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Four Legged Employee Goes Viral
A Texas Lowes gains attention for hiring a service dog and her human.

Recently a Lowes in Abilene, Texas has gotten a lot of attention for hiring an employee who looks a little different than the average worker with her fur and four legs. A couple shopping at the home improvement store spotted the Golden Retriever named Charlotte and found out she was a service dog that was hired along with Clay Luthy, a disabled Air Force veteran. They were so impressed that they posted a photo on Facebook, which went viral.

Clay’s multiple Air Force deployments resulted in countless surgeries. He credits Charlotte with allowing him to avoid medications and live independently. Still it wasn’t wasn’t easy to find a job. But when he and Charlotte showed up to the interview at Lowes, they assured him that it wouldn’t be a problem to bring Charlotte to work every day. In fact Lowes already allows well behaved pets in their stores.

A few weeks later Lowes extended a job offer and Clay made Charlotte her own employee vest out of an old Lowe’s apron.

At ten years old, Charlotte will have to retire soon. Clay has been training a seven-month old puppy named Lola to take her place, but Charlotte has left a lasting impression.

Not only has Charlotte helped Clay maintain a job, but she has become an ambassador at the store, entertaining kids while their parents shop and putting smiles on people’s faces.

Finding and holding a job is just one of the challenges that people with disabilities have to deal with every day. After seeing stories like Lisa McComb’s difficulty flying home with her service dog, it’s refreshing to see a company with a more accommodating view. Hopefully more will follow suit!

Biff the Boxer Stars in John Lewis Ad
Animals take center stage this holiday season

The upscale UK department store John Lewis has a history of emotional commercials that often feature animals. This year, animals once again take center stage, with Buster the Boxer (played by five-year old Biff) in the starring role.

Buster watches foxes, a squirrel, a badger, and a hedgehog bounce on the trampoline that was set up on Christmas Eve to surprise a little girl the next morning. He appears envious of the wildlife enjoying themselves while all he can do is watch through the window. When the back door is opened the next morning, the little girl runs joyfully toward her new gift, but Buster beats her to it. At last, he can have the bouncy fun he has been craving.

The advertisement cost a millions pounds to make, and the company will spend six million more airing the commercial. Naturally, they hope sales—including of the trampoline, the girl’s pajamas, books featuring woodland animals and plush versions of the animals in the ad—will make the commercial worth it.

For the socially conscious, it’s worth noting that this advertisement marks the first time that John Lewis has cast a black family. Additionally, the company will be donating a percentage of the money from all toy sales to Wildlife Trusts in the UK.

This is my favorite dog commercial so far this season. What’s yours?

Premature Graying in Dogs
New study shows links with anxiety, impulsiveness and fear

We know that premature gray hair in people is a result of a variety of influences. Many parents swear that their kids are making them go gray. Before and after pictures of U.S. Presidents show an astounding increase in gray hair in eight—or even four—years. Of course, genetics is also known to play a role, as is disease. A recent study called “Anxiety and impulsivity: Factors associated with premature graying in dogs” in the journal “Applied Animal Behavior Science” suggests that premature grayness in dogs may be correlated with a number of factors, including some with emotional associations.

Their results are based on a study of 400 dogs in the age range of 1-4 years who were recruited with flyers at veterinary clinics, dog shows and dog parks. Each dog was photographed from the front and from the side so that the degree of graying on their muzzle could be assessed. They were scored 0 = no gray, 1 = frontal gray, 2 = half gray and 3 = full gray. Additionally, their guardians filled out a 42-question survey. Data on anxious behaviors, impulsive behaviors, fears, size, age, sex, number of dogs and cats in the household, time spent unsupervised outdoors, whether they were spayed or neutered, medical issues and participation in organized sports or activities were collected.

Researchers found an association between graying on the muzzle and anxious behaviors, impulse behaviors, fear of loud noises, unfamiliar people and unfamiliar dogs. The extent of grayness was positively correlated with age, and female dogs were more gray than male dogs. There was no link found for premature grayness with size, being spayed or neutered, medical problems (which were rare in the sample), reactions to thunderstorms, fear of unfamiliar places, number of dogs or cats in the household, time spent outside unsupervised or being involved in organized activities.
 

Dogs were only included in the study if it was possible to determine how gray their muzzles were. (White dogs and those with merled coloring didn’t make the cut, causing 43 dogs to be excluded from the study.) The people who evaluated the photographs were not the same people who had any knowledge of the questionnaires, which prevents accidental bias in assessment of the degree of graying. The survey was designed so that guardians were unaware of the purpose of the study. (They were simply told it was a study involving dog lifestyle.) In addition to questions that assessed the factors of interest in the study, there were so-called distractor questions to prevent people from biasing their answers based on what they thought researchers were investigating. Distractor questions included “Does your dog have hind limb dew claws?”

This research adds to our understanding of premature graying in dogs, and what’s most exciting about that is the possibilities it opens for helping dogs. Being anxious or fearful and struggling with impulse control are hard on dogs, and any help dogs receive for these issues can be beneficial. If premature graying provides a tip-off to professionals that these issues may be present, intervention may be more likely to happen and to happen faster. If behaviorists, veterinarians, trainers and other dog professionals know that a gray muzzle in a young dog may indicate that the dog suffers with these issues, perhaps they will more thoroughly assess them, or refer them to other people for evaluation. It’s just another way that people can potentially make life better and easier for many dogs.

Do you have a dog who has gone prematurely gray? If so, do you think anxiety, impulsivity or fear is an issue for your dog?

Six Neglected Dogs Rescued and Get a Second Chance
Making room at the Inn

I looked around the property and knew I had my work cut out for me. An emaciated shepherd mix was on a chain, tangled so that she could barely move. Her eyes bugged with fear and she barked a frantic, hysterical bark. A puppy lay among some garbage nearby, watching us apathetically. The flies and yellow jackets were buzzing around her face and when she got up to move it was obvious that a front leg was broken.

