Category Archives: Dogs

A Bulldog’s Second Chance

Dash the 2 year old English Bulldog was unfortunately surrendered over to the staff at East Holmes Veterinary Clinic due to bladder stones. Being partnered with East Holmes vet clinic in re-homing dogs in need – they quickly  got into contact with us as it was apparent he needed to have surgery immediately.

We raced down to Berlin, Ohio and picked up the poor boy. We transported him to our veterinarians at West Park Animal Hospital where he underwent his first surgery. The stones were removed and he went into a foster home with Friendship board member, Amy Richards, and her husband.

While he was recovering from his surgery, they noticed he was still having trouble going using the bathroom… A week later, it was back to the doctors. This time they sent him home with antibiotics for a possible urinary tract infection.  Things did not seem to be improving despite the treatment. In fact, things seemed to be getting worse!

Dash’s veterinarians at West Park were at a loss. We all agreed that  it was time for him to see a specialist. We took him to Metropolitan as an emergency patient. It turns out we were all in for a shock at what this poor dog was enduring.

Dash had probably been living with bladder stones for so long that they had completely scarred his urethra. It was at the point where a catheter could not pass through from all the scar tissue. His bladder had swelled to the size of a grapefruit due to his inability to relieve himself.

There was only one choice – a very drastic surgery to bypass the scar tissue.

This amazing surgery done by the specialists at Metropolitan changed Dash’s life forever. They made a completely new urine passage for him so he could finally use the bathroom like a normal dog. It is truly incredible! Dash was now able to go to the bathroom on his own! He seemed like a whole new dog that was comfortable for the first time in years. A flip had switched and he was happy, playful and running around! After months of recovering from both surgeries, his foster family could not let him go. His new name is Fred, he has another English Bulldog sibling, and he could not be living a more happy and fulfilling life.

Fred is just one of many special dogs that we are able to give a second chance thanks to your generous donations. Because of your support, we are able to change lives for dog’s like Fred and so many more. His surgeries and vet visits cost over $4,000. But the cost of seeing him running around and playing in the backyard…is truly priceless.

To help more dogs like Fred, considering supporting the Friendship APL with a one-time or recurring donation.

Oscar and Adam: A “Tail” of Two Lost Weenie Dogs


Oscar and Adam’s intake photos in Wayne County.

When Friendship APL got a call about two senior dachshunds that were found roaming the streets of Wayne County, we knew we had to come to the rescue. It was clear from the photos that these poor pups, one standard dachshund and one mini, had been living the “ruff” life for a while. It is unknown if they were no longer wanted and were let a-stray, or if they had found their own way out of their previous home. Either way, they were picked up and waited…and sadly were not claimed by anyone.

These poor pups were burdened with inflamed skin and major hair loss.

The wiener dogs, that we named Oscar and Adam, were dirty, had major hair loss and could barely waddle due to their long, curled nails. Their eyes were severely infected from an untreated illness, the hair they had left was matted, and their ears hadn’t been cleaned in a long time. Despite all this, they were happy, friendly and curious. Their predicament, however they found themselves in it, had no sway on their spirits. At Friendship APL, they began treatment and were placed up for adoption to continue the healing process in a home. It was at the Friendship APL where they found their adopter, who was the perfect person to start them on their new journey.

Their first night on their new mom’s couch. Their long journey led them to this!

Regina, their adopter, says;

It’s like they’ve always been part of my life. So I renamed them Sam and Omie (after a restaurant in OBX) and Sam (the big one) is almost totally clear of his kennel cough. He takes his iniprinal every day for his heart failure and hopefully with that, he will have a full lifespan. He is a snuggler and a lap dog and enjoys sniffing around in the backyard. He and my golden retriever play well together and he runs around my house with a happy trot and wagging tail, making a thunderous noise.

Sam and Omie with their new dog family.

Omie, the little wiener, is also a lap dog.  He likes to play with Sam but he’s happiest when I’m holding him. He had a clean bill of health and his skin is so much better. Both are growing their hair back. I love them and I know they love me.  Each night all four dogs sleep with me and they have their own space in my king sized bed and I have been left with 6 inches at the edge. So they are doing very, very well.”

Look at them today! Their coats continue to improve.

Regina continues;

They are such good dogs! It would have been tragic if they would have been separated… I can’t imagine the thought if Friendship APL wouldn’t have rescued them. I am so very happy my daughter tagged me on your post that Saturday. I knew they were meant to be with me and I got out there early because I didn’t want to take any chances. They are just perfect.

From wandering the streets to a warm bed – these pups are now living a great life. The Friendship APL is able to continue rescuing dogs like Oscar and Adam because of the generous support of our donors. Click here to learn how to support our mission, and to donate to dogs like Oscar and Adam.

Lost Pets & the Value of Microchipping

by Gregg Senko

One of the biggest fears as a pet owner is having your pet run (or fly) away. Despite the strongest efforts of some folks to keep their animals corralled and safe indoors, sometimes, a curious cat or dog will take an opportunity to dart toward the great outdoors which aren’t always so great for them. Once exposed to a seemingly infinite number of directions to run and dangers to experience, domesticated animals can be easily confused or startled once they have left the safe confines of their home.

The first step in getting your pet back is to be preemptive.  According to the website, 1 in every 3 pets go missing.  That is a startling statistic.  If there is a moral to the story, well actually there are several, but the first that comes to mind is don’t be the person that thinks this will never happen to them.  Make it a top priority to get your cat or dog microchipped the moment you adopt them.  This is not something to dawdle with, but having the microchip implanted in your pet is not enough.

I have come across a few stray animals in the last couple of years that were microchipped, only to never have the chip registered and activated.  Think of it as buying a car without fuel.  It’s completely useless without that final action.  Some facilities may offer one-stop shopping where the chip can be purchased, implanted and activated for a cost roughly around $50.  At Friendship APL, all of our cats and dogs already have microchips when they’re adopted.

