Monday, December 30, 2013


The result of Norman’s blood work was bad. His kidneys were starting to fail. Dr. Bart had some strategies for us to try to stall his decline but there was nothing available to cure the problem. Normie had been losing weight and his normally ravenous appetite had slowed to a trickle. How much time did Norm have left? Dr. Bart said there was really no way to know. It could be tomorrow, it could be three years from now.

Norman has appeared periodically throughout my blogs. He got his name from his erratic, bordering on psychotic behavior. He was named after Norman Bates. He was the most gorgeous orange poof ball who could turn on you on a dime. He was smuggled by one of my students into his home from the streets and he was feeding him tuna out of the family pantry until he was busted by his mom. I got the phone call just as my living room was crowded with friends on our way to a Rolling Stones concert. So we put the trip on hold for a few minutes as I picked up the tiny dude. This was before my association with Planned Pethood, and I was actually able to secure a place in a shelter for him. But, with his maniacal behavior, he would have spent his entire life in jail. You know what happens next. Norm became part of the family for the next 16 years.

Norman came to us during a time when I was not enlightened that cats should be kept strictly indoors. His psychosis tapered off with age and he enjoyed stopping by and visiting the neighbors. Megan’s porch was one of his favorite haunts. He was dubbed the Mayor of Wildwood. On one occasion, I got a phone call from a lady who had found Norm’s collar and tag in her flower bed. He had been leading a double life. He ate there, slept there, and even had an alias. They called him Ranger. He was charming and beautiful and popular but he disdained real cat behavior. Normie never condescended to hunt in his life. A mouse would have been suicidal to end up in his clutches. He was more the GQ pretty boy cat.

Norm may have been a social butterfly around the neighborhood but he was a no-holds-barred pack leader at home. This all started with my rescue chow/mystery mix Helga who was kind of a full figured bully at first. The silly girl decided that it would be entertaining to chase him. Normie stood his ground, looked up, and in the blink of an eye, fired her up with two rights and a left. Hellie blinked and walked (no ran) away with her nose bleeding. From that day on, Norm schooled each and every dog who came through the door on the proper way to treat a cat. If they didn’t follow the proper kitty etiquette, Norman’s wrath followed.

It really seemed like Norman would live forever. He became ill at one point so I started feeding him from my plate. He, to this day, is the only animal EVER to accomplish that feat. We fell into a routine when his kidneys started to go. We went to the vet once a week for fluids and a B12 shot and he was energized until the next week. And I indulged him with ridiculously expensive cat food I would never normally buy. But after several months, the fluids were not helping anymore and Normie got really skinny. I could tell he felt terrible. I asked Dr. Bart for advice. I thank heaven that he is honest and frank but also kind and empathetic. It is an impossibly tough call to make. But it was time to say good bye to my boy. He left my heart broken.

It is an awful and gut wrenching decision when you have to let your best friend go. But releasing them from suffering is always the right thing to do. Norman is with me every day in my heart.

I have to laugh when I think of Helga’s reaction when she saw that Norman was approaching the pearly gates (if Hel MADE it to the pearly gates!). She had to be thinking, "oh crap, there is a new sheriff in town."

by Judy S.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


“Be Like Mike”. The Chicago Superstar? Well sort of…

This Chicago Mike is Mike “Sevi” Severino who was an amazingly remarkable human being. We just lost him recently at only 38 years old. One of the reasons Mike was dear to my heart was because he enjoyed my blog. I used to joke with him that I had tens of followers. We would laugh about the latest set of mishaps in my Keystone Cop like existence in the Planned Pethood foster world.

I first met Mike when he was doing transport and I was fostering Benjamin, a poodle/terrorist (oops terrier). Benny was pulled from the pound where Mike volunteered so he knew what a handful the little dude was. No matter how frustrated I became, Mike stayed staunchly in the little tornado’s corner. He was able to identify a sweet vulnerable spot in Benny that was nonexistent in other people’s eyes. Mike had my back and more importantly, Ben’s back for 13 long months of returns and a laundry list of crazy antics. He retained faith that there was a forever home out there for Benny and he was right.

By this point, I really enjoyed Mike’s company and was seated next to him at the Paw Hoorah (Planned Pethood’s major fundraiser). Somehow the conversation turned to my career as the Quiz Bowl coach at the high school where I worked. Our bond was about to be cemented. I joked with him about how NO ONE calls my home between 7:30 and 8:00 because I am tuned in to Jeopardy! My friend Margaret and I play Final Jeopardy together each and every evening. I tape the program if I am going to be gone, seriously. Now, to most people, this would add up to: wow, this woman is a whack job. Not Mike, no way. He blew my mind when he told me he had PASSED the Jeopardy! test and was eligible to be on the show. Mike was wicked smart. Sadly, he was never called to appear but I have no doubt that not only would he have won, he would have kicked some serious butt far surpassing any Ken Jennings record!

Mike experienced some very serious health problems that culminated in losing his leg. I never once heard him complain of his pain or frustration through months of rehab. And the minute the doc gave him the green light, Mike put his volunteer hat back on at Planned Pethood and the pound. At the same time he was dealing with his amputation, my foster dog Freddie the boxer underwent grueling surgery on both of his back legs. Again, Mike intuitively reached out to Freddie. They were like soul mates. The next revelation is a bit embarrassing on my part but it just demonstrates Sevi’s sense of humor and good nature. Not realizing that he was in the next room at an adoption event, I was having a conversation with Fred in which I was referring to him as “Peg Leg”. The next thing I know I hear this booming voice coming through the door saying, “Judy, who are you calling a peg leg?”.  This little bit of political incorrectness cracked him up.

