Category Archives: Awesome

Ranch Life: Livestock, Working Dogs, Wolves and People

As an all-around animal and nature lover, I often find myself thinking about the ways in which dogs can negatively impact the environment.

People and Carnivores logo

Then, every so often, a story like this pops up – a story about working dogs whose loyalty provides a sustainable and reliable form of livestock protection. It’s an awesome solution especially at a time when many people violently resist the reintroduction of natural predators like wolves.

Even if you aren’t interested in the eco-angle of this story from the People and Carnivores conservation group, I urge you to watch this 7-minute video for the rare and old timey dog breeds featured in it. (And don’t be put off by the creepy thumbnail image.)

To learn more about how human society and the great predator animals can share the planet, check out

What do you think of the Livestock Guarding Dogs?

If you like this story, check out my post on the Conservation Canines.

Raffle Tickets for Sale

“Wanna buy a raffle ticket?”


That’s the question you’ll be greeted with if you interact with me in person this week.

And I have no shame. In my quest to collect lots of dollars for rescue dogs, I will be pushy. I will guilt-trip you if you hesitate.

“Come on, it’s just $5.”

Every cent collected will go directly to Midwest Adopt-a-Bull, the rescue organization that enrolled Charlie Machete. In tomorrow’s post, you’ll get to learn more about some of the other dogs in the group. For now, suffice it to say that every dollar matters. Midwest Adopt-a-Bull dogs come from shelters, the streets and abandoned houses. Two animals linked to our group have recently undergone amputations.

My goal is to raise at least $500.

Winners need not be present, but the raffle drawing will occur on Sunday, October 28, at the end of the shopping party Katty Delux and I are co-hosting at the Madewell boutique in Leawood, Kansas.

Everyone who attends that event will also be entered in a free drawing for a Madewell gift card and enjoy complimentary refreshments and an available shopping discount. The first 20 attendees will receive a free goodie bag.

Weather permitting, the event will begin with a parade of costumed doggies, including a doggy resident from Our Waldo Bungie, the awesomely obedient labradoodles from Kennel Creek and more.

You can check out some of the raffle prizes in the Fashion-a-Bull Fall at Madewell photo album on the Wayward Dogs Facebook fan page.

Here’s a list of some of the things we’re giving away:

-Custom doggy sweater from Tiennot Knit Sweaters
-Leash and collar sets from Waggiwear Dog Collars and Leashes
-Gift Certificate to The Barking Lot Grooming Salon
-Gift Certificate to Simply Grooming by Gia
-Gift certificate to Pete ‘n’ Mac pet resort
K9closet handmade collars from Simply Grooming by Gia
-Handmade Doggie Bows by Styled by a Milk Tooth
-Handmade Retro Accessories from Lucky Lucille
-Handmade Sunnglasses from Tumbleweeds Odd Shop
-Handmade pit bull magnets from Kathleen Henn
-Gift Certificate for a tree three-night stay at Kennel Creek Pet Resort

All above items will be grouped into two monster prize packages.

So, are you going to buy a raffle ticket?

Unfortunately, gambling laws made me too nervous to accept online payments for raffle tickets. So, if you are in the Kansas City area and want to buy one, let me know in the comments or email me at We’ll figure out how to get your tickets to you!

I will have raffle tickets on hand during the Coast to Coast Bully Walk and at the shopping party on Sunday.

If you don’t live in Kansas City, but still want to contribute to the cause, feel free to make a donation directly to Midwest Adopt-a-Bull. Let me know in the comments if you do.

And don’t forget to enter the Retro Vixen giveaway. No purchase is necessary for that – just give a Like to some worthy Facebook fan pages. (That giveaway is open to all U.S. residents.)

What prize from the list most excites you?

I don’t need this stuff anymore

This is all going buh-bye.

Bed Head and Schwartzkopf hair products

Once worth a lot of money to me.

I’ll tell you why I’m getting rid of all those pricey hair products tomorrow.

(And, yes, it does have a little bit to do with dogs.)

