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
Does Petland Support Puppy Mills?

An eight-month-long investigation by the Humane Society of the United States alleges that Petland, the nation's largest puppy retailer, sells puppies from large-scale commercial breeders (otherwise known as puppy mills), despite telling customers that the pups come from reputable breeders. Last time I checked, reputable breeders do not sell puppies to be treated like retail merchandise, nor do they keep dogs in cages their entire lives, or dump or shoot them when they can no longer breed. Watch the "Petland Linked to Puppy Mills" video for more details.

News: Guest Posts
Dog & Owner Reunited After Three Years

What an incredible journey for Czar and owner Michelle Garza of Lisle, IL! The 13-year-old mixed breed finally came home after three years thanks to his microchip. I still can't believe a senior dog survived as long as he did. If you haven't already microchipped your pup, now's the time! And if your dog is microchipped, be sure to update your contact info. With the holidays upon us and company coming in and out on a regular basis, it'd be easy for your dog to make an unexpected escape. A microchip will give you peace of mind, and better yet, improve your dog's chances of being safely reunited with you.

News: Guest Posts
First Dog Bites Reporter

Reporters are always on the lookout for a sound bite, but I don't think this is what political writer Jon Decker had in mind. The Reuters reporter spotted First Dog Barney on a walk with his handler and asked if he could pet him. The dogwalker said sure but the Scottish Terrier wasn't as agreeable. Or perhaps he was making a political statement of some kind. Fortunately, Decker was treated by the White House physician and will be fine.

News: Guest Posts
Dog-Friendly Travel Blog

Like to travel with your dog? Then you should check out Car Go Dogs. I drive all over the Midwest competing with my dogs in agility trials, so I'm always looking for dog-friendly vehicle info, accessories and travel tips. It's nice to find all these things in one spot!

News: Guest Posts
Soldiers' Pleas for Pup to Leave Iraq

Five months ago, Sgt. Gwen Beberg and a fellow soldier saved a little black and white puppy from a pile of burning trash in Baghdad. Soon, Beberg will return home to Minnesota and she requested that her beloved dog, Ratchet, return with her. The Army said no, according to Defense Department rules. Worried that Ratchet would not survive the streets of Iraq, or worse yet be decreed a "nuisance" by locals and killed, Beberg's supporters started an online petition urging the Army to reconsider. The petition has already garnered more than 12,000 signatures. Donations to help Ratchet and other Iraqi pups return home with their U.S. soldiers are gratefully accepted at Operation Baghdad Pups.

Something to keep in mind before you open your wallet: Terri Crisp serves as program coordinator for Operation Baghdad Pups. If you refer back to my post, "Noah's Wish Settles Katrina Allegations," from August 10, 2007, the Attorney General of California investigated Crisp's former rescue group, Noah’s Wish, for its alleged misallotment of Katrina funds. As part of a settlement that followed, Crisp agreed that she would not "serve as an officer, director or trustee, or in any position having the duties or responsibilities of an officer, director, or trustee, with any nonprofit organization for a period of five (5) years from the execution of this Settlement Agreement.” Granted, the title of program coordinator does not appear to break the agreement but I'm wary that she is involved with a rescue group again so quickly after the Katrina investigation.

News: Guest Posts
Poop Patrol Demands Dog DNA

The world has totally gone to the dogs ... and CSI! In a suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel, dog lovers are eligible for rewards if they scoop the poop. I have two questions: 1) who has the fun job of collecting and testing the properly bagged and tossed poop, and 2) is it really necessary to reward someone for responsible behavior? I'm all for positive reinforcement, but I hate to think that people will only do the right thing because of a "what's in it for me?" mindset.

News: Guest Posts
Church Sign Dog Debate

No matter your religious persuasion, or lack thereof, dog lovers will likely find these dueling church signs to be pretty amusing. I didn't find this debunked on Snopes, but a graphic-artist friend of mine thinks someone was having fun with Photoshop.

