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What Deer?
Dog ignores attempts at interaction

Dogs who are not social around other dogs may react to them by barking, growling, lunging, yelping or running away. Their behavior makes it obvious that something is upsetting them. For some dogs who are just as disinterested in playing with other dogs, their response is far subtler: They act like no dog is around, as in, “Dog? What dog? I don’t see any dog.” They may be afraid of those other dogs or they may simply lack even the slightest interest in them.

The dog in this video is showing what it looks like to ignore someone, although the animal being ignored is a deer, not another dog. It’s unimaginable that this dog is not aware of the deer’s presence, yet he completely ignores it. His behavior seems the same as it would be if he hadn’t noticed the deer yet. It’s hard to say if the dog is completely disinterested in the deer or finds it annoying.

 

Dogs who ignore deer are extremely rare, but ignoring other dogs is hardly a common reaction, either. Over the years, I’ve seen it quite a few times, but it’s unusual enough to capture my attention every time. Sometimes a dog is nonchalant about other dogs and may genuinely have no interest in them. In such cases, dogs may be completely focused on their guardians, or perhaps on a toy. (“Nothing in the world exists except my ball and whoever is throwing it!”)

In other cases, the dog is so afraid of dogs that he actively avoids looking in their direction. When extreme fearfulness is involved, the dog will turn away from the other dogs over and over, no matter how often they move around and into his field of view. The constant looking away can make them look like bobbleheads, which would be amusing if it were not for the fact that they are clearly afraid enough to be in serious distress.

If your dog ignores other dogs without having been trained to do so, is it because he doesn’t care about other dogs or because he’s too scared to look at them?

Right to Post Negative Reviews
Defamation lawsuit served for a negative experience at obedience school.

Online reviews have become a large part of how we choose restaurants, hotels, and other businesses to patronize. For small mom and pop shops, these testimonials can make or break their success. Positive reviews build a loyal fan base, while just one negative review can turn off countless potential customers. It's become a powerful way to give a voice to consumers.

When Jennifer Ujimori was dissatisfied with her puppy, Yuki's, obedience class in Virginia she took to Yelp and Angie's List to document her experience with Burke's Dog Tranquility. She said that the services delivered were not as advertised and that the owner refused a refund. Jennifer thought she'd never have to deal with the company again--until she was served a $65,000 defamation lawsuit. The company's owner, Colleen Dermott, claims that Jennifer's statements were false and damaged her small business, which had great reviews until that point.

While it would be easier for Jennifer to delete her review, she's standing by her decision to make a point. Lawsuits over negative reviews have risen in recent years and it can be difficult and expensive for defendants to fight as individuals coming up against a business. Virginia legislators are currently sitting on an anti-SLAPP law (strategic lawsuits against public participation) that would allow for the quick dismissal of cases a judge deems to be targeting First Amendment rights. Washington D.C. and more than half of the states have a similar law in place and Jennifer hopes her case will spark public attention to pressure lawmakers to pass the bill.

While online reviews are extremely subjective, and must be taken with a grain of salt, it's important to protect our right to post them.

Do you use online reviews to choose which businesses to visit with your dogs?

FOUND: First Ever Dog Tech Conference Offers Glimpse of Future
Megan Casey, Co-founder/CEO of Pack

What does technology hold for the future of dogs? It’s an interesting question that was posed by the FOUND Dog Tech Conference held at San Francisco’s Digital Garage last Thursday, March 19. The inaugural FOUND event was created by Pack, a social network for dogs and their owners. One of the new breed of tech companies designed to serve next generation dog owners and their canine companions, Pack brought together tech movers and shakers to rally around common causes—to elevate the conversation around dog focused technology businesses, share new ideas and opportunities, and ponder their collective future. The leaders of Pack, RoverPetcubePrideBites and Whistle took to the stage to showcase their particular vision on dog business. Part product showcase, part tent revival—each presenter worked hard to convince the audience that the “pet space” was being reinvented and that the market opportunity ($80 billion annually) is huge and growing. The big message: dogs, and thus these start-ups, were to be taken seriously.

Dog tech today is based more on emulation then innovation, so one is more apt to meet the Fitbit for dogs or Uber for dogwalkers then fresh, radical ideas. The most successful business models are service oriented—helping dog owners (or pet parents as marketers like to say) hook up with care, products and social groups. But the financial investment appears to be real, and early success is helping people forget the failures of the past. Pets.com and its talking sock puppet is often cited as the poster child for misguided failure from tech’s big bust in the late ’90s. Today’s entrepreneurs are working hard to connect to the burgeoning pet market and find success.

