WCAC Working to Keep Dogs Warm

by Amanda Newsom

Starla is one of the pups looking for a forever home at WCAC, and her fav thing is a warm blanket on a cold day! Photo: William Wise

Starla is one of the pups looking for a forever home at WCAC, and her fav thing is a warm blanket on a cold day! Photo: William Wise

It’s been a cold winter thus far, which means animal control facilities have been inundated with calls from concerned citizens about outdoor dogs having adequate shelter for the chilling temperatures and icy wind. William Wise, Walton County Animal Control’s (WCAC) director, submitted a memo recently to the Walton County Board of Commissioners to address their work in response to these cold weather complaints.

Working with limited resources and within legal restraints, winter weather-related calls started coming in during early December, where they received 15 calls on just one of those first days. Leading up to the first winter advisory of the season, WCAC preemptively began issuing warnings and distributing informational pamphlets about the proper tethering ordinance, and they have maintained an on-going updated list of addresses to recheck those animals during other declared winter weather advisories. 

To demonstrate the work they’ve done for animals during these cold weather spurts, when a winter advisory was issued on January 16, one officer stayed late to answer calls until 11pm while another officer came back in to work overtime to address those calls. That day alone, they visited over 20 residences, issued 15 citations and two warnings, and rechecked dogs that had been reported during previous advisories. 

Keep in mind that when Walton County animal control officers respond to complaints about dogs outdoors during cold weather, they must follow laws and procedures regarding humane treatment as outlined below:

The Ordinance: Walton County revised the ordinance to include a “proper tethering” section in 2013. The current Walton County Ordinance makes it illegal to tether a dog during any declared weather warnings, advisories or emergencies (see Sec. 10-19e). We utilize the National Weather Service’s website to track these warnings (www.weather.gov). Because of the way the ordinance is worded, it is only during these advisories that we can issue a citation that will stand up to prosecution in court.

Complaints Received in advance of Official Advisories: We often receive complaints in the couple days leading up to a winter weather forecast. When we receive complaints of tethered animals outside of an official warning, we issue warnings and provide special pamphlets to dog owners advising of the law. We also place the address on a list to recheck during a future weather advisory. We have also published information regarding the winter weather tethering law on local television and social media sites.

Complaints During Advisories: During declared advisories as posted by the National Weather Service, our officers respond to new calls and follow up on the previous complaints as time allows. Each circumstance is handled case-by-case depending upon severity and previous complaint. In many cases, citations are issued if previous warnings have been issued. Typical fines are $250 but can go as high as $1000, being misdemeanors.

Complaints received while animal control officers are off duty: In order to issue a citation for tethering during a declared weather advisory, an animal control officer must view the violation. However, as in the latest incident, the county is on shut down and our officers are not patrolling. In those cases, or other cases that occur outside of our normal hours, citations can still be issued.

If a citizen or other law enforcement officer witnesses an animal tethered outdoors during a declared advisory, they can email a photograph of the animal tethered during the advisory period and an animal control officer will issue a citation once normal hours resume. The witness providing the photo will be subpoenaed to court.

While assumptions of all kinds go around about animal control, the work they do behind the scenes is impressive and commendable, not to mention physically and mentally exhausting. The next time you see an animal control officer, in any county, please take a moment to show them some love and thank them for the grueling work they do to help both pets and their owners.

For more information regarding winter weather advisories affecting animals outdoors, please contact the animal control facility in your county or in the county which you are requesting more information or reporting a complaint.

Love Stories in Honor of Valentine's Day

Aerys was neutered before being adopted by Alyssa Grabski through COFAS. Photo: Evelyn Lett

Aerys was neutered before being adopted by Alyssa Grabski through COFAS. Photo: Evelyn Lett


February may be the season of love, but it shouldn’t be for your pets!

Ahh, February. We’re glad you’re here! Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and that means love is in the air. Everyone’s buying chocolates and planning for a fun evening with their special someone. We here at AthensPets hope that you’ll skip the chocolate (it’s not good for your pets anyway), and that you’ll take your furry special someone (no, we don’t mean your somewhat hairy husband!) to be spayed or neutered. February may be the month of love for us humans, but for animals, it’s Spay/Neuter Awareness Month. 

Right now, cats and dogs are already breeding and getting ready to kick off our animal shelter’s toughest season of the year—kitten and puppy season. While it sounds cute and cuddly (who doesn’t love the idea of being covered in cute, fuzzy kittens and puppies?!), shelter staff and volunteers know that inevitably it will lead to a high number of kittens and puppies who won’t make it out of the shelter. Our shelter often receives litters of kittens and puppies who are far too young to have been separated from their mothers. While shelter staff and our rescue partners do everything that they can, these orphaned litters are highly susceptible to disease and typically require around-the-clock care to have a chance of surviving. 

But through a single act of love, you can help us save lives and give your own pet a chance at a longer and healthier life. Here’s a quick look at the benefits of spaying or neutering your pet:

Your pet will actually live a longer and healthier life! What better gift could you give your pet this Valentine’s Day?

Female animals, especially if they are spayed before their first heat cycle, are less likely to develop uterine infections or mammary tumors. Mammary tumors, as reported by the ASPCA, are malignant in approximately 50 percent of dogs and a shocking 90 percent of cats. While rarer, male cats can also develop mammary cancer. This cancer typically spreads rapidly in cats and is often fatal, so spaying your female cat early is especially critical.

The ASPCA reports that male animals that have been neutered avoid the risks of testicular cancer and some prostate problems.

Animals that have been spayed or neutered roam less since they’re no longer searching for a mate. This greatly reduces their impulse to be an escape artist and their chances (once freed) of being hit by a car or getting in a fight with another roaming animal. 

You’ll also avoid common behavioral problems associated with unaltered animals.

If your dog has aggressive tendencies, those are more likely to subside after he’s been neutered. A neutered dog is also less likely to attempt to hump other animals or humans.

Unaltered animals are more likely to mark their territory, so by altering them early on you can avoid unwanted marking behavior inside of your home.

Cats in heat will yowl loudly to attempt to find mates, something no one enjoys listening to at 3am. 

Also, altered dogs usually fit in more easily in public gatherings with other animals, like on a visit to the dog park or on a crowded brewery night.  

Most importantly, you’ll be helping to ensure that your pets won’t have any unintentional or unwanted litters. Many people don’t realize how early animals can go into heat and are surprised when their six-month-old “puppy” or “kitten” ends up pregnant. This is one of the number one ways that kittens and puppies end up at the shelter, so please spay and neuter your pets early on so that you can contribute to the solution of pet overpopulation rather than being part of the problem. 

Remember, if you are feeding stray cats that are not altered, it is essential to get them spayed and neutered. Otherwise you’re just helping them stay healthier so that they can reproduce more quickly and have larger litters. Many well-meaning folks started off by feeding one or two cats on their property only to find themselves overwhelmed with a colony of 20 or more within just a year or two. 

The good news is that there are a lot of resources out there to help you, whether you’re looking to alter your personal pet or help a cat that’s decided to call your house home. Contact us at AthensPets (info@athenspets.net), and we’ll be glad to help direct you to resources that are available in the Athens area. 


Lily Belle and Brittnee. Photo: Brittnee Thirkield

Lily Belle and Brittnee. Photo: Brittnee Thirkield


I adopted my two cats, Lily Belle and Waylon, from the Athens Area Humane Society on June 10, 2016. At the time, I was battling depression and looking for a way to learn how to nurture again. Turns out cat therapy was just what the doctor ordered. 

I saw Waylon’s picture online and thought he was cute as a button. When I arrived, the adoption coordinator explained bonded pairs to me and introduced me to about three or four pairs. The cats I would bring home two hours later were the last ones I met. If they could speak English, here’s what they would say:

Lily Belle: Hi. I’m Lily Belle aka Nike aka Queen Lilz. I’m a 3-year-old tortoiseshell cat (tortie). On the day we were adopted, I was very interactive. First of all, no one puts baby in a corner, and no one puts me in a shelter for several months without me having an exit strategy. I decided it was time for us to find our own home. The world needs to know of my greatness, as I was named after the Greek goddess of speed, strength and victory. True to my name, I raced around the interaction pen, elegantly of course, climbing the walls, scratching the post, meowing. I didn’t care who saw it or what they thought. I’m the queen. Brittnee was kinda cool... for a human. She was more interested in my son, but I’m the one who makes the final decisions around here. Basically, she fell in love with him on the internet, but I sealed the deal! I wanted to go home with her but didn’t like it when they put me in the carrier, so I jumped out of it, twice… Again, no one puts baby in a corner, and no one puts me in a carrier. Once home, I explored a bit while Waylon hid to see if the new place was safe. I decided it was and claimed the home as mine, forever. Talk about a victory!

Nowadays, I’m extremely vocal. B says I have a large vocabulary letting everyone know when I’m displeased, happy or bored. I’m even teaching her some cat speak. Since she insists on fostering kittens for a local shelter, I’m the self-appointed cat etiquette instructor for the little rascals. I’m more than willing to share my home, but they have to respect the queen first!

Waylon: Hiya! I am 2-year-old ginger and though a full adult in cat years, Brittnee sometimes describes me as a 15-pound kitten. On the day we were adopted, I was stand-offish and watched from behind a cubby. When I got bored of watching her play with my mom, I quietly peered out the window and ignored them both. I like seeing outside but prefer to be nestled safely inside. Having lived in shelters most of my short life, I didn’t know what to make of the car ride. I followed behind my mom when she explored the new place. I found a safe place and watched B from the top of the staircase for hours. Once she shared some food and treats with us, I knew I would love her.

It’s been a year and a half since we came home with B, and I am fairly vocal. I pride myself on being the time keeper for meals and head of the welcome committee for the foster cats and kittens. I’m still a bit shy around strangers, but I come around quickly.


Madi and Aerys cuddling. Photo: Alyssa Grabski

Madi and Aerys cuddling. Photo: Alyssa Grabski


LOVE is a four-legged word!

We rescued Madi from Circle of Friends almost exactly one year ago! Madi had about five different places to stay before she found her furrever home with us. We put a lot of love and patience into helping her understand how to be a carefree dog. We gained her trust, and now Madi loves giving kisses, going to daycare at Mutty Paws and learning new tricks with Lucky Dog Training. After some convincing by Matt, we got Madi a four-legged sibling named Aerys. When we met him, we knew his bold personality would mix well with Madi (who often forgets her own size)! Aerys is extremely social and wins over the hearts anyone who meets him. He loves watching the wildlife outside, and WE love watching his little belly swinging side to side as he runs all over the house. Madi and Aerys love hanging out together—whether it’s naps, tearing up paper bags or chasing the Roomba. While they don’t always see eye to eye (literally), I think they can both agree the four of us make one happy family!

When Failure = Love

by Evelyn Lett

Joyce, the loving product of foster failure. Photo: Evelyn Lett

Joyce, the loving product of foster failure. Photo: Evelyn Lett

As a rescue dog foster parent, one comment that I often hear goes something along the lines of, “I could never foster, I would fall in love with every one of them!”

Well, yes you will... but that’s the point! All of those precious, abandoned, neglected dogs sitting in animal control facilities who, at risk of being euthanized, are yearning for one main thing: love. Some of these pups have never experienced love, some may have lost love, others are just too terrified to realize that all they need is love. 

In the rescue community we have an affectionate term coined “foster failing.” It has nothing to do with your fostering performance but everything to do with your heart. There are those special fosters that will give you all the feels and you can’t possibly imagine your life without them, but I guarantee you won’t feel that way about every foster. Plus, if you do end up adopting your foster pet and embrace them as your next furry family member, everyone wins!

In honor of our February “love issue,” I thought I’d share just one of my foster fail love stories...

One Saturday morning I was driving to an adoption event at PetSmart with foster #46 in tow—an extremely timid, submissive, unsocialized beagle named Joyce. 

As soon as I merged onto the loop, my nose was assaulted by an awful stench coming from the backseat. I had my fingers crossed that it was just a gassy toot but with a quick glance, I was horrified to see a big ol’ pile of stink. Due to the traffic and nowhere to pull over on the highway, I had no choice but to keep driving, holding my nose to keep from retching. As we continued along our drive, desperately looking for anywhere to stop, I glanced towards the back seat again only to witness poor Joyce vomiting on top of her prior spell of diarrhea while trembling uncontrollably from nervousness. By this point I was gagging uncontrollably and literally thought my nose might fall off from squeezing it so hard. After what seemed like hours, I was finally able to exit the loop! By the time we made it to the nearest gas station, she had eaten about half of everything in the seat. I was crying and felt utterly disgusted, defeated and at a complete loss. What was I ever going to do with this dog?

Joyce’s history is completely unknown since she was turned into animal control. Due to the lack of information, all we knew was that she was extremely timid and had learned to not trust humans at all. Fostering Joyce was challenging. For the first two weeks at my home, it was heart-wrenching trying to coax her out of her crate for anything other than pottying, and I spent many hours simply lying next to her crate reading aloud to her softly. Everything from the television to our overhead fan terrified her, but slowly and steadily, and with a ton of patience, you could really see her learning how to be a pet companion. After about six weeks, I decided it was only fair to give her a chance at finding her very own forever home and was so excited to take her out to meet potential adopters!

Attempting not to panic, I exited the car and tried to figure out the best way to clean my car seat off while holding two dogs with no supplies and trying not to barf. It was right there in the middle of that gas station parking lot, experiencing the grossest moment of my life, that it hit me: I decided to adopt this little girl. I knew that I had to protect her from ever having to suffer from fear again. 

The most important thing as a foster parent is to have an open mind and to trust yourself. If you feel confident about who adopts your foster dog, then you should be able to visualize how much love they will bring to their new family. You can’t be selfish with love! But occasionally, even if you never dreamed in a million years of having a fifth dog (especially a beagle, of all breeds), you will know in your heart that the best way to love your foster is to “fail” at being a foster parent and to succeed at being an adoptive one. 

Joyce has grown leaps and bounds in my home and is continuing to trust and to learn to accept love every day. However… she still doesn’t go on car rides! 

Emotional Support vs. Service Animals

There are various working dog designations.

by Michaela Gardner

One of today’s most popular “health crazes” has nothing to do with juice cleanses or the latest product intended to get rid of acne overnight. It actually doesn’t have anything to do with physical health at all, but mental health, and that is the explosive popularity of Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). While recognizing the legitimacy of using animals to help treat mental illness is a victory in itself, misunderstandings of the term “emotional support animal” have given rise to an entirely new issue. On one hand, there are people out there taking advantage of the system and faking mental illnesses in order to gain certain privileges, or people who act as though their ESA has the same rights as service animals. On the other, people that have a genuine need for emotional service animals are being taken advantage of due to a lack of accurate, widespread information on the matter.

In order to set the record straight, it's important to understand the definitions of both emotional support animals and service animals. Service animals are described by the Americans with Disabilities Act as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” They are trained to assist the visually-impaired to safely navigate the world, or aid the physically-handicapped with day-to-day chores. ESAs are pets that have received no special training, and they do not perform and tasks or work for their owners—they have been prescribed to their owner by a mental health professional because their presence helps alleviate symptoms of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and PTSD.

There are only two specific areas in which people with ESAs are given rights over people with other pets. With proof from a mental health professional, people with an ESA cannot be denied housing or forced to pay a pet fee. Breed bans and size limitations may also be disregarded, according to the Fair Housing Act. When it comes to air travel, the Air Carrier Access Act allows emotional support animals to travel in the cabin of an airplane with their owner, like a service animal would. The intent of this law is to ease anxieties for those with flying phobias.

Based on these specific laws pertaining to emotional support animals, it’s easy to see how the lines between emotional support and service animals can be blurry to some people. One of the biggest issues for those with emotional support animals is the plethora of internet scams claiming that they must pay fees, many up to $100, in order to register their pet. These websites then typically provide a vest and ID badge intended to prove the validity of the ESA. In reality, the only validation necessary for ESAs is a signed letter from a mental health professional. There are no fees involved in obtaining an official status for an emotional support animal.

On the flip side, many people take advantage of the lack of proper information about the differences between emotional support and service animals, behaving as though they both possess the same rights. This epidemic continues to spread because laws and regulations are unable to keep up with the rapid increase in the use of ESAs. Until recently, there was no need for expanded legislation regarding service animals, but between the misleading information about ESAs and people just flat out lying about their pets being a service animal, many are calling for stricter laws and regulations for service animals. Those that fake the use of a service animal and have pets that misbehave in public give true service animals a bad reputation, causing more grief for people that truly require their assistance. A difficult aspect of laws about service animals is that it is illegal for employees or business owners to question the purpose or validity of a service animal, making it almost impossible to do anything when an animal is suspected to be a fake service animal.

The most important step that currently needs to be taken in sorting this issue out is the dissemination of accurate information about the differences between emotional support and service animals. More thorough research needs to be done by those considering pursuing the help of an emotional support animal, and society as a whole needs to understand the importance of service animals and the negative impact that fake or improperly-trained service animals can have on those that have gone through the proper time, training and channels in order to gain their rights.

Recycled Pet Toys: A DIY Project

by Denise Plemmons

Merfi trying out Denise's DIY pet toys from recycled materials.

Merfi trying out Denise's DIY pet toys from recycled materials.

Pet toys can be expensive and often don’t last very long. But you can save money by making your own toys. You don’t have to be a Pinterest queen to make some simple toys! Here are a few examples:

T-Shirt Rope Toy

Got some old t-shirts you don’t wear anymore? Or even old towels? You can turn those into a great tug toy for your dog. Simply cut it into 2-inch wide strips, and if you want it thicker, just add more strips. You can make them as long or short as you want. Then simply tie one end into a knot, section into three sections, and braid. When the braid is done, tie another knot at the end and you’re done. You can add an old tennis ball to the middle for some added fun!

Water Bottle Sock

Grab an old sock, insert a water bottle, and then close with a knot. Your doggie will love the crinkly noise.

Interactive Treat Puzzle

Get an empty plastic container, and cut a few holes big enough for treats to fall out. I used the treat container itself. Fill with treats, close and let your pet have a blast. 

Toilet paper tubes also make great treat puzzles for cats. They’re free, everyone has them and they can be made into many things. I added some cute Valentine’s stickers for a festive look. Just be sure to secure them so your kitty or doggie doesn’t eat them.

Cork Toys

Cork is a 100 percent natural, biodegradable and renewable resource. But not recyclable in Athens. However, it can be used to make a great cat toy! Just insert some feathers, ribbon, jute or anything else that will attract your cat.

Stringed Straw Toy

Straws are one-time use pieces of plastic that aren’t recyclable, and they seem to be everywhere. You get them even if you don’t want them. Here I found a fun way to put them to good use. Just cut two straws into 2-inch pieces, and string together. It can be a fun toy for a cat or for small critters like birds and rats. You can even put small pieces of food in the straws.

Here’s my test kitty, Merfi. I think her favorite was the straw wrapper.

As with any toy, monitor your pet when they are playing. Toss out any damaged toys.

Denise Plemmons is the Commercial Recycling Specialist for Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department. She has also worked with animals at the Athens Area Humane Society. If you have any questions about recycling, you can reach her at denise.plemmons@accgov.com or 706-621-2836.


by Maggie See

Artwork: Sara Fogle

Artwork: Sara Fogle

Athens has its very own Wonder Woman, and her name is Sara Fogle. She’s a multi-talented tattoo artist and dog mom who owns her own business and spends her spare time at SBG Athens (and has even won some ribbons in fitness competitions). But don’t be intimidated—she’s normal like the rest of us and loves to kick back and watch Netflix with the dogs, also.

Sara is the owner of Chico Lou’s Fine Tattoos, located inside Model Citizen Salon on Prince Avenue since 2015. The shop was named after Chico Lou, a fancy and fantastic Chihuahua who was also the subject of her first pet portrait, featuring his favorite stuffed unicorn. Even though the world lost Chico Lou last year, Sara and her husband currently have a pack of three pretty awesome dogs: Chug, a Chihuahua/Pug mix; Diddy, a Chinese Crested; and Nugget, a Pug mix. 

Although Sara has been an artist her whole life, she had a breakthrough moment around seven years ago while waitressing downtown at The Grill. After overcoming a rough patch in life that unfortunately included a hand injury, she started to draw again and noticed a fellow waitress (and her eventual best friend) drawing on the back of her ticket book. Having only a pen, she was nervous about making a mistake. Luckily, she was reminded, “But isn’t that what art is? You make mistakes and keep going.” The sketches she did after that gave her the confidence she needed to really pursue a career in art, eventually opening Chico Lou’s. 

While her tattooing style varies from detailed, realistic pieces to more fantasy-type things, abstract linework, and really everything in between, Sara has a very distinct style in the pet portraits she does on paper. Her ability to capture the exact likeness of a loved one is nothing short of impressive. You can really tell she loves animals in the way she draws them. She says, “I’ve been told by art teachers that my art had to have something to say. It has to mean something. I guess mine says ‘I love dogs.’” 

Sara, aka Wonder Woman, at Boo-le-Bark's 2017 Halloween parade.

Sara, aka Wonder Woman, at Boo-le-Bark's 2017 Halloween parade.

You may recognize Sara from the most recent Boo-le-Bark Parade where she walked in costume as Wonder Woman. That costume is the same she spent months making and wore to DragonCon for 2017. Twenty years after attending her first DragonCon, she put together this Wonder Woman costume that she says has been her favorite so far. “The best part was taking pictures with excited little girls. When I handed off my plastic sword, it was always received with reverence.” She even performed a wedding as Wonder Woman once! 

Bilateral carpal tunnel/cubital tunnel surgery in November slowed her down some and gave Sara a chance to realize that in 2018, she wants to remember to create art that truly brings her joy. If you’d like to keep up with her growing empire, be sure to follow Chico Lou’s Fine Tattoos on Facebook,and on Instagram at @saramachenart! 

Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos

Photo Courtesy of Silver Queen Cantina

Photo Courtesy of Silver Queen Cantina

by Wes Kent, Silver Queen Cantina


  • 4 corn tortillas 
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 cup sunflower  seeds 
  • 2 red radish
  • 4 individual dried guajillo
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 cup canola oil  
  • 4 limes 
  • 1 cup vegan queso fresco
  • salt to taste 
  • sugar to taste


Add sugar, salt, lime juice, canola oil and guajillo chiles to blender, and blend till smooth. 


  1. Cut sweet potatoes, and roast in oven at 375°F till golden brown.  
  2. Toss sweet potatoes in guajillo vinaigrette. 
  3. Place coated sweet potatoes on tortilla.
  4. Garnish with pumpkin seeds, queso fresco, cilantro and radish. 

Makes four tacos.

Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech

by Taylor Solomon

Photo: Taylor Solomon

Photo: Taylor Solomon

Love That Dog is a very special book. It’s small and yellow and fits perfectly in your hand. Its pages are smooth, its text printed in blue. My first encounter with the book was in the fifth grade. Our sweet English teacher, Ms. Goodnight, read it aloud to us during our unit on poetry—the first time I remember studying poetry. You see, Sharon Creech’s book is technically a novel. It even says so on the cover. But flipping through the book’s pages, you will find what looks less like the text of a novel and more like the rhythmic stanzas of a poetry collection. Love That Dog is a novel, but its story is told through poetry.

Jack is a student in Miss Stretchberry’s class, where they have just begun a unit on poetry. Right off the bat, Jack lets you know his opinion of poetry. “I don’t want to [write poetry], because boys don’t write poetry. Girls do.” Jack is skeptical, though Miss Strechberry continues to urge him to write. As the year goes on, through Jack’s prose and one-sided correspondence with Miss Stretchberry, we see Jack grow as a writer and learn more and more about his personal life, in particular his relationship with a family pet, a yellow dog. Sharon Creech uses classic poets (Robert Frost, William Blake, Walter Dean Myers) to move Jack through academic goals as well as coming to terms with the tragedy of losing a pet. One of the dedications in the book reads “For… all of whom love love love their dogs,” and Creech is not wrong in knowing it will resonate with this audience. Anyone who has experienced the unconditional love of a dog (or any pet for that matter) will relate to Jack and his story.

If Jack is discovering prose and seeing himself as a poet for the first time in Love That Dog, in the book’s sequel, Hate That Cat, he is growing and becoming even more experimental in his work. He is learning about onomatopoeia and alliteration, assonance and consonance. He even has a new subject, a large black cat who Jack is not shy to let you know he has very strong feelings about (hence the title). After becoming close to Jack in Love That Dog, the reader will love getting to know even more about him (and even more touching details of his home life) in this sequel. 

As a pet owner, I see myself in Jack and his family’s love for their pets and how they come together through their loss. As a student, I see myself in Jack and his peers navigating the waters of poetry for the first time. As an educator, I can only hope to be as influential as Ms. Stretchberry, introducing her students to topics that will forever change the course of their lives. Love That Dog and Hate that Cat are sweet and simple stories, but they are not ones that will be soon forgotten.

Holiday Gift Guide

by Amanda Newsom & Maggie See

There’s no shortage of talented artists and makers around these parts, and what better way to share the love than to support our own local, small businesses. We hope you will support our advertisers who have made Classic City Paw Print possible this year, as well!

We made a list and checked it twice. Here are some fun and unique ideas for the gift-giving season:


AthensPets Mug

AthensPets Mug

If you want to give a thoughtful gift to someone who is hard to buy for or who already has everything, sponsoring a pet at a local shelter is a win-win gift. Sponsorships help pets gets adopted faster and help bring attention to the harder-to-place pets waiting for their forever homes. So it’s great for the animals, and it’ll give your giftee that feel-good moment that not many other gifts will provide. We’ve listed a few local shelters that you can sponsor pets at, but there are several local shelters that offer similar sponsorships. Some shelters and rescues also have merch, like shirts and coffee mugs, that can you include with your sponsorship gift.



Oconee County Animal Services


Walton County Animal Control




Classic City Paw Print Fan Club Pin

Classic City Paw Print Fan Club Pin

A little self-promotion never hurt anyone... we of course recommend our CCPP fan club pins that are excellent stocking stuffers for your animal-loving friends around town! These cute pins were designed by Maggie See, our resident Artist Spotlight writer who also has her own animal-related art available online and at Atomic!

Classic City Paw Print


Maggie See




Take Your Pick at Lotta Maes Supply Co

Take Your Pick at Lotta Maes Supply Co

There are a few stores around town that we can’t just choose one item to feature no matter how hard we try, so you’ll just have to take your pick! Frontier, Native America Gallery, Indie South Shop and Lotta Maes, which just opened this fall, always have animal-themed items that make perfect gifts... plus, you’re supporting multiple local businesses at once when you shop at these stores!

Lotta Maes Supply Co. 


BONUS POINTS: Lotta Maes will make a donation to AthensPets if you mention you saw them in our gift guide when you make a purchase there this December! <3



Native America Gallery


Indie South Shop




Gift cards for doggie daycare time or boarding will give you human friends the needed incentive to take a day trip or short vacation without worrying about their pups if they can’t come along for the ride. We’ve listed a few boarding facilities below, but there are so many awesome options around town, too! 

(Things to consider when picking which facility to gift: whether they already use a certain facility, how close it is to their home, the type of boarding/daycare needed, and amenities or special accommodations.)



Waggin Tails


Classic City Critter Sitters




Athens Dog Biscuits

Athens Dog Biscuits

Who says only humans get to open presents for the holidays? Give some tasty snacks to all the dogs and cats that you (and your friends and family) love!

Athens Dog Biscuits


Oscar Bites



HUMAN Treats

Okay, humans deserve treats, too... There are some cool restaurants around town that offer delicious human treats, but since we feature a recipe in every issue created by local chefs, we’re going to point you to tinyurl.com/ccppchowdown. The best part about these recipes is that they are not only delicious, all of the ingredients are compassionate toward animals (i.e., our way of saying “they’re all vegan”). These recipes double as great options for holiday potlucks! 



Colors for Conservation Shadowbox

Colors for Conservation Shadowbox

There is no shortage of cool artists incorporating animals into their artwork in our area—hence our monthly artist spotlight! Will Eskridge not only has some of our favorite paintings, but he also has some cool ornaments right now. Colors for Conservation has dreamy wildlife artwork, with their shadowboxes and necklaces being in our top favs. And we particularly dig the “Only Dog Can Judge Me” print by Lauren Gregg. Check out our artist spotlights online for more ideas at tinyurl.com/ccppartistspotlight.

Will Eskridge


Colors for Conservation


Lauren Gregg




Sugar Cookie Pin Set

Sugar Cookie Pin Set

For the friends who love to show off their pet parenthood, we recommend Sugar Cookie’s cat lady pin set and The Southern Lady’s “Dog Mom AF” shirt. 

Sugar Cookie


The Southern Lady Bug 5




Laura Eavenson Pet Portrait

Laura Eavenson Pet Portrait

One of the most prized gifts you can give a pet parent is a professional portrait or photo of their beloved fur babies. Again, we are lucky to have so many to choose from in the Athens area, but we’re shouting out to the artists and photographers below. Laura paints beautifully-colored portraits, and Anne Yarbrough not only takes some of the best pet photographs we’ve seen, she also donates her time to take photos of adoptable pets (which we heart). The same can be said of Evelyn Lett, who also happens to be our newest CCPP writer for Fostering Hope.

Laura Eavenson


Anne Yarbrough Photography


Evelyn Lett Photography




Classic City Cat Items

Classic City Cat Items

If you need something for the ultimate cat lady in your life, Classic City Cat has you covered. They have tons of cat-tastic items for you to choose from or pair together or add to a basket. We are also in love with the cat dolls by Rainbow Peg Dolls, which are great for humans of any age!

Classic City Cat


Rainbow Peg Dolls




Rinse K9 Wash

Rinse K9 Wash

Dogs can definitely be a bit easier to buy for, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t some special items that we think you’ll gravitate toward on the local front. Tie Dyed Natural Turtle has adorable handmade bandanas, collars and leashes (as well as natural bug spray!), and Rinse Soap in Monroe has natural refreshing spray and cleansers to keep pups spelling nice. 

Tie Dyed Natural Turtle


Rinse Bath & Body Co. 




