JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
News: JoAnna Lou
While scouting pups in need, a Canadian rescue organization ends up buying a shelter in Israel.
April 7 2016
A few years ago Danielle Eden and her husband Rob Scheinberg were in their home country of Israel when they encountered four street dogs they decided to rescue and bring back to their current home in Canada. Inspired by the pups in need, they decided to create Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary in King City, Ontario, a custom made haven for animals waiting to be adopted. The 50-acre sanctuary features dogs in luxurious rooms decorated with chandeliers, paintings, and custom beds that look like antique furniture. The goal is to create a special space for people to interact with their next potential family member.
In honor of the original rescues, Danielle and Rob regularly go back to Israel and work with local shelter staff to identify dogs to bring back to Canada. Typically these are the pups that have been waiting the longest, because of their age or a disability. In January Danielle and Rob visited a shelter that took overcrowded to a new level. There were 250 dogs crammed in a space for 70. Dogs were fighting over bread and there were rats everywhere. For once it was not obvious which pups were in the most need, because they all were.
Danielle and Rob couldn't bring all of the dogs back with them to Canada, but couldn't bear to turn their backs on any of the pups. So they made the decision to purchase the shelter and take responsibility for all of the dogs there. Danielle and Rob were lucky to have the local ties to be able to make this happen.
It's been a busy last four months as they relocated 90 of the dogs to other, more adequate, rescues in Israel, brought 25 to Canada, and assembled a team to clean up the shelter and socialize the remaining pups. Half of the dogs brought to their shelter in Canada have been adopted.
Some have criticized Danielle and Rob for spending resources rescuing dogs in Israel, when they could be helping more animals in Canada (they do rescue locally as well). While that's a valid point, Danielle and Rob clearly have a connection to the country and have made a difference in many dogs' lives there.
News: JoAnna Lou
An autistic boy nearly loses his pup for good when the Weimaraner runs away without identification.
April 1 2016
Last August, the Carlisle family moved from Alabama to Florida with their autistic son's service dog in tow. However, during their first few days there, Delilah, a six year old Weimaraner, panicked in the new environment and escaped from their apartment.
Delilah had been by eight year old Zack's side since she was a puppy, detecting his seizures, providing comfort, and helping him communicate. Delilah draws Zack out of his shell and is often the only one who can get him to talk.
The family searched for days, handling out flyers and checking the local animal shelter, without luck. Zack was lost without Delilah. Then, in November, Zack's mom, Michele, came across a photo of Delilah on the Facebook page of a shelter 45 minutes away. But the family's excitement didn't last for long. The Humane Society of Tampa Bay had put Delilah up for adoption since she didn't have identification tags or a microchip. And the lovable pup found a home within days.
Meanwhile, Delilah's new family bonded with her for three months and initially refused to give her up. According to the Humane Society, dogs without identification no longer belong to the original owner after three days, so they didn't legally have to return her. But after hearing how distraught Zack was, they finally agreed to give her back, leading to an emotional reunion yesterday. Many people have offered the other family a new dog, but they're going to hold off for now and take some time to heal.
This story underscores how important it is to microchip your pet. They provide a back-up when identification tags fall off, and can also prove ownership. Getting a microchip put in your pet takes only a few minutes and many animal shelters have low cost clinics, so it seems like a no brainer!
News: JoAnna Lou
Arizona shelter worker camps out until an overlooked pup finds a forever home.
March 30 2016
Lizzy, a three year old Pit Bull Terrier mix, had been passed over by potential adopters countless times at the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control Shelter in Phoenix. Her breed already put her at a disadvantage, but Lizzy also had a missing eye and behavioral issues that require her to be an only pet. However shelter worker Melissa Gable knew that Lizzy was special and deserved a great home.
Concerned that people weren't seeing past Lizzy's physical appearance, Melissa decided to organize a "Pit-In," based on the 1960's protest sit-ins, to bring attention to the dog's plight. So a few weeks ago, Melissa set up Camp Lizzy, which consisted of a tent, air mattress, computer, and 60's themed decorations. She vowed to stay there until Lizzy found a forever home. The plan worked out even better than expected. Less than five hours after Camp Lizzy officially opened, Lizzy was adopted and went home with her new family.
