Shy Dog Park

A couple months ago I attended the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) Annual Conference in Cinncinati, OH. There, I listened to speaker Rise Van Fleet talk about the importance of play when working with shy and fearful dogs. By play, she meant playing with other dogs. In her experience, once the shy dogs began to play with other dogs, they were more likely to interact with their human family members.

I’m always trying to think up creative things to do or experiments when working with our puppy mill dogs to help them grow and become more self assured. After hearing Rise Van Fleet, I thought – how can we encourage shy dogs to play in a healthy environment and have a good experience? A dog park? Well, if any of you have been to a public dog park – you know it’s a free for all. It’s a good way for active dogs to release that energy, but would it really be healthy for a shy dog? Especially those that are afraid of people?

So, I thought to myself, why not create our own dog park just for shy dogs? Why not? We could open it to dogs who graduated from the Project Home Life program, get along well with other dogs and owners who are looking for an enriching, safe environment for their dogs to socialize with other dogs and people.



Because this was a brand new experience for me, for the dogs and for DVGRR – I decided to first open it up to Project Home Life volunteers who had adopted PHL graduates. We had our first Shy Dog Park on December 2nd, 2012 with 11 dogs in attendance! The dogs were great together and had fun! Owners equally enjoyed the time socializing with other owners of shy dogs.



Shy Dog Park will be held the first Sunday of every month from 11am-1pm. Because there may be a lot of interest, we may have two groups of play times – one from 11am-12pm and the second from 12pm-1pm. If you have a DVGRR adopted dog that participated in Project Home Life and would be interested in coming to Shy Dog Park, please email me at


Loving Dogs with Cancer

60% of Golden Retrievers will suffer from some type of cancer.  Unfortunately, being a Golden Retriever Rescue, DVGRR takes on the challenges of cancer in these beautiful dogs all too often.  We had the honor and pleasure of working with a 7 year old Golden named Trixie in Project Home Life.  Anemic when she first arrived, she was lethargic and had no interest being with people or playing with toys.  However, once we matched her with a play group of other dogs – her personality came out!  She would perform what we called the “Trixie Dance” – courting a dog side by side, prancing and then proceeding to swat the dog in the face with her paw!  All in good fun, of course. 

Over time, however, we noticed a large tumor growing on her belly.  We had it removed and biopsied which came back as a very aggressive cancer.  She went into hospice care and three days later, we lost her to cancer.  It’s so sad and emotionally difficult to lose our friends to this dreadful disease.  Still, we choose to give them the ultimate best and loads of fun every day for the remainder of their lives.  I need to take a moment to thank the vice president of DVGRR’s board of directors, Sara Braverman.  Sara has taken three hospice dogs in the past 5 months.  It takes a big heart to shower love into their lives and Sara does that with each dog that becomes a member of her family, whether hospice, foster or adoptee. 

I also want to thank every person who has had a dog with cancer and has stood by him or her and given comfort as they move on.  Just as people want to be surrounded by family in their end of days, dogs do too.

Please enjoy this funny video of Trixie & Spirit.  Spirit is the lighter colored dog and was adopted – he was very good at bringing out the best in shy dogs!


Crockett: An Extra-Ordinary Golden

Meet Crockett! 

Crockett - a bit curious, a bit worried.

On September 24, 2011, Crockett arrived at DVGRR transported from MAGRR in Tennessee.  Crockett and another dog, Boone, were both saved from a puppy mill.  Although both showed typical skittish behavior, Boone was slightly more interactive with people and therefore adopted within a couple months after work in Project Home Life.  Crockett, however, is a bit more shy. 

Crockett finds comfort with other dogs, like Maxine.

Most people, when they think of a Golden Retriever, envision a happy dog with tons of fur rippling in the wind as he chases relentlessly after his prized tennis ball – retrieving it to his adoring owner – while displaying an endless smile as he receives affectionate petting, hugs and a biscuit.  So when people meet a Golden like Crockett, they are initially shocked and saddened by his fearful behavior.  When he first arrived, he would always run the opposite direction from people.  He cowered behind Boone and was very uncomfortable with any type of touching or petting – in fact, he feared it so much he wouldn’t even run away.   Instead he would simply flatten out and tremble.  He would never attempt to take a slice of cheese, handful of chicken or even a warm meatball from us and he would not eat his breakfast or dinner until staff left the area and all was safe and quiet.

Crockett hides under the table when a stranger arrives in the apartment.

Crockett has been participating in Project Home Life and become a volunteer favorite.  The more I work with dogs like Crockett, the more I realize how important it is to zone in on what it is the dog finds pleasure doing.  Once that is established, we can then build trust and bond through that activity.  For Crockett, that activity is going for walks.  In the beginning, Crockett was unsure about where it was he should be walking and would dart from left to right or back to front.  As time went on, he became more confident and I noticed one day as I walked him around DVGRR property that his tail was raised up, wagging.  His head was up looking forward to his destination.  Along the way, we usually see a dog or two in the play yards.  At first, he would cower away from the fence.  Now, he will excitedly approach the other dog for a proper greeting. 

Maxine takes a treat as Crockett stands in the background.

Cindy Morgan, on staff since March 2007, approached me expressing interest in wanting to get more involved working with our puppy mill breeder dogs, outside of a caregiver shift.   I recently began taking Project Home Life dogs on car rides and off property for a few reasons:  One,  to get them accustomed to riding in a car.  Two, to show them a “different world” outside of DVGRR and three, to take an opportunity if it arises at socializing them with dogs and especially with new people.  I felt it would be great to be able to take two dogs off property at once and therefore Cindy got involved.

