Episode 49 – Denise Fleck

Denise Fleck is an award-winning author, radio show host & creator of Sunny-Dog Ink who joins us today to talk about first aid, pet safety & preparedness for your furry family member. She shares 3 important key categories to help you get ready in case of an emergency and what’s involved in each one. We encourage you to listen in and learn more!

Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where a goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now on with our show, Denise Fleck has a passion for helping others when it comes to animal safety and disaster preparedness for pets. After her own yellow Labrador suffered a back injury, she felt compelled to learn First Aid and CPR. So she left the entertainment industry to do something more impactful with her life that could help both humans and animals that we love. Denise is an award winning author radio show host, an animal care instructor who developed the curriculum for PET First Aid and CPR classes and has taught more than 15,000 animal lovers thes lifesaving skills. She has recently been named Women of Influence by Pet Age and one The Amy Show Hi Mentor Award from Cat Writers Association and the Pet Safety Traveler Award from Sleep iPod for her disaster preparedness book. In 2016 she launched the pet safety Crusader character to encourage superheroes of all ages to be the one who makes the difference and the life of an animal. This brought the opportunity to host a weekly talking informational program that received the cat Raiders News Award. And she now continues as twice weekly Facebook live segments offering pet parents and professionals the 411 they need to know. Hey, Denise, Thanks for Come on, the show today. It is bad. Well, wonderful to be here, Chris. So tell us a little bit about you. Give us your background and kind of how your passion turned to animals. Oh, wonderful. Um, I was actually raised by a great Dane. My parents were around, but, you know, the Great Dane, from my understanding, actually taught me to walk and do a lot of things and was certainly my protector and really, you know, instilled in me that love of animals. And I had many, many more wonderful dogs and cats over the years. You know, I went to school, I got married, I started a job, and then my husband and I decided to become a family by adopting a yellow lab from a shelter, and we named her Sunny and she was truly the sunshine of our lives. But one day when she was about eight years old, when she woke up, she couldn’t get up off the floor. And when she tried, she literally let out blood curdling screams that seemed to echo through the canyons around our house. Yeah, we were really in distress and knowing she was in pain, you know, we were concerned about actually picking her up and moving. Or and to make matters worse, we actually lived in a little cabin in the Hollywood Hills. In the car was literally 100 and 10. Railroad ties steps down the hill. So long story short, I developed a really good relationship with my veterinarian, and although he didn’t make house calls, he sent about tech to our house. We got Sonny on a stretcher, and she bounced back to her fun loving self when on many more adventures with us. But that just left me with that feeling of never, ever, ever again wanting to not know what to do when my furry child was injured. So I quit my day job. I had been a publicist in a motion picture studio, and I actually got a little tired of feeding human egos. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was a blast and 1/2 but you know, it was time for a change, and I just jumped on the bandwagon and started learning. First day developed a line of pet first aid kits, and Sonny was totally my inspiration should. But when Sonny crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I adopted an Akita who was nine years old, and that really made me appreciate, Um, when not only just, you know, having the love of a senior dog, but seeing how people react to certain breeds and, you know, in every generation of dogs, they’ve sent me on a different path. I wrote an article about this Akita. His name was sushi and that got me started writing magazine articles after you know, she had her time with us and went on to her next chapter. I had an amazing black lab named Mr Rico, who could lick a smile on the grumpiest kid’s face, and him combined with the fact that I was volunteering at an animal shelter and they got me started teaching Children. The two together seemed to be a natural mesh to write Children’s stories because I realized that although kids don’t always listen to their parents, parents do listen to their kids on. And you know, when I was teaching these high schoolers things such as reading how to read a pet food label, they actually we’re going home and sharing it with Mom and Dad, Mom or Dad were calling me asking for advice. And then they were buying better pet food for the family dog or cat. Nice. Yeah, so I thought, Well, if based on Mr Rico, my black lab, if I write Children’s books, I’m getting several generations at once. I’m teaching the kids who were reading it with their parents and grand parents and hopefully were affecting a change. And what I’ve tried to do with these Children’s books, which is called the Don’t judge a book by its cover, Siris is really have that message because they’re all about not judging an animal by its fur color by its age by its breed. And then, obviously that translates to other human issues as well. Yeah, I love that angle because, I mean, you’re educating the next generation, right? And then in a fun way that the message resonates. And as you said, kids talk back to their parents. Well, exactly. And I just learned the love of animals so early on that I think, you know, it’s important for other kids to that will. The animals will benefit if people learn early. And actually, there’s, ah, relatively new word out there floating around called zoo way. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, Chris, but zoo no sisters, you not ick diseases are the ones that you know passed between species things we can get from animals or actually give the animals Rabies is like, you know what? Perfect, Um, example or grd When your dog drinks back bad water and then gives you a kiss, you too will result in the massive quantities of vomiting and diarrhea. So zoona ticks and, um, zoonotic diseases are, you know, health problems we can get from others. But zoo way is actually the inverse. It’s the scientific proof that animals actually increase our health and wellness and some of the scientific things you know, you may have heard about you know that they’re good stress for leader. Really, sirs, on petting pets and being around them after a surgery or having heart disease can actually improve your health. It gets people off the couch. You know, stop being couch potatoes because we have to get up and walk the dog. Some people quit smoking because they find out secondhand smoke is bad for pets, too. But we’ve also found out now scientifically, that not only can having pets when you’re young, increase your immune system, but if a child bonds with an animal, it actually makes that child grow grow up to be a more empathetic or sympathetic human being. That is really fascinating. I wasn’t that something I’m not really aware of. So that’s Ah, it sounds like it’s a new a new area that they’re starting to focus on and raise more attention to. Exactly. And, I mean, you know, a lot of us that work around animals know all these things, but we need that scientific back. Yeah. No, absolutely. It helps people to, you know, see the credibility in all of this. So So you. You must be a very, very busy lady. I’m you know, you’ve got Sonny Dog Ink. You’re writing books. I mean, what what does a typical week look like for you? Well, I do try to start off with, you know, something good for me and my dog. My best buddy haiku is actually 13 recently, and he and I do our walks every morning and our little workout. But then I come in and check that email because it’s always there waiting before I you know, I think it’s important that we all do things for us on that we have some me time and some of my best me time. After that, initial checking of the email is to really go out and dig in the dirt and work in the yard, because I think we need to do that with all of the stress we all need to find some kind of way, too, you know, be creative, or just get some sort of release or work out and work out tensions. But then I do come back, and I’ve been recording webinars like crazy because I recently done a cross country move and a lot of the people on the West Coast there used to renewing and taking my classes every two years. I’m no longer there. So I Yeah. So I have found that technology is fabulous and I can now teach pet first aid classes via live teleconference where I can actually be there and see them. They can see me. They can watch me demonstrate they can see my slides and videos. But then there are also some people that doom or independent study. So I’ve also been recording different ones, too, so that they can take a self guided journey through the different topics. So a lot of my day has been, you know, putting these webinars together, writing the tests so that they can get certificates for them. If they are pet professionals of their pet parents, maybe they don’t need it. But, you know, I get involved in local rescues and, um, you know, I’m thinking about leaving myself into the legislation area a little bit, doing whatever I can to a back some animal laws to make a difference. But I’m also spending a lot of time with a virtual organization called the Gray Muzzle, which aids senior dogs. So you know there’s always something to do, whether it’s on the computer talking to somebody. I love to do Children’s book readings and actually get out there and talk to the kids. And I still do my life conferences and other in person pet first aid classes because some people just really like that contact where they’re watching me demonstrate and, you know, practicing along with me. Yeah. No, I I definitely love the life Facebook stuff that you do. And I would definitely tell people Go check out your page because there’s a you’re doing these regularly these Facebook live videos and and talk about different things and demonstrating different things. So I think there’s a lot of great information out there. Well, thank you for noting that that was my 2018 new goal to do. And so far I’ve kept with it. I am doing to Facebook Live, um, posts or, you know, videos of logs or whatever you want to call them. Ah, week. And I really am trying to give some content so that people are getting things in bits and pieces and learning a little bit about different animals, and I’m trying to reinforce it by doing the same topic for my written block because I know some of us are learners, you know, tap Italy. So we eat. So really trying to get that message out there? I guess that’s where my California teaching credentials came in. And I learned about the different ways. You know, teach and learn. Eso eso your background actually was as a teacher. Well, it was, actually, I was actually a studio publicist. And then when I left that and started getting into the animal world, I was volunteering at various rescues, and I landed at the Burbank animal shelter in California, just north of Los Angeles. And I guess they thought I was doing a good enough job, and I was