JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Scientists discover that zinc can triple a dogs' sensitivity to odors.
April 21 2016
Dogs have amazing noses that we rely on for sniffing out everything from explosives to cancer. A new study has shown that we might be able to enhance their sense of smell with tiny particles of zinc. Scientists at Auburn University in Alabama found that spraying nanoparticles of the metal can triple a dogs' sensitivity to odors.
The zinc effect by discovered by chance while researchers were investigating its ability to kill cancer cells. When they isolated the zinc nanoparticles and added them to tissue taken from the noses of rodents, the electrical activity tripled in the presence of an odor.
Setting out to exclusively study this phenomenon, the team put 14 dogs inside magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners. For some dogs, they gave them zinc nanoparticles along with an odor to smell. For the control dogs, they gave them the odor only. The smells included cloves, spearmint, and a fruit blend. The outcome confirmed the finding in the rodent experiment--the nanoparticles tripled activity in the dogs' brains (in areas related to smell) when they were given an odor.
According to lead scientist, Vitaly Vodyanoy, it appears that the nanoparticles increase the activity of sensory receptors. This enhancement lasts about ten seconds. After that short period of time, the next sniff of odor (without additional nanoparticles) produces a normal response.
Zinc also seems to work with people too. Vitaly tried it himself and felt it enhanced his sense of smell. They're now starting to work with a fragrance company to conduct tests on humans.
But the dogs weren't just testing the nanoparticles for people. Another researcher on the study, Dr Gopikrishna Deshpande, said they hoped improving dogs' sense of smell would help working pups excel at their jobs. Gopikrishna explained that dogs can miss detection of explosives that are intentionally concealed to not give out odor.
As a next step, scientists will have to figure out how to make the effects last longer than ten seconds! However, the findings are a cool discovery that could potentially help sniffing dogs to be even better at their important work.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
11 year old Anna Getner forgoes vacations and concerts to create a play space for dogs.
April 15 2016
Most Make-A-Wish foundation wish requests involve traveling to places like Disney World or Paris, or meeting celebrities. But Anna Getner, a sixth grader at Middlebrook School in Wilton, Conn. had a different dream in mind. If anyone deserved a fancy vacation, it was her. The 11-year old recently completed an 821-day long treatment regimen for leukemia.
But when Make-A-Wish Connecticut asked Anna what her one true wish would be, she told them that she wanted to make a puppy playroom at the local animal shelter. Anna had a very specific vision for an indoor/outdoor park for the rescue dogs to feel comfortable and to serve as a nice place to meet potential adopters.
Make-A-Wish worked with local business, volunteers, and other supporters, who were eager to help make the space a reality.
The room, named Anna's Dog Park, was unveiled in February with a party that included Anna, her friends and family, her classmates and teachers, and many other supporters. Norwalk mayor, Harry Rilling, was there to present Anna with a proclamation in her honor to celebrate her generosity and kind spirit.
While the space at PAWS is completely indoors, photo wallpaper and sky blue ceiling tiles make the room look like it's in the middle of a park. There's even a photo of Anna and her rescue pup, Franklin, built into the landscape.
Franklin, who Anna considers like a brother, was a huge factor in her wish choice. Anna wanted to help all animals at PAWS find their forever homes and make families happy the same way that Franklin has brought her joy.
Pam Keogh, the president of Make-A-Wish Connecticut says that Anna's wish was a first. The chapter has fulfilled 2,500 wishes in the last 30 years, but Pam doesn't know of any request quite like Anna's.
Local pet food company, Blue Buffalo, was so inspired by Anna's selfless decision, that they not only helped to fund the project, but they announced that they will donate food to PAWS for life.
Seeing the play room for the first time, Anna looked around and exclaimed, "Oh my god, it's amazing!." Mission accomplished. Happy rescue pups and finally some joy for a girl who has spent way too much time in a hospital.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Italian supermarket finds a way to make their stores even more pet friendly.
April 12 2016
Many pet lovers dread having to leave their pups at home while they run errands. Not all dogs would enjoy coming along for the ride, but it would be nice to have the option for well behaved pets. This dilemma even inspired one woman to create Dog Parker last year, a collection of subscription based kennels placed in front of select Brooklyn, New York storefronts, intended to be used by people running into the grocery store or eating at a restaurant.
