Gifts and Gratitude from PAGDUS

By Rose Martin, PAGDUS President


Pennsylvania Guide Dog Users and Supporters (PAGDUS) extends a rousing yet socially-distant season’s greetings to all! As 2020 draws to a close, and we hunker down with our furry friends to avoid the cold and the pandemic, we wanted to take a minute to recap the end of 2020 for PAGDUS. We also have some gift-wrapped tips to share, virtually of course!


The last quarter of 2020 was busy, yet very productive for PAGDUS. During our September PAGDUS board call, we brainstormed some advocacy projects for the future with Melissa Carney, PCB’s Director of Outreach and Engagement, and we are planning to discuss these ideas with PAGDUS members during the December meeting. During our August PAGDUS meeting with Dr. Beth Brenninkmeyer of Guiding Eyes, we had a record attendance of over seventy participants! Dr. Brenninkmeyer discussed various canine health topics including benefits and/or detriments of our dogs’ consumption of various fruits and vegetables, dangerous indoor and outdoor plants, the prevailing opinion of grain-free food, and recommended supplements. A recording of this popular call is available.


Some gift-wrapped tips to share from this call include:

  • Always contact your veterinarian and/or poison control prior to inducing vomiting. Three percent hydrogen peroxide(H2O2) is an effective emetic for the dog, pig, ferret, and cat. Do not induce emesis in rodents, rabbits, birds, horses, or ruminants.
  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435
  • Catnip appears to be a sedative in dogs (opposite reaction in cats). No lasting effects have been reported in dogs.
  • An FDA list of food most frequently associated with Dilated Cardiomyopathy and grain-free foods can be found at


Our October PAGDUS meeting took place during the 2020 virtual PCB conference. Katie Mehrtens, nationally certified Small Animal Massage therapist, owner of The Right Spot Pet Massage, and previous guide dog user, led an at-home virtual massage for our guide dogs. The virtual format worked out very well, as participants were able to massage their dogs and pets without the distraction of other animals in the same room. Katie shared tips and techniques of pet massage, and also provided an accompanying reference handout for registered participants. Some tips include:

  • Massage can help to reduce stress in our guides and pets by lowering their blood pressure, increasing endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers), calming their nervous system, and reducing muscle tension or pain.
  • Ideal times and conditions for pet massage include finding a comfortable and quiet place, avoiding mealtimes, and ensuring that you, as the handler, are relaxed.
  • Your guide or pet should be in a calm and relaxed state before beginning. While one of the goals is relaxation, starting when your dog is anxious or fearful may reinforce that mental state instead.
  • Calming Point: To locate, draw a line from the front of the ears to the center of the head (you may feel a slight indent). Gently place a finger on this spot or gently scratch this area. If your dog does not like this, stop.
  • Never go deep – keep the massage gentle, smooth, and regular.
  • Do not massage the spine – keep about one inch from the spine.


We are grateful for the support of our PAGDUS members, our guest speakers, and PCB. Here’s to continued growth in 2021!


Dues can be sent to the PCB office: PO Box 18322, Pittsburgh, PA 15236-4122. For ACB members at large and current PCB members, our dues are $2. If you are not a member of ACB or PCB, dues are $12. Our membership is not only open to guide dog users but is also open to those who support or are interested in guide dogs. We also welcome all dogs and humans, not just those living in Pennsylvania.


Wishing all of you, your guides, and your pets a safe and happy holiday season and continued health in the New Year!

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