Border Collie Brain Tumor Survivor

Human Grade Medicine Saving Pets Like Never Before

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months lying on the floor weeping beside my 13-year-old Border Collie, Echo. She has always been particular about how she wants to be petted so I do my best to focus on her neck and belly but not her face – she doesn’t like that.

I cry because she is sick with a brain tumor. I cry until my tear ducts are dry at seeing her slip away from the vibrant, beloved bossy, heart-of-my-family that she has been all these years. Up until May of this year, everywhere I went she was with me – just behind me, always keeping a watchful and loving protective eye on me.

[Read the rest on the Association of INTO Dogs website …]

Utah Veterinarian and Human Radiation Oncologist Create World’s First HDR Brachytherapy Center for Pets  

August 2018 Contact: Annie Phenix, 970-442-1222
For Immediate Release

Utah Veterinarian and Human Radiation
Oncologist Create World’s First 
HDR Brachytherapy Center for Pets

(SALT LAKE CITY) A veterinarian and a medical doctor in Utah have teamed up to offer a ground-breaking, highly successful form of radiation therapy for the treatment of cancers in dogs and cats. Known as High Dose Rate (HDR) brachytherapy, it delivers radiation by an agile, robotically controlled radioactive seed that delivers a pinpointed burst of radiation directly into the tumor. It was originally designed to target certain forms of human cancer. Human radiation oncologists have used it with tremendous success on cancers of the prostate, breast, cervix, uterus, and in the head and neck, to mention a few.

Dr. Clayton Watkins, owner of VetMed Consultants in Holladay (6221 Highland Drive/Holladay, UT 84121, and human radiation oncologist and brachytherapy specialist Dr. John K. Hayes, owner of Companion Curietherapy (6221 Highland Drive/Holladay, UT 84121), have combined their human and animal experience of 60 years to offer state-of-the-art radiation treatment to animals. The pair recently received state approval for a radiation facility where animals can be treated on-site at their Holladay location. Notably, this is the first dedicated radiation facility for pets in Utah, and, the first facility in the world dedicated to HDR brachytherapy for pets.

The prefix “brachy” is from Greek meaning “from a short distance.” Studies too numerous to count have demonstrated its efficacy in treating human cancers. Brachytherapy is applied inside the tumor through tiny hollow catheters that are placed by Dr. Watkins via needles to the anesthetized animal.

Dr. Watkins and referring veterinarians are seeing life enhancing and life-extending results for their animal patients. Doctors Watkins and Hayes have been using brachytherapy and, when needed, external beam radiation, to fight cancer in pets for three years. Many of their patients are still going strong 30 months after treatment. Until recently, veterinary cancer treatment in Utah was limited to surgery and chemotherapy. Utah pets needing radiation had to be taken by their owners out of state for radiation cancer care, at great time and expense.

Veterinary radiation oncologists for decades have used external radiation to treat cancers in pets, often using human hospital radiation equipment in the evenings and on weekends. The collaboration between doctors Watkins and Hayes is setting a new precedent in taking brachytherapy care into veterinary medicine in a bold fashion. Dr. Hayes says that the smaller the patient, the more need there is to consider using radiation in the form of brachytherapy, because it is far superior in confining the area treated to the tumor while sparing normal tissues.

“Our clients love the results we can get for their family pet. Brachytherapy is not painful and does not result in systemic side effects,” says Dr. Watkins. “Compared to other types of radiation, brachytherapy provides a higher dose of radiation and less exposure to normal tissues, it’s less expensive, and is it better shaped to the tumor we are targeting.”

When a pet comes in to VetMed Consultants for radiation treatment, both doctors are present for each procedure. Also in attendance is board certified medical physicist Joshua Bryant, MSDABR, founding partner of Mountain States Medical Physics. Bryant ensures the safe use of the radiation and he assists with the technical planning for the use of radiation. The pets receiving treatment are also attended to before, during and after radiation by three highly trained veterinary technicians. Dr. Hayes adds, “Our patients are getting technologically advanced care, equal in every way to that which we give in humans, and that translates into some amazing results.” This level of technology comes at a cost, but the team is intent on keeping the cost as low as possible.

