Author Archives: Michelle


This post contains some of the thoughts and sentiments expressed by several different ARLP volunteers, and represents a reflection on the impact Max had on us all. Thank you to everyone who assisted with this essay.

We named him Maximilian, a dignified name for a dog who deserved a little dignity in his life – Max for short. He had been found wandering in a local park. “Emaciated” was an understatement for Max; a dog that should have weighed between 50 and 60 pounds entered animal control weighing 30 pounds. It was clear that his condition was not a result of living for many months on the street. Instead he must have been left to starve in a basement or a crate, and then either broke his way out or was dumped. The black collar that at some point surely fit his neck nice and snug, now hung at least 4-5 inches loose, but it was still clean – definitely not the collar of a stray dog.

Six days after entering animal control, he had lost 5 pounds and now weighed only 25 pounds. His lymph nodes were swollen, he had trouble swallowing, and his body was shutting down. The animal control vet authorized his early release before his stray hold was up.


Somehow, someway, when we opened his kennel run and put the leash around his neck, he found the energy and strength to pick himself up and walk out on his own. Once outside, he did all of his business. He was house trained. At one point, he must have lived as a pet.

Max went to the home of a very special foster. He was fed a small meal of chicken broth, canned food, and Nutri-Cal. He gladly ate up what he was given. He had fluids administered. A jacket was put on him to keep his little body warm. He was then gently set into a cushy bed.


He leaned into his foster’s arms for love, and as if to show appreciation. After receiving scritches on his tiny forehead, he settled into the dog bed and buried his head under the blanket. He had food in his belly, his body was warm, and he had a soft place to lie; now he rested.


This is the part of the story where you are waiting to read how he improved day by day, regained his strength and energy, and today lives with a wonderful adoptive home. And I wish that is what I could have written. But Max didn’t get that. Instead he passed away nine hours after leaving animal control. His poor little body had just had enough. He went peacefully and without suffering.

In cases like Max’s, we must adjust our definition of a happy ending. Humans may have failed Max, but in the end, kindness won. Max’s last memory was not that of a cold animal control kennel. He was safe and warm and delivered from this earth in the arms of someone who loved him.

Max is one of the precious, gem-like memories that we hold against our hearts when everything wrong with the world seems overwhelming. Loving acts are never wasted. Max will not be forgotten.



On Saturday July 20, A Rotta Love Plus was on the west side of St. Paul holding our second Get Your Fix! fair of 2013. That day we provided 18 free spay and neuter surgeries to dogs whose owners may not otherwise have had the financial means to get their dogs fixed.

To ensure that each dog made it to their appointment that day, a wonderful group of volunteers stepped up to provide transportation to and from the appointments when owners did not have their own transportation.

In addition to the spaying/neutering  services, ARLP also provided 40 DHPP vaccines, 38 rabies vaccinations, and 25 microchips, along with a collar leash exchange for dogs who either did not have a collar or leash or whose collar or leash was old/broken.

GYF! fairs also allows ARLP volunteers the opportunity to converse with dog owners about myths they may have heard about spay and neuter. One myth that we heard over and over in St. Paul was that in order to be healthy, a female dog must have one litter of puppies before being spayed. In truth, there is actually no medical or behavioral benefit for waiting until after a litter of puppies is born or even until the first heat cycle. In fact, each heat cycle that a female dog experiences increases her risk of developing serious medical conditions.

One of the things that our volunteers enjoy most about our fairs is seeing repeat customers! One dog owner and her dogs stood out at the St. Paul fair. Zeke, Nightmare and their mom all came to us last year to be neutered and vaccinated. They came back this year to update their vaccinations and to get microchips. The owner let us know that she tells all of her friends about our services and how much she enjoys bringing her dogs to the fairs and entrusting them to our care. She also said that one of her dogs in particular has become much calmer and better behaved since getting him neutered, a fact that she also shares with her friends when the subject comes up. She said that before her dog was neutered he never would have been able to wait in line in public at a place like GYF, but he was so well behaved in the vaccination line this year, which she attributes to his neuter surgery.

One repeat customer, all grown up!

It’s making connections like these that allow ARLP to have a meaningful impact on the lives of the dogs in our community.

A HUGE shout out goes to Del Monte Foods/Milk Bone for sponsoring the vaccinations, microchipping, and collar/leash exchange. It was because of their generous donation that we were able to provide these services to the community. 



It wasn’t ever my intention to keep him. Really, it wasn’t. If you go all the way back to the beginning, he was going to come to my house for just a week or two. Because he had had such a traumatic past I said that I would take him for the short term, ‘to feel him out and decide whether we want to place him with a foster (and who that foster would be) or do a compassion hold.’ Some dogs can recover from being starved, beaten, and neglected. And some can’t.


