JoAnna Lou

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

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Tagging Cars for Lost Pets
Lost Dogs Illinois comes up with a creative way to get the word out

When a dog is lost, there are only so many places where you can post fliers to get the word out. That conundrum is exactly what makes Lost Dogs Illinois' latest idea particularly brilliant. Some of the organization's members have been "tagging" their cars by using paint pens to write lost pet information on the windows, similar to what students do to celebrate graduation or homecoming events.

It's the perfect way to reach a wide audience to help get a lot dog home.  The paint pens can be purchased at most big box stores, like Walmart, or craft stores.

Instead of car tagging, you can also post a flier on the inside of the back windows or affix a sign to the car itself using tape or magnets. Whichever method you choose, be sure to check with your local police department because writing on car windows or hanging signs is illegal in some areas.

Do you have any creative ideas for getting the word out about lost pets?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Magazine Features Rescue Pups
Town & Country includes twelve shelter dogs in their fashion spread

Last week I wrote about the increasing popularity of pet adoption, with homeless dogs regularly featured on television and increasing numbers of celebrities promoting rescue. Now highbrow magazine Town & Country is joining the cause. Their November issue features models posing with twelve rescue dogs from the Humane Society of New York. The fashion spread, shot by famed photographer Elliott Erwitt in Manhattan’s Central Park, highlights a variety of dogs from a tiny Wirehaired Dachshund mix named Hope to a oversized Great Dane named Bellini.

Elliott was the perfect photographer for the job, having photographed many humans and dogs over the years. He's also supplied the pictures to fill four canine photography books.  

I love that this fashion spread worked towards a positive outcome on multiple levels. Not only does Town & Country's November issue create widespread awareness for adoption, but all twelve featured pups have already found forever homes!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Double Leash Tangles Lost Dogs
Golden Retriever breaks free and leads the way to his brother

I've been fortunate that none of my pets have ever run away from home.  I would be unbelievably panicked if one dog was lost, so I can only imagine the heart attack Penny Blackwell was having when both of her Golden Retrievers disappeared from her yard last month in Sandwich, Mass.  Complicating matters, the two dogs were attached together by a double leash, making it harder to escape any danger they might encounter.

Penny plastered the neighborhood with fliers, organized group searches, and spread alerts on Facebook, but Bailey and Baxter were nowhere to be found.  After two weeks, Penny was just about to give up hope when a friend found Bailey after seeing her Facebook post.

Once Baxter and Penny were reunited, Baxter led her into the woods and directly back to Bailey, who was tangled in the forest.  Bailey was so excited to see Penny that she could barely get him free.  It turns out that the double leash  became intertwined in the brush, trapping the dogs for weeks.  Thankfully Baxter was eventually able to break out to get help and is certainly a hero for going back to find Bailey.  Miraculously both were in good condition despite losing nearly 10 pounds.

In the past I've been tempted to get something like a double leash that would make it easier to walk both of my dogs tangle free.  But after hearing about Bailey and Baxter, I think I'll just stick with two regular leashes.  It wasn't clear from the story whether the two Goldens were supervised when they escaped, but there's always the potential to drop a leash by accident.  Any lead or collar can get stuck on something, but a double leash would definitely make it harder to navigate busy roads or outrun a predator.  

What has been your experience with double leashes? 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New Royal Rescue
The Duchess of Cornwall adopts her second Jack Russell

I always knew that rescue dogs were special and, having recently added my first shelter pup to the family, I've become more aware of the joys of adopting. Rescuing animals has become more popular and mainstream in recent years, perhaps due in part to the many celebrities who've done a great job of promoting pet adoption.  

In the U.K., Queen Elizabeth is well known for her pedigreed Corgis, but I was delighted to learn about some of the royal pups with more humble beginnings.  

Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, just adopted her second Jack Russell Terrier earlier this month. 9-week old Bluebell joins 1-year old Beth, a dog that Camilla also rescued as a puppy from the Battersea Dogs and Cat Home in England.    

Bluebell was found by the rescue group in a local park, scared and suffering from a severe skin condition. Now the puppy is healthy and happy in her new home at the Clarence House, also the former residence of Queen Elizabeth and her Corgis.

