activities & sports
News: Guest Posts
Curing Wakeolepsy
With “Yankees Fantasy Camp for canines”

Robbie Brown’s story, “Putting the Pounce Back in Your Pup” (New York Times, 6/11/10) serves as a welcome—and funny—spur in the side of complacent dog folk. He reminds us: It’s never too late to try to teach your old dog new tricks when he takes his pampered Bassett, Elvis, to the Fun Field Trial, which pairs laidback Bassets, Beagles, Dachshunds and Petit Basset Griffon Vendéens with seasoned hunters in an effort to rouse latent instincts. (Oh, and if you’re wondering about “wakeolepsy,” that’s Brown’s tongue-in-cheek term for his dog’s brief periods of being awake, mostly to eat.)

News: Guest Posts
Big, Fat, Free Adoptathon, June 12-13
Maddie’s Fund underwrites an unprecedented Bay Area effort

The Maddie’s Matchmaker Adoptathon isn’t your typical adoption drive. It’s big (41 participating shelters and adoption-guarantee organizations), ambitious (aiming to empty all the shelters in Alameda and Contra Costa counties), and, most important for potential adopters, FREE! Oh, and it’s a fundraiser for the participating organizations.


And that’s not all: The adoptathon is only a step in Maddie’s Fund’s jaw-dropping goal to save all adoptable animals in the country. We asked the organization president Rich Avanzino to break it down for us.


Is this the first free adoptathon Maddie’s Fund has sponsored?

It’s the largest one as far as we know in the Bay Area, bringing over 41 different shelters and adoption-guarantee groups [together] in a collaborative effort to empty the shelters to save all the healthy, treatable animals’ lives. As far as I know, it’s the first one to be done for free in the Bay Area, ever, and it’s also the first attempt to empty the shelters countywide in both Alameda and Contra Costa. It’s going to save a lot of lives.


Who pays for the adoptions?

Maddie’s Fund will pay $500 for every adoption [they normally range from about $50 to a couple hundred dollars] so it’s not just covering the cost to the shelters; it’s giving them a little more incentive to help save these lives. And in a tough economy like we’re suffering with today many of the not-for-profits and the municipalities are hurting for money. So this is an effort to recognize their great efforts … and to draw attention to the fact that both the rescue organizations and the shelters have wonderful pets available for adoption all the time.


I didn’t realize there was this stimulus side.

Yes. It’s a win-win. Obviously the people who take home a pet are going to have the opportunity to have the love of their life. The animals obviously get their lives saved, which is rather spectacular because these are wonderful beings that just need to find a home. And then it will provide a little monetary incentive for the shelters and rescue groups to carry on their great services and provide the wonderful programs that they do to save animals.


Why is it called Maddie’s Matchmaker Adoptathon?

This is done in the spirit of the little dog that Maddie’s Fund is named after, a miniature Schnauzer who enriched the lives of our founders Dave and Cheryl Duffield. They promised to basically do right by her by giving back in dollars some of what she gave them in love. We started with a $300 million gift to help animals in need of loving homes. We think this has the potential to be a model for the nation to get us to our goal, which is to save all the healthy and treatable animals countrywide by 2015.


That’s a huge goal.

It is a very ambitious goal but we think we are basically on path to achieve the result.


What do you think the adoptathon is going to cost Maddie’s Fund?

We’re hoping to spend well over a half million dollars. We think we have about 1,000-plus animals to save. The rescue and shelter world is very enthusiastic: Many of them have extended their hours, some of them have opened their facilities for Sunday adoptions, many of them who used to do one satellite are now doing several. So we’ve got great buy-in. We think it’s going to save at least 1,000 lives, maybe more. We hope to spend a half-million dollars but we’d love to spend a million. So it all comes down to the public and the rescues to help get us to goal.


Those who will be attending the adoptathon, hoping to bring home a cat or dog, what should they have in mind?

First of all, each agency has it’s own adoption criteria, so they are going to be adopting out to qualified pet owners—people who are responsible, caring, loving.

They’re not going to have to have any money—it’s a free comrade and lifetime partner. They should be prepared for the fact that it’s a lifetime commitment. They are going to take home a pet who needs food, living accommodation, toys and all that sort of stuff so the money they don’t spend on the adoption fee will give them a little extra to spend on pampering their new pooch or kitty. They are going to get unconditional love but in return this four-legged best friend/family member is going to rely on them to be taken care of and loved.


Are you concerned that by not requiring a fee, it communicates the animal has less value?

Absolutely not. The adoption agency and rescue groups and shelters that we’re dealing with are committed to the best interests of animal welfare, they’re doing this not for money, they’re doing this because they are focused on helping animals in need, and ending an animal’s life is not providing a great deal of assistance. The groups’ … screening programs are going to be well in place. They are going to select the best homes. We hope they have a lot of applicants from which to choose the best.


