Home
I Always Carry Dog Gear
There’s no denying my life involves dogs

The man had to bend over awkwardly to hold the dog’s collar as they walked down the block.  Assuming that he was holding on to prevent a lost dog from running into the street, I pulled over to ask, “Did you just find that dog?”

“No,” he replied, “My leash broke, and I’m just trying to get home.” With his other hand he held up a mangled non-retracting retractable leash that was now worthless. I told him I had a leash he could have, and gave him the 6-foot lead that I keep in my car. The friend with me pointed out that I always have dog gear with me, which I had not really noticed.  She was right, though.

I’ve seen dogs out in traffic and stopped to help out, using whatever I had on hand to lure them away from trouble—squeaky toys, tennis balls, treats, rope toys, Kongs. At any point, I’m likely to have some treats and toys in my car.

Once on the way to the park, I saw a woman who was not picking up after her dog, and suggested that she do so. “I would, but I don’t have a plastic bag,” was the insincere response. “You’re in luck! I have one right in my purse,” I said and handed it to her. She looked anything but grateful, but she did use it to clean up. A similar bag once came into service on a school field trip when a child was carsick. On that occasion, the bus driver, the teacher and the student all seemed genuinely appreciative.

I often keep a plain squeaker in my pants pocket during my private consultations, and I’m very poor at remembering to remove it. (They go through the laundry completely unaffected, in case you were wondering, which is more than I can say for the treats that end up in my washer or dryer from time to time.) That has worked out well on multiple occasions. I once used that squeaker to help lure a dog back to his guardian when he jumped out of the car in the parking lot of the mall. Another time the surprise of that sound distracted a toddler who had become bored and fussy while his mom was trying to pay for her groceries, making the situation easier for her, and faster for the rest of us in line behind her.

Some of the gear I have with me is planned because I like to be prepared. Some of it is just residue from my daily life. It happens to be in my car because I have my house call bag with me or it was left in my pocket by mistake.

What do you always have in your car, purse, backpack or pockets that would make it impossible to deny that your life involves dogs?

Therapy Dogs on Campus
Study looks at animal-assisted therapy and college students.

Last month Oklahoma State University launched the country's most comprehensive university-wide pet therapy program, part of their commitment to be America's Healthiest Campus. Most schools bring in therapy dogs only at stressful times, such as finals week, but OSU's goal is to be more proactive.

I'd love to see more schools adopt similar programs, but they may be wondering, are therapy dogs a “nice to have” or a valuable resource for students?

Dr. Leslie Stewart of Idaho State collaborated with Georgia State University and Savanna College of Art and Design to explore this question. Dr. Stewart had seen the prevalence of anxiety, loneliness, and post traumatic stress disorder increase on college campuses, putting a strain on limited counseling resources.

In the study, 55 students were given access to animal-assisted therapy twice a month throughout the course of an academic quarter. In the group sessions, the participants were invited to stop by and interact with a German Shepherd named Sophie for up to two hours. They were allowed to pet, hug, feed, brush, draw, photograph, and play with the dog.

Dr. Stewart's team found a 60 percent decrease in self-reported anxiety and loneliness symptoms following the animal-assisted therapy. 84 percent said that their interaction with Sophie was the most significant part of the program for them.

This is a small study with self-reported data, but I hope this leads to more research in the area. While no one would argue the upside of having dogs on campus, having the numbers to back up the benefits will help more colleges secure funding for robust programs like OSU's.

Mislabeled Food
Study finds that ingredients listed on packages differ from what's inside.

With recent allegations of mislabeled food, we've never been so far removed from where our meals come from. Last year a study across 21 states found that as much as 33 percent of seafood in the United States is sold as a different product than what's listed on the package. And it's not just human food.

After reading about horse meat found in ground beef products sold in European, California's Chapman University decided to explore mislabeling in the pet food industry. Students extracted DNA from different brands of commercial dog and cat food to test for the presence of eight meat types--beef, goat, lamb, chicken, goose, turkey, pork, and horse.

