Monday, July 31, 2017

Mutt Monday: Meet Buddy

Just look at that pouty lip! Buddy is a 6 - 7 year old gentleman waiting for his forever family to find him through the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. Happily, Buddy is currently in a foster family who adore him! They say that he is very low key, walks well on a leash and loves people. Buddy really attaches to his person and definitely will be a loyal companion to his future family. Buddy gets along well with children and would do well with a smaller dog if properly introduced. He does get a little rowdy from time to time and loves to find fun games to play! He enjoys sunbathing and thinks that he can be a lap dog, despite his size! 

To learn more about Buddy or to set up a meet and greet, contact mvalenta@wilco.org. 

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist
www.petstudioart.com 


Monday, July 10, 2017

Puppy Mill Awareness Day

Last weekend, Panda and I were invited to participate as special VIP (Very Important Puppy) guests at the Puppy Mill Awareness Day (PMAD) VIP Reception. Panda offered her talents by painting a fab piece of artwork to auction off to raise funds for this great organization. Not only was her painting a big hit with the crowd, it raised $700, making it the second most coveted painting - first was a painting featuring our friend Kaxan. 

Our sweet little lady was a huge hit, everyone loves Dalmatians, and she was more than happy to ham it up for the crowd! Panda sported her Panda ears from Zoo Snoods, worked her magic and ultimately was one excited little lady when her painting was auctioned off. 

Of course, there is so much more to this event than simply a fun auction, the message behind the fun is a very important one. Every single day in Texas, 118 puppy mills are operating and dogs are suffering as they live their lives in kennels, simply being used as breeding machines to churn out profits for these large scale commercial breeders. Think about that number for a minute - 118. These puppy mills right here in my own homestate house over 6300 adult dogs combined. Texas hosts 3 of the absolute worst puppy mills in the entire country. This is unacceptable. 

It's certainly not a problem limited to Texas. In fact, Texas, being one of the largest states in the country, doesn't even have the highest number of puppy mills. Kansas has over 165 mills. Indiana has over 200 mills. Iowa has over 250 mills. Ohio has over 430 mills and Missouri has over 800 puppy mills. This is a countrywide problem and not one that can be solved by simply promoting adoption and rescue over purchasing a puppy. Of course, I ALWAYS encourage adoption, but if you are going to purchase a dog or puppy from a breeder, demand to see the parents and their living conditions. 

Reputable breeders are out there. I personally don't agree with breeding while any animals sit and wait or worse are killed in shelters, however, I understand the need or want for a particular breed. I share my life with a breed that isn't common in shelters and it took a bit of time and effort to adopt her (we are so thrilled we waited and found her, she is the perfect addition to our family). However, so many people are unaware of the horrors of puppy mills and when it comes to buying a pet, they don't necessarily know how to recognize the signs of a puppy mills or non-reputable breeder. 

A breeder who falls into that reputable category will absolutely care where their dogs are going. They will want to meet the families that purchase their puppies and they will be open to those families seeing the living conditions of the parents. If a breeder is not open to allowing you access to the parents, walk away! In addition, reputable breeders will have a plan for you if the puppy doesn't work out, they will take their dogs back and work to ensure they are properly cared for with a new family, never tossed out onto the streets or left in a shelter. 

On the other hand, commercial breeders (or backyard breeders who care only for the profits their puppies can bring in) are those that generally will be selling directly to stores. Think about it, if they sell a puppy to a store, they have absolutely no control over where that puppy ends up. How can they possibly know that those dogs are being well cared for in a family that loves them? They don't know, nor do they care. With puppy mills, it's all about the profits, not about the dogs. Adult breeding dogs in puppy mills are bred every single heat cycle. They are stuck in cages their entire life, their paws never feel soft grass, they never have fresh air or soft cozy blankets, they never feel love. The cage standards (set by the USDA) for puppy mills dogs are horrifying, each dog is only required to be given enough room to stand, turn around and lay down. That's it. Can you imagine being stuck in a cage your entire life, with only 6 inches of extra space to move? Can you look at your own pets and imagine them in this scenario? Does it make you feel angry? It definitely makes me angry. 