Pet insurance companies often do cover the expense, making it even more accessible for pet owners. Dr. Watkins says that the most common type of tumor he sees in pets is nasal tumors. At VetMed, they treat nasal tumors as well as oral tumors, paw and limb tumors, mast cell tumors and urethra and bladder/prostate tumors. For both, this has been a very meaningful collaboration, and not their primary endeavor. Dr. Watkins’ primary focus is on non-invasive and minimally invasive interventional endoscopy, and Dr. Hayes’ primary focus is human radiation oncology.

Dr. Watkins and Dr. Hayes began working together after one of Dr. Hayes’ neighbors requested treatment of a pet dog. The resulting treatment, though complicated because it involved taking an anesthetized pet from veterinary hospital to imaging center to Dr. Hayes’ clinic and then back to vet hospital, was very successful. “We’ve seen outstanding results using brachytherapy to target and defeat tumors in humans. We are happy to see the same good results happening for pets,” Dr. Hayes says. Now at the VetMed Clinic in Holiday they have all the necessary equipment to do the entire procedure there, making it much faster and safer for the patient.

Dr. Watkins attended BYU then earned his doctorate of Veterinary Medicine Degree from Colorado State University in 1988. In 1990, He was an early adopter of using ultrasound and endoscopy in veterinary medicine. In addition to brachytherapy, Dr. Watkins is applying cutting-edge interventional technology in the treatment of such diseases as nasal and bladder tumors, urinary stones, intestinal polyps, and upper airway disorders.

Dr. Hayes attended BYU, then the University of Utah for medical school and specialty training in radiation oncology, and has been performing brachytherapy procedures for his human patients since 1988. Dr. Hayes was the pioneering radiation oncologist for HDR brachytherapy in Utah and is one of the world’s leading experts in brachytherapy.

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Nationally Acclaimed Canine Behavior Expert Moves to Heber Valley

For Immediate Release | (970) 442-1222

(Heber City) Nationally certified dog trainer and author Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA, recently located her canine behavior company to the Heber Valley. Phenix is the author of the best-selling book, The Midnight Dog Walkers: Positive Training and Practical Advice for Living with a Reactive or Aggressive Dog (Lumina Press). The book was just nominated for a Maxwell Award by the Dog Writer’s Association of American.

For the past several years, Phenix has been the Trainer in Residence for, one of the largest online gathering spots for dog lovers worldwide. She is also a columnist with a dog training column called SPEAK! for the nationally syndicated Dogster Magazine. Phenix has trained dogs for more than 20 years. She specialized in canine behavior concerns by helping anxious dogs and their owners though scientifically backed training that uses behavior modification. She is a member of the Pet Professionals Guild and the National Association of Canine Scent Work and she is one of the first trainers in the country to achieve the Fear Free Certification created by America’s Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker.  

“I love to work with troubled dogs by teaching their owners proven protocols that teach the dog new, desired behavior that brings calm and security to dog and owner alike,” Phenix says. She and her husband and three dogs moved to Utah just after Thanksgiving from Durango, Colorado. For more information, visit her website:

What professionals are saying about The Midnight Dog Walkers book:

When You Can’t Afford a Dog Trainer

By Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA

Not a week goes by when I get a call from someone dealing with a troubled dog and they hesitantly ask me: how much do you charge? And then, sadly, they tell me they can’t afford to work with me. While I do offer a sliding scale, many dog owners are living paycheck to paycheck and for a variety of reasons, they simply do not have any extra in their budget to pay for a fairly expensive behavioral consult and training session.

Photo courtesy of Tica Clarke Photography

This affects the dog living in the house most of all since most of the owners calling me are often making a hard-luck, last resort phone call. Many of the dogs have bitten dogs or humans or have begun growling at people. If the dog is not helped and helped properly, there is a very real chance that dog will be put down.

I want those dogs to have access to a peaceful life – one with lessened anxiety and fear. Most dogs (based on scientific studies) bark, bite, lunge, growl, etc. as a way of canine communication expressing anxiety, uncertainty and fear. No dog is trying to dominate humans – that is a disproven myth.

So how can you help your troubled dog without hiring a personal, professional dog trainer? Thankfully there ARE many excellent free resources.

