From prison to pedagogy, puppy becomes Miami U. “student”


Winks learned to stay close to his puppy raiser, student Lauren DuVall, whose sister, Taylor DuVall, left, serves as a puppy sitter.

OXFORD, Ohio –Even with no dog treats in sight, Winks behaved beautifully while attending English class here at Miami University.

The seven-month-old, Golden-Labrador Retriever lay patiently at the foot of her puppy raiser, Lauren DuVall, of Eaton, Ohio, a middle childhood education major involved in the “4 Paws University” program.

Professor Mark Bernheim

Professor Mark Bernheim

“I love having her reclining in the class for 80 minutes looking up at me from the corner of her eyes,” said Professor Mark Bernheim, who welcomed Winks into his Children’s Literature class.  Bernheim recently retired after 45 years.

Thanks to a Xenia, Ohio-based organization,, trained dogs, such as Winks, are placed worldwide with children suffering disabilities that include seizures, diabetes and autism.  The program also serves certain veterans.

For example, to assist children with seizures, dogs are trained to notice the seizures before the outward signs are available, according to the website. Diabetic-alert dogs are trained to smell the chemical body changes that occur as insulin levels increase or drop.

A prison was Winks’ first training ground in the segment of the training program called “Mission Pawsible.” There specially qualified inmates at Ohio prisons in Warren, Lebanon, Pickaway and London give the puppies their first months of foundation training, according to the website.

After that, Winks arrived for her semester at tree-lined Miami, described by the poet Robert Frost as “the most beautiful campus that ever there was.”

Winks was DuVall’s constant companion, attending class, activities, meetings, shopping and events while DuVall integrated the training she received to help mold the puppy. DuVall’s roommate was co-puppy raiser.

DuVall, 22, who has graduated and plans to student teach in the fall, served as vice president of Miami’s 4 Paws University chapter and puppy raised two more dogs after Winks.

“I have high hopes of teaching sixth grade,” said DuVall.  “4 Paws was the other half of me in college, next to teaching.  It gave me an additional passion and allowed me to make the most of my college experience.  I wouldn’t change it for the world.  Separating from Winks and the other three dogs I helped raise was never easy.  It was heartbreaking.  But I know that no matter where I go, I will always carry a little piece of each one of them with me.”

Other universities participating in “4 Paws University” include Wittenberg; Kentucky; Wright State; Ohio State; Cedarville; the College of Wooster; Ohio Northern; and Manchester.

Hunks help save hounds through calendar sales

Photos courtesy of Mike Ruiz

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,, 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

“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.”

“I wish…..”


“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.”

Emily GearFounder of Cincinnati-based Louie’s Legacy Animal Rescue, the inspiration behind the Hunks & Hounds fundraising calendar.

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.

Photos courtesy of Belle and Blanc for Cincy Chic

Lockland bank converted to clinic serving pets of the poor

Pictured is a little girl with her beloved dog in the waiting room of Pets in Need of Greater Cincinnati, a low-cost veterinary clinic.

Pictured is a little girl with her beloved dog in the waiting room of Pets in Need of Greater Cincinnati, a low-cost veterinary clinic.

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.

Queen City PetsThe staff appears to operate as a kind of World War II MASH unit, doing the best it can with limited medical resources.

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.

Services at Pets in Need of Greater Cincinnati

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
  • Vaccines
  • 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
  • Food
  • 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

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.”

The dogs of Italy

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:

Tie me kangaroo down, Sport!

Cincinnati pet lover Scot Krumbein feeds “joeys” in Australia during his recent semester abroad. Congratulations to Scot on his graduation from Indiana University with a degree in biology. He is a 2011 graduate of Wyoming, Ohio, High School.

Kangaroos travel together in a “mob” that ranges from 10 to more than 100 kangaroos. If there is more than one male in a mob, they compete for dominance by boxing. and

Pet trusts protect animals

photo_editedAttorney Daniel J. Hoffheimer routinely handles multi-million dollar estates at the old-line Cincinnati law firm of Taft (as in sons of the former president,) Stettinius and Hollister LLP, founded in 1885.

While clients are interested in preserving their legacies, they sometimes also want Hoffheimer to protect their pets.

“My practice is giving clients the peace of mind that their personal affairs are in good order in case they become disabled or die, “ said Hoffheimer, a past Cincinnati Bar Association president who has practiced for 39 years. “This sometimes includes planning for the care of a client’s beloved pets.  We can even create trusts for pet now in many states, including Ohio.”

However, protecting pets is not a luxury reserved for the rich and famous, although those cases routinely capture the headlines.

Recently, the media reported that the late comedian Joan Rivers had provided for her four dogs, two of which were rescues, in her estimated $150 million estate.

Animal lover Joan Rivers leaves her beloved dogs in her will. Source:

Animal lover Joan Rivers provided for her beloved dogs in her estate plan. Source:

Thanks to legislation passed in Ohio in 2007 and similar laws in many states, pet owners legally can provide for the care of their pets, if the owners die or become unable to care for the animals.

Hoffheimer, a cat lover, said animals are considered disposable, personal property, such as jewelry or cars, unless they are specifically protected.

“In a very sad case I had, the client had made no provisions for her dog,” Hoffheimer explained. “When the client died, the dog passed as property to the beneficiary under the client’s will to a friend, who euthanized the perfectly healthy dog, which, as the new owner, she had the complete legal right to do….

Under the law, pets are simply personal property, but we know that they should be treated with much more respect.  Pets really cannot protect themselves even as people can.  They need to be cared for.”