Of the 52 products included in the study, 20 were potentially mislabeled and one contained a meat ingredient that could not be verified. 16 included a meat type not listed in the ingredients and three substituted a listed meat for a different type. Pork was the most common undeclared ingredient.

The researchers noted that while the pet food was mislabeled, it was unclear if it was accidental or intentional, or at which point in the production chain it took place.

It's not always a matter of the company itself being deceptive, but that there are so many layers of food production these days. Earlier this month Blue Buffalo revealed that a supplier's mislabeling of ingredients may have caused some of their pet food products to contain poultry by-product meal instead of 100 percent chicken meal.

Inaccurate ingredient lists are not only frustrating (who wants to pay a premium for whole meat ingredients that turn out to be cheap byproducts), but also dangerous (how can you find food for a dog with allergies if you can't trust the labels?). The fact that this problem is happening with human food as well means that this is tied to a much larger problem with the way our production chains operate. This information makes a hefty case for making your own meals--for you and your pup!

The Details Behind Stories Matter
It’s true for dogs and proposals

The details behind stories add to the understanding we can take from the stories at face value. I find this most obvious with stories about dogs and about marriage proposals. For example, which sounds better to you—a proposal on a beach in Hawaii or the proposal while at home mopping the floor?

It’s natural for our opinion to change with additional information. The details make all the difference. The woman proposed to in Hawaii thought it was too cliché, which annoyed her so much that she didn’t decide to say yes for a few days. When she and her husband tell this story, there’s an awkwardness between them, even 20 years later. The proposal at home took place in that setting because the man was so set on surprising her that he decided he had to propose at an unexpected time. She leapt into his arms with such enthusiasm that she tipped them both over the dirty bucket of mop water. They both love to tell this story, and it’s a joy to listen because it’s obvious that they adore it and each other.

Some friends of mine have a delightful dog whose behavior is entertaining, if not typical. This dog lives in a duplex and he once bolted out the door on his own side of the residence and went a-visiting next door. He used his nose to push open the screen door, burst inside, grabbed a new dog toy belonging to his neighbor’s dog, gave one loud, “Woof!” and came back home with his new treasure. (His guardian returned the toy not long after.) The people in both sides of the duplex love this dog and enjoy telling the story of his big adventure. You can tell that the dog is well loved and that the people in his life find his actions endearing rather than objectionable.

It’s not obvious why this story is told with such love because on the surface, it just sounds like it’s about a rude pushy dog who mugged his neighbor’s dog and took a toy that was not his. The importance of the story lies in the fact that this dog is fearful of many people, and his guardians have been working hard to help him overcome his fears. The toy-borrowing incident was proof of progress. He was comfortable enough to put himself in the presence of the neighbors, so this episode is actually a success story, not a tale of a dog’s misdeeds. In the months after this happened, he became much more comfortable around people in general. Now when most people meet him, they aren’t even aware of his fears. Up until this incident, the dog was reliably on the skittish side, but he acted so boldly that day that it marked a turning point in the efforts to overcome his fears.

Do you have a story about your dog that requires an explanation to be properly understood?

Tom Brady’s Best Friend Is a Pit-Mix Named Lua

Today’s inbox brings us a special bit of eye-candy (also known as publicity pitches) that we think is worth sharing. It’s a video featuring NFL quarterback Tom Brady playing fetch with his dog Lua. This short contemplation on hard work, success and man’s best friend is a promotion for UGG, the Australian shoemaker who employs Brady as their official pitchman. We don’t know if it will make people run out and buy their shoes, but maybe a few will be inspired to adopt a Pit or Pit-mix ... like Tom.

Weekly Smilers 10-20-14
Smiling Dogs
Abby

Our featured smilers of the week. 

This week: Abby, Ho'oulu, Jackson, Lily, and Riley.

See more smiling dogs in our gallery or share your own.

