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JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Canine Role in Near Extinct Koala Populations
Experts weigh banning dogs in areas with threatened koalas.

We've written before about dogs that help conservation efforts for endangered species around the world. But in some south-east Queensland, Australia suburbs, dogs are hurting the at-risk koala population.

Following a mandate this month from Environment Minister Steven Miles, a group of koala experts—University of Queensland's Professor Jonathan Rhodes, Central Queensland's Dr. Alistair Melzer, and Dreamworld's Al Mucci--have been working on possible last-ditch solutions to stop koala extinction in Redlands, Pine Rivers, and other critical areas collectively known as the “Koala Coast.”

They found that past government policies to protect the koala's environment were not enough to manage the main threats--dogs (both domestic and wild), cars, disease and habitat loss.

One past study found that seventy percent of the 15,644 South East Queensland koalas that died between 1997 and 2011 were struck by cars, mauled by dogs, or killed by stress-related disease. As many as 80 percent of koalas have disappeared from the Koala Coast, causing some to fear that it's already too late.

According to the expert panel, koalas are found in small numbers, so the massive declines they've been seeing recently is likely to result in local extinctions for some populations within a small number of generations.

The group has come up with a number of potential solutions, one being a dog ban in these critical areas. I'm certainly not a koala expert, so I can't say if there might be a way to save koalas without eliminating dogs (also not all of the pups in question are pets, some are wild). But this issue does raise the importance of any of us with dogs to be aware of the effect our pets have on others and the world around us. I see this including everything from preventing our pets from jumping on strangers to not letting our pups run into bird nesting areas when playing on the beach. This is an important responsibility we have as our dogs' guardians.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Traveling by Sea with Dogs
Cunard cruise line's Queen Mary 2 gets a pet friendly renovation.

When Bark writer Michaele Fitzpatrick moved to Germany, she wrote about taking her pup Captain on an adventure aboard Cunard cruise line's Queen Mary 2. That ship, the only long-distance passenger vessel to carry pets, just became even more luxurious for traveling cats and dogs. The ship just underwent a $132 million renovation that includes new accommodations for the four-legged passengers.

The Queen Mary 2 doubled the onboard pet capacity to 24 kennels and created expanded play and walk areas. The canine and feline lodging is extremely popular and books months in advance at $800-1,000 per kennel. The first sailing on the newly renovated ship will be a seven-day trans-Atlantic crossing from New York City to Southampton, England.

Kennel master Oliver Cruz is in charge of caring for the pets onboard, walking, feeding, and playing with them. Their human families can visit, but can't take them back to their cabins. Oliver says that it's always hard to say goodbye to the pets on the last day because he gets very attached to them. When you're providing round-the-clock care, it's easy to form a bond in a short period of time!

Cunard ships have a history of welcoming pets, including dogs belonging to Elizabeth Taylor and the Duke of Windsor. With more people traveling with their furry family members, it's always nice to have more alternatives to flying with dogs that are too big to ride in an airplane cabin.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pokemon Go to Help Pets
Shelter encourages people to borrow a homeless pup while they play the popular game.
By now you've probably heard of the Pokemon Go phenomenon, or are even playing the game yourself. This app is getting people walking around outside in record numbers, hunting for virtual Pokemon to "capture" with their smartphones. Many have been taking their pets along too, who are no doubt enjoying some extra active time, even if it may not be the best quality time. The dog walking while playing has inspired some viral Public Service Announcements about paying attention to where you're walking for the sake of you and your pups. But there is also a lot of good coming out of the app as well. One animal shelter in Indiana has taken advantage of the latest craze to help their dogs.

Muncie Animal Shelter Superintendent Phil Peckinpaugh noticed droves of people walking and playing Pokemon Go. He thought to himself how awesome it would be if they each had a dog. So the shelter started encouraging Pokemon gamers to visit and borrow a dog to take on their next walk. All you have to do is show up at the shelter, sign a waiver, and they'll match you up with a pup. So many people came during the first weekend that the shelter ran out of leashes. 

