the leaves or berries of ivy and holly. 


Symptoms of poisoning in dogs:

Most common: vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool.

Longer term: decreased appetite, bruising, lethargy, dysuria

Facial:  nosebleeds; gums or tongue colored blue, white or bright red

Cardiac & Respiratory: audible wheezing, panting for more than 30 minutes consecutively, heart rate above 180 bpm

Neurological: seizures, but also staggering, appearing dizzy or disoriented


What to do if you suspect your dog has ingested poison:

Stay calm! Identify and collect a sample of the poison itself - and any box with information about ingredients! Also retain any feces or vomit your dog has produced. Keep a record of your dog's symptoms, and their approximate start/stop times so a chronology or timeline can be developed for a vet to follow the poison's trajectory. 

DO NOT force fluids, this might just circulate the poison faster. 

DO NOT induce vomiting - if they need to, they will, and forcing them to might cause them to choke. 

DO call your veterinarian, go to an urgent vet center (base fees in the D.C. area are typically around $100-$150), or call a poison control hotline - the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435 which charges just $60 for a consultation. 


Over 100,000 pets are poisoned each year - but this is down from 150,000 from 5 years ago (2011). That's great progress, and being aware of the easy fixes (put away your antifreeze!) helps keep our dogs safe! 

Spay/Neuter Awareness by Grace Kulkarni

Ali Legros

February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month and February 23 is World Spay Day (and is commemorated every year on the last Tuesday of February). World Spay Day is presented by The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.

Many breeds of dog are able to begin breeding as young as 4 months old, and while puppies are cute, allowing your dog to remain unaltered is detrimental to her individually and to the fate of many other dogs.

 World Spay Day estimates 2.4 million healthy or treatable cats and dogs are put down in U.S. shelters each year. That’s one every 13 seconds! And this figure doesn’t account for the many pets that live as strays at large – estimated at over 40 million, who may meet unfortunate ends in traffic or due to government actions to reduce the stray population through culls. The majority of these rogue pets are the result of surplus, unwanted litters conceived by accident and unable to find homes. Spaying and neutering your household pet literally saves their lives.

What to expect when you spay or neuter:

  • Female dogs are ‘spayed’ – their reproductive organs (uterus and ovaries) are removed entirely. Specific benefits for females who are spayed: drastically reduced rates of breast tumors, urinary tract infections, and other illnesses including cancer of the reproductive organs; no going into ‘heat’ with its bleeding, howling and urinating in excess; a longer happier life.
  • Male dogs are ‘neutered’ – their testicles are removed. Specific benefits for males: reduced rates of prostate problems and testicular cancer; reduced flight risk from the reduced drive to seek out fertile females; may improve behavior overall in dealing with other dogs or animals; less likely to ‘mark’ inappropriate locations with urine; a longer, happier life.

The stitches at the incision site take a week or two to heal (longer for females due to the more invasive procedure), and it is important to use the 'Elizabethan' collar provided by your vet to prevent your dog from licking, biting and irritating the site during healing. After the discomfort wears off and the stitches dissolve, I can personally vouch for the improved quality of life your dog will have. 

We rescued one of our dogs from a farm where she had 'accidentally' gotten pregnant at a young age. When the puppies were born, she didn't know what to do with them, and refused to feed them. The farm owners were therefore seeking to sell the puppies for some hundreds of dollars (because of the money they spent feeding them manually), and were giving her away for free on Craigslist and taking her to the pound if unsuccessful. This egregious injustice would not stand, and my father and I drove two hours over the mountains to retrieve this dog, who we'd seen in a tiny thumbnail size picture and heard about on the phone.

We brought her home, took her to the vet, and fixed her various worms and anaemia. We arranged to bring her back to be spayed when her next heat concluded. After she recovered, the transformation began. No doubt it was an effect of the better food, comfortable life and lack of worms as well, but the happiness we'd seen in the intervening weeks was definitely more carefree and puppy-like now. It was almost as if she knew she'd never have to suffer through having puppies while still a puppy herself again - that she could really truly enjoy this new sweet life, no strings attached. Maybe I imagined it, but she certainly enjoys herself now.

Many people report positive experiences with spaying & neutering, such as improved temperament in rambunctious young males, and reduced escape attempts (and the subsequent pregnancies!) by females in heat. Most pets adopted through a rescue service like Rural Dog Rescue are already altered, but pets you rescue off-transport, from a local shelter, or private owners are often in need of this essential service. You can always have your family veterinarian spay/neuter any new pet you adopt. 

Affordable Spay/Neuter Clinic finder: