Sunday, May 18, 2014

Back in Black -- a very special color indeed

Back in Black: the Beauty of a Black Pet
By Joanna Dunn Samson
as seen in the "Aiken Standard" 5/18/14 edition

Black is the chicest of colors.  Coco Chanel once said, “A woman needs just three things; a black dress, a black sweater, and on her arm, a man she loves.”  Gianni Versace said, “Black is the quintessence of simplicity and elegance.”

The black robes of a judge symbolize morality and justice.

The black robes of priests and pastors symbolize a connection with God.

In the 1960’s, a new generation of young people challenged conventional ways of thinking, and black became the color of individuality and intellectual rebellion.

Black is an artistic color.  “Black is a force,” said impressionist painter Henri Matisse, who said he always chose black when he didn’t know what color to lay down on the canvas. 

So if black symbolizes elegance, simplicity, justice, spirituality and art, then how come black dogs and cats take 4 times longer to be adopted from a shelter than their lighter counterparts?

The rescue world calls it “Black Dog Syndrome,” a well-known, but little understood, phenomenon.  Black dogs and cats are often passed over by potential adopters for a variety of relatively vague reasons, like indistinct facial features and “generic” body types – issues compounded by poor lighting in many shelters – and size: large black dogs are even harder to adopt out.

Here’s an even more perplexing fact: a large majority of the black dogs at shelters who do not get adopted are Labrador retriever crosses, yet year after year, Labs top the list of the most popular breeds in the country.  They are friendly, playful and promiscuous in their love of humans.  They are goofy, good-tempered animals – an excellent choice for families with children.

Here’s another fact: the traditional black Lab is far and away the most popular and prevalent color of the breed – possessing sleek, muscular bodies that shine like polished ebony.

So why do black lab mixed breeds endowed with the same admirable and lovable qualities have so much trouble finding forever homes? 

It makes no sense.  Take a tour of any animal shelter, including the Aiken County shelter, and you will often find medium to medium-large sized Lab crosses with bubbly, affectionate personalities, just waiting for a family to love, entertain and protect.

Black dogs and cats are victims of an irrational prejudice and a genetic formula that determines color.  Despite negative portrayals in literature and ancient folklore (think black cats and witches or the black hounds of hell), there is not a shred of evidence that black dogs are more aggressive or untrustworthy than their lighter colored brethren. Ninety-nine percent of the time, aggression is a function of abuse and poor training – not a function of color.

FOTAS is a network member of the Best Friends Animal Society, which is dedicated to rehoming shelter animals all over the country, and Best Friends has designated the month of May as national “Back in Black” month.

In honor of this national promotion, the Aiken County Animal Shelter has reduced adoption fees for black dogs to $33 and for black cats to $13 through May 31.  This fee covers spaying and neutering, all necessary vaccinations and microchipping.

Two black Shelter puppies, Brooke and Logan, were recently adopted by this young woman and her mother.  Why don’t you come on over to the Aiken County Animal Shelter like they did and take home your next best friend.  By the end of the day, you will be snuggled up on the couch watching American Idol with a happy black bundle of pure love.

FOTAS Volunteers work with the AIKEN COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER, 333 Wire Road.  For more information, contact “” or visit FOTAS on line at

Aiken County Animal Shelter:  “By the Numbers”

May 5, 2014 - May 10, 2014

25 dogs and 10 cats  SAVED

Year to Date:  

351 terrific pets   SAVED

BACK IN BLACK -- black dogs $33 -- black cats $13

Aiken County Shelter “Pets of the Week!” 
**All adoption fees include:  spay/neuter, heartworm test, all shots, worming, and microchip.

SMOKEY   Lab mix, male, 3 yrs old, 42 lbs.  Only $70 

SAVANNAH  Domestic short hair -- female -- 2 yrs old  Only $13

Sunday, May 11, 2014


It Was a Perfect Day to Howl !
By Edie Hubler, FOTAS Board of Directors
as seen in the "Aiken Standard", May 11, 2014 edition

Or crow, or yip, or bark, or meow ... any communication was just fine.  FOTAS sponsored its third Woofstock event last week ... the day was perfect and so was the crowd.  

