Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.
News: Guest Posts
House passes pilot for training dogs, including shelter pups
October 21 2011
We’ve been tracking the progress of efforts to pair service dogs with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other post-deployment mental health conditions. We’ve cheered funding, training initiatives and research into the benefits. Slowly but surely the idea that dogs can provide major benefits to veterans is gaining traction in Washington.
Last week, the enterprise got a serious boost, when the House unanimously passed veterans’ health care legislation that included the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act (H.R. 198). If passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama, the legislation will create a pilot program for training dogs as service dogs to assist veterans with disabilities.
“As a veteran, and an American, I am thrilled that this legislation has passed the House,” said Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., a Marine combat veteran who introduced the bill. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass it without delay, so that it can be signed into law and allow us to begin providing assistance to our returning veterans.”
Already studies have demonstrated that a service dog can reduce symptoms for veterans suffering from PTSD. Caring for a pet can help reduce stress, depression and suicide rates. Service dogs can also help veterans by doing things like waking them from terrifying nightmares and alerting to signs of and helping ward off panic attacks.
Even better, the legislation directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to “consider dogs residing in animal shelters or foster homes for participation in the program.” Great news for homeless dogs and smart from a budget perspective, since purpose-bred dogs can cost as much as $50,000 each, according the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
OK Senate, now it’s your turn to do the right thing by veterans and dogs.
News: Guest Posts
With backstories to match
October 20 2011
First there was Owney the original—a Terrier-mix stray who became the loveable canine mascot of the Railway Mail Service. Then, there was Owney the stamp. Next, Owney the iPhone app and Owney the star of the interactive e-book Tails from the Rails (to be released later this fall). And, finally, Owney look-alikes.
I could suggest this is overkill, except that not only do I find all the Owney spin-offs nearly as adorable as their inspiration, I’m smitten by the finalists of the Owney look-alike contest, especially the winner, a 5ish former stray from California named Bentley.
More than 70 dogs across the country lounged on mailbags, dressed up in letter-carrier uniforms and posed by mailboxes for the contest sponsored by the National Postal Museum and the Washington Humane Society. Second and third prize went to Jordy from Virginia and Murphy from Ohio. Not only do all three dogs look the part, as rescue pups they lived the part too. Read their stories at the National Postal Museum’s website.
News: Guest Posts
Austin showcase raises funds for rescue
October 18 2011
I don’t think any of my friends with dogs have a for-real dog house. Most of the pups in my circle have worked it out so the human home—with its couches, beds, plushy rugs, toys, freshly filled water bowls, etc.—is their “dog house.” With these delights, why would they embrace a small, cold, damp box in the corner of the yard?
Well, the age of the Spartan, Snoopy-style dog house has passed. The passion for home design has seeped into the canine bungalow—I mean, we’re calling them canine bungalows, after all. And perhaps nowhere will you see a more inspiring array of dog houses than at Barkitecture, a showcase and auction of doghouses created mostly by Austin-based architects, designers and builders to raise money for local animal rescue groups. The inventive, often green, designs on display earlier this month have me thinking that outdoor pup palaces could be making a comeback.
Read about the prize-winning designs. My favorites (neither of which won a prize) are La Casita del Sol, which was made with leftover wood and empty clear Sol beer bottles. Perfect for Seattle—capturing what little light there is and keeping the rain off. I also like the Wine Barrel Bungalow made from a cast-off wine barrel and scrap wood. I’m noticing a theme.
Do you have a dog house?
News: Guest Posts
Writer director Jeff Kopas talks about casting his dog in his first feature film
October 13 2011
In the new independent film, An Insignificant Harvey, the three-foot-four Harvey (played by Jordan Prentice) feels as insignificant as he looks. Orphaned, isolated and angry, he works as a janitor at a ski resort in remote northern Ontario. His lonely life promises to stay that way until he crosses paths with a stray Husky. Like they often do, this dog sends Harvey’s life in new direction—a warm-hearted paradigm shift that many of us have experienced first hand.
