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
“We Need to Get Rid of Him”
For me, this phrase is a call to arms

This evening, I received an urgent phone message from a woman whose name sounded familiar. She mentioned her young dog and it all came back to me. She had called this past summer to ask if I taught a puppy class. I did not, but told her I was available for in-home lessons to get him started off on the right paw.

I discussed my positive training philosophy and how I encourage dogs to think and learn instead of being forced to do what they're told. She said she'd talk about it with her husband and let me know. I did’t hear back from her until today, seven months later. In her words, “We need to get rid of him. He bites.”

What happened during the intervening months? I immediately returned her call and shared contact info for a local rescue that specializes in that breed. I also offered to forward his photo and information to my students, friends and family via email. I suggested she post flyers at her vet.

Not once did she thank me. She also made it clear that taking a photo and downloading it on the computer would be a pain. Throughout our conversation, she would say, “Well, we paid $1,200 for him,” and "He's actually quite a precious dog” and “We didn't do anything wrong.” Oh, really? I truly hate to be rude, but I cut her off at every turn. I didn’t want to hear her excuses. What’s worse is that when I inquired as to whether the breeder would take him back--any responsible breeder would --she replied, “No, can you believe it? And they won’t give us back half our money, either!” That’s what worried her? The money?  

Finally, I had to ask, “When you contacted me about training over the summer, why didn’t you follow through?”  She informed me that they found a local puppy class and were satisfied with it until something bad happened. He had had the audacity to get up from a down-stay. She told me that the instructor threw the puppy to the ground with such force that he cried out and “you could hear a pin drop in the room.” All of the other students just stared. I asked where they took him and as she told me the name of the training school, my heart sank.

Two years ago, one of my clients came to me because of how her dog was treated at that same place. The instructor’s response to dogs who were “stubborn” or “dominant” was to throw them to the ground in what is known as an alpha roll advocated by old-fashioned aversive trainers a la Cesar Milan.

When her dog “refused” to stay in the heel position, this trainer threw her to the ground. After the dog “acted up” a second time, the trainer angrily grabbed the dog, said “I’ll teach you how to listen!” took her outside the room and my client heard her dog cry. She said she would never forgive herself for taking her dog there and trusting this person. After attempting to help her with the dog, my husband and I decided to adopt her, knowing that the damage caused could be undone, but it would require a commitment of time, energy and know how that this poor woman did not have.

So no wonder this dog bites. He doesn’t trust people and I can’t say I blame him. Perhaps if she had worked with me instead, things would be different. At least I can try to help him now by finding a home for him with someone who is far more dog savvy.  Someone who can teach him that people can be kind, thoughtful and patient. I hope that person is out there.

News: Guest Posts
Elderly Dog Survives Sidewalk Electrocution
Faulty wiring leads to near-tragedy

Princess' elderly owner had asked a neighbor to take her for a walk in their Brooklyn neighborhood. Both were surprised when the little senior mix started crying and shaking while on the sidewalk. Salt and water had conducted electricity to Princess' paws due to faulty wiring at a nearby apartment building. Fortunately, she survived and her veterinarian said she appears to be physically fine. All the more reason to make sure you clear your driveway and sidewalk of ice. If a neighbor is out of town or cannot shovel their property, offer to help so that everyone can be safe, including our pups.

News: Guest Posts
AKC’s Latest Controversy
Competitors were reaching for sandbags not glory at Agility Invitational

Every year, the American Kennel Club (AKC) Agility Invitational puts the spotlight on the top five dogs of every AKC-recognized breed, which gives less traditional agility breeds a chance to come out and shine. It's held in Long Grove, Calif., in conjunction with the creme de la creme of conformation and the top obedience teams. You might have seen highlights from years past on Animal Planet. Unfortunately, this video demonstrates how this year’s event went awry. No person and no dog--be it a champion purebred or nontitled mixed breed--should have to endure such disgusting conditions. Doesn’t an “invitational” imply that invitees are to be treated as guests? AKC really disappointed as host of the “party.”

News: Guest Posts
Can I Make My Dog Sick?
Confirmed cases of H1N1 being passed from humans to dogs and cats

A couple weeks ago, my otherwise healthy 12-year-old Catahoula, Desoto, had a bad case of diarrhea--the kind that required running to the back door with him in the middle of the night. It lasted for 10 messy days (we couldn't always make it outside). I tried not to worry too much since his appetite was as big as ever. But it got me thinking about how the most wonderful time of the year overlaps with the sickest time of the year. Lately, I've had more students and their dogs call in sick to class. Is it possible for people to pass on their illness to pets?


