Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.
News: Guest Posts
Singer’s debut album throws a bone to a rescue effort.
June 9 2009
For less than a buck, you can enjoy a funny, happy tune about “a little scoundrel in a fur suit” and throw some cash toward a good canine cause. Inspired by his wonderful rescue hound (more on that in a sec), acoustic folk/rock singer/songwriter Kevin Carlson of Woodstock, Ga., wrote “Little Dang Dog.” He was also inspired to support the efforts of the grassroots rescue and adoption organization that made the sometimes-challenging relationship with his furry muse possible. Hence, Carlson will make a donation to Mostly Mutts for every iTunes download of this song through August 2009.
After hearing the song, we needed to know more about the inspiration. According to Carlson, it goes something like this:
“We adopted a rescue dog, Penny, from Mostly Mutts in 2004, and when she was about two-years-old, we decided to get her a playmate. Penny is very playful and always looking for someone to play chase or throw a ball for her. We went to visit Mostly Mutts and found a litter of Beagle-mix puppies, named after the elements: Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. The only one not spoken for was Fire, whom we adopted and took home. In the first couple of days, we changed her name. Since should she get out of the yard, opening the door and yelling “Fire” probably wouldn’t have gone over too well with the neighbors. Since we had a Penny, we thought we’d name her Nicki (short for Nickel).
“In the first few months, Nicki tunneled under the fence about twice a day, dug numerous holes in inconvenient places and barked at just about anything that moved. One night while playing guitar and working on some new songs, I was notified by a neighbor that Nicki had dug under the fence and was on an adventure again. After finally getting Nicki back in the house safely, I sat back down and wrote a song about this little dang dog and decided to name it exactly that. Nicki is about three-years-old now and after spending some time working with her, she has calmed down and stopped following her nose in any random direction. Most of the time, anyway!”
If you like Carlson's light-hearted paean, check out the rest of his debut CD, “Museum.” You may recognize some of the tunes; five were selected last year by MTV, Oxygen and E! to be used in their television shows.
News: Guest Posts
New shelter helps furry victims of domestic violence.
June 7 2009
The statistics are daunting. In their lifetimes, approximately one in three women will be victims of domestic violence. And in those afflicted households with companion animals, pets often share in the violence and abuse. In fact, in a study of intentional animal abuse cases, 13 percent involved incidents of domestic violence.
Up to 85 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that a partner had threatened, injured or killed the family pet, according to a national study done in 1997. And here’s the thing: A lot of women don’t get to the door of a shelter precisely because they worry about the fate of a beloved animal. Faced with no place to house a pet safely, some victims chose to stay in the bad situation—subjecting themselves, sometimes their children, and their animals to further violence.
In early 2008, the American Humane Society launched a national initiative to promote the on-site housing of pets at shelters. Simple and brilliant: Not only does this provide a safe haven for the animal but helps keep a comforting friend nearby in a crisis.
The recent opening of Doorways for Women and Families’ safe shelter for pets marks the ninth such refuge for pets in the country and the first in Northern Virginia. Doorways is Arlington’s leading provider and advocate for victims of homelessness, violence and abuse. I can only hope the recognition of the human–companion animal bond, as well as the practical, holistic problem-solving of this idea continues to spread.
News: Guest Posts
Lapping up the big time with a bowl for Bo.
June 3 2009
Here’s what I love. When someone creates a smart dog product—especially something simple that makes life better and easier for dogs and people—and then sticks by it, even if it means taking a drubbing from the venture-capital A-types on BBC’s Dragons’ Den. (They promised, "the U.S. will eat you alive.") Well, Brit entrepreneur Natalie Ellis, who has sold 80,000 of her Road Refresher (non-spill) bowls in the United States since the televised snub, recently got an order to meet the beveraging needs of arguably the most famous dog in the world—Bo Obama! I wonder what the dragons are thinking now?
Watch her Susan Boyle-moment.
News: Guest Posts
Must-watch Iggy Pop "dog" video!
