Julia Kamysz Lane

Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

News: Guest Posts
Christmas Card Canines
Are your dogs in the family photo?
Christmas photo holiday portrait dog cat pet


Every year, I insist that our dogs and cats be included in our annual Christmas portrait. (Who else would want to see a photo of just me and my husband, our parents aside?) This particular holiday tradition annoys my spouse to the point where I question if i am indeed a sadist. But the explanation is simple; this is my family. Do you include your pets in your Christmas photo? A few friends send me Christmas cards with photos featuring only their dogs, no humans. Do you prefer not to be in the picture, or substitute Santa as the human representative? Please share your holiday photos - and stories about the photo shoot - on Bark's Facebook page. Happy holidays!

News: Guest Posts
Pit Bull "Round Up" Part of Problem
BSL promotes ignorance and intolerance

Imagine the outrage if towns decreed that all dog owners must purchase a large outdoor kennel, liability insurance, and muzzle their dog while out in public. Should they choose not to comply, or cannot afford to do so, their dog will be seized and impounded; no exceptions. Dog lovers would not simply roll over and submit. So why do pit bull owners in Sikeston, Mo., and many other cities nationwide face BSL (breed specific legislation) discrimination? 


Last week, St. Louis-based reporter Chris Hayes investigated an alleged pit bull “round up” in which 20-30 dogs would be seized from their owners for non-compliance Sikeston, a small town in southeastern Missouri. Soon thereafter, pit bull activists bombarded city hall with questions related to the supposed round up and its laws directed at American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Bull Terriers.


However, according to the Sikeston Standard Democrat, the mass pit bull round up was an exaggeration; only three pit bulls were seized for noncompliance.


Sikeston Area Humane Society director Trace Allen White further clarified the story on SAHS’s Facebook page. “The Sikeston Humane Society had NO part in the seizing of dogs. ACO and the shelter are 2 completely different entities,” wrote White. “Also the amount of dogs we got in is wrong as well. That day we only received in 3 Pit Bulls for Non Compliance (3 too many I agree). The 20 dogs that everyone keeps reading about was an estimate that an ACO gave me. ...


“I also talked to the City Manager who said that they weren't doing a round up but rather an audit to make sure that the people who had met compliance once before were still in accordance with it. If they weren't then their dog would be seized. I do not know when they will finish this audit. With all this media attention I doubt they even will.


“The dogs we got in are not subject to immediate euthanasia, anyone who knows me knows that I would never do that. The owners are given 10 days to get their dogs back, if they need more time I always work with them. If the owners do not want them back then they are either put up for adoption or sent to rescues.”  


Regardless of how many dogs were taken, why take a companion dog from its home, only to store him or her at the shelter? Is this merely busy work for city officials and employees? Are they more interested in looking good in the eyes of ignorant constituents rather than taking an active role in promoting education and responsible pet ownership?


We teach children at an early age to be respectful of differences. Why is it okay to judge a dog by its appearance or purported breed?


During his report, Hayes had the following conversation with City Manager Doug Friend: “‘Are you sure they were pit bulls that you took?’
Friend replied, ‘We identified them as pit bulls, but not thru DNA.’
Hayes followed up, ‘How did you identify them?’
Friend said, ‘We just looked at them.’”


Friend’s ignorance is astounding. Allowing a dog to be subjectively seized is horrifying. Most people don’t even know what a pit bull looks like. Purebred dogs such as Boxers, Bull Terriers, English Bulldogs, Catahoulas, Mastiffs, Vizslas and many more are commonly mistaken as American Pit Bull Terriers. Think you know what a pit bull looks like? Try the “Find a Pit Bull” test and see how you fare.


While the round up story remains murky, Allen makes his view on BSL crystal clear: “The BSL here in Sikeston does need to be changed. I moved from Sikeston partly because I couldn't walk my own dogs down the street without them being muzzled and trust me, it'll be a cold day in hell when you see my dogs muzzled.


“If you want to help then contact local Sikeston City Officials and POLITELY tell them you would like to see a generic dangerous dog ordinance put in place, one that does not profile breeds and puts more responsibility on the owners because after all the monster isn't on the end of the leash it is the person holding it.”


