Good Dog: Studies & Research
Superior Senses: Hearing
February 15 2016
Floppy, folded, small, large—dogs’ ears come in many shapes, but they all serve the same purpose: as funnels for sound. Did you know that at least 18 muscles work to tilt, raise and rotate these furry appendages, helping the dog identify and capture sounds from different directions? Here are a few fast facts about canine ears and hearing.
Sources: Alexandra Horowitz, Inside of a Dog; Bruce Fogle, Dogs; DVM360.com; hypertextbook.com; aspcabehavior.org
Valentine’s Day 2016
February 12 2016
Roses are red, Violets are blue. Write an ode to your dog—we’ve got prizes for you!
We know you love your dog, and what better way to express that love than in verse? Enter The Bark's 6th Annual Puppy Love Poetry Contest. Finish the classic doggerel, “Roses are red, Violets are blue,” with a few lines about your canine Valentine or write your own poem as a comment on our Facebook page or comment below. We’ll have a prize for our favorite, including a selection of treats and goodies and they'll appear in Bark's summer issue!
Multiple entries—and wild creativity—are welcome. The contest ends February 14th 2016 at 11:59 PM PST, so start channeling your inner Shakespeare!
Irresistibly amusing portraits of wet dogs
January 29 2016
On our cover is Coffee Bean, whose portrait was taken by Sophie Gamand, a photographer who sees dogs differently. For an example of Gamand’s unique viewpoint, consider her series Flower Power: Pit Bulls of the Revolution. Her pictures of smiling, solemn and saucy Pit Bulls, their heads adorned with colorful crowns of flowers, suggest that we reconsider what we think we know about these sturdy dogs. An award-winning French photographer who has become well known as an animal advocate in her adopted hometown of New York City, Gamand will be celebrating the release of her first book, Wet Dog, this fall. Recently, she shared some of her observations and experiences with us.
BARK: Are dog-rescue groups active in France?
Gamand: Absolutely. Abandonment is somewhat less of an issue there than it is in the U.S., though. I once calculated that the ratio in France is about one dog per 660 inhabitants will be abandoned each year, whereas in the U.S., it’s one dog per 82 inhabitants. Thanks to my Wet Dog book, I was able to help the SPA (Société Protectrice des Animaux), the largest and oldest animal welfare and rescue organization in France. They fell in love with my wet dog photos and asked if they could use them for their nationwide adoption campaign this October. I was so proud to be able to help animals in my home country! (I even photographed wet cats for them, which was quite an experience!) The campaign ran in France, in the Paris subway stations and in SPA’s 60 shelters. I was told by their team that their adoption event was hugely successful, thanks in part to the campaign, which touched thousands and thousands of hearts.
In Wet Dog, you write that one of first things that happens to a dog at a shelter is a bath, and that marks the beginning of the dog’s new life. Is this why you decided to do the wonderful Wet Dog book?
My “Wet Dog” series was born out of a happy accident. I was at a groomer’s, working on a personal project about grooming and the hair-cutting process. Then the groomer started bathing the dogs, and I could not take my eyes off them! I’m not sure why I felt that intense connection with wet dogs. They make me laugh, but most importantly, they make me feel guilt, compassion and immense empathy.
Suddenly it hit me. That was exactly how I felt when bathing rescue dogs. It was interesting to explore those memories and feelings, and to realize how important bathing had been for me and for my relationship to rescues. I really believe that for the dogs, the bath is an initiation process, almost a form of baptism. They enter a new life, the abuse and the neglect and the suffering they experienced are washed away, and they become new. It’s a poignant and beautiful moment to share with a rescue.
You have volunteered a great deal of time taking portraits of shelter dogs. How important do you feel it is that their personalities are captured through good photography—does it make them more adoptable?
It is absolutely essential! Good photography helps in so many ways: It gives more exposure to the dogs on social media, and by extension, it gives more exposure to the shelters as well. It also brings more adopters to the shelters and creates more connections between people and shelter dogs.
