Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Custody Battles
NY man spends $60,000 trying to get his Puggle back

We consider our dogs full members of the family, so it probably comes as no surprise that canine custody battles are becoming more common.  Lawyers are reporting as much as a 15 percent increase in these cases.  Figuring out who gets to keep the pets is stressful for both humans and canines and can get expensive quickly.

In New York, Craig Dershowitz is fighting to be reunited with his Puggle, Knux.  He had been sharing custody with his ex-girlfriend, regularly traveling ten hours round trip to drop off and pick up the pup, when his ex took off to California with the dog.  

Craig has already spent upwards of $60,000 in legal fees and is headed to court again.  He received two orders in the state of New York giving him custody, but he must argue his case in front of a California judge since his ex now resides in Los Angeles.

The battle to get Knux back has been financially difficult and Craig is appealing to fellow pet lovers to help his cause.  Many talented friends have donated artwork and other creative gifts in exchange for donations.

I can’t imagine if my pets were taken away from me, but I know I would do everything in my power to get them back.  Hopefully Craig and Knux will be reunited soon. 

News: Guest Posts
My Dog Is Heartworm Positive
If it happened to me, it can happen to you
heartworm test preventative dalmatian

My vet can't remember the last time she had a heartworm positive case. Until now. My 8-year-old Dalmatian, Jolie, tested positive for heartworms at her annual check up last week. We retested the blood in hopes that it was a false positive. But there was no need to send the sample back to the lab. Through a microscope, my vet could see microfilaria swimming in her blood sample.


I’m shocked and upset. My husband and I take excellent care of our dogs. How could this have happened? Apparently, despite living in the Chicago area, we needed to give her heartworm preventative through the winter, not just the warmer months. When we lived in New Orleans’ subtropical climate, it was a given that the dogs received heartworm preventative year round.


What seems particularly unfair is that Jolie has already been through a lot. We adopted her through a Dalmatian rescue when she was 10 months old. She had been abandoned by her family, left in a backyard without food, water or shelter. She was emaciated, infested with fleas, and hung her head, too sad to lift her eyes to meet ours. She didn’t know how to play. Our older Dalmatian, Darby, helped her come out of her shell.  We helped her get well.


Last August,  she underwent back surgery for a bulging disc. The surgery alone cost $4,000.  Post surgical rehab, chiropractic and supplements have added up to another $2,000.  Although that was a financial strain, it was much harder keeping her quiet and pain free during her months long recovery.  But we did it. We helped her get well.


To think that for less than $50, we could’ve given her a few more doses of Heartgard, and kept her free of heartworms and the risky, expensive  treatment required to kill them. On top of that, she has a grade 4 heart murmur, so we need to do a heart ultrasound to ensure she can tolerate the treatment. It all makes me sick to my stomach.  My poor girl has been through enough, and now this.


Despite the growing trend to keep toxins to a minimum in our dogs (and for good reason), please give your dog monthly heartworm preventative  year round.  The risk is not worth it.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Underwater Dogs
Photos that amaze and amuse

Dogs provide a pick-me-up, and they are able to do it in so many different ways. Yesterday, I found myself immensely cheery after watching this video of incredible dog photographs three times in a row.

We know that many dogs plunge into the water to chase toys with enthusiasm, but to see what they actually look like—lips pulled back, teeth showing, eyes wide open, hair all over the place—is extraordinary.

Photographer Seth Casteel creates images of dogs underwater (and above water, too!) that are charming in the extreme, and he has a book coming out later this year called Underwater Dogs. As a great lover of all things marine, two of my favorite images in this video are the one at 10 seconds, in which the dogs’ legs look like sea cucumbers, and the one at 37 seconds, which I adore because the dog displays the essence of its close relative, the sea lion.

I can’t imagine anyone not being charmed by the photo of the dog with what looks like a crooked smile (2:36) and the one in which a dog is licking another dog who looks thoroughly disgusted by the action (2:55). I can literally feel my heart connecting with these dogs.

