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Lisa Wogan

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

News: Guest Posts
A Beautiful Mind
Pondering the dog brain

“How self-deceptive is it to treat an animal as a human?” Joachim Krueger, a social psychologist at Brown University and blogger for Psychology Today, ponders this question in a recent post, which was inspired by the passing of his 13-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Kirby. While the topic is not exactly earth shattering for those who follow the latest developments in ethology—Bark contributors and readers among them—it is always a pleasure to watch an academic embrace the idea of a complex dog mind. My favorite line from Krueger’s blog: “I think it is a mistake to believe that eye contact between humans is a finely-honed tool for mind-reading, whereas eye contact between human and dog is delusional—because presumably their is no mind behind those eyes.”

News: Guest Posts
Dog Tunes
What’s your pup’s soundtrack?

Once your ears are tuned to one dog song (i.e., “Half-Breed Stan”), others just roll on in. Last night, during an NPR interview about his new album of banjo songs, The Crow: New Songs for 5-String Banjo, Steve Martin revealed that the inspiration for his original song, “Wally on the Run,” was his dog. Sounding a little like Bonnie and Clyde's anthem, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," Martin’s riff once provided the soundtrack for his Labrador Retriever’s puppy-time habit of gunning down a hallway and bounding over some stairs. It’s easy to imagine.

I've been thinking that dogs should have their own theme songs, like when baseball players come to the plate and a signature song sets up the at-bat. That’s how they do it here for the Seattle Mariners, and I’m guessing this is standard operating procedure in the majors.

For my dog Renzo, I pick “If you want to sing out, sing out” by Cat Stevens because, like him, the song is optimistic and light-hearted. (And I think Renzo would appreciate the irony of selecting a singer-songwriter named Cat.) At 11-years-young and in peak shape, Lulu, deserves something a little more sassy (I can imagine her nap-dreaming about breakdancing), so something like, “Show me tha Money” by Petey Pablo. So what song is the perfect backup for your furry superstar?

News: Guest Posts
Consumer Reports Tackles (Not Really) Pet Food
Maybe a better source for insight on GPS collars and robot dogs

When I turn to Consumer Reports, it’s usually for the skinny on things with plugs and engines. Last time I subscribed online, I was in the market for a refrigerator. So I was surprised to see them shine their high beams  (only sorta) on pet food in the March '09 issue. The basic advice was sound: Ignore fancy packaging and unverified claims, read the labels, don’t assume the most expensive is best.

But some aspects of Q&A: Vets Weigh In on Fido’s Food nagged at me, especially the opening caveat: “All but one [of the veterinarians interviewed] have received some funding from the pet-food industry.” Give me Whole Dog Journal food reviews anytime.

I also felt a twinge when I read this advice: “Be careful when making your own pet food. Most experts said they hadn’t seen a pet get sick from inexpensive food; however, half said they had seen pets become ill from eating homemade pet food, a growing trend since the 2007 recall of some commercial pet food contaminated by melamine.” I’m not a nutrition expert but the suggestion that people can’t home-prepare food better than a giant extruding machine half-way around the world really sticks in my craw.

I was also disappointed by the lack of detailed help in interpreting ingredient lists. For example, there is no advice about avoiding meat by-products, processed grains or artificial preservatives. As much as I love CR, I'm disappointed they squandered this opportunity to reach a wide audience with sorely needed smarts.
 

News: Guest Posts
I Am Shep
Hotel for Dogs species quiz

Maybe not breaking news but fun. After seeing Hotel for Dogs, I took the Quibblo quiz to answer the burning question: If I was a dog in the movie, which one would I be? Well, turns out I'm Shep--the awfully cute, type-A Border Collie. I can live with that. If you have a son, daughter, niece or nephew or know some other young fans of the film, check it out. If you have a favorite rescue group or shelter you think deserves a private theater screening of the film, there is still time to nominate them for the prize.

