petshealingAn expert in troubled teens, psychologist Catherine Scott knew that late-night calls from the adolescent psychiatric unit likely weren’t for her. They were for her Shih Tzu, Cissy.

“Doctors would call the nurses station to ask that Cissy come to a specific area of the unit to help calm and or stabilize a situation or to provide comfort,” Scott said. She began bringing her dog to work with her because Scott sensed the dog could help. It was years before research and literature confirmed her intuition.

smokeyABOUT EIGHT YEARS AGO, RICHARD CZARK OF BLUFFTON ARRIVED AT A MOBILE HOME FIRE AS A RED CROSS VOLUNTEER TO HELP THE FAMILY, WHO HAD LOST THEIR HOME.

Smokey has been an exceptional dog from the very beginning.

As the flames died down, a soaking wet puppy emerged from under the home. Then another puppy crawled out.

Training a therapy dog is a lot of work, said Abby Bird, owner of Alphadog Training Academy in Bluffton — and not all dogs are cut out for the job.

First, a dog has to pass the American Kennel Club’s 10-step Good Canine Citizens training course. It teaches the dog good manners at home and in the community. Tested skills the ability to ignore distractions like other people, other dogs and food.

Maranatha FarmBob and Linda Heise of Sun City Hilton Head are excited to bring home a new member of their family in a few weeks. They’ve got a bed for her, and some toys, and plenty of treats. Plus a brand-new leash and collar.

Cody, a 7-year-old Shih Tzu-schnauzer mix, will be coming home with the couple in a few weeks, after she finishes treatment for heartworms. Her adoption fees are waived as part of Maranatha Farm’s Seniors for Seniors program, which places older dogs with older people.

While riding through the beautiful Lowcountry, occasionally you will see a cat running by. Most of the time, the cat is domestic and close to home, and it is just taking its daily route thorough well-known territory. There are, however, significant numbers of homeless cats that most of us ignore. They may be feral, sick or injured, and may live together in several cat colonies around Hilton Head and Bluffton. One of the problems with ignoring the stray and feral cats that roam the streets is over-population.

Sometimes, home is where you are instead of some place you are trying to get to. A shelter dog can teach us a lot about that.  A shelter dog named Heather taught us that.

Working at an animal shelter is filled with many joys. There is no greater joy than finding a new home for a pet.  There is no greater satisfaction. You come to work every day with that goal: find homes for these pets.

Hundreds of readers sent in photos of their cute pets for our annual “Cutest Pets” issue. This year’s contest was decided by the number of “likes” each photo got on our Facebook page.

In a heated battle, Jackson came out on top. The 14-week-old German shepherd is the proud puppy of Kristen Cyrilla and Jason Nearen.

Judging by the number of leashed dogs seen frolicking on Hilton Head’s beaches and bike trails, it’s safe to assume a lot of people in this area love animals. That assumption is confirmed by the number of generous donations given each year to local nonprofit groups that care for and protect our four-legged friends and neighbors. Here are three groups with all paws on deck working hard to make life better for the Lowcountry’s cats and dogs.

Hilton Head Humane

The Hilton Head Humane Association, together with Beaufort County, recently approved plans for a new 21,136-square-foot facility in Okatie, near the intersection of U.S. 278 and S.C. 170 at Pritcher Point Road. The building’s interior area of 16,830 square feet includes Hilton Head Humane’s spay/neuter clinic, an adoption center and Beaufort County Animal Shelter & Control. Over 4,300 square feet of exterior kennel space is included, as well as separate “get acquainted” and exercise yards for the dogs.

Pretty FaceMeet Pretty Girl. It’s easy to see how she got her name, and her story is one of triumph. She was found on the side of a highway, alert, but in clear need of help. She appeared to be deaf and couldn't do much with her back end. Her rescuer contacted Palmetto Animal League for assistance, and it was immediately apparent to the veterinarians at the league’s Community Clinic that Pretty Girl had endured severe trauma to her back and hind quarters.