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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
NBC Anchor Bitten On-Air by Rescued Dog
Tragedy should serve to educate about responsible dog ownership

You may have seen the feel-good footage of a fireman who pulled a dog out of icy waters on Tuesday, February 7. Or the viral video of the same dog biting a news anchor live on TV the very next day when he and his owner were reunited with the rescuer.

Viewers are shaking their heads and pointing their fingers. Some say the dog is to blame. After all, anchorwoman Kyle Dyer, of NBC’s KUSA Denver affiliate, was only leaning in to give Max the Dogo Argentino a little kiss. Others claim Dyer is at fault; she either missed or misinterpreted Max’s warning signals, which included lip licking, blinking, stiff body, turning his head away, whale eye and, finally, just before the bite, baring his teeth and growling.

I say owner Michael Robinson is to blame for allowing his dog to be in the stressful environs of a TV studio a mere 12 hours after Max’s traumatic ordeal and rescue. In his nearsighted quest for 15 minutes of fame, he has risked his dog’s life for a second time.

That’s right—a second time. (Read Denver-based animal behaviorist Kari Bastyr’s thought-provoking essay, “The Perfect Storm,” for more insight.) The initial risk occurred last Tuesday, when he allowed Max—who does not have a solid recall—to be off leash near an icy pond. True, who could predict that a coyote would’ve come along at that exact moment, and that Max would’ve chased him onto the ice, and they both would’ve broken through?

But that’s what training is for, to prepare one’s dog for the unpredictable to ensure his and the public’s safety. If Robinson’s tense leash corrections on Max during the live segment are any indication, the poor dog was ill-prepared in general, not just for the spotlight.

Dyer had emergency reconstructive surgery the same day she was bitten. Hopefully, she will make a full recovery and soon be able to return to work. As for Max, the three-year-old mastiff is being quarantined at a Denver animal shelter.

"Several people interacted with the dog [prior to the segment] and everything seemed fine,” said Patti Dennis, KUSA vice president of news, as quoted in a Yahoo! News article. “Then at the last moment, the dog had behavior that nobody predicted or understood. Clearly we learned something."

One can only hope. Or, if you’re a dog advocate like me, you can do something about it and educate others about reading and respecting dog body language. The majority of dog bites are preventable. Until dogs learn how to speak our language and verbally tell us when they’re feeling threatened, it is our responsibility to learn canine communication.

A good place to start is the ASPCA’s “Virtual Pet Behaviorist,” resource page with photo illustrations. I also like the book Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide by Brenda Aloff, and the DVD The Language of Dogs: Understanding Canine Body Language and Other Communication Signals by Sarah Kalnajs. Both are available from Dogwise.

News: Guest Posts
Dog Walker Tased By Ranger
He broke law by allowing dogs off leash

Gary Hesterberg was enjoying a walk with his two small dogs at Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) when he was confronted by a park ranger. She cited him for allowing his dogs to be off leash. Witnesses claim he put both dogs on leash and complied with her request for personal identification. Yet, the ranger tased Hesterberg in the back as he walked away.

GGNRA officials claim he gave false information and attempted to leave despite the ranger asking that he remain at the scene while she did a background check. Area dog lovers are outraged at the ranger's seemingly disproportionate actions. Congresswomen Jackie Speier, DogPAC of San Francisco, and other dog advocacy groups, are demanding an independent investigation.

News: Guest Posts
Does Your Dog Have an Underbite?
Showing teeth can be cute
dog underbite toothy grin smile

I love a dog with an underbite. There's something inherently sweet about it. My rescue Dutch Shepherd, Ginger Peach, shows her lower teeth when she’s relaxed. Her goofy grin reminds me of our late Catahoula, Desoto. He had an underbite that could charm anybody. He’d go up to a complete stranger, reveal those baby bottom teeth and offer his paw, like he wanted to shake on an agreement that he’d be cute and you would feed him, okay? Whatever you had at hand—that turkey sandwich or hot dog—would be just fine. And people would give their food to him because apparently, they love underbites, too. Does your dog have an underbite? If so, please post a photo of your dog's best toothy smile on Bark's Facebook page.

News: Guest Posts
The Most Incredible Sit Stay of All Time
Tiger is one patient dog
food on my dog blog Tiger balance donut

Food on my dog; we've all seen it, usually by chance after a particularly frenzied mealtime. Often, it's done on purpose as a stupid pet trick. A meaty treat is carefully placed atop the dog's snout. The person tiptoes away, hand outstretched, saying, "Staaay, staaaay," until finally, either the dog or the audience can't take it anymore.

