Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.
It sounds counterintuitive: dog and cat food, litter and leashes aren’t at the top of animal shelters’ wish lists, but paper, pens, phones and fax machines are, according to the 250 animal nonprofits registered on TheGivingEffect.com, a free website launched this summer. By connecting individual donors with stuff to spare directly with organizations in need, TheGivingEffect.com helps people clear away clutter and benefit a favorite charity.
GivingEffect founder Mitchell Silverman was initially inspired to create the site by the outpouring of support after Hurricane Katrina but, he says, “the idea really solidified after seeing the Liberty Mutual commercial where one kind act inspires another, and then another, etc.” The website’s online thank-you notes are designed to be shared, with the hope they’ll motivate others to “pay it forward.”
So, after office supplies, what do animal welfare organizations need? Cleaning supplies, blankets, sheets and towels, miscellaneous items that can be sold to raise money, and building supplies.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
With sled dogs as attendants
Shortly before Gay Salisbury was expected at her nuptials in Sun Valley, Idaho, a cacophony of barking washed over the 50 or so waiting guests. “My dad thought they were wild dogs and guests were thinking, ‘Poor Gay, that’s going to be distracting,’” Salisbury says. “Then, I come flying up.”By flying up, she means arriving atop an all-terrain vehicle pulled by a team of fine Alaskan Huskies. They raced up behind the guests and threaded a narrow lane between the audience and the unwitting groom and minister. “I never told my husband I had real live Huskies bringing me. It was just a big surprise,” she says. “Practically speaking, it could have been pandemonium.” But the dogs behaved beautifully, watching from the wings during the ceremony and dozing on hay beds during the reception. It was about more than making a big entrance. Salisbury had fallen for her husband, Dr. Terrence Cole, when they met during her research for a book on the 1925 serum run, when sled dogs delivered desperately needed medicine to a freezing and isolated Nome. A professor of history at The University of Alaska Fairbanks and a specialist in Alaska history, Cole shared Salisbury’s passion. Her book, The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic, was published in June 2003, and Salisbury and Cole wed that August, so the wedding became a celebration of the book, the dogs and their love. Vintage sled dog themes carried through the wedding. The invitations featured an image of Huskies in front of the Sun Valley Lodge from a 1930s-era linen postcard. A vintage Marx & Co. toy sled-dog team surrounded the cake and guest book. (She bought it off eBay as a cake topper but turned out to be four feet long.) Each guest received View-Masters through which to view reels featuring Arctic images. “These dogs, in very many ways, they led me to my husband, into his life, and into his world, and that’s why I thought, this is perfect,” she says.
Robocalls to the rescue
Many pets go missing in September, says Colleen Busch, spokesperson for FindToto.com, the country’s first lost pet phone alert system. She thinks it may be due, in part, to all the distractions of getting kids back to school. But whatever the reason, when your dog escapes or, worse, is stolen, FindToto is there, like a search party in your laptop. Simply input the details of your dog’s disappearance, a physical description and a photo. The service sends out recorded phone alerts to residents in the area where your dog disappeared (as quickly as 5,000 calls in 45 minutes). Costs run from $85 for 250 calls to $875 for 10,000.
As of June, the nearly three-year-old start-up claims to have located more than 3,000 pets, from a Siberian Husky in Brooklyn to a Toy Poodle in San Francisco. It’s logging a 75 percent success rate for alerts ordered within the first 48 hours of a disappearance. And it’s not just for dogs and cats — FindToto has helped track down goats, turtles, birds and a wallaby.
One of the trainers behind Hungary’s viral dog videos, explains how they did it
In the video, “A Doggy Christmas Surprise,” half-a-dozen dogs left alone in a Budapest flat trim a tree with great skill and holiday spirit. They roll up carpets, hang ornaments and lights, climb ladders, stack packages and swirl in garland. In a sequel, titled “A Doggy Summer,” many of the same talented canines crash a beach, where they set up an umbrella and sunning mats, float on boogie boards, play tug of war with towels, dig holes, catch Frisbees, play catch and generally redefine Beach Blanket Bingo. With nearly 9 million views, the videos are certifiable YouTube hits.
But the talents of the canine stars have been a bit of a mystery. Because the videos have Hungarian titles and captions and link to Hungarian websites, the question “how’d they do it?” has been hard to answer. We tracked down the lead trainer for the videos, Nora Vamosi-Nagy, who explained in her more-than-passable English (since we were woefully unprepared to conduct the interview in Hungarian) the story behind these fantasztikus videos.
