Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Boy & His Dog

A few months ago, I took over the role of donor relations for Heart of Texas Lab Rescue. This means that I get to collect the data from the donations we receive and have the opportunity to send letters to our donors thanking them for their gifts.

After a few months, you become familiar with the names of regular donors. Our donations allow you to sponsor a current HOTLR rescue pup, or honor a person or pup special to you. We also get many donations in memory of pups and/or people who have passed.

While each of the specially designated donations make me wonder and think about the people or pups who are recognized, none has fascinated me more than a monthly donation in honor and memory of Army Corporal Kory Wiens and Military K9 Cooper.

As, I watched the news this morning, the biggest story of the day was that after nearly 9 years, the war with Iraq is over. I watched as the American flag was lowered in Baghdad during the closing ceremonies. I watched as the last of the American troops boarded the plane for home. I watched as the statistics of the nine year war were posted - 4,487 dead, over 32,000 wounded, $8 billion spent.

It got me thinking again about Kory and Cooper. So, I googled Kory Wiens, and I found his story. And I read it. And I saw a picture of him with his yellow Lab. He was stationed in Iraq. On July 6, 2007, he was 20 when an IED killed him and his dog Cooper. His plans were to stay in the army just long enough that when Cooper's bomb-sniffing days were over, he could adopt her. They were buried together. Then my eyes filled with tears and I wept. I was grateful that this boy and his dog gave their lives for this country. I was grateful that someone in Austin, TX has not forgotten them and honors them every single month with a donation to HOTLR.

Today, I made a donation to HOTLR in honor of Army Corporal Kory Wiens and Military K9 Cooper. Kory and Cooper, I thank you and salute you. May you both rest in peace together forever.

During the hubbub of the holiday season, please remember to embrace those you love. Each day, remember to appreciate the love and Labs in your life. Be grateful for freedom and a safe place to live. Keep in your memories, those that have given their lives to keep these things safe for us. Remember Kory & Cooper.

Happy Holidays to you all from the folks at Heart of Texas Lab Rescue!! We could not save as many Labs as we do without the time, support and dollars from our volunteers, supporters and donors. A heartfelt "thank you" to each and every one of you.

Monday, December 5, 2011

To Give or Not to Give......That is the Question.

Many times during the gift giving season, dogs and cats are given to people as presents. Make sure the look of surprise on the face of your gift recipient is one of true pleasure and not horror. This can be a wonderful gift for the right person, but a terrible idea for someone else. Why wouldn't a pet be a perfect gift choice? Check out the reasons below to decide if your gift idea is really a good decision.

Consider that 5 million to 7 million cats and dogs enter into humane societies and shelters every year in the US. Of these, 60% are euthanized. Is the person you want to give a pet to really ready for the responsibility of pet ownership?

Anyone adopting a pet should first answer the questions below. If you are gifting a pet to someone, you must be able to answer these questions for them. Can you?

1) Is the person emotionally ready for the responsibility of a pet. Pets need a lot of care - every day for up to 15 - 17 years. Is the person you are considering giving a pet to ready to make sure that their new pet is fed and cared for every day for this period of time? Goes to the veterinarian for regular health checks? What about unexpected vet visits? Is the pet recipient ready to drop everything to rush to the emergency clinic on a Saturday night at midnight if necessary?

2) Along with the emotional responsibility of a pet, comes the financial obligation. Let's face it, caring for a pet can be expensive. There is of course the initial expense of pet, a bed, a kennel, a fenced yard or (safe place to stay when left alone), a health check, collar/leash/identification, spay/neutering of an intact dog, vaccinations. What about puppy behavior classes or adult dog training classes?

Then the ongoing costs. Annual vet visits, medications like heartworm preventative and flea and tick prevention, an emergency vet fund for unexpected illnesses or injuries. Consider that an ACL tear (a torn ligament in the knee), a common injury in young active dogs, can range from $1200 to $3000 to repair. If the dog has a complete tear of the ligament, the dog will be unable to bear weight on the leg and will be lame. Probably not an injury he/she should live with for the long term. Can the person you are considering afford the expense of a pet?

3) Time commitment. How much time does it take to care for an animal? It is recommended that a dog get at least an hour of exercise every day. How long will the dog be left alone during the day? Will there be sufficient opportunities for bathroom breaks? The days of happy hour after leaving the office are over once you bring a dog into your home. Animals left alone for hours on end can become destructive due to boredom, both to the home and the yard. Is your person ready to commit the time to a positive relationship with their pet?

What about vacation and travel? Where will the dog or cat go when people leave town? Pet-sitters, boarding facilities, family or friends that can "baby-sit". All of this must be taken into consideration when getting a pet.

4) Finally, do you want to rob somebody of choosing the perfect pet for themselves. HOTLR meet 'n greets are set up so that the whole family is required to be present. The look of joy when the right dog finds the right family is priceless. This is the best way we can insure that both the family and the animal is truly committed to each other. Can you really choose a forever companion for your friend or family member? It's kinda like choosing a spouse for them, don't you think? You wouldn't do that would you?

We think the best gift you can give this Christmas, is the opportunity for the pet lover in your life to choose their own pet. So, how about buying a dog bowl and wrapping it up as a gift for your friend? Create a little certificate or note in there to tell them you'd like to help them find a furry soul mate. Then let your friend or family member take it from there....

This week's blog is not meant to bring you down, or shoot a hole through a beautiful idea. It's just meant to give you some points to ponder. We know that you don't want your gift to be one of the 7 million that could end up in a shelter next year. So, think carefully before gifting a pet for the holidays.

If you know someone interested in adopting a Labrador, please refer them to Heart of Texas Lab Rescue. We have lots of wonderful dogs available and waiting for their forever homes.
Don't forget to join us at Barnes & Noble gift wrapping session. It's great fun and a wonderful way to spread the word about HOTLR. Sign up now!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Avoid Turkey Day Troubles

So Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. It's hard for me to say why exactly, but I suspect that it has to do with the quality and quantity of food, friends, family and football. There is nothing I like better than a day at home, yummy smells in the air, a guilt free 12 noon glass of wine, football on the tv, dogs relaxing at my feet, a post dinner nap. What could be better?

