From Nose to Tail: Keeping pets safe in winter

By Jamie Laubenstein, AS, CVT, ’07

Originally published in the November 25, 2022, edition of the Valley Advantage.

As autumn golds fade to winter blues, the temperatures outside begin to drop significantly. As responsible pet owners, it is important to know the laws, obligations and options we have during these winter months.

Libre’s Law, signed by Governor Tom Wolf in August 2017, includes a section regarding leashing your dog outside. Dogs cannot be tethered outside for more than 30 minutes in temperatures below 32 degrees and above 90 degrees. We must also be diligent in ensuring that any outside water sources do not freeze over.

What does this mean for those who want to enjoy outdoor activities in the snow with their pets? Well, there are several options available to us to help prevent hypothermia or frostbite in our furry friends.

Pet clothing and specially designed doggy boots can allow your canine companion to enjoy their time outside.

There are a variety of coats, sweaters, body suits and hats designed to fit any size dog to help them stay warm when outside. Dog boots help protect sensitive paw pads from frostbite or damage while walking in the snow or on a frozen sidewalk.

However, some dog breeds have been bred for and used for working outside during these chilling months dating back as far as 4,000 to 6,000 years.

Breeds such as the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute and Samoyed have been pulling sleds and helping hunters survive arctic conditions. Their thick double coats help them to thrive in wet and cold weather. Having thicker fur between their paw pads helps protect them from the cold and frost, allowing for better travel.

The Saint Bernard, Bernese Mountain Dog and Greater Swiss Mountain Dog were all bred to withstand a cold climate, herd and guard livestock and assist soldiers in wartime. Not only are these dogs highly intelligent and easily trainable, but they also make excellent family companions.

Dogs are not the only ones that may need some help outside in the winter months. Many of us may have a few stray cats around the neighborhood that can use some extra TLC right about now.

If you can humanely trap them and get them to a local shelter or rescue before the temperatures drop significantly, this is the best option. However, some cats are too smart to trap but need our help all the same.

Shelter from the elements is a great first step to helping them survive the winter. A DIY shelter is cheap and easy to set up — all you need is a plastic container, insulation and bedding. Begin by cutting a small opening in one side of the container, line the container with foam insulation and then add a thick layer of straw for bedding. Make sure you place the enclosure somewhere quiet so that you see the cat frequently and where they will feel safe to use it.

Water is the second most important part of survival in the winter. Since streams, lakes or puddles are often frozen, providing a water source that they can easily access, and doesn’t freeze is essential.

Lastly, you can put out some dry cat food during the day for an easy meal but you will want to pick up the food at night to prevent raccoons or other wild animals from visiting during the night.

There are many options for us to enjoy the snow with our pets. Whether it’s making snowballs for them to chase or sledding down the hill, our pets can be part of these experiences. Be mindful of how long they have been outside, as often they will want to keep playing past the time it’s safe for them to be out.

Enjoy this season with your furry pal, and let it snow!

Jamie Laubenstein, AS, CVT, ’07 Johnson College alumni, is a full time CVT instructor at the Johnson College Veterinary Nursing Program as well as a clinical rotation instructor at the Animal Care Center on campus. She has been part of the veterinary field for 19 years.

College Receives $12,000 EITC Contribution from PSBT

Johnson College recently received a $12,000 EITC contribution from Peoples Security Bank & Trust to support the College’s Industry Fast Track/Dual Enrollment Program.

Peoples Security Bank & Trust’s contribution to Johnson College is part of Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) Program, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The program offers businesses a tax credit for supporting state-approved educational improvement programs. Johnson College is approved to accept EITC contributions in support of its STEM outreach programs and Industry Fast Track program.

Johnson College’s Industry Fast Track program offers high school students from participating area school districts an opportunity to enroll simultaneously in secondary and post-secondary coursework at Johnson College. The course meets state requirements for high school graduation while providing college-level courses. Students remain enrolled full-time at their high school while attending classes on the College’s campus.