So, what can you do to help end puppy mills? 
  • The easiest way to help, is of course, always choosing adoption through a shelter or rescue. If you are looking for a particular breed, I promise you, they are out there! I am happy to help, just email me and we can set up a plan to search for your new forever friend!
  • Write to your representatives. Tell them how you feel about these large scale breeding operations and ask that they work to put more humane laws in place. 
  • Contact your local city representatives about putting a retail puppy ban in place. In Austin, animal advocates spoke up and we now have a retail pet ban. Unless you are offering adoptions through a local non-profit, sales of pets are forbidden within our city limits! 
  • If you suspect something with a local breeder, reach out to groups like Bailing Our Benji or the Humane Society of the United States (1-877-Mill-Tip). 
  • Speak up against puppy mills! You have a voice, use it.
Bailing Out Benji took in several
puppy mill survivors last week.
(Photo via Bailing Out
Benji's facebook page)
At the PMAD event, we heard from Mindi Callison, a wonderful advocate for puppy mill survivors and the founder of Bailing Out Benji. Mindi discovered that a local store was selling puppies from a puppy mill she had seen on the news. This particular mill was cited for keeping animals outside in severe weather conditions with no protection from the heat, snow and rain in Iowa. Mindi was outraged and decided to do more research. What she learned about puppy mills horrified her so she set out to stop this. Not only does she advocate on behalf of the dogs trapped inside puppy mills, but she goes to the mills and convinces them to turn over dogs that would otherwise be killed (usually dogs that have grown too old or ill to breed) to her organization. Many of these dogs have been abused their entire lives, stuck in cages, bred over and over and over again until they were no longer of any value to the breeding operation. Many operations illegally kill those dogs. Mindi has persuaded several mills to allow her organization to take these dogs into her custody and care instead. A true hero for many puppy mill survivors. 

Pet Studio Art will be proudly hosting a fundraiser for Bailing Our Benji in the coming months! If you would like to offer them some support of your own, please visit them here: Bailing Out Benji

The day after the PMAD VIP Reception, Bailing Out Benji was able to save 10 more puppy mill survivors. They deserve every ounce of support we can offer them!

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist
www.petstudioart.com

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Panda Bear's painting raised $700 to help end puppy mills!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Small Biz Shoutout: ZOO SNOODS!!

Panda Bear in her Panda Zoo Snood!
I adore finding great products from other small businesses and my house is filled with a variety of work by small artists, fun items from local vendors and every trip we take, we seek out local markets to add to our collection. When I came across Zoo Snoods, I couldn't believe how amazingly adorable these pet costumes are and immediately ordered one to put on my own pups. In addition, Zoo Snoods was amazing and offered a variety of costumes to me for the shelter animals that I photograph for various rescues here in Austin. This was such a fun project and a hilarious way to get our adoptable pets noticed by more potential adopters!

The adoptable animals at the shelter seemed to enjoy them almost as much as we did. Of course, they received lots of attention and treats as we ran our Zoo Snood photo session! 


Not only are they adorable, I was highly impressed with the level of service that Zoo Snoods offered, the packaging for each Snood and the fabric quality is fantastic. Other than one very intense big dog at the shelter who mistook the snood for a toy, we had no rips or snags during our sessions and we have been using these regularly for nearly 5 months now! We have been hand washing our snoods as I am worried the ears/horns/antlers will be damaged in the wash. I soak them in the sink in soapy water for about 20 minutes, then hand agitate and rinse. They dry well outside and we have not experienced any shrinkage or shape mishaps when washing this way. Hand washing is recommended, but on the Zoo Snood website, the gentle cycle is mentioned as an acceptable form of cleaning. 

Other than the Panda Bear, I am a huge fan of the monkey Snood. My cat has one, although, she isn't as keen on wearing it as my lil' Panda is. I'm pretty sure she cursed me after this photo! 


On Monday, we will be having a contest to win a free Zoo Snood of your choice, so head over to our facebook page to enter! 

Can't wait to see if you win? Grab a Zoo Snood of your own at www.zoosnoods.com

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist


Monday, June 5, 2017

Mutt Monday: Meet Ari


Today's Mutt Monday feature is a bittersweet writeup for me. Ari is such a special girl and it truly breaks my heart that she has been waiting for nearly 3 years for her forever family to find her. I photographed this sweet pup in 2015, after she was pulled from the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter into the care of a partner rescue group, Georgetown Animal Outreach. 

