Monday, May 13, 2019

Mother's Day, Remembering the Original Brown Dog

Mother's Day, 2019 - Thirteen years ago today, I was making a horrible decision. Chocolate Chip had been diagnosed with Lymphosarcoma, Stage IVb only two days prior and had received his first chemotherapy treatment the same day. I was told that if his liver was able to process it, there was a chance he'd survive. Sadly, the next morning I woke up to a jaundiced dog. Chip's liver was not strong enough to handle chemotherapy and I was left to decide our next steps.

My hope was to get through the weekend, Mother's Day weekend, and let him go gently the following week. The universe had a different plan. After a day and a half of administering medications to support his liver at home, he let me know on Sunday, Mother's Day, that it was time. Mother's Day hasn't been the same for me since.

That fateful day, we sat in my backyard under a Honeysuckle bush. A branch full of sweet honeysuckle buds bounced gently above Chip's nose. Chip stared at me intently, breathing heavily, but seeming to enjoy the beautiful scent of springtime in Tennessee. If he could have talked, I swear he would have told me how hard he'd tried to stay for me. 

Today, as I walked Beignet, I breathed in the Honeysuckle in Southern California and thought fondly of my life with Chocolate Chip - the day I met him, night I adopted him, the first night he snuck into my bed, the trips we took, the snuggles, and our last hours. He was my first love; my first experience in unconditional love outside of my family.

With each passing year, I reflect on the good works we've done as an organization, in his memory. And, I'm filled with gratitude for all who support our work. Thanks to you, more than 1100 families have not been forced to say a premature goodbye to their beloved pet. Thanks to your generosity, Chip's memory lives on with each animal saved. 

Several friends of Brown Dog Foundation have lost pets this year. I honor each of you. My heart aches for each of you facing your first (or thirteenth, or twentieth) Mother's Day without them. I tell you, it does get a little easier each year - the void is still present, but not so much a gaping wound anymore. And from experience I say, it helps to focus on the good work we accomplish through your support. 

Thank you for supporting our work.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Message from our Founder

Dear Brown Dog Supporters:

Some of you know that my Toffee Nut lost his battle with Mast Cell cancer in mid-June. This past year has been harder than I thought possible. Most days, when asked how I’m doing, I burst into tears. If, by some unknown stroke of luck, I’m able to say “fine, thank you” without immediately crying… I find myself heading to the bathroom for a private breakdown.

The Board and I agreed to put Brown Dog Foundation on the shelf this past November, giving me the time to be with my family and to be able to focus my energy wholly on Toffee and his final journey. I’m thankful that the Board extended me that latitude. Now that the fog is clear, I have one regret… that many families likely had to say goodbye to their own pet so that I could enjoy the final months with mine. In the moment, it was everything I needed. Now, it wrenches my gut.

What the experience with Toffee Nut taught me is that our program is vitally important. As usual, friends and family came out of the woodwork to help me give him the best possible treatment available. It allowed me to have no regrets when the time came. It gave me the peace of knowing he was happy and comfortable until the very end. Too many people do not have the support network I have. Too many people just have to say goodbye because they don't have the financial resources. We have to be able to offer that peace to others. But, we can’t if we do not raise funds.

On November 4th, we’ll hold the Annual Wine Dinner Gala. We need you to attend. We need you to purchase your ticket. The Board underwrites the majority of these expenses for this event so that every dollar spent on tickets is profit, and so that every dollar spent that night is profit. This event is the only way we can continue to fund our program. We’ve tried other styles of events and they do not raise as much money as this dinner does.

I understand that $165 for a dinner ticket “seems” high. But, I want you to consider this… if you knew that $165 would save someone the pain of prematurely losing their beloved pet, would it be worth it? Well, that is exactly what it does - it goes straight to our mission!

I’d like you to consider these words from Susan, who lost Allie this past weekend. “My veterinarian asked me if you knew that I am losing Allie today. I told them how wonderful you and Brown Dog are. Thank you for helping give me more years with my girl. What a priceless gift.” THIS is what your $165 pays for. Pair that satisfaction with the five course gourmet dinner, the high quality wine and entertainment we give you in return... it truly is worth much more than that.

We’ve all lost pets. We all know that pain. Wouldn’t it feel good to help a family avoid that for as long as possible?
Please, reserve your tickets today!
Thank you for your support,

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Brown Dog. The Book.

