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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Caring for War Dogs
Paramedics receive training to treat canines in combat settings

There are plenty of stories that illustrate the important role war dogs play in assisting the military. Many soldiers consider these canines partners and credit them with saving lives.

The military employs doctors and veterinarians, but if anything happens in action, paramedics are the first ones to respond and often have to give treatment at the scene. These people receive elite training for humans, but have to wing it when it comes to the canines.

There are many similarities in treating humans and canines, for instance you can use the same stitches to sew wounds. However, there are also many differences. The standard procedure of applying a tourniquet to a human can do more harm on a dog.

With military canines playing important roles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for animal care skills has become critical . There are about 2,700 dogs serving in the armed forces.

Recently Lt. Col. Stephen Rush organized a training to teach Air National Guard rescuers to treat dogs in combat settings. The session was developed in partnership with Long Island Veterinary Specialists and K-9 Medic, a company that teaches emergency medical care for service dogs. Colonel Rush hopes that the two-day training could serve as a model for future courses.

War dogs are navigating the same dangerous situations as their human counterparts, so it's about time that paramedics receive training to ensure their safety. Kudos to Col. Stephen Rush for creating the course and I hope that other areas of the military will add it to their training protocol.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Sharing Life With Dogs
Little moments bring closeness

It’s the togetherness that makes those who live together and share their lives feel like a family. That’s what’s so great about having a dog in the house. The close proximity makes us realize how much a part of the family the dog is.

When you share the same space, you are literally sharing your lives. The way that we live with our dogs—literally WITH them—means that we have the same sorts of interactions with dogs that we do with other humans in our household. We step on each other’s feet by mistake, bump into each other in the kitchen while getting ready in the morning, share food, open the bathroom door on each other, head out together to bring in the mail or the paper, nap with each other, and share a good stretch in the morning.

None of these little events even touch on the bigger aspects of togetherness: hikes and runs together, attending training classes, playing together, and all the other ways we spend our days in tandem. Sometimes simple things like sharing a water bottle after a run or looking out the window together at the rain make me feel more connected to a dog than other activities do. It’s in these seemingly inconsequential moments that the reality of sharing our lives is most obvious.

What little parts of your day that you share with your dog make you feel especially close?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Keep your Lawn Free from Urine Spots
Dilution is the solution to pollution

 It is a common misconception that "acid" in a dog’s urine is what causes the brown spots left behind on our lawns. However, the culprit is actually the high nitrogen content of the urine. Nitrogen is “the waste” in the urine and is the result of protein breakdown through normal body processes. Because a canine diet is very high in protein, there will be high levels of nitrogen, and you’ll be battling blemishes for as long as your pet uses the lawn for its place of business. 

A repeated vet school mantra was, "dilution is the solution to pollution," and that concept holds equally true in the case of urine scald on our lawns. Therefore, the best way to help prevent brown spots is either by dilution or by addressing the external environment. Besides training your male dogs to pee through the fence onto your neighbor’s lawn (kidding!), here are tips to keep your lawn lush and green:

The most effective way to prevent grass scald is to the water the area immediately after your dog urinates. If you have easy access to a hose or a rain barrel, give the area a quick dousing.  I also have a tub in my sink that I use to catch excess water when I’m at the sink; instead of letting it go down the drain, I collect it and use it to water my plants. This idea could be used to water the lawn as well, while remaining mindful of the environment.

Another intervention is the construction of a small graveled, mulched, or artificial turf area in the back or side of your yard. You can train your pet to "go to the back," and with positive reinforcement and praise, they will eventually and automatically head to that area to do their business. You can make this site visually appealing by placing potted hostas, ferns, or other greenery around the perimeter.

The kind of grass you put in your yard also determines how well it will tolerate dog urine.  Fescue and perennial ryegrass are most resistant, and diluted amounts of urine (hosing down the spot like stated above) can actually act as a fertilizer.  What are the least hardy of grasses? Kentucky Bluegrass and Bermuda grass are the most sensitive to urine scald.  Another tip: if you fertilize your lawn, use a reduced nitrogen fertilizer.

