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How Motley Zoo has cultivated donor loyalty in all the “wrong” ways

 Tails from the Zoo - a Motley Zoo blog by Executive Director, jme  Comments Off on How Motley Zoo has cultivated donor loyalty in all the “wrong” ways
Mar 132018

Barry Manilow (R)- now a Rock Star, but we knew him back when!

Original content by jme Thomas, 3/13/2018

We at Motley Zoo believe that animals are worth more than the value at the bottom of a vet bill- and that it is our role to do everything we can to ensure that those animals have a second chance at life, regardless of the price tag. We believe animals make our live richer, despite the costs- and that we’re not just finding homes for animals, we’re creating life-long matches with family.

Because of this belief- and our willingness to share the transparent truth- we have cultivated a very strong and loyal following since our founding in 2009. A “crew” comprised of hundreds of direct volunteers and fosters; thousands in terms of adopters- and multiple thousands in terms of donors.

Donors who many times, have never met us or our animals- but who receive and believe in, our message and mission as wholeheartedly as we do.

We have been able to build this crew this because we are straight with our constituents. We share the trials and tribulations  we face, as well as the successes. We ask for what we need to do our job saving lives- which includes reminding (or rather trying to inspire) our crew to remember that without people to do the job, all the money in the world is ineffective. We need people to join us in any way they can- and not to underestimate the value of volunteer time.

From the beginning we did things in the way we believed we should do them- however discovered that this was also considered somewhat unconventional. In the end, what was initially gauged as quirkiness turned out to fall in line with many “best practices” and new innovations in nonprofit management- especially in regard to donor loyalty.

We found that our greatest successes were because we were often “unprofessional” in the traditional sense…and thankfully, we didn’t worry about tradition.

We found that the people who support us, wanted something new, fresh and unusual. It’s not just our rock and roll theme or the fun we have with it- it’s the way we talk to the people that support us; the culture we’ve helped create. It’s what we tolerate- and what we don’t- and how we make no apologies when it comes to either…because no matter what people may think or say from time to time, we never forget the animals need us to remain steadfast and determined…and that nothing- not even our donors potential judgments- are more important than that. We’re not afraid to do what we believe is right- even at risk of criticism…though we find we’re rarely criticized for this as a result; rather, people trust us more.

We are so grateful that we can just be ourselves, as brutally honest as we feel we should be- both as individuals and as an organization- and this is why we have been successful, not controversial. We don’t preach or sell what we do- yet our crew believes in us near implicitly, because we share that unabashedly with them. Our supporters are not just people who provide us funds, they are people who feel us- and as a result, give willingly and often.

We have created donor loyalty by doing everything backwards and without any evidence at the time that this was right- we just did what our hearts believed…and we’re glad we did.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of Motley Zoo and our amazing success as an organization- but more so for each and every precious soul we believed was valuable and worth saving. You believed it too- and that is what has made Motley Zoo successful at rockin’ rescue…and for that, we salute you!

Related posts: What Donors Want From Nonprofits Before They Write Their Checks, as featured on

 Posted by at 8:08 pm

8 Tips for House-Training a New Puppy You Haven’t Tried Yet

 Commentary and Contributions  Comments Off on 8 Tips for House-Training a New Puppy You Haven’t Tried Yet
Mar 092018

Originally posted on 3/6/2017- commentary by jme Thomas, Executive Director, Motley Zoo

Does House-Training a Puppy Seem Like an Impossible Task?

Puppy potty training (or even training an adult dog you’ve rescued) is rarely easy peasy. If you’ve been trying for weeks yet still never know what might be waiting for you when you wake up in the morning, it may be time for a fresh approach—or several! We went to dog training experts to find out their puppy tips and secrets for how to potty train your dog to go outside. They all agreed on one thing—puppy potty training takes consistency and patience. Beyond that, here are eight ideas to consider.

