Adding a Human to the Pack

Photo: Catherine Huskey

Photo: Catherine Huskey

by Chris Huskey

As owners of six rescue dogs, my wife Catherine and I decided that perhaps we should try our hands at a tiny human. After all, they can’t be much more difficult than puppies right? Upon finding out we were pregnant, we instantly went into first-time parent mode. The nursery had to be perfect, the house had to be spotless and the puppies had to be prepared to accept their slightly less-furry sibling into the pack. Catherine swears that Jeter, our Jack Russell mix, knew she was pregnant the whole time. Jeter would lie on her belly and give extra sniffs and kisses. Dogs can detect cancers and other sicknesses, so I firmly believe they can recognize a tummy tumor! 

Abigail Elizabeth Huskey came into the world at 4:28pm on April 22, 2017. After a few days in the hospital, it was time for us to introduce Abigail to her siblings, protectors, playmates and friends. We heard that we should take a blanket from the hospital that Abigail used and introduce it to the puppies in order to get them used to her smell. Anyone who has ever experienced taking home their first kid knows that we were so frazzled that we were lucky to remember to bring the baby home with us! I guess you could say this was our first of many times where we decided to “just wing it.”

Safety was obviously our top priority. As much as we love and trust our dogs to protect and love us, we have heard horror stories of dogs attacking newborns. We made sure that we did not leave the baby alone with the dogs, especially in the early weeks. We encouraged them to spend time with the baby, sniff and give kisses to let them feel at ease with their new pack member. Here we are at week seven, and they have never once shown anything but curiosity and gentleness to baby Abigail. 

As new parents and dog lovers, we had hopes and dreams of filling social media with pictures of our baby sleeping on a dog or of one of the them constantly by her side always protecting her. But this is real life, and our dogs already had five other siblings. They were very curious about this new screaming potato and curious as to why it did not want to sniff their butts. Early on Brooklyn, our Great Dane/Labrador mix, would run to her crib when she would start crying and stare intently. Was it a connection that these two shared? Would we finally have that adorable relationship where they would snuggle and be best friends?! Not even close. After a few weeks of this, Brooklyn became immune (annoyed?) to the crying and would not even lift an eyebrow at the sound. 

My wife and I foster through Oconee Regional Humane Society and took a two-month hiatus to get into some sort of a routine before taking on this responsibility once again. This past weekend we picked up our first foster in awhile, a 10-week-old sweetheart named Camry. Camry took an instant interest in Abigail and will even nap on her nursing pillow while we feed the baby. Honestly, the puppy has taken more interest in Abigail than her own fur siblings. Perhaps Camry feels more of a connection with Abigail because they are both just figuring out this great big world with their humans leading the way. 

Our best advice as new parents and crazy dog people is not to expect anything, and enjoy the little moments that melt your heart. Do not spend your time behind the lens of a camera trying to get the next viral video or “awww” inspiring picture. As Abigail gets bigger and able to interact more with the pups, we will certainly keep a close eye to ensure a curious tail pull or ear tug doesn’t result in a reaction by the dogs. We also have visions of her developing a more interactive relationship with them by playing more, helping to feed and bathe them, and maybe even painting their toenails bright pink. There is a very slim chance that any of those moments will make it to social media though, because we will be too busy loving our baby girl and six rescue dogs that all need our patient love and tender kindness to ensure that the nine of us stay happy and healthy.

Clementine's Second Chance

Photo: Jessica Boston

Photo: Jessica Boston

by Megan Hong

I’ve been in rescue for years, and I still am never prepared for the urgent pleas we receive at Circle of Friends Animal Society. A volunteer at Barrow County Animal Control (BCAC) recently messaged me: “Possibly hit by car. Having issues with its back end. Any possibilities?” She proceeded with an adorable picture of a tiny dilute calico kitten. I, of course, said yes.

At first, BCAC believed she couldn’t use either of her back legs, but when we got her to Bates Animal Hospital in Watkinsville, we noticed that it was just her back left leg. Dr. Bates did x-rays, and our little calico kitten Clementine had no breaks or fractures. The bizarre part is that she has no deep feeling at all in her back left leg—which would likely indicate a spinal cord injury of some kind, but her right back left was functioning fine.

Dr. Bates suggested waiting to see if we could get any function back in her leg (and waiting until she is bigger for amputation if that is the route we need to take). He also said to reach out to Dr. Dodd at Animal Wellness Center of Athens for acupuncture and laser treatment. Dr. Dodd has started acupuncture and laser treatment for Clementine in the hopes that she will regain some mobility in her leg. Dr. Dodd said that she has noticed more reaction to the acupuncture recently compared to the first few rounds, so there is some progression!

