Vet does heavy lifting for needy pets
Pet adoption event breaks attendance records, finds homes for hundreds of animals
My Furry Valentine, Cincinnati’s largest pet adoption event, is just one of the many volunteer activities that support animal welfare. At the event it was love at first sight for John Thomas of Batavia, left, who adopted 96-pound Samantha, 5, an American Bulldog. At right, Amanda Cantrell, director of the Humane Society of Adams County, had fostered Samantha for two months. The event featured rescue exhibits from various breeds, such as the pictured Buckeye Bulldog Rescue.
Cincinnati ranked #2 in the most-veterinarians-per-capita category.
Other metrics include average home square footage; number of animal shelters; pet-friendly trails; outdoor environment and amusement; and the number of pet businesses and caretakers.
WalletHub, launched in 2012, offers other lists, such as The Best and Worst Cities for Families; the Safest States to Live In; the Best and Worst Cities to Retire; and the Most and Least Educated Cities.”
In the top 10 of the best pet-loving cities for 2015, behind the illustrious Queen City, came St. Louis; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Tampa, Fla.; Richmond, Va.; Tulsa, Okla.; Las Vegas; Reno, Nev.; Boise City, Idaho; and Madison, Wis.
Ranking 91-98 as the worst cities for pet lovers are Philadelphia; Jacksonville, Fla.; Boston; Chicago; Jersey City, N.J.; Memphis, Tenn.; Detroit; and Santa Ana, Calif.
If sex sells, then hunks can help rescue homeless hounds.
So goes the strategy behind the 2015 Hunks and Hounds calendar, for sale recently at a pet adoption event at the Sharonville Convention Center.
Amid the standard fare of leashes, pet food and electric fences for sale, the $10 calendar showcases well-oiled, bare-chested men with bulging biceps, ripped six packs and faint “come hither” smiles. All softened by the adorable shelter dogs they hold close.
Money raised from the calendar benefits Louie’s Legacy Animal Rescue founded in 2009 by Cincinnatian Emily Gear, 36, who lives in Monfort Heights with her dogs Joey, Cyrus Jones, Sandusky, Louie Jr. and Herbie.
The calendar is a production of New York City celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz, www.mikeruiz.com, whose celebrity clients include Kim Kardashian, Betty White, Nicki Minaj, Kate Perry and Prince, among many others featured on his website. The rescue calendar may be purchased and donations made at www.louieslegacy.org.
“Mike is an animal advocate in his own right,” Gear explained. “When Millie, our volunteer, suggested a calendar collaboration, he famously responded, ‘you get the dogs; I’ll get the guys.’ Mike has been unwaveringly supportive and generous beyond measure. Having him on our team has been a tremendous blessing.”
Gear said her journey into animal rescue was life-saving personally, as well as for homeless animals.
A 1996 graduate of McAuley High School in College Hill, Gear earned a B.A. in Studio Art at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. After spending eight months in Russia and the Middle East, she took a position as a curator/director of a museum in Staten Island, N.Y. With an interest in working abroad, she had planned to enter the U.S. Foreign Service.
However, all plans changed when she was physically assaulted in New York City. “I was living with post- traumatic stress at the time that I adopted Louie,” she explained. “Through adopting him and working to get him healthy–he came to me with heart worm disease–it reopened a previously closed door to empathy. It reinstated a sense of self at a time when I couldn’t do enough to make myself invisible and detach from all feelings. I can’t stress enough what an important bridge Louie was in my life.”
The experience so moved her that she decided to return to Cincinnati where she could rescue full time. Her dog Louie died in 2009 and Louie’s Legacy began. Gear said the rescue group saves about 1,100 animals a year locally and in surrounding states. “…We can provide to our funders a high degree of transparency that people appreciate,” she explained. “Because of how we are organized, we are able to responsibly and safely place 1,100 animals a year into heavily screened, vet and home-checked homes.”
“Truly, I wish people would spay and neuter their pets and stop funding pet stores and puppy mills. Buying a dog from a pet store because it looked sick or sad, while it tugs at the heartstrings, is not rescue. It is fueling the machine which will continue to create misery for millions.
I wish people put the time into their pets that they put into their Instagram accounts and Facebooking. Most pets are surrendered for entirely avoidable reasons…so many involving simple training that all pet owners should be doing.
Finally, I wish people thought of pets as sentient beings, but who communicate differently than humans…the misunderstanding between person and pet has tragic consequences at times and could be avoided with a little understanding.”
Gear promotes “Adopt don’t Shop!” and urges prospective pet owners to visit the following businesses during their regularly scheduled adoption events:
- Eastgate PetSmart; Saturdays, noon-5 p.m.