To learn more about Johnson College’s Industry Fast Track/Dual Enrollment programs, visit

For more information about Peoples Security Bank & Trust, visit

Pictured form left to right: Bill Burke, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs, Johnson College; J. Patrick Dietz, Johnson College Board Chair and Senior Vice President, Peoples Security Bank and Trust; Karen Baker, Senior Director of College Advancement, Johnson College; and Dr. Katie Leonard, President & CEO, Johnson College.

Johnson College Hosts Annual Scholarship Breakfast

Johnson College hosted its annual Scholarship Breakfast on Wednesday, November 9, 2022, at Fiorelli Catering in Peckville. The event was held to recognize the scholarship recipients and thank and honor the generous donors who make scholarships available to students.

The College awarded 42 students with scholarships during the event. Devin Walsh, a student in Johnson College’s Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning program, and recipient of one of the College’s Presidential Scholarships served as student speaker.

“To me, the Presidential Scholarship is more than just money,” Walsh said. “It means that my accomplishments are valuable enough for Johnson to put such an enormous amount of faith in that I will follow through with my education and become a great example of what Johnson College provides to the community.”

Walsh says that the scholarship has lifted the burdens that accompany the cost of pursuing a degree in higher education.

“Most college students need to make major sacrifices, work numerous jobs, and take out huge loans that will cause stress, leading to the inability to focus on coursework,” Walsh told attendees. “The financial assistance of the Presidential Scholarship is a life changer for my family and me.”

The event also featured keynote speaker, David Hawk, who, with his wife Ann, are founders of the Hawk Family Foundation created to help the underprivileged, support education, and encourage community initiatives to help families thrive. The Hawk Family Foundation contributed to the College’s Innovation at Work Capital Campaign specifically for student scholarships and campus developments.

The breakfast concluded with the presentation of the scholarship awards by Katie Leonard, Ed.D., president and CEO of Johnson College, and Jeanine Engelmann, Ed. D., Chief Academic Officer of Johnson College. The presented awards included:

AAA North Penn Annual Scholarship, Dylan DeGroat;

Andrew Mazza Memorial Scholarship, Gavin Noll;

Anthony Ploskonka Memorial Scholarship, Brianna Covington;

Bartolai Family Scholarship, Peter Winowich;

Christopher Pambianco ‘65 Book & Tool Scholarship, Kenneth Stucker;

C.M.C. Rich Vinansky Memorial Golf Tournament Scholarship, Jessica McKee;

Dr. George J. Hallesky Memorial Scholarship, Donovon Brown;

Ed Vogel Memorial Scholarship, Nicholas Lathrop;

Edgar A. and Ida M. Alekna Scholarship, Alexander Carpenetti, Luke Galli, Jordan Navarro, and Madison Trotto;

Frank and Jean Hubbard Scholarship, James Lamberti;

Hawk Family Foundation Scholarship, Julianne Feigenbutz and Christian Overholtz;

Irene Ploskonka Memorial Scholarship, Ryan Phillips;

Islyn Thomas Achievement Award, Alexander Canjar;

Janie Lamberton Memorial Scholarship, Cassidy Weber;

John K. and Mary E. Blackledge Memorial Scholarship, Andrea Marques;

John T. Gerod Scholarship, Richard Reed;

Johnson College Presidential Scholarship, Jessica McKee, Emily Ohme, and Devin Walsh;

The Margaret Briggs Foundation Scholarship, Matthew Spiccioli;

Moffat Merit Award, Richard Bowen;

Moses Taylor Foundation Scholarship, Sierra Matash, and Gina Simeone;

MotorWorld Lexus Scholarship, Jeremy Russo and Casey Williams;

Orlando S. Johnson Merit Award, Emma Faithfull and Madison Kier;

Ross Family Foundation Scholarship, Alyssa Crawford and Tiahna Jackson;

Ruth Stitt Morgan Memorial Scholarship, Kodee Bates;

Scranton UNICO Scholarship, Christopher Henderson;

Sean J. Calpin Automotive Technology Scholarship, Mackenzie Snyder;

Sebastian “Sebby” Amico Memorial Scholarship, Jallen Wilks;

Society of Broadcast Engineers, Chapter II Scholarship, Kyle Williams;

Technology Merit Award, Michael Altieri and Anna-Marie Lake;

The John R. O’Hara Scholarship, Brandon Grandinetti;

The P. Fricchione and Sons Scholarship, Jonathon Hunsberger;

Thomas Hesser Scholarship, Zachary Menichello;

and Villa Capri Cruisers Car Club Scholarship, Jeremy Russo.

