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Lisa Wogan

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

News: Guest Posts
Picasso’s Dog
Begging for scraps in the Cubist style

When I lived in New York, I had the good fortune to visit a few museums in the company of Thomas Hoving, the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With him, there was no slow shuffling past endless works, dedicating a minute or two to each. Instead we hoofed through galleries intent on a destination, with Hoving discouraging us from taking in the sights along the way. Then we’d arrive at the pre-selected work, with fresh eyes, and spend time, lots of it, taking in one piece. I learned that one masterpiece appreciated deeply is, for me, a richer experience than taking in many works superficially. To this day, that’s how I do most big museums.

What’s this got to do with Bark? Well, if you live anywhere near Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Conn., consider taking the Hoving-approach to their current Picasso exhibition. Leave most of the 70 works to the others, and spend some serious time with his wonderful 1921 Cubist dog painting—“Dog and Cock.”

A pointy-eared pooch with fringy fur sniffs at the edge of a fully loaded dinner table. Tongue out. Not only do we see this scene played out more than we’d like in our own homes, dogs begging at banquets are a long artistic tradition. The light humor of this familiar moment makes appreciating Picasso’s Cubist technique a total delight.

Learn more about Bark’s take on this masterwork in the May 2009 issue. “Picasso and the Allure of Language” runs through May 24 at the Yale University Art Gallery, Chapel and York Streets, New Haven.

Bonus Track: Picasso was no stranger to the habits of dogs. He shared his life with many including Lump the Dachshund, an Afghan Hound named Kabul, and a Boxer named Jan. To see fantastic images of Pablo Picasso and his canine confrères, check out David Douglas Duncan’s online Picasso gallery.

News: Guest Posts
Be Kind to Animals Contest
Kindness pays. No, really. Cold, harsh cash to compassionate kids.

Entrepreneurial humanitarians make me optimistic about the future, especially when they start innovating ways to do good before they can even drive. Take Ian Cahr. At the ripe-young-age of eight-years-old, the Chicagoan earned $12 selling beaded jewelry from a sidewalk stand, which he promptly donated to New Leash on Life, a dog rescue organization in his hometown. Of course, that was only the start. He quickly launched Ian’s Bead Company, accepted donated supplies and enlisted willing volunteers (including 30 kids), to make and sell beaded jewelry, hand-drawn cards, key chains and more. By mid-2008, they had raised and donated more than $10,000.

Ian was recognized for his humanitarian efforts as one of two grand-prize winners of the American Humane’s 2008 Be Kind to Animals Kid Contest. He shared the honors with Kristen Uyeoka, a 17-year-old from Aiea, Hawaii, who developed interactive lesson plans to teach pre-school-age children responsible and compassionate care for animals.

Well, it’s time to discover and celebrate the work of other Ians and Kristens. The American Humane Association is currently accepting nominations of kids (between the ages of six and 17) whose humane values and actions serve as an example to others. Grand-prize winners receive $1,000; runners up receive $500.

If this sounds like a boy or girl you know, please send in your nomination by April 15. Look for the winners to be feted during the  95th annual celebration of Be Kind to Animals Week, May 3-9, 2009.

News: Guest Posts
“Alpha” Training Can Backfire
Updated. New study shows aggressive techniques yield aggressive dogs.

[3/2/09 update: In a recent blog post, Susan Leisure, the director of AARF (Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends, Inc.), reacted to the latest study on aggression and dog training much like we did (below). But Leisure also recommended a Bark story, Choosing A Trainer, as "critical" reading before hiring a pro. We agree there, too.]

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania confirms what so many trainers already know to be true: Confrontational, aversive training techniques with aggressive dogs only make the aggression worse. The results of the year-long survey, published in the current issue of Applied Animal Behavior Science, provide important perspective on dominance-based training popularized on television and in books.

“Behaviorists and trainers should all familiarize themselves with this study so that when speaking with clients, they can inform them of the dangers of using forceful and violent techniques with their dogs,” says Karen London, PhD., an Applied Animal Behaviorist and Bark columnist. “This study shows that kinder, gentler training methods pose less risk when working with aggressive dogs.”

This is no small issue since, according to the study authors, aggressive behavior is the number one reason people seek the help of a veterinary behaviorist.

“This research indicates that when professionals advise clients to use confrontational or aggressive methods when working with dogs, that they are putting the people who trust them, as well as the dogs they love, at great risk,” London adds,  “and it’s not right.”

News: Guest Posts
New Way to Pay for Spay
[Web exclusive] Can Washington State alter 70,000 more cats and dogs

It’s Spay Day, and all around the country, animal welfare organizations are offering discounted spay/neuter surgeries and spreading the word about the importance of altering pets to reduce unwanted litters, overpopulation, abandoned and neglected pets, crowded shelters and high euthanasia rates.