Where Do You Take Your Dog?
New options appearing all the time

For people who want to take their dogs with them wherever they go, life is good and getting better! There are more establishments that allow dogs now than a few years ago, and many more than a decade ago. From bookstores to ski shops to hardware stores, there are so many businesses that have begun to welcome dogs in recent years.

It’s still not likely that the movie theaters or grocery stores in most areas will let you bring your pet dog in, but the number of places that people now go accompanied by dogs is growing. The number of big national chains that allow dogs in all of their stores is on the upswing. Bed, Bath & Beyond, Michael’s, Home Depot, Barnes & Noble and Marshall’s are just a few that welcome dogs on a leash (or at least in a cart) to come inside.

Plenty of cafés welcome dogs to their outdoor seating areas, and some let them into all the places that allow human customers. An increasing number of restaurants allow people to bring their dogs, and each year shows a rise in the number of people who are allowed and even encouraged to bring their dogs to work.

Is there someplace new that you take your dog because it has recently become permissible to do so?

Dog Allergic to Humans
Indianapolis rescue pup begins allergy shots this week.

Pet allergies are fairly common with as much as ten percent of people having some degree of sensitivity to dogs. In fact one of my fears is that if I have kids, one of them might have or develop an animal-related allergy. But can it happen the other way around?

A few months ago, Indianapolis' Lucky Dog Retreat Rescue discovered Adam, a happy-go-lucky, but sad looking Black Labrador, at the local Animal Care and Control. The poor two year old pup was suffering from a skin condition that they believed would heal with a loving foster home, a flea treatment, and a diet change. Adam turned out to be one of the rescue's most unique challenges.

After Adam's condition didn't improve, the rescue tried a number of remedies ranging from special baths to antibiotics and steroids, all without success. They even did a skin biopsy, which came back negative. Meanwhile, Adam had to wear a cone at all times to prevent him from scratching and biting his skin.

Finally the veterinarian ran a blood test which uncovered an allergy to human dander. Rescue president, Robin Herman, thought the veterinarian was joking, but she too was equally surprised at the finding.

Robin then found a veterinarian who could create allergy shots, which Adam starts this week. They're hoping that this treatment will put Adam on the path to recovery and eventual adoption.

Adam sure is one brave little dog to endure this ordeal with a smile on his face!

High Tech Collars for Border Patrol Pups
Department of Homeland Security considers introducing new technology to their canine team.

Over the years, there have been talks of futuristic dog collars that would reveal if your pet was happy, hungry, or sad. But, unless someone is recreating the translating collar from Pixar's Up, these gadgets seem more like a novelty that would wear off after a few days. But now these collars are getting a serious look for their application with working pups.

Last week, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Chief Technology Officer, Wolf Tombe, mentioned that the agency is considering special collars for the canine units working the U.S. border. The wearable technology contains sensors that use an algorithm to relay threatening barks to a handlers' cell phone.

CBP's human counterparts already use smart wrist-watches, wearable cameras, and clothing equipped with health and safety sensors, so giving the canines a bit of technology seems like a logical next step. With about 1,500 teams, CBP's dog program is the largest law enforcement canine program in the country. These pups are often referred to as the agency's best tool in tracking potential terrorists and sniffing out illegal substances. Their noses are able to detect some scents at an incredible four parts per trillion.

Wolf believes that the collars will allow dogs to work safely and effectively at a greater distance from their handlers. Additional features could also be added, such as GPS and video.

But not everyone agrees that the gadget is worth the expense. Shawn Moran, Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council, doesn't see the need for a high tech collar since agents are usually close to their dogs. It would be interesting to see if the collar's "translating' capabilities could pick up on minute variances in barking and other behavior that their handlers may not be able to detect (or would have a hard detecting in a hectic situation).

Either way, no collar can replace the communication system that develops organically over time between a handler and their pup-- no matter how fancy the algorithm. My hope is that this technology is used to aid, not replace, a solid human-canine working relationship.

