Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.
Dog Coming to the Aid of Neighbors
November 17 2012
I just watched this charming video about a wonderful NYC dog named Midnight. The dog, a rescue from hurricane Katrina, lives with musician Riley Fitzsimmons, and together they have worked on the hurricane Sandy relief effort, carrying food and water to those in need. I know that you’ll enjoy seeing this.
What to do about an uncontrolled dog
November 16 2012
This morning as I was walking with the dogs at Pt Isabel—one of the most popular off leash areas in the Bay Area—I was “approached” by a very large dog in a very threatening manner. This was a first for me, and I must say that it was frightening. The dogs and I were on the path walking back to the car, when I saw this Mastiff mix on the grassy area adjacent to the pathway—I noticed him because I know most of the early morning “shift” dogs, but he was unfamiliar so I wondered who he might be. He was a handsome dog, probably over a 100 lbs., very tall, with a brindle coat, but he was coming at us fast. His owner, a woman probably in her 30s, was calling to him by saying “heel” even though he was far from her. He didn’t pay any attention to her at all, he kept coming fast. I stopped walking, mostly concerned for Charlie who was close by my side (the other dogs were nearby but not that close), I thought the dog might be headed “for” him. I was trying to think of what I should do to protect Charlie. There was something extremely menacing about the way that dog held his body as he charged us. The woman did not change her pace at all, and simply yelled “heel” again. By the time he reached us I learned it was me, not Charlie, who had “piqued” his attention. I calmly and assertively, as I could muster, told him “No,” and at the same time, called out to his owner, “Get your dog… Put him on a leash”, and then, when I saw that her pace had not quickened, “Run fast, get him.” By that time he had lunged up on to my shoulders, and was growling in my face. She finally reached us, grabbed him off, and said something inane like, “I don’t know why he did that!”
I was extremely upset and told her that his behavior was totally unacceptable and he must be kept on a leash (she still hadn’t leashed him) she seemed mollified and contrite and mentioned that she was working with a trainer etc. I wish I had had my wits about me to point out that she committed two big mistakes, the first is that she never called him off, never said No or Off, Leave It or anything like that, “heel” doesn’t mean anything in such a situation, and she should have seen that. And, even more importantly, she should have run to us as soon as he did not respond to her, and certainly by the time he was “on” me.
Unfortunately, I have seen this time and time again, perhaps not in quite such a dramatic fashion as what happened this morning. But I don’t understand why if a dog is doing something wrong, is showing any aggression to a person or a dog, that some people seem loathe to rush over to leash up their dogs or say No to them. I’m sure you have seen this too, it is one thing to hold your ground when you are training your dog in recall, but in “real” life situations, what matters most is that you have control over your dog and if a dog isn’t responding to your verbal cues, then you must do everything within your power to divert him, to leash him, to remove him from the altercation.
I am curious to hear your thoughts. What would you have done/said to her? What do you think she should have done? Has something like that happened to you? I must admit that I am still rattled by this.
Photographer Amanda Jones captures the all-American dog
November 15 2012
Mixed-breed. Mongrel. Heinz-57. All-American. Mutt. Would a dog by any other name smile as sweet? You may be surprised to know that the most popular, or, shall I say, most prevalent type of dog is now a mixed-breed. There are more mutts in American homes than any single breed—more than Labs, Golden Retrievers and Yorkies (who rank two, three and four, respectively). That’s saying something.
In Amanda Jones’ new book, A Breed Apart: A Celebration of the New American Mutt, she employs her fine artistry to capturing all that we admire about these true one-of-kind dogs. Couture originals each and every one! Let those purists have their papered pups—give me a “breed apart” anytime!
As a lifelong devotee of mutts, I completely understand America’s current fascination. What better candidate could there be for first-place honors in a country that proudly claims to be the world’s melting pot? For going on 10 years now, my job has allowed me to meet wonderful dogs, many of them of “uncertain parentage.” Where do I start to sing their praises?
