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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Crowdfunding a Canine Film
Student makes a documentary about a special town dog

From the outside, Rockford, Alabama is just another symbol of the bad economy, a community of just 400 people on the verge of becoming a ghost town. The recession hit Rockford hard, forcing many of the town's shops to close and many people to move away in search of jobs.

But those who know Rockford, know that it's a special town with a rich history and character. Ava Lowrey, a film student at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, grew up 30 minutes from Rockford and set out to share the story of how the small Alabama community embraced a homeless pup who in turn gave them hope.

Back in 1993, the town found a dirty and disheveled mutt wandering the streets. A few people decided to name the pup Fred and nurse him back to health. Soon enough Fred became the official “town dog.” Rockford may have saved Fred, but Fred brought out the best in the town. The pup had a weekly column in the local newspaper, a bank account, and even led parades--something they stopped doing after his death in 2002.

Although Fred is gone, his tombstone and the stories left behind show how much he meant to the community. Ava's film explores the town's narrative and the relationships Fred had with the people of Rockford.

Filming was finished in December, but Ava needs financial support to complete the documentary. Ava is appealing to dog and film lovers on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform, to raise money. Perks for donations vary from a shout out on their blog and Twitter feed ($25 donation) to an executive producer credit ($700).

Check out the trailer and donate if you'd like to see this heartwarming canine tale to completion.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Sniffing Out Superbugs
A Beagle is trained to detect Clostridium Difficile

With the recent flu outbreak, controlling contagious diseases has been a hot topic lately.  While the flu is mostly a seasonal challenge, hospitals and nursing homes battle "superbugs," or antibiotic resistant bacteria, year round.

Illnesses related to superbugs can be difficult to control in health care facilities and pose a serious health threat.  Transmission can be prevented with early detection, but diagnostic tests can be expensive and slow.

Researchers in the Netherlands decided to investigate whether dogs could be trained to detect superbugs.  Animals have been trained to sniff out cancer and detect low blood sugar levels, so why not bacteria.  In their first study, the researchers decided to focus on Clostridium Difficile, which can cause diarrhea, colitis, or even life threatening toxic megacolon.  The bacteria is on pace to surpass severe staph infections and MRSA in frequency and severity.  Past hospital outbreaks have claimed hundreds of lives.

The scientists began the study by training Cliff, a two year old Beagle, to identify c. difficile in stool samples and in infected patients.  Cliff indicates finding the bacteria by sitting or lying down.

After two months of training, Cliff proved to be quite reliable.  In the first part of the study, he was shown 100 stool samples (half with C. Difficile and half negative control samples).  Cliff correctly identified all 50 positive stool samples (100 percent) and 47 out of 50 negative samples (94 percent).

For the second part of the study, Cliff was taken to two different hospital wards to test his detection abilities on 300 patients.  The Cliff correctly identified 25 out of 30 people with C. Difficile (83 percent) and 265 out of 270 negative controls (98 percent).  Cliff works quickly and has the potential to check out an entire hospital ward for C. Difficile in under ten minutes.

I was impressed not only by Cliff’s detection abilities, but by the fact he was trained in only two months.  And this was Cliff’s first exposure to scent work!  Simply amazing!

News: Editors
NFL Linebacker Patrick Willis Loves His Dog

As we watch The San Francisco 49ers go deeper into the post-season playoffs, we are rooting for linebacker Patrick Willis to do well. Willis is widely considered to be one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Known for his fearless, physical style of play on the field, Willis has a gentle persona off the field and a soft spot for dogs. The Bark spoke with Patrick last year about his new (then) housemate, a young Pit Bull named Zeus.

The Bark: Tell us about your dog.
Patrick Willis: My little man Zeus, he’s not so little anymore, he’s only 10-months-old and over 80 lbs. I’ve been wanting a dog for sometime, and with all my family  back in Tennessee, you come back to a empty house all the time, it gets kind of lonely. I need to add a little life to the mix—so, I adopted Zeus, an 8-week-old Pit Bull.

B: What’s he like?
PW: He listens well, and is great with people, particularly my little brother and sister. He can be a stubborn at times like all kids when they are young. The one thing he does is tear up his bed, we’re working on that. He’s just an amazing dog, I love him.

B: During the season you must travel a lot …
PW: When I’m on the road, I really miss him, I have a great dogsitter who cares for him while I’m away—she takes him to the beach, to playdates with his BFF. I know he’s in good hands til I get home. It makes it easier on my heart.