Had the owner created a pet trust, the document could have required the beneficiary to place the dog with a rescue group, if the named individual could not care for the dog. Funds for the dog’s care also could be set aside, as well as fees sometimes required by rescue groups.

Although most pet trusts Hoffheimer drafts protect dogs and cats, at least two cases concerned parrots, whose owners worried that their birds could outlive them. Parrots can have long life spans, with reports of 50 to100 years, according to bird statistics.

Hoffheimer advised pet owners to take the time to plan for their pets’ welfare before it is too late.

“The most important thing a pet lover should do is consider what would happen if she or he did not plan, he said. “Then, think about who would be able to love and care for one’s pet as best as is possible.  One should also consider how it is best to set aside some money to make sure the pet is cared for as one would want.”

A listing of attorneys who practice in the areas of Probate, Estates and Elder Law is available from The Cincinnati Bar Association,

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“Who will look after my pets if I die or become unable to care for them?”

Pet Trusts

Even if you consider your pet a member of the family, the law does not permit you to leave money outright to an animal in your will, according to Cincinnati attorney Nancy J. Burns.

That is because animals are considered personal property, the same as jewelry or a car, explained Burns of the law firm of Schwartz Manes Ruby & Sloven.

However, creating a pet trust can fill the void, she said. Also, sometimes an existing trust can be amended to include provisions for your pet, Burns explained.

“Now, in Ohio, pet owners have a legally enforceable way to make sure their pets are cared for if the owner becomes disabled or dies,” Burns explained.

A pet trust can:

  • Provide money for the pet’s care, if the owner is disabled or dies.
  • Name a trustee to manage the money and oversee the caregiver.
  • Name a caregiver for the pet, and an alternate.
  • Designate a certain rescue group or organization to care for the animal, if an individual is not available.
  • Mandate particulars, such as the pet’s primary vet; what brand of dog food required; even grooming requirements.
  • Provide a detailed description of your pet, so the trustee can identify your pet. This helps prevent fraud.
  • Designate who or what organizations you would like to receive leftover funds after the pet dies.
  • Instruct what to do with your pet’s remains.

The trust requires the caregiver use the money to take care of the pet.

“If the money is used for something else, a judge can order the caregiver to return the money,” Burns said. The judge can also remove the caregiver and appoint your second choice as new caregiver, she said.

More information on pet trusts is available at:

  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,, “Pet Trust Primer.”
  • Estate Planning for Non-Human Family Members by Professor Gerry W. Beyer of Texas Tech University School of Law, Pet Trust 6/02/2014.

Other Resources

  •, which provides various free forms including an emergency identification card for an owner’s wallet or purse (published here.) The nonprofit’s goal is to reduce the number of companion animals euthanized because of the death or disability of the owners.

Websites that sell pet protection agreements, a different concept than pet trusts, include:


QCP Pet Hero

Pet Hero: cancer vet works miracles

QCP Pet Hero

Dr Harris, Pet Hero

Our dog Yogi hated the cold, elevated examination table at the cancer clinic.

So veterinary oncologist Cheryl Harris got down on the floor to give him his chemotherapy treatments.

And they worked.

Thanks to Dr. Harris, Yogi enjoyed the highest quality of life with little discomfort. He continued his long walks in the woods and premier snuggling at home, with excessive spoiling.

Throughout Greater Cincinnati, Dr. Harris is the highly regarded, go-to specialist for many dogs and cats suffering cancer.

In her modest storefront clinic with six staff members, bulletin boards on the walls are crowded with pet photos and thank you notes.  Sometimes pet owners are in tears in the waiting room.  But more often than not, knowing that Dr. Harris is in charge, there seems to be a calm optimism.

For her excellence and compassion, Queen City Pets designates Dr. Harris as its first Pet Hero.

Check out the video of Dr. Harris treating Yogi.

Here is QCP’s profile of Pet Hero Cheryl Harris, D.V.M, Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Oncology.

  • Owner: Veterinary Oncology and Referral Clinic, 931 State Route 28, Suite 201; Milford, Ohio 45150.
  • Degrees: DVM, The Ohio State University Veterinary College of Medicine; Internship at University of Minnesota; Residency at University of Illinois.
  • Wild about Walnut Hills High School. A 1980 graduate, Dr. Harris says, “Walnut Hills is the reason I am who I am today.” She earned so many college credits in high school, that she was accepted to vet school at Ohio State after two years.  “I don’t have an undergraduate degree,” she said, smiling.
  • A sampling of her work day (about 14 hours): 35 appointments, only 25 scheduled; seven emergencies; then phone calls and about 1 ½ hours working on records at the end of the day, on the couch.
  • Personal: Age 53. Single. Grew up in North Avondale; Lives in Blue Ash with her three German Shorthair Pointers, a cat and three fish. The dogs go to the office with her.
  • Athletic: Dr. Harris ran long distance on Ohio State’s track team and continues to run with her dogs. She also mountain bikes and is one of only about 10 women out of 140 ice hockey players on the Huns Hockey Team locally.
  • Avid reader: Dr. Harris likes mysteries and action/adventure writing. Currently she is reading “The Escape” by David Baldacci.
  • Her wish: Cures for cancer, rather than just treatments.
  • Her worry: That the cures, which she believes will happen, will not be affordable for most people, and so they will not survive in the marketplace.
  • If she were not a vet…. Dr. Harris said she would sell running shoes, where the worst thing that could happen would be coping with “stinky feet.”