Pet Safety Tips!

I was recently at my vet’s office, Parkview Pet Clinic in Glendale, and saw a flyer printed by the ASPCA which read, “101 things you didn’t know could harm your pet”. I consider myself to be pretty cautious and careful with my two Labs but I was interested to see if I knew of the 101 things.  I learned a lot and wanted to share with you.

The first thing that I learned was: “of the 167,000 poisoning cases handled by the Animal Poison Control Center in 2012, the no. 1 culprit was human medications” (ASPCA).  This seems crazy to me since all of our medications are in the cabinet above our sink in our bathroom.  I have yet to see either of my Labs crawl onto the sink counter and open the cabinet but I also understand that people might leave their medications laying around the house where pets can get to them.

The ASPCA explains that symptoms of poisoning vary but your pet may experience vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy.  If you experience this with your pet you can call 24/7 to the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.  Be prepared with your pet’s breed, age and potential poison.

Now is the moment of confession…..yes we have had to call this number.  When our Lab puppy was a few months old, she got into some grapes.  One of the kids left a bowl on a coffee table and the puppy grabbed a bunch and ran off to eat them without anyone noticing. (Just for the record I was not home at the time!).  When I returned home and found an empty vine of grapes I panicked.  I knew that grapes are toxic to dogs!  We called the poison control center and they walked us through a process of helping our dog.  They charged us $75 to our credit card but I will share the secret with you for free.  If you discover that your dog has just eaten something toxic you can induce vomiting right away with the attempt to get it out of their system right away.  Give your dog a soft piece of bread and then 1-2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide.  You can stir the peroxide into some peanut butter or yogurt, something that your dog will enjoy eating quickly.  Then head outside and wait for your poor puppy to vomit. She will pace around and feel terrible, not fun to watch. Then she will throw up the toxic food that she shouldn’t have and will feel much better.  It was super fun for us to count the grapes in a puddle of puck!  We had round two with another dog that got into some chocolate.  Having shared this with you, if you have an emergency you can also head to the emergency clinic or vet’s office for professional intervention.  Poisoning is nothing to mess around with.  Sometimes stomach pumping or surgery is needed in these situations.


Now that I have totally scared you and gotten your attention, here are the lists of items to look out for…..

Household Items

Household Items: ibuprofen and aspirin, acetaminophen, cold and flu meds., antidepressants, vitamins, diet pills, anti-cancer drugs, tobacco products, detergents, fabric softener, drain cleaners, oven cleaner sprays, disinfectants, bleach, lime/scale remover, paint thinners, lighter fluid, insecticides, flea and tick products, rodent bait, mothballs, fly bait, lead and liquid potpourri.

Harmful Foods: chocolate, gum and candy, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, avocados, onions, garlic, salt, tea leaves, coffee, alcoholic beverages, raw yeast dough, spoiled foods and fatty foods.

Objects: balls, sharp objects, coins, buttons, batteries, twist ties, rubber bands, cotton swabs, glass, hair pins, jewelry, nylons, paper clips, plastic wrap, yarn or needles & thread, dental floss, electric cords, wax, socks, and towels.

Harmful Foods

Common Plants: aloe, amaryllis, Andromeda japonica, Asian lily, asparagus fern, Australian nut, autumn crocus, azalea, belladonna, bird of paradise, bittersweet, black locust, branching ivy, buckeye, Buddhist pine, caladium, calla lily, castor bean, ceriman, clematis, cordatum, corn plant, cycads, cyclamen, daffodil, daylily, devil’s ivy, dieffenbachia, dumb cane, Easter lily, elephant ear, emerald fern, English ivy, eucalyptus, ferns, fiddle-leaf-philodendron, Florida beauty, foxglove, glacier ivy, gladiolas, gold dust dracaena, golden pothos, heavenly bamboo, honeysuckle, hurricane plant, hyacinth, hydrangea, iris, Jerusalem Cherry, jimson weed, kalanchoe, lantana, lilies, lily of the valley, lupine, marble queen, morning glory, mother-in-law, mountain laurel, narcissus, needlepoint ivy, nepthysis, nightshade, oleander, panda, peace lily, philodendron, poison hemlock, precatory bean, privet, red emerald, rhododendron, ribbon plant, sago palm, stain pothos, schefflera, striped dracaena, sweetheart ivy, tulip, water hemlock, wisteria, yew and yucca.

