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The Frozen Kong
It’s solid goodness
Straight from the freezer or straight from heaven?

There are a few kernels of wisdom related to dog training and behavior that I feel compelled to share with others as often as possible. One of these is the value of a frozen Kong. Of the many tools at our disposal for making life better for ourselves, and for our dogs, the frozen Kong is one of the most universal.

Kongs offer a wonderful option for feeding our dogs in a way that keeps them occupied. When the food inside the Kong is frozen, it takes longer for the dog to get it all out, which provides them a greater opportunity for problem solving, mental exercise, and using their mouths in the physical way that so many dogs need.

This is valuable because many dogs require more mental stimulation than we provide them each day. Working to get food out of a toy is much more satisfying to the majority of dogs than eating it straight from the bowl. It involves the chewing and licking so many dogs enjoy. It keeps dogs occupied for a long time. It provides them the opportunity to problem solve and to stick to one task for a long time.

Having a dog work on a Kong is useful to us as well as to them. It allows us to be pro-active about preventing trouble that is predictable at certain times of day. Many dogs seem a bit bored and restless in the mid-morning and again in the late afternoon, and this is when much misbehavior happens. Giving them a frozen Kong just ahead of those times that they are predictably not able to be at their best can be a sanity saver for everyone.

Similarly, if you know your dog gets overly excited when visitors come over, have a frozen Kong ready to give to your dog just before they enter. If your dog is already happily engaged with this treasure, he is less likely to be overly exuberant in his greeting, and that’s good for everyone. (If your dog tends to guard special objects or food, it’s wise to have him in a crate or in another room with his Kong when visitors come over, just to be on the safe side.)

Stuffing Kongs is like any other kitchen endeavor—there are plenty of strategies and techniques that make it easier and better, but no one way to do it right. Here are a few of my general guidelines for stuffing a Kong.

For dogs without a lot of positive experiences with a Kong, it’s important to make it easy so they have success early on. The big solid chunk formed from a full Kong that is frozen stiff might be too hard for beginners to extract, and that can be a problem unless you work up to it. You don’t want a novice dog to get frustrated and give up on Kongs before they’ve learned how wonderful they are. Start with Kongs that are not frozen so that they can easily get what’s inside. Once they love them and will not likely give up, make it just a little harder. With the first few frozen Kongs, one option is to line just the surface of a Kong with peanut butter, cream cheese, canned food or some other soft treat. You can also fill the Kong ¾ full and freeze it, then add unfrozen easy-to-get soft stuff in the last ¼ just before you give it to your dog.

To keep it upright and easier to stuff, put the Kong in a cup or glass with the large opening facing up. Squeeze the Kong to make the opening oblong when you are putting in large items or using a spoon to scoop in goopy ones. The tighter you pack the Kong, the more challenging it will be for the dog to get it, so start with loose packing and work up to the greater (and longer lasting!) challenge for your dog.

I like to stuff Kongs in layers before I freeze them. To keep things from spilling out the bottom smaller hole, first put in something that acts as a stopper and is also so delicious that your dog will stay interested in the Kong until it is empty. You can use a piece of chicken or steak, cheese, peanut butter or anything your dog really loves. Next, I put in a little canned dog food, as I always do between each layer, to keep everything together when frozen. The next layer is small pieces of dog treats, again followed by canned food. Depending on the size of the Kong and how generous I am being with the other layers, I may put in some dog kibble, and this is especially true if the dog tends to take meals with a Kong. After the next bit of canned food to almost fill the Kong, I add a long, hard treat sticking out so that the dog is sure to be interested in the Kong and get something from it right away.

Frozen Kongs have made my life better by making life better for dogs. What about you?

From Shelter Pup to Movie Star
Annie's canine lead showcases the potential of rescue dogs.

Last week the modern adaptation of the classic film, Annie, opened starring a cute and talented Golden Retriever/Chow mix named Marti as Sandy. One thing that I love about canine actors is that many of them are adopted from animal shelters, showcasing the potential of these often forgotten pups.