If that step has been taken and the animal still manages to escape, the next part of the process is to start calling local shelters (like FAPL) and police departments (their animal control officer specifically) to see if a pet matching the description of yours has been caught.  Many individuals will post photos of their pet along with contact information on telephone poles or in the windows of businesses (with their permission) for bystanders to keep an eye out for.  However, while there is nothing wrong with that, such postings tend to get overlooked (especially when the photo is in black and white) or ruined by the elements.  A more efficient way to track down a lost pet is through local online outlets that specialize in this sort of thing.

The first of which comes to mind isn’t really a website, but a page within Facebook known simply as ‘Sam the Parrot’.  Sam the Parrot was started by the late Jerry Liller, a Lorain County resident whose pet parrot Sam flew away.  Liller created a Facebook page for Sam in hopes of reuniting with his beloved winged friend.  When someone lost their dog and asked Liller if they could post it on his ‘Sam’ page, he obliged.  One thing led to another and today the Facebook page Sam the Parrot is a major hub for lost pets in and around Lorain County.

Sadly, Sam was never found, but her legacy lives on in helping hundreds of other pets.

Once outdoors and on the loose, cats and dogs can behave very differently.  Dogs can head off in any number of directions and walk for miles or just camp out in a driveway down the street.  Cats typically don’t go all that far.  They are, however, exceptional at hiding and are most active at dusk and dawn.  Call for them.  They know your voice.  Grab a strong flashlight to catch their reflective eyes in lowlight conditions.  Do not leave food out overnight for your lost cat as that can just attract other animals, like raccoons or opossums, that will chase your cat away.  Don’t keep your lost cat (or dog) a secret.  Talk!  Tell your neighbors and post it online (i.e. Sam the Parrot).  This may sound like a broken record by now in this article, but get your pet microchipped and have a collar and tag on them.  Most importantly, don’t give up!  If you believe someone stole your pet, call the police. It’s a 5th degree felony in the State of Ohio to hurt an animal.

The following are a list of websites for lost pets both nationally and in our area:

  • Sam the Parrot (via Facebook)


Special thanks to FAPL Board President Deb McFadden for her contribution to this article.



Dogs in Hot Cars

by Gregg Senko

We hear about it every single summer. Do not leave your dogs in a hot car. Do not leave your children in a hot car. Unless you have been living under a rock, this is pretty well-established advice.  However, as the old adage goes, common sense is not so common. It always amazes me how we homo sapiens are the most advanced species on the planet (the jury’s still out), yet some of us do the dumbest things. I mention this because today, 6/14/17, I witnessed said ignorance firsthand. Let me explain…

I pulled into a local pet supply store today to make a pickup and eventual delivery to Friendship APL.  I turned a corner and calmly parked my car as any other person in a mild-mannered mood would.  Little did I know such a blissful floating-through-the-day was about to come to an end.  The car parked next to me was a silver Chevy Cobalt.  Nothing stood out from the small vehicle that grabbed my attention…until a dog barked.

I spun around, abruptly ceasing my progress to head to the store’s front door and slowly approached the roving oven (a.k.a. the car holding the dog).  Each of the four windows were open as you’ll see in the photo below, but with an opening ranging from approximately 1.5″ to 2.5″, this was not nearly enough to reduce the baking heat inside that car.  Was it better than the windows totally closed?  Of course.  However, let’s not argue for maintaining the situation at hand.

Upon closer inspection, there was not one, but two dogs in the car.  They appeared to be German Shepherds or at least a German Shepherd mix.  The one that barked out to me was in the driver’s seat while the other was on the backseat.  Both were panting heavily and both were obviously in a state of great discomfort.  I checked all four windows and observed the less than respectable openings.  Then the poor pooch up front was struggling to stick his nose through the gap in the window for some air.  I’d seen enough.  It was time to go inside and get answers.


Being a small store and with only one couple inside that was shopping, there wasn’t a whole lot of detective work to conduct.  I approached them and asked if that was their silver Cobalt parked on the side of the building.  They replied with a nonchalant ‘yes’ and stared at me blankly.  Such an expression immediately cemented the lack of coherence I was dealing with here.  The old “It can never happen to me, it only happens to people in the news” mentality was hard at work with these folks.  I explained that both of their dogs were heavily panting in the car to which the woman played it off saying the following mind-blowing statement, “Oh they’re in air conditioning all day.  They’ll be fine.”

I’m not a scientist, but I am familiar with many of its basic workings.  Take temperature for instance.  If you have a frozen bag of peas and you put it in the oven at 150 degrees, that mystical science sorcery stuff starts occurring and things will change.  Magic!  The integrity of the bag will eventually begin to deteriorate and the peas will no longer be frozen.  So despite this widely grasped knowledge, this woman was essentially saying to me that peas will remain frozen in the oven because they were in the freezer all day. I suppose some people still think that if you sail far enough, you’ll fall off the edge of the earth too, but I digress.

During this conversation between she and I, the husband continued to stare at me with a somewhat confrontational glare.  Hey, this isn’t Roadhouse with Patrick Swayze and no one was going cowboy in this scenario.  Still, calling the police was definitely on my radar which was the next step. The woman must have seen that I was not budging on the urgency of the dogs’ situation so she quickly passed the car keys to her husband who proceeded to the store’s exit while mumbling something to me under his breath.  Oh yes kind sir, mumble away.  Mumble to your heart’s content and curse me until the cows come home.  I could care less.  Just make sure you get yourself to that car ASAP and get the AC on and get those windows open before an officer needs to show up, because 327-2191 is engrained into this brain and the North Ridgeville Police are only a thumb click away.

Don’t be the person that does this.

