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Karen B. London

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

News: Karen B. London
A Food Drive for Pets
Stephen Huneck’s studio hosts

When times are tough, many families struggle, and often all members of the household face difficulties, regardless of species. Much as we wish it weren’t so, many well-loved pets suffer during hard economic times. To help ease these troubles, the Dog Chapel on Dog Mountain is sponsoring a holiday pet food drive in St. Johnsbury, Vt., through Dec. 23. Food will be distributed to local food shelves and shelters.

The host of this pet food drive is the studio of the late artist Stephen Huneck, whose work focused on dogs. Huneck’s legacy goes beyond his art and extends to the kindness he long showed to his community. His body of work is a joy to dog lovers and his charitable contributions, both before his death and after, make life better for people and animals alike.

Does your community have opportunities to give and receive food assistance for pets?

News: Karen B. London
Yoga Dogs Calendar
So adorable I approached Nirvana

Dogs draw my focus in every situation. If I were at a dog park full of famous actors and actresses, my thought process would probably be along the lines of, “What a gorgeous Irish Setter! Look at that Greyhound run—how beautiful! And, ooh, a Havanese! You don’t see those very often. Gee, that guy with the Boxer looks familiar. . .”

So my experience last week when I tried yoga for the first time ever was not surprising. I did not immediately notice the new age music or the smell of incense. My awareness was not on my breathing or the feeling of my body relaxing in the present moment. Instead, what captured my attention was the calendar in the lobby that featured dogs practicing yoga. Honestly, it was so cute I could hardly stand it. It was the 2011 version, but the 2012 Yoga Dogs Calendar is just as charming.

At my next class, my intention will be to focus on yoga rather than on dogs. There’s always room to grow and improve, which is why I love it that people say they “practice yoga.” The dogs already look pretty experienced at it, though.

News: Karen B. London
The Dogbrella
Essential equipment or crazy contraption?

The search for perfect gifts for the holidays is on. I’m spending excessive amounts of time online and studying catalogs in order to succeed in this quest. Though I’ve found few gifts to give to family and friends, I have noticed that products for dogs are showing up in new places all the time. The most surprising pet product placement I’ve seen this year is the dogbrella in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog and on their website.

The dogbrella is just what it sounds like—an umbrella for dogs. It is inverted so that a person can hold the handle from above while the dogbrella protects a small dog from the rain. The leash attaches to the underside. The product description will sound out of date to many modern dog lovers because of such phrases as “enabling canine and master to maintain a walking regimen in inclement weather.”

My first thought was, “Really?” (It was late afternoon, which is when I’m least articulate.) What I meant by that was, “Do dogs really need an umbrella to go out in the rain?” Then I thought about all the dogs who don’t like the rain and hesitate to go out in it. With my Oregonian roots, I sometimes forget that there are dogs and people who not only notice the rain, but actually have an adverse reaction to it. Of course, the dogbrella won’t help dogs who dislike stepping on wet ground, but it offers protection for dogs who object to the water falling from the sky.

Though I had not thought about it, the catalog emphasizes the benefit for people, which is that the dog will not bring so much water into the home after the walk. Few of us love it when a dog comes inside and performs a satisfying shake to disperse all that wetness onto nearby furniture, windows, people and anything else in the house. (How dogs know how to choose the most damaging spot for this behavior is a mystery.) Nor do many of us enjoy the aroma of eau de dog, which can be as strong and long lasting as it is unpleasant.

Would you use (or have you already used) the dogbrella?

News: Karen B. London
Walking Across America With His Dog
Bird lover follows his dream

Brad Storey and his dog Xena left Jeckyl Island off the coast of Georgia about 8 weeks ago on their way to San Diego. They are walking across the United States to raise money for The Audubon Society. A life-long bird lover, Storey is pursuing his dream of doing something big after years of working as a painter and raising kids. Naturally, his Siberian Husky, Xena, is a part of this adventure. It would hardly be the same if he did it alone.

Do you dream of undertaking an adventure someday? How would your dog be a part of it?

 

News: Karen B. London
Grieving a Dog’s Death
Easing the sadness isn’t easy

My brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and two nieces said good-bye to their dog today. Lizzie was almost 14 years old and in heart failure. They thought that they would lose her last October, but she survived for months more than they expected. That doesn’t make her death any less sad. Though it’s great when a dog reaches old age, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the lives of dogs are far too short relative to ours.

There are many ways to prepare for and handle the pain of losing a dog, all of which honor the dog’s life and the relationship that you shared.

