RIP Barb

Barb Shea’s life as defined by the gratitude of animals.

For almost ten years, I have had the privilege of being the trainer and behavior consultant for ARF-Beacon and in that time I have come to know Barb Sheabarb-219x300 as kind and generous, occasionally cheeky and opinionated, a soft touch who could see through anybody’s crap, and she always found a way to laugh while navigating the world of animal rescue that is defined by sadness, cynicism and difficult decisions. As the president of ARF, she made the hard choices and took the consequence of conflict for those choices knowing she was right and yet always doubting her decisions. Like all of us, she walked with her internal contradictions, but ignored them as she endeavored to do what was right for the animals of ARF.

I write this with my dog Pinball at my feet,Pinball couch headtilt knowing that without Barb, he and his siblings would not be alive (and probably his mother dog too). I can’t begin to count the number of other dogs and cats who have lived only because Barb started ARF three decades ago.

It feels almost trite to attempt a fitting eulogy of Barb’s life that appropriately honors a woman so devoted to rescuing animals, and so responsible for thousands of lives, both pets and humans; we know the two-way nature of rescue and that many rescued ARF pets returned the favor and saved their humans in one way or another.

Perhaps to honor Barb, we would thank the Universe for her dedication and tenacity, and hope that she can hear the words of gratitude from those she touched.

However, our words are nothing compared to the gratitude without voice that comes from all the dogs and cats saved by ARF. Their thanks floats on the wind like dancing leaves in a gentle fall breeze that will carry Barb from this life to the next, offering her the same comfort, hope and companionship that she offered all the loved and lost animals rescued by ARF.

Butch – maybe not the “other reindeer” but may be a dog dear to your heart…

Butch, a blind dog sheltered at ARF in Beacon, NY, needs your help to find his forever home!

Butch-antlers-for-webOkay so he can’t wear his antlers straight and we couldn’t find a real wrapped up holiday box for him to sit in and he won’t be Santa’s next reindeer, but Butch could be one of the best dogs you’ll ever love.

Butch is almost 2 years old now and the biggest, goofiest guy you will ever want to meet.

He gets along with every other dog he has ever met – even the dogs least likely to like other dogs will get along with Butch.  He walks well on leash, plays nicely in the back yard at ARF (with other dogs or alone) and he is currently learning silly tricks like “sit in a box for fun.”  So you can see here he is all ready to be someone’s holiday dog in his holiday box wearing his holiday antlers.

Butch enjoys nose games – looking for food, toys, or other scents in boxes.  And more than anything else he loves being petted and snuggling up with any person who shows him affection.

For all his wonderful qualities, Butch – like Rudolph – keeps getting overlooked.  Butch has Progressive Retinal Atrophy, a degenerative eye disease that will eventually take his sight completely.  He currently seems to see some shadows in the daylight but has already lost most of his eyesight completely.

Just like Santa thought Rudolph with his red nose could not fly a sleigh too many people think a blind dog just can’t have a happy life. The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists says:  “The exceptional senses of smell and hearing in animals also help pets adapt to vision loss.”  Organizations like and have a host of great tips for living with a dog who is visually impaired and lists of other support organizations online to help folks help each other while living and loving an animal with special needs.  Suggestions like:

  • Teach your dog “new” things to make life even more fun! Try doing “clicker training” that fits in nicely with his/her new skills for* listening* vs. *seeing* and your dog will be very proud of new skills!

Vicky has been doing this with Butch at the shelter – that’s how she got him in the “gift” box and got him to wear the antlers – okay so he can’t see they are not on straight – but you got to give him his props.

Another few tips from are:

  • For eye protection when outdoors where there are low growing shrubs, twigs, etc. , Doggles can protect the eyes.
  • Adding 1 – 2 feet outward of bark chips, mulch or landscape rocks around trees or other dangers in the yard will let your dog feel a texture difference on the ground to warn that something is ahead.

There are loads more suggestions on this and other web sites devoted to dogs with visual impairments – most are pretty simple like the mulch and some are pretty darn fun like the Doggles.

Butch has managed to map the back yard at ARF so he can go out and romp around with other dogs as if he had no issues. He will map your back yard too once he gets used to it.  He walks happily and very well on a leash and loves to go for walks.  Butch will probably never be safe off leash hiking – but he could go hiking on leash and have a blast.

There really is very little he won’t be able to do with you.  While he won’t be able to look into your eyes with devotion you will still know he loves you when he leans up against you and rustles you with his thick soft fur.

I know what it is like to live with a dog who does not see well.  Boo has struggled with his vision issues all his life and they have only gotten worse as he has grown older.  His is a different disorder and has resulted in what seems to be very severe far-sightedness.  He sees the outline of his brother well enough to happily chase him but does not see the door frame well enough to avoid bumping into it unless we guide him outside.  It is a small price to pay for his companionship.  The new stairs in the front have given him some pause lately but he simply reaches out with his front paw to find the height of the new step and then goes slowly to the next one.  We are always right there near him to help if necessary – but the more he can do on his own the safer he will be and the more confident he will be.  Boo has always gone and will continue to go on his visits to see the retired nuns and the kids at the library – I am just careful to guide him through the new environments. No one notices he can’t see well until I point it out to them.