In the meantime:

Go check out The Pitch‘s hot-off-the-press Best of Kansas City 2012 edition.

KC Pittie Pack gets a mention – Best Way to Tame Your Wild-Ass Dog!

Also: What kind of products you currently put in your hair?

Save the Date: October 28

A while back, I said I was working with the fashionistas at the Madewell store in Leawood on a special event that would raise funds for a favorite cause.

Well, it’s finally happening!

Katty Delux over at Chronicles of a Sweet Tooth and I are presenting Fashion-a-Bull Fall, a shopping party and fundraiser on Sunday, October 28.

Through a raffle of awesome dog-related products, we hope to collect proceeds for Midwest Adopt-a-Bull, the bully breed rescue organization that is helping us with my foster dog Charlie Machete.

Keep tabs on my blog and Katty’s for more details about the event.

If you have a pet business and wish to donate items for the raffle, please contact me at crystalwayward(a)gmail(dot)com.

Fashion-a-Bull Fall flyer

It’s 5K Day

We’re ready! (Even though Charlie Machete didn’t want his picture taken.)

Self portrait in running clothes

Self portrait in running clothes.

In less than an hour, foster dog Charlie Machete and I will begin the 5K Strutt with Your Mutt charity race to benefit Wayside Waifs. Big thanks to everyone who has supported us with encouragement and donations for homeless pets.

We racked up over $250 in sponsorships!

If you’re in the Brookside area of Kansas City this morning and see us run by, give us a holler. It should be hard to miss me in this outfit!

Note: I am wearing my KC Pittie Pack T-shirt instead of the official race shirt.

Conservation Canines save wildlife one scat at a time

Can a dog help save the whales?

Orca AKA Killer Whale

Photo by Innotata. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

If you read the New York Times, are a fan of Wayward Dogs on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, you have probably already encountered the story of Tucker, the onetime stray black lab mix who now spends his days sniffing out Orca scat from the deck of a boat off the coast of San Juan Island, Washington.

By leading scientists to this obscure excrement, Tucker helps them monitor the health of the whales and understand where they go when they’re not in the San Juan area.

I can’t believe this dog is for real.

According to the story, Tucker is the only dog in the world currently trained and working to detect the scent of whale droppings in the open ocean, but he’s not the only dog sniffing out endangered species poop for science.

Since 1997, the non-profit, Washington-based organization Conservation Canines has been training dogs to trackers of endangered whales, bears, owls, elephants, caribou, pumas, jaguars, giant anteaters and even mice.

Studying the scat is a non-invasive way for scientists to learn a whole lot about the animals, including their sex, species, nutritional status and reproductive health. In the case of the orcas, the presence of the chemicals like DDT and dioxin in the scat suggests in what other waters the animals may have been swimming.

We humans are killing off the rest of the planet at an alarming rate.

Something like 200 plant and animal species die off each day, mostly as a result of human impact.

Like our own, the world dog population is more of an overpopulation. Just ask shelters and rescue groups. When they’re free-roaming or feral, dogs can pose a threat to wildlife, as well.

As a person who cares deeply about the environment – and is a crazy dog lady – these are things I think about a lot. In fact, I often feel a bit guilty about the time and energy I put into dog advocacy, compared with what I do about the plight of threatened wild things.

My foster dog Charlie Machete

My foster dog Charlie Machete

What if at the end of the world, it’s just us and dogs? Would that be worth it?

Discovering the Conservation Canines organization was huge for me yesterday. This is an area where domestic animal rescue and environmentalism can come together. Humans can work with dogs to help in the fight to save other species.

Almost all of the Conservation Canines are rescue dogs or owner surrenders. Tucker came from the streets of Seattle.

According to the group’s website, the dogs that make great trackers often don’t make great family pets. They’re too hyper and too single-minded.

The dog now in training to do what Tucker does is a flat-coated retriever who was so obsessed with her ball that when her former owner placed it atop a refrigerator, she sat and stared at the ball for eight hours.

If only the rest of us could apply that level of determination to protecting the planet…

You can support Conservation Canines by shopping at the group’s merchandise site. I rather like the hoodies and “honorary member” shirts for dogs.

