Home
JoAnna Lou

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

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Finding Maddox
CA woman embarks on a mission to find her lost dog

Fortunately I've never had a missing pet, but just the thought of not knowing where my dogs are makes me feel a little bit panicked.

Jackie Vestal's Minature Pincher, Maddox, has been missing since Christmas Eve and she's been on a desperate search for the 7-year old pup ever since.

The Los Angeles woman rarely left home without Maddox, but she had to leave him with a friend in Oklahoma City while spending time in Texas during the holidays. Maddox was only there for a day when he bolted from the house, perhaps looking for Jackie. That night Jackie and her husband made the three-hour drive back to Oklahoma City to begin the search.

Jackie did the usual driving around the neighborhood and posting hundreds of fliers around the neighborhood. She also issued a pet amber alert that sent pre-recorded messages to vet offices, neighbors, and shelters, and made hundred of fliers to post around the neighborhood. Calls came trickling in, but none of them were the right dog.

Jackie knew that she had to get creative if she wanted to find Maddox.  She alerted the media, rented billboard space, and appeared on three different local television stations and a local dog talk show.

In addition, she hired a pet detective who flew in from Nebraska with scent dogs to try to track Maddox's scent. They're also using a method called Attract and Capture, a process that takes time but won't scare Maddox off. Jackie set up 13 feeding stations and a couple of deer cameras. For the stations without cameras, there is sand to track footprints. As soon as they see Maddox on camera and know he keeps coming back to the same feeding station, they'll set up a trap.

It's been almost 100 days since Maddox went missing and Jackie has taken a leave of absence from her job in Los Angeles to focus on finding him in Oklahoma City.

In the process of looking for Maddox, Jackie has also helped a lot of other dogs. There have been a lot of false leads and in following them, she's found a lot of dogs that aren't Maddox. Jackie has helped get 13 dogs off the street and into foster homes or back at home with their families.

Not everyone has Jackie's means to take time off from work or buy a billboard, but I think all pet lovers can relate to wanting to do everything possible to locate a lost loved one. Have you had any unconventional methods work to bring a lost dog home?

If you'd like to help out in the search for Maddox, visit Jackie's Facebook page, Twitter feed, or web site.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Understanding the Human Mind
Study looks at whether dogs understand our point of view

My Sheltie, Nemo, is a master food thief. He seems to wait for the perfect moment to make his move. Given how successful Nemo is, I think he's learned to read me very well over the years. But can dogs really understand what's going through our head? Most pet lovers, including myself, would say yes.

Dr. Juliane Kaminski of the University of Portsmouth decided to explore this question. Her latest study begins to look at whether dogs have a flexible understanding of the human mind. And it turns out that canines are more capable of understanding our point of view than previously thought.

In Dr. Kaminski's study, people and their dogs were put in a room with food that they were not allowed to eat. Then the researchers varied the amount of light in the room and recorded whether or not the dogs stole the food. The scientists found that the dogs were four times more likely to steal food when the lights were turned off. This suggests that our pets consider what we can or cannot see, meaning that they might have an understanding of the human perspective.  

It's always been assumed that only primates have a truly flexible understanding of the mind and others' minds. Dr. Kaminski's findings are an important step to learning a dog's ability to understand how we think and behave. I can't wait to see more research in this area.  

 
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pope Blesses Guide Dog
An Italian reporter has a special day at the Vatican

I love that Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose a name inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi, a monk famously known for his kindness to animals. Since being elected one week ago, Pope Francis has already had an opportunity to show a little canine admiration.

When Italian radio journalist, Alessandro Forlani, showed up with his guide dog, Asià, to cover one of the Pope's first addresses to the media, security guards told him that dogs were not allowed inside the Vatican. But officials eventually let him in and seated the pair near the front row.

After the speech, officials approached Alessandro and Asià explaining that the Pope spotted the Yellow Labrador and wanted to meet both of them.

Walking up to the stage, Alessandro shook the Pope's hand and asked him to bless his wife and daughter. Pope Francis then patted Asià on the head and added, "a special blessing for [your] dog too."

Alessandro was humbled by the welcome and noted that Pope Francis broke the ceremonial rules since their presence on the stage wasn't previously arranged.

Since being elected Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio's every move has been scrutinized. I hope that this modest gesture reflects his compassion and love of animals!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Vodka Saves Puppy in Australia
Alcohol to the rescue in the case of antifreeze overdose

Earlier this year, a dog in Melbourne, Australia gave new meaning to the term alcohol overdose. When Cloe, an American Staffordshire Terrier, acted disoriented her family became worried. The next day she stopped eating and began crying out in pain. At that point Cloe’s family rushed the 9-week old puppy to the emergency hospital and the veterinarian, Dr. Matt Pascall, immediately suspected antifreeze poisoning.

