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Lisa Wogan

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

News: Guest Posts
Who You Gonna Call?
Dog control officer accused of stealing dogs.

Here’s a story to keep you up at night. A dog control officer in Hoosick, N.Y., allegedly plucked a pair of four-year-old Rottweiler/Golden Retriever dogs named Abby and Ginger from their home barn and gave them to someone, whom he says he thought was their owner. When the officer “discovered” his error, he returned the dogs. Only, the dogs he returned weren’t Abby and Ginger. Facing a felony charge, he’s still on the job. Meanwhile, the dogs ares still missing.

News: Guest Posts
Nanny Scores with Dog-Wash Discord
Why not wag your dog’s tale?

Do you find yourself making up stories about your dogs that you think would make a good children's book? I have a million. Like the one about the girl who creates a very, very, very long leash so she can sit on the couch watching Millionaire Matchmaker, while her dog wanders the neighborhood creating havoc. Or the adventures of two black mutts called the The Licorice Twins, who track down missing food.

I didn’t say they were good and I never imagined these little riffs could really lead some place but for Shellie Braeuner that’s exactly what happened. The Nashville nanny recently won the first-ever Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories New Author Contest for her tale, The Great Dog Wash/El gran lavaperros. A special, English-Spanish edition of the book, illustrated by Robert Neubecker, is available free inside 1.5 million boxes of Cheerios. A standalone version, published by Simon & Schuster, goes on sale in July.

I caught up with Shellie Braeuner on her cell phone in a parking lot outside a Nashville grocery store last week, just hours after tornadoes touched down nearby. She was shopping for the special Cheerios boxes with the book inside to give away at the fifth birthday of Elizabeth, the youngest child for whom she is a nanny. The book is dedicated to Elizabeth and the dog they share, Fluffy.

How’d she do it? “It was the last day of the contest, and I really didn’t have anything finished that I wanted to submit that felt right,” says Braeuner, who has long written for personal pleasure and enjoys telling stories to kids. She was washing Fluffy, when she noticed Elizabeth singing, “dog wash, dog wash, dog wash.” “I thought, ‘you know, if she’s having this much fun just singing dog wash, there’s got to be a story in here somewhere.’ It all kind of came together that day, and it was the day it needed to come together if I was going to enter.”

I was happy to discover Fluffy might inspire future Braeuner-penned stories, including one based on the day Shellie and the kids brought him home from Happy Tails Humane, a no-kill animal shelter in the Nashville area. “We all came down with stomach flu the night after we adopted him,” Braeuner says. “And I’m thinking, ‘five-and-a-half-month-old puppy, new house, everyone feeling awful—gonna be crazy.’ And this dog just lay with us, just happy to be with us.”

The other big news for the fledgling author is Cheerios’ donation of 10,000 copies of her book to R.E.A.D., the reading assistance program that provides therapy dogs as reading companions for children. The largest single book donation in the organization’s history marks its 10th anniversary.

“To me that’s the best thing,” Braeuner says. “If I won the lottery or something and I kept all that money to myself, I wouldn’t be happy. But knowing that this is helping dogs and this is helping kids and that someone could go in with their WIC card and come out with a brand new book before it even hits the bookstores—that makes me feel so good.”

The key gap between me and a $5,000 grand prize? A good idea for starters. But that shouldn't stop others. Watch your dog for greatness and pick up your pens, the third New Author Contest runs through July 15, 2009.

News: Guest Posts
It's A Bo!
Malia and Sasha get their dog...at last.

Well, after all the waiting and the speculation, the Obamas have their dog. A six-month-old Portuguese Water Dog named Bo for Bo Diddley. (Actually, according to reports, he was previously named Charlie, which is also my husband’s name, so I am disappointed to miss the potentially funny headlines.)

A gift from Senator Ted Kennedy, who brings his own Porties to Capitol Hill, Bo’s provenance is not exactly the heartwarming rescue tale for which I had hoped. While the puppy did experience a setback when his original family returned him to the breeder, that's not exactly the example I had in mind. I was hoping the dog in the White House would be a daily reminder of the joys of adopting a homeless pup. The Obamas will make a donation to the District of Columbia Humane Society, but for now a golden opportunity has been missed.

Read more about B'Obama on TheBark.com:

The Dog Seen Around the World: Bo Obama inspires an international surge in PWD requests.