Does your city have BSL or has it ever been proposed? Are pit bulls available for adoption from your local shelter or are they automatically euthanized at intake?

News: Guest Posts
Family Dies to Save Dog
Tragic ending to heroic efforts
dog swim ocean

Tragedy struck a northern California family when their dog, Fran, was swept out by a wave while playing fetch at Big Lagoon state beach. Sixteen-year-old Gregory Kuljian immediately dove in to save her. Seeing his son struggle in the eight-to-10-foot surf, Gregory's father, Howard Kuljian, 54, quickly followed. Gregory made it out, but returned to the churning waters along with his mother, Mary Scott, 57, to rescue his father.

All three drowned as Gregory's 18-year-old sister, Olivia, and girlfriend watched in horror. The group had gathered at Big Lagoon state beach near Arcata, California, for a leisurely stroll where signs warned of dangerous sneaker waves. The dog, Fran, safely made her way back to land.

News: Guest Posts
Orcas Frighten Diver and Dog
Biologist suggests whales were more curious than killer

My heart was in my throat while watching this video clip in which a diver and dog narrowly escape a pod of Orcas in New Zealand. The videographer, Deonette De Jongh, had been diving for crayfish with the man who we see scramble to safety onto rocks. According to an eyewitness, the Labrador retriever's owner continued to throw sticks for his dog, even though he knew the whales were there, just to "see what would happen." If that had been my dog out there, you can be sure I would have screamed for my dog to return to shore, and fast! Despite sensational news headlines to the contrary, Orca biologist Dr. Ingrid Visser assures viewers that these wild Orcas were merely curious.

News: Guest Posts
Rescued Bait Dog Receives National Honor
From dog fighting ring to show ring in less than one year

Like many young Staffordshire Terrier mixes around the country, Vivian Peyton didn’t have the best chance of finding a loving home. She was used as a bait dog for a dog fighting ring before ending up at a Philadelphia shelter. Wounded, emaciated and understandably wary of people, Vivian was not considered adoptable.


Thanks to New Leash on Life, a nonprofit prison dog-training program, Vivian Peyton learned to trust, earned her Canine Good Citizen certification and was adopted by Michele Pich, a Veterinary Grief Counselor at PennVet. Together, they comfort grieving pet lovers and visit children at Ronald McDonald House.


Her extraordinary journey and service has not gone unnoticed. Vivian Peyton will be honored as a Purina Therapy Dog Ambassadors at the National Dog Show at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center on Saturday, November 17 and Sunday, November 18.


“Vivian Peyton's honor as Therapy Dog Ambassador at Purina's National Dog Show this year is such an amazing honor,” says proud owner Pich. “For such a sweet beautiful little girl that almost didn't make it out of the shelter alive to go on in a year's time to be part of New Leash on Life's prison-dog program, to have the honor of being a therapy dog through Penn Vet's VetPets program - putting smiles on sick children's faces, and to help grieving pet lovers - and now to be given this special title is incredible.


“I have loved her since the second I met her, and could see that she was destined for greatness,” adds Pich. “I just had no idea that the rest of the world would see it too. She is gentle yet rambunctious when she should be, she's goofy yet dainty. She has a loving demeanor and she just seems to know what people need to feel better. I feel so fortunate to be her mom and to be with her through this amazing privilege of being part of the Therapy Dog ambassador team.”


New Leash on Life USA is a new generation prison dog-training program that saves the lives of shelter dogs by training and socializing them to enhance their adoptability while helping inmates learn to train and care for dogs. With New Leash on Life USA, dogs live in the cells with their inmate trainers 24/7, making New Leash dogs highly desirable for adoption and ensuring the long-term success for both humans and canines. For more information on New Leash on Life USA visit www.newleashonlife-usa.org.


“We are incredibly proud of Vivian Peyton for showing the resiliency of animals and what can be accomplished with love and care,” said Marian V. Marchese, the founder of New Leash on Life. “She will always be New Leash on Life’s ambassador dog.”

