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JoAnna Lou

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

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Determination Comes on Two and a Half Legs
The amazing story of a rescued pup from Mexico

New Yorker Mary Hammett found the perfect running partner in her adopted dog, Joyce. The split-faced pup manages to be incredibly fast, despite having only two and a half legs. If it weren’t for her physical limitations, you might never know about Joyce’s early hardships in life. She has an unbridled enthusiasm and is an inspiration to everyone that she meets.

Last year the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) rescued 40 dogs from Cozumel, Mexico, who had been evicted from their home at the local garbage dump.

Mary found out about the “Dump Dogs,” as they were nicknamed, through an IFAW e-mail. She wasn't actively looking to adopt another dog, and certainly not one from thousands of miles away, but there was something special about Joyce.

As it turns out, Joyce was in dire need of veterinary care. The trauma she had experienced put her at risk for a bone infection and time was running out.

Mary and her boyfriend debated about rescuing Joyce when there were so many local animals in need.  But one look at Joyce, and the huge cast on her back leg, and the decision was made.

"We cannot save them all,” explains Mary, “But Joyce, against all odds, had come to our attention from far, far away. She captured us, and truly, there was no more debate. Joyce was our dog, and the sooner we could get our arms around her, the better.”

There were many challenges during the first few months, but Joyce had an extraordinary determination. She was on a full battery of medications and went through many different wheelchairs and harnesses before Mary could find one that worked for Joyce.

But in just eight months, Joyce has made incredible progress and is nearly unrecognizable from the dog in the IFAW e-mail.

"Joyce is a rock star,” remarks Mary. “She is fierce, funny, smart, sweet, and intense. She can cruise remarkably fast on her two and a half legs and, with a little assist from me and a back-end harness, she has become my running partner. Joyce has a lot more endurance than I have!”

Joyce has also become somewhat of an ambassador for rescued pets. Mary says that people are drawn to Joyce. "It’s an incredible experience to witness the collective compassion of people that respond to her.”

One of IFAW’s founding principles is that the interests of humans and animals are not separate and that we are truly interconnected. I think that Joyce’s story really embodies that special relationship that we have with dogs and just goes to show how much we have to learn from them.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Myth of the Quick Fix for Behavior Problems
Contrary to popular belief, changing behavior takes time

In January, I welcomed a new puppy into my home, a 7-week-old Border Collie named Remy. With any new dog, there is always a growing list of things to train—learning not to chase the cat, greeting people politely, walking nicely on a leash, settling in a crate, just to name a few.

Most times, the solution is simple, reward good behavior and ignore bad behavior, but changing any behavior takes time, patience and dedication. For instance, Remy used to bark at other dogs making noise in the neighborhood. I wanted to stop this behavior for obvious reasons, but also because he had to learn to settle at agility competitions when there will be other dogs barking. 

So I started counter-conditioning Remy so he would learn to associate barking with getting yummy treats for being quiet. First, I played a CD of dogs barking, starting at a low volume and working up to a high volume. Every time a dog barked, I fed Remy some yummy treats. When this was going well, I progressed to working in harder “environments”—staying quiet walking around the neighborhood where there is a barking dog a few houses down, at our training club where there are several dogs barking in crates, and eventually at a competition, where dogs are barking and running around.

Our animal shelters are filled with pets abandoned because people don’t realize the time and dedication required to train good manners. 

Recently, I was annoyed to discover a new training tool that promises to stop your dog’s unwanted behavior in 7 minutes or less. I know it’s a marketing ploy, but products like the shakeTrainer are frustrating because it promotes the fallacy that any behavior issue can be solved instantly. In addition, this blanket solution ignores any possible underlying reasons, such as fear or a health issue. 

As any responsible dog lover knows, there is rarely a quick fix for anything. If we could only get the word out, maybe there would be less abandoned pets in the world.

Do you have a training story to share?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
How to Help Pets in Japan
Many organizations are taking donations to help dogs in need

Over the past week, I've been glued to the news watching the unbelievable devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The Japanese are known for how much they love their dogs, and I've seen many heartbreaking images of people evacuating with their pets tucked under their arm. The evacuation shelters appear to be pet friendly because I've seen many photos of people with their dogs at these places.