So for anyone who, after reading this Pulitzer worthy article, still does not think anything is wrong with doing what those people did, I invite you to a challenge.  Park your car out in the sun on an 83-degree day like today.  Open each window two inches or less.  Then sit there with the car off.  Tell me how you feel after three minutes, after five minutes.  Let’s not forget that dogs, especially German Shepherds, have a permanent fur coat.  Put a jacket on and sit in that heat.  The moral of the story is don’t be an inconsiderate buffoon who should be sent off to jail for behavior like this while the dogs have to suffer.  Either open all those windows halfway (minimum!) or don’t even bring the animals with you in the first place.  Use. Your. Head.

Dog Licenses – The Why’s, What’s and Where

by Gregg Senko

Everyone knows what a dog license is. They’re the shiny little tags that dangle from the collars of our canine companions, right?  Sure, but they are also much more than just doggie jewelry or a mere action people follow through with “just because.”  So what is the point of a dog license and just how necessary is it?

“First off, it gets your dog home if it gets lost,” says Lorain Police Officer and FAPL volunteer ‘Doc’ Rick. “Second, it’s the law and can save you from a $100 fine,” he adds. The dog license, as you can see, is not really a debatable option. If you are planning on taking on a dog, or if you already have an unlicensed one, buying a dog license is something you will want to address sooner rather than later.

Dog licenses purchased after January 31, 2017 cost $32.75. However, if you just moved into Lorain County or if your dog is under six months old, the cost is $16.75. Doc Rick also mentioned that the cost of the license goes to running county kennels such as the care and feeding of the dogs there. For an extra $5, you can get the heart-shaped license which goes toward medical care for the kennel dogs.  Also, keep in mind the license needs to be renewed on an annual basis.

It’s important to remember that a dog license is much more than a piece of metal. It’s the law and that tag is vital for getting a lost dog back home. For those that may think either or both of those prices are somewhat high, in all seriousness it is best to really consider the animal companion itself you are taking on. There will be plenty more expenses where that came from. The license is only the beginning of the care and financial responsibility that is required.


*Licenses can be acquired from Friendship APL*


Brick by Brick: Remodeling FAPL

by Gregg Senko

Two years ago, FAPL underwent its first internal renovation in a number of years. What is now the streamlined-looking blue dog room and orange cat room was once a less welcoming, but functional corner of our adoption center, has since been revamped into a much more animal and human friendly space. Fast forward to 2017 and the same efforts have been exacted on our remaining cat and dog caged spaces. The previous orange dog room is now graced with yellow walls. “Graced” being an appropriate verb as the room will soon be named “Grayce’s Tack Shop,” honoring Kimberly Grayce Roach, a former FAPL volunteer and Lake Ridge Academy student who passed away unexpectedly in 2016. Grayce’s love for the color yellow, and more importantly horses, earned the room color and tack shop moniker.

Greg Willey hammers down! (literally)

In addition, the blue cat room is now the purple cat room, changing out the stacks of stainless steel box cages for new, specially ventilated cat condos.  You’ll notice the vertical PVC pipes in the photos below which allow for the ventilation that greatly cuts down on litter dust and dander accumulation.  The portholes allow for a cat’s transit from one part of the condo to their litter box, thus separating it from their eating area.  Lastly, the green cat room is still green, but with the significant decrease in cat populations, is now serving as a dog overflow room, but is suited to house cats as well if necessary.

So while knocking down cement block walls and adding a fresh coat of paint are obvious improvements, you may be asking why the switch from the old style cages to new?  In short, the days of traditional cages at shelters are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  While you may not be able to stick your fingers through a chainlink slot to have a dog or cat get acquainted with you, the gigantic plus is eliminating the spread of disease amongst the animals.  In short, what’s easier to wipe down and clean?  A fence or a glass door?  The grooves and intertwining nature of chainlink fencing are harborers of bacteria.  It is not uncommon for a dog to spread bacteria and even feces on this material.  The intricate weave is just not conducive for eliminating those microscopic baddies and preventing the spread of illness.

The glass doors are a safer option from not only illness, but possible injury as well.  With no loops or weakened fencing a dog could place their paws on, the quarter-inch tempered glass doors eliminate those hazards while also cutting down on some of the noise.  Plus, the kennels overall still allow for plenty of proficient airflow so their inhabitants can remain comfortable.  But enough on specs, let’s get to the visuals, right?!  Without further ado, Here are some of the before, middle and after shots of the room remodels.  On a personal note, I have to say I the outcome is not only aesthetically pleasing, but so much more functional now as well.


Formerly the Blue Cat Room, it is now the Purple Cat Room:













The Green Room has become…still green but is now multi-purpose









Grayce’s Tack Shop

Before and After…


Derek vs Cement Wall. Derek wins.










Without your donations, this would never have been possible!  FAPL would like to extend a massive thank you to all those who contribute their time and money!


Friends of Fido…and Pluto too

by Gregg Senko

Friends of Fido is a non-profit organization dedicated to caring for and rescuing dogs. They run strictly off of donations and have been partnered with Friendship APL for some time now. As far as dog pounds go, Friends of Fido works exclusively with the Mahoning County Dog Pound & Adoption Center. The charitable group’s volunteers contribute on a variety of levels when they pay their visits to the Mahoning pound by socializing with dogs, walking the dogs, and even photography of the dogs there. However, their generous involvement doesn’t stop there.

As I mentioned, Friends of Fido works closely with Friendship in getting dogs out of the Mahoning pound, which at any given time can hold 50 canines of varying sizes. While I personally have not paid a visit to that establishment, I have been to the Richland County Dog Shelter which holds the same amount if not more. These places are good in that they give the dogs a chance at adoption. These places also have a strong negative in that they are a very chaotic atmosphere for the dogs. Walking into one of these incites one dog to bark which becomes a chain reaction for the other dogs. The next thing you know it becomes a yelping symphony and a very stressful environment for the animals. Plus, when it comes to adoption at these places, it becomes a scenario of odds. Take a dog out of a crowd of 50 and put him or her in a situation of half that and their exposure to a great potential adopter improves dramatically.