"Okay!" Upon hearing the magical release word, the dog shows off shark-like reflexes in pursuit of his prey. He tilts back his head, flicks up the treat, and snatches it out of the air. Well, you ain't seen nothin' yet till you view "Food On My Dog," the blog. The star, Tiger, has the patience of a saint as her owner balances everything from bacon strips to steak fries on her head. You'd think that the sheer weirdness of taking a simple, common trick to such an extreme would be the X factor, but no, it's the bemused expression on Tiger's face—the quivery anticipation that whatever's on her head will soon be hers—that will compell you to scroll through every single shot.     

News: Guest Posts
Rescue Reveals Tragedy
Kayaker pulls traumatized dog out of water
Barney Vizsla rescue kayak fisherman

A fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico was shocked when a dog appeared beside his kayak, far from shore. In this video, you can see him pull the Vizsla to safety and comfort the shivering canine. At first, he thought the dog was cold but after seeing bleeding cuts, he realized the dog was traumatized.

The mystery was solved when the kayaker heard on the news that a woman, Donna Chen, had been struck and killed by a drunk driver while walking her dog Barney. Barney had no tags on his collar. But when the kayaker brought him to the vet, he was scanned for a microchip. It was this microchip that allowed Barney to be reunited with members of Chen's family.

Does your dog wear tags at all time? What information is on yours? What about a microchip?

News: Guest Posts
Family Dog Killed by Wildlife Trap
Owners Sue U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services

My heart breaks for Doug and Denise McCurtain of Gresham, Ore., near Portland. This past August, their beloved seven-year-old Border Collie, Maggie, got caught in a nutria trap and suffered a horrific death. The McCurtains had been warned by their neighborhood association that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services was setting out traps to control a nuisance nutria population. However, they were unaware that a baited Conibear trap would be placed less than 50 feet from their backyard, an area where Maggie and the McCurtains’ children often played.

At issue is whether this particular size trap is appropriate to use on land; the Wildlife Services Portland office suggests it is. Several animal advocacy groups, such as Predator Defense and the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, argue that Conibear traps are too dangerous to use in residential areas. (For an overview of how to release your dog from a trap, visit terrierman.com.)

Earlier this year, the federal agency was blamed for the death of another family dog. J.D. and Angel Walker of Texas lost their Pit Bull, Bella, when she ingested poison from an M-44 sodium cyanide device located near their Texas home. While I understand the need for wildlife management, why is it appropriate for any animal to die a slow, painful death? Surely, there are more humane methods that can be employed at less risk to family pets and children.

News: Guest Posts
Comforting Dogs in Their Final Hours
Volunteers spend the night with dogs slated for euthanasia
shelter dog euthanasia black german shepherd volunteer animal care control

Could you spend the night comforting shelter dogs scheduled to be euthanized the next morning? The Compassion Program, based out of New York's Animal Care and Control in Manhattan, is comprised of nine volunteers who take turns sleeping over with death row dogs. Whether it's a long walk, a special treat, playing with a toy or being cuddled, they ensure that every dog spends his last hours being loved. The program staff consider it a form of hospice, even though these dogs are not necessarily dying due to medical conditions, but lack of loving homes. Donations of treats and toys are welcome. For more information, please go to the Compassion Program.

News: Guest Posts
The Buck Stops Here
Dogs and deer don't mix

When friends and family complain about pesky wildlife, I can’t resist reminding them that we've invaded their habitat. Even when skunks burrowed beneath our chicken coop or chipmunks squatted in our garage, my biggest concern was saving their poor furry souls from our prey-driven pack. That summer rabbits raided our vegetable garden? I didn’t mind eating cookies instead of salad for dinner. (And the dogs appreciated the extra piles of protein they left behind.)

At one time, I would’ve naively asserted that deer are the gentlest of woodland creatures. My dogs and I have come across them many times while taking long walks along the river. Typically, my Pit Bull mix, Shelby, air scents them, and as I follow her gaze, a doe will gracefully dart away, her white tail flickering like candlelight. 

A few days ago, I was walking my Dalmatian, Jolie, and Dutch Shepherd, Ginger Peach,  in our semi-rural neighborhood. It was dusk, and I was eager to finish our route before it got dark since there are few street lights. The dogs suddenly dove into a ditch, their noses hot on the trail of something. About 40 yards away, I heard a loud crash and saw a white tail disappear into the woods. I chuckled, glad the dogs missed seeing the actual deer because they were so busy following its trail.

We continued forward until I saw a loose dog up ahead. One of the farmers allows his Jack Russell free reign, and I just didn’t feel like heeling both dogs past him. We turned around. As we approached the spot where the dogs flushed out the deer, a magnificent eight-point buck trotted across our path. He stopped a mere 20 yards away as we passed.

