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The Fur Is Flying!
Some folks don't think mutts should mix with AKC

At agility class last week, I bumped into an old friend. While catching up, I mentioned how excited I was that my mixed breed, Ginger Peach, could soon compete in AKC agility.

I swear his head nearly spun completely around and he grew red in the face before blurting, "Allowing mixed breeds is an insult to the breeders who spend so much time, energy and money on their breeding programs!"

He then reminded me that a lot of AKC agility shows already fill and it’s hard to get into them now much less when mixed breeds will be allowed, too. I pointed out that clubs have the option to allow mixed breeds at their shows. If their shows already fill, then they likely would not invite the mutts. So far, my tally of 2010 Midwest agility trials allowing mixed breeds was a grand total of four. Not exactly a threat considering there’s an AKC agility trial nearly every weekend year round.

As smoke steamed out of his ears, I glanced around at my instructor and her students. All of the dogs here in class were purebred. Most were from breeders, although there were some rescues, like my two Dalmatians. No mixed breeds. Clearly, I had forgotten the company I was keeping. Did they all feel this way? I felt like a spy, a mixed breed secret agent.

Thankfully, we recognized that this was a hot topic that we were unlikely to agree upon and moved on to a less controversial subject. Even so, I felt uneasy. It was reminiscent of some AKC fanciers’ email list claims that AKC was “slumming” by allowing mixed breeds.  But I know of dogs purchased from pet stores that have AKC registration. How is allowing dogs from puppy mills any different from allowing mixed breeds? In my opinion, the former is morally wrong if you value humane care of animals.

As an AKC agility competitor, animal rescuer, Dalmatian Club of America member, and dedicated lover of rescues and mutts, I feel like I am straddling two very different worlds. Is it possible to reconcile them?

Read this spirited opinion by Heather Houlahan and let me know what you think. 
 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Great Pet Rescue Rally
Online pet adoption fundraiser

The Great Pet Rescue Rally is a fundraising event that benefits ten organizations throughout Maricopa County in Arizona that rescue and adopt out pets. This collaboration of ten welfare organizations in the greater Metropolitan Phoenix area makes this group the second largest shelter system in the United States (after Los Angeles), representing 100,000 animals each year. The work by these groups is important for rescue, adoption, advocacy, and community outreach.

  Conducted completely online, the Great Pet Rescue Rally is eight months long, finishing May 31, 2010. There are 20 destinations in Arizona to “drive” to, with teams or individuals starting in Phoenix. Participants can go to the destinations in any order they choose and at any time of day or night. To “travel” you must raise money for gas. The more money you raise, the more places you can visit online.   Besides the opportunity to help dogs and cats who need homes, participants can win prizes, blog about their adventures on their own personal web page and see fantastic photos of the Grand Canyon State.  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
ASPCA Humane Awards
Submit your human, canine, and feline nominations.

Each year, the ASPCA celebrates the important human-animal bond by honoring ten inspiring animals and people who have demonstrated compassion and bravery.

The awards are given to dogs and cats that have demonstrated extraordinary behavior and to people who’ve made a significant impact in the lives of animals in the past year.

Do you know any two or four legged friends who fit the bill? The ASPCA is now taking nominations in the categories of Dog of the Year, Cat of the Year, Kid of the Year, Public Service Award (firefighters, law enforcement officers, etc…), and Other, for the 2010 ASPCA Humane Awards.

Submissions will be accepted until June 30th and the winners will be invited to the Humane Award Luncheon in New York City.

Last year’s winners:

  • Dog of the Year: Archie, an assistance dog and the first canine graduate of the Army Wounded Warriors Program.
  • Cat of the Year: Nora, a piano playing feline and viral You Tube sensation.
  • Kid of the Year: Monica Plumb, 11-year old behind PetMask.com, a web site that raises donations for animal oxygen masks
  • Firefighter of the Year: Chief Mark Duff and members of the Hingham Fire Department, who rescued a Labrador Retriever who fell through thin ice.
  • Law Enforcement Officers of the Year: Tim Rickey and Kyle Held of the Humane Society of Missouri and Terry Mills and Sergeant Jeffrey Heath of the Missouri Highway Patrol for their participation in the largest federal crackdown on dog fighting in U.S. history.
  • ASPCA Henry Bergh Award: Alayne Marker and Steve Smith, founders of Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Ovando, Montana.
  • ASPCA Lifetime Achievement Award: Richard O’Barry, founder of the Dolphin Project, who led a lifelong crusade to free dolphins and educate the world about the plight of dolphins in captivity.

Nominations for this year’s awards can be submitted online through the ASPCA’s web site.

 

News: Guest Posts
AKC’s Change of Heart
An early valentine for mixed breeds

As I wrote in an earlier post, the American Kennel Club will allow mixed breed dogs to participate in events such as agility, obedience and Rally starting April 1, 2010. (Hope the April’s Fool date is not a joke!) The organization--whose new core values embraces all dogs--just announced that mixed breed dogs will no longer compete in a separate class or earn separate titles from purebred dogs. Instead, mutts will now go paw to paw with the pedigrees.

I’m thrilled that my young mixed breed dog can compete at the same shows as my rescue Dalmatians, earn the same titles and be included with the rest of the pedigreed pack. There are a lot of AKC trials in my area, which make them convenient. That said, I will continue to support agility venues like USDAA and NADAC and Rally venues like APDT and C-WAGS because they embraced mixed breeds from day one. We'll also continue to show in disc dog events through UFO and Skyhoundz--the only competitions I’ve experienced where mixed breeds and rescues outnumber the pedigreed purebreds. Participants are always friendly and supportive; it is my hope that long-time AKC competitors will foster that same community spirit.