Pit-Ins could be a cool way for other animal shelters to promote homeless bully breeds and bring attention to these lovely pups. I hope that Melissa and Lizzy's story also inspires others to come up with creative ways to increase adoptions!
News: JoAnna Lou
Bomb sniffing pups are at a premium these days.
March 25 2016
As terrorist attacks sadly become increasingly common, more countries are incorporating detection dogs into their national security plan. Since 9/11, the number of canines deployed to the nation's transportation hubs has surged 400 percent. And with recent events, these pups are often called on to patrol other places, like malls and other popular tourist areas.
Earlier this month, Cynthia Otto, Executive Director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, testified at a Congressional hearing on homeland security canines that the demand for detection pups has increased to the point where the quality of dogs has suffered and the price has increased dramatically.
No agency outside of the United States military employs more bomb-sniffing canines than the Transportation Security Administration. This year, more than $120 million is budgeted for the TSA to place nearly a thousand bomb-sniffing dogs at airports, train stations, and other transportation spots, however they are having a hard time meeting that target since they don't have enough qualified pups. The TSA must replace 100 or more dogs per year because of retirement, health problems, or declining performance. For the first time since 9/11, the agency is seeking to purchase privately trained dogs. Previously all TSA pups were trained by federal employees at their dedicated facility at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas (you may remember an article we wrote back in November about this center's adoption program to find homes for dogs that didn't graduate from the program).
Sue Kjellsen of K2 Solutions, a company that supplies and trains IED detection pups for the military says that the demand for high quality Labradors has forced them to start looking abroad for pups. Eastern Europe has been a popular source because dogs there have been historically bred for police and other detection work. In America, dogs tend to be bred for companionship and show, which eliminates many breeders.
According to Sue, the dogs from K2 can search about 200 people per minute. Even technology can't replace these talented canines. TSA explosives detection handler Doug Timerlake says that no machine can detect the presence of explosive materials a way a dog can. While machines can confirm the presence of explosive substances, they can't reason and problem solve to find the source. Dogs can also work off leash to monitor open spaces and large areas more easily.
Most people don't believe going overseas for dogs is a good long term solution. There have been many alternatives proposed, such as expanding the breeds considered for detection work and creating a national breeding program, but it's still a dilemma being worked through.
These dogs play an important and unique role in our security. I just hope these programs don't forget that they're not merely looking at numbers that can be adjusted to find the most cost effective solution. They are living, breathing animals that deserve the best care and decision making around their future in this country.
News: JoAnna Lou
The train line has been developing a program to include pets on trips.
March 24 2016
A year ago, the White House and House of Representatives passed a bill to continue government funding for Amtrak. It also required the train line become pet friendly. While both political sides didn't fully agree, it was thought that the pet-related part of the bill won over many representatives for the bi-partisan vote. The provision was included in the bill by California Representative Jeff Denham who had been advocating for pet friendly trains since he realized several years ago that he couldn't ride Amtrak with his French Bulldog, Lily.
When the bill was passed, Amtrak had already been testing a small pilot program in Illinois, but this legislation gave the train line a year to figure out the parameters of an official program.
They took the time to expand the pilot program to include the popular Northeast Regional and Downeaster routes (from Norfolk, Va. to Brunswick, Me.), which was a success. Animal lovers were thrilled and the $25 pet fee made Amtrak nearly $500,000 in extra revenue. During the October to March pilot period, 4,600 passengers traveled with pets. In that time, Amtrak didn't receive a single piece of negative feedback from customers who shared cars with a furry passenger. Instead passengers wanted Amtrak to include other pets (currently only cats and dogs are allowed) and to increase the current 20-pound limit.
Last month Amtrak announced that the Northeast Regional and Downeaster routes would become permanent pet routes and expanded the program to include longer trips up to seven hours in length (that means the Auto Train from Virginia to Florida wouldn't be included). They also announced a new pilot program on the Acela Express that will run into June.
Because the program limits five pet reservations per car, Amtrak recommends booking pet spots early. Dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old and fit in a carrier that can go under the seat (19" x 14" x 10.5" or smaller). For safety reasons, animals must be able to sit and lie down comfortably without touching the sides of the carrier. While riders may not be asked for it, passengers are required to have their pets' vaccination records on hand. Quiet and cafe cars remain humans only.