There were many great Sevi stories related at his funeral service and I would like to repeat a few of my favorites. His Aunt Nancy called him the perfect nephew, partially because he would treat her to a Cubs game once a year. For all those years, she was under the impression that they shared a fervent love of the Cubs but he ultimately burst her bubble and admitted that there was no way but he hadn’t wanted to let her down. She also told us that Mike sent flowers on Mother’s Day because her son could not. He was serving in the military in Afghanistan.

When Mike joined the church he attended, they only knew him as Sevi, kind of like Prince or Madonna, where a one word name was all he needed. One of his friends’ kids called him Mr. Mike, The Pizza Fairy. I have to believe that is the ultimate compliment from a child. He had pride and love for his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, and they for him. His brothers paid tribute to him attending the funeral 100 or so strong. Mike and his dog Ruby had unconditional love for one another. Ruby tales (tails?) abounded.

One other thing I learned was that Mike was a freak about proper grammar. So am I. I corrected the grammar of my students for years and mostly bit my tongue with my friends. So forgive me Sevi, if there are any slip ups in this blog. The last time I saw Mike, he was wheeling around the dogs at an adoption event giving them lunch meat . Lunch meat!  He even cooked for the special needs dogs at the pound. He called it K9 Meals on Wheels.That is the picture I have emblazoned on my brain. Mike in the zone making the dogs blissfully happy.

by Judy Szewczak

Friday, September 27, 2013


As oxymoronic as it sounds, the most colorful kittens I have fostered this season were black. I have previously written about the plight of black dogs and cats. They are, tragically, the least adopted and most euthanized group in the rescue world. These poor creatures linger in shelters and foster care. Unfortunately, in many cases, people look for surface beauty not personality when searching for their new canine or feline companion. Thankfully, Planned Pethood is a rescue that does not discriminate by color, age, or health status. Let’s take a look at my latest crop of ebony beauties.

Early on this kitten season, I got a call to pick up the Flinstones. BTW, you have to be of a certain age to even know who the Flinstones are. I took Pebbles and Wilma to meet our kindergarten friends at Beverly Elementary, and when I introduced them as the Flinstones, I just got blank stares. Mrs. Steinman explained that these kids had never seen the cartoon. 
Five of the six Stones were good to go but the little black dude had to have his eye removed due to an infection that was left untreated. But unlike most black kittens, he was the first to get adopted. He was only with us for one day! It was a good thing too. He was supposed to be separated from the rest of the kittens so he didn’t get batted in his former eye. 

He was having none of it. The bookkeeper at the vet’s office, Thelma, fell in love with him and he currently resides with her family, a BIG kitty and a little dog. His name is now Mike, after the little monster with one eye in Monster’s Inc.

The next black dude who crossed my path was a little spitfire named Horatio. Now really, what do you call a kitty with that name, Hor? So we shortened it to Ratio. This minute maniac child was rescued after he was hit by a car. Thankfully, he didn’t have any serious injuries, just some road rash and a hysterical limp on his back leg (only for a couple of weeks). 

The vet said cage rest was mandatory but they forgot to tell Ratio. I separated him in a dog crate with his own food, water, litter box, and toys. Oh h-E- double-hockey-sticks no. Ratio was swinging from the bars like a monkey. Out into the general population for this little black tornado. 
He was adopted quickly too. A math professor who loved his name adopted him. My advice to the family was to fasten their seatbelts. They insisted that was exactly the type of kitten they wanted (they actually adopted a buddy for him too). I kept checking my porch for the next couple of days to make sure Ratio wasn’t sitting there with his bags packed ready to return to me.

The most memorable black of the season is Elphaba, for sure. As is usually the case, I got an evening call about a kitten in a dire situation. This one was from my kind-hearted niece Lyndsey. Some deadbeats had ditched a black kitten and there were torrential rainstorms predicted for that night. 

After seeking an o.k. from PPI to take her into the program, I asked Lyndsey what she would like to name my new charge. She decided Elphaba, the green witch from the musical “Wicked” would suit her (she wore black, you know black is the new pink). She could not have chosen a more appropriate name.
Elphie purred when I took her from Lyn. But after she was vetted, something seemed wrong. She was acting mean to the other kittens so I reached for her to put her in a crate for a while. To my stunned disbelief, she nailed me with both teeth and claws. Blood was spurting from my hand all over the room. 

This was something I had never experienced before. Could she be feral? Thanks to cat foster extraordinaire, Nancy F, for coming to our rescue. She explained that Elph had been traumatized by her experience at the vet. She instructed me to wrap her in a blanket and feed her chicken several times a day until she trusted humans again. 