Photo courtesy of Tica Clarke Photography

I have put together my favorite free online resources for dog owners. I do want to say one word of warning when looking up training advice online. You have to do your homework on behalf of your dog. Dog training advice – and especially harmful out-dated and simply wrong-headed “advice” even espoused by “professional” trainers exists on the internet in huge quantities. Don’t believe everything is true just because you find it via “Dr. Google.”

Dig deep and find out WHO is posting training advice. Insist that the advisor is in fact a qualified, force and fear free dog trainer or behavior expert. Be on the look out for words such as “balanced training” or “we use whatever tool is right for each dog.” These concepts sound okay but you want a trainer who is well trained in science-backed training protocols that belong to our current century. You want a trainer who will do no harm to your dog while that trainer is actually helping your dog using proven methods that never involve force, fear, pain or intimidation. This includes ANY dog training tool that comes with the words “it doesn’t hurt if you use it correctly.”

Here are some free online educational sources (and one place to purchase books and training DVDs as well) so that you CAN begin to help your dog on your own:

Behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell has a terrific blog:

Check out a one-hour plus presentation on the Science of Dog Behavior by Dr. McConnell:

Behaviorist Chirag Patel has 75 free videos:

The late, truly great Dr. Sophia Yin has 183 free videos:

Veterinarian Dr. Ian Dunbar has many fine free videos on You Tube – here’s one to start with:

Also check out Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Star Daily:

Psychology Professor Dr. Susan Friedman has free reading material on her website:

Dog trainer Donna Hill has 194 free training videos on You Tube:

Positive dog trainer Victoria Stilwell has on her website a “Positively Dog Knowledge Center” that has tons of terrific training and behavior information:

Dog trainer Michael Baugh is an elegant and wise writer. Read his thoughts on dogs here:

Writer Eileen Anderson breaks down the science of dog training in every day speak:

Best place to purchase dog training books and DVDS:

I and many other force free trainers are more than happy to research and recommend qualified local trainers for dog owners searching for one and we do so for free – just ask!


# # #

Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA is a Certified Fear Free dog trainer based in Utah. She is the author of the best selling book, The Midnight Dog Walkers: Positive Training and Practical Advice for Living with Reactive and Aggressive Dogs. She is a columnist for Dogster Magazine. Phenix is available for private of group seminars based on the protocols in her book.












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A Donkey Obituary

By Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA

We had her final day planned.

Our much-loved donkey, Jillkey, had been resolute in her fight to stave off an early death at 15 years old – young for a donkey — but her illness was winning the battle. I knew her days where numbered when she refused to eat the donkey-pleasing meal we made for her every day that consisted of carrots, grain, beat pulp, salt, tums and corn oil. She had already dropped a lot of weight very quickly over the past two months. The veterinarian had been out to see her three times and each time he said, “the only reason this donkey is still alive is because she is still eating. She has to eat.”

I called the horse vet when she couldn’t eat her grain any longer. She wasn’t even interested in licking her meal.

It takes planning to put down an equine. I had never had to have a horse or donkey put down before, even though I had had equines for 20 years, though I knew we needed to have a back hoe on hand. Through kind neighbors, I had a man with a back hoe loaded on his trailer on standby. It is hard to think about what to do with a donkey after she passes while she is still alive and your heart is still intertwined to hers. I wanted our smart, compassionate veterinarian to come out and confirm that our donkey’s valiant battle was coming to an end. It is the hardest responsibility of an animal lover and keeper to decide when to end an animal’s suffering. I wanted to give her every day of life I could, but I also didn’t want her to suffer a day longer than she had to.

Jillkey had been very ill for months. I had blood work run three times and our highly experienced vet said he had never seen lab work like our donkey’s results. He had no answers for her wasting figure or her malaise. He had single-handedly saved every equine of ours he was called out to help for years. He was so talented that I had learned to remain calm and call Dr. Ben when there was any hint of an equine ailment because he would have a way to help our horses and donkeys… until he didn’t. He didn’t know why our donkey was dying, but she surely was.