I stretched those one or two weeks to a month. Once we made the month, I negotiated with Brian that since we’ve had him for a month, why can’t we just keep him until he’s adopted? For some reason he agreed with me. This was a major thing as in his heart of hearts Brian really only wants one dog. It says a lot about this little white dog, he was special right from the beginning.

When I foster, and subsequently adopt out my fosters, my standard is that I want my foster dog to go to a better home and a better life than I could give them with me. No, that’s not some sort of impossible standard where by default I get to keep all of the dogs. I know my limitations, I know the limitations of the dogs who already occupy my home.

The little white dog received a lot of adoption applications. There were even a handful of good applications. There were people who could have easily loved him and given him a good life. We did a few meet and greets with these people. And as we moved forward, I kept coming back to the raw fact that no one out there could love him like I did. The simple reason being that no one knew him like I did. The world may see an outgoing, bouncy white dog that occasionally shies away or startles at loud noises, but for the most part he recovers quickly so it’s hard to see that he’s not ‘normal.’

What no adopter could ever see was:

  • The little white dog that had to be carried into my home because he was too afraid to walk in on his own. The little white dog who sat on the floor next to the three of us that afternoon as we talked about him, dog rescue, and life in general. And when he had an accident, Brian went to get the paper towels and the floor cleaner. Upon using the last paper towel, the little white dog was handed the cardboard roll to shred. The little white dog took off at a mad scamper across the room to crouch in fear of being hit by said cardboard roll. Humans were not to be trusted and sticklike objects were items that humans used to hit the little white dog.
  • The night about 3 weeks in, when we took him upstairs to our bedroom to sleep in the bed with us. If you’d seen him that night, you’d have thought that he had morphed back into the terrified little white dog that he was the day he came to us. Any progress that he had made over the last few weeks vanished. He froze at the top of the steps. The ceiling fan was certainly going to come down from the ceiling and eat him. The bed, well he had no idea what to expect when we lifted him up and set him on the bed. We made it through that night with the little white dog curled up (or frozen in fear) on the pillows between the two of us. And when he did finally fall asleep, we smiled at his little snores in our ears.
  • The first day at doggie daycare….By the time I made it to work, sat down at my desk and brought up the webcam after leaving him off, he had shutdown. The little white dog was huddled in the corner, next to the gate. I had tears running down my face. What was supposed to be a happy, fun, socializing experience was too much for him. I wanted to leave work to get him and take him back home where the world was safe. I called another ARLP volunteer for support and reassurance and to talk me out of running to save the little white dog from his day at doggie daycare. I wanted, and needed to hear, that I was doing the right thing by leaving him there. That if he never leaves the comfort and safety of our home then he will have no opportunity to grow.
  • Then there were the dates. The little white dog was terrified of entering new places in the beginning – new homes, new shops, new offices, and any dog friendly place that you’d want to take your dog. So we set up dates to go visit ARLP volunteers’ homes. We’d spend about an hour going in and out the front door, checking out the house, exploring each room, making our way to the back door to go in and out. Once the little white dog was comfortable, or as comfortable as he was going to get, we’d call it a day and head home. When we had (mostly) mastered the concept of going into new places then we turned the dates around and had people visit us because for a while, new people at our door were very scary things for the little white dog.
  • And finally, there was the month or so at the beginning when the little white dog was actually more of a shedding stink bomb with four legs. It took him forever to work the crap of the first 18 months out of his system. The results of this process were white hair everywhere and a stinky stinky dog. I’d sweep and the next day we’d hair white hairballs scattered throughout the house. We’d find white hair in places that we had no idea how it’d gotten there. And if you touched him you’d have to wash your hands as the stench would then be on your hands. We’d give him a bath, put him to bed in his crate, and the next morning his blankets would smell again.

These, and so many more things, are all the things that an adopter could never know. And no matter how much explaining I did, they could never understand what we went through to get to the little white dog that throws himself in joy into a person’s arms. Or that 90% of the time will walk through a door without being carried or coaxed. Or that bounds into doggie daycare happy to see his dog friends.

It’s not necessary for an adopter to know all of the details of a dog’s past in order to give him a good and happy life. Heck, I don’t know the beginning stories of two of my dogs and we’ve done just fine over the last years. But the little white dog isn’t your normal dog. This world has already failed him tremendously. By some great testament of his temperament and his character he made it out the other side with only shadows of the past that sometimes lure their heads into his now life. He may not realize it, but he’s lucky. Really lucky. His yard mate for the first 18 months of his life was not so lucky. She didn’t make it.

