Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Animal and government organizations team up to put an end to a dog-fighting ring
Cracking down on dog-fighting is difficult due to the secretive nature of the "sport" and the money at stake. Since it's usually tied to other criminal activity, people are often reluctant to pass on information to authorities.
Given the challenges, I'm happy to report that after a three year investigation, a power team of animal and government organizations came together to successfully pull off the second largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history on Friday.
It was a team effort by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and local law enforcement.
When people think about dog fighting, many think of a small operation in a dark alley. But this dog-fighting ring stretched from Alabama into Georgia and Texas. It was not uncommon for bets to reach $200,000 on a single fight. There was a lot on the line and it took a long, well planned mission to put an end to the illegal activities.
Rescuers found 367 dogs along with guns, narcotics, and training supplies. 114 pups alone were saved from a single yard where they were left tethered in 90-degree weather without food or water. To give you an idea of the "medical care" these dogs received, there were several staple guns uncovered that, believe it or not, were used to seal wounds received from fighting.
The dogs have already begun to work with behaviorists on the long path to adoption. But the rehabilitation process will be well worth it. Former fighting dogs have went on to become therapy dogs, law enforcement partners, and beloved family pets.
Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations for HSUS, expects this raid to have a significant effect on large scale dog-fighting operations. Lets hope this is a big step towards ending this cruel "sport."
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Raising money searching for a dog star
Bark! The Musical has been a success any way you measure it. It has been nominated for many awards, its critical reception has been favorable and it has been a financial victory for those associated with it. The show tells the story of six dogs spending a typical day at Deena’s Doggie Day Care. The dogs are all unique personalities ranging from a puppy who wants to bark like a big dog and a rapping mutt who loves to dress as a chihuahua.
At a typical show, there is information about animals available for adoption outside the theater. Rescue groups and humane societies set up booths in the lobby with photographs of local dogs who need homes. Many happy adoptions have resulted from these efforts.
Since its Los Angeles premiere in 2004, the show has helped raised over a quarter or a million dollars for animal charities of various kinds. Everywhere the show has been staged, the tradition of fundraising for animals has continued. The show will be appearing in South Dakota this fall and their work to raise money for dogs began long before opening night.
Their fundraiser is in the form of a photo contest for local dogs. For a fee, people can have their dogs professionally photographed. One of the dogs who is photographed will be chosen to appear on the promotional poster for the production. All of the money raised in the “auditions” to be the face of the show will be donated to the Siouxland Humane Society.
If you’ve seen Bark! The Musical, please share your thoughts about it.
News: Guest Posts
Every time I bring a new dog into my home, I realize I go through the same emotions: excitement, expectation, love, fear, confusion and eventually calm. It is a rollercoaster made more difficult by the fact I tend to bring home shelter dogs that often turn out to be not quite the dogs I thought they were. Few things are more rewarding than being able to adopt a rescue dog; though they often do come with some unique challenges. Their lives have been turned upside-down, they are scared and are often coming out of a situation that was intimidating and uncomfortable. When you bring them home, be prepared for the transition period. It can take rescue dogs days to months to realize they are in a safe and loving environment. After working through it myself and talking numerous clients through adventures with new dogs over the years, the following are some lessons learned.
Get your house ready. Pick up all the things you love most and put them away in a safe place for a few months. This will set you and your new dog up for success. You don't know if you are getting a dog that loves to chew, and often you may not know until they truly get comfortable. Keep your clothes, shoes and other cherished items off the floor and out of reach.
Use a crate. Even if you work from home, eventually there will come a time when you need to leave your new dog home alone. Crate training your new dog is one of the best ways to ensure that upon your return, the house will be intact and your pup will be safe.
Buy different types of toys. There are many different toys available to add entertainment and stimulation into dogs’ lives. Stock up on safe toys for your new dog to chew that can stand up to intense chewing. You also may want to try stuffed animals, squeaky toys or interactive dog toys. Be sure to keep a close eye on your dog whenever you introduce new toys. Determine if the toy is right for your dog before leaving him unattended. No toy is indestructible!
Remember, your new dog is adjusting to a major life change and is bound to be a bit unnerved. There are also many things you can avoid doing in an effort to make his transition easier.