Months after I made the first call for Dr. Ben’s help, sweet Jillkey seemed to be nearing the end. Dr. Ben said that one of her many concerns was “lipedema,” a wasting disease that he had never once seen a donkey recover from. He acknowledged that I had a special gift with animals and one of those gifts was putting fat on them. I hate to see starving animals and I did excel at plumping even the un-plumpable. We began a feeding routine with Jillkey that was based on the results of what we could gleam from her lab work, such as low sodium and calcium levels (hence the added salt and Tums). Some days she ate well, some days she merely gummed the food. For two months, however, her weight remained steady and her attitude seemed to be that of an ill donkey who also still seemed to get enjoyment in being alive. Life is precious, even to a donkey. We gauged her contentedness by our understanding of equine behavior, as well as how alert her eyes and ears remained.

One Friday at feeding time, Jillkey walked into the stall where I fed her her special meals away from the other donkeys so she could be assured of getting it all. I gasped watching her eat as I could now clearly see her spine and hip bones. Any little bit of padding she had disappeared, seemingly overnight.

Jillkey still had a belly on her in this photo and she was eating well. We had to wrap her withers as she had a wound there that wouldn’t heal.

Dr. Ben came out the next day. He got down to our barn before I did and jumped the fence to take a look at Jillkey, who had all morning been standing under a tree, barely moving, ears down, eyes dejected. I came through a stall door with a halter in my hand to catch her. One of my dearest friends, Jan, came with me for moral support as we had already discussed that I am not the one who should be holding an animal when it is put down. I become hysterical even when I know it is time for the animal to pass. As a dog trainer specializing in canine behavior, I know all about emotional contagion and I never want to be the human contributing to an animal’s stress and especially on their last day. My husband was working out of state or he would have been there to hold Jillkey’s halter as the vet administered the final drugs to ease Jillkey into her last moments. Jeff loves our animals deeply but he is stronger than I when an animal is dying and he has sat with every one of our animals as they passed.

My friend Jan said she could do this for the donkey, and for me. The plan was for me to get Jillkey, say my goodbyes and hand the halter to Jan and Dr. Ben. Then I would retreat to the house and do my weeping there.

My sweet friend Jan comforting Jillkey when she wasn’t busy comforting me.

On this day, however, Jillkey said: no. She ran from me as I walked towards her with the halter. She RAN. She had not run in weeks. I looked at Dr. Ben and he looked back at me, saying “today is not her day.” She gave herself a reprieve.

As happy as I was to see some feistiness left in Jillkey, we all knew it was a temporary reprieve. The antibiotics and other measures we used to try to help her win her battle had no effect. She was dying. I was distraught and in no small part because of my 10 years of caring for Jillkey, and because I knew her history. I blame her early history and maltreatment at the hands of a cruel cowboy for her early demise.

Jillkey had faced death before. The first time I could stop that from happening to her, and I did. When we lived in Texas, sometimes against my better judgment I went to animal auctions. They were depressing because the animals were terrified and usually malnourished. The auction staff were not kind to the animals they pushed through the auction alley ways. They had a job to do and they did it without any attachment to the animals. Many of the equines where forced out into the auction room to be purchased by horse and donkey meat slaughter buyers. These were more than reasons enough for me to stay far away from auctions.

I went to my final auction in a small Texas town east of Austin. The conditions were deplorable: wet and muddy stalls held sad, un-vetted and often injured animals that were crammed into small spaces. Environmental change can be hard on all animals – and talk about fear being an emotional contagion at such a place! I walked the back alleyways and spotted three pathetic looking donkeys whose eyes were wide and the whites showings in their eyes screamed FEAR. There was one uncut jack and two terribly skinny jennys. They huddled together as closely as they could together, not understanding where they were or what was happening that day. I knew who the slaughter buyers where and watched them as they walked down the alley way talking about their prospects. I moved away from them as a deflection against what they did for a living but also because I knew myself well enough that this was not the day to have a chat with them about why it is that horse meat was illegal to sell in the US but they were free to purchase the US equines, get slaughtered in the US (at that time) and ship the meat to countries where it was legal. We would never allow that for dogs so why was it allowed for horses?

Jillkey in front of the male jack donkey we rescued alongside her after we had put some weight on them both.