Lessons from Joey the two-legged pup
There is much joy to be found in life, if only we look for it

I followed the sweet, white-haired woman down a flight of stairs as we chatted about her day. She had called our shelter and stated that she had found a stray dog a few days previously had been unable to locate the owner. She requested an animal control officer to pick it up. When we reached the basement she opened the door. I looked inside and stopped in surprise. It’s pretty rare that I’m speechless. In my job I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all. The dog wagged his tail eagerly but it took me just a moment to get my wits about me. He was extremely tiny at only three pounds but his slightly graying muzzle showed him to be long past puppyhood. He was unusually small but what caught me off guard was the fact that he had no front feet.

The little guy stood up on his rear legs and wiggled and wagged at me in delight. I scooped him up, impressed by his happy attitude, while still being shocked at his lack of front feet. One limb ended abruptly just past the elbow, while the other was slightly longer with a floppy bit of flesh at the end. One tiny nail spiraled bizarrely out of the tip to a great length. He was a little thin and his coat was black with fleas that swarmed over his skin in tremendous numbers. Even as I held him, he was attempting to scratch the pests that plagued him. Closer inspection showed him to have rotten teeth and a penis that would not retract into the sheath and he kind of stumped along on that too. Even his back feet, while appearing fairly normal, only had two toenails apiece.

I placed the dog in a well padded carrier in the front seat of my animal control truck and he curled up, seeming content other than the constant scratching at his fleas. I kept glancing at the dog as I drove. It was likely that his feet had been missing since birth. Whether it was a congenital issue or the result of an overeager new mom chewing more than the umbilical cord, I couldn’t say. He looked back at me, big brown eyes trusting and accepting of whatever I chose for him. Someone must have cared about him somewhat or he never would have made it to adulthood. I pictured a poor but caring family with few resources to deal with a dog like him. The must have fed him, sheltered him and cuddled him for he was friendly and trusting. I wondered how he had ended up on his own after all this time. Back at the shelter, I placed him in a warm sudsy bath and scrubbed and rinsed the fleas off of him until the water ran black. I dried him in a big fluffy towel and he was photographed, vaccinated, wormed and treated for his fleas.

Due to his numerous medical issues, I took him home to foster. I decided to call him Joey as he reminded me of a baby kangaroo the way he stood up on his hind legs. Joey’s attitude and good nature is a constant source of delight and a reminder that life is less about what happens to us and more about how we respond. A veterinary check up and bloodwork showed him to be relatively healthy other than the obvious. The vet guessed him at around 7 or 8 years of age and also found that his jaw is fractured, maybe from his rotten teeth, and he’s a bit anemic, likely from all the fleas that had been feasting on his blood for who knows how long. He will need at least another month or so in foster care to try and resolve his anemia before he’s neutered and has his dental needs addressed.

Joey is thriving in foster care in my home and has numerous adoption options, including a woman who previously had a Chihuahua with no front feet. He is friendly and happy and loves people, especially children. In every way, he is a well adjusted little guy who doesn’t let his issues define him. As much as I would love to keep him, he would be happier in a home that where the adopter doesn’t work full time as I do. He is such a reminder that in spite of the challenges that many of us have, there is much joy to be found in life, if only we look for it. There is a lesson to be learned from every dog I meet and Joey certainly has much to teach.

I would love to hear about readers experiences with dogs with unusual challenges. 

Loving Dogs and Children
Similarities and differences in brain response

If you’ve read the headlines recently saying that science has proven that we love our dogs just like we love our kids, then you have only gotten part of the story. Yes, we love our dogs and consider them our children, and yes, a new research paper gives details about the similarities in the way our brains view these important individuals. However, there are nuances to the way our brains react to the world around us, and as is usually the case with scientific studies, it’s not that simple.

