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Lisa Wogan

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

News: Guest Posts
Smile, You’ve Been Rescued
Is Sheriff Joe really an animal-rights hero?

From what I can tell, you either love him or hate him. I’m talking about Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio, the controversial enforcer of Maricopa County in Arizona. You can see him in action tonight (Monday, January 12) in the new Fox Reality Channel program called “Smile…You’re Under Arrest,” usually described as a hybrid of “Punk’d” and “Cops.”

Beloved in Phoenix, the no-nonsense, get-the-job-done Sheriff Joe has a complicated history that includes many civil rights run-ins over tent city jails, an inordinately high percentage of prison-condition lawsuits, questionable immigration sweeps of Hispanic neighborhoods, and more.

So why mention him here? Weirdly this same guy is being hailed—mostly on blogs and through emails—as a model for the animal shelter community. As with so many things, there’s good news mixed in with the bad.

According to Snopes, the sheriff’s office hasn’t taken over the county’s shelter system nor trimmed $15 million from the animal control budget, as is often claimed. He has helped to create and oversees a M.A.S.H. Unit to “care for animals that have been abused or neglected by their caretakers and rescued by the Animal Cruelty Investigative Unit,” as well as the companion animals of those who have checked into domestic violence shelters. The MASH shelter is housed in a refurbished, air-conditioned jail no longer suitable for inmates, and is staffed by inmates and Arpaio's officers.

In a piece for the Phoenix New Times, Niki D’Andrea portrays the shelter is part of the Sheriff’s “effort to paint himself as an animal-rights hero,” while dogged by cruelty claims.

It’s disappointing to me that an initiative like MASH that has inmates working with animals is weighed down by the sheriff’s baggage. Last year, I visited the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor. Here in the Prison Pet Partnership Program (for Bark, May/June 2008), a handful of inmates learn grooming and kennel management, and, in some cases, help transform shelter dogs in future service dogs. The women gained self-esteem and confidence. The dogs earned a second change. Bringing together these two populations in need—under the right controls and supervision—benefits everyone.
 

News: Guest Posts
Alert! Help Montcalm’s shelter cats and dogs
NEW DATE! January 26, the County decides whether to stop CO2 gassing and sale for research

The Montcalm County Animal Shelter in Stanton, Michigan, is at a crossroads and needs serious public encouragement (outcry will work as well) to follow the right path. On January 12, the County must reject renewing a contract with R&R Research. For years, the USDA Class B dealer has had a lucrative contract to “dispose” of shelter dogs and cats. Essentially, they either euthanize the animals by placing them in barrels with carbon-dioxide gas or selling them to research facilities.

You can read the terrible details thanks to a thorough investigation by the Poocini Special Report. The problems don’t end at Montcalm’s border. The story reveals a larger web of contracts between other Class B dealers and other shelters in Michigan.

To learn more or take action, visit Concerned Citizens Coalition, which has petition on its site, and stay informed through Michigan Animal News.

News: Guest Posts
Putting the Bite on Backyard Barkers
Education is the answer when complaints turn ugly

I understand that the constant barking of a neighbor’s dog can put some fairly nasty thoughts into a person’s mind. I’ve been on the receiving end of the steady woof-woof-woof of an anxious and bored pup. But I never blamed the dog.

When I read the recent report in The Arizona Daily Star about the frustrations of a barked-out Pima County women, I was sympathetic. Her attempts to find her rightful quiet have utterly failed. The county’s “intervention”—in the form of suggesting mediation and fining the dogs’ guardians $200—have, reportedly, done nothing to quiet the voluble pack.

But my sympathy faded fast when I visited the blog of the anti-barking organization she started, Quiet Pima County. There among the limited posts is a list of “How to Kill Your Neighbors (sic) Dogs,” which includes:

    The old standby - antifreeze meatballs.
    A gun.
    Get a pitbull and throw it over the fence.

It's a total gut punch, even if indulging dog-killing fantasies is just a way of blowing off steam. So, I'd like to offer a more constructive strategy that brings barkers in from the cold--safely. Why not help people solve their own barking challenges? I contacted a go-to trainer in my neck of the woods, Amanda Brothers of Sidekick Dog Training, with a few questions about how to help backyard barkers.

