Advocacy, Blogging, dog training, Mental Health

A Rant on Animal Abandonment


I feel the need to rant. I might as well make use of the space. Spoiler alert: there are no solutions and I abhor pity, so don’t read if the state of the World gets you depressed. Disclaimer: I know there is a lot of good in the world and it’s my responsibility to be the change I want to see.

Today’s rant: I don’t know whether it’s just here in the deep South (probably not) but the degree to which animals, especially dogs and cats, are bred and then dispatched with, is deplorable to me. I belong to two online “yard sales” and I see pups and full grown dogs being “given away.”  Not given to a local rescue group to foster and rehome, or even to the shelter? We’ll discuss high kill shelters and whether it is preferable to euthanize an animal or let it be abused/neglected or used as bait in fighting in another post. How do folks raise an animal, or take it into their homes, then one day just abandon it?

I live in a military town, and many folks who get deployed use services that foster their pets until they return from deployment. My neighbor just returned from six years in London, and told stories about how the Brits thought their sweet hound was a “mutt”; she is, she’s a rescue. And my new neighbors brought her with them overseas and here she is back in our town, soon to be a big sister to my neighbor’s soon-to-be-born baby.

How does one bring a Great Pyrenees into an apartment and then realize it is bored out of its mind and can’t move/run/do the work for which it’s bred, and then offer the dog for free, to anyone, no rehoming fee, no questions asked? (Yep, there is one right now on this “yard sale” site.) How does one own a German Shepherd from puppyhood, show pictures of yourself hugging it, and then post it’s available at no cost?

How does one just give away puppies and kittens because you “don’t believe in neutering” – oh lord don’t tell me it has something to do with protecting YOUR manhood. I go down the path that gerbils and small rodents are going to become snake food; I’ve done my time in pharmaceutical research and I know the deal (quick aside: no, PETA fans, animal labs do not get their subjects from shelters. The science behind the research requires a pure, consistent strain on animals for any results to be valid. Sigh. Another post….) Dog fighting is alive and well where I live, and in the surrounding areas; puppies and small dogs are snacks.

This doesn’t take into account the animals that are in my town that are chained up outside, barking out of anxiety and frustration.  Does anyone believe they serve as protection? They are captives. The lucky ones break free and get hit by cars. No, I’m not as cruel as all that. If you have seen this situation over and over again, you can judge me.

Education is not the solution. Folks who abandon their animals always have justification: moving, new baby, change in animal’s behavior, busy work schedule, can’t afford them. I stayed in a homeless shelter with my cat in a carrier hidden behind a tree for three days until I found housing. I fed her chicken thighs I had stuffed in my pocket. You know that meme “Would you go without food so your pet could eat?” I’ve done it.

My local shelter is so eager to place animals they don’t have time to interview folks about their capacity to keep and care for an animal.  Many people don’t even know what questions to ask about animal welfare, what it costs to maintain the health of a pet, how long an animal will live and what its needs are. From personal experience, I filled out a form, made a “commitment” to keep the animal, and walked out with a dog that was absolutely inappropriate for me.  I got read the riot act by one of the shelter employees when I called and asked to bring the dog back, was told I was evil and deserved to die. I had “signed a contract and now” I “was reneging on it,” was what he told me and all he cared about. So I rehomed the dog with the help of friends and colleagues and this dog is now in the perfect home, and in return, I have the perfect service dog for my disability. I will never recommend this shelter as anything but a place to take unwanted animals. I laud the local rescue groups that selectively pull animals from the shelter, get them temperament tested and socialized, and work their hearts out to find their forever homes.

Why even bother with animal rescue when there is so much poverty, child abuse/neglect and homelessness with which to deal? I’m on a six year waiting list for housing, and some places are denying me housing APPLICATION because my disability is not mobility related. That’s another rant for another post. The reason I am speaking out is because these animals CAN’T.  My depression leads me to a dark place where I rage that I had no say in being born, life is more than difficult and at times I wish I were dead, painlessly, because I just don’t want to hurt anymore, and that includes killing myself using violence.

So I take my service dog for a walk in the sunshine and take a deep breath. Many years ago, I had a signature file for my email that has become the tag line on my business cards “Saving the world, one puppy at a time.” It’s all I can do.



Advocacy, dog training, Mental Health, Recommendations/Things to Check Out

What it takes to become a certified dog trainer

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I was turned down for funding by North Carolina Department of Vocational Rehabilitation b/c I couldn’t prove the “need” for training to become a professional dog trainer. I borrowed the funds to enroll in a program (Catch Canine Trainer’s Academy out of Little Falls, NJ) and I am now part of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers as a student/supporting member  and belong to an online forum for Professional Service Dog Trainers, as that is one of my priorities to study and in which to become an expert.

