For those of you who missed seeing this before (I count myself as one of them), this is truly a classic tribute from one of the most memorable actors of our time. Be prepared, it is hard not to get choked up watching this!
News: Guest Posts
Just what are they smelling?
Here’s what I want: a device on the end of a long stick that detects scents on the ground, displaying on a smart phone-like screen in my hand what the scent is, breaking it down like a dog’s brain does. In other words, I want to know what my dogs’ noses know, without using my own nose to figure it out.
This idea came to me recently after observing a common set of behaviors while walking my dogs. We’ve all been there: we’re walking along and want to keep moving, but our dogs come to a screeching halt to smell something on the ground, the grass, a tree, a fence, a hydrant. You tug on their leash and encourage them to come along, but they dig all four paws in, refusing to lift their noses away until they’ve fully investigated the scent, learning all information each particle imparts.
Here’s what happened on that walk. First, I take Maia and Meadow, my two Malamutes on what I call The Old Ladies Stroll through my neighborhood. After passing a man near a bank— “Whoa! Awesome dogs!” he says after being startled by us—both dogs pull me toward a shrub in the bank’s parking lot landscaping. Earlier on this walk, I marveled how these two dogs will put their noses side by side to smell something interesting. Normally, they rarely invade each other’s personal space (it’s a Malamute thing), but when there’s a scent to detect, those rules go out the door and they’ll literally go nose-to-nose to get to the richest source of a scent.
This bank shrub held more than normal appeal. The girls pull quite forcefully to get to it. First they sniff high, noses on the small leaves. Then they simultaneously work down to the trunk, angling their heads under the lowest branches and spending a good 30 seconds inhaling deeply and repeatedly. Finally they sniff the dirt about four inches from the trunk, where a couple of old cigarette butts litter the space.
I observe this much detail because I’m aware that the man in front of the bank is watching us closely. I want the girls to keep moving, but this particular scent source is just too compelling.
After thoroughly inhaling all important scents on or near the shrub, the girls—as one—lift their heads and take a few steps along the sidewalk. Then Maia steps back onto the dirt and pees.
This sort of behavior fascinates me. I always wonder what the scents they’re attracted to are telling them about the world. Surely there’s information I might also be interested in, if only I could discover and interpret it as they do.
An hour later, I’m walking my Aussie Finn along the same route. We pass the bank (the man is gone), and Finn pulls me over to the same shrub, almost as forcefully as the girls did. He gives it an identical work over—first high up, closely scrutinizing the leaves, then moving down to the trunk, really inhaling deeply, finally coming to the spot on the dirt where the cigarette butts are. Finn doesn’t live by his nose to the same extent that the girls always have, so I realize that this particular shrub has some very interesting scent stories to tell. I’m really feeling left out.
Finn finishes collecting data and steps away from the shrub. A couple of strides down the sidewalk, he stops, briefly sniffs the adjacent dirt, and pees—right where Maia had.
I don’t want to actually smell everything my dogs find olfactorily fascinating. I have no interest in the scent of canine hind ends. Sometimes I’m aghast at the scents my dogs find so appealing that they smear them on their cheek or shoulder like a slimy version of dog perfume: dead and decomposing animals or fish are perennial favorites. (Why, oh why do they like having those particular scents – that are so awful to our sensibilities—on their coat? Depending on locale of application, the freshly applied perfume can make for an excruciatingly long and odiferous car ride home!) In other instances, the girls follow their noses to deer or elk bones strewn in the forest by scavengers, the bones clean enough to be odorless to me but sufficiently smelly to them to be prized treasure hunt discoveries they delight in showing off.
And I will be forever grateful that Maia can detect the scent of bears in the woods wafting through the air, warning me with her body language to change direction so that we see them only from afar.
No, what I would really love to know is what my dogs are detecting and discerning when they stop to smell an interesting scent on the ground in our neighborhood, something I can’t see or smell but tells a local story. Imagine how much richer our own experience of life would be if we could obtain the same information our dogs do on our walks—the gender, health and mood of neighborhood dogs and people and how recently they came this way; whether a cat, raccoon, coyote or other critter has recently been through; how long that road kill squirrel has been dead—simply by hovering a small electronic smelling device over a spot on the ground and reading an interpretation of the information on a screen in our hand. Of course, unless my fantasy scent sensible device works like a metal detector, pinging as it gets near certain odors, we’ll still need our canine companions to lead the way, showing us with their own noses where the good stuff lays.