A dog that can come from a tragic past and have such an intense desire to be a ‘normal’ dog and to still believe in spite of it all that the world is good and safe, that dog deserves a one hundred percent guarantee that the world isn’t going to fail him again. So…going back to my standard of a home better than mine, well, I know that I can promise the little white dog that. That no matter what it’s going to be okay, he’s going to be okay. Life will be good, it’ll be more than good, it’ll be amazingly fantastic.

And in return, even though he has no idea, he makes my world okay too. On those days when the rescue world can be overwhelming - the need so great, the options so limited, the people either so selfish or so cruel - I am comforted by the snores of the little white dog sleeping on my couch. And in that moment, in my heart and in my mind, everything is okay. Having him be okay makes everything else okay for me.

The journey with the little white dog has been heartbreaking. It’s been amazing. It’s been frustrating and fun all at the same time. And after the journey that we’ve been on, I guess that you can say we’ve come too far to let him go. When I told Brian I was writing this little announcement to the world, I asked him what I should call it. His reply, ‘To Squish or Not to Squish, That is the Question.’ Our answer - we’ve decided to ‘Squish.’




All winter we counted down the days to June 16th – the date of A Rotta Love Plus’ first 2012 Get Your Fix! Fair. And then, suddenly, it was June 16th and ARLP volunteers were at Powderhorn Park in South Minneapolis where we offered free spays/neuters, free vaccinations, and low-cost microchips to area pit bulls and Rottweilers.

It takes a group of ARLP volunteers to make the fairs a success!

Our Get Your Fix! Fairs target neighborhoods with an abundance of needs - where resources and financial means are not often available to spay/neuter and vaccinate pit bulls and Rottweilers. A Rotta Love Plus wants to be where the community needs us the most. We choose public parks that are familiar and easily accessible to residents of the targeted neighborhood. Because we hold the events right in the neighborhood we are able to reach dog owners who are unfamiliar with or cannot access existing spay/neuter services because of location, misconceptions, or lack of familiarity. Get Your Fix! fairs go TO the community in order for ARLP to become a trusted resource to dogs and dog owners in need.

This past spring some people had questions about the fairs. We thought we’d take a minute to share those questions and our answers to them in order to better inform the rescue community about what our Get Your Fix! Fairs do, how they operate, and why they operate in that manner.

1. ‘Why do Get Your Fix! Fairs only serve pit bulls and Rottweilers? Why such flat out discrimination? Why won’t you spay/neuter labs and poodles too?’

The ultimate goal of the Get Your Fix! program is to reduce pit bull (and Rottweiler) overpopulation and to prevent the euthanasia of pit bulls (and Rottweilers) in local animal controls.

Pit bulls are overpopulated throughout the country and right here in Minneapolis and St. Paul. At any local animal control pit bulls are likely to make up 50% or more of the population of the shelter dogs. And in most cases, only a few of the very many pit bulls who enter an animal control will make it ‘out.’

ARLP does NOT discriminate against any breeds, in fact our mission statement says...'advocating for the humane and equal treatment of all dogs without prejudice.' The simple truth of the matter is that this program is targeted to the breed(s) that need the most assistance, the breeds who are most unlikely to make it out of a local animal control alive, should they be unfortunate enough to enter one.

Proof of this can be seen by looking at the euthanasia statistics at any local animal control – the dogs not making it ‘out’ are the pit bulls, not the labs or the poodles. Labs and poodles and other breeds are not dying daily by the hundreds or thousands in animal controls throughout the country like pit bulls are.

The fairs are not just about altering pit bulls and Rottweilers, but about being a resource for a community in need of help and an advocate for dogs who face long odds of surviving.

2. ‘Why are you bringing so much attention to breeds already seen an aggressive by the media and the public?’

Lined up for the vaccination and microchipping fair!

The attention that our fairs may bring to pit bulls and Rottweilers is positive. The fairs create an environment of acceptance where pit bull and Rottweiler owners are able to do right by their dogs and all are able to celebrate the universal love between dog and owner. There is no judging, there is no stigmatizing. At each fair there are simply dogs and their owners receiving services that they might otherwise not receive.

It’s not an anomaly to have dogs lined up an hour before the fair starts. Dog owners come early because they want to be sure that their dog is vaccinated and chipped. Dog owners come to the fairs because they love their dogs and they want to do right by them. It really is as simple as that.

3. ‘Why are you providing services to dog breeders?’

No more puppies for Ellsworth & Gracie Lou.

We’re not: We are providing services to dogs in need. Our vaccination and microchipping fairs allow us to interact with a multitude of dog owners, some who have already fixed their dog and some who haven’t yet.

At a fair, we create a positive, mutually respectful interaction where our Get Your Fix! ambassadors are able to converse about the needs that the owner and dog may have. Training issues? A referral to ARLP’s Rott & Pit Ed is made. Spay/neuter services needed? Referrals are made for upcoming fairs. Other questions? We are there to answer them.