Although Clementine has obvious trauma to her leg, she doesn’t let it slow her down. She climbs, plays and wrestles like any other happy kitten. She scales the cat tree and even climbs into our bed at night to sleep! 

Clementine is available for pre-adoption through Circle of Friends Animal Society and should be ready to go home in four to six weeks.

World Snake Day is July 16!

Eastern Ratsnake (non-venomous). Photo: Matt Moore

Eastern Ratsnake (non-venomous). Photo: Matt Moore

by Matt Moore

Happy World Snake Day! If there ever was a wild animal that was a candidate for needing advocates, undoubtedly the snake is that animal. Below are a some common questions and beliefs that I have heard from people regarding snakes native to the southeastern United States:


“What good are snakes?”

Snakes are essential components of functioning ecosystems. They eat other animals, and other animals eat them. If snakes were removed from the ecosystems that they evolved to inhabit, it would be tantamount to removing a huge supporting structural block from a giant Jenga puzzle. Removing an essential part from a complex system inevitably puts the entire remaining structure in jeopardy of collapsing.

In addition to the critical ecosystem role that they fill, snakes directly help people in many ways. They consume huge quantities of disease-carrying pests. These pests include rodents and the disease-carrying parasites that are on the rodents (especially ticks!). There are even some snakes that specialize in ridding your gardens from slugs and snails.


“Are snakes dangerous?”

A relatively small number of snake species native to Georgia—only six species are venomous out of a total of 46—are potentially dangerous, but only if they feel their life is threatened. It is important to realize that no one ever gets bitten while consciously leaving a snake alone; however, lots of people get bitten while NOT leaving them alone (i.e. trying to kill or handle them). Accidental bites do sometimes occur inadvertently (i.e. stepping on or placing a hand on an unseen snake), but these accidents are statistically rare.


“Poisonous snake bites can kill you, but non-poisonous snake bites will just make you sick.”

Bites from nonvenomous snakes native to the United States are not capable of causing injuries of any medical significance to people or pets. I have been bitten at least a few hundred times over the last 20 years by native nonvenomous snakes of a variety of species—every one of those bites was due to me catching or handling them— and have never gotten sick from a bite from any of them. Nonvenomous snakes here in the Southeast are only capable of bites that are of less than a brier scratch in significance.


“But snakes chase people, especially those aggressive ‘water moccasins!’”

A snake has nothing to gain by chasing something much larger than itself that it perceives to be a predator (i.e. humans). What does occasionally happen though is attempted escape behavior, which is mistakenly perceived by people as chasing. A snake that feels threatened by will often attempt to flee in the direction where they feel there is a safe refuge. If a person startles a snake and they happen to be in between it and the hole in the ground or the pile of sticks that it wants to escape into, then the snake may crawl towards the person in order to get to that refuge. I have actually had snakes crawl right over my feet on numerous occasions in their attempts to reach safe refuge. The problem is that very few people wait around to see why the snake is coming towards them. They too often just kill the snake that was crawling in their direction and tell people they were “chased by an aggressive snake.”


“What should I do if I find a snake in my yard?”

Leave it alone, and let it go about its business of helping keep our environment healthy. If you have snakes in your yard, it is a sign that you are in an area that is still capable of supporting wildlife. This is a good thing! Also, it is a good idea to learn what the few venomous species that are native to your area look like. 

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has two great online field guides called Is it a Water Moccasin? and A Guide to Venomous Snakes of Georgia at


Although there are six total species of native venomous snakes that can potentially be found in Georgia, there is only a relatively small area within the Coastal Plain where all six of those species co-occur. The majority of Georgia’s counties only have three or four species of venomous snakes.

It is illegal to kill a nonvenomous snake in the state of Georgia. Misidentification of a harmless snake is not an excuse. Although it is currently legal to kill venomous snakes in the state of Georgia, it is very seldom necessary and doing so puts the person at great risk of being bitten.

A triangular-shaped head, thick body and/or short tail are not traits exclusive to venomous snakes and therefore are not reliable ways of differentiating between venomous and nonvenomous species. A quality field guide is a much better way of learning to properly identify snakes.


World Snake Day is a perfect day to start looking at snakes in a more positive light. Let’s all give snakes the respect and appreciation that they deserve, not just on World Snake Day, but rather on every day of the year. Please remember: the only good snake is a live snake!

