News: Letters
Adopting Tucker
Dream Dog Awakening
Border Collie

Recently while waiting for my endodontist appointment, I picked up a copy of BARK magazine.  Thumbing through it, I spotted the Border Collie pictured with your story ("Waking Up From My Dream Dog" - Bark Jun/Aug 12).  So, I began to read it being the Border Collie person that I am.  Well, I couldn't believe what I was reading.  It was as if I had written it!  You were talking about my Tucker.  We rescued him at 8 months old.  He had been abused as a small puppy and had been through at least two foster homes.  I failed to mention that we adopted him because we lost our beloved 14 year old BC Abby 3 months earlier and couldn't get past the grief.  It just felt right taking in this poor little guy that given such a difficult puppyhood.

We had Tuck for a couple of months when, as you put it, the Cujo came out.  It seems that once he became comfortable with his new surroundings and owners, he completely changed.  We have worked with a couple of trainers and looked for any assistance we could find.  We also at one point considered sending him back to the rescue, but just couldn't do that to him, and ourselves.  He has no tolerance for other dogs (even though he lived with them in his foster homes), children, trucks and strangers until he gets to know them.  Well, like yourself, we have adjusted our lives to him.   He is the sweetest, loving, playful little guy with us but still has those issues that we continue to work on.

I still can't believe that I am writing this to you, but I felt such a strong bond with you after reading the story that I felt I had need to thank you for letting me know that we aren't the only BC parents out there with this issue.

Please give Ainsley a scratch behind the ears from us!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pit Bull Chihuahua Cross
Unusual pairings happen

When I said that she looked like a Pit Bull Chihuahua cross, I didn’t really think that’s what she was.  Though our whole family thought that’s what she looked like when she showed up in our driveway, we also thought that such a mating was unlikely.

It didn’t matter much to us—we just enjoyed her for who she was—a delightful dog who was energetic, expressive, friendly, bouncy, and very licky. None of us cared that much about her heritage, but it’s always fun to guess what breeds are in a dog.

When we did ask her guardian if he knew what kind of dog she was, he replied. “You’re probably not going to believe this, but she’s a Pit Bull and Chihuahua.” They had neighbors who each bred one of the breeds, and she was from an accidental litter. (The Pit Bull was the female in case you were curious.)

Do you know of any particularly unexpected crosses, whether they were a result of a “whoops” litter or not?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Custody Over Abandoned Pup
Hiker wants dog back after leaving her behind to die

Earlier this month, Scott and Amanda Washburn were in Colorado hiking 13,500 feet above sea level when they found an injured German Shepherd. They tried to coax the poor pup out of the nook she was in, but her paws were completely raw and she was too weak to move. Unfortunately the injured dog weighed 100 pounds and was too heavy to carry down the mountain. So the Washburns used their first aid kit to patch up as many wounds as they could and left the dog with water until they could return.

Forest Rangers are only able to send out search parties for people, so the couple turned to the internet to find help. Two days later, Scott and eight volunteers returned to Mount Bierstadt and began a 9-hour rescue mission that included hiking through a full-blown snowstorm. Fortunately they got to the German Shepherd just in time. The bandaged wounds had reopened and there was blood all over nearby rocks.

Dubbed “the miracle dog of the century” by her veterinarian, the lucky pup is going to make a full recovery. Scott and Amanda were so enamored that they decided to adopt the brave German Shepherd.

But believe it or not, the Washburns are now involved in a custody battle with the man who abandoned the dog on the mountain.

Turns out the pup’s name is Missy and she was left behind by Anthony Ortolani when a storm hit the mountain. Three days later, Anthony assumed Missy died and made no attempt to rescue her.

This story makes me so upset on so many levels (besides the part about the amazing rescuers). First off, no one should bring their dog hiking on a 14,000+ foot mountain unless they’re sure that their pup is accustomed to the terrain. Second, anyone hiking long distances should monitor their pup carefully for signs of pad wear or other injuries. Missy’s paws should never have gotten that raw.

That being said, I understand these things can creep up to the best of us.  But not going back up the mountain? Unacceptable.

The Sherrif’s Office says that the custody decision could take months and, for now, Missy remains at the veterinarian. I hope that Missy doesn’t stay in limbo for too long and that her rescuers are able to give her a permanent loving home. 

News: Guest Posts
Dogs Rescued During Hurricane Isaac
Seven years ago, only people were allowed in rescue boats
hurricane isaac katrina louisiana gulf coast dog rescue emergency plan


I cried today for three reasons. It is the seven-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans is again getting battered by another hurricane, Isaac. And for the first time, I saw rescuers take people's pets into the boat with them.


This dramatic rescue video shows 70-year-old Fred Leslie and his four dogs being pulled out through a vent in the attic of his two-story home. He will never have to wonder what happened to his dogs, whether they drowned, starved or were rescued but difficult to trace.