I love that Bluebell found a loving home and that Camilla chose to go the rescue route for a second time. I'm sure her choice will influence others in England to adopt!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Strong Bond Takes a Pup Miles from Home
Husky travels over two miles to find his person at the hospital
When John Dolan was admitted to New York's Good Samaritan Medical Center earlier this month, his Husky, Zander, started whining and moping around the house. After a few days, the 7-year old dog went missing. It wasn't unusual for the furry escape artist to slip out the back door unnoticed, but John's family was shocked to find Zander at the hospital.

Incredibly, the Husky traveled over two miles, under a major road and across a four-lane highway to find John, in an area of town the dog had never visited. A hospital employee found Zander across the street from the hospital and informed a very surprised John. The dog has been like a child to John ever since he adopted the pup five years ago from a local shelter. This adventure clearly shows the special relationship that they have.

Every now and then I hear about these amazing dogs who find their families, miles away from home. We may never know how these brave pups do it, but it's certainly a testament to the human canine bond.

I'm also glad that Zander wasn't hurt making such a dangerous journey. Back in July I wrote about hospitals that allow patients' pets to visit. If the Good Samaritan Medical Center added a similar program, Zander wouldn't have had to escape in order to see John. It would certainly make many happy canines and humans!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mirror Method Comes to the U.S.
The trainer behind the viral videos opens a school in Texas

In 2010, two videos featuring a group of Hungarian dogs decorating a Christmas tree and setting up a beach scene took the internet by storm. These impressive pups not only wowed us with their abilities, but they also introduced the world to the Mirror Method.

The idea behind this approach is that our pets are a reflection of us—our training abilities and the relationship we have with them. So often the dogs get blamed for behavioral problems when it’s our job to us to teach them.

There are three parts of the Mirror Method—leadership (being a “parent” figure and setting rules), training (using reinforcement based methods), and lifestyle (providing enough physical and mental exercise). None of it is necessarily groundbreaking on its own, but put together the Mirror Method is a powerful way of looking at training—not just solving a single behavior problem, but looking at the whole picture.

After the videos made the internet rounds, many people wondered how they could train their dogs using the same techniques.

Fortunately (or at least for some lucky pups in Texas), the lead trainer behind the videos is bringing the training philosophy to the United States. Nora Vamosi-Nagy just opened the Mirror Method’s first school in Athens, Texas, which will begin classes later this month.

One of the most interesting things about Mirror Method classes is that they’re all conducted off leash. Nora believes that the dog’s behavior, without restrictions, provides immediate feedback on the relationship and respect between the dogs and people in the room.

Should be an unique experience for the first U.S. Mirror Method graduates… if only I lives a little closer to Texas!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Facebook Dogs
Increase in animal lovers creating social media accounts for their pets

Although a lot of people complain about Facebook, I don’t know what I’d do without the infamous social networking web site. It lets me connect with busy friends, keep up with family across the world, and stay up-to-date on my dog sport pals’ latest accomplishments. Both of my pups even have their own Facebook profiles, which I use to tag them in photos and post tongue-in-cheek updates about eating Kongs and traveling to agility class.

While pet profiles aren’t technically allowed, I figure, if my friends’ babies can have profiles, why can’t my dogs. After all, they are my children! However, my pups’ online jaunts may soon come to an end. Now that Facebook is publicly traded, the company is cracking down on millions of non-human accounts.

Nonetheless, a study by pet insurer Petplan found that seven percent of British dog people set up a Facebook page for their pups, a 36 percent increase from last year.

The ban doesn’t mean that Facebook is not animal friendly. People can set up pet pages in the form of a fan page, which is what Mark Zuckerberg set up for his Puli, Beast, who is “liked” by over one million Facebook users.

If you want to be proactive about your pets’ profiles, Facebook has instructions on how to convert them to a fan page.

