Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.
September 26 2012
For those of you who missed seeing this before (I count myself as one of them), this is truly a classic tribute from one of the most memorable actors of our time. Be prepared, it is hard not to get choked up watching this!
September 24 2012
We would like to extend a hearty, and non-expletive, congrats to Jon Stewart and the whole crew and cast of The Daily Show for snagging another Emmy last night. This latest award marks the tenth year in a row for this comedic “faux” news program, truly an amazing feat somewhere along the lines of DiMaggio’s hitting streak. We happen to think that The Daily Show has discovered a secret formula for popular success that includes their wide open-door policy shown to their office pooches. So their 10th Emmy isn’t the only award bestowed upon them this year, they also grabbed The Bark’s Best Place to Work (in the World) Award. If you missed our behind-the-scenes look at this canine paradise, check out our article.
Wellness: Healthy Living
What would we do without dogs
September 17 2012
We know dogs make us happy, but as an increasing number of scientific studies are demonstrating, they also make us — and our children — healthier. A 2010 study in the UK found that children who lived with dogs spent 10 minutes more each day engaged in physical activity than did those in dog-free homes; the researchers even tallied up the extra number of steps they took (360, on average). Now, two studies published earlier this year point to some even more salubrious effects of life with dogs, especially for very young children.
One, conducted at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland, concentrated on infants during their first year, and investigated the effect of contact with dogs on the “frequency of respiratory symptoms and infections” during that period. Information about the length of time a dog spent indoors was also gathered, and turned out to be one of the key indicators.
The results were eye-opening. 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. They also found that the effect was greater if the dog spent fewer than six hours inside, possibly because the longer dogs are outdoors, the more dirt they bring inside with them. The more dirt, the more “bacterial diversity.” This diversity is thought to have a protective influence by helping the child’s immune system to mature — that is, respond more effectively to infectious agents.
A study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, found that living with dogs may prevent children from developing asthma. Mice fed a solution containing dust from homes with dogs developed a resistance to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a childhood airway infectious agent. RSV, which is common in infants, is linked to a higher risk of childhood asthma. According to Dr. Susan Lynch of the study team, “Exposing the gastrointestinal tract to pet dust and other microbes early in life prepares it to respond appropriately to a variety of invaders. But since our modern lifestyles involve living in immaculate houses, our immune systems often overreact instead.” Early childhood is a critical period for developing protection against allergies and asthma, and exposure to pets can help.
All in all, these studies are proving that dogs, especially those dirty ones, are not only important family members, but also make our children healthier. And in that regard, they may also have a positive impact on health care costs. Adopt a dog, heal a child!
September 11 2012
Bruno Schulz was one of the leading Polish Jewish authors of the 20th century, although he only wrote two collections of stories during his lifetime. He was born in 1892 in the town of Drohobycz in what is now the Ukraine (but was, at one time part of Austria and then Poland). The town of Drohobycz is currently hosting an art and literature festival to honor him. He has been acclaimed as one of the greatest stylist in Polish literature.
Schulz, who was also a graphic artist was residing in that town during WWII, under the “protection” of a S.S. officer, Felix Landau, in exchange for painting a mural on the walls of his villa. But Schulz was slain in 1942, shot as he was walking down the street by a Nazi commander who was said to kill him in retaliation toward Landau. Horribly the killer had said,” You killed my Jew—I killed yours.”
His first book, The Street of Crocodiles, was published in 1934 and he was hailed as one of the major avant-garde writer and visual artist in that era. Contemporary writers, David Grossman, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, Cynthia Ozick, Jonathan Saffron Foer, have all paid homage to him. In the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Schulz “wrote sometimes like Kafka, sometimes like Proust, and at times succeeded in reaching the depths that neither of them reached.”
We became acquainted with Schulz’s work through a recommendation from a reader. We were honored to be able to publish “Nimrod,” a story from his first book, in 2004. It remains one of our lit favorites. As David Grossman said about his discovery of Schulz’s writing that when he first read him “Even today it is hard for me to describe the jolt that ran through me.” We feel the same, and hopefully you agree that this story merits a place in the dog literature canon.