Animal trainer Bill Berloni has trained many Sandys over the years, all from local shelters. The original Broadway Sandy was cast from the Connecticut Humane Society, hours before the pup was slated to be euthanized. For the new film, director Will Gluck wanted the the canine lead to look different from past iterations. The original Sandys were intentionally a bit sad looking, but Will wanted the modern character to come off as smart and heroic.

When people think of Sandy, they think of a shaggy dog. But Marti, named in honor of Martin Charnin, the lyricist and director of the original Broadway production, is closer in appearance to the bright orange pup with pointy ears from the Chicago Tribune comic strip that inspired the play.

Marti came to the Adopt-a-Dog shelter in Armonk, N.Y. last year with four other rescue dogs from Georgia. She was there for five months before Bill came in to look at prospects for the Annie movie. He visited Marti several times to evaluate her potential before deciding that the six year old pup was the one for the job.

Bill says that shelter dogs blossom when given love and a purpose, and that their rough past makes them especially motivated and appreciative to work with his team. He uses positive reinforcement to train all of the acting skills and never forces the dogs to do anything.

Marti and her human counterpart, Annie star Quvenzhané Wallis, instantly bonded as soon as they met. Quvenzhané is a huge dog lover and has said she'd like to be a veterinarian one day, so she couldn't wait to work with Marti. Now that filming is over, the two of them still meet up in New York City when Quvenzhané is in town.

I wonder if Marti's former family will recognize her on the big screen!

True Spirit of Christmas Gifts
Helping Save a Dog's Life

I had a profoundly moving experience recently. I pulled up on a call to pick up a sick kitten and the song The Christmas Shoes came on the radio. I wrote about this song in The Secret Life of Dog Catchers because it always makes me cry. Sometimes I see so many sad, terrible things on the job that I lose the ability to cry even when I need to. A tender song can be a catalyst to release some of that pain. The Christmas Shoes is about man who is feeling caught up on the stress and commercialism of Christmas. He’s in line to buy something and the little boy in front of him doesn’t have enough money for his purchase. The child is trying to buy a pair of shoes for his dying mother to wear to heaven. The boy asks the stranger to help him and the man finds the true meaning of Christmas in helping a stranger.

The song had me feeling teary as I got out of my animal control truck and as I crossed the parking lot a woman called to me from a car. She asked me to please help them so I approached and saw a family holding a tiny, older Chihuahua in their arms. The dog, Lilo, was the special pet of the ten year old daughter and was critically ill but they had no money. Every vet clinic and shelter had turned them away. Veterinarians are generally hard working and compassionate people but they have to make a living just like everyone else and shelters are there for animals who have no owners.

Lilo probably didn’t weigh more than 3 or 4 pounds, with just enough gray around her muzzle to show her maturity without advanced age. The big brown eyes were resigned to her fate, whatever it may be and I could see that she was lethargic and dehydrated. The family was distraught and obviously adored their pet. I asked a few more questions and then called in my credit card number to a nearby vet clinic and asked them to please see the dog. The family and I embraced and exchanged some tears and I sent them on their way.

A couple of hours later the clinic called and said Lilo had a life threatening pyometra and needed emergency surgery to save her life. Pyometra is a nasty uterine infection common in un-spayed female dogs. The kind-hearted veterinarian gave me a break on the surgery and many generous people chipped in to help pay for it. Lilo ended up with major complications and spent 5 days in the hospital before she was well enough to be released. I was finally able to pick her up and drive her home and placing her in the daughter’s arms was one of the best feelings I’ve had in a long time.

Now animal control officers don’t make a lot of money. I buy most of my clothes at the Goodwill and drive a 20 year old car. We don’t spend much at Christmas other than some gifts for the kids. We have everything we really need and although I love giving gifts, I don’t like buying them just for the sake of buying them. Helping this family meant more to me than any gift I could ever get.

If I look close I can see my reflection in the dog’s eyes.

 

 

Canine Timeline
Remembering events based on dogs

A friend of mine was trying to remember what year her husband had run the Chicago Marathon. Naturally, she thought (and said out loud), “Let’s see, what dogs did I have then? Hmm, Izzie was a puppy, but she had already started obedience training, and Piper was competing in Utility, so it was probably around 1995.