The dogs in the videos were trained using the “Mirror Method”—what’s that?
The Mirror Method has three parts. The first part is being the leader in the group or the pack. We don’t like to use the term ‘pack leader’ anymore because ethologists say that dogs are more like children; they look to us more as parents than leaders. But still if you are a parent to your child, you have to have some sort of leadership. You have to have respect in order for the dog to do what you say.
The second part is teaching, and we believe the best way today is clicker training. In the school, we teach in groups of 12 and the dogs are off-leash. By clicker training, I mean shaping. We teach every owner to shape something with the dog. They don’t have to use shaping in every teaching but they have to learn to shape. Because once you can shape something to the dog you start to look at the dog a different way, you start to see things that you didn’t see before, and start to use your hand and your movements consciously.
The third part of the method is lifestyle, which is very, very important. It’s not just taking the dog for a walk or physical activity but also you have to make the dog’s brain work and, most important, is to let the instincts work. If the dog is not mentally engaged, it can get sick and ill.
How did you learn the Mirror Method?
We work together but the Mirror Method is coming from Gabor. He has this idea that when you have a dog and you work with a dog it’s not only because you like the dog and it’s not all about the dog, it’s something about yourself. You can learn a lot about yourself if you have a dog.
Gabor was a Schutzhund competitor before, and he had good results. He was in the world championships. But he wanted to compete so bad that actually he made his dog sick, and no one could say why. So he quit the competition world, he started to examine the human-canine relationship. He started to listen, look at things and then to work on these ideas.
When I got in the picture, I was a really typical beginner-owner. But I had so many questions, he started to work on how to explain it so everyone could understand it. Today we work together with the leaders of the other dog schools. There are many, many people who put effort into making the method, always with new ideas.
We try to make owners conscious of what they are doing. For example, when I say, come here and I start to walk toward the dog, the information I’m giving is, you can go because I’m coming to you. It’s not what I want to communicate. And then I’m angry that the dog is not coming. Why should he come he understands that I’m coming up to him? There are these communication mistakes, so people have to learn some things mean different things in dog language.
Why did you make “A Doggy Christmas Surprise”?
The eight dogs are members of the promotion group [which included 15 human/dog pairs. A second group started this summer with 12 teams. They meet two or three times a week to choreograph Mirror Method presentations for public events.] The hardest part was to find a flat where someone would let in a bunch of dogs.
We didn’t practice at all for the video shooting. But the dogs knew everything. They understood all the words; they understood to go forward, to bring this, to put that there. It wasn’t difficult at all. In six hours, we shot all the material.
We don’t want to make the dogs look like children, like in American movies. I really hate that. They do human stuff but still we try to find a balance where it’s still OK, it’s funny but it’s still dogs doing the whole thing.
Right now we are planning a third video. It will tell more about the method and show more of Hungary/Budapest as home of the method. It will come out next spring.
I noticed none of them are wearing collars. Is that normally the case when you’re training?
Were you surprised by the huge response?
Dog's Life: Humane
Q&A with documentary’s director Rebecca Ormond
On July 18, Gateway Guardians, a documentary about a handful of scrappy volunteers feeding and rescuing stray dogs in a blighted East St. Louis neighborhood, premieres. Filmed almost entirely by flipcam-wielding rescue and foster volunteers and Webster University film students, the documentary provides a moving, dog’s-eye-view of street packs and loners and their unorthodox saviors. We spoke with the film’s director, professor and independent filmmaker, Rebecca Ormond during the final days of editing to learn how this story reached the screen.► See details about the premiere and future screenings below. ► Look for our story about Gateway Pet Guardians in the September issue of Bark. ► Watch video trailer on page 2. TheBark.com: How did you sign on for the documentary? Rebecca Ormond: I am a film professor at Webster University and also an independent filmmaker. [The film’s producers Amie Simmons, Gateway Pet Guardians’ president, and Jamie Case, executive director] approached me not to make the film but to recommend cameras. In talking with them it was pretty clear that they really didn’t know what was involved so I thought it would be a really neat combination, since I’d volunteered [for about five years] with them anyway, to volunteer my services. My role was basically to handle all the technical stuff and just figure out how to use cinematic language to say what they wanted to say. [Another Webster University professor, Steve