Lisa Wogan

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

News: Guest Posts
9/11 SAR Dogs Ten Years Later
Photographer Charlotte Dumas pays tribute to canine heroes

It is hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93. The memories and the impact are still so fresh. But one place you can see the passage of time is in the gray muzzles and clouded eyes of the surviving Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs.

With the tenth anniversary looming, Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas tracked down 15 surviving rescue dogs who assisted emergency crews searching for survivors. She traveled around the country and photographed these aging heroes in their homes. The noble and vulnerable images are a beautiful tribute to the efforts of all the SAR teams in those frightening and challenging days.

The portraits have been collected and will be published on 9/11/11 in Retrieved, a paperback volume with Japanese binding. (Available from The Ice Plant.) In addition, seven of her favorite images will be sold at a special silent auction to benefit the First Responder Alliance, which helps rescue and recovery workers and their families develop critical support systems.

The auction will be September 29, 2011, 6–8 pm at Clic Gallery, 255 Centre Street, NYC. The seven auction prints will be accompanied by the photographer’s personal notes as well as memorabilia including snapshots of the dog at work during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

See a slideshow of images from the book at The New York Times.

Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Arson Dogs
Super Sniffers—there’s a new pooch at the firehouse.

If you were to make a Molotov cocktail, you’d have to wash your hands at least 17 times before a dog would be unable to detect traces of petroleum on your skin. Until fairly recently, this information probably was not much of a concern to would-be flame-throwers.But these days, arsonists of every stripe should beware. While most fire departments have phased out the Dalmatian, fire investigative units have been adding another dog to their teams.

Since the mid-1980s, an elite cadre of canines has been using the ability for smelling in the parts-per-quintillion to help investigators determine whether a fire was deliberately set, and sometimes even who set it. The more than 200 arson dogs (formally known as accelerant- detection dogs) working today can quickly and accurately sniff out tiny amounts of anything from lamp oil to lighter fluid in a scene flooded with several inches of water or covered in snow, ice, mud or thick layers of fire debris.

“The K-9s have the ability to survey a variety of terrain in a fire scene in an incredibly short time,” says Jerry Means, an agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations. “The dogs dramatically increase the investigator’s ability to retrieve an accurate reflection of the flammable products present in a fire scene and increase the chances of collecting a positive sample.” Of course, it can be equally important when a dog does not alert to fire-starting substances—helping to rule out arson.

Means investigated approximately 800 fires with his first arson dog, a black Lab named Erin. “We had a fire that occurred in a home where three small children were killed in the blaze,” he says. The fire initially looked like a tragic accident, and an arson dog was not going to be used. “However, considering the magnitude of the loss, it was decided to throw every available tool at the fire investigation.”

Erin alerted a dozen times in the area where it was believed the fire started. Based on these samples tested at the lab, investigators determined that the blaze had been set intentionally. “After four years of investigative work and two separate trials, the children’s father and mother were each convicted of three counts of first-degree murder.”

Means acquired his dogs, first Erin and later Sadie, through a program run by State Farm Insurance Company. Since 1993, the Bloomington, Ill.–based underwriter has teamed up with Maine Specialty Dogs and the Maine Criminal Justice Academy to provide arson dogs— about 10 per year—to communities where at least 50 suspicious fires occur annually. Most dogs are placed so they can help the greatest number of people, and they and their handlers often help neighboring jurisdictions. Overall, 250 State Farm–sponsored teams have set to work in 43 states, three Canadian Provinces and the District of Columbia.

Once an arson dog is certified and placed with a handler, he or she works every day of the year and must be recertified annually. Captain Stephen Baer, founder of the arson dog program at the Seattle Fire Department, recently put his dog Henny through her paces.

Out on the blacktop at a fire-training center south of the city, Baer has set up a simulation. Before I arrive, he has burned a carpet remnant with a torch, squeezed one drop of 50 percent evaporated gasoline in two spots, and burned it a second time. He has also put a tiny drop on a T-shirt in a row of clothes (to simulate a clothing lineup).

At some distance from the demo area, he dons a belt with a kibble pouch. Henny tunes in, ignoring the floating cotton that had captivated her only moments earlier. “She goes from being friendly and looking for Chicken McNuggets on the ground to, Oh, Dad put the belt on, now I’m looking for gasoline,” Baer says. With out the belt, they could walk through a sea of hydrocarbons and she wouldn’t react.

“Seek,” Baer says, as we near the carpet. Henny eagerly noses the ground for a few seconds, then sits on the edge of the carpet and stares at Baer. An alert. “Good,” he says, passing her some kibble. “Show me better.” She circles and sniffs again, then sits in almost the same spot. “Good,” he says in a high, happy voice. More kibble. Baer always asks Henny to double-check and pinpoint the location where she alerts.

If this were a fire scene, Baer would place a clean poker chip on the spot. That’s for the fire investigator, who follows up and determines whether to take a sample and send it to the lab. This process cuts down on time-consuming guesswork in the field. Plus, fewer and better samples cut down on the workload at overburdened crime labs.

In the messy, chaotic aftermath of a real fire, Baer might also point exactly to each spot he wants her to check, saying, “Seek. Seek. Seek.” Arson dogs are taught to discriminate among the variety of scents they might confront at a fire scene —plus deliberate distractions such as beef jerky—and to alert only to substances used to start fires.

Henny joined the Accelerant Detection K-9 Program at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) after flunking out of guide-dog training due to an overactive sniffer. The majority of arson dogs in the United States are trained and certified either by ATF or State Farm. The ATF program dates back to 1984, and 127 accelerant-detection dogs have been placed with agencies in the U.S. and 21 foreign countries since 1991. (It’s a small number, especially when compared to the 595 explosives-detection dogs certified in that same period.)

March 2006, the teammates have been apart only once—during Baer’s honeymoon. They train twice a day to keep Henny’s skills sharp; also, Henny only eats when she’s working. She is always fed from Baer’s hand, as is common with most arson dogs.

Accelerant-detection dogs aren’t limited to fire scenes. Jerry Means’ current arson dog, Sadie, was called in to “survey” two juveniles in a fire at an abandoned flour mill in Longmont, Colo. The suspects originally denied involvement, but when the dog alerted to their shoes, it was only 15 minutes before they confessed to starting the fire.

Arson dogs also make appearances in courtrooms when handlers present evidence—including the dog’s training and experience, and the procedure followed at the incident in question.

What makes a good arson dog? “The ideal dog has high energy,” says Paul Gallagher, the owner-trainer of Maine Specialty Dogs. “It’s basically the semi-problem child.” A former Maine State Police K-9 trainer and supervisor, Gallagher saw one of the first accelerantdetection dogs being trained back in the day, and decided to train one for Maine. This led to training arson dogs for other departments. When he retired from the police force in 1996, he paired up with State Farm to continue the work. State Farm covers the $23,000 training costs for each dog.

Both ATF and State Farm prefer Labradors or Lab-mixes because of their curiosity, energy, tracking ability and easygoing demeanor. Guide dog training “dropouts” are particular favorites. Gunny is fairly typical. He had to find a new career when he slipped a hamburger right off the table in front of a blind person. Now a State Farm–sponsored arson dog in Grand Haven Township, Mich., he’s great at his job because he’s extremely motivated to work for kibble.

Susan Piron of Lake Gaston, N.C., has seen two of the five puppies she raised for Guiding Eyes for the Blind go on to careers in arson detection. In 2008, she was given the option of adopting Elway, a yellow Labrador she’d raised, when he didn’t seem suited for guide dog work. “That was probably the toughest decision,” Piron says, “whether to bring him back to the lake or let him go on to do something for other people and become the best he can be. Elway had a lot of energy and initiative; he needed a job.” Today, he sniffs out accelerants for the Connecticut State Police.

State Farm also enlists one- to twoyear- old dogs from humane societies and rescues, including one Hurricane Katrina rescue.

“We’ve saved a few from being put down,” Gallagher says.