That exposure comes to fruition at FAPL, and one such success story involves that of Pluto. Pluto is a mixed breed pooch discovered by a Friends of Fido volunteer who soon learned that Pluto was suffering from the early stages of heartworm. They wanted to get Pluto out of the Mahoning pound where he had already been residing for a few months. As part of the way the group operates, Friends of Fido made a donation to FAPL to assist with the treatment of the heartworm parasites, of which Pluto made a complete recovery after roughly a month. Once Pluto got the all clear from a veterinarian, he was eligible for the adoption floor at FAPL. Once that green light was given, it didn’t take long for the lovable dog with one floppy ear to get scooped up by a loving family. Right now, Pluto is living the high life with his new human companions and everyone seems enamored with the tan-coated comrade.

This may be the first time you have heard of Friends of Fido, maybe not.  However, stories like these are not rarities with them.  Like FAPL, they are often unsung heroes in the world of saving pets’ lives and getting them adopted in great homes.  This line of work isn’t a popularity contest though.  Instead, it’s often a race against time to get these loving animals connected to loving people.  In the case of Pluto and so many before him, mission accomplished.

The Petfinder Five: How One Grant Changed the Lives of Five Dogs

The Petfinder Five: How One Grant Changed the Lives of Five Dogs

By Gregory Willey

In November of 2016, we were informed that we were one of 25 shelters being awarded a $10,000 grant. This grant had a primary objective of saving the lives of animals that might otherwise not have had an opportunity to find forever homes. That is exactly what Friendship APL did. It all began with a little dog named Penguin.

Lorain Police Officer and Friendship APL volunteer, Rick Broz, found an injured dog in the city. He had been hit by a car. His leg and pelvis were left shattered. He spent several days at Lorain Animal Hospital before being transferred to our care.

D. James Gant examines Penguin’s fractured Leg and Pelvis at West Park Animal Hospital

We took Penguin to West Park Animal Hospital. After X-rays, we knew the leg was too far gone to save. It would require amputation followed by a month of rehabilitation in a foster home to allow the fractured pelvis to heal.


On February 25th, Ashley Sims drove all the way from New Jersey to meet her sister at Friendship with her two Boston Terriers in tow. She had been following Penguin’s story since his arrival. After a meet and greet between her and her four-legged family, Penguin was on his way home to the Garden State.

Ashley Sims and her growing family with her sister Erin George.

With Penguin’s story came a series of dogs with similar injuries, either on accident or on purpose, which all had similar issues. Next up was dog number two – Lola!


Lola shortly after her amputation.

9 month-old Lola arrived from the Mahoning County dog pound. She was intended to be an easy adoption from an overcrowded shelter needing help. Shortly after arrival though, our volunteers and staff noticed some swelling and tenderness in her front leg. We took her to West Park for X-rays. To our disbelief, she had been walking around on a leg that had been broken most likely weeks before arriving at the Mahoning County Dog Pound. It had actually begun to heal but in such a way as to cause much discomfort for the poor girl. The leg at this point could not be saved and once again would require the leg to be amputated.


Lola officially arrived at Friendship APL on January 9th. She found her new home on January 28th.

Coincidentally, while sitting in the emergency clinic, the City of Cleveland Dog Warden walked in with a dog that had been hit by a car. What was wrong with the young Boxer mix? You guessed it another broken leg! The dog would be made comfortable by the West Park staff and held for three days should an owner step forward. No owner step forward, and Friendship agreed to help the stray dog. Dog number three would come to be known as Serendipity because if we had not been there with Lola, would we ever have had the opportunity to help her?

Serendipity and I take a selfie shortly after surgery.

Serendipity’s injury was recent. Thanks to the work of the Cleveland Kennel’s and the team at West Park, her leg was able to be saved. It required the placement of plates and pins, but she would be the only dog in this story able to keep her leg.

Serendipity officially arrived at Friendship APL on February 1st (she arrived at West Park Animal Hospital on January 9th). She would find her forever home on February 4th.

Next up was Arrow, an 8 month-old Pitbull. This was a direct request from a veterinarian. This sweet boy was surrendered over to the vet for euthanasia following an injury to his rear leg. After seeing the multitude of stories over the past two weeks, it made sense that the staff would reach out to us to help.

Arrow shows off for the camera. He is a total ham!



Arrow arrived at Friendship APL on January 14th. He found a loving family on January 18th!

So that made four.

The final dog in the bunch was very special. We had emergency call come in concerning a puppy that had been attacked by another dog. The good Samaritan was able to rescue the dog from the attack and drive him over to Friendship APL. The little Beagle mix was only four or five months old. The injury was so severe, it required immediate surgery. Their were two immediate concerns. Bite wounds are more likely to become infected, and her leg had been snapped in two. This would be the hardest decision we would have to make.

An hour after arriving at Friendship, Aubrey waits at West Park Animal Hospital for veterinarians to examine her.


We had two choices. One. We could put pins and plates in and save her leg. Two. We could amputate. Option one seemed like the obvious choice. However, upon further discussion with her veterinarian, this could result in multiple surgeries. Given her age, her leg would continue to grow. This could result in her having to undergo multiple surgeries  over several weeks. With each surgery, there would be a risk of complication.

We decided to go with option two. She would only have to spend a few weeks recovering in a foster home adjusting to life on three legs before heading to a new home. And that is exactly what happened.

Aubrey arrived at the shelter on January 22nd. She found her Valentine on February 14th.

