Bring Cara Back! Stolen Service Dog!

Imagine experiencing severe anxiety over the smallest unknowns or changes in your plans. Some of you might not have to imagine it because it’s real for you, but for the rest of us, it’s difficult, maybe impossible, to simulate.

For 9-year-old Otto, anxiety is a manifestation of autism, and it can make it impossible for him to function. Variables that seem small to most of us can make or break his day, and his one constant is Cara, his Skilled Companion (a type of assistance dog) from Canine Companions for Independence. Tragically, she was stolen on Friday afternoon, and his family is desperate to find her.


Above: Cara rests her head on Otto’s chest. Otto smiles; Cara has a look of contentment.

Cara was last seen at her family’s home in La Jolla, California, on Friday afternoon. She is not microchipped, nor is she wearing a collar, due to a hot spot on her neck. She’s a 55 pound lab-retriever mix, and is highly trained, so will respond to commands such as “here,” “sit,” and “down.” She has a tattoo in her right ear of her ID number: 11695. She’s also on medication for a bad ear infection, and will have gone without it for a few days now, so her ears are likely sensitive and red.

The family is offering a reward for her return.

If you see something suspicious, contact the San Diego Police Department at 619-531-2000 or 858-484-3154 regarding case # 14039621.


Friendliness—it’s in the DNA of most service dogs. We know that they work hard to stay focused while they’re on duty, but few things give my own service dog greater pleasure than saying hello to a stranger, and I bet the case is the same for yours. Unfortunately, that quality which makes them so lovable also makes them susceptible to kidnapping, and unlike kids, we can’t teach them to be wary of the strange man offering candy.

The American Kennel Club reported a 31% increase in dog thefts from 2012 to 2013; perpetrators are getting braver, even sneaking into fenced backyards and targeting easy-to-steal, high-value breeds.

How you can help:

Share this post or any you may have seen on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Stolen dogs can end up anywhere, so don’t ignore them just because you don’t live in Southern California.

Check your area’s craigslist and newspaper for dogs for sale.

Print the flyer and take it to your local pet food store, dog park, and anywhere else dog lovers might go.

Keep your eyes peeled. There have been news stories in the San Diego area, and if the thief has caught wind, he or she may have dumped Cara. If you see a lab wandering, use the “here” or “sit” command; if the dog responds, check the ears for the tattoo number listed above.


Above: Otto crouches facing a beanbag chair on which Cara, his 55 pound lab, lies. Otto’s mother is hugging him from behind.

Thank you in advance for helping to bring Cara back!

Back on the trail.

Hi, Friends. It’s been awhile!

The last time I posted here (in January–eek!), I was introducing the creative project I’m working on, Sidekicks. I gave myself permission to take some time off from HOFL because I needed to focus on getting that off the ground, and here I am, four months later, realizing how much time I’ve allowed to pass. I’ve found out how loyal an audience I have, though, through readers reaching out to ask when to expect something new!

So, I’ll ease back in with a little update on our last few months.

Continue reading

Introducing: Sidekicks

Last week, I asked for your participation in a project that my friend Melanie and I are working on. As of that post, we had a broad vision of what we wanted to accomplish, no name, and the only progress we’d made was that we’d made a secret Pinterest Pinboard. That’s essential, I’m told.

Today, I’m happy to say that we have a name, a photoshoot under our belts and several more in the works, a web domain, and an elevator pitch, albeit shaky at the moment, and also subject to change. Apparently elevator pitches are also essential. Continue reading

There’s a Dog for That

Last week, I went through the legally recognized types of working dogs for people with disabilities in the article, What Constitutes a Service Animal? (Edit: Thank you, Sarah, for saving me from my poorly punctuated fate.) If you’re not familiar with the laws regarding Service Animals, I’d strongly encourage you to read it before continuing, or you might wind up very confused. Continue reading

Happy International Assistance Dog Week: How Not to Be a Jerk to Working Dogs

I really, really, *really* like this post on Notes From a Dog Walker. I love that she said many things that I’ve been saying for a very long time. The word is getting out, friends!

notes from a dog walker

It’s International Canine Assistance Dog Week! In celebration of all the amazing service dogs out there, here are a few basic etiquette tips. Remember, service dogs are DINOS – they need space to do their jobs! When you encounter a working team, please be responsible for your actions and respectful of their space.

Happy International Assistance Dog  Week

If you encounter a service dog and their handler, please keep these tips in mind:

1. Do not touch the dog.

2. Do not let your child touch the dog.

3. Do not let your dog approach the dog. This includes obeying leash laws and having your dogs under your control at all times.

4. If you want to do #1-3, you must ASK FIRST, then wait for their response. Speak directly to the person, not the dog. Treat the human with dignity, please.

5. Respect the handler’s response. If they say “no”, accept this and…

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Pups at Play

Remember the post “Tag! You’re it!“? I wanted to back it up with some proof. Check out these hard working CCI dogs having a well deserved pool party.