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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Ribbon Recycling
Donate your old show ribbons to a good cause

My dog sport friends often tell me that they don’t take the ribbons they’ve won because they end up stuffed into old shoe boxes at home. 

When I first started competing in agility and rally with my first dog, Nemo, I couldn’t believe that people had so many ribbons that they wouldn’t take them! Each of the prized ribbons Nemo and I earned meant so much to me, a representation of our hard work and a way to show family and friends why they hadn’t seen us for the last five weekends. 

Now Nemo and I have been competing for three years and a good run means so much more than whether we qualify or place. I still display some of our ribbons, but most end up in a shoe box. 

I’ve started repurposing ribbons, giving them out to children when we do therapy work at the local library. The flat qualifying ribbons actually make great bookmarks. I know other therapy teams who bring old ribbons with them to leave behind with patients they visit hospitals.  

Recently a friend told me about Ribbon Recycling, which donates old ribbons to therapeutic horseback riding facilities. These organizations can’t afford to purchase ribbons for their patients, so funneling donations from dog and horse show people is a perfect match.

What do you do with your old show ribbons?   

 

News: Guest Posts
Cirque de Puppy
Aerial fabric artist spins for dogs

Ever feel like your unique talents couldn’t possibly translate into helping animals? Well, Kyla Duffy could change your mind.

 

The first time I saw Duffy, who co-founded Happy Tails Books (which publishes collections of breed-specific adoption stories), was a few days ago at the opening reception for BlogPaws West 2010. (Over the next week, I’ll be writing about several of the dedicated and talented folks I met at the pet-centric blogging conference in Denver.)

  When I saw Duffy, she was wearing a pair of artistically torn leggings and dangling upside down from a few pieces of fabric. (See video below.) Seeing and hearing Duffy twist and turn a few yards away, I got a much more visceral appreciation for her talent than I did watching the distant, polished Cirque de Soliel aerialists years ago.   Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the audience didn’t see the slideshow promoting puppy mill awareness that accompanies her performance—and explained what she was doing there. While aerial acrobatics and rescue stories don’t exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly, I’m intrigued by the concept. Calling it “creative volunteerism,” sort of like volunteer vacations, Duffy is trying to do good through her creativity. And, I think it’s possible her performances could allow her to reach beyond the choir (i.e., folks like you reading this blog) to people who don’t yet know the challenges of pet overpopulation.
Duffy says she hopes to take her show and the road, and we’ll keep an eye out for her. Meanwhile, I’m wondering about what other surprising skills and talents are or could be put to good use for shelter dogs.

News: Guest Posts
9/11 Memorial Video
Honoring the dogs who searched and comforted

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Microchipping Success Story
Lost dog found after 7 years

Jake was a 6-month old puppy in 2003 when he disappeared from his yard the day after Thanksgiving. That was in Michigan. He was apparently dropped off at a kennel in Kentucky this week where a staff member found him in an after-hours kennel wearing a shock collar and nothing else to give any information about him. The scanner picked up the microchip, which prompted a call to Brad Davis, who still lives in Michigan. He thought it was a wrong number until they said they located him because of his dog’s microchip. Davis is headed to Kentucky to pick up Jake.

  Microchipping has led to many successful reunions between people and their dogs, though most of them are not seven years later. Of course, Jake can hardly be the same dog that he was as a puppy back in 2003. Still, it’s wonderful for Davis and his family to know that Jake is alive and well, even if they’ll never know what happened the day he disappeared or in all the days since.   Have you or anyone you know been reunited with a dog because that dog was microchipped?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Treibball
Dogs herd balls in a new sport from Germany

I've always wanted to try herding with my Shelties, but it’s not easy to find sheep in the New York City area! Nemo is also a little impulsive, so his interaction with a sheep or duck seems like a big wild card to me. I guess I’m a little worried he’d pounce on a duck or get run over by a sheep, though admittedly I know nothing about herding.

This week, I discovered a sport that could let us try herding without having to drive out to a farm. In Treibball, German for driving ball, dogs are directed by their human handlers to herd eight balls (which sort of look like exercise balls) into a net.

The sport originated in Germany in 2003 and competitions have been held since 2008.  Even if you have no interest in ever getting that serious, Treibball looks like a lot of fun.

Treibball has only recently come over to the United States. Some training schools have Treibball classes, but if you don’t have any in your area, there’s a Treibball book available so you can train at home.  You can also join the American Treibball Association Facebook group to meet other enthusiasts.