What does tech have in store for dogs and their people? Here are a few takeaways from FOUND:

Dogs are not frivolous—they help us be healthier and happier, and thus should be considered part of the health and wellness industry. This shift in perspective reflects a line of thinking that may find traction with investors, and in turn foster more innovation.

Dogs make us social—Pack’s goal is to connect dog owners … to each other, to their cities, to their dogs. Think of Facebook for dogs, a canine social network. Pack Co-founder/CEO Megan Casey emphasized the relationship between dogs and their owners’ well-being. She also noted that more than half of all U.S. smartphone users have dogs.

Responding to underserved markets—Rover connects owners to a nationwide network of qualified dog boarders. Founder/CEO Aaron Easterly feels he has identified a large underserved market, one that operates in what he termed “the shadow economy”—casual transactions between family and friends that operates under the radar of standard business analysis. The early returns of his venture are promising enough to secure a new round of $25M investment, raising Rover’s total funding to over $50M.

Customization—PrideBites is pursuing the megatrend of personalization, the desire of consumers to design their own product. In this case, it’s placing your dog’s name or likeness on to toys and apparel made in China but the greater potential lies in customized dog food, pharmaceutical products and data systems.

Digitizing dogs—Whistle is one of a handful of new “smart” collars or wearable devices that monitor a dog’s activity with the capacity to connect data to health providers. “Our goal with Whistle,” said Jacobs, “is to give dogs a voice.” As the technology expands, expect more complex data monitoring and analysis.

What was missing? For all the talk of unconditional love and dogs making us better people, we didn’t hear talk of a deeper understanding of dog people and their needs. Nor was there acknowledgement of the wide diversity of the canine community. But that may have to wait for Dog Tech 2.0—for now, companies are targeting the low hanging fruit. Speaking of community, scant mention was made of efforts to contribute to our most pressing issues … animal rescue/adoption, humane causes or education. I hope that changes.

For now, it was refreshing to see a serious gathering of energetic, smart business people committed to dogs, or at least, the dog market. Some good things will take hold, others will fail, but in the end, there will be new services and products to make your life and your dogs’ a little better. One of the most insightful comments of the evening came from panelist Jon Lax, director of product design at Facebook … “the goal for any dog app or website should be to make us better caretakers. If we are spending more time with our apps than we are with our dogs … then something is amiss.”

Dogs in National Parks
Should your dog come with you?

My family visited Yosemite National Park over spring break this year, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that a large number of families brought their dogs along on their vacations. Of course, I’m completely accustomed to people traveling with their canine family members, but I haven’t been to Yosemite since I was a child, and things seem to have changed. While there are still a lot of limitations on dogs in our national parks, it is easier to bring them along than it used to be.

In Yosemite, dogs are allowed in developed areas, on paved trails unless signs specifically indicate that they’re not allowed and in most campgrounds. They are only allowed on the floor of Yosemite Valley, which means that they can’t go on the vast majority of hikes in the park, since most of them involve hiking up towards waterfalls or to reach various lookouts. They can walk to the bottom of Yosemite Falls, which is certainly a classic Yosemite experience. Dogs have to be in a crate or on a leash no longer than 6 feet in length at all times, and are not allowed inside buildings.

If you are considering taking your dog on a trip to a national park, do your research first to decide if it’s the best plan for you and your family. Of course, all the reasons to take your dog with you are obvious. It’s great to have them with you, and it’s often no fun to leave them behind—for them or for you. On the other hand, bringing your dog will limit what you can do considerably. If you want a few easy walks in the park or will mainly be driving and enjoying the park from lookouts or in a campground, then a dog-inclusive vacation will likely suit you. If you want to explore remote regions of the park or hike the most scenic trails, your dog will be a barrier to that experience.

It’s worth considering the risks to your dogs of coming along with you to a national park. The danger of attack by wild animal or contracting contagious diseases from wildlife are relatively small, but it’s worth assessing that risk for the particular park you have in mind. Fleas and ticks are a concern as they are in all wild areas, so a prevention plan is important. More likely to be a problem for some dogs is being uncomfortable in a new area. If your dog is a happy-go-lucky type who is completely content in any situation as long as you and the food are around, then this is not an issue. If your dog struggles with new situations and places or in the presence of strangers, the national parks and the crowds they involve may make the vacation stressful for your dog.