From Nose to Tail: Legends and Lore of Black Cats

Originally published in the October 28, 2022, edition of the Valley Advantage

The air is getting cooler and the leaves are starting to change in the northeastern United States. This can only mean one thing — Halloween is right around the corner and crossing its path is the iconic black cat!

According to folklore and cultural traditions, this can lead to a variety of different beliefs ranging from bad luck to prosperity, but ultimately, “A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere,” as Groucho Marx said.

To begin, let’s explore some age-old legends and lore that surround these black beauties. It is believed that superstitions started sometime around the Middle Ages.

During this time in Western Europe, black cats were perceived as signs of evil, disease, death and overall misfortune. Years later, these strong negative assumptions followed the felines to the new world with the Pilgrims, regardless of positive cultural beliefs in places such as the UK.

People became wary of the suspicions tied to black cats. Those who were most frightened of them killed the creatures for fear that they themselves could be accused of witchcraft. Severe punishments and even death could be brought upon those who were associated with the earth-roaming beasts that were also considered part demons.

On the other side of their unfortunate history, black cats were perceived as good luck, or even divine, in Japanese, English, Scottish, French, Egyptian and Latvian cultures. According to French folklore, plucking one white hair from a black cat without getting scratched foretells good luck in times to come! Of course, we do not promote this silly practice!

According to some shelter and rescue organizations, myths of misfortune may still follow black cats — along with black animals as a whole. This phenomenon is known as Black Dog/Cat Bias or Black Dog Syndrome. BDS is a theory that black dogs and cats have lesser odds of being adopted in a timely manner, which then puts them at higher risk for euthanasia in comparison to their colorful counterparts.

Some characteristics that may contribute to this theory are due to dark coat color and include hard-to-see facial expressions, tricky observation in dimly lit kennels and difficulty to photograph when trying to promote these animals online. Other factors include negative portrayals of black animals in popular media such as movies/books and, of course, lingering superstition. Although research has shown conflicting results over the years as to if this phenomenon is real, it is determined that plenty of black cats and dogs are available for adoption across the United States, seeking a bright future in a loving home!

Although there is a common myth that shelters will not adopt black cats around Halloween due to fear of ritual sacrifice, this is considered to be a rumor. In some shelters, they use this holiday as an opportunity to show off these felines’ beautiful ebony fur as a promotional point to help get these animals adopted!

Although ritual sacrifice may be a rumor, there may be a more probable concern about irresponsible adopters using these animals as holiday props, much like the well-known bunny adoptions for Easter. On the other hand, genuine prospective adopters may be on the look out for black cats in the shelter because they have heard of these urban legends and want to help!

So, what can we do to rid these negative myths crossing the black cat’s path for hundreds of years? Fortunately, there are a few options!

Check if your local shelter participates in celebrations such as “International Black Cat Awareness Month” in October or “Friday the 13th” adoption events. Some benefits may include a reduced adoption price!

Be sure to educate family, friends, and young children to help stop the bias in its tracks. Lastly, if you are currently an owner of a black cat, boast about your “house panther” to show there is nothing to fear, and personality should come first when choosing the perfect (dare I say … purrfect?) feline companion!

Amanda Melnyk, AS, CVT, ’09, is a full time CVT instructor at the Johnson College’s Veterinary Nursing program as well as a clinical rotation instructor at the Animal Care Center on campus. She has been a part of the veterinary field for 14 years.

Johnson College Receives Grant from the Moses Taylor Foundation

Johnson College has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Moses Taylor Foundation to support the development of a new Biomedical Equipment Technology laboratory to be housed in the new campus gateway building, Ideal Saldi Hall.