Find Your Dog’s Motivation

Understanding what drives and motivates dog behavior is important when it comes to puppy potty training, says Mike Ritland, a dog trainer based in Cooper, Texas, who’s worked with the U.S. military and celebrities for 18 years. “If you have a dog who’s ball driven—who nearly loses it every time you go to grab a ball—use that as a reward [for going to the bathroom outside],” explains Ritland. “If it’s food, then bring a small treat. Affection? Treat her to a good scratching session.”

Consider Crate Training

Andrew Horan, owner of Citizen K9 in Gainesville, Virginia, recommends it to all his new clients that are house training a dog, especially those with rescue dogs. “Rescue dogs come from different backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common. They were caged or crated, most likely without any training,” says Horan. “A lot of rescue dogs are averse to a crate because they don’t understand what its purpose really is.” The key is to get your dog to willingly enter it on his terms. Dogs follow food, so feeding your dog only in his dog crate is a simple way to get him used to it. Never force your dog into a crate. The Frisco Fold & Carry Dog Crate is a great option because it includes a divider panel that expands the crate area as your puppy grows.

Or, at Least Limit Roaming Space

If you’d prefer not to use a crate for puppy potty training, you should keep in mind that “the more space an untrained dog has, the more potty spots he has! Dogs do not normally potty where they eat or sleep, so confining them to one of those areas may help with accidents,” suggests Alyona DelaCoeur, an animal behaviorist, veterinary assistant, and AKC evaluator in Seattle.

Leverage the Leash

Whether he’s been in a crate, or confined elsewhere overnight, when morning comes, lead him outside with his dog leash. “If you don’t use the leash to get to the door, she will start playing ‘catch me’ or just run off somewhere,” says Jamie Thomas, Executive Director of Motley Crew Animal Rescue in Redmond, Washington. “And don’t do anything else first. Just like a person, the first thing your dog has to do when he wakes up is go to the bathroom, so don’t expect him to just kick it while you brew coffee.”

Help Them Find the Right Spot

It’s a little gross, but Thomas says this trick can turn things around when you’re house training a dog who’s having a hard time catching on to the dog behavior. Clean up any accident—liquid or solid—with a paper towel. Put the paper towel in a zip-top bag. Next time you take your dog out, bring the bag. Open it up and put it on the ground where you want your dog to go. “Let him sniff the paper towel and don’t let him move too far away from it,” adds Thomas. Can’t quite come around to this? You can always look into Simple Solution Puppy Aid Training Spray, which can be used outdoors or on dog potty pads, or try the Simple Solution Pee Post for your outdoor area.

Just Tell Him to Go Potty

David Wright of iWorkDogs dog training in Los Angeles says it’s not only possible, but relatively easy how to train your dog to poop on command. Let’s say it’s pouring rain and you’re late for your big meeting. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just tell him to “go potty” rather than being tempted to bring him back in too soon? Here’s what to do. Pick a place where you want your dog to go (stick with it while he’s learning to go on command). Once there, give him the command. It really doesn’t matter which words you use, as long as you’re consistent, says Wright. While waiting for the main event, don’t say anything else, or give him any attention. As soon as he starts to go, calmly say “Good.” After your pup relieves himself, then you can kiss, hug and play with him. If after five minutes of saying the command, you’ve had no results, go back in and try again in 10 minutes or so. The amount of time it takes for your dog to follow through on the command consistently mostly depends on your dog, but Wright says repeating the routine every time you go out will yield results sooner than you may think.

Keep Expectations Realistic

How long does it take to potty train a puppy? Well, house-training a puppy can take longer than trying to train an adult dog. “A puppy does not biologically or anatomically have the ability to withhold defecating or urinating as long as an adult dog,” notes Ritland. Figuring out where you want him to go, not so much when, is the trick at first for puppy potty training. (The same is often true of senior dogs.) Dog potty pads, such as Frisco Premium Potty Pads are especially made to attract dogs, so that question of “where?” becomes a non-issue. Reusable indoor potties, such as Wee-Wee Patch Indoor Potty, can be an environmentally friendly option. As any new puppy parent can tell you, though, a few accidents are virtually unavoidable in the early days when house-training a puppy. Be prepared to save your rug or couch by picking up a stain remover made specifically for this purpose, such as Nature’s Miracle No More Marking Pet Stain & Odor Remover.