Can mixed breed dog owners and purebred dog owners literally come together and respect each other’s choice of dog? Please share your thoughts.

News: Guest Posts
Dog Walker Factoid
Guess how much a NYC dog walker can make

According to a weekend story on NPR, dog walkers in New York can gross as much as $200,000 a year--and while the profession is not recession-proof it's proving pretty resilient.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Give A Day, Get A Day
Help animals and get a free ticket to Disney

For 2010, Disney is launching a program that celebrates the spirit of volunteerism by giving free theme park tickets to those who give a day of service in the United States or Canada. 

The goal is to inspire one million people to volunteer in their communities this year. Even better, there are lots of opportunities for dog lovers, including many pet therapy and rescue organizations. 

Disney’s program is a great way to encourage families to volunteer together, while benefiting so many deserving groups. Hopefully many of these partnerships will grow into longer term volunteer commitments. 

To participate, you must sign up through the Disney website and search for a participating organizations. 

When searching, you can specify the Animals & Environment category, although I found that there are some animal-related organizations that don’t come up with that tag. So if you don’t find the organization you’re looking for, search all categories in your area. 

The two opportunities that I’m looking at are Paw Pal Volunteers, a pet therapy group that visits the VITAS Innovative Hospice Care of Waterbury in Middlebury, Conn., and Green Chimneys, an organization that provides education and animal-assisted therapy to children with emotional, behavioral and learning challenges in Brewster, N.Y.

My family was already planning a trip to Orlando, Fla., this spring, so the Give a Day program will be a great way to help an organization in need while saving money on our vacation.

If you’re not planning on visiting Florida or California any time soon, you can donate your ticket to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern California and Central Florida or Dreams Take Flight Canada.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Indoor Fun
Keeping busy when it’s cold outside

The freezing weather and snow have been making me and the dogs a little stir crazy lately, especially now that the holidays have come and gone. 

Here are some of the activities I have lined up to keep the pups busy until the snow melts.

Food Balls and Kongs
An easy way to occupy the dogs is to feed meals in stuffed Kongs or food balls, toys that can be filled with kibble and rolled on the floor to release the treats. 

My Sheltie, Nemo, has gotten quite good at getting kibble out of most treat balls, so I usually use the Nina Ottosson DogPyramid, which is more challenging. The beehive-shaped toy is weighted at the bottom so that it always returns to a standing position.

Nina Ottosson Interactive Toys
Speaking of Nina Ottosson, my crew got a couple of her puzzle toys from Santa this year. There are several different versions, each with varying degrees of difficulty. They require a little more thought than the food balls and are definitely more interesting for the humans to watch!

Tugging
Tugging with your dog is a great way to get lots of energy out--humans included! (I’m always amazed at how tired I feel after a good tugging session). Check out my previous blog for instructions on how to make your own tug toy from an old t-shirt.

Shaping Games
Playing with the clicker is a great relationship-building activity that you can do together. You’ll be surprised how exhausted your pup can get from just using his brain! This doesn’t mean that you have to actively train a new behavior; often it’s better if you don’t have a set outcome in mind. If you’re new to shaping, try the 101 Things to Do with a Box game.

Do you have any favorite indoor activities?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Full Belly for the Holidays
PetParadise coordinates a three-state food drive for needy pets

In March, I wrote about the emergence of pet soup kitchens, whose numbers are growing amid the current economic state. Unfortunately, not all communities have this type of resource available for those in need. 

The multi-state pet boarding and daycare resort, PetParadise, noticed that, across the board, many people were struggling to keep their pets, while donations were down for area rescues. As a result, the company decided to team up with local shelters, food banks, and super markets to coordinate the first annual Food for Paws, a three-state food drive for needy pets during the holiday season. 

The food collected at their Jacksonville, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., locations was given directly to families in need. The donations at their Houston, Tex., location went to Rescue Bank and helped more than 73 area rescue groups.

To increase participation, PetParadise offered a free night of boarding to people who donated 20 pounds of food. Their efforts resulted in over four tons of pet food for hungry pets, an amazing feat, particularly for their first year.

It’s great to see communities come together to help each other out. Food drives, like Food for Paws, not only collect supplies for those in need, but also bring attention to the economy’s effect on pets. Hopefully more companies will be inspired to use their resources to support events like Food for Paws in the future.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
January 2010 Is for the Dogs
It’s National Train Your Dog Month!

They say every dog has its day, but soon they will actually have their own month! The Association for Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) has proclaimed January to be National Train Your Dog Month. This new annual event promotes the benefits of socialization and positive training, which include enhanced and healthier relationships between people and dogs. January is the perfect month for emphasizing training because it is a time for new goals and because so many dogs have just joined new families over the holidays.

  Training is a great way to interact with your dog and to have fun together. It is also essential for keeping your dog (and your home!) safe. Well-trained dogs have better, happier lives because they can be allowed more freedom such as being off leash and getting to go more places. Most of us try new things in January, and training your dog more, or even getting started with training is a great way to kick off the year.

 

News: Guest Posts
AKC’s Latest Controversy
Competitors were reaching for sandbags not glory at Agility Invitational

Every year, the American Kennel Club (AKC) Agility Invitational puts the spotlight on the top five dogs of every AKC-recognized breed, which gives less traditional agility breeds a chance to come out and shine. It's held in Long Grove, Calif., in conjunction with the creme de la creme of conformation and the top obedience teams. You might have seen highlights from years past on Animal Planet. Unfortunately, this video demonstrates how this year’s event went awry. No person and no dog--be it a champion purebred or nontitled mixed breed--should have to endure such disgusting conditions. Doesn’t an “invitational” imply that invitees are to be treated as guests? AKC really disappointed as host of the “party.”

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