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JoAnna Lou

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

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog to the Rescue
Washington pup delivers a life saving note.

Every now and then you hear about a dog who is able to draw attention to a house on fire or to lead rescuers to a person in trouble. This story played out a little differently for a pup in Washington who delivered a life saving note.

When a homeless man found himself in the middle of the woods with a medical emergency, he had no way to call for help. His only hope was to attach a letter to his trusty dog, Buddy, that read: “Help. Send help. No joke, cannot walk. Medicine not working. Need doctor.”

A woman walking her own pup discovered the Australian Shepherd mix and immediately called 911. The police didn’t know where to look, but eventually got a tip about a man who lived in the woods with his dog. Soon after they located the man and brought him to the hospital. The man was treated and has since been reunited with his loyal pup.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Promoting Happiness
Animal Farm Foundation creates innovative fliers to encourage adoption

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I find myself ignoring the “dog for adoption” photos that my friends post on Facebook or the fliers that get posted at the pet store. There are just so many of them and sometimes it feels overwhelming how endless the overpopulation problem is. Obviously this kind of promotion works. I found my puppy, Scuttle, when a friend posted her photo online and I'm so thankful for that!

But I recently saw this really cool idea that aims to encourage a happy feeling when talking about shelter pets. The Animal Farm Foundation started creating fliers that promote two key messages to their community: choose adoption and when you do, choose our organization. Instead of spending energy creating individual dog fliers, they chose to show how much fun people have when they adopt a dog from AFF and become a part of their family. AFF considers their adopters their best marketing resource.

I love AFF's fliers because it really gives you a happy feeling to see all the photos of dogs in their new homes. I think it also challenges shelters and rescue groups to think of innovative ways to promote the positive side of adoption.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Bully Stick Danger
Study finds bacteria and a hefty calorie count in the popular treat

There are a lot of pet treats out on the market and it seems like every week a new brand is getting recalled. I don’t even touch any chicken jerky manufactured in China due to the widespread contamination problems.

More recently I’ve been choosing deer antlers and bully sticks, thinking that they’re safer since they’re all natural. But according to a study published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal, there are two potential problems with bully sticks (also called pizzle sticks).

The first concern is an excessive amount of calories. The scientists calculated nine to 22 calories per inch, meaning that a 6-inch bully stick could represent nine percent of the daily recommended calorie count for a 50-pound dog or a whopping 30 percent of the requirements for a smaller 10-pound dog. This I’m less worried about as I usually adjust my pets’ dinner if they get a large treat during the day.

The second finding is much more serious. In testing 26 bully sticks, the researchers found one contaminated with Clostridium difficile, one with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and seven with E. coli. The scientists admitted that the sample size was small, but recommended that people should at least wash their hands after touching bully sticks.

I hope that they repeat the study on a larger scale, differentiating by finishing process. Some bully stick companies sun-bake their product, while others irradiate or bake the sticks indoors. I’m sure that these differences can affect bacteria levels.

It would also be good if they gave recommendations on how to get rid of the bacteria. I know that some people bake bully sticks in the oven before giving them to their pets, but it’s not a proven method.

I think that this study goes to show how careful we have to be in researching our pets’ food. I already know a lot about picking a good kibble, but this study has inspired me to do a better job at finding out the origin and manufacturing process for the treats I feed my crew. And it underscores the many benefits of making your own treats at home!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
High Tech Treat Machine
Feeding cookies remotely via e-mail.

When John created the NYC CNC Machining and Prototype Shop back in 2007, he started a video blog documenting the successes and failures he learned while mastering the art of machining. His latest project is a fun combination of many aspects of his work—CAD, machining, fabrication, powder coating, Raspberry Pi, electrical engineering, and programming—and his love of dogs. John used all of those skills to create an interactive automatic treat dispenser!

E-mailing juddwouldlikeatreat@gmail.com activates a treat dispenser which gives John's 2-year old Vizsla, Judd, a cookie. The program also takes a photo of Judd and sends a thank you e-mail in return. John's project became so popular that Google temporarily disabled Judd's original e-mail address due to high volume. Fortunately John runs with Judd anywhere from five to 30 miles a week, which should help to offset the frequent treats. The machine is also turned off at night and at other times of the day when John and Judd are busy.

If you'd like to create your own high tech treat dispenser, John made his venture an open sourced project, meaning that the Python code and CAD model are available for free on his web site. Very cool!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Revisiting Fake Service Dogs
A growing problem which has no easy solution.