Now a word for those over-the-counter medications that are touted to be "lawn-saving supplements." I personally (and strongly) caution against their use.  Nothing you give your pet internally will safely stop urine from damaging grass, and the only appropriate interventions are those that address the environment- not the dog!  The environmental changes discussed above may be more time-consuming work, but it’s a small price to pay if you wish to have both a lush lawn and a healthy pet.

These medications work by either changing the pH of the urine, or by adding salt to the body. And it should be reiterated: urine burn is a nitrogen problem, not a pH problem. When you use medications that alter the pH of the urine, you run the risk of causing urinary crystals or bladder stones in your pet. Certain types of crystals and stones thrive in the altered pH environment, which will create a much bigger problem than a lawn blemish.  The other “lawn-saving supplements” are actually pills that contain high amounts of salt. This in turn causes your pet to drink more, thereby diluting its urine (dilute the grass, not the dog!).  Giving your pet high amounts of unnecessary salt is not a good option, and this is especially true if your pet has underlying kidney or heart disease.

Another recommendation I have heard is the use gypsum salts and this is another option I caution against.  Gypsum is calcium sulfate, and this material can cause eye, skin, oral, and respiratory irritation in our pets.

Since we’ll never be free from pee, I hope these tips have helped, and I’ll see you next week!

 

 

 

 

News: Editors
Changing Societal Mores

Nicholas Kristof, of the New York Times, writes an intriguing column today about novel public health efforts to help mitigate the harm of guns in our society. In his column he cites the work done by David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health, who has studied just that, the public health approaches to firearms. He talks about changing societal norms that this will require. Hemenway has seen evidence that such change is possible and says, “Where I see social norms changing is dog poop. You are not allowed to let your city dog run loose now, and you have to pick up your dog poop.” He said in an interview with Kristof that if people felt as responsible to their guns as they do for their dogs, who knows if, nothing else, people might insist on safer guns or trigger locks. One can only hope!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Honoring their Final Minutes
Photographer takes pictures of shelter dogs before they're put to sleep
Photograph by Tou Yun-fei

A photographer in Taiwan is on a mission to get people to take a serious look at the way animals are treated in his country. Tou Yun-fei takes photos of dogs at the Taoyuan Animal Shelter in the moments before they are euthanized. In the last two years, he's captured the images of 400 dogs.

Activists say that 70 percent of dogs in Taiwanese shelters are killed after the 12-day waiting period.  Tou began his project because he didn't think the media was giving enough attention to the problem and felt that too many people considered these animals disposable.

After Tou photographs the dogs, vet techs take them for a last walk in a grassy courtyard, then lead them into a small room where they are euthanized.

Some of his friends refuse to look at the photos, and I can certainly see why. The pictures are haunting.  They look like the kind of portrait that a dog lover would commission of their beloved pet. But then you realize that these dogs were not saved in time and have already been put to sleep.

The project is heartbreaking, if a little morbid, but an important one. I've met photographers who take striking photos of homeless pets in the hopes of catching the eye of a potential adopter, but Tou's project hopes to be much bigger and change the way people view and treat these animals.

It's not easy to inspire cultural change, but Tou's photographs might just be the project to spark conversation and force people to rethink longstanding beliefs.

A selection of Tou's photos will be exhibited in his first full scale show in August at the Fine Arts Museum in  Kaohsiung, Taiwan. For those not in the area, you can view his work online.

News: Guest Posts
Shelter Euthanized Dogs It Claimed Were Adopted
Sponsors stunned by director deception

Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Donors to Boggs Mountain Humane Shelter’s “Lucky Dog” program were shocked to learn that the dogs they sponsored in order to be adopted were in fact, euthanized. The northern Georgia shelter took in strays and owner surrenders and claimed to be no kill. 

The “Lucky Dog” program was a brilliantly simple scam. Good-hearted animal lovers gave the shelter $100 to sponsor a dog’s vaccinations, worming, spay/neuter and vet exam. Donors received a photo of their Lucky Dog, and a cheerful email when he was adopted.

In cooperation with a reporter, intake counselor Lynn Cousins admitted that those emails she sent were lies. “If I wanted to keep my job, I had to lie,” said Cousins. After two years of battling her conscience, Cousins decided to tell the truth.