In looking for ways to help these animal lovers, I found the following organizations:

Ark Bark is a rescue group based in Japan that helped hundreds of animals after the country's Kobe earthquake in 1995. The organization expects a huge influx of homeless pets soon and is preparing to transport animals to emergency shelters when the roads open.

Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support is a collaboration between HEART-Tokushima, Animal Garden Niigata, and Japan Cat Network. They have already helped several animals, including the famous dog who wouldn't leave his injured friend.

World Vets is a volunteer organization that provides veterinary aid to areas in need. They have already sent a first-responder team to Tokyo to do an “on the ground” assessment and to provide initial help.

The American Kennel Club's Companion Animal Recovery Canine Support and Relief Fund is taking donations to support search and rescue dogs looking for survivors and to aid in disaster relief for pets.

Additionally, agility lovers have been rallying to raise money for Japanese dog sport enthusiasts after spotting a photo in the news showing an incoming wave seconds before covering a backyard with agility equipment. This picture really made the tragedy “real” for those of us in the sport.

Even those low on funds can help out. The Annenberg Foundation has pledged $100,000 to the relief efforts if 100,000 people 'Like' the Dog Bless You Facebook fan page in the next 10 days. If that number is reached by Sunday, the donation doubles to $200,000.

I am always amazed at how the dog community supports each other and this tragedy has been no exception. Over the past week, I've seen people all over the world step up to organize efforts to help the Japanese and their pets in this toughest of times.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Therapy Through a Dog’s Eyes
Seattle hospital attaches cameras to their therapy pups

When I visit the hospital with Nemo, as part of the Good Dog Foundation therapy program, it’s so rewarding to see the joy the dogs bring to the patients. Pets have an amazing ability to cheer up people and it always brings a smile to my face.

Now everyone can enjoy the power of pet therapy, even if you’re not in the hospital.

The Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Wash., created their own therapy dog program in 2008, called Swedish/Edmonds Therapy Pups (STP). STP recently found a way to share their work through the dogs’ point of view.

STP attaches special video cameras to their therapy dogs and posts selected videos online through YouTube. The videos can be found on their website, and I guarantee they will brighten your day!

 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
“Groupon” for Pups
Two daily deal websites launch for pets this year

Daily deal coupon websites, like Groupon and LivingSocial, have surged in popularity over the last two years. These websites partner with companies to offer a different deal each day. 

Occasionally, there will be a pet-related deal. I once got a $50 gift certificate to a local boutique pet store for $25 and a voucher to participate in an Outdoor Bound group dog hike for $35.

Earlier this year, pet lovers got two of their own daily deal sites, PetSimply and Barking Deals. These two sites feature a different deal per day, often a pet product with free shipping. 

According to the companies, these deals are 50 to 90 percent off of retail price. However, the value of the deals vary greatly. For instance, two medium Kong Squeakair Tennis Balls for $2 is a pretty good deal, while two Petmate plastic can covers for $5 seems a bit steep. Many of the product prices are similar to existing discount pet catalogs such as Jeffers and JB Pets.

What I’m more excited about are the company-specific deals. For instance, PetSimply recently offered a $20 gift card to PurestPets.com for $10. I’m hoping that as the membership grows at both websites, they will start offering more unique offers you can’t get anywhere else.

Have you gotten any cool pet deals from a daily deal website?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Proposal Threatens Canine Park Access in California
NPS study aims to restrict dogs in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

I’m always looking for good off leash areas for my dogs, but they are becoming harder and harder to find. Unfortunately, a few irresponsible people usually ruin privileges for the rest of us. 

America’s National Parks are some of the most beautiful places in the country, but most are off limits to dogs. There are a few that allow pets on leash, but even then they are usually restricted to a few areas. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is one of the most dog friendly National Parks and is the only one that allows off-leash dogs. However, that may soon change.

Earlier this year, the National Park Service released a draft of their Environmental Impact Statement for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The study found that dogs are messy and disruptive to wildlife, and makes recommendations on where pets should be allowed in the park, if at all. The proposal restricts off leash play to seven small areas and would require dogs to be leashed or banned in all other parts of the park.

A draft of the statement was posted in January and the public has until May 29 to offer their opinions online or at a series of public meetings. Even if you’re not local, the ruling for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area could influence off leash restrictions in other parts of the country.