A few years ago I wrote about people passing off their pets as service dogs so they could ride in the cabin together (thus avoiding the hazards of cargo and extra fees).  Although the practice is  unethical, and makes travel harder for people with legitimate service dogs, the problem seems to only be growing.

Heated discussions crop up every time there's a national dog competition.  The latest discussion around the American Kennel Club’s Invitational event led some to call for organizations, such as the AKC and the United States Dog Agility Association, to get involved.  There's also a lot of false information floating around (like that it's a felony to pass off a pet as a service dog or that a limited number of service dogs are allowed on any given plane--both untrue).  Bottom line, it's a sensitive subject and the more I research the topic, the more I realize how complicated it is to regulate such behavior.

The biggest challenge is maintaining the privacy of those with legitimate service dogs.  The law is intentionally open ended to allow for a large and growing number of disabilities.  Most people with service dogs oppose any sort of registry because it's hard to figure out a fair and equitable way to determine criteria for eligibility.  

Tightening laws and giving businesses more leeway for questioning people causes unfair scrutiny for those with legitimate service dogs.

I think it has to come down to people having a little more respect for true service dogs and compassion for those who have no choice but to rely on these animals.

I'm also very disappointed by dog show/sport people who falsely pass of their pups as service animals.  It looks really bad when planes headed towards a big show are filled with an unusual number of “service dogs.”  I always think of dog show/sport people as being exemplars of responsible pet care and this kind of behavior casts a negative light on all exhibitors.

I understand that many people do it because it's safer for the dog to travel in the cabin, but it’s important to remember that getting to a national competition is not a necessity.  

And finally, the root cause is a lack of safe and affordable air travel options for medium to large dog breeds.  But until airlines cater to that need (which I doubt will be any time soon, if ever!), people have to consider the impact their actions have on others.

What do you think the ideal solution is to the faux service dog problem?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Update on Missy
Happy ending for dog left on a mountain

Last summer I wrote about Missy, a German Shepherd who got caught up in a custody battle between Anthony Ortolani, the man who left her to die 13,500 feet up on a mountain, and her rescuers.

In the end Anthony entered a guilty plea for cruelty to animals and was recently sentenced to a year of probation and 30 hours of community service. In addition, John Steed, one of the rescuers, was allowed to adopt Missy as part of the plea deal.

Missy now goes by Lucky and has two canine siblings at home with John. The German Shepherd even received a lifetime membership to 14ers.com, the climbing group that organized her rescue.

The men who saved Lucky were so inspired by the experience that they created The Brothers of Lucky Search and Rescue (BOLSAR) dedicated to high alpine search and rescue in the Colorado Rocky Mountain region. It took two days for them to organize Lucky's rescue effort. BOLSAR will allow for faster coordination of volunteers, which means quicker rescues. Since park forest rangers aren't allowed to send search parties for animals, BOLSAR is necessary for the safety of dogs who love to hike.

In addition to the rescue work, BOLSAR plans to conduct community outreach programs to raise awareness on how to safely hike with pets.

What a happy ending to Missy's story!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
One Million Likes for a Puppy
Kids launch a Facebook campaign to convince their parents

When I was a kid, I desperately tried to convince my parents to get a puppy by creating presentations on how responsible I was and assembling mock schedules showing how all the chores would be completed.  Unfortunately I was never successful and ended up having to wait until after college to get my first dog.

Now children these days have technology on their side.  When the Cordell family in Massachusetts lost their dog of ten years last August, the five kids instantly started begging for a new puppy to fill the void.  However, their parents, Ryan and Evie, were reluctant to get a new pet so soon.

Then their two daughters, Cadence and Emerson, came up with a plan.  After reading about two kids who convinced their parents to get a cat after their Facebook photo got 1,000 likes, Cadence and Emerson proposed a similar deal with their dad.  Not believing it was possible, Ryan agreed to get a new puppy if their photo got one million Facebook likes.

The kids quickly posted a photo holding a sign that read, "Hi World, We want a puppy. Our dad said we can get one if we get 1 million Likes! So LIKE this! He doesn't think we can do it!" 

After three hours they had 10,000 likes and then by the seven hour mark they reached their goal.  Never underestimate the power of social media!

