Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ok to euthanize

Yesterday our staff visited the San Antonio Animal Care Services - their city shelter. It is a new facility, very clean and the staff and volunteers seem pleasant.

We went through two buildings with runs full of dogs classified as "stray". In fact, the staff designates the buildings as Stray 1 and Stray 2.

There were lots of dogs eager to get out of their cages. Some were thin, some had injuries, all had stories - we just don't know what they are. Most of them looked healthy, robust and irresistably endearing. There were dogs of all sizes, mostly young adults.

Each run had the dog's information in a plastic envelope attached to the front gate: the dog's breed, age, where it had been found, any meds. Many had this handwritten in black ink:

ok to euth 9/25

That meant okay to euthanize, September 25. That's Thursday. That's tomorrow.

One dog was lying in the back of her kennel. Unlike the other dogs, she didn't get up to greet us as we stopped at her kennel. She was nursing an injured hind leg. She was young, blonde fur, maybe a small lab. She had that written on the card on her door.

I know this is a fact of life. I know we can't save them all. I know we're doing our best and that we have to choose dogs that are likely to work in our training program: be able to master the behaviors, be good in public and do it all for a novice handler - the person getting the Hearing or Service Dog.


This shelter euthanizes 95% of its dogs.

They try to get rescue groups to take many of them. They don't push adoption much in their community because other facilities do. There were a handful of people looking for pets.

This is my 20th year doing this and it's still as fresh as the first time I ever saw an animal in need and wanted to help.

After we had dinner. After we drove back to Dripping Springs and dropped people off. After I made it home to Austin and settled in for the evening. Even though I took deep breaths, I couldn't hold back the tears. I just couldn't get it out of my head. "ok to euth 9/25". That brown eyed, yellow lab lying in the back of her kennel nursing her hurt leg. And all the rest of them.

Will it be peaceful for them when it happens? Will any one of them get adopted before it's time?

It's not just 9/25. It's a lot more. It's not just her. It's a lot more.

I have six pets, all from shelters. Well 5 from shelters, one from a tree at an abandoned house.

Does anyone need a pet? Do you know ANYone who is ready for some love, gratitude and affection in his or her life?

Don't wait! An animal needs you so much! Please take a drive to the San Antonio shelter if you live there - it's easy to find - it's on Hwy 151. Or if you live in Austin, we have a city shelter here near Cesar Chavez. is also an excellent site. You put in your zip code, and choose the kind of animal you're interested in and it gives you photos, bios and contact info for animals starting with those at places closest to you. You can even sort by age and gender.

I know you love animals or you wouldn't be reading this. If this blog moves anyone to go adopt a dog or cat from a shelter, it will unbreak my heart just a little bit.

Thank you,


Monday, September 15, 2008

Vroom, vroom!

Thanks to our friends at Roger Beasley Volvo, we were able to replace our '03 Dodge Caravan of nearly 200,000 miles with a slightly used 2008 Dodge Caravan at an extremely reasonable price complete with trade in. (Now, they have a paperweight in the shape of an '03 Dodge van!)

We've gotten such a great response from my Scion XB being wrapped in graphics, that I wanted to do the same with the new vehicle.

Rick Clark helped design the graphics, which will be applied by AccuGraphics in Austin.

Here's what the van will look like from the sidesThis is Service Dog team Chris Hyatt and "JJ" of Austin. We adopted JJ from the San Antonio animal shelter. I really want to emphasize that we adopt shelter dogs and turn them from strays to stars.

and from the rear:This is brand new Hearing Dog team Candice Benavides and "Cookie". They just completed their 5 day training course at our facility last week. THSD Sr. Trainer Susan Ramsbottom moves Cookie into Candice's home tomorrow! That will begin their 13 weeks of In-home training. We adopted Cookie from Citizens for Animal Protection in Houston.

I'm excited about our progress and proud to show it on our vehicles. See y'all on the road!


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

All Hands on Deck!

Alrighty - it's only 1 in the afternoon, but seems like a full day already.

We had a great 3rd quarter board meeting first thing this morning. Have I told you I love our board? I love our board.