I know a lot of people who are always looking for activities to do with working breeds, but access to sheep is limiting. Treibball is a fun sport that is accessible to all families with dogs. With the winter coming up, I’m thinking it would be fun to set up a modified version of this game indoors with smaller playground balls.

Check out this video to see what Treibball is all about.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Walkers With Multiple Dogs
How many is too many?

There are so many ways to get people who care about dogs to voice strong opinions, and one hot topic lately relates to dog walkers who walk many dogs all at once. Many people have questions and concerns about this, and I am no exception.

  It worries me when I see a person walking more than four or so dogs, which is a very challenging thing to do. Many people who walk dogs are very knowledgeable about canine behavior and do what it takes to keep it safe and fun for all the dogs under their care. That includes walking dogs who are compatible with each other, keeping the number of dogs walked simultaneously at no more than four, and preferably even fewer most of the time, and constantly monitoring the dogs for any behavior that could lead to trouble between the dogs, including signs of stress. It takes a lot of education and experience to be able to handle this, and that’s why the best dog walkers are more than worth their fees.   Regrettably, not everyone who walks dogs is up to this standard of care. Many people seem to feel that just loving dogs is enough of a qualification to take large numbers of them on a walk, whether the dogs are familiar with each other or not. Still other dog walkers may be putting profits over safety. Obviously with more dogs being walked at once, more money can be made.   This raises many questions, especially in situations where a single person is walking many dogs on leashes at the same time. Can one person watch so many dogs at once in order to monitor their behavior? What if the dogs react to each other or to another dog? How could one person manage such a situation? Are these dog walkers picking up all the poop from so many dogs?   Many other dogs are uncomfortable around such large groups of dogs and become intimidated. This is especially relevant at dog parks, and many people worry about taking their dogs to places where such large groups of dogs are present.   Some places limit dog walkers to four dogs, though it is common in other places to see dog walkers with 8, 10, or even more dogs all at once. Should there be limits on the number of dogs that can be walked by a single person simultaneously in places such as dog parks and other public areas? I think that these kind of limits could help prevent problems, and help keep the dog walkers who truly are responsible from being outcompeted by people who are charging less but perhaps putting dogs at risk. What do you think? How many dogs is too many?

 

News: Guest Posts
A Day at the Beach
Sunshine, Frisbee and a few surprises

With Labor Day barely in the rearview mirror, it’s time to say goodbye to white pants and sunshine. For me and my dogs, it means packing as much outdoor fun as humanly possible into the few weeks we have left before the rainy season. And what better place to spend the waning days of summer than at the beach?

  There is no place on earth my dogs love more than the beach. It is the place they can truly be themselves: Skipper becomes braver and more adventurous and Leo becomes … well, more of a creepster. I say this about Leo because, frankly, if he were a human, you wouldn’t want to hang out with him. He follows me to the bathroom. He steals “personal garments” from the laundry. He stares at you for longer than I’ve ever seen a dog (or human!) stare. He’s just a little different than other dogs I’ve known. It shouldn’t have surprised me when Leo immediately drifted towards a very special (and previously unknown to me) stretch of sand—a nude beach.   Initially, I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary because I was too busy trying to keep Skipper from being pinched by a crab he had been following. It wasn’t until I spied Leo poking his nose into a picnic basket that ran over and stop him. Leo then moved to “greet” the owner of the picnic basket: A reclining gentleman in his 50s who was entirely nude, save for sunglasses and a hat. I yelled, “LEO, NO!” Luckily, he came running (thank god, we’ve been practicing his recall abilities), weaving through a number of nude sunbathers (adult agility?), as I held my breath waiting to see if he accidentally stepped on anyone. He didn’t. As soon as he returned, I put him back on leash: I didn’t want to think about what else Leo could discover.   Meanwhile, Skipper is generally well behaved at the beach, but for some reason it is the only place he’ll play fetch. He won’t play it at home or the dog park, only at the beach. He even showed off his incredible beach-fetching abilities by joining in (aka, “ruining”) some strangers’ game of Frisbee. By the time the sun was setting, the dogs and I (lightly sunburned) were ready to go home. As we drove away, I glanced at my sound-asleep companions and realized that even with unexpected nudity and ruined Frisbee, our day at the beach was a perfect way to end the summer.   Did you do anything special to celebrate the end of summer?