Food is a powerful tool used to redirect the brain. And believe me, it had to be a blanket substantial enough to contain her. She was NOT happy. She made noises I had never heard come from a cat. I thought her little head was going to spin around and we would have to perform an exorcism. But it worked! After a few days, she was my bestie. The purr was nonstop when I held her and she was even more loving than before. Elphaba was adopted in Ann Arbor along with another one of her foster kitten roommates.
As kitten season draws to a close, Mike, Ratio, and Elphaba will remain with me in spirit. They are three kittens I am not likely to forget anytime soon. So, if you are considering adopting, don’t forget to consider the abandoned and forgotten blacks out there. Before I close, I just want to mention my two newest fosters, Ernie and Erma. They are two itty bitty black kittens who were going to be released after they were fixed if Planned Pethood could not find a foster for them. They are happy, funny, and safe. Maybe you will hear more about them in the future.

--Judy S

Friday, August 30, 2013


The picture was stunning. This was the most gorgeous boxer I had ever seen. I found out later that this jail picture had won a contest at a local newspaper. His wonderful underbite is classic. My Planned Pethood foster mentality kicked into high gear. This dog will get adopted in about a minute. And our intake coordinator, Kyle, said he was a free dog because his fee had been sponsored by a business. OMG, things could not have been further from the truth! Freddie was destined to be with us for the better part of a year and cost PPI dearly.

We busted Fred out of the pound after literally months of prison time. And he was scary skinny weighing only 53 lbs. with every rib sticking out (he was a fit 67 lbs. upon adoption). His hipbones were so prominent that he looked like a walking skeleton. He had a nasty case of whip worms as well. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. He entered our home with his pound name but we left that behind along with the jacked up past he had endured. So why Freddie? Well, one of the first things he did was try to mate with one of Bob’s (my semi-significant other) legs. Ha! My nephew John surmised since he was so skinny and he liked men that Freddie Mercury should be his namesake and it stuck.

I became concerned because Fred kept holding his back leg. So it was off to the vet for my new foster dude. It did not take long to learn that he HATED the vet, any vet. God bless Dr. Dillon, he took it in his stride that Fred kept trying to nip him. That visit resulted in very, very bad news. Fred had a ruptured cruciate on one leg and a luxating patella on the other (a detached kneecap). He had overused his right leg due to the pain he experienced from the knee, rupturing the cruciate, and he probably had the injuries for four years! He had been in excruciating pain for all that time. Mystery solved about his attitude toward vets. Sometimes I hate people. Without extensive, expensive surgery, he would continue to deteriorate. Thankfully, Planned Pethood is in it for the long haul, regardless of cost.

Our next stop was the orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Thompson, who Fred tried to bite at each and every exam which turned out to be about a dozen in all. Freddie looked a bit like Frankenstein’s monster with each leg stapled up and down after his surgery on BOTH legs. He was fitted with an e-collar (lampshade) as well which he hated. He had to be crated 24/7 unless he was on a leash to go out to go potty. I don’t know if this was harder on Fred or on me. Talk about stress. Well, you know the expression, the best laid plans…

Nothing went according to plan. His recovery and rehab were supposed to take a total of 8 weeks which turned into months. His left leg would not heal, it kept busting open due to the deep, deep incision right over the knee. He went back over and over and over again to the vet. I would wake up in the middle of the night and cry. But my big sweet boy was a trooper and did not let any of this get him down.
The surgeries were only partially successful. His cruciate was repaired as good as new. But his patella became dislocated again after several weeks. Dr. T., who was prone to folksy expressions, called his leg a soup sandwich. It was the worst he had ever seen. Fred now faced amputation unless we could get him to use the leg. So it was off to hydrotherapy next. Here we had an amazing change of attitude. Though not a vet, Fred LOVED his hydrotherapist, Melissa, as she put him through his paces twice a week for the next six weeks. It is a fascinating process for those of you not familiar with it. And it worked, sort of. Fred regained the use of his leg but it will never work normally again. But amputation was averted.

Then came the most difficult part of this whole process. The big dude was ready for his forever home. By this time, Freddie was a big old mama’s boy. He is hilarious, charming, enthusiastic, and a terrible drinker. He loved the other dogs and snuggled with the cats. He rode with me wherever I went when on a road trip, short and long. He would bathe Bob’s whole face with his kisses and if he forgot to close his mouth all the way, a French kiss or two. We got a few well meaning applications but they were definitely not right.

Then I opened my email and could not believe my eyes. It was the best app I had ever seen. Cheryll and Curt had been adopting rescue and handicapped boxers for 20 years. The most recent had passed away after only 3 months because when they adopted him, he had cancer. I guess I don’t need to tell you the ending to this story. Fred is living in his forever home with some of the most incredible people I have ever met. I have to admit, I was sobbing as I drove home from delivering my compadre to his new family.
I want to leave you with part of a message I got from Curt and Cheryll. “I wanted to tell you how wonderful he is doing. Even though Freddie has some physical scars from his life, we can tell that emotionally he is A+. What a carefree soul and a perfect gentleman. We are so pleased to have him here…and Freddie sends you a sloppy kiss and hug!” I knew then he no longer needed me and I could let him go.

by Judy Szewczak

Thursday, June 27, 2013

From Homeless to Abducted to Harassed to Happily Ever After

BETTE:  From Homeless to Abducted to Harassed to Happily Ever After

Bette’s tale truly belongs under the category “Truth is stranger than fiction”. You could not make this story up. Bette was the beloved cat of Bob, my semi-significant other, who you have met in my previous blogs. She became his first pet as an adult, defying his edict that he was not going to have any animal companions in his new house. I guess the poor guy was up against odds that were just too great to overcome.

