Paweenudh Suanpan is a special education teacher by day, and dog advocate by night. She started Piper’s Walk after her 6 year old chocolate lab, Piper, was killed in a car accident in June 2017. Piper and Paweenudh went everywhere together and spent a lot of time in the car, driving to swimming, hiking spots, road trips, and exploring new towns. In addition to running Piper’s Walk, Paweenudh now walks and cares for dogs on Rover, and enjoys the company of a recent addition to her family, a chocolate lab mix named River.
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. Piper’s Walk was created in January of 2018 with a mission to spread awareness for canine seatbelt safety. One walk at the time. They strive to prevent canine injuries and fatalities in automobile accidents. Piper’s Walk holds a dog walk and festival each June to raise funds for the Center for Pet Safety, which is an organization that crash test various automobile pet harnesses, crates and carriers to determine their effectiveness. Only four brands have passed crash testing, and several have failed or did not even qualified to be tested. Piper’s Walk holds on, attends various dog events across Maryland and Virginia, educate the community about the safest canine seatbelts available, and to make sure that as many dogs air safely secured during each car ride as possible. Hey, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. So tell us a little bit about you and and your story and how you got into all this. Well, I have been teaching special education for the last nine years, but at heart, I’m just a dog, Mom. Right now I have Ah, um, seventh month old puppy named River. And I got her from the Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary over the summer. But before that, I had Piper, who was the love of my life. Um, this little chocolate lab, Um, not so little, but she she was my everything, like, we did everything together, Always wanted a dog growing up, and I never had one. So, like when I graduated college and got my own place, I got Piper and, you know, I took her out like we went swimming. We would explore towns. We just go hiking for hours, and all I want to do was take care of a dog. That was like my life mission growing up one normal day. Um, we were on our way to the park to go for another hike around the lake, and we were in a car accident. This teenager lost control of his car. He was feeding excessively on. Dhe just slammed right into us. There was no avoiding it whatsoever. Like it was just boom. It happened. Piper slimmed is evidently says What happened like I was like we were all trapped in the car. But Piper’s slammed into the back of my seat and she broke her back and wasn’t Harold sized. And I just remember hearing her crying in the back seat and I was stuck in the front and I couldn’t get out to her. And, um, my boyfriend was also in the car, and he was able to get out and be with her. But it was like, just another normal day and boom, all this happened. So we like we had to say goodbye to Piper that I’m the vet said there is nothing that they could do to save her. Um, so that’s what started me into animal rescue. Of being an advocate for for dogs. I started up Piper’s walk. Um, because this accident happened. Yeah, this is just a little over a year ago. Yes, June 20th 2017. Yeah. Sounds like it’s still pretty fresh in your mind. Oh, it is every day. So now this this tragic event, though inspired you knew to to do something, tell us a little bit more about Piper’s walking and what you do. Yes. Oh, After Piper died, I started researching seatbelts for dogs. I came across the Center for Pet Safety on their own organization who crash tests thes safety restraints. Um, and I was just blown away that there’s only four brands that have passed the crash testing. So they became CPS certified, Um, and those brands I had never heard of them before. They’re not in our local pet stores. There was just so much information about what had failed the test. Unfortunately, those are the harnesses and carriers that are in our stores. I like for a while, I thought, like what if I had put Piper in a seat belt, would she still be alive? I mean, the answer’s probably I mean, no one’s gonna know for sure. Probably know, because I probably would have gone to the two who, like my local pet store, to get something off the shelf and that had failed the tests from the Senate at safety testing. And so it wouldn’t have done anything to protect her in the first place. So Piper’s walk was started to educate the community about what does work and what doesn’t work. So that when we buy these products that are supposed to keep our dogs safe, that we we buy the right ones so we can have the security and peace of mind that our babies are safe in the car. Yeah, yeah, it’s something that you don’t normally think of. I mean, I know we always have put our dogs and a harness in the back seat, But to be honest, I’ve never really have just assumed that the harness that I bought is safe and that it’ll actually work in a car accident. You know, I also learned like a lot of the packaging. It says crash tested. But it doesn’t mean that it passed the crash testing, which is so misleading. Wow, yeah, yeah. So I think that’s why I sent for pet safety is so important so that they could test thes talk the products, they have the certification, and then we know that these parts are safe. So Piper’s walk really pushes to support center