A lot can happen in ten years. Between the ages of 20 and 30, I moved out on my own, enjoyed drinking legally and launched my career. Between the ages of 30 and 40, I loved and lost my 'soulmate with 4 legs'. And, in the past 10 years, I've resumed my career while being instrumental in helping more than 850 families save their pet's life. 

And, I've helped write a book. A memoir of sorts... about my soulmate with 4 legs and our life together. He inspired me to do something I never thought possible. I hope you'll read it. I hope you'll buy it. I hope you'll share it with everyone you know! 

More importantly, I hope it inspires you to get involved - whether to volunteer, to share our posts on social media, to attend events, to serve on the board, or to donate - however you support us, it's appreciated and needed to keep us moving forward. I can't do it by myself. It takes a village.

Here's the book's teaser...
This is the story of Chocolate Chip's journey from the Johnson City Animal Control facility through East Tennessee Labrador Retriever Rescue and into Carol's arms. For nearly 5 years she gave him everything she could, until cancer returned and took him from her far too soon. But, his passing inspired Brown Dog Foundation  and since she let him go on that drizzly Mother's Day in 2006, the Foundation has assisted more than 850 family pets .

In the book, you'll come to know Chocolate Chip, Carol and her family, and the early supporters who brought Brown Dog Foundation to life. You will also meet several of the pets we've saved and the doctors and celebrities who help us keep the organization alive today.  

When Carol adopted Chip, she lamented to the rescue group, "it's a shame there isn't an organization who could have helped his family pay for the care he needed so they could keep him." Never did she expect to experience the same scenario herself. Faced with a diagnosis of cancer and a treatment protocol of bi-weekly Chemotherapy and combined with her recent job loss, now she couldn't afford the very treatment that might save his life. 

Through his journey, Carol came to learn that hundreds of thousands of pet owners across the nation are faced with the decision to end their pet's life and suffering when the cost of life-saving treatment is outside their financial means. For these families that final decision is brutal.  Carol, fresh with the pain of facing this same decision, created Brown Dog Foundation. And, just like that, families have an alternative. 

Brown Dog has inspired many to do good work. He will inspire you to do the same.  

For the past 5 years, we have consistently received 4,000 requests for assistance annually.  Brown Dog consistently helps 100-165 families each year. Books begin shipping in November, 2016.

We'd love to hear your thoughts about the book, as well as the work we do!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Travel with Pets

Just this month, a Gilbert AZ "boarding kennel" came under investigation after 17 different pet owners were told that their pets had run away.  After several days of searching the area for their pets, these owners uncovered a most devastating reality - their pets had actually perished while the care of this facility and their bodies were tossed haphazardly in a shed at the back of the property.  The boarding facility owners are trying desperately to cover their tracks.  But one thing remains clear... they lied to these pet owners to get their business and subsequently lied to keep their money.  Be VERY careful when using boarding facilities...  check their licenses, seek referrals, visit the property, and don't believe it if it sounds too good to be true. 

Traveling Without Your Pet
Sometimes vacations are just not meant for our pets. In these cases there are two options.

In-home Pet Sitting

Your Home- A family member or friend can watch over your pet while you are away at your residence. This will keep your furry friend from having to leave the comfort of their own home. Pet sitters could also be hired to stay at your home while you are away.

Pet Sitter- Many pet sitters are available to watch your pet while you are away. Make sure to conduct thorough research and have a full tour of the pet sitter’s home before leaving your loved one. Online blogs are a great way to get an insight to the services offered.

** Make all sitters aware of your pet’s needs. Any medications, allergies, and special care instructions should be explained thoroughly.

Pet Boarding
Many businesses specialize in pet boarding.

Veterinarian Office- Your pet is already familiar with the staff at this location. Staff will have a record of your pet on file and will be able to assist if any health issues arise.

Pet Hotel - These are offered at pet stores throughout the country. These “hotels” serve as a boarding for your pet while away and offer food, water, and daily play time.

Luxury Pet Boarding- Luxury boarding for pets, also known as pet spas, offer a variety of amenities, such as steak dinners, private rooms, and pet massages. Your pooch can truly be pampered in these facilities while you are away. Also included are customized play packages and a variety of options to help meet your pet’s needs.