Please let me know that you’ve watched this video and whether it made you as happy as it made me!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Social Network Finds Lost Dog
A new website connects neighbors online

Years ago, it took a runaway cat for me to befriend several of my neighbors who lived down the street. Eventually Izzy was found and I gained some new friends in the process. Unfortunately, it often takes an emergency to get communities to rally together.

As we become more and more dependent on technology, our isolation has only become worse. A recent study found that over 65 percent of adults are on a social networking site, yet 33 percent of Americans don’t know any of their neighbors by name.

Nextdoor.com aims to change all that by connecting neighbors in a secure online forum. This new social networking website lets users log on and start conversations on everything from finding a ladder to borrow to sending an alert about local road construction.  

Naturally, many users have started sharing pet related recommendations, like preferred veterinarians and dog walkers.

Nextdoor.com has also been credited with helping reunite a family in Washington with their lost puppy, Willie. When the small dog ran away last winter, the family posted an alert to their local Nextdoor.com site. Neighbors started reporting sightings and Willie was soon found.

It feels a little artificial to have an online neighborhood, but I can see how communities have to evolve the way they interact to keep up in this age of technology. However, as much as I rely on my smartphone and internet connection, I probably meet the most people in my neighborhood the good old fashioned way—while walking the dogs!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Custody
Who gets the dog when a couple splits?

Divorcing couples may fight over anything and everything—the house, retirement funds, electronic equipment, cars, music collections, kitchen appliances, baseball cards, furniture, season tickets to sporting events and, of course, custody of dependents. Custody battles used to be over human children only, but that’s not the case anymore. Dogs and other pets are now regularly the subject of many contentious fights among couples who are separating, and shared custody is even an option.

Though most people consider them family members, in legal terms, dogs are viewed as property. A few states now have laws that view dogs as more than mere property in cases in which domestic abuse has occurred.  For the most part, though, they are considered no different than cars and TVs—just part of what must be divided up between people going through a divorce.

Mediators and lawyers are often involved in sorting out canine custody. Though many understand the seriousness of the decision, not all of them seem to grasp the importance of the issue to the people involved.

Attorney Cathy Gorlin notes that, "People will cede $20,000 to a spouse, plus attorney fees, for a pet that could have been replaced for $500." Doesn’t that seem like she missed the point—that no matter how they are viewed by the law, a dog that is loved is priceless, and cannot be replaced? Hopefully understanding will continue to spread both in and out of the legal profession.

Have you had an experience with canine custody?

