Friday, March 5, 2010

Happy Tails

There is a fantastic publishing company called Happy Tails Books that collects stories from pet owners and others who have participated in pet rescue or adoption. These books are filled with photos and heartwarming stories of pets who have brought love, laughter and happiness to their owner's lives.

Kyla Duffy, Editor-in-Chief of Happy Tails Books talked to Farewell Furry Friend about opening her heart to rescued dogs, the importance of giving back and Bill, the rescue dog who inspired it all.

FFF: Kyla, your company donates a significant portion of its profits to animal rescue efforts. Why is it so important for you to give back? What are some of the organizations you donate to?

Kyla: There are millions of animals being cared for by private rescues, and that care doesn't come cheaply. For example, I volunteer as a foster parent with MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue. I believe we saved 329 dogs last year at an average cost of $319 per dog. Our adoption fees are between $100 and $325, depending on the age of the dog, so as you can see, we spend much more than we take in from adoption fees. Donations are essential to keeping any rescue running. Last year, between June and November, we worked with 34 rescues on 5 different books, and we divided a donation of $4,000 between them. This year we hope to be able to give back at least $10,000. A list of all of our rescue partners can be found on our links page,

FFF: What made you get involved in rescuing and fostering dogs, especially Boston Terriers?

Kyla: I'm not quite sure when I actually fell in love with Bostons, but I just thought that if I had one I would never stop laughing. I also knew I would never buy a dog, so when I decided to look for a dog I did an internet search and came up with From there I found MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue, and after finding a cute dog I liked, my husband said, "No dogs!" I asked the rescue if I should foster, and they said if my husband wasn't on board to adopt, he definitely wouldn't want to foster. You see, you never know what sort of issues are going to walk through your door with fostering!

Anyway, a week later they called me with an emergency - a foster received a dog with kennel cough, and since she has several other dogs and kennel cough is very contagious, they had to get the dog out of her home immediately. Of course, a huge grin spread across my face, and within an hour my mom and I were on our way over to get the dog. He turned out to be so sweet: broken tail, eye and ear infections, kennel cough, terrible gas, but of course, a zest for life. Within three days he was adopted, and that's when I fell in love with fostering.

FFF: On your website you list Bill, your Boston Terrier rescue, as your inspiration for starting Happy Tails Books. What was it about Bill that made you take action?

Kyla: I'll spare you the unabridged version of the story of Bill, which can be found in "Lost Souls: Found! Inspirational Stories of Adopted Boston Terriers." In a nutshell, Bill was a two-year-old puppy mill breeder when I met him, who was so scared he wouldn't leave his crate. We went through a lot together during his rehabilitation process, and there were many times when I thought he would have to go live with some very old people who wouldn't require him to ever leave the house. For almost a year I worked slowly to earn his trust, socialize him, and train him on basic commands, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Bill has since become the wonder dog, hiking off-leash, cuddling in bed, romping at the dog park, and he's even recently started running to the door and barking when someone rings the bell (a BIG breakthrough). He's still quirky, like he begs by sitting about three feet away from me and facing the opposite direction, but that just adds to his charm.

The more I learned about how dogs languish in puppy mills and how consumers don't realize the impact of the decision to buy a dog at a pet store, the more I felt driven to do something about it. One day I woke up with the idea to publish breed-specific books full of stories about adopted dogs, and the rest is history!

FFF: It seems part of your life's mission is to educate people about dog rescue, ending animal cruelty and shelter overpopulation. Why are these topics so important to you?

Kyla: I don't think I'm unique in saying that once my eyes were opened to the truth about animal overpopulation, neglect, and abuse, I could never close them again. Meeting ex-puppy mill breeding dogs made me realize how dire their completely avoidable situations are, and that if I don't do something about it, who will? I hope others understand what those words mean and take them to heart. "If YOU don't do something about it, WHO WILL?" The only thing that will create change is people taking action, and I always encourage people to use their talents and skills to do so. For example, rescues need volunteers to do all sorts of things. I hate driving, so transport is not the right way for me to volunteer. On the other hand, I love nurturing these little guys, so fostering is what I stick with.

Puppy mills are places where dogs are kept in 2x2 chicken wire cages. You can tell an ex-mill dog because their toes are usually splayed out, the females have udders like a cow from being bred EVERY cycle, they've often got eye injuries or blindness from being left out to all the elements with no care for their health, they're afraid of grass, doorways, and stairs (because they've never seen these things), they sometimes have broken or deteriorating jaws from abuse or lack of nutrition...I could go on and on. They're not all like this but these are some common traits. The problem with buying puppies from pet stores or breeders who aren't thoroughly researched is not only that the puppies of these mistreated dogs are sick and distressed, but by buying the puppies people are perpetuating this cycle of cruelty. Now, how could I know this is going on and not try to alert people to it? I recently wrote the Mill Dog Manifesto, a free eBook that explains puppy mills, reputable breeding, rescue, and how to socialize a mill dog if you open your heart to one. I hope everyone who reads this will go download a free copy of it at

FFF: Is there a pet from your past that was particularly special? How did you deal with the loss?

Kyla: Ah, the irony. I actually only had a hamster, who bit me, and a dog, whom I didn't like. The dog was a sissy who didn't like anyone except my mom, and I moved out long before she died. I know that making the decision to put her down, when she was 18-years-old, deaf, blind, and incontinent, was very difficult for my mom. These days I mourn the future loss of Bill, because I know someday it will come. I try not to think too much about it, but it makes me sad to think I'll ever have to live a day without my sassy Bill by my side. It drives me to enjoy and appreciate every moment I have with him. Happy Tails Books did recently publish another free eBook called Angels In Disguise by Brandy D. It's a very sweet poem about pet loss and I encourage anyone to download it and send it to a friend in need when the time comes. The link is

That's one thing I can say for foster dogs. I've had 24 through my life in the past two years, and to me they never die! What a great blessing to have all these wonderful pets and to never really have to mourn their loss.

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