And then there is the dreaded day such warm feelings for this day. By now, we all are familiar with the term "Black Friday" to describe the day after Thanksgiving. Stores opening at 12am on the Friday after Thanksgiving, people lined up for hours beforehand. I saw this guy on the news this week, that actually pitched his tent a week early in front of a Best Buy!!! Really???

But it's not only early bird holiday shoppers that think of the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday. Often, veterinarians think the same thing. This is the day when multitudes of pets that have gotten into the wrong stuff on Turkey Day are presented to the vet for a cure of their holiday hangovers. How do you make sure you aren't one of those who spend their time and money in the vet's office instead of reaping the benefits of holiday sales? Check out these tips below:

1) First and foremost - Leave the people food for the people. Yes, it's tempting on this special day of thanking and feasting to be tempted to reward the pet in your life by adding some tasty tidbits to his food bowl. However, people food can spell disaster for dogs. A nasty bout of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis can put an end to your holiday fun pretty quickly. Dogs experience very painful abdomens and scary bloody diarrhea. Vomiting may also occur. Also, pancreatitis is a very common ailment associated with pets that eat the wrong thing. Dogs can become very sick from the "inflammation of the pancreas". Symptoms include, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and lethargy. Treatment for both is largely supportive only often requiring administration of IV fluids, special diets and hospital stays. This can become quite expensive at a time of year when the last thing you want to spend money on is your sick pet.

Even if your dog does not develop pancreatitis, eating food that your dog is not used to often times ends up in bouts of vomiting and diarrhea at the least. Who wants to spend their precious holiday time off cleaning up those messes? Not to mention that your pet will feel lousy too. Still feel bad? Consider a special treat such as a canned version of his regular kibble. Or add a little pumpkin puree to his regular food (not pumpkin pie filling, but real canned pumpkin).

2) Keep the trash picked up and secured in a safe place. With all the extra folks and garbage generated from a holiday feast, sometimes it's easy to have garbage overflow. There is nothing that a dog likes better than to go through the holiday leftovers from the garbage. Besides the fact that they may get sick from the food they eat, there is also the possibility of them getting into turkey bones. Turkey bones are a big no-no for dogs. As they travel through the digestive process they can splinter and break causing tears all the way from the esophagus to the rectum. Cooked turkey bones are even worse as the cooking process has relieved them of any moisture causing them to become even more brittle. This spells big trouble for your dogs intestines. Tears or perforations of the intestines can be a life-threatening situation. Also, obstructions and blockages can result from ingesting bones requiring your dog to have surgery. To avoid these horrible situations, ensure your garbage is secured away from your dogs sensitive snout and hungry belly.

3) Boarding Blues - many of us travel at Thanksgiving and board our dogs while we are gone. Although most reputable boarding facilities require their boarders to be up to date on vaccines, it's still a wonderful place for your pet to pick up an illness or disease. Even fleas can be a problem in the cleanest boarding facility. To make sure your dog stays safe while you are gone, thoroughly check out the boarding facility where you plan to leave your pup. Make your reservations early so that you aren't scrambling around at the last minute trying to find a place to leave your dog. Make an appointment at your veterinarian two weeks prior to leaving and get your pup up to date on his vaccinations and give him a full health check. Apply a topical flea product, such as Frontline on your dog prior to dropping him off to make sure he is protected from fleas. Or consider alternative solutions. Bring someone into your home to stay with your pet, or make arrangements to take your pet with you. Your doggy will love a good vacation!!

4) Pet ID - if you do travel with your pet, it's also wise to be sure he is up to date on his vaccinations and is healthy to travel. Also, be sure you bring the proper gear to make sure your pet stays safe. A collar, leash and/or harness are a must to guarantee you and your pet won't get separated in a strange place. Also, if you are driving, collapsible crates, a comfy dog bed or blanket and some favorite toys can make a strange place feel just like home. Last, please, please, please microchip your pet and make sure his/her collar has ID tags with current information on them. If your pet does become lost, this is the best way to ensure you will be reunited. Finally, think about hanging around the house for the first 24 hours after your arrival. Let your pup get used to his/her new surroundings before you take off. Take him for a long walk, introduce him to people he'll be spending time with. Also, find out where the best vet is in town in case there is an emergency.

Following these tips will hopefully allow you and your pet to have a stress free holiday. Stay safe and have a great holiday.

During this time of year, we are reminded again of all the HOTLR supporters and donors without whom this organization would not exist. All of us at HOTLR thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your donations, support and volunteer hours. 2011 has been one of our most successful years. Thank you for allowing us to save as many of these wonderful dogs as we can. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at HOTLR!!!

For more information on Turkey Day safety for your pets, check out these links:

ASPCA Thanksgiving Safety Tips
Petfinder Thanksgiving Pet Care Tips
Guardian Pet Sitters Thanksgiving Pet Care Tips

Need a new friend this holiday season? How about adopting or fostering one of our adorable Labs? Check out who needs a home here: HOTLR Labs Available for Adoption.

Looking for a way to pump up your holiday spirit? Sign up for Gift Wrapping with HOTLR at a participating Barnes & Noble. Dogs, kids,'s the perfect way to get into the holiday swing of things!!! For more info and to sign up, click here: HOTLR Upcoming Events

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bring Out Your Inner Picasso and Paint Your Pet

I have always wished that I could draw or paint or sculpt. Once I even tried my hand at clay. I thought I might become a potter. So I signed up with a friend to take an informal class. It was bad....really, bad. In fact, I left midway through the class and my friend had to finish the one and only pot I managed to "throw".

Then there was the time I thought I'd take a drawing class. Another epic fail...I only made it through one or two sessions before I sold my pens and ink.