Commission Meeting Update

At their next regular session meeting, Athens-Clarke County commissioners will be taking public comments on proposed changes to the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control ordinances. The changes include requiring (1) that all animals other than feral cats be microchipped upon reclaim from the shelter; (2) the spay/neuter of dogs and cats the second time they are reclaimed from the shelter; and (3) the spay/neuter and better management of “dangerous dogs.” A draft of the ordinances should be available on the county website the Friday prior to the meeting (June 30, 2017) at

Come out to show your support by attending the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission meeting on Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 6:00pm in the Commission Chamber on the second floor of City Hall at 301 College Avenue, Athens, GA 30601. 

The Simple Things

Photo: William Wise

Photo: William Wise

by William Wise, Walton County Animal Control Director

I’m a good pet owner. I know about all those things that good pet owners do: spay and neuter, heartworm preventative, socialization, no chaining, annual vet visits, current vaccinations. Simple. With a sense of pride, I look down at my dog lying nearby and see what is hanging on his collar: nothing! 

During a recent review of our shelter at the Walton County Animal Control, an evaluator noted that it is often the common, simple things that we overlook. The things we all know to do are often the things we neglect, because “everybody knows that.” We think we are in compliance through knowledge but may actually fail to implement it. Likewise, as a pet owner, we can overlook the simple things… simple things that can have huge ramifications when neglected. Simple things that can mean life or death for a beloved animal.

One of those simple things is an identification or rabies tag. As good pet owners, we know the importance of an ID tag in reuniting an owner with a lost pet. But look at your dog right now. Does she have a tag on her collar? We all know our dog or cat should have on a tag, but does he? A study published in Preventative Veterinary Medicine revealed that only 33 percent of owners keep ID tags on their pets.

“But he’s an indoor dog.” Accidents happen: doors are left open; squirrels run by; kids drop a leash; thunderstorms pop up and random fireworks go off; the pest control guy comes in and forgets to shut the door behind him. Not to mention natural disasters, house fires or other unforeseen circumstances. Even if you have a perfectly-trained dog who is always walked on a leash, it is possible to end up losing your dog. 

I want you to consider another viewpoint on this issue. Having a tag on your dog or cat can be an issue of life or death in another capacity. A simple tag on your dog may save the life of a shelter dog. How so?

As the director of an open-intake shelter, I have to come in each morning and assess the available room. There must be some kennel space for the day’s possible intake. The officers working after-hours and weekend emergencies must have a kennel or two if needed. Unfortunately, there are times when we reach capacity and some animals must be euthanized. Each animal that comes into the shelter puts a strain on space, and sometimes tough decisions must be made. 

So how does your dog’s tag come into play? Recently, a dog named Ginny came into the shelter on a day when we were at full capacity. Her intake prompted one of those “tough decisions,” and a couple of dogs were put down. A few hours later Ginny’s owner came and claimed her. At the time of intake, we had no idea who owned her, and no crystal ball to know she’d be claimed so quickly. Had she had on that simple tag, she could have been re-connected with her owners even faster, and two dogs could have possibly been spared another day. 

So tagging your pet may not just save the life of your animal, it could also spare the life of a shelter animal waiting on a home. Don’t neglect the simple things. 

Breed specific Labels: Why It Can Hinder Dogs from Being Adopted in Shelters

by Lindsay Baker

Photo: Susan Hawkins

Photo: Susan Hawkins

Take a look at the photo on the right of Lyta at the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control. What breed would you label her as? Based on her appearance, one might say she has Labrador Retriever and perhaps another American Staffordshire Terrier. And based on her appearance, those would be reasonable guesses. But they may also be entirely incorrect. Recent studies show that trying to determine breed based on appearance alone is highly inaccurate. This is because only a small portion of a dog’s DNA has to do with their physical appearance. 

When a stray or lost dog ends up at a shelter, they are impounded—a process that typically includes determining age and sex, administering vaccination(s), dewormer and other medical evaluations or procedures deemed necessary. Finally, they get labeled as the breed they most resemble (here in Northeast Georgia, “pit bull” type mixes and Labrador mixes tend to be common breed labels given at shelters). Assuming they are healthy and no owner steps forward within the hold time, the dog will be made available for adoption. The paper on their cage will reflect all the details that are currently known, including things like age, personality and assumed breed. 

A recent study showed that approximately half of all shelter dogs labeled as pit bulls did not have any pit type breeds (also sometimes called “bully breeds”) in them at all. This is a real problem because unfortunately some breeds, especially bully breeds, still have a negative stigma attached to them. When the only media coverage they get is negative and involves attacking another dog or a human, many people believe all pits must be vicious attack dogs that are most certainly not family dog material. I’m going to go out on a ledge here and say that any of us that have interacted with a pit-type dog know them to be extremely kind, loving and gentle dogs—there’s a reason they were formerly used as nanny dogs!—but if your only experience with them is hearing how horrible they are, of course you don’t want to adopt a “pit bull mix.” 