But if you don't live near Indiana, you can still help. Many people have been promoting the use of WoofTrax's Walk for a Dog or the ResQWalk fundraising apps during their quests. Both apps are free and allow you raise money for animal rescue organizations by logging your steps. This way you can run the apps while hatching eggs and searching for critters on Pokemon Go, earning money for homeless pets with little extra effort.

As long as people are careful and sensible with the dogs they're caring for, it seems like a win-win to me!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Four Military Dogs Honored
K9 Medals of Courage were awarded last week at Capitol Hill.

Last week four incredible dogs were honored at Capitol Hill for the K9 Medal of Courage, the nation's highest honor for military dogs. The award, given for extraordinary valor and service to America, were created by philanthropist and veterans advocate Lois Pope along with the American Humane Society.

“It is important to recognize and honor the remarkable accomplishments and valor of these courageous canines,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, co-chair of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus, which hosted the event. “By helping locate enemy positions, engage the enemy, and sniff out deadly IEDs and hidden weapons, military dogs have saved countless lives in the fight for freedom.”

These are the four pups that were honored, all of which are still playing valuable roles back home.

Matty
Retired Army Specialist Brent Grommet credits Matty with saving his life, and the lives of everyone in his unit, more than once. During his time in Afghanistan, the Czech German Shepherd uncovered countless hidden IEDs (improvised explosive devices), but his work didn't stop when he returned home. Brent and Matty suffered through many attacks together, one of which left Brent with a traumatic brain injury. Today, Matty helps Brent manage the debilitating symptoms of both the visible and invisible wounds of war, bringing him a sense of security, calmness, and comfort.

Fieldy
Fieldy served four combat tours in Afghanistan, saving many lives by tracking down deadly explosives. The Black Labrador had an especially life-changing impact on U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Nick Caceres. Nick says that Fieldy offered invaluable emotional support, providing steadfast companionship, affection, and a sense of normalcy, during a time of unimaginable stress. Today Nick and Fieldy live together in retirement.

Bond
Bond has worked more than 50 combat missions, and was deployed to Afghanistan three times as a Multi-Purpose dog in his Special Operations unit. This role requires keen senses, strength, and agility to apprehend enemies and detect explosives. The toll of combat affected the Belgian Malinois' and his handler, who are both struggling with anxiety and combat trauma. Bond will be reunited with his handler in a couple of months to help ease his transition back into civilian life.

Isky
Isky has worked not only as an explosive-detection dog in Afghanistan, but also with his handler, U.S. Army Sargent Wess Brown, to safeguard four-star American generals and political personnel, including the Secretary of State in Africa and the President of the United States in Berlin.

While on one combat patrol, Isky's right leg was injured in six places, leaving the German Shepherd with so much trauma and nerve damage that it had to be amputated. But even on three legs, Isky continues to serve alongside Wess. Isky is now Wess' PTSD service dog. Wess says that there isn't a moment when he doesn't feel safe with Isky by his side.

Hats off to these amazing pups!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A Statewide Ban of Doggies in the Window
New Jersey seeks to ban retail pet sales.

According to the ASPCA, every year approximately 3.9 million dogs enter animal shelters and 1.2 million are euthanized. Meanwhile, thousands of puppy mills sell pets to stores that encourage impulse buying, which too often results in these dogs ending up at the local shelter.

New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak has been looking to break that cycle by prohibiting new pet stores in his state from selling dogs and cats from breeders. Senator Raymond feels strongly about stopping puppy mills, which put profit ahead of the humane treatment of their animals, creating health and behavioral problems.

Last week, his bill was passed in the state Senate by a 27-8 vote and is now in the hands of the Assembly. If put into law, the restriction would apply to any pet store licensed after January 12. Existing stores would not be affected.

The pet industry of course opposes the bill, claiming the legislation would make it difficult for new pet stores to open and would weaken a pet protection law that has been a model for the rest of the country. The bill revises the New Jersey Pet Protection Act and includes other additions, such as prohibiting shelters from purchasing dogs or cats from breeders or brokers, and requiring rescue organizations to be licensed in the town in which they are located.