If you know that the end is near for your dog, and she is able, take her to her favorite place, whether it’s the park or a place where she can swim. Treat her to her favorite foods and give her special items to chew on, so you can make her happy and provide yourself with fond memories of those last days. Take photos of these moments so that you can look back and know that the end of your dog’s life was filled with kindness.

Tangible reminders of your dog can be wonderfully therapeutic after your dog has passed away. Photos are helpful for many people, especially if you have some good shots of your dog over the years doing the things you’d most like to remember—running through the woods, looking through the window as you come home, playing with a favorite toy. Even one of the many times she got into the trash can be a treasured memory after she is gone. A photo of your dog misbehaving in this way can be fun to look at, even if it was never fun cleaning up the mess. Many people like to make collages or memory books of their dogs with photos from all stages of life.

Other ways to create memories of your dog include putting together a record of your favorite stories about her. Write down what your dog most loved to do, how she changed over the years, the biggest trouble that she ever got into, and some of the happiest times you shared. Some people like to save a little lock of fur.

It can be healing to make a donation in memory of your dog to a shelter, rescue group, or any other organization that works on behalf of pets, as a way to pass on the joy that your dog gave to you.

Though it’s challenging, refuse to allow anyone to give you the “it was just a dog” treatment or try to trivialize the pain you are feeling. It hurts to lose a family member no matter what the species, and you need time to grieve, even if not everyone understands what a big loss you have suffered.

There’s no way out of the pain when a dog dies but to move forward through it. My hope for anyone who loses a dog is that over time, the sadness fades and the happy memories linger.

News: Karen B. London
Dog Walking Bliss
Joy comes even after a rough beginning

The new season has officially arrived for those of us who live in cold weather zones. It’s the time of year in which many of us require extra motivation to walk our dogs—at least some of the time.

Many motivational options exist: encouraging quotes, using the walk as a way to procrastinate, caving to guilt and walking with a human friend so you both commit to the walk. As for me, I take inspiration from my college roommate.

One night during our senior year at about 11:00, we were contemplating going out. I was uncharacteristically leaning towards staying in, as I was feeling a bit tired and just a bit disinterested in making the effort to go anywhere. My roommate posed this life-changing question to me, “Have you ever, even once, in your whole life regretted going out, even when you didn’t really feel like it at first?” The answer was no, and I replied, “Give me five minutes to get ready!” The night turned out to be a great one, and I’m still glad I didn’t miss out on it by my inaction.

Dog walking is much the same. Usually, it’s not a chore, but something to look forward to and enjoy. Yet, there are times when it’s an effort to head out, and that’s when I consider my roommate’s take on the situation: Have I ever regretted taking a dog on a walk, even when I didn’t feel like it at first? Of course not. Even when the weather is foul, the house is cozy and I have a million things to do, the walk is a source of joy and peace.

No matter how rough the start of a walk, it tends to turn into a good experience. Some great moments with our dogs come while we are out on a walk enjoying the air, the sights and the break from the rest of the day, and it doesn’t really matter what our mood was at the outset.

News: Karen B. London
Can Dogs Pretend?
Perhaps they engage in “make-believe”

Snoopy loved to pretend. He pictured himself most commonly as a great hockey player, Joe Cool or as the World War I Flying Ace. It’s easy for readers of the Peanuts comic strip to accept the fantasy world of its canine star.

It’s much more challenging to know whether dogs in the real world can pretend. In Jason G. Goldman’s blog Animal Imagination: The Dog That Pretended to Feed a Frog (And Other Tales), he discusses some evidence that animals, including dogs, are able to pretend. He tells the story of a dog who placed a stuffed frog at his water bowl as though it was taking a drink. The dog arranged other toys nearby. This reminded the guardian of the way children play games of make-believe with their stuffed animals. It’s possible the dog was pretending, and also possible that she wasn’t. Without knowing what was going on in the dog’s mind, it’s tough to know whether the dog was pretending or not.

Goldman also discusses the possibility that dogs may be pretending when they play using behavior patterns borrowed from courtship, fighting or predation, though the evidence is not overly compelling. Observations of gorillas and chimpanzees using objects for other purposes, such as a log being treating as a baby, or miming the use of imaginary objects are more convincing demonstrations of pretending.

I remain undecided and eager for more evidence on the question of whether dogs other than Snoopy can pretend. Have you seen your dog behave in a way that seemed like pretending?

News: Karen B. London
Can Your Rescue Top $36,000 in One Night?
G.R.I.N.’s Golden Gala: a fundraising inspiration

The 7th annual G.R.I.N. Golden Gala raised $36,000 on a Saturday night in late October. G.R.I.N. stands for Golden Retrievers In Need, and is a rescue group.

