News: Guest Posts
Dog clearly communicates his desire to continue walking.
We were in a rush that morning, and though we felt a little guilty about it, the plan was for the morning walk to be just a 10-to-15-minute quickie around the block. The dogs would just have to wait until later in the day for some real exercise. As we rounded the last corner of our block to head home and begin the work day, Marley put the brakes on and resisted the turn. He stood his ground, facing a different direction than the way we wanted to go. I interpreted his action to mean that he was not yet ready to end the outing. I thought he was conveying the sentiment, “Don’t you dare just go around the block and call it a walk.” My husband’s take was that Marley was thinking, “The walk can’t be over. I haven’t even pooped yet!”
We can only guess what was actually going on in his head, but he was able to communicate quite clearly his desire to walk in the direction that did not lead directly home. Marley is an exceptionally agreeable dog, but he is no pushover. He only infrequently objects to something and is extremely easy going, but once in a while he will assert himself to get what he wants. When he doesn’t want to keep running, he lies down and simply does not continue. When he is cozy in a spot that we want to occupy, he becomes dead weight and is resistant to getting up.
I really like this quality in Marley because it’s nice to know what he wants. He doesn’t often express an opinion, but when he does, he makes his desires quite clear. “I want to walk this way.” “I do not want to move.” “That is enough of a workout for me.” He is not pushy, and I would not describe him as stubborn. He simply has his limits, and expresses them on rare occasions. Most of the time he goes with the flow, being more than up for whatever we have in mind, but he is capable of calmly letting us know his preference.
Do you have a laid back dog who lets you know, every once in a while, that he has a strong opinion about what he wants to happen?
In the spring of 1967, I moved to San Francisco and had a couple of months to become acclimated to the West Coast climate—both social and meteorological— before summer hit. Hard to believe that 50 years have passed, but that summer has stayed in my memory. In retrospect, it was a seminal moment, although the magnitude of this cultural watershed wasn’t apparent at the time. Even so, we knew that something was definitely happening here: be-ins; love-ins; and music by the likes of Janis, Jimi and Jerry and a long playlist of others flowing almost nonstop from clubs and parks. I think of that time now not only to mark its golden anniversary but also because, while so much has changed, some societal and political similarities have persisted over the past half-century. Still, for me, it was a great time and place to be a young adult—to actually be there. The good times really did rock (and roll).
Back to the present … I just read a research paper in Science Daily with the intriguing title, “Lifting your spirits doesn’t require many reps,” which concludes that simply getting out of your chair and moving around can reduce depression and lift your spirits. As I was reading it, my three dogs urged me to do just that, barking their need to see what that darn squirrel was up to in our back yard. Even though I was mildly annoyed with them for breaking my concentration, I knew I had something to thank them for. As a bonus, the paper’s lead author, Gregory Panza, observes that the study’s results suggest that the “more is better” mindset may not apply when it comes to the connection between movement and our sense of well being. So, even short bursts of mild activity, like walking around the block with your dog (or chasing them around the yard, as it was in my case), can improve your mood.
To help you tap into some good vibrations this summer, we chose “Journey” as our issue’s theme, trippin’ in both the metaphorical and the literal sense. To start off, we’ve packed this issue full of reasons for you and your dog to get out and about. We have 51 tips —one for each state and the District of Columbia—for exploring with your dogs, from “California to the New York Island,” as Woody Guthrie famously sang. We also give a special nod to the fine city of Austin for its five-star dog friendliness, as well as to New Mexico’s Sunrise Springs Spa Resort, where guests relax while helping with the socialization of future assistance dogs.
If you’re thinking about wandering overseas, you’ll be inspired by Belgian photographer John Thai’s work at Thailand’s Headrock Dogs Rescue, where he contributed his talents during a working “volunteer vacation.” Similar opportunities to help animals in need abound, many in scenically beautiful locales.
For our literature coverage— what would summer be without lots of good reading material?—we travel with author Laura Schenone as she covers the stories and meets the people who started Greyhound rescue in Ireland and beyond. We interview her and excerpt her book, The Dogs of Avalon, a thoroughly enthralling and inspiring read. We dip into our archives to bring back Michelle Huneven’s essay, “Lala the Loot,” from our anthology Dog Is My Co-Pilot. Her story, about a charming little dog whose cuteness inspires others to snatch her, has a happy ending, so be prepared to smile.
