REINS Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies began in 1982 by a group of students from Lakeshore Technical Institute in Sheboygan, Wis. The acronym REINS stands for Riders (Participants) being Encouraged, Inspired, Nurtured and above all Successful. At first this organization was created to provide recreation and exercise to those with special needs. In 2013-14 it began to evolve into the program that many are familiar with today: A non-profit organization with two forms of equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) known to improve the lives of those with special needs through interactions with horses.

“We are accredited by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International and our instructors are certified in therapeutic riding instruction and/or equine specialists in mental health and learning,” says Theresa Zimmermann, executive director. “This level of expertise allows us to offer a range of equine-assisted activities and therapies to our clients.”

Therapeutic Riding & Equine-Assisted Learning
The therapeutic riding program is open to ages 4 and older. It focuses on the main skills associated with learning how to ride while making educational modifications and accommodations to riders with disabilities. Instructors modify classes as needed to help participants reach their physical, cognitive, social and emotional goals.

In comparison, assisted learning services help clients develop critical life skills such as trust, leadership, assertiveness, communication, self-confidence and self-awareness according to PATH. This particular program was originally designed for middle school and high school-aged children with noted behavioral problems. However, REINS offers this to younger children as well. The program is called “Learning to Lead,” and includes a mounted and unmounted version.

How Equine Therapy Differs
Zimmermann explains that the key difference in this type of therapy is based on the enjoyable and motivational environment available to the client. It allows the instructor to target certain skills that may be harder to address through traditional therapies and/or interventions.

Disabilities They Serve
Down Syndrome
Cerebral Palsy
Spina Bifida
Spinal Cord Injuries
Speech Disorders
Genetic Conditions
Developmental Delays
Cardiac Conditions
And Many More!

When & Where
REINS is currently working on expanding the seasons they can offer therapy. As of this spring, they are building an outdoor riding facility that will be named “Freedom Ring.” During an outdoor riding experience, a participant named Caleb told his mom he felt free, thus influencing the naming of this outdoor arena.

REINS is always looking for volunteers (12 or older) and donations. Please visit for more information. Scholarships are available for those unable to afford tuition.

“Without the support of the communities in which we serve, we simply could not do what we do,” says Zimmermann.

Contact Theresa Zimmermann at
920-946-8599 for more information.

Donations can be mailed to:
P.O. Box 68, Sheboygan Falls, WI 53085.

2020 SEASON:
June 15 – Aug. 28
(No classes week of July 20)


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 [email protected]


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


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.


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.”

Hi there! My name is Maddie, and I’m just your average fourth grader. Well… maybe not quite average but, rather, a perfectionist and a worrywart with an overactive imagination and a flare for being dramatic. At least that’s how my mother would describe me!

One of my best friends in the whole wide world is our 5-month-old Golden Retriever puppy Bella. We named her Bella because Bella means “beautiful” in Italian, and she really is beautiful. She has become an important part of our family, even though she isn’t human.
At each of Bella’s puppy checkup visits at the veterinary clinic, Dr. Lacy teaches us how to help Bella grow up to be a happy adult that is comfortable in our human world. Dr. Lacy said that even though we think of our pets as part of our families, it is so important to remember that they are, in fact, animals. So they think like animals, and they talk like animals. We think like humans, and we talk like humans, so we have to help our pets understand us, and we have to learn how to understand them whether they’re a dog, a cat or some other critter.

Mom told me to imagine what it would be like to, all of a sudden, find myself in a foreign country where no one spoke English, all by myself unable to understand what anyone was saying. Would it be scary? Frustrating? With my overactive imagination, you can just guess what I thought of this idea! Yep, I immersed myself in this daydream and pictured myself trying to let the people around me know I was hungry or lost (and scared) or that I had to use the restroom. Ugh! It wouldn’t be easy. That’s for sure, and this opened my eyes to how Bella must feel as part of our human family.

Bella barks when she’s excited, like when we play ball, and whines when she needs something such as getting us to open the door so she can go out to potty. Dr. Lacy taught us, though, that most of what Bella says is with her body language—her face, ears, tail, mouth and body.

The first things we learned were how to tell when Bella was happy and how to tell when she was worried or scared because worried or scared dogs are more likely to bite. “Happy dogs” are loose—with relaxed ears; level, sweeping tail; squinty eyes; open mouth. “Worried dogs” are more tense—closed mouth; ears back; wrinkles around eyes or forehead; tail might be wagging but will usually be low and stiff with only the tip of it moving; and they may also yawn or lick their lips or look at you out the sides of their eyes (half-moon eye); or slouch/hunch their body, try to hide or move away. I thought wagging tails meant the dog was happy, so I was so surprised to learn this isn’t always true.

