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This Amazing Community Leader Used Pokémon to Rescue Dogs

Mackenzie Freeman

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You got to catch em all. Few things have been bigger in modern culture than Pokémon, which has spurred games, movies, cartoons and more. Except dogs, they might be a bigger deal in society. Who doesn’t love a “good boy”? One innovative dog shelter, Muncie Animal Shelter in Indiana, now makes it easy to combine volunteering walking dogs with Pokémon Go, the hot smartphone game.

Phil Pechingpaugh, the director at the Muncie Animal Shelter, stumbled upon a brilliant realization while out walking his own dog. He and his daughter were playing Pokémon Go, racing to hunt down the next rare beast. Their own dog was along for the ride and having just as much fun.

In a moment of reflection, Pechingpaugh realized tons of other people were out playing Pokémon Go as well. Yet very few of them had dogs. Why not? Dogs can benefit just as much from a Pokémon Go session as us humans. Maybe even more so.

Of course, a lot of people don’t own dogs. Even if you like puppers, you might not want to deal with the costs and responsibilities, at least not full-time. When you’re the director of an animal shelter, however, good dogs are rarely in short supply. Pechingpaugh realized he could encourage people to volunteer. Go for a “Pokewalk” but bring a sheltered dog along with you for the ride.

There’s a lot of synergy when it comes to dogs and Pokémon Go. The game involves a lot of walking and exploration. The goal is to capture digital Pokémon on your phone. These Pokémon appear in the real world, so you have to walk around to find them. Of course, your doggy companion may not realize that but he or she will enjoy the walking and exploring either way.

Pechingpaugh asked a friend to create an ad to advertise the walk-a-dog, catch-a-Pokémon opportunity. He thought he might get a half dozen or so volunteers. Instead, 70 people showed up! One young woman even drove from two hours away to volunteer.

At any given time, there are more than 3 million dogs in animal shelters across the United States. While thousands of people volunteer, work, and adopt these dogs each year, the fact remains that there are more good dogs than there are resources to help. Extra volunteers, whether walking dogs while playing Pokémon Go or doing whatever else, could have a huge impact.

Pokémon Go has been out for a few years now. Many analysts expected the app to be a fad. Sure, it’d enjoy some stellar months and people would get bored of it. However, people haven’t abandoned Pokémon Go. Revenues for Pokémon Go hit nearly $800 million in 2018 and growth has remained strong throughout 2019! It total, Pokémon Go has brought in more than $3 billion dollars in revenues.

Obviously, Pokémon Go is here to stay. Dog shelters too are here to stay. Sadly, more dogs will be dropped off at the pound each day. Some will be adopted by loving families, some will not. Many other social ills are going to persist as well. That doesn’t mean we can’t make the world a better place, however.

It’ll be interesting to see where Pokémon Go can add more value. Walking dogs today, perhaps helping people lose weight tomorrow or connecting mentors with underprivileged kids or whatever else.

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Animals

Sharing Retirement: A Service Dog and his Vet

Leslie Tander

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A soldier’s life is difficult, far from home with high demands, little sleep, and life-or-death stresses. But for two who were enlisted in the service together, this trying time became one of lasting peace.

Separated from Family

Just after his first daughter Chloe was born, Adam Wylie (a U.S. Air Force Sargeant) was deployed overseas to South Korea. It was a trying time for him. But one of the first comrades-in-arms he met on Osan Air Base helped him get through it – Emra, a 4-year old service dog. The Belgian Malinois helped him patrol the base in long 12-hour shifts.

Emra and Adam built a deep relationship, trusting each other with life and limb over those long shifts. Together, they processed security sweeps for U.S. officials and manned listening posts designed to spot enemy activity to the north. Adam likes to tell the story of Emra’s encounter with Vice President Joe Biden when he visited the base. She cleared the motorcade, then jumped into the front seat of the Vice President’s vehicle and kept accidently hitting the car horn. 

Events like that helped bring some much-needed levity and companionship to Adam’s life in a trying time. Emra became a friend, keeping him company in the absence of his wife and daughter. But when his shift ended and he returned home to the U.S., he had to leave Emra behind. 

Something Missing

Overjoyed to be reunited with his family, he still found himself feeling Emra’s absence keenly. “She was one of the longest working relationships I had,” Wiley told ABC news.

Emra and Wylie were both ready to retire from service at about the same time, three years after Adam Wylie returned from his deployment in Korea. Wylie planned to become a Security Specialist/K-9 handler for the U.S. State Department. Emra was beginning to feel her age and show some signs of arthritis, so the military made the decision that it was time to retire her.

American Humane is an organization that works to cover the cost and activities needed to bring retired service dogs home to the United States, in partnership with Crown Media Family Networks. American Humane worked to bring Emra home – and they just where her forever home should be.

Reunited Stateside

In April of 2017, the two were reunited. Adam was worried that Emra might not remember him – though they worked together longer than any other partner he had in the military, after a three year separation they’d been apart longer than they’d been together. 

But Emra was overjoyed to see him, obviously remembering her old friend. She nuzzled right up and licked his face, knowing her battle buddy immediately. 

A Forever Home

The Wylie family farm will be Emra’s home for the rest of her days. She has 4-year-old Chloe to play with and Wylie’s dad’s Jack Russell Terrier to keep her on her toes. 