After Katrina, many dog lovers took in abandoned dogs. Sadly, they assumed the worst about their owners. I got into many an Internet and group email battle with these well-intentioned yet ignorant folks.


If this had happened to Leslie seven years ago, his dogs would not have been allowed in the boat with him. You can be sure the rescuers would not have allowed him to stay, either. He would not have been given a choice.



News: Editors
Husky Howls
Husky Puppy Practices His Howl

The other day a panda-loving friend shared this link with me of the San Diego’s newest panda baby. Besides being incredibly adorable, it does make one wonder how the panda evolved its distinctive circled-eyed appearance, and then I saw this video of a Husky pup learning to howl and found the resemblance sweetly surprising.

News: Editors
Shocking a Dog Person
Rep. Jackie Speier calls for an investigation

Rep Jackie Speier (D-Calif) did something today that deserves a Bark call-out for a job well-done. It was reported in the SF Chronicle that she “ripped” into the National Park Service for using a Taser on a man who was running with his small dogs off-leash. When he was confronted by a ranger about the leash policy (which had been newly created in that area), he, allegedly, was uncooperative and would not provide her with his name. This happened back in January in a park within the Golden Gate Recreation Area in Northern California. When the man refused to give the ranger his information, she Tasered him in his back and arrested him! Speier noted that “Many of my constituents are understandably angered by what appears to be an excessive use of force by a park ranger.” She added, “From the information I have to date, it does not appear that the use of a taser was warranted.” Speier also requested information about training in taser usage for park rangers, including the appropriate utilization and risks of tasers. She also asked how the public was informed about dog policy changes at Rancho Corral de Tierra which now require all dogs to be leashed.

Speier suggested the appointment of an independent investigator to evaluate whether park regulations were violated and excessive force was utilized in the January 29 incident. You can read more about this. We certainly think the ranger used excessive force, do you agree?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Visitors Who Don’t Like Dogs
It’s an awkward social situation

A friend of mine was telling me that when her sister-in-law comes to visit, it can be very uncomfortable because that sister-in-law really hates dogs. She voices a lot of criticism of the cleanliness of houses with dogs and the fact that so much time is wasted cleaning up after dogs, which my friend naturally finds annoying. To her, the dogs are family and the extra effort to keep the house clean is worth it. (By the way, I have been in this friend’s house and I consider it immaculate! I’ve been in houses that have a little too much dog hair and eau de dog aroma even for my taste and this house is nothing like that.)

It’s perfectly reasonable to tell potential visitors that if they don’t want to be around dogs, they are more than welcome to stay in a hotel and that you’d be happy to help them find a conveniently located one that is to their liking. However, we all know that family dynamics can sometime make this option very sticky. Being asked to kennel your dogs or keep them locked in the backyard or in one room are all requests that have been received by various friends or colleagues of mine from assertive relatives.

The simple reply that the dogs are part of the family and as such as not shut away or sent away, no matter how tactfully stated, is likely to upset the sort of people who would make such demands in the first place. It’s hard to explain how much we value our dogs to someone who just doesn’t get it.

If you’ve faced a situation with visitors who don’t love dogs and expect you to remove your dogs from the situation, how have you handled it?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Studying Canine and Human Genomes
New article sheds light on dogs in health research.

Earlier this month, genetics researcher Elaine Ostrander published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine to highlight the strides scientists are making in human disease research thanks to their work with canines. The best part is that dogs are also benefiting in the process.

Scientists have sequenced both the human and canine genomes, which makes it possible to compare genes between the two. Typically it's much easier to track down the genes associated with canine diseases than it is in humans.

Once researchers identify the gene responsible for a disorder in dogs, they can go back and see if the same holds true for humans. The following are some of the cases where canine research has benefited both dogs and people.

  • Scientists discovered that the gene folliculin is behind Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome in humans and RCND, a syndrome that causes kidney cancer and skin growths in German Shepherds.
  • Researchers identified a different gene responsible for epilepsy in Wire-haired Dachshunds and Lagotto Romagnolo dogs. They're hoping further research into the differences in other breeds will also further understanding about how the disease presents in humans.
  • Scientists found that introducing a fundamental version of the RPE65 gene to dogs successfully treats progressive retinal atrophy. Now humans with the same disease are being treated with the same treatment.

Unfortunately I know many dogs and people affected by cancer and epilepsy. I'm hoping that Elaine Ostrander's article will inspire more collaborations between veterinary and human medical research. There are many studies that show the health benefits we get from our pets, so it seems only fitting that canine health research is now informing cures for humans.

News: Guest Posts
Good News for Companion Animals
LA is considering a ban on the sale of commercially-bred animals

Despite laws and regulations protecting companion animals, these magnificent beings still can be treated very abusively with little to no penalty to their human guardians (aka owners) because in the eyes of the law they and other nonhuman animals (animals) are considered to be mere property.