I keep track of my life with the help of a canine timeline, too. As my brain searches for a memory to place an event at a specific time, dogs run through my mind.

“Let’s see, we were fostering Who the year it stayed below zero for over a week, so that was probably 2002.”

“Her husband died while we had Tyson, so I think it was in 2008.”

“We moved to New Hampshire weeks before we got Bugsy, so that would have been 1998.”

“Their baby girl was a newborn when Bear came to visit, so she is just turning two this year.”

Do you keep track of life events by remembering which dogs were present and what they were doing?

3D Printed Prosthetics Allow Dog to Run
Collaboration opens a new world for a South Carolina pup.

Earlier this year I wrote about TurboRoo, an adorable Chihuahua who received a 3D printed dog cart to help him get around. Dog carts have been the norm for lucky disabled pups, but it makes it hard to really run and play with other dogs. Canine prosthetic legs are more expensive and can take a long time to get the right fit.

But that all could change starting with a special pup named Derby, the first animal to be successfully fitted with 3D printed prosthetics. A few months ago, Tara Anderson, an employee at South Carolina based 3D printing company 3DS, started fostering the Husky mix born with two deformed front legs. She initially fitted Derby with a dog cart, but after it limited his mobility she enlisted a few of her colleagues to help make Derby prosthetic legs with their 3D technology. They were all on board, but none of them knew anything about designing prosthetics.

So Tara reached out to Derrick Campana, founder of Animal Ortho Care in Virginia, one of the first companies to make orthotics and prosthetics specifically for animals. Derrick had been wanting to incorporate 3D printing into his business because not all of the materials and tools that work for making human prosthetics are 100 percent compatible with animals. For example, the technology used to scan a person's leg is not so accurate when scanning a furry leg.

So while Derrick still had to mold a custom fiberglass cast, 3D printing brought speed and flexibility to the project. "The beauty of 3D printing is that if the design needs to be adjusted, we don't have to wait for time-consuming and expensive traditional manufacturing processes, we can simply print out a new set," said 3DS vice president Buddy Byrum. The new technology allowed them to create complete prosthetics printed in a single, custom-fit build.

Derby did have to learn how to use the prosthetics, with the help of his veterinarian and physical therapist, but now the energetic pup runs two to three miles a day with his adoptive parents.

Derrick plans to continue collaborating with 3DS to further advance the field of animal prosthetics and hopes to one day be able to directly scan canine legs to make the process even more efficient.

It takes a lot of work to successfully fit a dog with prosthetics, but seeing Derby's happy face certainly makes it all worth it.

Don’t Visit Without Them
Must-have travel items for guests

If you’re traveling with your dog this holiday season to stay with friends or family, you probably have more stuff jammed into your car than if your dog were staying home. I hope you’ve still have some space left, though, because you’ll want to make sure you have those extra items that can help make the trip with your dog a success.

I’m not talking about the obvious stuff like food, food bowls, crate, leash, collar, and a brush for daily groomers. I assume those are already packed and ready to go. No, I’m talking about the things that make visits easier for social reasons—the ones that are useful because they help prevent or ease the tensions that so often arise when dogs are guests.

Let’s not kid ourselves—even friends and relatives who love our dogs may not love the extra mud, hair and slobber that they bring or those little behavior gaffes such as counter surfing, barking, crotch-sniffing, trash parties and jumping up. With a little planning ahead and thoughtfulness, you can minimize any feelings of regret they may have about inviting your dog to come with you. Here are some must-have items to bring.

Extra-nice hostess gift. Bring something really special for your hosts and write in the card how much you appreciate that your dog is welcome, too. Consider adding a second gift that is from your dog.

Lint rollers. The hair that you consider a standard accessory to your outfits may not match everyone else’s style. Sharing these clean-up tools helps everyone get ready for family photos and also lets them know you realize that your dog sheds and that you care about how this affects others.