You can check them out under "About Us" on the main page. Give our webmaster a few minutes to update the list - we added a real winner today: David Stein, owner and partner in Roger Beasley Volvo, Audi, Porsche and Georgetown Subaru.

David and his wife Jenny have supported THSD for years! The Saab dealership has been a dog walk sponsor for the last 6 years - this year it was Subaru. David helped us trade in our well worn Dodge van for an almost new one at ZERO markup! Our In-home Trainer, Susan Ramsbottom put thousands of miles on the old van driving all over Texas. These days she's got:

Mondays - Hearing Dog team, Sanger (near Dallas)
Tuesdays - Hearing Dog team, San Antonio
Wednesdays - Service Dog team, Houston
about to start - Hearing Dog team, San Diego (south of Corpus Christi)

So thanks to David, we can keep Susan safe on the road!

Our extensive in-home training is part of what makes our program shine.

Upcoming Stuff

20th Anniversary Events
  • Toy Hearing & Service Dogs - this project is finally starting to materialize. After final approval of the latest dog vest from China (ahem, they're orange not brown), we'll be able to start production. 45 days to make the dogs and 30 days to ship. Hopefully, they'll be here in time for the December holidays!
  • Starting a Hall of Honor for THSD Grads for Outstanding Achievement.
  • Scooby's Haunted Carnival Sat. 10/25 - we need volunteers to help with the games and also cakes cakes cakes for our Magic Cake Walk. Email to get involved.
  • Holiday Open House Sat. 12/13 - Pot luck or bring a donation or dog toy. Email Debbie@servicedogs to RSVP
Training Seminars (see our website Calendar)
  • Intro to Service Dog Training Oct. 16-17, Becky McClintock
  • How to Read Your Dog Like A Book Nov. 8-9, Steve White
And we have the coolest team in training this week: Candice Benavides and Hearing Dog Cookie. Candy's leaving a day early b/c of the stupid hurricane. She's in San Diego near Corpus Chrisit. Scary! We'll move Cookie in with her next week, but you get to see them now.

Candice already has gotten a Corpus Christi TV station and the Corpus Christi Caller Times to do stories on her and Cookie. That's wonderful - she's a real go getter!

Candy & Cookie...well now, I'm really hungry. Gee, I already had spaghetti and eggs for breakfast. (Stop that - it's quite normal, esp. w/ soy sauce.) You'd think that would last longer. Okay, off to stoke up.



Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Committed to the Blog

Hiya Everyone,

I'm back and committed to keeping an ongoing blog.

Seems that blogs are supposed to be quick little remarks, not essays. Okay, fine.

Today - gave a 9:30 am presentation to a college class at Southwestern U in Georgetown. Just an hour drive each way, but the professor was nice enough to give me a Starbucks gift certificate.

Groovily, our grad Service Dog team Amy Litzinger and Karma joined me in the presentation. Amy's a student there. She hit a home run talking about her experiences with Karma and showing off some behaviors. I appreciated the students' attention and thoughtful questions. I hope we get some of them as volunteers.

This afternoon, I met with our graphic design artist for our new van. We're going to wrap it in graphics like we did the Scion XB. So we met to photograph SD team Chris Hyatt & JJ near downtown. We'll be showing a "before" photo of a black lab at a shelter with an "after" photo of him as Chris' Service Dog. I really want to bring home the message of "Strays to Stars". I'll put up some drafts of the van once Rick gets them to me.

We're hosting a quasi military event in December - Inner Service Family Assistance Committee (ISFAC). What's that? It's different organizations that provide services to military personnel and their families. I just attended one in San Antonio last week at St. Mary's. The theme was "Invisible Injury" and it was about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and other things that don't show on the surface but are very profound conditions.

We need a theme for ours, seating for at least 100 guests, tables for exhibitors, two meals for everyone and some really cool speakers. I want us to take this to the next level. Interesting, lively, informative, moving - lots of WOW. It will be Thursday, Dec. 4th.

Okay, obviously, I can't write a short blog. Tough - maybe they'll decrease when I write them more often.



Sheri Soltes
Founder & President