My Crazy Life: Ridiculous Edition

I feel like laughing tonight. How bout you? I was sitting here earlier... thinking about all of the chaos in my rescue life… there’s A LOT of it. I can let it bring me down, or I can let it lift me up. Most days, I hover somewhere in the middle… just making it.
But tonight, I feel like laughing about all of it.

I think if most “normal” people signed up to spend a day in my life, within the first hour... they’d be screaming, “How the mother **** do I get out of here?!” This isn’t a “normal” life. When you take-in as many rescue dogs as I do... crazy things are bound to happen. When you add in the ridiculous people we're forced to deal with… things get… interesting.

Let’s talk dogs. If you’ve ever talked to me on the phone, chances are I asked you to hold on for a second while I did this-or-that for the dogs. The dogs come first with me.

It’s also highly-likely that you heard me say a cuss word or two about something that happened while I was on the phone with you. My buddy, Chris, can attest to this.
Me: “[Cuss word!!!]”
Chris: ‘What happened??’
Me: “I turned my back & Darla ate my [really-bad-word] flip flop.”
Chris: ‘She chewed it up, huh?’
Me: “No. She [bleeping] ate it. I can’t find it anywhere. My entire [filthy-unladylike-word] flip flop is in her stomach!”

Hmm... I don’t know if we should start with the fact that I’m wearing flip flops in February.. or the foster dog’s chewing problem.. or my potty mouth. They're all equally ridiculous topics. And really... I have no good excuse for any of them. Well... maybe the cussing. Let’s be honest, it’s [yep-I-use-words-like-that-word] fun to cuss. And frankly, it keeps people from murdering others... so it's good.

Back to the chaos… the other day I had my Meridian Star newspaper article sitting on the coffee table. I walked outside, walked back in, and it looked like a damn Newspaper Pride Parade had come through the room... tossing out buckets of shredded-news confetti.
Wow. Nice job, pup. This looks like the work of a professional… You’re hired.

There was the time I left an unopened jar of peanut butter on the counter. I ran an errand, came back, & my foster dog had unscrewed the screw-on top, torn through the protective seal (quite neatly, I might add), and licked every bit of peanut butter out of the jar. It actually looked like the jar had been run through the dishwasher. Now, that’s impressive. I later had him do the dishes.

Then, I have my escape artist pup. One day, I put him in his crate & left the house. I came home to find him waiting for me by the door, with a smile on his face. What in the [my-mother-would-be-so-proud-word!] did you do, son?! So I go to his crate, & it’s still in one piece... with the door shut & latched. I shook the crate… tried to pry the sides off… no dice. I still to this day have no freaking idea how the hell he did it.
I did, however, raise his allowance.

Even still... these foster dogs bring more joy to my life than I can even explain in words. Every day, they love me unconditionally, for everything I am… everything I’m not… and for all I've done for them. But my saving them... could never compare to what they do for me. They make me laugh, all day, every day. They lick my tears when I cry. They lay by my side & say, “Mom, I love you. Thank you for saving my life.”

And they give back to me… by showing me that messiness will not be tolerated in this freaking household. It will be punished by us chewing up all of your crap, Mom.

I love them for that. PS- Lucy is feeling better now, and she's actually chewing on the coffee table as we speak. She moved to the table... after I corrected her... from gnawing on the couch. Good girl, Lucy.



A lot of people ask me what keeps me going in animal rescue. Every person with a passion has an inspiration. For me, that inspiration is Rudy, my own angel pup. I was involved with animal rescue long before I met Rudy, but his arrival totally changed my life.

Rudy’s rescue story lit a fire in my heart that has burned in me every day since his rescue. And even more so, since his death.

Rudy was abandoned on a chain for weeks before he was finally rescued. His owners moved away & left him behind to starve to death. He was a living skeleton when I found him, but his eyes had a glimmer of hope. “Are you the one who will save me? I need you.”