In Washington State, legislators are considering an unusual bill to increase funding for low-cost spay/neuter surgery. As proposed, Senate Bill 5329/House Bill 1406 will reimburse private and nonprofit veterinary clinics that perform the surgeries for the pets of low-income guardians, as well as feral and free-roaming cats, keeping the out-of-pocket cost (like a co-payment) to no more than $10 for cats and $20 for dogs.

While funding low-cost surgeries has long been an important tool in the spay/neuter effort, the Washington bill tackles the problem during tight financial times and relies on a unique funding mechanism—fees on pet food distribution.

Tomorrow, February 25, the Senate Committee on Agriculture & Rural Economic Development decides whether to vote the bill on to the Ways and Means Committee, and, eventually to the floor for a vote of the full senate. It’s an important hurdle for the legislation.

Helping to spearhead the bill is Andrea Logan, co-founder and president of the board of Pawsitive Alliance in North Bend, dedicated to ending the killing of adoptable dogs and cats in Washington. While Alliance efforts are most frequently focused on providing adoption events to help rural shelters, Logan says, “I’m a spay/neuter girl at heart; this is the only way to solve the problem.”

While she waits to hear the fate of the spay/neuter assisance program and drum up last minute support, she answered a few questions for TheBark.com.

TheBark.com: What makes you sure that reducing the cost of these surgeries will increase the number of animals spayed and neutered?

Andrea Logan: There are a lot of studies that cite cost as the reason most people give when they say their animal isn’t altered. We know that people want but just can’t afford the surgery. In the first few years after New Hampshire passed similar legislation, the state saw a significant decrease in shelter admissions [34 percent] and euthanasia rates [75 percent].

Bark: How likely is it that legislators will agree to additional spending when the State faces an $8 billion shortfall?

Logan: The good news we have gotten so much support from legislators. But it’s hard and very challenging. We’re offering a program that’s going to ultimately save money (for example, New Hampshire reported savings from animal impoundment costs due to its program), and we’re not taking money from the general fund. We’re saying here’s our best option, specifically pet owners helping other pet owners. It doesn’t take away from other people. We’ve given them a way to pay for it. We think that most pet owners would pay a small fee to save other dogs and cats.

Bark: Funding would come from an increase on the fee pet-food distributors pay for inspection of food distributed in Washington by 3 cents per pound (with distributors of less than one ton every six months exempt); won’t this be passed along to consumers, making pet food more expensive during a recession?

Logan: If the fee is passed along, which we expect, we think the impact would be pretty modest. We estimate that someone living with one cat and a medium-size dog is looking at an additional 9 dollars a year, less than 1 dollar each month.

Bark: Have other states used a fee like this to pay for spay/neuter?

Logan: Yes including Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont. But other states rely on fees from sources like statewide licensing, which Washington does not have. Maine is the most similar with a fee on pet food registration.

Bark: According to your column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the funding will help pay for at least 70,000 additional spay and neuter surgeries each year. If there are more than 1.66 million unaltered dogs and cats in the state, what difference will 70,000 make?

Logan: Basically, what we’re tying to do is strike a balance between the number of surgeries we could hope to accomplish and a fee that we could pass, based on the examples of the other states. Still it’s a large sum of money even with the modest fee. Importantly, the bill requires the Department of Agriculture to evaluate the program’s impact.

Bark: How can supporters, especially in Washington, help?

Logan: Contact your legislators and urge them to support the bill’s passage and spread the word to others.

 

Learn more about taking action and also about other Spay Day activities and activism in your neighborhood.

News: Guest Posts
The Fido Fine Is Back! NOT.
Update: Animals won’t pay for the budget crunch.

Editor's Update: Good news. The nearly 10 percent tax on veterinary services was dropped from the California state budget.

The proposed tax on veterinary services in California is back. The dreadful idea to pitch the welfare of animals into the state’s budget sinkhole with a nearly 10 percent tariff will be in the budget plan presented by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in his annual “State of the State” today.

After we blogged about this potentially catastrophic idea in December, it looked like the Democrats in the Senate and Assembly saw the error of Arnie’s ways. They passed a plan without the tax on December 19. But the Governor and his legislators haven’t been able to agree, and he wants the “Fido Fine” back.

What’s the fuss? When the cost of health care services jumps nearly 10 percent, animal advocates and veterinarians predict a reduction in routine wellness visits—which means missing opportunities to treat problems early, and more affordably and effectively. They worry that recession-battered guardians already struggling to keep animals in the family will be forced to abandon them rather than pay for treatment. Aside from the humane consequences, there is also a practical matter: More abandoned animals will only add additional strain (and cost) to shelters and rescues—hardly a positive for the budget.

Learn more details and how to take action at the California Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society of the United States.
 

News: Guest Posts
Twitter Up for Dog Rescue
Join the Animal Rescue Tweet Blast on February 28

In the January issue of 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 a first for Dogs Trust, and maybe a first-ever. Well, good news travels fast, especially via the Internet, and the folks at Animal Rescue Online plan to turn up the volume on shelter adoptions with a Tweet Blast--a whole lotta Twitter messages (no more than 140 characters each)--on Saturday, February 28, 2009.

