We recommend checking out the following links:  (a site that lists rescue groups and shelters
throughout the United States)  (the American Kennel Club)  (the United Kennel Club)

A Few Articles Debbie Had Published (many
more have been published in other publications but don't have active
internet links) :

NEW 2020: Some RECENT articles (2020)
Debbie's written
about dog training are
published on the great website

Articles Published About Her Dogs:

Philadelphia Inquirer

Posted on Fri, Apr. 17, 2009
Annette John-Hall: Most important: A loving home for
your pet
By Annette John-Hall
Inquirer Columnist

Let me just toss this out like a used-up chew toy: My dog is not a
rescue dog. Nor did I adopt her from a shelter.
No, I bought Angel, my heavenly, year-old puggle, from a backyard
breeder. Paid good money for her, too.

But before all of the Oprah-lyte anti-puppy-mill crusaders chain me
up to the doghouse next to Michael Vick, let me say my guy is
reputable; he doesn't run a puppy mill or a breeding assembly line.

You could tell he loves his animals. Really. After I decided on Angel,
he grilled me so hard you would have thought he was the reporter.
Gave me her shot card, showing me the puppy vaccines he had
already administered.

And did I mention that it was Angel who chose me?

The thing is, with animals, as with people, we don't get to choose
whom we fall in love with. It just happens.

Am I proud that I didn't adopt a dog? Not necessarily.

But at the same time, I don't get the righteous pit-bull indignation
over the choices people make.

Which is why I refused to follow the lead of all those off-the-chain
animal activists who protested that Bo, the First Dog, was not a
shelter dog.

Boy, did people have their tails bent out of shape this week.

President Obama reneged on his supposed pledge to adopt a
rescue or shelter dog, they growled, some going so far as to say
the donation the Obamas made to the Humane Society was blood

Puppy love
God forbid the Obamas would just get the dog they loved, the one
that Sasha and allergic Malia fell for.
I mean, really. Does everything have to be so doggone political?

(Though I have to admit an ebony-and-ivory puppy was truly

West Chester dog trainer Debbie DeSantis is too diplomatic to step
into the mess.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with buying from a breeder
who cares," DeSantis says carefully, "but at this point, I just want to
be able to rescue one so the shelter will be able to take another
one in."

DeSantis has been on an awareness-raising mission for years.
These days, she says, you can find any kind of dog - pure- or
designer-bred, like my Angel - in a shelter. And she uses the
Internet to help dead-dogs-walking connect with foster owners
through rescue groups.

Which was how DeSantis came upon Mikey. Seven years ago, the
SPCA in Media, where she used to volunteer, called. It had an
abandoned Lhasa apso scheduled to be put down. Could she take

Bitten and matted
"He had been bitten by dogs on the street. He was matted from
head to toe," DeSantis remembers. "He was making this raspy
sound; I thought he had been de-barked. But he had a cold, a runny
Talk about issues.

Three years ago, Mikey, whom she guesses is about 9 years old,
was attacked by a dog running loose. He was bitten again and went
back on antibiotics. Later that year, DeSantis felt a lump on Mikey's
foot. Cancer.

"Radiation three times a week at Penn," she says. "I don't even
want to tell you how much it cost. We didn't take a vacation that

Mikey had plenty of behavioral baggage, too.

Today? Mikey is the prize of her pack, which includes two Shetland
sheepdogs, another Lhasa apso, and a golden retriever. And a
husband, of course.

Mikey's not just well-behaved. He has also won a slew of awards in
obedience competitions.

And he has a bag of tricks that would make any mommy proud.

Strutting his stuff at a strip mall in Broomall, Mikey lets out a
dramatic wail and falls dead when DeSantis points and "shoots" him.

"They're just blanks," DeSantis teases. Which is Mikey's cue to pop
back up.

He can also "say his prayers" with paws together and bowed head.
When DeSantis ends with an "amen," Mikey lifts his head with

He's 15 pounds of pure performer.

I can hardly get my Angel to sit. But I wouldn't trade her for the
world. Just as DeSantis couldn't be happier with her precious find
regardless of his hard life.

"He's such a special little character," marvels DeSantis.
"All I did was rescue him."

Contact columnist Annette John-Hall at 215-854-4986
or Read her work:
Stay tuned for more