Honorary member of Conservation Canines

Wouldn’t your dogs look great in this shirt?

What do you think about this story? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Fun fact: I have been obsessed with whales since I was a little kid. That’s why there are books by the marine life artist Wyland in the “Favorite Things” section of the Wayward Dogs Store.

Mirror, mirror on the the wall

It’s amazing how much a small accomplishment can improve your whole view.

This mirror used to hang in my parents’ bedroom. It hung for a while in our bedroom, too. But last year, while we visited Portland and a friend stayed at our house with the dogs,

the mirror






Miraculously, the glass did not break. The hanger, however, left a nasty scar on the wall above my dresser.

The mirror itself took up an almost forgotten residence on the floor behind the headboard. All I could really see was the beautiful ornate frame that makes me love this mirror so.

Antique gold mirror frame

It was Zach’s idea last weekend to move the mirror to our tiny bathroom.

The effect is amazing. Of course, there’s the whole room-enlargening effect. But that old mirror also brings something personal to a room that we’ve otherwise furnished sparsely with store-bought, assemble-it-yourself cabinets. That mirror makes me stupid happy.

I can’t believe it took so long.

Did you accomplish any projects over the holiday weekend?

Have you ever completed one very small task and been overjoyed with the result?

Meet the office dogs and enter a contest

Like a great many working people, I spend my weekdays away from my dogs. Pets are not allowed at the office where I compose corporate communications and manage social media efforts for Staples Promotional Products.

Yet, the group I work in does have a pair of canine mascots.

Plush golden retriever and plush black labrador

Luke and Charlie Machete in plush.

By coincidence these plush pups happen to be almost-life-size doppelgangers of my golden retriever Luke and black foster dog Charlie Machete.

The stuffed dogs are coming in quite handy this week as models for the items being given away in a contest I helped coordinate for the company’s corporate blog,

Unlike this blog, the site I oversee for work does giveaways all the time. This is the first contest we’ve run so far that pertains to pets. Because it’s dog-specific and includes an opportunity to help homeless dogs, I wanted to let my Wayward Dogs readers know about it.

Plush black labrador retriever models leash and pet bath care items for giveaway

Charlie Machete, the office version.

The contest works like this: People submit a photo of their dog, along with the name and website of their favorite 501c3 non-profit animal shelter or rescue group and why they think that organization should win a gaggle of gifts from Staples Promotional Products. The winner will be selected based on the case made for the non-profit and the entrant’s social media engagement related to the contest.

The prize is a personal pet package for the winner and a bigger grab bag of goodies for the dogs in the designated non-profit.

Not all of the prizes have arrived at Staples Promotional Products’ Overland Park, Kansas, headquarters yet. Among the items I wish I could take home with me are a bone-shaped, heavy absorbency pet towel and a couple sets of blingy collars and leashes from Diane Katzman Design.

Diane Katzman Design collar and leash

Image courtesy: Diane Katzman Design

Other items being given away include pet bath care items – shampoo, detangler, perfume – food bowls and some gorgeous reusable tote bags with bulldogs on them.

The prizes are all provided by vendors who make all manner of products that companies and organizations can customize with their own logos to promote their brands. Pet-themed promotional products are ideal giveaways for a variety of businesses, including retail pet boutiques, pet food companies and even shelters.

The items from the contest that will be going to the winning non-profit group include multiple useful items, such as collars, leashes and bandanas that I think would be great to put in adoption kits that go with pets when they go to their forever homes.

Now, are you ready to enter this contest?

Head to this link:

Plush golden retriever

Office Luke wishes you good luck!

Fun Fact: I’ll be receiving a goody bag of promotional items from Wayside Waifs as part of my runners’ package when I participate in my first 5K  in September.

Big thanks to everyone who is sponsoring Charlie Machete and me in the run! You are the best friends and readers ever, and you can bet I’ll be calling out all of you publicly in a future post!

Have you ever received a promotional gift from a company that your pets could use? If so, what was it and why did you get it?

