Lisa Wogan

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

News: Guest Posts
First Chomper
New York’s governor hires a trainer for his testy Maltese.

Why is it that when small dogs are aggressive and biting it’s treated as a joke? Take New York Governor David Paterson’s Maltese, Cheerio--a full-time tough guy with at least two bites to his credit. Imagine if those teeth belonged to a bigger dog with a tougher reputation living in the home someone with a lot less clout. I’m just glad the governor finally recognized that a pint-sized troublemaker is still a troublemaker and deserves a trainer. Good luck, Cheerio!

News: Guest Posts
A Job for Eager Shelter Dogs
The country’s first hearing dog training program turns 30.

We’ve become so accustomed to service dogs, it’s almost hard to imagine a time before dogs vetted crosswalks, retrieved phones and listened for doorbells. But in many arenas, the phenomenon of the furry helper in a harness has been around for less than a generation.

In the 1960s, Elva Janke of Minnesota lived with a pup who alerted her to sounds—alarms, bells, that sort of thing—she could not hear. He hadn’t been trained (there was no established training program at the time); he just figured out that she needed help. When that dog died, Janke realized how much she had relied on his special gift. Through the intervention of the Minnesota Humane Society, she found a dog trainer named Agnes McGrath to teach a new dog these same skills.

Like most good ideas, this one gathered steam—with more dogs trained to help people who are deaf and hard of hearing, followed by a four year pilot program. By 1979, Hearing Dog, Inc. (now International Hearing Dog, Inc. or IHDI) was established in Henderson, Colo., becoming the first program of its kind in the country. By the end of the year, IHDI will have trained and placed 1,100 shelter dogs throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Here’s one of the things I love about the group: They train shelter dogs. And it’s not some new PR move; it’s in the charter. Bob Cooley, IHDI assistant director and field representative, explained to me that they don’t breed, in part, because they aren’t looking for a breed but a personality. And that personality—energetic, curious, going a little crazy when someone knocks on the door—is the sort of personality that drives some folks to surrender young dogs to a shelter. In other words, one family’s pain in the neck is another family’s eager, helpful assistance dog.

Join the folks at IHDI in celebrating three decades of making a difference on Saturday, July 25, at their headquarters north of Denver (directions & contact information). There will be tours, a chance to meet some dogs-in-training, an Italian supper, a silent auction, live music and a magic show. Tickets can be purchased by phone (303-287-3277) or email (ihdi@aol.com). IHDI provides dogs free-of-charge to qualified applicants, and pays for its efforts through private contributions, individual donations and grants. Learn how you can help.

News: Guest Posts
Party Animals
Jill Beninato celebrates dogs and artists.

The only downside to Jill Beninato’s inspired fundraising art collaboration last year was there wasn’t enough art to go around. Thirteen copies of the luscious art swap/fat book, Dogs Rule (see The Bark, September 2008), went to the participating artists and only one was auctioned for the benefit of A Place To Bark animal rescue. Well, Beninato is back—and this time she’s corralled even more dog artists to donate original work for the animal shelter and she’s found a way regular art-and-dog-appreciating folks can enjoy the art and support the cause.

This year, 20 artists, including Nancy Schutt and Anne Leuck Feldhaus, created work based on the theme, Party Animals, in the medium of their choice. Beninato photographed each and compiled them in a zine, along with articles and information about A Place To Bark. The final product is 40-plus, full-color pages (printed on demand by Lulu).

If you like the more exclusive appeal of Dogs Rule, the original artwork for Party Animals will be auctioned on Ebay, October 15, 2009. For details on the auction and a complete list of Party Animal artists with links to their websites, visit the SitStaySmile blog. Learn more about the genesis of the original idea and the “sisterhood” of dog artists in an interview with Beninato on the Art Dog Blog.

News: Guest Posts
Summer Health Tips for Your Dog
A quick check up with Sophia Yin, DVM, MS.
Sophia Yin & Dogs

Now that summer is in full bloom, there are more dogs promenading by my window, snatching Frisbees at the park, and vying for a launch point at my local off-leash beach. It’s as if the canine population of Seattle has doubled, but I know most of these pups have been here all along. The simple truth is that at this time of year, there’s more time, light and inspiration for outdoor adventure. That, and the longer-than-average wait for my vet appointment last week, got me wondering about summer from a veterinarian’s point of view. So I asked Bark columnist Sophia Yin, DVM, MS, a few questions about keeping our dogs healthy and safe during the hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer.

