By Linda Cole
PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) is a San Francisco based non-profit organization dedicated to giving support and aid to seniors and people with disabling illnesses that make it difficult for them to feed and care for their pets. The PAWS-sponsored Petchitecture is an annual fundraiser to benefit PAWS clients and their pets. Last year's event brought in $225,000. Jason Izmirian and Michael Jennings, pet parents to the 2013 Petchitecture Dog Idols, Carmela and Chloe, had the winning bid of $7,800 on a prize package donated by CANIDAE for the auction. Part of the prize includes being featured on CANIDAE marketing materials. I spoke with Jason to find out more about the “girls” and his determination to win the CANIDAE prize package.
“We thought a prize package that would showcase just how adorable our Ladies are made sense to us. We are fans of all natural, USA made food for animals and the CANIDAE prize package was a no brainer from our perspective. We also love PAWS and what they do for the San Francisco community.” Jason and Michael are San Francisco residents; Jason leads the Talent division of a software startup company and Michael runs Global Information Technology for a business networking company.
About five years ago, Carmela became a special needs dog when a Lake Tahoe vacation turned into a scary and frantic trip home for emergency surgery after Carmela jumped off a chair and ruptured a disc in her back. Not knowing what to expect or how it would affect her future, Jason and Michael did everything possible to help her through rehabilitation. Jason was in between jobs and concentrated on Carmela's needs. For six months he chauffeured her to water treadmill therapy and an acupuncturist, and worked with a therapist on her motor skills. “Our hope was she wasn't going to need wheels to help her get around, so we are grateful her determination and ours got her to where she is today. She walks a little like a ‘drunken sailor,’ but she gets around,” said Jason.
Ramps give Carmela easier access to furniture and stairs, but she needs help to go to the bathroom. Expressing her bladder has become a necessary daily routine, but Jason and Michael don’t mind. A dog sitter experienced in special needs animals takes over when the dogs can't go on trips with them, but they usually travel as a family.
Chloe and Carmela share an amazing bond and sisterly love. Chloe patiently looks after her sibling, and when they settle into a sun puddle on their special chair, Chloe allows Carmela to walk on top of her. She seems to understand that Carmela can't feel when she has her hind quarters resting on her. On walks, if Chloe gets too far ahead, she slows down, stops, turns around, and waits for Carmela to catch up. If she goes around a corner and doesn't see Carmela, she stops and waits for her so they can walk together.
Recently, Jason was faced with one of his biggest fears – the dentist. A cracked tooth required major surgery before an implant could be put in. “This was not something I was looking forward to because of my fear of dentists. On the day of my big ‘appointment’ I said to myself, Carmela has been through so much. She never cried, she was always a trooper and she always had faith in us when we were taking her to rehabilitation appointments. I thought about everything she had been through when I sat in that dental chair. I knew if she could do it, so could I…and I did thanks to her.”
Carmela and Chloe were chosen as Petchitecture Dog Idols for 2013, an honor that's brought them lots of attention. They've gone to photo shoots, are recognized on Petchitecture fliers and at PAWS events. “When we take them places, everyone calls out, ‘Hey, aren't they the PAWS puppies in that photo?’ They are getting more special attention than they are used to, but they love attention.”
The dogs love belly rubs, lying in the sun and going to the beach where Carmela runs across the sand as if she had no disability. Her back legs hop like a bunny, but she does run, and it makes Jason and Michael smile to see her enjoying herself. The girls’ Dachshund instincts come out at the park where they search for gopher holes to stick their nose into. The dog’s also love chewy bones, squeaker toys, car rides, walks and hanging out with Jason's mom in Palm Springs.
Jason, Michael, Carmela and Chloe will be attending this year’s PAWS fundraising event since the girls are the stars for 2013. If you’re in the San Francisco area and want to attend, the PAWS Petchitecture event is this Sunday, May 5, from 3-7 pm at the St. Regis. Click here for details.
Photos by Mark Rogers
Read more articles by Linda Cole