Two new books dig into important dog-world issues, but only one stands out
September 7 2012
For years, the most under-reported story in the country has been about the veritable army of dedicated animal lovers who work tirelessly to rescue shelter dogs, and the fact that, despite their work, shelters are still putting down millions of dogs every year. Journalist Kim Kavin’s new book, Little Boy Blue: A Puppy’s Rescue from Death Row and His Owner’s Journey for Truth, takes on that story.
Kavin wrote about this subject after adopting her brindle hound-mix pup, Blue, who had been deemed “non-preferrable [sic] for adoption” by Person County Animal Shelter in North Carolina. Plucked from the shelter by a local rescue group just days before he was scheduled to die, Blue was one of the lucky ones. Like many other U.S. shelters, the Person County shelter kills dogs in gas chambers. After being saved, Blue was posted on Petfinder.com, fostered, transported north, and, shortly thereafter, he joined Kavin in New Jersey.
Her investigation kicked into high gear when she took Blue to her vet to find out what was behind his skin lesions. He didn’t come with much in the way of paperwork, and what little there was offered few clues as to what had really happened to him, both at the shelter and while he was being fostered. So Kavin, the intrepid reporter, went to North Carolina to find out for herself. As part of her quest, she interviewed shelter managers, rescuers and fosterers as well as the vet who neutered the pup. She learned how dogs (and cats) are treated in these rural areas, where it can seem that the shelters are busier killing animals than trying to get them adopted.
Her investigations expanded, and she includes uplifting interviews with those who manage successful shelter operations and spay/neuter programs, and a vast network of independent animal activists. But she also examines the underlying reasons why there still are gas chambers — here’s a hint: powerful factory-farm lobbyists play a role — and why seemingly pro-animal groups still oppose spay-and-neuter laws. This book is not a polemic, but it is definitely messagedriven; its main points focus on the need for people to become aware of the plight of shelter animals, and how grassroots support can fix this societal problem. She’s convinced that everyone can help by adopting dogs from shelters, fostering dogs and putting pressure on policymakers to improve shelter conditions and practices.
Kavin masterfully weaves her life with Blue into the storyline, and does a great job presenting all of this information in an engrossing and inspirational narrative that reads like a page-turner police procedural. This is a compelling, important book that should be read by everyone who loves dogs. Personally, I’m thrilled that someone with Kavin’s passion and skill took on this tough assignment.
In his first book, What’s a Dog For? magazine editor John Homans follows a slightly similar track, covering some of the same ground as Kavin. Stella, his southern rescue dog, is the springboard for his investigation. The book is subtitled The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man’s Best Friend, which is a lot of worthy ground to cover. However, there will be few surprises for Bark readers. While on the whole this book is well written, it seems to have been haphazardly researched and fact-checked. Homans invested a lot of time traveling to the sources of much of what is happening in the field of canine research, but there are also serious, and telling, omissions.
The book was inspired by a 2010 article he wrote for New York magazine, where he is the editorial director; perhaps that’s why it seems dated. It doesn’t reference the more current findings in some fields, which could’ve easily been identified by a review of books and articles written by researchers and experts such as John Bradshaw, Pat Shipman and Mark Derr, to whom he gives short shrift.
Homans a l so procla ims Ray Coppinger’s hypothesis — that dogs self-domesticated by scavenging from early human garbage heaps — to be the “most widely accepted ‘first dog’ theory.” And that, despite evidence to the contrary, wolves follow the human “point” as well as dogs when they are allowed to do it unfettered by fence bars. Then he gets into the important subject of no-kill shelters, and the origination of this movement in San Francisco. However, he doesn’t mention that SF/ SPCA was able to make the shift to a no-kill facility because neighboring SF/ Animal Care & Control handled euthanization duty for the city. Sadly, this transition didn’t mean that “healthy animals that were euthanized in San Francisco dropped to zero,” as he notes.
And I really wish he had done a more thorough job investigating Rick Berman’s crusade against the HSUS. Berman is not just a simple “PR guy,” who runs HumaneWatch, but rather, a lobbyist for the Center for Consumer Freedom, which is financed by big ag and the restaurant industry. He got his start with money from Philip Morris, which he used to fight smoking bans in restaurants. The HSUS has been a vocal opponent of cruel factory-farming processes, and Berman has gone after them for it. His lies and half-truths have had a negative impact on that organization as well as on other humane groups.
