BY NASTASSIA PUTZ, PUBLISHER

Nestled on a beautiful 17-acre horse ranch, and hiding amongst a quaint residential town is Heaven’s Gait Ranch Inc. This “hidden gem,” as patrons like to call it, began with the humility of one woman’s desire to help others. It then continued to grow throughout the years because many people joined together to make her dream a reality.

With her faith in God, her love of horses and her respect for U.S. military veterans, Elaine McClaren wanted to make a difference in the lives of those around her by creating a therapeutic riding center for individuals with physical, social, emotional and psychological needs. In the mid-2000s, she went in search of the perfect piece of land—finding one right in the heart of the Cedar Grove community. However, despite her high hopes at the time, she was diagnosed with cancer, and unfortunately never lived to see her dream come true.

In 2016, Elaine’s family and friends choose to carry on her torch. This group of caring entrepreneurs included: Brian McClaren (Elaine’s son), Margaret Mary McClaren (Brian’s wife and executive director of Heaven’s Gait) and Mark Zirngibl (Margaret Mary’s father). They decided to keep her vision alive by incorporating Heaven’s Gait as a non-profit, therapeutic riding center that serves individuals with special needs and veterans with disabilities.

So in order to build this compassionate community, it took a village of people to recognize the need and challenge the adversity against it. Margaret Mary confirms that it was “a Godsend of people with good hearts and quality values coming together that created Heaven’s Gait Ranch and its mission.”

With the help of family, friends, neighbors, previous employers, educators, mentors from around the country and even overseas, Heaven’s Gait officially opened its gates for lessons in 2017.

“Countless people took a chance on us, and their faith encouraged us to keep going despite various obstacles along the way,” says Margaret Mary.

“For all of these reasons, I am proud to say Heaven’s Gait Ranch was founded under the guidance of our Christian values, built with the support of generous donors and blessed with the time and talent of many volunteers.”

Unless you have been to this ranch before, as a new patron you will need to keep your eyes open to see the sign quaintly positioned off Main Street downtown. Then while driving down to the barn, you will notice horses hanging out in the outdoor pasture grazing and patiently awaiting their next riding adventure. Currently, there are eight gentle giants (therapy horses), an indoor/outdoor arena, trails, heated stables and a sensory learning space located inside the barn where people enjoy hanging out.

Equine Therapy is Vital
Margaret Mary explains, “For some of our participants with special needs, riding is the only activity they do, so it’s crucial for them (and their families) that they keep coming to remain mentally sharp, socially engaged and physically active.”

But this is not the only significant reason behind their ongoing programs. “For some of our Veterans with anxiety or post-traumatic stress, November through March can be particularly painful; holidays can be difficult, and it’s depressingly dark for anyone that time of year, let alone for someone who may not work because they remain at home on disability. Heaven’s Gait Ranch becomes so much more than just a fun place to ride; it’s a home and a family that cares for your well-being—week after week, season after season, year after year. And our family is committed to you for the long-haul.”

For information on volunteering or registering someone to ride, contact Margaret Mary at 920-400-0628 or info@heavensgaitranch.org.

SEASON PROGRAMS:

Winter 2020 Session: January 13 – March 19

Spring 2020 Session: April 6 – June 4

Summer 2020 Session: June 16 – August 27

Fall 2020 Session: September 14 – December 17

BY CHERESE COBB, FREELANCER

If you ever feel that the world sometimes looks at you strangely, you’re probably a horsey person. The whole getting up at 5:00 a.m. to clip, braid and ship your horses halfway across the country to win a 37-cent ribbon is baffling to non-horsey people.

Horses are better than people, with one exception—dogs. If a non-horsey person enters your house, they’ll need to step carefully to avoid crushing any of the Jack Russells or Corgis that’ll most likely come barking towards them.

Nine out of ten horsey people have dogs. Sure, horses and dogs are different. Horses have been tamed while dogs have been domesticated. Dogs are predators and can make their own choices. Horses are prey animals. They have less of a say in what they want to do and closely follow their teammates’ instructions. But horses and dogs are also a lot alike. In a world where bad headlines reign, they’re the definition of what it means to be good. They’re big-hearted creatures who live in the moment and are sensitive, kind and the best listeners. But there’s more. A lot more…

1. Horses are great big wusses.
“Horses are huge and scary,” is something horsey-people hear a lot from normal people. It’s tempting to raise a scathing eyebrow. Try and resist. Non-horsey people don’t know that horses are incredibly sensitive beings. “They can feel a fly land on their fur,” says equestrian Brooke Brodersen from Milwaukee, Wis. “They don’t realize their raw power.” And as prey animals, horses aren’t necessarily brave. Kelly Meister-Yetter, event coordinator for The Healing Barn in Millbury, Ohio, says that one summer the track was more water than dirt. Before she could ride on it, her horse made her walk through every single puddle. “Apparently, they contained terrifying, horse-eating monsters that only he could see,” she says. “He was essentially throwing me under the bus. He was more than a little surprised when I survived the ordeal.”

2. Dogs are big babies.
Your friends and family might give you funny looks when you coo “Well done, good boy,” as your horse goes bananas past a wet barn mat or empty feed bag. But dogs can be big babies too. Nicole Schaefer, the founder of Yellow Dog Legal in Beaverton, Ore., has a dog named Cody. His biggest fear? BBQ. “He literally just stands in front of it and barks endlessly,” she says. Dr. Marcia Morgan from Bend, Ore., says that her 13-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever is terrified of water. Even after two years of swimming lessons, Baydon Poochini won’t go in above her knees.