Bette’s story begins before my association with Planned Pethood but I have rescue in my blood and it was a solo effort for a long time. My sister, Sue, called to tell me that some deadbeats in her neighborhood moved and had abandoned their cat. She was homeless and starving and Sue had a cat aggressive dog who only accepted the kitties already in his pack. So it was time to do a bit of scheming. After golf league and a few adult beverages, I relayed to Bob the plight of Bette and how terribly upset I was about it. He relented and allowed that she could come and stay for a week until we found her a home. When we arrived with the cat in her carrier, we took him by surprise. He didn’t really recall agreeing to permit his new roommate to bunk up there as a temp. He even commented, “I don’t think this would hold up in court”.

After several weeks of Bette’s presence, Bob accepted the inevitable. He now had a cat and both he and Miss Bett were very content with the situation. She filled out (way out at one point) and was quite a pretty dark tortie who was very friendly and laid back. Things went along in that vein and it looked like a happily ever after ending until Bette got out one night and disappeared. Bob was in a panic. She had tags with her name and phone number. We searched, we called, we rang doorbells, we did it all. I even got up on the roof to look for her and I am terrified of heights. It was to no avail. But then, a few weeks later, again after golf league, Bob got an ominous call demanding a ransom for his cat. Some slimy people demanded he come and get his cat or they would “get rid of her for good”. Ultimately, a woman drove the cat back to Bob’s house and gave her back in exchange for the few dollars he had left in his wallet after his night out with the boys. And, again, it looked like happily ever after for Bette and Bob.

Then one of my students called to tell me about a woman in her neighborhood whose cat had kittens. The woman would only let the cat, not the kittens, in the house. The kid pleaded, “Ms. Szewczak, those kittens will die this winter”. So, the next thing you know, we had a litter of kittens in a laundry basket in my classroom for the day. We were able to find responsible, amazing adult homes for them all but one. I figured by this point, Bette and Bob would like an additional roommate. I am a huge believer in adopting 2 of everything so they have a companion of their own kind. It worked on the Ark, right? So I took Joan over to what I thought would be her forever home. First, Bob protested about the name. He said, I am a 40-something single male with two cats named Bette and Joan. What will people think? After much cajoling and reassurance, he relented. But it never really worked out. You can take the girl out of the ‘hood but you can’t take the ‘hood out of the girl. She pestered both poor Bette and Bob almost to death so off she went. FYI, Joan is now 13, healthy and happy and residing with me and my pack.

Bette and Bob stuck together through thick and thin. She had a wonderful life after those serious false starts. She became ill when she was about 12 or 13 and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Bob had a piece of his heart cut out the day he had to have her put down. They had been inseparable for so many years. He could not face the idea of replacing her so he decided to foster instead. Long story short, he failed miserably at fostering. He adopted both of his fosters, Brittney and Alice. Coincidentally, that is the very reason we lose many wonderful fosters. Thank heaven for rescues like Planned Pethood who are there to pitch in and help cats like Bette who find themselves on the street through no fault of their own. Love to our major players in this drama: Sue, Bob, and of course Bette.

By Judy Szewczak

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Flyering for our community

When a friend or family member calls and asks if you want to get up extra early on Saturday morning and walk around for three hours sticking fliers in people’s doors, the sensible person claims to be sick, but then, if they are like me, they get sucked into asking, “Fliers for what?”  Even after I found out that Planned Pethood had been awarded a grant to spay and neuter cats FOR FREE in the 43605 zip code, and that these fliers were crucial to letting families know, I admit—I did check the weather.  I mean, 40F and raining?  I don’t think so!  But lucky for me, and those kitties who need to get fixed, and their parents who need the free service, it was sixty and sunny a couple Saturdays ago, so off I went.  Sue and I met up at 8:00 a.m. and drove to East Toledo near Navarre Park, to get the word out. 
If any of you have canvassed or done other door-to-door style work you might know a few things.  It’s a lot of exercise going up and down stoops.  Check.  No need for the treadmill or a step class later that day.  It’s lovely to explore new parts of your city.  Check.  Navarre Park is a rolling few blocks of grass with a large shelter house and playground.  That day the neighborhood was hosting a free party for residents.  Three clowns stood around waiting for the kids and several people laid out free cookies and fired up a hot dog cart.  One table was covered in craft supplies for the kids to make bracelets and key chains.  The sense of community was a delightful reminder of the benefits of really living in a place—staying, that is, and not just passing through.

Sue and I passed through, up one street and then down another.  I was a little nervous about going up to people’s stoops and sliding a flier in their door handle, or pinching it between the storm and jamb.  Isn’t it rude to leave papers people may not want?  But what I found is that people appreciated the fliers.  They knew there were several stray cats around.  Moreover, they knew which houses particular strays hung around, and which cats had recently had litters.  One woman had trapped several cats herself and gotten them fixed.  Another resident let us know about a neighbor who tried to take in and fix cats but was running out of resources and could sure use our free services.  Another gentleman thanked us for helping the neighborhood and the cats.  Along the way I had a chance to see the newish Raymer Elementary School.  A handsome building!  Plus, Sue and I had a good time guessing what some of the other older buildings began life as.  One was clearly a Catholic parish school, another looked to be an old market that had been converted to private housing.  I thought of my grandmother’s old Lagrinka neighborhood, and the Polish markets she went to as a kid that looked a lot like that building. 