Schenkel, composed the score.] How did you make the documentary? We had a very loose plan. We bought these little high-definition flipcams. PJ Hightower [GPG’s founder and lead rescuer, who has been feeding the strays since 1995 and hasn’t missed a day since 2001] wore one and whoever rode with her carried one, and I gave them some basic instruction in how to film and not get in the way. The whole idea was to get a lot of footage with the animals the way they really act with PJ. The way we wouldn’t be able to get with a film crew. The basic idea was to see these animals the way she sees them, which is very personal. She has names for all of them. It’s like she has 200 pets. So the goal was to be as unobtrusive as possible. As fosters came forward, we would then hand a camera to the foster, and follow that dog through the foster system into their forever home. For almost a year, they would run these cameras. They’d turn in over six hours of footage to me a week. We just kept trimming it down, trimming it down, trimming it down. Very early on we followed Ghandi’s quote that you can tell a society by how it treats its animals as a really rough working guide. Beyond the foster folks and the volunteers is there anyone else in the film? In the longer film, there are people from East St. Louis—both who live there and who work there. My favorite person of all is a wonderful woman, Ethel May Taylor. She tells the story of her dog Tyler, who she was feeding as a stray, and PJ rescued and had neutered and then returned to Ethel. She talks about the joy that Tyler brings to her life. How were your students involved? We never sent them out on the streets of East St. Louis. We brought people from East St. Louis and the organization to my house to film. They filmed the interviews. They also logged footage. It was an enormous amount of logging, 10 solid months of six hours a pop with six different cameras running constantly. I would tell them… we want, at most, to log 10 percent of what comes in, so it’s your job to search through all six hours and decide what hour or even maybe what 10 minutes gets put in the log that I’ll eventually start editing. What did your students think of the group and making the documentary? Everybody is moved by the footage. Liz Pekunka (a graduating senior, film logger and second assistant editor) kept saying if I weren’t a student, I’d absolutely foster a dog now. From a technical perspective, this kind of shooting is quite novel right now because these little cameras are using a codec called H.264. It’s really amazing. We bought the pink cameras that went on sale on Mother’s Day for $99. They are just pinhole cameras; you can’t focus them or anything, which was important for the rescue workers because they’d just point and shoot. But these tiny cameras, the size of cell phones could hold six hours of high-definition 720p, 60 frames per second video. The quality is phenomenal. For my students this was one of the big things because filmmaking is so expensive … and here are these little cell phones generating a pretty amazing image. Sounds like a great thing for such a lean organization. Would they have been able to make the film otherwise? No. It was great because it was cheap and it was also great because it was so easy for them to do. The whole philosophy was if we go in there with a crew we’re not going to be able to get what happens. Only when PJ stands there by herself can she get this. After all your experience volunteering and fostering with Gateway Pet Guardians, did you learn anything new in putting the film together? Probably the thing that surprised me most is how much we were able to see in these packs of dogs the individual personalities of the dogs and how well PJ knew them. Even though I knew she had a really strong rapport with all the dogs it was shocking to see because she had the camera right on her hip. In the footage, the dog comes right up and bumps noses into the camera, and these are the stray, feral dogs that everyone’s afraid of. I can’t imagine that people aren’t going to be all over this film. As the director and someone who has been on it 16 hours a day for the past 6 weeks, I’m a little bleary. I don’t know. It might be great and it might be terrible. I can’t say. I heard a dog in the background. Is that a Gateway rescue? No. She is a rescue but I had her before I met PJ. I met PJ through her oddly enough. I had just bought my house and I was walking my dog. My dog was about a year old and she’s skittish with people she doesn’t know. So as PJ approached I started my whole spiel that I do with everybody, ‘She’s not aggressive, she won’t bite, but she’s probably going to hide behind me, she’s slow to warm up.’ PJ pulled one of her biscuits out of her pockets, and my dog took it out of her hand. When you started as a Gateway volunteer, did you ever think to yourself, this would make a great film? No, really I didn’t. The funny thing is, I’m not a documentary filmmaker. I’ve made a few and I’ve worked on a lot. But I’m principally a narrative filmmaker. It was one of those things where I’m the only filmmaker they knew.
We want your pet-savvy home improvement advice
UPDATE: Thanks for your tips added below, sent in via email, and posted on Facebook. Look for your the wisdom of Bark readers and editors in our September issue. A winner has been selected and notified.