But something keeps telling me, that if I want to bad enough, I should be able to create. I live amongst this amazing Labrador inspiration all the time. And I have been the very happy recipient of beautiful paintings and drawings of my canine kids from the amazing Sheila Wedegis to use as examples. So, when another friend (oblivious to my earlier artistic failures), invited me to attend a class to paint your pet, I decided to give it another try. Surely, the love I feel for my Labs will flow through my fingers onto the canvas.

Painting with a Twist is located behind the Trudy's on Burnet Road. The cost is $55 for a 3 hour class and you receive all the supplies - canvas, paints, brushes, etc. and step by step instruction on how to paint your very own pet portrait. Once you sign up for the class, you send a picture of your pet via email to an artist at the studio. The best pics are a full front headshot of your pet. Then an artist from the studio sketches your pet's picture on the canvas that you will then paint. When you arrive at class, you receive your canvas with the sketched pic as well as a color copy of the picture you sent in to use as a reference.

I chose the shot above of my beautiful yellow girl Susie. When I arrived and was handed my canvas at the front door. I couldn't wait to start.

The class is taught by an artist and teacher's assistant. They break the process down into four basic steps

1) painting the background,
2) filling in the sketch,
3) highlighting your sketch
4) adding detail.

During your class time, the artist/instructor also teaches you about combining colors, complementary colors, and helpful tips on how to make your painting look its best. The instructor and teacher's assistant also "float" through the classroom offering individual assistance, encouragement and occasionally fixing little "boo-boos".

Did I mention that the "twist" to this fun art class is that snacks and alcoholic beverages are permitted in class. My friend and I sipped a lovely Bogle Zin and munched on carrots, hummus, cheese and crackers while we let our inner artists express themselves.

Finally, at the end of your three hour session, you leave the studio with your painting, a touching and unique rendition of the love of your life. And, if you are not fully satisfied with your finished painting, an "SOS" class held is once a month at no charge. In this session, the artists will work with you to help you "fix" anything you may not like in your portrait. Although, I survived the entire class and was happy with the outcome of my portrait last night. In the light of day with a clear mind, I believe Susie's portrait and I will be attending an SOS session.

Talk about a fun night out with friends, or a cool Christmas present (either the class or the painting), Painting with a Twist is a definite must for any Lab lover!!!! Need inspiration, check out the Labs Available for Adoption at the HOTLR website!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Get the Foster Fever

I would like to dedicate this blog to fostering.  It may seem a bit hypocritical to you that I could write a blog on fostering when I'm not even a foster myself.  Of course, I was......and I failed.  I was a big, fat, hairy "foster failure".  Sometimes when I tell people that, I think they think that I must have had really bad foster dogs.....Definitely not the case.  In fact, just the opposite.  For those of you unfamiliar to foster terminology, a "foster failure" is defined as one whose foster dog becomes adopted by the foster parent and/or family.  I was so terrible at fostering, that I failed fostering not once, but twice.  With my second foster failure, the dog population in my household outnumbered the human occupants 2 to 1.  My husband and I suddenly went from a two Lab family to a four Lab family.  Can you imagine how much dog food is required to properly feed four Labradors???  Are you aware that we are responsible for the invention of Dyson "Animal" vacuum cleaner?

But let me tell you something about fostering that I failed to understand from the beginning. As much as I love all my dogs including the ones I adopted, there is something special about fostering.  The excitement and thrill that you get each time you get a new foster never fades.  Observing the transformation of your foster dog during the time he/she lives with you and knowing that you are directly responsible for that transformation can move you to tears.  The feeling you get from this transformation is indescribable.  Learning about your foster dog's personality quirks and the special things that make your foster unique is heart-melting to discover and provides invaluable information to perspective adopters about the dog.  Knowing that you are the most stable and dependable family your foster dog has or may have ever known is a vital part of our rescues' rehabilitation no matter the medical status.  The time a rescue spends with the foster family teaches the dog how to behave in a loving home environment.  Yes, it's true.  You have to be a strong person to foster.  After spending so much time loving a dog, it is hard to watch them go.  But here's the cool part....the pain that you feel after losing your foster instantly fades as soon as a new one walks through your front door.

We would love to have all our dogs in foster homes, so they could learn how to be polite family members. This ensures that they become permanent members of their forever family once they are adopted. HOTLR foster dogs often do adopt more quickly then the HOTLR dogs that live at the kennel.  But, don't get me wrong, we are so very lucky to have the Canine Hilton as a back up to our foster program.  The people at Canine Hilton really love our dogs.  The time that Tiffany McCalla, trainer for the Canine Hilton, spends with HOTLR recruits is priceless.  They are all given individualized attention and that attention in addition to the training that Tiffany provides is a vital part to a HOTLR rescue's second chance at a good life.
This time of the year is hard on our foster families also as many travel for the holidays and need someplace to temporarily place their foster dog.  However, this is a perfect time for you to try fostering.  You have a dog already in a foster situation that needs a dog-sitter while the foster family is gone.  You get a good taste of how wonderful fostering can be.  You get to "practice", before you commit to your own foster.  Are you ready for a trial run?

Fostering is pretty simple.  HOTLR pays for all medical costs and any medications that your foster may need.  The only thing that we ask of our foster families is that they provide shelter, food and love to their temporary family member.  We do like to get monthly updates from our foster families to know how the foster dogs are doing, especially before a meet 'n greet where your foster dog may be shown.  This information is used at the meet 'n greet to let prospective adopters know a little bit about your dog, especially if you cannot be there.  If you can provide transportation to and from meet 'n greets that helps as well.  It's nice for the families meeting the dogs to be able to talk with the foster family about the dogs they are meeting.  However,  we know people are busy and things can come up, so we can always arrange for transportation also.  

If at anytime you have questions or problems you can give any board member a call or an email.  All the board members have fostered in the past or are currently fostering.  No question is ever too silly.  Chances are we've probably had the same question ourselves.  We know it takes time and dedication to foster, that's why we are here to help. 