June 1 2009
If Iggy Pop had a dog, what would it be? As a fan of the shirtless punkster this is not a question I have ever asked myself—despite my passion for his rocking anthem, “I Want To Be Your Dog.” And so, I was surprised, not only to discover that he has a dog, but that—not unlike fellow lapdog-loving, tough-guy Mickey Rourke—he’s head-over-heels for a small fry, more precisely, a 12-pound Maltese named Lucky.
“He’s all dog,” Iggy Pop told Terry Gross in an interview earlier today. “He’s got a butch attitude. He’s fearless and very strong for his size, but he’s still 12 pounds.”
The revelation of his lil’ canine co-pilot came as part of the promotional tour for a new album, Préliminaires, which features a knock-it-out-of-the-dog-park original called, “King of the Dogs.” Before you read on, you have to watch the delightful Patrick Boivin-directed video.
“I enjoy watching all the things animals do that are just like the things I like to do, such as, I don’t like to wear shoes, I hate wearing clothes. I didn’t even take a shower before I came over to do this interview, why should I? … Sometimes I see animals and I wish I was them … because they are free and because they can be satisfied and happy. That’s not possible for a human…it’s fleeting, hard to achieve.”
It’s a delightful moment in the interview when Gross sort of lets the comment hang out there—I suspect she’s not a capital-D dog person—she doesn’t offer her quick, encouraging “uh-huh” of recognition. But I totally get what Iggy is saying. And I’m guessing most of you reading this do too.
News: Guest Posts
Drawing the line between cruelty, neglect and ignorance...not so easy.
June 1 2009
In April, I posted a blog about a new device designed to keep K9 cops from leaving their precious live cargo in hot cars. At the time, I was thinking this extra protection made sense since a police officer could easily be distracted on the job by life-and-death matters. But what's the excuse for an officer who leaves a dog in an SUV for more than 3 hours to attend a training session? The dog died. Didn't someone tell the officer about the dangers of leaving dogs in cars during his training?
The story isn't clear about the details and the officer is still subject to an internal investigation, but the incident raises interesting questions about what constitutes cruelty. Leaving a dog in a car on a warm day--cruelty, neglect or ignorance? Feeding a dog to the point of obesity--cruelty or ignorance? What about leaving a dog at home for long periods of time? How many dogs in a home is too many? Is it cruel to transport a dog in a car without proper restraint? What about an aging guardian who surrenders an old dog to a crowded shelter (where he's a longshot for adoption) because he or she can no longer take care of that animal? What do you call it if a dog is harmed because his guardian is trying to do right but is simply following bad advice? And what about differences in culture that make some acts OK in one place and time but not OK in another?
A story in the Spring 2009 Update from the Center for Companion Animal Health at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine raises many of these questions and lots more. When I move beyond the obvious--dogfighting, physical abuse, starvation--and ponder each specific question, I realize how hard it is to draw a bright line. And I wonder, when lines are drawn--who should draw them? The Update poses some very real examples of well-meaning acts with unhealthy consequences, such as all-meat diets, and offers specific alternatives, but it leaves the larger ethical questions unresolved. These are for us to consider every day we share our lives with companion animals.
News: Guest Posts
Stylish doghouse designs win Palm Springs architecture competition.
May 26 2009
What makes a great doghouse? My dogs would probably say a king-size bed, plenty of snacks and room to roam. But they don’t seem to realize that my house isn’t technically a doghouse. Meanwhile, Palm Springs/Desert Cities-based designers and builders tackled the question for real as part of Barkitecture Chicque 2009, a competition to design and build sustainable, functional dwellings for dogs. When the winners were announced on May 1, students from NewSchool of Architecture & Design in San Diego swept the competition.
I also applaud the design principal behind the Woof Haus—to support bonding between a dog and his or her people. The third-place winning Woof Haus is an indoor doghouse that looks sort of like a mini-Murphy Bed with paw prints, designed by student Calvin VanBik and consultants Jack Smyer and Molly Groendyke.
My favorite is the second place finisher Play Penn by students Allen Ghaida and Jared Basler, and Shannon Martin, Jennifer Tam and Matt Teichner, consultants from FreemanWhite. The Play Penn, which is about relaxation and entertainment, has two parts. One is a protected sleeping “den;” the other is an open area with a tennis-ball wall. Balls can be popped in and out of holes in the wall. Also, the roof is sloped so it can be integrated into indoor dog games and training. (Rainy day Agility anyone?)
More than 200 turned out for the dog-friendly competition festivities at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, where at least one bartender zips around the pool on a skateboard. The event was a fundraiser for Gilda’s Club, a cancer support group that provides workshops and education/social activities for people living with cancer, their families and friends. The event was hosted by Dwell magazine and Total Marketing Partners.
By the way, Palm Spring pooches are no strangers to elegant design. A fabulous iron fence—with organic lines and images of dogs and cacti—rings the city’s 1.6-acre off-leash park. Designed and built by artist Phill Evans, the fence is astonishing both for its beauty and for the fact that someone managed to get it funded for a dog park! That’s inspiring. Don’t miss it if you’re in the area.
View images of all the designs and some of the designers.
News: Guest Posts
Cash in with PetSmart’s “Live Product Search.”
May 21 2009
A couple years ago, I interviewed Joe Markham for Dog Park Wisdom. In the 1970s, his German Shepherd Fritz picked up the tooth-destroying habit of chewing rocks. Markham, who had no aspirations to become a pet toy entrepreneur, searched far and wide for an alternative but Fritz either ignored store-bought playthings or ripped them up. One day, Markham grabbed a snubber—a rubber, beehive-shaped Volkswagen part—from a workbench in his parents’ garage and tossed it for Fritz. The dog was immediately captivated and unable to destroy the bouncy object. The rest is history. That snubber became the model for the Kong. Although, economic success wasn’t instant, Markham traveled a long and difficult road to design and bring Kongs to market, today he’s probably sold more than 50 million of them.
Markham is not the only innovative guardian out there. Many dog toys, gear and other products have been developed by regular folks with a challenge, like dogs eating too quickly, bored at home alone, or pulling on the leash. Unlike Markham, new innovators won’t have to go it alone. PetSmart wants to harness their powers of invention with a contest. The nation’s largest pet retailer has teamed up with innovation portal EdisonNation to host a “Live Product Search” for innovative ideas for interactive pet toys and products that help keep a variety of companion animals entertained, from dogs and cats to ferrets and parrots, and fish, geckos and hamsters, too.
“We specifically hope to discover interactive pet toys and products that help keep house pets of all ages, shapes and sizes entertained by their pet parents or while they are temporarily away,” said Bruce Richardson, PetSmart spokesman. “There’s a huge demand for products that will keep pets happy, occupied and distracted from possibly more destructive behavior.” PetSmart’s Live Product Search asks participants to think beyond ordinary litter boxes, treats or leashes, and to think of products that improve the lives of pets and pet parents.
Submit your idea online. The contest runs through July 9. Individuals whose products are selected for development by PetSmart will receive a $2,500 advance and a percentage of future product sales for up to 20 years. The fee to enter is $25 per idea, which covers Edison Nation’s screening process.
News: Guest Posts
Dogfighting’s poster child, Michael Vick, leaves prison.
May 20 2009
A little more than two years ago, Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick (the “Michael Jordan of football”) was charged and convicted of running a dogfighting operation at his estate. The details of brutality, including hanging and electrocuting the dogs, were shocking. Early this morning, Michael Vick was released from prison to serve the last two months of his 23-month sentence in something called “home confinement.” So, what’s next?
According ESPN.com’s extensive coverage, Vick is focused on family and the community, not football, right now. Sports writers and fans are focused on whether the NFL will lift Vick’s suspension (with surprisingly little discussion of what inspired the ban in the first place). Will he return to the pros? Will he begin training again? Who is he—or more importantly, his agent—talking to?
Those of us tracking the story with an eye more on the dogs than Super Bowl rings have other concerns. Our first priority was the fate of the dogs, mostly pit bulls, seized from his property. Many have recovered from their rough treatment and have landed in good homes. Today, they are outstanding ambassadors for their kind—dogs with bad reputations, raised in terrible circumstances who turned out wonderfully. I feel that Vick, who grew up surrounded by poverty and crime, also deserves an opportunity at a second chance.
While in prison, Vick reportedly met with Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States—at the inmate's request. It’s likely he will participate in a program aimed at eradicating dogfighting among urban teens. I hope his involvement isn’t just a cynical attempt to buff his brand with the HSUS name. I believe that if Vick could find a way to convey true remorse and understanding he could be a valuable agent for change. Still, I remain skeptical.
I wonder what others think. What do you need to see from Vick? Has he paid his dues? Would allowing him back into the NFL undermine the seriousness of his crimes? Can he really learn compassion at this late stage?
News: Guest Posts
Learn a few simple tips this Dog Bite Prevention Week.
May 18 2009
Yesterday I walked through a crowded Central Park in New York with an old friend and his dog Tracy (as in Spencer Tracy). Tracy is a buttery, 106-pound Golden Retriever, who at six-years-old exhibits the irresistible jauntiness of a puppy. Children are drawn to him like flies to a fly strip, and all around us, they zoomed in on the dog, many of them without warning. I was astounded and relieved by Tracy’s amiability. And I wondered, how would my dogs handle this kid fest? The experience made me realize that I’m so rarely around young children and toddlers, especially in numbers, that I don’t know the answer and that it’s a disservice to my dogs that I haven’t provided the opportunity for them to feel comfortable in this sort of environment.
This week is Dog Bite Prevention Week, and agencies and organizations around the country are spreading the gospel of dog bite prevention. Truth is, while you can’t guarantee a dog won’t bite (remember, even President Bush’s dog snapped at a reporter last year), you can take very specific steps to make it much less likely. Socializing your pup so that he or she is comfortable in a variety of settings, especially with other dogs and wee humans, can be one way to avoid a situation where your dog bites out of fear or anxiety. Other strategies include spaying and neutering your dog and taking a training class with your dog.
Although the Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 800,000 people seek medical attention for dog bites every year, the CDC considers the problem to be largely preventable. This week, take some time to learn what you can do to protect yourself and your dog.
News: Guest Posts
Meet Twitter contest winner, Rachael Rossman.
May 15 2009
Sometimes it feels like the Internet—especially, the sliver carved out by dog-lovers—is just one big off-leash area. Return a stranger’s poached tennis ball, and you’re likely to hear a fascinating dog story or discover another dog entrepreneur. So I shouldn’t be surprised that a random drawing for a Bark goodie bag from among our first 50 followers on Twitter would surface someone like Rachael Rossman.
Rossman paints watercolor pet portraits in Salem, Oregon. But she’s no lonely, tech-phobic recluse. In fact, she brings a whole lotta social-networking savvy to her art. One of her biggest gets was landing a spot on MarthaStewart.com with an un-commissioned painting of the doyenne’s French bulldogs, Sharkey and Francesca. More recently, Rossman painted a portrait of Bo Obama, which she promptly sent to the White House as a gift. No word back on that, but she likes the idea that it might be sitting on Michelle Obama’s desk at this very moment.
“I have been an artist all my life in one capacity or another,” she says. “But it wasn’t until a few years ago that my passion for painting was fully realized.” For many years, Rossman was a competitive equestrian, participating in hunter/jumper shows throughout the Northwest. When her first child was born and she gave up daily rides, she started using her art to live out her equestrian dreams vicariously.
“I started painting horse show scenes and then people started asking me to paint portraits of their horses,” she says. “Horse people usually have one or two dogs around the barn and they began asking for portraits of them too.”
Since then, some choice mentions in blogs, and on Facebook and Twitter have added some gas to the enterprise. But the artist’s passion is still very much there, especially when it comes to painting dogs’ eyes. “Each dog’s eyes tell a story,” she says. “I usually wait until the last minute to paint the eyes. I don’t know why, because it’s a real risk. If you don’t get them just right, it’s just not the same.”
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