In another entry with a journey theme, Laurie Priest tells us how a kayak vacation to Baja California’s Sea of Cortez netted her a honey of a dog, along with an amazingly complicated return trip with the dog to her home in Massachusetts. Dana Shavin’s essay, “There Is Now Only This,” comes with another twist—how being dogless just doesn’t feel right. As she notes, “My meticulous tending to the ever-expanding needs of my dogs became the point of my life. It was what defined me.” Without that, who are we? Finally, our “Backstory” features a man who traveled into outer space with the support of his pups, whom he considered to be his family.
On the department front, Karen London tells us why bite inhibition matters and how it develops; Carin Ford provides pointers on starting a rescue; and Ernest Abel explains how the R.E.A.D. program, which is now in just about every country, came to be. Heather McKinnon gives us another reason to consider getting a doggy-pack for our dog; Erica Goss reveals how research into human color blindness was helped by a Poodle aptly named Retina; Sarah Wooten, DVM, shares new treatments for arthritis; and we interview the star and writer of “Downward Dog,” a new TV comedy we hope hits it big.
In this issue, you’ll find a new short feature, “Dog-eared.” If you’re like me and read a lot, you have no doubt encountered references to dogs in books that are not about dogs at all, perhaps as a refreshing plot turn or as part of a character’s environment. We’ve started collecting these dog-eared finds, and if you run across any you’d like to share with us, we would love to hear about your discovery (be sure to note the source’s title/author/page number). To kick it off, we found the perfect paragraph in Louise Erdrich’s wonderful LaRose; in a very few words, we come to know both characters better (see page 20 in The Bark Summer 2017).
Finally, as always, we have some unforgettable artwork for you to feast your eyes on.
We hope you take a liking to what we’ve put together, and that your own 2017 summer of love goes well. We look forward to connecting up with you again in fall. You can purchase a copy of The Bark Summer 2017 here or subscribe to get all these wonderful articles.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A metro Phoenix community college teacher’s civics assignment wound up helping create a law to aid dogs trapped in hot cars.
Debra Nolen, who teaches ethics, suggested her students find ways to help dogs left behind in locked vehicles.
“I wanted to find a topic for them to learn about civic engagement and social responsibility and this seemed perfect,’’ she said.
Complete newcomers to politics, students and teacher contacted Nolen’s state legislator, John Kavanagh, who had previously supported other animal-welfare laws. He agreed to sponsor their bill and other Arizona animal-rights groups got behind it.
Under the new law, someone who uses “reasonable force” to break into an unattended motor vehicle is not subject to civil damages if there’s a “good faith belief” a child or animal “is in imminent danger of suffering physical injury or death.”
Would-be rescuers must first notify police, medical personnel or, if needed, animal control officers. Then, after entering the vehicle, they must remain until responders arrive.
Previously, Arizona laws weren’t clear if a Good Samaritan could be sued for damaging property while rescuing a trapped animal.
Now, 29 states have some type of a “hot car” law on the books, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Laws vary; some make distinctions between domesticated animals versus livestock; some differentiate between law-enforcement personnel and citizen rescuers.
“In the last few years, there has been an explosion in the number of hot-car laws,’’ said Lora Dunn, director of the criminal justice program for the fund. “There’s greater awareness, people are getting involved and pushing their lawmakers.’’
But it’s not always easy.
Some Arizona legislators questioned why animals warranted the same expectation of protection as humans.
“I actually had one legislator describe pets as ‘chattel’,’’ Nolen said. “I had to tell him how so many people have sacrificed their own well-being on behalf of their pets.’’
Having Arizona’s governor talk up the legislation in his State of the State address helped push it past those ideological obstacles, Kavanagh said. Nolen’s participation too was key, he said. “She was a like a bulldog on this.’’
All part of the learning process, says Nolen. “My kids learned so much from this, how to be active in their communities for good. I look at them and think ‘these are tomorrow’s leaders’.’’
Good Dog: Studies & Research
Siberian hunter-gatherers may have bred canines for pulling sleds and hunting polar bears.
Last month I wrote about how studying dogs gives scientists a unique view into genetics because of the way they’ve been bred by humans. So who were the first people to breed dogs?
Recent evidence now points to the hunter-gatherers of a Siberian Island known as Zhokhov. Populated nine thousand years ago, these people lived in an unforgiving land, hunting polar bears and reindeer in year-round freezing temperatures.
An analysis of canine bones from Zhokhov suggests that these hunter-gatherers were among the first humans to breed dogs for a particular purpose—by thousands of years.
Vladimir Pitulko, an archeologist at the Russian Academy of Scientists, has been excavating Zhokhov since 1989. It’s well known that the island’s hunter-gatherers were using dogs to pull the sleds they used to pursue reindeer, but it wasn’t previously known if they were actually breeding dogs for this purpose.