B: How did you name him?
PW: I’ve always liked the Greek gods, and Zeus was the most powerful of them all—so I named him Zeus.

B: You are involved with a scholarship program sponsored by Duracell that provides tuition and transportation to attend ProCamps run by professional athletes like yourself. To underscore their mission, they’ve produced a short video on your young life, and it is quite inspiring. Tell us about it.
PW: The program is called “Trusting Your Power” and Duracell is donating $1 to Procamps for every #TrustYourPower tweet we generate with these interviews. The donations will be placed into a scholarship fund to help underprivileged kids attend the camps. I feel blessed to be a part of the program—I was once that kid and know how much attending a camp would have meant to me, so I am fortunate to be involved. Duracell hopes to send 1,000 underprivileged kids across the country to one of the approximate 40 different ProCamps.

B: Watching the video depiction of your childhood and all that you’ve overcome, do you feel a special affinity to Pit Bulls, a breed who are often misunderstood, and in a way the classic underdog?
PW: When you are young, you tend to be influenced by those around you—parents, adults, and for dogs, their owners—if you can surround them with love, show them that you care and you’ll be there for them, well, love is a powerful thing, the most powerful thing in the world. The love you give, you will get in return. It shows with Zeus.

B: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned with Zeus?
PW: The responsibility. Sometimes I’ve asked myself, what I have I got myself into … coming home after practice, making sure I attend to all of his needs, it’s a lot of responsibility—but I’m all he’s got, and he’s all I’ve got. It means a lot to me, and keeps me on my toes. I may be tired, but there’s no sleeping in, have to get up and take Zeus out for his walk. I want to make sure he’s not in need of anything. Sometimes I wish I had that growing up. Zeus and I, we take care of each other.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mistaken Identity
Labradoodle masquerading as a lion results in a 911 call

It was a case of mistaken identity. Earlier this week, a 911 call came in reporting a baby lion walking down Colley Avenue in Norfolk, Va. The police immediately called the Virginia Zoo, but all lions were accounted for. It turns out that the big cat in question was a 3-year old Labradoodle named Charles and the caller wasn't crazy. Charles really did look like a lion.

Daniel Painter has his dog regularly groomed to look like a lion, the mascot for Norfolk's Old Dominion University. Charles is popular among the school's sports fans and the Labradoodle even has his own Facebook page. Daniel says that when he takes Charles to a park near the zoo, people sometimes run to their cars thinking the pup is a big cat.

Charles does look a little crazy and kind of reminds me of the dogs dyed to look like wild animals in grooming contests. But while some people might think it's unfair to subject the poor dog to such humiliation, I doubt Charles realizes how silly he looks. I think that pet clothing and costumes are a lot more uncomfortable for animals.

For now Charles is bringing much joy to Old Dominion fans, but perhaps wearing a simple neck bandana with the school logo will assure people that he's not a lion!

News: Guest Posts
Pet Oxygen Masks Help Firefighters Save Lives

Recent news reports about house fires with dogs trapped inside are a keen reminder how valuable a pet oxygen mask can be to firefighting crews. Check if your local fire department has these tools, and if not, consider donating one to them. They're not expensive.

In Lima, Ohio, a house fire broke out the morning of January 3, 2013. An adult occupant escaped from an upstairs room, but the family dog Cola hid in the basement. Nearly fifteen minutes after firefighters started attacking the fire in the freezing cold, they discover the dog-apparently lifeless-and bring her upstairs and out onto the snow. Luckily, the Lima Fire Department had been the recipient of a gift: pet oxygen masks, made to fit the long snouts of dogs and other pets. Firefighters worked on Cola for nearly five minutes, giving her oxygen, until she started breathing again. Her emotional owner, anxiously watching nearby, cried tears of relief and gratitude.

The house fire was caught on video; toward the end, near the 16:00 minute mark, you can see the firefighters bringing Cola out of the house and laying her on the snow to start resuscitation efforts. Unfortunately the video does not extend to her successful recovery.
http://youtu.be/5U16UQHMDaY

Nearby Delphos Animal Hospital had donated the pet oxygen masks to the Lima Fire Department just a week earlier. According to news reports, they plan to donate two more, soon.

Also on January 3rd, firefighters responding to a house fire in Forth Worth discovered two dogs inside. One was alright, but the other was unresponsive. Using an oxygen mask, the firefighters were able to revive the dog.