When my husband and I renovated our house—we replaced our solid wood front door with a glass door. We made the change because here in Seattle you will do pretty much anything to capture daylight—or what passes for daylight in these parts. But our new door proved a brilliant stroke for our dogs, especially Lulu. She lounges in the entrance and watches the world—lots of walkers and dogs, squirrels, crows and blue jays—go by. The only minor downside is the persistent cloud of nose prints on the glass.We have other friends who were more proactive in accommodating their dogs—installing viewing holes in a fence, adding on mudrooms, or setting up outdoor cleaning stations. They chose distressed leather for dog-friendly couches, installed natural, anti-bacterial Marmoleum floors, elevated dog bowls, and replaced all chemical cleaners with natural options such as vinegar. And more. We figure this sort of creative canine-centered housekeeping is everyday stuff for Bark readers, and we want to learn from you. From renovation ideas and quick fixes to your favorite housecleaning products and tools (tell me, is the Roomba as great as it sounds?). We want to know—and share with others—your advice. Maybe you learned something was great for dogs by accident (as we did with our front door) or applied research and deliberate brainstorming to solve your canine-roommate challenges (or should we say, opportunities?). Post a comment below or send us an email, and you could be an important part of our dog-smart home story in the next issue of Bark. Plus, everyone providing suggestions will be entered in a drawing for some cool Bark prizes.
Delta Trade Paperback, 304 pp., 2009; $14
With no experience in dogsledding (and no obvious passion for dogs), British travel writer and professional amateur-adventurer Polly Evans spends 11 weeks in the Yukon and Alaska learning everything she can about “the howling, capering, tail-wagging world of sled dogs.” Evans scoops poops, cleans pens, ladles out horsemeat, massages cream into worn pads, fastens booties, clips harnesses and eventually learns to steer a six-Husky team. The Mister Miyagi to her Karate Kid is Frank Turner, a veteran of 22 Yukon Quests. At one point, Evans joins the support crew for Saul Turner, as he follows his father’s sled tracks in the 1,000- mile-plus race.
Evans specializes in stranger-in-astrange- land, novice-tackling-tough challenges assignments. She’s the fallible but intrepid everywoman we relate to from our La-Z-Boy, a portal, in this case, to freezing toes and crashing a sled. You get the freshness and humor of the newcomer (dogs pee on her boots, steal her gloves and ignore her cries of “Whoa!”), but none of the rich insights of a seasoned veteran. For that, I suggest Gary Paulson’s mushing memoir, Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod. Also, Evans doesn’t bring a critical eye to any of the controversial aspects of the sport; she mentions the practices of culling old dogs, tethering and “accidental” litters without question.
To be fair, Evans’s focus is travel. Throughout the book, she uses towns and landmarks as triggers for mini history lessons in Arctic wildlife, the Klondike, even drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Along the way, some deliciously quirky factoids surface, including tips from Professor Popsicle on what to do if you fall through the ice, and the challenges of building on permafrost. But these details weigh down a central narrative that’s surprisingly short on real drama, well-drawn people or even memorable dogs. The most vivid canine portraits are not of her teammates, but of the retired dogs who wander freely or live inside with the family and staff.
The best sections are the beginning and the end. Her first impressions are sharp, and, later, when she tests her newfound mastery in the backcountry, her descriptions of the teeth-clattering cold make it clear she earned her advance. In the closing section, set on a stretch of the Yukon Quest Trail, Evans provides a compelling view of the trials, beauty and teamwork that draw so many to dogsledding.
Shouldn’t every state have an official canine?
[Editor's Note: New Hampshire governor John Lynch has signed a bill making the Chinook that state's official dog. Congratulations Ross Lurgio seventh graders!]
Some time in February, seventh graders from Ross Lurgio Middle School in Bedford, New Hampshire marched on their capitol. Their mission: elevate the virtually unknown Chinook to state dog.
If you’re not familiar with the all-American Chinook (And who is? Their numbers dwindled to 12 sometime in the 1960s), the shaggy mix of Husky, St. Bernard, and German and Belgian Shepherd was first bred for sledding near New Hampshire’s White Mountains in 1917. The namesake Chinook journeyed with his progeny to the South Pole as part of Admiral Richard Byrd’s expedition in 1929, where he disappeared. Today, there are approximately 1,100 pure- and cross-bred Chinooks, and nearly half live in New England, according to Jennifer Wells, the seventh-grade teacher facilitating the Chinook state dog initiative.