Why has she been waiting so long? There isn't really a reason! Ari is a precious lady, she is incredibly smart, gets along well with everyone she meets and when properly introduced, is perfectly well behaved around other dogs and seems to be uninterested in cats. Ari's foster family has two dogs of their own and she does well with them. Unfortunately, Ari is leaving her current foster home and needs to find a new place to hunker down while she waits to be adopted. Even better, a foster to adopt situation would be the perfect setup for this cute girl. 



Ari is a 3 year old Pointer and Great Dane mix. Her foster family has taught her some amazing obedience skills, including sit, down, stay and several other basic commands. Ari is a young dog and has plenty of energy, making her the perfect addition to an active family. With the proper excercise, Ari also enjoys plenty of cuddle time. 

As with all dogs, it may take a little time for Ari to adjust to her new home. She is a wonderful dog and once she settles in to your family, she will be a loyal companion for life! 

As an added bonus, Ari's adoption comes with a FREE membership to the Doghouse Drinkery and Dog Park in Cedar Park, TX (All potential dog members are evaluated at the park prior to joining, Ari would still need to go through her evaluation.) 

If you are interested in learning more or meeting Ari, contact Georgetown Animal Outreach


Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist
www.petstudioart.com

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Finding Foster Homes & Raising Funds

Former foster kitten, Sir Pounce. 

Lately, I have noticed several of my friends within the animal rescue community asking the same question, "How can we raise more awareness, gain more support and find more foster homes for the rescue pets in our care?"

It's not an easy question to answer and of course there are no fool-proof methods of gaining the support needed to run a successful non-profit. It seems to me, at least in the Austin area, new animal charities are popping up weekly. While this is incredible news for our community pets, the challenge to raise the funds needed and have volunteer support can feel like a never ending battle.

Just this week, two rescues that I adore have considered closing intake to new animals due to a lack of foster families in the area. This is not a problem unique to Austin. Animal rescues and shelters across the nation work hard to establish a strong group of foster families. Not only does this allow the rescues to care for more animals, but it allows the animals a chance to decompress from a stressful life in a kennel. It helps the animals show their true personalities and in turn, the rescues are able to place them in permanent homes that are a good fit.

As a foster parent to kittens and the occasional dog over the past decade, I took a moment to think about why I decided to foster and how the rescues I worked with gained my trust as a supporter. 

Foster cat, Prade and her 5 kittens.
The number one reason I chose to foster with the groups I have is simple; I was made to feel appreciated and valued. Fostering is not an easy task. It takes an emotional as well as physical commitment to open your heart and home to a pet relationship that has an expiration date. While you know the animal is going off to a great life, there is a piece of you that goes with them and while so rewarding, it takes a special and strong love to say that goodbye. (Of course, then there is the next pet that you get to save).

Number two; the rescue reached out to me. I would never have known about several of the rescues that I have worked with over the years without their involvement. Many rescues are not utilizing the resources they have at their disposal. Social media, while free and a great outlet has changed and many rescues are not taking the time to change with it. Facebook for example reaches maybe 10% of your social audience with a single post. How can you work around that as a charity? Raise funds specifically for advertising purposes. Ask your supporters or former adopters to sponsor an ad. Reach out to local businesses that may offer incentives to employees who choose to foster or ask them to sponsor a social media or newspaper ad (offer to include their logo in the ad). Reach out to your local media outlets. Newspapers, News Stations and Radio Stations are always on the search for the next feel good story (although sometimes it doesn't seem that way). Ask them to run a story about your rescue and the animals you have saved. Don't give up, many news outlets simply brush by when they are not in need of time fillers, keep sending press releases in and follow up to ask for a story. It may take some time to hear back, but persistence is key! Small, local community newspapers are often a great way to reach your specific community. Include your current needs and why fostering or supporting your organization is the way to go! 

Henry, currently available for adoption
through Bastrop Animal Rescue
Number three, these organizations made fostering easy and so much fun! I hear time and time again from friends who no longer foster that the rescues did not lay out their expectations up front or made things difficult for the foster families when they needed help. Simply making yourself clear and taking the time to keep in touch with your fosters can make all the difference in retaining volunteers for your organization. Fostering should be a fun experience, don't scare those families away by making it difficult. 

Running a non-profit is never going to be easy, but the positive can vastly outweigh the negative. Rescue work brings out the good in people. Share those happy stories, have your current fosters write up a paragraph or two on why they love fostering with your rescue. Focus on the animals and finding that happy forever home for them.