The dog star of the film is a five-year-old Siberian Husky named Inca who belongs to writer-director Jeff Kopas. In the weeks before his movie hits the big screen, Kopas talked to The Bark about Inca—the actress and the character.
The Bark: How did this story begin? Was there always a dog?
Jeff Kopas: We started by developing a story about how everyone feels at some point in their lives insignificant. As we developed the story, it became about somebody who is actually, I mean, quite literally small. And the idea was always to bring in the power that an animal can have in helping us feel loved and therefore not feel insignificant in the world.
It was my first feature, so I was trying to write something I knew I could execute so you try use stuff that is at your disposal. I have a small family ski chalet up in Northern Ontario area where it was filmed, and, obviously, I had a good-looking dog who was actually pretty well trained.
I think it’s funny you thought incorporating a dog into your film would make things easier for you. A lot of filmmakers talk about how hard it is to work with animals.
It is. I came up doing commercials and one of my niches was working with children and dogs. Everyone says that’s the hardest. So I think I overcame that quite quickly in the beginning. [Although] I was a little nervous as I went into production thinking, ‘how much of an idiot will I be if I use my own dog and she won’t listen to me?’
You talk about how a dog’s love can make you feel significant. My impression of what I’ve seen of the film is that you explore how a dog can open your heart.
You hit it on the nail. That ended up being one of the cruxes of the story. It’s that idea of that first step of Harvey taking the risk to open his heart to another living animal and that opens up of a floodgate of a new life for him.
In the film, he refuses to take [Inca] in at first but he was orphaned and obviously this dog is orphaned and she won’t leave him alone, she follows him around for two days. And finally, she’s sitting outside his trailer in the middle of a farm and there’s this terrible storm, and he looks out the window and it’s just too much for him, he finally can’t say no. He opens the door for her and that’s it, once that happens it leads him on this journey that is life changing.
[You can catch a glimpse of this moment in the trailer.]
It was so great because they [Jordan Prentice and Inca] became quite good friends. They really bonded. So it was fun: When he opens the door, she bounds in and goes right onto the bed.
I was wondering about that. I imagine the chemistry between the dog and the actors is so important.
It is really important and I was nervous about that. And Jordan hasn’t had dogs, and especially big dogs like this, growing up. I tried to force them together before we shot, and luckily, she’s got a very sweet disposition (obviously, this is one-sided) and right away they connected.
Funny production story that I haven’t told yet: We had this fun night off [think: hot tubs and beer] and I couldn’t find Inca at the end of the night. She was always hanging around, but I couldn’t find her. So at four in the morning, I’m going, ‘Where the hell is the dog?’ And I finally found her; she was in bed with Jordan and his girlfriend.
I was like, ‘This is ridiculous,’ so I took her with me. Jordan was kind of mad at me the next morning. He’s like, ‘She wanted to stay with me and you took her away.’ It was pretty funny. In his words, she became part of the pack.
I’ve heard these things happen on sets.
Yes, we all bonded. She had this whole family for four weeks. She became very spoiled because she was the center of attention.
Was it fun having her on the set? It seems like it would give it a relaxed, family feeling.
It is. It’s funny you say that because when I am doing commercials, I bring her. I work with postproduction houses that are dog friendly; it just sort of fluked out that way. I’ll make sure the clients are OK with dogs, and then I’ll bring her, and it just calms everyone down. People can get very intense in those scenarios and it just has this amazing effect.
Do you think you’ll work with Inca again or is she retiring from film?
She’s actually been in a couple of commercials I’ve done, and she’s written into my next film, it’s a small scene.
She can make Alfred Hitchcock style cameos in the future—so we can look for her?
I don’t see why not.
You can look for Inca’s first film appearance, as an eight-week-old puppy, in Jeff Kopas’s short Dogasaur (at vitalitymedia.com in Narrative Film under “The Work”).
News: Guest Posts
What will I do with my old newspaper bags?
October 10 2011
It’s rare that I’m astonished by a dog product, but color me blown away by the AshPoopie. Now, I haven’t tested the AshPoopie—in fact, it hasn’t even hit the market yet but the idea, due out as a prototype from Paulee CleanTec early next year—sounds like a pretty awesome alternative to bagging waste in plastic and sending it to the landfill.