News: Guest Posts
Behind Every Stray Is A Story
Has a lost dog ever wandered into your life?

A reader comment submitted earlier today to my post about a dog shot in his backyard caused the old cogs to rotate—in not altogether happy directions.

 

First, here’s what Sarah wrote: “I read this piece with growing alarm...there is a dog, right now, in my backyard barking! It is not my dog. It has no collar and seems lost. It seems to be waiting for us to find its owners, but I gotta say I don’t know how! Can anyone help me? Is there a place out there I can post information about this poor poochie in my backyard? I’m not a ‘dogperson’ and I have small kids so I’m afraid to take the dog into our house, but have offered it food and water. What I’d really like is help finding its owners, sans collar. Thanks.”

 

I emailed Sarah, and learned that this self-described non-dog-person had the charity to bring the Husky stray into her home (wisely into a room separate from her children and cat). She’d also checked with neighbors—unsuccessfully—to see if they might know the dog. What next?

 

The Humane Society of the United States provides a primer on how to respond. The next step on Sarah’s to-do list: Contact your shelter. I know if my dog disappeared, the shelter would be my first phone call. Still my heart did sort of sink at the thought of the handsome Husky in Sarah’s basement carted off to an unknown fate. I entertained, for a moment, images of a happy now-complete-with-dog family tableau.

 

But then an old bit of advice surfaced in my brain: Never assume a dog’s been dumped. Kat Albrecht, pet detective and founder of the Missing Pet Partnership, once told me, if a stray looks a mess and acts skittish that doesn't mean he's been abused. Every couple of months you read about improbable reunions across thousands of miles or after long periods of separation; those dogs probably didn’t look so great when they surfaced either. (This also illustrates why posting “Found Dog” signs to locate an owner probably won’t cut the mustard.)

 

On her site, Albrecht (featured in Bark, July/August 2006) offers additional, hard-won advice for troubleshooting a stray, including this interesting trick: “Place a long leash (and secure collar) on the dog and tell him ‘Go Home!’ Unfortunately, some people do allow their dog to roam off leash and it is possible that you found a dog that knows exactly where its home is.”

 

Twice in my life—when I was younger and denser—I passed strays wandering along the narrow, winding roads of Westchester, New York. Both times, I drove on in a rush to be somewhere important. And both times (I’m a slow learner), I returned along the same road to discover the dog had been hit by a car. I now keep an extra leash under the passenger seat—hoping for a chance at redemption.

News: Guest Posts
Dispatch from the Dog-Meat Trade
Dogs rescued on the way to a market in China need help

It’s almost inconceivable: Sick, frightened dogs crammed together in tiny cages bound for the meat market. Unfortunately in China, where dogs are eaten year-round, and more so during colder months, it’s a standard sight. But things may be changing. In an unprecedented move, Chinese authorities, tipped off by an animal-welfare center, confiscated 149 dogs belonging to an illegal trader in Sichuan Province on December 31, 2008.

“The dogs were in an appalling condition, many of them very thin and clearly in shock,” said Jill Robinson, founder and CEO of Animals Asia Foundation, which has been funding and providing medical care for the rescue. “I hate to think how long they had been in those cages, many of them packed in so tightly that they were piled on top of each other. We heard terrible screams coming from some of the cages, where terrified dogs were biting each other.”

Many of the dogs were wearing collars and were possibly stolen pets; others had been collected as strays from the streets, according to Robinson. She applauded the authorities for their quick action, which spared the dogs the terror of a four-day journey to Guangzhou with no food or water and a brutal death. Dogs are often slowly beaten to death in the misguided belief that “torture equals taste.”

During the past few weeks, Animals Asia has provided ongoing medical care (and funding for dog food) in a quarantine area at Qiming Rescue Centre, where the foundation built temporary shelter for dogs rescued from the Sichuan earthquake. The troubles for these dogs are far from over. Many suffer from disease; others are extremely aggressive. Read a recent update, dispatches from Jill Robinson's blog (with the latest on Little Eddie in the photo) and learn how you can support the foundation’s efforts.

