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
Do You Watch Westminster?
PETA wants to end TV coverage for Westminster

The BBC decided not to broadcast the famous Crufts dog show in 2009, which stunned the international dog fancy and delighted its critics. A recent BBC documentary, "Pedigree Dogs Exposed," demonstrated the serious health problems in some breeds due to breeding for subjective looks in the conformation ring instead of sound structure, temperament and long-term health. In response, the Kennel Club released "Healthy New Years Resolutions" for purebred dogs. Changes include revisions to breed standards, banning inbreeding, and requiring identification such as tattoos or microchips in order to participate in KC-sponsored health clearances.

PETA is now actively campaigning to cancel coverage of Westminster, the American version of Crufts. Will this encourage the AKC to follow in the pawprints of the KC? Should changes be made?

News: Guest Posts
Rent a dog, save a life? Not likely, according to animal advocates

On the surface, FlexPetz founder Marlena Cervantes came up with a smart idea. There are plenty of people who enjoy dogs, but cannot have one of their own. Why not let them borrow a dog for a walk in the park or a weekend excursion? FlexPetz matches one of its dogs to the client’s needs and everybody’s happy, right?

Well, not exactly. “I am concerned that these ‘rent-a-pet’ enterprises devalue the worth of companion animals,” says Jeff Dorson, executive director of the Humane Society of Louisiana. “One can now rent them for a few hours and return them as if they were disposable. That is not a message that I would like to send to children.”

Cervantes told a reporter she prefers to use the term “dog time-share,” as though our canine companions are on par with a condo. Such semantics might make for good marketing, but it does not change the fact that these dogs are treated like books checked out from the library. (Cervantes did not return calls or emails requesting an interview for this article.)

“The concept really sickens me,” says Amy Wukotich, a professional dog trainer and director of Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus. “I spend much of my time explaining to clients and adopters how important it is to build a healthy relationship with your dog. This [business] tells the public that relationships don't matter, that a dog is just like any other trendy toy. Use it while it’s convenient, then dump it and move on. The dog’s quality of life isn’t even considered in this arrangement.”

Being shuttled between multiple homes over the course of a week’s time could be confusing or possibly even harmful, depending on the dog’s temperament and health. What does that constant change do to the dog, both mentally and physically?

“We object strongly to any options that would leave pets in limbo, bouncing from home to home for the sheer enjoyment of humans looking for entertainment,” says Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA Adoption Center & Mobile Clinic Outreach Program. “From scientific studies and data collected over several decades, we know that dogs are social animals that form long-lasting bonds to each other and to people. A stable bond is necessary for the well-being of an animal, much like you’d imagine for a child with the caretakers in a family.”

FlexPetz also spins its service as a way to save shelter dogs and prevent other dogs from ending up there. If the dog’s history is unknown, is it wise to press this dog into such service? Even the best-trained, physically healthy and temperamentally sound dog might be stressed under these circumstances. Perhaps more to the point, doesn’t this rent-a-dog concept encourage the disposability of dogs, which is how many of them ended up in the shelter in the first place?

Buchwald says there are many options for a doggie fix that are in the dog’s best interest, too. For example, volunteers are always welcome at shelters where they can help socialize and exercise dogs until they find a permanent home. For those who are uncomfortable in a shelter environment, volunteering with a breed rescue, whose adoptable dogs are already safe in foster homes, is another viable alternative. Family, friends and neighbors with dogs would also appreciate help exercising their dog or pet-sitting while they’re on vacation.

“Many elderly people have to give up their pets because they’re physically challenged and can’t take care of them,” says Buchwald. “Helping elderly people care for their dogs is a great way to get interaction with a dog if you can’t manage full-time ownership.”

Read a Newsweek update here.

News: Guest Posts
Dog Food Can Be Life Changing
FBI working dogs must earn their meals and are hand-fed every morsel.