As Amtrak is phasing in the pet program, they're still working through challenges. For instance, in some regions, passengers may be transported between train stations on buses that aren't pet friendly. Also Amtrak will sometimes arrange lodging for delayed passengers, and finding a pet friendly hotel adds an extra complication. However, Amtrak is committed to expanding the program.
It's always great to have another pet friendly travel option. I hope that Amtrak not only expands the program to other regions and routes, but also finds a way to include larger dogs as well. Pups that don't fit under a passenger seat (by train or by air) are forced to travel essentially as plane cargo. Hpoefully Amtrak can one day provide an alternative.
News: JoAnna Lou
Californian pup survives five weeks after falling off of a fishing boat.
March 18 2016
Last month, Nick Haworth was chartering a small fishing boat two miles off the coast of Southern California when his canine crew member, Luna, fell overboard and disappeared. Nick immediately called for help and started a search for the 1.5 year old German Shepherd/Husky mix. Even Navy crews from nearby San Clemente Island helped by looking for Luna from land and air. Sadly after two days of searching, Luna was still nowhere to be found. Nick was heartbroken.
But five weeks later, Luna miraculously showed up near a naval facility on the island. Crew members found her sitting by the main road, ready to be rescued. As soon as they opened the door and whistled, Luna jumped right in.
Navy wildlife biologist Melissa Booker surmised that Luna was hard to spot because her tan and black coloring blended in with the island's vegetation. They think Luna swam to shore not long after falling from the boat, and survived on her own on the island for over a month. When they found her, she was a bit malnourished, but otherwise healthy. There was evidence that Luna survived by eating small rodents.
Domestic animals are not usually allowed on San Clemente Island, so the Navy members had fun with her during her stay. Naval Air Base Commander Stephen Barnett bestowed a special dog tag on the survivor which read, "For Luna, keep the faith."
Nick was overjoyed to learn that Luna had been found, but her resilience didn't surprise her. "I always knew she was a warrior."
News: JoAnna Lou
New research suggests that canines may have a similar sense to migratory birds.
March 17 2016
On the surface, dogs and birds don't seem like they have much in common. But a group of scientists in Germany may have uncovered an interesting similarity.
Many animals use the Earth's magnetic field for orientation and navigation. The most famous are probably migratory birds, which have been studied extensively, but others with this ability include select insects, fish, reptiles, and mammals.
Scientists attribute birds' magnetic sense to cryptochomes, light-sensitive molecules. Cryptochromes are a class of flavroproteins that are sensitive to blue light. They're involved in the circadian rhythms of plants and animals, and for some species, in the sensing of magnetic fields. Birds have cryptochrome 1a in their eyes' photoreceptors, which are activated by light to react to the magnetic field. But could our pups have this same ability?
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research have recently detected cryptochrome 1 (the mammal equivalent to the birds' cryptochrome 1a) in the photoreceptors of several mammal species, making it possible that these animals may also have a magnetic sense that is linked to their visual system. Out of 90 mammal species that they looked at, they only found cryptochrome in a few species from the carnivore and primate groups. This included dog-like carnivores, such as dogs, wolves, bears, foxes, and badgers, but not cat-like carnivores, such as cats, lions, and tigers.
It's possible that the cryptochrome could control other functions, like circadian rhythms or help with color perception, but because of their location the researchers believe that this is unlikely. The cryptochrome is located in the blue- to UV-sensitive cone photoreceptors, just like the birds.
There is other evidence that dogs and other similar species can perceive the Earth's magnetic field. For example, foxes are more successful at catching mice when they pounce on them in a north-east direction.
However, this is not to say that the cryptochrome is the only indicator of sensitivity to the Earth's magnetic field. Rodents and bats react to magnetic fields, but don't contain active cryptochrome.
The scientists hope to further explore this finding and discover if dogs do have the ability to sense the Earth's magnetic field.
News: JoAnna Lou
A dog picks up on health problems within a Scottish family.
March 11 2016
Five year old Mark Cannon and his family's Dogue de Bordeaux, Alfie, have been inseparable since birth. And early on, Alfie has always insisted on walking on Mark's right side. Eventually the family had Mark's eyes checked and found that Alfie knew something was wrong all along. A school optometrist diagnosed Mark with astigmatism in his right eye. It turns out that Mark was almost blind in that eye and his parents think that Alfie stood by Mark's right side to act as a guide. The doctors say that Mark could've gone completely blind in both eyes if they didn't catch the condition when they did. Astigmatism can often be corrected when it's caught before the age of seven.