News: Guest Posts
Dogs Bring Out the Best in Some...
...but the worst in others

Like millions of others around the globe, I spent lots of time this week reading about and watching the party in Washington D.C. My favorite stories are the man- or woman-on-the-street interviews, where inaugural pilgrims talk about spontaneous expressions of kindness and affection among strangers. I’ve been in a sort of cocoon of optimism, so the news that a dog, hanging out in his backyard (probably barking), not far from my home, was shot by an unknown assailant was like a body blow. The bullet shattered, splitting the bone in Bondo’s right front leg. His owner isn’t sure how he’ll pay for the $4,000-procedure his dog needs.

It’s not that I don’t know that dogs, and people for that matter, suffer cruelty and violence every day. But lately I’ve been distracted by the idea of our better selves. And there's the thing: One of the features of the human-dog relationship that I admire is the way our furry companions so often bring out what is best in us. When the opposite is true, it's a dark day.

 

News: Guest Posts
A Stinky Situation
CNN correspondent leads effort to evict a big dog from his $3 million dollar coop

The New York Post is all over CNN correspondent Soledad O’Brien’s efforts to evict a Neapolitan Mastiff from her posh coop in the Chelsea neighborhood. Along with fellow residents, O’Brien wants the 150-pound Ugo O-U-T not because he is ferocious, noisy or threatening but because he’s “smelly,” slobbers and has gas.

 

From the Post story, it sounds like the anti-Ugo faction in the coop is behaving atrociously (holding their noses in the elevator, even when the dog isn’t present), probably because they figured no one would find out. Even worse, the coop board has, reportedly, been unmoved by owners’ efforts to mitigate the impact, which include a tri-monthly grooming schedule, spritzing with organic odor-eater, and an offer to ride in the freight elevator, which was denied. (Some modifications to diet might help as well.)

 

You have to wonder what O’Brien’s distinctly lower-profile colleague, Jane Velez-Mitchell, thinks about all this. On December 25, Velez-Mitchell hosted "Special Investigation: Animal Issues" looking, in part, at the desperate conditions of puppy mills and dogs in shelters--both causes near to her heart. (Transcript available.) Maybe she’ll wander down the hall to encourage a little more compassion in her network star.

News: Guest Posts
Meet the Singing Chihuahua
Does your co-pilot croon?

 

“Upon hearing just about any instrument, Ted immediately begins to ‘sing,’” Saeran St. Christopher tells us about the 11-year-old pup she adopted from Chihuahua rescue. “His voice, a bit wolf-howl mixed with sand and gravel, never fails to make people laugh. He cracks me up every time, and I have to send him away while I practice.” She is a flutist with The Cleveland Orchestra.

 

When Saeran entered Ted in Bark’s Dog Is My Co-Pilot contest, we were intrigued by the promise of song. We wanted to know—or even hear—more. Saeran and Ted obliged, recording what may be the first-ever exclusive-for-Bark singing dog video. Does this feel like the start of something to you?
 

News: Guest Posts
Obama’s Dog Dilemma
Does it really matter if he adopts or buys?

Watching President-elect Barack Obama on This Week, I suffered a minor cardiac arrest. When he reported that Sasha and Malia had narrowed their choice for first pup to either a Portuguese Water Dog or a Labradoodle, visions of cranked-up breeding operations swarmed in my head. But before I could say, “pass the defibrillator,” Obama told George Stephanopoulos they’d be watching shelters to find their new best friend. That was a close one.

 

Now, that I’ve spilled my cards all over the table, I wonder what you think. Does it really matter if he adopts or buys? Is this a tempest in a dog run? What will it mean for the future of Portuguese Water Dogs and/or Labradoodles? Would a true mutt have been the best choice of all?

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