I admit that we were a little foot-sore by the end.  And that we may have taken a little break and driven over to the convenience store on the corner for Diet Coke and a snack.  But in the end I sure was glad that I wasn’t “sick” that day and that I’d gone out to help both the cats and their families.  It was obvious that even the cats without homes had people looking out for them, but that these folks needed help.  If you’ve ever read about how fast a mom cat can become a clowder—that’s a big group of cats, like a school of fish or a herd of buffalo—then you know that one or two or three people can’t control the stray cat population in a neighborhood.  

 It’s a big job, and we’ve all got to pitch in. 

About the Grant:
Planned Pethood received a grant from PetSmart Charities for $94K to use in 2013 and 2014 to help control the cat population in our area.  They are offering FREE neutering/spaying to the 43605 zip code.  This is for owned cats only.  Planned Pethood also conducts a trap/neuter/release program for feral cats who are not adoptable or for free-roaming cats. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


As Ida, Stanley, and I round the bend, they spot him. With complete disregard for me, their so-called master, they sprint down the track toward the elderly gentleman strolling through the park. Their target is Jack who keeps his pockets stuffed with treats. He never, ever disappoints Ida and Stan. Both he and Annie, his basset hound, are senior citizens who are our regular walking companions. We walk about two miles every day, rain or shine, freezing or stifling. We have acquired quite an eclectic group of friends (hard core walkers, all), both canine and human, in the process. I can usually be counted on to provide some entertainment to onlookers depending on how many Planned Pethood fosters I am attempting to walk in addition to my own pack.

Jack and Annie are two of my favorite pals from the park. Jack is in his 80’s but is definitely young at heart and in spirit. He played for the champion Waite High Indian football team in 1947. They were so tough and confident that his coach challenged anyone in the entire nation to try to whip them. So, off they went on a train to El Paso, for a gridiron contest across the country and they backed their coach’s boast with a victory. That was just the beginning of Jack’s globetrotting. He has visited every single state and many countries including the exotic Tahiti.

My favorite Jack story deals with Annie’s lack of motivation. She does not share Jack’s enthusiasm for a full and brisk walk. She is more of an ambler and she loves a short cut. On one occasion, Jack’s wife received a phone call from the park. A walker concluded that Annie was either lost or abandoned because she did not see her owner in the immediate vicinity. After reading the super friendly Annie’s tag, she reached his wife who began to laugh. She told her to look up, and did she see Jack? She did indeed. She thanked the woman and assured her that Miss Bassett just had a mind of her own and her people were always near.

We always know when Joann is approaching the park. Her ancient chessie, Sidney, boisterously announces their arrival from the window of the car. Joann is one of those people who is always impeccably coiffed no matter the time of day or the weather. This is in stark contrast to myself with my mismatched clothing, no make up, and ripped up tennies. Sid cannot really hear or see very well anymore but he still loves his trips to the park. And, you have to give it to the guy, he will still give it the old college try and attempt to mount an unsuspecting dog on occasion. Joann’s granddaughter works at the dog warden’s office so she is especially enthusiastic when my fosters have been rescued from there. We have a gay old time discussing current events, restaurants, and of course, dogs as we walk.

My soulmate in rescue from the park is Denise who is a one woman dynamo. She walks Jack, a very senior and arthritic black lab who, like Ida, is a ball-aholic. He walks the entire park with one in his mouth (unless Ida seizes on the opportunity to steal it). Duke is an elderly and (like Annie) a pokey, always sniffing basset who is sometimes walked by Denise’s son, Casey. They have matching energies as they lag considerably behind. Ozzie is a supercharged jack russell who is ALL personality. Oz is a character with a capital ‘C’, all decked out in his camo coat. He was a stray who stole Denise and her family’s hearts. He does what I call “drive bys” where he will lull his companions into a sense of complacency, then he attacks his unsuspecting buddies with an attack from the rear. Finally, the newest addition is Lila, a feisty rottie puppy, who was rescued from some backyard breeders. And, in addition to saving animal lives, Denise is something of a local celebrity, appearing on the T.V. show “Cops” (as a cop, not a criminal).

Whew, Denise has been busy with her own personal dog rescue, right? We haven’t even mentioned the lives she has saved in the cat world. She had rescued four kitties from a variety of dire situations already when we met but number five would soon be on the way. She called to see if Planned Pethood could take him into the program. He was dumped at the park and some evil kids were throwing rocks at the little dude so she scooped him up and took him home. But by the time I received the o.k. to take the new guy in, it was too late. Denise and her family had bonded with him and he had found his forever home.

I cannot leave the park without mentioning Mark. He’s retired navy and has never had a dog before. He adopted a stunning 100 lb. weimareiner from the pound, named with originality, Buddy. He (Buddy not Mark) loves me. He bounds toward me because of my secret weapon, a baggie stuffed with treats. My lab Ida is crazy for Mark because most of the time he is packin’ a ball. Joann and like-minded walkers had to do a little subtle training with Mark in park etiquette. I know, TMI, but when that dog poops, it is substantial. We are hoping that he will be a confirmed environmentalist from now on. It does take the joy out of a day at the park when you or your kids step in a pile of poo. 