Bo Obama: Adorable puppy, less-than-ideal name.

Training Tips for the First Dog: Advice from professional trainers

News: Guest Posts
Docking Tails on the Docket
New York considers a ban on cutting tails.

If the phones aren’t ringing off the hooks for members of the New York Assembly Agriculture Committee, they will be as soon as they take up serious consideration of Assembly Bill 7218. The bill proposes to make all instances of docking a dog’s tail unlawful, except when deemed necessary by a veterinarian to protect the life or health of the dog. In addition, it will make anyone exhibiting a dog with a docked tail subject to a misdemeanor charge. And, finally, the bill provides that New York animal rights organizations can sue a violator for declaratory judgment to obtain redress for a violation. (Full text.)

Members of the American Kennel Club and other breeders are lining up to defend docking, which they call an acceptable practice “integral to defining and preserving breed character, enhancing good health, and preventing injuries.”

While I wish we didn’t have to legislate common sense, I don’t really see the argument for docking. Is it really about protecting working dogs against injury? The AKC claims “an intact tail at full-length would result in injured and bloodied tails when the dogs perform the functions for which they were bred.” Setting aside the fact that many of these dogs’ “work” is in a show ring, wouldn’t an exemption for working dogs, such as they have in the United Kingdom’s Animal Welfare Law, cover this risk to dogs? 

The argument that the practice of docking is “longstanding” and “accepted” for “more than 50 recognized breeds” hardly makes the case for it. Lots of obviously bad ideas were widely accepted before they were rejected. As for preserving “breed character” that’s a tough one. Isn’t character just a human idea of what a dog should look like? Couldn’t we learn to love long-tailed Dobermans and Rottweilers? I know I already do.

The other side? Neither the American Veterinary Medical Association nor the American Animal Hospital Association endorse tail-docking for cosmetic purposes. Each states that the procedure causes dogs pain and distress and runs risks of complications, hemorrhage and infection. While neither organization is conclusive about long-term problems associated with docked tails, there is a growing body of evidence that docking tails may create ongoing pain for dogs, maybe even phantom limb syndrome, problems with balance and compensation injuries. There’s an excellent coverage of the debate in the December 2005 issue of Whole Dog Journal.

And what about wagging? I mean, aside from the health consequences, what do we do to a dogs' ability to "speak" to us and to one another when we cut off this important communication tool?

Speaking of communication, I expect this will ruffle some fur, and I sincerely want to hear from proponents and opponents. Please, tell me what you think.

News: Guest Posts
Putting More Bark in the Woods
Plant a tree for your pup this Arbor Day.

So many of my best dog memories are set in the pine forests of the Northwest. Here Lulu and Renzo thread thick groves and leap over downed trees like agility champs. They eagerly truffle at the base of venerable snags and devour fallen branches with the gusto of canine wood-chippers. So, I totally get the Arbor Day Foundation’s Trees for Pets pitch. For every dollar given through Trees for Pets, one tree will be planted in our nation’s forests to help replace the old giants that are lost each year through fire or disease. (Out where I live, bark beetles are wreaking havoc.)

I like the Foundation’s spin: Trees given in memory of a pet will provide food and shelter to wild critters for decades to come. Of course, you can also simply plant a tree on your own this Arbor Day, the last Friday of April, but it will probably end up costing more than a dollar.

News: Guest Posts
Why Tributes?
A chance to remember, celebrate and learn.

We recently launched Tributes, an online section dedicated to stories about our beloved dogs past. I’m glad we’ve set aside a space for celebrating our best friends and commiserating over their loss because I believe it’s another rich facet of our lives with dogs.

A few years ago, I worked on a proposal for a book about pet loss. Nothing came of it, in part, because publishers felt it was a downer. But I thought differently. Talking to a variety of people about their dog’s illnesses and deaths, and the grief that follows, gave me a special appreciation for this relationship. I discovered that a dog’s death allows us to be independent and hands-on in a way we can’t be with human beings. When the people we love die, a tsunami of regulations, infrastructure and commerce comes between us and them. Not so with our dogs.

We brush out their fur, wrap them in blankets and bury them in holes we dig ourselves. We freeze them until the kids come home, so everyone is home for a burial. When they are in severe pain, we release them through euthanasia. Sometimes we cremate our dogs; sometimes we preserve them through taxidermy. We spin their fur into wool or keep a small bundle as a keepsake. We make video slideshows, host memorials at dog parks, make contributions to shelters and animal welfare organizations in their name. The quirky and deep relationships we have with dogs find some of their most epic expressions in this endgame.

