Lisa Wogan

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.

News: Guest Posts
Bedbugs Bite Back
Detection dogs’ alerts are challenged

It’s raining cats and dogs at The New York Times. Today’s front page features stories about how cats lap milk (actually pretty cool and weirdly complicated; dogs’ methods are described as “crude” by comparison) and some new wrinkles in the crusades of bedbug-sniffing dogs.

  We’ve written a bit about bedbug detection in The Bark. As the bitey mites have wreaked havoc, especially in New York and New Jersey, dogs have been brought in to detect the “moving needles in a haystack.” Everyone was been singing their praises until a series of possible false negatives led to cranky customers and lawsuits. The jury appears to be out. There are many reasons the dogs may alert when no evidence of bedbugs is confirmed—the most insidious scenario is that dogs are encouraged to alert so homeowners, coop boards and landlords are forced to pay for full exterminations.   Lesson? We can train dogs to sniff out nasty critters, but not scammers.


News: Guest Posts
Remembering K9s on Veterans Day
First-person stories from handlers in war zones

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, when we honor the service and sacrifice of military veterans, a tradition going back to Armistice Day, November 11, 1919. With our country involved in protracted wars on two fronts it is indeed a poignant day. Among the veterans we honor are military dogs, from sentries in Vietnam to explosives detection dogs in Iraq. Dogs have served in the U.S. military since World War I, but by 2010 there were nearly 3,000 in service, many of them deployed in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Like their handlers and their fellow soldiers, these K9s work hard, contribute much, and suffer injury, trauma and sometimes death.

  I’ve been reading Nicole Arbelo’s book K9 Heroes: Together We Protect, Defend And Conquer As One. For Arbelo, who teaches at a high school for the deaf and hard of hearing in the Bay Area, the book is obviously a labor of love. Her interest became a passion, when she was researching the role of dogs in the military and read about Sgt. Adam Cann, a K9 handler and trainer from her hometown, who had been killed by a suicide bomber while working security in Ramadi.   When she discovered his partner, a bomb-sniffing German Shepherd named Bruno, survived, she tracked down his new handler. Their story and his encouragement inspired her to “adopt” other handlers, send care packages, develop friendships, reach out and collect stories of war dogs and their handlers. These first-person reports—unvarnished, proud, patriotic, gritty and funny—provide a great introduction to this elite fraternity.   ► Follow Nicole Arbelo on Facebook. ► Check out the Military Working Dog Memorial.


News: Guest Posts
Upcycle Those Furballs
Spin it, stuff it, let it fly

I live with two very committed shedders. At certain times of the year, their output stuns. Even with consistent furminating (is this a verb yet?), I sweep soft, dirty tumbleweeds of fur onto my dustpan and out to the garbage regularly. And, until recently, I believed the highest and best use of their fur was to make sweeping more satisfying. But in the pursuit of shrinking their environmental pawprint, I’ve discovered a few ways to recycle their surplus.

  Spin fur into yarn. Dog fur is a fiber, and like wool, mohair and angora, it can be spun into yarn. Longer fur is best, but even short fur can be spun if blended with wool. It’s an idea that’s been around for a while but never seems to entirely catch on (except maybe in Russia)—probably because of reports that when dog fur sweaters, mittens, scarves, etc., get wet, they smell a little like wet dogs. Check out these instructions.   Fight oil spills. We learned about the oil-absorbing magic of dog fur during the Gulf Oil spill, when fur and human hair clippings were stuffed into booms and woven into mats to absorb the petroleum. Now, the folks at a Matter of Trust, the ecological public charity behind the hair/fur boom effort, wants to expand the use of these wasted materials for preventing toxic run-off, soil erosion and creating marina bilge pads. Learn more at a MatterofTrust.org.  

Build nests. When you groom outside, don’t worry about small tufts carried away by the breeze. Many birds like to weave fur and hair into their nests.

  Is there more we can do with all this leftover fur?
News: Guest Posts
Dogs in China
Things are looking up for pups in Beijing

Where international pressure and petitions failed to end the practice of eating dogs in China, prosperity may turn the tide. A recent New York Times story described the rising tide of dog-love in prosperous Chinese cities such as Beijing—where treat boutiques, dog swimming pools and dog-friendly cinemas and bars are thriving. Meanwhile, the practice of eating dogs is becoming less socially acceptable.

