General Interest

Ely, Ambassader of Turn Tulsa Pink

posted September 15th, 2011 by
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By Shirley Brown Johnson

Hi! I’m Ely, a Great Pyrenees mix, but some people know me as the “big mutt guy” wearing pink. You know, it’s crazy the way opportunities present themselves sometimes. Let me back up. My mom, Shirley Brown Johnson, and I are a certified therapy team. In February 2011, we attended the Mardi Gras parade in Tulsa’s Blue Dome District with a friend who is a cancer survivor. There we met Judi Grove, and I thought she was just another outgoing person-I liked her.

We learned that Judi was the heartbeat of Turn Tulsa Pink, a county-wide effort to turn anything and everything pink in honor of women and children affected by cancer. She’s also the founder of Breast Impressions, a local non-profit organization supporting women with breast cancer. Thanks to her tireless passion, Tulsa is home to four pink-wrapped, in-service city vehicles that honor females affected by cancer. First to turn pink was the Tulsa fire truck, next was the Tulsa police car (I love Officer Murray). Not long after that, the Tulsa EMSA ambulance turned pink, and most recently, a Tulsa Sherriff Tahoe. It is super cool to see them all together. That is one time I don’t look so big! Tulsa is the only city to have this distinction thus far and, better yet, at no expense to taxpayers.

So, back to my story -Mom soon had lunch with Judi. The next thing I know, I’m wearing pink and now have the title of Ambassador of Turn Tulsa Pink. It may sound funny, but I love it! My job as a therapy dog is to give comfort to the people I meet. Survivors, patients and families of women and children dealing with cancer benefit from Turn Tulsa Pink. Because of this, I was honored to attend the Jennifer Mansell Blvd. dedication, in memory of the Tulsa Police Officer who fought cancer for nine years and had a great impact on Tulsa’s homeless community.

I was also there for the unveiling of Tulsa’s Pink Ambulance, the Turn Tulsa Pink Launch Party, Breast Cancer Awareness Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol (I got to meet the big dawgs of our state. Mom calls them Senators), and the Pink Vehicle Round-Up when Passion for the Pink, a cancer awareness fundraiser on a coast to coast tour, came through Tulsa. And of course, since I am the Ambassador, I have been present for City proclamations to Turn Tulsa County Pink! Turn Tulsa Pink encourages folks to do what they feel is beneficial for women and children affected by cancer.

This outreach was inspired by the Pink Heals Tour established by Firefighter Dave Graybill of Arizona in 2007. The Pink Heals Tour visited Tulsa in October of 2010. Not long after that, Judi Grove saw to it that Tulsa had its first pinkwrapped fire truck. Thanks to Ely’s Waggin’ Seniors (a group of senior citizens in Wagoner who requested a therapy dog and were lucky enough to wind up with me), I will be wearing 500 pink ribbons the week of October 22-29, 2011, as part of my fundraiser, “Changing My Hair to Change Theirs.” With my mom’s help, I am collecting cash donations, along with new and gently used high quality wigs. I have partnered with Judi’s Wigs to provide wigs for women in financial need that are undergoing chemotherapy. If you would like to help or donate, there will be donation cans at various locations starting in August, including Eskimo Joe’s, Secret Garden Candles, Hampton Inn of Tulsa, various QuikTrips and Judi’s Wigs at 71st and Memorial. Donations can also be made via PayPal using the e-mail address [email protected]

As the Ambassador of Turn Tulsa Pink, I am able to continue with Project Ely – Spreading love one paw at a time. The two work paw in paw together. I hope you will join us in Turning Tulsa Pink! Keep up with Turn Tulsa Pink and Project Ely on Facebook and don’t forget to “Like” me. Stay Pink, Tulsa!

Finding Tigger

posted September 15th, 2011 by
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A Mischievous rescue cat goes missing and finds a new home.