I would never trade my Labs for anything in this world.  I am so very grateful for all the Labs that have come through my door.  I remember each and every foster I've had and they have all been special.  It's funny to me to hear my husband talk about fostering for HOTLR.  He was not as excited about the prospect of fostering as I was, but when he talks to other people about our experiences, he is enthusiastic and positive.  He tells people all that time that there wasn't one of our fosters that we wouldn't have kept.  It makes me smile to hear him talk like that.  As for me, I'm sad that I don't foster anymore.  For now, I get my rescue fix by working at an animal hospital and occasionally participating in shelter checks.  I truly miss is and look forward to a time when I can foster again.  I miss making that much difference in a single dog's life.  As of November 2nd, HOTLR currently has 10 dogs at the Canine Hilton.  They are all waiting for foster families.  Check out the HOTLR website to see all the dogs available for fostering.  So,go ahead and give fostering a try.....It'll do a dog and your heart good.....

HOTLR Zephyr pictured above is currently looking for a foster home. For more information on Zephyr, go to

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween can mean Howl-o-Ween for You & Your Pets

So picture it through a dog's eyes.  The doorbell going off every five minutes for hours on end.  Crazy looking creatures and people crowding around the door. Shouts of "Trick or Treat" screaming from tiny mouths.  And nobody.....not one person comes in to stay and visit.  Besides, maybe, just maybe, your owner whom you love and only want to please, has dressed you up as a butterfly, pumpkin, loaf of Wonder bread, or strapped a horse costume on you complete with a stuffed human being in a saddle on your back.  Seriously???  If your people wanted a horse instead of a dog, they should have gone to the stable....

It makes perfect sense that your dog might be a bit overwhelmed by Halloween and all its festivities.  So this little blog has been written to give you some tips to make sure that you and your dog stay safe through the holiday. 

1) Leave candy and other people food for the kids - most of us know that chocolate can be dangerous to a dog.  If it's ingested in sufficient quantities it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, racing heartbeats, panting and even convulsions.  Other Halloween goodies that might tempt your dog are sugarless gum that contains a dangerous chemical called xylitol that can lead to dangerous drops in blood sugar levels causing vomiting, lethargy and seizures.  Another no-no on the people food list is raisins.  Don't be fooled by the thought that raisins are "healthy".  They can severely damage a dog's kidneys.  Just keep in mind that foods safe for people, aren't always safe for your dog.

2) Disarm the doorbell.  If your dog goes "Cujo" at the sound of a ringing doorbell, think about shutting out the lights and leaving for the evening.  Put your dog in a secure quiet area such as his crate or the laundry room or a bathroom.  Leave relaxing music playing to distract him from noise outside.  Hang out at a neighbor's house to distribute candy or leave a bowl on the front porch with a sign that says, "Take one, please".  Take your kids trick or treating instead and leave your pup in the security and safety of his own home. It is not recommended to leave him/her outside where scary sights and sounds could entice him to try to escape.

3) Use caution with costumes - If you want to dress up your dog in some Halloween finery, be sure the costume is safe for your pet.  Make sure it fits properly and doesn't restrict his breathing or vision.  Make sure that the costume is well constructed and doesn't have loose pieces or little parts that may prove to be a tempting treat for your pup.  If you must use chemical products on your dog, make sure they are organic, non-toxic and easy to wash out.  Bathe your dog immediately after your Halloween celebration has ended.

4) Decoration detours - Spooky Halloween decorations help to set the mood but also could prove dangerous to your pet.  Many decorations may resemble pet toys that your dog has been allowed to play with in the past.  Additionally, candles and lanterns could cause serious injury to your pet if they were to get too close.  Make sure your decorations are out of the way and off limits to your pet.  Keep a careful eye on your pup to make sure he doesn't get into trouble.  If you do have a Halloween themed dog toy appropriate for your dog, be sure to always supervise while he/she plays to make sure they stay safe.

Here a few links to additional tips for pet safety for dogs and cats this Halloween. 

Follow these recommendations and tips to make sure your Halloween holiday does not turn into a Halloween nightmare.... 

The author would like to thank HOTLR alum Susie for once again modeling for this blog and entertaining her owner by wearing this ridiculous witch's hat.....I love ya Susie Q!!!  For all the HOTLR rescues currently available for adoption, please click here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

HOTLR Needs You for Dogtoberfest at the Domain

Okay, all you hot weather warriors out there, it looks like we just might get our break.  I am fresh from checking the KVUE weather forecast and it looks to me like there are no 90 degree days in the forecast for the next 7 days!!!  Wahoo, we survived....even though sadly, our yards may not have.

With such magnificent weather on the way, I can't think of a better way to celebrate then to spend the day outside on Saturday October, 22 from 10am - 4pm attending the 2011 Dogtoberfest at the Domain.  Events include a doggy costume contest, agility demonstrations, wiener dog races, raffles, a silent auction, a pet photo booth, food, drinks and locally-owned business booths with great products and more.

Dogtoberfest is an Austin based, non-profit organization, created for the purpose of instilling awareness about Dog rescue, as well as raising much needed moneys for local dog rescue organizations. Named "Most Awesome-ist Pet Related Event" in the 2010 Austin Pets Directory Annual Readers Poll, the annual event brings thousands of dog lovers together at the  Domain for fun, food and dog related events such as a costume contest, pet demonstrations and more throughout the day. Last year approximately 2,500 people and their canine companions attended this one day event and we expect many more in 2011!!

Heart of Texas Lab Rescue is one of the 8 chosen rescue groups to benefit from this year's event.  That's why it is so important that we have a good showing of Lab fans, volunteers, HOTLR alumni, and HOTLR fosters currently available for adoption.  Don't worry, you won't have to stay all day.  Go to the HOTLR website and sign up for a 1-2 hour time slot.  Show off your beautiful adopted Lab or gorgeous foster dog.  Don't be shy!!!  We want HOTLR to have the best booth at the event!  Bring the whole family, schmooze for an hour, show off your dog and enjoy the event.  Maybe your husband will even agree to hold the leash while you sneak off to do a little shopping?  What better way to spend the day with your dog and family??