Each year, they rescue and foster around 200 Goldens and place them in loving homes. They also provide for G.R.I.N. Goldens in need of medicine, surgery, training or help with their behavioral issues. When they are short of foster homes, they pay for boarding services, too. Helping so many dogs by giving them what they need as well as finding their forever homes requires a committed membership and a lot of resources, including money. And G.R.I.N. is a fundraising machine.

The Golden Gala is their biggest fundraiser of the year, and it’s extremely successful, even in these challenging economic times. There’s not a politician or a nonprofit in the country that wouldn’t be thrilled to have the skill set and devotion of G.R.I.N. members.

Any group seeking to learn how to raise money is sure to find inspiration in G.R.I.N.’s success. Their Golden Gala has many aspects to it, and though it’s a one-night event, Gala committee members spend all year preparing for it. I first heard about it six months before the event when I was contacted by a member of the committee for the Golden Gala asking for a charitable donation of an autographed book for the event.

This year’s record-breaking event sold out at 325 tickets, which are $45-$50 depending on when they are purchased. Attendees are treated to a multi-course dinner, a DJ, celebrity hosts and a Golden ice sculpture.

The money the group brings in at the Golden Gala goes way beyond the price of admission. In the Fur Raffle, there are 200 chances, each sold for $25. Each chance comes with a dog puppet to keep and a chance to win two tickets on Southwest Airlines or a 55-inch LCD TV. After the winner for each of those is pulled, the tickets are combined and winners were pulled to win a “Lottery Tree” with 50 lottery tickets or a wreath with a variety of gift cards.

In the popular Tennis Ball raffle, a member’s Golden Retriever chooses tennis balls from a kiddie pool and whoever has the matching number, wins the prize. Each chance costs $10 and 150 chances are sold. Multiple balls are chosen, and this year’s prizes were dinner for a year (12 restaurant gift certificates), a DVD Blu-ray player, jewelry and a camera. This year, a dog named Sugar did the honors, and the moment was extra special because right before she drew the winners, Sugar saw her foster mom for the first time in 18 months and lavished her with kisses.

Other prizes in additional raffles included another TV, a Wii, mall gift certificates and more jewelry. A live auction this year featured, among other items, a Golden quilt, which sold for $1,000 and a pair of Ohio State football tickets. There were nearly 100 items, all of which were donated, in the silent auction, which included things for kids, sports gear, car items and art. The pot of the 50/50 raffle reached $3,800.

Among the fundraising tips we can take away from this event are that you need to start early seeking donated items, make it a quality event with a variety of ways to raise money and accept all forms of payment—cash, check and charge. Oh, and have a committed group of people who work hard, set goals, attend the event and enjoy it. The result could be $36,000 that goes towards rescuing, fostering, caring for and placing dogs.

News: Karen B. London
Singer Mýa on Team Animal League
They’ll run NYC Marathon to raise money

Grammy-award winning singer Mýa takes on new challenges every year. In the past she has tried hang gliding and starting off the new year by jumping off a Brazilian cliff. This year, running the ING New York City Marathon will be among her adventures.

She is undertaking this challenge to raise money for North Shore Animal League America in New York, for which she is a spokesperson. Fifty runners are on Team Animal League, whose collective goal is to run the 26.2-mile race and collect $200,000 from people sponsoring the effort. The money will be used to support the Animal League’s mission, which includes saving the lives of as many companions animals as possible and promoting education to encourage adoption of animals and reduce cruelty to them.

Kudos to Mýa for her commitment to companion animals and may she have a great experience on race day, November 6, 2011!

News: Karen B. London
Apology to Girl, Service Dog Kicked Out of Store
Company also to give charitable donation

When 9-year-old Alison Ainsworth, who is autistic, and her service dog Levi were kicked out of an Edmonton Winners store the first time, the store responded with a $25 gift card. Asking her to leave because of her dog was against company policy. When the girl and her dog returned to the store months later to use that gift card, they were again told to get out.

This time, the store’s response was much bigger. Executives of the retail chain apologized and promised to educate each employee about the company policy, which is to allow service dogs into all of their stores. They also offered to donate $10,000 to a charity of Ainsworth’s choosing. Appropriately enough, the money will go towards training a service dog for another autistic child in Alberta.

The Ainsworths will not pursue a human rights complaint against the company as originally planned and hope that the incident and associated publicity will be beneficial in affecting attitudes about service dogs in the community.

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