Friday, December 28, 2012

Heal a Heart - The Program Saving Lives in 2013

Heartworms…. the number one killer of dogs in Louisiana.  Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitos, hence the pervasive spread of this fatal disease in the South.  Is heartworm disease treatable?  Yes, but treatment is expensive and takes a heavy toll on the dogs being treated. Treatment must be followed by a lengthy period of rest and restriction of activity, adding another difficult dimension to the process of rehabilitating dogs with this dreaded disease.   

Because of the cost of treatment and the lack of space at the shelter following treatment, the St. Tammany Humane Society is very limited in our capacity to treat the many heartworm positive dogs that come to us as potential candidates for our adoption program.  We are forced to turn them away.  Many of the dogs in our transport program, Waggin’ Wheels, also suffer as a consequence of lack of funding to treat their condition. 
As Chris McLaughlin, with ARF (Animal Rescue Front) puts it, “These dogs are abandoned twice.  First, they are abandoned by their owners, and secondly turned away because of a disease they have no control over.” 
Chris became aware of the widespread heartworm problem in the South seven years ago when she came face to face with the victims of the insidious disease in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  She went back to Groton, Massachusetts with a sense of obligation to help these Southern outcasts if and when it was possible in the future.  And the future is now today. 
ARF received a grant entitled the “Heal a Heart Program” through Best Friends Animal Society which was designed to treat heartworm positive dogs in need.  ARF regularly rescues dogs from the South via transports on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, so their tie to the South and their efforts to help the homeless dogs here were already strongly in place.  But what Chris and ARF offered the dogs of the St. Tammany Humane Society and those of our transport program, Waggin’ Wheels, was more than we could have hoped for. 
ARF became aware through a local Hammond rescuer and transport coordinator Terrie Varnado (who works closely with STHS in rescuing and transport coordinating for Waggin’ Wheels) of the Southern rescues’ and the St. Tammany Humane Society’s lack of funding required to treat heartworm positive rescue dogs, resulting in the dogs either being turned away because of heartworm status, or going to rescues without being treated. This domino effect ends in rescues having to raise the money for expensive treatment; money which could easily be used to rescue a dozen more dogs if heartworm treatment were not an issue. 
So Chris asks, “How many transport dogs do you have at the Humane Society that need to be treated for heartworms?” 
“They’re paid for now.  Treat them.”
And so we were elated, grateful, laughing through tears.  What a blessing!  But this little happy tail wags even harder.
Chris then inquires, “How many dogs do you have in STHS’s adoption program that need to be treated?”
“Three.  That is all we can afford.”
“They’re paid for.  And ARF will pledge to treat 20 heartworm positive dogs in the first QUARTER of 2013 through the Heal a Heart Program.”

 ****** Take a moment******

To put things in proper perspective and to recognize the significance of this gift, this number is 7 TIMES the number of dogs that we can normally afford to treat for heartworms in this time span. 
ARF will also be working toward helping our Southern dogs in many more ways in the upcoming year.  They express the desire to see the day when no dog is turned away because of heartworm status……to end the days when these dogs are abandoned twice.  Stay tuned in to your local no-kill shelter, the St. Tammany Humane Society, for the exciting ways that you can help us and ARF achieve our goal of treating all heartworm positive dogs that otherwise would have the chance of finding their forever home. 
If you need a reminder of why this is such an important cause in the world of animal welfare, especially in our home state of Louisiana, then take a moment to meet Rebel.  Rebel spent three years tied to a tree by a heavy chain.  He was exposed to the elements of heat, cold, rain, fleas, ticks, and obviously….mosquitos.  Rebel was rescued by Terrie Varnado and brought to the St. Tammany Humane Society for care.  Labs4Rescue agreed to take him in and find an adopter.  The problem?  Rebel was heartworm positive and neither STHS nor Labs4Rescue had the funds to treat him.  Thanks to Chris McLaughlin (ARF) and the Heal a Heart Program through the Best Friends Animal Society, Rebel has been treated and is up for adoption. 
From Rebel and all of the staff at STHS:  “THANK YOU ARF AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!”