Why do they bark? Some barking is meant to communicate, ‘I’m all alone, come find me!’ Plainly said, barking is something to DO all day while the owner is gone and it is a self-reinforcing behavior, meaning dogs get something from it whether or not the owner is there to reward it. And when dogs bark at pedestrians and trucks to protect territory, it works. The person, car or dog moves on, and the dogs thinks their strategy (barking) worked and are more likely to bark again when faced with the same situation.

How long is too long to leave a dog in a yard? The answer to this question really varies depending on a lot of factors: age, lifestyle of dog and guardian (particularly the physical and mental activity and interaction the dog enjoys on a day to day basis), breed, security of yard, proximity to neighbors, dog’s preference, weather, and on and on! Personally, I do not leave my dogs in the yard unattended for any amount of time and don’t like to see others do it.

Can you train a dog out of barking when left alone? It’s tough to train a dog not to bark when the owner is absent without using something nasty and not recommended, such as a shock or citronella collar. The best way to eliminate barking is to provide other outlets for your dog including "work for food" toys, such as a Kong or Busy Buddy. Exercise is always going to help. Tired dogs aren’t barking, digging, chewing, etc. Mental exercise will help as well, including basic training, tricks, agility and other dog sports. If you have a big barking problem, I would vote for leaving the dog indoors when alone, in a crate with a busy toy and the radio on. If the dog needs a mid-day potty break, come home at lunch or hire a dog walker.

Oh, and don’t ever reward barking by giving attention (even yelling “NO!” is attention). Ignore the barking until it ceases for at least five seconds before letting your dog indoors or going out to interact with him. If the barking doesn’t stop, make a noise by stomping your feet or knocking on a window. Then, you’ll get your few seconds of quiet, which you can reward.
 

News: Guest Posts
Rx for the Monday Blues
Microchips saves Christmas eve for an injured dog

A few pounds heavier and a few dollars lighter, I'm back at my desk. I figure I'm not the only one who could use a  feel-good story leftover from the holidays. Enjoy, and then, back to the grindstone!

News: Guest Posts
Resolution Revolution
Bring back New Year’s aspirations ... for our dog’s sake

New Year’s resolutions have gone out of fashion. Not one of my friends or family has admitted to using the fresh slate of 2009 as an opportunity to commit to change. I guess we’re so convinced we’ll fail that we don’t take aim. Well, in the spirit of Mad Men, the stock market crash and other recent blasts from the past, I’m resurrecting the resolution with an eye toward nurturing my dogs' wellbeing and our bond.

Here are my three (as in strikes) resolutions. I’d love to hear yours.

Leave my iPod at home. No more tuning out on walks. I resolve to take advantage of these regular outings to engage more with my dogs and curb a few of the bad habits—lunging at cats—into which we’ve slipped to my soundtrack.

Channel Hermey (the dentistry-loving elf from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”). I admit to taking a free pass on dental care every time my vet says my dogs’ chompers look great. It’s nothing I’ve done, and I know the consequences of poor dental hygiene (bad breath, tooth loss, and gum disease, which can cause much more serious health problems). So, I promise to don my funny little finger toothbrushes ASAP.

Tackle a new skill together, in my case, skijoring. This is a holdover from last year, and I’m going to blame my lack of success in 2008 on global warming. But the mustachioed meteorologists in these parts are currently measuring snowfall in feet these days, so I have no excuse. Mush!

The great thing with these resolutions is I can’t really fail. My dogs won’t grade me. Even if I fall down in my best efforts, they’ll remain my loyal, true companions.

 

My friends over at the Seattle Humane Society offered up some worthwhile resolutions too. Check them out. My favorite: Make sure your pet is cared for in the event of your death. It's not something we like to think about, but it's something we owe our pals.
 