Taylor Custom Science Gifts

Taylor Custom Science Gifts

We love wildlife as much as our domestic friends here at Classic City Paw Print, so we can’t leave them out of the mix! Wild Birds Unlimited opened this year and has your backyard bird needs covered, and we love the felt ornaments and other cute items by Rachel Winters. We’re breaking the rules a bit and featuring an artist that’s not local, but the keychains and necklaces that Chris Taylor creates are too cool not to highlight!

Wild Birds Unlimited


Rachel Winters Sewing


Taylor Custom Science Gifts




For the people in your life who enjoy getting outside with their dogs (or other pets—we have seen some cats on leashes recently!), consider getting them an annual pass to Sandy Creek Park or to Georgia State Parks. Georgia State Parks has a Tails on Trails program that’s a fun way to get outside with your dog and see parks across the state while you’re at it! And of course, keep an eye out to see what cool wildlife you see along the trails.

Georgia State Parks


Sandy Creek Park




Maggie Seee Gifts

Maggie Seee Gifts

If you want a gift you can share with your friends, you’ve got some nice options. ARTini’s hosts “Paint your Pet” nights pretty frequently that also benefit local rescues, and during certain times of year, Circle of Friends hosts Kitty Yoga at Memorial Park and Sweet Olive Farm hosts Baaa-maste Yoga in their barn. 

ARTini’s Lounge


Circle of Friends Kitty Yoga


Sweet Olive Farm


Pets as Holiday Gifts: The Do's and Don'ts

by Michaela Gardner

We’ve all seen the commercials around the holidays of a child’s dreams coming true... that commercial where they come racing to the tree to find a giant box with a big red bow on top and a puppy inside. Commercials that glorify the giving of adorable baby animals as gifts, however, can be dangerous. Who wouldn’t want to see such a reaction on their child’s face when they find the pet you swore you’d never get waiting beneath the tree? As fantastic as this scenario may seem, there is another side to the practice of giving pets as gifts during the holidays. 

I have worked at PetSmart in Athens for almost a year and a half now, and I have seen my fair share of pets purchased on a whim. There is an exponential increase of these instances around the holidays. I know what you’re thinking—”here comes a lecture”—but hear me out. There are many things about pets as gifts that I had never considered before I started working at PetSmart. Guinea pigs, hamsters, bearded dragons, giant fish tanks and rabbits around Easter... these are all examples of pets that suffer due to impulse purchases. 

But fear not, for there ARE right and wrong ways to approach the gift giving season when it comes to animals. To break it down, here is a list of do’s and don’ts to abide by when deciding whether or not a pet is the perfect holiday gift to give this year:



  • plenty of research
  • assess your living situation, and choose a pet best suited to it 
  • add up initial, monthly and annual costs of the pet you are considering 
  • sit down with children and have a serious discussion about the care involved 
  • consult with pet care professionals to seek guidance when deciding which pet is right for you
  • consider adopting your new pet from a shelter!



  • make an impulsive decision 
  • cut corners while stocking up on supplies
  • gift a pet to a child without discussing it with their parents and/or entire family first
  • surrender senior dogs or cats to the shelter in order to make room for a new puppy or kitten
  • purchase pets from flea markets, people’s yards or anywhere else that appears to be selling unhealthy animals (and beware of backyard breeders)


There are few things more joyous than bringing a new pet home. What better time than the holidays to build on that joy? In no way do I wish to discourage anyone from experiencing the happiness that pets bring. Instead, my goal is to educate, and I cannot stress the importance of research. This is going to be the first step, regardless of the pet you are interested in, from puppy to parakeet. No one wants to make an impulsive decision only to get home and realize the puppy they just purchased will grow to be over a hundred pounds, is full of energy, and probably isn’t suited for a studio apartment in the middle of the city. 

Another common misconception I have witnessed at PetSmart is that customers walk in under the impression that they can purchase a new Guinea pig with all the supplies for less than $100. Before you commit, put together a shopping list of the supplies you will need for whatever pet you desire, and browse the internet or local pet stores for prices on each item. From there, evaluate which of those are start-up costs and which will be weekly or monthly costs, and compare this to your budget. Take the opportunity to continue evaluating which pets will and will not suit your lifestyle. 

Another issue we commonly see at PetSmart is returned pets because the child (and oftentimes college-aged young adults) did not realize what all was going to be involved in daily and weekly maintenance for their pet. This is where I stress to parents to sit down and have a grown-up discussion that once Santa brings them that hamster, it’s up to them to take care of it every day. Prepare calendars and checklists for them so that they’re ready for the responsibility. 

If you are still unsure of what pet is right for your family, discuss your options with pet care professionals. I encourage these discussions and quite enjoy them, because at the end of the day, my biggest goal is for the animals and the customers to be happy with the decision made. Be honest and upfront with us, and we will definitely be able to match you with a suitable pet. 

And finally, I encourage everyone to consider adopting from a shelter or rescue. Not only can you find dogs and cats, but Guinea pigs and rabbits oftentimes find their way into shelters because people don’t realize initially how intensive their care can be. One of the many benefits of adopting from shelters is that your initial costs are minimized greatly, as adoption fees typically include full vetting: spay/neuter, vaccinations and a microchip! By adopting from a shelter during the holiday season, not only is your family receiving a gift, but you are giving the gift of life to an animal that deserves a second chance. 

Deviled Carrots

Garrett MacFalda, Heirloom Cafe


Photo: Garrett MacFalda

Photo: Garrett MacFalda

  • 6 medium carrots, scrubbed but not peeled
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeño chile, minced 
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp relish
  • 1 tsp seeded mustard
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 jalapeño chile
  • 2 quarts water, for blanching 
  • Salt, enough to make the blanch water taste like the sea



First, slice off the very top end of the carrots by the greens. Reserve the greens for future use, but keep a few frills for garnish. From here, slice the carrots into three equal segments. The topmost will become the base for the deviled carrots, the center piece will become the stuffing, and the thinnest bottom third will become the pickles to finish.

For the base: Cut each base portion vertically to make half cylinders, and then cut the curved outer carrot flat so the bases will sit face up. Blanch these pieces for about 2-5 minutes, long enough to bite through easily but not so long they’re mushy or hard to pick up. Once they’re ready, drop them into an ice bath until they’re about room temperature, then dry them on a paper towel.

For the stuffing: Roughly dice the middle portions of the carrot and sauté with a little neutral oil. Cook the carrot until very soft, keeping them moving to prevent scorching them. If they’re sticking, add a little water to let them steam, and cook down further. Once the carrots are soft, puree them in a food processor and pass through a fine sieve to remove any stringy fibrous bits. Add the minced chile, paprika, relish and seeded mustard, then salt to taste. 

For the pickles: Slice the thin bottom end portions of the carrots into discs as finely as possible, then add the crushed cloves of garlic and remaining jalapeño in a heat-safe bowl. Boil the white vinegar, water and salt together in a small pot, and then pour over the carrots. Let cool, making sure the pickling brine completely covers the carrot discs.

Assembly: Arrange the base portions face up, cutting the largest pieces down to bite size if you had large carrots. Spoon the stuffing mixture evenly onto each piece, and garnish the tops with pickled carrot. Use the greens to make a bed on a platter for your deviled carrots, or dress a few fronds in olive oil, kosher salt and few drops of fresh lemon juice and garnish the tops.

Makes 12 canapés, more with larger carrots. 

More than Love

by Evelyn Lett

Photo: Evelyn Lett

Photo: Evelyn Lett

Fosters are the backbone of the rescue industry—without them, most rescues wouldn’t exist. Fostering animals serves many purposes: one of the foremost is that it drastically reduces the overhead costs involved in running a rescue. Fosters help a larger percentage of donations go directly toward paying for the costs associated with vetting each animal that goes through a rescue. 