Don't plan on running out to the closest dog park or dog daycare the week you bring him home. Realize that your dog needs time to adjust and you need time to learn what your new dog likes and wants. Give yourselves a month together to explore his personality so you can find situations that will work best for your dog.
Try to plan on having your dog in your home for at least a month before taking any trips that will call for him to be boarded. If you know you have a big trip in the works, wait until after the trip to look for your new family member. This will allow you and him time to bond and learn to trust one another.
Realize that your dog is likely to change a lot over those first few months after you bring him home. As dogs get more comfortable in an environment their true selves start to shine thru. Take the changes as they come and remember that this is their way of showing that they know they are home to stay!
Kim Hormby provides strategic consulting services for pet business owners interested in improving or starting a pet-related organization. She is also the owner and founder of Stay Pet Hotel, a boutique hotel for dogs in Portland, Oregon.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Finding Rover uses facial-recognition technology to reunite lost dogs
Imagine being able to take a photo of a stray dog and instantly finding the person looking for him--without even leaving the spot where you took the picture.
A new free app called Finding Rover promises to do just that through facial-recognition technology and a growing profile database. John Polimento was inspired to create Finding Rover after a lost dog poster brought back memories of how distressed his family was when their own pup was missing.
John teamed up with software developers at the University of Utah to create an algorithm called Pet Match. The program uses machine learning and computer vision to detect a dog's unique differentiating features, such as eye shape and fur color. Because of their fur, it's much harder to apply facial-recognition technology to canines than humans.
Once you submit a photo of your dog, their profile is added to the database and can be matched with pictures of lost pups. The better the photo, the more accurate the results. John claims that with a good picture, your dog will come up 95 percent of the time out of 100 dogs of the same breed.
The app has features to help capture searchable images, such as a bark noise to get dogs to look at the phone's camera and movable circles to focus the eye and nose data search points. It took me a few tries to get a decent picture!
If you find a lost dog, you can still take a picture at a distance and search for matches, it just won't be as precise. You can also view all missing and found pets in your area by list or map. In just a few weeks Finding Rover has already helped several pups find their way back home.
Finding Rover has great potential to help reunite pups with their families. The app makes it quick and easy to search for potential matches, hopefully encouraging more people to report stray pets. I can see this revolutionizing how animals are found, as long as enough people create profiles for the database to be valuable. Right now there doesn't seem to be much activity in my area.
Believe it or not, a version for cats is in the works and should be available in about six months!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Procedure necessary after ingesting rat poison
Rory the cat can claim that dogs are his best friend, too, or at least that one particular dog is. When Rory was in dire need of a blood transfusion, Macy the Labrador retriever was rushed to the vet to donate and that saved Rory’s life.
Rory the cat had consumed rat poison and his life was at risk. Due to bad luck, Rory had eaten the poison too late in the day on Friday for the lab to be able to determine the type of blood needed to ensure a match. The wrong type of blood could cause Rory to die, but the veterinarian treating Rory found out that there was a chance of saving Rory if he was given a transfusion of canine blood.