There is also much to commend in this rather ambitious and entertaining book, and someone new to the dog world may benefit from its roadmap to becoming a well-versed caninelogist. But unlike Kavin’s book, which is more concentrated and focused, Homans’ tries to cover too much ground. Consequently, some important landmarks that deserved a more thorough treatment didn’t get it.
I’m glad the publishing world and writers are excited about the subject of dogs and our relationships with them. Because we’re still learning how much we don’t know about our best friends, the question “What’s a dog for?” remains a worthy subject for future investigation.
Author of The Call of the Mild
September 4 2012
In her thoughtful and provocative new book, Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner, Lily Raff McCaulou— raised as a gun-fearing environmentalist and animal lover—meditates on the ways her perspectives on hunting and her place in the natural world have changed. We talk with her about her experiences, and her non-hunting fishing dog, Sylvia.
Bark: You contributed the endpiece for this issue, and in it, you talk about your dog, Sylvia. What can you tell us about her (besides the fact that she’s a great fishing companion)?
I spent months browsing Petfinder. com, where I eventually came across a photo-less profile of a female Flat- Coated Retriever mix named “Missy.” She was young but not a puppy. She’d been picked up as a stray; a couple of weeks had passed and nobody claimed her, so she was scheduled to be euthanized. Just in time, a group called Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals pulled her, took her to a foster home and listed her online.
Her profile was short but mentioned that she liked cats. It reminded me of Bob’s ad, and made me wonder if they were kindred spirits. (The funny thing is, we don’t even have cats.) The following weekend, we went—with Bob, of course—to an adoption event at a pet store a few hours from our house to meet her. We drove her home that afternoon.
B: What does Sylvia do while you fish?
B: You not only fish, but hunt as well. Was that something your family did? Does your husband hunt or fish with you?
B: What made you want to become a hunter?
Meanwhile, I was spending time with ranchers and loggers, many of whom hunted. I had always considered myself an environmentalist, but these hunters made me question what that really meant. They respected the animals they hunted, a paradox that intrigued me. Although I was more sentimental about my toll on the planet, they seemed to intimately understand that we all need natural resources—water, wood, oil and wildlife—to survive.
Farming—even of vegetables—is rife with death. Fields are tilled with blades that also slice voles. Combines harvest grains, shredding groundhogs along the way. To make our magazines and toilet paper, trees are logged, slaying owls. To charge our iPhones, coal is mined, destroying coyote dens. The roads we drive on, the lawns we play on—all of it used to be wildlife habitat. Hunting offered me a rare chance to come face-to-face with the animal life that sustains my own. I thought it could make me a better, truer environmentalist.
B: And did it?
B: In April, the New York Times ran your op-ed piece, “I Hunt, but the NRA Isn’t for Me.” What kind of reaction did you get?
B: What do you come away with from being outdoors—does the experience vary, depending on what you’re doing?
One challenge of hunting is to achieve this perfect state, a place between calm and alertness. If you’re too alert, you get jumpy. It’s exhausting and you can’t keep it up all day. If you’re too laid back, you miss the signs and can’t find an animal or get a shot off in time. There’s a sweet spot in there, but it takes a lot of practice.
B: I believe the number of hunters is on the decline, at least in California. Do you think the locavore movement is changing attitudes, something like the back-to-the-land movement of the ’60s and ’70s?
Some of my own reasons for learning to hunt do align with the locavore movement and its predecessor, the back-to-the-land movement. Hunting isn’t necessarily that different from, say, keeping backyard chickens, planting a garden or taking a butchery class. All are paths toward selfsufficiency, better understanding where our food comes from and procuring meat from animals that weren’t tortured in a factory farm or flown halfway across the world.
B: Did you try to teach Sylvia to hunt with you?
I did save the wings from some birds that I shot and used them to try to teach Sylvia to track a bird’s scent. I would drag a wing around the backyard and hide it behind a shrub. Then I’d let her into the yard and tell her to find the bird. This sounds odd, but she was very reluctant to use her sense of smell. Excited by the tone of my voice, she would just look all over the place. I gave up pretty quickly.
B: At some point, would you like to hunt with a dog?