Ideally more places would be pet friendly, but health laws and irresponsible owners have made this a challenge. So when I learned that a grocery store in Liano, Italy not only welcomes dogs, but recently added pet friendly shopping carts, I was envious! Just being able to bring your dog into a supermarket is already extremely pet friendly, but the specially designed shopping carts really roll out the welcome mat. For anyone who has carted their dog around a store in a regular shopping cart, you know what a big deal that is! I usually put a towel or crate mat at the bottom of the cart to make it more comfortable for dog feet, but these carts have that feature incorporated into their design.
Unes store owner, Gianfranco Galantini, was inspired to create the pet friendly shopping carts after seeing how many dogs were left tied up outside of his stores. So he fitted some of his shopping carts with a special partitioned section in the front that has a solid bottom. Dogs can sit or stand up while looking out of the front. The carts are also cleaned after each use.
This whole venture is made by possible by the fact that small dogs are legally allowed to enter stores in Italy, as long as they're kept under control. So far everyone has been responsible, only bringing in well behaved pups and keeping everything clean, so there haven't been any problems. Unes' new carts have been so popular that the grocery chain is now considering adding them to their other locations.
Do you wish you could take your pups shopping?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Gumby runs away from multiple homes until he finds a permanent spot at the shelter.
April 10 2016
Last month, a seven year old hound mix named Gumby escaped yet again from his seventh adoptive home. It was the eleventh time he ended up back at the Charleston Animal Society (CAS) in the last year and a half.
When Gumby came to CAS in September 2014, his first adoption lasted only three days, the first of many short lived homes. The charming pup had no trouble finding new families, despite being warned of his Houdini-like skills, but Gumby always found a way to escape. Everyone loved Gumby, but all of the adopters ultimately returned him fearing he'd be injured on one of his adventures.
After his seventh home reported Gumby escaping three times in less than a month, once busting out of the man's screen door, the shelter decided to stop placing Gumby up for adoption. They also realized that he rarely ever tried to leave while at the shelter. Gumby adored their staff, and seemed to have a special skill--the natural ability to read the emotions of other dogs. Gumby was able to comfort incoming pets, adjusting his behavior in a way that settled fearful and reactive pups.
Donya Satriale, Behavior Team Leader for CAS, likes to say that Gumby kept returning to the shelter because "he knows he has work to do." Now Gumby helps Donya give behavioral demonstrations and acclimate new dogs.
Thanks to the shelter's extreme patience with Gumby, they eventually discovered his incredible gift for helping other dogs. CAS isn't exactly a traditional home, but it's the perfect one for Gumby.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
While scouting pups in need, a Canadian rescue organization ends up buying a shelter in Israel.
April 7 2016
A few years ago Danielle Eden and her husband Rob Scheinberg were in their home country of Israel when they encountered four street dogs they decided to rescue and bring back to their current home in Canada. Inspired by the pups in need, they decided to create Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary in King City, Ontario, a custom made haven for animals waiting to be adopted. The 50-acre sanctuary features dogs in luxurious rooms decorated with chandeliers, paintings, and custom beds that look like antique furniture. The goal is to create a special space for people to interact with their next potential family member.
In honor of the original rescues, Danielle and Rob regularly go back to Israel and work with local shelter staff to identify dogs to bring back to Canada. Typically these are the pups that have been waiting the longest, because of their age or a disability. In January Danielle and Rob visited a shelter that took overcrowded to a new level. There were 250 dogs crammed in a space for 70. Dogs were fighting over bread and there were rats everywhere. For once it was not obvious which pups were in the most need, because they all were.
Danielle and Rob couldn't bring all of the dogs back with them to Canada, but couldn't bear to turn their backs on any of the pups. So they made the decision to purchase the shelter and take responsibility for all of the dogs there. Danielle and Rob were lucky to have the local ties to be able to make this happen.
It's been a busy last four months as they relocated 90 of the dogs to other, more adequate, rescues in Israel, brought 25 to Canada, and assembled a team to clean up the shelter and socialize the remaining pups. Half of the dogs brought to their shelter in Canada have been adopted.
Some have criticized Danielle and Rob for spending resources rescuing dogs in Israel, when they could be helping more animals in Canada (they do rescue locally as well). While that's a valid point, Danielle and Rob clearly have a connection to the country and have made a difference in many dogs' lives there.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
An autistic boy nearly loses his pup for good when the Weimaraner runs away without identification.