- Jack’s Pets (Beechmont Ave.); first and third Saturdays, 1-4 p.m.
- Western Hills PetSmart; second and fourth Saturdays, noon-5 p.m.
- Mason PetSmart; Sundays, 1-5 p.m.
LOCKLAND, Ohio — Freckles the Beagle lay quietly on the shiny examination table, her right eye swollen to scary proportions.
Veterinarian Stacey Benton of the clinic Pets in Need of Greater Cincinnati suspected glaucoma and possibly an eye tumor.
Yet, the eight-year-old, charmer-of-a dog allowed the eye exam to proceed without struggle, perhaps calmed by the reassuring coos and gentle petting of Dr. Benton and her two veterinary technology students.
At one point during the examination Freckles turned her head to lick one of the students.
“This is an awesome place,” said Barbara Clark of Covington, Kentucky, who is unemployed and could not afford to take her dog to a private vet.
Together since Freckles was six weeks old, Ms. Clark expressed gratitude that Pets In Need was there for her.
Founded in 2012, Pets in Need has served thousands of pets from homes where household income is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Proof of income is required.
The non-profit clinic represents the only permanent resource for very low-cost veterinary care anywhere in the Greater Cincinnati area, explained Executive Director Ann Ramsey Hill. Pet owners come from a 150-mile radius encompassing 15 counties.
“People who are struggling still need the love of a pet,” explained Ms. Hill, a non-practicing CPA and former homebuilder who devotes 30-40 hours a week without pay to the non-profit clinic.
The owner of 10 cats and two dogs, Ms. Hill said “naysayers” complain, “if you can’t afford a pet, you shouldn’t have a pet. We don’t believe that.
“Sometimes life interferes with even the best of intentions,” according to the clinic’s mission statement. “Jobs or homes are lost. Families split up. Accidents and serious illnesses happen. Suddenly, money for a visit to the vet—or even for pet food-just isn’t there any more. Our mission is to help truly needy people and their pets.
We make it possible for those who need it most to have the joy of a pet in their lives.”
Ms. Hill said that helping owners properly take care of their pets also “raises regard for animals.”
Ironically, the building where Pets In Need permanently located in 2013 to serve the poor once operated as a bank, flush with money.
Ms. Hill, 58, conducts business from her windowless office in the former bank vault, one of her cats meandering in to curl up atop a file cabinet.
She said her accounting and business experience help her oversee the clinic’s $250,000 budget. Private donations constitute 50 percent, she explained, and fund raising, grants and copays make up the balance, with no government support.
In the case of Freckles, Dr. Benton explained that she would consult a colleague who is a veterinary ophthalmologist to map out a plan.
In the meantime, Freckles would receive medication to help make her comfortable and to ease the swelling.
If surgery is required, the non-profit clinic sometimes refers pets to private vets who deeply discount their services and Pets In Need subsidizes the cost.
However, every qualified client at minimal cost can obtain basic health services for their animals and food, if needed (see sidebar.)
Three times a week the facility also serves as a teaching clinic for veterinary technology students at the University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash branch, Ms. Hill said. Dr. Benton was attending Freckles as an instructor in that program.
Applications are accepted weekdays between 10 am and 2 pm.
For a $10 copay, the following services are available by appointment for enrolled pets:
- An exam by a licensed veterinarian
- Testing for heartworm and feline leukemia
- Treatment of minor skin, ear or eye problems.
- Vouchers for low-cost spay/neuter surgeries
For a $5 copay, the following monthly supplies may be picked up on weekdays without an appointment:
- Monthly flea and heartworm prevention
- Prescription refills
- Booster vaccines
The clinic receives no government support. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all donations are tax-deductible.
Donations may be made online at www.PINCincinnati.org.
Pets in Need of Greater Cincinnati is located at 520 W. Wyoming Ave., Lockland, Ohio 45215, telephone 513-761-PETS. Email is
A graduate of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Benton said the clinics give students hands-on experience and interaction skills with pet owners.
Lexie Stevenson, 49, of Anderson Township, volunteers several days a week at the clinic. Her family has adopted three, mixed-breed dogs and four cats.
In the recent past, she drove to the West Side to help a suddenly homeless woman care for her five German Shepherds until she found housing. The woman had been living beneath a bridge.
“She does the best she can,” said Ms. Stevenson of the client she continues to see. “She loves her animals.”
A dog lover and certified chef, Diana Klein of Cincinnati debuts her column, Canine Cuisine, in this issue of Queen City Pets.
Her column provides readers with delicious, healthful recipes for Fido and family using many of the same ingredients, which minimizes time at the grocery store.