Foster homes also reduce the pressure on local government-run animal shelters that are often forced to euthanize healthy dogs or cats due to a lack of space needed for animals brought in as strays or surrendered by their owners. Additionally, injured animals that need to heal prior to being adopted can be given the luxury of time in a foster home that they may not always be afforded in an overcrowded, underfunded facility. 

I’m sure we’ve all seen the pleas from rescue groups on social media searching for rescues, foster homes, adopters or pledgers. I often see something along the lines of, “All you need is love, and we provide the rest,” in regards to fostering. And in the most fundamental sense, yes, organizations provide foster families with crates, beds, food, toys, bowls, leashes, collars, litter, you name it—they provide it (to the best of their abilities)! But in reality, it does take so much more.

Fostering isn’t for everyone. It can be challenging, inconvenient, emotionally-draining and overwhelming, but it is just as equally heartwarming and self-fulfilling so much so that, if done correctly, it can change everything you ever thought you knew about dogs or cats… and yourself. 

Fostering takes patience, sacrifice, commitment, absolute dedication, honesty with mental adopters… and did I mention patience? By no means do I want to turn anyone away from becoming a foster. I so hope that by sharing my experiences will shed light on a somewhat mysterious role that many people don’t fully understand. 

Full disclosure: Fostering has changed my life and given me a feeling of having a greater purpose. Watching an animal transform from a terrified soul who’s never known love into a beautiful, confident pet who knows how to play, trust and express joy is humbling and extremely gratifying. And then having the opportunity to watch that same pet find their perfect family who needs them just as much as your foster needs them—it makes you instantly forget all the trials and tribulations, and you are inevitably left with every precious, loving memory of each foster once they’ve left the nest.

One aspect of fostering that can be intimidating to people is that it carries quite a bit of uncertainty. For example, my rescue, and many others, regularly visit rural animal control shelters where dogs are found as strays or turned in by their owners. After they’re held for five days, they become subject to euthanasia. When these shelters become full or have a particularly busy week, the animals are put under even more pressure to find homes, either by direct adoption or by being pulled by a rescue organization. These rescues serve as a type of temporary middle-man to get the animals fully vetted and treated, evaluated for personality and behavioral traits, and acclimated to living and being comfortable in a home. 

The majority of these animals have completely unknown backgrounds. They may have never lived indoors; dogs’ listed “breed” is honestly just a best guess based on their physical appearance; they’ve never been taught any behavioral commands; they might have been abused verbally or physically; some have been unexpectedly separated from the one and only human they’ve ever known and are in mourning; and others just need a little extra TLC before going directly to a new home. 

There’s never an “absolute guarantee” to any animal that you bring into your home, and often it can take several days to weeks to reveal your foster’s personality and any unusual “quirks” they may have. You must be ready to adjust your current setup and schedule to fit each individual foster animal, since no two are the same!

Fostering exposes the utter resilience of these amazing creatures we have chosen to share our lives with, and ultimately chosen to be members of our families. So please, be patient if things seem chaotic at first. Take a few deep breaths, gain perspective and think outside the box to address any specific issues that may arise. Remember your importance: you may possibly be the last chance this little furry kid has at their “happily ever after.”

Lemon Bars

by Midge McCoy, Donna Changs


  • ½ lb coconut oil
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ tsp salt


  • 6 tbsp golden flax meal
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • Confectioner’s sugar for garnish


For the crust, add all ingredients together in a food processor, and pulse until evenly combined. It’s supposed to look like shortbread. Grease a large casserole dish or similarly-sized baking sheet, and press the dough into it so that it is even and as flat as possible. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until it appears dry. 

While it bakes, mix the flax and water together and let stand for 5 minutes—this is your egg substitute. Next, mix the remaining filling ingredients and add the “egg” once it has thickened. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees, and pour the filling on top of the crust. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the filling looks set. 

Let cool and top with confectioner’s sugar—tap through a sieve to make it look pretty. 

Cowboy Robot

by Morgan Solomon

Photo: Morgan Solomon

Photo: Morgan Solomon

If you ever visit 1000 Faces Coffee, you may notice the face of a cheerful dog peeking out from next door at Align Machine Works. This is Robot, a sweet boy who is a Border Collie/Springer Spaniel mix. His full name is Cowboy Robot, and he belongs to Jeff, the Senior Project Engineer there. His quirky name originates from Jeff’s childhood; Cowboy Robot is the name he always wanted to give a dog since he was a child.

On August 21, 2012, Jeff rescued Robot from Posey Shelter Pet Promoters, a non-profit organization in Cedartown, GA. It is believed that Robot was born in October 2011, making him six years old. You would not know it from his laid-back temperament, but Robot just made the big move to Athens this year. Jeff moved from Thomasville, GA to Athens for work and to get back to his roots since he grew up in Watkinsville. Robot came along for the journey, and according to Jeff, has benefitted more than anyone else from the move. Since moving to Athens, Robot has more opportunities to get out and explore. He is also able to go to work with Jeff.

Speaking of work, Robot serves as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Align Machine Works. His office specializes in product development, prototypes and turn-key manufacturing. Align Machine Works helps clients manufacture new products using techniques such as computer numerical control machining, laser cutting and die casting. Robot works hard to promote their services by using his cute face, charm and sitting ability.

When Robot isn’t working in sales, he is normally chewing on random pieces of plastic he finds around the shop. He would take some good old plastic over an apple any day—he hates apples. Don’t worry, it isn’t all work and no play for Robot. When he decides to take a break from work, he loves to spend his time howling at sirens and riding shotgun, because deep down he is just a good boy. 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… spent in the Emergency Veterinary Hospital

Dr. David Lavernoich

The weather is getting below 80 degrees here in the Classic City, and that means autumn has arrived and the holidays are around the corner. Major box stores have had holiday decorations and winter weather preparations out since September. With the holidays approaching faster each year comes with it festive fiascos and hazards for our pets. No one wants an emergency visit to the veterinarian during a Thanksgiving tryptophan slumber. Here are a few considerations to keep our pets safe prior to our busy holiday season.  

Holiday meals are the best—they are full of great-tasting, nap-inducing food. As wonderful as these meals are for humans, our pets can have a hard time with some of them. Some people feed their animals the main course from their holiday meal because they feel bad or find it cute. These meals are often very fatty, heavy in calories and rich in taste, which may upset your pet’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. 

Inevitably, most of us veterinarians will see multiple patients with diarrhea, vomiting or pancreatitis the day after any given holiday. Our pets are used to a very regimented diet, and giving them such a rich obscured meal very well may throw off their system. If you are considering giving them a holiday meal, it is best to avoid human food. 

The following are some other aspects of holiday meals that our pets need to avoid: 

  • Chocolate: Can cause panting, tremors, increased drinking and peeing, heart abnormalities, seizures or even death. 
  • Onions, Garlic, Chives: These can cause red blood cell damage and GI upset. Cats are more sensitive than dogs to them.
  • Macadamia Nuts: Can cause serious symptoms such as tremors, weakness, fever, depression and GI upset.
  • Xylitol: An artificial sweetener used in some baked goods, chewing gums, toothpastes, etc. that can cause severe drops in blood sugars leading to seizures, disorientation and other severe symptoms.  
  • Alcohol: Alcohol that is added to eggnog or other milky, sweet cocktails might be enticing for some animals. Alcohol can cause inebriation like in humans, but is much more serious due to their small body size and severity of symptoms.  
  • Grapes or Raisins: Can cause kidney failure in some dogs.  