Monday, December 3, 2012

Have Yourself a Maddie Little Christmas

In the past, when a certain piece of news found its way to the front headlines or a puppy’s tale  tugged at the heartstrings, we expected to read an in depth story regarding this special case.  But now in the world of short attention spans and a barrage of abbreviated information coming at us from all sides (Facebook, Twitter, etc), we must at times sacrifice substance for simplicity.  

And so we introduce you to a simple girl herself:  Madeline.  Madeline now holds the title of Longest Resident at the St. Tammany Humane Society.  She has been in the adoption program since she was a mere pup, though she has spent much of her life in the wonderful foster home of Kerrie and Jeff Bloom. 
Maddie was a mess when she first went home with Kerrie.  Frightened of her own shadow, but overly protective of the people close to her… took some time for her to acquire a comfortable level of confidence and equilibrium.  That was over a year ago, and Madeline has achieved….well….greatness.  She is smart, loyal, loving, and protective.  She still has insecure hiccups, and occasionally has a moment when her fear gets the better of her.  Unfortunately, the result is one not conducive to having very young and unpredictable children around. 
Madeline is not able to stay at her foster home for much longer.  And we fear that returning to a kennel setting will unravel the progress that she has made, and her fear and anxiety may resurface, to her detriment in more ways than one. 

Madeline would do great in a home with no young children or other large dogs.  She’d make a great loyal sidekick for a single person or older couple.  If you are a rescue dog lover….you will love Madeline.  She is the epitome of a rescue dog:  loving and grateful, with a side dish of hidden fears. 

As always, I ask whoever reads these words to try to ‘be’ Madeline.  We, as humans, have the same traits, strengths, weaknesses, and insecurities as the rescue dogs we (sometimes too righteously) assume we are saving.  In most cases, they save us from ourselves. 

Please help us to find our Madeline a Forever Home for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

To The Rescue

Being in the puppy mill state of mind, having just taken in the 10 sweet but very frightened Chinese Cresteds from a mill in Texas........I received an email from Terrie Varnado (the person who alerted us to the situation and brought them to us) that was poignantly enlightening regarding the subject.  I've heard stories of puppy mills, but have only been to one in my imagination.
This report by Toni Webb, Cavalier King Charles rescuer, who went undercover to a puppy mill auction opened my eyes in a way I'd rather not have them opened (if you know what I mean). A perfect example of 'ignorance is bliss.'  But alas, self imposed ignorance is for cowards, and so I implore you to read the following with an open heart and mind, and if you are as moved as I am.....a vow to take action (no matter how small) to make a difference in this abhorrent business that persists among us.

The Newsletter
By and For Rescue/Shelter Workers
Volume I, Issue XL

"I do not believe I will ever look at the world in the same way
again. This weekend was worse than I had imagined, worse than I
had even been told to expect. I attended my first puppy mill
auction in Missouri Sunday, determined to bring home every last
Cavalier on the auction block. Lucky Star was successful. We
got all six Cavaliers being sold. Hoorah!

But that was only 6 dogs out of 200+. I wanted them all. I
wanted to run, ranting like a mad woman through the dirt isles
of stacked cages, a screaming pied piper, opening and releasing
every last one of those imprisoned souls. What I saw behind
those latched doors broke my heart, and made it almost
impossible to maintain my equilibrium or my sanity, much less
the undercover role I was expected to play. Every 15-20
minutes my husband was at my side, asking if I was okay,
telling me I could do this, HAD to do this, for the dogs. For
the dogs....

Periodically, I had to escape the nasty atmosphere of the barn
for a gulp of the cold Missouri air, hoping the frigid gusts
would calm and fortify me.

Some cages held one-eyed dogs, others held dogs with recent
cuts, and old, ugly scars, dogs with toenails an inch long,
dogs whose hair was one large mat, pregnant bitches close to
delivery, dogs missing ears, legs, teeth.