By Kiley Roberson

Seated high on his throne, 18 pounds of peach fluff stared wide eyed down at the others. His face read something of a look of class mixed with confusion, as if to say, “Who are these jokers and why should I be forced in with them?” Until now, Tigger had been an only child. He was 9 years old, and while friendly with other felines, had no desire to mingle. Yet here he was surrounded by 14 cats, having to share everything. This was clearly unacceptable to him. He had climbed to the highest point in the room, a small shelf near the ceiling, a frequent hangout for the feline since arriving at this new place. There he could see everyone else in the room. This time, however, Tigger had another reason to retreat to his perch, a reason he had thought about since the day he arrived – escape.

The day Tigger came to Tulsa’s feline rescue facility, Street Cats, was typical. Unfortunately, his reason for arrival was pretty typical as well. His family no longer wanted him. The staff and volunteers at Street Cats tried to make Tigger feel as comfortable as possible.
They slowly introduced him to the other cats, and after two weeks everything seemed to be working out nicely. The weekends are busy at Street Cats. Linda Holland, treasurer of the organization, wasn’t surprised at all when the facility’s number popped up on her phone one Saturday morning. She was surprised, however, by what she heard. “Tigger is missing.” Like a SWAT team, staff and volunteers descended on the building. They searched high and low, but the only thing out of place was a hanging ceiling tile in the hallway, far away from the main cat room where Tigger had been staying. Four hours passed with no sign of the crafty kitty until a volunteer decided to take a peek in the ceiling near the disturbed tile. The space was dusty, filled with insulation, cob webs and a cat. There sat Tigger peeking back, his quiet hiding spot discovered. Tigger spent the rest of that Saturday being pampered by volunteers, dusting dirt and debris from his fur.

One newer volunteer, Marcia Rowland, spent the afternoon brushing him clean. “I fell in love with him the minute I saw him,” Marcia said. “He got into my lap, put one paw on each of my shoulders and started rubbing his head underneath my chin. I was a goner.” When all the excitement had died down and Tigger was nice and clean, staff closed up for the evening. “They put some stuff up to hold the ceiling tiles down in the cat room,” Linda said. “But low and behold, Sunday I got a call saying Tigger was missing again.” This time when spotted, Tigger had no intent of being caught. He ducked and weaved, undeterred by food and treats. He shimmied away from reaching hands and danced in and out of flashlight beams. Keeping up the feline fiasco wasn’t easy and eventually his sly steps couldn’t defeat being outnumbered. His escape attempts had been futile but certainly were not in vain. Knowing he couldn’t stay at the facility, Linda asked Marcia if she would like to adopt Tigger. Marcia agreed and the clever cat now spends his days lounging around his new home. His escape plans may have been foiled, but he clearly isn’t sad about it. Maybe this was the plan all along.

One Dog. One Cat.

posted September 15th, 2011 by
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Their Journeys through the City of Tulsa Animal Wellfare Shelter

By Nancy Gallimore Werhane

By the end of a typical Tuesday at the City of Tulsa Animal Welfare facility, 57 animals had checked into the shelter. Twenty-four of those 57 animals were owner-surrenders, and 23 were picked up as strays by animal welfare field officers. Of the 23 stray animals, 19 were dogs, four were cats. But this is not a story about statistics. It is the story of one dog, one cat and their journeys though Tulsa’s shelter. I picked a random day of the week and was given a list of all stray animals that entered that day. I visited every one of them. First, I met the dogs.
Kennel 202A, brown/white Pit Bull mix.

Kennel 202B, tan Labrador Retriever mix. Kennel 245A, black/tan German Shepherd mix. Kennel 930, brown/ white English Bulldog. Kennel 215A and B, Great Dane/Boxer mix puppies. Of the 19 dogs I met, all but one shy Rottweiler mix welcomed my attention. Most greeted me at the fence with wagging tails. Kennel 204A held a black and white Labrador Retriever mix whom the staff had dubbed “Harry.” There was definitely something about Harry that drew me back to him. At first glance he was a fairly non-descript black mixed breed dog – a gangly youngster with legs seemingly too long for his adolescent body.
But he had soft brown eyes that brightened when I spoke to him. He had a long tail that swished happily from side to side and then in a circle when he got a bit more excited to be the focus of my attention.
A quick check of Harry’s stats proved unremarkable.