The Bark: My vet’s office was swamped last time I visited, and a tech told me summer is always busier? Is that true? Why?

Sophia Yin: Probably because owners are home more and have more time and notice more issues with their pets. In other words, it’s not due to more problems with the pets. We see the same array of issues during the summer.

Bark: What do you think is an underappreciated health hazard for dogs in the summer months? How can we be smarter about it?

Yin: Heat stroke. Dogs can’t tolerate heat as well as humans because their primary way to dissipate heat is by panting, whereas humans can sweat. So they have a small surface area for dissipating heat. Plus, some dogs are not very smart about knowing how much they can tolerate. They may keep playing fetch even though they are nearly ready to faint from the heat. Other dogs are smarter and take that ball you’ve just tossed for them and lie down in the shade.

If your dog does give indicators of fatigue in the heat, listen to what they have to say. Let them rest if they want to lie down. If you’re walking or running them, if they slow down in the heat, don’t try to coax them faster. Owners should take dogs out during cooler times of day if the dog has problems tolerating the heat. They should also watch how the dogs pant. If they are panting with the commissures (sides) of the mouth wide open, they need a rest. If their panting doesn’t go down in five minutes, they are too hot. You can also use a garden sprayer and fill it with water and mist your dog with water if they are outside in warm weather with you.

Bark: Friends in California have made several trips to the vet due to foxtails in fur already this year. Why are these so dangerous? Is there anyway to prevent them?

Yin: Foxtails are dangerous because these sticky grass awns burrow into fur and skin, and then don’t come out. Wherever they stick, due to their architecture, they only travel one way. They frequently get into the ear canal, where they cause pain and lead to infections and can potentially work their way into the middle ear. Dogs frequently inhale them and then sneeze violently for a day. Once they get past the portion of the nasal cavity, the dog no longer sneezes but the foxtail and continue moving up. It can work its way to the junction where nasal cavity and oral cavity come together and then be swallowed and from there may puncture the gastrointestinal tract or may just be pooped out.
When they get stuck in the fur, they work their way through the fur and burrow into the skin. If stuck in the feet, they can work their way into the feet and make tunnels going up the leg. When stuck in other places, they can work their way through the skin into the abdominal or thoracic cavity. At some point, they can get walled off by a wall of cells—the body’s defense—or they may first travel through the body causing more damage, such as infections. I remember one in vet school that was found in a female dogs vaginal tract!

The best way to prevent is to steer clear. If your dogs run around or near them, groom your dog after every walk and pick them out or be prepared to take them to a vet to have them removed. Incidentally, they are very painful so expect that your dog will need to be anesthetized to have the foxtail removed if it’s embedded in a tract, in the skin, in the ear canal, or in the nose.

Bark: I’ve always thought of swimming as a pretty injury-free form of exercise. But the other day I saw my first case of swimmer’s tail? Why does that happen and are there any other swimming-related issues—other than drowning—to be alert to?

Yin: Swimmer’s tail is inflammation of the tail muscles and can be related to swimming. It’s most common in pointing dogs and other dogs that swim a lot, although my Australian Cattledog (now deceased) once got it after a fun day of swimming. His tail, which normally waved high like a flag, just drooped like a wet noodle. Radiographs revealed no fractures. A neurologic exam revealed slight pain near the base of the tail, and that he did have sensation in the tail. The tail was back to normal after a day of no swimming. When I see swimmer’s tail, I describe it to people as “he pulled his tail muscle.”

The other swim-related issue is to keep them clear of water containing algae. Some algae are highly toxic and can cause quick death after ingesting just a little. Also for dogs that are using swimming as therapy, be careful about how they get in and out of the water as they can easily injure themselves by slipping.

Sophia Yin, DVM, MS, (recently deceased) was a veterinarian and an applied animal behaviorist. A long-time Bark contributing editor, she was also the author of two behavior books, Low Stress Handling, Restraint, and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats and How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves. 

News: Guest Posts
The Day After
Renzo survives the Fourth—with the help of Bark readers.

Thanks for all the wonderful advice and support for my fireworks-fearing dog Renzo. I tried several of your suggestions. As Anne advised, I began adding a little Rescue Remedy to his drinking water a few days before the Fourth. When I adopted Renzo from Fairbanks, the rescuer and I used this same homeopathic remedy to ease the stress of that transition.

