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JoAnna Lou

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

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Blind Dog Paints for Charity
A Dachshund looses her eyesight but continues to create artwork

When Seattle artist, DeeDee Murray, taught her dog Hallie to paint, she had no idea that the activity would become so important to the both of them. Ten years after adopting Hallie, the tiny pup unexpectedly went blind in a matter of days. DeeDee then found out that Hallie had Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS), an autoimmune disease that attacks the retina.

Hallie was depressed for several weeks, as she adjusted to her new condition, but eventually her spirit returned and the resilient pup even started to paint again. DeeDee says that Hallie picked up a brush out of the paint cup just like she used to, perhaps using muscle memory. Sometimes Hallie reaches her paw out, as if she's "looking" for her canvas, but usually DeeDee has to tap the paper so that Hallie knows where to place the brush.

Hallie loves painting so much that DeeDee has to stop her before she overdoes it. But the prolific canine's work is going to good use. DeeDee sells Hallie's paintings on a web site and donates the proceeds to Purple Heart Dog Rescue.

Hallie is truly an inspiration and continues to show that loss of vision will not stop her. Recently DeeDee and Hallie took up the sport of K9 Nose Work and the determined pup passed her first Odor Recognition Test, finding the "hide" in a minute flat!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Importance of Eating Breakfast
Study finds dogs perform better after a full belly

At my training club, we always tell people to come with a hungry pup. particularly those in our beginner classes who haven’t developed a solid working relationship yet. The thinking is that a dog on an empty stomach will be more motivated to stay focused for a reward. But it turns out that the opposite may be true.

It's well known that humans perform better after we eat breakfast. So two scientists at the University of Kentucky set out to see if this holds true in dogs. Dr. Holly Miller and Charlotte Bender looked at canine test subjects and their ability to find hidden food. Some pups were given a morning meal first and others had to work on an empty stomach. You'd think that the hungriest ones would be the first to find the food, but the study found the dogs who ate breakfast were able to find the hidden food more accurately.

Dr. Miller believes that diet may explain why domesticated dogs experience this phenomenon, but wolves don’t. When animals eat a carbohydrate rich diet (such as most commercial dog food), their brains are more dependent on glucose and are more affected by fluctuations in glucose levels. But with a diet of hunted meat, where carbohydrate levels are low and fat content is high, the brain switches to a secondary fuel source of ketone bodies, meaning their neural processes don't fluctuate as much.  

This research definitely changes how I think about training. Usually I work with my dogs before breakfast and after their morning walk, but this study is something to consider when I’m doing something that requires a lot of focus or self-control. And maybe we’ll reconsider telling people to show up to class with a super hungry dog!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Surviving Hurricane Sandy
Reflections on the storm and where to donate to help affected pets

In the 30 years I've lived in New York, I've never seen anything like the widespread destruction that Hurricane Sandy left behind. I was very fortunate that my family made it safely out of the storm. During the the hurricane I realized that us dog people are in a unique situation. While many of my friends stayed holed up in their homes, I had to venture outside, no matter what the weather, to walk the dogs--especially my puppy who has to go out several times a day.

During the peak of the storm, I was terrified that a tree would fall on us. Fortunately my puppy goes almost immediately, but there were several times where the wind was so noisy, I ran straight back inside before she even had a chance to potty. Trees claimed many lives in my area, including two people walking their dog.  My pups and I were so, so lucky. I think next storm I might build an indoor potty area in my garage as an extra precaution.  

Times have certainly changed from Hurricane Katrina. I was impressed that New York City made all evacuation shelters pet friendly and lifted animal restrictions on subways, taxis, and trains. However, not all made it through the storm unscathed.  Local animal shelters were damaged and some still don't have electricity. Despite the pet friendly evacuation shelters, many animals were left behind, scared dogs ran away and are now missing, and still others are safe, but have no home to go back to.  

No matter where you live, there are ways to help out. The ASPCA is rescuing pets, providing veterinary care, and bringing supplies to animal shelters and families in the hardest hit areas. Visit their web site to donate money to the rescue efforts.

Best Friends Animal Society is coordinating and delivering donations, transporting animals to non-affected areas, and manning the pet portion of the Sussex County, N.J. evacuation shelter. If you're local, contact the NYC Volunteer Coordinator at tammyh@bestfriends.org to contribute supplies (everything from pet supplies to gas gift cards) or to help out. Shelters impacted by the storm can apply for a micro-grant through the Best Friends web site.

Also, a Facebook group was created to reunite lost pets with their families. Even if you're not in the North East, you can share alerts on your Facebook news feed to reach friends who may be in the area.

Pet lovers are a tight community and I've already seen people banding together to donate supplies, lend generators, and organize fundraisers. I know we will help each other through this difficult time.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Grants for Pet Friendly Women’s Shelters
AKC supports domestic violence services that welcome dogs

Nearly 50 percent of female domestic violence victims delay entering a women’s shelter because of concerns for leaving a pet behind. Not only does this prevent people from getting help, it also means animals remain in danger as well. 85 percent of women entering shelters talk about pet abuse in their family. Some shelters allow animals, making it easier for women to make the emotional decision to leave home, but many do not.

The AKC aims to support women’s shelters that welcome pets and encourage those who don’t to reconsider. In honor of October’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the AKC Humane Fund awarded grants to eleven different pet friendly women’s shelters across the country in Safford, Arizona; Cabot, Arkansas; Crescent City and Susanville, California; Fort Collins, Colorado; Alpharetta, Georgia; Aurora, Indiana; Spruce Pine and Whiteville, North Carolina; Spearfish, South Dakota and Spokane, Washington.

These women’s shelters allow victims to bring pets with them to a safe space. Not only does this encourage people to leave dangerous living situations, but it also means that the women can have their pets by their side during a difficult time.  

To donate or apply for a grant, visit the AKC Humane Fund web site.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Anatolian Shepherd Transforms a U.K. Boy's Life
Kid and dog help each other through their special bond

When Will Howkins adopted Haatchi, a three-legged dog, he had no idea the impact the Anatolian Shepherd would have on his family. Will's son Owen has Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes his muscles to be constantly tense. When it was time for Owen to start school, he quickly realized that he was different from the other kids and became scared to leave the house and afraid to talk to other people.

Haatchi also had a rough start to life. The poor pup had his leg and tail amputated after being tied to a railway line and hit by a train. The RSPCA and UK German Shepherd Rescue struggled to find the handicapped dog a new home, but Will came to the rescue after reading about Haatchi's plight on Facebook.

As soon as Haatchi came home, Owen and the dog were inseparable. Even more, Owen went from being scared of strangers to wanting to talk to everyone about Haatchi. He even wanted to leave the house all the time to attend pet shows. Owen also feels differently about his syndrome after seeing Haatchi take his “medicine,” a mix of honey, salmon oil, and supplements.

Haatchi's positive influence on Owen earned him the Animal of the Year award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Now the Anatolian Shepherd will be sharing his gift with others. Haatchi just completed his therapy dog certification and the family plans to bring him to visit amputee soldiers and terminally-ill children.  

It's such an amazing story that Owen's father was willing to adopt a three-legged dog and is now sharing Haatchi's gift with others in need.

 

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!

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