It was too late to induce vomiting so Dr. Pascall thought up of a rather unconventional treatment. He knew that pure alcohol would neutralize the effects of ethylene glycol, the toxic ingredient in antifreeze, but the hospital didn’t have anything on hand that would fit the bill. Then Dr. Pascall remembered that there was a bottle of vodka in his car. He reasoned that the alcoholic drink would mop up the toxins destroying Cloe’s kidneys.

Dr. Pascall put Cloe on a vodka drip via an IV tube that led from Cloe’s nose into her stomach. Over the course of two days, Cloe consumed more than one third of the bottle of vodka, the equivalent of a person downing seven or eight shots every four hours. Amazingly the treatment was successful and Cloe is now healthy and back at home with her family thanks to Dr. Pascall’s resourcefulness.

Cloe was a lucky pup, but her story underscores the importance of recognizing the signs of antifreeze poisoning. Symptoms include drunken behavior, vomiting, excessive urination, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, depression, seizures, and fainting. The toxin works quickly, so if you notice any of these behavior changes, it’s important to get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Teaching Dogs to Swim
NYC pet rehabilitation center gives lessons in treading water

I'm not a big fan of the water and it must have rubbed off on my dogs because none of them like to swim. But it would be a useful skill for them to learn because I would love to let my crew cool off during summer hikes and maybe even take them kayaking with me one day.

I always thought swimming just came naturally to some pups while others were destined to hate the water, but an animal rehabilitation center in New York City is teaching urban dogs to tread efficiently in the pool.

Water4Dogs' main service is to rehabilitate injured dogs by underwater treadmill and pool, but they also offer swim lessons for healthy pups. The instructors teach dogs to get their front and back legs to work in sync and to get used to different textures in the water. Many dogs that come to Water4Dogs to heal end up returning on a regular basis for fun and exercise.

If you've ever seen my Sheltie, Nemo, swim, you'd understand why he needs lessons. He can technically swim, but he's very inefficient, flailing his leds and expending loads of energy. Perhaps we'll pay a visit to Water4Dogs!

Do your pups naturally like swimming?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Puppies for Breast Cancer Awareness
Cosmo uses cute dogs to remind women about monthly health checks

Everyday my Facebook News Feed is filled with viral photos of adorable baby animals. The U.K. edition of Cosmopolitan magazine and CoppaFeel! are capitalizing on this trend to promote a good cause.

This month they launched a new breast cancer awareness campaign called Check Your Puppies!, which features photos of cute dogs behind lacy bras. Every month Cosmopolitan will post a new picture on Facebook and Twitter to remind women to do their monthly breast check. The campaign is encouraging people to help spread the message by sharing the cute photos with their friends.

According to CoppaFeel!, over a third of women never check their breasts and a disproportionate amount of these women are between the ages of 18 and 35, Cosmopolitan’s main fan base. With a one in eight chance of getting breast cancer, making self-checks a ritual is a must since early detection saves lives. The Check Your Puppies! campaign is aimed at reaching the young demographic.

Not everyone is happy with the new initiative, saying that referring to breasts as puppies is yet another way to objectify the female body by using silly language. I can see how some people might be offended by this campaign or find that it trivializes the disease, but if it helps even one person detect cancer in time for successful treatment, it’s definitely worth it.

Breast cancer has touched too many of my friends and family members. I think we have to be innovative in how we reach women and get the word out on prevention. Plus who can complain about getting to see a new pair of cute puppies every month?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Apartments Appeal to Dog Lovers
Real estate jumps on the pet industry bandwagon

With Americans spending more than $50 billion a year on their pets, the companion animal industry has been a lucrative one to capitalize on in recent years. The real estate business is no exception. Particularly with the economic downturn, I’ve seen a lot of apartments in New York add special perks to woo dog lovers. We’re an attractive bunch since the pet industry was less affected by the recession.

Metro areas are where the most swanky amenities are showing up. Washington D.C.’s Senate Square apartments offer a rooftop dog park and side-by-side water fountains for humans and canines. And they’re not alone.  A nearby complex that recently broke ground will have a pet spa with an outside dog walk area. Perks at other buildings include dog washing stations (very convenient for a small apartment!) and dog swim hours at the pool.

For apartments that can't build amenities (New York City is pretty tight space wise!), The Spot Experience has been partnering with residential buildings in Manhattan to offer a canine concierge of services that include daycare, dog walking, grooming, and training services with special shuttle service.

These amenities are really cool, but given that non-pet friendly housing is one of the top reasons people abandon animals at shelters, it's interesting to read that more apartments are catering to pet lovers. I’ve found that it's not hard to find high-end apartments that roll out the red carpet for pets, but it can be difficult to find dog friendly housing that’s also affordable. In my searches, I've always had to pay a little bit more than market value to rent in a pet friendly building, particularly one without breed or weight restrictions.