Ultimately, though, it’s not about second chances for dogs so much as saving lives and money. An estimated 32,500 structural fires were set intentionally in 2007, resulting in 295 civilian deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association’s most recent assessment. The cost in property loss due to arson for 2007 is estimated at around $733 million. Arson is tough to prove, but a dog is a huge asset.

a huge asset. “There is nothing in the pipeline that can equal the scent-ability of the dog that we can take to fire scenes and use,” Gallagher says. “The public needs to know those dogs are out there. It’s an elite group that does a good job … and they need the recognition.”

News: Guest Posts
Inventing the Perfect Pup Product
Leash inventor featured on Quirky reality show

Have you ever felt like you had a great idea for a million-dollar dog product and all you needed was a little technical—and maybe emotional—support?

Tonight, Sara Carpenter of Richmond Hill, N.Y., finds out if her idea for a soft retractable-leash with a pocket for waste bags is going to have its chance at the big time. She’s one of two inventors featured on the Sept. 6 episode of Quirky (10 pm ET), a Sundance Channel reality series built around a product-development company that brings the inventions of everyday folks to market—with a big dose of public input via social media.

Carpenter is an unemployed single mom, an ex-New York police officer (with the accent to match), who pulled together her idea for the Kosuko leash trying to find something that worked for her and her dog, Pom. I have serious reservations about retractable leashes. At the very least, they encourage bad leash-walking behavior, and at the worst, the extended leads create tangling and strangling risks. Plus, a dog running out the full length of the leash can build momentum that is dangerous for the dog and the walker.

That said, I am impressed with people who take an idea and run with it, especially if the motivation is, at least in part, to make our lives with our dogs better.

It has me thinking though: With so many dog products out there, what still really needs to be improved on? What canine accessory would you like to see the team at Quirky tackle next? An edible Frisbee? A calorie-calculating food dish? A nail clipper that your dog LOVES?


News: Guest Posts
Lone Dog on the Tibetan Plateau
The strange case of the Kailash canines

I recently read a review copy of Tibet: Culture on the Edge by Phil Borges (which will be published by Rizzoli in October). Through otherworldly portraits and measured prose, Borges captures a truly rarified place and people caught in the grip of Chinese expansion and modernization.

It’s a fabulous book, and although not a book about dogs or for dog people per se, there was one photo of a dog that stopped me in my reading. Perched on a riverbank, Merda looks noble and self-contained in a stark valley near Mount Kailash. Her story is equally stark, and I share both here with the permission of Phil Borges Studio.

Phil Borges writes:

My guide told me that Merda’s mother survived a dog massacre carried out by the local authorities. Three years ago the large vultures that are instrumental in Tibetan sky burials mysteriously disappeared from the Mount Kailash area. The monks who perform the sky burial began to rely on dogs to dispose of the deceased’s remains. Having developed a taste for human flesh the dogs became dangerous and actually attacked and killed a pilgrim. Not knowing which dogs were responsible, all dogs in the Kailash area were ordered to be killed. Merda’s mother was shot but survived. Merda faithfully followed us for three days as we walked the Kailash Kora.

Such a striking story, it's almost like a fable, a tale of unintended consequences. We enlist dogs in the activities of our lives (and deaths) in so many different ways, and there they are, always, following us faithfully.

News: Guest Posts
Rags for Wags
A pair of preteen friends make a difference for dogs and cats

It’s never too early to be the change. Claire Puricelli and Chloe Schneider had barely broken into double-digits when they channeled their elbow grease and ingenuity to benefit shelter dogs and cats. The 11-year-old friends from Webster Groves, Mo., recognized that not everyone can make the big commitment of adopting an animal, but they still want to help. So, they created “Rags for Wags” to provide area shelters with much needed supplies and support. Started on Make A Difference Day, October 23, 2010, Claire and Chloe spread the word about donation drives with flyers and raised some donations with a lemonade stand.

They each also took the big step of rescuing a dog. That’s how we learned about the girls, when they submitted their rescued dogs for a Bark cover dog contest.

“After making a donation to Stray Rescue of St. Louis, I fell in love with what the shelter did so I decided that I wanted to get our second dog from there,” Chloe explained. “We met Otis and instantly fell in love with him. His hipbones were visibly sticking out of his body and he had cuts and scratches all over him. A few weeks later we brought him home to live with me and my family.” She says the scrawny little shelter dog changed her life.