There were no wagging tails, no yelps of delight; no bright,
trusting eyes or barks of playful banter. Most cowered in the
farthest corners of their cages, two or more huddled close
together, as if their closeness would bring them some measure
of comfort in dealing with their shared misery.

Dog after dog was auctioned to the highest bidder, often with
such sales pitches as: "Missing an eye, but sees well enough to
hit his mark": "This girl is only a year old, but she has
earned her keep by already producing one litter - now she's got
another on the way - a bonus for you"; "This bitch has had 19
pups in a year and a half - just the kind you want"; "If you
just sell one of this pregnant bitch's puppies, you will make
more than you've paid for her"; "Bitch only has three legs -
big deal, she won't be passing that on." And on one male dog,
who refused to stand on the table because of an injured foot,
the auctioneer remarked, "Don't let that bother you, he can
still get it on."

Dogs were often held high in the air for all to see, tails
lifted to gauge whether they were in heat, mouths probed
roughly to check their bites, and abdomens poked and prodded to
check for pregnancy because "this one's been running with Jax -
could give you a surprise."

The Cavaliers were one of the last breed on the block. My
heart stopped, and my eyes welled when I saw the first, and
only two females brought to the table. Their eyes remained
downcast, their tails tucked, their bodies postured with fear.
"Look at the coats on these beauties," the creepy auctioneer
said. "These ladies have produced some gorgeous pups." That
sealed it -- I wasn't leaving that place until I had every
single cavalier in my possession.

Our babies brought the highest and liveliest bidding, with
bidding often reaching feverish levels, the bids coming so fast
and furious, I was afraid I could not keep up. I hated
bidding; I hated NOT bidding.

When I got the highest bid, the auctioneer said, "Which one do
you want?" "I want them both," I replied. "Great," he said,
"You're saving me time, little lady." When we got the final bid
on the puppies, the last to be auctioned, I breathed a sigh of
relief, and said a quiet thank-you to the man upstairs.

While waiting in line to get the dogs, one man approached us,
and asked how many of "those Charlies" we had. I said I only
had three. "Well," was his response, "you are certainly in
business now." Yes, I told him, you better believe it.

Rescuing just a few is worth the effort, worth the heartache,
and worth the dirt, stench and barren, desolate miles my
husband and I endured. Six are safe, but so many more are not.
Rescuing from these sleazy breeders is a necessary evil. It
is only a drop in the bucket, I know, but it is SOMETHING. It
certainly is not enough, and we must work diligently to try and
save them all.

A number of people I talked to before leaving on this trip knew
nothing about puppy mills. They know about them NOW. Educate.
Please educate. Tell everyone you know, and people you don't
know, what puppy mills are all about. Relate my horror story,
and the stories of other rescuers. We CANNOT shut down the
puppy millers without the education of the public.

Before I sign off, let me tell you about MY bonus. I came home
with seven puppy mill dogs, my seventh being a male, 2 year old
Lhasa Apso. He was placed on the table and the auctioneer
opened the bids at $150. No bids came. Down to $50, still no
bids. At $25, the auctioneer said, "Come on, folks, he's
worked his tail off in his short life - been one busy little
guy. Worth a heck of a lot more than $25. If you don't want
him, I'll put him back to work for me." At $15, my husband saw
the sadness in my eyes. "Toni," he said...too late.

The auctioneer said, "Well, do I hear $10?" My hand shot up
before I could stop it. "Sold, to the little lady for $10."
"Got yourself quite a bargain," was the auctioneer's parting

The Cavs hadn't even come up yet, and I knew we had a long way
to go. "Sorry," I told Chris. "I couldn't help it." "It's
okay," he said. "By my calculations, using the luggage rack on
top, we could probably haul back another 20 or so." He was
joking, of course, he simply understood that this business was
deplorable, and resigning these dogs to a pitiful existence was
heart wrenching.

