Category Archives: General


Dollar-a-day Dogfather

by Joya DiStefano

 Introduction: Who is the PAWS Dogfather and why should you care?

“There are 25,567 days in 70 years, and this year I want to raise a dollar for every single one of them.”

 “Welcome to Bedlam” reads a sign coming up our driveway. Michael had it made for me one Christmas. It is a testimonial to the love he bears for me – and recognition of the life to which he is wedded. I responded the following year with the one under it that says, “Must Love Dogs,” which he does – all the dogs, all the many, many dogs, even Percy and probably Benny, too. Michael is a dog-lover. Michael has been my partner for over 23 years, and my husband for 22, in large part because he is a dog-lover. Close to a 100 dogs have come through our lives over our years together, some for no more than a night, others for their lifetime.

This man, this rock-solid man, this uncomplicated, dedicated man, has made many lives possible – mine for starters, and many, many more, most of them four-legged. If I am a kite, Michael holds my string; if PAWS is a sailboat, Michael is its keel.

The idea to celebrate Michael’s seventieth birthday for a year prior, as a tribute that could also serve as a unique fundraiser for PAWS, our animal welfare organization, occurred as PAWS, Inc. confronted a $6,000.00 vet bill just before his 69th birthday in early May. Michael is the Treasurer of Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, which he helped establish to address critical problems in the periphery of a very large rural county with two new animal shelters in its center. Michael is one of those behind-the-scenes guys; the kind who goes unnoticed until they are not there and the bottom falls out.

As our new county shelter opened, designed and equipped to address the existing problem of unwanted and neglected animal, PAWS was established to keep that problem from outgrowing the new facility by addressing the plight dogs and cats where they live, before they get to the shelter.

In a little over two years, PAWS has either rescued or facilitated the rescue of more than 700 dogs (and a few cats), and it has funded all or part of the spay/neuter surgeries for at least 600 animals. For more than seven years, Michael has established and maintained the financial systems to keep all our animal welfare efforts solvent, documented and reported as necessary. Michael’s training is in accounting, but his love is golf, and sports, good food and travel…and me and our dogs, all thirteen of them, except for maybe Benny.

This month, PAWS is launching a year-long fundraiser to honor our wonderful Dogfather. It will run through next May 2017, when Michael turns 70. We hope that if you know and love this man, or what he stands for, you will make a monthly pledge for the next year: $30-31/month gets your tribute on the Dogfather Tee, all publicity, and an invitation to the party; $15-21/month gets you on the t-shirt and your name in the drawing for the party; $7-14/month gets you a t-shirt. Any amount you donate to the Dollar-a-Day Dogfather Fundraiser gets you the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping PAWS do more of the work we were established to do: see that no healthy or treatable companion animal has to die for want of a good home!

Do it for Michael. Do it for PAWS. Most importantly, do it for the animals.

Click here to donate.

More stories to come from the annals of The Dollar-a-Day Dogfather in monthly installments…


SC Bill S. 687 Open Letter

Dear South Carolina Senators:

Please consider stopping Bill S. 687 where it stands. Limiting or preventing the ability of rescues, affordable/accessible wellness clinics, and affordable/accessible spay/neuter clinics to provide for our state’s animals and their caregivers will result in a tragic reversal of a very positive trend in our state. Limiting access to affordable care will result in more unwanted animals, more suffering animals, and then shifting the burden to public pounds, sending the kill-rates through the roof (again). Continue reading


God is in the Dog Tales

by Joya DiStefano

Once we communicated with all animals as our equals and we had great respect for all forms of life. Then one day a chasm began to open between the worlds of humans and animals. While the chasm was narrow, the dog pondered its options, to stay with the humans or to go with the animals. The dog jumped with his animal friends. As the chasm widened he jumped back and forth between the animals and the humans, unable to decide. Finally, as the last opportunity to jump arrived, the dog took the final leap to join his fate with the humans. The cat, of course, has never had to choose. – from a Native American legend
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2014-10-23 09.33.21

What it Means to Save Them All

by Joya DiStefano

“If your dreams do not scare you, then they are not real.” – quoted by Adam Braun, “The Promise of a Pencil.”

