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August 24, 2014

In Ernie’s Words & Some New Ideas to Try if Your Dog is Afraid of Storms


Home from vacation! It is a wonderful, beautiful summer. I hope everyone takes the time to relax and enjoy.

As an equal part of my family (most of us are) I can’t help but take on and absorb what is happening in the people world. It affects you, it affects me. I am grateful that, we canines, can be such great de-stressors for you. At the same time, I get it, that, at times, you are really sad about ‘worldly’ conditions and situations.

Speaking for Crate Escape pups, ‘we are here for you’. It is in our DNA to love you and be there for you. Thanks for taking us to daycare and taking such good care of us. Thanks for donating and helping when you can, to reduce the numbers of homeless dogs.

In this day and age, it has to come down to love and being present in our lives. And who is best at that?? Yup, your dogs!!

Later, Ernestine


ernie drawing from website1   editorial comment: the next piece is written by Dr. Karen Becker. We have shared some of her articles before. The issue of dogs being afraid of storms is fairly common; and parents often have tried many things to ease the anxiety. Dr. Becker offers LOTS of different suggestions; that are all pretty easy to apply/ teach. Please note that we do not know first hand if these ideas work. Here are Dr. Becker’s credentials:

Does Your Pet Fear Storms? Why You Can’t Ignore His Discomfort

Thunderstorms can strike fear in the heart of even the most normally laidback dog or cat. And what many pet parents don’t realize is it’s not just the loud clap of thunder that generates a fear response in phobic pets. Lightning, wind, rain, dark skies, changes in barometric pressure, and even odors can trigger a panicked reaction in susceptible dogs and cats.

Since dogs are naturally more demonstrative than cats and more apt to look to their owner for help, a dog’s storm phobia symptoms are usually quite obvious. Common signs of phobia-related stress include dilated pupils, drooling, rapid heartbeat, panting, pacing, trembling, potty accidents, and destructive behavior.

Your cat, on the other hand, may simply scoot quietly under the bed or head for another protected spot in your home.

Fear of storms in pets is no laughing matter. In a study of storm-phobic dogs, their plasma cortisol levels jumped over 200 percent from exposure to an audio recording of a storm. And even though we can’t scientifically evaluate the emotions of sensitive pets during a thunderstorm, we can safely assume they feel fear and perhaps even terror.

Storm phobia causes extreme anxiety and discomfort not only for four-legged companions, but also for human family members who feel helpless to ease their pet’s suffering. If your pet is afraid of storms, don’t lose hope. There are things you can do to help your furry friend remain calm when the weather outside is frightful.

Create a Safe Place Where Your Pet Can Go to Avoid the Storm

For dogs, your basement may be just the ticket, or alternatively, a room with sound-proofing wallboard and heavy window coverings. Your dog’s safe place should ideally have small covered windows or no windows so he can’t see the storm. In the space you set aside, add a solid-sided crate, and leave the door open. The crate should contain food, water, treats, and toys. When you know a storm is approaching, turn on the lights in the room so lightning flashes will be less obvious.

Play calming music in your pet’s safe spot at a volume just loud enough to drown out distant thunderclaps.

Make sure to spend time playing with your dog in his safe room when it’s not storming, and then see if he’ll go there on his own when he senses a storm is on the way. Your pet should have access to his safe spot at all times, and especially when you’re not at home.

Behavior Modification, Desensitization, and Counterconditioning

One behavior modification technique that may work for a storm phobic dog is to engage him in a behavior that earns a reward. Ask your dog to perform a command or trick he knows and reward him if he does. This activity distracts not only him, but also you, in case you’re tempted to inadvertently reinforce his phobic behavior by petting and soothing him while he’s showing anxiety.

Another behavior modification you can try involves engaging your dog in a fun activity. Play a game with him, or give him a treat release toy or a recreational bone to chew on. One of my favorite ways to distract dogs is with K9 Nose Work. (add link) Use your dog’s natural senses to divert his attention, or have fun with Dr. Yin’s Manners Minder. Just keep in mind that if your dog’s fear response to storms is intense, you may not always be able to soothe him with food rewards or other distractions.

Desensitization involves using a CD with recorded storm sounds to try to desensitize your dog. This is best done during times of the year when real storms are few and far between.