Claire looked online for dogs available at area shelters. “Jemma’s photo caught my eye immediately. Her quirky ears and sweet brown eyes won me over,” Claire remembers. The playful, energetic Border Collie mix, who had been abandoned as a tiny puppy, was being fostered at the time.

The girls took a few minutes from the start of the school year to answer a few of our questions for Bark about Rags for Wags.

How did you come up with the idea of Rags for Wags?

I (Claire) was making a delivery of blankets to the local Humane Society and brought my friend, Chloe, along. We are both dog lovers. On the way home, we were thinking of ways we could keep going back. We collected some more blankets from home and came back the following week. We became close to many of the dogs, one of which was a playful Great Pyrenees puppy named Holly. Seeing her in a cage broke our hearts. You probably know the feeling of walking into a shelter and wanted to take all of the dogs home. Knowing that we couldn't do this, we at least wanted to make their stay at the shelter as comfortable as possible. We then decided to create a nonprofit organization that collects donations that will benefit shelter animals... Rags for Wags!

What does your organization do?

Our organization collects things such as towels, blankets, rags, stuffed animals, dog toys, leashes, collars, etc., and also money donations. We count them, label them and separate them into bags. We then deliver them to area animal shelters such as Stray Rescue and the Open Door Animal Shelter. We have delivered over 1,200 items so far.

How are Jemma and Otis doing?

Jemma and Otis are doing great. Jemma turned one in August 11, and Otis will be one on September 22. Jemma and Otis have been having many ‘puppy playdates.’ It is fun to see two dogs run around in a big backyard with no care in the world.

Do you have any big plans for helping dogs in the future?

We plan to recruit some of our friends to help us expand Rags for Wags so that we will get more donations to comfort and care for more shelter animals.

We love hearing about members of the Bark community making a difference in the lives of animals in need. It’s extra special when they start early. Congratulations Claire and Chloe. Keep us posted on your future good works.

News: Guest Posts
Happy 21st Birthday Betsy!
Scottsdale senior pup posts another year of donuts and chicken

Last August, I posted a blog about a Pomeranian-mix named Betsy on her 20th birthday. Not many dogs enjoy 20 good years. So I couldn't pass up a chance to say, happy birthday, as she adds one more candle to her cake. Tomorrow, the former injured stray turns 21—that’s pushing well past the century mark in canine years. She’ll be celebrating the big day with her peeps James and Meryl Tulin, her three veterinarians, and her canine sisters, a five-year-old Golden Retriever named Lily and a ten-year-old Shih Tzu named Winnie.

While she may not be the oldest living pup in the world (that title belongs to a 26-year-old mixed breed pup named Pusuke in Sakura-shi, Japan, according to the Guinness World Records), she is a member of a very small and esteemed club.

"She is a most remarkable animal and still top dog in our household,” James Tulin says. Last year, Chessman Cookies, steak and chicken were favorites for the Scottsdale, Ariz., senior citizen. But Tulin says she has a new love, “Dunkin Donuts French Cruller each morning!” I wonder what she’ll get for her birthday.

Do you have a long-lived dog? What's his or her secret?

Dog's Life: Humane
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Hits
Q&A with HeARTs Speak founder, Lisa Prince Fishler

We learned about Beau, Paisley, Portia and Bella—the lens-shatteringly adorable foster pups on the cover of our September 2011 issue—when Jenny Froh submitted their photo for Bark’s Smiling Dogs contest. A professional pet and portrait photographer in Flower Mound, Tex., Froh was fostering Paisley and Portia when she photographed the littermates to help them find permanent homes.

The photo stopped us in our tracks, which good photos have a way of doing, and, eventually, we selected a shot of the foursome for the cover. Last we heard the dogs were on their way to homes in Colorado. But that’s not the end of the story.

In the back and forth, we learned that Froh is a member HeARTs Speak, a nonprofit alliance of photographers and artists volunteering their talents for dogs. Art and humane advocacy are two of Bark’s favorite topics so we tracked down HeARTs Speak founder, Lisa Prince Fishler, to learn more.