He was found stray, wearing a red collar but no identification tags.
He was about one year old and had yet to be neutered. “OK, Harry,” I told him, “you’re my guy.” I headed on to the cats. My reception by the four young cats that came in that day was a bit different. All were young kittens, and all were feral. I doubt any of them had really ever been handled by humans at all. It’s possible that coming to the shelter was their first close encounter with people. With any domestic animal, proper handling at a very early age is crucial to the animal’s development. My Tuesday kittens had obviously not received that benefit. Nothing but mistrust and fear showed in their eyes and tense little bodies as I looked into their cages.

Cage 701 held a small black kitten with white on its nose, chest and paws. Like its counterparts, kitten 701 hissed at me and stayed to the back of its cage. This was a cute baby, despite its unwillingness to get to know me. “OK, little one,” I whispered, knowing this kitten’s prospects were not good. “You’re it.” And so the story begins of two Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter occupants.

Upon arrival at the shelter, Harry and the kitten were placed in their respective kennels by animal welfare field officers and entered into the computer tracking program. Like every animal that comes into the shelter, my two strays were checked over by the shelter veterinary staff and vaccinated to keep them healthy during their stay.
Next, it was time to wait. While pets surrendered by their owners can be evaluated for adoption potential immediately upon arrival at the shelter, strays must be held for 72 hours to allow owners the chance to reclaim them. The countdown begins the day after their arrival and does not include Sundays or Mondays when the shelter is not open to the public.

Harry and the kitten came to the shelter on a Tuesday. They were held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. During that time, Harry and the nameless kitten were monitored by the shelter’s Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Cathy Pienkos, and the veterinary technicians who staff the shelter clinic. Volunteers visited them. People looking to adopt a pet strolled by, pausing to give them a once over. Harry always greeted me with a happy disposition. He had fresh water, and he rested on a comfortable cot. The kennel area was monitored and kept clean by kennel technicians. While Harry’s days might have been a bit boring, he was safe, clean and well fed. He was in the hands of people who cared for his well being. With no real understanding of his situation, Harry seemed happy and content. My black kitten, on the other hand, continued to greet me with growls and hisses. My heart ached a little more with each spat. I knew this kitten’s chances of making it into the shelter’s adoption program were nonexistent. However, despite a lessthan social temperament, my kitten also received excellent care. The litter box was kept clean. There were bowls of fresh food and water, and there was a little box inside the cage that provided a perfect hiding place for a scared kitten.

Friday evening arrived and I checked in with shelter manager, Jean Letcher Jenkins, on the status of Harry and the kitten. Each stray animal that reaches the end of its holding period is then evaluated by the shelter staff, primarily by Dr. Pienkos and her staff, to determine its fate. They make note of how the animal behaved during its initial exam and take into account any notes made in the animal’s record. In Harry’s case, for example, someone had noted that he could be a little hyper but was very friendly. A good review – so that should mean he could make it into the adoption program, right? This brings us to the tricky part. Our shelter is generally That means that even the healthiest, friendliest of animals – dogs like Harry – might not make it into adoption. It becomes a numbers game, meaning the shelter staff has to make difficult decisions. As Jenkins so clearly explains it, 57 animals came into the shelter that one Tuesday, but 57 animals did not leave. There is only so much room.