How Missouri inmates helped save over 1,000 dogs

Puppies for Parole graduates and their offender handlers in Moberly, Missouri.

Puppies for Parole graduates in Moberly, Missouri. Image used courtesy:

George Lombardi doesn’t have a dog of his own right now. But thanks to a program he kicked off, over 1,000 shelter dogs in Missouri have avoided euthanasia since 2010.

George Lombardi, Director of Missouri Department of Corrections

George Lombardi

Puppies for Parole puts homeless dogs in the 24/7 care of inmate trainers, who teach the animals basic obedience and socialization to help them get adopted. The program utilizes zero tax dollars and is 100% supported by private donations.

At the bottom of this post find out how you can help!

Although not unique in design, Missouri’s program is a national leader.

“Nobody has a program as extensive as ours,” Lombardi says.

To date, 18 of the state’s 20 correctional facilities have instituted Puppies for Parole. The other two prisons are in the process of getting onboard.

The first Puppies for Parole dogs entered the Jefferson County Correctional Center in 2010. The same year, the program received the Governor’s Award for Innovation.

The program’s benefit are threefold:

  • Preventing homeless dogs from being euthanized.
  • Enhancing the relationship between prisons and communities.
  • Providing a positive emotional outlet for offenders.

That last point was most important to Lombardi, who felt inmates “would get this unconditional love back from the dogs, who didn’t care who they were or what they did in the past,” Lombardi says. “I felt that would have a positive effect on the prison.”

Lombardi was very certain of this because about a decade ago he helped connect the group C. H. A. M. P. Assistance Dogs, Inc. (Canine Helpers Allow More Possibilities) with women Missouri inmates. The success of that program inspired him to begin Puppies for Parole.

“I was thinking about the impact that I saw that it had on the women,” he says. “So I decided to approach all of the wardens of all of the prisons.”

Even so, Lombardi’s suggestion in 2010 that prisons start bringing in shelter dogs was not a directive. “I only wanted it to happen if people wanted to do it,” he says. Fortunately, for most people, the chance to have dogs in the workplace isn’t a hard sell.

One by one, wardens around the state jumped at the opportunity.

To many, including the guard interviewed in the video below, the positive impacts of the dogs on the prison community were immediately apparent.

The effects are clear beyond the prison walls, too. Moberly Correctional Center’s local shelter partner has euthanized zero dogs for non-health-related reasons since getting involved with Puppies for Parole in 2011.

The impact of the program on individual people is profound, as well. Using positive reinforcement techniques and under the guidance of professional trainers, Missouri inmates have helped train dogs to live with families and group facilities, including centers for the mentally ill and for veterans.

“I always had it in my mind to try to help veterans,” Lombardi says. “So every single one of our veterans’ homes in Missouri has one of these dogs.”

Perhaps seeing a reflection of themselves in society’s castoff dogs, the offender handlers take great care in their responsibility. Examples abound of inmates helping difficult and disabled dogs become lovable, adoptable animals.

The story in the video below concerns Knuckles, a dog returned by other adopters three times. Thanks to Puppies for Parole he got another chance – and helped a little girl with Asperger’s syndrome open up to the world.

Upon receiving Zeus, a deaf dachshund, offenders at the South Central Correctional Facility in Licking, Missouri, turned to hearing-disabled inmates for suggestions on how to help the dog. “They told them to stomp on the ground to get the dog’s attention,” Lombardi says. “They ended up teaching Zeus nine sign language commands.”

Then, the offenders gathered money amongst themselves to help get Zeus, later renamed Sparky, placed in a Missouri school for the deaf.

Since then, several more deaf dogs have come through Puppies for Parole, including Windsor, also blind, featured in the video below.

How you can help Missouri’s Puppies for Parole

This program’s biggest need is for monetary donations. According to a limit set by the governor of Missouri, Puppies for Parole may accept up to $10,000 in private donations each year. So far, that number has never been reached.


Lombardi hopes one day Puppies for Parole can attain 501c3 non-profit status, which may encourage more people to give money and could even help fund at least one dedicated staff member. (Because no state money may be used for the program, any efforts put in on behalf of the program by prison staff are voluntary.)