Monday, October 10, 2011

Trailer Food Trailer Parks Cater to Dogs Too

So looks like the weather has finally broken.  What better time of year to think about dining out with your pooch?  Austin's Food Trailers make dining with your dog especially easy.  Check out this article from guest blogger  Tiffany Harelik (above with daughter Callie and HOTLR Alum Bogey), HOTLR Adopter, Foster,  and Volunteer and Author.  Don't forget to check out Tiffany's tribute to Austin's Trailer Food Parks, the Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook.  Buy a cookbook, email and 10% of the cookbook's proceeds go to HOTLR!!  Tiffany will be appearing Wednesday, October 12th at Book People from 7pm until 9pm to sign autographed copies.  Every real Austin "foodie" could use one of these cookbooks, and I can't think of a better holiday gift. So go down to Book People, buy a few copies.  Support your local bookstore, local small food businesses, a local author and your favorite  rescue group all in one night!!!!

Dining Out with your Dog: Trailer Food Parks

Austin is one of many cities that have supported ‘trailer food’ during it’s growing pains.  Gourmet chefs have been serving their creative cuisine out of mobile trailers peppered throughout the city since 2006.  If you haven’t been to eat trailer food yet, allow me to persuade you to give them a try (with your dog).

Trailer food parks are great dog-friendly destinations.  Most food trailers offer dog treats and provide water bowls filled for dogs.  Eating at the trailer parks is fun because they allow you to dine al fresco and be served by the chef themself. Because different vendors are parked next to each other in groups of 2-8 trailers, it gives you multiple choices of what to eat in one location.  The prices are normally very reasonable, and many vendors offer seasonal menus.  Plus, it just feels good to support a local business while sporting man’s best friend.

Suggested manners for taking your dog to the food trailers:
1.       Keep your dog leashed at all times.
a.       Don’t let your dog chase squirrels and/or birds in the trailer park.
b.      Don’t let your dog mix and mingle freely with other dogs or people.
2.       Bring your own bag to clean up any mess (and please no peeing on the trailers).
3.       Be courteous of others who are dining – they don’t necessarily want a tail wagging in their plate or to listen to ongoing barking.
4.       Don’t feed your dog ‘people food’ in the park – it encourages begging others.
5.       Although most trailers provide water bowls, bring your own water bowl, just in case.

******Special trailer food offer to support HOTLR********

Buy the Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook for yourself or holiday gifts and 10% of sales will be donated to HOTLR! 
1. Buy online at
2. drop Marcy and email ( to let her know to count your purchase toward the HOTLR cookbook gifting program.

Check out the list below for some great choices!! 

Ok, they aren’t quite dog parks, but they are dog-friendly.  Before you head out, double check with each trailer’s social media page for updates on locations and hours.  Do not rely on Yelp, blogs, or other commentary.  Here are a few pockets of trailers to put on your radar.  These lists are not comprehensive:

East 6th
1.       The East Side Drive In (East sixth between San Marcos St. and Medina)
·         Pig Vicious: pork inspired grub
·         the Local Yolk: egg sandwiches
·         Bits and Druthers: fish and chips
·         Pueblo Viejo: tacos

2.       6th and Waller
·         Lucky J’s: Chicken and Waffles
·         Rockin Rolls: sandwiches, but in rolls
·         Spartan Pizza: pizza
·         Way South Philly: cheesesteaks
South First
1.       Bouldin Creek Food Court (1st & Gibson)
·         Soco to Go: home cooking
·         Kat’s: Ice Cream
·         Thai Trailer: Thai
2.       South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery (1st & Elizabeth)
·         Torchy’s Tacos: Tacos
·         Holy Cacao: Cakeballs
·         Coming soon to this park: Conscious Cravings
·         Note: This park has a unique barn for special events which you can book for parties
3.       SoFi Food Court (1st and Live Oak)
·         Azafran: Venezuelan cuisine
·         Arancini: Italian comfort food
·         Grill Haven: Sandwiches and Wraps
·         Heads Up Tacos: tacos
South Lamar
1.       1200 block:
·         Gourdoughs: big fat doughnuts
·         Odd Duck: Farm to Trailer
·         Trey’s Cuisine: kabobs and more
2.       between the Saxon Pub and the Highball:
·         La Boite CafĂ©: local, bistro
·         Texas Cuban: Cuban sandwiches
3.       Hitched up to the Gibson bar:
·         Luke’s Inside Out: Creative gourmet sandwiches
Downtown area
1.       2nd and Congress
·         Patika: Coffee
·         Turf n Surf: Poboys
·         Kebablicious: Kebabs
·         Sushi Box: Sushi
2.       Longhorn Food Court (MLK and Rio Grande)
·         Cajun food at Lee’s Hurricane Party,
·         vegetarian cuisine at Conscious Cravings, or some
·         Asian fusion options at Yummy Bowl.
3.       South Congress (1800 block)
·         Wurst Tex: gourmet sausages
·         Hey Cupcake!: cupcakes
·         Mighty Cone: their slant on tacos

Barton Springs, East Caesar Chavez, and the Rainey District all have notable trailers and food trailer parks.  A list of Austin trailers along with stories and recipes can be found online at  

From your HOTLR family we thank you, Tiffany!!!! HOTLR volunteers are the very best!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Canine Influenza Virus H3N8

Hello Lab Fans,

This is a follow up to a Facebook post that we sent out last night.  This notification is not meant to send you into a panic, but is simply to introduce awareness.   There is currently a "new" canine influenza virus that has been introduced to the dog population.  Originally discovered in 2004, this virus known as Canine Influenza Virus H3N8 first showed up at a Greyhound racetrack in Florida.  Because both horses and greyhounds shared the track, the virus is thought to have mutated from an equine virus.  Since 2004, the virus has been positively identified in 38 states including Texas.  Outbreaks have been recorded most recently in San Antonio, Texas, however positive cases have been identified in Austin as well.