After a ton of legwork on my part, Animal Control seized the dog. Rudy was immediately placed on death row, & he was scheduled for euthanasia the day they allowed me to pull him out. This was a major success for me personally, because it was the first time our Animal Control had allowed anyone to pull a pit bull from the facility. (In the time since Rudy’s rescue, I have been able to pull many other pits from death row. Every one of them, is saved in Rudy’s memory.)

I adopted Rudy as my own, & he was my son. Rudy lived a life that most dogs only dream about, & I have never met a more loving, thankful dog. He went on walks every day; he had special snuggle time every night; he ate the most expensive food that money could buy. He was the most special being in my life. When my rescue life became so tough that I didn’t think I could go on, I had Rudy. To say that he was my angel is truly an understatement.

On July 8, 2010, I came home to find my Rudy—lifeless. It was the very worst day of my life. Rudy had a heart attack when he was playing with his friends that day. His little heart was weak following his heartworm treatment, & it finally gave out on him. I got there too late… my Rudy had already gone to Heaven. There was nothing that could be done to bring him back to me. Trust me—I tried.

That day, my life changed forever. I will never be the person I was before I lost Rudy. That kind of pain stays with you… that degree of agony never truly leaves your heart.

But I have been able to turn this pain into a positive. After Rudy died, I made him a promise: I will save every pit bull I possibly can… for you. I will save them, like you saved me, and I will love them, like you loved me. I will make you proud of me, because I am ever-so proud of you.

And so, every Rudy-dog that I see, becomes my mission. I put every bit of myself into saving each one that I can in his honor. And it may sound crazy, but I can feel Rudy, right there with me, saying, “I’m proud of you, Mom.” I see him in the eyes of the dogs on death row & the precious souls living on chains. I hear him in the howling at the pound. I touch him when I get there too late… as another dog joins him in Heaven.

I feel him when I save another life… when the new rescue dog licks my face, I know it is Rudy. It’s my Rudy saying, “You did it, Mom. You saved me again.”

And I say, “No baby boy… you saved me again.”

My Meridian Star Pet Column: Spay/Neuter

February 22, 2011

By Ashley Owen Hill

MERIDIAN — If you’ve ever met me, you’ve probably heard me say, “PLEASE SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR PETS!” The obvious reason for my rant is the fact that spaying and neutering our companion animals is essential to controlling the pet population, because millions of pets are euthanized in American shelters every year. The problem here is that there are simply more dogs and cats in the world than there are homes who can care for them. And sadly, the shelter animals pay the price for irresponsible breeding. This is the #1 reason you should spay/neuter your pets—you will save lives. And look at that… you didn’t even have to go to medical school.

    However, there are other methods to my spay/neuter madness.

    Spayed and neutered pets live longer, healthier lives, by reducing or eliminating the risk of many potential health problems. How so? Spaying your female pet will eliminate her chances of uterine or ovarian cancer, and greatly reduce her risk of breast cancer. Neutering your male pet will eliminate his risk of testicular cancer and reduce his chances of prostate disease.

    Another important point is that altered pets are less likely to roam in search of a mate. When these animals run the streets looking for a one night stand, they risk being injured or killed. Or your pets may never find their way back home. In addition, when breeding with another animal, your pet can contract diseases from the exchange of bodily fluids during mating.

    Spaying and neutering will also have a positive impact on your relationship with your pet. Many behavioral problems are associated with the hormone cycles of these animals, so eliminating the cycle will improve many of these issues. For males, neutering can reduce the desire for spraying and inappropriate mounting. (Yes, I said it, and we all know it happens.) For females, elimination of the heat cycle will reduce the female’s discomfort during her cycle, as well as reduce her unwanted popularity with the males. Another important note, altered pets are less likely to bite humans, which is always a plus in my book.

Lastly, even if you care nothing about animals (if so, by the way, you are totally reading the wrong column), you probably care about money, right? Every year, millions of tax payer dollars are spent trapping, housing, euthanizing, and disposing of homeless dogs and cats in our shelters. Reducing the number of pets by spaying and neutering will reduce the amount of tax dollars used for the overpopulation problem. It’s just that simple.