Dr. Lacy taught us that there are many things that humans do that dogs can find stressful or scary, such as hugging/kissing the dog (which can make them feel trapped), staring at the dog and patting them on top of their head and that, kids, most of all, can seem scary to many dogs because we move quickly, make screechy noises, are unpredictable at times and might do scary things such as pulling hair or body parts, climbing on the dog or going up to the dog when it is resting or has a special treat, food or toy item.

Just yesterday, my little sister, Katie, who’s 5, was jumping around just a few feet away from Bella, and my mom noticed that Bella yawned, put her ears back, turned her head away and closed her mouth. Mom said was Bella saying she was worried. She asked Katie to play further away, and then Bella relaxed and closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. Maybe Bella wasn’t sure what might happen next? Would Katie jump on her? It makes sense that she’d be worried.

This really is a very big topic, so in the next issue we will explore more about how dogs talk and all the things that humans, and especially kids, do that can make dogs worried. All of this will help us to know how to interact so that the dog is happy and comfortable.

Note to parents: Use this story and the following resources to prompt/support a family discussion about dog body language and how to foster trusting relationships between dogs and kids:

If you’d like to read more about Maddie and Bella, “Bella’s First Checkup” is available on Amazon or you can contact Dr. Kohler for a signed copy by emailing her at [email protected]


“Great Danes are like having a toddler in a dog suit,” says Jennifer Klika, president of the Upper Midwest Great Dane Rescue in Eagan, Minn. “There are days I’d need a pitchfork to push my 9-year-old out of bed. Then he gets the zoomies and runs like a maniac for 15 minutes and looks like a camel whose legs are falling off.” With a lanky body and a head that doesn’t quite match, Danes pout when they want attention, slump when they’re disappointed and bounce when they’re happy.

Danes were originally bred to hunt boars. Assyrians, a major power in the ancient Middle East, traded them with the Greeks and Romans. They mixed them with Irish Wolfhounds, Irish Greyhounds and the ancestors of English Mastiffs.

By the 1500s, German nobility used Danes to protect their homes and loved ones. They considered the breed to be the biggest and most handsome of dogs, calling them Kammerhundes (Chamber Dogs). They were given gilded collars trimmed with fringe and padded with velvet.

In the 1700s, French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon discovered a slimmer German Boarhound. He said the Danish climate caused it to become a Grand Danois (Big Danish). He didn’t develop the breed. But the name stuck.

Dane Mom For Life
After Victoria Burger’s Saint Bernard, Holly, passed away, she opened her home to three Danes. Finley’s former owners broke her jaw by pulling on her collar and punished her by yanking her ears. “Even if I’m not touching them, she’ll yelp because she has some nerve damage,” Burger says. “There are some holes in her training, but she’s still wonderful.”

Partly deaf and blind, Marlo weighed 38 pounds when he was pulled from a Texas backyard. “When he’s happy, he squints his eyes, smiles with his lips and wags his tail,” she says. Mooshie, who was purchased from a Canadian breeder, is stoic. “She makes a lot of eye contact. When we’re out walking—and she’s off-leash—she’ll stop, look back and wait,” says Burger.

Mooshie doesn’t nab chicken from the table or nip when children tug on her. “I have two horses, and she’s very respectful of them. She likes to kiss their noses,” Burger says. When Mooshie isn’t getting pawdicures every two weeks, she totes around her owner’s childhood teddy bear. “She’ll fall asleep with it in her mouth. He’s got like a duct tape diaper on him because I’m tired of sewing him up,” she says.

In the summer, her Danes are up at 5:45 a.m. to go hiking and swimming. “Their activity level is influenced by mine. I walk them four times a day,” Burger says. “Danes don’t ignore you and are always in tune with you … I’ll never have another breed. I’m a Dane mom for life.”

Danes live an average of 7 to 10 years. They’re prone to bone cancer, heart disease, hypothyroidism, ear infections and hip dislocation. “Digestion problems and allergies also are surprisingly high in Danes. My personal guy gets Benadryl during allergy season. Or he licks his little paws pink,” Klika says.

According to the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW), 42 percent of Great Danes develop bloat during their lifetimes. Treatment consists of a gastropexy (or “pexy”), in which the dog’s stomach is sutured to the body wall, preventing it from twisting. “This procedure is recommended at the time of spay or neuter, as opposed to a second anesthetic event,” says Dr. Morgan McCoy from Magnolia Springs Veterinary Center in Sturtevant, Wis.