I know you pretty much need a scorecard to keep track of all the people and dogs in this blog. When I meet new people at the park, inevitably I will be able to recall the dog’s name but not the person the next time we encounter them. So just to recap, here’s a shout out to my compadres from the park: Jack, Joann, Denise, and Mark (the humans) and to Annie, Sidney, Jack, Duke, Ozzie, Lila, and Buddy (the dogs). And thanks to Ida and Stanley and my Planned Pethood fosters for taking me to the park daily or my butt would be planted firmly on the couch.

By Judy Szewczak

Sunday, March 24, 2013


A little voice keeps telling me it’s time, it’s time, it is time to write another blog for Planned Pethood. But I have continued to put this one off because it is so painful to relive. The summer of 2011 was sweltering, nasty, and miserable. But it wasn’t just the weather that was unbearable, it was a season of terrible loss for me.  Things began well enough, I was the proud pack leader of three incredible labs. Rudy was an elderly, happy black lab with pronounced arthritis. Imelda was a stunningly gorgeous, loving chocolate lab. Rocky was one of the most handsome, fabulous yellow labs I had ever seen. I had a complete set, not on purpose, but it was pretty cool to head to the park with a lab of each color.

All three of the dogs were rescued from some pretty crappy circumstances. When my beloved Lucy died, I knew I needed another lab after a few months of just Helga and me on our own. This was before my association with Planned Pethood and I found Rudy online. He was seven and his family threw him away because they were expecting a baby. It was their loss because he would have made the best nanny any kid could ask for. Anyway, they ditched him to a shelter out in the country. I was apprehensive when I struck out to get him. I told my boss if I was not at work on Monday, I was in a wood chipper out in deliverance-ville. Funny, but this was not too far from the truth. When I arrived, I asked to use the restroom. The response was, “oh you don’t want to go in there, we found a rat in there this morning”. As fast as I could, I threw the fee on the counter, snatched up Rudy, and got the hell out of there.

Imelda came to us from the pound as a foster dog. She was a puppy mill dog who spent her entire life in a cage, breeding. For whatever reason, she was no longer useful to these monsters, so they threw her into the pound to be euthanized. This type of cruelty is unimaginable but it was even worse with a lab like Imelda because she craved human companionship and love. She had the temperament of an angel; which sounds pretty corny but it was true. Everyone who met her thought they were so special because of all the attention she showered on them. I never really had the heart to tell them she treated everyone like that. She had a soft brown coat with exactly the same color eyes. I used to quote from the “Wizard of Oz” to her all the time, “Can you dye my eyes to match my gown?” When I went to the vet to pick her up, office manager Terry said to me, “this dog will never leave your house, you will adopt her”. I had recently lost my soul mate Helga, and Terry was right. She was only 4 years old so I knew we would have many wonderful years together.

Rocky who was six-ish completed my lab triumvirate. He was a foster dog from the pound as well. His was one of those urgent cases. He was going to be put down if we didn’t get him out of there immediately. He was picked up as a stray but the pound found his owners. When contacted, they dropped off his medication, then said, "keep him". You see he was prone to seizures and had to take medication twice a day which I guess was just too bothersome for them. Rockstar was just not getting the right kind of interest from potential adopters due to his disability so you know what happened next, he became part of the pack. He was hardwired to balls and toys. You would never see Rock without one or the other in his mouth. Joy is the word that comes to mind when I think of my big guy. He lived every moment of his life with joy and gusto.

I knew something was wrong when my sweet Imelda showed no interest in going for a walk. Having lived her life in a cage, the park was her favorite destination. She would stroll with the pack and occasionally half halfheartedly chase a squirrel or two.

Then she refused to eat- which set off warning bells. She went to the vet but they could not find anything wrong. As she continued to decline, we returned to the vet where she collapsed and died. I felt like I was trapped in a nightmare, in one of those tacky T.V. hospital dramas. They started CPR and other techniques until I told them to stop, to let her go. She died probably of lung cancer which xrays finally showed. She was only six.

It is still a mystery to me how anyone could dump a dog like Rudy. He was kind, loving, and affectionate. He welcomed each and every foster dog, showing them the ropes, allowing them to share his toys and bones. By the summer of 2011, he was 13 ½ and had painful arthritic hips and legs. He could no longer walk with the pack at the park but there was no way he was going to give up one of the pleasures of his life. So, when the pack got back, Rudy and I went on the senior walk every day. He was alert, eating well, and loving but his body was giving out on him. We had rugs on every tile surface so he did not slip and hurt himself. We created a step for him to get in and out of bed. We tried a variety of medications. I even gave him injections to relieve the pain. When even that failed to give him some relief, Bob and I took that last trip with Ru. After his favorite meal and a trip to the park where we had to lift him out of the car, he was put down so he would be finally out of pain. My wonderful, loving boy was gone.

After losing Imelda in June and Rudy in July, I clung fiercely to Rocky. He was my constant companion. I secretly believe he kind of enjoyed being an only child. Then one day he came in after a potty break with a bloody nose. He immediately went to the vet where he underwent some tests. Nothing conclusive showed up and the bloody nose was forgotten for a little while. But it came back with a vengeance and I just could not believe what was happening. It was some kind of a curse come to life. We had an appointment with a specialist for a procedure to scope his sinuses but he took a turn for the worse and we headed for the e-vet where she recommended we end his suffering. Rocks probably died of brain cancer.