The dog friendliness of national parks varies considerably, and only a few welcome dogs wholeheartedly. Yosemite is probably at the lower end for canine opportunities, but Acadia National Park allows dogs almost everywhere, including all trails except those few with ladders or other obstacles. Similarly, Shenandoah National Park allows dogs on over 95% of its trails, and the restricted ones all require rock climbing or other challenges.

Has your dog vacationed in a national park?

Social App for Dogs
Connecting NYC pups through technology.

In a city of over half a million dogs, it might seem crazy that finding compatible canine playmates would be a problem. But for my Sheltie, Nemo, making friends wasn't easy in Manhattan. There was a dog run right down the street from our old apartment, but Nemo always seemed to get picked on by the other pups. Every weekend I'd search the internet and the local newspapers for any events like canine walk-a-thons, shelter fundraisers, and pet fairs to meet fellow animal lovers and their pups. Eventually Nemo did make a few furry pals in the neighborhood.  

Now with an app for everything, a new iPhone program called Dogways aims to solve this dilemma by connecting dogs around New York City through more casual gatherings. The app allows users to attend and create events, like group walks, meetups, and play dates, as well as the ability to add friends in a canine Facebook-like way. The events can be marked as public, friends only, or private, and can be limited by breed or size. An interactive map makes it easy to find nearby events and view which dogs are attending.  

Similar to my situation with Nemo, founder, Andy Simon, came up with the idea for Dogways after being frustrated that his Westie, Marley, couldn't find any playmates at the park. He then decided to create an app that would equip dog lovers with a tool to socialize and exercise their pups.

For now the app is only available in New York City on iOS, but there are plans for a national roll out and an expansion to Android later in the year.

Have you used technology to find playmates for your pups?

Out-and-Back Routes
Some dogs resist turning around
I don’t WANT to turn around

It’s hard to miss the enthusiasm most dogs express when they realize they are going on a walk, and most are eagerly looking for clues that this is the case. “She picked up the leash! Her coat is being zipped! Is that the sound of poop bags being shoved in a pocket!” If your dog has a happy dance, the pre-walk ritual almost certainly includes it. The idea that they get to go outside for a walk fills most dogs with indescribable joy, and they don’t typically hide their emotions.

Most dogs would probably happily stay out longer on any given day. In fact, some dogs are just as alert to signs of the end of their time outside as they are to clues that a walk is coming. Whether it’s rounding the final turn, heading towards a shortcut or actually approaching the driveway, a lot of dogs are paying attention to the information that means the walk is nearly over. They might react by slowing down or by sniffing obsessively rather than continuing to walk.

Sometimes a dog is thirsty or eager to escape extremes in temperature, and on those occasions, they may be pleased to head inside. Even when they would rather stay out, I think it’s remarkable how often dogs agreeably come inside at the end of a walk. Perhaps they are just resigned to it, but most seem perfectly cheerful about it. Marley is like that. He is content to walk inside at the end of any outing.

However, Marley is not content to turn around at any point during the walk, and I’ve often wondered if it’s because he does not want to head back home just yet. Because of his aversion to doing an about face, I can’t easily take Marley on an out-and-back route. He stands still and does not move without a considerable amount of encouragement. It’s simple enough to get around this problem in the neighborhood. When I’m ready to head home, I can go around one block and then head back on the original route, and he is fine with that. It’s harder on long country roads or trails where turning around is the only way to head home without going into the woods. By associating the turn with treats, it is possible to teach him to have good associations with it, but it will take many repetitions of the highest quality treats to counteract whatever his objection is to heading in the opposite direction.

It’s possible that the reason he resists turning around has a cause other than not wanting to return home. (After all, he MUST be able to tell when we are near home or retracing our steps by the landmarks and smells even when we haven’t exactly done an out-and-back route.)

Any thoughts on why some dogs are not willing to turn around and do an out-and-back route on a walk?

Custom Cart for an Ailing Pup
California Home Depot builds a wagon for a cancer stricken dog.






















When Risa Feldman's 15-year old dog, Ike, was diagnosed with bone cancer, she wanted him to be able to enjoy their last few months together. Ike's illness made it painful to move, even with his special wheelchair or harness that Risa uses to help him walk. So she decided to build Ike a cart that would allow him to continue their favorite outings along California's Manhattan Beach.