3. Horses are terrified of plastic bags.
Normal people don’t give plastic bags a second thought. They’re useful for carrying all of our junk—although, they’re not great for the environment. A plastic bag is a triple threat to a horse. It’s an unknown object that moves and makes noise. When you see your horse sweating, puffing and distressed, you realize plastic bags are everything that’s wrong with our throwaway society. Non-horsey people, who allow them to carelessly drift into hedges, where they’ll get stuck and spook horses, really deserve to come back as one in their next lives.

4. Horses & dogs have iron stomachs.
Horses might be suckers for Subway sandwiches, Hamburger Helper and Doritos. They may have eaten their fair share of Slick ‘N Easy grooming blocks and cigarettes, but it’s dogs who really eat the darndest things. “Cody eats wood a lot. He made a hole in the molding under our main window and ate part of the deck. He also loves eating pillows,” Schaefer says. Meg Marrs, the founder of K9 of Mine, says that her dog Remy ate her PlayStation headset. Maybe he heard her yelling into it and decided to come to her defense? Jay Michaelson, the founder of HandsOn Gloves, admits his Great Pyrenees loves icy horse and cow poop. “Her favorite perfume is cow flop, and she loves it all around her neck. She also brought up a four-foot frozen rat snake one time,” he says.

5. Horses & dogs love to give hugs & kisses.
Dr. Carole Lieberman from Los Angeles, Calif. has an American Paint Horse named Gimli, which means “heaven,” according to Norse mythology. “He kisses me, but what’s even more special is what I call ‘Gimli hugs.’ I put my arms around his neck, squeeze and nuzzle him,” she says. “He then turns his head around to squeeze and nuzzle me, and we stay locked until either he gets distracted by something passing by or he decides he’s given me enough love for the day.” Horses aren’t the only ones saying, Kiss me. I’m furry. Vicki Liston is the YouTube host of “On The Fly…DIY.” Her 11-year-old dog Bailey is an untrained kisser. “If you’re on the floor doing push-ups, crunches or planks, he takes full advantage of your face’s proximity.”

6. Horses are geniuses.
There’s a reason you never see “My horse is smarter than your honor student” on bumpers. Dr. Evelyn Hanggi, the co-founder of the nonprofit Equine Research Foundation, told Horse Talk in 2012 that many non-horsey people believe horses have walnut-sized brains and aren’t able to think. “Domesticated horses have to live in largely unsuitable or artificial environments. They must suppress instincts while learning tasks that aren’t natural behaviors,” she says, “and must co-exist with humans who sometimes behave bizarrely—at least from an equine standpoint.”

Horses are the most perceptive of all domestic animals. They can see with virtually 360-degree vision and sense when their rider changes position on their backs (even a slight turn of the head). Horses are faster learners than cattle, pigs, sheep and dogs. They’ll entertain themselves with feed buckets and mirrors that are hung up in their turn-out area. “My horses play with grass all day and night,” Michaelson says. “One of my first horses loved playing with a construction cone in the water trough.” Need proof that horses are secretly geniuses? Ask horsey people where all their money is. They’ll reply, “Oh, yeah, I’m riding it.”

7. Dogs are pretty smart too.
When Alana Mustill from Manchester, England lost an expensive earring, she looked all over the house for it. “When I came out of the restroom, Bow (her sausage dog) was sitting outside the door with the earring in front of her,” she says. Hester Grainger, the cofounder of Hudia, says her dog named Roscoe helps her every day babysit her two children who have Asperger’s. “If they’re sad, he just sits with them quietly,” Grainger says. Dogs also can smell as little as a picogram (a trillionth of a gram) of any odor. What’s that like? “The average cinnamon roll has about a gram of cinnamon in it. Sure, the human nose is on it from the moment we open the door of the house,” says Alexandra Horowitz in “Being a Dog,” published in 2016. “Now imagine the smell of one trillion cinnamon rolls. That’s what the dog coming in with us smells.”

8. Dogs look like their humans.
Sadahiko Nakajima, a psychologist at Japan’s Kwansei Gakuin University, says people decide if dogs look like their owners by comparing their eyes. “I constantly get comments that I look like my dog and that she’s basically me in dog form,” says Alexa Lampasona from Boise, Idaho. When she rescued Ava last August, she felt an instant connection. From trail running to stand-up paddleboarding, she quickly picks up on any outdoor activity. “Like me, she’s high energy,” Lampasona says. “Our names have a similar ring too.”

9. Horses & dogs smell.
Stepping in dog poo or “landmines” is a no-no. “Usually that only happens when I’m already out in the yard picking it up, or I’m doing yard work and missed a pile,” Liston says. “When you’re barefoot and it squishes in between your toes, it’s disgusting.” This doesn’t apply to horsey people who’ve mucked their fair share of poo and ingested more than they want to know. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat a sandwich in the barn with your dirty hands and then refuse to touch city door handles. If you’ve bought a new truck with nice leather seats, it’s okay to toss sweaty and dirty tack on them too. Enjoy the aroma of manure? If you hang around horses for any length of time, it sticks to you. Horsey-people would bottle that smell if they could. When assistant trainer Jenny Caldwell was in college, she’d go into her tack trunk and smell her horse leather. “The love of horses is in your blood,” she says.

BY CHERESE COBB, FREELANCER

Seven years ago, Rudy—an emaciated Arabian horse trapped in knee-high manure—popped up on Chelsea Harley’s Facebook feed. His owner had already surrendered 60 horses to Shawano County authorities (all shipped to slaughter) before threatening to shoot him if Amazing Grace Equine Rescue (AGES) in Elkhart Lake, Wis., didn’t remove him immediately.