One of the strangest parts of this story is that Penguin would lose his right, rear leg. Lola would lose her right, front leg. Arrow would lose his left, rear leg. Aubrey would lose her right, front leg.  That means every dog which needed surgery in January would lose a different leg. All but Serendipity, who did not lose a leg at all. What are the odds of that?

On behalf of our entire staff, volunteers and the Petfinder Five, we extend our most heartfelt gratitude for helping us save lives.

Wags to Riches 2017 – What a Night!

By now, it’s been no secret of the significantly large expenses that Friendship APL incurred in 2016 for medical procedures. Spay and neuters are common and they do add up, but as awareness of not only FAPL’s existence, but its continuous efforts to save animals gain more attention, those more serious procedures such ACL repairs and amputations amass large debts rather quickly. Well, Saturday, February 11th, 2017 showed just how awesome and caring residents of Northeast Ohio can be.

I should probably introduce myself briefly before I explain what I observed on a personal level this past Saturday.  My name is Gregg Senko.  I’ve been volunteering at FAPL since the autumn of 2016, usually in the form of writing articles to grace the face of our newsletter.  I’m originally from here but I did spend five years in Florida recently, with the majority of that being Sarasota.  When I was there, I volunteered at a large, non-kill shelter.  Their facility stood on eight acres of Florida land with several $15,000-apiece hurricane resistant huts that could house four dogs each or twice that many cats.  There was even a secondary location in a plaza storefront.  They were heavily promoted throughout Sarasota and Bradenton each year and the money flowed in quite generously.  They do great work down there and they deserve it.

However, FAPL doesn’t have the luxury of massive promotional work.  It’s not a household name across multiple counties.  It doesn’t have an influx of four-figure checks coming in on a whim.  We don’t have individual huts that cost the price of a small car.  I don’t mention these things out of jealousy or ill will.  I mention them because FAPL and its Executive Director, Greg Willey, do a lot with a little.  They operate on this notion of just moving forward and doing.  Put the animals’ welfare first and do what’s best for them.  Sometimes it’s just best not to overthink things.  Don’t sit there and debate the cost of the surgery for the animal.  Just do it…and that’s exactly what FAPL does.  It is not done with reckless abandon, but with caring intentions and a heart of gold, which brings us to February 11, 2017.

It was my first exposure to a Wags to Riches event and what a beautiful one it was.  Yes, there were a plethora of prizes that lined the walls of Tom’s Country Place, the venue of the evening’s gala.  Local celebrities from Fox 8 appeared, an authentic OSU Buckeyes helmet was up for grabs and the food was delicious.  As great as those aforementioned aspects are, they were not the highlights of the evening.  The highlight was when tables of guests made their donations and everyone was asked to stand.  Greg Willey stood proudly at the front of the room naming an amount and asking people to sit if their table collectively donated less than that.  As the stated amounts increased by Willey, more tables continued to sit and the emotion from FAPL’s Executive Director started to surface.

So here is where my mention of Florida comes full circle.  There is something about the people of Cleveland and its surrounding areas.  There is this undeniable vibe of positivity among its citizens.  Yeah we get six months of gray skies throughout the year.  I’ll take it.  We have harsh winters from time to time.  I’ll handle it.  We have some absolutely incredible, down to earth folks here who will give a paycheck to help an injured cat and dog.  I’ll embrace them.

As Greg’s voice started to crack in sheer emotion and surprise once the amount of $3,000 was announced and multiple tables were still standing, I would be lying if I told you I was not starting to experience the same swell of emotion.  Greg had to face the crowd of 300+ that night.  I got to sit in the back, shielding my teary eyes from the masses.  Why?  Because I have seen a little girl’s face light up at the shelter when she and her mom took home a cat and I have seen a middle-aged man dance around the parking lot in elation with his new dog.  Wags to Riches made moments like those possible.  As for that leading donor table, they surpassed the $5,000 mark.  What that table alone contributed was remarkable.  What all the guests did combined was like a greater power hugging your soul.  That’s Northeast Ohio for you.

(Left to right) FAPL Board President Deb McFadden, Fox 8 anchors Gabe Spiegel and Natalie Herbick, FAPL Board Vice President Amy Richards

Wags didn’t stop there though.  There was also a night of festivities that continued to put smiles on the faces of those in attendance.  A money-free casino evening was the theme as people took their seats at Blackjack tables and around the roulette wheel.  Personally I watched my chips disappear faster than a desert oasis.  Hey, just like real life in Vegas, but I digress.  While guests excitedly darted between tables, a collective “Awww!” of disappointment was let out over at the red and black spinning disc of chance.  Surely someone just missed red 27, but even when real money is not on the line, the engaging roulette wheel can apparently still have a cold, cold heart.

The evening’s musical entertainment was provided by local band Honeycreek.  The five-member group had a knack for playing a wide variety of tunes, even slowing some down to make them appropriate for the casual mood of the evening.  I even caught a Lady Gaga song played by them, with just enough of a toned down tempo and a jazzy club effect added to create a new spin on it.  Honeycreek didn’t miss a beat on the evening, playing a marathon of sets and showing no signs of musical fatigue.

This article cannot be concluded without a mention of some very special guests of honor.  A few cats and dogs from the shelter were on hand to meet and greet with the human attendees.  One in particular was a three-legged sharpei named Jersey who became the night’s social butterfly.  As Greg Willey said in his speech, the sharpei breed can typically be non-social and standoffish.  Jersey was anything but those two traits.  This dog was so incredibly happy with all the attention, all she did was put smiles on people’s faces.  This dog’s awesome demeanor is just begging for an adoption.  While less spotlight-enjoying, the other dogs and cats on hand were just as lovable in their own, more chill way.  Everyone has their own speed, even felines and canines.