I would encourage all dog lovers to speak out to ensure that both humans and canines can enjoy our National Parks.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Ancient Burial Shows Human-Canine Bond
7,000 year old dog suggests people saw canines as thinking beings

I happen to live near the nation’s first pet cemetery, located in Hartsdale, N.Y. Pet burials may seem like a modern luxury, but the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery has been burying beloved dogs since 1896. However, it turns out that canine burials may far predate New York’s venerable cemetery. 

Recently, the burial remains of a dog that lived over 7,000 years ago was discovered in Siberia. Unlike wolves that were buried ritualistically during this time period, this Husky-like dog was buried similarly to a human. Robert Losey, the lead author of a study about the discovery, believes that the burial shows people saw the dog as a thinking, social being. The human-like burial was likely meant to ensure that the dog would be properly cared for in the afterlife.

We may not have a lot in common with people who lived thousands of years ago, but we do share a special bond with our dogs!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mass. Dogs Help Homeless Shelter
Pups find a foster home while aiding Bostonians

I think that dogs have an innate ability to bring out the best in us. Over the last year, I’ve written about dogs calming humans testifying in court, putting patients at ease in the doctor’s office, and even helping people meet new significant others. Now, dogs are helping residents open up to staff members at a Boston, Mass., homeless shelter, while increasing their own adoptability in return.

About a year ago, Barbara Davidson, head of a homeless shelter and support organization in Massachusetts called Pine Street, was working with a man who suffered from paranoia. He refused treatment, but knowing he loved dogs, Barbara began volunteering with him at the local animal shelter to help him feel more comfortable. He loved the work so much that he asked Barbara to let him bring one of the dogs back to Pine Street.  

Barbara soon found that having a dog at Pine Street helped residents to open up and build trust with the staff. Now, Pine Street fosters six dogs.

The residents at Pine Street can relate to the homeless dogs, developing a strong bond. They also provide the dogs with socialization and training, making the pups more attractive to adopters. A very cool win-win for all involved.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Breed Specific Adoption Incentives
N.Y. town provides financial reward for Pit Bulls

Sometimes it seems like as much as 90 percent of the dogs at my local animal shelter are Pit Bulls. Unfortunately this stigmatized breed is often the last to be adopted because of the bad publicity they get.

The Brookhaven Animal Shelter in New York has been overwhelmed with Pit Bulls in recent years. Currently they have 140 available for adoption, far more than they can realistically adopt out.

Because of the shelter’s overpopulation problem, town officials have teamed up with Help the Animals Fund Inc. to create the Brookhaven Bully Alliance. The program will pay other shelters and rescue organizations $250 for each Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix they take out of Brookhaven’s shelter and commit to placing in a forever home.

I think it’s great that Brookhaven is dedicating money to getting Pit Bulls out of their shelter, though in some ways they’re just shifting the dogs around. Certainly moving Pit Bulls to new shelters or rescue groups may lead to their adoption, but the Brookhaven Bully Alliance program doesn’t get at the root of the problem—improving the Pit Bull’s reputation and promoting responsible ownership. Instead, I’d love to see the money go towards positive Pit Bull PR, responsible ownership education, or a crackdown on dog fighting.

What do you think would help Brookhaven's Pit Bull overpopulation problem?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Street Food Goes to the Dogs
L.A. gets its own gourmet treat truck for pets

Living in New York, I’m fortunate to have some of the best food in the country right at my doorstep. But despite the many top ranked restaurants, some of my favorite meals come on wheels. Gourmet food trucks have been popping up in cities all over the country, developing cult-like followings for their affordable delicacies.

Now pets in Los Angeles have their own food truck. PhyDough sells preservative-free dog treats made with organic, human-grade ingredients. They’ve also partnered with the Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwich Truck for humans to make soy or yogurt-based ice cream for the pups.

PhyDough was founded by Patrick Guilfoyle, a self-proclaimed foodie who owns Double Dog Dare Ya, a boutique kennel in Burbank, Calif. Patrick’s five dogs, who serve as official taste testers, are particularly enthusiastic about his latest business venture.

What’s cool is PhyDough isn’t just a convenient option for buying healthy treats. The truck has become a place where dog lovers meet up and their pups socialize. Hopefully, this venture will catch up in other cities around the country!

 

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