Does your pup have a social media account?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Postponing Their Wedding to Save a Dog
Couple gives up their nuptials to pay for their pup’s medical bills

Recently my Sheltie, Nemo, had to get three emergency surgeries in the span of one week. Needless to say, he is lucky to be alive and I am amazed at the advances in veterinary technology. The operations also left me with quite the veterinary bill. I was fortunate to have the money saved, but it really left me thinking of how important it is to be financially prepared for these kinds of emergency.

So I felt complete sympathy when I heard about a Florida couple who postponed their wedding for a second time to use the money for their dog’s life-saving operation. Melanie Cannon and Eddie Hanna adopted Koda, a Pit Bull mix, just six months ago from the Halifax Humane Society in Volusia County, Florida. But last month they found out that Koda had a liver shunt, the worst their veterinarian had ever seen.

Melanie and Eddie had pet insurance for Koda, but after their claim was rejected, the couple forfeited their wedding deposits and used the money saved to pay for Koda’s medical care. This was actually the second time the couple had to postpone their wedding. Last October, Melanie’s grandmother passed away a week before their wedding date. None of the vendors refunded their money, so Melanie and Eddie were forced to save up for a second time.

When the Halifax Humane Society heard about what Melanie and Eddie did for Koda, they were determined to put on a wedding for the couple. The animal shelter approached local companies and soon had a catering company, reception hall, music, and flowers lined up for the special day.  

Even better, Koda made a full recovery and attended the wedding held earlier this month.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Groupon Helps a Dog in Need
Popular deal web site raises money to buy prosthetic boots for a pup

Deal web site Groupon revolutionized how people save money and find new local businesses to try. I’ve used these vouchers on frozen yogurt, pet supplies, and even a horseback ride. Although people go to Groupon to get more for their money, a new initiative called Groupon Grassroots is getting deal buyers to donate money to a good cause.

One of the latest Grassroots deals raised money to buy Pirelli, a 7-month old Golden Retriever/Labrador mix, a set of prosthetic boots. The poor pup was born without a back left paw and will continue to need new boots as he grows. Eventually the goal is to give Pirelli a surgically implanted prosthesis.

Users were given the opportunity to donate $10 to Pirelli and Canine Assistants with donation matching. Over 340 deals were purchased, raising over $7,000.

Pirelli is training to be the spokesdog for Canine Assistants, which trains and places service dogs. Pirelli will visit schools and teach children about disabilities. I’m always inspired by the enthusiasm animals have, living life to the fullest no matter what comes their way. Pirelli will surely have a positive impact on every kid he meets.  

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Dies on United Flight
A Golden Retriever succumbs to heatstroke en route to S.F.

Maggie Rizer, best known for gracing the covers of Elle, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar, has made it her mission to get the word out on the dangers of flying pets.

Two weeks ago, Maggie was traveling from New York to San Francisco with her two dogs. Tragically, Bea, her two-year old Golden Retriever, did not make it through the flight, despite Maggie taking every possible precaution. She chose United Airlines for their Pet Safe program, got the necessary pre-flight health clearances, bought special kennels, and even drove six hours from their vacation home to New York City so the dogs wouldn’t have to make a connecting flight.

According to Maggie, the United employees showed little compassion for Bea’s death and even lied to her about the whereabouts of Bea’s body while they figured out how to handle the liability. United’s internal investigation claims that they did nothing wrong since none of the other pets on board died. Maggie’s veterinarian claims otherwise. He performed an autopsy and concluded that Bea died of heatstroke—a horrible and preventable death.

Flying with pets makes me very nervous and hearing about Bea is heartbreaking. This story also comes at a time when many of my friends are flying with their dogs to agility nationals in Colorado. Some people are able to drive, but many live too far and can’t take the days off from work to be able to do so.

Maggie took every precaution that I would have taken to ensure her pets’ safety. I’ve heard good things about the Pet Safe program, which was adopted by United Airlines when they merged with Continental. This tragic story just shows that no matter how good an airline’s pet program is, flying animals in cargo will never be 100 percent safe. It’s a shame that there isn’t a safer alternative to travel with pets on major airlines (specialized companies like Pet Airways don’t cover all areas of the country). I know that there are challenges for accommodating pets on planes, but I hope one day that airlines will figure out a way where pets can fly safely.