By the end of the night, FAPL had exceeded its expected donation goal.  Attendees, many carrying prizes, left happy and yours truly took a second to stare at what all that hard work produced.  I’ll be honest.  I don’t know the origin story of the Friendship Animal Protective League in Elyria, Ohio.  I just know that whatever evolution it underwent over the years has led to a culmination of staff, volunteers and leadership that have turned this shelter into a well-oiled machine.  It is a place where cats and dogs get new leases on life, and sometimes so do the people that adopt them.  It is a place where dogs are trained and bonds are made.  It is a place that holds one night a year so dear to its heart to make it all possible.  Wags to Riches.  What a night.



Photographs courtesy of Abby McElhannon and Gregg Senko

Video courtesy of Dawn Ermler-Fischer




Staff Feature of February 2017: Denise


While Friendship APL has a significant number of volunteers, they also have a strong staff of employees there that keep things on track and moving forward. One of those employees happens to be one of the more seasoned veterans at Friendship who has seen and done quite a lot in her time there thus far.  With that being said, our February spotlight is on none other than our beloved Denise.


Gregg: You’re one of the few Humane Officers on staff here at FAPL.  What interested you in that position?

Denise: To be honest, it was never what I thought I’d be doing.  When I first started at the shelter in 1999, I did a little bit of everything around the office and at the front desk.  After doing that for about a year, I ended up becoming a Humane Officer and I’ve never looked back since.  It’s a been a wonderful job.


Gregg: What all is involved in being a Humane Officer?

Denise: It can be intense at times.  There are a number of prosecutions and resulting court appearances that must be made.  There are investigations, roughly 400 to 450 a year, that lead up to those prosecutions and a lot of reporting to document all of these situations.  Another facet of the job is seizing animals, most commonly dogs in unfavorable living conditions/situations.


Gregg: Cats too?

Denise:  Cats not so much, but we do seize a few cats from time to time.  The vast majority of the cases are definitely dogs and even the occasional farm animal like horses and pigs.  Since we can’t bring horses to the shelter, we have special foster homes set up for them.  One of the most important aspects of the Humane Officer position, however, is educating people.  It is very important to inform the public on how to properly care for their pets and what to look for in reporting bad situations.


Gregg: That definitely sounds like it keeps you busy!  Anything else on your résumé?

Denise: Yes actually.  I’ve been involved in the Grafton prison program with the shelter for the past 17 years.  It’s been pretty rewarding and it’s great to see how far that program has come.


Thank you for all your effort, Denise!

It sounds like she has a full plate so we’ll let her get back to work.




FAPL Offers Dog Training Classes

While it is a great thing to pair a homeless dog with a loving family, it is another to actually help that family train their new four-legged family member. There are multiple cogs in the process of getting an animal adopted.  It can start from getting them out of an unfavorable environment, but it doesn’t always end with the the adoption itself.  Sometimes the new dog is just a little to wily for his or her new home.  For the humans, it can be frustrating dealing with a pooch that’s operating on overdrive and not adhering to commands.  If you’re looking for help, search no more.  Friendship APL is offering training classes for you and your dog!

FAPL’s resident dog whisperer, Don Hitchens, has over 20 years experience working with canines.  One of his many résumé highlights is training Friendship APL dogs at the Grafton Correctional Institute, which allows previously difficult-to-adopt dogs (too shy or maybe a bit hyper) to get acclimated to their human counterparts and listening to commands.  Don is more than proficient in a number of training styles and will help you teach your dog in a variety of areas.

Teach Your Dog To:

  • Heel
  • Sit
  • Come
  • Stay
  • Lie down
  • and more!

Classes are 6 weeks for $125 involving basic obedience and socialization.  To sign up or schedule an appointment with Don Hitchens, please call 440-322-4321 (ext. 22) or email


For a glimpse of Don at work, check out the video below:


Hogs n’ Suds – Christmas Style

On December 18, 2016, Lake Erie Harley Davidson of Avon, Ohio held their annual Christmas party to much fanfare.  Customers of the dealership and general Harley fans showed up to enjoy in the celebration that was a good time had by all.  Lake Erie Harley Davidson was also very accommodating to the Friendship APL as they welcomed us with open arms for the event.

Hog Dog guarding the tip jar

As FAPL volunteers Diane, Kevin and Gregg showed up to the festivities, they quickly commandeered the beer table, pouring both Great Lakes Christmas Ale and Labatt Blue to tantalize the holiday-seeking taste buds of Harley aficionados.  As patrons lined up for their brew, the FAPL trio kept things moving while tips were all donated to the shelter.  For most of the beer drinkers on the evening, once they discovered that the tips went to help the animals, they dug a little deeper in the pockets to fill the jar, something which we are all very grateful for.

Holiday thirst? Consider it quenched.

Local blues favorite Colin Dussault was on hand to provide the evening’s entertainment as he and two fellow musicians took the floor.  The mini-band took a detour from their traditional blues flavor, performing a number of classic rock hits that were enjoyed by all in attendance.  Dussault and crew played at a steady pace with little let-up in their talented performance, playing to the very end of the evening’s party.

Colin Dussault acoustic band

Finally, a Christmas party just isn’t complete without a visit from a certain North Pole resident.  In one of his last appearances before his big night, Santa paid a visit to Lake Erie Harley Davidson.  Not only that, but jolly old Saint Nick came in full red and white fashion with his better half, Mrs. Claus, as the two sat for photos with kids and spread holiday cheer.  Horsepower, beer, Santa and helping animals.  I’d say Christmas came early this year!

Santa and Mrs. Claus

The relationship between Lake Erie Harley Davidson and the Friendship Animal Protective League goes back nearly three decades and we couldn’t be more appreciative of their help and attention.  This is especially the case during these cold winter months when strays roam our neighborhoods amongst the chilling air and bad owners leave their pets tethered outside on freezing winter nights.  If beers and bikes aren’t your thing, no worries, you can help out pets by contributing directly to FAPL and by reporting abusive and neglecting circumstances to FAPL and the proper authorities.