At 10:30 am on Saturday, May 3, we turned the new Aiken County Animal Shelter into a festival of which to be proud.  Many hands went into making this another memorable event, so allow me, as the Chairwoman, to howl about it. 

Heather Wiseman was my co-chair, and special she is.  She rounded up her friends and sent them out on the streets soliciting business sponsorships.  The Aiken business community was generous with their support, and we can’t thank them enough.

Carole Stamm is a true friend -- I twisted her arm, so she couldn’t say no.  She headed up the Ride to Woofstock for Spay/Neuter fundraiser, which was part of the overall Woofstock umbrella.  I’m proud to say that with Carole’s leadership, we raised 70% of our goal.

Ellie Joos, a devoted Shelter volunteer dog walker, was the Publicity chair and she did a fabulous job.  In addition, Bob Gordon, another Shelter volunteer, coordinated publicity with the media.

The Woofstock music was fabulous.  For the 3rd time, Scott Ferguson and his 4 Cats in the Dog House played live music during the afternoon.  Jason Shaffer of JRS Entertainment created the play list together with his dad, Bob, who DJ’d the morning music.  

Palmetto Dog Club agility demonstration
Kudos to Brad Williams, a strong FOTAS and Shelter supporter, who was the “sound man,” and despite a late night at the Lobster Race on Friday evening -- he had arrived at the Shelter bright and early. Because of his technical expertise, the Palmetto Dog Club had sound for the agility and obedience demonstrations, as did our emcee and announcer, Mike Gibbons.

And speaking of the dog contests, our student judges (Hope Dyches, Reagan Houck, and Reece McCarthy), adult judges (December Clark of Barkmart, Nancy Webster of Dog Days Workshop, Sybil Davis DVM, and County Council Members Ronnie Young, LaWana McKenzie, Kathy Rawls, Andrew Siders, and Scott Singer), and Dog Contest facilitator Dottie Gantt took their jobs very seriously -- tough to select the 1st and 2nd place winners, but they did a stupendous job.

A long line of exhibitors presented their wares to the festive crowd.  Thanks to Aiken Balloons, Aiken Dry Goods, Aiken Pet Fitness & Rehab, Barkmart, Equine Rescue of Aiken, Hair of the Dog, Herbal Solutions, Hollow Creek Animal Hospital, Lap of Love, Sweet Ambrosia Farm, Veterinary Services of Aiken and Wyatt’s Bed & Biscuit.    Our food vendors were also a hit -- Bruster’s Ice Cream of North Augusta and Coach T’s Diner.

And last, but  most importantly, the many FOTAS volunteers who help us at the shelter, as well as at special events came through again:  Pam Blades Eckelbarger, photographer; Sue Erwin, EMT; Valorie Vance and Susan Hamlin’s South Aiken High School SERTEENS; Donna Eisenhart’s Silver Bluff High School National Honor Society members; LCDR Tony Negron’s South Aiken High School NJROTC cadets.  Their assistance was invaluable.

And on behalf of all the dogs and cats who were adopted that day into FURever homes -- woof woof, meow meow – (that’s “thank you” in animal speak, by the way).  A bunch of their furry friends are waiting at the shelter for someone like you to come and take them home, so hurry on down.

FOTAS Volunteers work with the AIKEN COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER, 333 Wire Road.  For more information, contact “” or visit FOTAS on line at

Aiken County Animal Shelter:  “By the Numbers”

Apr. 28, 2014 - May 3, 2014

22 dogs and 7 cats  SAVED

Year to Date:  

316 terrific pets   SAVED

BACK IN BLACK -- black dogs $33 -- black cats $13

Aiken County Shelter “Pets of the Week!” 
**All adoption fees include:  spay/neuter, heartworm test, all shots, worming, and microchip.

Terrier/Lab mix, male, 4 yrs old, 47 lbs.  Only $70 

Domestic short hair -- male -- 4 yrs old, 16.5 lbs  Only $35

Sunday, May 4, 2014

FOTAS -- Newest Board Members

A New Day – A New Board
By Joanna Dunn Samson, FOTAS Director
as seen in the "Aiken Standard" 5-4-14 edition

What does a retired international businesswoman, a bank president, a veterinarian, and a priest have in common?