Traveling With Your Pet

Dog Bag To-Go
Preparation needs to be made for pets to go on trips. Make a to-go bag for your pet including necessary items. These items include but are not limited to:
-          Food
-          Water
-          Water Dish
-          Leash
-          Collar
-          Tags
-          Medication(s)
-          Treats
-          Items to clean up after your pet
-          First-aid kit

Car Ride
Back Seat - Don’t let your pet sit in the front seat. It puts them at risk of injury if the airbags deploy.

Safely Secured - Place your pet in a special seat, crate, or buckle them in. Some stores even sell pet seat belts. Make sure your dog is safely secured while traveling. This prevents them from distracting your driving and possible injury.

Keep Windows Rolled Up - Although pets love catching the breeze and smelling items outside, it is very dangerous to have the windows down. Debris from the road could fly by and hurt your pet. Glass, dirt, and rocks are just some of the hazardous items that could pose a threat if your dog is hanging out of the window.


In Cabin If flying is the desired means of travel, place your pet in the cabin with you if possible. Most airlines require pets to meet weight restrictions and be securely fastened in a crate for the duration of the flight.

No Tranquilizers - Do NOT give your pet tranquilizers for flying. This can impact their breathing and cause severe health issues at high altitudes.

Just like humans, pets need breaks as well. Plan accordingly to allow breaks for stretching, play time, and bathroom use. It’s better to have breaks frequently than a pet to urinate in the car.

Dog-Friendly Establishments

Lodging - Not many hotels allow pets. Be sure to verify pet policy before booking a room. If staying in an RV or with friends, be sure to arrange a sleeping area for your pet.

Restaurants - Some restaurants and shopping centers are pet friendly. These businesses allow pets and owners to eat outside on a patio. Be sure to locate a place you can take your pet. If you are not able to take your pet inside get food to go and take to a park or other facility. Never leave your pet unattended. is a great tool for locating restaurants, lodging, parks, trails, and attractions that are pet friendly. The site even separates establishments by city and state. It is a great resource when planning a long trip.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dog Days of Summer

***DO NOT leave your pet unattended in the heat. All it takes is a matter of minutes for your furry friend to suffer serious health issues.

Cars, even when left in the shade with windows down, are usually 10-20 degrees *hotter* than it is outside.  Your pet can slip into heat stroke within 5 minutes.

Tips to survive the heat:
-         Keep plenty of water available for pets
-         Replace water to keep it cool every few hours
-         Only let pets outside for short periods of time
-         Do not leave pets unattended
-         Walk pets after the sun goes down
-         Give pets access to shade

Tips to keep pets cool:
1.     Use dog boots- Pets absorb heat through their feet. Wearing boots will help cool them off and prevent their feet from burning on hot pavement.
2.     Place a wet towel on the ground for your dog to lie on.
3.     If spraying the dog with cool water, make sure to get their stomach and paws as well.

Common Summer Time Issues:

Parasite and Pests- As pets spend more time outside, they are more prone to insect and snakebites. Carefully watch pets and make sure they avoid these incidents.

Drinking Lake/Salt Water- Do not allow pets to drink the water while swimming. It can cause your pet to become very ill.

Overheating- Know which breeds are not capable of being in the heat. Some breeds are very sensitive and can overheat in a matter of minutes. Be aware of your pet and their needs. Do not ever leave them unattended in the heat. And, do NOT leave them in your car, even to run a 'quick errand'.  

Signs of overheating
-         Excessive Drooling
-         Glazed or Bloodshot Eyes
-         Increased Pulse
-         Heavy Panting
-         Vomiting
-         Staggering

** If your pet is showing these signs, get them to a veterinarian right away. Try to provide the pet with fluids if possible. 

Have fun this summer, but remember to limit activity in the heat and keep your pet hydrated!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Who is the Expert?

Toffee & Beignet, Yin and Yang
written by Carol A. Smock, Founder

Something happened in my family recently that had me asking, "so who is the expert anyway?"  I was diagnosed with Valley Fever and worried that if I had contracted it, my dogs may also have been exposed and could be dealing with this horrible disease.  So, off to the Veterinarian we go...

I love my Clinic.  Dr. Tenney SAVED my Toffee Nut's life last year by amputating one of his toes that had a spindle cell carcinoma attached.  They suggested radiation afterward to be sure we got it all, but after careful consideration, I opted *not* to put him through it.  I met a new doctor on Saturday who would draw their blood - she's lovely too.  Well educated. Well spoken.  Kind and compassionate.