    While vet care is expensive, there are many low-cost spay/neuter programs available, such as Tailwaggers for Life in East Mississippi. For more information, call Tailwaggers at (601) 509-1411.

    Spayed and neutered animals tend to be happier, healthier pets. When you spay or neuter your pet, you are making the right decision for your pet’s health, your relationship with your pet, and the community as a whole. Most importantly, you are saving lives. And say goodbye to that socially inappropriate mounting.
   Ashley Owen Hill is the owner of Lucky Dog Retreat, 8659 Hillview Dr, Meridian. Email her at  Ashley@luckydogretreatmeridian.com. Follow her blog at http://www.luckydogrescueblog.blogspot.com.

Link to my article on Meridian Star website: http://meridianstar.com/columns/x1709528314/Nothing-s-cuter-than-spay-neuter


Broken Hearts of Steel

I'm often asked if an “emotional” or “soft” person should be involved in animal rescue. Actually... I'd argue that you have to be “soft” ... in order to feel truly motivated to end animal cruelty.

When you see unimaginable suffering, your heart should hurt. In rescue, compassion is the spark that ignites the fire. Without compassion, no animal would ever be saved.

Many people mistake a “soft” heart for “weakness.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the kindest, most caring people I work with in rescue... are also the toughest people I know.

We all cry. All of us. We may seem “strong,” but we're all walking around... with broken hearts of steel…

Honestly, it's not about "strength."
Instead, the defining factor to success in rescue is this:  Action.

The people who take their heartbreak, & turn it into action on behalf of the animals... those are the people who truly change the world. Many of these people are my dear friends, & I'm constantly amazed by their ability to carry on... despire their own pain.

There's a balance… between soft & hard. Finding this balance is the challenge. People often tell me, “I’m not as strong as you… I just couldn’t handle the things you see on a daily basis.”

What they don’t realize is that I’m one of the “softest” people you'll ever meet. I may appear tough, but trust me... I’m not.
My heart hurts all the time.
I've lost many battles.
I've cried into more than one lifeless body.
One of those bodies was my own angel, Rudy.

I'll be honest... no matter how many times you witness this heartbreak, there are some things you just never get used to.

However... at the same time... I'd say that the more cruelty I see, the “harder” my heart becomes. This happens out of necessity. In order to make a difference, you've gotta adapt to the pain. Your heart molds to each situation… & you become stronger with each rescue. 

Even if you think you can’t handle something... just try. Don't give yourself the excuse of simply saying: “I can’t handle it.”
You can.
Trust me... if I can, you can.

So... I'm writing this for all the good-hearted people who love animals, but think they're too “weak” to get involved. Here’s what I’m asking of you: Take your heartbreak, and get angry. Allow yourself to get so angry, that you can't sit any longer... without acting.

My ability to do this is actually my greatest strength. I turn sadness into anger… anger into action… every single day.

Please, give yourself more credit & try to do the same. You're stronger than you think, & the animals need you NOW.


Meridian Star Pet Column: Healthy Pets Need Vets

February 15, 2011
Healthy Pets Need Vets
By: Ashley Owen Hill, guest columnist

MERIDIAN — A healthy pet is a happy pet, or so the saying goes. But what makes a pet healthy? Food and water are obvious, and most people have these two needs covered. (For those who don’t provide these basic necessities, I have some choice words for you, but we’ll cover that another time.)

    Vet care is every bit as important to your pet’s health as food and water, but the average pet owner has very little understanding of these vetting needs.

  “You mean to tell me I have to take my dog to the vet?! Every year?? What in the world for?!”

  Well, I’ll tell you.

  Vet care is a critical aspect to ensuring the health of your pet. It’s true that vetting can be expensive, and most of us aren’t living at the Ritz Carlton with loaded bank accounts. But by taking preventative measures for your pet’s health, you’ll actually reduce the number of potential pet expenses down the road.