Across the yard two more emaciated dogs lay in a garbage and feces filled pen. They didn’t even get up when I approached. The dog nearest me was a unique looking fawn brindle girl with haunting blue eyes but she gazed at me with little response. The other dog was a black and tan aussie type mix and she too had a hopeless look to her. I could hear newborn puppies crying and my eyes followed the sound to a doghouse in the pen. I approached the gate cautiously, unsure how the dogs would be with a stranger approaching the puppies. The location was very remote and I doubted they had been around many people before.

To my surprise, both dogs greeted me quietly and it was obvious that I could enter without bloodshed. As I squeezed through the gate the blue-eyed dog buried her head against me while the other dog squeezed in next to her. My heart caught in my throat as I embraced them for a moment, stroking the filthy outline of hips, spine and ribs. As an animal control officer, I’ve pretty much seen it all, but there was something about their quiet trust that slayed me. I started to choke up and although I was off duty I still felt that I had to pull it together and be professional. I was evaluating the dogs for a private rescue I work with to see if we could help them.

I took a deep breath and walked over to the doghouse to assess the puppies. There were two of them, only a few days old and I was told the others had already died. The pups were swarming with fleas and the doghouse was stifling hot inside so the puppies panted miserably. I knew that if it got even a few degrees hotter they wouldn’t survive. But then again, flea anemia and malnutrition was going to get them either way. I was told that there had been two other litters born there in the last few months. The aussie mix dog’s puppies had all died and the shepherd on the chain had lost all her puppies except for the one with the broken leg.

The owner of the dogs had reached out to us for help. They were on a Pomo reservation and desperately poor. There were no resources for pets and no money for dogfood, veterinary care or anything else. The woman knew she couldn’t care for the dogs and wanted to surrender all of them but our rescue only had room for two. The plan was that I would take two today and then try and put together a plan to help the others. I had brought dog food, flea products and blankets to help with the remaining dogs until we could find a place for them. My thoughts raced as I assessed the situation. The ones in most critical need were the puppy with the broken leg and the blue-eyed mama and her newborns pups. Technically that was 4 dogs but I would figure it out and we could come back for the aussie and the shepherd. As I loaded up the injured puppy and the mama and pups, I struggled with leaving the others behind.

The aussie sat alone in the pen watching me while the shepherd mix glared from her chain. I needed to at least untangle her before I left. I grabbed some treats from the car and walked toward her as she barked and growled at my approach. I kneeled and tossed treats to her, noting the extensive scars on her face. She gobbled the cookies but continued to growl as I untangled her chain.

I had a long drive ahead and needed to get on the road as soon as possible but I couldn’t seem to pull myself away from the remaining two dogs. The difference between a rescuer and a hoarder is the word “no”. Its critical for rescuers not to take on more than they can handle and every day we face heartbreaking decisions. My car was full already and I didn’t even have cell service to call and discuss the situation with the rescue board of directors.

I looked at the aussie one more time. She watched me through the wire and there was no hope in her eyes, only quiet acceptance. My gaze swept back to the terrified shepherd and at that moment everything crystalized in my mind. I couldn’t leave them. Somehow we would make room and I knew our wonderful rescue community would rally and help. I loaded up the Aussie and then the little shepherd whose body quaked in terror as I lifted her into the car.

The long drive down the mountain was a nightmare with all the dogs carsick, vomiting and evacuating their bowels. I stopped several times to remove vomit and stool before they could smear it around more. After more than an hour on the road the dogs finally relaxed and slept. I glanced at them in the rear-view mirror and was overwhelmed with emotion as tears of gratefulness slipped down my cheeks. They were safe and headed for a new life. The life every dog deserves.

All six dogs went into foster homes, were treated for a variety of parasites and injuries and after being spayed and neutered were adopted into loving homes where they will spend their first Christmas as beloved, indoor family members. Dogwood Animal Rescue Project is putting together a program to provide ongoing wellness care as well as spay and neuter services on the reservation. The plan is that by providing much-needed supplies and services we can reduce the overpopulation and improve the standard of animal care for future generations. 

Barking at Squirrels

He died a day ago. There is a sand-fire up North. White flakes of ash fall from the sky like snow. And yet, this is not what alarms me. I stare at our yard. For almost 12 years, Bowie would appear, from the brush, often with a fully blackened snout from digging in fresh fluffy soil, from fitting his favorite stuffed animals for their graves or burying bones that were just too good to be enjoyed all at once.

The next day, at 10am on the dot, I open his doggy door, as that was usually when he was due for a pee. I look out at our yard again. He is still not there, of course. It is windy now, the leaves are starting to fall, and pine needles are raining down like daggers. He would hate this. He used to bark at everything, even the wind. We thought it was something he would outgrow. He never did.

In his absence, the squirrels have become bolder. They dig in the grass, they eat the apples from the apple tree. They get way too close to our house, practically touching our back french doors. I will sprinkle the dog’s ashes all over the yard in hopes the squirrels will smell him and show some damn respect. One day, I bark at them, emulating Bowie’s howling beagle arooo. The squirrels just look at me, confused. So I run at them while howling. It works. For a moment, I am proud. I’m continuing to fight the good fight.

“I’ve been barking at squirrels,” I confess to my husband a few nights later. I feel someone needs to know this information, as I am starting to worry about myself. (Though I’m equal parts terrified he will have me committed.)

“I get it,” my husband says, surprising me. “I still open a can of dog food every morning. Habit, I guess.” Then he starts to cry, resting his head on the pillow between us that the dog claimed over a decade ago in his Oedipal battle for my love.