Now Vladimir believes he has evidence that says that they were. His team of scientists studied the fossil bones of 11 individuals. Ten of the pups weighed between 35-50 pounds and may have resembled Siberian Huskies. The remaining dog weighted 63 pounds and seemed to be a wolf-dog hybrid, perhaps resembling an Alaskan Malamute.
According to Valdimir, good sled dogs typically weight between 44-55 pounds, big enough to pull sleds but won’t overheat like larger dogs. He believes the Zhokhov people bred the smaller dogs for sledding and the larger ones to hunt polar bears. “They were clearly shaping these animals to do something special,” he says. The size grouping is important.
About 7,000 years ago, dogs were used for herding in the Near East, but the wide range of weights in the ancient canines there argues against strictly controlled breeding. Angela Perri, a zooarchaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, believes that different kinds of dogs were mating with each other, producing random litters of puppies. The people there may have selected the most promising sled dogs from those litters but they probably weren’t specifically breeding them.
“It fills in a missing piece of the puzzle of early human-dog relationships, and even domestication itself,” says Angela.
The finding may also shed light on why dogs were domesticated in the first place. Though all scientists don’t agree on when this happened, recent research suggests it was at least 15,000 years ago. This happens to be around the time when Earth was beginning to warm, with large species like mammoths disappearing and smaller migrating animals like reindeer starting to dominate the landscape. Dogs could help hunt down this smaller prey and even provide a way for people to follow them.
“Before then, there was no real reason to have a dog,” says Vladimir. “We turned to them when we really needed them.”
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Were your dog’s DNA results just as unbelievable?
Many members of a local dog group had their dogs’ DNA tested, and one meeting served as the big reveal. Luckily for me, that was the day I had been invited for a Q&A session, because even the introductions were a hoot. Everyone told me their name, and then announced the results of the DNA test of the dog at their feet.
Many of the results were unsurprising. That dog everyone had assumed was a Rottweiler and German Shepherd Cross? Throw in a little Bearded Collie, and that’s just what the test said. The dog that looks exactly like an Irish Setter except that it is black? It is half Lab and half Irish Setter. How about the dog that seemed so impossible to identify that the group couldn’t agree on any likely possibilities? The test came back with breeds nobody had guessed—Plott Hound, Puli, Saint Bernard and Beauceron.
Other results went far beyond surprising and straight into the seemingly impossible. The 90-pound dog that appeared to have some northern breed as its primary source of DNA, but also looked like it had some hound in it? The test said it was half Dachshund, and then a few other small breeds that I can’t remember because the Dachshund part made us laugh so hard it affected our memories. The 25-pound dog that was all white with long hair was reported to be predominantly Portuguese Water Dog with some Great Dane. There was an apparent Terrier mix whose DNA test revealed it to be about half Siberian Husky with some Beagle and a little Shiba Inu.
It’s natural to want to know more about our dog’s genetic heritage, but it’s important to know that these DNA tests are not 100 percent accurate. The evidence suggests that they are not completely reliable, and nobody has been able to validate them to the satisfaction of geneticists. If you want to have your dog tested for fun, that’s fine, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the results are necessarily a true reflection of your dog’s background. Many people have submitted their dog’s DNA to multiple testing companies and received different answers about the dog’s breeds.
I had a dog whose heritage was a mystery. On some days, I didn’t care, figuring, “All that matters is that he is a dog and I love him.” On other days, I felt a desperate yearning to know what he was, and my thoughts strayed more towards themes of, “It’s my life’s quest. I MUST know what breeds of dogs went into him.” I always described him as “Half Black Lab, Half Handsome Stranger” and if he were still alive, I would most definitely pay to find out what the DNA tests had to say about it.
Even with doubts about their accuracy that require one to take the results with some skepticism, I still love to meet dogs and hear the results of their genetic tests. It’s especially fun when the results are unexpected.
Have you received DNA results about the breeds in your dog and found them, um, unlikely?
Good Dog: Studies & Research
Interactions with guardians offer some relief
Veterinary examinations are stressful for dogs, and being stressed is counterproductive to general well-being. We don’t want our dogs to suffer, especially when the purpose of seeing the veterinarian is to help them. Another issue is that the effects of stress—both the behavioral and physiological responses—can make it harder to examine the dog thoroughly and properly diagnosing the dog becomes harder as well.