  An intriguing point in Michael Wine’s story is how the one-child policy may have fueled the passion for pets. “Many owners also say China’s one-child policy has fanned enthusiasm for dog ownership as a way to provide companionship to only children in young households and to fill empty nests in homes whose children have grown up.” It makes sense and it’s good news if the end of dog-meat is an unintended byproduct of the policy.


News: Guest Posts
Adopt A Senior Dog
Older, wiser, mellower—what could be better?

Yesterday, on my morning stroll with Lulu and Renzo, I met a couple walking an 11-year-old mutt they had just adopted from the Seattle Humane Society. I use the word mutt as high praise because this dog was shaggy and black with a graying, eternally charming muzzle. I’m a sucker for the type. But I knew she was the sort of dog a person with less imagination or compassion might pass by in a shelter. Just as I was thinking how lucky she was to be adopted at this stage in her life, I looked back at the woman on the other end of the leash. She was beaming. Seriously, thrilled with her new dog. And I realized, of course, there was lots of luck to go around.

  The meeting was auspicious: November is Adopt-A-Senior-Dog Month. Time to spread the word about what makes a senior dog a great addition to a home. Seniors settle in quickly, enjoy a more laid-back schedule, and have already passed through messy puppy stages to name just a few of the many reasons to adopt an older dog. What makes your senior puppy the bomb?


News: Guest Posts
Showing and Telling
Your stories give us something to bark about

One of my favorite parts of my job is reviewing submissions for contests, especially Show & Tell. Your stories and photos never fail to lift my spirits. From funny to ridiculous to sublme, readers remind me of the many surprises our dogs have in store for us. They challenge us to be the best people we can be and then they reward us by putting their best paws forward.

  Recently, we received a few images from Connie Page in Fairbanks, Alaska. In a short note, she described how her co-pilot, Cedar, stood by her as she fought her battle with ovarian cancer. Dogs as healing companions is an image I’ve seen surfacing frequently these days, from “Devotion” by David Weiskirch, an essay about how dogs helped his wife’s healing (Bark, Issue 60, Summer 2010) to Dana Jennings’ new book, What a Difference a Dog Makes, which grew out a New York Times blog post about the lessons he learned from his dog during treatment for prostate cancer.   There is something in the photo of Connie and Cedar that captures the spirit of this healing relationship. There is Connie, serene and beautiful in a breathtaking wilderness she knows is good for her and her dog. At her side, Cedar sits with her tongue loose from what has probably already been a wonderful adventure. She looks ready to spring and gambol as soon as the shutter clicks—and get back to the business of reminding her person what this living business is all about.   I’d love to hear more stories about the different ways dogs cajole, support and distract their people through illnesses. Comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter @The_Bark #healingcompanions.



Magazine: 2009-2011
Cover Dog: Riley
Nov/Dec 2010
Riley as cover dog Canis lupus familiaris with Balearica regulorum

In a farmhouse yard on the central Texas prairie, a fawn-colored Frenchie playfully faces off with an East African grey-crowned crane, and a curious three-year-old girl keeps company with a dama gazelle and a fallow deer—all under the watchful gaze of a serene Golden Retriever named Riley.

We learned about Riley and his exotic “playmates” from Rebecca Ross, a wildlife biologist/zoologist/rehabilitator, who lives on and manages a privately owned sanctuary in Austin, Tex., with Camryn (daughter), Tank (a young Frenchie), Riley and various wild creatures from across the globe.

Rebecca entered Riley in Bark’s cover dog contest, and wrote that he’s a “one-in-a-million dog.” She backed up her claim with photos and video of her dog chillin’ with zebra; blackbuck, sitatunga and blesbok antelopes; a parrot; a Patagonian cavy (a very large cousin of the guinea pig); a feral piglet; and a red fox. So we asked her to tell us more.

Rebecca got her 10-week-old “almost pure white, fluffiest ball of joy you’ve ever seen” in Johannesburg, South Africa, six years ago, while she was working toward her master’s degree in zoology. “Riley was one of those more mature, serious puppies from the very beginning,” she says. “He never had an accident in the house. He never chewed anything. He just never did any of those typical puppy things.”

When Riley was six months old, Rebecca started training him for therapy work, and he was certified by the time he was a year old. They visited homes for the elderly, where he was a particular favorite because he’s so calm. In addition to therapy work, Riley proved a dedicated companion in the field. When Rebecca turned to wildlife rehabilitation, nursing injured or abandoned deer and antelope babies, she discovered that her sidekick had even more talents.