I heard the slaughter buyers laughing and watched at they pointed at the skinny, trembling donkeys. A younger cowboy walked up and said they were his donkeys. He bragged about using them as “roping donkeys,” which meant using them as though they were cattle to train their roping horses to chase down and rope the necks or feet of the donkeys. “No sense in running the fat off my cows,” he said to more cackling. He neglected to mention that he saw no need to also feed these terrified donkeys as they were skin and bones.

I knew the fate of these donkeys. The slaughter buyer would get them cheaply as they were so skinny and they were just “useless” donkeys. He’d fatten them up for a few weeks and thus get more per pound for their meat. I was not going to let that happen to these three donkeys, even as I knew that sad scenario would be repeated that day hundreds of times and at hundreds of other Texas auctions. I couldn’t save them all but I could help these three.

Sometimes you can “pre purchase” equines at some auctions before the animals are run through the auction room. I sucked down my disgust at the slaughter buyer still yucking it up with the young cowboy.

“I would like to buy your donkeys,” I said it loudly. They both ignored me. I tapped the cowboy on the shoulder and repeated myself.

“Why? What do you want them rag tag animals for?”

“I want them to protect my sheep herd,” I lied, as I had no sheep then. I intuitively knew that if I said anything about their pathetic condition or that I loved donkeys, their price would increase on the spot. Love of animals was not welcome in the auction house.

“How much you willing to give me?” he asked.

I had sat thru many auctions and at that time, donkeys weren’t worth anything. Many would sell for $25 or less. I offered him $100 per donkey.

“Nah,” he said, walking off with the slaughter buyer.

Fine. See you inside, boys.

I waited all day for the three skinny donkeys to come out. It took all of my resolve to not raise my bidding paddle for every sick and scared equine that came through the auction ring – which would have been most of the animals there. Finally the three terrified donkeys were moved into the auction room with the aide of paddles that the auction staff hit them with to get them moving.

The slaughter buyer bid first. I took a breath and raised my paddle. He saw me and gave me a hard look and raised his paddle. We did a back and forth for a few minutes and the donkey price kept going up. After awhile I saw that the slaughter buyer would raise his paddle and then nudge the other slaughter man standing next to him and they both would stifle their laughter. I knew what they were up to. They no longer wanted the skinny trio. They did want to run up the price on them so as to make me a soft-hearted joke for having to pay a lot for “useless,” skinny donkeys. I started delaying my paddle-raising to the last second to let him know I might change my soft heart and stick him with a high donkey bill. Finally, I won. I had just purchased three sickly looking donkeys for several hundred dollars. The well-fed and unshaven slaughter guys thought it was hysterical. I didn’t care. I left to load my donkeys and we never looked back.

My new three donkeys were terrified of everything, and for good reason given their past. We could not touch them or halter them. We backed the trailer from the auction into a large round pen that would be their new home for a few weeks as we tended to their starvation and awful hooves. We worked with a local veterinarian to slowly put weight back on them. We left them alone most of the time and never forced them to bear near us.

Little by little by little they got curious about me and my husband Jeff, especially as they were learning that we were not going to harm them. We allowed them to move up to us before we ever touched them. After months of this, we could finally put a halter on them so that we could get their hooves trimmed. That was a traumatic day for them and for me. I decided then and there to find a smarter farrier than the one I called out who roped the donkeys to catch them and manhandled them into standing still enough to get their feet trimmed. They could barely walk before the trim as they had never had a trim before and their hooves were overgrown. I allowed this travesty to happen as I didn’t know that was this farrier’s MO. After that day, I stepped in for ANY animal (mine or someone else’s) and stopped that kind of manhandling. I had set back the trust I had been developing for months by allowing them to be roped again. It would never happen again on my watch.

We rehomed the male donkey to a friend who did have a sheep farm and she gelded him and took loving care of him. I kept the two jennys and named the mother donkey Jillkey and her daughter we named Julie. My cousin Jill had been with me the day we saved them at auction and she wanted to name the Jillkey “Bambi” as both donks were so starved that they resembled skinny, wild deer. I could not call a donkey “Bambi” so we agreed to name her Jillkey and her daughter Julie for Julie Andrews singing “a doe, a deer, a female deer….”