Not everyone is ready to spay/neuter the pet the day of the fair. We understand that. Our fairs are not one time stand-alone events. We go back to the community each year to offer our services. It is this familiarity that allows us to form a trust with dog owners. It is this trust that allows dog owners to converse with us candidly about spay/neuter. And it is this trust that will allow us to spay/neuter the most amount of pit bulls and Rottweilers.

And for those who are interested in spay/neuter, our Get Your Fix! ambassadors collect contact info and phone calls are made the day after the fair to set up appointments with our partner vets.

4. ‘Why do you spend money to vaccinate and microchip pit bulls and Rottweilers? Wouldn’t the money be better spent on spay/neuter resources only?’

The ultimate goal of the Get Your Fix! program is to reduce pit bull overpopulation and to prevent the euthanasia of pit bulls in local animal controls. Doing this requires providing spay/neuters AND vaccinations AND microchipping.

Spay/neuter efforts prevent needless litters of pit bull puppies from being born. Vaccinations are required by both Minneapolis and St. Paul - without proof of rabies an owner will be cited and could potentially have their dog impounded and if not reclaimed, euthanized. Microchips help to ensure that dogs that wander out of their yard or get off of their leash are able to make it back to their owner instead of being taken to animal control where they run the risk of being euthanized. It's a multi-faceted approach; there is no one simple answer to the pit bull overpopulation/euthanasia problem.

So how’d we do this past Saturday? ARLP volunteers rocked it at our first fair of the summer!

• 23 spay/neuter surgeries performed
• 64 rabies vaccinations administered
• 69 distemper vaccinations administered
• 41 microchips implanted

And we’re not done yet! We have a follow up Get Your Fix! spay/neuter event next Saturday back in South Minneapolis. We’ll be fixing MANY of the pit bulls and Rottweilers who came to Saturday’s fair.

We’ll be averaging 50 spay/neuter appointments a month between June and October. We will definitely be ‘Altering Our Community, One Pet at a Time.’


People sometimes comment, "Why don't you have more dogs on your site?"...One of the reasons is because their foster families fall in love during the 30 day intro period and decide to adopt them and they never make it onto the website.

Here are our 2010 foster failures (winners):



Jack the Cat



Bailee (Now Rubi)







A post from volunteer Paige

Pearla batted cleanup this afternoon, at Twice the Gift in the IDS Center, downtown Minneapolis, after Josie, Jazmin, and Madeline placed ARLP in scoring position. Pearla was the perfect hitter. She smacked the Therapy Dog ball out of the park in a major home run, winning the hearts and minds of strangers and friends of ARLP alike. With fewer shoppers/carolers/commuters around, each person that stopped by to say hello to her, received special attention.

One lady was special in her own right. Zipping around in a motorized wheelchair, this character maneuvered through the Crystal Court like a pro. Dressed in multiple layers, it appeared to me this lady had not been out of her wheelchair in quite some time. Her right foot was in a splint, the kind you can walk in, but her right arm and right side were covered with different layers of protection against our MN winter. A blue fleece hat covered her mop of gray hair. And holy cow did her lined and sad face light UP when she saw Pearla.

Pearla at Twice the Gift
Ms. Lady surged in our direction, stopping a discreet distance while Pearla treated a small group of admirers to her antics, licks, tricks, and happy dance. When the group moved on, Ms. Lady wheeled forward slowly. Pearla seemed a bit hesitant of the chair, but discovered the human inside it and soaked up the petting from Ms. Lady. Ms. Lady talked to Pearla in her own words, smiling and nodding at me while stroking the Bombshell. Ms. Lady spoke to me. I struggled to understand, so she backed up her chair, reversed and came towards me again with the other side facing me, speaking to me again.

“Service Dog.”

Of course! She is saying ‘Service Dog’ to me. She had the small red vest of a service dog as part of her belongings packed into the back of her chair. Darkened by age and grime from city life, the vest clearly showed the patch that at one time labeled its wearer as a service animal. I explained to her, speaking slowly, that Pearla is a Therapy Dog—not quite the same as a Service Dog. Ms. Lady explained to me that she had a dog (I believe her Service Dog) that died of old age. “Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Ashes,” she said. Cremated, I replied—yes, she said and nodded.