“Riley gets kind of excited [when I bring a baby home]. He’s usually very eager to lick them all over. I always encourage that; that’s what their moms would do. Sometimes it helps me bridge that gap because Riley’s a little more antelope-like than I am. A lot of times, they’ll try to nurse from him and I’ll slip a bottle down his side. He helps me out in situations where they are more comfortable with him.”

A few years ago, Rebecca and her husband, a South African who also works with wildlife, decided to move to the U.S. Rebecca came first, taking a temporary job tracking desert bighorn sheep at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, where Riley was, once again, her mainstay. Soon after the couple moved to Texas, their daughter Camryn was born. For Riley, “she was just another baby to be careful around. He’s one of those dogs she can lay all over and pull his ears.”

News: Guest Posts
Canada’s First Pet Store Ban
Vancouver suburb just says no

Months after San Francisco officials tabled the hot-potato discussion of shutting down the sale of puppies in the City by the Bay, the city council in Richmond, British Columbia, unanimously passed its own ban on the sale of pets from local stores. The move by the Vancouver suburb makes it the first ban of its kind in Canada.

            And the impact could be significant. “Fifty-one percent of British Columbians annually buy their dogs from a breeder, many via pet stores, rather than adopting, compared to the North American average for a municipality of 25 percent,” reports the Vancouver Courier. “In Richmond, the average number of residents purchasing puppies from breeders annually is 57 percent.” Shutting down stores will not only slow the demand for pet store puppies, it will bring attention to the issue of puppy mills and overpopulation, which will have a more lasting impact.   In a related and interesting twist, recent legislation in Victoria, Australia, outlaws the sale of animals to anyone under the age of 18.


News: Guest Posts
DIY: Pupkin carving time

It’s pumpkin carving season, and for many us dog lovers that means immortalizing our four-pawed pals in flickering lanterns. A few days ago, we received this image of a pretty stupendous dog-o’-lantern from last fall. We asked the carver, Julie Life, how and why she created her canine tribute.

  Why: “My husband asked me to make it last year for a little carve contest in our town,” says Life, a high school science teacher living near Newport, Ore. “We won $50 and went out to dinner with the money.” Life is also an agility dog trainer (Agility 4 Life) and runs a poop scoop service called The Poop Thief.   How: Life made her own stencil from a pen and ink drawing, and used a pumpkin carve kit, available in any store. She says photographing the illuminated pumpkin was the hardest part.   Time: The carving took four hours from beginning to end.   Bonus tip: Storing the pumpkin in the fridge every night helped the pumpkin keep longer.   Inspiration: The pumpkin is carved in the likeness of Bob Hay and Julie Life’s English Mastiff, Brutus, who defied a diagnosis of lupus to live to 11 years old. He had a great life, despite his medical challenges, including medications that eventually caused him to become diabetic and blind. “He traveled everywhere with us,” Life says. “He also was well known in our little town and I think he was integral to causing the increase in Mastiffs that we now see in our local area.”  

Have you carved a dog-o’-lantern? Send a photo to webeditor@thebark.com or upload a photo on our Facebook page.

News: Guest Posts
Animal Cruelty Registry
NYC suburb makes offenders’ identities public

In February, we wrote about California legislators’ efforts to create a statewide animal abuser registry, along the lines of sex offender databases. Although this effort stalled, probably over funding, Suffolk County, N.Y., has created an animal cruelty registry that will be the nation’s first.

  “The law was prompted by a number of animal abuse cases in recent months,” reports The Huffington Post, “including that of a Selden woman accused of forcing her children to watch her torture and kill kittens and dozens of dogs, then burying the pets in her backyard.”   The idea is that a registry will not only keep offenders in check but also provide for the future protection of animals and maybe people, since violence against animals is often a precursor to violence against humans.   I sympathize with the impulse to mark these often dangerous people with a scarlet letter but at the risk of drawing your ire—last time around, Bark readers’ general consensus about the registry was a hearty thumbs-up—I have to wonder where we draw the line in creating public, online databases. If we list all the people convicted of animal cruelty, then why not list those convicted of domestic abuse, or arson, or robbery? Why not create neighborhood maps that reveal where every felon lives? I also wonder if the registry might not have a negative impact, taking away offenders’ incentive to reform since they've been publicly flagged. Why not create an easy-to-use, searchable database with access limited to law enforcement, employers in animal-care related fields and shelters and rescues?   Honestly, I don’t know where I land on this, but I do think it’s important to move beyond fear and anger to consider the potential consequences of registries of this kind.