Trouble Areas: doors and windows, balconies, bathtubs and since, toilets, washer and dryer and fireplaces. Dogs are more likely to be injured in these areas of your home.  Keep your pets away from these places or watch them closely when they’re near them if you can.

Outside the Home

Outside the home: algae, antifreeze/coolant, fire pit/grill, fences or gates, deck lattice, non-pet safe de-icing salts, compost, gasoline, oil, pesticides, fertilizer, pools and hot tubs.  Make sure that your dogs are safe if they enjoy the outdoors by keeping them leashed and away from these potential dangers.

I know this is a lot of information.  I felt that it was important to write because I have heard of too many stories of pets lost due to poisoning.  My sister-in-law lost her beloved dog due to raisin poisoning.  He got into a container of trail mix and ate a large amount of raisins.  When dogs eat raisins it causes them to go into renal failure.  So very sad.  We have also had our brushes with potential life threatening poisonings but thankfully have not lost a pet.  Let’s all keep our furry ones close and safe!

Maggie Mason, M.S.W.

Mother of two humans and two canines. Author and therapist in “pre-mom life”.

The Poop on Earth Day!

In light of “Earth Day” I just wanted to share some quick tips for my fellow canine owners.  We all have to use those plastic poop bags to clean up after our furry friends, but I have some biodegradable options.  The website called “” offers several poop bag options and healthy, natural doggie treats as well.

Their “original poopbags” are made in the USA with renewable resources such as corn and are biodegradable. They sell “Flush Puppies” which are PVA bags that dissolve in water and so you can actually flush the bags and doggie deposit down the toilet.  I also saw “mutt mitts” which are another option to picking up doggie deposits and they are also degradable.

    When we go camping with our 2 Labs we often use 8 or more poop bags per day.  Large dogs make large… well you know.  It would be great if our canine community could switch to poop bags that do not contribute more to our landfills.  The dogs don’t have a say about it so let’s do our part.  Here is the website if you would like to check out the bags that I mentioned and many other cool products.  Happy Earth Day.

A Handler and Her Puli’s

I recently interviewed Tippy Sheppard, who is the handler of Buvi, a Hungarian Sheep Dog.  Buvi is currently in the top 5 agility dogs of his breed in the country.  Tippy lives in Tustin, CA and travels all over Southern California for dog agility and obedience competitions.  You may have seen dog agility competitions on T.V.  The Wikipedia definition is: “Dog agility is a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. Dogs run off-leash with no food or toys as incentives, and the handler can touch neither dog nor obstacles. Consequently, the handler’s controls are limited to voice, movement, and various body signals, requiring exceptional training of the animal and coordination of the handler.”


When did you begin doing dog agility?

We probably started taking agility classes for fun in 2005 and competed for the first time in 2006.


How did you get interested in and doing dog agility?

I signed up to take a “Sampler Class” to sample all the different classes being offered at Jump Start Dog Sports in Yorba Linda, CA. The Agility was so much fun and such a challenge that we just continued on with it. We began just for fun but soon it became apparent that “we were hooked”.

What type of dogs do you have that do agility?

I have Puli’s (Hungarian Sheep Dogs). The actual plural of Puli is Pulik. I have a boy named Buvi who is 10 years old and still running very competitively in his 16″ category. The dogs are divided up by their height at the shoulders and that determines what jump height they compete in. I also have a young 3-year-old girl (Dixie) who is just beginning her career in agility.

What kind of training is required and how often? Where do you train?

If you ask 10 different people, you will likely get 10 different answers. I also train and compete with my dogs in obedience; this is very helpful because if your dog is not reasonably obedient, it will be difficult to work with them on an agility course. I began this sport at retirement age and need as much help as I can get so we train a lot. Here is our schedule right now: 1-hour Agility Class on Monday with Dixie in Chino, CA (Peak Performance Dog Sports); 1-hour Obedience Class on Monday evening. with Dixie at Jump Start Dog Sports; 1-hour Agility Class on Tuesday morning with Buvi, followed by half-hour private agility lesson with Dixie in Chino; 1-hour private obedience lesson with Dixie followed by a 1-hour agility class with Dixie in Yorba Linda. Most Fridays have a 1-hour “Jumping Grid Class” with Dixie at Wags & Wiggles in Tustin. We try to practice in between times and are trailing most weekends. Whew! Most of the handlers I know do not have the space or the money to set up agility equipment in their yards.

What type of positive reinforcements do you use with your dogs (treats)?