News: Guest Posts
Cave Canem
Dogs have their own parking spaces in Rome

ChrismaChunnuKwanzaBoxingNewYear is wrapping up. For many of us, this means we are blissfully reunited with our dogs after visits to family, friends or, simply, dog-unfriendly holidays. If you’re like me, you spend an inordinate amount of time during a vacation seeking out other people’s dogs. Happily, Rome, where I spent Christmas, provides a wealth of canine delights. Sleek muzzles peer out of purses and well-heeled apartment-dwellers stroll in the passeggiata. Of course, these smallish, pampered pooches are a far cry from ancient Roman hunting and guard dogs. I was particularly delighted to see dogs in sweaters and blingy collars join the crowd in the piazza outside St. Peter’s Basillica for the Pope's Christmas benediction. Like any city anywhere, dogs also kept company with the homeless.

The most delightful surprise were the dogs at Pompeii, the ruins of an ancient Roman city, preserved for millennia under the pumice and ash of Vesuvius. Not only are teeth-baring dogs warning Cave Canem (Beware of dog in Latin) preserved in mosaics but there are actual dogs—38 of them, according to our guide Big Nicky. These aren’t skinny, flea-riddled strays, barely getting by on the kindness of tourists, but clean, healthy, sociable pups (at least the three I met). That’s because the staffers at Pompeii provide food and water for these furry residents. Each dog is also spayed or neutered--a custom less in evidence among the male dog population in Rome.

News: Guest Posts
A Womb with A View
If you think Chihuahua puppies are cute, check out their embryos.

The folks over at National Geographic Channel have cooked up a Fantastic Voyage into the wombs of a Chihuahua, a Neapolitan Mastiff, a Golden Retriever, and a wolf. The one-hour birds-and-bees-of-dogs lesson is chock-full of facts about the influence of evolution and selective breeding on the enormous variety among dogs. But that information feels like an excuse for incredible imagery, including 4-D ultrasound movies of puppy embryos panting and running in the womb. You read that right.

One detail of dog gestation that did stick in my head—and seemed like the perfect metaphor for a scary mother poem or a sci fi film—is the fact that dogs and wolves can reabsorb embryos about half-way to term. It’s a stress response that allows them to reduce the size of a litter to better ensure the futures of surviving puppies.

 

“In the Womb: Dogs” airs on Sunday, January 4 (2009) at 8 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel. (Sneak a peak below.) The in utero journeys of a house cat and a lion follow at 9 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News: Guest Posts
Long-Term Impacts of Giving Up A Dog?
Research shows it may lead children to approach relationships as if they were less valuable.

Don't you love stories that catalog the health advantages (based on research, of course) of living with dogs? The list includes lowered blood pressure, better recovery from heart attack, less stress, less depression, lowered cholesterol and on and on. Kids with dogs develop greater empathy and are apparently more popular with peers! But a recent story in The Edmonton Journal pointed out something else about having dogs in a family with children.

“Children who have grown up in families that gave up their pets tend to approach relationships as if they were less permanent and less valuable.” I haven’t seen the research, but this is something I’ve wondered about, especially because my dog, Lulu, was given up at three-years-old by a family with a young son. I’ve often wondered how he felt about the decision and if it might have a lasting impact.

 

News: Guest Posts
Good News Out of Bad Newz
Sports Illustrated trades swimsuits for collars with a story on Vick pit bull rescue.

I was thrilled to see the heart-stopping mug of a velvety pit bull named Jasmine on the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated. Beats the heck out of girls in bikinis. In the story, Jim Gorant checks in on the fate of a few of the 47—out of 51—ill-starred dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dog-fighting compound. (Check out Bark's earlier story on the rescued pups.) Here’s a thought from Donna Reynolds, the executive director and cofounder of Bad Rap, to take from this bad experience into the new year. “Vick showed the worst of us, our bloodlust, but this rescue showed the best.”
 

News: Guest Posts
Have A Very Doggy Holiday

What is it that happens to dogs in the snow? From most reports, they become maniacs in the white stuff. So despite all the hassles and dangers of our recent winter weather, I'm thrilled by the idea of dogs all over the country romping in muzzle-deep snow this holiday. As always, our pups are a reminder to get out and have fun, to smell the tree trunks or just careen around in snow. If you're one of the unlucky folk who live below the snow-belt, check out the video below to get your snow-dog fix. Have a fabulous, frolic-filled holiday with your buddies.

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