Washcloths and towels. At my house, we have a huge bin of old towels and washcloths that we use for anything slightly gross. At some houses, all linens are fancy and new, which means their owners may not appreciate them being used to wipe muddy paws and bellies, to put on furniture or rugs under a wet dog or to clean up everything from dog vomit to water bowl spills.

The phone number and location of a nearby hotel that accepts pets. It’s wise to be prepared in case it becomes prudent for you and your dog to relocate. Hopefully, tensions will not escalate to the point where you feel compelled to leave, but being prepared for that (just in case!) is always wise.

Thank-you gift. When you leave, let your hosts know that you appreciate them with something like flowers or a bottle of wine. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it shows that you are grateful and includes a gracious note praising your hosts’ hospitality to you and your dog.

I hope you and your dog have a wonderful visit and that you are both invited back again!

Banning Canine Tattoos and Piercings
NYS law protects pets against unnecessary aesthetic procedures.

Earlier this year, Brooklyn tattoo artist Mistah Metro ruffled feathers in the animal community when he posted a photo of his tattooed dog on Instagram. Mistah inked the pup while she was under anesthesia for a spleen removal. At the time it wasn't illegal, just ethically questionable. After all, the dog was subjected to an unnecessary and permanent procedure.

While Mista's pup couldn't be spared the skin decoration, other pets in New York will be protected against similar aesthetic procedures in the future. Earlier this week Governor Cuomo signed legislation outlawing the tattooing or piercing of pets in the state of New York, calling it "common-sense legislation." The bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal in 2011, after she read about a Pennsylvania woman selling "Gothic kittens" with piercings on their necks, ears, and spines. Mistah's canine tattoo gave Linda's legislation the momentum it needed to finally become a law.

Linda has been a longtime advocate for animals in the state legislature, believing pets need protection from careless owners. She's drafted other legislation giving judges the power to issue orders of protection to pets, limiting the testing of cosmetics on animals, and giving cities the ability to shut down puppy mills.

The tattoo and piercing law will go into effect in four months. Violators will face up to $250 in fines and up to 15 days in jail. Ear tags on rabbits and tattoos for identification purposes will be excluded from the law, as well as piercings that provide a medical benefit and are performed under the supervision of a veterinarian.

It certainly sounds like a bizarre law, but apparently a much needed one. 

What’s Wrong with the "Wrong" Dog

One of the most shared recent articles in the New York Times was one about a “wrong dog” and how the op-ed blogger felt she was wronged by agreeing to adopt a young dog from a rescue group. I was going to write about this but then our good friend, and former Bark science editor, Mark Derr, wrote a great post for Psychology Today that brought up all the points, and then some, that I had wanted to make. He kindly allowed us to cross post his article:

The New York Times ran a opinion piece on Saturday, December 13, by Erica-Lynn Huberty on the trauma caused when a well-meaning young couple bring a sweet young rescue dog into their home who turns into a cat-killing maniac. The essay, “The Wrong Dog,” serves as a sobering reminder that not all found dogs fit as seamlessly into their new homes as Arthur, the Ecuadoran stray who joined a team of Swedish adventure racers and traveled several hundred arduous kilometers with them last month. The team captain then sought and won permission to take him home to Sweden, and their story went viral. 

Arthur’s story raised several questions in my mind: How frequently can dogs be said to choose their human companions, what criteria do they use, and what is their success rate? I have several friends who literally rescued dogs off the street, in one case the Brooklyn Bridge, and took them home to discover they had a friend for life.

Is it merely random chance that a dog and man or woman should meet and become instant friends?  I think that both are choosing—the human to save a fellow creature in distress; the dog to find a loyal companion. Any dog dumped in the road would want that but be suspicious, too, I should think.

People I know with multiple dogs often have dogs dumped near them by neighbors who assume they will take the dog in. They do and if it doesn’t fit into their existing “pack,” they will find the dog a home.  The private placements I know of have worked well—on occasion spectacularly. But dogs who go that route are the lucky exception among the abandoned millions.