Unfortunately, desensitization isn’t always as effective with storm phobias as it is with other types of anxiety disorders. That’s because it’s difficult to mimic all the various triggers that set off a fear response in a storm-phobic pet – in particular changes in barometric pressure, static electricity, and whatever scents they notice with an impending change in the weather. In addition, desensitization has to be done in each room of the house, because a new coping skill learned in the living room will be forgotten in the kitchen. These problems make desensitization more of a challenge in treating storm phobias.

Counterconditioning involves consistently and repeatedly pairing a negative trigger with a positive one, until your pet makes a positive association. For example, if your dog exhibits a fear response each time she hears a thunderclap, offer her a treat each time it happens. The goal is to condition her to associate a treat with the sound of thunder.

Additional Storm Stress Relief Tools for Pets

Try putting gentle, continuous pressure on your pet to calm her. If she will allow it, try leaning gently on or against her without petting or stroking. If this is helpful to her, you’ll feel her muscles begin to relax. If instead she seems to grow more anxious, stop the activity.

If your pet does seems to respond well to pressure applied to her body, there are wraps available ( that many pet owners and veterinarians have found extremely helpful. You might also consider a ThunderCap.

  • Ttouch is a specific massage technique that can help anxious pets. You can also consider trying EFT to help your four-legged companion.
  • Invest in a pheromone diffuser. Species-specific pheromones are chemical substances that can positively affect an animal’s emotional state and behavior. There’s the D.A.P. diffuser for dogs and Feliway for kitties.
  • Consult a holistic veterinarian about homeopathic, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Bach Flower Remedies that could be helpful in alleviating your pet’s stress. Some products I use, always in conjunction with behavior modification, include Calm Shen, homeopathic aconitum or Hyland’s Calms ForteBach Rescue Remedy, or other similar remedies depending on the animal, Spirit Essence Storm Soother, and OptiBalance Fear & Phobias Formula.
  • Calming nutraceuticals and herbs that I’ve found helpful include holy basil, l-theanine, rhodiola, ashwagandha, GABA, 5-HTP, and chamomile. Consult your holistic vet about which option is right for your pet.
  • The essential oil of lavender has also been proven to reduce a pet’s stress response. I recommend placing a few drops on your dog’s collar or bedding before a stressor occurs, if possible, or diffuse the oil around your house for an overall calming effect.

August 17, 2014

Save the Date! 8/22, 5-7pm, Franks for Your Business @Belmont Crate + GREAT Read on Lauren Bacall, Dog Person, + Why So Many Homeless Southern Dogs are Transported North!

Back by popular demand….


Taking your pooch to Belmont Crate next Friday?  Around 5pm you will smell grilling and beer at the front door. Cambridge and Charlestown Crate people, stop by with your dogs and enjoy summer refreshments, prepared by Chef Nikkilee!  Invite your friends and their dogs! All are welcome!  August 22nd will be our third cook out – it’s great to have a chance to talk to you and visit with your dogs outside!


Words from Ernestine; Our Rover Reporter


Warm and salty greetings!  Great to see we are having another ‘Franks’ event, I heard wonderful feedback from partygoers who attended last month!

I also heard from you re:  the article on ‘Things that Make Your Dog Crazy’, particularly about dogs not liking to be hugged, and not liking us to pet their heads. I am officially speaking for many Crate Escape people, who know THEIR dogs do like to be hugged and petted on the head.

just sayin’.

This week, I think you will enjoy reading about Lauren and Humphrey’s dogs. I knew they were amazing people!!

And, a great read on why homeless dogs are transported north from the southern states. More education on our homeless brothers and sisters!

Later,  Ernestine




Movie fans mourn the passing of Lauren Bacall, star of such classics as “To Have and Have Not,” “Key Largo,” and “How to Marry a Millionaire,” who died Tuesday, August 12th,  at age 89.

Bacall was famous as half of one of Hollywood’s great power couples. She married Humphrey Bogart in 1945, and together they reigned as film royalty until Bogie’s death 12 years later. In the beginning gossips wondered, what could the 45-year-old superstar tough guy and the elegant 19-year-old model possibly have in common? As it turned out, a great deal. Both were native New Yorkers who loved acting and talking politics, and both were absolutely crazy about dogs. Bogart owned several in his time, including Scotties, Sealyham Teriers, and a Newfoundland. As a girl, Bacall was partial to Cocker Spaniels.