Here’s how it’s supposed to work (video demo below). You head out to walk your dog—or to clear landmines from the backyard—armed with your AshPoopie wand, which sort of looks like a long, sleek flashlight. Lower it over the offending pile, press a button in the handle and a pair of pincer-style scoops open at the other end. Press another button, the scoopers collect the mess—drawing it into a little blender-like container where it is mixed together with an incinerating mixture, and, voila, your dog’s waste is transformed into an odorless, sterile mound of ash.
I don’t see any mention of cost—for the wand or the incinerating cartridges. So I’m wondering: How much would you pay to never have to carry poop in a bag again?
News: Guest Posts
Try something new for National Walk Your Dog Week
October 3 2011
Really? This is National Walk Your Dog Week? Will we never stop setting aside days or weeks or even months for the obvious? Isn’t walking your dog near the top of the dog-care list after feeding them and keeping them safe?
Of course, there are dogs out there who don’t get walked much or at all—and no lazy pet parent is to blame. Some shelters don’t have the resources to make sure every dog gets a daily constitutional. Breeding dogs in puppy mills or dogs used in experiments might never feel lawn or pavement under their feet. Even well-cared-for-pets can hit a patch of inactivity when their people are busy or, worse, sick.
So this week, why not take a look around and see if there’s a dog you can help to some fresh air and exercise.
Walking a dog is a privilege and a joy—so let’s spread it around.
Dog's Life: Travel
Have Dog, Will Travel
September 22 2011
While fall days find New England country roads clogged with leaf-peepers, southwestern Utah’s high desert is wide open and radiant. Here, the autumn sun illuminating sandstone bluffs rivals any maple grove. And in September and October, still-warm days and cool nights make this a great time and place for outdoor adventures.
An excellent home base for dog-friendly fun is Red Mountain Resort in St. George, Utah, just a two-hour drive from Las Vegas, Nev. (If you have dinosaur fans in your life, you may know the name; St. George is home to Johnson Farm, where some of the world’s oldest and best-preserved Dilophosaurus tracks were discovered in 2000.) The adobe-style resort and spa offers a full complement of dog-centric amenities — among them, organic treats and food and water dishes upon arrival — plus a 55-acre backyard that looks like something out of Stagecoach and access to Snow Canyon Park, where pups can bound under towering red-rock cliffs. (Remember to carry water and keep an eye out for not-yet-hibernating rattlesnakes).
Red Mountain goes beyond providing merely a dog-friendly backdrop. The resort’s wellness focus incorporates several volunteer- and pet-oriented programs, including a hike for guest dogs (launching later this year) that ends with a picnic lunch, entertainment and canine treats. The $35 charge for the hike goes to support Ivins Municipal Animal Shelter, the only shelter in the state designated “no-kill” by municipal ordinance.
Because most of Utah’s national parks, including nearby Zion, have few or no trails open to pets, hiking in and around the resort is a great way to experience this region’s jaw-dropping beauty without the strict prohibitions and the crowds.
Those unable to bring their pup can take heart. Red Mountain’s Pound Puppy Hike pairs guests with a friendly canine from the Ivins shelter for a hike through St. George Valley and Padre Canyon. Dogless guests are also welcome to join Blondie, a Golden Retriever and certified Canine Good Citizen, for a four-hour trek, or spend time with real-life Mustangs, part of a program supporting care and adoption efforts for these wild horses.
Eighty miles east of St. George — next door in desert terms — is Kanab, home to the famed Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, where about 2,000 dogs, cats and other animals receive special care. Some will be adopted; others will live out their days here. Consider folding in some volunteer time at Best Friends during your vacation. (Keep in mind that the focus is on the sanctuary’s animals, so bringing your own pets is discouraged.) You’ll return home with a sense of accomplishment and moving stories instead of a camera full of leaf photos no one really wants to see.
News: Guest Posts
Plus, a peek at Tim Racer's latest creations
September 20 2011
On September 25, five dog figures will be among the carousel animals up for auction at Guernsey’s auctioneers in New York City. Listed are four Greyhounds “in the style of Charles Looff” and a Spaniel by Herschell Spillman. Here at Bark we’re fans of the carousel animal carvings, especially rare and delightful canine figures.