Since then Mark has been wearing an eye patch on his left eye to help strengthen the right one. His vision is getting stronger, but Alfie still walks on Mark's right side. Even if you try to walk Alfie on the other side, he'll push until he can get to his "spot."
Amazingly, this isn't the only time that Alfie helped with a diagnosis. Last August the family noticed that Alfie would sniff and lick the back legs of their other dog, Cass. When they brought her to the veterinarian, Cass was diagnosed with a tumor in her back leg, exactly where Alfie had been sniffing and licking.
Dogs can be quite perceptive, not getting swept up in the hectic rituals of every day life. We just need to make sure to listen to them! Has your pup ever alerted you to a problem?
News: JoAnna Lou
New sport encourages people and their pups to jump, run, and crawl.
March 9 2016
In recent years we've had a surge in new dog sports, such as rally obedience and nosework. It's great to have so many different ways to spend quality time with your pup. Now there's another activity to try!
You may have seen videos online of people doing parkour, a sport typically practiced in urban areas that involves negotiating a complex environment as efficiently as possible. Originally developed as obstacle course training for the French military, parkour includes running, climbing, vaulting, jumping, and rolling.
When Ohio dog trainer Karin Coyne and veterinarian Abigail Curtis picked up parkour as a hobby in 2011, they realized their dogs would love doing this too! Soon they started training their pups to leap onto surfaces, run around obstacles, and crawl under spaces, and eventually began teaching classes. The duo had a diverse mix of students showing that anyone could participate from puppies to older pups. Many fearful dogs even gained confidence through canine parkour.
People from around the world started contacting Karin and Abigail asking about canine parkour, So they founded the International Dog Parkour Association to build the sport. The organization allows people and their pups to earn titles to commemorate new skills no matter where they live. It's up to individuals to teach the behaviors, practice, and then take a video of their dog confidently and safely navigating the obstacles. For example, at the novice level, dogs have to perform three different skills on a given obstacle.
What's cool about canine parkour is that it encourages people and their dogs to interact with the environment. You can practice and build skill almost anywhere!
News: JoAnna Lou
Vets are seeing an increase in fractured carnassial teeth.
March 3 2016
My dogs love antler chews. When my Border Collie, Scuttle, was a puppy, it was the only way I could get her to chill while I got chores done around the house (besides using her crate). But recently a friend's pup fractured a tooth on an antler, prompting me to do a little research on these beloved treats. According to United Kingdom based DentalVets, veterinarians have been seeing an increase in fractured carnassial teeth from hard chews, some resulting in surgical extraction or root canal therapy. While fractured teeth aren't uncommon, damage to the carnassial teeth at the back of the mouth is.
This shift has caused some shops to stop stocking hard chews, like antlers and bull horns. Three years ago a group of concerned veterinarians and nurses wrote to the Veterinary Times to spread the word about the potential danger. This sparked a multi-year study on the effect of various types of chews on dog teeth, research that has recently concluded and will be submitted for publication soon.
While many dogs use these chews without problems, if you do give your pups these products, it's important to monitor your dogs' teeth and take them to the veterinarian for their annual checkups. Most pets with tooth fractures don't show any signs of pain, so we have to pay close attention to how our pups use these chews. The American Animal Hospital Association has a helpful article on canine tooth fractures.
According to oral veterinary surgeon, Rachel Perry, many people assume bones and antlers are beneficial because dogs in the wild eat these chews. But we shouldn't assume what animals do in the wild is necessarily safe. Rachel cites a study that looked at the skulls of Wild African Dogs. The scientists found that 41 percent had periodontal disease and 48 percent had broken teeth. So we may not want to follow exactly what these pups are doing!
Rachel recommends two simple tests to determine if a chew is too hard. If you can dig your fingernail in it and make an impression, it's safe. If you can whack your knee with it, and it doesn't hurt, it's okay.
If your dog has suffered dental injury from a chew, DentalVets advocates getting a vet report and reporting the damage to the pet store that you bought the product from. This will create greater awareness
Do your pups like antlers and other hard chews?
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