News: Guest Posts
The Primal Howl

The diagnosis came in June: old dog, new limp, X-ray, bad news. Bert had bone cancer, a lump growing in his left foreleg. We could amputate, the vet said, but that probably wouldn’t stop the spread. And did it make sense for a 12-year-old Bulldog anyway? Molly and I knew that pet owners can talk themselves into almost anything, and we didn’t want that for Bert. So we opted for pain meds and no heroic measures. We’d know when it was time to put him down, the vet assured us.
“It could be five days,” he said when we asked how long. “It could be a few weeks.”
This prognosis proved errant. The thing on Bert’s foreleg grew bigger, but still he played, wagged, ate with gusto. The new puppy we’d promised our four-year-old daughter, Larkin, arrived on the scene, injecting a large dose of puppy joy. The Old Man loved it. Summer passed, and he seemed to thrive — cancer or no cancer.
He’s the Lance Armstrong of dogs, we joked.
In truth, his disease was getting bad. But, like most changes in life, the badness deepened incrementally and its progress was hard to see. Bert got up a little less, limped a little more. At some point during the fall, he became incontinent at night, so we covered the mudroom floor with newspapers and moved his bed to the doorway. That became the new normal. At least he wasn’t pooping in his bed, Molly and I told ourselves. The mudroom, that’s sorta, kinda like doing it outside, right?
Basic fact of human nature: for better or worse, we adjust.
A few days before Thanksgiving, however, something happened. From then on, the bad leg was useless, flapping and splaying at weird angles. Gamely, Bert persisted, hobbling like John Cleese in the Ministry of Funny Walks. We carried him outside now. Sixty-three pounds of Bulldog, six times a day — that was hard. But the strain wasn’t really on our backs; hauling him around like a sack of potatoes violated the dignity we accord creatures in our care, these companionate animals. One day, I left Bert outside to pee and came out minutes later to find him lying in the garden, sunk down in the dead leaves like a garden ornament, looking up at me.
It was time.
We had hoped that when it came, Bert would be semi-comatose — “ready,” as the vet had said, not looking up with alert brown eyes. But we can’t fine-tune the exit from life, not even for our pets.
There remained the question of how to tell Larkin. What do you say to a four-year- old about the imponderable mystery of life and death? Of course, calling something “imponderable” is mostly a way of saying “I don’t want to.” The truth is that death is eminently ponderable (and if you think your four-yearold isn’t already pondering it, you’re kidding yourself.) At my computer, I googled, “How do I tell my four-yearold we’re putting our dog down?” Click, an instant panoply of reassurances. The angels want him. He’s chewing a bone in Doggie Heaven. He’ll be with Grandma/ Grandpa/our cat Tuffy. There was the Rainbow Bridge poem (“Inspired by a Norse Legend”), its couplets describing an eternal romp in pet paradise. On this golden land, they wait and they play/Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.
Such sentimentality in the face of a child’s capacity for honesty struck me as craven, even as I wondered whether my aversion to well-intended bromides was really a form of arrogance that would leave me empty-handed in the crunch, and our daughter unconsoled. Well, you build with the tools you have. No rainbow bridges from me, or from Molly either. Instead, we brought Larkin home from preschool on the appointed day, sat down with her in the kitchen and spoke to her as calmly as we could. Did she remember back in June, we asked her, when we’d found out Bert had cancer and we thought he was going to die soon?
She looked up warily.
“Well,” I continued, “we got really lucky. Bert hung on so much longer than we expected. We thought it might be five days, and it’s been five months. But now — ”
Her face reddened, and she interrupted. “I don’t want Bert to die.”
“It’s his time, honey. He can’t walk. A dog needs to walk.”
“No! I don’t want him to die!”
Molly put her arm around Larkin.
“Honey, he’s had a really wonderful life with us, and we really, really love him. But his body hurts him. He’s in pain, and it’s time for him to die. So let’s spend an hour with him, and then I’m going to take him to the vet.”
We all got down on the floor with Bert. “It’s okay to be sad,” Molly said. “We’re all going to miss him a lot.”
For parents, there’s something dreadful about the prospect of your child and her dying dog. Desperately, you want to avoid Total Family Meltdown — a chain reaction, your child’s grief amplifying your own until the three of you become a throbbing, shaking tag-team of sorrow (though, as your therapist would ask, what do you think would happen if this did occur?). I had a fallback for this scenario, a diversionary crutch. Recently, I’d taken Larkin to a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She’d fallen hard for the play, and I’d put the film version in our Netflix queue; fortunately, it had arrived hours earlier. Did she want me to put it on? I asked.
“Yes! I want to watch Joseph!”