And because dogs’ life spans are usually a fraction of our own, we are often called upon to take these steps—making choices that touch on the raw edge of our own mortality—over and over again. We enter into these relationships with an awareness of this responsibility, and it seems to me, this honor. It’s not like having a child, when we can tell ourselves we’ll outlive our son or daughter. And it’s not like falling in love, when we tell ourselves it might never end.

In the same way our dogs persuade us to walk into a cold, foggy night, when we’d rather stay warm by a fire, they pull us into the big mystery.

I hope you’ll visit our Tributes page and contribute your own story either as a comment or a memorial of your own. To include a photo with your tribute, send story and image to webeditor@thebark.com.
 

News: Guest Posts
One Above
Alaska halfway to designating the Malamute as state dog.

[UPDATE: On Thursday, April 16, the New Hampshire House takes up the question of the Chinook.]

 

While I had my eyes trained on the Northeast, waiting for New Hampshire to make the Chinook the 10th official state dog in the country (Bark, Mar/Apr 2009), the Alaska State House voted to designate the Alaskan Malamute that state’s top canine.

Spearheaded by students at the Polaris K-12 School in Anchorage, the effort was almost derailed by attempts to honor the sled dog or Husky instead. (I'm just glad no one suggested Iron Dogs.) In my story on state dogs, I suggested the Husky for Alaska, but the Polaris students won the day by emphasizing the Malamute’s history and origins in the Mahlemut tribe; its members relied on the dogs to haul game and guard children. The bill moves on to the Senate.

 

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Senate has approved the Chinook, and students and Chinook-lovers there wait on the House. Of course, this leaves 39 states bereft of an official—or almost official—canine ambassador. I think we need to do something about that, if only so we have some good legislative news to read. And I’m not saying we need to limit our vision to purebred dogs. I’d like to see some Heinz 57's in the mix. I'd love to be from a state that designated the mutt as its symbol. I live in Seattle, there has to be a group of enlightened elementary school kids around here who could get behind this effort.

News: Guest Posts
Dogs in Cars
Arizona cops test heat protection device for police dogs.

The other day, I left my dogs in the car. We’d just returned from a visit to my off-leash area. The dogs were quiet. I was distracted. I walked inside, put my coat and keys away, checked for new phone and email messages, and suddenly realized my glue-dog was not using my legs as weave poles. As always, they took it in stride.

So when I read the story today about the new warning system at the Peoria Police Department in Arizona, I instantly appreciated the conceit. When the dog is in the car, his weight on a mat keeps the engine and air-conditioning running even after the driver removes the keys from the ignition. If the A/C fails, the mat triggers an alarm. A few weeks earlier, I might have thought this was overkill but I know different. And I’m not a cop with urgent, life-and-death business on my mind.

It’s a smart response. Protecting the K-9s, who protect us, is a fitting tribute to Chandler, a police dog who died from exposure in 2007 after his handler forgot he was in the car. The rest of us need to rely on our faulty brains, and remember the serious risk posed by heat to dogs in cars.

News: Guest Posts
Strong Medicine
An articulate case for dog's healing properties.

Every Tuesday, New York Times editor Dana Jennings writes with honesty, grace and humor about living with advanced prostate cancer for his newspaper’s health blog. I recommend reading his most recent post, Life Lessons from the Family Dog, which is centered around the failing health of a poodle named Bijou de Minuit. Jennings offers simple, clear insights into the gift of dogs in difficult times and draws an interesting parallel between sick people and pups.

I want to quote the final image—inspired by Bijou lapping from a dish—but, like so much in life, it’s better if you read the entire piece (it's short) and arrive there yourself.

News: Guest Posts
Report Dog Bites
One women learns a terrible lesson.

I never thought I'd say it, but you can go too far in "protecting" a dog. Last week in Alameda, Calif., an 80-year-old woman died from an infection three days after she was bitten by an unfamiliar dog. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, she lied to doctors about the cause of her injury to avoid having the dog quarantined. She paid the ultimate price, and the dog has not been found.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and one in five dog bites results in injuries that require medical attention. But the CDC and the Humane Society of the United States view dog bites as largely preventable.

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