When it comes to the H1N1 virus or “swine flu,” the answer is yes. Two Chinese dogs were confirmed to have contracted the infamous virus from humans. Closer to home, an indoor cat in Iowa caught H1N1 from its owner. Since then, four more American cats came down with the illness, two of whom died.


This is not to be confused with H3N8 or CIV (canine influenza virus), which was originally passed on to dogs from horses. The symptoms of both viruses are similar: loss of appetite, lethargy, fever, runny nose, coughing and labored breathing. There is a CIV vaccine that veterinarians recommend for dogs who spend a lot of time with other dogs, such as at doggie daycares or shows.


For the latest info on public health and your pets, go to the American Veterinary Medical Association website.

News: Guest Posts
Dog Duct Taped and Abandoned
Sadly, this isn’t an isolated abuse case.

When my cat went missing for 12 hours a couple weeks ago, I thought I had imagined every possible worse-case scenario. But what happened to Daisy the Beagle never would’ve occurred to me. She had been missing from her upstate New York home for two weeks when a hunter located her on his property, shoved inside a plastic bag and duct taped so only her nostrils were exposed. She was in really bad shape, but miraculously was reunited with her family and is on the road to recovery. As I researched Daisy’s story, I found five more cases of animals being duct taped and thrown away in garbage bins. Incredibly, they all survived, too, but in every instance except one, the perpetrator has yet to be caught. The New York State Humane Society is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the capture of Daisy’s abuser and the Humane Society of the United States pledged $2,500 to assist the family with her medical costs. If you’d like to help find who did this to Daisy or defray some of her vet care, donations may be sent to the New York State Humane Society, PO Box 3068, Kingston, N.Y. 12402 or call (845) 336-4514.

News: Guest Posts
Stereotyping is no laughing matter.

You know what really gets my hackles up? Stereotyping a breed of dog, or what I'll call breedism. Did you hear Chris Rock's latest joke? On "The Jay Leno Show," he said, "What the hell did Michael Vick do, man? A Pit Bull ain't even a real dog." Fortunately, the late Richard Pryor's widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor -- who together with her late husband created Pryor’s Planet, an animal rescue group and sanctuary -- took a public stand. In a detailed, passionate letter, she makes her case that pit bulls are indeed real dogs deserving of love and respect. And unless Rock apologized, she said he would be dropped as a co-producer on a biopic of Richard Pryor.


Sadly, this is not an isolated case of breedism. Of course, breed-specific legislation continues to ignite controversy everywhere it goes. A nearby town is considering a Pit Bull ban. I immediately wrote to the mayor, asking him to reconsider it and look into alternatives, such as low-cost spay/neuter options and discounted obedience training through the local shelter.


It's also hit me on a more personal level. While teaching an agility class this past week, one of my students commented that she did not like German Shepherds. Two of her fellow students have German Shepherds! Not to mention, I co-founded a German Shepherd rescue years ago and fostered many wonderful German Shepherds over the years. When I asked why, she just shrugged her shoulders and said she simply didn't like them. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but there's a time and a place for it. It was all I could do to get a handle on my anger and return to teaching.


That student's thoughtless comment reminded me of a call I received last year. A woman phoned to inquire about my dog training classes. She asked me what kind of dogs I had and I gladly told her -- two Dalmatians, a Catahoula, a Pit Bull-mix and a mixed breed. She hesitated for a split second then told me she had a Standard Poodle. After a few more minutes of talking about Poodles and how they fared in agility, she asked if there would be any German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans or Pit Bulls in the class. I said there could be; I wouldn't know until I  received everyone's class applications. She suggested I place her in an agility class that would not be open to the aforementioned breeds "because, you know ... ." I was shocked. Did she not hear me say I personally have a Pit-Bull mix? Why did she think it was okay to ban certain breeds from attending my classes?


Naively, I assumed she would launch into a tragic story about a beloved dog of hers being eaten by a pack comprised of said breeds. But no, she did not. She claimed that all of these breeds were "aggressive" and could "turn on you." By now, I was losing control of my anger and I'm afraid I made it rather clear to her in a less than professional manner what I thought of her breed stereotypes. I had hoped that should I get a call like that again, I would be able to be more diplomatic. But the exchange with my current agility student made me realize that I, too, need to learn when to speak up and when to bite my tongue. It's impossible to educate people if you put them on the defensive or try to bully them into your way of thinking.