News: Guest Posts
What Hurricane Sandy Victims Really Need
Something that dog lovers understand

The physical and emotional devastation of Hurricane Sandy hits too close to home. Seven years ago, Hurricane Katrina flooded our New Orleans neighborhood and changed my family’s life forever.


I can relate to the shock and the pain and the fear that Sandy’s victims are feeling right now. I can also tell you that a donation to the Red Cross or any other charity, while helpful, is not as powerful as making an individual, human connection. If you’re an animal lover, you already understand what I’m about to say. 


When we were finally allowed to enter our house nearly one month after Katrina, part of me didn’t want to go. Maybe if we didn’t look with our own eyes, all those images on TV would remain abstract. Our pink and white raised bungalow would look exactly the way we left it – dry and safe. Our dogs would greet us at the door, tails wagging. The cats would blink sleepy hellos from their warm perches.


Instead, our beautiful home had been submerged in up to eight feet of brackish water for three weeks. Elderly neighbors were found drowned. Friends had evacuated to destinations unknown. Our four dogs and two cats were temporarily living with my parents in a Chicago suburb. Life had become strange and tenuous.


Upon realizing that our evacuation had changed into long-term refuge, my mother-in-law said, “ Good thing you don’t have any kids.” I knew what she meant. Being a practical person, she was thinking in terms of finding housing, transportation, schools and babysitters while juggling insurance and FEMA phone calls, not to mention work if you still had a job. What a nightmare for any parent.


Even so, my pets are family. They had basic needs, too, such as being fed, sheltered, feeling safe and loved. Family and friends had donated clothing and personal items to us, but dog lovers in particular understood that our animals’ needs outweighed our own. One incredibly generous woman insisted we meet her at PetsMart and she bought our pets $250 worth of food, treats, collars, leashes, bowls, and toys.


During our many salvage trips back to New Orleans, a team of volunteers I had met online helped walk and exercise the dogs since my parents were limited physically. Clean Run, an agility magazine, mailed us a care package filled with treats, toys, and training items, plus shirts and coats for the humans. Therapy Dogs International sent us a check in honor of our Therapy Dog Desoto’s service.


The animal lovers totally got it. Our pets’ well being affected our own mental health. Desoto, Shelby, Darby, Jolie, Cricket and Bruiser did not understand why their lives had changed in every possible way, but thanks to human kindness, they were well cared for and loved. The people who helped us most were the ones who recognized that it was the little things that mattered, like taking our dogs for a walk. Or the stranger who found me crying on the porch steps of my rotted house, feeling so alone, and gave me a strong hug.


Dog lovers, you of all people understand the value of physical touch and the power of connecting with another being. Please reach out to an individual Hurricane Sandy victim and give them something to hold onto.  

News: Guest Posts
Dog Training for Life
A six-week obedience class isn't enough
dog, training, sit, stay, obedience

When I started teaching agility and obedience classes, it became clear early on whether someone was training their dog for life or not. Students who asked questions, practiced homework and came to every single class were hooked. If they’d had a tail, it would’ve been wagging!

The time they invested in their dog lead to quicker progress and more successes. Many of those "lifers" are still training with me today, five years later. They go to fun matches and shows together, and socialize outside of class.

At the other extreme (and yes, I do believe that those of us who compete in dog sports are extreme), the occasional student acted like he didn’t want to be there. Some were downright rude and disruptive, as if they thought they had signed up for a private lesson, not a group class.

One couple told me they preferred a different training philosophy, but I was the only one nearby who offered puppy classes. Despite my best efforts to engage them, they spent the six weeks ignoring my suggestions, and paying more attention to fellow students than their puppy. Sadly, it came as no surprise that I never saw them again.  

Only once did I have to ask someone not to return; she was a family member of a student and argued with me so vehemently that I was concerned she might get physical. I rightly guessed her behavior had nothing to do with dog training and everything to do with a personal issue at home.

She called a few days later to apologize and explain. While I empathized with her, it was not fair to the other students and their dogs to share class time with someone who was not committed to making the most of it.

