Airline staff said the dog was too big
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.
A new study shows dogs display episodic memory supporting what many already knew
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:
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 Conservation, Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation, Rewilding 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
To avoid an unwanted trip to the vet, be aware of these holiday-related hazards for dogs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
Fatty turkey trimmings can set the stage for pancreatitis
Next week is Thanksgiving, and for many families this means the tradition of spending the day preparing and enjoying a delicious turkey dinner with all of the trimmings. Us humans are not the only ones who look forward to this meal, and I see many dogs in the ER after they have decided to help themselves to a serving or two. While our pets may find this to be an initially satisfying (albeit naughty) indulgence, it can set them up for the development of pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening disease.
What is the job of the pancreas?
The pancreas is an organ that sits cozily just under the stomach and along the first part of the small intestine. The pancreas is all about secretion and it has two main jobs. The first is the secretion of digestive enzymes to help break down food, and the second is the secretion of insulin and glucagon (to regulate sugar metabolism). The digestive enzymes are the part of the story that concerns us in pancreatitis.
Just what is pancreatitis?
Put simply, pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that disrupts its normal integrity. Digestive enzymes that are normally safely stored are released prematurely, beginning to digest the body itself, and the result can be a metabolic catastrophe. As the tissue becomes further inflamed, the damage begins to involve its next-door neighbor, the liver. Toxins released from this progressive party of tissue destruction can circulate more broadly, causing a body-wide inflammatory response. If the pancreas is severely affected, its ability to produce insulin can be affected and diabetes can result.
The good news is that most commonly the inflammation is confined to the area of the liver and pancreas, and most pets make a full recovery with support.
What causes pancreatitis?
In most cases, we never find out what causes it but we do know some events that trigger it. These can include:
Miniature Schnauzers are predisposed to pancreatitis as they commonly have altered fat metabolisms.
Signs of Pancreatitis
The classical signs are appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, painful belly, depressed attitude and fever.
Making the Diagnosis
Until recently, a reliable blood test has been lacking. A new newer generation option called the SPEC cPL (specific canine pancreatic lipase) test has come to be the lab test of choice. For dogs only, the SPEC cPL can be run overnight by a reference lab and is able to detect 83 percent of pancreatitis cases and exclude other possible diseases in 98 percent of cases.
This test should not be confused with the “in-hospital” pancreatic test, which resembles a “pregnancy test” and gives you an answer of “abnormal” or “normal.” I am personally not a huge fan of this test because other disease processes (such as liver or gastrointestinal disease) can cause an “abnormal” result.
Ultrasound detects 68 percent of cases and provides the opportunity to look at other organs. Since pancreatitis can be accompanied by a tumor near the pancreas, ultrasound is an important tool for catching such complicating factors. I discuss and recommend this diagnostic for all patients I suspect have pancreatitis.
The passage of food through the intestine is a strong stimulus to the pancreas, which is what we want to avoid. Essentially, we want the pancreas to “rest.” This generally means no food or water for 2 to 3 days (in our very ill patients) using IV fluid support to prevent dehydration. Fluid support generally requires electrolyte supplementation and a critical patient will need 24-hour care with blood-test monitoring several times a day. A plasma transfusion represents a specific type of fluid therapy and may be of great help in severe cases.
Pancreatitis can be a very painful condition and pain management is of utmost importance in recovery and is a cornerstone of treatment. Untreated pain affects the immune system and has been shown to increase death rate. Medications to control nausea are also used. Antibiotics are used because even though pancreatitis is not a bacterial disease, bacterial invasion from the diseased intestine is a common occurrence.
Once the patient has started to eat again, a low-fat diet is important to minimize pancreatic stimulation. Since there is potential for the pancreas to always have a smoldering bit of inflammation, long-term use of a low-fat diet is likely to be recommended.
Pancreatitis can be a very severe disease to experience and treat and I hope this helps raise awareness of a potential source of calamity. Please remember to keep your countertops pet-safe: Take all garbage outside promptly and be extra vigilant of the fact that even the most well behaved pets can be tempted with all of the food festivities.
Here’s to a SAFE, happy and wonderful Thanksgiving!
Who knew this was something to worry about?
There are plenty of things to worry about when it comes to keeping our dogs safe. We must protect our dogs from traffic, overly exuberant children, toxic plants, choking hazards like rawhides or small toys, onions, chocolate, Xyitol and everything else under the sun that we know can cause them harm.
Now there’s another thing to fret over—a species of invasive Asian ladybugs that poses a danger to dogs. In Kansas, veterinarians report seeing cases of dogs with dozens of these insects inside the mouths of dogs, which is painful for them. Ladybugs can cause chemical burns to the dog’s mouth because of the insect’s toxins.
According to veterinarians who have treated dogs with this condition, if your dog is foaming at the mouth, drooling, lethargic or refusing to eat, these ladybugs could be something to check for. (Each of these symptoms can be caused by many other problems from minor to extremely serious. A mouthful of these insects is only one of many possibilities.)
Many guardians have been able to remove the insects themselves using their fingers, a spoon or even a wooden tongue depressor. Your own dexterity and your dog’s willingness to allow you to work on his mouth in this way will determine whether you can remove them yourself or whether a visit to the veterinarian is required.
Have you known of any dogs who have suffered due to a mouthful of ladybugs?
Japanese biologist develops an algorithm to decode your pup's feelings.
Remember mood rings from when you were a kid? Now dogs have their own version--a mood harness.