The apparent ease with which human and dog share affection and respect casts light on why wolves and humans teamed up initially. Though the reasons remain mysterious, they clearly, I have long suspected, have to do with the ability of individuals from both species to form lasting bonds of friendship with someone other than their own kind and to do so voluntarily, as adults, as well as children and puppies.

Whatever mutations governing sociability occurred to make dogs, at least one must have involved fixing them as dominate in the dog genome—or so it appears.

But there are times human and dog don’t match up well, and unless something is done, the results can be tragic. Many of the failures in that relationship seem to arise from a lack of forethought on the part of the human, a fundamental failure to think through and find ways to meet the animal’s need for exercise, social contacts with people and dogs, consistent treatment and mental stimulation.

The central problem with Huberty’s essay lies in her argument that nothing short of ditching the dog when she first started acting oddly would have prevented the catastrophe that occurred. They would have done that had they known that some dogs are unfit for adoption, and no amount of training, discipline, or coddling will change that.

“We let ourselves believe that beneath our rescued puppy’s strange, erratic behavior was a good, loving pet,” Huberty writes. The truth was the opposite.

The back story is common enough. Having become smitten with a five-month old Lab mix, Huberty and her husband, decide to have her share their home with their three cats, a female dog, and two children.

From her arrival, the new dog, Nina, showed a defensive/possessive aggression that led Huberty to seek more information from the group who rescued her.

Huberty says that she and her husband followed the advice of Cesar Millan, “the Dog Whisperer” to create a “loving but disciplined environment.”  Nina responded by attacking a cat and biting Huberty when she intervened.

In response, Huberty called the woman who gave them Nina. She agreed  to pay for a trainer, who proved to be the anti-Millan. She advocated a rewards-based approach rather than “discipline.” The essay takes an odd turn here as Huberty calls the rewards-based method ‘coddling” while appearing to indicate that it was working up to a point.

Nina would go along being a normal, playful puppy. But at times, out of nowhere it seemed, she would snap at me or Alex and, once, at our son,” Huberty says, “She would suddenly cower and growl. It was like a switch flipped, yet we couldn’t figure out what had done it.”

Nor do they try to find out. Dogs do not usually change their behavior that rapidly and dramatically without reason. That could very well be an underlying pathology that a thorough examination by a veterinarian might reveal. Indeed, Huberty gives no indication that she ever took the dog to a veterinarian—the first stop a new dog or cat companion should make. 

If no physical reason for the behavior can be found, the next stop is to  consult a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. There are not many in the country but your veterinarian should help arrange a consultation.   

Huberty blames the dog, the woman who gave her the dog, the trainer—everyone but herself and her husband—and Nina herself for her failure to fit seamlessly into Huberty’s home. From this experience, she draws the conclusion that some dogs are just unsuitable for living with humans. That might be the case but there is no proof of it here.

Maybe we should seek ways to allow more dogs to choose their human companions.  I have a notion they would do a better job of it.  “And when they don’t fit in they may be saying ‘wrong family,’” said my fellow Psychology Today blogger Marc Bekoff after reading “The Wrong Dog.”  “Living with a dog is a two-way street and assigning unilateral blame gets us nowhere and once again leaves the dog out in the cold. This sort of ‘musical dogs’ is bad for the dog, as much research and common sense tell us.”

 Nina might pay with her life for human miscalculations and failure to seek professional help.              

 

 

 

 

 

Making the Holidays Sweeter for Dogs

The holidays can present a different picture for animal control officers and shelter workers. It’s hard going to work each day and seeing all the homeless faces. Some eager and hopeful, some scared and lonely. All in need of someone to show them how good it can be. Of course not everyone can adopt a pet and certainly in most cases pets shouldn’t be given as gifts. The exception is a parent who is committed to the life of a pet giving a pet to a child or a family who is picking out a pet together.  It was once thought that no animals should be adopted out around Christmas but the thinking later changed to encourage people to give needy pets a home for the holidays. I’m all for taking things on a case by case basis. An easy-going family adopting a confident, happy dog can be a blast at any time.