This horrific summer took its toll on me. I did not adopt another dog for nearly a year. There were lots of fosters here in the meantime. I remember at one point there were five! One of them was a heart worm positive black lab named Ida who has become a permanent resident. Then Stanley, another heartworm positive dog, a shepherd mix decided he would stay here as well as part of the pack. Many adoptive families turn to Planned Pethood after they have experienced the loss of their companion. The right timing is different for everyone but in each and every case, my heart goes out to them. I have walked in those shoes. So many tears, such heartbreak. And Rudy, Imelda, and Rocky still live on in my heart. 

--Judy S

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What's the Paw Hoorah?

Looking for a way to help the animals of Planned Pethood? Looking for a good time? Here’s a way to do both! Please join us at our Paw Hoorah ’13!!

The Paw Hoorah is the primary fund raiser for Planned Pethood. This is the 12th Paw, and we’re proud to say that it has grown into one of the premier fund raising events in the city.

Once again, the venue will be the spectacular Toledo Country Club with its views of the Maumee River. We’ll have gourmet grazing stations, live entertainment and an open bar. Our silent and live auctions are high-paced and exciting. Our guest emcees Christina Williams and Tony Geftos will keep the night lively, and our presentation is sure to move and amaze you. You’ll understand what we mean when we say There’s Always a Story.

We’re looking for individuals or companies willing to sponsor this wonderful event. Sponsorships begin at $100. We also need donations for our auction. We need trips, artwork, tickets to sporting events and personal luxuries and services. Your donation will be noted not only on our web site but you will also be acknowledged the evening of the event.

Please visit the Paw Hoorah page our web site to see how you can contribute or buy tickets. Don’t wait! Last year, the Paw was a sold out event!
We’re proud to be the voice of the animals in need. We’re not afraid to ask for help. We need your donations, your support and your attendance!

Thursday, February 14, 2013


For most people the dog or cat question is easy to answer. People absolutely define themselves as strictly one or the other. Planned Pethood has both a dog program and a cat program. As far as I can tell, I am the only person to foster both dogs and kittens on a regular basis. But looks can be deceiving. I would say that a majority of foster parents cohabit with both dogs and cats regardless of whom they foster. I remember my shocked expression when profligate cat foster Nancy showed me the picture of her SEVEN dogs! Cat foster Lynn who has more kitty fosters than anyone, rescued a twelve year old Chihuahua with three teeth named Carmen to add to her pack that includes two of the most cat-friendly labs ever. Great Dane owner and foster Cheryl has absolutely the bravest cat in the universe who adopted Cheryl and the big guys, showing up at her home and never leaving.

Many people have never even given cats a chance. I can’t even count how many times people I meet declare their hatred toward cats but when questioned further, they have never lived with one. I wish each and every one of them could have the opportunity to meet Norman, the later years. He came to me as we prepared to head to Detroit for a Rolling Stones concert. One of my students called to say his mother had discovered that he had smuggled the little dude into the house, feeding him the family’s stock of tuna fish, and she was NOT happy. So, with my house full of people awaiting our departure, I detoured to pick up this orange ball of fluff.

I actually found a place in a shelter for Norman. And he was a stunningly beautiful kitten, so by rights, he should have been adopted in no time. But, beauty aside, he was the meanest little ba$+ard I had ever seen. That is how he got his name. He became Norman as in Norman Bates of the movie “Psycho” due to his mercurial personality. He lashed out and bit and he scratched out of nowhere. Those are not the qualities adoptive families are seeking so, long story short, he’s still here and has been for the past 16 years. He captured my heart. At one point he became very sick and would not eat so I let him eat from my plate. To this day, he is the only animal ever permitted to beg. For all these years, he has been the pack leader in my home. He holds his ground when he meets each new foster dog. If any of them dare make a threatening move, he fires them up. Over the years, my own dogs have taken a different route through rooms, around Norm, to avoid his wrath. One time we heard Rudy, my black lab, crying in the asement. In a rush to find out why, we discovered Normie lying on the steps and poor Rudy was afraid to come upstairs. I am happy to report that Norman has mellowed with age and is incredibly loving and is a beloved cat ambassador throughout the neighborhood.

So many dogs have touched my heart over the years. One of my favorite fosters was a chubby, older beagle named Red. He came to me in the most unusual manner. Someone reported that one of my former foster dogs was dumped at a local shelter. I knew this could not be the case because I knew he was safe and happy in his forever home. But, to appease the powers that be, I acquiesced to go to the shelter to prove it was not my foster. It wasn’t. But I stumbled upon the most pitiful sight of this poor dog shaking and miserable in a cage. I called PPI and obtained an o.k. to bring him into the program. And, soon realized Red PLAYED me. The minute he walked through my door, the shaking, sad dog disappeared entirely. He did not miss a beat. He made himself right at home with us for the next several months.

When you look in the dictionary under the word personality, you find Red’s picture. He was the most unforgettable character. He weighed in at 51 lbs. on arrival. We began a program of diet and exercise, green beans, green beans, green beans. But in spite of his weight, he was pure beagle. He would tear after the squirrels with his wail, oooooowwwwwww!! He would get so carried away that he would pull up lame and not be able to go to the park for a couple of days. He was adopted by Ruth Ann and her brother Ronald who cherished him for the next year. I knew he had found the right home when they stopped by to get his picture taken with Santa and they related the story of Red’s pawdicure. They took him to a doggie salon where they soaked his paws, trimmed his nails, then applied clear polish (colors were for girls). Then, sadly too soon, Red succumbed to cancer breaking our hearts.