Back in 2004, we wrote about carousel animal carver Tim Racer, who creates wonderful, whimsical dogs in the old tradition. We checked back in with Tim this week to get his word on the Guernsey’s auction before the gavel drops. We also got a look-see at his latest creations. (View a slideshow of some of the auction dogs and Racer's recent pair.)
If Racer’s name sounds familiar but you’re not a carousel animal aficionado, it may be for his role as co-founder with his wife Donna Reynolds of Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls, or BAD RAP. There’s a strong connection between Tim’s artwork and his advocacy efforts.
The Bark: When we saw these carousel dogs up for auction, we thought of you, of course. What do you think of them?
Tim Racer: It’s always fun to see carousel figures at auction, and for dog types like myself, even more fun to see a dog or two at the block.
The Herschell Spillman spaniels have a sweet character to them, being more primitive than most of the horses, and represent the Country Fair style of carousel carvings—less detail and realism, but beautiful in their simplicity.
Real Looff Greyhounds are very sought-after pieces and fetch about ten times what the auction pieces termed “in the style of Charles Looff” are estimated to be worth. The original pieces are simply stunning due to their artistic detail and sheer size. These dogs stand as tall as carousel horses, where the Herschell Spillman spaniels are about half the size.
The spaniel brings back special memories for me. After painting carousel animals for Hawk’s Eye Studio for several years, a sort of spot opened up in the woodworking niche of the carousel restoration field. So for my first learning project I hooked up with John Hughes for a weekend, an excellent woodworker in San Jose. We got out a flat bar and began taking apart this Herschell Spillman dog. It was truly a basket case. There were tons of screws and nails in it from decades of attempts to keep it in one piece. It was in dozens of pieces once we were through, so I took it home in boxes and glued it all back together. It was a great learning piece and I’ll never forget it—being nervous that I’d damage it worse than it already was.
When we wrote about carousel animals in 2004, it seemed like the vintage pieces were experiencing a resurgence? Are they still popular? Any idea what these will sell for?
Collectors began buying up carousel pieces and even entire carousels in the 1970s. Their heyday peaked in the 1980s when pieces were being sold for tens of thousands of dollars at auction, and sometimes more than $100,000. Bruno the Saint Bernard sold for $174,900—more than any carousel piece in history. I love the fact that there are thousands of carousel horses out there, but a dog fetched the biggest buck! Again proving our love for human’s best friend.
How rare are dog carousel figures?
Of the more than 50,000 carousel figures carved, less than fifty were dogs. This is part of the reason that some of them are worth so much at auction.
Can you tell me a little about your most recent carving?
My most recent carving of a dog named Joshua was commissioned by Jane Berkey, founder of Animal Farm Foundation (AFF) in upstate New York, a Pit Bull education and rescue group that we at BAD RAP in Oakland consider our sister organization. I carved her other dog Petal first, and Joshua was next. Coincidentally, I am receiving him tomorrow from my painter—Pam Hessey of Hawk’s Eye Studio—in a crate that I can’t wait to open. Pam is the woman that I used to paint for—I send all my pieces to her since she’s simply the best and I just don’t have time to paint my own pieces anymore, since carving them usually requires 400 to 600 hours. She can get going on the paint while I start my next piece.
The Joshua piece has special significance to me for many reasons. Petal was Jane’s first Pit Bull-type dog and prompted her to found AFF (likely a Pit Bull/American Bulldog mix) and Joshua was Petal’s best boy buddy (the two have recently deceased).
My very first carving was of my Pit Bull Sally who also prompted Donna and me to found BAD RAP. So Jane is a kindred soul whose dogs are to her what ours are to us. This is also my first piece that is of two dogs that will appear on the same stand, which should really typify the carousel style.
It’s wonderful how your carving and your advocacy complement each other.