And so the three of us sat in the family room, petting Bert and taking refuge in a silly Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on a Biblical tale of fealty, betrayal and dreams, and starring, it turned out, a grown-up Donny Osmond, toothy child star of my youth. We sang along, Larkin shouting her favorite line, “And when Joseph made the scene, the brothers turned a SHADE OF GREEN!” Outside, a storm had begun to blow, gusts of wind and sheets of rain. It was December 1, and a two-day warm spell was fighting a rearguard battle against the first blast of winter. In the kitchen, an exhaustfan vent banged in the wind, lending a strange syncopation to the music.
When it was time to go, Molly looked at me, tapping her watch, and I paused the video. “We have to take Bert in now,” Molly said to Larkin. “Let’s all give him a hug.”
Larkin knelt and hugged Bert, crying, and I pushed my own grief down and jammed a lid on it. After a minute, Larkin returned to the movie; I picked up Bert and carried him outside.
The storm was whipping as I lugged him down the steps, cold rain splattering my face. I wondered why the gods so often seem to grace life’s dramas with the showy objective correlative of weather: in our case, on the exalted mid-January day our daughter was born, it had been freakishly sunny and 60 degrees; and now this Shakespearean tempest, elemental and unruly, as though betokening a loss so strong it rattled nature itself.
Molly went to the car and opened the hatchback, where she spread out a blanket. I stood on the patio, holding Bert. “It’s okay, buddy,” I said. “It’s okay.”
He’d been stone-deaf for years, but we’d never kicked the habit of talking to him. Doing so now popped that lid I’d shut inside myself, and out it all came. You’re our guy, I sobbed, you’re the best. I didn’t know how to say what I needed to. That morning, I’d fried a steak and fed it to Bert, sitting with him on the kitchen floor as he took one greedy, disbelieving gobble after the next. It was a condemned dog’s last meal. Now, holding him in the pelting rain, I truly did sense his life, or rather, his life in our lives, flashing before me. Bought 12 years earlier on a calculated whim, chosen for jollity at a time when Molly and I— not yet married and uncertain we ever would be — badly needed some, Bert had been the harbinger of a hope we had for our future, which had since come to pass. What a chunk of time and experience he had witnessed! The lifespan of pets is, in many ways, a neat miniaturization of our own, letting us reckon the 10 or 12 dog lives we ourselves are granted: another one down, so that in grieving my dog I grieve, inevitably, my wife, my daughter, myself.
Crossing the patio, wailing the whole way, I placed Bert in the back of the car, the cramped space where for years he had passengered along, uncomplaining, on our family trips. Many had been to a lake in Maine, where he blundered his way into the water — surely nature’s least gifted swimmer, yet frantically eager to try, summoning the hilarity under pressure that had been his contribution, again and again, to our lives.
I shut the door, and Molly drove off.
Back inside, Larkin sat entranced before the television screen. I put her on my lap, grateful that the division of tasks between Molly and me — of talents, really — would spare me the final session with our hippie vet, Gus, and the last sight of Bert, dead on the steel table. My far less taxing job was to stay with our daughter and help steer her through the moment.
I thought about what a four-year-old does and doesn’t understand. Larkin’s birth had been bookended by two hard deaths — Molly’s brother, six months before Larkin was born, and my mother, six months after. We told Larkin about these events, and she learned early on to say things like, “Uncle Wes died, Mom, and you were sad,” or “Don’t worry, Dad, you’ll see your mom again. You’ll see her in your heart.”
Such utterances are mostly lexical; a toddler says them, says the words, without necessarily grasping their implications. But they create a vessel, a concept begun in the act of saying, which gradually fills with comprehension. As we watched the rest of Joseph, I studied Larkin. When a song would end, I thought I could see an awareness of something badly amiss creep back onto her face, only to be erased by the next song. Thank God for music. Finally, though, the movie was over. Larkin turned to me. She frowned, and her face reddened again and crumpled in on itself.
“I want Bert!” she said.
“I know, honey. I know.”
“I want Bert! I want Bert! I want Bert!” Over and over she wailed it, a dozen times at least. I want Bert!
And there it was. The most primal declaration, more so even than “I love.” It was what I’d struggled and failed to say before, out on the patio. I want, I want, I want. The words come from the deepest place in us, where emotion is appetite, and “missing” someone cries out a painful incompleteness: something lacking, something ripped out or torn away; a ghost limb; a desperate craving. Put it back. Make me whole. I want.
I hugged Larkin. Later, Molly and I would make it through night number one of Life After Bert — cooking up a storm in the kitchen, listening to old pop tunes, drinking plenty of wine and paging through our Bert photo album. But for now, my mission was to hold on tight to my sobbing daughter, accompanying her as she discovered the wildness of grief. Let the old dog go, I thought. Let the inner animal howl.

