News: Guest Posts
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.
News: Guest Posts
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?
News: Karen B. London
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
Kayaker pulls traumatized dog out of water
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?
News: Karen B. London
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.
News: Guest Posts
We’re taught from grade school not to litter, but one LA-area man learned his lesson in a particularly dramatic episode on the afternoon of Thursday, December 29. Hiking the ridges of Lakeview Terrace, Ivan Salas’s father threw a water bottle over the edge of the 300-foot sheer cliff beside them. Lola, their one-year-old German Shepherd mix, sprang after the bottle, lost her balance and slid over 100 feet down.
Seeing her stranded on the unstable rockface, 19-year-old Ivan Salas heroically attempted to scale down and rescue his dog, becoming trapped himself. Firefighters, responding to both police and 911 calls, initially began a rescue effort by helicopter, but the draft kicked up rocks and dust, increasing the risk of a fatal slide.
Rescuers regrouped. Several firefighters rappelled down the cliffside, first securing terrified Lola and bringing her to safety, then getting a hold of Salas, just as the rocks give out below his feet. Salas, who thought he was going to die as he slid quickly in loose gravel, is grateful and intends to take the firefighters to dinner to thank them for their efforts. As for Lola, she is surely lucky to have a guardian willing to risk his own life to save hers. Would you have ventured down the cliff like Ivan did?
News: Guest Posts
Meter maids. Storage-unit foragers. Turtle trackers. And now, taxidermists.
Reality television has already poked into the far corners of Americans’ working lives, but this might be near the limit for some of us: American Stuffers, a show about pet taxidermists, premiering on Animal Planet Jan. 5.
The name is a bit crass, to be sure, especially since the show focuses on bereaved pet owners who come to Xtreme Taxidermy in Romance, Ark., to have their beloved animals preserved for posterity. One clip shows a couple arriving to pick up the taxidermied version of their Chihuahua, Toot Toot: No matter how you feel about the practice, it’s easy to sympathize with them as they tearfully examine and pet the mounted Toot Toot.
American Stuffers also introduces viewers to the people behind Xtreme Taxidermy, turning them into “characters” of their own: Daniel Ross and his bookkeeping wife LaDawn run the shop with help from staffers Fred (a country character), Dixie (squeamish veterinary student), and Joseph (bold younger guy). Daniel and LaDawn’s three young sons get an eyeful of the family business, too.
The show’s press release promises that audiences will “laugh, cry, and squirm”—not the most appealing description, but probably an apt one considering the subject. Indeed, a warning pops up that “this program contains material that may be disturbing to some viewers.”
It’s hard not to think about your own pets when watching the show. How do you feel about taxidermy-- is it a touching tribute or a ghoulish anachronism? Would you consider having your dog taxidermied? Do you know someone who’s done it?
News: Karen B. London
Everybody’s answer is different
The loss of our dogs is nearly inevitable since their life spans are not as long as ours, but that never lessens the pain. The logic of predictability rarely helps a grieving heart. For many people, part of what does help is welcoming a new dog into their lives as soon as they can find the right one. For many others, it takes a long time before they are ready for that, and some never are.
It’s common to feel that the house is just not a home without a dog and that this absence must be remedied quickly before arriving home one more time without the sound of four-legged footsteps running to the door. If a new dog will ease the sadness and bring joy, then there’s no doubt that adopting a new dog is the right course of action.
For people who need to grieve longer before they feel prepared to love another dog, then waiting makes sense. If working through the pain without the complication of a new relationship feels right, then it’s only sensible to hold off on getting a new dog. Among the reasons that some people wait before sharing their lives with a new dog is the feeling that loving a new dog would be disloyal to the dog who recently died.
I deeply respect this view, though I don’t personally share it, in large part because of a comment my mother-in-law made years ago. She is an exceptionally kind and tolerant person whose view on her dad marrying again soon after her mom’s death was that it just showed he really enjoyed being married. She took it as an indication that being married to her mom made him happy and that he naturally wanted to be married—and happy—again. It’s a perspective that’s unusual, but one that prevented many bad feelings from developing.
Though some people want a new dog right away and others want to wait quite a long time, still others have no time frame in mind. They simply wait until the right dog comes along, whenever that may be.
If you’ve lost a dog, how long did you wait until a new dog joined your family, and why?
News: Karen B. London
Joy comes even after a rough beginning
The new season has officially arrived for those of us who live in cold weather zones. It’s the time of year in which many of us require extra motivation to walk our dogs—at least some of the time.
Many motivational options exist: encouraging quotes, using the walk as a way to procrastinate, caving to guilt and walking with a human friend so you both commit to the walk. As for me, I take inspiration from my college roommate.
One night during our senior year at about 11:00, we were contemplating going out. I was uncharacteristically leaning towards staying in, as I was feeling a bit tired and just a bit disinterested in making the effort to go anywhere. My roommate posed this life-changing question to me, “Have you ever, even once, in your whole life regretted going out, even when you didn’t really feel like it at first?” The answer was no, and I replied, “Give me five minutes to get ready!” The night turned out to be a great one, and I’m still glad I didn’t miss out on it by my inaction.
Dog walking is much the same. Usually, it’s not a chore, but something to look forward to and enjoy. Yet, there are times when it’s an effort to head out, and that’s when I consider my roommate’s take on the situation: Have I ever regretted taking a dog on a walk, even when I didn’t feel like it at first? Of course not. Even when the weather is foul, the house is cozy and I have a million things to do, the walk is a source of joy and peace.
No matter how rough the start of a walk, it tends to turn into a good experience. Some great moments with our dogs come while we are out on a walk enjoying the air, the sights and the break from the rest of the day, and it doesn’t really matter what our mood was at the outset.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
A complete training guide
Leave-it, a cue that asks your dog to leave something alone, is up there among the most useful things you can teach your dog. Think of it this way: your dog might not stop chasing that deer into traffic on her own, but with an airtight leave-it cue you can stop her in her tracks and save her life. So whether it’s another dog, that slice of pizza on the edge of the counter, a squirrel, the person uninterested in your dog’s attention, or the baby’s toys, anything can be protected from unwanted attention with a well-practiced leave-it. Here’s a short drill you can practice with your dog every day to master this essential technique.
What You’ll Need
What To Do
Begin with one of the ordinary treats in an open palm. Lower it to where your dog can see it (pictured above).
When your dog tries to take the treat, close your hand around it. She will likely nudge at the treat. Ignore this behavior. Ignore any behavior attempting to pry the treat out of your hand. What you’re waiting for is even the slightest hesitation in interest.
The moment your dog shows even a fleeting second of hesitation in trying to wrest that treat from your hand, you bring one of the better treats out in your other open palm.
The dog gets this treat as a reward for that moment’s hesitation.
In repeating this drill over the course of days or weeks, you are building up your dog’s skills by waiting for incrementally longer hesitations until it becomes clear she is beginning to understand.
Here, Stella is showing more restraint than she did the first time she was shown the treat.
Still more restraint is being shown here. At this point, you can begin to integrate the verbal cue, saying “leave it” when the dog makes the move for the first treat. If she listens the first time, she gets the better treat in the other hand. If she doesn’t, the fist closes, you wait, and you try again together.
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