"Is this how I sit in a car?"

Crockett has been making baby steps in progress.  Staff and volunteers alike get so filled with JOY when shy dogs start emerging from their shells. 

Crockett puts his paws on the sofa!

I remember the day Crockett put his front to feet up on the play stairs in the yard… for any other dog this would not have been a big deal – but for Crockett who was deathly afraid to go anywhere near the stairs – it was a huge accomplishment!  I also remember the day a staff person came running over to tell me the Project Home Life volunteer had Crockett jumping up on the sofa in the apartment! 

Dogs like Crockett are certainly not your typical Golden Retriever.  However, the bond one builds with a special dog like this is absolutely like no other.  Any adopter of a very shy or fearful puppy mill breeder dog can attest to this, including myself! 

Please enjoy the series of photos below of Crockett and Maxine with Cindy & I on a peaceful hike last week.  Maxine is going to be adopted this week!  For anyone interested in adopting Crockett or learning more about him, please visit DVGRR’s available dog page at:—crockett2

Click on a photo below to enlarge the pictures!

Why You Should Care About Puppy Mills

 If you are an animal lover…..

 Inhumane treatment of dogs.

  • Female dogs are bred every heat cycle (twice per year).  Usually bred until they are 7-9 years old.  Average 6-8 puppies per litter.  That’s 84-144 puppies PER DOG.  ON AVERAGE!  Many dogs can have up to 12 puppies per litter!
  • Sanitary issues – contaminated water, build up of feces and hair

Imagine living on your bed – having to eat, sleep, play, and go to the bathroom on your bed and never getting to leave.

  • Lack of social interaction with both other dogs and people.  Dogs are social pack animals.  Fear of people, noises and normal day to day interactions.
  • Physical abuse and neglect.
  • Physical ailments and health issues that are not attended to.
  • Using no anesthesia, breeders will debark, dock ears and tails and perform c-sections.
  • After dogs are no longer useful, they are abandoned, shot or drowned.  The lucky ones get turned over to rescues.

 In 2008, Two eastern Pennsylvania kennel operators shot 80 dogs after wardens ordered some of the animals examined by veterinarians.   Wardens had ordered 39 dogs checked for flea and fly bites. They also issued citations for extreme heat, insufficient bedding and floors dogs’ feet could fall through.   The kennel owner stated he feared the state was trying to close his kennel, and said a veterinarian recommended destroying the dogs. “They were old, and we were hearing that they don’t want kennels anymore,” he said. “The best thing to do was get rid of them.”

 Commercial breeders and pet stores do not care about quality of the puppy.  Instead, their concern is financial gain and product sales.

  • Purchasing a puppy from a pet store supports puppy mills by adding to their bank accounts!
  • You are not “rescuing” a puppy mill dog if you purchase a puppy at a pet store.
  • Purchasing any products from pet stores which sell puppies also supports puppy mills.

 A study from doctors at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the top veterinary medicine and research institutions in the world, shows that 83% of breeder dogs from commercial kennels suffer from behavior problems as opposed to 54% of “normal” dogs.

 Health issues. 

  • Puppies get sick from being transported and exposed to all kinds of other puppies and dogs.  They also get sick from living in filthy conditions and improper health care.  Parasites, worms, parvo, distemper, and respiratory diseases are all common in puppies from puppy mills.
  • They can develop health issues later in life, not seen as a puppy.  Hip dysplasia, allergies, bone diseases, cancer…  Poor quality breeding increases the likelihood of health problems.

 Expense to owner.

  • Commercial kennels and pet stores usually do not cover the cost of vaccines, spay or neuter or perform certified health checks on the breeder dogs used to produce the puppies they sell.  A puppy at a pet store can cost anywhere from $500-$1500.  Consider the cost when the owner must pay this fee as well as all the additional costs of vet care (spay/neuter, vaccines, training classes, etc.). 


If you are an average member of society…..

 Your tax dollars!

  • This is your tax money used for kennel inspections, re-inspections & court costs for trying animal neglect and abuse cases.

Behavior issues of other people’s dogs could affect you and your family.

  • Puppies from puppy mills, because of the lack of proper social skills, can suffer from behavior issues that could affect you, your children or grandchildren.  Dogs who are fearful of people have potential to bite if put in a fight or flight situation.

A Ball for Biscuit… or two or three!

The first thing people say when they meet Biscuit is… “what a big girl!”  At 98 pounds, someone must have given her a bit too many, uh, biscuits.  🙂

Big Beautiful Biscuit!

Five year old Biscuit came from a farm and had a few litters of puppies. Other than that, we don’t know much about her history.   At DVGRR, she participates in Project Home Life although she does not show the classic fearful behaviors of many breeder dogs or dogs from puppy mills.  In fact, she already knows how to “sit”, “lay down”, and most importantly – she LOVES to fetch a ball!  She brings it back and will drop it when we ask.  What a great dog!  So we don’t think it will take long for Biscuit to drop a few pounds running after all those tennis balls!

Taken by a volunteer in our Project Home Life apartment, Biscuit is enjoying the company of THREE tennis balls!BisBiscuit with one of our fantastic PHL volunteers!

If you are interested in more information about Biscuit, please visit our website or send an email to .