I don’t tell him that I also sit perched on Bo’s downstairs dog bed waiting for the takeout guy to show up with food. Or that I stalked a raccoon near our garbage cans yesterday. And I chased the mailwoman (because she forgot to pick up my letters for mailing).

Is it possible that in all of my grief, I am becoming a dog? Or have I always been one, deep down? Trans-Species: is that a thing?

I took our daughters to a combination pumpkin patch/ petting zoo yesterday. As they fed chickens, I knelt down and pressed my nose against a goat’s nose and pet the blaze of fur between its eyes, the way I used to with Bo. If I had closed my eyes, it would have felt just like him. But I didn’t, as I quickly became aware of how this looked, a woman paying no attention to her human children running around, instead sitting forehead to forehead with a goat. Eventually my kids came over and pet the goat. Before leaving the parking lot, I texted my husband: “our next dog might be a goat.”

Bo’s favorite delivery man came today, with a package for us and two crunchy bones that he always gave to Bo. I explained to him that our dog was gone, had died, and then I watched as this big burly man’s face crumpled into tears. “It’s okay,” I said feebly, while looking away. He still handed me the bones.

Time heals all wounds, the other humans in my life have been saying. I hope that’s true. For now, I’ll bury his bones in the yard and keep barking at squirrels.

A Wedding Becomes a True Family Affair
Maid of honor makes sure her sister's dog makes it down the aisle.
Our pets are our family, so it's only natural to want to include them in all of our important life events. When veterinarians Kelly O'Connell and James Garvin were planning their wedding in Denver, Colorado, they knew all of their dogs had to be a part of the ceremony, including their sick Labrador Retriever Charlie Bear.

At 15 years old, Charlie had been battling a brain tumor since April. On the wedding day earlier this fall, Charlie was weak but started walking down the aisle with Kelly's sister and maid of honor, Katie Lloyd. But even the aisle proved to be too far for Charlie. So without hesitation, Katie picked up the 80-pound pup and carried him to the alter to be with Kelly. It was an emotional day for the couple and all of the guests.

“Both of us just dropped to our knees and started crying,” said Kelly. “To see him be carried a few feet, it kind of solidified for me that it’s not the Charlie he liked to be. He was aging, and it hit me knowing that he lost a lot.”

Kelly's friend and photographer, Jen Dziuvenis, was there taking photographs. She was in tears but knew it was important to capture Charlie at Kelly and James' special day.

“When your beloved dog who is at the end of his life can’t make it back up the aisle and your sister scoops him up and carries him... THAT is love,” Jen wrote on Facebook. “There isn’t enough mascara in the world for these moments. Dog people are the best people.”

The wedding turned out to be one of Charlie's last days. Later that week, he passed away.

I'm sure that Kelly and James couldn't imagine their wedding without Charlie, so I'm glad that they were able to create one last memory together. 

Service Dog Kicked Off Flight For Being Too Big
Airline staff said the dog was too big
Bryant and his service dog Chug

During the recent Thanksgiving weekend, one family’s travel headaches were made even more unpleasant because of American Airline’s treatment of a service dog and the people with him. The family was forced to get off the plane when a manager came on board and told them the dog was too big.

Chug is a 110-pound Labradoodle and a service dog who goes everywhere with twelve-year old Bryant. The dog’s job is to detect an oncoming seizure and to assist the child during the seizure. The family had no issues on the other three flights with Chug during their travels and had completed all the paperwork required in order for him to fly with them. Before being forced to deplane, a flight attendant had told them that the dog had to be under the seat, and the family complied with that request.

Because they were kicked off the plane, they had to stay overnight in a hotel on Thanksgiving, and were booked for a flight the next day that went to St. Louis, Missouri, which is three hours from their home, instead of to Evansville, Illinois where they live. They rented a car, drove three hours, and had to return the car to the airport as well.

American Airlines is looking into the incident, which occurred on a flight operated by a regional carrier. They have apologized to the family, who has been contacted by customer relations. Even taking into account the low standards most people have of airline’s customer service, the way this family was treated fell far short of expectations.

Dogs Remember More Than You Think
A new study shows dogs display episodic memory supporting what many already knew
Dogs remember more than you might think

Dogs are "in." Hardly a week goes by that a research paper and numerous popular accounts don't appear in the news. This week is no different. First, on the "down" side, we've learned that researchers in some laboratories in the United States often secretively do whatever they want to dogs "in the name of science" in "wasteful, bizarre and deadly experiments" with little to no transparency. Basically, they get away with murder, using taxpayer's money, and no one does anything about it. 

On the "up" side of things, I was so pleased to learn about a study by Claudia Fugazza, Ákos Pogány, and Ádám Miklósi, who work in the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, that was just published in Current Biology. This new and very significant essay is titled, "Recall of Others’ Actions after Incidental Encoding Reveals Episodic-like Memory in Dogs." Needless to say, this study received broad global coverage in mass media. People really do want to know what dogs know. And, here is a video of how the research was conducted

Their summary of the important research essay that's available online reads:

The existence of episodic memory in non-human animals is a debated topic that has been investigated using different methodologies that reflect diverse theoretical approaches to its definition. A fundamental feature of episodic memory is recalling after incidental encoding, which can be assessed if the recall test is unexpected [1]. We used a modified version of the “Do as I Do” method [2], relying on dogs’ ability to imitate human actions, to test whether dogs can rely on episodic memory when recalling others’ actions from the past. Dogs were first trained to imitate human actions on command. Next, they were trained to perform a simple training exercise (lying down), irrespective of the previously demonstrated action. This way, we substituted their expectation to be required to imitate with the expectation to be required to lie down. We then tested whether dogs recalled the demonstrated actions by unexpectedly giving them the command to imitate, instead of lying down. Dogs were tested with a short (1 min) and a long (1 hr) retention interval. They were able to recall the demonstrated actions after both intervals; however, their performance declined more with time compared to conditions in which imitation was expected. These findings show that dogs recall past events as complex as human actions even if they do not expect the memory test, providing evidence for episodic-like memory. Dogs offer an ideal model to study episodic memory in non-human species, and this methodological approach allows investigating memory of complex, context-rich events.