Some holiday plants, albeit beautiful and festive, can also be toxic for your pets:

  • Lilies: The lily flower is dangerous for your feline companion. If ingested by a cat, it can cause renal failure.
  • Poinsettias: Can cause irritation in the mouth and stomach and can cause vomiting and diarrhea.  
  • Mistletoe: Can cause vomiting and diarrhea in most cases. This plant has the potential to cause heart issues.  
  • Holly: Can cause mild vomiting or diarrhea.  
  • Water with Tree Preservative: Many Christmas tree water additives/preservatives have fertilizers and other sugars, and generally they will cause GI upset.

Go to any large box store and see the numerous types of decorations. Here are some decoration considerations when monitoring your pets around the holidays:

  • Some cats and dogs like to chew on plastic, so keep track of any loose strings on lights or wires. There are many times that veterinarians see electrical burns from a dog or cat chewing on decorative lights.
  • Cats have a tendency to play with and chew on string-like objects. Cats will sometimes chew the tinsel off Christmas trees and ingest it. Tinsel has the potential to cause something called a linear foreign body, causing serious injury to the intestines.  
  • Sometimes glass holiday ornaments get broken, and an animal can ingest the shards. DO NOT make them vomit, but visit a veterinarian.  
  • Sometimes smaller tree ornaments that smell good or look like stuffed animals may be ingested.  

This is not an exhaustive list of concerns for keeping your pets safe during the holidays. If you have any concerns, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian. They will be able to help you decipher if there is an urgent situation. With a little due diligence and care, you and your pet can have a happy safe, emergency-free holiday.

Codalino: A Shepherd Dog’s Little Tail

by Taylor Solomon

Photo: Taylor Solomon

Photo: Taylor Solomon

Even if you don’t know Stan Mullins by name, you know his work. If you live in Athens, GA, you see it on a regular basis. More than likely you have driven or walked past “The Character of a Champion.” You know, the majestic bronze sculpture depicting Coach Vince Dooley during the 1980 University of Georgia National Championship win. Mullins is the artist behind that work and many others seen around the Classic City.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Mullin’ home and studio, a renovated 18th century cottonseed oil refinery nestled in Pulaski Heights. I was there to see author Mark Z. Danielewski read from his newest book in an event hosted by Avid Bookshop. If you are at all familiar with Danielewski’s work, you know he is one of the most captivating and engaging contemporary authors, often grouped with the likes of Chuck Palahniuk and David Mitchell. But there was something else that captivated me that night: Mullins’ relationship with his dogs. His beautiful canine companions roamed the event, excited to play hosts for the evening. Watching Mullins, you saw a natural born pet owner and animal lover. He was just as charming with his pets as he was his human guests that evening.

When I heard Mullins had written and illustrated a book about a dog, I knew I had to read it. Codalino: A Shepherd Dog’s Little Tail is Mullin’s own interpretation of the Biblical Christmas story told from the perspective of Codalino, a puppy born in a manger who becomes the companion of a child born in the same manager just days later. Mullins’ words and art work together to create mesmerizing new look at a story familiar to many. Mullins has illustrated several picture books, but Codalino was his first time taking on the whole project himself. Though known more for his work in the visual arts, Mullins has a way with words that leaves the reader feeling enlightened and yearning for more. The way he writes about animals and their human companions depicts what I saw the night I visited his home, someone who truly has a heart for those animals who walk among us.

Throughout the story, Codalino’s tail wags as a sign of enjoyment and appreciation towards those around him. Reading this book, taking in Mullins’ writing paired with his incredible art work, your own tail is sure to do some wagging.

Laura Eavenson

Artwork: Laura Eavenson 

Artwork: Laura Eavenson 

by Maggie See

Laura Eavenson currently specializes in funky colorful pet portraits, but from the farm to the frame shop with four years in art school, her range of expertise is far from limited. She grew up with a pencil in her hand and has always opted to make her own lines instead of using coloring books. Laura preferred to draw horses as a kid, but life on a farm in Carnesville, GA provided for many more subjects. They raised cows but also had cats, chickens, goats, peacocks, rabbits, guineas, a mule and dogs. Although she planned to be a veterinarian at one time, the chance to shadow a vet showed her that bringing the animals to life through art was more her ideal path.

Laura’s recent pet portraits came from her involvement as a foster parent with Circle of Friends Animal Society (COFAS). Aside from having her own pet pals, a Boston mix named Roxie and a Pointer/Lab mix named Harper (both from local rescues themselves), she and her girlfriend are also occasional fosters for COFAS. Laura donated a custom portrait as a raffle prize to the Athens Pet Expo and used Roxie as her first model. The style took off after she placed Roxie’s portrait in the showroom at Athens Art and Frame at the request of her coworkers, and the commissions keep coming! 

Artwork: Laura Eavenson

Artwork: Laura Eavenson

Her fluid, colorful style with cats and dogs can easily be traced to her broader approach to larger, abstract subjects. Laura says, “I view nature as a large and powerful force, so I love to make large paintings/drawings/multimedia pieces that reflect that.” For example, “instead of painting a wave, I like to try to paint my idea of a wave or the energy of it.” And working in a frame shop has influenced her in unexpected ways, as well, finding that she will retroactively realize the influence of something she encountered on the job after she’s already created a new piece. 

One of the most difficult parts of being an artist, according to Laura, is to find the balance between creating art and everything else in life. Art school provided the environment of encouragement and the time to just focus on art. Laura moved to Athens in 2014 after four years of studying art at Piedmont’s Demorest campus, where she even branched out some from painting to sculpture and metals. 

Now Laura and her girlfriend frequent parks like Sandy Creek and Ben Burton with their dogs as one way to achieve that balance. She says, “I always feel the most relaxed and inspired when I’m near the water, whether that’s paddle boarding a lake or just sitting by a river. Being outside helps me feel grounded.” Playing guitar and hanging out at Jittery Joes are good for the grounding, as well. Then she can throw the Twilight Zone on in the background and get back to painting. 

Being an artist is rewarding for Laura because it’s an outlet for her to express her feelings in a way that others may relate to. While she intends to keep painting funky pet portraits, she also plans to submit to some of the local juried shows around town and get “out there” more. So keep an eye out! 

For the time being, you can find more of Laura Eavenson’s work on Instagram at @lauraeavenson and on Facebook at @lauramonster17.

The Impact of Fostering

by Evelyn Lett

Photo: Evelyn Lett

Photo: Evelyn Lett

There once was a pup named Speck. For about six years she lived in a small home in the country with her owner and over 30 fur-siblings. Speck grew up having to learn how to compete with her siblings for everything: food, a place to rest, affection. Her entire life was restricted to living inside a cramped home full of trash and other horrors. 

To make matters worse, the neighbor who lived next door was not happy with this living situation and decided to take matters into his own hands by regularly shooting the dogs with shot pellets. In effect, the dogs had to literally risk their lives if they dared to venture outside for fresh air. This unbelievable terror resulted in at least four dogs with limb amputations. Speck was one of those unfortunate pups. 

One day Speck’s owner passed away unexpectedly. Once authorities realized the living conditions on the property and the number of animals present, they didn’t have any feasible way to manage or even temporarily house the dogs and therefore had to make the hard decision to put Speck and her siblings to sleep. Who knew that there were still some counties in the state of Georgia that don’t even have an animal control division?

Photo: Evelyn Lett

Photo: Evelyn Lett

Thankfully, in their final moments, one official took it upon themselves to reach out to a local rescue group to plead with them to save any of these unfortunate souls. Immediately, a group of selfless, dedicated volunteers with Circle of Friends Animal Society scrambled to collect every crate at the rescue’s disposal, jumped in their personal vehicles and drove directly to the deceased man’s home to recover as many dogs as they could. In total over 20 dogs’ lives were saved in what each of these veteran rescue volunteers deemed as the worst hoarding case they had ever witnessed.