April 1 2016
Last August, the Carlisle family moved from Alabama to Florida with their autistic son's service dog in tow. However, during their first few days there, Delilah, a six year old Weimaraner, panicked in the new environment and escaped from their apartment.
Delilah had been by eight year old Zack's side since she was a puppy, detecting his seizures, providing comfort, and helping him communicate. Delilah draws Zack out of his shell and is often the only one who can get him to talk.
The family searched for days, handling out flyers and checking the local animal shelter, without luck. Zack was lost without Delilah. Then, in November, Zack's mom, Michele, came across a photo of Delilah on the Facebook page of a shelter 45 minutes away. But the family's excitement didn't last for long. The Humane Society of Tampa Bay had put Delilah up for adoption since she didn't have identification tags or a microchip. And the lovable pup found a home within days.
Meanwhile, Delilah's new family bonded with her for three months and initially refused to give her up. According to the Humane Society, dogs without identification no longer belong to the original owner after three days, so they didn't legally have to return her. But after hearing how distraught Zack was, they finally agreed to give her back, leading to an emotional reunion yesterday. Many people have offered the other family a new dog, but they're going to hold off for now and take some time to heal.
This story underscores how important it is to microchip your pet. They provide a back-up when identification tags fall off, and can also prove ownership. Getting a microchip put in your pet takes only a few minutes and many animal shelters have low cost clinics, so it seems like a no brainer!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Arizona shelter worker camps out until an overlooked pup finds a forever home.
March 30 2016
Lizzy, a three year old Pit Bull Terrier mix, had been passed over by potential adopters countless times at the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control Shelter in Phoenix. Her breed already put her at a disadvantage, but Lizzy also had a missing eye and behavioral issues that require her to be an only pet. However shelter worker Melissa Gable knew that Lizzy was special and deserved a great home.
Concerned that people weren't seeing past Lizzy's physical appearance, Melissa decided to organize a "Pit-In," based on the 1960's protest sit-ins, to bring attention to the dog's plight. So a few weeks ago, Melissa set up Camp Lizzy, which consisted of a tent, air mattress, computer, and 60's themed decorations. She vowed to stay there until Lizzy found a forever home. The plan worked out even better than expected. Less than five hours after Camp Lizzy officially opened, Lizzy was adopted and went home with her new family.
Pit-Ins could be a cool way for other animal shelters to promote homeless bully breeds and bring attention to these lovely pups. I hope that Melissa and Lizzy's story also inspires others to come up with creative ways to increase adoptions!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Bomb sniffing pups are at a premium these days.
March 25 2016
As terrorist attacks sadly become increasingly common, more countries are incorporating detection dogs into their national security plan. Since 9/11, the number of canines deployed to the nation's transportation hubs has surged 400 percent. And with recent events, these pups are often called on to patrol other places, like malls and other popular tourist areas.
Earlier this month, Cynthia Otto, Executive Director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, testified at a Congressional hearing on homeland security canines that the demand for detection pups has increased to the point where the quality of dogs has suffered and the price has increased dramatically.
No agency outside of the United States military employs more bomb-sniffing canines than the Transportation Security Administration. This year, more than $120 million is budgeted for the TSA to place nearly a thousand bomb-sniffing dogs at airports, train stations, and other transportation spots, however they are having a hard time meeting that target since they don't have enough qualified pups. The TSA must replace 100 or more dogs per year because of retirement, health problems, or declining performance. For the first time since 9/11, the agency is seeking to purchase privately trained dogs. Previously all TSA pups were trained by federal employees at their dedicated facility at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas (you may remember an article we wrote back in November about this center's adoption program to find homes for dogs that didn't graduate from the program).
Sue Kjellsen of K2 Solutions, a company that supplies and trains IED detection pups for the military says that the demand for high quality Labradors has forced them to start looking abroad for pups. Eastern Europe has been a popular source because dogs there have been historically bred for police and other detection work. In America, dogs tend to be bred for companionship and show, which eliminates many breeders.
According to Sue, the dogs from K2 can search about 200 people per minute. Even technology can't replace these talented canines. TSA explosives detection handler Doug Timerlake says that no machine can detect the presence of explosive materials a way a dog can. While machines can confirm the presence of explosive substances, they can't reason and problem solve to find the source. Dogs can also work off leash to monitor open spaces and large areas more easily.