I use, primarily, small pieces of hot dogs usually kept in my mouth and distributed from there……….I want my dogs to be looking up at me as much as possible. Toys are also used a lot; you will see a lot of agility dogs that place a very high value on tugging with a toy. I also use Turkey Meat Balls (from Trader Joe’s) as a “Jackpot” (reward) treat after running an agility course at a trial. String cheese is another favorite treat.


How much time do you spend training and at events each week?

I spend a lot of time training and competing…………7 class events each week and competing almost every weekend. Now that my young dog is competing it doubles everything! Last weekend we drove 85 miles in the pouring down rain to compete in Obedience……yes, we are pretty passionate about our dog sports.


Do you have to travel a lot? Where are most of the events?

We are very fortunate here in Southern California that we have Agility Trials almost every weekend without traveling too far. Some of the popular venues are: Brookside Equestrian Center in Walnut, Industry Hills Expo Center in Industry Hills, Woodley Park in Van Nuys, Navel Training Center in Point Loma, Brookside Park in Pasadena, Fair Grounds in Del Mar, L.A. Fair Grounds in Pomona, and various parks in Ventura and Camarillo, to name a few.


How do you mentally and physically train for events?

We have people with a wide array of physical abilities in Agility and that is what makes it so interesting. The dogs themselves have a wide variety of abilities. If you have a fast dog (I do), it is important that you keep up with him and actually be ahead of him in order to guide him thru the course. Memorizing the course can be challenging when you are trying to think about all your handling maneuvers and running…….it is very easy to forget the course in a split second “brain fade”. The courses for Excellent Dogs (the experienced dogs) will have about 20 obstacles and will generally be run in under a minute (30-60 seconds). The judges will establish a “Course Time” for each jump height and the team must run the course (without any errors) under that time in order to qualify. In AKC Agility, most of the dogs will compete in 2 different courses: Jumpers with Weaves and the Standard Course. Standard has all the obstacles: teeter, a-frame, dog walk, table, weave poles, tunnels, broad jump, triple jump, double jump and regular jumps. The JWW is usually faster and has only jumps, tunnels and weave poles. The courses are designed by the judges and are different every time. We must be allowed a minimum of 8 minutes to walk the course and memorize it………..usually we get more time than that.

Can you speak about treatments that you or your dog receives to be in top physical condition, i.e. massage, acupuncture, etc.? Are there other treatments that are interesting to you but have not tried?

My 10-year-old boy is in amazing condition and I do everything I can to keep him that way. Perhaps the most important thing I do for him is keep him lean. I also give him human joint supplements (glucosamine & chondroitin). He does get special massages from a Veterinarian-turned-massage therapist specifically for performance dogs……every six weeks or so. I have also used canine chiropractic and acupuncture for him. I would return to acupuncture if he begins to show any signs of pain. I also watch him like a hawk to look for any signs that he may have injured himself or pulled anything. As for me, I just try to stay upright and keep moving!


Do you meet a lot of other people that also do agility? (What is the typical profile of a dog agility person or are they all different?)

We all love our dogs no matter how they perform! It is pretty important to enjoy being outdoors, regardless of the weather! I have found “Agility People” to be an exceptionally nice group of people who sincerely want to see everyone do well. We pretty much have it all: young and old, physically fit and physically challenged. For many competitors, their dogs are their families.


Do you use social media related to agility? (Are there books, magazines, etc. for agility?)

Many of my agility friends are on Facebook and often post updates on their activities and videos of their runs. We also keep up on friends who may have lost a dog to the Rainbow Bridge. There is a Magazine called “Clean Run” that is the most important resource for us. It has articles but also sells training equipment and aids as well as offering Training DVDs from some of the country’s top handlers. They have a great website:


What is the most rewarding part of doing agility with your dog?

First is probably having this amazing relationship with your dog……a partnership like no other! I just read that you can have a world class handler and a world class dog but they may not do well together……….the key is knowing each other’s weaknesses and working together to do the best you can. I also love to watch all the other competitors and delight in their successes and console when needed. It is great to see how well some of the older dogs and older people can do and also to see all the young puppies coming along. We have some fantastic venues here in Southern California and have lots of fun too!

What is your greatest challenge with agility?