Adding to the good news is that the Cordells are planning to adopt their new pup from a rescue group or shelter.  They’ve already started searching Petfinder.com and are hoping to have their new addition soon. Like their Facebook page for updates on their journey.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Crowdfunding a Canine Film
Student makes a documentary about a special town dog

From the outside, Rockford, Alabama is just another symbol of the bad economy, a community of just 400 people on the verge of becoming a ghost town. The recession hit Rockford hard, forcing many of the town's shops to close and many people to move away in search of jobs.

But those who know Rockford, know that it's a special town with a rich history and character. Ava Lowrey, a film student at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, grew up 30 minutes from Rockford and set out to share the story of how the small Alabama community embraced a homeless pup who in turn gave them hope.

Back in 1993, the town found a dirty and disheveled mutt wandering the streets. A few people decided to name the pup Fred and nurse him back to health. Soon enough Fred became the official “town dog.” Rockford may have saved Fred, but Fred brought out the best in the town. The pup had a weekly column in the local newspaper, a bank account, and even led parades--something they stopped doing after his death in 2002.

Although Fred is gone, his tombstone and the stories left behind show how much he meant to the community. Ava's film explores the town's narrative and the relationships Fred had with the people of Rockford.

Filming was finished in December, but Ava needs financial support to complete the documentary. Ava is appealing to dog and film lovers on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform, to raise money. Perks for donations vary from a shout out on their blog and Twitter feed ($25 donation) to an executive producer credit ($700).

Check out the trailer and donate if you'd like to see this heartwarming canine tale to completion.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Sniffing Out Superbugs
A Beagle is trained to detect Clostridium Difficile

With the recent flu outbreak, controlling contagious diseases has been a hot topic lately.  While the flu is mostly a seasonal challenge, hospitals and nursing homes battle "superbugs," or antibiotic resistant bacteria, year round.

Illnesses related to superbugs can be difficult to control in health care facilities and pose a serious health threat.  Transmission can be prevented with early detection, but diagnostic tests can be expensive and slow.

Researchers in the Netherlands decided to investigate whether dogs could be trained to detect superbugs.  Animals have been trained to sniff out cancer and detect low blood sugar levels, so why not bacteria.  In their first study, the researchers decided to focus on Clostridium Difficile, which can cause diarrhea, colitis, or even life threatening toxic megacolon.  The bacteria is on pace to surpass severe staph infections and MRSA in frequency and severity.  Past hospital outbreaks have claimed hundreds of lives.

The scientists began the study by training Cliff, a two year old Beagle, to identify c. difficile in stool samples and in infected patients.  Cliff indicates finding the bacteria by sitting or lying down.

After two months of training, Cliff proved to be quite reliable.  In the first part of the study, he was shown 100 stool samples (half with C. Difficile and half negative control samples).  Cliff correctly identified all 50 positive stool samples (100 percent) and 47 out of 50 negative samples (94 percent).

For the second part of the study, Cliff was taken to two different hospital wards to test his detection abilities on 300 patients.  The Cliff correctly identified 25 out of 30 people with C. Difficile (83 percent) and 265 out of 270 negative controls (98 percent).  Cliff works quickly and has the potential to check out an entire hospital ward for C. Difficile in under ten minutes.

I was impressed not only by Cliff’s detection abilities, but by the fact he was trained in only two months.  And this was Cliff’s first exposure to scent work!  Simply amazing!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mistaken Identity
Labradoodle masquerading as a lion results in a 911 call

It was a case of mistaken identity. Earlier this week, a 911 call came in reporting a baby lion walking down Colley Avenue in Norfolk, Va. The police immediately called the Virginia Zoo, but all lions were accounted for. It turns out that the big cat in question was a 3-year old Labradoodle named Charles and the caller wasn't crazy. Charles really did look like a lion.

Daniel Painter has his dog regularly groomed to look like a lion, the mascot for Norfolk's Old Dominion University. Charles is popular among the school's sports fans and the Labradoodle even has his own Facebook page. Daniel says that when he takes Charles to a park near the zoo, people sometimes run to their cars thinking the pup is a big cat.

Charles does look a little crazy and kind of reminds me of the dogs dyed to look like wild animals in grooming contests. But while some people might think it's unfair to subject the poor dog to such humiliation, I doubt Charles realizes how silly he looks. I think that pet clothing and costumes are a lot more uncomfortable for animals.

For now Charles is bringing much joy to Old Dominion fans, but perhaps wearing a simple neck bandana with the school logo will assure people that he's not a lion!

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