What interesting smells—good, neutral, or horrible—have your dogs led you toward recently?
News: Karen B. London
New product reacts to your mood
Tail envy may not be the talk of many psychiatric conversations, but there’s a new product to deal with it, anyway. The company Neurowear has created a tail that responds to a person’s emotional state. This clip on tail is called “Shippo” and moves as your mood dictates. If you are happy or excited, it will wag, but if you are calm and contemplative, the tail simply hangs down.
Shippo uses the same technology that medical equipment utilizes in the measurement of brain activity, including the patterns that indicate seizures. With a sensor on the forehead to measure electricity, a clip on the ear to detect the pulse, a motor in the tail itself, and communication between the sensors and the tail via Bluetooth, it’s a pretty complex toy.
They may not make important medical devices that save lives, but Neurowear’s creative use of technology can do a lot for our quality of life. Who among the dog-loving population has not wished to have a tail, at least every once in a while? If I had the choice, I would love to have a Great Dane’s type of tail. I have such fond memories of childhood when the otherwise gentle Danes I loved would clear a coffee table of everything with one casual wag. It always made me laugh.
What kind of tail would you choose?
Wellness: Health Care
Part 3 in 4 part guide
Welcome back for part three in our four-part DIY physical exam! This week we are going to move down to the chest area, known as the thorax.
NECK, CHEST AND BREATHING:
The skin is one of the body’s major organs and it is an important indicator of overall health. The first things to do are to simply look at, smell, and feel your dog’s skin and haircoat.
SKIN TURGOR TEST:
The skin turgor test is one of the most helpful ways to determine whether your pet is well hydrated; although this test can be affected by several factors other than hydration status, such as weight loss, age and general skin condition, it can help you to make a rough determination of the hydration status. To perform this test, pull up the skin over the neck or back into “a tent” and release it quickly: it should return quickly to its resting position. If the skin returns slowly to position, or if remains slightly tented, then this is a good indication that your pet is dehydrated.
That sums up the thorax region of our pets, including one of the other major organs—the skin. Keep practicing your physical exam skills—it’s definitely a win/win for your dog! Not only does your pet get a good “once over” from you, he or she gets even more hands-on attention in the process. See you next week as we move to the last parts of the body which will include the abdomen and musculoskeletal system.
Check out DIY Physical Exam: Part 2 of this series if you missed it. Go on the next final part, DIY Physical Exam: Part 4.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Saving a shelter dog
I’ve always felt that the best way to remember a beloved dog is to rescue another dog in need. I was missing my previous rescued Doberman when a friend who knows that I have a soft spot for them sent me a photo. It was of a Doberman scheduled for euthanasia in a shelter in southern California, many hours away. The dog was a black female of maybe 3 or 4 years old. The sweet face appealed to me and I requested more information. I was told that she was friendly and had come in as a stray. She had a microchip going back to Oaxaca, Mexico and the unfortunate name of “Slash” but the owner never claimed her and no one came to adopt her.
I agreed to foster her and waited to hear back. On a Thursday I heard that she had to be pulled by the next day or she would be euthanized. I had no way to pick her up until Sunday as I had to work and there was no one to cover me. I offered to give the shelter a credit card or whatever it took to hold her. The response: “You don’t understand. We want to help but there is no room. She will be euthanized Friday unless she’s picked up by closing.”
It was a sad reality to hear that this shelter was so overcrowded that friendly, healthy dogs were being euthanized. It was a frantic scramble to try and find a way to save the dog. I would have driven there after work but they would be closed. It was a long shot for a dog that I hadn’t even been able to evaluate but I made a bunch of phone calls and fretted.
Finally one of the rescues got back to me with the news that a nearby kennel would board the dog for $10 a night and a rescue transport could bring her part way up to Northern California on Sunday. I was also asked to pick up a Pit Bull who had also been scheduled for euthanasia and had a foster home waiting. We met on interstate Hwy 5 at a gas station on a desolate stretch of barren freeway.
