Dorothy Wills-Raftery – Siberian Husky Advocate & Canine Epilepsy Awareness Ambassador

June 13, 2024
By Anne Marie Duquette
Featured image for “Dorothy Wills-Raftery – Siberian Husky Advocate & Canine Epilepsy Awareness Ambassador”

Anne Marie Duquette interviewed Dorothy Wills-Raftery the Winner of the 2023 DWAA Captain William Lewis Judy Special Award sponsored by American Legion Brick Memorial Post 348 with the entry “March 13 is K9 Veterans Day: Honoring Our Military Working Dogs.”

View the Winning Entry

Congratulations on your win!  Tell us about your experience and expertise, and how this relates to your entry.  What target audience did you write for, and why?

Thank you!  I’m truly honored my story was selected this year by the American Legion Brick Memorial Post 348.

 I am a career photojournalist, editor and author for over 45 years, 20 years in the educational sector, and the forever hu-mom to five beautiful Siberian Huskies known as the FiveSibes. Initially, I began writing my blog (currently in its 14th year of publication) to journal my life with five young Siberian Huskies and their breed-specific needs. Once I saw reader interest, I expanded my scope to include topics such as healthcare, training tips, healthy recipes, products, book reviews and joyful moments.

After my one Husky, Gibson, was diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy after his third birthday, I began writing and advocating for Epi-dogs (epileptic dogs) and Canine Epilepsy awareness. This led to my writing four K9 books, two on Canine Epilepsy, “EPIc Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy” and the illustrated FiveSibes Tale children’s book “What’s Wrong With Gibson? Learning About K-9 Epilepsy.”

Articles followed for not just my blog, but several other publications, including AmericanPet Magazine, DWAA’s Ruff Drafts, Hudson Valley Paw Print Magazine, The Sled Dogger, Kings River Life Magazine, and, where this year’s award winning article was published.

“March 13 is K9 Veterans Day: Honoring Our Military Working Dogs” began when I wondered if/how the Siberian Husky, a working dog, played a role in history as a military working dog (MWD). Researching the topic, I discovered that Huskies did indeed make an impact in WWII. That rolled into more research about these military dogs and writing a piece which highlighted all these amazing working dogs of many breeds.

What prompted you to submit this specific entry? Why do you think it struck a special chord with the public and the judges—and with you?

As the proud daughter of a WWII Army hero and adopter of a retired police dog, I have always been interested in history and the important roles dogs perform with our military and police. I am a long-time member of the U.S. War Dogs Association group, and with my FiveSibes helped organize a MWD toy and treat holiday drive for active canine soldiers. I remember when the push for supporting K9 Veterans Day first started, and I really felt it was a special day to highlight.  Patriotism touches our American hearts, and the work these incredible dogs perform is outstanding.

When WWII broke out, families in the United States volunteered their pet dogs into the service as part of the K-9 Corps. When I came across the story of “Chips,” a Husky/Collie/German Shepherd mix who was the first dog to be shipped overseas as a military working dog, I was thrilled when I tracked down a gal whose father had personally known the dog during the war.  She sent me a photo he had of Chips that I shared in my blog. That’s the kind of connection I love when researching and writing about dogs.

How big a part have dogs played in your personal and professional life?  Was there a particular dog that sparked your interest in interacting with the public? Tell us about this special dog, and/or the dogs in your contest entry.

Dogs have always played a huge part in my private and professional life. My parents were huge animal lovers, so I’ve always had dogs since I was born. My “FiveSibes” – Harley, Gibson, and the three “pupsters,” littermates Wolfgang (Wolfie) and his sisters Chloe and Bandit, were the inspiration for my blog.

I stepped into the world of social media and canine photojournalism to talk about the breed and their specific needs. On my FiveSibes: Siberian Husky K9 News & Reviews Facebook page, people have connected with both them and my writing. Incredibly, more than 20,000 people follow my page.

While I write about life with Huskies, I also highlight rescued Husky and northern breed dogs who need forever homes. I also cover topics that relate to all canines. When Gibson first began having seizures, I did extensive research to learn as much as I could so I could have a well-informed discussion about his care regimen with my veterinarian team.

I soon became an advocate for Epi-dogs (epileptic dogs) and in 2012, I became an official Purple Day® for Epilepsy ambassador, and in 2018 developed #Paws4Purple initiative through the human epilepsy organization, The Anita Kaufmann Foundation, now under the umbrella of Purple Day® Every Day.

I’m so thankful these international human epilepsy organizations welcomed me and my work with Epi-dogs as part of the one-health philosophy; the first organizations to do that!  I’m also a volunteer case manager for the nonprofit The Wally Foundation for Canine Epilepsy which offers possible financial assistance to Epi-dog caregivers.

My message always has been this: with special care, medications, therapies, and/or diet, dogs with epilepsy can live full, happy lives—the same as a dog without this condition. It was important to bring awareness to Canine Epilepsy because once upon a time, euthanization was the recommendation for dogs with seizures. That is SO not the case today, and my Gibson showed that through his zest for life.

My research and working with our extremely knowledgeable vet team, Drs. Arnold Rugg and Beth Alden, plus the wonderful neurology team at the Companion Animal Epilepsy Research Lab at North Carolina State University-College of Veterinary Medicine, I learned so much, and I continue to share that information with others.