Every pet should have an annual exam by a veterinarian. This visit should include a minimum of: a physical examination, annual boosters, heartworm test, and deworming. At this visit, monthly heartworm preventative and flea and tick products should be purchased, and given every month thereafter. It’s extremely important to remember these monthly doses of preventative. Do not forget! I may be a completely ridiculous person who loses her keys 5 times a day, but I never forget these meds.

    Vaccinations are one of the most essential elements of pet health. Core vaccinations should be administered annually, given as a combination vaccine and a separate rabies vaccine.

For dogs, this will include canine distemper, adenovirus cough and hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus (DHPP). Puppies 6 to 16 weeks of age should receive an initial series of 3 DHPP vaccinations administered 4 weeks apart. Unvaccinated dogs over 16 weeks should receive 2 DHPP vaccinations given 3 to 4 weeks apart.

    Your dog will need yearly boosters for DHPP and rabies. Also, a bordetella vaccination is required for boarding at a kennel like Lucky Dog Retreat!

    In cats, the suggested core vaccines are feline panleukopenia (distemper), feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus, and rabies. Kittens need core vaccinations every 2 to 4 weeks until 14 weeks of age. For unvaccinated cats over 14 weeks, vaccinate and booster in 3 weeks, then annually. Rabies vaccine should also be administered annually.

    Spaying or neutering your pet is another critical element to ensuring optimum health, because altered pets have longer life spans. Unspayed females have a greater likelihood of developing mammary tumors or uterine infections, while unneutered males can have behavioral problems. Consult with your vet for more information.

    We must educate ourselves about pet care, because our pets are unable to tell us what they need (okay, my dog can totally talk, but most pets cannot). Yearly vet exams and monthly preventative treatments will help ensure a healthy, happy pet, who will be around to bark or meow for many years to come.
    Ashley Owen Hill is the owner of Lucky Dog Retreat, 8659 Hillview Dr, Meridian. Email her at  Ashley@luckydogretreatmeridian.com. Follow her blog at  http://www.luckydogrescueblog.blogspot.com/.



The Wonderful Wonder

Meet Wonder.
She was scheduled to die in a Dallas, NC shelter on Monday, 2.7.11.

In hopes of saving her life, Wonder was posted on my facebook app, Pet Pardons. 
Well... it just so happens... I'm the Co-Founder of Pet Pardons...

So... one day... as I was scrolling through the pet listings on our site... I saw Wonder’s picture…

I've been involved in animal rescue all of my life.
Yet, I've rarely seen a more heartbreaking photo.

Honestly... it wasn’t the condition of the dog that got to me… it was her broken spirit.

Wonder has lived her entire life without lovenever experiencing kindness or compassion... acknowledgment or hugs... smiles or comfort. 

Instead... Wonder has been tortured & abused for much of her life.

At some point, her ears were painfully and inhumanely cropped --with scissors or a knife.

She's also been over-bred, under-fed, and beaten down... all the days of her life.

Then... she ended up at the animal shelter... where she was quickly scheduled to die.

At the time this shelter photo was taken... Wonder had completely given up.
She was ready to die...


After seeing Wonder on Pet Pardons, I contacted my Pet Pardons Co-Founder, Chris Hoar. Chris & I were equally affected by her picture. We just kept going back to her… and we couldn’t get her off our minds.

For me... this is how it starts.
I see an incredibly deserving dog... so, I start busting my ass to save them.

It’s always a race. There isn’t much time. Resources are slim.
But they need you.
This dog needed me.

So.... after unsuccessful attempts to find another rescue for Wonder, I simply told Chris, “I want her.”

Chris usually gets so mad at me when I say this, “Ashley! Are you crazy? You already do so much! Don’t overload yourself! No, no, no!”

This time, Chris said, “She's so broken. She needs you. No one else could make this one right. Only you. Do it.”