Dogs that frequent dog parks, boarding facilities, dog shows, pet stores, humane societies/shelters, veterinary clinics, and doggy daycare centers are the most at risk, as well as older, infirm and those dogs with immune system deficiencies.  Because this is a "new" virus, nearly all exposed animals will develop systems.  There are two forms of the virus.  The milder form is similar to the bordetella or kennel cough virus, however with the sever form some dogs develop a hemorrhagic pneumonia that often leads to death.  The percentage of death that occurs with the virus is 8%.  Further, it is impossible to predict whether a dog will develop hemorrhagic symptoms.  

Symptoms include coughing, ocular and nasal discharge, fevers, lethargy, unwillingness to eat and sneezing.  The disease can be transmitted via sneezing, coughing, toy sharing and also by people who carry the disease on their clothing from interacting with a positive patient.  The most contagious period of the disease occurs in the first 48-72 hours prior to noticeable symptoms.  Symptoms begin to manifest Day 3 - Day 7 and can last two to three weeks.  Unfortunately, there is no distinguishing characteristic that sets this virus apart from other canine respiratory infections making it nearly impossible for a positive diagnoses without laboratory testing of a nasal swab.  If your pet comes down with the virus, treatment is largely supportive as there is no antibiotic that will "cure" a virus.  However, your vet may prescribe an antibiotic to combat secondary bacterial infections that may develop or accompany the virus.

The pharmaceutical company Pfizer has developed a vaccine against this virus.  Much like human flu vaccines, this vaccine does not necessarily prevent the disease but decreases the contagion time and lessens the severity of symptoms.  Currently, some veterinarians in the Austin area are recommending that your dog be vaccinated if it meets that of a high risk candidate.  The vaccine is given under the skin (not in the muscle) and must be followed with a booster three weeks after the initial dose.  After the initial dose and booster are given, annual vaccines are recommended.

To read more about Canine Influenza Virus H3N8 please click here.

Heart of Texas Lab Rescue encourages all dog owners to discuss this Canine Influenza Virus with their veterinarian and decide whether the vaccine is right for your dog. (Cats are not affected.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Live Love Labs - Saturday, September 24, 2011

The date is saved.  There is no Texas football game. It's Saturday night. Time to bust out your glad rags and get on over to the Heart of Texas Lab Rescue "Live, Love, Labs" silent auction.  River Place Country Club sets the stage for this amazing night of fun and festivity.  The party begins this Saturday night, September 24 from 7pm - 10pm at 4207 River Place Blvd., Austin, TX 78730.

If you haven't heard about this event by now, then most likely you've been suffering from a summer heat stroke.  We are stoked and ready.  We've got light snacks provided by the fine folks of River Place and sweet treats from Sweetish Hill Bakery.  There will be a large variety of wines to wet your whistle as well.  In addition, a cash bar, iced tea and water will be provided for those preferring other beverage choices.

I suppose you might be wondering about the amazing items that we have available for auction.  How about two three day passes to the 2012 ACL festival?  Tickets to the Texas/OU football game sound like fun?  What about Texas vs. Kansas?  Are you a Joan Rivers fan?  Go see her live at the Paramount Theatre.  

Maybe you are in need of a little vacation?  How about a two night stay at Decker Creek Bed & Biscuit and Breakfast - a B&B where your pet is welcome close to home.  Or how about a couple of nights at the Red Corral Ranch B&B in Wimberley, TX?  Looking for a destination a little further from home?  How does a 4 day/3 night stay in Pagosa Springs, CO sound to you?  Tickets to Disneyland in California? Sea World in San Antionio?  

Is a trip to a spa more up your alley?  Lake Austin Spa and Resort will pamper you with their "Half Day Away" packge.  Don't forget that your pooches need pampering too.  How about a massage from Christina at Skillful Paws or a beauty treatment from Midtown Groom & Board.

Are you a central Texas foodie?  Is a good meal cooked by somebody else your idea of the perfect date.  We've got you covered here as well.  Gift certificates to Uchi/Uchiko, Eddie V's, Fonda San Miguel and Fogo de Chao to name a few.  We've got some uniquely Austin activities on the auction block as well.  How about a private sunset bat cruise for you and six guests on beautiful Lady Bird Lake, tickets on the Austin Steam Train, or Austin Toros tickets. Cycle away your blues with a pubcrawl on a Dutch bicycle or a Hill Country wine tasting.

And if all the above wasn't enough, we've got some great raffle items too.    How about a Garmin GPS system with lifetime updates, Ruth Chris Steak House $100 Gift Card, and a Vivitar camera?

Have I got you interested yet?  Are you excited?  Do you need tickets?  What are you waiting for???  Check out all the details on the HOTLR website or on HOTLR's Facebook Event Page. Purchase tickets on the HOTLR website by clicking on the PayPal button.  Be sure to enter "Live, Love, Labs" in the description.  You can also purchase tickets the night of the event at River Place.  Don't be left behind......our dogs need you.  And with an event like's a win-win for HOTLR, our dogs and of course, YOU!!!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Heart of Texas Lab Rescue Gives Back

Many of you are used to seeing Heart of Texas Lab Rescue in the community and are familiar with our mission. So you know that HOTLR is dedicated to saving, rehabilitating and rehoming Labradors left behind at kill shelters and other abandonment situations. HOTLR is also dedicated to educating the public about the plight of abandoned animals and the advantages of spaying and neutering your pet as well as providing early training and socialization to ensure that your pup becomes a welcome forever member of your home. Recently, however HOTLR gave back to the community in a different way.

Enter Ray Hebert. Long time supporter, foster and volunteer at HOTLR, there is no one who loves the Labrador breed more. A few seconds after meeting Ray you instantly understand how dedicated to the breed he is. Ray who is an amazing resource for all things Lab came upon a special Lab mix named Emma Zen. Emma Zen and her human Debra Jo Chiapuzio run a 501(c)3 non-profit called Team O2 Pet Oxygen Masks whose goal is to place pet oxygen masks and related equipment with fire departments, EMS teams, search and rescue and all first responders to aid in pet rescue situations. While these organizations are prepared to help humans suffering from breathing complications due to fire or other catastrophes, little can be done for our pet friends whose noses and heads are not shaped properly for human equipment. But thanks to Team O2, many rescue organizations are receiving donated equipment specifically designed for pets.