Fishler is a professional photographer living in the Hudson Valley, N.Y. with her husband George Fishler; three two-legged children, Tia, Justin and Brian; four dogs, Iggy, the Pit Bull/Dogo Argentino/Mastiff mix, Taiho, a Pit Bull dog, Zoe, a Doberman mix, and Maya, a Jack Russell Terrier; three cats, Lukas, Jengo and Frank; a cockatiel; three goats and about 25 chickens and 30 guinea hens.

She took time from caring for her menagerie, capturing the essence of animals on film and volunteering to tell us about her aim to unite the efforts of photographers to tackle the unnecessary euthanasia of animals.

How did you get started as a dog photographer?

I am an artist who connects deeply with animals, and feels strongly about speaking on their behalf. When I say that, I am sharing the most honest, stripped down version of myself. I was born an artist who loves animals. Any time in my life if you asked me what I’d be if I could be anything in the world, I’d answer, ‘Something to do with animals, and art.’  

How did you decide to volunteer for rescue? Is there a dog in the story?

There is absolutely a dog in the story! I was inspired to volunteer my photography services for rescue because of my ‘soul dog,’ Iggy, who is a Pit Bull mix. He introduced me to the amazing personality of ‘Bully’ breeds, but also the tragic breed discrimination towards dogs of this background. For this reason, one of the first organizations I volunteered my services for was the Animal Farm Foundation, a Pit Bull Rescue, here in New York.

My photographs help to present these dogs as the truly amazing beings that they are to potential adopters: They are funny, adorable, forgiving, kind, sensitive, and did I say funny? They’re such comedians, I love that about them!

It was through this work, that my photography business was born, as here I found a venue to combine everything I felt passionately about—animals, art, and activism … or more specifically, speaking for those who cannot. 

Why make the leap from volunteering on your own to encouraging others to do the same through HeARTs Speak?

HeARTs Speak was born from the sadness and frustration I felt about the millions of adoptable dogs and cats that suffer and/or are euthanized each year, coupled with my belief that every one of us has a gift, which is often congruent in some way, with something we feel passionately about. I was often torn between working for paying clients and volunteering my time to help animals that, in some cases, had their lives in danger.

In my heart, I have always wanted to do the work that helps the world become a better place. I formed HeARTs Speak because I believe there is power in numbers, and with the understanding that I am surely not the only person doing what I do, I wanted to create the space for everyone to come together and really make a difference. I discovered that we only need to increase the number of animals adopted each year by 3 percent to reduce the numbers euthanized to zero. JUST 3 PERCENT! I firmly believe we can do this. HeARTs Speak will support artists, who give voice to the animals, and ultimately, reduce the numbers that suffer by finding them the homes they so deserve. I feel it’s a win-win situation, no matter how you look at it!

Do you have any stories about how one of your photographs made the difference for a dog?

I have had shelters and rescues tell me that my photographs help to get animals noticed and adopted, but no exciting stories—simply that good, soulful pictures make a tremendous difference

It’s pretty clear how HeARTs Speak helps the rescues and shelters, but how is it good for the participating photographers?

We are currently in the process of getting our 501c3 certification so we are not yet capable of doing all that we plan. At the moment, we have a private group on Facebook where our members support one another, answer questions, offer advice, etc. As soon as we get our certification and are funded, we have a multitude of plans. We will focus on expanding our network, building a library of templates (letters for approaching rescues, contracts, etc.), educational webinars (teaching photography technique such a lighting, indoors, vs. outdoors, basic camera operation, animal behavior, etc.) for our website, and also getting funding to help give photographers a small stipend for their volunteer work.

HeARTs Speak is looking for photographers and artists to join the alliance and for other forms of support. To learn more, visit: Heartsspeak.org.

And look for our story in Dog Patch in September 2011 issue.