Harley shook when she read he’d been down for several hours and staff couldn’t get him up. So she dumped materials for a sling into her bag and drove nonstop from Chicago, Ill. Every weekend for a month, Harley slept in the barn with Rudy while offering massages to 12 other horses. After being hired by AGES founder Erin Kelley-Groth, she spent 40 hours a week rehabbing Rudy while caring for her two blind horses, two special needs dogs and a young cat with chronic kidney disease.

For the first few weeks, the sorrel stallion was in a sling. Each time she removed it, Rudy collapsed and it’d take a skid-steer and six people to get him back up. “During his recovery, we learned to be mindful of flying hooves and teeth. Several of us have scars and broken bones as a result of his desperate need to protect himself,” she says.

“Many of our horses also have some kind of lameness, and that can be challenging when we want to get them adopted.” For example, Grayce was pulled from a kill pen in Oklahoma. and had a miscarriage in quarantine. She has cartilage and bone fragments floating around in her joints causing her to throw her body around.

Grayce receives daily anti-inflammatories and herbal supplements like Devil’s Claw, Yucca or Boswellia. But she can’t handle a higher workload. “I encourage people not to ask, ‘What can that horse do for me?’ Be open-minded to meeting senior or special needs horses,” Harley says.

“You can still have a wonderful relationship while doing groundwork lessons and providing a forever home.”

BY CHERESE COBB, FREELANCER

For four years, Department of State (DOS) Agent Paddy worked as an Explosive Ordnance Division Technician at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. When Danny Scheurer and the rest of his unit went to clear a building, he leaped from an SUV and dashed to the door. “We tried to run,” Danny remembers. “But the guys in the back — because they didn’t have radio silence or a [military] dog—breached the building. It blew up.”

While serving their country, both Danny and Paddy were injured. Danny was given a 70 percent disability rating. “I received VA medical care, options for schooling, paid training for employment and multiple other perks for serving my country.” However, Paddy was labeled unsuitable for typical retirement. Because of former aggression, he was slated to be put down.

“How’s that for a soldier who serves?” Danny says. Dogs have been officially serving as four-legged soldiers in the U.S. military since World War I (1914-1918). Approximately 5,000 military working dogs (MWDs) served in the Vietnam War. They saved nearly 10,000 human lives. (The U.S. Army didn’t keep records before 1968). MWDs also took part in the takedown of Taliban leader Osama bin Laden and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

There are around 2,500 MWDs in service today and 700 deployed overseas. “Imagine hearing both stories, while not aware that Paddy is a canine,” he says. “Most people’s reaction would be anger, concern or consternation regarding a veteran being denied retirement due to atypical retirement qualifications.”

That’s where Save-A-Vet in Lindenhurst, Ill., comes in. Danny started the nonprofit to rescue canines that aren’t adoptable because of their attack training, field experiences or physical and mental injuries—including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries that may cause dogs to barely blink or eat.

“Unlike a lot of agencies, the DOS truly cares about their K9s and reached out to Save-A-Vet asking us to take him [Paddy] into our program,” Danny says. “I’m very happy they did this as he’s now one of our most loveable K9s and the new mascot of the organization.”

The English Springer Spaniel loves all animals and people. He usually can be found claiming all of the office couches or stuffing tennis balls under their cushions. “He’s got about 150 balls everywhere. He constantly has one in his mouth,” Danny says.

“We don’t have a normal shelter because we don’t foster.” Instead, Save-A-Vet puts K9s in secured facilities throughout the country. It also hires disabled military or law enforcement officers to care for its dogs in exchange for rent-free housing. They’re randomly drug tested. “They must be able to pass a background check and either be employed or attending school full-time with a minimum of a B average,” Danny says. “It’s not a free handout. You wake up at 6 a.m. and take care of my dog. If it’s not being fed at 6 a.m., you’re fired.”

Save-A-Vet is a place of mutual healing between two-legged and four-legged veterans. Ornella, for example, was retired from Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) because she started eating her own tail. “When we fixed her, it was allergies. The veterinarian figured out that she probably had gotten into drugs.”

Her sharp nose served our country’s borders for two years. Her handler CBP Officer Shawn Johnson says, “She possesses those qualities and energies that make a successful drug detector dog a smuggler’s worst fear.” In 2014, she suffered a fatal heart attack. “The veterinarians tried CPR, but she wasn’t able to pull through,” Danny says. “Although Ornella has passed, we’re happy to have given her what I can only imagine have been the best two years of her life.”

Public donations and Made in America companies such as Basecamp and the Travel & Adventure Show power Save-A-Vet, which cost nearly $81,000 to run last year, even with seven unpaid, full-time staffers. “When we put out that we need volunteers, we typically have a couple hundred people show up,” Danny says. “We have volunteers all over the country.”

Save-A-Vet doesn’t take dogs from civilians or rehome their K9s. (Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, handles all MWDs adoptions.) “With Save-A-Vet’s leadership, military canines became veterans after decades of being categorized as equipment,” says Randi Scheurer who is Danny’s father and the nonprofit’s photographer.

Nero is a former Navy bomb dog. He had two discs in his back fused together and a golf ball-sized lump removed from his jaw, but he was never caged. Firemen, cops and construction workers would drop by his house every morning to bring him bacon. “He was Danny’s constant companion until the end,” Randi says. During Nero’s final days, Danny laid with him in the back of a van—wrapping his arms tightly around him, making another forgotten soldier’s “golden years” golden.