It's actually pretty simple to participate. Visit Petfinder to find a homeless pet you think deserves a good home. Copy and past the URL from his or per profile page into a Twitter message. (The TinyURL tool will help you condense long URLs to tweet-able size.) I'm thinking of sending a shout-out for Cooger, an irresistible Australian Cattle Dog looking to spend his gravy years with a loving family.

News: Guest Posts
VIDEO: Vet Smarts
Dr. Marty Becker answers Bark’s questions about health care on a budget.

With the recession, we’re all feeling the pinch, and according to Dr. Marty Becker, one place some guardians are cutting corners is by skipping visits to the vet. Waiting until you know there’s a problem can be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Dr. Becker makes a pretty compelling argument for why wellness visits are so important for your dog and your wallet. He also pitches a few low-cost, at-home strategies for keeping your dog healthy--plus, an opportunity to save $20 on your next visit.

Dr. Becker’s visit with Bark is part of an effort to raise awareness about the importance of vet visits through a campaign called Help Your Pet, Get to the Vet. Visit www.gettothevet.com for a chance to win a $20 voucher toward your next vet visit. Vouchers will be awarded everyday on the hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through February 28, 2009.

News: Guest Posts
Trial and Error
Should companion animals have rights?

Where on the spectrum of legal rights and protections do our companion animals fall? What about wild animals? Livestock? Associated Press writer Joseph B. Frazier provides a succinct digest of some of the current developments in animal law, including a recent Pennsylvania decision to restrict euthanasia to veterinarians after a kennel operator shot 70 dogs last year.

While some, such as the Animal Legal Defense Fund, spearhead animal law education and legal protection for animals (especially animal cruelty cases), others wonder where to draw the line. What about earthworms? asks Dr. Geordie Duckler, who heads the Animal Law Practice in Portland, Ore., and writes about the subject for Bark (including a story in March/April 2008 exploring the legal differences between a pediatrician and a veterinarian).

I think Princeton professor Peter Singer’s sums it up pretty well: “The right category for pets is closer to children, who can’t vote, can’t own property but you can’t inflict pain on them, either.”

News: Guest Posts
More Love Connections Revealed
Q&A with Meg Daley Olmert, author of Made for Each Other

Forget about feeling self-conscious over your relationship with your dog. According to author Meg Daley Olmert (in a Salon Q&A and podcast) this connection yields a boatload of physical and therapeutic benefits. It all comes down to the fact that companion animals can double the flow of oxytocin—the powerful social bonding and anti-stress hormone—in our bodies. According to Daley Olmert, a recent Japanese study found that mere eye contact with a dog (!) releases a healthful surge.

She explores many aspects of the animal-human bond including why dogs appear to be such great mind readers. Apparently, it’s not about tracking brain waves but body language. Dogs "read" the micro-movements that accompany our thoughts of W-A-L-K and T-R-E-A-T-S.

I’m fascinated but a little reluctant to wade into Daley Olmert’s take on the research. I love the central argument—that the attraction-attachment between humans and animals is real and good and true—but I do sort of worry about reducing my relationships with Renzo and Lulu to ideomotor actions and pituitary hormones.

We'll have to see what Sacha Zimmerman says in her review Of Made For Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond in the upcoming issue of Bark (March/April 2009). In the meantime, now that you know dog love is essentially a biological imperative, why not tell us your wonderful love story.

News: Guest Posts
Kiss Me, Canine
Go ahead, it won’t hurt you and it's fun

I let my dog Lulu lick my face. It makes some of my friends a little queasy, which, honestly, is part of the pleasure. And now, thanks to some out-of-the-box research, I can say it’s not the risky behavior my more persnickety acquaintances think.

A recent study by Dr. Kate Stenske, a clinical assistant professor at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, found that dog owners who sleep with their pets, share food, or allow face licking are no more likely to share strains of E. coli bacteria with their companions than folks who avoid these habits. (Although, there is some evidence that dogs might pick up antibiotic-resistant germs from us, especially if we fail to wash our hands during food preparation.)

So this Valentine’s Day, go forth and fearlessly smooch your pooch. If you’re anywhere near Portland, Maine, you might be rewarded for your interspecies public display of affection. Planet Dog is sponsoring its 5th Annual Valentine’s Day Canine Cocktail Party and Dog Kissing Contest (Thursday, Feb. 12, 6-7:30 p.m. at the Planet Dog Store, 211 Marginal Way, Portland, Maine). The “longest, sloppiest kiss” wins $75 worth of socially responsible dog goodies. The party is free, but a $5 contest fee goes to the Planet Dog Foundation, which donated more than $100,000 to canine service programs around the country—such as Dogs for Diabetics in Concord, Calif., and Texas Hearing and Service Dogs in Austin, Tex.—in 2008 alone.

If you're stuck without a furry buddy this year, feel the full-contact love with this scene from a 2007 dog-kissing contest I'm not sure where:

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