This month we are pleased to feature one of our most active new members in the Pet360 community, Denise Fleck (aka SunnyDogInk). A former film studio publicist, Denise now helps educate pet parents on how to be better pet parents.
I am currently owned and watched over by two Japanese Akitas -- Haiku & Bonsai. Haiku is actually a "Chikita" -- part Chow, part long-coat Akita. He was found wandering the desert in California when he was only four weeks old. At the time I was volunteering for an Akita rescue that bailed him out of the local shelter and asked me to foster. I quickly found out that I wasn’t a “foster,” but a "forever" home. The little ball of orange fur won over my heart and I adopted him.
Bonsai came to me in the same fashion, although I knew at this point if I took her home she would stay. Her name then was "Bonnie." Her companion at the rescue "Clyde" climbed the fence of the dog run and into the run with two other dogs. A fight ensued and Clyde did not make it. The shelter manager asked if I would consider taking Bonnie for a while because she seemed depressed without Clyde. Although I already had young Haiku and my 12 year old black Lab, Mr. Rico, I agreed to try to help heal this sad and thin older girl's body and heart. The rest is history and my pack of three became an awesome one until Mr. Rico passed away. In the several years since, however, Haiku & Bonsai have really bonded and bring great joy to my husband and me.
I initially joined Pet360 to sniff around the Senior Pets Group as seniors have always had a special place in my heart. Although I have been teaching senior pet care workshops for many years, I want to expand on them and write a new manual for the classes. I also just released my first children's book, "Don't Judge a Book by its Cover," which shares the joy of senior pets. Mr. Rico is featured prominently so the book is close to my heart. My hope is for it to bring families together, parents and grandparents reading with their kids, while they learn about the difficulties animals face. The book has many layers and the moral or theme translates to us humans and prejudices we all face when judged by others. So, paws are crossed that what people read will stick and they'll think twice in their relations with others...two-legged and four-pawed! The book also screams,"Pets are part of the family" and that's the message I want to spread far and wide.
Now that I have become a part of Pet360, I see there are so many areas I want to participate in. If it's furry and has four-legs, I am interested in learning more about it!
My husband and I adopted a yellow Labrador Retriever, named Sunny, on our first wedding anniversary. He became the inspiration for my business, SunnyDogInk! One morning when she was about eight, she woke up and could not get off the floor. When she tried, she let out blood curdling screams that echoed throughout the canyons. Unbeknown to us at the time, Sunny had ruptured three discs in her spine - a genetic defect that chose that Valentine's Day Morning to rear its ugly head. Thankfully, after surgery Sunny bounced back to her fun-loving self.
But in that moment, I longed to become better prepared to help my furry kid if another tragedy befell her. Dogs and cats can't tell us when something is wrong, so I wanted to become pro-active and learn how to prevent injuries, recognize them and what to do once they happened. I have since trained with eight national organizations in life-saving skills. I never miss an opportunity for a class or seminar on animals. Sunny started me teaching Pet First Aid and in her later years got me going on the Senior Pet Care.
A story I wrote about my next amazing dog, Sushi, landed in Dog Fancy Magazine. This sent me on my path of magazine writing. All of my dogs in between (Duchess the Sheltie, Rex the Akita/Border Collie, Rico, Haiku, & Rex) have posed for first aid photos in my books. But Mr. Rico in particular sent me on a path of writing for children. When I would take him to a library to teach people how be better pet parents, he would put a smile on everyone's face. He brought out the childish joyfulness in everyone and was the perfect inspiration in writing for kids.
As for the rest of my business ventures, the classes inspired by Sunny led to me developing a first aid kit just for pets. When I was honored to teach Pet First Aid for the first time at Ms. Oprah Winfrey's estate, I was asked to create a poster which led me to develop the Choking/CPR Posters. My volunteer work at the Burbank Animal Shelter led me to being asked to take over the Animal Care Program for the Burbank Unified School District. From this experience, I have learned that while teenagers may not always listen to their parents, their parents will listen to them. For example, when I taught them how to read a pet food label, they told their parents and many made them go buy different food for the family dog or cat afterwards. This has continued my journey into writing for the younger ones who will not only then have lives focused on respecting animals, but will teach their elders along the way. Every dog and every experience has given me a fork in the road and I strongly believe it is the journey, more than the destination, that makes our lives complete.
Bonsai is my Velcro dog! Like Sushi before her, I have found my female Akitas to be particularly loyal and momma's girls. People see her and think she's the "big white one" but she is the most loving soul. She is a typical Akita in that if she barks (which is rare), we listen! Something is up! She is calm, stoic at times, especially when stalking a squirrel. Bonsai wears a heart on her side but she fills my heart with joy. Her brother Haiku (pictured in his raft is a total spaz. Despite Bonsai’s calmer tactics, he will dash off and scare a squirrel away. Haiku is my "Pirate" in that he says "argh" a lot and loves to sail in the pool in his inflatable boat.
The best part about being a pet parent is that my dogs don't go off to college or get married and leave the nest! While they don't live as long as humans, they pack so much unconditional love and zest for life into those fewer years. My dogs have taught me to just be in the moment, to show those I care about that I love them every time I see them, to not hold a grudge, to put on my goofy face every once in a while, and have a good time chasing a squirrel, splashing in the mud or howling at the moon.