Didn't we already know dogs had great memories?: A brief interview with Dr. Ádám Miklósi

Many animals spend a lot of time resting, often peering around at their surroundings and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. Dogs surely do this. I often smiled as I watched the dogs with whom I shared my home just hanging out and looking around at their dog and human friends and their environs. When I've done field work on a number of different animals, I also noted that they spent a lot of time just hanging out and looking around as they rested. I was convinced that they were picking up a lot of information from just looking around, and that what they learned they could use in their social encounters with others. 

In response to this new study I received a number of emails asking something like, "Didn't we already know that dogs had great memories?" Yes, we did, and a good deal of "citizen science" shows this to be so. But, I wanted to know more, so I sent dog expert Dr. Ádám Miklósi, founder of the Family dog Project who was involved in the study, two questions to which he responded immediately. They were, "Why did you do this study?" and "How does it extend what we know from (i) other formal studies and (ii) what people know from watching their dog at home or at a dog park?"

Dr. Miklósi answered the first question quite easily: "Claudia [lead author of the study, Claudia Fugazza] went to a conference on memory, and then she suggested that maybe the 'Do as I Do' method offers a way to provide some evidence for this."

Dr. Miklósi's answer to the second question, "How does it extend what we know from (i) other formal studies and (ii) what people know from watching their dog at home or at a dog park?" was: "As usual this is something that dog people may have assumed the dog is capable of doing. But most of them did not think about the possibility that dogs remember specific events happening around them. This study shows now that dogs (and probably many other animals) are able to do this. So they not only remember (spontaneously) what they have done (there are studies on chimps, rats, dolphins along this lines), but also what their owner did. For example, they may watch the owner cut the roses in the garden one day, and then when they see those flowers again, this memory could pop up in their mind. This could happen without showing any change in behavior, because this is just a spontaneous 'thought,' although in some other cases such thoughts may actually become causes of (spontaneous) behaviour."

In one interview I did about this study, I noted, "Dogs have great memories of a lot of events and this study shows that we’re still learning just how good their memory really is ... Dogs need to be able to learn and remember what their human wants them to do, and there won’t always be an immediate association of the events in time ... So, it is not surprising to me that dogs can remember the ‘Do it’ request after a period of time even if they weren’t expecting to be asked to do something.”

A few of the dogs with whom I lived acted like "know-it-alls": Dogs remember yesterday and much more

This new research reminded me that many of the dogs with whom I lived acted like "know-it-alls." They seemed to have a sense of knowing what I was going to do or what I wanted them to do, although I'd never explicitly taught them to make these associations. I felt the same about some of the wild coyotes I studied for years. They just seemed to know what others were thinking, feeling, and wanted them to do. I'm sure the dogs and coyotes (and many other animals) had some sort of "theory of mind." (See "Theory of Mind and Play: Ape Exceptionalism Is Too Narrow.")

As I read through this new research paper I remembered an essay I wrote last year called "Dogs Don't Remember Yesterday, Claims Psychologist," about the seemingly ludicrous claim that "dogs don't remember what happened yesterday and don't plan for tomorrow." The author claimed that dogs are stuck in an "eternal present." 

In my essay I wrote, "There are many examples of dogs and other animals 'remembering yesterday.' Think of dogs and other animals who have been severely abused and who suffer from severe fear or depression for years on end, and also, for example, think of dogs who remember where they and others peed and pooped, dogs who remember where their friends and foes live, dogs who change their behavior based on what they learned in various sorts of learning experiments, and dogs who remember where they're fed and where they've cached food and other objects. The list goes on and on."

I also wrote, "From an evolutionary point of view it would be somewhat odd and exceptional if mammals such as dogs and many other animals didn't remember yesterday and plan accordingly." Along these lines, the authors of the present study write, "This is the first evidence of episodic-like memory of others’ actions in a non-human species, and it is the first report of this type of memory in dogs. We suggest that dogs might provide a new non-human animal model to study the complexity of incidental encoding of context-rich events, especially because of their evolutionary and developmental advantage to live in human social groups."

This is a very exciting time for the comparative study of animal minds

I'm very pleased to share the results of the present study with you. Yes, many of us already "knew" from "citizen science" that dogs often know more than we give them credit for, but it's also nice to know that science backs us up. I've learned an incredible amount from people writing to me and talking with me about their dogs, and I've often noted that when the serious science is done, results rarely conflict with what many others already knew.

This is a very exciting time for the comparative study of animal minds, a branch of science called cognitive ethology. Please stay tuned for more on the fascinating and "surprising" cognitive lives of dogs and other animals. 

Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate ConservationWhy Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and ConservationRewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence, and The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson). The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce) will be published in early 2017.

This story was originally published by psychologytoday.com. Reprinted with permission.

Greek Café Hosts Stray Dogs
It’s a full house each night

The Hott Spott in Mytilene, Lesbos in Greece does more than serve the people of the area. The café also gives stray dogs a warm place to sleep. Every night after the place closes, the owner lets dogs in so they can spend the night out of the cold.

When this photo was posted on Facebook, the photographer (Eustratios Papanis), included a request to join the page to help animal protection efforts. The laws in Greece are generally supportive of good care for animals, but the sinking economy has led to a much larger stray dog population than before. Many people are abandoning pets who they cannot care for properly, and there are still issues with neglect and indifference.