The expression “fighting likes cats and dogs” has become a foreign phrase in my world. Most of you have chosen a side. The people adopting from Planned Pethood have spoken too. They have adopted 824 cats and 352 dogs through November of 2012. So, what about me? Am I a dog person or a cat person? I come from a family of six kids, all big time animal lovers but one. We are toying with the idea that my sister Anita was switched at birth. My passion for rescue must be in the DNA. I am sure it won’t surprise any of my wonderful readers that I would never be able to choose. You never know where you will find love.

by Judy Szewczak

Sunday, January 13, 2013


The greatest audience in the world has be a room full of 5 year olds. Add a dog or kittens into the mix and you are going to have the time of your life. You just never know what the next moment will bring.

Even though spay/neuter is the main goal of Planned Pethood, education is part of their mission as well. So when I was invited to visit Mrs. Charlotte Steinman’s kindergarten class at Beverly Elementary, I have to admit I was excited and a little nervous. Twenty-four of those fresh little faces could be a smidge bit intimidating. Truth be told, however, one of those faces was one of my best buddies, my great nephew Finn. There was no need to worry, the kids barely noticed I was even there.

Most of you have met Ida in my previous blogs. She is a seven year old black lab pulled from the pound with heartworm disease. After many painful treatments and months with me as a foster, she became a permanent member of my pack. Ida ALWAYS carries around a toy and she is ALWAYS wagging her tail. She thrives on attention and continuously gives out big sloppy kisses. It was a no brainer that she would be a great canine role model for the kids. With a toy in her mouth and a patriotic bandana on to highlight election day, we were off to kindergarten.

Mrs. Steinman is not just a kindergarten teacher, she is a saint. The woman is an incredible combination of patience, love, and discipline. Everything in her classroom is orderly and organized. She has to have the most wonderful karma ever. Before our visit, she cleared us with the principal, and she sent home permission slips to each parent to make sure none of her students had animal allergies or fear of dogs or cats. On our arrival, we encountered four tables which each seated six adorable and enthusiastic mini-people.

The topic Mrs. S and I chose was how to meet a new dog and how to care for a dog properly. So after the introductions; with Finn acting as my “master of ceremonies”; I asked my rapt audience, what was the first thing they did when they got up in the morning? Very polite responses included, getting dressed and brushing teeth. Good answers but, does Ida get dressed and brush her teeth? With a smattering of giggles, we agreed that most dogs don’t do that when they wake up. Things went on in that vein for a while until I asked the kids, isn’t there something you a leaving out? The students exchanged knowing glances but did not respond. So I asked them, what about potty? I certainly was not prepared for their reaction. That subject produced 24 screaming and laughing munchkins thoroughly enjoying themselves. Finn’s dad, Dave, later offered his take on the scene with the comment, “you had a low brow crowd, Judy”.

Proving this description quite accurate, the same hilarity ensued when we discussed how dogs greet each other when one little boy stated they sniff each other on the bum. We covered a great deal of territory including play, training, baths and more and the time flew by. Before we left, however, each one of our new friends came to the front of the room to meet Ida and give her some pets and even a few hugs. It is hard to say who enjoyed it more, Ida or the kids.

Things went so well with Ida, we were invited back, this time with three of my foster kittens, the N’s. To avoid confusion, Planned Pethood names every litter of kittens and puppies with the same letter of the alphabet.  This was a perfect fit with our kindergarten buddies just learning their letters and sounds. There were originally five N’s but two had been adopted so eight week old Nessie, Netta, and Nena were off to Beverly Elementary. Again, I was a little concerned because while 2 of the N’s were sweet lovable poofballs, the third, Nessie, was a maniac. An affectionate nickname was the Loch Ness Monster. This baby had no fear of anything including a 95 lb. foster dog named Wanda. She would do drive byes, pounce and run. She would climb me or any other upright structure in the house. But again things went well, using the strategy that Mrs. S and I would hold the kittens as the kids came up to pet them. A final word on the LNM, she was adopted in Ann Arbor by a family who did dog rescue and she was a perfect fit.

We made a final visit to kindergarten right before their Christmas break. It was just a quick stop to drop off a treat for our small friends from the dogs and kittens (who has all been adopted by then). This time another member of my pack, Stanley, accompanied us as well. He is an endearing four year old shepherd mix who, like Ida, was rescued from the pound heartworm positive.

This time the kids had a surprise for us, a huge Christmas/Thank you card, signed by each student with a picture each one drew of themselves. In addition to being highly entertaining, it will always remain one of our prized possessions. Ida was presented with a Beverly school tag for her collar as an honorary member of the class and the kids drew us pictures of Stanley, Ida, the N’s or one of their pets. They are classic.
Ida, Stanley, and I want to give a shout out to Mrs. Steinman and her students for inviting us to such enjoyable excursions. We are positive that we have planted the seeds for a new generation of RESPONSIBLE pet lovers when they have become doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, and first responders!

By Judy S