For more information, visit saveavet.org or call 815-349-9647.

BY CHERESE COBB, FREELANCER

Hayden, an 11-year-old Rat Terrier, doesn’t like loud noises. At the first rumble of thunder or pop of fireworks, she shakes so badly that everything around her vibrates. She also drools and leaves puddles wherever she’s hiding.

Before Anna Cabal adopted her from the Rat Terrier ResQ in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, she’d been seriously burned by her previous owner. She was septic and had little to no skin left on her back. “Then, last August, Hayden went to the vet for a teeth cleaning and had to have some mast cell tumors removed. The prolonged time in surgery on the heating pad caused secondary thermal burns, and her skin reopened,” she says. “I spent ten months with the vets using creams, ointments and dressings of all kinds, but a small, dime-sized opening still persisted.”

Nine months ago, Cabal found a way to close her dog’s wounds within three weeks and control her noise anxiety: cannabidiol (CBD)—a cannabinoid that can be extracted from cannabis—which includes hemp and marijuana.

What Type of Drug is CBD?
“CBD is considered a Schedule 1 drug, but it’s legal in all 50 states,” says Karen Eckert, the founder of My Organic Hound in Holmen, Wis. It’s thought to be able to prevent epileptic seizures, reduce chronic pain and ease separation anxiety, but unlike cannabis’ other main compound, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it doesn’t get users high.

Marijuana and hemp are actually both varieties of the same plant species Cannabis sativa. “The analogy that I always give is that a Pit Bull and a Chihuahua are the same species of dog. But, of course, as you know, they look very different,” says Andy Gould, the co-owner of Wisconsin Hemp Scientific LLC in Sussex, Wis. “One is small and cuddly. The other is also cute but can be perceived as fierce-looking and bigger.”

“Marijuana produces a higher amount of THC and a lower amount of CBD,” Gould says, “and in hemp, you kind of see the reverse of that.” According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, hemp is only allowed to have a THC concentration of 0.3 percent in all parts of the plant when it’s been dried—or it’s considered marijuana.

Once hemp has been harvested though, it begins to break down. Sunlight can cause the tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) in CBD oil to release carbon dioxide and become THC. High humidity can also make hemp flowers moldy or taste like ammonia while low humidity can cause them to crisp up and dry out. Refrigerating CBD oil can produce bacterial growth, so keep your pet’s CBD oil at room temperature. If it changes color, it’s probably damaged and should be tossed out.

What Type of CBD Should You Use?
“It’s very important to get your CBD oil from a trusted source,” says Dr. Megan Teiber of Indian Prairie Animal Hospital in Aurora, Illinois. “We can’t be sure that all products are pure and don’t contain more THC than claimed or other toxic ingredients like pesticides, fungicides or heavy metals.” If your cat or dog ingests secondhand smoke or marijuana edibles such as brownies or pot butter with other toxic ingredients involved such as chocolate, raisins or xylitol, it could result in severe cannabis intoxication or even death. Cats might also eat the marijuana plant. Symptoms of cannabis intoxication include severe agitation, hyperexcitability, tremors, seizures and coma. They usually start within 30 to 60 minutes of oral ingestion but can last for up to 96 hours.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved CBD or issued a dosing chart, but recent studies suggest that it doesn’t pose a risk of addiction and generally causes few side effects. CBD may result in dry mouth, low blood pressure or slight drowsiness and may alter the metabolism of other drugs. Cats can also possibly accumulate hemp oil in their livers. “For cats, what I tell people is one drop a day. That shouldn’t harm them because over time it does stay in their systems,” Eckert says. “On the CBD dropper, there are measurements like a quarter or a half. Regardless of your dog’s weight, start with the smallest amount…a quarter, morning and night.” If you don’t see the results that you’re looking for, then you can slowly increase it, confirms Eckert.

“There’s a lag between when you take it and when it starts working: 30 minutes to 2 hours,” Gould says. When CBD oil is rubbed on your pet’s gums or given as a suppository, for instance, it reaches the brain pretty quickly. But when it’s added to water or baked into treats, it takes longer. Before it reaches your pet’s bloodstream, CBD gets metabolized in the liver, which inactivates some of it, meaning the amount that gets to the brain ends up being much smaller than the amount that’s ingested.

“Every pet’s body has a slightly different chemistry,” he says. “A lot of the CBD products that are marketed as pet products are not that different from human CBD products. The only difference is that sometimes there are certain ingredients that aren’t good for pets like peppermint, citrus or tea tree oils.”

Does It Really Work?
Crude CBD oil is roughly the color and consistency of maple syrup, but some pets hate how it tastes. “We have freeze-dried chicken treats, and I just take the dropper and saturate them with it,” says Debbie Mayer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When she brought home Kolby from JR’s Pups-N-Stuff in West Allis, Wisconsin, he couldn’t even get up. Mayer was told that Kolby wouldn’t live very long when she adopted him.

“We gave him some CBD oil. After two doses, he was able to get up.” Since then, two and a half years have passed. “He’s really an old man, but he can run again at full speed in the backyard,” she says. “CBD oil can be a little bit pricey depending on the dosage, strength and whether or not it’s organic,” she says. A one-ounce bottle can cost anywhere from $30 to more than $200, but “it’s worth it because it’s a life-changer for both people and animals.”