Timing!!!! I don’t have near the experience that most of my friends do………many are working on their 3rd or 4th agility dog and I am on my first. It is my responsibility to show my dog where to go and when to turn ………most of this is done with “body language”. If your dog is fast, you must give the cues in a timely fashion or he will not follow the course correctly. Timing is everything, as it is in many sports! I am much better than I used to be, but remembering the course and my handling maneuvers can often be challenging. When having to turn around 360 degrees or 270 degrees, I often get disoriented and then lost on the course…….not good! I also still struggle a little bit with nerves……….mine and my dog’s.


Do you feel that doing agility affects your relationship with your dog? How so?

It definitely enhances our relationship……….we spend tons of time together training and practicing and then competing and he loves it!!! Now that I have 2 dogs competing, one gets pretty upset when the other gets to go “play”. Plus, I have learned so much valuable information about my dogs on this journey.


How long do you think you will continue to do dog agility?

As long as this body holds up to the task! Recently, there was an article in Clean Run about older handlers and 8 to 10 handlers were interviewed regarding their ages; all were in their 70s or 80s and I know most of them and they are going strong!


If other dog owners are interested in doing dog agility, how would you suggest they get started? What breeds dominate the sport? Best age to start?

I would suggest looking for a location that offers agility classes and then research (if there is more than one option). There are a lot of options here in Southern California depending on where you live. Google it in your area.  Border Collies pretty much dominate the sport but most of us are not out there to become World Team Competitors……..just want to be good for us. The best time to start is as soon as the puppies have all their shots and can be out in the world. There are lots of puppy activities they can do until their little bones have formed enough for actual jumping.

Anything else that you want to add?

My advice is to be careful……….this is a very addictive activity!!!



Parkview Pet Clinic

As many of you may or may not know, Parkview Pet Clinic has been in existence for over 30 years.  Dr. Martin owned and ran the clinic for the past 28 years. If your pet is  not a patient, I am sure that you have driven by it hundreds of times.  Parkview is located in the heart of the “Woodlands,” off of Canada Blvd. and across from McDonalds.  Over a year ago, Dr. Martin retired as a veterinarian and sold his practice.  Since that time, there have been many exciting changes going on within the clinic.

I recently caught up with Dr. Lauren Tang, VMD, MS, who was hired by Parkview a year ago.  Dr. Tang grew up in Southern California but completed her education in Pennsylvania.  She received a degree in biochemistry, a Masters in Chemistry and then her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine.  After completing her education she returned to California and completed additional training in intensive Small Animal Medicine and a Surgery Internship at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital.  Dr. Tang is a part of a team of veterinarians at Parkview, including Dr. Kristi Nichlaus, Dr. Paul Schneider and Dr. Paul Jansak

“Dr. Tang is known for compassion for her patients and clients, and her thoroughness in providing excellent patient care. She treats a wide variety of emergency and non-emergency cases with a keen interest in soft tissue surgery,”

I asked Dr. Tang what brought her to Parkview and she reported, “I joined this practice because I could practice affordable, high quality medicine.  The modern equipment is just one of the tools that I can use to best serve my clients and patients.  The prices are low but this doesn’t mean that the quality is bad.  When an owner comes to me with a problem, and I make a recommendation, if they can afford those recommendations and I can diagnose and treat the problem, everyone wins”. She was impressed with the modern equipment of the clinic and the dedicated staff.  She explained the importance of having state-of-the-art clinic equipment in order to make accurate and timely diagnoses for the animals.  Despite the quaint exterior appearance of the clinic, it has a variety of very modern diagnostic equipment.  Dr. Tang also spoke about the high level of staff dedication at Parkview.  One of the technicians, Rene, has been at the clinic for over 20 years.

Dr. Martin ran a thriving clinic and now the new team of veterinarians are excited to make some modern changes.  They have revamped the clinic website,, which I recently reviewed and was impressed.  You can make appointments on the website, e-mail your vet, review your pet’s vaccination history, request refills of prescriptions, create a “pet portal”, and there is a “care guide” section which lists 50 pages of canine care articles that have been screened and approved by the vet. staff.  The articles cover everything from dangerous household plants to ways to help your arthritic dog. They also include the contact information for the local emergency clinic for after-hours care. Dr. Tang reported that the website is still “under construction” with more improvements coming.  In the future they will create a way for pet owners to purchase specialty products (foods) online, to be delivered to the owners home.