Look for the beer events to resume at Lake Erie Harley Davidson this March.  Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year!



Inmates Helping Dogs in Grafton

With all animals that come through the doors of the Friendship APL, our goal is to find them good homes.  Sometimes the situation at hand just isn’t conducive to that ideal scenario.  Take the case of canines for instance.  Like people, dogs (and cats for that matter) can have a wide range of personalities.  Some are more energetic than others.  Others are more reclusive.  Unfortunately, extremes in that behavioral spectrum do not relate to the most adoptable pet.  A hyper dog can have trouble adhering to commands and the overly shy dog may have minimal interaction with their human counterparts.

Shepherd mix

In lieu of scenarios that can prohibit an adoption that is ideal for all parties involved, Friendship APL has utilized an unconventional but extremely productive resource.  If I told you this resource was the GCI, most would pass off the three-letter abbreviation as the condensed name of some company that works with dogs.  That’s not entirely accurate, but not wholly incorrect either.  No it’s not a company, but yes they do work with dogs.  It’s the Grafton Correctional Institution.  Yes, it’s the “big house” for these animals, though the care and guidance they receive is anything but punishment.

This minimum/medium-security installation saw the implementation of the Love-a-Pup program in 1999.  In short, FAPL sends dogs to the prison where they go through an 8 to 12-week program to become a dog that has either come out of their shell or has calmed down to be an attentive companion.  In reality, it is much more than that.  Sure, that is a grand step for these animals and FAPL as well.  A dog that can be adopted frees up space in the shelter for another dog to get rescued off the streets, from a bad home or even from a kill shelter.  There is the human connection, however, that cannot be ignored.

German Shepherd

This Shepherd heeds his handler’s commands during a review of the dog’s progress.

Yes, the men that call the walls of GCI home have done some bad things to get there.  The point of this article is not to discuss who is a bad person and who just made bad decisions.  These guys are there for however long, and amidst the 1,999 inmates currently there, close to 20 of them get to have an opportunity to bring a new purpose to their confinement.  What started out as a six-dog program close to two decades ago, has more than tripled in size.  Once an inmate who applies to be a part of the program has been given the green light, they get to choose their dog who is assigned to him 24/7 for the aforementioned 8 to 12 weeks.

On the day I visited the Grafton Correctional Institution, 18 dogs and their inmate handlers came into a room, one by one, supervised by the facility’s Sgt. Roberts and FAPL’s own dog trainer, Don Hutchins.  The inmates and their dogs, ranging in all breeds and sizes, from a spunky Chihuahua-mix to an all-white icy-eyed Husky, stood in place while Don examined each pooch.  They then paraded their canine friends around the room as the dogs proudly walked in an orderly fashion at their handlers’ sides.  This was soon followed by a variety of commands from the inmates such as sit, stay and come.  Some dogs were a little more eager than others to get that treat in their handler’s hand, but that’s why it takes several weeks to condition these dogs and not a few weekends.


Some love the camera, some love the treats, but all will be attentive dogs once they finish the program.

As for the details of the program, the dogs are with their handlers around the clock.  They reside in the cell with them and have scheduled ‘bathroom’ breaks during the day.  Exceptions are made in cases of medical concerns for the animal such as bowel irritation or other instances. As previously discussed, the dogs learn commands and corrective behavior, have around-the-clock attention and receive grooming as necessary.  For the inmates, this is not merely a way to pass the hours.  They receive a certification for being a qualified dog handler after 4,000 hours of training which can take approximately two years.  They can also receive a grooming certification for the proper cleaning and maintenance of a dog.

Make no mistake as these are not simple pats on the back to boost morale.  While that may be accomplished in the process, the bigger picture sees someone who has acquired skills and is now marketable for hiring once they have served their time in prison.  For a country that has the highest recidivism rate in the world, this is extremely important so the individual does not somehow resort back to their ways of old.  Instead, they can be a functioning part of the workforce.



It is also worth mentioning how the program is not only therapeutic for the handlers, but for the prison as a whole.  The presence of dogs on the GCI grounds has a calming effect.  Non-handler inmates will take an interest in the animals, asking the men if they can pet their dog, while perusing any number of questions from the dog’s name to their breed and progress.  In addition, there is financial production as well.  The Love-a-Pup program has generated $11,000 in the last four years alone for the prison.  The money goes immediately back into the program, purchasing items such as cold weather gear, food and treats for the dogs, and top of the line grooming equipment such as a clipper vacuum, shark fin scissors and dental cleaning items.

These men take their job very seriously, and as Sgt. Roberts expressed to me, “All of these guys either had a dog before they got here or knew a neighbor that had a dog.”  That connection is undeniable in what I witnessed.  There is a chemistry between the imprisoned and their dogs and an emotional attachment that becomes apparent when it is time for the pair to part ways.  Each one has become a fit for their partner which has produced priceless results.  In one case, Sugar, a deaf dog found a great home caring for an autistic child.  In a separate instance, another canine graduate now pulls a handicapped child in a pool via special harness; exercise and recreation the child would have otherwise not known.  While ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘speak’ are foundation commands, these are examples that go above and beyond of what is expected at the end of 12 weeks.  While every dog that enters the program may not be a service dog, one cannot deny the importance of finding a loving home for a dog that is now eager to listen and respond to their human companion.

A Husky patiently awaits his next order.

Winterizing Our Animal Companions

Yesterday, November 19th, marked the first snow of the ’16-’17 winter season.  The wind had torn two tarps off of a train of parked shopping carts at a local store.  Snow had quickly begun falling as if someone flipped a light switch, rapidly speeding toward the earth as it pelted me in the face like tiny frigid needles.  Yes, welcome to the north coast.  Fortunately, any disdain for such inclement conditions is easily remedied.  I simply went inside and had lunch.  Problem solved, at least until I had to go back outside, but such is life in Northeast Ohio.