“Kind Hearted”

It took me a few tries, to understand this phrase too. Ms. Lady, who chattered away into Pearla’s smiling face, slowed her speech way down for me to understand. Frustration crossed her face more than once, as she tried to think of alternate words from the ones that would not roll out of her mouth. She communicated to me that she didn’t understand why people are afraid of these dogs. She was able to say ‘pit’ but the ‘bull would not come out—STROKE she explained, as she tried and tried to finish the phrase describing Pearla’s generic breed. “Why Afraid?” she asked? I took that to be, Why are people afraid of these dogs? I trotted out my standard answer—while there are a lot of bad people in the world, there are a lot of bad dogs, too, no matter how they became bad dogs. I blabbered on how we temperament test our dogs, how they used to have HA bred out of them, how cruel people treat their property cruelly…but she wasn’t listening. “Why Afraid?” she said again.

“Art” “Five Years of College”

She was gesturing inside TTG, at the canvases displayed on the wall behind the cash register. “I’m an artist. I have a gallery on Washington.” For the life of me, I could NOT understand the name of the gallery. I tried. She tried. She grew very frustrated, because her explanatory words would not come. Pearla helped her smile again—when Ms. Lady grew frustrated with her inability to communicate to me, Pearla calmed Ms. Lady. I understood that Ms. Lady went to college for at least 5 years, and the look of pride on her face was ALMOST as bright as her smile to Pearla. I did not understand the rest.

We went through more rounds of “Why Afraid” then Ms. Lady tried a new word on me. I didn’t get it. She tried again. Then again. Then she said, “Down.” AHA, you meant sit! So I waited til the next round of visitors were done petting Pearla, and just for Ms. Lady, I put Pearla through her tricks. Sit. Down. Wave. High Five. “Does she roll over?” No, I had to say, blushing. “WHY NOT?” Ms. Lady was indignant. Then we both laughed—I had no reason to explain why not! We learned how to last summer in our Tricks class, but I did not follow up with practice…maybe because Pearla is so awkward on her back.

More visitors came and went. Ms. Lady was pleased to share Pearla’s attention with others, but even more pleased when Pearla returned her attention to Ms. Lady’s one visible hand. “Kind Hearted.” “Kind Hearted.” Ms. Lady removed her hat. Her gray hair was short but neat, or as neat as any of us have neat hair, after removing a winter hat. She sighed in contentment, and petted Pearla for a few more minutes. She thanked me. I thanked her. She smiled the most amazing smile—a smile that highlighted all the lines of joy in her weathered face. Then she fumbled with her vest, deep in her covered lap. I thought she was looking for her hat, which she’d also placed in her lap. But no.

Ms. Lady, who did not appear to have a home of her own, or really anything other than the enshrouding layers in her motorized wheelchair, was digging into her secret stash in a waist pocket. She pulled out her money—several small bills, a $20, and a $5. Using her mouth to pull out the $5, she succeeded in extracting the bill. She looked at me expectantly.

“No,” I said. She nodded. The bill was stuck to her lips. She nodded again, and stuck out her chin in my direction, as she had no other hand to remove the bill and hand it to me. I took the proffered $5 from her, feeling completely overwhelmed at the kindness of complete strangers.

“Thank you,” she said. Thank you, I said, struggling in vain to fight back the tears welling up in my eyes. Michelle gave her one of our post cards. I gave the bill to Michelle, who placed it in our donations bin. “Thank you,” she said, and smiled. Ms. Lady reversed her wheelchair, and retreated from the entrance to TTG. She swung herself around, and ventured off to other areas of the Crystal Court.

I was too choked up to even say, Happy Holidays to this incredible stranger. A lady who appeared to be much in need, Ms. Lady donated some of her valuable dollars to A Rotta Love Plus, to help us help these wonderful dogs, when clearly the dollars were very precious to her.

Jana & Madeline at Twice the Gift
If anyone in the Minneapolis area has any idea how to identify this remarkable woman, or the gallery on Washington Ave where she may have displayed artwork, please contact us. Paige would like to return her very generous donation, with a contribution to her.



Friday evening, way after our regular vet had already closed for the night, we had an emergency at our house. Up until the point of the emergency, it had been a nice quiet night. I’m doing a little cleaning, a little organizing and a few random projects around the house. I head downstairs to do some laundry and Spencer follows me down. I finish, turn off the lights and head back up. I notice that Spencer isn’t following me up, which is unusual as he’s not one to want to be downstairs by himself, especially without any lights on. So I turn around and head back down. I find him in the dog playroom, comfortably lounging on the floor. He turns and looks at me and there are green bits all around his mouth and on his front paws. I scream NO loud enough for every being in the house to come to the top of the stairs and look down at us. The little green bits were what had been a cube of mouse poison before Spencer started eating it.

It was one of those things that happens to lots of people, but I really never thought it would happen to me. I was careful, I didn't leave the mouse poison in reach of the dogs, it was behind a closed door, but even with all of the precautions a person can take, things can still go wrong.