Even if you can’t adopt, there are lots of ways to make life sweeter for homeless pets during the holidays. As we look at our beloved pets lounging in pampered comfort, remember the dogs who have no one. Contact your local shelter or rescue and ask for a wish list. Donate blankets, food, toys, treats or money. Volunteering to walk and play with shelter dogs is a great way to walk off all the rich food most of us indulge in this time of year and makes all the difference for a lonely dog.

The holidays can be a stressful time for our own dogs as well. Some dogs thrive on all the activity this time of year but many don’t. We often see cases of dogs biting visitors around the holidays. Even nice dogs can bite and dogs are limited in the ways they can ask for space. I constantly see well meaning people ignoring numerous stress signals from dogs. If your pet isn’t thrilled to see visitors, settle them in a quiet room with some treats and toys instead of subjecting them to the chaos of people who may push them past their limits.

 We can all benefit from slowing down and focusing on the real meaning of the season. What are you doing to make life sweeter for your pets and others?

 

Oh No You Didn’t
Photos of dogs dressed for Christmas

Some dogs enjoy sporting costumes, but they are in the minority. I see many dogs who look absolutely adorable dressed up for various holidays, but only a small subset of those look happy. I recently saw a photo on a restaurant wall of a dog done up as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, complete with a red clown nose and large antlers. One way to describe his mood is “less than thrilled.” It’s far more accurate to say, as the person next to me DID say, “That is one pissed off dog.”

It’s become a game in my family to imagine captions for photos of dogs subjected to being adorned with excessive Christmas cheer. Whether they are wearing antlers, a Santa suit or a string of lights, it’s usually hard to imagine that the dogs are thinking, “Thanks, I do love to look festive!” Here are some of the sentiments that I think more likely match their opinions on the matter.

Really?

Oh, no you didn’t.

Do we have to do this EVERY year?

You take this off me this instant!

One more things gets put on me, and your fingers are history.

How come the cat never has to wear this stuff?

Someone’s gonna be sorry!

Why does this always happen to me?

This is so embarrassing.

Is this the way best friends are supposed to treat each other?

Now, I’m not saying the dogs look anything but great in their holiday attire, and I certainly understand how much the right canine outfit can add to the annual family photo. But if you look at your dog and see an expression that is anything but joyful, it makes sense to consider skipping the costume, or putting it on just long enough to take a photo.

A Star is Born
Singing along to “Let It Go”

This dog sleeps right through Charli XCX’s “Boom Clap” featured in “The Fault in Our Stars,” but watch how he reacts when Frozen’s “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel comes on. The way his ears respond first followed by a slight movement of the head, then a head raise and a look directly at the camera makes the sequence look choreographed. The dog acts very much like an actor in a musical at the start of a big number.

I find it especially amusing that the dog yawns and looks ready to sleep again when the music switches from “Let It Go” and returns to “Boom Clap.” This guy knows what he likes. I’m curious about why this dog prefers one song over the other. Personal preference could obviously account for his reaction, but prior experience may play a role, too.

The people who posted the video call “Let It Go” their dog’s favorite song. It certainly makes sense that familiarity plays a role in the dog’s enthusiasm at hearing it. Perhaps, like me, this dog lives with kids in the age range of 4-12, in which case he’s probably heard this song hundreds of times by now.

Whatever the reason, he really has his performance down! Somebody needs his own iPod or a karaoke machine!

Dream Dog Park Honors Firefighters
Winning city features a pet friendly space with a nod to the Granite Mountain Hot Shots.

On Wednesday, the renovated Willow Creek Dog Park in Prescott, Arizona reopened as more than just a place for canines. Not only does the space offer a wonderland for pets, but it was designed to honor the 19 Granite Mountain Hot Shot firefighters that died battling the Yarnell Hill wildfire last year.

A few months after the tragedy, Prescott resident Linda Nichols noticed an advertisement for Beneful's Dream Dog Park contest. The winner's park would receive a $500,000 makeover. She decided to send a photo of her pup, Callie, along with the idea to create a firefighter themed space as a memorial for the Granite Mountain Hot Shots. Touched by her vision, Beneful chose Prescott's Willow Creek Dog Park.