Be Predictable

Timing is key when house-training a puppy, though not necessarily clock time. What’s important is keeping the steps in your dog’s routine in the same order every day. And don’t feed her dog food before you take her out to potty, no matter how big those puppy eyes get. “If you feed her first, she will have much less motivation to go out,” notes Thomas. “But once she knows what to expect, you will have a dog who will do what you need her to, without much effort.”

Christina Vercelletto is a pet, travel and lifestyle content specialist and a former editor of Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her Chiweenie, Pickles, and 20-pound Calico, Chub-Chub. 

 Posted by at 7:54 pm

Dog Day Care: What to Know Before You Go

 Commentary and Contributions  Comments Off on Dog Day Care: What to Know Before You Go
Mar 092018

Originally posted on 4/7/2017- commentary by jme Thomas, Executive Director, Motley Zoo

As a working pet parent, you may have considered enrolling your pup in doggy day care. Or maybe you just suspect your dog could use some more playtime and socialization. In either case, a puppy day care facility may work out well. We went to pet experts around the country to round up the key points a potential dog day care customer should consider. If you have children (aside from the furry kind), you may notice similarities between this advice and common tips for using a childcare center. It’s hardly surprising, though, because after all, pet parents want the best for their dogs too! Consider this your cheat sheet for making the right doggy day care decision.

Drop in. You should visit the facility you’re considering with your dog. Show up unannounced, but not during the busy pick-up and drop-off times. “Stay away from places that do not allow clients to see the entire facility,” cautions Andrew Horan, Certified Canine Training and Behavior Modification Specialist at Citizen K9 in Washington, DC.

Chat up the staff. You’ll learn a lot by watching the staff in action, and asking them about their experience or what their favorite part of their job is. “If they don’t seem all that interested, or in a hurry, this is probably exactly how they will treat your dog!” cautions jme Thomas, executive director of Rock Star Treatment dog day care in Redmond, Washington.

See whether big and little dogs are in the same area. They shouldn’t be, says Thomas. Some kind of separation, if not by size, then by activity level or play style, is necessary. “Many larger dogs, even gentle ones, have a prey drive and play in a way that could hurt a small dog. Meanwhile, the little guys often have Napoleon complexes and inadvertently provoke big dogs.”

Respect the evaluation. Once you’ve chosen a facility, your dog will be evaluated to make sure she’s a good candidate for day care. Not every dog is. If your dog does “fail” the evaluation, don’t take it personally. Rather, enlist a certified trainer to help overcome the issues that the evaluation revealed, says Horan. Then there are some dogs who are happy to be by themselves during the day. “Don’t be upset if your dog has this personality,” urges Karin Chan, FP-MT, CCFT at Whiskers N Tails boarding, day care and grooming salon in South Bay, California. “Understand that pushing your dog to socialize frequently could cause anxiety or bad behavior. Often, we want to see our dogs happy, but fail to see that they are perfectly happy just the way things are.”

Don’t drag out the drop-off. Especially during the first week, say goodbye before you walk in, and try to make check-in as quick and no-nonsense as possible, advises Horan. Remember, just because your dog isn’t leaping with joy when you arrive, that doesn’t mean he’ll have a bad day. Again, they can be a lot like little kids, acting quite differently when their parents aren’t watching. “Many dogs are calmer, less nervous and more relaxed when their owners are out of the picture. So try not to hang around the day care area too long,” agrees Chan. And in much the same way a preschooler is dropped off with her favorite snack, sending Daisy to day care with a treat can’t hurt. One to try might be VetriScience Composure Behavioral Health Bite-Size Dog Chews.