Of “euthanasia,” the Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language says, “also called ‘mercy killing.’ The act of putting to death painlessly (or allowing to die by withholding extreme medical measures) a person or animal suffering from an incurable, esp. a painful disease or condition.”
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One Animal Advocate: A Love Story

“Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character…” – Schopenhauer

I opened the door just a crack to keep my golden retriever Sunny from bounding through, and peered at the man on my doorstep. He wore a navy blue hoody that had “Coach” embroidered above his name, jeans with leather piping down the seams, and Doc Martin oxfords. He sported a burgundy Phillies ball cap, and an Errol Flynn mustache under thick large lenses in wireless frames. He held a video cassette of highlights from his little league championship football team in his right hand. He had advertised himself as “Financially and emotionally secure,” traits, as it turned out, that have come in very handy over the ensuing 21 years, especially the last five.
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May Annual Stats Figures in Column

Messages in Six Months of May

Let’s face it; there is nothing sexy about preventing a problem. You can’t look in the face of the kitten or puppy that was never born and heave a sigh of relief that you don’t have to be concerned about an unwanted life that never happened. There are no heartrending pictures of the consequent neglect, or abandonment. There are no pleading fur faces peering through cage wire. I know this is true, because I watch the money roll in for the PAWS rescue programs that can press that emotion button over and over again and have people from all over the county, state, and country pressing PAWS donate buttons to save another lucky puppy or dog from certain death. They deserve it. It feels good to do something that essential to life. Continue reading

Herbie_Brown 2012-04-13

Good-Bye Herbie Brown

I took the Camp Rawls-Cooks Bridge route back from Wagener and a leisurely conversation about rescue and spay/neuter. Passing the brand spanking new Aiken County Animal Shelter on the corner of May Royal and Wire Road, I decided to stop, say hello to my friends, and have a look around. Continue reading

How Relevant We Are is Key

“The great progress that we have made… to reduce the shelter death toll has mostly come from reducing shelter intake rates.” – Peter Marsh, author of Getting to Zero

Snoop looks like a vanilla border collie with a swooping curl of a tail over her rump like a Spitz. When I enter the large education room in the SPCA Albrecht Center, she approaches to give me a cursory sniff before returning to her people and matters at hand. Ann Kinney, head of Phideaux University at the SPCA is doing a consult with Snoop and her parents, who had brought Snoop to P.U. because she lunges at other dogs on leash walks. Snoop, a Molly’s Militia save, was clearly devoted to her humans, looking and returning to her “mister” again and again. Continue reading


P.A.W.S. to Listen and Learn

Folks, what we are about to do together is to make sure that no adoptable or treatable companion animal has to die impounded. Watch for our banner: NKAC! It stands for No Kill Aiken County. In order to realize this rather lofty vision for our county (already accomplished by Spartanburg city) we have a new venture.

P.A.W.S. stands for Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc. Its mission is, “Unwanted pet prevention and Well-homed pet retention.” Wagener’s own Dottie Gantt is on the governing board of this county-wide 501(c)(3) animal advocacy non-profit. PAWS, Inc. promotes low-cost accessible spay/neuter services, and coordinates existing animal welfare resources so that the needs of Aiken County animals can be effectively addressed by their humans. Continue reading

P.A.W.S. for Fun, Funds and to Feel Good

When you think of chicken soup what are some of the first things that come to mind? You are feeling puny and someone cares to make you feel better? Or do you think of a book about and by almost any marketing demographic in the nation: couples, teenagers, those grieving, addicts, spiritual groups, techies, gardeners and, of course, every kind of animal-lover in God’s creation. Chicken Soup for Human Life’s Soul series, who has not read, or at least heard of them? They are translated and sold all over the world. Continue reading