The fire department's spokesperson noted that firefighters attempt animal rescues several times a year, and that some of their trucks are outfitted with animal oxygen masks. Otherwise, they use those made for humans.

Wouldn't it be nice if all fire trucks and other first responders were equipped with animal oxygen masks?
A quick online search brings up at least two vendors of the SurgiVet Pet Oxygen Mask, with prices ranging from $27.50 each (small, medium or large), or all three plus a carrying case for $68.75 (Yuckos) or $95 (Pets America). Pets America provides pet emergency preparedness and educational programs, so the extra cost clearly helps their primary mission.

 

Wellness: Health Care
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome:
Old Dog Senility

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, also referred to as “old dog senility” or “sundowner syndrome” is a common syndrome that is categorized as a slow, degenerative and progressive disorder in our aging pets. This process leads to changes in awareness, a decreased responsiveness to normal surroundings, and potentially increased signs of anxiety that usually worsen in the night hours. 

There are many signs observed with cognitive changes and they can be lumped into some general symptoms as follows:

  • Disorientation: such as going to the wrong side of the door to be let outside or getting lost in familiar environments.
  • Altered interactions: there may be increased irritability, anxiety or agitation.
  • Alterations in sleep-wake cycles: this is most often observed as increased restlessness (especially at night) and/or vocalizations that are seemingly directed at nothing in particular; as the disease progresses, you may continue to notice worsening of these signs and begin to see your pet aimlessly wandering the house with compulsive behaviors such as barking at the wall for no apparent reason or excessive grooming.
  • Normal and previously learned behaviors may change: you may notice your dog becoming less adept at its normal tasks, such as house training or responding appropriately to previously learned commands; you may also notice that your pet has difficulty recognizing and reacting to its familiar family members.
  • The above changes generally begin very gradually, so much so, that many pet parents fail to recognize the early stages of the disease and often attribute their pets subtle alterations in behavior to “simply getting older.” A recent study at the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine demonstrated just how common these observations are: out of 69 dogs participating, 32% of the 11-year old dogs were affected by this syndrome and 100% of the dogs 16 years of age older were affected (source: Veterinary Information Network).

    The exact reason for this change in our geriatric pets is unknown, but it is thought that the body’s normal degenerative and age-related changes contribute to the dysfunction. These changes include central nervous system deterioration, oxidative stress, accumulation of free radicals, and cell death. Signs are unfortunately progressive and treatment is aimed at prevention and/or slowing the progression of disease for which lifelong therapy is required once diagnosed. 

    Treatment is the utilization of a multi-modal approach to managing signs, meaning, a combination of synergistic therapies that are based on the severity of the clinical signs.  Selegiline is a prescription medication that is used to help control more severe symptoms, and it is thought to improve transmission of brain chemicals (dopamine) as well as have protective effects on the brain’s nerve cells. 

    There has also been the development of commercial and prescription “senior diets” that have demonstrated improvements in cognitive function, such as Hill’s b/d ("brain diet").  Natural supplements have shown promise in managing signs and slowing the course of disease by reducing the neurological damage caused by free radicals.They include antioxidants (vitamins C and E, selenium, flavonoids), gingko bilboa, Omega-3 fatty acids, and medium chain triglycerides to name a few. Pheromone therapy and melatonin may ease anxiety and promote a feeling of well being for dogs that experience increased anxiety at night. And finally, environmental enrichment such as brisk brushing sessions, massage therapy, interactive toys, and stimulating walks is thought to be an important cornerstone in slowing the progression by stimulating brain activity. Maintaining a stimulating environment, and engaging in as much activity as is practical for your pet’s age and health, may help prevent or delay the onset of cognitive decline as your pet moves into its golden years.

    I will end with one of my favorite veterinary mantras, which is: “Old age is not a disease” (for which I am personally more thankful for each day), and with proper care, our senior “babies” can go on experiencing a good quality of life as cognitive changes develop. 

     

     

     

     

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Stolen Pup Reunited
    NYC Good Samaritan saves a pet and identifies a dognapper

    Last week the Bendrat family was shopping in Manhattan when they tied their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Marley, outside of a grocery store while they picked up a couple of last minute supplies. When the family came back out, the dog was gone and surveillance videos showed a man stealing Marley. 