So here's the difference between my companion dogs and FBI working dogs. My dogs must sit politely and make eye contact with me before I put down their food bowls. FBI dogs must detect one of 19,000 possible explosives combinations and before their handler feeds them their meal by hand. This simple act reinforces their will to work and strengthens the bond with their handler. In fact, these working dogs never eat out of a bowl until their retirement! To see these brave, brilliant dogs in action, check out this fascinating video. As a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, I'm thrilled that the FBI uses food to teach, motivate and reward its working canine partners. The APDT also emphasizes reward-based training, which I personally find to be the most fun way to teach dogs of all ages, sizes and personalities. The use of food helps FBI dogs save people's lives. Four years ago, I used food to save a dog's life. I was a volunteer with a German shepherd rescue and received a call from the Louisiana SPCA that a very scared German shepherd had been found as a stray and needed help. No one was going to want to adopt a large, fearful adult dog. I went to the shelter on my lunch hour and found a frightened, dark sable girl named Jetta. She huddled in the corner of her concrete kennel. Every day for a week, I visited Jetta and offered her food. At first, I gently tossed the treats to her. She responded as if I were throwing stones -- more cowering and shaking. On day three, she took a step or two toward them and then she began to eat them in front of me. The most magical day was when Jetta ate the food out of my hand. Two weeks later, I still hadn't found a foster home for her. My husband agreed that we could take her in temporarily. She soon blossomed into the beautiful, confident girl I knew she could be and was soon adopted by a wonderful person who continues to cherish Jetta as a close companion. What is your dogs' relationship to their food?

News: Guest Posts
My Pack's Plans for 2009
I asked my dogs if they had any New Year's resolutions, and to my surprise, they did.

The thought of New Year's resolutions makes me want to eat ice cream ... preferably a pint of chocolate chocolate chip from Oberweis. There's just too much pressure and I have yet to reach any goal through resolution. So I asked my dogs if they had any plans for 2009 and, to my surprise, they did (see below). Have your dogs resolved to make some changes this year? I'd love to hear from them!

"Eat more peanut butter, herd more sheep, chomp more Kongs to bits, and continue teaching that sassy little whippersnapper Ginger Peach to respect her elders." - Desoto, 11 yrs., Catahoula

"Pass my Canine Good Citizen test, persuade more people to rub my belly and under my pits, and go lure coursing at least three times this summer. I also want to go on more summer skunk hunts, but Mama does not approve." - Shelby, 7 yrs., Pit Bull mix

"Earn an agility championship, bruise fewer shins with my whip tail, ignore those new freckles or 'age spots,' go running with Mom for conditioning, play ball more often with Dad, and remember to play nice with others." - Darby Lynn, 6 yrs., Dalmatian

"Seriously? Well, I resolve to be less shy around new people and in new situations, work hard to perfect those darn weave poles, and continue to be the best mouser in the house. Oh, and eat my weight in raw turkey necks." - Jolie, 5 yrs., Dalmatian

"Catch as many frisbees as possible, compete in more Disc Dog competitions with Daddy, practice agility with Mommy, be less of a nuisance to my elders, continue showing Bruiser Bear the cat that it's okay to play with dogs, learn to walk on a loose leash and not jump up on people, no matter how much I so badly really, really want to." - Ginger Peach, 18 mos., mixed breed

News: Guest Posts
Bark Dogs on TV
One look at the Bark Nov/Dec '08 cover and it's clear why Tru and Jammer -- both rescues -- were chosen out of 6,000 contest hopefuls.

One look at the Bark Nov/Dec '08 cover and it's clear why Tru and Jammer -- both rescues -- were chosen out of 6,000 contest hopefuls. They're super photogenic and have a twinkle in their eyes. Owner Liz Dodge of Coos Bay, Ore., was just getting over the shock of seeing her two dogs on the cover of a national magazine when the local TV station called. You can see the pups in action and hear more about their amazing story from shelter dogs to supermodels here. Hopefully, their story will inspire more people to adopt dogs from shelters and breed rescues.

News: Guest Posts
Dogs Decorate for Christmas

These clever canines would make Scrooge smile. Happy holidays, everyone!

News: Guest Posts
Solid Gold Recalls Canned Turkey Formula
Quick, check your pantry!

Quick, check your pantry! Due to customer complaints about mold, Solid Gold is voluntarily recalling 13.2 oz. cans of its turkey, ocean fish, carrot, and sweet potatoes formula. The cans in question feature a purple label, a "pop-top," and 01/02/2010 expiration date on the bottom. Cans should be immediately returned to the point of purchase. For more info, go to Solid Gold.