At present, less than two months following their “jail break,” several of these resilient sweethearts have already found their forever families! Thanks to the mostly full-time employed, volunteer foster homes, we were able to instantly make a huge impact in the lives of these dogs by giving them the second chance that they deserve in life. 

In the intimacy of individual foster homes, these dogs were able to be rehabilitated while simultaneously gaining firsthand experience in how to react to normal daily activities that they hadn’t previously been exposed to. As a result, dogs being fostered are given the best opportunity to thrive versus the traditional method of rescuing that typically involves sending them directly into a loud shelter with limited stimulation and attention. 

So what was the fate of that feisty little tripod named Speck? As a way to symbolize the beginning of a fresh new start in life, she now goes by Skippy. Just after being rescued, this unstoppable girl was found to have a raging case of heartworms that had to be aggressively treated by painful injections into her lower back in a risky (but necessary) attempt to kill the adult worms living in her heart and bloodstream before they killed her. For three months Skippy is required to keep her activity level to a minimum or suffer a potentially fatal blood clot. Living in a foster home allows her activity level and health condition to be more closely monitored than if she were living in a shelter kennel. 

Skippy’s story is just one extreme example illustrating the many ways that fostering is so important to rescue groups. At full disclosure, it must be mentioned that most foster cases are not this dramatic, emotionally taxing or time consuming. Skippy is considered an advanced case, so before you say, “That’s more than I can handle!,” don’t worry. Most rescues will only place dogs with you that they feel you can handle and care for properly (typically based on factors like experience level, lifestyle, proximity to a veterinarian, etc.). 

Skippy will always hold a piece of my heart wherever she may go, and I’m so excited and hopeful to see what the future has in store for this spunky little tripod girl who, despite everything, is the biggest love bug who never fails to put a smile on my face. She is finally ready for adoption and is actively searching for her very own family that will welcome her into their lives with open arms forever.

Ways to Keep Pets Warm this Winter

by Morgan Solomon

Photo: Morgan Solomon

Photo: Morgan Solomon

As the leaves start to fall and the air becomes crisp, it is time to start considering how to keep your canine or feline companion warm through the fall and winter seasons. We have you covered with a list of items and tips to keep your furry friend warm and cozy.

One tried and true product that your pets will either love or hate are clothes. If your pet loves to wear clothes, or will at least tolerate it, then this may be your best option. There are plenty of options to choose from. Your dog or cat can wear the latest fall trends in the form of a sweater, or if they are more of the outdoor type, they might like a vest that is durable and waterproof. For those days when all they want to do is take naps, there are plenty of footy pajama options that might tickle their fancy. If you take the fashion route, be sure that you take the clothing off every now and then to make sure they do not have any matted fur or chafing. You should also supervise them for most of the time they are wearing clothes in order to prevent any injury or accidents.

If your pet is not a fan of fashion, don’t worry—there are other solutions. The key is making sure they have plenty of sources of warmth, which can be achieved through blankets and special crate pads. There is an array of blankets to choose from, such as a classic fleece blanket or more durable blankets made from waterproof materials. 

Warmth can also be achieved through pads and beds. You can purchase a normal bed that uses a fabric that is warmer than normal, or purchase a bed or pad that has thermal heating technology. These types of bed retain heat better in order to keep your companion warm. 

If you have an outside cat or dog, you want to ensure that they have a shelter that has all the necessary accoutrements. This includes a warm blanket and bed, but it is more than just that. It is important to make sure their shelter is well insulated, does not have any leaks and is protected from the wind. The shelter should also have an area elevated off of the ground—this can be achieved with a normal bed, but a better option is an elevated bed. We recommend bringing any outdoor pets inside when it gets too cold to be on the safe side, as well. 

During winter, you should keep your pet’s coat full so they can produce more heat. If you have an outdoor animal, you should increase their caloric intake so they can create more heat by burning calories. It is important to keep your pets dry—wipe down their paws, and make sure they are not wet before going outside which will help prevent frost bite. The most important tip is to pay attention to your pet and their specific needs. Be aware of the weather, and do not leave them outside for long periods of times, if at all. You are their best resource for warmth this winter, so bring on the extra blankets and cuddling! 

Therapeutic Benefits of Animals: Residents “Thrive” with the Presence of Therapy Dogs

by Michaela Gardner

Being condemned to live the remaining part of your life in an assisted living facility is never a sentence that is easy to accept. Life loses its variety, and routines become the norm. Luckily, there are people that devote their lives to enriching the days of those in assisted living homes, hospitals, nursing homes and other such facilities. One of these devoted people is April Few, the Director of Excitement at Thrive Assisted Living and Memory Care in Watkinsville, GA. While some might say that the residents at Thrive are lucky to have April, she considers herself the lucky one. She works every day to provide residents with “meaningful and purposeful activities that are tailored to their individual interests and abilities.” One of these meaningful activities is regular visits from therapy dog teams. 

Therapy dog teams consist of a dog and its handler. Not just any dog can become a certified therapy dog—testing and evaluation is thorough, and just because an animal is properly trained doesn’t guarantee that it has the proper temperament to succeed. In addition to basic obedience, dogs seeking certification are tested on their ability to tolerate the use and presence of medical equipment, loud noises and other such distractions. They must be socially and physically affectionate, and being able to perform tricks always makes a pet that much more appealing to institutions seeking the services of therapy dog teams. Handlers must also be outgoing, sociable and empathetic. These qualities can make or break an aspiring therapy dog team. 

Aside from the obvious outward benefits of animal therapy, such as laughter and smiles, science has proven that there are internal medical benefits, as well. Animal therapy has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve overall cardiovascular health, reduce pain and stimulate the release of endorphins, thus increasing happiness and pleasure. 

Those suffering from mental illness can also benefit from animal therapy. Children with autism often find it difficult, and at times near impossible, to interact with other people but are comforted by the presence of animals. Sometimes therapy animals are the only other living beings these children are able to engage with. The presence of therapy animals also decreases loneliness, anxiety and depression, encourages communication, and provides general encouragement for people recovering from mental and physical ailments.

Thrive currently has two therapy dog teams that visit on a regular basis, Aussie and Maizie. In April Few’s opinion, “the look of joy on our residents’ faces is the biggest benefit” to having them visit. She describes the dogs as “sweet, gentle and calming,” and their presence offers “a sense of peace and nostalgia” to residents in assisted living and memory care. When asked about some of the favorite activities that residents get to participate in with the dogs, April keeps it simple: “They all enjoy watching the dogs perform tricks, snuggles and [petting] them.”

 April recalls one of her favorite moments involving Maizie; she says that as soon as one of the residents saw Maizie, her face absolutely lit up. “She told us a story about this puppy that she had when she was younger and how her dog was just the sweetest, most gentle friend. She said she loved that dog with all her heart and that Maizie’s face reminded her of her sweet friend.” Aussie gets plenty of love from the residents, as well, and is a regular at Thrive. “He particularly enjoys visiting with one of our ladies because she always keeps a special treat waiting for him,” April explains. She anticipates his regular visits and assures him every time that “Granny is so glad to see you!”

On Monday, October 30, Thrive hosted their “Howl-aween Paw Party,” which involved six therapy dog teams. Of course, Aussie and Maizie were in attendance. The dogs arrived in costume and had the opportunity to Trick-or-Treat with the residents. Each dog received an individually-prepared treat bag, performed special tricks and spent time socializing with all of the residents. April was beyond excited preparing for the event. It’s activities like these that make her job all the more rewarding. As the Director of Excitement, what better way to provide said excitement than cute dogs in costumes?

April was able to enlist the services of Aussie, Maizie and the other therapy dog teams through a member of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about therapy dogs, becoming a certified therapy dog team, or seeking the services of therapy dogs for your own facility, be sure to visit therapydogs.com!