I want my photos to be amazing, beautiful, exciting, fun, touching. I want people to see beyond the “shelter dog” aspect. I want them to witness the personality and uniqueness of these dogs. The photos, like the baths, are also a rite of passage. I want to give the dogs their dignity back. My photographs have been responsible for many direct and indirect adoptions— for people falling in love with a particular dog, or feeling more confident about getting a shelter dog. The photos remind us that these dogs could be our best friends. Their happy faces are so inviting.
How did you come to work with the Sato Project, and why do you say it was life-changing for you?
I met Chrissy Beckles, the project’s founder, in 2011. At the time, I was looking into volunteering with a shelter or a rescue group, but found many closed doors. Chrissy welcomed me and let me do my thing. Over the course of two years, I traveled extensively with her, documenting her work in Puerto Rico—specifically on Dead Dog Beach, an infamous dumping ground.
The work I did with the Sato Project profoundly changed me, personally, professionally and artistically. The first time I stepped foot on the island, Chrissy and I picked up a dying dog. He was beautiful and heartbreaking and in such a horrible shape. He died in Chrissy’s arms, and I was there with my camera, taking the photos and videos that would help Chrissy spread the message about her important work.
I called the dog Angel, and I captured his last breath with my camera. I still remember the way he looked at me; for a split second, I thought he was smiling, and then he expired. He was loved so much during the last few seconds of his life. This horrible experience bonded me with Chrissy and her organization in ways I can’t explain. It also bonded me with rescues and shelter dogs across the world. In many ways, we created dogs, and we are responsible for them. Teaching compassion toward all beings is such an important part of our humanity.
What do you hope people come away with from your Wet Dog book?
Wet Dog is meant to be a fun book. I want to celebrate the unique relationship we have with our dogs. I also hope to use it to spread simple messages, such as #AdoptDontShop, which is dear to my heart. People need to stop buying puppies in stores or off the Internet. One out of three of these puppies will end up in a shelter within their first year.
I also want to encourage people to look at shelters and help in small ways. For example, did you know that shelters are always in dire need of gently used towels and linens? It’s a great way to help, and to make shelter dogs’ lives a little more comfortable while they wait for their forever homes. Bathe your doggie, then wash the towels and donate them to your local shelter! Wet dogs uniting for shelter dogs: I like that idea.
January 20 2016
Behind every rescued animal there stands a group of unsung heroes. Those people who make dog and cat adoptions possible — a team of shelter workers, trainers, foster parents and volunteers who shepherd each animal from their first day to, hopefully, a forever home. With dedication, hope, expertise and above all, hard work … they persevere, believing that every animal deserves a second chance at happiness and love. We salute their commitment, and strive to bring their stories to light.
The Bark has partnered with Halo to proudly present SHELTER HEROES — a program that recognizes outstanding individuals helping homeless animals find their forever homes. For the next several months, The Bark will be shining the spotlight on these shelter heroes, as well as publishing the best practices and recipes for successful animal adoptions. Together, we can make a difference.
Do You Know a Shelter Hero? Do you know an animal shelter worker or volunteer who stands out for their dedication, innovation and hard work? Somebody who is making a special impact in your community? We want to hear about them and tell their story to inspire others. We want to recognize their efforts and share their success. Go to our online entry and help us find the real shelter heroes in your community.
One special hero will be selected to be profiled in The Bark and the shelter they represent will be provided with 10,000 bowls of Halo dog food, courtesy of Freekibble.com. Other notable heroes will be featured on thebark.com. For rules and eligibility, click here.
December 30 2015
As the year comes to a close, we look back at some of the ideas in dogdom that caught our attention. The world is forever changing with new health and science discoveries, advances in technology, and evolving ideas that impact our communities and relationship with animals. One thing remains constant though, the comforting companionship of our dogs and the bond we share … thankfully, some things never change.