Should You Adopt a Dane?
Although Danes are gentle giants, they’re not for everyone. They hate being alone (so they may cope by eating 43 of your socks) and love to cuddle, even if that means suffocating you under their heft. Danes will follow you to the bathroom and scratch on the door if you “accidentally” lock them out. They slobber and lumber around in a rather bumptious manner. They might be afraid of cats, plastic bags or suspicious-looking rocks. But they’ll fill awkward silences with woofs, grunts and pitiful stares.

As I write this editorial, concerns of the coronavirus are spreading. As it continues to jump from person to person and country to country, one question (rooted in fear) remains for some pet lovers … can my pet get it and can they give it to me? This novel virus now named COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in many communities. It seems to be mostly lethal to populations 70 and older or for those with compromised immune systems (that we know of).

But what about our pets? Are we prepared for them? What is happening to the pets in these communities with active outbreaks? How can we help?

In Hong Kong, a dog without symptoms recently tested positive and will remain in quarantine until tests are negative. What does this mean to you? This grave situation is filled with too many variables and unknowns yet that people can barely protect themselves, let alone their beloved pets. People are being advised to not panic and to prepare for the virus to hit, especially here in Wisconsin.

However, in Wuhan, pets are being abandoned or unfairly targeted. They are being left in apartments alone while their owners are prohibited from entering the city. Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association has already rescued hundreds since this outbreak began. So what I plead to you is … help in anyway you can. Hug and love your own companion(s) every day. Do not abandon your pet. They need you to be strong and to take care of them, and in return, they will take care of you. Stress depletes the immune system; I know this firsthand. And pets help relieve stress. Get prepared as best you can.

This brings me to my 6-year-old son, Ezra. Even he has stress. He may be autistic, but why stress? Maybe it’s hereditary. Each day he struggles to control his body and his mind. It’s like watching someone whose body is on fire and whose mind is constantly just feeding it more fuel. His body just takes over. Animals help my son! I notice during equine therapy that he is trying hard to focus. It’s so hard as a mom to watch your child struggle each day (now imagine the moms in Wuhan). Animals are so therapeutic and comforting that it’s astounding that there aren’t more laws protecting them and more people taking care of them.

I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone helping those in need right now. I pray for the people who are infected, for the ones who have past, for the ones just trying to go home and especially for the ones who have children or animals they are responsible for. Be strong!

To all of you out there protecting & aiding your loved ones … don’t forget about yourself along the way,



There was a big game on TV this year. I didn’t see it, but I’ve heard that one of the commercials featured a beautiful Golden Retriever named Scout. Last year, Scout had a form of cancer called cardiac hemangiosarcoma. He was treated at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. He is doing well, and his owner was so grateful that he paid for this ad in hopes people would donate money to the UW School of Veterinary Medicine. Apparently it is working quite well, and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated. It’s a very sweet story and a pleasant change from the usual headlines.

Hemangiosarcoma is unfortunately a very common cancer in dogs. Two of its commonest forms, splenic and cardiac, tend to be extremely aggressive. What typically happens is this: A middle-aged dog (a Golden Retriever as often as not) is happily going about their typical day when it suddenly starts to feel tired. Over a few minutes to a few hours, the dog goes from bouncing and playing to collapsed, unable to get up and gasping for breath. This is because hemangiosarcomas, which develop from the walls of blood vessels, have an unfortunate tendency to burst, causing internal bleeding that can be rapidly fatal.

If the hemangiosarcoma is in the heart (a cardiac hemangiosarcoma), the amount of blood lost is usually not extremely large, but it causes problems because of its location. A protective fibrous sac called the pericardium encloses the heart. When a tumor bleeds, it can fill up the pericardium and cause so much pressure that the heart cannot fill and pump properly. The term “pericardial effusion” refers to any fluid that is in the pericardium, and a bleeding tumor is not the only possible cause. We sometimes see effusions caused by inflammation or infection, bleeding disorders, heart disease and so on. Whatever caused it, if it is causing problems, we want to get it out of there. We do this by placing a long needle or catheter into the chest and into the pericardium to drain out as much fluid as possible, relieving the pressure on the heart so that it can fill properly.

Of course, having once solved that problem, we want to do our best to prevent it from coming back. Sometimes, analyzing the fluid will tell us about a cause, such as an infection, that we can treat. Most of the time, it is just blood, and that puts the owners and us in the uncomfortable position of trying to figure out what to do next. If the effusion is benign, meaning it is caused by inflammation rather than cancer, it may never come back again or may improve with medication. If it is caused by cancer, however, it will bleed again. It’s important to know what we’re up against.