I can see why the program would prove popular. In 2004, I found a female black Pit Bull dragging a leash behind her. She was friendly and appeared to be in good health. Surely, someone would be looking for her. I brought her to the Louisiana SPCA, where I volunteered several times a week.

After five business days passed and no owner came forward, I named her Kaldi and spread the word in hopes that a family member or friend would take her home.

A few days after Kaldi became adoptable, an approaching Hurricane Ivan forced the shelter to begin plans for evacuation. Dogs considered less adoptable would be euthanized; there simply wasn’t enough room on the transport trucks. A black Pit Bull had little to no chance.

If I had gotten there just an hour sooner, I could’ve saved her. The head veterinarian, who had marked Kaldi as one of the dogs to be euthanized, apologized profusely to me as I sobbed in front of her empty kennel.

I did not fault the vet, who was forced to make those terrible choices every day. In the moment, I blamed myself. By taking Kaldi there, I had made a promise that one of two things would happen – she would be claimed by her owner or I would find her a home. If there had been an alternative, such as a no-kill shelter, I would’ve taken her there.

This is why Boggs Mountain Humane Shelter was able to dupe so many people.

Given a choice between bringing a stray dog to a no-kill shelter or a kill shelter, who wouldn't opt for the former? If a monetary donation guaranteed that a dog would be safe and find a home, who wouldn't open their wallet? Shelter director Lowanda “Peanut” Kilby counted on human kindness, and Boggs Mountain Humane Shelter reaped the bounty that she sowed.  

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Reactions to Hugs Between Humans
Dogs vary in their responses

Hugging is very human. Actually, this behavior occurs in our species as well as quite a few other primate species, as we primates seem to seek out and enjoy ventral-ventral contact with one another.

Dogs are quite different, as they typically don’t enjoy hugs, no matter how accommodating they are to the humans in their lives who insist on it. To see a dog look displeased, or even disgusted, giving one a hug is often all that’s required.

Of course, I would not recommend hugging a dog for a very important reason that is related to but extends beyond that fact that dogs typically detest it. Many dogs bite when they are hugged. The bites are sometimes motivated by fear, and sometimes a reaction along the lines of, “Don’t you dare do that to me. Again. Ever.”

It’s pretty straightforward to me. Humans like to give and receive hugs. Dogs don’t. When we hug them, most tolerate it in much the same way that children tolerate having their cheeks pinched by aging relatives—grudgingly and with an understanding that the people doing these dreadful things really can’t help themselves.

What’s far less clear to me is what dogs make of observing humans hug each other. I’ve known dogs with a variety of responses to hugs between the human members of my family or our visitors. Some dogs join the hug by jumping up and leaning into the action. Some leap onto the huggers repeatedly and with increasing vigor. Others place themselves between the huggers, causing them to separate. I’ve seen dogs spin in place or circle around the huggers, and I’ve known dogs who bark and growl when two or more humans hug in their presence. It’s unusual to have a dog who runs away, perhaps out of the room when they observe hugging, but I do know of a couple of dogs who did respond in exactly that way.

What does your dog do when you hug someone?

 

 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Sniffing Poop to Save Wildlife
Ex-shelter dogs are trained to become conversation canines
Conservation Dog

 

Families often misjudge how much exercise dogs need, which is how many pets end up at the animal shelter. Insatiable play drive is bad for the average home but great for working canines. The Center for Biology Conservation adopts many of these dogs and trains them to sniff out wildlife droppings. Yes you read that right!

Scientists can learn a lot from scat, including sex, species, and even stress level. They can put together a complete health profile without even ever meeting an animal in person.

The Center's current project is bringing two conservation canines to the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico to track salamanders found nowhere else in the world. These amphibians are threatened due to the changing climate. The information will be used to map salamanders and create a plan to help save the critters and conserve the forests they live in.

The two dogs scheduled for the job are a Labrador named Sampson and an Australian Cattle Dog named Alli. Both are rescue pups and have since gone through rigorous training (all through positive reinforcement!). Sampson and Alli are trained on a variety of animal droppings, including the Pacific Pocket Mouse whose scat is as small as a sesame seed! Other conservation canines can even sniff out killer whale waste.