When will you know how many animals will be adopted?

We’re doing it hour by hour. We’ll have a running tally. We’re putting the entire Maddie’s staff (“roving reporters”) out in the field. We’re going to be capturing every placement in real time and sending it back to our Facebook page.


That sounds great.

The enthusiasm couldn’t be at a higher pitch. The weather’s nice. The animals are fabulous. The shelters are excited. And now we’re just hoping the public comes down and takes advantage of this.

Free adoption of dogs and cats will be offered to qualified homes throughout the weekend, June 12-13, at each participating organization, as well as many PETCO, PetSmart and Pet Food Express locations. To find hours, locations and participating organizations visit: MaddiesAdoptathon.org. 




News: Guest Posts
Step Aside, Susan Boyle
Make room for a dancing dog

The dance-floor stylings of Chandi, the “amazing dancing dog,” have gone viral and taken the former pound pup into the finals (on Saturday) of Britain’s Got Talent. Watch her performance (we can’t embed this one). Current odds the Shrewsbury rescue will take it all are 5 to 1. If she does, she'll be the first animal to win the contest. Go Chandi!


News: Guest Posts
Lady and the Tramp Mentality
Washington Post article reinforces purebred vs. mix debate

When Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse contacted me about my AKC/mixed breed blog post, I was flattered and eager to share my thoughts on this controversial decision. Unfortunately, Hesse was on a tight deadline and we never connected for a formal interview. After reading the piece, I was surprised at its "Lady and the Tramp" mentality. From the first sentence, she paints lovely images worthy of any literary novel, yet they reinforce an ignorant stereotype that purebred dogs are superior over mixed breeds. For example, while attending a dog show where both purebreds and mutts, ahem, mix, she compares the "sly Border Collies, whose owners plaster their cars with bumper stickers reading, 'My Border Collie is smarter than your honor student,' to mixed breed Otis, who "might lick his rear end." Talk about a cheap shot! I've got news for Hesse and the general public--purebreds lick their rear ends. And they probably drink out of the toilet, too. It is my fervent hope that the mingling of purebreds and mixes at AKC events will remind us that they are all dogs, regardless of pedigree.

News: Guest Posts
Tech Tip for Dog Lovers
Save photos before it’s too late

Tech wise guy David Einstein got personal yesterday in his Computing advice column for the San Francisco Chronicle. Out of the untimely death of his rescued Greyhound Rune, he learned and shares an important lesson: Take care of your memories. After Rune’s death, he discovered he didn’t have many photos, and only a few that “convey Rune’s essence.” Don’t let this happen to you. Take to heart Einstein’s advice for scanning print photographs, and saving, filing and backing up your precious digital images.

News: Guest Posts
Win Free Rent for a Year
With your best furry roommate tales

Does your canine roomie inspire the best in you—al fresco adventures, home-cooked food, a bottomless toy bucket, consistent teeth brushing, summer camp, a clicker and treats in every room? Tell it to a video camera and you could win free rent for a year plus $10,000! It’s not our contest, but it is the sort of opportunity I want to bark about. Plus, I’d like to see how our readers make life awesome for their canine homies.

  Submit your video (2 minutes or less) to Apartments.com’s Roommate of the Year Contest by June 14, 2010 in “The Purr-fect Pet Owner” category. We’d love a preview, if you want to share your entry with us, send it to webeditor@thebark.com. Maybe we’ll post it here.


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
One Ball Can Make a Difference
Planet Dog Romp-a-Thon raises money for service dogs

Currently, Planet Dog donates 2 percent of all proceeds to its charitable arm, The Planet Dog Foundation. This year the company hopes to raise even more money through the 2010 Planet Dog Romp-a-Thon.

The initiative challenges retailers and consumers to help sell 20,000 Orbee-Tuff Glow for Good Balls by the end of the year. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of every ball will be donated to the Planet Dog Foundation. The balls can be purchased at any retailer that sells Planet Dog products or directly through their website.

While the Foundation awards several grants each year, it is overwhelmed by the number of requests. Planet Dog created this fundraising challenge to help educate retailers and consumers about the contributions of working dogs and the support they need.

Recently the Foundation announced $25,000 in grants to five canine service organizations. 

$7,500 to Texas Hearing and Service Dogs, which trains shelter dogs to become service dogs. This organization pioneered the practice of working with shelter dogs and is actively working to encourage rescuing needy dogs for training rather than breeding. The grant will fund the Honor Dogs Program, a prison inmate program that places dogs with minimum female offenders. 

$7,500 to Thirteen/WNET TV New York Martha Speaks at the Library Children's Literacy Program, a collaboration between the New York Public Library System and channel 13 WNET, the PBS affiliate in New York City. The grant will fund the program’s expansion to six new cities across the United States. 

