Who is the woman behind Lost & Hound?

Britney Kruesel is the girl behind Lost & Hound! I have two dogs, Bella, a 3lb Chihuahua and Milo, an always hungry Beagle. Aside from helping other rescue dogs, my dogs were truly the inspiration behind the brand. I work full time for the Wisconsin Humane Society as the youth programs specialist, coordinating programs designed to increase empathy toward animals and impact children and their community in a positive way. After a full days work at the shelter, I come home, take my dogs for a walk, make dinner and then spend another 4-6 hours cultivating new ideas for Lost & Hound, fulfilling orders and making updates to my website, www.lostandhoundmke.com. I usually fall asleep with my laptop on my lap!

How much time do you devote to volunteering?

Before I began working full time at an animal rescue, I volunteered as part of an internship at the Coulee Region Humane Society in Onalaska, socializing dogs and assisting with the pet therapy and youth programs. I have fostered a handful of dogs as well as helped assist families in finding their perfect match. In 2016, Milo and I became a registered pet therapy team through Health Heelers/Pet Partners as a way for us to strengthen our bond, but also as a way for him to share his sweet old soul with those who may benefit from the therapeutic companionship of a dog. Milo and I are lucky enough to spend a couple evenings a month volunteering at memory loss facilities and other youth programs around the city.

How many dogs have received toys to help them transition?

Just under 1,000 and counting (thanks to our loyal customers!).

What’s new?

I’m always looking for new patterns for our bandanas and bow ties. I am also looking into the possibility of a new style leash, collar, additional toys, as well as fun new human goods for those who don’t have a pet but would like to support Lost & Hound’s mission.

We have a few events lined up. Barktoberfest, Fromm Fest and Brady Street Pet Parade to mention a few. We hope to see you there!

If you had to sum up your photography/art in one word … what would it be?

Mindful

Anything else you would like to share?

Our Lost & Hound bandanas can also currently be found in three Milwaukee stores, LOCALmke, MilwaukeeHome and URSA, with additional partnerships brewing as we speak.

Follow along for more updates and announcements on Instagram or Facebook: @lostandhoundmke!

I started in rescue in 2000 when I adopted my first rescue dog. At the time, rescue organizations were far and few between! I spent the next 8 years helping to re-home Golden Retrievers. The later part of that was spent doing transports. That is when we realized that the rural shelters were having a hard time adopting out anything other than a purebred dog. The connections made during the years in rescue helped get BRATS off the ground. We had connections with almost all of the shelters in Wisconsin, many of the rescues and with local breeders. My husband and I have 2 dogs that we transported but ended up staying with us. One is a Boxer Mix and the other is a Pitbull.

What is BRATS?
BRATS is a Wisconsin-based animal rescue transport service. We started this in 2008 to help rural Wisconsin shelters get their animals to areas of the state where they had a better chance at adoption.

At the time their kill rates were high. The big thing holding them back was a reliable transportation system to move animals around. Fast forward 10 years and most of these same shelters are now finding themselves in a position to bring IN animals.

Do you help more than just dogs?
We learned early on that it wasn’t just dogs that needed to be transferred. There were cats, birds, small animals, rabbits, reptiles and occasional farm animals. Wisconsin has a rescues for all of these so we adjusted our business model to include all of them.

What programs do you have?
1. We have our ambulance service to pick up sick and wounded animals at the shelters to get them to Spay Me in Madison. That led to our work with UW Vet School in Madison. We also run a chuck wagon service that moves food and supplies between shelters. So nice to see everyone sharing!

2. During the busy times of the year we help MADACC get their animals to Wisconsin Humane Society’s Spay/Neuter Clinic.

3. BRATS has worked with breeders in Wisconsin since the beginning. We move their retired breeder dogs to rescues and shelters that know how to work with them. Some are seniors, but most of them are in the 2-8 year range. We would prefer to see them living out their lives as pampered pets vs never knowing a loving family. Most find homes in a few weeks. Some take longer to adjust. Occasionally breeders will call with puppies that have gotten too old to sell. We work with breeders of big dogs like Golden Retrievers and Golden Doodles to the cute little fluffy dogs. They all deserve a home, and we do our best to make sure they get that.