Other cities, such as Richmond, British Columbia, West Hollywood, California, and South Lake Tahoe, Nevada, have already banned pet store dog and cat sales, but if Senator Raymond's bill passes, it would be the first statewide mandate.

While the law would not stop all stores from selling dogs and cats, it's certainly a step in the right direction.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Fourth of July Aftermath
The annual fireworks tradition doesn't mix well with pets.

Fireworks are a favorite summer ritual, but for those of us with dogs, these light shows can result in traumatized pets. We just passed the peak time for fireworks, Fourth of July, but shelters around the country are still dealing with the aftermath. The week after the holiday is a busy time for animal shelters. San Diego area shelters alone reported 90 dogs that came into their shelters on Monday night, many of which are still waiting to be claimed.

It's our responsibility to make sure our dogs are safe, and that means making sure that they're secure if they might be afraid of loud noises. I was viewing a fireworks show last weekend and was surprised to see so many people who brought their dogs. As it turned out, one pup ended up panicking and ran very close to the area where the fireworks were being lit. It didn't look like the workers could see him, so they didn't stop. Fortunately the dog was not hurt, but it really underscores how dangerous this situation could be.

This week in Atlanta, Georgia, a man was charged with animal cruelty when a video surfaced online of him lighting fireworks close to his dog. Even if it wasn't intentional (which is still being debated), it's important to know where your pets and kids are if you choose to light fireworks.

These light shows will continue throughout the summer, so it's important to be careful and keep our dogs safe.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Why Were 24 Bomb Sniffing Dogs Killed?
Suspicion surrounds a company who euthanized highly trained working pups in Kuwait.
Earlier this month, 24 bomb-sniffing civilian working dogs (CWDs) were euthanized by Eastern Securities, an American-owned company that provides explosives detection services in Kuwait. No one knows exactly why these highly trained pups were killed. Some say they were sick, while others say it was done because of a cancelled contract, or even out of revenge.

A former employee believes it was a result of Kuwait National Petroleum Company terminating their contract with Eastern Securities, which was being paid about $9.900 per month for each dog to detect explosives at oil drilling sites. Allegedly the contract was cancelled because the dogs failed to pass explosives detection tests. Another former employee believes that the dog's abilities declined over time because they weren't cared for properly.

Eastern Securities claims this is all the result of a conspiracy against them, but at least one U.S. based bomb-sniffing dog company stopped doing business with Eastern States years ago because they were "so terrible."

Esmail Al Misri, a local lawyer and animal activist, has another theory. She believes that the dogs were killed to punish 29 handlers who filed complaints with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor because they hadn't received a paycheck from Eastern Securities since April. Esmail has asked local police to investigate the killings and press criminal charges. She's also concerned about the 90 bomb-sniffing dogs that are still at Eastern Securities.

Amy Swope, one of the former employees, has started a petition asking for the U.S. Embassy to step in and save these pups. She believes that signing the petition, getting media attention, and putting pressure on our government and the Kuwaiti government is the best way to get results.

No matter what the reason, dogs aren't tools you can just throw away when they're no longer useful. These animals gave their lives to serving people, and it is up to us to protect them.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Tennis Ball Bombs
Innocuous looking explosives increase around the Fourth of July.






















My Border Collie, Scuttle, is obsessed with tennis balls. So when I found out that people turn these fuzzy yellow toys into homemade firecrackers, I was horrified. Even worse, abandoned ball bombs have been found undetonated, ready to explode.

In 2000, a man in Portland, Oregon found one while walking his pup. Thinking it was a ball, he threw it and the ball ended up exploding in the dog's mouth. The injuries sustained were so serious, the pup had to be euthanized on the spot. And just last year an Everett, Washington man found one during a hiking in Silver Lake Park, so these balls are not confined to urban areas.