The partnership bond seen in K-9 units can be powerful. The long hours, intense training in each other’s company, and the unique circumstances in which soldiers find themselves separated from friends and family and seeking new connection seems to result in a powerful bond between service dogs and their handlers. What a fitting end that for Emra and Adam, such a bond can be lasting. This unique friendship can support Adam during the transition to civilian life, and give Emra a loving home for the rest of her days. A fitting reward for a lifetime of loyal service – for both man and dog.

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Animals

6 Easy Tips to Keep Your Dog Calm During Fireworks

Mackenzie Freeman

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Most of us love the bright fireworks that light up the sky in celebration of many major holidays. They add excitement to the celebration, and they’re absolutely stunning. They’re also extremely loud, and that can cause anxiety for our four-legged friends. Some dogs don’t mind the loud booms, but many dogs start to shake and whimper from fright. No one likes to see their furbabies scared and upset. It tugs on your heart and all you want to do is find a way to sooth them. Here are a few easy tips to keep your dog calm during fireworks.

Watch the Fireworks on TV

It’s always great to be upfront for the fireworks show, but if you’re dog has anxiety from loud noises, then it might be best to stay home, cuddle on the couch, and watch the beautiful bursts of colors on your TV or laptop. Then you both can enjoy the beautiful display, without the loud booms that make your dog tremble.

Leave Your Dog at Home

Heading out for a fun night of celebrating with friends and family? If you plan on going to a fireworks show, sitting so close you can feel the ash floating down, then do your dog a solid, and leave them in the comfort of their own home. They’ll enjoy snuggling in their favorite spot, and you’ll enjoy a night out.

Play Before The Show Begins

If there are fireworks near your house, or you have neighbors who like to war for the best display, then make sure to wear your dog out before nightfall. Take them for a long walk, play fetch or tug of war with their favorite toys, and chase them around the house to make them tired. Hopefully the sound of their own snores will drown out the loud noises coming from outside.

A Well Fed Dog Will Sleep Even Better

Once you wear out your dog before the fireworks show begins, make sure they eat and drink as well. Not only will they sleep better on a full belly, but if they do get a little anxious from the fireworks, they may not want to eat or drink later. Hopefully, between the exercise and some comfort food, your dog will have less anxiety and lots of good rest.

Cozy Up Their Favorite Space

Whether your dog sleeps in the bed with you, has a specific spot on the couch, or their own cozy corner with a fluffy pillow bed, they most likely go to that place for comfort. When the fireworks are blasting, make sure that space is ready to go. Cozy it up with an extra blanket, and make sure they’re surrounded by their favorite toys. This will help decrease any anxiety they may be feeling.

Most Importantly – Return The Favor

When you’re feeling upset or stressed out, most likely your dog will come over to cuddle with you. They hate seeing us filled with sadness or anxiety, and they want to make us feel better. So return the favor. If you see that your dog is having a hard time with the fireworks, pick them up or settle down with them to cuddle. Scratch them in their favorite place, give them belly rubs. When your dog knows you’re there to keep them safe, it always lessens anxiety.

You and your dog can get through anything together. That includes fireworks and the loud noises that come with them. Hopefully these easy tips will help you keep your dog calm during fireworks anytime of the year.

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Animals

Don’t Shop: Adopt! Wonderful, loving pets across America are in need of good homes!

Mackenzie Freeman

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Around 6.5 million companion pets across the country – 3.3 dogs and 3.2 cats – are currently in animal shelters, eagerly awaiting their future families and ultimately their forever homes. Shelters are hosting programs and hosting functions centered entirely around pet adoption. Sadly, some may never see the day when they are taken from the crowded facilities to a loving home with their very own human family. The most rewarding option for all involved would be to adopt them from the shelter when your family is ready to take that leap.

The benefits for adopting from shelters versus using other methods are many. You’ll be saving a life as well as saving money. You’ll also be helping to fight against the dangerous and unfair practices of puppy mills. And don’t forget the bragging rights involved: who doesn’t want to announce to the world of social media that they just rescued an amazing pup or cat from a local shelter?

Although they typically tend to get a bad rep, dogs and cats that are adopted from shelters have cuddliness and personality to spare. Many were discarded for reasons beyond their control. Common reasons include a family moving to a place that doesn’t allow pets, getting rid of a dog because the owners have a baby on the way, or getting rid of a cat because someone in the home is allergic. Although understandable at times, the decision can still be heart-breaking. And with the recent passing of the Christmas holiday, it’s important to address another major issue in the world of pet adoption: gifting a loved one with a pet.

When the term “forever home” is used, it is not to be taken lightly. For some families, it has become a trend to adopt pets as Christmas presents just to return them to the shelter after the first of the year. Pets should never be seen as presents and then discarded when the excitement disappears. We can do better as a society to abolish this increasingly common practice. Make sure that your family can handle the responsibility of caring for a pet.

It is a fact that if 10% of families looking to add one or more pets to their homes chose to adopt, the shelters would be empty in no time and millions of shelter pets will have finally found their forever homes, which is something that every pet needs and deserves. If you or someone you know is interested in adding a pet to your family, the first thing you need to do is make sure that your family is prepared; make sure your home is physically ready for an added inhabitant. Then contact local shelters, where they will guide you through the process. Adopting a new pet is quick, easy, and cheap and will lead you and your pet to the adventure of a lifetime.

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