Shelter Tails: Dog’s Adoption ‘A Remarkable Story’

By Mary Esparra
For the Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM – 11/05/10

WARWICK — Here is a story explaining why shelter folks do what they do.

It begins in November 2007. Honey, a Korean Jindo dog, belonged to a Warwick family who couldn’t control her.

“She used to get out the door and terrorize the neighborhood, though she was more afraid of people than they were of her,” said Warwick Valley Humane Society President Suzyn Barron. “Finally, animal control took control and brought her to the shelter, where she was finally surrendered.”

Shari Forst of Canine Case Squad dog training volunteered to help socialize and train Honey. After almost a year of working with Shari and shelter staff, Honey was finally ready for adoption.

Eva Hanks of Manhattan was ready for another dog. The 82-year-old law professor at Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University had lost her beloved Jindo dog, Tracy, a few months before.

“I’ve had dogs for 50 years, and I knew I couldn’t really be without,” she said.

Hanks Googled Jindo rescues and found Honey’s posting on

“Suzyn (Barron) wrote a cunning little sentence,” she said. “‘She gives gentle kisses in return for some kindness.'”… Continue reading

Shelter Tails: Iraq Dog Begins New Life In Middletown

By Mary Esparra
For the Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM – 07/09/10

MIDDLETOWN — It had been a couple of months since Spc. Theodore Fotopoulos had seen his puppy, Maddy.

“The first thing she recognized was the uniform,” said Fotopoulos, “and then she ran right to me.”

Thanks to Record readers’ donations to the SPCA International’s Operation Baghdad Pups program, Maddy has begun a new life at Fotopoulos’ home in Middletown.

Fotopoulos adopted puppy Maddy in Iraq, while stationed there with the 206th Military Police Company’s New York State Army National Guard Unit. While already taking care of three other stray dogs, his unit took in Maddy and her siblings when Iraqi policemen handed them over in a potato sack.

It wasn’t easy caring for dogs in a country that has no canine population control, no spay/neuter programs, no humane societies and no dog food.

“There are dogs just roaming the streets, all hours of the day, with no home or anything,” said Fotopoulos. “The Iraqis don’t like dogs; most of them are afraid of them. They shoot them.”

The soldiers took turns watching over their dogs, protecting them from the unthinkable.

“An Iraqi general threatened to shoot all the… Continue reading

Shelter Tails: Money Raised To Bring Dogs Home from Iraq

By Mary Esparra
For the Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM – 04/02/10

Wow. When I wrote the March 12 Shelter Tails, “Troops hope to bring canine pals home from Iraq,” I prayed I would have an update to this great story soon. I never dreamed it would bring tears to my eyes.

The story told of Spc. Theodore Fotopoulis of Middletown and his New York state Army National Guard Unit, the 206th Military Police Company, stationed in Iraq. They had befriended and cared for some puppies and dogs who in turn boosted their morale, giving them a sense of home. The soldiers wanted to return the favor, so they adopted the canines.

With help from Operation Baghdad Pups, a campaign was set in motion to help bring the pups here by the time the unit comes home in June. With $4,000 raised at that point, they needed about $4,000 more to cover the cost of crates and transportation.

Free Training

The day after this story ran in Shelter Tails, I received a generous offer from Shari Forst, a canine behaviorist and trainer of Canine Case Squad Inc. in Orange County.

“When they do get the dogs back here, we will… Continue reading

Shelter Tails: Three Dogs, Three Heartwarming Stories

By Mary Esparra
For the Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM – 03/27/09

In three short days, 1-year-old Nicolette went from being a stray dog with an agonizing broken leg to recovering from expensive surgery and the hope of finding a loving home. A chain reaction of caring people sprang into action the morning of March 7 after Mamakating Dog Control brought the pit bull mix to the Sullivan County SPCA.

“She came to us with a set of X-rays which showed a displaced fracture of the right hind femur,” said shelter Vice President Manon Fortier. “A displaced fracture is one where the two ends of the broken bone don’t meet, and in Nicolette’s case, they didn’t appear to even be in the same ZIP code!

“Despite her injury, Nicolette was gentle, happy and a real tail wagger. We knew we had to give her a chance.”

By the end of the day, fliers were being distributed to solicit donations to cover the cost of Nicolette’s surgery.

A shelter board member remembered a recent Shelter Tails about a dog with a similar injury being treated by the Veterinary Specialty Center of the Hudson Valley at a discount.

It was late Saturday,… Continue reading

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Frequently Asked Question

Why do dogs have separation anxiety?

Many people use the term, Separation anxiety as a catch all to describe a dog’s action given a particular situation.  There are really many types of separation anxiety and many causes for separation anxiety.  Below are just a few of them to give you an idea of the different types.   Since there are many types of separation anxiety, they cannot be treated the same.  Often books, TV shows and the internet; give ‘expert advice’ on how to treat separation anxiety, but without identifying the type and cause for the particular case, this is highly irresponsible and rarely affective.  This is also why simply placing the dog on a medication, rarely works.  The choice of what medication to use, if any, needs to be targeted to the specific type and cause of the dog’s separation anxiety, usually in conjunction with a modification program, to be truly effective.  When we have a client whose dog is suffering from this ailment, we conduct a detailed evaluation to determine the type and cause of the separation anxiety, then design a custom plan to reduce and resolve the problem.

Medical separation anxiety occurs when a dog has an ailment, often unknown to the owners, that causes an insecurity when they are left alone.  Since dogs cannot tell us how they are feeling, they speak to us through their behavior.  Unfortunately, it is not financially realistic for us to do body scans and MRI’s on our canine companions; this is often not discovered from a medical screening but can be recognized by a behavioral evaluation.

Geriatric separation anxiety occurs as a dog ages and during specific situations they become confused and react through behaviors that would be deemed separation anxiety.  Again, this is something that can be identified and treated through a behavioral consultation.

Specific triggered separation anxiety is another form.  This occurs when a dog develops an association towards a specific sight, sound or smell; that caused a traumatic reaction.  Often this manifests into other areas through something known as forward chaining and by the time the owner notices the dog suffering from separation anxiety, it has morphed far from the original issue.  This type of separation anxiety usually requires a behaviorist to evaluate the dog in order to determine the cause and develop a program to resolve the reaction.

Another big form of separation anxiety is dominance based or lack of leadership. If your dog does not feel you are the pack leader then the job of protecting the pack falls to them. Could you imagine how you would feel if you had a young child that you are responsible for and that child walked out of the house and disappeared without you knowing where they went and if they are safe or not. This is what the dog experiences every time you leave the house when they feel they are responsible for your safety. In order to stop the anxiety the dog has to know that you are in charge and not them. While living with us in our world a dog is not capable of being in charge and only can be well behaved and happy if it is clear that you are the alpha, capable of making decisions for the pack and ensuring the safety of the pack. In the wild when the alpha wolf goes out to hunt those that stay behind do not stress over his or her leaving because they are confident in their leadership and know they will return. The alphas comings and goings are never questioned it is their right to do so and canines operate with this same mentality.

This is by No means a complete list, but as you can see from just these few examples, separation anxiety is a complex disorder that cannot be handled through a ‘cookie cutter’ approach.  A dog suffering from this requires a behaviorist to conduct a scientific evaluation to determine what type of separation anxiety is occurring and why it started, so that a Proper modification program can be developed to resolve the behavior.  Often dog’s suffering from separation anxiety display severe behavior or causes substantial damage but the issue can be resolved once the type and cause is determined. We have had many cases where dogs were set to be euthanized or re-homed due to this disorder but after a few weeks of work the situation was resolved.


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