Having never seen a buck up close before, I was mesmerized by his size and beauty. I stopped. The dogs and I stared at him,  studying him. He broke our gaze and trotted through a row of bushes. Slowly, he positioned himself behind us. He stood tall. Jolie and Ginger Peach became absolutely still.  Everything around us was quiet. Looking into the buck’s dark brown eyes, I finally realized what the dogs had likely known the moment I stopped. He did not appreciate our company.

We quickly moved away. Ginger Peach let out a little yips in protest, but Jolie was all too happy to get out of there. As we rounded a corner, I glanced back to see the buck cross the street again, no doubt returning to the doe we had scared off earlier.

After sharing this story with friends, I heard terrifying accounts of deer hurting people or dogs during breeding season. (There are hundreds of videos on YouTube demonstrating their strength in graphic detail.) I was grateful that my naiveté did not inadvertently cause harm to my dogs. Has your dog ever encountered  deer? What did you do?

News: Guest Posts
I Love My Pit Bull
National Pit Bull Day celebrates this misunderstood breed

I don't think of myself as particularly political or controversial. Yet the “I love my Pit Bull” magnet on my minivan makes some people see red. I've heard everything from, "Do you really have one?" to "Those dogs are horrible and should be banned." I wish I could say these words were spat out by complete strangers, but in fact, they were friendly acquaintances, which meant I had to keep listening to them instead of shrugging it off as the senseless mutterings of a crazy person. Truly, it was one of those do-you-not-know-me-at-all moments.

Hi, my name is Julia Lane and I love a Pit Bull. Her name is Shelby. She is the most beautiful reddish-orange color, which is why her nicknames are “Fawn” or “Honey Bear.” We also call her “Pup-A-Lup,” “Luppy, “ “Lupness” and any other Lup variations I can sneak into her favorite song, “Shelby Is My Pup-A-Lup.” This song is reserved for belly rub time after I’ve amused myself by shouting, “Get the pit! Now the other pit!” as I vigorously scratch under her arm pits. 

October 22 is National Pit Bull Awareness Day. It’s an opportunity to get to know this much maligned and misunderstood dog that was once a popular family pet. Did you know that Pit Bulls are not a breed, but rather a type of dog? Those infamous “locking jaws” are a myth; Shelby is a tough chewer, but it was my late Catahoula, Desoto, who managed to destroy the black Kong in three bites. According to the American Temperament Test Society,  pits are not more aggressive than other dogs. In your face, sensational headlines!

Hundreds of organizations including Best Friends, Bad Rap, Stubby Dog, Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue and The Sula Foundation are hosting special events  to educate the public. If you don’t know a Pit Bull, go to your local shelter and you’re guaranteed to meet one. Approximately one million Pit Bulls are euthanized in shelters every year. And that doesn’t even count the dogs who are abused and discarded by fighting rings. Whoever said ignorance is bliss is dead wrong.

When I think of pits and second chances, there is always an extraordinary individual who made it possible, who saw past the stereotypes and in an appropriate turn, fought for their dog. Andrew Yori has written extensively about his two amazing pit bulls, Wallace, a national disc dog champion, and Hector,  a former Vick dog who is certified as a Therapy Dog. Wallace was brought to the local shelter as a puppy, and slated for euthanasia. In his new documentary, “Wallace: The Rise of An Underdog,” Yori shares the incredible story of how a seemingly uncontrollable Pit Bull defied the odds to “change minds one disc at a time.”   

Chris Hughes saw potential in Gremlin, a Pit Bull who, as a bait dog, was literally left for dead. By the time Odessa Second Chance Rescue and Rehabilitation pulled her from the shelter, she faced enormous challenges, all because of humans. Both of her back legs had been broken on purpose, and a bat had been rammed down her throat, causing ruptured vocal cords. After two years of rehabilitation, including hydrotherapy, Gremlin was able to walk normally. She went on to earn her Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification and become a Therapy Dog. Together with Hughes, she makes weekly visits to Aristacrat Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for people who are mentally unstable. She also attends Avon East Elementary School, bringing joy to kids in the special education class. As Hughes puts it, “To have a dog that came from a fighting situation that is now a children’s therapy dog says a lot.”

Shelby is not a champion or certified in anything except Bellyrubology. But she is my Lup and I love her. Countless other Pit Bulls do the same for their people. They love. 

News: Guest Posts
What Do Barks, Whines & Yips Mean?
Test your dogspeak skills with this fun game

You'd think dog owners would ace this test: can you correctly identify all six dog barks? According to the study, even people who don't have dogs could interpret dogspeak for stranger alert and on the attack. But many dog owners (myself included) had a tougher time differentiating between barks for "let's go for a walk" and "give me that ball." How did you fare? Does your dog's communication correlate with the barks demonstrated here?

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