News: Guest Posts
Big Dog, Big Heartworm
Foster volunteer chronicles her pup’s heartworm treatment

For the past month, I’ve been following a blog about a nine-year-old foster dog named Mila, who is undergoing heartworm treatment. It’s written by Jean, who fosters dogs for Big Hearts Big Dog Rescue in Western New York. Mila is the third heartworm-positive pup to come into Jean’s care.

I’ve never really appreciated the challenges or devastation heartworm, and I’ve never known a dog treated for it. It’s a rare, though not unprecedented, occurrence in my part of the country, where nighttime temperatures aren’t generally hot enough for the heartworm larvae to mature in the mosquito host.

Following Mila’s journey has been an eye-opener—both in terms of the commitment of the caregiver and the challenges of the treatment, in particular, the need to keep the canine patient calm for a month at a time. We’ve asked Jean to check in with us about Mila’s progress.

In the meantime, check out BigDogsBigHeartworm.com to learn more about Mila, the treatment and some myth-busting about heartworm.

► Do you have a heartworm story to tell?


News: Guest Posts
Attn: Road Trippers—Campsites with Dog Runs
Bark reader creates a campgrounds list for dogs that need fenced, off-leash options

I frequently write about people who are volunteering their time and expertise to help rescue dogs and cats, or taking measures to support therapy and guide dog programs and more. I really love how dogs inspire random (and not so random) acts of kindness and generosity.

Another way people contribute is through information—compiling free listings of parks and services, spreading the word about events and organizations on their personal websites. It’s amazing all the great stuff you can find on the web. Add to that list, a new directory of campgrounds and RV parks with at least one fenced dog run. Bark reader Molly Lorenz, who keeps the personal website/blog, Vegan Flower, pulled together the 145-strong listing as a hobby. It’s the sort of hobby, like a gorgeous front yard garden, that benefits many.

Molly, who lives in Wisconsin—with human, Mike; two cats, Crystal and Sophie; and two dogs, Emma and Rowan—likes to take road trips to explore state and national parks and spend time outdoors with Mike and the pups. “We grew tired of the hotels and resorts, as nice as they can be, and have longed for a better way to travel,” she says about how her directory got started.

But they have one travel challenge, their dog Emma. “She won’t do her ‘business’ on a leash and cannot be trusted off-leash,” Molly explains. “Having an enclosed area that’s safe for her to be off-leash is a must for us when traveling, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones.” So Molly started to do some research and was pleasantly surprised to find a campground with a fenced dog area.

“It got me wondering if there were others out there. After a while, the list grew pretty large and I decided to organize it to share with others,” she says. “I was very surprised at how many places have dog runs, but then again, many campers travel with their dogs, so it only makes sense!”

Check out Molly’s list and, if you have a suggestion, send it her way.

News: Guest Posts
Boatyard Dog Trials—Ticket Giveaway
A little like dock dogs with more laughs and fewer rules

I have found a competition for which my dog is actually qualified. It involves clambering around objects and falling in the water. It’s all about “style and pizzaz,” there are practically no rules and cheating is encouraged. Was this contest created for us?

My only problem is that the unconventional World Championship Boatyard Dog Trials (on August 14) take place all the way across the country in Rockland, Maine, an awfully long way to travel to prove a point.  Plus, Bark magazine is a sponsor of the competition, which probably disqualifies us—but then again, cheating is encouraged.

Still, it’s going to be a lot of fun, and for folks who live in the Northeast, the Boatyard Dog Trials sound like a worthy adventure. So, even though we’re stuck far from the action on the West Coast, we want to send some Mainers, New Hampshirites, Vermonters or visitors to the area into the fray. (Feel free to report back!)

► We’re giving away 10 pairs of tickets in a random drawing. Enter here. The ticket giveaway runs through August 10; winners will pick up their tickets at will-call.

► Meanwhile, if you have a photo of your dog in/on/near the water that you think is championship material, submit it to our Water Dogs photo contest.

The trials will take place on Sunday, August 14, during the ninth annual Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show at Harbor and Buoy parks in Rockland. The winner will be featured in the Boatyard Dog column of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine, and has the honor of displaying the “Pup Cup” trophy until next year’s trials. Please note: the field of competitors has been pre-selected, and non-competing dogs are not invited.