The Center's Conservation Canines program launched in 1997 and now sends scat sniffing dogs all over the world. Their skills are unmatched as they can collect huge amounts of samples over a large area in a short period of time.

I knew that droppings can provide a wealth of information, but the work that can be done with that data is far bigger that I'd realized. In one notable project, the Center used data from African elephant scat to create a map that is being used to battle the illegal ivory trade. Now when ivory pieces are discovered, the laboratory can identify the exact area it came from, which increases the chances of finding the culprits.

All that thanks to the amazing canine nose!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Cleaning Challenges With Dogs
How do you keep carpets in shape?

There’s a carpet in the back room of my house that is shockingly dirty. Between kids and pets, it has taken a lot of abuse, and it wasn’t in great shape when we bought the house, either. As soon as we moved in, my husband and I both said, “That has GOT to be replaced!” When our 19-month old son threw up on it later that day, we decided we should wait until the kids were a little older. That son is now nearly 9 years old, we still have the carpet, and it is appalling. Between dog hair, muddy paw prints, and various substances that come out of Kongs, dogs have done as much damage as the kids have done with popsicles and paint.

I want to know what people are doing in their homes to prevent and treat this sort of issue. We try to keep the mess largely confined to that one room, which is a combination art studio and play room, so at least the whole house is not as gross. We vacuum most days and we clean the carpet ourselves every couple of months. If I’m honest, though, that carpet is just not pretty, and the time is clearly at hand to replace it, probably with a totally different type of flooring, such as wood or tile.

Having failed at maintaining a carpet myself, I’m so curious how other people with little mess-makers in their homes manage to keep their carpets from looking the way mine does. What are your secrets?

 

 

News: Guest Posts
Keeping Dogs Cool

 

Summer means all sorts of cool things: the beach, more time outside, summer reading, barbeques, vacations. But it also means hot dogs. Dogs of any variety can and will be affected by the rising temperatures and for all the joy and happiness that summer brings to dogs and their humans alike, it can also pose a dangerous health risk to our four-legged friends.

My own dog, Carlie, just naturally slows down in the summer months, a kind of self-regulating that’s very characteristic of her and many dogs, but I’m still cautious to ensure that she stays cool enough. I’ve soaked a bandana in ice-water and tied it around her neck before we venture out. I’ve rerouted our morning walk to one that is more shaded and I’ve invested in something called a Kool Kollar that’s sort of like a gel ice-pack in the shape of a collar to cool the neck and chest.  But to be sure I’m doing everything I can and also to check that I’m not doing anything I shouldn’t be, I checked in with three dog people in my neighborhood to see what they had to say about dogs in summer.

Mia Ziering, a veterinarian and founder of NYC House Vet (and Carlie’s vet) advises her patients to be as cautious as their pets in the heat as they would of their children.  Good rules of thumb: never leave pets in sun exposed areas, always make sure they have access to shade and water, and NEVER leave a pet in a closed car in the summer.  Also: limit physical exercise on hot days.

Anne McCormick, the proprietor of my neighborhood pet supply store, Calling All Pets, advised that dogs should be inside as much as possible during the heat. Early morning walks and late evening once the sun is down only, and if at all possible, AC should be left on for dogs at home. In lieu of that, there are cooling mats, similar to the cooling collar I had that dogs can rest on to bring their body temps down. Anne also offered similar common sense advice to Dr. Ziering’s: do for your pet what you would do for you.

Armed with all this good advice, I took to the street once more to check in with the dog person who might spend the most time with the most dogs out of anyone: the friendly neighborhood dog walker. It was a particularly hot late June day and I inquired of a dog walker gingerly leading a pack of ten down the shady side of my street. He spoke to me on the condition on anonymity. The verdict: these doggies gotta stay inside.

Granted, the advice I gathered is from my neighborhood in New York City where the climate (to say nothing of the cement) can be particularly challenging for canines. But wherever you are, please be practical, be safe, be mindful of your dog’s energy level and disposition this summer. And it doesn’t hurt to plan a trip to a wooded place, or keep your eye out for a wading pool or shallow pond.

 

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