Butch can live a fun, happy, fulfilled life with a human companion who is willing to do just a little more than the usual for him.  Given all that Boo has given us and everyone he visits, I suspect anyone who gives a little extra to Butch will get back ten-fold and then some. Butch is currently living at ARF-Beacon, and is available for adoption.

Three Dogs Training will offer a special discount for either a private lesson or a training course for Butch and his new humans.

Hooray for Hunter’s Helpers!

Hunter, an at-risk dog sheltered at ARF in Beacon, NY, is making tremendous progress thanks to his volunteers!

All of us who have known Hunter since he came to ARF in November 2008 knew very well that he is a loving, devoted and sensitive guy but his shyness has grown since he came to the shelter and has kept him from setting foot outside his run – even into the backyard for fun.  With this level of shyness he was in no position to flirt with a prospective new forever human…  Hunter had been at ARF for over a year and a half and was getting more and more fearful of the world outside his run.  We had to change things for him or he would have spent the rest of his life in that run.

Happy-HunterA call went out to my students and good doggie folk in the area and Linda, Feef, Pat and Vicky stepped up to be Hunter’s Helpers.  Each of Hunter’s Helpers worked with their skill-sets to help Hunter increase his confidence, joy, and allow his loving nature to expand to more and more people. Vicky and Pat increased his confidence via clickers and massages. While Linda and Feef increased his social network via their relatives and friends who came along to meet Hunter and show him the world is full of nice people – who, by the way all seem to have cheese and hot dogs on them at all times…

His dedicated regular volunteers continued to help Hunter’s Helpers by doing walk-alongs (especially Pete and Charlotte) so Hunter could become happy and used to new people.  Great thanks must also go to the volunteer staff at ARF who by continuing to take care of Hunter’s needs as well as the needs of the rest of the animals at ARF allowed Hunter’s Helpers to focus specifically on the behavioral work.  Sometimes it takes a Village to help a dog in need, too.

Although Hunter is not yet completely “cured” he is doing much better and working now on transitioning to Feef’s home as his forever home – yeah!!!  Remember the dog who would not leave the safe confines of his run or the back room where his run is located?  Barb reported to me the following just the other day:


The last dog to be walked last night was Hunter…  He was acting itchy, carrying on…

I had the leash in my hand, then opened his gate… He came flying out…ran out to the kennel, stood there…saw the front door open… ran out !!!!  Across the parking lot…. down the driveway…to the back “40”…..Flo was standing in the lot talking on the phone…. her mouth dropped open…. we both went to the back… Hunter was walking back to the shelter, sniffing all the brush…wagging his tail….went right by us and back to the shelter…all the way back and jumped in his room !!!! WOW !!   How exciting !!

We went at a pace that worked for Hunter and allowed him to slowly learn new people are good and maybe even as good as his two favorites Pete and Charlotte.  We gave Hunter some special attention in the form of calming massages.  We taught Hunter via clicker training that he can actually control aspects of his world.  By doing all of this Hunter has blossomed and is no longer looking at spending the rest of his life in his run at ARF.  While ARF loves all of their dogs as their own and cares for them with special kindness – it is still not a forever-home.

Hunter, his Helpers and all the Volunteers at ARF are a shining example of just how much we can help a dog in need find a life of happiness and joy!

Help us help Hunter

Hunter, an at-risk dog sheltered at ARF in Beacon, NY, needs your help to find his forever home!

Hunter has been waiting.

Hunter was brought to Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in Beacon, NY in November 2008 by a woman who found him loose in Poughkeepsie.  He has won the hearts of all the ARF volunteers and is sweet and affectionate once he gets to know you.  He is worried if he does not know you; and while he may bark a bit, he has never shown any aggressive tendencies.

HunterHe gets along well with other dogs and is often the puppy “uncle” when a new doggie mom can’t take care of all her new pups because she is ill – or if we just want to expand the puppy’s social circle.  He does a great job of being the fun “uncle” to the new little tykes.

He loves cats and spends much of his days playing with them as they run loose in the back while they wait for the maid service to finish cleaning their “rooms.”

Hunter’s big problem is he has many fears.  He is sometimes afraid of the outside Hunter-looking-for-his-cat-buddiesbeyond his pen.  He is usually afraid of cars.  He will need someone to come and get to know him at ARF then begin to take him out regularly or maybe foster him.  We don’t know if he has known a home environment so he needs to get to know one slowly and happily.  He needs to learn that the world outside the shelter can be fun, including new places and even cars.  He needs a human to be his guardian angel either to come regularly to work with him or foster him to get him ready for his forever home – or to be his forever home.

If you are interested in being Hunter’s guardian angel, please come to our next training session at ARF (email me for the date) or email the shelter at

Hunter is a sweet soul who needs a safe home life to allow him to overcome his fears and become the wonderful companion he can be.  He will give his humans warm snuggles on a cold night, and fun bouncy times once he is comfortable with his environment.