Our local animal shelters have made leaps and bounds of progress over the past several years, but we still have room to improve. If you’re looking to adopt a dog, I urge you to look beyond what the cage card says and view each dog as an individual. Judge them based on personality, not a breed label. It’s unfair to make generalizations about a shelter dog that is probably a blend of six, eight or even 10 different breeds anyway—at that point, breed-specific personality traits are often lost. Also, pits are some of the BEST dog models, as evidenced by Lyta here who is still looking for a forever home! 

Acrocats come to Athens

by Taylor Solomon

Photo: Taylor Solomon

Photo: Taylor Solomon

When I bought my ticket to see the Acrocats at the Morton Theatre, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew if I did not go I would forever wonder what went on the day a bus full of cats came to town. And I mean that literally—when I walked up to the venue the night of the show, I was greeted by a large purple bus featuring the faces of Tuna, Jax, Buffy and Oz, the evening’s furry feline performers.  

Acrocats, and their sister performance group The Rock Cats, was started by Samantha Martin, an expert animal trainer and cat lady (she’d be the first to call herself such and would take it as a compliment). Martin started training her own cats to play instruments in the world’s first (and only) cat-fronted rock band, The Rock Cats. She quickly realized they could take the show on the road. Now over 10 years later, Martin has fostered and found homes for over 200 cats and kittens while traveling with and training them all.

Acrocats is part trained-animal show in which animals (mostly cats, along with a chicken and groundhog) perform tricks: playing instruments, jumping from stool to stool, balancing on balls and walking on tight ropes (just to name a few acts). Of course as well all know, even the most well-trained cats in the end are going to do what they want, whether it’s part of the planned performance or not. Martin herself said, “Nothing teaches you humility like a trained cat act in front of a live audience.”

The other part of the show expands on the humility (and heart) mentioned by Martin, a side of animal performance not always thought of in conjunction with traveling circus acts. Professionally, Martin is an animal trainer; personally, she is an animal lover and advocate. She spends one part of the show talking about the importance of animal rescue and training your pets. She demonstrates using a whistle and clicker to train a cat and models several tricks while explaining how they could be used in your home in regards to pet safety. She is vocal about the fact that she has been lucky enough to be given a platform and uses it to inspire others to train their own cats.

Seeing Acrocats and the Rock Cats was a fun, energetic and humorous evening. I fell in love with Martin and her passion, as well as her team of cute kitties. For more information on the Acrocats and their upcoming performances, visit

Commission Meeting

by Lisa Milot

At the Athens-Clarke County Commission meeting this February, some residents raised concerns about unaltered dogs in our community. Under state law, dogs that have been classified as “dangerous” or “vicious” based on attacks on people or pets are not required to be altered (spayed or neutered). Moreover, 79 percent of stray dogs impounded at the shelter are unaltered at the time of impound. 

Research shows that unaltered dogs have greater problems with aggression than altered dogs, and they are more apt to stray and become a nuisance in the community, interfering with traffic and entering on private property. Additionally, dogs that wander loose intact add to pet overpopulation in our area, as they are likely to produce one or more litters of puppies outside of a licensed breeding program.

After discussing the concerns, the commissioners decided to have their Legislative Review Committee review the existing county statutes. In the committee’s meetings since that date, they have developed policies and proposed changes to the ordinance to improve safety in the community and unanimously voted to send the proposed ordinance changes to the full commission. These proposals should be on the agenda for the June 6 meeting and will be open for public comment at that time.

Athenspets (, the volunteer group for Athens-Clarke County Animal Control, has assisted in this process by providing requested information on the available free and low-cost spay/neuter options in the area. University of Georgia Law Professor Lisa Milot assisted in drafting proposed language and providing an analysis of the current statutes at issue.

You can show your support by attending the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission meeting on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 6:00pm in the Commission Chamber on the second floor of City Hall at 301 College Avenue, Athens, GA 30601. More information about these meetings can be found online at

Mother's Day: Gift Ideas for Pet Moms

by Bryce Lundmark

Photo: Uncommon Goods

Photo: Uncommon Goods

Somehow Mother’s Day manages to sneak up on us every year, leaving some sons and daughters scrambling last minute to find the best gift for mom. While breakfast in bed and flowers are always safe options, here are some ideas for a mother that loves her fur babies as much as her real babies.