While none of us can control the weather, we can control where we go.  Unfortunately, this is not the case for animals.  I remember years ago, meteorologist and pet lover Dick Goddard had told viewers not to be fooled by the fact an animal such as a cat or a dog has a fur coat.  This is not a bulletproof vest from the elements.  To disagree with that is foolhardy and ultimately cruel.  Wolves and lynx can handle it.  Our dogs and cats are not wolves nor lynx.  So, with that in mind, it is important that we all follow the following steps to care for our animal companions that rely on us to feed them and keep them warm during the oncoming tundra-like conditions that Greater Cleveland is no stranger to.


#1  Bring Your Pets Indoors

I would refer you to the earlier mention of a cat or a dog’s fur coat.  It is not a bubble that protects them from the cold.  Would you sleep outside with a jacket when the temperatures drop to the 30’s or lower?  Of course not.  Bottom line, if you think it’s too cold for you, then it’s too cold for your pets.   Unless the dog house has a door that shuts with fully functioning heat like your house does, bring them in.  The same goes for folks who have cats that like to spend time outside.  Bring them in at night so as to avoid any type of frostbite or other injury.

cold outside

Always bring your pets inside in inclement conditions, especially the winter.


#2  Salt on the Driveway

The website recently published an article pointing out the dangers of walking your dog on salted surfaces in the winter.  Dogs often lick their paws after a walk.  Should they ingest any of the salt they walked on, it can cause oral and internal irritation.  It is important to note that it is not simply plain sodium that is getting thrown down on streets and sidewalks.  It is an ice-melting agent combined with a sodium element.  You wouldn’t put it on your fries, so don’t let your dog taste it either.  In short, walk your dog in areas free of the ice-melting chemicals if you can.  Even if this is not possible in your area, ALWAYS wipe your dog’s paws after the walk.


Ice-melts are not pet friendly


#3  Strays Have Feelings Too

If time and money allows, leave out a small structure for strays so they are protected from those biting Ohio winds.  Taking a Rubbermaid container and placing it on its side is a great start.  Tape the lid to the side facing the upward and now you’ve got an awning over the opening.  A few dishes with some food and water will go a long way for a feral cat with an empty belly.  Plus they may keep any rodent problem down by hanging around your home.  They may be fed, but they still have an instinct to hunt.  Another, slightly more elaborate option is to take a Rubbermaid container or styrofoam cooler (or any large plastic container) and cutting an entry hole in it for a cat.  Make sure the lid is secured and throw some hay in there so that animal has a warm place to rest.


A cat shelter is an inexpensive yet very helpful commodity for stray and feral felines.


#4  Hold the Turkey

Okay, so maybe this last tip doesn’t have to do with the weather, but as Thanksgiving is right around the corner, this one is worth mentioning.  Turkey skin is toxic to dogs.  Let me type that again.  Turkey skin is toxic to dogs.  I know some will read that and say, “Oh I’ve been giving that to my dogs for years and they’re fine.”  Hey I sped down I-480 last week and didn’t get caught.  That doesn’t make it okay.  Every Thanksgiving season, veterinary clinics get flooded with calls that the family dog is acting lethargic, vomiting or worse.  There is absolutely no sense in rolling the dice on this one, folks.  Your dog will still love you if you don’t give them turkey ever again.


Turkey skin is toxic to dogs. Refrain from feeding it to them.


So those are four simple yet vital tips to take to heart when caring for our pets and kindred stray spirits that roam our neighborhoods in the outside cold.  Sadly, every winter some unfortunate stories make the news of animals who did not make it through freezing temperatures or the perils of the outdoors.  Let’s do our best to follow the aforementioned steps and make our four-legged friends as comfortable as possible in these coming months.

Hope for Six, Come Back with Seven

November 14th saw FAPL Executive Director Greg Willey take a trip down to the Richland County Dog Shelter.  A previous article mentioned the facility’s spaciousness and resulting ability to house so many stray and surrendered pooches.  At the same time it is always ideal for a dog’s stay in such a place to be as minimal on time as possible.  That’s why Señor Willey and two volunteers made the trip to obtain six dogs to bring back in an effort to actively find them good homes.


Denny is eager for the camera and he’s still looking for a home.

FAPL’s large transport van will comfortably hold six travel kennels of varying sizes.  It is always our intent to first find dogs that are the most readily adoptable by reviewing their behavior and any available history.  Second, we try and maximize the capacity of those six kennels.  Now writing has always been my preference over math, but this was one time 6 = 7 made sense.  Let me explain.

Friendship APL

Midnight’s stay at FAPL was short as someone scooped up this lovable Lab-mix.

After a thorough review of all the animals present, it was deemed that there were seven dogs that would all have great potential for finding a great home quickly at the FAPL shelter.  Notice that problem though?  Six cages.  Seven dogs.  Oh the humanity.  Not so fast though!  With one of the dogs, Taz, being the tiny Yorkie that he was, easily fit on my lap for the return trip.  Viola Six cages occupied, dog #7 rode shotgun with me.


The recently adopted Taz

As of this writing, we are proud to say nearly all seven found homes in less than a week since their pick-up from Richland.  It’s just another badge of honor the shelter proudly wears in connecting good pets with their human companions.  Otis, whose picture isn’t shown here, is another black Lab-mix who, along with Denny (shown at the top) are still waiting for their people counterparts to discover them.  Whether it is Denny, Otis or any of the other dogs, cats or rabbits that suit your fancy, please stop in to see who can complete your family.  Even if it’s just to look, we welcome your visit at the Friendship APL!


Jack found his forever home on 11/19/16.