Find it in your heart to get involved with rescue, in whatever
way you can. Attend an auction, donate your money, foster a
rescue, or just encourage and advise those of us who are just
getting our feet wet. You won't be sorry. Your heart may
break, your eyes may be red-rimmed for days, but I promise you,
you will be forever changed."          

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Goodbye is Never Easy

Although we are a no-kill shelter here at the St. Tammany Humane Society, it does not mean that we are ‘sheltered’ from the loss of beloved pets and on the rare occasions, elderly shelter animals or those with a  terminal illness.  

Just recently Dr. Johnston experienced the loss of her Pinni, a 12 year old Greyhound rescue with a penny colored coat and heart of gold.  Beautiful souls like Pinni enter our lives, reveal themselves in many ways that are easier to understand and welcome than members of our own species, and become a part of our family in a uniquely special way.  Dog, cats, horses, mules (what amazing creatures!), bunnies, and so many other pets are able to give humans what we are constantly seeking in life:  unconditional love.  Why is this so special?  Perhaps because so many of us are unable to give it ourselves.  But whatever the mystical or philosophical reasons behind the special bond we share with our pets, one thing is clear:  That bond exists, and the love shared between pet and owner should never be dismissed as anything other than what it ultimately allows for – a partnership built on love, trust, and companionship (often times the strongest relationship that people have nurtured in their lifetime).  

This is why……Goodbye Is Never Easy.  According to Pastor Bonnie Poirier, “Grieving the loss of a pet is a normal response and a very individual one.  One important difference between pet loss and human loss is that pet loss is often not appreciated. Friends and family may ask ‘What’s the big deal? It’s just a pet!’ There is also the assumption by many that pet loss shouldn’t hurt as much as human loss, because humans are supposedly more important than pets.”

The truth is that all losses, animal or human, can plunge you into despair and may signal the beginning of a profound spiritual-emotional journey. Like grief for humans, grief for animal companions can be dealt with over time and in stages.  At the St. Tammany Humane Society, we will provide for you a safe and natural environment to share and heal as you receive comfort and support.  Please join us the first Saturday of each month at 9am at the shelter for “Goodbye is Never Easy,” a pet loss grief gathering held by Carol Bonnie Poirier of Peaceful Planet Pets ( 

Carol Bonnie Poirier, I go by Bonnie - my grandmother's nickname. I was born in 1960 and raised in New Orleans. I graduated from the University of New Orleans with Bachelor of Arts and St. John's University with Master of Science. I was ordained as a minister with the Congregational Church in June 1994. I am a member of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement and the Association for Professional Humane Educators. With my pet ministry, I focus on pet loss support as well as pet memorials, pet blessings, labyrinth walks and nature walks. I have also written a working pet loss journal called "Goodbye Is Never Easy."

If you (or someone who know) has experienced the loss of a pet, and could benefit from sharing your loss and experience with others who are like minded in both their love of a lost pet and the grief which follows, please consider joining us and Bonnie for “Goodbye is Never Easy” (again, it is on the first Saturday of each month at 9 a.m. at STHS).  This time is free - all that is asked is that you call or email  to hold your seat.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

St. Tammany Humane Society joins Pets for Patriots Pet Adoption Program for Veterans Partners with nationwide charity to give shelter dogs and cats a second chance at life with veterans and service members
St. Tammany Humane Society in Covington, Louisiana has partnered with Pets for Patriots, Inc., a not-for-profit that connects last-chance shelter pets with our country's loyal service men and women, to increase the adoption of adult and other at-risk homeless pets by veteran and service members of the United States military.

In spite of the demonstrated emotional and physical benefits of companion pets, more dogs and cats are killed each year than the populations of Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota and Vermont combined. Working with Pets for Patriots, St. Tammany Humane Society gives local veterans, service members and their families the gift of unconditional friendship and love while providing millions of dogs and cats a second chance at life.