A study called “Patterns of Brain Activation when Mothers View Their Own Child and Dog: An fMRI Study” found both similarities and differences in mothers’ responses to dogs and children. Researchers evaluated brain function patterns in women when they saw pictures of their children and their dogs, as well as pictures of unfamiliar children and dogs. The study focused on areas of the brain that are involved in social bonding.

Mothers had similar activation patterns in some parts of the brain when they viewed photos of their children and photos of their dogs. These patterns differed from their responses to pictures of unfamiliar children and unfamiliar dogs. One region that responds similarly to these two types of images is relevant in rewards, emotion and affiliation. Another region of the brain involved in affiliation and reward was activated by images of mothers’ own children but not by images of their own dogs. An area of the brain that is critical to the processing of facial features was activated far more by images of mothers’ dogs than by images of their children.

According to the authors, “These results demonstrate that the mother-child and mother-dog bond share aspects of emotional experience and patterns of brain function, but there are also brain-behavior differences that may reflect the distinct evolutionary underpinning of these relationships.”

If you are a parent to both humans and dogs, do you feel both similarities and differences in those relationships?

Weekly Smilers 10-13-14
Smiling Dogs
Bodhi

Our featured smilers of the week. 

This week: Bodhi, Brutus, Kona, Ranger, and Yoshi.

See more smiling dogs in our gallery or share your own.

Optimism in Dogs
Study looks at optimism and how it may predict successful service pups.
My perpetually optimistic pup, Nemo.

Those of us who live with dogs know that our pets have distinctly different personalities. My Sheltie, Nemo, is one of the happiest dogs that I know. A few years ago he was in a veterinary intensive care unit and the staff was amazed at how upbeat he looked, even while being whisked away for emergency surgery. I'm sure that his positive attitude contributed to his eventual full recovery.

So I wasn't surprised to find that studies have suggested that dogs may have a degree of optimism and pessimism. Back in 2010, Bark blogger Karen B. London wrote about a study that gauged these tendencies by the speed at which dogs approached food bowls. The canine test subjects first learned to associate a full food bowl with a certain location and an empty bowl with a different location. They were then brought to various ambiguous locations to observe their speed towards a bowl. Dogs who assumed a new location may also mean a full food bowl were labeled optimistic.

The study went on to measure behavior as well and found that the pessimistic dogs (the dogs who slowly approached bowls in ambiguous locations) were more likely to show separation-related distress, like destructive chewing and barking. While it was an interesting study, Karen believed there were too many variables to draw any conclusions about optimism and pessimism.

However, a new study just published out of the University of Sydney improves on the previous experiment and is applying the work to the selection of service dogs. Led by Dr. Melissa Starling, dogs were taught to touch a target on cue to trigger the release of a liquid. The cue was a sound—one tone that meant touching the target would produce milk and a different tone meant touching the target would result in water. As you can imagine, the dogs were much quicker to interact with the target after the "milk sound."

Once the target behavior was learned, the dogs were presented with ambiguous tones. Those who continued to touch the target at "milk speed" were labeled as optimists, while those who responded with "water speed" were labeled as pessimists. Dr. Starling also looked at the degree of optimism by looking at differences in their response to a range of tones. For instance, a very optimistic dog may touch the target at a quick speed even after a tone that sounds more similar to the water noise.

The research team also found that pessimistic dogs appeared to be more stressed after failing a task than the optimistic ones. This included whining, pacing, and avoiding the task. Optimistic dogs tended to be unfazed by failure and kept trying.

The cool part is that Dr. Starling is now working with Assistance Dogs Australia to see if an optimism test could help in selecting successful training candidates. She believes that this could help determine which dogs will take risks to gain rewards, be more resilient when things don't go their way, and be willing to persist through setbacks.  

I can see how this information could be valuable for working dogs and even as a temperament test for future dog sport pups. I can't wait to see the outcome of her continued work with the service dogs.

Do you think your pup is an optimist or a pessimist?

