Toki Poki For A Change

Toki PokiWe’ve been focusing on posting stories out of our Lost Souls: FOUND! series on this blog, but today we’ve got a supplemental piece to our newsletter. This month’s “Work + Dog” section features Christy Myhre, her dog, Toki, and Toki Poki, and awesome pet trading card company that does all it can to support dog rescue and other great causes (for example, last month the sold packs of canine-alized (can’t really say personalized, can we?) Valentine’s Day cards, and for each set a person bought, they also donated 500 cards to a children’s hospital. How cool is that?

The purpose of this section is to introduce you to interesting people and inspire would-be pet industry entrepreneurs. So, get inspired! Here’s Christy’s story:


Toki came into my life in February of 2000 in the same way that pets often come into people’s lives.  Toki chose me.  Jumping elated into the air, she grabbed my sweatshirt sleeve and stared at me with big, round eyes as if to implore, “Will you be my Valentine?”  I accepted, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.

In 2006, Toki was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor (MCT), a type of skin cancer that can spread throughout a pet’s body and release chemicals that can regularly cause gastric ulcers, internal bleeding, and other potential life-threatening illnesses.  I had no idea at the time what a mast cell cancer tumor was and honestly had no idea what to do. I’ve never been the type that just listened to the doctor – I wanted to speak with pet owners that had similar experiences. My internet research at that time resulted in no connections (as this was prior to the big social networking boom), so in the little time I had to make a decision, I trusted my specialist and went with what she said. After several tests and two surgeries, Toki came home with what we refer to as her 6″ tummy tuck. The tumors were removed and we waited for her results. As I watched her lie in a sunbeam with a frozen bag of corn on her belly, I promised Toki her very own website; all she needed to do was recover quickly, so we could build it together. Her biopsy results came back with clean margins. HURRAY!

Toki’s nickname became the name of our website: My intention with Toki Poki® was to create an online community that puts our pets front-and-center rather than the owners.  And why not? It’s our pets who often bring us together as a community, and pets who give context to many of our interactions and conversations.  Toki Poki® trading cards are simply an extension of that; where pet owners can make custom trading cards of their own pet. After all, aren’t pets our best “team players”? Why shouldn’t they have their own trading cards to collect, share, and spread the word?

As a result of this pet venture, Toki and I have made many new friends around the country – amazing people and their incredible pets that I would never have met if it wasn’t for my dog. We have created an online pet community where people reach out to each other for questions and support.  We have also been able to give back in rewarding ways such as our Toki Poki® trading card deliveries made to children’s hospitals several times each year.  Toki has had a number of additional mast cell cancer tumors removed since 2006, but with the support our Toki Poki® members, the journey remains bright and inspiring even in the most challenging of times. Toki was honored by being named the 2012 “Canine Cancer Hero” for the 2 Million Dogs Puppy Up! Walk in San Antonio, Texas.  Both Toki and I were proud to raise awareness on the early warning signs of canine cancer and to give back to what triggered our adventure in the first place.


Storytime: Eyes Only For You

Read this and other awesome rescue stories in Lost Souls: FOUND! Inspiring Stories of Adopted Boston Terriers.


Featured rescue: MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue

Eyes Only for You

Rescued Boston Terrier Stories

I didn’t grow up with dogs, and never really wanted one until my kids started getting older and more independent. I realized that my growing unease was the all-too-common “empty nest” feeling parents experience as their kids become adults. I decided a dog might be just the thing to create some new noise in our home. My plan was to begin researching breeds so that in six years when my youngest graduated I would maybe have found the right dog and be ready to adopt (yes, I’m a planner)…

Although I thought a dog would be a long ways off for us, I kept an eye on regularly to see what dogs were available for adoption. After only a few weeks, I narrowed my search down to a few different breeds. I decided to go with a Boston Terrier, not only because of all their wonderful qualities, but also because it was the breed that my now-deceased mother had when she was a little girl. I was looking for a dog with a medium build that loved walks and car rides and people in general. There was only one hitch—I couldn’t stand the big, protruding eyes! They just freaked me out.

After weeks of looking through Boston Terrier profiles online, I came across a story of a 3-year-old named Odie who was surrendered because his family had had a baby. His side view portrait showed a cute, shmooshed face and stocky build, and from what I could see in the pictures, his eyes didn’t seem to protrude. Though my youngest was still in school, I couldn’t help but change my plan and apply for this dog. He looked like he had so much spunk and would be fun to have around!

I went to his foster parent’s home to meet him and there, from the top of the stairs, he stood smiling at me… with eyes that looked like they were about to fall out of his head! They were so “googly” that I couldn’t even tell which way he was looking! My heart sank, but before I knew it, he was in my arms, washing my face with slobbery doggie love.