“Working with Pets for Patriots, we hope to motivate our local veterans and service members to give these animals a loving home. This will help us place more hard-to-adopt pets with good people who need or want a companion pet, and save these innocent animals from becoming permanent shelter residents,” says Executive Director Vicky Kreeger.
Individuals are welcome from all United States armed forces and at any stage of their careers. Eligible pets must meet one of three criteria: dog or cat two years or older, dog over 40 pounds regardless of age, or a special needs dog or cat.

Joining Pets for Patriots is entirely free to veterans, though they are responsible for St. Tammany Humane Society’s adoption fee. To reduce the chance that these pets are surrendered, the charity sends a $150 gift card upon proof of eligible adoption to help with food and other essentials, and provides access to local veterinary partners who agree to offer ongoing discounted care.

 “Our goal is to help our adoption partners re-home harder-to-place pets that still have years of love and life to give,” says Beth Zimmerman, founder and executive director of Pets for Patriots, "while at the same time making it more affordable for military personnel to bring a pet into their lives. We’re delighted to work with the St. Tammany Humane Society to give these last-chance pets a second chance at life and, in so doing, to enhance the lives of veterans in the community. Everybody wins.”

 St. Tammany Humane Society quickly saw the potential to find hard-to-adopt dogs and cats permanent homes with service members. “We are able to place about 900 pets each year,” says Executive Director Vicky Kreeger. “Through our partnership with Pets for Patriots, we hope to provide forever homes to even more loving animals with the many service members and veterans in our area.”

Individuals must first apply through Pets for Patriots and provide proof of their military service or honorable discharge. Approval typically takes one to two business days, after which they can visit St. Tammany Humane Society for assistance in choosing their new best friend.

Adopters through the Pets for Patriots program also receive 15% off of vet services through the St. Tammany Humane Society vet clinic for their adopted pet, and one free night of boarding with Willow’s Oak Pet Lodge in Madisonville (minimum 2 night stay).

About Pets for Patriots
Pets for Patriots, Inc., is a registered 501(c)(3) charity that helps military members honorably adopt adult and at-risk shelter pets. Its mission is to consistently give the gifts of fidelity, joy and companionship to both pet and person.  Pets for Patriots is one of the only organizations in the country dedicated to both adult pets and military members. The charity is a proud member of the Army AW2 Wounded Warrior Program national community support network, a national partner of the Real Warriors Campaign and is listed by the National Resource Directory for ill and wounded veterans. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cayenne: Smart with a Heart

I first met Terrie Varnado about 2 years ago when there were wires crossed in the STHS transport program.  Something to do with too many dogs on a plane headed north.......and boy, looking  back, I did not then realize what an understatement that was!  There are times in life when you know, without question, the sincerity, tenacity, and unyielding honesty of a person by the mere tone of their voice or hard glint in their eye.  This is Terrie.  She has since been an integral and instrumental part of the STHS transport program "Waggin' Wheels," doing the tough and dirty rescue work that requires an old soul and new rugs every 3 -4 weeks!
Here is the story of Cayenne, who was rescued by Terrie, and is now in our adoption program at STHS.  His story, written by Terrie:

"Cayenne is a special guy that has been treated very badly and neglected in his life.  I was called in on a divorce/neglect case with three dogs on chains, one with no shelter.  Cayenne was very thin and had dug holes in the yard to catch rain water for drinking.  He had no shelter what-so-ever and was living in a muddy mess. He just ran around the tree all day long.  They fed him if they felt like it, when they happened to have food. I got permission from the owner to feed and water him, and I brought over a Dog-loo for his shelter.  Then I began to search for a new home, or a rescue, to take the animals.  I found rescue for one of the other dogs and a blind horse (that was skin and bones) on the property.  The family refused to give up one of the dogs.  Now, Cayenne is searching for his furever home.  He needs our help to find that special family that will give him love, take care of him properly, while teaching him with patience. 