One of the days I visited, 11 animals were adopted into new homes. Such a very happy ending for those cats and dogs, but if 57 animals came in on Tuesday alone, you don’t have to do the math to understand the situation. Limited space means being a friendly dog, that appears to be in good health, may not be enough to score an adopted family. If kennel space is limited, other factors come into play such as appearance, size and age. In Harry’s case, he was friendly and he was still healthy, but in the strike column, he was a big, black mixed breed dog, a few months beyond the cute puppy stage.
When asked about the Lab mix in Pen 204, Dr. Pienkos thought for a moment and said, “Oh, you mean Harry? He’s a nice boy.” That she could remember one dog out of hundreds was an impressive testimony to her very handson approach, considering the number of animals at the shelter. Dr. Pienkos went on to say that Harry’s chances of being adopted are not great. There are so many dogs like him that pass unnoticed through shelters every day. However, Dr. Pienkos was quick to add that the young dog has a good disposition and, fortunately, there was a little room to spare that day. Harry was going to be safe, at least for the weekend. My kitten was a different story. He, or she, was not friendly. In fact, so not friendly that they couldn’t even handle him/her to determine his/her gender.

Could someone have worked with this kitten to socialize it? Possibly. Was someone available to take on that project for this kitten and so many others? No. Adding to the kitten’s slim chance of adoption was the fact that there were so many other beautiful cats and kittens in adjacent cages – friendly, social and purring at the mere hint of attention. The kitten in cage number 701 was humanely euthanized by lethal injection the next morning. Of my Tuesday animals, two dogs and three kittens were put to sleep on their “release day.” According to Jenkins and Dr. Pienkos, that was a good day. On any other given day of the week, the euthanasia numbers could be much higher. Of course, this lottery would be replayed every day for each animal that passes through its holding period unclaimed.

Managing an overly crowded shelter is not an easy proposition, and I would certainly not want to walk a mile in the shoes of those who have to make such tough life decisions daily. Whatever your mental image is of the managers and employees who work in Tulsa’s shelter, I’m here to tell you that the people I spoke with are people who truly love animals. Jenkins’ office is testimony to that fact. The carpet has been removed in favor of a bare concrete slab floor. The furnishings include crates, litter boxes, pet beds and food and water bowls. The days I visited, there was a bouncy little Chihuahua mix underfoot and several kittens lounging and playing on the desk, computer keyboard and cabinets.

The office doubles as a sanctuary for kittens that need a little time to mature; a place for mother dogs and their new puppies to have a little peace and privacy; a place for a silly Chihuahua to socialize and possibly learn some manners. Visit the staff in the veterinary clinic and they will tell you a little bit about each of the animals in the hospital ward. They will smile at each groggy pet recovering from a spay or neuter because it means they are heading off to new homes. And they will each tell you about their favorite animals in the shelter.

As I write this article, Harry is still at the shelter, waiting for someone to notice his beautiful brown eyes. He is waiting for someone to take him out to the exercise yard, so he can show them he knows to sit and lie down on request. He is waiting, in the midst of so many other hopeful faces, for someone to see what a good dog

The Veterinary Wellness Center

posted September 15th, 2011 by
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By Rusty Lang

It ‘s not typical to see a veterinarian treating patients with a baby perched on her hip, but Heather Owen of The Veterinary Wellness Center isn’t your average vet in more ways than one. She is one of a growing number of animal doctors who are using Eastern techniques to heal and comfort our furry friends.

Take Lucinda, for example. A 13-year-old tortoise-colored cat, Lucinda has tummy problems. Her owner, Georgia Wykoff, decided to try holistic therapy along with her regular veterinarian’s traditional treatment and medicine. “They said it was either a tumor or Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome,” Wykoff says, as she strokes Lucinda’s back on a recent visit to the Veterinary Wellness Center.
Lucinda has received acupuncture treatments every two weeks for about a year, coming to the facility at 5147 S. Harvard Ave. As Owen quickly but accurately sticks about 12 thin needles just beneath Lucinda’s skin, the cat placidly purrs in her owner’s gentle grasp.
“She’s a very good patient,” says Owen, who visualizes the acupuncture points in her mind and makes short work of the seemingly uncomfortable process. Not so for Lucinda who, immediately after the needles have been placed, jumps up into a kitty cubby behind the treatment table, just as many curious felines have been known to do.
“That’s her favorite spot,” says Wykoff. “She already feels better.” Owen consults with Lucinda’s general practice veterinarian to ensure quality care, as she does with all her patients.