After such an outpouring I was helpless but to “look the other way” about his eyes and take him home. Today Odie’s eyes are my favorite part of him. I think they are beautiful. They talk to me! I even made a song up about them to the tune of “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. It goes “Sweet Odie Pie, you’re the cutest little guy, you have the most beautiful eyes, sweet Odie pie.” Something like that…

I really lucked out on such a great dog with amazing character and expressive eyes. These days I wonder whether he thought I was the one with the weird-looking eyes when I first met him. If so, I’m glad he was able to overlook it because I couldn’t “see” a future without him! –Kirsten Lahr

Storytime: Life Starts at 12

It has come to our attention that the photo of our Lost Souls: FOUND! alumnus, Mom Mom (now deceased), is entered into a photo contest. What a great way to remember this brave survivor and honor her family, who has done much to help dogs in need. Click on the photo to go to the contest FB page and then “like” it to help her to win!

The story below about Mom Mom was featured in Lost Souls: FOUND! Inspirational Stories of Adopted Boston Terriers, our first book ever!

One December night I received an urgent call asking me to pick up an elderly female Boston Terrier who’d recently been dropped off at the county animal shelter and was not doing well. She possibly had mange and needed to be rescued quickly. Seeing as the shelter was about an hour away and scheduled to close in an hour, my husband and I made the quick decision to go and get her. We expected the coordinator from the rescue group that initially contacted us to call back with instructions on where to take this dog, but instead she asked if we could possibly keep her as a foster, as it turned out that all the other foster parents were full. We had just adopted our own puppy mill rescue a few weeks prior, but this old gal sounded like she was in need of desperate care, and we couldn’t abandon her.

When I saw her at the shelter, I couldn’t keep back my tears. A mangy Boston Terrier stood before me in a worn sweater, shaking and in terrible condition. Her eyes were sad, and she was missing most of her hair. The owner surrender paperwork said, “Kristi, 12 years old, likes car rides.” That was it.

At home we set her up in a large crate with lots of blankets away from the other dogs, so Kristi wouldn’t be scared. I was afraid to take off the sweater but knew it had to go. I carefully peeled it away and was absolutely horrified at what I saw. She was covered in puss-filled sores, almost completely bald from her neck back, and had scratched herself raw. She was actively oozing from her head to her tail, and the sweater had been on her for so long that it was almost impossible to remove completely.

She was so dear and so passive. She let us examine her without a sound. She literally looked relieved and thankful. I stared at her little face, and I said to her, “Mom Mom, you are home now, and we are going to make sure that you get better. We will take care of you.” This dog was clearly in need of a major change, and “Mom Mom” seemed so appropriate that it became her name from that point on.

We took Mom Mom to the vet two days later and had her evaluated. She had the following medical problems: ulcers in both eyes; severe gingivitis with advanced tooth decay; an infected growth in her mouth; yeast infections in both ears; atopic dermatitis on her skin with possible mange; open wounds on her back and hind quarters; arthritis; a heart murmur; and 28 allergies (we found this out after extensive allergy testing).

We treated her for all of her major health issues and then began taking her to The Animal Wellness Center Holistic Vet in PA. Mom Mom began her recovery and has continued her treatment without complaint. She recovered from most of her ailments, although a year later we are still treating her for allergies with shots every two weeks and a special diet with supplements. Mom Mom has grown most of her hair back, and the sores and ulcers are long gone.

The irony is that Mom Mom was considered unadoptable because of her age and medical issues, yet she has thrived with us. The shelter had an overabundance of younger, healthier dogs arriving daily, which required them to make the tough decision to euthanize her. Thankfully they called our rescue group first, and instead, Mom Mom is now considered a permanent foster dog and has become the queen of our house. She loves meatloaf and peanut butter, and nothing makes her happier than a big pile of blankets.

While we occasionally wonder about Mom Mom’s first 12 years of life, we choose to focus on the cliché that “everyone deserves a second chance,” and this is hers!

Mom Mom was the first elderly dog we ever took in. She is low maintenance and never asks for anything. She is housebroken and just loves to hang out and watch the activity in the house. She is kind and gentle, just like a Mom Mom! We can’t possibly imagine our home without Mom Mom there watching over us all.

Mom Mom is a living example that miracles do happen. She’s proof that no matter how bad things get, if you open yourself up to love and compassion, it will eventually find you. –Amy Angelo

Sweet as a Cherry

Sometimes a really special foster dog comes along. The kind that makes you think, “How could someone give you up?” That’s what I think about Cherry, who was found as a stray in Denver a few weeks ago. This sweet little thing was emaciated and needed surgery for cherry eye, but her tail wouldn’t stop wagging.