News: Guest Posts
Biden Pup Breeder In Doghouse

Elected to public office? Then congrats, you're getting a dog! Seriously, you'd have to live in a cave not to know that the Obamas are searching for a First Puppy. But who knew that Vice President-elect Joe Biden also made a doggie deal? His wife, Jill, said he could get one if the Obama-Biden ticket prevailed.


Last week, Biden visited breeder Linda Brown's Jolindy's Kennels in southeastern Pennsylvania to pick out a three-month-old German shepherd puppy. As someone who co-founded and volunteered for New Orleans German Shepherd Rescue for several years, I'm disappointed that Biden chose to purchase a puppy from a breeder. This magnificent breed is often passed over at shelters due to its large size or tough reputation. Yes, I know that some folks insist on having a young puppy, but you'd be surprised at how many young German shepherds ranging from six months to one year end up in shelters simply for "getting too big" or getting into trouble due to lack of training, exercise or attention.


On the upside, at least the Bidens didn't buy their puppy from a pet store or a backyard breeder just looking to make a buck. Then again, in looking at the breeder's Web site, it's unclear as to whether she is a member in good standing with a national registry like the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club. Or whether she tests her sires and dams for health problems commonly found in German shepherds, such as hip dysplasia, before breeding them. She appears to use mostly dogs imported from Germany in her breeding program. I much prefer the structure of the traditional working German shepherd versus the extreme back-leg angulation of American-bred show German shepherds. That's one important reason why the police and military import their working dogs -- their sound structure allows them to actually do the work for which they were bred.


But then I noticed that Brown has four litters available for sale, which is quite a few puppies. Most hobby breeders only breed one litter a year or less because they're not in it for the money. They carefully research the pedigrees of the prospective sire and dam and do the necessary (and perhaps even extra) health tests of eyes, hips, elbows, etc., and any genetic diseases that affect their breed. My guess is that Brown is a commercial breeder, one who breeds often in order to make money. Sure enough, Brown is believed to have 85 dogs at her facility. And she was recently cited for several violations, including "unsatisfactory ventilation, inadequate maintenance and sanitation, and missing sale and vaccination records." What's worse, according to AKC Board of Directors meeting minutes dated April 10-11, 2006, "The AKC's Management Disciplinary Committee has suspended Ms. Linda Brown, Spring City, PA, from all AKC privileges for one year, effective April 10, 2006, and imposed a $1000 fine for having submitted or caused to be submitted three litter registration applications that she knew, should have known, or had a duty to know contained false certifications as to the sire and/or dam (DNA exclusion)."


Maybe Biden should've adopted after all. Need more convincing? Check out BidenDog.   

News: Guest Posts
Britain's Purebred Dog Controversy

After years of investigation culminating in the documentary, "Pedigree Dogs Exposed," the BBC has decided not to broadcast Crufts in 2009. This is the latest blow to the Kennel Club, the purebred dog registry that hosts the world's most famous dog show. Long-time sponsor Pedigree announced earlier that it will no longer support Crufts. High-profile British charities the RSPCA and the Dogs Trust have also declined to set up information booths at this year's show.


The BBC had asked the Kennel Club for a compromise in which 14 "at-risk" breeds would not be allowed to compete in the main competitions, including "Best in Show" and group categories. The breeds range from the Basset Hound to the St. Bernard; all of them are believed to have severe health or structural issues due to improper breeding. The Kennel Club declined, claiming that it is doing its part to improve the health of all pedigree dogs. Subsequently, the BBC dropped the coverage.


It'll be interesting to see if the Kennel Club controversy affects the American Kennel Club and its prestigious National Championship dog show.

News: Guest Posts
Woman Steals Dog Poop Receptacle

Some people will go to any lengths to prevent dog poop near their yard. In this case, Carrie Fosdale of Algonquin, IL, literally took matters into her own hands. When her homeowners association refused to remove the community dog waste station installed near her townhome, Fosdale stole the waste bucket and hid it in her garage. A warrant went out for her arrest and she surrendered herself to the Algonquin police. She was released on $100 bond. If convicted, she faces up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.