News: Guest Posts
German Shepherd Dials 911, Saves Owner

Given a chance, dogs are capable of mastering extraordinary skills. Buddy the German Shepherd called 911 when his owner, Joe Stalnaker of Phoenix, had a seizure. Help quickly arrived and thankfully, he survived. Stalnaker adopted Buddy as a puppy from Paws With A Cause so he could be trained as a Seizure Response Dog. As a dog trainer, I'm always looking for fun, new things to teach my pack of five dogs or my students' dogs. But I'll leave dialing 911 to service dogs only! What tricks can your dog do? Or what trick would you like to teach your dog?

News: Guest Posts
Toy Requires Tongue Amputation

If your dog plays with a pimple ball with bell (pictured here) manufactured by Four Paws Inc., please remove it immediately. Then read what happened to 10-year-old Lab mix Chai, whose tongue had to be amputated after playing with the ball.

When Chai's owner first brought this to Four Paws' attention two months ago to demand a public recall of this product, he was ignored. Then he was told that all of his correspondence had been forwarded to its insurance company! Four Paws did not publicly acknowledge the defective toy and recall it until August 27, 2008. The long-time dog toy manufacturer claimed that this had never happened before.

Daniel planned to accept a financial settlement from Four Paws to cover Chai's vet bills and rehab until he learned that a 5-year-old Lab mix named Cole died from his horrific tongue injuries sustained by the ball back in 2005. Four Paws was aware of this and did NOTHING. Who knows how many other dogs suffered or died over the past THREE YEARS due to this company's negligence and greed?

Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Dive In!
The water is always fine when you and your dog go dock diving.
Dock Dogs

On a drizzly Midwest morning my husband and I joined a small group gathered at the edge of a pond to watch one of the country's top dock-diving dog teams in action. Handler Dave Breen of Oregon, Illinois, and his awesome Lab/German Shorthaired Pointer mix, Black Jack, are pioneers in this young sport.


Breen asked Black Jack to sit and stay at the dock's end closest to land, then walked to the opposite end and turned to face his dog. Black Jack, quivering with excitement, could barely contain himself. Breen released him and, as a galloping Black Jack approached the edge of the dock, threw his toy into the water. The big dog leaped and landed with a splash. He grabbed his toy and happily paddled to Breen, now back on shore. Just as Breen reached for the toy, Black Jack gave a mighty shake from head to tail, spraying water everywhere. At that moment, I realized that I was going to get just as wet as my dogs.


 Dock diving was invented in 1999 by Shadd and Melanie Field for ESPN's Great Outdoor Games and has grown in popularity ever since. In 2005, an association dubbed DockDogs (dockdogs.com) started organizing events and offering competitive titles; fans of the sport are known as DockDoggers. According to DockDogs CEO Grant Reeves, 24 dock-diving events occurred last year. "This year, with a combination of national and club events, we'll have 100 events," says Reeves. "Our database has [grown to] over 4,000 dogs since 2000." 


Up and Out!

There are two categories of dock diving, Big Air and Extreme Vertical. The former debuted first. The dog runs the length of a regulation dock, which must be 40 feet long and two feet above the surface of the water, to gain speed. The handler encourages the dog to leave the dock as close to the edge as possible because the jump is measured from the end of the dock rather than from where the dog leaps. So if a dog leaves the dock two to three feet from the edge, that two or three feet do not count toward his total total jump distance. The end of the jump is electronically measured by the "V," or the point at which the base of the dog's tail hits the water.


The handler also throws a toy as motivation for the dog to stretch out and leap as far as he can; the toss is timed to coincide with the moment the dog leaves the dock. Usually, handlers use a plastic retrieving bumper, but DockDogs generally allows any floating, retrievable object. In fact, one participant threw a corn cob for his dog, but DockDogs eventually asked him to use something else, because bits of corn floating in the water distracted the dogs who followed. 


Extreme Vertical, also known as "The Launch," was introduced two years ago. A floatable retrieving toy hangs in the air eight feet from the dock. The dog takes a running leap from the dock with the goal of jumping up instead of out to grab the toy. The height of the toy is gradually raised.