Most of the official reports seem to be on the west coast, but it's relatively easy for anyone to make one, so they could turn up anywhere. Police all over the country are issuing warnings to watch out for these explosives, which become even more prevalent around the Fourth of July holiday.

It's important to be vigilant and avoid touching any stray tennis ball. If you see one, warning signs include detectable seams where the ball has been cut open, something sticking out of the ball that could be used as a fuse, or a small hole where the fuse used to be.

It's unfortunate and scary that we have to worry about these things. Stay safe this holiday weekend!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Hiking with the Help of a Pup
A guide dog helps his partner complete grueling thru-hikes.
Recently I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail and was reminded of an amazing human-canine team. Ten years ago, Trevor Thomas lost his eyesight and moved into a small room in his parent's basement. Being an avid mountain biker and snowboarder, Trevor had a hard time adjusting to his new life. He could no longer hold a job or even do simple tasks like tell time. Soon Trevor fell into a deep depression that he calls "being on death row in a self-imposed prison."

Then his life was turned around by long distance hiking and his seeing eye dog, Tennille. Trevor began in 2008 with a solo thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. He figured, if he could walk from Georgia to Maine, he could do anything. Since then Trevor has walked more than 20,000 miles on some of the country's loneliest and toughest long-distance trails.

On the trail Trevor feels normal, calling nature the great equalizer since it treats everyone the same. Trevor has learned to listen to the sound of the wind to "see" the landscape. He can tell if there are rock walls, valleys, hills, and water. Trevor says every time he comes out on the trail, his sound vocabulary grows.

Trevor would hike with his group, Team FarSight, until he got his seeing eye dog, Tennille. Since then the pair trekked nearly 6,000 miles just the two of them. They've completed North Carolina's nearly 1,000 mile Mountains to Seat Trail, the only hikers to have completed the challenge that year. In 2014, they finished the Long Trail in New England and in 2015, they did a thru hike of the 500 mile Colorado Trail.

They're an amazing team. Tennille knows how tall Trevor is and can warn him about low-handing branches. She can also find trails, water, and even campsites. Trevor says he's the big picture guy and Tennille does the "detail stuff." They're perfect hiking partners together.

Now Trevor lives independently in Charlotte, N.C. and makes a living speaking to others about what you can you achieve when you push your limits. Trevor and Tennille are currently on the Appalachian Trail again and you can follow their progress on Facebook.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Ravens Player Sets an Adoption Example
Football star, Ronnie Stanley, requested a "not-so-adoptable" pup at the shelter.
























Some lucky dogs, usually cute puppies, are adopted quickly from animal shelters, while others have to wait years to find a forever home. It's not fair, but sadly the pets that fall into this category are typically older, disabled, or just not as conventionally "cute" as the other pups. Also statistics show that dogs that look remotely like a Pit Bull, or are dark colored, have a harder time being adopted. Fortunately not everyone is willing to overlook these dogs.

Ronnie Stanley, a star player on the Baltimore Ravens football team, set a great example earlier this month when he and his girlfriend decided to add a dog to their family. Not only did they decide to adopt, when they arrived at BARCS animal shelter, Ronnie made a request that shelter workers don't hear that often. Ronnie said they were looking for a dog who had been at the shelter for a long time and was considered "not-so-adoptable." You can imagine the shelter workers were elated!

After meeting several potential pups, Ronnie and his girlfriend decided on Winter, a pup first discovered dehydrated and scared on a vacant property on a hot summer day. Winter has a low hanging belly, most likely from overbreeding, a condition that caused her to be overlooked by most shelter visitors. Ronnie was more interested in getting kisses from his new canine pal.

Ronnie wasn't the only Ravins player at the shelter that day. He also brought along his teammate, Alex Lewis, who ended up helping shelter workers carry heavy bags of pet food while Ronnie was taking his adoption class. Alex has two of his own rescue dogs at home.

I hope others will be inspired by Ronnie and Winter to take a second look at those "not-so-adoptable" pups at the shelter.

 

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