“They are going to get this one passed,” says State Sen. Sheila Roberge, a champion of animal causes and the bill’s sponsor. Roberge likes the exercise as a teaching tool but says she doesn’t really know what difference it makes to the breed, practically speaking, other than appearances in books and lists along with all the other state symbols—from cranberry juice (Massachusetts) to petrified wood (Arizona).
All in all, there are only nine state dog breeds. Setting the precedent, Maryland selected the Chesapeake Bay Retriever as top dog in 1964. The following year, Pennsylvania spotlighted the Great Dane. A year later, the American Foxhound became Virginia’s most celebrated canine.
For more than 10 years, no other dogs joined these esteemed ranks until a 1979-twofer, when Louisiana highlighted the Catahoula Leopard Dog and Massachusetts claimed the Boston Terrier. Spaniels made the grade in 1985: the American Water Spaniel in Wisconsin and the Boykin Spaniel in South Carolina. The Plott Hound got the Tar Heel nod in 1989. The most recent addition is the sleek, shorthaired Blue Lacy, designated as the Texas state dog in 2005.
Dog lovers in other states have pushed for their favorites. In 1985, a state bill designating the Siberian Husky as Washington’s state dog went down barking. In 2003, the Michigan legislature failed to choose the Golden Retriever as pick of the litter. In 2006, Representative Robert Valihura Jr. introduced a bill to name the Pug Delaware’s main canine, arguing the diminutive breed was an “appropriate” choice for the nation’s second-smallest state. That pugnacious effort fell short, as did Valihura’s reelection campaign.
There should be more. I’m not sure what’s kept Kansas from making Toto (Cairn Terrier) official. Does any other state/dog have better brand recognition? And the Alaskan Husky makes sense for a state with mushing as the official sport.
Since the state dog is essentially symbolic, why not use it to symbolize good practices. The active, friendly Labrador Retriever has been floated as the choice for Colorado, but since Denver is a poster child for breed-bans, how about a happy, well-adjusted Pit Bull Terrier instead? Ohio, one of the worst puppy mill states, could publish the adorable mug of a rescue mutt next to the Cardinal and the Scarlet Carnation in fourth-grade state history textbooks. Wouldn’t that be great?
Wellness: Health Care
Inching toward the three-year interval nationwide.
The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) asked its state legislature to extend the legally prescribed interval between canine rabies vaccines from one to three years, and on February 16, the extension passed. Act 159, as it’s now known, reads as follows: All dogs and cats shall be vaccinated against rabies annually or as required by the State Board of Health [italics added for emphasis].
Nothing’s simple, though. According to the ADH, “the Administrative Procedures Act for changing rules and regulations established by the State Board of Health will take some time. Until these rules and regulations are changed, the requirement will remain for dogs and cats to receive their rabies vaccinations annually.” (Alabama remains the only state with a formal one-year vaccination requirement, although across the country, some municipalities, such as Wichita, still have annual ordinances on the books.)
Arkansas’s public health veterinarian told the Associated Press the decision was based on research demonstrating that rabies immunity lasts at least three years. Proponents of extensions, such as Kris L. Christine, say the science actually reveals that boosters are not only redundant but carry risks for significant adverse reactions including autoimmune diseases, aggression and fibrosarcomas. Christine is the founder and of the Rabies Challenge Fund, which is currently helping to finance challenge studies to determine the long-term duration of the only canine vaccine required by law.
Dog's Life: Humane
Soldiers’ buddies find a safe haven
You’re a soldier headed for 15 months in a war zone. You don’t know anyone who will foster your best friend while you’re gone, and you can’t afford a boarding kennel. You turn to the destination of last resort. “Grown men are walking up to shelters in tears,” says Laurie Lyon. “I just can’t imagine being put in that position.”
Lyon is doing her part to spare soldiers this fate. At Paw Prints Dog Sanctuary and Canine Corps in Perry County, Penn., she and her partner Kevin McCartin provide, free of charge, a just-like-home experience for the dogs of Pennsylvania soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. While another group, NetPets.org, helps match military dogs in need with foster families, the Canine Corps may be the only sanctuary of its kind.
Seasoned shelter volunteers, Lyon and McCartin met at a local dog park and in March 2007, began planning their own rescue/sanctuary for hard-to-place seniors and disabled dogs. When they learned about the soldiers’ dilemma, they contacted the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and tweaked their mission.
Life’s as good as it can be for the 16 Canine Corps residents separated from their guardians. They live in an open-format structure built just for them—heated floors, private pods, dog-friendly furniture and lots of volunteer attention—on five acres.
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