Bacall and her Cocker Spaniel at the Gotham Hotel

But it was the boxer that became the Bogart-Bacall household’s breed of choice. They received their first as a wedding gift. “We named him Harvey, after the invisible rabbit. He was really smart. He knew he wasn’t allowed to get on the furniture so he would only put two paws on at a time, and he would sit between us if we had a fight.”


Harvey, the Top Dog

The Bogarts soon acquired two more Boxers, George and Baby, but Harvey was always the top dog. He appeared in many of the publicity photos that studios issued to promote the couple’s domestic bliss. “Harvey died six months after Bogey,” Bacall recalled years later. “I went to see him at the vet’s and said goodbye. Five minutes after I got home, I was told that after I left, Harvey had eaten his dinner and died.”


Bacall and Bogart enjoying an evening by the fire with son, Stephen, and their three dogs.

Bacall’s love for dogs continued until her dying day. In her later years she was never seen around New York without Sophie, her beloved Papillon.



Adopt a Dog With a Southern Drawl

NY Times,  J. Courtney Sullivan,  May, 2014

IF I could be reincarnated as anyone, I’d pick my dog, Landon. He leads a charmed life. Most mornings he gets scrambled eggs for breakfast, which he prefers to hard-boiled. Every afternoon, he takes a long run. Landon sleeps with my husband and me — he’s a 60-pound retriever mix, but seems to expand to five times that size in our bed. In summer, we take him on vacation to Maine, where he frolics on the beach. Not that he cares, but his picture has appeared in the online edition of Vogue.

Landon’s cushy existence belies a precarious beginning. Three years ago, at 8 weeks old, he was hours from being euthanized in an animal control facility in Tennessee. Someone — we’ll probably never know who — saved him, his six littermates and their mother, and brought them to Bidewee, a Manhattan shelter. We adopted Landon a few days later.

In the last decade, hundreds of thousands of dogs have been transported north from overcrowded facilities in the rural South. Much of the infrastructure for getting them from one state to another was put in place in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina left more than 250,000 pets stranded.

An estimated three to four million cats and dogs are euthanized in American shelters each year. People don’t love their pets any more or less because they live in one geographic region or another. But kill rates spike in high poverty areas with limited access to affordable veterinary services for spaying and neutering. In the rural South, unsterilized dogs are often allowed to roam outdoors. Many counties have weak or unenforced leash laws. Shelters in such areas are overrun, with kill rates ranging from 50 to 95 percent. Even where adoptions are encouraged, low population density makes them rare.

Many of the dogs that are routinely euthanized in Southern states — healthy Labs, hounds, shepherds and others, including puppies of various breeds — are in high demand in the Northeast, where low-cost spay and neuter services are the norm, kill rates are down, and there are exponentially more potential adopters. In 2011, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals started its animal relocation and transport program, which connects overcrowded shelters with those in regions where space is available.

The North Shore Animal League America, on Long Island, a large no-kill rescue and adoption organization, works with shelters and rescue organizations in the South to transport animals to New York for adoption. Last year it placed 6,672 dogs from Southern states. More than 5,000 were puppies.

Volunteers also orchestrate many adoptions. People in Southern states are using Facebook and Petfinder to post pictures of homeless dogs. They find local volunteers who agree to temporarily foster the animals, and make connections with groups like Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue. Despite having little funding and no formal shelter space, the group has found homes for 1,200 Southern dogs since 2011.

It relies on a patchwork of transporters to get the dogs from A to B — from a few volunteers with a minivan to the Tennessee-based company P.E.T.S., which makes weekly pickups in seven Southern states and drop-offs in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New England and New York. P.E.T.S. has relocated more than 50,000 dogs in 10 years.

But as transport grows, it’s essential for all involved to commit to following a set of best practices. Most are dedicated to making the relocation of animals effective and humane, but those who transport sick or unvaccinated pets or sell unsterilized dogs online, rather than working in conjunction with a shelter or rescue group, damage the movement’s credibility. Several states, including Connecticut and Massachusetts, have tightened animal importation laws to limit the number of dogs crossing their borders. Some municipalities have even considered banning transport.