In the meantime, Lombardi hopes people will continue supporting Puppies for Parole however they can – by donating, sharing the stories and by supporting the places the program was originally designed to help the most.

“Adopt dogs from shelters. Support your local shelter,” Lombardi says. “We’re all in this together.”

But why doesn’t Lombardi have a dog yet, you ask?

No time – overseeing 20 prisons across the state keeps him on the road too much, and his wife is equally busy.

“When we do get a dog again you can bet it will be a Puppies for Parole dog,” he says.

Dog people at heart, the Lombardis’ first pup was a dog named Tomato that he picked up on the street and who inspired her to write a children’s book.

Keep up with the success stories by liking Missouri Puppies for Parole on Facebook or visiting the Missouri Department of Corrections website, where you can browse adoptable dogs.

Button an adoptable dog through Puppies for Parole

Button, an adoptable Puppies for Parole dog.

Does this story inspire you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Blueberry Frozen Goodness

This is a recipe for master estimators.

It is the only kind of recipe I can follow. And it’s for dogs, who will never tell me, anyway, if there’s a smidge too much cinnamon.

No bake sweet potato cookies.

No bake sweet potato cookies.

Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Blueberry Frozen Goodness


1. What’s left of last year’s sweet potato harvest. Or, as many sweet potatoes as you feel like cleaning, chopping up, boiling and pureeing in the blender – minus the amount of mash you decide at the last minute to save for yourself. Because mashed sweet potatoes are so awesome to eat they require no condiments (although a dash of salt and butter can’t hurt).

Chopped sweet potatoes.

Chopped sweet potatoes.

chopped sweet potatoes in a Blendtec blender

Will it blend?

Pureed sweet potatoes

It blended.

2. Peanut butter. As much as you feel like spooning into the pureed sweet potatoes, but probably not an equal amount or the batter will get so voluminous that you’ll be at this all day.

3. Oats – regular or the instant kind. Really, the dogs won’t know the difference.

4. Cinnamon. Put the container on the sprinkle – not the dump – setting, and use your judgment.

Pureed sweet potatoes, peanut butter, oats and cinnamon

This is basically what your mix should look like before you stir things up.

4. Dried blueberries. For topping.


As the photos above indicate, you will mix all ingredients together. Be patient – the potatoes are light and fluffy, and the peanut butter is thick and heavy. Feel free to keep adding oats, since they seem to help stiffen up the taters.

Once you are satisfied that the mixture is sufficiently even, you will 1) wonder why you mixed things by hand instead of putting it all in your ridiculous $400 Blendtec blender and 2) proceed to the next step.

“The next step” is easy but messy: Use your fingers and a spoon to deposit little lumps of batter onto wax paper. How big you make these lumps is entirely up to you. How big are your dogs? I made two sizes – tablespoon-size for big dogs and teaspoon-size for my elderpin.

When you get sick of spooning out lumps, or when you realize you’re running out of containers to store them in, you might grab the nearest Kong toy and stuff it with this delicious-to-a-dog mixture. Just don’t drop it, or there could be a fight.

A pit bull mix, golden retriever and a miniature pinscher lust after a Kong toy stuffed with sweet potatoes, peanut butter, oatmeal and cinnamon.

Three handsome beggars, Part Deux.

Once the Kong is stuffed, go back to the gooey lumps. Tuck a dried blueberry into the center of each, because it makes them look cuter. And, blueberries are good for dogs.

Small no-bake sweet potato dog treats.

Scooby-size sweet potato snacks.

Finally: Freeze everything. Including the few sweet potato chunks you skimmed for healthy “training” treats.

Frozen sweet potato dog treats.

Not as many snacks as it seems.

Like everything else I make (including yesterday’s basil mint tea), this recipe is adapted from a more specific version. When you don’t have sweet potato mash and blueberries on hand, make the simpler No Bake Peanut Butter Oat Treats by For the Love of My Dogs.

What homemade goodness do you make for your pets?

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