Most people don't believe going overseas for dogs is a good long term solution. There have been many alternatives proposed, such as expanding the breeds considered for detection work and creating a national breeding program, but it's still a dilemma being worked through.
These dogs play an important and unique role in our security. I just hope these programs don't forget that they're not merely looking at numbers that can be adjusted to find the most cost effective solution. They are living, breathing animals that deserve the best care and decision making around their future in this country.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The train line has been developing a program to include pets on trips.
March 24 2016
A year ago, the White House and House of Representatives passed a bill to continue government funding for Amtrak. It also required the train line become pet friendly. While both political sides didn't fully agree, it was thought that the pet-related part of the bill won over many representatives for the bi-partisan vote. The provision was included in the bill by California Representative Jeff Denham who had been advocating for pet friendly trains since he realized several years ago that he couldn't ride Amtrak with his French Bulldog, Lily.
When the bill was passed, Amtrak had already been testing a small pilot program in Illinois, but this legislation gave the train line a year to figure out the parameters of an official program.
They took the time to expand the pilot program to include the popular Northeast Regional and Downeaster routes (from Norfolk, Va. to Brunswick, Me.), which was a success. Animal lovers were thrilled and the $25 pet fee made Amtrak nearly $500,000 in extra revenue. During the October to March pilot period, 4,600 passengers traveled with pets. In that time, Amtrak didn't receive a single piece of negative feedback from customers who shared cars with a furry passenger. Instead passengers wanted Amtrak to include other pets (currently only cats and dogs are allowed) and to increase the current 20-pound limit.
Last month Amtrak announced that the Northeast Regional and Downeaster routes would become permanent pet routes and expanded the program to include longer trips up to seven hours in length (that means the Auto Train from Virginia to Florida wouldn't be included). They also announced a new pilot program on the Acela Express that will run into June.
Because the program limits five pet reservations per car, Amtrak recommends booking pet spots early. Dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old and fit in a carrier that can go under the seat (19" x 14" x 10.5" or smaller). For safety reasons, animals must be able to sit and lie down comfortably without touching the sides of the carrier. While riders may not be asked for it, passengers are required to have their pets' vaccination records on hand. Quiet and cafe cars remain humans only.
As Amtrak is phasing in the pet program, they're still working through challenges. For instance, in some regions, passengers may be transported between train stations on buses that aren't pet friendly. Also Amtrak will sometimes arrange lodging for delayed passengers, and finding a pet friendly hotel adds an extra complication. However, Amtrak is committed to expanding the program.
It's always great to have another pet friendly travel option. I hope that Amtrak not only expands the program to other regions and routes, but also finds a way to include larger dogs as well. Pups that don't fit under a passenger seat (by train or by air) are forced to travel essentially as plane cargo. Hpoefully Amtrak can one day provide an alternative.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Californian pup survives five weeks after falling off of a fishing boat.
March 18 2016
Last month, Nick Haworth was chartering a small fishing boat two miles off the coast of Southern California when his canine crew member, Luna, fell overboard and disappeared. Nick immediately called for help and started a search for the 1.5 year old German Shepherd/Husky mix. Even Navy crews from nearby San Clemente Island helped by looking for Luna from land and air. Sadly after two days of searching, Luna was still nowhere to be found. Nick was heartbroken.
But five weeks later, Luna miraculously showed up near a naval facility on the island. Crew members found her sitting by the main road, ready to be rescued. As soon as they opened the door and whistled, Luna jumped right in.
Navy wildlife biologist Melissa Booker surmised that Luna was hard to spot because her tan and black coloring blended in with the island's vegetation. They think Luna swam to shore not long after falling from the boat, and survived on her own on the island for over a month. When they found her, she was a bit malnourished, but otherwise healthy. There was evidence that Luna survived by eating small rodents.
Domestic animals are not usually allowed on San Clemente Island, so the Navy members had fun with her during her stay. Naval Air Base Commander Stephen Barnett bestowed a special dog tag on the survivor which read, "For Luna, keep the faith."
Nick was overjoyed to learn that Luna had been found, but her resilience didn't surprise her. "I always knew she was a warrior."
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