A mass on the heart doesn’t show up well on x-rays, but sometimes a skilled ultrasonographer can identify it. We can also look for circumstantial evidence. Hemangiosarcoma is a cancer that is often found in several organs at once, so we look for it in the liver and spleen with an ultrasound exam or in the lungs with a chest x-ray. If we find masses in those organs, it makes diagnosis easier. Whether it has spread to other organs or not, cardiac hemangiosarcoma has a grave prognosis, with most patients surviving less than a month from diagnosis. Many owners elect to euthanize their pets at the time of diagnosis because the prognosis is poor even with treatment.

For those owners who decide to give cancer a fight, veterinarians, like medical doctors, have many tools to offer. Surgically removing some kinds of masses can be extremely successful, but surgery is rarely possible with cardiac tumors. Chemotherapy (medication to slow down or destroy cancer) is regularly administered by veterinarians and can be very beneficial for some types of cancers. In the case of hemangiosarcoma, it can extend average life expectancy up to 6-7 months. Some other forms of treatment are less routinely used and less well-studied by veterinarians due to issues with the cost, the availability and the advanced training required to use them. However, veterinary oncologists (cancer specialists) do have access to these tools. Here in Milwaukee, for example, we have access to stereotactic radiation therapy that allows the precise targeting of tumors with minimal damage to nearby healthy tissue. Our oncologists then use immunotherapy which works like a vaccination to help the patient’s own immune system fight the tumor.

A diagnosis of cardiac hemangiosarcoma is never a good thing, but Scout was very fortunate to have an owner with the resources and the drive to do anything that could be done to help his dog. Fortunately, Scout and his owner lived not far from Madison, where the UW School of Veterinary Medicine has an excellent oncology program. Scout was treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy. He is reportedly doing well at home for now. Treatment is not likely to cure him, but it is buying him quality time. His owner apparently was grateful for the care Scout had received and wanted the oncologists to be able to treat the disease more effectively, so he took out the ad soliciting donations for the veterinary school.

With his owner’s decision to take out the ad, everyone wins. The veterinary school obviously benefits from the donations. It wasn’t a bad choice for Scout’s owner either as this ad has attracted far more attention to his company than any traditional commercial touting its products.

And here’s the beauty of supporting veterinary cancer research: Dogs, it turns out, are excellent models for the study of cancer in humans. What we learn treating dogs with cancer can be useful when studying human disease and sometimes far more useful than other models such as mice.

There’s no final word on how much money has been raised as a result of the ad, but it is likely to be a substantial amount. Scout’s doctors, the veterinary oncologists you see in the ad, are brilliant research scientists and will put it to good use. I look forward to someday having more options to offer the many dogs that I see with hemangiosarcoma.


Flashy on the outside and a gentleman on the inside, Acado is a 13-year-old Hanoverian. “He’s one of the most handsome horses in the barn,” says Jenny Caldwell, assistant trainer. “When he walks into a different environment, he puts his head up and looks around, but he’s never spooked.” The Show Hunter isn’t just a Steady Eddie; he’s a class act.

Hanoverians are one of the oldest warmbloods. They come from destriers: hot-blooded horses who carried fully armored knights into battles, tournaments and jousts. In the 1600s, they were imported into north-central Germany. They worked as cavalry remounts and harness horses.

King George II of England was the first person to breed Hanoverians. In 1735, he founded the Stallion Depot in Celle, Lower Saxony. He used Black Holsteins as a foundation stock. They’re powerful coach horses produced by crossing German mares with Neapolitan, Spanish and Oriental blood.

Modern Hanoverians were used in British royal processions until the reign of Edward VIII when they were replaced by Windsor Greys. At the end of WWII, the breed was mixed with Thoroughbreds and Trakehner. They became increasingly light, agile, athletic and graceful.

Hanoverians may suffer from osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). It’s caused by poor nutrition, physical trauma and rapid growth. OCD creates lesions that encourage fluid buildup, small fractures or cartilage destruction. Twenty-five percent of the time, OCD is found in the fetlocks. Ten percent of Hanoverians get OCD in their hock joints.

With a digestive system that’s similar to rabbits and rats, horses can’t vomit or burp (what goes in must take the long way out). “If a horse gets a belly ache [or colic], its stomach can twist on itself,” Caldwell says. The second leading cause of death in horses, colic is caused by a change of diet, a lack of roughage or parasites. Its symptoms include pawing, restlessness, rapid breathing or violent rolling.

