Guest Blogger: Donna Lynes-Miller, Gourmet Station

Another instalment in the Me, My Pet and I blog series where I ask bloggers to reveal their pet-loving side.

Toby Bloomberg of Diva Marketing referred me to Donna, saying "Max's best friend [Toby's dog] is her dog Alex.  I know her story will be wonderful!" And she was right...

Angelinwindowe Every life should have at least one passion. You know what I mean….some aspect of the arts, raising children, religion. In my case the passion was unmistakably animals and I knew it from a very early age. I was blessed to have a show pony named Red Bird when I was pre-teens. She was our pride and joy always took “blue.” My first canine friend was a Chihuahua named Michelle (after the Beatles song of the same name). We adored each other – a mutual admiration society of two.

One Sunday morning in the early 1980’s I awoke with a burning desire to adopt a puppy. The breed must be a Borzoi I proclaimed to a friend. Oddly enough I did not really know what a Borzoi was – so I looked it up in the encyclopedia (no Google in those days). There was a picture – Borzoi - all the glory of a long-haired royal sight hound wrapped into about 100 pounds of pure beauty. I lived in a 2 bedroom condo at the time, but no mind. This was going to work – it was my fate and I knew it. That afternoon I adopted my first of fourteen Borzoi, Dmitri.

Simba_mom_2 I could write a chapter on all fourteen of our Borzoi and someday I might. But today I’ll write about Simba, one of my “heart dogs.” I often felt guilty for loving him so much and then I realized something. I loved Simba no more or less than the others. The difference with a “heart dog” is that they allow us inside. They allow us to get so close that all the walls of separation melt away and we’re left with pure love. It’s a rare experience and one I wish for all dog lovers.

Simba delighted us as a puppy. He was all boy….curious, playful, innocent…all the things we adore in puppies. As he matured he developed a presence that was a bit paradoxical. At 130 pounds of pure muscle, he had a commanding presence and a goofy sense of humor at the same time. Did I mention how beautiful he was? Simba had the full package and we cherished 9 wonderful years with him. Then in August 2003 he suddenly broke a leg while romping in the yard – the cause was bone cancer and the emergency vets recommended euthanasia. Little did I know the aggressive nature of his cancer, but it did not matter. We had to try everything possible to beat the cancer. Simba endured amputation followed by a series of immune support treatments and for 6 months we were hopeful that we were winning. Then he lost the use of his other back leg as the cancer spread. That did not stop Simba. We purchased a canine cart and our boy was the hit of the neighborhood as we took our morning stroll. During this entire ordeal I learned more about courage from Simba that I could have imagined. Oh Simba had a few depressed days, but for the most part he was full of life through the whole ordeal, ready to ride in his van at the drop of a hat, and he never lost his quirky sense of humor. When the vets would get uptight, Simba just gave them his “chill out” look & they knew everything was going to be fine.

Simba_mom_wheelsjpg_2 Shortly after losing Simba, my husband and I started to work with the National Borzoi Rescue Foundation. The experience with Simba, my love for the breed…all led to our adopting several more Borzoi and today we are happy to have Mesha, Alex, China Doll, Zena and Katie as part of our family. Our support of the Foundation grew in 2006 as our company, GourmetStation (online merchant for upscale prepared food gifts) started a campaign for dog lovers called the “Dog House” program. By entering a code at checkout, customers donate $10 of their purchase to the NBRF plus they receive $10 off. It’s a win-win and the Foundation is able to use the cash for many causes like rescue vet expenses, transporting and supporting foster dogs. Getting involved with the Foundation is one of the best associations of our lives and it started one Sunday morning in 1984 when I declared, “today I must adopt a Borzoi.” If you wake up one morning and have a similar inclination, I have two words to say to you “do it!”