The people I couldn’t figure out were the ones who seemed to enjoy class with their dog. Perhaps they weren’t as passionate as the lifers, but they were good students. They might even complete a few sessions before dropping out.

In some cases, finances were an issue, and I would offer options to make classes more affordable. Some said work or family obligations made it impossible to attend regularly. Again, I would do my best to accommodate them, by offering a drop in option, private lessons or organizing the class of their choice on a day that best fit their schedule.

Others told me they accomplished their goals and were happy. Their dog no longer needed training. This answer floored me; how could you not want to continue? Your dog could do any number of activities or sports, from agility to nose work to rally. Would you and your dog really be more satisfied just going for walks and lounging on the couch?

This is when I would get “the look,” a reminder that I am extreme when it comes to dog training. For perspective, I asked my mom – who loves dogs, but doesn’t have one of her own - why people would successfully complete a six-week obedience course, thank me for being a good teacher, then never step foot in the classroom again.

She gave it a lot of thought and said that for her, once her dog successfully completed the class, she had done her part as a responsible dog owner.

I find this perspective so difficult to understand. Dog training is not a color by numbers exercise. It’s fluent, dynamic and creative. To me, a graduation diploma is a sign of what’s to come, not what’s done.

Culture: Reviews
Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport ... One Flying Disc at a Time
Gotham Books
Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport

One underdog in this story, as told by Gorant (author of the best-selling The Lost Dogs), is certainly Wallace. The twice-abandoned Pit Bull overcame negative breed stereotypes when he became a world disc dog champion in a sport dominated by speedy dogs half his size. “Underdog” could also describe his rescuer and disc partner, Andrew “Roo” Yori, whose stoic Midwestern demeanor and athleticism hid a sensitive side sometimes overwhelmed by career, love and self-discovery.

While a student at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, Roo met and courted his future wife, Clara. A few years after graduation, they adopted two dogs from Paws & Claws, a local shelter. Soon, they were both volunteering, matchmaking homeless pets with adopters.

In the meantime, an adolescent Wallace, who had been confiscated from a suspected dog-fi ghting ring as a puppy, was becoming a handful for the policeman who took him in, and reluctantly, he relinquished the young dog to Paws & Claws. Wallace had another potential strike against him: the policeman had played Schutzhund games with the high-drive pup. Wallace’s breed, lack of impulse control and sheer strength made him potentially dangerous in the wrong hands.

Roo and Clara recognized Wallace’s potential and saved his life, but not without personal and professional sacrifices. In return, he enriched their lives in ways no one could’ve guessed, from introducing them to new friends around the world to pushing boundaries when it came to breed bans and fear.

Ultimately, through family illness, marital discord and financial woes, Wallace was the glue that kept Roo and Clara together. Theirs is an inspiring tale of happiness measured not by achievement and fame, but by transcending the material for special moments shared with the ones we love.

Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Scent Tracking with Your Dog
Tracking showcases your dog’s most scentsational talent

When long-time tracking enthusiast Penny Kurz discovered that her mailbox had been vandalized, she took action. Harnessing up her tracking dog, Deuce, she set out to find the perpetrator.

“Deuce sniffed around the mailbox and started running what looked like a car trail to me,” says Kurz. “A car trail will hang along the curb or edge of grass along the sidewalk. When he puts his nose down into footprints, it looks different. He took me up a couple blocks, made another corner, up another street, then all of a sudden stopped. He went across the front lawn, poking his nose into the footprints, went to the front door and sat down.

“I was ready to knock on the door, say someone broke my mailbox and my dog tracked to this house,” says Kurz. “Then I looked down at Deuce. Unfortunately, you lose a little credibility when you’re standing there with a Miniature Poodle. I chickened out—if I can’t fix the mailbox, I’ll borrow a German Shepherd and go back.”

Follow the Dog
If your dog has a nose, he can track. Surely you’ve seen him do so on walks with his nose to the ground or lifted high in the air. The sport of tracking harnesses that natural ability by demonstrating the dog’s ability to follow the scent of one particular person, the tracklayer, over various kinds of terrain. Each level of competition features greater challenges—a longer, well-aged track; more turns; and multiple scent articles.