The rescue driver snapped a lead on “Slash” and brought her out. The dog greeted me eagerly, her stump of a tail wiggling with delight. I was thrilled with her sweet temperament and confident friendliness. Her coat was dull and she was thin but I knew that was easily remedied. The Pit Bull was a sweetheart as well and I walked them both before loading them into crates in my station wagon and starting the long drive back. As I glanced at the Dobie in the rear view mirror I decided to change her name to Breeze.
I dropped off the Pit with her foster family and when I got home I took Breeze out into my fenced pasture and let her loose. She began racing huge joyful circles around the field, darting back to give me kisses before she was off again. As the sun set over the trees I glanced at my watch and realized that she and the sweet little Pit Bull would have been dead by then if not for the combined efforts of a lot of people. My eyes filled with tears as I continued to watch her run.
I introduced Breeze to my complicated family of teens, husband, elderly house-mate and other dogs. She couldn’t have been any sweeter with soft playful body language and a constantly wagging tail. She also had an endearing habit of carrying her stuffed toys, her “babies” everywhere she went. I was absolutely smitten.
The only snag was introducing Breeze to the cats. She had major cat issues and those took a lot of work to overcome and manage. She is such a truly wonderful dog in every other way though that it’s been more than worth it and she became a permanent member of our family. Every time I watch her racing joyfully on the beach, playing with the other dogs or feel her sweet head on my lap, I’m thankful she’s alive.
I’m so grateful to all the people who spent their valuable time making it happen. My friend who sent me Breeze’s photo and made rescue arrangements, the overburdened shelter workers, the woman who agreed to board her for two nights and the people who transported her on their own time all had a hand in saving this wonderful girl’s life. For those of us who think dogs are one of our greatest treasures on earth, it’s time well spent.
We would like to extend a hearty, and non-expletive, congrats to Jon Stewart and the whole crew and cast of The Daily Show for snagging another Emmy last night. This latest award marks the tenth year in a row for this comedic “faux” news program, truly an amazing feat somewhere along the lines of DiMaggio’s hitting streak. We happen to think that The Daily Show has discovered a secret formula for popular success that includes their wide open-door policy shown to their office pooches. So their 10th Emmy isn’t the only award bestowed upon them this year, they also grabbed The Bark’s Best Place to Work (in the World) Award. If you missed our behind-the-scenes look at this canine paradise, check out our article.
News: JoAnna Lou
A Golden Retriever succumbs to heatstroke en route to S.F.
Maggie Rizer, best known for gracing the covers of Elle, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar, has made it her mission to get the word out on the dangers of flying pets.
Two weeks ago, Maggie was traveling from New York to San Francisco with her two dogs. Tragically, Bea, her two-year old Golden Retriever, did not make it through the flight, despite Maggie taking every possible precaution. She chose United Airlines for their Pet Safe program, got the necessary pre-flight health clearances, bought special kennels, and even drove six hours from their vacation home to New York City so the dogs wouldn’t have to make a connecting flight.
According to Maggie, the United employees showed little compassion for Bea’s death and even lied to her about the whereabouts of Bea’s body while they figured out how to handle the liability. United’s internal investigation claims that they did nothing wrong since none of the other pets on board died. Maggie’s veterinarian claims otherwise. He performed an autopsy and concluded that Bea died of heatstroke—a horrible and preventable death.
Flying with pets makes me very nervous and hearing about Bea is heartbreaking. This story also comes at a time when many of my friends are flying with their dogs to agility nationals in Colorado. Some people are able to drive, but many live too far and can’t take the days off from work to be able to do so.
Maggie took every precaution that I would have taken to ensure her pets’ safety. I’ve heard good things about the Pet Safe program, which was adopted by United Airlines when they merged with Continental. This tragic story just shows that no matter how good an airline’s pet program is, flying animals in cargo will never be 100 percent safe. It’s a shame that there isn’t a safer alternative to travel with pets on major airlines (specialized companies like Pet Airways don’t cover all areas of the country). I know that there are challenges for accommodating pets on planes, but I hope one day that airlines will figure out a way where pets can fly safely.
News: JoAnna Lou
UPenn to find out what makes up a superstar sniffer dog
Working canines use their amazing noses to help us do everything from finding explosives to detecting cancer. Raising and training these dogs takes a lot of time and money, so people are always looking for ways to increase the likelihood of successful dogs.