teaching my pepper state classes there that they approached me about doing a combined project with the Unified School District and the animal shelter. I actually got hired by the Unified School District. So how to go back to school and get my teaching credentials? And I put together ah, five month long program for high school juniors and seniors, and they would come once a week after school for three hours, and I would teach them everything I could about animals. I mean, you know, learning the breeds, learning how to care for them vaccinations and diseases, of course, the first date in the CPR. But we’d also cover animal issues about decline and breed specific legislation and trap, neuter, release and all of that kind of information puppy mills that so many of them have never heard of. And then they would come back to the shelter on Sunday mornings, and I would actually trained them to be kennel assistance. And they would get that shelter and all of the animals ready before it opens, so that the animals would be clean fed and happy and hopefully ready to be adopted. So I thought it was truly an awesome program, and I was able to bring in guests speakers every once in a while because so many people grow up thinking that if you’re going to do an animal career, you’re gonna be a veterinarian, you’re gonna be a trainer, or you’re gonna be a grammar, right? Well, gosh, Chris talking. You mean what you do to, you know, there’s so many other things we can d’oh and that still haven’t you know, we haven’t come up in somebody’s mind. But there are just so many things. I mean, nobody had ever heard of Pet first state really, when I started teaching it and now people come looking for it. So there’s just, you know, the world is our oyster is, they say, And I really tried to expose the kids to, you know, guest speakers that were animal massage therapists or the police officer that worked with the canine or somebody that did pet photography. You know, all the different things so that people that were inclined to have certain skills or interests could find their way into the animal world. Yeah, no, I think it’s really amazing as I listen to you talk about how just one thing that happened with your dog, Sonny kind of spawned Ah, whole series of things and moving into the first aid and moving on to books and education. And and I definitely want to come back to the great muzzle because I think that’s something that’s, ah, passion of mine as well as senior dogs. I mean, anybody that had a senior dog or adopted or foster to senior dog, you know that, Yeah, while their their body, maybe older, their mind is still there And they So the capability to love and they need special needs and attention. But they have so much to give. Oh, they absolutely do it. I want to do that. But you triggered one thing in my brain when you said how you know one thing leads to another, and I never, ever would have thought of myself as teaching, um, pet first day because, Chris, I don’t know if I’ve ever even said this in an interview before, But when I was in Girl Scouts in high school, I actually fainted during a first human first. It was just, you know, one of those weird hot days I was growing up in Florida. I don’t think I’d had anything to eat. I was standing in the back of the room, and the instructor was really talking about a bloody wound, and actually, I remember it. She was talking about taking a hose to wash the glass out of it, and I guess just the combination of things in my, you know, going on in me, she could see across the room that I was, I guess you know, I’ve got that glazed over look and the funny thing was, I started to lean on my best friend. He was standing next to me and she thought I was clowning around and pushed me. And then, boom, I went down and that instructor flew across the room and somehow caught me and twisted me. So I landed on my back. And then when I came to, my friend was had burst into tears. Could she thought, you know, I was joking, but it’s just like, why would this person ever teach pet first date? But you know, animals are my heart, and it’s just something that happened and like we’ve been talking about, you know, Ah, seniors are amazing to adopt. But even if you don’t adopt a senior, hopefully the younger pet you have will grow into his senior hood. So it’s just, you know, they’re they’re already grown into their paws. You know how big they’re gonna be. They generally already have their personality. Some of that training is down. But you know, you can teach an old dog new tricks, and you should You should keep training old dogs and old cats to keep their mind stimulated. But I I think older dogs and cats are just such wonderful friends, and they are often overlooked. It shelters. And I’m honored that I had gotten involved with the gray muzzle organization, which is a 5013 c nonprofit. But we’re not a shelter. A rescue were actually. What we actually do is we fund shelters and rescues throughout the country and help them. Eight seniors helped them provide money to get the dental work done for those older dogs that come into the shelter that make, so that makes them more adoptable. We provide beds so that they’re not laying on that hard concrete floor. It’s amazing. The different programs, the different rescues and shelters have. One of them actually has started where they get to take one of their seniors, and he’s kind of fostered at a local hotel, and people see them there. They set up a whole little doghouse. There’s somebody in charge of the dog, and he’s you know, that the dogs have been getting adopted that way. In other communities, the big thing is retention, meaning very often you know, somebody doesn’t have the money to handle the issues that come up