Considering the big themes that had us talking (and writing) about in 2015, two topics rose to the top and suggest important shifts in thinking. The first combines new findings that tie together nutrition, health and science—nutrigenomics or the study of how foods affect our genes and how individual genetic differences can affect the way we respond to nutrients. Canine nutrigenomics is further evidence that good nutrition matters, and our conversation with leading researcher and author W. Jean Dodds, DVM, explains why. Dodds and Diana Leverdure also explored the importance of “brain food” or good nutrition for senior dogs. The microbiome ecology found in our dogs’ gut may prove the pathway to better health (and behavior). Bark contributing editor Jane Brackman, PhD, investigated these microscopic worlds with fascinating results. Scientific research and popular theory (gutbliss) are creating a new awareness of the importance a healthy gut to a dog’s well-being.
As dog lovers, we’ve always known that dogs enrich our lives in countless ways. New research continues to build that case empirically, none more important than a special report from Harvard Medical School. Get Healthy, Get a Dog is the first publication to compile hundreds of research studies from around the world that document the physical and psychological benefits of dog ownership. Taken together, these studies provide the most complete picture yet of the many ways in which dogs enrich human life: from lower cholesterol and improved cardiovascular health to weight loss, companionship, defense against depression and longer lifespans. Twig Mowatt delved into this landmark report and its importance.
The second big idea gleaned from 2015: If dogs are proving good for us, they can be particularly beneficial to children. A recent study reports that kids who live with a dog are less likely to be anxious than their peers living in homes without dogs. Other studies show that children with dogs at home were healthier overall, had fewer infectious respiratory problems, fewer ear infections and were less likely to require antibiotics. Researchers considered these results supportive of the theory that children who live with dogs during their early years have better resistance throughout childhood. Innovative education programs like Mutt-i-grees curriculum are testing the many ways in which dogs can aid in learning.
Space does not allow us to list every worthy book, film and exhibit from the past year (and there were many), but we would like to note these special, memorable works:
George the Dog, John the Artist: A Rescue Story by John Dolan
The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks
Heart of a Dog, a film by Laurie Anderson
Rescue Road by Peter Zheutlin
December 30 2015
Laurie Anderson is a visionary artist and a pioneer in electronic music as well as a marvelous storyteller. She employs her voice, with its songlike phrasing (as in her 1981 hit single “O Superman”), along with instruments—some of which she invented—video and other acoustic props to weave her tales.
In her new film, Heart of a Dog, her beloved Rat Terrier, Lolabelle, takes center stage in an imaginative, lyrical, confessional narrative. As Anderson describes it, “It’s a series of short stories about telling stories.” Quoting David Foster Wallace, she adds, “Every love story is a ghost story.”
Over the course of this absorbing 75-minute film, she considers the deaths of her mother; her dear Lolabelle, whom she “co-parented” with husband Lou Reed; her friend Gordon Matta-Clark; and finally, Reed himself in 2013. Times critic A.O. Scott praised it as a “philosophically astute, emotionally charged meditation on death, love, art and dogs.” It’s also about learning to “how to feel sad without actually being sad,” as her Buddhist teacher instructed.
While the film offers a visual representation, it’s really Anderson’s Zen-calm narrative that conveys its message. Both film and score open with her recounting a dream in which she gives birth to Lolabelle. She then uses the dog as a springboard, digressing to a variety of other topics but always circling back to the dog. One of our favorite segments, “Piano Lessons,” is about how Anderson and Reed set up keyboards on the floor for their old dog (who was going blind), and used a clicker to train her to make music. As Anderson wryly observes, the dog’s playing “was … pretty good.”
The movie, which has a limited run, will be aired on HBO in 2016. Luckily for dog lovers and Anderson fans, Nonesuch just released its critically acclaimed soundtrack.
Wellness: Healthy Living
December 18 2015
Gather up a high quality pair of trimmers and some styptic powder, such as Kwik-Stop or other product, to stop bleeding if you nick the quick.
You may want to sit on the floor with your dog in your lap, or have someone hold your dog on a table. Hold your dog’s paw firmly and push on the pads to extend the nail. Locate where the quick ends. With clear or light nails, it is easy to see the pink color where the quick ends. But with black nails you can look for a black dot on the underneath of the nail; that’s where the quick ends.