So, I scream no, rush Spencer upstairs and into the kitchen. I know that I need to make him vomit but in order to do that we need to get hydrogen peroxide down his throat. I have no syringe, I have no turkey baster, I have nothing to get the liquid down. The boyfriend, in a moment of ingenuity, cuts the end off of a replacement dog toy squeaker. He pours the hydrogen peroxide into the squeaker, I open Spencer’s jaw and the boyfriend squeezes the squeaker into his mouth and the hydrogen peroxide is going down Spencer’s throat before he has any idea what is going on. He looks at us as if we’ve gone to the other side of crazy, whatever that might be. And then one minute later, his little body is heaving and green/blue bile is coming up.

Even though I knew that I had to make him vomit, that he had to get the poison out of his system, seeing him get sick again and again filled me with guilt. Making a dog feel sickness or pain, even if it is necessary to save their lives, is a horrible feeling. And when my little guy has vomited to the point of clear bile and has nothing left in him, he huddles in the corner of the kitchen. He finally gets it, he finally realizes what all of the commotion was about just before he got sick. He put two and two together and knows that we made him sick.

But now that he’s done vomiting, instead of comforting him, I’m on the phone with the emergency vet. We’re trying to decide the next steps and whether he needs to go in. It’s decided that since Spencer only had the mouse poison in him for about 5 minutes before it was expelled, that the only thing that the emergency vet could do would be to make him vomit again and to fill his stomach with activated charcoal. So we don’t bring him in. We give him a bowl full of milk, because milk can help to impede the absorption of certain chemicals, and we now get to wait and watch him. For 48 hours we have to wait. That’s because if there are any effects from the mouse poison, it won’t show up for 48 hours. So we’re told to wait. And we’re given the symptoms that we should watch for that would show us that Spencer is bleeding internally – vomiting blood, blood in the urine, bloody nose.

That night, and the next two, Spencer sleeps with us in the bed. And it’s as if he can tell that his mama is worried because that first night his little body spoons my chest and the back of his neck is buried in my shoulder. I wrap my arms around him and hold him tight.

There’s nothing like looking at a being that you love and being utterly helpless to do anything to help them or to even know if anything is wrong with them. That’s how I felt the entire weekend. I watched him. Did he seem off? Was he eating less? Was he lethargic? Was that a whimper?

Fast forward 48 hours, Spencer is at his regular vet. He has blood drawn and tested to see how fast it will coagulate. Spencer’s coagulation rate is outside of the acceptable range so he is given vitamin K medication that he will take for the next 21 days. Because the mouse poison was so old, and because I have no idea the brand or the chemical composition, the vet gives me all of the warning signs and symptoms to look for. If a see any of them, Spence and I are to return asap.

Spencer has this way of doing such a good job of making me feel like a horrible dog mama. He is my special boy who every 6-12 months makes a trip to the emergency vet. My girl, she’s never been to the vet except for her annual visits. I swear that Murphy’s law has it out for Spencer…There was the time that he ate the pork chop bone and it made it all the way to the VERY end of his system before it got stuck…The time he had a blockage in his intestine…The time where he was too impatient to wait for me to get the grocery bag out of the car and out of his way and so decided to try to jump over it and ended up spraining his paw…There are his allergies that can cause him to reverse sneeze for hours and hours…

Spencer is just special like that. If he were a human boy he would be the kid sticking pencils and screwdrivers into electrical outlets. He’d be the kid jumping out of the tree with a towel tied around his shoulders because he is convinced that he can fly. Yes, my little beagle boy is just too inquisitive, too curious, too determined and too smart for his own good. If he were my human boy I’d be wondering if I shouldn’t wrap him in bubble wrap and put a helmet on him, all for his own protection.

Since I know that I cannot protect him from everything, I know that I need to be as prepared as possible. After our incident, I did a lot of online research and found a recommended emergency first aid kit. This is what the ASPCA lists in their emergency first aid kit, and what I am in the process of putting together in a very handy and accessible place in our home:

The kit should contain:
• A fresh bottle of hydrogen peroxide, 3 percent USP (to induce vomiting)
• A turkey baster, bulb syringe or large medicine syringe (to administer peroxide)
• Saline eye solution
• Artificial tear gel (to lubricate eyes after flushing)
• Mild grease-cutting dishwashing liquid (for bathing an animal after skin contamination)
• Forceps (to remove stingers)
• A muzzle (to protect against fear- or excitement-induced biting)
• A can of your pet’s favorite wet food
• A pet carrier

Here's to hoping that Spencer, and your dogs, won't need to use the emergency first aid kit, but that we're all prepared just in case. We're also waving a white flag of surrender at the mice who are in our home for this season. They win this round. I need to do more research and find a method that works best for all of the beings in our home and that I am completely fine with using.