“Acado is treated like an Olympic athlete,” says rider Brooke Brodersen. He has his own masseuse, chiropractor and indoor treadmill. He takes a daily electrolyte, joint supplement and probiotic. Because Acado’s teeth continually grow and are worn down by chewing feed, he gets his teeth floated or filed down twice per year. He also eats high-quality hay and snacks on carrots, apples and, occasionally, licorice jelly beans.

Hunters & Jumpers
Show hunter Acado wears aluminum shoes on his front hooves and steel shoes on his backs. His mane and tail are braided, and his tack is a simple snaffle bit and traditional bridle. Brodersen wears a black helmet, black gloves, tan breeches, black field boots, a white show shirt and a dark-colored hunt coat.

In the ring, Hunters like Acado jump over eight to 12 fences that are conservative and natural, including colors like white, brown and green. “The judges are really looking for a perfect flow without bobbles,” Brodersen says. They’re looking for horses that are well-mannered, athletic and attractive to ride safely and smoothly over the obstacles.

“It looks kind of like we’re going around the ring automatically, but every single step requires communication between the horse and rider,” Brodersen says. “If you’re not paying attention, steps can get stretched out, and you can’t make the distance of the jump.”

Jumpers ride over technically difficult courses that twist and turn. Fences are bright, colorful and lofty. Jumpers’ manes and tails aren’t braided. Saddle pads and ear bonnets are allowed. If horses knock down a fence, stop at a fence or don’t complete the course in a certain time limit, they incur “faults” or penalties. The horse with the fewest faults and the fastest time wins.


My job as the Executive Director of Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) varies not only daily, but minute to minute. I can be cleaning up after animals, managing staff and animal populations, putting out figurative fires, handling customer service, teaching at the Milwaukee Police Academy, dealing with law enforcement, social service agencies, health departments, and residents with animal-related crisis all over Milwaukee.

There is no such thing as a dull day at MADACC. I feel so fortunate to be able to serve the community in this capacity and honestly still love coming into work every day. I am on call 24-hours a day every day of the year to assist with law enforcement or animal emergencies when MADACC is closed. I am also the appointed Humane Officer for all the municipalities in Milwaukee, except for Greendale. This allows me to consult on animal abuse cases, prosecutions and large animal seizures.

MADACC is the largest government animal control facility in the state, dedicated to the 19 municipalities that are part of Milwaukee County. As a governmental agency, and a public safety organization first and foremost, many people do not understand why we operate the way we do. We are not a traditional humane society with an animal control contract. We do as much as we can for every person and animal that needs us as long as we can remain compliant with state law and local ordinances while ensuring the safety of people and animals in the community.

Every hour at MADACC, we have people who come in needing special assistance. While MADACC cannot do everything for everyone, we will never turn someone away who needs food, or something we can provide easily such as pet supplies or referrals for low-cost assistance. We are not a not-for-profit organization, but we are committed to enabling owners to provide the best care possible for their best friends. That means going above and beyond for many people in lots of ways.

We have personally paid reclaim fees and medical fees at outside vet clinics for those who have no financial resources. Why? Because it meant they could get their animal back or the animal could get care it needed. We had a veteran who lost everything in a house fire and we took up a collection of furniture, clothing and personal items, so when he was released from the VA, he had a fully furnished apartment and everything he needed to start again rather than have to sleep on the floor with nothing. You do not read about this stuff because we are not doing it to get praise or get on the news. We are doing these things because they are the right things to do and nothing more.

Animal control is a relatively simple endeavor on paper. If an animal is off their owner’s property, we take and hold them to keep them safe until an owner can come retrieve them. In practice, it rarely goes that easily. Add onto it the many animals that are seized by law enforcement, animals that are abandoned when people move out of homes or apartments and animals that are abused and neglected beyond all hope. Things can become very hard very quickly on a daily basis.

While I have met very few people happy to come to MADACC and pay to get their animals back, most are happy that they were safe, not stolen or injured and can come home where they belong. For those animals who are not as fortunate, either no owner comes to get them or they were dropped off by their owner as a stray for lack of shelter or rescue space to surrender them to, we have a very robust adoption program at MADACC now comprising of volunteers. We are always in need of adoption counselors at MADACC. This year we will have adopted out over 3,000 animals. We can continue to increase the number of animals we can adopt out if we have more surgical staff and volunteers to get them ready to meet the public.