Yes, I said tail. I’m pretty sure Cherry is a Boston/Pug mix. It’s hard to get a photo of her because she’s a dark brindle and she doesn’t stop wiggling, but man, is she cute! She’s smart, too. The first day I had her, she had six potty accidents in the house. The second day, she had one. She hasn’t had one since. (Yup, that’s me! The Dog Whisperette … 🙂 )

Cherry went in for surgery on Tuesday to be spayed and have her cherry eye repaired. I was so glad to be able to take her to Arapahoe Animal Hospital here in Boulder for the surgery because they have a surgical laser that seems to work wonders. No stitches! While she was under, they discovered that she also had a baby tooth rubbing the enamel off a permanent tooth, so that got pulled, too.

Did I mention that last week Bill got dental surgery? He needed a broken tooth taken out and a tooth cleaning. He cried for two days – seriously – nonstop. Cherry, on the other hand, despite having every part of her body cut open, didn’t even seem to notice. She just wiggled and wagged all the way home.

Cherry is still looking for a home. If I didn’t have Bill, it would be easy to keep her, as she is great off-leash (walks right on my heels), athletic, sweet, and bombproof (isn’t scared of anything). However, she’s not a huge fan of other dogs. She tolerates Bill because he’s mellow, but she really just wants to love on humans. She really is the perfect family pet for anyone who doesn’t need for her to regularly interact with other dogs. She doesn’t lunge at them or anything, but she will growl and nip if they get in her face.

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Photobooth Dogs

Cameron Woo, co-founder and creative director of The Bark magazine, recently contacted me about a new book he has compiled called Photobooth Dogs.

Bark Photobooth Dogs

Though I usually reserve this blog for discussing rescue and fosters, I just couldn’t resist the sweet Boston Terrier face on the cover of Photobooth Dogs (those of you who have been reading this blog know I foster Boston Terriers).

Mr. Woo has collected over 100 portraits of beloved pets taken in photobooths over the last 80 years. According to Woo, “These rare photographs are a testament to the devotion people have felt—and will always feel—for their canine best friends.”

You can pick up a copy of Photobooth Dogs and a subscription to The Bark for $19.95 at the online Bark store.

Olive Update

Boston Terrier Hiking
Olive's First Day on the Trail

Olive is a very sweet girl who is proving a bit of a challenge…to photograph! This little wiggle-butt never stops moving, except when she is sleeping (which is most of the time when she’s not moving and is certainly not very interesting to photograph). Yesterday was Olive’s first time on a real hike after spending five years in a puppy mill cage. She’s not a great leash-walker only because she like to take A LOT of time to stop and smell the “roses,” and she can’t yet be off leash because she doesn’t consistently come when called, but we had a great time nonetheless.

Olive and Bill on the Couch
We're pooped!

Olive really impressed me during our hike, as despite the fact that she only has one eye, she went up and over rocks that were at least two feet high. No problem for Olive! I expect that from my rehabilitated Boston, Bill, who thinks he’s a mountain goat, but Olive’s persistence and bravery came as a bit of a surprise.

Today’s adventures will include sleeping on the couch, visiting the dog park, sleeping in the car while we go to the flying trapeze rig (I know, it’s a bizarre hobby, but my husband and I just can’t get enough of it), a nice long walk in the woods, and then more sleeping on the couch, all interspersed with great dog food from People Food 4 Dogs and some delicious doggie treats.

Olive Having Fosters In The House

We’re back in action! Now that things have finally settled down after a wonderful trip to Vegas for the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets conference, we’re ready to foster more dogs.

If you’re new to this blog, check out Bill’s story (he’s my foster-turned-forever Boston Terrier who inspired me to get involved with animal welfare) to get a background on how we became foster parents and ended up starting Happy Tails Books. It’s a pretty crazy story. Most relevant to this blog, is that since we adopted Bill, our 2nd foster, we’ve had 29 more foster dogs through our home. And this week we got a new one.

Olive - MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue Foster Dog #32
Olive - MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue Foster Dog #32

Olive languished in a puppy mill for the first five years of her life. After the mill was raided by the ASPCA (I think) back in March, Olive came into foster care with MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue. I’m pretty sure she actually had a litter in foster care before she was spayed, but I’m not positive. All I know is that her nipples are huge, and this poor little girl has probably had at least seven or eight litters in her life. She’s only about 14 pounds – being a puppy mill breeder must have just been awful for her. (Honestly, who wouldn’t life in a chicken-wire cage be awful for, though?) Oh, and by the way, she needed an eye removed because of an unattended injury.

Olive was adopted out and returned. She went to someone with no other pets, and it turned out another dog was important for Olive’s well-being. Then she was shipped to a family in Colorado from her foster home in Nebraska, which is when I got involved. That family, actually good friends of ours, was concerned with Olive’s initial behavior. Olive and Lucy, another one of my previous foster dogs, didn’t exactly hit it off, and Olive bit my friend when he tried to take a toy away from her. Because they have a small child, they were very concerned about the biting, so I offered to foster her and help them find a different dog.