The National Federation of Humane Societies has put out guidelines recommending that shelters transferring pets must be municipal or registered nonprofits. Dogs must have a valid health certificate and records and be nonaggressive, vaccinated against rabies and free of communicable disease. All animals must be identified with a tag at the source shelter (or microchipped, wherever possible) and sterilized, ideally before travel.

P.E.T.S. regulations are another gold standard. They require dogs to be at least 10 weeks old and out of a kill shelter for two weeks — the length of time it takes common communicable diseases like parvo, distemper and Bordetella to present symptoms. They also require cages to be cleaned during travel, and for volunteers to meet drivers along the way and take the dogs for walks. Four states have adopted some of the regulations into law.

Until spay and neuter practices become a matter of course for all pet owners, the majority of dogs in Southern shelters will be euthanized. Every day, rescuers must decide which ones to save and which to leave behind, limited by funds, space in a vehicle, and a best guess as to the number of willing adopters on the other side.

I’m keenly aware of how close Landon came to being a sad statistic. Instead, he’s lying beside me on the couch right now, wondering what’s for dinner.

August 11, 2014

It’s Katie!! Best Friends Update on the Michael Vick Nightmare/ Where We Are Now, and A Fun Read About Therapy with Your Pooch!


Employee Extrodinaire, Katie Gallaher

She is EVERYWHERE!  Yes, often at the desk at Belmont Crate, always making sure people and dogs get the best information possible, and the best service. (altho, customer vs. dog, the dog wins every time!!) In the meantime, her car is running in the parking lot, full of donations, that she will deliver to a rescue organization later that day. She will probably spend a few hours on the computer catching up with dog stuff, and communicating with places she volunteers. The photo above was taken at a rescue org. where rhodesian ridgeback/ boxer puppies, were soon to be ready to transport and find homes for.

Katie has been an animal person her whole life. She started at Crate Escape 6 years ago, and has held at least 90%of the jobs available. She did overnights for quite awhile where she really got to spend quality time with the dogs, and know them well. She is a hard worker, outspoken (in a good way) about animal welfare, and ready to jump on any new idea or solution to make dogs’ lives easier or happier.

We are blessed to have her at Crate Escape. Thanks, Katie, we love you!!


Ernie’s Emphasis

I am so glad we picked Katie to talk about. She is my good friend, and I trust her in every way. She is best friends with Hilda, who she watched grow up – and cared for often.

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Charlestown Blu. I know we discussed the genders of the two Blu’s – one outcome is that C’town Blu is male. He is charmingly scruffy, and healthily stocky.  It is still possible that Belmont Blu (Belle?) is female– but that must be addressed at a later date. Say hello to C’town Blu!!



Along with most other dog lovers, Crate Escape people followed the shutting down of Michael Vick’s horrendous dog fighting business. Best Friends was key in initiating legislation to direct how the dogs were handled after the shut down. BF  also brought out the truth on the miserable lives of rhe dogs who are involved. They multiplied their ‘pit bull initiatives’ to educate us about the breed, and how they have become so hated in the last 40 years. The article below is an update on their progress in rehabilitation for the dogs who are saved when dog fighting rings are shut down.!

Later, Ernestine


Best Friends Blog

The continuing upside of the Michael Vick dogfighting bust

July 14, 2014

It’s a landmark day for dogs in the state of Delaware.

Today, the governor of Delaware signed into law a bill spearheaded by Best Friends that will ensure that in future, any dog seized in a dogfighting ring bust in Delaware will be evaluated as an individual and afforded the opportunity of rehabilitation and adoption rather than face an automatic death sentence.

We’d like to offer an enormous “thank you” to Representative Earl Jaques and State Senator Karen Peterson for their roles in passing this lifesaving legislation.

But there are also quite a few dogs we have to thank. In particular, the Vicktory dogs.

You may already know the story of the fighting ring bust that took place on Michael Vick’s property in April 2007. But what you may not know is that protocols at the time called for any dog rescued from a dogfighting ring to be killed because they were deemed dangerous by birth and by definition. Even though the vast majority of the dogs trapped in those rings never qualified as fighters and were, for the most part, frightened and abused victims.