for pet safety. so that we can get the information that we need. Yes. So now you started researching these. After that tragic event with Piper, you formed Piper’s welcome. Basically, you realize that they’re the only ones that are certified by the Senate for pet safety or just these four brands. Now, tell us more about kind of now where you’ve taken this, because it seems like this has become a real passion for you. So we started Piper’s walk like our annual event. Um, it was, ah, dog event Thio fundraiser for the Center for Pet Safety so they could run some more tests. Um, and we did this in all me, which is, um, our hometown over from and like Piper and I always went to like, dog events. Um and so I thought, like, would it be cool to do one? And only because we’ve never had anything like that in our town, it’s pretty small. And so we just we got together like a bunch of vendors. We have, like, 15 18 vendors come and we have, like, a doggy playground. We had, like, bobbing for apples, stuck bowling, agility, like it was really fun. And we walked one of Piper’s old routes, and we had a silent auction and a caricature artist, and it was just like a big festival for the dogs. We really got down Thio Piper story and just learning about the bird fans out there that do work. So we’ve got sleepy pod gunner kennels ends, you go pet. They’re all certified by the center of her pet safety. And it was really cool to find it out after the event. Like we had a lot of great feedback about it. People were asking about when the next event’s gonna be, um, but then we also have stories saying, Hey, we’re gonna We’re gonna get us like a pod for a dog now or we’re looking into getting gunner Kennels. So it was It was awesome to know that, like we inspired other people to start getting the right restraints needed for their dogs. So that was Yeah, that’s really cool. So now this was when was this first event that you held? It was June 23rd 2018 and we raised raised $1500 for the Center for Pat Safety. Um, and so we were able to sponsor a test. So that was nice. Yeah. You know, that’s really cool. And I have gone out to the Center for Pet Safety, and they’ve done a really, really professional job. Kind of like people used to seeing from the insurance institute the crash tests, right? You see the car crashing and buckling, and they’ve incorporated that showing you. Actually, what happens with some of these dog dog harnesses that they’re not? They’re not certified. Oh, so now this is gonna become an annual event for you. It is, um, we’re working on getting our our second event together for next year. We’re also working on, like, a seatbelt rental program. Um, so that, like, dogs with, um, like puppies, um, their families can get something for like, for their puppy. And as they grow up, they can, like, exchange it out for something bigger. Uh, yeah. Yeah, exactly what people call up and tell me like I don’t want to buy one right now because she’s still growing. And I also, um, wanna work with other animal rescues to get, like, their dogs, um, going home safely and everything. And actually, we’re, um, working with the our local animal shelter right now. Two for this go home safe program so that for each dog adopted, they go home with the with the seatbelt. So it’s good idea. Yeah, sleepy pod was so generous and donated some harnesses and carriers for us. Um, so I’m able to be at the animal shelter on the weekends and talk with the families about three importance of seatbelt safety for dogs and send them home with with the seat belt. And I get to, like, show them about how to buckle them in and everything so that their dog could be C. Yeah. Now that’s such a creative idea. Because, as you said, I mean, people will say, Oh, they’re gonna grow. They’re gonna grow out of it, but not necessarily if they’re not protected, right? So I think that’s a great idea to have kind of a trade in program where you’re able to, you know, get the next size harness so that the dog is always protected. Yes. Yeah. One of things I thought was really cool to about what the centre for pet safety is doing is an additional harnesses. They’re also testing crates, which is another thing that people don’t often think about is how secure, How well structured is that crate in the event of an accident? Um, gutter kennels is the only create that has been certified by a set of her pet safety. Yeah, like right now, like the small gunner, kennels will fit in the back seat of a car. Bigger ones will fit in an SUV. You know, they also have carriers also, like the little carriers. They could be seat belted in by sleeping pods. But yeah, there’s just a bunch of different. There’s different ways to travel and keep the dogs the dogs safe in there. Yes, and this is really become your your purpose. I mean, what do you see happening next for Piper’s walk? Definitely just keeping those the annual events coming. I think it’s a great community builder and just getting, um, people together and really like just coming together for a purpose. Like we need to just keep fundraising presented for Pet State. The’s a way we actually visited the test lab after the, um, the event last year. It was just incredible to see the science behind it all, like there’s so much work that goes into one test. And we actually found out that, um, like we tested, um Ah, harness from Petco. The good to go. And a harness from PetSmart. Um, which was the top Paul and the PetSmart one