Olive came to our house and thrived. Her and Bill had a great time together, and Dylan (my husband) and I just loved her. She’s sweet, funny (especially when she pulls herself across the floor on her belly like a sand shark), and pretty easy to hang out with.

After a few days, my friends though they might like to give it one more try. We had a play date, and it went much better. I think that when they met Olive the first time, she was really stressed out from having been in a car for eight hours, and then their dog Lucy overwhelmed her with her “butt-spin-attack” play technique. This time around, with Bill as the referee, the girls actually romped and played for a while. Nobody got bit, and my friends were convinced she could be a good fit. I’ll find out tomorrow if they were right…stay tuned!

The Easiest Goodbye

People often ask me if its hard to say goodbye to foster dogs. Sometimes it is very difficult, like in the case of Camille, who was a sweet, potty-trained dog that Bill adored. Other times the parting is much easier because a)I found the dog annoying for whatever reason, c) Bill and the dog didn’t really hit it off, or c)the dog seems so happy to be going along to his or her new parents.

The latter is the case with Charlie, a rescue return who I only had for a few days. Charlie was adopted out to an elderly man, and within a year, the man felt he could no longer care for Charlie. (I wasn’t the one who facilitated this adoption, but lesson learned – young, energetic foster dogs should not go to elderly people. There are plenty of older dogs needing homes who would have been a better fit.)

Bill didn’t like Charlie because Charlie, like JayJay before him, made crazy growling noises while playing. Although Charlie is fairly dog-aggressive, Bill was the aggressor in our home this time! I had to break them up multiple times.

Even if Bill doesn’t like Charlie, we do. He’s potty trained, smart, and loving toward people. I was contacted by a man who had never had a dog before but felt he was ready for one now. He seemed like the perfect fit for Charlie, since he lives in an apartment, has no other dogs, and would be walking Charlie on a leash, so after a home inspection, this man was approved and ready to pick Charlie up.

We met last night, and Charlie jumped into his lap and licked his face immediately. After filling out the adoption contract, all he did was stand up, start walking, and say, “Charlie, come.” Side by side, no leash necessary (we were in a large, safe field), Charlie and his new dog walked into the sunset, got in the car, and drove off to their new life together. It couldn’t have been a more peaceful and happy transition.

Jay Jay Takes a Dip

Jay Jay is toy-obsessed, to put it lightly. You could get that dog to serve you his dinner if you hold a toy over your plate. The other night he proved just how toy-obsessed he was when we were in the hot tub. As we sat there, enjoying a “relaxing” evening, Jay Jay continuously threw his toy into the hot tub (it’s above ground, mind you, and on his tippie-toes he can just put his head over the edge to look in). My husband finally balanced it on the edge of the turned up cover, so what did Jay Jay do? He jumped up, balanced on the edge of the slippery hot tub, and grabbed the toy off the cover.

From there it was a free-for-all. Jay Jay kept throwing the toy into the hot tub, and finally we decided that if he wanted to throw it in, he had to get it out himself. And…guess what? He did! Occasionally he could jump up and get his mouth around it, but more than once he actually dove right in! Check out the video below (it’s hard to see, but if you tilt your screen right, you should be able to get the picture!).

Oh, Jay Jay! You are one funny dog! We’ll miss you now that you’ve gone on to your new home, but at least all of our river rocks are now back where they belong – in the yard – and our guest bed is safe from your “inappropriate advances.” 🙂

Rock Star

It’s been a week that we’ve had our newest foster dog, JayJay. He’s been sick, so I haven’t been able to give him as much exercise as I’d like, but he seems to stay entertained. His favorite thing is to come in from the yard with a big rock propping open his mouth. If we’re out hiking, he’ll carry one the whole way. I can’t imagine rocks are good for his teeth, but I can’t watch him every second of the day. I’ve provided him with plenty of bones and toys, but they don’t seem to hold the appeal rocks do. As I write, he’s desperately trying to get to a rock we’ve hidden on the counter top – nothing gets past this dog when it comes to toys and rocks!

We have to limit his toy time because his other favorite thing, besides jamming his mouth open with rocks, is putting a toy on your leg and gnawing on it.

Jayjay is actually a very sweet dog who will do anything to please you…he’s just a little misguided right now about what is actually “pleasing.” He’s a good sleeper, he likes his crate, and he’d never intentionally harm a fly (although he is the size of a moose – okay, a very small baby moose – and when he steps on my toe or slams his giant head into my chin, it hurts!). Even when Bill snaps at him for getting too personal, JayJay just screams like a girl and runs away. This guy is truly a character whom we won’t forget.