Best Friends led a chorus of opposition to the “kill them all” policy that was about to claim the lives of the 49 pit bull terriers and pit mixes seized from Vick’s property. The general public, local grassroots organizations and pit bull rescue groups joined us in a clear statement that these dogs should not be re-victimized by the state after being so badly abused. And we were heard.

After the dogs were evaluated individually, only one was euthanized for aggression. Twenty-two of the most traumatized came to Best Friends for rehabilitation or permanent sanctuary and the rest were released to rescue organizations for eventual adoption to the public.

The Vicktory dogs, as the contingent that came to Best Friends was dubbed, became celebrities of sorts as their progress was documented on the National Geographic Channel’s “DogTown” series filmed at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Toothless and scarred Georgia, one of the dogs who was too cute for words, was a guest on the Ellen DeGeneres Show as well as Larry King Live.

Beyond the celebrity, though, the Vick dogs were — and today continue to be — champions for every dog trapped in dogfighting misery who finally gets rescued, only to face the bitter irony of a policy that deems them deserving only death. Because of their example, that policy is changing and we celebrate Delaware’s progressive stance on this issue.

Together, we will Save Them All.

Gregory Castle
Best Friends Animal Society


Is Your Relationship With Fido on the Rocks?


Dr. Joel Gavriele-Gold is not a cat person. The walls of the 73-year-old psychologist’s Upper West Side office are decorated with paintings of dogs, including one of Rin Tin Tin. On the day of my visit, Gavriele-Gold’s enormous black herding dog, Dova, snored on a sofa by the garden-level window. Gavriele-Gold had encouraged me to bring along my Lab-mix, Casey, who lounged at my feet on the carpeted floor, occasionally getting up to sniff a bag of treats stashed behind a chair.

I had come to interview Gavriele-Gold for a book I was writing about dogs in America. His practice is nontraditional: Gavriele-Gold specializes in dog issues — not canine depression or other behavioral problems but the sometimes fraught relationships we have with our pets.

In a few days I would be embarking on a nearly four-month cross-country journey with Casey in a rented R.V., during which I would be meeting hundreds of dog-obsessed Americans — celebrities, suburban moms, dog rescuers, homeless teenagers, Cesar Millan and my former middle-school English teacher, who now works part-time as a “dog masseur.” In initial conversations with them about their dogs, I heard a lot about unconditional love and the ease of a dog’s company. While cats can be moody and standoffish (get on their bad side, and they might just pee on your pillow and find a new human to ignore), dogs were described as optimistic and forgiving, loyal and trustworthy. They make us feel good about ourselves, I heard again and again, and they’re a much-needed respite from the challenge of dealing with actual people.

‘It sounds to me like you didn’t get the love you needed from your mother,’ he said, ‘just like you aren’t getting the love you think you need from Casey.’ I felt tightness in my chest. Casey yawned.

Gavriele-Gold, though, is interested in a less-talked-about aspect of the human-animal bond: conflict. He has found that our relationships with our pets can often be thornier than we realize. I heard something similar from David Shaw, a psychologist in Maui who also encourages his clients to bring their dogs to therapy, and who keeps a water bowl in his office for such occasions. “Today, dogs are one of the primary relationships — if not the primary relationship — in many people’s lives,” he said. “We think of our dogs as family members, as kids, so it’s no surprise we would have conflicts with them. Our dogs can unintentionally push our buttons.”

I knew a little something about that. I had sheepishly confessed to Gavriele-Gold on the phone that Casey, who had recently turned 9, could bring out my insecurities. Part of me worried that my dog didn’t like me very much. And my biggest fear was that it wasn’t all in my head.

In his office, Gavriele-Gold wasted little time before mining my subconscious for signs of canine-related transference. “Does Casey remind you of anyone from your past?” he wanted to know. Gavriele-Gold believes that people often displace feelings toward a human onto a pet. “We think we’re mad at the dog,” he told me, “but we’re actually mad at our husband or our dad or our kid.”

I’d spent too much of my 20s talking to therapists about my human family; I wasn’t interested in rehashing that, especially with this new dog-related twist. Besides, I had come to Gavriele-Gold’s to interview him. I shuffled my notes in my lap and changed the subject.

“All right, but we’re coming back to this,” he warned. Then he looked at Casey with a warm, rosy-cheeked smile. “Look at you! Such a good boy.”

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