News: Guest Posts
Till Death Do Us Part?

In her recent column, The New York Times Ethicist Ariel Kaminer took on a very challenging question from a veterinarian in Boston, Mass.

I am a veterinarian, and one of my clients is an elderly woman who loves her eight-year-old Pomeranian dearly but has no family or friends who might inherit it. She wants me to sign a legal document stating that I will euthanize it if she dies before the dog does. What should I do?

Mercifully, Kaminer ultimately comes down against the euthanization. But her first forays are cause for concern. The short version of the Ethicist’s reasoning begins as such: if the vet eats meat, she or he should have no more qualms in euthanizing the Pomeranian than she would seeing a cow slaughtered for her hamburger. From a vegetarian or vegan standpoint, complicity in the slaughter of farm animals is equally objectionable to terminating the life of a perfectly healthy pet upon request. But that doesn’t mean the reverse is true. In other words, making what might be considered an immoral choice in one area of my life (eating meat) does not amount to a behavioral free pass to other questionable acts (requesting the euthanization of my healthy companion animal).

This is a standard logical fallacy—It’s even got a fancy Latinate name, ad hominem tu quoque, broken logic that suggests a claim I make can’t be true if it is inconsistent in any way with my previous actions. But here’s the thing—few among us are uniform in our moral and ethical choices. And thankfully, because heaven knows what the implications would be of a bacon chili cheeseburger.

Have you prepared for your dog’s care in the event of your death? What arrangements have you made? What do you think is the responsible choice?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs Good For Business
They even give their names to them

Dave Ward is a self-described coffee freak and when that hobby turned into a business, he named it after his dog. Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa, Fla. is a thriving small business that draws inspiration from the loyalty and trust that dogs inspire.

Businesses that are named after dogs are far from unusual. Biff’s Bagel’s, a popular place in Flagstaff, Ariz. is named after the owner’s Samoyed. Mutt Lynch Winery in Sonoma, Calif. is clearly dog friendly, with wines sporting names like Unleashed Chardonnay and Merlot Over and Play Dead. The Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company in Madison, Wisc. was one of my favorite restaurants when I lived there, and now they have four more of them—a small litter if you will.

What are your favorite businesses that have canine names? Has your dog inspired the name of your business or any products?

News: Guest Posts
Rescue Reveals Tragedy
Kayaker pulls traumatized dog out of water
Barney Vizsla rescue kayak fisherman

A fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico was shocked when a dog appeared beside his kayak, far from shore. In this video, you can see him pull the Vizsla to safety and comfort the shivering canine. At first, he thought the dog was cold but after seeing bleeding cuts, he realized the dog was traumatized.

The mystery was solved when the kayaker heard on the news that a woman, Donna Chen, had been struck and killed by a drunk driver while walking her dog Barney. Barney had no tags on his collar. But when the kayaker brought him to the vet, he was scanned for a microchip. It was this microchip that allowed Barney to be reunited with members of Chen's family.

Does your dog wear tags at all time? What information is on yours? What about a microchip?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New Book About Rin Tin Tin
The story remains compelling decades later

Discussing her new book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend on NPR, Susan Orlean said something that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about: “During the silent film era, dogs were on par with human actors. Nobody had the power of speech. A dog was just as credible as a character conveying through gesture and action and the look on his face. A dog was just as good as a human at doing that and, frankly, more natural.”

It’s well known that a substantial amount of dogs’ communication is visual, but I had never considered that this made them as good as or better than human silent film actors. This helped me to better understand the reasons that Rin Tin Tin was considered a national treasure.

Besides the insight into Rin Tin Tin’s acting skills and reputation, Susan Orlean tells great stories about this dog’s life and that of Lee Duncan. Duncan rescued Rin Tin Tin from a kennel that had been destroyed, probably by artillery fire, during World War I. An animal lover who had spent part of his childhood in an orphanage and part on an isolated ranch in the absence of other children, his dog was his main companion, he was unable to leave the mother and her new litter of puppies (including Rinty, as Duncan called Rin Tin Tin) behind in the destruction of the battlefield.

In another part of the interview, Orlean remarks on the close emotional connection between Duncan and Rin Tin Tin. Though the dog was his livelihood and had made him a very rich man, Duncan always seemed to value the dog as a close personal friend, rather than as a source of wealth, saying, “. . . what mattered to him was his relationship with the dog.” I often think about how times have changed with dogs becoming ever more important in our lives, particularly the emotional part, but Rin Tin Tin’s story reminds me that great love for dogs has existed in every era.