Celebrity contractor Jason Cameron (host of several shows on the DIY Network), managed the renovation, along with pet writer and consultant Arden Moore who oversaw the project from a canine point of view.

The revamp installed a half-acre of low maintenance turf, stainless steel dog friendly water fountains, and a ramada for shade. Beautifully themed, the park features a replica firetruck (with built in tunnels for the dogs to run through), a row of colorful truck tires, and fire hydrant and hose shaped water misters (for the notoriously hot Arizona weather). As a finishing touch, the brick and metal entrance was designed to commemorate the history of the Prescott Fire Department.

The new park was unveiled on Wednesday with appearances by everyone involved, a photo booth, a caricature artist, and lots of human and canine treats. But best of all, there were plenty of very happy pups in attendance.

If you're in the area, visit the new space at 3181 Willow Creek Rd., Prescott, Arizona.

 

Dogs Welcome at Heaven's Gate
with Pope's Blessing CORRECTED VERSION

On Dec. 16 The New York Times, where the following article was sourced from, published a clarification about the remarks attributable to Pope Francis:

An article on Friday about whether Pope Francis believes that animals go to heaven — a longstanding theological question in the church — misstated the pope’s recent remarks and the circumstances in which they were made.

He spoke in a general audience at the Vatican on Nov. 26, not in consoling a distraught boy whose dog had died. According to Vatican Radio, Francis said, in speaking of heaven, “The Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us.” He did not say: “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” Those remarks are reported to have been made by Pope Paul VI to a distraught child.

An article on Nov. 27 in Corriere della Sera, the influential Italian daily, compared Francis’ comments to Paul’s, and concluded that Francis also believed that animals go to heaven. A number of subsequent news reports then mistakenly attributed both quotations to Francis; The Times should have verified the quotations with the Vatican.

What a refreshing, and can I say, enlightened pope that Catholics have with Pope Francis! In responding to a little child’s grief at his dog dying, Francis told a crowd at St. Peter’s Square that, indeed, “paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” This message sent theological scholars and humane societies across the world into a frenzy, the former trying to figure out exactly what the pope meant, the latter rejoicing in the great news that dogs and all animals can go, and merit going to heaven, and in fact, have souls. Such marvelous news. In reading through the reports about this “divine” decision, it was learned that it wasn’t until 1854 when papal infallibility was actually inscribed in that faith by Pope Pius IX who also supported the doctrine that animals have no consciousness, hence have no place in heaven, and even worse he tried to stop the founding of an Italian chapter of the SPCA. But back in 1990, Pope John Paul II seemed to reverse Pius when he said that “animals do have souls and are “as near to God as men are.” This position wasn’t well advertised by the church. Unfortunately John Paul was followed by the stricter more conservative, Benedict who reverted back to Pius’s position.

But now we have a new pope and definitely a new age in the way that most view animals, with a pope who, “citing biblical passages that assert that animals not only go to heaven, but get along with one another when they get there." Francis was quoted by the Italian news media as saying: “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

The editor of Catholic magazine, the Rev. James Martin, who is also Jesuit, like the pope, said that he believed that the pope was at least asserting that “God loves and Christ redeems all of creation,” and adds that “he’s reminding us that all creation is holy and that in his mind, paradise is open to all creatures, and frankly, I agree with him.”

While it is not such as surprise that Pope Francis, who took his papal name from St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, would take this humane, enlightened position, it is a remarkable gift he has given to all animal lovers this holiday season. Viva le Pope Francis!

 

 

Christmas Trees are Not Indoor Bathrooms
This may not be obvious to your dog

“Brought home my first Christmas tree about 25 seconds ago. The dog peed on it about 23 seconds ago. So. Joy to the world and season's greetings and all that.” My friend’s Facebook post describes a situation many of us have faced.

Though Christmas trees are decorations to us, their purpose is far from clear to most dogs. Anxiety has always been a part of my experience when I bring a dog to visit people around Christmas. I encourage anyone whose dog is going to be around these evergreen signs of the season to assume that dogs might view the tree differently than people and act accordingly, if you want your tree to be free of dog pee. (And who doesn’t want that?)