My next dog will be a hunting dog. I have so much fun with Sylvia, just hanging out and playing. Fishing with her is pure, endless entertainment. But unlike a hunting dog, she isn’t making the activity any easier for me. I suspect that if we worked together as partners, as in hunting, our relationship would be even deeper. I look forward to experiencing that with my next dog. For now, though, I couldn’t be happier with my fishing dog. Not many people can say they have a dog who shares their hobby.
B: What made you decide to write The Call of the Mild?
September 3 2012
Update 9/7/2012: Good news! Dexter has been adopted. Thanks for all your interest, hope you too find that perfect dog.
Dexter is one great dog—a Jack Russell Terrier, active, super intelligent and loving. He is two and a half years old, neutered, and weighs around 18 lbs. My friend, Carol, his human mom, died of a heart attack recently and he needs a new forever home. Another friend of his mom’s is now fostering him. She has three other dogs so it is difficult for her to provide him the amount of exercise he needs. He loves playing ball and she does take him to Pt. Isabel to play chuck-it, but only once a day. He needs two good exercise sessions a day (as most young dogs do).
Dexter was raised with two Huskies, and is getting along great in his foster home with two larger old dogs, positively loving the Keeshond. He has no problems with dogs at the dog park or while walking on leash and is fine with all adult humans he has met. He might be too active for young children but he hasn’t been tested yet with a child.
For a JRT, he is an obedient, happy little pup who just needs a lot more activity than his foster person can give him. He is housetrained, sits and walks like a prince on leash. He’s not destructive, travels well in cars and likes to give loads of kisses. But he is also a typical Terrier, so it is important that he goes to a home with someone familiar with this breed type.
If you like Terriers with their tenacious, loyal hearts and want a young and active happy dog to share your life, please email us. Dexter currently lives near Berkeley. Help us find him a great home!
Husky Puppy Practices His Howl
August 29 2012
The other day a panda-loving friend shared this link with me of the San Diego’s newest panda baby. Besides being incredibly adorable, it does make one wonder how the panda evolved its distinctive circled-eyed appearance, and then I saw this video of a Husky pup learning to howl and found the resemblance sweetly surprising.
Rep. Jackie Speier calls for an investigation
August 28 2012
Rep Jackie Speier (D-Calif) did something today that deserves a Bark call-out for a job well-done. It was reported in the SF Chronicle that she “ripped” into the National Park Service for using a Taser on a man who was running with his small dogs off-leash. When he was confronted by a ranger about the leash policy (which had been newly created in that area), he, allegedly, was uncooperative and would not provide her with his name. This happened back in January in a park within the Golden Gate Recreation Area in Northern California. When the man refused to give the ranger his information, she Tasered him in his back and arrested him! Speier noted that “Many of my constituents are understandably angered by what appears to be an excessive use of force by a park ranger.” She added, “From the information I have to date, it does not appear that the use of a taser was warranted.” Speier also requested information about training in taser usage for park rangers, including the appropriate utilization and risks of tasers. She also asked how the public was informed about dog policy changes at Rancho Corral de Tierra which now require all dogs to be leashed.
Speier suggested the appointment of an independent investigator to evaluate whether park regulations were violated and excessive force was utilized in the January 29 incident. You can read more about this. We certainly think the ranger used excessive force, do you agree?
August 17 2012
Recently we got the sad news that a friend from the dog park had passed away suddenly. She was on a backpacking trip in the Sierra mountains with a group of friends when she had a heart attack, a few hours later she died at a friend’s home. It is all so horribly sad! Luckily her two dogs were not with her; they were being cared for by another friend/dogsitter back in Berkeley. Unfortunately Carol did not leave a will, she was a single woman who adored her dogs but there were no instructions about what to do if something like this would happen. I know that few of us, especially those as healthy and as robust like Carol was (even at the age of 69), think of doing such things. I don’t think we like to ponder our own mortality. The welfare of Carol’s two dogs was now in the hands of her dog sitter, a challenging assignment for anyone. Other friends at the park offered what they could by the way of advice and assistance. Luckily a woman, who had the littermate, took the Husky in, and the dog sitter kept the young Jack Russell for a while until another of the dog park pals, took him in too. All that was a great relief to everyone who knew Carol and who loved her dogs. No matter what age you are, and especially if you are a single person with dogs, it is really important to consider doing a living will or setting up a pet trust. This was a lesson to me that we simply can’t leave such important matters in the hands of others.
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