Risa went to Home Depot asking for help in modifying an existing wagon and got much more than just advice. When employee Ernesto Moran heard Risa's dilemma, he teamed up with co-worker Justin Wadman to create a solution. Not only did they build a custom cart, complete with a small ramp, they also committed to building a ramp for Risa's car to help Ike get in.

Ernesto said that Home Depot allows them to give back to the customers, so he and Justin chose this project to help out Risa and Ike. Their manager didn't hesitate to approve the venture. Risa was incredibly touched by their generosity and now Ike can continue to people watch and bask in the sun from his new cart.  

Check out Ernesto demo the creative ramp feature in this video.

The Dog You Miss the Most
Who does your heart revisit?

There’s often one dog from the past that stands out even among all the dogs we have ever loved. That’s the dog that our heart revisits the most. I wonder how many of us can immediately think of the one dog that we miss more than the others and how many of us miss two or more with equal fervor.

In the case of a single dog that is thought of most often with great love, maybe the dog was there during an especially happy or terribly sad time in your life. I know a couple who speak especially fondly of the dog who was in their wedding and was even there when they got engaged. One friend often speaks with great longing about the dog who grieved with her and helped her so much when her husband died.

Perhaps that one special dog was your childhood dog or the first dog you had as an adult. The dog who greeted you when you came home from school every day and so willingly played with you whenever you felt like it is bound to have a special place in your memories. The same can be said about the first dog you chose and took full responsibility for when you left childhood behind.

There are so many reasons why even if you miss all the dogs you’ve ever loved, one stands out as the one you still miss most. Sometimes it’s as simple as missing the once-in-a-lifetime, dog of your heart, who was the great canine love of your life. If you’ve ever had and lost such a dog, there are many people who understand both the extreme gratitude you feel for having had that relationship and also the intense grief that comes at the end of that’s dog’s life.

Is there one dog who is no longer with you who you miss the most?

Thoughts on Testing Behavior Assessment

In addition to the behavior tests mentioned in the article Testing Behavior Assessment, I believe we also need to test those individuals with administrative authority over owned dogs and owners, i.e., field and hearing officers. Anyone with the authority to find that a dog is dangerous or aggressive should be required by law to pass a test showing that they fully understand canine behavior.

Animal control officers who conclude that growling equates with being aggressive or dangerous are menaces to owners and dogs; ditto those who think any big, brindled dog is a Pit Bull. Hearing officers who refuse to actually observe the dog’s behavior are worse, and violate an owner’s right to present evidence to refute charges against the dog.

As one who has worked professionally with animals all of her life, I feel the tests are also affected by who’s performing them. Animals can sense confidence as well as fear. Someone new to animal recue doing the testing may be nervous or scared, which I feel [could] cause the animal to act differently, whereas someone with experience will have a different presence, and the animal will respond to that, too. Over the years, I have seen the same animal respond to the same situation very differently depending on who was doing the handling.

I am glad people are working on a better way test shelter animals for their adoptability.

Behavior of Canine Abuse Victims
Do abused dogs have traits in common?

Animal abuse happens all too often in oh so many situation and cultures, yet little research has been devoted to the problem. An interesting study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (JAAWS) titled “Behavioral and Psychological Characteristics of Canine Victims of Abuse” compared dogs who have been (or have most likely been) abused with dogs who have not been abused.

Not surprisingly, behavioral differences were found between the abused dogs and other dogs. Dogs with a history of abuse were rated by their guardians as more excitable and performed more attachment and attention-seeking behavior than their counterparts. They also displayed more fear and aggression towards unfamiliar people and unfamiliar dogs. They rolled in feces more often, exhibited more fearfulness on stairs, showed higher levels of hyperactivity, were more persistent barkers and had a greater frequency of “bizarre, strange, or repetitive behaviors.” That last category includes actions such as hoarding shoes, digging deep holes, sucking on pillows and being unable to stop, and circling when anxious.

The researchers discuss possible interpretations of the results of their study. They point out that fearfulness towards strangers (dogs and people) and aggression towards them are highly correlated in a number of studies, suggesting that much of the aggression seen in the abused dogs could be motivated by fear. They also point out that abuse could cause fearfulness that leads to aggression through a conditioned response, but that aggression could also be a result of genetic predisposition, poor socialization, brain injury and other injuries that could cause aggression motivated by pain.