when a dog gets older, so through our funding. Those shelters are able to, you know, get the dog’s blood work done or get a certain surgery performed and then allow the family to keep the dog when they’re on the fence thinking, Oh, we may have to relinquish him because we can’t care for him anymore. Yeah, non. That’s really it’s interesting that you bring up some of these things. I think one of things I’m very passionate about is that there are some very common issues. But there’s also some very community, specific issues and focusing. Allowing the shelters and the rescues in the communities to focus on what works best in their in their area and with their population is something that I think is really important. Well, that’s so true. And I’m finding out the thing I’ve been doing for, you know, a few decades now. Education is the thing that’s just really needed in so many places, because sometimes people don’t understand and they think something’s really going to be a big deal, and then they feel they have no choice but to relinquish the pet. Whereas if they could just go in and get, you know, some diagnostic testing done, it’s something that’s manageable. And, like you said, things do happen in different places. Now. I don’t want to give the wrong impression because I’ve been reading up on heartworm and I realize it has traveled everywhere. Now it’s on the West Coast, but having been in California for so many years and just recently relocating to the Southeast, I’m my eyes have been open toe. What a problem it can be. And the thing is, the prevention is really easy and pretty inexpensive worth. Where is the treatment is really uncomfortable for the dog and you know can be expensive. So the more education about certain things and that when we prevent things from happening, it’s the same thing. Like, you know, preventing a rattlesnake bite is a whole lot easier than having to treat for it, right? You know, so and you know, there are certain pockets where there are different issues to deal with. But, um, overall, we just need to really become better pet parents, more informed pet parents, and my big mission is always just to be in the moment with your animals, like they are with you because you don’t want to miss those opportunities don’t be on your cell phone or texting when you’re walking the dog. Be paying attention to him. And also let that be a moment where your cares air, you know, going away. And it’s all about the bond you share with that animal. Yeah, no, that bond is so very important, and I’m glad you bring that up because we do get lost today in the and the technology world on the tech guy. But, I mean, it’s easy to to let that overtake your life into your point. Put down the put down your phone, spend the time with your pets really bond and get to know them and you’ll. You’ll get so much more out of it, then I think what you’ll be able to put in. Well, exactly. It’ll create wellness for you, but it’s truly a safety issue. I mean, I’m sure we’ve all seen people texting as they’re walking across the street. Purchase or walking into a telephone pole or something, and you have your pet out. You want to be aware you want to make sure there’s not a stray animal charging you. You want to make sure your dog isn’t eating a dead rat on the sidewalk for somebody who’s leftover food that could be tainted or that he’s not getting in the street. I mean, you know, we are pet parents. When you have a dog or a cat, you basically have a toddler for life. So it’s our privilege and our honor to take care of them, but also our responsibility. Yeah, that’s a great point now, one of things I noticed that you’ve gotten into a lot, which is something that’s another passion of mine is, is preparedness, right? So disaster preparedness tell us a little bit about what you’re doing there. Yeah, I’ve recently create Well, I started off with the book and then I recently created a It’s almost a six hour self guided course in pet disaster preparedness, but I have the word pet their loosely on Lee because that the title of the book is the pet safety Crusaders, My pet in Me Guide to Disaster Paul Parodist And it takes me back to any time we get on a plane and you get your instructions that should something happen and the, you know, the oxygen masks come down toe. Always put one on you before you put one on anybody else because we literally have something like 15 seconds before we’d be rendered unconscious. And if we’re trying to struggle to put it on a child or help somebody else, we may pass out in the meantime. So whenever we’re trying to help pets, we have to remember we have to take care of us, too. So my book in my class talks at a lot of the things you need to do around the home, the knowledge you need to gain and, um, the things you need to have yourself, the tool wise in order to help you so that you can help the pets. And I guess my three big tenants are readiness, positive mental attitude and curiosity, meaning that the readiness is not just have all of the supplies on hand, but get yourself ready, right that emergency plan practice drills with the pet with the kids. Pets aren’t going to read the book, and neither are kids. Probably you actually have to take them through the motions, teach, you know, dogs and cats to be comfortable in their crates to get into their harnesses, to go for car rides, all of this fits so well with I’m sure you’re familiar with Dr Marty Backer and his Fear free program. They’re trying to make that visit to the veterinarian much more comfortable for animals because some of them aren’t getting the care they need. And I like to teach that in the home, you know, to really make sure we give pets a head to tail check up and getting them used to the