With refugees flooding the area, resources are stretched thin, yet according to Papanis, compassion towards people as well as animals has created a solidarity of kindness among many residents. One café that takes in a few dogs each night is just a sign of the love towards animals so prevalent in this country.

The comments to the original post are in many languages and from many countries, showing that this photo has truly touched hearts around the world.

Cyber Monday Deal to Help Shelter Pups
Virgin America launches their Tiny Dogs Tiny Fares promotion.
For better or worse it's become an American ritual to race to the stores on Black Friday and hunt for online deals on Cyber Monday. To try and counteract the spending frenzy, a new movement started a few years ago, naming the Tuesday after Thanksgiving 'Giving Tuesday,' reminding people to give back to their favorite charity. But this year you didn't have to wait until Tuesday to get a good deal and help out homeless pets.

This past weekend, Virgin America launched one of their biggest sales of the year, coupled with a #TinyDogsTinyFares Cyber Monday promotion of up to 30 percent off flights plus a $10 donation from every booking to its animal shelter partners: The San Francisco Animal Care and Control (SF ACC), The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and Animal Haven.

In conjunction with the deal, Virgin America also organized its seventh 'Operation Chihuahua' airlift this week, flying Chihuahuas from San Francisco to New York where they are more adoptable. California's Chihuahua overpopulation problem forces West Coast animal shelters to look to the East Coast where the demand for smaller dogs exceeds the supply. Virgin America has relocated 100 Chihuahuas since the collaboration with the SF ACC began in 2010. These homeless Chihuahuas get the VIP treatment, receiving a red carpet send-off and a flight with plenty of treats and toys.

“This is always a fun day for our Teammates, who volunteer to fly over a 24-hour period as traveling companions in order to get these pups to their forever homes on the East Coast," said Virgin America Brand Marketing and Communications Vice President Abby Lunardini. "Many of our Teammates, including myself, as well as our flyers, are passionate animal lovers, and it is heartwarming to see so many come together to support the important and under-funded work the SF ACC is doing. We’re proud to be a small part of that.”

It's nice to see companies giving back and bringing attention to a great cause, especially on a weekend where it's easy to get caught up in the shopping craze.

 

Dog Fur of Every Color
No outfit is safe anymore

The neighbors at the end of our block recently adopted a fourth dog, which no doubt has made for many changes in the household and a lot of adjustments for everyone. All the dogs get along, and the transition seems to have been smooth. I’ve only heard one comment about the new challenges, which is “Now no color is safe to wear!”

That’s because once the fourth dog joined their family, the household contained dogs of every color, meaning that no matter what anybody wears, at least one dog’s fur will show up on it. Enzo is a reddish Golden Retriever, Sake is a black Shiba Inu and Luna is a Pointer and Blue Tick Coonhound mix with black and white mottled fur. The best guess about Candy, who is white with reddish markings, is that her lineage includes Border Collie, Australian Shepherd and Jack Russell Terrier.

Not only is fur of every color always present, the guardians of this handsome crew swear that the dogs know what they are wearing and choose to give extra love each morning to whoever is wearing a contrasting color. It does seem as though fur is drawn to outfits that will show it to best advantage, and it’s not much of a stretch to think that the dogs are in on the strategy of making their fur visible.

Fur color is a big deal when it comes to planning one’s wardrobe. Naturally, I am never far from a lint brush, but my best defense against the look of unfashionable dog hair on my outfits is to wear colors that match the current dogs in my life. I have always worn black a lot, and my black dog Bugsy could shed on me without it ever showing. I once traded dogs for the afternoon with a co-worker who had an American Eskimo and within hours, I was streaked with white. My co-worker fared little better, and after a few hours with Bugsy, her crisp khakis and white shirt looked less professional than when she began the day.

Do you have an abundance of colors of dog fur in your life?

Canine Races on the Rise
Doggy triathlons are becoming more popular as people seek activities to do with their pets.
Six years ago, when my Sheltie, Nemo, and I ran the Iams Doggy Dash, held in conjunction with the New York City Triathlon, there weren't that many races made for dogs. It was definitely much more fun training for a race with Nemo by my side. As race organizers realized that people wanted more activities to do with their pets, more dog oriented races have popped up--even at the highest levels of competition.

An Austrian company started the annual Iron Dog competition seven years ago and was a trailblazer for tailoring endurance events for pets. Now similar races have been created in Germany, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom, which is hosting its first dog triathlon, the Tridog, next year.

The courses are often shortened from the equivalent human-only races to prevent dogs from overheating, which was something I was concerned about when I ran with Nemo. I took a lot of precautions to ensure that he was happy and healthy the entire time. Our dogs will follow us anywhere and it's important we look out for their best interests. Not all pups are meant to run triathlons and it's our job to know what is over our pet's limits.

Unlike their human counterparts, many of these races have organized training meetups to help ensure participants are properly conditioning their dogs. While running is something that canines do naturally, endurance running, distance swimming, and trotting alongside a bike are skills that need to be gradually introduced and built up over time.

Human races have exploded in popularity over the last few years, and the increased numbers have been accompanied by a surge in injuries. Many of these are thought to be attributed to a lack of training and conditioning. I hope that's not something we see with the rise in canine races. These events have the potential to inspire people to be more active with their dogs, as long as they do it safely and thoughtfully.

From Maine's Wilderness to Hollywood's Red Carpet
An east coast search and rescue dog is honored in Los Angeles.

One of the qualities I admire most about working dogs is how they approach each day with such enthusiasm. Whether it's the service dog who helps their handler live more independently or the explosives detection dog that saves the lives of everyone in harm's way, these pups give us their all, often without any thanks.