There couldn’t be much more of a connection between my art and BAD RAP and I’m fortunate that it has been able to work out that way. I’ve traveled from Maui, to Minnesota, Chicago, New York, and even Bermuda, all with overlapping carving and BAD RAP duties. I couldn’t have guessed that there would be so much synchronicity with the timing of it all.
View more of Tim Racer’s work at timracer.com.
News: Guest Posts
Open your heart, home and/or wallet during National Dog Week
September 19 2011
Today is the start of National Dog Week (September 19–25), a weeklong celebration of our canine companions that has apparently been around for more than eight decades. It’s on my radar thanks to the efforts of Lisa Begin-Kruysman, an artist and writer in Brick Township, N.J., who has been doing all she can (including a blog, Facebook page, and a book titled "Every Dog has its Week") to revive what had become a flagging tradition.
Ultimately, these day/week/month/year designations kind of irritate me. Here’s my issue: Isn’t every day National Dog Day? I know it is in my house. Why limit yourself? Are you kind to your dad or mom—only one day a year? (If you answered yes to that, you’ve got challenges we can’t get into here.)
So I treat these designations as little alarm bells, a reminder to do something more or different. Happily, a sort of solution has presented itself: National Dog Week overlaps with Petfinder’s Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week (September 17–25).
This is a cause very dear to my heart since my husband and I specialize in unadoptable pups—most recently, a big (strike one), black (strike two), five-year-old former sled dog. In Fairbanks, where Renzo lived until joining us, old sled dogs are about as desirable as a bikini in February.
Every day we are grateful for Renzo’s presence, never more than during the past few weeks, as we’ve coped with the sudden death of our older dog Lulu. From the waiting room at Washington State University veterinary hospital to the days that have followed, Renzo seems to know precisely when we need a little extra snuggling and when we need a kick in the pants.
Of the people I’ve talked to who adopted “less-adoptable” dogs—those with behavioral challenges, health problems and/or intimidating looks, or simply seniors—they all, to a person, describe something special in the connection, maybe a sense of bad fate narrowly avoided. It may be projection, but it’s a good sort of projection that inspires us to help dogs who need a little extra dose of compassion.
So why not celebrate two weeks in one? Perhaps National Dog Week is your excuse to make the leap for a dog with less than stellar chances. Or, if that’s too big a step right now, maybe you can support a shelter or rescue that is going the extra mile to find homes for these special-needs pups.
Check out the gallery of less-adoptable pets at Petfinder.
News: Guest Posts
September 12 2011
With football season in full gear, it may be poor timing to admit I’m not a big sports fan. But does it redeem my grid-iron lameness that I appreciate a good mascot, especially of the canine variety? From the squat nobility of University of Georgia Bulldog Ug to the not-terribly intimidating Boston University Terrier to the sleek and speedy (and sort of obscure) Salukis of Southern Illinois, dogs make great mascots because they have so many admirable qualities that translate to sport (loyalty, perseverance, love of play, good attitude, and on and on). Plus, you can have an actual dog in your parade and on the sidelines.
Among dog mascots (many Bulldogs among them) nothing touches the University of Washington’s, to my way of thinking. They fight the good fight behind a handsome Husky, usually “played by” a flashier, more docile Malamute. I admit I may be unduly influenced by the fact that I attended grad school at UW and that I’ve had three Husky-mix dogs sprinkle their pixie dust on my life.
For most of my time in Seattle, my UW Husky sightings were limited to t-shirts, posters and the bronze incarnation in front of Husky Stadium. But a couple years ago, I heard about Dubs (as in U-Dub), the latest mascot pup-in-training. I started following his blog, which is a constantly expanding collection of to-die-for photos. Interestingly his home and family are shrouded in secrecy to maintain his privacy and perhaps protect against pranksters. So when I saw him on a walk IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD I felt like I’d just spotted George Clooney. When we crossed paths a second time, I asked: “Is this?” The answer: “Yes.” We didn’t say his name, like a certified Hollywood star. We didn’t need to. But, unlike meeting a certified Hollywood star, I was allowed to pet him. Yum.
I see Dubs occasionally and check in on his blog. And I’m even starting to care how the teams do—for Dubs’ sake. Go Dawgs!
Do you have a favorite mascot?
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