A recent study examined the effects of contact with the guardian during veterinary exams on the stress levels of the dog. The basic conclusion of the study was that it is beneficial to dogs for their guardians to interact with them with physical contact and verbal communication. Dogs were less stressed by several measures when their guardians interacted with them compared with just having their guardian present in the room.
Every dog was studied during two visits to the veterinarian—one in which the guardian talked to and had physical contact with the dog, and one in which the guardian was present in the room but did not interact with the dog. The canine behaviors observed were panting, vocalizing, attempting to jump off the exam table, struggling, lip licking, yawning and paw lifting. The physiological measures were heart rate, cortisol levels, maximum ocular surface temperature and rectal temperature. All behaviors and physiological measures are associated with stress in dogs.
When guardians were allowed to talk to and pet their dogs (the “contact” condition), the dogs attempted to jump off the table less often and vocalized less than dogs whose guardians were present but not interacting with the dog (the “non-contact” condition). There were no differences in any of the other stress-related behaviors. On the physiological side, dogs in the “contact” condition did not have as large an increase in heart rate or maximum ocular surface temperature as the dogs in the “non-contact” condition did. There were no differences between the two conditions in rectal temperature.
This study offers some encouragement about our ability to make a difference to our dogs’ stress levels when at the veterinarian. The results suggest that interactions with the guardian may be more effective than just the physical presence of the guardian, but the effect is not striking. By many measures, there were no differences. The behavioral measure that did differ—vocalizing and trying to jump off the exam table—may do so because both of those behaviors could be an attempt to make contact with the guardian. Dogs do often vocalize as a response to separation, and dogs who try to jump off the exam table may sometimes do so as an attempt to make contact with their guardians.
News: Guest Posts
Dog's name and age: Lexi, 4 years Adoption Story: After deciding they absolutely needed to have a dog in their life, Lexi's people adopted her through a local rescue group. On the way home, they discussed names and they settled on Lexi as being the one they both loved. Lexi's Person Writes: Lexi is so precious, sweet and adorable that she makes my heart melt. I thank God for her every day that she's in my life. She is my child. My world. I love her so much.
Good Dog: Studies & Research
Research shows that the pesky insects can infect in less than 24 hours.
Earlier this year I wrote about how 2017 is expected to be a risky year for Lyme disease, particularly for the mid-Atlantic and New England areas. If my last hike with my Border Collie, Scuttle, was any indication, ticks are going to be the bane of our existence this summer and fall!
Not only is the problem growing worse in known problem areas, but the reach of tick borne disease is also spreading. Experts have warned veterinarians practicing on the edges of endemic areas, such as the Dakotas and Kentucky, to be aware of encroachment. Western Pennsylvania has already reached endemic status.
In my original article, I wrote about the standard adage that it takes 24-36 hours for a tick to transmit disease. But it turns out that advice may be problematic. A reader brought to my attention a few studies that show disease transmission can happen in far less time.
Researchers from East Carolina University and North Carolina State University scoured the literature to see just how accurate the 24-36 hour guideline was. With approximately 40 tick species in the United States, it would make sense that they all don’t pose the same risk.
One study found that soft ticks (Ornithodoros spp.) could transmit the virus behind Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever to mice in as few as 30 seconds of attachment. Another study found that ticks carrying Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (R. rickettsii) could infect hosts in as little as ten hours.
Much of the research on tick attachment times were conducted on mice, often in studies where multiple ticks were placed on the subjects. So the findings can be hard to compare. However, given the variable virus transmission times, I think the 24-36 hour guide may give us a false sense of security. With the severe forecast for 2017, we must be extra vigilant about guarding ourselves and our pups against ticks.
News: Guest Posts
Let’s celebrate dogs like Lassie instead of like Marley
There’s no doubt that a certain amount of impishness can be delightful, and it’s easy to be amused by it. For example, many people have understandably laughed at Marley’s escapades in the book or the movie he inspired. Yet, I think it is really important to keep in mind that what we are laughing at—destructiveness, pulling on the leash, eating jewelry, greeting people by putting paws on their shoulders and running away—is actually straight-up undesirable behavior.
It has become increasingly common in the dog world to excuse ill-mannered dogs who lack any kind of training skills by saying they are just like Marley. It’s as though that validates the behavior, making it not just acceptable, but enchanting. Often, guardians who use this excuse could improve the dog’s behavior with some effort and education, but they don’t bother. Instead, they seem to find any obnoxious (or even dangerous) behavior hysterical. It’s an unfortunate cultural development to value behavior stemming from bad manners and a lack of training. Regrettably, it is has become some kind of competition about whose dog is the worst and most incorrigible, to the point that many people aspire to having a dog who acts “like Marley”.