We talked at great length about the fact that I refuse to give Heartguard, Frontline or Vaccinations.  I explained that I've lost two already to cancer and I want to try this Holistic approach to see if it makes a difference.  I explained that while I don't pump their bodies full of poisons and toxins anymore, I still have them tested for Heartworms and other diseases on a regular basis, often performing a full panel of bloodwork annually.  I give essential oil supplements and feed the highest quality food I can buy.  I also explained how I've read extensively about this chosen lifestyle and I've consulted many who could be deemed experts in arriving at my decision.

She was respectful, although I could see she was cautious.  And, I DO respect that.  My dogs' bloodwork came back...  the 10 1/2 year old who just had a battle with cancer last  year - PERFECT!  And, while he showed exposure to Valley Fever, he does not have active infection.  The 4 year old was negative for Valley Fever.

So, this begs the question, just who is the expert when it comes to our pets?  While I would never suggest that Veterinarians are not the most educated and knowledgeable, sometimes, there are experts out there who didn't go to school for their degree.  Sometimes, an expert can be someone whose lifetime has been spent learning by doing (as John Lloyd Wright suggested is the best method of learning), taking chances and risks and studying the results.

I trust my doctors.  I really do.  But, they believe in Western Medicine and I'm learning that I believe in an Integrated Approach.  I'm thankful that they respect me enough as a pet owner to "learn by doing".  They are there to warn me of possible impending doom and to make sure we are testing my pets along the way to insure their safety.

I want to call your attention to a Special Newsprint Section that published in the Washington Post yesterday. It was titled Pet Wellness and the website is  I encourage you to take a look at what this special section has to offer - good information about nutrition, behavior and general health & wellness.  There are also some great articles on Rescue and Adoption.  A word of warning, it's not all written by veterinarians...  but there is great information in it for you to digest and discuss with your doctor.

Brown Dog Foundation LOVES pets.  We respect the doctors who study for years to save them.  But we also know that often times, "experts" walk among us.  And sometimes, the expert may be us.  After all, who knows your pets' behavior and patterns better than you?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Human Food for Pets

Is it Safe?

First, we wish to acknowledge that many people feed their pets human-grade food.  This post is not intended to be a conversation between feeding "raw" and feeding table-treats.  It's a light-hearted observation of human foods that can be harmful to your pet's life.

We all have had those moments where our pet wants to share in meal time. There is nothing wrong with giving our animal a treat as long as certain rules are followed. Similar to humans, there are foods that are healthy and unhealthy. Animals must be fed human food sparingly and certain foods are hazardous. See below for more info.

HAZARDOUS Foods for Pets
-         Chocolate
-         Alcohol
-         Avocado
-         Macadamia Nuts
-         Grapes/Raisins
-         Yeast Dough
-         Undercooked Meat
-         Onions/Garlic/Chives
-         Xylitol (Sweetener found in candy, gum, and toothpaste)
-         Milk
-         Salt

Many of these foods result in seizures and vomiting in pets. The risk of eating these items includes death. Pets have immune systems different than humans and are not able to properly digest these foods.

Foods Pets Can Eat
-         Peanut Butter (all natural, no salt)
-         Pears
-         Strawberries, Blueberries, and Raspberries
-         Bananas
-         Tuna
-         Plain Pasta (No Sauce)
-         Cheese
-         Eggs
-         Baby Carrots
-         Yogurt (No artificial sweetener)


Occasional Treats- Do not over feed your pet human food. These items should be treats and given very sparingly. The more human food a pet is fed, the higher a risk for serious complications including obesity.

Prepare Food Appropriately - Remove all seeds, wrappers, and other hazardous pieces before giving food to a pet. Also, properly cook all meat and items requiring proper heating (we acknowledge that many feed their pets Raw Diets...  when overseen by a professional, raw diet can be *very* effective.  Raw Diet is not to be confused with "table scraps").

Natural- Only give your pet food without salt, butter, or other seasonings. Plain items reduce the risk for allergic reactions or other health issues.

Your pet can participate in meal time with you on special occasions. However, it is crucial to remember that your pet is not capable of realizing the damage unhealthy food can cause. We are responsible for protecting their well being. While your furry-friend may tempt you into giving treats often, remember that you are protecting them by saying no.