The researchers went through several steps to identify abused dogs for inclusion in their study. Magazines sent to members of Best Friends Animal Society included a notice requesting anyone who suspected their dog had been abused to consider participating in a study about canine abuse. Over 1100 respondents were given a link to SurveyMonkey, which asked about reasons for suspecting abuse. From that sample, 149 were chosen for the next phase of the study because the cases of those dogs were considered “more likely than not to involve substantiated abuse.”

Five experts were then given the dogs’ historical information and physical reports of injuries, but no behavioral information. (Behavioral information was not included because that was the subject of the study.) If at least four of the experts evaluated the information and concluded that it was probable that the dog had been abused, the dog was included in the study. Only dogs who were still alive at the time of the study were included in order to avoid problems with memory or biased recall.

Of the 149 selected in the first phase of the study, only 69 proceeded to the next stage. Their guardians were instructed to fill out the highly detailed Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ), which was designed to measure a number of behavioral characteristics in dogs. The C-BARQ has become a standard research tool used to compare the behavior of different groups of dogs. In this study, the abused dogs were compared to 5239 dogs from the C-BARQ database who matched the abused dogs in age range now and at the time of acquisition and the source of the dogs.<

Studies of abuse, in both children and animals, have limitations because abuse is often done secretly, and because of incomplete information about the victims. Rarely is there much information about their personality and behavior before being abused. This study, as the researchers note, suffers from these limitations as well as others.

Another limitation of this study is that it correlates behavior with a history of abuse, but is unable to show whether that abuse plays a causal role in the behavior of abused animals. While it is hard to imagine that abuse does not affect behavior, correlational studies are not designed to elucidate any such claims. The researchers caution that the differences they found between abused dogs and other dogs does not mean that the abuse CAUSED these differences. It is also possible that some of these behavioral characteristics are risk factors for abuse, meaning that they made abuse more likely, or that the abusive environment, rather than the abuse itself, played a casual role.

The researchers recommend that future studies investigate which behavioral differences are caused by abuse, which are risk factors for abuse and which are both. (For example, aggression in human children is known to be both a risk factor for abuse and a result of abuse.) They would also like to investigate which types of abuse are the most damaging. Again comparisons to humans are inevitable, and it is known that emotional abuse is often more damaging and harder to recover from than physical abuse. Finally, they want to know more about how the age at which dogs are abused affects outcomes.

Like many people, it makes me physically ill when I think about abuse of people or of animals, but I’m grateful that it is being studied. The more we know about abuse—its causes and its effects—the better we are able to help those who have suffered and to prevent additional instances of abuse.

Dog Training on the Streets
N.H. police "click and treat" law abiding citizens.





















In dog training, we often say, "what you click is what you get," meaning the behavior you reward will be repeated again. This is true in humans and canines, yet people typically rely on punishment to control behavior in every day life. It may be unrealistic to eliminate giving tickets to speeders or time outs to rowdy kids, but what if we could use successful principles from reinforcement based dog training to increase desirable behaviors in people? One town in New Hampshire is doing an experiment to explore just that.

This winter, the Farmington, N.H. police department, began an experiment to increase desirable habits, like people walking their dogs on leash and using crosswalks. The officers began randomly handing out gift cards for free pizza and fries to people abiding by the rules.  

Police Chief Jay Drury came up with the idea after watching a man make his way to a crosswalk despite this winter's heavy snow. He wanted to reward the man for his perseverance, but didn't quite know how. That's when he teamed up with local convenience store Crowley's Variety & Grill and began the gift card program.

So far the initiative has been well received and they even gained a second sponsor, Holy Rosary Credit Union. By recognizing good behavior, the officers are building a new level of trust with the community, while getting citizens to think twice before breaking the law.

We can get so stuck focusing on bad behavior that it can be good to push ourselves to notice the good!

Comforting an Old Dog

Sheriffs dispatch called me on standby about ten o’clock on a Friday night. They had a caller reporting an injured dog at an address out in the country. I pulled up in my animal control truck and met with a kind hearted family who pointed out the dog huddled behind a grill on the deck. They said they had tried to approach but she growled at them. I shined my light and that direction and the beam fell across an old, beat up pit bull. Her ears were cropped short, the eyes in the gray face were filled with fear and a large tumor hung from her belly. I heard a low growl. “Hey Doll, what are you doing here?” I called softly too her. Immediately I heard the sound of her hairless old tail beating against the grill.