The needles will remain in place for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Naturally, most animals shake them out before the time is up, but the treatment begins working immediately. Owen describes acupuncture as
“the needles talking to the nerves.” And the “talking” seems to be effective. Another of Owen’s patients, a female Yorkie, had fluid in the stomach. The owner sought conventional medical procedures, but nothing worked.

After two treatments with Owen, the Yorkie recovered. However, some chronic conditions may require a lifetime of treatment. Paralysis and painful conditions, such as arthritis, back pain and other back problems, nerve injury and vertebral disc issues are commonly treated with acupuncture. Owen doesn’t like to use needles on the legs or paws, so she switches to a laser for those. In-clinic sessions, which include consultation, examination and treatment with acupuncture needles, cost $55. The same treatment in the privacy of the patient’s home costs $130, which Owen says is excellent for poor travelers and feline patients. In another room is Jaqueline Judd. She helped found the Center and is the lead technician, assisting patients during rehab. Judd’s passion is canine agility and she actively trains and competes with the dogs, which inspired her passion for canine sports medicine.
Her 78-pound German Shepherd, River, who has had leg surgery, is demonstrating the water treadmill, and he seems to be thoroughly enjoying it.

The tank is filled with enough water to make him buoyant, so that he can work on conditioning without pain. Ramps, stairs, pens and a myriad of toys are available for the patients. Buster, another Shepherd, bounds around the circumference of the room with two toys in his mouth. Although Owen graduated from Oklahoma State University in conventional veterinary medicine, she switched to acupuncture and the other treatments as an in-home service. She has taken advanced courses in the non-traditional therapies and does not perform general veterinary services. “We do not perform general practice (such as surgery, dentistry, vaccines, heartworm/flea control or emergency medicine), thus allowing your pet to continue their relationship with their primary caregiver,” Owen says.

She takes referrals from area veterinarians and coordinates chiropractic care when needed. “We believe complementary veterinary care is a must for overall well-being, and we work together with your primary veterinarian to help get our patients back to full function,” she says. “We live in a world today where we can take the best of both and the animals only benefit.” Chinese herbs are also a part of her doctor’s bag. “My own dog with stress diarrhea was started [on] ‘Harmonize the Stomach’ and within one dose, all bloody diarrhea and vomiting stopped. I still use it for flare ups with her,” she says.
She also provides nutritional counseling, which she describes as, “a homemade balanced diet. Sometimes they are as simple as grilling salmon, roasting sweet potatoes and using supplements to balance the vitamins and minerals, and sometimes we do it completely with food. These are time consuming, so if there is a chance our patients will eat a commercial product, we recommend that.” Owen’s hopes for the future include dog yoga (doga) and stretching classes, continuing to work with senior dogs and canine athletes, and a pool for pets and patient swim times.

And while the Center is her dream clinic, she still makes house calls.
Owen founded The Wellness Center, along with her husband Dustin Owen, who serves as business manager, and Judd. The Owens’ have three daughters, Madison, Keira and baby Isabella – the latter is the one who is riding on Owen’s hip and is a fixture at the worksite since she is breastfeeding. How do her patients react to the baby? “They love her!” she says. “All of the shepherds have to know where she is at so they can ‘herd’ her.” The Veterinary Wellness Center is, at its core, a family business. Although it’s not always predictable, Owen says she’s glad her patients and their owners understand her need to balance work and family.

“We are so grateful [the baby] has been so well received” she says. “We have many clients who cannot have children or did not get to have children, and they lovingly refer to her as their baby. They even more lovingly refer to her as my baby when she is upset! We have decided she is everyone’s.”