The American Humane Hero Dog Awards wanted to change that by recognizing the heroes on both ends of the leash. Each year they solicit nominations for pups in eight categories--Law Enforcement, Service, Therapy, Military, Guide/Hearing, Search and Rescue, Arson, and Emerging Hero. A combination between online voting and a panel of judges determines the winner in each category. Those eight finalists are flown to Hollywood for an awards gala that honors each dog and announces the grand prize winner.

To help cultivate the next generation of hero dogs, the American Humane Association donates $2,500 to each of the eight finalists' charity partners and an additional $5,000 for the grand prize winner's charity partner.

This year the grand prize winner was a search and rescue dog named Kobuk. The 7-year old German Shepherd and his handler, Elizabeth Fossett, have been volunteering with Maine Search and Rescue Dogs (MESARD) for the last four years. While they may make it look easy, search and rescue requires a lot of work. It took two years to find Kobuk since not all dogs are cut out for this kind of job. The searches often require for them to work eight hours at a time for multiple days. And when not deployed, Elizabeth spends 30 hours a month training and keeping Kobuk's skills fresh. But seeing the difference they've made makes it totally worth it. Elizabeth remembers early in their search and rescue career, Kobuk located 77-year old Ruth Brennan who had diabetes and dementia. Ruth had been missing for three days until Kobuk tracked 2/10 of a mile to find her.

"Kobuk came up over the hill and gave me his trained bark alert that he had found her and located her," remembers Elizabeth. It was a thrilling and life changing moment. Nonetheless, Elizabeth never thought she and Kobuk would be flying to Los Angeles to be honored for their work.

"Pinch me," said Elizabeth. "Because how did we go from running around the woods of Maine to walking around the red carpet of Hollywood?" The award couldn't have gone to a more humble and deserving team. I love that the American Humane Association highlights these amazing teams who work behind the scenes.

To learn more about Kobuk and Elizabeth, head over to the American Humane Hero Dog Awards web site to see their tribute video. If you were inspired, consider making a donation to Maine Search and Rescue Dogs to support their all-volunteer team.

Bark Holiday Gift Guide for Pet Lovers
12 Perfect Dog Gifts

1. Clickit Sport safety harness helps diminish the risk of injury to pets in a car accident or sudden stop. It was rigorously tested to include the same crash tests used to test child safety restraints.

2. Molly Mutt’s new dog crate pads get a helping hand from elsewhere in the animal kingdom — sheep! That’s because they’re filled with 100% natural and sustainably-sourced wool from California. Warm in the winter and cool in the summer, wool is the ideal match for crate pads. starting at $79.

3. The Snood from Gold Paw Series is a festive, super-toasty, lusciously-soft, neck and ear warmer for dogs of every shape and size. Made in the USA with recycled materials in four colors, sizes S-XL.

4. For fetch-loving dogs who just won’t tire, the interactive iFetch Automatic Ball Launcher lets your dog fetch to their heart’s content. Choose from the original iFetch for small to medium sized dogs or the iFetch Too for larger breeds. Get ready for non-stop fun!

5. Pawsitively Safe is the perfect stocking stuffer. Each tag provides vital information so pet finders can contact you immediately by email, text or phone, getting your pet home safe and found. $12.99, free shipping!

6. The Ruffwear Front Range™ Harness is an easy-to-fi t, everyday dog harness that’s comfortable to wear all-day and built to last a lifetime of adventures. Perfect for casual treks, training or when additional support is needed.

7. Wrapsit™ slipcover crate slides onto a folding quad chair to instantly create a mesh-sided safe haven for Fido anytime you open your chair. Wrapsit folds with the chair to become the carrying case, take your dog with you wherever you have fun.

8. We love pets. We share our home with them. We rescue them. We advocate for them. And Todd Belcher at Jimmydog paints a whole lot of them. The perfect gift for the pet lovers in your life. To ensure holiday delivery, contact them today at todd@jimmydog.com or 336.201.7475.

9. This holiday season you can give your pooch a way to snoodle up in style, with the William Wegman-designed ‘Throver’ blanket from Crypton. Great for home, car, picnic or anywhere you’d welcome a touch of style and comfort along with stain resistance and odor control. Offered in several snazzy, snuggly styles.

10. The Icebug Metro offers the perfect blend of comfort, warmth, and sure-footed traction on any surface, from dry asphalt to pure ice so you can walk your dog everyday, even in cold, wet, slippery winter. A Bark Editors’ Pick!

11. Lindy’s Bakery offers 10 different recipes of delicious dog treats. 100% of the proceeds go to help homeless youth at Daybreak in Dayton, OH. From $5.99 to $6.99 for a 6 oz. package.

12. This handmade pet bed is two-toned gray and a repurposed wine crate. Includes a vintage butterfly print pillow and bolster for the pampered pet.

How to Keep Your Pets Safe During the Holidays
To avoid an unwanted trip to the vet, be aware of these holiday-related hazards for dogs
Delicate Creatures, original photo on Houzz

If you’re a pet owner, you’re probably aware of the things you need to do to keep your pets safe around your home. But as the holidays approach, you may have to step up your game a bit to make sure your celebrations aren’t interrupted by a pet-related crisis. A big problem is pets eating something they shouldn’t. Another concern is that in the confusion of guests and celebrating, pets can easily get out and get lost. Candles and holiday decorations can be dangerous temptations for a pet too. So while you’re celebrating, watch out for the following to ensure that your good times are also good for your dogs and cats.

Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season for most people in the United States. For pet owners it marks the start of the season when extra vigilance is required, especially when it comes to dogs and food. 

Houzzers have stories galore about dogs eating the turkey (bones and all), the foil and string it was wrapped in, and even the oil it was fried in. Side dishes and desserts are equally tempting. The happy confusion of a holiday meal with family and friends creates plentiful opportunities for a dog or cat to snag some human food. So keeping pets and food separated is always a good idea. 