Rory’s guardian contacted Macy’s guardian, who is a good friend, and that’s how Macy came to be the life-saving blood donor. The procedure was not without risk. The canine blood could have killed Rory, but he certainly would have died without it. Cat’s antibodies don’t react to canine blood at first exposure, which is why the blood transfusion worked. The transfusion gave Rory enough time to replace the red blood cells he needed to recover. He’s doing well and Macy is just fine, too.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Livestock guardian pups protect endangered cats by driving them away
Livestock guardian dogs have long been used to protect farm animals--and even penguins!-- from dangerous predators. In Namibia, Africa, Anatolian Shepherd Dogs and Kangals watch over flocks of goats and sheep, but also indirectly help the endangered cheetah. Over 95 percent of Namibia's cheetahs live on livestock farmland due to environmental pressures. Although the big cats are a protected species in this country, farmers are allowed to kill any threat to their animals. In the 1980's alone 10,000 cheetahs (the current total worldwide population) were killed or moved off farms. The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) believes that most of the killings were by farmers. In response, CCF started the Livestock Guarding Dogs Program to provide Anatolian Shepherd Dogs and Kangals to protect sheep and goats, while easing the conflict between farmers and cheetahs. The Livestock Guarding Dogs Program has resulted in an 80 to 100 percent decrease in livestock losses and less retaliation against cheetahs. In the last 19 years, around 450 dogs have been placed with farmers. Cheetah numbers hit a low of 2,500 in 1986, but has since reached about 3,000 in Namibia, the largest remaining wild cheetah population in the world. Now there is a waiting list for the dogs and the program has expanded to other countries. Unfortunately cheetahs still face threats on game ranches and cattle farms where the dogs are not suited. The livestock guardian dogs do their job with little violence. They're not trained to chase or attack and instead use barking and posture to scare predators away. Cheetahs are not normally aggressive and will usually quickly retreat from a noisy dog. The Livestock Guarding Dog Program is such a creative way to protect an endangered species. If you'd like to help out, visit the CCF web site to sponsor a dog. The program costs over $40,000 a year to breed and care for the pups.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
White House releases official statement
“We don’t support breed-specific legislation.” So begins an official statement from the White House. Breed-specific legislation includes any law or regulation that restricts which dogs people can have based on their breed. The most common breed to be banned is the pit bull. The statement goes on to mention research showing that breed-specific legislation is essentially ineffective at preventing dog bites and injuries, and that it is a waste of the public’s resources. The official statement is presumably a response to an online petition that requests a ban at the federal level on laws that target dogs based on their breed.
It has not been possible to determine accurately bite rates by breeds, and in the absence of reliable data, perceptions are often skewed towards whatever is reported in the media rather than the actual number of bites. At various times, certain breeds have had serious PR problems, and it changes over the years. Decades ago it was rottweilers and doberman pinschers who seemed to face the most discrimination. Now it’s pit bulls who are most often assumed by many to be dangerous just because of what they look like, and not based on any information about specific individuals and their behavior.
The statement from the White House supports the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation that in order to improve public safety, we are better off with a community-based approach to dog bite prevention. The laws about dangerous dogs that deal with individuals who have a history of aggressive behavior are far more sensible than bans on entire breeds of dogs. Dogs vary greatly in their behavior and that variation is substantial within all breeds.
Our society has come a long way in stopping discrimination against people based on appearance, origin and who they are related to. It’s encouraging that we are moving in that direction when it comes to dogs, too. I’m so pleased about this big step towards eliminating discriminatory legislation. What’s your take on it?
Dog's Life: Humane
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Wallace the Pit Bull today. Wallace was a former shelter dog who had “issues” and spent a long time in a kennel. Thankfully a shelter volunteer and his wife took a chance on Wallace and adopted the problem dog. They spent a great deal of time working with him and he later became a champion Frisbee dog, winning many competitions and becoming an ambassador for Pit Bulls. A delightful book was written about Wallace’s transformation from unwanted dog to adored champion (Wallace. By Jim Gorant). Wallace passed away at a great old age, comforted by those who loved him, after a long and happy life.
As I walked through the shelter today I was struck, as I always am, by the number of wonderful dogs waiting hopefully behind the chain link. Many of them stare eagerly as I walk by, wagging their tails harder and harder the closer I get. Some are terrified and huddle at the back of the kennel, glancing at me furtively. A few are quite aggressive but most of them respond to a kind word and the offer of a cookie. The only difference between most of these dogs and Wallace is a person. One person willing to do whatever it takes to give that dog the life he or she deserves.
Shelter dogs are not flawed or bad. They just need someone to teach them how to behave and to manage them in such a way that they are set up to win. Most dogs will become a problem if allowed to roam or bark incessantly. I recently had a case involving an adolescent Great Pyrenees who barked day and night in the owner’s backyard until the neighbors complained. On investigating, I learned that the owners liked the dog but didn’t understand a dogs needs. The pup had food, water and shelter but they didn’t ever take him out of the yard. He didn’t come in the house, didn’t go for walks or have any kind of enrichment in his life. This puppy wasn’t a bad dog; he was just desperate for company. The owners surrendered the puppy to the shelter and he was adopted soon after. What a wonderful feeling it was to see that beautiful puppy leave with an adoptive family who understood his need for companionship, direction and exercise.