Donna Lynes-Miller is a foodservice veteran with 28 years in the foodservice industry. She has served as President of Arcop, the national purchasing cooperative for the Arby's system as well as Sr. VP of AFC Enterprises, the franchisor for Popeyes & Churchs. In 1999 she launched a new online brand, GourmetStation, providing upscale gourmet food gifts nationally.

20+ Pet Health Resources for Responsible Pet Owners

I continually research pet health issues and have a number of sources I regularly go to. After numerous requests from my compatriots to share the goodies, here are my favorite online resources on pet health in no particular order (I just numbered them so you could see there really were at least 20!)

Of course, you should see your own veterinarian if you suspect your pet has a health issue.

  1. AAHA Healthy Pet
    American Animal Hospital Association's pet owner site. Pain management, vaccine protocols, parasite protection, poison recognition all covered
  2. Cornell Feline Health Center
    Videos on caring for your diabetic cat, giving your cat a pill, taking your cat's temperature, and so on plus "Ask Elizabeth", a glossary of feline medical terms, and endless brochures on all aspects of a cat's health
  3. Doolitler
    Dr. Patty Khuly's discussions range from interesting cases that come through the door of her Miami practice, to pet issues of the day.
  4. Veterinary Cancer Society
    Organization of veterinary cancer specialists: medical, surgical, and radiation oncology, internists, pathologists, pharmacologists, and general practitioners. Lists current clinical research trials across the United States and veterinarians who are members in your area
  5. American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
    The ACVIM is the international certifying organization for veterinary specialists in large animal internal medicine, small animal internal medicine, cardiology, oncology, and neurology. Find a specialist near you
  6. The CSU Animal Cancer Center
    Based out of Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the Animal Cancer Center is loaded with all kinds of quality information on pet cancer. Treatments, what to expect, FAQ, nutrition - you name it, it's there
    This is Dr. Foster & Smith's site for expert pet health information. Categorized by species (cat, dog, bird, reptile, etc.) and topic (diseases & organ systems, nutrition, behavior issues, parasites, first aid and emergencies). Also includes some interesting case studies
  8. Embrace Pet Insurance
    Website loaded with information about pet insurance. Do you need it? What features should you care about? How to compare pet insurance policies. [I know, I'm totally biased on this one but we set it up to be the place to go online for information on pet insurance in general - check it out and see if I'm right]
  9. The Pet Center
    The virtual veterinary hospital covering all topics on pet health. Categorized by Waiting Room, Exam Room, Surgery, Radiology, and Pharmacy, includes hundreds of articles and even images of actual dog and cat surgery cases   
  10. Society of Endovascular Veterinary Surgery
    Organization that is pioneering the science of minimally invasive therapy through educating and training veterinarians, conducting research, and establishing standards of care. Case studies on feline intrahepatic portosystemic shunt and collapsing trachea
    A website by non-veterinarians chock full of practical tips on understanding and dealing with diabetes in cats and dogs. Includes useful info such as pictorial series of taking blood from a dog's tail or lip. 
  12. College of Veterinary Medicine at Urbana-Champaign
    Includes pet columns, a searchable database of weekly articles on a pet health topic, and contact information for a pet loss grief help line
  13. Millie's Millions
    An organization dedicated to helping pet wwners deal with their dog's cancer, the site has a video center for cancer FAQs, a cancer research and resource center, and a mentorship center
  14. Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine
    Large database of plain-english articles written by veterinary students and categorized on procedures, common problems, diseases, and misc. healthcare topics. 
  15. Wikipedia
    A searchable reader-generated encyclopedia of information on just about anything (and if it's not there, you can add it). Since any of hte information here can be edited by anyone on the web, you might want to cross-reference the content against other reputable sources and your vet to be sure it is correct.
  16. Your Pet's Best Friend
    Blog written by a small town vet covering case studies. Very readable and entertaining.
  17. Animal Poison Control Center
    ASPCA's resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435
  18. Toronto Vet
    Vet practicing in Toronto Canada discusses the cases he sees
  19. Veterinary Radiology
    VeterinaryRadiology provides primary and continuing education on veterinary radiology. While it's aimed at students of radiology and clinicians looking for digestible “chunks” of continuing education, it's a fascinating read for vet-geek lay people.
  20. Merck Veterinary Manual
    Put together by Merck and Merial, this covers the majority of conditions you might find in small or large domestic animals.
  21. Your favorite here.