Review the emergency care procedure. Read over the emergency veterinary protocol that they have in place, advises Mike Ritland, a dog trainer based in Cooper, Texas, who’s worked with the U.S. military and celebrities for 18 years. “There should always be at least one qualified and designated employee on site should veterinary care need to be administered,” says Ritland. He also advises that you provide a quick reference guide, preferably laminated, with your contact info, as well as any information about medications, allergies or chronic conditions. And if the facility has an outdoor play area, don’t forget your pet will need protection from fleas and ticks, such as the Seresto 8 Month Flea & Tick Collar for Large Dogs & Puppies or K9 Advantix II Flea & Tick Treatment for Extra Large Dogs Over 55-lbs.

In case of an injury, stay calm and results-oriented. If your dog gets hurt, try to keep in mind that a dog can get injured while playing at even the top puppy day cares. Dogs playing in groups inherently come with some risk. Thomas notes that most good dog day cares will offer vet support if needed, or “better yet, will tell you how they will work to prevent such an incident from occurring again,” says Thomas. “Express your concerns politely, and hopefully they will meet you with the same results-based conversation in response. Keep in mind that complaining and criticizing is not the same thing as working to improve policy.” If you do need to pick up a sick or hurt dog, it can be helpful to bring a kennel carrier he’s used to in order to get him home comfortably. Consider trying the Petmate Sky Kennel as your pet’s go-to dog kennel.

Learn about dog kennel cough. Kennel cough is the most common illness; even the best, cleanest dog kennel will probably have it go around once a year or so. “Dogs will be dogs and are going to make each other sick,” explains Thomas. So chat with your vet to best understand preventatives and possible treatment options.

Resist being a helicopter pet parent. Some puppy day cares offer a webcam service. Take a peek from your desk, sure, but keep it to a minimum. Otherwise, like any loving mom or dad, you may find yourself worrying about whether your fur baby has enough friends, or whether his new bff is really a bully, or why he’s sleeping instead of playing. Dogs are individuals, and will choose what they do, when, and with whom, notes Horan. The staff can’t, and shouldn’t try to, force a dog to play. “Please do not call and ask ‘Why is my dog sleeping?’ I promise you will get one of two answers, ‘because he is tired,’ or ‘because she wants to,’” says Horan.

Keep these tips in mind to ensure doggy day care success and remember, if you have any questions or concerns spend a little time doing your research so you and your pup can feel comfortable.

 Posted by at 6:48 pm

Do dogs like hugs?

 Commentary and Contributions  Comments Off on Do dogs like hugs?
Mar 092018

Originally posted on 6/27/2017- commentary by jme Thomas, Executive Director, Motley Zoo

Even for people, hugs can lead to some pretty awkward moments—with strangers, co-workers, friends of friends and perhaps your own relatives. You might be totally hug aversive or hug shy, or even if you’re really into hugs, you have no way of telling the difference between non-huggers and fellow pro-huggers. Well, you can imagine what it’s like for dogs. Most dog lovers instinctively hug their own, even if they’re not big huggers themselves. But do dogs like hugs, really? Is there even such a thing as a dog hug? That’s what we’re here to find out, with some help from a couple of experts.

Do Dogs Like Hugs?

We really hate to be the ones to break this to curious dog lovers, but the simple answer to “Do dogs like hugs?” is no, according to those who know. Irith Bloom, CPDT-KSA, CDBC, KPA CTP, VSPDT, CBATI, VSDTA faculty and Director of Training at The Sophisticated Dog in West Los Angeles, CA, helps explain why. “Dogs don’t usually show affection to each other through hugs. Humans are natural huggers. We like to be chest to chest (or, to use the more technical term, in “ventral-ventral contact”) with those we love. Scientists believe humans have this propensity because we are positioned chest to chest with our mothers when we are nursing as babies, so that body position comes to be associated with comfort and affection.” Dogs don’t nurse in this position, so they wouldn’t use dog hugs to show their fondness—not to another dog friend, and not to us. In fact, much to the dismay of dog lovers everywhere, Bloom says that face-to-face hugs tend to be the most unpleasant type for dogs.

Signs of Dog Hug Distress

Think back to the last time you gave your dog hugs. Did you notice any of the following reactions?