Even if your pets are normally well behaved, the noise and confusion of the holiday may be difficult them, and they could seek to escape if given an opportunity. Finding a quiet and secure place for pets away from festivities is a good idea.

 

Holiday Style Workshop 2013

 

Christmas comes with a long list of possible problems. Ornaments can get broken, creating a danger of cuts, or can be swallowed. The hooks they hang on can also cause problems if swallowed, as can tinsel. Bubbling lights and fire salts may contain toxic chemicals, while the spun glass that constitutes angel hair can irritate skin and eyes and is dangerous if eaten.

Other dangers are typical holiday plants, such as mistletoe, lilies, holly and Christmas rose, which can cause gastrointestinal distress at the very least. Candles and open fireplaces can harm pets if they get too close to the flames and ashes or, in the case of candles, overturn them. Even the tree water, which can be stagnant or contain preservatives, can cause upset stomachs and worse. And you shouldn’t use a ribbon as a collar; pets can easily get them caught on something and choke.

 

Wilderstein Holiday Tour

 

Of course, this means your holiday decorating may need some adjustments, such as placing the tree and cherished family heirlooms out of reach. 

My family has done just that. For the past three Christmases, we’ve encircled our Christmas tree with a dog fence, keeping the tree, ornaments and wrapped presents safe until the holiday. Since it looks like this may be a continuing issue, I’m already exploring ideas for tastefully and safely decorating the fencing next December.

 

Home for Chanukah

 

When it comes to Hanukkah, keep an eye on any small gift objects or toys and the chocolate coins, which can tempt pets and create problems for them.

Ringing out the old year and ringing in the new is a happy tradition for many on New Year’s Eve, but a skittish cat or dog may be overwhelmed by the noise and confusion. And while balloons and confetti add to the festivities, they can cause internal problems if your dog or cat eats them.

 

Dining room & birthday

 

The same general rules apply to other holidays and other celebrations, especially birthday parties. 

Chocolate and xylitol-sweetened gum are harmful or toxic to pets, and other candies aren’t good for them. Candles can be a problem, as pets can knock them over or can be burned by them, while dangling decorations and balloons can be tempting to play with or try to eat. Small trinkets, fake grass and many popular plants given as gifts, including tulips, daffodils and lilies, should also be kept out of your pet’s reach. 

Fireworks can be a major problem for pets on the Fourth of July. Some animals do fine; others are freaked out by the noise. If your pets are nervous, ask your vet for antianxiety medications designed for animals. You may need to start some ahead of time. 

Remember that pets can become overexcited and act out or run away when things are chaotic, such as during a party or on the Fourth of July or Halloween. You might want to find them a safe and quiet spot indoors and away from the activities, even if they normally live or spend time outside.

Asking For and Accepting Help
A skill worth developing by dog guardians

Dogs are a lot of work, and though many people take it all on themselves, asking for and accepting help is advantageous for all. That’s especially true for puppies who often require more attention and require it more frequently. The thought of raising a puppy on my own with no assistance practically makes me hyperventilate with anxiety, and though I could probably do a passable job, I would never do so on purpose. Whether you are single and live alone or are part of a large family of dog lovers, outside help can make a big difference. Everyone, especially the dog, stands to benefit from a team effort.

If you have other people in your life who you know you can count on to help you, it relieves a lot of stress. If a friend or neighbor can let your dog out or refill his water bowl when you are late coming home, that’s good for you and your dog. Your dog is cared for and you need not worry. Yes, many people have very regular schedules, but a flat tire, an emergency with a co-worker or icy roads—among many other speed bumps along the road of life—can cause unexpected delays.

There are advantages to asking for and receiving help beyond the immediate benefits. In addition to giving you time to go to work and to deal with the other things you must attend to in life, your dog has experiences with other people. That provides socialization opportunities for your puppy, and also has the side benefit that other people fall in love with your dog, too. (You can never have too many people who love your dog!)

When people help out with your dog, things may not go exactly as they usually do for your dog, and that’s generally okay. In fact, it can help many dogs be flexible rather than routinized. I think routines are wonderful, but so is the ability to cope with changes in that routine.

Despite the obvious advantages of a group effort with our dogs, especially puppies, it is very hard for most guardians to ask for help. Many even struggle to accept help when it is offered. Why is that? Our society often emphasizes a strong go-it-alone attitude and approach to life. There is often a perception of weakness if you can’t do everything by yourself, or if you choose not to. Many people do not want to impose on others, even if the others don’t feel imposed upon in the slightest, and in fact are very eager to help.

I would love for offers to help with a new dog to become more commonplace in the dog community and for every dog guardian to learn to accept graciously all reasonable offers of assistance.

Are you able to ask other people for help with your dog?

Disturbing Numbers for Police and Dogs
Records uncover the Detroit police killed at least 21 dogs so far this year.
News stories about police officers killing dogs seem to have become more common in recent years. News web site, Reason, decided to investigate this trend and examined records from the Detroit Police Department. The results were pretty grim. Detroit police officers killed 25 dogs in 2015 and at least 21 so far this year, with certain individuals coming in as worst offenders. Two officers in particular were responsible for killing more than 100 dogs between the two of them over the course of their careers. And in January, two pups were killed in a narcotics search by an officer who had shot 39 dogs prior to that day. This has been an ongoing issue in Detroit as the police department has been at the center of numerous lawsuits involving canines, two which were settled outside of court.
 
As if the numbers aren't bad enough, Reason believes that the police department may be hiding just how bad the problem is. The web site's staff found at least seven incidents documented in lawsuits and media reports that were not found in the released records. The Detroit Law Department, which handles public record requests for the city, said it never received those reports, which means the police department either failed to find them or intentionally hid them. The actual number of dogs shot by Detroit police is unknown and potentially much higher than records indicate.

