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
Photographer takes pictures of shelter dogs before they're put to sleep
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
Sponsors stunned by director deception
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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
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
Ex-shelter dogs are trained to become conversation canines
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
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
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.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Policeman finds a new friend on the job
Back in May, Officer Dan Waskiewicz of the Balimore City Police was on duty when he got a call about a vicious dog chasing kids. When he arrived at the scene, Instead of jumping to conclusions, Officer Waskiewicz got out of his patrol car and called the dog over to assess the situation. The Pit Bull mix came over panting, with his tail between his legs. Officer Waskiewicz offered the tired pup some water and the two became fast friends. Although his partner wasn't a big dog fan, Officer Waskiewicz put the pup in the back of their patrol car and drove to the local shelter.
As if saving an animal from the streets wasn't enough of a good deed, Officer Waskiewicz ended up adopting the Pit Bull mix himself and named him Bo. The lucky pup now lives with Waskiewicz's family, which includes two other dogs.
With so many recent reports of police shooting harmless pets, it's refreshing to see someone respond the right way. Officer Waskiewicz arrived on the scene with compassion and an open mind. As a result, a loving dog now has a wonderful home.
July 17, marks the anniversary of the 1959 death of Billie Holiday. Her life was a hard one: a childhood of bitter poverty and early sexual abuse; an acute sensitivity to the all-pervasive racism of her time; a series of difficult relationships with controlling, exploitative men; an eventual downward spiral of depression, addiction and broken health. Among the things that gave her joy and an amazing vitality despite her troubles, music was, of course, the most important—her profound connection to jazz brought her the respect and adoration of audiences and fellow musicians alike. Another was her faithful and requited love of the series of dogs who were her companions throughout her life. We don’t know how or when she found her first dog friend, but anecdotes crop up throughout her biography. Lena Horne recalled that when the two jazz divas were together, they usually talked mainly about Billie’s dogs; “her animals were her only trusted friends.” There was the beloved Standard Poodle who, on his death, was wrapped in Billie’s best mink coat for the cremation, and the Chihuahua puppy she fed with a baby bottle in her New York apartment. Perhaps her most elegant companion was the handsome Boxer, Mister, who accompanied her to glamorous Harlem nightspots—places where he surely would not have been allowed if his mistress were anyone less remarkable than Lady Day.
NPR did an interesting story today about trying to find her final Resting Place—notice the little porcelain dog on her headstone.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
It’s another way to be together
I love hammocks and I love dogs. Over the years, there have been many happy moments enjoying each of these pleasures in life. Naturally, I have also spent considerable amounts of time enjoying the two simultaneously.
If you want your dog to enjoy being in a hammock with you, start slowly. Lift the dog or help him step in while the hammock is not moving. Keep it still, and don’t force him to stay in. He may do best with a bunch of short visits (seconds, or a few minutes at most depending on how he’s doing) over a period of time. For most dogs, the key is not to move the hammock until he is comfortable being in it while it’s stationery. To help many dogs like the hammock instead of just tolerating it, give him tasty treats while he’s in it, and then stop the delivery of the goodies when he’s out of it.
Once your dog has learned to settle in and feel comfortable in the hammock, you can add in gentle motion, but just briefly, and certainly don’t swing it far. To keep it safe, make sure your dog’s nails are trimmed so they don’t catch on the hammock. Low hammocks are best for dogs just in case anybody leaves it unexpectedly. Fabric hammocks are safer for dogs than rope ones because dogs’ little legs so easily go through the openings in the fabric, which can be scary and cause injury.
In the video below, Marley and I are having fun, but it was not particularly relaxing. He needs a watchful eye and a guiding hand.
Just so that nobody is too worried about Marley’s safety, we were only about a foot off the ground, he loves being in hammocks, and I was holding up the edges to minimize the chances of a mishap.
He is pretty well balanced actually, and is a natural in hammocks. He first jumped into the hammock uninvited. Luckily, he made it in on that occasion and did not fly out the other side or get part of his body caught in the hammock.
Nobody should force a dog into a hammock, as not all dogs enjoy the feeling on being in one. Some find the movement really scary while others become motion sick. Many dogs don’t suffer in them, but just vaguely seem to prefer to be on more solid ground.
It sounds overly obvious and simple, but there are few more pleasant ways to pass a lazy afternoon than to spend it swaying gently in the breeze in a hammock with your dog buddy. Do you "swing" with your pup?
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