And so... I started the process of getting Wonder to my home to be my new foster baby. The amazing Jessamy donated to Wonder’s care, and I was able to set-up transport through the help of some INCREDIBLE volunteers (Thanks Mary, Dorothy, Geoff, Marsha, & Vanessa!!!).

And then... today... Wonder traveled the 8 hour trip from Dallas, North Carolina to Meridian, Mississippi...
To meet her new foster mom—ME!!!

Wonder’s entire existence has been filled with abuse, neglect, and hatred… until today.

Today, her life starts over.
Today, she learned what love is.
Today, she became part of my family… even if only for a short while.

I will love her with my entire heart... until she finds her forever family.

And when that day comes, I will let her go… because I'll know: she is safe now… Forever.

Happy Birthday, Wonder! Today you get to start over. Today, your life begins.


My Meridian Star Pet Column: Down, Boy!

February 8, 2011

Down, Boy!
By: Ashley Owen Hill/guest columnist
The Meridian Star

Nothing makes us smile like a pet with a great personality. Everyone loves a friendly dog or cat with a happy disposition. But when behavior issues aren’t addressed, “happy” can become “completely spastic.” And let’s just be honest, no one likes spastic—for pets or for people.

Everyone has had the experience of walking into a friend’s home, only to be knocked to the ground by an overly excited dog.

“Well hello, Mister Dog! Thank you for the broken tailbone and saliva spritzer. And don’t worry, I didn’t really need to use my right arm anymore anyway...”

When this happens, the dog’s owners are quite embarrassed, while the guests suddenly feel the need to run for their lives. Sounds fun, right? It may seem like the dog is having a blast tormenting your friends, but these behavior problems are actually due to a lack of exercise and improper training.

Dogs need lots of exercise. There is no substitute for this, and it’s every bit as important to their health and well-being as food and water. Dogs need daily walks, for a minimum of 20 minutes. Larger breeds need to be walked for longer periods, as well as have outdoor playtime in a safe, fenced area.

Many people falsely believe that small dogs do not need daily walks. But when a small pup will not stop yapping and jumping, it’s due to energy level and behavior problems that have not been addressed. Just because a small dog cannot take you down in one swoop, doesn’t mean they have a lesser need for exercise and training.

Teaching your dog basic training commands is also very important. If you say, “Sit,” and your dog looks at you like you are the dumbest person on the planet, then they could use some work in this area.

Direct your dog to perform the requested command. When they comply, give treats and praise. Repetition is key in ensuring understanding of commands. This basic training technique is important to the safety of your pets and guests, as well as your dog’s confidence level and overall well-being.

Also, make sure you don’t encourage negative behavior. If your dog receives love and praise when they jump on you, then guess what? Your pet will continue to jump for attention, because you are reinforcing this behavior with your affection. Therefore, it’s not fair to get angry when Spot wants to hit-up your guests for a piggy-back ride.

Each time your dog jumps on you, you need to cross your arms, turn your back, and ignore them. When they have stopped the behavior and are calmly seated, turn around and give them lots of praise. Eventually, your dog will learn that attention is not given when they jump, but rather when they remain calm.
Exercise and proper training will go a long way in correcting your dog’s behavior issues. The number of lawsuits due to your pet’s rambunctious antics will decrease, and your dog’s overall happiness will increase.

Ashley Owen Hill is the owner of Lucky Dog Retreat, 8659 Hillview Dr, Meridian. Email her at Ashley@luckydogretreatmeridian.com. Follow her blog at http://www.luckydogrescueblog.blogspot.com/.

Link to article on Meridian Star website: http://meridianstar.com/columns/x2072624624/Down-boy


Pet Pardons

I want to encourage everyone to join the new facebook application, Pet Pardons. Pet Pardons is an amazing app focused on saving the lives of shelter pets… and it is making a HUGE DIFFERENCE for these animals.

Pet Pardons Co-founders, Chris Hoar and myself, launched the app in December 2010. I am also the Marketing & Communications Director for the site.