The clinic offers many, many services for pet owners.  They offer dental care, puppy and kitten care, radiology, senior care, surgery, vaccinations and wellness exams.  Parkview also continues to offer kennel services for when owners go on vacation.  They have a team of dedicated staff that care for your pet while you are out of town.  They walk your pet three times a day. This is a great option for pets with health conditions that require medication (just a $5 fee to administer medications during their stay). The costs is $20 for dogs under 20 lbs., $27 for dogs 21-44 lbs. and $30 for dogs over 45 lbs. You can board your cat for $22 a day.  I did not know that they also have day boarding as an option.  The cost is $15 for the day and the staff will walk your dog a minimum of 2 times but often 3 times during the day.  The day boarding hours are from 8 a.m. with 5:30 p.m. pickup time.  You do not have to be a client of Parkview to reserve a spot within the kennel.  The clinic also offers specialty pet foods, treats and flea treatments for sale.

I was excited to learn that this week Parkview will launch a new program to reward their clients. They will be starting a referral program.  How it works is that if a client refers a friend to the clinic, that friend will receive a free consultation and examination.  Then the client who referred the friend will receive a $20 credit.  Dr. Tang explained that they receive most of their new clients through personal referrals and word of mouth.  I know that I learned about Parkview over 5 years ago through friends in our neighborhood.  Dr. Tang said that they have been talking about starting this program for a while and they feel strongly about thanking their loyal clients and rewarding them for referring others to the practice.

One of the very positive changes that I noticed was the change in office hours.  The clinic is now open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.  This is a huge bonus for working pet owners and also for illnesses and emergencies that occur on the weekends.  Dr. Tang reported that she works on Sunday and that this is one of the busiest days of the week. After-hours emergencies are still referred to the local Eagle Rock Emergency Clinic (323-254-7382).

Personally I feel most at home at a pet clinic where I feel that the doctors and staff care about me and my pet.  I got this overwhelming sense of caring when speaking to Dr. Tang about her work and Parkview. Our family switched from a clinic in Pasadena due to their lack of caring and sensitivity.  I look forward to continuing to bring my dogs to Parkview in the future as I know they will be well taken care of.

Maggie Mason, M.S.W.

Mother of two humans and two canines.  Author and therapist in “pre-mom life”.

Fergie and Walter

I am very excited to write about something amazing that is going on right in our Verdugo Woodlands neighborhood! Did you know that there is a little guide dog in training that lives on Woodland Avenue and attends Verdugo Woodlands Elementary? It’s true. Sheila Abranian has been a 3rd grade teacher at Verdugo Woodlands for the past 17 years and she began raising and training guide dogs 2 ½ years ago. I recently spoke to Sheila at length about guide dogs in training and would love to share with you what I learned.

What is Guide Dogs of America? Guide Dogs of America is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to provide guide dogs and instruction in their use, free of charge, to blind and visually-impaired men and women from the United States and Canada so that they may continue to pursue their goals with increased mobility and independence,” The organization was established in 1948 and the closest location is in Sylmar, California. Guide Dogs has three main programs: a breeding program, a puppy raising program and a guide dog program. Sheila became a puppy raiser in 2009. The puppies are placed in foster homes when they are about 8 weeks old. It is a bonus if the foster family has children and/or other pets. Guide Dogs pays for all veterinary bills while in the foster homes, but the family pays for the food, treats, toys and other supplies. It is the role of the puppy raiser to socialize the puppy as much as possible, which often means lots of outings. “A well socialized puppy will have fewer adjustments to make when it comes in for formal guide dog training,” according to Guide Dogs of America. Then the puppy returns to Guide Dogs for formal guide dog training at about 18 months old. The formal training last about 6 months and then, if the dog qualifies, he is paired with a blind or visually-impaired person.

Sheila fell in love with Labradors when she first met one through a friend. She owned two Labs and when they passed away she decided to become a guide dog puppy raiser. She got the idea from a bumper sticker that read “Raise a guide dog and make a difference”. Sheila wanted to volunteer and she is passionate about dogs, so Guide Dogs of America was a perfect fit. She submitted an application and 9 months later took home a little, 7-week-old yellow Lab named Fergie. She explained that Guide Dogs asks for an application and does a home visit to ensure that the potential puppy raiser is fit for the job. They want to make sure that the puppy raiser will be able to train the puppy, can spend a lot of time with it (including taking the puppy to work) and can commit to monthly training sessions at the Guide Dog campus.

Guide Dogs is in favor of the puppy raiser having other pets in the home. It is good to have birds, cats and other dogs so that the puppy is exposed to other animals and will not be distracted by them later in life when they are working dogs. Sheila’s adult daughter co-raises the puppies with Sheila and Guide Dogs encourages such partnerships in the training process.