Wacky Pet Names

posted August 29th, 2011 by
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By Anna Holton-Dean

Think your pet has a creative name? Or perhaps you’re a traditionalist – say, Spot or Trixie?

Well, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation’s largest and oldest pet health insurance provider, released their list of the most wacky and creative pet names for the fourth consecutive year.  According to, VPI employees selected 50 unusual dog names and 50 unusual cat names from over 485,000 insured pets in their database. Then, they narrowed them down by voting for the 10 wackiest in both categories.

So, what 20 were the wackiest of all?


  1. Almost-A-Dog
  2. Franco Furter
  3. Stinkie Mcstinkerson
  4. Sir Seamus McPoop
  5. Audrey Shepburn
  6. Dewey Decimell
  7. Knuckles Capone
  8. Beagle Lugosi
  9. Shooter Mclovin
  10. Uzi Duzi-Du


  1. Ozzy Pawsbourne
  2. Mr. Meowgi
  3. Murderface
  4. Fuglee
  5. Scruffernutter
  6. Corporal Cuddles
  7. Cat Masterson
  8. Spam
  9. Tape W. Orm
  10. Louisiana Purchase


Almost all of the owners who were asked said they came up with the names based on their pets’ unusual behavior or characteristics, VPI Corporate Communications Director Curtis Steinhoff said in the article. So while they were all deserving of their carefully chosen names, it would still be a little awkward to hear Stinkie Mcstinkerson yelled across the dog park.

We’d love to hear Tulsa’s most unique and interesting pet names.  Tell us your quirky pet name by leaving a comment below.    If we get enough feedback we will publish the wacky names in an upcoming issue!

Paws Pairs 4-Legged Listeners, Young Readers

posted July 15th, 2011 by
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by John Fancher, Tulsa City-County Library

In addition to being best friends, dogs are kids’ best listeners.
In a program to boost reading levels of children ages 7-12, Tulsa City-County Library started PAWS for Reading storytimes in 2005.
Modeled on the national Reading Educations Assistance Dogs (READ) program, storytimes at the libraries bring together registered therapy dogs with young readers as they practice reading aloud.
The goal is to improve literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered therapy dogs and their handlers.
After the story sessions, the Tulsa Library Trust provides each reader with a book to take home and create their own home library.
Siblings Olivia and Allen Brock are regular PAWS for Reading participants. Their Great Aunt Jane Waters brings them to the Herman and Kate Kaiser Library to select books for the week.
Olivia and Allen signed up for the storytimes nearly three years ago and continue because they enjoy their time reading aloud to the dogs.
“I have dyslexia, so my reading improves each time I read to dogs,” explains Olivia.
“I like reading them the ‘Magic Tree House’ series or the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books.” Brother Allen notes, “I like that I can learn and get better at spelling when I read out loud.
And the dogs really like to listen.
But one time I was reading and he fell asleep on my lap!” A pack of 25 doggy volunteers take turns as listeners at 14 TCCL locations.
Olivia and Allen recently read to Barkley, an 8-year-old terrier/poodle mix. His owner, Cat Ingram, and her daughter, rescued him from the Tulsa Animal Shelter when he was a puppy.
Barkley attended the dog obedience school at Tulsa Dog Training Club and received his Canine Good Citizen badge.
“He has always loved lying across my books and magazines so I knew he’d enjoy kids reading to him, too,” says Ingram.
“Today, we noticed that both Allen and Olivia had improved their reading skill since our last visit in the winter and that made it all worthwhile for us.
” What began as a pilot program at three libraries has blossomed into a successful, ongoing program.
“A child who is having trouble reading will benefit greatly from these storytimes,” explains Gretchen Hannefield, Friends and Volunteer coordinator.
“The registered therapy dogs are perfect nonjudgmental listeners. Readers feel no pressure as they improve their reading skills.
When they are unable to pronounce a word, the dog’s handler is there to help sound out the word.”