In an earlier essay I wrote about the staggering number of homeless animals who need a safe home and puppy mills are notorious for severely mistreating animals as breeding machines. Carol Bradley's excellent book Saving Gracie: How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills is an excellent read about Gracie's rescue from a Pennsylvania puppy mill and the horrors of puppy mills in general. Top of Form

I remain a hopeful optimist and now there's some good news on the horizon for homeless dogs, cats, and rabbits in Los Angeles. This week a Los Angeles City Council committee “approved a proposed ordinance that would require every dog, cat or rabbit sold for profit in the city to be obtained from a shelter or humane society.”

I know many people have rescued animals with whom they've shared their home and the human and nonhumans have had wonderful lives together. Jethro, who I rescued from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, and I had a wonderful life together (he also rescued me) and he turned out to be a “love muffin” who saved the lives of other species.

On a recent trip to the give a talk for the Wisconsin Humane Society I met Maddy, who reminded me of Jethro, and had I been able to take her home with me I would have done so, along of course, with all of the other wonderful animals who lived in this remarkable facility. I was thrilled to learn that Maddy was adopted shortly after I was there. 

The Los Angeles ordinance may be voted on soon so there's time to contact the Los Angeles City Council to voice your opinion. Please take the time to do so. Millions of animals will be grateful for your efforts and we can hope that other cities will follow up on this ordinance and other species will also be included. 

There really is no reason to buy a commercially bred animal. 


Wellness: Health Care
DIY Physical Exam: An “owner’s manual” for your dog Part 1
Part 1 in a 4 Part Guide
Dog Exam - DIY Dog Physical Exam at Home

To identify an illness or abnormal situation, you must first be able to recognize what is normal for your dog. You know your dog better than anyone else and you will have to decide when an abnormal situation warrants professional help. Sometimes the condition is so serious it leaves no doubt. Frequently, however, the changes are subtle, or happen over a longer period of time, making noticing a problem more difficult.  

Over the course of the following weeks, I will provide you with information on how to perform an at-home physical exam, helping to determine and establish what is normal for your pet. It is recommended that you occasionally perform this exam- while there is nothing wrong- so that you can begin to get used to what is normal. This practice will help allow for the early detection of changes in your dog’s health.  

I will start with the basics this week: A good look, temperature, and how to obtain a heart rate. Next week will continue with a systems approach beginning with the head area, followed by the chest, and lastly, the abdomen. At the completion of these 4 blogs, you should have a complete home guide on how to perform a screening exam.  Ready?!


First, before you start your hands-on exam, stand back and just simply look at your dog for a few minutes. The posture, breathing, activity level, and general appearance can really tell you a great deal. Get a good picture of your dog’s “normal” in its relaxed home environment—this mental snapshot will help you notice any subtle change.


Taking your dog’s temperature is an easy and important procedure. Use a digital rectal thermometer (the ear type is less reliable and mercury thermometers can break!). Lubricate the end with petroleum jelly and gently insert the thermometer into the rectum about 1 inch for small dogs and about 2 inches for larger ones. If it does not slide in easily, do not force it. And do not risk taking your pet’s temperature if you feel there is a risk of being bitten.


  • A normal temperature is between 100 F and 102.5F
  • The thermometer is almost clean when removed


  • Temperature is below 99 F or above 102.5 F
  • There is evidence of blood, diarrhea, or black, tarry stool on the thermometer; black/tarry stool can indicate a bleeding ulcer in the stomach or small intestines, or point to other sources of disease


Learn to locate the pulse on your dog before a crisis. The best place on a dog is the femoral artery in the groin area (see picture).

Here’s how: place your fingers around the front of the hind leg and move upward until the back of your hand meets the abdominal wall. Move your fingertips back and forth on the inside of the thigh until you feel the “roll” of the artery and the pulsing sensation as the blood rushes through it. Count the number of pulses in 15 seconds and multiply by 4. This will give you the pulse rate in beats per minute. Pulse rate is a highly variable finding and can be affected by recent exercise, excitement or stress. Do not use the heart rate at the sole evidence that your pet is sick or healthy.

The heart rates that are listed are for healthy dogs at rest in their home, not for animals that are evaluated in a veterinary clinic where higher heart rates might be detected due to excitement, stress of a visit to the clinic, or disease.


  • Dogs: 60 to 160 beats per minute (bpm): relaxed, large breed, or athletic dogs tend to have slower heart rates, while small breed dogs and puppies tend to have higher heart rates. This marked variability in heart rate stresses the importance of knowing what is normal for your pet.
  • The pulse should be easily felt and the quality of it should be strong and regular



  • Too rapid or too slow
  • Pulse is weak, irregular, or hard to locate


Practice these essential skills and I’ll see you next week for all things head related, including the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth! See DIY Physical Exam: Part 2.