Janice Klein from Onalaska, Wisconsin adopted Ruby from a private home. After Klein broke her ankle, she couldn’t take the Maltese-Poodle mix on walks or to the bathroom. Ruby barely ate and would whine, pace and bark during thunderstorms. “Ruby was anxious and had a difficult time…in my home because of my ankle surgery and my husband’s death at the same time,” she says. “A year ago, I hired a dog walker and sitter for a period of time. Her name was Karen Eckert and, she was from K9 Pet Care LLC. She introduced me to the oils.” Klein started squirting a drop of CBD under Ruby’s tongue.

“She’s more energetic and a great companion. She acts more like a young dog instead of the 11-year-old that she really is,” she says. “When she meets new people, they think she’s just a young dog and not her senior age.”

Eckert suggests applying CBD oil to the base of your dog’s ears with a fast-acting gel pen. “It works in 10 or 15 minutes,” she says. “I use it with animals during thunderstorms, fireworks, car rides or something they’re not very happy with [like a trip to the vet]. It lasts up to 4 hours, and you can give it to your dog six times a day.”

By HOLLY KELSEY-HENRY, FREELANCER

Ask Rebekah Hintzman who’s leading the way for her new nonprofit, Pawsitism, and she’ll tell you that Isa the Goldendoodle and Finne the English Golden Retriever are “two smart puppies paving the way for an amazing organization.”

Located at 1229 Erie Avenue in Sheboygan, Wis., Pawsitism trains service dogs to become anchors and best friends to children with autism. After they complete the training, the dogs are placed, free of charge, with a family in need.

For families facing the challenges of autism, pets can play a significant role in their social lives. Research has found that dogs can act as a stimulus for social interaction. In fact, a University of Missouri study recently found that children with autism have much stronger social interaction skills when they live with any kind of pets at home for a prolonged period of time.

The dogs are trained to perform deep pressure therapy when a child becomes upset or panics by applying pressure to help calm them. They also learn deep gaze therapy where they look at the child directly to help bring their stress level down. Isa and Finne are hard at work perfecting their service skills in an 18-month-long training program. They will also be trained in search and rescue, in case a child becomes lost. Both are confident swimmers who can keep children safe in the water.

“The dogs also learn tether/anchor techniques where the child is actually tethered to the dog, and if the child wants to bolt, the dog anchors and freezes to not allow the child to move away,” Hintzman explains. “The dogs can also go down slides to make playgrounds more fun for the child and encourage them to engage with other children.”

The organization was founded in 2018 when Hintzman made the decision to follow her dream and create a non-profit to train service dogs for families facing the many challenges of autism.

“I found some people who were passionate about disabilities and helping the community, and a year later in January 2019, I, Tamara Pool and Deb Trcka formed a board, and it all officially started. Katie Shaw recently joined and has been helping with the organization as well,” she says.

The goal, according to Hintzman, is for the dogs to become the children’s best friend, anchor and safety net. The canines provide companionship, giving the child confidence that they are not alone. The dogs can also help them stay present and focused.

“For children who are not verbal, the dog is their voice,” she notes.

Pawsitism is funded through local donations, but the organization is also pursuing grants, sponsors and donors to help it grow. It is 100 percent volunteer-run.

“We are always looking for people who are interested in becoming puppy raisers to care for the dogs for 18 months while they train for their roles,” Hintzman says. “We also have puppy sitter opportunities along with service dog training opportunities.”

It takes a village to care for, feed and train the dogs. Area veterinarians, groomers, food suppliers and many other businesses support the organization with free care and nutrition for the dogs. Meanwhile, future goals include outings on planes, trains and automobiles for the pups.

“We’re planning trips to Chicago on the train and want to practice flying to New York. We need to find an airline to practice on,” Hintzman says.

Wink, wink.

For more information,
visit Pawsitism Inc. on Facebook.

BY PAMELA STACE, FREELANCER

When we think about 4-H, what usually comes to mind are images of kids raising and showing farm animals. Yes, that is part of it, but 4-H is so much more! Today’s 4-H is a comprehensive, hands-on, educational program for rural, suburban and urban youth in every state. According to their website, the purpose of 4-H is to empower young people with lifelong leadership skills. 4-H members pledge:

“My head to clearer thinking.
My heart to greater loyalty.
My hands to larger service.
My health to better living.

For my club, my community, my country, and my world.”

A Brief History of 4-H

4-H was started in 1902 with the intent of providing young boys in rural areas with learning experiences that would connect their public school studies with country life. In the 1950s, 4-H welcomed urban and suburban youth as well, and in the 1960s both boys and girls of all races were participating in 4-H.

4-H Project Areas

There are 119 project areas within 11 categories in 4-H. Categories include: Plant Science, Health, Environment, Earth Science, Physical Science, Leadership and Personal Development, Civic Engagement, Communications and Expressive Arts and Animal Science. With guidance from well-trained adult 4-H mentors, members from third to twelfth grade participate in community and afterschool events and camps. Within the Animal Science category, the Dog Project was established to “help youth explore what kind of dog fits into the family lifestyle, and how to be excellent trainers and caretakers of their dogs.”

The Dog Project

The 4-H Dog Project curriculum has three components: Wiggles and Wags (grades 3-5), Canine Connection (grades 6-8) and Leading the Pack (grades 9-12). Members earn certificates of completion for each of these segments on the way to their final Dog Project completion. The curriculum starts with the basics and layers on more detailed information as members proceed. For example, third graders start with learning about breeds, anatomy, basic care, dogs in society and dog-related careers. Grades 6-8 learn more about health and nutrition, genetic problems, training and population control. Finally, Leading the Pack participants delve into caring for the geriatric dog, training service dogs, first aid and learning about animal cruelty and neglect.