Seeing a dog have a seizure is a frightening experience and information on the internet is like the Wild West—but it always has been important for me to share accurate, vetted information. The recognition of my work is why the DWAA Maxwell Medallion means so much to me.

How big a part have people played in your association with dogs?  Family?  Friends?  Do you have any favorite writers/bloggers/media or graphic artists?  How have they influenced your career?

People play a huge part!  I was born to amazing parents who taught me to always be the best steward of animals I can be, so pets have been a big part of my life. I have many wonderful blogging friends and FiveSibes social media friends/followers who have been loyal fans of my FiveSibes.  They are still with me.  Sadly, my Huskies are not.

All my beloved Huskies have passed.  I miss them so much, and those five holes they left in my heart are only soothed by the joyous memories of times we shared together.  I know that someday down the road, when the stars align, the paths of other special canines and I will cross, and a happy new chapter in our lives will begin.

As for influencing artists and/or graphic designers, those who have helped bring my mental images to life on paper and created amazing images of my Huskies over the years include Cameo Anderson, Jeff Owenby, Jewel Mathieson, The Frenzied Fox, Debby Carman, Dr. Puppy Portraits, Kat Burger-Decort, JM the Drawing Mom, and of course, the illustrators for my previously published books, Barbara K. Slocum and Michelle Littler. One artist in particular, Cameo Anderson, created a beautiful likeness of my Gibson for a poster I wanted.  With veterinarian input, cooling off a dog who has seizures was created.

The poster is beautiful and instructive, is free and is available in my #LiveGibStrong K-9 Epilepsy Online Resource Library ( and click on the menu tab), as well as on #Paws4Purple Purple Day Every Day/The Anita Kaufmann Foundation page at:

Since I was already a photojournalist by trade, I’d say the biggest influence on the dog-related portion of my career was definitely my beloved FiveSibes: Gibson, Harley, Wolfie, Bandit, and Chloe.

When you consider both your personal and professional canine-related achievements, which one of each stands out the most?  And why? What is the driving force that sparks your work?

While I am very proud of my professional canine-related achievements, I have to say the personal ones really stand out. I was always excited to discover information that could possibly help my dogs live a healthier life, whether it was a holistic treatment, medication, product, or other therapies and nutritional changes, and sharing it by writing about it. The driving force that sparks my work is always the betterment of lives for dogs.

I am also proud of my #LiveGibStrong K-9 Epilepsy Online Resource Library.  This blog companion is a valuable tool for all guardians of Epi-dogs.  (It was also awarded the Maxwell Medallion last year.)

What ongoing or future canine projects do you have planned?  Are they personal or professional?

As I said earlier, my beloved FiveSibes have all earned their wings, so no more cuddling.  That was my favorite thing to do and I miss them all very much. In carrying on their legacy, I am working on my third FiveSibes Tale children’s book, a very special one as my elementary-age grandson helped co-write it!  I had hosted a DWAA award-nominated podcast called “The Sibe Vibe” on Dog Works Radio and iTunes that is currently on hiatus, but I’m working on new episodes.

I just wrapped up a video slideshow about the importance of self-care titled “Caring for the Epi-Dog Caregiver,” which was done in partnership with The Companion Animal Epilepsy Research Lab at North Carolina State University-College of Veterinary Medicine. I’m also in the early stages of writing a historical WWII romance that, of course, will include dogs!

What would you recommend to those peers who wish to enter your winning category in next year’s contest?

Write a well-researched piece on a topic important to you. Write from the heart and write it in a kind voice. If you can relate it to your own dog/pet, touch on that personal note as well.

To conclude this interview, what thoughts would you like to share?

I’ve been fortunate to share my life with a myriad of fabulous animals—my five Siberian Huskies, many shelter dogs, an adopted retired NYPD canine, a found Spitz I brought home on horseback, and so many other dogs!  Also, several horses, ponies, a baby bull, a spider monkey, cats, goats, and even an abandoned baby fox I helped to rehabilitate.

To be able to write about something I love and care about so much that people enjoy reading, and now being able to share that with my two wonderful young grandchildren, is such a joy. To be recognized by the DWAA for my work is truly an honor.

Congratulations again and thank you for sharing with us. 

Featured Image: Author Dorothy Wills-Raftery with her “FiveSibes” – Siberian Huskies Harley, Gibson, Chloe, Wolfie, and Bandit. Photo by Jenn Raftery.
One of Dorothy’s FiveSibes, “Gibson,” an Epi-dog and the inspiration behind her two books on Canine Epilepsy and the FiveSibes #LiveGibStrong K-9 Epilepsy Online Resource Library. Photo by Dorothy Wills-Raftery
One of Dorothy’s FiveSibes, “Gibson,” an Epi-dog and the inspiration behind her two books on Canine Epilepsy and the FiveSibes #LiveGibStrong K-9 Epilepsy Online Resource Library. Photo by Dorothy Wills-Raftery

FiveSibes blog:

FiveSibes: Siberian Husky K9 News & Reviews Facebook Page:

FiveSibes on YouTube:

FiveSibesMom on Instagram:

FiveSibesMom on X (formerly Twitter):