I also took a page from Karole’s and Kathy’s playbooks. I kept small treats in my pockets at all times on Thursday and Friday, and used the sporadic explosions set off by early birds to foster some positive associations. When I was fast enough on the draw, I’d say “firecracker” in my happiest voice and offer a treat. I’m not sure it made a difference, but I know both dogs appreciated the effort.

On the big day, we spent extra time playing in Lake Washington, keeping cool and getting exercise (Renzo swam for the first time!). As fireworks heated up, we headed inside to watch the King and I, a little louder than usual. Offering treats when extra noisy whistles and blasts interrupted Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, and generally just staying as mellow as possible. There was some heavy panting and close cuddling by both dogs. Renzo managed a few furious barking outbursts, which we let run their course. But, for the most part, no major misery.

Some of the credit, may go to our other dog, Lulu. This morning I read that having two dogs in this situation can be a boon. In studies of canine thunder anxiety, dogs in households with more than one pup have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and recover faster than their solitary peers.

News: Guest Posts
Help with Fireworks Fear
What’s your strategy for a blast-o-phobic dog?

I have never been a big fireworks fan. I think it’s a whole lotta noise and smoke and garbage for nothing. In the past, I’ve kept my opinion to myself and skipped the displays because a lot of people love rockets and fountains and Roman candles—why do I need to be a buzzkill?

Of course, there are plenty of dogs in my camp. I’ve heard the stories about dogs wimpering, shivering, drooling and fleeing yards in anxiety. Until recently, I’ve counted myself lucky that my dog Lulu is chill when it comes to the whole flash-crash-boom thing. But last year we adopted a rescue dog from Alaska, and he’s an entirely different kettle of fur. He doesn’t like loud noises. The few times neighbors have celebrated with firecrackers has sent Renzo into a fury of agitated barking. What will I do now that the big dance is here?

Normally, we would flee to the quiet of the mountains but this year we have obligations that keep us in town in a house that is equidistant between two major municipal displays and ground zero for a slew of DIY pyrotechnicians. Ugh. My local Humane Society has sent out a notice of how to prepare. With four main points—keep dogs inside, create a calming environment, keep them away from fireworks, update identification—it's only a start for me.

So I’d love some expertise from the field. How can I keep Renzo from a full-blown night of terror? I’ve heard that some dogs feel safe and serene in a bathtub. Does that really work? Has anyone tried a T-shirt or a cape? What about sound therapy? Flower essences? Medications? What has worked for you?

News: Guest Posts
Barking Buddha
Stretch and connect with your dog through yoga.

Last week, I attended a book signing for Barking Buddha: Simple Soul Stretches for Yogi and Dogi. I was thrilled to pick up my own copy of the hot-of-the-presses guidebook by home-town yogini and massage therapist Brenda Bryan (with photos by my friend Bev Sparks). I swear this was before I learned the book includes a little profile shot of my dog Lulu in one of Bryan’s classes. Just look for the black dog who exudes not an iota of the serene grace of the Afghan Hound on the neighboring mat. That’s Lulu. The photo is not a case of bad timing but a true reflection of our experience in the class—we were both of us woefully over-stimulated. But that was our problem.

I was impressed and inspired by Bryan with her dogis—Honey and Gus—and the other novices in the class. All around me dog-human pairs practicing “Floating Dog” and “Woofing Warrior” in a Seattle dog daycare, with lots of barking and romping only yards away, and yet calm pervaded the room. I think Bryan’s addition of massage to the regular regime of breathing, stretching and poses, encourages the dogs into the right frame of mind, at the same time it nurtures connection. The class helped me to appreciate that Doga, as it is sometimes called, provides a very real opportunity for enhancing your dog’s health, your understanding of how his or her body feels and moves, and, maybe most importantly, your bond with each other.

While a class with Bryan or a dog-centric yogi near you is probably the best introduction, Barking Buddha provides a smart, straightforward primer for home practice. If you don't believe me, watch the seriously blissed-out pups in Bryan’s video pitch for the book, below.

News: Guest Posts
The Problem of Celebrity
Some veterinarians and behaviorists decry Merial’s partnership with Cesar Millan.

Earlier this month, the executive board of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) issued a statement that it was “deeply troubled” by the Merial’s decision to partner with Cesar Millan to promote their products. Merial is a huge animal-health company and the maker of Frontline and Heartgard. As part of the promotion, the company is offering veterinary clinics a free Cesar Millan DVD titled “Mastering Leadership!” for any client who purchases either Frontline or Heartgard this summer.