The new laboratory will provide critical hands-on learning on the latest technology available and in use throughout the region in healthcare facilities. The program trains students as entry-level biomedical technicians with medical terminology and human physiology principles, as well as the maintenance and support, planning, and installation of medical equipment according to standards and guidelines.

The future promises revolutionary advancements in the biomedical equipment technology industry. New technology such as 3D printing, computer miniaturization, and nanotechnology, will provide exciting new opportunities for biomedical equipment technology graduates.

The construction of the new gateway building is one of the four pillars of the College’s comprehensive, 5-year capital campaign, Innovation at Work. The building will highlight students’ future career potential by showcasing various industry training opportunities within classroom and laboratory spaces such as a Biomedical Equipment Technology laboratory.

In recognition of its support, the new biomedical equipment technology laboratory will be named in honor of the Foundation. Campus visitors will have the opportunity to see students actively learning within the new lab through large glass viewing areas.

The two-year Biomedical Equipment Technology associate degree program prepares students as entry-level biomedical technicians with skills training that include medical terminology and human physiology principles, as well as the maintenance and support, planning and acquisition, and installation of medical equipment according to standards and guidelines.

For more details about the “Innovation at Work” campaign, visit

The Moses Taylor Foundation is a private foundation dedicated to building healthy communities and providing opportunities for people in Northeastern Pennsylvania to lead healthier lives. Since its formation, the Foundation has grown to support approximately $4 million in annual grantmaking in Bradford, Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Schuylkill, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming Counties. For more information, visit

Pictured left to right: Dr. Katie Leonard, President & CEO, Johnson College; Danielle Breslin, Executive Director, Moses Taylor Foundation; and Karen Baker, Senior Director of College Advancement, Johnson College.

College to Host Fall Open House on November 5, 2022

Johnson College will hold an on-campus Fall Open House on Saturday, November 5, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. To register to attend the Open House, visit or contact Johnson College’s Enrollment Department at 570-702-8856 or

Open House will include discussions about the admissions process, information about financial aid for those who qualify, and student services such as student life, student support, and career services. Plus, same-day acceptance will be available for many programs if students bring their high school or college transcripts. Tours of each technical area will be conducted and program directors and instructors will be available to review the specifics of their programs.

From Nose to Tail: The Importance of a Healthy Skin & Coat

By Kimberly Konopka, ’07, BS, AS, CVT, ESM

Originally published in the September 23, 2022, edition of the Valley Advantage

Did you know that the largest organ in cats and dogs is their skin and hair coat? It makes up close to 10 to 15% of their total body weight.

It is important for pet owners to help keep this organ in top shape because it is vital in performing many basic functions in keeping their pets healthy. These functions include:

Defense and Immunity — The skin and coat provide protection, acting as a shield to the internal organs from outside stressors such as chemicals, UV light or other environmental threats. The nerves within the skin also aid in sensing temperature variation, pain or pressure. Compromised skin health may lead to harmful bacteria causing diseases and infections.

Thermoregulation — Dogs and cats do not have sweat glands, so a healthy hair coat helps to maintain proper body temperatures and acts as an insulation layer. The movement of the hair follicles brings the hairs closer together to insulate against the cold, or the opposite allows air to move freely between the looser hairs to allow for a cooling effect.

Storage — The skin acts as a warehouse for storing several vital proteins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and collagen fibers. Many of these are necessary for cellular production and maintenance of those cells, along with various other functions.

So, how can you, a pet owner, contribute to skin and coat health?

The pet’s diet is the first influence on skin and coat health. As the saying goes, “you are what you eat,” and this also holds true for animals. Good quality pet food lays the foundation for proper pet health. These diets contain omega-3s, good sources of quality proteins, vitamins, and minerals, and provide the appropriate number of calories to meet the pet’s energy needs. To be sure you’re feeding your pet the right food, ask your veterinarian. Some pets do require additional supplements or have special dietary needs.