Which websites do you find useful when researching pet health and why?

Donate to Best Friends Animal Society


"A better world through kindness to animals"

Since we announced the Embrace Pet Insurance alliance with the Best Friends Animal Society, several people have asked me how they can donate to Best Friends.

The easiest way is to go online and make a donation directly - just click the button up above and you're on your way. Or fax or mail in a donation in using this form.

They appreciate every penny you send in.

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Guest Blogger: Lea on what dog mom geeks do on lunch!


While on the phone with a pet parent client recent, one of our office dogs barked or whined, and when she heard the noise in the background she asked "Are you working from home?" She was quite surprised when I told her that no, we just bring our dogs to work.

DaisyEmbrace is just one of many employers that encourages friendly dogs to visit the office.  Google lists dogs at work as a perk of employment and Chipotle has a webpage dedicated to their office dogs.  It's great therapy during a long day, it encourages you to take a walk on your lunch, and certainly helps a dog release some of that extra energy.  There's not a dog here everyday, and we do rotate, so that everyone gets a turn and special attention each visit.

Today Belinda's little Yorkie, Daisy came in to meet my foster dog, Otis.  It could have gone a little better, but it made for cute videos...

Our Visit to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Jonathan Schultz, our Director of Business Development, went out to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah just before Christmas to meet with Embrace's new alliance partners. He writes about his visit in his first guest post.

Decjan3_011 I had the privilege of visiting the Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary for several days last month, and I must say, I was amazed at what they have done. I had read their book, and had seen some pictures, but didn’t really have a great grasp of life at the sanctuary until I got there. It is set in the spectacular canyon country in Southern UT, near Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Decjan3_016_2Canyon. The views of the mesas and desert from the sanctuary are beautiful, and the employees and pets are outside to enjoy the scenery everyday.

This is not like other animal adoption facilities I have ever seen, due to the fact that they reside in a very remote part of the country. They can stretch out and have built incredibly progressive housing for the pets. The octagons for the dogs and the housing for the cats are incredibly clean, full of light and have access to fresh air at the animals desire.

The cats are typically allowed to roam in the cat houses, and have screened in playgrounds that have been built by the Decjan3_019_2staff for the cats. Some play, some lounge, but all are comfortable. The dogs are in octagon shaped facilities, with five areas that each house 3-5 dogs. Each of the pods for the dogs have a run (yard) that is accessible through a door and the dogs love to go outside and play.

These octagons are scattered throughout “DogTown” and “DogTown Heights” and for the cats there are several adoption houses throughout “Cat World”. Other animals are certainly not forgotten with areas such as “Horse Haven”, “Parrot Landing” and the “Bunny House”. There is also a clinic for any animals that are sick, Decjan3_021become sick, or for people who live in the surrounding areas. At lunch, the staff and volunteers have a vegetarian buffet that is available everyday, and it gives the staff time to chat about the happenings in other areas of the sanctuary.

Best Friends loves visitors and I can see why. This is a very special place for so many animals and people who have entrusted Best Friends to take care of their animals, and they love to show that off. If you are in this part of the country, definitely stop by and go on a tour. They are scheduled regularly and you can see the beauty of Best Decjan3_024Friends for yourself. And if you are so inclined, sign up to volunteer for the day, or even a week for vacation.

We are very excited to have an alliance with Best Friends and look forward to helping the animals at the sanctuary and also the many animals in their network of pet parents.

Jonathan is shown with Danielle Aymar (Adoptions Manager), Vicki Kilmer-Rinker (Cause Marketing Manager) and Peggy Clark (Best Friends clinic associate)

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