  • Sudden yawning
  • Pulling their body away from you
  • Repetitive lip licking
  • Shaking off after you let go
  • Turning their head
  • Avoiding eye contact

These are the signs of dog hug discomfort, according to Bloom and jme Thomas, Executive Director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue in Redmond, Washington. Thomas adds that you might also see the “whale eye,” or the whites of a dog’s eyes, which means they are nervous or stressed. And if they are really unhappy with a forced dog hug, Bloom says they will wriggle a lot, push their paws into you, or even nip at you.

How Dogs Interpret Hugs

To dog lovers, going in for a dog hug and squeezing their fur baby is a way to show how much they care. But to our canine companions, a dog hug is something much different. Bloom points out that there isn’t an equivalent in the dog world, so they aren’t going to understand that hugging equals love. “I suspect dogs interpret hugs mostly as confinement or restraint (not something most dogs enjoy—picture the last time you saw a dog being restrained to have a nail trim, or during a vet visit),” she says. Thomas agrees, adding that dog hugs might trigger a fight or flight response, because not unlike people, dogs don’t like being cornered or confined with no control over the situation. So, a dog’s inner dialogue might be: “What’s happening? I’m going to suffocate! Must. Get. Away.”

How to Do Dog “Hugs” Right

If you want to show your pup affection on his own terms, you’re going to have to be pretty flexible with your definition of a hug. Your pooch shows you love in his own ways—you just have to learn how to appreciate them and accept them as special dog “hugs.” Bloom says that some pups like to burrow into their humans, sit on their laps, lean against them, or lie on or under their legs. Thomas recalls how her dog would press her face against hers while wiggling her “little bunny tail nubbin” quickly and smiling. According to Bloom, the less pushy you are about petting or hugging your dog, the more likely he is to seek out physical contact with you.  “The key is to make sure they have an ‘escape route,’ so they can move away from when they want to. Given the freedom to leave, they will often choose to stay cuddled up with you.” So, instead of the restrictive human version of a hug, try petting them the way they want, and pay attention to their response. Be on the lookout for ways your pup is trying to show affection, and appreciate them as earnest dog “hugs” when they happen. In the meantime, you can give your pup a cuddly KONG Cozie Marvin the Moose Dog Toy that he can snuggle up to whenever he feels like it.

Can You Train Dogs to Tolerate Hugs?

If you’re worried that your dog might not react well if a stranger, or child, suddenly goes in for a hug, Bloom says that you can use treats to help him be more comfortable if this happens. “If your dog doesn’t like being touched by strangers at all, or is standoffish about being touched by most people, you will need to start at a very low level of contact, and use what are called ‘successive approximations’ to teach your dog to tolerate hugs better.” You can do this in short sessions of just 1-2 minutes, with breaks in between. Only move to the next step if your dog remains completely relaxed at the current level. If he tenses up or stops eating treats, slow down the training or go back to the last step. Here are the steps that Bloom offers:

For dogs who don’t like being touched by strangers at all, start with Step 1:

Have someone your dog doesn’t know stand near him. Give your pup treats for staying relaxed while the person is there. Do this for about 5-10 repetitions.

When your dog is okay with a stranger standing nearby, move to Step 2:

Have the person move their hand just an inch or two towards your pup, while giving treats. Let the person then extend their arm even closer, gradually, feeding dog treats each time.

Once he stays calm after having a person reach towards him, go to Step 3:

Try light levels of touch in areas like the flanks, building up to more pressure and longer periods.

Now we know better ways to show affection than by forcing a dog hug, and we’ve got some insight into what our pups are thinking. In the dog world, the cues are easy to learn. But you’re on your own when you go in for that human hug!

 Posted by at 6:44 pm
Jun 082016


Originally featured on 6/27/2016- original content, jme Thomas

As the Executive Director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, I see a lot of interesting things: I see the best of people and the worst. Another thing I see are fads and patterns when it comes to people’s desires- especially, in regards to people requesting service dogs. This is now as common now as every fifth application we review- which means many people need dogs with very specific personalities and traits. It is when they follow that up with “needing a puppy so we can be sure to get what we want”, that I begin to worry.