Management and prevention are useful tools when trying to prevent this behavior issue, so do what you can to keep your dog from going over to the tree when you’re not looking. Use gates or other equipment to block your dog’s access. If that’s not possible, supervise him when that room is available to him so he can’t sneak up on the tree while you’re baking, wrapping gifts or panicking over a recent credit card statement. This takes discipline and commitment on your part because this time of year is busy for most of us. Keeping your dog on a leash inside can keep him from wandering over to the tree, too.

No matter how well your dog is housetrained or how many years it’s been since he had an accident, assume nothing when a tree is indoors, especially if it is your dog’s first experience with one. A dog who pees on a Christmas tree is confused rather than acting out. Give your dog some help by letting him know that you still want him to eliminate outside. Take him out often on walks and in the yard, and reinforce him with great treats for eliminating in the right places. Know the signs that your dog has to go. Be alert to any indications that he may be about to eliminate such as sniffing or circling. Spend quiet time with him near the tree massaging him or letting him chew on a Kong or other chew treat so he considers the tree part of his living space. Dogs are less likely to eliminate in areas where they hang out or where they sleep.

If your dog knows “leave it,” practice it with many objects in the house that are off limits, including the tree. Reinforce him with treats, play or toys for correct responses to this cue. If he sniffs the tree or goes near it, reinforce him for being near it but not peeing on it. Teaching him to do something specific near the tree such as “sit” or “lie down” gives him a go-to behavior to do in that area other than lifting his leg. If he develops a strong reinforcement history with a behavior other than peeing on the tree, he will be less likely to pee on it.

Remember that if your dog does pee on the tree, he probably didn’t realize it was a faux pas. The tree may even have been peed on in the great outdoors before you brought it home, and that can make it extra confusing for the canine set. Clean it with an enzymatic cleaner to take away the odor so that it won’t smell like a bathroom to him.

Hopefully, your dog will not decorate your tree this year (or your heirloom tree skirt, your favorite ornaments or any of the presents.) That will make it easier to mean it when you say, “Joy to the world and season's greetings and all that.”

Publicizing a Lost Dog
Creative ways to help a missing pet get home.























It's easy to lose hope when a beloved pet goes missing, but animals do find their way home, months, even years after being lost. However, when flyers start to fade and searches come up empty, it can be hard to keep lost pets in the public eye and to motivate people to keep looking.

Local (to me in New York) agility and therapy dog, Cooper, has been missing since September 26th when he wandered away from his family on a New Jersey beach in Long Beach Island. It was unusual because the 16 year old Australian Shepherd had been coming to that beach every year for his whole life and had always stayed close. His family is especially concerned because Cooper has been nearly deaf the last three years due to his old age. Long Beach Island is also an area that most people vacate after the summer is over, although it's suspected that Cooper may not be on the island anymore.

Cooper's family and friends have spent the last two months checking off all of the usual lost dog techniques, posting flyers, calling local shelters, and writing to local media. But they've also employed a number of unique tactics to get the word out that I wanted to share.

It's easy for people to zone out flyers, especially when they've been hanging for weeks. Cooper's team changed their flyers as the holidays drew closer, using a photo of Cooper in a Santa hat to attract attention and earn major cuteness points. Keeping posters fresh helps remind people that a pet is still lost.

Cooper's team also came up with creative ways to spread the word. One person made a homemade, triangular shaped sign to attach to the top of their car's roof rack, while others handed out candy canes with information cards. Two volunteers even marched in a Christmas parade last weekend with a "Have You Seen This Dog?" banner.

Cooper's family has also been using technology to help mobilize volunteers, creating a Google document to track people contacting area veterinarians and using Facebook to centralize updates and coordinate search parties.

Hopefully Cooper will find his way home in time to celebrate his 17th birthday later this month. In the meantime, if you have any information or sightings to report, please call 201-777-0189.

Do you have any creative lost pet techniques that have worked well?

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JoAnna Lou

Karen B. London

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Karen B. London

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Karen B. London

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