If every dog has its day, let’s hope that it’s the mutt’s turn now. Even though all dogs originally came from mixed-breed stock eons ago, mutts have played second fiddle to their more high-bred brethren for too long now! The idiosyncratic charms of the dogs in this book speak volumes for the love they share with their humans. With so many exceptional dogs, of all sizes and shapes, awaiting adoptions at local shelters—how can one pass over their uniqueness while also knowing that you saved the life of a dog that was “made” just for you!
November 8 2012
peter heller has written a remarkable and breathtaking fi rst novel set in a bleak, post-apocalyptic world. It takes place seven years after most of Earth’s population has been wiped out by a fl u pandemic. Hig, a pilot with a 1956 Cessna who — along with his beloved senior dog, Jasper — lives in a small country airport in Colorado, narrates the story. His only neighbor, Bruce Bangley, is an old, misanthropic, ex-navy Seal whose survivalist skills are employed eagerly and willingly when desperate marauders threaten their existence. Jasper does his part, serving as a sentinel, guide, hunting/fi shing companion and keen listener — a relationship probably similar to those shared at the beginning of human/dog friendships.
Searching for reasons to stay alive, Hig is determined to remain attached to the natural world, going off into mountains and “greener woods” to fi sh and hunt with Jasper. Before he leaves on these sojourns, he makes recon fl ights, with his dog as his co-pilot. Although so much life has been lost — including the lives of his friends, his wife and their unborn child — and global warming plagues the planet, there are still vistas of stunning beauty to behold.
It is Hig’s relationship with Jasper during the fi rst third of the book that allows the reader to understand the true measure of this man. This reviewer would be hard-pressed to think of anything in recent literature, except perhaps Rick Bass’s elegiac Colter, that comes close to expressing how tender, complete and vital a relationship between a man and a dog can be.
The Dog Stars, poetic, graceful, funny and, yes, very dark, is a tale of primal instincts and the survivalist spirit. This spirit can be found in the threads that connect us to one another, to nature and beyond, to the stars — and that lead us to seek out new possibilities, even though sometimes it takes a great loss to find our way to them. This is a book about discovering the resiliency of that thread.
Where metaphors, irony and attitude are unleashed
November 5 2012
Who doesn’t love New Yorker cartoons, especially those with dogs in them? Masters like Booth, Cullum, Barsotti, Shanahan and Steig can make even non-dog enthusiasts snicker — nary a “head scratcher” among them.
But the same cannot be said for dogs who show up in other areas of that famed magazine. Though I’ve been one of its devoted readers for 35 or so years, and have a “nose” for my favorite subject, I’ve scarcely noticed dogs in the New Yorker until recently. Even then, the dogs seem to have been kept at leash-length from and not fully integrated into much of the coverage given to them.
There is a certain urbane aloofness and detachment about the New Yorker writing style — it appears to be more feline than canine in nature. Perhaps that started with James Thurber, who was heralded for his dog writing. But as Adam Gopnik explains in this new anthology, The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs (Random House), for Thurber, dogs were really stand-ins for men. So when he “wrote about dogs” he was “writing about men,” and especially “men” in opposition to women and wives, whom Thurber didn’t seem to like much.
There is a lot of Thurber in this collection; each of its rather banally organized chapters — Good Dogs, Bad Dogs, Top Dogs and Underdogs — begins with one of his stories. There are also many contributions from droll, observational commentators like Susan Orlean (three entries) and Malcolm Gladwell (four, including the foreword). All of the book’s elements come from the magazine, including the artwork derived from its memorable covers, lively cartoons, lovely little drawings and “typographical mark-up pages.” Formatted and sized like the magazine, it comes in big at $45 and 400 pages. All in all, a hefty reading experience.
Most New Yorker readers will find the more recent pieces familiar, but the editors also dove into the magazine’s rich archives and pulled up a gem or two, such as “Down the Leash” by Angelica Gibbs (1951) a profile of Miss Blanche Saunders, who popularized obedience training in this country, “huping, pfuing and heeling” her way into posterity. Other more historic pieces, like the one from respected writer Alexander Woollcott (1928), would have been best left in the vault. There are quite a few entries with lost-dog themes (a particular favorite in shaggy-dog stories), and at least two about running with the hounds. I was pleased to see Maeve Brennan’s “The Door on West Tenth Street” (a tender story that has also appeared in The Bark); her work deserves to be read by a larger audience.