    Later on the other side of the city, Tina Cohen saw a man selling a Cavalier Kind Charles Spaniel in Union Square Park. Tina was unaware of Marley’s predicament, but had a feeling that the pup was stolen. She proceeded to buy the dog for $220 and brought the spaniel to the veterinarian to look for identification. Fortunately they found a microchip, which helped reunite Marley with his family on Christmas Eve and provided the evidence the police needed to arrest the thief on a grand larceny charge.

    New Yorkers love to walk around with their dogs.  Some stores and restaurants welcome pets, but many do not. Tying animals outside has many risks, including dognapping, escaping themselves, and ingesting a toxin. Marley was one lucky pup, but his situation could have been easily avoided if he was left safely at home while the family shopped.

    As large and impersonal as New York City is, I do find that dog lovers come together to help each other out. Thank goodness for both a Good Samaritan and an up-to-date microchip!

    News: Editors
    Singer Patti Page Dies at 85

    Patti Page died on New Year’s Day at the age of 85. She was a pop singer in the 1950s (and beyond) and recorded modern classics like “Tennessee Waltz” and “How Much is That Doggie in the Window,” both of which became No. 1 hits. In 1999, after 51 years of performing, she won her first Grammy award and was planning on attending this year’s Grammy ceremony on Feb. 9 to accept a well-earned lifetime achievement award.

    Patti Page reprised “How Much is That Doggie…” recently for the Humane Society of the United States for their Stop Puppy Mills campaign, this new version is much closer to our hearts, “Can You See That Doggie in the Shelter?”

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Puppy Heaven
    Oh, how I love them!

    Whatever part of the brain is supposed to make you see a baby and long to have another one of your own seems to have died when I turned 40. Yes, my heart melted at the sight of my own babies, and continues to do so when I see pictures of them back when they were small. I still like babies and enjoy holding them or making faces to make them smile, but I do not long for another anymore.

    Puppies, on the other hand, must trigger a slightly different, still living part of my brain, because I recently held a puppy during a local adoption event, and I felt that deep love that the very young can inspire in us.

    No picture of Feather could possibly convey how dear she looked to me, and how much I longed to hold her forever. She was warm and soft, friendly, sleepy and snuggly. In other words, she was an idealized, imaginary puppy who would never chew, pee on the floor, bark or be any trouble—ever.

    Feather was there with two littermates, and they were all spoken for already, which is probably a good thing. (When you tell your husband you are headed out to buy milk, yogurt, and pears, it’s bad form to come home with a puppy, too.) I really wanted this dog, but I reluctantly handed her back to the woman in charge. Once I began to drive home, the spell was broken. Yes, I still adored her and fondly remember our brief time together, but I was able to think clearly enough to remind myself that my to do list for the day did not include a spontaneous puppy adoption.

    I’m amused that babies no longer make me lose my mind but that puppies still do. I guess that just makes me a dog person! Have you had a “puppy moment” like this?

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Dogs Join Protests in Chile
    Demonstrators take on furry mascots at the front lines

    For the past year and a half, students in Chile have been demanding education improvements, redistribution of wealth, and environmental protections. Their protests have meant almost daily confrontations with police, but there has also been another presence on the front lines.

    Stray dogs learned to follow the sounds of sirens after realizing there were water cannons at the other end. The strong sprays meant to disrupt protesters provide a drink of water and a bit of fun for the pups.

    The photos almost look like my pets jumping and mouthing at the water hose in the back yard, but it's a rare bit of happiness in the middle of a serious clash between police and protesters.

    It's common to see dogs on the front lines, barking at guards in riot gear, staring down police canines, and chewing on tear gas canisters. Many of the dogs have been adopted by demonstrators as unofficial mascots and are often found napping next to students between protests. They've also become mini celebrities with Facebook fan pages and plenty of media coverage.

    One mutt named Blacky wears a checkered kaffiyeh scarf which symbolizes the Palestinian resistance movement. Admirers upload pictures of Blacky on Facebook and there's even a song about the pup on You Tube, written and performed by a man in Colorado.

    There are millions of stray dogs in Chile because it's rare to spay or neuter animals and it's common to leave pets outside to roam the streets. According to Pro Animal Chile, 73 percent of strays had a home at one point.

    I'm hoping that the dogs' presence at the demonstrations will bring attention to the overpopulation problem in Chile. Animals have a way of bringing people together, so perhaps they can even create sympathy for the protesters' plight, creating a win-win situation for the dogs and students.

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