Chef Diana has rigorous training in the culinary arts.
She graduated with honors from the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State after retiring from Procter & Gamble in 2012 where she worked for 22 years in Global Data Management.
In addition to private catering, Chef Diana, 64, teaches Healthy Vegan Cooking for cancer survivors at the Cancer Support Community Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky. She also volunteers at the Hopple Street Neighborhood Health Center, a joint effort between Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the North Fairmont community, where she prepares as many as 200 snacks at a time for parents and their children.
Her dog Phoenix, a shepherd-boxer mix adopted at three months and now 9, figures prominently in her life.
Chef Diana said that she cannot help but compare her beloved dog with the mythical bird Phoenix.
“The beautiful, legendary bird … lived in Arabia and, according to myth, consumed itself by fire every 500 years,” according to thehellenictimes.com. “A new, young phoenix — just as breathtaking — sprang from its ashes.”
Phoenix, fire, ashes, rebirth. The mythology resonates when considering that Phoenix helped save her life and that of her husband Ron in a 2007 house fire.
The couple, unaware of the smoldering wiring in their 70-year-old home, went to bed for the night when Phoenix was 2 years old.
“Phoenix kept running from Ron to me, and she was relentless,” Chef Diana recalled. “Twice Ron got up and could not find anything wrong. Finally, I switched on the light in the bedroom and heard a whoosh sound. That is when we saw smoke coming through the floorboards…If it weren’t for her, we could have died.”
They escaped and, in the end, only the shell of the house remained, Chef Diana said. From the ashes of their home—just as in the story of the mythical phoenix—the couple rebuilt, forever grateful to the dog that rescued them.
Phoenix also stood by Chef Diana in 2008 when Ron died of a heart attack when the couple was vacationing in Germany.
“When I came home, Phoenix stayed by my side,” Chef Diana said, “and when I sat and cried, she laid her head in my lap. . . I don’t know how I could have made it without Phoenix.”
Today, Chef Diana often takes Phoenix, a trained therapy dog, to visit boys at St. Joseph Orphanage, Altercrest Campus. She also serves as a court-appointed special advocate for a 14-year-old boy through Hamilton County’s CASA program and volunteers at the Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, a national non-profit working to relieve isolation and loneliness among older people.
She has four children. Her daughter, Laura, 42, works as a physical therapist in rural Oregon where she resides with her doctor-husband Marty. Her son Erik, 36, is an engineer at General Electric in Cincinnati, and his wife Julie works part-time at a school and is the mother of Chef Diana’s two “wonderful, perfect” grandchildren, Tyler, 12, and Nicholas, 7. Her son Mathew, 32, teaches English classes and world history to Korean middle school students in South Korea. A son, Ronnie, died at age 3.
The chef advises readers to check with their vets about their dogs’ nutritional needs before changing their diets. In her first column, Chef Diana features the vitamin-packed sweet potato.
“Super Simple Sweet Potato Dog Treats”
Dogs just love these healthy treats–a nice break from the traditional store-bought versions
1 sweet potato
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
*Optional: 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Poke sweet potato and cook in microwave until tender (about 6 minutes) let cool to touch.
Cut potato in half and scoop out flesh into mixing bowl.
Add remaining ingredients, and mix until blended. Add peanut butter, if desired.
Turn out dough onto floured surface and roll to ½” thickness. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky.
Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter or pizza cutter and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool in pans, then move to wire rack.
Store treats in Ziploc bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or they can be frozen for three months.
The dough also can be made into a roll, covered with plastic wrap, and frozen. Thaw and slice as you would cookies.
“Sweet Potato Bisque”
5 cups low sodium vegetable broth
4 large carrots, washed and chopped (the skin of carrots has a lot of nutrition, so leave skin on for extra vitamins)
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tsp. freshly ground ginger
1 tsp. ground sage
2 cups frozen corn
In a large pot place the carrots and sweet potatoes. Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer for 20-30 minutes, until fork tender.
If you have an inversion blender, you can blend ingredients right in the pot.
If not, blend the soup in batches in a blender, then return each batch to the large pot.
Add the fresh ginger, sage, and frozen corn. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For an added burst of flavor, try adding a tablespoon of maple syrup and a few dashes of cinnamon.
I had a powerful loneliness for my dogs when I taught in Italy for two summers in recent years. To cure this longing, I started to take photos of dogs and their owners as an excuse then to ask if I could pet their dogs and get my fix. Almost all said, “si!” Pet lovers, of course, are international and, in fact, in Italy dogs are allowed to accompany their owners into the most fashionable of stores, such as Prada. Here are my photo memories: