Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.
News: Guest Posts
Finding forever homes for death-row dogs can mean lots of travel.
May 13 2009
When The Bark’s editor-in-chief Claudia Kawczynska agreed to adopt a pair of puppies slated for euthanasia from a Kentucky shelter, she imagined it would be a straightforward—if long-distance—operation. She quickly learned that transporting Kit and Holly from Kentucky to California in the middle of winter would be no easy feat. She ended up traveling to Tennessee to escort the pups home herself; the experience introduced her to the logistical challenges and committed volunteers behind pet transport.
Essentially, pet transport refers to a network of shelters, rescues and volunteers working together to relocate “doomed” dogs from overcrowded shelters, often in the South and Midwest, to regions where they should more easily find a home, often in the Northeast, and, less frequently, the West.
Some of these operations are fairly major. The “largest volume” pet transport effort is probably PetSmart Charities’ Rescue Waggin’, sponsored by Pedigree, which celebrated its fifth anniversary last week. By the end of the month, Rescue Waggin’ will have transported a total of 27,000 dogs, and expects to transport up to 10,000 dogs this year alone.
Transport has its critics. Some proponents suggest that dogs imported from other states make it harder on instate homeless dogs and that transport reduces the incentives for better spay/neuter in areas with overpopulation problems, according to a recent story in USA Today. Still, it’s likely that more dogs have a better chance—overall—with transport. I agree with JoAnne Yohannan of North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington, N.Y., who doesn’t think dogs should suffer for people’s inability to tackle overpopulation. She told USA Today, “If someone is drowning, you don’t just stand there and criticize their ability to swim.”
What do you think? I’d love to hear your stories of either helping dogs along the highways of America or a rescue dog’s epic journey to your front door. Look for more about pet transport in a future issue of The Bark.
News: Guest Posts
Leap into the season on all fours.
May 8 2009
The sun is out, the trees are blooming, the days are long. Suddenly, it’s a whole lot easier to get out and play. And while I’d like to believe you’ve been putting in long hours at the park, lake or on trails all winter long, based on my own example, I’m going to assume there is, well, room for improvement. So in the spirit of progress, here are a few suggestions for jump-starting a healthy, happy, active season—which we’ll hopefully continue during colder, darker months (but I don’t even want to think about that right now).
1. Be your pup’s personal trainer
Extra weight is the other big boondoggle here. Lots of dogs put on a few extra pounds watching you watch TV all winter, and that weight is tough on joints and conditioning. Talk with your veterinarian about strategies for helping your dog lose weight gradually—cutting back on treats and excess food is the obvious start.
On the subject of sunburn, remember that animals are vulnerable “on any area where fur is particularly thin or where there is no skin pigment, like dogs with pink noses,” says Dr. Mark Stickney, director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “I would recommend a sunscreen that is specifically for pets. These are formulated to be safe if the pet licks them off and are available at any pet store.”
3. Test your gear in advance.
4. Learn about heat.
As daytime temperatures climb, schedule outings for mornings and evenings. When the going gets real hot, leave your pal at home, especially for high-intensity activities, such as mountain biking and trail running. Also, it’s not just the air temperature you need to monitor. Remember, hot pavement, sand and stone can burn a pup’s pads.
5. Practice how to have fun out there.
Also, train your dog to wait, sit, or stay at water sources, especially when thirsty. This protects her from slurping tainted waiter.
Finally, stop giving your dog a pass on pulling and sniffing during walks. “You’re walking the dog, the dog isn’t walking you!” says Brendan Fahey, veteran dog walker/jogger and owner of Jogs with Dogs in Seattle. Notice how people often jerk their dogs away from fire hydrants, other dogs, cats and squirrels? Everyone seems frustrated and progress is slow. “Keep your dog next to you and the leash short (less than 12 inches from your hand to the collar), and you’ll both have a much more productive walk. The second you see or feel your dog’s body language change, give him a gentle light correction (eventually you can just give a sound). A week of walking with your dog next to you (instead of in front!) will change your walks forever, and you’ll have a much more enjoyable walking partner.”
What have I missed? How do you prepare for the dogs days of summer?
News: Guest Posts
First 50 followers on Twitter.com will be entered into drawing for Bark goodie basket.
May 5 2009
The Bark is on Twitter. I know—it took us long enough. So, let me just clear something up right away, we weren’t slow to adopt because the service is called Twitter and we’re anti-bird. It’s just that sometimes tackling new technology can be a little overwhelming, and frankly, less immediately satisfying than watching a Border Collie execute a flawless weave-pole slalom.
Still, like we always say about dogs, it’s good to learn new skills. And eventually, we realized that barking, oh, I mean, tweeting the latest Bark news helps us reach more of you in ways you prefer, especially you early adopters out there who have, for months, been microblogging on your cell phone while Rex perfected an extended down-stay. We get that Twitter is one more way to make sure you’re in the loop, especially about food recalls, product-safety information, opportunities to win prizes or take action for animals—and all the other fresh, weird and wonderful dog news that is our business.
In some ways, signing up to follow The_Bark on Twitter is a little like signing up for an RSS feed—without all the bells and whistles. It’s simple and efficient like a Frisbee. If you aren’t part of the Twitter universe yet, signing on for an account is easy and free. Just follow this link to our page on Twitter, click the Join Now button, and provide your name, a user name, your email address, a password, and a security code. The first 50 followers on Twitter.com will be entered into drawing for Bark goodie basket.
For a simple introduction to Twitter, check out this piece in the Christian Science Monitor. Be sure to peruse the comments, which provide a wealth of resources and advice from the tweeting twenches.
Another simple way to keep track of us, on your own time, is simply by bookmarking TheBark.com. I mention this obvious and elegant solution after reading Farhad Manjoo’s article, Kill Your RSS Reader on Slate.com. When Manjoo suffered from RSS saturation, he created a system of tiered folders prioritizing his favorite bookmarked sites. He has built a road through the Internet, and he’s in the driver’s seat.
News: Guest Posts
Is dog food just pâté by another name?
May 4 2009
“Tastes like dog food” may not be the insult you think. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, only 3 of 18 human participants in a blind taste test were able to identify dog food from among samples of pâté, liverwurst, Spam and Newman’s Own dog food. While I think this says more about the competition than about dog food, the results highlight something we all suspect about taste—that it’s about much more than taste buds.
Personally, I’m happy about the results because I’m always a little freaked out by how much I want to snarf my dogs’ peanut butter and molasses cookies. Still the test leaves one question unanswered: Faced with the same selection, which do dogs prefer?
News: Guest Posts
Bark writer talks to Ron Reagan about puppy mills, May 4.
May 1 2009
When I read about a giant puppy mill bust just north of Seattle in January, I was surprised. I had the mistaken impression that my little corner of the country was immune; that puppy mills thrived in the Ozarks, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Now, the local papers were detailing how 600 Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers and other small breeds were being liberated from shocking conditions. The dogs, crammed into cages, were sick, covered in feces and urine, dehydrated and starving.
Meanwhile, Jan intends to continue independent advocacy journalism. Inspired by our blog about fundable.com, a grass roots funding site that some guardians are using to pay for expensive veterinary bills in hard times, she’s asking for help with travel expenses, public records request fees and incidentals as she muckrakes her way through the puppy mills of America.
News: Guest Posts
What’s worse than fleas? Maybe flea collars.
April 29 2009
Almost before I finished typing up a blog about a disturbing report on the canine health risks posed by over-the-counter, spot-on pesticides, I saw the latest news about flea collars. Last week, the National Resource Defense Council filed a lawsuit alleging that 16 retailers and manufacturers—we’re talking the big guys here—failed to warn consumers about exposure to unsafe levels of known carcinogens and neurotoxins in violation of California anti-toxics laws.
Once again we’re being warned: “Just because it’s sold in stores doesn’t mean it’s safe.”
The NRDC’s groundbreaking Poison on Pets II study found “that high levels of pesticide residue can remain on a dog’s or cat’s fur for weeks after a flea collar is put on an animal. Residue levels produced by some flea collars are so high that they pose a risk of cancer and damage to the neurological system of children up to 1,000 times higher than the EPA’s acceptable levels.” Something tells me the fact that this study identifies the risk to two-legged children will help the cause garner broader attention.
Meanwhile, it’s flea season across the nation and guardians need better, safer options right way. At Green Paws, the NRDC offers practical advice including a video (see below) on fighting fleas the old fashioned way, a product guide, and a wallet-sized primer on chemicals and herbal options.
News: Guest Posts
Double-check the fine pawprint.
April 28 2009
As the owner of two 60-pound-plus pups, I am all too familiar with the bait-and-switch described in yesterday’s New York Times: Hotels draw in dual-species families with “dog-friendly” policies and then turn away canines weighing more than a big bag of kibble. Cutoffs start as low as 15 pounds.
I really don’t understand why a hotel would exclude large dogs. The author of AAA’s Traveling With Your Pet told The Times reporter that weight limits are sometimes driven by concerns over cleaning up more fur. What about large dogs, such as big, shaggy Bouviers des Flandres and Komondors, who shed very little? The other concern appears to be big dogs having bigger accidents. Of course, most dogs won't have accidents at all. I don't think weight-limits make sense but they are probably here to stay for some unenlightened properties. That means, travel planners out there shouldn't just rely on the Internet to make reservations; follow up by phone to ask about weight limits. And don't give up hope, if you've got a largish co-pilot sometimes you can negotiate size-exceptions with a smart, dog-loving manager.
News: Guest Posts
Veterinary clinical trial offers a chance for FREE medical treatment.
April 23 2009
Discovering that your dog has epilepsy can be frightening. That the cause of the recurring seizures cannot be identified—known as idiopathic epilepsy—only makes matters worse. But there is some good news. A large, nationwide veterinary clinical trial for the purpose of evaluating a new medication for the treating idiopathic epilepsy is underway. The trial not only means a boost for research, it may be a boost for recession-strapped guardians.
Despite estimates that idiopathic epilepsy may affect up to 5.7 percent of the dog population in the United States, very little is known about this disease. This study, the largest-known trial of its kind, should provide the foundation for new insights and treatments. Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the veterinary clinical trial is being conducted in multiple cities with hundreds of dogs.
Will your dog qualify? Participating dogs must be at least 4 months old, have not been previously treated with anti-seizure medication, weigh at least 11 pounds, and have no previous history of seizure clusters or status epilepticus. In addition, dogs cannot be pregnant or suspected to be pregnant and must be evaluated an investigator within seven days of the most recent seizure.
Here’s the bonus: Dogs that meet the initial qualifications for the study receive free medical evaluations, as well as in-depth diagnostic tests, which may include a CAT scan or MRI. If enrolled in the study, dogs also receive free medication (no placebo) and monthly exams. In addition to free study specific care, owners of enrolled dogs are also eligible to have funds credited to their accounts at their referring family veterinarian.
For more information, talk to your veterinarian, review these frequently asked questions, or call 1-888-598-7125, ext. 208.
News: Guest Posts
When you share your dog-centered, eco-smart ideas.
April 21 2009
Dogs are naturally green. They rarely drive. They are happy to gobble up whatever is left on our plates and just as eager to chomp on a branch as a pricey plastic bone. Unfortunately, they aren’t in charge of most households. They rely on a biped with a wallet and a driver’s license to make smart choices about what’s good for them and good for the planet.
To mark Earth Day we are sharing our dog-centered, eco-smart strategies and we want to hear yours. Post your green tip below, and you’ll be automatically entered to win one of these squeaky-green prizes: Chronicle Books’ EcoDog: Healthy Living for Your Pet, Earthdog’s Hemp Collars and Leads, Itzadog’s Ecollargy Collar and Leads, Canine Earth’s Bath Products, Wagatha’s Extraordinary Biscuits for Dogs, Woof Wear Organics’ Dog Toys, and West Paw Design’s Eco Slumber Bed (the grand prize). [Contest is now closed to new entries - see winners] Learn more about these green products on our Editor’s Picks.
From buying a Prius for transporting your dogs to agility competitions to making no-waste, crunchy treats in an ice tray—no idea is too big or too small. We’ll get the ball rolling with our own ideas.
Walk more. Rather than driving to your errands and then walking the dog, bring her along to the post office, bank, cleaners and the market. Your dog gets exercise and socialization; the car stays parked.
Invest in your neighbors. Small businesses and individual craftspeople are making high-quality toys, gear, food and treats. Buying local cuts down on packaging and fuel for shipping.
Think long term. Durability may seem old-fashioned but it’s the leading edge of sustainable shopping. Channel the spirit of your frugal Yankee aunt, and buy gear built to last, such as stainless steel dog bowls and leather leads with brass rather than plastic fittings.
Judge the book by the cover. A dog toy encased in molded plastic that requires tools and time to open, isn’t just frustrating and time-consuming, it’s also wasteful. Opt for a product with little or no packaging and register your disappointment with the manufacturer of the item you passed by. Maybe they’ll be motivated to change.
Read the labels. The recall of melamine-contaminated pet food in 2007 was a wake up call for lots of people. We’re reading labels and steering clear of chemicals in our dogs’ food, beds and toys, which means fewer chemicals will end up in our soil and water. (Learn more about eco-friendly home products.)
Adopt a second-hand dog. Bringing home a dog from a shelter or rescue is recycling at its finest.
[Contest officially closed]
News: Guest Posts
Buyer beware of over-the-counter, spot-on pesticide products.
April 18 2009
Reading between the corporate disclaimers and regulator hedging, my takeaway from the thorough and impressive investigation into over-the-counter, spot-on pesticide products for pets by The Center for Public Integrity is: Why risk it? And it’s beginning to look like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might be asking the same question.
Based on an unprecedented review of 10 years’ worth of adverse-reaction reports filed with the EPA by pesticide manufacturers, The Center reported in December an alarming number of deaths had been linked to topical pesticide products with pyrethrins and pyretroids. These reports include chilling accounts of chemical burns, nerve damage, anorexia and 1,600 deaths over the past five years. On April 16, the EPA “announced that it would intensify its evaluation of these products ‘due to recent increases in the number of reported incidents.’”
I strongly urge anyone currently using over-the-counter, spot-on pesticide treatments to read the report through to the end. (If you’re wondering about the reporters’ angle: The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to producing investigative journalism on a broad variety issues of public concern. Past stories have included an expose on the use of the Lincoln Bedroom for political contributors in the Clinton administration, publishing secret Patriot II Act draft legislation, and reporting that Halliburton was the largest private contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
Certain details in the story jumped out at me, including the fact that the high concentrations of pyrethroid used in pet products range from between eight to 17 times stronger than the strongest pyrethroid product currently approved for use on humans. Plus, recent findings that pyrethroids in young rats “could result in detrimental effects on neurological function later in life” even when there are no immediate, acute symptoms.
The report also points out that EPA approval is no guarantee of safety. Since 2000, pet products with chlorpyrifos, diazinon and phosmet were successively “approved, defended aggressively by the chemical industry, and then yanked off the market.”
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