A Rotta Love Plus has once again been selected to participate in Twice the Gift’s unique boutique this holiday season. Twice the Gift is a seasonal storefront with a special mission: to provide local nonprofits a showcase for their products and services. All proceeds go to the nonprofits, so gift-givers can give meaningful presents while benefiting the community. “Share Cards” are also available, allowing shoppers to honor their loved one by supporting specific services or items needed by the nonprofits.

A Rotta Love Plus will be playing shopkeeper at Twice the Gift, located on the street level of the IDS Crystal Court in Minneapolis, Dec. 11th and 18th. Visitors will have a chance to meet some of our wonderful therapy dogs and purchase a variety of handmade gifts for their two and four-legged loved ones. From leash hooks to tug toys to calendars to squeaker toys, shoppers can purchase unique items made by A Rotta Love Plus volunteers anytime at Twice the Gift.

Twice the Gift is a unique partnership of like-minded nonprofits joining forces to increase awareness in the community and allow shoppers to contribute to many deserving causes – all in one place!

So the take-a-ways are: ARLP, along with Pet Haven, will be hosting two days at the Twice the Gift store. This means that we have two dates set aside just for our organization to invite all of our volunteers and supporters. The dates are Saturday, December 11th and Saturday, December 18th.

This year, ARLP will be devoting all of the proceeds from the sale of its products at Twice the Gift to our new Get Your Fix! Pit Bull Speuter Fair(s) to begin this summer. Come downtown, buy some wonderful merchandise to support ARLP and meet some of our wonderful volunteers and dogs. Hope to see you there!

Twice the Gift is located at the IDS Crystal Court in Minneapolis. The store is open Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information, call 612 333-9148 or visit



I like to think that in life some moments are teaching moments. Last night Gusto had a teaching moment. Gusto and I went to the ball fields last night to watch some fellow ARLP'ers play softball. Really we went there because it meant a car ride for Gusto and lots of loving from people who were excited to meet him.

In order to get to the field we need to pass a dog on a flexi leash. We make a wide circle away from the dog, a circle so wide that we are walking on the right field foul line of the field next to us. Our wide circle of avoidance is not enough for the dog because as soon as he sees us he starts running at us. He pulls so hard on his flexi that he pulls his owner, who at the time is sitting on top of a cooler with a beer in her hand, he pulls so hard that she falls off the cooler and onto the ground and lets go of the flexi. There is now a dog running full speed at us with his flexi handle bouncing on the ground behind him. The owner is slow to get up, is laughing at what just happened and very intent on dusting herself off. Gusto and I stop. I yell, “Get your dog,” as the lady is making no attempt to get her dog's leash. One of her friends sees what’s just happened and makes a dive for the handle of the flexi. He comes up with it, but he’s not used to a flexi. He grabs the handle and is then surprised when the dog pulls again and more of the line starts going out. He grabs the line with his bare hands, not a smart move for his hands, but it stops the dog from getting any closer.

My G Man watches this whole thing unfold with curiosity and interest, a little pulling on the leash to check out what's happening but nothing more than that. We both walk away and I say not another word to the lady or her friends. I am swelling with pride by how Gusto behaved. He didn’t react at all – not a bark, not a growl, not a lunge, not a snark. I am thinking of what an incredibly awesome dog Gusto is and I am so happy with him that I move on from the irresponsible incident and owner and in my mind I let it all go. Some moments are teaching moments and some moments are just moments to bask in the pride of a fantastic dog who reacted as perfectly as I could have asked for.

And then as I walk away I hear it. I hear the guy yell, “….you shouldn’t have brought that dog to the park…” I can walk away from some things but I cannot walk away from that.

When we get to the ARLP bench I ask someone to hold Gusto for me and I walk back to the group of people. And here’s how the teaching moment went:

“You owe me an apology." Long pause. “You yelled that I should not have brought my dog with me. My dog did nothing wrong. Your dog charged at us twice, your dog was out of control, no one had the other end of your dog’s leash. How did my dog react? Did he do anything to your dog? No. My dog and I deserve an apology.”

And the guy’s response, “Well…when you yelled at us to get our dog I thought that meant that your dog wasn’t friendly.”

At this comment I am in stunned silence for a minute. “Whether my dog is friendly or not I would have yelled at you to get your dog. No one had control of your dog and it was running at us. You have an obligation to leash your dog and to be in control of your dog at all times.  I yelled for you to get your dog to protect both my dog and myself from your dog. It has nothing to do with my dog being friendly or not.”

And then it gets even better. The guy grabs my hand and earnestly apologizes. Apparently both him and his dog have issues respecting other people’s space. But this is the best part: “I really am sorry. I was in the wrong. I have a boxer at home and I understand what it's like to have a bully breed and have people judge your dog just from looking at it. I really didn’t mean it. It was the heat of the moment and the words just came out of my mouth.”