Affordable curriculum materials for the Dog Project, and dozens of downloads relating to every area of Dog Project study, are available on the 4-H website.

Conformation & The Dog Project

Dog Project members are encouraged to share what they are learning with others via public presentations, community activities and conformation events at county and state fairs. My friend Marylou Mader has been judging Wisconsin 4-H shows for 20 years, and she recently spoke with me about some of her experiences.

Mader enjoys seeing kids and their dogs return to the county fair shows year after year, but she told me it is bittersweet when they eventually complete and age out of the project. Dogs do not have to be purebreds, but a handler must choose a breed identity and speak knowledgeably about that. 4-H judges can also question handlers about other aspects of dog ownership, including grooming and care. Additionally, while in the ring, dogs must demonstrate obedience skills.

4-H uses the Danish judging system. This means that a dog is not judged against another dog in the ring but instead against a standard. This gives all participating dogs and their handlers a chance to be recognized for their hard work and practice. As a result, there can be more than one blue ribbon!

A Great Opportunity

4-H provides a fantastic opportunity for kids aged 8-18 to take their love of dogs to another level by learning about all things dog. It is not expensive to become a member, and 4-H can be found all over Southeastern Wisconsin!

To get started, visit: www.4-h.org

BY EMILY HESSE, FREELANCER

Year after year, animals of all kinds are being transported to veterinary clinics to deal with nightmare situations that leave pet owners scratching their heads.

Sometimes, nothing is more troublesome or frustrating than when our canine friends get a little mischievous and curious and end up getting themselves into unhealthy situations. These unfortunate circumstances cause us to wonder how these instances can be treated and how they can be prevented from happening again.

The following list will break down some of the most common hazards dogs, and even humans, have to look out for in the water.

Be sure to check your dog after each swim, make sure he or she is properly vaccinated, and know where the nearest animal hospital is in case something goes wrong during what was supposed to be a fun day out with your dog.

Bacteria, Viruses & Fungi

Water-born bacterial and fungal infections are the biggest problem to look out for when letting your dog play in different bodies of water. Although standing water tends to pose a higher risk for curating bacteria, river edges are known to store some of those creepy-crawlies as well. One serious fungal disease of animals that could potentially be transmitted to humans by way of open wounds is called blastomycosis. Three forms of illness that can derive from blastomycosis can affect the lungs, skin and total body.

Illness can develop 5 to 12 weeks after infection. One way to prevent this disease is by rinsing all the algae off your pet. Blasto spores kick up, and that’s how contamination happens. Systemic fungal disease and leptospirosis are also spread from the outdoors, especially environments with water.

Distemper vaccines can be given to prevent against leptospirosis, which is the standing water disease. Such exposure to infected bodies of water can give dogs seasonal allergies, ear infections and skin issues.

Pollution

Another reason why dogs and humans alike need to be careful in water environments is pollution. It’s sad to admit, but especially in city environments, pollution can really bring down natural habitats and all its inhabitants.

Broken glass, garbage, plastic or metal shards can be hiding at the bottom of our local rivers and lakes, and you’ll never know it or see it until stepping on it. Stepping on trash not only causes serious pain, but it can cause different infections that are life threatening. A way to prevent this from happening is by using trash bins provided all around cities and parks instead of tossing trash on the ground. And if you see trash on the ground or in the water from someone else, go the extra mile to pick it up and protect yourself and those around you.

Nature’s Elements

Sometimes there are nasty, sharp and dirty objects scattered around that can’t be prevented. These are natural elements such as sharp rocks and sticks under the water. Also, fast-moving rapids in rivers and strong waves in big bodies of water can threaten the safety of your dog as it goes out to fetch a stick you threw. Be as knowledgeable as you can about the kind of water you are dealing with and how to go about a situation in case something goes wrong. Unfortunately, some injuries are near impossible to prevent, but many others are just one wise decision away from saving the day.

Leeches

Ah yes, the creepy-crawlies that always seemed to be lurking within every lake you swam in as a kid growing up in Wisconsin. Leeches are known to cling onto any part of skin that is exposed in their underwater environment. It’s common to find them latched onto your feet and inbetween your toes, but leeches also enjoy sucking the blood of your canine pal. Leeches that swell up from being left unnoticed can cause infections.

Zebra Mussels

Zebra mussels are invasive species that can cause issues for our animal friends. Sometimes, due to the exposure of infected waters, dogs will get them on their feet. One way to prevent zebra mussels is to properly maintain beaches by raking. People also need to be conscious and clean off their boats.

BY EMILY HESSE, FREELANCER

It’s finally summertime in Wisconsin. Homeowners are busy cranking up the A/C and fulfilling plans to work in their gardens. Parents are running around trying to get their kids to summer camps, and families are loading up the old caravan to embark on their family vacations. But let’s not forget about our furry friends who are pawing at our doors, just begging to break free and go for their fifth walk of the day. That’s right, fifth. Well, so it seems. A great way to combat such anxiety and anticipation our dogs tend to exhibit in these moments is to let them sweat it out by exploring the great outdoors. We are all familiar with the phrase, “Want to go for a walk?” And certainly, we all know the spunky, head-tilting, perky-eared reaction that is sure to follow. But this summer, why not try saying something a little different? Here’s a new phrase: “Want to go for a… swim?” That one is sure to throw Fido for a loop. Nevertheless, your dog may be just as eager to splash through the water, as he or she is to walk down the neighborhood streets or run through the forest.