From now on, I vow to reflect on the story told to me by my local grocery store cashier before I respond rashly to people who stereotype breeds. I usually buy turkey necks as a special treat for my dogs and she always teases me about how I spoil them. One evening, she confided in me that she had been attacked by a Pit Bull and pulled back her bangs to expose a long jagged scar. The dog was often loose in the neighborhood and she had called the police and animal control numerous times in hopes that the owner would be cited and do something about it. Even though the attack was unprovoked, she blamed the neglectful, abusive owner, not the dog. Interestingly, when she was contacted by the media following the attack, she told the reporter what she told me, that she did not blame the dog, but her comments did not make it into print. Sensationalism sells, right?


Have you ever experienced breedism? Do you ever catch yourself stereotyping breeds?

News: Guest Posts
I Spot Trouble
Why I think "The 101 Dalmatians Musical" is a bad idea.

When I first heard about "The 101 Dalmatians Musical," my first thought was, "Does everything have to be turned into a musical?" On a more serious note, I worry that there will be a surge in popularity for this breed just like what happened in the late '90s when Disney's live-action remake of "101 Dalmatians" came out followed by a popular sequel, "102 Dalmatians." Backyard breeders quickly took advantage of the demand, creating too many Dalmatians for too few appropriate homes. Also, since they were breeding indiscriminantly, aggression and health issues became increasingly common in the breed.

As the owner of two rescue Dalmatians and a member of the Dalmatian Club of America, I'll be the first to admit that these high-energy spotted dogs are not for everyone, especially families with young children. And yet, the "101 Dalmatians" franchise is geared toward kids. If you ever want to attract a child's attention, try walking a Dalmatian past him or her. All the kids in my neighborhood know my two Dalmatians by name but never fawn over my other three dogs (two mixes and a Catahoula). I try to use it as an opportunity to educate them about the breed's need for lots of physical and mental exercise. 

Do you think popular films and stage productions starring a specific breed encourage people to get a dog like that?

News: Guest Posts
Crime or Freakish Accident?
Can a dog leash be considered a weapon?

Bob Head of San Jose, Calif., is angry and I don't blame him. While on her daily walk last week, his 62-year-old wife, Beverly, was tripped by a dog leash, hit her head and died the next day of her injuries. The "culprit" was a cyclist whose two Huskies were on leash running alongside him. According to the local police, the cyclist did not break any law and therefore no crime was committed. Mr. Head disagrees and wants lawmakers to address it to prevent future deaths. Do you think it should be illegal to bike with your leashed dog?

News: Guest Posts
What If Your Dogs Outlive You?
Tragedy leaves four dogs grieving and homeless.

This past Labor Day, suburban Chicago couple Mike and Sue Kelm went for a motorcycle ride. Sue had been battling cancer and was scheduled for surgery later that week. She usually didn't ride with her husband, but it seemed like a nice way to enjoy some time together on a beautiful, warm day. Tragically, a car pulling out of a gas station hit and killed them, leaving behind their beloved pack of dogs. The Kelms did not have children of their own; their niece, Kim Mayer, said her aunt and uncle's four dogs--Lab mixes Anacortes, Tacoma and Everett, and Husky mix Cedonia--"were their children."


In the event of their death, it was the Kelms' wish that all four dogs be kept together. Unfortunately, none of their relatives or friends are in a position to do so and they are seeking help from the dog lover community. The dogs are currently in the care of Chicago Canine Club, a doggie daycare facility in Burr Ridge, IL. If you or someone you know would be interested in helping the Kelm pack stay together, please contact Kathy Deets at the Chicago Canine Club at (708) 542-8969 or Kathy@chicagocanineclub.com. Or contact Kim Mayer at (815) 272-4583 or mayerdnk72@hotmail.com.


I always tell my husband that we need to make plans for our five dogs and two cats should something ever happen to us. But we never do; we make excuses, saying that we're only in our 30s or assume that our family members will take in our zoo, so why bother with paperwork? I know we need to do it. What provisions have you made for your animals in case you can no longer care for them? What is your advice for people (like me!) who have not done the same? 

News: Guest Posts
Sept. 13 Is Worldwide Vick Protest Day
Protesters plan peaceful march to give voice to victims of dogfighting.

This Sunday, Sept. 13, dog lovers are expected to gather outside stadiums throughout the country to protest Michael Vick's reinstatement in the NFL. Chicago area participants will meet at Soldier's Field Gate 14 at 12 p.m. Nicole Milligan of Long Road Home Pit Bull Rescue has organized a protest outside Panther's Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Meet at 11 a.m. at the corner of Stonewall and Mint. Other cities include New York City, Des Moines and Philadelphia. Participants are asked to be polite and peaceful; no posters depicting vulgar or racist language are permitted. To find out if a protest will be held in your city or to help organize one, contact Dan Meagher at vickprotest@yahoo.com or Nicole Miligan at vickprotestclt@yahoo.com.