As I find resources I post them on my Pinterest board, and I’d also like to educate folks that there’s a reason and a justification for choosing someone with knowledge and skills assessed training to help you learn to work with your puppy or problem solve with a rescue or dog you have.

The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers spells out the criteria for accreditation. It amuses me that, as with my knowledge of the disability system came from years of having to advocate on my own behalf, and my knowledge of the divorce court came from being railroaded by my ex husband because I could not afford an attorney and in Wayne County, NC, divorce attorneys are only offered by legal aid if children are involved, so I am learning, and will become an even better dog trainer, than if services had been handed to me by the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Their ignorance continues to astound me. As an advocate, I will never turn down anyone’s request for information in the pursuit of bettering themselves to get out of the disability system. At 52, I don’t know if I will ever be able to work a full time job and meet the standards of Substantial Gainful Employment as set by the SSA (Social Security Administration.) The damage done to me by the treatments that were prescribed for me have taken their toll on me neurologically. I can not process information the way I used to, and the symptoms of my disability limit  as to how much I can do.

buddy on the jobI know they made a bad call. Their politics got in the way of doing what was right for the client. And I wish them the best. Just like my ex husband. I’m angry and resentful, but I don’t let myself stay there for long. I have too much work to do.

Below is a link from the CCPDT on what it takes to become a certified dog trainer. I have read one of their study guides and the examination includes learning theory and animal physiology, as well as dog skills training, and requires many hours preparation in the field. Just because this country doesn’t YET require certification to be a dog trainer doesn’t mean that this is not a controversial issue within the field and that change isn’t in the works. As early as 1997 Psychiatric Service Dogs weren’t recognized as medical service dogs.

I intend to be a part of the change I want to see. Thanks for reading.

Dog Trainer Certification








notary public

Disposal of a Notary Stamp

I spent one day in paralegal school before I realized that paralegal students are as cut throat as 1Ls. I had already spent nearly $200 on a continuing ed course to become a notary public and the requisite equipment, and another hundred dollars in fees to the State of North Carolina to register myself as a notary public.  I have never taken a fee for my years of service; I have notarized a handful of documents for friends. My commission expires in 2018 and I can’t see going back to re-certify my commission; but who knows? Maybe there’s a reason to become a dog trainer with a notary public commission.

The American Association of Notaries is a business from which I bought my supplies. They have simple suggestions for keeping your equipment secure and safely destroyed when your commission expires or if you need to change your information. I thought I’d share it here . I recommend their site for good tips and recent changes in procedure, they always remind you to follow up with your state’s regulations.





August Morning Walk with Chihuahua





Buddy and I amble through sensory snapshots.

He wriggles on his back in freshly mown grass,

breathes deep of daylight damp;

memories of black Chihuahua captured by camera phone.


Lula’s garden thrives on Carolina humidity;

blooms change hue as blue hydrangeas give way

to purple pansies, shrimp plants;

bees buzz pink snapdragons as sunflowers reach skyward.


Green Cherry tomatoes ripen, become red bursts

of sweetness planted next to three types of peppers,

garlic bulbs, onions, scallions,  eggplants, and zucchini.

Small lemons will turn pale yellow on the tree.


Midday heats up as we drive into town,

oil mirages rise in rainbows from the highway.

We pass the smells of local turkey farms,

pungent contrast with floral scents of sunrise walk.


Shari Elizabeth Berk

August 20, 2016

Goldsboro, NC

Mental Health, Poetry

Life Redefined

bike leggings budo club email

Once a wife of anonymous character,

a nobody in the not quite dark

stripped of the original appeal

to which he was drawn.


After the divorce, I wander

into the mind-fields of random men;

his angry word-wounds, fresh

in the aftermath, block my clarity.


Isolated, aloof to trust,

haunted by vengeful whispers,

midnight air disturbed by fitful dreams

of an ill-defined self.


Hope stirs after three years,

no longer hostage to less-than-love.

Freedom, complicated and confusing

awakens a future of choice within me.


I simplify life, say farewell to false friends;

show naysayers I am not obliged

to make sense to them. Their words

can’t hurt me anymore.


I paint a dark berry lip, don Doc Martens

Punk Poet persona, alter-ego protects vulnerabilities.

I learn to dream large, forsake lost love

for loyal dogs. Find true self beyond the past.


Shari Elizabeth Berk

August 14, 2016

Goldsboro, NC