Proper grooming and bathing are also essential factors in maintaining healthy skin and coat. Some pets can’t or don’t groom themselves well and may need a little assistance keeping themselves less disheveled. Grooming your pet on a regular basis helps remove any dirt, debris, and dead skin cells.

As a pet owner, this is also an opportunity to closely examine your pet’s skin for abnormalities or parasites. The frequency of bathing will be dependent on the pet’s needs. Different hair coat types, such as heavy undercoats compared to the hairless varieties of dogs and cats, will have very different bathing schedules and shampoo requirements. Of course, the pet’s lifestyle will also influence bathing or grooming needs. Pets should only be bathed utilizing a shampoo formulated for the specific species. Pets are not small humans, and the pH of their skin varies significantly from ours. Human shampoos, including baby formula shampoo, should not be used on your pet as it is too harsh for their skin. If you are concerned about your pet’s hair coat, discuss the concern with your veterinarian, as there may be an underlying nutritional deficit or medical condition.

Ever wonder why your pet is so itchy?

There are many causes of itchy skin in pets, both external and internal. Unfortunately, it may be a very frustrating and time-consuming process to determine what is causing the condition.

External causes of acute or chronic itching include, but are not limited to, dry winter air or lack of humidity, environmental allergens such as grass or pollen from trees, or even an allergy to fleas or other biting insects.

Internal causes may include a food sensitivity/allergy or a systemic disease process.

Any of these concerns can cause skin problems such as hair loss, a greasy coat, excessive dandruff, rashes, odorous/dirty ears, or even open sores. Chronic itchy skin requires veterinary attention and generally serious detective work on the owner’s part. Keeping a journal of occurrences and possible triggers may help the veterinarian determine the cause. The veterinarian may arrive at a diagnosis and treatment quickly, but sometimes it may be very challenging and even require special care from a veterinary dermatologist. Occasionally, a food trial is necessary to eliminate a possible food allergy or sensitivity. Food trials require much effort and patience on the part of the pet owner, take a minimum of 90 days to complete and need a veterinary prescribed diet to be the only food source during this time.

Your pet’s skin and hair coat are a good indicator of their overall health. If the coat or skin becomes something other than smooth, shiny, and dandruff free, you may want to contact your veterinary care professional.

Kimberly Konopka, ’07, BS, AS, CVT, ESMT, is the program director of the Veterinary Nursing program at Johnson College. She has been in the field of veterinary medicine for 15 years.

Peoples Security Bank & Trust Pledges $150,000 to Innovation at Work Capital Campaign  

Peoples Security Bank & Trust has pledged $150,000 to Johnson College in support of its $5 million comprehensive, five-year capital campaign, Innovation at Work.

Peoples Security Bank & Trust has provided continued support for student programs and scholarships at Johnson College through its monetary contributions.  

“Peoples Security Bank & Trust is inspired by Johnson College’s vision to be an innovative, experiential, and multi-disciplinary technical hub for the next generation of trailblazing leaders across all industry sectors,” said J. Patrick Dietz, Johnson College Board Chair and Senior Vice President of Peoples Security Bank and Trust. “The college has an extensive history of both nurturing and advancing the career paths of some of the brightest young minds, and the Bank is pleased to bestow a gift that will help to unlock the full potential of the Innovation at Work capital campaign, broadening access to valuable resources and programming for all students.”

The Innovation at Work campaign consists of four components that will create an environment for continued growth and success: the construction of Ideal Saldi Hall, a new gateway building that will become the official entrance to the campus and include new lab and classroom spaces; the expansion of Woolworth Hall, which houses on-campus lab space for programs including Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning and Electrical Construction Technology; the creation of a Transportation Education Center; and support of the College’s Annual Fund and student scholarships. For more details about the Innovation at Work campaign, visit

Pictured left to right: Joseph Ferretti, Executive Vice President, Peoples Security Bank & Trust; Karen Baker, Senior Director of College Advancement, Johnson College; Dr. Katie Leonard, President & CEO, Johnson College; and J. Patrick Dietz, Johnson College Board Chair and Senior Vice President, Peoples Security Bank and Trust.