This isn't limited to Detroit. Recently, body cam footage of a Colorado police officer shooting a dog has brought even more attention to this issue. In that case, the officer in question was responding to a call about two aggressive dogs. His body camera footage shows one of the dogs barking towards a police car, the boom of a shotgun, and the yelp of a dog. You can see the American Bulldog, Angelo, scramble away after being shot. The camera also captured an officer saying some derogatory words about Angelo and then later dragging the pup around by his neck.

Just like the majority of Pit Bulls are well behaved, the majority of police officers are not killing dogs. However, it's clear that there is a growing problem throughout the country. Body cameras can help keep police accountable, but it doesn't get at the root cause. For starters, I think police departments need protocol and training on how to handle dogs they may encounter on the job. Most officers don't receive any guidance in this area. I also hope that this spotlight on Detroit will put pressure on other police departments to be more diligent in capturing data on canine deaths and to identify a solution.

 

Dogs Smell Passage of Time
Their noses take them to the past

Dogs tend to live in the moment, accepting each treat, snuggle, or toss of the tennis ball as the whole reason for their existence with a charming singlemindedness. Yet, their understanding of time can be complex. Many dogs are able to anticipate predictable events accurately, which is why they leap on the couch to look out the window when the kids are just about to come home from school or adults are nearly home from work. Even more dogs appear to know, from their own stomach’s rumblings, that the dinner hour fast approaches. And according to researcher and author Alexandra Horowitz, “Dogs smell time.”

What does it mean to smell time? Horowitz writes in her new book “Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell”, that their powerful noses allow them to perceive the passage of time. This is not mystical or other worldly. It’s just that dogs can understand much about the past because of the extreme sensitivity of their noses.

Odors change over time, sometimes predictably. When you leave the house to go to work each day, the smell of you in the house decreases with each hour of your absence, and your dog can detect the difference. Perhaps your dog has learned through repetition that when the smell of you has weakened to a specific degree, you come home. In other words, the strength of your odor predicts the time of your return.

This degree of scent discrimination is not hard for most dogs. Many dogs can, for example, tell which way to follow a scent trail by heading from where it is weakest (oldest) to where it is strongest (most recent) when the difference is miniscule. Stronger odors are often newer and weaker ones are older. That means that when dogs smell weak odors, they are perceiving events of the past. Because dogs can detect both new and old odors, they are perceiving events and substances across intervals of time.

Each day, even in the same place, smells help dogs understand the passage of time. As air heats up over the course of the day, air currents change and move around in space, taking the molecules responsible for odors with them. Dogs, with their sensitive noses and large olfactory lobes are able to sense the movement and presence of chemicals people barely sense if at all.

Though we humans may detect daily patterns in light or even sound, our ability to smell clues about the passage of time, is barely worth a mention. Yet, dogs detect odors that reveal past happenings to them in complex ways we are only beginning to understand.

Hundreds Join a Pup on His Last Walk
The canine community comes together to support a man and his dog in their final days together.
Last week Mark Woods faced a hard day ahead when he planned to bring his pup, Walnut, on one last walk before having to put him to sleep. Mark knew it would be an emotional day, so he posted his plans on Facebook, hoping a few friends and family would join him. Instead, over 19,000 people reacted to Mark's Facebook post and hundreds joined the pair on Saturday at one of Walnut's favorite places--Porth Beach in Cornwall, England. And many more joined in spirit from around the world, taking their dogs on a walk at the same time.
 
 
Mark's post read:

“Walk with Walnut. Sadly I am having to have Walnut euthanised on Saturday 12th November and so we will be having a last walk together on his beloved Porth Beach at 9.30am. I would love it if dog lovers/owners and friends would join us for a celebration of Walnut on his favourite Porth Beach. He has had an incredible life and having reached the grand age of 18 is ready for his final sleep. Hope to see you on Saturday.”

 
But his plight united dog-lovers the world over – and he was inundated with thousands of messages of support. ‘It’s been overwhelming,’ he said. ‘I’ve had no children and Walnut has been my child over all these years. The walk was part of my effort to make Walnut’s last day as normal as possible.’

Mark was humbled by the outpouring of support received from all over the world and was reminded “just how lucky we are to be alive and to share in the wonderful world that our pets give us.” He has since been interviewed by radio stations from around the world as the story spread, said: ‘This really celebrates the special relationship I have had with Walnut. In human years he’s well over 100.

‘He helped me survive a very serious illness – though I think he’s also cost me relationships. I’m on my second marriage and I’ve been engaged three times. I think it was often a problem with my girlfriends that I always put Walnut first.’

It's always inspiring when the canine community comes together to support each other. Not only do we enjoy a special bond with our pups, but our pets also form the basis for a special relationship we share with our fellow dog lovers!

Co-Star of “Cooking With Dog” Dies
Francis the Poodle will be missed

Francis the Poodle and the woman known only as “Chef” entertained and informed over a million viewers on their YouTube show “Cooking With Dog”. The dog is an integral part of a show that has demonstrated how to make a variety of Japanese dishes as well as cuisine from other regions of the world since 2009.

The format of the show is that Chef cooks and Francis narrates. Chef speaks in Japanese, while Francis talks in English. The use of English by the dog was a conscious choice to enhance one goal of the show—introducing the cuisine of Japan to people elsewhere in the world. In addition to reaching many foreigners, the show has a large following in Japan.

Chef was chosen to be on the show due to her culinary skills, but there were two reasons that the creator/producer decided to include her Miniature Poodle as a co-star. 1) Chef had no background in television, and the creator/producer hoped that the presence of her dog would make her feel more relaxed, and 2) He hoped that Francis would increase the appeal of the show and make it stand out to viewers who have many options for cooking shows to watch.

Francis passed away last week at the age of 14 years and 9 months. He has many fans who, along with Chef, will miss him terribly.

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