How I wish that every dog had the chance for a life like Wallace had. It wasn’t always easy, but Wallace’s family did whatever it took to help Wallace succeed.
I would love to hear from readers that were able to turn a “problem” dog into a happy pet. Tell me about your dog and how you did it.
When Andrew Sullivan’s Beagle, Dusty, passed away a couple of weeks ago he wrote a very moving piece about her at that time. Now he is writing about how his other Beagle, Eddy, has responded to this loss. Again, in a very touching, observant manner.
“Her demeanor shifted to sadness and quiet. She didn’t just leave her food around to eat at leisure; she stopped eating in the morning altogether. It was almost as tough as getting her to eat in the evening as well. On walks, she trailed behind, moving slowly, tugging at the end of a long leash, as if not really wanting to go anywhere. It happened after about a week – perhaps because that was when it became unmistakable that Dusty wasn’t just away for a bit – but was, in fact, never coming back.”
I certainly believe that dogs can grieve, as well as possessing the full range of emotional expression as we have—it just might be more difficult for us to translate theirs. As another post on Sullivan's The Dish site noted:
"The 17th century English philosopher Anne Conway argued that the differences between humans and other creatures were “finite” differences—differences of degree and intensity. There is no infinite difference between creatures that makes another’s form of life wholly and eternally incomprehensible. Whoever can’t see that something sort of like “justice” functions in the animal world, Conway argued, “must be called completely blind.”
A few years ago when Bark’s “founding” dog, Nellie (a Beagle/Border Collie mix) died, Lenny, our 14-year-old Terrier, went into a tailspin. I feared that he too would soon leave us, dying of a broken heart. Like Sullivan’s dog, he stopped eating and simply wouldn’t respond to my attempts at consoling. It didn’t take me long to realize that Lenny missed having a pack mate and there was little that a human substitute could do. So we quickly decided to get him, and us, another dog. That is when our rescue Pointer, Lola came into our lives, and turned out to be the magic pill for Len—not only did he perk up almost immediately, but he seemed to drop years in a blink. It wasn’t that he liked Lola all that much, but she added a necessary foil for him to maneuver around. He had a new motivation to live and since Lola was more concerned with “environmental matters,” as is the wont of sporting dogs, he got to trail after her in those pursuits. He went on to live another 4 years, and passed away in my arms at 18.
I’m sure that you too have experienced this, not just a dog grieving for the loss of another dog (or other family member), but how a new dog can provide just the right antidote to the “other” dog. Let me know your thoughts.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New research works on communication between working pups and their handlers
Most days I feel like I have a good idea of what my dogs are thinking (and it usually involves food and tennis balls!). After living with an animal for so long, you develop ways of communicating, even if you don't speak the same language. But there are also many times when I wish my dogs could tell me exactly what they want or how they're feeling, and vice versa.
What animal lover didn't watch the Pixar animated film, Up, and wish they had one of those collars that allowed the dogs to converse with the humans? It may seem like something out of science fiction, but it's exactly the kind of technology that a team at Georgia Tech is trying to develop.
The project, led by Dr. Melody Jackson, is called FIDO for Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations, The team is trying to develop wearable technology to make it easier for assistance and military dogs to communicate with their handlers.
Dr. Jackson is a director at Georgia Tech's BrainLab, as well as an assistance puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence. She has been trying to understand brain signals through sensors to use the information to build computer interfaces for people with disabilities. Dr. Jackson came up with the idea to combine wearable technology with working pups while collaborating with Thad Starner, a member of her team who worked on Google Glass, the infamous “computer glasses.".
In their prototype, the dog would wear a vest with sensors that interpret behavior and send communication signals to people. For the past several months, Dr. Jackson's team has been testing the sensors, which are linked to both natural and trained behaviors that would allow the dogs to have a larger and more specific vocabulary. The next step will be to connect these sensored behaviors with something meaningful, such as spoken words.
The goal is to help working dogs communicate more effectively. For instance, military dogs who previously could only give a general bomb warning could tell their handlers what type of bomb they're detecting. A seeing eye dog would not only be able to alert their handler to an obstacle ahead, but communicate what needs to be done to get past the obstacle.
The team believes that the possibilities are endless. What do you wish your dog could tell you?
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