Jillkey getting her hooves trimmed and being nice, calm and trusting. She got some encouragement from little guy Sparky.

Jillkey and Julie did learn over the years to allow us to groom them and put a halter on them. I trained them to stop moving away from me when I walked up to put a halter on them. Jillkey stopped moving away every time even though she never fully trusted humans. Can’t say that I blame her. Julie became more like our well-raised mini donkeys who knew only human kindness and she followed us everywhere she could. Jillkey remained on the periphery, never coming too close just in case. We were, after all, among the species that scared and scarred her so deeply as a young donkey. I had reached a “negotiated settlement” (a term I learned from veterinary behaviorist Karen Overall) with our Jillkey: we would not pet her or come too close to her so long as she would not run from me when I did need to halter her. She complied every time. I kept my end of our bargain and so did she.

Jillkey in front and her daughter Julie following. Jillkey became so trusting we could move her pasture to pasture even via an open road.

We shared our lives and moves to three different ranch properties in two states with Jillkey, Julie and our other mini donkeys. Jillkey even got to where she would stand close to me and allow me to scratch her shoulders or back a few times but she wouldn’t stay close for long. She remained hyper aware of humans, even us. She was the first to follow me in the summers when I was moving the donkeys to new pastures. She was also a fierce defender of the donkey herd against coyotes or stray dogs who got into their pasture. She had her place on her our farm and in our hearts. She was safe with us, and I believe she knew that.

And then her final day came. On the morning we were moving to a new state, Jillkey could not stand up. The disease won out. Most days I tend to the farm animals by myself with the help of my three ranch dogs as my husband worked out of state. On the day Jillkey left us, I happened to have a small human army on hand to help with the move. We had rented our property out for a year to a kind young couple who couldn’t wait to take care of our donkeys and horses for a few months so we wouldn’t have to move them to a much colder climate as winter was setting in. I had kept them apprised of Jillkey’s ups and downs and they were prepared to continue caring for her.

My sweet friend Jan encouraging my sweet donkey Jillkey to try to eat.

My dear friend, Jan, and her husband, Eric, had come by to help with the final packing chores. She first went by the barn before coming to the house to say hello to her favorite donkey, Jillkey. Jan had graciously stayed with me a few weeks earlier to help me pack in earnest. Every day she sang to Jillkey and petted her while I fed the other equines. Jillkey ate the very best when Jan was there. My friend Jan is that kind of human – compassionate, wise, funny and thoughtful so it was only natural that a formally scared donkey trusted her instantly.

That final morning Jan immediately went and sat with Jillkey to comfort her. My husband came up from the barn to tell me it was Jillkey’s last day. It was my last day on my farm as well, at least for awhile. In that moment, I allowed my tears to flow but they were as happy as they were sad because Jillkey wasn’t alone — and I wasn’t either. The donkey I saved from death’s doorstep all of those years ago brought me a person like Jan – someone strong enough and kind enough to sit with Jillkey, stroking her neck and singing and praying over her until the vet could arrive. I couldn’t do that for my donkey. I would have been hysterical so I stayed in the house, weeping as I continued the final packing.

Jillkey wearing a colt’s fly sheet to protect her from the magpies that insisted on riding on the donkey’s backs.

Jillkey was not going to survive, that had been clear for months. The fact that she left us on the day we were leaving our farm for a new job in another state did not go unnoticed by me or my friends that day. Jillkey could have passed any day over the past few months but she hung on and happened to pass away as I was saying my goodbyes myself, although of a different nature.

The vet came within the hour and Jan stayed sitting next to Jillkey, petting her to her and telling her what a good donkey she had been. My husband had gathered the other donkeys and put them in a stall with lots of hay after they had sniffed and observed Jillkey laying on the ground.

My wise, companionate and tough as nails friend Jen had been in the house with me helping me clean. She reminded me of the great life we had provided for Jillkey and that we had done right by her. Jen –who had buried far more than her share of beloved horses– had arranged for her neighbor to bring over the large backhoe needed to bury Jillkey. I had given her a signed check and asked her to fill in whatever amount he requested. She pulled out the check to give to him and he grabbed it from her and tore it up, saying he would not charge us for burying our beloved donkey. After Jillkey slipped away as peacefully as one can leave this earth thanks to our kind veterinarian, Jan came up to comfort me in the house while my friend Jen helped bury Jillkey. They both told me how quiet and peaceful Jillkey looked on her last day.