Unlike agility or obedience, where the handler gives instructions and the dog is expected to follow, in tracking the dog is in charge. He wears a harness attached to a 30-foot leash and pulls the handler down the trail. Some dogs are confident and fly down the track, whereas others are methodical and take their time. In a test, each dog receives his own track, and two judges follow the dog-handler team. Putting on a tracking test is labor-intensive and requires a lot of land, so the dog must be certified prior to entry to ensure that he has been trained to the proper level.

Three main organizations sanction tracking tests. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is probably the best known, but allows only purebred dogs. For the beginner level, or Tracking Dog (TD) title, the dog must follow a track 440 to 500 yards long with three to five turns and aged 30 minutes to two hours. At the end, he must indicate a scent article, such as a glove, to the handler. The Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX) title requires intermediate tracking skills. At the most advanced level, or Variable Surface Tracking (VST) title, the track is 600 to 800 yards long with four to eight turns, aged three to five hours, and covers three different ground surfaces, mimicking an urban environment.

To give you an idea of the degree of difficulty, AKC Field Representative Herb Morrison says the TD has a 55 to 60 percent passing rate, the TDX has a 20 percent passing rate, and the VST has a 5 percent passing rate. The rare dog who passes all three levels is a Champion Tracker (CT).

Elizabeth Falk and her five-year-old Bull Mastiff, Archie, recently made AKC history when he passed his TD. He became the first of his breed to earn his VCD (Versatile Companion Dog), which requires Novice-level titles in agility, obedience and tracking.

“One of the challenges was me trusting my dog,” says Falk, who accidentally flunked Archie at their first tracking test. “He was trying to turn, but I thought the track went straight [and] it was a deer track. Our first trial was definitely a valuable lesson.”

The World of Scent
Both the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) and Deutscher Verband der Gebrauchshundsportvereine America (DVG America) welcome purebred and mixed-breed dogs. If you choose to compete in a specific venue, you’ll want to find an instructor who can tailor your training to that organization’s tracking style. For example, AKC does not require that a dog track with precision, meaning his nose does not need to follow the track exactly as long as he stays within 30 yards of the trail and appears to be working.

On the other hand, DVG America, which offers tracking as part of its Schutzhund working dog program, requires the dog to be right on top of the trail or risk losing points. Whether you decide to track for fun or compete, the key is to be open-minded about your dog’s abilities. Carolyn Krause, author of Try Tracking!, began tracking in response to a comment by a sport writer who described Dalmatians, her chosen breed, as “stone-nosed.” Over the past 25 years, her dogs’ multiple tracking titles have clearly proven him wrong.

“If you have ever looked at grass with dew on it and saw all the trails from animals crossing,” says Krause, “that gives you an idea what the world of scent shows your dog. We can see it for just a few minutes. By simply taking your dog to different areas and trying things in the book, you can learn a lot about your dog’s personality and temperament. You don’t have to pursue a title, but you do need to make a commitment to it. You have to drive around with a “tracking eye”—oh, there’s an interesting place—and wonder if your dog could follow that. It’s amazing what your dog will show you.”


News: Guest Posts
Dogs Rescued During Hurricane Isaac
Seven years ago, only people were allowed in rescue boats
hurricane isaac katrina louisiana gulf coast dog rescue emergency plan


I cried today for three reasons. It is the seven-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans is again getting battered by another hurricane, Isaac. And for the first time, I saw rescuers take people's pets into the boat with them.


This dramatic rescue video shows 70-year-old Fred Leslie and his four dogs being pulled out through a vent in the attic of his two-story home. He will never have to wonder what happened to his dogs, whether they drowned, starved or were rescued but difficult to trace.


After Katrina, many dog lovers took in abandoned dogs. Sadly, they assumed the worst about their owners. I got into many an Internet and group email battle with these well-intentioned yet ignorant folks.


If this had happened to Leslie seven years ago, his dogs would not have been allowed in the boat with him. You can be sure the rescuers would not have allowed him to stay, either. He would not have been given a choice.