When Ray discovered that the community of Buda was not already equipped with this pet life-saving equipment (Round Rock and Austin already have the equipment), he decided to donate two sets of the equipment to the Buda Fire Department on behalf of Heart of Texas Lab Rescue. In total the Buda Fire Department received three sets of equipment with the help of Caju the Warrior Dog, Buddy's "Be the Dog" Life, HOTLR and the Emma Zen Foundation.

Ray was on hand for the presentation of the oxygen masks and brought along HOTLR's very own Cher as a demonstration dog to the event. Accompanying Ray was Snoco, a sweet little pup currently fostered by Guardian Angels for Soldiers Pets (a foster organization that fosters pets for those who are currently deployed). Ray and Cher trained the fire fighters on how to properly use the equipment on pets. Check out all the great pics taken at the event on Facebook. Talk about a win-win situation. HOTLR Cher is introduced to another part of our community, and pet safety awareness benefits to boot!! Research continues to show that people are spending more and more money on their pets, proving that now more than ever pets are considered priceless family members in many homes. The more resources we can provide the community on preparation and ways to save pets in the face of disaster, the more likely each family members chances for survival when disaster strikes.

Remember that you too can help first responders be aware of your pet. Get a safety sticker for your home that alerts emergency personnel to the number and type of pets you have. Check out the following link from the ASPCA on disaster preparedness for your pet to prepare your own emergency kit. Be sure to microchip your pets as well in case you are separated during an emergency.

HOTLR would like to thank Ray Hebert for his generous donation and his time to provide this important opportunity for awareness to the community all in the name of HOTLR. To learn more about Emma Zen, click here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kids and Labs - How to make It Work!!!

Kids and dogs are like peanut butter and jelly. They are just good together. However, a large dog that is eye level with your toddler can be intimidating to a small child and scary for you. Check out these tips to make interactions between your Lab and toddler a breeze.

If possible, have two people available to help out with an introduction. One person should hold the dog on a leash a few feet from the child. Give the dog a "sit" command. The other person should guide the child to the dog. The child should be taught prior to the introduction about how to properly greet a dog. Do not allow the child to pet the dog on the head or face. Teach the child to approach the dog calmly and pet the dog gently on his back or neck.

In the event that the dog lunges or jumps, have the dog handler move between the dog and the child. Have the handler keep the dog behind him. This can be done by using the human body to block the dog. The dog handler can place both arms behind his back with the leash in hand. He can lock his arms by grabbing onto the wrist holding the leash to keep the dog behind him. He may also spread his legs to make his body bigger to prevent the dog from going around him. The handler should never use his knees or hands to discipline the dog. Body blocking the dog is the proper approach. The person with the child should step away until the dog calms down.

Repeat the process again. Give the dog the "sit" command and then have the child approach the dog slowly and calmly. Repeat the process until the dog sits willingly and allows the child to pet the dog.

Do not allow the child to give the dog a treat or a toy unless you are 1000% sure that the dog will not lunge, grab or accidentally bite the child offering the food/toy. Never allow a child to discipline a dog.

Always supervise interaction between your child and a dog. I remember watching my nephew crawl on top of my dog and peel his eyelid back, sticking his finger right into Cayman's eye. Nothing really phases Cayman, especially now in his old age, but had I believed for even a second that my nephew was in danger, obviously, I would not have allowed them to interact that closely. Cayman was lying in a relaxed position on a dog bed and had ample time to move away from my nephew's investigations. Never did he tense or did his body language indicate that he was anxious or upset. He never even lifted his head. Be sure to recognize body language in your dog that may indicate he is losing patience. Stop any inappropriate behavior from the child before the dog reacts.

In the beginning refrain from allowing the child to crawl on or grab the dog. Desensitize the dog by distracting him with a special treat. Begin to pull on the dog and poke him. See how he reacts. Begin gently at first and increase the intensity without hurting the dog.

Give your dog an escape hatch. Be sure your dog doesn't feel cornered. Allow him to be able to walk away from the child. Discourage the child from chasing after the dog. If the dog seems upset or irritated, place him in his crate and close the door. Allow him to take a break from the child. Distract the child's attention from the dog and let the "doggie take a nap".

Following these tips should help reduce the stress between introducing dogs and children. It is most important that the child understand how to approach and pet the dog in a calm and gentle manner. Once you know that you will be adding a canine family member to your pack, begin teaching the child immediately how to interact with the dog prior to your dog's arrival. Recruit friends and neighbors with friendly dogs to help out. Practicing prior to your dog's arrival will make the special day that your new dog arrives a happy and joyous occasion for all!!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

HOTLR Needs Fosters!!

Heart of Texas Lab Rescue is looking for foster homes for several of our dogs. We find that dogs that dogs that are living in homes are more likely to be adopted then those at the kennel. The home environment is a golden opportunity for the HOTLR rescues to interact and learn to live in a family. This is an important first step in a rescue's recovery as it allows the pup to begin to rebuild their confidence and to begin to heal the wounds that have been left by abandonment.

We also are able to save critical dollars if we are able to keep the dogs at the kennel to minimum
, giving us more opportunity to focus on medical expenses and rescuing other dogs. Please read the note below from Margaret Huston the President of Heart of Texas Lab Rescue. Please help, if you can.

I have run almost all of the meet and greets for the past 9 years and have observed one interesting fact. When an applicant meets dogs that are being fostered in a home, and also meets dogs that are at the boarding kennel, more often than not the applicant adopts the dog from the foster home, not the dog from the kennel. We are fortunate to have the kennel, because without it many of our dogs would have been put to sleep at the shelter for lack of space on our end, but the reality is that these dogs do better and show better when they have a person who can discuss all aspects of their lives, not just the obedience they know.