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist
www.petstudioart.com

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Welcome to the family Panda Bear

Exciting announcement! Meet our newest little addition, Panda Bear!

Panda Bear came to us from Hot Mess Pooches Rescue and Sanctuary in Houston, TX. This is a fantastic family-run organization that dedicates their rescue efforts to special needs, primarily deaf or visually impaired, dogs. The Hot Mess Pooches founder has a huge soft spot (pun intended) for Dalmatians and when they received the call informing them of a family of Dalmatians in need, they immediately stepped up and took in Panda, her partner Rocco and their 7 puppies, several of whom are deaf. Happily, it didn’t take long for her puppies to find the perfect homes. As it turned out, Ember, one of Panda’s puppies ended up being adopted by a friend of mine. I grew up with two lovely Dalmatians, so it was no surprise that I was immediately in love with Ember and started casually following Hot Mess on social media to support their mission.

Panda and her foster sister, Pepper
who came along for moral support.
Having lost our precious pit bull mix, Holly to cancer only a few months earlier and our elderly terrier mix, Cody a few months before that, we weren’t quite sure when we would be ready to adopt again. We had discussed the possibility of fostering a dog (we regularly foster kittens) but were still on the fence on when that day would come. Then, as it usually goes, Panda’s story popped up on my radar. After seeing a photo of her, something in her eyes spoke to me and I felt the need to reach out to the rescue to learn a little more about her. At the time, I did not realize that she was the mother to my friend’s sweet Ember. Only after talking with Hot Mess did I put the two of them together and realize that I already had a connection to this sweet little dog. 

After reaching out to them, Hot Mess spent nearly an hour chatting with me about her past
Panda's puppy, Ember.
, her personality and answered the many questions I had. We happened to be visiting Houston the same weekend and were able to set up a meet and greet. From the moment we met her, it was a done deal. We set up our home visit for the following week, she moved in, met our two cats and gave them the respect that all kitties demand. Minus a few chasing incidents, they have become very friendly, napping together and Panda even allows the cats to steal a few pieces of kibble at dinnertime (but only a few). We know that with time, they will all be the best of friends.

Panda has been a dream addition to our family. Not only is she a wonderful little dog, but she is already helping our hearts heal from losing our two precious pups over the past year.

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art

Follow Panda Bear on Instagram @spottedpandabear


Monday, April 17, 2017

Mutt Monday: Meet Athena

How gorgeous is this face! Athena is a beautiful fawn Great Dane saved by the amazing, fantastic, super-hero rescue organization, Paws of Austin Great Dane Rescue.

This organization is among my favorite rescues to know. Not only do they take on some extremely hard cases (see Sadie as last week's Mutt Monday pooch), but they run completely on donations and volunteer time. Paws of Austin has a fantastic foster family network and works to pull Great Danes or Great Dane mixes from area shelters and/or special situations to ensure they are placed into loving homes vs sitting in a shelter.

Athena is just one of those lucky Paws of Austin pups. She was rescued nearly a year ago from a neglectful situation and sadly, her owners are unable to care for her so she is searching for a wonderful home. Athena is a sweet lady, great with kids and she gets along well with other dogs. She is house-trained and knows her basic commands. Athena is only 2 years young and looking for the perfect forever family to join.

If you are interested in learning more about Athena or any of the pups with Paws of Austin Great Dane Rescue, visit their website.

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist
www.petstudioart.com

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tiny Bar, Big Dogs!

King, adoptable through
Paws of Austin
Last weekend, Paws of Austin Great Dane Rescue hosted their annual 'Party on the Patio' event at the tiniest bar in TX. This is one of my favorite rescue events of the year, it has everything you could possibly need for an amazing day - BIG dogs, drinks, music and friends! 

While I love visiting with friends while loving on pups, this event is a great fundraiser for the rescue as well, hosting a silent auction, live raffle and the chance to meet some of the rescue's adoptable dogs. 

Rescue pups, King, Athena, Sadie and several others spent time mingling with the crowd and showing off their good manners and excellent personalities. This rescue does an amazing job of placing dogs who may otherwise not have an option of finding a loving home into foster homes while they wait for the perfect forever family.

If you would like to make a donation to Paws of Austin or to learn more about adopting a pet from this fabulous organization, visit their website here. 

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist
www.petstudioart.com

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