It’s not that I expect dogs to be perfect or that I expect guardians to act as professional trainers in all their free time or raise a model dog. I’ve seen plenty of dogs do things that I wish they wouldn’t and understand all too well how hard it is to teach dogs to be polite canine citizens. I also get that although many dogs are generally good and can learn to be reasonably calm and well-behaved with even a little training, it is much harder for some dogs. There are plenty of dogs who have impulse control issues, and whose natural behavior doesn’t lend itself to high praise. That doesn’t bother me, and I enjoy dogs who struggle to be their very best selves as well as dogs who are naturally easy keepers. Marley was the most rambunctious puppy in the litter and suffered an extreme fear of thunderstorms, so it’s unfair for anyone to claim that Marley’s issues could have been resolved with simple training. It’s also true that more training would have helped.
Although absurd situations based on dreadful behavior are bound to happen, we shouldn’t accept such incidents as the best and most fun part of life with dogs. The occasional story of generally nice dog having an “oops” moment can certainly provide a good laugh. It’s normal to tell tales that begin, “Well, there was this one time. . .” What’s not normal is having all the stories about a dog be about something horrible. Such stories should be the exception rather than the descriptions of a dog’s day-to-day actions.
Sure, if a dog runs into the clothesline one time and races through the neighborhood in a panic dragging towels across everyone’s gardens, that can become a good story. However, if there are a dozen stories from the last month or so about similar incidents, that’s a problem. If your neighbors all think, “Oh, no! What now?” when they see your dog—once again—off leash, out of control and being destructive, it should be more alarming than funny to all of us.. There is a high risk of harm to dogs who bolt out the front door, ingest inedible items or destroy household objects, among other “bad” behaviors.
I object to the glorification of impolite, out-of-control behavior, and celebrating the most devilish aspects of our canine friends. It can be tiresome to have people find it endlessly charming when dogs are not trained and have bad manners, especially when the humor aspect is used as an excuse not to teach their dog how to behave in an acceptable manner. The Bark Magazine co-founder and editor-in-chief Claudia Kawczynska receives many submissions about “dogs who are worse than Marley” and detailing situations the people invariably call hilarious. It’s common for people to describe the incidents as being scenarios much like those Marley got himself into, but point out that the dog in this story is “even worse” than Marley. Many of these pitches reveal guardians who are uninterested in training and have no knowledge of how to teach their dogs anything, including basic manners. The result is a lot of untrained and ill-mannered dogs doing things that aren’t funny at all. In part because of the success of Marley and Me—both the book and the movie—dreadful behavior has not just been excused, but celebrated.
I wish good canine manners were more interesting to people than bad canine manners, the occasional story of mischief by a generally well-behaved dog notwithstanding. I’d like to see more people brag about their dog’s stay, their new trick, how they greet visitors, or any other example of training and good social skills rather than about problem behavior. It may very well be the dog trainer in me, but I remain hopeful that there are a lot of us out there who are more charmed by good behavior and good manners than by bad behavior and bad manners.
Dog's Life: Humane
The state makes a big step towards ending discrimination against breeds like Pit Bulls.
Last week Delaware Governor John Carney signed a bill that prohibits cities in the state from enacting breed specific legislation. The law, introduced by Representative Charles Potter and State Senator David Sokola, stipulates that state regulations protecting the public from dangerous dogs cannot define criminal liability based solely on breed specific criteria. Determining whether a dog is dangerous or not will be based on the individual's behavior, not by breed. This means that cities and other municipalities can't enact any breed-specific ordinances or regulations. Animal control teams and shelters also won't be allowed to discriminate against certain breeds for the purposes of facilitating adoption.
"The passage of HB 13 is a resounding victory for dogs and dog lovers, not only in Delaware but across the country, as the momentum against breed discriminatory legislation continues to build," said Best Friends Animal Society legislative attorney Lee Greenwood. "The simple truth is that breed discrimination doesn't work and the safest laws focus on the behavior of the dog and the dog owner."
Other states with similar legislation include New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Arizona. These laws prevent local governments from creating breed-specific legislation, but doesn't mean that bully breeds are welcomed everywhere in these states.
For instance, as Sassafras Lowrey wrote last week, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which manages the nations oldest and largest public housing program, has had a breed specific ban for their low income apartments since 2009. New York State Assemblyman and Pit Bull adopter, Ken Zebrowski, is spearheading legislation that would make this illegal, preventing landlords in public housing from discriminating against specific breeds.
Nevertheless, Delaware's new law is a huge step in the right direction!
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