A piece that didn’t deserve another airing is here, too — Malcolm Gladwell’s highly controversial “What the Dog Saw,” a naïf, narrow profile of Cesar Millan. When it first appeared in 2006, many of us were astonished that Gladwell never questioned the theories or methods used by Millan but instead, chose to focus on how the man “moves” around dogs, asking dancers and movement specialists — not animal behaviorists, academics or trainers — for their analysis. Had he asked any of the “dog people,” they would have pointed out that the best dog training today relies on rational, effective and, yes, humane methods, not on anachronistic and ill-informed theories.
Very few works about our relationships with dogs make an appearance, but what I consider the finest piece in this collection, Jonathan Lethem’s story, “Ava’s Apartment,” falls in this category. It is masterful in its portrayal of how transformative, and unexpected, that relationship can be. Among a few others, I also admired Cathleen Schine’s achingly sad “Dog Trouble” and “Tapka,” touching fiction by David Bezmozgis.
As noted in its foreword, this anthology is about New York dogs. Thus, readers expecting a more expansive view of the dog world ought not be surprised that its perspective stops somewhere between the Hudson and East Rivers. Nonetheless, The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs is a very handsome package and one that will surely find its spot on many a dog lover’s coffee table.
Probiotic for you and your dog
November 2 2012
Making yogurt is easy, economical and it helps both you and your dog to stay up on your probiotic regimes. With only two ingredients and a few tools, it couldn't be simpler. (While a commercial yogurt maker is convenient, it is not necessary.)
1 qt. milk (low fat or non-fat; cow’s or goat’s milk)
2 or 3 tbsp. of fresh plain yogurt (from the previous batch or store-bought—but be sure it contains a live-culture!)
Step One: Heat the milk
Pour milk into a pot, heat slowly until the temperature reaches 185 degrees, stirring frequently (this can take up to 20 minutes). The longer you maintain this temperature, the thicker the final product. Be sure not to scald or burn the milk.
Step Two: Cool the milk
Pour the hot milk into a bowl or keep it in the pot—it will need to cool down to 110 degrees. You can place the bowl/pot into a larger bowl (or in the sink) with cold water or ice cubes around it to help the cooling. This takes around 15 minutes. It is important that it cools down before adding the culture. High temperatures can destroy the culture.
Step Three: Add the culture
Pour about a cup of the cooled milk into a small bowl or into a two-cup measurer and add 2 to 3 tbsp of yogurt. Whisk. Add it back to the rest of the milk, whisking again to make sure the milk and culture is thoroughly mixed.
Step Four: Incubate
Pour this mixture into yogurt-maker jars or into 2 large glass jars. If using glass jars, cover them and wrap in towels. Place them on a heating pad (set on medium, or a setting that assures 110 degrees) for 8 to 12 hours or until thickened. Or wrap the jars in towels, and place them with other jars filled with hot water into a cooler, close the cooler and let set for 8 to 12 hours. (There are many other methods to provide this low-warmth level, but the key is to hold the mixture undisturbed for 8 hours or more at 110 to 115 degrees.) After the yogurt has set, put in the refrigerator where it will set more. It can keep up to 1 week chilled.
Remember to make your next batch, use 2 tbsp. from the present batch.
There is also an easy crockpot method you might like to check out, we have heard that it works well.
Extras for Dogs:
Frozen Yogurt Treats:
Your pups will love e a frozen yogurt treat. Pour into silicone ice cube trays, with a few blueberries or other fruit or juice. Dogs eagerly lick up these tasty, healthy treats! Or share your smoothies with them.
Extras for You:
Eat yogurt plain (a French meal favorite) or add honey or an easy-to-make fruit compote like this blueberry one adapted from Anson Mills.