They all serve on the FOTAS Board of Directors.

It took us 3 years to convince Caroline Simonson to join the Board.  Caroline was one of the first volunteers recruited by Jennifer Miller in 2009.  She devotes 4 mornings a week, every week, to the shelter walking and socializing dogs, assisting new volunteers, and helping evaluate dogs for transfer.

Before she and her husband Bill moved to Aiken in 2004, Caroline worked at the New York Stock Exchange, raised a daughter and worked for an international company that sold cars and vehicles to the military, diplomats and embassies.

 “After I moved to Aiken, I volunteered with other community organizations, but once I started working with FOTAS,” says Caroline, “I knew I had found my calling.”
Caroline Simonson with two of the Shelter dogs

Frank Townsend is the president of the Aiken County Southern Bank & Trust.  An Aiken native, Frank is married to Beth, and has four lovely children - Frank, Jr., Pinckney, and the twins, Wallace and Wright - and two shelter cats, Charlie and George.

FOTAS appealed to Frank to join the Board because of his deep ties to the Aiken community and his financial expertise, skills important for a growing non-profit organization raising money in the community for various activities.  We also were impressed with his optimistic, soft-spoken manner, so we made a full court press.

 “Jennifer Miller was very persuasive,” says Frank “I was appalled by the huge intake and euthanasia numbers in the County.  I knew I wanted to help.  I just couldn’t say no.”

Dr. Charlie Timmerman is a highly respected veterinarian who started his own small animal practice in Aiken 42 years ago.  He is married to Colleen, who works closely with FOTAS’ Lenny’s Brigade and Fix-a-Pet programs.  They have 2 children and 3 grandchildren.

It’s obvious why we were so keen on Charlie: the depth and breath of his veterinary experience with small animals was and has been essential.  He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy with a measured response to problems.  We need that.

“I believe in getting involved,” says Charlie, “and I believed I could make a difference in the well-being of the shelter animals by working with FOTAS.”

We assured Charlie that working with us would not interfere with his time with his grandchildren, his quail hunting and most importantly, any Clemson games.  Maybe we secretly crossed our fingers as we made that promise, but Charlie’s adroitly managed to work it all into his rich and busy life.

Father Grant Wiseman moved to the Diocese of Upper South Carolina in 2009 with his wife Heather and his twin daughters, Audrey and Abby.  Aside from being the rector for St. Thaddeus in Aiken, Grant is very active in governance of the Diocese and serves as a trustee of the Gravatt Camp and Conference Center and Dean of the Gravatt Convocation.

Grant, Heather, Audrey and Abby have fostered in excess of 300 puppies over the past 5 years.  Aside from his and his family’s obvious dedication to helping the County’s homeless animals, Grant is a kind, optimistic and practical man also with deep ties to the community and extraordinary organizational experience.

“Our family strongly believes that puppies who spend the beginning of their lives being held, named and loved are far more adoptable than those who are not,” says Grant.

He’s right – virtually all of their puppies have gone on to find loving homes through our transfer partners.

 “This is a great Board,” says Jennifer Miller.  “They are movers and shakers in the Aiken community and have been instrumental in the evolution of FOTAS to an organization able to make an enduring difference.  They work together beautifully as a team, which makes the hard work of FOTAS not only productive, but pleasurable.  I am grateful for their commitment.”

FOTAS Volunteers work with the AIKEN COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER, 333 Wire Road.  For more information, contact “” or visit FOTAS on line at

Aiken County Animal Shelter:  “By the Numbers”

Apr. 21, 2014 - Apr. 26, 2014

26 dogs and 6 cats  SAVED

Year to Date:  

287 terrific pets   SAVED

BACK IN BLACK -- black dogs $33 -- black cats $13

Aiken County Shelter “Pets of the Week!” 
**All adoption fees include:  spay/neuter, heartworm test, all shots, worming, and microchip.

DOODLES   Australian Cattle Dog/Blue Heeler, male, 6 yrs old, 51 lbs.  Only $70 

FULMER  Domestic short hair -- male -- 4 yrs old, 10.3 lbs  Only $35