I’ve been doing this job a long time. Most scared dogs that have wandered away will bolt for home when confronted.  It was very likely that this old girl had been dumped put out of a car here, under cover of darkness. My heart broke for her and I called her again. The tail beat louder but she was afraid to come to me. I set my catch pole down and approached with a slip lead, talking to her the whole time. I was finally able to stroke the sweet face and slip the lead over her broad head.

I tugged the lead, trying to coax her out but she seemed to have no idea what the leash was. Finally I scooped her up and carried her to my truck. I settled her on a thick blanket and looked her over. The tumor was larger than an orange and she had several smaller ones as well. She was missing some of her hair and her skin was a mess. I could see that her mammary system had been used over and over. The skin sagged with the evidence of many litters of puppies.

I made the old dog comfortable at the shelter and put her on the vet log to be seen the next day. I dreamed about her that night, wondering if there was any chance that a family with few resources was missing her. Maybe she had gotten disoriented and wandered away from an elderly person who loved her but had no money? Maybe they would be frantically searching for her and we could help them with some vet care? I’m an optimist that way.

The shelter vets gave the old dog an exam and ran bloodwork the next day. I checked up on her and she was settled on a cushy thick dog bed although it was hard for her to lay comfortably on the tumors. We had saved old dogs with tumors bigger than this one though. One dog, Peaches, had come in with a cantaloupe sized tumor. The vet did surgery, she recovered fully and was adopted into a loving home. My own old pit bull Patty, had also come in terrible condition and with tumors. She had surgery and was doing great. I was hopeful.

I went in and sat with the old dog whenever I could and she climbed in my lap and cuddled as close as possible. I stroked the gray face, scratched behind her bad-ass cropped ears and massaged her muscles until she sighed with pleasure. I brought her special treats too and laughed to watch her tail wag and her cloudy old eyes light up when she smelled them.

Her stray hold passed, not surprisingly, with no one coming to claim her. I finally had a chance to ask the vet staff about her. She’s riddled with cancer, I was told, and her blood work looked terrible. She was dying. My eyes stung and I choked on the lump in my throat as I walked away. I so wanted her to have a few good years, with people who pampered and adored her.  I knew she had likely been an outdoor breeding animal, used only to produce puppies, and I wanted to make up for it.

I sat with the old dog for a long time after work. I cherished this sweet time with her at the end of her life and tried to think of some other options but in spite of her good care at the shelter, her condition had deteriorated even more while she was there. Soon she would be in pain.

I had hoped to be with her the next day, as she slipped away in the gentle arms of the shelter staff, but I was tied up with emergencies and wasn’t able to make it back. How I wish she could have belonged to someone who loved her. Someone with the decency to hold her and drip heartbroken tears on her sweet face as she took her last breath. I know my dedicated co-workers would have been kind to her though and that is a comfort.

People often tell me they couldn’t do my job because they love animals too much. I tell them I love them too much not to. It’s not about my pain, it’s about helping the animal. What if no one were there to comfort this dog at the end of her life when even her owners betrayed her? Even though we couldn’t save her, I like to think we made her last days as nice as possible under the circumstances. Sweet dreams old lady. 

Considering Euthanasia Because of Aggression
Helpful advice from Patricia McConnell, Ph.D.

Having worked for many years with aggressive dogs, I’ve shared the pain with a number of families facing the difficult decision of whether or not to euthanize a dog because of serious aggression. On multiple occasions, I’ve cried with them—and in private—over the pain suffered all around in these most challenging of situations, but I believe euthanasia should be an option in extreme cases.

When I say “extreme,” I include clients who can never take a vacation because nobody else can care for their dog, and people whose marriages have ended because of the dog. I include the client who told me that when his dog bit him on the neck multiple times in quick succession, his wife was concerned about the amount of blood he had lost. She rushed him to the ER so that he was quickly able to get the blood transfusion that likely saved his life. On another occasion, this same dog bit the wife multiple times, breaking her arm and several bones in her wrist and hand. She required surgery because of the injuries. I include people who live every day in fear that something will go wrong (a broken leash, a door left open by mistake, an unplanned guest), and that the result will be that someone will get hurt and that their legal liability will destroy their lives.

A factor that makes the decision about whether or not to euthanize even more challenging is the judgment of other people. Some of those critical of euthanasia simply say that they personally would NEVER euthanize a dog. Others have moral conflicts with deciding to end the life of a pet, no matter what the reason. I understand these objections, but it is heartbreaking for me to see my clients suffer not only the agony of the decision, but the criticism of others.