$4,000 to Paws & Think, Inc., which serves at-risk youth, at-risk canines and children and adults with disabilities and special needs in central Indiana. This all-volunteer, community-based organization works in partnership with schools, detention centers, youth agencies, humane societies, shelters and others to pair the youth with stray, surrendered or neglected dogs to train them to become service dogs for people living with a disability or as pets, thereby avoiding euthanasia.  

$3,500 to Therapy Dogs, Inc., which provides registration, support and insurance for members who are involved in volunteer animal assisted activities to form a network of caring individuals who are willing to share their special animals in order to bring happiness and cheer to people young and old alike. The grant will help fund Tester/Observer Training Seminars in eight cities, equipping 200 trainers who would potentially train, evaluate and certify some 6,000 new therapy dog teams nationwide.  

$2,500 to HOPE Animal - Assisted Crisis Response, a national all-volunteer, non-profit, crisis response organization with specially trained and certified handler/canine teams. Agencies call upon HOPE AACR teams to provide comfort and support to people affected by disasters including earthquakes and floods, or senseless violence in a school or workplace.  

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Walk for a Cause
Popular shelter fundraisers get people and pets outside

This past weekend, I participated in the Wags and Whiskers Walk-a-thon and Pet Fair to benefit the Westchester SPCA in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.  We had great weather, hung out with friends (human and canine!) and gave the pups some exercise. 

The numbers are still coming in for last weekend, but last year, the event raised over $80,000 for the shelter. So you can imagine that walk-a-thons have become popular fundraisers for animal shelters around the country. But, money aside, these events are a great way to unite the local pet loving community in support of a great cause.

Here are a few upcoming events:

  • West End Shelter’s Walk-n-Wag-a-thon (Chino, Calif.) – 5/8
  • Yolo County SPCA’s Doggone Walk-a-thon (Davis, Calif.) – 5/15
  • Animal Shelter’s Whisker Walk (Lancaster, Mass.) – 6/6
  • Dogs in Danger's March for the Dogs (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) - 6/12
  • Oswego SPCA’s Paws in the Park Dogwalk (Fulton, N.Y.) – 9/11
  • Concord-Merrimack County SPCA’s Walk for the Animals (Concord, N.H.) – 9/26
  • Woods Humane Society’s Walk for Woods (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) – 10/23
  • Ontario SPCA’s Friends for Life Walk-a-thon (various dates and locations)

Have you participated in a walk-a-thon with your pup?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Evaluating Canine Play
Are your dogs playing appropriately?

One of the most common questions asked of dog behaviorists is how to determine whether a group of dogs who are rolling around or chasing each other are playing appropriately. Without knowledge of dog behavior, it can be hard for many people to tell when play is getting out of hand until it’s too late and it’s obvious because somebody got hurt or traumatized. I recently wrote a column for my local paper called Play Should Be Fun, Not Tense that explains some of the basic ways to evaluate what is going on before it ever gets to that point. There is always a bit of subjectivity to assessing play in any species, including our own, because fun itself is subjective. However, there are some basic guidelines worth considering whenever you have to decide whether to let the dogs carry on, or whether they need to be separated to prevent real trouble from developing.

  In appropriate play, the number one rule is that everyone is a willing participant. If one dog is suffering based on what’s going on, it’s not appropriate, and that’s true even if what the other dogs are doing would be fine with most dogs. If everyone isn’t having a good time, it’s not okay to let it continue. Play should always be fun.   Generally, dogs who are playing are holding back a bit at least some of the time. They are bouncy and carefree in their motions, and there are frequent pauses in the action. Most play involves running, leaping, chasing, brief pounces and batting at one another. Dogs’ mouths are usually open and any vocalizations tend to be fairly consistent in pitch rather than suddenly deepening or turning into shrieks.   In play that could lead to trouble, dogs seem to be more serious and lack that light-hearted quality so essential in play. Dogs who tongue flick, drool excessively, cower, whine, pant when it’s not hot enough to warrant it, tremble, attempt to escape or to hide, whimper or shiver are showing signs of tension or anxiety that could indicate trouble. When dogs are uncomfortable, they are more likely to act in a way that is aggressive or that could prompt another dog to behave aggressively. One of the biggest warning signs in play is of one or more dogs suddenly go stiff. Going stiff with tension throughout the body often occurs before dogs bite or fight, so it’s a bad sign. Pausing in play with a relaxed body is a good sign and is very different than going stiff or still, which is a bad sign.   It can be very hard to evaluate play, but if you stop the play and all the dogs want to head back to it, that’s a promising sign that the play is okay. I always recommend interrupting the play if you are in any doubt. You can always let them continue in a minute, but if you let things go and a dog gets hurt, frightened or overwhelmed, you can’t take that back.  


News: Guest Posts
Slip Slidin’ Away
The joy of dog sledding

Dog sledding without the sled is more fun!

Dogs Body Sledding In The Snow - Watch more Funny Videos