In competition, teams vie to achieve the longest distance in five or six waves, or heats, per event. The last wave is known as the "Finals." Both Big Air and Extreme Vertical offer different divisions--from novice to elite--to ensure that dogs of comparable jumping ability are grouped together. Plus, there is a veterans' division for dogs eight years and older, a lap dog class from small dogs (measuring 17 inches or less at the withers), and a junior handler program for kids. Participants can go on to compete for nationally recognized titles.


Long-Distance Leaping

Last year, Breen and Black Jack were invited to compete at ESPN's Great Outdoor Games and placed fourth in Extreme Vertical with a 6-foot, 6-inch jump. Also in 2005, the achieved a personal best in Big Air with a 21-foot, 10-inch jump. For nearly four years, black Labrador Little Morgan, owned by Mike Jackson of Shakopee, Minnesota, held the Big Air outdoor world record at 26 feet, 6 inches.


For an example of the wide variety of breeds and mixes who compete--and win--in this sport, consider Country*, a Greyhound mix who broke the record four times in 2005, with his longest jump measuring 28 feet, 10 inches. "I think we're his fifth home," says owner Kevin Meese of Fredericktown, Pennsylvania, who readily admits that this breed presents unique training challenges. "I started out by tying deer meat onto the bumper to make him grab it. I used to put my back to him and hold it over my head. He sailed over my head--I'm six feet--which really impressed me. But he has an odd sense of humor. He learned that if he hit me in the head, he could get the deer meat faster."


Despite Meese's overwhelming success with a non-retrieving breed, my husband and I didn't expect our Dalmatians, Darby and Jolie, to jump in such spectacular fashion. But like all of the seminar participants, we hoped our dogs would at least jump.


Our first dock-diving experience was humbling. From land, Darby would go in the water, grab her toy and swim back to us. On the dock, she quivered with excitement like Black Jack, but was reluctant to jump in. Instead, she waited until her toy floated closer to land and then went in to get it. In contrast, Jolie wanted nothing to do with the water, her toy or even me! Despite her confidence in other canine sports and love of swimming, she was unsure in this environment. Breen demonstrated enormous patience with all participants and offered lots of advice and encouragement. Some dogs take time to gain the confidence to jump off the dock, but once they've done it, there's no stopping them.


Safety Matters

Like all dog sports, safety is a priority, and competitors take steps to ensure that their dogs remain free of injury. DockDogs recently began using AstroTurf on the docks to prevent slipping. Handlers maintain their dogs' health through a good diet and exercise.


I was concerned about my dog doing a belly flop, which, as most of us know from personal experience, stings a bit. But Breen, who co-owns Rock River Canine Sports & Rehab, LLC, with his wife, Beth Wiltshire, assured me that as the dog prepares to land in the water, his rear legs usually hit the water first. "Some dogs who do a 'Superman stretch' will belly flop, but they don't cringe, and they keep doing it," says Breen.


"In Extreme Vertical, some handlers are concerned that if the dogs misses [the toy], he will crane his neck back as he's going under the object. Dogs' backs are flexible; I've talked to vets about this and it doesn't appear to be an issue. There are dangers, but there are dangers with any sport you do, with dogs or humans. You just try to minimize it by making sure they're in good shape."


Dedicating yourself to the well-being of your dog is a priority for many dog owners. But there are extra benefits to being a DockDogger. "First, it's the greatest thing when I can have a hobby that I can do with my best friend," says Cyndi Porter of Minneapolis, Minnesota, whose Golden Retriever, Murphy, ended the 2005 season ranked 18th in the nation, making Porter the top female handler. "Second is the great people I've met and the friends I've made along the way from all across the country. We really have a great time socializing after the day is done and we can let our hair down and tell tales. A wise friend of mine always makes a toast--'If it weren't for our dogs, we wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet such wonderful people.' And we all drink to our best friends, two- and four-legged."


*To see Country's record-breaking jump, visit fredforceone.com/WORLDRECORD.html.