Your mom’s been feeding you wisdom all your life, why not return the favor for Mother’s Day? Any dog lover, especially coming from Athens, can appreciate the humor and ridiculousness of these books. They’re filled with pictures of a bulldog in costume and tidbits of positivity, and they are the perfect gift to make your mom smile.



These mugs are ideal for the animal-loving mom who needs her coffee. She’ll actually want to get out of bed for her morning coffee! Mornings will be much easier with an animal on her lap while drinking from her new favorite mug.



What’s better than a picture of her pet? A painting of her furry friend! Treat her pet like royalty, and commission a portrait of her handsome creature to be done. She’ll think it’s beautiful, and her pet will get an ego boost!



Have your pet’s paw print made into a stamp so you can make her a card from her furry friend. Her pet can thank her for all of the love and care she provides.



Add some love from her furry friend to the Christmas tree with these hand-knit ornaments. They’re so cute that she’ll want to keep them out all year long.



Does your mom root for a certain breed while watching the Westminster dog show or fancy a particular breed of cat? If so, she’ll appreciate a blueprint of her favorite kind of pet! She can proudly hang it in her home. Plus, it makes a great conversation starter.



If your mom enjoys novelty gifts, she’ll love seeing her pet as the president! Not only is it hilarious, but her pet’s presidential portrait is a terrific piece to hang in a bar area or maybe even a guest room—your guests will definitely learn who’s boss!



Have that precious nose your mom loves to kiss made into a necklace she can wear everywhere. Up her jewelry game with a nose print necklace! It’s so cute that she’ll never want to take it off.



While pets are a gift to the world, they can also sometimes smell. This candle is a twist on a classic Mother’s Day present, providing a soothing scent for both people and animals. They’re made from recycled wine bottles and are made by lovers of rescue animals. The Pet Candle is a fantastic gift for the pet lover who enjoys burning candles!

Preparing for Vacation: Tips for Boarding or Using Pet-sitters during Trips

by Amanda Newsom

Photo: Gabriella Audi

Photo: Gabriella Audi

Summer is here, and vacation planning is in full swing for many pet owners. We have some quick tips to help you find the best boarding facility or pet-sitter to make your vacation planning a little more streamlined.



Unless you’re taking a last minute trip, plan ahead for who you want to care for your pets. During holidays and busy times of year (like summer), your favorite boarder or sitter may be booked up farther in advance than normal. It’s also a good idea to have a back-up in case they aren’t available.

Be sure your pets are up-to-date on all of the vaccines required by boarding facilities or pet-sitters so you aren’t turned away when you drop off your pet. Most boarders require a current rabies, DHPP and Bordetella vaccines for dogs and current rabies, FVRCP and FeLV for cats. 



Boarding and pet-sitting are both excellent options for ensuring that your pets are well cared for while you are vacationing, but there are some differences to consider. 

Pet-sitters may drop in for visits multiple times per day or even stay in your home, or they may allow your pets to stay in their home. The biggest perks to pet-sitting are that your pets typically receive more one-on-one attention, and there is more flexibility to work with the sitter to meet yourspecific needs.

Pet-sitting is a wonderful option for some pets, but boarding may be a better option for you depending on your needs. Boarding facitilies have pre-set schedules and protocols in place already that may work better for your pet, especially if they have medical or behavorial issues. Many facilities also have live cams where you can check in on your pet, which is a pretty cool feature. 



While many boarders or sitters may provide food and enrichment items, it’s a good idea to pack a bag for your pet for a couple of reasons if they won’t be staying in your home. First, you’ll want to keep your pet on their current food instead of using the provided food if possible because changing foods abruptly will upset your pet’s stomach. The last thing you want for them to deal with while staying in a new place without you is an added stomach ache.

Also, take their own toys, blanket, bed and crate so they will feel more secure and comfortable in their temporary housing. 



Once you choose your boarder or pet-sitter, set up a meet and greet before your trip at the location where your pet will be staying. If you choose a boarding facility, ask them to give you a tour ahead of time. If you’re using a pet-sitter, this is a good time to let them meet your pet to be sure they are comfortable with you and you are comfortable with them. Your tour or meet and greet is the best time to review all of your pet’s care and enrichment information.



This may seem like overkill, but it is extremely useful for everyone involved. Even after you go over everything for your pet’s needs, write it all down and provide your pet-sitter or boarder with it. It should include:

  • Veterinary Office Name/Phone Number 
  • Vet Records 
  • When & How Much to Feed Each Pet
  • Any Medical Issues
  • Any Behavioral Issues
  • Where Important Items are Located in Your House
  • Any Other Instructions Discussed

Now you can enjoy your vacation knowing your pet is in good hands while you’re away!