The primary job of a puppy raiser is to take the puppy to as many places as possible in order to expose them to the world that they will eventually be working in. Sheila brought her puppy in training to work with her as a teacher. Little Fergie puppy was very popular on the campus of Verdugo Woodlands Elementary as she grew and continued in her training. Fergie continued to grow and train but when she started her final testing they discovered a non-life threatening respiratory issue that did not allow her to become a guide dog. Guide dogs are working dogs and need to be in top physical health. When this happens they call it a “career change”. Now Fergie resides with Sheila as her pet.

Sheila still had the strong desire to help blind people and so she applied for another puppy and took a 7-week-old, black Lab named Walter home in January of 2011. Sheila has the full support of the school and district to bring Walter to her work at Verdugo Woodlands Elementary. He goes to work with her about 3 days a week. He is often seen in the computer lab, classrooms, the playground and the hallways of the school. He is a very popular “student”. He is also seen at many of the school events such as awards banquets, the fundraising gala, assemblies, etc. Sheila sent home letters to all of her students’ parents to ask for permission and possible allergies prior to bringing Walter to school. She said that all of the permission slips were returned the next day! Everyone seems to love having Walter on campus. He has a dog crate in her classroom but is so well-behaved that he is often seen lying under the table in the back of the class. Sheila has the children read to Walter and now that he is older they are allowed to pet him after class. People, myself included, often ask if they can pet a guide puppy in training. Sheila explained that it is O.K. to pet the puppy if they are sitting nicely but if the puppy gets too excited and jumps around they have to be taught to be calm. I think that Sheila is setting an amazing example for her students. She is teaching them the importance of volunteering and eventually giving up a pet that you love dearly in order to help a visually-impaired person.

In addition to attending school with Sheila, Walter goes on regular outings in the Glendale area. He enjoys going to coffee, the movies, restaurants, grocery stores, on public buses and has even flown on airplanes. He recently traveled to Washington D.C. and back. When Sheila was called to report for jury duty this year, Walter went too. All of the people in court fell in love with the puppy in training! I was interested to learn that the laws pertaining to guide dogs and puppies in training differs by state. In California, guide puppies in training do not have to be allowed in all public places like guide dogs. In order to qualify for needing a guide dog you need to be legally blind, so this also includes people who have some vision left or are partially blind.

Sheila reported that all places allow them access once they see the “guide puppy in training” jacket on Walter. Walter has many friends all over town. Sheila has been overwhelmed by how positively people react to the puppies in training. Sheila said that the Trader Joes in Montrose is especially fond of Walter, and he is offered a latte at his local coffee shop (of course he declines). Who can resist an adorable black Lab puppy with a yellow “guide puppy in training” jacket?

Walter is allowed to be a regular Lab puppy once his training jacket is off at home. He loves to play fetch, play with his sister, Fergie, and jump around the house. He knows that he is no longer in training once that jacket comes off and knowing that distiction will make a great working dog someday. Guide dogs need to relax, have fun and play when they are not working and helping their owner. Sheila feels that Walter has the qualities that make a great guide dog. He seems to want to have a job and purpose, Sheila said, and seems happiest is doing something.

Not only does Walter have friends all over town but he also has a Facebook page that he shares with his dog sister, Fergie. On Facebook they currently have over 297 followers or “friends”. Sheila established a Facebook page for Fergie in order to connect with other guide puppy raisers and it grew from there. Walter and Fergie post about their outings, photos, and comments. It must be tough to type with paws!

Sheila is often asked, “how can you give up your dog?” She explained, “I am raising my dog for a friend that I haven’t met yet”. She feels that this statement puts everything into perspective. That “friend” could easily be a family member, friend or someone else that you would want to help. On a recent trip with Walter, Sheila was stopped by a sight-impaired stranger who thanked her for all that she is doing to help blind people. She bonded with this lady and spoke for 30 minutes about the amazing difference working dogs make in the lives of blind individuals. Sheila spoke about attending the guide puppy graduation where the puppy raiser gets to meet the new, owner of the puppy. She said that she is filled with joy to see how well the puppy responds to all of the consistent training and in turn changes a life by helping a blind person. Sheila hopes that Walter will be a part of his graduating class and although she knows that she will shed tears of sadness in saying goodbye, she will also shed tears of happiness for the person that really needs Walter.