4. Two years ago we started our Wisconsin Junior Heroes For Animals to recognize kids making a difference in the lives of animals. That is what BRATS does right now. It will be interesting to see what we look like in 5 years as we are always adjusting to what our partners need. Junior Heroes are nominated by shelters, rescue groups, family members or friends. Some of these kids have overcome some pretty substantial hardships in their lives but find a way to help animals. One young lady raised funds for vests for police service dogs. Some of them help bottle feed kitties and puppies. Some spend a lot of time at their local shelter reading to animals and helping in ways only kids can. There is a BRATS youth volunteer this year that reads to the animals on the transports to help them de-stress. We want to recognize these wonderful kids and their good deeds. It really helps to keep them motivated. Kids who are kind to animals are generally kind to humans!

How can the public help?
The public can help by spaying/neutering and microchipping their animals and keeping them safe so they don’t end up in shelters.

BRATS does not charge for our services. There are no paid positions. Everyone pays for their own vehicles and their own expenses. Many of the people that drive during the week are retired or on some type of fixed income. A gas card helps them tremendously.

BRATS is pretty complex for an all- volunteer organization nobody outside of rescue knows about. We prefer to have the spotlight on our shelter/rescue partners who are doing the heavy lifting.

Regardless of your past, you are still a Rockstar—or at least that is the mantra of Judith Fischer, dog trainer and owner of Agility Possibilities, LLC. Fischer went from showing and titling several breeds to finding her true life’s purpose in agility training. She has lived and breathed dogs for 45 years and upon rescuing a Bloodhound girl named Sarah, Fischer was able to develop a fondness for special needs training.

“Sarah Louise opened my eyes and heart to working with dogs with special needs. While we recently lost our Sarah … it was through watching her reconnect with life and enjoy being with other dogs and people that I am now able to better teach others how their dogs best learn regardless of what their past held,” Fischer emphasizes.

How do you train a dog with special needs?

All our training classes are designed with the dogs best interest in mind. I incorporate fun obstacles so every dog or owner, despite limited ability, is still able to take to the course and enjoy learning together.

Agility as a competition sport is awesome to watch! Often we watch these dogs, muttering under our breath, ‘my dog, or I, could never do that!’ Yet, all dogs can train and benefit from the sport of agility. The challenge is not if our special needs dogs can navigate the obstacles but how we are going to train them to do so. In training with handicaps, ours or theirs, we need to focus on what we can do, rather than what we can’t. Sometimes the criteria we deem as insurmountable needn’t even be part of the equation. Dogs are very resilient and receptive to trying and learning new things. They aren’t worried about what others will think or say they just go about enjoying life and trying to get the most out of each day. We could learn A LOT from our canine counterparts.

All dogs’ first language is scent; depending on their breed-inherent traits, they may carry a double major in scent (as my Hounds did) or be more visually acute. Perhaps they were originally bred to work following hand cues or subtle body cues. All this comes into play when training dogs. A special needs dog may just have a shorter list from which to choose. That just means you both have less to learn! Less is more. Less distraction or involvement can equal greater attention and focus to the task at hand (or paw). I have seen and worked with deaf dogs that blow the others away on course since they are not distracted by sounds, having been taught to follow visual cues. I have also worked with blind dogs that did extremely well in having specific scents to direct or redirect during training. I see these as all positive training behaviors not just for agility but in life. In working with how we each learn best, together we receive greater results in establishing a bond built on trust, respect and love.

Benefits?

Agility is an all-encompassing training medium for dogs and their owners that exercises the mind and body. It teaches or helps redirect the dog’s impulse control while being off leash. I have worked with many a dog that is more receptive to learning basic obedience or manners skills if they get to burn off some pent up frustration by going over a jump or racing through a tunnel as part of training.

A few of my students refer to agility class as ‘fun school.’ I like that! Most dogs already know how to run and jump. Incorporating what you and your dog enjoy doing together at home in a structured class format is a great way to work on their social skills. Many owners have made great human friendships as well and attending class is a great social outing for them. Through my decades of working with people training their dogs, I have been fortunate to work with and learn from those with what we call handicaps. In treating them with the respect they deserve, at times modifying my approach or setup, I have found through acceptance, there are no real handicaps, just obstacles we all encounter and have to learn from.

Why do you do it?

In agility training, we are able to release our inner puppy—enjoy life and laugh at ourselves since our dogs do humble us. We learn to connect with others not based on social status but through our common interest—dogs. I love being able to provide safe, fun, educational and recreational training for dogs and owners. I enjoy watching owners learn from their dogs and work towards a mutually beneficial goal. That’s what it is all about to me: watching dogs teach their owners that while life presents many challenges, they can be overcome by working and learning together.