Even more stunned silence. The guy is now trying to relate to me needing to stand up for my dog by telling me he has the same stereotypes happen to him and his boxer? I thank him for the apology and tell him that all I was looking for was an acknowledgment that my dog and I were not in the wrong. And an acknowledgment that my dog has every right to be at the park without someone yelling at us that he shouldn't be there. And then the teaching moment is done and I walk away back to Gusto. Again I think about how well Gusto did and how maybe tonight he just might have single handedly changed a mind or two just by being his spectacular self.

But apparently Gusto's teaching moment was so big and so incredible that it's not over yet. The guy who yelled at us comes over to our field at the end of his game. He sits down on the ground next to us. He apologizes again. And my G Man, what does he do? He does what he does best. He lays down on the ground, rolls onto his back and asks for belly rubs. The guy talks to us for awhile, he wants to be sure that I know that out of the intensity of the moment that he really is sorry and he meant his earlier apology. I now have the chance to tell him all about Gusto and he tells me about his boxer. And as the conversation ends and he stands up to leave Gusto kisses his face. What a truly spectacular moment it was.

These moments are what Gusto is all about. It's not about how long or short his life might be, it's about loving and living and enjoying. And along the way it's about the opportunities that Gusto has to teach and to change minds. Teaching and changing minds and belly rubs and kisses - that is what Gusto is all about.



Her name is Emmersyn. Emme for short. The boyfriend often calls her Emmers. And my non-public nickname for her, the name that she would be so embarrassed if she knew I was telling you, that nickname is McMuffin. She is My McMuffin. The My being very possessive. There’s a story behind the nickname but because I’m sure that Emmersyn would prefer that we all just forget that I told you her nickname I won’t tell you the story. Instead I’ll tell you why I am head over heals in love with this dog.

Why do I love this dog?

First and foremost I love her gentle nature, sweet personality and calm presence. Emmersyn makes it impossible for us not to take her with us whenever we can. Trips to Lowe’s, softball games, the Farmer’s Market and Emme’s favorite trip of all – trips to get ice cream, complete with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream for the dog that very quickly becomes a slobbery fool in anticipation.

I love Emmersyn’s sweetness. The way she loves people. The way she lights up and radiates when she is around people. Emme is totally in her element when she is out in public, when there are people to meet and attention and love to be had. I love, love, love the way that people love her right back and the wonderful example that her big blockhead and personality are setting for her breed.

Why do I love this dog?

I love her playful nature. Emmersyn is a puppy in an adult body but without all of the work of the puppy – no potty training needed, no puppy energy but still the puppy spirit and goofiness.

This is a dog that will throw toys up in the air to herself. A dog that when taken swimming will slap the water with her big ol’ paw and then cock her head to the side in order to catch the water splashes in her mouth…how could you not love that?

Why do I love this dog?

I love the bit of independence that she has, the way that she’ll cuddle for a bit and then move on to her own space. A lapdog Emmersyn is not. She wants love and attention but then she’s also content with her own space bubble. Her independent spirit is very endearing or maybe it’s just that she reminds me of someone I know.

Why do I love this dog?

I love her perpetual happiness. She has the biggest joker grin that she wears all the time for no special reason. To best describe her is to say that she is happy go lucky. She carries no baggage with her and finds joy in all of her life. Emme is a happy girl and who doesn't love a happy girl?

How much do I love this dog?

I love her all the way. That's what we say in our house - love all the way. We love in spite of quirks, in spite of imperfections, we love totally, completely and unconditionally. If you're going to love a dog what's the point of loving any other way? But the truth is that Emme is really not that difficult to love, in fact as I've listed above, she makes it very easy.

Here's the catch though - I love Emmersyn all the way but she's not mine. Well she is mine, she is my foster dog, but she's not technically and officially mine.  Every time that any interest is expressed in Emme it brings tears to my eyes, enough tears to once force me to leave my desk and go sit in my Jeep in the parking lot at work while I collected myself. It's not that I want to keep her, it's that I don't want to let her go. And yes, there really and truly is a difference between the two.

So what will it take to let Emmersyn go? Perfection, or at least as close to perfection as can be found.  What is perfection, what does perfection mean? Check out here to find out.

I love that Emmersyn not only has my arms wrapped around her but that she has the whole of ARLP looking out for her best. That's what I want for a dog who is so easy to love, an angel dog as she once was called, a dog that truly deserves so much more.

And when she does find perfection she’ll break my heart in both sadness and happiness as can only be done when one loves a foster dog the way that I love Emmersyn.