That thinking couldn’t be more inaccurate.

When people request a service dog, we know they typically don’t need a dog that will literally help get them around; to be their eyes or ears. What they are usually seeking however is an emotional support or therapy dog. What’s the difference? A lot!

A service dog is one which is trained specifically to detect medical conditions such as seizures, or perform tasks or duties for a physically disabled individual, such as a Seeing Eye dog for the blind. These dogs require more than 2 years of intense training and development.

Emotional support animals (EAS) however, are those whose job is to be themselves: a companion to those who are psychologically disabled from issues such as panic attacks, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or other debilitating mental challenges- ones that truly affect quality of life and day to day function.

A therapy dog on the other hand is a dog that is trained to provide comfort and therapy for someone- other than their owners- such as those dogs who visit the elderly in nursing homes or children in hospitals that need cheering up. There are also strict requirements for dogs to be registered as such.

Most people believe “dogs with jobs” as I collectively refer to them, are selected as puppies- but really, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While service dogs are selected for certain qualities as puppies, it can safely be said less than 50% of the puppies that start out as candidates, actually ever become one. But why? Especially with all that training?

Sometimes dogs don’t pass muster because of a health condition that develops, such as hip dysplasia- but most often it has nothing to do with training and everything to do with development (that is why one should get the supplies to care about the pet using helpful review always). It’s simply their personality: they didn’t grow up to be the dog needed to do that very specific job. Much of the two years spent training a true service dog is actually for evaluating their personalities- not just teaching them what they need to learn.

Expectation and reality differing is pretty much “no duh”, when it comes to children. Somehow though this is baffling when applied to puppies.

Everyone knows parents work hard to mold their children the way they’d like, but how often is the outcome the same as the parents’ exact hopes or expectations? Perhaps it’s the football player dad who played catch every weekend with his son growing up, but when the son gets older, he prefers tennis…or *gasp*, maybe no sports at all! Or the piano aficionado’s child who grows up to be in a heavy metal band instead of joining the orchestra. Parents accept- and really, expect- their children will not be everything they hope or dream.

Very likely, neither will a puppy.

nikki therapizing

When seeking a dog to fill the “dogs with job” role, it’s a gamble when it comes to puppies. If you choose one, be sure you are prepared to accept responsibility for the dog, indefinitely, no matter how they may turn out. Your desire for a loving companion must take precedence over your desire for them to develop a specific way. Otherwise, it is terribly unrealistic and a heavy burden to put on your puppy who just wants to have fun and be themselves- as dogs should be allowed to do!

However, with adult dogs, “what you see is what you get”- especially dogs with proven experience, such as those in foster homes; those surrendered for the many reasons that have nothing to do with behavior issues. The shelter animals you see today, were most likely a family’s beloved pet the day before- as opposed to terrorizing the neighborhood as many envision. These are dogs that could make great dogs with jobs with very little extra effort- they are already what you’d need! Certainly more adult rescue dogs could fill the role of EAS dogs than couldn’t- and many can pass the requirements needed to become therapy dogs in the community too.

When selecting a dog to perform a job, look at who they are as individuals- not simply breed or age, which are really irrelevant. Frankly, like fine wine, many dogs get better with age! Even seniors can make great therapy dogs because they are not youthful spazzes, flopping on the leash, peeing on the floor and play mouthing everyone’s hands! You can better count on them for reliable, consistent and most importantly, calm behavior required of dogs with jobs.

For a great example of a rescue-turned-therapy dog, check out “Ottis to the Rescue” on Facebook. The page features the adventures of Ottis- long-time foster brother to hundreds of dogs and his “sister”, Nikki, a 15 year old, deaf and blind Pomeranian who is making the most of her golden years as a therapy dog in retirement homes. Nikki is a great example of a rescued dog that was selected as a therapy dog for her “perfect” intrinsic qualities already- not a puppy that was forced into a role he or she is not capable of living up to.