Guide Dogs of America desperately needs more puppy raisers like Sheila. If you are interested in becoming a puppy raiser, please contact Guide Dogs of America. The organization is 100% funded by donations only and they do not receive any state or federal funding. Please go to their website and you can hit the “make a donation” box and donate right there. Your donation will help them provide a guide dog to a blind individual free of charge. “Help make a difference in the life of a blind individual in the form of a loving, four-pawed partner today”,

We wish Walter the best of luck with his continued training and testing and we thank Sheila Abranian for her amazing sacrifice of time and love with these amazing puppies. Look for a black Lab named Walter (wearing a yellow jacket) as you are out and about in Glendale.


Maggie Mason, M.S.W.

Mother of two humans and two canines.  Author and therapist in “pre-mom life”.



Dog-Earthquake Preparedness

Hi, my name is Maggie and I am an animal lover! Dogs are near and dear to my heart, especially the large, friendly variety. Two black Labradors are a part of my family and I often prefer to spend time with them, rather than most of the humans in my life. I look forward to contributing dog-related topics to Urban Toot in the future in “Canine Corner”.

My 9-year-old human son recently asked me what our earthquake plan is for our Labs. This child of mine often asks me questions that I do not have answers to and this one really stumped me. I am the crazy dog mom that has bought car seat belts for my dogs, organic dog food, hosted dog birthday parties, all natural flea treatments, etc. (you get the idea), but I had not thought of how to prepare and protect my furry loved ones in the event of an earthquake. I thought this question was quite timely as I was pondering what topic (of the hundreds in my head) I would start with for Canine Corner.

I did some research and found quite a bit of information. The American Kennel Club has a whole evacuation checklist and portable first aid kit list for pets ( Living in Southern California, we all more than likely have an earthquake kit, but does it include items for your pets? Have you considered how you will treat your pet in the event that he is injured in an earthquake?

FEMA also had some helpful information on their website regarding a pet disaster plan ( Some highlights are:

-Identify hotels in your area that accept pets in the event that you need to relocate and include the number of the hotel in your emergency numbers. AAA (Auto Club) publishes a great book called “Traveling With Your Pet” which lists hotels in your area that accept pets. In Glendale, you can take your pet to the following: Homestead Studio Hotel, Los Angeles Days Inn Glendale, and Vagabond Inn Glendale. There are many more hotels, this is just a start. You can also refer to Remember, not all shelters accept pets, so it’s important to have an alternate relocation site in place for your pet.

-Prepare a to-go bag in the event that you need to evacuate with dog food, bottled water, medicines, veterinary records, food dishes and first aid kit.

-Make sure your dog has a current I.D tag attached to his collar with your phone, address and pet’s name. Also have a current photo of your dog for identification purposes.

-Make sure you have a leash, harness and pet carrier in the event that your dog panics, you don’t want him to escape.

The FEMA article covers how to prepare for a disaster, and what to do with your pet during and after a disaster. FEMA also developed a video to help pet owners prepare for emergencies!

I also learned some tips from the article “Shaking up the Dog-Earthquake Preparedness” ( Make sure that your dog has an I.D. tag on his collar at all times and microchip him, if you have not already. Keep your neighbors’ phone numbers with you so that if you are away from home during an earthquake, you can call your neighbors to help you with your dog. Place a sticker in your window at home that states that there are dogs living there (good for fire rescue also!). It is also a good idea to have your local vet and emergency clinic numbers with you at all times.

And finally, an article by the ASPCA provided a few more things to consider ( The ASPCA recommends that you contact your vet for a list of preferred boarding kennels, ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter and ask out of town friends/relatives if they are willing to provide shelter for your pet if need be. ASPCA also suggests a “designated caregiver” who has a key to your home and could help with your pet if you are not able too. This caregiver could help your pet if something happens to you or you can not get home for an extended period of time. They recommend that leashes be kept close to your door and that dogs be brought inside at the first sign of an earthquake.

Wow, a lot of information but all helpful and could save your canine’s life. I went back to my son with my answer to his question and we reviewed our pet emergency plan as a family. Our furry friends are often helpless and rely on us to keep them safe. Let’s all cross our fingers and paws that we will not need to put the above procedures in place. Remember to pet and love your dog many times each day, they are only with us for a short time!


Maggie Mason, M.S.W.

Mother of two humans and two canines.  Author and therapist in “pre-mom life”.


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