In Korea, the Customs Service started cloning star drug detection dogs due to their costly breeding program. Only 10-15 percent of puppies pass the behavior test just to quality for training, and only 30 percent of those dogs graduate from the program.
In the United States, the University of Pennsylvania’s Vet Working Dog Center is now setting out to study genetics and behavior in a program designed to develop superior scent dogs.
Seven puppies were donated by breeders-- two Chocolate Labradors, Thunder and Papa Bear; three Yellow Labradors, Socks, Sirius and Morgan; a Golden Retriever, Bretagne, and a female Dutch Shepherd, Kaiserin. They’re all named after brave 9/11 search dogs and will live with foster families when they’re not at the Center.
For the next two years, researchers will collect and analyze genetic, behavioral, and physical data to understand what makes a successful scent dog. The information will be used to build a breeding program to produce superstars--better search and rescue canines, better drug sniffing pups, and even better cancer detection dogs!
News: JoAnna Lou
Four dogs died in a two-day span after walking in the park
My Sheltie, Nemo, is always on the hunt for a snack, so I’m always worried that he’ll eat something bad. I take all sorts of precautions, like checking hotel room floors for abandoned medication and watching Nemo like a hawk when we’re on walks. But it’s impossible to see everything that goes into his mouth.
When I lived in Manhattan, I was always worried about rat poison left to control the rodent population. So I was horrified to learn that four dogs died in my old Upper West Side neighborhood from a toxin, possibly left to intentionally harm them. A dog lover’s worst nightmare.
During a two-day span in July, a Chihuahua, terrier mix, French Bulldog mix, and Shih Tzu starting seizing, vomiting, and frothing at the mouth after walking in Riverside Park. One of the dogs died on the way to the animal hospital and the other three at the veterinarian.
After ruling out a number of possibilities, all of the vets came to the same conclusion—all four dogs ingested a toxic substance. Then, an anonymous call came in from a man claiming that the poison was left intentionally. The caller said that a local building superintendent admitted to placing poison in the park because he was tired of people not picking up after their dogs.
Devastated, Kim Heismann, whose dog Charlie passed away, started posting warning signs in the area and reported the pattern of poisonings to the ASPCA. The neighborhood began rallying for action and the ASPCA is now investigating the case. PETA is also offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone found to be responsible.
Many of the Upper West Side residents have been walking in Riverside Park with their dogs and children for years. This tragedy has made everyone question the safety of the neighborhood. I hope that they find out who did this soon and that no other dogs are hurt.
News: JoAnna Lou
N.Y. signs a law protecting doggies in the window
The journey began almost ten years ago in Long Island, N.Y. with a story that’s sadly all too common. When Lorianne LaMarca-Pegano visited a pet store in 2003, she fell in love with a Brussels Griffon that she brought home and named Charlemagne. Within six months, the poor pup was diagnosed with parasites, a corneal ulcer, and eventually kidney disease, high blood pressure, and a heart murmur. By the age of three, Lorianne was forced to euthanize Charlemagne.
The fluffy Brussels Griffon came to the pet store from a puppy mill in Kansas. So in Charlemagne's honor, Lorianne made it her mission to put a stop to the cruel breeding operations. After years of lobbying, some progress has finally been made in Lorianne’s home state. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Charlemagne’s Law this year, which goes into effect on January 14, 2013.
Under the legislation, any licensed pet dealer must follow new requirements, such as hiring a veterinarian, giving mandatory vaccinations, increasing regular exercise, and creating a quarantine area to separate sick animals. Stores must also create a program to respond to diseases and designate an employee to monitor health. Businesses in violation of the new law could lose their license.
The horrors of puppy mills have gotten a lot of media attention in recent years, but people continue to buy dogs from pet stores. It frustrates me to no end. No responsible breeder would ever sell one of their puppies to a pet store.
I’m happy to see that New York is taking action to improve the conditions in pet stores. But it’s not going to solve the root of the problem. The animals in pet stores are bred in horrific conditions with no regard for genetic health. Even if the dogs in the window look healthy at the store, these puppies are prone to developing problems later on since their parents were not tested for genetic diseases at the puppy mill.
I hope that one day New York will replace this law with a complete ban on selling pets in stores, like West Hollywood and South Lake Tahoe have put in place. But for now Charlemagne’s Law is a step in the right direction.
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