As a pet lover I always want to better understand what my pups are thinking. Alhough these mood harnesses seem fun, I'm not sure they'll actually help you decode your pup.
The harness, called Inupathy ("inu" means dog in Japanese), was invented by biologist Joji Yamaguchi. It measures the dog's heart rate and uses an algorithm to indicate different moods through a colored LED light. Red means excited or anxious, blue for relaxed, white for focused, and rainbow for happy.
Joji also developed an app to help you interact with your pup based on the colors. For instance, if you want to try and turn your dog's harness rainbow colored, you can launch a "Let's Play" app on your smartphone, which will suggest games to play with your dog. It can also track "average happiness" and provide a daily, weekly, and monthly analysis of your dog's emotional state over time. They also plan on making their software development kit available so developers can make their own fun apps to interact with the data.
While I see how the harness can tell if your dog is excited or calm, based on heart rate, measuring happiness seems more subjective. Inupathy certainly sounds entertaining, but I think there are much better ways to understand your dog. Observing your pets' body language and habits will give you much more insight into your pup's moods.
Inupathy is expected to be available in December. What do you think about a mood harness?
An odd way to describe a successful match
“She’s a failed foster,” is commonly said with a smile and a shrug in certain circles. That’s because a failed foster just means that a dog found a forever home one step ahead of schedule. Often, a foster family plans to help a dog get ready to be placed in a good home but falls in love with that dog. Unable to give up the dog, the foster family adopts him, and voilà, it’s a failed foster. (Though many people like the term and find it charmingly ironic, others object to the use of negativity or humor related to the serious issue of dogs in need of homes.)
On the one hand, the situation is obviously positive because a dog has found a home. Even better, that home is with people who really want him, are committed to him, and are okay with whatever issues, if any, he happens to have. On the other hand, many rescue organizations lament failed fosters because it limits the space they have available for future fosters.
A lot of families who adopt their foster dog take a break from fostering to devote time and energy to their new dog, which makes sense. In other cases, the former foster family may not be able to take in a foster dog because their home now has the maximum number of dogs allowed, according to local ordinances. In a year, a typical family may be able to foster two, three or even six dogs during their path to a forever home. A failed foster can mean that rescue organizations have to find two, three or six spots for other dogs in need of temporary care. It’s not easy to find really good foster situations with dog savvy families who can welcome dogs on short notice to a dog-proofed home.
Despite the drawback in terms of lost foster space, it’s hard for me to hear of a failed foster without great joy. When someone’s decision to adopt a dog is motivated by pure love and acceptance, that’s a great moment, even if we joke about the “failure” it represents.
Have you ever had a failed foster?
The Cynosport World Games will be accessible for free online.
One of the most competitive dog agility events in the country is happening this week at WestWorld in Scottsdale, Arizona. But if you can't make it to the Cynosport World Games, the United Stated Dog Agility Association (USDAA) is providing a free livestream of the event on their web site.
Wednesday through Friday, handlers and their dogs will be competing in the quarter- and semi-finals in Grand Prix, a class that features technical courses, and Steeplechase, a class that features courses focused on speed and accuracy, vying for a spot in the finals on Friday through Sunday.
They'll also be competing in a teams of two or three in an event that accumulates points from five different courses. The mix features a Standard and Jumpers course, two games (Snooker and Gamblers), and culminates in a team relay--complete with a baton handoff! Visit this USDAA page to learn more about what these class names mean.
The regular competition rounds will be shown on the livestream from 9am-5pm MST and the finals will be shown at 6:30pm MST. Performance Grand Prix Finals are on Friday. Team Relay, the Junior Handler Showcase, and Steeplechase Finals are on Saturday. And Grand Prix Finals are on Sunday. The nighttime finals will feature the fastest and most coordinated agility teams. It's inspiring to see these people and their pups communicating so seamlessly at high speed.
Although agility is the main focus, there will be other events going on such as dock jumping, lure coursing, herding instinct tests, and rally. Some of the proceeds raised from those activities will go to Aussie and Friends rescue, the National Canine Cancer Foundation, and the United States Association of Cynological Sports.
Cynosport will be a fun filled week for dog lovers, even if you're stuck at home behind the computer!
A California dog finds a forever home and a social media run.
Two years ago, Ivy Diep found a matted, skinny dog wandering the streets of Los Angeles. There was something about him that stuck with her, so she named him Popeye and gave him a forever home. Little did Ivy know that one day Popeye would have over 177,000 Instagram followers!
At the time, Ivy regularly visited new restaurants in Los Angeles with a friend and posted photos of their meals on Instagram. She started bringing Popeye to the pet friendly places and found he was a natural around food and was happy to stay still for photos.
So Popeye started making more appearances on Ivy's Instagram page, but she soon realized that Popeye was the real star. So Ivy created a new Instagram account called Popeye the Foodie Dog. The page features photos of the fluffy pup, often wearing themed costumes, posing with various delicious meals. The plates may look full, but Ivy only gives Popeye a few bites of anything that's safe for him. Otherwise she always has dog treats on hand so Popeye always has something to munch on. In truth, Ivy says "he's usually not really into the food anyway. He just likes to be out and about--people watching to bark at any other dog that walks by."
It's always great to see a happy ending for a rescue dog. I hope Ivy might consider dropping by the local animal shelter to bring a homeless pup along for a guest appearance, similar to the Puppuccino Pals program we wrote about in August. Social media is a really powerful tool for finding homes for rescue dogs, so I love seeing creative ways to bring attention to these deserving pups.
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