I am overjoyed to share that Paws for Empowerment, the canine-assisted therapy program that supports survivors of domestic violence, offered by Pittsburgh’s Crisis Center North, has won the Pennsylvania Governor’s Pathfinder Award!

Governor Tom Wolf and The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency honor Paws for Empowerment Victim-Assistance Canine Advocacy Program with the most prestigious award in Pennsylvania for victim services programs, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Pathfinder Award.

 The power of canine advocacy is harnessed by Crisis Center North (CCN) through its Paws for Empowerment Program, comprised currently of two dedicated rescue dogs, six-year veteran Penny and new canine trainee Ari, at work for victims of domestic violence. CCN has led canine advocacy in Pennsylvania through Paws for Empowerment since 2010 when the human services agency welcomed former shelter dog Penny to its team. The first four-legged court advocate in Allegheny County, Penny has played a part in CCN’s multi-faceted strategy to serve families and individuals affected by domestic abuse. Ari, the new canine team member, is now in his first stages of training.

 In 2016, the program’s Canine Advocacy Advisory Board was formed with leaders in the fields of victim services and canine-assisted therapy to provide expert resources and enhanced awareness. Dora has served as a Member of the Advisory Board since its formation.

 State Honors Dog Therapy Program That Helps Domestic Violence Victims, by Karen Kadilak

Congratulations to the entire team and Executive Director Grace Coleman for this incredible acknowledgment of developing innovative ways to support survivors while also saving dogs, as our dogs are all rescued shelter dogs. I serve on the Advisory Board of Paws for Empowerment and I’m so grateful to be a part of this powerful program that saves lives on two critical fronts.

I won the PA Governor’s Pathfinder Award as an individual activist in 2003 and am excited to be involved in the team that won the 2017 Program Award. Thank you to all of the people involved in Paws for Empowerment and to the other amazing members of our Advisory Board, and my congratulations to the other recipients of this year’s PA Governor Pathfinder Awards.

If you care to support either Paws for Empowerment or Crisis Center North, please click on the program of your choice below. All donations are gratefully welcomed.

All peace to each one of you.


Paws For Empowerment Wins The Prestigious 2017 Pennsylvania Governor’s Pathfinder Award!

Grace Coleman: Executive Director of Crisis Center North for the last 18 years. Paws for Empowerment is Grace’s brainchild. Paws for Empowerment saves lives, both of domestic violence survivors and dogs, as all of the dogs in the program are rescued shelter dogs.

Penny, the first rescued shelter dog in the Paws for Empowerment Program, sitting at the desk of the District Attorney of Allegheny County, PA.

Ari, the newest therapy dog for Paws for Empowerment, who is still going through training to support survivors of domestic violence in therapy sessions and during court testimony.


I went back to bed in the late afternoon and slept briefly, woke disrupted and burdened by what I thought were voices in the living room, rising into the recollection of alone.

I stood in the cool shower stream until the smell of my own skin left me and then drove this blasted landscape of brutal beauty and vastness for close to two hours, arriving at dusk to all four of them at the head of the driveway with upraised wine glasses in the face of my arrival.

My eyes looked like glass shards in the sun yesterday, brief moments of catching their colors in the rear view and being startled by the gleam and dark green refracted.

I kept hearing the word ‘unknown’ repeat itself in my skull like a mantra or a mala bead count, thinking I’d better take cake that the lament repeated did not become the prayer itself, replace unknown with unbound and pray instead for freedom and grace, as the blood beats on in its refusal to relent.

The sky was vast, blue beyond all description, traversing ley lines, wondering at what might have been in attendance, what may have noted my passing through in the late last arc of the early summer sun, one woman alone, moving fast, singing.

©2016 Dora E. McQuaid

I’m honored to be the featured profile today on the amazing website, Me&EVE, an ongoing project created by my warrior-friend, Dorie Hagler, an internationally known photographer and photojournalist. Me&EVE offers “A place for women to be seen, heard and respected. One woman at a time we are changing the world for the better.”

“There I was, a 30 year old woman, a college faculty member and owner of a sexual harassment management firm that trains government agencies, sitting on the floor in my home being beaten and held hostage at gunpoint by my former boyfriend. My Master’s thesis was on Title 7 about awareness, perception and attitudes about sexual harassment and here I was with a shotgun to my sternum, praying to stay alive. I spent my whole life telling myself I was not going to be THIS woman. But I grew up knowing domestic and sexual violence, and girls who experience domestic or sexual violence are 7 times more likely to experience it again as an adult. At one point while being held hostage, I got up and went to the sink to run cold water over my wrists because his fingernails had dug into my arms so deeply that I was bleeding. While the cold water ran over my wrists, he said, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” And I said, “You hurt me. I’m bleeding.” To which he replied, “Yeah? Well, go write a fucking poem about it.” So I did. I wrote a book of poems so that I could write it all down and then close the book on it. Then open a new book and start again. I never meant to publish it, but colleagues encouraged me to publish the book and to educate people about the pandemic of violence against women. The only way we are going to change violence against women is by addressing it again and again. So I published my poems as, the scorched earth, using my personal story and my voice in the public realm as one story of hope, empowerment and change.”

– Dora McQuaid is an award winning poet, activist and speaker. In 2012, McQuaid’s image replaced that of former Penn State coach and convicted pedophile, Jerry Sandusky, in the Inspirations Mural near Penn State, to honor her activism and her being a Penn State University alumna and former faculty member.

To learn more about Me&EVE and to view profiles of other women changing the world, please visit Me&EVE.

To learn more about Dorie Hagler and to view her photographs and projects, please visit Dorie Hagler Photography.

First thought:  Today the daylong is two minutes and three seconds longer than yesterday.

Second thought:  I was born in lightning. It has haunted me ever since.

Third thought:  The first of the lilacs are announcing. My mother’s spirit is among them, looking skyward.

Fourth thought:  When I woke and said aloud: I made it, another year to the mala strand, I heard my father laughing as he replied: Well. Will wonders never cease.

Fifth thought:  The circling ravens, the paired turtledoves and the long shadows stretching, made by light that pierces.

Sixth thought: So much has fallen away. Some of it grieves me, even in the understanding that all that has fallen from me is designed to free me.

Seventh thought:  When I come to you, I will have questions, after I thank you for the mystery of grace and for this living and for my wild, unknowable heart that strives to rise again and again in answer to your calling.

© 2017 Dora E. McQuaid

When I was a little girl, my name for The Apostles was “The Apossibles”. I misunderstood the pronunciation in church and so I called them by the wrong name for years. My dad loved this, never once corrected me, telling me when I finally figured out my error that maybe I hadn’t been mistaken, that love makes everything possible in the end. I hope your weekend finds you surrounded by people whose love makes everything possible.

All peace to each one of you in this season of renewal, of possibility and hope, of love embodied.




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the scorched earth spoken by Dora E. McQuaid


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Dora’s efforts to use her voice as an means of activism and advocacy, social and political engagement and individual and collective empowerment and healing are funded, in part, by her readers. This website provides a wide array of resources to support visitors in exploring and living into their truths, and the support offered in return has allowed Dora to maintain this website as a community-driven, advertising-free space for over sixteen years. If you find that this website offers you inspiration or support, information or resources that benefit you or your community or you appreciate Dora’s voice and efforts, please consider making a contribution to keep her work and art alive. Thank you.
All peace to you.