For the blueberry compote:
Place berries into pot with the sugar, salt, lemon juice, and cinnamon stick, and set over medium-low heat. Stir frequently as the berries begin to sizzle softly and melt. They will quickly begin to release their juices and cease sticking. Bring them to a simmer until soft and saucy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, remove cinnamon, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. Stir into a portion into individual yogurt servings.
To use yogurt as a sour cream substitute, thicken it by straining through a coffee filter. Or to make yogurt cheese (dog’s favorite), wrap the yogurt in fine, unbleached cheesecloth and hang it up for a day, for a quick cheese.
November 1 2012
Robin and Linda Williams have been making music together for almost 40 years. Their new CD, These Dark Old Hills (Red House Records), is a vibrant collection of original folk and bluegrass tunes, one of which especially caught our fancy. The couple praises the charms of their rescue dog, Tessie Mae, in a song.
What surprised the couple most about this sweet stray, whom they adopted from the Charlottesville, Va., SPCA, was her independent streak. As they told us, “We couldn’t leave any door open or else she would take off, and no amount of calling would make her stop. Just like we say in the fi rst verse of the song. ‘You’re an angel and a little sneak/A sweetheart with a stubborn streak/Good at following your nose/Out any door that wasn’t closed.’”
While we found this song to be a real toe-tapping, paw-thumping delight, Tessie has another idea about what the couple should be doing. “She doesn’t particularly seem interested in our music other than in the fact that it takes our attention away from her. When we’re rehearsing, she’ll come in the room wagging her tail and look at us as if to say, ‘Okay, it’s time for you guys to focus on me.’” Hard to not to do that with a chorus that goes, “Hey, Hey your straying days/Are over Tessie Mae/ Hey, Hey sit and stay/Don’t turn your head away …”
Listen to it on YouTube.
Q&A with Kim Kavin, author of Little Boy Blue
October 5 2012
When journalist Kim Kavin decided to adopt an adorable pup on Petfinder.com, she didn’t realize that her good deed would lead to a book exposing shelter practices as well as reporting on the amazing canine rescue network responsible for saving that pup. We talk with the author about her book, Little Boy Blue: A puppy’s rescue from death row and his owner’s journey for truth about what she learned on that “journey.”
Bark: Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve been seeing more purebreds especially with first-time dog people, than I have in the past (historically, mixed-breeds have been the city’s top dogs), and it’s a trend that concerns me. What’s your take on the best way to get the word out about shelter adoption?
Everyone I interviewed for Little Boy Blue told me that education is the answer. They were thrilled to hear about the book; they said they’ve been screaming like banshees about adoption for years, and finally, people are starting to take notice. We need to keep that level of education going, and growing. If people simply understand the options—what they’re buying into when they acquire a purebred from a breeder versus what they’re supporting when they adopt a rescued dog—most do the right thing. Education is the key.
B: What five things can shelters do to improve their adoption rates?
B: How does a dog benefit by being fostered?
When they see how calm Blue is, they begin to understand that they are somewhere happy and good. In a very short time, each one turns into a completely different dog. Sometimes it takes a few days, or a week with the shy puppies or those who need medical care, but it happens every time. They know they will get their own bowl of food at mealtimes. They have a sunny, grassy back yard to run and play in. They have me hugging them and giving them toys. They have a big, clean crate where they feel safe and can take a nap in peace and quiet. They ride in the car, they go with us for walks at the park. They learn basic commands like “sit” and realize they can do things to earn treats.
That’s when their real personalities come out—the personalities that we can tell potential adopters about. We have a much better chance of matching people with the right dogs if the dogs come out of foster care, because we have a better sense of who the dogs actually are compared with what they were like in the shelter.
B: What tips would you offer those who might be interested in a shelter dog?
B: Any ideas on how to improve spay/neuter rates? Groups around the country have promoted low-cost, accessible services but still, many people won’t neuter their pets.