I know school is getting ready to start again. That means many of you are done with your summer travels. Don't you want to foster a dog for us? We'll work with you on getting you the right fit! Right now we have 9 dogs at the kennel, and I have an additional 6 with me (two of mine came from the kennel this week and are adopted).

The dogs in need of foster homes are Shari, Zumba, Rocky, Dionne, Cricket, Gouda, Gonzo, Gizmo, Guapo, and Izzy. There are a few others that are special cases, too.

Let me know if you'd like to give fostering a try, or if you're ready to get back into it.

Please email if you are interesting in fostering an HOTLR dog.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Veterinary Technician gets "Schooled" in Ears

Last week, Susie and Tango (HOTLR alumni) had their annual check up. You know the routine, heartworm test, vaccination update if needed and since both of them are approaching senior status (8 and 6), I also opted for a senior profile blood panel. I'm happy to say that both of them were deemed in perfect health. But then we had yet to proceed to the official "physical exam".

Once again both dogs check out great.

Heart and lungs = normal.
Skin = normal
Weight = perfect
Nails = trimmed
Eyes = normal

I must admit to you that both of my Labs received a "C-" grade on their ears.....and I am a veterinary technician....Oh, the shame.... (The picture is from my own dog, but was taken after 3 days of treatment..)

If you have Labs then you probably know about Otitis Externa (OE). And if you have Labs and you don't know about OE, you should learn about it immediately.

Have you ever noticed a foul, yeasty smell coming from your "beloved's" ears? Once you've begun to search out the source of the stench and you lift up one of your dog's silky ears, do you observe a brown chunky discharge. Are your pups ears red and inflamed inside instead of a healthy pink? Does your pup paw and scratch at his ears, shake his head, wipe his face on the rug even though you know that he cannot possibly have fleas???? Does he seem sensitive when you touch or rub him around the ears?

These signs, my friend, are the classic symptoms of Otitis Externa. Here is an important equation to keep in mind.....

Labs + a moist humid climate (+/- swimming) (+/- bacteria) = Otitis Externa

Otitis externa refers to inflammation of the skin and outer portions of the ear and ear canal. It can be as simple as inflammation caused by exposure to water or otitis externa may be a result of a bacterial, allergic or microbial infection. The condition can often occur overnight and as the inflammation and swelling continue can become incredibly painful quickly. Remember how painful the dreaded "swimmer's ear" was that you had as a child?

Treatment varies depending on the presence of bacteria or microbes. Different medications are prescribed to treat the underlying bacterial infection and will also reduce swelling and redness. The most common form of treatment is medicated ear drops that are administered daily for a certain number of days. Sometimes the ears will be "packed" with medication in the animal hospital and will need only be administered the one time. Pain medications are sometimes prescribed as well. If you believe that your dog is in pain, don't be afraid to request pain meds or ask if the prescribed medication has a pain reliever mixed in. It is usually best if you dog returns to the vet after completing treatment to make sure that the infection has indeed been cured.

Left uncured, Otitis Externa can lead to permanent damage to the ear and the sensitive mechanisms required for hearing. Hearing loss and damage to the ear drum can occur. The best preventative measure is to clean your dogs ears on a regular basis, especially after swimming. And yes, I am sad to say, that if they are swimming daily, cleaning their ears daily is probably best. Your veterinarian can recommend a gentle cleaning agent that also acts to "dry" any remaining water that may be trapped in your dogs ears. Prevention is the best medicine.

So, give your pups ears a quick check. If they seem a bit funky, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Follow his/her advice for the quickest and best outcome. I know I am. I've learned my lesson. For more information on Otitis Externa click here: PetEducation - Otitis Externa

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Make Your HOTLR Dog a Therapy Dog

I have two HOTLR alumni in my home. Susie came to us three years ago. And then, exactly, to the day, two years after Susie, Tango joined the Stellfox clan. At last count, that makes 4 Labradors and two humans living under my roof. And I love it!!!

Once you meet me, it takes about 10 seconds for you to find out that I love Labs and that I have four at my house. I am so proud of my canine kids. I can't help but talk about them all the time. I love to show them off on Facebook or at HOTLR events, or to my friends, or at my veterinary clinic. I can never get enough of showing them off and talking about HOTLR. Embarassingly, I often have to admit that the dogs I adopted from HOTLR are way better behaved than the two I've raised from pups. But, that simply helps to balance out my family and makes it even easier to brag about HOTLR.

But what if I could take the amazing animals that HOTLR has given to me, and give something back to the community? What if my HOTLR Labs could become Pet Therapy dogs? What a great way to share my dogs with people and also spread the word about HOTLR.

Therapy Pet Pals of Texas, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that began in 1984 with one small Pekingese pup and an owner who wanted to share this pup with those people unable to have pets. She contacted a nursing home that reluctantly agreed to have her pup come for an "interview". Once the dog visited the nursing home, the smiles and happiness that this little pup brought to the home's population sealed the deal and Therapy Pet Pals of Texas was born. Today, Therapy Pet Pals of Texas has over 200 trained volunteers and even more pets. They service over 90 institutions including nursing homes, hospitals and rehabilitation centers, but TPPT is still working to recruit new members.

Requirements for membership include attendance and completion of the TPPT Qualifying and Training class (2 hours) as well as a veterinarian's medical clearance. Once the class is completed, the prospective member and pup will attend three therapy visits along with an experienced TPPT trainer. After successful completion of the trial visits, you and your pup are ready for solo trips. Click here to find out all the details on qualifying your pup as a pet therapy volunteer.

As a volunteer team for TPPT, you will choose one institution to visit with your pup that will be come your "home" institution. TPPT asks for two visits per month to your chosen pet therapy site. TPPT believes in promoting the human animal bond by having regular visits by the same pet/human therapy team. Regular visits allow residents and the pet therapy team to foster friendships and relationships and allow patients to feel that they have their very own dog again. What better way to show off your HOTLR pride and joy!!

To find out more about Therapy Pet Pals of Texas, visit their website at: Therapy Pet Pals of Texas.