 

News: Guest Posts
Fourmile Canyon Fire
People, pets evacuate during Boulder’s worst-ever blaze

I’m in Boulder, Colo., visiting my sister for a few days before attending the BlogPaws West Convention in Denver. Monday morning, we sat and watched, as a brown cloud covered the blue sky and blotted out the sun. We thought, storm cloud. Then, dust cloud. Then, walking into the backyard, which had an eerie pink hue, we smelled the smoke—a brushfire in the foothills, not far, as the sparks fly, from my sister’s home.

 

All day high winds fed what is being called the Fourmile Canyon Fire. Smoke waxed and waned over our heads and filled our nostrils. Yesterday and this morning, the blaze continued—reportedly, zero percent contained. More than 7,000 acres and nearly 100 structures are confirmed destroyed. Thousands of people have been evacuated. A man in the latte line with me this morning lost his home. I couldn’t believe how calm he was about it.   And, of course, there are the animals: Horses, dogs, cats and more—mostly successfully evacuated. But, over lunch, a friend tells us about one man, trying to return to his Gold Hill home to save his dog, being turned away by emergency personnel. It is for the man’s safety, but it’s too painful to contemplate.   The Boulder Humane Society has been providing temporary shelter for dogs, cats and small mammals displaced from their homes but it is now full. The shelter has requested cat litter, towels, blankets and cash donations. Donate online or give $10  by texting PROTECT to 50555. Nearby, the Longmont Humane Society has been providing backup—taking in 30 animals so far—but will soon reach capacity. Some livestock have been evacuated to the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont.   The central shelter at the Boulder YMCA is allowing evacuees to bring their dogs, although they are kept in a separate area. In other cases, private individuals are offering to house and care for pets needing temporary refuge while their people stay with friends or in hotels.   The situation serves as a terrible and vivid reminder to be prepared. Make a disaster plan that includes your pets. I live in Seattle, an earthquake zone, and I realize that I haven’t taken all the steps I need to protect my dogs, Lulu and Renzo, should I be unable to get to my house in a disaster. When I return home, I plan on arranging a backup plan with my neighbors—who also have a dog and probably need a backup.   Here's a pretty stunning video from among the many shot in and around Boulder over the last few days:

News: Guest Posts
Another Dog-Smart Home Tip
Let sunshine in, keep distractions out

Back when we cast our net for dog-smart home-design ideas, I blogged about how replacing our solid front door with a glass door greatly enhanced my dogs’ street-watching pleasure. (Or, at least, the myriad nose prints suggest my pups enjoy the view.) Recently, I heard from Lizza Osborn of Spokane, Wash., who had a sort of reverse challenge for which she found a stylish, low-cost solution.

  “My dog is very reactive to other dogs and would bark annoyingly at the sliding glass door when people walking dogs pass by,” she wrote us about Ivan. “I didn’t want to shut the blinds because I like the light that the glass door brings so I just installed that frosted/privacy contact paper on the bottom part of the glass door, just about his height so that when he is laying beside the sliding glass door he can relax because he won’t be surprised by a dog walking by. The light still comes through and the frosted contact paper is not an eyesore.”  

► For more dog-friendly home design and housekeeping tips from readers and pros, pick up the September 2010 issue of Bark.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Testing Hips
The standard OFA test may underestimate the risk of hip dysplasia

When we were ready to add a Sheltie to our family, I made sure prospective breeders met a long check list of requirements from socialization to genetic testing. Since Shelties are prone to hip dysplasia, I only considered breeders who screened the parents’ hips. The standard screening model is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals test, or more commonly known as the OFA.

So I was shocked to find out that the OFA test may not predict hip dysplasia risk as acurantly as once thought. A new study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that the OFA test may be underestimating hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis susceptibility in canines. The research compared the standard OFA test and the University of Pennsivania’s PennHIP screening model with 439 dogs older than two years. They found that 80 percent of dogs judged to be normal by the OFA test would be flagged to be at risk of developing osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia by the PennHIP test.

Furthermore, according to UPenn researchers, even if breeders were to selectively breed only those dogs having OFA-rated "excellent" hips -- the highest ranking -- the study suggests that 52 to 100 percent of offspring, depending on the breed, would be susceptible to hip dysplasia based on the PennHIP test.

Before making any conclusions, I’d like to see an independent study compare the two tests (University of Pennsylvania ran the study on their own screening method, funded by the University, the National Institutes of Health, The Seeing Eye Inc., the Morris Animal Foundation, and Nestle Purina Co.), as well as a long term study. However, if it’s true, the results are alarming considering how many breeders rely on the OFA test to make lineage decisions.

 

 

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