Winter would arrive the next day with plunging temperatures and snow. Jillkey hated to be cold when she was healthy and I was thankful she didn’t have to be in pain any more or go through another winter with her disease.

I saved a donkey long ago who taught me about perseverance, finding your loving tribe and place in the world. She showed me how to trust in spite of a terrible upbringing at the hands of hostile human beings. Jillkey allowed a small army of caring humans to ease her out of this life in the kindest way possible. Their care and love for her broke open any small, remaining part of my heart I had kept protected from people. I, too, had at last found my tribe.

Jillkey was a well-loved donkey. She wasn’t “just a donkey” to us or to our friends. We lost a family member but we also grew bigger hearts as she left us; hearts grateful for Jillkey’s life with us and for the kindness of friends who loved her as well. My friends that day formed a protective circle around my donkey and around me. I needed a village in so many ways and my village wrapped their arms around a donkey and me at the same time. Like Jillkey, my early years taught me that humans cannot be trusted . . . except for those kind-hearted few who you can trust. It took me half my life to find them but I had at last. So had Jillkey.

After Jillkey’s passing, I am left with the same question I am always left with when I look at my animals: who saved who?


Chicago Now reviews “Midnight Dog Walkers”

The Midnight Dog Walkers by Annie Phenix is a Must Read, Dog Lovers

The Midnight Dog Walkers by Annie Phenix is a Must Read, Dog Lovers
Highly recommended

Annie Phenix had me at the title. My membership into the Midnight Dog Walker’s Club began with my blind, highly sensitive chow mix. As some blind dogs do, Penny had reversed day and night, leading us to discover that her anxiety was greatly decreased when I walked her, for a full hour, at midnight every night.

[ Read the entire article on Chicago Now! ] Talks to Trainer Annie Phenix About Her New Book, ‘The Midnight Dog Walkers’

Her easy-to-use guide teaches pet parents of reactive or aggressive dogs how to use positive reinforcement training.

Annie Phenix has always loved animals, but it wasn’t until her senior year of college that she finally got one of her own — a Rottweiler named Wylie. Between a full course load and working three jobs, Annie admits that Wylie didn’t get the training he needed (or deserved). She used a prong collar on him, even though she hated it, because Annie didn’t know of any other options back then, and he was a little wild, to say the least.

After attending a Schutzhund-based dog training academy and learning how to “properly” shock a dog using a shock collar, she never used that tool again, and became a “better trained and better educated trainer.” …

[ Read the entire article on ] Talks to Trainer Annie Phenix About Her New Book, ‘The Midnight Dog Walkers’

Her easy-to-use guide teaches pet parents of reactive or aggressive dogs how to use positive reinforcement training.

Annie Phenix has always loved animals, but it wasn’t until her senior year of college that she finally got one of her own — a Rottweiler named Wylie. Between a full course load and working three jobs, Annie admits that Wylie didn’t get the training he needed (or deserved). She used a prong collar on him, even though she hated it, because Annie didn’t know of any other options back then, and he was a little wild, to say the least.

After attending a Schutzhund-based dog training academy and learning how to “properly” shock a dog using a shock collar, she never used that tool again, and became a “better trained and better educated trainer.” …

[ Read the entire article on ]

What One Dog Rescue Offers and What It Asks for In Return

Founder Joyce Martin offers insight into the adoption process at Austin Dog Rescue.

Australian Shepherd by Shutterstock.


I recently spoke to Austin Dog Rescue founder Joyce Martin about what it offers to adopting families and what the organization needs in return. I volunteered for ADR for many years when I lived in Texas, and it is hands-down the best nonprofit rescue I have worked with.

Martin and her all-volunteer team have saved more than 2,300 dogs from Central Texas shelters since 2006. They vetted all of these dogs (including spay and neuter when necessary) as well as completed an in-depth, well-rounded home interview for each adopter.

[ Read the entire article on Lucky Puppy … ]