If you’re interested in some first-hand experience and advice, check out our interview with Brooke Mallory, Ottis and Nikki’s mom, here.

jme is a featured blogger for There you can find great information about reliable, loving pet care services as well as great insight and advice from experts, so you can better care for your furry friend!


 Posted by at 9:17 am

An Interview with Brooke Mallory and her Therapy Dogs, Ottis & Nikki

 Tails from the Zoo - a Motley Zoo blog by Executive Director, jme  Comments Off on An Interview with Brooke Mallory and her Therapy Dogs, Ottis & Nikki
Jun 082016

ottis and nikki

Brooke Mallory’s dogs, Ottis and Nikki, are “facility therapy dogs” and they are certified Canine Good Citizens.

Ottis has been foster brother to hundreds of dogs throughout his life. Nikki was adopted from Motley Zoo Animal Rescue as a hospice case- a long-term foster who is suffering from a variety of terminal issues. We are offering her “final refuge”; she will die in Brooke’s care. But before that, she has work to do with Ottis!

Jme: Why did you want to do (visiting) therapy work with your dogs?

Brooke:  My grandfather had Alzheimer’s and after my grandmother passed away, he was moved into an Alzheimer’s care facility. This was a really hard transition for him. He had just lost his wife, which he would go in and out of remembering, and he was cognizant enough at the time to realize he was losing his mind, and his independence. He was very angry and scared. The care facility had a dog and a cat that lived at there. Also, visitors were able to bring their dogs, so my aunt would bring her dogs with her when she visited. I witnessed firsthand the joy and comfort these animals brought my grandfather, who had always loved animals and owned dogs his whole life. It was maybe the only thing at the time that gave him comfort. From that moment, I had always wanted to be able to volunteer in this way with my dogs, but I didn’t know how to go about doing it, and life got busy. Years later, I learned of the Seattle Humane Society’s Visiting Pet Friends program program while I was a key note speaker at one of their town hall meetings. That same day, I emailed them their Visiting Pet Friends Director and got the ball rolling. I knew that not only was it something the residents would enjoy, but that I would really enjoy it, as would my dog Ottis.


Jme: How long did it take for you to become certified?

Brooke: The certification process greatly depends on what organization you are volunteering through. In order to not spin your wheels, it’s best to first find a quality organization in your area that offers a facility therapy dog program. From there you can determine the steps you need to take to qualify for their program. For the Seattle Humane Society’s Visiting Pet Friends program, they require that dogs have a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate, which is obtained through the AKC. If you have a different type of pet, such as a cat or a lizard, you do not need to take that step as there is no such certification available. Once the CGC has been obtained, if applicable, they schedule and in-person meeting with their Visiting Pet Friends Director, during which the director will perform a behavioral evaluation with the pet, as well as talk the owner through the process and make sure they are prepared for the task at hand. In addition, they require proof of current vaccinations; an exam within 30 days that states the pet is in good health; a negative fecal within 30 days, and proof of homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.

For the Canine Good Citizen test, you and your dog need to have advanced training skills as a team. To pass the test, they require all items to be completed perfectly, and only allow for a re-do of one item at the end of the test, at the discretion of the AKC representative. This must be independent of behavior responses such as fear or anxiety- a dog would not be allowed to repeat for that; that would be a disqualification. If you and your dog are new to obedience training, the first step is to complete beginning and intermediate training classes with your dog. Once you have on-leash and off-leash control of your dog and you feel ready for the test, I highly recommend taking a CGC prep training class, with a trainer who specializes in CGC testing. That is the biggest advice I can give.

The class will help you practice all the test items, so that when it comes to the actual test, you aren’t so nervous. Because, no matter now well trained you and your dog are as a team, when you get nervous, you are going to make mistakes, and so will your dog. By practicing the actual test items in a prep class repeatedly until they are second nature, which will give you a huge advantage when your mind is buzzing with nerves. For the CGC prep class that I took with Ottis and then with Nikki, the CGC test was taken on the last day of class, so it was also super convenient too. The instructor had an AKC testing representative come to the class facility to conduct the test, which gave me and my dogs a home field advantage because we were already familiar with and comfortable in the space.