“Merial’s executives may not be aware of the fact that the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB), the AVSAB, and the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (SVBT) have uniformly spoken out against the coercive, ‘dominance’-based techniques employed by Mr. Millan on his television show ‘The Dog Whisperer.’”

The AVSAB statement continues, “At best, the show is entertaining but misleading to pet owners. At worst, Mr. Millan’s techniques and misinformation have contributed to increased aggression and anxiety or resulted in physical injury to the pet and/or pet owner. As practicing veterinarians, we all unfortunately have seen many cases of the latter. Merial claims to ‘enhance the health, well-being, and performance of animals.’ Asking veterinarians to recommend that their clients seek behavior information from Mr. Millan speaks otherwise.”
Bark columnist Patricia McConnell supports AVSAB’s criticism of Merial and offers her own seasoned and thoughtful perspective on the problem of The Dog Whisperer on her blog, The Other End of the Leash.

In general, I’m inclined against this promotion even without Millan. I’m skeptical about direct-to-the-consumer appeals by pharmaceutical companies. It’s not that I think doctors or veterinarians should be the only ones with information, but advertising and promotion (a free training video, for example?) is rarely about meaningful education. On top of that, there’s reasonable debate over Millan's approach. Do veterinarians—with our trust vested in them—really want to be seen as promoting his ideals?

News: Guest Posts
Only 72 Hours to Live
Will California reduce shelter stays from 6 days to 3 to save money?

What is California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s problem with companion animals? Less than a year after his ill-begotten plan to close the state’s budget gap, in part, with a whopping 10 percent tax on veterinary services, he’s proposed reducing shelters’ minimum holding time for stray animals, from six days to three, before they can be euthanized.

Three days? 72 hours? What sort of chance will these animals have? How long does it take to get the word out—photos and bios on websites—in order to find a good forever home?

Aside from the terrible toll this will take in terms of lives, I wonder how practical it is from a financial perspective. I mean, isn’t that the point? Many predicted the governor’s failed veterinary tax would end up costing the state more as guardians who couldn’t afford treatment abandoned animals or surrendered them to shelters. The shorter shelter stay will most certainly drive up the number of euthanizations, which will probably cost more money or wash away any savings from reduced time limits.

Now’s the time for positive solutions, such as Assembly Bill 233, which allows Californians who adopt pets from government-run and nonprofit shelters to write off up to $100 in adoption fees. It’s a small thing, maybe, but it’s moving in the right direction.

Want to take action? Sign a petition against the shelter proposal and learn how you can support Assembly Bill 233.

News: Guest Posts
Adopt-A-Pet’s “Social Petworking”
Inspired use of the Internet or peer-pressure with a downside?

On the Internet, good ideas (and I guess, lousy ideas, as well) spread like viruses. In the January issue of The Bark, we wrote about how Dogs Trust in the United Kingdom found a home for a shelter dog using only a brief message on Twitter, the social networking service. It was the first Twitter-assisted placement for Dogs Trust, and maybe a first-ever.

That was followed in February by a Tweet Blast masterminded by Animal Rescue Online—24 hours of  Twitter messaging (no more than 140 characters each) all aimed at finding homes for homeless companion animals.

But these were mere flashes in pans compared to Adopt-A-Pet.com’s new scheme, cleverly branded as “Social PETworking.” The idea is to encourage regular MySpace, Facebook and Twitter users and bloggers “to advertise adoptable pets to their friends as a way to help homeless pets get seen and adopted.”

The campaign kicked off at the beginning of June, with a goal of networking at least 30,000 homeless pets in the first 30 days. Essentially animal lovers find and share Adopt-A-Pet profiles of shelter animals (dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and more) with friends who might provide good homes or who know others who might.

When I checked the site on June 12, more than 35,000 links had been shared. That’s definitely something. Whether it leads to successful adoptions remains to be demonstrated. I hope it doesn’t increase impulse decisions. It’s one thing if someone who understands the responsibilities of adoption and is looking for a new friend learns about a wonderful animal in need of a home. But I know how hard it is to resist the sweet mug of a doleful puppy with a sad story. I worry that this sort of widespread friend-to-friend “advertising” inspires people to commit to animals when they aren’t ready.

Am I just being a buzzkill?