Trim the nail below the quick on a 45- degree angle, with the cutting end of the nail clipper toward the end of the nail. Make several small nips with the clippers instead of one large one.
In some cases, if the nails are brittle, the cut may tend to splinter the nail. In these cases, file the nail in a sweeping motion starting from the back of the nail and following the curve to the tip.
Go slowly, take breaks between each paw., and don’t forget the dewclaws. If you accidentally cut the quick, wipe off the blood and apply Kwik-Stop or styptic powder to stop the bleeding. It is not serious and will heal in a very short time.
Some important tips:
Dog's Life: DIY
Ami Ami Dogs
December 11 2015
Anyone looking to add an extra dash of kawaii (cuteness) to their canine crochet should take a peek at Mitsuki Hoshi’s book Ami Ami Dogs. These big-headed amigurumi (Japanese for knitted stuffed toy) fit in the palm of your hand, and Hoshi’s easy-to-follow patterns will have even novices needlers stitching them up in no time. Gather your crochet hooks and download the PDF below to test out the Beagle puppy Chihuahua pattern—and show off your results by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: We apologize for the confusion with the Beagle puppy pattern. We did not realize when we posted it that it referred to earlier patterns in the book. Harper Collins has graciously permitted us to post the Chihuahua pattern from Ami Ami Dogs, which is complete and does not depend on other patterns in the book.
Please note: If clicking the pattern doesn't prompt you to save it, then Right-Click the link below and select "Save Link As".
Visions of Gold
December 4 2015
To have vision, says Danelle Umstead, “is to have sight, an idea or a dream.” Her immediate vision is to win gold for the U.S. in alpine skiing at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Danelle’s husband Rob Umstead, her coach and sighted guide, will be leading the way through the courses.
Last summer, Danelle’s longtime guide dog, a black Lab named Bettylynn, developed optic-nerve atrophy and had to retire, so Aziza, her new canine guide, will be rooting the couple on in Sochi. Bettylynn, the first guide dog to represent the U.S. at the Winter Olympics in 2010, will be pulling for the couple back home in Park City, Utah, along with their son, Brocton.
When Danelle was 13, she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic eye condition that eventually causes complete darkness. Her vision is “spotted,” and she can only see up to five feet in front of her. Even then, colors have to be highly contrasting for her to make them out, and she sees little to no detail. Then, in 2011, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Still, neither of these hurdles has kept her from achieving her best.
Her father introduced Danelle to adaptive skiing in 2000 and acted as her guide. She quickly fell in love with the sport—the freedom, the speed, the exhilaration. She began training and working full-time with Rob in 2008, and competitive success soon followed: Paralympic Bronze medals at Vancouver (2010), nine World Cup podiums and Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Championships. Her success relies heavily on the 100 percent trust and communication she shares with Rob as he guides her down the hill at top speed. It’s similar to the trust and communication she had with Bettylynn and is working to build with Aziza.
Danelle and Rob have created Vision4Gold.org as a way to mentor junior disabled athletes by sharing her story and offering encouragement. We’re confident that Danelle will realize her vision.
Culture: Readers Write
November 19 2015
Magnolia's family volunteers with a rescue in North Carolina and she was a foster. When she came to them she weighed almost twice what she weighs today. She was on a lot of medicines for a variety of health issues because her previous owner didn't properly feed her. One med was for her heart.
She stopped eating anything that had meds in it and her family noticed her potty was slow drips. So they took her to the vet and got the quality of life talk. Meds for her heart were shutting down her kidneys and kidney meds would put fluid on her heart. They were told she didn't have long so let her do what she wants. They made her a sort of list similar to a bucket list, and that huge smiling picture was when they took her to the beach.
That was over a year ago and at the last visit her weight was normal and all her blood work was great. She's now about 6 pounds and very active. Looking back at where she was and where she is now I am so amazed.
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