Jme: What is one of the requirements of the certification process that surprised you?

Brooke: One thing that I think a lot of people overlook when considering if they want to do this line of work, is that it’s important that your dog actually enjoys their time volunteering. Even if you have the best-behaved dog, that doesn’t mean he is necessarily a good candidate for this work. During the process of getting certified, it is as important to the organization that your dog is enjoying himself, as it is that your dog is safe to interact with the public. During testing, they are not only looking to ensure your dog can tolerate rough petting from strangers, as an example of one of the test items, they are also looking to ensure your dog enjoys  the rough pettingThere is a huge difference between tolerance and enjoyment. As much as a handler may be passionate about volunteering in this way, that doesn’t always translate to their pet. It’s truly teamwork that requires dedication from both sides of the leash.


Jme: How much time do you spend doing therapy work each month?

Brooke: I’ve been volunteering as a Visiting Pet Friends team with my dog Ottis for three years now. Nikki was just recently certified, so I’ve been volunteering with her for about four months. We typically volunteer once a month, although occasionally we volunteer twice per month. The visits typically last one hour. I would love to volunteer more, but I work multiple jobs. I think many people are concerned about the time commitment and that may deter them from volunteering, but even with my crazy schedule, I can always find 1hr per month to give my time, and the residents are always grateful. Most programs ask that you commit to a minimum of one visit her month, for a minimum of six months.


Jme: What is one suggestion you’d make to someone considering therapy dog work?

Brooke: My biggest tip is to take a CGC prep class, no matter how well-trained you and your dog are as a team, even just for the sake of helping you get over your nerves. This will also help you practice and learn all the specific rules for each test item, to the point that it becomes second nature to you, so that when you are nervous, you don’t make mistakes.

But I have another tip in terms of volunteering. It’s really important to keep in-tune with your dog while working. It is surprisingly exhausting for the animal. While it seems like easy work for the dog to give and receive love, it actually takes quite the toll on them. It seems almost as though they physically are taking the burdens from all the people they meet, on to their own shoulders while they work the room. As such, it’s important to always pay close attention to your pet, and as soon as they seem ready to be done, no matter if you have been there for a short time or not, that’s when you need to end the visit. While our visits typically last an hour, there have been times I’ve had to end the visit as soon as 20 minutes, and there have been times I’ve stayed as long as 90 minutes.

Both Nikki and Ottis are always very tired after their volunteer shifts, as if they had just gone on a 10-mile run. It truly is a tough job being cute! I see it firsthand! I will say that typically they build their stamina the more times they visit the same facility, because they start to learn the location and the people, so it’s less new over time, but ever visit is different, and every day is different, so their stamina can fluctuate from visit to visit.


Brooke fosters for Motley Zoo, works as a pet sitter and is an award winning photographer. You can see her work at Brooke Mallory Photography.

 Posted by at 8:52 am

Deck The Hall Ball

 MZ Rockumentary- Rock Star Meet & Greets!  Comments Off on Deck The Hall Ball
Apr 072015

December 9th, 2014: 107.7  The End, invited Motley Zoo to have a booth backstage to meet the performers! Imagine Dragons, Weezer, Cage the Elephant, Young the Giant, TV on the Radio, Kongos, Vance Joy & Royal Blood were all kind enough to take some pictures with our puppies and kitten, helping to raise awareness for pet adoptions!

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 Posted by at 6:02 pm


 MZ Rockumentary- Rock Star Meet & Greets!  Comments Off on Guttermouth
Oct 262014

October 12th, 2014: Little puppy Guttermouth got to meet his namesake band! As usual he gave lots of kisses and cuddles, and the band was so happy to meet him. We’re so grateful that good ol’ punks like Guttermouth care so much about animals too!

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 Posted by at 8:16 pm