human touch as well as their carriers in the car rides. Because there may be times we have no choice but to do those things to them or to transport them. S o. I think readiness is all about that as well as for us to just, you know, keep on, um, taking classes that we need a positive mental attitude is one of those things you really can’t teach anybody. It kind of has to come from within. And it’s so helpful when you have somebody with a positive attitude, where versus somebody with a negative one, you know, on your team. But I think you can create a positive mental attitude of your feel confident if you have the supplies and if you know what to do that can fall into place. And then my 3rd 1 Curiosity just simply means curiosity to keep on learning. Don’t miss an opportunity to learn anything. If a friend wants to take you to a basket weaving class, go for you’ll have a fun time with your friend and you never know when you might really need to make a basket to Carrie’s. Think during an emergency. You know, um, if somebody wants to go learn, go to a seminar about astronomy, it might be the way you find your way back home with the stars. If all the power is out and you’re your dog have gone out, you know, in the deep woods to answer nature’s call. So you know, everything kind of follows suit, and I think it was a Theodore Roosevelt quote. But it’s all about when you know you have to do the best with what you have, where you are and when an emergency happens. That’s exactly what it’s going to be. So whatever skill sets we’ve been able to come up with can really help us think on our feet and, you know, improvise because you may have the greatest disaster kit in the world. But it may have just washed down the street in that flood. Right? So, you know, whatever we can really do to help us in our pets at the time something happens. I guess I always say that by preparing for the worst, you just might prevent the worst from happening, and that’s really what it’s all about. So read the book, take the course and then do the steps right. That emergency plan, everybody thinks, Oh, I’ve got it in my head. Well, even though you know brain cells do fly out our years when panic sets in, there’s more to it than that. Because sometimes when we write something, we realize, Oh gosh, I left this out or we could tweak this and do it better. So in the second, the third, the fourth draft, you know, is where the perfection comes. And then very often, sometimes we can’t really perfect something until we’ve lived through it. So I just really encourage you not toe wish you had prepared and to get the training, take the class, gathers the supplies and actually do the drills with your whole family. You know, a few times a year. It just really could save a life. Yeah, I know it’s a really good, really good point because people often think disasters were just a earthquake or volcano is something that happens once in a millennium, and it’s really not, and they can. Flooding is probably one of the most common ones. Certainly out west, they’ve got wildfires, even appear I’m up in Wisconsin. Snowstorm sometimes can be a disaster if it takes out the power and causes problems. So you’re playing eruption. We, you know, this spring in Hawaii. So, yeah, you just never know. And to your point, having a plan in being able to execute that plan. Um, particularly being being flexible is, he said, as your as your disaster kit goes floating down the street. Now what? Um, but having gone through that and documenting it and iterating it, you’ll be much more prepared. Well, and it can be just much Maur individual to I mean, the power can go out in your house. And if you’re not home, if you have a fish aquarium, your filtration system, you know, has stopped. If you have reptiles, maybe the heat lamps aren’t working. If you feed your dog or cat a raw diet. Maybe the food goes bad. So I mean, you know, even on a small scale, there could be, you know, what seemed to be bigger problems. So we just need to plan ahead. Yeah, absolutely. Well, Denise, it sounds like you’ve got so many amazing things going on. And it’s been such a pleasure to talk with you. Is there anything else you wanted to share with our listeners before we wrap things up? Ah, well, I’ve so enjoyed this, Chris. Yes, I just would love for them to check out my website. Pet safety crusader dot com. In addition to dogs and cats, I’m been adding classes on Bird, First State Basics basics and first aid for rabbits and pocket pets. Because a lot of people have those guinea pigs and all those other little cuties as well. I have a senior pet care class, and I will hopefully this fall be launching the third book in my Children’s book series. The title is still to be determined, but it will feature my my youngest son, who now has just turned 13 haiku. The 1st 1 start, Mr. Rico, The black lab. The 2nd 1 carried on this story with Bonzai the Akita, and it talked about introducing animals to each other. It was called Start Off on the right pause because, you know, you can’t make that first impression a second time. And now haiku is gonna take over the reins with the third book. So, um, I just hope everybody finds them enjoyable, but more importantly, enjoys the lesson underneath. That’s, you know, lying and looking for that treasure underneath. And really will respect and love and better care for animals absolutely, very well stated. Well, thank you so much, Denise, for coming on the program today. I really appreciate it. My total pleasure. Thank you. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast if you’re not already a member, joined the Air p A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue

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