Perhaps that’s why this subject is not often discussed, but that’s a shame because anyone in this situation is likely to benefit from advice and thoughtful discussion. They are dealing with unbelievably tough circumstances and I have great sympathy for those facing the awful decision about whether or not to euthanize an aggressive dog. That’s why I was so pleased to see a recent blog written by my mentor and friend, Trisha McConnell, Ph.D. It is called “When Is It Time to Put Down a Dog Who is Aggressive to People?

There’s so much that I love about this blog! The perspective that this decision is highly personal had me nodding and saying, “Yes, yes!” out loud. Each family gets to decide what to do. Individual decisions are informed by an assessment of risk, and people’s different tolerances for risk. I completely agree that euthanasia should only be considered if placing the dog in a different home or managing and modifying the behavior are not possible. I really appreciate the discussion about the quality of life for both the people and the dog. Members of both species deserve to have this considered as an important part of the decision-making process.

McConnell’s words and advice resonate with readers, as you can see from the many appreciative comments to her blog. Lots of readers included a heartfelt “Thank you!” for the good advice and the compassionate approach to this difficult decision.

Simpsons Creative Force Donates Royalties to Charity
Sam Simon has created a lasting legacy of helping animals and people

Editor’s note: Sam Simon died at his home in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles on Sunday, March 8, 2015. He will be remembered for his creative spirit, generosity and love of animals.

Nine-time Emmy winner Sam Simon is famous for his work on the Simpsons television show, but to the countless people and animals he's helped through his charity work, Sam is best known for his dedication to helping others. While many celebrities make donations to their favorite causes, you can tell that Sam's philanthropy has become an important part of his life.

Tragically, Sam was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer earlier this year. He since announced plans to donate nearly all of his Simpsons royalties to charity, thought to be in the tens of millions of dollars annually. Sam says that everyone in his family is taken care of and he loves to be able to use his money to make a difference.

While Sam's decision got a lot of media buzz, this final gift is only part of the legacy that he will leave behind. Over the last decade, Sam has been tireless in his dedication to helping people and animals.  

In 2002, he created the Sam Simon Foundation which runs pet visitation programs at nursing homes, trains shelter pups to be service dogs, and funds a mobile veterinary truck that offers free non-orthopedic surgeries. The organization even runs a vegan food bank for human families in need.  

Sam has also been a longtime supporter of PETA, Save the Children, and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. His support of the latter recently funded four ships now being used to hinder whaling and illegal fishing.  

Sam first got involved with animal rights initiatives after trying to change a greyhound racing episode of The Drew Carey Show. Since he couldn't get the writer to edit the script, Sam decided to donate the money he earned from the episode to PETA in order to make a statement about dog racing. Sam teamed up with PETA again after his diagnosis to buy out zoos and circuses. His dream was to see these animals walk on grass for the first time.

Sam will be missed for both his talent and compassion for others, but he will live on through the philanthropic initiatives he's put in place. We certainly need more celebrities like Sam in the world!

Amtrak to Welcome Dogs and Cats
Recent legislation mandates Amtrak to become pet friendly.
Rep. Jeff Denham with Lily, the inspiration for the pet friendly legislation.

The White House and Republican-controlled House of Representatives don't agree on much these days, however, in a rare bipartisan vote, a bill was passed this week that will continue funding to Amtrak and make the train line pet friendly. While the White House didn't fully agree with the legislation, it's believed that support on both sides was won over by the pet-related part of the bill. Amtrak will now be mandated to create a pilot program that welcomes dogs and cats system wide.

The provision was included in the bill by California Representative Jeff Denham who has been advocating for pet friendly trains since he realized several years ago that he couldn't ride Amtrak with his French Bulldog, Lily.

The bill specifically directs Amtrak to figure out parameters of the program within one year of its passing, which will need to include a designated pet car on each train. Traveling animals will ride in a kennel and be subject to a to fee (amount to be determined).

For now, pet kennels must fit within Amtrak's carry-on luggage size limits, 28" x 22" x 14". That's bad news for big dogs, but it is larger than the standard in-cabin size for pets traveling by plane.

Hopefully it won't take long for Amtrak to finalize the parameters since they've already been running pet friendly trains in a pilot program on two lines in Illinois since last spring. 145 dogs and cats have ridden the train since the initiative began.

It's always great to see more pet friendly travel options, particularly alternatives to air travel. I hope to see the kennel size increased in the future to make Amtrak accessible to more dogs.

Karen B. London

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