failed. It just it completely broke off. And the dog, like, flew off the tests lead. It was insane. Um, on the PetSmart or the Petco one, um showed promise, like the dog stayed on the seat and everything, but they’re not certified yet. And hopefully that they, they will reach out to senator pet safety and become certified. I thought like that was just That’s the purpose of, Like, what? What Piper’s walk is doing. We hold her annual walk we find in this endeavor pet safeties tests. And then we get these test results so that we just so we can just learn more about the pet industry and like, what can help us? Because there’s only there’s only 44 brands that work and reading. We need more options, right? Yeah. No, I think that’s really cool, because it’s something like you said you don’t normally think of. And now this has really inspired you to jump into a world that’s completely different from your background doing testing and engineering and all these things, you know, that’s got to be something that’s just completely foreign to you. But it’s a passion now, you know, I hated science growing up, but I definitely appreciate it now. And I am blown away by the scientist that that work on this stuff. And I mean, as a teacher, I think what I’m doing now, it’s not totally far off from from teaching, because now I’m teaching the community instead of like t j special that I’m teaching, like just people in our community. Um, about had safety. So I I love it. I just all I want to do is spread the word about about seatbelt safety and just keep him safe. Yeah. No, that’s really cool. I can hear the passion in your voice, and and now you’ve got a new chocolate lab named River. And I’m assuming river has got a harness and a crate and all of those all of those things. Oh, yeah. River. I, um first thing I did was, um, got her asleep. IPod. Um, I e mailed the the adoption specialists had best friends and, like, make sure to get, like, her measurements and everything would have it, like, ready to go. So when I picked her up from the airport, um, first thing she did was get her her slipping quite hard to build it into the car. And she’s a beautiful car, Ryder. I mean, um, I thought that she was gonna need, like, lots of training in the car, but she actually rode really well, um, but, you know, that’s something else that, like, I wanna work on Because people also say to me, Oh, my dog would never ride in the car or would never wear that. Um, and like, my dog wouldn’t wanna be seat belted in, But it’s kind of a matter of, like, training your dog, too, to ride with a sequel. Also working with your dog’s friend, which is, um, an organization where they they have, like, training classes for dogs and, like they give workshops and like, let’s just last of resource is two families to help end homelessness with the dogs. Basically, to prevent the the families from giving up, the dogs do to prom behave. So, um, working with them to come up with, like like a one shooter for, like, tips for training your dog to ride in the car. Just making, like, the whole seat belting your dog into the car thing. Not so scary and not such like an overwhelming task for those dogs. You have, like, had a habit of roaming the back seat or biting without without a harness, you know? Yeah, I know. I know. From our first off bear. Once we got him used to put him in the harness, he was fine. He could still stick his head up and stick his nose out the window and smell everything going by. But it did take a little bit of time for him to kind of get used to it and and not wanna jump down and get all tangled up in it. But as you said, it’s It’s like any other training. You’ve got to be consistent. You need to reward. And then, you know, ultimately you’re the one making the decisions to keep him safe. Yeah. Yeah. So what? What does a typical week look like for you when you’re doing all this? You know, it varies, but like, sir, my day job come home, and I just um I start planning out Piper’s walk for the week, Um, things that were going to do on the weekend. Like, right now I’m at the animal shelter. So, um, just getting, like, all my material is prepared for for the weekend Or, like, ever gonna be doing, like, a dog event, or like, a fund raiser. So pretty much the way it is, like preparation. And then the weekend is like events. Yeah, that’s really cool. And now this has become part of you. And you. You found your passion in helping animals. Absolutely. After Piper died, I needed it. A new purpose, teacher it in served the purpose for me anymore. I needed to know why I survived that car accident. I came across Piper’s block, and I was like, Oh, okay. That’s why that’s why I’m still alive to really live on Piper’s memory and make something out of this out of the strategy and save other lives. So that’s what I do know. Yeah, that’s really cool. Well, thank you for coming on the program. Is there anything else you wanted to share before we wrap things up? Just thank you so much for having me and helping to spread the word about Piper’s walk and seatbelt safety for dogs means a lot. Well, I’m glad to be able to help you out. And certainly we definitely encourage people to check out the Center for Pet Safety to find the the brands that are certified so that nobody else has to experience that type of a tragedy. Well, thank you for coming on the program today. Appreciate it. All right, Thank you. 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