If the water life seems to float your dog’s boat, then you might want to take some time to check out a few of the beautiful lakes and rivers that Wisconsin has to offer. There are many parks in Southeastern Wisconsin alone that cater to the dog community. Some of these parks provide ample space for your pooch to roam the waterfront and dive into the cool, summer waters.

In order to research and experience the beauty of some of these doggy water parks, I took the opportunity to hop into my car and drive along with a friend and a four-legged companion to scope out potential hot spots. Though all it really took was a simple search on a map app to find some places, I went ahead and did the experiential research to find out for myself and report back. Among the many dog parks that are strewn throughout Southeastern Wisconsin, here are a few water-sourced ones to help your dog beat the heat this summer.

Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve in Port Washington is a popular destination for humans and dogs alike. This place is not solely a dog park; however, dogs are very welcome and, in fact, encouraged to come and explore here alongside their human companions. Lion’s Den offers hiking, birdwatching, and fishing to the public, and it provides areas for folks to take a nice lunch break. Coursing throughout the 73-acre preserve are winding trails. These trails are kept nicely maintained for the public and are composed of mulch and gravel, which help absorb some of spring’s heavy rainfalls. There are several bridges along the way, which can make for fun photo opportunities. Not only do the trails take you twisting and turning among the trees, but they also lead to something even more spectacular. If you and your dog happen upon the right paths, you will be taken to either the bluff where you can overlook Lake Michigan or walk down to the lakefront.

The bluff is great for getting a grand, bird’s-eye view of the vast body of water and a strong breeze blowing through your hair. It provides the perfect backdrop to snap the selfie of your dreams of you and your pup. If you choose to go down to the lakefront, you will come across a wooden stairway that runs up and down the bluff to the refreshing water below. Although the stairway is steep, don’t worry; there are plenty of level spots along the way to rest. Upon reaching the bottom, you will be greeted by a long, sandy beach where the waves lap ashore. Sections of the beach have small rocks along the shoreline as well, which can help your pooch dry off a little before getting their wet feet too sandy to bring back into the car. This beachfront will give you all the space you need to play fetch with your dog as they challenge the waves of Lake Michigan.

Among the handful of beachgoers that day we visited, there were a few courageous pooches that dove into the water with full energy. One of them was a beautiful Australian Shepherd named Willow, who was eager to show-off her retrieving skills to nearby observers. Willow’s caretaker, Amanda Gonzalez, says she’s been coming there for a little over a year now. “This is definitely our favorite,” she quips. Gonzalez and Willow are among the regulars at Lion’s Den, but it’s not uncommon to meet people who check out the park from out of town and even out of state. One of the hikers that came down to the beach was Zach Rosenblatt with his handsome, brindle-colored dog Payton. Rosenblatt says, “This is the first time we’ve ever been here. We live in Chicago.” As Rosenblatt explained their origins, Payton proceeded to show me the ‘good boy’ he was by sitting and posing for the camera.

Many of the people who come to the trails to run or get in a good hike with their dogs find the water to be great for a post-workout cool down. Gonzalez went on to explain, “We usually run a bit first. [Willow] can then cool off in the waves at the beach. She requires a lot of exercise. Sometimes we bring a little lunch.” This special preserve of land has proven to be a gem in Southeastern Wisconsin. If you and your adventure buddy are looking to get out and explore an area with such biodiversity and natural beauty with plenty of places to rest, then give this park a good look this summer.

Lion’s Den is open to the public from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the week, so there is plenty of time to enjoy the beauty that this park has to offer, and it is free-of-charge upon arrival. It also provides off-street parking—perfect for pulling up and letting your dog hop out of the car without fear of traffic from a busy highway. Like most public areas, it is required you keep your dogs on a leash and clean up after them. Bathrooms and disposal areas are available as well. Lion’s Den has received an average rating of 4.5 stars from different Google reviews, so the experience at this park is sure to keep those tails wagging.

Another park to keep on your radar this summer is Granville Dog Park located in the greater Milwaukee area. If you and Fido are looking to escape the city life but don’t want to travel too far outside of town, this park is a good place to start. Although this dog park is located practically in the city, it most certainly gives off rural vibes due to its 10 acres of trees, trails and river access. Keep a watchful eye because its entrance can be easy to miss but nevertheless, it is conveniently located right off Highway 45 and Good Hope Road. This section of land has quite a playful landscape for dogs, especially for the more athletically inclined and the true adventure seekers. It has hills, trees, shrubs, dirt paths and tall grass. But more importantly, the most prized piece of the land is, of course, the Menomonee River.

Upon walking into Granville Dog Park, everything seems to remain fairly quaint. To the left, there is a pathway that takes you up onto a steep hill where one can overlook the grassland and treetops for quite a distance. There’s even a bench provided. From the top of the hill, looping down, around and throughout the rest of the park are a bunch of little trails where your dog can roam free. Be careful as you walk around; some of the paths aren’t any bigger than an average-sized deer trail, and at this park, there are only dirt pathways. At the very least, this provides even more of a fun, off-roading adventure for your four-legged companion, right? To the left there is a beautiful, relaxing overlook, but to the right… That’s where the real adventure awaits. As you proceed down the path on the right, you may start to hear the commotion of happy dogs at play. Barking, splashing, humans yelling out directions to their K-9 counterparts and the flow of the river are all common sounds to be heard in Granville. At the riverfront, you may find the more active dogs chasing after toys their caretakers throw into the water for them or chasing after each other’s tails. You can also find older or smaller dogs basking in the cool river water or laying down under the shade of a big tree. Picnic tables are available to those who want to relax and enjoy their furry friends at play or sit down to a nice lunch in the shade.