There are a number of reasons why. First and foremost is a lack of education. People don’t realize that they are contributing to a massive national shelter crisis when they allow their dogs to produce unwanted puppies. This can be overcome. Education takes time, but it does work. As the founder of Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Mass., told me, education has gotten through in the Northeast, where spay/neuter has become as routine as daily tooth-brushing—and where shelters typically have far lower kill rates than in some other parts of the country.
Another reason I’ve heard more than once has to do with religion. I’ve had people tell me that encouraging spay/neuter is akin to “playing God.” They feel that it’s just as immoral to spay or neuter a dog as it is for a human to take birth-control pills or have an abortion, because God and God alone should decide which puppies are born. This is much harder to address, and I don’t know that anything will ever change those opinions. It’s like trying to convince pro-life and pro-choice activists to see eye-to-eye. It’s just not likely to happen.
B: Beyond spaying and neutering, what more can be done to control pet population in shelters?
The other main reason that people give dogs back to rescues or shelters, is that they say the dogs “turned out” bad. This tends to happen when the dogs are two or three years old—and almost always a result of the human failing to train the dog when he was a puppy. If a dog doesn’t know how to sit or where to go to the bathroom after you’ve had him for two or three years, it’s because you failed to teach him. The dog isn’t bad. It’s a lousy dog owner. If more people took advantage of training classes, which are usually just one hour a week, then far fewer people would be complaining they had “bad dogs.”
B: Did you gain any insights into why the AKC pushes back so vigorously on spay/neuter laws and puppy-mill legislation?
My suggestion to people who find this situation untenable is to adopt rescue dogs and mixed-breeds like Blue instead of buying purebreds. Encourage everyone you know to do the same. There will then be a point at which demand slows for the product that the purebred industry has marketed and sold for such a long time. Without customers, breeders will go out of business. We don’t need to pass laws to effect this change. We just need to educate more people about what they are buying into when they acquire a purebred dog from a breeder.
B: What are the most important things people can do to help their local shelters (along with adopting from them, of course)?
B: What do you hope to achieve with your book?
First Lady Michelle Obama talks with us about two of her favorite subjects—healthy children and a happy dog.
October 2 2012
Bark: Have you discussed walking or playing with dogs as a part of “Let’s Move” and the fight against childhood obesity in the United States? Do you see children’s relationships with their dogs as playing a role in this aspect of their health?
Michelle Obama: Through Let’s Move! we encourage families to find creative ways to stay active whether it’s through riding their bikes, walking together or dancing to music at home. For our family, having Bo has taught our girls about being responsible because Malia and Sasha are charge of taking care of him when they get home from school. And since Bo is an energetic dog, I know that when the girls take him out for his nightly walk they also run around and play outside with him.
B: Many studies have looked at the health and social benefits to dog ownership, including that walking with a dog increases the time spent in that activity and the degree of commitment to it, have you seen evidence of this in your own family?
MO: Bo has been such a positive addition for our family. I think of him as my third child because we all love him so much. Whether we’re teaching him how to roll over, swimming with him in the summer, or watching him greet kids who are visiting the White House, he constantly keeps us smiling.
B: Where does Bo sleep? Does he have a favorite trick/ behavior that your family finds especially endearing?
MO: Most nights Bo can be found sleeping in one of the girls’ rooms. I’m proud to say he is a really smart dog and is known for his tricks, but it is the simple things he does like climbing up in our laps to cuddle that we love the most.
September 27 2012
Inspired by our own exclusive behind-the-scenes examination of the dogs of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Brian Williams’ “Rock Center” takes up on that story. Watch tonight as all our favorites, Kweli, Ally and Parker (and their humans too), and even more of their office dogs come out for the big time bright lights of TV. See how well everyone clicks into place and why we were so inspired by their humor and harmony. We’ve seen a preview clip so not sure if we’ll get to see Williams’ own dog make an appearance, he is, after all huge dog lover, same with Jon Stewart and his pair of French Bulldogs, hope we get to see them! Watch Rock Center tonight on NBC 10pm/9C. (And, nope, no The Bark there.)
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