What has been your experience finding dog friendly housing?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Overpopulation by the Numbers
The sobering statistics of puppy mills and shelters

The pet overpopulation problem can feel really overwhelming at times and it can be hard to see if rescue efforts are making a real difference. I recently read an article that looked at the juxtaposition of compassion and cruelty--the side of the pet world that pampers our animals like children versus the side that kills millions of them each year. The statistics are sobering, but also provides a little hope (we've greatly reduced euthanasia numbers over the last few decades). I found that looking at the statistics helped me better understand the problem and some of the possible root causes, so I wanted to share a few of the most haunting numbers.

  • At any given time approximately six to eight million pets are in a shelter
  • Only about half of shelter animals will find a forever home
  • Three to four million pets are euthanized each year at shelters across the country
  • Of the pets received by shelters, 30 to 50 percent are "owner surrenders" (the most common reasons: the new landlord didn't allow pets, they had too many animals, and they couldn't afford the cost of food and veterinary care)
  • Puppy mills produce approximately two million animals a year
  • The Animal Welfare Act, the sole federal law regulating puppy mills, only requires that an animal be kept in a cage six inches longer than its body in any direction
  • A study on pet shops and puppy mills in California found that 44 percent of those visited had sick or neglected animals

The article also talked about the rise of puppy mills after World War II. According to dog rescue organizations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture encouraged farmers devastated by the Great Depression to breed puppies as a new "cash crop" for the growing pet store market. That combined with a general view of animals as disposable, overcrowded shelters by 1970 and led to the euthanasia of over 20 million animals.

The good news is that the euthanasia number has decreased significantly to three million. While still huge, we've certainly made a lot of progress since 1970. I think this is due in part to a changing view of pets as part of the family and the internet as an educational resource. This has also spurred spay/neuter efforts, an increase in rescue and advocacy organizations, and an increase in legal action for animal cruelty.

So while the numbers can feel insurmountable, it’s important to see the progress we’ve made and how we can use the statistics to fuel future efforts.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mysterious Death of a Show Dog
Champion Samoyed dies four days after Westminster

Earlier this month Cruz, a Champion Samoyed, was at the top of his game, trotting around the breed ring at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Just four days later the three-year old was at the emergency vet, dying of symptoms consistent with ingesting rat poison. No necropsy was performed, so it's unclear what killed Cruz. But if the suspicions are true, Cruz would have had to have eaten the poison while in New York for the show. Ingesting this type of toxin takes approximately three to five days for physical symptoms to surface.

The mysterious tragedy stirred up long held tensions between show breeders and animal activists who believe that purebred competitions are inhumane. Cruz's veterinarian felt that it was unlikely the Samoyed had been deliberately poisoned, but Robert Chaffin, Cruz's handler, believes that the activists may be to blame.

Robert has been retracing every step--a flight from New York back home (Cruz didn't even have to ride in the cargo hold), a pre-competition steak dinner, and conversations and remarks from show attendees--but is at a loss for what happened. Show dogs are watched carefully and Robert doesn't think that Cruz could've ingested anything bad under his watch.

Over the years I've heard rumors circulate about PETA supporters targeting show dogs by adding antifreeze to water bowls or throwing unidentified liquids at crates. The fear isn't exactly unfounded and goes back as far as the late 1800's when eight dogs were poisoned at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The scandal made the front page of the New York Times and the motive was believed to be jealousy. But in the case of the extreme animal activists, I rarely see concrete proof to back up the rumors.

Nonetheless, it's a horrific thought that an animal lover would deliberately harm a dog. The accusation continues to divide a community that should be working towards the same ideals--promoting the best interests of the animals we love. Is there no way that we can find common ground?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet Food Stamps
Nonprofit seeks to keep families together by giving out kibble

The downturn in the economy has meant difficult decisions for many people, including pet lovers. Animal shelters have been inundated with relinquished dogs and cats, while families worry about how they will put food on the table.

In recent years, food banks have realized this struggle and many have added pet food to their shelves. There’s even been a rise in dedicated pet food pantries. But unfortunately many people don’t live near any of these resources.

That problem inspired Marc Okon to create Pet Food Stamps earlier this month, so that people wouldn’t have to give up their pets or choose between feeding their families or their beloved animals.

There’s clearly a real need for the new organization. In the first two weeks, the nonprofit got more than 12,000 requests for pet food. To qualify, families must prove they’re receiving assistance from the state. If approved, they’ll get a monthly allotment to spend at Pet Food Direct. 

Pet Food Stamps will be looking for federal funds and grants, but in the meantime they’re in need of monetary donations to carry out their mission. Marc's organization is a great way to reach people across the country, no matter where they live, and will hopefully help keep families together in these tough economic times.

Pages