About Pet Pardons

Pet Pardons is a facebook application that allows users to get involved in trying to save shelter dogs & cats on death row, in addition to promoting pets in no-kill shelters. The goal of Pet Pardons is to find homes for shelter pets who are scheduled for euthanasia (as well as those in no-kill shelters), by getting their faces & stories out to the public. The hope is that someone will be able to help each pet by fostering, transporting, donating, and/or adopting.

In order to help a Pet Pardons dog or cat, the user can click the “Advocate” button on each pet’s profile. The “Advocate” button will instantly share the pet on the user’s facebook wall, allowing the user’s friends to see & share the pet as well. The more users who advocate for each dog & cat, the better the chances of the pet being seen by someone who can rescue or adopt—thus granting the pet a “pardon!”

To install the Pet Pardons app, follow the link & click Install Pet Pardons:

Then go into each pet's profile & click the green ADVOCATE button with the pink heart!
Pet Pardons is privately-funded & run by Chris Hoar & myself. Please join Pet Pardons today to help save the lives of these deserving shelter pets!!!


Help! The dog ate my house

Here is the link to my first Meridian Star pet column! The column will be a weekly feature in the Meridian Star! I am honored & excited to be able to write about something I care about so much!

Help! The dog ate my house

February 1, 2011
Help! The dog ate my house
By Ashley Owen Hill /guest columnist

Tue Feb 01, 2011, 06:00 AM CST

MERIDIAN — Pets bring joy to our lives. Their entire existence is wrapped up in making us happy. Dogs, cats, and the like were born to love us. But often times, our pets engage in behaviors that don’t make us so happy. It’s not their fault; they don’t understand that they are driving us crazy.

When you come home from a long day’s work to find that your favorite sweater has somehow been chewed into a halter-top, it can be a little frustrating. There have been times when I look at a chewed object for a good thirty minutes, trying to figure out what in the world this item was before the dog got to it. Was it a bowl? A dress? A shoe? Maybe an end table? And then there’s the digging, the barking, the indoor potty breaks. The list goes on and on.

I can’t tell you how many calls and emails I receive about the topic of pet behavior problems:
“My dog ate a battery.”
“I’m on couch Number 3 due to my puppy’s bladder.”
“The dog pulled the curtains off the wall and proceeded to open the window.”

These events are quite humorous when they happen to a friend. But when it’s your home, it can begin to affect the quality of life for both you and your pet. Let’s face it: dogs don’t realize that they are tearing up your stuff. It’s not their goal to ruin your life. They chew and dig because they are bored or anxious. They are looking for something fun to do, and your doorframe begins to look mighty tasty.

While I’m always up for a good laugh over a chewed shoe, it’s important for pet owners to learn about proper training to ensure they have healthy, happy pets. Here are some tips that will help with these issues.

One great option is crate training. While you are away, put your dog in a crate that is large enough for them to comfortably stand and turn around. The crate doesn’t need to be so large that the dog can use one side as a restroom and the other as a master suite.

Some people may think this training method sounds cruel. Actually, dogs tend to love their crates. It is a safe space they can call their own. However, in order for the dog to accept this idea, the crate must be presented in the right way.

In introducing your dog to the crate, make it a positive experience. Don’t just lock them in and walk away. This makes the crate a “bad place.” Put a comfy bed, chew toys, and some treats in the crate. Let the dog slowly adjust by leaving the door open until they feel comfortable. Give them praise for this.

I can promise you that praise for good behavior will work wonders for your pet. Dogs live to please you. Take some time to properly train your pet to behave as you expect, and the number of “what-in-the-world-is-that?!” ruined items will decrease dramatically. Ashley Owen Hill is the owner of Lucky Dog Retreat, 8659 Hillview Dr, Meridian. E-mail her at Ashley@luckydogretreatmeridian.com. Follow her blog at www.luckydogrescueblog.blogspot.com.