Regardless of the inevitable water that is going to be splashed onto you and your clothing, this park has positive feedback. According to the online source, BringFido, “Granville Dog Park has received a rating of 4.8 out of 5 bones by 5 dog owners.” Granville Dog Park does not require dogs to be on a leash, even though a fence does not surround the whole property. Three sides of the property are fenced while the river acts as a fence on the fourth side. Also, proper dog licensing and permit tags must be available, including rabies vaccinations. Granville is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day of the week. The park also offers disposal bins to get rid of any trash or waste that comes from your time spent here. Another bonus: This park is free of charge.

Our last and final stops on the doggy (water) park tour ends with a couple brief suggestions of excellent places where dog owners can get just as much joy out of the experience as do their four-legged friends. Estabrook Park Dog Exercise Area coincides with the Estabrook Beer garden in Shorewood. This makes it the perfect summer hangout for both dogs and humans. Running alongside the Estabrook Park is the Milwaukee River. This provides another opportunity for you to take a stroll alongside the river with your furry pal or to let him or her roam around in the off-leash and fenced-in area of the park, whilst you enjoy a nice brew. Permits, licensing and rabies vaccinations are required for this park, along with a daily or yearly pass in order to enter the dog park.

Lastly, Ridge Run Park, located in the heart of West Bend, provides winding trails through a wooded area and an ample body of water. As long as your dog is on a 6-foot leash, he or she can enjoy wading in the slow-moving water within this park. The park provides hikers with a segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, so it’s sure to have scenic views. Within Ridge Run, there are many pavilions and shelters so you and your dog can take a rest or have a lunch break if desired. This park has no entry fee.

As animal lovers, not only do we want to live our best life for our families and ourselves, but we also seek to give our dogs the same kind of love and respect so they can live their best life, too. After all, dogs truly are man’s best friend, and they are just as much a part of our family as they ever could be.

So, before summer is over, take some time to not only plan out the big getaway vacations you want to take with your family and friends, but also spend some time traveling around with your pup to find his or her perfect getaway. Load up the car with some old towels, doggy bags, retrieving toys and some good tunes, and surprise your pup with the water park vacation getaway about which he or she has been having all those puppy dreams.

By PATTI MURACZEWSKI, CPDT-KA, CABC, BA

I was 40 years old when I presented at my first dog camp: A camp designed for dogs and their owners who want to have a great time in nature. I wasn’t prepared for being wowed, and after 20 years of presenting at dog camps, I continue to be wowed. I am proud to be an instructor with Camp Dogwood, the only dog camp in Wisconsin, and one of only a handful across the country.

Staff and campers find it hard to explain why this experience is so addicting, so much so that many campers vie to get a spot for the next camp before the current one is even over. The closest word that I have heard used to describe this experience is “magical.” I think this is because everyone attending is enjoying valued time with their best friend or best friends as campers can bring up to three dogs at Camp Dogwood. However, that is just one part of it.

People who attend are like me; they want to learn more about activities there that they can continue to do with their dog at home. The camp offers very active sessions such as hiking and lectures about all dog-related topics, as well as hands on activities such as baking for your dog. An incredible bond is formed. It is like what young people often feel when they attend a children’s summer camp. What is different is these camp friendships are not as fast to slip away because social media makes it easier to keep in touch afterward.

Camp Dogwood was started at Camp Henry Horner in Illinois but a few years ago moved to Perlstein and Chi Resort up at the Wisconsin Dells. The move opened even more experiences to share with your dog specific to the Dells area. Every fall and spring, campers are given the opportunity to take a ride on the Wisconsin Dells Ducks and yes, with their dogs! The hiking paths are long and the camp acreage is large and beautiful.

Most of the camps throughout the country are attached to a lake that provides a great place for dogs to swim at the spring and fall camps. At Camp Dogwood in the wintertime, if there is solid ice on the lake, dogs can learn to pull a sled or mush on the lake. Last year, a pair of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels seemed to have a better time pulling than even the Nordic breeds.

The variety of activities are vast, but camps pride themselves in introducing sports and activities that are on the cutting edge. This means you can count on something new being added to almost every camp. Some of the newest activities added at Camp Dogwood are core conditioning for dogs, dog friendly yoga, shed hunting and brush hunt. This always keeps the camp fresh.

Like any type of camp, crafts are offered. Most crafts offered center around dogs such as handmade leashes, dog bowls, etched glass, friendship stones, flirt poles or snuffle mats. Dog camps vary in the number of days they run. One of the camps out east, Camp Gone to The Dogs, offers a week of activities while other camps run for three to four days. Alysa Slay and Dave Eisendrath co-founded Camp Dogwood in 2001. Alysa found that some campers wanted a longer experience. Camp Dogwood now offers extended camp, and this allows the campers to come a day early just to chill. Needless to say, extended camp has become very popular. The cost of this experience varies, but it can average around $225 per day, which includes lodging and meals.

National Camps

If anything in this article appeals to you, take the time to look up and research the various dog camps to discover what they have to offer. There are a number of camps throughout the country, and each camp has its own flavor. Here is a list of some of the existing camps: Camp Dogwood, Wisconsin Dells, Wis.; Camp Gone to the Dogs, Stowe, Vt.; Camp Unleashed, Mass. and Georgia; Canine Club Getaway, Lake George, N.Y.; Dog Scouts of America; and Maian Meadows Dog Camp, Lake Wenatchee, Wash.

It is not unusual for someone to travel across the country to attend a camp. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see different states with your best friend.