Cayenne is a very sweet guy and is being held in a temporary foster home.  He is living on an enclosed porch with a doggie door. He is about 5 years old and looks to be a Catahoula /mix.  He weighs about 70 lbs.  He is very smart and knows basic commands... no, sit, lay, shake and he walks well on a leash. He loves his walks and attention!!!  He may try to jump up sometimes, but listens when you correct him.  I do not believe that he has ever stepped foot inside a home, so he would definitely have to be housebroken, or have an enclosed patio to live on.  Since he has lived his life on a chain, he doesn't know proper behavior.  He can tend to get a little rambuncious and knock things over.....ooops!  He barks when it is thundering (due to being chained out in storms for so long, I'm sure) and to alert you when someone is coming to your home. He is very friendly, non-agressive, loves everyone, and greets you with a wagging tail.

Do you have room in your heart and your home for Cayenne?  This poor guy deserves to know what it is like to be loved and cared for in his lifetime."

Thank you, Terrie...for all that you do for the dogs!  And if anyone is interested in adopting Cayenne, contact Terrie Varnado ( for more information on Cayenne's personality and Janie Valle ( for more information about the adoption process at STHS.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pure Barre gives STHS "Serenity"

We all know, as dog owners living in Louisiana, the prevalence of heartworms and the importance of keeping your dogs on preventative.  Here at the Humane Society, we regrettably are forced to turn away many dogs who are heartworm positive for the simple reason that we cannot afford to treat all of them. 
Now, take that fact and shelve it for a few moments.  I want to talk about some of the fundraisers for STHS that you so often hear about (be it via our volunteer bulletin, newspaper, Facebook, website, etc).  As an individual in today’s technologically savvy society with a myriad of demands on our time, energy, money, and allegiance, we are caught up in a constant deluge of information and pleas for help that typically go in one ear and out the other.  So much to process.  And our hearts can only sympathize with so many downtrodden and disenfranchised people, animals, and plants (plants have feelings!) a day before we simply become numb with the magnitude of it all.  We get it.
But there are, of course, some causes that we identify with on a level that incites us into action.  If you are reading this blog, then animal welfare is likely one of those causes which you hold dear.  Our volunteers, supporters, and donors are such an integral part of realizing our mission here at the St. Tammany Humane Society.  And too often they do not see the tangible results of their efforts and dedication to the shelter animals that they stand behind. 
If had the time and space, I would love nothing more than to recount all the examples of how our supporters have had a miraculous impact on the animals here at the Humane Society, and these heroic deeds do not always receive the recognition that they deserve.  I can only hope that in lifting one of these countless events to the forefront,  it will encourage us all to remember that every one of our actions, no matter how small we may think it, has an effect that may mean the difference between life and death for another magnificent being. 
Many of you will remember reading about Pure Barre’s Anniversary event, from which STHS received a $1000 donation from the evening’s proceeds.  Again, many times these facts go in one ear and out the other.  But what does this truly mean?  How did this happen?  Where does this money go?

 This means that every act of generosity begins in the heart and mind of one individual.  In this particular instance, Jennifer Thomas, owner of Pure Barre.  The Pure Barre staff and enthusiasts carried the ball (pun intended) and the STHS staff and volunteers who attended the event made it possible to put a furry face to the cause.  That’s great.  And where did the $1000 go?

Let us rewind to our earlier conundrum (our inability to take in many heartworm positive dogs due to the cost of treatment). Vicky Kreeger, our tireless leader, earmarked this donation for heartworm treatment for potential shelter intakes.  To put it in the simplest terms (not my forte…sorry), some of this money saved the life of our newest STHS shelter beagle, Serenity.  Serenity was dropped off with three of her pups, in hopes that they would all enter our adoption program……until Serenity tested positive for heartworms.  Under normal circumstances, we could not have taken Serenity, but because of the money donated by Pure Barre, Serenity will be treated for heartworms and will be up for adoption following treatment.   

Thanks to Pure Barre and the STHS volunteers who gave their time at this event for the shelter animals that ‘incite them into action,’ a life was saved. 
To all of you who donate your time, efforts, and money to the mission of St. Tammany Humane Society (To save the life of every adoptable animal in our community through education,
adoption and spay/neuter programs.):  YOU MAKE THE DIFFERENCE!