Marathon Recovery Buddy
Another job for a dog

Marley has a job this week that is not mentioned in lists of the ways that dogs help us: He is my marathon recovery buddy. His guardian knows how much we love to have him visit, so she asked me if I would be interested in watching him while she is traveling for work the week after my first marathon. As an experienced marathon runner, she knew what an asset he would be to me. I knew I would enjoy him, but the degree to which he helped me recover was a pleasant surprise.

This is a dog who goes with the flow, is laid back and knows how to relax. In other words, he is everything I am not, but everything I need to be to make my recovery as smooth as possible.

I need some extra sleep now, but it’s hard to take the time when I have so much to do. Marley’s inspiration helped me out there. Seeing him take a snooze on a cool fall afternoon gave me just the push I needed to spend 30 minutes doing what my body needed me to do—sleep. I seriously doubt that I would have napped without his fine example.

I don’t feel much like walking, but Marley is working hard to maintain his youthful figure, so those extra miles are a must. The gentle activity is good for me, and I am grateful that he gets me out the door.

Yesterday I headed out for a short run, which was my first since the race. Marley’s contribution on this occasion was preventing me from going too fast. He’s no speedster so even at my easy pace, he was lagging behind. I might have accidentally gone too fast and subjected my body to more pounding than it could handle, but Marley’s “take time out to sniff the world” approach to running kept me in check.

Marley is always great company, but especially when I’m not as active as usual and spending more time at home. I am glad to have one of my favorite buddies around 24/7.

Dogs play so many roles in our lives, but marathon recovery buddy is one that’s new to me. Has your dog performed a job for you that you did not expect or did not even know existed before?

Ruling Against a Park Ranger for Using a Taser on a Dog Walker

A couple of years ago we reported that Jackie Speier (D-Calif) deserved a Bark call-out for a job well-done for “ripping” into the National Park Service for an agent who used a taser on a man who was running with his small dogs off-leash in an unincorporated area in San Mateo County.

Now a judge has ruled that the park ranger, Sarah Cavallaro, acted unlawfully when she used her taser on Gary Hesterberg. Not only that but Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley also found that since the leash law had never been enforced at the Rancho Corral de Tierra—which had only recently been acquired by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area—that the ranger overstepped her duty that day, the first day of leash enforcement. Rangers had been instructed to take a “soft enforcement, outreach approach with regards to violations of the Rancho’s new rules.” This was an approach that apparently Cavallaro did not follow.

It was reported that

“After four minutes with the stun gun pointed at him, Hesterberg said he had a heart condition and again asked what authority he was being held under, to which Cavallaro answered, “the Constitution.”

“That is no kind of answer,” Hesterberg responded, before turning to leave. When he did, Cavallaro fired her stun gun, hitting Hesterberg in the back and buttocks, court records show.

When Hesterberg was confronted by the ranger about the leash policy, he, allegedly, was uncooperative and would not provide her with his name. So after being tasered he was actually arrested on suspicion of failing to obey a lawful order, keeping dogs off-leash and providing false information, but San Mateo County prosecutors declined to file charges.

Back in 2012, Representative Speier had noted that, “Many of my constituents are understandably angered by what appears to be an excessive use of force by a park ranger.” She added, “From the information I have to date, it does not appear that the use of a taser was warranted.” Speier also requested information about training in taser usage for park rangers, including the appropriate utilization and risks of tasers.

The court also found that Hesterberg, though uncooperative, never posed an immediate threat to Cavallaro or anyone else and that the ranger did not provide an adequate warning that she would shoot him with the stun gun if he tried to leave.

The judge found in favor of Hesterberg, awarding him $50,000 in damages for both physical and mental suffering.

 

JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou

Shirley Zindler

Weekly Smilers

Karen B. London

JoAnna Lou

Weekly Smilers

Karen B. London

Karen B. London

Guest Posts

JoAnna Lou

Guest Posts

Editors

Karen B. London

JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou

Karen B. London

Weekly Smilers

Editors

Karen B. London